Tales of Old Lusitania/The Merry Little Fox

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Tales of Old Lusitania - chapter 17 headpiece.jpg


THE MERRY LITTLE FOX.




There was once a fox whose godfather and godmother were a crane and a wolf. One day the crane was kind enough to invite the fox to a supper of porridge made of Indian corn flour. The fox accepted the invitation and went to the feast; but the poor thing was unable to get even a taste of the supper, because her hostess put the porridge in a deep vessel with a narrow neck, so that the fox was unable to reach it, whilst the crane very coolly ate it all up before her.

After some time the fox invited the crane to come to supper, and in order to revenge herself for the insult she had received, she cunningly placed the porridge on a perfectly flat stone, off which the crane was hardly able to pick up a morsel, whilst she this time had the supper all to herself.

But the fox had had such a meal that she felt too heavy to walk, and as she had to make a long journey she asked the wolf to take her on his back, saying that she felt very ill, and so weak that she could not take a single step without assistance. The wolf, believing the fox's words, took her on his back, and carried her all the way; while the artful fox went laughing and singing thus:—

The fox knows how to shift,
When too full to make tracks;
She's deep enough to get a lift
On other people's backs.

The wolf, astonished to hear his friend singing like a bird, asked her several times what she was saying; but her only answer was, "Oh, I am so ill, so very ill."

And so they went along till the wolf began to see the trick that was played upon him, and perceiving that there was a well near them, he said to her, "Ah, you have been deceiving me, have you? telling me you could not walk because you felt so ill and so weak, and yet you can manage to sing so merrily—

The fox knows how to shift,
When too full to make tracks;
She's deep enough to get a lift
On other people's backs.

Very well, you shall soon find yourself deep enough!" and at the same time he threw her off his back and into the well. The fox, however, managed to scramble into one of the buckets that was standing on the edge of the well, ready for any one who might come for water; her weight of course lowered the bucket into the well, and sent the empty bucket up. She then looked up at the wolf who was watching her and said, "Oh, my friend, how kind of you to send me down here! Surely this must be heaven. Such lovely sights! Green fields with such dear little lambs skipping about, and not a dog or a shepherd near! If you wish to witness them yourself, you have only to get inside the other bucket, and come down to where I am and be perfectly happy." The wolf, duped again by his wily friend, once more fell into her snares and got inside the empty bucket, which, being now the heavier, went down into the well as the other bucket rose, in which the fox was comfortably seated, enjoying the malicious trick she had played him.

When she saw herself safe at the top of the well, she looked down and said to the poor innocent wolf: "Thank you, that's the second lift you have given me to-day. And now you had better stay where you are so that you may never again be tricked by other foxes as artful as I am."

The fox then went away, leaving the poor wolf to his fate, and continued her journey singing all the way—

The fox knows how to shift,
When too full to make tracks;
She's deep enough to get a lift
On other people's backs.

Coimbra.


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