It happened that the cat met the fox in a forest, and as she thought to herself, "He is clever and full of experience, and much esteemed in the world," she spoke to him in a friendly way.
"Good-day, dear Mr. Fox, how are you? How is all with you? How are you getting through this dear season?"
The fox, full of all kinds of arrogance, looked at the cat from head to foot, and for a long time did not know whether he would give any answer or not. At last he said, "Oh, you wretched beard-cleaner, you piebald fool, you hungry mouse-hunter, what can you be thinking of? Do you venture to ask how I am getting on? What have you learnt? How many arts do you understand?"
"I understand but one," answered the cat, modestly.
"What art is that?" asked the fox.
"When the hounds are following me, I can spring into a tree and save myself."
"Is that all?" said the fox. "I am master of a hundred arts, and have into the bargain a sackful of cunning. You makest me sorry for you; come with me, I will teach you how people get away from the hounds."
Just then came a hunter with four dogs. The cat sprang nimbly up a tree, and sat down on top of it, where the branches and foliage quite concealed her.
"Open your sack, Mr. Fox, open your sack," cried the cat to him, but the dogs had already seized him, and were holding him fast.
"Ah, Mr. Fox," cried the cat. "You with your hundred arts are left in the lurch! Had you been able to climb like me, you would not have lost your life."
Two or three hundred years ago, when people were far from being so crafty and cunning as they are nowadays, something unusual happened in a little town. By a stroke of bad luck, one of the great owls, called horned owls, had come from the neighbouring woods into the barn of one of the townsfolk in the night-time. And when day broke, she did not dare to come out again from the barn, for she feared the other birds. who used to raise a terrible outcry whenever she appeared.
In the morning the man-servant went into the barn to fetch some straw, When he saw the owl sitting there in a corner, he was so mightily alarmed at the sight that he ran away and made known to his master that a monster, unlike anything he had ever seen before in his life, and which could devour a man without the slightest difficulty, was sitting in the barn and rolling its eyes about in its head.
"Oh, know you," said the master, "you dare to chase a blackbird about the fields, but when you see a dead hen lying, you have to get a stick before you go near it. I have to go and see for myself what kind of a monster it is," added the master, and went quite boldly into the granary and looked round him. However, when he saw the strange, grim creature with his own eyes, he was as terrified as the servant had been. With two bounds he sprang out, ran to his neighbours, and begged them to lend a helping hand against an unknown and dangerous beast - if not, the whole town might be in danger if the beast were to break loose out of the barn where it was shut up, he said.
A great noise and clamour arose in all the streets as the townsmen came armed with spears, hay-forks, scythes and axes as if they were going out against an enemy. Finally, the senators appeared with the mayor in front of them. When they had drawn up in the market-place, they marched to the barn and surrounded it on all sides. After that, one of the most courageous of them stepped forth and entered with his spear lowered, but came running out at once afterwards with a shriek and as pale as death, and could not utter a single word. Yet two others ventured in, but they fared no better.
At last one stepped forth; a great, strong man who was famous for his warlike deeds, and said, "You will not drive away the monster by merely looking at him; we must be in earnest here, but I see that not one of you dares to encounter the animal."
He ordered them to give him some armour, had a sword and spear brought, and armed himself. All praised his courage, though many feared for his life. The two barn-doors were opened, and they saw the owl, which in the meantime had perched herself on the middle of a great cross-beam. He had a ladder brought, and when he raised it, and made ready to climb up, they all cried out to him that he was to bear himself bravely, and commended him to St. George, who slew the dragon.
He had just got to the top of the ladder when the owl perceived that he something in mind against her. She was also bewildered by the crowd and the shouting, and did not know how to escape. She rolled her eyes, ruffled her feathers, flapped her wings, snapped her beak, and cried, "Tuwhit, tuwhoo," in a harsh voice.
"Strike home! strike home!" screamed the crowd outside to the valiant hero.
"Anyone who was standing where I am standing," he answered, "would not cry, strike home!" And he planted his foot one rung higher on the ladder. But then he began to tremble, and half-fainting, went back again. Now there was no one left who dared to put himself in such danger.
"The monster," said they, "has poisoned and mortally wounded the very strongest man among us, by snapping at him and just breathing on him! Are we, too, to risk our lives?" They took counsel as to what they ought to do to prevent the whole town from being destroyed. For a long time everything they thought up seemed to be of no use, but at length the mayor found a way out.
"I think" he said, "that out of the common purse we ought to pay for this barn and whatever corn, straw, or hay it contains, so as to give the owner a full compensation for it. Then we may burn down the whole building and the terrible beast with it. Thus none will have to endanger his life. This is no time for thinking of expense, and niggardliness would be ill applied."
All agreed with him. So they set fire to the barn at all four corners, and the owl was miserably burnt with it. Let anyone who will not believe it, go there and ask about it for himself.