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One Bad Turn Begets Another

Tybert the Cat and Courtoys the Dog were companions – that is to say they were as friendly as their natures would let them be. Both of them were exceedingly greedy and selfish. The cat was spiteful and the dog was sullen. Master Tyb was always willing to give up to the dog what he did not need himself, and on his part, Courtoys never stole the cat's food while the cat was looking. Each was willing to play a mean trick on the other if he could do so without injury to himself, but except for these little matters they were quite in accord, and more or less friendly, and on the whole they got on very well together.

There came a time when, in spite of Tybert's shyness and Courtoys strength, they could by no means find anything to eat. For two days not a morsel of food had passed the lips of either, and this made them very bad tempered.

"I wish I'd never seen you," said Courtoys to Tyb. "A fine partner you are, on my word, when you can't find food for us. Where are your wonderful wits that you are always boasting of?"

"In my head," answered Tyb spitefully. "And such as they are, they have to do duty for two. If you'd talk less, and think more, and use your eyes, we would be better off. Here is a cart coming along the road; perhaps we shall find our dinner inside it!"

Sure enough, a heavy wagon was rumbling along the road towards them, driven by a farmer with a round face. As it came nearer, Tyb and Courtoys sniffed the air, and the water ran out of the corners of their mouths.

"Fish," said Tybert ravenously.

"Fish!" echoed Courtoys. "Here's a chance to use those wits of yours. How can we get it?

"I have a plan," answered the cat. "Come quickly and hide yourself with me in the ditch until the wagon has passed, and I will tell you all about it!"

So it was done. The wagon rumbled by. The scent of the fish it was laden wit, filled the air. The driver went on calmly smoking his pipe. And two pairs of hungry eyes were gazing at him through the bushes that bordered the side of the road.

"Now then," cried Tybert, "our time has come. Follow the wagon and don't let it out of your sight for a moment, but take care that the driver does not see you. I shall go on in front and stretch myself out on the road, pretending to be dead. I guess that the driver when seeing me lying there, will want my skin and pick me up and throw me into the cart. Once there, I'll throw the fish out to you, and you will know what to do with it."

"Oh, yes, I'll know what to do with it," said Courtoys to himself, with a grin, and, keeping well out of sight of the driver, he followed the wagon.

Tybert's plan worked fine. He ran on for about a quarter of a mile, keeping to the fields bordering the road, and then stretched himself out at full length, with his mouth open as though he were dead.

"Oho!" said the farmer, as he drove up. "What's this? A dead cat! I'll take him with me, and sell his skin for a few sous. This time next week some fine lady will be wearing him round her neck, thinking it's sable fur." And with that he dismounted, picked up the cat and slung him carelessly into the wagon on top of the heap of fish.

Hardly was he back in his place, than Tybert arose and began to pick out the biggest and fattest fish and throw them into the road. He had to be very careful in doing this, because now and again the farmer turned his head. Once when a very big fish was tumbled out, the noise of its fall aroused the farmer, who swung round sharply on his seat. Tybert was only just in time to avert discovery by laying himself out and pretending to be dead as before.

When he had thrown out what he considered was a enough for the dog and himself, Tybert rested awhile, so that the dog could collect the spoils, and then jumped from the wagon to go and claim his share. When he came up to Courtoys, however, he found to his dismay that nothing was left of the fish but a heap of bones.

"That was a splendid plan of yours, brother," said Courtoys, licking his lips. The fish were delicious, and I hardly feel hungry at all now! Do make haste and take your share! And he waved his paw invitingly towards the heap of bones. Tybert gave him one look, and then grinned as though in enjoyment of an excellent joke. Not by word or action did he give any sign of the anger he felt inside, but he determined to have his revenge.


A day or two later his chance came. Lurking in his usual stealthy way in a farmyard, he saw the farmer go into the house with a fine big ham, which he hung by a cord on a nail in the kitchen wall. Away he ran to Courtoys and told him what he had seen.

"Well," said Courtoys surlily, "and what about it?"

"Why," answered Tybert. "There is no reason why we should not feast on that ham, you and I. It will be the easiest thing in the world to steal it. The latch of the kitchen window is broken, and it cannot be locked. All you have to do is to go there tonight, creep through the window, pull down the ham, and throw it out to me."

"Why can't you get it yourself?" asked Courtoys suspiciously.

"Ah," said the cat, "I don't think I am not strong enough to pull it down."

"And what about the farmer's dogs? I seem to remember hearing they are savage brutes!"

" Well, of course, if you're afraid . . ." answered the cat.

"You can be afraid yourself!" cried Courtoys. "Leave this to me."

So that very night, when the moon had set, the two crept into the farmyard. The dog managed to get through the window into the kitchen unobserved. The next moment he had pulled down the ham and had thrown it out of the window to Tybert, who was waiting below. Tybert seized it in his mouth and ran off, but as soon as he reached the gate he gave a series of such blood-curdling meows, that he roused every dog on the farm. Out they came, hair bristling and teeth flashing, just in time to catch Courtoys as he jumped down from the window.

Then there was a ferocious fight. With his back to the wall Courtoys put up a sturdy resistance, but he was very badly mangled before he managed to escape. With one ear torn off and one eye closed, bleeding from many wounds and panting with his exertions, he limped painfully up to where the cat awaited him.

"My poor friend," cried Tybert. "Are you badly hurt? Never mind, the ham was worth it – it simply melted in the mouth. I have already eaten my share, and I willingly give you yours! So saying, he pointed to the greasy string by which the ham had been suspended, and which was now all that remained. Courtoys gazed at it blankly.

"You see," explained Tybert calmly, as he prepared to take his departure, "a cord is worth a good many fish bones!"


The Peasant and the Satyrs

A very long time ago on a cold winter's day, a farmer set out on a journey that led him through the depths of a forest he did not know. He lost his way there. After he had wandered about for many hours in the hope of finding it again, it started to get dark. Just then he saw a small house in a little clearing. There was light in the window. "Here is a chance of supper and a bed," thought the farmer, and hastened to the cottage door.

Those who lived in the house were not people, but were almost like humans - lustful, given to drink, and with tails and horns. They were satyrs. The farmer had never seen anything like them before. But he nearly tumbled over little such children as they were playing in the snow outside the house door. It was a bit too late to draw back then, so he went up to the door and gave a loud knock.

"Come in!" cried a gruff voice.

The farmer went in and faced the father of the satyr family. The father had a long beard and a pair of horns jutting from his forehead. The farmer's knees trembled for fright, especially when he saw all the other satyrs, the mother and the uncles and the aunts. They were glowering at him.

"Please forgive me for my intrusion," said he, "but I have lost my way in the woods, and I am half dead with hunger and cold. Would you be so kind as to give me some food and allow me to take shelter for the night?" So saying he started to blow on his chilled fingers, for they were blue with the cold.

"Why are you blowing your fingers?" asked the satyr father curiously.

"Why, to warm them," answered the farmer and blew harder than before.

"Well, sit down," said the satyr. "We are just about to have supper. You are welcome to share it with us."

The farmer sat down to supper, and the satyr family sat down too and watched him with big unblinking eyes, so that he felt very uncomfortable.

A big basin of soup was set before the farmer. He found it very hot, so he began to blow on it.

The satyr family cried out in surprise at this, and the satyr father said, "Why are you blowing your soup?"

"To cool it," answered the farmer. "It is too hot, and I am afraid it may scald my mouth."

All the satyrs cried in surprise, and the father of the family cried loudest of all. "Come," he said, and took the farmer by the collar. "Out you go! There is no place in my house for a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breath. You had better practise your magic in the forest."

The farmer had to go supperless and spend the night in the woods. There he had no shelter but the trees, and the snow for coverlet.


The Barrel of Grease

A dog and a wolf set up house together and agreed to share equally any food they might get. One day they stole a barrel of grease from the house of a countryman who lived close by. Since they had no immediate need of it, they put it away until the winter. At that time they might be glad of anything they could get to still their hunger. So the barrel of grease was carefully hidden away in the cellar.

All went well for some time, until one day the wolf went to the dog and said: "A cousin of mine has just had a little son, and he has sent for me to go and be godfather at the christening tomorrow."

"Very well," answered the dog. "They have paid you a great honour by asking you, and you should not refuse."

The wolf departed, but he went no farther than the cellar. There he spent the whole day by the barrel of grease. At night he returned, licking his chops.

The dog said: "Well, did everything go off well?

"Splendidly!" answered the wolf.

"And what name did they give the child?

"Oh," said the wolf, "Begun"

"What a strange name!" cried the dog, "However, everyone to his taste!"

A day or two later the wolf told the dog that he had just got another summons from a different cousin who also had a baby. She wished him to stand godfather.

The dog laughed, "It is clear that you make a very good godfather, or you would not be so much in demand."

This time too the wolf spent a day with the barrel of grease.

When he returned the dog asked him the name of the child.

"Half-Done" said the wolf.

"Bah!" cried the dog, "in my time plain Jean or Jacques was good enough for anybody."

The wolf did not answer, for after he had dined very well in their cellar he was so drowsy that he fell asleep while the dog spoke.

A day or two afterwards he played the same trick again, and ate the last of the fat in the barrel. This time, when the dog asked him what was the name of the child, the wolf answered: "All-done .

The dog did not suspect any mischief. But when winter came and food became scarce, he said one day: "I think the time has come to tap our barrel of grease. What do you say? Weren't we wise to put it away for later?"

"I believe you," answered the wolf.

"Come then, let us go to the cellar and enjoy the fruits of our prudence."

So off they went to the cellar. There they found the barrel where they had left it, but there was no grease inside it. The dog looked at the wolf, and the wolf looked at the dog. Of the two the wolf seemed the more surprised.

"What's this?" cried the dog. "Where has our grease gone?" Then, looking at the wolf suspiciously: "This may be your work! One of us must have taken it. Nobody else knew it was here."

"Well," said the wolf, "If I say it was you, what will you do? Fortunately there is a way of discovering which of us is the culprit. The one who has eaten all that grease must be full of fat. Let us both go to sleep in the sunshine. At the end of an hour or two the heat will melt the grease, and it will soak through and show on the body of the thief."

The dog agreed to this, and the two went out and lay down in a sheltered place, where the heat of the sun was strong. After a time the dog began to yawn, and in less than half an hour he was sound asleep. The wolf remained awake, and when he had made sure that the dog was slumbering peacefully, he tiptoed down to the cellar. There he collected with his long tongue every bit of the grease that still remained sticking to the sides and bottom of the barrel. On returning to the sleeping dog, he carefully smeared the grease over his jaws, back, and thighs. Several times he did this, until the dog was covered with a thin greasy film. Then he lay down again and once more pretended to sleep.

A little while afterwards the dog woke up, and found the grease all over his body. He could not make out how it got there, and while he was still regarding himself with a look of blank surprise, the wolf cried: "Ah, now we know who was the thief! I see the grease with ease!"

The dog did not have a word to say for himself. He puzzled over the matter and came to the conclusion that he might have been sleep-walking and had stolen the grease without knowing it. The wolf did not disagree.

ATU 15. "The Theft of Food by Playing Godfather."

A dog and a wolf live together. The wolf pretends that he has been invited to be godfather at a baptism, but instead he secretly eats up the grease that he and the wolf have stored in a barrel. This happens three times. When the dog asks him the name of the baptized child, the fox makes up names that reflect the how little grease is left in their barrel.

When the dog discovers the grease is missing, he accuses the wolf, who denies having taken it. The wolf then proposes a test to determine who took the butter: both of them will lie in the sun and after some time the butter will melt and appear. While the dog sleeps, the wolf smears butter on him and thus "proves" the dog's guilt by false evidence.


Why the Bear Has a Stumpy Tail

One very cold winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the ponds and rivers were frozen hard, the fox and all the other animals went out to enjoy themselves by sliding and skating on the ice. After a time the fox began to feel hungry, so he wandered off by himself in search of something to eat. He nosed about here and he nosed about there; he lay in wait behind bushes in the hope of being able to catch a bird; he lurked by the walls of farmhouses ready to spring out on any unsuspecting chicken that might show itself, but all in vain. The birds were wary, and the fowls were all safe in the hen houses.

Disappointed, the fox went to the river. Most of it was covered with a glistening sheet of ice, but under the shelter of a bank, he found a hole in the ice which had not been frozen over. He sat down to watch the hole when a little fish popped up its head. Reynard's paw darted, and the next moment the little fish lay gasping on the ice.

The fox caught fish after fish in this way. When he had quite stilled his hunger he strung on a stick the rest of the fishes he had caught, and left.

He had not gone far before he met a she-bear, who had also come out in search of something to eat. When she saw the fox with his fine catch of fish, she said: "Where did you get all those fine fishes from? Tell me - I am so hungry!"

Ah," said the fox slyly, "wouldn't you just like to know! Well, come along with me and I will show you the place where I caught the fish."

The bear followed him to the hole in the ice.

Do you see that hole?" said the fox. "Fish come up there now and then. Sit on the ice and let your tail hang down into the water. Let the fish come and bite at it, but don't move. Sit quite still, and there may be dozens of fishes on your tail to pull out together."

The she-bear thought the plan might work and at once sat down and dipped her tail into the water.

"Now I'll just be walking home to see to my dinner," said the fox. "Keep quite still!"

For the next three hours the she-bear sat on the ice in the freezing cold with her tail in the water. The fox returned late in the afternoon.

The she-bear told him: "My tail is so numb that I hardly know I've got one!"

"Does it feel heavy?" asked the fox anxiously.

"Very heavy," said the she-bear.

"There could be dozens of fish on it!" said the fox. He noticed that the water in the hole had frozen over, and that the bear tail was captured in the ice.

"To land all the fish together you ought to give a strong, sharp, sudden pull and take them by surprise. Are you ready? One, two, three . . .!"

At the word three the she-bear rose on her hind legs and gave a mighty jerk, but her tail was so firmly frozen into the ice that it would not come out at the first try.

"Now try a long pull and a strong pull!" said the fox.

"Ouf! grunted the she-bear, "ouf, ouf . . . ah!"

Then she suddenly tumbled head over heels on the ice: her beautiful bushy tail was snapped off close to the roots.

When she had gathered her scattered wits together well enough to understand what had happened, she went to look for the fox, but he had disappeared. From that time down to this every bear has been born with a little stumpy tail.

ATU 2. "The Tail-Fisher."

A she-bear meets a fox who has caught a load of fish. She asks him where he caught them, and the fox advises the bear to fish with her tail through a hole in the ice. While she tries, the hole freezes over. When she finally wants to pull her tail out of the ice, it is frozen in place and snaps off.


The Witch's Cat

Once there was a wicked old witch who lived all alone in the topmost chamber of a tall and gloomy tower. There she sat day after day with her ugly head resting on her hands, peering out on the countryside through a slit in the wall. Her only companion was a big black tom-cat. He sat by her side in the darkened chamber, his eyes shining like green fire in the gloom.

One day as the witch sat there, she saw a little girl who gathered berries in the wood. The sight made the witch show her toothless gums in a grin and she muttered to herself: "Wait there, wait there, girl, till I come to you, for your flesh will be very sweet." Then she put on a long cloak and took a walking-staff in her hand and went down the stairs.

The little girl, Margot by name, had strayed very far from home in her eagerness to gather ripe berries, and now she was all by herself in a part of the country which was quite strange to her. She went on gathering her berries, humming a tune with a light heart, until her basket was nearly full. Then she sat down at the foot of a tree to rest.

An old woman come towards her, muffled up in a cloak, so that her face could not easily be seen.

"Good day, my dear," said the witch. "Will you give me a few of those ripe berries?

"Yes," answered Margot. "Take as many as you like, for I can easily gather some more." The witch took a handful of berries and sat down by Margot's side to eat them. And all the time she was eating she was gazing at the little gir, but Margot could not see the mean look in the witch's eyes because the cloak hid her face.

"Where do you live, little girl?" asked the witch after a while.

Margot told her, and the witch said: "You must be very tired with walking all that way. If you will come to my house I will give you a bowl of milk and a slice of currant cake, and you shall see all the wonderful things that I keep in my rooms.

So Margot went with the witch into the gloomy tower, not so much because she wanted the milk or the cake, but to see the pretty things in the store rooms. No sooner was she within than the witch fell on her, bound her fast with a cord and carried her up to the topmost room where the cat was sitting blinking its green eyes. The old witch opened the door of a very small room there. It was used to store things, and was without windows. Now she pushed Margot inside and locked the door behind her. She meant to keep her there until she had grown bigger and fatter to eat. The witch therefore brought her plenty of rich food every day, and from time to time she would feel Margot's arm to see whether she was plump enough to go into the pot.

Margot was scared and felt miserable at being kept in that dark, small room all alone. She cried and cried, but there was nobody to hear her except the witch's big black cat, and he was a silent animal who did not show his feelings. However, Margot was almost as sorry for him as she was for herself, for the witch often beat him without mercy. The girl tried to comfort the cat by giving him pieces from her dinner; she pushed them out to him through the crack under the door.

One day when the old witch had gone out as usual, the girl in the dark, little room was surprised to hear a voice from the other side of the door. "Margot, Margot, don't cry any more, but listen to me."

"Who are you?" asked the little girl.

"I am the cat," the voice went on. "I am going to push the key beneath the door. Take it and let yourself out. But hurry. There is no time to waste!"

"Thank you, thank you," said Margot when she found herself free. "But how is it that you are able to talk? I did not know that cats could speak."

"They can't, as a rule," said the witch's cat, "but never mind that now. The witch may return at any moment, and we must get you safely out of her reach."

"Yes, yes," said Margot, "I must go at once. I will run like the wind!"

"That is no use," said the cat. "Before you had got half-way home the witch would overtake you."

"Then what must I do? Is there anywhere I can hide?"

"When she returns and finds you gone she will ransack every corner of the tower. Not even a mouse could escape her keen eyes," said the cat.

"Oh dear!" said Margot, beginning to cry again. "Do help me to escape, and I will be grateful to you all my life."

"I will help you," answered the cat, "that is why I let you out of the dark, little room. Take this piece of carpet, and when the witch has almost overtaken you, throw it on to the ground and it will turn into a wide river. That will delay her for some time, for she cannot swim. But if she manages to get across and overtakes you again, throw down this comb, and it will at once change into a dense forest. You may plunge into it without fear, for a way will open before you between the trees. But the witch will have to cut a way through, foot by foot, with her knife, and long before she has done that you will be safely home."

Margot thanked the cat, and having taken the carpet and the comb, she fled swiftly down the stairs.

A short time afterwards the witch came home. When she discovered that her prisoner had escaped, she howled with rage and climbed to the top of her tower. From there she soon discovered the little girl was running as fast as she could toward her home.

"I'll have you yet," muttered the witch, and away she went after her.

Margot saw her coming. The witch gained on her rapidly. Margot quickly took out the strip of carpet and laid it on the ground, and it turned into a wide and swiftly flowing river. The witch cried in rage and tried to wade after her, but the flood mounted swiftly, first to her knees, and then to her waist. Another moment and she would have been swept away - but she took a nutshell from her pocket and set it afloat on the waters. The nutshell turned into a little boat. She got into it and paddling with her broom, and got across the river.

The witch wore enchanted boots. They enabled her to run faster than the fleeing Margot. After ten more minutes she was once again at Margot's heels. Then the little girl drew out the comb and flung it behind her. At once a dense forest sprang up. Margot fled into it through an alley that opened itself before her. Spluttering with anger, the witch drew her knife to hack her way through the wood, but long before she had cut a dozen yards Margot was safely home and in her mother's arms.

The old witch angrily made her way back to the tower. But as soon as she entered her doorway, she crumbled to dust. A wind arose and blew the dust away. That was the end of the old witch, for her power ceased as soon as one of her victims managed to escape.

As for the black cat, nobody ever saw him again, but it was whispered that he was really a prince that the wicked old crone had captured years earlier and changed into a cat. By helping Margot to escape he had released himself from the spell, and could return in human for to his father's kingdom.



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