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!"
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.
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."
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."