One day while the fox was out walking in the forest, he met a stranger. "Good day," he said. "Who are you?"
"I am a cat," said the stranger. I had service in a decent family but I had to leave them."
"Did they treat you badly?" the fox asked.
"No, it wasn't that. They were considerate enough, but they kept getting poorer and poorer till finally they hadn't food enough to feed us animals. Then I overheard the master say that soon they'd be forced to eat us and that they'd begin with me. At that I decided it was time for me to run away, and here I am."
"Poor cat," said the fox, "you have had a cruel experience! Why don't you take service with me?"
"Will I be safe with you?" the cat asked. "Will you protect me?"
"Will I?" the fox repeated boastfully. "Dear cat, once it becomes known that you are my servant all the animals will show you much and wholesome respect."
"Very well then, I'll enter your service," the cat said.
So the bargain was struck and the fox at once began to train his new servant.
"Now, tell me: what would you do if you suddenly met a bear?"
"There's just one thing I could do, master: I'd run up a tree."
The fox laughed. "You must have more ways than one to meet such a situation! Take me now: there are any of a hundred things that I could do if I met a bear!"
Just then the bear, ambled softly up behind the fox. The cat saw him and at once flew up a tree. Before the fox could move, the bear clutched him firmly on the shoulder with his teeth.
"Oh, master, master!" the cat called down from the tree. "What is this? I with my one way have escaped and you with your hundred are caught!"
But the fox paid no heed to the cat. He twisted his head around and looked reproachfully at the bear.
"Why, my dear old friend!" he said, "what in the world do you mean by taking hold of me so roughly! Ouch! You're nipping my shoulder, really you are! I don't understand why you're acting this way! Here I've always been such a good friend to you, so faithful, so true, so "
"What!" rumbled the bear. "Faithful? True? You? "
The bear's feelings overcame him to such an extent that he opened his jaws to roar out freely his denial of the fox's hypocrisy. That gave the fox just the chance he wanted. He jerked quickly away and fled, and the bear was left standing with his mouth wide open.
Later when the bear had ambled off, the fox returned and called the cat down from the tree. "You see," he remarked casually, "it wasn't anything at all for me to get the best of the bear!"
He could see that he had vastly impressed the cat, so he let the subject drop. "Come along," he said, "it's time for us to go home."
A day or so later the fox met the wolf. The fox hadn't seen much of him recently, for the wolf had been having a hard time and had been on the verge of starvation. Now he was sleek again and well fed, for he had recently killed an ox.
"Good day," the fox said in a friendly way.
"Good day. How are you?" said the wolf.
"Very fine indeed!" the fox said. "You see I have a new servant, a wonderful servant! He's not big to look at, but he's so strong and quick that he'd jump on you in a minute and eat you up before you knew what was happening!"
"Yes, really! You just ought to see him!"
"I'd like to see him," the wolf said.
"Well, you might slip down now and take a peep in the kitchen. He's at home. But I warn you not to let him see you! If he catches sight of you, I won't be responsible for what follows!"
The wolf was deeply impressed with all this. He crept carefully down to the fox's kitchen and sniffed cautiously at the crack under the door. The cat inside, seeing the tip of the wolf's nose and thinking it was a mouse, pounced on it with all his claws. This gave the wolf a mighty fright and he bolted madly off into the forest.
He was still panting when he met the bear. "Have you heard about that awful creature that the fox has for a servant?" he asked.
The bear had heard nothing, so the wolf told him of his own terrifying experience.
The bear's curiosity was aroused. "I must have a glimpse of this wonderful servant," he said, ambling off in the direction of the fox's kitchen.
"I'll wait for you here," the wolf called after him, "and I warn you, be careful!"
When the bear got to the fox's kitchen, quietly stuck his nose under the crack of the door and peered inside. He hardly had time for one peek when a terrible creature with a straight tail that looked like a spear came flying through the air, landed on his nose, and drove it full of pins and needles.
"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" the bear whimpered as he hurried back to the wolf.
"Did you see him?" the wolf asked.
"I got just one glimpse of him," the bear said. "He had a long spear sticking up over his shoulder and he came swooping down through the air just as if he had wings!"
"My! I wish we could really see him!" the wolf said. "Suppose we ask the fox to arrange some way we can have a good look at him."
So they went to the fox, and he said, "Well, if you make a feast and invite my servant, I think he will come."
"All right," the wolf said, "that's what we'll do. I've still got some of that ox. It will make a fine feast."
So they roasted the remains of the ox and set it out.
"Now I'll go get my servant," the fox said. "When you hear us coming, you two hide some place where you can see us but we cannot see you. If my servant once sees you I won't be responsible for the consequences!"
So the wolf hid in some bushes nearby and the bear drew himself up into the branches of a tree. The fox and the cat arrived and sat them down to the feast.
Now it happened that the wolf was not able to see, so he tried to twist himself around into a better position. The cat caught a glimpse of his tail moving in the bushes and at once pounced on it. With one terrified yelp, the wolf jumped out of the bushes and fled into the forest as fast as he could.
In fright the cat scampered up the tree and the bear supposed that the awful creature now was after him. In his frantic efforts to escape he tumbled down out of the tree and broke two ribs. But for all that he made off, too terrified to look back.
So the fox and the cat were left to finish the ox in peace.
When the wolf had sacrificed his ox to have a feast for the fox's servant, he had nothing left for himself and was soon very hungry. He could not find anything to eat in the forest, so he went prowling around a farm in the hope of getting a pig or a chicken. The only living creature he came upon was a thin old dog who was sleeping in the sun.
"This is better than nothing," he thought to himself and took hold of the dog to drag it off..
"Cousin! Cousin!" cried the dog. "Is this any way to treat a relative? Let me go!"
"I'm sorry," the wolf said, "but I cannot let you go. I'm too hungry."
"Let me go," the dog begged, "and I tell you what I'll do: I'll give you a bottle of vodka."
"Promises come easy," the wolf said. "Where will you get the vodka?"
"Under the bench in the kitchen. That's where the farmer keeps his bottle. I've seen him hide it there. Come tonight after the family has gone to sleep and I'll let you in and give you the vodka."
Now the wolf was very fond of vodka, so he said to the dog, "Very well, I'll let you go. But keep your promise!"
Late that night when the family were asleep, the wolf came scratching at the farmhouse door and the dog let him in.
"Well, old fellow, you know why I've come," the wolf said.
At once the dog crawled under the bench and got the master's bottle of vodka. "Here it is!" he said, offering the wolf the bottle.
"You drink first," the wolf insisted. "You're the host."
The dog raised the bottle and took a little sip. Then the wolf took a deep swallow. "Ah!" he said, smacking his lips, "that's something!"
His stomach was empty and the vodka went through his veins like fire. He felt happy and laughed and went capering around the room. "I feel an urge to sing!" he cried.
"Dear cousin," the dog said, "I beg you - don't sing! You will wake the folks! Sit down quietly and we'll talk."
So they sat for a while and talked and then the wolf took another deep swallow of the vodka. Again he wanted to sing and the dog had trouble restraining him.
"Do you want to wake the family, cousin? Be quiet now or you cannot have any more vodka!"
The wolf took another deep drink and after that there was no holding him back. He went staggering around the room howling at the top of his voice.
The farmer and all his family came hurrying into the kitchen with clubs and pokers and whatever they could pick up.
"It's a wolf!" the farmer cried. "The scoundrel, coming right into the house! Give him a good beating!"
If the door hadn't been open they would have clubbed the wolf to death. As it was, he barely escaped with his life.
The wolf easily got into trouble with the farm folks. With sore ribs and a back aching from the beating that farm folk had given him he slunk quietly along the forest ways, hoping to come upon some easy prey. Suddenly he saw ahead of him a goat and a ram.
"What are they doing hereabouts?" he thought to himself. "This is no place for them, and if anything happens to them it will be their own fault."
The goat and the ram both knew that the forest was no place for them. But where else could they go? They had recently been turned loose to fend for themselves by their poor old master who was no longer able to feed them.
"This forest rather frightens me," the ram had said to the goat. "Do you suppose we'll be able to keep off the wolves?"
The goat said, "Yes, I've got a plan." So saying he took a sack and half filled it with dry chips. Then when he shook the sack, the chips made a hollow rattle. He threw the sack over his shoulder and said to the ram, "Don't be frightened. We'll be able to hold our own with the forest creatures."
It was just at this moment that the wolf, appeared.
"Hal Ha!" said the wolf suspiciously. "What's that you've got in that sack? No nonsense now! Answer me at once or I'll have to kill you both!"
The goat gave the sack a little rattle. "In this sack?" he said. "Oh, only the skulls and bones of the wolves we have eaten. We haven't had any wolf meat now for some time, have we? It's good you've come along for we're hungry. . . . Get ready, ram! Kill the wolf!"
The ram lowered his horns ready for attack and the wolf, too surprised to resist and too stiff to run away, cried out wildly, "Brothers! Brothers! Don't kill me! I'm your friend! Spare me and I'll do something for you!"
"Get ready, ram!" commanded the goat, "Don't kill the wolf just yet!"
Then he asked the wolf, "What will you do for us if we spare you?"
"I'll send you twelve wolves," the wolf promised. "That will give you more meat than you'd have if you killed just me!"
"Twelve," the goat replied. "You are right: twelve wolves will give us more meat than one. Very well, we'll let you go on condition that you send us twelve. But see to it that you keep your word!"
So the wolf went off as fast as his stiff legs could carry him and gathered twelve of his brothers.
"I've called you together," he said, "to warn you of two terrible creatures. A goat and a ram! They are here in the forest, eating up wolves! Already they have a sack full of our unfortunate relations' skulls and bones! I should say we ought to flee, all of us!"
"What!" said the other wolves, "thirteen wolves flee from one goat and one ram? No, we'll go together and give them battle!"
"Don't count me in!" the wolf said. "I don't want to see those two again!"
The twelve wolves marched off without him.
As soon as the goat saw them coming, he ran up a tree. The ram followed him, but couldn't get very high. The twelve wolves came under the tree and standing in a flock they called out, "Now then, you two, come on! We're ready for you!"
"Get ready, ram!" commanded the goat. "They're all here. Lose no more time! Jump down among them and kill!"
The goat himself began climbing down the tree, at the same time making an awful noise with his sack. He gave the ram a push and the ram slipped and fell right on the backs of the wolves.
"That's right ram! Kill them all!" the goat shouted, rattling his sack more furiously than ever. "Don't let a single one of them escape!"
In the confusion the wolves stampeded, running helter-skelter in all directions and felt awfully lucky to get away. "Horrible, horrible!" each of them thought.
Afterwards the goat and the ram lived on in the forest without being troubled by the wolves any more.