At dawn the other day, when Bruin came tramping over the bog with a fat pig, Reynard Fox sat on a stone by the moorside.
"Good day, big one," said the fox; "what's that so nice that you have there? "
"Pork," said Bruin.
"Well, I have got a dainty bit too," said Reynard.
"What is that?" asked the bear.
"The biggest wild bee's comb I ever saw in my life," said Reynard.
"You don't say so," said Bruin, who grinned and licked his lips. He thought it would be nice to taste a little honey. At last he said, "Shall we swop our fare? "
"No, no!" said Reynard, "I can't do that."
The end was that they made a bet, and agreed to name three trees. If the fox could say them off faster than the bear, he was to have leave to take one bite of the bacon; but if the bear could say them faster, he was to have leave to take one sup out of the comb. Bruin thought he was sure to sup out all the honey at one breath.
"Well," said Reynard, "it's all fair and right, no doubt, but all I say is, if I win, you shall be bound to tear off the bristles where I am to bite."
"Of course," said Bruin, "I'll help you, as you can't help yourself."
So they were to begin and name the trees.
"FIR, SCOTCH FIR, SPRUCE," growled out Bruin, for he was gruff in his tongue, that he was. But for all that he only named two trees, for Fir and Scotch Fir are both the same.
"Ash, Aspen, Oak" screamed Reynard, so that the wood rang again.
So he had won the wager, and down he ran and took the heart out of the pig at one bite, and was just running off with it. But Bruin was angry because he had taken the best bit out of the whole pig, and so he laid hold of his tail and held him fast.
"Stop a bit, stop a bit," he said, and was wild with rage.
"Never mind," said the fox, "it's as we agreed on. Let me go, big guy, and I'll give you a taste of my honey."
When Bruin heard that, he let go his hold, and away went Reynard after the honey.
"Here, on this honeycomb," said Reynard, "lies a leaf, and under this leaf is a hole, and that hole you are to suck."
As he said this he held up the comb under the bear's nose, took off the leaf, jumped up on a stone, and began to gibber and laugh, for there was neither honey nor honeycomb, but a wasp's nest, as big as a man's head, full of wasps, and out swarmed the wasps and settled on Bruin's head, and stung him in his eyes and ears, and mouth and snout. And he had such hard work to rid himself of them that he had no time to think of Reynard.