As soon as Reynard was set free, the king commanded him to come and tell him of the whereabouts of the treasure.
"All in good time," said Reynard. "First let me describe the cave itself and how I found it. One day, when I was out hunting, I came upon a hole, and thinking it would make a fine earth for me I entered. The hole was narrow at first and winding, and after a time it widened out, and I found myself in a vast hall lit by many lamps. What did I see there? How can I describe the wonders that met my eyes?"
"Gold?" asked the king, licking his dry lips.
"Aye, gold and gold and gold! Golden vessels and vases and bars, gold-embroidered robes, and golden armour, and swords and spears. Gold in heaps so that the eye was dazzled by it. And this was not all," Reynard went on, looking towards the queen, "for there also, in bales and packages, were sparkling jewels necklaces and bracelets of diamonds flashing in the light, and ropes of pearls, beautiful as the sheen on the sea!"
"And crowns, too?" asked the queen, "diamond crowns for ladies' brows?"
"Yes, by all means," said the fox, "even crowns of a richness and value to match your beauty."
"But where is the cave?" asked the king. "I am all on fire to go to it. Tell me at once."
"In Flanders," said the fox, "there is a deep, dark forest called Hulsterlo. Dreary it is, and dense, and dark, and the fierce wind howls through it. And near this forest is a pool called Krekynpit. Mark well that word, for it is the key that will unlock the treasure cave. I alone in all the world know the secret, and I will tell it to you.
"When you get to the forest you must find the pool. And when you have found the pool you must walk along its sides until you come to a place where it splits in two, leaving a narrow neck of land in between. You will easily know the place, for on that split of land grow two poplar trees, so tall that they tower above all the other trees in the forest. Search among the roots of these trees and you will find two small white stones, graved with a skull and crossbones. From these step six paces to the right, and there, if you stamp your feet, an empty hollow sound will answer you. Dig in that place about six feet down, and you will come to a door, fast barred and locked. No key will open it, nor will any strength break it down. But here is what you must do. Step back from the door and say these magic words;
"King I am.
"Three times you must speak these words, and the door will open to you."
The king stood silent for a moment after Reynard had ended his tale of the wonderful treasure. Then, stroking his beard, he said:.
"It all sounds very fine, but where is this wood named Hulsterlo, and the lake called Krekynpit? London I have heard of, and Paris too; butI never heard of Krekynpit in my life."
Reynard turned on the king with an injured air.
"Does Your Majesty, then, doubt my word?" he asked. "If you will forgive my saying so, you must have but a very small knowledge of geography. Everybody knows the wood of Hulsterlo, even Cuwaert the Hare here. Stand forth, Cuwaert, and tell the king!"
The poor hare had never heard of the place in his life, but stepped forward tremblingly. He felt Reynard's baleful glance upon him, and dared not tell the truth. "I should say I know it, Your Majesty," he stammered. "Hulsterlo is the name of the wood and Krekynpit the name of the lake. They are dreary places both of them, and nobody ever found any good there to my knowledge. They are in the county of, now, let me see - in the county of -"
That will do, Cuwaert," said Reynard hurriedly. "Step back to your place, my friend, and don't weary His Majesty with your talk."
"It is all very well," said the king, "but I am not much wiser than I was before. I will tell you what, Reynard. You yourself shall lead us to the place where the treasure is hidden. And," here the king's voice grew very stern "woe to you if you cannot find it!"
For a moment the wily fox was dumbfounded, but he quickly recovered himself. "I will lead the way with pleasure, Your Majesty," he answered. But think a little before you order me to do a thing that may work harm to your fair fame. I am quite ready to set out for Krekynpit this moment, if you like, but have you forgotten that I am under the ban of the Church for that little matter of robbing the priest's farmyard? If you go on a journey with me as your companion you will bring the wrath of the Church down on your own head also, and that, as you know, is a very serious thing."
"You are right," said the king thoughtfully. "But what, then, are we to do?"
Reynard pretended to think very hard. "I have it, Your Majesty," he said at last. There is no particular hurry for us to make this journey. The treasure is quite safe. Nobody will steal it, I should say. Let me set off at once to Rome to ask pardon from the pope. Then, when I come back, all will be well, and we can start at once."
"That is not a bad idea," said the king, "but how am I to ensure that once out of my reach you will ever come back? You have deceived me before, you know!"
Why, as to that," answered Reynard, "you can send somebody with me. Here's Cuwaert the Hare who can run faster than I can myself; one would not escape from him in a hurry. Let him be sent with me, and Bellyn the Ram as well. I ask for Bellyn because, as everybody knows, he is a very good-living beast, and before I ask the pope for pardon I would like to improve my mind by listening to his talk."
"It sounds a good idea," said the king again. "Very good, then, set off with you at once, and be as quick as you can, for I don't mind telling you that I am all on fire to enter the cave and see the gold. You, Cuwaert, and you, Bellyn, look after Reynard, and see that he does not play any tricks. I hold you responsible for his safe-keeping."
Soon afterwards the fox and his two companions set off on their long journey. The pope lived at Rome, and Rome was a very long way off – many weeks' journey, even though they travelled at the top of their speed all the time.
No sooner were they out of sight of the King's Court than Reynard said:.
"I am so glad you have been able to come with me, dear friends. I asked for you, Cuwaert, and you, Bellyn, because I well know that you are the only two among all the beasts who are to be trusted. Never had a fox such faithful friends, and I am looking forward immensely to our journey together. Before we go, however, I would like to say farewell to my wife. Poor thing, she does not know yet that I am a changed beast. She has often wept over my sins, and she will be full of joy to hear that I have repented, and that I am to ask forgiveness of the pope. My Castle of Malpertuis is not very far out of our road. I am sure you will not mind coming there with me. I will not stay long."
The hare and the ram both agreed, and before long the three stood at the gate of Reynard's castle.
"Here we are," said the fox cheerfully. "Now, Bellyn, you wait outside here. I have something important I want to say to Cuwaert, so he can go in with me. There is no other gate to the castle, so I cannot get out without your knowing."
The solemn and stupid old ram at once sat down on the step to wait, while Cuwaert and the fox entered the castle. Through the underground passages Reynard led the way until they came at last to the inner chamber where the vixen lay with her cubs.
They entered, and Reynard carefully closed and locked the door.
"Good day, wife," he said. "Here I am, you see, come back again like a bad penny all safe and sound, ha, ha! And I've brought my dear friend Cuwaert to see you, the sweetest companion a fox ever had."
His wicked eyes gleamed.
"Why, husband," said the vixen, "I am glad indeed to see you back again. I made sure that the king would lock you up in prison or do something else equally unpleasant.How did you manage to get away?"
"Oh," answered Reynard, "I told His Majesty about the treasure of Krekynpit, and he was so anxious to get his paws on the gold that he sent me off to Rome to ask pardon for my sins from the pope, so that I could lead him to it!"
"The treasure of Krekynpit?" said the vixen, puzzled. "What is that? I have never heard of it."
"Nor I, either, until this morning," answered Reynard. "But I made up a beautiful story about it and it was good enough for the king, wasn't it, Cuwaert, my friend?"
He turned his gaze upon the trembling hare, who now saw that he had been trapped and was crouching in a corner.
"Let me out, Reynard," he implored; "let me out, and I will promise not to tell the king!"
"What!" roared the fox. "You would be a traitor to His Majesty, would you? You would be false to our good King Nobel, who put his trust in you? What shall we do, wife, with such a rogue?"
He began to creep stealthily towards the poor hare, licking his chops and glowering.
"Help, Bellyn, help!" screamed Cuwaert. The fox is going to kill me. Come quickly or I am lost."
But he had hardly uttered the words before the cruel fox was at his throat, and a minute later there was an end of Cuwaert!.
"There's meat for us for a long time," said the fox, rising. "Fools that they are, all of them, to match their wits against mine! Now, wife, we had better get away quickly from this place, for very soon we shall have the hue and cry out after us. I know a wood, not far from here, where there is plenty of shelter, and everything we may require. The coverts in it are full of fat pheasants and partridges; there are shady dells where you and the young ones can take your ease, and there is plenty of fresh water."
"I would much rather stay where I am," answered his wife,"and I think you would be wise to stay here too. What can the king do? Even if he comes and lays siege to the castle, you know very well he could never catch us. There are a thousand different passages here underground, and many different holes to escape from. He might as well look for a needle in a haystack as search for us, even if he gained an entrance."
So they began to argue the matter. And all the time they were talking old Belly the Ram sat solemn and grave as a judge, waiting patiently for Reynard to come out.
At last, even the ram's patience gave way, and he called out angrily: "Come along, you two! How much longer are you going to keep me waiting here? Do you think that I have nothing better to do than to sit on a cold step all day?"
There was no answer.
"Come, Reynard," he cried again. "It's a very long farewell you are taking. I could have said good-bye in a quarter of the time!"
At this, Reynard, who had heard his shouts, put his head out of the door and said:.
"Don't be angry, dear Bellyn. Good Cuwaert is within, comforting my wife, I can tell you. Nothing will persuade her that I am not going to my death. I could not stand all the crying any longer, and simply had to come away."
"So that was the sound I heard," said Bellyn. "I fancied I heard a cry a while ago, but it sounded to me like Cuwaert's voice. For the moment I thought he was crying for help."
"For help!" said Reynard reprovingly. "Do you, then, think so ill of me as to fear that anything could happen to him in my house? I know I have been wicked, but I hope I have not fallen so low as to betray a guest!"
"It is all right," said Bellyn; "it must have been my fancy."
"I forgive you," said the fox, smiling sweetly. "Now I will tell you what to do, Bellyn. I have just thought of a message I must send to the king with a parcel. Will you take them back for me? By the time you return Cuwaert will be ready, and we will all set out together."
Bellyn agreed, and the fox, going back to his chamber, took the head of poor Cuwaert and put it into a bag, and having tied the bag tightly, sealed it, and delivered it to the ram to take to the king.
The cunning fox had pretended to set off with the ram and hare to Rome. But by artful words he brought the two to his Castle of Malpertuis, where he killed the hare. Now he was going to send his head in a bag to the king.
The stupid ram believed everything that Reynard said, and when the fox told him that the bag contained an important letter, he was only too anxious to be off. "Let me tie it round your neck," said Reynard. "This letter is far too valuable to be lost. I would not have the king miss it for all I own in the world. You must take care of it, Bellyn!" "Trust me!" said the Ram. "I'd like to see anybody try to take it from me, that's all!"
"And whatever you do," said Reynard, "don't open the bag and look at what is inside it - secret things. If the king thought you had opened the bag, or as much as peeped into it, he would at once order you to be hanged."
"Do you think the king will be pleased with me for bringing it?" asked Bellyn.
"Pleased!" said Reynard. "Why, pleased isn't the word. Only you must make haste and not delay on the road."
I'm gone," said Bellyn, and off he went. there and then. with a clumsy trot, the bag swinging from his neck.
Shortly after noon the same day he arrived at court, and you can imagine how surprised everybody was to see him back again.
"Why, Bellyn!" cried the king. "What brings you here? I thought you were miles away on your path to Rome. And where are Cuwaert and Reynard? And what is that bag that is hanging round your neck?"
Then the ram told the king everything that had happened, and at the end of the tale handed up the small bag, so that the king might break the seal himself and take out Reynard's letter.
But the king would not to do. "I am not good at my letters," said he. "Here, Tybert, you are good at languages! Untie me this bag and read this precious letter."
So Tybert the Cat took the bag, untied it carefully, and drew out the head of poor Cuwaert.
"See," he said, holding the head aloft. "Reynard's writing, truly! Are you satisfied, king?"
The king bowed his head in grief and sorrow. "I have been vain and foolish," he said, "and I am well punished for trusting the word of one who a hundred times was proved a liar and thief." Then, turning to the beasts that stood around his throne, he cried in a loud voice: "Is there none of you all, you who call yourselves my subjects and friends, who will rid me of this cruel monster?" But no one answered him.