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The Fox and the Wolf
by [?]

At the foot of some high mountains there was, once upon a time, a small village, and a little way off two roads met, one of them going to the east and the other to the west. The villagers were quiet, hard-working folk, who toiled in the fields all day, and in the evening set out for home when the bell began to ring in the little church. In the summer mornings they led out their flocks to pasture, and were happy and contented from sunrise to sunset.

One summer night, when a round full moon shone down upon the white road, a great wolf came trotting round the corner.

‘I positively must get a good meal before I go back to my den,’ he said to himself; ‘it is nearly a week since I have tasted anything but scraps, though perhaps no one would think it to look at my figure! Of course there are plenty of rabbits and hares in the mountains; but indeed one needs to be a greyhound to catch them, and I am not so young as I was! If I could only dine off that fox I saw a fortnight ago, curled up into a delicious hairy ball, I should ask nothing better; I would have eaten her then, but unluckily her husband was lying beside her, and one knows that foxes, great and small, run like the wind. Really it seems as if there was not a living creature left for me to prey upon but a wolf, and, as the proverb says: “One wolf does not bite another.” However, let us see what this village can produce. I am as hungry as a schoolmaster.’

Now, while these thoughts were running through the mind of the wolf, the very fox he had been thinking of was galloping along the other road.

‘The whole of this day I have listened to those village hens clucking till I could bear it no longer,’ murmured she as she bounded along, hardly seeming to touch the ground. ‘When you are fond of fowls and eggs it is the sweetest of all music. As sure as there is a sun in heaven I will have some of them this night, for I have grown so thin that my very bones rattle, and my poor babies are crying for food.’ And as she spoke she reached a little plot of grass, where the two roads joined, and flung herself under a tree to take a little rest, and to settle her plans. At this moment the wolf came up.

At the sight of the fox lying within his grasp his mouth began to water, but his joy was somewhat checked when he noticed how thin she was. The fox’s quick ears heard the sound of his paws, though they were soft as velvet, and turning her head she said politely:

‘Is that you, neighbour? What a strange place to meet in! I hope you are quite well?’

‘Quite well as regards my health,’ answered the wolf, whose eye glistened greedily, ‘at least, as well as one can be when one is very hungry. But what is the matter with you? A fortnight ago you were as plump as heart could wish!’

‘I have been ill–very ill,’ replied the fox, ‘and what you say is quite true. A worm is fat in comparison with me.’

‘He is. Still, you are good enough for me; for “to the hungry no bread is hard.”‘

‘Oh, you are always joking! I’m sure you are not half as hungry as I!’

‘That we shall soon see,’ cried the wolf, opening his huge mouth and crouching for a spring.

‘What are you doing?’ exclaimed the fox, stepping backwards.

‘What am I doing? What I am going to do is to make my supper off you, in less time than a cock takes to crow.’

‘Well, I suppose you must have your joke,’ answered the fox lightly, but never removing her eye from the wolf, who replied with a snarl which showed all his teeth: