Why the Bear Is Stumpy-Tailed
ONE day the Bear met the Fox, who came slinking along with a string of fish he had stolen.
"Whence did you get those from?" asked the Bear.
"Oh! my Lord Bruin, I've been out fishing and caught them," said the Fox.
So the Bear had a mind to learn to fish too, and bade the Fox tell him how he was to set about it.
"Oh! it's an easy craft for you," answered the Fox, "and soon learnt. You've only got to go upon the ice, and cut a hole and stick your tail down into it; and so you must go on holding it there as long as you can. You're not to mind if your tail smarts a little; that's when the fish bite. The longer you hold it there the more fish you'll get; and then all at once out with it, with a cross pull sideways, and with a strong pull too."
Yes; the Bear did as the Fox had said, and held his tail a long, long time down in the hole, till it was fast frozen in. Then he pulled it out with a cross pull, and it snapped short off. That's why Bruin goes about with a stumpy tail this very day.
Bruin and Reynard
THE Bear and the Fox had once bought a firkin of butter together; they were to have it at Yule, and hid it till then under a thick spruce bush.
After that they went a little way off and lay down on a sunny bank to sleep. So when they had lain a while the Fox got up, shook himself, and bawled out "yes."
Then he ran off straight to the firkin and ate a good third part of it. But when he came back, and the Bear asked him where he had been since he was so fat about the paunch, he said,—
"Don't you believe then that I was bidden to barsel, to a christening feast."
"So, so," said the Bear, "and pray what was the bairn's name."
"Just-begun," said the Fox.
So they lay down to sleep again. In a little while up jumped the Fox again, bawled out "yes," and ran off to the firkin.
This time, too, he ate a good lump. When he came back, and the Bear asked him again where he had been, he said,—
"Oh wasn't I bidden to barsel again, don't you think."
"And pray what was the bairn's name this time," asked the Bear.
"Half-eaten," said the Fox.
The Bear thought that a very queer name, but he hadn't wondered long over it before he began to yawn and gape, and fell asleep. Well, he hadn't lain long before the Fox jumped up as he had done twice before, bawled out "yes," and ran off to the firkin, which this time he cleared right out. When he got back he had been bidden to barsel again, and when the Bear wanted to know the bairn's name he answered,—
After that they lay down again, and slept a long time; but then they were to go to the firkin to look at the butter, and when they found it eaten up, the Bear threw the blame on the Fox, and the Fox on the Bear; and each said the one had been at the firkin while the other slept.
"Well, well," said Reynard, "we'll soon find this out, which of us has eaten the butter. We'll just lay down in the sunshine, and he whose cheeks and chaps are greasiest when we wake, he is the thief."
Yes, that trial Bruin was ready to stand; and as he knew in his heart he had never so much as tasted the butter, he lay down without a care to sleep in the sun.
Then Reynard stole off to the firkin for a morsel of butter, which stuck there in a crack, and then he crept back to the Bear, and greased his chaps and cheeks with it; and then he, too, lay down to sleep as if nothing had happened.
So when they both woke, the sun had melted the butter, and the Bear's whiskers were all greasy; and so it was Bruin after all, and no one else, who had eaten the butter.