ONE day a fox was hungry. He did not know what to think. He saw a shepherd pass every day with his flock, and he said to himself that he ought to steal his milk and his cheese, and to have a good feast; but he needed some one to help him in order to effect anything. So he goes off to find a wolf, and he says to him,
"Wolf, wolf! we ought to have a feast with such a shepherd's milk and cheese. You, you shall go to where the flocks are feeding, and from a distance you must howl, 'Uhur, uhur, uhur.' The man, after having milked his sheep, drives them into the field, with his dog, very early in the morning, and he stops at home to do his work, and then he makes his cheese; and, when you have begun to howl 'Uhur, uhur,' and the dog to bark, the shepherd will leave everything else, and will go off full speed. During this time I will steal the milk, and we will share it when you come to me."
The wolf agreed to have a feast, and set out. He did just what the fox had told him. The dog began to bark when the wolf approached. And when the man heard that he went off, leaving everything, and our fox goes and steals the vessel in which the curdled milk was. What does he do then, before the arrival of the wolf? He gently, gently takes off the cream, thinly, thinly, and he eats all the contents of the jug. After he has eaten all, he fills it up with dirt, and puts back the cream on the top, and he awaits the wolf at the place where he had told him. The fox says to him, since it is he who is to make the division, that as the top is much better than the underneath part, the one who should choose that should have only that, and the other all the rest. "Choose now which you would like."
The wolf says to him,
"I will not have the top; I prefer what is at the bottom."
The fox then takes the top, and gives the poor wolf the vessel full of dirt. 1 When he saw that, the wolf got angry; but the fox said to him,
"It is not my fault. Apparently the shepherd makes it like that."
And the fox goes off well filled.
Another day he was again very hungry, and did not know what to contrive. Every day he saw a boy pass by on the road with his father's dinner. He says to a blackbird,
"Blackbird, you don't know what we ought to do? We ought to have a good dinner. A boy will pass by here directly. You will go in front of him, and when the boy goes to catch you, you will go on a little farther, limping, and when you shall have done that a little while the boy will get impatient, and he will put down his basket in order to catch you quicker. I will take the basket, and will go to such a spot, and we will share it, and will make a good dinner."
The blackbird says to him, "Yes."
When the boy passes, the blackbird goes in front of the boy, limping, limping. When the boy stoops (to catch him), the blackbird escapes a little further on. At last the boy, getting impatient, puts his basket on the ground, in order to go quicker after the blackbird. The fox, who kept watching to get hold of the basket, goes off with it, not to the place agreed upon, but to his hole, and there he stuffs himself, eating the blackbird's share as well as his own.
Then he says to himself,
"I shall do no good stopping here. The wolf is my enemy, and the blackbird, too. Something will happen to me if I stay here. I must go off to the other side of the water."
He goes and stands at the water's edge. A boatman happened to pass, and he said to him:
"Ho! man, ho! Will you, then, cross me over this water? I will tell you three truths."
The man said to him, "Yes."
The fox jumps (into the boat), and he begins to say:
"People say that maize bread is as good as wheaten bread. That is a falsehood. Wheaten bread is better. That is one truth."
When he was in the middle of the river, he said:
"People say, too, 'What a fine night; it is just as clear as the day!' That's a lie. The day is always clearer. That is the second truth."
And he told him the third as they were getting near the bank.
"Oh! man, man, you have a bad pair of trousers on, and they will get much worse, if you do not pass over people who pay you more than I."
"That's very true," said the man; and the fox leapt ashore.
Then I was by the side of the river, and I learnt these three truths, and I have never forgotten them since.