IN A short time the field that Pekka, the Wolf, had planted began to sprout. Pekka was delighted.
"See, Mikko," he said to the Fox, "our grain is growing and we shall soon be harvesting it!"
The Fox turned up his nose indifferently.
"If we don't get something to eat before that grain ripens," he said, "we'll starve, both of us! While we wait for the harvest I think we better go out hunting. I'm going this minute for I tell you I'm hungry!"
The Fox went sniffing into the forest and finally came to the tree where Harakka, the Magpie, had her nest. The Fox, cocking his head, paced slowly round and round the tree, looking at it from every angle. Harakka, the Magpie, sitting on her nest among her fledglings began to feel nervous.
"Say, Mikko," she called down, "what are you looking at?"
At first the Fox made no answer. Deep in thought, apparently, he nodded his head and murmured:
"Yes, the very tree!"
Harakka, the Magpie, again called down:
"What are you looking at, Mikko?"
The Fox started as though he had heard the question for the first time.
"Ah, Harakka, is that you? Good day to you! I hope you are well! I hope the children are all well! I was so busy looking for the right tree that I didn't recognize you at first. You see I have to cut down a tree to get wood for a new pair of skis. This tree is just the one I want."
"Oh, mercy me!" the Magpie cried. "You can't cut down this tree! Do you want to kill all my children? This is our home!"
Mikko, the rascal, pretended to be very sympathetic.
"I'm awfully sorry to have to disturb you, truly I am, but I'm afraid I do have to cut down this tree. I can't find another that suits me as well."
The Magpie flapped her wings in despair.
"You hard-hearted wretch! What will you take not to cut down this tree?"
The Fox put his paw to his head and pretended to think hard. After a moment he said:
"Well, Harakka, I'll make you this offer: I'll leave this tree standing provided you throw me down one of your fledglings."
"What!" the poor Magpie shrieked. "Give you one of my babies! I'll never do that! Never! Never! Never!"
"Oh, very well! Just as you like! If I cut the tree down I can get them all. But I thought for the sake of old times I'd ask for only one. However, do as you think best."
What could the poor Magpie say? If the tree were felled and her fledglings thrown out of the nest they would certainly all perish. Perhaps it would be wise to sacrifice one to save the rest.
"You promise to let the tree stand," she said, "if I give you one of my children?"
"Yes," the rascal promised, "just drop me one of your fledglings, a nice plump one, and I won't cut down the tree."
With shaking claw Harakka pushed one of her children over the edge of the nest. It fluttered to the ground and Mikko carried it off.
Well, the next day what did that Fox do but come back and begin pacing around the tree again.
"Yes," he said, pretending to talk to himself, "this is the best tree I can find. I might as well cut it down at once."
"But, Mikko!" cried the Magpie, "you forget! You said you wouldn't cut down this tree if I gave you one of my children and I did give you one!"
The Fox flipped his tail indifferently.
"I know," he said, "I did promise but I thought then I could find another tree that would suit me as well as this one, but I can't. I've looked everywhere and I can't. I'm sorry but I'm afraid that I'll just have to take this tree."
"O dear, O dear, O dear!" the poor distracted Magpie wept. "Will nothing make you leave this tree stand?"
The Fox smacked his lips.
"Well, Harakka, drop me down another of your fledglings and I won't disturb the tree. I promise."
"What! Another of my babies! Oh, you wretch!"
"Well, suit yourself," Mikko said. "One of your fledglings and you can keep the others safe in the nest, or I'll cut the tree down."
What could the poor Magpie do? Wouldn't it be better to sacrifice another fledgling on the chance of saving the rest? Yes, it would! So she pushed another out of the nest. It fluttered to the ground and Mikko, the rascal, carried it off.
That afternoon Varis, the Crow, came to call on the Magpie.
"Why, my dear," she said, looking over the fledglings, "two of your children are missing! Whatever has become of them?"
"It's that rascally Mikko!" the Magpie cried, and thereupon she told her friend the whole story.
Varis, the Crow, listened carefully and then said:
"My dear, that miserable Fox has been fooling you! Why, he can't cut down this tree or any other tree for that matter! He hasn't even got an ax! Don't let him impose on you a third time!"
So the very next day when the Fox came and again tried the same little trick, Harakka, the Magpie, tossed her head scornfully and said:
"Go along, you rascal! You can't fool me again! How can you cut down this tree or any other for that matter when you haven't even got an ax!"
The Fox was furious at being cheated of his dinner.
"You didn't think that out yourself, Harakka!" he said. "Some one's been talking to you! Who was it?"
"It was my dear friend, Varis," the Magpie said. "She's on to your tricks!"
"I'll teach that Crow to interfere with my affairs!" the Fox muttered to himself as he trotted off.
He went to an open field and lay down with his mouth open, pretending to be dead.
"I'm sure Varis will soon spy me!" he said to himself.
He was right. Presently the Crow began circling above him. She flew nearer and nearer and at last alighted on his head. His tongue was lolling out and Varis decided to have her first bite there. She gave it a sharp peck at which the Fox jumped up and caught her in his paws.
"Ha! Ha!" he cried. "So you're the one who spoiled my little game with Harakka, are you? Well, I'll teach you not to interfere with me! As I haven't got one of Harakka's fledglings for my dinner, I'm going to take you!"
"You don't mean you're going to eat me!" cried the Crow in terror.
"That's exactly what I mean!"
"No, no, Mikko! Don't do that!"
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm going to do! I'm going to teach you birds that I'm not an animal to be played jokes on!"
"I suppose," the Crow said, sighing, "if it must be, it must be! But, Mikko, if you really want to use me as a warning to the other birds, you oughtn't to eat me right down. It would be much better if you dragged me along the ground first. Then they'd see a wing here, a leg there, and a long trail of feathers. That really would terrify them."
"I believe you're right," the Fox said.
He put the Crow down on the ground and lifted his paw for a moment to change his hold. The Crow instantly jerked away and escaped.
"Ha! Ha!" she cawed as she flew off. "You were clever enough to catch me, Mikko, but you weren't clever enough to eat me when you had me!"
So this was one time when Mikko, the Fox, was worsted.