ONCE upon a time there was a certain fox that had two very young cubs. Near its abode, which was a little hut, lived its friend, a wolf. One day when passing, the fox saw that great preparations were being made in the wolf’s house, and that it was being decorated in quite a palatial style. The wolf asked her friend to come in and see the place, and she went in, and saw over the hall, bedroom, kitchen, and even the larder, which was very well furnished.
“Friend,” said the fox, “I see that what you lack is a little pot of honey.”
“That is true,” the wolf responded; and as she at that moment heard a man passing through the street, crying:—
“Honey from bees,
Syrup of flowers,”
the wolf bought some and filled a little pot with it, telling her friend, that when the work was quite finished in her house she would invite her to a banquet at which the honey should be eaten.
But the work never seemed to come to an end; and the fox, whose paws itched for the honey, was burning to eat it up.
One day she said to the wolf
“Friend, I have been invited to be godmother at a christening, and I wish that you would do me the kindness to come to my house, and take care of my cubs whilst I am away.” The wolf consented; and the fox, instead of going to a christening, went to the wolfs house, devoured a good share of the honey, and took nuts, raisins, figs, pears, almonds, and whatever she could purloin, and then went off into the fields to eat them comfortably with some shepherds, who in exchange gave her some milk and cheese.
When she returned, the wolf said:—
“Well, friend, how did the christening go off?”
“Very well,” said the fox.
“And what was the child named?”
“Commencement” responded the supposed godmother.
“Goodness gracious, what a name!” said her friend.
“It is not mentioned in the Calendar. It is the name of a saint of but slight reputation,” replied the fox.
“And the sweets?” inquired her friend.
“Not a single sweet was had.”
“Good heavens, what a christening!” said the wolf, “I have never seen one like that. Here, I have been the whole day like a nurse with your cubs, and nothing to eat, and now you come in with empty hands. That is a nice way to be treated!”
And she went away in a passion.
After a while the fox had great longings to eat honey once more, and she tried the same trick on the wolf again in order to draw her from her house, promising that she would bring her some sweetmeats from the christening. With such fine words she persuaded the wolf, and when she returned at night, after having spent a pleasant day in the country, and having eaten half the honey, the friend asked her what the child had been named.
“Moiety” answered the fox.
“What a name!” said the wolf, who one can see was rather silly, “in all my life I have never heard of such a name.”
“It is a Moorish saint’s,” responded her friend.
And the wolf was quite convinced, and asked for the sweetmeats.
“I went to sleep for a little ‘while under an olive tree, and some starlings came and carried them off in their claws and beaks,” responded the fox.
The wolf went off in a passion, muttering imprecations against the starlings.
After a certain interval the fox went again with the same deceitful tale to her neighbour.
“I shan’t go again!” said the wolf; “I don’t want to have to sing your cubs to sleep, and gain nothing more, after all my years of domestic experience, than to have the trouble of looking after your youngsters, whilst you go to as many christenings as you please!”
But the fox used so many kind words and made so many promises of the sweetmeats that she would bring back, that at last she persuaded the wolf to stay in her hut.
When the fox returned, after having eaten the whole of the honey that was left, the wolf asked what the child had been named, and was answered:—
“What a name! never have I heard the like,” said the wolf.
“It is a saint’s who does not like to hear the sound of it himself,” said the fox.
“But how about the sweetmeats?” inquired the neighbour.
“The tray was broken in the oven, and they were all burnt,” responded the fox.
The wolf flew into a great rage, saying:—
“Neighbour, I wish that all the sweets your so-called godchildren, Commencement, Moiety, and Finis, put into their mouths may change to stones.”
Some time passed by, when the fox said to the wolf:—
“Neighbour, a promise is a debt; your house is now finished, and you have to give me the banquet which you promised.”
The wolf, who was still angry, did not want to do so, but finally was persuaded and gave the fox the invitation.
When the time for dessert arrived, she brought in, as promised, the pot of honey, and as she lifted it said:—
“How light this jar is! Honey weighs very little!”
But when she opened it she was astounded to see it empty.
“What is this?” she exclaimed.
“What can it be,” responded the fox, “but that you have eaten it all yourself without giving me a part?”
“I have not tasted it yet though,” said the wolf.
“What! you must have done so, but you do not remember.”
“I tell you that I have not, rogue! It is you who have robbed me; and your three godchildren, Commencement, Moiety, and Finis, have been the beginning, half, and end of my honey!”
“Besides having eaten the honey without giving me any share, you now wish to bring a false charge against me! Greedy wretch, why don’t you hide your face with shame?” said the fox.
“I have not eaten it; it is you, you rogue and thief! And now I am going to the lion to make my complaint,” replied the wolf.
“Listen to me, neighbour, and do not be in such a hurry,” said the fox. “Any one who has eaten honey, if he goes to sleep in the sun, will be covered with honey when he wakes, don’t you know that P”
“No,” said the wolf.
“It is quite true,” said the fox; “we will take our afternoon nap in the sun, and when we wake up, then we shall see which of us is really the culprit.”
The wolf agreed at last, and they went to sleep in the sun. Scarcely had the fox heard her hostess snoring, than she got up, scraped out the pot, and rubbed the honey that was left over the wolf. She then licked her paws and went to sleep. When the wolf awoke and saw that she was covered with honey, she said
“Oh! it is true, then, that I have eaten it; but I can swear to you, my friend, that I did not recollect it. Pardon me! Let us make it up again!”