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Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales
Stories of Animals


THE FOX OUTWITTED

One day the fox succeeded in catching a fine fat goose asleep by the side of a loch; he held her by the wing, and making a joke of her cackling, hissing, and fears, he said—

“Now, if you had me in your month as I have you, tell me what you would do?”

“Why,” said the goose, “that is an easy question. I would fold my hands, shut my eyes, say a grace, and then eat you.”

“Just what I mean to do,” said Rory and folding his hands, and looking very demure, he said a pious grace with his eyes shut.

But while he did this the goose had spread her wings, and she was now half way over the loch; so the fox was left to lick his lips for supper.

“I will make a rule of this,” he said in disgust, “never in all my life to say a grace again till after I feel the meat warm in my belly.”

THE FOX TROUBLED WITH FLEAS

The fox is much troubled by fleas, and this is the way in which he gets rid of them. He hunts about till he finds a lock of wool, and then he takes it to the river, and holds it in his mouth, and so puts the end of his brush into the water, and down he goes slowly. The fleas run away from the water, and at last they all run over the fox’s nose into the wool, and then the fox dips his nose under and lets the wool go off with the stream.

THE FOX AND THE BAG-PIPES

The fox, being hungry one day, found a bag-pipe, and proceeded to eat the bag, which is generally, or was till lately, made of hide. There was still a remnant of breath in the bag, and when the fox bit it the drone gave a groan, when the fox, surprised but not frightened, said—

“Here is m«at and music!

THE FOX’S STRATAGEM

The fox is very wise indued. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but an old fellow told me that he had seen him go to a loch where there were wild ducks, and take a bunch of heather in his mouth, then go into the water, and swim down with the wind till he got into the middle of the ducks, and then he let go the heather and killed two of them.

THE FOX AND THE WRENS

A fox had noticed for some days a family of wrens, off which he wished to dine. He might have been satisfied with one, but he was determined to have the whole lot — father and eighteen sons, — and all so like that he could not tell one from the other, or the father from the children.

“It is no use to kill one son,” he said to himself, “because the old cock will take warning and fly away with the seventeen. I wish I knew which is the old gentleman.”

He set his wits to work to find out, and one day, seeing them all threshing in a barn, he sat down to watch them; still he could not be sure.

“Now I have it,” he said; “well done the old man’s stroke! He hits true,” he cried.

“Oh!” replied the one he suspected of being the head of the family; “if you had seen my grand father’s strokes you might have said that.”

The sly fox pounced on the cock, ate him up in a trice, and then soon caught and disposed of the eighteen sons, all flying in terror about the barn.

THE FOX AND THE COCK

A fox one day met a cock, and they began talking.

“How many tricks canst thou do? said the fox.

“Well,” said the cock, “I could do three; how many canst thou do thyself?”

“I could do three score and thirteen,” said the fox.

“What tricks canst thou do? said the cock.

“Well,” said the fox, “my grandfather used to shut one eye and give a great shout.”

“I could do that myself,” said the cock.

"Do it,” said the fox. And the cock shut one eye and crowed as loud as ever he could, but he shut the eye that was next the fox, and the fox gripped him by the neck and ran away with him. But the wife to whom the cock belonged saw him and cried out, “Let go the cock; he’s mine.”

“Say thou, Se mo ciioileach a th’ Aim” (it is my own cock), said the cock to the fox.

Then the fox opened his mouth to say as the cock did, and he dropped the cock, and he sprung up on the top of a house, and shut one eye and gave a loud crow; and that’s all there is of that sgeulachd.

HOW THE WOLF LOST HIS TAIL

One day the wolf and the fox were out together, and they stole a dish of crowdie. Now the wolf was the biggest beast of the two, and he had a long tail like a greyhound, and great teeth.

The fox was afraid of him, and did not dare to say a word when the wolf ate the most of the crowdie, and left only a little at the bottom of the dish for him, but he determined to punish him for it; so the next night when they were out together the fox said— “I smell a very nice cheese, and” (pointing to the moonshine on the ice)“ there it is too.”

“And how will you get it?” said the wolf.

“Well, stop you here till I see if the farmer is asleep, and if you keep your tail on it, nobody will see you or know that it is there. Keep it steady. I may be some time coming back.”

So the wolf lay down and laid his tail on the moonshine in the ice, and kept it for an hour till it was fast. Then the fox, who had been watching him, ran in to the fanner and said: “The wolf is there; he will eat up the children,—the wolf! the wolf!”

Then the farmer and his wife came out with sticks to kill the wolf, but the wolf ran off leaving his tail behind him, and that’s why the wolf is stumpy-tailed to this day, though the fox has a long brush.

FROG AND CROW

Here is a bit of crow language,—a conversation with a frog. When it is repeated in Gaelic it can be made absurdly like the notes of the creatures.

“Ghille Criosda mhic DhugLail uuir a nuis do mhag.”

Christ’s servant, son of Dugald, put up the paw.

“Tha eagal orm, tha eagal crm, tha eagal onn."

I fear.

“Gheibh thu oota gorn a’s leine. Gheibh thu cota gorm a’s leine.”

Thou shalt have a blue coat and a shirt.

Then the frog put up his hand and the hoodie took hin. to a hillock and began to eat him, saying,

“Biadh dona lom!’s bu dona riabh thu.”

Bad bare meat and bad wert thou ever.

“Caite bheil do ghealladh math a nis?” said the frog.

Where is thy good promise now?

“Sann ag ol a bha sinn an latha sin. Sann ag ol 6 bha sinn an latha sin.”

It is drinking we were on that day.

“Toll ort a ruid ghrannda gur beag feola tha air do chramhan.”

“Toll ort!” said the hoodie.

A hole in thee, ugly thing! how little flesh is on thy bones.

THE GROUSE COCK AND HIS WIFE

The Grouse Cock and his wife are always disputing, and may be heard on any fine evening or early morning quarrelling and scolding about the stock of food.

This is what the hen says—

“FaiC THUSA ’n LA UD’s AH' LA UD EILE.?'

And the cock, with his deeper voice, replies—

“FaiC THUSA ’n CNOC UD’s AN CNOC UD EILE.” See thou yonder day, and yon other day.

See thou yonder hill, and yon other hill.

THE EAGLE AND THE WREN

The Eagle and the Wren once tried who could fly highest, and the victor was to be king of the birds. So the Wren flew straight up, and the Eagle flew in great circles, and when the Wren was tired he settled on the Eagle’s back.

When the Eagle was tired he stopped, and—

“Where art thon, Wren? ” said the Eagle.

“I am here above thee,” said the Wren.

And so the Wren won the match.

THE WREN’S PRESUMPTION

Thou’rt lessened by that, said the Wren, when he dipped his beak in the sea.

THE TWO FOXES

A man was one day walking along the road with a creel of herrings on his back, and two foxes saw him, and the one, who was the biggest, said to the other, “Stop thou here, and follow the man, and I will run rouod and pretend that I am dead.” So he ran round, and stretched himself on the road. The man came on, and when he saw the fox, he was well pleased to find so fine a beast, and he picked him up, and threw him into the creel, and he walked on. But the fox threw the herrings out of the creel, and the other followed and picked them up; and when the creel was empty, the big fox leaped out and ran away; and that is hew they got the herrings.

Well, they went on together till they came to a smith’s house, and there was a horse tied at the door and he had a golden shoe, and there was a name on it.

“I will go and read what is written on that shoe,” said the big fox, and he went; but the horse lifted his foot, and struck a kick on him, and drove his brains out.

“Lad, lad,” said the little fox, “no scholar me, nor wish I to be;” and, of course, he got the herrings.

THE BEE AND THE MOUSE

A Bee met a mouse and said—
“Come over till we make a house.”
“I will not,” said Lurhag, the mousie.
“Be to whom thou gavest thy summer honey,
Let him make a winter house for thee;
I have a little house under the ground,
That can reach neither cold nor breeze,
Thou wilt be a ragged creature,
Running on the tops of the trees.”

THE TWO MICE

There was a mouse in the hill, and a mouse in a farm.

“It were well,” said the hill mouse, “to be in the farm, where one might get things.”

Said the farm mouse, “Better is peace.”

ALEXANDER JONES

"Jean, sit a wee bit east,” requested the town clerk, between the puffs of his pipe, as he sat on the corner of the bench before his fire one chilly evening. “You’re taking ower muckle room, and mair than your share o’ the settle.”

But Jean, his wife, had just got her knitting into a nasty tangle, and was not in the best of humours, so declined to move one inch, or to attend to what her husband was saying.

“Jean,” said her husband again, “sit a wee bit east; it’s no decent to sit sae selfish. Sit a bit east,"

"d’ye hear?” and the town-clerk gave his wife a rude shove to her end of the bench.

“Wha’ d’ye mean by that? and wha’ d’ye mean by east?” cried his wife. “There’s nae sic thing as east to begin with, and”

“Nae sic thing as east?” shouted the town-clerk. “Will ye no’ believe the sun himsel’?” and then in a loud voice he declaimed that, as the sun went round the earth every day, and was always rising every moment somewhere in the east, which thing he hoped no one was fool enough to deny, everywhere was the east, all over the place; and if there was anything ridiculous, it was to talk about west. If everywhere was east, there was nowhere where west could be. So he hoped his wife would not make a goose of herself, and talk nonsense.

But then his wife got up and said he did not look at it in the right way at all. On the contrary, the sun was all the day setting somewhere in the west, which thing she hoped no one was fool enough to contradict; and as he was always setting somewhere, and doing it every moment, everywhere was west, and if everywhere was west, there was no room for east to be anywhere. So she trusted her husband would not make an ass of himself, and mention east again.

But he shook his head, just like a dog that had been bitten behind the ear, and was going to reply, when she kilted her petticoats, and ran round the room in one direction to show how it was done, crying, “West, west, west! ”

This made the town-clerk very angry, and he got up also, and hitched his trousers, and ran round the. table in the opposite direction yelling out, “East, east, east!” to show how he thought it Was done.

Yet it only ended by their getting wy-gidily, and banging their heads together, a thing which hurt very much, and did not conduce to good-temper or the solving of the difficulty, you may be sure.

But Alexander Jones sat quiet in the corner, and said nothing.

Still, they agreed in one thing, namely, that the question was of too deep importance to rest there. So they went to the grocer, who had a good-sized house up the street, and told him all about the thing, with the ins and outs of the question; and the grocer and the grocer’s wife, and the grocer’s maiden aunt by marriage on the mother’s side, and the grocer’s wife’s youngest married sister, and the grocer’s wife’s youngest married sister’s little girl, were all naturally much interested, to say the least. But one took one view, and another took another, and they ran round the table, some this way and some that, to explain how in their opinion it was done. It only ended in their getting very giddy and banging their heads together, a thing which hurt, and did not conduce to good-temper or the solving of the difficulty, you may be sure.

But Alexander Jones sat quiet in the comer all the time, and said nothing.

Still, they agreed in one thing, that the question was of too deep importance to rest there. So the whole lot went to the innkeeper, who had a much larger house than the grocer, down the Pfreet, and told him all about the thing, with the ins and outs of the matter; and the innkeeper, and the innkeeper’s wife, and the innkeeper’s maiden aunt by marriage on the mother’s side, and the innkeeper’s wife’s youngest married sister, and the innkeeper’s youngest married sister’s little girl, were all naturally much interested, to say the least. But one took one view, and another took another, and they ran round the table, some this way and some that, to explain bow in their opinion it was done. And it only ended by their all getting very giddy and banging their heads together, a thing which hurt, and did not conduce to good-temper or the solving of the difficulty, you may be sure.

But Alexander Jones sat all the time quiet in the corner, and said nothing.

Still, they agreed in one thing, that the question was of too deep importmce to rest there. So the whole lot went to the chief magistrate, who had the very largest house in the burgh, in the middle of the street by the market-place, and they told him all about the thing, and the ins and outs of the matter; and the magistrate, and the magistrate’s wife, and the magistrate’s maiden aunt by marriage on the mother’s side, and the magistrate’s wife’s youngest married sister, and the magistrate’s wife’s youngest married sister’s little girl, were all naturally much interested in the matter, to say the least. But one took one view, and another took another, and they ran round the magistrate’s table, some this wav and some that, to explain how in their opinion it was. done; and it only ended by their all getting very giddy and hanging their heads together, a thing which hurt, and did not conduce to good-temper or the solving of the difficulty, you may be sure.

But Alexander Jones sat quiet in the corner, and said nothing.

Still, they agreed in one thing, that the question was of too deep importance to rest there. So the magistrate called a meeting of the whole populace in the town-hall.

And when the populace came to the town hall, the chief magistrate told them all about it, and the ins and outs of the matter; and the populace, and the populace’s wife, and the populace’s maiden aunt by marriage on the mother’s side, and the populace’s wife’s youngest married sister, and the populace’s wife’s youngest married sister’s little girl, were all naturally much interested, to say the least. But one took one view, and another took another.

And they all wanted then to run round a table to explain how each thought it wa^ done; but here a difficulty arose, for, alas! there was no table in the town-hall to run round, and what then were they to do? Yet they were not going to be balked for a trifle like that, not they? So they requested the chief magistrate to stand in the middle, and let them all run round him in the direction it pleased them.

But the chief magistrate objected strongly, for he said it would make him worse than giddy to see some folk going one way round him and some going the other; indeed, it would be certain to make him sick. So he suggested instead that Alexander Jones should be placed in the middle. Yes, why could they not run round him? Better make use of him, he was so stupid, and said nothing; besides, the chief magistrate wanted to run round with the best of them himself, and why should he be cut out more than any one else?

“No, no,” cried they all. “Alexander Jones is too small, and would be certain to be trod upon.” It would not do at all, and the chief magistrate must really do what he was asked. Hadn’t they, only the other day, given him an imitation gold badge to wear on his stom—-—well, never mind—and he must do something for them in return, or they’d take it away, that they would.

So the poor man had to give in, but he insisted upon having his eyes bandaged, and also on having a good chair to sit in, otherwise he knew he would be sick; of that he felt certain.

Then they bandaged his eyes with an old dishclout they got from somewhere; for a handkerchief would not go round his face, he had such a very big nose; and, having seated him in a chair, they all ran round him in a circle, some this way, some another; but they all only got very giddy and banged each other’s heads, a thing which hurt, and did not conduea to good-temper or to the solving of the difficulty; and, worse than all, just at the end, when they could run no longer, and were quite out of breath, Eliza Diarmed, the fat widow who kept the confectionery-shop, fell plump against the chief magistrate, and sent h'm and his chair flying all along the floor.

But Alexander Jones sat quiet in the corner, and said nothing.

Then the chief magistrate pulled the bandage off his eyes in a towering passion, and said something must end should be settled there and then. No, ho would stand it no longer. He threatened, also, if they did not agree, he would put a tax on buttons; which was rather clever of him, for you see, both sexes would feel that tax equally, and he, inasmuch as his robes were all fastened by a buckle at. his neck, and a jewelled girdle round his stom well, never mind it would not affect him at all.

At this the town-clerk rose, and said they must, in that case, devise some other way of discovering the answer to this terrible riddle, and he proposed to call in from the street Peter the roadman, for he was up and about at all hours, late and early, and would know more than most about the sun’s movements; only, if they asked him, they must ask also his one-eyed sister, Jessica — she, you must know, took in the chief magistrate’s washing, and so was a person of importance in the burgh — for Peter would certainly decline to come in unless she came with him.

Now this was, indeed, most provoking for me. Because, you see, there was not another square inch of room left in the town-hall for another person, and two people would have to go out to let Peter the roadman and his sister Jessica come in.

So they turned me out for one, as being a stranger from the country, only asked there in courtesy; and Alexander Jones for the other, because he was so stupid, and said nothing.

Thus, you see, I never knew what decision the meeting came to, though I am certain it did come to some, as next morning people’s clothes were still worn as usual, and buttons were at the same price in the shops as before.

And, though disappointed greatly for my own sake, I am still more for yours, my friends, who I must say have listened to this long story most patiently.

But why was Alexander Jones so stupid as to sit still in the corner and say nothing?

Oh! hush, hush now! how silly you are! Why, how on earth could he do anything else? Alexander Jones was the town-elerk’s TOM CAT.


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