There was once a Fox
and a Wolf, who set up house together in a cave near the sea-shore.
Although you may not think so, they got on very well for a time, for
they went out hunting all day, and when they came back at night they
were generally too tired to do anything but to eat their supper and
go to bed.
They might have lived together always had it not been for the
slyness and greediness of the Fox, who tried to over-reach his
companion, who was not nearly so clever as he was.
And this was how it came about.
It chanced, one dark December night, that there was a dreadful storm
at sea, and in the morning the beach was all strewn with wreckage.
So as soon as it was daylight the two friends went down to the shore
to see if they could find anything to eat.
They had the good fortune to light on a great Keg of Butter, which
had been washed overboard from some ship on its way home from
Ireland, where, as all the world knows, folk are famous for their
The simple Wolf danced with joy when he saw it. “Marrowbones and
trotters! but we will have a good supper this night,” cried he,
licking his lips. “Let us set to work at once and roll it up to the
But the wily Fox was fond of butter, and he made up his mind that he
would have it all to himself. So he put on his wisest look, and
shook his head gravely.
“Thou hast no
prudence, my friend,” he said reproachfully, “else wouldst thou not
talk of breaking up a Keg of Butter at this time of year, when the
stackyards are full of good grain, which can be had for the eating,
and the farmyards are stocked with nice fat ducks and poultry. No,
no. It behoveth us to have foresight, and to lay up in store for the
spring, when the grain is all threshed, and the stackyards are bare,
and the poultry have gone to market. So we will e’en bury the "Keg,
and dig it up when we have need of it.”
Very reluctantly, for he was thinner and hungrier than the Fox, the
Wolf agreed to this proposal. So a hole was dug, and the Keg was
buried, and the two animals went off hunting as usual.
About a week passed by: then one day the Fox came into the cave, and
flung himself down on the ground as if he were very much exhausted.
But if anyone had looked at him closely they would have seen a sly
twinkle in his eye.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” he sighed. “Life is a heavy burden.”
“What hath befallen thee?” asked the Wolf, who was ever kind and
“Some friends of mine, who live over the hills yonder are wanting me
to go to a christening to-night. Just think of the distance that I
“But needst thou go?” asked the Wolf. “Canst thou not send an
“I doubt that no excuse would be accepted,” answered the Fox, “for
they asked me to stand god-father. Therefore it behoveth me to do my
duty, and pay no heed to my own feelings.”
So that evening the Fox was absent, and the Wolf was alone in the
cave. But it was not to a christening that the sly Fox went; it was
to the Keg of Butter that was buried in the sand. About midnight he
returned, looking fat and sleek, and well pleased with himself.
The Wolf had been dozing, but he looked up drowsily as his companion
entered. “Well, how did they name the bairn?” he asked.
“They gave it a queer name,” answered the Fox. “One of the queerest
names that I ever heard.”
“And what was that?” questioned the Wolf.
“Nothing less than 'Blaisean’ (Let-me-taste),” replied the Fox,
throwing himself down in his corner. And if the Wolf could have seen
him in the darkness he would have noticed that he was laughing to
Some days afterwards the same thing happened. The Fox was asked to
another christening; this time at a place some twenty-five miles
along the shore. And as he had grumbled before, so he grumbled
again; but he declared that it was his duty to go, and he went.
At midnight he came back, smiling to himself and with no appetite
for his supper. And when the Wolf asked him the name of the child,
he answered that it was a more extraordinary name than the other—“Be
na Inheadnon” (Be in its middle).
The very next week, much to the Wolf’s wonder, the Fox was asked to
yet another christening. And this time the name of the child was
“Sgriot an Clar” (Scrape the staves). After that the invitations
Time went on, and the hungry spring came, and the Fox and the Wolf
had their larder bare, for food was scarce, and the weather was
bleak and cold.
“Let us go and dig up the Keg of Butter,” said the Wolf. “Methinks
that now is the time we need it.”
The Fox agreed—having made up his mind how he would act—and the two
set out to the place where the Keg had been hidden. They scraped
away the sand, and uncovered it; but, needless to say, they found it
“This is thy work,” said the Fox angrily, turning to the poor,
innocent Wolf. “Thou hast crept along here while I was at the
christenings, and eaten it up by stealth.” “Not I,” replied the
Wolf. “I have never been near the spot since the day that we buried
“But I tell thee it must have been thou,” insisted the Fox, “for no
other creature knew it was there except ourselves. And, besides, I
can see by the sleekness of thy fur that thou hast fared well of
Which last sentence was both unjust and untrue, for the poor Wolf
looked as lean and badly nourished as he could possibly be.
So back they both went to the cave, arguing all the way. The Fox
declaring that the Wolf must have been the thief, and the Wolf
protesting his innocence.
“Art thou ready to swear to'it?” said the Fox at last; though why he
asked such a question, dear only knows.
“Yes, I am,” replied the Wolf firmly; and, standing in the middle of
the cave, and holding one paw up solemnly he swore this awful oath:
“If it be that I stole the butter; if it be, if it be—
May a fateful, fell disease fall on me, fall on me.”
When he was finished, he put down his paw and, turning to the Fox,
looked at him keenly; for all at once it struck him that his fur
looked sleek and fine.
“It is thy turn now,” he said. “I have sworn, and thou must do so
The Fox’s face fell at these words, for although he was both
untruthful and dishonest now, he had been well brought up in his
youth, and he knew that it was a terrible thing to perjure oneself
and swear falsely.
So he made one excuse after another, but the Wolf, who was getting
more and more suspicious every moment, would not listen to him.
So, as he had not courage to tell the truth, he was forced at last
to swear an oath also, and this was what he swore:
“If it be that I stole the butter; if it be, if it be—
Then let some most deadly punishment fall on me, fall on me—
Whirrum wheeckam, whirrum wheeckam,
Whirram whee, whirram whee!”
After he had heard him swear this terrible oath, the Wolf thought
that his suspicions must be groundless, and he would have let the
matter rest; but the Fox, having an uneasy conscience, could not do
so. So he suggested that as it was clear that one of them must have
eaten the Keg of Butter, they should both stand near the fire; so
that when they became hot, the butter would ooze out of the skin of
whichever of them was guilty. And he took care that the Wolf should
stand in the hottest place.
But the fire was big and the cave was small; and while the poor lean
Wolf showed no sign of discomfort, he himself, being nice and fat
and comfortable, soon began to get unpleasantly warm.
As this did not suit him at all, he next proposed that they should
go for a walk, “for,” said he, "it is now quite plain that neither
of us can have taken the butter. It must have been some stranger who
hath found out our secret.”
But the Wolf had seen the Fox beginning to grow greasy, and he knew
now what had happened, and he determined to have his revenge. So he
waited until they came to a smithy which stood at the side of the
road, where a horse was waiting just outside the door to be shod.
Then, keeping at a safe distance, he said to his companion, “There
is writing on that smithy door, which I cannot read, as my eyes are
failing; do thou try to read it, for perchance it may be something
’twere good for us to know.”
And the silly Fox, who was very vain, and did not like to confess
that his eyes were no better than those of his friend, went close up
to the door to try and read the writing. And he chanced to touch the
horse’s fetlock, and, it being a restive beast, lifted its foot and
struck out at once, and killed the Fox as dead as a door-nail.
And so, you see, the old saying in the Good Book came true after
all; “Be sure your sin will find you out.”