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The Wonder Clock by  Howard Pyle
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HOW TWO WENT INTO PARTNERSHIP

[281]

T HIS was the way of it.

Uncle Bear had a pot of honey and a big cheese, but the Great Red Fox had nothing but his wits.

The fox was for going into partnership, for he says, says he, "a head full of wits is worth more than a pot of honey and a bit cheese," which was as true as gospel, only that wits cannot be shared in partnership among folks, like red herring and blue beans, or a pot of honey and a big cheese.

All the same, Uncle Bear was well enough satisfied, and so they went into partnership together, just as the Great Red Fox had said. As for the pot of honey and the big cheese, why, they were put away for a rainy day, and the wits were all that were to be used just now.

"Very well," says the fox, " weíll rattle them up a bit;" and so he did, and this was how.

He was hungry for the honey, was the Great Read Fox. "See, now," said he, "I am sick today, and I will just go and see the Master Doctor over yonder."

But it was not the doctor he went to; no, off he marched to the storehouse, and there he ate part of the honey. After that he laid out in the sun and toasted his skin, for that is pleasant after a great dinner.


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By and by he went home again.

[282] "Well," says Uncle Bear, "and how do you feel now?"

"Oh, well enough," says the Great Red Fox.

"And was the medicine bitter?" says Uncle Bear.

"Oh, no, it was good enough," says the Great Red Fox.

"And how much did the doctor give you?" says Uncle Bear.

"Oh, about one part of a pot full," says the Red Fox.

Dear, dear! thinks Uncle Bear, that is a great deal of medicine to take, for sure and certain.

Well, things went on as smoothly as though the wheels were greased, until by and by the fox grew hungry for a taste of honey again; and this time he had to go over yonder and see his aunt. Off he went to the store house, and there he ate all the honey he wanted, and then, after he had slept a bit in the sun, he went back home again.

"Well, " says Uncle Bear, " and did you see your aunt?"

"Oh, yes," says the Great Red Fox, "I saw her."

"And did she give you anything?" says Uncle Bear,

"Oh, yes, she gave a me a trifle," says the Great Red Fox.

"And what was it she gave you?" says Uncle Bear.

"Why, she gave me another part of a pot full, that was all," says the Great Red Fox.

"Dear, dear! but that is a queer thing to give," says Uncle Bear.

By and by the Great Red Fox was thinking of honey again, and now it was a christening he had to go to. Off he went to the pot of honey, and this time he finished it all and licked the pot into the bargain.

And had everything gone smoothly at the christening? That was what Uncle Bear wanted to know.

"Oh, smoothly enough," says the Great Red Fox.

"And did they have a christening feast?" says Uncle Bear.

"Oh, yes, they had that," says the Great Red Fox.

"And what did they have?" says Uncle Bear.

"Oh, everything that was in the pot," says the Great Red Fox.

"Dear, dear," says Uncle Bear, "but they must have been a hungry set at that christening."

Well, one day Uncle Bear says, "Weíll have a feast and eat up the pot of honey and the big cheese, and weíll ask Father Goat over to help us."

That suited the Great Red Fox well enough, so off he went to the storehouse to fetch the pot of honey and the cheese; as for Uncle Bear [284] he went to ask Father Goat to come and help them eat up the good things.

"See, now," says the Great Red Fox to himself, "the pot of honey and the big cheese belong together, and it is a pity to part them." So down he sat without more ado, and when he got up again the cheese was all inside of him.

When he came home again there was Father Goat toasting his toes at the fire and waiting for supper; and there was Uncle Bear on the back door-step sharpening the bread-knife.

"Hi!" says the Great Red Fox, "and what are you doing here, Father Goat?"

"I am just waiting for supper, and that is all," says Father Goat.

"And where is Uncle Bear?" says the Great Red Fox.

"He is sharpening the bread-knife," says Father Goat.

"Yes," says the Great Red Fox, "and when he is through with that he is going to cut your tail off."

Dear, dear! but Father Goat was in a great fright; that house was no place for him, and he could see that with one eye shut; off he marched, as though the ground was hot under him. As for the Great Red Fox, he went out to Uncle Bear; "That was a pretty body you asked to take supper with us," says he; "here he has marched off with the pot of honey and the big cheese, and we may sit down and whistle over an empty table between us."

When Uncle Bear heard this he did not tarry, I can tell you; up he got and off he went after Father Goat. "Stop!" stop!" he bawled, "let me have a little at least."

But Father Goat thought that Uncle Bear was speaking of his tail, for he knew nothing of the pot of honey and the big cheese; so he just knuckled down to it, and away he scampered till the gravel flew behind him.

And this was what came of that partnership; nothing was left but the wits that the Great Red Fox had brought into the business; for nobody could blame Father Goat for carrying the wits off with him, and one might guess that without the telling.

Now, as the pot of honey and big cheese were gone, something else must be looked up, for one cannot live on thin air, and that is the truth.

"See, now," says the Great Red Fox," Farmer John over yonder has a storehouse full of sausages and chitterlings and puddings, and all sort [285] of good things. As nothing else is left of the partnership weíll just churn our wits a bit, and see if we can make butter with them, as the saying goes;" that was what the Great Red Fox said, and it suited Uncle Bear as well as anything he ever heard; so off they marched arm in arm.


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By and by they came to Farmer Johnís house, and nobody was about, which was just what the two rogues wanted; and yes there was the storehouse as plain as the nose on your face, only the door was locked. Above was a little window just big enough for the Great Red Fox to [286] creep into, though it was up ever so high. "Just give me a lift up through the window yonder," says he to Uncle Bear, "and I will drop the good things out for you to catch."

So Uncle Bear gave the Great Red Fox a leg up, and—pop!—and there he was in the storehouse like a mouse in the cheese-box.


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As soon as he was safe among the good things he bawled out to Uncle Bear, "What shall it be first, sausages or puddings?"

"Hush! Hush!" said Uncle Bear.

"Yes, yes," bawled the Red Fox louder than ever, "only tell me which I shall take first, sausages or puddings?"

"Sh-h-h-h!" said Uncle Bear, "if you are making such a noise as that you will have them about our ears; take the first that comes and be quick about it."

"Yes, yes," bawled the fox as loud as he was able; "but one is just as handy as another, and you must tell me which I shall take first."

But Uncle Bear got neither pudding nor sausage, for the Great Red Fox had made such a hubbub that Farmer John and his men came running, and three great dogs with them.

"Hi!" said they, "there is Uncle Bear after the sausages and puddings;" and there was nothing for him to do but to lay foot to the ground as fast as he could. All the same, they caught him over the hill, an gave him such a drubbing that his bones ached for many a long day.

But the Great Red Fox only waited until all the others were well away on their own business, and then he filled a bag with the best he could lay his hands on, opened the door from the inside, and walked out as though it were from his own barn; for there was nobody to say "No" to him. He hid the good things away in a place of his own, and it was little of them that Uncle Bear smelt. After he had gathered all this, Master Fox came home, groaning as though he had had an awful drubbing; it would have moved a heart of stone to hear him.

"Dear, oh dear! what a drubbing I have had," said he.

"And so have I," said Uncle Bear, grinning over his sore bones as though cold weather were blowing snow in his teeth.

"See, now," said the Great Red Fox, "this is what comes of going into partnership, and sharing oneís wits with another. If you had made your choice when I asked you, your butter would never have been spoiled in the churning."

That was all the comfort Uncle Bear had, and cold enough it was too. All the same, he is not the first in the world who has lost his dinner, and had both the drubbing and the blame into the bargain.

But things do not last forever, and so by and by the good things from Farmer Johnís storehouse gave out, and the Great Red Fox had nothing in the larder.

"Listen," says he to Uncle Bear, "I saw them shaking the apple-trees at Farmer Johnís to-day, and if you have a mind to try the wits that belong to us, weíll go and bring a bagful apiece from the storehouse over yonder at the farm."

Yes, that suited Uncle Bear well enough; so off they marched, each of them with an empty bag to fetch back the apples. By and by they came to the storehouse, and nobody was about. This time the door was not locked, so in the both of them went and began filling their bags with apples. The Great Red Fox tumbled them into his bag as fast as ever he could, taking them just as they came, good or bad; but Uncle Bear took his time about it and picked them all over, for since he had come there he was bound to get the best that were to be had.


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So the upshot of the matter was that the Great Red Fox had his bag full before Uncle Bear had picked out half a score of good juicy apples.

"Iíll just peep out of the window yonder, " says the Great Red Fox, "and see if Farmer John is coming." But in his sleeve he said to himself, "Iíll slip outside and turn the key of the door on Uncle Bear, for somebody will have to carry the blame of this, and his shoulders are broader and his skin tougher than mine; he will never be able to get out of that little window." So up he jumped with his bag of apples, to do as he said.

But listen! A hasty man drinks hot broth. And so it was with the Great Red Fox, for up in the window they had set a trap to catch rats. But he knew nothing of that; out he jumped from the window—click! Went the trap and caught him by the tail, and there he hung.

"Is Father John coming?" bawled Uncle Bear, by and by.

"Hush! hush!" said the Great Red Fox, for he was trying to get his tail out of the trap.

But the boot was on the other leg now. "Yes, yes," bawled Uncle Bear, louder than before, "but tell me, is Farmer John coming?"

"Sh-h-h-h!" says the Great Red Fox.

"No, no," bawled Uncle Bear as loud as he could, "what I want to know is, is Farmer John coming?"

[289] Yes, he was, for he had heard the hubbub, and here he was with a lot of his men and three great dogs.

"Oh, Farmer John," bawled the Great Red Fox, "donít touch me, I am not the thief. Yonder is Uncle Bear in the pantry, he is the one."

Yes, yes, Farmer John knew how much of that cake to eat; here was the rogue of a fox caught in the trap, and the beating was ready for him. That was the long and the short of it.

When the Great Red Fox heard this, he pulled with all his might and main. Snap! went his tail and broke off close to his body, an away he [290] scampered with Farmer John, the men and the dogs close to his heels. But Uncle Bear filled his bag full of apples, and when all hands had gone racing away after the Great Red Fox, he walked quietly out of the door and off home.

And that is how the Great Red Fox lost his tail in the trap.

What is the meaning of all this? Why, here it is: When a rogue and another cracks a nut together, it is not often the rogue who breaks his teeth by trying to eat the hulls. And this too: But when one sets a trap for another, it is a toss of a copper whether or no it flies up and pinches his own fingers.

If there is anything more left in the dish you may scrape it for yourself.


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