The big bear and the clever fox had once bought a firkin of butter together; they were to have it at Christmas tide, and hid it till then under a thick spruce bush. After that they went a little way off and lay down on a sunny bank to sleep. So when they had lain a while the fox got up, shook himself, and bawled out “yes.”

Then he ran off straight to the firkin and ate a good third part of it. But when he came back, and the bear asked him where he had been since he was so fat about the paunch, he said,

“Don’t you believe then that I was bidden to a childbed feast.”

“So, so,” said the bear. “What was the young’s name?”

“Just-begun,” said the fox.

So they lay down to sleep again. In a little while up jumped the fox again, bawled out “yes,” and ran off to the firkin.

This time, too, he ate a good lump. When he came back, and the bear asked him again where he had been, he said, “Oh wasn’t I bidden to a naming childbed party again, don’t you think.”

“And pray what was the young’s name this time?” asked the bear.

“Half-eaten,” said the fox.

The bear thought that a very queer name, but he hadn’t wondered long over it before he began to yawn and gape, and fell asleep. Well, he hadn’t lain long before the fox jumped up as he had done twice before, bawled out “yes,” and ran off to the firkin, which this time he cleared right out. When he got back he had been bidden to childbed feast again, and when the bear wanted to know the young’s name he answered, “Licked-to-the-bottom.”

After that they lay down again, and slept a long time; but then they were to go to the firkin to look at the butter, and when they found it eaten up, the bear threw the blame on the fox, and the fox on the bear; and each said the one had been at the firkin while the other slept.

Well, Well,” said Reynard, “we’ll soon find out which of us has eaten the butter. We’ll just lay down in the sunshine, and he whose cheeks and chaps are greasiest when we wake, he is the thief.”

Yes, that trial the big bear felt ready to stand, as he knew in his heart he had never so much as tasted the butter.

Then Reynard stole off to the firkin for a morsel of butter that stuck there in a crack. Then he crept back to the bear who now lay without a care, sleeping in the sun, and greased his chaps and cheeks with it. Then he, too, lay down to sleep as if nothing had happened.

So when they both woke, the sun had melted the butter, and the bear’s whiskers were all greasy. So it was the bear after all who had eaten the butter, and no one else.

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