Once a man had to drive his sledge to the wood for fuel. A bear met him.

“Give me your horse,” said the bear, “or I’ll strike all your sheep dead by summer.”

“Oh! heaven help me then,” said the man; “there’s not a stick of firewood in the house; you must let me drive home a load of fuel, or else we shall be frozen to death. I’ll bring the horse to you tomorrow morning.”

Yes; on those terms he might drive the wood home, that was a bargain. But Bruin added that if the man didn’t come back, he should lose all his sheep by summer.

The man got the wood on the sledge and rattled homewards, but he wasn’t over pleased at the bargain. Just then a fox met him.

“Why, what’s the matter?” said the fox; “why are you so down in the mouth?”

The man said: “I met a bear up in the wood over there and had to give my word to him to bring Dobbin back tomorrow at this very hour, for if he didn’t get him, he would tear all my sheep to death by summer, he said.”

“Stuff, nothing worse than that,” said the fox; “if you’ll give me your fattest wether, I’ll soon set you free; see if I don’t.”

Yes; the man gave his word, and swore he would keep it too.

Well, tomorrow when you come with Dobbin for the bear,” said the fox, “I’ll make a clatter up in that heap of stones over there, and so when the bear asks what that noise is, you must say it is Peter the Marksman, the best shot in the world; and after that you must help yourself.”

Next day the man set off, and when he met the bear, something began to make a clatter up in the heap of stones.

“Hist! What’s that?” said the bear.

“Oh! that could be Peter the Marksman,” said the man; “the best shot in the world.”

“Have you seen any bears about here, Eric?” a voice shouted out in the wood.

“Say No!” said the bear.

“No, I haven’t seen any,” said Eric.

“What’s that then that stands alongside your sledge?” bawled out the voice in the wood.

“Say it’s an old fir stump,” said the bear.

“Oh, it’s an old fir stump,” said the man.

“In our country we take such fir stumps and roll them on our sledges,” bawled out the voice. “If you cannot do it yourself, I’ll come and help you.”

“Say you can help yourself, and roll me up on the sledge,” said the bear.

“No, thank you, I can help myself Well enough,” said the man, and rolled the bear on to the sledge.

“Such fir stumps we always bind fast on our sledges in our part of the world,” bawled out the voice. “Shall I come and help you?”

“Say you can help yourself, and bind me fast. Do,” said the bear.

“No, thanks, I can help myself Well enough,” said the man, and set to binding Bruin fast with all the ropes he had, so that at last the bear couldn’t stir a paw.

“Such fir stumps we always drive our axes into in our part of the world,” bawled out the voice; “for then we guide them better going down the steep pitches.”

“Pretend to drive your axe into me; do now,” said the bear.

Then the man took up his axe, and at one blow split the bear’s skull, so that Bruin lay dead in a trice, and so the man and the fox were great friends and on the best terms. But when they came near the farm, the fox said:

“I have no mind to go right home with you, for I cannot say I like your farm workers. So I’ll just wait here, and you can bring the wether to me, but mind and pick out one that is nice and fat.”

Yes, the man would be sure to do that, and thanked the fox much for his help. So when he had put up Dobbin, he went across to the sheep-stall.

“Where away, now?” asked his old wife.

“Oh!” said the man, “I’m only going to the sheep-stall to fetch a fat wether for that cunning fox who set our Dobbin free. I gave him my word I would.”

“Wether, indeed,” said the old dame; “not one shall that thief of a fox get. Haven’t we got Dobbin safe, and the bear into the bargain? As for the fox, I’m sure he has stolen more of our geese than the wether is worth; and even if he hasn’t stolen them, he will. No, no; take a couple of your swiftest hounds in a sack and slip them loose after him. Then, perhaps, we shall be rid of this robbing Reynard.”

Well, the man thought that was good advice; so he took two fleet red hounds, put them into a sack and set off with them.

“Have you brought the wether?” said the fox.

“Yes, come and take it,” said the man as he untied the sack and let slip the hounds.

“HUF!” said the fox, and gave a great spring. “What the old saw says is true, ‘Well done is often ill paid.’ And now I see the truth of another saying too, ‘The worst foes are those of one’s own house.'” That was what the fox said as he ran off with the red foxy hounds at his heels.

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