Yes; on those terms he might drive the woodhome, 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.
“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.
“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 olddame; “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.
“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.