With his tail between his legs, the fox slunk into the forest. He did not know where to look for a dinner, as he guessed that the crow would have flown back before him, and put every one on their guard. The notion of going to bed supperless was very unpleasant to him, and he was wondering what in the world he should do.

This poor animal had just lost his wife, and was going to get some one to mourn over her, for he felt her loss greatly. He had hardly left his comfortable cave when he had come across the wolf, who inquired where he was going. ‘I am going to find a mourner,’ answered the bear, and told his story.

‘Oh, let me mourn for you,’ cried the wolf.

‘Do you understand how to howl?’ said the bear.

‘Oh, certainly, godfather, certainly,’ replied the wolf; but the bear said he should like to have a specimen of his howling, to make sure that he knew his business. So the wolf broke forth in his song of lament: ‘Hu, hu, hu, hum, hoh,’ he shouted, and he made such a noise that the bear put up his paws to his ears, and begged him to stop.

‘You have no idea how it is done. Be off with you,’ said he angrily.

A little further down the road the hare was resting in a ditch, but when she saw the bear, she came out and spoke to him, and inquired why he looked so sad. The bear told her of the loss of his wife, and of his search after a mourner that could lament over her in the proper style. The hare instantly offered her services, but the bear took care to ask her to give him a proof of her talents, before he accepted them. ‘Pu, pu, pu, pum, poh,’ piped the hare; but this time her voice was so small that the bear could hardly hear her. ‘That is not what I want,’ he said, ‘I will bid you good morning.’

It was after this that the fox came up, and he also was struck with the bear’s altered looks, and stopped. ‘What is the matter with you, godfather?’ asked he, ‘and where are you going?’

‘I am going to find a mourner for my wife,’ answered the bear.

‘Oh, do choose me,’ cried the fox, and the bear looked at him thoughtfully.

‘Can you howl well?’ he said.

‘Yes, beautifully, just listen,’ and the fox lifted up his voice and sang weeping: ‘Lou, lou, lou! the famous spinner, the baker of good cakes, the prudent housekeeper is torn from her husband! Lou, lou, lou! she is gone! she is gone!’

‘Now at last I have found some one who knows the art of lamentation,’ exclaimed the bear, quite delighted; and he led the fox back to his cave, and bade him begin his lament over the dead wife who was lying stretched out on her bed of grey moss. But this did not suit the fox at all.

‘One cannot wail properly in this cave,’ he said, ‘it is much too damp. You had better take the body to the storehouse. It will sound much finer there.’ So the bear carried his wife’s body to the storehouse, while he himself went back to the cave to cook some pap for the mourner. From time to time he paused and listened for the sound of wailing, but he heard nothing. At last he went to the door of the storehouse, and called to the fox:

‘Why don’t you howl, godfather? What are you about?’

And the fox, who, instead of weeping over the dead bear, had been quietly eating her, answered:

‘There only remain now her legs and the soles of her feet. Give me five minutes more and they will be gone also!’

When the bear heard that he ran back for the kitchen ladle, to give the traitor the beating he deserved. But as he opened the door of the storehouse, Michael was ready for him, and slipping between his legs, dashed straight off into the forest. The bear, seeing that the traitor had escaped, flung the ladle after him, and it just caught the tip of his tail, and that is how there comes to be a spot of white on the tails of all foxes.

AD