“I am sorry your ax is lost,” said the stranger. “Would you know it if you were to see it? I found an ax in the road. It may be yours. Is this it?” he asked, holding out a gold ax.
“No,” answered the woodman, “that is not my ax. All the money I ever earned would not buy such an ax as that.”
“I found another,” said the man. “This must be the one,” and he held out a silver ax.
“No, that is not mine,” replied the woodman. “I am too poor a man to own such an ax as that.”
“Well, here is another ax that I found. Is this yours?” The stranger held out an old ax of steel.
“That is mine, oh, that is mine!” cried the woodman, springing up joyously and taking his ax from the stranger. “Now we shall not starve. Thank you, kind sir. Where did you find it?”
The stranger said, “All three of the axes are yours. I am glad to make you a present of the gold ax and the silver ax. Let me have your hand. I am happy to meet an honest man.”
The woodman’s neighbors heard of his good fortune. One of them lost his ax. He appeared to feel very sad over his loss. He sat down by the roadside and bowed his head, looking out of the corners of his eyes for the stranger.
At last he saw the stranger coming around a bend in the road. The sun shown upon a gold ax which he carried in his hand. He stopped in front of the woodman. “Why do you grieve, my friend?” he asked.
“I have lost my ax with which I earned my living,” the woodman replied.
“Cheer up,” said the stranger. “I have an ax here. Is it yours?”
“That is the very one,” said the woodman. “Thank you, stranger,” and he reached out his hand to take the gold ax.
But the stranger drew back, and put the ax behind him. “It is not your ax. It is my own, and you wish to claim it. You are both dishonest and untruthful;” and he turned away.
THE FOX WITH HIS TAIL CUT OFF
Reynard lost his tail in a trap. Now a fox is proud of two things —his cunning and his tail. He had allowed himself to be trapped. This showed his lack of cunning, and he had lost his tail.
He was so ashamed of himself that he could not bear to meet another fox. He slunk off to his den and came out only when driven by hunger. When out hunting, he kept out of the way of all his neighbors. He did not mean that any of them should know of his bad luck.
At last he grew tired of living by himself. He wanted to gossip with his friends.
He wondered whether old Rufus was still running on top of the great meadow fence to throw the hounds off the track.
He longed to hear of the latest tricks of Fleetfoot’s cubs. They were three of the brightest little foxes that ever lived. He wished that he could see them at their play.
He wished to know if the men were still cutting down trees near White-ear’s den. If this went on, White-ear would have to find a new home. It would be hard for her after living in that beautiful spot so long.