Variations On The Theme

I A fox, attracted by the scent of something, followed his nose to a tree in which sat a crow with a piece of cheese in his beak. “Oh, cheese,” said the fox scornfully. “That’s for mice.”

The crow removed the cheese with his talons and said, “You always hate the thing you cannot have, as, for instance, grapes.”

“Grapes are for the birds,” said the fox haughtily. “I am an epicure, a gourmet, and a gastronome.”

The embarrassed crow, ashamed to be seen eating mouse food by a great specialist in the art of dining, hastily dropped the cheese. The[Pg 44] fox caught it deftly, swallowed it with relish, said “Merci,” politely, and trotted away.

II A fox had used all his blandishments in vain, for he could not flatter the crow in the tree and make him drop the cheese he held in his beak. Suddenly, the crow tossed the cheese to the astonished fox. Just then the farmer, from whose kitchen the loot had been stolen, appeared carrying a rifle, looking for the robber.

The fox turned and ran for the woods. “There goes the guilty son of a vixen now!” cried the crow, who, in case you do not happen to know it, can see the glint of sunlight on a gun barrel at a greater distance than anybody.

III This time the fox, who was determined not to be outfoxed by a crow, stood his ground and[Pg 45] did not run when the farmer appeared, carrying a rifle and looking for the robber.

“The teeth marks in this cheese are mine,” said the fox, “but the beak marks were made by the true culprit up there in the tree. I submit this cheese in evidence, as Exhibit A, and bid you and the criminal a very good day.” Whereupon he lit a cigarette and strolled away.

IV In the great and ancient tradition, the crow in the tree with the cheese in his beak began singing, and the cheese fell into the fox’s lap. “You sing like a shovel,” said the fox, with a grin, but the crow pretended not to hear and cried out, “Quick, give me back the cheese! Here comes the farmer with his rifle!”

“Why should I give you back the cheese?” the wily fox demanded.

“Because the farmer has a gun, and I can fly faster than you can run.”

So the frightened fox tossed the cheese back to the crow, who ate it, and said, “Dearie me, my eyes are playing tricks on me—or am I playing tricks on you? Which do you think?” But there was no reply, for the fox had slunk away into the woods.