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How to Find Happy Land
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How Greed Destroyed Itself.
ON the side of a hill, in a nice little house, lived a grey cat who tended to nobody's business but her own. Beyond in the forest lived a greedy red fox.
"The grey cat has a nice house," said the fox to himself, "and plenty stored away for the winter, while I have nothing, and must hunt for what I get." So he set about wickedly planning to get rid of the grey cat, and to live in her house; and all the time, she knew nothing of it.
"Friend Rabbit," asked the fox, "how would you like to live yonder in the grey cat's house? She has provisions for the winter and one need only sit before the fire and toast one's toes."
"Very good," said the rabbit, "has the grey cat invited us?"
"Oh, that will be arranged," replied the fox, not answering his question. "I am a friend of yours and wish you to be comfortable."
"That is very kind," said the rabbit, not suspecting anything wrong, and he promised the fox to do just what he said.
So the rabbit got an ear full of the fox's plan, – "And above all," warned the fox, "you must not mention my name to the cat."
Next morning at daybreak came rap a tap tap! at the cat's door.
"Dear me! " cried the cat, "who can be coming so early?" And hurrying to the door, who should she see but the rabbit!
"Good morning! friend Rabbit," she said pleasantly. This pleased the rabbit, for he was a little timid about calling.
"Good morning!" said he, taking off his hat. "I have a basket of meat for you, sent by – hem – ahem!" and he coughed and grew red in the face, for he had almost mentioned Mr. Fox's name.
"Since we are such close neighbours, we should be neighbourly, should we not, Mistress Tabby?" he managed to say.
The cat was quite willing to be neighbourly, and asked the rabbit to come in and have some beefsteak. The rabbit thanked her politely, but said he was busy, and hopped away to the edge of the wood, where he met the red fox.
"Was the grey cat friendly?"
Yes, she was friendly, but the rabbit would rather have the fox go to-morrow.
Oh, he would go, but not to-morrow, for he must have his whiskers trimmed. Friend Rabbit wouldn’t mind going once more as a favour, would he?
No, he wouldn't mind; so rap a tap tap! it was at the cat's door the nest morning.
What might friend Rabbit wish this morning?
He had a nice tender chicken, if that would tempt the cat's appetite.
Indeed, one couldn't offer her anything more tempting; she hadn’t had chicken since she started housekeeping. But this morning the rabbit must come in and have a taste. So come in he did, and sat down while the chicken fried and sizzled in the pan. It's a pity they hadn't made friends before, began the cat, seating herself at the table. When one lived alone, one was pleased to have one's friends drop in.
The rabbit thought the same, and after a pleasant chat he bade the cat Good-day, and went to meet the fox.
"Was the grey cat friendly?"
Oh yes, she was friendly. He had breakfasted with her, and a fine breakfast it was, for the grey cat could fry chicken!
The rabbit smacked his lips, which did not please the greedy fox, as you would have seen by the look in his small, wicked eyes. But the rabbit suspected nothing and went on smacking his lips, saying he wouldn't mind going again, now that he and the cat were so well acquainted.
"But would you leave a friend out in the cold?" whined the fox.
Oh, no! he wouldn't leave such a good friend as the fox out in the cold. He had him to thank for the acquaintance of Mistress Tabby, and the red fox would see that friend Rabbit was a friend indeed! So rap a tap tap the next morning; and a delicacy for Mistress Tabby: some young frogs' legs! What was more, they were caught by a great admirer of Mistress Tabby.
"Dear me! who might that be?"
But the rabbit would not tell, only went on praising the good looks and good qualities of the red fox, who all the time listened through the crack of the door.
Why wouldn't his friend join them? the cat wanted to know.
Oh, he was too bashful!
This made the fox grin and rub his paws together. "Friend Rabbit is doing well," thought he.
But the cat insisted that the rabbit should go for his fine-looking friend, and at last he did.
When he opened the door, the fox had to turn a back somersault to keep out of sight.
"Friend Red! Friend Red!" called the rabbit. Finally "Friend Red" came bowing and scraping and breathing hard, – as if he had run a long distance, instead of being hid around the corner of the house. And what would friend Rabbit have?
Would he breakfast with them, for Mistress Tabby was full of curiosity to see him? And it's no use using up words to tell that that was just what the fox was after.
When the cat saw him, she gave a terrible meow, and slammed the door, but the fox, thinking he would be shut out, pushed the rabbit in so his tail got caught. My! how the rabbit squealed! The cat opened the door; but it was too late, for the rabbit's tail had been snapped off short!
"Oh! Mistress Tabby!" wailed the fox, pretending he was very sorry, "why do you treat our friend Rabbit so?" And the cat was so ashamed and confused that she let the fox in, – which was, of course, what he had planned from the start.
What a snug little house the grey cat had! commenced the fox. And what a fine mistress for the snug little house was the grey cat herself! And so on, and so on, till the grey cat was so excited she couldn't eat any frogs' legs. And the rabbit couldn't eat any, for groaning over his lost tail, – so the fox ate them all up!
And now, said the fox, would friend Rabbit mind going to the edge of the wood to fetch a package he would find there, which was a present for Mistress Tabby?
No, the rabbit wouldn’t mind; and away he hopped to the edge of the wood, but found no package. What do you suppose happened meantime? As soon as the rabbit shut the door behind him, snip! snap! the fox had his feet down from the fireplace and sprang for Mistress Tabby, – but she was up the chimney and gone, before you could say "Scat!"
And what have we now? The wicked red fox has the cat's house all to himself; the cat is running through the wood with no home; the rabbit is out in the cold with no tail, and is as hungry as can be, – all through the greed of one creature.
But sometimes, when one wants all the honey, one falls into the honey-pot and can't get out – as you will see.
When the grey cat had put a good distance between herself and the fox she stopped to think. The more she thought the more she saw how foolish she had been to run so far. All the fox wanted was her snug house, and he would waste no time chasing her. So she turned back, and who should she meet but the rabbit, looking very sad indeed.
"A fine trick the red fox has played on us!" cried he.
"Yes, yes," said the cat, "but right is right! and without a doubt the fox will taste some broth of his own brewing!"
Now it happened one day, while Mr. Fox was sitting at the window, that the rabbit passed by with a basket of eggs. Very chipper he looked, for the hair had grown out on the end of his tail.
"Some fresh eggs would taste very fine," thought the fox, and opening the window he called, "Friend Rabbit, how do eggs sell?"
"They sell very well," replied the rabbit, and was out of sight in a jiffy.
"Humph!" sniffed the fox, "the rabbit must have an egg farm. We will see about this." So he watched the next day, and sure enough, the rabbit came by with another basket of eggs.
"Hey!" called the fox, "why, I almost let friend Rabbit pass without seeing him!" And he made a great "to do" over the rabbit, inviting him in to a fine dinner of fried apples and bacon.
But the rabbit thanked him, saying he was going on an errand and was too busy for bite or sup.
"So," thought the fox, "we will see if I am to be outdone by a bobtailed rabbit."
Next day when the rabbit passed the house, he heard such a moaning and groaning inside, that he knocked at the door to see what it was about.
"Come in!" groaned a voice.
The rabbit walked in, and saw Mr. Fox stretched on the floor, carrying on as if something terrible was the matter.
"Dear me! what is it?" cried the rabbit.
"Oh, nothing!" replied the fox. "I am weeping over my sins and am going to do better."
"That is good! " said the rabbit. And they talked and chatted, till finally the fox asked the rabbit if he was in the egg business.
Oh, yes, in a way; he was busy gathering eggs for Easter, and was on his way to Mr. Man's barn, where there were nests to fill.
"Indeed! and where might Mr. Man's barn be?"
"Yonder, behind that clump of trees."
"Could one get in at night?" asked the fox.
No, one couldn't get in at night, except through a hole in the corner of the barn, which wasn’t the way for honest folk.
"But dear me! I must be off!" exclaimed the rabbit. And hoping the fox's sins would not lie heavy on his conscience, he hurried away, thinking the fox had asked a lot of questions.
"Ah, ha!" laughed the fox when he was gone. "Our little bobtailed friend takes me to be as simple as he. We will see if he is telling the truth."
At dusk Mr. Fox came out of the cat's house; locked the door; slipped the key under the mat; and trotted away as silently as if be trod on a velvet carpet. Soon he reached the barn with its doors locked and barred.
But the fox had no use for the door. "Mr. Rabbit thinks he will deceive me and keep me from going through the hole," he chuckled, "but I am too sly for him."
Mr. Fox was nosing round for the hole in the barn, the cat and the rabbit, with no thought of what he was up to, were talking over their day's work. All of a sudden they heard terrible shrieks.
"Gracious!" they cried, scuttling into the bushes. The shrieks came louder than before.
"Hist!" said the rabbit, with his paw to his mouth. "It is the fox!" whispered the cat, with her paw to her ear.
"He is caught in Mr. Alan's trap, said the rabbit. Mercy! mercy! " shrieked the fox.
The farmer is belabouring him with his stout stick. Presently the sound ceased.
"That is the end of it," said the rabbit. "You can go back to your house, Mistress Tabby. The fox can do you no more harm."
"Greed has destroyed itself," declared the cat, "as it always does in the end."