THE Bear and the Wolf and the Fox made houses quite close together and the Wolf and the Fox decided to go into partnership.
"The first thing we ought to do," said Pekka, the Wolf, "is make a clearing in the forest and plant some crops."
The Fox agreed and the very next day they started out to work. Each had a crock with three pats of butter for his dinner. They left their crocks in the cool water of a little spring in the forest not far from the place where they had decided to make a clearing.
It was hard work felling trees and the Fox, soon tiring of it, made some sort of excuse to run off. When he came back he said to the Wolf:
"Pekka, the folks at the Farm are having a christening and have sent me an invitation to attend."
"It's too bad we're so busy to-day," the Wolf said. "Another day you might have gone."
"But I must go," the Fox insisted. "They've been good neighbors to us and they'd be insulted if I refused."
"Very well," the Wolf said, "if you feel that way about it you better go. But hurry back for we have a lot to do."
So the Fox trotted off but he got no farther than the spring where the butter crocks were cooling. He took the Wolf's crock and licked off the top layer of butter. Then after a while he went back to the clearing.
"Well, Mikko," the Wolf said, "is the christening over?"
"Yes, it's over."
"What did they name the child?"
"They named it Top."
"Top? That's a strange name!"
In a few moments the Fox again ran off and returned with the announcement that there was to be another christening at the Farm and again they wanted him to attend.
"Another christening!" the Wolf exclaimed. "How can that be?"
"This time the daughter has a baby."
"You're not going, are you, Mikko? You can't always be going to christenings."
"That's true, Pekka, that's true," said the Fox, "but I think I must go this time."
The Wolf sighed.
"You will hurry back, won't you? This work is too much for me alone."
"Yes, Pekka dear," the Fox promised, "I'll hurry back as quickly as I can."
So he trotted off again to the spring and the Wolf's butter crock. This time he ate the middle pat of the Wolf's butter, then slowly sauntered back to the clearing.
"Well," said the Wolf, pausing a moment in his work, "what did they name the baby this time?"
"This one they named Middle."
"Middle? That's a strange name to give a baby!"
For a few moments the Fox pretended to work hard. Then he ran off again. When he came back, he said:
"Pekka, do you know they're having another christening at the Farm and they say that I just must come."
"Another christening! Now, Mikko, that's too much! How can they be having another christening?"
"Well, this time it's the daughter-in-law that has a baby."
"I don't care who it is," the Wolf said, "you just can't go. You've got some work to do, you have!"
The Fox agreed:
"You're right, Pekka, you're right! I'm entirely too busy to be running off all the time to christenings! I'd say, 'No!' in a minute if it wasn't that we are new settlers and they are our nearest neighbors. As it is I'm afraid they'd think it wasn't neighborly if I didn't come. But I'll hurry back, I promise you!"
So for the third time the Fox trotted off to the little spring and this time he licked the Wolf's butter crock clean to the bottom. Then he went slowly back to the clearing and told the Wolf about the christening and the baby.
"They've named this one Bottom," he said.
"Bottom!" the Wolf echoed. "What funny names they give children nowadays!"
The Fox pretended to work hard for a few minutes, then threw himself down exhausted.
"Heigh ho!" he said, with a yawn, "I'm so tired and hungry it must be dinner time!"
The Wolf looked at the sun and said:
"Yes, I think we had better rest now and eat."
So they went to the spring and got their butter crocks. The Wolf found that his had already been licked clean.
"Mikko!" he cried, "have you been at my butter?"
"Me?" the Fox said in a tone of great innocence. "How could I have been at your butter when you know perfectly well that I've been working right beside you all morning except when I was away at the christenings? You must have eaten up your butter yourself!"
"Of course I haven't eaten it up myself!" the Wolf declared. "I just bet anything you took it!"
The Fox pretended to be much aggrieved.
"Pekka, I won't have you saying such a thing! We must get at the bottom of this! I tell you what we'll do: we'll both lie down in the sun and the heat of the sun will melt the butter and make it run. Now then, if butter runs out of my nose then I'm the one that has eaten your butter; if it runs out of your nose, then you've eaten it yourself. Do you agree to this test?"
The Wolf said, yes, he agreed, and at once lay down in the sun. He had been working so hard that he was very tired and in a few moments he was sound asleep. Thereupon the Fox slipped over and daubed a little lump of butter on the end of his nose. The sun melted the butter and then, of course, it looked as if it were running out of the Wolf's nose.
"Wake up, Pekka! Wake up!" the Fox cried. "There's butter running out of your nose!"
The Wolf awoke and felt his nose with his tongue.
"Why, Mikko," he said in surprise, "so there is! Well, I suppose I must have eaten that butter myself but I give you my word for it I don't remember doing it!"
"Well," said the Fox, pretending still to feel hurt, "you shouldn't always suspect me."
When they went back to the clearing, the Wolf began pulling the brush together to burn it up and the Fox slipped away and lay down behind some brushes.
"Mikko! Mikko!" the Wolf called. "Aren't you going to help me burn the brush?"
"You set it a-fire," the Fox called back, "and I'll stay here to guard against any flying sparks. We don't want to burn down the whole forest!"
So the Wolf burned up all the brush while the Fox took a pleasant nap.
Then when he was ready to plant the seed in the rich wood ashes, the Wolf again called out to the Fox to come help him.
"You do the planting, Pekka," the Fox called back, "and I'll stay here and frighten off the birds. If I don't they'll come and pick up every seed you plant."
So Mikko, the rascal, took another nap while the poor Wolf planted the field he had already cleared and burned.