THE Wolf's wife gave birth to three little cubs and then died.
"You poor children!" Pekka said, "your mother is dead and there is no one to take her place. I must get you a nurse."
So he went through the forest hunting some one to take care of his motherless cubs. The white Grouse offered her services but, when she sang a lullaby to show what a good nurse she could be, Pekka shook his head.
"I don't like your voice," he said. "I can't take you."
Then Jussi, the Hare, applied for the position.
"You know I'm lame," he said, "so quiet work like nursing would suit me."
"Can you sing lullabies?" Pekka asked.
"Oh, yes! Listen!" and Jussi began squealing.
"Stop!" Pekka cried. "I don't like your voice either."
Just then Mikko, the Fox, came running up.
"Good day, Pekka," he said. "I hear you're out looking for a nurse for your sweet babies."
"Yes, Mikko, I am. Can you recommend one?"
"I'd like the job myself," the Fox said.
"But you can't sing lullabies, can you?"
"Oh, yes! I sing them very beautifully. Listen:
'Hushabye, sweet little cubs,
Hushabye to sleep!
Who best loves you, do you think?
Who will give you food and drink?
Who on faithful guard will keep?
'Hushabye, sweet little cubs,
Mikko loves you well,
Loves each little pointed nose,
Loves your little scratchy toes,
Loves you more than he can tell--
Pekka, the Wolf, was charmed with Mikko's lullaby.
"Beautiful! Beautiful!" he said. "I never heard a sweeter lullaby! You're the very nurse I want! Come home with me at once."
So Mikko went home with Pekka and took over the care of the three little Wolf cubs.
"I'll go off now and get them something to eat," Pekka said.
He came back after a while with the hind leg of a horse.
"This will be enough for them to start on," he said.
The Fox shook his head.
"I'm afraid it won't last them very long. They're beautiful healthy children with fine appetites."
"Poor little dears!" Pekka said. "Let me see them."
"Not just now!" Mikko insisted. "They're asleep and mustn't be disturbed. Go out hunting again and the next time you come home you shall see them."
Pekka felt that the Fox must be a very good nurse indeed to be so strict. So he went off hunting again without seeing his children.
As soon as he was gone Mikko, the rascal, ate up all the horse meat without giving the cubs one bite and then, as he was still hungry, he ate one of the cubs. The next day he ate another cub, and the day following he ate the last of them. He was just finishing that last cub when the Wolf came home and called in at the door:
"Now, nurse, here I am come home to see my dear children! They're well, aren't they?"
"Very well!" the Fox declared. "But they've grown so big under my good care that the house isn't large enough now to hold them and you and me at the same time. If you're coming in, I must get out first."
So the Wolf stood aside as the Fox came out and scampered away.
Then the Wolf went in and of course all he could find of his dear children were their bones.
"You faithless, faithless nurse!" he cried.
In awful rage he ran after Mikko and was about to overtake him when Mikko slipped into a crevice in the rocks. Only one paw stuck out. The Wolf pounced on this paw and began gnawing it.
"Say, Pekka, have you gone crazy?" the Fox asked. "What do you think you're doing biting that old root? I hope you don't think it's one of my paws. I'm sitting on all four paws."
The Wolf looked up to see whether this was true and, quick as a flash, Mikko, the rascal, drew in his paw.
So the poor old Wolf, fooled again, went sadly home.