T HERE was once a little red hen that lived in a house by herself in the wood. And over the hill, in a hole in the rocks, lived a sly, crafty old fox.
Now this crafty old fellow of a fox lay awake nights, and prowled slyly about days, trying to think how he should get the little red hen. He wanted to carry her home to boil for his supper.
But the wise little hen never left her house without locking the door and putting the key in her pocket; so the old fox watched and prowled and lay awake nights till he grew pale and thin, but he found no way to get the wise little red hen.
At last one morning he took a big bag over his shoulder, and said to his mother:
"Mother, have the pot boiling when I come home, for I'll bring the little red hen for our supper."
Away he went over the hill and through the wood to where the red hen lived in her snug little house.
Just at that moment out came the little red hen to pick up sticks for her fire, and in slipped the fox and hid behind the door.
In came the hen in a minute and locked the door, and put the key in her pocket. When she saw the fox she dropped her sticks and flew with a great flutter up to the beam across the house under the roof.
"Ah," said the sly fox, "I'll soon bring you down." And he began to whirl around and around and around, faster and faster and faster, after his big, bushy tail.
The little red hen looked at him till she got so dizzy that she fell off the beam to the floor. The fox caught her and put her into his bag and started straight for home.
Up the wood and down the wood he went with the little red hen shut tight in the bag. She thought it was all over with her.
After a while the fox lay down to rest. Then she came to her wits, and put her hand into her pocket and took out a bright little pair of scissors. With them she snipped a hole in the bag. She leaped out and picked up a big stone and dropped it into the bag and ran home as fast as her legs could carry her.
The fox waked up and started again with his bag over his shoulders. "How heavy the little red hen is," he said, "that I am to have for my supper."
His mother was standing at the door of his den waiting for him. "Mother," he said, "have you the pot boiling?"
"Yes, to be sure!" said she, "and have you the little red hen?"
"Yes, here in my bag. Lift the lid, and let me put her in," said the fox.
The fox untied the bag and held it over the boiling water and shook it. The heavy stone fell into the water with a splash which went up over the fox and his mother and scalded them. And the little red hen lived safe in her house in the wood.