Why the Bear Has a Short Tail
ONE cold morning when the fox was coming up the road with some fish, he met the bear.
"Good-morning, Mr. Fox," said the bear.
"Good-morning, Mr. Bear," said the fox. "The morning is brighter because I have met you."
"Those are very good fish, Mr. Fox," said the bear. "I have not eaten such fish for many a day. Where do you find them?"
"I have been fishing, Mr. Bear," answered the fox.
"If I could catch such fish as those, I should like to go fishing, but I do not know how to fish."
"It would be very easy for you to learn, Mr. Bear," said the fox. "You are so big and strong that you can do anything."
"Will you teach me, Mr. Fox?" asked the bear.
"I would not tell everybody, but you are such a good friend that I will teach you. Come to this pond, and I will show you how to fish through the ice."
So the fox and the bear went to the frozen pond, and the fox showed the bear how to make a hole in the ice.
"That is easy for you," said the fox, "but many an animal could not have made that hole. Now comes the secret. You must put your tail down into the water and keep it there. That is not easy, and not every animal could do it, for the water is very cold; but you are a learned animal, Mr. Bear, and you know that the secret of catching fish is to keep your tail in the water a long time. Then when you pull it up, you will pull with it as many fish as I have."
The bear put his tail down into the water, and the fox went away. The sun rose high in the heavens, and still the bear sat with his tail through the hole in the ice. Sunset came, but still the bear sat with his tail through the hole in the ice, for he thought, "When an animal is really learned, he will not fear a little cold."
It began to be dark, and the bear said, "Now I will pull the fish out of the water. How good they will be!" He pulled and pulled, but not a fish came out. Worse than that, not all of his tail came out, for the end of it was frozen fast to the ice.
He went slowly down the road, growling angrily, "I wish I could find that fox;" but the cunning fox was curled up in his warm nest, and whenever he thought of the bear he laughed.