246 THE FOX AND THE LAPP
sledges that was fastened behind, for it was market-day at the nearest town, and the man had much to sell.
They drove on a little further, when some noise in the forest made the man turn his head, just in time to see the fox fall with a heavy thump on to the frozen snow. ' That beast is bewitched !' he said to himself, and then he threw the fox into the last sledge of all, which had a cargo of fishes. This was exactly what the cunning creature wanted, and he wriggled gently to the front and bit the cord which tied the sledge to the one before it so that it remained standing in the middle of the road.
Now there were so many sledges that the Lapp did not notice for a long while that one was missing; indeed, he would have entered the town without knowing if snow had not suddenly begun to fall. Then he got down to secure more firmly the cloths that kept his goods dry, and going to the end of the long row, discovered that the sledge containing the fish and the fox was missing. He quickly unharnessed one of his reindeer and rode back along the way he had come, to find the sledge standing safe in the middle of the road; but as the fox had bitten off the cord close to the noose there was no means of moving it away.
The fox meanwhile was enjoying himself mightily. As soon as he had loosened the sledge, he had taken his favourite fish from among the piles neatly arranged for sale, and had trotted off to the forest with it in his mouth. By-and-by he met a bear, who stopped and said : ' Where did you find that fish, Mr. Fox ? '
' Oh, not far off,' answered he; ' I just stuck my tail in the stream close by the place where the elves dwell, and the fish hung on to it of itself.'
' Dear me,' snarled the bear, who was hungry and not in a good temper, ' if the fish hung on to your tail, I suppose he will hang on to mine.'
' Yes, certainly, grandfather,' replied the fox, ' if you have patience to suffer what I suffered.'