The Crimson Fairy Book - online children's book

A Classic fairy tale collection for children by Andrew Lang

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For a few days all went well; there was plenty of game in the forest, and even the wolf had as much to eat as he could wish. One morning the fox as usual was going his rounds when he noticed a tall, slender tree, with a magpie's nest in one of the top branches. Now the fox was particularly fond of young magpies, and he set about making a plan by which he could have one for dinner. At last he hit upon something which he thought would do, and accordingly he sat down near the tree and began to stare hard at it.
'What are you looking at, Michael?' asked the magpie, who was watching him from a bough.
'I'm looking at this tree. It has just struck me what a good tree it would be to cut my new snow-shoes out of.' But at this answer the magpie screeched loudly, and exclaimed: 'Oh, not this tree, dear brother, I implore you! I have built my nest on it, and my young ones are not yet old enough to fly.'
'It will not be easy to find another tree that would make such good snow-shoes,' answered the fox, cocking his head on one side, and gazing at the tree thoughtfully; 'but I do not like to be ill-natured, so if you will give me one of your young ones I will seek my snow-shoes elsewhere.'
Not knowing what to do the poor magpie had to agree, and flying back, with a heavy heart, he threw one of his young ones out of the nest. The fox seized it in his mouth and ran off in triumph, while the magpie, though deeply grieved for the loss of his little one, found some comfort in the thought that only a bird of extraordinary wisdom would have dreamed of saving the rest by the sacrifice of the one. But what do you think happened? Why, a few days later, Michael the fox might have been seen sitting under the very same tree, and a dreadful pang shot through the heart of the magpie as he peeped at him from a hole in the nest.
'What are you looking at?' he asked in a trembling voice.
'At this tree. I was just thinking what good snowshoes it would make,' answered the fox in an absent voice, as if he was not thinking of what he was saying.
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