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70 The Frightened Bear and Wolves 44. There lived an old man and old woman, and they had a tomcat and a ram. The old woman was separating the cream from the milk to churn butter, and the cat pinched some of it. “Old man,” said the old woman, “things aren’t quite right in our cellar.”“We’ll have to take a look,” the old man said to her. “Perhaps someone from outside is stealing things.” So the old woman went to the cellar and looked. The cat was just moving the lid from the pot with its paw and licking some cream. She chased the cat out of the cellar and went into the hut, and the cat ran ahead and hid in a corner of the stove.“Master!” the old woman said,“we didn’t believe that the cat was stealing, but it’s the cat all right. Let’s kill it.” The cat heard these words and rushed from the stove to the ram in the shed and began the deception: “Brother Ram! They’re intending to kill me tomorrow and slaughter you.”And the two of them agreed to run away from their master that night.“How will we manage?”asked the ram. “I’d be happy to run off with you, but the shed’s locked!”“Never mind!” The cat leapt up onto the door, with its paw moved the string from the nail, and let the ram out. So they set off down the path and road and they came upon a wolf ’s head, which they took with them. They walked and walked, and then they saw far off a light burning in the forest, so they headed straight for the fire. They approached. Around the fire twelve wolves were warming themselves. “God help you, wolves!”“Welcome, cat and ram!”“Brother,” the ram asked the cat, “what shall we have for supper?”“Twelve wolves’ heads! Go and choose the one that is fattest.” The ram went into the bushes, raised high the wolf ’s head they had found, and asked,“This one, brother cat?”“No, not that one, choose a better one.” The ram raised the same head and asked,“This one then?” The wolves all took fright and would have been glad to run away, but they dared not without permission. Four of the wolves begged the cat and ram,“Let us go after some firewood! We’ll bring it to you.”They went away. The remaining eight wolves were even more frightened of the cat and ram: If they could eat twelve, they’d easily eat eight. Then four of them asked to go for some water. The cat let them go:“Go, but come right The Frightened Bear and Wolves h 71 back!” The last four wolves were sent off to fetch back the others. Why hadn’t they returned, they asked? The cat let them go, but ordered them to come right back. And he and the ram were glad that they had all gone away. The wolves gathered and set off further into the forest. They encountered the bear, Mikhailo Ivanovich. “Have you heard, Mikhailo Ivanovich ,”the wolves asked,“that the cat and ram can eat twelve wolves at a go?” “No, lads, I haven’t heard that.” “But we’ve seen that cat and ram.” “And how about me taking a look, to see their bravery?” “Oh, Mikhailo Ivanovich, that cat is really angry. There’s no way you can butter him up. Just you watch out that you don’t fall into his clutches! He’ll tear you to shreds! No doubt we’re quick with dogs and hares, but here there’s just no way. We’d be better off to invite them to dinner.” They tried to convince the fox to go:“Go and invite the cat and ram.” The fox backed away:“I may be quick but I’m not so evasive. They’d probably eat me up.”“Go!” There was nothing to be done, so the fox ran off after the cat and ram. She came back and related,“They’ve promised to come. Oh, Mikhailo Ivanovich, what an angry cat that is! He sat on a stump breaking it up with his claws. He’s sharpening those knives of his for us! And how he stuck out his eyes!” The bear shook himself and immediately placed one wolf onto a high stump as a guard, put a cloth in his...


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