Appropos of nothing much

In the woods at the edge of a farmland, there lived a wolf. Hunting had been thin of late and his ribs showed through rough fur.

One evening, the wolf was prowling along the edge of the forest, looking, he said to himself, for deer, though in truth he would have settled for a mouse, or even a vole.

In the shadows up ahead, something moved. The wolf’s heart leapt — and fell, because it was no deer that moved toward him out of the dusk, but a sleek brown farm dog, out for a bit of a ramble.

“Well met, cousin!” the dog called to the wolf. “It’s been some time since we’ve talked.”

“So it has,” the wolf said resignedly, as the dog came close.

“Why, cousin, whatever has befallen you?”

“The hunting’s been a little thin,” the wolf said. “It’ll pick up eventually. It always does.”

“Starving can’t be good for you,” the dog scolded. “You know, you can be as well-fed as I am, if you’ll follow my advice.”

Now, generally the wolf didn’t think much of the dog’s intelligence. On the other hand, he could hardly dispute that the dog was in fine shape, while he…might not survive the winter.

So, he made himself humble and he said to the dog, “What must I do?”

“You must bark when a stranger approaches.  You must snarl at beggars, growl at thieves, and fawn on the people who live in the house. Do this, and you will get as much as you can eat, and more, as well as clean hay to sleep in, and a box to keep off the rain.”

This sounded almost too good to be true, and yet, the wolf said to himself, the dog was well-fed.

“To whom should I apply?” he asked, trembling at the thought of so much benefit in return for so little effort.

“Because we are cousins,” the dog said loftily, “I will sponsor you to my master. Come along and I will do so now.”

The wolf fell in beside the dog. They passed out of deep wood shadows into the twilight of the field-edge and there the wolf saw something alarming.

“Cousin!” he cried. “What has happened to you? Your neck — the fur is quite worn away, and the skin is chafed and raw!”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” the dog said. “Don’t mind it.”

“But, what has caused this?” demanded the wolf, thinking perhaps a thief hadn’t cared to be growled at.

“It’s only the mark of my collar,” the dog said, a little sharply. “Where my master fastens the chain.”

“What? Can you not wander as you please?”

“Of course not,” said the dog. “But that’s of no mind. My master lets me off the chain to ramble…quite often.” And he started off again, but the wolf didn’t move.

A few paces out, the dog stopped and looked over his shoulder.

“Well?” he said. “Aren’t you coming?”

“No.” The wolf shook his head. “Not at all. Never.”

And he turned around and ran back into the woods.

Better to starve free than be a fat slave

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