The hounds were closing in on the fox and she was beginning to tire. As she slowed to a weary pace, the hawthorn tree said
“Jump up on me then run along the high stone wall”.
“I’m too tired to jump up” said Fox, “but thank you kindly”.
“There’s a water gap in the wall just here”, said Hawthorn, “squeeze through to the forest like Hedgehog does. They’ll have to go two miles around the wall to follow you”.
“I’m not a hedgehog”, said Fox. But then she heard the hounds and squeezed into the gap and eventually wriggled through, though she left much of her pelt on the stones.
“Thank you Hawthorn”, she said before limping off into the forest.
One of the hounds came to the gap and sniffed the scent of Fox. He lifted his head to bay, but Hawthorn dropped a bunch of haws into his throat and made him cough instead.
“Give her a chance” said Hawthorn, “you’re twice her size. She may be a vixen but she’s got good manners and doesn’t cough and splutter all over my roots.”
The hounds went round the wall into the forest and soon picked up the scent of Fox again. She was limping badly now and stopped to rest in the bracken.
“Oh Holly Tree, block the way behind me” she said.
But Holly was barren and did not answer, but beckoned. Fox slid away and made for a great oak.
“Please let me in” she pleaded. “I bring news”.
Oakman doubted Fox’s words but pulled her safe inside anyway, for he guards all forest creatures.
Once inside she gasped “Your mistletoe bough – men with axes – going to cut it down – I heard them say so.”
“You came through danger to tell us that?”
“Yes”, said Fox.
The hunt went past and Fox bathed her sore paws in Oak’s rainpool.
“Keep away from Barren Holly” said Oak as Fox left. She meant to.
Lake District, collected in the 1940’s.