The Stag in the Ox-Stall

018. THE STAG IN THE OX-STALL. A stag, roused out of his thick covert in the midst of the forest, and, driven hard by the hounds, made towards a farm-house, and seeing the door of an ox-stall open, entered therein, and hid himself under a heap of straw. One of the oxen turning his head about, asked him what he meant by venturing himself in such a place as that was, where he was sure to meet with his doom.
“Ah!” says the stag, “if you will but be so good as to favour me with your concealment, I hope I shall do well enough; I intend to make off again the first opportunity.”
Well, he staid there till towards night; in came the ox-man with a bundle of fodder, and never saw him. In short, all the servants of the farm came and went, and not a soul of them smelt anything of the matter. Nay, the bailiff himself came, according to form, and looked in, but walked away no wiser than the rest.
Upon this the stag, ready to jump out of his skin for joy, began to return thanks to the good-natured oxen, protesting that they were the most obliging people he had ever met with in his life. After he had done his compliments, one of them answered him gravely, “Indeed, we desire nothing more than to have it in our power to contribute to your escape; but there is a certain person, you little think of, who has a hundred eyes; if he should happen to come, I would not give this straw for your life.”
In the interim, home comes the master himself from a neighbour's, where he had been invited to dinner; and because he had observed the cattle to look but scurvily of late, he went up to the rack, and asked, “Why did they not give them more fodder?” Then casting his eyes downward, “Hey-day!” says he, “why so sparing of your litter? Pray scatter a little more here. And these cobwebs—but I have spoken so often, that unless I do it myself”—thus, as he went on, prying into everything, he chanced to look where the stag's horns lay sticking out of the straw; upon which he raised a hue and cry, called all his people about him, killed the poor stag, and made a prize of him. [more info]

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