Once upon a time a family of hares lived harmoniously in a deep, winding hole in the ground. Life was very fine indeed, and then one day Father Hare said to his three sons, "You are grown now, my sons."
The three brothers pricked up their ears and leaned in close to listen. They loved their father very much, and they could see that he had something wise and serious to say to them. "Children," Father Hare went on, "today begins the second month of your life. It is time that you went out into the world."
The three hares looked at each other, and they smiled, for they were proud that their father thought them grown.
Father Hare smiled too. He was proud to have such handsome sons. "Tonight your mother will give birth to your brothers and sisters," he said. "We will no longer have room to live all together in our little hole."
"Brothers?" said the first brother. His eyes opened wide with surprise.
"Sisters?" said the second brother. He seemed even more surprised.
"We are ready, Father," said the third brother. "Tell us just what we must do." Father Hare continued. "It is time for you to build homes of your own. That is the custom of the creatures."
"Ahh, yes," said the first brother. "The world awaits us!
"Fine, fine," said the second brother. "We are grown and ready to see the whole wide world!"
"Tell us, Father," said the third brother, "how are we to build our homes?"
Father Hare smiled at his sons. "Do not travel far, my sons. Find a place nearby and dig a deep hole of your own. When you have made your home, return to tell us where you are. In that way we will always stay close to each other."
The three hares nodded as they listened, each one thinking of the world outside his little hole. Then off they went. They did not turn back. They did not see the tears in their father's eyes as they hopped away.
At the top of the hole the first brother breathed in deeply. "At last! The air! The sky! The sunlight! Oh, that dark, deep den was far too dingy for my tastes. So long, brothers," he called, and off he went to gather sticks and moss and leaves to build himself a lovely little house in the fields. "No holes for me," he said as he worked.
When he had finished, he settled down inside his light and spacious home of sticks and moss and leaves. He looked around and said, "Now this is what I call a home!" and then, feeling hungry, he hopped outside to find some food in the grassy, green meadows nearby.
Suddenly a fox trotted by and said to the first brother, "Hello there, downy hare. Your new home is very fine indeed. Perhaps you will invite me inside so that we might get to know each other well."
Now the first brother had heard tales of the crafty fox, and so, without answering, he leaped into the air and bounded away. He turned and called out: "Ha! Ha! Crafty fox, you'll have to catch me if you can." He ran through the long grass back to his home and leaped inside. And there he leaned back and smiled to himself.
And then! He heard a sound that troubled him: "Munch, munch, crunch, crunch, yum, yum," and in the next instant he saw his brand new house tumbling down. He dashed, quick as a rabbit, through the woods. "Brother," he cried, as he came upon his second brother, who was staring up at the sky and the trees. "Brother, have you built your home? Might I share with you?"
"Of course," said the second brother, "and we'll have lovely light and air and space," and together they built another home of moss and sticks and straw. "Now," said the second brother, "we have our home and happiness." The two hares settled down to enjoy their home.
Not for long. Soon the crafty fox came along. "Downy hares!" he cried. "How lovely your home is. Won't you invite me inside for a look?"
"Not a chance!" cried the first brother.
"Oh no!" cried the second, and just as the fox began to munch and crunch and gobble, the two brothers dashed, quick as rabbits, out of there and through the woods.
Not far away the third brother was digging and digging, building himself a long, deep, winding den. He worked and worked, until at last he had a brand-new home, spacious as any hare had ever known. And then he saw his two brothers, huffing and puffing and racing toward him. "Brother!" they cried. "The crafty fox is after us. Will you give us shelter? We did not heed our father's advice, and the fox almost got us!"
"Welcome, my brothers," said the third hare. "Follow me!" And down and down they went, into the long, winding hole.
The crafty fox stuck his nose inside the hole. "I can see you," he cried, and then he pushed and pushed. "1 can smell you, downy hares," he cried, and he turned and he twisted and he pushed some more, but try as he might, he could not fit inside the hole.
"I will wait for you," he called, and for a long time he waited there, above the third brother's winding hole.
At last the fox could wait no longer, for his stomach was growling and grumbling. "I don't need you, downy hares," he cried, and off he trotted into the forest, searching for hares neither brave nor generous nor wise.
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