Once upon a time, there was a little Red Hen, who lived on a farm all by herself. An old Fox, crafty and sly, had a den in the rocks, on a hill near her house. Many and many a night this old Fox used to lie awake and think to himself how good that little Red Hen would taste if he could once get her in his big kettle and boil her for dinner. But he couldn’t catch the little Red Hen, because she was too wise for him. Every time she went out to market she locked the door of the house behind her, and as soon as she came in again she locked the door behind her and put the key in her apron pocket, where she kept her scissors and some sugar candy.
At last, the old Fox thought out a way to catch the little Red Hen. Early in the morning, he said to his old mother, “Have the kettle boiling when I come home tonight, for I’ll be bringing the little Red Hen for supper.” Then he took a big bag and slung it over his shoulder, and walked till he came to the little Red Hen’s house. The Little Red Hen was just coming out of her door to pick up a few sticks for firewood. So the old Fox hid behind the woodpile, and as soon as she bent down to get a stick, into the house he slipped, and scurried behind the door.
In a minute the little Red Hen came quickly in, and shut the door and locked it. “I’m glad I’m safely in,” she said. Just as she said it, she turned round, and there stood the ugly old Fox, with his big bag over his shoulder. Whiff! how scared the little Red Hen was! She dropped her apronful of sticks and flew up to the big beam across the ceiling. There she perched, and she said to the old Fox, down below, “You may as well go home, for you can’t get me.”
“Can’t I, though!” said the Fox. And what do you think he did? He stood on the floor underneath the little Red Hen and twirled round in a circle after his own tail. And as he spun, and spun, and spun, faster, and faster, and faster, the poor little Red Hen got so dizzy watching him that she couldn’t hold on to the perch. She dropped off, and the old Fox picked her up and put her in his bag, slung the bag over his shoulder, and started for home, where the kettle was boiling.
He had a very long way to go, uphill, and the little Red Hen was still so dizzy that she didn’t know where she was. But when the dizziness began to go off, she whisked her little scissors out of her apron pocket, and snip! she cut a little hole in the bag; then she poked her head out and saw where she was, and as soon as they came to a good spot she cut the hole bigger and jumped out herself. There was a great big stone lying there, and the little Red Hen picked it up and put it in the bag as quick as a wink. Then she ran as fast as she could till she came to her own little farmhouse, and she went in and locked the door with the big key.
The old Fox went on carrying the stone and never knew the difference. My, but it bumped him well! He was pretty tired when he got home. But he was so pleased to think of the supper he was going to have that he did not mind that at all. As soon as his mother opened the door he said, “Is the kettle boiling?”
“Yes,” said his mother; “have you got the little Red Hen?”
“I have,” said the old Fox. “When I open the bag you hold the cover off the kettle and I’ll shake the bag so that the Hen will fall in, and then you pop the cover on before she can jump out.”
“All right,” said his mean old mother; and she stood close by the boiling kettle, ready to put the cover on.
The Fox lifted the big, heavy bag up till it was over the open kettle, and gave it a shake. Splash! thump! splash! In went, the stone, and out came the boiling water, all over the old Fox and the old Fox’s mother!
And they were scalded to death.
But the little Red Hen lived happily ever after, in her own little farmhouse.