Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. — Cicero

Adventures of Baron Munchausen - R. E. Raspe




The Baron's Adventures with a Fox and a Boar

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe

Baron Munchausen had feasted his friends right well, and after supper he leaned back in his chair and took a deep draught of sparkling Rhine wine. Then, rubbing his hands together, he glanced round the banqueting-hall and said:

"So you want me to tell you of my adventures in the past. Ah! I was a fine, strapping young fellow in those days, full of strength and courage. If it please you, dear friends and comrades, each night when we have supped I will relate to you all the strange adventures I passed through in my youth." His guests eagerly consenting, silence was proclaimed and the Baron began his story.

"One morning, looking from my bedchamber window, I noticed that a large pond, which lies close to my castle, was almost covered with wild duck. In my excitement I could hardly wait to dress myself properly, but, throwing on my garments and hastily seizing my gun and ammunition, I rushed headlong downstairs; in my haste I banged my head so lustily against the doorpost that sparks flew from my eyes. Unchecked by this little accident I rushed on till, under cover of bush and thicket, I reached the edge of the pond. As I was about to take aim, I discovered that when I had received that violent blow the flint must have fallen out of my tinder-box. I durst not move from where I was standing, but how could I manage without a flint ''

"I at once resolved to make use of the accident I had just had with my eye. Opening the hammer, I laid my gun against my cheek and took aim, at the same time giving myself a violent blow in the eye. What I hoped and expected at once happened—sparks flew from my eye which kindled the powder in the gun. A loud report was heard, and with one shot I brought down five pair of duck, four wild geese, and a pair of water-hens!

"Ah, indeed, presence of mind leads to manly deeds, whether on land or sea, in, war, or in the chase.

"Once as I was walking through the forest, my gun slung over my shoulder, and carrying in my hand a large nail with which I intended to nail up a board in my wood-hut, I caught sight of a magnificent black fox standing near a tree. It would have been a thousand pities to riddle his costly skin with shot, but I must fire quickly for he had already scented me. A happy thought struck me; I stepped behind a tree, took the charge out of my gun, and slipped in the nail. Then I took accurate aim and, as I intended, the fox was uninjured but unable to move from the spot, for I had nailed his brush firmly to the tree.

"I walked calmly up to him, drew out my hunting-knife, made a cross-cut on his head, and thrashed him till he ran out of his skin, escaping, as it were, in his shirt-sleeves. His comrades must have been amazed at the sight, and I myself was so overcome with laughter that I never even thought of sending a bullet after him. It is possible his skin may have grown again, or he may have perished from the winter cold and been devoured by his brethren.

"You may well laugh, but consider how lucky it was that I just happened to have a nail in my hand!

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe
I RIVETED DOWN THE TUSKS.


"A few days after this I was returning from the chase with an empty gun, having used all my ammunition, when suddenly a raging boar rushed at me. Well, you know how unpleasant such an encounter may be, so I am sure none of you will think me a coward for hastily climbing the nearest tree: it was a young birch which could hardly sustain my weight. The wild boar made a dash at the tree but a moment too late, for I had just drawn my legs out of his reach. But so violent was the onslaught, that his tusks penetrated the trunk of the tree and projected an inch through the other side. Without hesitation I slid down the tree-stem, picked up a flint the size of my fist, and riveted down the projecting points of the tusks. Then I went home, but returned the next morning with my servants, a cart, and a loaded musket. I did not ask the poor creature what sort of night he had spent, but put a bullet through his brain without further ceremony.

"You can imagine what a narrow escape I had, when I tell you that the head forester sent me word the beast weighed five tons—a good deal for a wild boar.

"And now, gentlemen, that is enough for to-day. To-morrow night I promise you some more really remarkable hunting stories."