This section of the book is from the "Stories of Animal Sagacity" book, by William Henry Giles Kingston.
I cannot help fancying that Irish foxes are even more cunning than their brethren in other parts of the world, I have heard so many accounts of their wonderful doings.
Near Buttevant, where some of Mrs F—’s family resided, there happened to be a hole in the thatch of the fowl-house. A fox, finding it out, sprang down through the aperture, and slew and feasted all the night to his heart’s desire. The intruder, however, had not reflected that he might be unable to secure his retreat by the way through which he had entered—facilis descensus averni.
To spring upward, especially after a heavy supper, was a laborious effort; and no doubt the villain had grown sufficiently uneasy in his mind before the early hour at which the farm-servant opened the door to liberate the fowls. When the door was opened, the man beheld the poacher in the midst of his slaughtered game. Cudgel in hand, he sprang in and fastened the door behind him, ready for a duel with Master Reynard at close quarters. But well the rascal knew that discretion is the better part of valour, and that “He who fights and runs away, May live to fight another day.”
So, after being hunted about the house for some time, he seized an opportunity, when the man stooped to aim a decisive blow at him, to spring upon his assailant’s back, and thence leap through the aperture in the roof, which he could not otherwise have reached. Thus he made his escape.
It would have been amusing to see the countenance or the man, when he found his fancied victim vanish from his sight like the wizard of a fairy tale.
Cunning rogues often get trapped, like the fox, when they hope to enjoy their spoil in security. Beware, when you have such an one to deal with, that he does not spring on your back, and leave you to be answerable for his crime.
To you, my young friend, I would say—You cannot be too cautious in dealing with what is wrong. You may fancy yourself able to cope with it, but it may prove too cunning for you. Better keep out of its way, till you have gained strength and wisdom.