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The Weasel was right; it was Rory the Fox who had stolen Gilly's Crystal Egg. One night, just as he was leaving Gilly's house, the moon shone full upon the Crystal Egg. In the turn of a hand Rory the Fox had made a little spring and had taken the Egg in his mouth. Then he slipped out by the door as quick and as quiet as a leaf blown in the wind.

He couldn't help himself stealing the Egg, when the chance came. He had had a dream about it. He dreamt that the Egg had been hatched and that out of it had come the most toothsome bird that a Fox had ever taken by the neck. He snapped his teeth in his sleep when he dreamt of it. The Fox told his youngsters about the bird he had dreamt of--a bird as big as a goose and so fat on the neck and the breast that it could hardly stir from sitting. The youngsters had smacked their lips and snapped their teeth. Every time he came home now they used to say to him--"Father, have you brought us the Boobrie Bird?" No wonder that his eyes used to turn to the Crystal Egg when he sat in Gilly's house. And then because the moon shone on it just as he was leaving, and because he knew that Gilly's back was turned, he could not keep himself from making a little spring and taking the Crystal Egg softly in his mouth.

He went amongst the dark, dark trees with the soft and easy trot of a Fox. He knew well what he should do with the Egg. He had dreamt that it had been hatched by the Spae-Woman's old rheumatic goose. This goose was called Old Mother Hatchie and the Fox had never carried her off because he knew she was always hatching out goslings for his table. He went through the trees and across the fields towards the Spae-Woman's house.

The Spae-Woman lived by telling people their fortunes and reading them their dreams. That is why she was called the Spae-Woman. The people gave her goods for telling them their dreams and fortunes and she left her land and stock to whatever chanced. The fences of her fields were broken and rotted. Her hens had been carried off by the Fox. Her goat had gone wild. She had neither ox nor ass nor sheep nor pig. The Fox went through her fence now as lightning would go through a gooseberry bush and he came out before her barn. There was a hole in the barn-door and he went through that. And in the north-west corner of the barn, he saw Old Mother Hatchie sitting on a nest of straw and he knew that there was a clutch of eggs under her. She cackled when she saw the Fox on the floor of the barn but she never stirred off the nest. Rory left what was in his mouth on the ground. 0ld Mother Hatchie put her head on one side and looked at the Egg that was clear in the full moonlight.

"This egg, Mistress Hatchie," said Rory the Fox, "is from the Hen-wife of the Queen of Ireland. The Queen asked the Hen-wife to ask me to leave it with you. She thinks there's no bird in the world but yourself that is worthy to hatch it and to rear the gosling that comes out of it."

"That's right, that's right," said Mother Hatchie. "Put it here, put it here." She lifted her wing and the Fox put the Crystal Egg into the brood-nest.

He went out of the barn, crossed the field again, and went amongst the dark, dark trees. He went along slowly now for he began to think that Gilly might find out who stole the Crystal Egg and be vexed with him. Then he thought of the Weasel. The Fox began to think he might be sorry for himself if the Weasel was set on his track.

Rory did not go to Gilly's house the next night nor the night after. The third night, as he was going home from a ramble, the Owl hooted at him. "Why do you hoot at me, Big Moth?" said the Fox stopping in his trot. (He always called the Owl "Big Moth" to pretend that he thought she wasn't a bird at all, but a moth. He made this pretence because he was annoyed that he could never get an owl to eat). "Why do you hoot at me, Big Moth?" said he. "The Weasel's going to have your bones for his stepping-stones and your blood for his morning dram," said the Owl balefully as she went amongst the dark, dark trees. The Fox stopped long to consider. Then he went to his burrow and told his youngsters they would have to move house. He had them stirring at the first light. He gave them a frog each for their breakfast and took them across the country. They came to a burrow that Old-Fellow Badger had just left and Rory the Fox brought his youngsters into it and told them that it would be their new house.

Next: Part X