THE MAGIC FOX

This story begins with the first words that David ever wrote for himself. It was a whole sentence, too. 'David and Max saw a fox'.

Well, actually, Max saw it first. He pointed at it and said, 'Look, David ! A fox !'

And the fox said, 'Aren't you a rude little boy! Don't you know that it's not polite to point ?'

Of course, David thought Max had said that, so he said, 'What do you want to say that for ? It was you who was pointing, not me !'

And Max said, 'I didn't say a word ! It wasn't me who said it ! It was the fox !'

And David said, 'Don't be stupid, Max ! Foxes don't talk !'

'Oh, don't they !' the fox said. 'Well, I do ! And I'll say it again ! Only rude little boys point !'

David looked at Max, and Max looked at David, with their mouths open. They were very surprised, and just a bit scared. They'd never heard a fox talking before and they didn't believe anyone else had either.

David was the first to speak.

'Max is very sorry ! Aren't you, Max ?'

And Max said, 'Yes, I'm very sorry if I was rude. But I couldn't believe we would see a fox. And in David's garden, too !'

'Oh, I'm often in this garden,' the fox said. 'And the other gardens, too ! But it's usually at night when little boys are in bed. I don't get about much in the daytime. Too many stupid gamekeepers with guns and stupid huntsmen in their stupid red coats !'

'But how is it you can talk and we can hear you ?' David asked. 'Other foxes can't talk, you know !'

And the fox said, 'I think we'd better introduce ourselves. Of course I know you're called David and your friend is Max !'

'That's right !' David said. 'But how do you know that ? And why is it you can talk when other foxes can't ?'

The fox said, 'Well, that's because I'm a very special kind of fox. My name is Reynard, and I'm the king of all the foxes. But I'm a wizard, too, and that's why I can talk. You see, it's no use being a wizard if you can't say the spells.'

'Spells ?' said David. 'Can you really do spells ?'

'Oh yes,' said Reynard. 'Would you like me to show you ?'

'Well, that depends,' said Max. 'It wouldn't hurt us, would it ?'

'Let me show you,' said Reynard. 'You see that hut over there ?'

'Yes,' said David. 'That's where Dad keeps his tools !'

'Right,' said Reynard. 'Now close your eyes. Both of you. And keep them closed until I tell you to open them ! Promise ?'

So the boys promised, and closed their eyes. Then they heard the fox say some words they couldn't understand in a sort of squeaky voice. And then the fox said. 'Now you may open your eyes !'

And when they did, what do you think ? Where the hut had been standing there was a tree. Quite a big tree, bigger than the hut. For a moment David was so shocked he couldn't even speak, but then he managed to say,

'Oh no ! What's Dad going to say when he sees it ? That's where he keeps all his special tools !'

'It's all right,' the fox said. 'I can change it back again ! Just close your eyes and keep them closed until I say you may open them !'

So the boys closed their eyes again, and again the fox made the same strange sounds as before in the same squeaky voice, and then he said, 'Right ! Open your eyes again !'

And there was the hut, just as before.

'Wow !' said Max. 'I wish I could do that !'

'You can !'said the fox. 'But only once !'

'But we don't know the words !' said David.

'Oh, I can teach you the words,' said the fox. 'But you can only work the spell once and it will only last for one day. And you must put things right again before the day's over. And another thing. When the spell goes, you won't remember that there ever was a spell or that you ever saw me ! Now, do you still want to weave a spell ?'

And of course the boys said 'Yes, please !'

'Very well,' the fox said. 'First you must say the incantation. Do you know what an incantation is ? No ? Well, it's the special sounds that make the spell work.'

'But we don't know the sounds !' David said.

'Of course not !' the fox said. 'I'm going to teach you ! Now, you know your alphabet, of course ? A for apple, E for egg, I for ink. Yes ?'

'Oh yes,' they said.

'Right ! Then you use them to weave the spell. It goes 'Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Bee !' Can you say that ?'

David said, 'Could I write it down so that I can learn it ?'

But Reynard said that writing it down wouldn't do, because spells have to be spoken, not read. So they had to try with Reynard's help to learn what the spell was. And, of course, after one or two tries they managed to learn it.

'Now,' said the fox, 'you add on the spell word. Like this !

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Bee
I order this hut to become a tree !

Only now you must take care to see that the word after Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla rhymes with the thing you want to put the spell on. I used Bee, because Bee rhymes with tree, you see. So if you want to change a cat into a mouse you'd use a word like "house", you see. And if you wanted to change a dog into a bear you'd have to use a word like pear".

So for the first spell you'd say

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, House
I order this cat to become a mouse !'

And for the second one you'd say

'Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Pear
I order this dog to become a bear !

Do you understand ? Good ! Let's just try whether you can weave a spell. But remember that when I'm not here, you can only weave one spell. Remember ! Just one ! And then you must make sure that you change things back again before the end of the day, or there'll be trouble ! Then tomorrow you'll have forgotten all about the spell you wove, and all about Reynard the Fox ! Have you got all that ?'

They both nodded, and Reynard said, 'Now I've got to go and weave some more spells, so I'll leave you to weave yours. But remember ! Only one ! And it must be changed back before the end of the day ! And then when you wake up tomorrow morning you'll have forgotten all about how to weave spells, and how you met Reynard the Fox !'

And then suddenly, like a flash he disappeared, just like that !

So then they both began at once to plan the spell they were going to weave, and the right word to rhyme with whatever they were going to change from one thing into another.

And first Max said. 'I'm going to change my roller-skates into a new bike, I think !'

'Well, that's silly,' said David. 'You'll simply have to change it back again before the end of the day ! Why don't we do something special ? Something we've always wanted to do but couldn't ? Something that's really fun !'

'Like what?' Max said.

'Let me think !' said David. And after a while he said, 'I've got it ! Look, I've always wanted a boat !'

'A boat ?' said Max. 'Who wants a toy boat ?'

'Not a toy boat, stupid !' David said. 'A real boat ! One you can climb into and sail ! That's it ! I'm going to go down to the lake right now and turn something into a boat. Then I'll have some fun and it won't matter when I have to change whatever it is back again. 'I'll still have had the fun !'

'That's a great idea !' Max said. 'I think I'll do the same, and then we can have races on the lake until it's time for bed ! What d'you say ?'

So off they ran to the lake, and while they were running David was planning what he could change into a boat that wouldn't be noticed too much. And when they got to the lake, he had an idea. If Reynard could change Dad's hut into a tree why not change a tree into a boat ?

But when he told Max about his idea, Max said, 'Don't forget we have to have a word that rhymes with "boat" or the spell won't work ! What word could that be ?'

David thought about it for a moment and then he said, 'I've got it ! What about goat ? Of course ! Goat !'

So he looked over to one of the trees by the lake and said

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Goat
I order this tree to become a boat !'

And lo and behold ! There it was ! A wonderful boat, all ready to sail !

So when Max saw that it worked he did the same. He said,

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Goat
I order this tree to become a boat !'

And nothing happened ! Nothing at all !

He turned to David. 'Why ? Why ? It worked for you ! Why didn't it work for me ?'

'You are a silly', said David. 'Don't you see ? It wasn't your spell that you used ! It was mine !'

Max looked so disappointed, and David said,

'Try using a different rhyme ! Now what could you have ?' He thought hard for a moment, and then he said, 'What about coat ? That's it ! Try "coat" instead of "goat" !'

So Max said,

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Coat
I order this tree to become a boat !'

And there it was ! Exactly the same sort of boat as David's !

They couldn't wait to climb in and begin racing, and they both had a wonderful time all day long, and never felt a bit tired. But when the sun began to set, David remembered what Reynard had said.

'Time to go, Max ! You know what Reynard told us !'

So they both landed, and looked back longingly at the boats.

'Oh, I do wish we could keep them !' David said. 'But you know what Reynard said ! If we don't change them back again, there'll be trouble ! So here goes ! Oh, I forgot ! What rhymes with tree ?'

'Bee ?' said Max.

'That's it !' said David. 'Right ! Here goes !

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Bee
I order this boat to become a tree !'

And there it was, just the same tree as it had been that morning.

And this time Max remembered not to use the same spell that David had used. So he said,

Afalla, Efalla, Ifalla, Key
I order this boat to become a tree !'

And then they both turned and began to walk home. They'd had a great day, but they knew that every day comes to an end, and they were just glad this one had been such a wonderful day.

And, just as Reynard had said, when they woke the next morning they didn't remember Reynard, and they didn't remember the boats, or the spells, or how to weave them, or anything that had happened the day before.

Now I can just imagine what you're thinking to yourself. If they didn't remember anything at all, how could there possibly be a story about it ?

I'll let you into the secret. I did it. Me. No. I didn't make it all up. What I did was cast a spell to change myself into a story-teller.

But how could I do that ? you say.

I expect you've guessed ! That's right ! My name's Reynard ! And I'm a wizard who loves to tell stories to children ! You see ? And now I must disappear ! But you won't forget, like David and Max, will you ?'

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