One day, a Swan, his neck craned and his eyes on the water, was floating along close to the river bank. A Pike, swimming past just then, stopped at the sight of him.
"Tell me, Swan, where do you go when the river freezes?" he asked.
"What do you want to know that for?”
"Because I’d like to go off somewhere for the winter. I sometimes find it hard to breathe under the ice, with no fresh air coming in.”
" I fly to warmer parts as soon as it gets cold and stay there till springtime," the Swan said.
"Please, Swan, take me with you.”
"All right, I don't mind. It's more fun to go together.”
They went on talking about it, and a Crayfish who lived in the same
river overheard them and said:
"Please, Swan, take me along too."
"All right, I don't mind. The more of us there are the more fun it will be. We won't be leaving till autumn. I’ll come and tell you when it's time for us to be taking off."
The Swan did not doubt that the Pike and the Crayfish, like himself,
could fly just as well as they could swim.
Autumn arrived, and the Swan said to the Pike:
"The time has come for us to fly to warmer climes, so be ready to leave tomorrow. We'll set out after dinner."
The Pike passed this on to the Crayfish, and the Crayfish thought it over and said:
"What will we do without food on the way, Pike? Let’s take enough along to last us to the end of the journey.”
"How’ll we carry it all?" the Pike asked.
"In a cart. We’ll harness ourselves to it, all three of us – we'll ask the Swan to help us – and pull it together!"
The Pike and the Crayfish got themselves a cart, plaited three ropes of grass and waited for the Swan, who did not come till the following day.
"Are you two ready to join me?" he asked. "I’m leaving at once."
"We are, we are! Only do please help us pull the cart. Let’s all three of us harness ourselves to it.”
"All right! Just tie me to the trace by the leg."
The Crayfish slipped the first rope .round the Swan’s leg and pulled it tight, seized the second one with his claw, and threw the third to the Pike, who caught it between his teeth.
"All together now. Go!" the Crayfish cried, and the three friends started off, the Crayfish moving jerkily backwards as was his wont and helping himself with his tail, the Pike plunging headlong into the water, and the Swan flapping his wings as he strained to fly up into the air.
And – oh horror of horrors! – the ropes broke, and the cart never budged from the spot. Which of the three was more to blame, the Crayfish, the Pike or the Swan, no one knew or cared, and only the frogs laughed and laughed and could not stop laughing. They thought it very funny indeed that the Crayfish, the Pike and the Swan did not know any better than to harness themselves to the same cart!