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SHARP EYES HEARS SOMETHING
“AH HA!” cried Sharp Eyes in fox talk, “I have caught you, my fine wild turkey!” Then, with the big bird held tightly under his paws, the fox boy lifted his nose high in the air and howled and barked. That was his way of saying:
“Come and see what I have, Father! I’ve caught a fine wild turkey!”
Away off in the woods, where he was looking for something to eat, Mr. Fox heard the call of Sharp Eyes.
“Ah, I wonder if he is hurt, in danger, or if he has something for dinner,” said Mr. Fox to himself.
Mr. Fox listened carefully, and then by the difference in the howl and bark, he could tell what Sharp Eyes was saying. It was this:
“I have caught something! I have caught something!”
“Ah, my little fox boy has had good luck,” said Mr. Fox. “Better luck than I have had. I must go and see what he has caught!”
Not having found anything that he could take home for his family’s dinner, Mr. Fox turned and ran quickly through the woods toward Sharp Eyes. He could tell where his little fox son was by noticing the direction from which his howls and barks came.
“What is it?” asked Mr. Fox as he came near.
“I have caught a big wild turkey,” answered Sharp Eyes, still keeping the large bird between his paws.
“Ha! that is not a turkey,” said Mr. Fox, as he came near and saw what Sharp Eyes had.
“No?” asked the little fox in surprise. “What is it then?”
“It’s a rooster,” said his father. “A great, big rooster that lives down on the farm where the ducks are,” for there were farms near the North Woods, though there were no cities. “Well do I know that rooster,” went on Mr. Fox. “Many a time, when I have been creeping up to get a chicken, he has seen me and crowed so loudly that the farmer came out with a gun to drive me away. And so you have caught him, Sharp Eyes!”
“Yes, but I thought he was a wild turkey like the one I saw before. I never have seen a rooster.”
“He is as good as a wild turkey to eat,” went on Mr. Fox. “You have had good luck. You have quick legs as well as sharp eyes. Now we shall not be hungry.”
So Mr. Fox carried the big rooster home to the other foxes in the hollow log. The bird would have been too heavy for Sharp Eyes, who was not yet full grown.
“Oh, what a fine dinner!” said Mrs. Fox, when she saw the rooster. “Who caught it?”
“Sharp Eyes did,” answered his father. “We ought to be quite proud of him!”
“I am,” said the little fox boy’s mother.
Then they had a rooster dinner, and Twinkle and Winkle listened as Sharp Eyes told how he had caught the fowl, thinking it was a wild turkey.
“Though when it said ‘Cock-a-doodle-do!’ instead of ‘Gobble-obble-obble,’ I thought it was funny,” said the little fox boy.
“You are a real fox now — you can go out and catch things for yourself,” said his father. “Now, Twinkle and Winkle, it is time you started in. To-morrow let us see what you can do.”
So the next day the three little foxes started off together on a hunting trip. At first they saw nothing, but, after a bit, they spied some wood mice and each caught one.
“They are not as big as a rooster or a wild turkey,” said Sharp Eyes, “but they will do for a start. We can’t catch big things every day.”
Twinkle and Winkle were quite delighted with the mice. They were the first things they had caught, except some grasshoppers, and they felt a little bit proud of themselves.
From then on the little foxes hunted every day. Twinkle and Winkle soon learned to do nearly as well as Sharp Eyes, but their brother could always see things in the woods before they could.
His eyes seemed to grow sharper and brighter each day, and he could tell a turkey, a partridge or other wild bird a long way off, so that even his father used to say:
“Sharp Eyes is the best hunter of us all. He is a fine fox!”
Not far from where these foxes lived was another family, not quite the same kind, though. One of these foxes, named Red Tail, as he heard Sharp Eyes tell of having caught the rooster, said one day:
“You had better look out for yourself, Sharp Eyes.”
“Why had I, Red Tail?”
“Oh, because,” was the answer, and that was all Red Tail would say just then.
“Pooh! I s’pose he means a hunter might shoot me,” said Sharp Eyes. “But I’m not afraid. I’m going off in the woods now and see what I can find for dinner.”
Off went the little fox boy on another hunt. He looked all around, and listened and smelled, and at last he saw something moving along the ground.
“Ha! Maybe that is another rooster or a turkey,” thought Sharp Eyes. “I’ll get that for dinner.”
Softly, softly he crept up toward the animal on the ground. Sharp Eyes could now see it was an animal, and not a bird, and at first he thought it was an extra large wood mouse. For the animal was of the same color, a light gray. But when Sharp Eyes saw the big, curving bushy tail of the creature he said:
“Ha! I know him. It is a gray squirrel! Well, they are as good as a rooster or a wild turkey, though not as large. I’ll get him!”
Sharp Eyes crept toward the gray squirrel, but, just as the fox was going to jump on it, something happened.
With a chatter of his teeth and a frisk of his tail the squirrel sprang up into a tree, and from there, safely out of reach, sitting on a limb, with his tail curled up along his back the squirrel looked at Sharp Eyes.
“Ha! You thought you’d get me! didn’t you?” chattered the squirrel.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m not so very hungry,” drawled Sharp Eyes, pretending he hadn’t been fooled when the squirrel jumped away.
“Oh, yes you did! You tried to get me, but I was too quick for you — I got away!” laughed and chattered the squirrel. “What’s your name, little fox boy?”
“Sharp Eyes. What’s yours?”
“Oh, I am called Slicko, the jumping squirrel, and it’s because I can jump so well that I got away from you,” answered the little gray animal. “Haven’t you heard about me?”
“Heard about you?” asked Sharp Eyes. “What do you mean? I hear you talking now, and I heard you scrabbling around in the leaves.”
“No, I mean, didn’t you hear about my having adventures, and being put in a book?” asked Slicko.
“No,” answered Sharp Eyes, looking hungrily up at the squirrel, “I didn’t.”
“Well, I am in a book,” went on Slicko, “and it tells how I was caught by some boys, and put in a cage. But I got away and came back to the woods I love so well. But if you haven’t read the book about me, I don’t s’pose you know Blackie, the lost cat, nor Don, the runaway dog.
“No,” said Sharp Eyes, “I don’t know either of them. I don’t like dogs.”
“Oh, but you’d like Don,” said Slicko. “He’s the nicest dog that ever was! He’s in a book, too.”
“I don’t know anything about books,” said Sharp Eyes. “All I know about is being hungry — that’s why I tried to catch you.”
“I’m glad you didn’t,” chattered Slicko.
“So am I,” said the fox. “I guess I can easily catch a turkey or a mouse or a rooster. I’ve caught roosters before. But now I wouldn’t like to catch you as I like to hear you talk, though I don’t know anything about books.”
“Neither do I,” said Slicko. “All I know is I’m in one. And there’s a book about Turn Turn, the jolly elephant. I don’t s’pose you know him, either, do you?”
“Is an elephant like a wild turkey?” asked Sharp Eyes.
“I should say not!” laughed Slicko. “An elephant looks as if he had two tails, but one is his trunk. Turn Turn was a jolly chap. He was in the same circus with Mappo, the merry monkey. But excuse me, I have to go now. I’ll see you some other time.”
“I wish you would,” said the fox boy. “I’ll promise not to catch you. I like to hear you talk. Tell me some more about your elephant and monkey friends.”
“I will,” promised Slicko, “and about the book I’m in, too. I had a lot of adventures. Maybe you’ll have some, too, and have them put in a book.”
“Oh, no! That will never happen to me!” said Sharp Eyes.
But you see how little he knew about it, for here he is in a book, and I have a lot of adventures to tell you about him.
So Slicko, the jumping squirrel, scrambled off among the trees, and the little fox boy went to look for something to eat.
Sharp Eyes presently caught a fat duck that had swum too far down the brook, away from the farm, and, slinging her across his back, off to the hollow log he trotted.
And later that day, when Sharp Eyes was telling his friend, Red Tail, about catching the duck, sharp Eyes said:
“I think I am getting to be a pretty good hunter, don’t you?”
“Yes, you are,” said Red Tail. “But you had better look out.”
“You said that the other day,” went on Sharp Eyes. “What do you mean? Do you mean I’d better look out for Slicko, the squirrel?”
“Oh, no,” answered Red Tail. “But did you ever stop to think that your coat of fur is different from those that most of us wear?”
“Why, no, I never took much notice,” said Sharp Eyes, as he looked at himself as well as he could. “What’s the matter with my fur?”
“Nothing, except that it is very beautiful,” said Red Tail. “Now you are going to hear something that may scare you. Though you may not know it, you are a silver fox.”
“What’s that?” asked Sharp Eyes.
“It means your fur is the color of silver,” went on Red Tail. “That color is very scarce, and hunters like to get a silver fox more than any other. That means they’ll hunt you out, and try to catch you rather than any of us, for our fur is common. But yours is silver shade, and can be sold for a lot of money. So you want to look out.”
“Look out for what?” asked Sharp Eyes.
“For hunters,” answered Red Tail. “I’ll tell you how I happen to know. Last year, when I was a tiny little fox, I was caught in a trap. A man who was a trapper of wild animals up in these North Woods caught me. He took me home to his cabin, and there I saw the skins of many foxes hung up to dry.
“There were many like mine, but only one or two of a silver color. As I was so small, the trapper kept me to tame me, and I stayed in his cabin a long time. There I learned to know a little of the talk that men hunters and trappers speak.
“Other hunters and trappers used to come to the cabin to buy furs, and they paid more for that of a silver fox than for any other. That is how I know your silver coat would bring a lot of money if a hunter or a trapper caught you. So you want to be careful when you go out in the woods.”
“Thank you, I will,” promised Sharp Eyes. “I’ll be careful. Thank you for telling me, Red Tail.”
The two foxes talked in animal talk a little longer, and Sharp Eyes was just going back to his hollow log when, all of a sudden, a loud clap, like thunder, sounded in the woods.
“What’s that?” cried Sharp Eyes. “Is it going to rain?”
“No! That was the sound of a gun!” cried Red Tail. “That was a hunter’s gun! We had better hide, Sharp Eyes! The hunters, even now, may be after your silver fur!”
And away ran Red Tail and Sharp Eyes.