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SHARP EYES IS HURT
SHARP EYES, the silver fox, could run very fast. So could Red Tail. And they knew they must run fast to get away from the dogs of the hunter. For when men go out to hunt wild animals or to trap them, dogs generally go with the men, and though a man can not run as fast as a fox or a deer, dogs can.
Red Tail told this to Sharp Eyes as they hurried along together. Behind them could be heard the rumble and roar of the man’s gun, sounding like thunder.
“Hurry, Sharp Eyes!” cried Red Tail. “Don’t let the hunter see you!”
“What will he do if he sees me?” asked the little fox boy.
“He’ll try to shoot you with his gun. That is, he will if he can not catch you alive.”
“Why would he want to catch me alive?” asked Sharp Eyes, as he trotted along beside the other fox. They slunk down between bushes, ran under fallen trees, crawled beneath old logs, and even ran in brooks of water.
“He’d like to catch you, instead of shooting you, because you are now a small fox, and will be bigger some day,” answered Red Tail. “The bigger you are the more fur you’ll have, and it is for your fine silver fur that the hunter or trapper would like to get you.”
“Wouldn’t he like yours, too?” asked Sharp Eyes.
“Well, yes, I guess he’d take my fur, too, if he could get it,” answered Red Tail. “But mine is not so nice as yours. Of course it keeps me just as warm, and all that, but people who want fox furs seem to like your silver color better, though why, I don’t know. You are a rare fox, and more hunters or trappers will try to get you than would try to get me. So be careful!”
“I will,” promised Sharp Eyes. Then he asked: “Don’t you think we can stop running now and take a rest? I’m tired,” and indeed the little fox boy was weary. His tongue was hanging out of his mouth and his legs ached.
“No, we can’t stop yet,” said Red Tail. “We must run on a little more. Then we can hide in the dark woods away from the hunter and his dogs and take a long rest.”
So on the two foxes ran farther and farther until at last Red Tail, who was older than Sharp Eyes, and who had been chased by dogs and hunters before, and knew their ways, said it would be safe to rest. They lay down on the leaves under a tree and stayed as quiet as mice. They listened, but could not hear the barking of the dogs nor the bang of the gun.
“I guess we got safely away,” said Red Tail, as he crept out a little way and lapped up some water from a brook. Sharp Eyes did the same, for they were both very thirsty from their run.
“Is it all right to go home now?” asked Sharp Eyes, when he had rested till his tongue was no longer hot nor his legs tired.
“I’d better take a peep around and see,” answered his friend. “I know more about hunters and dogs than you do.”
So Red Tail peeped out from behind some bushes, ready to skip back again and hide in case he saw danger. But he saw none, and, after a little while, he and Sharp Eyes went on to their homes, which were not houses such as you live in, but a hole in a hollow log or a den under the earth with some rough stones for a front door.
“Well! where have you been, Sharp Eyes?” asked his sister Winkle, as he scrambled down inside the hollow log.
“Oh, I’ve been chased by a hunter and his dogs, and I heard his gun fired,” answered the little fox boy.
“You did?” cried his mother, who was listening to what he said. “Oh, Sharp Eyes, you must be careful!”
“I will. That’s what Red Tail told me.”
“And don’t go too much with that Red Tail boy, either,” said Mr. Fox. “He is a daring sort of chap, and he might lead you into danger. Once he went to a farmyard in broad daylight and took a chicken. He ought to have waited until night. He is very daring.”
“Well, he was good to me,” said Sharp Eyes. “He showed me how to run away from the hunter.”
“You must have had a terrible time,” said little Winkle.
“Oh, it was a sort of adventure,” answered Sharp Eyes.
“What’s adventure?” Twinkle, his brother, asked.
“It’s things that happen to you,” answered Sharp Eyes. “And then they are put into a book. That’s what happened to Slicko.”
“Who’s Slicko?” asked Winkle.
“A jumping squirrel,” replied Sharp Eyes, and he told of the talk the two had had together.
For some days after this nothing much happened to Sharp Eyes. He stayed with his father and mother and brother and sister in their hollow log house, going out now and then to get something to eat, or to drink water at the brook.
“That boy of ours is going to be very smart,” said Mr. Fox to his wife one day.
“What makes you think so?” she asked.
“Why, when we were out hunting in the woods to-day he saw a big muskrat that I couldn’t see, and he caught it.”
“Yes, I think he has the best eyes, for seeing things to eat, of any foxes in this wood,” said Mrs. Fox. “I only wish his fur was a different color.”
“Because it is too beautiful. If it was red or brown, like yours and mine, the hunters and trappers would not be after him so much. But he is a silver fox, and you know how such skins are prized. There is a big reward for a silver fox skin, Red Tail’s mother told me.”
“Yes, I suppose there is,” said Mr. Fox. “I remember hearing, when I was a boy, that a silver skin was much sought after by hunters. I never was colored that way myself, but I knew a fox who was a boy when I was. He had silver fur, and one day he did not come to play with us. We asked where he was, and his father said a hunter had shot him to get his silver fur.”
“It’s too bad,” said Mrs. Fox. “I wish the hunters would leave us alone. I must tell Sharp Eyes to be careful.”
Each night, now that he was big enough, Sharp Eyes went out with his father or mother, Twinkle or Winkle sometimes going with them, to hunt for things to eat. When they dared they went to a farm which was not far from the North Woods where they lived.
“It is easier to get a chicken or a duck than to hunt for a wild turkey or the wood mice,” said Mr. Fox. “We’ll eat at the farmyard if we can.”
And often they did, though sometimes the dogs barked when the foxes came near, or the farmer and his men would come out with guns, and the foxes would have to run away. At such times they had to hunt for something to eat in the woods. And, if they did not find it, they would go hungry. That was no fun.
One night, when the whole fox family had been out hunting and had been frightened away from the farm by barking dogs, they were all very hungry.
“I wish I had something to eat,” sighed Winkle.
“Well, we can’t have anything, so we’ll just have to wait,” said her mother.
“Where’s Sharp Eyes?” asked Mr. Fox. “Didn’t he come back with us?”
“He said he was going back to the farm, and try to get a chicken or a duck,” returned Twinkle. “He said he was terribly hungry. And so am I.”
“Sharp Eyes may be caught,” said Mrs. Fox. “You had better go back and make him come with you,” she went on to Mr. Fox.
“I will,” said he, but just as he started out on the woodland path, Sharp Eyes came running along, with a big chicken slung over his back.
“Look what I got!” he barked, as he laid it in front of his mother.
“Where did you get it?” asked Winkle.
“At that farmyard. I waited until the wind was blowing the other way, so the dogs could not smell me coming, and then I crawled in and got this bird.”
“It’s a wonder you weren’t caught yourself,” said his father. “You are getting as reckless as Red Tail. You must look out for danger.”
“I did,” answered Sharp Eyes. Then they all ate the chicken he had brought, and his mother said he was very clever.
“But you’ll not always be as lucky as that,” said Red Tail to Sharp Eyes the next day, when the fox boy told what he had done. “Some day you may be caught in a trap.”
“What’s a trap?” asked Sharp Eyes. “Is it like a book that Slicko the squirrel had adventures in?”
“No, a trap is something that hurts you,” said Red Tail.
A few days after that the silver fox had a chance to see for himself, and feel for himself, what a trap was like.
Sharp Eyes was trotting along through the woods, not far from the farmer’s yard; and as he was looking toward it hoping he might catch a stray duck or a rooster, all of a sudden he saw a chicken lying to one side of the path.
“Oh, ho!” said Sharp Eyes to himself. “I’ll just get that and take it home for lunch.”
So he crept softly up on the chicken, which did not seem to know a fox was so near. When he was close enough, Sharp Eyes gave a jump and came straight down on top of the fowl, making a grab for it with his teeth.
At the same time there was a sharp click, and Sharp Eyes felt a sudden pain in one paw. It stung and ached.
“Oh!” cried the fox boy. “I’m hurt! Something has me fast by the foot! Oh, what can it be? Did the chicken bite me?”
He tried to pull his paw loose, but could not. He was caught, and was held fast.
“‘Look what I got!’ he barked”