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Sharp Eyes, the Silver Fox
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IF you have ever been shut up in a dark closet, and could not open the door to get out, you can imagine how bad Sharp Eyes felt. Just as you may have done, he banged against the walls, and pushed against the door, but it would not open.

“Oh dear!” whimpered the fox. “This is terrible! Here I am caught in a trap again, and I said I’d be careful! I wonder how I can get out of here!”

Sharp Eyes looked about him. He saw that, surely enough, he was in a trap, though a different kind from the one that had hurt his foot, and had made him walk lame. This one did not pinch him. Then the fox looked at the rooster, whose crowing had brought him to the trap.

The rooster was not crowing now. I suppose he was too badly frightened at having the fox so near him. But when Sharp Eyes looked again he saw that he could not get the rooster, even though they were both in the trap.

For the rooster was in the back part, behind a screen of wire netting, and though Sharp Eyes had very keen teeth, they could not gnaw through wire.

“Anyhow, I don’t feel like eating a rooster now,” said the fox to himself. “I want to get out of here.”

Once more he looked around the trap in which he was caught. The fox did not know much about traps, but he could easily see that this one was not going to be easy to get out from. It was like a big box, open at one end, and it was through this open end that Sharp Eyes had walked in.

As soon as he was inside, the open end of the box closed with a wooden door, which snapped shut, just as might the door of a closet in which you had gone to play hide-and-go-seek.

Sharp Eyes pushed hard against this end door. He pushed against the sides of the box, and he pushed against the wire screen behind which the rooster stood. But the fox could not get out. Neither could the rooster, and the fowl fluttered about every time the fox moved, thinking, I suppose, that something dreadful was going to happen.

But nothing did happen, at least for a while. The fox was shut up in the trap, and all his trying could not get him out.

‘Maybe if I call for my father and mother, or for Don, the nice dog who helped me before, they will come and save me,” thought Sharp Eyes.

So he howled softly, and barked a little, almost like a dog, for a fox is really a sort of wild dog.

No one answered his calls for help, however, and then the fox, feeling very sad, curled himself up in one corner of the box-trap and tried to think what was best to do. For foxes and other wild animals do think, in a way, and foxes, especially, are very smart at keeping out of traps, or getting loose once they are caught. But there seemed to be no way out for Sharp Eyes this time.

“It was silly of me to come in here after this rooster,” thought the fox boy. “I thought this box was a little chicken coop, but it was nothing but a trap. Oh dear!”

All of a sudden Sharp Eyes sat up. He heard some one coming through the woods. He could hear the rustle of dried leaves and the cracking of little sticks as they were stepped on and broken. At first Sharp Eyes thought perhaps his father or mother, or some of the other foxes, might be coming to help him. But as the noise grew louder, the fox said:

“That can’t be any of my friends. They would never make as much noise as that”; for, you know, wild animals go through the woods very softly indeed.

“Maybe it’s Don, come to help me again,” thought Sharp Eyes. “I’ll call to him.”

So, in animal talk, Sharp Eyes called:

“Don! Don! Is that you? I’m in another trap! Please help me out!”

Sharp Eyes listened, but he did not hear Don’s voice in answer. Instead he heard man-talk, or, as afterward it turned out to be, boy-talk.

“Hark!” cried one boy. “Did you hear that?”

“Yes, I did,” answered another. “It sounded like a dog barking.”

“It’s in my trap, whatever it is,” said the first boy. “But I don’t believe it’s a dog.”

Of course Sharp Eyes did not understand what the boys were talking about, for he could not talk to them nor could they speak to him. But, very shortly, Sharp Eyes saw four eyes looking down in at him from the top of the cage.

“Oh, something’s in your trap!” cried a boy, whose name was Jack.

“Yes, and it’s a fox — a silver fox!” shouted a boy, whose name was Tom. “Say, this is a fine catch! I can get some money for his fur!”

“You can?” asked Jack.

“I surely can! Silver foxes are worth a lot of money. I never thought I’d get one when I set my trap here, but I have. I’ve caught a dandy silver fox with our old rooster for bait.”

“Didn’t the fox eat the rooster?” asked Jack.

“No, he couldn’t,” replied Tom. “I put the rooster behind a wire screen in one part of my box trap, and left the other end open for a fox to come in. As soon as he did, he knocked down a stick that held the spring door open, and the door shut down and caught the fox.”

“What are you going to do with him?” asked Jack.

“Well, I’ll take him home, and then I’ll have my father take off his skin and sell it. Come on, help me carry the fox home.”

“But won’t he bite?” asked Jack.

“We won’t let him out of the trap,” said Tom. “He can’t get out. We’ll carry him home, trap and all.”

“And the rooster, too?”

“Yes, the rooster too. He was good bait. I thought a fox would come to my trap if he heard a rooster crow.”

And that is just what happened, you know, though Sharp Eyes did not understand all that the boys were talking about.

Through the woods, for mile after mile, Tom and Jack carried Sharp Eyes in the trap. At last they came to some fields and, crossing these, they reached the house where Tom lived. His father was chopping wood and another man was standing near. This man had a gun, and beside him lay a hunting dog.

“Hello, Tom, what have you there?” asked his father.

“I caught a fox in my trap,” answered the boy. “It’s a silver fox, too!”

“A silver fox!” cried the man with the gun. “Did you say a fox with silver-colored fur?”

“That’s what he is!” answered Tom, a bit proudly. At the same time the dog jumped up, and, sniffing at the box-trap, began to bark. Poor Sharp Eyes was much frightened, and scrambled around in his cage, trying hard to get out. But he could not.

“Be quiet, Skip!” called the hunter to his dog. “You won’t have to chase this fox. He is safely caught. What are you going to do with him?” the hunter asked Tom.

“Sell his fur. I’ve heard that silver fox skins bring a big price down in the city.”

“That’s right, they do,” said the hunter. “Let me take a look at this one.”

Tom opened a little slide in the top of the trap. It was not large enough for Sharp Eyes to jump out of, but it gave a good view of him. The hunter looked down at the fox. He saw that one paw had been hurt and was only just healed. “Well, I do declare!” exclaimed the hunter.

“I believe that is the same silver fox that got out of my trap, Tom. You are very lucky. A silver fox skin is valuable. But you will not get much for this one.”

“Why not?” asked Tom.

“Because it is too small. You will have to wait for the fox to grow. Then his skin will be worth twice as much. But if you don’t want to wait, Tom, I’ll buy this fox from you alive, and I’ll keep him until he is big. Then I can sell the skin.”

Tom thought about it. He wanted money now, and did not like to have to wait, perhaps a year, for Sharp Eyes to grow.

“Yes,” said Tom to the man, “I’ll sell you this silver fox.”

So Sharp Eyes was sold to the very hunter from whose trap Don had helped him to escape, though the fox did not know this was the same man and the dog who had chased him. The dog was sniffing and snuffing around the trap.

“Come away from there, Skip!” ordered his master. “You can’t chase that fox. I’ve got him safe now.”

So the hunter paid Tom a goodly sum of money for the silver fox, and took him away in a box, into which he was turned from the trap. The rooster was let out of his side of the trap, being no longer needed for bait. And my! how gladly that rooster crowed! He must have felt, all the while, that he was going to be eaten by the fox.

As for Sharp Eyes, the hunter carried him away through the woods, to his own log cabin, putting him in a strong box, on a wagon drawn by a horse.

“Well, I wonder what will happen to me next,” thought the silver fox. “I seem to have gone from one trap to another. But this one is larger than the one where the rooster was.”

This was not really a trap, it was a box, and it had some soft straw in it on which Sharp Eyes could lie down. And he was so tired, and lonesome for his own folks, that he stretched out and tried to sleep. But it was hard work, for the wagon jolted over the rough roads of the forest. Sharp Eyes had been sold, and was going to have some new adventures, but just what kind he did not know.

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