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Sharp Eyes, the Silver Fox
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FOR many days, weeks and months Sharp Eyes was kept shut up in a box at the cabin of the hunter who had bought him from Tom. The silver fox was not kept in the same small cage in which he had traveled through the woods. The hunter knew better than to do that, for he wanted the fox to be well and strong, so his fur would grow thicker and longer and more fluffy as Sharp Eyes grew.

“We must make a nice cage for you, and tame you a bit, so you will eat well and be happy,” said the hunter, when he got Sharp Eyes safely to his cabin. “I think I can soon make you so tame you will not fret, and always want to get out.”

So the hunter made, near his cabin in the woods, a nice large cage for Sharp Eyes, the silver fox. There were two parts to the cage, one a dark one, with cool earth for the floor, but with tin underneath the earth, so Sharp Eyes could not dig his way out, for foxes are almost as good diggers as are dogs, when dogs bury bones.

In this dark part of his cage Sharp Eyes could sleep and rest at night, away from all danger. The other part of his cage was made of strong wire, and was open on all sides and the top, so plenty of fresh air and sunshine and even rain could come in.

Foxes and other animals must have fresh air and sunshine, and they do not mind being wet in the rain, for it all helps them to grow big and strong. And the hunter wanted Sharp Eyes to become a big fox, with a fine, shiny coat of fur.

“I’ll make his cage as near like the woods as I can,” the hunter said, so he put bits of stumps, rocks and branches of trees in the open part, so that it looked a little like the woods. There was also clean, cool water to drink.

“But it isn’t the woods at all,” thought the unhappy Sharp Eyes, as he roved about in the wire part of his new cage. “In the woods I can run as far as I like, but here, when I go a little way, I bump my nose against the wooden or the wire walls. I can not get out. I am as much in a trap as ever, even if it is a larger one. Oh dear! I wish I could get loose!”

Sharp Eyes tried all the ways he knew of getting out of his cage near the cabin in the woods, but the cage was made too strong for him. The hunter well knew how to do such things.

For a time Sharp Eyes felt so bad about being caught that he would not eat. Even when the hunter put bits of wild turkey in the cage, Sharp Eyes would not look at them.

But wild animals can not very long stand being hungry, any more than can boys and girls. Sharp Eyes sniffed the good things the hunter put in to make him eat, and at last, after he had taken a drink of cool water, he felt that he must chew something with his sharp teeth. He went over, nibbled at a bit of partridge the hunter had tossed in, and it tasted so good, that Sharp Eyes said to himself:

“Oh, I might as well eat! I don’t believe that I’ll ever get out of here. I may as well make the best of it.”

So he ate and felt better. The hunter came and looked at Sharp Eyes.

“Ah, ha!” exclaimed the man, “you are eating, I see. I am glad of it. Now you will grow big, and your silver coat of fur will grow big on you and I can take it off and sell it. Get big and fat, little fox.”

Of course Sharp Eyes did not know what this meant, but he ate just the same, and felt better. Then he ran around his cage looking for some way of getting out, but there seemed none. The wooden and wire walls were as strong as ever.

So the days and nights passed. Often in the night, when the hunter was fast asleep, Sharp Eyes would call, in animal language, for some of the dwellers of the woods to come to him and help him get out.

“Help me to get loose!” the fox boy would softly whine. But none came near him who could help him. Not many wild animals, and no foxes, would come close to the clearing in which the hunter’s cabin stood.

Now and then a night bird, flying in the trees overhead, heard the call of Sharp Eyes, and asked him:

“What is the matter?”

“Oh, I want to get out of here!” would answer the fox. “Can’t you fly and tell my father or mother to get me out of this cage?”

“I’ll try,” the bird would promise, just as some of the friends of Chunky, the happy hippo, had promised to go to get Turn Turn, the elephant, to help him out of the pit trap. But Turn Turn could not be found then, nor could the birds find Mr. or Mrs. Fox. The father and mother of Sharp Eyes were deep in the North Woods.

Sometimes at night Sharp Eyes would cry for Don, the dog, to come to help him get out of the cage, as Don had helped the fox pull loose from the spring trap. And one night Don, who was roving in the woods far away from his master’s house, as he had done once before, passed near the hunter’s cabin.

“What! are you here, Sharp Eyes?” asked the dog, in surprise.

“Yes,” answered the wild creature. “Can’t you help me get out?”

“I’ll try,” answered Don.

But Sharp Eyes’ cage was made strong to keep animals from getting in, as well as to keep Sharp Eyes from getting out, and Don could do nothing.

“I’m sorry,” he said to Sharp Eyes. “It needs some one stronger than I am to break open your cage. If I could only get Chunky, the happy hippo, here, he could open your cage with one shove of his big head.”

“Can’t you get him here?” asked Sharp Eyes, eagerly.

“I’m afraid not,” answered the dog. “He is in the park menagerie far away. You’ll never see Chunky.”

But just you wait and see what happens.

So Sharp Eyes was kept in the hunter’s cage for nearly a year. And in that time the silver fox grew quite tame. He saw that the hunter was not going to hurt him — at least for a while, and the man brought good things for the fox to eat and nice water to drink.

After a while Sharp Eyes let the man put his hand through a hole in the wire, and the fox did not try to bite as he had done at first. Then, a little later, Sharp Eyes let the man pat him on the head, and the fox rather liked it.

“Hunters are not so bad as I thought,” said Sharp Eyes to himself. “This one doesn’t shoot me, anyhow.”

And even the hunter’s dog did not bark or growl at the fox as much as it had at first. The two never were very good friends, but they did not snap at one another as they had done during the first days after Sharp Eyes was brought to the cabin in the woods.

“I chased after you once,” said the hunter’s dog to Sharp Eyes.

“Yes, I know you did, Skip,” replied the fox, in animal language. “But Red Tail and I waded in a brook of water, and then you could not smell us to come after us.”

“Yes, you fooled me,” said the dog, with a sort of barking laugh. “I was mad at the time, but I’ve gotten over it now.”

“Would you chase me again if you had the chance?” asked Sharp Eyes.

“Yes, I guess I would,” answered the dog. “You see, I am used to hunting, and I can’t get over it so soon, even if you are a tamer fox than you were at first. If you get out of the cage I’ll have to bring you back, but I’ll try not to hurt you.”

“Then I guess I’d better be careful how I get out of this cage,” thought Sharp Eyes to himself. “I must not do it when Skip, the dog, is near. But I would like to get away.”

More days passed. Sharp Eyes kept on getting big and strong until he was nearly as large as Skip.

Then one day a strange man came to the cabin in the woods where the hunter lived. This man looked like a hunter, but he carried no gun. Instead, over his back, slung on a strap, was a black box.

“I suppose that is some other kind of trap,” thought Sharp Eyes as he saw it. “These men seem never to let us animals alone.”

But Sharp Eyes was mistaken. What the new man had on his back was not a trap, but a camera for taking pictures of wild animals and birds. He had come to the woods to do this. He was hunting animals in a new way, but Sharp Eyes did not know that.

“What have you in this cage?” asked the camera man of the hunter.

“That is a silver fox,” was the answer. “I am letting him grow big so his fur will be larger. It will make a nice muff and neck piece for some woman.”

“Oh, it would be a shame to kill that fox just for his fur!” said the camera man. “Why not keep him alive?”

“I paid money for him,” said the hunter, “and I need to get back more money for him.”

“Then I will buy him of you alive,” said the camera man. “I’ll pay you.”

“What will you do with him?” asked the hunter.

“I’ll not kill him,” answered the other. “That would be too bad. I think I will put him in a place where many people can come to look at him. He is a handsome fox, and I’d like to have the boys and girls, as well as grown-ups, see him. Sell him to me alive.”

“I will,” said the hunter, and he did.

By this time Sharp Eyes was quite tame, but he could not be allowed to run around loose. He was let out of his cage, sometimes, but there was a collar around his neck, such as some dogs wear, and a chain was fast to the collar. So Sharp Eyes could go only as far as the chain let him. But this was better than being shut in the wire cage. Sharp Eyes liked it outside.

The camera man bought Sharp Eyes and put him in a large box. Then the box was put on a wagon and once more the silver fox was traveling. Only this time he went a long way.

“‘These men seem never to let us animals alone’“

From the wagon the box, with the silver fox in it, was put on a train (though Sharp Eyes did not know what that was) and taken farther and farther away from the woods.

Sharp Eyes rode on the train in his wooden cage. He was a little frightened, but not very much, for he was used to having men around him now, and some of the trainmen gave him bits of meat to eat and water to drink.

Finally, after he had been traveling on the train for a long, long while, Sharp Eyes looked out of an open door, and through the bars of his cage. The train had stopped and, not far away, Sharp Eyes could see what looked like a big, white house, with gaily-colored flags, floating from poles and ropes, on it.

“Oh, what is that?” asked Sharp Eyes aloud, in animal talk, before he remembered there was no one in the railroad car to answer.

But, just then, the silver fox saw, standing on the ground outside his car, a great big animal that seemed to have two tails.

“Ha! So you want to know what that white house is, do you?” asked the big animal of Sharp Eyes. “Well, that is a circus tent, and I belong to the circus!”

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