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SHARP EYES GETS AWAY
FOR a time there was much excitement in the animal house of the park, where Sharp Eyes had gotten out of his cage. At first the men did not see where he had run to — inside the hippo’s cage. But when they found him they were very anxious to get Sharp Eyes back.
People who had come into the park to look at the animals, heard the shouts and saw men running about.
“What is the matter?” asked several.
“Oh, one of the animals is loose,” answered a policeman.
“Maybe it’s a lion or a tiger!” cried a woman with a baby in her arms. “Come on, children!” and she caught the hand of her little boy, who, in turn held the hand of his sister, and they all ran out.
Some of the other men, women and children also ran out when they heard that a lion was loose. But this was not so. It was only Sharp Eyes, and he was so tame now that he would have bitten no one.
“Get him! There he is! There’s the fox!” cried the head animal man, as he pointed to Sharp Eyes inside the hippo’s cage. “Bring up one of the small dens, on wheels, and we’ll drive the fox into that.”
The men stood in front of Chunky’s cage with sticks and ropes, to drive Sharp Eyes back if he should try to run out. But the fox was not going to do anything like that.
“I said I’d stay here, and I will,” he explained to Chunky, in animal talk, of course. “They needn’t make so much fuss about me going to run away. I’m not!”
And Sharp Eyes did not. He stayed quietly in Chunky’s cage, talking to the hippo in animal language, until the park men brought up a sort of traveling cage, and opened it. Then Sharp Eyes said to the hippo:
“Well, I’ll go in there, as they seem to want me to. Anyhow, it’s a nicer cage than the one I was in. I’ll see you again, Chunky, my boy.”
“I hope so,” said the happy hippo, who always seemed to be smiling. “Next time I see you, Sharp Eyes, remind me to tell you a funny story about Turn Turn.”
“I will,” said Sharp Eyes.
Then the animal men wheeled the cage with the fox in it away.
“Say,” said one of the men to the others, “that silver fox didn’t give us any trouble.”
“No,” was the answer. “I thought sure we’d have to chase him all over the grounds, but he was as quiet as could be. I guess he isn’t as wild as we imagined.”
And Sharp Eyes was not. The kindness of the hunter who bought him from the boy was beginning to tell. The silver fox knew that not all men were unkind. Some, such as those in the zoo, and the camera man, were good to wild animals.
For the first few days Sharp Eyes was kept by himself in the small cage into which he had been put when the first one broke. Nor was he allowed to stay near the other animals. He was put by himself in a dark corner of an animal house.
“You’ll be quieter there, and will get to feeling at home,” said one of the park animal keepers. “When you quiet down a bit we’ll put you in with the other foxes, for we have a lot of red and black ones in the park.”
Of course Sharp Eyes did not know just what the man was saying, but it sounded kind, and kind and gentle tones to wild animals mean more than just what the words themselves express.
Sharp Eyes did not like to be left alone, but he could not help himself. He was given plenty to eat and to drink, but he did not think the zoo a nice place. He was too lonesome in it.
Then came a day when he was taken from the traveling cage and placed in a den with other foxes. Here he thought he would have a good time, but when the red, brown and black foxes saw him in his fine silver coat they sort of turned up their noses, and one said:
“Oh, ho! A silver fox! Well, I suppose he’ll be too proud to speak to us common chaps!”
“Oh, no, I won’t,” said Sharp Eyes quickly. “I’m a fox, just like you; and I’ll tell you some of my adventures if you’d like to hear them.”
“There he goes! Proud of his adventures!” sniffed a red fox.
Sharp Eyes wasn’t proud at all, as we know. He only wanted to be friendly, but the other foxes would not be, and kept to themselves, leaving Sharp Eyes on one side of the cage.
One yellow fox tried to bite Sharp Eyes when our friend was eating some meat in the den, but Sharp Eyes soon showed that he had as keen teeth as any of them, and then they were glad to let him alone.
But Sharp Eyes did not have a happy time.
In the first place he was lonesome. He wanted to make friends with the other foxes, but they would not. Many, many times he wished he was back in the woods with Winkle and Twinkle, playing in the bushes, or running in and out of the hollow log.
After a while Sharp Eyes grew so lonesome and unhappy that he did not eat as much as he ought. Instead of keeping fat, and growing nicely, he became thin.
“This will never do,” said one of the park animal men one day, when he stopped to look in the fox den. “That silver chap isn’t doing well at all. What’s the matter with him?”
“I guess he and the other foxes don’t get along well together,” answered the keeper who had charge of feeding the foxes. “The silver one keeps to himself all the while.”
“That isn’t good,” said the animal man, who was a person like the one with the camera, who had first taken a liking to Sharp Eyes. “We must put this silver fox where he will be happier, and will make friends with other animals.”
“I think he’d like to be near Chunky, the happy hippo,” said the keeper.
“What makes you think that?”
“Because when Sharp Eyes first came to our park, and his cage broke, he went in the hippo’s cage and they seemed to like each other.”
“Ha! Well, maybe it would be a good thing to move this silver fox back near the hippo,” said the animal man. “Sharp Eyes is not the same sort as these red or black foxes. His coat of fur is much better. He is a different kind of fox, and if we put him in a cage by himself the people will look at him more. Sharp Eyes ought to like that. It will keep him from getting lonesome and homesick for the woods from which he came.”
So, a few days later, they took Sharp Eyes out of the main fox den, and put him in a cage by himself not far from where Chunky, the happy hippo, lived.
“Ah! I am glad to see you again!” cried the animal with the big mouth which looked like a piano lined with red flannel. “So you have come to see me?”
“Yes. And I didn’t like it with the other foxes,” answered Sharp Eyes. “I am glad they brought me here.”
Soon he and the hippo were talking away to one another at a great rate, though if you had stood in front of their cages you would not have thought that they were doing anything more than grunting or barking. But that was their way of talking.
“You said you were going to tell me a funny story of Turn Turn, the jolly elephant,” said Sharp Eyes to Chunky one day.
“Oh, yes, so I did. Well, it was Mappo, the monkey, who told me. It seems, that, once upon a time, Turn Turn was in the jungle looking for something to eat. He was very hungry, and he was looking for what they call apples in this country though we call them something else in Africa, where the jungle is. Turn Turn was in our jungle once, you know.”
“Yes,” said Sharp Eyes, “I remember. He told me when I met him near the circus grounds.”
“Well, Turn Turn went all over our jungle looking for an apple, but he could not find any. Finally, however, he saw a little monkey pick something that looked like an apple from a tree.
“‘Here, give me that!’ cried Turn Turn. ‘I haven’t had an apple in ever so long. Give me that apple, little monkey, and I’ll give you a ride on my back.’
“‘All right,’ said the monkey. ‘But give me the ride first.’ So Turn Turn gave the monkey a ride all over the jungle, and then he asked for the apple.
“‘Here it is!’ cried the monkey, and he handed something to Turn Turn. Our elephant friend quickly took it in his trunk, and, not stopping to look at it, popped it into his mouth and gave it a big, hard bite. But what do you s’pose it was?” asked Chunky, as he told Sharp Eyes the story.
“I can’t guess,” said the fox.
“It was a hard cocoanut!” laughed the hippo. “And Turn Turn nearly broke his teeth on it. After that he always looked at what he ate before putting it in his mouth.”
“That was a funny story,” said Sharp Eyes. Then he and the hippo talked for a long time, and the fox watched the big animal go into his tank and sink away down under the water.
Days and weeks went by, and many people came to the park to look at the animals. Many of them stopped in front of the cage where the silver fox was. Sharp Eyes was bigger than ever and very beautiful.
But still Sharp Eyes was not happy. He missed the long runs he used to have in the woods, and he missed the fun with his brother and sister, Twinkle and Winkle.
“Sharp Eyes, you are not happy,” said Chunky one day.
“No, I am not,” answered the fox.
“What is the matter?” asked the happy hippo.
“Well, I don’t like it here,” the silver fox replied. “I want to go back to my woods and live in the hollow log.”
“There was a crash, and Sharp Eyes sprang out”
“Well, perhaps you are right,” said the hippo, after thinking about it and opening his mouth to catch a loaf of bread his keeper threw in. “Some animals like it here in the zoo, and others do not. For them there is one of two things to do — die or get out. I don’t want to see you die, Sharp Eyes, so I will help you get out.”
“How?” asked Sharp Eyes eagerly.
“This way,” said the hippo. “They often let me out in the yard to walk around, for I am quite tame now. The next time I am out I will bump into your cage as if by accident. I am so big and strong, and your cage is so weak, that it will not take a very hard bump to break it. When I break it, and I’ll do it without hurting you, you can run out and go back to your woods.”
“Oh, thank you!” barked Sharp Eyes. “I’ll do that! Please break open my cage and let me out as soon as you can.”
And Chunky did. A few days later, when he was in the yard back of his cage, wandering about and eating hay, he strolled over to the cage of the fox.
“Watch out now, Sharp Eyes,” said the hippo. “I am going to bump against you. Good-bye, when you get out. Think of me sometimes and give my love to Turn Turn, Don or any of my friends you see.”
“I will,” said the fox.
The next minute the big hippo bumped sharply against the fox cage. There was a crash, a splintering of wood, and Sharp Eyes sprang out. The silver fox was running away.