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- The Tale of Tommy Fox - 4/10 -

I am sorry to say that Tommy Fox lost his temper. He called after Mr. Woodchuck. Yes--he shouted some rather bad names after him. But of course that didn't do a bit of good. And Tommy Fox put on his coat and went home to think about what he could do. He didn't care to ask his mother's advice, because he didn't want her to know that Mr. Woodchuck had got away from him. But he hoped to find some way in which he could catch the old gentleman.



Tommy Fox could think of nothing but Mr. Woodchuck. He thought there could be no use in going back to the hole beneath the big oak in the pasture until the next day, because Mr. Woodchuck would probably be afraid that Tommy was waiting for him to come out. Yes--Tommy decided that Mr. Woodchuck would stay in his house down among the roots of the big tree and not show himself again until he felt quite sure that his enemy had grown tired of watching and had given up the idea of catching him.

But Tommy guessed that by another day old Mr. Woodchuck would be so hungry that he would have to go out of doors again to get something to eat. And Tommy Fox could hardly wait for the night to pass. But another day came at last; and it found Tommy up and hurrying to Farmer Green's back-pasture, where Mr. Woodchuck lived. It was just growing light; and there was a heavy dew upon the grass, which Tommy didn't like at all, because he just hated to get his feet wet.

Tommy did not go near Mr. Woodchuck's hole. Although he was just a young fox, he was too wise to do that. He knew that if he went nosing around Mr. Woodchuck's dooryard the old gentleman would smell his tracks as soon as he poked his head out. So Tommy was careful to keep away from the hole where he had dug so hard the day before. He sneaked around until he had passed Mr. Woodchuck's house; and then he crept up behind the big oak close by. And there he waited.

Tommy kept smiling. He was _so_ pleased, because his plan was working out very well. The wind blew towards him, and Tommy saw that Mr. Woodchuck wouldn't be able to smell him when the old fellow came up into the open air.

For a long time Tommy waited there. He kept very still. And he stayed hidden behind the tree, with only one eye peeping round the tree- trunk, so that he could watch for Mr. Woodchuck. He was very patient-- was Tommy. You have to be patient, you know, when you are hunting. He crouched behind the tree for at least an hour, and never once took his eye off that hole. And at last he saw Mr. Woodchuck's nose come popping out.

If Tommy hadn't been watching very closely he wouldn't have seen it at all; for Mr. Woodchuck just stuck his head up for a second, took one quick look all around, and jumped back again. He hadn't seen anything to frighten him. But he thought it best to be very careful.

Tommy waited. And pretty soon that small nose came sticking out again. This time it stayed longer. And to Tommy's great delight, in another minute he saw Mr. Woodchuck climb up and take a good look all about.

Tommy Fox hardly breathed. He didn't see how the old gentleman could help spying him. But he didn't. And then Mr. Woodchuck started off across the pasture, to find something for breakfast. He was very hungry, for he hadn't had any supper the night before.

Tommy Fox waited until Mr. Woodchuck had gone just a few steps away from his doorway. And then Tommy stole after him. This time Tommy was between Mr. Woodchuck and his house. And Mr. Woodchuck couldn't escape.

It was all over in a second. And Tommy Fox felt very proud of himself when he reached home and showed his mother what he had brought.

"I can hunt--can't I, Mother?" he said. "To-morrow I'm going up on the mountain and catch a bear."

"Don't be silly," Mrs. Fox said. "You know you couldn't catch a bear." But she was much pleased, in spite of what she said. For she saw that Tommy was really beginning to learn something.



A few days after Tommy Fox caught old Mr. Woodchuck, something happened that set him thinking. Perhaps I should say _"a few nights"_ instead of _"days."_ For one night his mother came home with a fat hen slung across her shoulders. She had been down to Farmer Green's hen- house, right in the middle of the night, when Farmer Green and his family were asleep; and she had snatched one of the sleeping hens off the roost and stolen away with it without waking anybody.

Only a very wise old fox could do that. "You mustn't go near Farmer Green's hen-house," Mrs. Fox said to Tommy, as they picked the bones of the fat hen together. "You are not old enough to get one of Farmer Green's hens."

You notice that Mrs. Fox didn't speak of _"stealing"_ a hen. She called it "getting" one. For foxes believe that it is only fair to take a farmer's hen now and then, in return for killing field-mice and woodchucks, which eat the farmer's grain. But the farmer never stops to think of that. He only thinks of the hens that he loses.

Tommy Fox never said a word while his mother was talking to him. He was very busy, eating. But that was not the only reason why he kept still. He heard his mother's warning, but he thought she was silly. He really believed that he was quite old enough and quite big enough and quite wise enough to go down to Farmer Green's and get a hen himself. After catching old Mr. Woodchuck Tommy felt that he was able to do about everything his mother could do. And he made up his mind right then and there that he would show her. He would pay a visit to the hen-house that very night.

Tommy Fox could not wait for night to come. In fact, he could wait only until the close of day--he was in such a hurry to capture a hen. The sun had scarcely sunk out of sight in the west and the sky was still red, when he crept slyly up to Farmer Green's hen-house.

Tommy had heard that Farmer Green went to bed very early, after working hard in the fields each day. And since he saw nobody stirring about the place he thought that everyone was asleep.

The hens were asleep. There was no doubt of that. Peeping inside their little house, Tommy could see them roosting in rows. And he lost no time in squeezing through one of the small doors. He felt a bit timid, once he was inside. And for a moment he almost wished that he hadn't come. But he was determined to take a hen home with him; so he reached up and grabbed the very first hen he came to, on the lowest perch of all.

It was a big, old, white hen that Tommy Fox seized. She awoke the moment he touched her, and began to squall. And to Tommy's alarm, all the rest of the hens heard her and began to cackle loudly. The noise was deafening. And Tommy made a dash for the little door, with old Mrs. White Hen in his mouth. She was flapping her wings and kicking as hard as she could. And Tommy was dismayed to find that he could not get her through the narrow door. Every time he tried to push through, one of Mrs. White Hen's legs, or a wing, or her head, struck against the edge of the doorway.

Then a dog barked. And Tommy heard something running around the chicken-house. He just knew that it was a man. And he dropped the old hen in a hurry and slipped through the door.

He was just in time. He heard a man shout, "After him, Spot!" And giving one frightened glance over his shoulder, Tommy saw that Farmer Green's dog was close behind him.



Poor Tommy Fox! How he wished that he had obeyed his mother, and kept away from Farmer Green's hen-house! Now Farmer Green's dog Spot was chasing him. Tommy could hear him baying joyfully as he followed. But you may be sure that Tommy was not joyful. He was terribly frightened. He could think of nothing to do except to run, run, run! as fast as he could go. He was headed straight for home, and he only hoped that he would get there before the dog Spot caught him.

Now, Tommy was doing just about the worst thing he could do. He never once jumped sideways, or ran around in a circle. And though he might have waded a little way in the shallow brook in the meadow, where Spot would have lost his trail, Tommy used the bridge to get across the stream; so the dog Spot had no trouble at all in following him. And Spot kept drawing nearer and nearer.

It happened that Mrs. Fox heard the baying of the dog. And she knew what Spot was saying. He was crying--"I've almost got him! I've almost got him!"

A shiver passed over Mrs. Fox; for she thought at once of Tommy. He was not at home, and she wondered if by any chance he was in trouble. She hurried through the field to see who it was that Spot was chasing. And sure enough! pretty soon Mrs. Fox saw Tommy come tearing through the field, panting hard, with his tongue hanging out, and a most frightened look upon his face.

[Illustration: Tommy Dashed for the Little Door]

Mrs. Fox hastened to meet him. The dog Spot was then on the other side of a low hill, and running along with his nose to the ground.

"Jump!" Mrs. Fox said to Tommy, as soon as he joined her.

Tommy remembered, then, what his mother had always told him. So he gave a long leap to one side.

"Now make a big circle, and jump again. Then go home!" That was all

The Tale of Tommy Fox - 4/10

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