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- The Tale of Tommy Fox - 5/10 -


Mrs. Fox had time to say. She stopped just long enough to see Tommy dash off; and then she started right in the opposite direction.

The dog Spot saw her and gave a yelp of delight. He did not know what had been happening. He only thought that now he was going to catch the fox, which was the stupidest fox he had ever chased, running as it did, straight away, with never a leap or a circle, or any other sort of trick to fool him. Little did Spot guess that old Mrs. Fox had not the slightest idea of being caught. She had been followed by Spot himself many times; and she knew exactly how to escape him. She just lingered for a few moments, to make sure that Tommy was safe, and that Spot was chasing _her_. And then how she did run! In no time at all she left Spot far behind.

Now, Mrs. Fox knew that there was a ploughed field nearby, and that was just what she wanted. She scampered towards it at great speed and went straight across it. And when she had reached the other side of the ploughed ground she sat down for a short breathing spell.

You see, Mrs. Fox was very wise indeed. She knew that in dry weather, such as there was then, a ploughed field takes no scent at all. She knew that when Spot reached that loose dirt Spot could not smell her footsteps. And so she just sat there on her haunches, and caught her breath again.

A grim smile crossed Mrs. Fox's face as she heard Spot barking away in the distance. It was a very different bark from what she had heard when he was chasing Tommy. This time Spot was saying, "Oh, dear! oh, dear! I've lost him!" over and over again.

When Mrs. Fox reached home she found Tommy safe inside their house. He was crying, because he was afraid he would never see his mother again. And after his mother found out how Spot had happened to chase him, Tommy cried some more--but for an entirely different reason.

Who can guess what the reason was?

XI

TOMMY GROWS TOO CARELESS

By the time summer was nearly over, Tommy Fox was much bigger than he had been in the spring. So many things had happened, and he had learned so much, that he began to be quite bold. And he had grown so saucy that his mother often had to scold him. Tommy had fallen into the bad habit of going about calling all the forest-people names; and in that way he had gained for himself the ill-will of all the creatures who lived near the foot of Blue Mountain. It interfered with his hunting, because whenever he started out to get something to eat, as soon as they saw him the forest-people told one another that he was coming. Old Mr. Crow especially was the worst of all. He was forever calling "Stop, thief!" after Tommy Fox; and then he would haw-haw in a manner that was frightfully annoying. In fact, he made matters so unpleasant that after a time Tommy began to roam far down the valley, along Swift River, where he tried to catch fish. The fish, at least, couldn't call him names, and there was some satisfaction in that fact, even if he hadn't much luck as a fisherman.

And just for excitement Tommy began to worry Farmer Green's Spot. He delighted in barking at Spot. And Spot would always stop what he was doing and rush pell-mell after Tommy Fox.

Then Tommy would skip away with a laugh. First he always ran for the river, and jumped from one stone to another, and waded where the water was shallow.

Then he would dash off through the meadows, leaving so crooked a trail behind him that when Spot at last found the place where Tommy had left the river, he never could follow him very far.

But one day Tommy stumbled upon Spot quite by accident. There was no wind at all that day, to bring any scent to Tommy's sharp nose. And he suddenly found that Spot was right in front of him, between him and the river.

Tommy Fox turned and ran. He laughed, too; because he felt quite sure that he could outwit old Spot. And he leaped and twisted and turned about, and made so many circles, that he felt sure Spot couldn't follow him.

Yes--Tommy felt so safe that he stopped running and was trotting slowly along through the field in which he lived. He was almost home, when he heard a noise behind him. He looked around and to his great surprise there was Spot almost upon him.

There was no time to lose. There was only one thing Tommy could do. The door of his mother's house was only a short distance off and Tommy made for it. Luckily, he managed to reach it. Once inside, he could hear the dog Spot barking in the opening. But he knew that Spot was too big to follow him.

Although Tommy was very glad to be safe at home, he was worried. For now Spot know where he and his mother lived; and they would have to move. Tommy was afraid his mother would be very angry with him for being so stupid as to let Spot follow him. But he couldn't help it now.

Meanwhile, old Spot continued to bark, and scratch at the door of Tommy's home. But at last he stopped. And all was still.

Tommy wondered where his mother was. She was not at home. And he wanted to see her, even if he was afraid that she would punish him. For Tommy did not know exactly what to do. He did not dare go out for fear Spot might be lying in wait for him. So Tommy stayed there. And still his mother did not come home. He wondered where she could be.

XII

OLD MR. CROW IS PLEASED

There was a very good reason why Mrs. Fox did not come home that day when the dog Spot chased Tommy Fox into his house. She had heard old Spot barking in the field and she had hurried toward home as fast as she could, to see what was the matter.

To her great dismay, when she leaped up on the stone-wall not far from her house Mrs. Fox could see Spot scratching at her door. And she guessed at once that he had driven Tommy inside.

The poor old lady hardly knew what to do. But she hid in the grass, hoping that Spot would grow tired of his task and go home. But old dog Spot kept up a great barking. He howled so loudly that they heard him way off at the farm-house; and Mrs. Fox nearly wept when she saw Farmer Green and his boy Johnnie come hurrying across the fields.

Pretty soon Johnnie Green returned to the farm-house; and when he came back Mrs. Fox could see that he carried a steel trap. For a short time Johnnie and his father busied themselves at her doorway. And then they went away, calling old dog Spot after them.

After they had gone, Mrs. Fox stole sadly across the field to the home she had liked so well. She knew that she could live there no longer in peace and quiet. Yes--she would have to move. And now the first thing to be done was to get Tommy safely out of the house.

Mrs. Fox reached her door-yard. And there she paused. There was no trap to be seen, anywhere. But the path leading to her door was sprinkled thick with fresh earth; and wise old Mrs. Fox knew that hidden underneath it, somewhere, lay that cruel trap, with its jaws wide open, waiting to catch her if she stepped between them.

She crept as close to her door as she dared, and called softly to Tommy. I don't need to say that her son was delighted to hear his mother's voice. He poked his nose out of the hole at once. And he would have jumped out and fallen right into the trap if his mother had not warned him.

"Don't come out!" she cried sharply, "There's a trap here, beneath this dirt. Now, do just as I tell you, or you'll be caught!"

Tommy Fox was frightened. For once, at least, he believed, that his mother knew more than he did. And he didn't dare move, except when she ordered. He didn't dare put a foot down except where she told him to.

Tommy had taken several careful steps, and his mother had begun to think that he was almost safely past the trap, when a very unfortunate thing happened. Tommy was just about to set one of his front feet down upon a spot that his mother had pointed out to him, when somebody suddenly called, "Stop, thief!"

Tommy Fox was so startled that he gave a quick jump. _Snap!_ went the trap. And though Tommy sprang up into the air, he was just too late. The trap closed tightly across the tips of his toes. It was only one foot that was caught; but that was enough. He could not get away-- no matter how hard he pulled.

It was old Mr. Crow who had called "Stop, thief!" He was laughing now. His "Haw-haw! haw-haw!" could be heard plainly enough, as he flapped away in great glee, to tell all the forest-people that Tommy Fox would trouble them no more.

XIII

JOHNNIE GREEN AND HIS NEW PET

Tommy Fox was in a terrible fix. He was caught fast by the foot in a trap; and if that isn't being in a fix, I should like to know what is.

All night long he whimpered and cried. All night long he tugged and pulled, trying to get free. But the more he tugged the more the trap hurt his foot. And the harder he cried.

Mrs. Fox couldn't help Tommy at all. She stayed with him throughout the night, and tried to comfort him. And she only left when morning came and she smelled men coming across the fields. Then, with one last sorrowful look at Tommy, she crept sadly away.

In a few minutes more Farmer Green and his boy Johnnie reached Mrs.


The Tale of Tommy Fox - 5/10

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