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- The Tale of Tommy Fox - 6/10 -
Fox's door. And they were both greatly pleased when they saw that the trap had done its work so well.
"It's a young cub," Farmer Green said, as soon as he spied Tommy Fox.
"May I have him, Father?" Johnnie asked quickly. "I'd like him for a pet."
Tommy Fox was terribly frightened when he heard that. You see, he didn't know what a "pet" was. He thought that probably it was something like a stew, for he had been told that people ate things like that; and he could see himself, in his mind's eye, being cut up and tossed into a pot.
"A pet, eh?" said Farmer Green. "Well, I suppose so. He's hardly worth skinning. You may have him, I guess. But look out that he doesn't bite you."
Johnnie Green was delighted. He helped his father put Tommy into an old sack, and taking the trap too, they started toward the farm-house. When they reached Farmer Green's home Johnnie and his father fitted a stout collar about Tommy's neck. And they fastened one end of a chain to it; and the other end they tied to a long stake, which they drove into the ground in Farmer Green's door-yard. Then Johnnie Green set a big wooden box close beside the stake. He tipped the box over on its side, and threw some straw into it. And that was Tommy Fox's new home.
You might think that it was a much nicer home than he had before. But Tommy did not like it at all. All the people on the farm came and looked at him, inside the box; and Johnnie Green never left him for more than ten minutes all the rest of that day.
Tommy made up his mind that he would make a house of his own. And that very night he dug a hole in Farmer Green's dooryard, where he could crawl out of sight of everyone. Tommy liked that much better. No matter how hard Johnnie Green pulled on the chain, he couldn't drag Tommy out unless he wanted to come.
But after a few days Tommy began to get used to being a pet. He found that it was not such a terrible thing, after all. He did miss the fine runs he used to have; and the hunts; and he missed his mother, too. He could hear her often, at night, calling to him from the fields. And then Tommy would answer, and tug at his chain. But he couldn't get away. And after a while he would go to sleep and dream pleasant dreams, about catching crickets in the long grass.
TOMMY FOX MAKES A STRANGE FRIEND
There was one thing, especially, that surprised Tommy Fox. And I think it surprised the dog Spot even more. Tommy and Spot became friends.
At first, whenever Spot came near, Tommy would run into his hole, as far as his chain would allow him. But after a time he began to peep out at his visitor. And finally he grew so bold that when Spot came to see him he stayed above ground, though to be sure he sat close to the door of his house, so that he could whisk out of sight if Spot should come too near him.
Since Spot often came to look at Johnnie Green's new pet, he began to like Tommy. And instead of growling, he would wag his tail, and try to be friendly. And the first thing they knew, they were playing together, and rolling and tumbling about, pretending to bite each other.
Now, Spot was much bigger than Tommy Fox, and stronger. And sometimes when they played together he would get so rough that Tommy would run down into his underground house and hide. But he never lost his temper, because he knew that Spot did not mean to hurt him. And Tommy was always ready to come out again and play some more.
Johnnie Green was very proud of his new pet. And one day when he was going to drive to the village he took Tommy Fox with him. He tied Tommy's chain to the wagon and Tommy sat up on the seat beside his young master. He had a fine ride. It frightened him at first, to see so many people, for it was market-day, when the farmers for miles around came to the village to sell their butter and eggs and vegetables. There was a great number of dogs, too, running about the village streets. Tommy was glad that he was high up on the seat of the wagon, beside Johnnie Green, for he knew that he was perfectly safe there. He saw so many strange sights that after that first day whenever he saw Johnnie starting off for the village he was never satisfied unless he went too.
On the whole, Tommy Fox did not have a bad time, being Johnnie Green's pet. And although Farmer Green often complained that Johnnie would rather play with his young fox than drive the cows, or feed the chickens, or fetch water from the pump, still Farmer Green himself rather enjoyed watching Tommy Fox.
But at last something happened that made Farmer Green very angry. One morning he discovered that a fine hen had disappeared during the night. And the following night another hen vanished.
Farmer Green was puzzled. Old Spot had been loose all the time, and he had never barked once. That was what made Farmer Green suspicious.
Farmer Green went out into his door-yard, where Tommy Fox was basking in the sunshine. Tommy looked up at Farmer Green very innocently. You would have thought he had never done anything wrong in all his life.
Farmer Green began to examine the ground about Tommy's house. He didn't find anything unusual. But when he knelt down and peered into the hole Tommy Fox had dug for himself, what should he see but several hen-feathers!
That was enough for Farmer Green. He knew then where his fat hens had gone. But he was puzzled. There was Tommy, chained fast to the stake. How could he ever have visited the hen-house?
Farmer Green picked up Tommy's chain. And to his surprise he found that the end of it wasn't fastened to the stake at all! It had worked loose, somehow. And Tommy had been free to wander about as much as he pleased.
JOHNNIE GREEN FEELS SAD
Yes--there was trouble when Farmer Green discovered that Tommy Fox had been stealing his hens. He fastened the end of Tommy's chain to the stake once more. And then he went out to the barn, where his boy Johnnie was watering the horses.
"We'll have to kill that fox," he said to Johnnie. "He's got loose, somehow, and he's stolen two hens. I can't have him on the place any longer. He's made friends with old Spot and the dog will let him do anything he likes."
Poor Johnnie Green! He felt so sad! And he begged his father not to kill Tommy. But Fanner Green was very angry with Tommy.
[Illustration with caption: Tommy Thought It Was His Mother's Voice]
"No!" he said. "That cub's so tricky there's no knowing when he'll get loose again." But Johnnie begged so hard that his father promised that he might keep Tommy one more day.
Johnnie Green was in despair. He could not bear to have his pet killed. And when he went to bed that night he never fell asleep at all. He was very tired; but he managed to keep awake. And in the middle of the night Johnnie got out of bed and put on his clothes. He didn't dare to light his candle. But the moonbeams streamed in through his little gable-window and Johnnie could see very well without any other light.
As soon as he was dressed Johnnie stole down the stairs, carrying his shoes in his hand, so he wouldn't make any noise. In spite of all his caution, the old stairs would creak now and then. But luckily nobody heard him; and soon Johnnie was out of the house.
He found Tommy Fox wide awake, sitting on his haunches in the moonlight, listening. Far away in the distance a fox was barking and Tommy thought it sounded like his mother's voice.
Tommy was surprised to see Johnnie Green at that hour. And he was astonished when Johnnie untied the chain from the stake and started away with him. They went off across the fields, toward Blue Mountain, right in the direction of that barking.
The meadows smelled sweet; and Tommy Fox began to wish that he could slip his head out of his collar and scamper away.
And that was exactly what happened.
After they had gone some distance, Johnnie Green stopped. He unbuckled Tommy's collar, and gave Tommy a push.
At first Tommy was not quite sure that he wanted to leave his good master. But there was that fox, yelping and calling. Something seemed to draw Tommy toward that sound. He just couldn't help himself. And the first thing he knew he was bounding off over the meadow running as fast as his legs would carry him, and barking as loudly as he could bark.
Johnnie Green went slowly home again. He crept into the house and stole upstairs, and cried himself to sleep. But he was glad of one thing. Tommy Fox would not be killed the next morning.
TOMMY BECOMES BOASTFUL
When Johnnie Green turned Tommy Fox loose, out in the meadow, in the moonlight, Tommy hurried across the fields as fast as he could go. You remember that he heard a fox barking, near the foot of Blue Mountain, and he thought it sounded like his mother. So Tommy barked, too. And
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