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SHARP EYES MEETS DON
AFTER the first pain felt on being caught, and when he found he could not pull his paw loose, Sharp Eyes lay quietly on the ground, partly covering up the chicken. He did not howl, which was his way of crying when he was hurt, though he wanted to do so very much. But foxes and other wild animals do not make much noise in the woods, for they like to keep quiet so no larger animals, or hunter-men with their dogs, may know where to find them.
“Something terrible has happened to me,” thought Sharp Eyes, as once more he tried to pull loose his paw. But he could not, and each time he pulled the pain was worse.
“If I make too much noise,” thought Sharp Eyes, “Bruin, the bear, may hear me and come to bite me. Or the hunters may come with their dogs, and I could not get away.”
There were bears in the North Woods where Sharp Eyes lived, and hunters and dogs often came to the forest.
“And, now that I am caught fast, I can’t get away if they should come up close to me,” thought the little fox boy. “I must keep quiet and not make too much noise, though I would like to call and ask my father or mother to come to help me.”
Sharp Eyes whined a little from the pain, and then he tried to be brave and not mind it.
“I wonder what it is that has caught me,” said the little fox boy to himself. “And why didn’t the chicken flutter and try to get away when I jumped on her? That was very funny!”
He soon saw the reason the chicken did not move. It was dead, and Sharp Eyes knew he had not killed it.
“She must have been dead when I jumped on her,” said the little fox boy. “And now to see what has caught me.”
He could move about a little, and, pawing with one of his feet that was not caught, Sharp Eyes brushed the chicken to one side. Then he saw that his left forefoot was caught between two jaws of iron.
“Oh, I’m in a trap!” exclaimed Sharp Eyes. “I never saw a trap before, but this is just what my father said they were like. He told me to keep out of them, but I didn’t see this one. The chicken was in the way, or I might have noticed the trap. Oh dear! I wonder if I will ever get loose!”
Sharp Eyes pulled some more, but the pain in his foot soon made him stop.
“If you had only been alive you could have told me about the trap, and then I wouldn’t have been caught in it,” said Sharp Eyes, speaking to the dead chicken, as though it were alive.
If he had only known, the chicken was put there near the trap, partly covering it, on purpose. It was bait for the trap, just as mousetraps are baited with cheese. And the trap was set in the woods by a hunter who hoped to catch a fox or some other wild animal in it.
The chicken had been killed and put near the trap, for the hunter knew wild animals like such things to eat. And the hunter knew that if a fox came along, the first thing it would do would be to jump for the chicken, thinking it was alive.
Underneath the outspread wings of the chicken was the open trap, and as soon as Sharp Eyes’ paw touched the spring, snap! shut went the jaws of the trap, catching him fast there. It was the jaws of the trap pressing on Sharp Eyes’ paw that hurt him.
“Oh, if I could only get away!” said the little fox boy to himself. “If I can only get away I’ll never jump at a chicken again, without looking first to make sure there’s no trap!”
But it was too late to think of that now.
Sharp Eyes was caught, and every time he pulled his leg it hurt him so that he soon stopped.
“Red Tail was right,” he whispered to himself. “He said something would happen to me some day, and it has. Oh dear!”
Sharp Eyes kept quiet as long as he could, and then his paw pained him so that he had to cry out. But he cried very softly. Then he called for his father and mother, using fox language, of course.
But they did not answer him, for they were far away.
“Twinkle! Winkle! Can’t you come and help me out of the trap?” barked the little fox boy, held fast, all alone in the woods, near the dead chicken.
But neither Twinkle nor Winkle answered. They, too, were far away. They were off hunting with their father and mother, and though they wondered where Sharp Eyes was, they thought he was safe.
“Sharp Eyes can take care of himself,” said his mother.
“But I hope the hunters or trappers don’t get him and take his lovely, silver fur,” said Winkle. If they could only have known what had happened to poor Sharp Eyes they would surely have gone to help him, wouldn’t they?
“But I must get away,” thought Sharp Eyes. “If I stay in this trap much longer the hunter will come and get me. Or his dogs will come and bite me! Oh, I must get loose!”
So he pulled and tugged away to get out of the trap, but his foot hurt him more and more and he had to stop.
Sharp Eyes was in such pain, and so troubled about what might happen to him, that he did not even feel like eating some of the chicken, though he had been hungry a little while before. Now his appetite was all gone.
The little fox did not know what to do. He called again for his father and his mother, and for Twinkle and Winkle, but none of them came. Then, all at once, there was a noise in the bushes, and something seemed to be coming toward Sharp Eyes where he was caught fast in the trap.
“Oh, I hope it’s my father or mother!” thought the fox.
But it was not. Instead, a big dog, who was kind-looking, and not fierce and angry, burst through the bushes.
“Oh dear!” thought Sharp Eyes. “This is the hunter’s dog! Now I am surely lost. They’ll take my silver fur. Oh, if I had only kept out of the trap!”
“‘Hello, what’s the matter here?’ asked the dog”
Once more Sharp Eyes tried to get loose, but the pain in his leg made him stop. He looked at the dog, and got as far away as he could. But the trap was fast to a chain, of which one end was wound around a tree and could not be pulled off.
“Hello, what’s the matter here?” asked the dog, who, of course, could speak animal talk, though not exactly the same language that Sharp Eyes and his friends used. “What’s the matter?”
“Oh, you know well enough what’s the matter,” said Sharp Eyes sadly. “I’m caught in a trap your master set, and I suppose you and he are coming to get me now.”
“What’s that? A trap? I don’t know anything about a trap,” answered the dog. “And I’m sure my master never set one. He lives in a big house far away from here. I used to live in a house where there was a nice little girl. I liked her very much, and often I went for walks with her. Once I took her to a park menagerie, and she fell into the tank where Chunky, the happy hippo, lived. But Chunky lifted her out of the water on his broad back and saved her. Chunky is a friend of mine.
“My people have taken a bungalow over on the lake off there, and we’re staying there for a while. It’s a good way off from here, but not so far as our real home, where we live all the time.
“To-day I wanted to have some adventures, so I trotted off from my master’s bungalow. They don’t need me to-day, as they have all gone visiting. So I came to the woods, but I never expected to see you. Are you another dog? You look a little like one, only your nose is sharper than mine, and you are not so large.”
“No, I am a fox, and my name is Sharp Eyes,” came the answer. “And I am caught in a trap. But please don’t bite me.”
“Bite you? Why should I bite you?” asked the dog.
“Why, I thought all dogs belonged to hunters or trappers and that they bit us foxes,” said Sharp Eyes.
“Well, I don’t,” was the reply. “My name is Don, and once I was a runaway dog, but I ran back. I am a little like a runaway dog to-day, but I am going to run back home to-night, as soon as I have had some adventures in the woods. This is the start of one, I guess. I’m sorry you are in the trap.”
“Are you, really?” asked Sharp Eyes, who had been taught that all dogs were bad and cruel.
“Of course I am, Sharp Eyes,” answered Don. “I know what it is to be in pain, and I can see that where your paw is caught it must hurt you.”
“Indeed it does,” answered the fox. “I’ve tried to get away but I can’t.”
“How did you get in the trap?” asked Don.
“Oh, I didn’t look closely enough before I made a jump for this chicken. It was right over the trap, to hide it, and now I am fast.”
“Well, maybe you can get loose,” said Don. “I’ll help you. This is what my friend Slicko, the jumping squirrel, would call an adventure.”
“Oh, do you know Slicko?” asked Sharp Eyes, and he was so surprised that he forgot his pain for a moment.
“Of course I know Slicko,” was the answer. “I stayed two or three nights in the same woods with Slicko.”
“Now I know who you are,” went on the fox. “I met Slicko, and we spoke of you, though I never expected to meet you. And who is this Chunky you talked of, and who saved your master’s little girl?”
“Chunky is a hippopotamus, or, as I call him for short, a hippo,” said Don. “He lived in a jungle in Africa for a long time and had lots of adventures. Then he was caught in a pit trap and brought to this country. He was in a circus, and I met him in the park menagerie. He knew Turn Turn, the jolly elephant, Mappo, the merry monkey, and other friends of mine. Chunky had a book written about him. I’ve had a book written about me, too!”
“So had Slicko,” said Sharp Eyes. “My! it seems quite fashionable to get in a book nowadays.”
“It is fashionable,” answered Don. “Almost as fashionable as your silver fur. That’s why you were trapped, I presume. Some hunter wants your fur.”
“I suppose so,” said Sharp Eyes sadly. “Oh, I wish I could get out of this trap!”
“Hark!” cried Don suddenly. “Don’t you hear something?”
“Yes, I do,” answered Sharp Eyes, listening. “But I can’t see anything, held fast as I am.”
“I’ll look,” offered Don, peeping out between two bushes. What he saw made him cry out in animal talk:
“Oh, it’s a man coming with a gun! I guess he’s coming to get you, Sharp Eyes! He must have set the trap.”
“Oh dear! what shall I do?” asked Sharp Eyes.