The springfield fox

THE SPRINGFIELD FOX

I

THE HENS had been mysteriously disappearing for over a month; and when I
came home to Springfield for the summer holidays it was my duty to find
the cause. This was soon done. The fowls were carried away bodily one
at a time, before going to roost or else after leaving, which put tramps
and neighbors out of court; they were not taken from the high perches,
which cleared all coons and owls; or left partly eaten, so that weasels,
skunks, or minks were not the guilty ones, and the blame, therefore, was
surely left at Reynard's door.

The great pine wood of Erindale was on the other bank of the river, and
on looking carefully about the lower ford I saw a few fox-tracks and a
barred feather from one of our Plymouth Rock chickens. On climbing the
farther bank in search of more dews, I heard a great outcry of crows
behind me, and turning, saw a number of these birds darting down at
something in the ford. A better view showed that it was the old story,
thief catch thief, for there in the middle of the ford was a fox with
something in his jaws — he was returning from our barnyard with another
hen. The crows, though shameless robbers themselves, are ever first to
cry 'Stop thief,' and yet more than ready to take 'hush-money' in the
form of a share in the plunder.

And this was their game now. The fox to get back home must cross the
river, where he was exposed to the full brunt of the crow mob. He made a
dash for it, and would doubtless have gotten across with his booty had I
not joined in the attack, whereupon he dropped the hen, scarce dead, and
disappeared in the woods.

This large and regular levy of provisions wholly carried off could mean
but one thing, a family of little foxes at home; and to find them I now
was bound.

That evening I went with Ranger, my hound, across the river into the
Erindale woods. As soon as the hound began to circle, we heard the
short, sharp bark of a fox from a thickly wooded ravine close by.
Ranger dashed in at once, struck a hot scent and went off on a lively
straight-away till his voice was lost in the distance away over the
upland.

After nearly an hour he came back, panting and warm, for it was baking
August weather, and lay down at my feet.

But almost immediately the same foxy 'Yap yurrr' was heard close at hand
and off dashed the dog on another chase.

Away he went in the darkness, baying like a foghorn, straight away to
the north. And the loud 'Boo, boo,' became a low 'oo, oo,' and that a
feeble 'o-o' and then was lost. They must have gone some miles away, for
even with ear to the ground I heard nothing of them though a mile was
easy distance for Ranger's brazen voice.

As I waited in the black woods I heard a sweet sound of dripping water:
'Tink tank tenk tink, Ta tink tank tenk tonk.'

I did not know of any spring so near, and in the hot night it was a glad
find. But the sound led me to the bough of a oak-tree, where I found its
source. Such a soft sweet song; full of delightful suggestion on such a
night:

Tonk tank tenk tink Ta tink a tonk a tank a tink a Ta ta tink tank ta ta
tonk tink Drink a tank a drink a drunk.

It was the 'water-dripping' song of the saw-whet owl.

But suddenly a deep raucous breathing and a rustle of leaves showed that
Ranger was back. He was completely fagged out. His tongue hung almost
to the ground and was dripping with foam, his flanks were heaving and
spume-flecks dribbled from his breast and sides. He stopped panting a