The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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50                              A FOX TALE
whin bushes just then hove in sight, and, summoning up all her strength, she made a last spurt, and crept into the thick of them. The dog followed for a short distance, but evidently found the thorns too sharp for his thick nose and long flapping ears, for he soon retired, leaving Mother Fox gasping, but triumphant, with her little one safe and sound. She crept some way farther into the bushes to guard against pursuit, and there lay hidden till nightfall, when once more she stole stealthily out with her cub in her mouth, and made tracks for a hollow tree which she knew of in the neighbourhood. Reaching it in safety, she soon had a warm nest made in the dark recesses of the tree trunk, where little Renard lay for weeks eating and sleeping by turns, till he grew into quite a respectable fox. And what a merry little fellow he was ! As playful as a kitten, and quite as active; gambolling all round and over his poor patient mother, burying his face in the furry depths of her brush, or, if she refused him that huge enjoyment, flying round and round in a mad race after his own, till he looked for all the world like a woolly spinning top!
But life is not all play, even to little foxes, and young Renard was awakened every night by a poke in the back from his father, who wanted his company on all noc­turnal expeditions; for, strange as it may seem to us, foxes have lessons at night and sleep through the day, instead of having lessons through the day and sleeping at night. And sometimes little Renard was good at his lessons, and sometimes he was not. Very often, on catching sight of a pheasant or a partridge, instead of trailing his hind legs out behind him, as his father did, he would forget, and gallop full tilt at his prey, and yelp with excitement, expecting the bird to sit still and be caught! and not till the pheasant was whirring away high in the air would he remember that stealth and cunning alone will win a fox his daily bread.
Hitherto little Renard had known no sorrow, and it
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