Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/834

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

advantage is in their own home. May I be allowed to say that, in this respect, they are unlike many individuals of the human species?

It is just after four o'clock on a soft May morning, and the sun lights up the tops of the trees, bringing the tender foliage out in sparkling relief against the hill-sides. At the foot of the one nearest us Reynard and his vixen partner have their home. Numbers of fine beeches grow here; the chalky soil is well suited to them. A large one has been blown down at some time, but it has been sawn from the roots long ago. For a long distance the soil was loosened in its fall, and Reynard has taken advantage of this to form an earth for himself and family among the loosened chalk, stones, and old tangled roots. The surface round about is covered with the finest and greenest turf. Many hawthorn bushes are there, giving out their delightful fragrance to perfection, for the morning is warm. On the end of a long beech bough, which reaches far out over the earth, a cuckoo sits and flirts his tail about, shouting, "Cuckoo! cuckoo!" The entrance to the earth and a small space about it is bare, for the little foxes are playful animals, and are at high jinks often, capering about. At present they are, comparatively speaking, quiet, for all their bellies are full. Father Reynard is sitting in the bright warm sunlight, winking in a most knowing manner, while two of his cubs play with his bushy tail to their hearts' content, tossing it from one side to the other in a most comical fashion. Mother vixen has a rabbit in her mouth, which she tosses up and catches, and then lets drop for one of the young ones to nibble at its ears, while the darling of the family torments a poor frog that has found his way there. The whole lot look as though they had a touch of dropsy, their bellies stick out so. The feathers and feet of pheasants strew the ground, and other remnants, for Reynard's motto is: "Other creatures' young ones can cry for food if they let 'em; but mine don't, if I know it."

At some distance the alarm note of a blackbird sounds. Reynard opens his eyes, pricks his ears, and the cubs leave off playing with his tail. The next moment a jay squeaks out, and comes flying overhead. That is enough; he is up on his feet, ears erected, eyes gleaming, and his brush held almost in a line with his back, his fore feet well to the front, the hind ones on the spring. Squeak! squeak! and another jay flits past. With a rush the cubs dash to earth, followed more leisurely by their worthy parents. The cause of their stampede is soon explained, for up the side of the wooded slope a man is seen coming; it is the keeper on his early round.

Reynard is very accommodating as to his food; nothing nice comes amiss to him: game of all kinds, furred and feathered; fish,