The fox ran aside, shaking with fear, his foot lifted appealingly. With a quick movement the teacher caught him by the nape of his neck and thrust him into the sack. The leader now had his nose in the hole.
“Back there!” Trove shouted, kicking at him.
In a moment he had rolled a heavy stone to the hole and made it too small for the hounds to enter. Half a dozen of them were now baying outside.
“We’ll give him air,” said the teacher, as he cut a hole in the sack and tied it. “Don’t know how we’ll get him out of here alive. They’d be all over me like a pack of wolves.”
He stood a moment thinking. Bony had wriggled away from Paul and begun to bark loudly.
“I’ve an idea,” said the teacher, as he cut the foxtail from his cap. Then he rubbed it in the blood and spittle of the fox and tied it to the stub tail of Bony. The dog’s four feet were scented in the same manner. The smell of them irked him sorely. His hair rose, and his head fell with a sense of injury. He made a rush at his new tail and was rudely stopped.
“He’s fresh, and they’ll not be able to catch him,” said the young man, as Paul protested. “Wouldn’t hurt anything but the tail if they did.”
Then breaking the ice curtain, as far from the hole as possible, he gave Bony a spank and flung him out on the snow above with a loud “go home.” The pack saw him and scrambled up the bank in full cry. He had turned for a glance at his new tail, but seeing the pack rush at him started up the hillside with a yelp of fear and the energy of a wildcat. When the two came out of the cavern they saw him leaping like a rabbit in the snow, his hair on end, his brush flying, and the hounds in full pursuit.
“My stars! See that dog run,” said the teacher, laughing, as he put on his snow-shoes. “He don’t intend to be caught with such a tail and smell on him.”
He put the sack over his shoulder.
“All aboard, Paul,” said he; “now we can go home in peace.”
Coming down out of the woods, they saw a pack of hounds digging at one side of the stable. Bony had gone to his refuge under the barn floor.
As he entered, one of them had evidently caught hold of his new tail, and the pack had torn it in shreds. Two hunters came along shortly, and, after a talk with the teacher, took their dogs away. But for three days Bony came not forth and was seen no more of men, save only when he crept to the hole for a lap of water and to seize a doughnut from the hand of Paul, whereupon he retired promptly.
“He ain’t going to take any chances,” said the widow, laughing.
When at last he came forth, it was with a soft step and new resolutions. And a while later, when Trove heard Darrel say that caution was the only friend of weakness, he understood him perfectly.
“Not every brush has a fox on it,” said the widow, and the words went from lip to lip until they were a maxim of those country-folk.