Along in the early autumn I got home one evening shortly after sundown. I had left several cocks of hay spread out in the little meadow, and though it was already pretty damp, I took the fork, went down, and cocked it up.
Returning, I climbed by the narrow, winding path through the pines, out into the corner of my pasture. It was a bright moonlight night, and leaning back upon the short-handled fork, I stopped in the shadow of the pines to look out over the softly lighted field.
Off in the woods a mile away sounded the deep, mellow tones of two foxhounds. Day and night all summer long I had heard them, and all summer long I had hurried to this knoll and to that for a shot. But the fox always took the other knoll.
The echoing cries of the dogs through the silent woods were musical. Soon they sounded sharp and clear—the hounds were crossing an open stretch leading down to the meadow behind me. As I leaned, listening, I heard near by a low, uneasy murmuring from a covey of quails sleeping in the brush beside the path, and before I had time to think what it meant, a fox trotted up the path I had just climbed, and halted in the edge of the shadows directly at my feet.
I stood as stiff as a post. He sniffed at my dew-wet boots, backed away, and looked me over curiously. I could have touched him with my fork. Then he sat down with just his silver-tipped brush in the silver moonlight, to study me in earnest.
The loud baying of the hounds was coming nearer. How often I had heard it, and, in spite of my lost chickens, how often I had exclaimed, “Poor little tired fox!” But here sat “poor little tired fox” with his tongue in his head, calmly wondering what kind of stump he had run up against this time.
I could only dimly see his eyes, but his whole body said: “I can’t make it out, for it doesn’t move. But so long as it doesn’t move I sha’n’t be scared.” Then he trotted to this side and to that for a better wind, somewhat afraid, but much more curious.
His time was up, however. The dogs were yelping across the meadow on his warm trail. Giving me a last unsatisfied look, he dropped down the path, directly toward the dogs, and sprang lightly off into the thicket.
The din of their own voices must have deafened the dogs, or they would have heard him. Round and round they circled, giving the fox ample time for the study of another “stump” before they discovered that he had doubled down the path, and still longer time before they crossed the wide scentless space of his side jump and once more fastened upon his trail.
Back in my knickerbocker days I once went off on a Sunday-school picnic, and soon, replete with “copenhagen,” I sauntered into the woods alone in quest of less cloying sport. I had not gone far when I picked up a dainty little ribbon-snake, and having no bag or box along, I rolled him up in my handkerchief, and journeyed on with the wiggling reptile safely caged on top of my head under my tight-fitting hat.