The Adventures of Reddy Fox  by Thornton Burgess

Farmer Brown's Boy Works for Nothing

T HE GRASS around the door-step of the house where Reddy Fox had always lived was all wet with dew when Farmer Brown's boy laid his gun down, took off his coat, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and picked up his spade. It was cool and beautiful there on the edge of the Green Meadows. Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had just begun his long climb up in the blue, blue sky. Mr. Redwing was singing for joy over in the bulrushes on the edge of the Smiling Pool. Yes, it was very beautiful, very beautiful indeed. It didn't seem as if harm could come to any one on such a beautiful morning.

But there was Farmer Brown's boy. He had crawled on his hands and knees without making a sound to get near enough to the home of Reddy Fox to shoot if Reddy was outside. But there was no sign of Reddy, so Farmer Brown's boy had hopped up, and now he was whistling as he began to dig. His freckled face looked good-natured. It didn't seem as if he could mean harm to any one. But there lay the gun, and he was working as if he meant to get to the very bottom of Reddy Fox's home!

Deeper and deeper grew the hole, and bigger and bigger grew the pile of sand which he threw out. He didn't know that any one was watching him, except Bowser the Hound. He didn't see Johnny Chuck peeping from behind a tall bunch of meadow grass, nor Peter Rabbit peeping from behind a tree on the edge of the Green Forest, nor Bobby Coon looking from a safe hiding-place in the top of that same tree. He didn't see Jimmy Skunk nor Unc' Billy Possum nor Happy Jack Squirrel nor Digger the Badger. He didn't see one of them, but they saw him. They saw every shovelful of sand that he threw, and their hearts went pit-a-pat as they watched, for each one felt sure that something dreadful was going to happen to Reddy Fox.

Only Ol' Mistah Buzzard knew better. From way up high in the blue, blue sky he could look down and see many things. He could see all the little meadow and forest people who were watching Farmer Brown's boy. The harder Farmer Brown's boy worked, the more Ol' Mistah Buzzard chuckled to himself. What was he laughing at? Why, peeping out from behind an old fence corner, he could see the sharp face of old Granny Fox, and she was grinning. So Ol' Mistah Buzzard knew Reddy Fox was safe.

But the other little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows didn't know that old Granny Fox and Reddy Fox had moved, and their faces grew longer and longer as they watched Farmer Brown's boy go deeper and deeper into the ground.

"Reddy Fox has worried me almost to death and would eat me if he could catch me, but somehow things wouldn't be quite the same without him around. Oh dear, I don't want him killed," moaned Peter Rabbit.

"Perhaps he isn't home," said Jimmy Skunk.

"Of course he's home; he's so stiff and sore he can hardly walk at all and has to stay home," replied Johnny Chuck. "Hello, what's the matter now?"

Everybody looked. Farmer Brown's boy had climbed out of the hole. He looked tired and cross. He rested for a few minutes, and as he rested, he scowled. Then he began to shovel the sand back into the hole. He had reached the bottom and found no one there.

"Hurrah!" shouted Peter Rabbit and struck his heels together as he jumped up in the air.

And the others were just as glad as Peter Rabbit. Johnny Chuck was especially glad, for, you see, Farmer Brown's boy had once found Johnny's snug home, and Johnny had had to move as suddenly as did Granny and Reddy Fox. Johnny knew just how Reddy must feel, for he had had many narrow escapes in his short life. You can read all about them in the next book, The Adventures of Johnny Chuck.