Perhaps ’tis just as well that we
Can’t see ourselves as others see.
—Old Granny Fox.
“Just as I thought,” muttered Reddy Fox as he peeped through the bushes on the bank of the Big River and saw Quacker swimming about in the water where it ran too swiftly to freeze. “We’ve got just as much chance of catching him as I have of jumping over the moon. That’s what I’ll tell Granny.”
He crept back carefully so as not to be seen by Quacker, and when he had reached the place where Granny was waiting for him, his face wore a very impudent look.
“Well,” said Granny Fox, “what shall we do to catch him?”
“Learn to swim like a fish and fly like a bird,” replied Reddy in such a saucy tone that Granny had hard work to keep from boxing his ears.
“You mean that you think he can’t be caught?” said she quietly.
“I don’t think anything about it; I know he can’t!” snapped Reddy. “Not by us, anyway,” he added.
“I suppose you wouldn’t even try?” retorted Granny.
“I’m old enough to know when I’m wasting my time,” replied Reddy with a toss of his head.
“In other words you think I’m a silly old Fox who has lost her senses,” said Granny sharply.
“No-o. I didn’t say that,” protested Reddy, looking very uncomfortable.
“But you think it,” declared Granny. “Now look here, Mr. Smarty, you do just as I tell you. You creep back there where you can watch Quacker and all that happens, and mind that you keep out of his sight. Now go.”
Reddy went. There was nothing else to do. He didn’t dare disobey. Granny watched until Reddy had reached his hiding-place. Then what do you think she did? Why, she walked right out on the little beach just below Reddy and in plain sight of Quacker! Yes, Sir, that is what she did!
Then began such a queer performance that it is no wonder that Reddy was sure Granny had lost her senses. She rolled over and over. She chased her tail round and round until it made Reddy dizzy to watch her. She jumped up in the air. She raced back and forth. She played with a bit of stick. And all the time she didn’t pay the least attention to Quacker the Duck.
Reddy stared and stared. Whatever had come over Granny? She was crazy. Yes, Sir, that must be the matter. It must be that she had gone without food so long that she had gone crazy. Poor Granny! She was in her second childhood. Reddy could remember how he had done such things when he was very young, just by way of showing how fine he felt. But for a grown-up Fox to do such things was undignified, to say the least. You know Reddy thinks a great deal of dignity. It was worse than undignified; it was positively disgraceful. He did hope that none of his neighbors would happen along and see Granny cutting up so. He never would hear the end of it if they did.
Over and over rolled Granny, and around and around she chased her tail. The snow flew up in a cloud. And all the time she made no sound. Reddy was just trying to decide whether to go off and leave her until she had regained her common sense, or to go out and try to stop her, when he happened to look out in the open water where Quacker was. Quacker was sitting up as straight as he could. In fact, he had his wings raised to help him sit up on his tail, the better to see what old Granny Fox was doing.
“As I live,” muttered Reddy, “I believe that fellow is nearer than he was!”
Reddy crouched lower than ever, and instead of watching Granny he watched Quacker the Duck.