Beautiful Joe
Chapter 24


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


"You had foxes up in Maine, I suppose, Mr. Wood, hadn't you?" asked Mr. Maxwell.

"Heaps of them. I always want to laugh when I think of our foxes, for they were so cute. Never a fox did I catch in a trap, though I'd set many a one. I'd take the carcass of some creature that had died, a sheep, for instance, and put it in a field near the woods, and the foxes would come and eat it. After they got accustomed to come and eat and no harm befell them, they would be unsuspecting. So just before a snowstorm, I'd take a trap and put it in this spot. I'd handle it with gloves, and I'd smoke it, and rub fir boughs on it to take away the human smell, and then the snow would come and cover it up, and yet those foxes would know it was a trap and walk all around it. It's a wonderful thing, that sense of smell in animals, if it is a sense of smell. Joe here has got a good bit of it."

"What kind of traps were they, father?" asked Mr. Harry.

"Cruel ones — steel ones. They'd catch an animal by the leg and sometimes break the bone, the leg would bleed, and below the jaws of he trap it would freeze, there being no circulation of the blood. Those steel traps are an abomination. The people around here use one made on the same principle for catching rats. I wouldn't have them on my place for any money. I believe we've got to give an account for all the unnecessary suffering we put on animals."

"You'll have some to answer for, John, according to your own story," said Mrs. Wood.

"I have suffered already," he said. "Many a night I've lain on my bed and groaned, when I thought of needless cruelties I'd put upon animals when I was a young, unthinking boy — and I was pretty carefully brought up, too, according to our light in those days. I often think that if I was cruel, with all the instruction I had to be merciful, what can be expected of the children that get no good teaching at all when they're young."

"Tell us some more about the foxes, Mr. Wood," said Mr. Maxwell.

"Well, we used to have rare sport hunting them with fox-hounds. I'd often go off for the day with my hounds. Sometimes in the early morning they'd find a track in the snow. The leader for scent would go back and forth, to find out which way the fox was going. I can see him now. All the time that he ran, now one way and now another on the track of the fox, he was silent, but kept his tail aloft, wagging it as a signal to the hounds behind. He was leader in scent, but he did not like bloody, dangerous fights. By-and-by, he would decide which way the fox had gone. Then his tail, still kept high in the air, would wag more violently. The rest followed him in single file, going pretty slow, so as to enable us to keep up to them. By-and-by, they would come to a place where the fox was sleeping for the day. As soon as he was disturbed he would leave his bed under some thick fir or spruce branches near the ground. This flung his fresh scent into the air. As soon as the hounds sniffed it, they gave tongue in good earnest. It was a mixed, deep baying, that made the blood quicken in my veins. While in the excitement of his first fright, the fox would run fast for a mile or two, till he found it an easy matter to keep out of the way of the hounds. Then he, cunning creature, would begin to bother them. He would mount to the top pole of the worm fence dividing the fields from the woods. He could trot along here quite a distance and then make a long jump into the woods. The hounds would come up, but could not walk the fence, and they would have difficulty in finding where the fox had left it. Then we saw generalship. The hounds scattered in all directions, and made long detours into the woods and fields. As soon as the track was lost, they ceased to bay, but the instant a hound found it again, he bayed to give the signal to the others. All would hurry to the spot, and off they would go baying as they went.