The Adventures of Reddy Fox by Thornton W. Burgess
VII. Too Late Reddy Fox Hears
Drummer the Woodpecker was pounding out his danger signal so fast and so hard that his red head flew back and forth almost too fast to see. Rat-a-tat-tat-a-tat-tat, beat Drummer on the old tree trunk on the edge of the Green Forest. When he stopped for breath, he looked down into the scowling face of Farmer Brown's boy, who was hiding behind the old tree trunk.
Drummer didn't like the looks of that scowl, not a bit. And he didn't like the looks of the gun which Farmer Brown's boy had. He knew that Farmer Brown's boy was hiding there to shoot Reddy Fox, but Drummer was beginning to be afraid that Farmer Brown's boy might guess what all that drumming meant--that it was a warning to Reddy Fox. And if Farmer Brown's boy did guess that, why--why--anyway, on the other side of the tree there was a better place to drum. So Drummer the Woodpecker crept around to the other side of the tree and in a minute was drumming harder than ever. Whenever he stopped for breath, he looked out over the Green Meadows to see if Reddy Fox had heard his warning.
But if Reddy had heard, he hadn't heeded. Just to show off before all the little meadow and forest people, Reddy had waited until Bowser the Hound had almost reached him. Then, with a saucy flirt of his tail, Reddy Fox started to show how fast he could run, and that is very fast indeed. It made Bowser the Hound seem very slow, as, with his nose to the ground, he came racing after Reddy, making a tremendous noise with his great voice.
Now Reddy Fox had grown as careless as he had grown bold. Instead of looking sharply ahead, he looked this way and that way to see who was watching and admiring him. So he took no note of where he was going and started straight for the old tree trunk on which Drummer the Woodpecker was pounding out his warning of danger.
Now Reddy Fox has sharp eyes and very quick ears. My, my, indeed he has! But just now Reddy was as deaf as if he had cotton stuffed in his ears. He was chuckling to himself to think how he was going to fool Bowser the Hound and how smart everyone would think him, when all of a sudden, he heard the rat-a-tat-tata-tat-tat of Drummer the Woodpecker and knew that that meant "Danger!"
For just a wee little second it seemed to Reddy Fox that his heart stopped beating. He couldn't stop running, for he had let Bowser the Hound get too close for that. Reddy's sharp eyes saw Drummer the Woodpecker near the top of the old tree trunk and noticed that Drummer seemed to be looking at something down below. Reddy Fox gave one quick look at the foot of the old tree trunk and saw a gun pointed at him and behind the gun the freckled face of Farmer Brown's boy. Reddy Fox gave a little gasp of fright and turned so suddenly that he almost fell flat. Then he began to run as never in his life had he run before. It seemed as though his flying feet hardly touched the grass. His eyes were popping out with fright as with every jump he tried to run just a wee bit faster.
Bang! Bang! Two flashes of fire and two puffs of smoke darted from behind the old tree trunk. Drummer the Woodpecker gave a frightened scream and flew deep into the Green Forest. Peter Rabbit flattened himself under a friendly bramble bush. Johnny Chuck dived headfirst down his doorway.
Reddy Fox gave a yelp, a shrill little yelp of pain, and suddenly began to go lame. But Farmer Brown's boy didn't know that. He thought he had missed and he growled to himself:
"I'll get that fox yet for stealing my pet chicken!"