Mr. Fox had been so much disturbed by Mr. Dog and his master that he decided to try living somewhere besides on the ground floor of the woods.
One night he took a look around in the moonlight, and to his delight he discovered the very place for him to live.
It was a house built in the branches of a big tree that some boys very likely had made the year before. “Now with a very little repairing this will be the finest house in the woods,” said Mr. Fox.
So over the hill he ran to Mr. Man’s and brought away all that was needed to make his house comfortable.
He even found an old piece of stovepipe to make his stove draw well, and in a few days Mr. Fox told all his friends of his new home and invited them to a housewarming.
Mr. Coon and Mr. Possum and Mr. Squirrel were not at all upset by finding out that Mr. Fox’s new home was in the big tree, but Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Badger looked very sad and said it was out of the question for them to accept Mr. Fox’s kind invitation, much as they would like to come.
Mr. Fox had borrowed a ladder from Mr. Man, and when Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Badger said they could not come Mr. Fox remembered that he was not much of a climber himself and that if he did not keep that ladder he might have a hard time getting into his home when he was in a hurry.
So he decided that Mr. Man would not need it as much as he would and that it would also make a nice addition to his home.
When he told Mr. Badger and Mr. Rabbit about the ladder they decided to come, and one night when the moon was shining the animals were all to go to Mr. Fox’s house to dinner.
Mr. Fox thought it would be the cheapest way to fill his guests with soup, so he took all the bones that he had collected and put them in a pot on the stove to boil.
Up curled the smoke from his chimney and out through the windows went the nice-smelling odor of soup, and Mr. Dog, who happened to be running through the woods, saw and smelled as well.
He wagged his tail and looked up at the house in the tree; then he whined and scratched the tree, and as he danced about it, with his eyes fixed upon the house all the time, he bumped into the ladder.
“Ah, how fortunate!” he said, and up he went and into Mr. Fox’s house he went, too, and took the cover off the pot.
It did not take him a second to remove the pot from the stove and pour out the soup in the sink and cool those bones, and then such a feast as he had.
He ate until he became sleepy; then he lay down on the floor and went to sleep.
Mr. Dog did not dream that Mr. Fox lived in that house; not that he was afraid of him, but he would have slept with one eye open so that he could catch him if he had known.
Mr. Fox was out roaming over the hill, looking about for a stray turkey or hen, and he did not come home until it was nearly dark.
He ran up the ladder, and without striking a light he went toward the stove to see how his soup was getting on, and stumbled over Mr. Dog. Up jumped Mr. Dog with a gruff bark, and Mr. Fox, not stopping for the ladder, jumped out of the window and almost broke his neck, while Mr. Dog looked after him, barking and yelping in a terrible manner.
Mr. Fox did not stop. He kept on running, and Mr. Dog, thinking of the bones he did not finish, turned away from the window and began to eat. While he was eating the guests for the housewarming began to arrive. Mr. Coon did not need the ladder to help him, or Mr. Possum, either, nor did Mr. Squirrel, but as it was there they felt it would not be polite to enter any other way.
Mr. Possum started up first, and behind him Mr. Coon. Then came Mr. Badger, and Mr. Rabbit behind him, while Mr. Squirrel ran up the side of the ladder.
When they were about halfway up, Mr. Dog, hearing a noise outside, went to the door, and of all the surprised creatures you ever saw, the guests were the most surprised, unless it was Mr. Dog. He forgot to bark for a second, he was so taken back.
Then he recovered and out of the door he went; but he was not used to going down a ladder, and on the first round he slipped and down he went.
The guests started to jump just as Mr. Dog barked, but they were not out of the way when Mr. Dog fell, and down they all tumbled, Mr. Dog, Mr. Possum, Mr. Coon and Mr. Badger.
Mr. Squirrel jumped, too, but he jumped for a limb of the tree and was not in the mix-up. He said it was the funniest sight he ever saw, and he had a fine view from where he sat.
But Mr. Rabbit said he was sure his view of the affair was the best, for, being nearest the bottom of the ladder when the tumble began, he was up and out of the way when they all came down on the ground.
“You could not tell who was who or which from the other,” said Mr. Rabbit, later talking it over with Mr. Squirrel.
It was a long time before Mr. Fox could make the guests believe he had not planned to have Mr. Dog at his house-warming, but when Mr. Squirrel told them that he had seen the bones on the floor and the kettle in the sink they finally forgave Mr. Fox.
He decided the ground floor was the safest for him, after all, and when he was once again settled he gave a feast, and this time Mr. Dog was not there.