Cinnabar the one oclock.., p.1
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       Cinnabar: The One O'Clock Fox, p.1

           Marguerite Henry
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Cinnabar: The One O'Clock Fox



  No Cage Shall Hold Them

  1. Four Is a Jolly Nice Number

  2. The Challenge from G. Washington, M.F.H.

  3. Just in Case . . .

  4. And Long May He Live

  5. I Shall Leave My Scent Where the Cattails Grow

  6. Sweet Lips Is Outfoxed

  7. Turnabout!

  8. A Minty Disguise

  9. A Fox in a Fix

  10. Whoooo, You?

  11. Candlelight and an Open Door

  12. Farmer Plunkett, Here I Come!

  13. Musket Fire

  14. Life Is Nice and Round

  About Marguerite Henry

  To L.R. and Emorys


  The verses appearing in Chapter 4 are quoted from Hunting Songs, by R. E. Egerton-Warburton, published by Constable & Company, London, 1925

  The verses in Chapter 14 are adapted from Scarlet, Blue, and Green, A Book of Sporting Verse, by Duncan Fife, published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, 1932


  When this book is published, I shall set free two red foxes who now are living in a big wire-and-wood cage outside my study window. The third cub in the litter was carried all the way to Wesley Dennis’s mountaintop in Virginia, where he promptly escaped to freedom in the green, wooded countryside.

  But my foxes have been with me since puppyhood. For months now I have studied them by day as they sleep curled up like kittens; and by night as they race pell-mell from one end of the cage to the other, lashing their tails to and fro, and talking some mystic kind of gibberish which is neither like a dog’s barking nor a kitten’s whimpering. It is their own song to the moon.

  These little foxes gingerly take delicacies of chicken livers and beetles right out of my hand, but always their amber eyes gaze at me with an ancient wisdom and dignity, as much as to say: “For now, while we are still cubs, we shall be your pets. But remember, we are creatures of the wildwood, and some night when the moon spills its gold, no cage will hold us.” And no cage shall!

  I am quick to admit that the fox Cinnabar towers in capabilities above my foxes. But Cinnabar, you see, was never captive. He lived in the time of George Washington, and often—so legend says—he challenged the general to a chase.

  Cinnabar represented the spirit of the times, the spirit of a people who fought for freedom and lived for freedom’s sake. He eluded all who would catch or trap him, and he finished out his days as a free wild thing.

  The word “Cinnabar” comes from the Orient. It means “the red ore of quicksilver.” And here is the tale of Cinnabar’s adventures when more than once he had a brush with death, but true to his name he slipped away with all the elusiveness of quicksilver.

  Wesley Dennis and I have just finished making the pictures and the story come out even; we are still breathless from the chase that Cinnabar has led us. We delight in presenting him to you, and are most grateful to Dorothy Dennis, who first told us of this fearless fox and his hourglass punctuality.

  Marguerite Henry

  Chapter 1


  It was April in Virginia. The brooks and runs on George Washington’s estate were overflowing in their hurry to join the big Potomac. Pussy willows along the banks were swollen to plumpness. And everywhere, the woods and meadows were alive with cheeps and chirrings and little feet scampering.

  One morning just before the break of dawn, when the moon was still shining brightly, four little fox cubs were born in a den tucked away in a sassafras thicket.

  Cinnabar, their father, had been out all night, hunting. He wanted to bring a nice plump hen to his wife, because she liked nice plump hens. And if ever there was a time to please Vicky, as he called her, it was now. This very night.

  Cinnabar’s masklike face, with its slanted amber eyes, looked up at the great white face of the moon. But that is not what he saw. He saw instead the warm coziness of his own den. And there was Vicky, still busy at the nestbox weaving a mattress of grasses and reeds. He knew what that meant. It meant furry little foxes—any moment now.

  He bayed his happiness to the moon: “Yapp yurr. Yapp yur-rrr.” He disappeared into a tangle of honeysuckle and hauled out the fat hen that he had cached away an hour before. Then he pawed deeper into the tanglewood and gathered up four good-sized barn mice. He took them one at a time and placed them side by side neatly and securely underneath the hen’s wings.

  “My stars and garters!” he barked to himself. “It’s been a capital night for hunting!” Grabbing the hen’s neck in his mouth, he flung her over his shoulder and trotted off toward home.

  Cinnabar was a big, red, magnificent fellow. Courage and heart showed in the very look of him. A rough scar across his nose and a nick on one ear in no way marred his handsomeness. On the contrary, they gave him a gay and gallant air. They spoke of battles won—over eagles and buzzards and hawks and weasels.

  Cinnabar was, in truth, afraid of nothing. Neither of dark nor of storm; nor of hunters nor hounds. He was free and unfearing, the very spirit of the wilds.

  With a windblown movement he went gliding along, his brush of a tail stretched out full. His lively ears pricked to and fro, catching every sound of the night. Pine needles singing. Frogs playing their bassoons. Birds beginning to stir and twitter. It seemed to him that the morning was coming in with a peculiar gladness.

  Silently he left the big trees behind and trotted down a little avenue of hemlocks. Fast as he traveled, his imagination went faster still. He could almost hear Vicky’s cry of delight when she spied not only the plump hen, but the four good mice as well. “How she likes hens and mice!” he mused. “Better than grouse and grasshoppers. Better than anything . . . except me!” he chuckled, as he shifted his burden to the other shoulder.

  Chatting and laughing and happy in himself, he threaded his way through the sassafras thicket that hid his den. But as he approached the opening, he stopped dead. What were those strange sounds? He thought he heard small trills and whimperings.

  “Criminy, criminy, and by Jimminy!” he exploded. “I must be a father. I hear puppy voices. Unmistakably, I do.”

  Parting the ferns that screened the doorway, he pattered softly through them. Then wriggling forward on his belly, he bunted the hen down the dark entry and finally emerged into the warm comfort of his own den. He blinked his eyes at the brightness. A wick burning in an oyster shell gave off a yellow light, and the fire in the grate was a red glow.

  “That you, Cinny?” a voice came muffled.

  In reply, Cinnabar barked two short barks and one long. It was the family signal, and it meant “Good hunting tonight.” He saw Vicky now—up on one elbow, half sitting, half reclining in the nestbox—and he could hear her tongue strokes, licking, licking, licking.

  Little shivers of excitement raced up and down his spine. How many pups would there be this time? Two? Four? Nine? Twelve?

  “I shall be quite content with three,” he told himself as he took a step closer, “and I hope they all have blue eyes. Blue eyes bewitch me.”

  Vicky was eager to tell about her babies. She gave four quick, happy barks.

  “Oh! Four is a jolly nice number,” Cinnabar assured her. “ ’Twill be easy to provide for them.” He laid the big white hen in a splash of firelight, hoping Vicky would notice. But she was concerned only with her young ones.

  “My dear,” said Cinnabar with a proud grin, “have you thought of names for the funny snub-nosed things?”

  “Cinnabar! They are not funny snub-nosed things. Oh, yes, they are,” she laughed, contradicting herself all in the same
breath. “Well, anyway, I’ve named the two little boys.”

  “So?” asked Cinnabar, shoving the hen closer.

  “Yes. And I do hope you like family names.”


  “Rascal for my brother, and Pascal for my father.”

  “I like them indeed!” Cinnabar nodded in approval as he plucked at his whiskers thoughtfully. Then reaching into the nestbox he fondled the fuzzy little creatures. “Hmmm—how about Merry and Mischief for the vixens?” he asked, looking all merry and mischievous himself.

  Vicky sighed in envy. “How do you do it? It took me hours to think up Rascal and Pascal, and you . . . you thought up Merry and Mischief just like that!”

  “It was nothing,” Cinnabar said modestly. “Nothing at all. I once knew some people by those names.”

  “And how shall you spell ‘Merry?’ ” Vicky asked, as she settled deeper into the nestbox. “M-a-r-y or M-e-r-r-y?”

  “Oh, the latter way! For if she is anything like you, my dear, that would fit her the better. And now if you will tell me where you’ve put the wild duck eggs, I shall prepare us a breakfast that is a breakfast. Meanwhile, you just go on with your licking and nursing.”

  Vicky gave a sigh of contentment. “The wild duck eggs,” she said, “are buried in the sand, down in the cellar.”

  The den of Cinnabar was as snug and well furnished as one could find in all Virginia. It was sleeping chamber, library, dining room, and kitchen all in one. A round flat stone, fitted onto a stumplike growth, made a nice dinner table, and the seats around it were the twisted roots of a tree. Natural rock made the chimneypiece. And above the mantel hung a gaily decorated map of Cinnabar’s hunting territory, while on either side were bookcases stacked with friendly books, bound in birchbark. On the mantel shelf was an hourglass, a three-minute glass, and several quaint pieces of drift that Cinnabar had picked up along the Potomac. An old-time chair set on barrel-stave rockers stood in one corner near the fireplace. And in the other was the nestbox. The only touches of color were the pale green ivy that clambered over the latticed roots of the ceiling, and a sweet potato vine sprouting from a hanging basket.

  Cinnabar’s eyes roved with pleasure about his home; then they fell upon the hen lying at his feet. He could restrain himself no longer. “My dear!” he exclaimed. “What think you of this white biddy; what think you of her? I caught her amidst the wildest turmoil in Deacon Doolittle’s henhouse.”

  “Oh, Cinnabar, how could you! Deacon Doolittle has been so good to you. Remember the time when you were a young pup and the hounds were after you and he threw his jacket over you and picked you up bodily until they were gone?”

  “I do indeed! So I did him a good turn, too. I caught four mice in his corncrib, and here they are!”

  Flipping back the hen’s wings, he exposed the four fat mice with their gnawing teeth quite visible.

  Vicky sat bolt upright. “Cinny, you are wonderful. Simply wonderful. You always do more to help the farmer than to hurt him. But I’m not up to preparing a big meal today. Let’s have it tomorrow.”

  Pleased and proud, Cinnabar pulled the hen over to the stairway and pushed her down. “I’ll pluck her later,” he promised himself.

  Breakfast preparations now went on with great slap and dash. Cinnabar never could understand why Vicky made such work of it. He ran gaily down to the cellar and sniffed his way to a small sandbar. Scooping in among the grains of sand, he uncovered two wild duck eggs. Then back up the stairs he went, bounding on his hind legs, and hugging the eggs with his forepaws.

  He felt good! The fire was crackling merrily. Vicky was making little snoring noises. And the pups were squirming and suckling.

  Humming an old hunting tune, he reached for the skillet hanging beside the mantel. He tossed some goose grease into it, cracked the eggs against the fireplace and plopped them into the pan. The yolks stayed whole, and they were like big bulgy eyes looking up at him. “Funny thing,” he winked right back at them, “the rougher you treat eggs, the less apt they are to break; but coddle them, and the yolks squish all over.”

  “Coddle them!” The thought struck him. Why not? Yes, he would coddle them. Vicky liked them that way. He looked at her tenderly. It must be tiring, having pups. He was glad he was a dog-fox. Hunting was his life. And being hunted. He liked danger, excitement, adventure. It made him feel every inch a fox.

  The eggs were sending up a delicious fragrance. They were nice and strong and old. “I like my eggs high,” he mused as he tossed them up and over and caught them back in the skillet again.

  “Pffst! Vicky!” he called. “Wake up and feast upon wild duck eggs. Coddled.”

  Vicky covered her cubs with a puff of thistledown and came yawning happily across the den. She noticed that the eggs were fried, not coddled, but she was so glad to have someone do the cooking for her that she said not a word.

  Cinnabar now slid each egg onto a beech leaf, and next he studied the relish bottles, reading their labels aloud: “Grasshoppers. Red-legged beetles. Crickets.” Drooling in delight, he shook some beetles into his paw, crunched them to a fine powder and sprinkled it over the eggs. Then he and Vicky sat down to table.

  “If you please, Cinnabar, may I have a smidgen more of the beetle seasoning? I love the bittersweet taste and the crunchiness.”

  Cinnabar burst out laughing. “Remember, my dear, when you refused seasonings and sauces of any kind? What a gourmet you have turned out to be!”

  “And all because of you, Cinny. You taught me that a dash of this or that is the difference between a dull meal and a delicious one. Which reminds me . . . would you please to get down that volume of Unfamiliar Quotations? I think I can put my paw on the very one I want. And while you are up,” she added, “please to bring me my spectacles. In my haste to get into the nestbox, I think I dropped them underneath.”

  Cinnabar obliged.

  “Let me see . . . Let me see.” Vicky pawed through the pages and found one marked with a slice of bacon. “Here it is! Listen, my dear.” She took a nibble of the bacon; then adjusting her glasses, she read in her lilting voice:

  “Oh, the little more, and how much it is.

  And the little less, and what worlds away.”

  Cinnabar stopped lapping the egg yolk and scratched his ear reflectively. “My sentiments exactly. Exactly! And it doesn’t apply to just sauces and seasonings.”

  “Of course not.”

  “It applies to the big things. Like doing everything real good.”

  “Real well, you mean.”

  “All right, all right,” chuckled Cinnabar. “I mean putting your heart and soul into things. Whether ’tis hunting or being hunted. And I mean doing a jot and a tittle more than is expected of you.”

  “Oh, Cinny, I love you more each day.”

  “Pshaw. You just love my cooking,” he teased.

  Vicky’s eyes took on a faraway look. “If only we can bring up our little ones to face life bravely, the way you do.”

  She put on her glasses once again and eagerly flipped through the pages, talking as she looked. “I don’t mean they need to be quite as daring as you, Cinny, so that hunters can count on them exactly at one o’clock. They don’t need to be that brave . . .” Her voice faded away as she found the passage she was looking for. This time she read only to herself:

  “Cowards die many times before their deaths;

  The valiant never taste of death but once.”

  Silently she repeated the lines, tapping her dainty black foot to emphasize them. “They fit Cinnabar to a T,” she thought as she nodded to his resolute words: “We not only can teach our cubs to be brave; we will!”

  Chapter 2


  With four hungry, begging mouths to be fed, the weeks and months that followed were desperate ones for Cinnabar. He hunted almost to the point of exhaustion. Night after night rains came slanting and slashing down upon the earth. Wildlife holed up. It o
ften took endless hours and every ounce of foxy strategy to catch so much as a mouse. To make matters worse, the storage cellar beneath the den filled up with water, and muddied water climbed up and up the steps until it threatened the den itself.

  Meanwhile, Rascal and Pascal, Merry and Mischief were growing beyond belief. They were always hungry, requiring an enormous quantity of bugs and grubs and fish and fowl to keep them full and happy. If Cinnabar was late returning from a night of hunting, they began nibbling at the roots of the dining room chairs. They even stood up on their hind legs and gnawed the books in the shelves.

  As summer days came on, Vicky tried to be of help. When her housework was done, she managed to take the children out on mousing and rabbiting trips to give them lessons in scenting and stalking. But hunting was poor that season and they seldom came home with more than a few mealy moths or last year’s beechnuts. The burden of the feeding rested heavily on Cinnabar, and as his pups grew stronger and livelier, he grew lean and gaunt, until the crisp autumn days found him but a shadow of his former self.

  “What you need, Cinny,” Vicky said to him one morning as she was thinning a gruel of acorns, “is a little excitement and fun. All work and no play makes you old before your day.”

  Cinnabar, at the time, was boning a catfish and tossing morsels first to one yapping mouth and then to another. He looked up in astonishment. How did Vicky know? How could she read his mind? How could she possibly guess that he had a great longing for fun? He yearned to lead the hounds and horses on a merry chase—to tease and trick and baffle them until he could forget, for the moment, that he was weighted down with responsibilities.

  Curious, he thought, that Vicky should bring up the matter of fun when it was only yesterday that he had followed a messenger from Mount Vernon who went riding from plantation to plantation. Hidden in the shrubbery, Cinnabar had watched as the man bowed politely at each doorway and presented a white card that he drew from his boot. That card, Cinnabar felt quite certain, was an invitation to the first fall fox chase. For it was exactly the same size as the one he had found last year and hung above his mantel.

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