Fox's Feud

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Authors: Colin Dann
Have any of you seen the snake in question?’
    They shook their heads.
    ‘There is one snake who is often to be seen in this area,’ said the wily Scarface. ‘If any of you should happen to see it around, perhaps you will let me know.’ Then he turned his back on them and swam back across the stream.
    Whistler flew straight to Fox and called him out of his earth. Fox looked grim when he had heard all. ‘What on earth is Adder up to?’ he demanded. ‘This is no time for playing pranks. Now we’re all in trouble.’
    ‘Could he have mistaken the other animal forScarface?’ asked Whistler.
    ‘Not Adder,’ Fox replied firmly. ‘Scarface is unmistakable. I shall have a few sharp words to say to our friend when he comes to report his deed. In the meantime we shall have to post sentries in case of an attack. You go on, Whistler, and warn the rabbits and the hares to keep well out of sight.’
    Fox ran off to round up Badger, Weasel and Tawny Owl. Then he positioned them and himself and Vixen at different look-out points where they remained through the dark hours. At dawn, after a quiet night, they disbanded and Fox lay above ground to await Adder. Kestrel, high up above alien territory guarded all of them.
    The morning wore on. Inside Fox’s earth Bold dreaded the appearance of Adder. If the snake were accused of inviting new danger he would have no qualms in placing the blame fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the cub. Vixen noticed his nervousness, while Friendly’s distress was even more apparent. However, she wisely held her tongue until the cubs revealed themselves.
    Early in the afternoon Adder approached Fox’s den. He saw Fox drowsing, head on paws in the warm sun, and calmly coiled himself up until Fox should wake. When he did so, Adder was wearing a distinctly smug and self-satisfied expression.
    ‘I don’t know what you’re looking so pleased about,’ Fox growled. ‘We’ve heard of your achievement from Whistler. If I may say so, I think you behaved in the most irresponsible manner.’
    Adder’s expression froze and, as always, he betrayed not an inkling of his feeling. ‘You may say exactly as you please,’ he hissed quietly, ‘for all the effect it will have on me.’
    Fox glared at him. ‘Really, Adder, I’ve always creditedyou with more sense. As if the situation hadn’t been bad enough already . . .’
    ‘Er – what situation are you referring to?’ Adder asked coolly.
    ‘Oh, stop playing games!’ spluttered Fox angrily. ‘I’m talking of the animosity between us and Scarface’s brood.’
    ‘It seems as if I took my life in my hands for no purpose,’ Adder observed. ‘Having redressed the balance of our most recent loss, I now find I was not expected to do anything of the kind.’
    Fox relented a little as he recognized reluctantly that Adder must have put himself at some considerable risk for the enterprise. ‘But Adder,’ he reasoned, ‘why act so rashly? If it had meant waiting a few days more for the correct target to show, what would it have mattered?’
    ‘Target?’ queried Adder. ‘I don’t follow you.’
    ‘Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t know the target was Scarface?’
    ‘Ah, I begin to understand your reaction,’ said Adder. ‘I’m afraid I have to disillusion you. No mention was made of Scarface to me by either of your – er – messengers.’
    ‘WHAT?’ exploded Fox so loudly that Bold heard him inside the earth.
    ‘It was merely put to me that I was to avenge the death of Hare’s mate – which I have done,’ the snake explained. ‘I’m afraid the significance of killing Scarface himself didn’t occur to me.’
    ‘It was the whole point of the thing,’ Fox said wearily. ‘We decided that, as he is the only real threat to our safety, he should be put out of the way. I was quite sure in my mind that none of his band would have had the idea of blaming his death on us. But it appears we have all been labouring under a

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