Read the text extract below.
Read chapter 4.
Write down a list of words that you need to clarify. After reading the text, find the definitions of the words you picked out.
The Terrible Shovels
Down the hole, Mrs Fox was tenderly licking the stump of Mr Fox’s tail to stop the bleeding. ‘It was the finest tail for miles around,’ she said between licks.
‘It hurts,’ said Mr Fox.
‘I know it does, sweetheart. But it’ll soon get better.’
‘And it will soon grow again, Dad,’ said one of the Small Foxes.
‘It will never grow again,’ said Mr Fox. ‘I shall be tail-less for the rest of my life.’ He looked very glum.
There was no food for the foxes that night, and soon the children dozed off. Then Mrs Fox dozed off. But Mr Fox couldn’t sleep because of the pain in the stump of his tail. ‘Well,’ he thought, ‘I suppose I’m lucky to be alive at all. And now they’ve found our hole, we’re going to have to move out as soon as possible. We’ll never get any peace if we… What was that?’ He turned his head sharply and listened. The noise he heard now was the most frightening noise a fox can ever hear – the scrape-scrape-scraping of shovels digging into the soil.
‘Wake up!’ he shouted. ‘They’re digging us out!’
Mrs Fox was wide awake in one second. She sat up, quivering all over. ‘Are you sure that’s it?’ she whispered.
‘I’m positive! Listen!’
‘They’ll kill my children!’ cried Mrs Fox.
‘Never!’ said Mr Fox.
‘But darling, they will!’ sobbed Mrs Fox. ‘You know they will!’
Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch went the shovels above their heads. Small stones and bits of earth began falling from the roof of the tunnel.
‘How will they kill us, Mummy?’ asked one of the Small Foxes. His round black eyes were huge with fright. ‘Will there be dogs?’ he said.
Mrs Fox began to cry. She gathered her four children close to her and held them tight.
Suddenly there was an especially loud crunch above their heads and the sharp end of a shovel came right through the ceiling. The sight of this awful thing seemed to have an electric effect upon Mr Fox. He jumped up and shouted, ‘I’ve got it! Come on! There’s not a moment to lose! Why didn’t I think of it before!’
‘Think of what, Dad?’
‘A fox can dig quicker than a man!’ shouted Mr Fox, beginning to dig. ‘Nobody in the world can dig as quick as a fox!’
The soil began to fly out furiously behind Mr Fox as he started to dig for dear life with his front feet. Mrs Fox ran forward to help him. So did the four children.
‘Go downwards!’ ordered Mr Fox. ‘We’ve got to go deep! As deep as we possibly can!’
The tunnel began to grow longer and longer. It sloped steeply downward. Deeper and deeper below the surface of the ground it went. The mother and the father and all four of the children were digging together. Their front legs were moving so fast you couldn’t see them. And gradually the scrunching and scraping of the shovels became fainter and fainter.
After about an hour, Mr Fox stopped digging. ‘Hold it!’ he said. They all stopped. They turned and looked back up the long tunnel they had just dug. All was quiet. ‘Phew!’ said Mr Fox. ‘I think we’ve done it! They’ll never get as deep as this. Well done, everyone!’
They all sat down, panting for breath. And Mrs Fox said to her children, ‘I should like you to know that if it wasn’t for your father we should all be dead by now. Your father is a fantastic fox.’
Mr Fox looked at his wife and she smiled. He loved her more than ever when she said things like that.