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to use his own expression, to "make sure of what he had got," and,
taking aim at the wounded bird, was about to give it the contents of
the other barrel, when he heard the report of a gun some distance
further up the creek, and looked up just in time to see one of the
birds fall into the water.

"Who's that, I wonder," said Archie, to himself. "It can't be Frank,
for he wouldn't be on that side of the creek; besides, I had a good
long start of him."

His soliloquy was cut short by the movements of the flock, which,
instead of continuing on their course up the creek, rose higher in the
air, and flew about in confusion.

This opportunity was not lost by the concealed sportsman, and a second
bird came down with a broken wing. The ducks then wheeled and flew
back toward the place where Archie was stationed. As soon as they came
within range, he fired and brought down another bird, which landed
among the bushes on the opposite side of the creek.

He now turned his attention to the wounded duck, which was swimming in
a circle around his dead companion, as if perfectly bewildered.

"I wish I had my powder-flask and shot-bag," said Archie. "How foolish
I was not to bring them! I bet that I'll never start out again with
only one load in my gun."

But there was no time for regrets. The duck seemed to be recovering
his strength, and began co flap his wings, as if preparing to fly.
Archie began to fear that he should lose him; and, throw down his
gun, he gathered up an armful of sticks and branches, and straightway
opened fire on the bird. The duck dodged the missiles like a flash,
and every now and then renewed his attempts to fly; but, at length, a
heavy piece of root struck him, and stretched him out lifeless on the

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed a strong, cheery voice. "That's what I call
shooting ducks under difficulties."

Archie looked up and saw his cousin standing on the opposite side of
the creek, with his gun on one shoulder and two of the flock slung
over the other.

"I came very near getting the start of you, after all - didn't I?"
continued Frank.

"Was that you shooting up there?" inquired Archie.

"Yes; I had almost reached the swamp, when I happened to think that
perhaps the ducks might be in the creek, so I turned back."

"A lucky circumstance for you. But I beat you, after all. I've got
three ducks."

"Where are they? I don't see but two."

"The other is over there in the bushes, somewhere."

Frank immediately commenced looking for it, and Archie procured a long
branch, and waded out as far as possible into the creek, and, after
considerable exertion and a thorough wetting, succeeded in pulling
both of his ducks to the shore.

During the three weeks that followed, the boys passed the time in
various ways - sometimes hunting in the woods or on the river, but more
frequently working in the shop. They also spent considerable time in
attending to their pets. The young otter proved to be the most
interesting little animal they had ever seen. He grew quite tame, and
when the boys entered the room where he was kept, he would come toward
them, uttering a faint whine, and, if they seated themselves, he would
jump up into their laps, and search through their pockets for
something to eat - such as bread or crackers, of which the boys always
took especial care to have a good supply.

At length they began to long for winter, and many were the
speculations as to when the "first fell of snow" would come. Their
traps were all in order, and they were impatient for an opportunity to
make use of them. Besides, they had agreed with George and Harry to
"go fox-hunting the very first time there was snow enough for

A week more passed, and Thanksgiving Day came; and in the evening
Frank and his cousin went down to visit George and Harry, intending,
as they said, to "stay only a few minutes." But Mr. Butler soon came
in, and began to relate some of his "sailor yarns," as he called them
(for he was a retired sea-captain), and the boys became so interested
in listening to them, that they did not notice how rapidly the time
flew by, and it was ten o'clock before they knew it. They then bade
the Captain "good-night." George and Harry, as usual, agreed to
accompany them part of the way, and, when they reached the door, what
was their surprise to find the ground white with snow, and the air
filled with the rapidly-falling flakes.

"We'll have that fox-hunt to-morrow," exclaimed Harry, in delight.

"Of course we will," said Archie, "and I wouldn't take ten dollars for
my chance of catching one."

"You mean, if the snow doesn't melt," said Frank, quietly.

"Oh, that's always the way with you," said Archie. "What makes you try
to throw cold water on all our expectations, in that way?"

"I didn't intend to," answered Frank, with a laugh; "but, you know, we
have been disappointed very often."

"Yes," said George, "but I guess we are all right this time. It snows
pretty fast, and the air doesn't feel like a thaw or rain."

Frank acknowledged this; and they walked along, talking about the
exciting times they expected to have on the morrow, until they reached
the "big elm" - a large tree that stood leaning over the creek, just
half-way between Captain Butler's and where Frank lived. Here George
and Harry stopped, and, after promising to be at the cottage early on
the following morning, turned their faces homeward.


The Grayhound Outgeneraled.

The next morning, at an early hour, George and Harry arrived at the
cottage, and, after a light and hastily-eaten breakfast, they set out.
Frank and Harry were armed, as usual, with their guns, while the
others carried axes. They crossed the meadow at the back of the
orchard, passed through the cornfield which had been the scene of the
'coon-hunt, a few weeks before, and struck out through the woods. The
dogs were then sent out ahead, and they had not gone more than half a
mile, when Sport uttered a long, loud howl, and, when the boys came up
with him, he was running impatiently about with his nose close to the

"A fox has been along here," said Frank, bending over and examining a
track in the snow, "and the trail looks fresh."

"Hunt 'em up! hunt 'em up!" shouted Archie, excitedly, waving his hand
to the dogs.

Sport bounded off on the track like a shot, and Lightfoot followed
close after. Brave barked and howled furiously, and acted as if he
wished very much to accompany them; but the swift hounds would have
distanced him in a moment.

It must not be supposed that it was the intention of the boys to
follow up the hounds - that would have been worse than useless. Perhaps
the chase would continue for several hours. They had once hunted a fox
all day, without coming in sight of him. Reynard has ways and habits
of his own, which a person who has had experience in hunting him
understands. He always runs with the wind, and generally follows a
ridge. The hunters take advantage of this, and "run cross-lots" to
meet him, sometimes gaining on him several miles in this manner.

The moment the hounds had disappeared on the trail, Frank - who knew
all the "run-ways" of the game like a book - led the way through the
woods toward a ridge that lay about a mile distant, where they
expected the fox would pass.

A quarter of an hour's run brought them to this ridge, and they began
to conceal themselves behind trees and bushes, when Archie suddenly

"We're dished, boys. The fox has already passed."

"Come on, then," said Frank. "No time to lose. We must try again."

And he again led the way, on a keen run, through a strip of woods,
across a wide meadow toward another ridge, that lay fully three miles

At length the baying of the hounds echoed through the woods, far below
them. Louder and louder it grew, and, in a few moments, they swept up
the ridge in full cry. The boys hurried on as rapidly as possible, and
reached the ridge in about an hour. Although they were accustomed to
such sport, they were pretty well tired out. They had run the greater
part of the way through thick woods, filled with fallen logs and
tangled bushes; but they now felt confident that the hunt was nearly
over. They knew they had gained considerably on the fox, and his
capture would be an ample reward for their trouble.

As soon as they reached the ridge, they threw themselves rapidly
across it in all directions, and, to their delight, discovered that
the fox had not yet passed. They stationed themselves in such a manner
that it would be impossible for him to pass on either side of them
without coming within reach of their guns, and patiently awaited his
appearance. They had not remained long in this position, when Archie,
who was stationed lowest down the ridge, exclaimed in a subdued voice,

"There they come, boys! Now, look sharp!"

The boys listened intently, and heard, faint and far off, the
well-known bay of Sport. It was sharp and short - very different from
the note he had uttered when the chase first commenced. Louder and
louder grew the noise, as the hounds came rapidly up the ridge toward
the place where the boys were stationed, and every one was on the
alert, expecting every moment to see the fox break cover.

Suddenly a loud howl blended with Sport's baying, and the hounds
seemed to turn and sweep down the valley.

"The fox has left the ridge, boys," said Frank.

"Then we're dished again," exclaimed Archie.

"Perhaps not," continued Frank. "He will have to go across the meadow,
and will run the risk of being caught by Lightfoot. We must try and
cut him off."

And he led the way down the ridge, in the direction the chase was

In a few moments the hounds broke out into a continuous cry, and, when
the boys emerged from the woods, they saw them standing at the foot of
a tall stump, which stood near the middle of the meadow.

Brave immediately ran to join them, and Harry exclaimed,

"I'd like to know what those dogs are doing there?"

"Why, they've got the fox treed," said Frank.

"A fox treed!" repeated Harry, with a laugh, "Whoever heard of such a

"I have often read," answered Frank, "that when a fox is hard pressed,
and finds himself unable to escape, he will take advantage of any
place of concealment he can find."

While this conversation was going on, the boys had been running toward
the stump, and, when they reached it, they found Brave with his head
buried in a hole near the ground, now and then giving his tail a jerk,
but otherwise remaining as motionless as a statue.

"What do you think now of the possibility of seeing a fox?" inquired
Frank, turning to Harry.

"I don't believe it yet," said the latter.

"Then how is it that the dogs are here?"

"The fox may have run down here and doubled on his trail, and thus
thrown the dogs off the scent."

"He didn't have time to do that," said Archie, who had divested
himself of his coat, and stood with his ax, ready to cut down the
stump. "He's in here, I'm certain. See how Brave acts."

"It will not take long to find out," said George, who was a good deal
of his brother's opinion that the fox was not in the tree.

And he and Archie set to work, with the intention of cutting it down.
But it was found to be hollow; and, after taking out a few chips,
Archie stooped down to take a survey of the interior, and spied the
fox crouched in the darkest corner.

"Hand me your gun, Frank," said he; "I'll shoot him."

"I wouldn't shoot him," said Frank. "It is a good time to try
Lightfoot's speed. Let's get the fox out, and give him a fair start,
and if he gets away from the hound, he is entitled to his life."

The boys readily agreed to this proposal - not out of any desire to
give the fox a chance for his liberty, but in order to witness a fair
trial of the grayhound's speed, and to enjoy the excitement of the

George and Harry provided themselves with long poles, with which to
"poke" the fox out of his refuge. Brave and Sport were unceremoniously
conducted away from the tree, and ordered to "lie down;" and Frank
took hold of the grayhound, intending to restrain him until the fox
could get a fair start.

"All ready now," said Archie. "Keep a good look-out, Frank, and let
the hound go the instant the fox comes out. You know, Lightfoot is
young yet, and it won't do to give the game too long a start."

"All right," answered Frank.

And he tightened his grasp on the strong, impatient animal, which
struggled desperately to free himself, while George and Harry began
the work of "poking out the fox." They thrust their poles into the
holes they had cut in the roots of the stump, and the next moment out
popped the fox, and started toward the woods like a streak of light.

The meadow was about a mile and a half square, and was laid off in
"dead furrows" - deep ditches, which are dug, about four rods apart, to
drain off the water. The fox took to the bank of one of these furrows,
and followed it at a rate of speed which the boys had never seen

The moment Lightfoot discovered him, he raised himself on his
hind-legs, and struggled and fought furiously. But Frank would not
release him in that position, for fear the hound would "throw"
himself; and he commenced striking him on the head, to compel him, if
possible, to place his fore-feet on the ground, but all to no purpose.

During the struggle, short as it was, the fox had gained nearly thirty
rods. Archie was not slow to notice this, and he shouted to his

"Let him go! let him go! The fox has too long a start already."

Frank accordingly released the hound, which made an enormous bound,
and, as Frank had expected, he landed, all in a heap, in one of the
dead furrows, and, before he could recover himself, the fox had
gained two or three rods more. But when the hound was fairly started,
his speed was astonishing. He settled down nobly to his work, and
moved over the ground as lightly as if he had been furnished with

Had he been a well-trained dog, the boys would have felt no concern
whatever as to the issue of the race; but, as it was, they looked upon
the escape of the fox as a very probable thing. The fox was still
following the dead furrow, and Lightfoot, instead of pursuing directly
after him, as he ought to have done, took to another furrow which ran
parallel to the one the fox was following, and about four rods from

The fox had a good start, but the enormous bounds of the greyhound
rapidly lessened the distance between them; he gained at every step,
and finally overtook him, and the two animals were running side by
side, and only four rods apart.

Suddenly the cunning fox turned, and started off exactly at right
angles with the course he had been following. The gray hound, of
course, had not been expecting this, and he made a dozen of his long
bounds before he could turn himself. During this time the fox gained
several rods.

As before, the hound pursued a course parallel with that of the fox,
instead of following directly after him.

In a few moments they were again running side by side, but this time
further apart than before. Again and again the fox turned, each time
nearing the woods, and gaining considerably; and finally, reaching the
end of the meadow, he cleared the fence at a bound, and disappeared in
the bushes.

"Now, that's provoking!" exclaimed Archie.

"Never mind," answered Frank. "I don't think the fox can go much
further. He must be pretty well tired out, judging by the way he ran.
Here, Sport!" he continued, "hunt 'em up!"

Sport was off like a shot, and the boys followed after as fast as
their legs could carry them.

When they reached the woods, they found Lightfoot beating about in the
bushes, as if he expected to find the fox concealed among them. Sport
was standing over the trail of the fox, as motionless as if he had
been turned into stone.

"Hunt 'em up!" shouted Frank, again - "hunt 'em up."

The hound uttered a loud bark, and instantly set off on the trail, and
Lightfoot, as before, followed close at his heels.

"Now," exclaimed Frank, "we must change our tactics."

"Yes," said Harry. "A little further on, the ridge branches off, and
there is no knowing which one the fox will follow. Come, George, we
will go this way."

And he turned and ran down into the meadow again.

"Run like blazes, now!" shouted Frank.

And, suiting the action to the word, he turned off in the opposite
direction, and led the way through the woods at a rate which made
Archie wonder. They ran along in "Indian file" - Brave bringing up the
rear - for almost two miles, through the thickest part of the woods,
when they again found themselves on the ridge. After ascertaining that
the fox had not yet passed, they took their stations.

"I would really like to know which way that fox went," said Archie,
panting hard after his long run.

"I am almost certain that he took to the other ridge," answered Frank.
"I think we should have heard the hound before this time, if he had
turned this way."

They remained in their places of concealment for almost an hour,
without hearing any sounds of the chase, and Frank said,

"We might as well start for home."

"Dished again, are we?" said Archie, in a deprecating tone. "That's
too bad! Well," he continued, "we can't always be the fortunate ones,
but I wish I could have had the pleasure of shooting that fox. But
which way do we go to get home?"

"We must go exactly south," said Frank.

"Which way is that?"

"I will soon tell you."

And Frank drew a small compass from his pocket, and, in a moment,

"This is the way. Come on!"

And he turned his face, as Archie thought, directly _from_ home, and
struck boldly out. Their long run had taxed their endurance to the
utmost. If they had "been in practice," they would have looked upon it
as merely a "little tramp;" for, during the previous winter, they had
often followed a fox all day without experiencing any serious
inconvenience; but, as this was the first exercise of the kind they
had had for almost a year, they felt the effects of it pretty

Archie, who had lived in the city during the summer, was "completely
used up," as he expressed it; and his cousin was weary and footsore;
and it seemed as though neither of them had sufficient strength left
to take another step.

They kept on, hour after hour, however, without once stopping to rest;
and, about three o'clock in the afternoon, they climbed over the fence
that inclosed Uncle Mike's pasture, and came in sight of the cottage.

George and Harry were sitting on the piazza, and, as soon as they came
within speaking distance, the latter held up the fox, exclaiming,

"We were lucky, for once in our lives."

"If we had been five minutes later, we should have lost him," said
George, as Frank and his cousin came up to where the brothers were
sitting. "We reached the ridge just in the 'nick of time,' The fox was
just passing, and Harry brought him down by a chance shot. Here,
Frank," he continued, "you take the fox; we have no use for him."

Frank thanked him; and the boys then went into the house, and, after
dinner, the brothers started for home.

Frank and his cousin went into the study, and the former selected his
favorite book from his library, and settled himself in an easy-chair
before the fire; while Archie stretched himself on the bed, and was
fast asleep in a moment.

And here, reader, we will leave them reposing after their long run;
but we hope soon to introduce them again in works entitled, "FRANK IN


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Online LibraryHarry CastlemonFrank, the Young Naturalist → online text (page 12 of 12)