A DEER HUNT, AND HOW IT ENDED.
They were a long way off, more
than half a mile, he thought. Evidently they
had not seen him. Though marvellously quick to
catch scent or sound, deer have not a fine sense of
sight for distant objects.
“They have left the covert early,
to go out and feed,” thought he. “If
not frightened, they will browse around in the hollows
there until dark.”
He was wondering how he should manage
to creep near, and get a shot at the shy creatures,
when the dog barked.
“That won’t do!”
he muttered; and, hurrying to silence Lion, he saw
a stranger loitering along the prairie road.
Jack stepped out of the bushes into
the hollow, and beckoned.
“I’ve sighted a couple
of deer that I’m trying to get a shot at; if
you go over the hill, you’ll scare ’em.”
The stranger a slender
youth in soiled shirt-sleeves, carrying a coat on
his arm looked at him saucily, with his head on one side and a quid turning in
the cheek, and said,
“Well! and why shouldn’t I scare ’em?”
“I can’t hinder you, of
course; but,” said Jack, “if you
were hunting, and I should be passing by, I
should think it a matter of honor
“Honor is an egg that don’t
hatch in this country,” interrupted the stranger;
and the quid went into the other cheek, while the head
went over on the other side, as if to balance it.
“But never mind; ’tain’t my cut
to interfere with another feller’s luck.
Show me your deer.”
Jack took him through the thickets
to his ambush. There were the deer still feeding;
the old one lifting her head occasionally as if on
the lookout for danger. They seemed to be moving
slowly along the slope.
The dark eyes of the strange youth kindled; then he said,
with a low laugh,
“I’d like a cut-bore rifle
for them fellers! You never can get ’em
with that popgun.”
“I believe I can if you’ll
help me. You notice there’s a range of hills
between us and them; and they are on the north slope
of one. I’ve been surveying a little of
the country off south, and I think you can get around
the range that way, and come out beyond the deer, before
they see you. There’s everything in our
favor. The wind blows to us from them. At
the first alarm they’ll start for the woods;
and they’ll be pretty sure to keep along in
the hollow. I’ll watch here, and take them
as they come in.”
Quid and head rolled again; and the strange youth said
jeeringly, with one eye half closed, looking at Jack,
“So you expect me to travel
a mile or two, and drive the deer in for you?”
He then pulled down the nether lid of the half-closed
eye, and inquired, somewhat irrelevantly, whether
Jack saw anything green there. “Not by
this light!” he answered his own question, as
he let up his eyelid and snapped his thumb and finger.
“Ye can’t ketch old birds with chaff.
I’ve been through the lot. Parley-voo frong-say?”
Jack regarded him with astonishment,
declaring that there was no catch about it. “Only
help me, and we will share the game together.”
Still the fellow demurred. “I’ve
walked my legs off to-day already; you’ll find
’em back in the road here! Had nothing to
eat since morning; wore myself down lean as a rail;
felt for the last two hours as though there was nothing
but my backbone between me and eternity! No, sir-ree!
I wouldn’t walk that fur out of my way for a
herd of deer. If I had a horse to ride I wouldn’t
Jack was greatly excited. He had never yet had a good
shot at a deer; and if, at the end of his days work, he could carry home a good
fat doe, and perhaps a fawn, of his own shooting, it would be a triumph.
So, without a moments reflection, he said,
“You may ride mine. Then,
if you don’t want a share of the game, I’ll
pay you for your trouble.”
The strange youth took time to shift his quid and balance it;
then replied in a manner which appeared provokingly cool to the fiery Jack,
“I’ll look at him. Does he ride easy?”
Jack ran down to the horse, led him
into the bushes, where the wagon could be left concealed,
and had already taken him out of the shafts, before
the stranger came lounging to the spot.
“Pull off the harness,”
said the latter, with the easy air of ordering a nag
at a stable. “And give me that blanket out
of the buggy. I don’t ride bareback for
nobody.” And he spat reckless tobacco-juice.
Jack complied, though angry at the
fellow for being so dilatory and fastidious at such
a time. The strange youth then spread his coat
over the blanket, laid his right hand on it, and his
left on bridle and mane, and with a leap from the
ground threw himself astride the horse, a
display of agility which took Jack by surprise.
“I see you have been on horseback before!”
“Never in my life,” said
the stranger, with a gleam in his dark eyes which
belied his words. And now Jack noticed that he
had a little switch in his hand.
“He won’t need urging.
Be sure and ride well beyond that highest hill before
you turn; and then come quietly around, so as not to
frighten the deer too much.”
The fellow laughed. “I’ve
seen a deer before to-day!” And, clapping heels
to the horse’s sides, he dashed through the bushes.
Jack followed a little way, and from
his ambush saw him come out of the undergrowth, strike
across the prairie, and disappear around the range
The deer were still in sight, stopping
occasionally to feed, and then, with heads in air,
moving a few paces along the slope. Jack waited
with breathless anxiety to see his horseman emerge
from among the hills beyond. Several minutes
elapsed; then, though no horseman appeared, the old
deer, startled by sound or scent of the enemy, threw
high her head, and began to leap, with graceful, undulating
movements, along the hillside.
The fawn darted after her, and for
a minute they were hidden from view in a hollow.
The stratagem had so far succeeded. They had started
toward the woods.
Jack, in an ague of agitation, waited
for the game to show itself again, and, by its movements,
guide his own. At length the fawn appeared on
the summit of a low hill, and stopped. The doe
came up and stopped too, with elevated nostrils, snuffing.
For a rifle, in approved hands, there would have been
a chance for a shot. But the game was far beyond
the range of Jack’s gun.
To try his nerve, however, he took
aim, or, rather, attempted to take aim. His hands if
the truth must be confessed shook so that
he could not keep his piece steady for an instant.
Cool fellow enough on ordinary occasions, he now had
a violent attack of what is called the “buck
Fortunately, the deer had not seen
the horseman; and, while they were recovering from
their first alarm, they gave the young hunter time
to subdue, with resolute good sense, his terrible
They did not stop to feed any more,
but moved on, with occasional pauses, toward the woods;
following the line of the hollows, as Jack had foreseen.
All this time the dog lay whining
at his young master’s heels. He knew instinctively
that there was sport on foot, and could hardly be kept
The deer took another and final start,
and came bounding along toward the spot where the
wagon had stood. But for the excitement of the
moment, Jack must have felt a touch of pity at sight
of those two slender, beautiful creatures, so full
of life, making for their covert in the cool woods.
But the hunter’s spirit was uppermost. He
took aim at the doe, followed her movements a moment
with the moving gun, then fired. She plunged
forward, and dropped dead.
The fawn, confused by the report and
by the doe’s sudden fall, stood for an instant
quite still, then made a few bounds up toward the very
spot where the young hunter was concealed. It
stopped again, within twenty paces of the levelled
gun. There it stood, its pretty spotted side
turned toward him, so fair a mark, and so charming
a picture, that for a moment, excited though he was,
he could not have the heart to shoot. Ah! what
is this spirit of destruction, which has come down
to us from our barbarous forefathers, and which gives
even good-hearted boys like Jack a wild joy in taking
The dog, rendered ungovernable by
the firing of the gun, made a noise in the thicket.
The fawn heard, and started to run away. The provocation
was too great for our young hunter, and he sent a charge
of buck-shot after it. The fawn did not fall.
“Take ’em, Lion!” shouted Jack;
and out rushed the dog.
The poor thing had been wounded, and
the dog soon brought it down. Jack ran after,
to prevent a tearing of the hide and flesh. Then
he set up a wild yell, which might have been heard
a mile away on the prairie, a call for
his horseman, who had not yet reappeared.
Jack dragged the fawn and placed it
beside its dam. There lay the two pretty creatures,
slaughtered by his hand.
“It can’t be helped,”
thought he. “If it is right to hunt game,
it is right to kill it. If we eat flesh, we must
So he tried to feel nothing but pure
triumph at the sight. Yet I have heard him say,
in relating the adventure, that he could never afterwards
think of the dead doe and pretty fawn, lying there
side by side, without a pang.
He now backed his buggy out of the
woods, set the seat forward in order to make room
for the deer behind, and waited for his horse.
“Where can that fellow have
gone?” he muttered, with growing anxiety.
He went to a hill-top, to get a good
view, and strained his vision, gazing over the prairie.
The sun was almost set, and all the hills were darkening,
save now and then one of the highest summits.
Over one of these Jack suddenly descried
a distant object moving. It was no deer this
time, but a horse and rider far away, and going at
a gallop in the wrong direction.
He gazed until they disappeared over
the crest, and the faint sundown glory faded from
it, and he felt the lonesome night shutting down over
the limitless expanse. Then he smote his hands
together with fury and despair.
He knew that the horse was his own,
and the rider the strange youth in whose hands he
had so rashly intrusted him. And here he was,
five miles from home, with the darkening forest on
one side, and the vast prairie on the other; the dead
doe and fawn lying down there on the dewy grass, the
empty buggy and harness beside them; and only his dog
to keep him company.