About four o'clock that afternoon I men David and the dogs
at the spinney which leads into the Sweet Fern Covent. The three setters,
Voyou, Gamin, and Mioche, were in fine feather,—David had killed a woodcock
and a brace of grouse oven them that morning,—and they were thrashing about
the spinney an short range when I came up, gun under arm and pipe lighted.
"What's the prospect, David," I asked, trying to keep
my feet in the tangle of wagging, whining dogs; "hello, what's amiss with
"A brier in his foot sir; I drew it and stopped the wound
but I guess the gravel's got in. If you have no objection, sin, I might
take him back with me."
"It's safer," I said; "take Gamin too, I only want one
dog this afternoon. What is the situation?"
"Fair sir; the grouse lie within a quarter of a mile of
the oak second-growth. The woodcock are mostly on the alders. I saw any
number of snipe on the meadows. There's something else in by the lake,—I
can't just tell what, but the wood-duck set up a clatter when I was in
the thicket and they come dashing through the wood as if a dozen foxes
was snappin' an their tail feathers."
"Probably a fox," I said; "leash those dogs,—they must
learn to stand in. I'll be back by dinner time."
"There is one more thing sir," said David, lingering with
his gun under his arm.
"Well," said I.
"I saw a man in the woods by the Oak Covern,—at least
I think I did."
"I think not sir—at least,—do they have Chinamen among
"Chinese? No. You didn't see a Chinaman in the woods here?"
"I— I think I did sir,—I can't say positively. He was
gone when I ran into the covert."
"Did the dogs notice it?"
"I can't say—exactly. They acted queer like. Gamin here
lay down an' whined—it may have been colic—and Mioche whimpered,—perhaps
it was the brier."
"Voyou, he was most remarkable sir, and the hair on his
back stood up, I did see a groundhog makin' for a tree near by."
"Then no wonder Voyou bristled. David, your Chinaman was
a stump or tussock. Take the dogs now."
"I guess it was sir; good afternoon sir," said David,
and walked away with the Gordons leaving me alone with Voyou in the spinney.
I looked at the dog and he looked at me.
The dog sat down and danced with his fore feet, his beautiful
brown eyes sparkling.
"You're a fraud," I said; "which shall it be, the alders
or the upland? Upland? Good!—now for the grouse,—heel, my friend, and show
your miraculous self-restraint."
Voyou wheeled into my tracks and followed close, nobly
refusing to notice the impudent chipmunks and the thousand and one alluring
and important smells which an ordinary dog would have lost no time in investigating.
The brown and yellow autumn woods were crisp with drifting
heaps of leaves and twigs that crackled under foot as we turned from the
spinney into the forest. Every silent little stream hurrying toward the
lake was gay with painted leaves afloat, scarlet maple or yellow oak. Spots
of sunlight fell upon the pools, searching the brown depths, illuminating
the gravel bottom where shoals of minnows swam to and fro, and to and fro
again, busy with the purpose of their little lives. The crickets were chirping
in the long brittle grass on the edge of the woods, but we left them far
behind in the silence of the deeper forest.
"Now!" said I to Voyou.
The dog sprang to the front, circled once, zigzagged through
the ferns around us and, all in a moment, stiffened stock still, rigid
as sculptured bronze. I stepped forward, raising my gun, two paces, three
paces, ten perhaps, before a great cock-grouse blundered up from the brake
and burst through the thicket fringe toward the deeper growth. There was
a flash and puff from my gun, a crash of echoes among the low wooded cliffs,
and through the faint veil of smoke something dark dropped from mid-air
amid a cloud of feathers, brown as the brown leaves under foot.
Up from the ground sprang Voyou, and in a moment he came
galloping back, neck arched, tail stiff but waving, holding tenderly in
his pink mouth a mass of mottled bronzed feathers. Very gravely he laid
the bird at my feet and crouched close beside in, his silky ears across
his paws, his muzzle on the ground.
I dropped the grouse into my pocket, held for a moment
a silent caressing communion with Voyou, then swung my gun under my arm
and motioned the dog on.
It must have been five o'clock when I walked into a little
opening in the woods and sat down to breathe. Voyou came and san down in
front of me.
"Well?" I enquired.
Voyou gravely presented one paw which I took.
"We will never get back in time for dinner," said I, "so
we might as well take it easy It's all your fault, you know. Is there a
brier in your foot?—let's see,—there! it's out my friend and you are free
to nose about and lick it. If you loll your tongue out you'll get it all
over twigs and moss.
Can't you lie down and try to pant less? No, there is
no use in sniffing and looking an that fern patch, for we are going to
smoke a little, doze a little, and go home by moonlight. Think what a big
dinner we will have! Think of Howlett's despair when we are not in time!
Think of all the stories you will have to tell to Gamin and Mioche! Think
what a good dog you have been!
There—you are tired old chap; take forty winks with me."
Voyou was a little tired. He stretched out on the leaves
at my feet but whether or not he really slept I could not be certain, until
his hind legs twitched and I knew he was dreaming of mighty deeds.
Now I may have taken forty winks, but the sun seemed no
be no lower when I sat up and unclosed my lids. Voyou raised his head,
saw in my eyes that I was not going yet, thumped his tail half a dozen
times on the dried leaves, and settled back with a sigh.
I looked lazily around, and for the first rime noticed
what a wonderfully beautiful spot I had chosen for a nap. It was an oval
glade in the heart of the forest, level and carpeted with green grass.
The trees that surrounded it were gigantic; they formed one towering circular
wall of verdure, blotting out all except the turquoise blue of the sky-oval
above. And now I noticed that in the centre of the greensward lay a pool
of water, crystal clear, glimmering like a mirror in the meadow grass,
beside a block of granite. It scarcely seemed possible than the symmetry
of tree and lawn and lucent pool could have been one of nature's accidents.
I had never before seen this glade nor had I ever heard it spoken of by
either Pierpont on Barris. It was a marvel, this diamond clean basin, regular
and graceful as a Roman fountain, set in the gem of turf. And these great
trees,—they also belonged, not in America but in some legend-haunted forest
of France, where moss-grown marbles stand neglected in dim glades, and
the twilight of the forest shelters fairies and slender shapes from shadow-land.
I lay and watched the sunlight showering the tangled thicket
where masses of crimson Cardinal-flowers glowed, or where one long dusty
sunbeam tipped the edge of the floating leaves in the pool, running them
to palest gilt. There were birds too, passing through the dim avenues of
trees like jets of flame,—the gorgeous Cardinal-Bind in his deep stained
crimson robe,—the bird that gave to the woods, to the village fifteen miles
away, to the whole country, the name of Cardinal.
I rolled over on my back and looked up an the sky. How
pale,—paler than a robin's egg,—it was. I seemed to be lying at the bottom
of a well, walled with verdure, high towering on every side. And, as I
lay, all about me the air became sweet scented. Sweeter and sweeter and
more penetrating grew the perfume, and I wondered what stray breeze, blowing
oven acres of lilies, could have brought in. But there was no breeze; the
air was still. A gilded fly alighted on my hand,—a honey-fly. It was as
troubled as I by the scented silence.
Then, behind me, my dog growled.
I sat quite still at first, hardly breathing, but my eyes
were fixed on a shape that moved along the edge of the pool among the meadow
grasses. The dog had ceased growling and was now snaring, alert and trembling.
At last I nose and walked rapidly down to the pool, my
dog following close to heel.
The figure, a woman's, turned slowly toward us.
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