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   Chapter 26 SISTER’S TURKEYS

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 5562

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

But Lettie was not at the barbecue, and to tell the truth, Hiram Strong was disappointed.

Despite the fact that she had seemed inclined to snub him, the young farmer was vastly taken with the pretty girl. He had seen nobody about Scoville as attractive as Lettie-nor anywhere else, for that matter!

He was too proud to call at the Bronson place, although Mr. Bronson invited him whenever he saw Hiram. And at first, Lettie had asked him to come, too.

But the Western girl did not like being thwarted in any matter-even the smallest. And when Hiram would not come to take Pete Dickerson's place, the very much indulged girl had showed the young farmer that she was offended.

However, the afternoon at Langdon's Grove passed very pleasantly, and Hiram and his party did not arrive at the farm again until dusk had fallen.

"I'll go down and shut your turkeys up for the night, Sister," Hiram said, after he had done the other chores for he knew the girl would be afraid to go so far from the house by lantern-light.

And when he reached the turkey coop, 'way down in the field, Hiram was very glad indeed that he had come instead of the girl.

For the coop was empty. There wasn't a turkey inside, or thereabout. It had been dark an hour and more, then, and the poults should long since have been hovered in the coop.

Had some marauding fox, or other "varmint", run the young turkeys off their reservation? That seemed improbable at this time of year-and so early in the evening. Foxes do not usually go hunting before midnight, nor do other predatory animals.

Hiram had brought the barn lantern with him, and he took a look around the neighborhood of the empty coop.

"My goodness!" he mused, "Sister will cry her eyes out if anything's happened to those little turks. Now, what's this?"

The ground was cut up at a little distance from the coop. He examined the tracks closely.

They were fresh-very fresh indeed. The wheel tracks of a light wagon showed, and the prints of a horse's shod hoofs.

The wagon had been driven down from the main road, and had turned sharply here by the coop. Hiram knew, too, that it had stood there for some time, for the horse had moved uneasily.

Of course, that proved the driver had gotten out of the wagon and left the horse alone. Doubtless there was but one thief-for it was positive that the turkeys had been removed by a two-footed-not a four-footed-marauder.

"And who would be mean enough to steal Sister's turkeys? Almost everybody in the neighborhood has a few to fatten for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Who-did-this?"

He followed the wheel marks of the wagon to the road. He saw the track where it turned into the field, and where it turned out again. And it showed plainly that the thief came from

town, and returned in that direction.

Of course, in the roadway it was impossible to trace the particular tracks made by the thief's horse and wagon. Too many other vehicles had been over the road within the past hour.

The thief must have driven into the field just after night-fall, plucked the ten young turkeys, one by one, out of the coop, tying their feet and flinging them into the bottom of his wagon. Covered with a bag, the frightened turkeys would never utter a peep while it remained dark.

"I hate to tell Sister-I can't tell her," Hiram said, as he went slowly back to the house. For Sister had been "counting chickens" again, and she had figured that, at eighteen cents per pound, live weight, the ten turkeys would pay for all the clothes she would need that winter, and give her "Christmas money", too.

The young farmer shrank from meeting the girl again that night, and he delayed going into the house as long as possible. Then he found they had all retired, leaving him a cold supper at the end of the kitchen table.

The disappearance of the turkeys kept Hiram tossing, wakeful, upon his bed for some hours. He could not fail to connect this robbery with the other things that had been done, during the past weeks, to injure those living at the Atterson farm.

Was the secret enemy really Peter Dickerson? And had Pete committed this crime now?

Yet the horse and wagon had come from the direction opposite the Dickerson farm, and had returned as it came.

"I don't know whether I am accusing that fellow wrongfully, or not," muttered Hiram, at last. "But I am going to find out. Sister isn't going to lose her turkeys without my doing everything in my power to get them back and punish the thief."

He usually arose in the morning before anybody else was astir, so it was easy for Hiram to slip out of the house and down to the field to the empty turkey coop.

The marks of horse and wagon were quite as plain in the faint light of dawn as they had been the night before. In the darkness the thief had driven his wagon over some small stumps, amid which his horse had scrambled in some difficulty, it was plain.

Hiram, tracing out these marks as a Red Indian follows a trail, saw something upon the edge of one of the half-decayed stumps that interested him greatly.

He stood up the next moment with this clue in his hand-a white, coarse hair, perhaps four inches in length.

"That was scraped off the horse's fetlock as he scrambled over this stump," muttered Hiram. "Now, who drives a white horse, or a horse with white feet, in this neighborhood?

"Can I narrow the search down in this way, I wonder?" and for some moments the youth stood there, in the growing light of early morning, canvassing the subject from that angle.

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