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   Chapter 10 No.10

Two Little Confederates By Thomas Nelson Page Characters: 4163

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


After this, times were very hard on the plantation. But the boys' mother struggled to provide as best she could for the family and hands. She used to ride all over the county to secure the supplies which were necessary for their support; one of the boys usually being her escort and riding behind her on one of the old mules that the raiders had left. In this way the boys became acquainted with the roads of the county and even with all the bridle-paths in the neighborhood of their home. Many of these were dim enough too, running through stretches of pine forest, across old fields which were little better than jungle, along gullies, up ditches, and through woods mile after mile. They were generally useful only to a race, such as the negroes, which had an instinct for direction like that shown by some animals but the boys learned to follow them unerringly, and soon became as skilful in "keepin' de parf" as any night-walker on the plantation.

As the year passed the times grew harder and harder, and the expeditions made by the boys' mother became longer and longer, and more and more frequent.

The meat gave out, and, worst of all, they had no hogs left for next year. The plantation usually subsisted on bacon; but now there was not a pig left on the place-unless the old wild sow in the big woods (who had refused to be "driven up" the fall before) still survived, which was doubtful; for the most diligent search was made for her without success, and it was conceded that even she had fallen prey to the deserters. Nothing was heard of her for months.

One day, in the autumn, the boys were out hunting in the big woods, in the most distant and wildest part, where they sloped down toward a little marshy branch that ran into the river a mile or two away.

It was a very dry spell and squirrels were hard to find, owing, the boys agreed, to the noise made in tramping through the dry leaves. Finally, they decided to station themselves each at the foot of a hickory and wait for the squirrels. They found two large hickory trees not too far apart, and took th

eir positions each on the ground, with his back to a tree.

It was very dull, waiting, and a half-whispered colloquy was passing between them as to the advisability of giving it up, when a faint "cranch, cranch, cranch," sounded in the dry leaves. At first the boys thought it was a squirrel, and both of them grasped their guns. Then the sound came again, but this time there appeared to be, not one, but a number of animals, rustling slowly along.

"What is it?" asked Frank of Willy, whose tree was a little nearer the direction from which the sound came.

"'Tain't anything but some cows or sheep, I believe," said Willy, in a disappointed tone. The look of interest died out of Frank's face, but he still kept his eyes in the direction of the sound, which was now very distinct. The underbrush, however, was too thick for them to see anything. At length Willy rose and pushed his way rapidly through the bushes toward the animals. There was a sudden "oof, oof," and Frank heard them rushing back down through the woods toward the marsh.

"Somebody's hogs," he muttered, in disgust.

"Frank! Frank!" called Willy, in a most excited tone.

"What?"

"It's the old spotted sow, and she's got a lot of pigs with her-great big shoats, nearly grown!"

Frank sprang up and ran through the bushes.

"At least six of 'em!"

"Let's follow 'em!"

"All right."

The boys, stooping their heads, struck out through the bushes in the direction from which the yet retreating animals could still be heard.

"Let's shoot 'em."

"All right."

On they kept as hard as they could. What great news it was! What royal game!

"It's like hunting wild boars, isn't it?" shouted Willy, joyfully.

They followed the track left by the animals in the leaves kicked up in their mad flight. It led down over the hill, through the thicket, and came to an end at the marsh which marked the beginning of the swamp. Beyond that it could not be traced; but it was evident that the wild hogs had taken refuge in the impenetrable recesses of the marsh which was their home.

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