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   Chapter 5 No.5

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 9049

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

The Turkey-Hunter.

When Harry left Kate, he quietly walked by the side of Crooked Creek, keeping his eyes fixed on the tracks of the strange animal, and his thumb on the hammer of the right-hand barrel of his gun. Before long the tracks disappeared, and disappeared, too, directly in front of a hole in the bank; quite a large hole, big enough for a beaver or an otter. This was capital luck! Harry got down on his hands and knees and examined the tracks. Sure enough, the toes pointed toward the hole. It must be in there!

Harry cocked his gun and sat and waited. He was as still as a dead mouse. There was no earthly reason why the creature should not come out, except perhaps that it might not want to come out. At any rate, it could not know that Harry was outside waiting for it.

He waited a long time without ever thinking how the day was passing on; and it began to be a little darkish, just a little, before he thought that perhaps he had better go back to Kate.

But it might be just coming out, and what a shame to move! A skin that would bring five dollars was surely worth waiting for a little while longer, and he might never have such another chance. He certainly had never had such a one before.

And so he still sat and waited, and pretty soon he heard something. But it was not in the hole-not near him at all. It was farther along the creek, and sounded like the footsteps of some one walking stealthily.

Harry looked around quickly, and, about thirty yards from him, he saw a man with a gun. The man was now standing still, looking steadily at him. At least Harry thought he was, but there was so little light in the woods by this time that he could not be sure about it. What was that man after? Could he be watching him?

Harry was afraid to move. Perhaps the man mistook him for some kind of an animal. To be sure, he could not help thinking that boys were animals, but he did not suppose the man would want to shoot a boy, if he knew it. But how could any one tell that Harry was a boy at that distance, and in that light.

Poor Harry did not even dare to call out. He could not speak without moving something, his lips any way, and the man might fire at the slightest motion. He was so quiet that the musk-rat-it was a musk-rat that lived in the hole-came out of his house, and seeing the boy so still, supposed he was nothing of any consequence, and so trotted noiselessly along to the water and slipped in for a swim. Harry never saw him. His eyes were fixed on the man.

For some minutes longer-they seemed like hours-he remained motionless. And then he could bear it no longer.

"Hel-low!" he cried.

"Hel-low!" said the man.

Then Harry got up trembling and pale, and the man came toward him.

"Why, I didn't know what you were," said the man.

"Tony Kirk!" exclaimed Harry. Yes, it was Tony Kirk, sure enough, a man who would never shoot a boy-if he knew it.

"What are you doing here," asked Tony, "a-squattin' in the dirt at supper-time?"

Harry told him what he was doing, and how he had been frightened, and then the remark about supper-time made him think of his sister. "My senses!" he cried, "there's Kate! she must think I'm lost."

"Kate!" exclaimed Tony. "What Kate? You don't mean your sister!"

"Yes, I do," said Harry; and away he ran down the shore of the creek. Tony followed, and when he reached the big pine-tree, there was Harry gazing blankly around him.

"She's gone!" faltered the boy.

"I should think so," said Tony, "if she knew what was good for her. What's this?" His quick eyes had discovered the paper on the tree.

Tony pulled the paper from the pine trunk and tried to read it, but Harry was at his side in an instant, and saw it was Kate's writing. It was almost too dark to read it, but he managed, by holding it toward the west, to make it out.

"She's gone home," he said, "and I must be after her;" and he prepared to start.

"Hold up!" cried Tony; "I'm going that way. And so you've been getherin' sumac." Harry had read the paper aloud. "There's no use o' leavin' yer bag. Git it out o' the bushes, and come along with me."

Harry soon found his bag, and then he and Tony set out along the road.

"What are you after?" asked Harry.

"Turkeys," said Tony.

Tony Kirk was always after turkeys. He was a wild-turkey hunter by profession. It is true there were seasons of the year when he did not shoot turkeys, but although at such times he worked a little at farming and fished a little, he nearly alw

ays found it necessary to do something that related to turkeys. He watched their haunts, he calculated their increase, he worked out problems which proved to him where he would find them most plentiful in the fall, and his mind was seldom free from the consideration of the turkey question.

"Isn't it rather early for turkeys?" asked Harry.

"Well, yes," said Tony, "but I'm tired o' waitin."

"I'm goin' to make a short cut," continued Tony, striking out of the road into a narrow path in the woods. "You can save half a mile by comin' this way."

So Harry followed him.

"I don't mind takin' you," said Tony, "fur I know you kin keep a secret. My turkey-blind is over yander;" and as he said this he put his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a handful of shelled corn, which he began to scatter along the path, a grain or two at a time. After ten or fifteen minutes' walking, Tony scattering corn all the way, they came to a mass of oak and chestnut boughs, piled up on one side of the path like a barrier. This was the turkey-blind. It was four or five feet high, and behind it Tony was accustomed to sit in the early gray of the morning, waiting for the turkeys which he hoped to entice that way by means of his long line of shelled corn.

"You see I build my blind," said he to Harry, "and then I don't come here till I've sprinkled my corn for about a week, and got the turkeys used to comin' this way after it. Then I get back o' that thar at night and wait till the airly mornin', when they're sartin to come gobblin' along, till I can get a good crack at 'em." With this he sat down on a log, which Harry could scarcely see, so dark was it in the woods by this time.

"Are you tired?" said Harry.

"No," answered Tony; "I'm goin' to stop here. I want to be ready fur 'em before it begins to be light."

"But how am I to get home?" said Harry.

"Oh, jist keep straight on in that track. It'll take yer straight to the store, ef ye don't turn out uv it."

"Can't you come along and show me?" said Harry. "I can't find the way through these dark woods."

"It's easy enough," said Tony, striking a match to light his pipe. "I could find my way with my eyes shut. And it would not do fur me to go. I'll make too much noise comin' back. There's no knowin' how soon the turkeys will begin to stir about."

"Then you oughtn't to have brought me here," said Harry, much provoked.

"I wanted to show you a short way home," said Tony, puffing away at his pipe.

Harry answered not a word, but set out along the path. In a minute or two he ran against a tree; then he turned to the right and stumbled over a root, dropping his bag and nearly losing his hold of his gun. He was soon convinced that it was all nonsense to try to get home by that path, and he slowly made his way back to Tony.

"I'll tell ye what it is," said the turkey-hunter, "ef you think you'd hurt yerself findin' yer way home, and I thought you knew the woods better than that, you might as well stay here with me. I'll take you home bright an' airly. You needn't trouble yerself about yer sister. She's home long ago. It must have been bright daylight when she wrote on that paper, and she could keep the road easy enough."

Harry said nothing, but sat down on the other end of the log. Tony did not seem to notice his vexation, but talked to him, explaining the mysteries of turkey-hunting and the delight of spending a night in the woods, where everything was so cool and dry and still. "There's no nonsense here," said Tony. "Ef there's any place where a feller kin have peace and comfert, it's in the woods, at night."

By degrees Harry became interested and forgot his annoyance. Kate was certainly safe at home, and as it was impossible for him to find his way out of the depths of the woods, he might as well be content. He could not even hope to regain the road by the way they came.

When Tony had finished his pipe he took Harry behind his blind. "All you have to do," said he, "is jist to peep over here and level your gun along that path, keepin' yer eye fixed straight in front of you, and after awhile you can begin to see things. Suppose that dark lump down yander was a turkey. Just look at it long enough and you kin make it out. You see what I mean, don't you?"

"Yes," said Harry, peeping over the blind; "I see it;" and then, with a sudden jump, he whispered, "Tony! it's moving." Tony did not answer for a moment, and then he hurriedly whispered back, "That's so! It is moving."

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