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   Chapter 6 No.6

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 10480

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Tony Strikes Out.

There was no doubt about it, something was moving. There was a rise in the ground a short distance in front of the turkey-blind, and a little patch of dark sky was visible between the trees. Across this bit of sky something dark was slowly passing.

"Ye kin see 'most anything in the darkest night," whispered Tony, "ef ye kin only git the sky behind it. But that's no turkey."

"What do you think it is?" said Harry, softly. "It's big enough for a turkey."

"Too big," said Tony. "Let's git after it. You slip along the path, and I'll go round ahead of it. Feel yer way, and don't make no noise if ye run agin anything. And mind this"-and here Tony spoke in one of the most impressive of whispers-"don't you fire till yer dead certain what it is."

With this Tony slipped away into the darkness, and Harry, grasping his gun, set out to feel his way. He felt his way along the path for a short time, and then he felt his way out of it. Then he crept into a low, soft place, full of ferns, and out of that he carefully felt his way into a big bush, where he knocked off his hat. When he found his hat, which took him some time, he gradually worked himself out into a place where the woods were a little more open, and there he caught another glimpse of the sky just at the top of the ridge. There was something dark against the sky, and Harry watched it for a long time. At last, as it did not move at all, he came to the conclusion that it must be a bush, and he was entirely correct. For an hour or two he quietly crept among the trees, hoping he would either find the thing that was moving or get back to the turkey-blind. Several times something that he was sure was an "old har," as hares are often called in Virginia, rushed out of the bushes near him; and once he heard a quick rustling among the dead leaves that sounded as if it were made by a black snake, but it might as well have been a Chinese pagoda on wheels, for all he could see of it. At last he became very tired, and sat down to rest with his back against a big tree. There he soon began to nod, and, without the slightest intention of doing anything of the kind, he went to sleep just as soundly as if he had been in his bed at home. And this was not at all surprising, considering the amount of walking and creeping that he had done that day and night.

When he awoke it was daylight. He sprang to his feet and found he was very stiff in the legs, but that did not prevent him from running this way and that to try and find some place in the woods with which he was familiar. Before long he heard what he thought was something splashing in water, and, making his way toward the sound, he pushed out on the bank of Crooked Creek.

The creek was quite wide at this point, and out near the middle of it he saw Tony's head. The turkey-hunter was swimming hand-overhand, "dog-fashion," for the shore. Behind him was a boat, upside-down, which seemed just on the point of sinking out of sight.

"Hel-low, there!" cried Harry; "what's the matter, Tony?"

Tony never answered a word, but spluttered and puffed, and struck out slowly but vigorously for the bank.

"Wait a minute," cried Harry, wildly excited, "I'll reach you a pole."

But Tony did not wait, and Harry could find no pole. When he turned around from his hurried search among the bushes, the turkey-hunter had found bottom, and was standing with his head out of water. But the bottom was soft and muddy, and he flopped about dolefully when he attempted to walk to the bank. Harry reached his gun out toward him, but Tony, with a quick jerk of his arm, motioned it away.

"I'd rather be drownded than shot," he spluttered. "I don't want no gun-muzzles pinted at me. Take a-hold of that little tree, and then reach me your hand."

Harry seized a young tree that grew on the very edge of the bank, and as soon as Tony managed to flop himself near enough, Harry leaned over and took hold of his outstretched hand and gave him a jerk forward with all his strength. Over went Tony, splash on his face in the water, and Harry came very near going in head-foremost on top of him. But he recovered himself, and, not having loosed his grip of Tony's hand, he succeeded, with a mighty effort, in dragging the turkey-hunter's head out of the water; and, after a desperate struggle with the mud, Tony managed to get on his feet again.

"I don't know," said he, blowing the water out of his mouth and shaking his dripping head, "but what I'd 'most as lieve be shot as ducked that way. Don't you jerk so hard again. Hold steady, and let me pull."

Harry took a still firmer grasp of the tree and "held steady," while Tony gradually worked his feet through the sticky mud until he reached the bank, and then he laboriously clambered on shore.

"How did it happen?" said Harry. "How did you get in the water?"

"Boat upsot," said Tony, seating himself, all dripping with water and mud, upon the bank.

"Why, you came near being drowned," said Harry, anxiously.

"No I didn't," answered Tony, pulling a big bunch of weeds and rubbing his legs with them "I kin swim well enough, but a fellar has a rough time in the water with big boots on and his pockets full o' buck-shot."

"Couldn't you empty the shot out?" asked Harry.

"And lose it all?" asked Tony, with an aggrieved expression upon his watery face.

"But how did it happen?" Harry earnestly inquired. "What were you doing in the boat?"

Tony did not immediately answer. He rubbed at his legs, and then he tried to wipe his face with his wet coat-sleeve, but finding that only made matters worse, he accepted Harry's offer of his handkerchief, and soon got his countenance into talking order.

"Why, you see," said he, "I kept on up the creek till I got opposite John Walker's cabin, where it's narrow, and there's a big tree a-lyin' across-"

"Still following that thing?" interrupted Harry.

"Yes," said Tony; "an' then I got over on the tree and kep' down the creek-"

"Still following?" asked Harry.

"Yes; and I got a long ways down, and had one bad tumble, too, in a dirty little gully; and it was pretty nigh day when I turned to come back. An' then when I got up here I thought I would look fur John Walker's boat-fur I knew he kept it tied up somewhere down this way-and save myself all that walk. I found the ole boat-"

"And how did it upset?" said Harry.

"Humph!" said Tony; "easy enough. I hadn't nuthin to row with but a bit o' pole, and I got a sorter cross a-gettin' along so slow, and so I stood up and gin a big push, and one foot slipped, an' over she went."

"And in you went!" said Harry.

"Yes-in I went. I don't see what ever put John Walker up to makin' sich a boat as that. It's jist the meanest, lopsidedest, low-borndedst boat I ever did see."

"I don't wonder you think so," said Harry, laughing; "but if I were you, I'd go home as soon as I could, and get some dry clothes."

"That's so," said Tony, rising; "these feel like the inside of an eelskin."

"Oh, Tony!" said Harry as they walked along up the creek, "did you find out what that thing was?"

"Yes, I did," answered Tony.

"And what was it?"

"It was Captain Caseby."

"Captain Caseby?" cried Harry.

"Yes; jist him, and nuthin' else. It was his head we seen agin the sky, as he was a-walkin' on the other side of that little ridge."

"Captain Caseby!" again ejaculated Harry in his amazement.

"Yes, sir!" said Tony; "an' I'm glad I found it out before I crossed the creek, for my gun wasn't no further use, an' it was only in my way, so I left it in the bushes up here. Ef it hadn't been for that, the ole rifle would ha' been at the bottom of the creek."

"But what was Captain Caseby doing here in the woods at night?" asked Harry.

"Dunno," said Tony; "I jist follered him till I made sure he wasn't a-huntin for my turkey-blind, and then I let him go long. His business wasn't no consarn o' mine."

When Tony and Harry had nearly reached the village, who should they meet, at a cross-road in the woods, but Mr. Loudon and Captain Caseby!

"Ho, ho!" cried the captain "where on earth have you been? Here I've been a-hunting you all night."

"You have, have you?" said Tony, with a chuckle; "and Harry and I've been a-huntin' you all night, too."

Everybody now began to talk at once. Harry's father was so delighted to find his boy again, that he did not care to explain anything, and he and Harry walked off together.

But Captain Caseby told Tony all about it. How he, Mr. Loudon, and old Mr. Wagner, had set out to look for Harry; how Mr. Wagner soon became so tired that he had to give up, and go home, and how Mr. Loudon had gone through the woods to the north, while he kept down by the creek, searching on both sides of the stream, and how they had both walked, and walked, and walked all night, and had met at last down by the river.

"How did you manage to meet Mr. Loudon?" asked Tony.

"I heard him hollerin'," said the captain.

"He hollered pretty near all night, he told me."

"Why didn't you holler?" Tony asked.

'Oh, I never exercise my voice in the night air,' said the captain. "It's against my rules."

"Well, you'd better break your rules next time you go out in the woods where Harry is," said the turkey-hunter, "or he'll pop you over for a turkey or a musk-rat. He's a sharp shot, I kin tell ye."

"You don't really mean he was after me last night with a gun!" exclaimed Captain Caseby.

"He truly was," declared Tony; "he was a-trackin' you his Sunday best. It was bad for you that it was so dark that he couldn't see what you was; but it might have been worse for ye if it hadn't been so dark that he couldn't find ye at all."

"I'm glad I didn't know it," said the captain earnestly; "thoroughly and completely glad I didn't know it. I should have yelled all the skin off my throat, if I'd have known he was after me with a gun."

After Harry had been home an hour or two, and Kate had somewhat recovered from her transports of joy, and everybody in the village had heard all about everything that had happened, and Captain Caseby had declared, in the bosom of his family, that he would never go out into the woods again at night without keeping up a steady "holler," Harry remembered that he had left his sumac-bag somewhere in the woods. Hard work for a whole day and a night, and nothing to show for it! Rather a poor prospect for Aunt Matilda.

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