Chapter 5: Vacation
Everyone was glad of a holiday next morning, and all lingered over the breakfast-
table, till Mrs Jo suddenly exclaimed:
'Why, there's a dog!' And on the threshold of the door appeared a great deer-
hound, standing motionless, with his eyes fixed on Dan.
'Hallo, old boy! Couldn't you wait till I came for you? Have you cut away on the
sly? Own up now, and take your whipping like a man,' said Dan, rising to meet
the dog, who reared on his hind legs to look his master in the face and bark as if
uttering an indignant denial of any disobedience.
'All right; Don never lies.' And Dan gave the tall beast a hug, adding as he
glanced out of the window, where a man and horse were seen approaching:
'I left my plunder at the hotel over night, not knowing how I should find you. Come
out and see Octoo, my mustang; she's a beauty.' And Dan was off, with the
family streaming after him, to welcome the newcomer.
They found her preparing to go up the steps in her eagerness to reach her
master, to the great dismay of the man, who was holding her back.
'Let her come,' called Dan; 'she climbs like a cat and jumps like a deer. Well, my
girl, do you want a gallop?' he asked, as the pretty creature clattered up to him
and whinnied with pleasure as he rubbed her nose and slapped her glossy flank.
'That's what I call a horse worth having,' said Ted, full of admiration and delight;
for he was to have the care of her during Dan's absence.
'What intelligent eyes! She looks as if she would speak,' said Mrs Jo.
'She talks like a human in her way. Very little that she don't know. Hey, old Lass?'
and Dan laid his cheek to hers as if the little black mare was very dear to him.
'What does "Octoo" mean?' asked Rob.
'Lightning; she deserves it, as you'll see. Black Hawk gave her to me for my rifle,
and we've had high times together out yonder. She's saved my life more than
once. Do you see that scar?'
Dan pointed to a small one, half hidden by the long mane; and standing with his
arm about Octoo's neck, he told the story of it.
'Black Hawk and I were after buffalo one time, but didn't find 'em as soon as we
expected; so our food gave out, and there we were a hundred miles from Red
Deer River, where our camp was. I thought we were done for, but my brave pal
says: "Now I'll show you how we can live till we find the herds." We were
unsaddling for the night by a little pond; there wasn't a living creature in sight
anywhere, not even a bird, and we could see for miles over the prairies. What do
you think we did?' And Dan looked into the faces round him.
'Ate worms like the Australian fellows,' said Rob. 'Boiled grass or leaves,' added
'Perhaps filled the stomach with clay, as we read of savages doing?' suggested
'Killed one of the horses,' cried Ted, eager for bloodshed of some sort.