Betty Zane HTML version
Isaac hesitated. He realized that he had plunged far into the Black Forest. Here it was
gloomy; a dreamy quiet prevailed, that deep calm of the wilderness, unbroken save for
the distant note of the hermit-thrush, the strange bird whose lonely cry, given at long
intervals, pierced the stillness. Although Isaac had never seen one of these birds, he
was familiar with that cry which was never heard except in the deepest woods, far from
the haunts of man.
A black squirrel ran down a tree and seeing the hunter scampered away in alarm. Isaac
knew the habits of the black squirrel, that it was a denizen of the wildest woods and
frequented only places remote from civilization. The song of the hermit and the sight of
the black squirrel caused Isaac to stop and reflect, with the result that he concluded he
had gone much farther from the fort than he had intended. He turned to retrace his
steps when a faint sound from down the ravine came to his sharp ears.
There was no instinct to warn him that a hideously painted face was raised a moment
over the clump of laurel bushes to his left, and that a pair of keen eyes watched every
move he made.
Unconscious of impending evil Isaac stopped and looked around him. Suddenly above
the musical babble of the brook and the rustle of the leaves by the breeze came a
repetition of the sound. He crouched close by the trunk of a tree and strained his ears.
All was quiet for some moments. Then he heard the patter, patter of little hoofs coming
down the stream. Nearer and nearer they came. Sometimes they were almost inaudible
and again he heard them clearly and distinctly. Then there came a splashing and the
faint hollow sound caused by hard hoofs striking the stones in shallow water. Finally the
Cautiously peering from behind the tree Isaac saw a doe standing on the bank fifty
yards down the brook. Trembling she had stopped as if in doubt or uncertainty. Her ears
pointed straight upward, and she lifted one front foot from the ground like a
thoroughbred pointer. Isaac knew a doe always led the way through the woods and if
there were other deer they would come up unless warned by the doe. Presently the
willows parted and a magnificent buck with wide spreading antlers stepped out and
stood motionless on the bank. Although they were down the wind Isaac knew the deer
suspected some hidden danger. They looked steadily at the clump of laurels at Isaac's
left, a circumstance he remarked at the time, but did not understand the real
significance of until long afterward.
Following the ringing report of Isaac's rifle the buck sprang almost across the stream,
leaped convulsively up the bank, reached the top, and then his strength failing, slid
down into the stream, where, in his dying struggles, his hoofs beat the water into white
foam. The doe had disappeared like a brown flash.
Isaac, congratulating himself on such a fortunate shot--for rarely indeed does a deer fail
dead in his tracks even when shot through the heart-- rose from his crouching position
and commenced to reload his rifle. With great care he poured the powder into the palm