Foam, or The Life and Adventures of a Razor-Backed Hog
HE was just an ordinary Razor-backed Hog in the woods of South. Virginia, long-legged and long-snouted, strong in shoulder, hard and tight in the flanks, and equipped with sharp white tusks that, though short, were long enough to inspire terror in any dog that dared to try her mettle. She roamed in the glades by Prunty's during summer, or in winter, when food was scarce, rendered a half-hearted and mercenary allegiance to the Prunty barnyard which furnished a sort of mart, where many different races met to profit by the garnered stores or waste.
The early spring had passed. Bright summer had begun; redbird and robin were stating it in set terms, while wind-root and Mayflower were posting the fact on their low banks, and the Razor-back wandered from under the barn, blinking her pale-lashed eyes. Pensively nosing the ground, she passed by untouched some corn that she certainly smelled, and, a day before, would have gobbled. But she was uneasy and nosed about till she reached the "branch" where she drank deeply. Still swinging slowly, she crossed the stream, and wandered into the woods. She listened hard, and looked back once or twice, then changed her course, crossed the brook twice more—yes, that is their way when they shun pursuit—and wandered on till, far in the shades, she reached an upturned tree root. She had been there before, and the layer of grass and leaves showed the beginnings of a bed. After sniffing it over, she set about gathering more grass, stopping like a statue occasionally when some strange sound was wind-borne to her ears. Once or twice she moved away, but each time returned to lie down uneasily in the nest she had prepared.
Oh Mother, All-mother Nature that lays such heavy hand upon maternity in towns, where help is near! How kind thou art to the wildwood beast that all alone must face the ordeal. How doubly blest is she, in strength and soon deliverance! And when the morning sun arose, it peeped a rosy peep for a moment under the old gnarled roof-root, to see a brood of cowering pink-nosed piglets, with their mother lying as a living barrier against the outside world.
Young life is always beautiful. And those who picture pigs as evil passions, dirt and lust expressed in flesh would have marvelled to see the baby beauty of that brood and the sweet perfection of the mother's love. She had no eyes for the pretty rounded forms or soft clear tints, but she loved them with her full returning force, and when, with their growing strength and need for food, they nosed and nudged and mouthed her body for their natural sustenance, that double row of noselets gave double thrills of mother joy and dear content. During the time when they could not follow, she grudged the moments when she must slip away to find the needful food and drink, nor went beyond the reach of their slightest call.
Her life all winter had centred in the barnyard. But the wish to keep her young ones hidden made her lead them deeper into the woods when they began to run. And the sportive, rollicking crew, boring their little gimlet noses into everything near and soft, soon grew in vigor and acquired a wonderful knowledge of woodland smells. There were hosts of things to eat in the Maytime woods. Every little early flower has a bulbous root that is a store of food. Every berry that follows the flower is food. And when it so falls out that these be poisonous, and such there be, the good All-mother has put in it a nasty little smell, a funny tang, or a prickle that sounds a warning to the wood-wise pig and makes it unpleasant to the ever-moving finger-tipped inquiring noses of the rollicking grunting piggy band. These were the things the mother knew. These were the things the young ones learned by watching and smelling. One of them, a lively youngster in reddish hair, found a new sensation. They were not eating yet, but the mother was rooting and eating all day, and the youngsters rushed to smell each new place that she upheaved. Grubs she welcomed as a superior kind of roots, and the children sniffed approval. Then a queer, broad, yellow-banded, humming, flying thing dropped down on a leaf near Redhead's nose. He poked it with his nose finger-tip. And then it did—it did—something he could not understand, but oh, how it hurt! He gave a little "Wowk" and ran to his mother. His tiny bristles stood up and he chopped his little foxlike jaws till they foamed, and the white froth flecked his cheeks. It was a sun and night before little Foamy Chops had got over it, but it did him no serious harm, and he remembered.
They had been running a week or more in the woods when something happened to show how the mother's mind was changed by her family. Loud rumbling noises were heard not far ahead, and now they were coming near. Mother understood them quite well—the sounds of men approaching. She had long known such sounds in the barnyard days as promise of food, but now she thought of her brood. It might mean danger to them, and she turned about, giving a low "Woof" that somehow struck terror into the hearts of the young ones. They had never heard that before, and when she wheeled and walked quickly away, the brood went scrambling behind her in a long silent troop, with Foamy Chops at his mother's tail.
This was a small incident, but it was a turning point, for thenceforth the mother and her brood had broken with the barnyard and its folk.
Lizette and the Bear
Lizette Prunty was a big girl now, she was thirteen and not afraid to go far alone in the hills. June with its sweet alluring strawberries was in the woods, and Lizette went afield. How is it that the berries just ahead are always bigger, riper, and more plentiful than those around? It is so, and she kept hurrying on till farther from home than ever before! Then a log-cock hammered on a hollow tree. My! How loud it was, and Lizette paused open-mouthed. Then, as she harkened, a different sound was heard, a loud "sniff, sniff." The brushwood swayed and out there stepped a huge black Bear.
At the little frightened "Oh!" the Bear stopped, reared up to his great height, and stood there gazing and letting off, at each few seconds, a loud, far-reaching "Woof." Poor Lizette was terror stricken. She could neither speak nor run. She simply stood and gazed. So did the Bear.
Then another noise arose, a deep grunt and a lot of little grunties. "A whole pack of Bears," thought poor Lizette, but she could not move. She merely gazed toward the new sounds. So did the Bear.
This time when the tall grass parted it was to show, not a lot of Bears, but the old Razor-back long missing from the barnyard, and her lively grunting brood.
Very rarely does a Bear molest a child, very rarely does he miss a chance for pork. The black monster dropped on all fours and charged at the mother and her brood.
The fierce defiant war-grunts of the mother might have struck terror into any but a big black Bear, for the Razor-back had sharp tusks and mighty jaws, and sturdy legs, and flanks all armored well with double hide and bristle thatch, and—the heart of a devoted mother.
She stood her ground and faced the foe, while the little ones, uttering cries of fear, crowded against her sides or hid behind her. Only little Foamy stood with his head aloft to watch the awful enemy.
Even a Bear must be impressed when a Razorback is out in fighting mood to save her young, and he walked around the group while she ever turned to face him. She had backed into a protecting bush that made any but front attack impossible. And the Bear walked this way and that, without seeing any good chance to close, for the mother always fronted him, and those champing armed jaws were not to be lightly faced.
Then the Bear made a short charge and stopped. The mother, ever fronting, saw him pause, and now she charged. She ripped his arm and bit the other paw, but he was on her now, and in a rough and tumble the Bear had every chance. He stunned her with a blow, he raked her sides, he crunched her leg. He gripped her in a fierce embrace that robbed her of all fighting breath, while his hind claws ripped her open, and as they struggled in the final throe Lizette recovered use of sense and limb; she turned and fled for home.
"Oh, father it was awful! Just down by Kogar's Creek. I can take you there in half an hour."
So father came with dog and gun. Lizette was guide, and in a little while they were among the strawberry tracts of Kogar's Creek. Turkey-buzzards were sailing over the place as they drew near. They found the very spot. There lay the mother Razor-back, torn and partly devoured. Under her body and half hidden about were the young, crushed, each of them, by one blow of that cruel mighty paw.
Prunty was uttering mannish grunts and growls at each fresh discovery, Lizette was weeping, when the dog broke into a tirade at something far under the bush; and bravely facing him there showed a little red-headed piglet, chopping with his tiny jaws till the foam flew, and squeaking out defiance to the new terror.
"Hello, there's one escaped!" exclaimed father. "Isn't he sassy?" So while little Foamy was heroically facing the dog, the father reached through the brush from behind, and seizing the piggie by the hind leg, he lifted him protesting, squealing, and champing, to drop him into his game bag.
"Poor little chap, see how his nose is skinned! He must be hungry. I'm afraid he's too young to live."
"Oh, do let me have him, Father; I'll feed him," and so Lizette's moral claim to Foamy was legalized on the spot.
Prunty had brought a huge bear trap to the place, and now he set it by the body of the victim. But all it ever caught there was an unlucky turkey-buzzard. The Kogar's Creek Bear was too cunning to be taken by such means: and buzzards, insects, and kindly flowers wiped out all tragic records on that spot.
Pig, Duck and Lamb
Poor little Foamy Chops. He was so hungry, so forlorn, and his nose was so sore where the Bear had scratched him. He did not know that Lizette was his friend, and he champed his little harmless jaws at her in defiance when she put him in the box that was to take the place of all outdoors for him. She washed his wounded nose. She brought him some warm milk in a saucer, but he did not understand it that way. Hours went by and still he crouched in dull, motionless despair. Then Lizette's own nurse came with a feeding bottle. Foam kicked, squealed, and champed his jaws, but strong hands wrapped him up in a cloth. The bottle feeder was put to his open mouth. It was warm and sweet. He was oh! so hungry now! He could no more help sucking than any other baby could, and when the bottle was empty, he slept the long sweet sleep he so much needed.
When you help some one it always makes you love that some one very much; so of course Lizette was now devoted to little Foam; but he knew her only as a big dangerous thing, and hated her. Yet not for long. He was an intelligent little Razorback; and before his tail had the beginning of a curl he learned that "Lizette" meant "food," so he rose each time to meet her. Next he found he could bring Lizette—that is, food—if he squealed, and thenceforth his daily practice developed a mighty voice.
In a week his shyness was gone. He was now transferred to a stall in the stable. In a month he was tame as a cat and loved to have his back scratched, and the large wound on his nose was healed, though it left an ugly scar.
Then two companions entered his life, a duck and a lamb, strange creatures that Foam inspected narrowly out of his white-rimmed eyes, with distrust and a little jealousy. But they proved pleasant persons to sleep with; they kept him so warm. And soon he devised means of enjoying them as playthings; for the lamb's tail was long and pullable, and the duck could be tossed over his back by a well-timed "root!"
The box stall was now too small, but a fenced-in yard gave ample runway. Here in the tall weeds little Foam would root and race, or tease his playmates, or hide from his foster-mother. Yes, many a time when she came and called she had no response; then carefully, anxiously searching about she would come on the little rascal hiding behind some weeds. Knowing now that he was discovered, he would dash forth grunting hilariously at every bound, circling about like a puppy, dodging away when she tried to touch him, but at last when tired of the flirtation he would surrender on the understanding that his back was to be scratched.
Many a circus has shown the wondering world a learned pig, a creature of super-animal intelligence, and yet we say of a dull person, "He is as stupid as a pig," which proves merely that pigs vary vastly. Many are stupid, but there are great possibilities in the race; some may be in the very front rank of animal intelligence. The lowest in the scale of pigs is the fat porker of the thoroughbred farm. The highest is the wild Razor-back, who lives by his wits. And soon it was clear that Foam was high in his class. He was a very brainy little pig. But he developed also a sense of humor, and a real affection for Lizette.
At the shrill whistle which her father had taught her to make with her fingers in her teeth, he would come racing across the garden—that is, he would come, unless that happened to be his funny day, when, out of sheer caprice, he would hide and watch the search.
One day Lizette was blacking her shoes with some wonderful French polish that dried quite shiny. It happened to be Foam's day to seek for unusual notice. He tumbled the lamb on top of the duck, ran three times around Lizette, then raised himself on his hind legs and put both front feet on the chair beside Lizette's foot, uttering meanwhile a short whining grunt which was his way of saying, "Please give me some!" Then Lizette responded in an unexpected way: she painted his front feet with the French blacking, which dried in a minute, and Foam's pale pinky hoofs were made a splendid shining black. The operation had been pleasantly ticklesome, and Foam blinked his eyes, but did not move till it was over.
Then he gravely smelled his right foot, and his left foot, and grunted again. It was all new to him, and he didn't just know what to make of it; but he let it pass. It was not long before the wear and tear of his wearing, tearsome life spoiled all his French polish, and next time Lizette got out her brush and blacking Foam was there to sniff that queer smell and offer his hoofs again for treatment. The sensation must have pleased him, for he gravely stood till the operation was done, and thenceforth every blackening time he came and held his feet for their morning shine.
Foam as Defender
Has a pig a conscience? What do you mean by conscience? If it means a realization that one is breaking a law, and that it will bring punishment and that a continuation will surely pile up harder punishment, then animals have consciences in proportion to their brains. And Foam, being born with ample wits, had judge and jury, accuser and witness, in his own heart when he himself was criminal.
He had been forbidden to tease the lamb, who was a harmless woolly fool, and the duck, who was worse. Scolding and switching were things he understood, and because they were finally associated with teasing his companions, he learned that the last delightful pleasures must be classed as crime. More than once when he was riotously chasing Muff or tumbling Fluff into the buttermilk, his mistress, without showing herself or speaking, merely gave a short whistle, the effect of which was to send a guilty-looking little pig to hide in the bushes. Surely he was conscience-stricken.
Now it happened one morning that Lizette looked from her window over the garden and saw Foam standing very still, with his head low and sidewise, his eyes blinking, the very tip of his tail alone twisting—just his attitude when planning some mischief. She was about to use her whistle, but waited a moment to be sure. The lamb was lying under the tiny rainshed in a sort of dull somnolence. Suddenly the duck said "Quack," and ran from the grass to cower beside the lamb. The latter gave a start and blew its nose. Then out of the tall weeds there dashed a lumbering, wolfish puppy dog, breaking into a volley of glorious "yaps" as he charged on the helpless duckling. What fun it was! And the lamb, too, was so frightened that the valiant puppy assailed it without fear.
"Yap, yap, yap!" How brave a dog can be when his victim runs or is helpless! The duck quacked, the lamb gave a bleat of terror, and the cur, intoxicated by success and hankering for the highest glories known to his kind, rushed on the duckling, tore off mouthful after mouthful of feathers from his back, and would in a little while have rended him in pieces. But another sound was heard, the short hoarse "Gruff, gruff, gruff" sounds that mean a warpath pig. We call them grunts, because made by a pig, but the very same sounds uttered by a Leopard are called short roars, and these were what came naturally from Foam as he bounded into the scene. Every bristle on his back was erect, his little eyes were twinkling with green light. His jaws, now armed with small but sharp and growing tusks, were chopping the malignant "chop, chop" that flecks the face with foam, proclaims the war-lust, and lets the wise ones know that the slumbering wild beast deep inside is roused. Not love of the duck, I fear, but the urge of deep-laid ancient hate of the Wolf, was on him: "a Wolf was raiding his home place." The spirit of a valiant battling race was peeping from those steadfast eyes. Race memories of ancestral fights boiled in his blood. Foam charged the dog.
Was ever bully more surprised? Gleefully the puppy had clutched the duckling's wing to drag him forth, when the little avalanche of red rage pig was on him, and the heave that struck his ribs had pins in it; it tumbled him heels over head, scratched and even bleeding. His yaps of glorious victory were changed into howls and yelps of dire defeat. Foam was on him again. The cur sought to escape; limping, howling through a mouthful of plundered feathers, he raced around the shed with Foam behind, then out the door, and through the weeds. A cur with a tail all tin-bedecked went never more loudly or more fast, and where or how he cleared the fence was almost overquick for certain seeing, and whence he came, or whither he went, was far from sure—only this: that his yelping died away in the woods and no more was seen of him.
Lizette and her father both were on hand. Their dumb astonishment at the unexpected quality discovered in the little Razor-back was followed by wild hilarity at the discomfort of the cur, and his ignominious flight before the roused and valorous Foam.
They went into the garden, and the pig came running to them. Lizette was a little in awe of him at first, but he was now no longer a fighting demon, just a funny rollicking little Razor-back, and when she wondered what he would do next, and what she should do, he held up both his feet on a bench that she might give them their morning coat of polish, and stuck his nose so tight between them that she gave that a coat of blacking, too.
Lizette maintains that Foam ceased teasing the lamb and the duck from that time. He certainly ceased soon after, for the duck was grown up and soon waddled off to join his web-footed kinsmen on the pool, and he and the lamb parted company in an unexpected manner.
A Bad Old Bear
Just as there are rogues among Elephants, idlers among Beavers, and mangy man-eaters among Tigers, so there are outlaws among Bears—creatures at war with all the world; perverted brutes that find pleasure chiefly in destruction, making themselves known by their evil deeds, and in the end making enemies strong enough to turn and rend them. The Kogar's Creek Bear was one of these cruel ones. So far as any one knows he never had any family of his own, but roamed into the Kogar's Creek woods probably because his own kind drove him out of their own country in the mountains. So he drifted into Mayo Valley, where Bears were scarce, and wandered about doing all the mischief he could, smashing down fences, little sheds, or field crops that he could not eat, for the pleasure of destroying. Most Bears eat chiefly vegetable food, preferring berries and roots; some Bears eat a little of all kinds, but Kogar's had such a perverted taste that all he sought was flesh. Calf's flesh he loved, but he would not dream of facing a cow, much less a bull. He delighted in robbing birds' nests, because it was so easy: he would work half a day at a hole to get at a family of Flying Squirrels. At first almost any kind of flesh suited him; and he had eaten more than one little baby Bear that chanced to stray from its mother. But his favorite food was pork. He would go a long way for a porker, and when he caught it, he would keep it alive as long as possible for the pleasure of hearing it squeal.
Of course he took only little ones that were unprotected, and it was a great surprise to him that day when Foam's mother made such a fight. He had always thought that pigs of that size were easy game. He took revenge on the little ones, and he growled and limped for many a day after the affair. It kept him away from Razor-backs and he preyed on little Rabbits in their nests, and such things as could not defend themselves. But his wounds healed, he forgot the lesson of that day, and longed for a feast of pork.
A wonderfully keen nose had the Kogar's Bear. The wind was a wireless laden with stories for him, and it needed but a little study to discover some special message, then a following up to reap the benefit.
He was not far from Prunty's when the soft breeze rippling through the dawn woods brought to him the sweet alluring smell of pig, and he followed it, swinging his black head as he sifted out the invisible trail from others on the wind.
Marvellously silent is a Bear going through the woods, the biggest, bulkiest of them pass like shadows, and Kogar's reached the Prunty homestead swiftly and noiselessly, led at last to the little paddock where Foam, the author of the guiding smell, was sleeping with his head across the woolly back of the lamb.
After a brief survey of the fence the Bear, finding no opening, proceeded to climb over. But it was not meant for such a bulk of flesh; the paling swayed, yielded, and fell, and the Bear was in the paddock.
If Foam had been slower, or the lamb had been quicker, everything would have been different. The Bear rushed forward, Foam darted aside, the lamb sat still, and a heavy blow from the Bear's paw put an end to its chance of ever moving just as Foam disappeared through the hole in the fence and was lost to sight in the thicket.
The Bear's march was soundless indeed, but the crack of the fence, the bleat of the lamb, the rush of that charge, the scared but defiant snort, snort, snort of Foam as he rushed away, made noise enough to rouse the farmhouse, for it was in truth just on their rousing time, and the farmer peered forth to see a big black Bear scramble over the fence with the lamb in his jaws.
Then was there a great noise, shouting for dogs, holloaing for men, and Prunty, with the ready rifle in hand, dashed into the woods after the Bear.
How slowly a caged Bear seems to hulk around, how little does it let us know the speed of a wild, free Bear on rugged ground. The brambles, rocks, and benches seemed designed to hinder the dogs, but the Bear passed swiftly on. Then the broad expanse of Kogar's Creek was reached, the Bear launched forth to swim across. The strong stream bore him swiftly down. It was pleasant to ride the flood and see the banks go slipping behind him, so lazily he rode, till the hounds' loud baying was faint in the distance, before he paddled out on the other side. And the dogs when they came to the spot were baffled, nor did a search of the other bank shed any light on the mystery.
Far back on the trail they found the body of the lamb.
It was sport for the men and fierce joy for the dogs. Lizette alone seemed to suffer all the horror and loss. She searched the little paddock in vain, then whistled and whistled.
She followed the trail of the hunters as far as she could, and then at the edge of a thick swamp she stopped. She was all alone. The swamp was open water or mud; it seemed foolish to go on, so she listened a minute, then gave two or three sharp whistled blasts. A soggy noise was heard, a splashing that gave her the creeps, it sounded so Bearlike. Then a grunt, and there appeared a muddy beast of no particular shape, but surely at one end were two small blinking eyes and from somewhere beneath them a friendly sounding grunt. Yes, surely it was, no—yes, now she was sure, for the wanderer had shaken off most of the mud and was upreared, holding his two forefeet on the log to have his hoofs polished; and they needed it as never before, nor was he quite content till Lizette had taken a stick and carried out their ancient understanding by scratching his muddy back.
Only the animal man with a nose can understand the masterfulness of smells, how through the memory they can dominate the brain, and without regard to the smell itself or anything but the memories, be things of joy or pain or fear. Foam had nearly forgotten his early days and his mother's death, but his nose had not, and the smell of Bear had brought it back, and driven him forth in a terror stampede.
That was why he had heard without heeding the old, familiar whistle call.
But the fear was over now; therein lies courage, not to be without fear, but to overcome it. And Foam rioted around, circling full tilt through the bushes around Lizette, stopping short and stock-still in the pathway, head down, eyes twinkling, till Lizette made a pass at him with a stick. Then away he went, careering, pirouetting, and snorting the little joy snorts that in pig talk stand for "Ha! ha! ha!"
Thus they neared the house, when all at once the merry pig was gone. Foam stood like a pointer at a certain spot. His bristles rose, his eyes snapped green, and his jaws, well armed already, were champing till they foamed. Lizette came near to stroke him; he stepped aside, still champing, and now she saw and understood: they were crossing the fresh trail of the Bear; that terrible odour was on it.
But—and this escaped Lizette at the time—the actions of Foam now no longer told of fear; that he had overcome: this pose, his deep-voiced "woof," his menacing tusks, his green-lit eyes, though he was but half grown, were the signs of a fighting Boar. She little guessed how much the spirit in him yet might mean to her. Yes, ere two moons had waned her very life indeed was doomed in absence of all human help to rest in keeping of that valiant little beast, protected only by the two small ivory knives he bore, and the heart that never found in fear its guide.
October is summer still in South Virginia; summer with just a small poetic touch of red-leaf time, and Lizette, full of romantic dreams, with little daring hopes of some adventure, too, had gone up the Kogar's Creek to a lonely place to swim in the sluggish bend. She was safe from any intrusion, so did not hesitate to strip and plunge, rejoicing in the cooling water, as only youth in perfect health can do when set in a perfect time. Then she swam to the central sandbar and dug her pink toes into the sand as she courted the searching sunbeams on her back.
Satisfied at length, she plunged to swim across to the low point that was the only landing place, and served as a dressing-room. She was halfway over when she saw a sight that chilled her blood. There coiled on her snowy clothes with head upright, regardant, menacing, was a Banded Rattlesnake, the terror of the mountains, at home in woods or on the water.
It was with sinking heart and trembling limbs that Lizette swam back and landed again on the sandbar.
Now what? A boy would have sought for stones and pelted the reptile away, but there were no stones, and if there had been, Lizette could not throw like a boy.
She did not dare to call for help, she did not know who might come, and she sat in growing misery and fear. An hour dragged slowly by, and the reptile kept its place. She was roasting in the sun, the torment of sunburn was setting in. She must do something. If only father would come! There was just a chance that he might hear her whistle. She put her fingers in her teeth and sent forth the blast that many a Southern woman has had to learn. At first it came out feebly, but again and again, each time louder it sounded, till the distant woods was reached, and she listened in fear and hope. If father heard he would know, and come. She strained her ears to catch some sound responding.
The reptile did not move. Another half-hour passed. The sun was growing fiercer. Again she gave the far-reaching call; and this time, listening, heard sounds of going, of trampling, of coming; then her heart turned sick. Some one was coming. Who? If it were her father he would shout aloud. But this came only with the swish of moving feet. What if it should be one of those half-wild negro tramps! "Oh, father, help!" She tried to hide as the sounds came nearer—hide by burying herself in sand.
The reptile never stirred.
The bushes swayed above the steep bank. Yes, now she saw a dark and moving form. Her first thought was a "Bear." The bushes parted, and forth came little Foam, grown somewhat, but a youngster still. Lizette's heart sank. "Oh, Foam, Foamy, if you only could help me!" and she sent a feeble whistle that was meant for her father, but the Razor-back it was that responded.
Passing quickly along the bank, he came. There was but one way down. It led to the little sandy spit where lay her clothes, and her deadly foe.
Overleaping logs and low brush came the agile Razor-back. He landed on the sand, and suddenly was face to face with the rattling, buzzing banded Death.
Both taken by surprise recoiled, and made ready for attack. Lizette felt a heart clutch, to see her old-time playmate face his fate. The Boar's crest arose, the battle light came in his eyes, the "chop, chop" of his weapons sounded; the age-long, deep instinctive hatred of the reptile came surging up in his little soul, and the battle fire was kindled there, with the courage that never flinches.
Have you heard the short chopping roar that rumbles from the chest of a boar on battle bent—a warcry that well may strike terror into foemen who know the prowess that is there to back its promise? Yes, even when it comes from the half-grown throat of a youngster, with mere thorns for tusks.
In three short raucous coughs that warcry came, and the Boar drew near. His golden mane stood up and gave him double size. His twinkling eyes shone like dull opals as he measured up his foe. He was a little puzzled by the white garments, but edging around for a better footing, he came between the reptile and the stream, and thus, unwittingly, he ended every chance of its escape.
No mother but Mother Nature taught him the moves. Yet she was a perfect teacher. Nothing can elude the Rattler's strike. It baffles the eye; lightning is not swifter. Its poison is death to all small creatures when absorbed, and absorbents there are in every creature, all over its body, except on the cheeks and shoulders of a pig. Presenting these then, Foam approached. The Rattler's tail buzzed like a spinner, and his dancing tongue seemed taunting. With a clatter of his ivory knives and a few short, coughlike snorts, the Razor-back replied, and approached guardedly, tempting the snake to strike at its farthest possible range. Both seemed to know the game, although it must have been equally new to both. The snake knew that his life was at stake. His coils grew tighter yet, his baleful eyes were measuring the foe. A feint, and another, and a counter feint, and then—flash, the poison spear was thrown. To be dodged? No, no creature can dodge it. Foam felt it sting his cheek, the dreadful yellow spume was splashed on the wound, but only less quick was his sharp up-jerk. His young tusks caught the reptile's throat and tossed it as he had often tossed the duckling, and ere the poison reptile could recover and recoil, the Razor-back was on him, stamping and snorting. He ripped its belly open, he crushed its head, champing till his face and jaws were frothed, grunting small war-grunts, and rending, nor ceased till all there was left of the death-dealer was evil-smelling rags of scaly flesh ground into the polluted dust.
"Oh, Foam, oh, Foamy, God bless you!" was all Lizette could say. She almost fainted for relief. But now the way was clear. A dozen strokes and she was on the point beside the Boar. Una had found her Lion again.
And Foam, she hardly knew what to think of him. He curveted around her on the sand. She almost expected to see him sicken and fall; then joyfully, thankfully she remembered what her father had told her of the terrors of snake-bite, from which the whole hog race was quite immune.
"I wish I knew how to reward you," she said with simple sincerity. Foam knew, and very soon he let her know: all he asked in return was this: "You scratch my back."
Are the wild things never ill? Is disease unknown among them? Alas! we know too well that they are tormented pretty much as we are. They have a few remedies that are potent to help the strong, but the weak must quickly die.
And what are the healing things they use? How well they are known to every woodsman! The sunbath, the cold-water bath, the warm-mud bath, the fast, the water cure, the vomit, the purge, the change of diet and place, and the rest cure, with tongue massage of the part where there is a bruise or an open wound.
And who is the doctor who prescribes the time and measure? Only this: the craving of the body. Take the thing and so much of it as is agreeable; when it becomes painful or even irksome, that is the body's way of saying "enough."
These are the healing ways of animals, these are the things that every woodsman knows. These are the things that are discovered anew each generation by some prophet of our kind. If he calls them by their simple names he is mocked, but if he gives them Latin names, he is a great scientist and receives world rewards.
Autumn came on Mayo Valley, a thousand little yellow fairy boats were sailing southward on Kogar's Creek, and the "pat, pat, pit" of falling nuts was heard through all the woods. Rich, growing food are nuts, and Foam was busied stuffing himself each day: racing perhaps after butterflies, pretending to root up some big tree, kneeling to swing his head and gash the sod with his growing tusks, springing to his feet to bound a few yards, then halt in a moment, frozen to a statue. Rejoicing in his strength, he grew more strong, and the skating of the final leaves that left the trees found him grown in shank and jaw, lank and light as yet, but framing for a mighty Boar. The tragedy of the broken paling in the fence had opened up a larger life to him. 'Tis ever thus. He never more was an inmate of that pen: he inhabited Virginia now.
Down in the black muck swamp he had discovered the trailing ground-nut vines, and when he rooted them out, his nose said, "These are good." Yes, he remembered dimly that his mother used to eat that smell. They furnished a pleasant change from the tree nuts, and he feasted and grew fat. Then he rooted out another old-time root, with a fierce and burning tang, he knew that without munching it, and he tossed the root aside with others of its kind; big, fat, and tempting to the eye they were, but Foam had a safer guide.
Then gorged, he wandered to a sunny slope and, grunting comfortably, dropped flat side flop upon the leaves in lazy, swinish ease.
A bluejay flew just above and shrieked, "You rooter, you rooter!" A wood-pewee snapped flies above his ear, a bog-mouse scrambled over his half-buried leg, yet Foam dozed calmly on.
Then afar a strange sound stirred the silence, a deep-voiced, wailing, whining "Wah-wah-wah, wow-w-w!" then almost screaming, then broken by sobs and snorts, and sometimes falling and muffled, then clear and near—the strangest, maddest medley, and so strong it must be the voice of some great forest creature.
Foam was on his feet in a heart-beat, and stock-still there for ten. Now nosing like a pointer with ears acock, with every sense at strain, he crept forward like one spell-drawn.
Slowly back to the rich bottomland the weird sounds led, and then peering through the wire grass he saw his ancient foe, rooting up, crunching, swallowing one after another those terrible burning roots, the white round roots that sting, that tear your very throat, that gripe your bowels, that wring the cheeks with torture like the brands that men leave in the smoking summer land.
Yet on he kept digging, munching, weeping, wailing—digging another, munching it as the tears rolled from his eyes, and the burning pain scorched his slobbering jaws. And still another did that great black monster dig and mouth, and wept and wailed as he did so, and another and another was crowded down his sobbing throat.
Was he insane? Far from it. Was he starving? Not so; the ground was thick with nuts. Then why this dreadful, self-inflicted pain? Who was his master that could order it? Foam had no thoughts about it. The Bear himself could have told you nothing. And yet he was yielding to an overmastering inner guide. And these are things we think, but do not surely know: the Bear that seeks only meat for food invites a dire disease that chiefly hurts the skin, and doubly those who make that diet flesh of swine.
It is an ailment of burning skin; the body seems in torment of a myriad tiny fires. And this we think we know: the fiery root affords relief—a slow but sure relief.
And Foam, a youngster yet, afraid, but less afraid, backed slowly from the field a little puzzled, wholly uncomprehending anything but this: his enemy was eating roots and bawling as he ate, and still was bawling out aloud when Foam was far away.
It was a bountiful harvest in the woods that year, and when the branches were bare, the chicaree had seven hollow trees crammed with nuts and acorns, and a well-lined nest near each.
The Muskrat had made huge haycocks in the marsh, the Woodchucks were amazing fat, and every Tree-mouse laid up food as for a three years' famine. The warning of the signs so clear came true: the winter was hard and white.
The woods had been mightily pleasing to young Foam, but now were dull and dreary. His bristly hair grew long and thick as the weather cooled, but not enough; a colder storm set in and Foam at last was forced to seek the shelter of the barn. There were other pigs about, most of them vulgar porkers of the fat and simple table sort, but there were also one or two aristocrats of the real Razorback strain. At first they were somewhat offish, inclined to thrust him aside like a mere pedigreed pig, but his legs were stout and his tusks were sharp, and he stood quite ready to make good. So by steps he joined himself to the group that snuggled under the barn by night and took its daily comfort at a trough—kinsmen mildly tolerant of each other.
The winter passed and sweet Mistress April of the little leaves was nigh. The influence of the time was on the hills and in the woods; it even reached under the barn among the pigs and stirred them up to life, each in his sort. The fat porkers came slowly forth to the sun, placidly grunting and showing a mild concern in such things of interest as came in range of their low-level vision.
Foam trotted forth like a young colt. How long his legs had grown! How big he was! What shoulders and what a neck of brawn! He was taller than any other in the yard, his gold-red hair was rank, and on his neck and back it made a great hyena mane. When he walked there was spring in his feet, alertness in his poise, and the logy porkers seemed downladen with themselves as they slowly heaved aside to let him pass. The joy of life was on him, and he tossed a heavy trough up in the air, and curveted like a stallion. Then a distant sound made him whirl and run like a mustang. It was Lizette's whistle. They had come very close together that winter, and clearing the low wall like a Deer, Foam reached the door to get a special dish of things he loved, to have his back scratched, and, last, to hold up his forefeet for a rubbing, if not indeed each time for a coat of polish.
"That Foam, as ye call him, Lizette, is more dawg than hawg," Farmer Prunty used to say as he watched the growing Razor-back following the child or playing round her like a puppy—a puppy that weighed 150 pounds, this second springtime of his life. But Foam was merely reviving the ways of his ancestors, long lost in sodden prison pens.
Grizel Seeks Her Fortune
It's a long dusty road from Dan River Bridge to Mayo, yet down its whole length there trotted a sleek young Razor-back. She was barely full grown, shaped in body and limbs like a Deer, and clad in a close coat of glistening grizzly hair that flashed in the sun when the weather was right, but now was thickly sprinkled with the reddish dust of the old Virginia highway.
Down the long pike she trotted, swinging her sensitive nose, cocking her ears to this or that sound, running some trace a while, like an eager Fox, or making a careful smell study of posts that edged her trail, or marked the trails of offshoot.
An hour, and another hour, she journeyed on, with the steady tireless trot of a searching Razor-back, alert to every promise offered by her senses.
The miles reeled by, she was now in Mayo Valley, but still kept on. Now she found a good rubbing post. It seemed somewhat pleasing to her, she used it well, but soon went on.
What was she doing?
How often we can explain some animal act by looking into ourselves. There comes a time in the life of every man and woman when they are filled with a yearning to go forth into the world and seek their fortune. And the wise say, "Let them go!" This same impulse comes on wild things, and the wise ones go. This, then, is what Grizel was doing. She was seeking her fortune.
She stopped at many a crossroad and she studied many a faint suggestion on the breeze, but she still kept trotting on, till evening saw her in the woods that lies beyond the lower bridge of Kogar's Creek.
The Scratching Post
Of all the scratching posts on Prunty's farm quite the best was the rough old cedar corner that marks the farthest point of pasture down the swale. A rough trunk for a rough corner, so it still bore in its imperishable substance the many short knots of its living days. They made a veritable comb at just the fittest height. Every pig in the pasture knew it well. None passed it without a halt to claim its benevolence.
The Prunty swine were loitering near; the huge old grandam shouldered another back so she might rub. Then Foam came striding by. His strength and tusks had weeks past given him right of way. He neared the post. Then, shall I tell it, the post sang out aloud, yes, sang aloud, in a tongue that you or I could never have understood. Even could our duller senses have heard it what message could we get from:
But Foam, whose eyes here helped him not, was all ablaze. Not waiting for the huge old hulking grandam to swing away, he sent her rolling down the slope with the armpit heave and pitch that the wrestler knows makes double of his strength.
The gold-red mane on his back stood up as he nosed and mouthed the post, then he raked his flanks against it, and reared and rubbed again; ran forward a little to scan the trail, came back to rub in a new excitement, then raced like a Mad-moon buck, and came again, drove others from the post, and circled off still farther in the woods.
Then nosing a trail that to the eye said nothing, he followed it at speed. This way and that, then ever more sure, sprang through a swamp-wood thicket and into a sunny open, to see leap also from the screen a slim gray form, a Razor-back, one of his own high blood: and more, his nostrils bade him know that this was the very one that left the message on the post.
She fled, he bounded after. Across the open stretch, with Foam still nearer, a keen-eyed witness might have doubted that she ran her fastest. Who can tell? This much is sure: before the edge of woods was reached he overtook her, and she wheeled and faced, uttering little puffs, half fear, half begging for release; and face to face, a little on the slant they stood, strong Foam and slim Grizel.
There be some whose loves must slowly join their lives, who must overcome doubts and try each other long before convinced. And there be those who know at once when they have met the one, their only fate. This brief decree Foam gathered from the post; and Grizel was sure when gently rubbing on her cheeks she felt the ivory scimitars that are the proofs and symbols of the other mind.
She knew not what she went that day to seek, but now she knew she had found it.
The barnyard saw no more of Foam for days, for he wandered in the pleasant woods making close acquaintance with his new-found mate. The Red Squirrel on the tree limb chattered and coughed betimes as though to let them know that he was about, but they sought the farthest woods and so saw little but its shyest native folk.
Then one day as they wandered a strange noise came from the swamp. Foam moved toward the place, with Grizel, hip near, following. The way was down the hill toward a black muck swale. Coming close they found the usual belt of tall ferns. Foam pushed through these and in a moment found himself face to face with his foe, the huge black Kogar's Bear.
Foam's mane stood up, his eyes flashed with green fire, his jaws went "chop, chop" with deep, portentous sound. The Bear rose up and growled. He should have felt ridiculous, for he was coated with mud from his neck to the tip of his tail, black, sticky, smelly mud, the muddiest of mud. He must have wallowed there for hours. Yes, the Red Squirrel could have told you for hours on many different days. He was taking the cure that the wild beast takes: the second course, the one that follows the purge.
But Foam thought not of that. Here was the thing he hated and one time feared, but now feared less and less. Still he was not minded to risk a fight—not yet. The Bear, too, remembered the day of his mangled paw and the gaping wounds in his side, given by a lesser foe than this, and sullenly with growl or grunt, each slowly backed, and went his divers way.
You see that turkey-buzzard a mile up yonder? He seems a speck to you, you poor blind human thing, but he has eyes, he can watch you as he swings, he can see your face and the way you are looking, and also he can see the Deer on the mountain miles away.
He cannot see the forest floor, for the leafy roof is over. But there are gaps in the roof, and they often give a peep of things going on below. So the Turkey-buzzard one day watched a scene that no man could have seen.
A gray-brown furry creature with a short and restless tail came gliding clown a little forest trail that was the daily path of many creatures seeking to drink at the river, but Gray-coat ran each log that lay near his line of travel, then stopping at an upright limb that sprang from the great pine trunk which made his present highway, he halted in his slinking pose, rose to the full height of his four long legs, raised high his striped head, spread his soft velvety throat, white with telling spots of black, rubbed his whiskers on the high branch, rubbed his back, and gazed up into the blue sky, displaying the cruel, splendid face of a mountain Wildcat.
In three great airy wheels the Vulture swung down, down, watching still the picture through the peephole of the roof.
The Wildcat scratched his chin, then his left cheek, then his right, and was beginning all over again when a medley of sounds of voices and of many feet was heard afar, and Gray-coat's eager, alert, listening poise was a thing of power, restraint, and of wondrous grace.
The Buzzard, swinging lower, heard them, too.
The sounds came nearer; Old Gray-coat of the cruel face sprang lightly from the fallen pine to the stump where once it grew; there with the wonderful art of the beast of prey he melted himself into the stump—became nothing but a bump of bark.
The sounds still grew. Plainly a host of creatures were coming down the game trail. The Wildcat gazed intently from his high lookout. The lesser cover moved, then out there stepped a mother Razor-back with a brood of jostling, rustling, grunting, playful little Razor-backs behind her. Straying this way and that, then bounding to overtake mother, they made a little mob of roysterers; and sometimes they kept the trail, but sometimes wandered. Stringing along they came, and the bobtailed Tiger on the stump gazed still and tense, with teeth and claws all set, for here was a luscious meal in easy reach. The mother passed the stump with its evil-eyed watchman, and also the first and second of the rollicking crew. Then there was a gap in the little procession, and the Tiger gathered himself for a spring, but other sounds of feet and gruntings told that more were coming, and they rollicked after mother; another gap, and last and least of all, the runtie of the brood.
Everything was playing the Tiger's game. He sprang. In a moment he had the little pig by the neck. Its scream of pain sent a thrill through all the band. The mother wheeled and charged. But the big cat was wise. He had made a plan. In one great scrambling bound he was high and safe on the pine stump, with the little pig squealing beneath his paws where he held it tight and remorselessly as he gazed down in cruel scorn on the tormented mother vainly ramping at the stump.
At her highest stretch she could barely touch its top edge. Beyond that was past her reach, and the big cat on the stump struck many a cruel blow with his armed paw on the frantic mother's face. There seemed no way, no hope for Runtie. But there was, and it came not from the head of the procession, as the cat had feared, but from the tail.
The Turkey-buzzard, lower yet, not only saw and heard, but even got some of the sense of shock the great cat got when the bush tops jerked and swayed and parted, and out below there rushed a huge Wild Boar.
If Cruel-face had been at all cowed by the raging mother, he would have been terror stricken now, and when that mighty beast rose up and reared against the stump, his jaws with their sabres could sweep halfway over the top, and the gray-coated villain had to move quickly to the other side, and ever change as the Boar rushed around, but he never lost hold on the baby pig, whose squeals were getting very feeble now.
Then the silent Turkey-buzzard and the noisy applauding Red Squirrel saw a strange thing happen: The stump was beyond reach of the Boar at his highest stretch, but the great pine log was there, and three leaps away was a thick side limb that made a place of easy ascent. 'Twas here the mother scrambled up, then along the log, and now with a little leap she was on the stump and confronting the Tiger.
He faced her with a horrible snarl, a countenance of devilish rage; to scare her was his intent. What, scare a mother Razor-back, whose young is screaming "Mother, Mother, help me!" She went at him like a fury. The stinging blow of his huge paw was nothing to the lunge, slash, and heave she launched with all her vim, and the Tiger tumbled from the stump with a howl of hate, and landed on the ground, and leaped and might have escaped, but the biggest of the brood, its warrior blood stirred up by all this war, seized his broad paw and held him just a moment—just enough, for now the Boar was there.
Oh, horrors! what a shock it is, even when the fallen foe is one we hate! The mighty rush of the Boar, the click of weapons, the hideous rumbled hate, the animal heaving sounds, the screech and chop, the flying mist of hair, the maze of swift and desperate act, the drop to almost calm, then the slash, slash, slash with sounds of rending pelt and breaking bone, and tossing of a limp form here and there, or the holding of it with both forefeet while it is mangled yet again.
The Boar grew calm, his battle madness went, and the little pigs came, one by one, to sniff and snort and run away. They had added another that day to their catalogue of smells.
And Runtie, he was lying deep in the brush on the other side of the stump. His mother came and nosed him over and nudged him gently and walked away and came again to nudge. But the brothers were lively and thirsty: she must go on with them. She raged against the fierce brute that had killed her little one. She lingered about, then led the others to the brook. Then they all came back. The little ones were once more merry and riotous. The mother came to nudge and coax the limp and bloody form, but its eyes had glazed. The father tossed the furry trash aside, and then all passed on.
These things the Turkey-buzzard saw, and I would I had his eyes, for this was a chapter in the story of Foam and Grizel that was told only by the silent little signs that it takes a hunter's eyes to see and read.
The Pork-Eating Bear
Why does pork-eating become so often a mania? Why does it commonly end in dire disease? We do not know. We have never heard of such penalties with any animal foods but pork. Surely the fathers of the church were wise who ruled that their people touch it not at all.
The Kogar's Bear was a pork-eater now. His range was all the valley where there were pigs, and his nightly resort was some pig-pen where the fat and tender young porkers were an easy prey, far, far better to the taste and much safer to get than the bristle-clad young rooters of the Razor-back breed. He seemed to know just when and where to go to avoid trouble and find sucklings. Of course he did not really know, but each time he raided some pig-pen the uproar of hounds and hunters for a day or more after induced him to seek other pastures, and when he happened on them his nose was sure to guide him to the pen of fatling pigs. Traps were set for him, but avoided, because he never went twice to the same pen. So the combination of shyness and keen smelling looked like profound sagacity, yet we must not scoff at it, for it gave results that seemed, and were, in a sense, the very same.
Is it not a curious fact that those who give up to a craze for some special meat always learn to prefer it a little "high," and "higher," and finally are not well pleased unless the food is positively tainted—a mass of vile corruption? And this they learn from the old-time animal habit of burying food when they have more than they need at once.
Thus it was that Scab-face, striding dark and silent through the woods by the branch, led by a smell he loved came on the unburied body of Runtie. The mother was away perforce with her living charge.
The Turkey-buzzard had not touched it, for it was fallen under brushwood. The orange and black sexton beetles were not there; it had not yet come in their department. It was a windfall for the Bear.
Reaching his long scabby nose into the thicket, he pulled it out, carried it a little way, then digging a hole he buried it deep to ripen for some future feast.
Wild animals usually remember their "cache," as the hunters call it, and come to the place when they chance in the neighborhood to see if it is all right. Thus Kogar's called next day.
When a wild animal loses near and dear ones at a given place it goes to that place afterward for days to "mourn," as the Indians say. That is, if they are passing near, they turn aside to sniff about the place, and utter deep moans or paw up the ground, or rub the trees for a few moments, then pass on. The mourning is loudest the earliest days, and is usually ended by the first shower of rain, which robs the place of all reminiscent smells.
One day had gone since Runtie's end, and Grizel, passing on the trail, came now to mourn. And thus they met.
When a Razor-back is much afraid it gives the far-reaching tribal call for help. When it is not afraid it gives the short choppy warcry and closes with the enemy; and this is where Grizel made a sad mistake. She gave the warcry and closed. The Bear backed and dodged. They circled and sparred. The Bear would have gladly called a halt, though he was far bigger and stronger, but Grizel was bolstered up by the smell memories of the place. Her mother love was her inner strength, and still she closed; the Bear still backed till they neared the open space that lies along the high cut bank over the stream. Now was Grizel's chance, with open level ground; she charged. The Bear sprang aside and struck with his armed paw. Had the blow landed on her ribs it might have ended her power, but it was received on her solid shoulder mass. It sent her staggering back, and as she went she gave the loud shrilling call for help, the call she should have given at first, the blast that stirs the blood of the Razor-back who hears it as the coast patrol is stirred by the cry for help. And again she fronted the Bear. Slowly turning this way and that, they faced each other, each watching for a chance. Grizel made a feint, the foe swung back, she charged. The Bear recoiled a little, braced, then swung and dodged, then as she passed he struck a mighty blow that hurled her, badly bruised and struggling, down the slope three leaps away, and over the cut bank, to splash into the stream below.
She could swim quite well, but loved it not. She splashed as she struck out, and gave no cry, for the blow had robbed her of her wind. Then the kindly stream bore her quickly down to a far and easy landing.
A moving in the bushes, a large animal sound, and on the bank there loomed a bulk of reddish black. Grizel now scrambled out and with the low short sounds of recognition they came together. But Foam had come a little late. The Bear was gone, and gone with a new-found sense of triumph, Scab-face had vanquished a full-grown Razor-back.
Hill Billy Bogue
Jack Prunty was raging. He walked around his new garden that morning using language that is never heard nowadays except perhaps on the golf links, certainly not permissible elsewhere. Here were lines of lettuce gone and whole patches of beets and watermelons. The asparagus bed, though not in active service, was trampled, while the cabbage patch was simply ruined.
His negro help was careful to point out that all the damage was by "hawgs"—this to prevent any suspicion lighting on the innocent. But it was not necessary. The broken fence, the myriad hoofmarks and bites taken out of turnips and cabbage were proof enough; no blame could rest on the negro or his kin.
Jack Henty was raging. He walked around his ample barnyards that morning uttering Virginianisms, as his faithful negro foreman pointed out (to prevent mistakes) that the Bear had gone here and there, and here had carried off the thoroughbred pedigreed imported Berkshire, hope of its race; and it wasn't the first they had lost, for Henty and his friends had other pens, and in many raids their losses had been heavy. But this was the climax. The sow on which his hopes were built was the victim selected by the Bear.
This is why Hill Billy Bogue received two invitations in one day to come with his "houn' dawgs" and win immortal fame as the defender of gardens and pens.
There were reasons for favoring Prunty. Henty was little loved: he was too rich and grasping, and had used harsh language toward Bogue, with threats of law for crimes that certainly had been committed by some one near.
So Hill Billy appeared at the Prunty home with five gaunt dogs and a new sense of social uplift. Much as the undertaker dominates all the household at a funeral, so Hill Billy at once assumed the air and authority of a commander and expert.
"Ho, ho! Wall I be goshed! Look at them for tracks—a hull family. Gee whiskers! what an ole socker! I bet yeh that was a fo'-hunderpound Boar."
"Oh, daddy," cried Lizette, "do you suppose it was Foam?"
"Don't care if it was," said Prunty. "We can't stand this destruction; it's a case of stop right now."
The hunter kept on his examination of the trail. He was a shiftless old vagabond, useless for steady work, and a devotee of the demijohn, but he certainly knew his business as a tracker. He announced, "Just a regulation ole Razor-back family, a long-legged sow, a hatchin' o' grunters, and a Boar as big as a chicken house."
The fence was little more than a moral effect. Conscientious cows and incompetent ducks it might keep out, but to a Razor-back it was practically an invitation to attempt and enjoy. Some such thought was in Lizette's mind when she said, "Daddy, why can't we make a real fence, and a strong one that no pig could break through? It would be easy around three acres."
"Who'll pay for it?" said Prunty. "An' what's the use of a Razor-back anyway? They're no good."
"Wall," said the great man who was now combining Napoleon, Nimrod, and Sherlock Holmes, "didn't ye hear about the three little kids at Coe's school struck by a rattler and all died this week, the hull three of 'em? Rattlers is getting mighty thick up thet-a-way. Folks says it's all cause they cleaned out the Razor-backs, and I guess that's the answer all right."
Then Napoleon Nimrod Holmes Bogue began to run the hoofmarks through the woods. The wanderings of the band had ceased. All here had followed the leader, so it was easy to keep the trail for a quarter of a mile. Hill Billy kept it; then, sure of the main fact, he went back, unchained the five gaunt hounds, worshipped in libation to his god, took rifle in hand, and swung away with the long, free stride of the woodsman.
Prunty was to head direct for Kogar's Hill, and then guided by the sounds in the valley below make for the spot where the clamor of the dogs announced at length that the Razor-backs were at bay.
Lizette went with her father.
The Hog Warrior and the Hounds
The hounds showed little interest for a while, for the trail was cold, but Hill Billy kept them to it for a mile or two. Then there were plenty of signs of a pig band's recent visit, and Billy was relieved of the labor of trailing, for now the scent was fresh, and the hounds grew keen.
Then loud musical baying rang in the forest as they trailed and blew their hunting blasts. There were sounds of going in the distance, of rushing through grass and thickets, and short squeals, and some deeper sounds more guttural, and ever the baying of the hounds.
The chase swung far away, and Billy had much ado to follow. Then the sounds were all at one place, and Billy knew that the climax was at hand, the moment of all that the hunter loves, when the fighting quarry is at bay, and ready for a finish fight.
The baying of the hounds was changed as he hurried near; now it was a note of fear in some; then there was an unmistakable yell of pain, and again the defiant baying that means they are facing a quarry that they hold in deep respect.
Forcing his way through the thick brushwood, Billy got within twenty yards of the racket, but still saw nothing.
"Yap, yap, yap, yip, yip, yow, yow," went the different dogs. Then sounded the deep-chested "Gruff, gruff" of a huger animal, and a wee, small sound, a "click, click." Oh, how little it seemed, but how much it meant—the click of a Razorback's tusks—the warning that comes from a fighting Boar. The baying moved here and there, then the bushes swayed, there was a sound of rushing, there were hound yells of pain and fear, and a yelping that went wandering away to the left, and another unseen rush with a deep-toned, "Howrrr," and nothing to be seen. It was maddening, his dogs being killed, and he could take no part.
Bogue rushed recklessly forward. In a moment he was facing a scene that stirred him. He saw the huge hog warrior charge, he saw the flashing scimitars of golden white, he saw but two dogs left—then only one, the mongrel of the pack, and the Razor-back, sighting his deadliest foe, dashed past the dog and charged. Up went the rifle, but there was no chance to aim; the ball lodged harmlessly in the mud.
Now Billy sprang aside, but the Boar was near, was swifter, stronger, less hindered by the brush. The hunter's days would have ended right there but for the remaining dog, who seized the Razor-back by the hock, and held on as for dear life.
Hill Billy saw his chance. Plunging out of the dangerous thicket to the nearest tree, he swung himself up to a place of safety, as the Boar, having slashed this wastrel of the pack, came bristling, snorting and savage, to ramp against the harboring tree, and speak his hatred of the foe in raucous, deep-breathed, grating animal terms.
Lizette and an Old Friend
What joy it is to be in a high place and see the great leafy world at our feet below. What joy on a hunt, to hear the stirring hunting cry; to know that some great beast is there, and now we may try our mettle if we will. Some memory of his youth came back on him as Prunty with Lizette held eager harkening to the chase. How clear and close it sounded, and when the baying centred at one spot Old Prunty was like a boy, and, rushing as he should not at his age, he stumbled, slid, and fell, giving himself a heavy shock, and hurting his ankle so badly that he sat down on a log and railed in local language at his luck.
The baying of the hounds kept on. He tried to walk, then realizing his helplessness, he exclaimed: "Here, Lizette, you hurry down to Bogue and tell him to hold back for me as long as he can. I'll follow slowly. You better carry the gun."
So Lizette set off alone, guided only by the clamor of the hounds. For twenty minutes it was her sufficient guide, then it seemed to die away. Then there were a few yelps and silence. Still she kept on, and, hearing nothing, she gave a long shout that Bogue up the tree did not hear; so she tried another means, her whistle, and judging that the other hunter was coming to his rescue, Bogue shouted many things that she could not understand.
Then, seeking guidance from his voice, and offering guidance to her father, she whistled again and again. It reached them both, but it also reached another. The great Boar raised his head. He ceased to ramp and growl. He gave an inquiring grunt. Then came anew the encouraging whistle.
From his high, wretched perch Bogue saw Lizette suddenly appear alone but carrying the rifle, and mount a log to get a view. He shouted out:
"Look out! He's going your way! Get up as high as you can and aim straight!"
It was all so plain to him, he did not understand why she should be in doubt. But she gave another loud whistle. A great red-maned form came quickly through the bushes, uttering a very familiar soft grunt. At first she was startled, then it became clear.
"Foam, Foam, Old Foamy!" she cried, and as the huge brute came trotting, his bristling crest sank down. He reared upon the log. He whispered hog-talk in his chest, he rubbed his cheek on her foot, he moved his shoulder hard against the log, and then held up his mighty hoofs arow for the pleasant rub that one time meant "French polish." Nor did he rest content till their ancient pact was carried out, and Lizette had scratched his broad and brawny back. Sitting on the log beside him, she scratched while Bogue in the tree screamed warnings and urgings to, "Shoot, shoot, or he'll kill you!"
"Shoot, you fool!" she snorted. "I'd as soon think of shooting my big brother; and Foam wouldn't harm me any more than he would his little sister."
So the wild beast was tamed by the ancient magic, and presently the big Boar, grunting comfortably, went to his woods and was seen that day no more.
The Bear Claims Another Victim
Yes, the Bear came back on a later day to his cache beside the river and the scene of his victory; there robbed the Vultures and had his horrid feast. He lingered in the neighborhood, and thus it was that fortune played for him. When next the Razor-back crew came rooting and straggling through the woods, the mother ahead and father too far astern to be a menace, they came to the fording place of the river. The little ones loved it not, held back, but mother pushed on ahead, had almost to swim in the middle. The family lingered on the bank with apprehensive grunts. One by one they screwed up their courage for the plunge, till only one was left. Finding himself alone, he set up a very wail of distress.
It reached other ears. Old Kogar's knew the cry of a lost porker. The voice was so small that his own valor was big. He glided swiftly that way. The mother pig, minded to teach her youngster a lesson of prompt obedience, paid no heed to his cry, but went on.
The left-behind one squealed still louder. The bank above his head crumbled a little under a heavy tread. There was the thud of a mighty blow, and the little pig was stilled. Then the long head and neck of Kogar's reached down and picked him from the mud. Swiftly passing up the bank, following up the slope of a leaning tree, he landed on a high ledge, and so passed over the hill.
On the other side, safer than he knew even, he sat to mouth and maul the victim, and to think in his own unthinking way, "Sweet indeed is woodland pork. The creatures are not so strong and dreadful as they seemed to me once. I fear them no longer. I will henceforth kill and eat."
The Defeat of Hill Billy
When Hill Billy got home that night he found three of his hounds awaiting him, one of them badly cut up in body, the others very badly cut up in spirit, for the interest they thenceforth took in hunting Razor-backs was a very small, cold, dying, near-dead thing. And start them fairly as he would it was aggravating to find how, soon or late, they took some side or crossing trail that ended; where a Coon, perhaps, had climbed a tree, or a 'Possum sought the safe retreat of a crevice far in a rock.
Hill Billy might have gone to the shack of a rival hunter and borrowed more effective hounds, but that would have been admitting that his own were cowards and failures. His pride revolted at the thought. He was a true hunter at heart, not easily balked; he was strong and crafty, too, and quite able to run a trail if it seemed worth such an effort. So when a new message came from Prunty with a new tale of destruction and promises of wealth for successful service, he answered: "Wait till it comes a good rain, then take the trail myself. I'll show ye."
And this was why the morning after the first heavy rain that memorable still hunt was organized. Only Prunty and Bogue took part. The hunter didn't want a crowd; this was a still hunt. Lizette's appeals for peace and a real fence were ignored. "You shall have his ivories for a bracelet; I'll get a gold band put on," was the bribe her father offered, nearly as much to buy off himself as his daughter.
The Day of Judgment
Heavy rain wipes out all previous tracks. It makes the new track deep and strong. It stills all rustling leaves or crackling twigs. After heavy rain a good hunter needs no hound. Away they went, Hill Billy and Prunty, each taking a rifle often proved, for both were riflemen. They differed little in age, but Prunty was sore pressed to keep up with the lank, lithe hunter who strode ahead scanning every yard of ground for some telltale sign.
Down in the swamp were ancient marks now dim with rain. All they said, and said it feebly, was, "Yes, but some days back."
So the hunters coursed along the swamp edge and down the branch, then over the low hills, and on to Kogar's Creek, and Prunty, breathless, called a halt. Hill Billy kept on, and within a mile had found what he sought so hard, the trail of a band of Razor-backs. He followed but a little way, till he also found their leader's four-inch track, that made the rest look trivial.
"Yo, ho!" he shouted back to Prunty. "I've got him! Come on!" and Billy was off with no thought for anything but the track.
Prunty struggled along behind, but the pace was overhot for him. The answering shouts from Hill Billy became very faint; so, tired and wrathy, Prunty sat down on a log to rest and wait for something to turn up.
A quarter of an hour passed. He was breathed, and feeling better now, but there was no guiding sound to tell of the hunter's whereabouts. Another quarter of an hour, and Prunty left his log to seek the high lookout of Kogar's Hill. And getting there after a slow tramp, he sat again to wait.
Nearly an hour in all had gone, when down in the swale by the branch that fed the Kogar's Creek he heard mixed sounds of something moving in the low woods, and he made for the place.
After a short time he stopped to listen, and heard only the "jay, jay" of the Bluejay. Then once in the silence came the unmistakable shrilling of a pig in distress, the call for help. Once it came, and all was still.
Prunty pushed forward as quickly as he could, and as silently. He was nearing the open woods along the Kogar's Creek.
There were confused noises ahead, sounds of action rather than of voices, but sometimes there came voices, too: animal voices, voices that told of many and divers living things.
Prunty conjured up all the woodcraft of his youth. He sneaked as a Panther sneaks, lifting a foot and setting it down again only after the ground was proven safe and silent. He wet his finger to study the wind, or tossed up grass to show the breeze, and changed about so as to make an unannounced approach. He strode swiftly in the open places, and looking well to his rifle came through a final thicket where a huge down tree afforded a high and easy outlook, and mounting its level trunk he saw the setting for a thrilling scene—a face to face array of force, like hosts arrayed for battle in the olden times, awaiting but the word of onset.
There, black and fierce, was a Bear, a Bear of biggest bulk, standing half out in the open, and facing him some dozen steps away was a Boar, a Razor-back of the tallest size, but smaller than the Bear, and bearing a long scar on his face. Behind and beside the Boar was a lesser Razor-back, with the finer snout and shorter tusks of the female. Hiding in the near thicket of alder were others of their breed. At first Prunty thought but two or three, then more were seen, some very small, till it seemed a little crowd, not still, but moving and changing here and there.
Then the Bear strode in a circle toward the other side of the bush, but the Boar swung round between, and the little pigs, rushing away from the fearsome brute, made many a squeak and haste to move, went quickly indeed, save one, who dragged himself like a cripple; and red streaks there were on his flank as well as a dark smear on his neck.
Thus the pair stood facing, each still and silent. Just a little curl there was on the scabby nose of the big Bear, for this was the brute of Kogar's Creek, and sometimes deep in his chest he rumbled as you hear the thunder rumble in the hills to say it will be with ye soon. And the Boar, high standing on his wide-braced legs, made bigger by the standing mane on his crested back, his snout held low, his twinkling eyes alert, his great tusks gleaming, and his jaws going "chop, chop" till the foam that gave him his baby name was flecked on the massive jowl.
The little pigs in the thicket uttered apprehensive grunts, but the big one bade his time, without a sound save the "chop" or "click" of his war gear.
There was a minute of little action, as the great ones stood, prepared, and face to face.
Who can measure the might of their moving thoughts: the Bear urged only by revenge or the lust of food, and backed by many little victories; the Boar responding to the scream for help that stirs the fighting Boar as the fire bell stirs the fire hall horse, hastening with all the self-forgetfulness of a noble nature to help one of his kind, and finding it one of his brood, his very own, and, more, being harried indeed by one he held in lifelong hate? Thus every element was here supplied for a frightful clash. Power, mighty power, lust, insanity, and a doubtful courage, against lesser power with matchless courage, and the lungs and limbs of a warrior trained—Kogar's Bear and Foam of the Prunty Farm.
The big Bear moved slowly to one side, then swung in a circle around the bush, whether to make a flank attack on the Boar, or to strike at the young, mattered not; for each way the great hog swung between, resolute, head down, wasting no force in mere bluster, silent but waiting, undismayed.
Then the Bear moved to the other side, mounted a log, grunted, was minded to charge, put one paw down this side the log, and Foam charged him. The Bear sprang back. The Boar refrained. Another swing, a feint, and the Bear rushed in. Ho! Scab-face, guard yourself, this is no tender youngling you've engaged.
Thud thud—thud—went the Bear's huge paws, and deep, short animal gasps of effort came. The Boar's broad back, all bristle-clad, received the blows; they staggered but did not down him, and his white knives flashed with upward slash, the stroke that seeks the vitals where they are least ingirt with proof. The champions reeled apart. The Boar was bruised, but the Bear had half a dozen bleeding rips. Great sighs, or sobs, or heavy breathings there were from these, but from the crowded younglings just behind, a very chorus of commingled fear and wrath.
This was the first, the blooding of the fight, and now they faced and swung this way and that. Each knew or seemed to know the other's game. The Boar must keep his feet or he was lost, the Bear must throw the Boar and get a death grip with his paws ere with his hinder feet he could tear him open. The battle madness was on both.
Circling for a better chance went Kogar's, confronted still by the Boar. Again they closed, and the Bear, flinging all his bulk on Foam, would have thrown him by his weight, but the Boar was stout and rip-ripped at the soggy belly, till the Bear flinched, curled, and shrank in pain. Again and again they faced, sparring for an opening. The Bear felt safer on the log. On that he stood, and strode and feinted a charge, till Foam, impatient for the finish, forward rushed. The log was in the way. He overleaped it, but this was not his field. The trunks that helped the Bear were baulks to him. Again they closed, and springing on his back the Bear heaved down with all his might. Slash, slash, went those long, keen, ivory knives. The Bear was gushing blood, but Foam was going down; the fight was balanced, but the balance turning for the Bear. When silent, save for the noise of rushing, another closed, another struck the Bear—Grizel was on him with her force, the slashing of her knives was quick and fast; the Bear lurched back. She seized his hinder paw and crunched and hauled; Foam heaved the monster from his back, and turned and slashed and tore. The Bear went down! Oh, Furies of the woods! What storm of fight! The silent knives or their click—the deep-voiced sob of pain and straining, the half-choked roar, the weakening struggle back, the gasp of reddened spray, the final plunge to escape, the slash, the tear, the hopeless wail—and down went Kogar's with two like very demons tearing, rending, carving. He clutched a standing tree-trunk that seemed to offer refuge. They dragged him down. They slashed his hairy sides till his ribs were grated bare. They rent his belly open, they strung his bowels out over the log like wrack weed in a storm. They knived and heaved till the dull screams died, all movement ceased, and a bloody, muddy mass was all that was left of the Kogar's Bear.
And Prunty gazed like one who had no thought of time or space, or any consciousness but this: he was fighting that fight himself. He watched the strong hog warrior win, and felt the victory was his own. He loved him: yes, loved him as a man of strength must love a brave, hard fighter. He saw the great, big-hearted brute come quickly to himself, turn wholly calm, and the little pigs come fearfully to root and tear at the fallen foe, then rush away in fright at some half-fancied sign of life. He saw the gentleness the mates showed each to each, and ever there were little things that told of a bond of family love. Animal, physical love, if ye will, but the love that endures and fights, and still endures. And the man looked down at the thing that his hands were clutching, the long, shiny, deadly thing for murder wrought, and ready now prepared. A little sense of shame came on him, and it grew. "He saved my lil' gel, and this was my git-back." Then, again, with power returned the feelings of the day when his Lizette, the only thing he had on earth to love, came home ablaze to tell of the rattlesnake fight—with power these feelings came, and he was deeply moved as then. Her words had sudden value now. Yes, she was right. There were other and better ways to save the crops.
His mannish joy in force and fight rose in him strong, and he blustered forth: "Gosh, what a scrap! That was the satisfyingest fight I ever seen. My! how they tore and heaved! Kill him? Gosh! you bet, for me, he can roam the swamps till he dies of a gray old age."
The great Boar's mate turned now to lead the brood away. They rollicked off in quick forgetfulness, the wounded one came last, except that very last of all was Foam, with many rips that stood for lifelong scars, but strength unspent; and as he swung, he stopped, and glancing back, he saw his foe was still, quite still, so went.
The frond ferns closed the trail, the curtain dropped. And the Vultures swung and swung on angle wings, for here indeed was a battlefield, and a battlefield means feasting.