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Chapter iii
 Chapter iii
About four o’clock that afternoon I met David and the dogs at the spinney which leads into the Sweet Fern Covent. The three setters, Voyou, Gamin, and Mioche, were in fine feather — David had killed a woodcock and a brace of grouse over them that morning — and they were thrashing about the spinney an short range when I came up, gun under arm and pipe lighted.
“What’s the prospect, David,” I asked, trying to keep my feet in the tangle of wagging, whining dogs; “hello, what’s amiss with Mioche?”
“A brier in his foot sir; I drew it and stopped the wound but I guess the gravel’s got in. If you have no objection, sir, I might take him back with me.”
“It’s safer,” I said; “take Gamin too, I only want one dog this afternoon. What is the situation?”
“Fair, sir; the grouse lie within a quarter of a mile of the oak second-growth. The woodcock are mostly on the alders. I saw any number of snipe on the meadows. There’s something else in by the lake — I can’t just tell what, but the wood-duck set up a clatter when I was in the thicket and they come dashing through the wood as if a dozen foxes was snappin’ at their tail feathers.”
“Probably a fox,” I said; “leash those dogs — they must learn to stand in. I’ll be back by dinner time.”
“There is one more thing sir,” said David, lingering with his gun under his arm.
“Well,” said I.
“I saw a man in the woods by the Oak Covern — at least I think I did.”
“A lumberman?”
“I think not sir — at least — do they have Chinamen among them?”
“Chinese? No. You didn’t see a Chinaman in the woods here?”
“I—— I think I did sir — I can’t say positively. He was gone when I ran into the covert.”
“Did the dogs notice it?”
“I can’t say — exactly. They acted queer like. Gamin here lay down an’ whined — it may have been colic — and Mioche whimpered — perhaps it was the brier.”
“And Voyou?”
“Voyou, he was most remarkable sir, and the hair on his back stood up, I did see a groundhog makin’ for a tree near by.”
“Then no wonder Voyou bristled. David, your Chinaman was a stump or tussock. Take the dogs now.”
“I guess it was sir; good afternoon, sir,” said David, and walked away with the Gordons leaving me alone with Voyou in the spinney.
I looked at the dog and he looked at me.
The dog sat down and danced with his fore feet, his beautiful brown eyes sparkling.
“You’re a fraud,” I said; “which shall it be, the alders or the upland? Upland? Good! — now for the grouse — heel, my friend, and show your miraculous self-restraint.”
Voyou wheeled into my tracks and followed close, nobly refusing to notice the impudent chipmunks and the thousand and one alluring and important smells which an ordinary dog would have lost no time in investigating.
The brown and yellow autumn woods were crisp with drifting heaps of leaves and twigs that crackled under foot as we turned from the spinney into the forest. Every silent little stream hurrying toward the lake was gay with painted leaves afloat, scarlet maple or yellow oak. Spots of sunlight fell upon the pools, searching the brown depths, illuminating the gravel bottom where shoals of minnows swam to and fro, and to and fro again, busy with the purpose of their little lives. The crickets were chirping in the long brittle grass on the edge of the woods, but we left them far behind in the silence of the deeper forest.
“Now!” said I to Voyou.
The dog sprang to the front, circled once, zigzagged through the ferns around us and, all in a moment, stiffened stock still, rigid as sculptured bronze. I stepped forward, raising my gun, two paces, three paces, ten perhaps, before a great cock-grouse blundered up from the brake and burst through the thicket fringe toward the deeper growth. There was a flash and puff from my gun, a crash of echoes among the low wooded cliffs, and through the faint veil of smoke something dark dropped from mid-air amid a cloud of feathers, brown as the brown leaves under foot.
Up from the ground sprang Voyou, and in a moment he came galloping back, neck arched, tail stiff but waving, holding tenderly in his pink mouth a mass of mottled bronzed feathers. Very gravely he laid the bird at my feet and crouched close beside in, his silky ears across his paws, his muzzle on the ground.
I dropped the grouse into my pocket, held for a moment a silent caressing communion with Voyou, then swung my gun under my arm and motioned the dog on.
It must have been five o’clock when I walked into a little opening in the woods and sat down to breathe. Voyou came and sat down in front of me.
“Well?” I enquired.
Voyou gravely presented one paw which I took.
“We will never get back in time for dinner,” said I, “so we might as well take it easy. It’s all your fault, you know. Is there a brier in your foot? — let’s see — there! it’s out my friend and you are free to nose about and lick it. If you loll your tongue out you’ll get it all over twigs and moss.
“Can’t you lie down and try to pant less? No, there is no use in sniffing and looking an that fern patch, for we are going to smoke a little, doze a little, and go home by moonlight. Think what a big dinner we will have! Think of Howlett’s despair when we are not in time! Think of all the stories you will have to tell to Gamin and Mioche! Think what a good dog you have been!
“There — you are tired old chap; take forty winks with me.”
Voyou was a little tired. He stretched out on the leaves at my feet but whether or not he really slept I could not be certain, until his hind legs twitched and I knew he was dreaming of mighty deeds.
Now I may have taken forty winks, but the sun seemed to be no lower when I sat up and unclosed my lids. Voyou raised his head, saw in my eyes that I was not going yet, thumped his tail half a dozen times on the dried leaves, and settled back with a sigh.
I looked lazily around, and for the first rime noticed what a wonderfully beautiful spot I had chosen for a nap. It was an oval glade in the heart of the forest, level and carpeted with green grass. The trees that surrounded it were gigantic; they formed one towering circular wall of verdure, blotting out all except the turquoise blue of the sky-oval above. And now I noticed that in the centre of the greensward lay a pool of water, crystal clear, glimmering like a mirror in the meadow grass, beside a block of granite. It scarcely seemed possible that the symmetry of tree and lawn and lucent pool could have been one of nature’s accidents. I had never before seen this glade nor had I ever heard it spoken of by either Pierpont on Barris. It was a marvel, this diamond-clean basin, regular and graceful as a Roman fountain, set in the gem of turf. And these great trees — they also belonged, not in America but in some legend-haunted forest of France, where moss-grown marbles stand neglected in dim glades, and the twilight of the forest shelters fairies and slender shapes from shadow-land.
I lay and watched the sunlight showering the tangled thicket where masses of crimson Cardinal-flowers glowed, or where one long dusty sunbeam tipped the edge of the floating leaves in the pool, turning them to palest gilt. There were birds too, passing through the dim avenues of trees like jets of flame — the gorgeous Cardinal–Bird in his deep-stained crimson robe — the bird that gave to the woods, to the village fifteen miles away, to the whole country, the name of Cardinal.
I rolled over on my back and looked up an the sky. How pale — paler than a robin’s egg — it was. I seemed to be lying at the bottom of a well, walled with verdure, high towering on every side. And, as I lay, all about me the air became sweet scented. Sweeter and sweeter and more penetrating grew the perfume, and I wondered what stray breeze, blowing over acres of lilies, could have brought in. But there was no breeze; the air was still. A gilded fly alighted on my hand — a honey-fly. It was as troubled as I by the scented silence.
Then, behind me, my dog growled.
I sat quite still at first, hardly breathing, but my eyes were fixed on a shape that moved along the edge of the pool among the meadow grasses. The dog had ceased growling and was now snarling, alert and trembling.
At last I rose and walked rapidly down to the pool, my dog following close to heel.
The figure, a woman’s, turned slowly toward us.


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