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Sonny And The Kid





THE little old gray house, with its gray barn and low wagon shed,
stood in the full sun at the top of a gullied and stony lane. Behind
it the ancient forest, spruce and fir and hemlock, came down and
brooded darkly over the edge of the rough, stump-strewn pasture. The
lane, leading up to the house from the main road, climbed between a
sloping buckwheat field on the one hand and a buttercupped meadow on
the other. On either side of the lane, cutting it off from the fields,
straggled a zigzag snake fence, with milk-weed, tansy, and mullein
growing raggedly in its corners.

At the head of the lane, where it came out upon the untidy but homely
looking yard, stood a largish black and tan dog, his head on one side,
his ears cocked, his short stub of a tail sticking out straight and
motionless, tense with expectation. He was staring at a wagon which
came slowly along the main road, drawn by a jogging, white-faced
sorrel. The expression in the dog's eyes was that of a hope so eager
that nothing but absolute certainty could permit him to believe in its
approaching fulfilment. His mouth was half open, as if struggling to
aid his vision.

He was an odd looking beast, formidable in his sturdy strength and his
massiveness of jaw; and ugly beyond question, but for the alert
intelligence of his eyes. A palpable mongrel, he showed none the less
that he had strains of distinction in his ancestry. English bull
was the blood most clearly proclaimed, in his great chest, short,
crooked legs, fine coat, and square, powerful head. His pronounced
black and tan seemed to betray some beagle kinship, as did his long,
close-haired ears. Whoever had docked his tail, in his defenceless
puppyhood, had evidently been too tender-hearted to cut those
silken and sensitive ears. So Sonny had been obliged to face life
in the incongruous garb of short tail and long ears--which is almost
as unpardonable as yellow shoes with a top hat.

When the wagon drew close to the foot of the lane, Sonny was still
uncertain. There might be other white faced sorrels than lazy old
Bill. The man in the wagon certainly looked like his beloved master,
Joe Barnes; but Joe Barnes was always alone on the wagon-seat, while
this man had a child beside him, a child with long, bright, yellow
hair and a little red cap. This to Sonny was a bewildering phenomenon.
But when at last the wagon turned up the lane, his doubts were finally
resolved. His stub of a tail jerked spasmodically, in its struggle to
wag. Then with two or three delirious yelps of joy he started madly
down the lane. At the sound of his voice the door of the gray house
opened. A tall, thin woman in a bluish homespun skirt and red calico
waist came out, and moved slowly across the yard to welcome the new
arrivals.

When Sonny, yelping and dancing, met the creaking wagon as it bumped
its way upward over the gullies, his master greeted him with a "Hello,
Sonny!" as usual; but to the dog's quick perception there was a
difference in his tone, a difference that was almost an indifference.
Joe Barnes was absorbed. At other times, he was wont to seem warmly
interested in Sonny's welcoming antics, and would keep up a running
fire of talk with him while the old sorrel plodded up the lane.
To-day, however, Joe's attention was occupied by the yellow-haired
child beside him; and Sonny's demonstrations, he knew not why, became
perceptibly less ecstatic. It was of no consequence whatever to him
that the child stared at him with dancing eyes and cried delightedly,
"Oh, Unc' Joe, what a pretty doggie! Oh, what a nice doggie! Can I
have him, Unc' Joe?"

"All right, Kid," said Joe Barnes, gazing down adoringly upon the
little red cap; "he's yourn. His name's Sonny, an' he's the best dawg
ever chased a chipmunk. He'll love ye, Kid, most as much as yer old
Unc' Joe an' Aunt Ann does."

When the yard was reached, the tall woman in the red calico waist was
at the side of the wagon before the driver's "Whoa!" brought the horse
to a stop. The little one was snatched down from the seat and hugged
vehemently to her heart.

"Poor lamb! Precious lamb!" she murmured. "I'll be a mother to you,
please God!"

"I want my mummie! Where's she gone to?" cried the child, suddenly
reminded of a loss which he was beginning to forget. But his aunt
changed the subject hastily.

"Ain't he the livin' image of Jim?" she demanded in a voice of
wondering admiration. "Did ever you see the likes of it, father?"

Under the pretence of examining him more critically, Joe took the
child into his own arms, and looked at him with ardent eyes. "Yes,"
said he, "the Kid does favour Jim, more'n his--" But he checked
himself at the word. "An' he's a regular little man too!" he went on.
"Come all the way up on the cars by himself, an' wasn't a mite o'
trouble, the conductor said."

Utterly engrossed in the little one, neither Joe nor his wife gave a
look or a thought to Sonny, who was leaping upon them joyously. For
years he had been almost the one centre of attention for the childless
couple, who had treated him as a child, caressing him, spoiling him,
and teaching him to feel his devotion necessary to them. Now, finding
himself quite ignored, he quieted down all at once and stood for a few
seconds gazing reproachfully at the scene. The intimacy with Joe and
Ann which he had so long enjoyed had developed almost a human quality
in his intelligence and his feelings. Plainly, now, he was forgotten.
His master and mistress had withdrawn their love and were pouring it
out upon this stranger child. His ears and stub tail drooping in
misery, he turned away, walked sorrowfully over to the horse, and
sniffed at the latter's nose as if to beg for some explanation of
what had happened. But the old sorrel, pleasantly occupied in cropping
at the short, sweet grass behind the well, had neither explanation nor
sympathy to offer. Sonny went off to his kennel, a place he scorned to
notice, as a rule, because the best in the house had hitherto been
held none too good for him. Creeping in with a beaten air, he lay down
with his nose on his paws in the doorway, and tried to understand what
had come upon him. One thing only was quite clear to him. It was all
the fault of the child with the yellow curls.

Sonny had had no experience with children. The few he had met he had
regarded with that impersonal benevolence which was his attitude
toward all humanity. His formidable appearance had saved him from
finding out that humanity could be cruel and brutal. So now, in his
unhappiness, he had no jealous anger. He simply wanted to keep away
from this small being who had caused his hurt.

But even this grace was not to be allowed him. By the time Joe Barnes
and Ann, both trying to hold the little one in their arms at the same
time, had made their impeded way to the house, the little one had
begun to find their ardour a shade embarrassing. To him there were
lots of things better than being hugged and kissed. This shining green
backwoods world was quite new to his city born eyes, and he wanted to
find out all about it, at once, for himself. He began struggling
vigorously to get down out of the imprisoning arms.

"Put me down, Unc' Joe!" he demanded. "I want to play with my
doggie."

"All right, Kid," responded Joe, complying instantly. "Here Sonny,
Sonny, come an' git acquainted with the Kid!"

"Yes, come and see the Kid, Sonny!" reechoed the woman, devouring the
little yellow head with her eyes. His real name was Alfred, but Joe
had called him "the Kid," and that was to be his appellation
thenceforth.

Hearing his name called, Sonny emerged from his kennel and came
forward, but not with his wonted eagerness. Very soberly, but with
prompt obedience he came, and thrust his massive head under Joe's hand
for the accustomed caress. But the caress was not forthcoming. Joe
simply forgot it, so absorbed was he, his gaunt, weather-beaten face
glowing and melting with smiles as he gazed at the child.

"Here's your dawg, Kid!" said he, and watched delightedly to see how
the little one would go about asserting proprietorship.

The woman was the more subtle of the two in her sympathies. "Sonny,"
she said, pulling the dog forward, "here's the Kid, yer little master.
See you mind what he tells you, and see you take good keer o' him."

Sonny wagged his tail obediently, his load of misery lightening under
the touch of his mistress's hand. He leaned against her knees,
comforted for a moment, though his love was more for the man than for
her. But he would not look at the Kid. He shut his eyes with an
expression of endurance as the little one's hand patted him vehemently
on the face, and his stub tail stopped wagging. In a dim way he
recognized that he must not be uncivil to this small stranger who had
so instantaneously and completely usurped his place. But beyond this
he could think of nothing but his master, who had grown indifferent.
Suddenly, with a burst of longing for reconciliation, he jerked
abruptly away from the child's hands, wriggled in between Joe's legs,
and strove to climb up and lick his face.

At the look of disappointment which passed over the child's face Joe
Barnes felt a sudden rush of anger. Stupidly misunderstanding, he
thought that Sonny was merely trying to avoid the child. He
straightened up his tall figure, snatched the little one to his
breast, and exclaimed in a harsh voice, "If ye can't be nice to the
Kid, git out!"

The words "Git out!" with the tone in which they were uttered, would
have been comprehensible to a much meaner intelligence than Sonny's.
As if he had been whipped, he curled down his abbreviated tail, and
ran and hid himself in his kennel.

"Sonny didn't mean to be ugly to the Kid, father," protested Ann, "He
jest don't quite understand the situation yet, an' he's wonderin' why
ye don't make so much of him as ye used to. I don't blame him fer
feelin' a leetle mite left out in the cold."

Joe felt a vague suspicion that Ann might be right; but it was a very
vague suspicion, just enough to make him feel uneasy and put him on
the defensive. Being obstinate and something of a crank, this only
added heat to his irritation. "I ain't got no use fer any dawg that
don't know enough to take to a kid on sight!" he declared, readjusting
the little red cap on the child's curls.



"Of course, father," acquiesced Ann discreetly; "but you'll find
Sonny'll be all right."

Here the child, who had been squirming with impatience, piped up, "I
want to go an' see my doggie in his little house!" he declared.

"Oh, no, Kid, we're goin' to let Sonny be fer a bit. We're goin' to
see the calf, the pretty black an' white calf, round back o' the barn,
now. You go along with Aunty Ann while I onhitch old Bill. An' then
we'll all go an' see the little pigs."

His mind altogether diverted by the suggestion of such strange
delights, the little fellow trotted off joyously with Ann, while Joe
Barnes led the old sorrel to the barn, grumbling to himself at what he
chose to call Sonny's "ugliness" in not making friends with the Kid.

* * * * *

From that hour Sonny's life was changed. In fact, it seemed to him no
longer life at all. His master's indifference grew swiftly to an
unreasoning anger against him; and as he fretted over it continually,
a malicious fate seemed to delight in putting him, or leading him to
put himself, ever in the wrong. Absorbed in longing for his master, he
hardly thought of the child at all. Several times, in a blundering
effort to make things right with Sonny and the Kid, Joe seated himself
on the back doorstep, took the little one on his knee, and called
Sonny to come and make friends. At the sound of the loved summons
Sonny shot out from the kennel, which had become his constant refuge,
tore wildly across the yard, and strove, in a sort of ecstasy, to show
his forgiveness and his joy by climbing into Joe's lap. Being a large
dog, and the lap already filled, this meant roughly crowding out the
Kid, of whose very existence, at this moment, Sonny was unaware. But
to the obtuse man Sonny's action seemed nothing more than a mean and
jealous effort to supplant the Kid.

To the Kid this proceeding of Sonny's was a fine game. He would
grapple with the dog, hug him, pound him gleefully with his little
fists, and call him every pet name he knew.

But the man would rise to his feet angrily, and cry, "If that's all
ye're good fer, git! Git out, I tell ye!" And Sonny, heartsore and
bewildered, would shrink back hopelessly to his kennel. When this, or
something much like it, had happened several times, even Ann, for all
her finer perceptions, began to feel that Sonny might be a bit nicer
to the Kid, and, as a consequence, to stint her kindness. But to
Sonny, sunk in his misery and pining only for that love which his
master had so inexplicably withdrawn from him, it mattered little
whether Ann was neglectful or not.

Uneventfully day followed day on the lonely backwoods farm. To Sonny,
the discarded, the discredited, they were all hopeless days, dark and
interminable. But to the Kid they were days of wonder, every one. He
loved the queer black and white pigs, which he studied intently
through the cracks in the boarding of their pen. He loved the calf,
and the three velvet-eyed cows, and the two big red oxen, inseparable
yoke fellows. The chickens were an inexhaustible interest to him; and
so were the airy throngs of buttercups afloat on the grass, and the
yet more aerial troops of the butterflies flickering above them, white
and brown and red and black and gold and yellow and maroon. But in the
last choice he loved best of all the silent, unresponsive Sonny, of
whose indifference he seemed quite unaware. Sonny, lying on the grass,
would look at him soberly, submit to his endearments without one
answering wag of the tail, and at last, after the utmost patience that
courtesy could require, would slowly get up, yawn, and stroll off to
his kennel or to some pretended business behind the barn. His big
heart harboured no resentment against the child, whom he knew to be a
child and irresponsible. His resentment was all against fate, or life,
or whatever it was, the vague, implacable force which was causing Joe
Barnes to hurt him. For Joe Barnes he had only sorrow and hungry
devotion.

Little by little, however, Sonny's lonely and sorrowful heart, in
spite of itself, was beginning to warm toward the unconscious child.
Though still outwardly indifferent, he began to feel gratified rather
than bored when the Kid came up and gaily disturbed his slumbers by
pounding him on the head with his little palm and tumbling over his
sturdy back. It was a mild gratification, however, and seemed to call
for no demonstrative expression.

Then, one noon, he chanced to be lying, heavy-hearted, some ten or a
dozen paces in front of the kitchen door, while Joe Barnes sat on the
doorstep smoking his after-dinner pipe, and Ann bustled through the
dish washing. At such times, in the old happy days, Sonny's place had
always been at Joe Barnes's feet; but those times seemed to have been
forgotten by Joe Barnes, who had the Kid beside him. Suddenly, tired
of sitting still, the little one jumped up and ran over to Sonny.
Sonny resolutely pretended to be asleep. Laughingly the child sprawled
over him, pulled his ears gently, then tried to push open his eyes. A
little burst of warmth gushed up in Sonny's sad heart. With a swift
impulse he lifted his muzzle and licked the Kid, a generous, ample
lick across the face.

Alas! as blundering fate would have it, the Kid's face was closer than
Sonny had imagined. He not only licked it, but at the same time bumped
it violently with his wet muzzle. Taken by surprise and half-dazed,
the Kid drew back with a sharp little "Oh!" His eyes grew very wide,
and for an instant his mouth quivered as if he was going to cry. This
was all Joe Barnes saw. Springing to his feet, with a smothered oath,
he ran, caught the Kid up in his arms, and gave Sonny a fierce kick in
the ribs which sent him rushing back to his kennel with a howl of
grief and pain.

Ann had come running from the house in amazement. The Kid was sobbing,
and struggling to get down from Joe's arms.

Ann snatched him away anxiously. "What did Sonny do to ye, the bad
dawg!" she demanded.

"He ain't bad. He's good. He jest kissed me too hard!" protested the
little one indignantly.

"He hurt the Kid's face. I ain't right sure but what he snapped at
him," said Joe Barnes.

"He didn't hurt me! He didn't mean to," went on the Kid.

"Of course he didn't," said Ann with conviction. "Father, ye're too
hard on the dawg. Ye hadn't oughter have kicked him."

An obstinate look settled on Joe Barnes's face. "Yes, I had, too. 'N'
he'll be gittin' more'n that, ef he don't l'arn not to be ugly to the
Kid," he retorted harshly. Then, with an uneasy sense that, whether
right or wrong, he was in the minority, he returned to the doorstep
and moodily resumed his smoking. Ann called Sonny many times to come
out and get his dinner. But Sonny, broken-hearted, and the ruins of
all his life and love and trust tumbled about his ears, would not hear
her. He was huddled in the back of his kennel, with his nose jammed
down into the corner.

* * * * *

Two days later it happened that both Joe and Ann went down together
into the field in front of the house to weed the carrot patch. They
left the Kid asleep in his trundle bed, in the little room off the
kitchen. When they were gone, Sonny came out of his kennel and lay
down in the middle of the yard, where he could keep a watchful eye on
everything belonging to Joe Barnes.

It was the Kid's invariable custom to sleep soundly for a good two
hours of the early afternoon. On this afternoon, however, he broke his
custom. Joe and Ann had not been ten minutes away, when he appeared in
the kitchen door, his yellow hair tousled, his cheeks rosy, his plump
fists trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes. His face was aggrieved,
because he had woke up and found himself alone. But at the sight of
Sonny the grievance was forgotten. He ran to the dog and began to maul
him joyously.

His recent bitter experience raw in his heart, Sonny did not dare
to respond, but lay with his nose on his paws, unstirring, while
the child sprawled over him. After a few minutes this utter
unresponsiveness chilled even the Kid's enthusiasm. He jumped up and
cast his eyes about in search of some diversion more exciting. His
glance wandered out past the barn and up the pasture toward the
edge of the forest. A squirrel, sitting on a black stump in the
pasture, suddenly began jumping about and shrilly chattering. This
was something quite new and very interesting. The Kid crawled
through the bars and started up the pasture as fast as his sturdy
little legs could carry him.

The squirrel saw him coming, but knowing very well that he was not
dangerous, held his ground, bouncing up and down on the stump in
vociferous excitement. When the Kid was within three feet of him, he
gave a wild "K-r-r-r-r!" of derision, and sprang to another stump.
With eyes dancing and eager little hands outstretched, the Kid
followed--again and again, and yet again--till he was led to the very
edge of the wood. Then the mocking imp in red fur whisked up an
ancient hemlock, and hid himself, in silence, in a high crotch, tired
of the game.

At the edge of the woods the Kid stopped, peering in among the shadows
with mingled curiosity and awe. The bright patches of sunlight on the
brown forest floor and on the scattered underbrush allured him.
Presently, standing out in conspicuous isolation, a great crimson
toadstool caught his eye. He wanted the beautiful thing intensely, to
play with. But he was afraid. Leaning his face against the old fence,
he gazed through desirously. But the silence made him more and more
afraid. If only the squirrel would come back and play with him, he
would not be afraid. He was on the point of giving up the beautiful
crimson toadstool and turning back home, when he saw a little gray
bird hopping amid the lower limbs of a spruce in among the shadows.
"Tsic-a-dee-dee!" whistled the little gray bird, blithely and
reassuringly. At once the shadows and the stillness lost their
terrors. The Kid squeezed boldly through the fence and started in for
the glowing toadstool.

Just as he reached the coloured thing and stooped to seize it, a sharp
"Tzip, tzip!" and a rustling of stiff feathers startled him. Looking
up, he saw a bright-eyed brown bird running hither and thither before
him, trailing one wing on the ground as if unable to fly. It was such
a pretty bird! And it seemed so tame! The Kid felt sure he could catch
it. Grabbing up the crimson toadstool, and holding it clutched to his
bosom with one hand, he ran eagerly after the brown bird. The bird, a
wily old hen partridge, bent on leading the intruder away from her
hidden brood, kept fluttering laboriously on just beyond his reach,
till she came to a dense patch of underbrush. She was just about to
dive into this thicket, when she leaped into the air, instead, with a
frightened squawk, and whirred up into the branches of a lofty birch
near by.

Bitterly disappointed, the Kid gazed up after her, still clutching the
bright toadstool to his breast. Then, by instinct rather than by
reason, he dropped his eyes to the thicket, and stared in to see what
had frightened away the pretty brown bird.

At first he could see nothing. But to his sensitive little nerves came
a feeling that something was there. Gradually his eyes, accustoming
themselves to the gloom, began to disentangle substance and shadow.
Then suddenly he detected the form of a gray crouching animal. He saw
its tufted ears, its big round face, with mouth half open grinningly.
Its great, round, pale, yellow green eyes were staring straight at
him.

In his fright the Kid dropped his toadstool and stared back at the
gray animal. His first impulse was to turn and run; but, somehow, he
was afraid to do that--afraid to turn his back on the pale-eyed,
crouching shape. As he gazed, trembling, he saw that the animal looked
like a huge gray cat.


BACK AT THE GRAY ANIMAL."]

At this thought he felt a trifle reassured. Cats were kind, and nice
to play with. A big cat wouldn't hurt him, he felt quite sure of that.
But when, after a minute or two of moveless glaring, the big cat,
never taking its round eyes from his face, began to creep straight
toward him, stealthily, without a sound, then his terror all came
back. In the extremity of his fear he burst out crying, not very loud,
but softly and pitifully, as if he hardly knew what he was doing. His
little hands hanging straight down at his sides, his head bent
slightly forward, he stood helplessly staring at this strange,
terrible cat creeping toward him through the thicket.

* * * * *

Sonny, meanwhile, had grown uneasy the moment the Kid climbed through
the bars into the pasture. The Kid had never gone into the pasture
before. Sonny got up, turned round, and lay down in such a position
that he could see just what the child was doing. He knew the little
one belonged to Joe Barnes; and he could not let anything belonging to
Joe Barnes get lost or run away. When the Kid reached the edge of the
woods and stood looking through the fence, then Sonny roused himself,
and started up the pasture in a leisurely, indifferent way, as if it
was purely his own whim that took him in that direction. He pretended
not to see the Kid at all. But in reality he was watching, with an
anxious intentness, every move the little one made. He was determined
to do his duty by Joe Barnes.

But when at last the Kid wriggled through the fence and darted into
the gloom of the forest, Sonny's solicitude became more personal. He
knew that the forest was a place of many strange perils. It was no
place for the Kid. A sudden fear seized him at thought of what might
happen to the Kid, there in the great and silent shadows. He broke
into a frantic run, scrambled through the fence, picked up the little
adventurer's trail, and darted onward till he caught sight of the
Kid's bright curly head, apparently intent on gazing into a thicket.
At the sight he stopped abruptly, then sauntered forward with a
careless air, as if it was the most ordinary chance in the world that
he should come across the Kid, away off here alone.

Instinctively, under the subtle influence of the forest silence, Sonny
went forward softly, on his toes, though anything like stealth was
altogether foreign to him. As he crept up, he wondered what it was in
the thicket to keep him so still. There was something mysterious about
it. The hair began to rise along Sonny's back. Then, a moment later,
he heard the Kid crying. There was no mistaking the note of terror in
that hopeless, helpless little sound. Sonny did not need to reason
about it; his heart understood all that was necessary. Something was
frightening the Kid. His white teeth bared themselves, and he darted
forward.

At this instant there came a crackling and swishing in the thicket;
and the Kid, as if released from a spell, turned with a scream and
started to flee. He tripped on a root, however, and fell headlong on
his face, his yellow curls mixing with the brown twigs and fir
needles. Almost in the selfsame second a big gray lynx burst from the
green of the underbrush and sprang upon the little, sprawling,
helpless form.

But not actually upon it. Those outstretching, murderous claws never
actually sank into the Kid's flesh. For Sonny was there just as soon
as the lynx was. The wild beast changed its mind, and attack, just in
time to avoid being taken at a serious disadvantage. The rush of
Sonny's heavy body bore it backward clear of the Kid. The latter
scrambled to his feet, stifled his sobs, and stared open-mouthed at
the sudden fury of battle which confronted him.

Had Sonny not been endowed with intelligence as well as valour, he
would have fallen victim almost at once to his adversary's terrific,
raking hind claws. But fortunately, during his pugnacious puppyhood he
had had several encounters with war-wise, veteran cats. To him, the
lynx was obviously a huge and particularly savage cat. He knew the
deadly power of its hind claws, with all the strength of those great
hind quarters behind them. As he grappled with the screeching lynx,
silently, after the fashion of his bull ancestors, he received a
ripping slash from one of its armed fore paws, but succeeded in fixing
his grip on the base of the beast's neck, not far from the throat.
Instantly he drew himself backward with all his weight, crouching
flat, and dragging the enemy down with him.

In this position, Sonny, backing and pulling with all his strength,
the spitting and screeching cat was unable to bring its terrible
hinder claws into play. The claws of the beast's great fore paws,
however, were doing cruel work on Sonny's back and sides; while its
long fangs, pointed like daggers, tore savagely at the one point on
his shoulder which they could reach. This terrible punishment Sonny
took stoically, caring only to protect the tender under part of his
body and his eyes. His close grip on the base of the animal's neck
shielded his eyes, and, according to the custom of his tenacious
breed, he never relaxed his hold for a moment, but kept chewing in,
chewing in, inexorably working his way to a final, fatal grip upon the
throat. And not for a moment, either, did he desist from his steady
backward pull, which kept the foe from doubling upon him with its hind
quarters.

For several minutes the furious struggle went on, Sonny, apparently,
getting all the worst of it. His back and shoulders were pouring
blood; while his enemy showed not a hurt. Then suddenly the gray
beast's screeching took on a half strangling sound. With its mouth
wide open it ceased to bite, though its fore paws raked and clawed
more desperately than ever. Sonny's relentless hold was beginning to
throttle. His mouth was now too full of long fur and loose skin for
him to bite clean through the throat and finish the fight. But he felt
himself already the victor.

Suddenly, as he continued that steady backward drag, the resistance
ceased. The lynx had launched itself forward in one last convulsive
struggle to free itself from those strangling teeth at its throat. For
a second or two Sonny felt himself overwhelmed, engulfed, in a vortex
of rending claws. In a tight ball of hate and ferocity and horror the
two rolled over and over in the underbrush. Sonny, doubled up hard to
protect his belly, heard a shrill cry of fear from the Kid. At the
sound he summoned into his strained nerves and muscles a strength
beyond the utmost which he had yet been able to put forth. His jaws
worked upward, secured a cleaner grip, ground slowly closer; and at
last his teeth crunched together. A great shudder shook the body of
the lynx. It straightened out, limp and harmless.

For perhaps a minute Sonny maintained his triumphant grip, shaking the
foe savagely. Satisfied, at last, that he was meeting with no more
resistance, he let go, stood off, and eyed the body with searching
suspicion. Then he turned to the Kid. The Kid, careless of the blood
and wounds, kissed him fervently on the nose, called him "Poor Sonny!
Dear, good Sonny!" and burst into a loud wailing.

Knowing that the one thing now was to get the Kid home again as soon
as possible, Sonny started, looking back, and uttering a little
imperative bark. The Kid understood, and followed promptly. By the
time they reached the fence, however, Sonny was so weak from loss of
blood he could hardly climb through. The Kid, with blundering but
loving efforts, helped him. Then he lay down.

At this moment the voices of Joe and Ann were heard, shouting, calling
wildly, from the yard. At the sound, Sonny struggled to his feet and
staggered on, the Kid keeping close beside him. But he could manage
only a few steps. Then he sank down again.

The man and woman came running up the pasture, calling the Kid; but
the latter would not leave Sonny. He trotted forward a few steps, and
stopped, shaking his head and looking back. When Joe and Ann came near
enough to see that the little one's face and hair and clothes were
splotched with blood, fear clutched at their hearts. "My God! what's
happened to him?" gasped Ann, striving to keep up with her husband's
pace. But Joe was too quick for her. Darting ahead, he seized the
little one, lifted him up, and searched his face with frantic eyes.
For all the blood, the child seemed well and vigorous.

"What's it mean, Kid? Ye ain't hurt--ye ain't hurt--tell me ye
ain't hurt, Kid! What's all this blood all over ye?" he demanded
breathlessly.

By this time Ann was at his side, questioning with terrified eyes.

"Tain't me, Unc' Joe!" protested the Kid. "I ain't hurted. It's poor
Sonny. He's hurted awful. He killed the great, big--great, big--" the
Kid was at a loss how to explain, "the great, big, dreadful cat, what
was goin' to eat me up, Sonny did."

Joe Barnes looked at the dog, the torn sides, streaming red wounds,
and bloody muzzle. Woodsman that he was, he understood. "Sonny!" he
cried in a piercing voice. The dog raised his head, wagged his stump
of a tail feebly, and made a futile effort to rise.

Gulping down something in his throat, Joe Barnes handed the child over
to Ann, and strode to Sonny's side. Bending over him, he tenderly
gathered the big dog into his arms, holding him like a baby. Sonny
reached up and licked his chin. Joe turned and hastened back to the
old gray house with his burden.

"Come along, mother," he said, his voice a little unsteady. "You'll
have to look out for the Kid all by yerself for a bit now. I reckon
I'm goin' to hev' about all I kin do, a-nursin' Sonny."





Next: The Summons Of The North

Previous: The Fight At The Wallow



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