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."





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