“What kind of an animal is that?” asked Grayskin in wonderment.
“He is called Antler-Crown,” said Karr, “and he is your kinsman. One of these days you, too, will have broad antlers, like those, and just such a mane; and if you were to remain in the forest, very likely you, also, would have a herd to lead.”
“If he is my kinsman, I must go closer and have a look at him,” said Grayskin. “I never dreamed that an animal could be so stately!”
Grayskin walked over to the elk, but almost immediately he came back to Karr, who had remained at the edge of the clearing.
“You were not very well received, were you?” said Karr.
“I told him that this was the first time I had run across any of my kinsmen, and asked if I might walk with them on their meadow. But they drove me back, threatening me with their antlers.”
“You did right to retreat,” said Karr. “A young elk bull with only a taglet crown must be careful about fighting with an old elk. Another would have disgraced his name in the whole forest by retreating without resistance, but such things needn’t worry you who are going to move to a foreign land.”
Karr had barely finished speaking when Grayskin turned and walked down to the meadow. The old elk came toward him, and instantly they began to fight. Their antlers met and clashed, and Grayskin was driven backward over the whole meadow. Apparently he did not know how to make use of his strength; but when he came to the edge of the forest, he planted his feet on the ground, pushed hard with his antlers, and began to force Antler-Crown back.
Grayskin fought quietly, while Antler-Crown puffed and snorted. The old elk, in his turn, was now being forced backward over the meadow. Suddenly a loud crash was heard! A taglet in the old elk’s antlers had snapped. He tore himself loose, and dashed into the forest.
Karr was still standing at the forest border when Grayskin came along.
“Now that you have seen what there is in the forest,” said Karr, “will you come home with me?”
“Yes, it’s about time,” observed the elk.
Both were silent on the way home. Karr sighed several times, as if he was disappointed about something; but Grayskin stepped along—his head in the air—and seemed delighted over the adventure. He walked ahead unhesitatingly until they came to the enclosure. There he paused. He looked in at the narrow pen where he had lived up till now; saw the beaten ground, the stale fodder, the little trough where he had drunk water, and the dark shed in which he had slept.
“The elk are one with the forest!” he cried. Then he threw back his head, so that his neck rested against his back, and rushed wildly into the woods.
In a pine thicket in the heart of Liberty Forest, every year, in the month of August, there appeared a few grayish-white moths of the kind which are called nun moths. They were small and few in number, and scarcely any one noticed them. When they had fluttered about in the depth of the forest a couple of nights, they laid a few thousand eggs on the branches of trees; and shortly afterward dropped lifeless to the ground.