But temptation followed him as it has followed many a boy and man. A little way down the road was a pasture through which by a footpath he could cut off half a mile of the three miles that lay between him and home. Poised on top of the high rail fence that bordered the road, he looked back. The hound was still trying to follow, walking straddle-legged, head down, all entangled with the taut chain that dragged the heavy block. The boy watched the frantic efforts, pity and longing on his face; then he jumped off the fence inside the pasture and hurried on down the hill, face set straight ahead.
He had entered a pine thicket when he heard behind the frantic, choking yelps of a dog in dire distress. Knowing what had happened, he ran back. Within the pasture the hound, only his hind feet touching the ground, was struggling and pawing at the fence. He had jumped, the block had caught, and was hanging him. Davy rushed to him. Breathing fast, he unclicked the chain. The block an chain fell on the other side of the fence, and the dog was free. Shrewdly the boy looked back up the road; the woods hid the old man’s house from view, and no one was to be seen. With a little grin of triumph he turned and broke into a run down the pasture hill toward the pines, the wind blowing gloriously into his face, the dog galloping beside him.
Still running, the two came out into the road that led home, and suddenly Davy stopped short and his face flushed. Yonder around the bend on his grey mare jogged Squire Kirby toward them, his pipe in his mouth, his white beard stuck cozily inside the bosom of his big overcoat There was no use to run, no use to try to make the dog hide, no use to try to hide himself—the old man had seen them both. Suppose he knew whose dog this was! Heart pounding, Davy waited beside the road.
Mr. Kirby drew rein opposite them and looked down with eyes that twinkled under his bushy white brows. He always stopped to ask the boy how his mother was, and how they were getting along. Davy had been to his house many a time with eggs and chickens to sell, or with a load of seasoned oak wood. Many a time he had warmed before Mr. Kirby’s fire in the big living- and bedroom combined, and eaten Mrs. Kirby’s fine white cake covered with frosting. Never before had he felt ill at ease in the presence of the kindly old man.
“That’s a genuine hound you got there, son, ain’t it?”
“Yes, sir,” said Davy.
“Good for rabbits an’ ‘possums an’ coons, eh?”
“He shore is!”
“Well, next big fat ‘possum you an’ him ketch, you bring that ’possum ‘round an’ me an’ you’ll talk business. Maybe we’ll strike a bargain. Got any good sweet potatoes? Well, you bring four or five bushels along to eat that ‘possum with. Haulin’ any wood these days? Bring me a load or two of good, dry oak—pick it out, son, hear? How’s your ma? All right? That’s good. Here—”