Trove bought another filly—a proud-stepping great-granddaughter of old Justin Morgan.
A rough-furred, awkward creature, of the size of a small dog, fled before him, as he entered the house in Brier Dale, and sought refuge under a table. It was a young painter which Allen had captured back in the deep woods, after killing its dam. Soon it rushed across the floor, chasing a ball of yarn, but quickly got under cover. Before the end of that day Trove and the new pet were done with all distrust of each other. The big cat grew in size and playful confidence. Often it stalked the young man with still foot and lashing tail, leaping stealthily over chairs and, betimes, landing upon Trove’s back.
* * * * * *
It was a June day, and Trove was at Robin’s Inn. A little before noon Polly and he and the two boys started for Brier Dale. They waded the flowering meadows in Pleasant Valley, crossed a great pasture, and came under the forest roof. Their feet were muffled in new ferns. Their trail wavered up the side of a steep ridge, and slanted off in long loops to the farther valley. There it crossed a brook and, for a mile or more, followed the mossy banks. On a ledge, mottled with rock velvet, by a waterfall, they sat down to rest, and Polly opened the dinner basket. Somehow the music and the minted breath of the water and the scent of the moss and the wild violet seemed to flavour their meal. Tom had brought a small gun with him, and, soon after they resumed their walk, saw some partridges and fired upon them. All the birds flew save a hen that stood clucking with spread wings. Coming close, they could see her eyes blinking in drops of blood. Trove put his hand upon her, but she only bent her head a little and spread her wings the wider.
“Tom,” said he, “look at this little preacher of the woods. Do you know what she’s saying?”
“No,” said the boy, soberly.
“Well, she’s saying: ’Look at me and see what you’ve done. Hereafter, O boy! think before you pull the trigger.’ It’s a pity, but we must finish the job.”
As they came out upon Brier Road the boys found a nest of hornets. It hung on a bough above the roadway. Soon Paul had flung a stone that broke the nest open. Hornets began to buzz around them, and all ran for refuge to a thicket of young firs. In a moment they could hear a horse coming at a slow trot. Trove peered through the bushes. He could see Ezra Tower—that man of scornful piety—on a white horse. Trove shouted a warning, but with no effect. Suddenly Tower broke his long silence, and the horse began to run. The little party made a detour, and came again to the road.
“He did speak to the hornets,” said Polly.
“Swore, too,” said Paul.
“Nature has her own way with folly; you can’t hold your tongue when she speaks to you,” Trove answered.
Near sunset, they came into Brier Dale. Tunk was to be there at supper time, and drive home with Polly and her brothers. The widow had told him not to come by the Brier Road; it would take him past Rickard’s Inn, where he loved to tarry and display horsemanship.