Charley turned away from his wireless key, and got out pencil and paper. By the light of the candle lantern he began his letter to Lew, and had almost finished it when the pup, his hair bristling, ran to the door of the tent, growling savagely. An instant later both the forester and Charley leaped to their feet as the stillness of the forest was broken by an awful scream that rang through the dark and was thrown back by the mountain in a magnified echo even more terrifying than the original cry.
Charley Wins His First Promotion
With startled eyes, Charley looked at the forester, at the same time reaching for his rifle. To Charley’s surprise the forester began to grin.
“I guess you got your cat, Charley,” he chuckled. “But it sure did startle a fellow.”
The first piercing scream of the wildcat was succeeded by a variety of furious screams. The animal could be heard thrashing about in the leaves, spitting, snarling, growling, rattling the chain, and evidently fighting furiously to free itself from the trap.
Taking both the candle lantern and the flash-light, as well as rifle and axe, the two men started for the cat.
“Grab that dog,” said the forester, as the pup darted out of the tent ahead of them.
Charley whistled and called, but the pup was too wild with excitement to heed the command.
“Hurry up,” said the forester, “or you won’t have any pup left.”
They pushed rapidly through the thicket, then ran toward their traps. Faintly they could see the wildcat. The pup was worrying it. With arched back, hair erect, eyes ablaze, and snarling furiously, the wildcat was waiting its opportunity to strike. The pup circled about it, yelping and barking, every second growing bolder because the animal did not spring at it.
“Give me that rifle, quick!” said the forester. “That cat’ll kill the pup in another minute.”
He seized the weapon, sank on one knee, quickly sighted along the barrel, and pulled the trigger. Even as he fired, the cat leaped toward the pup. For a second there was a terrific scuffling in the leaves. Then the search-light’s beam showed the pup lying motionless, its neck broken and torn, while the cat was clawing the air wildly, and spitting and snarling in fury.
“Don’t ever let one of those critters get on your back, Charley,” said the forester, as he approached the cat for a final shot. “Sometimes they will follow a fellow in the forest. It’s seldom they really attack a man, but if a fellow loses his nerve and runs, they will sometimes leap on him. A single swipe of those claws will cut a fellow to ribbons.”
The forester was now close to the cat, which had gotten to its feet and had crouched, snarling, ready for a leap.
The forester circled so as to get a shot at the animal’s shoulder. Quickly raising his rifle, he fired. The cat screamed, clawed the air desperately for a few seconds, and lay still.