“I think so,” replied Jack. “When we left the river we struck straight back for a little distance then turned directly to our left and have followed nearly a straight course since. I have seen the stars every little while and I’m sure I could find my way back.”
“We’re going against the wind, aren’t we?” questioned Tom.
“Yes, what little wind there is,” replied Jack, “Why?”
“Oh, nothing. I just get foolish notions in my head, that’s all.”
“What’s the foolish notion, now, Tom?” queried Jack in a kindly tone. “Tell us what it is, man. Maybe it is worth while.”
“Well, just notice Rowdy, here. He’s mighty uneasy and has been snuffing into the air for some little time. Just now as I took a deep breath I thought I smelled smoke and with it came an odor of burning flesh. It was too heavy to be merely the remains of a dinner thrown into a fire. I was just thinking that some accident—”
“I don’t think so,” replied Jack. “At least we won’t think that until we have to. It just can’t be so,” he added.
“It’s getting mighty dark in here,” stated Tom. “I wish it would lighten up a bit. That’s a fire ahead there.”
“Whar y’all gwine?” A giant negro barred the path.
TWO BEAVERS IN PERIL
Neither Harry nor Arnold is quite clear as to just what happened after the rattlesnake made his leap at the charmed boy.
They both are agreed on one point, however. Whenever the subject of marksmanship is brought up, they invariably agree that the man who fired the shot from his rifle that afternoon was the best crackshot they ever saw. His skill surely saved Harry’s life.
What really happened was that a stranger, passing through the forest at the moment of the boys’ predicament, heard the shots from Arnold’s automatic. As the reader knows, the snake, Harry and Arnold were in direct line with Harry between the snake and Arnold. Therefore Arnold was unable quickly to shoot the snake. He tried to distract the attention of the reptile by creating a disturbance, but, as we know, in this he was unsuccessful. The temporary diversion was sufficient, however, to enable the stranger to grasp the situation as he came through a clump of palmettos.
Swinging his rifle to his shoulder he fired, seemingly without taking aim. His bullet sped true to the mark and severed the head of the now thoroughly angered rattler. He was just in time, for already the muscles of steel had started to launch the death dealing fangs.
It was not to be wondered at that Harry and Arnold should feel extremely grateful to the stranger. As he approached they both stepped forward and embarrassed him by the profuse thanks offered.
“Now, boys, don’t say another word,” he protested. “I like to kill them varmints. It pleased me a heap to be able to he’p youall.”