But a greedy raccoon, which had been prowling near in the woods during the night, and had been tantalized to desperation by the smell of the late meal, especially by the odor of flapjacks frying in pork fat, had stolen from cover after the departure of his natural enemy, the dog.
Finding the coast clear and the camp unguarded, he made himself quietly at home, rooted among some potato parings which the guide had thrown aside a day or two before, devoured a cold flapjack, and cleaned the camp frying-pan as it had never been cleaned before, with his tongue. But his appetite was whetted, not glutted. Scent or instinct told him that pork, molasses, and other eatables were hidden in the bark hut. Here was a golden opportunity for Mr. Coon. No one molested him. Meditating a feast, he climbed to the roof, and began cautiously to scrape off portions of the bark. The rising sun ought to have warned him back to forest depths; but he persisted in his scratching, repeating now and again a satisfied cluck.
His hole was made. His keen nose told him that pork was almost within reach, when the bugle-call of his enemy—Tiger’s challenging bark—smote upon his ear. Guide and dog were opportunely returning to camp.
Of course, as soon as the marauder scrambled off the roof, Cyrus and the boys sprang from their couch. Barefooted, and in night costume, they were already at the door of the hut before Uncle Eb was heard booming,—
“Boys! Boys! Tumble out—tumble out! Dere’s a reg’lar razzle-dazzle fight goin’ on heah. Tiger’s nabbed de coon.”
A coon hunt.
A razzle-dazzle fight it surely was! On one side of the camp, between the camping-ground, which Uncle Eb had cleared with many a backache, and the woods, was a narrow strip covered with a stunted, prickly growth of wild raspberry bushes and tiny cherry-trees. These had sprung up after the pines had been cut down, as soon as the sun peeped at the long-hidden earth.
Into it the bare-legged trio dared not venture, knowing that they would get a worse scratching and tearing than if the coon itself mauled them.
But they could see and hear a whirling, howling, clawing, spitting, rough-and-tumble conflict going on in the midst of this miniature jungle.
“Whew! Whew!” gasped Cyrus. “Here’s your first sight of a wild coon, boys. I wish to goodness it had been a different sight, but I suppose he must pay for his thieving.”
“Tiger’ll make him do dat. Bet yer life he will! He’s death on coons, if ever a dog was,” yelled Uncle Eb, gambolling with excitement, his eyes bulging and widening until they looked like oysters on the shell.
The soft, battered, gray felt hat which replaced his fur cap in the daytime surged off his gray wool, and frisked gently away towards the camp-fire. There, coming in contact with a red ember, it scorched and shrivelled into smoking, smelling ashes, all unnoticed in the tumult of the fight.