“Five hundred,” I called, trotting after Hardy, “wouldn’t hire me.”
Till I was out of earshot I could hear him damning and cursing me in snorts and shouts as a sneak who would wear my coat of tar and feathers yet, and I was still wondering whether I ought to or not, when I overhauled the nigger-chaser cheering on his dogs. Their prey had again tricked them, and again the cry was, “Take him, Dandy!” and “Hi, Charmer, hi!”
Between shouts: “Is yo’ nag gwine to hold out?”
“He’s got to or perish,” I laughed.
In time we found ourselves under a vast roof of towering pines. The high green grass beneath them had been burned over within a year. The declining sun gilded both the grass and the lower sides of the soaring boughs. Even Hardy glanced back exaltedly to bid me mark the beauty of the scene. But I dared not. The dogs were going more swiftly than ever, and there was a ticklish chance of one’s horse breaking a leg in one of the many holes left by burnt-out pine roots. The main risk, moreover, was not to Hardy’s trained hunter but to my worn-out livery “nag.”
“We’ve started ’em, all four, on the run,” he called, “but if we don’t tree ’em befo’ they make the river we’ll lose ’em after all.”
The land began a steady descent. Soon once more we were in underbrush and presently came square against a staked-and-ridered worm fence around a “deadening” dense with tall corn. Charmer and Dandy had climbed directly over it, scampered through the corn, and were waking every echo in a swamp beyond. The younger pair, still yoked, stood under the fence, yelping for Hardy’s aid. He sprang down and unyoked them and over they scrambled and were gone, ringing like fire-bells. Outside the fence, both right and left, the ground was miry, yet for us it was best to struggle round through the bushy slough; which we had barely done when with sudden curses Hardy spurred forward. The younger dogs were off on a separate chase of their own. For at the river-bank the four negroes had divided by couples and gone opposite ways.
“Call them back!” I urged. “Blow your horn!” But I was ignored.
[Chester sat looking at a newly turned page as though it were illegible.
“I’m wondering,” he lightly said, “what public enormity of to-day the next generation will be as amazed at as we are at this.”
“Ah,” Mme. Castanado responded, “never mine! Tha’z but the moral! Aline and me we are insane for the story to finizh!” And the story was resumed, to suffer no further interruption.]
At the river we burst out upon a broad, gentle bend up and down which we could see both heavily wooded banks for a good furlong either way.