“But,” we “saved our face,” “you’ll have to behave when we get there!”
So, as has been said, Mithradates Antikamia Briggs brought up the rear.
Arrived at the tree the whole procession drew into a half circle. We unblocked the opening, and the Invigorator was driven to a spot beneath it so each person could take his turn at standing on the seat and peering down the hole. The eyes still glowed like balls of fire.
Next the dachshunds were lifted up one by one and given a chance to smell at the game. This was to make them keen. Held up by means of a hand held either side their chests, they curled up their hind legs and tails and seemed to endure. Mrs. Kitty explained that they had never been so far off the ground in their lives, and so were naturally preoccupied by the new sensation. This sounded reasonable, so we placed them on the ground. There they sat in a circle looking up at our performances, a solemn and mild interest expressing itself in their lugubrious countenances. A dachshund has absolutely no sense of humour or lightness of spirits. He never cavorts.
By sounding carefully with a carriage whip we determined the depth of the hole, and proceeded to cut through to the bottom. This was quite a job, for the oak was tough, and the position difficult. Tommy had ascended the tree, and proclaimed loudly the first signs of daylight as the axe bit through. Mine happened to be the axe work; so when I had finished a neat little orifice, I swung up beside Tommy, and the Invigorator drove out of the way.
My elevated position was a good one; and as Tommy was peering eagerly down the hole, I had nothing to do but survey the scene.
The rigs were drawn up in a semi-circle twenty yards away. Next the horses’ heads stood the drivers of the various vehicles, anxious to miss none of the fun. The dachshunds sat on their haunches, looking up, and probably wondering why their friend, Tommy, insisted on roosting up a tree. The Captain and Charley were immediately below, engaged in an earnest effort to poke the ’coon into ascending the hole. Tommy was reporting the result of these efforts from above. The General, his feet firmly planted, had unlimbered a huge ten-bore shotgun, so as to be ready for anything. Uncle Jim stood by, smoking his pipe. Mithradates Antikamia Briggs sat sadly apart.
The poking efforts accomplished little. Occasionally the ’coon made a little dash or scramble, but never went far. There was a great deal of talking, shouting, and advice.
At last Uncle Jim, knocking the ashes from his pipe, moved into action. He plucked a double handful of the tall, dry grass, touched a match to it, and thrust it in the nick.
Without the slightest hesitation the ’coon shot out at the top!
Now just at that moment Tommy happened to be leaning over for a right good look down the hole. He received thirty pounds or so of agitated ’coon square in the chest. Thereupon he fell out of the tree incontinently, with the ’coon on top of him.