Coming down by such successive steps from the mount of penitent thanksgivings, it was but a short time before he found himself back on the old camping-ground of sullen resentment.
When the girl got well enough to go about, she would find him out and warn him off; or perhaps she might do even worse, and tag him. In either case he should hate her, and there was a sort of ferocious joy in the thought that she would doubtless be a long time getting well, and would probably not be able to find him if he kept far enough out of her way.
Acting on this wise conclusion, he carefully avoided the manor-house and its neighborhood, making a wide circuit when he went fishing in the upper pools. And once, when his father had sent him with a message to the Major, he did violence to his own sense of exact obedience by transferring the word at the house gate to Mammy Juliet’s grandson, Pete.
But when one’s evil star is in the ascendent, precautions are like the vain strugglings of the fly in the web. The day of reckoning may be postponed, but it will by no means be effaced from the calendar. One purple and russet afternoon, when all the silent forest world was steeped in the deep peace of early autumn, Thomas Jefferson was fishing luxuriously in the most distant of the upper pools. There were three fat perch gill-strung on a forked withe under the overhanging bank, and a fourth was rising to the bait, when the peaceful stillness was rudely rent by a crashing in the undergrowth, and a great dog, of a breed hitherto unknown to Paradise, bounded into the little glade to stand glaring at the fisherman, his teeth bared and his back hairs bristling.
Now Thomas Jefferson in his thirteenth year was as well able to defend himself as any clawed and toothed creature of the wood, and fear, the fear of anything he could face and grapple with, was a thing unknown. Propping his fishing pole so that no chance of a nibble might be lost in the impending struggle, he got on his knees and picked out the exact spot in the dog’s neck where he would drive the bait knife home when hostilities actual should begin.
“Oh, please! Don’t you hurt my dog!” said a rather weak little voice out of the rearward void.
But, gray eyes human, holding brown canine in an unwinking gaze: “You come round here and call him off o’ me.”
“He is not wishing to hurt you, or anybody,” said the voice. “Down, Hector!”
The Great Dane passed from suspicious rigidity and threatening lip twitchings to mighty and frivolous gambolings, and Thomas Jefferson got up to give him room. A girl—the girl, as some inner sense instantly assured him—was trying to make the dog behave. So he had a chance to look her over before the battle for sovereignty should begin.
There was a little shock of disdainful surprise to go with the first glance. Somehow he had been expecting something very different; something on the order of the Queen of Sheba—done small, of course—as that personage was pictured in the family Bible; a girl, proud and scornful, and possibly wearing a silk dress and satin shoes.