A Waif of the Plains eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 135 pages of information about A Waif of the Plains.

She had already clapped on her sun-bonnet and was standing at the edge of the tail-board, her little arms extended in such perfect confidence of being caught that the boy could not resist.  He caught her cleverly.  They halted a moment and let the lumbering vehicle move away from them, as it swayed from side to side as if laboring in a heavy sea.  They remained motionless until it had reached nearly a hundred yards, and then, with a sudden half-real, half-assumed, but altogether delightful trepidation, ran forward and caught up with it again.  This they repeated two or three times until both themselves and the excitement were exhausted, and they again plodded on hand in hand.  Presently Clarence uttered a cry.

“My!  Susy—­look there!”

The rear wagon had once more slipped away from them a considerable distance.  Between it and them, crossing its track, a most extraordinary creature had halted.

At first glance it seemed a dog—­a discomfited, shameless, ownerless outcast of streets and byways, rather than an honest stray of some drover’s train.  It was so gaunt, so dusty, so greasy, so slouching, and so lazy!  But as they looked at it more intently they saw that the grayish hair of its back had a bristly ridge, and there were great poisonous-looking dark blotches on its flanks, and that the slouch of its haunches was a peculiarity of its figure, and not the cowering of fear.  As it lifted its suspicious head towards them they could see that its thin lips, too short to cover its white teeth, were curled in a perpetual sneer.

“Here, doggie!” said Clarence excitedly.  “Good dog!  Come.”

Susy burst into a triumphant laugh.  “Et tain’t no dog, silly; it’s er coyote.”

Clarence blushed.  It wasn’t the first time the pioneer’s daughter had shown her superior knowledge.  He said quickly, to hide his discomfiture, “I’ll ketch him, any way; he’s nothin’ mor’n a ki yi.”

“Ye can’t, tho,” said Susy, shaking her sun-bonnet.  “He’s faster nor a hoss!”

Nevertheless, Clarence ran towards him, followed by Susy.  When they had come within twenty feet of him, the lazy creature, without apparently the least effort, took two or three limping bounds to one side, and remained at the same distance as before.  They repeated this onset three or four times with more or less excitement and hilarity, the animal evading them to one side, but never actually retreating before them.  Finally, it occurred to them both that although they were not catching him they were not driving him away.  The consequences of that thought were put into shape by Susy with round-eyed significance.

“Kla’uns, he bites.”

Clarence picked up a hard sun-baked clod, and, running forward, threw it at the coyote.  It was a clever shot, and struck him on his slouching haunches.  He snapped and gave a short snarling yelp, and vanished.  Clarence returned with a victorious air to his companion.  But she was gazing intently in the opposite direction, and for the first time he discovered that the coyote had been leading them half round a circle.

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A Waif of the Plains from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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