“Oh, Mark!” exclaimed Ruth, “just think if you hadn’t come along just then.”
“How merciful that your father thought of taking the rifle!” said Mrs. Elmer. “I don’t suppose we could keep it for Mr. Elmer to see, could we?” she asked of Captain Johnson.
“Oh no, ma’am, not in this warm weather,” answered the captain; “but we can cut off the head and bury it, and in two or three weeks you will have a nice skull to keep as a memento.”
“And what will you do with the body?”
“Why, throw it into the river, I suppose,” answered the captain.
“Wouldn’t it be better to bury it too?”
“Hi! Miss Elmer; yo’ sho’ly wouldn’t tink of doin’ dat ar?” exclaimed Aunt Chloe, who had by this time become a fixture in the Elmer household, and had come out with the rest to see the alligator.
“Why not, Chloe?” asked Mrs. Elmer, in surprise.
“‘Kase ef you’s putten um in de groun’, how’s Marse Tukky Buzzard gwine git um? Can’t nebber hab no luck ef you cheat Marse Tukky Buzzard dat ar way.”
“That’s another of the colored folks’ superstitions,” said Captain Johnson. “They believe that if you bury any dead animal so that the turkey buzzards can’t get at it, they’ll bring you bad luck.”
“’Taint no ‘stition, nuther. Hit’s a pop sho’ fac’, dat’s what!” muttered Aunt Chloe, angrily, as she walked off towards the house.
So the head of the alligator was cut off and buried, and the body disappeared, though whether it was buried or served to make a meal for the buzzards no one seemed exactly to know.
That afternoon Captain Johnson went off down the river with his lighter, saying that he could always be found at St. Mark’s when wanted, and Mark and Jan went into the woods to look for cedar fence-posts.
After the day’s work was finished, and the family were gathered in the sitting-room for the evening, Mark had a long and earnest conversation with his mother and Ruth. At its close Mrs. Elmer said, “Well, my son, wait until we hear what your father thinks of it;” and Ruth said, “I think it’s a perfectly splendid plan.”
Mark slept in the room with the wounded boy, whose name they had learned to be Frank March, that night, and was roused several times before morning to give him water, for he was very feverish. He talked in his sleep too, as though he were having troubled dreams, and once Mark heard him say,
“Fire quick! No, it’s only powder; it won’t hurt him. I didn’t kill the dog.”
A RUNAWAY’S story, and its happy ending.
During the three days that passed before Mr. Elmer’s return, the large field was made ready for ploughing, most of the post-holes were dug, the soil being so light as to make that an easy matter, and Mark and Jan had cut a number of cedar posts, and got them ready to be rafted down the river.