It was a beautiful summer, and the herd, which numbered about twenty, had a fine time. They sported and leaped from crag to crag—climbed up to the highest and most inaccessible peaks, where they would stand sniffing the clear air, and look out with their beautiful eyes over the picturesque landscape which lay like a vast panorama before them— glide down the chasms and precipices, and take leaps and bounds which would have made almost any animal but a chamois giddy.
And, during that summer, Chaffer grew fat and sleek and handsomer than ever, and by the time October came again was the largest animal in the herd. Only the year before he had been wretched and miserable and very lonely; now he was settled and contented and very happy, for, not only had he refused to allow the old chamois to enter the herd again, but he had chosen a pretty and graceful little wife, and was just as proud of her as he could be.
She was a beautiful creature, and her dark, liquid eyes looked timidly and pathetically out from beneath her nicely developed horns—for both male and female chamois have these appendages—while every movement of her delicately formed body was full of grace. It was no wonder Chaffer was proud of her, and when she presented him later on with a fine little kid, he was prouder than ever.
The baby chamois was a pretty little creature, and quick and active to a remarkable degree. But she had also inherited her parents’ sensitiveness and timidity, and never left her mother’s side; where the mother chamois went, there the little one followed closely, and when a chasm or ravine was too wide to cross with a leap of her small body, the mother made a bridge of her own body by throwing herself across, with feet planted firmly on either side of the chasm, and on it the little one sprang lightly and gracefully over in safety.
Chaffer was not always with them; he had a good many other things to attend to, but he kept careful and watchful guard over them, and his keen senses of sight and hearing were always on the alert for danger.
One fine day in the following spring, when the kid was growing big and strong, the herd had collected on a favorite feeding-ground, and was browsing in calm enjoyment. Suddenly the sentinel lifted his head, and, stamping his fore feet on the ground, gave the whistle of warning.
The chamois were on the alert in an instant, and, scenting danger to windward, flew wildly in the opposite direction. As a rule, they were able to escape, but this time they had been trapped, for the same hunters, who had tried in vain so many times to catch them, had formed a circle round them now, and had narrowed it until they were close to their prey.
Chaffer leaped and bounded, followed by his wife and little one, and was one of the very first to leave the feeding-ground behind; but he was also the first to meet the hunters face to face—not at such close quarters as at that memorable time when he had sprang on the same ledge with the hunter, but just close enough for those hunters to take a good, steady aim at him.