There was a loud report—another—and another, and Chaffer, stunned and bewildered, found himself lying at full length on the ground, while a horrible pain in his body made him feel sick and faint. In vain he lifted his head, and tried to raise himself; his head sank slowly down again on the soft grass, and his body would not move. He kept his eyes fixed on the hunters, who crowded round eagerly, but a misty veil floated in front of them, and everything looked blurred and dim. He made one more brave effort, and, with a spasmodic jerk, half lifted his body; but the exertion made the stream of blood, which was oozing out of his side, spurt out in quick, sharp rushes, and with a pathetic sigh and a convulsive movement of the beautiful form, which had been so full of life and activity only a few short minutes before, Chaffer let his handsome head fall back for the last time, and died.
The hunters, seeing he was dead, directed their attention to the mother chamois and her little one. The little chamois was on the ground, quite dead, and the mother was standing over her beloved one, her feet on either side of the poor little carcass, dyed a deep red with the blood of her offspring. During Chaffer’s life, his wife had left it to him to defend her, but, deprived of his help, and bereft of her little one, she stood at bay—no longer the gentle, timid chamois, but an indignant, furious animal, ready to defend her kid with her life.
Not being sure whether the baby chamois was dead or not, the hunters tried to make the mother leave the small body, but in vain. Not only did she stamp her feet in defiance, but butted at them with her horns in a savage manner that surprised them. At last there was nothing to do but to shoot her, for they could not waste time, and the skin of a very young chamois was exceedingly valuable.
[Illustration: “CHAFFER WAS THE FIRST TO MEET THE HUNTERS FACE TO FACE.”]
So, as she stood there, reckless and daring, and absolutely fearless through her motherhood, there was a quick flash, another report, and the mother chamois, the pretty wife of Chaffer, of whom he had been so proud, dropped over the body of her baby and mingled her blood with his. She died quicker than Chaffer, and she did not look at her murderers as he had done, but kept her eyes fixed on her little one, and her last movement was made towards it.
So Chaffer, his wife and little one all died on the same day, and in the same manner, and even the hunters, rough and hardy mountaineers as they were, had an uncomfortable feeling whenever they thought of the brave death of the mother, and her pathetic defense of her little one.
But they were hunters, and it was their living, and so in due course of time Chaffer’s fine pair of horns were sold, the skin of his wife was turned into soft, yellow leather, and the skin of his little one was made into gloves.