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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

The Cabin In The Woods

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Ned was glad to have the opening watch, as it would soon be over and done with, and then he could sleep free from care about any watch to come. The Panther and Obed rolled in their blankets, found sleep almost instantly, and the boy, resolved not to be a careless sentinel, walked in a circle just outside the fires.

Sure enough, and just as the Panther had predicted, he saw the red eyes and dusky forms again. Now and then he heard a faint pad among the bushes, and he knew that a wolf had made it. He merely changed from the outside to the inside of the fire ring, and continued his walk. With the fire about him and his friends so near he was not afraid of wolves, no matter how big and numerous they might be.

Yet their presence in the bushes, the light shuffle of their feet and their fiery eyes had an uncanny effect. It was unpleasant to know that such fierce beasts were so near, and he gave himself a reassuring glance at the sleeping forms of his partners. By and by the red eyes melted away, and he heard another soft tread, but heavier than that of the wolves. With his rifle lying in the hollow of his arm and his finger on the trigger he looked cautiously about the circle of the forest.

Ned's gaze at last met that of a pair of red eyes, a little further apart than those of the wolves. He knew then that they belonged to a larger animal, and presently he caught a glimpse of the figure. He was sure that it was a puma or cougar, and so far as he could judge it was a big brute. It, too, must be very hungry, or it would not dare the fire and the human odor.

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Ned felt tentatively of his rifle, but changed his mind. He remembered the Panther's exploit with the firebrand, and he decided to imitate it, but on a much larger scale. He laid down his rifle, but kept his left hand on the butt of the pistol in his belt. Then selecting the largest torch from the fire he made a rush straight for the blazing eyes, thrusting the flaming stick before him. There was a frightened roar, and then the sound of a heavy body crashing away through the undergrowth. Ned returned, satisfied that he had done as well as the Panther and better.

Both the Panther and Obed were awake and sitting up. They looked curiously at Ned, who still carried the flaming brand in his hand.

"A noise like the sound of thunder away off wakened me up," said the Panther. "Now, what have you been up to, young 'un?"

"Me?" said Ned lightly. "Oh, nothing important. I wanted to make some investigations in natural history out there in the bushes, and as I needed a light for the purpose I took it."

"An' if I'm not pressin' too much," said the Panther, in mock humility, "may I make so bold as to ask our young Solomon what is natural history?"

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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