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- The Children of the New Forest - 10/64 -

guns and the dog Smoker as he wishes."

Humphrey now drove up the pony and cart, and they set off.

"Well, I suppose you'll tell us now what we are going for?" said Edward.

"Yes, I will. You know I've been watching the cattle for a long while, because I wanted a cow. I have been in a tree when they have passed under me several times, and I observed that one or two of the heifers were very near calving. Yesterday evening I thought one could not help calving very soon indeed, and as I was watching, I saw that she was uneasy, and that she at last left the herd and went into a little copse of wood. I remained three hours to see if she came out again, and she did, not. It was dark when I came home, as you know. This morning I went before daylight and found the herd. She is very remarkable, being black and white spotted; and, after close examination, I found that she was not with the herd; so I am sure that she went into the copse to calve, and that she has calved before this."

"Well, that may be," replied Jacob; "but now I do not understand what we are to do."

"Nor I," replied Edward.

"Well, then, I'll tell you what I hope to do. I have got the pony and cart to take the calf home with us, if we can get it--which I think we can. I have got Smoker to worry the heifer and keep her employed, while we put the calf in the cart; a rope that we may tie the cow if we can; and you with your guns must keep off the herd if they come to her assistance. Now do you understand my plan?"

"Yes, and I think it very likely to succeed, Humphrey," replied Jacob, "and I give you credit for the scheme. We will help you all we can. Where is the copse?"

"Not half a mile farther," replied Humphrey. "We shall soon be there."

On their arrival, they found that the herd were feeding at a considerable distance from the copse, which was, perhaps, as well.

"Now," said Jacob, "I and Edward will enter into the copse with Smoker, and you follow us, Humphrey. I will make Smoker seize the heifer, if necessary; at all events he will keep her at bay--that is, if she is here. First, let us walk round the copse and find her _slot_, as we call the track of a deer. See, here is her footing. Now let us go in."

They advanced cautiously into the thicket, following the track of the heifer, and at last came upon her. Apparently she had not calved more than an hour, and was licking the calf, which was not yet on its legs. As soon as the animal perceived Jacob and Edward, she shook her head, and was about to run at them; but Jacob told Smoker to seize her, and the dog flew at her immediately. The attack of the dog drove back the heifer quite into the thicket, and as the dog bounded round her, springing this way and that way to escape her horns, the heifer was soon separated from the calf.

"Now then, Edward and Humphrey," said Jacob, advancing between the heifer and the calf, "lift up the calf between you and put it in the cart. Leave Smoker and me to manage the mother."

The boys put their arms under the stomach of the calf, and carried it away. The heifer was at first too busy defending herself against the dog to perceive that the calf was gone; when she did, Jacob called Smoker to him, so as to bring him between the heifer and where the boys were going out of the thicket. At last the heifer gave a loud bellow, and rushed out of the thicket in pursuit of her calf, checked by Smoker, who held on to her ear, and sometimes stopped her from advancing.

"Hold her, Smoker," said Jacob, who now went back to help the boys. "Hold her, boy. Is the calf in the cart?"

"Yes, and tied fast," replied Edward, "and we are in the cart, too."

"That's right," replied Jacob. "Now I'll get in too, and let us drive off. She'll follow us, depend upon it. Here, Smoker! Smoker! let her alone."

Smoker, at this command, came bounding out of the copse, followed by the heifer, lowing most anxiously. Her lowing was responded to by the calf in the cart, and she ran wildly up to it.

"Drive off, Humphrey," said Jacob; "I think I heard the lowing of the heifer answered by some of the herd, and the sooner we are off the better."

Humphrey, who had the reins, drove off; the heifer followed, at one time running at the dog, at another putting her head almost into the hind part of the cart; but the lowing of the heifer was now answered by deeper tones, and Jacob said,

"Edward, get your gun ready, for I think the herd is following. Do not fire, however, until I tell you. We must be governed by circumstances. It won't do to lose the pony, or to run any serious risk, for the sake of the heifer and calf. Drive fast, Humphrey."

A few minutes afterward they perceived, at about a quarter of a mile behind them, not the whole herd, but a single bull, who was coming up at a fast trot, with his tail in the air, and tossing his head, lowing deeply in answer to the heifer.

"There's only one, after all," said Jacob; "I suppose the heifer is his favorite. Well, we can manage him. Smoker, come in. Come in, sir, directly," cried Jacob, perceiving that the dog was about to attack the bull.

Smoker obeyed, and the bull advanced till he was within a hundred yards.

"Now, Edward, do you fire first--aim for his shoulder. Humphrey, pull up."

Humphrey stopped the pony and the bull continued to advance, but seemed puzzled who to attack, unless it was the dog. As soon as the bull was within sixty yards, Edward fired, and the animal fell down on its knees, tearing the ground with its horns.

"That will do," said Jacob; "drive on again, Humphrey; we will have a look at that fellow by-and-by. At present we had better get home, as others may come. He's up again, but he is at a stand-still. I have an idea that he is hit hard."

The cart drove on, followed by the heifer, but no more of the wild herd made their appearance, and they very soon gained the cottage.

"Now, then, what shall we do?" said Jacob. "Come, Humphrey, you have had all the ordering of this, and have done it well."

"Well, Jacob, we must now drive the cart into the yard, and shut the gate upon the cow, till I am ready."

"That's easy done, by setting Smoker at her," replied Jacob; "but, mercy on us, there's Alice and Edith running out!--the heifer may kill them. Go back, Alice, run quite into the cottage, and shut the door till we come."

Alice and Edith hearing this, and Edward also crying out to them, made a hasty retreat to the cottage. Humphrey then backed the cart against the paling of the yard, so as to enable Edward to get on the other side of it, ready to open the gate. Smoker was set at the heifer, and, as before, soon engaged her attention; so that the gate was opened and the cart drove in, and the gate closed again, before the heifer could follow.

"Well, Humphrey, what next?"

"Why, now lift the calf out, and put it into the cow-house. I will go into the cow-house with a rope and a slip-knot at the end of it, get upon the beam above, and drop it over her horns as she's busy with the calf, which she will be as soon as you let her in. I shall pass the end of the rope outside for you to haul up when I am ready, and then we shall have her fast, till we can secure her properly. When I call out Ready, do you open the gate and let her in. You can do that and jump into the cart afterward, for fear she may run at you; but I don't think that she will, for it's the calf she wants, and not either of you."

As soon as Humphrey was ready with the rope, he gave the word, and the gate was opened; the cow ran in immediately, and, hearing her calf bleat, went into the cow-house, the door of which was shut upon her. A minute afterward Humphrey cried out to them to haul upon the rope, which they did.

"That will do," said Humphrey from the inside; "now make the rope fast, and then you may come in."

They went in and found the heifer drawn close to the side of the cow- house by the rope which was round her horns, and unable to move her head.

"Well, Humphrey, that's very clever; but now what is to be done?"

"First, I'll saw off the tips of her horns, and then if she does run at us, she won't hurt us much. Wait till I go for the saw."

As soon as the ends of her horns were sawed off, Humphrey took another piece of rope, which he fastened securely round her horns, and then made the other end fast to the side of the building, so that the animal could move about a little and eat out of the crib.

"There," said Humphrey, "now time and patience must do the rest. We must coax her and handle her, and we soon shall tame her. At present let us leave her with the calf. She has a yard of rope, and that is enough for her to lick her calf, which is all that she requires at present. To-morrow we will cut some grass for her."

They then went out, shutting the cow-house door.

"Well, Humphrey, you've beat us after all, and have the laugh on your side now," said Jacob. "'Where there's a will, there's a way,' that's certain; and I assure you, that when you were making so much hay, and gathering so much litter, and building a cow-house, I had no more idea that we should have a cow than that we should have an elephant; and I will say that you deserve great credit for your way of obtaining it."

"That he certainly does," replied Edward. "You have more genius than I have, brother. But dinner must be ready, if Alice has done her duty.

The Children of the New Forest - 10/64

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