Chapter XXII: Lightfoot's Long Swim
 

The Big River was very wide. It would have been a long swim for Lightfoot had he been fresh and at his best. Strange as it may seem, Lightfoot is a splendid swimmer, despite his small, delicate feet. He enjoys swimming.

But now Lightfoot was terribly tired from his long run ahead of the hounds. For a time he swam rapidly, but those weary muscles grew still more weary, and by the time he reached the middle of the Big River it seemed to him that he was not getting ahead at all. At first he had tried to swim towards a clump of trees he could see on the opposite bank above the point where he had entered the water, but to do this he had to swim against the current and he soon found that he hadn't the strength to do this. Then he turned and headed for a point down the Big River. This made the swimming easier, for the current helped him instead of hindering him.

Even then he could feel his strength leaving him. Had he escaped those hounds and the terrible hunters only to be drowned in the Big River? This new fear gave him more strength for a little while. But it did not last long. He was three fourths of the way across the Big River but still that other shore seemed a long distance away. Little by little hope died in the heart of Lightfoot the Deer. He would keep on just as long as he could and then, -- well, it was better to drown than to be torn to pieces by dogs.

Just as Lightfoot felt that he could not take another stroke and that the end was at hand, one foot touched something. Then, all four feet touched. A second later he had found solid footing and was standing with the water only up to his knees. He had found a little sand bar out in the Big River. With a little gasp of returning hope, Lightfoot waded along until the water began to grow deeper again. He had hoped that he would be able to wade ashore, but he saw now that he would have to swim again.

So for a long time he remained right where he was. He was so tired that he trembled all over, and he was as frightened as he was tired. He knew that standing out there in the water he could be seen for a long distance, and that made him nervous and fearful. Supposing a hunter on the shore he was trying to reach should see him. Then he would have no chance at all, for the hunter would simply wait for him and shoot him as he came out of the water.

But rest he must, and so he stood for a long time on the little sand bar in the Big River. And little by little he felt his strength returning.