Chapter XXVIII: The Hunting Season Ends
 

The very worst things come to an end at last. No matter how bad a thing is, it cannot last forever. So it was with the hunting season for Lightfoot the Deer. There came a day when the law protected all Deer, -- a day when the hunters could no longer go searching for Lightfoot.

Usually there was great rejoicing among the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows when the hunting season ended and they knew that Lightfoot would be in no more danger until the next hunting season. But this year there was no rejoicing. You see, no one could find Lightfoot. The last seen of him was when he was running for his life with two hounds baying on his trail and the Green Forest filled with hunters watching for a chance to shoot him.

Sammy Jay had hunted everywhere through the Green Forest. Blacky the Crow, whose eyes are quite as sharp as those of Sammy Jay, had joined in the search. They had found no trace of Lightfoot. Paddy the Beaver said that for three days Lightfoot had not visited his pond for a drink. Billy Mink, who travels up and down the Laughing Brook, had looked for Lightfoot's footprints in the soft earth along the banks and had found only old ones. Jumper the Hare had visited Lightfoot's favorite eating places at night, but Lightfoot had not been in any of them.

"I tell you what it is," said Sammy Jay to Bobby Coon, "something has happened to Lightfoot. Either those hounds caught him and killed him, or he was shot by one of those hunters. The Green Forest will never be the same without him. I don't think I shall want to come over here very much. There isn't one of all the other people who live in the Green Forest who would be missed as Lightfoot will be."

Bobby Coon nodded. "That's true, Sammy," said he. "Without Lightfoot, the Green Forest will never be the same. He never harmed anybody. Why those hunters should have been so anxious to kill one so beautiful is something I can't understand. For that matter, I don't understand why they want to kill any of us. If they really needed us for food, it would be a different matter, but they don't. Have you been up in the Old Pasture and asked Old Man Coyote if he has seen anything of Lightfoot?"

Sammy nodded. "I've been up there twice," said he. "Old Man Coyote has been lying very low during the days, but nights he has done a lot of traveling. You know Old Man Coyote has a mighty good nose, but not once since the day those hounds chased Lightfoot has he found so much as a tiny whiff of Lightfoot's scent. I thought he might have found the place where Lightfoot was killed, but he hasn't, although he has looked for it. Well, the hunting season for Lightfoot is over, but I am afraid it has ended too late."