Chapter VIII: Wit Against Wit
 

It was a dreadful game the hunter with the terrible gun and Lightfoot the Deer were playing in the Green Forest. It was a matching of wit against wit, the hunter seeking to take Lightfoot's life, and Lightfoot seeking to save it. The experience of other years had taught Lightfoot much of the ways of hunters and not one of the things he had learned about them was forgotten. But the hunter in his turn knew much of the ways of Deer. So it was that each was trying his best to outguess the other.

When the hunter found the hiding-place Lightfoot had left at the warning of Sammy Jay he followed Lightfoot's tracks for a short distance. It was slow work, and only one whose eyes had been trained to notice little things could have done it. You see, there was no snow, and only now and then, when he had stepped on a bit of soft ground, had Lightfoot left a footprint. But there were other signs which the hunter knew how to read, -- a freshly upturned leaf here, and here, a bit of moss lightly crushed. These things told the hunter which way Lightfoot had gone.

Slowly, patiently, watchfully, the hunter followed. After a while he stopped with a satisfied grin. "I thought as much," he muttered. "He heard that pesky Jay and circled around so as to get my scent. I'll just cut across to my old trail and unless I am greatly mistaken, I'll find his tracks there."

So, swiftly but silently, the hunter cut across to his old trail, and in a few moments he found just what he expected, -- one of Lightfoot's footprints. Once more he grinned.

"Well, old fellow, I've outguessed you this time," said he to himself." I am behind you and the wind is from you to me, so that you cannot get my scent. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if you're back right where you started from, behind that old windfall." He at once began to move forward silently and cautiously, with eyes and ears alert and his terrible gun ready for instant use.

Now when Lightfoot, following behind the hunter, had lost the scent of the latter, he guessed right away that the latter had found his tracks and had started to follow them. Lightfoot stood still and listened with all his might for some little sound to tell him where the hunter was. But there was no sound and after a little Lightfoot began to move on. He didn't dare remain still, lest the hunter should creep up within shooting distance. There was only one direction in which it was safe for Lightfoot to move, and that was the direction from which the Merry Little Breezes were blowing. So long as they brought him none of the dreaded man-smell, he knew that he was safe. The hunter might be behind him -- probably he was -- but ahead of him, so long as the Merry Little Breezes were blowing in his face and brought no man-smell, was safety.