Chapter XVI. Sammy Jay Sees Something Green
 

For all their peeking and peering among the broken-down rushes and under the bushes along the banks of the Big River, and no sharper eyes ever peeked and peered, Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow had found no sign of the missing Mr. Quack.

"I guess Mrs. Quack was right and that Mr. Quack was killed when he was shot," muttered Sammy to himself. "Probably one of those hunters had him for dinner long ago. Hello! There's another hunter up where the Laughing Brook joins the Big River! I guess I won't take any chances. I'd like to find Mr. Quack, but Sammy Jay is a lot more important to me than Mr. Quack, and that fellow just might happen to take it into his head to shoot at me."

So Sammy silently flew around back of the hunter and stopped in a tree where he could watch all that the man did. For some time Sammy sat there watching. The hunter was sitting behind a sort of fence of bushes which quite hid him from any one who might happen to be out on the Big River. But of course Sammy could see him perfectly, because he was behind him. Out in front of that little fence, which was on the very edge of the water, were a number of what Sammy at first took to be some of Mrs. Quack's relatives. "Why doesn't he shoot them?" thought Sammy. He puzzled over this as he watched them until suddenly it came into his head that he hadn't seen one of them move since he began watching them. The man changed his position, and still those Ducks didn't move, although some of them were so near that they simply couldn't have helped knowing when the hunter moved unless they were more stupid than any one of Sammy's acquaintance.

This was very curious, very curious indeed. Sammy flew a little nearer and then a little nearer, taking the greatest care not to make a sound. Pretty soon he was so near that he could see those Ducks very plainly, and he stared with all his might. He couldn't see any feathers! No, Sir, he couldn't see any feathers! Then he understood.

"Huh!" said he to himself. "Those are not Ducks at all. They are just pieces of wood made to look like Ducks. Now I wonder what they are for."

In a few minutes he found out. He saw the hunter crouch down a little lower and look down the Big River. Sammy looked too. He saw a flock of real Ducks flying swiftly just above the middle of the Big River. Suddenly the leader turned straight towards the place where the hunter was hiding, and the others followed him. He could hear Mrs. Quack calling excitedly out in the middle of the Big River, but the strangers did not heed her. They had their eyes on those wooden Ducks and were coming straight in to join them.

"They think they are real Ducks and so this place is perfectly safe!" thought Sammy. He saw the hunter make ready to shoot with his terrible gun and then, without stopping to think what might happen to him, he opened his mouth and screamed at the top of his voice. He saw the Ducks suddenly swing out towards the middle of the Big River and knew that they had heard his warning. He saw the hunter suddenly rise and point his gun at the flying Ducks. He heard the bang, bang of the terrible gun, but not one of the flock was hit. The distance was too great. Sammy chuckled happily. Then he remembered that he himself was within easy reach of that terrible gun, and probably the hunter was very angry. In great fright Sammy turned and flew, dodging behind trees and every second expecting to hear again the roar of that terrible gun.

But he didn't, and so when he thought he was safe, he stopped. Now in flying away from the hunter he had followed the Laughing Brook where it winds through a sort of swamp before it joins the Big River. Because there was more water than could be kept between the banks of the Big River, it had crept over the banks, and all the trees of the swamp were standing in water. Just beyond where Sammy was sitting was a pile of brush in the water. A Jolly Little Sunbeam, dancing down through the tree tops, touched something under the edge of the brush, and Sammy's sharp eyes caught a flash of green. Idly he watched it, and presently it moved. Instantly Sammy was all curiosity. He flew over where he could see better.

"Now what can that be?" thought Sammy, as he peered down at the pile of brush and tried to see under it.