Chapter XXVI: Why The Hunter Got No Ducks

The hunter who had come down the Big River in a boat and landed near the place where Dusky the Black Duck and his flock had found nice yellow corn scattered in the rushes night after night saw Blacky the Crow leave the top of a certain tree as he approached.

"It is well for you that you didn't wait for me to get nearer," said the hunter. "You are smart enough to know that you can't play the same trick on me twice. You frightened those Ducks away last night, but if you try it again, you'll be shot as surely as your coat is black."

Then the hunter went to his blind which, you know, was the hiding-place he had made of bushes and rushes, and behind this he sat down with his terrible gun to wait and watch for Dusky the Black Duck and his flock.

Now you remember that farther along the shore of the Big River was Farmer Brown's boy, hiding in a blind he had made that afternoon. The hunter couldn't see him at all. He didn't have the least idea that any one else was anywhere near. "With that Crow out of the way, I think I will get some Ducks to-night," thought the hunter and looked at his gun to make sure that it was ready.

Over in the West, jolly, round, red Mr. Sun started to go to bed behind the Purple Hills, and the Black Shadows came creeping out. Far down the Big River the hunter saw a swiftly moving black line just above the water. "Here they come," he muttered, as he eagerly watched that black line draw nearer.

Twice those big black birds circled around over the Big River opposite where the hunter was crouching behind his blind. It was plain that Dusky, their leader, remembered Blacky's warning the night before. But this time there was no warning. Everything appeared safe. Once more the flock circled and then headed straight for that place where they hoped to find more corn. The hunter crouched lower. They were almost near enough for him to shoot when "bang, bang" went a gun a short distance away.

Instantly Dusky and his flock turned and on swift wings swung off and up the river. If ever there was a disappointed hunter, it was the one crouching in that blind. "Somebody else is hunting, and he spoiled my shot that time," he muttered. "He must have a blind farther down. Probably some other Ducks I didn't see came in to him. I wonder if he got them. Here's hoping that next time those Ducks come in here first."

He once more made himself comfortable and settled down for a long wait. The Black Shadows crept out from the farther bank of the Big River. Jolly, round red Mr. Sun had gone to bed, and the first little star was twinkling high overhead. It was very still and peaceful. From out in the middle of the Big River sounded a low "quack"; Dusky and his flock were swimming in this time. Presently the hunter could see a silver line on the water, and then he made out nine black spots. In a few minutes those Ducks would be where he could shoot them. "Bang, bang" went that gun below him again. With a roar of wings, Dusky and his flock were in the air and away. That hunter stood up and said things, and they were not nice things. He knew that those Ducks would not come back again that night, and that once more he must go home empty-handed. But first he would find out who that other hunter was and what luck he had had, so he tramped down the shore to where that gun had seemed to be. He found the blind of Farmer Brown's boy, but there was no one there. You see, as soon as he had fired his gun the last time, Farmer Brown's boy had slipped out and away. And as he tramped across the Green Meadows toward home with his gun, he chuckled. "He didn't get those Ducks this time," said Farmer Brown's boy.