Part 9 (1/1)

He took a step or two forward. The beautiful head was withdrawn. Lightfoot's heart sank. Then he bounded forward into that thicket. He more than half expected to find no one there, but when he entered that thicket he received the most wonderful surprise in all his life. There stood Miss Daintyfoot, timid, bashful, but with a look in her eyes which Lightfoot could not mistake. In that instant Light-foot understood the meaning of that longing which had kept him hunting for her and of the rage which had filled him when he had discovered the presence of the big stranger from the Great Mountain. It was love. Lightfoot knew that he loved Miss Daintyfoot and, looking into her soft, gentle eyes, he knew that Miss Daintyfoot loved him.

CHAPTER XL: Happy Days In The Green Forest

These were happy days in the Green Forest. At least, they were happy for Lightfoot the Deer. They were the happiest days he had ever known. You see, he had won beautiful, slender, young Miss Daintyfoot, and now she was no longer Miss Daintyfoot but Mrs. Lightfoot. Lightfoot was sure that there was no one anywhere so beautiful as she, and Mrs. Lightfoot knew that there was no one so handsome and brave as he.

Wherever Lightfoot went, Mrs. Lightfoot went. He showed her all his favorite hiding-places. He led her to his favorite eating-places. She did not tell him that she was already acquainted with every one of them, that she knew the Green Forest quite as well as he did. If he had stopped to think how day after day she had managed to keep out of his sight while he hunted for her, he would have realized that there was little he could show her which she did not already know. But he didn't stop to think and proudly led her from place to place. And Mrs. Lightfoot wisely expressed delight with all she saw quite as if it were all new.

Of course, all the little people of the Green Forest hurried to pay their respects to Mrs. Lightfoot and to tell Lightfoot how glad they felt for him. And they really did feel glad. You see, they all loved Lightfoot and they knew that now he would be happier than ever, and that there would be no danger of his leaving the Green Forest because of loneliness. The Green Forest would not be the same at all without Lightfoot the Deer.

Lightfoot told Mrs. Lightfoot all about the terrible days of the hunting season and how glad he was that she had not been in the Green Forest then. He told her how the hunters with terrible guns had given him no rest and how he had had to swim the Big River to get away from the hounds.

”I know,” replied Mrs. Lightfoot softly. ”I know all about it. You see, there were hunters on the Great Mountain. In fact, that is how I happened to come down to the Green Forest. They hunted me so up there that I did not dare stay, and I came down here thinking that there might be fewer hunters. I wouldn't have believed that I could ever be thankful to hunters for anything, but I am, truly I am.”

There was a puzzled look on Lightfoot's face. ”What for?” he demanded. ”I can't imagine anybody being thankful to hunters for anything.”

”Oh, you stupid,” cried Mrs. Lightfoot. ”Don't you see that if I hadn't been driven down from the Great Mountain, I never would have found YOU?”

”You mean, I never would have found YOU,” retorted Lightfoot.

”I guess I owe these hunters more than you do. I owe them the greatest happiness I have ever known, but I never would have thought of it myself. Isn't it queer how things which seem the very worst possible sometimes turn out to be the very best possible?”

Blacky the Crow is one of Lightfoot's friends, but sometimes even friends are envious. It is so with Blacky. He insists that he is quite as important in the Green Forest as is Lightfoot and that his doings are quite as interesting. Therefore just to please him the next book is to be Blacky the Crow.