The Black Gully continued…
After they were warm and had rested, Balser and Polly went out of the cave and took another survey of the surrounding country from the top of the hill. They started homeward, and reached the cozy cabin on Blue River soon after sunset, tired, hungry, and cold. A good warm supper soon revived them, and as it had been agreed that Polly should remain at Mr. Brent’s until after the Fire Bear hunt, they went to bed in the loft and slept soundly till morning.
After Balser announced his determination to hunt the Fire Bear, many persons asked him when he intended to undertake the perilous task, but the invariable answer he gave was, that he would begin after the seventh night from the one upon which the Fire Bear had visited Blue River. “Why after the seventh night?” was frequently asked; but the boy would give no other answer.
Balser had invited Tom Fox to go with him; and Tom, in addition to his redoubt able hatchet, intended to carry his father’s gun. Polly would take Mr. Brent’s rifle, and of course Balser would carry the greatest of all armaments, his smooth-bore carbine. Great were the preparations made in selecting bullets and in drying powder. Knives and hatchets were sharpened until they were almost as keen as a razor. Many of the men and boys of the neighbour hood volunteered to accompany Balser, but he would take with him no one but Tom and Polly.
“Too many hunters spoil the chase,” said Balser, borrowing his thought from the cooks and the broth maxim.
Upon the morning of the eighth day Balser went over to see Liney, and to receive from her the precious charm redolent with forty-nine prayers from her pure heart. When she gave it to him he said:-
” It’s a charm ; I know it is.” And he held it in his hand and looked at it affectionately. ” It looks like a charm, and it feels like a charm. Liney, I seem to feel your prayers upon it.”
” Ah ! Balser, don’t say that. It sounds almost wicked. It has seemed wicked all the time for me to try to make a charm.”
” Don’t feel that way, Liney. You didn’t try to make it. You only prayed to God to make it, and God is good and loves to hear you pray. If He don’t love to hear you pray, Liney, He don’t love to hear any one.”
“No, no, Balser, I’m so wicked. The night we saw the Fire Bear father read in the Bible where it says, ‘The prayers of the wicked availeth not.’ Oh, Balser, do you think it’s wicked to try to make a charm; that is, to pray to God to make one ? ”
” No, indeed, Liney. God makes them of His own accord. He made you.” But Liney only half understood.
The charm worked at least one spell. It made the boy braver and gave him self-confidence.
Balser, Tom, and Polly had determined to ride down to Flatrock on horseback, and for that purpose one of Mr. Fox’s horses and two of Mr. Brent’s were brought into service. At three o’clock upon the famous eighth day the three hunters started for Flatrock, and spent the night in the vicinity of the mouth of Conn’s Creek; but they did not see the Fire Bear. Four other expeditions were made, for Balser had no notion of giving up the hunt, and each expedition was a failure. But the fifth well, I will tell you about it.