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Authors: Wild Dogs of Drowning Creek (v1.1)

Manly Wade Wellman - Novel 1952 (19 page)

BOOK: Manly Wade Wellman - Novel 1952
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“I
knew something was up when
Sam
Cohill
and the others came to my place, looking
for Randy,” resumed Tasman. “After they were gone, I heard commotion far off.
Some of the dogs came to try and tell me something.”

 
          
“They
came to your house?” said Randy. “I used to worry about that.”

 
          
“Oh,
they’re always around my house,” Tasman told him.

 
          
“Were
they there when I was reading to you?”

 
          
“When
I’d hear you coming, I’d tell them to get out of sight. But whenever you read
out of that Seton book, there were half a dozen dogs within earshot all the time.”

 
          
Mr.
Martin was looking at the wolf-dog. “Will he let me touch him?”

 
          
“Yes,”
said Tasman, and Mr. Martin, too, stroked the gray fur. Rebel kept a silent,
calculating watch.

 
          
“Well,”
Tasman wound up, “that’s my story.
The story of an outcast.
I ran with the wild dogs. They were hungry, and I figured to borrow some meat
from the neighbors. It would tide them over until I could raise enough food
myself to take care of them. I didn’t get away with it. You caught me. What
happens now?”

 
          
“Let
me answer that,” said Sam, striding in from the kitchen with his book.

 
          
“Tasman,”
he said, “do you know what ails your eyes?”

 
          
“I’m
blind by day, and I can see by night.”

 
          
“Yes,
but why? Did you ever talk to a doctor about them?”

 
          
“Once.
I told Randy and Jebs—I got scared and angry, and
walked out of his office.”

 
          
“If
you’d stayed in his office, he’d have told you that you have cataracts,” Sam
informed him. “As soon as you mentioned this night vision of yours, I checked
the facts in my encyclopedia.”

 
          
“Cataracts?”
repeated Jebs. “I’ve heard about them.”

 
          
“They’re
caused by a hardening of the crystalline lens,” Sam explained. “Your eye has a
lens at the front of the pupil, like a camera, to focus the light so that you
can see clearly. Sometimes that lens hardens and gets milky, and you go blind.
But, in some cases, the trouble starts in the center. At first it dims only the
middle part of the lens and doesn’t reach the rim. That’s why you can see at
night.”

 
          
“It
sounds like a fairy tale,” said Driscoll.

 
          
“No,
it’s
simple science,” Sam insisted. “You know how the
pupil of the eye gets big and wide as the light grows dim?”

 
          
“That’s
right,” agreed Randy. “Daylight contracts the muscle of the iris. Then, toward
evening, the iris opens out again.”

 
          
“And
that’s how things are with you, Tasman,” elaborated Sam. “It’s at the center of
the crystalline lens in each eye that there’s a big lump of hard, opaque
tissue. When the pupil widens, you see out around that lump. You have a ring of
vision around the central cataract.”

 
          
“I
might have read up on that,” said Tasman. “But I saw only at night. I couldn’t
make out print.”

 
          
“And
the blindness will spread and be complete,” said Sam, “by dark and by
daylight.”

 
          
“It
will?” said Tasman wretchedly.

 
          
“But
don’t you know that an operation will remove the cataract?”

 
          
“Remove
the whole lens?” demanded Mr. Martin. “How can he see with that part of his eye
gone?”

 
          
“They
can fit him with spectacles, to take the place of the natural lens,” said Sam.
“Then he can see, by day as well as by night.”

 
          
“You
mean that?” asked Tasman, with a voice that shook.

 
          
“Let’s
have a real doctor look at you,” said Sam. “You know, fellows, no real damage
was done by Tasman or his dogs. I’m willing to call things quits.”

 
          
“So
am I,” said Driscoll.

 
          
“All
of us,” wound up Mr. Martin.

 
          
“Stay
here tonight, Tasman,” invited Sam. “Tomorrow morning Driscoll can drive you to
Laurinburg. He’ll help you find an eye specialist, to check on those cataracts
and tell you exactly what you can expect about them.”

 

 
          
IT
HAD BEEN done. Another evening fell, and all of them sat in the yard of New
Chimney Pot House—Tasman, big Sam, Randy, Jebs, Driscoll and Mr. Martin. Near
them lounged
Rebel.
His eyes and nose turned toward
the woods.

 
          
“I
know the wild dogs are hanging around somewhere out there, Rebel,” Driscoll
said to his pet, “but they aren’t going to raid us.”

 
          
“No,”
said Tasman. “Not unless I signal them, and I won’t.”

           
“So the doctor gave you a good
report?” Mr. Martin asked Tasman.

 
          
“He
says an operation and spectacles will handle everything,” replied Tasman. “He’s
writing to a specialist at
Duke
University
Hospital
, up at
Durham
. That’s where I’ll go to be operated on.”

 
          
“And
then you’ll head back to your mountains,” added Randy.

 
          
“I’m
glad I never sold my farm,” Tasman said happily. “I can work there, and study
nature, the way I hoped to once.”

 
          
“How
about the dogs?” asked
Jebs.

 
          
“Bugler
goes with me.
And one or two more.
As for the others—”

 
          
“Let
me speak for that wolf-dog,” said Mr. Martin quickly. “I’ve had him over at my
place all day. Lee likes him, and even Willie Dubbin’s getting over his
nervousness. You did a wonderful job training him, Tasman. He’ll be a champion
watch dog and hunting dog.”

 
          
“Some
of the Indians would like to choose from the pack,” contributed Sam. “They even
want to send off for supersonic whistles to control their new dogs.”

 
          
“And
I’ll pass the word to a couple of neighbors who’d like good dogs and won’t
jabber too much about all this business,” offered Mr. Martin.

 
          
“What
about the charges against me?” said
Tasman.

 
          
“What
charges?” Sam grinned. “I’m the special deputy in charge of clearing up the
wild-dog business, remember? Well, it’s cleared up. Nobody’s been hurt. Nobody
need
worry about it any more.”

 
          
“The
doctor says I ought to be back on my mountain farm by late summer,” Tasman told
them. “All of you will be welcome to visit me there.”

 
          
“Jebs
and I want to come,” said Randy.

 
          
“And
I’ll be glad to see both of you,” returned Tasman. “When I say I’ll see you, I
mean just that.”

 
          
Rebel
moved forward a pace, alert in the evening.

 
          
“Is
somebody coming?” asked Sam.

 
          
“Just
Bugler, I think,” said Tasman.

 
          
The
spotted dog had come out from among the trees. Slowly he approached the group.

 
          
“Steady,
Rebel, he’s okay,” cautioned Driscoll.

 
          
Rebel
stood where he was. Bugler trotted close to him. The two dogs sniffed noses,
like friends.

 

 

BOOK: Manly Wade Wellman - Novel 1952
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