huntsman were assigned to ride on either side of the elephant while it trod along the highway. Lisa and Phil found themselves talking to Jumbo’s trainer, who sat on the elephant’s back, right behind his ears.
“I wouldn’t usually do this kind of thing, you know,” the man said. “But that girl—what’s her name? Johnny?—she was so convincing. I bet she could talk anybody into doing anything!” He’d gotten Stevie’s name wrong, Lisa thought, but he sure had gotten her personality right!
A FTER COMPLETELY MASKING the drag trail, there was one more little job Jumbo took on for the hunt. He helped Mrs. Baker put the poles back up in her laundry yard.
Then Chester led twenty-five hounds and forty riders into a nearby field, far enough from the farm so that the hounds wouldn’t be confused by the scent of the drag or of the elephant and into an area where they were, in fact, likely to pick up the scent of a fox.
This time everything was different. This time the hounds circled eagerly, not frantically. Chester watched proudly. He knew when things were going right. Soon enough, one of the hounds started barking loudly. Then all the others joined in.
“He’s got the line!” Chester announced. They were off—for real!
Stevie, Carole, Lisa, and Phil all rode together, the Master, the huntsman, and two whippers-in had a good excuse to stay together. Right there, too, was May. She was more than game and didn’t want to miss anything.
Lisa had been riding long enough to begin to be sort of matter-of-fact about it. She loved it, but it usually didn’t have the thrill that she remembered from her first few experiences. Today it had that thrill. Diablo seemed to feel the excitement and urgency of the hunt. A few of the horses were a little skittish around the hounds, but not Diablo. It was as if he understood the important part the hounds were playing in the fun. No matter what else was going on with him, his eyes never seemed to leave the pack of hounds who scurried forward through the field. Diablo wanted to be right there, in the middle of it all.
At first the hounds moved cautiously forward, sniffing the ground for the fox’s scent as they went. Then their heads rose, and they began running faster.
Lisa knew what that meant. It meant the scent of the fox was breast-high so that the hounds could smell it without putting their noses down. It also meant the scent was stronger, likely more recent. And finally, it meant that the horses were going to canter or gallop. She looked at her friends and saw that they understoodwhat was about to happen. Then she looked over her shoulder at the other riders. Some of them weren’t paying much attention to the pack of hounds and were just enjoying the ride. That was fine, up to a point. If most of the horses started cantering, all of them would soon enough, with or without their riders’ permission. At the very least, the riders needed to know.
Lisa tried raising an arm. Nobody noticed. She tried waving. That didn’t work, either. Then she tried calling out. There was no response. The trouble was that the riders were just having too much fun.
She was getting really concerned when Max came to her rescue. He pulled the horn out of his pocket and raised it to his lips. A few notes sounded, and everybody was looking at him.
“Prepare to canter!” he hollered.
And they did.
The hounds bolted then, racing across an open field and then down into a glen. The horses followed at an incredibly fast rate. Lisa tried to concentrate on the horse beneath her, carrying her across the field, but it was hard not to notice the thundering field of other horses that surrounded her. She glanced this way and that, trying to see everything at once, and then decided that the only thing she could possibly focus on was where she was going.
It was a good thing, too, because where she and everybody else was going was over a fence! The houndsscooted over, under, and around it, but the