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The Hunters   By: (1906-1980)

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THE HUNTERS

BY WILLIAM MORRISON

ILLUSTRATED BY VAN DONGEN

To all who didn't know him, Curt George was a mighty hunter and actor. But this time he was up against others who could really act, and whose business was the hunting of whole worlds.

There were thirty or more of the little girls, their ages ranging apparently from nine to eleven, all of them chirping away like a flock of chicks as they followed the old mother hen past the line of cages. "Now, now, girls," called Miss Burton cheerily. "Don't scatter. I can't keep my eye on you if you get too far away from me. You, Hilda, give me that water pistol. No, don't fill it up first at that fountain. And Frances, stop bouncing your ball. You'll lose it through the bars, and a polar bear may get it and not want to give it back."

Frances giggled. "Oh, Miss Burton, do you think the polar bear would want to play catch?"

The two men who were looking on wore pleased smiles. "Charming," said Manto. "But somewhat unpredictable, despite all our experiences, muy amigo ."

[Illustration]

"No attempts at Spanish, Manto, not here. It calls attention to us. And you are not sure of the grammar anyway. You may find yourself saying things you do not intend."

"Sorry, Palit. It wasn't an attempt to show my skill, I assure you. It's that by now I have a tendency to confuse one language with another."

"I know. You were never a linguist. But about these interesting creatures "

"I suggest that they could stand investigation. It would be good to know how they think."

"Whatever you say, Manto. If you wish, we shall join the little ladies."

"We must have our story prepared first."

Palit nodded, and the two men stepped under the shade of a tree whose long, drooping, leaf covered branches formed a convenient screen. For a moment, the tree hid silence. Then there came from beneath the branches the chatter of girlish voices, and two little girls skipped merrily away. Miss Burton did not at first notice that now she had an additional two children in her charge.

"Do you think you will be able to keep your English straight?" asked one of the new little girls.

The other one smiled with amusement and at first did not answer. Then she began to skip around her companion and chant, "I know a secret, I know a secret."

There was no better way to make herself inconspicuous. For some time, Miss Burton did not notice her.

The polar bears, the grizzlies, the penguins, the reptiles, all were left behind. At times the children scattered, but Miss Burton knew how to get them together again, and not one was lost.

"Here, children, is the building where the kangaroos live. Who knows where kangaroos come from?"

"Australia!" clanged the shrill chorus.

"That's right. And what other animals come from Australia?"

"I know, Miss Burton!" cried Frances, a dark haired nine year old with a pair of glittering eyes that stared like a pair of critics from a small heart shaped face. "I've been here before. Wallabies and wombats!"

"Very good, Frances."

Frances smirked at the approbation. "I've been to the zoo lots of times," she said to the girl next to her. "My father takes me."

"I wish my father would take me too," replied the other little girl, with an air of wistfulness.

"Why don't you ask him to?" Before the other little girl could answer, Frances paused, cocked her head slightly, and demanded, "Who are you? You aren't in our class."

"I'm in Miss Hassel's class."

"Miss Hassel? Who is she? Is she in our school?"

"I don't know," said the other little girl uncertainly. "I go to P. S. 77 "

"Oh, Miss Burton," screamed Frances. "Here's a girl who isn't in our class! She got lost from her own class!"

"Really?" Miss Burton seemed rather pleased at the idea that some other teacher had been so careless as to lose one of her charges... Continue reading book >>




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