Jody allowed his thoughts to drift back to the fawn. He could not keep it out of his mind. He had held it, in his dreams, in his arms. He slipped from the table and went to his father’s bedside. Penny lay at rest. His eyes were open and clear, but the pupils were still dark and dilated.
Jody said, “How are you feeling, Pa?”
“Just fine, son. Old Death has gone thieving elsewhere. But wasn’t it a close shave!”
Penny said, “I’m proud of you, boy, the way you kept your head and did what was needed.”
“Pa, do you recollect the doe and the fawn?”
“I can never forget them. The poor doe saved me, that’s certain.”
“Pa, the fawn may be out there yet. It might be hungry and very scared.”
“I suppose so.”
“Pa, I’m a big boy now and don’t need to drink milk. Why don’t I go and see if I can find the fawn?”
“And bring it here?”
“And raise it.”
Penny lay quiet, staring at the ceiling.
“Boy, you’ve got me hemmed in.”
“It won’t take much to raise it, Pa. It’ll soon start eating leaves and acorns.”
“You are smarter than boys of your age.”
“We took its mother, and it wasn’t to blame.”
“Surely it seems ungrateful to leave it to starve. Son, I can’t say ‘No’ to you. I never thought I’d live to see another day.”
“Can I ride back with Mill-wheel and see if I can find it?”
“Tell your Ma I said you can go.”
He sidled back to the table and sat down. His mother was pouring coffee for everyone.
He said, “Ma, Pa says I can go bring back the fawn.”
She held the coffee pot in mid-air.
“The fawn belonging to the doe we killed. We used the doe’s liver to draw out the poison and save Pa.”
“Well, for pity sake—”
“Pa says it would be ungrateful to leave it to starve.”
Doc Wilson said, “That’s right, Ma’am. Nothing in the world comes quite free. The boy’s right and his daddy’s right.”
Mill-wheel said, “He can ride back with me. I’ll help him find it.”
She set down the pot helplessly.
“Well, if you’ll give it your milk—we’ve got nothing else to feed it.”
Mill-wheel said, “Come on, boy. We’ve got to get riding.”
Ma Baxter asked anxiously, “You’ll not be gone long?”
Jody said, “I’ll be back before dinner for sure. ”
Mill-wheel mounted his horse and pulled Jody up behind him.
He said to Mill-wheel, “Do you think the fawn’s still there? Will you help me find him?”
“We’ll find him if he’s alive. How you know it’s a he?”
“The spots were all in a line. On a doe-fawn, Pa says the spots are every which way…”
Jody gave himself over to thoughts of the fawn. They passed the abandoned clearing.
He said, “Cut to the north, Mill-wheel. It was up here that Pa got bitten by the snake and killed the doe and I saw the fawn.”
Suddenly Jody was unwilling to have Mill-wheel with him. If the fawn was dead, or could not be found, he could not have his disappointment seen. And if the fawn was there, the meeting would be so lovely and so secret that he could not endure to share it.
He said, “It’s not far now, but the scrub is very thick for a horse. I can make it on foot.”
"But I’m afraid to leave you, boy. Suppose you got lost or got bitten by the snake, too?”
“I’ll take care. It might take me a long time to find the fawn, if he’s wandered. Leave me off right here.”
“All right, but you take it easy now. You know north here, and east?”
“There, and there. That tall pine makes a bearing.”
“So long, Mill-wheel. I’m obliged.”
He waited for the sound of the hooves to end, then cut to the right. The scrub was still. Only his own crackling of twigs sounded across the silence. He wondered for an instant if he had mistaken his direction.
Then a buzzard rose in front of him and flapped into the air. He came into the clearing under the oaks. Buzzards sat in a circle around the carcass of the doe. They turned their heads on their long scrawny necks and hissed at him. He threw his bough at them and they flew into an adjacent tree. The sand showed large cat prints but the big cats killed fresh, and they had left the doe to the carrion birds.
He parted the grass at the place where he had seen the fawn. It did not seem possible that it was only yesterday. The fawn was not there. He circled the clearing. There was no sound, no sign. The buzzards clacked their wings, impatient to return to their business. He returned to the spot where the fawn had emerged and dropped on all fours, studying the sand for the small hoof prints. The night’s rain had washed away all tracks except those of cat and buzzards.
Movement directly in front of him startled him so that he tumbled backward. The fawn lifted its face to his. It turned its head with a wide, wondering motion and shook him through with the stare of its liquid eyes. It was quivering. It made no effort to rise or run. Jody could not trust himself to move.
He whispered, “It’s me.”
The fawn lifted its nose, scenting him. He reached out one hand and laid it on the soft neck. The touch made him delirious. He moved forward on all fours until he was close beside it. He put his arms around its body. A light convulsion passed over it but it did not stir. He stroked its sides as gently as though the fawn were a china deer and he might break it. Its skin was very soft. It was sleek and clean and had a sweet scent of grass. He rose slowly and lifted the fawn from the ground. Its legs hung limply. They were surprisingly long and he had to hoist the fawn as high as possible under his arm.
He was afraid that it might kick and bleat at sight and smell of its mother. He skirted the clearing and pushed his way into the thicket. It was difficult to fight through with his burden. The fawn’s legs caught in the bushes and he could not lift his own with freedom. He tried to shield its face from prickling vines. Its head bobbed with his stride. His heart thumped with the marvel of its acceptance of him. He reached the trail and walked as fast as he could until he came to the intersection with the road home. He stopped to rest and set the fawn down on its dangling legs. It wavered on them. It looked at him and bleated.
He said, enchanted, “I’ll carry you after I get my breath.”
He remembered his father saying that a fawn would follow if it had first been carried. He started away slowly. The fawn stared after him. He came back to it and stroked it and walked away again. It took a few wobbling steps toward him and cried piteously. It was willing to follow him. It belonged to him. It was his own. He was light-headed with his joy. He wanted to fondle it, to run and romp with it, to call to it to come to him. He dared not alarm it. He picked it up and carried it in front of him over his two arms. It seemed to him that he walked without effort.
His arms began to ache and he was forced to stop again. When he walked on, the fawn followed him at once. He allowed it to walk a little distance, then picked it up again. The distance home was nothing. He could have walked all day and into the night, carrying it and watching it follow. He was wet with sweat but a light breeze blew through the June morning, cooling him. The sky was as clear as spring water in a blue china cup. He came to the clearing. It was fresh and green after the night’s rain. He fumbled with the latch and was finally obliged to set down the fawn to manage it. Then, he had an idea — he would walk into the house, into Penny’s bedroom, with the fawn walking behind him. But at the steps, the fawn balked and refused to climb them. He picked it up and went to his father. Penny lay with closed eyes.
Jody called, “Pa! Look!”
Penny turned his head. Jody stood beside him, the fawn clutched hard against him. It seemed to Penny that the boy’s eyes were as bright as the fawn’s. He said, “I’m glad you found him.”
Jody then went to the kitchen. The fawn wobbled after him. A pan of morning’s milk stood in the kitchen safe. The cream had risen on it. He skimmed the cream into a jug. He poured milk into a small gourd. He held it out to the fawn. It butted it suddenly, smelling the milk. He saved it precariously from spilling over the floor. It could make nothing of the milk in the gourd.
He dipped his fingers in the milk and thrust them into the fawn’s soft wet mouth. It sucked greedily. When he withdrew them, it bleated frantically and butted him. He dipped his fingers again and as the fawn sucked, he lowered them slowly into the milk. The fawn blew and sucked and snorted. It stamped its small hoofs impatiently. As long as he held his fingers below the level of the milk, the fawn was content. It closed its eyes dreamily. It was ecstasy to feel its tongue against his hand. Its small tail flicked back and forth. The last of the milk vanished in a swirl of foam and gurgling.
—Marjorie Kinnan Rawling
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2008). Honeydew. This is Jody's Fawn - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (pp. 86-93). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.