And then he had whirled, and darted headlong for the reeds. He galloped in an odd, jumpy, sidelong gallop, as if he were a sort of glorified wild dachshund. It did not take him long to inspect the reed-patch, to search it from end to end with his nose. His mind was soon made up to the fact that the wretched leverets had vanished, and that no scenting of his keen nose could find them.
At other times he hunted head down and again one noticed the hound-like manner in every possible direction, questing, casting here, casting there, working back, throwing forward, describing circles, and poking into and out of every reed-patch, bramble-heap, furze-clump, or other bit of cover that that coverless land offered. And then suddenly he stopped. And then suddenly he ran forward.
Then Holden trudged around the reed-patch. There was no longer any sign of life in the still shape on the ground. But it was normal precaution not to walk into a jungle-like thicket in which unknown, large living things had recently been sighted. Johnny Simms fired again and again from his post in the airlock. The smoke which traced his bullets ranged to the woodland.
Holden still stood patiently before the patch of reeds, still seemed to talk, still with his hands outstretched in what men consider the universal sign of peace. There was a sudden movement at the back of the reed-patch, quite fifty yards from Holden. A thing which did look like a man fled madly for the nearest edge of woodland. It was the size of a man.
The reed-buntings some people might easily have mistaken them for sparrows, with their black heads and white mustaches said so, swaying and balancing upon the bending reeds, and calling the makers of that trouble names in a harsh voice. And all the rest of the reed-people were saying so, too. It was an amazing thing how full of wild-folk that apparently deserted reed-patch was.