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Title: The Black Wolf Pack
Author: Beard, Dan, 1850-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Wolf Pack" ***

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                                  THE
                            BLACK WOLF PACK

                                  BY

                              DAN BEARD

                  NATIONAL SCOUT COMMISSIONER, B.S.A.


                              ILLUSTRATED


                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                               NEW YORK



[Illustration: It was a shadowy figure yet it moved]



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY BOYS’ LIFE

Printed in the United States of America

_All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form without
the permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons_



                             DEDICATED TO

                           BELMORE AND FRED
             (BELMORE BROWNE)      (FREDERICK K. VREELAND)

                     NO BETTER WILDERNESS MEN EVER
                            WORE MOCCASINS



PREFACE


After numerous visits to a number of remote and unfrequented places in
the Rocky Mountains, from Wyoming to Alberta, the writer was deeply
impressed with the awesome mystery of the wilderness and the weird
legends he heard around the camp fires, while the bigness of the things
he saw was photographed on his brain so distinctly and permanently as to
act as a compelling force causing him, aye, almost forcing him to write
about it.

When the spell came upon him, like the Ancient Mariner, he needs must
tell the story, and thus the tale of the Black Wolf Pack was written
with no thought, at the time, of publishing the narrative, but primarily
for the real enjoyment the author derived from writing it, and also for
the entertainment of the author’s family and intimate friends.

The tale, however, pleased the members of the Editorial Board of the Boy
Scouts of America, and Mr. Franklin K. Mathiews, Chief Scout Librarian,
asked permission to have it edited for the Scout Magazine, which request
was cheerfully granted.

The author hereby freely and cheerfully acknowledges the useful changes
and practical suggestions injected into the story by his friend and
associate, Mr. Irving Crump, Editor of Boys’ Life, in which magazine the
Black Wolf Pack, in somewhat abbreviated form, first appeared.

DAN BEARD.

Flushing,
June 1st, 1922.



ILLUSTRATIONS


It was a shadowy figure yet it moved          _Frontispiece_
                                                 FACING PAGE
The eagle screamed, descended like a thunderbolt
... and struck the bull                                   36

More than once while I clung to the chance projection
... I regretted making the fool-hardy attempt             92

“I think the name ‘Pluto’ fits his character to a
nicety”                                                  192



The Black Wolf Pack

CHAPTER I


It was a terrible shock to me (said the Scoutmaster as he fingered a
beaded buckskin bag). Old Blink Broosmore was responsible. It was a
malicious thing for him to do. He meant it to be mean, too,—wanted to
hurt me,—to wound my feelings and make me ashamed. And all because he
nursed a grudge against dad—I mean Mr. Crawford.

It started because of that defective spark-plug in the engine of the
roadster. Strange what a tiny thing such as a crack in a porcelain
jacket around an old spark-plug can do in the way of changing the course
of a fellow’s whole life.

My last period in the afternoon at high school was a study period and I
cut it because I had several things to do down town. I hurried home and
took the roadster, and on my way out mother—I mean Mrs. Crawford—gave
me an armful of books to return to the library and a list of errands she
wanted me to do. While motoring down town I noticed that one cylinder
was missing occasionally and I told myself I would change that
spark-plug as soon as I got home.

I made all the stops I had planned and even drove around to the church
because I wanted to look in at the parish house where some of my scouts
(I was the assistant scoutmaster of Troop 6, of Marlborough) were
putting up decorations for the very first Fathers and Sons dinner ever
given which we were to have on Washington’s birthday. That was in 1911.

As I was leaving I looked at my new wrist watch and discovered that it
was a quarter of five.

“Just in time to catch dad and drive him home from the office,” I said
to myself, for I knew that he left the office of his big paper-mill
down at the docks at five o’clock.

I jumped into the car and bowled along down Spring Street and the Front
Street hill and arrived at the mill office at exactly five. Dad wasn’t
in sight so I decided to turn around and wait for him at the curb. That
is how the trouble started. I got part way around on the hill when that
cylinder began missing a lot and next thing I knew the motor stalled and
there was I with my car crosswise on the hill, blocking traffic—and
traffic is heavy on Front Street hill about five o’clock, because all
the mills are rushing their trucks down to the piers with the last loads
of merchandise before the down-river boats leave, at six o’clock.

In about two minutes I was holding up a line of trucks a block long and
those drivers were saying a lot of things that were not very
complimentary to me and not printed in Sunday-school papers. And old
Blink Broosmore was right up at the head of the line with a truck load
of cases from the box factory and the look on his face was about as ugly
as a mud turtle’s. Then, to make matters worse, my starter wouldn’t work
at the critical moment, and I had to get out to crank the engine. What a
howl of indignation went up from those stalled truck drivers! I felt
like a bad two-cent piece in a drawer full of five-dollar gold pieces.
Guess my face was red behind my ears.

And then old Blink made the unkindest remark of all—no, he didn’t make
it to me; he just yelled it out to a couple of other truck-drivers.

“That’s what happens with these make-believe dudes,” he shouted. “That’s
the kid old Skin Flint Crawford took out of an orphan asylum. He’s a kid
that old Crawford took up with because he was too mean t’ have t’ Lord
bless him with one o’ his own. That’s straight, fellers. I was
Crawford’s gardener when it happened an’—”

Old Blink stopped and got red and then white, and I could see the other
truck men looking uncomfortable. I looked up and there was Dad Crawford
on the curb boring holes into Blink with those cold gray eyes of his and
looking as white as marble. No one said a word. It seemed as if the
whole street became hushed and silent. I got the car around to the curb
somehow and dad got in and the line of trucks trundled by with every
driver looking straight ahead and some of them grinning nervously and
apparently feeling mighty uncomfortable.

But that wasn’t a patch to the way I felt, and I could see by the lack
of color and set expression of dad’s face and the way he stared straight
ahead of him without saying a word that he was feeling very unhappy
about it too. There was something behind it all—something that raised
in my mind vague doubts and very unpleasant thoughts.

Dad never spoke a word all the way home, and, needless to say, I did not
either—I couldn’t; my whole world seemed to have been turned upside
down in the space of half an hour. Was it true that I was not Donald
Crawford? Was it possible that Alexander Crawford, this fine, big,
broad-shouldered, kindly man beside me was not my real father? Was it a
fact that that noble, generous, happy woman whom I called mamma was not
my mother at all? Each of those questions took shape in my mind and each
was like a stab in the heart, for Blink Broosmore had answered them all,
and Alexander Crawford, though he must know how anxious I was to have
Blink denied, did not speak to refute him.

We rolled up the drive and dad stepped out, still silent, but he did
smile wistfully at me as he closed the car door.

“Put it away, Don, and hurry in for dinner,” he said and I felt certain
I detected a break in his voice. I felt sorry—sorry for him and sorry
for myself, and as I put the car in the garage, I had a hard time trying
to see things clearly; my eyes would get blurred and a lump would get
into my throat in spite of me.

As I dressed for dinner I felt half dazed. I hardly realized what I was
doing, and I had to stop and pull myself together before I started
downstairs to the dining room, for I knew if I did not have myself well
in hand I would blubber like a big chump.

Mother and dad were waiting for me and I could see by mother’s sad
expression and the troubled look in her eyes that dad had told her of
the whole occurrence. And that only added to my unhappiness because I
felt for a certainty that all that Blink Broosmore had shouted must be
true.

For the first time in my memory dad forgot to say grace, and none of us
ate with any apparent relish and none of us tried to make conversation.
It was a painful sort of a meal and I wanted to have it over with as
soon as I could. It seemed hours before Nora cleared the table and
served dad’s demi-tasse.

I guess I then looked him full in the eyes for the first time since the
occurrence on Front Street.

“That was a very unkind thing for Blink Broosmore to do,” said dad, and
I knew by the firmness and evenness of his voice that he had gained full
control of his feelings.

“Is—is—oh, did he tell the truth, dad?” I gulped helplessly and for
the life of me I could not keep back the tears.

“Unfortunately, Donald, there is just enough truth in it to make it
hurt,” said dad and I could see mother wince as if she had been struck,
and turn away her face.

“They why—why? Oh! who am I?” I cried, for the whole thing had
completely unnerved me.

“Don dear, we do not know to a certainty,” said mother struggling with
her emotions.

“But now that you are partly aware of the situation, I think there is a
way you can find out, at least as much as we know,” said dad, getting up
and going into the library.

Through the doorway I could see him fumbling at the safe that he kept
there beside the desk. Presently he drew out a battered and dented red
tin box and a bundle of papers. These he brought into the dining room
and laid on the table. Then he drew up a chair, cleared his throat,
rather loudly it seemed to me, and began.

“Don, we always wanted a child, and why the Lord never blessed us with
one of our own we do not know. Anyway, we wanted one so badly that we
decided to adopt one. That was seventeen years ago, wasn’t it, mother?”

Mother nodded.

“Doctor Raymond, the physician at the county institution, knew our
desires and, being an old friend of the family, he volunteered to find
us a good healthy baby that we could adopt and call our own. Not a week
later you appeared on the scene. Dr. Raymond told us that a wagon drawn
by a raw-boned horse, and loaded with household goods, drew up to the
orphanage and a tired and worn-out looking old lady got out with a lusty
year old child in one arm and this box and these papers under the
other.

“At the office of the asylum she explained how she and her husband were
moving from a Connecticut town to a little farm they had bought in
Pennsylvania. Somewhere at a crossroad near Derby, Connecticut, they had
found the baby and this box and bundle of papers in a basket under a
bush with a card attached to the basket requesting that the finder adopt
and take care of the baby.

“Of course, they could not pass the infant by, but the woman explained
that they were too poor and too old to adopt the child so they had gone
miles out of their way to find an orphanage and leave the baby there,
along with the box and papers.

“When Dr. Raymond heard the story and saw you, for you were the baby, he
got me on the telephone and told me all about you. And that night he
brought you here, and you were such a chubby, bright, interesting little
fellow that mother and I fell in love with you immediately and decided
to adopt you, which we did according to law. So you are our legal
child, Don, and all that, although we are not your real parents.”

Somehow that made me feel a little happier. Dad and mother did have a
claim on me at least. That was something.

“It was not until after Dr. Raymond had left,” went on father, “that
mother and I examined the box and papers that had come with you. Here
they are.”

Dad took up a worn and age-yellowed envelope addressed in a bold hand:

    To the Finder

Inside was the following brief message:

    TO THE FINDER:—

    The mother of this child, Donald Mullen, is dead. I, his father,
    cannot give him the care he should have. Will you, the finder,
    adopt him, care for him, and bring him up to be an honest,
    trustworthy man, and win the eternal gratitude of his dead
    mother and

    DONALD MULLEN,
    his father.

“Then my name is—or was Mullen,” I exclaimed.

“According to that,” said dad softly, “but when you became our son we
kept your first name and discarded the family name of course.”

“But—but what has become of my father, Donald Mullen?” I asked.

“My boy, we have tried both for your sake and for our own to find out.
We have followed up and searched every possible clue and—but wait, here
are other papers of interest and after you have read them I will tell
you all we have done to locate your real father and afterwards we will
talk the whole situation over.” As dad was speaking he passed over the
battered tin box. On the lid was inscribed the simple lines—

    The contents of this box belong to the boy. If you are honest
    you will see that it comes into his hands at the proper time. If
    you are dishonest, then God help the boy and God help you!

    D. MULLEN.

It was some time before I could make up my mind to force the lid. When I
did the first thing that my eyes fell upon was this buckskin bag of
unmistakable Indian design, beautifully decorated with bead work and
highly colored porcupine quills cunningly worked into a good luck
design. As I picked up the bag I saw that it was sealed with wax and to
it was attached a card on which was penned:

    To my son:—

    Here is all the wealth I possess. It isn’t much. The bag with
    its contents was sent to me by my brother, Fay, who is out in
    the Rockies. He gave it to me to pay my expenses out there to
    join him. I am leaving it for you. It may help you over some
    rocky places if it ever gets into your hands, and I trust the
    good Lord that it does.

    Lovingly,
    YOUR FATHER.

The bag gave forth the unmistakable clink of gold coins as I dropped it
on the table.

That message from my father, whom I had never seen, made my heart heavy
and again that lump gathered in my throat, for I could feel the
heartaches that the writing of that note must have caused him. I had not
the courage to break the seal of the bag and examine its contents. I
pushed it aside and took from the box another time-yellowed envelope
addressed to

    MY SON DONALD

Inside I found the following:

    Dear Boy:—

    I cannot determine whether I am giving you a mean deal or
    whether this is all for your good. Your mother, Barbara Parker
    Mullen, is dead, God bless her! She has been dead now six
    months. It seems to me like eternity. I have tried to take care
    of you as she would have cared for you but I am afraid I have
    lost heart, and my courage, and I am afraid my faith has slipped
    from me. I fear that I am a broken-spirited failure. The passing
    of your mother has taken everything from me. I am no longer fit
    or able to care for you and I must pass you on to someone else
    and trust your welfare to God. For neither your mother nor I
    have any relatives left who are able to take care of you.

    What will become of you I cannot guess. I can only hope for the
    best. But by the time you are old enough to read and understand
    this message you will, I hope, have forgiven me or praised me
    for my effort to find you a home.

    What will become of me I do not know. I have one brother left in
    the world, Fay Mullen, and he is out in Piute Pass in the
    Rockies grubbing for gold. I am going out to join him for I know
    the only way I can forget my grief and get hold of myself once
    more is to bury myself in the wilderness.

    Fay has sent me a bag of double eagles to pay my expenses west.
    That is all the money I have in the world. I am not going to use
    it. I will work my way west and leave the gold for you. It is
    the least and probably the last that I can do for you.

    If, when you read this you have any desires to know who you
    really are, I will leave you the following information:

    Your mother, a wonderful woman, was Barbara Parker of
    Litchfield, Connecticut, daughter of Judge Arnold Parker of
    Litchfield, now deceased. I am Donald Mullen, the eldest of
    three brothers; Fay Mullen is the next of age and Patrick
    Mullen, the gunsmith of Maiden Lane, New York, is the youngest.
    We were born in Byron Bridge, Ireland, and we three came to this
    country after our parents died. You come of an honest,
    worthwhile people on my side, and of the best American blood on
    your mother’s, Donald, and I ask only that you live an honest,
    honorable life and have faith in your country and your God, and
    He will be with you to the end.

    Good-bye, boy.

    Lovingly,
    YOUR FATHER.

I read the letter aloud but I confess that my voice broke toward the end
and I choked up until reading was difficult.

For some time after I finished, we three sat in silence. The thoughts
and mental pictures of that broken man parting with his baby son
seventeen years before made me most unhappy.

Dad broke the silence.

“Well, now you are acquainted with the whole situation, what do you
think?”

“I scarcely know what to think,” said I. “It does not appear natural for
a man to abandon his own son in the manner he did. It seems heartless
and cruel. I cannot understand it; yet I wish I could see my poor
father. I wonder if he is still alive. Certainly with the information at
hand it should not be impossible for me to trace him or some relatives
of my mother. Don’t you think so?”

“That is what I thought, Don, for when you were three years old I began
to wonder about your father’s whereabouts. I wanted to meet him and
perhaps help him if I could. Do not think that your poor father was
cruel, for it is evident that the man was suffering from a nervous
breakdown and consequently more or less irresponsible; I think he acted
wonderfully well under the circumstances. In order to help him I began a
search and for ten years I have had detectives and private individuals
following up every possible lead. Yet, with all my efforts, the search
has amounted to nothing. Your father’s trail ended at a Spokane
outfitting store. I could not locate anyone nearer to you than an old
maiden great-aunt of your mother’s although I have had every clue
investigated.

“The only relative of your father’s that I could get any information
about was his youngest brother, Patrick Mullen, your uncle and a famous
gunsmith of Maiden Lane, New York. He is dead now but his reputation for
making an exceptionally fine hand-forged gun lives on even to-day.
Patrick Mullen died just before I began my search for your father, but
in digging around for facts about him, I learned that he had made a
limited number of very fine guns, on each of which he had stamped his
full name, ‘Patrick Mullen.’ Other guns of an inferior quality that he
made bore the simple stamp of ‘P. Mullen.’ The old man was very proud of
each ‘Patrick Mullen’ that he turned out and like the true artist that
he was he kept track of each one, sold them only to men he knew and when
the owner died he bought the gun back himself so that he always knew its
whereabouts.

“In that way all of the 101 ‘Patrick Mullen’s’ he made came back to him,
save one. There is one of the complete number still missing and no one
seems to know where it is. This is more remarkable because the missing
gun is a flint-lock rifle of the style of seventy years ago. That gun
has always struck me as being a valuable clue in our search, because it
is the only rifle ever made by the old gunsmith and I have a feeling
that that missing ‘Patrick Mullen’ may have been given to your father by
the brother, and that may account for the fact that among the papers of
Patrick Mullen there is no record of its whereabouts; this is in a
measure confirmed by the report that the man outfitting at Spokane had a
long old-fashioned rifle, and collectors say there used to be an expert
in antique arms by the name of Mullen.”

The suggestion made me tremendously excited. Beyond a doubt in my mind
that missing “Patrick Mullen” was my father’s gun. I imagined him
parting with everything else save the unique gun his famous brother had
made for him. Why he should wish for a flint-lock rifle was an
unanswerable question, but someone wanted that sort of a gun or it would
not have been made, and my father’s letters showed him to be a man of
sentiment, and impractical, just the sort of fellow to use a flint-lock
when he might just as well have had a modern breech-loading high-power
rifle.

“I believe you’ve hit it, dad. Hot dog!” I exclaimed. “Bet a cookie that
that gun does belong to my father and if we can find it we will probably
find him too—would not that be bully?”

“I feel the same way too, Don. But finding that missing gun will be as
difficult as finding your father. I have searched the country over for
it and made a wonderful collection of flint-lock guns, as you see by
looking at yonder gun-rack; I have had dozens of arms collectors and
detectives looking for guns of that description, but no Patrick Mullen
rifle has turned up anywhere. There have, of course, been many false
clues and many queer rifles offered to me and I have put a great many
thousands of dollars into the search, and my collection of flint-locks
is the best in the land, Don. But so far nothing but failures seem to
have rewarded my search—no, I’m wrong, there is one man out west—out
in the little jerk-water town of Grave Stone, who insists that there is
a wild man living in a lonely, almost inaccessible valley in the
mountains, who shoots a gun which looks like the one for which I am
searching. For a number of years this man of mystery, it seems, has been
appearing and reappearing, according to Big Pete Darlinkel, my
informant, but even Pete has never got in personal touch with this
eccentric hermit. Neither have several detectives I have sent out there
for that purpose. The detectives seem to be all right in towns or cities
and are undoubtedly brave men, but something out there appears to
frighten them and they lose interest the moment they cut the trail of
the wild hunter. I begin to think this wild man is a myth, too.
Strange, though, that just a week ago I received another letter from
Pete Darlinkel. Wait, I’ll find it.”

He returned from the library presently with a letter which he opened and
passed over to me. It read:

    DEAR MR. CRAWFORD:—

    Maybe you hain’t interested no more but thet tha’ ole Dopped
    ganger, the Wild Hunter, the spooky old critter, has been seen
    agin. i wuz on the top of the painted Butte yesterday squinten
    one i in the valley look’n for elk and look’n up with tother i
    for Big horn on the mountain, when i staged the old duffer
    snoop’en along in one of the parks an’ he had the same long hair
    and long rifle he uster have. He sure is a ghost or else he’s a
    nut or an old timer gone locoed. He sends the chills down my
    backbone every time i sots my eyes on him.

    Your obedients sarvent,
    BIG PETE.

There was something about that crude letter that stirred me deeply.

Could this strange freak that Big Pete saw from the top of the painted
Butte possess that Patrick Mullen rifle? If so did he know anything
about the whereabouts of my father? It is not uncommon for people
suffering from a mental breakdown to flee to the country or wilderness
and there live the life of a recluse, and from my father’s last letter
it was evident that he had had a nervous breakdown from anxiety and
brooding over the loss of my mother, to whom he evidently was devotedly
attached. It might, therefore, be possible that this strange, wild man
himself was my father, an unpleasant possibility. At any rate, I felt
that I could not rest, at least until I discovered to a certainty the
name of the maker of the long rifle said to be carried by the wild
hunter and I told dad just how I felt about it.

“I knew you would feel that way, son,” said he. “I have often wanted to
go west for the very same purpose and I knew that when I told you
everything you would want to go too. I intended to lay all the facts
before you when you were twenty-one but now that Blink Broosmore has
taken it upon himself to inform you and his truck-driving friends of the
mystery surrounding your real parentage, I guess it is best you know all
there is to be known about the situation. The rest I’ll leave to you. In
fact, it would please me a great deal if you would run down this last
vague clue to see if your father really is still alive. Go, Donald, and
God bless you, and take that bag of gold with you, unopened, for it may
now stand your father in good stead, and if you do find him, bring him
here and I promise you he will never want for a thing, nor will you, my
son, for you are still my boy whatever your real parentage may be.”



CHAPTER II


The stage pulled up in front of a typical western saloon, post office
and general store. There was the usual crowd of prospectors, gamblers,
cow punchers and trappers assembled to meet the incoming stage. When I
scrambled off the top of the old-fashioned coach, and before I had time
to shake the alkali dust from my clothes, or moisten my dry and cracked
lips, a typical western bully approached me roaring the verses of a song
with which he evidently intended to terrify me,

    “He blowed into Lanigan swinging a gun
    A new one,
    A blue one,
    A colt’s forty-one,
    An’ swearing
    Declaring
    Red Rivers ’ud run
    Down Alkali Valley,
    An’ oceans of gore
    ’ud wash sudden death
    On the sage brush shore,
    An’ he shot a big hole—”

He got no further with the song. Another man stepped out from the crowd,
a very tall, powerful man who would have attracted attention in any garb
in any place by his distinguished appearance, who with little ceremony
rudely brushed the roughneck to one side, and my instinct told me the
handsome stranger could be no other than Big Pete Darlinkel.

My! my! what a man he was! Looked as if he just stepped out of one of
Fred Remington’s pictures, or Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, or slipped
from between the leaves of a volume of Captain Mayne Reid’s “Scalp
Hunters”—Big Pete was evidently a hold-over from another age. He would
have fitted perfectly and with nicety in a picture of Davy Crockett’s
men down in old Texas. He seemed, however, perfectly at home in this
border town, and I noted that the most hard-boiled and toughest men in
the crowd treated him with marked respect and deference.

Pete was a wilderness fop and a dandy, and evidently was as careful of
his clothes as a West Point cadet. In dress he affected the
old-fashioned picturesque garb of the mountains. His appearance filled
me with wonder and admiration; he stood six feet two or three inches in
his moccasins, straight as an arrow and lithe as a cat.

His costume consisted of a tunic of dressed deer skin, smoked to the
softness of the finest flannels. He wore it belted in at the waist, but
open at the breast and throat where it fell back like a sailor’s collar
into a short cape covering the shoulders. Underneath was the undershirt
of dressed fawn skin; his leggins and moccasins were of the same
material as his hunting shirt, and on his head he wore a fox skin cap;
the fox’s head adorned with glass eyes ornamented the front and the tail
hung like a drooping plume over the left shoulder.

Big Pete Darlinkel was a blonde, and his golden hair hung in sunny curls
upon his massive shoulders; a light mustache, soft yellow beard, with a
pair of the deepest, clearest, most innocent baby-like blue eyes, all
made a face such as an angel might have after years of exposure to sun
and wind.

Not only are Big Pete’s revolvers gold mounted, but the shaft of his
keen-edged knife is rich with figures, rings, and stars filed from gold
coins and set in the horn. The very stock of his long, single-barreled
rifle is inlaid like an Arab’s gun, and, as for his buckskin hunting
suit, it is a mass of embroidery and colored quills from his beaded
moccasins to the fringed cape of his shirt.

Big Pete was a dandy, fond of color, fond of display; yet in spite of
all this he wore absolutely nothing for decoration alone, but every
article of use about his person was ornamented to an oriental degree.
Gaudy and rich as his costume was when viewed in detail, as a whole it
harmonized not only with Pete, his hair, his complexion, his weapons,
but with whatever natural objects surrounded him.

Big Pete also seemed to know me instinctively and approached with a
graceful and swinging step; holding out his hand he greeted me in a low,
soft, well-modulated voice with, “Howdy, kid; yes, I’m Big Pete and
allow you are the tenderfoot dude from New York what wants to shoot big
game, an’ reckon you’d like to meet the wild mountain man? Well, he’s a
queer one, I tell you. He’s got us all buffaloed out this-a-way, most of
us don’t care to meet him close up and we give him wide range when we
cut his trail.”

That was Big Pete’s greeting. Of course, I had not told him of my real
interest in this mysterious man of the mountains, only suggesting that I
would like to do some big game shooting and see the spooky hunter.

“Well,” I answered, “I would like to get a record elk head to take home
to dad. As for the mountain wildman, I wish you’d tell me more about
him, he is awfully interesting.”

“Tell you more? Well, sho, I reckon I can tell you more than most people
round these parts for he makes my game park his stampin’ grounds every
onct in a while, an’ let me tell you he hunts some peculiar, he do, he’s
half man and half wolf—but shucks, I won’t spoil the show, you will see
how he hunts for yourself if you stay here long. Glory be, but he’s got
me some bashful and shy. But mosey along and I’ll hist yore stuff on
this here cayuse while you let them tha’ dogs out of their chicken coop
boxes. You can cache your dude duds in the Emporium general store over
yonder next to Squinty Quinn’s saloon, an’ then we’re off for the hills.
I’ll yarn about this Wild Hunter while we hit the trail.”

An hour spent in Grave Stone gave me an opportunity to wash myself and
change my clothes for some that would be more substantial for
out-of-door wear, start several letters east telling of my safe arrival,
buy the things I had overlooked, store my surplus clothes with the
postmaster at the general store, and repack my kit for pony travel.
Then, after watching Big Pete skilfully throw the diamond hitch, we were
off for the hills and our first camp. I hoped that I was on my way to
find my real father and unravel the mystery that surrounded my strange
babyhood. But I little guessed what adventures I was to have or the
strange things I was to see before my quest was ended.

We traveled fast all the remaining portion of the afternoon and toward
evening we made camp and for the first time in my life I slept under the
sky. At the end of the fifth day we reached the secret and narrow
opening of a big valley or “park” in the midst of a wild tumble of
mountains. Big Pete said we would pitch our tent in the park.

“Tha’s plenty of signs ’round too an’ if we loosen t’ dogs p’raps we kin
stir up a mountain lion or collar some fresh meat t’ start camp with,”
said he as he slid off his horse and took the leashes off the dogs.

It took us but a short time to arrange our camp, then Big Pete followed
by the frisking dogs slipped silently into the woods. He was gone
scarcely a quarter of an hour when he reappeared again without the dogs,
motioned for me to get my gun and follow him.

“Tha’s elk signs all bout,” he said, “an’ the muts broke away on a fresh
trail. Now you an’ me’ll climb through that draw yonder and hide out on
the runway till they drive an elk in gun shot. Come along.”

I followed eagerly and presently we had climbed through a thickly grown
poplar grove and found a suitable hiding place among the small poplars.
We had the wind right and a clear view of most of the open park. Big
Pete stooped down and motioned for me to do likewise.

I quietly crouched beside him and waited—waited until my legs were
cramped, waited until the dampness from the moss struck through the
heavy soles of my tenderfoot shoes and chilled my feet; waited until my
arm was so numb that it felt like a piece of lead—then, in spite of the
danger of incurring Big Pete’s displeasure and in spite of my dread of
being thought a dude tenderfoot, I changed my position, rubbed life into
my arm and assumed an easier pose.

In front of us was a small lake, deep, dark and unruffled. All around
the edge was a natural wharf formed from the gigantic trunks of trees
which had fallen for ages into the lake and been washed by wind and
waves and forced by winter ice into such regular order and position
along the shore that their arrangement looked like the work of men. Back
of this wharf and all about was the wilderness of silent wood; a
wilderness enclosed by a wall of mountains, whose lofty heads were
uplifted far above the soft white clouds that floated in the blue sky
overhead and were mirrored in the lake below. An eagle, on apparently
immovable wings, soared over the lake in spiral course. As I watched the
bird its wings seemed suddenly endowed with life. At the same instant my
guide gave a low grunt of warning.

“What is it?” I asked in a whisper, for there was a strange expression
in my companion’s eyes.

“It’s—it’s him, so help me!—Keep yer ears open and yer meat-trap
shut!” growled Pete.

I did so. The trained ear of the hunter had detected the sound of
crackling twigs and swishing branches made by some animals in rapid
motion.

“Ah!” I exclaimed, “the dogs. You startled me; I thought it was
Indians.”

“I wish it was nothing wuss,” muttered my guide, as he examined his
weapons with a critical eye and loosened the cartridges for his
revolvers in his belt to make sure that they would be easy to pluck out.

“Those hain’t our dogs, mister,” he remarked after he had examined his
whole arsenal.

As I again fixed my attention on the noise, in place of the resonant
voice of the hounds, I heard nothing but the crackling of branches, with
an occasional half-suppressed wolf-like yelp.

Big Pete turned pale and muttered, “It’s them for sartin; it’s them
agin! And I hain’t been drinkin’, nuther!”

Big Pete Darlinkel remained crouching in exactly the same pose he had
first assumed, but his face looked sallow and worn. I marveled. Was this
big westerner really awed by the situation we were facing? What disaster
impended?

My guide’s eyes were fixed upon an opening in the woods and I knew that
something would soon bound from that spot. I could hear the crashing of
brush and half-suppressed wolf-like yelps, followed by a pause, then a
rushing noise, and out leaped as beautiful a bull elk as I had ever
seen—in fact the first I had ever seen at close range in his native
wilderness. I had only time to take note of his muscular neck, clean cut
limbs, his grand branching antlers, and—not my dogs but a pack of
_immense black wolves_ at his heels before I instinctively brought my
gun to my shoulder. But before I could draw a bead Big Pete struck it,
knocking the muzzle up.

“Hist!” he exclaimed, pointing to the bird.

The eagle screamed, descended like a thunderbolt and skilfully avoiding
the branching antlers, struck the bull, driving one talon into the neck
and the other into the back, flapping its huge wings as it tore with its
beak at the body of the elk like a trained “_bear coote_.”

I was thunderstruck. The evident partnership of the wolves and bird
needed explanation and it was not long in coming. A shrill whistle
pierced the air, the black wolves immediately ceased to worry the elk,
the eagle soared overhead, and for an instant the elk stood confused,
then leaped high in the air and fell dead. The next moment I heard the
crack of a rifle and saw a puff of blue smoke across the lake.

“That’s no ghost,” I said, when partly recovered from my astonishment.

“Wait,” said Pete laconically.

[Illustration: The eagle screamed, descended like a thunderbolt ... and
struck the bull]

Not long afterward there was a movement among the wolves and,
noiselessly as a panther the figure of a man lithe and youthful in every
movement slipped to the side of the dead elk. He made no noise, uttered
no word to the fierce black animals that sat with their red tongues
hanging from their panting jaws, but without a moment’s hesitation
whipped out a knife and with a dexterity and skill that brought the
color to Big Pete’s face, proceeded to take the coat off the wapiti,
while the great eagle perched upon the branching antlers. The skin was
removed and with equal dexterity all the best parts of the meat were
skilfully detached and packed in the green hide, after which, removing a
large slice of red flesh, the strange hunter held up one finger. One of
the wolves gravely walked up to him, received the morsel, gulped it down
and retired. Each in turn was fed, then the great bird flopped on his
shoulder and was fed from his hand, and before I could realize what had
happened the man, the wolves and the eagle had disappeared, leaving
nothing but the dismembered carcass of the elk to remind us of the
strange episode.



CHAPTER III


To say that the whole spectacle that I had just witnessed startled me
would be stating it mildly indeed. The strange appearance of this big,
powerful, smooth shaven man in a buckskin hunting costume with a retinue
of black wolves and a trained eagle, the mysterious manner of his
hunting and his coming and going, aroused in me great interest and
curiosity and I could realize the effect it evidently had upon Big
Pete’s superstitious mind in spite of the fact that the big fellow was
accustomed to facing almost any sort of danger. As for me, I could not
myself prevent the creeping chills from running down my spine whenever I
thought of the wild man.

Could it be possible that this strange, half-wild man of the mountains,
this killer, this master of a wolf pack, could be in any way connected
with my father? I wondered, and as I wondered I found that a vague fear
of this mad man who despite his reputed age seemed as youthful and as
agile as a man in his thirties, was gripping me. Perhaps the strangeness
of the wilderness park added to my awe, for certainly one could expect
almost anything supernatural to happen in the twilight of the forest of
giant trees, whose interlacing branches overhead shut out the light of
heaven.

Recovering somewhat from my astonishment and surprise, I realized that
what I had witnessed, strange though it appeared, was not a supernatural
occurrence. I knew that it was a real gun I had heard, real smoke I had
seen, real man, real bird, real elk, and real wolves.

“But, Pete,” I exclaimed, as a sudden thought struck me, “what’s become
of our dogs?”

“Better ask them black fiends up the mountains. I reckon you won’t see
them tha’ hounds of yours agin.”

And I never did, but having hunted the wolf with cowboys and having been
a witness to their extraordinary biting power, I knew the fate that must
necessarily befall a couple of ordinary hounds when overtaken by half a
dozen full-grown wolves. On such occasions we do not spend much time in
grief over a loss of any kind, “it taint according to mountain law,”
Pete would say.

“Reckon we had better swipe some of that elk before the coyotes get at
it,” growled Pete. “The wild mountainman knows the good parts, but an
elk is an elk, and one wild man, even if he is a giant, can’t carry off
all the good meat, not by a long shot.”

“He may come back,” I suggested.

“Not he,” said Pete. “He’s too stuck up for that. When he wants more,
them tha’ black demons and that voodoo bird of his’n will get ’em for
him, and he’s a hanging his long legs off’ner a rock some whar smoking a
long cigar.”

“Dod rot him,” growled Pete. “Why couldn’t he leave a piece of hide to
carry the meat in and the stomach to cook it in? That’s the fust time I
ever stayed long ’nough to see him collar his meat, though they say he
do eat the game raw, but I reckon that’s a lie, leastwise he didn’t do’t
this time.”

With a good square meal of the locoed hunter’s elk under our belts and a
rousing camp fire before which to toast our shins, both the big
westerner and I felt a little more natural and comfortable, but our
conversation turned again to this wild hunter of the mountains.

I could see that the mysterious old man with his wolf pack and eagle
aroused almost every possible form of superstition in Big Pete and I
confess that I was not free from some of it myself. The guide was
certain that the man was either a ghost or a reincarnated devil, and he
displayed no uncertain signs of awe.

“I tell you,” said Pete, “he’s a devil. He’s over a hundred years old,
for my dad says he seed him, an’ an Injun before dad’s time told him
about him. They are all skeered t’ death o’ him. An’ I don’t blame ’em.
He’s a shore enough hant and them tha’ houn’s o’ his’n is devils in wolf
skins. Jumping Gehoosaphats, ef they shed ever cut my trail I reckon I’d
just lay right down an’ die,” and Big Pete actually shuddered at the
possibility.

“Why, young feller,” he went on, “that ol’ man shoots gold bullets out
o’ a real Patrick Mullen gun.”

“A Mullen gun, Pete?” I cried, “how do you know, man; speak for goodness
sake!”

“I don’t know it’s a Patrick Mullen and guess it tain’t one ’cause a
Patrick Mullen rifle would cost a thousand or more. But the old Injun,
Beaver Tail, says, someone told his father and his father told him that
et is a Patrick Mullen gun an’ is a special make inlaid with gold and
silver, an’ all ornamented up, an’ built for an ol’ muzzle-loadin’
flint-lock. Now Mullen never made no flint-lock rifles that I hear’n
tell of, his specialty be shotguns an’ if he made this rifle I’m
ganderplucked if I cud tell how this spook got it.”

“Unless the wild Hunter might be a relative of old Patrick Mullen,” I
said, thinking aloud, and gasping at the thought, for the description of
the rifle somehow impressed me again with the possibility that this wild
man of the mountains might himself be Donald Mullen, and _my own
father!_

“Why do you say that, kid?” asked Big Pete with a queer look in his
eyes.

“Oh, I don’t know, I was just wondering to myself. But what makes you
think he’s a supernatural being, and, Pete, does this wild loony hunter
look at all like me?”

“Super what? Say when did you swallow a dictionary?—Oh, you mean what
makes me think he’s a devil. No, he don’t favor you none,” he added with
a grin, “he’s a _handsome_ devil, although he’s done terrified every
white man, an’ Injun, in these parts half t’ death, so most of ’ems
afeared to come back here at all. Men have gone in the park jest to get
this wild man’s scalp, but they’ve done come back scared yaller an’ they
ain’t opened their trap much about him since nuther. They do say he
spits fire an’ chaws his meat offen the bone an’ then cracks the bones
like a dog an’ swallers it all. They do say, too, that he roars like
forty devils with their tails cut off when he gits mad an’ some say as
when he wants t’ git som wha’ in a hurry he jest grabs aholt o’ the feet
o’ tha’ there thunder bird and she flies off with him and draps him
anywha’ he asks her to—Nope, I hain’t seen none of these things myself
but others say they has, an’ believe me, I’m plumb cautious when
travelin’ these parts alone. Howsomever, he hain’t yet skeered me ’nough
to make my ha’r come out by the roots,” said Pete with a yawn. “There,
kick that back log over so’s the fire can lick at t’other side; now
let’s turn in.”



CHAPTER IV


Big Pete and I spent several weeks in our charming little camp at the
lower end of the park, for my guide decided that despite the recent
presence of the wild hunter, here would be a good place to get a shot at
some black-tail deer. In fact we saw signs of those animals all about
and my guide was only looking for fresh indication to start out on our
last hunt before we made our way deeper into the wilderness.

On the third day of our stay I was returning to camp with my shotgun
over my shoulder and a brace of sage grouse in my hand, when I came upon
Big Pete in a swail about a mile from camp. He was bending low and
examining fresh signs when he saw me.

“Howdy, kid, here’s some doin’s. Shall we foller him?”

“Of course, Pete; what are we here for, the mountain air?” I answered.

“No,” answered Pete, in his deep, low voice, “we’re here for game,” and
off he started, but slowly and with great caution. I felt impatient, but
restrained myself, saying nothing and continued to follow my big guide
who now moved with the most painstaking care. Not a twig broke beneath
his moccasins as with panther-like step and crouching form he led me
through a lot of young trees over a rocky place until we struck a small
spring with a soft muddy margin. Here Pete came to a sudden halt. I
asked him why he did not go on, and he pointed to a ledge of rock that
ran up the mountain side diagonally with a flat, natural roadbed on top,
graded like a stage road but unlike a traveled road, ending in a bunch
of underwood and brush about a hundred yards ahead.

Above the ledge of the rocks was a steep declivity of loose shale
sprinkled over with large and small boulders of radically different
formations, and in no manner resembling the friable, uncertain bed upon
which they rested.

These boulders undoubtedly showed the result of the grinding and
polishing of an ancient, slow-moving glacier, but some other force had
deposited them in the present position.

“He’s in tha’,” whispered Pete.

“Who, the wild mountain man?” I asked.

“No,” answered my guide, “th’ grizzly.”

“The what?” I almost shouted.

“Th’ grizzly,” answered Pete; “what do you think we’ve been following?”

“Black-tailed deer,” I said softly, with my eyes glued on the thicket.

“Well, tenderfoot, here’s the trail of that tha’ _deer_, and he hain’t
been gone by here mor’n nor a week ago, nuther.”

I looked and there in the soft mud was the print of a foot, a
human-looking foot, but for the evenness in the length of the toes and
the sharpness and length of the toe nails. Yes, there was another
difference, and that was the size. It was the footprint of a savage
Hercules, the track of an enormous grizzly bear, and the soft mud that
had dripped from the big foot was still undried on the leaves and grass
when Pete pointed it out to me.

“Well, Pete, don’t forget your promise that I am to have first shot at
all big game,” I whispered with my best effort at coolness, but my heart
was thumping against my ribs at a terrific rate.

“But—why, bless you old man!” I whispered excitedly as I looked at my
gun, “I am armed only with a shotgun.”

“Tha’s all right,” replied the big trapper complacently; then, with a
quick motion, he whipped out his keen-edged knife and snatching one of
my cartridges he severed the shell neatly between the two wads which
separated the powder and shot; that is, a wad in each piece of the
cartridge was exposed by the cut.

Guided by the faint longitudinal seam where the edges of the colored
paper join on the shell, Big Pete carefully fitted the two parts of the
cartridge together exactly as they were before being cut apart. Breaking
my gun, he slipped the mutilated ammunition into the unchoked barrel.

“Tha’,” he grunted, “tha’s better than a bullet at short range, an’ll
tar a hole in old Ephraim big enough to put your arm through.”

He cut two more in the same manner, saying, “Be darned kerful not to get
excited and put them in your choke barl, or tha’ may be trouble.”

Hunting a grizzly with a shotgun and bird shot was not my idea of safe
sport, but I was too much of a moral coward to acknowledge to Pete that
I was frightened. Pete examined his gun, ran his finger over the
cartridges in his belt, and went through all the familiar motions which
to him were unconscious but always foretold danger ahead.

“You drap on your prayer hinges behind that tha’ nigger head,” said
Pete, “and you will have a dead shot at the brute, an’ I’ll go up and
roll a stone down the mountain side and follow it as fast as I kin, so
as to be ready to help you if you need it; but you ought to drap him at
first shot at short range. Yer must drap him, yer must or I allow tha’ll
be a right smart of a scrap here, and don’t yer forget it!”

“This is no Christmas turkey shooting, young feller, so look sharp,” and
with a noiseless tread Pete vanished in the wood, while I with beating
heart and bulging eyes watched the thicket at the end of the ledge. I
had not long to wait before I heard a blood-curdling yell and then
crash! crash! crash! came a big boulder tearing down the mountain side.
It reached a point just over the thicket, struck a small pine tree,
broke the tree and leaped high into the air, then crashed into the
middle of the brush.

Following with giant leaps came Big Pete Darlinkel down the rocky
declivity, but I only looked that way for one instant, then my eyes were
again fixed on the thicket, and in my excitement I arose to a standing
position. There was but a momentary silence after the fall of the
boulder before I heard the rustling of sticks and leaves, saw the top of
the bushes sway as some heavy body moved beneath, then there appeared a
head, and what a head it was! Bigger than all outdoors! I aimed my gun,
but my body swayed and the end of my shotgun described a large circle in
the air. I knew that my position was serious, but my nerves played me
false.

I had never before faced a grizzly. I heard Big Pete’s voice calling to
me to drop behind the rock, but I only stood there with a dogged
stupidity, trying to aim my gun at a mark which seemed to me as big
almost as a barn-door.

I heard Pete give a sudden cry then there was a rattle of stones and
dirt on the ledge in front of the mountain of brownish hair that was
advancing in sort of side leaps or bounds like a big ball.

The bear came to a sudden stop, and to my horror I saw the form of my
friend shoot over the edge of the overhanging rock right in the path of
the grizzly. It all flashed through my mind in a moment. Pete in his
haste to reach me had lost control of himself and slid with the rolling
stones and dirt over the mountain side, a fall of at least twenty-five
feet!

Instantly my nerve returned and I rushed madly up the incline to rescue
my companion. I bounded between the branches of some stout saplings,
they parted as my body struck them but sprung together again before my
leg had cleared the V-shaped opening.

My foot was imprisoned and I fell with a heavy thud on my face. For an
instant I was dazed, but even in my dazed state I was fully conscious of
Pete’s impending peril, and I kicked and struggled blindly to free
myself. My gun had been flung from my hand in my fall and was out of my
reach. Then to my horror I heard the howl the wolf gives when game is in
sight, and even half blind as I was I saw dark, dog-like forms sweep by
me; I heard the scream of an eagle; I heard a snarling and yelping, the
sounds of a struggle—I ceased to kick, wiped the blood from my eyes and
looked ahead.

There lay Big Pete Darlinkel, dead or unconscious, and within ten feet
of him stood the giant bear surrounded by a vicious pack of gaunt
red-mouthed wolves. The bear made a rush and a shadow passed over the
ground; I heard the sound of a large body rushing swiftly through the
air, and an immense eagle struck the bear like a thunderbolt; at the
same instant the wolves attacked him from all sides; then there was a
whistle keen and clear; the wolves retreated; the bird again soared
aloft; the bear made several passes in the air in search of the bird,
fell forward again on all fours, rose on its hind legs and killed a wolf
with one sweep of its great paw.

The bear now made a dash at the giant leader of the pack, only to fall
forward, dead, with its ugly nose across Big Pete’s chest.

Then I remembered hearing the crack of a rifle, and knew that the Wild
Mountain Man had saved our lives. I tried to rise but found my ankle so
badly sprained that I could not stand on it.

Suddenly a low voice with a hint of an Irish accent said, “Sit down,
stranger, while I look to your mate,” and I saw the tall lithe figure of
a man clothed in buckskin bending over Pete.

“Only stunned, friend,” said he, and I heard no more. The blow on my
head, combined with the pain from my ankle was too much for me, and now
that the danger was over it was a good time to faint, and I took
advantage of it.

How long I remained unconscious I do not know, but when my eyes opened
again it was night; through the interlacing boughs overhead the stars
were shining brightly, my head was neatly bandaged and so was my foot
and ankle. I could hear our horses cropping grass near by. I raised my
head and there lay Pete; he was alive I knew by his snores that issued
from his nose, and we were in our own camp; but—what are those animals
by our camp fire? Wolves! gaunt, shaggy wolves!

I hastily arose to a sitting posture, but my alarm subsided when in the
dim light of the fire I could trace the outline of another man’s figure,
and on a stick close to the stranger’s head roosted a giant bird.

Could it be that this wild man of the mountain—possibly my own
father—was camping with us?



CHAPTER V


“Moseyed, by gum! I’ll be tarnally tarnashuned if that terri-fa-ca-cious
spook hain’t pulled out!” was the exclamation that awakened me the
morning after our adventure with the bear.

Lazily opening my eyes I gazed a moment at the sun just peeping over the
mountain, then closed them again; but when I attempted to change my
position a sharp pain in my ankle thoroughly awakened me. Still I lay
quiet because it was some time before I could collect my scattered
senses and separate in my mind the real incident and the dream
phantasms.

The pain in my ankle, the swelled and irritated condition of my nose
plainly proved to me that there was no dream about my injuries, but I
discovered that my head and leg were neatly bandaged with strips of fine
linen. I sat for a while busily collecting the incidents of the past
twenty-four hours, arranging them in my mind in their proper order and
place. I cut out the dream portion from the realities with very little
trouble until I reached the part where I had awakened in the night and
had seen the wolves, the eagle and the Wild Hunter. I could not be sure
whether that was a dream or reality. Had I seen this strange old man
with his eagle and his wolf pack beside our camp fire or had I dreamed
it? Had this hobgoblin man, who might be my own father, rescued me from
death at the claws of the grizzly and bound my wounds for me, or was
that but a dream too? Had not Big Pete saved me perhaps and cared for me
afterward?

“Pete, old fellow,” I said presently, rising to my elbow, “who brought
me to camp? Who killed that bear? Who saved our lives?”

“The Wild Hunter,” replied Pete gravely. “He bathed my head with some
sort of good smelling stuff and, though I am as heavy as a dead
buffaler, toted me to camp; he ’lowed that I was all sort of shuk up and
a little hazy; he fixed my blanket, then he fotched you in on his
shoulders just as if you was a dead antelope, fixed you up with bandages
torn from handkerchiefs in your pocket, gave you a drink which you
didn’t seem to appreciate, but just swallowed like you were asleep, then
he laid you out. I had my eye peeled on him but he said nary a word, an’
when we wuz both all comfortable he pulled out a long cigar, sot down by
the fire and was smoking tha’ with his bird and his wolves around him
when I went to sleep.

“He cut his bullets out, as he allus does,” muttered Pete a little while
later.

“Who cut what bullets?” I asked.

“Whomsoever cud I mean but th’ Wild Hunter, and wha’s tha’ been any
bullets lately but in th’ b’ar?” queried my companion.

“Yes, of course,” I admitted, “but why do you suppose he cut out the
bullets?”

“Wal, I reckon tha’ might be right scarce and he haster be kinder
sparing with them. I calculate you’d like to have a hatful of them
balls, leastwise most folks would; cause the Wild Hunter don’t use no
common low-flung lead for his bullets, no-sir-ree bob-horsefly! Tain’t
good ’nuff for a high-cock-alorum like him—_he shoots balls of virgin
gold!_”

But I was more interested in what had become of this strange man than in
the sort of projectiles rumor said that he used in his gun and so
dismissed the subject with a request for further information about our
rescuer.

“This morning when I opened my peepers,” Pete continued, “I t’ought
maybe the Wild Hunter had only gone off on a tramp; but he’s done clared
out for good, and tuk his wolves and bird with him. I’m some glad he
took th’ wolves, I don’t sorter like the look of their mean eyes; they
do say that he is a wolf himself and the head of the pack.”

“What’s that, Pete? Steady, old man, now let’s go slow.”

“All right; tha’s wha’ I mean ter do. ’Cause it hain’t a varmint natur’
to help men folks, and he done helped us, and no mistake, and left us
the bulk of the b’ar too,—only took the claws, teeth and tenderloin or
two for himself and pack; that is, if he be a wolf. But we will settle
that if your foot will let you walk a bit.”

“How far?” I asked.

“Only over yan way to the first piece of wet ground, and the trail leads
down to tha’ spring tha’, and tha’ is quite a right smart bit of muddy
swail beyont.”

“All right, I’ll try it,” I exclaimed. But I could not touch my foot on
the ground, and it was not until my guide had made me a crutch of a
forked branch, padded with a piece of fur, that I was able to go limping
along after Big Pete.

We followed the trail left by the Wild Hunter to the spring. The trail
after that was plain, even to my inexperienced eyes; and when we reached
the muddy spot the print of the moccasined feet and the dog-like tracks
of the wolves were distinctly visible.

But look at Big Pete!

As motionless as a statue, with a solemn face he stoops with a rigid
figure pointing to the trail! I hastened to his side and saw that the
moccasin prints ceased in the middle of an open, bare, muddy place and
beyond were nothing but the dog-like tracks of the wolves.

I looked up and all around; there were no overhanging branches that a
man could swing himself upon, no stones that he could leap upon—nothing
but the straggling bunches of ferns; but here in this open spot the Wild
Hunter vanished.

We walked back in silence, for I had nothing to say, and Pete did not
volunteer any further information.



CHAPTER VI


To have one’s nose all but broken, both eyes blackened and a twisted
ankle is a sad misfortune wherever it occurs, but when such a thing
happens to a fellow many weary miles from the nearest human habitation
and in a howling wilderness it might be considered anything but
pleasant. Yet, strange as it may appear, among the most pleasant and
precious memories I have stored away in my mind, only to be tapped upon
special occasions, is the memory of the glorious days spent nursing my
bruises and lolling around that far-away camp. Sometimes I listened to
the quaint yarns of my unique and interesting guide or idly watched the
changing colors and effects which the sun and the atmosphere produced on
the snow-capped mountains of Darlinkel’s Park. I made friends with our
little neighbors the rock-chuck, whose home was in the base of the cliff
back of the spring, and became intimate with the golden chipmunk and its
pretty little black and white cousin, the four-striped chipmunk, both of
which were common and remarkably tame about camp.

Back of the camp in the dark shade of the evergreens there was a bark
mound composed entirely of the fragments of the conifera cones, which
Pete said was the squirrel’s dining room. This mound contained at least
four good cart-loads of fragments and all of it was the work of the
impudent little blunt-nosed red squirrels, which were plentiful in the
woods.

How long it took these small rodents to heap such a mass of material
together I was unable to calculate, but the mound was as large as some
of the shell heaps made by the ancient oyster-eating men and left by
them along our coast from Florida to Maine.

The numerous magpies seemed to be conscious of my admiration of their
beautiful piebald plumage and to take every opportunity to show off its
iridescent hues to the best advantage in the sunlight.

Pete evidently thought I was a chap of very low taste, with a great lack
of discrimination in the choice of my friends among the forest folk, and
he could see no reason for my intimacy with “all th’ outlaws and most
rascally varmints of the park.”

Truth compels me to admit that the pranks of some of my little friends
were often mischievous and annoying, but they were also humorous and
entertaining and I laughed when the “tallow-head” jay swooped down and
snatched a tid-bit from Pete’s plate just as he was about to eat it, and
when the irate trapper threw his plate at the camp robber it was a
charming sight to see a number of birds flutter down to feast upon the
scattered food.

The loud-mouthed, self-asserting fly-catcher in the cottonwood tree
learned to know my whistle, and whenever I attempted to mimic him he
would send back a ringing answer. The charming little lazulii buntings
were tamer than the irritating dirty English sparrows at home.

It was interesting to notice how quickly all our little wild neighbors
learned to know that the sound produced by banging on a tin plate meant
dough-god and other good things at our camp, and as they came rustling
among the grasses or fluttering from bush and trees they showed more
fear of each other than they did of Pete and me.

When the myriads of bright stars would twinkle in the blue black sky or
the great round-faced moon climb over the mountain tops to see what was
doing in the park, the birds and chipmunks were quiet, but then the big
pack-rats, with squirrel-like tails, would troop out from their secret
caves and invade the camp.

In the gray dawn, while sleeping in a tent, I often awakened to hear
something scamper up its steep side and then laughed to see the shadow
of a comical little body toboggan down the canvas. Our pocket-knives,
compasses and all other small objects were never safe unless securely
packed away out of reach of these nocturnal marauders.

Our conversations around the camp fire evenings were highly interesting
too, for Big Pete was a fluent talker with a wealth of stories of the
Great West at his tongue’s end. Indeed, the story of his family and
their migration west was one that fascinated me. His father had been a
trapper in the old days; he had done his share of roaming the mountains,
prospecting and making his strikes, small and large, fighting Indians
and living the strenuous life of the border pioneer. He had found the
woman he afterward married unconscious under an overturned wagon of an
emigrant train that had been raided by the Indians, and after nursing
her back to health in his mining shack, had married her. With money he
had worked from the “diggin’s” he had acquired, by grants from the
government, the beautiful and expansive mountain park where he had
planned to develop a ranch. He never went very far with his project,
however, for a raiding party of Indians caught him alone in the
mountains and his wife found his body pinned to the ground with arrows.
The shock of his tragedy killed Big Pete’s mother soon after, and the
young Peter Darlinkel, then three years old, went to a nearby settlement
to be brought up by an uncle and a squaw aunt. Pete became prospector,
scout, trapper and hunter, using this beautiful park that became his as
a result of the passing of his father, as a private game preserve, so to
speak. That is, it was private except for the intrusion of the Wild
Hunter and his black wolf pack.

In a fragmentary way Big Pete told me this story and other interesting
tales of this wild western country, but mostly our conversation turned
to this old man of the mountains who was such a mystery to everyone,
even to Big Pete, but who, despite the lugubrious reputation, had
proved a kindly gentleman and a good friend to me.

There were no visible signs of a change in the weather which had been
clear for weeks, and the sky was otherwise clear blue save where the
white mares’ tails swept across the heavens. But when we sat down to
supper that evening I could hear the rumbling of distant thunder. I knew
it was thunder for, although the fall of avalanches makes the same
noise, avalanches choose the noon time to fall when the sun is hottest
and the snows softest. Soon I could see the heads of some dark clouds
peering at us over the mountains and before dark the clouds crept over
the mountain tops and overcast our sky.

It rained all that night in a fitful manner and came to a stop about
four A. M. The wind went down and the air seemed to have lost its
vivacity and life; it was a dead atmosphere; we arose from our blankets
feeling tired and listless.

While we were eating our breakfast dark clouds again suddenly obscured
the heavens and before we had finished the meal big drops of rain set
the camp fire spluttering and drove us to the shelter of our tent; then
it rained! Lord help us! the water came down in such torrents that on
account of the spray we could not see thirty feet; then came hailstones
as large as hen’s eggs. There was some lightning and thunder, but either
the splashing of the water drowned the rumbling or the electric fluid
was so far distant that the reports were not loud when they reached us.
Suddenly there was a ripping noise, followed by a sort of subdued roar
which stampeded our horses from their shelter under a projecting rock
and made the earth shudder.

“Earthquake!” I exclaimed.

“Wuss,” said Pete, “hit’s a landslide.”

Instantly a thought went through my brain like a hot bullet and made me
shudder.

“Pete,” I shouted.

“I’m right hyer, tenderfut, you needn’t holler so loud,” he answered,
and calmly filled his pipe.

I flung myself impulsively on my companion, grasped his big brawny
shoulders, and with my face close to his I whispered, “Pete, I believe
the slide occurred at the gate.”

“Well, hit did sound that-a-way,” admitted Pete composedly.

“Pete,” I continued, “that butte has caved in on our trail!”

“Wull, tenderfut, we ain’t hurt, be we? Tha’s plenty of game here fur
the tak’n of it and plenty of water, as fine as ever spouted from old
Moses’ rock, right at hand. If the Mesa’s cut our trail we can live well
here for a hundred years and not have to chew wolf mutton neither. I
don’t reckon I can go to York with you just yet,” drawled my comrade in
a most provokingly imperturbable manner, as he slowly freed himself from
my grasp and made for the camp fire, which being to a great extent
sheltered by an overhanging rock, was still smouldering in spite of the
drenching rain. Raking the ashes until he found a red glowing coal, Pete
deftly picked it up and by juggling it from one hand to the other, he
conducted the live ember to his pipe-bowl, then he puffed away as calmly
as if there was nothing in this world to trouble him.

“If the gate be shut,” he resumed, “it will keep out prospectors, tramps
and Injuns.” With that he went to smoking his red-willow[1] bark again.

  [Footnote 1: The trappers and Indians made Kil-i-ki-nic, or
  Kinnikinick, by mixing tobacco with the inside bark of red
  willow, which is the common name for the red osier of the
  dogwood family. EDITOR.]

But I could not view the situation so complacently, and when the rain
had ceased as suddenly as it began, with some difficulty I caught my
horse and made my way to the gate, to discover that my worst fears were
realized; a large section of the cliff had split off the Mesa and slid
down into the narrow gateway completely filling the space and leaving a
wall of over one hundred feet of sheer precipice for us to climb before
we could escape from our Eden-like prison.

Again a wave of superstitious dread swept over me as I viewed the
tightly closed exit, a dread that perhaps after all there was more to
Big Pete’s superstitions about the Wild Hunter than I dared to admit,
else why should that cliff which had stood for thousands of years take
this opportunity to split off and choke up the ancient trail?

The longer I questioned myself, the less was my ability to answer. I sat
on a stone and for some time was lost in thought. When at length I
looked up it was to see Big Pete with folded arms silently gazing at the
barricaded exit and the muddy pool of water extending for some distance
back of the gateway into the park.

“Well, tenderfut, you was dead right in your judication. The gate air
shut sure ’nuff. Our horses ain’t likely to take the back trail and
leave us, that’s sartin.”

“Oh, Pete,” I exclaimed, “how will we ever get out? Must we spend the
remainder of our lives here?”

“It do look as if we’d stop hyer a right smart bit,” he admitted, “maybe
till this hyer holler between the mountains all fills with water agin
like it was onct before, I reckon. Don’t you think that we’d better get
busy and build a Noah’s Ark?”

“Pete, you’d joke if the world came to an end. But seriously I think we
might move our camp back to the far end of your park.”



CHAPTER VII


One day after we had selected our new camp, I took my rod along and
wandered into the wonderful forest of ancient trees. There I seated
myself on a log to think over my experience. Somehow my own trials and
ambitions seemed small, trivial and not worth while when I looked upon
those grand trees standing silently on guard as they were standing when
Columbus was busy smashing a hard-boiled egg to make it stand on end.
Yes, naturalists tell us some of these same trees were standing before
the New Testament was written and then as now their branches concealed
their lofty tops and formed a screen through which the powerful rays of
the noon-day sun are filtered, refined and subdued to a dreamy twilight
below, a twilight in which the soft green mosses and lace-like ferns
thrive into luxuriant growth.

It was so still and quiet in that forest that the silence seemed to hurt
my ears and I found myself listening to see if I could not hear the deep
dark blue blossoms of the fringed gentians whispering scandals about the
flaming Indian paint brushes that flourished in the opening in the woods
where the sun’s ray could reach and warm the dark earth. As I listened I
could not help but speculate a great deal as to the possibilities of the
odd old man of this forest being in some way connected with my father’s
history, but the story of the wolf-man as given to me by my big
companion was so varied and so mixed with the superstitions of the
Indians and trappers who had come in contact with him, or had seen him
and his weird wolf pack roaming the mountains, that I could not in any
way take it as the basis for a solution of the problem.

Indeed, the more Big Pete told me the less I believed that this strange
and probably mad man could be my father. In truth, the only real clue
or even faint reason I had for believing that he owned the missing
“Patrick Mullen” was because this gun at a distance seemed to correspond
with the description of the Mullen’s gun. It was a faint clue indeed and
sometimes seemed not worth investigation. Yet when I began to doubt the
possibility an unexplained impulse or force kept urging me on to believe
that if I but persisted and found an opportunity to examine this gun it
would prove to be the one I sought, and if I had a chance to talk to
this strange Wild Hunter much of the mystery that surrounded my own
babyhood would be cleared up, so I found myself earnestly longing for a
real interview with this mysterious creature.

The more I thought of it the more I was inclined to believe that I was
on the right track, until at last convinced that this was so, I cried
aloud, “I have found him!”

“Who! Who!” queried a startled owl, as it peered down at me from its
hiding place in the dense foliage of a cedar far above.

“Never mind who, you old rascal,” I laughingly replied, and picking up
my fishing-rod I parted the underbrush to start on my way through the
wood for some trout, but suddenly halted when I found myself staring
into the face of a huge timber wolf. The beast’s lips were drawn back
displaying its gleaming fangs, its back hair was as erect as the cropped
mane of a pony, its mongolian eyes shone green through their narrow
slits and its whole attitude seemed to say, “Well, now that you have
found me, what do you propose to do?”

Now, boys, do not make any mistake about me, I am not a hero and never
posed as one; in truth my timidity at times amounts to cowardice, a fact
which I usually keep to myself, but I never was afraid of wolves until I
so unexpectedly met this one. It is needless to say that I have no hair
on my back, it is as bare as that of any other fellow’s, nevertheless,
on this occasion I could distinctly feel my bristles rise from the nape
of my neck to the end of my spine, just the same as those on the
oblique-eyed, shaggy monster whose snapping teeth were so near my face.

Everybody is familiar with the fact that people who have had limbs
amputated often complain of pains or itching in the missing members. My
missing back hair, the hair which my ancestors lost by the slow process
of evolution, the hair which grew on the back of the “missing link,”
stood on end at the sight of this wolf. However, this fear was but
momentary and when my courage returned I lifted my rod case in a
threatening manner, and the wolf slunk away as noiselessly as a shadow,
and like a shadow faded out of sight in the dim twilight of the ancient
forest. When I reached the open land beyond the forest another surprise
awaited me.

Surely this is heaven, I thought as I waded knee-deep among the
beautiful flowers of the prairie, starting the sharp pin-tailed grouse,
prairie chickens and sage grouse from their retreats and sending the
meadow-larks skimming away over flowering billows. Reaching an
elevation where I could peer beyond the crests of one of the “ground
swells” which furrowed the sea of nodding blossoms, I saw through the
stems of the plants, a part of the prairie at first concealed from view,
and there appeared to be numerous irregular boulders of dark brown stone
scattered around among the vegetation, and the boulders were moving!

Careful scrutiny, however, proved them to be not stones but live
buffalo. Big Pete had often told me that these animals lived unmolested
by him in the park; but when I realized that I was looking at between
three and four hundred real buffalo my heart gave a great jump of joy. I
tried to view them so as to take in their details, but the apparently
shapeless masses of dark reddish brown wool appeared to have none,
unless indeed the comical fur trousers with frayed bottoms on their
front legs might be called detail.

Even the faces of the beasts were so concealed by masks of knotted wool
that at first I could distinguish neither eyes, noses, horns or ears;
but in spite of their ragged trousers and their masked faces, the bison
are sublime in their mighty strength and ponderous proportions, and as
this was the first wild herd I had ever seen and one of the very few, if
not the only one, then extant, I viewed them with the keenest interest.

But the scattered bunches of antelope, which I now noticed were dotting
the plains around the buffalo, appealed to my love of the beautiful.
Knowing that in other localities these charming little creatures are
rapidly being slaughtered and steadily decreasing in numbers and that
all attempts to breed them in captivity have so far failed, they at once
absorbed my attention to the exclusion of their larger neighbors.

When we moved our camp to the far side of the lake, Big Pete told me
that I could find plenty of trout streams beyond the timber belt, and he
also informed me that I could there see the walls of the park and
satisfy myself that there was but one trail leading into the preserve.

I do not now recall the sort of walls that were pictured in my mind or
know what I really expected to see enclosing Darlinkel’s Park, but I do
know that when I suddenly emerged from the dark forests into the sunlit
prairie, the scene which greeted my vision was not the one painted by my
imagination.

Before me stretched an open plain surrounded by mountains arising
abruptly from a bed of many colored flowers; they were the same ranges
whose snow-covered peaks formed a feature of the landscape at the lake
and at our first camp.

Here, however, their appearance was different, as different as the dark
forest from the open sunlit prairie. The scene at first did not seem
real, it had a sort of a drop-curtain effect that was as familiar to me
as the row of footlights and gilded boxes, but never did I expect to see
those delicate tints, that blue atmosphere, the fresco colored rocks and
all the theatrical properties of a drop-curtain duplicated in nature,
yet here it was before me, not a detail wanting, even the impossible
mammoth bed of gaudy flowers at the foot of the mountain was here and
the numerous cascades had not been forgotten. Well, it does seem
wonderful to me that unknown theatrical daubers should know so much more
of nature than the public for whom they paint.

But, nature is a bolder artist than even the daring scenic painters; in
front of me was a prairie of flowers, acres and acres of waving,
undulating masses of color; thousands of Arizona wyetha (wild
sunflowers) mingled with the brilliant tips of the fire-weed and clumps
of odorous and delicately colored horsemint. There were other flowers
unfamiliar to me and hundreds of big blossoms of what I took to be a
member of the primrose family. It was in this garden that the buffalo
and antelope were grazing.

An old buck antelope saw me and I instantly dropped to the ground and
was concealed by the flowering vegetation. I wanted to see the home
life of these animals, but was disappointed because of the attention I
had attracted. When first discovered the does were browsing with heads
down and the kids were playing tag with one another, every once in a
while spreading the white hair on their rumps and then lowering the
“white flag” again, they apparently used it as a Morse signal system of
their own. But now they were all alert and facing me; the bucks had seen
something and that something had suddenly disappeared. This must be
investigated, so they circled round hesitatingly; the apparition might
be a foe but still they _must_ satisfy their curiosity and discover what
it was of which they had had a moment’s glimpse and thus they approached
nearer and ever nearer to my place of concealment.

Soon, however, I became aware of the fact that the antelope had
unaccountably lost all thought of me and were deeply interested in
something else which from their actions I concluded to be recognized as
an enemy. It was now apparent that if Big Pete did not hunt the
prong-horns someone or something else _did_ hunt them.

As a bunch broke away from the scattered groups and came in my
direction, making great leaps over the prairie, I detected the cause of
their panic in the form of a huge eagle which was keeping pace with and
flying over the fleeing prong-horns.

The bird was not more than a dozen feet above the animals’ backs and in
vain did the poor creatures try to distance their pursuer. At length
they scattered, each one taking a course of his own. Then the bird did a
strange thing. It singled out the largest buck and persistently
following him, it came directly towards me and passed within ten feet of
my ambush, the broad wings of the antelope’s relentless foe casting a
dark shadow over the straining muscles of the beautiful animal’s back. I
was tempted to drive the bird away or shoot at it with my revolver, but
the thought that I had seen that bird before restrained me and the fact
that it pursued a strong, healthy buck instead of selecting a weaker and
more easy prey convinced me that this eagle had been trained to the hunt
and was not a wild[2] bird, for the immutable law that “labor follows
the line of least resistance” holds good with all wild creatures. It was
not long before I had to use my field glasses to follow the chase and
then I discovered that the poor prong-horn was showing signs of fatigue.
It had made a grave error in dashing up an incline and the eagle from
his position above knew that the time had come to strike and, like a
thunderbolt, it fell, striking its hooked talons in the graceful neck of
the terror-stricken antelope.

  [Footnote 2: The late Howard Eaton of Wolf, Wyoming, watched an
  eagle hunt down a prong-horned buck.—EDITOR.]

Hoping to get a nearer view of the last tragedy, I hastened towards the
spot and before I was aware of my position, found myself close to the
herd of buffalo. I then saw that these beasts being unaccustomed to
man, did not fear him, but on the contrary meant to show fight. As I
came to a sudden halt the old bulls began to paw the earth, throwing the
dirt up over their backs and bellowing with a low vibrating roar that
was terror-inspiring. Then they dropped to their knees, rolled on their
backs, got up, shook themselves, licked their noses, “rolled up their
tails” into stiff curves, put down their heads and came at me. The cows
with their hair standing on end like angry elks and bellowing loudly
were not behind their lords in aggressiveness and the comical little
calves came bouncing along after their dame.

Was I frightened? That depends upon one’s definition of the word. I was
not panic-stricken, but to say that I was not _excited_ when I saw those
animated masses of dark brown wool come roaring and thundering at me
would be to make boast that no one who has had a similar experience
would believe.

Fortunately, not far behind me was the hollow or gully already
mentioned and I bolted over the edge of it. As soon as the bank
concealed my person I ran as I never ran before taking a course at right
angles to my original one and leeward of the herd, and at last, out of
breath, I rolled over in the weeds and lay there panting and straining
my ears to hear the snorting beasts.

My chest felt dry, hot and oppressed from forced and labored breathing,
and had the buffalo discovered me I do not think I could have run
another step. But the big brutes halted at the edge of the bank and
seeing no one in sight walked around pawing and throwing up great clouds
of dust and in their rage apparently daring me to come forth. Like a
small boy when he hears a challenge from a gang of toughs, I decided
that I did not want to fight and lay as quiet as possible among the
sunflowers until I had regained my breath. When the buffalo wandered
back to their original pasture land I, like a coyote, slunk away and
consoled myself with the thought that although I had had my run for my
money, at least, I had seen the death of the antelope even if I did miss
again seeing the Wild Hunter “collar his game,” as Big Pete would have
called the act of securing it. Besides this I had a real exciting
adventure with good red-blooded American animals and learned the lesson
that large horned beasts which have not been taught to fear man are
exceedingly dangerous to man.



CHAPTER VIII


Rising abruptly from the prairie was a frowning precipice a thousand or
more feet high and above and beyond the top of this cliff, the
mountains.

When Big Pete told me that his park was “walled in” he told me the
mildest sort of truth; the prairie is the bottom of a wide canyon, in
fact everything seems to indicate that the whole park had settled,
sunk—“taken a drop” of a thousand or more feet; forming what miners
would call a fault.

From the glaciers up among the clouds numerous streams of melted ice
came dashing down the sides of the mountain range, fanciful cascades
leaping without fear from most stupendous heights spreading out in long
horse-tail falls over the face of the cliff, doing everything but
looking real. At the foot of each of the falls there was a pool of deep
water, in one or two instances the pools were smooth basins hollowed out
of solid rock in which the water was as transparent as air and but for
the millions of air bubbles caused by the falling water every inch of
bottom could be plainly seen by an observer at the brink of the pool.

The trout in these basins were almost as colorless as the water itself
(the light color of the fish is due to their chameleon-like power of
modifying their hue to imitate their surroundings)—this mimicry is so
perfect that after looking into one of these stone basins, the rounded
smooth sides of which offered no shade or nook where a trout might hide,
I was ready to declare the waters uninhabited but no sooner had my brown
hackel or professor settled lightly on the surface of the pool than out
from among the air bubbles a fish appeared and seized the fly.

My sprained ankle was now so much improved that upon discovering a
diagonal fracture in the face of the cliff, which looked as if offering
a foot hold, and feeling reckless, I determined to make the effort to
scale the wall at this point.

If the giant “fault” is of comparatively recent occurrence, geologically
speaking, it seemed reasonable that there would be trout in the streams
above the cliff and the memory of the fact that Pete had reported that
both Rocky Mountain sheep and goats were up there decided me to attempt
to scale the wall by the fracture. It was a long, hard climb and more
than once while I clung to the chance projections or dug my fingers into
small cracks and looked down upon the backs of some golden eagle sailing
in spirals below me, I regretted making the fool-hardy attempt, but when
the top was reached and I saw signs of sheep and had a peep at a white
object I took to be a goat, I felt repaid for my arduous climb.

The elevated prairie or table-land on which I found myself corresponded
in every important particular with the park below; there were the same
natural divisions of prairie and forests, the same erratic boulders, but
on account of the difference in elevation there was a corresponding
difference in plant life, and most interesting of all to me, there were
the trout streams. The tablelands above the park were comparatively
level in places where the stream ran almost as quietly as a meadow
brook, but these level stretches were interrupted at short distance by
foaming rapids, jagged rocks and roaring falls.

My angler’s instinct told me that the biggest fish lurked in the deep
pools, to reach which it was necessary to creep and worm myself over the
open flats of sharp stones and patches of heather, but once on the
vantage ground the swish of a trout rod sounded there for the first time
since the dawn of Creation.

[Illustration: More than once while I clung to the chance projection
... I regretted making the fool-hardy attempt]

There was an audible splash at my first cast. My, how that reel did
sing! Before I realized it, my fish had reached rapid water and taken
out a dangerous amount of line; still I dared not check him too severely
among the sharp rocks and swift waters, so I ran along the bank,
stumbling over stones, but managing to avail myself of every opportunity
to wind in the line until I had the satisfaction of seeing enough line
on my reel to prepare me for possible sudden dashes and emergencies.

Ah! that was a glorious fight, and when at last I was able to steer my
tired fish into shallow water I saw there were three of them, one lusty
trout on each of my three flies. I had no landing net so I gently slid
the almost exhausted fish onto a gravel bar and as I did so I
experienced one of those delightful thrills which comes to a fellow’s
lot but once or twice in a life-time. But it was not because I had
captured three at a strike, for I have done that before and since, but I
thrilled because they were not only a new and strange kind of trout, but
they were of the color and sheen of newly minted gold. Never before had
any man seen such trout.

I have since been informed that I had blundered on to water inhabited by
the rarest of all game fish, the so-called golden trout, which has since
been discovered and which scientists declare to be pre-glacier fish left
by some accident of nature to exist in a new world in which all their
original contemporaries have long been extinct.

Think of it! Fish which had never seen an artificial fly nor had any
family traditions of experiences with them. It is little wonder that
they would jump at a brown hackle, a professor or even a gaudy salmon
fly. Why they would jump at a chicken feather! They were ready and eager
to bite at any sort of bunco game I saw fit to play upon them. They were
veritable hayseeds of the trout family, but when they felt the hook in
their lips, the wisest trout in the world could not show a craftier nor
half as plucky a fight. They would leap from the water like
small-mouthed bass and by shaking their heads, try to throw off the
hateful hook.

The constant vigorous exercise of leaping water-falls and forging up
boiling rapids had developed these sturdy mountaineer trout into
prodigies of strength and endurance. Even now my nerves tingle to the
tips of my toes as in fancy I hear my reel hum or see the tip of my five
ounce split bamboo bend so as to almost form a circle.

I fished that stream with hands trembling with excitement and had filled
my creel with the rare fish before I began to notice other objects of
interest. Suddenly I became aware of the presence of two birds hovering
over and diving under the cold water. They were evidently feeding on
some aquatic creature which my duller senses could not discern.

Although they were the first of the kind that I had ever seen alive, I
at once recognized the feathered visitors to be water ouzels. The birds
preceded me on my way along the water course towards camp, and were
never quiet a minute. They would hop on a rock in mid-stream and bob up
and down in a most solemn but comical manner for a moment before
plunging fearlessly into the cold white spray of the falls or the swift
dashing current, where they would disappear below the surface only to
reappear once more on another rock to bob again.

A ducking did not trouble the ouzels, for as they came out of the water
the liquid rolled in crystal drops from their feathers and their plumage
was as dry as if it had never been submerged. The wilder and swifter the
cold glacier water ran the more the birds seemed to enjoy it.

The nearer I approached the edge of the precipitous walls, enclosing the
valley comprising Big Pete’s park, the rougher grew the trail, and as I
was picking my way I paused to gaze at the distant purple peaks and
watch the sun set in that lonely land as if I was witnessing it for the
first time. As my eyes roamed over the stupendous distance and unnamed
mountains I felt my own puny insignificance, as who has not when
confronted with the vastness of nature.

I turned from my view of the sunset to retrace my steps to the valley,
and peeping over the top of a large boulder, saw seated upon an
inaccessible crag directly in front of me, a gigantic figure of a man
clad in a hunter’s garb, and he was smoking a long cigar!

When I thought of Big Pete’s description of how the Wild Hunter was wont
to sit with his long legs dangling from some rock while he smoked one of
those unprocurable cigars, and when I realized that the figure before me
was fully sixty feet tall, I must confess to experiencing a queer
sensation.

It was a shadowy figure yet it moved, arose, held out one hand, and a
bird as large as the fabled roc alighted on the wrist of the
outstretched hand.

A slight breeze sprang up, the white mists from the valley rolled up the
mountainside and drifted away and the man and bird disappeared from
view.

It was long after dark when I reached camp and was greeted by my friend
and guide with “Gol durn your pictur tenderfut, if it hain’t tuk you
longer to get a pesky mess of yaller fish than it orter to kill a bar.”

“Little wonder,” thought I, “that the Wild Hunter used golden bullets in
a land where even the fish’s scales seemed to be of the same precious
metal”; but I said nothing as I sat down to clean my “yaller trout.”



CHAPTER IX


It was always interesting to me when I could get Pete’s theories and his
brand of philosophy on almost any subject and it was my intention that
night at supper to lead up to the apparition I had seen on the cliffs
that day. With a substantial supper tucked away I was in a better frame
of mind to realize that the illusion I had seen was not uncommon in
mountain districts. I recalled that I had read of, and seen pictures of,
a particular illusion of this nature that is often present in the Hartz
Mountains in Germany and I knew full well that the setting sun, the mist
and the atmospheric condition had all contributed to throwing a greatly
enlarged shadow of the real Wild Hunter onto the screen made by the mist
very much as today a motion picture increases the size of the small film
image when it is thrown on the movie screen.

I intended to get Big Pete’s idea on the subject but I never did for I
was not adroit enough to steer the conversation in that direction, for
Big Pete seized my first statement and made it a subject for a veritable
lecture.

“There was a smashing lot of those trout up there, Pete. Bet I could
have brought home all I could have carried if I had been a game hog,” I
said, as I stirred the fire with a stick and set the coffee pot nearer
the flames to warm a second cup.

“You see, tenderfut, it’s like this,” he said, “when a man goes out to
kill a deer for the fun of blood-spilling or to get th’ poor critter’s
head to hang in his shack, he’s nothing more than a wolf or butcher;
hain’t half as good a man as the one who never shot a deer, but goes
back home and lies about it. The liar hain’t harmed nothin’ with his
lies. His fairy stories don’t hurt game an’ they be interesting to the
tenderfuts in the States. The real sportsman is the pot-hunter. Yes,
that’s jist what I mean, a pot-hunter—he’s out ’cause the camp kettle
is empty, and it’s up agin him to fill it or starve. Now then, this
fellow is not after blood; nor trophies, nor is he hunting for the
market. It’s self-preservation with him, that’s what it is. He’s an
animal along with the rest of ’em and he knows he’s got jest as much a
right to live as tha’ have and no more! He’s hustling for his living
along with the bunch, forcing it from savage nature, and I tell you boy,
there is no greater physical pleasure in life than holding old Mother
Nature up and just saying to her, ‘You’ve got a living for me, ole’ gal,
and I’m going to get it.’

“Such talk pleases the old lady, makes her your friend ’cause she likes
your spunk, and because of it she’ll give you the wind of a grey wolf,
the step of the panther, the strength of the buffalo and the courage of
a lion. She is always generous with her favorites. Ah! lad, she kin make
your blood dance in your veins, make fire flash from your eyes and give
you the steady nerve necessary to face a she-grizzly when she is
fightin’ for her cubs.”

“Why? ’cause you see, you are a grizzly yourself when the camp kettle is
empty!” And Big Pete relapsed into silence, turned his attention to his
tin platter, examining it carefully, and then with a piece of dough-god,
carefully wiped the platter clean and contentedly munched the savory
bit.

The reason, that being locked into Big Pete’s park in the mountains
struck me as being very serious, was because I realized that although
the park was extensive it was completely surrounded by a practically
unsurmountable barrier of rugged cliffs and mountains negotiable, as far
as I knew, not even by the sure-footed mountain sheep and goats which we
could occasionally see on the cliffs from the valley floor, but never
saw in the park itself. I questioned Big Pete and found that he did not
know of a trail up the cliffs.

“Though,” he said, “there must be some sort of a one for that tha’ Wild
Hunter gits in an’ out and brings his wolf pack along too. He knows a
trail all right an’ ef he knows it why it’s up to us to find it, too.”

“Maybe we can trail him,” I suggested.

“Trail him! Me? With that wolf pack clingin’ to his heels? Not while I’m
alive!”

That was the last that was said about trailing the Wild Hunter for some
time to come, but meanwhile we built a more or less open faced permanent
camp and Big Pete initiated me into mysteries of real woodcraft, for it
was up to us now to live on the land, so to speak.

Although hard usage had made havoc with my tailormade clothes, neither
time nor the elements seemed to affect the personal appearance of my big
companion; his buckskin suit was apparently as clean and fresh as it was
on the day I first met him. There was no magic in this. Big Pete knew
how to clamber all day through a windfall without leaving the greater
part of his clothes on the branches, a feat few hunters and no
tenderfoot have yet been able to accomplish.

As I have already said, Pete was a dude, but he was what might be called
a self-perpetuating dude, who never ran to seed no matter how long he
might be separated from the city tailor shops, for Pete was his own
tailor, barber and valet, and the wilderness supplied the material for
his costume.

In the camp he was as busy as an old housewife, and occupied his leisure
time mending, stitching and darning. Many a morning my own toilet
consisted of a face wash at the spring, but my guide seldom failed to
spend as much time prinking as if he expected distinguished visitors!

Instead of “Tenderfoot,” Big Pete now called me “Le-loo,” which I
understand is Chinook for wolf and I took so much pride in my promotion
that I would not have changed clothes with the Prince of Wales; I
gloried in my wild, unkempt appearance!

Nevertheless, Big Pete announced that he was the Hy-as-ty-ee (big boss)
and he forthwith declared that my costume was unsuitable for the
approaching cold weather. There was no disputing that Big Pete was
Hy-as-ty-ee and I agreed to wear whatever clothes he should make for me,
and can say with no fear of dispute that if that ancient chump, Robinson
Crusoe, had had a Big Pete for a partner in place of a man Friday, he
would have never made himself his outlandish goatskin clothes and a
clumsy umbrella.

From a cache in the rocks Pete brought forth a miscellaneous lot of
trappers’ stores, bone needles made from the splints of deer’s legs,
elk’s teeth with holes bored through them, and odds and ends of all
kinds.

Among his stuff was a supply of salt-petre and alum, and this was
evidently the material for which he was searching for he at once
preceeded to make a mixture of two parts salt-petre to one of alum and
applied the pulverized compound to the fleshy side of the skins, then
doubling the raw side of the hides together he rolled them closely and
placed the hides in a cool place where they were allowed to remain for
several days; when at length unrolled, the skins were still moist.

“Just right, by Gosh,” he exclaimed, as he took a dull knife and
carefully removed all particles of fat or flesh which here and there
adhered to the hide. After this was done to his satisfaction we both
took hold and rubbed, and mauled and worked the skins with our hands
until the hides were as soft and as pliable as flannel. Thus was the
material for my winter clothing prepared.

It took four whole deer-skins to furnish stuff for my buckskin shirt
with the beautiful long fringes at the seams; but the whole garment was
cut, sewed and finished in a day’s time. It was sewed with thread made
of sinew.

When it came to making the coat and trousers Big Pete spent a long time
in solemn thought before he was ready to begin work on these garments;
at length he looked up with a broad smile and cried:

“See here, Le-loo, I have taken a fancy to them ’ere tenderfut pants o’
your’n. Off with ’em now an’ I’ll jist cut out the new ones from the old
uns.” In vain I pleaded with him to make my trousers like his own; he
would not listen to me, he insisted upon having my ragged but stylish
knickerbockers to use as a pattern.



CHAPTER X


Big Pete was an expert backwoods tailor, shoemaker and shirtmaker, but
these were but few of his accomplishments, not his trade; he was first,
last and aways a hunter and scout. No matter what occupation seemed to
engage his attention for the time it never interfered with his ability
to hear, see or smell.

It was while I was going around camp minus my lower garments that I saw
Pete suddenly throw up his head and suspiciously sniff the air, at the
same time sharply scanning the windward side of our camp. Living so long
with this strange man made me familiar with his actions and quick to
detect anything unusual and I now knew that something of interest had
happened. To the windward and close by us was a mound thickly covered
with bullberry bushes and underbrush, and so far as could be seen there
was nothing suspicious in the appearance of the thicket. Fixing my eyes
on Big Pete, I saw a peculiar expression spread over his face which
seemed to be half of mirth and half of wonderment, and I immediately
knew that his wonderful nose had warned him of the presence of something
to the windward.

Slowly and quietly he laid aside my almost finished breeches and
silently stole away. It was only a few minutes before he returned with a
very solemn face.

“Doggone my corn shucked bones, Le-loo, we’ve had a visitor but it got
away mighty slick and quick. I hain’t determint yit whether it wa’ man
er beast er both, er jist a thing wha’ might change into ’tother. We’ll
hafter investigate later. Here git these duds on.”

When I put on my new elk-hide knickerbockers with cuffs of dressed
buckskin laced around my calves, and my beautiful soft buckskin shirt
tucked in at the waist I began to feel like a real Nimrod, but after I
added my “Moo-loch-Capo,” the shooting jacket with elk-teeth buttons,
pulled a pair of shank moccasins over my feet and donned a cap made of
lynx skin, I was as happy as a child with its Christmas stocking. It was
a really wonderful suit of clothing; the hair of the elk hide was on the
outside, and not only made the coat and breeches warmer, but helped to
shed the rain. The buttons of the elk-teeth were fastened on with thongs
run through holes in their centers, and my coat could be laced up after
the fashion of a military overcoat. The elk’s teeth served as frogs and
loops of rawhide answered for the braid that is used on military coats.

My shank moccasins were made by first making a cut around each of the
hind legs of an elk, at a sufficient distance above the heels to leave
hide enough for boot legs and making another cut far enough below the
heels to make room for one’s feet. The fresh skins when peeled off
looked like rude stockings with holes at the toes. The skins were
turned wrong side out, and the open toes closed by bringing the lower
part, or sole, up over the opening and sewing it there after the manner
of a tip to the modern shoe. When this novel foot-gear was dry enough
for the purpose, Big Pete ornamented the legs with quaint colored
designs made with split porcupine quills colored with dyes which Pete
himself had manufactured of roots and barks.

Dressed in my unique and picturesque costume I stood upright while Pete
surveyed me with the pride and satisfaction of one who had done a fine
piece of work. I had now little fear of being called a tenderfoot and
when I viewed my reflection in the spring I felt quite proud of my
appearance.

“Come along now old scout,” said Pete viewing me with the pride of an
artist, “come along and let me test you on a real trail. I want to see
what my teaching has done for you.”

Pete led me through the underbrush to a point among the rocks.

“Tha’. A trail begins right under yore nose; let’s see what you make of
it,” he said crisply.

Down on all fours I crept over the ground and, to my surprise and joy, I
found that I could here and there detect a turned leaf the twist of
which indicated the direction taken by the party who made the trail. I
noticed that the bits of wood, pine cones and sticks scattered around
were darker on the parts next to the ground, and it only required simple
reasoning for me to conclude that when the dark side was uppermost the
object had been recently disturbed and rolled over.

It was a day of great discoveries. I found that what is true of the
sticks is equally true of the pebbles and a displaced fragment of stone
immediately caught my eyes. With the tenacity of a bloodhound I stuck to
my task until I suddenly found myself at the base of the park wall, at
the foot of the diagonal fracture in the face of the cliff where I had
climbed when I discovered the golden trout. As I have said, the
fracture led diagonally up the towering face of the beetling precipice.

For fear that I might have made some mistake I carefully retraced my
steps backward toward the bullberry bushes near the camp. On the back
trail I came upon some distinct and obvious footprints in a dusty place,
but so deeply interested was I in hidden signs, the slight but tell-tale
disturbances of leaf and soil, that I once passed these plainly marked
tracks with only a glance and would have done so the second time had not
their marked peculiarities accidentally caught my attention.

When examining the trail of this mysterious camp visitor I suddenly
realized that in place of moccasin footprints I was following bear
tracks, my heart ceased to beat for a moment or two before I could pull
myself together and smother the prehensile footed superstitious old
savage in me with the practical philosophy of the up-to-date man of
today.

Taking a short cut I ran back to the foot of the pass and there, on
hands and knees, ascended for a hundred feet or more—the bear steps led
up the pass, and yet at the beginning of the trail the feet wore
moccasins. This I knew because at one place the foot-mark showed plainly
in the gray alkali dust which had accumulated upon a projecting stone a
few feet below the ledge. Obviously whoever the visitor was, he had
entered and left by this pass. Returning to camp I sat down on a log
lost in thought. My reverie was at last broken by the voice of my guide
quietly remarking. “Well, Le-loo, what’s your judication?”

“Pete,” I said, “that bear walks on its hind-legs; there is not the sign
of a forefoot anywhere along the trail. Now this could not be caused by
the hind feet obliterating the tracks of the front feet, because in many
places the pass is so steep that the forefeet in reaching out for
support would make tracks not overlapped by the hind ones.”

“That’s true, Le-loo; sartin true. If you live to be a hundred years
you’ll make as good a trailer as the great Greaser trailer of New
Mexico, Dolores Sanchez, or my old friend Bill Hassler, who could follow
a six-month-old trail,” replied my guide. “But,” he continued, “maybe
witch-bears do walk on their hind legs same as people.”

“Witch be blamed!” I cried impatiently; “this is no four-legged witch
nor bear either. That was a man and when he thought he would be followed
he put on moccasins made from bears’ paws to leave a disguised trail.
And moreover I believe that man is none other than the Wild Hunter
without his wolf pack. And that pass is the pathway he takes in and out
of this park. I’m going to trail him whether you want to or not. Goodbye
Pete, I’ll come back for you,” and picking up my gun and other necessary
traps, I prepared to start immediately upon my journey, for I felt that
to follow this trail would not only get us out of our park prison but
would lead me to the abode of the Wild Hunter, where perhaps I could
talk with him and learn some of the things I was so eager to know about
my parents.

Big Pete looked at me solemnly for a while, ran over the cartridges in
his belt and went through all those familiar unconscious motions which
betokened danger ahead, and said, “Le-loo, you are a quare critter;
you’re not afraid of all the werwolves, medicine ba’rs and ghosts in
this world or the next, but tarnally afeared of live varmints like
grizzly bars—one would think you had no religion, but, gosh all
hemlock! If you can face a bear-man or a werwolf, even though all the
Hy-as Ecutocks of the mountains show fight, I’ll be cornfed if I don’t
stand by ye! Barring the Wild Hunter, I don’t know as I ever ran agin a
Ecutock yit; that is if he be a Ecutock. Maybe he’s a Econe? Yes, I
reckon that’s what he is,” continued Pete reflectively.

“Maybe he is a pine cone,” I laughed. Then added, “Whatever he is, he
knows the way out of this park of yours and I am going to follow him,” I
emphatically answered.

“That’s howsomever!” exclaimed my guide approvingly; “but,” he
continued, “the mountains are kivered with snow, while it is still
summer down here, so I reckon ’twould be the proper wrinkle for us to
pull our things together, have a good feed and a good sleep before we
start. White men start off hot-headed and I kinder like their grit, but
Injuns stop and sot by the fire an’ smoke an’ think afore they start on
a raid an’ I kinder think they be wiser in this than we ’uns, so let’s
do as the Injuns would do. We can cache most of our stuff and turn the
horses loose. Bighorn’s mutton is powerful good, but tarnally shy and
hung mighty high, an’ billygoat is doggoned strong ’nless you know how
to cook ’em. Yes, we’ll eat an sleep fust an’ then his for the land
where the Bighorn pasture, the woolywhite goats sleep on the rocks, the
whistling marmot blows his danger signal an’ the pretty white ptarmigan
hides hisself in the snow-banks, the home of the Ecutocks.

“What the thunder is a Ecutock, Pete?” I asked.

“An Injun devil, I reckon you’d call it; it’s bad medicine,” he answered
soberly, and continuing in his former strain, he exclaimed:

“Whar critters like goats, sheeps and rock-chucks kin live, you bet your
Hy-as muck-a-muck we kin live too!”

That night I rolled up into my blanket, filled with strange
presentiments. Again the question came up: What is the source of the
influence that this madman of the mountains, this wild hunter, this
leader of the black wolf pack, had on me to impel me to trail him over
the mountains? Was it mental telepathy? Could he really be my father?
Somehow I felt convinced that soon I would be face to face with the
riddle, soon I would know the facts and the truth about my parents. It
seemed unthinkable that all these weeks of wilderness travel had been
for naught and that the Wild Hunter was nothing but a strange, eccentric
old fellow living alone in the mountains and of no interest to me
whatsoever.



CHAPTER XI


We made our start at daylight, loaded with all the necessities for a
climb over the mountains. The rest of our supplies and equipment we
cached, and Big Pete turned our horses loose assuring me that in the
spring he would come back and rope them.

The lower trail of the pass was quite well defined and we made famous
progress, but the higher we climbed the more difficult the going became
and more than once we were forced to pause on a ledge to rest and regain
our breath.

On one ledge I got my first really close view of a bighorn sheep, and I
became so excited that nothing would do but I must stalk him, despite
Big Pete’s assurance that the wily old ram would not let me get within
gun shot of him in such an exposed area.

I crawled, and wriggled, and twisted over rock and boulders for what to
me seemed miles, but always the sheep kept just out of accurate shooting
distance ahead of me. It was an exasperating chase, but one cannot live
in the mountains for any length of time without paying more or less
attention to geology; the mountaineer soon learns that stratified rock,
that is rock arranged like layer cake, resting in a horizontal position
on its natural bed, makes travel over its top comparatively easy, but
when by the subsidence or upheaval of the earth’s crust huge masses of
stone have been tilted up edgewise, it is an entirely different
proposition.

In this latter case the erosion, or the wearing away, caused by
trickling water, frost and snow, sharpens the edge of the rock, as a
grindstone does the edge of an ax, and traveling along one of these
ridges presents almost the same difficulties that travel along the edge
of an upturned ax would do to a microscopic man.

But when a sportsman, for the first time in his life, has succeeded in
creeping within range of a grand bighorn ram, and his bullet, speeding
true, has badly wounded the game, hardships are forgotten, and if, on
account of the miraculous vitality of the mountain sheep, there is
danger of losing the quarry, all the inborn instinct of the predaceous
beast in man’s nature is aroused, and danger is a consideration not to
be taken in account.

A hawk in pursuit of a barnyard fowl will follow it into the open door
of the farmhouse; the hound in pursuit of the fox cares not for the
approaching locomotive—being possessed by the instinct to kill—nothing
is of importance to them but the capture of the game in sight. A man
following a buck is governed by a like singleness of purpose.

For this reason I was scrambling along the knife-like edge of the ridge,
with death in the steep treacherous slide rock on one side, death in the
steep green glacier ice on the other side, and torture and wounds under
my feet.

But the fever of the chase had possession of me. I had tasted blood and
felt the fierce joy of the puma and the wild intoxication of a hunting
wolf!

The cruel wounds inflicted by the sharp stones under my feet were
unnoticed. Away ahead of me was a moving object; it could use but three
legs, but that was one leg more than I had, and the ram had distanced
me. After an age of time I reached the rugged, broader footing of the
mountain side, and creeping up behind some sheltering rocks again fired
at the fleeing ram. With the impact of the bullet the sheep fell
headlong down a cliff to a projecting rock thirty feet below, where it
lay apparently dead. A moment later it again arose, seemingly as able as
ever, and ran along the face of the beetling rock where my eyes, aided
by powerful field glasses, could perceive no foothold; then it gave a
magnificent leap to a ledge on the opposite side of the narrow canyon
and fell dead, out of my reach.

Spent with my long, rough run, I naturally selected the most
comfortable seat in which to rest; this chanced to be a cushion of
heather-like plants along the side of a fragment of rock which
effectually concealed my body from view from the other side of the
chasm. Here, on the verge of that impassable canyon, I sat panting and
looking at the poor dead creature upon the opposite side; its right
front leg was shattered at the shoulder, a bullet had pierced its lungs.
Yet, with two fatal wounds and a useless leg, the plucky creature had
scaled the face of a cliff which one would think a squirrel would find
impossible to traverse and made leaps which might well be considered
improbable for a perfectly sound animal. The ram was dead and food for
the ravens, and a reaction had taken place in my mind; I felt like a
bloody murderer, and hung my head with a sense of guilt.

Presently, becoming conscious of that peculiar guttural noise, used by
Big Pete when desiring caution, and looking up I was amazed to see a
splendid Indian youth climb down the face of the opposite cliff, throw
his arms around the dead ram’s neck and burst into deep but subdued
lamentation. For the first time I now saw that what I had mistaken for a
blood stain on the bighorn’s neck was a red collar.

Cautiously producing my field glasses I examined the collar and
discovered it to be made of stained porcupine quills cleverly worked on
a buckskin band. The field glasses also told me that the boy’s shirt was
trimmed with the same material, while a duplicate of the sheep’s collar
formed a band which encircled his head, confining the long black hair
and preventing it from falling over his face, but leaving it free to
hang down his back to a point below the waist line.

So absorbed was I in this unique spectacle that I carelessly allowed my
elbow to dislodge a loose fragment of stone which went clattering down
the face of the precipice. This proved to be almost fatal carelessness,
for, with a movement as quick as the stroke of a rattlesnake, the lad
placed an arrow to the string of a bow and sent the barbed shaft with
such force, promptitude and precision that it went through my fur cap,
the arrow entangling a bunch of my hair, taking it along with it.

“Squat lower, Le-loo; arrows has been the death of many a man afore
you,” whispered Big Pete in my ear, but even as he spoke another arrow
sang over our crouching bodies, shaving the protecting rock so closely
that their plumed tips brushed the dust on our backs.

“Waugh! Good shootin’, by gum! I never seed it beat; if he onct sots
them black eyes on our hulking carcasses he’ll get us yit,” muttered my
guide, enthusiastically. “He’s mighty slender, quick and purty—but so
also be a rattlesnake!” he exclaimed, as another arrow slit the sleeve
of his wamus as cleanly as if it were cut with a knife.

“For God’s sake, stop!” I shouted, in real alarm. The boy paused, but
with an arrow still drawn to its head. His eyes flashing, head erect,
one moccasined foot on the ram’s body, the other braced against the
cliff; his short fawn-colored skin shirt clung to his lithe body, and
the fringed edges hung over the dreadful black chasm in front of him. It
was a picture to take away one’s breath. “Put down your weapon, and we
will stand with our hands up,” I cried. Slowly the bow was lowered and
as slowly Big Pete and I arose, holding our empty hands aloft. “Now,
young fellow, tell us your pleasure.”

There are a few gray hairs showing at my temples which first made their
appearance while I was crouching behind that stone on the edge of the
chasm.

To my polite inquiry asking his pleasure, the wild boy made no reply but
glanced at us with the utmost contempt when Big Pete went through some
gestures in Indian sign language. The lad mutely pointed to the dead
sheep, the sight of which seemed to enrage him again, for insensibly his
fingers tightened on the bow and the wood began to curve after a manner
which sent me ducking behind the sheltering stone again; but Big Pete
only folded his arms across his broad chest and looked the boy straight
in the eyes.

Never will I forget that picture, the cold, bleak, snow-covered
mountains towering above them, the black abyss of Sheol between them;
neither would hesitate to take life, neither possessed a fear of death;
but with every muscle alert and every nerve alive these two wild things
stood facing each other, mutually observing a truce because of—what?
Because, in spite of the fighting instinct or, maybe, because of it they
both secretly admired each other.



CHAPTER XII


The black chasm which separated us from the trail of the wild hunter was
not as formidable a barrier as the unfathomable abyss which separates
the reader from what he thinks he would have done had he been in my
place, and what really would have been his plan of action.

There were a lot of burning questions which I had privately made up in
my mind to propound to the Wild Hunter, or the even wilder medicine
bear, upon the occasion of our next meeting. But when the lad was
standing before me, with bended bow and flashing eyes, the burning
importance of those questions did not appeal to me as forcibly as did
the urgent necessity of sheltering my body behind the friendly stone. To
be truthful, it must be admitted that the proposed inquiries were, for
the time, entirely forgotten, and I even breathed a sigh of relief when
the boy suddenly clambered up the face of the cliff, turned, gave us a
fierce look of defiance, made some quick energetic gestures with his
hand and disappeared.

He scaled that precipitous rock with the rapidity and self-confidence of
a gray squirrel running up the trunk of a hickory tree, squirrel-like,
taking advantage of every crack, cranny and projection that could be
grasped by fingers or moccasin-covered toes.

Not until the Indian had disappeared down a dry coulee did I venture
from the shelter of the protecting rock, or realize that my carefully
planned interview must be indefinitely postponed.

With his arms folded across his chest, his blond hair sweeping his
shoulders, his blue eyes fixed upon a rocky rib of the mountain behind
which the boy had disappeared, Big Pete still stood like a statue. But
gradually the statuesque pose resolved itself into a more commonplace
posture, and the muscles of the face relaxed until the familiar twinkle
hovered around the corners of his eyes. “What did he say when he made
those motions, Pete?”

“Waugh! he said he was not afraid of any whitefaced coyote like us.” And
bringing forth his pipe, Pete filled it from the beaded tobacco pouch
which hung on his breast, and by means of a horn of punk, a flint and
steel, he soon had the pipe aglow and was puffing away as calmly as if
nothing unusual had occurred. Presently he exclaimed, “Gol durn his
daguerrotype, what good did it do him to throw that sheep down the
gulch? Reckon Le-loo and me could find a better grave for mutton chops
than that canyon bottom. The mountains didn’t need the sheep an’ we did.
But, I reckon it was his own sheep you killed, ’cause it had a porcupine
collar same pattern as the trimmings of his shirt.”

Turning his great blue eyes full upon me, he suddenly shot this inquiry,
“Be he bar, ecutock or werwolf?”

“He is the finest adjusted, easiest running, most exquisitely balanced,
highest geared bit of human machinery I ever saw,” I answered
enthusiastically.

“Wall, maybe ye are right, Le-loo, an’ maybe ye hain’t; which is
catamount to saying, maybe it is a man and maybe it tain’t.”

“Steady, Pete, old fellow, let us go slow; now tell me at what you’re
driving?” I pleaded.

“It looks to me this hea’-a-way,” he explained. “I’ve seed his trail
onct or twice, an’ I’ve seed him onct, but I never yet seed his trail
and the Wild Hunter’s trail at the same time and place. ’Pears to me
that a man who, when it’s convenient, kin make a wolf of hisself, might
likewise make a boy of hisself whenever he felt that way. Never heared
tell on enny real laid who cud climb like a squtton and shoot a bow
better nor a Robin Hood or Injun, and that’s howsomever!”

“Well, it does look ‘howsomever,’ and no mistake,” I admitted, “and what
makes it worse, our dinner is at the bottom of this infernal gulch.
Come, let us be moving; the breeze from the snowfields chills me. Let us
hit his trail now while it is fresh.”

This was a simple proposition to make, but a difficult one to carry into
execution; for to all appearances that trail began upon the other side
of the chasm, and there was no bridge in sight by which we could cross.
Big Pete carefully put a cork-stopper in his pipe, extinguishing the
fire without wasting the unconsumed contents; he then carefully put his
briarwood away and began to uncoil a lariat from around his middle. As
he loosened the braided rawhide from his waist his gaze was roaming over
the opposite rocks. Presently he fixed his attention upon a pinnacle
which reared its cube-like form above the top of the opposite side of
the chasm; the latter was of itself much higher than the brink upon
which we stood. Swinging the loop around his head he sent it whistling
across the chasm, where it settled and encircled the projecting stone,
the honda striking the face of the cliff with a sullen thud. The rope
tightened, but when we both threw our weight on our end of the lariat to
try it, the cube-like pinnacle moved on its base.

“I oughter knowed better than to try to lasso a piece of slide rock,”
said Pete in disgusted tones, as he cast the end of the braided rawhide
loose and watched it for a moment dangling down the opposite side of the
canyon.

“Now, Le-loo, we must get over this hole or lose the best lariat in the
Rocky Mountains. We kin look for that boy’s trail on this side, for even
if he be an Ecutock, I’ll bet my crooker bone ’gainst a lock of his hair
that he can’t jump th’ hole, an’ I’ll wager my left ear that he’s got a
trail an’ a bridge somewhar—’nless he turns bird and flops over things
like this,” he added, with a troubled look.

“Pete,” said I, “never mind the bird business. I’ll admit that there is
a lot of explanation due us before we can rightly judge on the events of
the past few weeks; still I think it may all be explained in a rational
manner; but what if it cannot? We have but one trip to make through this
world, and the more we see the more we will know at the end of the
journey. I am as curious as a prong-horned antelope when there is a
mystery, so put your nose to the ground, my good friend, and find the
spot where this Mr. Werwolf, witch, or bear flies the canyon, and maybe,
like the husband of ‘The Witch of Fife,’ we may find the ‘black crook
shell,’ and with its aid fly out of this ’lum.”

“I believe your judication is sound, Le-loo; stay where you be an’ if he
hain’t a witch I’ll bet my front tooth agin the string of his moccasin
that I’ll find the bridge, and I’ll swear by my grandmother’s hind leg
that that little imp will pay for our sheep yit.”

As Pete finished these remarks there was a sudden and astonishing change
in his appearance. His head fell forward, his shoulders drooped, his
back bowed and his knee bent. It was no longer the upright statuesque
Pete the Mountaineer, but Peter the Trailer, all of whose faculties were
concentrated upon the ground. With a swinging gait the human bloodhound
traveled swiftly and silently along the edge of the crevasse, noting
every bunch of moss, fragment of stone, drift of snow or bit of moist
earth, reading the shorthand notes of Nature with facility which far
excelled the ability of my own stenographer to read her own notes when
the latter are a few hours old. But a short time had elapsed before I
heard a shout, and, hurrying to the place where my big friend was
seated, I inquired, “Any luck?”

“Tha’s as you may call it. Here is wha’ tha’ boy jumped,” he replied,
pointing to some marks on the stone which were imperceptible to me, “an’
tha’s wha’ he landed,” he continued, pointing to a slight ledge upon the
face of the opposite cliff at least twenty feet distant. “He’s a jumper,
an’ no mistake—guess I might as well have my front tooth pulled, fur
I’ve lost my bet,” soliloquized the trailer, as he sat on the edge of
the cliff, with his legs hanging over the frightful chasm.

The ledge indicated by Big Pete as the landing place of the phenomenal
jumper might possibly have offered a foothold for a bighorn or goat, but
I could not believe that any human being could jump twenty feet to a
crumbling trifle of a ledge on the face of a precipice, and not only
retain a foothold there, but run up the face of the rock like a fly on a
window-pane. Yet I could see that something had worn the ledge at the
point indicated and when I stood a little distance away from the trail I
could plainly note a difference in color marking the course of the trail
where it led over the flinty rocks to the jumping place.

“Wull, Le-loo! What’s your opinion of the Ecutock now? Do he use wings
or ride a barleycorn broom?” asked Pete, with a triumphant smile.



CHAPTER XIII


Apparently there was no possible way by which we might hope to cross the
canyon, and I threw myself prone upon the top of the stony brink of the
chasm and peered down the awful abyss at the silver thread, shining in
the gloom of the shadows, which marked the course of a stream, and
wondered what the Boy Scouts of Troop 6 of Marlborough would do under
the circumstances.

I studied the face of the opposite cliff in a vain search for some hint
to the solution of the problem before us, looking up and down from side
to side as far as allowed by the range of my vision. At length my
attention wandered to the perpendicular face of the cliff, on the top of
which my body was sprawled; there was an upright crack in the face of
the stone wall, and as I examined the fracture I saw that a piece of
wood had lodged in the crack; a piece of wood in a crevice in a rock is
not so unusual an occurrence as to excite remark; but when it occurred
to me that we were then far above the timber line, my interest and
curiosity were at once aroused.

The end of the stick was within a short distance from my hand, and
reaching down I grasped the wood and brought forth, not a short club or
stick, as I thought to be concealed there, but a very long pole. The
result of my investigations was so unexpected that I came dangerously
near allowing the thing to slide through my fingers and fall to the
bottom of the canyon. It was a neatly-smoothed, slender piece of
lodge-pole pine which was brought to view, and it had a crooked root
nicely spliced to one end and bound tightly in place with rawhide
thongs. Big Pete was wholly absorbed in the trail, the study of which he
had resumed, and when I looked up he was down on all fours, minutely
studying the ground. Presently he cried, “Le-loo, tha’ pesky lad ha’
been over wha’ you be after sompen and he took it back tha’ again afore
he made his jump! If you’re any good you’ll find what the lad was
after.”

“He was after his barleycorn broomstick,” I replied, proudly, “and here
it is, although I must confess it is a pretty long one for a fellow of
his size, and it looks more like a giant Bo-Peep’s crook than a witch’s
broom.”

Big Pete eagerly snatched the pole from my hands and examined it
carefully. At length he said, “This hyer is the end used for the handle;
one can see by the finger marks, an’ this crook is used to scrape stone
with, one kin see, with half an eye, by the way the end is sandpapered
off. Over tha’ air some marks on the stone which look almighty like as
if they’d been made by the end of this yer hook slipping down the face
of the rock.

“Now, I wonder wha’ cud be up tha’ on the top of the rock that the boy
wanted,” mused Big Pete, and for a moment or so he stood in silent
thought; at length he exclaimed, “Why, bless my corn-shucking soul, if I
don’t believe he’s got a lariat staked out tha’ an’ crosses this ditch
same as we-uns aimed to do!” With that he began raking and scraping the
top of the opposite rock with the shepherd’s crook, and presently there
came tumbling and twisting like a snake down the face of the cliff, a
long braided rawhide rope with a loop at the bottom end.

“Waugh, Le-loo! tha’s no witchcraft ’bout this ’cep the magic of
common-sense; but we hain’t through with him yit!” By this time Pete had
the end of the rawhide rope in his hands and was testing the strength of
its anchorage upon the opposite cliff. The point where it was fastened
projected some distance over the ledge, where the supposed landing-place
was located, thus making it possible for one to swing at the end of the
rope from our side without danger of coming into too violent contact
with the opposite cliff.

As soon as my big friend was satisfied that the rope was safe he
grasped it with his two hands, and with one foot in the loop and the
other free to use as a fender, he sailed across the abyss and landed
safely upon the crumbling ledge opposite.

Holding fast to the rawhide rope with his hands and bracing his feet
against the rock, Pete could walk up the face of the cliff by going
hand-over-hand up the cable at the same time. He had almost reached the
top when I was horror-stricken to see a small hand and brown arm reach
over the precipice; but it was neither the grace nor the beauty of this
shapely bit of anatomy which sent the blood surging to my heart, but the
fact that the cold gray glint of a long-bladed knife caught my eyes and
fascinated me with the fabled “charm” of a serpent. The power of speech
forsook me, but with great effort I succeeded in giving utterance to the
inarticulate noise people gurgle when confronted in their sleep by a
shapeless horror. Big Pete heard the noise, but he was not unnerved
when he saw the knife, neither did he show any nightmare symptoms,
although he was dangling over the terrible abyss with a full knowledge
that it needed but a touch of the keen blade of that knife to sever the
straining lariat and dash him, a mangled mass, on the rocks below. The
danger was too real to give Pete the nightmare; there was nothing spooky
to him in the glittering knife blade, and only ghosts and the
supernatural could give Big Pete the nightmare. Calmly he looked at the
hand grasping the power of death with its strong tapering fingers.
Suddenly and in a firm, commanding voice he gave the order, “Drap tha’
knife!”

Ever since I had been in the company of this masterful forest companion
I had obeyed his commands as a matter of course, and so was not
surprised to see the fingers instantly relax their grasp and the knife
go gyrating to the mysterious depths. In a few moments Big Pete was up
and over the edge of the rock and hidden from my view.

Seizing the long-handled shepherd’s crook, I caught the dangling end of
the lariat, and was soon scrambling up the face of the cliff, leaving a
trail which the veriest novice would not fail to notice and sending
showers of the crumbling stones down the path taken by the knife; it was
several minutes before I had clambered over the face of the projecting
crag and was safe across the black chasm which lay athwart our trail.

If the Wild Hunter was indeed my father, he certainly was a woodcrafter
and scout to bring pride to a fellow’s heart, for I doubted not that the
Indian boy was his retainer because the porcupine quill decorations on
his buckskin shirt had the same peculiar pattern as that on the wamus of
the Wild Hunter himself as well as on the collar of the pet sheep I had
killed, and also on the buckskin bag of gold.



CHAPTER XIV


Only those persons who have made solitary trips over snow-capped
mountain ridges can appreciate the overwhelming feeling of solitude that
I felt on looking about me. To whatever point of view I turned my eyes
were greeted with a tumbled sea composed of stupendous petrified
billows.

The occasional fields of snow were the white froth of the stony waves
and the turquoise colored glacial lakes between the crags rather added
to the effect of an angry ocean than detracted from it.

On a closer examination, some of the rocks appeared to be rough bits of
unfinished worlds still retaining the form they had when poured from the
mighty blast furnaces of the Creator. It was God’s workshop strewn with
huge fragments, still bearing the marks of His mallet and chisel; yet
these cold barren wastes were the pasture lands of the shaggy-coated
white goats and the lithe-limbed bighorned sheep.

Suddenly a shrill whistle pierced the air and with a jump I
instinctively looked for a vision of the Wild Hunter, but a moment later
realized that the sound I heard was but the warning cry of a whistling
marmot. Again the silence was broken, this time by a low rumbling sound
which increased in volume until it roared like a broadside from an old
forty-four-gun man-of-war, each crag and peak taking up the sound and
hurling it against its neighbor, until the reverberating noise seemed to
come from all points of the compass.

Away in the distance I could see a white stream pouring from the
precipitous edge of an elevated glacier; this seeming mountain torrent I
knew was not water, but ice, thousands of tons of which having cracked
and broken from the edge of the glacier, were now being dashed over the
hard face of the rock into minute fragments.

The white stream could be seen to decrease perceptibly in size, from a
broad sheet to a wide band, a narrow ribbon, a line, a hair and then
disappear altogether. While the distant mountains were still growling,
mumbling and playing shuttlecock with the echoes a timid chief hare went
hopping across a green half-acre of grass at the damp edge of a melting
snow patch in my path. Overhead a golden eagle sailed with a small
mammal in its talons; strange reddish-colored bumblebees busied
themselves in a bunch of flowers growing in a crevice in the rocks at my
feet.

But my eye could discern no larger creatures in this Alpine pasture
land; not only could I see no sheep or goats, but not a sign of my
friend. He had vanished from the face of the picture as completely as if
the master artist had erased him with one mighty sweep of his paint
brush.

When I viewed the lonely landscape with no human being in sight, I
confess to experiencing a creepy sensation and a strong inclination to
flee, but I knew not in what direction to run. I was in a rough
basin-shaped depression among the mountain peaks, and I sat on a large
rock with my back to a black chasm. From my elevated position I could
see a long distance. Strange fancies creep into one’s head on such
occasions and play havoc with previous well-founded beliefs. To me, poor
fool of a tenderfoot, Big Pete had melted into the thinnest of thin air,
such as is only found in high altitudes, and somehow I wondered whether
the Wild Hunter had had anything to do with it.

How could I tell that I myself was not invisible?

I hauled myself up short there for I realized that such folly was not
good to have tumbling around in my brain. I figuratively pulled myself
back to earth, and to steady my nerves reached into my pack and brought
out several hard bits of bannock that I had stored there. I was
dreadfully hungry and I munched these with enthusiasm, meanwhile
keeping a sharp eye out for Big Pete, and between times making the
acquaintance of the little chief hare who, as he scuttled about among
the rocks, looked me over curiously.

A short distance to my left was a huge obsidian cliff, the glassy walls
of which rose in a precipice to a considerable height. On account of its
peculiar formation, this crag of natural glass had several times
attracted my attention, and on any other occasion I would have been
curious enough to give it closer inspection. Once, as I turned my head
in that direction, I thought I heard a wild laugh and later concluded
that it was only imagination on my part, but now, as I again faced the
cliff, I unmistakably heard a shout and was considerably relieved to see
silhouetted against the sky the figure of Big Pete.

“Hello, Le-loo,” he shouted. “Through chasin’ that ’ere spook Indian kid
be you? It’s about time. Gosh-all-hemlocks! I been breakin’ my neck
tryin’ to keep up with you, doggone yore hide,” shouted the big guide as
he started to climb down toward me.

“Hello, Pete! You bet I’m through and I’m blamed near all in. Where are
we, do you know?” I called to him.

“Top o’ the world, my boy. Top o’ the world, that’s whar we be,” he said
with a grin.

I had seen no game since I had lost the bighorn, and the sunball was now
hung low in the heavens. It appeared to me that there was every prospect
for a supperless night, too. But Big Pete evidently had no such idea,
and he “’lowed” that he would “mosey” ’round a bit and kill some
varmints for grub.

There seemed to be plenty of mountain lion signs, and I was surprised
that they should frequent such high altitudes, but Pete told me that
they were up here after marmots, and were all sleek and fat on that
diet. I would not have been surprised if my wild comrade had proposed a
feast on these cats. But it was not long before Pete’s revolvers could
be heard barking and in a short time he returned with two braces of
white ptarmigan, each with its head shattered by a pistol ball, and I
confess these birds were more to my liking than cat meat. Up there ’mid
the snow fields the ptarmigan apparently kept their winter plumage all
year round, and their natural camouflage made them utterly invisible to
me, but to Pete, a white ptarmigan on a white snowfield seemed to be as
easy to detect as if the same bird had been perched on a heap of coal. I
had not seen one of these grouse since we had been in the mountains and
was not aware of their presence until my companion returned with the
four dead birds.

Without wasting time, Pete began to prepare them for cooking. He soon
built a fire of some sticks which he gleaned from one or two twisted and
gnarled evergreens that had wandered above timber line and cooked the
birds over the embers. He gave a brace to me, and sitting on a boulder
with our feet hanging over the edge we ate our evening meal without salt
or pepper, and then each of us curled up like a grey wolf under the
shelter of a stone and slept as safely as if we were in our bed rolls
down in the genial atmosphere of the park in place of being in the
bitingly cold air of the bleak mountain tops.

I, at least, slept soundly, and, thanks to the clothes Pete had so
kindly made for me, I do not remember feeling cold. When I awoke again
it was daylight and I could scarcely believe that I had been asleep more
than five minutes since my friend bade me good-night. Big Pete was up
before me, of course, and when I opened my eyes I found him cooking
breakfast and making tea in a tin cup over those economical fires he so
loved to build even when we were in the park where there was fuel enough
for a roaring bonfire. It’s queer how difficult it is to make water boil
on a mountain top.

“Well, now fer the witch-b’ar track agin,” said Big Pete, wiping his
mouth.

“Witch-bear!” I exclaimed. “Oh—yes—you don’t mean to tell me you kept
following the track of that two-legged bear this far, Pete?” I
exclaimed, suddenly recalling that we had started out following a
mysterious moccasin trail that had later turned into bear tracks.

“Sartin’ sure. Didn’t you figger out that that tha’ b’ar war the Injun
or tha’ Wild Hunter who put on moccasins made o’ b’ar feet when he
thought we’d foller him?” asked Pete.

“Yes, I did, but I forgot—maybe that ram was the Wild Hunter
himself—blame it. Nothing will astonish me in this country.”

“Yes, you fergot everything, even yore head when you started to foller
that tha’ ram yesterday. But I didn’t. I jest kept peggin’ away at them
tha’ rumswattel b’ar tracks and I followed ’em right up to yonder cliff.
They go on from tha’, but I left ’em last night to come over by you.
Come on, we’ll pick ’em up agin.” And off he started.

It was soon evident that it was an exceedingly active bear which we were
following for it could climb over green glacier ice like a Swiss guide
and over rocks like a goat. It led us a wild, wild chase over crevasses,
friable and treacherous stones covered with “verglass,” over dangerous
couloirs and all the other things talked of in the Alps but forgotten in
the Rockies, to high elevations, where frozen snow combed over the
beetling crags, and the avalanches roared and thundered down the rocks,
dashing the fragments of stone over the lower ice fields. We were not
roped together like mountain climbers in the Swiss or Tyrolean Alps; we
got the real thrills by using our own hands and feet without ice pick,
staff or hobnailed shoes.

But Big Pete never hesitated and I followed him without a word, and when
the trail led along the edge of a dizzy height I could look at the
middle of Big Pete’s broad back and then my head would not swim. It
required quick and good judgment to tell just how much of a slant made a
loose stone unsafe to step upon. It was exciting and exhilarating work,
and the violent exercise kept me so warm that I carried most of my
clothes in a bundle on my back. Presently our path led us into a goat
trail, one of those century old paths made by shaggy white Alpine
animals, and used by them as regular highways. There were plenty of
fresh goat signs, and the broad path led us over a saddle mountain to
the verge of a cliff, beyond which it seemed impossible for anything but
birds to pursue the trail. Here we sat down to rest and to make a cup of
tea over a tiny fire, although wood was plentiful at this place, it
being in the timber line.

Below us lay a valley, into which numerous small glaciers emptied their
everlasting supply of ice and blocks of stone, and horse-tail falls
poured from the melting snow fields. It might have presented enchanting
prospects to an iceman or a bighorn, or a Rocky Mountain goat, but for
two tired men it was a gloomy, dangerous and desolate place and I felt
certain that even a witch-bear would not choose such a dangerous place
as a camping ground. We had finished our tea and I was feeling somewhat
refreshed when I noticed a peculiar stinging sensation about my face; I
felt as if I had been attacked by some peculiar form of insect. But
there were none in sight.

Pete, at this time, was some distance away prospecting the “lay of the
land.” I saw him suddenly pull the cape of his wamus over his face, and
reasoned that he also had been attacked by these invisible insects.

To my surprise, the big fellow seemed very much alarmed, and every time
I shouted to him it greatly excited him. As he was hurrying to me as
rapidly as possible, I desisted from further inquiry. When Big Pete
reached my side he pulled a handkerchief from around my neck and put it
over my mouth, making signs which I did not comprehend. At last he put
his muffled mouth to my ear and shouted through the cape of his wamus.
“Shut yer meat-trap or you’re food for the coyotes. It is the WHITE
DEATH!”



CHAPTER XV


Clothes and stage trappings can neither add nor detract from our respect
for death. He is the same grim old gentleman, be his mouldy bones naked,
or clothed in robes of the most gaudy or brilliant hues. A blue death, a
red death or a yellow death is just as grizzly and awe-inspiring as one
of any shade of gray. Even a black death excites no emotions not touched
by the first name, for it is the dread messenger himself whom we respect
and not his fanciful robes of office.

As far as I am personally concerned, I confess that Big Pete’s painful
suggestion about the coyotes had more to do with keeping my mouth shut
than any terror inspired by the lily-like purity of the garments of the
white death; what made my bones ache was the thought of the wolves
gnawing them.

Overhead the sun shone with an unusual brilliancy, and the atmosphere
had that peculiar crystalline transparency which kills space and brings
distant objects close to one’s feet. Where then was the terrible white
messenger? Why must my head be muffled like a mummy? Why must I keep my
mouth shut, while the curiosity mill within me was working overtime
grinding out questions I should dearly love to ask?

Again and again I looked around me to see where this ghostly white
terror might lurk, and now, as I gazed at the mountains, I was surprised
and annoyed to discover that the distant peaks were gradually
disappearing, being blotted out of the landscape before my eyes; a
ghost-like mantle was creeping over and enshrouding the mountains.

Like Big Pete, the witch-bear, the ptarmigan and the stinging insects,
the mountains themselves had joined in the weird game and were donning
their fernseed caps of invisibility. Now the air around and about me
seemed to be filled with powdered dust of mica that glinted, sparkled
and scintillated in the sunshine. The breeze which was tossing about the
bright atoms loosened the handkerchief which swathed my nose and mouth,
and I was seized with a violent fit of coughing.

It was no gentle hand which Big Pete laid on my shoulder before he again
bound the handkerchief around my face and motioned for me to follow him.

Evidently my guide had been making good use of his time while I was
engaged in idle speculation, for he led me to a point about fifty yards
from the goat trail where there was a possible place to descend the
cliff to a ledge fifty feet below. By this time I had become enough of a
mountaineer to follow my guide over trails which a few weeks previous
would have seemed to me impossible to traverse, and after a hasty and
daring descent we reached the ledge, where I discovered the black mouth
of a cavern; into this hole Pete thrust me and led me back some twenty
yards into the darkness, ordered me to disrobe to the waist, then he
began a most vigorous and irritating slapping and rubbing of my chest;
so insistent and persevering was he that I really thought my skin would
be peeled from shoulders to waist. At last he desisted and ordered me to
put on all my clothes.

“Are you mad, Pete? Has the rarefied air of the mountains upset your
brain? If not, will you kindly tell me what on earth all this means and
why we are hiding in this gloomy hole?” I asked as soon as I got the
breath back in my body.

“Le-loo, you be a baby, and need a keeper to prevent you from committing
susancide several times a day. Tenderfoot? Well, I should say so. No one
but a short-horn from the East would keep his mouth open gulping in the
frozen fog, filling his warm lungs with quarts of fine ice. I reckon it
would be healthier to breathe pounded glass, fur it hain’t sharper nor
half as cold. Why, Le-loo, tha’ be a dose of fever and lung inflammation
in every mouthful of this frozen fog.”

He held my face between his two strong hands so that the faint light
that filtered through the murky darkness from the cavern’s mouth dimly
illuminated my countenance, and as he watched the streams of
perspiration falling in drops from the end of my nose his frown relaxed
and a broad grin spread over his handsome features.

“You’re all right this time,” he added “I calculate that I’ve melted all
the ice in your bellows, so just creep up tha’ and sweat a bit more to
make it slick and sartin that we’ve beat the White Death this trip.” I
did as he said, not because I wanted to sweat but because habit made me
obey the commands of my guide.

Evidently this cavern had been in constant use by some sort of animals
as a sort of stable for many, many years, and I have had sweeter
couches, but by this time my rough life had transformed me into
something of a wild animal myself, and it was not long before I was
comfortably dozing. During the time that I slept I was dimly conscious
of being surrounded by a crowd of people; as the absurdity of this
forced itself through my sleep-befuddled brain and I opened wide my
eyes, what I saw made me open my eyes still wider.

I was about to start to my feet when I felt Big Pete’s restraining hand
on my shoulder, and not until then did I realize that the cave was
crowded with the shaggy white Rocky Mountain goats, and not weird,
white-bearded old men. Few persons can truly say that they have been
within arm’s length of a flock of these timid and almost unapproachable
animals; but we had invaded their secret place of refuge, and they had
not, as yet, taken alarm at our presence in their castle. It may be that
the frozen fog had driven the goats to the cavern for shelter, and it is
possible that never having been hunted by man, these animals feared the
White Death more than they did human beings, and did not realize the
dangerous character of their present visitors; whatever the cause of
their temerity, the fact remains that men and goats slept that night in
the cavern together.

I did not awake next morning until after the departure of the goats and
opened my eyes to find myself alone in the cavern.

Having all my clothes on, no time was wasted at my toilet, but I made my
way directly to the doorway and was gratified to discover that Big Pete
was roasting some kid chops over the hot embers of a fire.

After breakfasting on the remains of the kid, Big Pete arose and scanned
the sky, the horizon and the mountain tops, and turning to me said,
“Now, Le-loo, that Wild Hunter-b’ar-wolf man has fooled us by doubling
on his trail an’ as it hain’t him we’re after now but the trail out of
the mountains, I mean to go by sens-see-ation, but you must keep yer
meat-trap shut and not speak, ’cause soon as I know I’m a man I hain’t
got no more sense than a man. I must say to myself, ‘Now, Pete, you’re a
varmint and varmints know their way even in a new country.’ Then I just
sense things and trots along ’til I come out all right.”

I had often heard of this wonderful instinct of direction, the homing
instinct of the pigeon, which some Indians, Africans, Australian black
boys and a few white men still possess; I say still possess because it
is evident that it was once our common heritage, a sort of sixth sense
which has been lost by disuse. That Big Pete possessed this sixth sense
I little doubted, and it was with absorbing interest that I watched the
man work himself into the proper state of mind.

For quite a time he stood sniffing the air and looking around him while
his body swayed with a slow motion. Then suddenly, as if he had seen
something or as if answering the call of something, he started off
almost at right angles to our trail, acting very much like a hound on an
old scent, but keeping up a pace that tried my endurance.

It was truly wonderful the way this man, in a trance-like state, was
guided by an invisible power over the most dangerous ground, but no one,
after a careful survey, could have selected a better trail than that
chosen by Big Pete. On and on we went, scrambling over rock-skirting
precipices and crumbling ledges. A dense fog settled around us, making
each step hazardous, but with an instinct as true and apparently
identical with that of our four-footed brothers, my guide kept the same
rapid pace for hours, and then, all of a sudden, came to an abrupt stop.

For several seconds he stood in his tracks, his body keeping the same
swaying motion, but after a short while he crept cautiously forward in
the fog, with me at his heels, and we found ourselves at the edge of a
giant fault, similar to the one in Darlinkel Park, but there was
apparently no pass to let us down the towering precipices to the valley
below.

“Well, that was a wonderful trip,” I cried.

“Shut up!” shouted Pete savagely, but I had spoken and the spell was
broken; reason, not instinct, must now lead us.

Vapor and clouds concealed the low grounds from our view; however, we
were determined not to spend another night in the mountains, so while I
rested and regained my breath, Big Pete went on to explore the ledges.

Presently my guide hove in sight and motioned me to follow him; he led
me to a place where another goat trail went over the edge of the
precipice, this time not in ten and fifteen feet jumps, but by a steep
diagonal path. Down the treacherous trail we slipped and slid with a
wall of rocks on one side and death in the form of a bluish white space
on the other side.

As we were clambering carefully around the face of a big rock Pete
suddenly whispered that he smelt a “Painter,” and upon peering around
the corner we found ourselves face to face with a large cat; the animal
was crouching upon a flat-topped projecting stone immediately in our
path. That it was not the puma of the low-lands, its reddish-colored
coat and great size proclaimed. It was a so-called mountain lion and a
grand specimen of its kind.

The cat’s small head lay between its muscular forepaws, its hair adhered
closely to its body, its long tail was full and round and waved slowly
from side to side, while its eyes gleamed like electric sparks.

We were in a most awkward position; our guns were swung by straps over
our backs, so that we might use our hands, and we were clinging to the
face of the big rock while our toes were seeking foothold in the
treacherous shale of the trail. To loosen our hands was to fall
backwards into the bluish white sea of unknown depths, and to retrace
our steps was out of the question.

Pete often expressed the opinion that no predaceous creature, from a
spider up to a cougar, will attack its prey while the latter is
immovable.

As a corollary to this proposition he said that when a person is
suddenly confronted by a dangerous wild beast, the safest plan to pursue
is to remain perfectly quiet, or, as he quaintly put it, “to peetrify
yourself in the wink of an eye.”

Truth to tell, on this occasion I found no difficulty in following his
directions. I was “peetrified” by fear; my feet were cold and numb,
chills in wavelets washed up and down my spine, a sudden rash seemed to
be breaking out all over my body and the skin on my back felt as if it
had been converted into goose-flesh.

Had we been able to travel a few feet further we would have both found a
comparatively safe footing and had our arms free and a fighting chance
with the big catamount in place of hanging suspended to the face of the
rock like two big, helpless, terrified bats.



CHAPTER XVI


With an imperceptible movement, as steady and almost as slow as that of
a glacier, my guide twisted his neck until his face was turned from the
puma and the side of the mouth pressed against the flat surface of his
rock. I was crowded up against Big Pete, who occupied a position but
slightly in advance and a little above me. My agony of fear having
somewhat subsided I ventured to steal a momentary glance at my comrade’s
face. To my unutterable surprise I discovered a whimsical twinkling at
the corners of his eyes and a mirthful expression of mischief in his
countenance. This was incomprehensible to me, for I could imagine no
more awe-inspiring position than the one we then occupied.

While my thoughts were still busy trying to fathom the cause of Pete’s
untimely mirth, the long-drawn howl of the big timber wolf floated over
the valley and sent a new lot of shivers down my back. It was the
rallying call used by the wolves to call the band together when game is
in sight. The sound increased in volume until it reverberated among the
crags like the voice of a winter’s storm, and then it gradually died
away. Big Pete was not only a good mimic but he proved himself to be a
ventriloquist of no mean ability; by the help of the rock against which
his cheek was pressed he had been able to throw his voice off into space
in such a manner that it baffled me for several moments.

The gray wolves are old and inveterate enemies of the panther or cougar,
hunting the cats on all occasions. Consequently all panthers know the
meaning of that wild lonesome howl, the assembling call, as well as the
oldest wolf in the pack, and its effect upon the lion in our path was
instantaneous. The hair, which had a moment before been as slick as if
it were oiled, now rose upright until the fuzzy hide gave the animal’s
body the appearance of being twice its original size.

Scarcely had the big cat vacated the path before we scrambled to the
firm foothold and I breathed a great sigh of relief when it was reached.
But Big Pete was convulsed with suppressed laughter at the practical
joke he had played on the mountain lion.

“Gosh darn my magnolia breath! That painter went as if he had a ball of
hot rorrum tied to his tail,” cried my guide.

It was difficult for me to realize that it was Big Pete himself who had
given vent to that shuddering howl, and now the danger was over I
pleaded with him to give another exhibition of his skill in wolf calls.

The good-natured fellow at first seemed reluctant to repeat his
performance, but at length consented and put his hands to his mouth,
forming a trumpet, then bent forward his body, stooping so low that his
face was was below his waist, after which he began again that wild cry
which so closely resembles in sentiment and tone the shriek of the wind.
As the sound increased in volume the man waved his head from side to
side; continuing the movement he gradually assumed an upright pose, and
ended by making a low obeisance as the sound died away.

The imitation was perfect and I was expressing my delight and
appreciation when my ear caught a distant sound which put a sudden stop
to our conversation.

Was it the wind which I now heard? No! there was not a breath of air
stirring, neither was it an echo. There could be no doubt about it, the
long-drawn sepulchral howl which filled and permeated the shivering air
was an answering cry to Big Pete’s call.

Scarcely had the sound waves faded away when in the mysterious distance
came another and another answer, until it seemed as if a troop of lost
souls were vocalizing their misery. I unslung my gun and loosened my
revolvers in their fringed holsters, but Big Pete only shrugged his
shoulders and said,

“Come, let’s be moseying. ’Taint nothin’ but wolves.” A fact of which I
was as well aware of as Pete, but I, tenderfoot that I was, could not
treat howling of wolves with the same unconcern as did my guide.

We soon reached a point where the goat trail turned again up the
mountain and we forsook that ancient path for a diagonal fracture very
similar to the one by which we had ascended, which led down the face of
the precipice “slantendicularwise,” Big Pete said, and soon plunged into
the bluish gray sea which filled the valley. We were now enveloped in a
dense fog, which added materially to the dangers of the journey. I had
had so many thrills in the last few moments that my nerves were becoming
dull and failed to vibrate on this occasion, so that descending the
cliff in a fog by a diagonal fracture in the rock became only an
incident of our journey; this trail, however, was wider than the one by
which we ascended.

The Rocky Mountains are full of new sensations and I got a new one when
I discovered that the fog through which we had been traveling was in
reality a cloud, and, all unexpectedly, we emerged into the clear mellow
light below the floating vapor. It was an enchanting scene which met our
eyes; below us stretched a beautiful valley.

For the first time in months I saw a human habitation. The blue smoke
from the chimney ascended slowly in a tall column and then floated
horizontally in stratified layers. There were fields of ripe grain,
orchards, groves, pasture lands and a winding stream fringed with
poplars, which flowed in a tortuous course across the valley. As I
feasted my eyes on the peaceful scene a great longing took possession of
my soul.

Big Pete, too, was lost in thought, conjured up by the scene below us.
He stood leaning on his rifle with his eyes fixed on the enchanting
picture; so full of unconscious dignity was his pose, so immovable stood
the mountain man that he looked like a grand statue done by a master
hand.

But what thoughts were conjured up in the guide’s brain by the
unexpected sight of this ranch could not be interpreted from the
expression of his countenance, for that showed no more trace of emotion
than an American Indian at the torture stake, or the marble face of a
Greek god. Presently he shifted his pose, threw back his head, and Big
Pete’s eyes were fixed on the valley in front of us, as with distended
nostrils he sniffed the mountain air, his brows contracted to a frown,
his eyes lost their gentle angelic look and seemed to change from China
blue to a cold steel color, and his tightly closed mouth had a stern
expression about the corners which appeared altogether out of keeping
with the occasion.

“Rot my hide!” he exclaimed, “if I hain’t had a neighbor all these years
and never knowed it. Waugh! Some emigrant—terrification seize him!—has
found another park an’ squatted, t’ain’t more’n eight miles as a crow
flies from mine, nuther, Le-loo.” He looked at the sun and muttered.
“Hang me, but ’tis t’other end of my own park,” then he paused a moment
and added fiercely, “if these geysers know when they are well off,
they’ll steer shy of Darlinkel Park. If I catch ’em scoutin’ ’round my
claim, I’ll send ’em a-hoppin’.”

“Bless me, you are neighborly,” exclaimed a voice in smooth, even tones.

“What!” said Pete, looking sternly at me. “Did you speak?”

“I said nothing,” I replied.

Big Pete’s countenance changed and he ran his hands over the cartridges
in his belt in the old familiar manner, and with a motion quicker than I
can describe it, whipped out his revolvers and wheeled about face, at
the same time snapping out the words, “Throw up your hands!”



CHAPTER XVII


We were standing on the surface of a flat table-rock, which jutted out
from the face of the towering cliff and overhung the valley that was
spread out like a map beneath us. About twenty feet back from the edge
of the rock was a pile of debris heaped up against the face of the
cliff; but the remaining surface of the stone was clean bare and
weather-beaten. The talus against the cliff was composed of loose
fragments of stone and other products of wash and erosion. This was
overgrown with a thicket of stunted shrubs, wry-necked goblin thistles
and murderous devil’s clubs. These bludgeon-shaped plants, thickly
covered with sharp thorns, reared aloft their weapons as if in menace to
all living things; the unstable ground and thorny thicket formed the
only shelter where we could be ambushed in the rear, and it was not a
likely spot to be chosen for such a purpose by man or beast.

When Big Pete wheeled about face with his trusty revolvers in hand, I
quickly followed his example, and our mutual surprise may be imagined
when we found ourselves gazing in the faces of a semicircle of gigantic
wolves. The animals were squatting on their haunches at the foot of the
talus, their wicked slant eyes fixed upon us and their red tongues
lolling out from their cavernous mouths.

I cannot tell why, whether it was the state of my nerves or the effect
of the rare air of the high altitude, or what, but I felt no fear at
facing this strange wolf pack. Indeed, to me they appeared all to be
laughing and their red tongues lolled from their open mouths in a very
humorous fashion.

The whole scene appeared to me to be exceedingly funny and, in a spirit
of utter reckless bravado, I doffed my fur cap, with exaggerated
politeness made a low bow, and, addressing the largest and most
devilish-looking wolf in the pack, exclaimed,

“Ah! this is Monsieur Loup-Garou, I believe. Pardon me, Monsieur, but
did you speak a moment since?”

But Big Pete Darlinkel looked at the wolves, and great beads of sweat
stood on his forehead. It was his turn to have the shivers. There was no
more color in his face than in a peeled turnip. His gun shook in his
left hand like a aspen, while the spangled gun in his right hand dropped
its muzzle towards earth and there was scarcely strength enough in his
nerveless fingers to have pulled a hair-trigger.

Pete’s great baby-blue eyes turned helplessly to me; but it was now my
innings, and with a cheery voice I cried,

“Why, Pete, old fellow, what ails you?” Then meanly quoting his own
words, I added, “They hain’t nothing but wolves!”

There is not a shadow of a doubt that Pete expected the wolves to answer
me with human voice, and I am willing to confess that, even to me,
there seemed to be no other alternative for the slant-eyed bandits to
pursue. But for the present they appeared to prefer to maintain a solemn
silence.

The middle wolf had been looking intently at us for some time before a
well-modulated voice said,

“I have answered your call, gentlemen; how can I serve you?”

I was more than half expecting some such answer, but if it had not been
so evident that Big Pete was badly frightened and had lost all his
self-possession, I should have thought he was again practising his art
as ventriloquist.

Of course I deceived myself. The wolves had no more power of speech than
a house-dog. But I really thought the wolves were doing the talking
until I caught sight of a tall man of handsome and distinguished
appearance seated among the weird goblin-thistles just above the wolves.
The stranger appeared to be a man of almost any age; he might be young
but, if old, he was wonderfully well preserved. He was clad in a
light-colored buckskin suit of clothes, edged and trimmed with fur, a
fur cap on his head and moccasins on his feet. And I noticed, with a
start, that he had that same red porcupine quill ornament on his hunting
shirt that the young Indian wore.

When I saw how his dress blended perfectly with his surroundings I
excused myself for not sooner detecting him. I could not help but admire
his easy grace and the sense of reserved strength in his strong figure.
The calmness and repose forcibly reminded me of the mountain lion we had
lately encountered.

“You kin hackle me and card my sinews, if it hain’t the Wild Hunter
himself an’ his pack,” said Big Pete under his breath.

The color now began to return to his face and at the recollection of his
late rude words the big fellow blushed like a school girl. Gradually he
recovered his self-possession, and, doffing his cap, made a low bow as
graceful and as courtly as that of any polished courtier. This was an
entirely new side to my friend’s character and I listened with interest
when he said,

“Sir, whether you be loup-garou, werwolf, witch-b’ar or all them to
onct, I do not care. What I want ter say is ef that tha’ ranch yander be
your’n, you may hamstring me ef I hain’t proud to have such a man for a
neighbor. Whatever else you be yore no shavetail or shorthorn, an’
that’s howsomever. I don’t mind sayin’ that yore a better shot an’ all
around hunter an’ mountain man than Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Davy
Crockett, Kit Carson, Bison McClean and Jim Baker all rolled in one.
Yore the slickest woodsman on the divide. I’m powerful proud of you as a
neighbor and would be still prouder ef I might call you my friend.”

Our strange visitor displayed a beautiful white set of teeth as a frank
smile played over his smooth face. But his only answer at that moment
was an inclination of his head and a muttered command to the wolves,
which they instantly obeyed by silently disappearing in the underbrush.

After a pause the tall stranger came forward, and, removing his own cap,
made a bow even more courtly than that of Big Pete, as he thus replied:
“Sir, I feel highly honored at this flattering expression of
commendation. I can honestly say that it is the greatest compliment I
have ever received from a stranger, and,” he added with another winning
smile, “you are the first stranger with whom I have held converse in
nearly twenty years. That I am not unfriendly I have already proved by
some trifling services, but the honor of the acquaintance is mine.”

After the formalities of our meeting were over the stranger stood for a
few moments with his chin resting on his breast. He was evidently
thinking over some serious subject. His head was bare, his fur cap being
in his hands, and his hands locked behind his back. A mass of light
colored hair fell over his forehead and shoulders.

Presently he looked at us again, with that same grave smile on his face,
and said that if we would consent to be blindfolded and trust ourselves
implicitly to his care, he would be glad to take us to his home and
would feel honored if we should choose to visit him.

“You can proceed no further on this trail for it ends here, and not even
a goat can go beyond the rock on which we stand, therefore we must
retrace our steps a few hundred yards,” he explained, as he apologized
for his strange proposition. He securely bandaged our eyes with our own
handkerchiefs, and after turning us around until I at least had lost all
sense of direction, he placed thongs in our hands, and then we
discovered that we were to be led by some sort of animals, presumably
wolves. Whatever else they were, they proved to be careful and sagacious
leaders.

After a short distance of rough climbing where we constantly needed the
personal help of our mysterious host, we began to descend and soon our
feet told us that we were traveling on a comparatively smooth though
steep trail. Now and again our guide would speak to warn us of stones or
other obstructions in our path, but, with the exception of these
necessary words of caution and brief words expressing approval or
reproof to the animals, we made the journey in silence and in due time
reached the bottom, and our feet told us that we were walking on a level
shale-covered path.

At this point the creatures leading us were dismissed and we could hear
them scrambling back over the trail. We heard the bleating of sheep, the
lowing of cattle and all the multiplicity of noises so familiar on a
well-stocked farm, and we could easily detect the different odors as
familiar and characteristic as the noises. We enjoyed to its fullest
extent the novelty of the homely sensations aroused by the smell of
new-mown hay and the familiar medley of sounds peculiar to the farm.

In due time we found ourselves at the foot of a couple of wooden steps,
which we ascended, and, crossing a broad veranda, entered a doorway.
Here we stood awaiting further commands in utter ignorance of our
surroundings. Of course, we surmised we were in the ranch house which we
saw from the table rock, but this was only a surmise.

“Gentlemen,” said the strange old man, “you are welcome to my home, and
allow me to add that you are the only white men who have ever crossed
the threshold of this house.”

As he ceased speaking he removed the bandages from our eyes.



CHAPTER XVIII


It was a strange place, indeed, in which I found myself. Our eyes were
unbandaged after we entered the portal of the ranch house, and when Big
Pete and I turned toward our guide, we were facing in a direction that
gave us a sweeping view of the entire ranch. And what we saw made us
marvel.

This farm, between the towering, almost insurmountable mountains, had
evidently been wrenched from what two decades before had been as much of
a wilderness as the Darlinkel Park across the divide. Timber clothed the
mountains on either hand but the fertile valley bottom was as rural as a
district of the middle west. On one hand stretched acres and acres of
ripened grain. Beyond was pasture land dotted with strange whitefaced
animals, which later proved to be hybrid buffalos, a strange cross
between wild and domestic cattle.[3] In other pastures and on the
hillsides I could see goats and sheep, and these too were evidently a
cross breed of wild and domestic stock, the goats having a very strange
resemblance to the fleet-footed shaggy old fellows we had seen on the
mountains, while the sheep closely resembled usual domestic sheep.

  [Footnote 3: Since that time the late Buffalo Jones has bred
  buffalo and domestic cattle and called the offspring “catelow.”]

There were stables, too, and corrals, all made of logs, as was the ranch
house, but what seemed very strange to me was the fact that there were
no horses in sight. All of the animals at work in the fields were those
strange hybrid buffalo-oxen, all save one, a single, lame and apparently
almost blind burro that I saw lying in the sun. From his grayness about
the head I had little doubt that he was of great age.

There were hordes of strange poultry too,—strange to me at least, for
never had I expected to find flocking together wild turkeys, Canadian
geese, black ducks, wood ducks, and mallards (all with wings clipped so
that they never again could fly), sage hens, quail, spruce-grouse,
partridge, ptarmigan and western mountain quail. All seemed perfectly at
home and comfortably domesticated.

Beyond the poultry houses was still another outhouse, a long, low, log
building before which was a lawn. On the lawn were all manner of perches
and roosts and on these, sunning themselves and preening their feathers,
were several types of predaceous birds, ranging from huge and powerful
female eagles to smaller hawks and true falcons. This evidently was the
Wild Hunter’s falconry.

Another thing that made an instant impression upon me was the number of
men at work about the place. The workmen were all, without an exception,
Indians, and as they moved about silently, their stoic, almost
expressionless faces held a decided look of contentment, a few of them
turned toward the porch with a frank, honest stare. There was no
evidence of fear or restraint in their actions but they always gave the
wolf dogs plenty of room as they passed them. These black beasts were
ugly, snarling things that showed no love for anyone; on the least
provocation menacing growls rumbled in their throats.

What manner of place was this that we had permitted ourselves to be led
into? Indeed, what manner of man was this strange host of ours? I shot a
sidelong glance at him and it seemed to me as if I caught a strange,
hunted look in his eyes, and a sad smile on his handsome but grim
countenance. A slight feeling of fear crept into my heart. Could this
strange man be my father? For some reason he certainly did attract me
and excite my sympathy, yet I stood in awe of him. The strangeness of my
surroundings, too, settled upon me. I turned toward Pete and I had a
premonition of evil. I could see that he too was affected the same way.
The valley was an earthly paradise, the Wild Hunter a kindly gentleman,
what then was it that gave me an uncomfortable and uneasy feeling? I
was eager to be alone with Pete for I knew that he would have some
interesting observations to make.

“I am disappointed, gentlemen, you say nothing. Isn’t my ranch
interesting to you?” demanded the Wild Hunter, with a smile. In a low
smooth voice he gave some orders to a young Indian who was walking
toward the stables. The Indian instantly snapped into action and hurried
away as if one of the black wolf dogs were snapping at his heels, and I
felt certain that it was the youth whom we had been trailing.

A hurried and very unpleasant thought flashed through my mind: What was
the source of the power the Wild Hunter held over these Indians? They
were not slaves in this mountain-surrounded prison; this grim, forceful
but kindly wild man did not hold them through fear. He always smiled
when he greeted them, but he never smiled at his wolves; when giving
them orders or even looking at them, the expression of his face was
stern and almost fierce. But the man had asked a question. He was
expecting an answer.

“It is a wonderful place,” I managed to stammer; “who could conceive of
such a remarkable ranch buried here in the heart of the wilderness?”

“It’s a ring-tailed snorter, hamstring me if it hain’t,” said Big Pete
in an attempt to be enthusiastic.

The man’s face glowed with pleasure.

“You are the first white men to see it. I think I have achieved
something here in the wilds, thanks a great deal to Pluto and his
strain.”

“Eh, what?” exclaimed Big Pete in alarm.

“To—to—whom,” I gasped, for to have the man actually confess an
alliance with Satan rather startled me also.

The Wild Hunter chuckled in an amused manner.

“Thanks to Pluto, I said. But Pluto is that black wolf-dog over there,
nevertheless. I think that the name ‘Pluto’ fits his character to a
nicety.”

He pointed to the massive, deep-chested, long-haired, long-limbed,
vicious looking leader of his black wolf pack where it was chained to a
post. The great animal glared at his master when his name was mentioned.
He crouched twenty feet away with his slanting green eyes fixed
constantly on his master’s face and in them ever flared a fierce, wicked
fire.

“Yes, you son of Satan, you and your hybrid whelps have helped me do all
this in spite of the fact that you hate me, and would love to tear me
limb from limb. You splendid, ugly brute, you are insensible to
kindness!”

I noticed that whenever he looked the wolf in the face his own
countenance became grim and his eyes exceedingly fierce and not unlike
the wolf itself in expression.

[Illustration: “I think the name ‘Pluto’ fits his character to a
nicety”]

“He hates me,” he continued, turning to us, “because of his ancestors.
In him is the blood of a Great Dane noted for its strength, size and
ferocity, a fierce brute which I brought over the mountains with me many
years ago. Pluto’s mother was a pure black wolf of a mean disposition,
and his father the half-breed son of a Great Dane and a she-wolf. He is
the fiercest and most bloodthirsty beast in the whole pack, he hates me
with the intense hatred of his wolfish nature, he hates me because he
knows that I am the master of the pack, the real leader, and he is
jealous. Since his puppy days he has watched for a chance to kill me;
twice he nearly succeeded—the time will no doubt come when it will be
his life or mine. Yet because of his wonderful strength, endurance and
sagacity, I could almost love him.

“His breed does not want to recognize any master. But _I am_ his
master!” cried the Wild Hunter as his eyes flashed and he struck himself
on his chest, “and he knows it. The only way, however, that I keep my
power over him and his pack is by forcing myself to think every time I
speak to them, now I am going to _kill you_, and brutes though they are
they can read my mind and fear me. Besides which self-interest helps a
little towards their loyalty. With me for a leader there is always a
kill at the end of the hunt, and they know that they come in for a share
of the food.

“Sometimes I fear the wolves will break loose and attack my Indians,
which I would very much regret, for the Redmen are faithful fellows and
we form a happy community. The Indians look upon me as Big Medicine
because I can control these medicine wolves.”

Big Pete looked at the man with open admiration, a man who by the sheer
power of his will could control a band of wolves, any one of which was
powerful enough to kill an ox, certainly was a man to please the wild
nature of Big Pete. “But,” said Pete, “you say Pluto has helped you.
How?” he asked.

“How,” exclaimed the Wild Hunter, “why, gentlemen, by governing the pack
as savage as himself. The pack is the secret of my whole success; my
power over them first won the allegiance of the Indians, won their
admiration and their respect. They know that I could turn those wolves
upon them at any moment, but they also know that I would not think of
doing such an act and they are human and love me; the wolves are brutes
and not susceptible to kindness. The wolves hate the Redmen as they hate
me, but they supplied us all with food, they secured for us our winter
meat while the men worked to build houses and clear the land, and thus
made it possible for us to start this settlement. They even acted as
pack animals for us, each of them carrying as much as seventy pounds in
weight on their backs. But be on your guard, gentlemen, be on your
guard! Remember that you are strangers to the wolves and they will not
hesitate, if the opportunity offers, to rend you and even devour you.”

A moment later his expression changed.

“Enough of this,” he exclaimed in pleasanter tones, “come, dinner is
served,” and turning, he led the way through the broad doorway of the
log ranch house into an almost sumptuously furnished dining room where
two silent, soft-footed Indians began immediately to serve a truly
remarkable meal.

“He may be lo-coed,” whispered Pete to me as we took our places at the
table, “but I’ll tell the folks, he is a master looney alright. He knows
how to make Injuns love him and varmints fear him, he kin pack all his
duffle in my bag, he need not cough up eny money when he’s with me.
Reckon we be alright here, but waugh! we’ve gotter watch tha’ black wolf
pack!—yes and also that young Indian whose ram you shot; it seems he
looks after the wolves and sees to it that they are fastened up in their
corral. I wouldn’t want him to be sort of careless, you know.”



CHAPTER XIX


What a dining room that was! All of logs, high ceilinged, with smoked
rafters stained like an old meerschaum pipe. It reminded me of a wealthy
man’s hunting lodge in Maine, perhaps, rather than the abode of a wild
man. There was a huge yawning fireplace at one end, above which was the
finest specimen of an elk’s head I have ever seen. There were other
heads, too, prong-horned antelope, beautiful bison heads, remarkable
specimens of bighorn sheep and mountain goats, there were buffalo robes
and wolf robes strewn over the floor, and there were abundant well
stocked gun cases on every hand.

But conspicuous among the collection of firearms was one, kept apart,
polished and cleaned, and on a rack made of elk horns handily placed
just above the big mantle. It was beautifully though not elaborately
made, with a fine damascus barrel of tremendous length, a lock and set
trigger that showed expert handicraft, and stock of beautifully polished
birds-eye maple. An expert would have known immediately that it was a
first-water product of an expert gunsmith.

Big Pete noticed it as soon as I did and he could not keep his eyes from
roving to it occasionally during the meal.

“You may scalp me, stranger, fer sayin’ it, but I’d like mightily well
to heft that tha’ shooting iron o’ your’n and examine it when we git
through with chuck,” he said.

Our strange host looked up at the rifle, then searchingly at Big Pete.

“I don’t mind showing it to you, but you must not touch it,” he said
finally.

“I reckon I wouldn’t hurt it none. I’ve handled guns before,” said Big
Pete shortly, and I could see that he was piqued at the man’s attitude.

“Guess you wouldn’t, but I’ve made it a rule never to let strange hands
touch that rifle,” said the strange man, and there was a grimness about
his tone that forbade quibbling.

“Huh, well I can’t say as perhaps yore not right about yore shootin’
hardware at that,” said Pete. Then after glancing at it again, he added,
“a hunter’s gun and a woodsman’s ax should never be trusted in strange
hands. Bet a ten spot it’s a Patrick Mullen. Hain’t it?”

The name of my kinsman, the famous gunsmith, brought a sudden
realization that Mullen was my own family name.

The mention of the gunsmith seemed also to have a curious effect on the
old man. His face grew red under the tan and his brow wrinkled and I
could see his cold blue eyes scrutinizing Big Pete closely. Finally he
said bluntly,

“It is, and it’s worth a thousand dollars.”

“A thousand dollars!” I exclaimed, “a thousand dollars?”

“Yes,” cried the old man almost fiercely, “yes, yes, and it is my gun.
He gave it to me, he did—to me and not to Donald. He—”

He stood up suddenly as if he intended to stride over and seize the gun,
to protect it from us but as quickly sat down again and buried his face
in his hands, and I could see him biting his lips as if he were
attempting to control his feeling.

As for me, quite suddenly a great light seemed to dawn. This strange old
man was mentioning names that were familiar—that meant worlds to me. I
leaned toward him eagerly. Big Pete stood quietly listening, a silent
but interested spectator.

“Did you know Donald Mullen, a brother to the famous gunsmith? Tell me,
did you know him? I have come all the way—”

I stopped in wonder. Never in all my life do I ever expect to witness
such a pitiful expression of anguish pictured so vividly on the human
countenance as it was on the face of the Wild Hunter.

“What,” he whispered, “did you know him?”

“He was my father,” I answered simply.

For a moment the Wild Hunter looked at me intently, then said, “I
believe you, you favor him somewhat.” He then came forward as if to
shake my hand, but changed his mind and sat down with a forced and wan
smile.

“Did I know Don Mullen? Did I? He was my partner, my bunkee for many
years and on many prospecting trips, a better bunkee no man ever had,
but he is dead now, dead! dead! dead! been dead for a dozen years. He
was killed by an avalanche. A better partner no man ever had,” he
murmured and relaxed into silence.

My efforts to get more information of my parents were of no avail. The
Wild Hunter turned the conversation in other directions.

Of course, the knowledge that my real father was dead, had been dead a
long time, caused me a feeling of sadness, yet strangely enough the
little knowledge that I had gleaned from this strange old man brought a
sense of relief to me. I think that it must have been a certain sense
of satisfaction to know that this queer man was not my father.

But if he was not Donald Mullen, who was he? That question kept me
pondering and for the rest of the meal I was silent, speculating on this
strange situation, nor did I have an opportunity to note, as Big Pete
did, the tearful, kindly glances that the Wild Hunter shot at me now and
then.

Still, for all, he was sociable, extremely sociable, and talkative, too,
but I fancy now as I recall it, he was simply keeping the conversation
in safe channels, for it was very apparent that the rifle and his former
mining partner were painful subjects.

Dinner over, we all went out onto the porch of the ranch house, where we
talked while the twilight lasted. At least Big Pete and the Wild Hunter
talked as they smoked two of those mysterious long cigars, but I was
still silent because of the many strange thoughts that were romping
through my mind.

Soon darkness settled down and Big Pete began to yawn. I also was
heavy-eyed, and presently the Wild Hunter clapped his hands and summoned
a leather-skinned old Indian to whom he gave brief low command in the
Mewan Indian tongue, as I was afterwards informed by Big Pete, then
turning to us he said in his fascinating soft voice:

“It will probably be a novelty for both of you gentlemen to again sleep
in a bed between sheets and under a roof. I doubt whether you will enjoy
it even though the sheets are clean linen which were spun and woven by
my noble Indians. Moose Ear, here, will conduct you to your rooms and I
will take a turn about the place before retiring to see that all is
well, and also to see that my black wolf pack is securely confined
within the wolf corral. This is a precaution, gentlemen, which I take
every night, because a wolf is a wolf no matter how well trained he may
be upon the surface, and night is the time wolves delight to run. These
beasts are especially dangerous to strangers and it is for that reason I
am putting you in the house in place of allowing you to camp outdoors,
as I know you would prefer to do. Good-night, gentlemen, see that the
doors are closed. Pleasant dreams.”

As we said good-night to him I wondered vaguely if the wolf pen was
securely built, for it seemed to me that I detected a suggestion of
doubt in the mind of the Wild Hunter himself. I little realized,
however, the horrors the darkness had in store for us.



CHAPTER XX


Moose Ear, the silent, wrinkled old Indian, with lighted candles made of
buffalo tallow, guided Big Pete and me up the broad skilfully built
puncheon stairway to the upper story of the surprisingly large ranch
house, where he showed us to our rooms, rooms which were a joy to look
upon. Each was furnished with a heavy, hand-made four-posted bedstead,
which in spite of the massiveness was beautifully made, and I wondered
at the patience of the Wild Hunter in teaching the Indians their
craftmanship.

The other furniture in the room was also hand wrought, as were the fiber
rugs on the floor and the checked homespun blankets on the beds. There
was a harmonious and pleasing effect; the rooms were cheerful, abounding
in evidences of Indian handicraft. Beadwork and embroidery of dyed
porcupine quills were prevalent, even the tester which roofed the
four-post bedstead was ornamented with fringes of buckskin and designs
made of beads and porcupine quills. The chairs and floors were
plentifully supplied with fur rugs, and the quaint, old-fashioned
appearance of the room in nowise detracted from its comfort or even
luxury.

If it had not been for the uncomfortable thought of that pack of black
wolves outside, I am sure I would have been supremely happy at the
prospect of once more spending a night between clean and cool sheets and
a real feather pillow on which to rest my head. Eagerly and almost
excitedly I threw off my clothes and donned the long, linen nightshirt
with which old Moose Ear had provided me. Then I put the buckhorn
extinguisher over the candle and dove into the feather bed as gleefully
as a child on Christmas Eve.

I expected to immediately fall asleep, but there is where I made a
mistake; my mind would not cease working, the wheels in my head kept
buzzing and would not stop. I was as wide awake as a codfish; the bed
was comfortable, too comfortable, but tired though I was I felt no
inclination to sleep. I thought it was the strangeness of my
surroundings which kept me tossing from side to side, but I soon
realized that the trouble was to be found in the fact that for months I
had only had the sky for my roof, never using our tents or open faced
shack except in bad weather; but here, the ornamented tester of the bed
and the ceiling itself seemed to be resting on my chest; in spite of the
wide open windows the room seemed stuffy and oppressive. I felt as if I
would suffocate.

Twice I got up and sat by the open window and gazed out at the black
landscape. The sky was cloudy and there were no stars; this combined
with the pine trees about the ranch house made the darkness so black and
thick that it seemed as if one might cut it in chunks, with a knife. The
air felt good to breathe but I did not propose to sit by the window all
night so at last I arose, put moccasins on my feet and, taking my
blankets with me, stole stealthily down the stairs, opened the front
door and made my bed on the floor of the broad piazza. I had not
forgotten the warning to keep indoors, but I thought I would rather risk
the wolves than to smother all night.

In the darkness I discovered another occupant of the piazza also rolled
up in a blanket taken from a bed in the house. Feeling with my hands I
discovered that it was Big Pete. Comfortably settling myself in my
blanket I felt the breeze from the mountain blowing over my face and
through my hair, and it soothed me until I dropped off into gentle
slumber; but during the months I had been sleeping in the open I had
learned the art, as the saying is, of sleeping with one eye open. In
this case, however, if the eye had really been wide open it could have
seen nothing because of the darkness, but the darkness did not interfere
with my ability to hear, and after I had been sleeping awhile I found
myself suddenly sitting bolt upright in my blankets with beads of
perspiration on my forehead and that terrible sensation of horror which
one experiences in a nightmare. I knew that I had heard something, but
what?

The oppressive silence of the wilderness made the valley appear as if
Nature was holding her breath for a moment before giving voice to an
explosion of sound. I sensed impending disaster of some sort. What it
was I could not guess, but was convinced that something was about to
happen.

As I held my breath and listened, the ranch house was silent; even Pete
had not, apparently, awakened, but I could not hear his regular
breathing. Now I thought I could detect a soft and very faint noise as
of some large body creeping over the puncheon steps. I also imagined I
detected the noise of padded feet and the scraping noise of claws on the
wood. A shudder ran through me. Was a panther, a mountain lion, about to
spring upon me? No, I abandoned the thought and instinctively I knew
that it must be one of the black wolf pack. Then I remembered hearing
the cracking and breaking of sticks or timber while I was trying to
sleep in the bedroom, and I felt that Pluto had broken out of the pen
and was creeping up on us slowly and stealthily as I have seen a fox
creep up on a covey of quail.

Would the beast presently hurl its terrible form upon me, or on Big
Pete? I attempted to warn my friend, but my tongue clung to the roof of
my mouth and for the moment I was powerless and speechless, subdued by a
combination of fear of the real beast and superstitious fear of the
fabulous werwolf or loup-garou,[4] but the next moment I pulled myself
together, mastered my trembling limbs, rolled softly out of my blankets,
and gun in hand wormed my way toward the spot where Big Pete lay,
determined to sell my life dearly. With Big Pete beside me, now that I
was thoroughly awake, I would fight all the werwolves of the old world
and all the loup-garous of Canada. I reached out and felt for Pete but
he was not there, the blankets were empty; once or twice I thought I
detected the glint of the wolves’ eyes, but the night was very dark and
in the shadow of the roof I could really see nothing.

  [Footnote 4: A werwolf, or loup-garou, is a legendary man who,
  it was formerly believed, could at will take on the form and
  nature of a wolf.]

Closer and closer sounded the stealthy, dragging noise, and I heard a
hand feel softly for the latch of the front door and could hear fingers
scraping ever so softly over the wood surface of the other side. A
slight rattle told me that the hand had found the latch and that
presently the door would be flung open. With my revolver ready I waited
developments and braced myself for the attack.

The door flew open wide, and the voice of the Wild Hunter cried,

“Pluto, you fiend, down! down! I say!”

But this time the huge brute did not obey and the command was answered
by a low rebellious growl, a scratching of feet on the puncheons, and a
heavy thud of someone falling told me that the final struggle for the
leadership of the black wolf pack had begun.

Then burst upon the stillness of the night such an uproar that for a
moment I thought the whole pack was mixed in the fight, but at length I
heard Pluto’s snarling, rumbling growl, answered by the distant howl of
the wolf pack, followed immediately by a close-by yell that chilled my
blood; after this came Big Pete’s war cry, then the crash of falling
objects, shrieks and growls and savage yells.

I had flung myself forward, and there in the pitch darkness of the
doorway of the hall I felt and heard rather than saw the lean twisting
bodies of the Wild Hunter and Pluto clasped in a life and death struggle
on the floor. I feared to use my revolver, as it would have been
impossible to tell whether I was shooting the hunter or the wolf.

Suddenly a light burst upon the scene. Big Pete’s absence was
explained; he had secured a lantern and holding it aloft with his left
hand, with a six-shooter in his right, he paused a moment over the
struggling figures. By the light of the lantern one could see that the
Wild Hunter was on his back struggling with the giant beast which he was
trying to choke with his two hands, while the wolf’s teeth were seeking
the throat of the man. It was a terrible scene but it was no time to
waste in horror. The efforts of the hunter to free himself from his
terrible assailant would have been of little avail but for the
assistance of Big Pete, for the wolf was shaking the wild man from side
to side with terrific force, very much the same as a bull-terrier might
shake a cat.

Pete wasted no time but placing the muzzle of his gun against the wolf’s
head he fired, then shouted to me, “Look behind you.”

As I wheeled about I found that I was facing the rest of the pack. Pluto
reared upon his hind legs, clawed the air frantically in his death
struggle, and fell with a thud across his master’s body, but Pete and I
were now concentrating our fire on the snarling, leaping bodies of the
wolf pack. Fortunately the death of Pluto and the silence of the Wild
Hunter seemed to discourage the pack, they evidently missed their
leaders and this gave us the advantage, for if they had rushed us we
undoubtedly would have fallen victims to their savage teeth.

In the melee the lantern was upset and the struggle ended in darkness as
it began, but when things quieted down and Pete relit the lantern there
were only two wolves which were alive and they were fiercely attacking
each other. We soon dispatched them, however, and then devoted our
attention to the Wild Hunter over whose body Big Pete was now bending.

“By the great horn spoon, Le-loo!” cried he, looking up for a moment,
“we’ve wiped out the pack, and now that the scrap is over here comes the
Injuns. I calculate our friend here is a dead one; Pluto has chewed him
to pieces. Come, lend a hand and we will see what we can do for the poor
old man; he certainly did put up a glorious fight.”

Reaching down I gathered the old man’s legs in my arms, and with Big
Pete supporting his head and shoulders, we carried him into my room and
laid him on the feather bed under the savagely ornamented tester.

Big Pete was all action then, and I helped as best I could. The Scout
ripped one of the homespun sheets into ribbons and with these made
bandages and proceeded to stay the flow of blood from the old man’s
lacerated throat. He worked hard and long and now and then he would
shake his head dubiously. Presently he muttered, “’Taint much use, Ol’
Timer, I guess yore a goner. Yore goneta pass over t’ Divide this time,
I guess. That tha’ Pluto fiend done chewed you up fer further orders.”

At this the old man opened his eyes, and a grim smile wrinkled his now
ashen face.

“I knew he’d do it some day, and I think he got me this time. The Mewan
Indians call the giant wolf “Too-le-ze” and that is also the name they
gave me, but I am not a werwolf, a loup-garou or a Too-le-ze. I was only
their master but now their victim.

“I feared that Pluto, as I call him, or Too-le-ze, was strong and
treacherous and that is why I ruled him with an iron hand. He’s got me
this time. I guess it had to end this way—give me a cup of water.”

He then fixed his gaze on me and I noticed that he no longer had that
worried, haunted look which had heretofore characterized him.

“So you are Donald’s son—well, when I heard Pluto stalking you I knew
that it was you or your uncle that the beast would get; it was fate that
made me slip and fall, and once down the wolf saw his long-looked-for
opportunity and instantly availed himself of it. But the good Lord was
not going to allow me to bring bad luck to both you and your father,
boy. Yes, I am Fay Mullen and I caused the death of your father, and my
brother. I bear the brand of Cain.

“We were crossing a steep bank of snow at the foot of a cliff, and being
both tired and hungry we were bickering and quarreling over nothing. I
should have remembered that your father was but just recovering from an
attack of nervous prostration, but I did not; we had been months in the
mountains prospecting and the unprofitable toil and loneliness must have
got on my nerves. At any rate, after some hot, unbrotherly language, we
agreed to part company.

“We sat down on the snow and divided our outfit by lot. I got the
flint-lock Patrick Mullen, the fierce Great Dane and the gentle little
donkey; your father got the packhorse and the Winchester rifle.

“We—we—parted without saying good-bye, and just then an elk came out
on the snow bank. Instantly your father fired and I fired, the elk fell,
but the simultaneous concussion of the reports of the two rifles started
the snow to moving. The Great Dane and the donkey sensed the danger and
fled to the right. I turned to warn your father and motioned him back,
but he came on a run toward me and I fled at the heels of my outfit. The
burro and dog escaped to safety, I was caught in the edge of the slide,
knocked unconscious and buried in snow, from which the dog rescued me.

“A fragment of stone struck me on the head and I have never been the
same since then. Your father and his outfit are buried under five
hundred feet of snow and rocks. I camped nearby for days but could find
no trace of my brother and all the time a voice seemed to cry, ‘You
killed your brother; you are marked with the brand of Cain.’

“This thought has haunted me night and day and I have never quarreled
with a man since then; for fear that I might do so, I have avoided white
men ever since and buried myself in these mountains. I found this valley
and I hid here and with the aid of the Great Dane and the wolf dogs I
bred, as beasts of burden, I built this ranch. I—I—was afraid—all the
time, though—afraid someone would—find out about—Donald’s death and
blame it on me. When you—said—you—were—Donald’s son I was
frightened—I thought you’d come to get me—for killing your—father
and—I—I—I was going to kill myself. But Pluto got—me—and saved me
from further guilt. I—”

He said more, but neither Big Pete nor I could understand him. Indeed,
he kept mumbling incoherently for an hour or more while we watched over
him and did all that we could to make him comfortable until the death
rattle in his throat put an end to his mumbling. But despite our
efforts, he passed on at dawn. Just as the first warm light of the sun
glowed above the mountains, he breathed his last.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now you know why my private den is just cram full of the things you
fellows like. You may also guess where I procured the black wolfskin
rugs and the rare bead and porcupine quill decorations. Yes, that
long-barrelled rifle hanging on the buckhorn rack is the famous Patrick
Mullen gun. It is a rifle that Washington, Boone or Crockett would have
almost given their scalps to possess, because it is the same pattern as
the ones they themselves used but more scientifically and skillfully
made. It’s a flint-lock, too, and that is the funny part about it that
interests all the Scouts of our Troop. It is my good-turn mascot, for as
long as it hangs there I am under the influence of my wild uncle and can
quarrel with no man.

Now you know why the gun is preserved as a trophy for my old Scouts and
is an object of veneration upon which they love to gaze when they sit
cross-legged on the skins of the black wolf pack before the crackling
fire of their Scoutmaster’s private den.

Big Pete? Oh, he now runs the Pluto Ranch in Paradise Valley.



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we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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