Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Camp and Trail - A Story of the Maine Woods
Author: Hornibrook, Isabel
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 "Camp and Trail - A Story of the Maine Woods" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: THE MOOSE WAS NOW SNORTING LIKE A WAR-HORSE BENEATH.

(_See page 274_)]



CAMP AND TRAIL

A Story of the Maine Woods

BY

ISABEL HORNIBROOK

AUTHOR OF "TUKE," "IN THE SERVICE," "LOST IN MAINE WOODS," ETC.

BOSTON

LOTHROP PUBLISHING COMPANY

1897

TYPOGRAPHY BY C.J. PETERS & SON, BOSTON.

PRESSWORK BY BERWICK & SMITH.



TO

J.L.H.



PREFACE.


In adding another to the list of stories bearing on that subject of
perennial interest to boys, adventures in camp and on trail among the
woods and lakes of Northern Maine, one thought has been the inspiration
that led me on.

It is this: To prove to high-mettled lads, American, and English as
well, that forest quarters, to be the most jovial quarters on earth,
need not be made a shambles. Sensation may reach its finest pitch,
excitement be an unfailing fillip, and fun the leaven which leavens the
camping-trip from start to finish, even though the triumph of killing
for triumph's sake be left out of the play-bill.

"There is a higher sport in preservation than in destruction," says a
veteran hunter, whose forest experiences and descriptions have in part
enriched this story. I commend the opinion to boy-readers, trusting that
they may become "queer specimen sportsmen," after the pattern of Cyrus
Garst; and find a more entrancing excitement in studying the live wild
things of the forest than in gloating over a dying tremor, or examining
a senseless mass of horn, hide, and hoofs, after the life-spring which
worked the mechanism has been stilled forever.

One other desire has trodden on the heels of the first: That Young
England and Young America may be inspired with a wish to understand each
other better, to take each other frankly and simply for the manhood in
each; and that thus misconception and prejudice may disappear like mists
of an old-day dream.

ISABEL HORNIBROOK.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

I. JACKING FOR DEER

II. A SPILL-OUT

III. LIFE IN A BARK HUT

IV. WHITHER BOUND?

V. A COON HUNT

VI. AFTER BLACK DUCKS

VII. A FOREST GUIDE-POST

VIII. ANOTHER CAMP

IX. A SUNDAY AMONG THE PINES

X. FORWARD ALL!

XI. BEAVER WORKS

XII. "GO IT, OLD BRUIN!"

XIII. "THE SKIN IS YOURS"

XIV. A LUCKY HUNTER

XV. A FALLEN KING

XVI. MOOSE-CALLING

XVII. HERB'S YARNS

XVIII. To LONELIER WILDS

XIX. TREED BY A MOOSE

XX. DOL'S TRIUMPH

XXI. ON KATAHDIN

XXII. THE OLD HOME-CAMP

XXIII. BROTHERS' WORK

XXIV. "KEFPING THINGS EVEN"

XXV. A LITTLE CARIBOU QUARREL

XXVI. DOC AGAIN

XXVII. CHRISTMAS ON THE OTHER SIDE



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


THE MOOSE WAS NOW SNORTING LIKE A WAR-HORSE BENEATH.

"THERE IS MOOSEHEAD LAKE."

DOL SIGHTS A FRIENDLY CAMP.

IN THE SHADOW OF KATAHDIN.

"GO IT, OLD BRUIN! GO IT WHILE YOU CAN!"

"HERB HEAL."

A FALLEN KING.

THE CAMP ON MILLINOKETT LAKE.

"HERB CHARGED THROUGH THE CHOKING DUST-CLOUDS."

GREENVILLE,--"FAREWELL TO THE WOODS."



CAMP AND TRAIL.



CHAPTER I.

JACKING FOR DEER.


"Now, Neal Farrar, you've got to be as still as the night itself,
remember. If you bounce, or turn, or draw a long breath, you won't have
a rag of reputation as a deer-hunter to take back to England. Sneeze
once, and we're done for. That means more diet of flapjacks and pork,
instead of venison steaks. And I guess your city appetite won't rally to
pork much longer, even in the wilds."

Neal Farrar sighed as if there was something in that.

"But, you know, it's just when an unlucky fellow would give his life
not to sneeze that he's sure to bring out a thumping big one," he said
plaintively.

"Well, keep it back like a hero if your head bursts in the attempt," was
the reply with a muffled laugh. "When you know that the canoe is gliding
along somehow, but you can't hear a sound or feel a motion, and you
begin to wonder whether you're in the air or on water, flying or
floating, imagine that you're the ghost of some old Indian hunter who
used to jack for deer on Squaw Pond, and be stonily silent."

"Oh! I say, stop chaffing," whispered Neal impetuously. "You're enough
to make a fellow feel creepy before ever he starts. I could bear the
worst racket on earth better than a dead quiet."

This dialogue was exchanged in low but excited voices between a young
man of about one and twenty, and a lad who was apparently five years his
junior, while they waded knee-deep in water among the long, rank grasses
and circular pads of water-lilies which border the banks of Squaw Pond,
a small lake in the forest region of northern Maine.

The hour was somewhere about eleven o'clock. The night was intensely
still, without a zephyr stirring among the trees, and of that wavering
darkness caused by a half-clouded moon. On the black and green water
close to the bank rocked a light birch-bark canoe, a ticklish craft,
which a puff might overturn. The young man who had urged the necessity
for silence was groping round it, fumbling with the sharp bow, in which
he fixed a short pole or "jack-staff," with some object--at present no
one could discern what--on top.

"There, I've got the jack rigged up!" he whispered presently. "Step in
now, Neal, and I'll open it. Have you got your rifle at half-cock?
That's right. Be careful. A fellow would need to have his hair parted in
the middle in a birch box like this. Remember, mum's the word!"

The lad obeyed, seating himself as noiselessly as he could in the bow of
the canoe, and threw his rifle on his shoulder in a convenient position
for shooting, with a freedom which showed he was accustomed to firearms.

At the same time his companion stepped into the canoe, having first
touched the dark object on the pole just over Neal's head. Instantly it
changed into a brilliant, scintillating, silvery eye, which flashed
forward a stream of white light on a line with the pointed gun, cutting
the black face of the pond in twain as with a silver blade, and making
the leaves on shore glisten like oxidized coins.

The effect of this sudden illumination was so sudden and beautiful that
the boy for a minute or two held his rifle in unsteady hands while the
canoe glided out from the bank. An exclamation began in his throat which
ended in an indistinct gurgle. Remembering that he was pledged to
silence, he settled himself to be as wordless and motionless as if his
living body had become a statue.

From his position no revealing radiance fell on him. He sat in shadow
beside that glinting eye, which was really a good-sized lantern, fitted
at the back with a powerful silvered reflector, and in front with a
glass lens, the light being thrown directly ahead. It was provided also
with a sliding door that could be noiselessly slipped over the glass
with a touch, causing the blackness of a total eclipse.

This was the deer-hunters' "jack-lamp," familiarly called by Neal's
companion the "jack."

And now it may be readily guessed in what thrilling night-work these
canoe-men are engaged as they skim over Squaw Pond, with no swish of
paddle, nor jar of motion, nor even a noisy breath, disturbing the
brooding silence through which they glide. They are "jacking" or
"floating" for deer, showing the radiant eye of their silvery jack to
attract any antlered buck or graceful doe which may come forth from the
screen of the forest to drink at this quiet hour amid the tangled
grasses and lily-pads at the pond's brink.

Now, a deer, be it buck, doe, or fawn in the spotted coat, will stand as
if moonstruck, if it hears no sound; to gaze at the lantern, studying
the meteor which has crossed its world as an astronomer might
investigate a rare, radiant comet. So it offers a steady mark for the
sportsman's bullet, if he can glide near enough to discern its outline
and take aim. There is one exception to this rule. If the wary animal
has ever been startled by a shot fired from under the jack, trust him
never to watch a light again, though it shine like the Kohinoor.

As for Neal Farrar, this was his first attempt at playing the part of
midnight hunter; and I am bound to say that--being English born and
city bred--he found the situation much too mystifying for his peace of
mind.

He knew that the canoe was moving, moving rapidly; for giant pines along
the shore, looking solid and black as mourning pillars, shot by him as
if theirs were the motion, with an effect indescribably weird. Now and
again a gray pine stump, appearing, if the light struck it, twice its
real size, passed like a shimmering ghost. But he felt not the slightest
tremor of advance, heard no swish or ripple of paddle.

A moisture oozed from his skin, and gathered in heavy drips under the
brim of his hat, as he began to wonder whether the light bark skiff was
working through the water at all, or skimming in some unnatural way
above it. For the life of him he could not settle this doubt. And,
fearful of balking the expedition by a stir, he dared not turn his head
to investigate the doings of his comrade, Cyrus Garst.

Cyrus, though also city bred, was an American, and evidently an old hand
at the present business. The Maine wilds had long been his playground.
He had studied the knack of noiseless paddling under the teaching of a
skilled forest guide until he fairly brought it to perfection. And, in
perfection, it is about the most wizard-like art practised in the
nineteenth century.

The silent propulsion was managed thus: the grand master of the paddle
gripped its cross handle in both hands, working it so that its broad
blade cut the water first backward then forward so dexterously that not
even his own practised hearing could detect a sound; nor could he any
more than Neal feel a sensation of motion.

The birch-bark skiff skimmed onward as if borne on unseen pinions.

To Neal Farrar, who had been brought up amid the tumult of rival noises
and the practical surroundings of Manchester, England, who was a
stranger to the solitudes of primitive forests, and almost a stranger to
weird experiences, the silent advance was a mystery. And it began to be
a hateful one; for he had not even the poor explanation of it which has
been given in this record.

It was only his third night in Maine wilds; and I fear that his friend
Cyrus, when inviting him to join in the jacking excursion, had refrained
from explaining the canoe mystery, mischievously promising himself
considerable fun from the English lad's bewilderment.

Neal's hearing was strained to catch any sound of big game beating
about amid the bushes on shore or splashing in the water, but none
reached him. The night seemed to grow stiller, stiller, ever stiller, as
they glided towards the head of the pond, until the dead quiet started
strange, imaginary noises.

There was a pounding as of dull hammers in his ears, a belling in his
head, and a drumming at his heart.

He was tortured by a wild desire to yell his loudest, and defy the
brooding silence.

Another--a midnight watchman--broke it instead.

"Whoo-ho-ho-whah-whoo!"

It was the thrilling scream of a big-eyed owl as he chased a squirrel to
its death, and proceeded to banquet in unwinking solemnity.

"Whoo-ho-ho-whah-whoo!"

Neal started,--who wouldn't?--and joggled the canoe, thereby nearly
ending the night hunt at once by the untimely discharge of his rifle.

He had barely regained some measure of steadiness, though he felt as if
needles were sticking into him all over, when at last there was a
crashing amid the bushes on the right bank, not a hundred yards distant.

Noiselessly as ever the canoe shot around, turning the jack's eye in
that direction. A minute later a magnificent buck, swinging his antlers
proudly, dashed into the pond, and stooped his small red tongue to
drink, licking in the water greedily with a soft, lapping sound.

Neal silently cocked his rifle, almost choking with excitement; then
paused for a few seconds to brace up and control the nervous terrors
which had possessed him, before his eye singled out the spot in the
deer's neck which his bullet must pierce. But he found his operations
further delayed; for the animal suddenly lifted its head, scattered
feathery spray from its horns and hoofs, and retired a few steps up the
bank.

In its former position every part of its body was visibly outlined under
the silver light of the jack. Now a successful shot would be difficult,
though it might be managed. The boy leaned slightly forward, trying to
hold his gun dead straight and take cool aim, when the most curious of
all the curious sensations he had felt this night ran through him,
seeming to scorch like electricity from his scalp to his feet.

From the stand which the deer had taken, its body was in shadow. All
that the sportsman could discern were two living, glowing eyes,
staring--so it appeared to him--straight into his, like starry
search-lights, as if they read the death-purpose in the boy's heart, and
begged him to desist.

It was all over with Neal Farrar's shot. He lowered his rifle, while the
speech, which could no longer be repressed, rattled in his throat before
it broke forth.

"I'll go crazy if I don't speak!" he cried.

At the first word the buck went scudding like the wind through the
forest, doubtless vowing by the shades of his ancestors that he never
would stand to gaze at a light again.

"And--and--I can't shoot the thing while it's looking at me like that!"
the boy blurted out.

"You dunderhead! What do you mean?" gasped Cyrus, breaking silence in a
gusty whisper of mingled anger and amusement. "You won't get a chance to
shoot it or anything else now. You've lost us our meat for to-night."

"Well, I couldn't help it," Neal whispered back. "For pity's sake, what
has been moving this canoe? The quiet was enough to set a fellow mad!
And then that buck stared straight at me like a human thing. I could
see nothing but two burning eyes with white rings round them."

"Stuff!" was the American's answer. "He was gazing at the jack, not at
you. He couldn't see an inch of you with that light just over your head.
But it would have been a hard shot anyhow, for his nose was towards you,
and ten to one you'd have made a clean miss."

"Well," he added, after five minutes of acute listening, "I guess we may
give over jacking for to-night. That first cry of yours was enough to
set a regiment of deer scampering. I'm only half mad after all at your
losing a chance at such a splendid buck. It was something to see him as
he stooped to drink in the glare of the jack, a midnight forest picture
such as one wants to remember. Long may he flourish! We wouldn't have
started out to rid him of his glorious life if we weren't half-starved
on flapjacks and ends of pork. Let's get back to camp! I guess you felt
a few new sensations to-night, eh, Neal Farrar?"



CHAPTER II.

A SPILL-OUT.


Indeed, shocks and sensations seemed to ride rampant that night in
endless succession; a fact which Neal presently realized, as does every
daring young fellow who visits the Maine wilderness for the first time,
whatever be his object.

Ere turning the canoe towards home, Cyrus drove it a few feet nearer to
shore, again warily listening for any further sound of game. Just then
another wild, whooping scream cleft the night air; and, on looking
towards the bank, Neal beheld his owlship, who had finished the
squirrel, seated on an aged windfall,[1] one end of which dipped into
the water.

[Footnote 1: A forest tree which has been blown down.]

The gray bird on the gray old trunk formed a second thrilling midnight
picture, but at this moment young Farrar was in no mood for studying
effects. He felt rather unstrung by his recent emotions; and, though he
was by no means an imaginative youth, he actually took it into his head
half seriously that the whooping, hooting thing was taunting him with
making a failure of the jacking business. Without pausing to consider
whether the owl would furnish meat for the camp or not, he let fly at
him suddenly with his rifle.

The fate of that ghostly, big-eyed creature will be forever one of those
mysteries which Neal Farrar would like to solve. Whether the heavy
bullet intended for deer laid him open--which is improbable--or whether
it didn't, nobody had a chance to discover. Being unused to birch-bark
canoes, the sportsman gave a slight lurch aside after he had discharged
his leaden messenger of death, startled doubtless by the loud,
unexpected echoes which reverberated through the forest after his shot.

"Hold on!" cried Cyrus, trying to avert a ducking by a counter-motion.
"You'll tip us over!"

Too late! The birch skiff spun round, rocked crazily for a second or
two, and keeled over, spilling both its occupants into the black and
silver water of the pond.

Of course they ducked under, and of course they rose, gurgling and
spluttering.

"You didn't lose the rifle, Neal, did you?" gasped the American directly
he could speak.

"Not I! I held on to it like grim death."

"Good for you! To lose a hundred-and-fifty-dollar gun when we're
starting into the wilds would be maddening."

Then, just because they were extremely healthy, happy, vigorous fellows,
whose lungs had been drinking in pure, exhilarating ozone and fragrant
odors of pine-balsam and were thereby expanded, they took a cheerful
view of this duck under, and made the midnight forest echo, echo, and
re-echo, with peals and gusts and shouts of laughter, while they
struggled to right their canoe.

The merry jingles rang on in challenge and answer, repeating from both
sides of the pond, until they reached at last the wooded slopes and
mighty bowlders of Old Squaw Mountain, a peak whose "star-crowned head"
could be imagined rather than discerned against the horizon, near the
distant shore from which the hunters had started. Here echo ran riot.
It seemed to their excited fancies as if the ghost of Old Squaw herself,
the disappointed Indian mother who had, according to tradition, lived so
long in loneliness upon this mountain, were joining in their mirth with
haggish peals.

The canoe had turned bottom uppermost. On righting it they found that
the jack-staff had been dislodged. The jack was floating gayly away over
the ripples; its light, being in an air-tight case, was unquenched.

"Swim ashore with the rifle, Neal," said Cyrus. "I'll pick up the jack.
Did you ever see anything so absurdly comical as it looks, dodging off
on its own hook like a big, wandering eye?"

With his comrade's help young Farrar succeeded in getting the gun across
his back, slinging it round him by its leather shoulder-strap; then he
struck out for the bank, having scarcely twenty yards to swim before he
reached shallow water.

Now, for the first time to-night, the moon shone fully out from her veil
of cloud, casting a flood of silver radiance, and showing him a scene in
white and black, still and clear as a steel engraving, of a beauty so
unimagined and grand that it seemed a little awful. It gave him a
sudden respect for the unreclaimed, seldom-trodden region to which his
craving for adventure had brought him.

The outline of Old Squaw Mountain could be plainly discerned, a dark,
towering shape against the horizon. A few stars glinted like a diamond
diadem above its brow. Down its sides and from the base stretched a
sable mantle of forest, enwrapping Squaw Pond, of which the moon made a
mirror.

"My! I think this would make the fellows in Manchester open their eyes a
bit," muttered Neal aloud. "Only one feels as if he ought to see some
old Indian brave such as Cyrus tells about,--a Touch-the-Cloud, or
Whistling Elk, or Spotted Tail, come gliding towards him out of the
woods in his paint and feather toggery. Glad I didn't visit Maine a
hundred years ago, though, when there'd have been a chance of such a
meeting."

Still muttering, young Farrar kicked off his high rubber boots, and
dragged off his coat. He proceeded to shake and wring the water from his
upper garments, listening intently, and glancing half expectantly into
the pitch-black shadows at the edges of the forest, as if he might hear
the stealthy steps and see the savage form of the superseded red man
emerge therefrom.

"Ugh! I mind the ducking now more than I did a while ago," he murmured.
"The water wasn't cold. Why, we bathed at the other end of the pond late
last evening! But these wet clothes are precious uncomfortable. I wish
we were nearer to camp. Good Gracious! What's that?"

He stood stock-still and erect, his flesh shrinking a little, while his
drenched flannel shirt clung yet more closely and clammily to his skin.

A distant noise was wafted to his ears through the forest behind. It
began like the gentle, mellow lowing of a cow at evening, swelled into a
quavering, appealing crescendo cadence, and gradually died away. Almost
as the last note ceased another commenced at the same low pitch, with
only the rest of a heart-beat between the two, and surged forth into a
plaintive yet tempestuous call, which sank as before. It was followed by
a third, terminating in an impatient roar. The weird solo ran through
several scales in its performance, rising, wailing, booming, sinking,
ever varying in expression. It marked a new era in Neal's experience of
sounds, and left him choking with bewilderment about what sort of
forest creature it could be which uttered such a call.

He began to get out some bungling description when Cyrus joined him
shortly afterwards, but the American had had a lively time of it while
recovering his jack-light and righting the canoe on mid-pond. He was in
no mood for explanations.

"Keep the yarn, whatever it is, till to-morrow, Neal," he said. "I
didn't hear anything special. Perhaps I was too far away. I'm so wet and
jaded that I feel as limp as a washed-out rag. Let's get back to camp as
fast as we can."



CHAPTER III.

LIFE IN A BARK HUT.


It was two o'clock in the morning when the tired, draggled pair stumbled
ashore at the place where they embarked, hauled up their birch skiff,
leaving it to repose, bottom uppermost, under a screen of bushes, and
then stood for some minutes in deliberation.

"I'm sure I hope we can find the trail all right," said Cyrus. "Yes, I
see the blazes on the trees. Here's luck!"

He had been turning the jack-lamp on either side of him, trying to
discover the "blazes," or notches cut in some of the trunks, which
marked the "blazed trail"--in other words, the spotted line through the
otherwise trackless forest, which would lead him whither he wanted to
go.

It required considerable experience and unending watchfulness to follow
these "blazes"; but young Garst seemed to have the instinct of a true
woodsman, and went ahead unfalteringly, if vigilantly, while Neal
followed closely in his tracks.

After rather a lengthy trudge, they reached a point where the ground
sloped gently upward into a low bluff. Still keeping to the trail, they
ascended this eminence, finding the forest not so dense, and the walking
easier than it had been hitherto. Gaining the top, they emerged upon an
open patch, which had been cleared of its erect, massive pines, and the
long-hidden earth laid bare to the sky by the lumberman's axe.

Here the eagerly desired sight--that sight of all others to the tired
camper; namely, the camp itself, with its cheery, blazing
camp-fire--burst upon their view, sheltered by a group of sapling pines,
which had grown up since their giant brothers went to make timber.

Now, a Maine camp, as every one knows, may consist of any temporary
shelter you choose to name, according to the tastes and opportunities
of its occupants, from a fair white canvas home to a log cabin or a
hastily erected canopy of spruce boughs. In the present instance it was
a "wangen," or hut of strong bark, such as is sometimes used by
lumbermen to rest and sleep in when they are driving their floats of
timber down one of the rivers of this region to a distant town, which is
a centre of the lumber trade.

Cyrus and Neal were making across the clearing in the direction of the
camp-fire with revived spirits, when the American suddenly grabbed his
friend by the arm, and drew him behind a clump of low bushes.

"Hold on a minute!" he whispered. "By all that's glorious, there's Uncle
Eb singing his favorite song! It's worth hearing. You never listened to
such music in England."

"I don't suppose I ever did," answered Neal, suppressed laughter making
him shake.

Upon a gray pine stump, beside the blaze, which he was feeding with a
hemlock bough, sat a battered-looking yet lively personage. Had he been
standing upright upon the remnant of trunk, he would certainly, in the
bright but changeful firelight, have deceived an onlooker into believing
him to be a continuation of it; for the baggy tweed trousers which he
wore on his immense legs, and which partially hid his loose-fitting
brogans, or woodsman's boots, his thick, knitted jersey, his mop of
woolly hair, with the cap of coon's fur that adorned it, were a striking
mixture of grays, all bordering upon the color of the stump. His skin,
however, was a fine contrast, shining as he bent towards the flame like
the outside of a copper kettle. In daylight it would be three shades
darker, because the thick coral lips, gleaming teeth, and prominent,
friendly eyes of the individual, betrayed him to be in his own words, "a
colored gen'leman;" that is, a full-blooded negro, and a free American
citizen.

Beside him, squatting upon his haunches and wagging his shaggy tail, was
a good-sized dog, not of pure breed, but undoubtedly possessed of fire
and fidelity, as was shown by the eye he raised to his master. His red
coat and general formation showed that his father had been an Irish
setter, though he seemed to have other and fiercer blood in his veins,
mingling with that of this gentle parent.

To him the negro was chanting a war-song,--some lines by a popular
writer which he had found in an old newspaper, and had set to a curious
tune of his own composition, rendering the performance more inspiriting
by sundry wild whoops, and an occasional whacking of his teeth together.

Here are two verses, under the influence of which the dog worked himself
up to such excitement that he seemed to feel the ghosts of rabbits
slain--for he could smell no live ones--hovering near him:--

  "I raise my gun whar de rabbit run--
    Ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!
  En de rabbit say:
    'Gimme time ter pray,
  Fer I ain't got long fer to stay, to stay!'
    Oh, ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!

  "Ketch him, oh, ketch him!
  Run ter de place en fetch him!
  De bell done chime
  Fer de breakfast time--
    Oh, ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!"

"If there are any more verses, Uncle Eb, keep them until we've had
supper, or breakfast, or whatever you like to call a meal at this
unearthly hour. I'm so hungry that I could chew nails!" cried Cyrus,
springing from behind the bushes, and reaching the, camp-fire with a few
strides, Neal following him.

"Sakes alive! yonkers; is dat you?" cried the darkey, uprearing his
gray figure. "I'se mighty glad to see you back. Whar's yer meat? Left it
in de canoe mebbe? De buck too big to drag 'long to camp--eh?"

There was a wicked rolling of Uncle Eb's eyes while he spoke. Evidently
from the looks of the sportsmen he guessed immediately what had been the
result of their excursion.

"No luck and no buck to-night!" answered Garst. "But don't roast us,
Uncle Eb. Get us something to eat quicker than lightning or we'll go for
you--at least we would if we weren't entirely played out. It isn't
everybody who can manage a hard shot as cleverly as you do, when he can
only see the eyes of an animal. And that was the one chance we got."

No man living ever heard a further word from Cyrus as to how his English
friend bore the scares of a first night's jacking.

"Ya-as, dat's a ticklish shot. Most folks is skeered o' trying it,"
drawled out Ebenezer Grout, a professional guide as well as "colored
gen'leman," familiarly called by visitors to this region who hired the
use of his hut and his services, "Uncle Eb."

"There's some comfort for you," whispered Cyrus slyly into Neal's ear.
Aloud he said, addressing the guide, "We had a spill-out, too, as a
crown-all. I'm mighty glad that this is the second of October, not
November, and that the weather is as warm as summer; otherwise we'd be
in a pretty bad way from chill. I feel shivery. Hurry up, and get us
some steaming hot coffee and flapjacks, Uncle Eb, while we fling off
these wet clothes. The trouble is we haven't got any dry ones."

"Hain't got no oder suits?" queried the woodsman. "Den go 'long, boys,
and rig yerselves up in yer blankets. Ye can pertend to be Injuns fer
to-night. Like enough dis ain't de worst shift ye'll have to make 'fore
ye get out o' dese parts."

As the draggled pair were making towards the hut, which stood about six
feet from the fire, to follow his advice, its bark door was suddenly
pushed wide open. Forth stepped, or rather staggered, another boy,
younger and shorter than Neal. His tumbled fair hair was here and there
adorned with a green pine-needle, which was not remarkable, considering
that he had just arisen from a bed of pine boughs. Sundry others were
clinging to the surface of the warm, fleecy blankets in which he was
wrapped, and his feet were thrust into a pair of moccasins. He had the
appearance and voice of a person awaking from sound sleep.

"I say, you fellows, it's about time you got back!" he said, rubbing his
heavy eyes, and addressing the hunters. "I hope you've had some luck. I
dreamt that I was smacking my lips over a venison steak."

"Smack 'em w'en you git it, honey!" remarked Uncle Eb, while he mixed a
plain batter of flour, baking-powder, and cold water, which he dropped
in big spoonfuls on a frying-pan, previously greased, proceeding to fry
the mixture over his camp-fire.

The thin, round cakes which presently appeared were the "flapjacks"
despised by Cyrus as insufficient diet.

Without waiting to answer the new boy's greeting, the hunters had
disappeared into the bark shanty. When next they issued forth they were
rigged up Indian fashion in moccasins and blankets, the latter being
doubled and draped over their underclothing,--of which luckily they had
a dry supply,--and gathered round their waists with leather straps.
Knitted caps, usually worn when sleeping, adorned their heads.

"You see, we followed Dol's example and your advice, Uncle Eb," said
Cyrus, as they seated themselves by the camp-fire. "And I tell you these
make tip-top dressing-gowns when you're feeling a little bit chilly
after a drenching. We didn't bring along a second suit of tweeds for the
simple reason that we mean to do some pretty rough tramping with our
packs on our backs, and then a fellow is likely to grumble at any
unnecessary pound of weight he carries."

"Shuah--shuah!" assented Uncle Eb.

"And that is why we left our fishing-rods behind," continued Garst. "You
see, our main object this trip is neither hunting nor fishing. But a
creel of gamey trout from Squaw Pond would come in handy now to
replenish our larder."

"Wal, I b'lieve I'll fix up a rod to-mo-oh an' hook a few, fer de pork's
givin' out. Hain't got mich use fer trout meself. Dey's kind o'
tasteless eatin' if a man can git a bit o' fat coon or a fatty [hare],
let 'lone ven'zon. Pork's a sight better'n 'em to my mind."

While Uncle Eb was giving his views on food, he was hurriedly "bilin'"
coffee, frying unlimited flapjacks, and breaking up some crystal cakes
of maple sugar, which he melted into a sirup, and poured over them.

  "De bell done chime
  Fer de breakfast time!"

he shouted gleefully when all was accomplished. "Heah, yonkers! I guess
we may call dis meal breakfast jest as well as not, fer it's neah to
dawn now."

And the trio fell to voraciously, as he handed them each a steaming tin
mug and an equally steaming plate. The newly awakened youngster, who had
been cuddling his head sleepily against Neal's shoulder (a glance showed
that they were brothers), had clamored for his share of the banquet.

"You haven't been lonely, Dol, I hope, have you?" said Cyrus, as a whole
flapjack, doubled over and drenched in sirup, disappeared down his
capacious throat.

"Not I," answered Dol (Adolphus Farrar, ladies and gentlemen), shutting
and opening a pair of steel-gray eyes with a sort of quick snap. "Uncle
Eb and I sat by the fire until twelve o'clock. He sang songs, and told
tip-top stories about coon hunts. I tell you it was fun! I'd rather see
a coon hunt than go out at night jacking, especially if I got a ducking
instead of a deer, like some bungling fellows I know."

"Don't be saucy, Young England, or I'll go for you when I've finished
eating," laughed Cyrus good-humoredly. "Who told you what we got?"

Dol winked at Uncle Eb, who had, indeed, entertained him with giggling
jokes about the unsuccessful hunters while they were stripping off their
wet garments.

Adolphus, being the youngest of the camping-party, was favored with the
softest pine-bough bed and the best of the limited luxuries which the
camp possessed, with unlimited nicknames,--from "Young England" to
"Shaver" or "Chick," according to the whims of his comrades.

"Say, Uncle Eb, we're having a fine old time to-night--all sorts of
experiences! I guess you may as well finish that song we interrupted
while we're finishing our meal."

"All rightee, gen'lemen!" answered the jolly guide and cook.

The dog Tiger had retreated to the back of the camp-fire, where he lay
blissfully snoozing; but at a booming "Whoop-ee!" from his master, which
formed a prelude to the following verses, he shot up like a rocket, and
manifested all his former signs of excitement.

  "Dey's a big fat goose whar de turkey roos'--
    Ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!
  En de goose--he say,
    'Hit'll soon be day,
  En I got no feders fer ter give away!'
    Oh, ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!

  "Ketch him, oh, ketch him,
  Run ter de roos' en fetch him!
  He ain't gwine tell
  On de dinner bell--
    Ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!"

"Scoot 'long to bed now, you yonkers, or ye'll look like spooks
to-mo-oh! Hit's day a'ready," cried the singer directly he had whooped
out his last note.

And the "yonkers," nothing loath, for they had finished their repast,
sprang up to obey him.

"Isn't it a comfort that we haven't any trouble of undressing and
getting into our bedclothes, fellows?" Cyrus said, as they reached the
wangen, and prepared to throw themselves upon the fragrant camp-bed of
fresh green pine-boughs, which made the bark hut smell more healthily
than a palace.

The natural mattress was wide enough to accommodate three. The boughs
were laid down in rows with the under side up, and overlapped each
other. To be sure, an occasional twig might poke a sleeper's ribs, but
what mattered that? To the English boys especially--having the charm of
entire novelty--it was a matchless bed, wholesome, restful, and rich
with balsamic odors hitherto unknown.

The trio were stupidly tired; but on the American continent no happier
or healthier youths could have been found.

It had, indeed, been a night big with experiences; and there was one
still to come, which, to Neal Farrar at any rate, was as novel as the
rest. He had thrown himself upon his bough couch, too weary to offer
anything but the gladness of his heart for worship, when Cyrus touched
his arm.

"Look there!" he said. "If a fellow could see that without feeling some
sensations go through him which he never felt before, he wouldn't be
worth much!"

He pointed through the open door of the hut at the sky above the
clearing, over which was stealing a pearly hue of dawn, shot with a
tinge of rosy light, like the fire in the heart of an opal.

This made a royal canopy over the towering head of Old Squaw
Mountain,--near by now and plainly visible,--which had not yet lost its
starry diadem, though the gems were paling one by one. The shoulders of
the peak wore a mantle of purple, and the forest which clothed its bulk
was changing from the blackness of a mourning robe to the emerald green
of a sea-nymph's drapery.

The shutters of Night were rolling back, and young Day was stepping out
to cast her first smile on a waiting earth.

As the watchers in the hut caught that smile, every thought which rose
in them was a daybreak song to the God who is light, and the secret of
every dawning.

With the day-smile kissing their faces they fell asleep, feeling that
they were wrapped in the embrace of the invisible King.



CHAPTER IV.

WHITHER BOUND?


"Where from? Whither bound?" It is not often that a man or boy burns to
put these questions--which ships signal to each other when they pass
upon the ocean--to some individual who hurries by him on a crowded
thoroughfare, whose name perhaps he knows, but whose hand he has never
clasped, of whose thoughts, feelings, and capabilities he is ignorant.

But just let him meet that same fellow during a holiday trip to some
wild sea-beach or lonely mountain, let an acquaintance spring up, let
him observe the habits of the other traveller, discovering a few of his
weak points and some of his good ones, and then he wishes to ask,
"Where do you hail from? Whither are you bound?"

Therefore, having encountered three fairly good-looking, jovial,
well-disposed young fellows amid the solitudes of a Maine forest, having
spent some eventful hours in their company, learning how they behaved in
certain emergencies, it is but natural that the reader should wish to
know their ordinary occupations, with their reasons for venturing into
these wilds, and the goal they wish to reach, before he journeys with
them farther.

Just at present, being fast asleep, dreaming, and--if I must say
it--snoring like troopers, upon their mattresses of pine boughs, they
are unable to give any information about themselves. But the friend who
has been authorized to record their travels will be happy to satisfy all
reasonable curiosity.

To begin, then, with the "boss" of the party, Cyrus Garst, the writer
would say that he is a student of Harvard University, and a brainy,
energetic, robust son of America. Among his college classmates he is
regarded as a bit of a hero; for, in spite of his comparative youth, he
is an enterprising traveller and a veteran camper, whose camp-fire has
blazed in some of the wildest solitudes of his native land. For his
hobby is natural history, and his playground the "forest primeval,"
where he studies American animals amid the lonely passes which they
choose for their lairs and beats.

Every year when Harvard's learned halls are closed for the long summer
vacation,--sometimes at other seasons too,--he starts off on a trip to a
wilderness region, with his knapsack on his back, his rifle on his
shoulder, and often carrying his camera as well.

Once in a while he has been accompanied by a bosom friend or two. More
frequently he has gone alone, hiring the services of a professional
guide accustomed to the locality he visits. Now, such a guide is the
indispensable figure in every woodland trip. He is expected to supply
the main part of his employer's camp "kit"; namely, a tent or some
shelter to sleep under, cooking utensils, axes, etc., as well as a boat
or canoe if such be required. And this son of the forest, whose foot can
make a bee-line to its destination through the densest wooded maze, is
not only leader, but cook and general-utility man in camp as well. The
guide must be equally grand-master of paddle, rifle, and frying-pan.

For these tireless woodland heroes Cyrus Garst has a general
admiration. He has always agreed with them famously--save on one point;
and he has never had to shorten his wanderings for fear of lengthening
their fees. For Cyrus has a millionnaire father in the Back Bay of
Boston, who is disposed to indulge his whims.

The one point of variance is this: while all guides admire young Garst
as a crack shot with a rifle, he frequently dumfounds them by letting
slip stunning chances at game, big and little. They call him "a queer
specimen sportsman,"--understanding little his love for the wild
offspring of the woods,--because he never uses his gun save when the
bareness of his larder or the peril of his own life or his chum's
demands it.

Nevertheless, feeling the need of fresh meat, the naturalist was for the
moment hotly exasperated because his English comrade, Neal Farrar,
missed even a poor chance at a buck during the midnight excursion on
Squaw Pond.

His friends are proud of stating that up to the present Cyrus had
proceeded well in his friendly acquaintance with wild creatures, his
desire being to study their habits when alive rather than to pore over
their anatomy when dead. And he has always reaped a plentiful harvest
of fun during his trips, declaring that he has "the pull over fellows
who go into the woods for killing," seeing that he can thoroughly enjoy
the escape of a game animal if he can only catch a sight of it, and
perceive how its pluck or cunning enables it to baffle pursuing man.
There are those who call Cyrus a sportsman of the best type. Perhaps
they are right.

Yet in the year of our story, when he had just attained his majority,
this student of forest life is still unsatisfied, because he has not
been able to obtain a good view of the behemoth of American woods, the
_ignis fatuus_ of hunters,--the mighty moose.

Once only, when paddling on a still pond with his experienced guide for
company, the latter suddenly closed the slide of the jack-lamp, hiding
its light. At the same moment a dark, splendid monster, tall as a horse
and swinging a pair of antlers five feet broad, suddenly appeared upon
the bank, near to which the canoe lay in black shadow. The hunters dared
not breathe. It was at a season of year when the Maine law exacts a
heavy fine for the killing of a moose; and even the guide had no desire
to send his bullets through the law, though he might have riddled the
game without compunction.

For a minute or two the creature halted at the pond's brink, magnified
in the mirror of moonlit water into a gigantic, wavering shape. Then
with slow, solemn tread he walked along the bank ahead, gave a loud
snort something like the snort of a war-horse, made a crunching,
chopping noise with his jaws, resembling the sound of a dull axe
striking against wood, plunged into the lake, and swam across to the
opposite shore.

"If we had fired, he might have come for us full tilt," whispered the
guide so softly that his words were like a gliding breath. "And then I
tell you we'd have had a narrow squeak. He'd have kicked the canoe into
splinters and us out o' time in short order."

"But a moose won't charge unless he's attacked, will he?" asked Cyrus,
later in the night, when a couple of quacking black ducks which had
received a dose of lead were lying silent at his feet, and the hunters
were returning to camp with food.

"Not often," was the reply. "Only at this time o' year, if they've got a
mate to defend, you can't say for sure what they'll do. They won't
always fight either, even if they're wounded, when they can get a
chance to bolt. But a moose, if he has to die, will be sure to die game,
with his face to his enemy; and so will every wild animal that I know.
I've even seen a shot partridge flutter up its feathers like a game-cock
at the fellow who dropped it."

Well, this memorable glimpse of his mooseship was obtained in the year
before our story. And now, in the beginning of October, young Garst was
off into Maine wilds again, having arranged to "do" the forest
thoroughly after his usual fashion, seeing all he could of its countless
phases of life, and finally to meet this same guide--a dare-devil fellow
who was reported to have had adventures in moose-hunting such as other
woodsmen did not dream of--at a log camp far in the wilderness. Thence
they could proceed to solitudes where the voice of man seldom echoed,
where the foot of man rarely trod, and where moose signs were pretty
sure to be found.

But there was one very unusual feature in his present expedition. The
student of nature, who generally started forth alone, was this year,
owing to a freak of fate and to his natural good-nature, accompanied by
two English lads.

Early in the summer of this same year, Francis Farrar, a wealthy
cotton-merchant of Manchester, England, visited America on a
business-trip, and became the guest of Cyrus's father. He brought with
him his two sons, Neal, aged sixteen and a half, and Adolphus,
familiarly called Dol, who was more than a year younger.

Both boys had been at a large public school, and physically, as well as
mentally, were well developed. They were accustomed to spending long
vacations with their father at wild spots on the seashore, or amid
mountains in England and Scotland. They could tirelessly do a sixty-mile
spin on their "wheels," were good football players, excellent rowers,
formed part of the crew of their father's yacht, could skilfully handle
gun and fishing-rod, but they had never camped out.

They knew none of the delights of sleeping in woodland quarters, with
only a canvas or bark roof, or perhaps a few spruce boughs, between them
and the sky--

  "While a music wild and solemn
    From the pine-tree's height
  Rolls its vast and sea-like volume
    On the wind of night."

Small wonder, then, that when they heard Cyrus Garst tell of his
camping excursions, of his jolly times, long tramps, and hairbreadth
escapes, their hearts swelled with a tremendous longing to accompany him
on the trip into northern Maine which he was then projecting for the
following October.

Now, Cyrus at the first start-off conceived a liking for these English
fellows, to whom, for his father's sake, he played the part of genial
host. With a lordly recognition of his superior years he pronounced them
"first-rate youngsters, with lots of snap in them." And as the
acquaintance progressed, Neal Farrar, with his erect figure, broad
chest, musical voice, and wide-apart gray eyes,--so clear and honest
that their glance was a beam,--proved a personage so likable that the
student adopted him as "chum," forgetting those five years which had
been a gulf between them.

Dol, whose eyes were of a more steely hue than his brother's, striking
fire readily and showing all manner of flinty lights, who had a
downright talent for mimicry, and a small share of juvenile
self-importance, came in for regard of a more indulgent and less equal
nature.

Directly he got an inkling of the desire for a forest trip which
stirred in the boys' breasts, making them yearn all day and toss all
night, Cyrus gave them both a cordial invitation to accompany him into
Maine. Mr. Farrar did not purpose returning to Europe till midwinter.
His consent was easily obtained. He presented each of his sons with a
new Winchester repeating rifle, with which they practised diligently at
a target ere the eventful day of the start dawned, though their leader
emphatically insisted that the prime pleasures of the trip were not to
be looked for in the slaughter done by their hands.

Wearing the camper's favorite dress of stout gray tweed, the trio left
Boston on a lovely September evening towards the close of the month,
taking a fast night train for Maine, brimful of enthusiasm about the
wild woods and free camp-life. The hue of their clothes was chosen with
a view to making their figures resemble the forest trunks, so that they
would be less likely to attract the notice of animals, and might get a
chance to creep upon them undetected.

About their waists were their ammunition belts, with pouches well
stocked. Their large knapsacks contained blankets, moccasins, and
various other necessaries of a camper's outfit, including heavy knitted
jerseys for chill days and nights, and rubber boots reaching high on the
legs for wear in wading and traversing swampy tracts.

About twenty-four hours later they dropped off the rattling, jingling
stage-coach which bore them over the latter part of their journey, at
the flourishing village of Greenville, on the borders of the Maine
wilds.

Here they were greeted by a view, the loveliness of which made the
English boys, who had never looked on it before, experience strange
heart-leaps.

A magnificent sheet of water nearly forty miles long and fourteen broad
lay before them, studded with islands, girt with evergreen forests and
wooded peaks. Under the rays of the setting sun its bosom was shot with
arrows of pale, quivering gold. Banners of gold and flame-color floated
over the crests of the hills, flinging streamers of light down their
emerald sides.

"Fellows, there is Moosehead Lake; and I guess you'll find few lakes in
America or elsewhere that can beat it for beauty," said Cyrus, with a
patriotic thrill in his voice, for he had a feeling that he was doing
the honors of his country.

His English comrades were warm with admiration, and here, in view of the
forest-land which was their El Dorado, tingled with anticipation of the
unknown.

The three rested that night at Greenville, and began their tramping on
the following morning. They trudged a distance of seven miles or so to
the camp of Ebenezer Grout, which, as Garst knew, was situated between
Squaw Pond and Old Squaw Mountain, the latter being one of the finest
peaks near Moosehead Lake.

"Uncle Eb" was an old acquaintance of Cyrus's, a dusky, lively woodsman,
who spent a great part of the year in his lone bark hut, with his dog
Tiger for company. He subsisted chiefly on what he brought down with his
rifle, and sometimes earned three dollars a day for guiding tourists up
Old Squaw or through the adjacent forests.

[Illustration: "THERE IS MOOSEHEAD LAKE."]

He was not an ambitious hunter, and rarely pushed far into the solitudes
of the wilderness in search of moose or other big game. A coon hunt was
to him the climax of all fun. It was chiefly with a hope that his
comrades might enjoy some novel entertainment of this kind that Cyrus
made his first stoppage at Uncle Eb's camp, purposing to sojourn there
for a few days.

He was not disappointed.

The stupidly tired trio had slept for about two hours, while the reader
has been receiving information second-hand about their past and future,
when a scratching, scraping, boring noise on the outside of their bark
roof temporarily disturbed their slumbers. Dol called out noisily, and,
as was the way of that youngster on sundry occasions, talked some
gibberish in his sleep. The scraping instantly ceased.

A renewed and blissful season of snoring. Another awakening. More music
on the roof, evidently caused by the claws of some wild animal, while
each of the campers was startled by a loud "Cluck!"

"Lie still, fellows! Don't budge. Let's see what the thing is," breathed
Cyrus in a peculiarly still whisper which he had learned from his
moose-hunting guide of whom mention has been made.

Dead silence in the hut. Redoubled scraping and rattling above, with a
scattering of bark chips.

Then light appeared through a jagged hole just over a string which was
stretched across one corner of the cabin, and from which dangled sundry
articles of camp bric-a-brac, mostly of a tinny nature, with Uncle Eb's
last morsel of "pork.

"By all that's glorious! it's a coon," breathed Cyrus, but so softly
that his companions did not hear.

As for the two Farrars, they were working up to such a heat of
excitement that they felt as if life were now only beginning. They had
heard of the thievish raids made by the black bear on unprotected camps,
and of his special fondness for pork. Not knowing that there was no
chance of an encounter with Bruin so near to civilization as this, they
peered at that hole in the roof, expecting every moment to see a huge,
black, snarling snout thrust through it.

It was a pointed gray muzzle which warily appeared instead--appeared and
disappeared on the instant. For at this crisis Tiger's shrill bugle-call
resounded without, giving warning of an attack on the camp. The thing,
whatever it was, scrambled from the roof, and with a strange, shrill cry
of one note made towards the woods. The dog followed it, barking for all
he was worth.

Now, too, Uncle Eb's booming "Whoop-ee!" was heard.

The hardy old woodsman, after his visitors had gone to roost, instead of
stretching himself as usual upon his pine mattress, had started off,
accompanied by Tiger, to visit some traps which he had set in the
forest, hoping to catch a marten or two. He took the precaution of
closing the door of the hut when he saw that its inmates were soundly
sleeping, thinking meanwhile, that, as day was dawning, there was little
chance of any wild "critter" coming round the camp during his absence.

But a greedy raccoon, which had been prowling near in the woods during
the night, and had been tantalized to desperation by the smell of the
late meal, especially by the odor of flapjacks frying in pork fat, had
stolen from cover after the departure of his natural enemy, the dog.

Finding the coast clear and the camp unguarded, he made himself quietly
at home, rooted among some potato parings which the guide had thrown
aside a day or two before, devoured a cold flapjack, and cleaned the
camp frying-pan as it had never been cleaned before, with his tongue.
But his appetite was whetted, not glutted. Scent or instinct told him
that pork, molasses, and other eatables were hidden in the bark hut.
Here was a golden opportunity for Mr. Coon. No one molested him.
Meditating a feast, he climbed to the roof, and began cautiously to
scrape off portions of the bark. The rising sun ought to have warned him
back to forest depths; but he persisted in his scratching, repeating now
and again a satisfied cluck.

His hole was made. His keen nose told him that pork was almost within
reach, when the bugle-call of his enemy--Tiger's challenging bark--smote
upon his ear. Guide and dog were opportunely returning to camp.

Of course, as soon as the marauder scrambled off the roof, Cyrus and the
boys sprang from their couch. Barefooted, and in night costume, they
were already at the door of the hut before Uncle Eb was heard booming,--

"Boys! Boys! Tumble out--tumble out! Dere's a reg'lar razzle-dazzle
fight goin' on heah. Tiger's nabbed de coon."



CHAPTER V.

A COON HUNT.


A razzle-dazzle fight it surely was! On one side of the camp, between
the camping-ground, which Uncle Eb had cleared with many a backache, and
the woods, was a narrow strip covered with a stunted, prickly growth of
wild raspberry bushes and tiny cherry-trees. These had sprung up after
the pines had been cut down, as soon as the sun peeped at the
long-hidden earth.

Into it the bare-legged trio dared not venture, knowing that they would
get a worse scratching and tearing than if the coon itself mauled them.

But they could see and hear a whirling, howling, clawing, spitting,
rough-and-tumble conflict going on in the midst of this miniature
jungle.

"Whew! Whew!" gasped Cyrus. "Here's your first sight of a wild coon,
boys. I wish to goodness it had been a different sight, but I suppose he
must pay for his thieving."

"Tiger'll make him do dat. Bet yer life he will! He's death on coons, if
ever a dog was," yelled Uncle Eb, gambolling with excitement, his eyes
bulging and widening until they looked like oysters on the shell.

The soft, battered, gray felt hat which replaced his fur cap in the
daytime surged off his gray wool, and frisked gently away towards the
camp-fire. There, coming in contact with a red ember, it scorched and
shrivelled into smoking, smelling ashes, all unnoticed in the tumult of
the fight.

Whirling round and round, now under, now over, dog and coon rolled
presently forth from the bushes, nearer to the feet of the spectators.
Then Neal and Dol could get a clearer view of the strange animal. A
breeze of exclamations came from them, mingling with the yelping,
snarling, and clucking of the combatants.

"Good gracious! Look at the stout body and funny little legs of the
fellow!"

"Doesn't he fight like a spitfire?"

"I'm glad he's not clawing me!"

"He's not much like any picture of a raccoon I ever saw in a Natural
History!"

"I guess he wouldn't resemble them greatly, especially in that attitude,
Dol," said Cyrus, as soon as there was a lull in the boys' comments.

The raccoon had now rolled on his back, and was fighting so fiercely
with teeth and claws that a despairing cry broke from Uncle Eb,--

"Yah! He's makin' Tiger's wool fly!"

It was then that the old guide began to deliberate about rushing forward
and despatching his coonship with the butt end of his rifle. Cyrus would
gladly have stopped the tussle long before, for there was too much
savagery about it to suit him; but he could only have done so by
stunning or killing one of the combatants.

A heart-rending howl from Tiger. The coon had caught him by his lower
jaw. Uncle Eb, clutching his empty rifle like a club, was starting to
the rescue, when the dog with a sudden, desperate jerk freed himself.
Mad with rage and pain, he tried to seize the raccoon's throat. But his
enemy managed to elude the strangling grip, and getting on his feet,
again caught Tiger, this time by the cheek, causing another agonizing
yelp.

Now, however, the undaunted dog whirled round and round with such
rapidity as to make Mr. Coon relax his hold, and, gathering all his
strength, flung the wild animal off to a distance of several feet.

Probably the raccoon felt that he had enough of the conflict, and was
doubtful about its final issue. He seized the chance for escape. While
the spectators gasped with excitement, they beheld him, with his head
doubled under his stomach, roll over and over like a huge gray
India-rubber ball, until he reached the nearest tree, which happened to
be one of the young pines that shaded the camp. Quick as lightning he
climbed up its trunk, uttering a second shrill, far-reaching cry of one
note.

"Listen! Listen, fellows!" cried Cyrus. "That raccoon is a
ventriloquist. The cry seemed to come from somewhere far above him. I
had a tame coon long ago, and I often heard him call like that. I tell
you he's a ventriloquist, and a mighty clever one too.

"The one piercing note was to warn his mate," went on the naturalist,
after a moment's pause; "or in all probability, though we have been
speaking of the animal as 'he,' it is really a female, for I have heard
that peculiar call given more frequently by a mother to warn her cubs."

All that could now be seen of the animal--on whose gender new light had
been cast--was a gray ball curled up on a tasselled bough near the top
of the pine-tree, and a glimpse of a black nose over the edge of the
limb.

"Wal! 'tain't no matter wedder de critter is a male or a fimmale; I'm
a-goin' to bring it down from dar mighty quick," said Uncle Eb, fumbling
with the cartridge-box which was attached to his broad leather belt, and
preparing to load his rifle, while he cast murderous looks aloft.

"No, you don't, then!" said Cyrus hotly. "The creature has fought
pluckily, and it deserves to get a fair chance for its life. I'll see
that it does too. You oughtn't to be hard on it for liking pork, Uncle
Eb."

"Coons will be gittin' into eatin' order soon," murmured the guide,
smacking his lips, and handling his gun undecidedly. "Roast coon's a
heap better'n roast lamb."

"Well, they're not in eating order yet, and won't be till next month,"
answered Garst. "Come, you've got to let this one go, Uncle Eb, to
please me."

"Tell ye wot: I'll call Tiger off" (Tiger was alternately licking his
wounds and baying furiously for vengeance about the tree which sheltered
his enemy), "den, wen de coon finds de place clear, bime-by he'll light
down from dat limb, I'll start off de dog, and let 'em finish de game
atween 'em."

Cyrus considered for a minute, then decided that on the coon's behalf he
might safely accept the compromise.

"Let's get into our clothes, fellows!" he cried to Neal and Dol. "Now
we're going to have some fair fun! I guess there won't be any more
fighting; and I want you to see how cunningly the raccoon will cheat the
dog and escape, if he gets an even chance."

In five minutes the trio were out of their blankets and in their
ordinary day apparel. The old guide had hung the wet tweeds to dry by
the blazing camp-fire before he started out to visit his traps,
carefully stretching them to prevent their "swunking" (shrinking). Thus
they were again fit for wear.

A half-hour of waiting ensued, during which every one was on the tiptoe
of expectation. They had all withdrawn to some distance from the tree.
Uncle Eb had been obliged to drag Tiger away, and was bathing his cuts
out of the camp water-bucket in a shady corner. The dog, recognizing
that he was a patient, submitted without a growl or budge, until his
master, who had been keeping a keen eye on that pine-tree, suddenly
loosed him, and started him off afresh with a loud "Whoop-ee!" and a--

  "Ketch him, Tiger! ketch him!"

The coon had "lighted down."

Away went the wild creature into the woods. Away after him, went dog,
guide, student, and boys, plunging, tumbling, rushing along
helter-skelter, with a yell on every lip.

"There he is! See him? That gray ball rolling over and over!" shouted
Cyrus. "I'll tell you what, now; he's going to resort to his clever
dodge of 'barking a tree.' There never was a general yet who could beat
a coon for strategy in making a retreat."

The forest surrounding the eminence on which Uncle Eb's camp was
situated consisted mostly of pines, with here and there the brilliant
autumn foliage of a maple or birch showing amid the evergreens. The
trees down the sides of the hill were not densely crowded, but grew in
irregular clumps instead of an unbroken mass. This, of course, afforded
a better opportunity for the pursuers to catch glimpses of the fugitive
animal.

On finding that it was again chased, the raccoon at first took shelter
in a dense thicket of scrub oak, which formed in places a tangled
undergrowth. Tiger quickly followed up its trail, and it was driven
thence.

Then Cyrus and the boys caught sight of it spinning over and over like a
ball, towards a maple-tree with widely projecting limbs and thick
foliage; for it knew well that in speed it was no match for the dog, and
therefore resorted to a neat little stratagem. The next minute, being
hotly pressed, it scrambled up the friendly trunk.

"He's treed again, yonkers! Come on!" shouted the guide, indifferent to
the creature's probable gender.

Tiger sat on his haunches at the foot of the maple, setting up a slow,
steady bark.

"Keep where you are, fellows! Watch the other side of the tree!"
whispered Cyrus, his face twitching with excitement.

In his character of naturalist he had managed to find out more about
the coon's various dodges than even the old guide had done.

In breathless wonder the Farrars presently beheld that ingenious raccoon
steal along to the end of the most projecting limb on a different side
of the tree from the one it had climbed, so that a screen of boughs and
the trunk were between it and its adversary.

Then it noiselessly dropped from the tip of the branch to the ground,
alighting, like a skilled acrobat, on its shoulders, doubled its pointed
black nose under its stomach, and again rolled over and over for a
considerable distance, when it got on its short legs and scurried away,
while Tiger still bayed at the foot of the maple-tree, thinking the
vanished prey was above.

"That's what I called the coon's dodge of 'barking a tree,'" said Cyrus.
"Don't you see, when hard pressed, he runs up the trunk, leaving his
scent on the bark; then he creeps to the other side under cover of the
foliage, and drops quietly to the ground. So he breaks the scent and
cheats the dog."

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Neal with an expressive whistle.

"Perhaps it's because of his long gray hairs that he has so much
wisdom," Dol suggested.

"A bright idea, Chick!" chuckled the student, tapping the boy's
shoulder.

"We keep on speaking of him as 'he' when you said the thing was probably
a female," put in Neal.

"That doesn't matter. I'm not certain. Look at old Tiger! He's having
fits now that he has discovered how he's been tricked."

The dog was circling out from the tree, with wild, uncertain movements,
nosing everywhere. Presently he struck the scent again, and darted off
like a streak.

But the raccoon had by this time reached a dark stream of water which
coursed through the over-arching forest at the foot of the hill, as if
it was flowing through a tunnel. Here this astute animal crossed and
recrossed under the gloom of interlocking trees, mid dense undergrowth,
until its trail was altogether lost.

Tiger, having further "fits," nosing about, darting hither and thither,
venting short, baffled barks, finally gave up in despair.

The pursuing party turned back to camp.

"Did ye ever see ennyting to ekal de cunnin' o' de critter," said Uncle
Eb gloomily; "runnin' up dat tree on'y to jump off, so as he'd break de
scent an' fool de dog? Ye'll learn a heap o' queer tings in dese woods,
chillun, 'fore ye get t'rough," he added, addressing the English lads.

"We've learned queerer things than we ever imagined or dreamed of,
already, Uncle Eb," Neal answered.

Meanwhile, Cyrus and Dol had begun to discuss the size of the escaped
coon.

"I should think it measured about two feet from the tip of its nose to
the beginning of the tail, and that would add ten or eleven inches.
Probably it weighed over thirty pounds," said the experienced Garst.

"A fine tail it had too!" answered Dol; "all ringed with black and
buff--not black and white as the books say. There was hardly an inch of
white about the animal anywhere. Its thick gray hair was marked here and
there with black; wasn't it, Cy?"

"Rather with a darker shade of gray, bordering on black. I think old
Tiger can testify that the creature had capable teeth; and it possesses
a goodly number of them--forty in all; that's only two less than a bear,
an animal that might make six of it in size."

"Whew! No wonder it's a good fighter!" ejaculated Dol.

"But the funniest of the coon's or--to give the animal its proper
name--the raccoon's funny habits is, that while it eats anything and
everything, it souses all meat in water before beginning a feed. That's
what it would have done with our bit of pork,--dragged it to a stream,
and washed it well before swallowing a morsel.

"I caught glimpses of a raccoon chasing a jack-rabbit in this very
section of the woods, last year," went on the student, seeing that Dol
was breathlessly listening. "The big animal killed the little one under
a dead limb; and I traced its tracks through some mud, where it tugged
the rabbit to the brink of the nearest brook to be dipped and devoured.

"After the meal, Mr. Coon halted on an old bit of stump as gray as
himself, close to where I lay under cover, trying to get a peep at his
operations, but, unluckily, in my excitement I touched a bush, and broke
a twig not as big as my little finger. I tell you he just jumped off
that stump as if it scorched him, and disappeared."

"What about that tame coon you owned, Cy?" Dol asked. "You haven't got
him now."

"Bless your heart, I should think not!" Here the student indulged in a
chuckle of mirth. "That coon was the fun and bane of my life. No fear
of my being dull while I had him! I had him as a present, when he was
only a cub, from a man out here who is my special chum among woodsmen,
Herb Heal, the guide in whose company we're going to explore for moose,
and the soundest fellow in wind, limb, and temper that ever I had the
luck to meet. I guess you English boys will say the same when you know
him.

"Well! when my friend Herb bestowed upon me that baby raccoon, I called
the little innocent 'Zip,' and kept him in-doors, letting him roam at
will. But after he grew to manhood, I was obliged to banish him to our
yard and chain him up; and there his piteous, sky-piercing calls, which
seemed to come from the roof of a house near him, first showed me what a
ventriloquist the animal can be."

"Why on earth did you banish him?" asked Neal.

"Because his plan of campaign, when loose, was to follow me about like a
devoted cat, climbing over me whenever he got the chance, with slobbery
fondness. But as soon as I was out of the way he'd steal every mortal
thing I possessed, from my most precious instruments to my latest tie
and handkerchiefs. I never saw anything to equal his ingenuity in
ferreting out such articles, and his incorrigible mischief in destroying
them. I chained him in the yard after he had torn my father's silk hat
into shreds, and made off with his favorite spectacles. Whether he wore
them or not I don't know; he chewed up the case; the glasses no man
thereafter saw. I couldn't endure his piteous cries for reconciliation
while he was in banishment, so I gave him away to a friend who was
suffering from an imaginary ailment, and needed rousing.

"Talking of fathers, boys, reminds me that I feel responsible to Francis
Farrar, Esq., for the welfare of his lusty sons. Neal had a pretty
tiring time last night, and only about two hours' sleep since. I don't
suppose any of us are outrageously hungry, seeing that we had some kind
of breakfast at an unearthly hour. Here we are at camp! I propose that
we turn in, and try to sleep until noon. What do you say?"

Their leader having wound up his talk, thus, neither of his comrades
ventured to oppose his suggestion, though they felt little inclined for
slumber.

"Pleasant day-dreams to you, fellows!" said Cyrus three minutes
afterwards, flinging off his coat, and throwing himself on his mattress
of boughs, while he wiped the steady drip of perspiration from his
forehead and cheeks. "This day is going to be too warm for any more
rushing. Our variable climate occasionally gives us these hot spells up
to the middle of October; but they don't last. So much the better for
us! We don't want sizzling days and oppressive nights, with mosquitoes
and black flies to make us miserable. October in this country is the
camper's ideal--month"--

The last sentence was broken by a great yawn, followed presently by a
snort and an attempt at a shout, which quavered away into a queer little
whine. Garst had passed into dreamland, where men revel in fragmentary
memories and pell-mell visions.



CHAPTER VI.

AFTER BLACK DUCKS.


If Cyrus's dreams were ruffled after the morning's excitement, those of
his comrades were a perfect chaos.

A slight wind hummed wordless songs through the tasselled tops of the
pine-trees about the camp. The music was tender and drowsy as a mother's
lullaby. Contrary to their expectations, Neal and Dol were lulled to
sleep by it like babies, with a feeling as if some guardian spirit were
gliding among the tree-tops.

But when slumber held them, when the murmur increased to a surge of
sound, sank to a ripple and again rolled forth, in their dreams they
imagined it the scurrying of a deer's hoofs along some lonely forest
deer-path, the rustling of a buck through bushes, the splashing of a
mighty moose among lily-pads and grasses at the margin of a dark pond,
the startled cluck of a coon. In fact, that rolling music of the pines
was translated into every forest sound which they had heard, or expected
to hear.

The excitement of wild scenes, new sensations, strange knowledge, still
thrilled them even in sleep. Their visions were accordingly wild,
rushing, jumbled, yet all set in a light so bright as to be
bewildering--a sign that health and happiness as great as human boys can
enjoy were the possession of the dreamers.

By and by their pulses grew steadier. Out of this confused rush of
imaginings grew in the mind of each one steady, absorbing dream. Neal
fancied that he was on the top of Old Squaw Mountain, and that beneath,
above, around him, sounded the strangely prolonged weird call, which he
had heard at a distance on the previous night while Cyrus was recovering
the jack-light. Owing to the ever-changing excitements of camp-life, he
had not questioned his comrade again about it.

Dol's visions resolved themselves into a mighty coon hunt. He tossed on
his pine boughs, kicked and jabbered in his sleep, with sundry odd
little cries and untranslatable mutterings,--

"Go it, Tiger! Go it, old dog! There he is--up the tree! Ah"
(disgustedly), "you're no good!"

A lull. Then the dreamer rolled out a string of what may be called
gibberish, seeing that it consisted of fragments of words and was
unintelligible, followed by,--

"The coon's eating the pork--no, he's b-b-b-barking it! Hu-loo-oo!"

"Oh, say, Chick, give us a chance! We can't sleep with you chirping into
our ears."

It was Cyrus who spoke, shaking with drowsy laughter, and Cyrus's big
hand gently shook the dreamer's arm.

"What? what? wh-wh-at?" gasped Dol, awaking. "I wasn't talking out loud,
was I?"

"Not talking aloud! Well, I should smile!" answered the camp captain.
"You were making as much noise as a loon, and that's the noisiest thing
I know. Go to sleep again, young one, and don't have any more crazy
spells before dinner-time."

Cyrus removed his hand, shut his eyes, and in a minute or two was
breathing heavily. Neal, who had been aroused too, followed his
example, laughing and mumbling something about "it's being an old trick
of Dol's to hunt in his sleep."

But the junior member of the party remained awake. After his dreams had
been dissipated he cared no more for slumber. When he could venture it
without disturbing his companions, he rose to a sitting posture, and,
after squatting for a while in meditation, got on his feet, picked up
his coat and moccasins, and, stealthily as an Indian, crept out of the
hut.

The rolling music among the pine-tops had died down; only at long
intervals a soft, random rustle swept through them. It was nearly
midday. The camp-fire was almost dead, quenched by the dazzling sunlight
which fell in patches on the camping-ground, and flooded the clearing
beyond the shadow of the pines.

Moreover, the camping-ground was deserted. Neither Uncle Eb nor Tiger
could be seen, though Dol's eyes sought for them wistfully. But
something caught his attention. It was a ray of light filtering through
the pine boughs and glinting on the trigger of an old-fashioned
muzzle-loading shot-gun, which leaned against a corner of the hut. An
ancient, glistening powder-horn and a coon-skin ammunition pouch hung
above it.

Dol lifted the antiquated weapon, withdrew to a short distance, and
examined it closely. He knew it belonged to the guide, but was rarely
used by him since he had purchased the 44-calibre Winchester rifle, with
which he could do uncommon feats in shooting.

The shot-gun interested the boy mightily. There was a facsimile of it,
swathed in green baize, stowed away somewhere in his father's house in
Manchester. The first time he had ever used fire-arms was on a memorable
day when his fingers pulled its trigger in his father's garden under
Neal's direction, and a lean starling fell before his shot. After that
he had often taken out a fowling-piece of a newer style, and had done
pretty well with it too.

As he handled the shot-gun, which the guide had bought away back in the
year '55, musing about it under the pines, the thought suddenly tumbled
out of a corner of his brain that at present there was a brilliant
opportunity for him to use the gun and all the shooting skill he
possessed for the benefit of his comrades and himself.

There was no meat in the camp for dinner or supper save the pork on
which they had feasted since they arrived there, and that was fast
giving out. Cyrus, in addition to his knapsack, had hauled over from
Greenville, where articles of camp fare could be procured in abundance,
a goodly supply of tea, coffee, condensed milk, flour, salt, sugar,
etc., in a stout canvas bag, Neal at intervals helping him with the
burden. For the rest he had trusted to Nature's larder, and such food as
he might purchase from his guides, desiring to go into the woods as
"light" as possible.

Uncle Eb had baked bread for his guests after a fashion of his own on
the camp frying-pan, setting the pan on some glowing coals a foot or so
from the fire; he had fried unlimited flapjacks, and had cheerfully
placed what stores he had at their disposal. His three luxuries were
novelties to the English lads, being pork, maple sugar,--drawn from the
beautiful maple-trees near his camp,--and a small wooden keg of sticky,
dark molasses. The sugar was the only one which Dol found palatable; and
he knew that the Bostonian, Cyrus, shared his feeling. To tell the
truth, the juvenile Adolphus was not fastidious, but he was suddenly
seized with an ambitious desire to vary the diet of the camp.

"Uncle Eb said that I could use this 'ole fuzzee,' as he called it,
whenever I liked," he muttered, looking wistfully at the shot-gun; "and
I've a big mind to give those lazy fellows in there a surprise. They
spent the night out jacking, and didn't get any meat because Cyrus let
Neal do the shooting, and he bungled it. It's my turn next to go after
deer, but I'm not going to wait for that."

Here his steel-gray eyes fell on the moccasins which he had not yet put
on, and struck fire instantly. His ambition was doubled. For if there is
one thing more than another which in the forest will stir the pluck of a
novice, and make him feel like an old woodsman, it is the sight of his
Indian footwear. Dol put his on, admired their light, comfortable
feeling, their soft buckskin, and rashly decided that he could dispense
with the loose inner soles which Cyrus had fitted into them to protect
his feet.

Then, being very much of a stranger to American woods, he communed with
himself after this fashion,--

"Cyrus says that different tribes of Indians wear differently made
moccasins, and one redskin, if he sees the tracks of another in soft
mud or snow, can tell what tribe he belongs to by his footmarks. That's
funny! I suppose if any old brave was knocking about and saw my tracks
in a boggy spot, he'd think it was a Kickapoo who had passed that
way--not Dol Farrar of Manchester, England. These are of the shape worn
by the Kickapoo tribe--so Cy says.

"I'm the kid of the camp, I know," he went on, with another flash in his
eyes, as if there was a bit of flint somewhere in his make-up which had
struck their steel. "But I'll be bound I can do as well or better than
the others can. I'm off now to Squaw Pond. I think I can follow the
trail easily enough. Uncle Eb showed me yesterday where he had spotted
some of the trees all the way along to the water. And if I don't shoot a
couple of black ducks for dinner or supper, I'm a duffer, and not fit
for camping."

He took down the powder-horn and slung it round him, saw that there was
plenty of meat in the ragged coon-skin ammunition pouch which hung
beside it, fastened that to his belt, slipped on his coat, and started
off, with the "ole fuzzee" on his shoulder.

Never a sound did he make as he crossed the clearing, passing the clump
of bushes behind which Cyrus and Neal had lingered on the previous night
to hear Uncle Eb's song. Owing to his Indian footwear, silently as the
gliding redskin himself he entered the woods at a point where he saw a
tree with a fresh notch carved in it. He knew this marked the beginning
of the "blazed trail," and that he must be very wide-awake and show
considerable "gumption" if he wanted to follow that line to the pond.

Not every tree was spotted. Only at intervals of fifteen or twenty yards
he came upon a trunk with two small pieces chopped out of it on opposite
sides. These were Uncle Eb's way-marks. One set of notches would catch
his eye as he went towards the water, the other would lead him back to
camp. Once or twice Dol got away from the trail, but he quickly found it
again; and in due time emerged from the forest twilight into the broad
glare of the sun, to see Squaw Pond lying before him like a miniature
mother-of-pearl sea, so protected by its evergreen woods that scarcely a
ripple stirred it.

He heard the shrill, wild call of a loon, the noisy bird to which Cyrus
had likened him, and saw its white breast rising above the water, as it
swam about among the reeds near the opposite bank. The cry was oft
repeated, making an unearthly din, now joyous, now dreary, among the
echoes around the lake.

Dol paused for a minute to listen; but he was bent on business, and did
not want to be very long away from camp lest his absence should cause
alarm. He took a careful survey of the scene. Not beholding any fleet of
black ducks as yet, he loaded his gun, and warily proceeded along the
bank towards the head of the pond.

Keeping a sharp lookout, he by and by detected something moving among
the water grasses a little way ahead, and heard a hoarse, squalling
"Quack! quack!"

Immediately afterwards a flock of half a dozen ducks sailed forth from
their shelter, nodding and quacking inquisitively.

A wild drumming was at Dol's heart, and a reckless singing in his ears,
as he raised his gun to his shoulder, and fired among them.
Nevertheless, his aim was sure and deadly. Two quackers were killed with
one shot! The others rose from the water, and with much fluttering and
hoarse noise winged their way to safety.

"How'll they be for meat, I wonder? Won't I have a crow over those
fellows?" shouted Adolphus aloud, with a yell entirely worthy of a
Kickapoo Indian, when he had recovered from surprise at the success of
his own shot.

He laid down the gun, pulled off his moccasins and socks, rolled up his
trousers, and waded in for the prize. Truly luck was with him--so
far--in his first venture in this region of the unknown. The water was
so shallow that, having grabbed the ducks, he splashed out of it,
kicking shiny drops from his toes, without wetting an inch of his
garments.

"I'm the kid of the camp, I know; but I'll be the first fellow to bring
any decent meat into it. Hooray!" he whooped again. "Shouldn't wonder if
these moccasins brought me wonderful luck; one can steal about so
quietly in them."

He had hit upon the supreme advantage which the Indian footwear
possesses over every other for the woodsman. A little later he was to
learn its disadvantage, having, with foreign inexperience, disdained the
extra soles because they were not "Indian" enough for his taste; for the
soft buckskin could not protect from roots and stones a wearer whose
flesh was not hardened to every kind of forest travelling.

But at present Dol bepraised his moccasins; for they had enabled him to
sneak upon his birds, the wildest of the duck tribe, who generally, at a
single hoarse "Quack!" from their leader, will cease their antics in
lake or stream, and disappear like a skimming breeze before a sportsman
can get a fair shot at them.

For a quarter of an hour Dol Farrar sat by this forest pond engaged in
the cheerful occupation of "booming himself," as his friend Cyrus would
have said. He told himself that he had made a pretty smart beginning,
not alone in shooting a brace of black ducks, but in successfully
following a difficult trail on his fourth day in the woods. Henceforth,
he thought, there would be little reason for him to dread the unknown in
this great wilderness.

He reclothed his legs, gathered the stiffening claws of the defunct
quackers in his left hand, picked up his empty "ole fuzzee," which had
done such good service despite its age, and set forth on his return to
camp.

Retracing his steps along the bank, after some searching he found the
beginning of the trail, and started along it with a know-it-all,
cheerful confidence in the little bit of wood-lore which he had
acquired. Hence he now found it considerably more difficult to follow
the spotted trees. His brain was excited and preoccupied; and when once
in fancied security he suffered his eyes and thoughts to stray for a
minute from the trail, every unfamiliar woodland sight and sound tempted
them to wander farther.

First it was an old fox, which poked its sharp, inquisitive nose out of
a patch of undergrowth near at hand. Dol uttered a mad "Whoop-ee!" and
heedlessly dashed off a few steps in pursuit. Reynard whisked his brush
as much as to say, "You can't get the better of me, stranger!" and
defiantly trotted away.

Recovering his senses, the boy managed to recover the trail too, and was
keeping to it carefully when a second temptation beset him. A chattering
squirrel, seated on the low bough of a maple-tree, with his fore paws
against his white breast, his eyes like twinkling beads, and his
restless little head playing bo-peep with the intruding boy, began to
scold the latter for venturing into his forest playground.

Dol's first thought was full of delighted interest. His second was a
sanguinary one; namely, that a pair of ducks would only be one meal for
four campers who were "camp-hungry," and that Uncle Eb had spoken of
squirrels as "fust-rate eatin'." He handled his gun uncertainly,
deliberating whether or not he would load it, and try a shot at the
bright-eyed chatterbox.

Before he had decided one way or the other, the squirrel, still scolding
and playing bo-peep, scampered off his bough, and up the trunk of the
maple. Thence he quickly made good his escape from one tree to another,
affording a whisking, momentary view now and again of his white breast
or bushy tail. Dol absolutely forgot the blazed trail, forgot the
stories which he had heard about forest perils, forgot every earthly
thing but his admiration for the pretty, tantalizing fellow; though to
do the lad justice, he soon came to the conclusion that the camp must be
in a worse strait for want of provisions before he could have the heart
to shoot him. He gave chase nevertheless, plunging along in a ziz-zag
way over a carpet of moss and dry pine-needles, and through some dense
tangles of undergrowth, uttering a welcoming screech whenever he saw
the bright eyes of the little trickster peering down at him from a
bough.

He had travelled farther than he knew before his interest in the game
waned. He began to feel that it was rather beneath the dignity of a
fellow who wore moccasins, carried coon-skin pouch and powder-horn, and
who was bound for remote solitudes in search of the lordly moose, to be
interested in such an insignificant phase of forest life as the doings
of a red squirrel.

Then he started back to find the trail. He walked a considerable
distance. He searched hither and thither, straining his eyes anxiously
through the bewildering gloom of the forest, but never a notched tree
could he see. Whereupon Dol Farrar called himself some pretty hard
names. He remarked that he had been a "hair-brained fool" and a
"greenhorn" ever to leave the spotted track, but that he wasn't going to
be "downed;" he would search until he found it.

And he certainly was enough of a greenhorn not to know that every step
he now took was carrying him away from the trail, and plunging him into
a hopeless, pathless labyrinth of woods. For Dol had lost all knowledge
of directions, and was completely "turned round;" which means that he
was miserably lost.

The disaster came about in this way. The forest here was very dense, the
giant trees interlocked above his head letting so little light filter
through their foliage that he could scarcely see twenty yards ahead of
him, and that in a puzzling, shadowy gloom resembling an English
twilight.

When he ceased chasing the squirrel, he imagined that he retraced his
steps directly towards the point where he had quitted the trail. In
reality, seeing nothing to aim for in this bewildering maze of endless
trees, turned out of his way continually as he dodged in and out around
massive trunks, he gradually worked farther and farther off the course
by which he had come, drifting in random directions like a rudderless
ship on mid-ocean. This helpless state is called, in the phraseology of
the northern woods, being "turned round."

But Dol Farrar was spared for the present a thorough realization of the
dreadful mishap which had befallen him. He had a shocked, breathless,
flurried feeling, as if scales had suddenly fallen from his eyes, and he
saw the dangers of the unknown as he had not before seen them. But even
in the midst of abusing himself for his rash self-confidence, he uttered
a cheerful "Hurrah!"

"Why, good gracious!" he cried. "Here's another trail! Now, where on
earth does this lead to? I don't see any spotted trees"--looking
carefully about--"but it's a well-beaten track, a regular plain path,
where people have been walking. It must lead to our camp. I'll follow it
up, anyhow. That will be better than dodging around here until I get
'wheels in my head,' as Uncle Eb says he did once when he lost his way
in the woods, and kept wandering round and round in a circle."

Puffing with excitement and revived hope, the boy started off on this
new trail, which he blessed at first--oh, how he blessed it!--as if it
had been a golden clew to lead him out of his difficulty. To be sure, it
was not a blazed trail; there were no notches in the trees, but the
ground showed distinct signs of being frequently and recently travelled
over. Though footprints were not traceable, moss, earth, and in some
places the forest undergrowth of dwarfed bushes, were thoroughly pressed
and trodden.

Dol never doubted but that it was a human trail, a track continually
used by some woodsman; but he thought that the unknown traveller,
whoever he was, must have agile legs and a taste for athletics, for many
times he had to hoist himself, his gun, and the ducks over some big
windfall which lay right across the way. The dead quackers he pitched
before him, fearing that by the time he got back to camp--if ever he
did?--their flesh would be too bruised to look like respectable meat;
for he was obliged to have one hand free to help him in scrambling over
each fallen tree.

Once or twice this strange trail led him through thickets where the
bushes grew so high as to lash his face. He came to regard slippery,
projecting roots and rough stones, which galled his feet, protected only
by the thin soles of his moccasins, as matters of course. His wind
decreased, and his blessings ceased. Yet he followed on, walking,
walking, interminably walking, with now and again an interval of
climbing or stumbling headlong, accompanied by ejaculations of
thankfulness that his gun was not loaded.

His breath came in hot, strangling gasps, the veins in his head were
swollen and stinging like whipcords, there was a dull, pounding noise in
his ears, and a drumming at his heart. He confessed that he was
thoroughly "winded" when he had been following the trail for nearly two
hours, so he seated himself upon a withered stump beside it to rest.

He had relinquished the idea that the track would bring him out near
Uncle Eb's camp. Had it led thither, he would have rejoined his comrades
long before this. His only hope now was that by patiently following it
on he might reach the camp of some other traveller, or the lonely log
cabin of a pioneer farmer. He had heard of such farm-settlements being
scattered here and there on forest clearings.

So presently Dol Farrar got to his feet again, when he had recovered
breath and strength, and told himself pluckily that "he wasn't going to
knock under," that "he had been in bad scrapes before now, and had not
shown the white feather." He gritted his teeth, and resolved that he
would not show that craven pinion, even in the desperate solitude of
these baffling woods where no eye could see his weakness. He did not
want to have a secret, humiliating memory by and by that he had been
faltering and distracted when his life depended on his wits and
endurance.

He squared his shoulders sturdily, as if to make the most of the
budding manhood that was in him, and trudged ahead. And, indeed, he had
need to take his courage in both hands, and force it to stand by him;
for he had not gone far when, though the forest still continued dense,
he became aware that he was beginning a steep ascent. Was the trail
going to lead him up a mountain-side? The way grew yet more rugged.
Every step was a misery. Jagged edges of rock and never-ending roots
seemed to brand themselves with burning friction upon his feet, through
their soft buckskin covering. He tried to hearten himself into a belief
that he must soon reach some mountain camp or settlement.

But a bleak horror threw a gray shade upon his face as his staring eyes
saw that the trail was growing fainter--fainter--fainter. At the foot of
a steep crag, where a mass of earth, stones, and dead spruce-trees
showed that there had lately been a landslide on the mountain above, he
lost it altogether. It had led him to a pile of rubbish.



CHAPTER VII.

A FOREST GUIDE-POST.


At the foot of that crag Dol stood still, while a great shiver crept
from his neck up the back of his head, stirring his hair. He peered in
every direction; but there was no sign of a camp, nothing to show that
any human foot before his had disturbed the solitude of this
mountain-side, and no further marks on the ground, save one impression
on a bed of earth at his feet where some animal had lately lain.

The disappointment was stupefying.

At last a fog of terror settled down upon him,--a fog which blotted out
every sight and sound, blotted out even his own thoughts, all except
one, which, like a danger-signal in a mist, kept booming through his
brain: "Lost! Lost!"

By and by he was sitting on the piled-up stones and dirt of the slide;
but he had no remembrance of getting to this resting-place, for he was
still befogged.

Something snorted close to his right ear,--loud snort, which banished
stupor, and set his pulses jumping. It was a deer, a beautiful doe in a
coat of reddish-drab, matching the autumnal tints of the forest,
wherever maples, birches, and cedars mingled with the evergreens. She
had bounded upon him suddenly from behind a dead spruce and a mound of
earth.

It was long since the game on this part of the mountain had been
disturbed. Madam Doe had in all probability never seen a man before,
therefore her behavior was not peculiar. A shock of surprise thrilled
through her graceful body as she vented that snort, when she caught
sight of the new-fangled gray animal who had intruded upon her world,
and who sat spell-bound, gazing at her with hopeless eyes, in which
gradually a light broke.

But she did not fear him,--this creature in gray. She stood stock-still,
and stared at him, so near that he could see her wink her starry eyes,
with the white rings round them. She stamped one hoof, kicked an insect
from her ear with another, snorted again, wheeled around, and at last
broke away for the thick shelter of the trees, lightly and swiftly as a
breeze which skims from one thicket to another.

Seeing his mother go for the woods, her spotted fawn, which had been
frolicking among the branches of the fallen spruce-tree, skipped from
it, passed Dol with a bound which carried him a few feet, and
disappeared like a whiff too.

Here was a rouser, indeed, which no boy, unless he was in a far-gone
state of suffering, could withstand. Dol Farrar forgot his terrible
predicament. The fog had cleared away from his senses, leaving him free
to think and act once more.

"Well, I never!" he ejaculated, springing to his feet in amazement.
"Wasn't she a beauty? And wasn't she a snorter? I didn't think a deer
could make such a row as that. And to stand still and stare at me! I
wonder whether she took me for some new-fashioned sort of animal or a
gray old stump."

It was a few minutes before he again thought of his plight, and then he
was not overcome. He stood perfectly still, trying to review the
position coolly, and to get a tight grip of his feelings, so that terror
might not again master him.

"I'm in a worse scrape than I ever dreamt of," he muttered, puckering
his forehead to do some tall thinking. "And I must do something to get
out of it. But what? That's the question.

"I wonder if I loaded this 'ole fuzzee,'"--the lad was making a valiant
effort to cheer himself by being jocular,--"and blazed away with it for
a while like mad, whether there is any human being around who would hear
me. Some fellow might be hunting or trapping in this part of the forest,
or farther up the mountain. But what a blockhead I am! Why on earth
didn't I do that before I started on this wretched trail?"

But alas! as this was Dol Farrar's first adventure in American woods, it
had not occurred to him to do the right thing at the right time. Had he
fired a round of signal shots when first he lost the line of spotted
trees, he would probably have been heard at his camp, and would have
been spared the worst scare he ever had in his life. The negligence was
scarcely his fault, however; for Cyrus Garst, who had never before
undertaken the responsibility of entertaining a pair of inexperienced
boys in woodland quarters, had not, at this early stage of the trip,
arranged with his comrades to fire a certain number of shots to signify
"Help wanted!" if one of them should stray, or otherwise get into
trouble. The idea now cropped up in Dol's perplexed mind, through a
confused recollection of tales about forest misadventures which Uncle Eb
had told him by the cheery camp-fire.

So he loaded the old shot-gun. It belched forth fire and smoke into
space. And the thunder of his shot went rolling off in a reverberating
din among the mountain echoes, until a hundred tongues repeated his
appeal for help. Again he loaded rapidly and fired. And yet again, with
nervous, eager fingers. So on, till he had let off half a dozen shots in
quick succession.

Then he waited, listening as if every pulse in his body had suddenly
become an ear.

But when the last growling echo had died away, not a sound broke the
almost absolute silence on the mountain-side. Evidently not a human soul
was near enough to hear or understand his signals of distress.

In these bitter minutes some sensations ran through Dol Farrar which he
had never known before; and, as he afterwards expressed it, "they were
enough to cover any fellow with goose-flesh."

He felt that he had reached the dreariest point of the unknown, and was
a lonely, drifting atom in this immense solitude of forest and rock.

Never in his life before or afterwards did he come so near to Point
Despair as when he stumbled down the mountain, spurning that treacherous
trail, and going wherever his jaded feet found travelling tolerably
easy. He had picked up the shot-gun; but the black ducks, the primary
cause of his misadventure, he clean forgot, leaving them lying amid the
chaos at the foot of the crag, to have their bones picked by some lucky
raccoon or fox.

Wandering along in a zigzag way, he by and by reached the base of the
mountain at a point where there was a break in the forest. A patch of
dreary-looking swamp was before him, covered with clumps of
alder-bushes--a true Slough of Despond.

Dol Farrar knew none of the miseries of plunging through an alder-swamp,
but he luckily recalled in time a warning from Cyrus that a slight
wetting would render his moccasins useless. While he halted undecidedly
on its brink, he pulled out his watch; one glance at this, and another
at the sky, which now lay open like a scroll above him, gave him a
sickening shock. He had started from camp at noon; now it was after five
o'clock. Little more than another hour, and not twilight, but the
blackness of a total eclipse, would reign in the forest.

The blood rushed to his head, and his mouth grew feverish at the
thought. As he licked his cracking lips, he caught a faint, tinkling,
rumbling sound of falling water somewhere to the right. Of a sudden his
sufferings of mind and body were merged into one burning desire to
drink, and he turned eagerly in that direction.

At the edge of the woods he found a little fairy, foamy waterfall, which
had tumbled down from the mountain to be lost in the dismal swamp. But
Dol felt that it had accomplished its mission when he unfastened the tin
drinking-mug which hung from his belt, and drank--drank--drank! He
straightened himself again, feeling that some of the bubbling life of
the mountain torrent had passed into him. His eyes lit on a towering
pine-tree just beyond it. And then--

Well! if that sky-piercing pine had suddenly changed at a jump into a
gray post, bearing the inscription, "One mile to Boston," Dol Farrar
could not have been more astonished and relieved than when he saw for
the first time a rude forest guide-post.

To the dark, knotted trunk was fastened a piece of light, delicate bark,
stripped from a white-birch tree. On this was scrawled in big letters,
by some instrument evidently not intended for penmanship:--

  "FOLLOW THE BLAZED TRAIL AND YOU ARE SAFE."

"Another blazed trail! Hurrah!" shouted Dol. "Won't I follow it? I never
will follow any other again if I live to be a hundred, and come to these
woods every year till I die!"

The height of his relief could only be measured by the depth of his past
misery, which would truly have been enough to set a weaker boy crazy.
With watering eyes and panting breaths that came near to being sobs of
gladness, he started upon the new trail. It led him off into the forest
surrounding the swamp.

The pine that had been chosen for guide-post was the first in the line
of spotted trees. The others followed it closely, with intervals of
eight or ten yards between them; and as the notches in their trunks were
freshly cut, Dol followed the track without any difficulty for twenty
minutes. He had a suspicion that he was nearing the end of it; though he
was still in forest gloom, with light coming in meagre, ever-lessening
streaks through the pine-tufts above. Then he started more violently
than when the deer snorted near his ear.

Suddenly and shrilly the blast of a horn rang through the darkening
woodland aisles, followed, after a pause of a minute or two, by a second
and louder blast.

Then a well-pitched, far-reaching voice sang out:--"Come to supper,
boys! Come to supper!"

"Good gracious!" said Dol, conscious on the instant that he was as
hollow as a drum. "There are enough surprises in these forests to raise
the hair on a fellow's head half a dozen times a day!"

A matter of forty yards more, and a burst of light swam before his eyes.
He had reached the end of the blazed trail.



CHAPTER VIII.

ANOTHER CAMP.


"Hello! Come to supper, boys! Come to supper right away!"

Half eagerly, half shrinkingly, Dol emerged from the woods, feeling a
very torment of hunger quickened in him by the tantalizing sound of that
oft-repeated invitation.

A sight met him which, because of what went before and all that came
after, will be forever chief among the forest pictures which rise in
exciting panorama before his memory, when camping is a thing of the
past.

A broad dash of evening light, the sun's afterglow, fell upon a patch of
clearing bordered by clumps of slim, outstanding pines, the scouts of
their massive brethren. That this was used as a camping-ground the
first glance revealed. A camp which looked to the tired eyes of the lost
boy a real "home-camp," though it consisted of rude log cabins, occupied
it. A couple of birch-bark canoes reposed amid a network of projecting
roots. Withered stumps and tree-tops littered the ground.

In the foreground of the picture stood a man with a horn in his uplifted
hand, which he had just taken from his mouth. He was minus a coat; and
the rough-and-tumble disarray of his attire showed that he had been
lounging by his camp-fire, or perhaps overseeing the preparation of
supper. Dol had a vague impression that the individual was not a
forest-guide like Uncle Eb, nor a rough lumberman such as he had heard
of. He would have taken him for a pioneer farmer,--not having yet
encountered such a character,--but there could be no farm on this little
bit of clearing. And he was too dazed to see that there were signs of a
cultivated intelligence in the tanned, beaming face under the
horn-blower's broad-brimmed hat. Indeed, the hat itself, its wearer, log
huts, canoes, and trees seemed to have a strange propensity to waltz
before the lad's eyes, and there was a queer waving sensation in his
own legs, as if they, too, would join in the spinning movement. For as
he advanced into the light out of the sombre shadows, a dizziness from
long tramping in the woods, and from a hunger such as he had never
before experienced, overcame him. He reeled against an outstanding tree,
troubled by an affliction which Uncle Eb had called "wheels in his
head."

"Ho! you boys. Where in thunder are you? Come to supper, or the venison
will be spoiled!" shouted the possessor of the horn again, shutting one
eye into which a crimson ray was pouring, while he swept the skirts of
the woods with the other; and there was music as well as bluster in his
shout.

Lo! the first to answer this fetching invitation was the foot-sore,
leg-weary boy, pale from exhaustion, with his strange equipment of
powder-horn, coon-skin pouch, and ancient shot-gun, who, getting partly
the better of his giddiness, crossed the clearing slowly, as if he was
groping his way. Within a few feet of the horn-blower he halted; for the
man had lowered his horn, and was gazing at him with keen, questioning
eyes. Dol tried to find suitable speech to express his need; but though
words came with considerable effort, his voice sounded hoarse and creaky
in his own ears, and threatened to crack off altogether.

He was doing his best to brace up and speak plainly, when his sentence
was stopped by a noise of pounding footsteps. The next moment he saw
himself surrounded by three well-grown, daring-looking lads, one about
his own age, one older, one younger, who were gazing at him with
critical curiosity. All the pluck in Dol Farrar rose to meet this
emergency. He felt as if his legs were threatening to smash under him
like pipe-stems. There was a whirling and buzzing in his head. It seemed
as if his words had such a long way to travel from his brain to his
tongue that they got confused and changed before he uttered them.

But through it all he was conscious of one clear thought: that he was an
Old-World boy on parade before these strapping New-World lads. He set
his teeth, drove his gun hard against the ground, and, as it were,
anchored himself to it, while strange, doubting lights came into his
eyes as he tried to get a grip of his senses.

[Illustration: DOL SIGHTS A FRIENDLY CAMP.]

He succeeded. At last he addressed the gentleman with the horn, knowing
that he was speaking to the point,--

"Good-evening, sir," he said. "I--I--we're camping out somewhere in the
woods. I--I got lost to-day. I've walked an awful distance. Perhaps you
could tell me"--

But the man stepped suddenly forward, with a blaze of welcome in his
eyes; for he saw the brave effort which the lad was making, and that his
strength was giving out. He put a kindly arm through Dol's, as if to
warmly greet a fellow-camper, but really to support him.

"I'll not tell you about anything until you've had a good, square meal,"
he said. "That's our way in woodland quarters,--to eat first, and talk
afterwards. If you're lost, you've struck a friend's camp, and at the
right time too, son; so cheer up! After supper you can tell us your
yarn, and I guess we can set you right."

Here at last was a surprise of unmixed blessedness for poor Dol; namely,
the brotherly hospitality which is always extended to a stranger in a
Maine camp, whether that be the temporary home of a millionnaire or the
shanty of a poor logger.

His new friend led him into the largest of the cabins, which contained
a fireplace built of huge stones, where red flames frisked around
fragrant birch logs, a camp-bed of evergreen boughs about ten feet wide,
a rude table, a bench, and a few stools of pine-wood.

Over the camp-fire was stooping a bright-eyed, muscular fellow, whose
dress somewhat resembled Uncle Eb's, but who had no negro blood in his
veins. He was frying meat; and such tempting whiffs mingled with the
steam which floated up from his pan, that Dol's nostrils twitched, and
his hungry longing grew almost unbearable as he inhaled them.

"I guess this chunk of ven'zon is about cooked, Doc," said this
personage, as Dol's kindly host entered the hut, with him in tow,
followed closely by the boys of his own camp.

"All right, then! Let's have it!" was the reply. "I'm pretty glad our
camp-fare is decent to-night, Joe, for we've a visitor here; a hungry
bird who has strayed from his own camp, and has wandered through the
forest until he looks like a death's head. But we'll soon fix him up;
won't we, Joe? Give him a mug of hot tea right away. Hot tea is worth a
dozen of any other drink in the woods for a pick-me-up."

A spark of fun kindled in Dol's eyes when he heard himself described as
"a hungry bird." It brightened into an appreciative beam as the reviving
tea trickled down his throat.

"Eatin's wot he wants, I guess," said Joe, the camp guide and cook,
placing some meat and a slab of bread of his own baking on a tin plate
for the guest.

Dol began on them greedily; and though the first mouthful or two
threatened to sicken him, his squeamishness wore off, and he gained
strength with every morsel.

"How do you like Maine venison, my boy? Like it well enough to have
another piece, eh?" asked his host, when he saw that the haggard, gray
look was leaving the wanderer's face, and that the appalled, dazed
expression, the result of being lost in the woods, had disappeared from
his eyes.

"I think it's the best meat I ever tasted," answered Dol heartily. "It's
so tender, and has a splendid taste."

"Ha! ha! It ought to be prime," chuckled the owner of the camp. "It was
cut from the quarters of a buck which my nephew here, Royal Sinclair,"
pointing out the tallest of three lads, "shot four days ago. He was a
regular crackerjack--that buck! I mean, he was as fine a deer as ever I
saw; weighed over two hundred pounds, had seven prongs to his horns on
one side and six on the other. Royal is going to take the antlers home
with him to Philadelphia. We were mighty glad to get him, too; for we
have been camping here for five weeks, and were running short of
provisions. Roy had quite an attack of buck-fever over it, though he
didn't think he was killing the 'fatted calf', to entertain a visitor;
did you, Roy?"

"I guess not, Uncle! But I'm pretty glad, all the same," answered Royal,
with a smiling glance at Dol.

Young Farrar found himself in very pleasant quarters; and, now that he
was recovering, his laugh rang from one log wall to the other.

"What's 'buck-fever'?" he questioned, while Joe filled his plate with
more venison.

"A sort of disease of which you'll learn the meaning before you leave
these woods," answered his host merrily. "It attacks a man when he's out
after a deer, and makes him feel as if one leg stands firm under him,
while the other shakes as if it had the palsy.

"Now I guess you'd like to know whose camp you're in, my boy, and then
you can tell your story. Well, to begin with the most useful member of
the party. That knowing-looking fellow over there, who cooked your
supper, is Joe Flint, the best guide that ever pulled a trigger or
handled a frying-pan in this region--barring one. These three rascals,"
here the speaker beamed upon the strapping lads, with whom Dol had been
exchanging sympathetic glances of curiosity, "are my nephews, Royal,
Will, and Martin Sinclair. And I--I--

"Good gracious! Listen to that, Joe! What's up now? Another fellow lost
in the woods? Somebody is firing a round with his rifle! Perhaps he
wants help. Those are signal shots, anyhow!"

The camper whose horn had been Dol's signal of deliverance, broke off
abruptly in his introductions, just as he had arrived at the most
interesting point, and was proclaiming his own identity. He rattled off
his short exclamations in excitement, and dashed out of the cabin,
followed by Joe, his nephews, and Dol, the latter limping painfully, for
his feet now felt like hot-water bags.

"That Winchester has spoken eight or ten times," said the leader,
counting the shots fired by somebody away in the dark recesses of the
forest from a powerful repeating-rifle. "Let's give the fellow, whoever
he is, an answer, Joe!"

He seized his own rifle hastily, loaded the magazine with blank
cartridges, and fired a noisy salute.

In the pause which followed, while all strained their ears to listen,
the sound of a shrill, distant "Coo-hoo!" the woodsman's hail, reached
them from the forest.

Joe instantly responded with a vehement "Coo-hoo! Coo-hoo-oo!" the first
call being short and brisk, the second prolonged into a roar which
showed the strength of the guide's lungs,--a roar that might carry for
miles.

Shortly afterwards there was a crashing and tearing amid some
undergrowth near the edge of the forest. A man bounded forth from the
pitch-black shadows into the clearing, where a little daylight still
lingered. As he approached the group, Dol, who was in the background,
gave a startled, yearning cry; but it was drowned in a loud burst from
his host.

"Why, Cyrus Garst!" exclaimed the latter, peering into the new-comer's
face. "How goes it, man? I never expected to see you here. Surely you
haven't come to grief in the woods? You look scared to death!"

Cyrus--for it was he--grasped the welcoming hand which the owner of this
camp extended to him. But his dark eyes did not linger a moment meeting
the other's. They turned hither and thither, flashing in all directions
restlessly, like search-lights.

"I'm glad to see you, Doc," he said. "I didn't know you were anywhere
near. But I'm half distracted just now. A youngster belonging to our
camp is missing. I've been scouring the forest for hours, and firing
signals, hoping he might hear them. But"--

Here Cyrus caught sight of Dol, who with a cry which in its changing
inflections was longing, penitent, joyful, was making towards him. The
Harvard student strode forward, and gripped the boy by his elbows. In
the dusk their eyes were near together; Garst's were stern, Dol's
blinking and unsteady.

"Adolphus Farrar," began Cyrus in a voice as if he was making an arrest,
"have you been here in this camp, or where have you been, while your
brother and I were searching the woods like maniacs? What unheard-of
folly possessed you to go off by yourself?"

Dol made a gurgling attempt to answer, but his voice rattled and died
away in his throat. His eyes grew decidedly leaky.

"Say, Cyrus!" interrupted the man who had befriended him and now proved
his champion, "let the youngster get breath and tell his story from
start to finish before you blow him up. I guess he wasn't much to blame;
and if he was, he has suffered for it. He found his way here not quite
half an hour ago, so played out from wandering through the forest that
he was ready to drop in his tracks. And I tell you he showed his grit
too; for he managed to brace up and keep on his feet, though he was as
exhausted a kid as ever I saw."

The "kid," forgiving this objectionable term because of the soothing
allusion to a trying time when he had behaved like a man, winked and
gulped to get rid of his emotion, and twisted his elbows out of Cyrus's
hold. The latter lost his angry look, and released them.

"I must fire three shots to let Neal and Uncle Eb know I've found you,"
he said. "We parted company a while ago, and they're beating about the
woods in another direction. Whoever first came upon any trace of you was
to fire his rifle three times."

The signal was instantly given.

More far-reaching "Coo-hoos!" were exchanged. Ere long Neal was beside
his brother, looking at him with eyes which showed the same tendency to
leak that Dol's had done a while ago, and battling with a desire to
squeeze the wanderer in a breathless hug. He relieved his feelings
instead by "blowing up" Dol with withering fire and a rough choke in his
voice.

But when, in response to an invitation from the genial camper whom Cyrus
and Joe called "Doc," the whole party, guides included, had gathered
around the camp-fire in the big log hut, and Dol told his story from
start to finish, he became the hero of the evening.

His only fault had been a rash venturing into the unknown; and well it
was that he had not followed the unknown to his death.

"Why, boy!" exclaimed Cyrus, with a strong shudder, when Dol had
described the false trail which led him to the foot of the crag, "that
wasn't a human trail at all. It was a deer-road. The deer spend their
day up in the mountains, and come down to the ponds at evening to feed
and drink. Now, a buck or doe in its regular journeys to and fro will
follow one line, to which it becomes accustomed. Perhaps fifty others,
seeing the ground trodden, will run in the same track. And there you
have your well-used path, which looks as if it was made by men's feet!

"You may thank your lucky star, Dol, every hour of this night, that the
false trail didn't lead you away--away--higher--higher--up the mountain,
until you dropped in your tracks, and died there alone, as others have
done before."

A shocked hush fell upon the group around the camp-fire. Even the guides
were silent. But the fragrant birchen logs sputtered and glowed, darting
out playful tongues of flame. They seemed to call upon everybody to
dismiss gloomy thoughts of what might have been; to crack jokes, sing
songs, tell yarns, and be as merry as befitted men who had a log hut for
a shelter, fresh whiffs of forest air stealing to them through an open
doorway, and such a camp-fire.

Joe began to prepare supper for the three who had searched so long and
distractedly for Dol that they confessed to not having eaten for hours.
While more venison was being cooked, the juveniles, American and
English, who had been secretly taking stock of each other, cast aside
restraint, and became as "chummy" as if they had been acquainted for
years instead of hours.

Such a carnival of fun and noise was started through their combined
efforts in the old log camp, that its owner declared he "couldn't hear
himself think." Seizing his horn, he blew a blast which called for
order.

"Say, my boy, let me have a look at your feet," he said, cornering Dol.
"A deer-road isn't a king's highway, as I dare say you've found out to
your cost. Pull off your moccasins and socks, and let me doctor your
poor trotters."

Young Farrar very gladly did as he was bidden.

"Humph!" said his friend. "I thought so. They're a mass of bruises and
blisters. You've been pretty well branded, son. Moccasins aren't much
use to protect the feet from roots and sharp stones, if you happen to
strike a bad place in forest travelling, unless you have taken the
precaution to put double soles in them; didn't you know that? Now, Cyrus
Garst," turning to the student, "you're all going to camp with us
to-night. This lad can't tramp any more. As a doctor I forbid it."

"Are you a doctor, sir?" questioned Dol, with a thrill of surprise,
which he managed to conceal.

"Something of the kind, boy," answered his host, smiling. "I don't look
much like a city physician, do I? I graduated from a medical college in
Philadelphia, and took my degree. But I had an enthusiasm for the woods.
One hour of forest life in dear old Maine was to me worth a year spent
amid streets, alleys, and sky-scraping buildings; so I fixed my
headquarters at Greenville, and have spent most of my time in the
wilderness."

"Where every trapper, guide, and lumberman knows Dr. Phil Buck, whom
they disrespectfully and affectionately call 'Doc,'" put in Cyrus. "And
many a poor fellow owes his life or limbs to Doc's knowledge and nursing
in some hard time of sickness, or after one of the dreadful accidents
common in the forests."

Dol could well understand this; for he now was benefiting by Dr. Phil's
lively desire to relieve suffering, and was silently breathing blessings
on his head. The doctor had bathed his puffy feet in warm water taken
from Joe's camp-kettle, and was anointing them with a healing salve,
after which he tucked them into a loose pair of slippers of his own.
Meanwhile, he chatted pleasantly.

"This isn't the first time that your friend Cyrus and I have run against
each other in the wilds," he said, "nor the first time that we've camped
together, either. Bless you! we could make you jump with some of our
stories. Do you remember that night in '89, Cy, when you, with your
guide, came upon me lying under a rough shelter of bark and spruce
boughs, which I had rigged up for myself near Roaring Brook, on the side
of Mount Katahdin?"

"I guess I do remember it," answered Cyrus, laughing.

"A mighty hungry man I was, too, that evening," went on Doc; "for I had
no food left but one little package of soup-powder and a few beans. I
had been trying all day to get a successful shot at a moose or deer, and
muffed it every time. It wasn't the lucky side of the moon for me. Well,
you behaved like the Good Samaritan to me, then, Cy; shared your meat
and all your stuff, and we slept like twin brothers under my shelter."

"Yes; and a bear visited our temporary camp in the night!" exclaimed
Cyrus, bursting into uproarious mirth over some over-poweringly funny
recollection; "he made off with my knapsack, which I had left lying by
the camp-fire. I suppose old Bruin thought he'd find something good in
it to eat; but he didn't. So he tore my one extra shirt and every
article in the pack to shreds, and chewed up the handle of my razor, so
that I couldn't shave again until I got back to civilization, when I was
as bristly as a porcupine."

"Perhaps Bruin tried to shave himself," suggested Dol.

"At all events, he had wisdom enough not to cut his throat," answered
the story-teller. "We three--Doc, my guide, and myself--were stupidly
tired, and slept so soundly that we did not discover the theft nor who
the marauder was until the following morning. Then we found my knapsack
gone, and the tracks of a huge bear in some soft earth near our shelter.
We traced his footprints through a bog until we found the spot, not far
off, where, overcome by greed or curiosity, he ripped up that strong
leather knapsack as if it was _papier maché_ and made hay of its
contents."

The boys had all crowded near to listen. It was now the social hour for
campers. By the camp-fire more reminiscences followed; and the two
guides chimed in it with moose stories, bear stories, panther stories,
wild tales of every imaginable and unimaginable kind of adventure, until
the lads thought no mythology which they had ever learned could rival in
marvels the forest lore.

At this opportune time, Neal suddenly thought of describing, or
attempting to describe, that strangest of strange calls which he had
heard, after the capsizing of the canoe, on the preceding night, when
Cyrus and he were jacking for deer on Squaw Pond.

Joe grunted expressively. "So help me! it was the moose call!" he
ejaculated. "What say, Doc?"

"I guess it was," answered Dr. Phil. "It was either the cow-moose
herself calling, or some hunter imitating her with his birch-bark
trumpet. It's a weird sort of experience, to hear that call for the
first time; I shouldn't wonder if your heart went whack-whack, lad?"

"I only hope he'll get a chance to hear it again before he goes back to
England," said Cyrus.

Forthwith, the Harvard man proceeded to explain that he was bent on
pressing forward for a distance of sixty miles or so, to the heart of
the wilderness, to search for moose, but that he intended to do the
journey in a leisurely, zigzag fashion, camping for a couple of nights
at various points, in order to do the honors of the forest to his
English comrades.

"So you're English, are you! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!" exclaimed the doctor,
looking at the young Farrars. "Well, I suppose we'll have to put our
best foot foremost to give you a good time in American woods."

"I think that's what we're having, sir--such a jolly good time that
we'll never forget it," answered Neal courteously.

"Yes, it's jolly enough now; but I tell you I didn't find it so to-day,"
grumbled Dol, while his eyes gleamed like polished steel with the light
of present fun. "But as long as I live I'll remember the sound of your
horn, Doctor, when I was dead-beat."

"Is that so? Well, I guess I'll have to make you a present of that horn,
boy, when we part company, and you go back to civilization, and of the
piece of birch-bark, too, which led you to our camp. 'Twas Joe who fixed
that to the pine near the swamp; for my lads had a habit of following
the trail to the alders, looking for moose or deer signs. He scrawled
his sentence on it with the end of a cartridge. I guess it would be a
sort of curiosity in England."

Dol whooped his delight.

"I'll put it under a glass shade! I'll"--

While he was casting about in his mind for some way of immortalizing
that bit of white bark, Doc's genial bluster was heard again,--

"Come! come! you fellows! No more skylarking in this camp to-night! It's
high time for all campers to be snoring. Turn in! Turn in!"

But nobody was in a hurry to obey the summons to bed. While hands and
feet were being stretched out to the sizzling birch logs for a final
toast, Royal Sinclair, who had a trick of speaking very quickly, with a
slight click in his utterance, as if his tongue struck his teeth, began
to pour some communications into Neal's ear in rapid dashes of talk,--

"This is just about the jolliest night we ever had in the forest, and
we've had a staving time all through. We live in Philadelphia, and Uncle
Phil--we call him 'Doc' like everybody else--brought us out here for our
summer vacation. This old log camp was built several years ago by a
hunting-party, of whom he was one. The walls were getting mouldy; but he
cleaned up the largest of the huts, with Joe's help, and made it our
headquarters. He never needs a guide himself; not a bit of it! He can
find his way anywhere through the woods with his compass. But he is a
good deal away, so he engaged Joe to go out with us.

"He often starts off at a moment's notice, and travels dozens of miles
on foot, or in a birch canoe, if he hears of a bad accident far away in
the forest. Sometimes a lumberman or trapper cuts his foot in two, or
nearly chops off his leg with his axe; and these poor fellows would
probably die while their comrades were lugging them through the woods on
a litter, trying to reach a settlement, if it weren't for our Doc.

"Once in a while, when he comes to visit us in Philadelphia, a few
people call him a crank, because he lives out here and dresses like a
settler; but I call him a regular brick."

"So do I," said Neal with spirit.

"You're awfully lucky to be able to camp out during October," rattled on
Roy. "That's the month for moose-hunting, jacking, and all the most
exciting sort of fun. We have to go home in a day or two, for our
school has reopened, unless"--

"When Royal Sinclair gets a streak of talking, you might as well try to
bottle up the Mississippi as to stop him," said Dr. Phil, laughing. "I
can't hear what he's saying, but I know that his tongue is clicking like
a telegraph instrument. But I hope it has given its last message for
to-night. You really must turn in, boys. I let you have an extra social
hour, because to-morrow will be Sunday, a day of rest after the travels
and excitements of the week. Think of it, lads! A Sunday in the
woods--God's first cathedral! May it do us all good!"

The guide, Joe, built up the fire. Fresh birch logs blistered and
sputtered as creeping curls of bluish flame enwrapped them. Kindling
rapidly, they threw out fantastic lights, which danced like a regiment
of red elves around the old log walls of the cabin.

"If a fellow could only drop off to sleep every night in the year seeing
and smelling such a fire as that!" breathed Neal, as, accepting a share
of Royal's blankets, he stretched his tired limbs on the evergreen
mattress.

"Then life would be too jolly for anything," answered Roy.



CHAPTER IX.

A SUNDAY AMONG THE PINES.


"Men and boys learn a good many wholesome lessons in the forest, one of
which is that it pays better to take a day of rest in seven if they want
to make the most of themselves and their opportunities. Therefore, lads,
we'll do no tramping to-day. And we'll have a bit of a service by and by
over there under the pines."

So spoke Doctor Phil on the following morning, when the two sets of
campers, now one joyous, brotherly crowd, were sitting or lounging about
the pine-wood table, leisurely emptying tin mugs of tea or coffee, and
eating porridge and rolls of Joe's baking.

"You haven't told us yet, Cyrus," he went on, "what point you're bound
for. I know you're level-headed, and plan every forest trip beforehand,
to economize time."

"Yes, a fellow likes to do that; it adds to the pleasures of
anticipation," Garst answered. "But it's precious little use, after all,
when you're visiting a region which is as full of surprises as an egg is
full of meat. However, I have arranged to meet Herb Heal, the guide whom
I generally employ, at a hunting-camp near Millinokett Lake."

"A good moose country," put in Doc.

"I know it. At all events, it is a good place for a home-camp; one can
make excursions into the dense forests at the foot of Katahdin, which
are unrivalled for big game--so Herb says, and he's an authority. These
English fellows may expect to have an attack of buck-fever, or
_moose-fever_ rather, which will set their blood on fire. Not that we're
out chiefly for killing; we're willing to let his mooseship keep a whole
skin, and go in peace to replenish the forests, unless he grows
cantankerous and charges us."

"If he happens to be an old bull, and gits his mad up, he may do that;
it's as likely as not," chimed in Joe Flint, who was listening.

"Well, it there's a man in Maine who can be warranted to start a moose,
and to follow up his trail until he gets a sight of him, living or dead,
that man is Herb Heal," said the doctor. "And his adventures go ahead of
those of any woodsman up to date. You must get him to tell you how he
swam across a pond at the tail of a bull-moose, holding with his fingers
and teeth to the creature's long hair, then got astraddle of its back,
and severed its jugular vein with his hunting-knife. How's that! It was
the liveliest swim I ever heard of. But I mustn't spoil his yarns. He
must tell them himself.

"A fine son of the woods is Herb Heal!" went on the speaker, with
enthusiasm. "I ran across him first five years ago, when he was trapping
for fur-bearing animals in the dense forests you mentioned near the foot
of Mount Katahdin. He had a partner with him then, a half-breed Indian,
whom woodsmen called 'Cross-eyed Chris,' a willing, plucky, honest
fellow when he was sober. But he loved fire-water. Let him once taste
spirits, or smell them, and he went clean crazy. He did a dog's trick to
Herb,--stole all his furs and savings, with a splendid pair of moose
antlers, while he was away from camp one day, and skipped out of the
State. Herb swore he'd shoot him. But I don't think he has ever come
across him since. And if he should, he wouldn't stick to his threat.
He's not built that way."

There was a general hum of interest over this story, which even Cyrus
had not heard before.

"Now, how are you going to reach your camp on Millinokett Lake?" asked
Dr. Phil, when the buzz had subsided. "That's the next question."

"We intend to tramp the entire distance by easy stages, and get there
about the middle of October," answered young Garst for himself and his
comrades. "Uncle Eb will go along with us as guide; and he'll supply a
tent, so that we can rest for two or three nights at a time if we
choose."

"Hum!" said the doctor doubtfully, laying his hand on Dol's shoulder.
"This youngster oughtn't to do much tramping for a few days, Cyrus. That
deer-road did up his feet pretty badly. I'll be travelling in your
direction myself the day after to-morrow. I want to visit a
farm-settlement within a dozen miles of the lake, where the farmer has a
sickly child, the only treasure in his log shanty. The mite frets if
Doc doesn't come to see her once in a while.

"Therefore, I propose that we join forces, and press forward together. I
guess I'll keep my nephews out here for a week longer, and take the
responsibility of their missing that time at school. Now that they have
fallen in with your friends, it would be a shame to separate Young
England and Young America without giving them a chance to get friendly."

Here Dr. Phil beamed upon the five boys, who, after one night in the
forest, sleeping in a light-hearted row on the evergreen boughs, with
their feet to the fire, had reached a brotherly intimacy which years of
city life might not have bred.

"I further propose," he went on, "that we hire a roomy wagon and a pair
of strong horses from a settler who has a clearing about two miles from
here. There is an old logging-road which runs through the woods towards
the point for which we're heading. We could follow that for the first
half of our journey. It isn't a turnpike, you know. In fact, it's only a
broad track where the underbrush has been cleared away, and the trees
cut down, with strips of corduroy road sandwiched in. But the lumbermen
still haul supplies over it to their camps, and I propose that we
follow their example. We can pile our tent, camp duffle [stores], and
all our packs into the wagon, together with the hero of the
deer-road,"--winking at Dol,--"and the rest of us can take turns in
riding. It will be a big lark for these youngsters to travel over a
corduroy road. A very bracing ride they'll have in more senses than one;
but they can spin plenty of yarns about it when they get home."

The "youngsters," one and all, signified their approval of the
suggestion. Cyrus, who, as a college man, was above this category, was
pleased to acquiesce too.

"When can we get the wagon, Doctor?" asked Neal, burning to press
onward.

"Oh! the day after to-morrow, I guess. And now, lads!" Dr. Phil's voice
was serious, but exultant, "we're a thoroughly happy set of fellows, in
accord with each other and our surroundings. We feel our brains clear,
our gladness springing up, and our lungs swelling to double their size
with the whiffs which reach us from those sky-piercing pines yonder. So
we will remember that 'the wide earth is our Father's temple.' Over
there in the woods we will worship him, while millions of forest
creatures about us, flying, bounding, or building, in obedience to his
laws, simply worship too."

A music soft, deep, sighing, like the murmur of an organ under the
fingers of a master musician, rolled through the pine-tops as the band
of campers, guides included, followed Doc into the forest. They passed
the clumps of slender trees near the camp, and reached a dimly-lit green
aisle.

Towering pines, so tall and erect that they seemed shooting upward to
kiss the clouds, were the pillars of their cathedral. Its roof of
tasselled boughs was stabbed by flashing needles of sunlight, which let
in a flickering, mellow radiance, and traced a pattern on the woodland
carpet. Every whiff of forest air was natural incense.

Dr. Phil stood as if in the audience-chamber of the King, and removed
his wide-brimmed hat.

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be
honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen!" he said.

Then Cyrus's voice led the worship.

  "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!"

he sang, in a strong, glad outburst.

Boys and guides, in a great chorus, swelled the familiar words. Each
sweetly chirping woodland bird, after its own manner, echoed them. The
music among the pine-tops mingled with them. The forest fairly rang with
a magnificent, adoring Doxology.

"We ought to be decent kind of fellows after this," said Cyrus, when the
little service was over.

And the doctor answered,--

"I tell you, boy, the church was never built where a man feels so ready
to worship the God-Father in spirit and in truth as he does in the wild
woods."

And looking on the six fresh, manly faces before him, Dr. Phil saw that
this happy woodland trip would have grander results than adding to the
campers' inches and to the breadth of their shoulders. For each one of
them had realized this morning that behind all strength and beauties of
forest growth, behind their own souls' gladness, was a Presence which
they could "almost palpably feel."



CHAPTER X.

FORWARD ALL!


Speculations about the journey, and in especial about the corduroy road,
were rife in the boys' minds during the forty and odd hours which
elapsed between the Sunday service and the time of their start.

The travellers met at the settler's cabin early on Tuesday morning,
having broken camp shortly after daybreak. On Monday evening Cyrus and
Neal, with Uncle Eb, had returned to the bark hut to pack their
knapsacks, and make ready for a forward march. On the way thither, it
being just the hour for the deer to be running,--that is, descending
from the hills for an evening meal,--Neal got a successful shot at a
small two-year-old buck. This was a stroke of luck for the campers, and
a necessary deed of death. It supplied them with venison for their
journey; and, as Cyrus said, "they had already put a shamefully big hole
in Dr. Phil's stores, and must procure a respectable supply of meat to
make up for it."

It also provided Tiger with plenty of bones to crunch during his
master's absence; for the dog was left behind in charge of the hut, as
indeed he often was for a week or more while Uncle Eb was away guiding.
The sportsmen who engaged the latter's services were generally averse to
the creature's presence with the party, lest he should scare their game.

Cyrus and Neal bade him a pathetic farewell, remembering the exciting
fun he had given them with the raccoon. Dol sent him lots of approving
messages, which were duly delivered, with rough pats and shakes, by
Uncle Eb, who fully believed that the brute understood every word of
them. Indeed, the sign language of Tiger's expressive tail confirmed
this opinion.

Dol had remained at the log camp with his new friends, Dr. Phil thinking
it well that he should rest his feet until the morning of the start. His
brother promised to bring his knapsack and rifle to the settler's
cabin. Uncle Eb repossessed himself of his shot-gun, pouch, and
powder-horn, which he carried back to his hut, and left under Tiger's
protection, telling Dol that "if he wanted to bag any more black ducks
he'd have to give 'em a dose wid de rifle, for he warn't a-goin' to lug
dat ole fuzzee t'rough de woods."

It was the perfection of an October morning, sunshiny and pleasant, with
a mellow freshness in the air which matched the mellow tints of the
forest, when the travellers joined forces at the farm-settlement.

Engaged in the thrilling work of felling a pine-tree to extend his
father's clearing, they found the settler's son, a brawny fellow about
Cyrus's age, in buckskin leggings and coon-skin cap, who wielded his axe
with arms which were tough and knotted as pine limbs. He bawled to them
in the forceful language of the backwoods, which to unaccustomed ears
sounded a trifle barbaric, to keep out of the way until his tree had
fallen.

When the pine at last tumbled earthward with a thud which reverberated
for miles through the forest, he gave a mighty yell, waved his skin cap,
and came towards the visitors.

"Hulloa, Lin!" boomed the doctor, greeting this native as an old
acquaintance.

"Hello, Doc!" answered Lin. "By the great horn spoon! I didn't expect to
see you here. Who are these fellers?"

The doctor introduced his comrades. Lin greeted them with bluff
simplicity, and called them one and all by their Christian names as soon
as these could be found out. Doc alone came in for his short title--if
such it could be called. Luckily the campers of both nationalities, from
Cyrus downward, were without any element of snobbery in their
dispositions. It seemed to them only a jolly part of the untrammelled
forest life that man should go back to his primitive relations with his
brother man; that in the woods, as Doc said, "manhood should be the only
passport," and that titles and distinctions should never be thought of
by guides or anybody else. They were well-pleased to be taken simply for
what they were,--jolly, companionable fellows,--and to be valued
according to the amount of grit and good-temper they showed.

And they learned this morning to appreciate the pioneer courage and
resolute spirit of the rugged settlers who had cleared a home for
themselves amid the surrounding wilderness of forest and stream. Their
roughness of speech was as nothing in comparison with their brave
endurance of hardships, their deeds of heroism, and their free-handed
hospitality.

Lin led his visitors straight to a log cabin, before which his father, a
veteran woodsman, who bore the scars of bears' teeth upon his body, was
digging and planting. This old farmer, too, greeted Doc as a friend, and
when the wagon was talked about, was quite willing to do anything to
serve him.

"But ye must have a square meal afore ye travel," he said. "Jerusha! I
couldn't let ye go without eatin'. Mother!" shouting to his wife, who
was inside the cabin. "Say, Mother! Ha'n't ye got somethin' fer these
fellers to munch?"

Forthwith a big, rosy woman, who had herself fought a bear in her time,
and had shot him, too, before he attacked her farmyard, hustled round,
and got up such a meal as the travellers had not tasted since they
entered the woods. They had a splendid "tuck-in," consisting of fried
ham, boiled eggs, potatoes, hot bread, yellow butter, and coffee. And
the meal was accompanied with thrilling stories from the lips of the old
settler about the hardships and desperate scenes of earlier pioneering
days. Doc coaxed him to relate these for the boys' benefit. And many
eyes dilated as he told of blood-curdling adventures with the "lunk
soos," or "Indian devil," the dreadful catamount or panther, which was
once the terror of Maine woodsmen.

"So help me! I'd a heap sooner meet a ragin' lion than a panther," said
the old man. "My own father came near to bein' eaten alive by one when I
was a kid. He was workin' with a gang o' lumbermen in these forests at
timber-makin', and was returnin' to their camp, when the beast bounced
out of a thicket all of a suddint. Poor dad was skeered stiff. The thing
screeched,--a screech so turrible that it was enough to turn a man's
sweat to ice-water, an' a'most set him crazy. Dad hadn't no gun with
him; so he shinned up the nighest tree like mad, an' hollered fit to
bust his windpipe, hopin' t'other fellers at the camp 'ud hear him.

"But the panther made up another tree hard by, an' sprang 'pon him. Fust
it grabbed dad by the heel. Then it tore a big piece out o' the calf of
his leg, an' devoured it. Think of it, boys! Them's the sort o' dangers
that the fust settlers an' lumbermen in these woods had to face.

"Wal, dad reckoned he was a goner, sure. But he managed to cut a limb
from the tree with his huntin'-knife, an' tied the knife to the end of
it. With that he fought the beast while his comrades, who had heard his
mad yells, were gittin' to him. With the fust shot that one of 'em fired
the catamount made off.

"Dad was the sickest man ye ever saw fer a spell. His wound healed after
a bit, under the care of an Injun doctor; but his hair, which had been
soot-black on that evenin' when he was returnin' to camp, was as white
as milk afore he got about again; an' he was notional and narvous-like
as long as he lived.

"He said the animal was like a tremenjous big cat, about four feet high
an' five or six feet in length. It was a sort o' bluish-gray color. An'
it had a very long tail curled up at the end, which it moved like a
cat's.

"Boys, that catamount is the only animal that an Indian is skeered of.
Ask a red man to hunt a moose, a bear, or a wolf, an' he's ready to
follow it through forest an' swamp till he downs it or drops. But ask
him to chase a panther, an' he'll shake his head an' say, 'He all one
big debil!' He calls the beast, in his own lingo, 'lunk soos,' which
means 'Injun devil;' an' so we woodsmen call it too."

It was at this moment that Lin put his head in at the cabin-door, and
announced that "the wagon an' hosses war a' ready."

"Wal, boys, I swan! it's many a long year since a panther was seen in
these forests, so ye needn't feel skeery about meetin' one," said the
old settler, as he stood outside his log home, and watched his guests
start. "I'll 'low ye won't find travellin' too easy 'long the ole
corduroy road. Come again!"

There was much waving of hats as the wagon, a roomy, four-wheeled
vehicle, moved off, with a creaking in its joints as if it were
squealing a protest against its load, which consisted of the five lads,
together with knapsacks, guns, tents, and the camp duffle.

"Forward, all!" shouted Dr. Phil, who had been chosen to act as captain
of the two companies during the few days while they journeyed together.

Lin, who was charioteer, cracked a long whip above his horses. The boys
cheered, while Doc, Cyrus, and the two guides fell behind, choosing to
follow the wagon on foot for the first few miles of the journey.

"Where did you buy that, Lin?" asked Neal, climbing over to a perch
beside the driver, and pointing to a heavy Colt's revolver which the
young settler was buckling round his waist.

"Didn't buy it. I traded a calf for it at Greenville more'n a year ago,"
was the reply. "Fust-rate gun it is, too, I vum! I've stood at our
cabin-door, and killed many a buck with it. On'y 'tain't much good for
tackling a bear. Wish't the bears ud get as scarce as the panthers! Then
we'd be rid o' two master pests. Hello! Don't y'u git to tumbling out
jist yet! That's on'y a circumstance to the jolts there'll be when we
strike a bit o' corduroy road."

Lin Hathaway grabbed young Farrar by the elbow while he spoke, and held
him steady with the horny hand which had swung the axe against the
doomed pine-tree. For Neal had shown a sudden inclination to pitch
headlong out of the wagon, as its right wheels were hoisted a foot or
more above the left ones by rolling over a mossy bump in the ground.

For the first five miles the forest road had been simply constructed
thus: First, the bushy undergrowth had been cut away and thrown to one
side, the space cleared being about eight feet wide; then all trees
growing in the range of this track had been sawn off close to the
ground, and windfalls which barred the way were removed. It was a rude
highway, with plenty of deformities, such as ends of rotting stumps,
twisted roots, ridges and bumps which had never been levelled; yet it
was beautiful beyond any smooth, well-graded road which the travellers
had ever seen. As it wound along in graceful curves through the woods,
it was shaded now by an emerald arch of evergreens, now by a royal
crimson canopy of maple branches, while patches of buff, orange, and
dull red commingled where other trees interlaced with these to whisper
woodland secrets.

But the boys soon understood what Doc meant when he spoke of their
having "a bracing ride in more senses than one;" for the motion of the
wagon was a giddy series of jolts and bounces, with just sufficient
interval between each shock for them to brace themselves, with stiffened
backbones, for the next upheaval. They had already begun, as Royal said,
"to have kinks in all their limbs," when Lin suddenly announced,--

"Yon's a bit o' corduroy road, I declar'!"

He pointed with his whip ahead, and the travellers shot out their necks
to see this novel highway. It extended for about a quarter of a mile
over a swamp, and spoke volumes for the energy and ingenuity of the
hardy lumbermen who constructed it.

These brawny heroes, who are fine types of American grit and manhood,
when clearing a broad track over which their great timber logs could be
hauled from the depths of the forest to the landing on some big river,
had found the swampy tracts an impassable obstacle for animals
trammelled with harness and a heavy load.

They bridged them by laying down logs cut to even lengths in a slightly
slanting position across the way for the entire extent of miry ground.
Each piece of timber was tightly wedged in by its fellow; nevertheless,
there was a space of several inches between their rounded tops. Hence
the track presented a striped appearance, which suggested to some
spirited genius among woodsmen its name of "corduroy road."

"Well, Neal, do you think you can tell your folks a thing or two about
forest travelling when you get back to England?" asked Doc, when the
order of march was changed, young Farrar and the Sinclairs turning out
to do their share of tramping, while the doctor, Cyrus, and the guides
benefited by "a lift."

"I rather think I can," answered Neal; "but goodness! I feel as if there
were aches and bruises all over me. Once or twice my head seemed jumping
straight off my shoulders. No more going in a wagon over corduroy roads
for me! I'd rather be leg-weary any day."

The travellers halted that evening about five o'clock on the banks of a
lonely stream. The guides pitched the two tents--Joe had provided one
for his party--facing each other on a patch of clearing, with a space of
about fifteen feet between them, in the centre of which blazed a roaring
camp-fire. Now all the axes and knifes among the band were in demand for
cutting and sharpening stakes and ridge-poles on which to stretch their
canvas.

Moreover, no evergreen boughs could be procured for beds; and the boys
had to work with a will, helping Uncle Eb and Joe to cut bundles of the
long, rank grass that grew by the water to form a bed for their tired
bodies.

Every one was camp-hungry, as they had not halted for a meal since
leaving the settlement. After a splendid supper of venison, broiled
over sizzling logs, bread, and fried potatoes,--for they had added to
their stores at the farm,--they had a glorious social hour by the
camp-fire. Joe got off any amount of "ripping" stories; and the sound of
many a jolly chorus, led by Cyrus, and swelled by the musical efforts of
the entire crew, mingled with the lonely rustle of the night wind among
faded and drifting leaves.

When Doc's summons came to turn in, they stretched themselves upon the
grassy beds, not undressing, as the night was chilly and the temporary
quarters were not so snug as their previous ones. Still in their warm
jerseys, trousers, woollen stockings, and knitted caps, with the heat
from the piled-up camp-fire streaming under the raised flaps of the
tents, they slept as cosily as if they lay on spring mattresses,
surrounded by pictured walls.



CHAPTER XI.

BEAVER WORKS.


About noon on the following day they were obliged to bid farewell to Lin
Hathaway, his wagon and horses, as the logging-road went no farther. The
young settler turned homeward rather regretfully. It might be many
months again before he got a chance of talking to anybody beyond his
father and mother, and the boys had brought a dash of outside life into
his woodland solitude.

The travellers proceeded on foot through a dense forest, which, luckily
for Dol, had little undergrowth and mostly a soft carpet of moss or dry
pine needles. Still they had plenty of climbing over windfalls, with
many rough pokes and jibes from forward boughs and rotten limbs, to rob
the way of sameness. Through this labyrinth they were safely piloted by
Uncle Eb and Joe, the latter with his compass in his hand, and the
former simply studying the "Indian's compass," which is observing how
the moss grows upon the tree-trunks, there being always a greater
quantity on the side which faces north.

Before nightfall they reached another log cabin, tenanted by a man who
had just settled down for the purpose of clearing up a farm. Here they
were lodged for the night, without trouble of making camp.

The third day of their journey was marked by two sensations. They halted
for a short rest at a point where there was an extensive break in the
forest. Scarcely had they emerged from the gloom of a dense growth of
cedars, when Dol exclaimed.--

"Good gracious! That looks as if people had been building a jolly high
railroad out here."

On the right rose a bare, steep ridge of sand and gravel, nearly ninety
feet in height, and closely resembling a railway embankment.

"Well, boy," laughed Dr. Phil, "if that's a railroad, Nature built it,
and by a mighty curious process too. The sand, rocks, and gravel of
which it is mostly formed must have been swept here by a great rush of
waters that once prevailed over this land. We call the ridge a
'Horseback.' If you like, we'll climb to the top of it, after we've had
our snack [lunch], and you can get a peep at the surrounding country."

So they did. The top was level, and wide enough for two carriages to
drive abreast; and the view from it was one which could never be
forgotten. Around them were millions of acres of forest land, beautiful
with the contrasts of October; here dipping into a cedar valley, in the
midst of which they saw the silver smile of a woodland lake, there
rising into a hill crowned with towering pines, some of them over a
hundred feet in height.

But, most thrilling sight of all, they beheld, only half a dozen miles
away, rising in sublime grandeur against the sky, the mountain of
mountains in Maine,--great Katahdin. They had caught glimpses of its
curved line of peaks before. Now they saw its forests, and the rugged
slides where avalanches of bowlders and earth from the top had ploughed
heavily downward, sweeping away all growth.

Cyrus lifted his hat, and waved it at the distant mass.

"Hurrah!" he cried. "There's the home of storms! There's old Katahdin!
The Indians named it Ktaadn 'the biggest mountain.'"

"Want to hear the Indian legend about it, lads?" asked Dr. Phil.

A general chirp of assent was his reply, and the doctor began:--

"Well, when the redskins owned these forests, they believed that the
summit of Katahdin was the home of their evil spirit, or, as they call
him, 'The Big Devil.' He was named Pamolah. And he was a mighty
unpleasant sort of neighbor. Once, so tradition says, he ran away with a
beautiful Indian maiden, and carried her up to his lonely lair among
those peaks. When her tribe tried to rescue her, he let loose great
storms upon them, his artillery being thunder, lightning, hail, and
rain, before which they were forced to flee helter-skelter. An old red
chief long ago told me the story, and added gravely that 'it was sartin
true, for han'some squaw always catch 'em debil.'

"The foundation of the legend lies in the fact that there really is a
very curious granite basin among Katahdin's peaks, and it is the
birthplace of most storms which sweep over our State. I myself have
seen clouds forming in it, when I made an ascent of the mountain in my
younger days, and whirling out in all directions. The roar of its winds
may sometimes be heard miles away. There are several ponds in the basin;
one of them, a tiny, clear lake, without any visible outlet, is
Pamolah's fishing-ground. That's the yarn about the mountain as I heard
it."

[Illustration: IN THE SHADOW OF THE KATAHDIN.]

"Ain't it a'most time for us to be gittin' down from this Horseback,
Doc?" asked Joe, who had been listening with the others. "I thought we'd
reach the farm you're heading for to-night, but we're half a dozen miles
off it yet; and we can't do more'n another mile or two afore it'll be
time to halt and make camp. There's some pretty bad travelling and a
plaguy bit of swamp ahead."

"I guess you're about right, Joe," said Doc, rising with alacrity from
the stone where he had seated himself while telling his yarn.

Joe's bad travelling meant a great deal of tripping and floundering
through soft mud and mire, with slippery moss-stones sandwiched in, and
dwarfed bushes which ran along the ground, and twisted themselves in an
almost impassable tangle. These had a knack of catching a fellow's feet,
and causing him to sprawl forward on his face and hands, whereupon his
knapsack would hit him an astounding thwack on the back.

After three-quarters of an hour of this fun, very muddy, clammy with
perspiration, and thoroughly winded, the party reached firmer ground,
and the guides called a halt.

"Guess we'd better rest a bit," said Joe, "afore we go farther. There's
nothing in forest travelling that'll take the breath out of a man like
crossing a swamp," eying compassionately the city folk; for he himself
was as "fit" as when he started. "Then we'd better follow that stream
till we strike a good place for a camping-ground. What say, Doc?"

Dr. Phil, as captain, signified his assent. After a short
breathing-spell he again gave the command, "Forward!" And his company
pushed on into the woods, following the course of a dark stream which
had gurgled through the swamp.

"There used to be an old beaver-dam somewheres about here," broke forth
Joe presently, when they had made about a quarter of a mile, the younger
guide taking the lead, for he was evidently more at home in this part of
the forest land than his senior, Uncle Eb. "Hullo, now! there it is.
Look, gentlemen!"

He pointed to a curved bank of brushwood, mostly alder branches, piled
together in curious topsyturvy fashion, which formed a dam across the
stream. It bristled with sticks, poking out and up in every direction;
for the bushy ends of the boughs had been heavily plastered with mud and
stones, to keep them down.

"That a beaver-dam!" gasped Neal in amazement. "Why, I always had an
idea that beavers were half human in intelligence, and wove their
branches in and out in a sort of neat basketwork when making dams.
That's a funny rough-and-tumble looking old pile."

"It's a good water-tight dam, for all that," answered Cyrus. "And don't
you begin to underrate Mr. Beaver's intelligence until you see more of
his works. I've torn the bottom out of a dam like this on a cold, rainy
night,--beavers like rainy nights for work,--and then hidden myself in
some bushes to watch the result. It was a trial of strength and
patience, I assure you, to remain there for six mortal hours,--though I
had rubber overalls on,--with wet twigs and leaves slapping my face. But
the sight I saw was more wonderful than anything I could have imagined.
There was a cloudy, watery moon; and shortly after it rose, five beavers
appeared upon the dam, scrambling up and down, and examining the great
hole through which the water was fast leaking out of their pond. Then,
following a big fellow, who was evidently the boss beaver, they swam to
the bank. He stationed himself near a tree about twenty inches in
circumference, and his four boys at once started to fell it. I tell you
they worked like hustlers, each one sawing on it in turn with his sharp
teeth, and sometimes two of them together on different parts of the
trunk.

"At last the tree--it was an ash--fell, toppling into the water just
where the beavers wanted it. They pushed and tugged it down-stream for
about ten yards, to the dam, and propped it against the opening which I
had made. I couldn't see the rest of the operations clearly; but I
caught glimpses of them, marching about on their hind-legs, carrying mud
snug up to their chins like this," here Cyrus folded his arms across his
chest. "And before daybreak that dam was perfectly repaired, with never
a leak in it.

"You know they build the dams in very shallow water, only a few inches
deep; and they generally roll in a couple of long logs for a solid
foundation. It was one of these which I had torn out. Now, Neal, what do
you say about the beaver's intelligence?"

"If I didn't know you, Cyrus, I'd say you were making up as you went
along," answered Neal. "It seems one of those things which a fellow can
scarcely believe in. Hulloa! What's that?"

A loud report, like the bang of a gun, made all the boys, who had been
standing very quietly, gazing at the dam, suddenly jump.

"It's only a beaver striking the water with his tail," laughed Cyrus.
"He has been swimming about somewhere up-stream, and has scented us, and
dived. I have heard one do that a dozen times in the night, if he
detected the presence of man; but it's very unusual in the daytime, for
they rarely venture out in broad light. In diving, if suddenly alarmed,
they strike the surface of the water a tremendous whack with their
tails, as a signal of alarm, making this report, which in still weather
resounds for a great distance.

"I'm very glad you heard it, boys; for your chances of seeing the master
beaver or any of his colony are mighty slim. But we'll probably come on
their lodge a little higher up."

Above the shallow water where the dam was built, the stream widened into
a broad, deep pool. About fifty yards ahead, in the centre of this, was
a tiny island. On its extreme edge Joe pointed out the beaver lodge. It
was shaped something like a huge beehive, being about a dozen feet in
diameter and five feet high. The outside seemed to be entirely covered
with mud and fibrous roots, through which the sticks which formed its
framework poked out here and there.

"The doors are all underwater," said Cyrus, "and so far down that
they'll be beneath the ice when the stream freezes in winter. Otherwise
the beavers could not reach their pile of food-wood, which they keep at
the bottom, and would starve to death. They are clerks of the weather,
if you like. They seem to know when the first hard frost is coming, and
sink their stores a day or two before. Man has not yet discovered their
mysterious knack of sinking wood, and keeping it stationary through many
months.

"They feed on the inner bark of poplar, white birch, and willow trees.
In autumn they fell these along the banks, generally so that they will
fall into the water, tug and push them down-stream, and float them near
to their lodges. If the trees are too big to be easily handled, they saw
them into convenient lengths."

"I call it tough luck, not being able to get a sight of the animals,
after seeing so much of their works," grumbled Royal.

"Ye might wait here till midnight, and not have any better," said Joe.
"That fellow's tail was like a fire-alarm to them. They ain't to home
now, you bet! They've dusted out of their house as if it was on fire;
and they've either dived to the bottom, or hidden themselves in holes
along the bank. Guess we'd better be moving on. It's a'most time to
think about making camp."

"The beavers have been working here!" exclaimed the guide a few minutes
later, as he strode ahead. "These white birches were felled by 'em; and
a dandy job they did too."

He pointed to two slim birches which lay prone with their tops in the
water, and to a third, the trunk of which was partly sawn through in
more than one place. The ground was strewn with little clippings of
timber, bearing the saw-marks of the beavers' teeth. The boys gathered
them up as curiosities.

"Oh, the skilful little animals can beat this work by long odds!"
exclaimed Doc. "These trunks only measure from eight to twelve inches in
circumference. I've seen a tree fully two feet round which was felled by
them. Say, Joe! don't you think we'd better camp to-night somewhere on
the _brûlée?_"

"Just what I'm planning, Doc," answered Joe. "We must be pretty near it
now."

A few minutes afterwards the party filed out of the dense woods, passed
through a grove of young spruces, forded a brook which emptied itself
into the stream they were following, and came upon a scene blasted,
barren, and unutterably dreary.

The band of boys, who, in spite of swamps and jungles, had learned to
love the forest dearly, for its many beauties, and for the wild
offspring with which it teemed, sorrowfully gasped, as if they saw the
skeleton of a friend.



CHAPTER XII.

"GO IT, OLD BRUIN!"


Before them lay a ruined tract of country, extending northward farther
than eye could reach. It is called by Maine woodsmen a _brûlée_, name
borrowed from their French-Canadian neighbors, who dwell across the
boundary line which separates the Dominion from the United States.

The word signifies "burnt tract;" but it gives a feeble idea of the
fire-smitten, blackened region on which the lads looked.

The forest until now had been a wilderness truly, but a wilderness where
every kind and size of growth, from the giant pine to the creeping
wintergreen and shaded mosses, mingled in beautiful confusion. Here it
became a desert. For the terrible forest fires, the woodsman's tragic
enemy, had swept over it not long before, devastating an area of many
square miles. Millions of dollars worth of valuable timber had been
reduced to rotting embers. Storm-defying pines had crashed to the earth,
and were overridden by the flames in their wild rush onward. Sometimes
only a smutty stump showed where they had stood; sometimes, robbed of
life and every limb, portions of the fire-eaten trunks still remained
erect,--bare, blackened poles. All smaller growth, and even the surface
of the ground, parched by summer heats, had burned like tinder. Rocks
and stones were baked and crumbling.

"Boys, that's the most mournful sight a woodsman can see," said Doc,
looking away over the wrecked region, touched with golden lights from an
October sunset. "It makes one who loves the woods feel as if he had lost
a living friend."

"Well, 'tain't no manner o' use to fret over it," declared Joe
energetically. "Nature don't waste time in fretting, you bet! She starts
in and tries to cover the stripped ground, as if she was sort of ashamed
to have it seen."

The guide pointed earthward. At his feet a dwarfed growth of blueberry
bushes and tiny trees was already springing up to screen the unsightly,
ash-strewn land.

"True enough, Joe! Nature is a grand one for remedies," answered the
doctor. "Still, it will be half a century or more before she can raise a
timber growth here again. Hulloa! Dol, what are you fellows up to?"

While his elders were studying the _brûlée_, Dol, who objected to dreary
sights, had marched down to the brink of the stream, accompanied by
Royal's young brothers, Will and Martin Sinclair. The little river
gurgled and frisked along beside the burnt tract, like a line of life
bordering death. It seemed to the boys to prattle about its victory over
the flames when it stopped their sweeping course, so that the woods on
its opposite bank were uninjured, as were those beyond the brook in the
rear.

"We're studying the ways of the great sea-serpent!" shouted back Dol,
who was splashing about in a sedgy pool.

By and by when the guides had finished their work of making camp, when
they had pitched the tents, cut boughs for beds and fuel in the spruce
grove behind, and were cooking an odorous supper, the three juveniles
came slowly towards the camp-fire from the water.

"What on earth have you got there, young one?" asked Dr. Phil; for
Adolphus Farrar was bareheaded, and carried his hat very gingerly, with
its corners clutched together to form a bag.

"The big sea-serpent himself," answered Dol mysteriously.

Of a sudden he opened his dripping hat, and spilled out a small
water-snake, about ten inches long, upon the doctor's lap.

There was a great roar of laughter, in which Dol's abettors, Will and
Martin, joined with cheerful shouts. The little joke had the effect of
winning everybody's thoughts from roaring flames, wrecked forests, and
the dreary _brûlée_. Uncle Eb killed the snake, maintaining that
water-snakes were "plaguy p'isonous," while Cyrus scouted the idea. The
supper that evening was a merry enough meal. The camp, lit by the ruddy
glow from its great fire, looked an oasis of light, warmth, and jollity
in the black and burnt desert.

The darky, hearing Cyrus declare that he was fearfully hungry, mixed
some flapjacks to form a second course, after the venison steaks and
potatoes. He had exhausted his stock of maple sugar, but he produced a
small wooden keg of the apparently inexhaustible molasses.

"He! he! he! Dat jest touches de spot, don't it?" he chuckled, when,
having carefully served each member of the party, he seated himself
about three feet from the camp-fire, with a round dozen of the thin
cakes for his own eating.

He coated them with the thick molasses, and set the keg down side by
side with a bag of potatoes which had been brought from the settlement.

There these provisions remained when, earlier than usual, the party
turned in, and stretched their tired limbs to rest, lying down, as they
had done before when sleeping under canvas, with all their garments on
save coats and moccasins. Whether Uncle Eb forgot his "m'lasses," or
whether he purposely left it without, there not being a spare inch of
room in the small tents, no one then or afterwards inquired.

As a result of the jolly intimacy that had sprung up between the two
companies during the few days when they had all things in common, the
boys disposed of themselves for the night as they pleased. Neal turned
in with the doctor, Royal, and Joe, the four stretching themselves on
the evergreen boughs, with their feet to the opening of the tent, and
their rifles and ammunition within reach. Of course the Winchesters were
empty, it being a strict rule that firearms should not be brought into
camp loaded.

The younger Sinclairs, with Cyrus, Dol, and Uncle Eb, occupied the other
tent.

It seemed to Neal that he had hardly slept one hour,--probably it was
nearer to three,--during which time he had been dreaming with vague
foreshadowings of the final and crowning sport of the trip, the grand
moose-stalking, and of Herb Heal, the mighty hunter, when he was
awakened by a shrill scream just outside the canvas. He started, with
his heart going whackety-whack. The cry was sudden and intensely
startling, appearing twice as loud as it really was when it broke the
pathetic stillness of the _brûlée_, where not a tree rustled or twig
snapped, and the night wind only sighed faintly and fitfully through the
newly springing growth.

Again sounded that startling screech; and yet again, making a dreary,
piercing din.

"By all that's funny! it's another coon," gasped Neal; and he gently
pinched the shoulder of Joe, who lay on his left.

"Joe!" he whispered. "Wake up! There's a raccoon just outside the tent.
I heard his cry."

The guide was awake and alert in an instant. So, too, was Dr. Phil.

"What's up, boys?" asked the latter, hearing a murmur.

"There's a coon close by," said Neal again. "Listen to him!"

Even while he spoke, young Farrar caught sight of two feathered things
hopping along the avenue of light which lay between him and the
camp-fire, the red flare of the flames mingling with the white radiance
of a cloudless moon. At the same time the screech sounded and resounded.

"Coon!" exclaimed Joe derisively. "That's no coon. It's only a little
owl. Bless ye! I've had five or six of 'em come right into this tent of
a night, and ding away at me till I had to talk to 'em with the rifle to
scare 'em off. I'll give 'em a dose o' lead now if they don't scoot
mighty quick; that'll stop their song an' dance."

"Their cry is pretty much like a raccoon's, Neal," said Doc. "Only it's
a great deal weaker. Lie down, boy. Go to sleep, and don't mind them."

The owls perhaps apprehended danger. At all events, they were silent for
a while; and in three minutes each occupant of the tent was fast asleep
again, with the exception of Neal. The sharp awakening had upset his
nerves a bit. He obeyed the doctor, and hugged his blankets round him,
hoping sleep would return; but he lay with eyes narrowed into two slits,
peeping at the ruddy camp-fire, involuntarily listening for the
screeching of the birds, and wishing that he had not been such a
greenhorn as to disturb his comrades for nothing. Royal, who lay on his
right, was of a less excitable temperament. Although he had been
awakened, he was now snoring lustily, insomnia being a rare affliction
in camps.

"What's that?"

About half an hour had passed when Neal Farrar suddenly and sharply
rapped out these words close to Joe's ear. He felt certain that he would
not now bring upon him the woodsman's good-natured scorn for making a
disturbance about nothing. A heavy, stealthy tread, as of some big
animal, was crushing the pygmy bushes near the tent. Immediately
afterwards he saw an uncouth black shape in the lane of light between
himself and the fire. It disappeared while his heart was giving one
jump, and he heard a dull, mumbling noise, such as a pig might make when
rooting amid rubbish, varied with an occasional low growl.

Joe was already awake. His hunter's instinct told him that something
truly exciting was on now.

"My cracky! I b'lieve it's a bear!" he muttered, forming his words away
down in his throat, so that Neal only caught the last one. "Keep still
as death!"

The guide reached out a long arm, and clutched his rifle. Hurriedly he
jammed half a dozen cartridges into its magazine. Then lightly and
silently, as if he was made of cork, he got upon his feet, and bounded
out of the tent, Neal copying his actions nimbly and noiselessly as he
could; though, in his excitement, he only succeeded in getting two
cartridges into his Winchester.

Royal's snoring ceased. Doc's eager question, "What's up now, boys?"
reached the two just as they quitted shelter, and passed into the broad
moonlight, crossed with red gleams from their fire.

"A bear!" yelled Joe in answer, his rifle and he breaking silence
together.

Three times the Winchester sharply cracked.

Then with a mad "Halloo!" the guide seized a flaming stick from the
fire, and, swinging it above his head, started after the big black
animal of which Neal had caught a glimpse before. He now saw it plainly
as, already fifty yards ahead, it made off at a plunging gallop across
the moonlit _brûlée_.

Young Farrar had been the champion runner of his school, and he blessed
his trained legs for giving him a prominent part in the wild chase that
followed. Still imitating the woodsman, he pulled another half-lighted
stick from the camp-fire, and waved it in a frenzy of excitement, while
he ran like a buck at Joe's side.

"Tumble out! Tumble out, boys! A bear! A bear!" now rang from one tent
to another.

In two minutes every camper, in his stocking feet, just as he had risen
from his bed, was tearing across the _brûlée_ in the wake of Bruin,
yelling, leaping, and swinging smouldering firebrands.

It was a scene and a chase such as the boys, in their most far-fetched
dreams, had never pictured,--the white moonlight glimmering on the
black stumps and tottering trunks of the ruined tract, the hunted bear
plunging off among them, frightened by the shouting and the lights, the
heavy, lumbering gallop enabling it at first to distance its pursuers.

Owing to their fleetness and the odds they had at the start, the guide
and Neal kept far ahead of their comrades. The noise which Bruin made as
he lumbered over the pygmy growth, and the charred, rotting timber that
littered the ground beneath it, were quiet enough to guide Joe
unerringly in the bear's wake, even when that bulky shape was not
distinguishable.

"What's this?" screeched the woodsman suddenly, as he stumbled upon
something at his feet. "By gracious! it's our keg of m'lasses. He made
off with that, and has dropped it out o' sheer fright, or because he's
weakening. I know I hit him twice when I fired; but he's not hurt too
badly to run, or to fight like a fiend if we come to close quarters.
Like as not 'twill be a narrow squeak with us if we tackle him. If
you're scared a little bit, Neal, let up, an' I'll finish him alone."

"Scared!" Neal flung the word back with scorn, as if he was returning a
blow. For the life of him he could not bring out another syllable,
going at a faster rate than ever he had done in the most stubbornly
contested handicap. The strong-winded guide rapped out his sentences as
he ran, apparently without waste of breath.

The feverish enthusiasm of the hunter, which he had never felt before,
was now alive in Neal. His blood raced through his veins like liquid
fire. He had been long enough in Maine to know that in wreaking
vengeance on Bruin for many misdeeds he would be acting in the interests
of justice. For the black bear is still such a master pest to the
settlers who are trying to establish their farms amid the forests where
it roams, that the State has outlawed the beast, and pays a bounty for
its skin.

Joe thought little about this; for a gentleman whom he had guided early
in the summer had lately written to him, offering a price of fifteen
dollars for a good bearskin.

Here was the woodsman's golden opportunity--an opportunity for which he
had been thirsting since the receipt of that letter.

[Illustration: "GO IT, OLD BRUIN! GO IT WHILE YOU CAN!"]

He already regarded his triumph over the bear as secure, and its hide as
forfeited. He nearly caused Neal Farrar to burst a blood-vessel from
the combined effects of struggling laughter and running, when he began
to apostrophize the flying foe with grim humor, thus:--

"Go it, old Bruin! Go it while ye can! There ain't a hair on yer back
that b'longs to ye!"

But it soon became evident that the bear couldn't go on much longer at
this breakneck pace. Its pursuers heard its steps with increasing
distinctness, and then its labored breathing. They were gaining on it
fast.

The brute came into full view about forty yards ahead, as it ascended a
slight elevation, crowned with blasted tree trunks.

"I'll draw bead on him from here," said Joe, stopping short. "Get ready
to fire, lad, if he turns. It'll take lots o' lead to finish that
fellow."

Twice Joe's rifle spoke again. One shot took effect. There was a fearful
growl from the beast, but it was not yet mortally wounded.

Maddened and desperate, it wheeled about, and came straight for its
pursuers. Again the guide fired. Still the bear advanced, gnashing its
teeth and mumbling horribly; Neal saw its black shape not thirty yards
from him.

"Shoot! shoot, boy!" screamed Joe. "Or give me your rifle. I haven't got
a charge left!"

For half a minute Farrar shook all over as with ague. His nostrils felt
choked. His mouth was wide open in his efforts to breathe. His heart
pounded like a sledge-hammer. With that mumbling brute advancing upon
him, he felt as if he couldn't fire so as to hit a haystack or a flock
of hens at a barn-door.

Then, suddenly, he was cool again, seeing and hearing with extraordinary
clearness. The ignominious alternative of giving his rifle to Joe
produced a revulsion. His fingers were on the trigger, his left hand
firmly gripped the barrel of his Winchester; he brought it to his
shoulder.

"Aim low! Try to hit him in the front of the neck where it joins the
body," said Joe, in tones sharp as a razor, which cut his meaning into
Neal's brain.

Bruin was only fifteen yards away when Farrar's rifle cracked
once--twice--sending out its messengers of death.

There was a last terrible growl, a plunge, and a thud which seemed to
shake the ground under Neal's feet. As the smoke of his shots cleared
away, Joe beheld him leaning on his rifle, with a face which in the
moonlight looked white as chalk, and the bear lying where it had fallen
headlong towards him. It made a desperate struggle to regain its feet,
then rolled on its side, dead.

One bullet had pierced the spot which Joe mentioned, and had passed
through the region of the heart.



CHAPTER XIII.

"THE SKIN IS YOURS."


A regular war-dance was performed about the slain marauder by the young
Sinclairs and Dol Farrar, when these laggards in the chase reached the
spot where he fell. The firebrands had all died out before the enemy
turned; but in the white moon-radiance the bear was seen to be a big
one, with an uncommonly fine skin.

Neal took no part in the triumphal capers. He still leaned upon his
rifle, his breath coming in gusty puffs through his nostrils and mouth.
Not alone the desperate sensations of those moments when he had faced
the gnashing, mumbling brute, but the unexpected success of his first
shot at big game, had unhinged him. By his endurance in the chase, by
the pluck with which he stood up to the bear, above all, by his being
able, as Joe phrased it, to "take a sure pull on the beast at a
paralyzing moment," he had eternally justified his right to the title of
sportsman in the eyes of the natives. The guides, Joe and Eb, were not
slow in telling him that he had behaved from start to finish like no
"greenhorn," but a regular "old sport."

"My cracky! 'twas lucky for me that you had game blood in you, which
showed up," exclaimed Joe, catching the boy's arm in a friendly grip,
with an odd respect in his touch, which marked the admission of young
Farrar into the brotherhood of hunters. "I hadn't a charge left, an' not
even my hunting-knife. Lots o' city swells 'u'd have been plumb scared
before a growler like that,"--touching Bruin's carcass with his
foot,--"even if they had a small arsenal to back 'em up. They'd have
dropped rifle and cartridges, and hugged the nearest trunk. I've seen
fellers do it scores o' times, bless ye! after they came out here rigged
up in sporting-book style, talking fire about hunting bears and moose.
But that was all the fire there was to 'em."

Yet Neal's triumph over the poor brute, which had raced well for its
life, was not without a faint twinge of pain; and he was too manly to
look on this as a weakness. A sportsman he might be, of the sort who can
shoot straight when necessity demands it, but never of that class who
prowl through the forests with fingers tingling to pull the trigger,
dreading to lose a chance of "letting blood" from any slim-legged moose
or velvet-nosed buck which may run their way. It needed Doc's praise to
make him feel fully satisfied with his deed.

"It was a crack shot, boy," said the doctor proudly. "And I guess the
farmer at the next settlement will feel like giving you a medal for it.
Old Bruin has only got what he gave to every creature he could master."

There being no tree conveniently near to which they could string up the
dead bear, the guides decided to leave the ugly matter of skinning and
dissecting him for morning light. The excited party returned to camp,
but not to sleep. They built up their scattered fire, squatted round it,
and discoursed of the night's adventure until a clear dawn-gleam
brightened the eastern sky. Then Uncle Eb and Joe started out again
across the _brûlée_. They reappeared before breakfast-time, bringing
Bruin's skin and a goodly portion of his meat.

Joe laid the hide at Neal's feet.

"There, boy," he said, "the skin is yours. It belongs rightly to the man
who killed the bear; and I guess the brute wasn't mortally hurt at all
till your bullet nipped him in the neck."

"But what about the fifteen dollars from that New York man, Joe? You'll
lose it," faltered young Farrar, with a triumphant heart-leap at the
thought of taking this trophy back to England, but loath to profit by
the woodsman's generosity.

"Don't you bother about that; let it go," answered Joe, whose business
of guiding was profitable enough for him. "'Tain't enough for the skin,
anyhow. Nary a finer one has been taken out o' Maine in the last five
years; and mighty lucky you Britishers were to git a chance of a
bear-hunt at all. Old Bruin must have been powerful hungry to come
around our camp."

There was a grand breakfast before the travellers broke camp that
morning. The guides and Doc--who had got accustomed to the luxury during
visits to settlers and lumber-camps--feasted off bear-steaks. Cyrus and
the boys, American and English, declined to touch it. The whole
appearance of Bruin as he lay stretched on the ground the night before
made their "department of the interior" revolt against it.

When a start was made for the settlement, Joe bundled up the skin, and,
as a tribute of respect to Neal's "game blood," carried it, in addition
to his heavy pack, for a distance of four miles over the desolate
_brûlée_ and across a soft, miry bog. On reaching the farm clearing, he
cut the stem of a tall cedar bush, which he bent into the shape of a
hoop, binding the ends together with cedar bark. He then pricked holes
all around the edges of the hide with the sharp point of his
hunting-knife, stretched it to its full extent, and fastened it to the
hoop, which he hung up to a tree near the settler's cabin, telling Neal
that in a few days it would be dry enough to pack away in a bag.

But as it was a cumbersome article to carry while tramping a dozen miles
farther to the camp on Millinokett Lake, the farmer offered to take
charge of it for its owner until he passed that way again on his return
journey; an offer which Neal thankfully accepted. The old backwoodsman
was, truth to tell, delighted to see hanging up near his cabin door the
skin of an enemy who had ofttimes plundered him so unmercifully.

He made the travellers royally welcome, let them have the roomy kitchen
of his log shanty to sleep in, with a soft bed of hay. Here he lay with
them, while his wife and sickly little girl occupied an adjoining space
about twelve feet square, which had been boarded off. This was all the
accommodation the log home afforded.

The forest child was a puzzle to the lads. To them she looked as if the
soul of a grandmother had taken possession of a thin, long-limbed body
which ought to belong to a girl of ten. Her pinched features and
over-wise eyes told a tale of suffering, and so did her high-pitched,
quivering voice, as it made elfishly sharp remarks about the boys until
they blenched before her.

This was the little one of whom the doctor had said "that she fretted if
he did not come to see her once in a while." And with Doc she was a
different being. Her voice softened, her eyes became childlike, and thin
tinkles of laughter broke from her as she clung to him, and received
certain presents of medicines and picture-books which he had brought
for her in a corner of his knapsack.

For two nights the travellers slept in a row on their hay bed; for two
long-remembered days the five boys roamed the country round the
clearing, starting deer, catching glimpses of a wildcat, a marten or
two, and of another coon. Then came, to use Dol's expression, "the
beastly nuisance of saying good-by."

Dr. Phil was obliged to return to Greenville; and he declared that now
he must surely start his nephews homeward, for Royal expected to
graduate from the High School during the following year, and to let him
waste more time from study would be questionable kindness. Joe Flint of
course would go back with his party. And here Cyrus paid Uncle Eb's fees
for guiding, and dismissed him too.

Only a dozen miles of tolerably easy travelling now separated Garst and
his English comrades from the camp on Millinokett Lake, where they were
to meet the redoubtable Herb Heal. The settler, knowing this tract of
country as thoroughly as he knew his own few fields, offered to lead our
trio for the first half of their onward march; and as they could follow
a plain trail for the remainder of the way, they had no further need of
their guide's services. They promised to visit Eb at his bark hut on
their return journey, to bid him a final farewell, and hear one more
stave of:--

  "Ketch him, Tiger, ketch him!"

"Good-by, you lucky fellows!" said Royal Sinclair huskily, as he gripped
Neal's hand, then Dol's, in a brotherly squeeze when the hour of parting
came. "I wish I was going on with you. We've had a stunning good time
together, haven't we? And we'll run across each other in these woods
some time or other again, I know! You'll never feel satisfied to stay in
England, where there's nothing to hunt but hares and foxes, after
chasing bears and moose."

"Oh! we'll come out here again, depend upon it," answered Neal. "Drop me
a line occasionally, won't you, Roy? Here's our Manchester address."

"I will, if you'll do the same."

"Agreed. Good-by again, old fellow!"

"I've got the slip of birch-bark and the horn safe in my knapsack, Doc,"
Dol was saying meanwhile, feeling his eyes getting leaky as he bade
farewell to the doctor. "I--I'll keep them as long as I live."

Doctor Phil had been as good as his word. He had made Joe rip the slip
of white bark, with the rude writing on it, off the pine-tree near the
swamp, and had presented it to Dol ere the boy quitted his camp.

"Well, confusion to partings anyhow!" broke in Joe. "Don't like 'em a
bit. Hope you'll get that bear-skin safe to England, Neal. When you show
it to your folks at home, tell 'em Joe Flint said he knew one Britisher
who would make a woodsman if he got a chance. Don't you forgit it."

"Good-by," said the doctor, as he clasped in turn the hands of the
departing three. "Good luck to you, boys! Keep your souls as straight as
your bodies, and you'll be a trio worth knowing. We'll meet again some
day; I'm sure of it."

Martin and Will were chirping farewells, and lamenting that they would
have no more chances of studying water-snakes in sedgy pools with Dol.
Amid cheers and waving of hats the campers separated.

"Forward, Company Three!" cried Cyrus encouragingly, stepping briskly
ahead, his comrades following. "Now for a sight of the 'Jabberwock' of
the forest, the mighty moose. Hurrah for the wild woods and all
woodsmen!"



CHAPTER XIV.

A LUCKY HUNTER.


Amid cracking of jokes, and noise which would have disgraced a squad of
Indians, "Company Three," as Cyrus dubbed his reduced band, reached the
crowning-point of their journey, the log camp on the shore of
Millinokett Lake.

During the first half-dozen miles of the way, though each one manfully
did his best to be lively, a sense of loss made their fun flat and
pointless. Royal's tear-away tongue, his brothers' racket, Joe's racy
talk, Uncle Eb's kind, dark face, and more than all, Doc's
companionship, which was as tonic to the hearts of those who travelled
with him, were missed.

But spirits must be elastic in forest air. When they halted at noon to
eat their "snack" on the side of a breezy knoll, with a tiny brook
purling through a pine grove beneath them, with Katahdin's rugged sides
and cloud-veiled peaks looming in majesty to the north, the thought of
what lay behind was inevitably lost in what lay before. Enthusiasm
replaced depression.

"It's no use grizzling because we can't have those fellows with us all
the time," remarked Neal philosophically. "'Twas a big piece of luck our
running against them at all. And I've a sort of feeling that this won't
be the end of it; we'll come across them again some day or other."

"And at all events we'll probably get a sight of Doc at Greenville as we
go back," said Dol, to whom this was no small comfort.

"Well, needless to say, I'd have been glad of their company for the rest
of the trip. But still, if they had taken a notion to come on with us,
it would have reduced to nothing our chances of seeing a moose. We're a
big party already for moose-calling or stalking--three of us, with
Herb;" this from Cyrus.

"Now, fellows, don't you think we'd better get a move on us?" added the
leader. "We've half a dozen miles to do yet; but the trail begins right
here, and is clearly blazed all the way to our camp. Let's keep a stiff
upper lip, and the journey will soon be over."

It was very delightful to sit there in the crisp October air, with the
brook seemingly humming tender legends of the woods, which witless men
could not translate, with an uncertain breeze playing through the newly
fallen maple-leaves, now turning them one by one in lazy curiosity, then
of a sudden making them caper and swirl in a scarlet merry-go-round.
Still, the young Farrars were not loath to move on. Now that they were
nearing the climax of their journey, their minds were full of Herb Heal.
Their longing to meet this lucky hunter grew with each mile which drew
them nearer to him.

They pressed hard after their leader, looking neither right nor left,
while he carefully followed the trail; and one hour's tramping brought
them to the shores of Millinokett Lake.

Here, despite their eagerness to reach their new camp, they were forced
to stop and admire the great sheet of forest-bound water, smiling back
the sky in tints of turquoise and pearl, dotted with apparently
countless islets, like specks upon the face of a mirror.

The irregular shores of the lake were broken by "logons," narrow little
bays curving into the land, shining arms of water, sometimes bordered by
evergreens, sometimes by graceful poplars and birches. From the opposite
bank the woods stretched away in undulating waves of ridge and valley to
the foot of Mount Katahdin, which still showed grandly to the northward.

"Millinokett Lake," said Cyrus, prolonging the syllables with a soft,
liquid sound. "It's an Indian name, boys; it signifies 'Lake of
Islands.' Whatever else the red men can boast of, the music of their
names is unequalled. I don't know exactly how many of those islets there
are, but I believe Millinokett has over two hundred of them anyhow. Our
camp is on the western shore. Shall we be moving?"

After skirting the water for another mile or two, the travellers reached
a broad, open tract, bare of timber. At the farther end of this clearing
were two log cabins, low, but very roomy, situated at a distance of a
few hundred yards from the lake, with a background of splendid firs and
spruces, the lively green of the latter making the former look black in
contrast.

"Is that our camp? How perfectly glorious!" boomed Neal and Dol
together.

"It's our camp, sure enough," answered Garst, with no less enthusiasm.
"At least the first cabin will be ours. I don't know whether there are
any hunters in the other one just now."

The log shanties had been put up by an enterprising settler to
accommodate sportsmen who might penetrate to this far part of the wilds
in search of moose or caribou. Cyrus had arranged for the use of one
during the months of October and November. Here it was that Herb Heal
had engaged to await him. And as he had commissioned this famous guide
to stock the camp with all such provisions as could be procured from
neighboring settlements, such as flour, potatoes, pork, etc., he
expected to slide into the lap of luxury.

In one sense he did. When the trio, their hearts thumping with
anticipation, reached the low door of the first cabin, they found it
securely fastened on the outside, so that no burglar-beast could force
an entrance, but easily opened by man. Cyrus hurriedly undid the bolts,
and stepped under the log roof, followed by his comrades. The camp was
in beautiful order, clean, well-stocked, and provided with primitive
comforts. An enticing-looking bed of fresh fir-boughs was arranged in a
sort of rude bunk which extended along one side of the cabin, having a
head-board and foot-board. The latter was fitted to form a bench as
well. A man might perch on it, and stretch his toes to the fire in the
great stone fireplace only two feet distant.

The boys could well imagine that this would make an ideal seat for a
hunter at night, where he might lazily fill his pipe and tell big yarns,
while the winter storm howled outside, and snow-flurries drifted against
his log walls. But they looked at it wistfully now, for it was empty.
There was no figure of a moccasined forest hero on bench or in bunk.
There was no Herb Heal.

"Bless the fellow! Where on earth is he?" Garst exclaimed. "He's been
here, you see, and has the camp provisioned and ready. Perhaps he's only
prowling about in the woods near. I'll give him a 'Coo-hoo!'"

[Illustration: "HERB HEAL."]

He stepped forth from the cabin to the middle of the clearing, and sent
his voice ringing out in a distance-piercing hail. He loaded his rifle
and blazed away with it, firing a volley of signal-shots.

Neither shout nor shots brought him any answer.

The second cabin was likewise empty, and, judging from the withered
remains of a bed, had evidently been long unused.

"Well, fellows!" said the leader, with manifest chagrin, "we'll only
have to fix up something to eat, make ourselves comfortable, and wait
patiently until our guide puts in an appearance. Herb Heal never broke
an engagement yet. He's as faithful a fellow as ever made camp or
spotted a trail in these forests. And he promised to wait for me here
from the first of October, as it was uncertain when I might arrive. I'm
mighty hungry. Who'll go and fetch some water from the lake while I turn
cook?"

Dol volunteered for this business, and brought a kettle from the cabin.
He found it near the hearth, on which a fire still flickered, side by
side with a frying-pan and various articles of tinware. Cyrus rolled up
his sleeves, took the canisters of tea and coffee with other small
stores from his knapsack, proceeded to mix a batter for flapjacks, and
showed himself to be a genius with the pan.

The meal was soon ready. The food might be a little salt and greasy; but
camp-hunger, after a tramp of a dozen miles, is not dulled by such
trifles. The trio ate joyously, washing the fare down with big draughts
of tea, rather fussily prepared by Neal, which might have "done credit
to many a Boston woman's afternoon tea-table"--so young Garst said.

Yet from time to time longing looks were cast at the low camp-door. And
when daylight waned, when stars began to glint in a sky which was a
mixture of soft grays and downy whites like a dove's plumage, when the
islets on Millinokett's bosom became black dots on a slate-gray sheet,
and no laden hunter with rifle and game put in an appearance, even Cyrus
became fidgety and anxious.

"I hope the fellow hasn't come to grief somewhere in the woods," he
said, while a shiver of apprehension shot down his back. "But Herb has
had so many hairbreadth escapes that I believe the animal has yet to be
born which could get the better of him. And he can find his way anywhere
without a compass. Every handful of moss on a trunk or stone, every
turn of a woodland stream, every sun-ray which strikes him through the
trees, every glimpse of the stars at night, has a meaning for him. He
reads the forest like a book. No fear of his getting lost anyhow. Come,
boys, I guess we'd better build up our fire, make things snug for the
night, and turn in."

Rather dejectedly the trio set about these preparations. In twenty
minutes' time they were stretched side by side in the wide bunk, with
their blankets cuddled round them, already venting random snores.

"Hello! So you've got here at last, have you?"

The exclamations were loud and snappy, and awoke the sleeping campers
like the banging of rifle-shots. With jumping pulses they sprang up,
feeling a wave of cold air sweep their faces; for the cabin-door, which
they had closed ere lying down, was now ajar.

The camp was almost in darkness. Only one dull, red ray stole out from
the fire, on which fresh logs had been piled. But while the young
Farrars rubbed their sleep-dimmed eyes, and slowly realized that the
woodsman whom they had been expecting had at last arrived, a strangely
brilliant illumination lit up the log walls.

This sudden and bewildering light showed them the figure of a hunter in
mud-spattered gray trousers, with coarse woollen stockings of lighter
hue drawn over them above his buckskin moccasins. His battered felt hat
was pushed back from his forehead, a guide's leathern wallet was slung
round him, and the rough, clinging jersey he wore, being stretched so
tightly over his swelling muscles that its yarn could not hold together,
had a rent on one shoulder.

His slate-gray eyes with jetty pupils, which were miniatures of
Millinokett Lake at this hour, gazed at the awakened trio in the bunk,
with a gleam of light shooting athwart them, like a moonbeam crossing
the face of the lake.

The hunter held in his hand a big roll of the inflammable paper-like
bark of the white birch-tree, which he had brought in with him to kindle
his fire, expecting that it had gone out during his absence. Seeing a
glow still on the hearth, and feeling instantly that the cabin was
tenanted, he had applied a match to his bark, causing the vivid flare
which revealed him to the eyes of those who had longed for his
presence.

"Herb Heal, man, is it you?" shouted Cyrus, his voice like a midnight
joy-chime, as he sprang from the fir-boughs and gripped the woodsman's
arm. "I'm delighted to see you, though I was ready to swear you wouldn't
disappoint us! I didn't fasten the cabin-door, for I thought you might
possibly get back to camp during the night."

"Cyrus, old fellow, how goes it?" was Herb's greeting. "I had a'most
given up looking for you. But I'm powerful glad you've got here at
last."

The hunter's voice had still the quick snap and force which made it
startling as a rifleshot when he entered the cabin.

"These are my friends, Neal and Adolphus Farrar," said Cyrus,
introducing the blanketed youths, who had now risen to their feet.
"Boys, this is Herb Heal, our new guide, christened Herbert Healy--isn't
that so, Herb?"

"I reckon it is;" answered the young hunter, laughing. "But no woodsman
could spring a sugary, city-sounding name like that on me. I've been
Herb Heal from the day I could handle a rifle."

He nodded pleasantly as he spoke to the strange lads, and began to chat
with them in prompt familiarity, looking straight and strong as a young
pine-tree in the halo of his birch torch. Garst, whose inches his
juniors had hitherto coveted, was but a stripling beside Herb Heal.

"Is this your first trip into Maine woods, younkers?" he asked. "Well, I
guess you've come to the right place for sport. I'm sorry I wasn't on
hand to welcome you when you arrived. A pretty forest guide you must
have thought me. But I guess I'll show you a sight to-morrow that'll
wipe out all scores."

There was such triumph in the hunter's eye that the voices of the trio
blended into one as they breathlessly asked,--

"What sight is it?"

"A dead king o' the woods, boys," answered Herb Heal, his voice
vibrating. "A fine young bull-moose, as sure as this is a land of
liberty. I dropped him by a logon on the east bank of Fir Pond, about
four miles from here. I started out early, hoping to nab a deer; for I
had no fresh meat left, and I didn't want to have a bare larder when you
fellows came along. But the woods were awful still. There didn't seem to
be anything bigger than a field-mouse travelling. Then all of a sudden
I heard a tormented grunting, and the moose came tearing right onto me.
I was to leeward of him, so he couldn't get my scent. A man's gun
doesn't take long to fly into position at such times, and I dropped him
with two shots. There he lies now by the water, for I couldn't get him
back to camp till morning. He's not full-grown; but he's a fine fellow
for all that, and has a dandy pair of antlers. By George! I'd give the
biggest guide's fees I ever got if you fellows had been there to hear
him striking the trees with 'em as he tore along. He was a buster.

"But you'll see him to-morrow anyhow, and have a taste of moose-meat for
the first time in your lives, I guess."

Here Herb waved the fag-end of his bark roll, threw it down as it
scorched his horny fingers, and stamped upon it.

The interior of the log cabin, ere it was extinguished, was a scene for
a painter,--the lithe, muscular figure, tanned face, and gleaming eyes
of the lucky hunter shown by the flare of his birch torch, and the three
staring listeners, with blankets draped about them, who feared to miss
one point of his story.

Cyrus was grinding his teeth in vexation that he had narrowly missed
seeing the moose alive. The two Farrars were burning with excitement at
the thought of beholding the monarch of the forest at all, even in
death. For they had heard enough wood-lore to know that the bull-moose,
with his extreme caution, is like a tantalizing phantom to hunters.
Continually he lures them to disappointment by his uncouth noises, or by
a sight of his freshly made tracks, while his sensitive ears and
super-sensitive nose, which can discriminate between the smell of man
and every other smell on earth, will generally lead him off like a
wind-gust before man gets a sight of him.

"I'm sorry to keep you awake, boys," said Herb Heal, making for the
fire, after he had finished his story; "but I haven't had a bite since
morning, and I'm that hungry I could chaw my moccasins. I'll get
something to eat, and then we'll turn in. We'll have mighty hard work
to-morrow, getting the moose to camp."

Herb was not long in making ready the stereotyped camp-fare of flapjacks
and pork. To light his preparations, he took a candle out of a precious
bundle which he had brought from a town a hundred miles distant, and
set it in a primitive candlestick. This was simply a long stick of white
spruce wood, one end of which was pointed, and stuck into the ground;
the other was split, and into it the candle was inserted, the elasticity
of the fresh wood keeping the light in place.

The tired hunter did not dawdle over his supper. In a quarter of an hour
he had finished it, and was building up the fire again. Then he
stretched himself beside the trio in the rude bunk, drawing one thin
blanket over him. Neal, who lay on his right, was conscious of some
prickings of excitement at having such a bedfellow on the
fir-boughs,--the camper's couch which levels all. There flashed upon the
fair-haired English boy a remembrance of how Cyrus had once said that
"in the woods manhood is the only passport." He thought that, measured
by this standard, Herb Heal had truly a royal charter, and might be a
president of the forest land; for he looked as free, strong, and
unconquerable as the forest wind.



CHAPTER XV.

A FALLEN KING.


The hunter was the only one who slept soundly that night on the fragrant
boughs. Nevertheless, the moose was on his mind. Again in his dreams he
imagined himself back by the quiet, shining logon, listening to the ring
of the antlers as they struck the trees, and to the heaving snorts and
deep grunts of the noble game as it tore through the forest to its
death.

The moose was on the minds of his companions too. Again and again they
awoke, and pictured him lying by the pond, where he had fallen,--a dead
monarch. They tossed and grumbled, longing for day.

Neal and Dol surprised themselves and their elders by being up and
dressed shortly after five, before a streak of light had entered the
cabin. But their guide was not much behind them. Herb had the camp-fire
going well, and was preparing breakfast before six o'clock. The campers
tucked away a substantial meal of fried pork, potatoes, and coffee. The
first glories of the young sun fell on their way as they started across
the clearing and away through the woods beyond, towards the distant pond
where the hunter had got his moose.

Lying amid the small growth and grasses, by a lonely, glinting logon,
they found the conquered king, sleeping that sleep from which never sun
again would wake him. A bullet-hole, crusted with dark blood, showed in
his side. The slim legs were bent and stiff, and the mighty forefeet
could no more strike a ripping blow which would end a man's hunting
forever. The antlers which had made the forest ring were powerless horn.

"Do you know, boys," said Herb, as he stooped and touched them,
fingering each prong, "I've hunted moose in fall and winter since I was
first introduced to a rifle. I've still-hunted 'em, called 'em, and
followed 'em on snowshoes; but I never felt so thundering mean about
killing an animal as I did about dropping this fellow. After his antics
in the woods, when he tramped out onto the open patch where I was
waiting under cover of those shrubs, I popped up and covered him with my
Winchester. He just raised the hair on his back and looked at me, with a
way wild animals sometimes have, as if I was a bad riddle. Like as not
he'd never seen a human being before, and a moose's eyes ain't good for
much as danger-signals. It's only when he hears or smells mischief that
he gets mad scared.

[Illustration: A FALLEN KING.]

"Well, I was out for meat, and bound to have it; so I pulled the
trigger, and killed him with two shots. When the first bullet stung him
he reared up, making a sharp noise like a wounded horse. Then he swung
round as if to bolt; but the second went straight through his heart, and
he fell where you see him now. I made sure that he was past kicking, and
crept close to his head, thinking he was dead. He wasn't quite gone,
though; for he saw me, and laid back his ears, the last pitiful sign a
moose makes when a hunter gets the better of him. I tell you it made me
feel bad--just for a minute. I've got my moose for this season, and I'm
sort o' glad that the law won't let me kill another unless it's a
life-saving matter."

"How tall should you say this fellow was when alive?" asked Cyrus,
stroking the creature's shaggy hair, which was a rusty black in color.

"Oh! I guess he stood about as high as a good-sized pony. But I've shot
moose which were taller than any horse. The biggest one I ever killed
measured between seven and eight feet from the points of his hoofs to
his shoulders, and the antlers were four feet and nine inches from tip
to tip. He was a monster--a regular jing-swizzler! A mighty queer way I
got him too! I'll tell you all about it some other time."

"Oh! you must," answered Garst. "You'll have to give us no end of
moose-talk by the camp-fire of evenings. These English fellows want to
learn all they can about the finest game on our continent before they go
home."

"Why, for evermore!" gasped Herb, in broad amazement. "Are you
Britishers? And have you crossed the ocean to chase moose in Maine
woods? My word! You're a gamy pair of kids. We'll have to try to
accommodate you with a sight of a moose at any rate--a live one."

Though they would gladly have appropriated the compliment, the "gamy
kids" were obliged to acknowledge that hunting had not been in their
thoughts when they traversed the Atlantic. But they avowed that they
were the luckiest fellows alive, and that the American forest-land, with
its camps and trails and wild offspring, was such a glorious old
playground that they would never stop singing its praises until a swarm
of boys from English soil had tasted the novel pleasures which they
enjoyed.

"Now, then, gentlemen!" said the guide, "I haven't much idea that we'll
be able to haul this moose along to camp whole. If I skin and dress him
here, are you all ready to help in carrying home the meat?"

The trio briskly expressed their willingness, and Herb began the
dissecting business; while from a tree near by that strange bird which
hunters call the "moose-bird" screamed its shrill "What cheer? What
cheer?" with ceaseless persistence.

"Oh, hold your noise, you squalling thing!" said the guide, answering it
back. "It's good cheer this time. We'll have a feast of moose-meat
to-night, and there'll be pickings for you."

He then explained, for the benefit of the English lads, that this bird,
whose cry is startlingly like the hunters' translation of it, haunts the
spot where a moose has been killed, waiting greedily for its meal off
the creature after men have taken their share of the meat. Herb declared
that it had often followed him for hours while he was stealthily
tracking a moose, to be in at the death. And now it kept up the din of
its unceasing question until he had finished his disagreeable work.

As the party started back to camp, each one weighted with forty pounds
or more of meat, Herb carrying a double portion, with the antlers hooked
upon his shoulders, they heard the moose-bird still insatiably shrieking
"What cheer?" over its meal.

"Say, boys," said the guide, as he stalked along with his heavy load,
never blenching, "if you want to get a pair o' moose-antlers, now's your
time. I ain't a-going to sell these, but I'll give 'em outright to the
first fellow who can learn to call a moose successfully while he's
hunting with me. I know what sort of sportsman Cyrus Garst is. He'll go
prowling through the woods, starting moose and coolly letting 'em get
off without spilling a drop of blood, while he's watching the length of
their steps. I b'lieve he'd be a sight prouder of seeing one crunch a
root than if he got the finest head in Maine. So here's your chance for
a trophy, boys. I guess 'twill be your only one."

"Hurrah! I'm in for this game!" cried Neal.

"I too," said Cyrus.

"I'm in for it with a vengeance!" whooped Dol. "Though I'm blessed if
I've a notion what 'calling a moose' means."

"How much have you larned, anyhow, Kid, in the bit o' time you've been
alive?" asked the woodsman, with good-humored sarcasm.

"Enough to make my fists talk to anybody who thinks I'm a duffer,"
answered Dol, squaring his shoulders as if to make the most of himself.

"Good for you, young England!" laughed Cyrus.

Herb turned his eyes, and regarded the juvenile Adolphus with amused
criticism.

"Britisher or no Britisher, I'll allow you're a little man," he
muttered. "Keep a stiff upper lip, boys; we're not far from camp now."

A word of cheer was needed. Not one of the trio had growled at their
load, but the flannel shirts of the two Farrars clung wetly to their
bodies. Their breath was coming in hard puffs through spread nostrils. A
four-mile tramp through the woods, heavily laden with raw meat, was a
novel but not an altogether delightful experience.

However, the smell of moose-steak frying over their camp-fire later on
fully compensated them for acting as butcher's boys. When the taste as
well as the smell had been enjoyed, the rest which followed by the
blazing birch-logs that evening was so full of bliss that each camper
felt as if existence had at last drifted to a point of superb content.

Their camp-door stood open for ventilation; and a keen touch of frost,
mingling with the night air which entered, made the fragrant warmth
delightful.

When supper was ended, and the tin vessels from which it had been eaten,
together with all camp utensils, were duly cleaned, Herb seated himself
on the middle of the bench, which he called "the deacon's seat," and
luxuriously lit his oldest pipe. His brawny hands had performed every
duty connected with the meal as deftly and neatly as those of a
delicate-fingered woman.

"Well, for downright solid comfort, boys, give me a cosey camp-fire in
the wilderness, when a fellow is tired out after a good day's outing.
City life can offer nothing to touch it," said Cyrus, as he spread his
blankets near the cheerful blaze, and sprawled himself upon them.

Neal and Dol followed his example. The three looked up at their guide,
on whose weather-tanned face the fire shed wavering lights, in lazy
expectation.

"Now, Herb," said Garst, "we want to think of nothing but moose for the
remainder of this trip; so go ahead, and give us some moose-talk
to-night. Begin at the beginning, as the children say, and tell us
everything you know about the animal."

Herb Heal swung himself to and fro upon his plank seat, drawing his pipe
reflectively, and letting its smoke filter through his nostrils, while
he prepared to answer.

"Well," he said at last, slowly, "it seems to me that a moose is a
troublesome brute to tackle, however you take him. It's plaguy hard for
a hunter to get the better of him, and if it's only knowledge you're
after, he'll dodge you like a will-o'-the-wisp till you get pretty mixed
in your notions about his habits. I guess these English fellows know
already that he's the largest animal of the deer tribe, or any other
tribe, to be seen on this continent, and as grand game as can be found
on any spot of this here earth. I hain't had a chance to chase lions an'
tigers; but I've shot grizzlies over in Canada,--and that's scarey work,
you better b'lieve!--and I tell you there's no sport that'll bring out
the grit and ingenuity that's in a man like moose-hunting. Now, boys,
ask me any questions you like, an' I'll try to answer 'em."

"You said something to-day about moose 'crunching twigs,'" began Neal
eagerly. "Why, I always had a hazy idea that they fed on moss
altogether, which they dug up in the winter with their broad antlers."

"Land o' liberty!" ejaculated the woodsman. "Where on earth do you city
men pick up your notions about forest creatures--that's what I'd like to
know? A moose can't get its horns to the ground without dropping on its
knees; and it can't nibble grass from the ground neither without
sprawling out its long legs,--which for an animal of its size are as
thin as pipe-stems,--and tumbling in a heap. So I don't credit that yarn
about their digging up the moss, even when there's no other food to be
had; though I can't say for sure it's not true. In summer moose feed
about the ponds and streams, on the long grasses and lily-pads. They're
at home in the water, and mighty fine swimmers; so the red men say that
they came first from the sea.

"In the fall, and through the winter too, so far as I can make out, they
eat the twigs and bark of different trees, such as white birches and
poplars. They're powerful fond of moose-wood--that's what you call
mountain ash. I guess it tastes to them like pie does to us."

"Well, Dol, I feel that you're twitching all over with some question,"
said Cyrus, detecting uneasy movements on the part of the younger boy
who lay next to him. "What is it, Chick? Out with it!"

"I want to hear about moose-calling," so spoke Dol in heart-eager tones.

The guide swung his body to the music of a jingling laugh.

"Oh; that's it; is it?" he said. "You're stuck on winning those antlers;
ain't you, Dol? Well, calling is the 'moose-hunter's secret,' and it's
a secret that he don't want to give away to every one. When a man is a
good caller he's kind o' jealous about keeping the trick to himself. But
I'll tell you how it's done, anyhow, and give you a lesson sometime.
Sakes alive! if you Britishers could only take over a birch-bark
trumpet, and give that call in England, you'd make nearly as much fuss
as Buffalo Bill did with his cowboys and Injuns. Only 'twould be a
onesided game, for there'd be no moose to answer."

The young Farrars were silent, breathlessly waiting for more. The
camp-firelight showed their absorbed faces; it played upon bronzed
cheeks, where the ruddy tints of English boyhood had been replaced by a
duller, hardier hue. On Neal's upper lip a fine, fair growth had
sprouted, which looked white against his sun-tinged skin. As for Cyrus,
he had never brought a razor into the woods since that memorable trip
when the bear had overhauled his knapsack; so the Bostonian's chin was
covered with a thick black stubble.

Neither of the youths, however, was at present giving a thought to his
hirsute adornment, about which questionable compliments were frequently
bandied. Their minds were full of moose, and their ears alert for the
guide's next words.

"P'raps you folks don't know," went on the woodsman, "that there are
four ways o' hunting moose. The first and fairest is still-hunting 'em
in the woods, which means following their signs, and getting a shot in
any way you can, _if_ you can. But that's a stiff 'if' to a hunter. Nine
times out o' ten a moose will baffle him and get off unhurt, even when a
man has tracked him for days, camping on his trail o' nights. The
snapping of a twig not the size of my little finger, or one tramping
step, and the moose'll take warning. He'll light out o' the way as
silently as a red man in moccasins, and the hunter won't even know he's
gone.

"The second way is night-hunting, going after 'em in a canoe with a
jack-light; same thing as jacking for deer. I guess you've tried that,
so you'll know what it's like--skeery kind o' work."

Neal nodded an eloquent assent, and Herb went on:--

"The third method is a dog's trick. It's following 'em on snowshoes over
deep snow. I've tried that once, and I'm blamed if I'll ever try it
again. It's butchery, not sport. The crust of snow will be strong enough
for a man to run on, but it can't support the heavy moose. The
creature'll go smashing through it and struggling out, until its slim
legs are a sight to see for cuts and blood. Soon it gets blowed, and can
stumble no farther. Then the hunter finishes it with an axe."

Disgust thickened the voices of the listening three, as with one accord
they raised an outcry against this cruel way of butchering a game
animal, without giving it a single chance for its life. When their
indignation had subsided, the hunter went on to describe the fourth and
last method of entrapping moose--the calling in which Dol was so
interested.

"P'raps you won't think this is fair hunting either," he said; "for it's
a trick, and I'll allow that there's times when it seems a pretty mean
game. Anyhow, I'd rather kill one moose by still-hunting than six by
calling. But if you want to try work that'll make your blood race
through your body like a torrent one minute, and turn you as cold as if
your sweat was ice-water the next, you go in for moose-calling. I guess
you know all about the matter, Cyrus; but as these Britishers do not,
I'll try and explain it to' em.

"Early in September the moose come up from the low, swampy lands where
they have spent the summer alone, and begin to pair. Then the
bull-moose, as we call the male, which is generally the most wide-awake
of forest creatures, loses some of his big caution, an' goes roaming
through the woods, looking for a mate. This is the time for fooling him.
The hunter makes a horn out o' birch-bark, somewheres about eighteen
inches long, through which he mimics the call of the cow-moose, to coax
the bull within reach of his rifle-shots."

"What is the call like?" asked Neal, his heart thumping while he
remembered that strange noise which had marked a new era in his
experience of sounds, as he listened to it at midnight by Squaw Pond.

"Sho! a man might keep jawing till crack o' doom, and not give you any
idea of it without you heard it," answered Herb Heal, the dare-all
moose-hunter. "The noise begins sort o' gently, like the lowing of a
tame cow. It seems, if you're listening to it, to come
rolling--rolling--along the ground. Then it rises in pitch, and gets
impatient and lonely and wild-like, till you think it fills the air
above you, when it sinks again and dies away in a queer, quavery sound
that ain't a sigh, nor a groan, nor a grunt, but all three together.

"The call is mostly repeated three times; and the third time it ends
with a mad roar as if the lady-moose was saying to her mate, '_Come_
now, or stay away altogether!'"

"Joe Flint was right, then!" exclaimed Neal, in high excitement. "That's
the very noise I heard in the woods near Squaw Pond, on the night when
we were jacking for deer, and our canoe capsized."

"P'raps it was," answered Herb, "though the woods near Squaw Pond ain't
much good for moose now. They're too full of hunters. Still, you might
have heard the cow-moose herself calling, or some man who had come
across the tracks of a bull imitating her."

"But if the bull has such sharp ears, can't he tell the real call from
the sham one?" asked Dol.

"Lots of times he can. But if the hunter is an old woodsman and a clever
caller, he'll generally fool the animal, unless he makes some awkward
noise that isn't in the game, or else the moose gets his scent on the
breeze. One whiff of a man will send the creature off like a wind-gust,
and earthquakes wouldn't stop him. And though he sneaks away so
silently when he _hears_ anything suspicious, yet when he _smells_
danger he'll go through the forest at a thundering rush, making as much
noise as a demented fire-brigade."

"Good gracious!" ejaculated Neal and Dol together.

"Is the moose ever dangerous, Herb?" asked the former.

"I guess he is pretty often. Sometimes a bull-moose will turn on a
hunter, and make at him full tilt, if he's in danger or finds himself
tricked. And he'll always fight like fury to protect his mate from any
enemy. The bulls have awful big duels between themselves occasionally.
When they're real mad, they don't stop for a few wounds. They prod each
other with their terrible brow antlers till one or the other of 'em is
stretched dead. If a moose ever charges you, boys, take my advice, and
don't try to face him with your rifles. Half a dozen shots mightn't stop
him. Make for the nearest tree, and climb for your lives. Fire down on
him then, if you can. But once let him get a kick at you with his
forefeet, and one thing is sure--_you'll_ never kick again. Are you
tired of moose-talk yet?"

"Not by a jugful!" answered Cyrus, laughing. "But tell us, Herb, how are
we to proceed to get a sight of this 'Jabberwock' alive?"

"If to-morrow night happens to be dead calm, I might try to call one
up," answered the guide. "There's a pretty good calling-place near the
south end of the lake. As this is the height of the season, we might get
an answer there. We'll try it, anyhow, if you're willing."

"Willing! I should say we are!" answered Garst. "You're our captain now,
Herb, and it's a case of 'Follow my leader!' Take us anywhere you like,
through jungles or mud-swamps. We won't kick at hardships if we can only
get a good look at his mooseship. Up to the present, except for that one
moonlight peep, he has always dodged me like a phantom."

"Are you going to be satisfied with a look?" The guide's eyes narrowed
into two long slits, on which the firelight quivered, as he gazed
quizzically down upon Cyrus. "If the moose comes within reach of our
shots, ain't anybody going to pump lead into him? Or is he to get off
again scot-free? I've got my moose for this season, and I darsn't send
my bullets through the law by dropping another, so I can't do the
shooting."

"My friends can please themselves," said the Bostonian, glancing at the
English lads. "For my own part I'll be better pleased if Mr. Moose
manages to keep a whole skin. Our grand game is getting scarce enough; I
don't want to lessen it. I once saw the last persecuted deer in a
county, after it had been badgered and wounded by men and dogs, limp off
to die alone in its native haunts. The sight cured me of bloodthirst."

"I guess 'twould be enough to cure any man," responded Herb. "And we
don't want meat, so this time we won't shoot our moose after we've
tricked him. Good land! I wouldn't like any fellow to imitate the call
of my best girl, that he might put a bullet through me. Come, boys, it's
pretty late; let's fix our fire, and turn in."



CHAPTER XVI.

MOOSE-CALLING.


Nothing was talked about among the campers on the following day but the
forthcoming sport of the evening--moose-calling.

Herb Heal had decided that his call should be given from the water, his
"good calling-place" being an alder-fringed logon at the loneliest
extremity of the lake.

During the afternoon he took Neal and Dol with him into a grove of
poplars and birches which bordered one end of the clearing, leaving
Cyrus lounging by the camp-fire. Here the woodsman began the exciting
work of preparing his birch-bark horn, that primitive but potent trumpet
through which he would sigh, groan, grunt, and roar, imitating each
varying mood of the cow-moose. To her call he had often listened as he
lay for hours on a mossy bed in the far depths of the forest, learning
to interpret the language of every woodland creature.

Unsheathing his hunting-knife, and selecting a sound white-birch tree,
Herb carefully removed from it a piece of bark about eighteen inches in
length and six in width. This he carefully trimmed, and rolled into a
horn as a child would twist paper into a cornucopia package for sweets,
tying it with the twine-like roots of the ground juniper. The tapering
end of the trumpet, which would be applied to the caller's lips,
measured about one inch across; its mouth measured five.

Returning to camp, Herb dipped the horn in warm water and then let it
dry, saying that this would produce a mellow ring. He stoutly refused
all appeals from the boys to give them a few illustrations of
moose-calling there and then, with a lesson in the art, declaring that
it would spoil the night's sport, and that they must first hear the call
amid proper surroundings. From time to time he impressed upon them that
they were going to engage in an expedition which required absolute
silence and clever stratagem to make it successful. He vowed to wreak a
woodsman's vengeance on any fellow who balked it by shaking the boat, or
by moving body or rifle so as to make a noise.

A light, humming breeze had been blowing all day; but as the afternoon
waned, it died down. The evening proved clear, chilly, and still.

"Is this a likely night for calling, Herb?" asked Cyrus anxiously,
taking a survey of sky and lake from the camp-door about an hour before
the start.

"Fine," answered Herb with satisfaction. "Guess we'll get an answer
sure, if there's a moose within hearing. There ain't a puff of wind to
carry our scent, and give the trick away. But rig yourselves up in all
the clothing you've got, boys; the cold, while we're waiting, may be
more than you bargain for."

The guide had a light boat on the lake, moored below the camp. At six
o'clock he seated himself therein, taking the oars in his brawny hands.
Cyrus and Neal took their places in the stern; while Dol disposed of
himself snugly in the bow, right under a jack-lamp which Herb had
carefully trimmed and lit. But he had closed its sliding door, which,
being padded with buckskin, could be opened and shut without a sound, so
that not a ray of light at present escaped.

"Moose won't stand to watch a jack as deer do," he said. "Twill only
scare 'em off. They're a heap too cute to be taken in by an onnatural
big star floating over the water. But 'taint the lucky side of the moon
for us. She'll rise late, and her light'll be so feeble that it wouldn't
show us an elephant clearly if he was under our noses. So if I succeed
in coaxing a bull to the brink of the water, I'll open the jack, and
flash our light on him. He'll bolt the next minute as quick as greased
lightning on skates; but if you only get a short sight of him, I promise
that 'twill be one you'll remember."

"And if he should take a notion to come for us?" said Cyrus.

"He won't, if we don't fire. The boat will be lying among the black
shadows, snug in by the bank, and he'll see nothing but the dazzling
light. But you fellows must keep still as death. Off we go now, boys,
and mum's the word!"

This was almost the last sentence spoken. Not a syllable moved the lips
of any one of the four, as the boat glided away from camp towards the
south end of the lake, the oars making scarcely a sound as Herb handled
them. By and by he ceased rowing for an instant, took his pipe from his
mouth, knocked out its ashes, and put it in his pocket with a wise look
at his companions, murmuring, "Don't want no tobacco incense floating
around!"

At the same time, from a distant ridge upon the eastern shore, covered
with evergreens which stood out like dark steeples against the evening
sky, came a faint, dull noise, as if some belated woodsman was driving a
blunt axe against a tree. The sound itself would scarcely have awakened
a hope of anything unusual in the minds of the inexperienced; but,
combined with the guide's aspect as he pocketed his pipe, it made Cyrus
and his comrades sit suddenly erect, listening as if ears were the only
organs they possessed.

The queer, dull noise was once repeated. Then again there was silence
almost absolute, Herb's oars moving with the softest swish imaginable,
as the boat skimmed along the lonely, curved bay which he had chosen for
a calling-place. It came to a stop amid shadows so dense and black that
they seemed almost tangible, close to a bank fringed with overhanging
bushes, having a background of evergreens. These last, in the
fast-gathering darkness, looked like a sable array of mourners in whose
ranks a pale ghost or two mingled, the spectres being slim white-birch
trees.

The opposite bank presented a similar scene.

It was amid such surroundings that Neal Farrar heard for the second time
in his life the weird sound of the moose-hunter's call. He was a strong,
well-balanced young fellow; yet here again he knew the sensation as if
needles were pricking him all over, which he had felt once before in
these wilds, while his heart seemed to be performing athletic sports in
his body.

Cyrus and Dol confessed afterwards that they were "all shivers and
goose-flesh" as the call rose upon the night air.

After he had shipped his oars, and laid them down, Herb Heal noiselessly
turned his body to face the bow, and took up the birch-bark horn which
lay beside him. He breathed into it anxiously once or twice, then
paused, drew in all the air which his big lungs could contain, put the
trumpet again to his lips with its mouth pointing downward, and began
his summons.

The first part of the call lasted half a minute, or so, without a break.
During its execution the hunter moved his neck and shoulders first to
the left, then to the right, and slowly raised the horn above his head,
the rolling, plaintive sounds with which he commenced gathering power
and pitch with the ascending motion. As the birch trumpet pointed
straight upward, they seemed to sweep aloft in a surging crescendo, and
boom among the tree-tops.

Carrying his head again to the left and right, Herb gradually lowered
the horn until it was once more pointed towards the bottom of the boat,
having in its movements described in the air a big figure of eight. The
call sank with it, and died away in a lonely, sighing, quavering grunt.

Two seconds' pause, two slow, great throbs of the boys' hearts, so loud
that they threatened to burst the stillness.

Then the call began again, low and grumbling. Again it rose, swelled,
quavered, and sank, full of lonely longing.

A third time it surged up, and ended abruptly in a wild, ear-splitting
roar, which struck the tops of distant hills, and rolled off in
thunder-like echoes among them.

Silence followed. Not a gasp came from Herb after his efforts. Cyrus and
the Farrars tried to still their heaving chests, while each quick breath
was an expectation.

An answer! Surely it was an answer! The boys never doubted it; though
the responding sound they caught was only a repetition of that far-away
chopping noise, which resembled the heavy thud of an axe against wood.
This came nearer--nearer. It was followed once by a sort of short, sharp
bark.

Then the motionless occupants of the boat heard random, guttural grunts,
a smashing of dead branches, crashing of undergrowth, and the proud ring
of mighty antlers against the trees. The lord of the forest, a big
bull-moose, was tearing recklessly through the woods towards the lake,
in answer to the call of his imaginary mate.

To say that the hearts of our trio were performing gymnastic feats
during these awfully silent minutes of waiting, is to say little. All
the repressed motion of their bodies seemed concentrated in these
organs, which raced, leaped, stopped short, and pounded, vibrating to
such questions as:--

"Will he come? Where shall we first see him? How near is he now? Does he
suspect the trick? Will he give us the slip after all?--_Has he gone_?"

For of a sudden dead stillness reigned in the forest. No more trampling,
grunting, and knocking of antlers. The spirits of the three sank to
zero. Their breathing became thick. The blood, which a moment before had
played like wildfire in their veins, now stirred sluggishly as if it was
freezing. Disappointment, blank and bitter, shivered through them from
neck to foot.

So passed quarter of an hour. A filmy mist rose from the surface of the
water, and drifted by their faces like the brushing of cold wings. For
lack of motion hand and feet felt numb. Mid the pitch-black shadows,
snug in by the bank, no man could see the face of his fellow, though the
trio would have given a fortune to read their guide's. Not a word was
spoken. Once, when a deep breath of impatience escaped him, Neal heard
the folds of his coat rub each other, and clenched his teeth to stop an
exclamation at the sound, which he had never noticed before.

Nearly twenty minutes had elapsed since the last noise had been heard in
the woods, when Herb took up the horn which he had laid down, and put
it to his mouth. Again the call rolled up. It was neither loud nor long
this time, ending with a quick, short roar.

As it ceased the guide plunged his arm into the water and slowly
withdrew it, letting drops dribble from his fingers.

The novices could only suspect that this manoeuvre was another lure for
the bull-moose, if he chanced to be still within hearing. Its success
took their breath away.

The wary bull which had answered, having doubtless harbored a suspicion
that all was not exactly right with the first call, had halted in his
on-coming rush, with head upreared, and nostrils spread, trying to catch
any taint in the air which might warn him of danger. But in the dead
calm the heavy evergreens stirred not; no whiff reached him. The second
call upset his prudence. Then he heard that splash and dribble in the
water, and imagined that his impatient mate was dipping her nose into
the lake for a cool drink.

A snort! A bellowing challenge quite indescribable! On he came again
with a thundering rush!

Bushes were thrashed and spurned by his sharp hoofs. Branches snapped.
Trees echoed as his antlers struck them.

A musk-rat leaped from the bank ahead, and dived to reach his hole in
the bank. Under cover of the noisy splash which the little creature
made, one whisper was hissed by Herb's tongue into the ears of his
comrades. It was:--

"Gee whittaker! he's a big one! Listen to them shovels against the
trees!"

A minute later, with a deep gulp of intense excitement, and a general
racket as if an engine had broken loose from brakes and checks, and was
carrying all before it, the monarch of the woods crashed through the
alders and halted, with his hoofs in the water, scarcely thirty yards
from where the boat lay in shadow.

This was a supreme moment for our travellers. Leaning forward, fearful
lest their heart-beats should betray them, they could barely distinguish
the outlines of the moose, as he stood with his enormous nose high in
air, giving vent to deep gulps and grunts, and looking to right and left
in bewilderment for that cow which he had heard calling.

For fully five minutes he stood thus, badly puzzled, now and again
stamping a hoof, and scattering spray in rising wrath. Then Herb bent
forward, shot out a long arm, and silently opened the jack.

Meteor-like its silver light flashed forth, to reveal a sight which
could never be wiped from the memories of the beholders, though it
affected each of them differently.

Herb Heal involuntarily gripped the loaded rifle which lay beside
him,--he was too wary a woodsman to be unprepared for emergencies; but
he did not cock it, for he remembered the law, and the bargain which he
had made about to-night.

Cyrus's eyes gleamed like fires in a face pale from eagerness, as he
strove in a minute of time to take in every feature of the monster
before him, from hoof to horn.

Neal sat as if paralyzed.

Dol--well, Dol lost his head a bit. A deep, throaty gulp, which was a
weak reproduction of the sound made by the moose, as if the boy and the
animal were sharing the same throes of excitement, burst from him. There
was a rattle and struggle of his vocal organs, which in another second
would have become a shout, had not Herb's masterful left hand gripped
him. Its touch held in check the speech which Dol could no longer
control.

The moose was a big one, "about as big as they grow," as the guide
afterwards declared. Under the jack-light he looked a regular behemoth.
He must have been over seven feet high at the shoulders, for he was
taller than the tallest horse the boys had ever seen. His black mane
bristled. His antlers were thrown back. His great nose, with its dilated
nostrils, looked as if it were drinking in every scent of the night
world. His eyes had a green glare in them, as for ten seconds he gazed
at the strange light which had suddenly burst into view, its silver
radiance so dazzling him that he saw not the screened boat beneath.

At the rash noise which Dol made his ears twitched. He splashed a step
forward as if to investigate matters, seeing which, Herb held his
Winchester in readiness to fly to his shoulder at a moment's notice. But
the moose evidently regarded the jack-lamp as a supernatural, terrible
phenomenon. He shrank from it as man might shrink beneath a flaming
heaven.

With one more despairing look right and left for that phantom cow which
had deluded him, he wheeled around, and crashed back into the forest,
tearing away more rapidly than he came.

"He's off now, and Heaven knows when he'll stop!" said Herb, breaking
the weird spell of silence. "Not till he reaches some lair where nary a
creature could follow him. Well, boys, you've seen the grandest game on
this continent, the king o' the woods. What do you think of him?"

All tongues were loosened together. There was a general shifting of
cramped bodies, accompanied by a gust of exclamations.

"He was a monster!"

"He was a behemoth!"

"Oh! but you're a conjurer, Herb. How on earth did you give such a
fetching call?"

"I could never have believed that those sounds came from a human throat
and a birch-bark horn, if I hadn't been sitting in the boat with you!"

When there was a break in the excited chorus, Herb, without answering
the compliments to his calling powers, asked quietly,--

"Didn't you think we'd lost him, boys, when he stopped short in the
middle of his rush, and you heard nothing?"

"We just did," answered Cyrus. "That was the longest half-hour I ever
put in. What made him do it?"

"I guess he was kind o' criticising my music," said the guide, laughing.
"Mebbe I got in a grunt or two that wasn't natural, and the old boy
wasn't satisfied with his sweetheart's voice. He was sniffing the air,
and waiting to hear more. But 'twasn't more 'n twenty minutes before I
gave the second call, though no doubt it seemed longer to you. A man
must be in good training to get the better of a moose's ears and nose."

"I'm going to get the better of them before I leave these woods!" cried
Dol, who was still puffing and gasping with intense excitement. "I'll
learn to call up a moose, if I crack my windpipe in doing it."

"Hurrah for the Boy Moose-Caller!" jeered Cyrus, with a teasing laugh,
which Neal echoed.

But Herb Heal, who had from the beginning regarded "the kid of the camp"
with favor, suddenly became his champion.

"Don't let 'em down you, Dol," he said. "I hate to hear a youngster, or
a man, 'talk fire,' as the Injuns say, which means _brag_, if he's a
coward or a chump; but I guess you ain't either. Here we are at camp,
boys! I tell you the home-camp is a pleasant sort of place, after
you've been out moose-calling!"

Thereupon ensued loud cheers for the home-camp, the boys feeling that
they were letting off steam, and atoning for that long spell of silence,
which had been a positive hardship. In the midst of an echoing hubbub
the boat was hauled up and moored, and the party reached their log
shelter.



CHAPTER XVII.

HERB'S YARNS.


The following day was spent by our trio in exploring the woods near
Millinokett Lake, in listening to more moose-talk, and in attempting the
trick of calling. Herb gave them many persistent lessons, making the
sounds which he had made on the preceding night, with and without the
horn, and patiently explaining the varied language of grunts, groans,
sighs, and roars in which the cow-moose indulges.

Perhaps the woodsman expended extra pains on the teaching of his
youngest pupil, whom he had championed. And certainly Dol's own talent
for mimicry came to his aid. No matter to what cause the success was
due, each one allowed that Dol made a brilliant attempt to get hold of
"the moose-hunter's secret," and give a natural call.

The boy had been a genius at imitating the voices of English birds and
animals; many a trick had he played on his schoolfellows with his carols
and howls. And his proficiency in this line was a good foundation on
which to work.

"You'll get there, boy," said Herb, surveying him with approval, as he
stood outside the camp-door with the moose-horn to his lips. "Make
believe that there's a moose on the opposite shore of the lake now, and
give the whole call, from start to finish."

Whereupon Dol slowly carried his head to left and right, as he had seen
the guide do on the previous night, raising and lowering the horn until
it had described an enormous figure of eight in the air, while he
groaned, sighed, rasped, and bellowed with a plaintive intensity of
expression, which caused his brother and his friend to shriek with
laughter.

"You'll get there, Kid," repeated the woodsman, with a great triumphant
guffaw. "You'll be able to give a fetching call sooner than either of
the others. But be careful how you use the trick, or you'll be having
the breath kicked out of you some day by a moose's forefeet."

For days afterwards, the birch-bark horn was rarely out of Dol Farrar's
hands. The boy was so entranced with the new musical art he was
mastering, which would be a means of communication between him and the
behemoth of the woods, that he haunted the edges of the forest about the
clearing, keeping aloof from his brother and friend, practising
unceasingly, sometimes under Herb's supervision, sometimes alone. He
learned to imitate every sound which the guide made, working in touching
quavers and inflections that must tug at the heart-strings of any
listening moose. He learned to give the call, squatting Indian fashion,
in a very uncomfortable position, behind a screen of bushes. He learned
to copy, not the cow's summons alone, but the bull's short challenge
too; and to rasp his horn against a tree, in imitation of a moose
polishing its antlers for battle.

And now, for the first time, Dol Farrar of Manchester regarded his
education as complete. He was prouder of this forest accomplishment,
picked up in the wilds, than of all triumphs over problems and 'ologies
at his English school. He had not been a laggard in study, either.

But the finishing of Dol's education had one bad result. If there
happened to be another moose travelling through the adjacent forests, he
evidently thought that all this random calling was too much of a good
thing, had his suspicions aroused, and took himself oft to wilder
solitudes. Though the guide tried his powers in persuasive summons every
night at various calling-places, he could not again succeed in getting
an answer.

At last, on a certain evening, after supper, a solemn camp-council was
held around an inspiring fire, and Herb Heal suggested that if his party
were really bent on seeing a moose again, before they turned their faces
homeward, they had better rise early the following morning, shoulder
their knapsacks, and set out to do a few days' hunting amid the dense
woods near the base of Katahdin.

"I killed the biggest bull-moose I ever saw, on Togue Ponds, in that
region," said the guide meditatively; "and I got him in a queer way. I
b'lieve I promised to tell you that yarn."

"Of course you did!"

"Let's have it!"

"Go ahead, Herb! Don't shorten it!"

Thus encouraged by the eager three, the woodsman began:--

"It is five years now, boys, since I spent a fall and winter trapping in
them woods we were speaking of--I and another fellow. We had two
home-camps, which were our headquarters, snug log shelters, one on Togue
Ponds, the other on the side of Katahdin. As sure as ever the sun went
down on a Saturday night, we two trappers met at one or other of these
home-camps; though during the week we were mostly apart. For we had
several lines of traps, which covered big distances in various
directions; and on Monday morning I used to start one way, and my chum
another, to visit these. Generally it took us five or six days to make
the rounds of them. While we were on our travels we'd sleep with a
blanket round us, under any shelter we could rig up,--a few
spruce-boughs or a bark hut. When the snow came, we were forced to
shorten our trips, so as to reach one of the home-camps each night.

"Well, it was early in the season, one fine fall evening, that I was
crossing Togue Ponds in a canoe. I had been away on the tramp for a'most
a week; and though I had a rifle and axe with me, I had nary an ounce
of ammunition left. All of a sudden I caught sight of a moose, feeding
on some lily-roots in deep water. Jest at first I was a bit doubtful
whether it was a moose or not; for the creature's head was under, and I
could only see his shoulders. I stopped paddling. I tried to stop
breathing. Next, I felt like jumping out of my skin; for, with a big
splash, up come a pair of antlers a good five feet across, dripping with
water, and a'most covered with green roots and stems, which dangled from
'em.

"Good land! 'twas a queer sight. 'Herb Heal,' thinks I, 'now's your
chance! If you can only manage to nab that moose-head, you'll get two
hundred dollars for it at Greenville, sure!' And mighty few cents I had
jest then.

"I could a'most have cried over my tough luck in not having one dose of
lead left. But the bull's back was towards me. The water filled his ears
and nose, so that he couldn't hear or smell. And he was having a
splendid tuck-in. It was big sport to hear him crunch those lily-roots."

"I should think it was!" burst out Cyrus enviously. "But did you have
the heart to kill him in cold blood, in the middle of his meal?"

"I did. I guess I wouldn't do it now; anyhow, not unless I was very
badly off for food. But I had an old mother living at Greenville that
time,"--here there was the least possible tremble in the woodsman's
voice,--"and while I paddled alongside the moose, without making a
sound, I was thinking that the price I'd be sure to get from some city
swell for the head would come in handy to make her comfortable. The
creature never suspicioned danger till I was close to him, and had my
axe lifted, ready to strike. Then up came his head. Out went his
forefeet. Over spun the canoe. There was as big a commotion as if a
whale was there.

"I managed to keep behind the brute so as to dodge his kicks; and
gripping the axe in one hand, I dug the other into his long hair. He was
mad scared. He started to swim for the opposite shore, which was about
half a mile distant, with me in tow, snorting like a locomotive. As his
feet touched ground near the bank, I jumped upon his back. With one blow
of the axe I split his spine. Perhaps you'll think that was awful cruel,
but it wasn't done for the glory of killing."

"And what became of the head? Did you sell it?" asked Dol, who was, as
usual, the first to break a breathless silence.

There was no reply. Herb feigned not to hear.

"Did you get two hundred dollars for the head?" questioned the impetuous
youngster again, in a higher key, his curiosity swelling.

"I didn't. It was stole."

The answer was a growl, like the growl of a hurt animal whose sore has
been touched. The tone of it was so different from the woodsman's
generally strong, happy-go-lucky manner of speech, that Dol blenched as
if he had been struck.

"Who stole it?" he gasped, after a minute, scarcely knowing that he
spoke aloud.

Unnoticed in the firelight, Cyrus clapped a strong hand over the boy's
mouth, to stifle further questions.

"Keep still!" he whispered.

But Herb, who was, as usual, perched upon the "deacon's seat," leaned
forward, with a laugh which was more than half a snarl.

"Who stole it?" he echoed. "Why, the other fellow--my chum; the man whom
I carried for a mile on my back, through a snow-heaped forest, the first
time I saw him, when I had lugged him out of a heavy drift. _He_ stole
it, Kid, and a'most everything I owned with it."

[Illustration: THE CAMP ON MILLINOKETT LAKE.]

With a savage kick of his moccasined foot, the woodsman suddenly
assaulted a blazing log. It sent a shower of sparks aloft, and caused a
bright flame to shoot, rocket-like, from the heart of the fire, which
showed the guide's face. His fine eyes reminded Cyrus of Millinokett
Lake when a thunder-storm broke over it. Their gray was dark and
troubled; the black pupils seemed to shrink, as if a tempest beat on
them; fierce flashes of light played through them.

Muttering a half-smothered oath, Herb flung himself off his bench,
stamped across the cabin to the open camp-door, and passed into the
darkness outside.

The boys, who had been stretched out in comfortable positions, drew
themselves bolt upright, and sat aghast. They stared towards the
camp-door, murmuring disjointedly. Into the mind of each flashed a
remembrance of some story which Doctor Phil had told about a thieving
partner who once robbed Herb Heal.

"You've stirred up more than you bargained for, Dol," said Cyrus. "I
wish to goodness you hadn't been so smart with your questions."

But the words were scarcely spoken when the guide was again in their
midst, with a smile on his lips.

"It's best to let sleeping dogs lie, young one," he said, looking down
reassuringly on Dol, who was feeling dumfounded. "I guess you all think
I'm an awful bearish fellow. But if you had lived the lonely life of a
trapper, tramping each day through the dark woods till you were
leg-weary, visiting your steel traps and deadfalls, all to get a few
furs and make a few dollars; and turned up at camp one evening to find
that your partner had skipped with every skin you had procured, I reckon
'twould take you a plaguy long time to get over it."

"I'm pretty sure it would, old man," said Cyrus.

"And I minded the loss of the furs a sight less than I minded losing
that moose-head," continued Herb, taking his perch again upon the
"deacon's seat." "The hound took 'em all. Every woodsman in Maine was
riled about it at the time, and turned out to ketch him; but he gave 'em
the slip. Now, boys, I've got to feeling pretty chummy with you. Cyrus
is an old friend; and, to speak plain, I like you Britishers. I don't
want you to think that I bust up your fun to-night for nothing. I'll
tell you the whole yarn if you want to hear it."

The looks of the trio were sufficient assent.

"All right, boys. Here goes! Since I was a kid in Maine woods I've
worked at a'most everything that a woodsman can do. Six year ago I was a
'barker' in a lumber-camp on the Kennebec River. A 'barker' is a man who
jumps onto a big tree after a chopper has felled it, and strips the bark
off with his axe, so that the trunk can be easily hauled over the snow.
Well, it's pretty hard labor, is lumbering. But our camp always got
Sunday for rest.

"Well, I was prowling about in the woods by myself one Sunday afternoon,
when an awful snow-storm come on, a big blizzard which staggered the
stripped trees like as if 'twould tumble 'em all down, and end our work
for us. I was bolting for camp as fast as I was able, when I tripped
over something which was a'most covered over in a heavy drift. 'Great
Scott!' says I, 'it's a man!' And 'twas too. He was near dead. I hauled
him out, and set him on his legs; but he couldn't walk. So I threw him
across my shoulders, same way as I carry a deer. He didn't weigh near as
much as a good buck, for he was little more'n a kid and awful lean. But
'twas dreadful travelling, with the snow half blinding and burying you.
I was plumb blowed when I struck the camp, and pitched in head foremost.

"For an hour we worked over that stranger to bring him round, and we
succeeded. We saw at once that he was a half-breed. When he could use
his tongue, he told us that his father was a settler, and his mother a
Penobscot Indian. He was sick for a spell and wild-like, then he talked
a lot of Indian jargon; but when he got back his senses, he spoke
English fust-rate. Chris Kemp he said was his name. And from the start
the lumbermen nicknamed him 'Cross-eyed Chris; for his eyes, which were
black as blackberries, had a queer squint in 'em.

"Well, in spite of the squint, I took to Chris, and he to me. And the
following year, when I decided to give up lumbering, and take to
trapping fur-bearing animals in the woods near Katahdin, he joined me.
We swore to be chums, to stick to each other through thick and thin, to
share all we got; and he made one of his outlandish Indian signs to
strengthen the oath. A fine way he kept it too!

"Now, if I'm too long-winded, boys, say so; and I'll hurry up."

"No, no! Tell us everything."

"Spin it out as long as you can."

"We don't mind listening half the night. Go ahead!"

At this gust of protest Herb smiled, though rather soberly, and went
ahead as he was bidden.

"We made camp together--him and me. We had two home-camps where I told
you, and met at the end of each week, bringing the skins we had taken,
which we stored in one of 'em. We got along together swimmingly for a
bit. But Chris had a weakness which I had found out long before. I guess
he took it from his mother's people. Give him one drink of whiskey, and
it stirred up all the mud that was in him. There's mud in every man, I
s'pose; and there's nothing like liquor for bringing it to the surface.
A gulp of fire-water changed Chris from an honest, right-hearted fellow
to a crazy devil. This had set the lumbermen against him. But I hoped
that in the lonely woods where we trapped he wouldn't get a chance to
see the stuff. He did, though, and when I wasn't there to make a fight
against his swallowing it.

"It happened that one week he got back to our camp on Togue
Ponds,--where most of our stuff was stored, and where I kept that
moose-head, waiting for a chance to take it down to Greenville,--a day
or two sooner'n me. And the worst luck that ever attended either of us
brought a stranger to the camp at the same time, to shelter for a night.
He was an explorer, a city swell; and I guess he didn't know much about
Injuns or half-breeds, for he gave Chris a little bottle of fiery
whiskey as a parting present. The man told me about it afterwards, and
that he was kind o' scared when the boy--for he wasn't much
more--swallowed it with two gulps, and then followed him into the woods,
howling, capering, and offering to sell him my grand moose-head, and all
the furs we had, for another drink of the burning stuff. I guess that
stranger felt pretty sick over the mischief he had done. He refused to
buy 'em. But when I got back to camp next day, to find the skins gone,
antlers gone, Chris gone; when I ran across the traveller and ferreted
out his story,--I knew, as well as if I seen it, that my partner had
skipped with all my belongings, to sell 'em or trade 'em at some
settlement for more liquor. We had a couple of big birch canoes,--one of
'em was missing too,--and a river being near, the thing could be easy
managed.

"I'll allow that I raged tremendous. The losses were bad; but to be
robbed by your own chum, the man you had saved and stuck to, the only
being you had said a word to for months, was sickening. I swore I'd
shoot the hound if I found him. I spread the news at every camp and
farm-settlement through the forest country, and we had a rousing hunt
after the fellow; but he gave us the slip, though I heard of him
afterwards at a distant town, where he sold the furs."

"I suppose he left the State," said Cyrus.

"I guess he did. But for a big while I used to think he'd come back to
our camp some day, and let me have it out with him; for he wasn't a
coward, and we had been fast chums."

"And he didn't?"

"Not as I know of. The next year I gave up trapping, which was an awful
cruel as well as a lonely business, and took to moose-hunting and
guiding. I haven't been anear the old camps for ages."

"Perhaps you will come across him again some day," suggested Dol, with
unusual timidity.

"P'raps so, Kid. And, faith, when I think of that, it seems as if there
were two creatures inside o' me fighting tooth and claw. One is all for
hammering him to a jelly. The other is sort o' pitiful, and says, 'Mebbe
'twasn't out-an'-out his fault.' Which of them two'll get the best of
it, if ever I'm face to face with Cross-eyed Chris, I dunno."

Cyrus Garst rose suddenly. He kicked the camp-fire to make a blaze, then
looked the woodsman fair in the eyes.

"I know, Herb," he said; "the spirit of mercy will conquer."

"Glad you think so!" answered Herb. "But I ain't so sure. Sho! boys,
I've kept you up till near midnight with my yarns. We must go to roost
quick, or you'll never be fit to light out for Katahdin to-morrow."



CHAPTER XVIII.

TO LONELIER WILDS.


Before daybreak next morning Herb Heal was astir. Apparently even a
short night's sleep had driven from him all disturbing memories. He
whistled and hummed softly, like the strong, hopeful fellow he was,
controlling his notes so that they should not awaken his companions,
while he hauled out and overlooked the canvas for a tent, to see if it
was sound. Next he surveyed the camp-stores, and put up a supply of
flour, pork, and coffee in a canvas bag, enough for four persons to
subsist upon with economy during an excursion of six or seven days. For
he knew that his employers would follow his suggestion, and be eager to
start for the woods near Katahdin soon after they got their eyes open.

He had been doing his work with a candle held in his brown fingers; but
as dawn-light began to enter the cabin, he quenched its dingy, yellow
flicker, opened the camp-door, and surveyed the morning sky.

"It'll be a good day to start out, I guess," he muttered. "Let's see,
what time is it?"

The stars had not yet paled, and Herb forthwith fell to studying them;
for they were his jewelled time-piece, by which he could tell the hour
so long as they shone. Watch he had none.

While he gazed aloft at the glinting specks, he unconsciously began to
croon, in a powerful bass voice, with deep gutturals, some words which
certainly weren't woodsman's English.

  "_N'loan pes-saus, mok glint ont-aven,
  Glint ont-aven, nosh morgan_."

"What on earth is that outlandish thing you're singing, Herb?" roared
Neal Farrar from the bunk, awakened by the sounds. "Give us that stave
again--do!"

The guide started. He had scarcely been aware of what he was humming,
and his laugh was a trifle disconcerted.

"So you're waking up, are ye?" he said. "Tain't time to be stirring yet;
I ought to be kicked for making such a row."

"But what's that you were singing?" reiterated Neal. "The words weren't
English, and they had a fine sort of roll."

"They're Injun," was the answer. "I guess 'twas all the talking I done
last night that brung 'em into my head. I picked 'em up from that fellow
I was telling you about. He'd start crooning 'em whenever he looked at
the stars to find out the hour."

"Are they about the stars?"

"I guess so. A city man, who had studied the redskins' language a lot,
told me they meant:--

  'We are the stars which sing,
  We sing with our light.'"[1]

[Footnote 1: Mr. Leland's translation.]

Then Herb chanted the two lines again in the original tongue.

"There was quite a lot more," he said; "but I can't remember it. I
learned some queer jargon from Chris, and how to make most of the signs
belonging to the Indian sign-talk. The fellow had more of his mother
than his father in him. I guess I'd better give over jabbering, and cook
our breakfast."

It was evident that Herb did not want to dwell upon his reminiscences.
And Neal had tact enough to swallow his burning curiosity about all
things Indian. He asked no more questions, but rolled off the
fir-boughs, and dressed himself.

Cyrus and Dol sprang up too. All three were soon busy helping forward
preparations for the start. They packed their knapsacks with a few
necessaries; and after a hearty breakfast had been eaten,--their last
meal off moose-steaks for a while, as Herb informed them he "could not
carry any fresh meat along,"--the guide's voice was heard shouting:--

"Ready, are ye, boys? Got all yer traps? Here, Cyrus, jest strap this
pack-basket on my shoulders. Now we're off!"

The pack contained the tent, the camp-kettle, and frying-pan, together
with the aforementioned provisions, a good axe, etc. It was an
uncomfortable load, even for a woodsman's shoulders. But Herb strode
ahead with it jauntily. And many times during that first day's tramp of
a dozen miles, his comrades--as they trudged through rugged places after
him, spots where it was hard to keep one's perpendicular, and feet
sometimes showed a sudden inclination to start for the sky--threw
envious glances at his tall figure, "straight as an Indian arrow," his
powerful limbs, and unerring step. Even the horny, capable hands came in
for a share of the admiration.

"I guess anything that got into your grip, Herb, would find it hard to
get out again without your will," said Cyrus, studying the knotted fists
which held the straps of the pack-basket.

"Mebbe so," answered the guide frankly. "I've a sort of a trick of
holding on to things once I've got 'em. P'raps that was why I didn't let
go of Chris in that big blizzard 'till I landed him at camp. But I
hope"--here Herb's shoulders shook with heaving laughter, and the
cooking utensils in his pack jingled an accompaniment--"I hope I ain't
like a miserly fellow we had in our lumber-camp. He was awful pious
about some things, and awful mean about others. So the boys said, 'he
kept the Sabbath and everything else he could lay his hands upon.' He
used to get riled at it.

"Not that I've a word to say against keeping Sunday," went on Herb, in a
different key. "Tell you what, out here a fellow thinks a heap of his
day o' rest, when his legs can stop tramping, and his mind get a chance
to do some tall thinking. Now, boys, we've covered twelve good miles
since we left Millinokett Lake, and you needn't go any farther to-day
unless you've a mind to. We can make camp right here, near that stream.
It will be nice, cold drinking-water, for it has meandered down from
Katahdin."

He pointed to a brook a little way ahead, shimmering in the rays of the
afternoon sun, of which they caught stray peeps through the gaps in an
intervening wall of pines and hemlocks. A few minutes brought them to
its brink. Tired and parched from their journey, each one stooped, and
quenched his thirst with a delicious, ice-cold draught.

"Was there ever a soda-fountain made that could give a drink to equal
that?" said Cyrus, smacking his lips with content. "But listen to the
noise this stream makes, boys. I guess if I were to lie beside it for an
hour, I'd think, as the Greenlanders do, that I could hear the spirits
of the world talking through it."

"That's a mighty queer notion," answered Herb; "and I never knew as
other folks had got hold of it. But, sure's you live! I've thought the
same thing myself lots o' times, when I've slept by a forest stream.
Who'll lend a helping hand in cutting down boughs for our fire and bed?
I want to be pretty quick about making camp. Then we'll be able to try
some moose-calling after supper."

At this moment a peculiar gulping noise in Neal's throat drew the eyes
of his companions upon him. His were bright and strained, peering at the
opposite bank.

"Look! What is it?" he gasped, his low voice rattling with excitement.

"A cow-moose, by thunder!" said Herb. "A cow-moose and a calf with her!
Here's luck for ye, boys!"

One moment sooner, simultaneously with Neal's gulp of astonishment,
there had emerged from the thick woods on the other bank a brown,
wild-looking, hornless creature, in size and shape resembling a big
mule, followed by a half-grown reproduction of herself.

Her shaggy mane flew erect, her nostrils quivered like those of a
race-horse, her eyes were starting with mingled panic and defiance.

A snort, sudden and loud as the report of a shot-gun, made the four
jump. Neal, who was standing on a slippery stone by the brink, lost his
balance and staggered forward into the water, kicking up jets of shining
spray. The snort was followed by a grunt, plaintive, distracted, which
sounded oddly familiar, seeing that it had been so well imitated on
Herb's horn.

And with that grunt, the moose wheeled about and fled, making the air
swish as she cut through it, followed by her young, her mane waving like
a pennon.

"Well, if that ain't bang-up luck, I'd like to know what is," said the
guide, as he watched the departure. "I never s'posed you'd get a chance
to see a cow-moose; she's shyer'n shy. Say! don't you boys think that
I've done her grunt pretty well sometimes?"

"That you have," was the general response. "_We_ couldn't tell any
difference between your noise and the real thing."

"But she wasn't a patch on the bull-moose in appearance," lamented Dol.

"No more she was, boy. Most female forest creatures ain't so
good-looking as the males! And that's queer when you think of it, for
the girls have the pull over us where beauty is concerned. We ain't in
it with 'em, so to speak."

There was a big gale of laughter over Herb Real's gallant admiration for
the other sex, and the sigh which accompanied his expression of it. He
joined in the mirth himself, though he walked off to make camp,
muttering:--

"Sho! You city fellows think that because I'm a woodsman I never heard
of love-making in my life."

"Perhaps there is a little girl at some settlement waiting for a home to
be fixed up out of guide's fees," retorted Cyrus.

And the three shouted again for no earthly reason, save that the
stimulus of forest air and good circulation was driving the blood with
fine pressure through their veins, and life seemed such a glorious,
unfolding possession--full of a wonderful possible--that they must hold
a sort of jubilee.

Herb, who perhaps in his lonely hours in the woods did cherish some
vision such as Cyrus suggested, was so infected with their spirit, that,
as he swung his axe with a giant's stroke against a hemlock branch, he
joined in with an explosive:--

"Hurrup! Hur-r-r-rup!"

This startled the trio like the bursting of a bomb, and trebled their
excitement; for their guide, when abroad, had usually the cautious,
well-controlled manner of the still-hunter, who never knows what chances
may be lurking round him which he would ruin by an outcry.

"Quit laughing, boys," he said, recovering prudence directly he had let
out his yell. "Quit laughing, I say, or we may call moose here till
crack o' doom without getting an answer. I guess they're all off to the
four winds a'ready, scared by our fooling."



CHAPTER XIX.

TREED BY A MOOSE.


"I told you so, boys," breathed the guide two hours later, with an
overwhelming sigh of regret, after he had given his most fetching calls
in vain. "I told you so. There ain't anything bigger'n a buck-rabbit
travelling. That tormented row we made scared every moose within
hearing."

Herb was standing on the ground, horn in hand, screened by the great
shadows of a clump of hemlocks; the three were perched upon branches
high above him, a safe post of observation if any moose had answered.

"You may as well light down now," he continued, turning his face up,
though the boys were invisible; "I ain't a-going to try any more music
to-night. I guess we'll stretch ourselves for sleep early, to get ready
for a good day's work to-morrow. An eight-mile tramp will bring us to
the first heavy growth about the foot of Katahdin, and I'll promise you
a sight of a moose there."

His companions dropped to earth; and the four sought the shelter of
their tent, which had been pitched a few hundred yards from the
calling-place. Some dull embers smouldered before it; for Herb, even
while preparing supper, had kept the camp-fire very low, lest any
wandering clouds of smoke should interfere with the success of his
calling.

Now he heaped it high, throwing on without stint withered hemlock boughs
and massive logs, which were soon wrapped in a sheet of flame, making an
isle of light amid a surrounding sea of impenetrable darkness.

Many times during the night the watchful fellow arose to replenish this
fire, so that there might be no decrease in the flood of heat which
entered the tent, and kept his charges comfortable. Once, while he was
so engaged, the placid sleepers whom he had noiselessly quitted were
aroused to terror--sudden, bewildering night-terror--by a gasping cry
from his lips, followed by the leaping and rushing of some brute in
flight, and by a screech which was one defiant note of unutterable
savagery.

"Good heavens! What's that?" said Cyrus.

"Is it--can it--could it be a panther?" stammered Dol.

"Get out!" answered Neal contemptuously. "The panthers have got out long
ago, so every one says."

"A lynx! A Canada lynx, boys, as sure as death and taxes!" panted Herb
Heal, springing into the tent on the instant, with a burning brand in
his hand. "'Tain't any use your tumbling out, for you won't see him.
He's away in the thick of the woods now."

Cyrus gurgled inarticulate disappointment. At the first two words he had
sprung to his legs, having never encountered a lynx.

"The brute must have been prowling round our tent," went on Herb, his
voice thick from excitement. "He leaped past me just as I was stooping
to fix the fire, and startled me so that I guess I hollered. He got
about half a dozen yards off, then turned and crouched as if he was
going to spring back. Luckily, the axe was lying by me, just where I had
tossed it down after chopping the last heap of logs. I caught it up,
and flung it at him. It struck him on the side, and curled him up. I
thought he was badly hurt; but he jumped the next moment, screeched, and
made off. A pleasant scream he has; sounds kind o' cheerful at night,
don't it?"

No one answered this sarcasm; and Herb flung himself again upon his
boughs, pulling his worn blanket round him, determined not to relinquish
his night's sleep because a lynx had visited his camp. The city fellows
sensibly tried to follow his example; but again and again one of them
would shake himself, and rise stealthily, convinced that he heard the
blood-curdling screech ringing through the silent night.

It was nearly morning before fatigue at last overmastered every
sensation, and the three fell into an unbroken sleep, which lasted until
the sun was high in the sky. When they awoke, their sense of smell was
the first sense to be tickled. Fragrant odors of boiling coffee were
floating into the tent. One after another they scrambled up, threw on
their coats, and hurried out to find their guide kneeling by the
camp-fire on the very spot from which he had hurled his axe at the lynx
a few hours before. But now his right hand held a green stick, on which
he was toasting some slices of pork into crisp, appetizing curls.

"'Morning, boys!" he said, as the trio appeared. "Hope your early rising
won't opset ye! If you want to dip your faces in the stream, do it
quick, for these dodgers are cooked."

The "dodgers" were the familiar flapjacks. Herb set down his stick as he
spoke to turn a batch of them, which were steaming on the frying-pan,
tossing them high in air as he did so, with a dexterous turn of his
wrist.

The boys having performed hasty ablutions in the stream, devoted
themselves to their breakfast with a hearty will. There was little
leisure for discussing the midnight visit of the lynx, or for anything
but the joys of satisfying hunger, and taking in nutrition for the day's
tramp, as Herb was in a hurry to break camp, and start on for Katahdin.
The morning was very calm; there seemed no chance of a wind springing
up, so the evening would probably be a choice one for moose-calling.

In half an hour the band was again on the march, the business of
breaking camp being a swift one. The tent was on Herb's shoulders; and
naught was left to mark the visit of man to the humming stream but a
bed of withering boughs on which the lynx might sleep to-night, and a
few dying embers which the guide had thrashed out with his feet.

No halt was made until four o'clock in the afternoon. Then Herb Heal
came to a standstill on the edge of a wide bog. It lay between him and
what he called the "first heavy growth;" that is, the primeval forest,
unthinned by axe of man, which at certain points clothes the foot of
Katahdin.

The great mountain, dwelling-place of Pamolah, cradle of the flying
Thunder and flashing Lightning, which according to one Indian legend are
the swooping sons of the Mountain Spirit, now towered before the
travellers, its base only a mile distant.

"I've a good mind to make camp right here," said Herb, surveying the bog
and then the firm earth on which he stood. "We may travel a longish ways
farther, and not strike such a fair camping-ground, unless we go on up
the side of the mountain to that old home-camp I was telling you about,
which we built when we were trapping. I guess it's standing yet, and
'twould be a snug shelter; but we'd have a hard pull to reach it this
evening. What d'ye say, boys?"

"I vote for pitching the tent right here," answered Cyrus.

The English boys were of the same mind, and the guide forthwith
unstrapped his heavy pack-basket. As he hauled forth its contents, and
strewed them on the ground, the first article which made its appearance
was the moose-horn; it had been carefully stowed in on top. Dol snatched
it up as a dog might snatch a bone, and touched it with longing in every
finger-tip.

"There's one bad thing about this place," grumbled Herb presently,
surveying the landscape wherever his eye could travel, "there isn't a
pint of drinking-water to be seen. There may be pools here and there in
that bog; but, unless we want to keel over before morning, we'd better
let 'em alone. Say! could a couple of you fellows take the camp-kettle,
and cruise about a bit in search of a spring?"

"I volunteer for the job!" cried Dol instantly, with the light of some
sudden idea shining like a sunburst in his face.

"You don't budge a step, old man, unless I go with you," said Cyrus.
"Not much! I don't want to patrol the forests like a lunatic for five
mortal hours in search of you, and then find you roasting your shins by
some other fellow's camp-fire. One little hide-and-seek game of that
kind was enough."

"Well! the fact that I did bring up by Doc's camp-fire shows that I am
able to take care of myself. If I get into scrapes, I can wriggle out of
them again," maintained the kid of the camp, with a brazen look, while
his eyes showed flinty sparks, caused by the inspiring purpose hidden
behind them, which had little to do with water-carrying.

"Why can't you both go without any more palaver?" suggested Herb, as he
started away towards a belt of young firs to cut stakes for the tent.
"Cruise straight across the bog, mark your track by the bushes as you go
'long, don't get into the woods at all, and 'twill be plain sailing. I
guess you'll strike a spring before very long."

Cyrus caught up the camp-kettle, and stepped out briskly over the
springy, spongy ground. Dol Farrar followed him. The two were half-way
across the bog before the elder noticed that the younger was carrying
something. It was the moose-horn.

"If we run across any moose-signs, I'm going to try a call," said Dol,
his strike-a-light eyes fairly blazing while he disclosed his purpose.
"You may laugh, Cy, and call me a greenhorn; but I bet you I'll get an
answer, at least if there's a bull-moose within two miles."

"That's pretty cheerful," retorted the Boston man; "especially as
neither of us has brought a rifle. Mr. Moose may be at home, and give
you an answer; but there's no telling what sort of temper he'll be in."

"I left my Winchester leaning against a tree on the camping-ground,"
said the would-be caller regretfully. "But you know you wouldn't fire on
him, Cy, unless he came near making mince-meat of us. If he should
charge, we could make a dash for the nearest trees. Let's risk it if we
run across any tracks!"

"And in the meantime, Herb will be wondering where we are, vowing
vengeance on us, and waiting for the kettle while we're waiting for the
moose," argued Garst. "It won't do, Chick. Give it up until later on. We
undertook the job of finding water, and we're bound to finish that
business first."

"If I wait until later on, I may wait forever," was the boy's gloomy
protest. "Tonight, when Herb is there, Neal and you will just sit on me,
and be afraid of my making a wrong sound, and spoiling the sport.

"And I _know_ we'll see moose-tracks before we get back to camp!" wound
up the young pleader passionately. "I've been working up to it all day.
I mean I've felt as if something--something fine--was going to happen,
which would make a ripping story for the Manchester fellows when we go
home. Do let me have one chance, Cy,--one fair and honest chance!"

There was such a tremendous force of desire working through the English
boy that it set his blood boiling, and every bit of him in motion. His
eyes were afire, his eyelids shut and opened with their quick snap, his
lips moved after he had finished speaking, his fingers twitched upon the
moose-horn.

He was a picture of heart-eagerness which Cyrus could not resist, though
he shook with laughter.

"I'll take mighty good care that the next time I go to find water for
the camp-supper, I don't take a crank with me, who has gone mad on
moose-calling," he said. "See here! If we do come across moose-signs,
I'll get under cover, and give you quarter of an hour to call and listen
for an answer--not a second longer. Now stop thinking about this fad,
and keep your eyes open for a spring."

But, unfortunately, this seemed to be a thirsty and tantalizing land for
travellers. The soft sod under their feet oozed moisture; slimy,
stagnant bog-pools appeared, but not a drop of pure, gushing water, to
which a parched man dare touch his lips.

They crossed the wide extent of bog, Cyrus breaking off stunted bushes
here and there to mark his pilgrimage; they reached the dense
timber-growth at the base of the mountain, longing for the sight of a
spring as eagerly as ever pilgrims yearned to behold a healing well; but
their search was unsuccessful.

Decidedly nonplussed, Dol all the time keeping one eye on the lookout
for water and the other for moose-signs, they took counsel together, and
determined to "cruise" to the right, skirting the foot of Katahdin,
hoping to find a gurgling, rumbling mountain-torrent splashing down.
Having travelled about half a mile in this new direction, with the giant
woods which they dared not enter rising like an emerald wall on the one
hand, and the dreary bog-land on the other, they at last, when patience
was failing, came to a change in the landscape.

The desired water was not in view yet; but the bog gave way to fairer,
firmer ground, covered with waving grasses, studded with rising knolls,
and having no timber growth, save stray clumps of birches and hemlocks,
several hundred yards apart.

"Now, this is jolly!" exclaimed Dol. "This looks a little bit like an
English lawn, only I'm afraid it's not a likely place for moose-tracks.
But I'm glad to be out of that beastly bog."

"Confusion to your moose-tracks," ejaculated Cyrus, half exasperated. "I
wish we could find a well. That would be more to the purpose. Listen,
Dol, do you hear anything?"

"I hear--I hear--'pon my word! I _do_ hear the bubbling and tinkling of
water somewhere! Where on earth is it? Oh! I know. It comes from that
knoll over there--the one with the bushes."

Dol Farrar, as he finished his jerky sentences, pointed to an eminence
which was two or three hundred yards from where they stood, and a like
distance from the wall of forest.

"Well! It's about time we struck something at last," grumbled Garst.
"Catch me ever coming on a water pilgrimage again! I'll let Herb fill
his own kettle in future. Now, I believe that fellow could smell a
spring."

"Just as I smelt this one!" exclaimed Dol triumphantly. "I told you
'twas on the side of the knoll. And here it is!"

"Bravo, Chick! You've got good ears, if you are crazy upon one subject."

And so speaking, Cyrus, with a chuckle of joy, unslung the tin
drinking-cup which hung at his belt, filled and refilled it, drinking
long, inspiriting draughts before he prepared to fill the camp-kettle.

"The best water I ever tasted, Dol!" he exclaimed, smacking his lips.
"It's ice-cold. There's not much of it, but it has quality, if not
quantity."

The long-sought well was, in truth, a tiny one. It came bubbling up,
clear and pellucid, from the bowels of the earth, and showed its
laughing face amid a cluster of bushes--which all bent close to look at
it lovingly--half-way up the knoll. A wee stream trickled down from
it,--dribble--dribble--a rivulet that had once been twice its present
size, judging from the wide margin of spattered clay at each side.

Dol had been following his companion's example, and drinking joyfully
before thinking of aught else. When the moment came for him to
straighten his back, and rise upon his legs, instead of this natural
proceeding, he suddenly crouched close to the ground, his breath coming
in quick puffs, his eyes dilating, a froth of excitement on his lips.

"What on earth are you staring at?" asked Cyrus. "You look positively
crazy."

For answer, the English boy shot up from his lowly posture, seized his
companion by the arm, making him drop the camp-kettle, which he was just
filling, and forced him to scan the soft clay by the rivulet.

"Look there--and there!" gurgled Dol, his voice sounding as if he was
being choked by suppressed hilarity. "I told you we'd find them, and you
didn't believe me! Aren't those moose-tracks? They're not deer-tracks,
anyhow; they're too big. I may be a greenhorn, but I know that much."

"They _are_ moose-tracks," Cyrus answered slowly, almost unbelievingly,
though the evidence was before him. "They certainly are moose-tracks,"
he repeated, "and very recent ones too. A moose has been drinking here,
perhaps not half an hour ago. He can't be far away."

Garst was now warming into excitement himself. His bass tones became
guttural and almost inarticulate, while he lowered them to prevent their
travelling. On the reddish clay at his feet were foot-marks very like
the prints of a large mastiff. He studied them one by one, even tracing
the outline with his forefinger.

"Then I'm going to call," whispered Dol, his words tremulous and
stifled. "Lie low, Cy! You promised you'd give me a fair chance; you'll
have to keep your word."

"I'll do it too," was the answering whisper. "But let's get higher up on
the knoll, behind those big bushes at the top. And listen, Dol, if a
moose makes a noise anywhere near, we must scoot for the trees before he
comes out from cover. I've got to answer to your father for you."

It was an intense moment in Dol Farrar's life; sensation reached its
highest pitch, as he crouched low behind a prickly screen, put the
birch-bark horn to his mouth, and slowly breathed through it with the
full power of his young lungs, marvellously strengthened by the forest
life of past weeks.

There was a minute's interval while he removed it again, and drew in all
the air he could contain. Then a call rose upon the evening air, so
touching, so plaintive, with such a rising, quavering impatience as it
surged out towards the woods,--whither the boy-caller's face was
turned,--that Cyrus could scarcely suppress a "Bravo!"

The summons died away in a piteous grunt. A second time the call rose
and fell. On the third repetition it broke off, as usual, in an abrupt
roar, which seemed to strike the tops of the giant trees, and boom among
them.

A froth was on Dol Farrar's lips, his eyes were reddened, he puffed hard
through spread nostrils, like a young horse which has been trying its
mettle for the first time, as he lowered that moose-horn, lifted his
head, and cocked his ears to listen.

Two soundless minutes passed. Dol, who, if he had mastered the hunter's
call, had certainly not mastered his patience, put the bark-trumpet
again to his lips, determined to try the effect of a surpassingly
expressive grunt.

But he never executed this false movement, which would have given away
the trick at once.

A bellow--a short, snorting, challenging bellow--burst the silence,
coming from the very edge of the woods. It brought Cyrus to his feet
with a jump. It so startled the ambitious moose-caller, that, in rising
hurriedly from his squatting position, he lost his balance, and rolled
over and over to the bottom of the knoll, smashing the horn into a
hundred pieces.

He picked himself up unhurt, but with a sensation as if all the bells in
Christendom were doing a jumbled ringing in his head. And loud above
this inward din he heard the sound, so well remembered, as of an axe
striking repeatedly against a tree, the terrible chopping noises of a
bull-moose, not two hundred yards away.

No sooner had he scrambled to his legs, than Garst was at his side,
gripping his arm, and forcing him forward at a headlong run.

"You've done it this time with a vengeance!" bawled the Bostonian. "He's
coming for us straight! And we without our rifles! The trees! The trees!
It's our only chance!"

With the belling still in his head, and so bewildered by his terrible
success that he felt as if his senses were shooting off hither and
thither like rockets, leaving him mad, Dol nevertheless ran as he had
never run before, shoulder to shoulder with his comrade, dashing wildly
for a clump of hemlocks over a hundred yards distant. Yet, for the life
of him, he could not help glancing back once over his shoulder, to see
the creature which he had humbugged, luring it from its forest shelter,
and which now pursued him.

The moose was charging after them full tilt, gaining rapidly too, his
long thin legs, enormous antlers, broad, upreared nose, and the green
glare in his starting eyes, making him look like some strange animal of
a former earth. Dol at last trembled with actual fear. He gave a
shuddering leap, and forced his legs, which seemed threatened with
paralysis, to wilder speed.

"Climb up that hemlock! Get as high as you can!" shrieked Cyrus,
stopping to give him an upward shove as they reached the first friendly
trunk.

Dol obeyed. Gasping and wild-eyed, he dug his nails into the bark,
clambering up somehow until he reached a forked branch about eight feet
from the ground. Here strength failed. He could only cling dizzily,
feeling that he hung between life and death.

The moose was now snorting like a war-horse beneath. The brute stood off
for a minute, then charged the hemlock furiously, and butted it with
his antlers till it shook to its roots, the sharp prongs of those
terrible horns coming within half an inch of Dol's feet.

With a gurgle of horror the boy tried to reach a higher limb, and
succeeded; for at the same moment a timely shout encouraged him. Cyrus
was bawling at the top of his voice from a tree ten feet distant:--

"Are you all right, Dol? Don't be scared. Hold on like grim death, and
we can laugh at the old termagant now."

"I'm--I'm all right," sang out Dol, though his voice shook, as did every
twig of his hemlock, which the moose was assaulting again. "But he's
frantic to get at me."

"Never mind. He can't do it, you know. Only don't you go turning dizzy
or losing your balance. Ha! you old spindle-legged monster, stand off
from that tree. Take a turn at mine now, for a change. You can't shake
me down, if you butt till midnight."

Garst's last sentences were hurled at the moose. The Bostonian, having
reached a safe height, thrust his face out from his screen of branches,
waving first an arm, and then a leg, at the besieging foe, hoping that
the force of those battering antlers would be directed against his
hemlock, so that his friend's nerves might get a chance to recover.

The ruse succeeded. The moose, reminded that there was a second enemy,
charged the other tree; stood off for a minute to get breath, then
charged it again, snorting, bellowing, and knocking his jaws together
with a crunching, chopping noise.

"Ha! that's how he makes the row like a man with an axe--by hammering
his jaws on each other. Well, well! but this is a regular picnic, Dol,"
sang out Cyrus jubilantly, caring nothing for the shocks, and forgetting
camp, water, peril, everything, in his joy at getting a chance to
leisurely study the creature he had come so far to visit.

"I owe you something for this, little man!" he carolled on in triumph,
as he watched every wild movement of the moose. "This is a show we'll
only see once in our lives. It's worth a hundred dollars a performance.
Butt and snort till you're tired, you 'Awful Jabberwock!'"--this to the
bull-moose. "We've come hundreds of miles to see you, and the more you
carry on the better we'll be pleased."

Indeed, the wrathful king of forests seemed in no hurry to cut short his
pantomime. He ramped and raged, tearing from one tree to another,
expending paroxysms of force in vain attempts to overturn one or the
other of them. The ground seemed to shake under his thundering hoofs.
His eyes were full of green fire; his nostrils twitched; the black
tassel or "bell" hanging from his shaggy throat shook with every angry
movement; his muffle, the big overhanging upper lip, was spotted with
foam.

As he gulped, grunted, snorted, and roared, his uncouth, guttural noises
made him seem more than ever like a curious creature of earth's earliest
ages.

"We came pretty near to being goners, Dol, I tell you!" carolled Cyrus
again from his high perch in the hemlock, carrying on a by-play with the
enemy between each sentence. "How in the name of wonder did you manage
such a call? It would have moved the heart-strings of any moose. I was
lying flat, you know, peeping through a little gap in the bushes, and
you had scarcely taken the horn from your mouth when I saw the old
fellow come stamping out of the woods. My! wasn't he a sight? He stood
for a minute looking about for the fancied cow; then he bellowed, and
started towards the knoll. I knew we had better run for our lives. As
soon as he saw us he gave chase."

"And 'the fancied cow' should go tumbling down the knoll like a rolling
jackass, and smash that grand horn to bits!" lamented Dol, who now sat
serenely on his bough, with a firm clasp of the hemlock trunk, and a
reckless enjoyment of the situation which far surpassed his companion's.

Cyrus began to have an occasional twinge of uneasiness about the
possible length of the siege, after his first exuberance subsided; but
the younger boy, his short terror overcome, had no misgivings. He
coquetted with the moose through a thick screen of foliage, shook the
branches at him, gibed and taunted him, enjoying the extra fury he
aroused.

But suddenly the old bull, having kept up his wild movements for nearly
an hour, resolved on a change of tactics. He stood stock-still and
lowered his head.

"Goodness! He has made up his mind to 'stick us out!'" gasped Cyrus.

"What's that?" said Dol.

"Don't you see? He's going to lay siege in good earnest--wait till we're
forced to come down. Here's a state of things! We can't roost in these
trees all night."

The hemlocks were throwing ever-lengthening shadows on the grass. A slow
eclipse was stealing over everything. The motionless moose became an
uncouth black shape. Garst muttered uneasily. His fingers tingled for
his rifle--a very unusual thing with him. His eyes peered through the
creeping darkness in puzzled search for some suggestion, some
possibility of escape.

"If it were only myself!" he whispered, as if talking to his hemlock.
"If it were only myself, I wouldn't care a pin. 'Twould do me no great
harm to perch here for hours. But an English youngster, on his first
camping-trip! Why, the chill of a forest night might ruin him. He
wouldn't howl or make a fuss, for both those Farrar boys have lots of
grit, but he'd never get over it. Dol!" he wound up, raising his voice
to a sharp pitch. "Say, Dol, I'm going to try a shout for help. Herb
must be getting anxious about us by this time. If we could once make him
hear, he could try some trick to lure this old curmudgeon away, or creep
up and shoot him. Something must be done."

Fetching a deep breath, Cyrus sent a distance-piercing "Coo-hoo!"
ringing through the night-air. He followed it with another.

But, so far as he could hear, the hails fetched no answer, save from the
moose-jailer. The brute was stirred into a fresh tantrum by the noise.
He charged the hemlocks once more, butted and shook them like a
veritable demon.

When his paroxysm had subsided, and he stood off to get breath, Garst
hailed again.

Glad sound! An answer this time! First, a shrill, long "Coo-hoo!" Next,
Herb's voice was heard pealing from far away in the bog: "What's up,
boys? Where in the world are you?"

"Here in the trees--treed by a bull-moose!" yelled Cyrus. "He's the
maddest old monster you ever saw. Could you coax him off, or sneak up
and shoot him? He means to keep us prisoners all night."

There was no wordy answer. But presently the treed heroes heard an odd,
bird-like whistle. Dol thought it came from a feathered creature; his
more experienced companion guessed that the guide's lips gave it as a
signal that he was coming, but that he didn't want to draw the moose's
attention in his direction just yet.

Such a quarter of an hour followed! With the fresh spurt of anger the
bull-moose became more savage than ever. He grunted, tramped, and
hooked the trees with his horns, so that the pair who were perched like
night-birds on the branches had to hold on for dear life, lest a
surprising shock should dislodge them. Whenever the creature stood off,
to gather more fury, they could have counted their heart-beats while
they listened, breathlessly anxious to, know what action the approaching
woodsman would take.

Once Cyrus spoke.

"Dol Farrar," he said, "I guess this caps all the adventures that you or
I have had up to date. No wonder you felt all day as if you were working
up to something. I'll believe in presentiments in future."

The words had scarcely passed his lips, when there was the sharp bang!
bang! of a rifle not twenty yards distant. A bright sputter of fire cut
the darkness beneath the hemlocks.

The moose's blind rage threatened to be his own undoing. While he was
fighting an imaginary danger, ears and nostrils half-choked by fury,
through the calm night Herb Heal, Winchester in hand, had crept
noiselessly on, till he reached the very trees which sheltered his
friends.

Once, twice, three times the rifle snapped. The first shot missed
altogether. At the second, the moose rose upon his hind-legs, with a
sharp sound of fright and pain, quite unlike his former noises. Then he
gave a quick jump.

"Great Governor's Ghost! he's gone;" yelled Cyrus, who had swung himself
down a few feet, and was hanging by one arm, in his anxiety to see the
result of the firing. "You needn't shoot again, Herb! He's off! Let him
go!"

"I guess that second shot cut some hair from him, and drew blood too,"
answered Herb, his deep voice giving the pair a queer sensation as they
heard it right beneath. "It was too dark to see plain, but I think he
reared; and that's a sign that he was hurt, little or much. Don't drop
down for a minute, boys, till we see whether he has bolted for good."



CHAPTER XX.

TRIUMPH.


He had bolted for good, vanished into the mysterious deeps of the
primeval forest, whether hurt unto death, or merely "nipped" in a
fore-leg, as Herb inclined to think, nobody knew.

"It's too dark to see blood-marks, if there are any, so we can't trail
him to-night. If he's hit bad--but I guess he ain't--we can track him in
the morning," said the guide; as, after an interval of listening, the
rescued pair dropped down from their perches. "Did he chase you, boys?
Where on earth did you come on him?"

Talking together, their words tumbling out like a torrent let loose,
Cyrus Garst and Dol Farrar gave an account of the past two
hours--strangest hours of their lives--filling up the picture of them
bit by bit.

"Whew! whew! You did have a narrow squeak, boys, and a scarey time; but
I guess you had a lot of fun out of the old snorter," said Herb, his
rare laugh jingling out, starting the forest echoes like a clang of
bells. "You've won those antlers, Dol--won 'em like a man. Blest, but
you have! I promised 'em to the first fellow who called up a moose; and
nary a woodsman in Maine could have done it better. I'm powerful glad
'twasn't your own death-call you gave. I'll keep my eye on you now till
you leave these woods. Where's the horn?"

"Smashed to bits," answered Dol regretfully.

"And the camp-kettle?"

"Lying by the spring, over there on the knoll, unless the moose kicked
it to pieces," said Cyrus.

"My senses! you're a healthy pair to send for water, ain't ye? Let's
cruise off and find it. I guess you'll be wanting a drink of hot coffee,
after roosting in them trees for so long."

Garst led the way to the spring. Its pretty hum sounded like an angel's
whisper through the night, after the tumult of the past scene. Herb
fumbled in his leather wallet, brought out a match and a small piece of
birch-bark, and kindled a light. With some groping, the kettle was
found; it was filled, and the party started for camp.

"I heard the distant challenge of a bull-moose a couple of hours ago,"
said the guide, as they went along. "I never suspicioned he was
attacking you; but after the camp was a' ready, and you hadn't turned
up, I got kind o' scared. I left Neal to tend the fire and toast the
pork, and started out to search. I s'pose I took the wrong direction;
for I hollered, and got no answer. Afterwards, when I was travelling
about the bog, I heard a 'Coo-hoo!' and the noises of an angry moose.
Then I guessed there was trouble."

"Won't Neal look blue when he hears that he was toasting pork while we
were perched in those trees, with the moose waltzing below!" exclaimed
Dol. "Well, Cy, I've won the antlers, and I've got my ripping story for
the Manchester fellows. I don't care how soon we turn home now."

"You don't, don't ye?" said the guide. "Well, I should s'pose you'd want
to trail up that moose to-morrow, and see what has become of him."

"Of course I do! I forgot that."

And Dol Farrar, who had thought his record of adventure and triumph so
full that it could hold no more, realized that there is always for
ambition a farther point.

Neal did feel a little blue over the thought of what he had missed. But,
being a generous-hearted fellow, he tasted his young brother's joy, when
the latter cuddled close to him upon the evergreen boughs that night,
muttering, as if the whole earth lay conquered at his feet:--

"My legs are as stiff as ramrods, but who'd think of his legs after such
a night as we've had?

"I say, Neal, this is life; the little humbugging scrapes we used to
call adventures at home are only play for girls. It's something to talk
about for a lifetime, when a fellow comes to close quarters with a
creature like that moose. I said I'd get the better of his ears, and I
did it. Pinch me, old boy, if I begin a moose-call in my sleep."

Several times during the night Neal found it necessary to obey this
injunction, else had there been no peace in the camp. But, in spite of
Dol's ravings and riotings in his excited dreams, the party enjoyed a
needed ten hours' slumber, all save Herb, who, as usual, was astir the
next morning while his comrades were yet snoring.

He got his fire going well, and baked a great flat loaf of bread in his
frying-pan, setting the pan amid hot ashes and covering it over.
Previous to this, he had made a pilgrimage to the distant spring, to
fill his kettle for coffee and bread-making, and had carefully examined
the ground about the clump of hemlocks.

The result of his investigation was given to the boys as they ate their
breakfast under the shade of a cedar, with a sky above them whose
morning glories were here and there overshot by leaden tints.

"I guess we've got a pretty fair chance of trailing that moose," he
said. "I found both hair and blood on the spot where he was wounded. I'm
for following up his tracks, though I guess they'll take us a bit up the
mountain. If he's hurt bad, 'twould be kind o' merciful to end his
sufferings. If he ain't, we can let him get off."

"Right, as you always are, Herb," answered Cyrus. "But what on earth
made the creature bolt so suddenly? If you had seen him five minutes
before he was shot, you'd have said he had as much fight in him as a
lion."

"That's the way with moose a'most always. Their courage ain't that o'
flesh-eating animals. It's only a spurt; though it's a pretty big spurt
sometimes, as you boys know now. It'll fail 'em in a minute, when you
least expect it. And, you see, that one last night didn't know where his
wound came from. I guess he thought he was struck by lightning or a
thunder-ball, so he skipped. Talking of thunder-balls, boys," wound up
Herb, "I shouldn't be surprised if the old Mountain Spirit, who lives up
a-top there, gave us a rattling welcome with his thunders to-day. The
air is awful heavy for this time of year. Perhaps we'd better give up
the trailing after all."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Dol indignantly. "Do you think a shower will melt
us? Or that we'll squeal like girls at a few flashes of lightning?
'Twould be jolly good fun to see old Pamolah sending off his artillery."

"Well, there'd be no special danger, I guess, if we were past the heavy
timber growth before the storm began. There's lots of rocky dens on the
mountain side where we could shelter under a granite ledge, and be safer
than we'd be here in tent. Or we might come a-near our old log camp. I
guess, if that's standing yet, you'd like to see it. Say! we'll leave it
to Cyrus. He's boss, ain't he?"

Cyrus, desperately anxious to know whether it would be life or death for
the wounded moose, and regarding the signs of bad weather as by no means
certain, decided in favor of the expedition. The campers hurriedly
swallowed the remainder of their breakfast, and made ready for an
immediate start.

"In trailing a moose the first rule is: go as light as you can; that is,
don't carry an ounce more stuff than is necessary. Even a man's rifle is
apt to get in his way when he has to scramble over windfalls, or slump
between big bowlders of rock, which a'most tear the clothes off his
back. And we may have to do some pretty tall climbing. So leave all your
traps in the tent, boys; I'll fasten it down tight. There won't be any
human robbers prowling around, you bet! Bears and coons are the only
burglars of these woods, and they don't do much mischief in daytime."

The guide rapidly gave these directions, his breezy voice setting a
current of energy astir, like a wind-gust cutting through a quiet grove,
while he rolled his indispensable axe, some bread that was left from the
meal, and a lump of pork into a little bundle, which he strapped on his
back.

"Now," he said, "if that trail should give us a long tramp, or if you
boys should take a notion to go a good ways up Katahdin, or anything
turns up to hinder our getting back to camp till nightfall, I've our
snack right here. I can light a fire in two minutes, to toast our pork;
and we'll wash it down with mountain water, the best drink for climbers.
I could rig you up a snug shelter, too, in case of accidents. A woodsman
ain't in it without his axe."

To what strange work that axe would be put ere night again closed its
shutters over granite peaks and evergreen forest, Herb Heal little knew;
nor could he have guessed that the coming hours would make the most
heart-stirring day of his stirring life. If he could, would he have
started out this morning with a happy-go-lucky whistle, softly modulated
on his lips, and no more sober burden on his mind than the trail of that
moose?



CHAPTER XXI.

ON KATAHDIN.


"See there, boys, I told you so," said Herb, as the party reached the
ever-to-be-remembered clump of hemlocks, the beginning of the trail
which they were ready to follow up like sleuth-hounds. "There's plenty
of hair; I guess I singed him in two places."

He pointed to some shaggy clotted locks on the grass at his feet, and
then to a small maroon-colored stain beside them.

"Is that blood?" asked Neal.

"Blood, sure enough, though there ain't much of it. But I'll tell you
what! I'd as soon there wasn't any. I wish it had been light enough last
night for me to act barber, and only cut some hair from that moose,
instead of wounding him. It might have answered the purpose as well, and
sent him walking."

"I don't believe it would have done anything of the kind," exclaimed
Dol. "He was far too red-hot an old customer to bolt because a bullet
shaved him."

"Well, I don't set up to be soft-hearted like Cyrus here; and I'm ready
enough to bag my meat when I want it," said the woodsman. "But sure's
you live, boys, I never wounded a free game creature yet, and seed it
get away to pull a hurt limb and a cruel pain with it through the woods,
that I could feel chipper afterwards. It's only your delicate city
fellows who come out here for a shot once a year, who can chuckle over
the pools of blood a wounded moose leaves behind him. Sho! it's not
manly."

A start was now made on the trail, Herb leading, and showing such
wonderful skill as a trailer that the English boys began to believe his
long residence in the woods had developed in him supernatural senses.

"That moose was shot through the right fore-leg," he whispered, as the
trackers reached the edge of the forest.

"How do you know?" gasped the Farrars.

The woodsman answered by kneeling, bending his face close to the ground,
and drawing his brown finger successively round three prints on a soft
patch of earth, which the unpractised eyes could scarcely discern.

"There's no mark of the right fore-hoof," he whispered again presently;
"nothing but _that_," pointing to another dark red blotch, which the
boys would have mistaken for maroon-tinted moss.

A breathless, wordless, toiling hour followed. Through the dense woods,
which sloped steadily upward, clothing Katahdin's highlands, Herb Heal
travelled on, now and again halting when the trail, because of freshly
fallen pine-needles or leaves, became quite invisible. Again he would
crouch close to the ground, make a circle with his finger round the last
visible print, and work out from that, trying various directions, until
he knew that he was again on the track which the limping moose had
travelled before him.

His comrades followed in single file, carrying their rifles in front of
their bodies instead of on their shoulders, so that there might be no
danger of a sudden clang or rattle from the barrels striking the trees.
Following the example of their guide, each one carefully avoided
stepping on crackling twigs or dry branches, or rustling against bushes
or boughs. The latter they would take gingerly in their hands as they
approached them, bend them out of the way, and gently release them as
they passed. Heroically they forebore to growl when their legs were
scraped by jagged bowlders or prickly shrubs, giving thanks inwardly to
the manufacturers of their stout tweeds that their clothes held
together, instead of hanging on them like streamers on a rag-bush.

It was a good, practical lesson in moose-trailing; but, save for the
knowledge gained by the three who had never stalked a moose before, it
was a failure.

The air beneath the dense foliage grew depressing--suffocating. Each one
longed breathlessly for the minute when he should emerge from this heavy
timber-growth, even to do more rugged climbing. Distant rumbles were
heard. Herb's prophecy was being fulfilled. Pamolah was grumbling at the
trailers, and sending out his Thunder Sons to bid them back.

But it was too late for retreat. If they gave up their purpose, turned
and fled to camp, the storm, which was surely coming, would catch them
under the interlacing trees, a danger which the guide was especially
anxious to avoid. He pressed on with quickened steps, stooping no more
to make circles round the moose's prints. Old Pamolah's threatenings
grew increasingly sullen. At last the desired break in the woods was
reached; the trackers found themselves on the open side of Katahdin,
surrounded by a tangled growth of alders and white birches struggling up
between granite rocks; then the mountain artillery broke forth with
terrifying clatter.

A loud, long thunder-roll was echoed from crag, slide, forest, spur, and
basin. The "home of storms" was a fort of noise.

"Ha! there'll be a big cannonading this time, I guess. Pamolah is going
to let fly at us with big shot, little shot, fire and water--all the
forces the old scoundrel has," said Herb Heal, at last breaking the
silence which had been kept on the trail, and looking aloft towards the
five peaks guarding that mysterious basin, from which heavy, lurid
clouds drifted down.

At the same time a blustering, mighty wind-gust half swept the four
climbers from their feet. A great flash of globe lightning cut the air
like a dazzling fire-ball.

"We'll have to quit our trailing, and scoot for shelter, I'm thinking!"
exclaimed Cyrus.

"Good land, I should say so!" agreed the guide. "The bull-moose likes
thunder. He's away in some thick hole in the forest now, recovering
himself. We couldn't have come up with him anyhow, boys, for them
blood-spots had stopped. I guess his leg wasn't smashed; and he'll soon
be as big a bully as ever. Follow me now, quick! Mind yer steps, though!
Them bushes are awful catchy!"

Undazzled by the lightning's frequent flare, unstaggered by the
down-rushing wind, as if the mountain thunders were only the roll of an
organ about his ears, Herb Heal sprang onward and upward, tugging his
comrades one by one up many a precipitous ledge, and pulling them to
their feet again when the tripping bushes brought their noses to the
ground and their heels into the air.

"Hitch on to me, Dol!" he cried, suddenly turning on that youngster, who
was trying to get his second breath. "Tie on to me tight. I'll tow you
up! I wish we could ha' reached that old log camp, boys. 'Twould be a
stunning shelter, for it has a wall of rock to the back. But it's higher
up, and off to the right. There! I see the den I'm aiming for."

A few energetic bounds brought Herb, with Dol in tow, to a platform of
rock, which rose above a bed of blueberry bushes. It narrowed into a
sort of cave, roofed by an overhanging bowlder.

"We'll be snug enough under this rock!" he exclaimed, pointing to the
canopy. "Creep in, boys. We'll have tubs of rain, and a pelting of hail.
The rumpus is only beginning."

So it was. The storm had been creeping from its cradle. Now it swept
down with an awful whirl and commingling of elements.

The boys, peering out from their rocky nest, saw a magnificent panorama
beneath them. The regiments of the air were at war. Lightning chains
encircled the heavens, lighting up the forests below. Winds charged down
the mountain-side, sweeping stones and bushes before them. Hail-bullets
rattled in volleys. Thunder-artillery boomed until the very rocks seemed
'to shake.

"It's fine!" exclaimed Cyrus. "It's super-fine!"

Then a curtain of thick rain partly hid the warfare, the lightning still
rioting through it like a beacon of battle.

"The stones up above will have to be pretty firmly fixed to keep their
places," said Herb. "Boys, I hope there ain't a-going to be slides on
the mountain after this."

"Slides?" echoed Dol questioningly.

"Landslides, kid. Say! if you want to be scared until your bones feel
limp, you've got to hear a great big block of granite come ploughing
down from the top 'o the mountain, bringing earth and bushes along with
it, and smashing even the rocks to splinters as it pounds along."

"I guess that's a sensation we'd rather be spared," said Cyrus gravely.

And under the quieting spell of the airy warfare there was silence for a
while.

"Do you think it's lightening up, Herb?" asked Neal, after the storm had
raged for three-quarters of an hour.

"I guess it is. The rain is stopping too. But we'll have an awful slushy
time of it getting back to camp. To plough through them soaked forests
below would be enough to give you city fellows a shaking ague."

"Couldn't we climb on to your old log camp?" suggested Garst. "If we
have the luck to find the old shanty holding together, we can light a
fire there after things dry out a bit, and eat our snack. Then we
needn't be in a hurry to get down. We'll risk it, anyhow."

"I reckon that's about the only thing to be done," assented the guide.

And in twenty minutes' time the four were again straining up Katahdin,
clutching slippery rocks, sinking in sodden earth, shivering as they
were besprinkled by every bush and dwarfed tree, and dreadfully hampered
with their rifles.

"Never mind, boys; we'll get there! Clinch yer teeth, and don't squirm!
Once we're past this tangle, the bit of climbing that's left will be as
easy as rolling off a log!"

So shouted Herb cheerfully, as he tore a way with hand and foot through
the stunted growth of alders and birch, which, beaten down by the winds,
was now an almost impassable, sopping tangle.

"Keep in my tracks!" he bellowed again. "Gracious! but this sort o' work
is as slow as molasses crawling up-hill in winter."

But ten minutes later, when the dripping jungle was behind, he dropped
his jesting tone.

He came to a full stop, catching his breath with a big gulp.

"Boys," he cried, "it's standing yet! I see it--the old home-camp! There
it is above us on that bit of a platform, with the big rock behind it.
And I've kep' saying to myself for the last quarter of an hour that we
wouldn't find it--that we'd find nary a thing but mildewed logs!"

A wealth of memories was in the woodsman's eyes as he gazed up at the
timber nest, the log camp which his own hands had put up, standing on a
narrow plateau, and built against a protecting wall of rock that rose in
jagged might to a height of thirty or forty feet.

An earth bank or ridge, covered with hardy mosses and mountain creepers,
sloped gently up to the sheltered platform. To climb this was, indeed,
"as easy as rolling off a log."

"We used to have a good beaten path here, but I guess it's all growed
over," said Herb in a thick voice, as if certain cords in his throat
were swelling. "Many's the time I've blessed the sight of that old
home-camp, boys, after a hard week's trapping. Hundert's o' night's I've
slept snug inside them log walls when blasts was a-sweeping and
bellowing around, like as if they'd rip the mountain open, and tear its
very rocks out."

While the guide spoke he was leaping up the ridge. A few minutes, and he
stood, a towering figure, on the platform above, waving his battered hat
in salute to the old camp.

"I guess some traveller has been sheltering here lately!" he cried to
Neal Farrar, as the latter overtook him. "There's a litter around,"
pointing to dry sticks and withered bushes strewn upon the
camping-ground. "And the door's standing open. I wonder who found the
old shanty?"

Neal remembered, hours afterwards, that at the moment he felt an odd
awakening stir in him, a stir which, shooting from head to foot, seemed
to warn him that he was nearing a sensation, the biggest sensation of
this wilderness trip.

He heard the voices of Cyrus and Dol hallooing behind; but they sounded
away back and indistinct, for his ears were bent towards the deserted
camp, listening with breathless expectation for something, he didn't
know what.

One minute the vague suspense lasted, while he followed Herb towards the
hut. Then heaven and earth and his own heart seemed to stand still.

Through the wide-open door of the shanty came random, crooning snatches
of sound. Was the guttural voice which made them human? The English boy
scarcely knew. But as the noise swelled, like the moaning of a dry wind
among trees, he began, as it were, to disentangle it. Words shaped
themselves, Indian words which he had heard before on the guide's
tongue.

  "_N'loan pes-saus, mok glint ont-aven,
  Glint ont-aven, nosh morgun_."

These lines from the "Star Song," the song which Herb had learned from
his traitor chum, floated out to him upon Katahdin's breeze. They struck
young Farrar's ears in staggering tones, like a knell, the sadness of
which he could not at the moment understand. But he had a vague
impression that the mysterious singer in the deserted camp attached no
meaning to what he chanted.

"Look out, I say! I don't want to come a cropper here."

It was Dol's young voice which rang out shrilly among the mountain
echoes. Side by side with Cyrus, the boy had just gained the top of the
ridge when the guide suddenly backed upon him, Herb's great
shoulder-blade knocking him in the face, so that he had to plant his
feet firmly to avoid spinning back.

But Herb had heard that guttural crooning. Just now he could hear
nothing else.

Twice he made a heaving effort to speak, and the voice cracked in his
throat.

Then, as he sprang for the camp-door, four words stumbled from his
lips:--

"By thunder! it's Chris."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE OLD HOME-CAMP.


The silence which followed that ejaculation was like the hush of earth
before a thunder-storm.

Not a syllable passed the lips of the boys as they followed Herb into
the log hut, but feeling seemed wagging a startled tongue in each
finger-tip which convulsively pressed the rifles.

And not another articulate sentence came from the guide; only his throat
swelled with a deep, amazed gurgle as he reached the interior of the
shanty, and dropped his eyes upon the individual who raised that queer
chanting.

On a bed of withered spruce boughs, strewn higgledy-piggledy upon the
camp-floor--mother earth--lay the form of a man. Thin wisps of
blue-black hair, long untrimmed, trailed over his face and neck, which
looked as if they were carved out of yellow bone. His figure was
skeleton-like. His lips--the lips which at the entrance of the strangers
never ceased their wild crooning--were swollen and fever-scorched. His
black eyes, disfigured by a hideous squint, rolled with the sick fancies
of delirium.

Cyrus and the Farrars, while they looked upon him, felt that, even if
they had never heard Herb's exclamation, they would have had no
difficulty in identifying the creature, remembering that story which had
thrilled them by the camp-fire at Millinokett. It was Herb Heal's
traitor chum--the half-breed, Cross-eyed Chris.

And Herb, backing off from the withered couch as far as the limited
space of the cabin would allow, stood with his shoulders against the
mouldy logs of the wall, his eyes like peep-holes to a volcano, gulping
and gurgling, while he swallowed back a fire of amazed excitement and
defeated anger, for which his backwoods vocabulary was too cheap.

A flame seemed scorching and hissing about his heart while he
remembered that during some hour of every day for five years, since last
he had seen the "hound" who robbed him, he had sworn that, if ever he
caught the thief, he would pounce upon him with a woodsman's vengeance.

"I couldn't touch him now--the scum! But I'll be switched if I'll do a
thing to help him!" he hissed, the flame leaping to his lips.

Yet he had a strange sensation, as if that vow was broken like an
egg-shell even while he made it. He knew that "the two creatures which
had fought inside of him, tooth and claw," about the fate of his enemy,
were pinching his heart by turns in a last hot conflict.

His eyes shot flinty sparks; he drew his breath in hard puffs; his
knotted throat twitched and swelled, while they (the man and the brute)
strove within him; and all the time he stood staring in grisly silence
at the half-breed.

The latter still continued his Indian croon; though from the crazy roll
of his malformed eyes it was plain that he knew not whether he chanted
about the stars, his old friends and guides, or about anything else in
heaven or earth.

But one thing quickly became clear to Cyrus, and then to the Farrar
boys,--less accustomed to tragedy than their comrade,--that this strange
personage, in whose veins the blood of white men and red men met,
carrying in its turbid flow the weaknesses of two races, was singing his
swan-song, the last chant he would ever raise on earth.

At their first entrance, as their bodies interfered with the broad light
streaming through the cabin-door, Chris had lifted towards them a
scared, shrinking stare. But, apparently, he took them for the shadows
which walked in the dreams of his delirium. Not a ray of recognition
lightened the blankness of that stare as Herb's big figure passed before
him. Letting his eyes wander aimlessly again from log wall to log wall,
from withered bed to mouldy rafters, his lips continued their crooning,
which sank with his weakening breath, then rose again to sink once more,
like the last wind-gusts when the storm is over.

Suddenly his shrunken body shivered in every limb. The humming ceased.
His yellow teeth tapped upon each other in trouble and fear. He raised
himself to a squatting posture, with his knee-bones to his chin, the
wisps of hair tumbling upon his naked chest.

"It's dark--heap dark!" he whimpered, between long gasps. "Can't strike
the trail--can't find the home-camp. Herb--Herb Heal--ole pard--'twas I
took 'em--the skins. 'Twas--a dog's trick. Take it out--o' my hide--if
yer wants to--yah! Heap sick!"

Not a ray of sense was yet in the half-breed's eyes. An imaginary,
vengeance-dealing Herb was before him; but he never turned a glance
towards the real, and now forgiving, old chum, who leaned against the
wall not ten feet away. His voice dropped to a guttural rumble, in which
Indian sounds mingled with English.

But the flame at Herb's heart was quenched at the first whimpered word.
His stiffened muscles and lips relaxed. With a gurgle of sorrow, he
crossed the camp-floor, and dropped into a crawling position on the
faded spruces.

"Chris!" he cried thickly. "Chris,--poor old pard,--don't ye know me?
Look, man! Herb is right here--Herb Heal, yer old chum. You're 'heap
sick' for sure; but we'll haul you off to a settlement or to our camp,
and I'll bring Doc along in two days. He'll"--

But Cross-eyed Chris became past hearing, his flicker of strength had
failed; he keeled over, and lay, with his limp legs curled up, faint and
speechless, upon the dead evergreens.

"You ain't a-going to die!" gasped Herb defiantly. "I'll be jiggered if
you be, jest as I've found you! Say, boys! Cyrus! Neal! rub him a bit,
will ye? We ain't got no brandy, I'll build a fire, and warm some
coffee."

It was strange work for the hands of the Bostonian, and stranger yet for
those of young Farrar,--son of an English merchant-prince,--this
straightening and rubbing of a dying half-Indian, a "scum," as Herb
called him, drunkard, and thief. Yet there was no flash of hesitation on
Farrar's part, as they brought their warm friction to bear upon the
chill yellow skin, piebald from dirt and the stains of travel, as if it
were the very mission which had brought them to Katahdin.

They had grave thoughts meanwhile that the old mountain was decidedly
gloomy in its omens, first a thunder-storm and then a tragedy; for, rub
as they might with brotherly hands, they could not pass their own
warmth into the body of the half-breed, though he still lived.

But the mountain had not ended its terrors yet.

Its mumbling lips began to speak, with a threatening, low at first like
muttered curses, but swelling into a nameless noise--a rumbling,
pounding, creeping, crashing.

"Great Governor's Ghost! what's that?" gasped Cyrus, stopping his
rubbing. "Pamolah or some other fiend seems to be bombarding us from the
top now."

"It's more thunder rolling over us," said Neal; but as he spoke his
tongue turned stiff with fear.

"Sounds as if the whole mountain was tumbling to pieces. Perhaps it's
the end of the world," suggested Dol, as a succession of booming shocks
from above seemed to shake the camping-ground under his feet.

There was one second of awful indecision. The boys looked at each other,
at the dying man, at the roof above them, in the stiffness of uncertain
terror.

Then a figure leaped into their midst, with an armful of dry sticks,
which he dashed from him. It was Herb, with the fuel for a fire. And,
for the first and last time in his history, so far as these friends of
his knew it, there was that big fear in his face which is most terrible
when it looks out of the eyes of a naturally brave man.

"Boys, where's yer senses?" he yelled cuttingly. "Out, for your lives!
Run! There's a slide above us on the mountain!"

"Him?" questioned Cyrus's stiff lips, as he pointed to the breathing
wreck on the spruce boughs. "He's not dead yet."

"D'ye think I'd leave him? Clear out of this camp--you, or we'll be
buried in less'n two minutes! To the right! Off this ridge! Got yer
rifles? I'm coming!"

The woodsman flung out the words while his brawny arms hoisted the body
of his old chum. His comrades had already disappeared when he turned and
sprang for the camp-door with his limp burden, but his moccasined foot
kicked against something.

A great hiccough which was almost a sob rose from Herb's throat. It was
his one valuable possession, his 45-90 Winchester rifle, his second
self, which he had rested against the log wall.

"Good-by, Old Blazes!" he grunted. "You never went back on me, but I
can't lug him and you! My stars! but that was a narrow squeak."

For, as he cleared the camping-ground with a blind dash, with head bent
and tongue caught between his clenched teeth, with a boom like a Gatling
gun, a great block of granite from the summit of Katahdin struck the
rock which sheltered the old camp, breaking a big piece off it, and shot
on with mighty impetus down the mountain.

An avalanche of loose earth, stones, and bushes, brought down by this
battering-ram of the landslide, piled themselves upon the log hut,
smashing to kindling-wood its walls, which had stood many a hard storm,
burying them out of sight, and flinging wide showers of dust and small
missiles.

A scattered rain of clay caught Herb upon the head, and lodged, some of
it, on the little pack containing axe and lunch which was strapped upon
his shoulders.

He shook. His grip loosened. The limp, dragging body in his arms sank
until the feet touched the earth.

But with the supreme effort, moral and physical, of his life, the forest
guide gathered it tight again.

"I'll be blowed if I'll drop him now," he gasped. "He ain't nothing but
a bag o' bones, anyhow."

Only a strong man in the hour of his best strength could have done it.
With a defiant snort Herb charged through the choking dust-clouds,
pelted by flying pebbles, sods, and fragments of sticks.

"This way, boys!" he roared, after five straining, staggering minutes,
as he caught a glimpse of his comrades ahead, tearing off to the right,
as he had bidden them. "You may let up now. We're safe enough."

They faced back, and saw him make a few reeling, descending steps, then
lay what now seemed to be an out-and-out lifeless man on a bed of moss
beneath a dwarfed spruce.

The nerves of the three were in a jumping condition, their brains felt
befuddled, and their hearts sinking and melting in the midst of their
bones, from the astounding shock and terror of the land-slide. But, as
they beheld the guide deposit his burden, with its helplessly trailing
head and limbs, a cheer in unsteady tones rang above the slackening
rattle of earth and stones, and the far-away boom of the granite-block
as it buried itself in the forest beneath.

"Hurrah! for you, Herb, old boy," yelled Cyrus triumphantly. "That was
the grittiest thing I ever saw done' Hurrah! Hurrah! Hoo-ray!"

The English boys, open-throated, swelled the peal.

But their cheering broke off as they came near, and saw the mask-like
face over which Herb bent.

"Is he gone, poor fellow?" asked Garst. "What do you suppose caused
it--the slide?"

"Why, it was a thundering big lump of granite from the top o' the
mountain," answered Herb, replying to the second question. "That plaguy
heavy rain must ha' loosened the earth around it the clay and bushes
that kep' it in place. So it got kind o' top-heavy, and came slumping
and pitching down, slow at first, and then a'most as quick as a
cannon-ball, bringing all that pile along with it. I've seen the like
before; but, sho! I never came so near being buried by it."

He pointed as he spoke to the late camping-ground, with its lodgment of
clay, sods, pygmy trees, and pieces of rock, big and little.

[Illustration: "HERB CHARGED THROUGH THE CHOKING DUST-CLOUDS.]

"The old camp's clean wiped out, boys," he said; "and I guess one of the
men that built it is gone, or a'most gone, too. Stick your arm under
his head, Cyrus, while I hunt for some water."

Garst did as he was bidden, but his help was not needed long. The guide
went off like a racer, covering the ground at a stretching gallop. He
remembered well the clear Katahdin spring, which had supplied the
home-camp during that long-past trapping winter. He returned with his
tin mug full.

When the ice-cold drops touched Chris's forehead, and lay on his parted
lips, gem-like drops which he was past swallowing, his malformed eyes
slowly opened. There was intelligence in them, shining through the
gathering death-film, like a sinking light in a lantern.

He was groping in the dim border-land now, and in it he recognized his
old partner with shadowy wonder; for delirium was past, with the other
storms of a storm-beaten life.

"Herb," he gurgled in snatches, the words being half heard, half guessed
at, "'twas I--took 'em--the skins--an' the antlers. I wanted--to get--to
the ole camp--an' let you--take it out o' me--afore I--keeled over."

Herb had taken Cyrus's place, and was upholding him with a tenderness
which showed that the guide's heart was in this hour melted to a jelly.
Two tears were dammed up inside his eyelids, which were so unused to
tears that they held them in. He neither wiped nor winked them away
before he answered:--

"Don't you fret about that--poor kid. We'll chuck that old business
clean out o' mind. You've jest got to suck this water and try to chipper
up, and--we'll make camp together again."

But Herb knew as well as he knew anything that the man who had robbed
him was long past "chippering up," and was starting alone to the unseen
camping-grounds.

"How long since you got back here?" he' asked, close to the dulling ear.

"Couldn't--keep--track--o' days. Got--turned--round--in woods.
Lost--trail--heap--long--getting--to--th' old--camp."

The words seemed freezing on the lips which uttered them. Herb asked no
more questions. Silence was broken only by the rolling voice of the
land-slide, which had not yet ceased. Occasional volleys of loose earth
and stones, dislodged or shaken by the down-plunging granite, still
kept falling at intervals on the buried camp.

At one unusually loud rattle, Chris's lips moved again. In those strange
gutturals which the boys had heard in the hut, he rumbled an Indian
sentence, repeating it in English with scared, breaking breaths.

It was a prayer of her tribe which his mother had taught him to say at
morning and eve:--

"God--I--am--weak--Pity--me!"

"Heap--noise! Heap--dark!" he gasped. "Can't--find--th' old--camp."

"You're near it now, old chum," said Herb, trying to soothe him. "It's
the home-camp."

"We'll--camp--to-ge-ther?"

"We will again, sure."

       *       *       *       *       *

The last stone pounded down on the heap above the old camp; and Herb
gently laid flat the body of the man he had sworn to shoot, closed the
malformed eyes, and turned away, that the fellows he was guiding might
not see his face.



CHAPTER XXIII.

BROTHERS' WORK.


They buried Chris upon Katahdin's breast. It was a good cemetery for
woodsmen, so Herb said, granite above and forest beneath.

But, good or bad, this was the one thing to be done. An attempt to
transfer the body to a distant settlement would be objectless labor;
for, as far as the guide knew, the half-breed had not a friend to be
interested in his fate, father and mother having died before Herb found
him in the snow-heaped forest.

There were three reliable witnesses, besides the man who was known to
have a grudge against him, to testify as to the cause and manner of his
death when the party returned to Greenville; so no suspicious finger
could point at Herb Heal, with a hint that he had carried out his old
threat.

How long Chris, in lonely, crazed repentance, had sheltered in the camp
on the mountain-side could only be a matter of guess. Herb inclined to
think that he had been there for weeks,--months, perhaps,--judging from
the withered spruce bed and the dry boughs and sticks upon the
camping-ground, which had evidently been gathered and broken for fuel.
His ravings made it clear that, on returning to the old haunts after
years of absence, he had missed the trail he used to know, and wandered
wearily in the dense woods about the foot of Katahdin before he escaped
from the prison of trees, and climbed to the hut he sought.

Such wanderings, Herb declared, generally ended in "a man having wheels
in his head," being half or wholly insane, though he might keep
sufficient wits to provide himself with food and warmth, as Chris had
done while his strength held out. This was not long; for the
half-breed's words suggested that he felt near to the great change he
roughly called "keeling over," when he started to find his cheated
partner.

But Cyrus, while he watched the guide making preparations for the
mountain burial, pictured the poor weakling tramping for hundreds of
miles through rugged forest-land, doubtless with aching knee-joints and
feet, that he might make upon his own skin justice for the skins which
he had stolen, and so, in the only way he knew, square things with his
wronged chum. And the city man thought, with a tear of pity, that even
that poor drink-fuddled mind must have been lit by some ray of longing
for goodness.

It was a strange funeral.

The guide chose a spot where the earth had been much softened by the
recent rain; and, with the ingenuity of a man accustomed to wilderness
shifts, he broke up the drenched ground with the axe which he took from
his shoulders.

That axe, which had so often made camp, had never before made a grave;
the Farrars doubted that it ever would. But Herb worked away upon his
knees, moisture dripping from his skin, putting sorrow for years of
anger into every blow of his arms. Then, stopping a while, he went off
down the mountain to the nearest belt of trees, and cut a limb from one,
out of which, with his hunting-knife, he fashioned a rude wooden
implement, a cross between a spade and shovel.

With this he scooped out the broken earth until a grave appeared over
three feet deep. He lined it with fragrant spruce-boughs from the
wind-beaten tangle below.

These Cyrus and Dol had busied themselves in cutting. Neal thought of
other work for his fingers. Getting hold of Herb's axe when the owner
was not using it, he felled one of the dwarf white birches. Out of its
light, delicate wood, with the help of his big pocket-knife and a ball
of twine that was hidden somewhere about him, he made a very presentable
cross, to point out to future hunters on Katahdin the otherwise unmarked
grave.

He was a bit of a genius at wood-carving, and surveyed his work with
satisfaction when he considered it finished, having neatly cut upon it
the name, "Chris Kemp," with the date, "October 20th, 1891."

"Couldn't you add a text or motto of some kind?" suggested Dol, glancing
over his shoulder. "Twould make it more like the things one sees in
cemeteries. You're such a dab at that sort of work."

"Can't think of anything," answered the elder brother.

Then, with a sudden lighting of his face, he seized the knife again, and
worked in, in fine lettering, the frightened prayer he had heard on the
half-breed's lips:--

"God, I am weak; pity me!"

Herb and Cyrus lowered the body into its resting-place, and covered it
with the green spruces.

The four campers knelt bare-headed by the grave.

"Couldn't one of you boys say a bit of a prayer?" asked Herb in a thick
voice. "I ain't used to spouting."

All former help had been easily given. This was a harder matter, yet not
so difficult as it would have been amid a city congregation.

Garst tried to recall some suitable prayer from a funeral service; so
did Neal. Both failed.

But here upon Katahdin's side, where, in the large forces of storm and
slide, in forest and granite, through every wind-swept bush, waving
blade, and tinted lichen, breathed a whisper from God, it seemed no
unnatural thing for a man or a boy to speak to his Father.

"Can't one of you fellers say a prayer?" asked Herb again.

Then the river of feeling in Cyrus broke the dam of reserve, and flowed
over his lips in a prayer such as he had never before uttered.

It was the prayer of a son who was for the minute absorbed in his
Father.

It left the five, those who were camping here and one who had gone to
unseen camping-grounds, with son-like trust to the Father's dealings.

Herb and the Farrars responded to it with heart-eager "Amens!" the
fervor of which was new to their lips.

"I thank you as if he were my own brother, boys," said the woodsman,
while he filled in the grave, and planted Neal's cross at its head.
"Sho! when it comes to a time like we've been through to-day, a man, if
he has anything but a gizzard in him, must feel as how we're all
brothers,--every man-jack of us,--white men, red men, half-and-half men,
whatever we are or wherever we sprung."

"A fellow is always hearing that sort of thing," said Neal Farrar to
Cyrus. "But I'm blessed if I ever felt it stick in me before! that we're
all of the one stuff, you know--we and that poor beggar. Some of us
seem to get such precious long odds over the others."

"All the more reason why we should do our level best to pull the
backward ones up to us," answered the American.

The words struck into the ears of Dol--that youngster listening with a
soberness of attention seldom seen in his flash-light eyes.

A few years afterwards, when Neal Farrar was a newly blown lieutenant in
his Queen's Twelfth Lancers, as full of heroic impulses and enthusiasms
as a modern young officer may be,--while his half-fledged ambitions were
hanging on the chances of active service, and the golden, remote
possibility of his one day being a V.C.,--there was a peaceful honor
which clung to him unsought.

During his first year of army life, he became the paragon of every poor
private and raw recruit struggling with the miseries of goose-step, with
whom he came even into momentary contact. For sometimes through a word
or act, sometimes through a flash of the eye, or a look about the mouth,
during the brief interchange of a military salute, these "backward ones"
saw that the progressive young officer looked on them, not as
men-machines, but as brothers, as important in the great schemes of the
nation and the world as he was himself; that he was proud to serve with
them, and would be prouder still to help them if he could.

It was an understanding which inspired many a tempted or newly joined
fellow to drill himself morally as his sergeant drilled him physically,
with a determination to become as fine a soldier and forward a man as
his paragon.

But only one American friend of Lieutenant Farrar's, who has let out the
secret to the writer, knows that the binding truth of human brotherhood
was first born into him when, on Katahdin's side, he helped to bury a
thieving half-Indian.



CHAPTER XXIV.

"KEEPING THINGS EVEN."


"Now, you musn't be moping, boys, because of this day's work that you
took a hand in, and that wasn't in your play-bill when you come to these
woods. We'll have to try and even things up to-morrow with some big
sport. You look kind o' wilted."

So said Herb when the tired party were half-way back to camp, doing the
descent of the mountain in a silence clouded by the scene which they had
been through.

The woodsman seemed troubled with a rasping in his throat. He cleared it
twice and spat before he could open a passage for a decently cheerful
voice in which to suggest a rise of spirits. But Herb was too faithful
a guide to bear the thought that his employers' trip should end in any
gloom because the one painful chapter in his own life had closed
forever. Moreover, although more than once, as he fought his way through
a jungle or jumped a windfall, something nipped his heart, pinching him
up inside, and making his eyes leak, he felt that the thing had ended
well for him--and for Chris.

Herb, in his simple faith, scarcely doubted that the old chum, whom he
had forgiven, had reached a Home-Camp where his broken will and stunted
life might be repaired, and grow as they had poor chance to grow here.

"Say, boys!" he burst forth, a few minutes after his protest against
"moping," and when the band were within sight of the spring whence they
had started, an age back, as it seemed, on the trail of the moose. "Say,
boys! I've been all these years raging at Chris. Seems to me now as if
he was a poor sort of overgrowed baby, and not so bad a thief as the
chump who gave him that whiskey, and stole his senses. It's a thundering
big pity that man hadn't the burying of him to-day.

"He was always the under dog,--was Chris," he went on slowly, as if he
was seeking from his own heart an excuse for those unforeseen impulses
which had worked it and his body during the past five hours. "Whites and
Injuns jumped on him. They said he was criss-cross all through, same as
his eyes. But he warn't. Never seed a half-breed that had less gall and
more grit, except when the hanker for whiskey would creep up in him, and
boss him. He could no more stand agen it, and the things it made him do,
than a jack-rabbit."

"Another reason why we Americans ought to feel our responsibility
towards every man in whose veins runs Indian blood, a thousand times
more hotly than we do!" burst out Cyrus. "It maddens a fellow to think
that we made them the under dogs, and as much by giving them a 'boss,'
as you say, in fire-water, as by anything else."

"I kind o' think that way myself sometimes," said Herb.

And there was silence until the guide cried:--

"Here's our camp, boys. I'll bet you're glad to see it. I must get the
kettle, and cruise off for water. 'Tain't likely I'll trust one of you
fellers after last night. But you can hustle round and build the
camp-fire while I'm gone."

Herb had a shrewd motive in this. He knew that there is nothing which
will cure the blues in a camper, if he is touched by that affliction,
rare in forest life, like the building of his fire, watching the little
flames creep from the dull, dead wood, to roar and soar aloft in
gold-red pennons of good cheer.

The result proved his wisdom. When he returned in a very short time from
that ever-to-be-famous spring, with his brimming kettle, he found a
glorious fire, and three tired but cheerful fellows watching it, its
reflection playing like a jack-o'-lantern in each pair of eyes.

"Now I'll have supper ready in a jiffy," he said. "I guess you boys feel
like eating one another. Jerusha! we never touched our snack--nary a
crumb of it."

In the strange happenings and chaotic feelings of the day, hunger,
together with the bread and pork for satisfying it which Herb had
carried up the mountain, were forgotten until now.

"Never mind! We'll make up for it. Only hurry up!" pleaded Dol. "We're
like bears, we're so hungry."

"Like bears! You're a sight more like calves with their mouths open,
waiting for something to swallow," answered Herb, his eyes flashing
impudence, while, with an energy apparently no less brisk than when he
started out in the morning, he rushed his preparations for supper.

"Say I'm like a Sukey, and I'll go for you!" roared Dol, a gurgling
laugh breaking from him, the first which had been heard since the four
struggled through that tangle on Katahdin to a sight of the old camp.

Once or twice during supper the mirth, which had been frozen in each
camper's breast by a sight of the drifted wreck of a human life, warmed
again spasmodically. Herb did his manly best to fan its flame, though
his heart was still pinched by a feeling of double loss.

Later in the evening, when the party were huddling close to the
camp-fire, he lifted his right hand and looked at it blankly.

"My!" he gasped, "but it will feel awful queer and empty without Old
Blazes. That rifle was a reg'lar corker, boys. I was saving up for three
years to buy it. An' it never went back on me. Times when I've gone far
off hunting, and had nary a chance to speak to a human for weeks, I'd
get to talking to it like as if 'twas a living thing. When I wasn't
afeard of scaring game, I'd fire a round to make it answer back and
drive away lonesomeness. Folks might ha' thought I was loony, only there
was none to see. Well, it's smashed to chips now, 'long with the old
camp."

"What awfully selfish jackasses we were, to skip off with our own
rifles, and never think of yours, or that you couldn't save it, carrying
that poor fellow! I feel like kicking myself," said Cyrus, sharp
vexation in his voice. "But that slide business sprang on us so quickly.
The sudden rumbling, rattling, and pounding jumbled a fellow's wits. I
scarcely understood what was up, even when we were scooting for our
lives."

"I felt a bit white-livered myself, I tell ye; and I'm more hardened to
slides than you are," was the woodsman's answer.

The confession, taken in the light of his conduct, made him doubly a
hero to his city friends.

They thought of him staggering along the mountain, blinded, bewildered,
pelted by clay, with that dragging burden in his arms, a heart tossed by
danger's keenest realization in his breast. And they were silent before
the high courage which can recognize fear, yet refuse to it the mastery.

Neal, whose secret musings were generally crossed by a military thread,
seeing that he had chosen the career of a cavalry-soldier, and hoped
soon to enter Sandhurst College, stared into the heart of the camp-fire,
glowering at fate, because she had not ordained that Herb should serve
the queen with him, and wear upon his resolute heart--as it might
reasonably be expected he would--the Victoria Cross.

Young Farrar's feeling was so strong that it swept his lips at last.

"Blow it all! Herb," he cried. "It's a tearing pity that you can't come
into the English Lancers with me. I don't suppose I'll ever be a V.C.,
but you would sooner or later as sure as gun's iron."

"A 'V.C.!' What's that?" asked Herb.

"A Vigorous Christian, to be sure!" put in Cyrus, who was progressive
and peaceful, teasingly.

But the English boy, full of the dignity of the subject to him, summoned
his best eloquence to describe to the American backwoodsman that little
cross of iron, Victoria's guerdon, which entitles its possessor to
write those two notable letters after his name, and which only
hero-hearts may wear.

But a vision of himself, stripped of "sweater" and moccasins, in cavalry
rig, becrossed and beribboned, serving under another flag than the Stars
and Stripes, was too much for Herb's gravity and for the grim regrets
which wrung him to-night.

"Oh, sugar!" he gasped; and his laughter was like a rocket shooting up
from his mighty throat, and exploding in a hundred sparkles of
merriment.

He laughed long. He laughed insistently. His comrades were won to join
in.

When the fun had subsided, Garst said:--

"Herb Heal, old man, there's something in you to-night which reminds me
of a line I'm rather stuck on."

"Let's have it!" cried Herb.

And Cyrus quoted:--

  "As for this here earth,
  It takes lots of laffin' to keep things even!"

"Now you've hit it! The man that wrote that had a pile o' sense. Come,
boys, it's been an awful full day. Let's turn in!"

As he spoke, Herb began to replenish the fire, and make things snug in
the camp for the night.

But shortly after, when he threw himself on the spuce-boughs near them,
the boys heard him murmur, deep in his throat, as if he took strength
from the words:--

  "It takes lots of laffin' to keep things even!"



CHAPTER XXV.

A LITTLE CARIBOU QUARREL.


But things on this old planet seemed even enough the next day, when,
after a dozen hours of much needed sleep, the campers' eyes opened upon
a scene which might have stirred any sluggish blood--and they were not
sluggards.

A fresh breath of frost was in the air to quicken circulation and
hunger. Under a smiling sun an October breeze frolicked through leaves
with tints of fire and gold, humming, while it swiftly skimmed over
their beauties, as if it was reading a wind's poem of autumn.

Katahdin looked as though it had suddenly taken on the white crown of
age, with age's stately calm. The weather had grown colder during the
night. Summer--the balmy Indian summer, with its late spells of
sultriness--had taken a weeping departure yesterday. To-day there was no
threatening of rain-storm or slide. The mountain's principal peaks had
fleecy wraps of snow.

"Ha! Old Katahdin has put on its nightcap," exclaimed Cyrus, when the
trio issued from their tent in the morning. "Listen, you fellows! This
is the 21st of October. I propose that we start back to our home-camp
to-morrow. It will take us two days to reach Millinokett Lake. Then
we'll set our faces towards civilization the first week in November, or
thereabouts."

"Oh, bother it! So soon!" protested Dol.

"Now, Young Rattlebrain,"--Garst took the calm tone of
leadership,--"please consider that this is the first time you've camped
out in Maine woods. You might find it fun to be snowed up in camp during
a first fall, and to tramp homewards through a thawing slush. But your
father wouldn't relish its effects on your British constitution. And out
here--once we're well into November--there's no knowing when the
temperature may drop to zero with mighty short notice. I've often
turned in at night, feeling as if I were on 'India's coral strands' and
woke up next morning thinking I had popped off in my sleep to
'Greenland's icy mountains.' Herb Heal! you know what tricks a
thermometer, if we had one, might play in our camp from this out; talk
sense to these fellows."

Herb, who had risen an hour before his charges, had already fetched
fresh water, coaxed up the fire, and was busily mixing flapjacks for
breakfast. His ears, however, had caught the drift of the talk.

"Guess Cyrus is right," he said. "Seeing as it's the first time you
Britishers have slept off your spring mattresses, I'd say, light out for
the city and steam-heat afore the snow comes. Oh! you needn't get your
mad up. I ain't thinking you'd growl at being snowed in. I know better.

"By the great horn spoon! I b'lieve I'll go right along to Greenville
with you," exclaimed the guide a minute later. "I might get a chance to
pick up a bargain of a second-hand rifle there. And I guess you'd be
mighty sick o' your luck, Dol, if you had to lug them moose-antlers part
o' the way yerself. I ain't stuck on carrying 'em either, if we can get
a jumper."

But there was a third reason, still more powerful than these two, why
he should make a trip to the distant town, which stirred Herb's mind
while he stirred his cakes. His sturdy sense told him that it would be
well he should put in an appearance when Cyrus made a statement before
the Greenville coroner as to the cause and manner of Chris's death.

"Now, you boys, we don't want no fooling this blessed day," he said,
when breakfast was in order, and the campers were emptying for the
second time their tin mugs of coffee. "There's sport before us--tearing
good sport. Whatever do you s'pose I come on this morning when I was
cruising over the bog for water? Caribou-tracks! Caribou-tracks, as sure
as there's a caribou in Maine!

"Who's for following 'em? We hain't got much provisions left; and I
guess a chunk of broiled caribou-steak about as big as a horse's upper
lip would cheer each of us up, and make us feel first-rate. What say,
boys?"

"By all that's glorious!" ejaculated Cyrus, his eyes striking light.
"Caribou-signs! Of course we'll follow them. A bit of fresh meat would
be pretty acceptable, and a good view of a herd of caribou would be
still more so--to me, at any rate. That would just about top off our
exploring to a T."

"We've got to be mighty spry, then," said the woodsman, lurching to his
feet, muscles swelling, and nostrils spreading like a sleuth-hound's.
"If you want caribou, you've got to take 'em while they're around. Old
hunters have a saying: 'They're here to-day, to-morrow nowhere.' And
that's about the size of it."

"Let's start off this minute!" Dol jerked out the words while he bolted
the last salt shreds of his pork. "Hurry up, you fellows! You're as slow
as snails. I'd eat the jolliest meal that was ever cooked in three
minutes."

"No wonder you squirm and shout all night, then, until sane people with
good digestions feel ready to blow your head off," laughed Cyrus, who
was one of the laggards; but he disposed of the last mouthfuls of his
own meal with little regard for his digestive canal.

In rather less than twenty minutes the four were scanning with wide eyes
certain fresh foot-marks, plainly printed on a patch of soft oozing
clay, midway on the boggy tract.

"Whew! Bless me! Those caribou-tracks?" Cyrus caught his breath with
amazement while he crouched to examine them. "Why, they're bigger than
any moose-tracks we've seen!"

"Isn't that great?" gasped Dol.

"Well, come to think of it, it is," answered the guide, in the stealthy
tones of an expectant hunter; "for a full-grown bull-caribou don't stand
so high as a full-sized moose by two or three feet, and he don't weigh
more'n half as much. Still, for all that, caribou deer beat every other
animal of the deer tribe, so far's I know, in the size of their hoofs,
as you'll see bime-by if luck's with us! And my stars! how they scud
along on them big hoofs. I'd back 'em in a race against the smartest of
your city chaps that ever spun through Maine on his new-fangled 'wheel,'
that he's so sot on."

Garst, who was an enthusiastic cyclist, with a gurgle of unbelieving
mirth, prepared to dispute this. There might have ensued a wordy
sparring about caribou versus bicycle, had not the guide been impressed
with the necessity for prompt action at the expense of speech.

"We must quit our talk and get a move on," he whispered, and led the
forward march across the bog, his eyes every now and again narrowing
into two gleaming slits, as if he were debating within himself, while he
studied the ground or some bush which showed signs of being nibbled or
trampled. Then he would sweep the horizon with long-range vision.

But not a tuft of hair or glancing horn hove in sight.

The marsh was left behind. The hoof-marks were lost in a wide meadowy
sweep of open ground, bounded at a distance by an irregular line of
hills, sparsely covered with spruce-trees.

Towards these Herb headed, leaving Katahdin away back in the rear.

"'Shaw! I'm afeard they're 'nowhere' by this time," he whispered, when
the hunters reached the rising ground, glancing at Dol, who stepped
lightly beside him.

The boy's lips parted to breathe out compressed disappointment; but his
answer was lost in a sharp whirr! whirr! and a sudden flutter of wings
above his head. His eyes went aloft towards a bough about eight feet
from the ground. So did Herb's, and lit with a new, whimsical hope.

"A spruce partridge!" hissed the guide, his voice thrilling even in its
stealthy whisper. "That's luck--dead sure! The Injuns say, 'The red eye
never tells a lie;'" and the woodsman pointed out the strip of bare red
skin above the beady eyes of the bird, which cuddled itself on its
branch, and looked down at them unfrighted.

Dol Farrar, who in this region of moose-birds and moose-calls could
believe in anything, felt both his spirits and credulity rise together.
He managed to keep abreast of the trained hunter, as the latter, with
swift, stretching, silent steps climbed the hill. And he heard the
hunter's sudden cluck of triumph as he reached the top, and looked down
upon the valley at the other side, the inarticulate sound being followed
by one softly rung word,--

"Caribou!"

"Caribou? They look awfully like quiet Alderney cows, except for the big
antlers!" The amazed exclamation stirred the English boy's tongue, but
he did not make it audible.

Following Herb's example, he stretched himself flat upon his stomach
under a spruce, and stared over the brow of the hill at a forest
pantomime which was being acted in the valley.

Cautiously slipping from tree to tree, Cyrus and Neal, who had lagged a
few steps behind, joined the leaders, and lay low, eagerly gazing too.

On its farther side the hill was yet more sparsely covered, the
scattered spruces showing gaps between them where the lumberman's axe
had made havoc. Through these openings, which were as shafts of light
amid the evergreen's waving play, the hunters saw the sun silver a brown
pool in the valley. A few maples and birches waved their shrivelling
splendors of scarlet and buff at irregular distances from the water. And
in and out among these trees moved in graceful woodland frolic four or
five large animals,--perhaps more,--their doings being plainly seen by
the watchers on the hill.

Their coats, like those of the smaller deer, were of a brown which
seemed to have caught its dye from the autumnal tints surrounding them.
In shape they justified Dol's criticism; for they certainly were not
unlike cows of the Alderney breed, save for the widely branching horns.

Of the strength of these antlers the hidden spectators got sudden,
startling proof, as the two largest caribou drew off from the rest, and
charged each other in a real or sham fight, the battle-clang of their
meeting horns sounding far away to the hill-top.

"Them two bulls are having a big time of it. Look at 'em now, with the
small one. That's a stranger in the herd," hummed Herb into the ear of
the boy next to him, his voice so light and even that it might have been
but the murmur of a falling leaf. "It's an all-fired pity that we're
jest too far off for a shot."

The "stranger," which the woodsman's long-range eye had singled out, was
of a smaller size and paler color than the other caribou; and Herb--who
could interpret the forest pantomime far better than he would have
explained the acting of human beings on a stage--told his companions in
whispers and signs that it was in distressed dread of its company.

The attentions which the rest paid to it seemed at first only friendly
and facetious. The two big bulls, after trying their mettle against each
other for a minute, separated, and moved towards it, prodded it lightly
with their horns, and playfully bit its sides, a sport in which the
other members of the herd joined.

"They're playing it, like a cat with a mouse; but I guess they'll murder
it in the long run if it's sickly or weak. Caribou are the biggest
bullies in these woods--to each other," whispered Herb.

"By the great horn spoon! they're doing for it now," he gasped, a minute
later. "Sho!... if I only had my old Winchester here, I'd soon stop
their lynching. Try it, you, Cyrus! You're a sure shot, an' you can
creep within a hundred yards of 'em without being scented. Try it, man!"

The guide's flashing eyes and quick signs conveyed half his meaning; his
excited sentences were so low that Garst only caught fag-ends of them.
But they were emphasized unexpectedly by a faint bleating sound rising
from the valley,--the helpless bleat of a buffeted creature.

"We want meat, and I'm going to spring a surprise on those bullies,"
muttered Cyrus, setting his teeth.

Still lying flat, he shot his eyes down the hill-slope, forming a plan
of descent; then he lifted the rifle beside him, and jammed some fresh
cartridges into the magazine.

Ere a dozen long breaths had been drawn, he was stealthily moving
towards the valley, slipping from spruce to spruce--an arrowlike,
unnoticeable figure in his dark gray tweeds.

He was close to the foot of the hill when the three breathless fellows
above saw him raise his rifle, just as the unfortunate little caribou,
after many efforts to escape, had been beaten to its knees.

"He'll drop one, sure! He's a crack shot--is Cyrus! There! he's drawing
bead. Bravo!... he's floored the biggest!"

Herb's gusty breath blew the sentences through his nostrils, while the
sudden, explosive bang of the Winchester cut through all other sounds,
and set the air a-quiver.

Twice Cyrus fired.

The largest bull-caribou leaped three feet upward, wheeled about,
staggered to his knees. A third shot stopped his bullying forever.

"Hurrah! I guess you've got the leader--the best of the herd. That other
bull was a buster too! You might ha' dropped him, if you'd been in the
humor!" bellowed the guide, springing to his legs, and letting out his
pent-up wind in a full-blast roar of triumph.

He well knew that Cyrus, "being a queer specimen sportsman," and the
right sort after all, would be satisfied with the one inevitable deed of
death.

As their leader fell, the caribou raised their heads, stared in
stiffened wonder for a few seconds, offering a steady mark for the
smoking rifle if it had been in the grasp of a butcher. Then, as though
propelled by one shock, they cut for the wood at dazzling speed.

A minute--and they were in the distance as tufts of hair blown before a
storm-wind.

The half-killed weakling sought shelter more slowly in another
direction.

"Well done, Cy!"

"Congratulations, old man!"

"You've got a trophy now. You'll never leave this splendid head behind.
My eye, what antlers!"

Such were the exclamations blown to Garst's ears by the hot breath of
his English friends, as they reached his side, and stooped with him to
examine the fallen forest beauty.

"No; I guess we can manage to haul the head back to camp, with as much
meat as we need. You'll have your 'chunk of caribou-steak as big as a
horse's upper lip,' to-night, Herb, and bigger if you want it. I'm
tickled at getting the antlers, especially as I didn't shoot this beauty
for the sake of them. I'll hook them on my shoulders when we start back
to Millinokett to-morrow."

So answered the successful hunter, tingling with some pride in the skill
which, because of his reverence for all life, he generally kept out of
sight.

And he stuck to his purpose about the antlers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cheered and invigorated by a sumptuous supper and breakfast of broiled
caribou-steaks, supplemented by Herb's lightest cakes, and carrying some
of the meat with them as provision for the way, the campers accomplished
their backward tramp to the log camp on Millinokett Lake in fulness of
strength and spirits.

Once or twice during the journey, when the guide was stalking ahead, and
thought himself unnoticed, the city fellows saw him lift his right hand
and look at it for a full minute. Then it swung heavily back to his
side.

"He's missing his rifle, the partner that never went back on him," said
Cyrus. "Say, boys! I've got an idea!"

"Out with it if it's worth anything," grunted Dol. "I never have ideas
these days. Too much doing. I don't feel as if there was a steady peg in
me to hang one on."

"Oh! quit your nonsense, Chick, and listen. Herb will wait for us in a
few minutes," was the Boston man's impatient rejoinder.

Then followed a low-toned consultation, in the course of which such talk
as this was heard:--

"Our Pater will want to shell out when he hears about Chris."

"So will mine. He'll be for sending Herb a cool five hundred or thousand
dollars, right away. And, as likely as not, Herb would feel flaring mad,
and ready to chuck it in his face. He's not the sort of fellow to stand
being paid by an outsider for a plucky act, done in the best hour of his
life."

"Oh, I say! wouldn't it be decenter to manage the thing ourselves,
without letting anybody who doesn't know him meddle in it?" This
suggestion was in Dol's voice. "Neal and I could draw our allowances for
three months in advance; the Pater will be willing enough. We'll be
precious hard up without them, but we'll rub through somehow. Then you
can chip in an even third, Cy, and we'll order an A I rifle,--the best
ever invented, from the best company in America,--silver plate, with his
name,--and all the rest of it. I'd swamp my allowance for a year to see
Herb's face when he gets it."

"That's the plan! You do have occasional moments of wisdom, Dol; I'll
say that much for you," commented the leader. "Well, Herb has taken a
special sort of liking to you. You may tip him a hint to wait in
Greenville for a few days, and not to go looking for second-hand rifles
till he hears from us. Better not say anything until we're just parting.
Ten to one, though, you'll blurt the whole thing out in some harebrained
minute, or give it away in your sleep."

"Blow me if I do!" answered Dol solemnly.



CHAPTER XXVI.

DOC AGAIN.


Herb, turning back at that minute to wait for his party, experienced a
shock of curiosity which was new to him, at seeing the three in close
counsel, shouldering each other upon a trail a couple of feet wide.

But the sensation passed. Dol for once was not guilty of an
indiscretion, waking or sleeping. The woodsman got no hint of what
matter had been discussed until more than two weeks later, when he stood
in the main street of Greenville, beside a tanned, muscular, newly
shaven trio, waiting for their departure for Boston.

A few pleasant days, marked by no particular excitements, had been spent
at the log camp on Millinokett after that wonderful trip into the
forests of Katahdin. Then the weather turned suddenly blustering and
cold; and Cyrus, as captain, ordered an immediate forced march to
Greenville.

Under Herb's guidance that march was made with singularly few hardships.
He managed to hire a "jumper" from a new settler who had a farm a couple
of miles from their camp. This contrivance was a rough sort of sled,
formed of two stout ash saplings, and hitched to a courageous horse. The
"jumper's" one merit was that it could travel along many a rough trail
where wheels would be splintered at the outset. But since, as Herb said,
it went at "a succession of dead jumps," no camper was willing to trust
his bones to its tender mercies. However, it answered admirably for
carrying the tent, knapsacks, and trophies of the party, tightly
strapped in place, including Neal's bear-skin, which was duly called
for, and the moose-antlers, more precious in Dol's sight than if they
had been made of beaten gold.

Thus the campers journeyed homeward with their backs as light as their
spirits, caring little for the chills of a couple of nights spent under
canvas and rubber coverings.

Two gala evenings they had,--one with Uncle Eb in his bark hut near
Squaw Pond, where they were regaled with a sumptuous supper, for "coons
war in eatin' order now;" and the second with Doctor Phil Buck at his
little frame house near Moosehead Lake.

Dear old Doc was as ever a power,--a power to welcome, uplift,
entertain.

The campers sought him immediately on their arrival at Greenville; and
he stood by them while Cyrus made a full statement before the local
coroner about the death and burial of the half-breed, Chris Kemp, the
Farrars and Herb confirming what was said with due dignity.

But dignity was blown to the four winds by the very unprofessional and
very woodsman-like cheer that Doc raised, and that was echoed
thunderously by Joe Flint and a few other guides and loungers who had
collected to hear the story, when Cyrus described the splendid rush
which Herb made, with the dying man in his arms, and the clay of the
landslide half smothering him.

"I'm sorry I wasn't near to try and do something for the poor fellow,"
said the doctor, later on, when his friends were gathered round a
blazing wood-fire in his own snug house. "But I doubt if I could have
helped him. I guess he was born with the hankering for whiskey, and when
that is in the mongrel blood of a half-breed it is pretty sure to wreck
him some time. We must leave him to God, boys, and to changes larger
than we know."

"I've a letter for you, Neal," added the host presently in a lighter
tone. "It was directed to my care. It is from Philadelphia, from Royal
Sinclair, I think."

Neal slit the envelope which was handed to him, and read the few lines
it contained aloud, with a longing burst of laughter.

Royal was as short with his pen as he was dash-away with his tongue. The
letter was a brief but pressing invitation to Cyrus and the Farrars to
visit their camping acquaintances of the Maine wilds at the Sinclairs'
home in Philadelphia before the English boys recrossed the Atlantic.

"Come you must!" wrote Roy. "We've promised to give a big spread, and
invite all the crowd we train with to meet you. We'll have a great old
time, and bring out our best yarns. Don't let me catch you refusing!"

[Illustration: GREENVILLE,--"FAREWELL TO THE WOODS."]

"We won't if we can help it," commented Neal; "if only we can coax the
Pater to give us another week in jolly America."

The campers slept upon mattresses that night for the first time in many
weeks.

The following morning saw them grouped in the main street of Greenville,
with Doc and Herb on hand for a final farewell, waiting for the
departure of the coach which was to bear them a little part of the way
towards Boston civilization.

Dol was turning over in his jostled thoughts the delicate wording of the
hint which he was to convey to Herb about the rifle, when he became
aware that Doctor Phil was pinching his shoulder, and saying, while he
drew Neal's attention in the same way:--

"Well, you fellows! I'm glad to have known you. If you ever come to
Maine again, remember that there's one old forest fogy who'll have a
delightful welcome for you in his house or camp, not to speak of the
thing he calls his heart. And I hope you'll keep a pleasant corner in
your memories for our Pine Tree State, and for American States
generally, so far as you've seen them."

Dol tried to answer; but recalling the evening when, wrecked at heart,
with stinging feet, he had stumbled at last into the trail to Doc's
camp, he could only mutter, "Dash it all!" and rub his leaking eyes.

"Of course I'll think in an hour from now of all the things I want to
say," began Neal helplessly, and stopped. "But I'll tell you how I feel,
Doc," he added, with a sudden rush of breath: "I think I can never see
your Stars and Stripes again without taking off my hat to them, and
feeling that they're about equal to my own flag."

"Neatly put, Neal! I couldn't have done it better," laughed Cyrus.

"Shake!" and Doc offered his hand in a heart-grip, while the hairs on it
bristled. "Boy! long life to that feeling. You men who are now being
hatched will show us one day what Young England and Young America, as a
grand brotherhood under comrade flags, can do to give this old earth a
lift which she has never had yet towards peace and prosperity. We're
looking to you for it!"

"Hur-r-r-rup!" cheered Herb, subduing his shout to the requirements of a
settlement, but sending his battered hat some ten feet into the air, and
recovering it with a dexterous shoot of his long arm, by way of giving
his friends an inspiring send-off.

"Tell you what it is!" he said suddenly, turning upon the Farrars, "I
never guided Britishers till now; but, wherever you sprung from, you're
clean grit. If a man is that, it don't matter a whistle to me what
country riz him."

A few minutes afterwards, with a jingle, jangle, lurch, and rattle, the
stage-coach was swaying its way out of Greenville. Dol, stooping from
his seat upon it, gripped the guide's hand in a wringing good-by.

"Herb," he said, "we three fellows want you to stay here for a few days,
and not to do anything about a second-hand rifle until you hear from us.
Mind!"

And so it happened that, ten days or so later, while the three were
enjoying the hospitalities of the Sinclairs and "their crowd" in the
Quaker City, Herb, who was still in Greenville, waiting for a fresh
engagement as guide, was accosted by the driver of the coach from
Bangor.

"Herb Heal, here's a bully parcel for you," said the Jehu, with a
knowing grin. "Came from Boston, I guess. I war booked to take
pertik'lar care of it."

And Herb, feeling his strong fingers tingle, undid many wrappers, and
hauled out, before the eyes of Greenville loungers, a rifle such as it
is the desire of every Maine woodsman's heart to possess.

A best grade, 45-90, half-magazine Winchester it was, fitted with
shot-gun stock and Lyman sights, and bearing a gleaming silver plate, on
which was prettily lettered:--

  HERB HEAL
  IN MEMORY OF OCTOBER, 1891.

Underneath was engraved a miniature pine, its trunk bearing three sets
of initials.

Herb stalked straight off a distance of one mile to Doctor Buck's house,
pushed the door open as if it had been the door of a wilderness camp,
and shot himself into Doc's little study.

"Look what those three gamy fellows have sent me," he said; and his eyes
were now like Millinokett Lake under a full sun-burst. "I thought the
old one was a corker, but this"--

Here the woodsman's dictionary gave out.



CHAPTER XXVII.

CHRISTMAS ON THE OTHER SIDE.


"'Christmas, 1893.' Those last two figures are a bit crooked; aren't
they, Dol?" said a tall, soldierly fellow, who was no longer a boy, yet
could scarcely in his own country call himself a man.

He read the date critically, having fixed it as the centre-piece in a
festive arch of holly and bunting, which spanned the hall of a mansion
in Victoria Park, Manchester.

"I believe that's better," he added, straightening a tipsy "93," and
bounding from a chair-back on which he was perched, to step quickly
backward, with a something in gait and bearing that suggested a cavalry
swing.

"'Christmas, 1893,'" he read musingly again. "Goodness! to think it's
two years since we laid eyes on old Cyrus, and that he has landed on
English soil before this, may be here any minute--and Sinclair too. I
guess"--these two words were brought out with a smile, as if the speaker
was putting himself in touch with the happiness of a by-gone time--"I
guess that 'Star-Spangled Banner' will look home-like to them."

And Neal Farrar, just back for a short vacation from Sandhurst Military
College, twice gravely saluted the gay bunting with which his Christmas
arch was draped, where the Union Jack of old England kissed the American
Stars and Stripes.

"I say!" he exclaimed, turning to a tall youth, who had been inspecting
his operations, "that Liverpool train must be beastly late, Dol. Those
fellows ought to be here before this. The Mater will be in a stew. She
ordered dinner at five, as the youngsters dine with us, of course,
to-day, and it's past that now."

"Hush! will you? I'll vow that cab is stopping! Yes! By all that's
splendid, there they are!" and Dol Farrar's joy-whoop rang through the
English oaken hall with scarcely less vehemence than it had rung in
former days through the dim aisles of the Maine forests.

A sound of spinning cab-wheels abruptly stopping, a noise of men's feet
on the steps outside, and the hall-door was flung wide by two pairs of
welcoming hands.

"Cyrus! Royal! Got here at last? Oh! but this is jolly."

"Neal, dear old boy, how goes it? Dol, you're a giant. I wouldn't have
known you."

Such were the most coherent of the greetings which followed, as two
visitors, in travelling rig, their faces reddened by eight days at sea
in midwinter, crossed the threshold.

There could be no difficulty in recognizing Cyrus Garst's well-knit
figure and speculative eyes, though a sprouting beard changed somewhat
the lower part of his face. And if Royal Sinclair's tall shoulders and
brand-new mustache were at all unfamiliar, anybody who had once heard
the click and hum of his hasty tongue would scarcely question his
identity.

The Americans had steamed over the Atlantic amid bluster of elements,
purposing a tour through southern France and Italy. And they were to
take part, before proceeding to the Continent, in the festivities of an
English Christmas at the Farrars' home in Manchester.

"Oh, but this is jolly!" cried Neal again, his voice so thickened by the
joy of welcome that--embryo cavalry man though he was--he could bring
out nothing more forceful than the one boyish exclamation.

Dol's throat was freer. Sinclair and he raised a regular tornado in the
handsome hall. Questions and answers, only half distinguishable, blew
between them, with explosions of laughter, and a thunder of claps on
each other's shoulders. When their gale was at its noisiest, Royal's
part of it abruptly sank to a dead calm, stopped by "an angel unawares."

A girl of sixteen, with hair like the brown and gold of a pheasant's
breast, opened a drawing-room door, stepped to Neal's side, and
whispered,--

"Introduce me!"

"My sister," said Neal, recovering self-possession. "Myrtle, I believe
I'll let you guess for yourself which is Garst and which is Sinclair."

"Well, I've heard so much about you for the past two years that I know
you already, all but your looks. So I'm sure to guess right," said
Myrtle Farrar, scrutinizing the Americans with a pretty welcoming
glance, then giving to each a glad hand-shake.

Royal's tongue grew for once less active than his eyes, which were so
caught by the golden shades on the pheasant-like head that for a minute
he could see nothing else. Even Cyrus, who was accustomed to look upon
himself as the cool-blooded senior among his band of intimates, tingled
a little.

"You're just in time for dinner--I'm so glad," laughed Miss Myrtle. "A
Christmas dinner with a whole tribe of Farrars, big and little."

"But our baggage hasn't come on yet," answered Garst ruefully. "Will
Mrs. Farrar excuse our appearing in travelling rig?"

"Indeed she will!" answered for herself a fair, motherly-looking English
woman, as pretty as Myrtle save for the gold-brown hair, while she came
a few steps into the hall to welcome her sons' friends.

Five minutes afterwards the Americans found themselves seated at a table
garlanded with red-berried holly, trailing ivy, and pearl-eyed
mistletoe, and surrounded by a round dozen of Farrars, including several
youngsters whose general place was in schoolroom or nursery, but who,
even to a tot of three, were promoted to dine in splendor on Christmas
Day.

"Well, this is festive!" remarked Cyrus to Myrtle, who sat next to him,
when, after much preparatory feasting, an English plum-pudding,
wreathed, decorated, and steaming, came upon the scene. Fluttering amid
the almonds which studded its top were two wee pink-stemmed flags. And
here again, in compliment to the newly arrived guests, the
"Star-Spangled Banner" kissed the English Union Jack.

"Say, Neal!" exclaimed Cyrus, his eyes keenly bright as he looked at the
toy standards, "wouldn't this sort of thing delight our friend Doc? By
the way, that reminds me, I have a package for you from him, and a
message from Herb Heal too. Herb wants to know 'when those gamy
Britishers are coming out to hunt moose again?' And Doc has sent you a
little bundle of beaver-clippings. They are from an ash-tree two feet in
circumference, felled by that beaver colony which we came across near
the _brûlée_ where you shot your bear and covered yourself with glory.
Doc asked you to put the wood in sight on Christmas Night, and to think
of the Maine woods."

"Think of them!" Neal ejaculated. "Bless the dear old brick! does he
think we could ever forget them and the stunning times we had in camp
and on trail?"





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Camp and Trail - A Story of the Maine Woods" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
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.



Home