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: Rocky Mountain Boys - Camping in the Big Game Country
Author: Rathborne, St. George, 1854-1938
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 "Rocky Mountain Boys - Camping in the Big Game Country" ***

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



ROCKY MOUNTAIN BOYS

or

Camping in the Big Game Country

By

St. George Rathborne

Chicago

M. A. Donohue & Co.

Made in U. S. A.



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER I--COMRADES OF THE TRAIL
  CHAPTER II--IN POSSESSION OF THE DUGOUT
  CHAPTER III--THE FIRST GOOD LUCK
  CHAPTER IV--THE WOLF PACK
  CHAPTER V--A FIRST TASTE OF VENISON
  CHAPTER VI--FELIX TAKES HIS TURN
  CHAPTER VII--UNAVOIDABLE DELAY
  CHAPTER VIII--PLENTY OF TROUBLE
  CHAPTER IX--ADRIFT IN THE SNOW FOREST
  CHAPTER X--TURNING THE TABLES
  CHAPTER XI--THE BUCK'S HEAD
  CHAPTER XII--BURNING OUT A HONEY THIEF
  CHAPTER XIII--HUNTING THE BIGHORN
  CHAPTER XIV--A WAKEFUL NIGHT
  CHAPTER XV--OUT FOR A GRIZZLY
  CHAPTER XVI--THE TERROR OF THE ROCKIES
  CHAPTER XVII--WHEN MUSIC WAS PLAYED OUT
  CHAPTER XVIII--A HARD CUSTOMER
  CHAPTER XIX--BREAKING CAMP--CONCLUSION



ROCKY MOUNTAIN BOYS

CHAPTER I

COMRADES OF THE TRAIL


"We must be pretty nearly there now, Tom, I take it!"

"I reckon we'll sight the dugout inside of half an hour or so, Felix; if
the description, and the little chart old Sol Ten Eyck gave me, are
correct."

"Well, I'll sure be glad when we arrive, because this pack is getting
heavier, it seems to me, every hour now. One thing certain, Chum Tom,
we'll go out of this part of the country a heap lighter than we're
coming in; with all this good grub swallowed up after two months
roughing it. Been three days on the trail now, since Frazer turned us
loose out of his big bull-boat."

They were two pretty well-grown boys, the one tall and slender; while
the other, whom he called Tom, seemed stockily built, with the ruddy hue
of perfect health on his sun and wind tanned cheeks.

Tom was really Tom Tucker, and the taller young hunter, Felix Edmondson.
Besides repeating rifles of a modern make, and such ordinary
accompaniments as ditty bags and hunting knives, the lads were carrying
heavy packs on their backs, to each of which were also strapped a pair
of snow-shoes, proving that they anticipated staying around the
foothills of the great Rocky Mountains, for some time at least, and were
prepared for getting around when several feet of snow covered the
ground.

They were in a region not a great distance from the border of that
Wonderland which Uncle Sam has transferred into a grand playground,
known far and wide as the Yellowstone Park. In fact, a range of the
Rocky Mountains towered almost above them as they looked up, standing
out against the blue afternoon sky like a rock-ribbed barrier.

Around them lay the great forest that in many places grows at the base
of the giant uplifts that are well called the back-bone of the
continent. It was a wild region, seldom pressed by the foot of man; save
when some Indian or trapper chose to pursue his calling--the "primeval
wilderness," Felix was fond of calling it, in his humorous way.

Felix was a city-bred boy who had ambitions to take up his father's
profession later in life, and shine as a surgeon. But not being very
strong, it was under this parent's wise advice that he was now knocking
off for a year from his studies, and getting in the great Outdoors all
he possibly could, in order to build himself up, so as to have a good
foundation for the hard work that lay before him.

And he was succeeding wonderfully, since there is nothing better under
the sun to change a weakly boy into a sturdy man than this free life of
the Wild West. If proof of this statement were needed, it could be
demonstrated in the life of Theodore Roosevelt himself, who took the
same course of treatment.

As for Tom Tucker, he had always lived pretty much in the open ever
since his father bought that Wyoming cattle range with its herds.
Between times Tom had attended school, so that he was far from being
ignorant; the fact of his great love of reading also put him in touch
with what was going on in the world, whether in the line of scientific
discoveries, exploration, or the constant change in the map of nations.

The two lads were really cousins, and it was while Felix was paying a
long promised lengthy visit to the home of the other that this trip to
the foothills of the Rockies was discussed and decided on.

Just at present the one great ambition in the life of the city lad was
to bag a genuine grizzly bear. He had done considerable hunting of
smaller game, having spent two seasons in the woods, one up in Maine,
and the other in Canada. While he had more than one deer to his credit,
besides wildcats, and even a wolf, Felix had conceived a desire to come
face to face with the most dreaded wild animal of the American wilds,
the grizzly.

So they had organized this expedition, being taken in a bull-boat as far
on the way as was possible; and after that manfully shouldering their
heavy packs. Under such conditions they did not cover many miles a day,
which accounted for their being so long on the road.

But as Tom Tucker had said, they were now pretty near the end of their
trail, and he fervently hoped that ere darkness descended they would
have reached the goal of all their ambitious progress.

An old trapper with whom Tom had spent part of a season in another part
of the big game country, had a dugout up here, in which he used to
hibernate winter after winter, sometimes with a tried and true
companion, often absolutely alone; content to live his simple life under
the shadow of the mighty Rockies, and take his toll of the fur-bearing
animals that frequented this favored region.

Tom had a rude map of the country, as well as directions, how to find
the dugout when he got there. And here the two boys anticipated putting
in about two months of the late fall and early winter, doing a little
trapping, just for fun, and considerable hunting besides.

Naturally they expected having a glorious time, as what boy, with a love
for the woods and the chase, would not?

The leaves had long since turned a russet brown, and any day now they
might expect the first snow of the season to fall. It was a time when
the bracing air was filled with a tonic which Felix needed more than
anything else in the wide world; and as his lungs filled with its
life-giving qualities, the boy from the Far East was never tired of
telling how different he was feeling from the conditions of a few months
back.

As they struggled onward, hoping at almost any minute now to sight their
goal, the two boys exchanged remarks concerning the matters that were
naturally uppermost in their minds.

"You said that Old Sol hadn't been up here for several seasons now,
didn't you, Tom?" the taller lad was asking.

"Why, yes," the other replied, "you see, the old fellow isn't as strong
as he used to be, and does his hunting nearer his sister's home. Fact
is, she won't let him come up here any more; and there are a lot of
youngsters in her family, too, that Sol has become interested in. So
he's satisfied to keep around there, if only they let him take a week
now and then in the woods, with a comrade. That's how I came to know
him, and often we spent some mighty fine days together. He taught me
about all I know of trapping, and lots besides about the habits of big
game animals. I'm itching to make use of some of the things that Old Sol
handed down to me."

"And the traps he said he had catched up here, do you reckon, now,
they'll be in decent condition, or rusted all to pieces?" Felix
continued.

"Well," Tom observed, "he said he had rubbed them all over with bear's
grease, and rolled them up in a leather cover, before he hid them away;
so he expected they'd keep in fair shape many years. We'll have to take
our chances on that. It wasn't the hope of making anything at trapping
that fetched us away up here, you know. That's only a little side issue,
you might say, just to see if we've learned anything about the game."

"One thing sure, Tom, this region doesn't seem to be overrun with
settlers, seeing that we haven't met a solitary soul these three days;
while game seems fairly plentiful, because we sighted seven black-tailed
deer on the way, and had a peep at some bighorn sheep yesterday away up
on the mountain."

"I've seen no sign of any one around but they told us below that once in
a while some Indian was known to be in this part of the country, doing
his winter's trapping. And you remember, they said that if we happened
to run across an old Shoshone chief, who now goes by the name of Charley
Crow, and who sometimes acts as guide for Eastern sportsmen, we ought to
cultivate his acquaintance, because he has the reputation of being the
straightest redskin in the whole State of Wyoming."

"I remember that they said he was really a halfbreed," remarked Felix;
"but his wife is a full blood. Perhaps we may happen to run across the
old fellow while we're up here. I'd like to meet him, wouldn't you,
Tom?"

"Well, I don't know," replied the other, with a shrug of his broad
shoulders, on which the big pack seemed to rest so easily in comparison
with the way that of Felix gave him trouble; "I must say, that so far
I've never run across an Injun I'd care much to cultivate. They're not
what they used to be. The white man's whisky has changed them terribly.
In the old days they never worked, only hunted; and went to war; while
the squaws did all the drudgery in camp. And now, as a rule, they are
just satisfied to loaf their lives away, fed by the bounty of the White
Father at Washington--gambling and drinking, and doing a little stealing,
when everything else fails them."

"But on the reservations many of them farm, and I understand with
success, too," remonstrated Felix.

"Oh, sure, that must be a fact," admitted Tom, readily enough, "though
I've never seen it; but others have told me that many of the braves have
taken to farming, and are doing well. I was only speaking of the Injuns
who wouldn't change their way of living. But Felix, take a look at that
monster tree over there. Seems to me that answers the description Old
Sol gives of the big one overhanging his hidden dugout."

Felix heaved a sigh of relief, as with one hand he mopped his forehead,
using a red bandana handkerchief which he wore knotted around his neck
in true cowboy fashion; for despite the coolness of the day, the labor
had heated him up considerably.

"I hope so, Tom," he remarked, trying to act as though after all it was
not such a vital matter whether or not they came upon the shack that day
or the next; but all the same his eyes eagerly sought the vicinity of
the big tree, and he was trying to make out something vaguely resembling
the shape of a rough dugout near its base.

They kept on advancing, and Tom suddenly gave utterance to an
exclamation of intense satisfaction.

"We've arrived, all right, Felix!" he declared, positively. "It must lie
in that tangle under the shadow of the tree. And say, this just suits me
all to the good. Look around, and think of spending a whole two months
in such a grand stretch of country. Here are the woods around us, where
we must surely find lots of deer and other game; and there stands the
range of mountains, where you're going to bag that grizzly you want so
bad, not to speak of big-horns, such as can be found in no other section
of the known world, I'm told. For one I'll feel like dancing a jig if it
turns out that we've come on Old Sol's shack at last."

"Well, it'd take a whole lot to tempt me to do that same," chuckled
Felix; "and anyhow, I'm not going to begin till we make sure. When I
throw this pack down for the last time I'll be pretty happy, though,
Tom, believe me."

"It has been pretty hard on you, Felix, for a fact," observed the other,
"for the reason that you've not been used to carrying heavy packs on
your back, like I am. Look at my shoulders and see what I could stand. I
wanted you to let me take more of it in my load, you remember."

"Oh! just as if you hadn't picked out all the heaviest things already,"
declared Felix, indignantly, "why, I'm dead sure your bundle weighs a
third again as much as mine does, right now. I'd be ashamed to let you
tote it all, Tom, however willing you were. But do you see anything that
looks like that blessed old dugout?"

Hardly had he asked this question than the other started on a run.

"That's what I do, Felix, right through that screen of bushes that
serves to hide it from any one who didn't have a tip it was there. Make
up your mind we're at the end of our long tramp, and in another hour
you'll smell smoke, perhaps the tempting odor of coffee cooking. Hurrah!
what did I tell you, old boy?"

There could no longer be any doubt, for as they broke their way through
the vines and brush that had not been disturbed for several years, they
looked upon a sort of half cabin, and the rest dugout. The rise of the
ground had allowed Old Sol to construct an ideal winter hiding-place,
with the great mountains to protect him from the worst of the chilling
northwest winds and storms.

Down went both packs instantly. Tom began to caper around, to show his
delight, and Felix actually followed suit; but more to get some of the
"kinks" out of his weary leg muscles, for that last day's tramp had
sorely tried the city boy.

"Here it is, just as he described it to me!" exclaimed Tom, staring hard
at the singular little shelter where the trapper had spent many a happy
season, content to gather his share of the pelts of the wild animals
that wore valuable fur; and secure enough meat for his own consumption
from the elk, black-tailed deer, or it might be, some antelope that
lingered late in the Fall in the grassy valleys of the foothills.

"I suppose we might as well take a look in," remarked Felix, presently.

"That's right," replied the other, readily enough. "You see, such a
thing as locks are unknown in this country. Notice that the door has a
bar on the outside that simply holds it shut when the owner is away, so
that wild animals will not have a chance to sneak in, and steal his
grub. Well, all we have to do is just to give this bar a turn--whew! she
moves hard, as if stuck there--then push open the door, and enter!"

Tom Tucker was carrying out his words to the letter, but just as he
started to push the door back the two boys heard an ominous savage growl
that came from within the cabin.

Immediately Tom, being a boy of quick action, drew the door shut again,
and at the same time swung the stout bar into place; after which he
turned around to look at his amazed companion.



CHAPTER II

IN POSSESSION OF THE DUGOUT


"Wow! would you hear that, now?" exclaimed Tom. "Pleasant sort of
welcome to a pair of tired, footsore pilgrims, I should say."

"By George! there's some sort of animal that thinks it owns the shebang,
and has made its den in the dugout!" remarked Felix, in a tone of
astonishment.

"Just what's happened," continued his chum, stepping back, rifle in
hand, in order to look around; "but what's bothering me, is to know how
the beast got in, when both door and window blind were closed tight.
Why, to be sure, it was the easiest thing going, to drop down that
chimney! Old Sol forgot to fix that against a smart bobcat!"

"A bobcat!" echoed Felix, "do you think that's all it was? Sounded to me
heavier than any cat's growl I ever heard. You must have whoppers up
here in Wyoming, when you find them at all, Tom."

"Why, what did you think it could be?" asked the other, quickly.

"My first idea was that it might turn out to be a panther," said Felix,
"or one of those bad fighters that they call Indian devils; but then,
you ought to be the best judge. No matter what it is, we want that
shack, don't we, Tom?"

"And we're going to have it, right away, Felix, as soon as we can
dislodge that critter. I was in hopes he'd crawl up out of the chimney,
and give us a crack at him; but it looks like he was too smart to try
such a dodge, with two handy guns waiting to bowl him over."

"Suppose I pound on the door, and give him notice that he'd better be
making his way out as fast as he can," proposed the taller lad.

"Let me do that, while you stand here, ready to give him a bullet the
instant his head shows above the top of the chimney; that's made of
slabs, you notice, and mud baked so hard that it's more like cement now.
The light ain't all it might be; but by stepping over here, you ought to
get him against that brighter background. All ready, are you, Felix?"

"Go ahead; and it's just like you, Tom, waiting to give me the first
chance at everything. Knock him up, and tell him to vamose the ranch,"
with which Felix raised his Marlin repeater to his shoulder, and stood
at attention.

With the butt of his rifle Tom gave several sharp pounds on the door of
the dugout cabin. In response, the hairy occupant simply growled some
more. Again did Tom tap his summons, and the growling continued.

"That's what I call real sassy," chuckled Tom. "He says he won't budge
an inch, if we have got a quit claim deed from Old Sol to this shack!
And he wants to know what we're going to do about it, either."

"I don't suppose it would be the right thing to do to open the door, and
rush the beast," remarked Felix. "They're a bad lot, and scratches from
their claws are apt to give a fellow blood poisoning, unless he's got
the stuff to counteract it. How are we going to dislodge that cat, Tom?"

"You watch my smoke," went on Tom, "and in this case that ain't just a
figure of speech, either, let me remark."

"Smoke! Oh! I'm on to your game, old fellow; and let me say it's the
best thing we could do. Want any help?" Felix remarked, deeply
interested.

"Not me," sang out the other, who had laid his gun aside, and seemed to
be looking around for certain dead twigs, and such things as would be
apt to take fire readily; "I'll get a little blaze started, and then
give this green weed a chance to smoulder. It'll put up the rankest
smell you ever did whiff, and when I toss the same in through the door,
take my word for it that cat will soon make a run up the chimney."

He busied himself for another minute, and then struck a match. As a
little fire started Tom stepped back and gathered an armful of a certain
weed that had not yet been killed by the frost. This he threw upon the
flame, when immediately a dark smoke began to rise. As Felix got a scent
of it he gave a snort.

"You're sure right, when you said that beat anything I ever ran up
against," he declared, vigorously; "whew! it must be the stink-weed of
the Indians. Nothing else could throw off that awful smell."

"Just what it is; and now take care, for I'm going to open the door a
little to toss the stuff inside," replied Tom.

"I see our finish, if that weed ever gets to smoking inside the dugout,"
sighed Felix, rather disconsolately, as he held his fingers to his nose,
and tried to deep his rifle in position at the same time.

"Oh! we'll soon chase that out with coffee and such things," returned
the cheerful Tom; "besides, you've got to stand lots of things when you
can't help it. Here goes, Felix. Now, Old Claws, will you be good?"

He gathered up the smouldering weeds, and opening the door with one
hand, suddenly tossed his burden within, slamming the barrier shut
again, and turning the bar. They plainly heard some heavy object come
with a crash against the door, as if the cat had sprung savagely, hoping
to land on its enemy, as it undoubtedly considered the one who was
bothering with its peaceful occupation of the apparently abandoned
shack.

Snatching up his gun, Tom sprang back to where he too could get a dim
view of the top of the short chimney, not more than ten feet away.

"You first, remember, Felix; I'm only going to break in if you fail to
get him," he said, hastily.

They plainly heard the cat jumping around within the place, as though it
resented the odor of smoke, and such smoke too! Felix certainly could
sympathize with the animal.

"He's coming!" warned Tom, suddenly.

A distinct scratching sound came to the ears of Felix. He understood
what must be the cause of this; the inmate of the dugout was about to
vacate. Defying all other arguments, the cat had to succumb to that of
smoke from the stink-weed.

Felix kept his eyes fixed on the top of that stumpy chimney, and his
gunstock was already fast against his shoulder.

"There," exclaimed Tom, as something pushed up into view, and the form
of a big bobcat was seen emerging.

It had just about all appeared in view, when the report of the Marlin
sounded sharply through the neighboring woods, where perhaps a gun had
not been fired for several years, so far as they knew.

"Back!" cried Tom, dragging at the arm of his comrade, as the monster
cat came whirling down toward them, in such a mixed-up mess that it was
impossible to say whether the animal were in its death throes, or making
a savage leap at its tormentors, though in either case it was the safe
policy to sheer off.

When the cat landed on the ground they both saw that it had received its
death wound, and hence there was no need of a second shot from either of
their guns.

"That settles him for good," remarked Tom, when, with a last spasmodic
movement, the savage looking beast stiffened out. "Nice to have such a
warm welcome, eh, when you get to your future snug home? Now to kick
that weed out of doors in a big hurry, Felix."

"Go slow," warned the other.

"What for? Do you think there might be another inside? Not much. If one
had to vacate, the other would have been on his heels. This was an old
hermit cat, without any family, I guess; and a buster, too. Here goes,
then."

With that he flung open the door. No growling greeted them, which was a
pretty good indication that the shack had yielded up its entire quota of
cats.

Tom jumped in and in a trice had tossed out the smouldering weeds; which
Felix trampled under foot, until they ceased to give out any smoke or
smell.

"Pretty rank in here, what with the cat and the weed; hard to tell which
is the worse," declared Tom; "but we'll remedy that right quick."

Both boys bustled about, getting wood for a fire; and Tom selected as
much fragrant burning fragments as his knowledge of the forest trees
allowed. They carried this into the dugout, the shutter of which had
been opened to admit of fresh air.

The big fireplace seemed to fairly yawn, and ask for a supply of fuel,
and in a very short time they had the fire going briskly.

First of all, they did everything possible to get rid of the awful
odors. The two big packs were brought inside and opened, so that the
coffee could be reached, and once Tom had sprinkled a few pinches of the
powdered grain on the hearth, and set a burning brand alongside, to
cause it to catch fire, a different scent filled the place.

"Is that any better?" he asked, laughingly.

"A thousand per cent," replied Felix. "But say, I'm as hungry as a bear;
and we can't get supper any too soon to suit me."

"Same here," chirped Tom; with which remark he started in to make
immediate preparations for the meal.

Expecting to depend for the most part on the game they would find, for
their subsistence while in the wilderness, they had carried only certain
things along, in the shape of bacon, salt pork, coffee, tea, some sugar,
flour, rice, hominy, and about a quart of onions for an occasional
relish. That, with their blankets, some extra clothes, and ammunition,
made up the heavy packs which the boys had been carrying on their backs
for three full days now--the snow-shoes counted for little, as they were
light weight.

While Tom made the coffee, Felix busied himself in cooking some of the
bacon. Until they had managed to knock over a deer, or supplied
themselves with meat in some other fashion, they must make a raid daily
on their scanty stock of food.

"But tomorrow we'll both get busy, and see what we can bag," remarked
Tom, when the other mentioned this depressing fact.

There were a few crackers left, as well as some cheese, upon which they
had subsisted at "noonings" on the way, not wishing to bother lighting a
fire, and spending time in cooking anything, when in such haste to get
located in their quarters.

Altogether they had a good satisfying meal, and Felix declared after it
was over that he felt many times better.

"I'm going to smoke one pipe, just to give a flavor to the old shack
where Sol burned many a pound of the weed in his day," remarked Tom,
settling back comfortably, with a block of wood to support him.

"And what's in the wind then?" asked his cousin.

"I might try my hand at taking our first pelt," chuckled the other.

"Oh! yes, to be sure, I'd about forgotten that he's got a fur worth
keeping. And Tom, every time we look at it, won't we just remember what
a welcome he gave us on our arrival. To be sure it was only in growls;
but then, that's the only language a poor old cat's got. But when you
say you mean to try your hand, you're only joking, because I wager you
took off many a pelt when out with Old Sol Ten Eyck."

"Of course, and I hope I haven't forgotten the lessons he taught me; for
there never was a better trapper known than Sol in his prime. He's
brought in the skins of every kind of animal in the country, from a
black fox, down to muskrat hides, when you couldn't hardly give these
last away. But nowadays, with the big demand for all kinds of furs, and
a shortening supply, the muskies are fetching a price that makes it pay
a fellow to gather them."

"That's what I understood from a big fur dealer," Felix went on to
remark. "What's going to happen when all the seals and foxes and mink
and otter are gone, nobody knows. He said that people would either have
to quit wearing any kind of furs; or else be satisfied with muskrat, or
something that never will be extinct."

"Look at the wolf, for instance," said Tom. "Time was, when it hardly
paid to skin one on the ranch, when we shot them. How is it now? Why,
they've found that those skins make the finest kinds of warm coats for
men driving in automobiles; and the consequence is the price keeps going
up right along. Mr. Wolf has a rough road ahead of him in the next ten
years. But nobody will cry if he's wiped out, because he's a bad lot,
and sure death to young calves in the herd."

Felix was not addicted to the smoking habit, which probably was a good
thing, as he lacked the robust figure of his western cousin. But Tom did
certainly seem to suck a great deal of consolation from that little pipe
of his, and the other boy had no objection to the fumes, indeed, the
fragrant odor of the tonca bean, which was mixed with Tom's tobacco
rather pleased his senses.

After he had finished that one pipe, Tom arose, and picking up his
knife, said he would step out to attend to the dead cat.

"If I can't get the right light, why, I might hang the old boy up from
the limb of a tree until morning," he said; "only that's likely to fetch
others of the breed yowling around tonight. But I'll see."

A full moon had arisen after sunset, and while the trees kept much of
her light from reaching the ground, still it was far from dark. Tom,
however, was particular with respect to how he took off any pelt, and
decided that it had better wait until morning. He stood outside there
quite a little while, until Felix came to the door to ascertain what he
was doing.

"Not taking time to bother with the hide tonight, then?" he asked, as he
discovered the dead cat swinging about six feet from the ground, having
been fastened there with a stout cord.

"Changed my mind, and concluded it would make a better job in daylight,"
answered the other. "But I was standing here, listening to something
that ought to make you feel happy."

"What was that?" asked Felix, his curiosity of course aroused.

"I heard a 'woof woof' over there that told me a bear was passing by,
and had got a whiff of human presence here," Tom went on to say,
chuckling in his usual way.

"And do you think it could be a grizzly?" demanded Felix, thrilled with
the very thought of such a thing.

"Oh! well, I never shot a grizzly, myself, and in fact only hunted for
the breed once; so my ear isn't educated enough to tell the difference
between the sounds made by a cinnamon, and his black cousin; but then, a
bear means game, one way or the other; and that suits us both. Besides,
bear steak ain't so _very_ bad, even if it is tough generally. We'll
look up that gentleman tomorrow, Felix, just as sure as anything."



CHAPTER III

THE FIRST GOOD LUCK


One side of the cabin had a couple of rude but serviceable bunks built
in the wall. Here the boys arranged their blankets; and thus prepared to
put in their first night in camp with a roof over their heads.

They already saw where they would have numerous things to do in order to
feel comfortable when the snows of early winter struck them; but there
would be plenty of time for all that, as the days glided on.

After all, the night proved to be a quiet one, in spite of Tom's
expressed fear that the swinging body of the cat might attract others of
its species, who, gathering around, might think to hold a regular "wake"
over the remains.

In fact, neither of them heard anything from the time they lay down
until dawn came, and with it a desire for breakfast.

Feeling considerably refreshed, the two comrades set about accomplishing
some of the numerous duties that had been laid out for the day.

Breakfast disposed of, they started to fix up the interior of the dugout
shack, so as to make it seem more comfortable. Dozens of little things
needed to be done. The roof showed signs of wear in several places, and
had to be patched against the time when the cold winds would whistle and
moan around the corners the livelong night, trying to get a nip at their
toes and fingers.

During the morning, then, they were constantly busy, and before noon
came around the camp looked a thousand per cent more cheerful.

"Begins to seem like somebody lived here, eh?" remarked Tom, as he
looked about him with a satisfied air; he was rather "fussy" about how
he did things, never being content to have them just "passable;" the
best was none too good for him, Tom always declared; meaning that if
anything was worth doing at all, it was worth doing well.

Tom had taken off the skin of the wildcat which was making a den of the
dugout at the time of their arrival. This he had stretched in the proper
fashion, over a thin piece of board, many of which they found in a
corner of the place, having evidently served Old Sol for years in the
same way.

Strange to say, Tom, knowing the secrets of trappers had not cut the
skin underneath at all but turned it inside-out; this is called
"casing," and the skin is dried with the flesh side out. Besides
wildcat, a few other animals are also treated this way, notably 'possum,
muskrat, mink and otter. As for beaver, raccoon, marten, fox, lynx,
wolf, coyote and skunk, these may be slit underneath, and when stretched
on the board, the hair is allowed to be on the outer side.

They are never cured near a fire or in the sun; the shade, where the
wind can get at them being much more preferable, if "prime" or
first-class pelts are desired; and of course that is the aim of every
trapper.

Of course, one of the first things both boys had done on this morning
was to take a look for signs of the bear Tom had heard passing in the
night. The experienced Western lad had no difficulty in finding the
tracks, and he showed his chum how the animal, after standing at a
certain point, evidently sniffing in the direction of the smoke that
came from their chimney, had made an abrupt turn, and headed once more
for the neighboring defiles of the mountains, evidently not caring to
remain in the vicinity of man, whom his instinct told him must always be
the mortal enemy of his species.

"He was a bully big grizzly, too, all right, Felix!" announced Tom,
pointing to the tremendous size of the footprints, with the marks of
terrible claws showing; for a bear, like a dog, lacks the peculiar
ability of the cat tribe to draw back its claws entirely except when
needed.

Felix looked rather longingly toward the great rocky uplifts that seemed
so very close by, although he well knew it was quite likely to prove a
little undertaking, reaching any of the gulches and canyons that pierced
the massive barrier.

"Not today, but soon, I hope," he remarked, turning with a smile toward
Tom.

"That's right," remarked the other, "all in good time. We must first of
all manage the eating end; or before we know it we won't have any meat
in the cabin. Then we want to look up Old Sol's cache, where he's got
some of his traps hid away. I'd just like to set a few of the same, to
see if the luck holds good. And when, after a while, the spirit moves
us, why, we'll start out to get that grizzly you've been dreaming about
so long."

So Felix put the thought out of his head, and determined to abide his
time. As he so often said, when some companion tried to make undue
speed, "Rome wasn't built in a day," and the more haste the less speed
to the end.

"How about that cache?" asked Felix, along about the noon hour, as they
sat and rested up a bit after working faithfully all morning at many
tasks.

"That's a fact!" exclaimed Tom, jumping up again in a hurry; "I'd let
that slip my mind. And I'm a whole lot curious to know how the steel
contraptions have stood the three years that have gone by since Old Sol
was up here."

"Didn't you say he wanted you to try and lug the traps back, when we
started for home again?" inquired the other boy.

"He said he had an enduring affection for the traps, and that if we
could manage to carry a few, he'd think it just prime. I suppose an old
fellow does kind of get attached to anything he's handled so long.
P'raps some of the traps have histories, too. And since we expect to
make a sledge, and pull all our stuff over the snow to where we agreed
to meet Frazer on Christmas day, why, chances are, we can take the whole
caboodle out of the mountains. I know it would tickle the old man a lot,
and he's been mighty kind to me, let me tell you, Felix."

"Oh! we can do that easy enough," returned Felix, always ready to
oblige; "when we leave here there'll be plenty of snow; and with our
shoes we can make good time, picking out a day that's suited to the
work."

Tom went over to the lower bunk. Getting down on his hands and knees he
reached underneath, and presently drew forth what seemed to be a rudely
made box. This he had some difficulty in opening, and when the top was
finally pried off they found that the traps had been wrapped, each one,
in an old, poor quality skin, that seemed to be in a pretty good state
of preservation.

Of course Old Sol had expected to be up there again on the following
Fall, when he put his traps away like this; and never dreamed that three
years would slip by before the cache was opened. But he had carefully
greased them with bear's fat, and as a whole they were looking very
decent.

Altogether they made quite an assortment when Tom laid them out. The boy
handled them almost with reverence. He knew that, as he had said before,
each one must have a history. Many a story could they tell, if those
grim-looking jaws could only speak--stories of captured wild animals
galore, and of more than one fierce fight before the prisoner finally
gave up the ghost.

"Tomorrow, perhaps, we can get several of these placed," Tom remarked,
as, having hung the traps up from pegs in the wall, he started
preparations looking to having some warm lunch, for the day was quite
cold. "If I go out for a little turn this afternoon, as you said, why,
I'll keep my eyes about me for likely places. Sol, in his many stories
about his life up here, gave me more than a few hints about the favorite
places he had for certain animals. I rather guess this place must have
been his pet camp, and he used several in his day."

Felix was not quite recovered from his fatigue, and hence it had been
agreed between them that perhaps he would be wise to stay in camp, and
let Tom take the first look for meat.

Tom was as tough as a pine-knot. He had been used to roughing it all his
life, and hardly knew such a thing as getting real tired. Besides, as he
had known Old Sol personally, the chances were he would be able to find
a deer more quickly than his cousin might. With that rough chart to
guide him, and the stories of the old trapper still fresh in his mind,
Tom believed he had a pretty comprehensive idea concerning the lay of
the land, even before he had taken one step towards exploring the
vicinity.

"The woods ought to be good enough for me," he had said; "and I hope to
bring back a load of juicy venison; but if I don't strike up with my
deer, why, we'll just have to fall back on that piece of ham that's left
over."

"I hope not," remarked Felix, with a shrug; "I'm just tired of ham and
bacon for a steady diet, and ache to have a piece of venison between my
teeth. So here's wishing you the best luck ever, Tom, which is saying a
good word for myself, too."

When Tom shouldered his gun, and took one last look at the now cozy
interior of the cabin, he smiled back at his chum.

"Let me tell you, Felix," he remarked, "it looks good to me already; and
I just know we're going to have the best sort of time up here, if only
we manage to keep the wolf from the door."

"I'll do all I can to assist," laughingly responded Felix, little
dreaming how shortly circumstances, just then utterly unseen, would
bring these words of his companion forcibly before his mind.

"If you feel like it, Felix, you might be cutting up that big limb that
was torn off the tree in some storm; we can't have too big a pile of
fire wood, against the coming of winter, you know; and once we get a
string of traps to look after, the less time we have to spend in
chopping wood, the better."

And with these words, followed by a cheery wave of his chum's hand, Tom
strode off for his first side hunt. They really were in need of fresh
meat. Some five days had passed since leaving home, and with three to
feed part of the time, this had made a little hole in the stock of
provisions brought along with them.

Tom had done a great deal of hunting, and was familiar with most of the
tricks resorted to by those who are most successful in getting game. Of
course he took occasion to notice the direction of the wind before
leaving the cabin. It would be the height of folly to try and stalk a
deer with the breeze blowing his scent directly to the delicate nostrils
of his intended quarry, for the wary animal must detect his presence
long before he could hope to get within gunshot, and as a consequence
would be off "like a streak of greased lightning," as Tom himself put
it.

As he went along, the boy kept his eyes about him, observing numerous
things of a nature to interest a hunter and trapper. The sigh of the
wind through the tree-tops was sweetest music in the ears of Tom Tucker;
many a night had it lulled him to sleep when in the woods; or stealing
softly over the grassy prairie, where the cattle grazed, it had carried
with it the chirp of crickets and katydids and all the other familiar
sounds of a summer night on the range.

Never a leaf came floating to the ground near him but that his quick eye
sought it out instinctively. If some little squirrel rustled the leaves,
his ear was on the alert, even as his eager finger touched the trigger
of his gun, ready for a shot at a bounding black-tail deer.

So Tom went on for perhaps an hour.

He was not more than half a mile away from the camp at most, since he
had considered it good policy to make a half circle, covering as much
ground as possible in this, his first tramp.

So far he had seen nothing worth shooting at, though signs of deer had
caught his watchful eye numerous times; and he felt sure they used these
grounds for feeding purposes, as there were patches of green grass every
little while.

And then, all of a sudden, there was a loud rustle of the leaves that
sent a thrill through the young hunter. He saw a deer leap over a fallen
tree with all the ease in the world, and start to bound away, taking
great springs. Instinct rather than anything else caused Tom to throw
his rifle to his shoulder; and then he fired, just as the buck turned
slightly in order to avoid some obstruction, which Tom had already known
would make him veer.

With a crash the deer went down. Throwing another cartridge into the
firing chamber of his gun, Tom started full speed toward the spot, ready
to finish his quarry, if such a thing proved necessary; for he had known
deer to get up again, full of fight, after being thrown to the ground by
a shot.

But that first well-placed ball had accomplished its work. The buck was
dead by the time Tom reached the spot, pleased with his success, which
he looked upon as a splendid sign of future luck.

As the afternoon was well along, and he would have half a mile to "tote"
his burden, the boy lost no time in setting to work removing the skin of
the animal, and then cutting the deer up, so as to secure the choice
portions, including of course the two haunches.

Outside of the hams and perhaps the shoulders there is not a great deal
about a deer worth taking; so in due time Tom had packed all he wanted
in the hide, which he made up into a compact bundle, and threw over his
shoulder.

Thus loaded, and in a happy frame of mind, he started in the direction
of camp. Never once during his hour's tramp had Tom been compelled to
guess where the dugout lay. The woods were as an open book to him, so
accustomed was he to unconsciously noting many little things around
him--the moss on the trees; the way the forest monarchs inclined away
from the prevailing storms that came from the west in this region,
sweeping down the sides of the mountains; with these and many other
signs to tell him, a hunter can read locations as easily as you or I
might a printed page in a book.

Tom had been moving along a short time in this way when suddenly he
stopped to listen. The report of a gun had been borne to his ears, and
from the direction of the camp, though the breeze was not favorable for
carrying sounds.

"Hello!" he started to remark; when to his surprise a second shot
followed the first, and quickly came a third.

By this time Tom was excited. He fancied that this might be a signal
calling for help, as is well known among woodsmen, and cattle rustlers.
Thoughts of the rough characters said to be somewhere in this vicinity,
after being run out of Yellowstone Park by the soldiers guarding the
preserves, flashed into his mind.

And so Tom, hastily throwing his pack up over a limb, where it would be
safe for a while at least, and carefully noting the spot, so he could
find the meat again, started on a wild run for the location of Old Sol's
hideout.



CHAPTER IV

THE WOLF PACK


When Felix found himself alone he set about doing a number of things
which he had in mind, meaning to tackle the wood problem when it got
later in the afternoon.

Time passes quickly when any one is busily employed, and so the hour
slipped by almost before he knew it. From some distance away there
suddenly came the report of a rifle. Felix listened eagerly, but no
second shot sounded. This seemed to tell him that none was needed.

"I reckon Tom got what he wanted that time," he said to himself, as he
went on doing what had engaged his attention; "when he lets go,
something generally drops. Makes my mouth water, just to think of having
a saddle of venison hanging up here for a starter. And then it'll be my
turn next to make a try. Yes, Tom was right; and it sure does look like
we were going to have the time of our lives up here in this Rocky
Mountain foothills country."

He remembered after a bit that there was only a scant amount of wood
handy, and that Tom had hinted about laying in a further supply.

"Guess I'll just get a bucket of water, and then take to the axe for a
spell," he remarked to himself, for, like a good many other people,
Felix was quite food of talking to himself when alone.

Among other things they had found an old but serviceable galvanized
bucket, which Old Sol had carefully greased, and put away for future
use. It had taken Felix not a little time to get it in fairly decent
shape again; but it would hold water, and that was a fortunate thing.
Under such conditions campers have no right to be overly particular
about the looks of things; and a little rust never hurt any one yet,
Felix stoutly declared.

So, taking the bucket, he set out for the spring, which happened to be
about two hundred feet away from the dugout.

No doubt Sol Ten Eyck was fully aware of the existence of that same fine
spring when he started to locate his trapping cabin here in the
wilderness; in fact it had everything to do with his selecting that
particular locality for putting up his dugout-shack.

He had told Tom that that spring must be connected with some of those in
the National Park; because, no matter how cold the winter was, it never
froze up. What water came from it might get as hard as anything in the
zero temperature; but as for the spring itself, it continued to cheerily
bubble forth all through the wintry weather, defying Jack Frost to seal
its mouth.

Felix was thinking of his chum as he made his way toward the spring.
Doubtless he pictured Tom as busily engaged preparing the carcass of the
deer for transportation to the camp; and he could in imagination almost
see the pleasure his cousin was taking in his work.

"There never was a better chum than Tom," Felix was saying to himself,
as he dipped his bucket carefully into the water; and then, noticing
that in approaching too closely he had caused the water to become
slightly "roiled," he poured this away, and stooping there, waited a few
minutes until it should settle again.

A sound caught his hearing that caused him to quickly look up, and then
turn his head. What he saw gave the boy a thrill such as he had seldom
experienced before.

One, two, three savage looking animals were standing there, staring at
him in a hungry way, just as though they considered themselves in good
luck to come upon a dinner so easily.

They had all the appearance of dogs, but although Felix could not own up
to any considerable experience with wolves, he knew in a flash that that
was what these visitors must be.

And they looked dangerous, too. A single wolf is a cowardly beast, and
will almost always slink away from a human being; but when in company,
or running with a pack, he becomes an entirely different sort of animal.
At such times, especially when sharp pressed by hunger, in the middle of
the winter, he will break into the sheep-fold of a farmer, and even pull
down a running horse that has been exhausted by a long flight.

Felix had read many a wild story of wolf hunts in Russia; and knew with
what fierceness the animals on the Siberian steppes often chase
travelers in native vehicles, frequently devouring men and horses.

So he did not underestimate the wolves that so suddenly appeared before
him as he stooped over the spring, bucket in hand.

It flashed upon him that save for his hunting knife he was wholly
unarmed just then; for his trusty Marlin had of course been left in the
cabin; and what use would a five inch blade be against a trio of active,
vigorous and reckless wolves, bent upon securing a dinner?

He stood up, and took a step toward the cabin. Ominous growls greeted
the act, as though they would warn Felix that they did not mean to allow
him to gain the shelter of his fort.

Felix had another thrill about that time. The first had meant only
excitement; but this went further, and whispered of alarm as well.

How they bared their white fangs, and raised the long hair on their bony
shoulders, to show that they were primed for fight.

The boy realized that unless he proved himself quick-witted the chances
of his ever getting to where he could snatch up his good rifle, and give
them what they deserved, would be pretty slim.

At such a time as this the brain works as if on fire. It seemed to Felix
as though a score of things flashed through his mind at the same
instant. He wondered if he could frighten the animals by dashing at
them, waving his arms, and letting out a few wild whoops, for sometimes
wolves are sent into a panic by the sound of the human voice.

But if the expedient failed, why, it would bring him all the sooner to
grips with the three hairy scamps that seemed to invite a trail of
strength, and resourcefulness.

How about the bucket--could he knock upon the bottom with his knuckles at
the same time, and add to the din, so as to produce a temporary fear in
their hearts?

The cabin was only two hundred feet away, and Felix just knew he could
fairly fly over this distance, given half a chance; but if they
recovered soon enough to leap after him, was he not likely to have them
on his back before he could get inside and slam the door shut?

But something _must_ be done!

He could see them edging a little closer all the while, as though unable
to hold themselves wholly in check. And they were spreading out more in
the shape of a fan, too, as if they knew the best way to trap him.

Whatever was to be done, he must lose no more time about it, or the
attack would follow, and then it would be too late to devise any scheme
looking to creating a diversion.

It seemed as though just at that instant Felix remembered something that
promised to open up a possible avenue of escape.

When he was sitting there, resting for a few minutes, he had picked up
the newspaper that had been wrapped around some of their smoked meat.
Despite its greasy condition Felix had become interested in an article
on some subject of surgery that happened to catch his eye. This he had
partly read through; and then, wishing to complete a certain task with
which he was engaged, he had doubled the paper up, and unconcernedly
thrust it into a rear pocket; little dreaming how in doing this he might
have been actually saving his own life. So do trifles sometimes turn out
to be of the greatest moment.

This paper, with its greasy surface, would make a fierce flame, if only
for a brief time; and he always carried a bountiful supply of matches
along with him; for Tom had advised this, as a precaution, in case he
ever became lost, when each one would be worth a priceless sum.

No sooner had the idea flashed into the mind of Felix than he put his
hand around, in hopes of feeling the doubled paper. His heart was in his
throat when at first he failed to touch anything, then he remembered
that it was in the other hip pocket he had thrust the paper.

So he drew it out, rustling in a manner that elicited a fresh chorus of
snarls and growls from the three guards, who stood between him and the
shack where safety for him lay.

Crunching the paper up, Felix next sought for a match. He had a little
safe in one pocket of his trousers; but so clear was his mind at this
critical stage of the game that he instantly remembered placing several
matches loosely in the side pocket of his coat, where he could get at
them more easily when starting a fire for supper.

So ugly did the wolves act about this time that he was almost afraid
they were determined not to wait any longer, but proceed to open
hostilities. And so he continued to talk, and call out at them the
while, in hopes of averting the crisis until he had started things
moving himself.

Straight ahead of him lay the dugout. Once he began running he must make
record time, and keep in a direct line for the door. How fortunate that
he had left this wide open when starting after that bucket of water! All
he would have to do would be to fly through that friendly aperture,
snatch hold of the door, and fling it back of him. Then his next move
would be to make one leap for the corner where the Marlin stood; once he
felt its convincing metal in his hands, and after that he would not care
a snap of his fingers for all the timber wolves that existed within a
radius of ten miles.

All these preliminaries Felix seemed to settle, just like a great
general would his plan of campaign; only he had to do it out of hand.
The impatient and hungry wolves would not wait his pleasure; they wanted
things to be moving along.

Felix had let the empty bucket drop to the ground when his brilliant
scheme came flashing into his mind, so that both his hands were free to
conduct the work he had arranged.

First of all was the striking of the match, and this he would have to
accomplish along one leg of his trousers, as Tom always did. The act was
greeted by more nasty and irritating snarls, as the three wolves moved
still closer, hardly able to hold back longer.

When the flame of the match was communicated to the greasy newspaper, of
course it flashed up splendidly.

This was his chance, and delay now would be apt to injure his prospects
of being able to reach the shelter of the cabin.

So Felix began to wave his flaming torch, made up of the twisted
newspaper, and at the same time sprang straight at the three wolves. He
knew that such a move would add to their temporary panicky state of
feeling and give him a chance to cover some ground.

And as he started to jump at them, he also called out at the top of his
voice, and waved both arms, as though he might be an animated human
windmill in action, bearing down upon them.



CHAPTER V

A FIRST TASTE OF VENISON


"Get out! Get out, you rascals!"

That was about the burden of what Felix yelled, as he dashed at the
three timber wolves; although, when put to it afterwards he could never
be sure of what he said, only that he endeavored to make his whole
appearance as fierce looking as possible.

It seemed to be a success, too, for the animals turned tail, and bolted.
Wolves, as indeed about every other wild animal in the woods or in the
mountains, inherit a peculiar dread of fire, though of course the only
acquaintance most of them have with its terrifying qualities is when a
forest or a prairie fire threatens their lives.

Even before the white man came to these shores of America, the Indians
knew how to use flint and steel in order to kindle their fires; and
besides, now and then, doubtless conflagrations may have occurred
through fire coming down from the clouds, and the lightning striking
some dead tree in the woods.

Thus the fear of flames is born in these predatory animals; and as even
in the broad daylight the wolves saw the greasy newspaper flash up into
a little pyramid of fire, they just "scooted for all they were worth,"
as Felix afterwards declared, when telling the story of his little
adventure.

He did not even waste a second in glancing over his shoulder as he ran,
in order to ascertain how far this fear carried them. Chances were, they
would quickly get over the condition of panic, especially when seeing
their expected dinner making off in that vigorous fashion. And Felix
knew that once this occurred, they would be racing after him as fast as
they could run.

As the boy had always been fond of baseball, and kindred games, while at
school, doubtless he could look back to many an occasion when he put in
what he considered his "best licks" in endeavoring to stretch out a
two-base hit into a three-bagger; or possibly trying to steal home, when
the ball was being sent back to the pitcher, and his club needed a run
the worst kind, to win.

But Felix always claimed that had he been able to cover ground on those
occasions as rapidly as he did when those three wolves were after him,
he might have easily counted a home-run on that two-base hit; or be
sitting on the home plate by the time the pitcher was ready to throw to
catch him.

He fairly flew, every muscle and nerve being "on the job," as he called
it. The yawning open door was just in front of him; but by now he could
positively hear a terrible scratching sound in his rear, which must be
produced by the scrambling of his lupine foes over the intervening
ground.

They had recovered from their temporary scare, and were after him at
full speed, bent on pulling him down as they would a wounded deer.

But he reached the dugout, and shot through that opening like a flash.
At the instant of doing so he reached out, and catching hold of the
door, gave it a desperate fling.

He heard it strike something, which could only be the head of the
foremost wolf. And turning as quickly as possible, Felix threw his
weight against the door, which was even then commencing to move inward,
under the rush of enemies without.

But there was enough of vigor and alarm in the boy to crush the door
fast; after which he secured it with the bar.

He was safe, then, and had cheated the hungry beasts out of their
expected dinner. Felix seemed to experience a sudden change in the state
of his feelings. He had been alarmed before; now he was angry at those
three bold beasts. And turning around, he picked up the Marlin with
which he expected to get his ferocious grizzly; and which had been
chosen particularly on account of its hard shooting qualities, as well
as its faithfulness in a pinch, the mechanism never failing to work, as
some guns have a weakness for doing.

Once he had the hammer drawn back, and Felix walked deliberately over to
the door, which he meant to swing open. He might have taken to the
window just as well, but somehow he felt so fortified by this accession
of the repeating gun that he scorned such "baby" action.

Taking down the bar, he allowed the door to open just a few inches. That
gave him the chance he wanted to see the gleaming eyes and the red mouth
of a wolf not two feet away.

With the shot he saw the animal roll over in convulsions; while the
other two lost no time in making hasty tracks away from that dangerous
locality.

And here was where Felix showed that he knew what he was doing when he
selected the door instead of the smaller opening that served as a
window, since it actually had a pane of glass, and a movable sash--he was
enabled to immediately step outside, gun in hand, and take a couple of
shots at the fleeing wolves.

With each report one of the scampering beasts rolled over. It was as
fine shooting as Felix had ever done in all his life, and he had always
been accounted a rather clever hand with either rifle or bird gun.

"All down in that alley; set 'em up again!" he exclaimed, thrilled with
the remarkable success that had followed his work.

Not one of the ferocious beasts got up again, to try and limp away; so
that the young Nimrod was not compelled to use more than a single
cartridge apiece.

But when, presently, he went to the spring for that bucket of water,
Felix, you may be sure, carried the rifle along with him; and the three
cartridges that had been ejected were replaced by fresh ones.

There were no more wolves hovering around in that immediate
neighborhood, apparently, and he was not disturbed any further. So Felix
set about chopping his wood in the most unconcerned way possible, after
examining the bodies of his prizes, and dragging them into a row under
the big tree.

A short time later he heard Tom's "cooie," and answered it. Of course
the other had ceased his wild run as soon as he caught the regular sound
of the descending axe; but when he came up presently, fairly panting for
breath, his face displayed more than ordinary curiosity.

"What was it, Felix?" he asked.

"Do you mean, why did I fire those three shots?" asked the other,
meaning to tantalize his chum a little; for he could see how Tom was
burning up with eagerness to know the cause of the firing.

"Yes, yes, of course. It's generally the signal that a fellow needs
help," said Tom, eagerly.

"Well, my time for needing help had about passed when I let drive with
the Marlin gun," Felix went on, in a mysterious way that the other could
make nothing out of. "But if you could have dropped in here about a
minute before that time, I tell you now, you'd have been the most
welcome sight my eyes could have looked on."

"But why? Open up, Felix, and tell me what happened. You shot something,
didn't you?" Tom went on to demand.

"I shot three times, and there were just that number of the scamps, Tom."

Whereupon Tom glanced around, and in consequence quickly discovered the
several forms of the defunct beasts lying in a grim row under the big
tree.

"Well, I'll be hanged if it wasn't a whole pack of wolves; and what
fierce looking fellows, too!" he exclaimed, as he hurried over to
examine them.

"Huh!" grunted Felix; "I reckon each one looked about as tall as a house
to me, when they stood there, and showed me by their bared fangs, and
savage growls, that they didn't mean to let me make a dash from the
spring to the shack without tackling me."

"The spring! D'ye mean to say they waylaid you there? But how lucky it
was that you didn't forget to have your gun along!" ejaculated Tom.

"That's where the joke comes in," remarked the other, drily; "because it
never once occurred to me that a fellow ought to go to get a bucket of
water, with his gun under one arm. It was in the cabin at the time,
more's the pity."

Tom plumped down on the ground, and mopped his face with his bandana;
his run had apparently heated him up considerably.

"Spin the yarn, Felix; don't keep me guessing so hard. However in the
wide world did you keep them off till you grabbed up the gun?" he urged.

"Couldn't have done it at all, I give you my word, because they were
just bent on tackling me off-hand; but it chanced that I had an old
newspaper in my pocket."

"A newspaper!" echoed Tom; "what under the sun did that have to do with
it! How could a paper interest wolves? Come on, tell me what you did,
Felix?"

"Struck a match, and made a bully old torch. Then I just jumped for 'em,
and hollered to beat the band!" replied the other, with a grin.

Tom's face was a study as he listened, and he too smiled broadly.

"A great stunt, my boy, it sure was," he went on to say. "And so that
scared 'em off enough for you to get inside, where your gun was, did
it?"

"But only by a close shave," replied Felix. "One of the critters came
slap up against the door even when I was banging it shut; and they all
tried to outpush me."

"Then I suppose you just opened the little window, and gave the sassy
beasts one, two, three, eh, Felix?"

"Just what I did, only it was the door I opened a little, Tom. After I'd
bowled one over, the others put for shelter, just as I expected; and so
I was able to just step outside, and plunk the runners as neat as you
please. I'm some proud of those two shots; they were as good as anything
I ever did at my best."

"Well, you have done yourself proud, let me tell you that; but in my
mind the best part of the whole business was where you thought up that
clever dodge of using that newspaper for a torch. It was a stroke of
genius," said Tom, earnestly, and there could be no doubt that he meant
it.

"But I heard you shoot; did you get any fresh meat? Excuse me for
asking; but I'm that hungry for a bite of venison I'll have to forget my
manners, Tom?"

"Oh! I downed a young black-tail buck, and was toting the meat to camp
when I heard you shoot three times. Of course I just thought you'd
visitors here in the shape of that Abe Cozzins and Perley Kline we've
been hearing so much about, as guides who've been doing all sorts of
tough things, been fired from the Park, and are suspected of shooting
game on the Government reservation. You just bet I did some tall
sprinting for a while; then when I heard you start chopping, I knew you
must be all right; but by that time I was too much worked up to turn
around and go back for the venison I hung on a limb. I'll do that as
soon as I get my breath once more."

Felix swung his axe merrily, while the other watched him.

"You couldn't have better exercise than that for broadening your chest
and hardening your muscles don't you know it, Felix," Tom asked,
presently.

"Sure I do, and that's a sly hint I'm to be the steady wood chopper
while we're up in camp at the foot of the Rockies," replied the other,
laughingly; "but I really like the handling of an axe first-rate; and
with more practice I think I'll be able to bring it down exactly where I
want, every time, just like those loggers up in Maine do."

"Well, I must say you're in an awful big hurry to load up with pelts,"
Tom continued, with a whimsical grimace in the direction of the three
wolves. "Here you hardly get in camp before you begin by knocking over a
big cat that crawls out of our chimney; and before a single day goes by
you've lain out a heap of fine wolf hides for me to stretch and dry. At
that rate I see myself keeping busy right along and we'll have a load to
take back on our sledge that'll make Frazer's eyes stick out of his
head. I kind of think he laughed in his sleeve at the idea of two boys
catching any of these fur bearing animals. He'll have another guess
coming. But I ought to be hiking out after that venison. I'd hate to
have any critter make way with it, after going to all the trouble I did,
eh, Felix?"

"And then, we need it in our business so bad, too," remarked the other,
drily; "so I think you'd better be getting it, Tom."

Accordingly, Tom started off again to retrace his steps, promising to be
back in half an hour or less. With the pleasing prospect of fresh meat
for supper, Felix worked with additional vim, as he swung the light axe
they had carried with them through the three days they had been on the
trail up here.

Now and then he would steal a glance toward the row of grim trophies
that had fallen to his skill as a marksman; yet from certain words that
dropped from his lips it was evident that Felix gave much of the credit
to his faithful gun.

"Just point it straight, and it'll do the rest every time," he chuckled,
with a fond look at the rifle snuggled down close to where he was
working, so that he could snatch it up at a second's warning, if
necessary.

After a time the cheery whistle of his chum was heard near by, and then
Tom appeared, staggering under his load, but making light of it when
Felix protested that he should not have tried to carry so much.

"Plenty of meat for a week or two, because it'll keep sweet and nice in
this mountain air, and particularly at this time of year," Felix had
said, as he helped unload the pack-horse and sized up the cuts.

"Don't examine 'em too close," remonstrated the Nimrod; "I never was a
good hand at butchering; though I had ought to be, because I've been
raised among cattle, and have cut up many a steer. But it answers our
purpose."

"Well, if you call that poor work, you'll take a fit when you see what I
do," remarked the other, shaking his head in despair.

As the afternoon was now getting along, they determined that they might
as well start things moving, looking toward supper. Both of them were
fairly wild to get the first taste of meat on the trip.

At home, and cooked in the civilized fashion, with possibly only a poor
appetite spurring one on, venison is apt to seem dry eating; but take it
out in the woods with the proper surroundings, and hunger that is
clamorous in its demands; with the game cooked after the hunter's
fashion, and there is nothing more delightful. Just so the coffee tastes
like nectar out of a rusty old tin cup, while at home much of the
pleasure is lost if there happens to be a crack in the delicate china
cup in which the fragrant juice of the Java bean is served. The
conditions and surroundings have a great deal to do with the enjoyment
of a thing; and venison was never intended to be eaten over a snow-white
table cloth, and flanked by cut glass and china and silverware.

While Felix commenced to get supper Tom gave his attention to taking off
the gray "jackets," as he called them, of the wolves.

"Some day, not a great ways off," he remarked, "they'll be keeping a
chauffeur or a gentleman in a car snug and warm, and that's a better use
for them, than just covering three pesky calf-killers. I'm always
tickled all to death to see a wolf knocked over, I despise the breed so;
they're so sneaky and so cruel."

"Well, they looked that way to me, let me tell you," remarked Felix from
within the shack, where he was busily employed; "especially when they
drew back their lips and showed me what long fangs they had, all of 'em.
But all's well that ends well; and we've got a nice bunch of wolf pelts
to start on."

After awhile the tantalizing odor of coffee began to steal out to Tom;
and then this was supplemented by the delightful smell of frying meat;
for they had fetched along a good-sized frying pan, without which Tom
never would go camping.

He had just washed up, after completing his job, so far as the first
part of it went, when Felix announced that supper was ready.

"I reckon you'd better take a look around tomorrow," Tom remarked, as
they sat there by the fire, enjoying a bountiful meal that made both
boys as contented as kings. "I had my inning today; and besides, I've
got lots of work to do, what with getting these wolf pelts fastened on
stretchers; and setting a few traps in places not a great ways from the
shack. And after the time you had, I give you fair warning that I'll
never be caught out, with my gun at home. If you'd had time, of course,
you could have climbed a tree; but those hungry chaps didn't mean to let
you try such a dodge. Chances were they'd have nabbed you in three
shakes of a lamb's tail."

"But we've got enough meat for awhile, haven't we?" asked Felix.

"Better lay in a stock while the chance offers," replied the other,
wisely. "If we want to keep it I know how the Indians jerk their
venison, and it ain't half way bad, cooked in a stew, or eaten as it's
dried. Pemmican they call it, and some of the lot they carry is about as
black as your hat, from the smoke it was dried in. An Indian brave can
run for days with only a handful of that stuff along to nibble at when
he feels faint. It's a life saver, all right."

"Perhaps, then, I will take a look around," Felix admitted; for he was
eager to try his luck with the deer, as well as have a chance to observe
what the surrounding country looked like.

They passed a pleasant evening, both busy doing some little thing; for
there could always be found plenty that needed attention; and Tom was a
great hand to want to have everything about him shipshape.

And when finally, becoming tired, the two chums turned in, they did not
need any rocking to put them to sleep.



CHAPTER VI

FELIX TAKES HIS TURN


So another day found the campers under the shadow of the great Rockies.
They were up early, for it had been about nine o'clock when they turned
in on the preceding night; and there was plenty waiting to be done.

"Suppose you let the pelts go until later in the day, Tom," remarked
Felix as they ate breakfast at the rough table, which Old Sol had built
for his use when he used to spend so many months every winter up here,
in this favorite nook.

"What for?" asked the other, well knowing that Felix would never make
this odd proposition without having some good reason for it.

"Well," said his chum, slowly, "I'd like to go with you for a little
while, and see how you set the traps you think of putting out. Then,
later on in the day, perhaps after we've had a bite of lunch, I might
try a tramp in another quarter from where you went, just to see what the
country looks like."

"Just as you say," replied Tom, readily enough. "I didn't stop to think
that perhaps you'd like to see the operation. And I guess it's just as
well that you pick up some information about how to do the job; because
some days perhaps you'll want to run the line of traps yourself; and
then you'll have to know how to set them, as well as keep your scent
from staying around, and warning timid animals away."

In about half an hour they started forth, each carrying a few traps. Tom
had been cudgeling his brains to remember all that Old Sol had told him
about his favorite places for setting his mink traps. There was a little
ravine close by, through which a stream of water ran; and along the
banks of this the wary animals abound.

Perhaps Tom may not have gone about his task in exactly the same way an
experienced trapper would; for it takes years of work to learn all there
is to know in connection with the cunning little fur-bearing animals
that look on man as their most implacable foe, as indeed he has been
ever since the world began.

Some people have a knack for doing this sort of thing, while others
never seem able to learn anything about the game. Tom was one of the
former. He had spent enough time with Old Sol to learn a great many
points that were worth knowing. The rest could only come through
personal experience in the field.

These mink traps were set in front of certain openings in the banks
which, from the signs, were "used" by the mink in traveling about, a
peculiar habit they have of doing at certain times of the year.

Then a couple of fox traps were left at spots which Tom understood were
likely to bring about results. Great care had to be exercised in setting
these traps, so as to conceal the human scent, which would come to the
acute sense of smell of the sly fox, and completely baffle the designs
of the would-be trappers.

After that some muskrats traps were placed in a little marsh where the
rodents lived in great numbers. They are possibly the easiest animal to
trap there is; and as the price of their skins has been going steadily
up from next to nothing, until now they bring as high as sixty-five
cents apiece, it pays a trapper to devote his entire time to taking the
rats; which, truth to tell, are really no relation to the ordinary house
rats, but are called musquash by the Indians, and are really very tasty
as food.

It was when the boys were starting back to the dugout, after locating
the last of their muskrat traps in the marsh, that Tom made a discovery.

"Looky here!" he exclaimed, pointing to one side; "what's been going on,
d'ye suppose? Part of a deer, and it hasn't been killed more'n a week.
Why, the foxes haven't made way with it all. Queer those hungry wolves
didn't scent it; but then they don't eat carrion as a rule, like the
coyotes. They're daintier in their choice of food."

"Whatever do you suppose killed this deer?" asked Felix, as they turned
that way.

"We'll soon find out," replied his chum; "but the chances are ten to one
it was a bullet from a rifle."

He bent over to examine the few remains, and presently looked up with a
smile.

"What did I tell you, Felix?" he demanded, holding some small object
before his chum's eyes.

It was a bullet, somewhat flattened from having struck the heavier
bones, when it pierced the body of the deer.

"And only a week back, you say, Tom?" remarked Felix, a frown appearing
on his face. "Then some party has been around here a short time ago? I
had begun to believe we were going to have it all to ourselves; but I
suppose that would be too good luck. Any idea what sort of a man the
hunter was?"

"Injun," replied Tom, laconically, as he pointed to the mark of a
moccasin in the soft soil near by; and which Felix noticed "toed-in;"
for an Indian always walks that way; as Nature intended man should,
before he began to wear stiff boots, and started to use his feet the
wrong way, by "toeing-out."

"Whew! then all I hope is, that it turns out to be that good old
halfbreed we heard so much about, Charley Crow they call him, because
his other name is too much for a fellow's tongue. I wouldn't mind him so
much; and if he's starting to put in a season trapping in this
neighborhood, why, we might make friends with him, you know."

"As for me," declared Tom, with a disconsolate look on his sun-burned
face; "you know, I don't take much stock in any Injun or half-breed. I
only hope we have the good fortune not to run across this fellow, or any
of his kind, all the time we stick it out up here. But then I'm
prejudiced, I own up. Charley may be all they say about him. We'll let
it go at that. If he doesn't bother us, be sure I'll not go ten steps
out of my way to look him up."

All the same, it made them a little serious as they walked back to the
camp. If there were others hunting and trapping in that section, such a
thing always opened the door for all sorts of new troubles.

Supposing there should turn out to be a whole hunting party of Shoshones
or Flatfoot Indians off their reservation, and engaged in a grand hunt;
they would make things look pretty "sick," as Tom expressed it, around
there, in short order.

But then, fortunately perhaps, boys are not much given to forebodings;
and presently both Tom and his chum were feeling themselves again.
Doubtless the recollection of that deer would return to them more than a
few times to arouse these same doubts and speculations. And every time
Tom felt that smashed bit of lead in his pocket, he would allow himself
to indulge in guesses that could hardly lead to anywhere in particular.

It was now getting on toward noon, and Felix announced that he would not
bother making a start until some time afterwards. There was no need of
hurry, and inside of a couple of hours, he thought he ought to cover as
much ground as he wanted to get over for that time.

"I'd better be making a start with those wolf pelts," said Tom; "because
there's no telling what we may have on our hands by tomorrow, if only a
third of those nine traps bring us returns. Makes me think I'm out again
with Old Sol. How much I'd like to have him along, right now, he's such
a bully old chap; and with a lot of queer things to tell about his
experiences."

Although Felix did not bother to say so, truth to tell, he was entirely
satisfied with the way things ran just then; there could not be a better
comrade than Tom Tucker, and according to his mind, two was always a
better number than three.

He watched Tom get busy with one of the pelts, and affix it to the large
stretching board; after he had done considerable scraping, so as to get
the skin as free from flesh as possible.

"They're prime skins, and that's what," the worker declared. "And if
you'd shot this fellow on purpose so as not to injure his hide, you
couldn't have done better."

"That must be the one that was trying to butt in at the door when I
opened it just a mite," declared Felix. "I gave him his right down his
throat; for he had his mouth open, and I could see the rows of shining
white teeth; besides his red tongue hanging out."

"Of course that's it," remarked Tom. "I remember now that the others are
shot in the side, and both of them just back of the foreleg. Great work,
that, my boy; and when it comes to shooting I'll have to take a back
seat, I reckon."

"Lay it to the gun," chuckled Felix; "all you have to do is to stick
that shooting-iron out, and shut your eyes as you pull trigger. It does
all the rest."

"Yes, and goes out to retrieve your game besides," added Tom, with a
laugh. "The gun's all right, and I've used it enough to know what it can
do; but there's a whole lot in the fellow behind the gun, as they say in
the navy."

"By the way, Tom, you'd better tell me if you think there's any chance
of my getting lost in these same old woods. I don't know half as much as
you do about finding my way about; and I used to have the greatest
weakness for losing my bearings you ever saw, some time back. Yes, I
studied up all the known ways for telling the direction, if I lost my
compass and could point out north as well as the next fellow; but the
trouble with me was, I couldn't say whether camp meant north, south,
east or west, most of the time. Of course, here I'd have the mountains
to guide me; and besides, I've got a bully little compass somewhere
around; so I don't think I'll worry about it. And even if I did stray
off, it could only be for a night. After several stabs at it, I'd be
sure to arrive at the proper direction."

"I don't believe you would lose yourself around here if you tried,
Felix," asserted Tom, positively. "You're only saying that to josh me.
But I'm not going to let it bother me any. If you don't turn up, why,
I'll be on your trail in the morning." Tom said this jokingly, never
dreaming that he might have a chance to put his words into practice so
soon.

He, himself, had never been lost in all his life. Like the homing
pigeon, Tom seemed to have some sort of instinct that, under all
circumstances, allowed him to face toward home when he wanted to turn
that way. And he could not understand how anyone could make such
mountains out of mole-hills. Why, all they had to do was to use their
eyes, and what sense lay in their head, in order to figure out just how
to head to get back to their starting point.

And yet you could drop Felix down into the heart of a strange city, even
great London, and he would presently be able to find his way around, so
that in a week's time the streets would be as familiar to him as those
of his native town; while probably Tom Tucker would have to be escorted
to his hotel by the police every time he sauntered forth. He was used to
one thing, and Felix another.

When two hours had passed Tom, seeing that his companion had not made
any sign of going forth began to ask questions.

"Give up the idea of that little hunt for today, Felix?"

"Oh! no," was the reply, as the other got up and stretched himself, for
he had been busying himself with some small job that allowed of sitting.

"Better be moving, then, or you'll be caught by darkness away from camp;
and then you'll have to try bunking alone for once," suggested the
other.

"That's so," Felix went on, beginning to buckle on his ammunition belt,
and put a few things in the pockets of his coat, the sight of which made
Tom elevate his eyebrows.

"Don't mean to take any chances, eh?" he remarked.

"Oh! well, there's no telling, and you yourself always say its best to
be prepared. I expect to be back inside of two hours at the most,
however," and Felix picked up his gun, showing that he was now ready to
start.

"And I expect to have a lot of things done by the time you do come
back," remarked Tom. "If you're lucky enough to get your deer, perhaps
you'd better only bring home the saddle, and leave the rest for
tomorrow."

"You're saying that because you know I'm not built along the same husky
lines you are," declared Felix; "but lots of times these thin fellows
can show plenty of grit and carrying power. So-long, Tom."

"And Felix," called out the other, as an after thought, "if you happen
to run up against any of those fellows like Abe Cozzins and Perley
Kline,--you remember Frazer telling us about their stamp, don't
you?--better give 'em a wide berth. We know they're being looked for by
the Government men, and p'raps they know it too, so they may feel ugly
toward every one. If we were together I wouldn't think much of it; but
you haven't rubbed up against that sort of border scoundrel as much as I
have. Be careful, won't you?"

"I guess I will, Tom; and don't worry about me."

With that Felix was gone, his gun over his shoulder, and not a sign of
his recent weariness to be seen about his quick, springy step, Tom
noticed, with satisfaction.

The time passed rapidly to the boy who was so busy in camp. In fact, he
hardly noticed its passage, and when he heard a distant shot, soon
followed by a second, he was astonished to find that two hours had
really gone.

"That sounded as though he'd struck something worth while," Tom was
saying to himself, with a smile, once more turning his attention to
whatever it was at which he chanced to be working at the time. "But
unless he hurries in his work, it'll come on dark before he gets back.
At this time of year night just seems to be in the tallest kind of a
hurry to get a move on the daylight."

And indeed, as the dusk deepened, and he saw nothing of his chum, Tom
went to the open door many times, wondering whether after all Felix
might not have wandered so far afield that his own laughing prediction
was being fulfilled, and that in truth he was temporarily lost.

But Tom, having prepared supper for two, waited a long time before he
would sit down alone to eat his portion. As Felix was still absent the
Western boy began to feel more or less worried. He had thought there
could be little or no danger in those woods at the base of the Rockies;
but now, with the absence of his chum, he began to see all sorts of evil
things that might have come upon Felix, rather unused to these vast
ranges of wilderness, so different from those he was accustomed to
roaming in the Far East.

Later grew the hour, and Tom realized that the matter was getting a bit
serious. He even went out, and fired his gun three times in rapid
succession; and then listened eagerly; but there was no air stirring to
carry sounds, and only the melancholy hooting of an owl up among the
cliffs far away answered him.



CHAPTER VII

UNAVOIDABLE DELAY


There was a reason, and a good one, too, for Felix failing to show up
that afternoon or evening, which will become apparent to the reader
after a short time.

When he strode away from the camp under the big tree, it was as
cheerfully as ever he had felt in all his life; nor was he dreaming of
the possibilities of anything odd, or out of the usual rut, overtaking
him. But many times it is the unexpected that swoops down upon us; just
as storms once in a while surprise the oldest weather prophets, coming
from a point they have never considered.

Felix wanted very much to duplicate the performance of his chum. He had
made up his mind to three things, which he hoped his trip to the Rockies
would bring forth. One of these, as has been said before, was to be able
to shoot a ferocious grizzly bear, alone and unaided. Then he yearned to
bring down one of those sturdy jumpers of the steeps, a Rocky Mountain
sheep, or bighorn, stories concerning which he had read so many times;
and last of all, he hoped to get the head of a seven-pronged buck,
something that in all his hunting before he had never been able to
secure for his collection.

He strode away, and in less than half an hour had begun to work things
to suit the conditions of the hunt. The wind had changed materially from
the preceding day, and was now coming out of the northwest. This allowed
Felix a chance to head in a northerly direction, which was just what he
wanted; because it gave him the option of covering ground which Tom had
not touched in his little hunt.

Now he was moving cautiously along, eyes and ears on the alert; for his
chum had warned him that in all probability the first thing he would
know concerning the presence of a deer would be when he heard it jump
hurriedly to its feet in some thicket, and then catch a glimpse of its
brown side as it leaped wildly away. And Felix, being a clever snap-shot
with his favorite gun, was on the watch ready to do himself credit.

Of course, even the best of hunters may make a poor shot at times, since
when a deer plunges madly through woods and brush there is no certainty
for aim; but he believed that if the chances gave him half a show he
would make a success of his little excursion.

A more cautious or experienced lad than Felix would of course have taken
more pains to note the lay of the land, and its other features,
calculated to prove of more or less value to him later on in case he got
his bearings mixed.

But he was buoyant and indifferent; besides, it happened that he had
lately discovered certain tracks that held his interest, to the
exclusion of all such minor things as the possibility of his getting
lost.

These hoof prints had certainly been made by a deer of unusual size, a
fact he viewed with exultation, since it told him that undoubtedly here
was the very buck for which he had long been looking, and whose antlered
head he began to hope was to grace the wall of his den at home.

And as he moved along he registered a silent vow that he would let
nothing come in the way to interfere with the success of his
undertaking, should he only have the good fortune to come up with his
quarry.

Felix could not tell exactly how old the tracks were. He saw by several
signs, however, that they had been made since early morning, since in
places they had broken down the partly frozen earth. He was trusting
partly to luck that the deer might not be miles away from him just then.
If he had followed the usual custom of his kind he had lain down during
the middle of the day, when the sun was warm, and might be feeding by
this time.

An hour passed away, and Felix was just as eagerly tramping along with
his eyes fixed upon those tracks as when he first started. If there was
one trait young Edmondson possessed that cropped out frequently, it was
his stubbornness, once his mind was made up; no matter what difficulties
loomed up ahead, that were calculated to dismay the ordinary fellow, he
would not be deterred.

By now he had covered fully twice the distance from the camp that he had
intended to do; for instead of sweeping around, and making a half
circle, he was keeping almost straight on, even though the trail
zigzagged at times.

Even Felix, without the extended experience in tracking which his
companion possessed, could tell that he was gaining on the deer, which
had stopped to browse from time to time, when some tempting bit of green
grass was come upon in small glades under the heavy timber growth.

This kept his excitement at fever height. What mattered it if he did not
get back to camp that night; he had made ample preparations for spending
a short period alone under the trees; and in fact was not wholly averse
to trying how it felt to be making a bivouac in that Wyoming wilderness,
quite by himself; for Felix was always seeking new and novel sensations,
and he could not remember ever camping in solitary state in all his
life.

At any rate Felix gave promise of some day making a splendid trailer;
since the prime requisite to success along this line is
stick-at-it-iveness, such as marks the wolf following the deer through
day and night, until finally he wearies his intended quarry, and brings
it to bay.

The tracks now looked much fresher than when he started to follow them.
He began to hope that he might come suddenly upon his game in some quiet
nook; and hence his eager finger toyed nervously with the trigger, as he
kept pushing ahead.

And just as he had anticipated many a time, the first thing he heard was
a loud snort. Then up jumped a buck of such splendid proportions that
Felix was thrilled doubly by the apparition. Nevertheless, he did not
lose his head, as many boys would have done under similar circumstances;
but as the big beast leaped away, the Marlin repeater was flung up to
the young hunter's shoulder, and its sharp report instantly followed.

With a crash the deer went down in a heap; but after a wild scramble,
seemed able to get upon its feet again, proving that the first shot had
failed to effect a fatal wound.

Felix naturally expected to see the animal go off with frantic bounds,
and was prepared to send several shots after him, in the hope of
bringing him down with a lucky bullet; but he did not calculate what a
painful wound might accomplish in arousing the combative spirit and fury
in an old buck.

To his intense amazement and consternation, the animal, while "bounding"
all right, headed directly toward him, instead of away.

This surprising fact must have disconcerted the young Nimrod a trifle,
at least, as it has many a veteran marksman under similar conditions; at
least it caused him to aim badly; so that although he pulled trigger and
the gun spoke, the advancing animal did not seem to swerve from the
direct course he had taken in starting, and which if pursued, would
bring him swooping down upon the boy.

Now Felix had heard Tom tell about the far from amiable qualities shown
by these same hermit bucks, when aroused, and enraged by wounds; and how
dangerous a charge on the part of one might prove.

He even noted that the antlers were much larger than the coveted
seven-prongs upon which he had set his mind and hopes; and indeed just
at that moment they must have appeared to his excited imagination about
five feet long, and each prong threatening to do him a tremendous amount
of harm if it came in contact with his person.

Felix rejoiced in the fact that he was in the neighborhood of a
good-sized tree, behind which he could take immediate shelter, for the
charging animal was so close upon him that he had no chance to shoot for
a third time.

And it was with considerable activity and eagerness that the young
Nimrod gave a leap to one side, and placed the tree-trunk between; but
he clung with a desperate clutch to his rifle, knowing instinctively
that sooner or later this was the only thing that could rid him of the
implacable foe that his shots had aroused to such fury.

And then began a merry chase around that tree, with the wounded buck
trying all he knew how to reach the fleeing hunter with those terrible
antlers, which Felix had coveted so much; it began to look just then as
though he might make their acquaintance in a fashion he had never
dreamed possible.

Of course the boy had only part of the distance to cover that the deer
required, in order to pass around the large trunk; but he was compelled
to do this so many times, and kept going at such constant whirlwind
speed that presently it began to cause Felix to puff a little; while to
his alarm the raging beast seemed capable of keeping the chase up
indefinitely, despite the wound in his shoulder, which Felix noted was
bleeding considerably.

This fact warned Felix that he had better get busy, and think up some
new line of tactics, if he hoped to come out of the scrape with flying
colors, for he certainly could not gallop, or even slide, around that
tree as he had been doing now for ten minutes, much longer.

The buck was desperately in earnest, and several times, came near
impaling the boy with his antlers; so that Felix found himself kept busy
between rushes in avoiding these dangerous attacks.

His attention being taken up just then with trying to work the mechanism
of his rifle, in the hope of being able to put another bit of lead into
the anatomy of his pursuer, possibly he failed to note just where he was
stepping, for suddenly Felix tripped over some object, and fell just in
the path of the swooping buck!

The rifle was twisted from his hands as he tried to save himself, and
dropped far beyond his reach. As he tried to squirm out of the way of
the charging buck, he felt a thrill of horror when the antlers of the
beast were thrust under him, just missing his flesh, as it were, by an
inch.

Before he could think twice, he was raised in the air by a sudden upward
movement of the deer's head; and then went sailing swiftly through
space, with his arms and legs flying in four separate directions.

Just how high he really did go Felix never knew, though he often
pondered over the matter with considerable amusement, and wished some
ambitious photographer might have been present with his little snap-shot
camera to take the picture, for his edification in future days.

At any rate, he felt his progress checked by the branches of the tree
under which he happened to be at the time; and with an involuntary
movement, for thinking was positively out of the question at that
moment, he instantly threw out both hands, his one idea being to clutch
something that would prevent his falling back upon those cruel looking
antlers of the wounded buck.

Fortune was kind enough to allow Felix to fasten to a friendly limb, and
hold on tenaciously so that after a little struggle he found himself
astride the same, and looking down in mingled astonishment and
satisfaction on the chagrined buck below.

The furious animal seemed surprised that the object of his sudden hatred
should decline to drop back again, to be gored and trampled upon, in
order to satisfy the rampant spirit of revenge that was now wholly
dominating the buck's actions. He gave positive evidence of his humor by
leaping upward again and again as if in hopes of reaching the panting
lad, who sat there just out of range; though once the sweeping antlers
managed to touch the dangling foot of the hunter, causing Felix to
experience an involuntary thrill of apprehension, as he snatched his leg
hastily away.

Then by slow degrees the ludicrous nature of his predicament dawned upon
Felix, and leaning back he laughed long and heartily; this only after he
had anxiously felt of his ribs and limbs, to make positive that nothing
beyond a few minor contusions and bruises had resulted from this heaving
act of the animal in causing him to take an unexpected aerial flight.

After that he amused himself in addressing the animal, snorting and
prancing below, calling him many sarcastic names that might have wounded
the buck's self respect, could he but have understood. But the stubborn
deer seemed bent upon only one thing, which was to visit his wrath upon
the object of his hatred, or at least keep him treed, if it took him all
night.

When another hour had passed without the beast showing the slightest
inclination of quitting his post, Felix gave over his playful mood, and
began to survey the situation in a more serious light.

Why, the stubborn old chap was apt to keep up his vigil all night; and
even then some.

While the boy might be able to maintain his position among the branches
of the tree that length of time without great difficulty, Felix
considered the possibility of having to remain there inactive during a
chilly night, with anything but pleasure. Thoughts of a cozy campfire
taunted him, and urged him on to devise some method of outwitting the
old buck.

What could he do to frighten the beast away? Apparently Mr. Buck was not
one to be easily scared; and unless heroic measures were adopted, the
chances of his occupying that elevated position until at least dawn,
seemed excellent.

Felix cudgeled his brains, endeavoring to recall anything he had ever
heard or read covering this strange ground.

Of course his first thought and expectation lay in the direction of his
rifle; for if so be he could only get this valuable asset in his grasp,
it would soon be goodbye to his tormentor.

Then he remembered that there was also another method of frightening the
buck away, if only he could apply it. This consisted of taking some
powder from several of the cartridges belonging to his gun, which still
reposed in his belt, moistening it until it had the consistency of
paste; then allowing it to partly dry; but while still in a soft
condition thrusting a number of pins into the ball, with the points
sticking out like the quills on the back of the "fretful porcupine."

Watching his opportunity, he would have to make a skillful cast, after
first applying a lighted match to this boyish idea of a "spit-devil,"
and fasten it to the back of the jumping deer. Rendered frantic by the
pain, and fright, the animal would of course dash madly away, and leave
the prisoner of the tree a chance to descend at his leisure.

This latter scheme was very alluring in the eyes of Felix, in that it
would relieve him of his persistent enemy; but at the same time he
remembered that he wanted that same buck's antlers, and more than ever
now, since they had given him the strangest free ride of all his
experience; and letting him get away was not at all to his taste.

Then again, not being an experienced bull fighter, expert in tossing the
ribbon-bedecked burrs that fasten to the sides of a bull in the ring,
and make him ready for the sacrifice of the matador's sword, Felix
doubted his ability to land his projectile upon the back of the buck at
just the right second, and make it stick there long enough to frighten
the valiant old fellow.

On the whole, he concluded to attempt the other plan, which had to do
with the recovery of his precious rifle.

To accomplish this it was first necessary to produce some cord, and a
hook; and then do some fishing for the weapon; all the while the buck
must be watching his labors, with a possibility of defeating his efforts
just when success seemed assured.

Fortunately Felix had the cord, all right; and in that wonderful little
ditty bag, which Tom had taught him to always carry, there turned out to
be a solitary fish-hook; though what use Felix had intended putting it
to, was a problem which he could hardly have answered, had the question
been asked.

He also hung a little weight upon the cord, to properly balance it, and
allow of better angling.

Everything being ready, Felix crawled out on a limb where he would be
just above the coveted rifle. The watchful buck noted his movements with
no doubt considerable curiosity; and even followed below, shaking his
antlered head from time to time, as if to warn the treed hunter what he
must expect if he should slip from his hold, and fall to the ground, an
accident Felix did not mean to have happen if he knew it.

The boy saw that if he commenced work now, the deer might frustrate all
his efforts by entangling the line in his horns, and jerking it from his
hands; so he settled down, as if to locate there permanently on that new
limb.

Presently, as if reassured by his actions that there was nothing to be
feared from the hunter, the deer began to move restlessly around,
stopping now and then to look up questioningly; it seemed as though the
beast had an idea he might thus coax his enemy to descend; for his
manner was as plain an invitation as anything Felix had ever seen; but
the boy failed to take advantage of it, continuing his labor of allowing
the line to drop nearer and nearer the gun.

It was quite an exciting moment for the boy when the hook finally
landed.



CHAPTER VIII

PLENTY OF TROUBLE


Felix found it a more difficult task, getting that hook fastened in the
trigger guard of the rifle, than ever he had dreamed could be possible.
A dozen times he thought he had accomplished the feat, only to have the
cord twirl, and the tricky hook double upon itself; so that his "bite"
turned out to be a mere "nibble," altogether unsatisfactory in results.

But Felix would never give over, and kept at his task with a grim
determination that was, in fact, born of desperation; since he could
think of no other way whereby a cold night in that tree might be
avoided.

Finally success came to crown his efforts, and he actually felt the
"pull" of the rifle's weight, when he tightened the cord.

The suspicious buck, attracted by the movement of the ascending rifle,
started to advance in that direction, as if bent upon investigating this
new feature of the game; so that Felix, in sudden fear lest his little
trick might be spoiled just when it promised a golden success, had to
make a quick ascension.

When his angry four-footed foe made a vicious leap forward and upward,
as if bent upon sending the swinging gun a dozen yards away, the boy's
heart seemed to be almost in his mouth with the suspense; but as the old
saying has it, "a miss is as good as a mile," and the buck failed to
strike the object of his sudden new animosity, though coming perilously
near it.

When his eager fingers clutched the precious Marlin, Felix felt like
giving vent to a shout of joy. He knew now that the game lay safely in
his hands; and had the old buck been as wise as he was savage, he would
have lost not a second in trotting away from that dangerous vicinity;
but unaware of his new peril he only started a new series of furious
jumps in the air, in the futile endeavor to strike the dangling legs of
his tantalizing human foe.

At another time Felix might have allowed himself to feel a little
compunction about taking the life of such a valiant old fellow; but his
sides still ached from the rough experience he had passed through, and
it was absolutely necessary that he clear the way to his descent from
that tree.

So he quietly waited until he had a chance to get in a death shot, and
glancing along the matted top of his rifle barrel, he pulled the
trigger.

Then the report sounded, the gallant buck went over in a heap; there was
no wild leap into the air as so frequently happens when a deer receives
its fatal hurt; but the buck just seemed to crumple up, and drop
dejectedly in his tracks, as if to prove that he had kept up the fight
to the bitter end.

Then Felix came down from the tree that he had never climbed; which
queer feat few people could duplicate, in even a varied experience.

He already knew that, as night was now at hand, he would have to make
camp there in the wilderness; so that at least it was some consolation
to know that he need not starve, with all that fresh meat ready at his
hand; since he had in the buck, tough eating though he might prove,
sufficient food for any length of time.

Felix immediately set about making ready for the night, after bleeding
the dead deer--fuel was hastily gathered, and a rude temporary shelter
erected, after the way he had seen it done by Adirondack guides, and
called a "lean-to." This was fashioned out of boughs that he found
handy, and which would at least keep off most of the cold, penetrating
north wind, as well as snow, should this last fall during the night.

In front of this shelter he built his fire; and once its cheery presence
came to bolster up his courage, Felix felt no anxiety concerning his
experience.

In the words of the immortal wandering Indian, he could say when
rescued: "Injun no lost--wigwam lost--Injun _here_!" for he felt that it
would prove an easy task on the morrow to take the back trail, loaded
with the spoils of the chase, and by noon no doubt, bring up close to
the camp under the big tree.

Proudly he severed the head of the buck, with those grand antlers which
would some fine day hang in his den at home. This he managed to hang
from the limb of the tree, hoping thus to preserve it from any animal
that might be attracted to the spot by the scent of fresh blood.
Afterwards he meant to come with Tom, and manage in some fashion to
"tote" that head back to camp, where with the aid of the Western boy he
would no doubt be able to preserve it for mounting.

After that he began to cut away some of the choice portions of the meat,
and when the job was completed, he hung the balance that he cared to
keep from the limb of the tree, encased in the hide of the old buck.

Felix was feeling pretty hungry by now. Soon several generous slices of
meat had been secured upon the points of splinters of wood the other
ends of which he thrust into the ground, and inclined at such an angle
that presently the venison began to sizzle under the influence of the
red coals, and at last send out a very appetizing odor, calculated to
make the hungry boy even more ravenous.

The meat proved pretty tough, partly on account of the age of the
animal; and also because of its not having been allowed to hang a
certain length of time, as is always preferable in climates where the
game will not easily spoil. When, however, a fellow has the real woods
appetite, these minor things are ignored; and Felix munched away for
half an hour in perfect content, until in the end he realized that he
had had enough.

After that there was nothing to be done but get ready to spend the night
as comfortably as the circumstances allowed; indeed, after thinking it
over, and what a lucky escape he had had from staying in that tree all
night, hungry and cold, the boy felt that he had nothing to complain
about.

He had taken pains to gather an ample supply of firewood, and also made
sure that the magazine of his gun was fully charged; so that when he got
good and ready, he felt quite safe to lie down and sleep; knowing that
in all probability he was sure to be up and down many times during that
night, since camping entirely alone was in the line of a new experience
for Felix.

Nothing of any note occurred during the hours he spent there under his
temporary shelter of an arbor; although he fancied that several times
when he awoke, and got up to put more fuel on the fire, a sly bobcat
must be prowling around, eager to steal some of the meat but deterred by
the blaze; the presence of a human being possibly had also something to
do with its lack of courage; for when day came nothing was missing.

Breakfast, which was an exact repetition of supper, being disposed of,
Felix began to figure on what course he should take in order to make a
bee-line for the camp. He consulted his little compass, and sent several
glances around him at the big mountains, that strangely enough seemed to
encompass him about much more than he had dreamed possible, and gave him
a puzzle to solve.

So he decided upon his course, although with a lingering doubt that he
might once more be about to enjoy an old experience in his career--that
of losing himself.

Half an hour later, with a pack upon his back containing all he could
carry of the choice portions of the gallant buck, Felix started forth.
He cast one backward look, filled with regret, at the antlered head of
his prize, still secured to the limb of the tree; at least he hoped to
return at some time in the near future and secure those horns for a
trophy, even though it were not possible to preserve the head entire.

Felix walked for half an hour, trying to keep as near to the course he
had laid out as seemed possible. Really it was not such an easy
proposition as he had at first calculated. Why was it he had so poor a
sense of direction, he could not say? But he felt sure, that unless he
improved very much in this respect, he could never hope to make a good
woodsman like Tom was, for instance.

Somehow, by this time, the boy began to lose a little of his former
confidence. Things did not seem at all familiar, and he began to feel
sure that he could not have come this way.

Once more he consulted his compass, and tried to figure out which
direction stood for home. He laughed at himself for feeling so
uncertain. What a silly sensation this must be to a proud boy, to
realize that he is actually all at sea in the woods, and cannot say for
a certainty which way he ought to go.

Felix laid out a new course, and made a fresh start. He was not at all
discouraged as yet, and only looked on the thing in the light of a joke;
just as he had his sailing through the air, to hang to the limb of the
tree, after the buck had given him a rise in the world.

Once he heard a shot ahead. This caused him to wonder whether it could
be Tom, or some one else; and he soon decided that if his chum were
anywhere near by he would be more apt to give the well known signal of
three shots in order to let the wanderer know of his presence; when
Felix would be expected to answer in kind.

Tom had warned him several times to keep an eye out for certain vicious
characters, said to be in hiding away up in this part of Wyoming--men who
had once been honest guides, but drifted into bad ways; and having been
known to kill game in the Yellowstone Park reservation, were being
sought after by the authorities, who meant to make an example of them to
deter others from doing likewise.

He had understood that such men might not be averse to robbing and
abusing a young chap who happened to cross their path; and so Felix,
with this troublesome thought struggling in his brain, walked on in
silence, looking cautiously to the right and to the left, as if he
feared that he might suddenly run upon some kind of danger.

Was that a groan he heard; or did some wild animal give vent to a sound?

It seemed to come from the bushes over to his left; and as he stood
stock-still, and listened, he once more heard the strange and doleful
sound, which seemed to be half way between a groan and a grunt.

Immediately Felix lowered his burden softly to the ground, and clutching
his rifle in readiness for instant use, he walked slowly in that
direction, scanning every foot as he thus advanced.

Then he discovered a slight movement, as the sound again came to his
ears; and realized that some one was sitting upon the ground, holding
fast to his arm, as if in great distress and pain. The sight of red
blood trickling between the bronzed fingers of the party told Felix that
he had come upon the scene just in time to be very useful along his
chosen line. Undoubtedly the dark-faced stranger had been badly injured
by the accidental discharge of his own gun; which would account for the
single shot Felix had heard.

Without question the man was an Indian, perhaps a halfbreed; though he
dressed pretty much as did any white man who spent much of his time in
the wilderness; wearing corduroy trousers; and a blue flannel shirt,
covered by a faded heavy jacket; while a greasy slouch hat lay upon the
ground, where it had evidently fallen at the time he hurriedly dropped
his gun.

Felix hastened forward to reach the side of the suffering man, whose
raven black locks he now saw were being touched with the frost of years.
The prospect of a job along his favorite line caused the lad to quicken
his steps; for all the professional instincts of his nature were
aroused.

The Indian seemed to maintain the usual stoicism of his race; though the
pain and the weakness at times caused him to shut his teeth hard, in the
effort to stifle the groan that tried to well forth.

Any one could easily see that in this quarter at least the boy was quite
at home, even though there might be a few things connected with
woodcraft wherein he could blunder.

He immediately took hold, examined the ugly gunshot wound that was
bleeding so freely, in the fleshy part of the left arm, made a rude but
effective tourniquet by twisting a stout stick in his handkerchief,
which he had carefully knotted, so that the protuberance rested exactly
on the artery; and in this fashion stopped the cut from bleeding.

Then he bound it up as best he could, showing considerable skill in so
doing.

The old Indian did not utter a single word while all this was going on.
He had shown considerable disappointment upon first seeing that the
newcomer was only a mere lad; but presently his black eyes began to
glitter with satisfaction, when he saw the business-like way in which
Felix took hold of his job, and the astonishingly clever way in which he
accomplished that which the other had in vain tried to do by working the
wrong way.

"There, my friend," said Felix, as he finished his job, "I guess you'll
hold out now, until you get home. Listen, and I'll tell you just what
must be done after that," and then he proceeded to explain in simple
language what should follow his "first aid to the injured work;" to all
of which the other listened gravely, with an occasional nod of his head,
to indicate that he understood.

"How far away do you live?" asked the young hunter, finally, wondering
whether he had not better volunteer to accompany the wounded man home;
though he understood that an Indian's pride would be terribly hurt by
such a happening.

For the first time the other spoke, and he proved to have an excellent
command of English, quite surprising the boy. It told that he was
accustomed to associating with the whites, and that in all probability
he had served as guide to many a party of bighorn hunters from the East,
as Felix suspected.

"Not far away--can get to cabin all right now. Charley Crow never forget
this. Never before pull gun through bushes by muzzle--much fool this
time, serve right if head 'stead of arm get bullet. Worst of all is
shame of telling my people, who will say Charley Crow getting too old go
on hunt any more; better stay home and dry venison. But I go now on back
trail; no need any that you come 'long. Tell me name of Little Doctor,
so I may let my people know what friend they have. Some day mabbe my
turn--you wait. Now shake hands, and say goodbye. Charley Crow him get to
cabin all right, you never be 'fraid."

So Felix gladly told him who he was, and how, with a chum, he had come
to spend some weeks hunting, and doing a little trapping, in the
foot-hills of the Rockies. In speaking of Tom Tucker he happened to
mention the name of Old Sol; and immediately the brown face of the old
halfbreed lighted up.

"Known Old Sol right well. Here one year, we come this way, and always
good friend Charley Crow. Much glad meet him Tom. Some day mabbe drop in
see same. If need help, come to cabin under shadow of yonder peak, and
my boys they glad do you good turn, because me, Charley Crow, still head
of house! Goodbye!"

He drew himself up proudly, regardless of the pain his wound must be
causing him; and the lad could see that despite his evident age, the
well-known halfbreed was as straight as any pine that ever grew in the
Northland.

Then he stalked away, leaving Felix to look after himself, and wonder if
Fate had any further adventures in store for him during his little
outing.

He did not doubt in the least but that so vigorous a man could easily
reach the home cabin which, in company with his family, he must be
occupying for a winter's campaign among the fur-bearing animals that
frequented the district. At the same time it did begin to look as though
there might be a storm in prospect, as the heavens had clouded over, and
an occasional snow-flake drifted down lazily, as though they might be
reckoned ambassadors sent to herald the coming of the first real snow
fall of the season.

So Felix once more lifted his pack to his back, and again started in the
direction he believed the camp to be. When it was too late he bitterly
regretted that he had not also swallowed his pride, and asked Charley
Crow the right trail that would take him to the cabin of Old Sol. He had
no positive sense of certainty as to whether his course were the right
one; and for all he knew, with the mountains apparently turned around in
his mind, he might even now be heading in the wrong direction.

The lad presently began to realize that his load was beginning to tell,
for he had really attempted to carry off too much of the venison in the
desire to stock the camp for some time to come. Twice he found it
convenient to halt, and rest up a bit; when he once more took up the
tramp with a shade of reluctance, and half a notion to divide the
spoils.

It was while he was resting the second time that he caught a strange
sound that gave him quite a thrill. The baying could only proceed from a
pack of hounds chasing a fleeing deer!

Felix was troubled a little, and for a very good reason. In talking
about those lawless guides who had been expelled from Yellowstone Park
by the Government authorities, Tom Tucker had incidentally informed him
that one of their favorite tricks was to keep several deer dogs, with
which they were accustomed to having regular old fashioned chases, such
as used to be frequent in the Adirondacks in his native State before the
anti-hounding law was passed and enforced, making it a crime to use dogs
for such a purpose.

He hoped that the chase would lead away from him, as he certainly did
not want to make the acquaintance of these rough men, against whom Tom
Tucker had warned him more than a few times.

Listening carefully as the snapping and baying sounded constantly
louder, Felix presently concluded that the animals were certainly
heading his way, and approaching rapidly. He gritted his teeth with a
grim determination to defend himself if beset by the hound pack; and
picked up his rifle from the ground, where he had laid it when resting.

At least he was not kept long in suspense. Inside of three minutes he
discovered something moving rapidly through the bushes, and almost
immediately saw that it was a noble buck, with its tongue lolling from
its mouth, and giving other evidences of having been chased hither and
thither for hours by the hounds, that doubtless had been educated, just
like a rabbit dog Felix owned, to bring the tired animal back to where
the hunters waited.

Somehow the sight of that tortured buck gave Felix a wave of disgust. He
seemed to feel an immediate hope that it would escape from the game
butchers who used so unfair a mode for securing their quarry. Yes,
Felix, in the heat of his anger, even went so far as to mentally express
a hope that one of the owners of the pack--who must be near by, because
he had plainly heard a shout, as of exultation over the possible ending
of the chase--would fall into the clutches of the keepers of the great
Government game reservation, said to be on the lookout for them as
transgressors of the law.

To his astonishment the pursued buck suddenly changed its course a
little, and headed almost directly toward the spot where Felix was
standing, watching the affair with considerable interest. It actually
seemed to the excited boy as though the despairing deer had turned
toward him, in a last frantic hope that he might be merciful, and
stretch out a hand to give the help that was elsewhere denied; though in
all probability the deer never noticed his motionless figure standing
there, as it sprang past, and vanished in the thick scrub beyond.

The pack of hounds was now in full sight, racing eagerly along, yapping,
and giving tongue after the manner of their kind when they are close on
the fleeing quarry. They looked about as fierce and ugly as so many
wolves might have been, since the old instinct had been aroused in them
by the chase. For the time being they had gone back once more to the
state of the primal beast in pursuit of the prey so necessary to
continued existence, as a survival of the fittest. Felix shuddered as he
saw their foam-flecked mouths, from which the red tongues lolled.

There were just three of the dogs, all told, and Felix drew back the
hammer of his Marlin, not liking the looks of the aroused beasts, and
suspecting that in their present condition they might not hesitate to
attack a boy, under the impression that as the trail led almost directly
toward him, he must have spirited away their intended prey, which they
had chased so long.

In that event there was just one thing Felix could do, which was to
defend himself against the pack, no matter at what cost.



CHAPTER IX

ADRIFT IN THE SNOW FOREST


Felix did not have much time to settle this question, for immediately
the hounds swerved upon the trail, they must have caught sight of him,
for there came an even more savage and vengeful tone to their baying;
and leaving the scent, they plunged helter-skelter straight toward the
standing figure of the young hunter. Perhaps the pack of meat at his
feet aroused their instincts for food; Felix never knew.

One look would be sufficient to tell what they meant to do. To Felix it
became patent that, since running would not avail him in the least, he
must either climb up a tree in a big hurry, or else defend himself;
unless he meant to allow those savage beasts to drag him down, and
mangle him shockingly, before their owners could reach the scene.

The prospect was not to his liking, but he had made up his mind as to
what his course should be; so he threw up his gun, with the full
intention of settling one, or all of the dogs, unless something
intervened.

He heard a loud shout as he did so, from some little distance away; but
it was impossible to tell whether the call was intended as a warning to
him not to fire on the ferocious pack; or an endeavor to recall the
hounds; but no matter, it was a wasted effort, since Felix could not
hold back his fire, his very life being in peril.

Remembering the serious consequences that had followed his hasty shot at
the big buck, Felix was a little more careful when pressing the trigger
of his repeating rifle. In return he had the satisfaction of seeing the
leading hound roll over immediately after he fired.

Calmly the boy threw out the empty cartridge, and sent another into the
firing chamber. Had he been a volunteer upon parade, and firing at an
inanimate target, he could not have gone through the manoeuvre with more
precision and exactness. Consequently, the gun, being made by the most
skillful workmen, did its duty faithfully, as it always will when
properly handled; and in about two winks of an eye Felix stood there,
ready to repeat his performance, in case the necessity awaited.

Neither of the other two dogs had taken the least warning from the fate
that had overtaken their companion. If anything, they tried to increase
their speed in chasing toward the boy who stood there as though defying
them to come on, though of course this was hardly the thought animating
the actions of Felix.

"All right; you will have it, then!" he muttered, as his eye glanced
along the matted barrel; and then his forefinger ever so slightly
touched the willing trigger, at which there was a second sharp report.

Dog Number Two proceeded to whirl around, leaping up in the air, and in
many ways showing he had received a dose that was likely to put him
forever out of the running.

Felix put him immediately away from his mind. There was one more, and
all the danger now centered in that remaining beast. By this time the
leaping dog was fearfully close to him, and coming with unabated speed
that proved him a stayer, after such a long chase.

He presented a really terrifying aspect, with the foam dribbling from
his open jaws; the hair on his short neck standing on end like bristles;
and his eyes seeming to be bloodshot through the heat and excitement of
the long pursuit.

Still, Felix did not seem to be rattled even a little bit, a fact that
caused him to feel considerable wonder, as well as satisfaction, later
on, when reviewing all the circumstances connected with the momentous
occasion.

He had his gun up to his shoulder with pretty much the confidence of a
veteran Nimrod, meeting the charge of an old rogue elephant, or a
wounded tiger, in the East Indian jungles. When the dog was not more
than twenty feet away, he pressed the trigger.

His confidence was well placed, it seemed, for his ball must have
entered the brain of the third and last hound; which whirled half way
around, to fall in a heap; staggered to his feet, took several tottering
steps forward, still strong in his overmastering impulse, even in death,
and then once more dropped, never to rise again.

The lad had hardly dared hope to meet with such remarkable success in
such an adventure, yet there were the three hounds lying on the
ground--Felix had doubtless saved the poor hunted buck from destruction;
but at what cost to himself?

Loud curses could be heard, drawing rapidly closer; and it was evident
that the owners of the pack would presently burst upon the scene, filled
with fury at the fate of their hounds.

Most young fellows might have deemed discretion the better part of
valor, and abandoning the meat, made themselves scarce as soon as
possible; taking to their heels, with but one thought in view, and that
to leave the immediate neighborhood as speedily as possible.

That might have been the wisest plan, too, considering all things; but
somehow Felix Edmondson was too proud to give in to this impulse. He was
still flushed with the success of his battle; and also with indignation
toward those who would resort to such unsportsmanlike methods for
securing game.

Besides, would he not have been torn to pieces by the fierce animals,
only for his ability to handle that faithful rifle?

So Felix simply took a look at his gun, to make sure that it was ready
for use, slipping in several more cartridges where they would give a
good account of themselves, and awaited the coming of the fuming owners
of the defunct pack.

They proved to be two in number, and at sight of them Felix realized
that his worst fears were about to be realized, in that he was face to
face with a pair of the most notorious characters in the whole
region--the descriptions tallied exactly, even to the single eye of Abe
Cozzins; and the flaming red beard of Perley Kline.

In times past these men had served as guides, and possibly skillful ones
too, because they were born woodsmen; but the love of liquor had dulled
their sense of honesty, and after a time they began to gain a reputation
for being light fingered, valuables disappearing mysteriously from camps
where they had charge. By degrees, then, they lost all chance for
securing regular employment, since gentlemen coming from the East for
big game shooting, liked to feel that they could depend fully on the
guide, in whose hands they entrusted their fortunes, even their lives,
at times.

Consequently Cozzins and Kline, being unemployed most of the time, began
to hunt game illegally within the confines of Yellowstone Park; which,
coming to the attention of the authorities, always keen to punish
anything of this sort, the men were really being looked for, far and
wide, and in a measure found themselves in the place of the hunted.

It was this unwholesome looking couple who now strode angrily up to
young Edmondson, with fury blazing in their eyes.

Felix held his rifle in such a manner that, had they shown a disposition
to attack him, he could have defended himself, and treated them to a
dose of the same medicine he had handed out to their dogs.

"Hold hard, there!" he remarked, sharply; "you've come close enough. Now
say what you want from there!"

The two rough men, while evidently astonished to find themselves spoken
to in this strain, understanding that the young fellow who could stand
there and deliberately knock over three savage hounds in succession was
not one to be easily daunted, pulled up, and divided their scowling
glances between the hunter and the dead dogs, for the last animal had
ceased to make a movement by now.

"Say, what d'ye mean ashootin' our dawgs thataways?" spluttered the
fellow who had only one eye, though that was now glaring with a
fierceness equal to half a dozen ordinary optics; he also punctuated his
words with a variety of forcible exclamations, which there is no
necessity for repeating, though doubtless Abe Cozzins imagined they
added vim and picturesqueness to his query, and might help awe the boy.

"I was minding my own business when they started to attack me, with
murder in their eyes. If I hadn't shot I'd have been torn to pieces.
Everybody has a right to defend himself. If I hadn't happened to have a
repeating rifle of the best make to fall back on, and knew how to use
it, there'd have been murder done; and you'd have to stand the blame.
I'm sorry, now, I had to kill the poor brutes, for they hardly knew what
they were doing. I reckon the whole blame lies with their owners."

Bold words these, from a young fellow not yet fully grown, and addressed
to two of the wildest, most reckless spirits in all Wyoming; perhaps
those men could not remember having been taken so to task for many a
day; and in surprise they exchanged dubious glances, and then looked
hastily and uneasily around, as though half expecting that Felix must be
backed up by half a dozen comrades.

Seeing no signs of such an enemy, however, they became themselves again,
though far too tricky to throw off the mask wholly, while that lad stood
by his gun, and seemed ready to try conclusions with them.

Felix should have known that they were just as furious as ever under the
surface; but then he was not experienced in such matters, and judged
other people more or less by his own feelings.

He saw them talking together in low tones; after which they allowed
their dark faces to take on a more affable look, as they once more
turned toward him.

"Say, younker," commenced Abe Cozzins, in a whining voice, "we ain't got
no grudge aginst yuh for what yuh done. Them dawgs was some valuable tuh
us, sure, but if so be they pestered yuh, thar was on'y one thing yuh
could do; an' we reckons yuh done thet good an' hard. The pesky critters
broke away from us, an' we was atryin' tuh git holt o' 'em agin, when
this hyar thing happened. They's no reason we should hold hard feelin's
aginst yuh fur defendin' yerself aginst 'em; anybody'd a done the same.
But it comes mighty hard on two pore guides outen a job; fur yuh see, we
was atakin' of them dawgs tuh Colonel Walpole over at ther reservation,
who'd promised tuh buy 'em off us, tuh run down fellows as gits too gay
ashootin' up the game in ther Park."

Abe put on a piteous face while telling this hastily constructed yarn;
and altogether he did succeed in disarming the suspicions of Felix, even
though the boy might still consider that the two men were hard
characters. Felix felt sorry at once.

"If that's so I don't mind chipping in, and giving you something to help
out. Perhaps it wasn't your fault, then, that the dogs were loose; and
I've heard of Colonel Walpole, too. Here's ten dollars on account; and
if you choose to leave me an address, I might send you another bill when
I get back home."

Felix spoke from the depths of a frank and honest heart. He felt that he
had unwittingly been the cause of depriving these men of something they
doubtless valued highly; and so far as he could within reason make
amends, Felix was willing to settle the claim, unjust though it might
be.

The two men exchanged looks, and actually grinned, as though with
pleasure; after which Cozzins advanced with extended hand, at the same
time talking volubly, evidently with the intention of taking the boy off
his guard, though Felix did not suspect such a thing.

"Say, that's purty white in yuh, stranger. 'Taint many fellers as'd do
sech a nice job as thet, arter the dawgs'd broke loose on 'em. Me an' my
pal is much obliged, and yuh bet we'll never furgit sech kindness.
'Taint often we sees a tenner these hard times. Now, if so be we kin do
anything in return, why--take thet, ye young cub!" and of a sudden,
catching Felix off his guard, he struck him a vicious blow in the face,
and at the same instant snatched the rifle out of his hands.

The boy staggered back, and would have fallen, only for the support of a
tree. For half a dozen seconds he stood there, staring at the brutal
ruffian, now laughing, and examining the captured repeating rifle; while
the blood trickled down his cheek, where the heavy and hard knuckles of
the man had bruised and broken the skin.

Then, as if realizing the dastardly and cowardly nature of the attack
upon him, even while he was in the act of generously compensating them
for having killed their dogs, Felix became wild with anger. Uttering a
scream he started to leap at Cozzins, reckless as to the consequences,
and only desirous of returning that foul blow.

The man swung the rifle up so as to cover the advancing lad; though it
may be deemed doubtful whether he would have fired under any
provocation, since they were already two against one; and then there was
always a possibility that the boy might be connected with those grim
guardians of the Park, whose advent on the scene Abe and his comrade
dreaded more than they would be willing to confess.

Perley Kline, however, sprang in between, throwing aside the barrel of
the gun, and giving Felix a push that sent him headlong to the grim
ground, his head striking with such force that for a brief time he
actually lost all consciousness of what was going on.

He felt hands searching his person, and knew that the rascals were
actually turning to downright robbery in their extremity; though truth
to tell, possibly this was not the first time they had had their hands
in the pockets of others who happened to be asleep.

Then they seemed to consult in low tones, after which each of them gave
the lad a contemptuous kick, as if to vent their spleen further, in
order to cancel the debt they thought he owed them on account of the
slaughter of their trained dogs.

As Felix lay there in a half conscious condition, smarting from his
wounds, he realized that they had gone off, after stripping him of
everything of value he possessed, and even taking the pack of venison he
had "toted" over such a weary distance, up to that time.

Felix, still full of grit, attempted to follow them, after staggering to
his feet; but really he found himself so weak from his injuries that his
head began to fairly swim, and he had to drop down on a friendly log
before going twenty paces.

He heard a derisive laugh that made him groan with disgust over his
inability to do anything; then the sound of footsteps grew fainter, and
he knew that he had been left alone in the heart of the wilderness, with
no weapon for self defense, or to be used in an effort to procure the
means of continued existence, in case he could not find the camp.

This, however, sank into insignificance beside the ignominy of those
kicks; and his proud young soul writhed under the memory of the insult;
while he mentally registered a vow to make those two ruffians pay dearly
for the experience, sooner or later, as the chance arose.

By slow degrees he began to get back his strength, and could think
seriously concerning his next step. At first he burned with the desire
to try and follow after those scoundrels, and in some way manage to
recover all they had taken from him; but second thought convinced him
that such a task was far beyond his capacity in his present helpless
condition; even supposing he could follow successfully, which was
extremely doubtful, how could he hold two armed men up, and make them
disgorge?

No, it would surely be better for him to conserve his powers in every
way possible, and try to effect a junction with his chum; when they
could talk it over, and decide what ought to be done in order to turn
the tables on Cozzins and Kline.

The fact that he was now without food seemed to give Felix more cause
for concern than anything else. The thieves had confiscated the contents
of the little knapsack he had carried with him, or rather ditty bag; all
he found of any value was a lone match that seemed to have escaped the
hasty search of the men; and in his eyes this assumed an importance all
out of proportion to its size.

Felix believed that if only he could follow his back trail, and reach
the tree where his desperate encounter with the wounded buck had taken
place, he would find plenty of meat to last him many days; and with that
last precious match he could start a fire that he would not allow to go
out; so that here he might camp until such time as Tom came hunting for
him.

This, then, was the sensible programme that finally took possession of
the boy; although it was with considerable disappointment he gave up all
idea of following after the two men, seeking revenge because of their
cowardly conduct.

Every time Felix put a hand up to his bruised cheek he gritted his
teeth, and in imagination saw the rogues brought to account through his
instrumentality; and it was surprising how much satisfaction such a
pleasing prospect gave him.

Quitting the vicinity of the three dead dogs that had been left where
they lay by their late masters, he started to follow his back trail,
with all the skill he was capable of calling to his assistance.

This was, of course, something he had never dreamed of doing half an
hour previously; but all the same, he was glad to see he had somehow
managed to leave such a plain series of tracks, burdened with the meat
pack as he had been, that there promised to be little trouble in
following the trail, if only the snow held off.

That began to worry him now; what if a bitterly cold storm should break
while he was wandering about in the wilderness, with only a single match
between himself and freezing to death?

The idea proved so very unpleasant that it urged him to make better time
in following his back trail; and yet when he remembered how long he had
been walking since starting forth after breakfast; and that it must take
him at least the same length of time to again cover the ground, Felix
began to fear he was in for the worst experience of all.

However, the lad was full of grit, and could not be made to easily lie
down when trouble threatened; he would meet it face to face.

When almost an hour had passed, and he reckoned that he was possibly
half way back to the tree that had been a haven of refuge to him in that
fight with the wounded buck, he took heart of grace, and hope began to
rise stronger in his breast; but only for a brief space of time.

Then he took notice of the fact that the lazy flakes were beginning to
descend more thickly and it began to look as though the air would soon
be filled with the feathered harbingers of coming winter, until he could
not see ten feet away.

The remembrance of that single match gave him a strange sense of
comfort, small item that it might be reckoned. What did cause him to
fret, though, was the possibility of the ground soon being so covered
with the snow that he could no longer find his own late trail, and must
give over the hope of reaching supplies under the big tree.

Five minutes later and he realized that this condition really faced him,
since he was now utterly unable to discern the faintest trace of his
footprints; while around him stretched the vast woods, each quarter
looking the same in the rapidly descending snow.

He had taken his bearings after a fashion, and continued to stumble
along for a little while, in the hope that he might by good luck run
across the tree in which he had fastened the antlered head of the buck.

Finally Felix realized the hopelessness of his hunt, and determined to
make a camp, where he could hold out the best way possible against cold
and hunger. Imagine his utter dismay when he discovered that in some
strange manner his little ditty bag, containing that one precious match,
must have been detached by some officious branch, when he was making his
way along. At least, it had utterly disappeared, and he was now facing a
condition rendered doubly bad on account of the increasing cold which
deemed to come with the snow.



CHAPTER X

TURNING THE TABLES


The discovery that he had now no possible means for fighting the cold,
that was sure to increase as the day wore on and night approached, gave
Felix a rude shock.

He faced a situation that might prove very serious indeed; and it was
little wonder that he instituted an eager search of all his pockets, in
the faint hope that he might in some way manage to find just one
fugitive match that had escaped the spoilers, and in the end prove, his
salvation.

Only keen disappointment rewarded his efforts; and after going three
times over every pocket, he was forced to give it up with a grunt of
disgust.

All thought of trying to find the tree in which the venison hung now
passed from his mind; and he devoted his efforts to searching for some
friendly hollow, where he could make a shelter in some rude fashion
against the night that would come after a while, for it must by now be
about the middle of the short day.

What would he not have been willing to pay for a little box of safety
matches, that sell for a penny in town? But he might as well wish for
the moon; as one was as easy to secure as the other, just then.

So he pushed on, staggering through the increasing snow fall. When he
was indifferent to such a thing, he had noted several splendid places
where he might have found decent shelter, and built up a refuge against
the storm; but now that the need had arisen, Fate seemed to take an
especial delight in baffling him, for, look as he would, he did not come
across anything that appealed to his fancy.

Rendered desperate at length, when he found his strength giving out on
account of his unusual exertions during the two days, and the rough
treatment he had received both from the wounded buck and the angry
desperadoes, Felix finally made up his mind that he could wait no longer
for what he wanted, but must make a virtue of necessity, and take what
offered.

So, coming across a tree that had fallen during some violent wind storm,
he saw that when the roots had been torn up quite a large patch of earth
had come along with them. The hollow back of this barrier would prove a
very good refuge against the storm, for it happened to face in the best
possible way.

Here in this hole, then, he must burrow, doing the best he knew how to
hide from the wind that blew the snow with such violence. Felix set
about carrying out this idea without further loss of time.

Of course it was but an apology of a den after all; though much better
than remaining out where the cold wind had a sweep at him. Here he
settled down to pass the balance of that dreary afternoon, which he
remembered must be followed by a night he was not soon apt to forget.

Bitter regrets swept over him from time to time, as he lay there huddled
in a heap. Never again would he be caught so easily by soft words, when
he ought to know these were only a mask to hide treacherous work.

And then, after taking himself to task in this manner, most severely,
Felix would recollect that even an experienced woodsman may make a
mistake occasionally. Look at old Charley Crow, for instance, a man born
and brought up in the wilderness, and accustomed to handling a gun from
childhood; yet had he not been incautious enough to draw his rifle
toward him, _muzzle first_, through some bushes, with the result that
the weapon had been discharged, sending the bullet through the arm of
the old halfbreed?

Yes, some others besides greenhorns in the woods, make mistakes
occasionally.

Slowly that afternoon dragged on, and then came night, which Felix knew
was apt to be the longest and most disagreeable of all his life, thus
far.

Little sleep came to the lost lad.

In fact, he hardly dared lose himself, for fear lest he actually freeze
to death; for although the temperature did not actually fall very low at
any time, to his excited imagination this humble little storm was in the
nature of such a blizzard as those which Tom had told him visited the
Far Northwest every Winter, carrying death to many cattle that were
caught without shelter.

Every hour at least, Felix would crawl out of his shelter, to ascertain
what the signs of promise might be with regard to the weather; and on
such occasions he thought it the part of wisdom to exercise his limbs
energetically; so as to keep his blood in circulation; and hence, upon
creeping into his hole again, very like a fox, as he would grimly remark
to himself, he was hardly in a condition to settle down.

He could not tell what time it was for several reasons; in the first
place he had no watch, for the ruffians had carried off his little
dollar nickel contraption in conjunction with all his other effects; and
even had this not been the case, without a match, how could he have seen
the face in order to note the position of the hands?

A woodsman would have known of several ways by means of which to tell
about the time of night; but Felix was hardly up to such tricks,
especially on a stormy night like this, when neither moon nor stars were
visible.

But one thing cheered him after a while; and this was the fact that the
snow had ceased to fall when about three inches lay on the ground. Then,
after all, things might not be quite so bad as he had begun to picture
them, and he would not be snowed-in, destitute of food, and all means
for securing warmth; why, there might even be a chance for finding the
camp on the following day, if only he could keep his wits about him, and
figure correctly as to his present position, so as to locate the
direction where the cabin lay.

When Felix had crawled out of his poor shelter for the seventh time, as
he figured it, he began to look hopefully toward the quarter where
according to his calculations the east must surely lie. Nor was he
deceived, for he discovered to his great joy a very faint but positive
sign that the sky was brightening, and this told that dawn must be near.

As soon as it was fairly light, he left his shelter, which after his
boyish fashion he had named Camp Shiver, and struck out in what he
believed to be the proper direction.

It was not very encouraging, however, starting on a long tramp hungry
and cold; but Felix still had plenty of grit, and shutting his teeth
hard, resolved to let nothing dismay him.

Two hours later, and he found himself obliged to confess that his
knowledge of woodcraft seemed at fault, when brought face to face with
the difficulties to be encountered in a snow forest. He was really
hopelessly bewildered, and could not give the slightest guess as to
whether he should head north, south, east or west, in order to reach
camp. The mountains loomed upon two sides, now, as though he had
wandered somehow into a sort of pocket.

He tried shouting now and then, though it seemed next to foolish to hope
that any one could hear him, unless indeed it might prove to be the
rough men with whom he had had his recent unhappy experience; so
presently he stopped that.

The cold no longer brought anxiety, for his exertions kept him from
feeling this; but he was mighty hungry, and had visions of all the
glorious dishes he and Tom had ever eaten in company in the past;
somehow they seemed to arise before him, and make him groan with the
empty feeling within.

About this time Felix chanced to notice that he was almost under the
shadow of a peculiar peak, which he remembered noticing before; and all
at once it dawned on him that this was the very mountain Charley Crow
had pointed to, when he declared that his cabin nestled at its base; and
that if the Little Doctor chose to drop in there at any time, he would
receive a royal Indian welcome.

The very idea filled Felix with unutterable joy. Oh! if only he could
run across that Indian cabin now, how readily would he throw aside all
his pride, and accept whatever food they could give him; perhaps even
securing a guide in addition who would take him back to the camp.

And so, filled with a new ambition, he pushed ahead, his hopes revived
once more. Through the branches of the trees, to which none of the snow
had clung on account of the wind accompanying the storm, he could catch
glimpses of the spur that extended out from the main mountain chain; and
such progress did he make that in about an hour he fancied he smelled
smoke in the air.

After that it was not a difficult thing to follow the direction in which
this came to him on the wind; until in the end he gave a shout, upon
discovering a rude log cabin nestling under an over-hanging shelf of
rock.

It must certainly be the temporary home of Charley Crow and his family;
and with renewed hopes Felix started forward on a half run, so eager was
he to make sure that his eyes had not deceived him.

Now he could see human beings moving about, and a couple of yellow
mongrel curs started out with loud barks to meet him; but somehow he did
not feel that they were dangerous, like those savage hounds that had
been running the deer; and while only grasping a stout cudgel in his
hand, Felix continued to advance.

A couple of young Indians hurried after the dogs, calling roughly to
them to behave; and Felix knew that he had found friends. He lost no
time in explaining that he was nearly famished; whereat the two
exchanged glances, and ranging alongside, took him by the arms, and
assisted him to the cabin; for somehow, such was the effect of the
change from despair to great joy, that a singular weakness seemed to
grip the lad.

He spoke the name of Charley Crow, and as if understanding what he
wished to convey, they led him into the comfortable cabin, where the boy
found himself face to face with the old halfbreed whom he had so gladly
assisted in the woods.

Charley Crow had his wounded arm done up in bandages, and was sitting in
a rudely made but comfortable chair. At sight of Felix a broad smile of
welcome came upon the bronzed face of the old guide.

He held out his well hand, and greeted Felix warmly; indeed, there need
be not the least fear but that every wish of the lost hunter would
hardly be expressed before it was sure to be granted, if it lay in the
power of these people.

Upon learning that food was the first thing he wanted, Charley Crow
spoke to his sons, and to his wife, who seemed to be a full blooded
Shoshone squaw. Eager to do something to show their gratitude toward the
Little Doctor, of whom they had heard so much since the home coming of
the wounded man, the two well-grown sons darted from the cabin,
doubtless to get food from a _cache_ in the open, where meat would keep
fresh all winter, once it was frozen.

Felix soon related what dire misfortune had befallen him some time after
parting from the old guide; and the anger of Charley Crow was aroused
toward the pair of precious scoundrels who had dared to do this thing.

"They pass night not half mile away from here," he declared, "for my son
Jo, he see same when he come in from his line of traps. He speak with
these men, not wishing to make foes out of same; but when they ask him
to stay at their fire, Jo, he no stop, for he know how they bad case. I
promise you, my friend, all be return to you before this day it pass.
But listen, that not all. Revenge you shall have for such kicks they
give you. Not two mile away I know where is a camp of men from Park, who
hunt for these Abe and Kline, I understand. When I learn about them I
say to my sons, this is not business for us; let Mr. Harbison and his
men find them. Now it is my affair. Make mind easy, for all will be
well."

Felix was delighted with this assurance, for he disliked the idea of
having to pass the remainder of his vacation in the region of the
Rockies without that fine repeating rifle, which he looked to obtain him
other trophies of the chase, in the shape of a grizzly bear; and
possibly a bighorn, strange acrobat of the mountain ledges.

He was speedily placed before a bountiful breakfast, though since he had
eaten nothing since that last meal under the big tree where the buck had
fallen, he was at a loss to know what name to give his repast.

Mrs. Crow, it seemed, had learned how to cook after the white woman's
way, for everything tasted just splendid to the boy, and after he had
finished he declared he felt like a new fellow.

When about this time he saw the two sons of Charley Crow enter the cabin
for a last conference before starting out, he begged to be allowed to
accompany them.

Old Charley looked dubious at first, and then noting the eager flush on
his face, and apparently sympathizing with the feeling that prompted
Felix to wish to see with his own eyes the discomfiture of the two
rascals who had robbed and mistreated him, he finally nodded his head in
the affirmative.

So, armed with the rather antiquated rifle of the old man, and fortified
by his late good meal, Felix felt like a different person from the
forlorn lad who had hovered in the hollow beneath the upturned roots of
the fallen tree, and counted the long minutes of the preceding night, as
they crept past.

They speedily passed over the two miles separating the Indian cabin from
the place where Charley Crow had known the Government officers, who were
out looking for offenders against the laws, to have their temporary
camp. Luckily they found Mr. Harbison, who was in charge of the
expedition, and both his deputies there.

Felix soon told his story, and was pleased to see the decided interest
the others showed in his recital. They had long been trying to get on
the trail of the two men, against whom they had warrants for several
lawless acts.

A dozen or two questions followed, and the answers of Felix managed to
put the officers in complete possession of the facts; especially after
they heard what one of the sons of Charley Crow had to tell.

Speedily the party set out to find the spot where the two thieves had
spent the night, according to the story of the young Indian.

Of course it could hardly be expected that Abe and his partner would be
found still there, since they may have been heading for some distant
point at the time, possibly intending to sell the fine repeating rifle
that had come into their hands, and which they could claim they found in
the woods; but with three inches of new snow covering the ground, there
should be little trouble in following their trail.

It turned out just so; and upon making a close examination it was
decided by the wardens, as well as the Indians, that the men had been
gone just an hour; it appearing that they were in no hurry, since they
had plenty of venison, thanks to Felix.

This was but a small start, and could be easily overcome, especially
since those in the advance had not the slightest warning to the effect
that they were being pursued, and hence would not be apt to make any
especial effort looking to speed.

If Felix began to feel his limbs grow weary he would not have admitted
the fact for worlds; but shut his teeth hard, and conjured up the scene
he soon expected to feast his eyes upon, with those two ruffians who had
kicked an almost senseless boy, in custody, perhaps their hands in
irons; since he had noticed Mr. Harbison drop a couple of pair of wrist
irons in the pocket of his coat ere starting out.

It was a pleasing picture, and with every twinge he felt from his wounds
Felix kept saying to himself that it was a long lane that had no
turning; and that he was perfectly justified in wanting to have the
brutes caught.

They pushed on steadily, six in all, and every one armed. From time to
time Mr. Harbison informed Felix they were steadily overtaking the
fugitives, and that in all probability they would be apt to come upon
them while they were taking a bite around noon.

Often, in time to come, would the boy recall the picture, and once again
see each eager face of Indian and white man, as they pushed along
through the aisles of that snow forest, bent upon the mission of
justice.

He felt a constant sense of exhilaration, knowing that with every
passing minute they must really be shortening the distance separating
them from those whom they sought. And as he pushed on, filled with much
of his old time determination, Felix kept a bright lookout ahead,
endeavoring to discover the first sign of smoke in the air, or moving
figures, that could only be those of the two bad men they sought.

So the time went by until, from the position of the sun, Felix knew that
it could not be far from the noon hour. And at any moment now he hoped
and expected to hear the welcome announcement that they had overtaken
the men they followed.



CHAPTER XI

THE BUCK'S HEAD


An exclamation from one of the sons of Charley Crow announced that their
quarry had been sighted ahead; and shortly afterward, even Felix could
discover the smoke of a fire through the vista of tree trunks beyond;
proving that, just as Mr. Harbison had said, the two men had halted to
cook some more of their easily acquired venison, and take things easy.

In single file the party advanced; and so earnestly were the pair of
scoundrels at the fire employed getting their lunch ready, that they
failed to note the presence of the others until the six lined up close
by, and Mr. Harbison called upon them to throw up their hands and
surrender.

Both of them looked very ugly; and given half a chance they might have
made it very interesting for the posse; but with six rifles covering
them, they saw it would be the height of foolishness to resist. Besides,
they had reason to know and fear the man in charge of the force; so,
with a forced laugh, they held up their hands, and announced that they
would not try to run away, or resist.

Mr. Harbison took no chances with such men. He speedily snapped the
irons upon their wrists, which act brought out a chorus of hard words;
for they had not expected being treated so severely, not having
recognized Felix as yet, as his hat was drawn down well over his face,
and he was wearing an extra old coat belonging to Charley Crow. So that
the men fancied at first they were being arrested on account of some
misdemeanor connected with their work in the reservation known as
Yellowstone Park.

When, upon the request of the head of the posse, Felix stepped up, and
identified the pair of rascals as the men who had set upon, beaten, and
robbed him of his rifle, as well as everything else of value he had with
him, they began to show signs of positive uneasiness, realizing that
they were in a pretty bad fix.

It was indeed a great pleasure for the lad to once again fondle his own
gun; and his first act was to carefully wipe it all over, as though he
thought it may have suffered more or less contamination through contact
with such a dirty specimen of humanity as the one-eyed Abe Cozzins.

The officers announced their intention of starting immediately south
with the prisoners, as it would take them several days to reach the town
they expected to use as a place for locking the men up in. Felix made
arrangements to give his deposition when he came out with his chum,
about Christmas; although Mr. Harbison admitted that he hardly needed
anything more in order to send them to the penitentiary for a term of
years.

Somehow Felix, now that he had recovered his possessions, did not feel
so vindictive as he had expected he would; and had the fellows shown a
proper spirit of humility the boy would have only too gladly allowed the
matter to drop, so far as he was concerned.

But they chose to take just the opposite course, cursing him roundly,
and making savage threats of all kinds as to what they would do if they
got free; which was just the way to arouse all his resentment, and cause
him to give his promise to appear against them later on.

Felix was very glad when they finally went away, leaving him with the
two sons of old Charley Crow. Learning that they were not more than five
miles away from the little shack where Old Sol had often held forth
during the trapping season, the boy was seized with an overwhelming
desire to get back home, and rest up; and when the others heard this,
one of them, the strapping big fellow called Jo by his father, said he
would see him safely there.

It was really quite a tug for Felix, and only his grim determination
carried him through, for his lower limbs began to feel as though each of
them weighed a ton; so that he found considerable difficulty in dragging
them along; but as familiar scenes began to crop up, the nearer he came
to the cabin, as a consequence he finally found himself in sight of
home.

Never did a ship-wrecked mariner greet port with more enthusiasm than
Felix did the little old dugout under the big tree.

Of course Tom was away, undoubtedly wildly scouring the woods in search
of his missing chum; but then he would come back after a certain time to
see whether the lost one had returned; so all that Felix had to do was
to make himself comfortable and wait.

Jo said he would like to stay with him, and meet Tom. Any one who had
known Old Sol was worth cultivating, in the eyes of the Indian boy, who
had looked upon the veteran trapper as a veritable wonder.

They had a fine fire that warmed the interior of the cabin, and Felix
was drowsing before this, while Jo examined the wonderful repeating
rifle; when the door was flung violently open, and there stood Tom, his
eyes staring as though he could hardly believe what they showed him.

Returning almost in despair because he could get no trace of his missing
chum, he had discovered from the smoke that some one was occupying the
dugout; after that it took him just five seconds to reach the door, and
open the same.

In another instant Tom had thrown his arms around his cousin, and was
hugging him just as though he might be a long-lost brother, instead of
just his every-day chum; meanwhile muttering all sorts of things, and
laughing hysterically, in the effort to master his pent-up emotion.

Felix was almost as deeply affected, and it was then and there that he
learned just how dear Tom had become to him during the comparatively
short time they had been comrades.

From beginning to end Tom made him tell the whole story, not omitting a
single detail; and for an hour Felix held his audience spell-bound by a
recital of the many queer things that had come his way, since that hour
when he said goodbye with such a light heart, and started off after
venison.

It was all like a story from a book to Tom. And of course it pleased him
to hear how the conventional end had been reached, with the two rascals
captured, the stolen goods restored to their real owner, and the
criminals bundled off to jail in irons. Why, Tom could not hear enough
of the details, but kept asking questions, and even turning to the
Indian boy to find out what his chum could not tell.

"We'll get that buck's head the first thing tomorrow--that is, if you
feel decent enough for the tramp," he declared, after he had had Felix
minutely describe the place of the strange encounter, and where he had
passed his first night.

Of course the other declared that he would be all right, and eager for
business at the old stand; but the actual truth was, that for several
days he felt the effects of his series of adventures; and the mark upon
his cheek was still faintly visible two months later.

All the same, with Jo accompanying them they did go to the tree and
secure the prized head, as well as what venison was left--some animal had
been feasting on the latter; but there was still enough left to carry a
lot away with them, and every mouthful of that meat which Felix
masticated gave him more or less satisfaction, since he felt that he had
well earned all that was coming to him in this respect.

Of course the traps had been neglected during all this confusion; and so
Tom said he would take a run along the entire line that afternoon, in
order that if any prizes had been captured, the skins might not be
spoiled by too long an emersion in the water.

Jo started back home after they had had lunch. Both boys noticed with
some amusement that the boy's last fond look was in the direction of the
wonderful coffeepot, from whence had come that rich, smooth, fragrant
nectar that had so tickled his palate; doubtless they would see more of
Jo while they lingered among the foothills of the Rockies; but they
would always have their latchstring out for any one who was connected
with old Charley Crow.

As we already know, Tom had not felt any undue anxiety concerning his
chum until the hour grew late on that first night. Then he had thought
to step out, and fire his gun several times; but as Felix had not heard
the reports, it seemed that he must have been further away than anyone
suspected; or that the wind was wrong.

In the morning Tom had started out in the direction he supposed Felix
might be; hoping to come across signs of his friend. But the woods were
wide, and apparently he could not at any time have come near the place
where the other had had his adventures.

Returning at nightfall, Tom had hoped he would find the other at the
dugout, and a keen disappointment awaited him. That night was a restless
one for him. The second day had been a repetition of the first; and late
in the afternoon, dispirited and weary, Tom had drawn near the vicinity
of the shack, when he was electrified to see smoke oozing from the
chimney.

One thing the incident had surely accomplished, and this was to acquaint
the boys with the fact, if they had not realized it before, that they
were unusually fond of each other. In many ways they were unlike; but it
seemed that what one lacked the other could supply; and in this respect
they made an ideal team for campmates. The right kind of a cheerful,
willing and genial comrade, who will wear well in camp, is hard indeed
to find. It appears that, no matter what a fellow may seem like at home,
when he lands in the wilderness, the veneer is bound to drop off, and
the true elements that go to make up his real nature are quickly
apparent.

After securing the buck's head Felix was content to remain in camp for a
short time; ostensibly with the idea of "curing" it, so that it might
ornament his room at home; but to tell the plain, unvarnished truth, the
boy was still very sore, and until this in a measure wore off, the
prospects of a long jaunt through the woods and into the mountains
failed to appeal to him very much.

This feeling began to gradually grow less positive as a couple of days
passed, and finally there was no longer any excuse to hug the fire-side,
because the buck's head had been prepared after a fashion that Tom said
he had never seen beaten.

So Felix fell back into the rut, just as though there had been no break,
sometimes accompanying his chum in the round of the traps, or doing that
duty alone; and again going out to look for fresh game, with generally
the best of success.

Doubtless, as the boy tramped through the snowy woods he sometimes found
himself starting when he fancied he heard the coarse voices of the two
unfaithful guides; or it might be a smile, as of amusement, would creep
over his face when it happened that some particular tree awakened
memories of the one into which he had been so neatly tossed by the
wounded buck.

These experiences all go to make up life; and one learns more quickly
from having passed through such actual performances than by mere
reading; or even listening to what others may have accomplished,
pleasant though this may seem. Felix believed he was a much better
woodsman for having met and boldly faced the difficulties that had been
spread like a net for his unwary feet on that occasion.

His eye seemed more positive; his nerves firmer; and when he handled his
rifle, it was with an assurance born of experience, so that his aim was
apt to be more accurate than before; while a confidence had been aroused
in his soul that he would not have exchanged for anything he knew of.

So the youngster, upon being tossed into the water by an apparently
cruel elder brother, and told to swim, upon striking out in desperation
finds that by moving arms and legs he is able to keep afloat, and even
make a little clumsy progress; and into his soul springs a pride that is
never surpassed in later life, even when he wins battles in the business
arena.

Perhaps the birdling experiences something of the same sensation upon
being actually pushed from the nest by the wise mother, and discovering
that by using its wings it can fly a short distance; it is an
exhilaration never surpassed.

The buck's antlered head certainly did look mighty fine when fastened up
on the wall of the shack; and Tom vowed that if Old Sol could only be
there in spirit, he must feel pretty proud to see the walls of his well
beloved dugout decorated in such a manner.

Of course, with his Marlin, Felix had also recovered all his other
little traps from the ugly pair, while they were in the hands of the
game wardens from the Park; so that he again had his little watch, his
compass and his knife, together with what money they had taken from him,
and which had tempted the cupidity of the thieving guides.

Realizing what he lacked in using a compass, he now set about studying
things, under the guidance of his chum, in connection with the woods,
that would prove useful to him in all time to come.

It was for some time a source of wonder to Tom Tucker why Old Charley
Crow and his family, although within so short a distance of the dugout,
had never set a line of traps in that neighborhood. One day, when young
Jo was visiting them, drawn by memories of that seductive coffeepot,
they plied him with questions, and thus learned that old Sol had the
last year he was up here, through the use of certain medicines, of which
he knew the value, been able to save the life of Mrs. Crow; and in
gratitude none of the family would ever encroach on his preserves.

They knew that the old trapper had been absent for several years, and
that game was very abundant over in that direction; but a sort of "dead
line" had been established, across which none would wander with the
intention of doing business. Lacking information to the contrary, they
expected that Sol might show up at any time; and all of them were very
jealous of having him suspect that they had "poached" on his territory.

When they heard this the boys felt drawn more than ever toward the
honorable Crow family; and Felix privately declared that when he got
back home, the first thing he meant to do was to dispatch a case of
rifles just like his, though of a less expensive pattern, to make those
good fellows supremely happy.

And so out of evil good many times springs; and as long as they stayed
there at the foot of the great Rockies, Felix and his chum were likely
to enjoy friendly intercourse with the dusky family in the cabin not
many miles away.



CHAPTER XII

BURNING OUT A HONEY THIEF


But it seemed that Felix was not destined to absorb all the adventures
that happened to be adrift up there in that neck of the woods adjoining
the mountain chain.

And the next one had to fall to the lot of Tom. It was such an admixture
of peril and humor, that whenever either of the chums happened to glance
up at the wall of the cabin, where the wretched looking pelt of a black
bear was stretched, almost invariably a grin would have to follow.

This is the way it came about:

Just a few days after Felix had been in that queer mix-up with the
wounded buck, and the two guides, Tom was on his way back from a little
line of traps, when the notion came to him to step aside from his beaten
path, and explore a dense patch of timber into which neither of them had
happened thus far to stroll.

There was no telling what he might not discover, for it certainly looked
dark and forbidding enough to shelter almost anything. As his catch of
furs that day chanced to be limited to a couple of muskrats, and a
single mink, Tom was just in the humor for striking at something out of
the common.

He hung the pelts from the limb of a tree, and in plain sight, so that
he might not have any particular difficulty about recovering the same;
and with his rifle in readiness, plunged into the tangled growth, which
was thicker than anything Tom had noticed around them.

Progress was rather slow, for he had to pass around many obstacles, so
dense was the vegetation in this low lying spot adjoining the marshy
tract where he found the muskrat colony. There was a sense of pleasure,
however, in peering around, not knowing at what minute a fleet doe might
jump up before him.

To his surprise, and also a little to his chagrin, the tempting place
did not appear to harbor any sort of game whatever. But then Tom was
enough of a sportsman to know that such often proves the case; the
likely spots turn out good for nothing; while, when least expected, luck
often springs upon the unwary.

Only one thing caught his attention in making his way along, that seemed
worth a second thought. Stooping down in the heart of the dense growth,
Tom picked something up, which he proceeded to examine with increasing
interest.

It seemed to be a piece of comb from the honey store of a wild colony of
bees, such as are found in nearly every section of the country south of
a certain belt, beyond which the winters are too severe for the busy
little insects.

Now, Tom had at some time in the past been in the company of a man who
had once made a living, far away in New England, gathering wild honey,
spruce gum, and many other products of the Maine pine woods. The subject
had interested the boy exceedingly, and he had asked many questions
relating to it, that brought him quite a store of information.

Just the sight and smell of this old piece of comb aroused within him an
eager desire to discover just where it came from. If only he could bring
home a pail of delicious honey, what would Felix say? Why, his mouth
began to water at the very thought of such a delightful accession to
their larder. Think of dripping sweetness flowing over the fine
flapjacks Felix liked to make, and in which he really excelled!

That was too much for Tom. He just couldn't stand it any longer, but
resolved that since game refused to spring up before his rifle, he would
forget all about hunting; save that somewhere in this thicket growth
there evidently lay a bee tree, fairly groaning with richness; and which
he was resolved to find, if it lay in his power to do so.

He looked up, but could see no sign near him indicating that bees had a
hive in any tree; in fact there was none of a suitable size right there.

Tom shrewdly guessed the truth. He knew that black bears have a sweet
tooth; and will go miles to rob a bee tree. The stings of thousands of
the little insects do not appear to bother Bruin a particle; perhaps he
is immune to the poison they inject; or else most of them fail to reach
his skin, on account of the thick hair.

Apparently, then, some thief of a bear was periodically robbing this
secret storehouse of its sweets, and had dragged this comb away with him
on a recent visit.

The comb, while somewhat discolored, had not been drained of its nectar
more than a few days, Tom thought. That would seem to indicate that the
hive could not be very far away. If he could only find it, with an axe
he might soon fell the tree in which it was secreted, and then take toll
of the preserves.

Every tree around came under his observation, and was only allowed to
pass after he had surveyed its entire trunk, and become convinced that
it had no hollow part in which a colony of busy workers might find a
home for the winter's sleep.

And now that he was upon the subject of bear, he remembered that only a
couple of days back he had himself seen signs of such an animal in the
woods, and wondered how it came that a black, usually hibernating at
this time of year, chanced to be moving around.

This explained it. Bruin had made a late discovery, and his appetite for
sweet things would not allow him to shut himself up until "the last horn
blew."

And perhaps, if he could find the bee tree, he might also get track of
the bear, since it would be difficult to divorce the animal from so
dainty a morsel, once he had found how to get at the hive.

So Tom kept up his search, all the time hoping to make a pleasing
discovery that would make his chum's eye dance, and add a pleasing
variety to their meals.

He had spent half an hour in this vain hunt when he came upon a tree
that seemed to offer possibilities; for it had a big cavity, and there
was more or less of a chance that some of its larger limbs were also
hollow. It is this kind that appears to be the favorite lodgment of the
bees after swarming from some other hive that is overcrowded; a place
where they can grow indefinitely, and lay up an increasing store with
each successive summer.

A ton of honey has sometimes been gathered from a single bee tree; much
of it too old and discolored to be of much good but showing that the
little workers never know when they have enough for their winter use.

Tom became so impressed with the possibilities of this particular tree
that he determined to climb up its trunk and investigate at close range.

Of course, in order to ascend, he was compelled to lay his rifle on the
ground, as he would surely need both hands to draw himself upward.
Perhaps at the time Tom may have remembered the strange experience of
his chum, Felix, while held unarmed in a tree, by the wounded buck; but
if so, Tom did not dream of allowing such an idea to deter him in the
least. Who could imagine any trouble springing from such an apparently
innocent amusement as climbing a tree to see if any of its limbs being
hollow might shelter a swarm of bees, with their golden brown store of
honey? And besides, a rifle is not often used to shoot such small game,
Tom remembered with a chuckle.

Once among the branches, he had little difficulty in climbing aloft; and
was soon going about his business of examining the various limbs that
seemed to promise a hope of containing the treasure house he sought.

He must have passed the hole in the trunk while climbing up the other
side, for otherwise such keen eyes as Tom Tucker possessed would surely
have noticed certain scratches calculated to arouse his suspicions.

One by one the limbs were looked over, and dismissed from the list of
possibilities, until there remained only a small opening in the main
trunk, about twenty feet above his head.

Without much hope of finding what he sought there, Tom climbed
laboriously upward to this point, just about to give over the quest; he
could not discover any signs that would indicate the presence of a
swarm; and yet, as he placed his ear to this last opening, it seemed to
him that he could catch a faint buzzing sound from within that excited
new hopes.

He examined the trunk up and down, but there was certainly no chance of
finding the anticipated hive further aloft; and if in the tree at all,
it apparently must be down further.

The cavity beside him seemed to extend some distance downward; indeed,
Tom was now of the opinion that it must connect with the larger opening
he remembered having seen when on the ground, and which had slipped his
attention when climbing. On his way back he must certainly take a look
in there; meanwhile he would like to know positively that the bees were
not snugly ensconced in the upper trunk near this minor gash; and as an
idea flashed into his mind, without a second thought he set about
carrying it into practice.

Taking a piece of oiled rag from the pocket of his khaki canvas hunting
coat, which he was wearing at the time over his sweater and vest, he
ignited it with a match, and immediately dropped this into the opening;
holding back to see whether even a solitary bee made its appearance,
since that would tell the story.

And Tom immediately became aware of the fact that there was certainly
_something_ going on inside that tree trunk. At first the boy found
himself thinking that he stirred up the biggest bees' nest ever heard
of; for from what at first seemed to be a simple buzzing, there grew a
rumbling that kept on increasing, until it was simply astounding; and
Tom hardly knew what to make of it all, as he hung there to the side of
the tree trunk, looking downward.

The next thing he saw was smoke puffing out of where he knew the big
opening lay.

"Hello!" he exclaimed, with mingled astonishment and amusement; "I did
more than I expected, I reckon, and set the old buster afire inside.
Say, she must have been as dry as tinder, to catch like that. Perhaps
it's the fire making all that racket--no it ain't, either, for I never
heard a burning tree make a noise like that. Sounds like growls, too--by
George, it _is_ growls, and I just bet you I've struck the snuggery of
Mr. Bear first pop!"

The idea was so surprising that Tom just clung there, and stared with
wide-open eyes at the opening below, from whence welled those strange
sounds; together with various little wisps of smoke that seemed to be
getting stronger as they ascended.

By and by the boy sniffed at this smoke, and as he did so he gave vent
to another exclamation as if to voice his wonder, while something like a
broad grin decorated his face.

"Burning hair, as sure as you live!" he exclaimed. "Bless me, if I don't
think the old critter must be on fire; that oiled rag lit on his back,
and took hold!"

Even as Tom gave vent to this startling opinion something appeared at
the opening below; something that speedily resolved itself into a
smouldering black bear, that looked both scared and angry as he backed
out of his den, snapping at various parts of his fat body, where the
fire had touched most severely.

If Tom had been able to restrain his loud and scornful laughter, in all
probability Bruin would have scrambled down from the tree, and ambled
off; or else rolled in the snow to cool his scorched body; but the sight
seemed so very comical that the boy burst into a shout.

He was immediately sorry for doing so.

The singed bear twisted his head when in the act of lowering himself
stern first, and caught sight of his human enemy above.

Somehow the sight of the boy seemed to completely alter the animal's
plans; and instead of showing fear, he now gave evidence of extreme
anger, just as though he might be able to figure out some connection
between the presence of that biped in his tree, and the suffering he was
even then undergoing.

He showed his teeth in a vicious growl.

"Go on down, old man!" called out Tom, waving his hand; "the walking's
fine. Besides, there's nothing for you up here. I'm not hankering for
company, I tell you. So just skip out, please--do you hear, you beggar?"
and Tom ended with a shout; for, to his consternation, the singed bear
had commenced to ascend the tree again, evidently with the intention of
trying conclusions with this enemy who had hurt him so grievously.

Tom did not exactly like the looks of things just about then.

There, he was, above the ground some forty feet, with an enraged bear
climbing in his direction, and evidently bent on mischief. It was too
great a distance to be covered in a jump, since the ground was frozen
and hard, so that a broken ankle might be the result. To ascend further
would mean that he must soon be chased to the very pinnacle of the tree,
with Bruin close after, bent on clutching him with his sharp claws, and
teaching him a lesson in politeness.

Whatever he expected to do must be started quickly, for the animal was
getting closer all the time. If he only had a good long pole; or even a
stout club, Tom believed he might poke the brute so furiously that he
would conclude to give over his attempt to close with the boy who had
laughed so heartlessly over his misfortunes, though Tom was doing so no
longer, it might be noticed.

But he might just as well wish for his rifle, lying there so temptingly
on the ground; it would be impossible to twist off a branch large
enough, and reduce it to the proper consistency in time to meet the
bear's attack.

Tom, as the bear came close, began to move out on a limb, wondering
whether the animal would really follow after him. That doubt was
speedily removed, for Bruin never so much as hesitated, though he came
with extreme caution, feeling his way, step by step, suspicious lest he
were being led into a trap.

It seemed to Tom, however, that if any one appeared to be in a trap,
that individual must be himself. With each foot that he crept out on
that bending limb, he felt that his chances for escaping those cruel
claws in an encounter with their angry owner grew less and less.

Suppose the limb should break under their combined weight, it would be a
serious thing to go tumbling down fully forty feet, in company with the
fat, hairy monster; possibly to be clasped in his embrace after landing.
Of course, if he could only be sure of alighting on Bruin when the
collision came, it would not seem so bad; but that was only one chance
in ten; and on the other hand the miserable beast might drop squarely
upon him, which would be completing the tragedy.

One thing Tom noticed was, that the further out on the limb he crawled
the more it sagged, so that he was even now close to the outcropping
branches below; and the daring thought flashed through his brain that
possibly he might suddenly let go his hold above, and by a show of
dexterity, succeed in securing a new grip as he fell!

That would be leaving Bruin in the lurch nicely; for not daring to trust
his cumbersome body to do likewise he would have to hedge back to the
trunk, an operation taking time; and then descend in the ordinary way.

Meanwhile Tom could be slipping down the balance of the tree with the
speed, that, in his boyish vernacular, he called "greased lightning,"
and when the bear arrived later on, he would find himself up against a
snag in that always dependable rifle.

There was really no other course left open to him, and hence Tom felt
bound to take the chances, such as they were.

He was naturally agile, and his muscles accustomed to hardy exercise; so
that after all, it was not such a tremendously difficult task, slipping
dextrously down the outside of that limb, and clutching hold of the next
one as he reached it.

Tom half expected to see the bear go plunging downward, as the limb,
relieved of the boy weight, must have been violently agitated; but
apparently the animal knew just how to crouch there, and hold on.

A single look upward showed Tom this, and also that the bear was already
commencing to edge cautiously backward, moving one foot gingerly at a
time, just as Tom had seen a domestic cat do when after a sparrow in a
tree.

Undoubtedly that must have been the strangest way in which Tom Tucker
ever came down a tree; just as the ascension of Felix had shattered all
records. While his movements were certainly pretty rapid, he managed to
carry himself so dextrously that, save for a number of small scratches,
mostly along his wrists that did not count for anything, he presently
reached the ground, none the worse for his remarkable experience.

By this time Bruin had succeeded in backing along the limb, and reaching
the body of the tree, down which he commenced to pass, with an eye to
business. Hence, Tom knew that he had no time to waste, if he meant to
hold the advantage that his slide had given him.

Three bounds took him over to where his rifle lay, and snatching this
weapon up, he was quickly back again at the base of the tree. After that
it was just a picnic--that is, for Tom; what the bear thought no one ever
bothered trying to find out.

The boy even felt a little compassion for the poor beast that was so
rudely disturbed in the very beginning of his long winter nap, by having
his house take fire; and upon crawling hastily forth, had the double
aggravation of finding himself laughed at by a cruel two-legged foe; and
when he sought to punish such liberties it would be to have a queer
stick poked at his head, and hear a terrible bang that ended his earthly
career.

But to tell the truth it was bear steaks that animated Tom now; for he
realized that as a piece of marketable fur that sadly singed hide of
Bruin would not pay for the trouble of taking it off.

He believed that the bear was both fat and rather young, and these
considerations outweighed any compunction he might feel, as the animal
kept coming closer to him.

Several times the bear stopped to look down at the human enemy waiting
so confidently for him below; and it would seem as though some intuition
must have warned Bruin that he could expect nothing less than trouble
from that source; but to descend seemed to be the only thing left him,
since his late den was now burning in a way that promised the complete
destruction of the tree in due time.

And so the beast again started downward, growling ferociously; but now
more in the expectation that such fierceness might frighten the hunter
away from his post, than because of a genuine desire to come into
contact with him.

However, Tom did not mean to take any unnecessary chances; he had never
fought a "singed" bear, and hence could not say just how vindictive such
an animal might turn out to be. So when Bruin was just about down Tom
thrust out his gun until the muzzle almost touched the beast's small
head, close to his ear; when he pulled trigger, and there was one less
live bear in that neck of the woods.

Later on, Tom, following the trail of the marauding bear, did manage to
discover the bee tree, and upon felling it, secured a bucket full of
good honey; though he afterwards declared that he had never before heard
of such a thing being done in the winter season.

Bruin had gotten at all he could easily reach, and had then taken up his
quarters in the near vicinity; possibly in the hope and expectation that
when spring came around, and the dormant bees awoke to new activity, he
would be on hand to start a fresh campaign, in the hope of another rich
feast.

He had not calculated upon the coming of Tom Tucker; and the discovery
of that empty comb which he must have tossed contemptuously aside after
draining its sweet store; so that its finding started the hunter on the
track that ended in Bruin's downfall.

It was with considerable pleasure that Tom set about the task of
denuding the honey thief of his singed pelt. He meant to simply keep
this as a reminder of the strange adventure that had waylaid him on his
return from the little marsh where the Northern muskrats abounded. But
the meat was the main thing after all; and none of it must go to feed
some prowling bobcat or panther.

With the assistance of his chum Tom managed to get every pound worth
saving to the cabin, and that which could not be immediately used was
frozen in a secure spot, from which it could not be stolen. Whenever
their stock became low, all that was necessary, was to go out with the
axe, and chop a few pounds off, as though it were fuel for the fire.

That account also went down in the log of Felix; for it gave him even
more amusement than his own story of the buck that had tossed him into
the tree; he often wished he had a picture of Tom in that tree, with the
bear reaching out for him; and the boy finally sliding down the outside
branches with desperate haste.

When Tom brought in that pail of wild honey, and declared they could
really get all they wanted during their stay in the mountains, Felix
fairly danced with glee. It just seemed to fill a long-felt want; and
how delicious it did taste upon the next lot of flapjacks, which, of
course, had to follow at the succeeding meal.

They ate so heartily, Tom declared that if this kept on, the larder
would be cleaned out before half the time they had set for their stay in
the camp were exhausted. But to all this kind of talk Felix turned a
deaf ear; for when such a magnificent appetite had come to him, building
up his energies splendidly, it just _had_ to be catered to, regardless,
even though the two big Crow boys were hired to make the long trip to
civilization on snow-shoes, perhaps, and "tote" back a fresh supply of
stuff on a sledge.

One can accomplish almost anything when the pocketbook is well lined,
especially with where substantials in the woods are concerned; and those
hardy Indian lads would think little of such a trip through the snow of
the valleys; indeed, it must seem something along the order of a picnic
for them, since doubtless they had more than once done the same thing,
without the inducement of a fat reward, such as Felix would be sure to
promise them.

It seemed as though adventures were flocking their way thick and fast;
and the boys could not help wondering what the nature of the next one
would be like, as they sat in their cozy dugout at night time, and took
their ease before a roaring fire that made things look so cheery.

All this while Felix had not forgotten the two principal things he had
in mind when laying out this trip to the Rocky Mountain region.

A grizzly was the height of his ambition, and unless he could manage to
get such a prize to his credit, all alone and unaided, he would feel
very much disappointed indeed. And then there was that bighorn
business--he had heard so much about these strange sheep of the rocky
heights that he often expressed a wish to try and secure such a splendid
trophy. Could he see a pair of those curved horns decorating his den at
home, the boy felt that it would please him more than words could tell.

And Tom, understanding what all this eagerness meant to his comrade, was
making preparations looking to a start along those lines; he had his eye
out for signs of the monster that had passed near the cabin on the first
night of their occupancy, and whose den he believed must be among the
rocky canyons of the mountains, not half a mile away from the edge of
the valley where the dugout lay.



CHAPTER XIII

HUNTING THE BIGHORN


"I've fixed things so that today the traps can take care of themselves,"
remarked Tom, one morning, as they sat there at the rude table eating
their breakfast of oatmeal, and coffee, and some biscuits Felix had
managed to make, using a pan for his oven, and with pretty fair success,
too, Tom had declared, after making away with his tenth one, covered
with honey.

Felix looked quickly up at his chum. He could read between the lines,
and understood that Tom would not have said this unless he had something
to propose.

"And what were you thinking of doing, then?" he asked, seeing that the
other was waiting to be questioned.

"Well, I happened to notice yesterday that a little flock of bighorn
sheep seemed to be feeding in a certain patch away up the face of the
mountain, where there must be some grass that has been protected so far
from the freeze; and I was wondering whether you would feel like taking
a shy at the same, always providing we can climb up to a place within
gunshot?"

Felix jumped up, as he was really through eating; his eyes danced with
eagerness, just as Tom anticipated they would.

"Let's start right now," he remarked; whereat the other laughed at him.

"Not a bit of need for hurry," he said; "and I want to make certain
preparations for the jaunt. It isn't any easy thing, climbing the
mountains, and especially at this time of year. We may be away all
night, for all we know, and must dress warm enough for anything like
that. Besides, we want to make up something to eat; these left-over
biscuits and some dried venison will just fill the bill. And then
there's that rope we brought along, because you said we might need it;
I'll wrap it around my middle, because in mountain climbing a rope is
sometimes worth its weight ten times over in gold. Fact is, no mountain
guide over in the Alps would think of starting out for a climb, without
at least one rope along."

"I guess you're right," replied Felix; "and I'll begin to get things
moving now. Looks like we might have a decent day, too; which I'm right
glad to see. I'd hate to be caught up there in a snow storm, with a
howling wind blowing." And stepping to the door he looked up to where
the frowning rocky heights could be seen through the partly bare
branches of the trees of the valley.

Tom would not allow his impatient companion to hurry him in the least.
He declared that there was plenty of time; and he did not want to forget
something which they ought to carry, the absence of which might work a
hardship later on.

But about the time the sun was an hour high showing through the gap to
the east, the two lads left the old dugout, and headed toward the west,
where the main ridge arose like a monstrous barrier, shutting them out
from everything lying beyond, since to cross its snowy peaks was a task
utterly beyond their ability, even had they ever dreamed of such an
undertaking.

Later on, when they were really in one of the canyons, Felix began to
comprehend something of the magnitude and grandeur of the massive
Rockies. At a distance they had excited his curiosity and interest; but
once he found himself in their midst, it was a feeling of awe that
gradually took possession of his soul.

Still, the ambition of a hunter was strong within the Eastern lad; and
when his companion pointed out to him a certain green spot nearly half
way to the top of the nearest ridge and told him to notice the moving
white specks upon it, he realized that these must be the famous
big-horns feeding.

"However do you expect we're going to get up there?" asked Felix, aghast
at the prospect of climbing at such a height, which looked something
formidable to him just then.

"Perhaps we can't do it," replied the other; "but we're going to make a
jab at the job all the same; and I reckon I know about the best way. I
haven't been studying the make-up of these mountains, day after day, for
nothing."

"I'd just depend on it, you've got your plan all laid out," laughed
Felix. "I never knew you to start into anything without doing that."

"Oh! yes you have," answered the other, chuckling. "When I invaded the
den of my friend, the black bear, and started to smoke him out without
even knowing that it was his house, why, I guess I didn't have any plan
made up beforehand. Any old thing just had to answer; but after all, I
came out of that scrape better than I deserved, after being so breezy as
to invite the gentleman to come out and get acquainted."

They started in to climb. Tom, as he said, had figured it pretty well
all out, and in this way better progress was made than Felix would have
thought possible.

Sometimes it turned out to be easy enough; and then again, they would
either have to go around some obstruction, or else make a difficult
ascent of a small cliff.

When noon came they had ascended a pretty good distance, and Felix saw
that the green patch was much closer. Indeed, he could easily make out
the bighorns now, and even counted them several times.

"Seven all told, in sight, Tom?" he remarked. "And I wonder if they'll
still be there when we get within range, if we ever manage it?"

"If not, we must lie over until tomorrow, and take chances that way,"
replied the other. "For after going to all this trouble, we must try and
get a sheep, just for the horns; because the mutton of a big fellow will
dent your teeth."

"Have you got our route all mapped out above here?" asked Felix.

"Yes; and from now on we must be careful not to let them glimpse us even
once," returned the Western boy. "I haven't hunted sheep before, but I
know something of them, and they're mighty suspicious animals."

"I notice that we've got the wind in our faces," continued the other.

"Oh! sure, we couldn't have done the first thing any other way," Tom
declared, as they once more started off.

An hour later, and Felix was allowed to creep to the edge of a little
ridge of rock in order to take an observation. He found they had made
such splendid progress that it almost seemed as though he might try to
bring down that fellow sporting the massive horns, but then Tom had
warned him that distances were deceiving up in that clear mountain air,
and if so, after all he would be apt to make a mess of it should he try.

So once more, then, they had to go creeping along, always keeping out of
sight of the wary game, yet forever ascending. And still, when Felix
looked up at the top of the mountain they were climbing, it seemed about
as far off heavenward as ever, in his eyes.

Later on Tom began to work around more. He believed that they were now
about as close to the bighorn sheep as they could possibly get; and
besides, as the afternoon was waning, the animals might at any time take
a notion to quit their feeding ground, for some other locality, where
they were in the habit of passing the night; and unless the boys got
busy shortly, they would have to wait until another day before securing
the coveted chance for a shot.

Leaving Felix lying in a little hollow, getting his breath after the
last fierce climb, Tom crept forward. The other saw him gradually raise
his head, and appear to take a peep over the rocks. Then drawing back,
he turned and made a motion that meant he wanted his chum to come
alongside.

Trembling with eagerness, Felix did so. And no sooner had he raised his
eyes to a level with the line of rock, so that he could look over, than
he saw a sight calculated to pay him for all the trouble he had been to,
in order to gain this position.

There were the sheep within the easiest possible gun range, so that it
would seem as though even a greenhorn could not miss his aim, if he but
took ordinary precautions.

"Oh!"

It was but the faintest sound, and seemed forced from Felix by the
closeness of the game; but Tom nudged him in the ribs, as though to
indicate that even such a whisper must not be indulged in.

There was really no need of saying a word, because, as they climbed, the
boys had made all the necessary arrangements.

Felix, therefore, knew absolutely that he was to try and take care of
the buck carrying those massive horns which he envied; while Tom, on his
part, having his mind bent more on securing some mutton that could be
eaten without first being chopped into atoms, meant to pick out a
yearling, or one still younger, provided the flock contained any such.

Nor was that all, for they had arranged a silent code between them,
looking to the critical moment when they would want to shoot. Tom was to
give the signal for this, after he had learned that his comrade was all
ready for business.

And on his part Felix must keep a bead on that big buck.

Perhaps the leader of the flock had some reason to feel suspicious. He
had ceased browsing on the grass that grew in the little plateau
sheltered thus far from the cold, and getting all the warmth of the
sunshine; they could see him standing there as though he might be cut
out of solid rock, apparently sniffing the air as if in some incredible
manner he had caught a whiff of danger, even though the wind blew almost
directly from him toward the spot where the boys lay.

Tom kicked the ankle of his chum twice. That meant he was ready to give
the word to fire and Felix must be ready to press the trigger of his
Marlin when he heard the one word that was to be whispered, so the
Eastern boy nudged an answer with his elbow.

"Now!"

There was a double discharge, Tom firing just after his companion; for
in his generosity he did not want to precede him, even by the fraction
of a second, lest this serve to make the patriarch of the flock move,
and disturb Felix in aiming.

The big buck with the wonderful horns made a leap into the air, and then
rolled down the slope, falling from the end of the shelf. They could see
his desperate efforts to cling to the rock at the brink with his
forefeet; but powerful as he may have been, that deadly ball had sapped
his strength with its shock; and ten seconds later he vanished from the
sight of the hunters.

Of course the balance of the flock had bounded off in wild alarm, not
waiting to see what the fate of their leader might be; all but one,
which lay there on the green spot, perfectly still. Tom evidently had
not suffered in his aim because of allowing his chum the first chance to
pull trigger. As usual he had made a centre shot; and if only they could
find a way to get across to where the young bighorn lay, there was a
prospect of some pretty fine eating ahead.

"I got him, didn't I, Tom?" cried Felix, greatly pleased over the result
of his shot.

"But where d'ye suppose the beggar dropped to, and will we ever be able
to get to him? I'd just hate awfully to lose those horns, now that I've
knocked him galley-west. What had we better do, Tom?"

"I'll tell you," replied the other, calmly; for it took considerable to
excite Tom--an angry bear climbing up a tree after him had been known to
do the trick all right, though. "First of all, before we try and go down
after those horns you want, let's see if we can get over to where the
sheep were grazing. For my part, I've got my mouth set for some mutton,
when we get home again; and I'd hate to lose what I've shot. It would be
a wicked waste, that's what."

They began to look around, there being no longer any necessity for
concealment; and in a short time Tom announced that he believed he saw
how he might cross over to the little green plateau where the bighorns
had been feeding.



CHAPTER XIV

A WAKEFUL NIGHT


It required considerable climbing, as well as taking chances, for the
boys to cross over to where the dead bighorn lay on the green plateau
which had long been the dining table of the flock, and where they
undoubtedly felt they were safe from all the ordinary enemies of their
kind. But in reckoning thus, they knew not of the long range of the
modern rifle, nor the terrible expanding power of the up-to-date
softnosed bullet, that mushrooms to three times its original size upon
striking even the flesh of an animal.

When both of the lads had successfully landed on the plateau it was
beginning to grow a little dusk. The sun had long since vanished behind
the great rocky ridge that stood out above them against the sky.

"We'll have to put in a night up here, all right," commented Felix, as
they arrived at the side of the dead sheep, over which Tom bent eagerly.

"Well, since we prepared for that same thing, it won't be so hard on
us," replied the Western boy; "and I'm not any disappointed in my game
either. I don't believe it's a year old even, and I'm only sorry we
haven't some way to make a fire up here; for a slice or two off this
chap would go great. Come over this way, and let's see; I've got a dim
idea I saw a few stunted trees hanging to the face of the rock, where
there were gaps, and some earth had blown in from time to time. If it
turns out that way, count on a supper worth while; and that'll go better
than just cold biscuits and jerked venison."

They had hardly rounded the shoulder of rock mentioned by Tom, than he
gave vent to a shout of delight.

"There they are, just as I thought;" he remarked; "and now to see what
we can do about picking up enough fine wood to make a fire. Every scrap
will count. Look in the crevices, and every which way, for broken
branches, twigs, and anything that will burn. We've just got to have
supper, and that's all there is to it, with such bully game on hand!"

Presently Tom found a way to reach the stunted trees himself, and here
he came upon a regular bonanza in the way of partly dead branches, which
he kicked off in any way possible, until the boy below declared they had
more than enough fuel to cook two suppers.

By the time they had selected the nook where a fire would be best
sheltered from the night wind at that elevated spot, the darkness had
begun to creep around them.

Below lay a black gulf, for they could no longer see the trees, or
anything else that in the daytime marked the peaceful valley where they
had their dugout home.

"We're lucky to have all this wood," remarked Felix, "because, unless I
miss my guess, it's going to be pretty snappy cold up here tonight, and
we've got no blankets along."

"Yes, I thought it would come in handy," returned Tom, who was already
busily engaged cutting up the sheep, so as to have something to eat as
soon as possible, because the climb, and the cold air of the mountain,
had made both of the boys fairly ravenous. "And that's why I kept on
sending down more, after you said three times we had enough. A fire eats
up a heap of stuff, when you have to keep it going all night in the open
air."

It was not long before Felix had the blaze going, and he declared that
it certainly made things look a thousand per cent better. It was a
dreary place, so far up the side of the mountains; and without that
cheery blaze the night must have proven one they would never remember
with any degree of pleasure.

After all, the mutton did taste pretty fine. Even Tom, who being the son
of a cattle raiser, knew what prime beef meant, said it was very good,
and well worth all the trouble they had taken to get it.

"But how about those horns?" asked Felix, who could not wholly get his
mind off the subject that seemed to concern him, even more than the
supper did; though for that matter he ate his share, and seemed to enjoy
it. "Do you think we can get down to where my fine old granddaddy buck
fell?"

"We must, sooner or later, and that's all there is to it," replied Tom.
"What d'ye suppose we carried that rope along for if not to use it? Make
your mind easy, you'll have those horns, chances are ten to one."

"Unless some wild animal carries the body away in the night," remarked
Felix.

"No danger of that, my boy," laughed the other. "Fact is, the only beast
that is able to do such a thing around here, would be a grizzly; and if
he does, why, we'll just follow him to his lair, and tackle him. Then
you'll have a chance to get back the bighorn head-piece, and knock over
your grizzly, at the same time."

Felix had to smile at this.

"You know how to comfort a fellow all right, Tom," he remarked. "That
would be sort of climbing up on our reverses, and making them pay a
profit, wouldn't it? But I'll just try to forget all about the horns
now, and enjoy the good things we have right here--heat and grub in
plenty."

They did pass a pleasant evening; and later on, when both of them felt
like lying down on the rocks to try and get some sleep, the fire was
arranged so that it might keep going for some hours. Tom expected to be
up a number of times before dawn could be expected, and promised to take
care that the blaze did not go entirely out at any hour.

Although Tom did not mention anything about it to his chum, he was a bit
anxious concerning the state of the weather. That was the one thing that
had made him hesitate when thinking about pleasing Felix by a climb up
to the place where the coveted bighorns might be found.

What if a howling storm should swoop down upon them, while they were
away from the cabin and up here in this elevated eyrie? He knew about
how fierce a blizzard could rage, once it took a notion to come out of
the faraway Alaska country. And should such a thing come to pass, the
boys would be in for an experience before which all others must pale
into insignificance.

With the bitter cold, there would be snow filling the air, perhaps with
a fierce wind; so that for several days they would not dare attempt to
descend into their blessed valley. Could they manage to keep from
freezing there, in that exposed position, where a change of the wind
would find them out, and prevent any possibility of keeping a fire
going, even though they secured fuel to last out, an almost impossible
feat.

And that was the main reason why Tom hardly slept at all during that
night. He allowed his chum to get all the rest he could; nor did he envy
Felix when, up and down almost every hour, he counted the minutes until
they might see the first peep of dawn away off there in the eastern sky.

It had clouded up, which was one reason why Tom worried, for he thought
he detected symptoms of a storm in the air.

But as even the longest night must come to an end, so finally Tom was
heartened when he believed he could detect a little change off toward
the east, which gradually grew better, until he was sure dawn meant to
greet them.

So he caused the fire to pick up, and by the time daylight aroused
Felix, breakfast was all ready for their attention. The fact of the
matter was, Tom was bent on getting out of that as quickly as possible,
even though they had to leave the task of recovering those massive horns
until another day. He had a pretty fair idea with regard to where they
might have fallen; and it would not be necessary to climb near so high
up the side of the mountain. And, too, it could be done on a clear,
promising day.

Felix was disappointed when he heard about the change of plans; but
being a sensible fellow he quickly agreed with his chum that their first
consideration must concern their safety. He, too, had been secretly
fearing lest they find themselves trapped up in that high altitude by
the coming of foul weather; and so he agreed to let the matter of
securing his trophy go until later on.

"Tell you what," remarked Tom, as they prepared to depart the same way
they had come, for that seemed the only means by which a human being
could leave the elevated plateau, not being able to jump, like the
bighorn sheep; "tell you what, we can swing around a little, after we
get down from here, and if it happens that we get sight of your sheep,
we'll make a try for it."

"That's good of you, Tom," replied the other, warmly; "but remember,
we're not going to take any extra hazard, just to save those horns. I'd
like to have them, all right, but a fellow's life is worth much more
than a trophy."

A few flakes of snow drifted down as they started to leave, and Tom eyed
the heavens critically.

"You never can tell about this snow business," he declared. "Seems like
I know when it's going to give us rain, nearly every time; but this
other fools me. But if we can get down to that next level I'll like it.
Plenty more protection there; and some chance of getting wood too. Come
along, and be mighty careful, Felix."

There were one or two places where it looked so risky that Tom insisted
in fastening the rope to Felix. Then one of them would go at a time,
while the other braced himself for a shock, which luckily never came;
afterwards the leading one would take his turn at standing still, while
the other came on.

All the while those tantalizing flakes drifted slowly down, just as
though intent on keeping the young bighorn hunters' nerves on edge.

An hour later, and Tom expressed himself as delighted, because they had
managed to reach the lower level. Now, even though the storm did descend
upon them, he believed they would have a chance to keep on down into the
valley; for the most dangerous rocky heights had been left behind.

Felix had not noticed how his chum was heading, and hence was surprised
to hear Tom suddenly call out:

"Here it is, all right; been no grizzly around, you see, Felix!"

"My old buck, and with not a notch taken out of his grand curved horns!"
cried the other, as he saw what his chum was pointing at, just ahead.

Tom set to work to get the trophies. He could not make the fine job of
it such as he always liked to carry out; because the flakes seemed to be
getting more numerous now, and evidently the storm was becoming tired of
holding back, just to accommodate them.

"I can fix 'em up in apple-pie shape after we get home," he remarked;
and Felix had no difficulty in forgiving him; because just then he
believed that it would be a good thing to be quartered once again under
the roof of the dugout, where he could find a peaceful bed, after a
night on the hard, unyielding rocks.

It was, of course, no child's play, clambering down all sorts of
slippery places, burdened, as the boys were, with the meat of the young
big-horn, and the heavy head piece of the patriarch of the flock; but
save for a few minor accidents that did not amount to anything beyond
some scratches, they managed to finally reach the valley.

By that time, however, it was snowing heavily, and the wind seemed to be
rising; for while the mountains were entirely concealed from their view,
they could hear it beginning to whistle around the ledges and cliffs
that had marked their line of descent.

And when, later, the boys staggered up to the dugout, it was with a
sense of deepest satisfaction; now let the storm howl, since they were
assured of shelter, food and warmth.



CHAPTER XV

OUT FOR A GRIZZLY


After all, the storm did not last more than a few hours. As Tom had
declared, no one could ever predict what a snow storm was going to
amount to. The boys, however, were just as well pleased that they
managed to get safely housed before the coming of another night. And as
they sat by their fire, when supper had been disposed of, Felix
mentioned the fact that he could imagine how it must feel to be snow
bound in a dreary place like that elevated plateau, with the prospect
ahead of perhaps a week of fighting the cold wind to keep from freezing.

He was busily engaged in working upon the bighorn trophy. And it gave
him more satisfaction than he could tell, just to know that he had
secured such a magnificent trophy unaided. Every time he glanced up at
it, when upon the wall at home, he would doubtless remember that
mountain climb, and the camp under the ledge of rock.

"I've got something to tell you," remarked Tom, with a smile; "only
before I open up I want you to promise not to try and hurry me; because,
you see, I've got a lot of traps out, and they have to be attended to
properly, or else I quit the business."

"Oh!" replied Felix, "I give you my promise, all right. Now, what are
you going to tell me? Haven't found a wolf's den, have you, with some
cubs in it? Perhaps, now, you've sighted one of those rare black foxes,
that they say are worth all the way from seven hundred up to several
thousand dollars a pelt! That would be fine news, wouldn't it, now?"

"Yes, if we needed the money, which I take it we neither of us do,"
replied Tom. "But this doesn't concern either a wolf's den, or the
trading place of a silver fox. Can't you think of something else that
has been on your mind more or less for a long time back?"

"Looky here, Tom, do you mean a grizzly?" demanded Felix, his face
lighting up with eagerness and expectation.

The other just nodded his head.

"Then you've found out where he lives, when he's at home?" Felix went
on.

"I think I have, anyhow, Felix."

"But you haven't said a word to me about it; how long have you known?"
demanded the other, reproachfully.

"Let's see; we've been home here just ten hours, haven't we; well, call
it about eleven, then; that would cover it," said Tom, with a chuckle.

"Oh! then you made the discovery while we were coming down the mountain;
is that it, Tom?" Felix asked.

"Just what it is," replied his chum.

"Go on, and tell me about it; what did you see, the marks of his claws;
or had he thrown a lot of bones out of his old den, to make room? Which
was it, Tom?"

"Neither one, it happens," was the reply Tom made to this. "I just
chanced to look up, when we were crawling along on our hands and knees
in a particularly dangerous place, and saw something sticking out from a
ledge above us, that I quickly recognized as the head of a grizzly!
Perhaps the old fellow heard us passing, and came to his front door to
see what the strangers looked like."

"And why didn't you tell me about it, so I could look up too?" asked
Felix.

"Well, I had several reasons," answered the other, readily enough. "In
the first place, I didn't dare sing out because, if you slipped just
then, you stood a pretty good chance of being killed. And by the time we
both got to where the climbing was safer, he had pulled his nose in out
of sight. So I just marked that place, and thought I'd keep the news
until tonight."

"All right; and when you're good and ready, not before, Tom, why, we'll
pay our respects to Mr. Grizzly Bear."

"H'm! how about the day after tomorrow?" asked Tom.

"Suits me fine; do you really mean it?" asked his chum, eagerly.

"Wind and weather permitting, I think we might chance it, Felix. And
I'll try and not let him know we're coming. Sort of a surprise party,
you understand. I only hope the old chap's at home when we knock."

Felix came over, and clapped a hand affectionately on the shoulder of
his cousin.

"You're the finest chum a fellow ever could have, and that goes," he
said; "always thinking of doing something to make things move along for
me. Once I get my grizzly, and after that I'm going to turn around, so
as to try and fix things for your liking, see if I don't."

"Just as if you ain't always picking out the best flapjack in the lot
for me; the juiciest piece of meat; the clearest cup of coffee. I guess
when they started to making chums, they lost the pattern after they had
you built up, Felix. And it makes me sick to think what a gap there'll
be in my life after you go back East again."

"But you promised to make me a good long visit soon; and I'm going to
hold you to your word. After this we've just got to see more or less of
each other right along. I'm coming out here again, make your mind easy
to that. Perhaps I'll take a notion to invest in a ranch near you,
because, you know, my mother left me some money, more than I'll ever
know what to do with."

"That would be the greatest thing I know of!" cried Tom; "and I'll see
that you have chances enough, mark me."

And so they chatted on, as each carried his chosen work along; for Tom
was busy with some of his best pelts, which did not quite look well
enough to suit his eye, and he thought needed a little further
manipulation before being tied up.

On the following day Tom cleaned up all work possible with the traps,
visiting every one that was set, and bringing home quite a bundle of
fresh skins, which he of course immediately stretched after their kind,
some cased, and others split open, with the fur side out.

They were accumulating quite a collection of pelts by this time, and
somehow both boys enjoyed the work very much. If they had had to do it
for a living, possibly some of the pleasure would soon evaporate; but as
long as it was just carried on as fun, it did not seem to pall upon
them.

And sitting there by the fire evenings, they had easily settled what
they meant to do with the main part of the skins. After picking out what
they wanted to keep as a reminder of their great time in the foothills
of the Rockies, they agreed that the balance should be turned over to
Mrs. Crow, for the benefit of herself and family. As old friends of Sol
Ten Eyck, they seemed to have first claim on any surplus; and then there
was something so fine about the way the old halfbreed had kept strictly
away from that part of the region which he looked on as Sol's preserves,
that both lads believed he deserved to be rewarded.

"And," Tom Tucker had said, in conclusion, after one of these talks; "as
Sol will never come up here again, I'm going to make over all he has,
except the traps he values, and which we're to take home for him, to
Charley Crow. He can call this shack one of his homes, and trap along
the little stream where we've found the mink so plentiful."

Felix, on his part, had already thought about those Marlin guns he meant
to send west as soon as he got home again; and his companion applauded
the idea when he learned of it.

Tom worked hard that night trying to get everything in shipshape around
the shack, so that they could take a day off with clear consciences; and
Felix gave him a helping hand in stretching the many pelts; for with two
days catch to be taken care of, and all in the faultless manner that
marked Tom's work, it took considerable time to clean the slate.

But in due time Tom admitted that he could not think of anything else
that needed attention; so during the balance of the evening they just
rested.

In the morning they made a few simple preparations looking to the great
event of the day. What one needs most of all, when about to start out
after a grizzly, consists of a cool head, steady nerves, and a gun on
which he can always depend. The harder this latter shoots the better;
and if he can carry sixteen cartridges in the magazine, it will not be
too many, for they are about the toughest beasts to kill on the face of
the earth, barring none. And there have been hunters willing to declare
that some grizzlies can carry off as much lead, and still live right
along, as would wind up the earthly career of a dozen lions or tigers.

So about the only thing the boys did was to look their guns over
carefully, and make sure they had an abundance of ammunition along,
together with such other things, like matches, hunting knives, and the
like, as they were accustomed to carrying with them.

The day was everything they could wish; indeed, the weather seemed to be
doing its best to behave. Felix used to say that it was trying to coax
him into making another lone trip, so that it could suddenly veer
around, and show him the other side of the picture. But he was not at
all anxious to go wandering off again; and while Tom did not joke him
about the matter, he was of the opinion that the events of that previous
experience had sunk deeply into the mind of his chum.

Having made all preparations, therefore looking to pushing a vigorous
campaign against the grizzly, if they were lucky enough to find him
home, the boys shut the door of the dugout, and departed.

Felix looked back toward the old shack with something like affection.

"We haven't been here very long, Tom," he remarked, "but do you know,
I've begun to just love that old place. And when I'm far away, perhaps
at home in the East, let me tell you, many a time I'll just shut my
eyes, and see it as we do now. Yes, and I'll never hear the crackle of a
fire but what I'll be sure to picture the two of us sitting there, busy
at our work."

Tom looked pleased.

"I'm right glad to hear you talk that way, partner," he remarked,
earnestly, as he too glanced fondly back over his shoulder. "She's a
homely little old shack, and sure not much to look at; but somehow or
other she seems to suit me O. K. And when you say you'll always remember
our days and nights up here in the Rocky Mountain country, you're just
echoing what's in my mind. I never had a chum like you; and I never
expect to again. It was a bully good idea that brought you out to visit
our ranch, the luckiest day in my whole life."

Tom was usually not given very much to sentiment, as his cousin knew;
and hence, when he did speak his mind after this fashion, it might be
set down that he meant every word of it.

The subject turned to other points of the compass as they walked
sturdily on in the direction of the mountain pass. With such glorious
surroundings there need never be any want of things to talk about. Even
the grand air that greeted them with the rising of the sun was
invigorating enough to deserve frequent mention; while the impressive
scenery by which they were surrounded was surely of a character to evoke
admiration.

In this manner, then, they presently reached the rougher country that
lay along the foot of the uplifts. Having come this way before, when
going upon their bighorn hunt, and also returning from the same, it was
in a measure familiar to both boys; still, they saw it now under new
conditions, and discovered many features in the landscape that had
eluded them on the previous occasion.

"Here we are at the canyon where we came out," said Felix, as they found
high rocky walls beginning to shut them in on both sides.



CHAPTER XVI

THE TERROR OF THE ROCKIES


"You must know," said Tom, as they climbed over some of the many rocky
obstacles in the canyon, left there by the last flood, when some
cloud-burst had perhaps filled it dozens of feet high with a raging
flood, "that this grizzly bear hunting is different sport from bagging
an ordinary black."

"I'd always understood that," Felix answered. "You see, I've read a lot
about the thing, and I'm pretty well posted on that subject. I know that
the grizzly is the toughest animal in existence, barring none, and that
many hunters who have shot big game in other parts of the world give him
the palm, when it comes to being difficult to down."

"And that's why," continued the Western boy, "men who would hardly
hesitate to openly face a panther, or a pack of wolves, and meet them on
the level; will even climb a tree when expecting an attack from a full
grown grizzly; because it is well known that the old fellow can't climb
worth a cent."

"Yes, I've read even that about him," remarked Felix. "He's sure the
terror of the Rockies; and the Indians used to always reckon a brave the
greatest ever, when he could show the claws of a grizzly, and prove that
he killed the beast in a square stand-up fight."

"Whew! I should say so, Felix. Why, nothing could tempt me to try such a
fool game as that. When you see what awful claws the old fellow has, and
the frightful muscle back of them, you'll understand why it's never
looked on as a piece of cowardice to get up in a tree, and then dare him
to come on. Chances are even then, that if the tree is only a sapling,
the bear'll drag it down, and get his man."

"Are you trying to throw a scare into me, Tom?" laughed the other.

"Oh! not at all," replied his cousin; "only I wanted you to know that as
we're only a couple of boys after all, we had ought to take as much
precaution as most old hunters would, when out to stalk a grizzly bear."

"That means climb a tree, I take it, eh, Tom?"

"Well, it would be wise; and my father would say it was the right thing
to do," went on the ranch owner's son, firmly.

Felix frowned, as though there was something in the proposition that
somehow went against his proud soul. And seeing this, his cousin was
only the more urgent in his appeal.

"Remember, you promised me that you'd do anything I said in this game,
Felix!"

"That's right, I did, and I will, Tom; but you don't know how mean it
makes me feel to think of getting up in a tree, and then daring the bear
to come on; only to fill him full of lead as he accepts the challenge."

"Oh! I can understand all that, my boy, and it does you credit; but
after you see that monster at the foot of the tree, stretching himself,
and shaking it in his mad effort to get at you, after being wounded a
dozen times, you'll agree with me that anybody would be a fool to try
and meet such an enemy on equal terms, when, if his rifle missed fire it
would all be over with him."

"But this rifle never misses fire!" declared Felix. "All the same, I
suppose I'll have to do it, though under protest. But see here, Tom,
weren't you telling me just the other night about seeing some of your
dad's cow punchers having a bully old time throwing ropes over a grizzly
that was caught on the open, and badgering the old fellow every which
way, before they pumped him full of lead? How does that agree with what
you're saying now? Are cowboys braver than old hunters, that they take
such chances?"

"Well, you must know that every one of us was mounted on a fleet pony;
and that though the bear chased after us in every direction, he couldn't
catch up. Then they got their ropes to flying, and he was rattled, so
that before you could count fifty he had as many as four lariats holding
him. When he tried to go one way he was dragged over by the other three
ropes. And when they had had all the fun they wanted, they shot the old
Mountain Charlie. Oh! no, a cowboy on his bronco is a different sort of
a fellow from the time he's afoot. You just bet he couldn't climb up in
a tree any too fast, if ever he met with a grizzly, and wounded him,
when in the mountains."

"Oh! well, that makes it easier for me, I suppose," said the reluctant
Felix; "but all the same it galls some."

"I don't see why it should," remarked Tom. "Just look back a little, and
you'll see me taking a mean and cowardly advantage of that black I got,
stepping up when he was sliding down that tree, and shooting him while
his back was turned, so to speak."

Then Felix laughed a little, as though he might be convinced.

"I guess you're right, Tom," he observed. "It just occurred to me that
when the wounded buck had me held up in the tree a prisoner, I was only
too glad to fish up my Marlin, and give him his dose. Of course I didn't
climb that tree in the beginning; he tossed me up there."

"Well, I don't suppose you could induce the grizzly to try that same
thing; but if he did, you'd think it all right then to plug him, would
you? I rather guess it don't amount to much difference after all, Felix,
whether you climb first, or get pushed up a tree. The whole fact of the
matter is, that a man isn't in the same class as a big buck or a wounded
grizzly, when it comes to muscle; and he's just got to fall back on
guns, and trees, and such, to even things up."

"Consider it settled then, Tom; I'll climb," concluded the Eastern boy;
and with this his chum seemed content.

They were getting deeper into the mountains all the while, and Felix
could even see where they had started to climb when heading upwards on
that other occasion at the time they went after bighorns.

And Tom led the way over some of the same ground. It was more familiar
to them now, and they did not have the same difficulty as before.
Indeed, Felix remembered in many instances just where to place his foot;
or to reach up and seize on a projecting knob in order to pull himself
upward.

He began to look curiously ahead, wondering just where it could be that
Tom had sighted the head of the grizzly thrust out, as the animal
surveyed the descending hunters, who were bearing fresh meat. Indeed, he
really wondered why Bruin had not seen fit to follow after the scent,
and make them drop their packs, or else fight for the spoils on the
spot. Tom, upon being asked declared that ordinarily such might have
been the programme of a grizzly, that fears nothing under the sun, in
either the human or the animal kingdom; but that possibly His Majesty,
as he called the beast, may have recently dined; and when one has no
appetite, it seems the part of folly to go to any extraordinary exertion
to secure food.

"But he may be on edge today, just the same," he added, after giving
this information in answer to the question of his cousin.

"I hope so," replied Felix. "If I just do have to climb a tree, and ask
a bear to step up and be shot, I want to see him at his worst. That's
the only thing to give me an easy conscience."

Tom only smiled.

He had a pretty good idea some of these gallant notions would undergo a
decided change in his chum before they were done with this business.

Five minutes later he remarked quietly:

"We're nearly there, Felix. Hold up a bit, and get your breath. Look up,
and see if you can notice where that seam in the rocks has a black
look."

"Oh! I get that, all right, Tom; is there where you saw his head
sticking out?"

"That's the place; and chances are we'll find a regular trail leading up
to the mouth of the den. What I'm going to look for the first thing is
the tree. In hunting a grizzly that's an important part of the game;
unless you happen to have a gully in front, that no bear could cross
over. I've known of a good many hunters coming out here to get the hide
of a grizzly; and they told my father that while the idea of doing such
a thing struck them at first as cowardly, after they'd had a look at the
monster they meant to tackle, the only thing that bothered them then was
about the size of the tree. It seemed to them that they wanted one as
tall as the redwoods in California."

Felix chuckled at this, but made no further remark. He had noticed that
Tom no longer talked in his natural voice, but whispered. Even this
circumstance seemed to add more or less to the gravity of the occasion.
It told of hovering danger, and the need of ordinary caution, if they
did not want to arouse the sleeping dragon, and have him rushing wildly
out to assail them, before they were good and ready to give him a warm
reception.

Tom kept on looking carefully around him every chance he got, as they
pushed on slowly. Felix knew the wisdom of this, and that he would be
doing the right thing to also get his surroundings firmly fixed in his
mind, before the grand circus began. There could be no telling how much
need of this there might be before the little mountain drama closed in
the death of the bear.

He discovered in the first place that there was an occasional tree in
sight, not of any great size, but with a trunk that would baffle any
ordinary animal to bend down, Felix thought.

As the grizzly could not climb, a perch in one of these would place the
hunters out of danger, and they could proceed to accomplish their work
as they felt inclined.

How the bear was to be coaxed out, and to the tree, Felix of course did
not as yet know; but he was quite willing to leave this to his chum. Tom
understood all about the ways of grizzlies; he had heard them discussed
since childhood, and seen many of the species brought in by hunters; for
since they are a serious menace to the raising of cattle, there is a
price on the head of every grizzly known to have his haunt within miles
of a ranch.

Tom was moving about now, and appeared to be scanning the rock at his
feet eagerly. Undoubtedly he was looking for the well worn trail which,
he had told his chum, he expected to discover, leading upward toward
that dark spot in the rocky wall, where, according to his figuring, the
animal's den had its yawning mouth, although as yet they had not
actually looked into it.

So Felix stood there, waiting, and holding his gun in his hands,
wondering what he might be expected to do should the grizzly appear
unexpectedly from some other quarter, heading toward his den.

And possibly because Tom had impressed the necessity of a tree so
strongly on his mind Felix even made sure that there was one of these
growing close at hand which he believed might be scaled in a hurry if
there arose any need.

He saw that his companion was now examining the ground more closely than
ever; and there was that about his manner to tell that he must have made
a discovery of some sort.

A few seconds later the Western lad arose to his feet, and his face
shone with satisfaction as he turned toward his friend.

"It's here, just as I said, Felix," he whispered; "and from the signs
I'm pretty sure the old fellow is right now squatted in his den. Things
look all right to me, and the next thing is to coax him out. Like you, I
only hope he's hungry; but no matter whether he is or not, he's just got
to come, and that's all there is to it."



CHAPTER XVII

WHEN MUSIC WAS PLAYED OUT


Like a general arranging his plan of campaign, so Tom looked around him,
up at the place where the den of the monster was believed to be, and
then in search of the available tree.

"That's where we ought to perch," he remarked, pointing to a spot close
by. "We can each have a tree, which is really better than both getting
up in the same one; for while he's trying to get at me, you can pump him
full of lead. I'm only going to dip in here in a case of necessity,
because I want you to say you got him all by yourself."

"Up a tree," muttered Felix, disconsolately; but his chum paid no
attention to the half protest, being satisfied that time would vindicate
his course.

"Now, there are some trees up yonder, closer to the den, and they would
answer in a pinch, if we had to run for it," Tom went on to remark.

"I don't just get on to what you mean," remarked the other; "I thought
you expected to climb up, fix a comfortable seat, and then ask him to
step out, and get acquainted."

"But perhaps he won't come," retorted Tom. "You never can tell about
these grizzlies. Some days they're ready to just rush out, and tackle a
whole army. Then again they have to be nearly dragged out, they're so
full, and so lazy. But once you get 'em stirred up, they're always the
fiercest ever."

"Do you expect to go up there, then, and have a look in?" asked Felix.

"We might have to, if he won't come when we start to shouting," answered
the other. "Let us only get a peek at his nose, so you can touch him up,
and I give you my word there won't be any trouble about coaxing him.
You'll hear a roar that'll just about make your blood run cold, and then
we've got a fight on our hands you'll never forget."

"But see here, Tom," urged Felix, "suppose, now, we go up there poking
around and just when we're in a fix where we can't back down, the old
rascal heaves in sight down the trail. He'd have us in a lovely hole
now, wouldn't he? Then I guess we'd have to make it a stand-up fight.
Trees wouldn't figure in it that time, eh?"

"But I'm dead sure he's in his den," declared the other.

"How d'ye make that out, Tom?"

"Why, see here, there's some dirt where he goes up and down. You can see
that he's just worn a path with the many times he's gone in and out.
Now, look close, and I can show you several prints of his big feet, with
the claw marks sticking out ahead. And they all point _toward_ the den,
showing that the most recent tracks are the ones he made going in! Get
that, Felix?"

"Sure I do; and I must say it looks just as you figure it all out, Tom;
and if that's the case, our old chap is at home, all right."

"Then let's move up closer," said the other. "On the whole, I reckon
we'll use the trees that lie up yonder. We can see into his hole from
there, which we couldn't do down here."

They started to advance, slowly and cautiously, keeping a wary eye up in
the quarter where danger lay. But nothing occurred to give them a start,
and presently the boys had reached a point where they could see that Tom
had hit the truth when he said the dark spot on the face of the cliff's
base must be the entrance to the grizzly's den.

"That's where he enters, is it?" said Felix, looking closely at the
aperture that simply yawned darkly before them, with the rock hanging
overhead.

"Yes," Tom replied; "when he heard us talking, that other time, he must
have walked over to this spot, where he could poke out his head, and
look down."

"You don't see anything of him around, do you, Tom."

"Never a sign," came the answer. "Chances are, he's fast asleep inside."

"And now, do we pick out our trees, and squat in them waiting, for him
to show up?"

"We'll see if a little music will coax the old gentleman to show his
nose. Which tree do you want, Felix?"

"Don't see much choice between them; but I suppose I might as well take
this, because it seems to be a trifle closer to the den than the other,"
replied the boy from the East, indicating his selection.

"But it's smaller in the bargain," complained Tom; "don't you think
you'd better let me have that one?"

For answer the other commenced to climb; and as there was nothing else
to be done Tom followed suit. He knew that Felix had a stubborn streak
in his make-up; and in fact he liked him all the better for it, because,
without such spice, in Tom's mind, a fellow would be like cake without
the ginger in it, flat and commonplace.

"Well, here we are," commented Felix, after he had fixed himself
comfortably, and raised his rifle to his shoulder several times, as
though wishing to make certain that he could cover any advancing enemy
without difficulty.

"How does it suit you?" asked Tom, grinning.

"Oh! I've sat on worse seats, one of 'em a wasps' nest," replied Felix.

"All right. Now, what'll we sing?" continued the other.

"Sing?" echoed Felix.

"Yes, to coax our grizzly to look out. Strike up any old song you like,
and if I happen to know it, I'll join in; I can do that anyhow, because
our audience ain't going to be particular. Fact is, the worst noise we
make, the more chance of his coming out in a bad temper."

"All right, just as you say, Tom," laughed Felix, falling in with the
humor of the idea.

Accordingly, Felix began to sing some school song, at the top of his
voice, and his chum joined in with a pretty good bass. They went clean
through with a verse, and roared out the chorus in good style, although
Felix was laughing so hard at the end that the effect was terrific.

"If he can stand that howl, he's equal to anything," the latter
remarked, as they finished; "see any signs of our friend yet, Tom?"

"Sorry to say I don't," replied the other; "though that ought to have
fetched him hurrying out, to see what lunatic asylum had broken loose.
Hit up another verse, my boy, and give him all the variations you can."

So they went through with it, yet there was not the first sign of the
grizzly.

"That's queer," remarked Tom, when after they had completed their duet,
not a single thing occurred; only the gaping mouth of the den mocked
them, with vacancy behind it.

"Don't fancy the tune, perhaps?" suggested Felix, humorously.

"That might be so. The old fellow might have his favorites. Can you give
him a change, Felix, something more solemn like. He must have a weak
spot, if only we could hit on it. Strike up 'Plunged in a Gulf of Deep
Despair,' or something that thrills you the same way."

Accordingly, as he liked to be obliging, and the situation appealed to
his fine sense of humor, Felix did start a song that sounded very much
like the "Dead March of Saul." Tom added all the touches possible; and
had anybody chanced to be in the vicinity he must have thought he had
struck a camp meeting.

"How's that?" asked Felix, when they had finished.

"Simply elegant, take it from me. Queer that we haven't thought to sing
a little while we sat around the blazing fire nights," declared Tom.

"Well, if we did much of that sort of thing, we'd soon go hungry, Tom."

"Think so?" chuckled the other.

"Every animal would take to its heels, and never come within miles of
our shack again," asserted Felix.

"Strikes me it don't seem to have any effect on _one_ animal I know of,
and that's our big friend in the hole yonder," Tom declared.

"Perhaps after all he isn't at home," his chum remarked.

"I'm dead sure he is, in spite of the fact that he doesn't show up,"
said Tom.

"Then grizzlies must be lacking in a musical education, that's all I can
say," Felix observed.

"Sorry our efforts to amuse don't seem to be appreciated," Tom went on
to observe with a grin. "Shall we try one more? Do you know, I think
something inspiring, like 'Dixie' for example, might stir him up.
Suppose we give him that, and follow with the 'Star Spangled Banner.' If
one of those don't bring results, why something else has got to be done,
that's flat."

Felix, entering into the spirit of the occasion, held his gun as though
it were a guitar which he was picking; and presently, after a few
extravagant motions, broke out in the invigorating strains of the well
known Southern song, that in times of old, when the armies of the blue
and the gray faced each other in battle array, did so much to inspire
the latter to plunge into the fray.

But then, this was not a Southern bear; and at any rate, the music
produced no result save to amuse the singers.

"Well, I must say he's a hard customer to please," laughed Tom.

"Or to make mad either," remarked Felix. "Why, after hearing how we
murdered that noble tune, I should think any self respecting bear would
rush out, foaming at the mouth, and proceed to rub the assassins in the
dust. He just goes on snoozing, and paying not the least attention.
Shall we give it up, Tom?"

"Well, let's try if he's got any patriotism about him. Give him one
stanza of the other song. If that doesn't make him look out, then we'd
better put our horns away, and quit singing. We're dead failures as a
drawing card, seems to me."

"You were right," observed Felix, a few minutes later, when, after they
had done their level best rolling out the chorus, "And the Star Spangled
Banner in triumph shall wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of
the brave," not a single sign of an encore did they receive.

"He don't seem to mind it in the least," remarked Tom, grimly. "Perhaps
now the old fellow may be stone deaf. I should think he must be, to
stand for all that stuff, and never whimper once."

"But that couldn't be," declared Felix, "because he must have heard us
talking that other time, when you saw him peeking over at us. I'm not so
sure as you are that he's in just now."

"Well, here goes to prove it," said Tom, as he made a move as though
intending to leave his tree; but when Felix also started to vacate, the
other called out: "No, I want you to stay just where you are, and keep
tabs on the opening. If you see the first sign of anything moving, you
want to give me the tip right away, so I can run back to my tree."

"But what are you going to do?" asked Felix anxiously, for if there was
anything dangerous to be accomplished, he did not see why Tom should not
let him share in the enterprise.

"Just wait and see," was all the satisfaction he received. "And don't
forget you gave me your solemn word to obey. I'm the captain of the ship
just now, and the crew has got to do what the skipper says."

"But if you're going to take chances, I'd like to be along, Tom."

"Only one of us can do the little job; the other's business is to stay
there, on guard, and give the alarm if anything shows up. And I've
detailed you for that part of the programme, Felix."

So, unwilling though he was, the other had to sit there, rifle in hand,
and try to figure out just what Tom meant to do, in order to bring the
inmate of the den to his front door, in case he was at home.

The ranch boy had been keeping his eyes well about him, and knew just
where he could find what he wanted. First of all, he crept up to the
frowning aperture, and looked in. Felix felt his heart in his throat, so
to speak, with a sudden fear lest his chum take a reckless notion to
enter that gaping hole; he was even on the point of calling out, and
begging Tom not to incur such unnecessary chances, when he saw the other
moving away again.

Evidently, whatever reason Tom had for going there to the mouth of the
cave, he was perfectly satisfied; for, as he caught the eye of his chum,
he nodded, and made suggestive motions, as if to say that he was more
than ever convinced that the animal was somewhere inside, though
possibly at some distance back from the opening.

Felix now watched him with deepest interest. If he had figured on how
Tom meant to draw the grizzly forth, he could not have struck on the
right answer to the question, for suddenly he gave an exclamation, and
said as if to himself:

"Now, what's he gathering wood for? It sure doesn't seem like time for
our noon lunch? And what would Tom want to camp here for in front of the
place? Now he's got an armful, and--why, of course, he's going to stack
it up in front of that hole. That's the ticket, Tom; smoke the old
rascal out?" and he ended in calling aloud to his chum.

The other only turned, and nodded his head as he made his way cautiously
up to where the black hole gaped silently. Here he tossed his bundle of
small wood, and then went back for more.

Felix had gripped his gun a little nervously while all this was going
on, ready to take up his part of the game should occasion arise; but
even when the brush from under the trees was thrown down, the inmate of
the den did not deign to show himself, and offer any objection. Felix
concluded that there must be a mistake, and that the grizzly was away
from home; or else the old fellow was so gorged with a recent dinner
that he just could not bother moving, because some foolish boys chose to
play pranks outside of his house.

Now Tom had returned with a second armful of wood, which he piled up on
the other lot. Then Felix saw him stuffing a crumpled piece of newspaper
under the pyramid, and he understood why Tom had put that in his pocket
so carefully before leaving the shack.

Everything seemed ready, and he wished Tom would hurry, and come away
from his dangerous quarters, for the bear might rush out at any second.
So Felix breathed a little easier when he saw the other moving off, and
noticed little spirals of blue smoke beginning to weave themselves in
and out of the piled up brush and wood.



CHAPTER XVIII

A HARD CUSTOMER


"That's bound to settle it, one way or the other!" declared Tom, after
he had climbed up into his tree again, and resumed his former position
of squatting in a crotch, gun in hand.

"You mean about his being home, or away I reckon?" remarked Felix, who
was feeling fifty per cent easier in his mind, now that his chum had
carried out his little programme without being rushed by the bear.

"That's the idea," replied the other, keeping his eyes on the spot where
the fire he had kindled was burning fairly well.

"Plenty of smoke, if there is only a little flame," observed Felix.

"I wanted it that way; and so I picked out some green stuff that would
make a whole lot of smell, but not burn too lively, you see, Felix."

"Whee! I got a whiff of it right then; and say, if our friend is at
home, and can stand that smell, why, he's welcome to stay where he is
the rest of the winter, for all of me. It beats anything I ever
whiffed," and the Eastern boy held his fingers to his nose while
speaking, to emphasize his words.

Tom grinned, as if he really felt proud of that fire. A hot blaze would
have caused very little smoke; and after all might not have accomplished
the end they had in view.

"Wait!" he said, with a chuckle; "you'll see."

A few more minutes passed. Felix noticed several things, for he had come
to pay considerable more attention to small matters than before meeting
this cousin who had been brought up in the open, and imbibed many of the
instincts that govern the actions of Indians and veteran woodsmen, among
which observation stands at the head.

He saw, for instance, that the breeze was blowing straight toward the
face of the cliff where that hole lay; and as it came in rather strong
gusts now and then, it undoubtedly served to carry pretty much all of
the pungent, highly scented smoke into the yawning aperture.

And Felix also knew that it would drive this odor a long way ahead into
the recesses of the cave. If Bruin were at home, he could not help
getting a whiff of it presently, and smoke always serves to make a bear
both suspicious and angry. Where shouts of derision, and the singing of
songs had failed, a more silent and powerful agency would succeed.

And it did.

One, two, three more minutes passed away. Then Felix heard something
that gave him a thrill, and caused him to turn quickly in the direction
of his comrade, perched in the adjoining tree.

Tom nodded his head, and simply remarked:

"What did I tell you? That fetched him; and he's waking up!"

It had undoubtedly been a rumbling roar that came to the ears of the two
boys. Bruin had at last become aware of the fact that there was smoke
rolling into his snug retreat; and instinct warned him that smoke never
came without there being some sort of fire in connection with it.

Again they heard the heavy thrilling sound, and it was now more distinct
than before, which told them that the grizzly must be advancing
hurriedly toward the opening. Doubtless this was the only exit he had;
and alarmed lest he be caught in a trap by the fire, he was now
shambling along, bent upon seeking the open air before it was too late.

"Ready!" called Tom.

Hardly had he spoken than Felix saw the smouldering stuff at the mouth
of the cliff den thrown violently aside, as a huge bulk almost filled
the hole. Then there came into view the very largest grizzly Tom had
ever seen, as he hastened to declare, with boyish vigor.

"Wow! but ain't he just a jim dandy, though? Big as a house nearly; and
say, did you ever see a madder thing in all your life. He hears me
talking right now, because he's looking this way. Bet you his eyes are
that full of smoke he can't see as well as he might, and he's rubbin'
'em with his paws, would you believe it? Hey! you, we made that fire!
What d'ye mean upsetting it that way? Think you own the earth, don't
you? Well, come on, and have it out with us. Dare you to knock the chip
off my shoulder! Bah! you're nothing but a big bag of wind! Who cares
for you?"

Just as though the grizzly could really understand what Tom howled at
him, he immediately started toward the trees where they were ensconced.

"Oh! my, ain't he mad as hops, though?" jeered Tom. "Look at him shake
his head, would you, Felix? He knows we did it, and he means to let us
understand he won't put up with such a racket as smoking him out. Now,
don't be in too big a hurry to start firing. Take my word for it, you'll
have plenty of chances to fill him up with lead before he caves under.
Shake the limb, and holler at him, if you want him to pay attention to
you."

That was just what Felix did want. He was afraid that the bear would
know Tom had started the fire, and ignore the other boy. So he too
commenced to taunt the old fellow, as boys know how to do so well.

The result was just as Tom had predicted; for having his attention thus
diverted, the bear now changed his course a little, and came directly
toward the tree that bore such strange fruit in the shape of the second
human enemy.

What the grizzly thought, at being so rudely disturbed in his
after-dinner nap by all this shouting, and the smell of smoke in his
den, Felix could only guess, for by his actions alone could the animal
tell.

There certainly could hardly have been a madder bear than that one was.
He acted as though bent upon teaching these impudent boys a much needed
lesson. When they felt like playing any of their annoying tricks, they
had better keep away from his particular sleeping place, if they did not
want to get hurt.

"Get one in before he reaches your tree!" called out Tom; who seemed to
know what the tactics of the grizzly would be after this had occurred,
and that possibly Felix might not be able to fire with such sure aim,
once his haven of refuge were being violently shaken, as it would be.

So the Eastern boy, who had all along kept his Marlin leveled at the
advancing grizzly, sought to aim in a vulnerable spot; or at least what
would be reckoned as such with any other wild animal than a grizzly or
an African rhinoceros.

When he fired he heard the most dreadful roar that ever assailed his
ears. But to his surprise, the bear did not stop his advance in the
slightest degree, no matter how the small bullet "mushroomed" when it
came in contact with his body.

Felix hastily got his gun in shape to shoot again, and this he was able
to do before the animal succeeded in reaching the tree.

Another roar, more wicked than the preceding one, told that this bullet
had also lodged in the body of the fierce brute; but as before, it
failed to have any appreciable effect on the grizzly, save to arouse his
slumbering passions the more.

"Hold on tight, now, Felix!" shrilled Tom, no doubt itching to use his
gun, and ready to do so if he thought the situation began to look
desperate for his chum. "He's going to try and shake you out of that
tree like a wild plum! Get a firm grip and don't try to shoot yet
awhile, till he quits!"

The big animal reared up on his hind quarters, and as he did so Felix
could see signs of blood about him, which told that his bullets had not
missed connections, even if they did not bring him down.

The beast endeavored to reach the form of the boy, whom instinct told
him was responsible for his wounds; because he connected that puff of
smoke, and sharp report, with the acute pain that racked him.

Of course Felix was perched too far up in the tree for that, and the
most the eager grizzly could do was to come within six feet of him.

Then the monster hugged the tree as though about to try and ascend.
Indeed, the boy above felt a spasm of fear lest this was just what he
meant to attempt; and as he had seen black bears climb, he found it hard
work to believe that the grizzly was deficient in this accomplishment.

All at once the tree began to sway violently to and fro, with increasing
speed. Having been warned in time, Felix had secured himself against
being thrown out, although at one time he began to actually fear lest
the savage monster below might succeed in breaking the tree off at its
base; he was so big and powerful that few things of an ordinary nature
would be beyond his capacity. And now that he was enraged to the very
limit, doubtless he might accomplish wonders.

But fortunately that did not happen, and Felix breathed a sigh of relief
when, after testing his strength for a minute or two, the grizzly backed
off, to look up at him out of his wicked little eyes, and growl as he
dropped back upon all fours again.

"Bully boy!" shouted Tom. "He wanted too, all right, but he couldn't
quite spell able. Now, try him again, Felix; and watch out for one of
his rushes. Quit shooting when he tries that racket, and just hold on.
You can wear the old critter out; and say, that gun does send 'em in
like fun. I could see him quiver all over each time you pulled trigger.
But you'll get him yet, don't fear!"

Just as Tom said that last word Felix fired a third time, trying to pick
out a better place to send his bullet. Truth to tell he was more than
anxious to finish the game old bear, which he knew must be suffering
horribly already.

Although he was confident that he planted his lead in the identical spot
he wanted, still the only appreciable effect was to send the monster
furiously at the tree again.

Never did Felix expect to see such baffled fury. After finding that all
his terrible strength was not sufficient to shake the clinging boy from
his perch, or bear down the tree under his weight, as he had doubtless
done many a stout sapling, when wishing to feast off berries growing
beyond his reach, (if grizzlies do partake of such things, as their
black cousins have always done,) the baffled animal actually started to
gnaw at the bark of the tree, as though in this manner he believed he
might weaken it sufficiently to attain his ends.

"Now, watch your chance, and give him another!" cried the deeply
interested Tom, who was closely observing every little phase of this
strange fight, so one-sided Felix thought.

As he had by this time put his hand to the plow, Felix did not mean to
back out. He must have that grizzly pelt, if it took every ounce of
ammunition he carried on his person. And since the beast was so badly
wounded that he might eventually die anyway, he ought to be finished.

But somehow Felix did not feel as though he would ever want to go
through the experience again; not that he was afraid; but it seemed too
much like butchery to him, with the chances always against the animal.
And those feelings did him credit, too, even if they marked his decline
as a big-game hunter, for as such he could not consider that his quarry
had any right to live at all.

This time when he fired he believed that the bear was weakening. Tom
must have thought along the same lines for he immediately called out in
an exultant tone; for Tom being a stockman's son, only considered the
grizzly as a possible enemy of his father's herds; and on account of
previous losses from a similar source he bore the grizzly tribe only the
hardest of feelings.

Again did the wounded beast try to vent his fury upon the inoffensive
tree, biting and clawing at it in the utmost fury, as though possessed
of the one insane idea that in some fashion it had conspired to keep the
object of his anger beyond reach of his teeth and claws.

Between spells Felix sent in a fifth, and then a sixth shot. After that
he would have to reload, since he had exhausted the contents of his
gun's magazine, with the grizzly still on deck, though weakening.

"He's got his, I reckon!" said Tom, as the other was working with
feverish haste to insert another set of six cartridges through the
opening meant for this purpose, as well as to eject the empty cases
after firing. "Better give him another to wind him up, though, Felix!"

The seventh shot did bring the unequal combat to an end, for the gallant
old grizzly rolled over, and became still.

Tom immediately dropped down from his perch, and went over to where the
bear lay.

"Now, if we only had the old kodak along, we could take your picture,
standing with one foot on the fallen game!" he remarked, as Felix joined
him.

"I'm glad we haven't," said the other, simply and Tom looked a bit
puzzled, although by the way he nodded his head presently it was evident
that he had something like an inkling of the truth.

"Well, he _was_ a game old sport, all right," he declared; "and that
pelt will be something worth while. Reckon I'll have to get you to help
me take it off, because it's too big a job for one fellow."

Of course, after a little while, Felix got over the sensation of regret
in connection with the shooting of the monster. He realized that a
grizzly is really of no known use in the world and must be a source of
great annoyance to any stockman; so that he need not regret having slain
this fellow.

But one would be quite enough for him. Somehow, the sport was not all it
had been cracked up to be. Possibly it was because they had been
compelled to locate in those trees; but then, Felix learned afterwards
that those who hunt grizzlies frequently, have so great a respect for
their savage fury, as well as their ability to carry off lead, that they
think it no disgrace to place themselves out of the animal's reach
before opening the battle.

It was late that evening before the two tired Nimrods reached home; but
at any rate the last great ambition on the part of Felix had been
attained; he had killed a grizzly, and all unaided.

From that time on he felt that he would be satisfied to pursue the even
tenor of his way, and not allow vaulting ambition to draw him into fresh
fields of adventure after big game.



CHAPTER XIX

BREAKING CAMP--CONCLUSION


After that the days just glided along, each one seeming to bring
something in its train that would occupy considerable of their
attention.

Tom kept up his trapping, and Felix became himself deeply interested in
learning more and more about the habits of the sly little bearers of the
prized fur; for which there was such a growing demand in the world of
civilization, that men were visiting hitherto unexplored sections of the
world in search of new supplies, since the old fields showed signs of
giving out.

He spent some time in the partly frozen marsh, examining the homes of
the muskrats; and after that had Tom tell him all he knew about the ways
in which the mink lived, both at home, and when abroad searching for
food.

They had no trouble in getting all the venison they wanted; and once,
when their larder began to decline, on account of a spell of bad
weather, who should come to the dugout but Jo Crow, bearing the choice
portions of a young buck, which his father had sent over to the Little
Doctor, as a slight token of his gratitude for services rendered.

Just as though that small debt had not been wiped out, Felix remarked,
when he was so hospitably received in the Crow cabin, fed, and then
assisted in recovering his stolen property.

But then Tom knew that young Jo must have fond recollections of that
smooth tasting Java, and he made sure to treat the boy to many cups of
coffee at each meal, while he stopped over night with them.

And when, after a heavy storm, they found a chance to make the first use
of the snow shoes they had brought along, the boys proved that they knew
how to utilize the advantages this means of locomotion gave them over
the animals of the forest.

Once Tom, when on his way back from his traps, was pursued by a pack of
hungry wolves; but he had what he was pleased to term a "picnic" with
them. He would stop and let them come within a certain distance, when
several shots from his repeating rifle lessened their number
considerably. After that he would start on again, all the while slipping
fresh cartridges into his gun so as to have a full equipment, in case of
an emergency.

As the animals still kept after him, Tom repeated his former tactics,
and knocked a couple more wolves over. He would have liked to keep
dotting the snow with their forms, because he hated the breed violently;
but by this time they scented trouble, and hauled off.

So Tom even went back, and secured the pelts of the last two, adding
them to the lot he was taking home.

"You see," he remarked to Felix that night, as they sat around the fire,
speaking of what had happened during the day, "that's a great advantage
one gets by knowing how to use snow shoes. The varmints floundered
through the drifts, while I just skipped over them as if I had wings.
Why, I could have circled the pack at times, if I'd wanted. And they
were savage with hunger, all right, too, because only for that they
wouldn't have kept so hard after me."

"But I'd have thought they'd stop to make a meal off those you shot at
first," remarked Felix.

"I see you're on to wolf habits, all right and good," chuckled Tom.
"Well, a bunch of 'em did hold over, to have a sort of wake with the
remains; but I guess the rest of the lot felt that it wouldn't go
around. They kept after me, that's all I know. P'raps they had their
minds set on a nice tender juicy Tucker for supper; but if they'd known
how tough he was, they might have hauled off sooner, and two of the
bunch would be alive yet," and he glanced at the skins he had stretched
on the big frames meant for such purpose.

"And next winter perhaps those same hides will be keeping some chauffeur
warm, as he guides his car along Fifth Avenue in New York," said Felix,
humorously.

"That's putting 'em to good uses, anyway," remarked the wolf-killer,
calmly.

Only the next day Felix had a chance to see for himself what a great
advantage those same snow shoes gave a hunter over his quarry. The snow
was deep enough to come to his knees on the level, and besides, in many
places it had drifted considerably. Then there had come a slight thaw,
that caused the surface to become coated with ice. Through this the
small hoofs of a deer would break with every jump; while the boys could
glide along on the broad netting of their snow shoes without disturbing
the crust.

Thinking he would take a little turn around, Felix started out while Tom
was off looking after his traps again. He did not intend going any great
distance from the shack, and hardly expected finding game; but then
there was never any telling when one might run across a deer, for they
were fairly plentiful.

And hearing a floundering noise some distance ahead, he suddenly
discovered a full grown young buck making off at full speed.

Under ordinary conditions it would have been the utmost folly for Felix
to even dream of overtaking that alarmed deer; but he wished to test the
speeding qualities of his snow shoes.

The tables were turned by the presence of the deep snow, since the deer
could not run as fast as ordinary, while the powers of locomotion on the
part of the boy had been trebled, at least.

And so he had by degrees gradually come up on the fleeing buck. The
animal was snorting, and plunging desperately in the endeavor to get
away; just as though he realized that the mortal enemy of his race was
close behind. Breathing so rapidly that it looked like clouds of steam
arising from his nostrils, he kept on in his wild run.

When Felix had gained a position where he could see the exposed flank of
the deer he came to a sudden halt. And no sooner had his rifle spoken
than there was an end to the chase, for the buck was floundering on the
snow.

Those were days neither of the boys would ever forget. But the weeks
were slipping past, and they began to figure on the time, now close at
hand, when they must break camp, and set their faces once more towards
civilization.

It would be with more than a little regret too, even though both of them
must rejoice to again see the dear ones who were at home; for they had
certainly enjoyed this vacation period in the Rockies more than words
could tell.

Tom had looked over his trophies, and decided on what few they wanted to
take away with them. These were, for the most part, pelts calculated to
remind them of certain adventures which had befallen them in their camp
life.

For instance, there was that bobcat skin, which had once been sported by
the animal whose vicious growl had greeted them on that first evening of
their arrival at the dugout; then Felix had the pelts of the wolves he
had shot, after they had given him such a lovely little scrimmage,
before letting him get to the shelter of the shack with his burning
torch; and the big grizzly hide, that occupied a place of honor in the
collection also.

Besides, there were a few choice mink skins; a fox that Tom particularly
wanted, because he had tried for three weeks to trap the wary Reynard
before he managed it; and some muskrat skins that Felix wanted to show
his folks at home.

The bighorn head adornment had been beautifully prepared; and together
with the head of the big buck, must be carried on the sledge they meant
to drag behind them, when they went out of the mountain country, headed
south.

All the remainder of the catch, together with quite a supply of store
provisions they handed over to Charley Crow and his boy Jo, when at the
invitation of the inmates of Old Sol's shack the two came over to see
them for the last time.

And how that dusky boy's eyes did dance when he saw that among the lot
there chanced to be some of that glorious coffee, that had quite taken
his heart by storm.

Felix was not one to easily forget; and later on he did send out a bulky
package to his cousin Tom, which, upon investigation was found to
contain three good reliable Marlins for Charley Crow and his boys, just
as hard hitting guns as the one Felix himself carried, only of much less
value, because the material was along different lines. And besides,
there were a dozen cans of pulverized coffee for Jo, that would be sure
to make him the happiest Shoshone Indian boy on or off the reservation.

They looked their last on the old shack one morning when the weather
seemed to promise well for a day or two; said goodbye to every familiar
object, and with one farewell glance around, as though to secure a
mental photograph of the picture to do them for all time, turned their
backs on the spot that had given them the very finest time of their
lives.

Felix knew that he had benefited greatly from his outing, and indeed he
felt fully able to return home with the New Year, to resume his studies.
Those happy weeks spent in camp had brought the ruddy hue of health back
to his cheeks, just as his wise father had expected would be the case;
his step was elastic; and his eye bright; while as for appetite, he
declared he would eat them out of house and home, unless a curb were put
upon it presently.

As the snow was in pretty fair shape, they made good progress that day,
and hoped by another to be where they could take advantage of the frozen
river to finish their journey on the ice, bringing up at the ranch of
Tom's father.

This programme was faithfully carried out, even though it did turn
bitter cold that night, so that they had to keep a fire blazing every
hour, in order to ward off the fate of being frozen stiff; for their
camp happened to be exposed to the breeze more than Tom would have
liked, had he been given any choice.

Arriving at the river, they met the man who had come from the ranch
under the former agreement. He had been waiting two days, and made
himself as comfortable as the conditions allowed; and it was the smoke
of his fire that directed the two boys to his hideout. As he had a pair
of snow shoes with him, they were able to continue their journey along
the snow-covered surface of the frozen river; and in due time reach the
ranch.

Here the sight of their trophies, and the story of all that had befallen
them during their two months' stay in the country of the Rockies
interested the cowmen greatly, and for several nights they plied the
boys with innumerable questions concerning the various happenings that
went to make up the experience.

When Felix arrived home early in January, his father was delighted with
his improved appearance; and doubly proud of the spoils which the young
fellow displayed, to supplement his stories of the events clustering
around the camp in the big game country.

And it was easily arranged that later on he should again go out to be
with his cousin; indeed, as the good doctor had no need to continue his
practice, since he was well supplied with this world's goods, he
declared it to be his intention to give up his business, and accompany
Felix, for he had always wanted to see what ranch life was like.

Toward Spring a letter came from Tom in the faraway Wyoming country,
saying that he had had a chance to get up to the reservation, where
Charley Crow and family were finishing the winter, taking the splendid
present Felix had sent with the party; and that there was great
rejoicing in the Crow family. Those wonderful guns, as well as the
enticing coffee from Java's distant shores, quite overwhelmed the
astonished Shoshones, and they never knew when to stop sending their
thanks to Felix.

But as the boy remembered that occasion, when, after wandering through
the snow forest, hungry, cold, and weary, he sighted the smoke of that
humble cabin of Charley Crow, and what a warm welcome had awaited him
there, he felt that after all he had only begun to pay back the great
debt he owed these dusky people of the fur country.

The End





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rocky Mountain Boys - Camping in the Big Game Country" ***

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