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Title: Rolf in the Woods
Author: Seton, Ernest Thompson
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 "Rolf in the Woods" ***

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ROLF IN THE WOODS

By Ernest Thompson Seton

[Chapters 10 and 60 not designated in the original file.]



Preface

In this story I have endeavoured to realize some of the influences that
surrounded the youth of America a hundred years ago, and made of them,
first, good citizens, and, later, in the day of peril, heroes that won
the battles of Lake Erie, Plattsburg, and New Orleans, and the great sea
fights of Porter, Bainbridge, Decatur, Lawrence, Perry, and MacDonough.

I have especially dwelt in detail on the woodland and peace scouting
in the hope that I may thus help other boys to follow the hard-climbing
trail that leads to the higher uplands.

For the historical events of 1812-14, I have consulted among books
chiefly, Theodore Roosevelt’s “Naval War of 1812,” Peter S. Palmer’s
“History of Lake Champlain,” and Walter Hill Crockett’s “A History of
Lake Champlain,” 1909. But I found another and more personal mine of
information. Through the kindness of my friend, Edmund Seymour, a native
of the Champlain region, now a resident of New York, I went over all the
historical ground with several unpublished manuscripts for guides, and
heard from the children of the sturdy frontiersmen new tales of the
war; and in getting more light and vivid personal memories, I was glad,
indeed, to realize that not only were there valour and heroism on both
sides, but also gentleness and courtesy. Histories written by either
party at the time should be laid aside. They breathe the rancourous
hate of the writers of the age--the fighters felt not so--and the
many incidents given here of chivalry and consideration were actual
happenings, related to me by the descendants of those who experienced
them; and all assure me that these were a true reflex of the feelings of
the day.

I am much indebted to Miss Katherine Palmer, of Plattsburg, for kindly
allowing me to see the unpublished manuscript memoir of her grandfather,
Peter Sailly, who was Collector of the Port of Plattsburg at the time of
the war.

Another purpose in this story was to picture the real Indian with his
message for good or for evil.

Those who know nothing of the race will scoff and say they never heard
of such a thing as a singing and religious red man. Those who know him
well will say, “Yes, but you have given to your eastern Indian songs
and ceremonies which belong to the western tribes, and which are of
different epochs.” To the latter I reply:

“You know that the western Indians sang and prayed in this way. How do
you know that the eastern ones did not? We have no records, except
those by critics, savagely hostile, and contemptuous of all religious
observances but their own. The Ghost Dance Song belonged to a much more
recent time, no doubt, but it was purely Indian, and it is generally
admitted that the races of continental North America were of one stock,
and had no fundamentally different customs or modes of thought.”

The Sunrise Song was given me by Frederick R. Burton, author of
“American Primitive Music.” It is still in use among the Ojibwa.

The songs of the Wabanaki may be read in C. G. Leland’s “Kuloskap the
Master.”

The Ghost Dance Song was furnished by Alice C. Fletcher, whose “Indian
Song and Story” will prove a revelation to those who wish to follow
further.

ERNEST THOMPSON SETON.



Chapter 1. The Wigwam Under the Rock

The early springtime sunrise was near at hand as Quonab, the last of the
Myanos Sinawa, stepped from his sheltered wigwam under the cliff that
borders the Asamuk easterly, and, mounting to the lofty brow of the
great rock that is its highest pinnacle, he stood in silence, awaiting
the first ray of the sun over the sea water that stretches between
Connecticut and Seawanaky.

His silent prayer to the Great Spirit was ended as a golden beam shot
from a long, low cloud-bank over the sea, and Quonab sang a weird Indian
song for the rising sun, an invocation to the Day God:

     “O thou that risest from the low cloud
     To burn in the all above;
     I greet thee!  I adore thee!”

Again and again he sang to the tumming of a small tom-tom, till the
great refulgent one had cleared the cloud, and the red miracle of the
sunrise was complete. Back to his wigwam went the red man, down to his
home tucked dosed under the sheltering rock, and, after washing his
hands in a basswood bowl, began to prepare his simple meal.

A tin-lined copper pot hanging over the fire was partly filled with
water; then, when it was boiling, some samp or powdered corn and some
clams were stirred in. While these were cooking, he took his smooth-bore
flint-lock, crawled gently over the ridge that screened his wigwam from
the northwest wind, and peered with hawk-like eyes across the broad
sheet of water that, held by a high beaver-dam, filled the little valley
of Asamuk Brook.

The winter ice was still on the pond, but in all the warming shallows
there was open water, on which were likely to be ducks. None were to be
seen, but by the edge of the ice was a round object which, although so
far away, he knew at a glance for a muskrat.

By crawling around the pond, the Indian could easily have come within
shot, but he returned at once to his wigwam, where he exchanged his gun
for the weapons of his fathers, a bow and arrows, and a long fish-line.
A short, quick stalk, and the muskrat, still eating a flagroot, was
within thirty feet. The fish-line was coiled on the ground and then
attached to an arrow, the bow bent--zip--the arrow picked up the line,
coil after coil, and trans-fixed the muskrat. Splash! and the animal was
gone under the ice.

But the cord was in the hands of the hunter; a little gentle pulling and
the rat came to view, to be despatched with a stick and secured. Had he
shot it with a gun, it had surely been lost.

He returned to his camp, ate his frugal breakfast, and fed a small,
wolfish-looking yellow dog that was tied in the lodge.

He skinned the muskrat carefully, first cutting a slit across the rear
and then turning the skin back like a glove, till it was off to the
snout; a bent stick thrust into this held it stretched, till in a day,
it was dry and ready for market. The body, carefully cleaned, he hung in
the shade to furnish another meal.

As he worked, there were sounds of trampling in the woods, and
presently a tall, rough-looking man, with a red nose and a curling white
moustache, came striding through brush and leaves. He stopped when
he saw the Indian, stared contemptuously at the quarry of the morning
chase, made a scornful remark about “rat-eater,” and went on toward the
wigwam, probably to peer in, but the Indian’s slow, clear, “keep away!”
 changed his plan. He grumbled something about “copper-coloured tramp,”
 and started away in the direction of the nearest farmhouse.



Chapter 2. Rolf Kittering and the Soldier Uncle

     A feller that chatters all the time is bound to talk a
     certain amount of drivel.--The Sayings of Si Sylvanne

This was the Crow Moon, the white man’s March. The Grass Moon was at
hand, and already the arrow bands of black-necked honkers were passing
northward from the coast, sending down as they flew the glad tidings
that the Hunger Moon was gone, that spring was come, yea, even now was
in the land. And the flicker clucked from a high, dry bough, the spotted
woodwale drummed on his chosen branch, the partridge drummed in the pine
woods, and in the sky the wild ducks, winging, drummed their way. What
wonder that the soul of the Indian should seek expression in the drum
and the drum song of his race?

Presently, as though remembering something, he went quietly to the
southward under the ridge, just where it breaks to let the brook go by,
along the edge of Strickland’s Plain, and on that hill of sliding stone
he found, as he always had, the blue-eyed liver-leaf smiling, the first
sweet flower of spring! He did not gather it, he only sat down and
looked at it. He did not smile, or sing, or utter words, or give it
a name, but he sat beside it and looked hard at it, and, in the first
place, he went there knowingly to find it. Who shall say that its beauty
did not reach his soul?

He took out his pipe and tobacco bag, but was reminded of something
lacking--the bag was empty. He returned to his wigwam, and from their
safe hanger or swinging shelf overhead, he took the row of stretched
skins, ten muskrats and one mink, and set out along a path which led
southward through the woods to the broad, open place called Strickland’s
Plain, across that, and over the next rock ridge to the little town and
port of Myanos.

               SILAS PECK
               Trading Store

was the sign over the door he entered. Men and women were buying and
selling, but the Indian stood aside shyly until all were served, and
Master Peck cried out:

“Ho, Quonab! what have ye got for trade to-day?”

Quonab produced his furs. The dealer looked at them narrowly and said:

“They are too late in the season for primes; I cannot allow you more
than seven cents each for the rats and seventy-five cents for the mink,
all trade.”

The Indian gathered up the bundle with an air of “that settles it,” when
Silas called out:

“Come now, I’ll make it ten cents for the rats.”

“Ten cents for rats, one dollar for mink, all cash, then I buy what I
like,” was the reply.

It was very necessary to Silas’s peace that no customer of his should
cross the street to the sign,

              SILAS MEAD
              Trading Store

So the bargain, a fair one now, was made, and the Indian went off with a
stock of tobacco, tea, and sugar.

His way lay up the Myanos River, as he had one or two traps set along
the banks for muskrats, although in constant danger of having them
robbed or stolen by boys, who considered this an encroachment on their
trapping grounds.

After an hour he came to Dumpling Pond, then set out for his home,
straight through the woods, till he reached the Catrock line, and
following that came to the farm and ramshackle house of Micky Kittering.
He had been told that the man at this farm had a fresh deer hide for
sale, and hoping to secure it, Quonab walked up toward the house. Micky
was coming from the barn when he saw the Indian. They recognized each
other at a glance. That was enough for Quonab; he turned away. The
farmer remembered that he had been “insulted.” He vomited a few oaths,
and strode after the Indian, “To take it out of his hide”; his purpose
was very clear. The Indian turned quickly, stood, and looked calmly at
Michael.

Some men do not know the difference between shyness and cowardice, but
they are apt to find it out unexpectedly Something told the white man,
“Beware! this red man is dangerous.” He muttered something about, “Get
out of that, or I’ll send for a constable.” The Indian stood gazing
coldly, till the farmer backed off out of sight, then he himself turned
away to the woods.

Kittering was not a lovely character. He claimed to have been a soldier.
He certainly looked the part, for his fierce white moustache was curled
up like horns on his purple face, at each side of his red nose, in
a most milita style. His shoulders were square and his gait was
swaggering, beside which, he had an array of swear words that was new
and tremendously impressive in Connecticut. He had married late in life
a woman who would have made him a good wife, had he allowed her. But, a
drunkard himself he set deliberately about bringing his wife to his own
ways and with most lamentable success. They had had no children, but
some months before a brother’s child, fifteen-year-old lad, had become
a charge on their hands and, with any measure of good management, would
have been a blessing to all. But Micky had gone too far. His original
weak good-nature was foundered in rum. Always blustery and frothy, he
divided the world in two--superior officers, before whom he grovelled,
and inferiors to whom he was a mouthy, foul-tongued, contemptible bully,
in spite of a certain lingering kindness of heart that showed itself at
such rare times when he was neither roaring drunk nor crucified by black
reaction. His brother’s child, fortunately, had inherited little of the
paternal family traits, but in both body and brain favoured his mother,
the daughter of a learned divine who had spent unusual pains on her book
education, but had left her penniless and incapable of changing that
condition.

Her purely mental powers and peculiarities were such that, a hundred
years before, she might have been burned for a witch, and fifty years
later might have been honoured as a prophetess. But she missed the crest
of the wave both ways and fell in the trough; her views on religious
matters procured neither a witch’s grave nor a prophet’s crown, but a
sort of village contempt.

The Bible was her standard--so far so good--but she emphasized the wrong
parts of it. Instead of magnifying the damnation of those who follow not
the truth (as the village understood it), she was content to semi-quote:

“Those that are not against me are with me,” and “A kind heart is the
mark of His chosen.” And then she made a final utterance, an echo really
of her father: “If any man do anything sincerely, believing that thereby
he is worshipping God, he is worshipping God.”

Then her fate was sealed, and all who marked the blazing eyes, the
hollow cheeks, the yet more hollow chest and cough, saw in it all the
hand of an offended God destroying a blasphemer, and shook their heads
knowingly when the end came.

So Rolf was left alone in life, with a common school education, a
thorough knowledge of the Bible and of “Robinson Crusoe,” a vague
tradition of God everywhere, and a deep distrust of those who should
have been his own people.

The day of the little funeral he left the village of Redding to tramp
over the unknown road to the unknown south where his almost unknown
Uncle Michael had a farm and, possibly, a home for him.

Fifteen miles that day, a night’s rest in a barn, twenty-five miles the
next day, and Rolf had found his future home.

“Come in, lad,” was the not unfriendly reception, for his arrival
was happily fallen on a brief spell of good humour, and a strong,
fifteen-year-old boy is a distinct asset on a farm.



Chapter 3. Rolf Catches a Coon and Finds a Friend

Aunt Prue, sharp-eyed and red-nosed, was actually shy at first, but
all formality vanished as Rolf was taught the mysteries of pig-feeding,
hen-feeding, calf-feeding, cow-milking, and launched by list only in
a vast number of duties familiar to him from his babyhood. What a list
there was. An outsider might have wondered if Aunt Prue was saving
anything for herself, but Rolf was used to toil. He worked without
ceasing and did his best, only to learn in time that the best could win
no praise, only avert punishment. The spells of good nature arrived more
seldom in his uncle’s heart. His aunt was a drunken shrew and soon Rolf
looked on the days of starving and physical misery with his mother as
the days of his happy youth gone by.

He was usually too tired at night and too sleepy in the morning to say
his prayers, and gradually he gave it up as a daily habit. The more he
saw of his kinsfolk, the more wickedness came to view; and yet it was
with a shock that he one day realized that some fowls his uncle brought
home by night were there without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Micky
made a jest of it, and intimated that Rolf would have to “learn to do
night work very soon.” This was only one of the many things that showed
how evil a place was now the orphan’s home.

At first it was not clear to the valiant uncle whether the silent boy
was a superior to be feared, or an inferior to be held in fear, but
Mick’s courage grew with non-resistance, and blows became frequent;
although not harder to bear than the perpetual fault-finding and
scolding of his aunt, and all the good his mother had implanted was
being shrivelled by the fires of his daily life.

Rolf had no chance to seek for companions at the village store, but an
accident brought one to him. Before sunrise one spring morning he went,
as usual, to the wood lot pasture for the cow, and was surprised to find
a stranger, who beckoned him to come. On going near he saw a tall
man with dark skin and straight black hair that was streaked with
gray--undoubtedly an Indian. He held up a bag and said, “I got coon
in that hole. You hold bag there, I poke him in.” Rolf took the sack
readily and held it over the hole, while the Indian climbed the tree to
a higher opening, then poked in this with a long pole, till all at once
there was a scrambling noise and the bag bulged full and heavy. Rolf
closed its mouth triumphantly. The Indian laughed lightly, then swung to
the ground.

“Now, what will you do with him?” asked Rolf.

“Train coon dog,” was the answer.

“Where?”

The Indian pointed toward the Asamuk Pond.

“Are you the singing Indian that lives under Ab’s Rock?

“Ugh! [*] Some call me that. My name is Quonab.”

“Wait for an hour and then I will come and help,” volunteered Rolf
impulsively, for the hunting instinct was strong in him.

The Indian nodded. “Give three yelps if you no find me;” then he
shouldered a short stick, from one end of which, at a safe distance from
his back, hung the bag with the coon. And Rolf went home with the cow.

He had acted on hasty impulse in offering to come, but now, in the
normal storm state of the household, the difficulties of the course
appeared. He cudgelled his brain for some plan to account for his
absence, and finally took refuge unwittingly in ancient wisdom: “When
you don’t know a thing to do, don’t do a thing.” Also, “If you can’t
find the delicate way, go the blunt way.”

So having fed the horses, cleaned the stable, and milked the cow, fed
the pigs, the hens, the calf, harnessed the horses, cut and brought in
wood for the woodshed, turned out the sheep, hitched the horses to the
wagon, set the milk out in the creaming pans, put more corn to soak for
the swill barrel, ground the house knife, helped to clear the breakfast
things, replaced the fallen rails of a fence, brought up potatoes from
the root cellar, all to the maddening music of a scolding tongue, he set
out to take the cow back to the wood lot, sullenly resolved to return
when ready.


     * Ugh (yes) and wah (no) are Indianisms that continue no
     matter how well the English has been acquired.



Chapter 4. The Coon Hunt Makes Trouble for Rolf

Not one hour, but nearly three, had passed before Rolf sighted the
Pipestave Pond, as it was called. He had never been there before, but
three short whoops, as arranged, brought answer and guidance. Quonab was
standing on the high rock. When Rolf came he led down to the wigwam on
its south side. It was like stepping into a new life. Several of the
old neighbours at Redding were hunters who knew the wild Indians and had
told him tales that glorified at least the wonderful woodcraft of the
red man. Once or twice Rolf had seen Indians travelling through, and he
had been repelled by their sordid squalour. But here was something of
a different kind; not the Champlain ideal, indeed, for the Indian wore
clothes like any poor farmer, except on his head and his feet; his head
was bare, and his feet were covered with moccasins that sparkled with
beads on the arch. The wigwam was of canvas, but it had one or two
of the sacred symbols painted on it. The pot hung over the fire was
tin-lined copper, of the kind long made in England for Indian trade,
but the smaller dishes were of birch bark and basswood. The gun and the
hunting knife were of white man’s make, but the bow, arrows, snowshoes,
tom-tom, and a quill-covered gun case were of Indian art, fashioned of
the things that grow in the woods about.

The Indian led into the wigwam. The dog, although not fully grown,
growled savagely as it smelled the hated white man odour. Quonab gave
the puppy a slap on the head, which is Indian for, “Be quiet; he’s all
right;” loosed the rope, and led the dog out. “Bring that,” and the
Indian pointed to the bag which hung from a stick between two trees. The
dog sniffed suspiciously in the direction of the bag and growled, but
he was not allowed to come near it. Rolf tried to make friends with the
dog, but without success and Quonab said, “Better let Skookum [*] alone.
He make friends when he ready--maybe never.”

The two hunters now set out for the open plain, two or three hundred
yards to the southward. Here the raccoon was dumped out of the sack,
and the dog held at a little distance, until the coon had pulled itself
together and began to run. Now the dog was released and chivvied on.
With a tremendous barking he rushed at the coon, only to get a nip that
made him recoil, yelping. The coon ran as hard as it could, the dog
and hunters came after it; again it was overtaken, and, turning with a
fierce snarl, it taught the dog a second lesson. Thus, running, dodging,
and turning to fight, the coon got back to the woods, and there made
a final stand under a small, thick tree; and, when the dog was again
repulsed, climbed quickly up into the branches.

The hunters did all they could to excite the dog, until he was jumping
about, trying to climb the tree, and barking uproariously. This was
exactly what they wanted. Skookum’s first lesson was learned--the duty
of chasing the big animal of that particular smell, then barking up the
tree it had climbed.

Quonab, armed with a forked stick and a cord noose, now went up the
tree. After much trouble he got the noose around the coon’s neck, then,
with some rather rough handling, the animal was dragged down, maneuvered
into the sack, and carried back to camp, where it was chained up to
serve in future lessons; the next two or three being to tree the coon,
as before; in the next, the coon was to be freed and allowed to get out
of sight, so that the dog might find it by trailing, and the last, in
which the coon was to be trailed, treed, and shot out of the tree, so
that the dog should have the final joy of killing a crippled coon, and
the reward of a coon-meat feast. But the last was not to be, for the
night before it should have taken place the coon managed to slip its
bonds, and nothing but the empty collar and idle chain were found in the
captive’s place next morning.

These things were in the future however. Rolf was intensely excited over
all he had seen that day. His hunting instincts were aroused. There had
been no very obvious or repellant cruelty; the dog alone had suffered,
but he seemed happy. The whole affair was so exactly in the line of
his tastes that the boy was in a sort of ecstatic uplift, and already
anticipating a real coon hunt, when the dog should be properly trained.
The episode so contrasted with the sordid life he had left an hour
before that he was spellbound. The very animal smell of the coon seemed
to make his fibre tingle. His eyes were glowing with a wild light. He
was so absorbed that he did not notice a third party attracted by the
unusual noise of the chase, but the dog did. A sudden, loud challenge
called all attention to a stranger on the ridge behind the camp. There
was no mistaking the bloated face and white moustache of Rolf’s uncle.

“So, you young scut! that is how you waste your time. I’ll larn ye a
lesson.”

The dog was tied, the Indian looked harmless, and the boy was cowed,
so the uncle’s courage mounted high. He had been teaming in the nearby
woods, and the blacksnake whip was in his hands. In a minute its thong
was lapped, like a tongue of flame, around Rolf’s legs. The boy gave a
shriek and ran, but the man followed and furiously plied the whip.
The Indian, supposing it was Rolf’s father, marvelled at his method
of showing affection, but said nothing, for the Fifth Commandment is a
large one in the wigwam. Rolf dodged some of the cruel blows, but was
driven into a corner of the rock. One end of the lash crossed his face
like a red-hot wire.

“Now I’ve got you!” growled the bully.

Rolf was desperate. He seized two heavy stones and hurled the first with
deadly intent at his uncle’s head. Mick dodged in time, but the second,
thrown lower, hit him on the thigh. Mick gave a roar of pain. Rolf
hastily seized more stones and shrieked out, “You come on one step and
I’ll kill you!”

Then that purple visage turned a sort of ashen hue. Its owner mouthed in
speechless rage. He “knew it was the Indian had put Rolf up to it. He’d
see to it later,” and muttering, blasting, frothing, the hoary-headed
sinner went limping off to his loaded wagon.


     * “Skookum” or “Skookum Chuck,” in Chinook means “Troubled
     waters.”



Chapter 5. Good-bye to Uncle Mike

     For counsel comes with the night, and action comes with the
     day; But the gray half light, neither dark nor bright, is a
     time to hide away.


Rolf had learned one thing at least--his uncle was a coward. But he also
knew that he himself was in the wrong, for he was neglecting his work
and he decided to go back at once and face the worst. He made little
reply to the storm of scolding that met him. He would have been
disappointed if it had not come. He was used to it; it made him feel at
home once more. He worked hard and silently.

Mick did not return till late. He had been drawing wood for Horton that
day, which was the reason he happened in Quonab’s neighbourhood; but his
road lay by the tavern, and when he arrived home he was too helpless to
do more than mutter.

The next day there was an air of suspended thunder. Rolf overheard his
uncle cursing “that ungrateful young scut--not worth his salt.” But
nothing further was said or done. His aunt did not strike at him once
for two days. The third night Micky disappeared. On the next he returned
with another man; they had a crate of fowls, and Rolf was told to keep
away from “that there little barn.”

So he did all morning, but he peeped in from the hayloft when a chance
came, and saw a beautiful horse. Next day the “little barn” was open and
empty as before.

That night this worthy couple had a jollification with some callers, who
were strangers to Rolf. As he lay awake, listening to the carouse, he
overheard many disjointed allusions that he did not understand, and some
that he could guess at: “Night work pays better than day work any time,”
 etc. Then he heard his own name and a voice, “Let’s go up and settle it
with him now.” Whatever their plan, it was clear that the drunken crowd,
inspired by the old ruffian, were intent on doing him bodily harm. He
heard them stumbling and reeling up the steep stairs. He heard, “Here,
gimme that whip,” and knew he was in peril, maybe of his life, for they
were whiskey-mad. He rose quickly, locked the door, rolled up an old rag
carpet, and put it in his bed. Then he gathered his clothes on his arm,
opened the window, and lowered himself till his head only was above the
sill, and his foot found a resting place. Thus he awaited. The raucous
breathing of the revellers was loud on the stairs; then the door was
tried; there was some muttering; then the door was burst open and in
rushed two, or perhaps three, figures. Rolf could barely see in the
gloom, but he knew that his uncle was one of them. The attack they made
with whip and stick on that roll of rags in the bed would have broken
his bones and left him shapeless, had he been in its place. The men were
laughing and took it all as a joke, but Rolf had seen enough; he slipped
to the ground and hurried away, realizing perfectly well now that this
was “good-bye.”

Which way? How naturally his steps turned northward toward Redding, the
only other place he knew. But he had not gone a mile before he stopped.
The yapping of a coon dog came to him from the near woods that lay to
the westward along Asamuk. He tramped toward it. To find the dog is one
thing, to find the owner another; but they drew near at last. Rolf gave
the three yelps and Quonab responded.

“I am done with that crowd,” said the boy. “They tried to kill me
tonight. Have you got room for me in your wigwam for a couple of days?”

“Ugh, come,” said the Indian.

That night, for the first time, Rolf slept in the outdoor air of a
wigwam. He slept late, and knew nothing of the world about him till
Quonab called him to breakfast.



Chapter 6. Skookum Accepts Rolf at Last

Rolf expected that Micky would soon hear of his hiding place and come
within a few days, backed by a constable, to claim his runaway ward. But
a week went by and Quonab, passing through Myanos, learned, first, that
Rolf had been seen tramping northward on the road to Dumpling Pond, and
was now supposed to be back in Redding; second, that Micky Kittering was
lodged in jail under charge of horse-stealing and would certainly get
a long sentence; third, that his wife had gone back to her own folks at
Norwalk, and the house was held by strangers.

All other doors were closed now, and each day that drifted by made it
the more clear that Rolf and Quonab were to continue together. What boy
would not exult at the thought of it? Here was freedom from a brutal
tyranny that was crushing out his young life; here was a dream of the
wild world coming true, with gratification of all the hunter instincts
that he had held in his heart for years, and nurtured in that single,
ragged volume of “Robinson Crusoe.” The plunge was not a plunge, except
it be one when an eagle, pinion-bound, is freed and springs from a cliff
of the mountain to ride the mountain wind.

The memory of that fateful cooning day was deep and lasting. Never
afterward did smell of coon fail to bring it back; in spite of the many
evil incidents it was a smell of joy.

“Where are you going, Quonab?” he asked one morning, as he saw the
Indian rise at dawn and go forth with his song drum, after warming it at
the fire. He pointed up to the rock, and for the first time Rolf heard
the chant for the sunrise. Later he heard the Indian’s song for “Good
Hunting,” and another for “When His Heart Was Bad.” They were prayers or
praise, all addressed to the Great Spirit, or the Great Father, and it
gave Rolf an entirely new idea of the red man, and a startling light
on himself. Here was the Indian, whom no one considered anything but a
hopeless pagan, praying to God for guidance at each step in life, while
he himself, supposed to be a Christian, had not prayed regularly for
months--was in danger of forgetting how.

Yet there was one religious observance that Rolf never forgot--that was
to keep the Sabbath, and on that day each week he did occasionally say
a little prayer his mother had taught him. He avoided being seen at such
times and did not speak of kindred doings. Whereas Quonab neither hid
nor advertised his religious practices, and it was only after many
Sundays had gone that Quonab remarked:

“Does your God come only one day of the week? Does He sneak in after
dark? Why is He ashamed that you only whisper to Him? Mine is here all
the time. I can always reach Him with my song; all days are my Sunday.”

The evil memories of his late life were dimming quickly, and the joys of
the new one growing. Rolf learned early that, although one may talk of
the hardy savage, no Indian seeks for hardship. Everything is done that
he knows to make life pleasant, and of nothing is he more careful than
the comfort of his couch. On the second day, under guidance of his host,
Rolf set about making his own bed. Two logs, each four inches thick and
three feet long, were cut. Then two strong poles, each six feet long,
were laid into notches at the ends of the short logs. About seventy-five
straight sticks of willow were cut and woven with willow bark into a
lattice, three feet wide and six feet long. This, laid on the poles,
furnished a spring mattress, on which a couple of blankets made a most
comfortable couch, dry, warm, and off the ground. In addition to the
lodge cover, each bed had a dew cloth which gave perfect protection, no
matter how the storm might rage outdoors. There was no hardship in it,
only a new-found pleasure, to sleep and breathe the pure night air of
the woods.

The Grass Moon--April--had passed, and the Song Moon was waxing, with
its hosts of small birds, and one of Rolf’s early discoveries was that
many of these love to sing by night. Again and again the familiar voice
of the song sparrow came from the dark shore of Asamuk, or the field
sparrow trilled from the top of some cedar, occasionally the painted
one, Aunakeu, the partridge, drummed in the upper woods, and nightly
there was the persistent chant of Muckawis, the whippoorwill, the myriad
voices of the little frogs called spring-peepers, and the peculiar,
“peent, peent,” from the sky, followed by a twittering, that Quonab told
him was the love song of the swamp bird--the big snipe, with the fantail
and long, soft bill, and eyes like a deer.

“Do you mean the woodcock?” “Ugh, that’s the name; Pah-dash-ka-anja we
call it.”

The waning of the moon brought new songsters, with many a nightingale
among them. A low bush near the plain was vocal during the full moon
with the sweet but disconnected music of the yellow-breasted chat. The
forest rang again and again with a wild, torrential strain of music
that seemed to come from the stars. It sent peculiar thrill into Rolf’s
heart, and gave him a lump his throat as he listened.

“What is that, Quonab?”

The Indian shook his head. Then, later, when it ended, he said: “That
is the mystery song of some one I never saw him.”

There was a long silence, then the lad began, “There’s no good hunting
here now, Quonab. Why don’t you go to the north woods, where deer are
plentiful?”

The Indian gave a short shake of his head, and then to prevent further
talk, “Put up your dew cloth; the sea wind blows to-night.”

He finished; both stood for a moment gazing into the fire. Then Rolf
felt something wet and cold thrust into his hand. It was Skookum’s nose.
At last the little dog had made up his mind to accept the white boy as a
friend.



Chapter 7. Rolf Works Out with Many Results

     He is the dumbest kind of a dumb fool that ain’t king in
     some little corner.--Sayings of Si Sylvanne

The man who has wronged you will never forgive you, and he who has
helped you will be forever grateful. Yes, there is nothing that draws
you to a man so much as the knowledge that you have helped him.

Quonab helped Rolf, and so was more drawn to him than to many of the
neighbours that he had known for years; he was ready to like him.
Their coming together was accidental, but it was soon very clear that a
friendship was springing up between them. Rolf was too much of a child
to think about the remote future; and so was Quonab. Most Indians are
merely tall children.

But there was one thing that Rolf did think of--he had no right to
live in Quonab’s lodge without contributing a fair share of the things
needful. Quonab got his living partly by hunting, partly by fishing,
partly by selling baskets, and partly by doing odd jobs for the
neighbours. Rolf’s training as a loafer had been wholly neglected,
and when he realized that he might be all summer with Quonab he said
bluntly:

“You let me stay here a couple of months. I’ll work out odd days, and
buy enough stuff to keep myself any way.” Quonab said nothing, but their
eyes met, and the boy knew it was agreed to.

Rolf went that very day to the farm of Obadiah Timpany, and offered to
work by the day, hoeing corn and root crops. What farmer is not glad of
help in planting time or in harvest? It was only a question of what did
he know and how much did he want? The first was soon made clear; two
dollars a week was the usual thing for boys in those times, and when he
offered to take it half in trade, he was really getting three dollars a
week and his board. Food was as low as wages, and at the end of a week,
Rolf brought back to camp a sack of oatmeal, a sack of cornmeal, a
bushel of potatoes, a lot of apples, and one dollar cash. The dollar
went for tea and sugar, and the total product was enough to last them
both a month; so Rolf could share the wigwam with a good conscience.

Of course, it was impossible to keep the gossipy little town of Myanos
from knowing, first, that the Indian had a white boy for partner; and,
later, that that boy was Rolf. This gave rise to great diversity of
opinion in the neighbourhood. Some thought it should not be allowed, but
Horton, who owned the land on which Quonab was camped, could not see any
reason for interfering.

Ketchura Peck, spinster, however, did see many most excellent reasons.
She was a maid with a mission, and maintained it to be an outrage that a
Christian boy should be brought up by a godless pagan. She worried over
it almost as much as she did over the heathen in Central Africa, where
there are no Sunday schools, and clothes are as scarce as churches.
Failing to move Parson Peck and Elder Knapp in the matter, and
despairing of an early answer to her personal prayers, she resolved on
a bold move, “An’ it was only after many a sleepless, prayerful night,”
 namely, to carry the Bible into the heathen’s stronghold.

Thus it was that one bright morning in June she might have been seen,
prim and proper--almost glorified, she felt, as she set her lips just
right in the mirror--making for the Pipestave Pond, Bible in hand and
spectacles clean wiped, ready to read appropriate selections to the
unregenerate.

She was full of the missionary spirit when she left Myanos, and partly
full when she reached the Orchard Street Trail; but the spirit was
leaking badly, and the woods did appear so wild and lonely that she
wondered if women had any right to be missionaries. When she came in
sight of the pond, the place seemed unpleasantly different from Myanos
and where was the Indian camp? She did not dare to shout; indeed, she
began to wish she were home again, but the sense of duty carried her
fully fifty yards along the pond, and then she came to an impassable
rock, a sheer bank that plainly said, “Stop!” Now she must go back or up
the bank. Her Yankee pertinacity said, “Try first up the bank,” and she
began a long, toilsome ascent, that did not end until she came out on a
high, open rock which, on its farther side, had a sheer drop and gave a
view of the village and of the sea.

Whatever joy she had on again seeing her home was speedily queued in the
fearsome discovery that she was right over the Indian camp, and the two
inmates looked so utterly, dreadfully savage that she was thankful
they had not seen her. At once she shrank back; but on recovering
sufficiently to again peer down, she saw something roasting before the
fire--“a tiny arm with a hand that bore five fingers,” as she afterward
said, and “a sickening horror came over her.” Yes, she had heard of
such things. If she could only get home in safety! Why had she tempted
Providence thus? She backed softly and prayed only to escape. What, and
never even deliver the Bible? “It would be wicked to return with it!” In
a cleft of the rock she placed it, and then, to prevent the wind blowing
off loose leaves, she placed a stone on top, and fled from the dreadful
place.

That night, when Quonab and Rolf had finished their meal of corn and
roasted coon, the old man climbed the rock to look at the sky. The book
caught his eye at once, evidently hidden there carefully, and therefore
in cache. A cache is a sacred thing to an Indian. He disturbed it not,
but later asked Rolf, “That yours?”

“No.”

It was doubtless the property of some one who meant to return for it, so
they left it untouched. It rested there for many months, till the winter
storms came down, dismantling the covers, dissolving the pages, but
leaving such traces as, in the long afterward, served to identify the
book and give the rock the other name, the one it bears to-day--“Bible
Rock, where Quonab, the son of Cos Cob, used to live.”



Chapter 8. The Law of Property Among Our Four-Footed Kin

Night came down on the Asamuk woods, and the two in the wigwam were
eating their supper of pork, beans, and tea, for the Indian did not, by
any means object to the white man’s luxuries, when a strange “yap-yurr”
 was heard out toward the plain. The dog was up at once with a growl.
Rolf looked inquiringly, and Quonab said, “Fox,” then bade the dog be
still.

“Yap-yurr, yap-yurr,” and then, “yurr, yeow,” it came again and again.
“Can we get him?” said the eager young hunter. The Indian shook his
head.

“Fur no good now. An’ that’s a she-one, with young ones on the
hillside.”

“How do you know?” was the amazed inquiry. “I know it’s a she-one,
‘cause she says:

“Yap-yurr” (high pitched)

If it was a he-one he’d say:

“Yap-yurr” (low pitched)

“And she has cubs, ‘cause all have at this season. And they are on that
hillside, because that’s the nearest place where any fox den is, and
they keep pretty much to their own hunting grounds. If another fox
should come hunting on the beat of this pair, he’d have to fight for it.
That is the way of the wild animals; each has his own run, and for that
he will fight an outsider that he would be afraid of at any other
place. One knows he is right--that braces him up; the other knows he is
wrong--and that weakens him.” Those were the Indian’s views, expressed
much less connectedly than here given, and they led Rolf on to a train
of thought. He remembered a case that was much to the point.

Their little dog Skookum several times had been worsted by the dog on
the Horton farm, when, following his master, he had come into the
house yard. There was no question that the Horton dog was stronger. But
Skookum had buried a bone under some brushes by the plain and next day
the hated Horton dog appeared. Skookum watched him with suspicion and
fear, until it was no longer doubtful that the enemy had smelled the
hidden food and was going for it. Then Skookum, braced up by some
instinctive feeling, rushed forward with bristling mane and gleaming
teeth, stood over his cache, and said in plainest dog, “You can’t touch
that while I live!”

And the Horton dog--accustomed to domineer over the small yellow
cur--growled contemptuously, scratched with his hind feet, smelled
around an adjoining bush, and pretending not to see or notice, went off
in another direction.

What was it that robbed him of his courage, but the knowledge that he
was in the wrong?

Continuing with his host Rolf said, “Do you think they have any idea
that it is wrong to steal?”

“Yes, so long as it is one of their own tribe. A fox will take all he
can get from a bird or a rabbit or a woodchuck, but he won’t go far on
the hunting grounds of another fox. He won’t go into another fox’s den
or touch one of its young ones, and if he finds a cache of food with
another fox’s mark on it, he won’t touch it unless he is near dead of
hunger.”

“How do you mean they cache food and how do they mark it?”

“Generally they bury it under the leaves and soft earth, and the only
mark is to leave their body scent. But that is strong enough, and every
fox knows it.”

“Do wolves make food caches?”

“Yes, wolves, cougars, weasels, squirrels, bluejays, crows, owls, mice,
all do, and all have their own way of marking a place.”

“Suppose a fox finds a wolf cache, will he steal from it?”

“Yes, always. There is no law between fox and wolf. They are always at
war with each other. There is law only between fox and fox, or wolf and
wolf.”

“That is like ourselves, ain’t it? We say, ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ and
then when we steal the Indian’s land or the Frenchman’s ships, we say,
‘Oh, that don’t mean not steal from our enemies; they are fair game.’”

Quonab rose to throw some sticks on the fire, then went out to turn the
smoke flap of the wigwam, for the wind was changed and another set
was needed to draw the smoke. They heard several times again the
high-pitched “yap yurr,” and once the deeper notes, which told that the
dog fox, too, was near the camp, and was doubtless seeking food to carry
home.



Chapter 9. Where the Bow Is Better Than the Gun

Of all popular errors about the Indians, the hardest to down is the idea
that their women do all the work. They do the housework, it is true, but
all the heavy labour beyond their strength is done by the men. Examples
of this are seen in the frightful toil of hunting, canoeing, and
portaging, besides a multitude of kindred small tasks, such as making
snowshoes, bows, arrows, and canoes.

Each warrior usually makes his own bow and arrows, and if, as often
happens, one of them proves more skilful and turns out better weapons,
it is a common thing for others to offer their own specialty in
exchange.

The advantages of the bow over the gun are chiefly its noiselessness,
its cheapness, and the fact that one can make its ammunition anywhere.
As the gun chiefly used in Quonab’s time was the old-fashioned,
smooth-bore flint-lock, there was not much difference in the accuracy
of the two weapons. Quonab had always made a highclass bow, as well as
high-class arrows, and was a high-class shot. He could set up ten clam
shells at ten paces and break all in ten shots. For at least half of
his hunting he preferred the bow; the gun was useful to him chiefly
when flocks of wild pigeons or ducks were about, and a single charge of
scattering shot might bring down a dozen birds.

But there is a law in all shooting--to be expert, you must practise
continually--and when Rolf saw his host shoot nearly every day at some
mark, he tried to join in the sport.

It took not many trys to show that the bow was far too strong for him
to use, and Quonab was persuaded at length to make an outfit for his
visitor.

From the dry store hole under the rock, he produced a piece of common
red cedar. Some use hickory; it is less liable to break and will stand
more abuse, but it has not the sharp, clean action of cedar. The latter
will send the arrow much farther, and so swiftly does it leave the
string that it baffles the eye. But the cedar bow must be cared for like
a delicate machine; overstring it, and it breaks; twang it without an
arrow, and it sunders the cords; scratch it, and it may splinter; wet
it, and it is dead; let it lie on the ground, even, and it is weakened.
But guard it and it will serve you as a matchless servant, and as can no
other timber in these woods.

Just where the red heart and the white sap woods join is the bowman’s
choice. A piece that reached from Rolf’s chin to the ground was shaved
down till it was flat on the white side and round on the red side,
tapering from the middle, where it was one inch wide and one inch thick
to the ends, where it was three fourths of an inch wide and five eighths
of an inch thick, the red and white wood equal in all parts.

The string was made of sinew from the back of a cow, split from the
long, broad sheath that lies on each side the spine, and the bow strung
for trial. Now, on drawing it (flat or white side in front), it was
found that one arm bent more than the other, so a little more scraping
was done on the strong side, till both bent alike.

Quonab’s arrows would answer, but Rolf needed a supply of his own. Again
there was great choice of material. The long, straight shoots ol’ the
arrowwood (Viburnuin dentatum) supplied the ancient Indians, but
Quonab had adopted a better way, since the possession of an axe made it
possible. A 25-inch block of straight-grained ash was split and split
until it yielded enough pieces. These were shaved down to one fourth of
an inch thick, round, smooth, and perfectly straight. Each was notched
deeply at one end; three pieces of split goose feather were lashed on
the notched end, and three different kinds of arrows were made. All were
alike in shaft and in feathering, but differed in the head. First, the
target arrows: these were merely sharpened, and the points hardened by
roasting to a brown colour. They would have been better with conical
points of steel, but none of these were to be had. Second, the ordinary
hunting arrows with barbed steel heads, usually bought ready-made, or
filed out of a hoop: these were for use in securing such creatures as
muskrats, ducks close at hand, or deer. Third, the bird bolts: these
were left with a large, round, wooden head. They were intended for
quail, partridges, rabbits, and squirrels, but also served very often,
and most admirably, in punishing dogs, either the Indian’s own when he
was not living up to the rules and was too far off for a cuff or kick,
or a farmer’s dog that was threatening an attack.

Now the outfit was complete, Rolf thought, but one other touch was
necessary. Quonab painted the feather part of the shaft bright red, and
Rolf learned why. Not for ornament, not as an owner’s mark, but as a
finding mark. Many a time that brilliant red, with the white feather
next it, was the means of saving the arrow from loss. An uncoloured
arrow among the sticks and leaves of the woods was usually hidden, but
the bright-coloured shaft could catch the eye 100 yards away.

It was very necessary to keep the bow and arrows from the wet. For this,
every hunter provides a case, usually of buckskin, but failing that they
made a good quiver of birch bark laced with spruce roots for the arrows,
and for the bow itself a long cover of tarpaulin.

Now came the slow drilling in archery; the arrow held and the bow
drawn with three fingers on the cord--the thumb and little finger doing
nothing. The target was a bag of hay set at twenty feet, until the
beginner could hit it every time: then by degrees it was moved away
until at the standard distance of forty yards he could do fair shooting,
although of course he never shot as well as the Indian, who had
practised since he was a baby.

There are three different kinds of archery tests: the first for aim: Can
you shoot so truly as to hit a three-inch mark, ten times in succession,
at ten paces?

Next for speed: Can you shoot so quickly and so far up, as to have five
arrows in the air at once? If so, you are good: Can you keep up six?
Then you are very good. Seven is wonderful. The record is said to be
eight. Last for power: Can you pull so strong a bow and let the arrow go
so clean that it will fly for 250 yards or will pass through a deer at
ten paces? There is a record of a Sioux who sent an arrow through three
antelopes at one shot, and it was not unusual to pierce the huge buffalo
through and through; on one occasion a warrior with one shot pierced the
buffalo and killed her calf running at the other side.

If you excel in these three things, you can down your partridge and
squirrel every time; you can get five or six out of each flock of birds;
you can kill your deer at twenty-five yards, and so need never starve in
the woods where there is game.

Of course, Rolf was keen to go forth and try in the real chase, but it
was many a shot he missed and many an arrow lost or broken, before
he brought in even a red squirrel, and he got, at least, a higher
appreciation of the skill of those who could count on the bow for their
food.

For those, then, who think themselves hunters and woodmen, let this be
a test and standard: Can you go forth alone into the wilderness where
there is game, take only a bow and arrows for weapons, and travel afoot
250 miles, living on the country as you go?



Chapter 10. Rolf Works Out with Many Results

    He is the dumbest kind of a dumb fool that ain’t king in some
    little corner.--_Sayings of Si Sylvanne_


The man who has wronged you will never forgive you, and he who has
helped you will be forever grateful. Yes, there is nothing that draws
you to a man so much as the knowledge that you have helped him.

Quonab helped Rolf, and so was more drawn to him than to many of the
neighbours that he had known cor years; he was ready to like him. Their
coming together ffas accidental, but it was soon very clear that a
friendship was springing up between them. Rolf was too much of a child
to think about the remote future; and so was Quonab. Most Indians are
merely tall children.

But there was one thing that Rolf did think of--he had no right to live
in Quonab’s lodge without contributing a fair share of the things
needful. Quonab got his living partly by hunting, partly by fishing,
partly by selling baskets, and partly by doing odd jobs for the
neighbours. Rolf’s training as a loafer had been wholly neglected, and
when he realized that he might be all summer with Quonab he said
bluntly:

“You let me stay here a couple of months. I’ll work out odd days, and
buy enough stuff to keep myself any way.” Quonab said nothing, but
their eyes met, and the boy knew it was agreed to.

Rolf went that very day to the farm of Obadiah Timpany, and offered to
work by the day, hoeing corn and root crops. What farmer is not glad of
help in planting time 01 in harvest? It was only a question of what did
he know and how much did he want? The first was soon made clear; two
dollars a week was the usual thing for boys in those times, and when he
offered to take it half in trade, he was really getting three dollars a
week and his board. Food was as low as wages, and at the end of a week,
Rolf brought back to camp a sack of oatmeal, a sack of cornmeal, a
bushel of potatoes, a lot of apples, and one dollar cash. The dollar
went for tea and sugar, and the total product was enough to last them
both a month; so Rolf could share the wigwam with a good conscience.

Of course, it was impossible to keep the gossipy little town of Myanos
from knowing, first, that the Indian had a white boy for partner; and,
later, that that boy was Rolf. This gave rise to great diversity of
opinion in the neighbourhood. Some thought it should not be allowed,
but Horton, who owned the land on which Quonab was camped, could not
see any reason for interfering.

Ketchura Peck, spinster, however, did see many most excellent reasons.
She was a maid with a mission, and maintained it to be an outrage that
a Christian boy should be brought up by a godless pagan. She worried
over it almost as much as she did over the heathen in Central Africa,
where there are no Sunday schools, and clothes are as scarce as
churches. Failing to move Parson Peck and Elder Knapp in the matter,
and despairing of an early answer to her personal prayers, she resolved
on a bold move, “An’ it was only after many a sleepless, prayerful
night,” namely, to carry the Bible into the heathen’s stronghold.

Thus it was that one bright morning in June she might have been seen,
prim and proper--almost glorified, she felt, as she set her lips just
right in the mirror--making for the Pipestave Pond, Bible in hand and
spectacles clear wiped, ready to read appropriate selections to the
unregenerate.

She was full of the missionary spirit when she left Myanos, and partly
full when she reached the Orchard Street Trail; but the spirit was
leaking badly, and the woods did appear so wild and lonely that she
wondered if women had any right to be missionaries. When she came in
sight of the pond, the place seemed unpleasantly different from Myanos
and where was the Indian camp? She did not dare to shout; indeed, she
began to wish she were home again, but the sense of duty carried her
fully fifty yards along the pond, and then she came to an impassable
rock, a sheer bank that plainly said, “Stop!” Now she must go back or
up the bank. Her Yankee pertinacity said, “Try first up the bank,” and
she began a long, toilsome ascent, that did not end until she came out
on a high, open rock which, on its farther side, had a sheer drop and
gave a view of the village and of the sea.

Whatever joy she had on again seeing her home was speedily quelled in
the fearsome discovery that she was right over the Indian camp, and the
two inmates looked so utterly, dreadfully savage that she was thankful
they had not seen her. At once she shrank back; but on recovering
sufficiently to again peer down, she saw something roasting before the
fire--“a tiny arm with a hand that bore five fingers,” as she afterward
said, and “a sickening horror came over her.” Yes, she had heard of
such things. If she could only get home in safety! Why had she tempted
Providence thus? She backed softly and prayed only to escape. What, and
never even deliver the Bible? “It would be wicked to return with it!”
 In a cleft of the rock she placed it, and then, to prevent the wind
blowing off loose leaves, she placed a stone on top, and fled from the
dreadful place.

That night, when Quonab and Rolf had finished theic meal of corn and
roasted coon, the old man climbed the rock to look at the sky. The book
caught his eye at once, evidently hidden there carefully, and therefore
in cache. A cache is a sacred thing to an Indian. He disturbed it not,
but later asked Rolf, “That yours?”

“No.”

It was doubtless the property of some one who meant to return for it,
so they left it untouched. It rested there for many months, till the
winter storms came down, dismantling the covers, dissolving the pages,
but leaving such traces as, in the long afterward, served to identify
the book and give the rock the other name, the one it bears
to-day--“Bible Rock, where Quonab, the son of Cos Cob, used to live.”



Chapter 11. The Thunder-storm and the Fire Sticks

When first Rolf noticed the wigwam’s place, he wondered that Quonab had
not set it somewhere facing the lake, but he soon learned that it is
best to have the morning sun, the afternoon shade, and shelter from the
north and west winds.

The first two points were illustrated nearly every day; but it was two
weeks before the last was made clear.

That day the sun came up in a red sky, but soon was lost to view in a
heavy cloud-bank. There was no wind, and, as the morning passed, the day
grew hotter and closer. Quonab prepared for a storm; but it came with
unexpected force, and a gale of wind from the northwest that would
indeed have wrecked the lodge, but for the great sheltering rock. Under
its lea there was hardy a breeze; but not fifty yards away were two
trees that rubbed together, and in the storm they rasped so violently
that fine shreds of smoking wood were dropped and, but for the rain,
would surely have made a blaze. The thunder was loud and lasted long,
and the water poured down in torrents. They were ready for rain, but not
for the flood that rushed over the face of the cliff, soaking everything
in the lodge except the beds, which, being four inches off the ground,
were safe; and lying on them the two campers waited patiently, or
impatiently, while the weather raged for two drenching hours. And then
the pouring became a pattering; the roaring, a swishing; the storm, a
shower which died away, leaving changing patches of blue in the lumpy
sky, and all nature calm and pleased, but oh, so wet! Of course the fire
was out in the lodge and nearly all the wood was wet. Now Quonab drew
from a small cave some dry cedar and got down his tinder-box with flint
and steel to light up; but a serious difficulty appeared at once--the
tinder was wet and useless.

These were the days before matches were invented. Every one counted on
flint and steel for their fire, but the tinder was an essential, and now
a fire seemed hopeless; at least Rolf thought so.

“Nana Bojou was dancing that time,” said the Indian.

“Did you see him make fire with those two rubbing trees? So he taught
our fathers, and so make we fire when the tricks of the white man fail
us.”

Quonab now cut two pieces of dry cedar, one three fourths of an inch
thick and eighteen inches long, round, and pointed at both ends; the
other five eighths of an inch thick and flat. In the flat one he cut a
notch and at the end of the notch a little pit. Next he made a bow of
a stiff, curved stick, and a buckskin thong: a small pine knot was
selected and a little pit made in it with the point of a knife. These
were the fare-making sticks, but it was necessary to prepare the
firewood, lay the fire, and make some fibre for tinder. A lot of fine
cedar shavings, pounded up with cedar bark and rolled into a two-inch
ball, made good tinder, and all was ready. Quonab put the bow thong once
around the long stick, then held its point in the pit of the flat stick,
and the pine knot on the top to steady it. Now he drew the bow back and
forth, slowly, steadily, till the long stick or drill revolving ground
smoking black dust out of the notch. Then faster, until the smoke was
very strong and the powder filled the notch. Then he lifted the flat
stick, fanning the powder with his hands till a glowing coal appeared.
Over this he put the cedar tinder and blew gently, till it flamed, and
soon the wigwam was aglow.

The whole time taken, from lifting the sticks to the blazing fire, was
less than one minute.

This is the ancient way of the Indian; Rolf had often heard of it as a
sort of semi-myth; never before had he seen it, and so far as he could
learn from the books, it took an hour or two of hard work, not a few
deft touches and a few seconds of time.

He soon learned to do it himself, and in the years which followed,
he had the curious experience of showing it to many Indians who had
forgotten how, thanks to the greater portability of the white man’s
flint and steel.

As they walked in the woods that day, they saw three trees that had been
struck by lightning during the recent storm; all three were oaks. Then
it occurred to Rolf that he had never seen any but an oak struck by
lightning.

“Is it so, Quonab?”

“No, there are many others; the lightning strikes the oaks most of all,
but it will strike the pine, the ash, the hemlock, the basswood, and
many more. Only two trees have I never seen struck, the balsam and the
birch.”

“Why do they escape?”

“My father told me when I was a little boy it was because they sheltered
and warmed the Star-girl, who was the sister of the Thunder-bird.”

“I never heard that; tell me about it.”

“Sometime maybe, not now.”



Chapter 12. Hunting the Woodchucks

Cornmeal and potatoes, with tea and apples, three times a day, are apt
to lose their charm. Even fish did not entirely satisfy the craving for
flesh meat. So Quonab and Rolf set out one morning on a regular hunt for
food. The days of big game were over on the Asamuk, but there were still
many small kinds and none more abundant than the woodchuck, hated of
farmers. Not without reason. Each woodchuck hole in the field was a
menace to the horses’ legs. Tradition, at least, said that horses’ legs
and riders’ necks had been broken by the steed setting foot in one of
these dangerous pitfalls: besides which, each chuck den was the hub
centre of an area of desolation whenever located, as mostly it was, in
the cultivated fields. Undoubtedly the damage was greatly exaggerated,
but the farmers generally agreed that the woodchuck was a pest.

Whatever resentment the tiller of the soil might feel against the
Indian’s hunting quail on his land, he always welcomed him as a killer
of woodchucks.

And the Indian looked on this animal as fair game and most excellent
eating.

Rolf watched eagerly when Quonab, taking his bow and arrows, said they
were going out for a meat hunt. Although there were several fields
with woodchucks resident, they passed cautiously from one to another,
scanning the green expanse for the dark-brown spots that meant
woodchucks out foraging. At length they found one, with a large and two
small moving brown things among the clover. The large one stood up on
its hind legs from time to time, ever alert for danger. It was a broad,
open field, without cover; but close to the cleared place in which,
doubtless, was the den, there was a ridge that Quonab judged would help
him to approach.

Rolf was instructed to stay in hiding and make some Indian signs that
the hunter could follow when he should lose sight of the prey. First,
“Come on” (beckoning); and, second, “Stop,” (hand raised, palm forward);
“All right” (hand drawn across level and waist high); forefinger moved
forward, level, then curved straight down, meant “gone in hole.” But
Rolf was not to sign anything or move, unless Quonab asked him by making
the question sign (that is waving his hand with palm forward and spread
fingers).

Quonab went back into the woods, then behind the stone walls to get
around to the side next the ridge, and crawling so flat on his breast in
the clover that, although it was but a foot high, he was quite invisible
to any one not placed much above him.

In this way he came to the little ridge back of the woodchuck den, quite
unknown to its occupants. But now he was in a difficulty. He could not
see any of them.

They were certainly beyond range of his bow, and it was difficult to
make them seek the den without their rushing into it. But he was
equal to the occasion. He raised one hand and made the query sign, and
watching Rolf he got answer, “All well; they are there.” (A level sweep
of the flat hand and a finger pointing steadily.) Then he waited a few
seconds and made exactly the same sign, getting the same answer.

He knew that the movement of the distant man would catch the eye of the
old woodchuck; she would sit up high to see what it was, and when it
came a second time she would, without being exactly alarmed, move toward
the den and call the young ones to follow.

The hunter had not long to wait. He heard her shrill, warning whistle,
then the big chuck trotted and waddled into sight, stopping occasionally
to nibble or look around. Close behind her were the two fat cubs.
Arrived near the den their confidence was restored, and again they began
to feed, the young ones close to the den. Then Quonab put a blunt bird
dart in his bow and laid two others ready. Rising as little as possible,
he drew the bow. ‘Tsip! the blunt arrow hit the young chuck on the nose
and turned him over. The other jumped in surprise and stood up. So did
the mother. ‘Tsip! another bolt and the second chuck was kicking. But
the old one dashed like a flash into the underground safety of her den.
Quonab knew that she had seen nothing of him and would likely come forth
very soon. He waited for some time; then the gray-brown muzzle of the
fat old clover-stealer came partly to view; but it was not enough for
a shot, and she seemed to have no idea of coming farther. The Indian
waited what seemed like a long time, then played an ancient trick. He
began to whistle a soft, low air. Whether the chuck thinks it is another
woodchuck calling, or merely a pleasant sound, is not known, but she
soon did as her kind always does, came out of the hole slowly and ever
higher, till she was half out and sitting up, peering about.

This was Quonab’s chance. He now drew a barbed hunting arrow to the head
and aimed it behind her shoulders. ‘Tsip! and the chuck was transfixed
by a shaft that ended her life a minute later, and immediately prevented
that instinctive scramble into the hole, by which so many chucks elude
the hunter, even when mortally wounded.

Now Quonab stood up without further concealment, and beckoned to Rolf,
who came running. Three fat woodchucks meant abundance of the finest
fresh meat for a week; and those who have not tried it have no idea
what a delicacy is a young, fat, clover-fed woodchuck, pan-roasted, with
potatoes, and served at a blazing campfire to a hunter who is young,
strong, and exceedingly hungry.



Chapter 13. The Fight with the Demon of the Deep

One morning, as they passed the trail that skirts the pond, Quonab
pointed to the near water. There was something afloat like a small,
round leaf, with two beads well apart, on it. Then Rolf noticed, two
feet away, a larger floating leaf, and now he knew that the first was
the head and eyes, the last the back, of a huge snapping turtle. A
moment more and it quickly sank from view. Turtles of three different
kinds were common, and snappers were well known to Rolf; but never
before had he seen such a huge and sinister-looking monster of the deep.

“That is Bosikado. I know him; he knows me,” said the red man. “There
has long been war between us; some day we will settle it. I saw him
here first three years ago. I had shot a duck; it floated on the water.
Before I could get to it something pulled it under, and that was the
last of it. Then a summer duck came with young ones. One by one he took
them, and at last got her. He drives all ducks away, so I set many night
lines for him. I got some little snappers, eight and ten pounds each.
They were good to eat, and three times already I took Bosikado on the
hooks, but each time when I pulled him up to the canoe, he broke my
biggest line and went down. He was as broad as the canoe; his claws
broke through the canoe skin; he made it bulge and tremble. He looked
like the devil of the lake. I was afraid!

“But my father taught me there is only one thing that can shame a
man--that is to be afraid, and I said I will never let fear be my guide.
I will seek a fair fight with Bosikado. He is my enemy. He made me
afraid once; I will make him much afraid. For three years we have been
watching each other. For three years he has kept all summer ducks away,
and robbed my fish-lines, my nets, and my muskrat traps. Not often do I
see him--mostly like today.

“Before Skookum I had a little dog, Nindai. He was a good little dog. He
could tree a coon, catch a rabbit, or bring out a duck, although he was
very small. We were very good friends. One time I shot a duck; it fell
into the lake; I called Nindai. He jumped into the water and swam to
the duck. Then that duck that I thought dead got up and flew away, so I
called Nindai. He came across the water to me. By and by, over that deep
place, he howled and splashed. Then he yelled, like he wanted me. I ran
for the canoe and paddled quick; I saw my little dog Nindai go down.
Then I knew it was that Bosikado again. I worked a long time with a
pole, but found nothing; only five days later one of Nindai’s paws
floated down the stream. Some day I will tear open that Bosikado!

“Once I saw him on the bank. He rolled down like a big stone to the
water. He looked at me before he dived, and as we looked in each other’s
eyes I knew he was a Manito; but he is evil, and my father said, ‘When
an evil Manito comes to trouble you, you must kill him.’

“One day, when I swam after a dead duck, he took me by the toe, but I
reached shallow water and escaped him; and once I drove my fish-spear
in his back, but it was not strong enough to hold him. Once he caught
Skookum’s tail, but the hair came out; the dog has not since swum across
the pond.

“Twice I have seen him like today and might have killed him with the
gun, but I want to meet him fighting. Many a time I have sat on the bank
and sung to him the ‘Coward’s Song,’ and dared him to come and fight in
the shallow water where we are equals. He hears me. He does not come.

“I know he made me sick last winter; even now he is making trouble with
his evil magic. But my magic must prevail, and some day we shall meet.
He made me afraid once. I will make him much afraid, and will meet him
in the water.”

Not many days were to pass before the meeting. Rolf had gone for water
at the well, which was a hole dug ten feet from the shore of the lake.
He had learned the hunter’s cautious trick of going silently and peering
about, before he left cover. On a mud bank in a shallow bay, some fifty
yards off, he described a peculiar gray and greenish form that he slowly
made out to be a huge turtle, sunning itself. The more he looked and
gauged it with things about, the bigger it seemed. So he slunk back
quickly and silently to Quonab. “He is out sunning himself--Bosikado--on
the bank!”

The Indian rose quickly, took his tomahawk and a strong line. Rolf
reached for the gun, but Quonab shook his head. They went to the lake.
Yes! There was the great, goggle-eyed monster, like a mud-coloured
log. The bank behind him was without cover. It would be impossible to
approach the watchful creature within striking distance before he could
dive. Quonab would not use the gun; in this case he felt he must atone
by making an equal fight. He quickly formed a plan; he fastened the
tomahawk and the coiled rope to his belt, then boldly and silently
slipped into the lake, to approach the snapper from the water
side--quite the easiest in this case, not only because the snapper would
naturally watch on the land side, but because there was a thick clump of
rushes behind which the swimmer could approach.

Then, as instructed, Rolf went back into the woods, and came silently
to a place whence he could watch the snapper from a distance of twenty
yards.

The boy’s heart beat fast as he watched the bold swimmer and the savage
reptile. There could be little doubt that the creature weighed a
hundred pounds. It is the strongest for its size and the fiercest of all
reptiles. Its jaws, though toothless, have cutting edges, a sharp beak,
and power to the crushing of bones. Its armour makes it invulnerable to
birds and beasts of prey. Like a log it lay on the beach, with its long
alligator tail stretched up the bank and its serpentine head and tiny
wicked eyes vigilantly watching the shore. Its shell, broad and ancient,
was fringed with green moss, and its scaly armpits exposed, were decked
with leeches, at which a couple of peetweets pecked with eager interest,
apparently to the monster’s satisfaction. Its huge limbs and claws were
in marked contrast to the small, red eyes. But the latter it was that
gave the thrill of unnervement.

Sunk down nearly out of sight, the Indian slowly reached the reeds. Here
he found bottom, and pausing, he took the rope in one hand, the tomahawk
in the other, and dived, and when he reappeared he was within ten yards
of the enemy, and in water but four feet deep.

With a sudden rush the reptile splashed into the pond and out of sight,
avoiding the rope noose. But Quonab clutched deep in the water as
it passed, and seized the monster’s rugged tail. Then it showed its
strength. In a twinkling that mighty tail was swung sidewise, crushing
the hand with terrible force against the sharp-edged points of the back
armour. It took all the Indian’s grit to hold on to that knife-edged war
club. He dropped his tomahawk, then with his other hand swung the rope
to catch the turtle’s head, but it lurched so quickly that the rope
missed again, slipped over the shell, and, as they struggled, encircled
one huge paw. The Indian jerked it tight, and they were bound together.
But now his only weapon was down at the bottom and the water all
muddied. He could not see, but plunged to grope for the tomahawk. The
snapper gave a great lurch to escape, releasing the injured hand, but
jerking the man off his legs. Then, finding itself held by a forepaw, it
turned with gaping, hissing jaws, and sprang on the foe that struggled
in bottom of the water.

The snapper has the bulldog habit to seize and hold till the piece tears
out. In the muddy water it had to seize in the dark, and fending first
the left arm of its foe, fastened on with fierce beak and desperate
strength. At this moment Quonab recovered his tomahawk; rising into the
air he dragged up the hanging snapper, and swung the weapon with all the
force of his free arm. The blow sank through the monster’s shell, deep
into its back, without any visible effect, except to rob the Indian of
his weapon as he could not draw it out.

Then Rolf rushed into the water to help. But Quonab gasped, “No, no, go
back--I’m alone.”

The creature’s jaws were locked on his arm, but its front claws, tearing
downward and outward, were demolishing the coat that had protected it,
and long lines of mingled blood were floating on the waves.

After a desperate plunge toward shallow water, Quonab gave another
wrench to the tomahawk--it moved, loosed; another, and it was free.
Then “chop, chop, chop,” and that long, serpentine neck was severed; the
body, waving its great scaly legs and lashing its alligator tail, went
swimming downward, but the huge head, blinking its bleary, red eyes and
streaming with blood, was clinched on his arm. The Indian made for the
bank hauling the rope that held the living body, and fastened it to a
tree, then drew his knife to cut the jaw muscles of the head that ground
its beak into his flesh. But the muscles were protected by armour
plates and bone; he could not deal a stab to end their power. In vain he
fumbled and slashed, until in a spasmodic quiver the jaws gaped wide and
the bloody head fell to the ground. Again it snapped, but a tree branch
bore the brunt; on this the strong jaws clinched, and so remained.

For over an hour the headless body crawled, or tried to crawl, always
toward the lake. And now they could look at the enemy. Not his size so
much as his weight surprised them. Although barely four feet long, he
was so heavy that Rolf could not lift him. Quonab’s scratches were many
but slight; only the deep bill wound made his arm and the bruises of the
jaws were at all serious and of these he made light. Headed by Skookum
in full ‘yap,’ they carried the victim’s body to camp; the head, still
dutching the stick, was decorated with three feathers, then set on a
pole near the wigwam. And the burden of the red man’s song when next he
sang was:

“Bosikado, mine enemy was mighty, But I went into his country And made
him afraid!”



Chapter 14. Selectman Horton Appears at the Rock

Summer was at its height on the Asamuk. The woodthrush was nearing the
end of its song; a vast concourse of young robins in their speckled
plumage joined chattering every night in the thickest cedars; and one or
two broods of young ducks were seen on the Pipestave Pond.

Rolf had grown wonderfully well into his wigwam life. He knew now
exactly how to set the flap so as to draw out all the smoke, no matter
which way the wind blew; he had learned the sunset signs, which tell
what change of wind the night might bring. He knew without going to the
shore whether the tide was a little ebb, with poor chances, or a mighty
outflow that would expose the fattest oyster beds. His practiced fingers
told at a touch whether it was a turtle or a big fish on his night line;
and by the tone of the tom-tom he knew when a rainstorm was at hand.

Being trained in industry, he had made many improvements in their camp,
not the least of which was to clean up and burn all the rubbish and
garbage that attracted hordes of flies. He had fitted into the camp
partly by changing it to fit himself, and he no longer felt that his
stay there was a temporary shift. When it was to end, he neither knew
nor cared. He realized only that he was enjoying life as he never had
done before. His canoe had passed a lot of rapids and was now in a
steady, unbroken stream--but it was the swift shoot before the fall.
A lull in the clamour does not mean the end of war, but a new onset
preparing; and, of course, it came in the way least looked for.

Selectman Horton stood well with the community; he was a man of good
judgment, good position, and kind heart. He was owner of all the
woods along the Asamuk, and thus the Indian’s landlord on the Indian’s
ancestral land. Both Rolf and Quonab had worked for Horton, and so they
knew him well, and liked him for his goodness.

It was Wednesday morning, late in July, when Selectman Horton,
clean-shaven and large, appeared at the wigwam under the rock.

“Good morrow to ye both!” Then without wasting time he plunged in.
“There’s been some controversy and much criticism of the selectmen for
allowing a white lad, the child of Christian parents, the grandson of a
clergyman, to leave all Christian folk and folds, and herd with a pagan,
to become, as it were, a mere barbarian. I hold not, indeed, with those
that out of hand would condemn as godless a good fellow like Quonab,
who, in my certain knowledge and according to his poor light, doth
indeed maintain in some kind a daily worship of a sort. Nevertheless,
the selectmen, the magistrates, the clergy, the people generally, and
above all the Missionary Society, are deeply moved in the matter. It
hath even been made a personal charge against myself, and with much
bitterness I am held up as unzealous for allowing such a nefarious
stronghold of Satan to continue on mine own demesne, and harbour one,
escaped, as it were, from grace. Acting, therefore, not according to my
heart, but as spokesman of the Town Council, the Synod of Elders, and
the Society for the Promulgation of Godliness among the Heathen, I am
to state that you, Rolf Kittering, being without kinsfolk and under age,
are in verity a ward of the parish, and as such, it hath been arranged
that you become a member of the household of the most worthy Elder
Ezekiel Peck, a household filled with the spirit of estimable piety and
true doctrine; a man, indeed, who, notwithstanding his exterior coldness
and severity, is very sound in all matters regarding the Communion of
Saints, and, I may even say in a measure a man of fame for some most
excellent remarks he hath passed on the shorter catechism, beside which
he hath gained much approval for having pointed out two hidden meanings
in the 27th verse of the 12th chapter of Hebrews; one whose very
presence, therefore, is a guarantee against levity, laxity, and false
preachment.

“There, now, my good lad, look not so like a colt that feels the whip
for the first time. You will have a good home, imbued with the spirit of
a most excellent piety that will be ever about you.”

“Like a colt feeling the whip,” indeed! Rolf reeled like a stricken
deer. To go back as a chore-boy drudge was possible, but not alluring;
to leave Quonab, just as the wood world was opening to him, was
devastating; but to exchange it all for bondage in the pious household
of Old Peck, whose cold cruelty had driven off all his own children, was
an accumulation of disasters that aroused him.

“I won’t go!” he blurted out, and gazed defiantly at the broad and
benevolent selectman.

“Come now, Rolf, such language is unbecoming. Let not a hasty tongue
betray you into sin. This is what your mother would have wished. Be
sensible; you will soon find it was all for the best. I have ever liked
you, and will ever be a friend you can count on.

“Acting, not according to my instructions, but according to my heart,
I will say further that you need not come now, you need not even give
answer now, but think it over. Nevertheless, remember that on or before
Monday morning next, you will be expected to appear at Elder Peck’s, and
I fear that, in case you fail, the messenger next arriving will be
one much less friendly than myself. Come now, Rolf, be a good lad, and
remember that in your new home you will at least be living for the glory
of God.”

Then, with a friendly nod, but an expression of sorrow, the large, black
messenger turned and tramped away.

Rolf slowly, limply, sank down on a rock and stared at the fire. After
awhile Quonab got up and began to prepare the mid-day meal. Usually Rolf
helped him. Now he did nothing but sullenly glare at the glowing coals.
In half an hour the food was ready. He ate little; then went away in the
woods by himself. Quonab saw him lying on a flat rock, looking at the
pond, and throwing pebbles into it. Later Quonab went to Myanos. On his
return he found that Rolf had cut up a great pile of wood, but not a
word passed between them. The look of sullen anger and rebellion on
Rolf’s face was changing to one of stony despair. What was passing in
each mind the other could not divine.

The evening meal was eaten in silence; then Quonab smoked for an hour,
both staring into the fire. A barred owl hooted and laughed over their
heads, causing the dog to jump up and bark at the sound that ordinarily
he would have heeded not at all. Then silence was restored, and the red
man’s hidden train of thought was in a flash revealed.

“Rolf, let’s go to the North Woods!”

It was another astounding idea. Rolf had realized more and more how much
this valley meant to Quonab, who worshipped the memory of his people.

“And leave all this?” he replied, making a sweep with his hand toward
the rock, the Indian trail, the site of bygone Petuquapen, and the
graves of the tribe.

For reply their eyes met, and from the Indian’s deep chest came the
single word, “Ugh.” One syllable, deep and descending, but what a tale
it told of the slowly engendered and strong-grown partiality, of a
struggle that had continued since the morning when the selectman came
with words of doom, and of friendship’s victory won.

Rolf realized this, and it gave him a momentary choking in his throat,
and, “I’m ready if you really mean it.”

“Ugh I go, but some day come back.”

There was a long silence, then Rolf, “When shall we start?” and the
answer, “To-morrow night.”



Chapter 15. Bound for the North Woods

When Quonab left camp in the morning he went heavy laden, and the
trail he took led to Myanos. There was nothing surprising in it when
he appeared at Silas Peck’s counter and offered for sale a pair of
snowshoes, a bundle of traps, some dishes of birch bark and basswood,
and a tom-tom, receiving in exchange some tea, tobacco, gunpowder, and
two dollars in cash. He turned without comment, and soon was back in
camp. He now took the kettle into the woods and brought it back filled
with bark, fresh chipped from a butternut tree. Water was added, and the
whole boiled till it made a deep brown liquid. When this was cooled he
poured it into a flat dish, then said to Rolf: “Come now, I make you a
Sinawa.”

With a soft rag the colour was laid on. Face, head, neck, and hands were
all at first intended, but Rolf said, “May as well do the whole thing.”
 So he stripped off; the yellow brown juice on his white skin turned it
a rich copper colour, and he was changed into an Indian lad that none
would have taken for Rolf Kittering. The stains soon dried, and Rolf,
re-clothed, felt that already he had burned a bridge.

Two portions of the wigwam cover were taken off; and two packs were
made of the bedding. The tomahawk, bows, arrows, and gun, with the few
precious food pounds in the copper pot, were divided between them and
arranged into packs with shoulder straps; then all was ready. But there
was one thing more for Quonab; he went up alone to the rock. Rolf knew
what he went for, and judged it best not to follow.

The Indian lighted his pipe, blew the four smokes to the four winds,
beginning with the west, then he sat in silence for a time. Presently
the prayer for good hunting came from the rock:

     “Father lead us!
     Father, help us!
     Father, guide us to the good hunting.”

And when that ceased a barred owl hooted in the woods, away to the
north.

“Ugh! good,” was all he said as he rejoined Rolf; and they set out, as
the sun went down, on their long journey due northward, Quonab, Rolf,
and Skookum. They had not gone a hundred yards before the dog turned
back, raced to a place where he had a bone in cache and rejoining there
trotted along with his bone.

The high road would have been the easier travelling, but it was very
necessary to be unobserved, so they took the trail up the brook Asamuk,
and after an hour’s tramp came out by the Cat-Rock road that runs
westerly. Again they were tempted by the easy path, but again Quonab
decided on keeping to the woods. Half an hour later they were halted by
Skookum treeing a coon. After they had secured the dog, they tramped on
through the woods for two hours more, and then, some eight miles from
the Pipestave, they halted, Rolf, at least, tired out. It was now
midnight. They made a hasty double bed of the canvas cover over a pole
above them, and slept till morning, cheered, as they closed their drowsy
eyes, by the “Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, yah, hoo,” of their friend, the barred
owl, still to the northward.

The sun was high, and Quonab had breakfast ready before Rolf awoke. He
was so stiff with the tramp and the heavy pack that it was with secret
joy he learned that they were to rest, concealed in the woods, that day,
and travel only by night, until in a different region, where none knew
or were likely to stop them. They were now in York State, but that did
not by any means imply that they were beyond pursuit.

As the sun rose high, Rolf went forth with his bow and blunt arrows, and
then, thanks largely to Skookum, he succeeded in knocking over a couple
of squirrels, which, skinned and roasted, made their dinner that day.
At night they set out as before, making about ten miles. The third night
they did better, and the next day being Sunday, they kept out of sight.
But Monday morning, bright and clear, although it was the first morning
when they were sure of being missed, they started to tramp openly along
the highway, with a sense of elation that they had not hitherto known
on the joumey. Two things impressed Rolf by their novelty: the curious
stare of the country folk whose houses and teams they passed, and the
violent antagonism of the dogs. Usually the latter could be quelled by
shaking a stick at them, or by pretending to pick up a stone, but one
huge and savage brindled mastiff kept following and barking just out of
stick range, and managed to give Skookum a mauling, until Quonab drew
his bow and let fly a blunt arrow that took the brute on the end of
the nose, and sent him howling homeward, while Skookum got a few highly
satisfactory nips at the enemy’s rear. Twenty miles they made that day
and twenty-five the next, for now they were on good roads, and their
packs were lighter. More than once they found kind farmer folk who gave
them a meal. But many times Skookum made trouble for them. The farmers
did not like the way he behaved among their hens. Skookum never could be
made to grasp the fine zoological distinction between partridges which
are large birds and fair game, and hens which are large birds, but not
fair game. Such hair splitting was obviously unworthy of study, much
less of acceptance.

Soon it was clearly better for Rolf, approaching a house, to go alone,
while Quonab held Skookum. The dogs seemed less excited by Rolf’s smell,
and remembering his own attitude when tramps came to one or another
of his ancient homes, he always asked if they would let him work for a
meal, and soon remarked that his success was better when he sought first
the women of the house, and then, smiling to show his very white teeth,
spoke in clear and un-Indian English, which had the more effect coming
from an evident Indian.

“Since I am to be an Indian, Quonab, you must give me an Indian name,”
 he said after one of these episodes.

“Ugh! Good! That’s easy! You are ‘Nibowaka,’ the wise one.” For the
Indian had not missed any of the points, and so he was named.

Twenty or thirty miles a day they went now, avoiding the settlements
along the river. Thus they saw nothing of Albany, but on the tenth
day they reached Fort Edward, and for the first time viewed the great
Hudson. Here they stayed as short a time as might be, pushed on by
Glen’s Falls, and on the eleventh night of the journey they passed the
old, abandoned fort, and sighted the long stretch of Lake George, with
its wooded shore, and glimpses of the mountains farther north.

Now a new thought possessed them--“If only they had the canoe that they
had abandoned on the Pipestave.” It came to them both at the sight of
the limit less water, and especially when Rolf remembered that Lake
George joined with Champlain, which again was the highway to all the
wilderness.

They camped now as they had fifty times before, and made their meal. The
bright blue water dancing near was alluring, inspiring; as they sought
the shore Quonab pointed to a track and said, “Deer.” He did not show
much excitement, but Rolf did, and they returned to the camp fire with
a new feeling of elation--they had reached the Promised Land. Now they
must prepare for the serious work of finding a hunting ground that was
not already claimed.

Quonab, remembering the ancient law of the woods, that parcels off the
valleys, each to the hunter first arriving, or succeeding the one who
had, was following his own line of thought. Rolf was puzzling over means
to get an outfit, canoe, traps, axes, and provisions. The boy broke
silence.

“Quonab, we must have money to get an outfit; this is the beginning of
harvest; we can easily get work for a month. That will feed us and give
us money enough to live on, and a chance to learn something about the
country.”

The reply was simple, “You are Nibowaka.”

The farms were few and scattered here, but there were one or two along
the lake. To the nearest one with standing grain Rolf led the way. But
their reception, from the first brush with the dog to the final tilt
with the farmer, was unpleasant--“He didn’t want any darn red-skins
around there. He had had two St. Regis Indians last year, and they were
a couple of drunken good-for-nothings.”

The next was the house of a fat Dutchman, who was just wondering how he
should meet the compounded accumulated emergencies of late hay, early
oats, weedy potatoes, lost cattle, and a prospective increase of
his family, when two angels of relief appeared at his door, in
copper-coloured skins.

“Cahn yo work putty goood?

“Yes, I have always lived on a farm,” and Rolf showed his hands, broad
and heavy for his years.

“Cahn yo mebby find my lost cows, which I haf not find, already yet?”

Could they! it would be fun to try.

“I giff yo two dollars you pring dem putty kvick.”

So Quonab took the trail to the woods, and Rolf started into the
potatoes with a hoe, but he was stopped by a sudden outcry of poultry.
Alas! It was Skookum on an ill-judged partridge hunt. A minute later he
was ignominiously chained to a penitential post, nor left it during the
travellers’ sojourn.

In the afternoon Quonab returned with the cattle, and as he told Rolf he
saw five deer, there was an unmistakable hunter gleam in his eye.

Three cows in milk, and which had not been milked for two days, was a
serious matter, needing immediate attention. Rolf had milked five cows
twice a day for five years, and a glance showed old Van Trumper that the
boy was an expert.

“Good, good! I go now make feed swine.”

He went into the outhouse, but a tow-topped, redcheeked girl ran after
him. “Father, father, mother says--” and the rest was lost.

“Myn Hemel! Myn Hemel! I thought it not so soon,” and the fat Dutchman
followed the child. A moment later he reappeared, his jolly face clouded
with a look of grave concern. “Hi yo big Injun, yo cahn paddle canoe?”
 Quonab nodded. “Den coom. Annette, pring Tomas und Hendrik.” So
the father carried two-year-old Hendrik, while the Indian carried
six-year-old Tomas, and twelve-year-old Annette followed in vague,
uncomprehended alarm. Arrived at the shore the children were placed in
the canoe, and then the difficulties came fully to the father’s
mind--he could not leave his wife. He must send the children with the
messenger--In a sort of desperation, “Cahn you dem childen take to de
house across de lake, and pring back Mrs. Callan? Tell her Marta Van
Trumper need her right now mooch very kvick.” The Indian nodded. Then
the father hesitated, but a glance at the Indian was enough. Something
said, “He is safe,” and in spite of sundry wails from the little ones
left with a dark stranger, he pushed off the canoe: “Yo take care for my
babies,” and turned his brimming eyes away.

The farmhouse was only two miles off, and the evening calm; no time was
lost: what woman will not instantly drop all work and all interests, to
come to the help of another in the trial time of motherhood?

Within an hour the neighbour’s wife was holding hands with the mother of
the banished tow-heads. He who tempers the wind and appoints the season
of the wild deer hinds had not forgotten the womanhood beyond the reach
of skilful human help, and with the hard and lonesome life had conjoined
a sweet and blessed compensation. What would not her sister of the city
give for such immunity; and long before that dark, dread hour of
night that brings the ebbing life force low, the wonderful miracle was
complete; there was another tow-top in the settler’s home, and all was
well.



Chapter 16. Life with the Dutch Settler

The Indians slept in the luxuriant barn of logs, with blankets, plenty
of hay, and a roof. They were more than content, for now, on the edge of
the wilderness, they were very close to wild life. Not a day or a night
passed without bringing proof of that.

One end of the barn was portioned off for poultry. In this the working
staff of a dozen hens were doing their duty, which, on that first night
of the “brown angels’ visit,” consisted of silent slumber, when all at
once the hens and the new hands were aroused by a clamorous cackling,
which speedily stopped. It sounded like a hen falling in a bad dream,
then regaining her perch to go to sleep again. But next morning the body
of one of these highly esteemed branches of the egg-plant was found in
the corner, partly devoured. Quonab examined the headless hen, the dust
around, and uttered the word, “Mink.”

Rolf said, “Why not skunk?”

“Skunk could not climb to the perch.”

“Weasel then.”

“Weasel would only suck the blood, and would kill three or four.”

“Coon would carry him away, so would fox or wildcat, and a marten would
not come into the building by night.”

There was no question, first, that it was a mink, and, second, that he
was hiding about the barn until the hunger pang should send him again
to the hen house. Quonab covered the hen’s body with two or three large
stones so that there was only one approach. In the way of this approach
he buried a “number one” trap.

That night they were aroused again; this time by a frightful screeching,
and a sympathetic, inquiring cackle from the fowls.

Arising, quickly they entered with a lantem. Rolf then saw a sight that
gave him a prickling in his hair. The mink, a large male, was caught by
one front paw. He was writhing and foaming, tearing, sometimes at the
trap, sometimes at the dead hen, and sometimes at his own imprisoned
foot, pausing now and then to utter the most ear-piercing shrieks, then
falling again in crazy animal fury on the trap, splintering his sharp
white teeth, grinding the cruel metal with bruised and bloody jaws,
frothing, snarling, raving mad. As his foemen entered he turned on them
a hideous visage of inexpressible fear and hate, rage and horror.
His eyes glanced back green fire in the lantern light; he strained in
renewed efforts to escape; the air was rank with his musky smell. The
impotent fury of his struggle made a picture that continued in Rolf’s
mind. Quonab took a stick and with a single blow put an end to the
scene, but never did Rolf forget it, and never afterward was he a
willing partner when the trapping was done with those relentless jaws of
steel.

A week later another hen was missing, and the door of the hen house left
open. After a careful examination of the dust, inside and out of the
building, Quonab said, “Coon.” It is very unusual for coons to raid a
hen house. Usually it is some individual with abnormal tastes, and once
he begins, he is sure to come back. The Indian judged that he might be
back the next night, so prepared a trap. A rope was passed from the door
latch to a tree; on this rope a weight was hung, so that the door was
selfshutting, and to make it self-locking he leaned a long pole against
it inside. Now he propped it open with a single platform, so set that
the coon must walk on it once he was inside, and so release the door.
The trappers thought they would hear in the night when the door closed,
but they were sleepy; they knew nothing until next morning. Then they
found that the self-shutter had shut, and inside, crouched in one of the
nesting boxes, was a tough, old fighting coon. Strange to tell, he had
not touched a second hen. As soon as he found himself a prisoner he had
experienced a change of heart, and presently his skin was nailed on the
end of the barn and his meat was hanging in the larder.

“Is this a marten,” asked little Annette. And when told not,
her disappointment elicited the information that old Warren, the
storekeeper, had promised her a blue cotton dress for a marten skin.

“You shall have the first one I catch,” said Rolf.

Life in Van Trumper’s was not unpleasant. The mother was going about
again in a week. Annette took charge of the baby, as well as of
the previous arrivals. Hendrik senior was gradually overcoming his
difficulties, thanks to the unexpected help, and a kindly spirit made
the hard work not so very hard. The shyness that was at first felt
toward the Indians wore off, especially in the case of Rolf, he was
found so companionable; and the Dutchman, after puzzling over the
combination of brown skin and blue eyes, decided that Rolf was a
half-breed.

August wore on not unpleasantly for the boy, but Quonab was getting
decidedly restless. He could work for a week as hard as any white man,
but his race had not risen to the dignity of patient, unremitting,
life-long toil.

“How much money have we now, Nibowaka?” was one of the mid-August
indications of restlessness. Rolf reckoned up; half a month for Quonab,
$15.00; for himself, $10.00; for finding the cows $2.00--$27.00 in all.
Not enough.

Three days later Quonab reckoned up again. Next day he said: “We need
two months’ open water to find a good country and build a shanty.” Then
did Rolf do the wise thing; he went to fat Hendrik and told him all
about it. They wanted to get a canoe and an outfit, and seek for a
trapping or hunting ground that would not encroach on those already
possessed, for the trapping law is rigid; even the death penalty is not
considered too high in certain cases of trespass, provided the injured
party is ready to be judge, jury, and executioner. Van Trumper was able
to help them not a little in the matter of location--there was no use
trying on the Vermont side, nor anywhere near Lake Champlain, nor near
Lake George; neither was it worth while going to the far North, as the
Frenchmen came in there, and they were keen hunters, so that
Hamilton County was more promising than any other, but it was almost
inaccessible, remote from all the great waterways, and of course without
roads; its inaccessibility was the reason why it was little known. So
far so good; but happy Hendrik was unpleasantly surprised to learn that
the new help were for leaving at once. Finally he made this offer: If
they would stay till September first, and so leave all in “good shape
fer der vinter,” he would, besides the wages agreed, give them the
canoe, one axe, six mink traps, and a fox trap now hanging in the barn,
and carry them in his wagon as far as the Five-mile portage from Lake
George to Schroon River, down which they could go to its junction with
the upper Hudson, which, followed up through forty miles of rapids and
hard portages, would bring them to a swampy river that enters from the
southwest, and ten miles up this would bring them to Jesup’s Lake, which
is two miles wide and twelve miles long. This country abounded with
game, but was so hard to enter that after Jesup’s death it was deserted.

There was only one possible answer to such an offer--they stayed.

In spare moments Quonab brought the canoe up to the barn, stripped off
some weighty patches of bark and canvas and some massive timber thwarts,
repaired the ribs, and when dry and gummed, its weight was below one
hundred pounds; a saving of at least forty pounds on the soggy thing he
crossed the lake in that first day on the farm.

September came. Early in the morning Quonab went alone to the lakeside;
there on a hill top he sat, looking toward the sunrise, and sang a song
of the new dawn, beating, not with a tom-tom--he had none--but with one
stick on another. And when the sunrise possessed the earth he sang again
the hunter’s song:

“Father, guide our feet, Lead us to the good hunting.”

Then he danced to the sound, his face skyward, his eyes closed, his feet
barely raised, but rythmically moved. So went he three times round to
the chant in three sun circles, dancing a sacred measure, as royal David
might have done that day when he danced around the Ark of the Covenant
on its homeward joumey. His face was illumined, and no man could have
seen him then without knowing that this was a true heart’s worship of a
true God, who is in all things He has made.



Chapter 17. Canoeing on the Upper Hudson

     There is only one kind of a man I can’t size up; that’s the
     faller that shets up and says nothing.--Sayings of Si
     Sylvanne.

A settler named Hulett had a scow that was borrowed by the neighbours
whenever needed to take a team across the lake. On the morning of their
journey, the Dutchman’s team and wagon, the canoe and the men, were
aboard the scow, Skookum took his proper place at the prow, and all
was ready for “Goodbye.” Rolf found it a hard word to say. The good old
Dutch mother had won his heart, and the children were like his brothers
and sisters.

“Coom again, lad; coom and see us kvick.” She kissed him, he kissed
Annette and the three later issues. They boarded the scow to ply the
poles till the deep water was reached, then the oars. An east wind
springing up gave them a chance to profit by a wagon-cover rigged as a
sail, and two hours later the scow was safely landed at West Side,
where was a country store, and the head of the wagon road to the Schroon
River.

As they approached the door, they saw a rough-looking man slouching
against the building, his hands in his pockets, his blear eyes taking in
the new-comers with a look of contemptuous hostility. As they passed, he
spat tobacco juice on the dog and across the feet of the men.

Old Warren who kept the store was not partial to Indians, but he was
a good friend of Hendrik and very keen to trade for fur, so the new
trappers were well received; and now came the settling of accounts.
Flour, oatmeal, pork, potatoes, tea, tobacco, sugar, salt, powder,
ball, shot, clothes, lines, an inch-auger, nails, knives, awls, needles,
files, another axe, some tin plates, and a frying pan were selected and
added to Hendrik’s account.

“If I was you, I’d take a windy-sash; you’ll find it mighty convenient
in cold weather.” The store keeper led them into an outhouse where was a
pile of six-lighted window-frames all complete. So the awkward thing was
added to their load.

“Can’t I sell you a fine rifle?” and he took down a new, elegant small
bore of the latest pattern. “Only twenty-five dollars.” Rolf shook his
head; “part down, and I’ll take the rest in fur next spring.” Rolf was
sorely tempted; however, he had an early instilled horror of debt. He
steadfastly said: “No.” But many times he regretted it afterward! The
small balance remaining was settled in cash.

As they were arranging and selecting, they heard a most hideous
yelping outdoors, and a minute later Skookum limped in, crying as if
half-killed. Quonab was out in a moment.

“Did you kick my dog?”

The brutal loafer changed countenance as he caught the red man’s eye.
“Naw! never touched him; hurted himself on that rake.”

It was obviously a lie, but better to let it pass, and Quonab came in
again.

Then the rough stranger appeared at the door and growled: “Say, Warren!
ain’t you going to let me have that rifle? I guess my word’s as good as
the next man’s.”

“No,” said Warren; “I told you, no!”

“Then you can go to blazes, and you’ll never see a cent’s worth of fur
from the stuff I got last year.”

“I don’t expect to,” was the reply; “I’ve learned what your word’s
worth.” And the stranger slouched away.

“Who vas he?” asked Hendrik.

“I only know that his name is Jack Hoag; he’s a little bit of a trapper
and a big bit of a bum; stuck me last year. He doesn’t come out this
way; they say he goes out by the west side of the mountains.”

New light on their course was secured from Warren, and above all, the
important information that the mouth of Jesup’s River was marked by an
eagle’s nest in a dead pine. “Up to that point keep the main stream, and
don’t forget next spring I’m buying fur.”

The drive across Five-mile portage was slow. It took over two hours to
cover it, but late that day they reached the Schroon.

Here the Dutchman said “Good-bye: Coom again some noder time.” Skookum
saluted the farmer with a final growl, then Rolf and Quonab were left
alone in the wilderness.

It was after sundown, so they set about camping for the night. A wise
camper always prepares bed and shelter in daylight, if possible. While
Rolf made a fire and hung the kettle, Quonab selected a level, dry place
between two trees, and covered it with spruce boughs to make the beds,
and last a low tent was made by putting the lodge cover over a pole
between the trees. The ends of the covers were held down by loose
green logs quickly cut for the purpose, and now they were safe against
weather.

Tea, potatoes, and fried pork, with maple syrup and hard-tack, made
their meal of the time, after which there was a long smoke. Quonab took
a stick of red willow, picked up-in the daytime, and began shaving it
toward one end, leaving the curling shreds still on the stick. When
these were bunched in a fuzzy mop, he held them over the fire until they
were roasted brown; then, grinding all up in his palm with some tobacco,
and filling his pipe he soon was enveloped in that odour of woodsy smoke
called the “Indian smell,” by many who do not know whence or how it
comes. Rolf did not smoke. He had promised his mother that he would
not until he was a man, and something brought her back home now with
overwhelming force; that was the beds they had made of fragrant balsam
boughs. “Cho-ko-tung or blister tree” as Quonab called it. His mother
had a little sofa pillow, brought from the North--a “northern pine”
 pillow they called it, for it was stuffed with pine needles of a kind
not growing in Connecticut. Many a time had Rolf as a baby pushed his
little round nose into that bag to inhale the delicious odour it gave
forth, and so it became the hallowed smell of all that was dear in his
babyhood, and it never lost its potency. Smell never does. Oh, mighty
aura! that, in marching by the nostrils, can reach and move the soul;
how wise the church that makes this power its handmaid, and through its
incense overwhelms all alien thought when the worshipper, wandering,
doubting, comes again to see if it be true, that here doubt dies. Oh,
queen of memory that is master of the soul! how fearful should we be of
letting evil thought associated grow with some recurrent odour that
we love. Happy, indeed, are they that find some ten times pure and
consecrated fragrance, like the pine, which entering in is master
of their moods, and yet through linking thoughts has all its power,
uplifting, full of sweetness and blessed peace. So came to Rolf his
medicine tree.

The balsam fir was his tree of hallowed memory. Its odour never failed,
and he slept that night with its influence all about him.

Starting in the morning was no easy matter. There was so much to be
adjusted that first day. Packs divided in two, new combinations to trim
the canoe, or to raise such and such a package above a possible leak.
The heavy things, like axes and pans, had to be fastened to the canoe or
to packages that would float in case of an upset. The canoe itself had
to be gummed in one or two places; but they got away after three hours,
and began the voyage down the Schroon.

This was Rolf’s first water journey. He had indeed essayed the canoe on
the Pipestave Pond, but that was a mere ferry. This was real travel. He
marvelled at the sensitiveness of the frail craft; the delicacy of its
balance; its quick response to the paddle; the way it seemed to shrink
from the rocks; and the unpleasantly suggestive bend-up of the ribs
when the bottom grounded upon a log. It was a new world for him. Quonab
taught him never to enter the canoe except when she was afloat; never to
rise in her or move along without hold of the gunwale; never to make a
sudden move; and he also learned that it was easier to paddle when there
were six feet of water underneath than when only six inches.

In an hour they had covered the five miles that brought them to the
Hudson, and here the real labour began, paddling up stream. Before long
they came to a shallow stretch with barely enough water to float the
canoe. Here they jumped out and waded in the stream, occasionally
lifting a stone to one side, till they reached the upper stretch of deep
water and again went merrily paddling. Soon they came to an impassable
rapid, and Rolf had his first taste of a real carry or portage. Quonab’s
eye was watching the bank as soon as the fierce waters appeared; for
the first question was, where shall we land? and the next, how far do we
carry? There are no rapids on important rivers in temperate America
that have not been portaged more or less for ages. No canoe man portages
without considering most carefully when, where, and how to land. His
selection of the place, then, is the result of careful study. He cannot
help leaving some mark at the place, slight though it be, and the next
man looks for that mark to save himself time and trouble.

“Ugh” was the only sound that Rolf heard from his companion, and
the canoe headed for a flat rock in the pool below the rapids. After
landing, they found traces of an old camp fire. It was near noon now,
so Rolf prepared the meal while Quonab took a light pack and went on to
learn the trail. It was not well marked; had not been used for a year
or two, evidently, but there are certain rules that guide one. The trail
keeps near the water, unless there is some great natural barrier, and it
is usually the easiest way in sight. Quonab kept one eye on the river,
for navigable water was the main thing, and in about one hundred yards
he was again on the stream’s edge, at a good landing above the rapid.

After the meal was finished and the Indian had smoked, they set to work.
In a few loads each, the stuff was portaged across, and the canoe was
carried over and moored to the bank.

The cargo replaced, they went on again, but in half an hour after
passing more shoal water, saw another rapid, not steep, but too shallow
to float the canoe, even with both men wading. Here Quonab made what
the Frenchmen call a demi-charge. He carried half the stuff to the bank;
then, wading, one at each end, they hauled the canoe up the portage and
reloaded her above. Another strip of good going was succeeded by a long
stretch of very swift water that was two or three feet deep and between
shores that were densely grown with alders. The Indian landed, cut two
light, strong poles, and now, one at the bow, the other at the stern,
they worked their way foot by foot up the fierce current until safely on
the upper level.

Yet one more style of canoe propulsion was forced on them. They came to
a long stretch of smooth, deep, very swift water, almost a rapid-one of
the kind that is a joy when you are coming down stream. It differed from
the last in having shores that were not alder-hidden, but open gravel
banks. Now did Quonab take a long, strong line from his war sack. One
end he fastened, not to the bow, but to the forward part of the canoe,
the other to a buckskin band which he put across his breast. Then, with
Rolf in the stern to steer and the Indian hauling on the bank, the canoe
was safely “tracked” up the “strong waters.”

Thus they fought their way up the hard river, day after day, making
sometimes only five miles after twelve hours’ toilsome travel. Rapids,
shoals, portages, strong waters, abounded, and before they had covered
the fifty miles to the forks of Jesup’s River, they knew right well why
the region was so little entered.

It made a hardened canoe man of Rolf, and when, on the evening of the
fifth day, they saw a huge eagle’s nest in a dead pine tree that stood
on the edge of a long swamp, both felt they had reached their own
country, and were glad.



Chapter 18. Animal Life Along the River

It must not be supposed that, because it has been duly mentioned, they
saw no wild life along the river. The silent canoe man has the best of
opportunities. There were plenty of deer tracks about the first camp,
and that morning, as they turned up the Hudson, Rolf saw his first deer.
They had rounded a point in rather swift water when Quonab gave two taps
on the gunwale, the usual sign, “Look out,” and pointed to the shore.
There, fifty yards away on bank, gazing at them, was a deer. Stock still
he stood like a red statue, for he was yet in the red coat. With three
or four strong strokes, Quonab gave a long and mighty forward spurt;
then reached for his gun. But the deer’s white flag went up. It turned
and bounded away, the white flag the last thing to disappear. Rolf sat
spellbound. It was so sudden; so easy; it soon melted into the woods
again. He trembled after it was gone.

Many a time in the evening they saw muskrats in the eddies, and once
they glimpsed a black, shiny something like a monstrous leech rolling up
and down as it travelled in the stream. Quonab whispered, “Otter,” and
made ready his gun, but it dived and showed itself no more. At one of
the camps they were awakened by an extraordinary tattoo in the middle of
the night--a harsh rattle close by their heads; and they got up to find
that a porcupine was rattling his teeth on the frying-pan in an effort
to increase the amount of salt that he could taste on it. Skookum, tied
to a tree, was vainly protesting against the intrusion and volunteered
to make a public example of the invader. The campers did not finally get
rid of the spiny one till all their kitchen stuff was hung beyond his
reach.

Once they heard the sharp, short bark of a fox, and twice or thrice
the soft, sweet, moaning call of the gray wolf out to hunt. Wild fowl
abounded, and their diet was varied by the ducks that one or other of
the hunters secured at nearly every camp.

On the second day they saw three deer, and on the third morning Quonab
loaded his gun with buckshot, to be ready, then sallied forth at dawn.
Rolf was following, but the Indian shook his head, then said: “Don’t
make fire for half an hour.”

In twenty minutes Rolf heard the gun, then later the Indian returned
with a haunch of venison, and when they left that camp they stopped a
mile up the river to add the rest of the venison to their cargo. Seven
other deer were seen, but no more killed; yet Rolf was burning to try
his hand as a hunter. Many other opportunities he had, and improved some
of them. On one wood portage he, or rather Skookum, put up a number
of ruffed grouse. These perched in the trees above their heads and the
travellers stopped. While the dog held their attention Rolf with blunt
arrows knocked over five that proved most acceptable as food. But his
thoughts were now on deer, and his ambition was to go out alone and
return with a load of venison.

Another and more thrilling experience followed quickly. Rounding a bend
in the early dawn they sighted a black bear and two cubs rambling along
the gravelly bank and stopping now and then to eat something that turned
out to be crayfish.

Quonab had not seen a bear since childhood, when he and his father
hunted along the hardwood ridges back of Myanos, and now he was excited.
He stopped paddling, warned Rolf to do the same, and let the canoe drift
backward until out of sight; then made for the land. Quickly tying up
the canoe he took his gun and Rolf his hunting arrows, and, holding
Skookum in a leash, they dashed into the woods. Then, keeping out of
sight, they ran as fast and as silently as possible in the direction
of the bears. Of course, the wind was toward the hunters, or they never
could have got so near. Now they were opposite the family group and
needed only a chance for a fair shot. Sneaking forward with the utmost
caution, they were surely within twenty-five yards, but still the bushes
screened the crab-eaters. As the hunters sneaked, the old bear stopped
and sniffed suspiciously; the wind changed, she got an unmistakable
whiff; then gave a loud warning “Koff! Koff! Koff! Koff!” and ran as
fast as she could. The hunters knowing they were discovered rushed out,
yelling as loudly as possible, in hopes of making the bears tree. The
old bear ran like a horse with Skookum yapping bravely in her rear. The
young ones, left behind, lost sight of her, and, utterly bewildered by
the noise, made for a tree conveniently near and scrambled up into the
branches. “Now,” Rolf thought, judging by certain tales he had heard,
“that old bear will come back and there will be a fight.”

“Is she coming back?” he asked nervously.

The Indian laughed. “No, she is running yet. Black bear always a coward;
they never fight when they can run away.”

The little ones up the tree were, of course, at the mercy of the
hunters, and in this case it was not a broken straw they depended on,
but an ample salvation. “We don’t need the meat and can’t carry it
with us; let’s leave them,” said Rolf, but added, “Will they find their
mother?”

“Yes, bime-by; they come down and squall all over woods. She will hang
round half a mile away and by night all will be together.”

Their first bear hunt was over. Not a shot fired, not a bear wounded,
not a mile travelled, and not an hour lost. And yet it seemed much more
full of interesting thrills than did any one of the many stirring bear
hunts that Rolf and Quonab shared together in the days that were to
come.



Chapter 19. The Footprint on the Shore

Jesup’s River was a tranquil stream that came from a region of swamps,
and would have been easy canoeing but for the fallen trees. Some of
these had been cut years ago, showing that the old trapper had used this
route. Once they were unpleasantly surprised by seeing a fresh chopping
on the bank, but their mourning was changed into joy when they found it
was beaver-work.

Ten miles they made that day. In the evening they camped on the shore of
Jesup’s Lake, proud and happy in the belief that they were the rightful
owners of it all. That night they heard again and again the howling of
wolves, but it seemed on the far side of the lake. In the morning they
went out on foot to explore, and at once had the joy of seeing five
deer, while tracks showed on every side. It was evidently a paradise for
deer, and there were in less degree the tracks of other animals--mink in
fair abundance, one or two otters, a mountain lion, and a cow moose with
her calf. It was thrilling to see such a feast of possibilities. The
hunters were led on and on, revelling in the prospect of many joys
before them, when all at once they came on something that turned their
joy to grief--the track of a man; the fresh imprint of a cowhide boot.
It was maddening. At first blush, it meant some other trapper ahead of
them with a prior claim to the valley; a claim that the unwritten law
would allow. They followed it a mile. It went striding along the shore
at a great pace, sometimes running, and keeping down the west shore.
Then they found a place where he had sat down and broken a lot of clam
shells, and again had hastened on. But there was no mark of gunstock
or other weapon where he sat; and why was he wearing boots? The hunters
rarely did.

For two miles the Indian followed with Rolf, and sometimes found
that the hated stranger had been running hard. Then they turned back,
terribly disappointed. At first it seemed a crushing blow. They had
three courses open to them--to seek a location farther north, to assume
that one side of the lake was theirs, or to find out exactly who and
what the stranger was. They decided on the last. The canoe was launched
and loaded, and they set out to look for what they hoped they would not
find, a trapper’s shanty on the lake.

After skirting the shore for four or five miles and disturbing one or
two deer, as well as hosts of ducks, the voyagers landed and there still
they found that fateful bootmark steadily tramping southward. By noon
they had reached the south end of the west inlet that leads to another
lake, and again an examination of the shore showed the footmarks, here
leaving the lake and going southerly. Now the travellers retired to the
main lake and by noon had reached the south end. At no point had they
seen any sign of a cabin, though both sides of the lake were in plain
view all day. The travelling stranger was a mystery, but he did not live
here and there was no good reason why they should not settle.

Where? The country seemed equally good at all points, but it is usually
best to camp on an outlet. Then when a storm comes up, the big waves
do not threaten your canoe, or compel you to stay on land. It is a
favourite crossing for animals avoiding the lake, and other trappers
coming in are sure to see your cabin before they enter.

Which side of the outlet? Quonab settled that--the west. He wanted to
see the sun rise, and, not far back from the water, was a hill with a
jutting, rocky pinnade. He pointed to this and uttered the one word,
“Idaho.” Here, then, on the west side, where the lake enters the river,
they began to clear the ground for their home.



Chapter 20. The Trappers’ Cabin

     It’s a smart fellow that knows what he can’t do.--Sayings of
     Si Sylvanne.

I suppose every trapper that ever lived, on first building a cabin,
said, “Oh, any little thing will do, so long as it has a roof and is
big enough to lie down in.” And every trapper has realized before spring
that he made a sad mistake in not having it big enough to live in and
store goods in. Quonab and Rolf were new at the business, and made the
usual mistake. They planned their cabin far too small; 10 X 12 ft.,
instead of 12 X 20 ft. they made it, and 6-ft. walls, instead of 8-ft.
walls. Both were expert axemen. Spruce was plentiful and the cabin rose
quickly. In one day the walls were up. An important thing was the roof.
What should it be? Overlapping basswood troughs, split shingles, also
called shakes, or clay? By far the easiest to make, the warmest
in winter and coolest in summer, is the clay roof. It has three
disadvantages: It leaks in long-continued wet weather; it drops down
dust and dirt in dry weather; and is so heavy that it usually ends by
crushing in the log rafters and beams, unless they are further supported
on posts, which are much in the way. But its advantages were so obvious
that the builders did not hesitate. A clay roof it was to be.

When the walls were five feet high, the doorway and window were cut
through the logs, but leaving in each case one half of the log at the
bottom of the needed opening. The top log was now placed, then rolled
over bottom up, while half of its thickness was cut away to fit over
the door: a similar cut out was made over the window. Two flat pieces
of spruce were prepared for door jambs and two shorter ones for window
jambs. Auger holes were put through, so as to allow an oak pin to
be driven through the jamb into each log, and the doorway and window
opening were done.

In one corner they planned a small fireplace, built of clay and stone.
Not stone from the lake, as Rolf would have had it, but from the
hillside; and why? Quonab said that the lake stone was of the water
spirits, and would not live near fire, but would burst open; while the
hillside stone was of the sun and fire spirit, and in the fire would add
its heat.

The facts are that lake stone explodes when greatly heated and hill
stone does not; and since no one has been able to improve upon Quonab’s
explanation, it must stand for the present.

The plan of the fireplace was simple. Rolf had been present at the
building of several, and the main point was to have the chimney large
enough, and the narrowest point just above the fire.

The eaves logs, end logs, and ridge logs were soon in place; then came
the cutting of small poles, spruce and tamarack, long enough to reach
from ridge to eaves, and in sufficient number to completely cover the
roof. A rank sedge meadow near by afforded plenty of coarse grass with
which the poles were covered deeply; and lastly clay dug out with a
couple of hand-made, axe-hewn wooden spades was thrown evenly on the
grass to a depth of six inches; this, when trampled flat, made a roof
that served them well.

The chinks of the logs when large were filled with split pieces of wood;
when small they were plugged with moss. A door was made of hewn planks,
and hinged very simply on two pins; one made by letting the plank
project as a point, the other by nailing on a pin after the door was
placed; both pins fitting, of course, into inch auger holes.

A floor was not needed, but bed bunks were, and in making these they
began already to realize that the cabin was too small. But now after a
week’s work it was done. It had a sweet fragrance of wood and moss, and
the pleasure it gave to Rolf at least was something he never again could
expect to find in equal measure about any other dwelling he might make.

Quonab laid the fire carefully, then lighted his pipe, sang a little
crooning song about the “home spirits,” which we call “household gods,”
 walked around the shanty, offering the pipestem to each of the four
winds in turn, then entering lighted the fire from his pipe, threw some
tobacco and deer hair on the blaze, and the house-warming was ended.

Nevertheless, they continued to sleep in the tent they had used all
along, for Quonab loved not the indoors, and Rolf was growing daily more
of his mind.



Chapter 21. Rolf’s First Deer

Anxious to lose no fine day they had worked steadily on the shanty, not
even going after the deer that were seen occasionally over the lake, so
that now they were out of fresh meat, and Rolf saw a chance he long had
looked for. “Quonab, I want to go out alone and get a deer, and I want
your gun.

“Ugh! you shall go. To-night is good.”

“To-night” meant evening, so Rolf set out alone as soon as the sun was
low, for during the heat of the day the deer are commonly lying in some
thicket. In general, he knew enough to travel up wind, and to go as
silently as possible. The southwest wind was blowing softly, and so he
quickened his steps southwesterly which meant along the lake. Tracks and
signs abounded; it was impossible to follow any one trail. His plan was
to keep on silently, trusting to luck, nor did he have long to wait.
Across a little opening of the woods to the west he saw a movement in
the bushes, but it ceased, and he was in doubt whether the creature,
presumably a deer, was standing there or had gone on. “Never quit till
you are sure,” was one of Quonab’s wise adages. Rolf was bound to know
what it was that had moved. So he stood still and waited. A minute
passed; another; many; a long time; and still he waited, but got no
further sign of life from the bush. Then he began to think he was
mistaken; yet it was good huntercraft to find out what that was. He
tried the wind several times, first by wetting his finger, which test
said “southwest”; second, by tossing up some handfuls of dried grass,
which said “yes, southwest, but veering southerly in this glade.” So he
knew he might crawl silently to the north side of that bush. He looked
to the priming of his gun and began a slow and stealthy stalk, selecting
such openings as might be passed without effort or movement of bushes or
likelihood of sound. He worked his way step by step; each time his foot
was lifted he set it down again only after trying the footing. At each
step he paused to look and listen. It was only one hundred yards to the
interesting spot, but Rolf was fifteen minutes in covering the distance,
and more than once, he got a great start as a chicadee flew out or
a woodpecker tapped. His heart beat louder and louder, so it seemed
everything near must hear; but he kept on his careful stalk, and at last
had reached the thicket that had given him such thrills and hopes. Here
he stood and watched for a full minute. Again he tried the wind, and
proceeded to circle slowly to the west of the place.

After a long, tense crawl of twenty yards he came on the track and sign
of a big buck, perfectly fresh, and again his heart worked harder;
it seemed to be pumping his neck full of blood, so he was choking. He
judged it best to follow this hot trail for a time, and holding his gun
ready cocked he stepped softly onward. A bluejay cried out, “jay, jay!”
 with startling loudness, and seemingly enjoyed his pent-up excitement. A
few steps forward at slow, careful stalk, and then behind him he heard
a loud whistling hiss. Instantly turning he found himself face to face
with a great, splendid buck in the short blue coat. There not thirty
yards away he stood, the creature he had been stalking so long, in plain
view now, broadside on. They gazed each at the other, perfectly still
for a few seconds, then Rolf without undue movement brought the gun
to bear, and still the buck stood gazing. The gun was up, but oh, how
disgustingly it wabbled and shook! and the steadier Rolf tried to bold
it, the more it trembled, until from that wretched gun the palsy spread
all over his body; his breath came tremulously, his legs and arms were
shaking, and at last, as the deer moved its head to get a better view
and raised its tail, the lad, making an effort at selfcontrol, pulled
the trigger. Bang! and the buck went lightly bounding out of sight.

Poor Rolf; how disgusted he felt; positively sick with self-contempt.
Thirty yards, standing, broadside on, full daylight, a big buck, a clean
miss. Yes, there was the bullet hole in a tree, five feet above the
deer’s head. “I’m no good; I’ll never be a hunter,” he groaned, then
turned and slowly tramped back to camp. Quonab looked inquiringly, for,
of course, he heard the shot. He saw a glum and sorry-looking youth, who
in response to his inquiring look gave merely a head-shake, and hung up
the gun with a vicious bang.

Quonab took down the gun, wiped it out, reloaded it, then turning to the
boy said: “Nibowaka, you feel pretty sick. Ugh! You know why? You got
a good chance, but you got buck fever. It is always so, every one the
first time. You go again to-morrow and you get your deer.”

Rolf made no reply. So Quonab ventured, “You want me to go?” That
settled it for Rolf; his pride was touched.

“No; I’ll go again in the morning.”

In the dew time he was away once more on the hunting trail. There was
no wind, but the southwest was the likeliest to spring up. So he went
nearly over his last night’s track. He found it much easier to go
silently now when all the world was dew wet, and travelled quickly. Past
the fateful glade he went, noted again the tree torn several feet too
high up, and on. Then the cry of a bluejay rang out; this is often a
notification of deer at hand. It always is warning of something doing,
and no wise hunter ignores it.

Rolf stood for a moment listening and peering. He thought he heard a
scraping sound; then again the bluejay, but the former ceased and the
jay-note died in the distance. He crept cautiously on again for a few
minutes; another opening appeared. He studied this from a hiding place;
then far across he saw a little flash near the ground. His heart gave
a jump; he studied the place, saw again the flash and then made out the
head of a deer, a doe that was lying in the long grass. The flash was
made by its ear shaking off a fly. Rolf looked to his priming, braced
himself, got fully ready, then gave a short, sharp whistle; instantly
the doe rose to her feet; then another appeared, a sinal one; then a
young buck; all stood gazing his way.

Up went the gun, but again its muzzle began to wabble. Rolf lowered it,
said grimly and savagely to himself, “I will not shake this time.” The
deer stretched themselves and began slowly walking toward the lake. All
had disappeared but the buck. Rolf gave another whistle that turned the
antler-bearer to a statue. Controlling himself with a strong “I
will,” he raised the gun, held it steadily, and fired. The buck gave
a gathering spasm, a bound, and disappeared. Rolf felt sick again with
disgust, but he reloaded, then hastily went forward.

There was the deep imprint showing where the buck had bounded at the
shot, but no blood. He followed, and a dozen feet away found the next
hoof marks and on them a bright-red stain; on and another splash; and
more and shortening bounds, till one hundred yards away--yes, there it
lay; the round, gray form, quite dead, shot through the heart.

Rolf gave a long, rolling war cry and got an answer from a point that
was startlingly near, and Quonab stepped from behind a tree.

“I got him,” shouted Rolf.

The Indian smiled. “I knew you would, so I followed; last night I knew
you must have your shakes, so let you go it alone.”

Very carefully that deer was skinned, and Rolf learned the reason for
many little modes of procedure.

After the hide was removed from the body (not the hand or legs), Quonab
carefully cut out the-broad sheath of tendon that cover the muscles,
beginning at the hip bones on the back and extending up to the
shoulders; this is the sewing sinew. Then he cut out the two long
fillets of meat that lie on each side of the spine outside (the loin)
and the two smaller ones inside (the tenderloin).

These, with the four quarters, the heart, and the kidneys, were put into
the hide. The entrails, head, neck, legs, feet, he left for the foxes,
but the hip bone or sacrum he hung in a tree with three little red
yarns from them, so that the Great Spirit would be pleased and send good
hunting. Then addressing the head he said: “Little brother, forgive
us. We are sorry to kill you. Behold! we give you the honour of red
streamers.” Then bearing the rest they tramped back to camp.

The meat wrapped in sacks to keep off the flies was hung in the shade,
but the hide he buried in the warm mud of a swamp hole, and three days
later, when the hair began to slip, he scraped it clean. A broad ash
wood hoop he had made ready and when the green rawhide was strained on
it again the Indian had an Indian drum.

It was not truly dry for two or three days and as it tightened on its
frame it gave forth little sounds of click and shrinkage that told of
the strain the tensioned rawhide made. Quonab tried it that night as he
sat by the fire softly singing:

“Ho da ho-he da he.”

But the next day before sunrise he climbed the hill and sitting on the
sun-up rock he hailed the Day God with the invocation, as he had not
sung it since the day they left the great rock above the Asalnuk, and
followed with the song:

“Father, we thank thee; We have found the good hunting. There is meat in
the wigwam.”



Chapter 22. The Line of Traps

Now that they had the cabin for winter, and food for the present,
they must set about the serious business of trapping and lay a line of
deadfalls for use in the coming cold weather. They were a little ahead
of time, but it was very desirable to get their lines blazed through the
woods in all proposed directions in case of any other trapper coming in.
Most fur-bearing animals are to be found along the little valleys of the
stream: beaver, otter, mink, muskrat, coon, are examples. Those that
do not actually live by the water seek these places because of their
sheltered character and because their prey lives there; of this class
are the lynx, fox, fisher, and marten that feed on rabbits and mice.
Therefore a line of traps is usually along some valley and over the
divide and down some other valley back to the point of beginning.

So, late in September, Rolf and Quonab, with their bedding, a pot, food
for four days, and two axes, alternately followed and led by Skookum,
set out along a stream that entered the lake near their cabin. A quarter
mile up they built their first deadfall for martens. It took them one
hour and was left unset. The place was under a huge tree on a neck of
land around which the stream made a loop. This tree they blazed on three
sides. Two hundred yards up another good spot was found and a deadfall
made. At one place across a neck of land was a narrow trail evidently
worn by otters. “Good place for steel trap, bime-by,” was Quonab’s
remark.

From time to time they disturbed deer, and in a muddy place where a
deer path crossed the creek, they found, among the numerous small hoof
prints, the track of wolves, bears, and a mountain lion, or panther. At
these little Skookum sniffed fearsomely, and showed by his bristly mane
that he was at least much impressed.

After five hours’ travel and work they came to another stream joining
on, and near the angle of the two little valleys they found a small tree
that was chewed and scratched in a remarkable manner for three to six
feet up. “Bear tree,” said Quonab, and by degrees Rolf got the facts
about it.

The bears, and indeed most animals, have a way of marking the range that
they consider their own. Usually this is done by leaving their personal
odour at various points, covering the country claimed, but in some cases
visible marks are added. Thus the beaver leaves a little dab of mud, the
wolf scratches with his hind feet, and the bear tears the signal tree
with tooth and claw. Since this is done from time to time, when the bear
happens to be near the tree, it is kept fresh as long as the region
is claimed. But it is especially done in midsummer when the bears are
pairing, and helps them to find suitable companions, nor all are then
roaming the woods seeking mates; all call and leave their mark on the
sign post, so the next bear, thanks to his exquisite nose, can tell at
once the sex of the bear that called last and by its track tell which
way it travelled afterward.

In this case it was a bear’s register, but before long Quonab showed
Rolf a place where two long logs joined at an angle by a tree that was
rubbed and smelly, and showed a few marten hairs, indicating that this
was the sign post of a marten and a good place to make a deadfall.

Yet a third was found in an open, grassy glade, a large, white stone on
which were pellets left by foxes. The Indian explained:

“Every fox that travels near will come and smell the stone to see who
of his kind is around, so this is a good place for a fox-trap; a steel
trap, of course, for no fox will go into a deadfall.”

And slowly Rolf learned that these habits are seen in some measure
in all animals; yes, down to the mice and shrews. We see little of
it because our senses are blunt and our attention untrained; but the
naturalist and the hunter always know where to look for the four-footed
inhabitants and by them can tell whether or not the land is possessed by
such and such a furtive tribe.



Chapter 23. The Beaver Pond

AT THE noon halt they were about ten miles from home and had made
fifteen deadfalls for marten, for practice was greatly reducing the time
needed for each.

In the afternoon they went on, but the creek had become a mere rill and
they were now high up in a more level stretch of country that was
more or less swampy. As they followed the main course of the dwindling
stream, looking ever for signs of fur-bearers, they crossed and
recrossed the water. At length Quonab stopped, stared, and pointed at
the rill, no longer clear but clouded with mud. His eyes shone as he
jerked his head up stream and uttered the magic word, “Beaver.”

They tramped westerly for a hundred yards through a dense swamp of
alders, and came at last to an irregular pond that spread out among the
willow bushes and was lost in the swampy thickets. Following the stream
they soon came to a beaver dam, a long, curving bank of willow branches
and mud, tumbling through the top of which were a dozen tiny streams
that reunited their waters below to form the rivulet they had been
following.

Red-winged blackbirds were sailing in flocks about the pond; a number
of ducks were to be seen, and on a dead tree, killed by the backed up
water, a great blue heron stood. Many smaller creatures moved or flitted
in the lively scene, while far out near the middle rose a dome-like pile
of sticks, a beaver lodge, and farther three more were discovered. No
beaver were seen, but the fresh cut sticks, the floating branches peeled
of all the bark, and the long, strong dam in good repair were enough
to tell a practised eye that here was a large colony of beavers in
undisturbed possession.

In those days beaver was one of the most valued furs. The creature is
very easy to trap; so the discovery of the pond was like the finding of
a bag of gold. They skirted its uncertain edges and Quonab pointed out
the many landing places of the beaver; little docks they seemed, built
up with mud and stones with deep water plunge holes alongside. Here and
there on the shore was a dome-shaped ant’s nest with a pathway to it
from the pond, showing, as the Indian said, that here the beaver came on
sunny days to lie on the hill and let the swarming ants come forth and
pick the vermin from their fur. At one high point projecting into the
still water they found a little mud pie with a very strong smell; this,
the Indian said, was a “castor cache,” the sign that, among beavers,
answers the same purpose as the bear tree among bears.

Although the pond seemed small they had to tramp a quarter of a mile
before reaching the upper end and here they found another dam, with its
pond. This was at a slightly higher level and contained a single lodge;
after this they found others, a dozen ponds in a dozen successive rises,
the first or largest and the second only having lodges, but all were
evidently part of the thriving colony, for fresh cut trees were seen on
every side. “Ugh, good; we get maybe fifty beaver,” said the Indian, and
they knew they had reached the Promised Land.

Rolf would gladly have spent the rest of the day exploring the pond and
trying for a beaver, when the eventide should call them to come forth,
but Quonab said, “Only twenty deadfall; we should have one hundred and
fifty.” So making for a fine sugar bush on the dry ground west of the
ponds they blazed a big tree, left a deadfall there, and sought the
easiest way over the rough hills that lay to the east, in hopes of
reaching the next stream leading down to their lake.



Chapter 24. The Porcupine

Skookum was a partly trained little dog; he would stay in camp when
told, if it suited him; and would not hesitate to follow or lead his
master, when he felt that human wisdom was inferior to the ripe product
of canine experience covering more than thirteen moons of recollection.
But he was now living a life in which his previous experience must often
fail him as a guide. A faint rustling on the leafy ground had sent
him ahead at a run, and his sharp, angry bark showed that some hostile
creature of the woods had been discovered. Again and again the angry
yelping was changed into a sort of yowl, half anger, half distress. The
hunters hurried forward to find the little fool charging again and
again a huge porcupine that was crouched with its head under a log, its
hindquarters exposed but bristling with spines; and its tail lashing
about, left a new array of quills in the dog’s mouth and face each time
he charged. Skookum was a plucky fighter, but plainly he was nearly sick
of it. The pain of the quills would, of course, increase every minute
and with each movement. Quonab took a stout stick and threw the
porcupine out of its retreat, (Rolf supposed to kill it when the head
was exposed,) but the spiny one, finding a new and stronger enemy,
wasted no time in galloping at its slow lumbering pace to the nearest
small spruce tree and up that it scrambled to a safe place in the high
branches.

Now the hunters called the dog. He was a sorry-looking object, pawing at
his muzzle, first with one foot, then another, trying to unswallow the
quills in his tongue, blinking hard, uttering little painful grunts and
whines as he rubbed his head upon the ground or on his forelegs. Rolf
held him while Quonab, with a sharp jerk, brought out quill after quill.
Thirty or forty of the poisonous little daggers were plucked from his
trembling legs, head, face, and nostrils, but the dreadful ones were
those in his lips and tongue. Already they were deeply sunk in the soft,
quivering flesh. One by one those in the lips were with-drawn by the
strong fingers of the red man, and Skookum whimpered a little, but he
shrieked outright when those in the tongue were removed. Rolf had hard
work to hold him, and any one not knowing the case might have thought
that the two men were deliberately holding the dog to administer the
most cruel torture.

But none of the quills had sunk very deep. All were got out at last and
the little dog set free.

Now Rolf thought of vengeance on the quill-pig snugly sitting in the
tree near by.

Ammunition was too precious to waste, but Rolf was getting ready to climb
when Quonab said: “No, no; you must not. Once I saw white man climb
after the Kahk; it waited till he was near, then backed down, lashing
its tail. He put up his arm to save his face. It speared his arm in
fifty places and he could not save his face, so he tried to get down,
but the Kahk came faster, lashing him; then he lost his hold and
dropped. His leg was broken and his arm was swelled up for half a year.
They are very poisonous. He nearly died.”

“Well, I can at least chop him down,” and Rolf took the axe.

“Wah!” Quonab said, “no; my father said you must not kill the Kahk,
except you make sacrifice and use his quills for household work. It is
bad medicine to kill the Kahk.”

So the spiny one was left alone in the place he had so ably fought for.
But Skookum, what of him? He was set free at last. To be wiser? Alas,
no! before one hour he met with another porcupine and remembering only
his hate of the creature repeated the same sad mistake, and again had to
have the painful help, without which he must certainly have died. Before
night, however, he began to feel his real punishment and next morning
no one would have known the pudding-headed thing that sadly followed the
hunters, for the bright little dog that a day before had run so joyously
through the woods. It was many a long day before he fully recovered and
at one time his life was in the balance; and yet to the last of his
days he never fully realized the folly of his insensate attacks on the
creature that fights with its tail.

“It is ever so,” said the Indian. “The lynx, the panther, the wolf, the
fox, the eagle, all that attack the Kahk must die. Once my father saw
a bear that was killed by the quills. He had tried to bite the Kahk;
it filled his mouth with quills that he could not spit out. They sunk
deeper and his jaws swelled so he could not open or shut his mouth
to eat; then he starved. My people found him near a fish pond below a
rapid. There were many fish. The bear could kill them with his paw but
not eat, so with his mouth wide open and plenty about him he died of
starvation in that pool.

“There is but one creature that can kill the Kahk that is the Ojeeg the
big fisher weasel. He is a devil. He makes very strong medicine; the
Kahk cannot harm him. He turns it on its back and tears open its smooth
belly. It is ever so. We not know, but my father said, that it is
because when in the flood Nana Bojou was floating on the log with Kahk
and Ojeeg, Kahk was insolent and wanted the highest place, but Ojeeg was
respectful to Nana Bojou, he bit the Kahk to teach him a lesson and got
lashed with the tail of many stings. But the Manito drew out the quills
and said: ‘It shall be ever thus; the Ojeeg shall conquer the Kahk and
the quills of Kahk shall never do Ojeeg any harm.’”



Chapter 25. The Otter Slide

It was late now and the hunters camped in the high cool woods. Skookum
whined in his sleep so loudly as to waken them once or twice. Near dawn
they heard the howling of wolves and the curiously similar hooting of
a horned owl. There is, indeed, almost no difference between the short
opening howl of a she-wolf and the long hoot of the owl. As he listened,
half awake, Rolf heard a whirr of wings which stopped overhead, then
a familiar chuckle. He sat up and saw Skookum sadly lift his misshapen
head to gaze at a row of black-breasted grouse partridge on a branch
above, but the poor doggie was feeling too sick to take any active
interest. They were not ruffed grouse, but a kindred kind, new to Rolf.
As he gazed at the perchers, he saw Quonab rise gently, go to nearest
willow and cut a long slender rod at least two feet long; on the top of
this he made a short noose of cord. Then he went cautiously under the
watching grouse, the spruce partridges, and reaching up slipped the
noose over the neck of the first one; a sharp jerk then tightened noose,
and brought the grouse tumbling out of the tree while its companions
merely clucked their puzzlement, made no effort to escape.

A short, sharp blow put the captive out of pain. The rod was reached
again and a second, the lowest always, was jerked down, and the trick
repeated till three grouse were secured. Then only did it dawn on the
others that they were in a most perilous neighbourhood, so they took
flight.

Rolf sat up in amazement. Quonab dropped the three birds by the fire and
set about preparing breakfast.

“These are fool hens,” he explained. “You can mostly get them this way;
sure, if you have a dog to help, but ruffed grouse is no such fool.”

Rolf dressed the birds and as usual threw the entrails Skookum. Poor
little dog! he was, indeed, a sorry sight. He looked sadly out of his
bulging eyes, feebly moved swollen jaws, but did not touch the food he
once would have pounced on. He did not eat because he could not open his
mouth.

At camp the trappers made a log trap and continued the line with blazes
and deadfalls, until, after a mile, they came to a broad tamarack swamp,
and, skirting its edge, found a small, outflowing stream that brought
them to an eastward-facing hollow. Everywhere there were signs game,
but they were not prepared for the scene that opened as they cautiously
pushed through the thickets into a high, hardwood bush. A deer rose
out of the grass and stared curiously at them; then another and another
until nearly a dozen were in sight; still farther many others appeared;
to the left were more, and movements told of yet others to the right.
Then their white flags went up and all loped gently away on the slope
that rose to the north. There may have been twenty or thirty deer in
sight, but the general effect of all their white tails, bobbing away,
was that the woods were full of deer. They seemed to be there by the
hundreds and the joy of seeing so many beautiful live things was helped
in the hunters by the feeling that this was their own hunting-ground.
They had, indeed, reached the land of plenty.

The stream increased as they marched; many springs and some important
rivulets joined on. They found some old beaver signs but none new; and
they left their deadfalls every quarter mile or less.

The stream began to descend more quickly until it was in a long, narrow
valley with steep clay sides and many pools. Here they saw again and
again the tracks and signs of otter and coming quietly round a turn that
opened a new reach they heard a deep splash, then another and another.

The hunters’ first thought was to tie up Skookum, but a glance showed
that this was unnecessary. They softly dropped the packs and the sick
dog lay meekly down beside them. Then they crept forward with hunter
caution, favoured by an easterly breeze. Their first thought was of
beaver, but they had seen no recent sign, nor was there anything that
looked like a beaver pond. The measured splash, splash, splash--was not
so far ahead. It might be a bear snatching fish, or--no, that was too
unpleasant--a man baling out a canoe. Still the slow splash, splash,
went on at intervals, not quite regular.

Now it seemed but thirty yards ahead and in the creek.

With the utmost care they crawled to the edge of the clay and opposite
they saw a sight but rarely glimpsed by man. Here were six otters; two
evidently full-grown, and four seeming young of the pair, engaged in a
most hilarious and human game of tobogganing down a steep clay hill to
plump into a deep part at its foot.

Plump went the largest, presumably the father; down he went, to reappear
at the edge, scramble out and up an easy slope to the top of the
twenty-foot bank. Splash, splash, splash, came three of the young ones;
splash, splash, the mother and one of the cubs almost together.

“Scoot” went the big male again, and the wet furslopping and rubbing on
the long clay chute made it greasier and slipperier every time.

Splash, plump, splash--splash, plump, splash, went the otter family
gleefully, running up the bank again, eager each to be first, it seemed,
and to do the chute the oftenest.

The gambolling grace, the obvious good humour, the animal hilarity of
it all, was absorbingly amusing. The trappers gazed with pleasure that
showed how near akin are naturalist and hunter. Of course, they had
some covetous thought connected with those glossy hides, but this
was September still, and even otter were not yet prime. Shoot, plump,
splash, went the happy crew with apparently unabated joy and hilarity.
The slide improved with use and the otters seemed tireless; when all
at once a loud but muffled yelp was heard and Skookum, forgetting all
caution, came leaping down the bank to take a hand.

With a succession of shrill, birdy chirps the old otters warned their
young. Plump, plump, plump, all shot into the pool, but to reappear,
swimming with heads out, for they were but slightly alarmed. This was
too much for Quonob; he levelled his flintlock; snap, bang, it went,
pointed at the old male, but he dived at the snap and escaped. Down the
bank now rushed the hunters, joined by Skookum, to attack the otters
in the pool, for it was small and shallow; unless a burrow led from it,
they were trapped.

But the otters realized the peril. All six dashed out of the pool, down
the open, gravelly stream the old ones uttering loud chirps that rang
like screams. Under the fallen logs and brush they glided, dodging
beneath roots and over banks, pursued by the hunters, each armed with a
club and by Skookum not armed at all.

The otters seemed to know where they were going and distanced all but
the dog. Forgetting his own condition Skookum had almost overtaken
one of the otter cubs when the mother wheeled about and, hissing and
snarling, charged. Skookum was lucky to get off with a slight nip, for
the otter is a dangerous fighter. But the unlucky dog was sent howling
back to the two packs that he never should have left.

The hunters now found an open stretch of woods through which Quonab
could run ahead and intercept the otters as they bounded on down the
stream bed, pursued by Rolf, who vainly tried to deal a blow with his
club. In a few seconds the family party was up to Quonab, trapped it
seemed, but there is no more desperate assailant than an otter
fighting for its young. So far from being cowed the two old ones made a
simultaneous, furious rush at the Indian. Wholly taken by surprise, he
missed with his club, and sprang aside to escape their jaws. The family
dashed around then past him, and, urged by the continuous chirps of the
mother, they plunged under a succession of log jams and into a willow
swamp that spread out into an ancient beaver lake and were swallowed up
in the silent wilderness.



Chapter 26. Back to the Cabin

The far end of the long swamp the stream emerged, now much larger, and
the trappers kept on with their work. When night fell they had completed
fifty traps, all told, and again they camped without shelter overhead.

Next day Skookum was so much worse that they began to fear for his life.
He had eaten nothing since the sad encounter. He could drink a little,
so Rolf made a pot of soup, and when it was cool the poor doggie managed
to swallow some of the liquid after half an hour’s patient endeavour.

They were now on the home line; from a hill top they got a distant view
of their lake, though it was at least five miles away. Down the creek
they went, still making their deadfalls at likely places and still
seeing game tracks at the muddy spots. The creek came at length to an
extensive, open, hardwood bush, and here it was joined by another stream
that came from the south, the two making a small river. From then on
they seemed in a land of game; trails of deer were seen on the ground
everywhere, and every few minutes they started one or two deer. The
shady oak wood itself was flanked and varied with dense cedar swamps
such as the deer love to winter in, and after they had tramped through
two miles of it, the Indian said, “Good! now we know where to come in
winter when we need meat.”

At a broad, muddy ford they passed an amazing number of tracks, mostly
deer, but a few of panther, lynx, fisher, wolf, otter, and mink.

In the afternoon they reached the lake. The stream, quite a broad one
here, emptied in about four miles south of the camp. Leaving a deadfall
near its mouth they followed the shore and made a log trap every quarter
mile just above the high water mark.

When they reached the place of Rolf’s first deer they turned aside to
see it. The gray jays had picked a good deal of the loose meat. No large
animal had troubled it, and yet in the neighbourhood they found the
tracks of both wolves and foxes.

“Ugh,” said Quonab, “they smell it and come near, but they know that a
man has been here; they are not very hungry, so keep away. This is good
for trap.”

So they made two deadfalls with the carrion half way between them. Then
one or two more traps and they reached home, arriving at the camp just
as darkness and a heavy rainfall began.

“Good,” said Quonab, “our deadfalls are ready; we have done all the work
our fingers could not do when the weather is very cold, and the ground
too hard for stakes to be driven. Now the traps can get weathered before
we go round and set them. Yet we need some strong medicine, some trapper
charm.”

Next morning he went forth with fish-line and fish-spear; he soon
returned with a pickerel. He filled a bottle with cut-up shreds of this,
corked it up, and hung it on the warm, sunny side of the shanty. “That
will make a charm that every bear will come to,” he said, and left it
to the action of the sun.



Chapter 27. Sick Dog Skookum

Getting home is always a joy; but walking about the place in the morning
they noticed several little things that were wrong. Quonab’s lodge was
down, the paddles that stood against the shanty were scattered on the
ground, and a bag of venison hung high at the ridge was opened and
empty.

Quonab studied the tracks and announced “a bad old black bear; he has
rollicked round for mischief, upsetting things. But the venison he could
not reach; that was a marten that ripped open the bag.”

“Then that tells what we should do; build a storehouse at the end of the
shanty,” said Rolf, adding, “it must be tight and it must be cool.”

“Maybe! sometime before winter,” said the Indian; “but now we should
make another line of traps while the weather is fine.”

“No,” replied the lad, “Skookum is not fit to travel now. We can’t leave
him behind, and we can make a storehouse in three days.”

The unhappy little dog was worse than ever. He could scarcely breathe,
much less eat or drink, and the case was settled.

First they bathed the invalid’s head in water as hot as he could stand
it. This seemed to help him so much that he swallowed eagerly some soup
that they poured into his mouth. A bed was made for him in a sunny place
and the hunters set about the new building.

In three days the storehouse was done, excepting the chinking. It was
October now, and a sharp night frost warned them of the hard white moons
to come. Quonab, as he broke the ice in a tin cup and glanced at the
low-hung sun, said: “The leaves are falling fast; snow comes soon; we
need another line of traps.”

He stopped suddenly; stared across the lake. Rolf looked, and here came
three deer, two bucks and a doe, trotting, walking, or lightly clearing
obstacles, the doe in advance; the others, rival followers. As they kept
along the shore, they came nearer the cabin. Rolf glanced at Quonab, who
nodded, then slipped in, got down the gun, and quickly glided unseen to
the river where the deer path landed. The bucks did not actually fight,
for the season was not yet on, but their horns were clean, their necks
were swelling, and they threatened each other as they trotted after the
leader. They made for the ford as for some familiar path, and splashed
through, almost without swimming. As they landed, Rolf waited a clear
view, then gave a short sharp “Hist!” It was like a word of magic, for
it turned the three moving deer to three stony-still statues. Rolf’s
sights were turned on the smaller buck, and when the great cloud
following the bang had deared away, the two were gone and the lesser
buck was kicking on the ground some fifty yards away.

“We have found the good hunting; the deer walk into camp,” said Quonab;
and the product of the chase was quickly stored, the first of the
supplies to be hung in the new storehouse.

The entrails were piled up and covered with brush and stones. “That will
keep off ravens and jays; then in winter the foxes will come and we can
take their coats.”

Now they must decide for the morning. Skookum was somewhat better, but
still very sick, and Rolf suggested: “Quonab, you take the gun and axe
and lay a new line. I will stay behind and finish up the cabin for the
winter and look after the dog.” So it was agreed. The Indian left the
camp alone this time and crossed to the east shore of the lake; there to
follow up another stream as before and to return in three or four days
to the cabin.



Chapter 28. Alone in the Wilderness

Rolf began the day by giving Skookum a bath as hot as he could stand it,
and later his soup. For the first he whined feebly and for the second
faintly wagged his tail; but clearly he was on the mend.

Now the chinking and moss-plugging of the new cabin required all
attention. That took a day and looked like the biggest job on hand, but
Rolf had been thinking hard about the winter. In Connecticut the
wiser settlers used to bank their houses for the cold weather; in the
Adirondacks he knew it was far, far colder, and he soon decided to bank
the two shanties as deeply as possible with earth. A good spade made of
white oak, with its edge hardened by roasting it brown, was his first
necessity, and after two days of digging he had the cabin with its annex
buried up to “the eyes” in fresh, clean earth.

A stock of new, dry wood for wet weather helped to show how much too
small the cabin was; and now the heavier work was done, and Rolf had
plenty of time to think.

Which of us that has been left alone in the wilderness does not remember
the sensations of the first day! The feeling of self-dependency, not
unmixed with unrestraint; the ending of civilized thought; the total
reversion to the primitive; the nearness of the wood-folk; a sense of
intimacy; a recurrent feeling of awe at the silent inexorability of
all around; and a sweet pervading sense of mastery in the very freedom.
These were among the feelings that swept in waves through Rolf, and
when the first night came, he found such comfort--yes, he had to confess
it--in the company of the helpless little dog whose bed was by his own.

But these were sensations that come not often; in the four days and
nights that he was alone they lost all force.

The hunter proverb about “strange beasts when you have no gun” was amply
illustrated now that Quonab had gone with their only firearm. The second
night before turning in (he slept in the shanty now), he was taking a
last look at the stars, when a large, dark form glided among the tree
trunks between him and the shimmering lake; stopped, gazed at him, then
silently disappeared along the shore. No wonder that he kept the shanty
door closed that night, and next morning when he studied the sandy
ridges he read plainly that his night visitor had been not a lynx or a
fox, but a prowling cougar or panther.

On the third morning as he went forth in the still early dawn he heard
a snort, and looking toward the spruce woods, was amazed to see towering
up, statuesque, almost grotesque, with its mulish ears and antediluvian
horns, a large bull moose.

Rolf was no coward, but the sight of that monster so close to him set
his scalp a-prickling. He felt so helpless without any firearms. He
stepped into the cabin, took down his bow and arrows, then gave a
contemptuous “Humph; all right for partridge and squirrels, but give me
a rifle for the woods!” He went out again; there was the moose standing
as before. The lad rushed toward it a few steps, shouting; it stared
unmoved. But Rolf was moved, and he retreated to the cabin. Then
remembering the potency of fire he started a blaze on the hearth. The
thick smoke curled up on the still air, hung low, made swishes through
the grove, until a faint air current took a wreath of it to the moose.
The great nostrils drank in a draught that conveyed terror to the
creature’s soul, and wheeling it started at its best pace to the distant
swamp, to be seen no more.

Five times, during these four days, did deer come by and behave as
though they knew perfectly well that this young human was harmless,
entirely without the power of the far-killing mystery.

How intensely Rolf wished for a gun. How vividly came back the scene
in the trader’s store,--when last month he had been offered a beautiful
rifle for twenty-five dollars, to be paid for in fur next spring, and
savagely he blamed himself for not realizing what a chance it was. Then
and there he made resolve to be the owner of a gun as soon as another
chance came, and to make that chance come right soon.

One little victory he had in that time. The creature that had torn open
the venison bag was still around the camp; that was plain by the further
damage on the bag hung in the storehouse, the walls of which were not
chinked. Mindful of Quonab’s remark, he set two marten traps, one on
the roof, near the hole that had been used as entry; the other on a log
along which the creature must climb to reach the meat. The method of
setting is simple; a hollow is made, large enough to receive the trap
as it lies open; on the pan of the trap some grass is laid smoothly;
on each side of the trap a piece of prickly brush is placed, so that
in leaping over these the creature will land on the lurking snare. The
chain was made fast to a small log.

Although so seldom seen there is no doubt that the marten comes out
chiefly by day. That night the trap remained unsprung; next morning
as Rolf went at silent dawn to bring water from the lake, he noticed
a long, dark line that proved to be ducks. As he sat gazing he heard
a sound in the tree beyond the cabin. It was like the scratching of
a squirrel climbing about. Then he saw the creature, a large, dark
squirrel, it seemed. It darted up this tree and down that, over logs and
under brush, with the lightning speed of a lightning squirrel, and from
time to time it stopped still as a bump while it gazed at some far and
suspicious object. Up one trunk it went like a brown flash, and a moment
later, out, cackling from its top, flew two partridges. Down to the
ground, sinuous, graceful, incessantly active flashed the marten. Along
a log it raced in undulating leaps; in the middle it stopped as though
frozen, to gaze intently into a bed of sedge; with three billowy bounds
its sleek form reached the sedge, flashed in and out again with a
mouse in its snarling jaws; a side leap now, and another squeaker was
squeakless, and another. The three were slain, then thrown aside, as the
brown terror scanned a flight of ducks passing over. Into a thicket of
willow it disappeared and out again like an eel going through the mud,
then up a tall stub where woodpecker holes were to be seen. Into the
largest it went so quickly Rolf could scarcely see how it entered,
and out in a few seconds bearing a flying squirrel whose skull it had
crushed. Dropping the squirrel it leaped after it, and pounced again on
the quivering form with a fearsome growl; then shook it savagely, tore
it apart, cast it aside. Over the ground it now undulated, its shining
yellow breast like a target of gold. Again it stopped. Now in pose like
a pointer, exquisitely graceful, but oh, so wicked! Then the snaky
neck swung the cobra head in the breeze and the brown one sniffed and
sniffed, advanced a few steps, tried the wind and the ground. Still
farther and the concentrated interest showed in its outstretched neck
and quivering tail. Bounding into a thicket it went, when out of the
other side there leaped a snowshoe rabbit, away and away for dear life.
Jump, jump, jump; twelve feet at every stride, and faster than the eye
could follow, with the marten close behind. What a race it was, and
how they twinkled through the brush! The rabbit is, indeed, faster, but
courage counts for much, and his was low; but luck and his good stars
urged him round to the deer trail crossing of the stream; once there he
could not turn. There was only one course. He sprang into the open river
and swam for his life. And the marten--why should it go in? It hated the
water; it was not hungry; it was out for sport, and water sport is not
to its liking. It braced its sinewy legs and halted at the very brink,
while bunny crossed to the safe woods.

Back now came Wahpestan, the brown death, over the logs like a winged
snake, skimming the ground like a sinister shadow, and heading for the
cabin as the cabin’s owner watched. Passing the body of the squirrel it
paused to rend it again, then diving into the brush came out so far away
and so soon that the watcher supposed at first that this was another
marten. Up the shanty corner it flashed, hardly appearing to climb,
swung that yellow throat and dark-brown muzzle for a second, then made
toward the entry.

Rolf sat with staring eyes as the beautiful demon, elegantly
spurning the roof sods, went at easy, measured bounds toward the open
chink--toward its doom. One, two, three--clearing the prickly cedar
bush, its forefeet fell on the hidden trap; clutch, a savage shriek, a
flashing,--a struggle baffling the eyes to follow, and the master of the
squirrels was himself under mastery.

Rolf rushed forward now. The little demon in the trap was frothing with
rage and hate; it ground the iron with its teeth; it shrieked at the
human foeman coming.

The scene must end, the quicker the better, and even as the marten
itself had served the flying squirrel and the mice, and as Quonab served
the mink, so Rolf served the marten and the woods was still.



Chapter 29. Snowshoes

“That’s for Annette,” said Rolf, remembering his promise as he hung the
stretched marten skin to dry.

“Yi! Yi! Yi!” came three yelps, just as he had heard them the day he
first met Quonab, and crossing the narrow lake he saw his partner’s
canoe.

“We have found the good hunting,” he said, as Rolf steadied the canoe at
the landing and Skookum, nearly well again, wagged his entire ulterior
person to welcome the wanderer home. The first thing to catch the boy’s
eye was a great, splendid beaver skin stretched on a willow hoop.

“Ho, ho!” he exclaimed.

“Ugh; found another pond.”

“Good, good,” said Rolf as he stroked the first beaver skin he had ever
seen in the woods.

“This is better,” said Quonab, and held up the two barkstones, castors,
or smell-glands that are found in every beaver and which for some hid
reason have an irresistible attraction for all wild animals. To us the
odour is slight, but they have the power of intensifying, perpetuating,
and projecting such odorous substances as may be mixed with them.
No trapper considers his bait to be perfect without a little of the
mysterious castor. So that that most stenchable thing they had already
concocted of fish-oil, putrescence, sewer-gas, and sunlight, when
commingled and multiplied with the dried-up powder of a castor, was
intensified into a rich, rancid, gas-exhaling hell-broth as rapturously
bewitching to our furry brothers as it is poisonously nauseating to
ourselves--seductive afar like the sweetest music, inexorable as fate,
insidious as laughing-gas, soothing and numbing as absinthe--this, the
lure and caution-luller, is the fellest trick in all the trappers’ code.
As deadly as inexplicable, not a few of the states have classed it with
black magic and declared its use a crime.

But no such sentiment prevailed in the high hills of Quonab’s time, and
their preparations for a successful trapping season were nearly perfect.
Thirty deadfalls made by Quonab, with the sixty made on the first trip
and a dozen steel traps, were surely promise of a good haul. It was
nearly November now; the fur was prime; then why not begin? Because
the weather was too fine. You must have frosty weather or the creatures
taken in the deadfalls are spoiled before the trapper can get around.

Already a good, big pile of wood was cut; both shanty and storeroom
were chinked, plugged, and banked for the winter. It was not safe yet to
shoot and store a number of deer, but there was something they could do.
Snowshoes would soon be a necessary of life; and the more of this finger
work they did while the weather was warm, the better.

Birch and ash are used for frames; the former is less liable to split,
but harder to work. White ash was plentiful on the near flat, and a
small ten-foot log was soon cut and split into a lot of long laths.
Quonab of course took charge; but Rolf followed in everything. Each took
a lath and shaved it down evenly until an inch wide and three quarters
of an inch thick. The exact middle was marked, and for ten inches at
each side of that it was shaved down to half an inch in thickness. Two
flat crossbars, ten and twelve inches long, were needed and holes to
receive these made half through the frame. The pot was ready boiling and
by using a cord from end to end of each lath they easily bent it in the
middle and brought the wood into touch with the boiling water. Before an
hour the steam had so softened the wood, and robbed it of spring, that
it was easy to make it into any desired shape. Each lath was cautiously
bent round; the crossbars slipped into their prepared sockets; a
temporary lashing of cord kept all in place; then finally the frames
were set on a level place with the fore end raised two inches and a
heavy log put on the frame to give the upturn to the toe.

Here they were left to dry and the Indian set about preparing the
necessary thongs. A buckskin rolled in wet, hard wood ashes had been
left in the mud hole. Now after a week the hair was easily scraped off
and the hide, cleaned and trimmed of all loose ends and tags, was spread
out--soft, white, and supple. Beginning outside, and following round and
round the edge, Quonab cut a thong of rawhide as nearly as possible a
quarter inch wide. This he carried on till there were many yards of it,
and the hide was all used up. The second deer skin was much smaller and
thinner. He sharpened his knife and cut it much finer, at least half the
width of the other. Now they were ready to lace the shoes, the finer for
the fore and back parts, the heavy for the middle on which the wearer
treads. An expert squaw would have laughed at the rude snowshoes that
were finished that day, but they were strong and serviceable.

Naturally the snowshoes suggested a toboggan. That was easily made by
splitting four thin boards of ash, each six inches wide and ten feet
long. An up-curl was steamed on the prow of each, and rawhide lashings
held all to the crossbars.



Chapter 30. Catching a Fox

     “As to wisdom, a man ain’t a spring; he’s a tank, an’ gives
     out only what he gathers”--Sayings of Si Sylvanne

Quonab would not quit his nightly couch in the canvas lodge so Rolf and
Skookum stayed with him. The dog was himself again, and more than once
in the hours of gloom dashed forth in noisy chase of something which
morning study of the tracks showed to have been foxes. They were
attracted partly by the carrion of the deer, partly by the general
suitability of the sandy beach for a gambolling place, and partly by a
foxy curiosity concerning the cabin, the hunters, and their dog.

One morning after several night arousings and many raids by Skookum,
Rolf said: “Fox is good now; why shouldn’t I add some fox pelts to
that?” and he pointed with some pride to the marten skin.

“Ugh, good; go ahead; you will learn,” was the reply.

So getting out the two fox traps Rolf set to work. Noting where chiefly
the foxes ran or played he chose two beaten pathways and hid the traps
carefully, exactly as he did for the marten; then selecting a couple of
small cedar branches he cut these and laid them across the path, one on
each side of the trap, assuming that the foxes following the usual route
would leap over the boughs and land in disaster. To make doubly sure he
put a piece of meat by each trap and half-way between them set a large
piece on a stone.

Then he sprinkled fresh earth over the pathways and around each trap and
bait so he should have a record of the tracks.

Foxes came that night, as he learned by the footprints along the beach,
but never one went near his traps. He studied the marks; they slowly
told him all the main facts. The foxes had come as usual, and frolicked
about. They had discovered the bait and the traps at once--how could
such sharp noses miss them--and as quickly noted that the traps were
suspicious-smelling iron things, that manscent, hand, foot, and body,
were very evident all about; that the only inducement to go forward was
some meat which was coarse and cold, not for a moment to be compared
with the hot juicy mouse meat that abounded in every meadow. The foxes
were well fed and unhungry. Why should they venture into such evident
danger? In a word, walls of stone could not have more completely
protected the ground and the meat from the foxes than did the obvious
nature of the traps; not a track was near, and many afar showed how
quickly they had veered off.

“Ugh, it is always so,” said Quonab. “Will you try again?”

“Yes, I will,” replied Rolf, remembering now that he had omitted to
deodorize his traps and his boots.

He made a fire of cedar and smoked his traps, chains, and all. Then
taking a piece of raw venison he rubbed it on his leather gloves and
on the soles of his boots, wondering how he had expected to succeed the
night before with all these man-scent killers left out. He put fine,
soft moss under the pan of each trap, then removed the cedar brush, and
gently sprinkled all with fine, dry earth. The set was perfect; no human
eye could have told that there was any trap in the place. It seemed a
foregone success.

“Fox don’t go by eye,” was all the Indian said, for he reckoned it best
to let the learner work it out.

In the morning Rolf was up eager to see the results. There was nothing
at all. A fox had indeed, come within ten feet at one place, but behaved
then as though positively amused at the childishness of the whole smelly
affair. Had a man been there on guard with a club, he could not have
kept the spot more wholly clear of foxes. Rolf turned away baffled and
utterly puzzled. He had not gone far before he heard a most terrific
yelping from Skookum, and turned to see that trouble-seeking pup caught
by the leg in the first trap. It was more the horrible surprise than the
pain, but he did howl.

The hunters came quickly to the rescue and at once he was freed, none
the worse, for the traps have no teeth; they merely hold. It is the
long struggle and the starvation chiefly that are cruel, and these every
trapper should cut short by going often around his line.

Now Quonab took part. “That is a good setting for some things. It would
catch a coon, a mink, or a marten,--or a dog--but not a fox or a wolf.
They are very clever. You shall see.”

The Indian got out a pair of thick leather gloves, smoked them in cedar,
also the traps. Next he rubbed his moccasin soles with raw meat and
selecting a little bay in the shore he threw a long pole on the sand,
from the line of high, dry shingle across to the water’s edge. In
his hand he carried a rough stake. Walking carefully on the pole and
standing on it, he drove the stake in at about four feet from the shore;
then split it, and stuffed some soft moss into the split. On this he
poured three or four drops of the “smell-charm.” Now he put a lump of
spruce gum on the pan of the trap, holding a torch under it till the gum
was fused, and into this he pressed a small, flat stone. The chain of
the trap he fastened to a ten-pound stone of convenient shape, and sank
the stone in the water half-way between the stake and the shore. Last
he placed the trap on this stone, so that when open everything would be
under water except the flat stone on the pan. Now he returned along the
pole and dragged it away with him.

Thus there was now no track or scent of human near the place.

The setting was a perfect one, but even then the foxes did not go near
it the following night; they must become used to it. In their code, “A
strange thing is always dangerous.” In the morning Rolf was inclined to
scoff. But Quonab said: “Wah! No trap goes first night.”

They did not need to wait for the second morning. In the middle of the
night Skookum rushed forth barking, and they followed to see a wild
struggle, the fox leaping to escape and fast to his foot was the trap
with its anchor stone a-dragging.

Then was repeated the scene that ended the struggle of mink and marten.
The creature’s hind feet were tied together and his body hung from a
peg in the shanty. In the morning they gloated over his splendid fur and
added his coat to their store of trophies.



Chapter 31. Following the Trap Line

That night the moon changed. Next day came on with a strong north wind.
By noon the wild ducks had left the lake. Many long strings of geese
passed southeastward, honking as they flew. Colder and colder blew the
strong wind, and soon the frost was showing on the smaller ponds. It
snowed a little, but this ceased. With the clearing sky the wind fell
and the frost grew keener.

At daybreak, when the hunters rose, it was very cold. Everything but the
open lake was frozen over, and they knew that winter was come; the time
of trapping was at hand. Quonab went at once to the pinnacle on the
hill, made a little fire, then chanting the “Hunter’s Prayer,” he cast
into the fire the whiskers of the fox and the marten, some of the
beaver castor, and some tobacco. Then descended to prepare for the
trail--blankets, beaver traps, weapons, and food for two days, besides
the smell-charm and some fish for bait.

Quickly the deadfalls were baited and set; last the Indian threw into
the trap chamber a piece of moss on which was a drop of the “smell,” and
wiped another drop on each of his moccasins. “Phew,” said Rolf.

“That make a trail the marten follow for a month,” was the explanation.
Skookum seemed to think so too, and if he did not say “phew,” it was
because he did not know how.

Very soon the little dog treed a flock of partridge and Rolf with blunt
arrows secured three. The breasts were saved for the hunters’ table, but
the rest with the offal and feathers made the best of marten baits and
served for all the traps, till at noon they reached the beaver pond.
It was covered with ice too thin to bear, but the freshly used
landing places were easily selected. At each they set a strong, steel
beaver-trap, concealing it amid some dry grass, and placing in a split
stick a foot away a piece of moss in which were a few drops of the magic
lure. The ring on the trap chain was slipped over a long, thin, smooth
pole which was driven deep in the mud, the top pointing away from
the deep water. The plan was old and proven. The beaver, eager
to investigate that semifriendly smell, sets foot in the trap;
instinctively when in danger he dives for the deep water; the ring slips
along the pole till at the bottom and there it jams so that the beaver
cannot rise again and is drowned.

In an hour the six traps were set for the beavers; presently the
hunters, skirmishing for more partridges, had much trouble to save
Skookum from another porcupine disaster.

They got some more grouse, baited the traps for a couple of miles, then
camped for the night.

Before morning it came on to snow and it was three inches deep when they
arose. There is no place on earth where the first snow is more beautiful
than in the Adirondacks. In early autumn nature seems to prepare for
it. Green leaves are cleared away to expose the berry bunches in red;
rushbeds mass their groups, turn golden brown and bow their heads to
meet the silver load; the low hills and the lines of various Christmas
trees are arrayed for the finest effect: the setting is perfect and the
scene, but it lacks the lime light yet. It needs must have the lavish
blaze of white. And when it comes like the veil on a bride, the silver
mountings on a charger’s trappings, or the golden fire in a sunset, the
shining crystal robe is the finishing, the crowning glory, without which
all the rest must fail, could have no bright completeness. Its beauty
stirred the hunters though it found no better expression than Rolf’s
simple words, “Ain’t it fine,” while the Indian gazed in silence.

There is no other place in the eastern woods where the snow has
such manifold tales to tell, and the hunters that day tramping found
themselves dowered over night with the wonderful power of the hound
to whom each trail is a plain record of every living creature that has
passed within many hours. And though the first day after a storm has
less to tell than the second, just as the second has less than the
third, there was no lack of story in the snow. Here sped some antlered
buck, trotting along while yet the white was flying. There went a
fox, sneaking across the line of march, and eying distrustfully that
deadfall. This broad trail with many large tracks not far apart was
made by one of Skookum’s friends, a knight of many spears. That bounding
along was a marten. See how he quartered that thicket like a hound, here
he struck our odour trail. Mark, how he paused and whiffed it; now away
he goes; yes, straight to our trap.

“It’s down; hurrah!” Rolf shouted, for there, dead under the log, was
an exquisite marten, dark, almost black, with a great, broad, shining
breast of gold.

They were going back now toward the beaver lake. The next trap was
sprung and empty; the next held the body of a red squirrel, a nuisance
always and good only to rebait the trap he springs. But the next held a
marten, and the next a white weasel. Others were unsprung, but they
had two good pelts when they reached the beaver lake. They were in high
spirits with their good luck, but not prepared for the marvellous haul
that now was theirs. Each of the six traps held a big beaver, dead,
drowned, and safe. Each skin was worth five dollars, and the hunters
felt rich. The incident had, moreover, this pleasing significance: It
showed that these beavers were unsophisticated, so had not been hunted.
Fifty pelts might easily be taken from these ponds.

The trappers reset the traps; then dividing the load, sought a remote
place to camp, for it does not do to light a fire near your beaver pond.
One hundred and fifty pounds of beaver, in addition, to their packs, was
not a load to be taken miles away; within half a mile on a lower level
they selected a warm place, made a fire, and skinned their catch. The
bodies they opened and hung in a tree with a view to future use, but the
pelts and tails they carried on.

They made a long, hard tramp that day, baiting all the traps and reached
home late in the night.



Chapter 32. The Antler-bound Bucks

IN THE man-world, November is the month of gloom, despair, and many
suicides. In the wild world, November is the Mad Moon. Many and diverse
the madnesses of the time, but none more insane than the rut of the
white-tailed deer. Like some disease it appears, first in the swollen
necks of the antler-bearers, and then in the feverish habits of all.
Long and obstinate combats between the bucks now, characterize the time;
neglecting even to eat, they spend their days and nights in rushing
about and seeking to kill.

Their horns, growing steadily since spring, are now of full size, sharp,
heavy, and cleaned of the velvet; in perfection. For what? Has Nature
made them to pierce, wound, and destroy? Strange as it may seem, these
weapons of offence are used for little but defence; less as spears than
as bucklers they serve the deer in battles with its kind. And the long,
hard combats are little more than wrestling and pushing bouts; almost
never do they end fatally. When a mortal thrust is given, it is rarely a
gaping wound, but a sudden springing and locking of the antlers, whereby
the two deer are bound together, inextricably, hopelessly, and so suffer
death by starvation. The records of deer killed by their rivals and left
on the duel-ground are few; very few and far between. The records of
those killed by interlocking are numbered by the scores.

There were hundreds of deer in this country that Rolf and Quonab
claimed. Half of them were bucks, and at least half of these engaged in
combat some times or many times a day, all through November; that is to
say, probably a thousand duels were fought that month within ten miles
of the cabin. It was not surprising that Rolf should witness some of
them, and hear many more in the distance.

They were living in the cabin now, and during the still, frosty nights,
when he took a last look at the stars, before turning in, Rolf formed
the habit of listening intently for the voices of the gloom. Sometimes
it was the “hoo-hoo” of the horned-owl, once or twice it was the long,
smooth howl of the wolf; but many times it was the rattle of antlers
that told of two bucks far up in the hardwoods, trying out the
all-important question, “Which is the better buck?”

One morning he heard still an occasional rattle at the same place as the
night before. He set out alone, after breakfast, and coming cautiously
near, peered into a little, open space to see two bucks with heads
joined, slowly, feebly pushing this way and that. Their tongues were
out; they seemed almost exhausted, and the trampled snow for an acre
about plainly showed that they had been fighting for hours; that indeed
these were the ones he had heard in the night. Still they were evenly
matched, and the green light in their eyes told of the ferocious spirit
in each of these gentle-looking deer.

Rolf had no difficulty in walking quite near. If they saw him, they gave
slight heed to the testimony of their eyes, for the unenergetic struggle
went on until, again pausing for breath, they separated, raised their
heads a little, sniffed, then trotted away from the dreaded enemy so
near. Fifty yards off, they turned, shook their horns, seemed in doubt
whether to run away, join battle again, or attack the man. Fortunately
the first was their choice, and Rolf returned to the cabin.

Quonab listened to his account, then said: “You might have been killed.
Every buck is crazy now. Often they attack man. My father’s brother was
killed by a Mad Moon buck. They found only his body, torn to rags. He
had got a little way up a tree, but the buck had pinned him. There were
the marks, and in the snow they could see how he held on to the deer’s
horns and was dragged about till his strength gave out. He had no gun.
The buck went off. That was all they knew. I would rather trust a bear
than a deer.”

The Indian’s words were few, but they drew a picture all too realistic.
The next time Rolf heard the far sound of a deer fight, it brought back
the horror of that hopeless fight in the snow, and gave him a new and
different feeling for the antler-bearer of the changing mood.

It was two weeks after this, when he was coming in from a trip alone on
part of the line, when his ear caught some strange sounds in the
woods ahead; deep, sonorous, semi-human they were. Strange and weird
wood-notes in winter are nearly sure to be those of a raven or a jay; if
deep, they are likely to come from a raven.

“Quok, quok, ha, ha, ha-hreww, hrrr, hooop, hooop,” the diabolic noises
came, and Rolf, coming gently forward, caught a glimpse of sable pinions
swooping through the lower pines.

“Ho, ho, ho yah--hew--w--w--w” came the demon laughter of the death
birds, and Rolf soon glimpsed a dozen of them in the branches, hopping
or sometimes flying to the ground. One alighted on a brown bump. Then
the bump began to move a little. The raven was pecking away, but
again the brown bump heaved and the raven leaped to a near perch.
“Wah--wah--wah--wo--hoo--yow--wow--rrrrrr-rrrr-rrrr”--and the other
ravens joined in.

Rolf had no weapons but his bow, his pocket knife, and a hatchet. He
took the latter in his hand and walked gently forward; the hollow-voiced
ravens “haw--hawed,” then flew to safe perches where they chuckled like
ghouls over some extra-ghoulish joke.

The lad, coming closer, witnessed a scene that stirred him with mingled
horror and pity. A great, strong buck--once strong, at least--was
standing, staggering, kneeling there; sometimes on his hind legs,
spasmodically heaving and tugging at a long gray form on the ground,
the body of another buck, his rival, dead now, with a broken neck, as
it proved, but bearing big, strong antlers with which the antlers of the
living buck were interlocked as though riveted with iron, bolted with
clamps of steel. With all his strength, the living buck could barely
move his head, dragging his adversary’s body with him. The snow marks
showed that at first he had been able to haul the carcass many yards;
had nibbled a little at shoots and twigs; but that was when he was
stronger, was long before. How long? For days, at least, perhaps a week,
that wretched buck was dying hopelessly a death that would not come. His
gaunt sides, his parched and lolling tongue, less than a foot from the
snow and yet beyond reach, the filmy eye, whose opaque veil of death was
illumined again with a faint fire of fighting green as the new foe came.
The ravens had picked the eyes out of the dead buck and eaten a hole in
its back. They had even begun on the living buck, but he had been able
to use one front foot to defend his eyes; still his plight could scarce
have been more dreadful. It made the most pitiful spectacle Rolf had
ever seen in wild life; yes, in all his life. He was full of compassion
for the poor brute. He forgot it as a thing to be hunted for food;
thought of it only as a harmless, beautiful creature in dire and
horrible straits; a fellow-being in distress; and he at once set about
being its helper. With hatchet in hand he came gently in front, and
selecting an exposed part at the base of the dead buck’s antler he
gave a sharp blow with the hatchet. The effect on the living buck was
surprising. He was roused to vigorous action that showed him far from
death as yet. He plunged, then pulled backward, carrying with him the
carcass and the would-be rescuer. Then Rolf remembered the Indian’s
words: “You can make strong medicine with your mouth.” He spoke to
the deer, gently, softly. Then came nearer, and tapped o’n the horn he
wished to cut; softly speaking and tapping he increased his force, until
at last he was permitted to chop seriously at that prison bar. It took
many blows, for the antler stuff is very thick and strong at this time,
but the horn was loose at last. Rolf gave it a twist and the strong buck
was free. Free for what?

Oh, tell it not among the folk who have been the wild deer’s friend!
Hide it from all who blindly believe that gratitude must always follow
good-will! With unexpected energy, with pent-up fury, with hellish
purpose, the ingrate sprang on his deliverer, aiming a blow as deadly as
was in his power.

Wholly taken by surprise, Rolf barely had time to seize the murderer’s
horns and ward them off his vitals. The buck made a furious lunge. Oh!
what foul fiend was it gave him then such force?--and Rolf went down.
Clinging for dear life to those wicked, shameful horns, he yelled as he
never yelled before: “Quonab, Quonabi help me, oh, help me!” But he
was pinned at once, the fierce brute above him pressing on his chest,
striving to bring its horns to bear; his only salvation had been that
their wide spread gave his body room between. But the weight on his
chest was crushing out his force, his life; he had no breath to call
again. How the ravens chuckled, and “haw-hawed” in the tree!

The buck’s eyes gleamed again with the emerald light of murderous
hate, and he jerked his strong neck this way and that with the power of
madness. It could not last for long. The boy’s strength was going fast;
the beast was crushing in his chest.

“Oh, God, help me!” he gasped, as the antlered fiend began again
struggling for the freedom of those murderous horns. The brute was
almost free, when the ravens rose with loud croaks, and out of the woods
dashed another to join the fight. A smaller deer? No; what? Rolf knew
not, nor how, but in a moment there was a savage growl and Skookum
had the murderer by the hind leg. Worrying and tearing he had not the
strength to throw the deer, but his teeth were sharp, his heart was in
his work, and when he transferred his fierce attack to parts more tender
still, the buck, already spent, reared, wheeled, and fell. Before he
could recover Skookum pounced upon him by the nose and hung on like a
vice. The buck could swing his great neck a little, and drag the
dog, but he could not shake him off. Rolf saw the chance, rose to his
tottering legs, seized his hatchet, stunned the fierce brute with a
blow. Then finding on the snow his missing knife he gave the hunter
stroke that spilled the red life-blood and sank on the ground to know no
more till Quonab stood beside him.



Chapter 33. A Song of Praise

ROLF was lying by a fire when he came to, Quonab bending over him with a
look of grave concern. When he opened his eyes, the Indian smiled; such
a soft, sweet smile, with long, ivory rows in its background.

Then he brought hot tea, and Rolf revived so he could sit up and tell
the story of the morning.

“He is an evil Manito,” and he looked toward the dead buck; “we must not
eat him. You surely made medicine to bring Skookum.”

“Yes, I made medicine with my mouth,” was the answer, “I called, I
yelled, when he came at me.”

“It is a long way from here to the cabin,” was Quonab’s reply. “I could
not hear you; Skookum could not hear you; but Cos Cob, my father, told
me that when you send out a cry for help, you send medicine, too, that
goes farther than the cry. May be so; I do not know: my father was very
wise.”

“Did you see Skookum come, Quonab?”

“No; he was with me hours after you left, but he was restless and
whimpered. Then he left me and it was a long time before I heard him
bark. It was the ‘something-wrong’ bark. I went. He brought me here.”

“He must have followed my track all ‘round the line.”

After an hour they set out for the cabin. The ravens “Ha-ha-ed” and
“Ho-ho-ed” as they went. Quonab took the fateful horn that Rolf had
chopped off, and hung it on a sapling with a piece of tobacco and a red
yam streamer ‘, to appease the evil spirit that surely was near. There
it hung for years after, until the sapling grew to a tree that swallowed
the horn, all but the tip, which rotted away.

Skookum took a final sniff at his fallen enemy, gave the body the
customary expression of a dog’s contempt, then led the procession
homeward.

Not that day, not the next, but on the first day of calm, red, sunset
sky, went Quonab to his hill of worship; and when the little fire that
he lit sent up its thread of smoke, like a plumb-line from the red cloud
over him, he burnt a pinch of tobacco, and, with face and arms upraised
in the red light, he sang a new song:

     “The evil one set a trap for my son,
     But the Manito saved him;
     In the form of a Skookum he saved him.”



Chapter 34. The Birch-bark Vessels

Rolf was sore and stiff for a week afterward; so was Skookum. There were
times when Quonab was cold, moody, and silent for days. Then some milder
wind would blow in the region of his heart and the bleak ice surface
melted into running rills of memory or kindly emanation.

Just before the buck adventure, there had been an unpleasant time of
chill and aloofness. It arose over little. Since the frost had come,
sealing the waters outside, Quonab would wash his hands in the vessel
that was also the bread pan. Rolf had New England ideas of propriety
in cooking matters, and finally he forgot the respect due to age and
experience. That was one reason why he went out alone that day. Now,
with time to think things over, the obvious safeguard would be to have
a wash bowl; but where to get it? In those days, tins were scarce and
ex-pensive. It was the custom to look in the woods for nearly all the
necessaries of life; and, guided by ancient custom and experience, they
seldom looked in vain. Rolf had seen, and indeed made, watering troughs,
pig troughs, sap troughs, hen troughs, etc., all his life, and he now
set to work with the axe and a block of basswood to hew out a trough
for a wash bowl. With adequate tools he might have made a good one; but,
working with an axe and a stiff arm, the result was a very heavy, crude
affair. It would indeed hold water, but it was almost impossible to dip
it into the water hole, so that a dipper was needed.

When Quonab saw the plan and the result, he said: “In my father’s lodge
we had only birch bark. See; I shall make a bowl.” He took from the
storehouse a big roll of birch bark, gathered in warm weather (it can
scarcely be done in cold), for use in repairing the canoe. Selecting a
good part he cut out a square, two feet each way, and put it in the big
pot which was full of boiling water. At the same time he soaked with
it a bundle of wattap, or long fibrous roots of the white spruce, also
gathered before the frost came, with a view to canoe repairs in the
spring.

While these were softening in the hot water, he cut a couple of long
splints of birch, as nearly as possible half an inch wide and an eighth
of an inch thick, and put them to steep with the bark. Next he made two
or three straddle pins or clamps, like clothes pegs, by splitting the
ends of some sticks which had a knot at one end.

Now he took out the spruce roots, soft and pliant, and selecting a lot
that were about an eighth of an inch in diameter, scraped off the bark
and roughness, until he had a bundle of perhaps ten feet of soft, even,
white cords.

The bark was laid flat and cut as below.

The rounding of A and B is necessary, for the holes of the sewing would
tear the piece off if all were on the same line of grain. Each corner
was now folded and doubled on itself (C), then held so with a straddle
pin (D). The rim was trimmed so as to be flat where it crossed the fibre
of the bark, and arched where it ran along. The pliant rods of birch
were bent around this, and using the large awl to make holes, Quonab
sewed the rim rods to the bark with an over-lapping stitch that made
a smooth finish to the edge, and the birch-bark wash pan was complete.
(E.) Much heavier bark can be used if the plan F G be followed, but it
is hard to make it water-tight.

So now they had a wash pan and a cause of friction was removed. Rolf
found it amusing as well as useful to make other bark vessels of varying
sizes for dippers and dunnage. It was work that he could do now while he
was resting and recovering and he became expert. After watching a fairly
successful attempt at a box to hold fish-hooks and tackle, Quonab said:
“In my father’s lodge these would bear quill work in colours.”

“That’s so,” said Rolf, remembering the birch-bark goods often sold by
the Indians. “I wish we had a porcupine now.”

“Maybe Skookum could find one,” said the Indian, with a smile.

“Will you let me kill the next Kahk we find?”

“Yes, if you use the quills and burn its whiskers.”

“Why burn its whiskers?”

“My father said it must be so. The smoke goes straight to the All-above;
then the Manito knows we have killed, but we have remembered to kill
only for use and to thank Him.”

It was some days before they found a porcupine, and when they did,
it was not necessary for them to kill it. But that belongs to another
chapter.

They saved its skin with all its spears and hung it in the storehouse.
The quills with the white bodies and ready-made needle at each end are
admirable for embroidering, but they are white only.

“How can we dye them, Quonab?

“In the summer are many dyes; in winter they are hard to get. We can get
some.”

So forth he went to a hemlock tree, and cut till he could gather the
inner pink bark, which, boiled with the quills, turned them a dull pink;
similarly, alder bark furnished rich orange, and butternut bark a brown.
Oak chips, with a few bits of iron in the pot, dyed black.

“Must wait till summer for red and green,” said the Indian. “Red comes
only from berries; the best is the blitum. We call it squaw-berry and
mis-caw-wa, yellow comes from the yellow root (Hydrastis).”

But black, white, orange, pink, brown, and a dull red made by a double
dip of orange and pink, are a good range of colour. The method in using
the quills is simple. An awl to make holes in the bark for each;
the rough parts behind are concealed afterward with a lining of bark
stitched over them; and before the winter was over, Rolf had made a
birch-bark box, decorated lid and all, with porcupine quill work, in
which he kept the sable skin that was meant to buy Annette’s new
dress, the costume she had dreamed of, the ideal and splendid, almost
unbelievable vision of her young life, ninety-five cents’ worth of
cotton print.

There was one other point of dangerous friction. Whenever it fell to
Quonab to wash the dishes, he simply set them on the ground and let
Skookum lick them off. This economical arrangement was satisfactory to
Quonab, delightful to Skookum, and apparently justified by the finished
product, but Rolf objected. The Indian said: “Don’t he eat the same food
as we do? You cannot tell if you do not see.”

Whenever he could do so, Rolf washed the doubtful dishes over again, yet
there were many times when this was impossible, and the situation became
very irritating. But he knew that the man who loses his temper has
lost the first round of the fight, so, finding the general idea of
uncleanness without avail, he sought for some purely Indian argument.
As they sat by the evening fire, one day, he led up to talk of his
mother--of her power as a medicine woman, of the many evil medicines
that harmed her. “It was evil medicine for her if a dog licked her hand
or touched her food. A dog licked her hand and the dream dog came to her
three days before she died.” After a long pause, he added, “In some ways
I am like my mother.”

Two days later, Rolf chanced to see his friend behind the shanty give
Skookum the pan to clean off after they had been frying deer fat. The
Indian had no idea that Rolf was near, nor did he ever learn the truth
of it.

That night, after midnight, the lad rose quietly, lighted the pine
splints that served them for a torch, rubbed some charcoal around each
eye to make dark rings that should supply a horror-stricken look. Then
he started in to pound on Quonab’s tom-tom, singing:

     “Evil spirit leave me;
     Dog-face do not harm me.”

Quonab sat up in amazement. Rolf paid no heed, but went on, bawling
and drumming and staring upward into vacant space. After a few minutes
Skookum scratched and whined at the shanty door. Rolf rose, took his
knife, cut a bunch of hair from Skookum’s neck and burned it in the
torch, then went on singing with horrid solemnity:

     “Evil spirit leave me;
     Dog-face do not harm me.”

At last he turned, and seeming to discover that Quonab was looking on,
said:

“The dream dog came to me. I thought I saw him lick deer grease from the
frying pan behind the shanty. He laughed, for he knew that he made evil
medicine for me. I am trying to drive him away, so he cannot harm me. I
do not know. I am like my mother. She was very wise, but she died after
it.”

Now Quonab arose, cut some more hair from Skookum, added a pinch of
tobacco, then, setting it ablaze, he sang in the rank odour of the
burning weed and hair, his strongest song to kill ill magic; and Rolf,
as he chuckled and sweetly sank to sleep, knew that the fight was won.
His friend would never, never more install Skookum in the high and
sacred post of pot-licker, dishwasher, or final polisher.



Chapter 35. Snaring Rabbits

The deepening snow about the cabin was marked in all the thickets by
the multitudinous tracks of the snowshoe rabbits or white hares.
Occasionally the hunters saw them, but paid little heed. Why should they
look at rabbits when deer were plentiful?

“You catch rabbit?” asked Quonab one day when Rolf was feeling fit
again.

“I can shoot one with my bow,” was the answer, “but why should I, when
we have plenty of deer?”

“My people always hunted rabbits. Sometimes no deer were to be found;
then the rabbits were food. Sometimes in the enemy’s country it was not
safe to hunt, except rabbits, with blunt arrows, and they were food.
Sometimes only squaws and children in camp--nothing to eat; no guns;
then the rabbits were food.”

“Well, see me get one,” and Rolf took his bow and arrow. He found many
white bunnies, but always in the thickest woods. Again and again he
tried, but the tantalizing twigs and branches muffled the bow and
turned the arrow. It was hours before he returned with a fluffy snowshoe
rabbit.

“That is not our way.” Quonab led to the thicket and selecting a place
of many tracks he cut a lot of brush and made a hedge across with half a
dozen openings. At each of these openings he made a snare of strong cord
tied to a long pole, hung on a crotch, and so arranged that a tug at the
snare would free the pole which in turn would hoist the snare and the
creature in it high in the air.

Next morning they went around and found that four of the snares had
each a snow-white rabbit hanging by the neck. As he was handling these,
Quonab felt a lump I on the hind leg of one. He carefully cut it open
and turned out a curious-looking object about the size of an acorn,
flattened, made of flesh and covered with hair, and nearly the shape of
a large bean. He gazed at it, and, turning to Rolf, said with intense
meaning:

“Ugh! we have found the good hunting. This is the Peeto-wab-oos-once,
the little medicine rabbit. Now we have strong medicine in the lodge.
You shall see.”

He went out to the two remaining snares and passed the medicine rabbit
through each. An hour later, when they returned, they found a rabbit
taken in the first snare.

“It is ever so,” said the Indian. “We can always catch rabbits now. My
father had the Peeto-wab-i-ush once, the little medicine deer, and so
he never failed in hunting but twice. Then he found that his papoose,
Quonab, had stolen his great medicine. He was a very wise papoose. He
killed a chipmunk each of those days.”

“Hark! what is that?” A faint sound of rustling branches, and some short
animal noises in the woods had caught Rolf’s ear, and Skookum’s, too,
for he was off like one whose life is bound up in a great purpose.

“Yap, yap, yap,” came the angry sound from Skookum. Who can say that
animals have no language? His merry “yip, yip, yip,” for partridge up a
tree, or his long, hilarious, “Yow, yow, yow,” when despite all orders
he chased some deer, were totally distinct from the angry “Yap, yap,”
 he gave for the bear up the tree, or the “Grrryapgrryap,” with which he
voiced his hatred of the porcupine.

But now it was the “Yap, yap,” as when he had treed the bears.

“Something up a tree,” was the Indian’s interpretation, as they followed
the sound. Something up a tree! A whole menagerie it seemed to Rolf when
they got there. Hanging by the neck in the remaining snare, and limp
now, was a young lynx, a kit of the year. In the adjoining tree, with
Skookum circling and yapping ‘round the base, was a savage old lynx.
In the crotch above her was another young one, and still higher was a
third, all looking their unutterable disgust at the noisy dog below;
the mother, indeed, expressing it in occasional hisses, but none of them
daring to come down and face him. The lynx is very good fur and very
easy prey. The Indian brought the old one down with a shot; then, as
fast as he could reload, the others were added to the bag, and, with the
one from the snare, they returned laden to the cabin.

The Indian’s eyes shone with a peculiar light. “Ugh! Ugh! My father told
me; it is great medicine. You see, now, it does not fail.”



Chapter 36. Something Wrong at the Beaver Traps

Once they had run the trap lines, and their store of furs was increasing
finely. They had taken twenty-five beavers and counted on getting two
or three each time they went to the ponds. But they got an unpleasant
surprise in December, on going to the beaver grounds, to find all the
traps empty and unmistakable signs that some man had been there and had
gone off with the catch. They followed the dim trail of his snowshoes,
half hidden by a recent wind, but night came on with more snow, and all
signs were lost.

The thief had not found the line yet, for the haul of marten and mink
was good. But this was merely the beginning.

The trapper law of the wilderness is much like all primitive laws; first
come has first right, provided he is able to hold it. If a strong rival
comes in, the first must fight as best he can. The law justifies him
in anything he may do, if he succeeds. The law justifies the second in
anything he may do, except murder. That is, the defender may shoot to
kill; the offender may not.

But the fact of Quonab’s being an Indian and Rolf supposedly one, would
turn opinion against them in the Adirondacks, and it was quite likely
that the rival considered them trespassers on his grounds, although the
fact that he robbed their traps without removing them, and kept out of
sight, rather showed the guilty conscience of a self-accused poacher.

He came in from the west, obviously; probably the Racquet River
country; was a large man, judging by his foot and stride, and understood
trapping; but lazy, for he set no traps. His principal object seemed to
be to steal.

And it was not long before he found their line of marten traps, so his
depredations increased. Primitive emotions are near the surface at all
times, and under primitive conditions are very ready to appear. Rolf and
Quonab felt that now it was war.



Chapter 37. The Pekan or Fisher

There was one large track in the snow that they saw several times--it
was like that of a marten, but much larger. “Pekan,” said the Indian,
“the big marten; the very strong one, that fights without fear.”

“When my father was a papoose he shot an arrow at a pekan. He did not
know what it was; it seemed only a big black marten. It was wounded, but
sprang from the tree on my father’s breast. It would have killed him,
but for the dog; then it would have killed the dog, but my grandfather
was near.

“He made my father eat the pekan’s heart, so his heart might be like it.
It sought no fight, but it turned, when struck, and fought without fear.
That is the right way; seek peace, but fight without fear. That was my
father’s heart and mine.” Then glancing toward the west he continued in
a tone of menace: “That trap robber will find it so. We sought no fight,
but some day I kill him.”

The big track went in bounds, to be lost in a low, thick woods. But they
met it again.

They were crossing a hemlock ridge a mile farther on, when they came to
another track which was first a long, deep furrow, some fifteen inches
wide, and in this were the wide-spread prints of feet as large as those
of a fisher.

“Kahk,” said Quonab, and Skookum said “Kahk,” too, but he did it
by growling and raising his back hair, and doubtless also by sadly
remembering. His discretion seemed as yet embryonic, so Rolf slipped
his sash through the dog’s collar, and they followed the track, for the
porcupine now stood in Rolf’s mind as a sort of embroidery outfit.

They had not followed far before another track joined on--the track
of the fisher-pekan; and soon after they heard in the woods ahead
scratching sounds, as of something climbing, and once or twice a faint,
far, fighting snarl.

Quickly tying the over-valiant Skookum to a tree, they crept forward,
ready for anything, and arrived on the scene of a very peculiar action.

Action it was, though it was singularly devoid of action. First, there
was a creature, like a huge black marten or a short-legged black fox,
standing at a safe distance, while, partly hidden under a log, with hind
quarters and tail only exposed, was a large porcupine. Both were
very still, but soon the fisher snarled and made a forward lunge. The
porcupine, hearing the sounds or feeling the snow dash up on that side,
struck with its tail; but the fisher kept out of reach. Next a feint was
made on the other side, with the same result; then many, as though the
fisher were trying to tire out the tail or use up all its quills.

Sometimes the assailant leaped on the log and teased the quill-pig to
strike upward, while many white daggers already sunk in the bark showed
that these tactics had been going on for some time.

Now the two spectators saw by the trail that a similar battle had
been fought at another log, and that the porcupine trail from that was
spotted with blood. How the fisher had forced it out was not then clear,
but soon became so.

After feinting till the Kahk would not strike, the pekan began a new
manceuvre. Starting on the opposite side of the log that protected the
spiny one’s nose, he burrowed quickly through the snow and leaves. The
log was about three inches from the ground, and before the porcupine
could realize it, the fisher had a space cleared and seized the spiny
one by its soft, unspiny nose. Grunting and squealing it pulled back and
lashed its terrible tail. To what effect? Merely to fill the log around
with quills. With all its strength the quill-pig pulled and writhed, but
the fisher was stronger. His claws enlarged the hole and when the victim
ceased from exhaustion, the fisher made a forward dash and changed
his hold from the tender nose to the still more tender throat of the
porcupine. His hold was not deep enough and square enough to seize the
windpipe, but he held on. For a minute or two the struggles of Kahk were
of desperate energy and its lashing tail began to be short of spines,
but a red stream trickling from the wound was sapping its strength.
Protected by the log, the fisher had but to hold on and play a waiting
game.

The heaving and backward pulling of Kahk were very feeble at length; the
fisher had nearly finished the fight. But he was impatient of further
delay and backing out of the hole he mounted the log, displaying a much
scratched nose; then reaching down with deft paw, near the quill-pig’s
shoulder, he gave a sudden jerk that threw the former over on its back,
and before it could recover, the fisher’s jaws closed on its ribs, and
crushed and tore. The nerveless, almost quilless tail could not harm him
there. The red blood flowed and the porcupine lay still. Again and again
as he uttered chesty growls the pekan ground his teeth into the warm
flesh and shook and worried the unconquerable one he had conquered. He
was licking his bloody chops for the twentieth time, gloating in gore,
when “crack” went Quonab’s gun, and the pekan had an opportunity of
resuming the combat with Kahk far away in the Happy Hunting.

“Yap, yap, yap!” and in rushed Skookum, dragging the end of Rolf’s sash
which he had gnawed through in his determination to be in the fight,
no matter what it cost; and it was entirely due to the fact that the
porcupine was belly up, that Skookum did not have another hospital
experience.

This was Rolf’s first sight of a fisher, and he examined it as one does
any animal--or man--that one has so long heard described in superlative
terms that it has become idealized into a semi-myth. This was the
desperado of the woods; the weird black cat that feared no living thing.
This was the only one that could fight and win against Kahk.

They made a fire at once, and while Rolf got the mid-day meal of tea and
venison, Quonab skinned the fisher. Then he cut out its heart and liver.
When these were cooked he gave the first to Rolf and the second to
Skookum, saying to the one, “I give you a pekan heart;” and to the
dog, “That will force all of the quills out of you if you play the fool
again, as I think you will.”

In the skin of the fisher’s neck and tail they found several quills,
some of them new, some of them dating evidently from another fight
of the same kind, but none of them had done any damage. There was no
inflammation or sign of poisoning. “It is ever so,” said Quonab, “the
quills cannot hurt him.” Then, turning to the porcupine, he remarked, as
he prepared to skin it:

“Ho, Kahk! you see now it was a big mistake you did not let Nana Bojou
sit on the dry end of that log.”



Chapter 38. The Silver Fox

They were returning to the cabin, one day, when Quonab stopped and
pointed. Away off on the snow of the far shore was a moving shape to be
seen.

“Fox, and I think silver fox; he so black. I think he lives there.”

“Why?” “I have seen many times a very big fox track, and they do not go
where they do not live. Even in winter they keep their own range.”

“He’s worth ten martens, they say?” queried Rolf.

“Ugh! fifty.”

“Can’t we get him?”

“Can try. But the water set will not work in winter; we must try
different.”

This was the plan, the best that Quonab could devise for the snow:
Saving the ashes from the fire (dry sand would have answered), he
selected six open places in the woods on the south of the lake, and in
each made an ash bed on which he scattered three or four drops of the
smell-charm. Then, twenty-five yards from each, on the north or west
side (the side of the prevailing wind) he hung from some sapling a few
feathers, a partridge wing or tail with some red yarns to it. He left
the places unvisited for two weeks, then returned to learn the progress
of act one.

Judging from past experience of fox nature and from the few signs that
were offered by the snow, this is what had happened: A fox came along
soon after the trappers left, followed the track a little way, came to
the first opening, smelled the seductive danger-lure, swung around it,
saw the dangling feathers, took alarm, and went off. Another of the
places had been visited by a marten. He had actually scratched in the
ashes. A wolf had gone around another at a safe distance.

Another had been shunned several times by a fox or by foxes, but they
had come again and again and at last yielded to the temptation to
investigate the danger-smell; finally had rolled in it, evidently
wallowing in an abandon of delight. So far, the plan was working there.

The next move was to set the six strong fox traps, each thoroughly
smoked, and chained to a fifteen-pound block of wood.

Approaching the place carefully and using his blood-rubbed glove, Quonab
set in each ash pile a trap. Under its face he put a wad of white rabbit
fur. Next he buried all in the ashes, scattered a few bits of rabbit and
a few drops of smell-charm, then dashed snow over the place, renewed
the dangling feathers to lure the eye; and finally left the rest to the
weather.

Rolf was keen to go the next day, but the old man said: “Wah! no good!
no trap go first night; man smell too strong.” The second day there
was a snowfall, and the third morning Quonab said, “Now seem like good
time.”

The first trap was untouched, but there was clearly the track of a large
fox within ten yards of it.

The second was gone. Quonab said, with surprise in his voice, “Deer!”
 Yes, truly, there was the record. A deer--a big one--had come wandering
past; his keen nose soon apprised him of a strong, queer appeal near
by. He had gone unsuspiciously toward it, sniffed and pawed the
unaccountable and exciting nose medicine; then “snap!” and he had sprung
a dozen feet, with that diabolic smell-thing hanging to his foot. Hop,
hop, hop, the terrified deer had gone into a slashing windfall. Then the
drag had caught on the logs, and, thanks to the hard and taper hoofs,
the trap had slipped off and been left behind, while the deer had sought
safer regions.

In the next trap they found a beautiful marten dead, killed at once
by the clutch of steel. The last trap was gone, but the tracks and the
marks told a tale that any one could read; a fox had been beguiled and
had gone off, dragging the trap and log. Not far did they need to go;
held in a thicket they found him, and Rolf prepared the mid-day meal
while Quonab gathered the pelt. After removing the skin the Indian cut
deep and carefully into the body of the fox and removed the bladder. Its
contents sprinkled near each of the traps was good medicine, he said; a
view that was evidently shared by Skookum.

More than once they saw the track of the big fox of the region,
but never very near the snare. He was too clever to be fooled by
smell-spells or kidney products, no matter how temptingly arrayed. The
trappers did, indeed, capture three red foxes; but it was at cost of
great labour. It was a venture that did not pay. The silver fox was
there, but he took too good care of his precious hide. The slightest
hint of a man being near was enough to treble his already double
wariness. They would never have seen him near at hand, but for a
stirring episode that told a tale of winter hardship.



Chapter 39. The Humiliation of Skookum

If Skookum could have been interviewed by a newspaper man, he would
doubtless have said: “I am a very remarkable dog. I can tree partridges.
I’m death on porcupines. I am pretty good in a dog fight; never was
licked in fact: but my really marvellous gift is my speed; I’m a terror
to run.”

Yes, he was very proud of his legs, and the foxes that came about in the
winter nights gave him many opportunities of showing what he could do.
Many times over he very nearly caught a fox. Skookum did not know that
these wily ones were playing with him; but they were, and enjoyed it
immensely.

The self-sufficient cur never found this out, and never lost a chance of
nearly catching a fox. The men did not see those autumn chases because
they were by night; but foxes hunt much by day in winter, perforce, and
are often seen; and more than once they witnessed one of these farcical
races.

And now the shining white furnished background for a much more important
affair.

It was near sundown one day when a faint fox bark was heard out on the
snow-covered ice of the lake.

“That’s for me,” Skookum seemed to think, and jumping up, with a very
fierce growl, he trotted forth; the men looked first from the window.
Out on the snow, sitting on his haunches, was their friend, the big,
black silver fox.

Quonab reached for his gun and Rolf tried to call Skookum, but it was
too late. He was out to catch that fox; their business was to look on
and applaud. The fox sat on his haunches, grinning apparently, until
Skookum dashed through the snow within twenty yards. Then, that shining,
black fox loped gently away, his huge tail level out behind him, and
Skookum, sure of success, raced up, within six or seven yards. A few
more leaps now, and the victory would be won. But somehow he could not
close that six or seven yard gap. No matter how he strained and leaped,
the great black brush was just so far ahead. At first they had headed
for the shore, but the fox wheeled back to the ice and up and down.
Skookum felt it was because escape was hopeless, and he redoubled
his effort. But all in vain. He was only wearing himself out, panting
noisily now. The snow was deep enough to be a great disadvantage,
more to dog than to fox, since weight counted as such a handicap.
Unconsciously Skookum slowed up. The fox increased his headway; then
audaciously turned around and sat down in the snow.

This was too much for the dog. He wasted about a lungful of air in an
angry bark, and again went after the enemy. Again the chase was round
and round, but very soon the dog was so wearied that he sat down, and
now the black fox actually came back and barked at him.

It was maddening. Skookum’s pride was touched.

He was in to win or break. His supreme effort brought him within five
feet of that white-tipped brush. Then, strange to tell, the big black
fox put forth his large reserve of speed, and making for the woods,
left Skookum far behind. Why? The cause was clear. Quonab, after vainly
watching for a chance to shoot, that would not endanger the dog, had,
under cover, crept around the lake and now was awaiting in a thicket.
But the fox’s keen nose had warned him. He knew that the funny part was
over, so ran for the woods and disappeared as a ball tossed up the snow
behind him.

Poor Skookum’s tongue was nearly a foot long as he walked meekly ashore.
He looked depressed; his tail was depressed; so were his ears; but there
was nothing to show whether he would have told that reporter that he
“wasn’t feeling up to his usual, to-day,” or “Didn’t you see me get the
best of him?”



Chapter 40. The Rarest of Pelts

They saw that silver fox three or four times during the winter, and once
found that he had had the audacity to jump from a high snowdrift onto
the storehouse and thence to the cabin roof, where he had feasted on
some white rabbits kept there for deadfall baits. But all attempts to
trap or shoot him were vain, and their acquaintance might have ended as
it began, but for an accident.

It proved a winter of much snow. Heavy snow is the worst misfortune that
can befall the wood folk in fur. It hides their food beyond reach, and
it checks their movements so they can neither travel far in search of
provender nor run fast to escape their enemies. Deep snow then means
fetters, starvation, and death. There are two ways of meeting the
problem: stilts and snowshoes. The second is far the better. The
caribou, and the moose have stilts; the rabbit, the panther, and the
lynx wear snowshoes. When there are three or four feet of soft snow, the
lynx is king of all small beasts, and little in fear of the large ones.
Man on his snowshoes has most wild four-foots at his mercy.

Skookum, without either means of meeting the trouble was left much alone
in the shanty. Apparently, it was on one of these occasions that the
silver fox had driven him nearly frantic by eating rabbits on the roof
above him.

The exasperating robbery of their trap line had gone on irregularly all
winter, but the thief was clever enough or lucky enough to elude them.

They were returning to the cabin after a three days’ round, when they
saw, far out on the white expanse of the lake, two animals, alternately
running and fighting. “Skookum and the fox,” was the first thought that
came, but on entering the cabin Skookum greeted them in person.

Quonab gazed intently at the two running specks and said: “One has no
tail. I think it is a peeshoo (lynx) and a fox.”

Rolf was making dinner. From time to time he glanced over the lake and
saw the two specks, usually running. After dinner was over, he said,
“Let’s sneak ‘round and see if we can get a shot.”

So, putting on their snowshoes and keeping out of sight, they skimmed
over the deer crossing and through the woods, till at a point near the
fighters, and there they saw something that recalled at once the day of
Skookum’s humiliation.

A hundred yards away on the open snow was a huge lynx and their
old friend, the black and shining silver fox, face to face; the fox
desperate, showing his rows of beautiful teeth, but sinking belly deep
in the snow as he strove to escape. Already he was badly wounded. In
any case he was at the mercy of the lynx who, in spite of his greater
weight, had such broad and perfect snowshoes that he skimmed on the
surface, while the fox’s small feet sank deep. The lynx was far from
fresh, and still stood in some awe of those rows of teeth that snapped
like traps when he came too near. He was minded, of course, to kill his
black rival, but not to be hurt in doing so. Again and again there was
in some sort a closing fight, the wearied fox plunging breathlessly
through the treacherous, relentless snow. If he could only get back to
cover, he might find a corner to protect his rear and have some fighting
chance for life. But wherever he turned that huge cat faced him, doubly
armed, and equipped as a fox can never be for the snow.

No one could watch that plucky fight without feeling his sympathies go
out to the beautiful silver fox. Rolf, at least, was for helping him to
escape, when the final onset came. In another dash for the woods the fox
plunged out of sight in a drift made soft by sedge sticking through, and
before he could recover, the lynx’s jaws closed on the back of his neck
and the relentless claws had pierced his vitals.

The justification of killing is self-preservation, and in this case the
proof would have been the lynx making a meal of the fox. Did he do
so? Not at all. He shook his fur, licked his chest and paws in a
self-congratulatory way, then giving a final tug at the body, walked
calmly over the snow along the shore.

Quonab put the back of his hand to his mouth and made a loud squeaking,
much like a rabbit caught in a snare. The lynx stopped, wheeled, and
came trotting straight toward the promising music. Unsuspectingly he
came within twenty yards of the trappers. The flint-lock banged and the
lynx was kicking in the snow.

The beautiful silver fox skin was very little injured and proved of
value almost to double their catch so far; while the lynx skin was as
good as another marten.

They now had opportunity of studying the tracks and learned that the fox
had been hunting rabbits in a thicket when he was set on by the lynx.
At first he had run around in the bushes and saved himself from serious
injury, for the snow was partly packed by the rabbits. After perhaps an
hour of this, he had wearied and sought to save himself by abandoning
the lynx’s territory, so had struck across the open lake. But here the
snow was too soft to bear him at all, and the lynx could still skim
over. So it proved a fatal error. He was strong and brave. He fought at
least another hour here before the much stronger, heavier lynx had
done him to death. There was no justification. It was a clear case of
tyrannical murder, but in this case vengeance was swift and justice came
sooner than its wont.



Chapter 41. The Enemy’s Fort

     It pays ‘bout once in  a hundred times to git mad, but there
     ain’t any  way o’ tellin’ beforehand which is the time.
     --Sayings of Si Sylvanne.

It generally took two days to run the west line of traps. At a
convenient point they had built a rough shack for a half-way house. On
entering this one day, they learned that since their last visit it had
been occupied by some one who chewed tobacco. Neither of them had this
habit. Quonab’s face grew darker each time fresh evidence of the enemy
was discovered, and the final wrong was added soon.

Some trappers mark their traps; some do not bother. Rolf had marked all
of theirs with a file, cutting notches on the iron. Two, one, three, was
their mark, and it was a wise plan, as it turned out.

On going around the west beaver pond they found that all six traps had
disappeared. In some, there was no evidence of the thief; in some, the
tracks showed clearly that they were taken by the same interloper that
had bothered them all along, and on a jagged branch was a short blue
yarn.

“Now will I take up his trail and kill him,” said the Indian.

Rolf had opposed extreme measures, and again he remonstrated. To his
surprise, the Indian turned fiercely and said: “You know it is white
man. If he was Indian would you be patient? No!”

“There is plenty of country south of the lake; maybe he was here first.”

“You know he was not. You should eat many pekan hearts. I have sought
peace, now I fight.”

He shouldered his pack, grasped his gun, and his snowshoes went “tssape,
tssape, tssape,” over the snow.

Skookum was sitting by Rolf. He rose to resume the march, and trotted
a few steps on Quonab’s trail. Rolf did not move; he was dazed by the
sudden and painful situation. Mutiny is always worse than war. Skookum
looked back, trotted on, still Rolf sat staring. Quonab’s figure was
lost in the distance; the dog’s was nearly so. Rolf moved not. All the
events of the last year were rushing through his mind; the refuge he
had found with the Indian; the incident of the buck fight and the tender
nurse the red man proved. He wavered. Then he saw Skookum coming back
on the trail. The dog trotted up to the boy and dropped a glove, one of
Quonab’s. Undoubtedly the Indian had lost it; Skookum had found it on
the trail and mechanically brought it to the nearest of his masters.
Without that glove Quonab’s hand would freeze. Rolf rose and sped along
the other’s trail. Having taken the step, he found it easy to send a
long halloo, then another and another, till an answer came. In a few
minutes Rolf came up. The Indian was sitting on a log, waiting. The
glove was handed over in silence, and received with a grunt.

After a minute or two, Rolf said “Let’s get on,” and started on the dim
trail of the robber.

For an hour or two they strode in silence. Then their course rose as
they reached a rocky range. Among its bare, wind-swept ridges all sign
was lost, but the Indian kept on till they were over and on the other
side. A far cast in the thick, windless woods revealed the trail again,
surely the same, for the snowshoe was two fingers wider on every side,
and a hand-breadth longer than Quonab’s; besides the right frame had
been broken and the binding of rawhide was faintly seen in the snow
mark. It was a mark they had seen all winter, and now it was headed as
before for the west.

When night came down, they camped in a hollow. They were used to snow
camps. In the morning they went on, but wind and snow had hidden their
tell-tale guide.

What was the next move? Rolf did not ask, but wondered.

Quonab evidently was puzzled.

At length Rolf ventured: “He surely lives by some river--that way--and
within a day’s journey. This track is gone, but we may strike a fresh
one. We’ll know it when we see it.”

The friendly look came back to the Indian’s face. “You are Nibowaka.”

They had not gone half a mile before they found a fresh track--their old
acquaintance. Even Skookum showed his hostile recognition. And in a few
minutes it led them to a shanty. They slipped off their snowshoes,
and hung them in a tree. Quonab opened the door without knocking. They
entered, and in a moment were face to face with a lanky, ill-favoured
white man that all three, including Skookum, recognized as Hoag, the man
they had met at the trader’s.

That worthy made a quick reach for his rifle, but Quonab covered him and
said in tones that brooked no discussion, “Sit down!”

Hoag did so, sullenly, then growled: “All right; my partners will be
here in ten minutes.”

Rolf was startled. Quonab and Skookum were not.

“We settled your partners up in the hills,” said the former, knowing
that one bluff was as good as another. Skookum growled and sniffed at
the enemy’s legs. The prisoner made a quick move with his foot.

“You kick that dog again and it’s your last kick,” said the Indian.

“Who’s kicked yer dog, and what do you mean coming here with yer
cutthroat ways? You’ll find there’s law in this country before yer
through,” was the answer.

“That’s what we’re looking for, you trap robber, you thief. We’re here
first to find our traps; second to tell you this: the next time you come
on our line there’ll be meat for the ravens. Do you suppose I don’t
know them?” and the Indian pointed to a large pair of snowshoes with long
heels and a repair lashing on the right frame. “See that blue yarn,” and
the Indian matched it with a blue sash hanging to a peg.

“Yes, them belongs to Bill Hawkins; he’ll be ‘round in five minutes
now.”

The Indian made a gesture of scorn; then turning to Rolf said: “look
‘round for our traps.” Rolf made a thorough search in and about the
shanty and the adjoining shed. He found some traps but none with his
mark; none of a familiar make even.

“Better hunt for a squaw and papoose,” sneered Hoag, who was utterly
puzzled by the fact that now Rolf was obviously a white lad.

But all the search was vain. Either Hoag had not stolen the traps or had
hidden them elsewhere. The only large traps they found were two of the
largest size for taking bear.

Hoag’s torrent of bad language had been quickly checked by the threat of
turning Skookum loose on his legs, and he looked such a grovelling beast
that presently the visitors decided to leave him with a warning.

The Indian took the trapper’s gun, fired it off out of doors, not in
the least perturbed by the possibility of its being heard by Hoag’s
partners. He knew they were imaginary. Then changing his plan, he said
“Ugh! You find your gun in half a mile on our trail. But don’t come
farther and don’t let me see the snowshoe trail on the divide again.
Them ravens is awful hungry.”

Skookum, to his disappointment, was called off and, talking the
trapper’s gun for a time, they left it in a bush and made for their own
country.



Chapter 42. Skookum’s Panther

“Why are there so few deer tracks now?”

“Deer yarded for winter,” replied the Indian; “no travel in deep snow.”

“We’ll soon need another,” said Rolf, which unfortunately was true. They
could have killed many deer in early winter, when the venison was in
fine condition, but they had no place to store it. Now they must get it
as they could, and of course it was thinner and poorer every week.

They were on a high hill some days later. There was a clear view and
they noticed several ravens circling and swooping.

“Maybe dead deer; maybe deer yard,” said the Indian.

It was over a thick, sheltered, and extensive cedar swamp near the woods
where last year they had seen so many deer, and they were not surprised
to find deer tracks in numbers, as soon as they got into its dense
thicket.

A deer yard is commonly supposed to be a place in which the deer have a
daily “bee” at road work all winter long and deliberately keep the snow
hammered down so they can run on a hard surface everywhere within its
limits. The fact is, the deer gather in a place where there is plenty
of food and good shelter. The snow does not drift here, so the deer,
by continually moving about, soon make a network of tracks in all
directions, extending them as they must to seek more food. They may,
of course, leave the yard at any time, but at once they encounter the
dreaded obstacle of deep, soft snow in which they are helpless.

Once they reached the well-worn trails, the hunters took off their
snowshoes and went gently on these deer paths. They saw one or two
disappearing forms, which taught them the thick cover was hiding many
more. They made for the sound of the ravens, and found that the feast of
the sable birds was not a deer but the bodies of three, quite recently
killed.

Quonab made a hasty study of the signs and said, “Panther.”

Yes, a panther, cougar, or mountain lion also had found the deer yard;
and here he was living, like a rat in a grocer shop with nothing to do
but help himself whenever he felt like feasting.

Pleasant for the panther, but hard on the deer; for the killer is
wasteful and will often kill for the joy of murder.

Not a quarter of the carcasses lying here did he eat; he was feeding at
least a score of ravens, and maybe foxes, martens, and lynxes as well.

Before killing a deer, Quonab thought it well to take a quiet prowl
around in hopes of seeing the panther. Skookum was turned loose and
encouraged to display his talents.

Proud as a general with an ample and obedient following, he dashed
ahead, carrying fresh dismay among the deer, if one might judge from the
noise. Then he found some new smell of excitement, and voiced the new
thrill in a new sound, one not unmixed with fear. At length his barking
was far away to the west in a rocky part of the woods. Whatever the
prey, it was treed, for the voice kept one place.

The hunters followed quickly and found the dog yapping furiously under
a thick cedar. The first thought was of porcupine; but a nearer view
showed the game to be a huge panther on the ground, not greatly excited,
disdaining to climb, and taking little notice of the dog, except to
curl his nose and utter a hissing kind of snarl when the latter came too
near.

But the arrival of the hunters gave a new colour to the picture. The
panther raised his head, then sprang up a large tree and ensconced
himself on a fork, while the valorous Skookum reared against the trunk,
threatening loudly to come up and tear him to pieces.

This was a rare find and a noble chance to conserve their stock of deer,
so the hunters went around the tree seeking for a fair shot. But
every point of view had some serious obstacle. It seemed as though the
branches had been told off to guard the panther’s vitals, for a big one
always stood in the bullet’s way.

After vainly going around, Quonab said to Rolf: “Hit him with something,
so he’ll move.”

Rolf always was a good shot with stones, but he found none to throw.
Near where they stood, however, was an unfreezing spring, and the soggy
snow on it was easily packed into a hard, heavy snowball. Rolf threw it
straight, swift, and by good luck it hit the panther square on the nose
and startled him so that he sprang right out of the tree and flopped
into the snow.

Skookum was on him at once, but got a slap on the ear that changed
his music, and the panther bounded away out of sight with the valiant
Skookum ten feet behind, whooping and yelling like mad.

It was annoyance rather than fear that made that panther take to a low
tree while Skookum boxed the compass, and made a beaten dog path all
around him. The hunters approached very carefully now, making little
sound and keeping out of sight. The panther was wholly engrossed with
observing the astonishing impudence of that dog, when Quonab came
quietly up, leaned his rifle against a tree and fired. The smoke cleared
to show the panther on his back, his legs convulsively waving in the
air, and Skookum tugging valiantly at his tail.

“My panther,” he seemed to say; “whatever would you do without me?”

A panther in a deer yard is much like a wolf shut up in a sheepfold. He
would probably have killed all the deer that winter, though there were
ten times as many as he needed for food; and getting rid of him was a
piece of good luck for hunters and deer, while his superb hide made a
noble trophy that in years to come had unexpected places of honour.



Chapter 43. Sunday in the Woods

Rolf still kept to the tradition of Sunday, and Quonab had in a manner
accepted it. It was a curious fact that the red man had far more
toleration for the white man’s religious ideas than the white man had
for the red’s.

Quonab’s songs to the sun and the spirit, or his burning of a tobacco
pinch, or an animal’s whiskers were to Rolf but harmless nonsense. Had
he given them other names, calling them hymns and incense, he would
have been much nearer respecting them. He had forgotten his mother’s
teaching: “If any man do anything sincerely, believing that thereby he
is worshipping God, he is worshipping God.” He disliked seeing Quonab
use an axe or a gun on Sunday, and the Indian, realizing that such
action made “evil medicine” for Rolf, practically abstained. But Rolf
had not yet learned to respect the red yarns the Indian hung from a
deer’s skull, though he did come to understand that he must let them
alone or produce bad feeling in camp.

Sunday had become a day of rest and Quonab made it also a day of song
and remembrance.

They were sitting one Sunday night by the fire in the cabin, enjoying
the blaze, while a storm rattled on the window and door. A white-footed
mouse, one of a family that lived in the shanty, was trying how close he
could come to Skookum’s nose without being caught, while Rolf looked
on. Quonab was lying back on a pile of deer skins, with his pipe in his
mouth, his head on the bunk, and his hands clasped back of his neck.

There was an atmosphere of content and brotherly feeling; the evening
was young, when Rolf broke silence:

“Were you ever married, Quonab?”

“Ugh,” was the Indian’s affirmative.

“Where?”

“Myanos.”

Rolf did not venture more questions, but left the influence of the hour
to work. It was a moment of delicate poise, and Rolf knew a touch would
open the door or double bar it. He wondered how he might give that touch
as he wished it. Skookum still slept. Both men watched the mouse, as,
with quick movements it crept about. Presently it approached a long
birch stick that stood up against the wall. High hanging was the
song-drum. Rolf wished Quonab would take it and let it open his heart,
but he dared not offer it; that might have the exact wrong effect. Now
the mouse was behind the birch stick. Then Rolf noticed that the stick
if it were to fall would strike a drying line, one end of which was
on the song-drum peg. So he made a dash at the mouse and displaced the
stick; the jerk it gave the line sent the song-drum with hollow bumping
to the ground. The boy stooped to replace it; as he did, Quonab grunted
and Rolf turned to see his hand stretched for the drum. Had Rolf
officiously offered it, it would have been refused; now the Indian took
it, tapped and warmed it at the fire, and sang a song of the Wabanaki.
It was softly done, and very low, but Rolf was close, for almost the
first time in any long rendition, and he got an entirely new notion of
the red music. The singer’s face brightened as he tummed and sang with
peculiar grace notes and throat warbles of “Kaluscap’s war with the
magi,” and the spirit of his people, rising to the sweet magic of
melody, came shining in his eyes. He sang the lovers’ song, “The Bark
Canoe.” (See F. R. Burton’s “American Primitive Music.)

“While the stars shine and falls the dew, I seek my love in bark canoe.”

And then the cradle song,

     “The Naked Bear Shall Never Catch Thee.”

When he stopped, he stared at the fire; and after a long pause Rolf
ventured, “My mother would have loved your songs.”

Whether he heard or not, the warm emanation surely reached the Indian,
and he began to answer the question of an hour before:

“Her name was Gamowini, for she sang like the sweet night bird at
Asamuk. I brought her from her father’s house at Saugatuck. We lived at
Myanos. She made beautiful baskets and moccasins. I fished and trapped;
we had enough. Then the baby came. He had big round eyes, so we called
him Wee-wees, ‘our little owl,’ and we were very happy. When Gamowini
sang to her baby, the world seemed full of sun. One day when Wee-wees
could walk she left him with me and she went to Stamford with some
baskets to sell. A big ship was in the harbour. A man from the ship told
her that his sailors would buy all her baskets. She had no fear. On the
ship they seized her for a runaway slave, and hid her till they sailed
away.

“When she did not come back I took Wee-wees on my shoulder and went
quickly to Stamford. I soon found out a little, but the people did not
know the ship, or whence she came, or where she went, they said. They
did not seem to care. My heart grew hotter and wilder. I wanted to
fight. I would have killed the men on the dock, but they were many. They
bound me and put me in jail for three months. ‘When I came out Wee-wees
was dead. They did not care. I have heard nothing since. Then I went to
live under the rock, so I should not see our first home. I do not know;
she may be alive. But I think it killed her to lose her baby.”

The Indian stopped; then rose quickly. His face was hard set. He stepped
out into the snowstorm and the night. Rolf was left alone with Skookum.

Sad, sad, everything seemed sad in his friend’s life, and Rolf, brooding
over it with wisdom beyond his years, could not help asking: “Had Quonab
and Gamowini been white folk, would it have happened so? Would his agony
have been received with scornful indifference?” Alas! he knew it would
not. He realized it would have been a very different tale, and the
sequent questions that would not down, were, “Will this bread cast
on the waters return after many days?” “Is there a God of justice and
retribution?” “On whom will the flail of vengeance fall for all these
abominations?”

Two hours later the Indian returned. No word was spoken as he entered.
He was not cold. He must have walked far. Rolf prepared for bed. The
Indian stooped, picked up a needle from the dusty ground, one that had
been lost the day before, silently handed it to his companion, who gave
only a recognizant “Hm,” and dropped it into the birch-bark box.



Chapter 44. The Lost Bundle of Furs

There had been a significant cessation of robbery on their trap line
after the inconclusive visit to the enemy’s camp. But a new and extreme
exasperation arose in the month of March, when the alternation of thaw
and frost had covered the snow with a hard crust that rendered snowshoes
unnecessary and made it easy to run anywhere and leave no track.

They had gathered up a fisher and some martens before they reached the
beaver pond. They had no beaver traps now, but it was interesting to
call and see how many of the beavers were left, and what they were
doing.

Bubbling springs on the bank of the pond had made open water at several
places, now that the winter frost was weakening. Out of these the
beavers often came, as was plainly seen in the tracks, so the trappers
approached them carefully.

They were scrutinizing one of them from behind a log, Quonab with ready
gun, Rolf holding the unwilling Skookum, when the familiar broad, flat
head appeared. A large beaver swam around the hole, sniffed and looked,
then silently climbed the bank, evidently making for a certain aspen
tree that he had already been cutting. He was in easy range, and the
gunner was about to fire when Rolf pressed his arm and pointed. Here,
wandering through the wood, came a large lynx. It had not seen or smelt
any of the living creatures ahead, as yet, but speedily sighted the
beaver now working away to cut down his tree.

As a pelt, the beaver was worth more than the lynx, but the naturalist
is strong in most hunters, and they watched to see what would happen.

The lynx seemed to sink into the ground, and was lost to sight as soon
as he knew of a possible prey ahead. And now he began his stalk. The
hunters sighted him once as he crossed a level opening in the snow. He
seemed less than four inches high as he crawled. Logs, ridges, trees,
or twigs, afforded ample concealment, till his whiskers appeared in a
thicket within fifteen feet of the beaver.

All this was painfully exciting to Skookum, who, though he could not
see, could get some thrilling whiffs, and he strained forward to improve
his opportunities. The sound of this slight struggle caught the beaver’s
ear. It stopped work, wheeled, and made for the water hole. The lynx
sprang from his ambush, seized the beaver by the back, and held on;
but the beaver was double the lynx’s weight, the bank was steep and
slippery, the struggling animals kept rolling down hill, nearer and
nearer the hole. Then, on the very edge, the beaver gave a great plunge,
and splashed into the water with the lynx clinging to its back. At once
they disappeared, and the hunters rushed to the place, expecting them to
float up and be an easy prey; but they did not float. At length it was
clear that the pair had gone under the ice, for in water the beaver was
master.

After five minutes it was certain that the lynx must be dead. Quonab cut
a sapling and made a grappler. He poked this way and that way under the
ice, until at length he felt something soft. With the hatchet they cut
a hole over the place and then dragged out the body of the lynx. The
beaver, of course, escaped and was probably little the worse.

While Quonab skinned the catch, Rolf prowled around the pond and soon
came running back to tell of a remarkable happening.

At another open hole a beaver had come out, wandered twenty yards to a
mound which he had castorized, then passed several hard wood trees to
find a large poplar or aspen, the favourite food tree. This he had begun
to fell with considerable skill, but for some strange reason, perhaps
because alone, he had made a miscalculation, and when the tree came
crashing down, it had fallen across his back, killed him, and pinned him
to the ground.

It was an easy matter for the hunters to remove the log and secure his
pelt, so they left the beaver pond, richer than they had expected.

Next night, when they reached their half-way shanty, they had the best
haul they had taken on this line since the memorable day when they got
six beavers.

The morning dawned clear and bright. As they breakfasted, they noticed
an extraordinary gathering of ravens far away to the north, beyond any
country they had visited. At least twenty or thirty of the birds were
sailing in great circles high above a certain place, uttering a deep,
sonorous croak, from time to time. Occasionally one of the ravens would
dive down out of sight.

“Why do they fly above that way?”

“That is to let other ravens know there is food here. Their eyes are
very good. They can see the signal ten miles away, so all come to the
place. My father told me that you can gather all the ravens for twenty
miles by leaving a carcass so they can see it and signal each other.”

“Seems as if we should look into that. Maybe another panther,” was
Rolf’s remark.

The Indian nodded; so leaving the bundle of furs in a safe place with
the snowshoes, that they carried on a chance, they set out over the
hard crust. It was two or three miles to the ravens’ gathering, and, as
before, it proved to be over a cedar brake where was a deer yard.

Skookum knew all about it. He rushed into the woods, filled with the
joy of martial glory. But speedily came running out again as hard as
he could, yelling “yow, yow, yowl” for help, while swiftly following,
behind him were a couple of gray wolves. Quonab waited till they were
within forty yards; then, seeing the men, the wolves slowed up and
veered; Quonab fired; one of the wolves gave a little, doglike yelp.
Then they leaped into the bushes and were lost to view.

A careful study of the snow showed one or two trifling traces of blood.
In the deer yard they found at least a dozen carcasses of deer killed by
the wolves, but none very recent. They saw but few deer and nothing more
of the wolves, for the crust had made all the country easy, and both
kinds fled before the hunters.

Exploring a lower level of willow country in hopes of finding beaver
delayed them, and it was afternoon when they returned to the half-way
shanty, to find everything as they left it, except that their Pack of
furs had totally disappeared.

Of course, the hard crust gave no sign of track. Their first thought
was of the old enemy, but, seeking far and near for evidence, they found
pieces of an ermine skin, and a quarter mile farther, the rest of it,
then, at another place, fragments of a muskrat’s skin. Those made it
look like the work of the trapper’s enemy, the wolverine, which, though
rare, was surely found in these hills. Yes! there was a wolverine
scratch mark, and here another piece of the rat skin. It was very clear
who was the thief.

“He tore up the cheapest ones of the lot anyway,” said Rolf.

Then the trappers stared at each other significantly--only the cheap
ones destroyed; why should a wolverine show such discrimination? There
was no positive sign of wolverine; in fact, the icy snow gave no sign of
anything. There was little doubt that the tom furs and the scratch marks
were there to mislead; that this was the work of a human robber, almost
certainly Hoag.

He had doubtless seen them leave in the morning, and it was equally
sure, since he had had hours of start, he would now be far away.

“Ugh! Give him few days to think he safe, then I follow and settle all,”
 and this time the Indian clearly meant to end the matter.



Chapter 45. The Subjugation of Hoag

     A feller as weeps for pity and never does a finger-tap to
     help is ‘bout as much use as an overcoat on a drowning man.
     --Sayings of Si Sylvanne.

SOME remarkable changes of weather made some remarkable changes in their
plan and saved their enemy from immediate molestation. For two weeks it
was a succession of thaws and there was much rain. The lake was covered
with six inches of water; the river had a current above the ice, that
was rapidly eating, the latter away. Everywhere there were slush and wet
snow that put an end to travel and brought on the spring with a rush.

Each night there was, indeed, a trifling frost, but each day’s sun
seemed stronger, and broad, bare patches of ground appeared on all sunny
slopes.

On the first crisp day the trappers set out to go the rounds, knowing
full well that this was the end of the season. Henceforth for six months
deadfall and snare would lie idle and unset.

They went their accustomed line, carrying their snowshoes, but rarely
needing them. Then they crossed a large track to which Quonab pointed,
and grunted affirmatively as Rolf said “Bear?” Yes! the bears were about
once more; their winter sleep was over. Now they were fat and the fur
was yet prime; in a month they would be thin and shedding. Now is the
time for bear hunting with either trap or dog.

Doubtless Skookum thought the party most fortunately equipped in the
latter respect, but no single dog is enough to bay a bear. There must
be three or four to bother him behind, to make him face about and fight;
one dog merely makes him run faster.

They had no traps, and knowing that a spring bear is a far traveller,
they made no attempt to follow.

The deadfalls yielded two martens, but one of them was spoiled by the
warm weather. They learned at last that the enemy had a trap-line, for
part of which he used their deadfalls. He had been the rounds lately and
had profited at least a little by their labours.

The track, though two days old, was not hard to follow, either on snow
or ground. Quonab looked to the lock of his gun; his lower lip tightened
and he strode along.

“What are you going to do, Quonab? Not shoot?”

“When I get near enough,” and the dangerous look in the red man’s eye
told Rolf to be quiet and follow.

In three miles they passed but three of his marten traps--very lazy
trapping--and then found a great triangle of logs by a tree with a bait
and signs enough to tell the experienced eye that, in that corner, was
hidden a huge steel trap for bear.

They were almost too late in restraining the knowledge-hunger of
Skookum. They went on a mile or two and realized in so doing that,
however poor a trapper the enemy might be, he was a good tramper and
knew the country.

At sundown they came to their half-way shelter and put up there for the
night. Once when Rolf went out to glimpse the skies before turning in,
he heard a far tree creaking and wondered, for it was dead calm. Even
Skookum noticed it. But it was not repeated. Next morning they went on.

There are many quaint sounds in the woods at all times, the rasping
of trees, at least a dozen different calls by jays, twice as many by
ravens, and occasional notes from chicadees, grouse, and owls. The
quadrupeds in general are more silent, but the red squirrel is ever
about and noisy, as well as busy.

Far-reaching sounds are these echoes of the woods--some of them very
far. Probably there were not five minutes of the day or night when some
weird, woodland chatter, scrape, crack, screech, or whistle did not
reach the keen ears of that ever-alert dog. That is, three hundred times
a day his outer ear submitted to his inner ear some report of things
a-doing, which same report was as often for many days disregarded as of
no interest or value. But this did not mean that he missed anything; the
steady tramp, tramp of their feet, while it dulled all sounds for the
hunter, seemed to have no effect on Skookum. Again the raspy squeal of
some far tree reached his inmost brain, and his hair rose as he stopped
and gave a low “woof.”

The hunters held still; the wise ones always do, when a dog says “Stop!”
 They waited. After a few minutes it came again--merely the long-drawn
creak of a tree bough, wind-rubbed on its neighbour.

And yet, “Woof, woof, woof,” said Skookum, and ran ahead.

“Come back, you little fool!” cried Rolf.

But Skookum had a mind of his own. He trotted ahead, then stopped,
paused, and sniffed at something in the snow. The Indian picked it up.
It was the pocket jackscrew that every bear trapper carries to set the
powerful trap, and without which, indeed, one man cannot manage the
springs.

He held it up with “Ugh! Hoag in trouble now.” Clearly the rival trapper
had lost this necessary tool.

But the finding was an accident. Skookum pushed on. They came along a
draw to a little hollow. The dog, far forward, began barking and angrily
baying at something. The men hurried to the scene to find on the snow,
fast held in one of those devilish engines called a bear trap--the body
of their enemy--Hoag, the trapper, held by a leg, and a hand in the gin
he himself had been setting.

A fierce light played on the Indian’s face. Rolf was stricken with
horror. But even while they contemplated the body, the faint cry was
heard again coming from it.

“He’s alive; hurry!” cried Rolf. The Indian did not hurry, but he came.
He had vowed vengeance at sight; why should he haste to help?

The implacable iron jaws had clutched the trapper by one knee and the
right hand. The first thing was to free him. How? No man has power
enough to force that spring. But the jackscrew!

“Quonab, help him! For God’s sake, come!” cried Rolf in agony,
forgetting their feud and seeing only tortured, dying man.

The Indian gazed a moment, then rose quickly, and put on the jackscrew.
Under his deft fingers the first spring went down, but what about the
other? They had no other screw. The long buckskin line they always
carried was quickly lashed round and round the down spring to hold it.
Then the screw was removed and put on the other spring; it bent, and the
jaws hung loose. The Indian forced them wide open, drew out the mangled
limbs, a the trapper was free, but so near death, it seemed they were
too late.

Rolf spread his coat. The Indian made a fire. In fifteen minutes they
were pouring hot tea between victim’s lips. Even as they did, his feeble
throat gave out again the long, low moan.

The weather was mild now. The prisoner was not actually frozen, but
numbed and racked. Heat, hot tea, kindly rubbing, and he revived a
little.

At first they thought him dying, but in an hour recovered enough to
talk. In feeble accents and broken phrases they learned the tale:

“Yest--m-m-m. Yesterday--no; two or three days back--m-m-m-m-m--I dunno;
I was a goin’--roun’ me traps--me bear traps. Didn’t have no luck m-m-m
(yes, I’d like another sip; ye ain’t got no whiskey no?) m-m-m. Nothing
in any trap, and when I come to this un--oh-h--m-m; I seen--the bait
was stole by birds, an’ the pan--m-m-m; an’ the pan, m-m-m--(yes, that’s
better)--an’ the pan laid bare. So I starts to cover it with--ce-ce-dar;
the ony thing I c’d get--m-m-m-w---wuz leanin’ over--to fix tother
side--me foot slipped on--the--ice--ev’rything was icy--an’--m-m-m-m--I
lost--me balance--me knee the pan--O Lord--how I suffer!--m-m-m it
grabbed me--knee an’--h-h-hand--” His voice died to a whisper and
ceased; he seemed sinking.

Quonab got up to hold him. Then, looking at Rolf, Indian shook his
head as though to say all was over; the poor wretch had a woodman’s
constitution, and in spite of a mangled, dying body, he revived again.
They gave him more hot tea, and again he began in a whisper:

“I hed one arm free an’--an’--an’--I might--a--got out--m-m--but I hed
no wrench--I lost it some place--m-m-m-m.

“Then--I yelled--I dun--no--maybe some un might hear--it kin-kin-kinder
eased me--to yell m-m-m.

“Say--make that yer dog keep--away--will yer I dunno--it seems like a
week--must a fainted some M-m-m--I yelled--when I could.”

There was a long pause. Rolf said, “Seems to me I heard you last night,
when we were up there. And dog heard you, too. Do you want me to move
that leg around?”

“M-m-m--yeh--that’s better--say, you air white--ain’t ye? Ye won’t leave
me--cos--I done some mean things--m-m-m. Ye won’t, will ye?”

“No, you needn’t worry--we’ll stay by ye.”

Then he muttered, they could not tell what. He closed his eyes. After
long silence he looked around wildly and began again:

“Say--I done you dirt--but don’t leave me--don’t leave me.” Tears ran
down his face and he moaned piteously. “I’ll--make it--right--you’re
white, ain’t ye?”

Quonab rose and went for more firewood. The trapper whispered, “I’m
scared o’ him--now--he’ll do me--say, I’m jest a poor ole man. If I do
live--through--this--m-m-m-m--I’ll never walk again. I’m crippled sure.”

It was long before he resumed. Then he began: “Say, what day is
it--Friday!--I must--been two days in there--m-m-m--I reckoned it was a
week. When--the--dog came I thought it was wolves. Oh--ah, didn’t care
much--m-m-m. Say, ye won’t leave me--coz--coz--I treated--ye mean.
I--ain’t had no l-l-luck.” He went off into a stupor, but presently let
out a long, startling cry, the same as that they had heard in the night.
The dog growled; the men stared. The wretch’s eyes were rolling again.
He seemed delirious.

Quonab pointed to the east, made the sun-up sign, and shook his head at
the victim. And Rolf understood it to mean that he would never see the
sunrise. But they were wrong.

The long night passed in a struggle between heath and the tough make-up
of a mountaineer. The waiting light of dawn saw death defeated,
retiring from the scene. As the sun rose high, the victim seemed to gain
considerably in strength. There was no immediate danger of an end.

Rolf said to Quonab: “Where shall we take him? Guess you better go home
for the toboggan, and we’ll fetch him to the shanty.”

But the invalid was able to take part in the conversation. “Say, don’t
take me there. Ah--want to go home. ‘Pears like--I’d be better at home.
My folks is out Moose River way. I’d never get out if I went in
there,” and by “there” he seemed to mean the Indian’s lake, and glanced
furtively at the unchanging countenance of the red man.

“Have you a toboggan at your shanty?” asked Rolf.

“Yes--good enough--it’s on the roof--say,” and he beckoned feebly to
Rolf, “let him go after it--don’t leave me--he’ll kill me,” and he wept
feebly in his self pity.

So Quonab started down the mountain--a sinewy man--a striding form, a
speck in the melting distance.



Chapter 46. Nursing Hoag

In two hours the red man reached the trapper’s shanty, and at once,
without hesitation or delicacy, set about a thorough examination of its
contents. Of course there was the toboggan on the roof, and in fairly
good condition for such a shiftless owner.

There were bunches of furs hanging from the rafters, but not many, for
fur taking is hard work; and Quonab, looking suspiciously over them,
was ‘not surprised to see the lynx skin he had lost, easily known by the
absence of wound and the fur still in points as it had dried from the
wetting. In another bundle, he discovered the beaver that had killed
itself, for there was the dark band across its back.

The martens he could not be sure of, but he had a strong suspicion that
most of this fur came out of his own traps.

He tied Hoag’s blankets on the toboggan, and hastened back to where he
left the two on the mountain.

Skookum met him long before he was near. Skookum did not enjoy Hoag’s
company.

The cripple had been talking freely to Rolf, but the arrival of the
Indian seemed to suppress him.

With the wounded man on the toboggan, they set out, The ground was bare
in many places, so that the going was hard; but, fortunately, it was all
down hill, and four hours’ toil brought them to the cabin.

They put the sick man in his bunk, then Rolf set about preparing a meal,
while Quonab cut wood.

After the usual tea, bacon, and flour cakes, all were feeling refreshed.
Hoag seemed much more like himself. He talked freely, almost cheerfully,
while Quonab, with Skookum at his feet, sat silently smoking and staring
into the fire.

After a long silence, the Indian turned, looked straight at the trapper,
and, pointing with his pipestem to the furs, said, “How many is ours?”

Hoag looked scared, then sulky, and said; “I dunno what ye mean. I’m a
awful sick man. You get me out to Lyons Falls all right, and ye can have
the hull lot,” and he wept.

Rolf shook his head at Quonab, then turned to the sufferer and said:
“Don’t you worry; we’ll get you out all right. Have you a good canoe?”

“Pretty fair; needs a little fixing.”

The night passed with one or two breaks, when the invalid asked for a
drink of water. In the morning he was evidently recovering, and they
began to plan for the future.

He took the first chance of wispering to Rolf, “Can’t you send him away?
I’ll be all right with you.” Rolf said nothing.

“Say,” he continued, “say, young feller, what’s yer name?”

“Rolf Kittering.”

“Say, Rolf, you wait a week or ten days, and the ice ‘ll be out; then
I’ll be fit to travel. There ain’t on’y a few carries between here an’
Lyons Falls.”

After a long pause, due to Quonab’s entry, he continued again: “Moose
River’s good canoeing; ye can get me out in five days; me folks is at
Lyons Falls.” He did not say that his folks consisted of a wife and boy
that he neglected, but whom he counted on to nurse him now.

Rolf was puzzled by the situation.

“Say! I’ll give ye all them furs if ye git me out.” Rolf gave him a
curious look--as much as to say, “Ye mean our furs.”

Again the conversation was ended by the entry of Quonab.

Rolf stepped out, taking the Indian with him. They had a long talk,
then, as Rolf reentered, the sick man began:

“You stay by me, and git me out. I’ll give ye my rifle”--then, after a
short silence--“an’ I’ll throw in all the traps an’ the canoe.”

“I’ll stay by you,” said Rolf, “and in about two weeks we’ll take you
down to Lyons Falls. I guess you can guide us.”

“Ye can have all them pelts,” and again the trapper presented the spoils
he had stolen, “an’ you bet it’s your rifle when ye get me out.”

So it was arranged. But it was necessary for Quonab to go back to their
own cabin. Now what should he do? Carry the new lot of fur there, or
bring the old lot here to dispose of all at Lyons Falls?

Rolf had been thinking hard. He had seen the evil side of many men,
including Hoag. To go among Hoag’s people with a lot of stuff that Hoag
might claim was running risks, so he said:

“Quonab, you come back in not more than ten days. We’ll take a few furs
to Lyons Falls so we can get supplies. Leave the rest of them in good
shape, so we can go out later to Warren’s. We’ll get a square deal
there, and we don’t know what at Lyon’s.”

So they picked out the lynx, the beaver, and a dozen martens to leave,
and making the rest into a pack, Quonab shouldered them, and followed by
Skookum, trudged up the mountain and was lost to view in the woods.

The ten days went by very slowly. Hoag was alternately querulous,
weeping, complaining, unpleasantly fawning, or trying to insure good
attention by presenting again and again the furs, the gun, and the
canoe.

Rolf found it pleasant to get away from the cabin when the weather was
fine. One day, taking Hoag’s gun, he travelled up the nearest stream for
a mile, and came on a big beaver pond. Round this he scouted and soon
discovered a drowned beaver, held in a trap which he recognized at once,
for it had the (” ‘ “‘) mark on the frame. Then he found an empty trap
with a beaver leg in it, and another, till six traps were found. Then
he gathered up the six and the beaver, and returned to the cabin to be
greeted with a string of complaints:

“Ye didn’t ought to leave me like this. I’m paying ye well enough. I
don’t ax no favours,” etc.

“See what I got,” and Rolf showed the beaver. “An’ see what I found;”
 then he showed the traps. “Queer, ain’t it,” he went on, “we had six
traps just like them, and I marked the face just like these, and they
all disappeared, and there was a snowshoe trail pointing this way. You
haven’t got any crooked neighbours about here, have you?”

The trapper looked sulky and puzzled, and grumbled, “I bet it was Bill
Hawkins done it”; then relapsed into silence.



Chapter 47. Hoag’s Home-coming

     When it comes to personal feelin’s better let yer friends
     do the talkin’ and jedgin’.  A man can’t handle his own
     case any more than a delirious doctor kin give hisself the
     right physic--Sayings of Si Sylvanne.

The coming of springtime in the woods is one of the gentlest, sweetest
advents in the world. Sometimes there are heavy rains which fill all the
little rivers with an overflood that quickly eats away the ice and snow,
but usually the woodland streams open, slowly and gradually. Very rarely
is there a spate, an upheaval, and a cataclysmal sweep that bursts the
ice and ends its reign in an hour or two. That is the way of the large
rivers, whose ice is free and floating. The snow in the forest melts
slowly, and when the ice is attacked, it goes gradually, gently, without
uproar. The spring comes in the woods with swelling of buds and a
lengthening of drooping catkins, with honking of wild geese, and cawing
of crows coming up from the lower countries to divide with their larger
cousins, the ravens, the spoils of winter’s killing.

The small birds from the South appear with a few short notes of spring,
and the pert chicadees that have braved it all winter, now lead the
singing with their cheery “I told you so” notes, till robins and
blackbirds join in, and with their more ambitious singing make all the
lesser roundelays forgot.

Once the winter had taken a backward step--spring found it easy to turn
retreat into panic and rout; and the ten days Quonab stayed away were
days of revolutionary change. For in them semi-winter gave place to
smiling spring, with all the snow-drifts gone, except perhaps in the
shadiest hollows of the woods.

It was a bright morning, and a happy one for Rolf, when he heard the
Indian’s short “Ho,” outside, and a minute later had Skookum dancing and
leaping about him. On Hoag the effect was quite different. He was well
enough to be up, to hobble about painfully on a stick; to be exceedingly
fault-finding, and to eat three hearty meals a day; but the moment the
Indian appeared, he withdrew into himself, and became silent and uneasy.
Before an hour passed, he again presented the furs, the gun, the canoe,
and the traps to Rolf, on condition that he should get him out to his
folks.

All three were glad to set out that very day on the outward trip to
Lyons Falls.

Down Little Moose River to Little Moose Lake and on to South Branch of
Moose, then by the Main Moose, was their way. The streams were flush;
there was plenty of water, and this fortunately reduced the number of
carries; for Hoag could not walk and would not hobble. They sweat and
laboured to carry him over every portage; but they covered the fifty
miles in three days, and on the evening of the third, arrived at the
little backwoods village of Lyons Falls.

The change that took place in Hoag now was marked and unpleasant. He
gave a number of orders, where, the day before, he would have made
whining petitions. He told them to “land easy, and don’t bump my canoe.”
 He hailed the loungers about the mill with an effusiveness that they did
not respond to. Their cool, “Hello, Jack, are you back?” was little but
a passing recognition. One of them was persuaded to take Rolf’s place in
carrying Hoag to his cabin. Yes, his folks were there, but they did not
seem overjoyed at his arrival. He whispered to the boy, who sullenly
went out to the river and returned with the rifle, Rolf’s rifle now, the
latter supposed, and would have taken the bundle of furs had not Skookum
sprung on the robber and driven him away from the canoe.

And now Hoag showed his true character. “Them’s my furs and my canoe,”
 he said to one of the mill hands, and turning to the two who had saved
him, he said: “An’ you two dirty, cutthroat, redskin thieves, you can
get out of town as fast as ye know how, or I’ll have ye jugged,” and all
the pent-up hate of his hateful nature frothed out in words insulting
and unprintable.

“Talks like a white man,” said Quonab coldly. Rolf was speechless.
To toil so devotedly, and to have such filthy, humiliating words for
thanks! He wondered if even his Uncle Mike would have shown so vile a
spirit.

Hoag gave free rein to his tongue, and found in his pal, Bill Hawkins,
one with ready ears to hear his tale of woe. The wretch began to feel
himself frightfully ill-used. So, fired at last by the evermore lurid
story of his wrongs, the “partner” brought the magistrate, so they could
swear out a warrant, arrest the two “outlaws,” and especially secure the
bundle of “Hoag’s furs” in the canoe.

Old Silas Sylvanne, the mill-owner and pioneer of the place, was also
its magistrate. He was tall, thin, blacklooking, a sort of Abe Lincoln
in type, physically, and in some sort, mentally. He heard the harrowing
tale of terrible crime, robbery, and torture, inflicted on poor harmless
Hoag by these two ghouls in human shape; he listened, at first shocked,
but little by little amused.

“You don’t get no warrant till I hear from the other side,” he said.
Roff and Quonab came at call. The old pioneer sized up the two, as they
stood, then, addressing Rolf, said:

“Air you an Injun?” “No, sir.” “Air you half-breed?” “No, sir.” “Well,
let’s hear about this business,” and he turned his piercing eyes full on
the lad’s face.

Rolf told the simple, straight story of their acquaintance with Hoag,
from the first day at Warren’s to their arrival at the Falls. There is
never any doubt about the truth of a true story, if it be long enough,
and this true story, presented in its nakedness to the shrewd and kindly
old hunter, trader, mill-owner and magistrate, could have only one
effect.

“Sonny,” he said, slowly and kindly, “I know that ye have told me the
truth. I believe every word of it. We all know that Hoag is the meanest
cuss and biggest liar on the river. He’s a nuisance, and always was.
He only promised to give ye the canoe and the rifle, and since he don’t
want to, we can’t help it. About the trouble in the woods, you got two
witnesses to his one, and ye got the furs and the traps; it’s just as
well ye left the other furs behind, or ye might have had to divide ‘em;
so keep them and call the hull thing square. We’ll find ye a canoe to
get out of this gay metropolis, and as to Hoag, ye needn’t a-worry; his
travelling days is done.”

A man with a bundle of high-class furs is a man of means in any frontier
town. The magistrate was trader, too, so they set about disposing of
their furs and buying the supplies they needed.

The day was nearly done before their new canoe was gummed and ready with
the new supplies. When dealing, old Sylvanne had a mild, quiet manner,
and a peculiar way of making funny remarks that led some to imagine he
was “easy” in business; but it was usual to find at the end that he had
lost nothing by his manners, and rival traders shunned an encounter with
Long Sylvanne of the unruffled brow.

When business was done--keen and complete--he said: “Now, I’m a goin’ to
give each of ye a present,” and handed out two double-bladed jackknives,
new things in those days, wonderful things, precious treasures in their
eyes, sources of endless joy; and even had they known that one marten
skin would buy a quart of them, their pleasant surprise and childish joy
would not have been in any way tempered or alloyed.

“Ye better eat with me, boys, an’ start in the morning.” So they joined
the miller’s long, continuous family, and shared his evening meal.
Afterward as they sat for three hours and smoked on the broad porch that
looked out on the river, old Sylvanne, who had evidently taken a
fancy to Rolf, regaled them with a long, rambling talk on “fellers and
things,” that was one of the most interesting Rolf had ever listened to.
At the time it was simply amusing; it was not till years after that the
lad realized by its effect on himself, its insight, and its hold on his
memory, that Si Sylvanne’s talk was real wisdom. Parts of it would not
look well in print; but the rugged words, the uncouth Saxonism, the
obscene phrase, were the mere oaken bucket in which the pure and
precious waters were hauled to the surface.

“Looked like he had ye pinched when that shyster got ye in to Lyons
Falls. Wall, there’s two bad places for Jack Hoag; one is where they
don’t know him at all, an’ take him on his looks; an’ t’other is where
they know him through and through for twenty years, like we hev. A smart
rogue kin put up a false front fer a year or maybe two, but given twenty
year to try him, for and bye, summer an’ winter, an’ I reckon a man’s
make is pretty well showed up, without no dark corners left unexplored.

“Not that I want to jedge him harsh, coz I don’t know what kind o’
maggots is eatin’ his innards to make him so ornery. I’m bound to
suppose he has ‘em, or he wouldn’t act so dum like it. So I says, go
slow and gentle before puttin’ a black brand on any feller; as my mother
used to say, never say a bad thing till ye ask, ‘Is it true, is it kind,
is it necessary?’ An’ I tell you, the older I git, the slower I jedge;
when I wuz your age, I wuz a steel trap on a hair trigger, an’ cocksure.
I tell you, there ain’t anythin’ wiser nor a sixteen-year-old boy, ‘cept
maybe a fifteen-year-old girl.

“Ye’ll genilly find, lad, jest when things looks about as black as they
kin look, that’s the sign of luck a-comin’ your way, pervidin’ ye hold
steady, keep cool and kind; something happens every time to make it all
easy. There’s always a way, an’ the stout heart will find it.

“Ye may be very sure o’ this, boy, yer never licked till ye think ye air
an’ if ye won’t think it, ye can’t be licked. It’s just the same as
being sick. I seen a lot o’ doctorin’ in my day, and I’m forced to
believe there ain’t any sick folks ‘cept them that thinks they air sick.

“The older I git, the more I’m bound to consider that most things is
inside, anyhow, and what’s outside don’t count for much.

“So it stands to reason when ye play the game for what’s inside, ye win
over all the outside players. When ye done kindness to Hoag, ye mightn’t
a meant it, but ye was bracin’ up the goodness in yerself, or bankin’ it
up somewher’ on the trail ahead, where it was needed. And he was
simply chawin’ his own leg off, when he done ye dirt. I ain’t much o’
a prattlin’ Christian, but I reckon as a cold-blooded, business
proposition it pays to lend the neighbour a hand; not that I go much on
gratitude. It’s scarcer’n snowballs in hell--which ain’t the point;
but I take notice there ain’t any man’ll hate ye more’n the feller that
knows he’s acted mean to ye. An’ there ain’t any feller more ready to
fight yer battles than the chap that by some dum accident has hed the
luck to help ye, even if he only done it to spite some one else--which
‘minds me o’ McCarthy’s bull pup that saved the drowning kittens by
mistake, and ever after was a fightin’ cat protector, whereby he lost
the chief joy o’ his life, which had been cat-killin’. An’ the way they
cured the cat o’ eatin’ squirrels was givin’ her a litter o’ squirrels
to raise.

“I tell ye there’s a lot o’ common-sense an’ kindness in the country,
only it’s so dum slow to git around; while the cussedness and meanness
always acts like they felt the hell fire sizzlin’ their hind-end
whiskers, an’ knowed they had jest so many minutes to live an’ make a
record. There’s where a man’s smart that fixes things so he kin hold out
a long time, fer the good stuff in men’s minds is what lasts; and the
feller what can stay with it hez proved hisself by stayin’. How’d ye
happen to tie up with the Injun, Rolf?”

“Do ye want me to tell it long or short?” was the reply. “Wall, short,
fer a start,” and Silas Sylvanne chuckled.

So Rolf gave a very brief account of his early life.

“Pretty good,” said the miller; “now let’s hear it long.”

And when he had finished, the miller said: “I’ve seen yer tried fer most
everything that goes to make a man, Rolf, an’ I hev my own notion of the
results. You ain’t goin’ to live ferever in them hills. When ye’ve hed
yer fling an’ want a change, let me know.”

Early next day the two hunters paddled up the Moose River with a good
canoe, an outfit of groceries, and a small supply of ready cash.

“Good-bye, lad, good-bye! Come back again and ye’ll find we improve on
acquaintance; an’ don’t forget I’m buying fur,” was Si Sylvanne’s last
word. And as they rounded the point, on the home way, Rolf turned in
the canoe, faced Quonab, and said: “Ye see there are some good white men
left;” but the Indian neither blinked, nor moved, nor made a sound.



Chapter 48. Rolf’s Lesson in Trailing

The return journey was hard paddling against strong waters, but
otherwise uneventful. Once over any trail is enough to fix it in the
memory of a woodman. They made no mistakes and their loads were light,
so the portages were scarcely any loss of time, and in two days they
were back at Hoag’s cabin.

Of this they took possession. First, they gathered all things of value,
and that was little since the furs and bedding were gone, but there were
a few traps and some dishes. The stuff was made in two packs; now it
was an overland journey, so the canoe was hidden in a cedar thicket,
a quarter of a mile inland. The two were about to shoulder the packs,
Quonab was lighting his pipe for a start, when Rolf said:

“Say, Quonab! that fellow we saw at the Falls claimed to be Hoag’s
partner. He may come on here and make trouble if we don’t head him off.
Let’s burn her,” and he nodded toward the shanty.

“Ugh!” was the reply.

They gathered some dry brush and a lot of birch bark, piled them up
against the wall inside, and threw plenty of firewood on this. With
flint and steel Quonab made the vital spark, the birch bark sputtered,
the dry, resinous logs were easily set ablaze, and soon great volumes
of smoke rolled from the door, the window, and the chimney; and Skookum,
standing afar, barked pleasantly aloud.

The hunters shouldered their packs and began the long, upward slope. In
an hour they had reached a high, rocky ridge. Here they stopped to rest,
and, far below them, marked with grim joy a twisted, leaning column of
thick black smoke.

That night they camped in the woods and next day rejoiced to be back
again at their own cabin, their own lake, their home.

Several times during the march they had seen fresh deer tracks, and now
that the need of meat was felt, Rolf proposed a deer hunt.

Many deer die every winter; some are winter-killed; many are devoured
by beasts of prey, or killed by hunters; their numbers are at low ebb in
April, so that now one could not count on finding a deer by roaming at
random. It was a case for trailing.

Any one can track a deer in the snow. It is not very hard to follow a
deer in soft ground, when there are no other deer about. But it is very
hard to take one deer trail and follow it over rocky ground and dead
leaves, never losing it or changing off, when there are hundreds of deer
tracks running in all directions.

Rolf’s eyes were better than Quonab’s, but experience counts for as much
as eyes, and Quonab was leading. They picked out a big buck track that
was fresh--no good hunter kills a doe at this season. They knew it for a
buck, because of its size and the roundness of the toes.

Before long, Rolf said: “See, Quonab, I want to learn this business; let
me do the trailing, and you set me right if I get off the line.”

Within a hundred yards, Quonab gave a grunt and shook his head. Rolf
looked surprised, for he was on a good, fresh track.

Quonab said but one word, “Doe.”

Yes, a closer view showed the tracks to be a little narrower, a little
closer together, and a little sharper than those he began with.

Back went Rolf to the last marks that he was sure of, and plainly read
where the buck had turned aside. For a time, things went along smoothly,
Quonab and Skookum following Rolf. The last was getting very familiar
with that stub hoof on the left foot. At length they came to the “fumet”
 or “sign”; it was all in one pile. That meant the deer had stood, so was
unalarmed; and warm; that meant but a few minutes ahead. Now, they must
use every precaution for this was the crux of the hunt. Of this much
only they were sure--the deer was within range now, and to get him they
must see him before he saw them.

Skookum was leashed. Rolf was allowed to get well ahead, and crawling
cautiously, a step at a time, he went, setting down his moccasined foot
only after he had tried and selected a place. Once or twice he threw
into the air a tuft of dry grass to make sure that the wind was right,
and by slow degrees he reached the edge of a little opening.

Across this he peered long, without entering it. Then he made a sweep
with his hand and pointed, to let Quonab know the buck had gone across
and he himself must go around. But he lingered still and with his eyes
swept the near woods. Then, dim gray among the gray twigs, he saw a
slight movement, so slight it might have been made by the tail of a
tomtit. But it fixed his attention, and out of this gray haze he slowly
made out the outline of a deer’s head, antlers, and neck. A hundred
yards away, but “take a chance when it comes” is hunter wisdom. Rolf
glanced at the sight, took steady aim, fired, and down went the buck
behind a log. Skookum whined and leaped high in his eagerness to see.
Rolf restrained his impatience to rush forward, at once reloaded, then
all three went quickly to the place. Before they were within fifty
yards, the deer leaped up and bounded off. At seventy-five yards, it
stood for a moment to gaze. Rolf fired again; again the buck fell down,
but jumped to its feet and bounded away.

They went to the two places, but found no blood. Utterly puzzled, they
gave it up for the day, as already the shades of night were on the
woods, and in spite of Skookum’s voluble offer to solve and settle
everything, they returned to the cabin.

“What do you make of it, Quonab?’

The Indian shook his head, then: “Maybe touched his head and stunned
him, first shot; second, wah! I not know.”

“I know this,” said Rolf. “I touched him and I mean to get him in the
morning.”

True to this resolve, he was there again at dawn, but examined the place
in vain for a sign of blood. The red rarely shows up much on leaves,
grass, or dust; but there are two kinds of places that the hunter can
rely on as telltales--stones and logs. Rolf followed the deer track, now
very dim, till at a bare place he found a speck of blood on a pebble.
Here the trail joined onto a deer path, with so many tracks that it was
hard to say which was the right one. But Rolf passed quickly along to a
log that crossed the runway, and on that log he found a drop of dried-up
blood that told him what he wished to know.

Now he had a straight run of a quarter of a mile, and from time to time
he saw a peculiar scratching mark that puzzled him. Once he found a
speck of blood at one of these scratches but no other evidence that the
buck was touched.

A wounded deer is pretty sure to work down hill, and Quonab, leaving
Skookum with Rolf, climbed a lookout that might show whither the deer
was heading.

After another half mile, the deer path forked; there were buck trails on
both, and Rolf could not pick out the one he wanted. He went a few yards
along each, studying the many marks, but was unable to tell which was
that of the wounded buck.

Now Skookum took a share in it. He had always been forbidden to run
deer and knew it was a contraband amusement, but he put his nose to that
branch of the trail that ran down hill, followed it for a few yards,
then looked at Rolf, as much as to say: “You poor nose-blind creature;
don’t you know a fresh deer track when you smell it? Here it is; this is
where he went.”

Rolf stared, then said, “I believe he means it”; and followed the lower
trail. Very soon he came to another scrape, and, just beyond it, found
the new, velvet-covered antler of a buck, raw and bloody, and splintered
at the base.

From this on, the task was easier, as there were no other tracks, and
this was pointing steadily down hill.

Soon Quonab came striding along. He had not seen the buck, but a couple
of jays and a raven were gathered in a thicket far down by the stream.
The hunters quit the trail and made for that place. As they drew near,
they found the track again, and again saw those curious scrapes.

Every hunter knows that the bluejay dashing about a thicket means that
hidden there is game of some kind, probably deer. Very, very slowly and
silently they entered that copse. But nothing appeared until there was a
rush in the thickest part and up leaped the buck. This was too much for
Skookum. He shot forward like a wolf, fastened on one hind leg, and the
buck went crashing head over heels. Before it could rise, another shot
ended its troubles. And now a careful study shed the light desired.
Rolf’s first shot had hit the antler near the base, breaking it, except
for the skin on one side, and had stunned the buck. The second shot had
broken a hind leg. The scratching places he had made were efforts to
regain the use of this limb, and at one of them the deer had fallen and
parted the rag of skin by which the antler hung.

It was Rolf’s first important trailing on the ground; it showed how
possible it was, and how quickly he was learning the hardest of all the
feats of woodcraft.



Chapter 49. Rolf Gets Lost

Every one who lives in the big woods gets lost at some time. Yes, even
Daniel Boone did sometimes go astray. And whether it is to end as a joke
or a horrible tragedy depends entirely on the way in which the person
takes it. This is, indeed, the grand test of a hunter and scout, the
trial of his knowledge, his muscle, and, above everything, his courage;
and, like all supreme trials, it comes without warning.

The wonderful flocks of wild pigeons had arrived. For a few days in May
they were there in millions, swarming over the ground in long-reaching
hordes, walking along, pecking and feeding, the rearmost flying on
ahead, ever to the front. The food they sought so eagerly now was
chiefly the seeds of the slippery elm, tiny nuts showered down on wings
like broad-brimmed hats. And when the flock arose at some alarm, the
sound was like that of the sea beach in a storm.

There seemed to be most pigeons in the low country southeast of the
lake, of course, because, being low, it had most elms. So Rolf took
his bow and arrows, crossed in the canoe, and confidently set about
gathering in a dozen or two for broilers.

It is amazing how well the game seems to gauge the range of your weapon
and keep the exact safe distance. It is marvellous how many times you
may shoot an arrow into a flock of pigeons and never kill one. Rolf went
on and on, always in sight of the long, straggling flocks on the ground
or in the air, but rarely within range of them. Again and again he fired
a random shot into the distant mass, without success for two hours.
Finally a pigeon was touched and dropped, but it rose as he ran forward,
and flew ten yards, to drop once more. Again he rushed at it, but it
fluttered out of reach and so led him on and on for about half an hour’s
breathless race, until at last he stopped, took deliberate aim, and
killed it with an arrow.

Now a peculiar wailing and squealing from the woods far ahead attracted
him. He stalked and crawled for many minutes before he found out, as he
should have known, that it was caused by a mischievous bluejay.

At length he came to a spring in a low hollow, and leaving his bow and
arrows on a dry log, he went down to get a drink.

As he arose, he found himself face to face with a doe and a fat,
little yearling buck, only twenty yards away. They stared at him, quite
unalarmed, and, determining to add the yearling to his bag, Rolf went
back quietly to his bow and arrows.

The deer were just out of range now, but inclined to take a curious
interest in the hunter. Once when he stood still for a long time,
they walked forward two or three steps; but whenever he advanced, they
trotted farther away.

To kill a deer with an arrow is quite a feat of woodcraft, and Rolf was
keen to show his prowess; so he kept on with varying devices, and was
continually within sight of the success that did not actually arrive.

Then the deer grew wilder and loped away, as he entered another valley
that was alive with pigeons.

He was feeling hungry now, so he plucked the pigeon he had secured, made
a fire with the flint and steel he always carried, then roasted the bird
carefully on a stick, and having eaten it, felt ready for more travel.

The day was cloudy, so he could not see the sun; but he knew it was
late, and he made for camp.

The country he found himself in was entirely strange to him, and the
sun’s whereabouts doubtful; but he knew the general line of travel and
strode along rapidly toward the place where he had left the canoe.

After two hours’ tramping, he was surprised at not seeing the lake
through the trees, and he added to his pace.

Three hours passed and still no sign of the water.

He began to think he had struck too far to the north; so corrected his
course and strode along with occasional spells of trotting. But another
hour wore away and no lake appeared.

Then Rolf knew he was off his bearings. He climbed a tree and got a
partial view of the country. To the right was a small hill. He made for
that. The course led him through a hollow. In this he recognized two
huge basswood trees, that gave him a reassuring sense. A little farther
he came on a spring, strangely like the one he had left some hours
ago. As he stooped to drink, he saw deer tracks, then a human track. He
studied it. Assuredly it was his own track, though now it seemed on the
south side instead of the north. He stared at the dead gray sky, hoping
for sign of sun, but it gave no hint. He tramped off hastily toward the
hill that promised a lookout. He went faster and faster. In half an hour
the woods opened a little, then dipped. He hastened down, and at the
bottom found himself standing by the same old spring, though again it
had changed its north bearing.

He was stunned by this succession of blows. He knew now he was lost in
the woods; had been tramping in a circle.

The spring whirled around him; it seemed now north and now south. His
first impulse was to rush madly northwesterly, as he understood it. He
looked at all the trees for guidance. Most moss should be on the north
side. It would be so, if all trees were perfectly straight and evenly
exposed, but alas! none are so. All lean one way or another, and by
the moss he could prove any given side to be north. He looked for the
hemlock top twigs. Tradition says they always point easterly; but now
they differed among themselves as to which was east.

Rolf got more and more worried. He was a brave boy, but grim fear came
into his mind as he realized that he was too far from camp to be heard;
the ground was too leafy for trailing him; without help he could not get
away from that awful spring. His head began to swim, when all at once he
remembered a bit of advice his guide had given him long ago: “Don’t get
scared when you’re lost. Hunger don’t kill the lost man, and it ain’t
cold that does it; it’s being afraid. Don’t be afraid, and everything
will come out all right.”

So, instead of running, Rolf sat down to think it over.

“Now,” said he, “I went due southeast all day from the canoe.” Then he
stopped; like a shock it came to him that he had not seen the sun all
day. Had he really gone southeast? It was a devastating thought, enough
to unhinge some men; but again Rolf said to himself “Never mind, now;
don’t get scared, and it’ll be all right. In the morning the sky will be
clear.”

As he sat pondering, a red squirrel chippered and scolded from a near
tree; closer and closer the impudent creature came to sputter at the
intruder.

Rolf drew his bow, and when the blunt arrow dropped to the ground, there
also dropped the red squirrel, turned into acceptable meat. Rolf put
this small game into his pocket, realizing that this was his supper.

It would soon be dark now, so he prepared to spend the night.

While yet he could see, he gathered a pile of dry wood into a sheltered
hollow. Then he made a wind-break and a bed of balsam boughs. Flint,
steel, tinder, and birch bark soon created a cheerful fire, and there is
no better comforter that the lone lost man can command.

The squirrel roasted in its hide proved a passable supper, and Rolf
curled up to sleep. The night would have been pleasant and uneventful,
but that it turned chilly, and when the fire burnt low, the cold
awakened him, so he had a succession of naps and fire-buildings.

Soon after dawn, he heard a tremendous roaring, and in a few minutes the
wood was filled again with pigeons.

Rolf was living on the country now, so he sallied forth with his bow.
Luck was with him; at the first shot he downed a big, fat cock. At the
second he winged another, and as it scrambled through the brush, he
rushed headlong in pursuit. It fluttered away beyond reach, half-flying,
half-running, and Rolf, in reckless pursuit, went sliding and tumbling
down a bank to land at the bottom with a horrid jar. One leg was twisted
under him; he thought it was broken, for there was a fearful pain in
the lower part. But when he pulled himself together he found no broken
bones, indeed, but an ankle badly sprained. Now his situation was truly
grave, for he was crippled and incapable of travelling.

He had secured the second bird, and crawling painfully and slowly back
to the fire, he could not but feel more and more despondent and gloomy
as the measure of his misfortune was realized.

“There is only one thing that can shame a man, that is to be afraid.”
 And again, “There’s always a way out.” These were the sayings that came
ringing through his head to his heart; one was from Quonab, the other
from old Sylvanne. Yes, there’s always a way, and the stout heart can
always find it.

Rolf prepared and cooked the two birds, made a breakfast of one and put
the other in his pocket for lunch, not realizing at the time that his
lunch would be eaten on this same spot. More than once, as he sat, small
flocks of ducks flew over the trees due northward. At length the sky,
now clear, was ablaze with the rising sun, and when it came, it was in
Rolf’s western sky.

Now he comprehended the duck flight. They were really heading southeast
for their feeding grounds on the Indian Lake, and Rolf, had he been able
to tramp, could have followed, but his foot was growing worse. It was
badly swollen, and not likely to be of service for many a day--perhaps
weeks--and it took all of his fortitude not to lie down and weep over
this last misfortune.

Again came the figure of that grim, kindly, strong old pioneer, with the
gray-blue eyes and his voice was saying: “Jest when things looks about
as black as they can look, if ye hold steady, keep cool and kind,
something sure happens to make it all easy. There’s always a way and the
stout heart will find it.”

What way was there for him? He would die of hunger and cold before
Quonab could find him, and again came the spectre of fear. If only he
could devise some way of letting his comrade know. He shouted once or
twice, in the faint hope that the still air might carry the sound, but
the silent wood was silent when he ceased.

Then one of his talks with Quonab came to mind. He remembered how the
Indian, as a little papoose, had been lost for three days. Though, then
but ten years old, he had built a smoke fire that brought him help.
Yes, that was the Indian way; two smokes means “I am lost”; “double for
trouble.”

Fired by this new hope, Rolf crawled a little apart from his camp
and built a bright fire, then smothered it with rotten wood and green
leaves. The column of smoke it sent up was densely white and towered
above the trees.

Then painfully he hobbled and crawled to a place one hundred yards away,
and made another smoke. Now all he could do was wait.

A fat pigeon, strayed from its dock, sat on a bough above his camp, in
a way to tempt Providence. Rolf drew a blunt arrow to the head and
speedily had the pigeon in hand for some future meal.

As he prepared it, he noticed that its crop was crammed with the winged
seed of the slippery elm, so he put them all back again into the body
when it was cleaned, knowing well that they are a delicious food and in
this case would furnish a welcome variant to the bird itself.

An hour crawled by. Rolf had to go out to the far fire, for it was
nearly dead. Instinctively he sought a stout stick to help him; then
remembered how Hoag had managed with one leg and two crutches. “Ho!” he
exclaimed. “That is the answer--this is the ‘way.”’

Now his attention was fixed on all the possible crutches. The trees
seemed full of them, but all at impossible heights. It was long before
he found one that he could cut with his knife. Certainly he was an hour
working at it; then he heard a sound that made his blood jump.

From far away in the north it came, faint but reaching;

“Ye-hoo-o.”

Rolf dropped his knife and listened with the instinctively open mouth
that takes all pressure from the eardrums and makes them keen. It came
again: “Ye-hoo-o.” No mistake now, and Rolf sent the ringing answer
back:

“Ye-hoo-o, ye-hoo-o.”

In ten minutes there was a sharp “yap, yap,” and Skookum bounded out of
the woods to leap and bark around Rolf, as though he knew all about it;
while a few minutes later, came Quonab striding.

“Ho, boy,” he said, with a quiet smile, and took Rolf’s hand. “Ugh!
That was good,” and he nodded to the smoke fire. “I knew you were in
trouble.”

“Yes,” and Rolf pointed to the swollen ankle.

The Indian picked up the lad in his arms and carried him back to the
little camp. Then, from his light pack, he took bread and tea and made a
meal for both. And, as they ate, each heard the other’s tale.

“I was troubled when you did not come back last night, for you had no
food or blanket. I did not sleep. At dawn I went to the hill, where
I pray, and looked away southeast where you went in the canoe. I saw
nothing. Then I went to a higher hill, where I could see the northeast,
and even while I watched, I saw the two smokes, so I knew my son was
alive.”

“You mean to tell me I am northeast of camp?”

“About four miles. I did not come very quickly, because I had to go for
the canoe and travel here.

“How do you mean by canoe?” said Rolf, in surprise.

“You are only half a mile from Jesup River,” was the reply. “I soon bring
you home.”

It was incredible at first, but easy of proof. With the hatchet they
made a couple of serviceable crutches and set out together.

In twenty minutes they were afloat in the canoe; in an hour they
were safely home again.

And Rolf pondered it not a little. At the very moment of blackest
despair, the way had opened, and it had been so simple, so natural, so
effectual. Surely, as long as he lived, he would remember it. “There is
always a way, and the stout heart will find it.”



Chapter 50. Marketing the Fur

If Rolf had been at home with his mother, she would have rubbed his
black and swollen ankle with goose grease. The medical man at Stamford
would have rubbed it with a carefully prepared and secret ointment. His
Indian friend sang a little crooning song and rubbed it with deer’s fat.
All different, and all good, because each did something to reassure the
patient, to prove that big things were doing on his behalf, and each
helped the process of nature by frequent massage.

Three times a day, Quonab rubbed that blackened ankle. The grease saved
the skin from injury, and in a week Rolf had thrown his crutches away.

The month of May was nearly gone; June was at hand; that is, the spring
was over.

In all ages, man has had the impulse, if not the habit, of spring
migration. Yielding to it he either migrated or made some radical change
in his life. Most of the Adirondack men who trapped in the winter sought
work on the log drives in spring; some who had families and a permanent
home set about planting potatoes and plying the fish nets. Rolf and
Quonab having neither way open, yet feeling the impulse, decided to go
out to Warren’s with the fur.

Quonab wanted tobacco--and a change.

Rolf wanted a rifle, and to see the Van Trumpers--and a change.

So June 1st saw them all aboard, with Quonab steering at the stern, and
Skookum bow-wowing at the bow, bound for the great centre of Warren’s
settlement--one store and three houses, very wide apart.

There was a noble flush of water in the streams, and, thanks to their
axe work in September, they passed down Jesup’s River without a pause,
and camped on the Hudson that night, fully twenty-five miles from home.

Long, stringing flocks of pigeons going north were the most numerous
forms of life. But a porcupine on the bank and a bear in the water
aroused Skookum to a pitch of frightful enthusiasm and vaulting ambition
that he was forced to restrain.

On the evening of the third day they landed at Warren’s and found a
hearty welcome from the trader, who left a group of loafers and came
forward:

“Good day to ye, boy. My, how ye have growed.”

So he had. Neither Rolf nor Quonab had remarked it, but now they
were much of the same height. “Wall, an’ how’d ye make out with yer
hunt?--Ah, that’s fine!” as each of them dropped a fur pack on the
counter. “Wall, this is fine; we must have a drink on the head of it,”
 and the trader was somewhat nonplussed when both the trappers refused.
He was disappointed, too, for that refusal meant that they would get
much better prices for their fun But he concealed his chagrin and
rattled on: “I reckon I’ll sell you the finest rifle in the country this
time,” and he knew by Rolf’s face that there was business to do in that
line.

Now came the listing of the fur, and naturally the bargaining was
between the shrewd Yankee boy and the trader. The Indian stood shyly
aside, but he did not fail to help with significant grunts and glances.

“There, now,” said Warren, as the row of martens were laid out side
by side, “thirty martens--a leetle pale--worth three dollars and fifty
cents each, or, to be generous, we’ll say four dollars.” Rolf glanced
at Quonab, who, unseen by the trader shook his head, held his right hand
out, open hollow up, then raised it with a jerk for two inches.

Quickly Rolf caught the idea and said; “No, I don’t reckon them pale.
I call them prime dark, every one of them.” Quonab spread his hand with
all five fingers pointed up, and Rolf continued, “They are worth five
dollars each, if they’re worth a copper.”

“Phew!” said the trader. “you forget fur is an awful risky thing; what
with mildew, moth, mice, and markets, we have a lot of risk. But I
want to please you, so let her go; five each. There’s a fine black fox;
that’s worth forty dollars.”

“I should think it is,” said Rolf, as Quonab, by throwing to his right
an imaginary pinch of sand, made the sign “refuse.”

They had talked over the value of that fox skin and Rolf said, “Why, I
know of a black fox that sold for two hundred dollars.”

“Where?”

“Oh, down at Stamford.”

“Why, that’s near New York.”

“Of course; don’t you send your fur to New York?”

“Yes, but it costs a lot to get it there.

“Now,” said Warren, “if you’ll take it in trade, I’ll meet you half-way
and call it one hundred dollars.”

“Make it one hundred and twenty-five dollars and I’ll take a rifle,
anyway.”

“Phew!” whistled the trader. “Where do ye get such notions?”

“Nothing wrong about the notion; old Si Sylvanne offered me pretty near
that, if I’d come out his way with the stuff.”

This had the desired effect of showing that there were other traders. At
last the deal was closed. Besides the fox skin, they had three hundred
dollars’ worth of fur. The exchange for the fox skin was enough to buy
all the groceries and dry goods they needed. But Rolf had something else
in mind.

He had picked out some packages of candies, some calico prints and
certain bright ribbons, when the trader grasped the idea. “I see; yer
goin’ visitin’. Who is it? Must be the Van Trumpers!”

Rolf nodded and now he got some very intelligent guidance. He did not
buy Annette’s dress, because part of her joy was to be the expedition
in person to pick it out; but he stocked up with some gorgeous pieces
of jewellery that were ten cents each, and ribbons whose colours were
as far beyond expression as were the joys they could create in the
backwoods female heart.

Proudly clutching his new rlile, and carrying in his wallet a memorandum
of three hundred dollars for their joint credit, Rolf felt himself a
person of no little importance. As he was stepping out of the store, the
trader said, “Ye didn’t run across Jack Hoag agin, did ye?”

“Did we? Hmph!” and Rolf told briefly of their experience with that
creature.

“Just like him, just like him; served him right; he was a dirty cuss.
But, say; don’t you be led into taking your fur out Lyons Falls way.
They’re a mean lot in there, and it stands to reason I can give you
better prices, being a hundred miles nearer New York.”

And that lesson was not forgotten. The nearer New York the better the
price; seventy-five dollars at Lyons Falls; one hundred and twenty-five
dollars at Warren’s; two hundred dollars at New York. Rolf pondered long
and the idea was one which grew and bore fruit.



Chapter 51. Back at Van Trumper’s

“Nibowaka”--Quonab always said “Nibowaka” when he was impressed with
Rolf’s astuteness--“What about the canoe and stuff?”

“I think we better leave all here. Callan will lend us a canoe.” So they
shouldered the guns, Rolf clung to his, and tramped across the portage,
reaching Callan’s in less than two hours.

“Why, certainly you can have the canoe, but come in and eat first,” was
the kindly backwoods greeting. However, Rolf was keen to push on; they
launched the canoe at once and speedily were flashing their paddles on
the lake.

The place looked sweetly familiar as they drew near. The crops in the
fields were fair; the crop of chickens at the barn was good; and the
crop of children about the door was excellent.

“Mein Hemel! mein Hemel!” shouted fat old Hendrik, as they walked up
to the stable door. In a minute he was wringing their hands and smiling
into great red, white, and blue smiles. “Coom in, coom in, lad. Hi,
Marta, here be Rolf and Quonab. Mein Hemel! mein Hemel! what am I now so
happy.”

“Where’s Annette?” asked Rolf.

“Ach, poor Annette, she fever have a little; not mooch, some,” and he
led over to a corner where on a low cot lay Annette, thin, pale, and
listless.

She smiled faintly, in response, when Rolf stooped and kissed her.

“Why, Annette, I came back to see you. I want to take you over to
Warren’s store, so you can pick out that dress. See, I brought you my
first marten and I made this box for you; you must thank Skookum for the
quills on it.”

“Poor chile; she bin sick all spring,” and Marta used a bunch of sedge
to drive away the flies and mosquitoes that, bass and treble, hovered
around the child.

“What ails her?” asked Rolf anxiously.

“Dot ve do not know,” was the reply.

“Maybe there’s some one here can tell,” and Roll glanced at the Indian.

“Ach, sure! Have I you that not always told all-vays--eet is so.
All-vays, I want sumpin bad mooch. I prays de good Lord and all-vays,
all-vays, two times now, He it send by next boat. Ach, how I am spoil,”
 and the good Dutchman’s eyes filled with tears of thankfulness.

Quonab knelt by the sufferer. He felt her hot, dry hand; he noticed her
short, quick breathing, her bright eyes, and the untouched bowl of mush
by her bed.

“Swamp fever,” he said. “I bring good medicine.” He passed quietly out
into the woods. When he returned, he carried a bundle of snake-root
which he made into tea.

Annette did not wish to touch it, but her mother persuaded her to take a
few sips from a cup held by Rolf.

“Wah! this not good,” and Quonab glanced about the close, fly-infested
room. “I must make lodge.” He turned up the cover of the bedding; three
or four large, fiat brown things moved slowly out of the light. “Yes, I
make lodge.”

It was night now, and all retired; the newcomers to the barn. They had
scarcely entered, when a screaming of poultry gave a familiar turn
to affairs. On running to the spot, it proved not a mink or coon, but
Skookum, up to his old tricks. On the appearance of his masters, he fled
with guilty haste, crouched beneath the post that he used to be, and
soon again was, chained to.

In the morning Quonab set about his lodge, and Rolf said: “I’ve got to
go to Warren’s for sugar.” The sugar was part truth and part blind. As
soon as he heard the name swamp fever, Rolf remembered that, in Redding,
Jesuit’s bark (known later as quinine) was the sovereign remedy. He had
seen his mother administer it many times, and, so far as he knew, with
uniform success. Every frontier (or backwoods, it’s the same) trader
carries a stock of medicine, and in two hours Rolf left Warren’s counter
with twenty-five pounds of maple sugar and a bottle of quinine extract
in his pack.

“You say she’s bothered with the flies; why don’t you take some of
this new stuff for a curtain?” and the trader held up a web of mosquito
gauze, the first Rolf had seen. That surely was a good idea, and ten
yards snipped off was a most interesting addition to his pack. The
amount was charged against him, and in two hours more he was back at Van
Trumper’s.

On the cool side of the house, Quonab had built a little lodge, using
a sheet for cover. On a low bed of pine boughs lay the child. Near the
door was a smouldering fire of cedar, whose aromatic fumes on the lazy
wind reached every cranny of the lodge.

Sitting by the bed head, with a chicken wing to keep off the few
mosquitoes, was the Indian. The child’s eyes were closed; she was
sleeping peacefully. Rolf crept gently forward, laid his hand on hers,
it was cool and moist. He went into the house with his purchases; the
mother greeted him with a happy look: Yes, Annette was a little better;
she had slept quietly ever since she was taken outdoors. The mother
could not understand. Why should the Indian want to have her surrounded
by pine boughs? why cedar-smoke? and why that queer song? Yes, there it
was again. Rolf went out to see and hear. Softly summing on a tin
pan, with a mudded stick, the Indian sang a song. The words which Rolf
learned in the after-time were:

“Come, Kaluskap, drive the witches; Those who came to harm the dear
one.”

Annette moved not, but softly breathed, as she slept a sweet, restful
slumber, the first for many days.

“Vouldn’t she be better in de house?” whispered the anxious mother.

“No, let Quonab do his own way,” and Rolf wondered if any white man had
sat by little Wee-wees to brush away the flies from his last bed.



Chapter 52. Annette’s New Dress

     Deep feelin’s ain’t any count by themselves; work ‘em off,
     an’ ye’re somebody; weep ‘em off an’ you’d be more use with
     a heart o’ stone--Sayings of Si Sylvanne.

“Quonab, I am going out to get her a partridge.” “Ugh, good.”

So Rolf went off. For a moment he was inclined to grant Skookom’s prayer
for leave to, follow, but another and better plan came in mind. Skookum
would most likely find a mother partridge, which none should kill in
June, and there was a simple way to find a cock; that was, listen. It
was now the evening calm, and before Rolf had gone half a mile he
heard the distant “Thump, thump, thump, thump--rrrrrrr” of a partridge,
drumming. He went quickly and cautiously toward the place, then waited
for the next drumming. It was slow in coming, so he knelt down by a
mossy, rotten log, and struck it with his hands to imitate the thump and
roll of the partridge. At once this challenge procured response.

“Thump--thump--thump,, thump rrrrrrrrrrrr” it came, with martial swing
and fervour, and crawling nearer, Rolf spied the drummer, pompously
strutting up and down a log some forty yards away. He took steady aim,
not for the head--a strange gun, at forty yards--for the body. At the
crack, the bird fell dead, and in Rolf’s heart there swelled up a little
gush of joy, which he believed was all for the sake of the invalid, but
which a finer analysis might have proved to be due quite as much to
pride in himself and his newly bought gun.

Night was coming on when he got back, and he found the Dutch parents
in some excitement. “Dot Indian he gay no bring Annette indoors for de
night. How she sleep outdoors--like dog--like Bigger--like tramp? Yah
it is bad, ain’t it?” and poor old Hendrik looked sadly upset and
mystified.

“Hendrik, do you suppose God turns out worse air in the night than in
the day?”

“Ach, dunno.”

“Well, you see Quonab knows what he’s doing.”

“Yah.”

“Well, let him do it. He or I’ll sleep alongside the child she’ll be
all right,” and Rolf thought of those horrible brown crawlers under the
bedding indoors.

Rolf had much confidence in the Indian as a doctor, but he had more in
his own mother. He was determined to give Annette the quinine, yet he
hesitated to interfere. At length, he said: “It is cool enough now; I
will put these thin curtains round her bed.”

“Ugh, good!” but the red man sat there while it was being done.

“You need not stay now; I’ll watch her, Quonab.”

“Soon, give more medicine,” was the reply that Rolf did not want. So he
changed his ruse. “I wish you’d take that partridge and make soup of it.
I’ve had my hands in poison ivy, so I dare not touch it.”

“Ach, dot shall I do. Dot kin myself do,” and the fat mother, laying the
recent baby in its cradle, made cumbrous haste to cook the bird.

“Foiled again,” was Rolf’s thought, but his Yankee wit was with him. He
laid one hand on the bowl of snake-root tea. It was lukewarm. “Do you
give it hot or cold, Quonab?”

“Hot.”

“I’ll take it in and heat it.” He carried it off, thinking, “If Quonab
won’t let me give the bark extract, I’ll make him give it.” In the gloom
of the kitchen he had no difficulty in adding to the tea, quite unseen,
a quarter of the extract; when heated, he brought it again, and the
Indian himself gave the dose.

As bedtime drew near, and she heard the red man say he would sleep
there, the little one said feebly, “Mother, mother,” then whispered in
her mother’s ear, “I want Rolf.”

Rolf spread his blanket by the cot and slept lightly. Once or twice he
rose to look at Annette. She was moving in her sleep, but did not awake.
He saw to it that the mosquito bar was in place, and slept till morning.

There was no question that the child was better. The renewed interest in
food was the first good symptom, and the partridge served the end of its
creation. The snakeroot and the quinine did noble work, and thenceforth
her recovery was rapid. It was natural for her mother to wish the child
back indoors. It was a matter of course that she should go. It was
accepted as an unavoidable evil that they should always have those brown
crawlers about the bed.

But Rolf felt differently. He knew what his mother would have thought
and done. It meant another visit to Warren’s, and the remedy he brought
was a strong-smelling oil, called in those days “rock oil”--a crude
petroleum. When all cracks in the bed and near wall were treated with
this, it greatly mitigated, if it did not quite end, the nuisance of the
“plague that walks in the dark.”

Meanwhile, Quonab had made good his welcome by working on the farm. But
when a week had flown, he showed signs of restlessness. “We have enough
money, Nibowaka, why do we stay?”

Rolf was hauling a bucket of water from the well at the time. He stopped
with his burden on the well-sweep, gazed into the well, and said slowly:
“I don’t know.” If the truth were set forth, it would be that this was
the only home circle he knew. It was the clan feeling that held him, and
soon it was clearly the same reason that was driving Quonab to roam.

“I have heard,” said the Indian, “that my people still dwell in Canada,
beyond Rouse’s Point. I would see them. I will come again in the Red
Moon (August).”

So they hired a small canoe, and one bright morning, with Skookum in the
bow, Quonab paddled away on his voyage of 120 miles on the plead waters
of Lakes George and Champlain. His canoe became a dark spot on the
water; slowly it faded till only the flashing paddle was seen, and that
was lost around a headland.

The next day Rolf was sorry he let Quonab go alone, for it was evident
that Van Trumper needed no help for a month yet; that is, he could not
afford to hire, and while it was well enough for Rolf to stay a few days
and work to equalize his board, the arrangement would not long continue
satisfactory to both.

Yet there was one thing he must do before leaving, take Annette to pick
out her dress. She was well again now, and they set off one morning
in the canoe, she and Rolf. Neither father nor mother could leave the
house. They had their misgivings, but what could they do? She was
bright and happy, full of the childish joy that belongs to that age, and
engaged on such an important errand for the first time in her life.

There was something more than childish joy showing in her face, an older
person would have seen that, but it was largely lost on Rolf. There was
a tendency to blush when she laughed, a disposition to tease her “big
brother,” to tyrannize over him in little things.

“Now, you tell me some more about ‘Robinson Crusoe,’” she began, as soon
as they were in the canoe, and Rolf resumed the ancient, inspiring tale
to have it listened to eagerly, but criticized from the standpoint of
a Lake George farm. “Where was his wife?” “How could he have a farm
without hens?” “Dried grapes must be nice, but I’d rather have pork than
goat,” etc.

Rolf, of course, took the part of Robinson Crusoe, and it gave him a
little shock to hear Quonab called his man Friday.

At the west side they were to invite Mrs. Callan to join their shopping
trip, but in any case they were to borrow a horse and buckboard. Neither
Mrs. Callan nor the buckboard was available, but they were welcome to
the horse. So Annette was made comfortable on a bundle of blankets,
and chattered incessantly while Rolf walked alongside with the grave
interest and superiority of a much older brother. So they crossed the
five-mile portage and came to Warren’s store. Nervous and excited,
with sparkling eyes, Annette laid down her marten skin, received five
dollars, and set about the tremendous task of selecting her first dress
of really, truly calico print; and Rolf realized that the joy he had
found in his new rifle was a very small affair, compared with the
epoch-making, soul-filling, life-absorbing, unspeakable, and cataclysmal
bliss that a small girl can have in her first chance of unfettered
action in choice of a cotton print.

“Beautiful?” How can mere words do justice to masses of yellow corn,
mixed recklessly with green and scarlet poppies on a bright blue ground.
No, you should have seen Annette’s dress, or you cannot expect to get
the adequate thrill. And when they found that there was enough cash left
over to add a red cotton parasol to the glorious spoils, every one there
beamed in a sort of friendly joy, and the trader, carried away by the
emotions of the hour, contributed a set of buttons of shining brass.

Warren kept a “meal house,” which phrase was a ruse that saved him from
a burdensome hospitality. Determined to do it all in the best style,
Rolf took Annette to the meal-house table. She was deeply awed by the
grandeur of a tablecloth and white plates, but every one was kind.

Warren, talking to a stranger opposite, and evidently resuming a subject
they had discussed, said:

“Yes, I’d like to send the hull lot down to Albany this week, if I could
get another man for the canoe.”

Rolf was interested at once and said: “What wages are you offering?”

“Twenty-five dollars and board.”

“How will I do?”

“Well,” said Warren, as though thinking it over: “I dunno but ye would.
Could ye go to-morrow?”

“Yes, indeed, for one month.”

“All right, it’s a bargain.”

And so Rolf took the plunge that influenced his whole life.

But Annette whispered gleefully and excitedly, “May I have some of that,
and that?” pointing to every strange food she could see, and got them
all.

After noon they set out on their return journey, Annette clutching her
prizes, and prattling incessantly, while Rolf walked alongside, thinking
deeply, replying to her chatter, but depressed by the thought of
good-bye tomorrow. He was aroused at length by a scraping sound overhead
and a sharp reprimand, “Rolf, you’ll tear my new parasol, if you don’t
lead the horse better.”

By two o’clock they were at Callan’s. Another hour and they had crossed
the lake, and Annette, shrill with joy, was displaying her treasures to
the wonder and envy of her kin.

Making a dress was a simple matter in those and Marta promised: “Yah,
soom day ven I one have, shall I it sew.” Meanwhile, Annette was
quaffing deep, soul-satisfying draughts in the mere contempt of the
yellow, red, green, and blue glories in which was soon to appear in
public. And when the bed came, she fell asleep holding the dress-goods
stuff in arms, and with the red parasol spread above her head, tired
out, but inexpressibly happy.



Chapter 53. Travelling to the Great City

     He’s a bad failure that ain’t king in some little corner.
     --Sayings of Sylvanne Sylvanne

The children were not astir when Rolf was off in the morning. He caught
a glimpse of Annette, still asleep under the red parasol, but the dress
goods and the brass buttons had fallen to the floor. He stepped into the
canoe. The dead calm of early morning was on the water, and the little
craft went skimming and wimpling across. In half an hour it was beached
at Callan’s. In a little more than an hour’s jog and stride he was at
Warren’s, ready for work. As he marched in, strong and brisk, his colour
up, his blue eyes kindled with the thought of seeing Albany, the trader
could not help being struck by him, especially when he remembered each
of their meetings--meetings in which he discerned a keen, young mind of
good judgment, one that could decide quickly.

Gazing at the lithe, red-checked lad, he said: “Say, Rolf, air ye an
Injun??”

“No, sir.”

“Air ye a half-breed?”

“No, I’m a Yank; my name is Kittering; born and bred in Redding,
Connecticut.”

“Well, I swan, ye look it. At fust I took ye fur an Injun; ye did look
dark (and Rolf laughed inside, as he thought of that butternut dye), but
I’m bound to say we’re glad yer white.”

“Here, Bill, this is Rolf, Rolf Kittering, he’ll go with ye to
Albany.” Bill, a loose-jointed, middle-aged, flat-footed, large-handed,
semi-loafer, with keen gray eyes, looked up from a bundle he was roping.

Then Warren took Rolf aside and explained: “I’m sending down all my fur
this trip. There’s ten bales of sixty pounds each, pretty near my hull
fortune. I want it took straight to Vandam’s, and, night or day, don’t
leave it till ye git it there. He’s close to the dock. I’m telling ye
this for two reasons: The river’s swarming with pirates and sneaks.
They’d like nothing better than to get away with a five-hundred-dollar
bundle of fur; and, next, while Bill is A1 on the river and true as
steel, he’s awful weak on the liquor; goes crazy, once it’s in him. And
I notice you’ve always refused it here. So don’t stop at Troy, an’
when ye get to Albany go straight past there to Vandam’s. You’ll have
a letter that’ll explain, and he’ll supply the goods yer to bring back.
He’s a sort of a partner, and orders from him is same as from me.

“I suppose I ought to go myself, but this is the time all the fur is
coming in here, an’ I must be on hand to do the dickering, and there’s
too much much to risk it any longer in the storehouse.”

“Suppose,” said Rolf, “Bill wants to stop at Troy?”

“He won’t. He’s all right, given he’s sober. I’ve give him the letter.”

“Couldn’t you give me the letter, in case?”

“Law, Bill’d get mad and quit.”

“He’ll never know.”

“That’s so; I will.” So when they paddled away, Bill had an important
letter of instructions ostentatiously tucked in his outer pocket.
Rolf, unknown to any one else but Warren, had a duplicate, wrapped in
waterproof, hidden in an inside pocket.

Bill was A1 on the river; a kind and gentle old woodman, much stronger
than he looked. He knew the value of fur and the danger of wetting it,
so he took no chances in doubtful rapids. This meant many portages and
much hard labour.

I wonder if the world realizes the hard labour of the portage or carry?
Let any man who seeks for light, take a fifty-pound sack of flour on his
shoulders and walk a quarter of a mile on level ground in cool weather.
Unless he is in training, he will find it a heavy burden long before
he is half-way. Suppose, instead of a flour sack, the burden has sharp
angles; the bearer is soon in torture. Suppose the weight carried be
double; then the strain is far more than doubled. Suppose, finally,
the road be not a quarter mile but a mile, and not on level but through
swamps, over rocks, logs, and roots, and the weather not cool, but
suffocating summer weather in the woods, with mosquitoes boring into
every exposed part, while both hands are occupied, steadying the burden
or holding on to branches for help up steep places--and then he will
have some idea of the horror of the portage; and there were many of
these, each one calling for six loaded and five light trips for each
canoe-man. What wonder that men will often take chances in some fierce
rapid, rather than to make a long carry through the fly-infested woods.

It was weighty evidence of Bill’s fidelity that again and again they
made a portage around rapids he had often run, because in the present
case he was in sacred trust of that much prized commodity--fur.

Eighty miles they called it from Warren’s to Albany, but there were many
halts and carries which meant long delay, and a whole week was covered
before Bill and Rolf had passed the settlements of Glens Falls, Fort
Edward, and Schuylerville, and guided their heavily laden canoe on the
tranquil river, past the little town of Troy. Loafers hailed them from
the bank, but Bill turned a deaf ear to all temptation; and they pushed
on happy in the thought that now their troubles were over; the last
rapid was past; the broad, smooth waters extended to their port.



Chapter 54. Albany

Only a man who in his youth has come at last in sight of some great city
he had dreamed of all his life and longed to see, can enter into Rolf’s
feelings as they swept around the big bend, and Albany--Albany, hove in
view. Albany, the first chartered city of the United States; Albany, the
capital of all the Empire State; Albany, the thriving metropolis with
nearly six thousand living human souls; Albany with its State House,
beautiful and dignified, looking down the mighty Hudson highway that led
to the open sea.

Rolf knew his Bible, and now he somewhat realized the feelings of St.
Paul on that historic day when his life-long dream came true, when
first he neared the Eternal City--when at last he glimpsed the towers of
imperial, splendid Rome.

The long-strung docks were massed and webbed with ship rigging; the
water was livened with boats and canoes; the wooden warehouses back of
the docks were overtopped by wooden houses in tiers, until high above
them all the Capitol itself was the fitting climax.

Rolf knew something of shipping, and amid all the massed boats his eyes
fell on a strange, square-looking craft with a huge water-wheel on each
side. Then, swinging into better view, he read her name, the Clermont,
and knew that this was the famous Fulton steamer, the first of the
steamboat age.

But Bill was swamped by no such emotion. Albany, Hudson, Clermont, and
all, were familiar stories to him and he stolidly headed the canoe for
the dock he knew of old.

Loafers roosting on the snubbing posts hailed him, at first with
raillery; but, coming nearer, he was recognized. “Hello, Bill; back
again? Glad to see you,” and there was superabundant help to land the
canoe.

“Wall, wall, wall, so it’s really you,” said the touter of a fur house,
in extremely friendly voice; “come in now and we’ll hev a drink.”

“No, sir-ree,” said Bill decisively, “I don’t drink till business is
done.”

“Wall, now, Bill, here’s Van Roost’s not ten steps away an’ he hez
tapped the finest bar’l in years.”

“No, I tell ye, I’m not drinking--now.”

“Wall, all right, ye know yer own business. I thought maybe ye’d be glad
to see us.”

“Well, ain’t I?”

“Hello, Bill,” and Bill’s fat brother-in-law came up. “Thus does me good,
an’ yer sister is spilin’ to see ye. We’ll hev one on this.”

“No, Sam, I ain’t drinkin’; I’ve got biz to tend.”

“Wall, hev just one to clear yer head. Then settle yer business and come
back to us.”

So Bill went to have one to clear his head. “I’ll be back in two
minutes, Rolf,” but Rolf saw him no more for many days.

“You better come along, cub,” called out a red-nosed member of the
group. But Rolf shook his head.

“Here, I’ll help you git them ashore,” volunteered an effusive stranger,
with one eye.

“I don’t want help.”

“How are ye gain’ to handle ‘em alone?”

“Well, there’s one thing I’d be glad to have ye do; that is, go up there
and bring Peter Vandam.”

“I’ll watch yer stuff while you go.”

“No, I can’t leave.” “Then go to blazes; d’yte take me for yer errand
boy?” And Rolf was left alone.

He was green at the business, but already he was realizing the power of
that word fur and the importance of the peltry trade. Fur was the one
valued product of the wilderness that only the hunter could bring. The
merchants of the world were as greedy for fur as for gold, and far more
so than for precious stones.

It was a commodity so light that, even in those days, a hundred weight
of fur might range in value from one hundred to five thousand dollars,
so that a man with a pack of fine furs was a capitalist. The profits
of the business were good for trapper, very large for the trader, who
doubled his first gain by paying in trade; but they were huge for the
Albany middleman, and colossal for the New Yorker who shipped to London.

With such allurements, it was small wonder that more country was
explored and opened for fur than for settlement or even for gold; and
there were more serious crimes and high-handed robberies over the right
to trade a few furs than over any other legitimate business. These
things were new to Rolf within the year, but he was learning the lesson,
and Warren’s remarks about fur stuck in his memory with growing value.
Every incident since the trip began had given them new points.

The morning passed without sign of Bill; so, when in the afternoon, some
bare-legged boys came along, Rolf said to them: “Do any of ye know where
Peter Vandam’s house is?”

“Yeh, that’s it right there,” and they pointed to a large log house less
than a hundred yards away.

“Do ye know him?”

“Yeh, he’s my paw,” said a sun-bleached freckle-face.

“If you bring him here right away, I’ll give you a dime. Tell him I’m
from Warren’s with a cargo.”

The dusty stampede that followed was like that of a mustang herd, for a
dime was a dime in those days. And very soon, a tall, ruddy man appeared
at the dock. He was a Dutchman in name only. At first sight he was much
like the other loafers, but was bigger, and had a more business-like air
when observed near at hand.

“Are you from Warren’s?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Alone?”

“No, sir. I came with Bill Bymus. But he went off early this morning; I
haven’t seen him since. I’m afraid he’s in trouble.”

“Where’d he go?”

“In there with some friends.”

“Ha, just like him; he’s in trouble all right. He’ll be no good for a
week. Last time he came near losing all our stuff. Now let’s see what
ye’ve got.”

“Are you Mr. Peter Vandam?”

“Of course I am.”

Still Rolf looked doubtful. There was a small group around, and Rolf
heard several voices, “Yes, this is Peter; ye needn’t a-worry.” But Rolf
knew none of the speakers. His look of puzzlement at first annoyed then
tickled the Dutchman, who exploded into a hearty guffaw.

“Wall, wall, you sure think ill of us. Here, now look at that,” and he
drew out a bundle of letters addressed to Master Peter Vandam. Then he
displayed a gold watch inscribed on the back “Peter Vandam”; next he
showed a fob seal with a scroll and an inscription, “Petrus Vandamus”;
then he turned to a youngster and said, “Run, there is the Reverend
Dr. Powellus, he may help us”; so the black-garbed, knee-breached,
shovel-hatted clergyman came and pompously said: “Yes, my young friend,
without doubt you may rest assured that this is our very estimable
parishioner, Master Peter Vandam; a man well accounted in the world of
trade.”

“And now,” said Peter, “with the help of my birth-register and
marriage-certificate, which will be placed at your service with all
possible haste, I hope I may win your recognition.” The situation, at
first tense, had become more and more funny, and the bystanders laughed
aloud. Rolf rose to it, and smiling said slowly, “I am inclined to think
that you must be Master Peter Vandam, of Albany. If that’s so, this
letter is for you, also this cargo.” And so the delivery was made.

Bill Bymus has not delivered the other letter to this day. Presumably he
went to stay with his sister, but she saw little of him, for his stay at
Albany was, as usual, one long spree. It was clear that, but for
Rolf, there might have been serious loss of fur, and Vandam showed his
appreciation by taking the lad to his own home, where the story of
the difficult identification furnished ground for gusty laughter and
primitive jest on many an after day.

The return cargo for Warren consisted of stores that the Vandam
warehouse had in stock, and some stuff that took a day or more to
collect in town.

As Rolf was sorting and packing next day, a tall, thin, well-dressed
young man walked in with the air of one much at home.

“Good morrow, Peter.”

“Good day to ye, sir,” and they talked of crops and politics.

Presently Vandam said, “Rolf, come over here.”

He came and was presented to the tall man, who was indeed very thin,
and looked little better than an invalid. “This,” said Peter, “is Master
Henry van Cortlandt the son of his honour, the governor, and a very
learned barrister. He wants to go on a long hunting trip for his health.
I tell him that likely you are the man he needs.”

This was so unexpected that Rolf turned red and gazed on the ground. Van
Cortlandt at once began to clear things by interjecting: “You see, I’m
not strong. I want to live outdoors for three months, where I can have
some hunting and be beyond reach of business. I’ll pay you a hundred
dollars for the three months, to cover board and guidance. And providing
I’m well pleased and have good hunting, I’ll give you fifty dollars more
when I get back to Albany.”

“I’d like much to be your guide,” said Rolf, “but I have a partner. I
must find out if he’s willing.”

“Ye don’t mean-that drunken Bill Bymus?”

“No! my hunting partner; he’s an Indian.” Then, after a pause, he added,
“You wouldn’t go in fly-time, would you?”

“No, I want to be in peace. But any time after the first of August.”

“I am bound to help Van Trumper with his harvest; that will take most of
August.”

As he talked, the young lawyer sized him up and said to himself, “This
is my man.”

And before they parted it was agreed that Rolf should come to Albany
with Quonab as soon as he could return in August, to form the camping
party for the governor’s son.



Chapter 55. The Rescue of Bill

Bales were ready and the canoe newly gummed three days after
their arrival, but still no sign of Bill. A messengers sent to the
brother-in-law’s home reported that he had not been seen for two days.
In spite of the fact that Albany numbered nearly “six thousand living
human souls,” a brief search by the docksharps soon revealed the
sinner’s retreat. His worst enemy would have pitied him; a red-eyed
wreck; a starved, sick and trembling weakling; conscience-stricken,
for the letter intrusted to him was lost; the cargo stolen--so his
comforters had said--and the raw country lad murdered and thrown out
into the river. What wonder that he should shun the light of day! And
when big Peter with Rolf in the living flesh, instead of the sheriff,
stood before him and told him to come out of that and get into the
canoe, he wept bitter tears of repentance and vowed that never, never,
never, as long as he lived would he ever again let liquor touch his
lips. A frame of mind which lasted in strength for nearly one day and a
half, and did not entirely varnish for three.

They passed Troy without desiring to stop, and began their fight with
the river. It was harder than when coming, for their course was against
stream when paddling, up hill when portaging, the water was lower, the
cargo was heavier, and Bill not so able. Ten days it took them to cover
those eighty miles. But they came out safely, cargo and all, and landed
at Warren’s alive and well on the twenty-first day since leaving.

Bill had recovered his usual form. Gravely and with pride he marched
up to Warren and handed out a large letter which read outside, “Bill of
Lading,” and when opened, read: “The bearer of this, Bill Bymus, is no
good. Don’t trust him to Albany any more. (Signed) Peter Vandam.”

Warren’s eyes twinkled, but he said nothing. He took

Rolf aside and said, “Let’s have it.” Rolf gave him the real letter
that, unknown to Bill, he had carried, and Warren learned some things
that he knew before.

Rolf’s contract was for a month; it had ten days to run, and those ten
days were put in weighing sugar, checking accounts, milking cows, and
watching the buying of fur. Warren didn’t want him to see too much of
the fur business, but Rolf gathered quickly that these were the main
principles: Fill the seller with liquor, if possible; “fire water for
fur” was the idea; next, grade all fur as medium or second-class, when
cash was demanded, but be easy as long as payment was to be in trade.
That afforded many loopholes between weighing, grading, charging, and
shrinkage, and finally he noticed that Albany prices were 30 to 50 per
cent. higher than Warren prices. Yet Warren was reckoned a first-class
fellow, a good neighbour, and a member of the church. But it was
understood everywhere that fur, like horseflesh, was a business with
moral standards of its own.

A few days before their contract was up, Warren said: “How’d ye like to
renew for a month?”

“Can’t; I promised to help Van Trumper with his harvest.”

“What does he pay ye?”

“Seventy-five cents a day and board.”

“I’ll make it a dollar.”

“I’ve given my word,” said Rolf, in surprise.

“Hey ye signed papers?”

“They’re not needed. The only use of signed papers is to show ye
have given your word,” said Rolf, quoting his mother, with rising
indignation.

The trader sniffed a little contemptuously and said nothing. But he
realized the value of a lad who was a steady, intelligent worker,
wouldn’t drink, and was absolutely bound by a promise; so, after awhile,
he said: “Wall, if Van don’t want ye now, come back for a couple of
weeks.”

Early in the morning Rolf gathered the trifles he had secured for the
little children and the book he had bought for Annette, a sweet story of
a perfect girl who died and went to heaven, the front embellished with a
thrilling wood-cut. Then he crossed the familiar five-mile portage at a
pace that in an hour brought him to the lake.

The greeting at Van’s was that of a brother come home.

“Vell, Rolf, it’s goood to see ye back. It’s choost vat I vented. Hi,
Marta, I told it you, yah. I say, now I hope ze good Gott send Rolf.
Ach, how I am shpoil!”

Yes, indeed. The hay was ready; the barley was changing. So Rolf took
up his life on the farm, doing work that a year before was beyond his
strength, for the spirit of the hills was on him, with its impulse of
growth, its joy in effort, its glory in strength. And all who saw the
longlegged, long-armed, flat-backed youth plying fork or axe or hoe, in
some sort ventured a guess: “He’ll be a good ‘un some day; the kind o’
chap to keep friendly with.



Chapter 56. The Sick Ox

The Thunder Moon passed quickly by; the hay was in; the barley partly
so. Day by day the whitefaced oxen toiled at the creaking yoke, as the
loads of hay and grain were jounced cumbrously over roots and stumps of
the virgin fields. Everything was promising well, when, as usual, there
came a thunderbolt out of the clear sky. Buck, the off ox, fell sick.

Those who know little about cattle have written much of the meek and
patient ox. Those who know them well tell us that the ox is the “most
cussedest of all cussed” animals; a sneak, a bully, a coward, a thief,
a shirk, a schemer; and when he is not in mischief he is thinking
about it. The wickedest pack mule that ever bucked his burden is a
pinfeathered turtle-dove compared with an average ox. There are
some gentle oxen, but they are rare; most are treacherous, some are
dangerous, and these are best got rid of, as they mislead their yoke
mates and mislay their drivers. Van’s two oxen, Buck and Bright,
manifested the usual variety and contrariety of disposition. They were
all right when well handled, and this Rolf could do better than Van,
for he was “raised on oxen,” and Van’s over voluble, sputtering,
Dutch-English seemed ill comprehended of the massive yoke beasts. The
simpler whip-waving and fewer orders of the Yankee were so obviously
successful that Van had resigned the whip of authority and Rolf was
driver.

Ordinarily, an ox driver walks on the hew (nigh or left) side, near
the head of his team, shouting “gee” (right), “haw” (left), “get up,”
 “steady,” or “whoa” (stop), accompanying the order with a waving of the
whip. Foolish drivers lash the oxen on the haw side when they wish them
to gee--and vice versa; but it is notorious that all good drivers do
little lashing. Spare the lash or spoil your team. So it was not long
before Rolf could guide them from the top of the load, as they travelled
from shook to shook in the field. This voice of command saved his life,
or at least his limb, one morning, for he made a misstep that tumbled
him down between the oxen and the wagon. At once the team started, but
his ringing “Whoa!” brought them to a dead stop, and saved him; whereas,
had it been Van’s “Whoa!” it would have set them off at a run, for every
shout from him meant a whip lick to follow.

Thus Rolf won the respect, if not the love, of the huge beasts; more and
more they were his charge, and when, on that sad morning, in the last of
the barley, Van came in, “Ach, vot shall I do! Vot shall I do! Dot Buck
ox be nigh dead.”

Alas! there he lay on the ground, his head sometimes raised, sometimes
stretched out flat, while the huge creature uttered short moans at
times.

Only four years before, Rolf had seen that same thing at Redding.
The rolling eye, the working of the belly muscles, the straining and
moaning. “It’s colic; have you any ginger?”

“No, I hat only dot soft soap.”

What soft soap had to do with ginger was not clear, and Rolf wondered if
it had some rare occult medical power that had escaped his mother.

“Do you know where there’s any slippery elm?”

“Yah.”

“Then bring a big boiling of the bark, while I get some peppermint.”

The elm bark was boiled till it made a kettleful of brown slime. The
peppermint was dried above the stove till it could be powdered,
and mixed with the slippery slush. Some sulphur and some soda were
discovered and stirred in, on general principles, and they hastened to
the huge, helpless creature in the field.

Poor Buck seemed worse than ever. He was flat on his side, with his
spine humped up, moaning and straining at intervals. But now relief was
in sight--so thought the men. With a tin dipper they tried to pour
some relief into the open mouth of the sufferer, who had so little
appreciation that he simply taxed his remaining strength to blow it out
in their faces. Several attempts ended the same way. Then the brute, in
what looked like temper, swung his muzzle and dashed the whole dipper
away. Next they tried the usual method, mixing it with a bran mash,
considered a delicacy in the bovine world, but Buck again took notice,
under pressure only, to dash it away and waste it all.

It occurred to them they might force it down his throat if they could
raise his head. So they used a hand lever and a prop to elevate the
muzzle, and were about to try another inpour, when Buck leaped to his
feet, and behaving like one who has been shamming, made at full gallop
for the stable, nor stopped till safely in his stall, where at once he
dropped in all the evident agony of a new spasm.

It is a common thing for oxen to sham sick, but this was the real thing,
and it seemed they were going to lose the ox, which meant also lose a
large part of the harvest.

In the stable, now, they had a better chance; they tied him, then raised
his head with a lever till his snout was high above his shoulders. Now
it seemed easy to pour the medicine down that long, sloping passage. But
his mouth was tightly closed, any that entered his nostrils was blown
afar, and the suffering beast strained at the rope till he seemed likely
to strangle.

Both men and ox were worn out with the struggle; the brute was no
better, but rather worse.

“Wall,” said Rolf, “I’ve seen a good many ornery steers, but that’s the
orneriest I ever did handle, an’ I reckon we’ll lose him if he don’t get
that poison into him pretty soon.”

Oxen never were studied as much as horses, for they were considered a
temporary shift, and every farmer looked forward to replacing them with
the latter. Oxen were enormously strong, and they could flourish without
grain when the grass was good; they never lost their head in a swamp
hole, and ploughed steadily among all kinds of roots and stumps; but
they were exasperatingly slow and eternally tricky. Bright, being the
trickier of the two, was made the nigh ox, to be more under control.
Ordinarily Rolf could manage Buck easily, but the present situation
seemed hopeless. In his memory he harked back to Redding days, and he
recalled old Eli Gooch, the ox expert, and wondered what he would have
done. Then, as he sat, he caught sight of the sick ox reaching out its
head and deftly licking up a few drops of bran mash that had fallen from
his yoke fellow’s portion. A smile spread over Rolf’s face. “Just like
you; you think nothing’s good except it’s stolen. All right; we’ll see.”
 He mixed a big dose of medicine, with bran, as before. Then he tied
Bright’s head so that he could not reach the ground, and set the bucket
of mash half way between the two oxen. “Here ye are, Bright,” he said,
as a matter of form, and walked out of the stable; but, from a crack, he
watched. Buck saw a chance to steal Bright’s bran; he looked around; Oh,
joy! his driver was away. He reached out cautiously; sniffed; his long
tongue shot forth for a first taste, when Rolf gave a shout and ran in.
“Hi, you old robber! Let that alone; that’s for Bright.”

The sick ox was very much in his own stall now, and stayed there for
some time after Rolf went to resume his place at the peephole. But
encouraged by a few minutes of silence, he again reached out, and
hastily gulped down a mouthful of the mixture before Rolf shouted and
rushed in armed with a switch to punish the thief. Poor Bright, by his
efforts to reach the tempting mash, was unwittingly playing the game,
for this was proof positive of its desirableness.

After giving Buck a few cuts with the switch, Rolf retired, as before.
Again the sick ox waited for silence, and reaching out with greedy
haste, he gulped down the rest and emptied the bucket; seeing which,
Rolf ran in and gave the rogue a final trouncing for the sake of
consistency.

Any one who knows what slippery elm, peppermint, soda, sulphur, colic,
and ox do when thoroughly interincorporated will not be surprised to
learn that in the morning the stable needed special treatment, and of
all the mixture the ox was the only ingredient left on the active list.
He was all right again, very thirsty, and not quite up to his usual
standard, but, as Van said, after a careful look, “Ah, tell you vot, dot
you vas a veil ox again, an’ I t’ink I know not vot if you all tricky
vas like Bright.”



Chapter 57. Rolf and Skookum at Albany

The Red Moon (August) follows the Thunder Moon, and in the early part of
its second week Rolf and Van, hauling in the barley and discussing the
fitness of the oats, were startled by a most outrageous clatter among
the hens. Horrid murder evidently was stalking abroad, and, hastening
to the rescue, Rolf heard loud, angry barks; then a savage beast with
a defunct “cackle party” appeared, but dropped the victim to bark and
bound upon the “relief party” with ecstatic expressions of joy, in spite
of Rolf’s--“Skookum! you little brute!”

Yes! Quonab was back; that is, he was at the lake shore, and Skookum had
made haste to plunge into the joys and gayeties of this social centre,
without awaiting the formalities of greeting or even of dry-shod
landing.

The next scene was--a big, high post, a long, strong chain and a small,
sad dog.

“Ho, Quonab, you found your people? You had a good time?”

“Ugh,” was the answer, the whole of it, and all the light Rolf got for
many a day on the old man’s trip to the North. The prospect of going to
Albany for Van Cortlandt was much more attractive to Quonab than that of
the harvest field, so a compromise was agreed on. Callan’s barley was in
the stock; if all three helped Callan for three days, Callan would owe
them for nine, and so it was arranged.

Again “good-bye,” and Rolf, Quonab, and little dog Skookum went sailing
down the Schroon toward the junction, where they left a cache of their
supplies, and down the broadening Hudson toward Albany.

Rolf had been over the road twice; Quonab never before, yet his nose for
water was so good and the sense of rapid and portage was so strong in
the red man, that many times he was the pilot. “This is the way, because
it must be”; “there it is deep because so narrow”; “that rapid is
dangerous, because there is such a well-beaten portage trail”; “that
we can run, because I see it,” or, “because there is no portage trail,”
 etc. The eighty miles were covered in three sleeps, and in the mid-moon
days of the Red Moon they landed at the dock in front of Peter Vandam’s.
If Quonab had any especial emotions for the occasion, he cloaked
them perfectly under a calm and copper-coloured exterior of absolute
immobility.

Their Albany experiences included a meeting with the governor and an
encounter with a broad and burly river pirate, who, seeing a lone and
peaceable-looking red man, went out of his way to insult him; and when
Quonab’s knife flashed out at last, it was only his recently established
relations with the governor’s son that saved him from some very sad
results, for there were many loafers about. But burly Vandam appeared in
the nick of time to halt the small mob with the warning: “Don’t you know
that’s Mr. Van Cortlandt’s guide?” With the governor and Vandam to back
him, Quonab soon had the mob on his side, and the dock loafer’s own
friends pelted him with mud as he escaped. But not a little credit
is due to Skookum, for at the critical moment he had sprung on the
ruffian’s bare and abundant leg with such toothsome effect that the
owner fell promptly backward and the knife thrust missed. It was quickly
over and Quonab replaced his knife, contemptuous of the whole crowd
before, during and after the incident. Not at the time, but days later,
he said of his foe: “He was a talker; he was full of fear.”

With the backwoods only thirty miles away, and the unbroken wilderness
one hundred, it was hard to believe how little Henry van Cortlandt knew
of the woods and its life. He belonged to the ultra-fashionable set, and
it was rather their pose to affect ignorance of the savage world and
its ways. But he had plenty of common-sense to fan back on, and the
inspiring example of Washington, equally at home in the nation’s
Parliament, the army intrenchment, the glittering ball room, or the
hunting lodge of the Indian, was a constant reminder that the perfect
man is a harmonious development of mind, morals, and physique.

His training had been somewhat warped by the ultraclassic fashion of
the times, so he persisted in seeing in Quonab a sort of discoloured,
barbaric clansman of Alaric or a camp follower of Xenophon’s host,
rather than an actual living, interesting, native American, exemplifying
in the highest degree the sinewy, alert woodman, and the saturated
mystic and pantheist of an age bygone and out of date, combined with
a middle-measure intelligence. And Rolf, tall, blue-eyed with brown,
curling hair, was made to pose as the youthful Achilles, rather than
as a type of America’s best young manhood, cleaner, saner, and of far
higher ideals and traditions than ever were ascribed to Achilles by his
most blinded worshippers. It recalled the case of Wordsworth and Southey
living side by side in England; Southey, the famous, must needs seek in
ancient India for material to write his twelve-volume romance that no
one ever looks at; Wordsworth, the unknown, wrote of the things of his
own time, about his own door? and produced immortal verse.

What should we think of Homer, had he sung his impressions of the
ancient Egyptians? or of Thackeray, had he novelized the life of the
Babylonians? It is an ancient blindness, with an ancient wall to bruise
one’s head. It is only those who seek ointment of the consecrated clay
that gives back sight, who see the shining way at their feet, who beat
their face against no wall, who safely climb the heights. Henry van
Cortlandt was a man of rare parts, of every advantage, but still he had
been taught steadfastly to live in the past. His eyes were yet to be
opened. The living present was not his--but yet to be.

The young lawyer had been assembling his outfit at Vandam’s warehouse,
for, in spite of scoffing friends, he knew that Rolf was coming back to
him.

When Rolf saw the pile of stuff that was gathered for that outfit, he
stared at it aghast, then looked at Vandam, and together they roared.
There was everything for light housekeeping and heavy doctoring, even
chairs, a wash stand, a mirror, a mortar, and a pestle. Six canoes could
scarcely have carried the lot.

“‘Tain’t so much the young man as his mother,” explained Big Pete; “at
first I tried to make ‘em understand, but it was no use; so I says, ‘All
right, go ahead, as long as there’s room in the warehouse.’ I reckon
I’ll set on the fence and have some fun seein’ Rolf ontangle the
affair.”

“Phew, pheeeww--ph-e-e-e-e-w,” was all Rolf could say in answer. But
at last, “Wall, there’s always a way. I sized him up as pretty level
headed. We’ll see.”

There was a way and it was easy, for, in a secret session, Rolf, Pete,
and Van Cortlandt together sorted out the things needed. A small tent,
blankets, extra clothes, guns, ammunition, delicate food for three
months, a few medicines and toilet articles--a pretty good load for one
canoe, but a trifle compared with the mountain of stuff piled up on the
floor.

“Now, Mr. van Cortlandt,” said Rolf, “will you explain to your mother
that we are going on with this so as to travel quickly, and will send
back for the rest as we need it?”

A quiet chuckle was now heard from Big Pete. “Good! I wondered how he’d
settle it.”

The governor and his lady saw them off; therefore, there was a crowd.
The mother never before had noted what a frail and dangerous thing a
canoe is. She cautioned her son never to venture out alone, and to be
sure that he rubbed his chest with the pectoral balm she had made from
such and such a famous receipt, the one that saved the life but not
the limb of old Governor Stuyvesant, and come right home if you catch a
cold; and wait at the first camp till the other things come, and (in a
whisper) keep away from that horrid red Indian with the knife, and never
fail to let every one know who you are, and write regularly, and don’t
forget to take your calomel Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, alternating
with Peruvian bark Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and squills on
Sunday, except every other week, when he should devote Tuesdays,
Fridays, and Sundays to rhubarb and catnip tea, except in the full
moon, when the catnip was to be replaced with graveyard bergamot and the
squills with opodeldoc in which an iron nail had been left for a week.

So Henry was embraced, Rolf was hand-shaken, Quonab was nodded at,
Skookum was wisely let alone, and the trim canoe swung from the dock.
Amid hearty cheers, farewells, and “God speed ye’s” it breasted the
flood for the North.

And on the dock, with kerchief to her eyes, stood the mother, weeping to
think that her boy was going far, far away from his home and friends in
dear, cultured, refined Albany, away, away, to that remote and barbarous
inaccessible region almost to the shore land of Lake Champlain.



Chapter 58. Back to Indian Lake

Young Van Cortlandt, six feet two in his socks and thirty-four inches
around the chest, was, as Rolf long afterward said, “awful good raw
material, but awful raw.” Two years out of college, half of which had
been spent at the law, had done little but launch him as a physical
weakling and a social star. But his mental make-up was more than good;
it was of large promise. He lacked neither courage nor sense, and the
course he now followed was surely the best for man-making.

Rolf never realized how much a farmer-woodman-canoeman-hunter-camper had
to know, until now he met a man who did not know anything, nor dreamed
how many wrong ways there were of doing a job, till he saw his new
companion try it.

There is no single simple thing that is a more complete measure of one’s
woodcraft than the lighting of a fire. There are a dozen good ways and
a thousand wrong ones. A man who can light thirty fires on thirty
successive days with thirty matches or thirty sparks from flint and
steel is a graduated woodman, for the feat presupposes experience of
many years and the skill that belongs to a winner.

When Quonab and Rolf came back from taking each a load over the first
little portage, they found Van Cortlandt getting ready for a fire with a
great, solid pile of small logs, most of them wet and green. He knew how
to use flint and steel, because that was the established household way
of the times. Since childhood had he lighted the candle at home by this
primitive means. When his pile of soggy logs was ready, he struck his
flint, caught a spark on the tinder that is always kept on hand, blew
it to a flame, thrust in between two of the wet logs, waited for all to
blaze up, and wondered why the tiny blaze went out at once, no matter
how often he tried.

When the others came back, Van Cortlandt remarked: “It doesn’t seem to
burn.” The Indian turned away in silent contempt. Rolf had hard work to
keep the forms of respect, until the thought came: “I suppose I looked
just as big a fool in his world at Albany.”

“See,” said he, “green wood and wet wood won’t do, but yonder is some
birch bark and there’s a pine root.” He took his axe and cut a few
sticks from the root, then used his knife to make a sliver-fuzz of each;
one piece, so resinous that it would not whittle, he smashed with
the back of the axe into a lot of matchwood. With a handful of finely
shredded birch bark he was now quite ready. A crack of the flint a
blowing of the spark caught on the tinder from the box, a little flame
that at once was magnified by the birch bark, and in a minute the pine
splinters made a sputtering fire. Quonab did not even pay Van Cortlandt
the compliment of using one of his logs. He cut a growing poplar, built
a fireplace of the green logs around the blaze that Rolf had made, and
the meal was ready in a few minutes.

Van Cortlandt was not a fool; merely it was all new to him. But his
attention was directed to fire-making now, and long before they reached
their cabin he had learned this, the first of the woodman’s arts--he
could lay and light a fire. And when, weeks later, he not only made the
flint fire, but learned in emergency to make the rubbing stick spark,
his cup of joy was full. He felt he was learning.

Determined to be in everything, now he paddled all day; at first with
vigour, then mechanically, at last feebly and painfully. Late in the
afternoon they made the first long portage; it was a quarter mile. Rolf
took a hundred pounds, Quonab half as much more, Van Cortlandt tottered
slowly behind with his pill-kit and his paddle. That night, on his ample
mattress, he slept the sleep of utter exhaustion. Next day he did little
and said nothing. It came on to rain; he raised a huge umbrella and
crouched under it till the storm was over. But the third day he began to
show signs of new life, and before they reached the Schroon’s mouth, on
the fifth day, his young frame was already responding to the elixir of
the hills.

It was very clear that they could not take half of the stuff that they
had cached at the Schroon’s mouth, so that a new adjustment was needed
and still a cache to await another trip.

That night as they sat by their sixth camp fire, Van Cortlandt pondered
over the recent days, and they seemed many since he had left home.
He felt much older and stronger. He felt not only less strange, but
positively intimate with the life, the river, the canoe, and his
comrades; and, pleased with his winnings, he laid his hand on Skookum,
slumbering near, only to arouse in response a savage growl, as that
important animal arose and moved to the other side of the fire. Never
did small dog give tall man a more deliberate snub. “You can’t do that
with Skookum; you must wait till he’s ready,” said Rolf.

The journey up the Hudson with its “mean” waters and its “carries” was
much as before. Then they came to the eagle’s nest and the easy waters
of Jesup’s River, and without important incident they landed at the
cabin. The feeling of “home again” spread over the camp and every one
was gay.



Chapter 59. Van Cortlandt’s Drugs

“AIN’T ye feelin’ all right?” said Rolf, one bright, calomel morning, as
he saw Van Cortlandt preparing his daily physic.

“Why, yes; I’m feeling fine; I’m better every day,” was the jovial
reply.

“Course I don’t know, but my mother used to say: ‘Med’cine’s the stuff
makes a sick man well, an’ a well man sick.”’

“My mother and your mother would have fought at sight, as you may judge.
B-u-t,” he added with reflective slowness, and a merry twinkle in his
eye, “if things were to be judged by their product, I am afraid your
mother would win easily,” and he laid his long, thin, scrawny hand
beside the broad, strong hand of the growing youth.

“Old Sylvanne wasn’t far astray when he said: ‘There aren’t any sick,
‘cept them as thinks they are,”’ said Rolf. “I suppose I ought to begin
to taper off,” was the reply. But the tapering was very sudden. Before a
week went by, it seemed desirable to go back for the stuff left in cache
on the Schroon, where, of course, it was subject to several risks. There
seemed no object in taking Van Cortlandt back, but they could not
well leave him alone. He went. He had kept time with fair
regularity--calomel, rhubarb; calomel, rhubarb; calomel, rhubarb,
squills--but Rolf’s remarks had sunk into his intelligence, as a
red-hot shot will sink through shingles, letting in light and creating
revolution.

This was a rhubarb morning. He drank his potion, then, carefully
stoppering the bottle, he placed it with its companions in a box and
stowed that near the middle of the canoe. “I’ll be glad when it’s
finished,” he said reflectively; “I don’t believe I need it now. I wish
sometimes I could run short of it all.”

That was what Rolf had been hoping for. Without such a remark, he would
not have dared do as he did. He threw the tent cover over the canoe
amidships, causing the unstable craft to cant: “That won’t do,” he
remarked, and took out several articles, including the medicine chest,
put them ashore under the bushes, and, when he replaced them, contrived
that the medicine should be forgotten.

Next morning Van Cortlandt, rising to prepare his calomel, got a shock
to find it not.

“It strikes me,” says Rolf, “the last time I saw that, it was on the
bank when we trimmed the canoe.” Yes, there could be no doubt of it.
Van must live his life in utter druglessness for a time. It gave him
somewhat of a scare, much like that a young swimmer gets when he finds
he has drifted away from his floats; and, like that same beginner, it
braced him to help himself. So Van found that he could swim without
corks.

They made a rapid journey down, and in a week they were back with the
load.

There was the potion chest where they had left it. Van Cortlandt
picked it up with a sheepish smile, and they sat down for evening meal.
Presently Rolf said: “I mind once I seen three little hawks in a nest
together. The mother was teaching them to fly. Two of them started off
all right, and pretty soon were scooting among the treetops. The other
was scared. He says: ‘No, mother, I never did fly, and I’m scared I’d
get killed if I tried.’ At last the mother got mad and shoved him over.
As soon as he felt he was gone, he spread out his wings to save himself.
The wings were all right enough, and long before he struck the ground,
he was flying.”



Chapter 60. Van Cortlandt’s Adventure

The coming of Van had compelled the trappers to build a new and much
larger cabin. When they were planning it, the lawyer said: “If I were,
you, I’d make it twenty by thirty, with a big stone fireplace.”

“Why?”

“I might want to come back some day and bring a friend.”

Rolf looked at him keenly. Here was an important possibility, but it
was too difficult to handle such large logs without a team; so the new
cabin was made fifteen by twenty, and the twenty-foot logs were very
slim indeed. Van Cortlandt took much trouble to fix it up inside with
two white birch bedsteads, balsam beds, and basswood mats on the floor.

After the first depression, he had recovered quickly since abandoning
his apothecary diet, and now he was more and more in their life, one of
themselves. But Quonab never liked him. The incident of the fire-making
was one of many which reduced him far below zero in the red man’s
esteem. When he succeeded with the rubbing-stick fire, he rose a few
points; since then he had fallen a little, nearly every day, and now an
incident took place which reduced him even below his original low level.

In spite of his admirable perseverance, Van Cortlandt failed in his
attempts to get a deer. This was depressing and unfortunate because of
the Indian’s evident contempt, shown, not in any act, but rather in his
avoiding Van and never noticing him; while Van, on his part, discovered
that, but for this, that, and the other negligence on Quonab’s part, he
himself might have done thus and so.

To relieve the situation, Rolf said privately to the Indian, “Can’t we
find some way of giving him a deer?”

“Humph,” was the voluble reply.

“I’ve heard of that jack-light trick.    Can ye work it?”

“Ugh!”

So it was arranged.

Quonab prepared a box which he filled with sand. On three sides of it
he put a screen of bark, eighteen inches high, and in the middle he
made a good torch of pine knots with a finely frizzled lighter of birch
bark. Ordinarily this is placed on the bow of the canoe, and, at the
right moment, is lighted by the sportsman. But Quonab distrusted Van as
a lighter, so placed this ancient search-light on the after thwart in
front of himself and pointing forward, but quartering.

The scheme is to go along the lake shore about dark, as the deer come
to the water to drink or eat lily pads. As soon as a deer is located by
the sound, the canoe is silently brought to the place, the torch is
lighted, the deer stops to gaze at this strange sunrise; its body is
not usually visible in the dim light, but the eyes reflect the glare
like two lamps; and now the gunner, with a volley of buckshot, plays
his part. It is the easiest and most unsportsmanlike of all methods. It
has long been declared illegal; and was especially bad, because it
victimized chiefly the does and fawns.

But now it seemed the proper way to “save Van Cortlandt’s face.”

So forth they went; Van armed with his double-barrelled shotgun and
carrying in his belt a huge and ornamental hunting knife, the badge of
woodcraft or of idiocy, according as yon took Van’s view or Quonab’s.
Rolf stayed in camp.

At dusk they set out, a slight easterly breeze compelling them to take
the eastern shore, for the deer must not smell them. As they silently
crossed the lake, the guide’s quick eye caught sight of a long wimple
on the surface, across the tiny ripples of the breeze--surely the wake
of some large animal, most likely a deer. Good luck. Putting on all
speed, he sent the canoe flying after it, and in three or four minutes
they sighted a large, dark creature moving fast to escape, but it was
low on the water, and had no horns. They could not make out what it
was. Van sat tensely gazing, with gun in hand, but the canoe overran
the swimmer; it disappeared under the prow, and a moment later there
scrambled over the gunwale a huge black fisher.

“Knife,” cried Quonab, in mortal fear that Van would shoot and blow a
hole throught the canoe.

The fisher went straight at the lawyer hissing and snarling with voice
like a bear.

Van grasped his knife, and then and there began A most extraordinary
fight; holding his assailant off as best he could, he stabbed again and
again with that long blade. But the fisher seemed cased in iron. The
knife glanced off or was solidly stopped again and again, while the
fierce, active creature, squirming, struggling, clawing, and tearing
had wounded the lawyer in a dozen places. Jab, jab went the knife in
vain. The fisher seemed to gain in strength and fury. It fastened on
Van’s leg just below the knee, and grow/ed and tore like a bulldog. Van
seized its throat in both hands and choked with all his strength. The
brute at length let go and sprang back to attack again, when Quonab saw
his chance and felled it with a blow of the paddle across the nose. It
tumbled forward; Van lunged to avoid what seemed a new attack, and in a
moment the canoe upset, and all were swimming for their lives.

As luck would have it, they had drifted to the west side and the water
was barely six feet deep. So Quonab swam ashore holding onto a paddle,
and hauling the canoe, while Van waded ashore, hauling the dead fisher
by the tail.

Quonab seized a drift pole and stuck it in the mud as near the place as
possible, so they could come again in daylight to get the guns; then
silently paddled back to camp.

Next day, thanks to the pole, they found the place and recovered first
Van’s gun, second, that mighty hunting knife; and learned to the
amazement and disgust of all that it had not been out of its sheath:
during all that stabbing and slashing, the keen edge was hidden and the
knife was wearing its thick, round scabbard of leather and studs of
brass.



Chapter 61. Rolf Learns Something from Van

     A man can’t handle his own case, any more than a delirious
     doctor kin give himself the right physic.--Saying of Si
     Sylvanne.

However superior Rolf might feel in the canoe or the woods, there was
one place where Van Cortlandt took the lead, and that was in the long
talks they had by the campfire or in Van’s own shanty which Quonab
rarely entered.

The most interesting subjects treated in these were ancient Greece and
modern Albany. Van Cortlandt was a good Greek scholar, and, finding an
intelligent listener, he told the stirring tales of royal Ilion, Athens,
and Pergamos, with the loving enthusiasm of one whom the teachers found
it easy to instruct in classic lore. And when he recited or intoned
the rolling Greek heroics of the siege of Troy, Rolf listened with an
interest that was strange, considering that he knew not a word of it.
But he said, “It sounded like real talk, and the tramp of men that were
all astir with something big a-doing.”

Albany and politics, too, were vital strains, and life at the Government
House, with the struggling rings and cabals, social and political. These
were extraordinarily funny and whimsical to Rolf. No doubt because Van
Cortlandt presented them that way. And he more than once wondered how
rational humans could waste their time in such tomfoolery and childish
things as all conventionalities seemed to be. Van Cortlandt smiled at
his remarks, but made no answer for long.

One day, the first after the completion of Van Cortlandt’s cabin, as the
two approached, the owner opened the door and stood aside for Rolf to
enter.

“Go ahead,” said Rolf.

“After you,” was the polite reply.

“Oh, go on,” rejoined the lad, in mixed amusement and impatience.

Van Cortlandt touched his hat and went in.

Inside, Rolf turned squarely and said: “The other day you said there was
a reason for all kinds o’ social tricks; now will you tell me what the
dickens is the why of all these funny-do’s? It ‘pears to me a free-born
American didn’t ought to take off his hat to any one but God.”

Van Cortlandt chuckled softly and said: “You may be very sure that
everything that is done in the way of social usage is the result
of common-sense, with the exception of one or two things that have
continued after the reason for them has passed, like the buttons you
have behind on your coat; they were put there originally to button the
tails out of the way of your sword. Sword wearing and using have passed
away, but still you see the buttons.

“As to taking off your hat to no man: it depends entirely on what you
mean by it; and, being a social custom, you must accept its social
meaning.

“In the days of knight errantry, every one meeting a stranger had to
suppose him an enemy; ten to one he was. And the sign and proof of
friendly intention was raising the right hand without a weapon in it.
The hand was raised high, to be seen as far as they could shoot with
a bow, and a further proof was added when they raised the vizor and
exposed the face. The danger of the highway continued long after knights
ceased to wear armour; so, with the same meaning, the same gesture was
used, but with a lifting of the hat. If a man did not do it, he was
either showing contempt, or hostility for the other, or proving himself
an ignorant brute. So, in all civilized countries, lifting the hat is a
sign of mutual confidence and respect.”

“Well! that makes it all look different. But why should you touch your
hat when you went ahead of me just now?”

“Because this is my house; you are my guest. I am supposed to serve you
in reasonable ways and give you precedence. Had I let you open my door
for me, it would have been putting you in the place of my servant; to
balance that, I give you the sign of equality and respect.”

“H’m,” said Rolf, “‘it just shows,’ as old Sylvanne sez, ‘this yer
steel-trap, hair-trigger, cocksure jedgment don’t do. An’ the more a
man learns, the less sure he gits. An’ things as hez lasted a long time
ain’t liable to be on a rotten foundation.’”



Chapter 62. The Charm of Song

With a regular tum ta tum ta, came a weird sound from the sunrise rock
one morning, as Van slipped out of his cabin.

     “Ag-aj-way-o-say
     Pem-o-say
     Gezhik-om era-bid ah-keen
     Ena-bid ah-keen”

“What’s he doing, Rolf?”

“That’s his sunrise prayer,” was the answer.

“Do you know what it means?”

“Yes, it ain’t much; jest ‘Oh, thou that walkest in the sky in the
morning, I greet thee.”’

“Why, I didn’t know Indians had such performances; that’s exactly like
the priests of Osiris. Did any one teach him? I mean any white folk.”

“No, it’s always been the Indian way. They have a song or a prayer
for most every big event, sunrise, sunset, moonrise, good hunting, and
another for when they’re sick, or when they’re going on a journey, or
when their heart is bad.”

“You astonish me. I had no idea they were so human. It carries me back
to the temple of Delphi. It is worthy of Cassandra of Ilion. I supposed
all Indians were just savage Indians that hunted till their bellies were
full, and slept till they were empty again.”

“H’m,” rejoined Rolf, with a gentle laugh. “I see you also have been
doing some ‘hair-trigger, steel-trap, cocksure jedgin’.’”

“I wonder if he’d like to hear some of my songs?”

“It’s worth trying; anyway, I would,” said Rolf.

That night, by the fire, Van sang the “Gay Cavalier,” “The Hunting of
John Peel,” and “Bonnie Dundee.” He had a fine baritone voice. He was
most acceptable in the musical circles of Albany. Rolf was delighted,
Skookum moaned sympathetically, and Quonab sat nor moved till the music
was over. He said nothing, but Rolf felt that it was a point gained,
and, trying to follow it up, said:

“Here’s your drum, Quonab; won’t you sing ‘The Song of the Wabanaki?’”
 But it was not well timed, and the Indian shook his head.

“Say, Van,” said Rolf, (Van Cortlandt had suggested this abbreviation)
“you’ll never stand right with Quonab till you kill a deer.”

“I’ve done some trying.”

“Well, now, we’ll go out to-morrow evening and try once more. What do
you think of the weather, Quonab?”

“Storm begin noon and last three days,” was the brief answer, as the red
man walked away.

“That settles it,” said Rolf; “we wait.”

Van was surprised, and all the more so when in an hour the sky grew
black and heavy rain set in, with squalls.

“How in the name of Belshazzar’s weather bugler does he tell?”

“I guess you better not ask him, if you want to know. I’ll find out and
tell you later.”

Rolf learned, not easily or at single talk:

“Yesterday the chipmunks worked hard; to-day there are none to be seen.

“Yesterday the loons were wailing; now they are still, and no small
birds are about.

“Yesterday it was a yellow sunrise; to-day a rosy dawn.

“Last night the moon changed and had a thick little ring.

“It has not rained for ten days, and this is the third day of easterly
winds.

“There was no dew last night. I saw Tongue Mountain at daybreak; my
tom-tom will not sing.

“The smoke went three ways at dawn, and Skookum’s nose was hot.”

So they rested, not knowing, but forced to believe, and it was not till
the third day that the sky broke; the west wind began to pay back its
borrowings from the east, and the saying was proved that “three days’
rain will empty any sky.”

That evening, after their meal, Rolf and Van launched the canoe and
paddled down the lake. A mile from camp they landed, for this was a
favourite deer run. Very soon Rolf pointed to the ground. He had found a
perfectly fresh track, but Van seemed not to comprehend. They went along
it, Rolf softly and silently, Van with his long feet and legs making a
dangerous amount of clatter. Rolf turned and whispered, “That won’t
do. You must not stand on dry sticks.” Van endeavoured to move more
cautiously and thought he was doing well, but Rolf found it very trying
to his patience and began to understand how Quonab had felt about
himself a year ago. “See,” said Rolf, “lift your legs so; don’t turn
your feet out that way. Look at the place before you put it down again;
feel with your toe to make sure there is no dead stick, then wriggle it
down to the solid ground. Of course, you’d do better in moccasins. Never
brush past any branches; lift them aside and don’t let them scratch;
ease them back to the place; never try to bend a dry branch; go around
it,” etc. Van had not thought of these things, but now he grasped them
quickly, and they made a wonderful improvement in his way of going.

They came again to the water’s edge; across a little bay Rolf sighted at
once the form of a buck, perfectly still, gazing their way, wondering,
no doubt, what made those noises.

“Here’s your chance,” he whispered.

“Where?” was the eager query.

“There; see that gray and white thing?”

“I can’t see him.”

For five minutes Rolf tried in vain to make his friend see that
statuesque form; for five minutes it never moved. Then, sensing danger,
the buck gave a bound and was lost to view.

It was disheartening. Rolf sat down, nearly disgusted; then one of
Sylvanne’s remarks came to him: “It don’t prove any one a fool, coz he
can’t play your game.”

Presently Rolf said, “Van, hev ye a book with ye?”

“Yes, I have my Virgil.”

“Read me the first page.”

Van read it, holding the book six inches from his nose.

“Let’s see ye read this page there,” and Rolf held it up four feet away.

“I can’t; it’s nothing but a dim white spot.”

“Well, can ye see that loon out there?”

“You mean that long, dark thing in the bay?”

“No, that’s a pine log close to,” said Rolf, with a laugh, “away out
half a mile.”

“No, I can’t see anything but shimmers.”

“I thought so. It’s no use your trying to shoot deer till ye get a pair
of specs to fit yer eyes. You have brains enough, but you haven’t got
the eyesight of a hunter. You stay here till I go see if I have any
luck.”

Rolf melted into the woods. In twenty minutes Van heard a shot and very
soon Rolf reappeared, carrying a two-year-old buck, and they returned
to their camp by nightfall. Quonab glanced at their faces as they passed
carrying the little buck. They tried to look inscrutable. But the Indian
was not deceived. He gave out nothing but a sizzling “Humph!”



Chapter 63. The Redemption of Van

“WHEN things is looking black as black can be, it’s a sure sign of luck
coming your way.” so said Si Sylvanne, and so it proved to Van Cortlandt
The Moon of the Falling Leaves was waning, October was nearly over, the
day of his return to Albany was near, as he was to go out in time for
the hunters to return in open water. He was wonderfully improved in
strength and looks. His face was brown and ruddy. He had abandoned all
drugs, and had gained fully twenty pounds in weight. He had learned to
make a fire, paddle a canoe, and go through the woods in semi-silence.
His scholarly talk had given him large place in Rolf’s esteem, and
his sweet singing had furnished a tiny little shelf for a modicum of
Quonab’s respect. But his attempts to get a deer were failures. “You
come back next year with proper, farsight glasses and you’ll all right,”
 said Rolf; and that seemed the one ray of hope.

The three days’ storm had thrown so many trees that the hunters decided
it would be worth while making a fast trip down to Eagle’s Nest, to cut
such timber as might have fallen across the stream, and so make an easy
way for when they should have less time.

The surmise was quite right. Much new-fallen timber was now across
the channel. They chopped over twenty-five trunks before they reached
Eagle’s Nest at noon, and, leaving the river in better shape than ever
it was, they turned, for the swift, straight, silent run of ten miles
home.

As they rounded the last point, a huge black form in the water loomed to
view. Skookum’s bristles rose. Quonab whispered, “Moose! Shoot quick!”
 Van was the only one with a gun. The great black beast stood for a
moment, gazing at them with wide-open eyes, ears, and nostrils, then
shook his broad horns, wheeled, and dashed for the shore. Van fired
and the bull went down with a mighty splash among the lilies. Rolf and
Skookum let off a succession of most unhunterlike yells of triumph. But
the giant sprang up again and reached the shore, only to fall to Van
Cortlandt’s second barrel. Yet the stop was momentary; he rose and
dashed into the cover. Quonab turned the canoe at once and made for the
land.

A great sob came from the bushes, then others at intervals. Quonab
showed his teeth and pointed. Rolf seized his rifle, Skookum sprang from
the boat, and a little later was heard letting off his war-cry in the
bushes not far away.

The men rushed forward, guns in hand, but Quonab called, “Look out!
Maybe he waiting.”

“If he is, he’ll likely get one of us.” said Rolf, with a light laugh,
for he had some hearsay knowledge of moose.

Covered each by a tree, they waited till Van had reloaded his
double-barrelled, then cautiously approached. The great frothing sobs
had resounded from time to time.

Skookum’s voice also was heard in the thicket, and when they neared and
glimpsed the place, it was to see the monster on the ground, lying at
full length, dinging up his head at times when he uttered that horrid
sound of pain.

The Indian sent a bullet through the moose’s brain; then all was still,
the tragedy was over.

But now their attention was turned to Van Cortlandt. He reeled,
staggered, his knees trembled, his face turned white, and, to save
himself from falling, he sank onto a log. Here he covered his face with
his hands, his feet beat the ground, and his shoulders heaved up and
down.

The others said nothing. They knew by the signs and the sounds that it
was only through a mighty effort that young Van Cortlandt, grown man as
he was, could keep himself from hysterical sobs and tears.

Not then, but the next day it was that Quonab said: “It comes to some
after they kill, to some before, as it came to you, Rolf; to me it came
the day I killed my first chipmunk, that time when I stole my father’s
medicine.”

They had ample work for several hours now, to skin the game and save the
meat. It was fortunate they were so near home. A marvellous change there
was in the atmosphere of the camp. Twice Quonab spoke to Van Cortlandt,
as the latter laboured with them to save and store the meat of his
moose. He was rubbed, doped, soiled, and anointed with its flesh, hair,
and blood, and that night, as they sat by their camp fire, Skookum
arose, stretched, yawned, walked around deliberately, put his nose
in the lawyer’s hand, gave it a lick, then lay down by his feet. Van
Cortlandt glanced at Rolf, a merry twinkle was in the eyes of both.
“It’s all right. You can pat Skookum now, without risk of being
crippled. He’s sized you up. You are one of us at last;” and Quonab
looked on with two long ivory rows a-gleaming in his smile.



Chapter 64. Dinner at the Governor’s

Was ever there a brighter blazing sunrise after such a night of gloom?
Not only a deer, but the biggest of all deer, and Van himself the only
one of the party that had ever killed a moose. The skin was removed and
afterward made into a hunting coat for the victor. The head and horns
were carefully preserved to be carried back to Albany, where they were
mounted and still hang in the hall of a later generation of the name.
The final days at the camp were days of happy feeling; they passed too
soon, and the long-legged lawyer, bronzed and healthy looking, took his
place in their canoe for the flying trip to Albany. With an empty canoe
and three paddles (two and one half, Van said), they flew down the open
stretch of Jesup’s River in something over two hours and camped that
night fully thirty-five miles from their cabin. The next day they nearly
reached the Schroon and in a week they rounded the great bend, and
Albany hove in view.

How Van’s heart did beat! How he did exult to come in triumph home,
reestablished in health and strengthened in every way. They were sighted
and recognized. Messengers were seen running; a heavy gun was fired,
the flag run up on the Capitol, bells set a-ringing, many people came
running, and more flags ran up on vessels.

A great crowd gathered by the dock.

“There’s father, and mother too!” shouted Van, waving his hat.

“Hurrah,” and the crowd took it up, while the bells went jingle, jangle,
and Skookum in the bow sent back his best in answer.

The canoe was dragged ashore. Van seized his mother in his arms, as
she cried: “My boy, my boy, my darling boy! how well you look. Oh, why
didn’t you write? But, thank God, you are back again, and looking so
healthy and strong. I know you took your squills and opodeldoc. Thank
God for that! Oh, I’m so happy! my boy, my boy! There’s nothing like
squills and God’s blessing.”

Rolf and Quonab were made to feel that they had a part in it all. The
governor shook them warmly by the hand, and then a friendly voice was
heard: “Wall, boy, here ye air agin; growed a little, settin’ up and
sassin’ back, same as ever.” Rolf turned to see the gigantic, angular
form and kindly face of grizzly old Si Sylvanne and was still more
surprised to hear him addressed “senator.”

“Yes,” said the senator, “one o’ them freak elections that sometimes
hits right; great luck for Albany, wa’nt it?”

“Ho,” said Quonab, shaking the senator’s hand, while Skookum looked
puzzled and depressed.

“Now, remember,” said the governor, addressing the Indian, the lad,
and the senator, “we expect you to dine tonight at the mansion; seven
o’clock.”

Then the terror of the dragon conventionality, that guards the gate
and hovers over the feast, loomed up in Rolf’s imagination. He sought a
private word with Van. “I’m afraid I have no fit clothes; I shan’t know
how to behave,” he said.

“Then I’ll show you. The first thing is to be perfectly clean and get a
shave; put on the best clothes you have, and be sure they’re clean; then
you come at exactly seven o’clock, knowing that every one is going to
be kind to you and you’re bound to have a good time. As to any other
‘funny-do’ you watch me, and you’ll have no trouble.”

So when the seven o’clock assemblage came, and guests were ascending the
steps of the governor’s mansion, there also mounted a tall, slim
youth, an easy-pacing Indian, and a prick-eared, yellow dog. Young Van
Cortlandt was near the door, on watch to save them any embarrassment.
But what a swell he looked, cleanshaven, ruddy, tall, and handsome in
the uniform of an American captain, surrounded by friends and immensely
popular. How different it all was from that lonely cabin by the lake.

A butler who tried to remove Skookum was saved from mutilation by the
intervention first of Quonab and next of Van; and when they sat down,
this uncompromising four-legged child of the forest ensconced himself
under Quonab’s chair and growled whenever the silk stockings of the
footman seemed to approach beyond the line of true respect.

Young Van Cortlandt was chief talker at the dinner, but a pompous
military man was prominent in the company. Once or twice Rolf was
addressed by the governor or Lady Van Cortlandt, and had to speak to the
whole table; his cheeks were crimson, but he knew what he wanted to say
and stopped when it was said, so suffered no real embarrassment.

After what seemed an interminable feast of countless dishes and hours’
duration, an extraordinary change set in. Led by the hostess, all stood
up, the chairs were lifted out of their way, and the ladies trooped into
another room; the doors were closed, and the men sat down again at the
end next the governor.

Van stayed by Rolf and explained: “This is another social custom that
began with a different meaning. One hundred years ago, every man got
drunk at every formal dinner, and carried on in a way that the ladies
did not care to see, so to save their own feelings and give the men
a free rein, the ladies withdrew. Nowadays, men are not supposed to
indulge in any such orgy, but the custom continues, because it gives the
men a chance to smoke, and the ladies a chance to discuss matters that
do not interest the men. So again you see it is backed by common sense.”

This proved the best part of the dinner to Rolf. There was a peculiar
sense of over-politeness, of insincerity, almost, while the ladies were
present; the most of the talking had been done by young Van Cortlandt
and certain young ladies, assisted by some very gay young men and the
general. Their chatter was funny, but nothing more. Now a different air
was on the group; different subjects were discussed, and by different
men, in a totally different manner.

“We’ve stood just about all we can stand,” said the governor, alluding
to an incident newly told, of a British frigate boarding an American
merchant vessel by force and carrying off half her crew, under presence
that they were British seamen in disguise. “That’s been going on for
three years now. It’s either piracy or war, and, in either case, it’s
our duty to fight.”

“Jersey’s dead against war,” said a legislator from down the river.

“Jersey always was dead against everything that was for the national
good, sir,” said a red-faced, puffy, military man, with a husky voice, a
rolling eye, and a way of ending every sentence in “sir.”

“So is Connecticut,” said another; “they say, ‘Look at all our
defenceless coasts and harbour towns.’”

“They’re not risking as much as New York,” answered the governor,
“with her harbours all the way up the Hudson and her back door open to
invasion from Canada.”

“Fortunately, sir, Pennyslvania, Maryland, and the West have not
forgotten the glories of the past. All I ask--is a chance to show what
we can do, sir. I long for the smell of powder once more, sir.”

“I understand that President Madison has sent several protests, and, in
spite of Connecticut and New Jersey, will send an ultimatum within three
months. He believes that Britain has all she can manage, with Napoleon
and his allies battering at her doors, and will not risk a war.

“It’s my opinion,” said Sylvanne; “that these English men is too
pig-headed an’ ornery to care a whoop in hell whether we get mad or not.
They’ve a notion Paul Jones is dead, but I reckon we’ve got plenty of
the breed only waitin’ a chance. Mor’n twenty-five of our merchantmen
wrecked each year through being stripped of their crews by a ‘friendly
power.’ ‘Pears to me we couldn’t be worse off going to war, an’ might be
a dum sight better.”

“Your home an’ holdings are three hundred safe miles from the seacoast,”
 objected the man from Manhattan.

“Yes, and right next Canada,” was the reply.

“The continued insults to our flag, sir, and the personal indignities
offered to our people are even worse than the actual loss in ships and
goods. It makes my blood fairly boil,” and the worthy general looked the
part as his purple jowl quivered over his white cravat.

“Gosh all hemlock! the one pricks, but t’other festers, it’s tarnal sure
you steal a man’s dinner and tell him he’s one o’ nature’s noblemen,
he’s more apt to love you than if you give him five dollars to keep out
o’ your sight,” said Sylvanne, with slow emphasis.

“There’s something to be said on the other side,” said the timid one.
“You surely allow that the British government is trying to do right,
and after all we must admit that that Jilson affair resected very little
credit on our own administration.”

“A man ken make one awful big mistake an’ still be all right, but he
can’t go on making a little mistake every day right along an’ be fit
company for a clean crowd,” retorted the new senator.

At length the governor rose and led the way to the drawing-room, where
they rejoined the ladies and the conversation took on a different colour
and weight, by which it lost all value for those who knew not the art
of twittering persiflage and found less joy in a handkerchief flirtation
than in the nation’s onward march. Rolf and Quonab enjoyed it now about
as much as Skookum had done all the time.



Chapter 65. The Grebes and the Singing Mouse

Quonab puzzled long over the amazing fact that young Van Cortlandt had
evident high standing “in his own tribe.” “He must be a wise counsellor,
for I know he cannot fight and is a fool at hunting,” was the ultimate
decision.

They had a final interview with the governor and his son before they
left. Rolf received for himself and his partner the promised one hundred
and fifty dollars, and the hearty thanks of all in the governor’s home.
Next, each was presented with a handsome hunting knife, not unlike
the one young Van had carried, but smaller. Quonab received his with
“Ho--” then, after a pause, “He pull out, maybe, when I need him.”--“Ho!
good!” he exclaimed, as the keen blade appeared.

“Now, Rolf,” said the lawyer, “I want to come back next year and bring
three companions, and we will pay you at the same rate per month for
each. What do you say?”

“Glad to have you again,” said Rolf: “we’ll come for you on August
fifteenth; but remember you should bring your guitar and your
spectacles.”

“One word,” said the governor, “do you know the canoe route through
Champlain to Canada?”

“Quonab does.”

“Could you undertake to render scout service in that region?”

The Indian nodded.

“In case of war, we may need you both, so keep your ears open.”

And once more the canoe made for the north, with Quonab in the stern and
Skookum in the bow.

In less than a week they were home, and none too soon; for already the
trees were bare, and they had to break the ice on the river before they
ended their trip.

Rolf had gathered many ideas the last two-months. He did not propose to
continue all his life as a trapper. He wanted to see New York. He wanted
to plan for the future. He needed money for his plans. He and Quonab had
been running a hundred miles of traps, but some men run more than that
single handed. They must get out two new lines at once, before the frost
came. One of these they laid up the Hudson, above Eagle’s Nest; the
other northerly on Blue Mountain, toward Racquet River. Doing this was
hard work, and when they came again to their cabin the robins had gone
from the bleak and leafless woods; the grouse were making long night
flights; the hollows had tracks of racing deer; there was a sense of
omen, a length of gloom, for the Mad Moon was afloat in the shimmering
sky; its wan light ghasted all the hills.

Next day the lake was covered with thin, glare ice; on the glassy
surface near the shore were two ducks floundering. The men went as near
as they could, and Quonab said, “No, not duck, but Shingebis, divers.
They cannot rise except from water. In the night the new ice looks like
water; they come down and cannot rise. I have often seen it.” Two days
after, a harder frost came on. The ice was safe for a dog; the divers or
grebes were still on its surface. So they sent Skookum. He soon returned
with two beautiful grebes, whose shining, white breast feathers are as
much prized as some furs.

Quonab grunted as he held them up. “Ugh, it is often so in this Mad
Moon. My father said it is because of Kaluskap’s dancing.”

“I don’t remember that one.”

“Yes, long ago. Kaluskap felt lazy. He wanted to eat, but did not wish
to hunt, so he called the bluejay and said: ‘Tell all the woods that
to-morrow night Kaluskap gives a new dance and teaches a new song,’
and he told the hoot owl to do the same, so one kept it up all
day--‘Kaluskap teaches a new dance to-morrow night,’ and the other kept
it up all night: ‘Kaluskap teaches a new song at next council.’

“Thus it came about that all the woods and waters sent their folk to the
dance.

“Then Kaluskap took his song-drum and said: ‘When I drum and sing you
must dance in a circle the same way as the sun, close your eyes tightly,
and each one shout his war whoop, as I cry “new songs”!’

“So all began, with Kaluskap drumming in the middle, singing:

“‘New songs from the south, brothers, Close your eyes tightly, brothers,
Dance and learn a new song.

“As they danced around, he picked out the fattest, and, reaching out
one hand, seized them and twisted their necks, shouting out, ‘More
war-cries, more poise! that’s it; now you are learning!’

“At length Shingebis the diver began to have his doubts and he
cautiously opened one eye, saw the trick, and shouted: ‘Fly, brothers,
fly! Kaluskap is killing us!’

“Then all was confusion. Every one tried to escape, and Kaluskap, in
revenge, tried to kill the Shingebis. But the diver ran for the water
and, just as he reached the edge, Kaluskap gave him a kick behind that
sent him half a mile, but it knocked off all his tail feathers and
twisted his shape so that ever since his legs have stuck out where his
tail was, and he cannot rise from the land or the ice. I know it is so,
for my father, Cos Cob, told me it was true, and we ourselves have seen
it. It is ever so. To go against Kaluskap brings much evil to brood
over.”

A few nights later, as they sat by their fire in the cabin, a curious
squeaking was heard behind the logs. They had often heard it before, but
never so much as now. Skookum turned his head on one side, set his ears
at forward cock. Presently, from a hole ‘twixt logs and chimney, there
appeared a small, white breasted mouse.

Its nose and ears shivered a little; its black eyes danced in the
firelight. It climbed up to a higher log, scratched its ribs, then
rising on its hind legs, uttered one or two squeaks like those they had
heard so often, but soon they became louder and continuous:

“Peg, peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, oo. Tree, tree, tree, tree,
trrrrrrr, Turr, turr, turr, tur, tur, Wee, wee, wee, we”--

The little creature was sitting up high on its hind legs, its belly
muscles were working, its mouth was gaping as it poured out its music.
For fully half a minute this went on, when Skookum made a dash; but the
mouse was quick and it flashed into the safety of its cranny.

Rolf gazed at Quonab inquiringly.

“That is Mish-a-boh-quas, the singing mouse. He always comes to tell of
war. In a little while there will be fighting.”



Chapter 66. A Lesson in Stalking

“Did you ever see any fighting, Quonab?”

“Ugh! In Revolution, scouted for General Gates.”

“Judging by the talk, we’re liable to be called on before a year. What
will you do?”

“Fight.”

“As soldier?”

“No! scout.”

“They may not want us.”

“Always want scouts,” replied the Indian.

“It seems to me I ought to start training now.”

“You have been training.”

“How is that?”

“A scout is everything that an army is, but it’s all in one man. An’ he
don’t have to keep step.”

“I see, I see,” replied Rolf, and he realized that a scout is merely
a trained hunter who is compelled by war to hunt his country’s foes
instead of the beasts of the woods.

“See that?” said the Indian, and he pointed to a buck that was nosing
for cranberries in the open expanse across the river where it left the
lake. “Now, I show you scouting.” He glanced at the smoke from the fire,
found it right for his plan, and said: “See! I take my bow. No cover,
yet I will come close and kill that deer.”

Then began a performance that was new to Rolf, and showed that the
Indian had indeed reached the highest pitch of woodcraft. He took his
bow and three good arrows, tied a band around his head, and into this
stuck a lot of twigs and vines, so that his head looked like a tussock
of herbage. Then he left the shanty door, and, concealed by the last
bushes on the edge, he reached the open plain. Two hundred yards off was
the buck, nosing among the herbage, and, from time to time, raising its
superb head and columnar neck to look around. There was no cover but
creeping herbage. Rolf suspected that the Indian would decoy the buck by
some whistle or challenge, for the thickness of its neck showed the deer
to be in fighting humour.

Flat on his breast the Indian lay. His knees and elbow seemed to develop
centipedic power; his head was a mere clump of growing stuff. He snaked
his way quietly for twenty-five yards, then came to the open, sloping
shore, with the river forty yards wide of level shining ice, all in
plain view of the deer; how was this to be covered?

There is a well-known peculiarity of the white tail that the Indian was
counting on; when its head is down grazing, even though not hidden, the
deer does not see distant objects; before the head is raised, its tail
is raised or shaken. Quonab knew that if he could keep the tail in view,
he could avoid being viewed by the head. In a word, only an ill-timed
movement or a whiff could betray him.

The open ice was, of course, a hard test, and the hunter might have
failed, but that his long form looked like one of the logs that were
lying about half stranded or frozen in the stream.

Watching ever the alert head and tail, he timed his approach, working
hard and moving East when the head was down; but when warned by a
tail-jerk he turned to a log nor moved a muscle. Once the ice was
crossed, the danger of being seen was less, but of being smelt was
greater, for the deer was moving about, and Quonab watched the smoke
from the cabin for knowledge of the wind. So he came within fifty yards,
and the buck, still sniffing along and eagerly champing the few red
cranberries it found above the frozen moss, was working toward a
somewhat higher cover. The herbage was now fully eighteen inches high,
and Quonab moved a little faster. The buck found a large patch of
berries under a tussock and dropped on its knees to pick them out, while
Quonab saw the chance and gained ten yards before the tail gave warning.
After so long a feeding-spell, the buck took an extra long lookout,
and then walked toward the timber, whereby the Indian lost all he had
gained. But the browser’s eye was drawn by a shining bunch of red, then
another; and now the buck swung until there was danger of betrayal by
the wind; then down went its head and Quonab retreated ten yards to keep
the windward. Once the buck raised its muzzle and sniffed with flaring
nostrils, as though its ancient friend had brought a warning. But soon
he seemed reassured, for the landscape showed no foe, and nosed back and
forth, while Quonab regained the yards he had lost. The buck worked now
to the taller cover, and again a tempting bunch of berries under a low,
dense bush caused it to kneel for farther under-reaching. Quonab glided
swiftly forward, reached the twenty-five-yard limit, rose to one knee,
bent the stark cedar bow. Rolf saw the buck bound in air, then make for
the wood with great, high leaps; the dash of disappointment was on him,
but Quonab stood erect, with right hand raised, and shouted:

“Ho--ho.”

He knew that those bounds were unnecessarily high, and before the woods
had swallowed up the buck, it fell--rose--and fell again, to rise not.
The arrow had pierced its heart.

Then Rolf rushed up with kindled eye and exultant pride to slap his
friend on the back, and exclaim:

“I never thought it possible; the greatest feat in hunting I ever saw;
you are a wonder!”

To which the Indian softly replied, as he smiled:

“Ho! it was so I got eleven British sentries in the war. They gave me a
medal with Washington’s head.”

“They did! how is it I never heard of it? Where is it?”

The Indian’s face darkened. “I threw it after the ship that stole my
Gamowini.”



Chapter 67. Rolf Meets a Canuck

The winter might have been considered eventful, had not so many of the
events been repetitions of former experience. But there were several
that by their newness deserve a place on these pages, as they did in
Rolf’s memory.

One of them happened soon after the first sharp frost. It had been an
autumn of little rain, so that many ponds had dried up, with the
result that hundreds of muskrats were forced out to seek more habitable
quarters. The first time Rolf saw one of these stranded mariners on its
overland journey, he gave heedless chase. At first it made awkward haste
to escape; then a second muskrat was discovered just ahead, and a third.
This added to Rolf’s interest. In a few bounds he was among them, but it
was to get a surprise. Finding themselves overtaken, the muskrats turned
in desperation and attacked the common enemy with courage and fury. Rolf
leaped over the first, but the second sprang, caught him by the slack
of the trouser leg, and hung on. The third flung itself on his foot and
drove its sharp teeth through the moccasin. Quickly the first rallied
and sprang on his other leg with all the force of its puny paws, and
powerful jaws.

Meanwhile Quonab was laughing aloud and holding back Skookum, who,
breathing fire and slaughter, was mad to be in the fight.

“Ho! a good fight! good musquas! Ho, Skookum, you must not always take
care of him, or he will not learn to go alone.

“Ugh, good!” as the third muskrat gripped Rolf by the calf.

There could be but one finish, and that not long delayed. A well-placed
kick on one, the second swung by the tail, the third crushed under
his heel, and the affair ended. Rolf had three muskrats and five cuts.
Quonab had much joy and Skookum a sense of lost opportunity.

“This we should paint on the wigwam,” said Quonab. “Three great warriors
attacked one Sagamore. They were very brave, but he was Nibowaka and
very strong; he struck them down as the Thunderbird, Hurakan, strikes
the dead pines the fire has left on the hilltop against the sky. Now
shall you eat their hearts, for they were brave. My father told me a
fighting muskrat’s heart is great medicine; for he seeks peace while it
is possible, then he turns and fights without fear.”

A few days later, they sighted a fox. In order to have a joke on
Skookum, they put him on its track, and away he went, letting off his
joy-whoops at every jump. The men sat down to wait, knowing full well
that after an hour Skookum would come back with a long tongue and an
air of depression. But they were favoured with an unexpected view of
the chase. It showed a fox bounding over the snow, and not twenty yards
behind was their energetic four-legged colleague.

And, still more unexpected, the fox was overtaken in the next thicket,
shaken to limpness, and dragged to be dropped at Quonab’s feet.
This glorious victory by Skookum was less surprising, when a closer
examination showed that the fox had been in a bad way. Through some sad,
sudden indiscretion, he had tackled a porcupine and paid the penalty.
His mouth, jaws and face, neck and legs, were bristling with quills. He
was sick and emaciated. He could not have lasted many days longer, and
Skookum’s summary lynching was a blessing in disguise.

The trappers’ usual routine was varied by a more important happening.
One day of deep snow in January, when they were running the northern
line on Racquet River, they camped for the night at their shelter
cabin, and were somewhat surprised at dusk to hear a loud challenge from
Skookum replied to by a human voice, and a short man with black whiskers
appeared. He raised one hand in token of friendliness and was invited to
come in.

He was a French Canadian from La Colle Mills. He had trapped here for
some years. The almost certainty of war between Canada and the States
had kept his usual companions away. So he had trapped alone, always a
dangerous business, and had gathered a lot of good fur, but had fallen
on the ice and hurt himself inwardly, so that he had no strength. He
could tramp out on snowshoes, but could not carry his pack of furs. He
had long known that he had neighbours on the south; the camp fire smoke
proved that, and he had come now to offer all his furs for sale.

Quonab shook his head, but Rolf said, “We’ll come over and see them.”

A two-hours’ tramp in the morning brought them to the Frenchman’s cabin.
He opened out his furs; several otter, many sable, some lynx, over
thirty beaver--the whole lot for two hundred dollars. At Lyons Falls
they were worth double that.

Rolf saw a chance for a bargain. He whispered, “We can double our money
on it, Quonab. What do ye say?”

The reply was simply, “Ugh! you are Nibowaka.”

“We’ll take your offer, if we can fix it up about payment, for I have no
money with me and barely two hundred dollars at the cabin.”

“You half tabac and grosairs?”

“Yes, plenty.”

“You can go ‘get ‘em? Si?”

Rolf paused, looked down, then straight at the Frenchman.

“Will you trust me to take half the fur now; when I come back with the
pay I can get the rest.”

The Frenchman looked puzzled, then, “By Gar you look de good look. I let
um go. I tink you pretty good fellow, parbleu!”

So Rolf marched away with half the furs and four days later he was back
and paid the pale-faced but happy Frenchman the one hundred and fifty
dollars he had received from Van Cortlandt, with other bills making one
hundred and ninety-five dollars and with groceries and tobacco enough to
satisfy the trapper. The Frenchman proved a most amiable character.
He and Rolf took to each other greatly, and when they shook hands at
parting, it was in the hope of an early and happier meeting.

Francois la Colle turned bravely for the ninety-mile tramp over the snow
to his home, while Rolf went south with the furs that were to prove
a most profitable investment, shaping his life in several ways, and
indirectly indeed of saving it on one occasion.



Chapter 68. War

Eighteen hundred and twelve had passed away. President Madison, driven
by wrongs to his countrymen and indignities that no nation should meekly
accept, had in the midsummer declared war on Great Britain. Unfitted to
cope with the situation and surrounded by unfit counsellors, his little
army of heroic men led by unfit commanders had suffered one reverse
after another.

The loss of Fort Mackinaw, Chicago, Detroit, Brownstown, and the total
destruction of the American army that attacked Queenstown were but
poorly offset by the victory at Niagara and the successful defence of
Ogdensburg.

Rolf and Quonab had repaired to Albany as arranged, but they left it
as United States scouts, not as guides to the four young sportsmen who
wished to hark back to the primitive.

Their first commission had been the bearing of despatches to Plattsburg.

With a selected light canoe and a minimum of baggage they reached
Ticonderoga in two days, and there renewed their acquaintance
with General Hampton, who was fussing about, and digging useless
entrenchments as though he expected a mighty siege. Rolf was called
before him to receive other despatches for Colonel Pike at Plattsburg.
He got the papers and learned their destination, then immediately made a
sad mistake. “Excuse me, sir,” he began, “if I meet with--”

“Young man,” said the general, severely, “I don’t want any of your ‘ifs’
or ‘buts’; your orders are ‘go.’ ‘How’ and ‘if’ are matters for you to
find out; that’s what you are paid for.”

Rolf bowed; his cheeks were tingling. He was very angry at what he
thought a most uncalled for rebuke, but he got over it, and he never
forgot the lesson. It was Si Sylvanne that put it into rememberable
form.

“A fool horse kin follow a turnpike, but it takes a man with wits to
climb, swim, boat, skate, run, hide, go it blind, pick a lock, take the
long way, round, when it’s the short way across, run away at the right
time, or fight when it’s wise--all in one afternoon.” Rolf set out for
the north carrying a bombastic (meant to be reassuring) message from
Hampton that he would annihilate any enemy who dared to desecrate the
waters of the lake.

It was on this trip that Rolf learned from Quonab the details of the
latter’s visit to his people on the St. Regis. Apparently the joy of
meeting a few of his own kin, with whom he could talk his own language,
was offset by meeting with a large number of his ancient enemies the
Mohawks. There had been much discussion of the possible war between the
British and the Yankees. The Mohawks announced their intention to fight
for the British, which was a sufficient reason for Quonab as a Sinawa
remaining with the Americans; and when he left the St. Regis reserve the
Indian was without any desire to reenter it.

At Plattsburg Rolf and Quonab met with another Albany acquaintance in
General Wilkinson, and from him received despatches which they brought
back to Albany, having covered the whole distance in eight days.

When 1812 was gone Rolf had done little but carry despatches up and down
Lake Champlain. Next season found the Americans still under command of
Generals Wilkinson and Hampton, whose utter incompetence was becoming
daily more evident.

The year 1813 saw Rolf, eighteen years old and six feet one in his
socks, a trained scout and despatch bearer.

By a flying trip on snowshoes in January he took letters, from General
Hampton at Ticonderoga to Sackett’s Harbour and back in eight days,
nearly three hundred miles. It made him famous as a runner, but the
tidings that he brought were sad. Through him they learned in detail of
the total defeat and capture of the American army at Frenchtown. After a
brief rest he was sent across country on snowshoes to bear a reassuring
message to Ogdensburg. The weather was much colder now, and the single
blanket bed was dangerously slight; so “Flying Kittering,” as they named
him, took a toboggan and secured Quonab as his running mate. Skookum
was given into safe keeping. Blankets, pots, cups, food, guns, and
despatches were strapped on the toboggan, and they sped away at dawn
from Ticonderoga on the 18th of February 1813, headed northwestward,
guided by little but the compass. Thirty miles that day they made in
spite of piercing blasts and driving snow. But with the night there
began a terrible storm with winds of zero chill. The air was filled
with stinging, cutting snow. When they rose at daylight they were nearly
buried in drifts, although their camp was in a dense, sheltered thicket.
Guided wholly by the compass they travelled again, but blinded by the
whirling white they stumbled and blundered into endless difficulties
and made but poor headway. After dragging the toboggan for three hours,
taking turns at breaking the way, they were changing places when Rolf
noticed a large gray patch on Quonab’s cheek and nose.

“Quonab, your face is frozen,” he said.

“So is yours,” was the reply.

Now they turned aside, followed a hollow until they reached a spruce
grove, where they camped and took an observation, to learn that the
compass and they held widely different views about the direction of
travel. It was obviously useless to face the storm. They rubbed out
their frozen features with dry snow and rested by the fire.

No good scout seeks for hardship; he avoids the unnecessary trial of
strength and saves himself for the unavoidable. With zero weather about
them and twenty-four hours to wait in the storm, the scouts set about
making themselves thoroughly comfortable.

With their snowshoes they dug away the snow in a circle a dozen feet
across, piling it up on the outside so as to make that as high as
possible. When they were down to the ground, the wall of snow around
them was five feet high. Now they went forth with the hatchets, cut many
small spruces, and piled them against the living spruces about the camp
till there was a dense mass of evergreen foliage ten feet high around
them, open only at the top, where was a space five feet across. With
abundance of dry spruce wood, a thick bed of balsam boughs, and plenty
of blankets they were in what most woodmen consider comfort complete.

They had nothing to do now but wait. Quonab sat placidly smoking, Rolf
was sewing a rent in his coat, the storm hissed, and the wind-driven ice
needles rattled through the trees to vary the crackle of the fire with a
“siss” as they fell on the embers. The low monotony of sound was lulling
in its evenness, when a faint crunch of a foot on the snow was heard.
Rolf reached for his gun, the fir tree screen was shaken a little, and a
minute later there bounded in upon them the snow covered form of little
dog Skookum, expressing his good-will by excessive sign talk in which
every limb and member had a part. They had left him behind, indeed, but
not with his consent, so the bargain was incomplete.

There was no need to ask now, What shall we do with him? Skookum had
settled that, and why or how he never attempted to explain.

He was wise who made it law that “as was his share who went forth to
battle, so shall his be that abode with the stuff,” for the hardest of
all is the waiting. In the morning there was less doing in the elemental
strife. There were even occasional periods of calm and at length it grew
so light that surely the veil was breaking.

Quonab returned from a brief reconnoitre to say, “Ugh!--good going.”

The clouds were broken and flying, the sun came out at times, but the
wind was high, the cold intense, and the snow still drifting. Poor
Skookum had it harder than the men, for they wore snowshoes; but he kept
his troubles to himself and bravely trudged along behind. Had he been
capable of such reflection he might have said, “What delightful weather,
it keeps the fleas so quiet.”

That day there was little to note but the intense cold, and again both
men had their cheeks frost-bitten on the north side. A nook under an
overhanging rock gave a good camp that night. Next day the bad weather
resumed, but, anxious to push on they faced it, guided chiefly by the
wind. It was northwest, and as long as they felt this fierce, burning
cold mercilessly gnawing on their hapless tender right cheek bones, they
knew they were keeping their proper main course.

They were glad indeed to rest at dusk and thaw their frozen faces. Next
day at dawn they were off; at first it was calm, but the surging of the
snow waves soon began again, and the air was filled with the spray of
their lashing till it was hard to see fifty yards in any direction. They
were making very bad time. The fourth day should have brought them to
Ogdensburg, but they were still far off; how far they could only guess,
for they had not come across a house or a settler.



Chapter 69. Ogdensburg

The same blizzard was raging on the next day when Skookum gave
unequivocal sign talk that he smelled something.

It is always well to find out what stirs your dog. Quonab looked hard at
Skookum. That sagacious mongrel was sniffing vigorously, up in the air,
not on the ground; his mane was not bristling, and the patch of dark
hair that every gray or yellow dog has at the base of his tail, was not
lifted.

“He smells smoke,” was the Indian’s quick diagnosis. Rolf pointed Up the
wind and made the sign-talk query. Quonab nodded.

It was their obvious duty to find out who was their smoky neighbour.
They were now not so far from the St. Lawrence; there was a small chance
of the smoke being from a party of the enemy; there was a large chance
of it being from friends; and the largest chance was that it came from
some settler’s cabin where they could get necessary guidance.

They turned aside. The wind now, instead of on the right cheek, was
square in their faces. Rolf went forward increasing his pace till he was
as far ahead as was possible without being out of sight. After a mile
their way led downward, the timber was thicker, the wind less, and the
air no more befogged with flying snow. Rolf came to a long, deep trench
that wound among the trees; the snow at the bottom of it was very hard.
This was what he expected; the trail muffled under new, soft snow, but
still a fresh trail and leading to the camp that Skookum had winded.

He turned and made the sign for them to halt and wait. Then strode
cautiously along the winding guide line.

In twenty minutes the indications of a settlement increased, and the
scout at length was peering from the woods across the open down to a
broad stream on whose bank was a saw mill, with the usual wilderness of
ramshackle shanties, sheds, and lumber piles about.

There was no work going on, which was a puzzle till Rolf remembered
it was Sunday. He went boldly up and asked for the boss. His whole
appearance was that of a hunter and as such the boss received him.

He was coming through from the other side and had missed his way in the
storm, he explained.

“What are ye by trade?”

“A trapper.”

“Where are ye bound now?”

“Well, I’ll head for the nearest big settlement, whatever that is.”

“It’s just above an even thing between Alexandria Bay and Ogdensburg.”

So Rolf inquired fully about the trail to Alexandria Bay that he did not
want to go to. Why should he be so careful? The mill owner was clearly
a good American, but the scout had no right to let any outsider know his
business. This mill owner might be safe, but he might be unwise and blab
to some one who was not all right.

Then in a casual way he learned that this was the Oswegatchie River and
thirty miles down he would find the town of Ogdensburg.

No great recent events did he hear of, but evidently the British
troops across the river were only awaiting the springtime before taking
offensive measures.

For the looks of it, Rolf bought some tea and pork, but the hospitable
mill man refused to take payment and, leaving in the direction of
Alexandria Bay, Rolf presently circled back and rejoined his friends in
the woods.

A long detour took them past the mill. It was too cold for outdoor
idling. Every window was curtained with frost, and not a soul saw them
as they tramped along past the place and down to continue on the ice of
the Oswegatchie.

Pounded by the ceaseless wind, the snow on the ice was harder, travel
was easier, and the same tireless blizzard wiped out the trail as soon
as it was behind them.

Crooked is the river trail, but good the footing, and good time was
made. When there was a north reach, the snow was extra hard or the ice
clear and the scouts slipped off their snow shoes, and trotted at a good
six-mile gait. Three times they halted for tea and rest, but the fact
that they were the bearers of precious despatches, the bringers of
inspiring good news, and their goal ever nearer, spurred them on and
on. It was ten o’clock that morning when they left the mill, some thirty
miles from Ogdensburg. It was now near sundown, but still they figured
that by an effort they could reach the goal that night. It was their
best day’s travel, but they were nerved to it by the sense of triumph as
they trotted; and the prospective joy of marching up to the commandant
and handing over the eagerly looked for, reassuring documents, gave
them new strength and ambition. Yes! they must push on at any price that
night. Day was over now; Rolf was leading at a steady trot. In his hand
he held the long trace of his toboggan, ten feet behind was Quonab with
the short trace, while Skookum trotted before, beside, or behind, as was
dictated by his general sense of responsibility.

It was quite dark now. There was no moon, the wooded shore was black.
Their only guide was the broad, wide reach of the river, sometimes swept
bare of snow by the wind, but good travelling at all times. They were
trotting and walking in spells, going five miles an hour; Quonab was
suffering, but Rolf was young and eager to finish. They rounded another
reach, they were now on the last big bend, they were reeling off the
miles; only ten more, and Rolf was so stirred that, instead of dropping
to the usual walk on signal at the next one hundred yards spell, he
added to his trot. Quonab, taken unawares, slipped and lost his hold of
the trace. Rolf shot ahead and a moment later there was the crash of a
breaking air-hole, and Rolf went through the ice, clutched at the broken
edge and disappeared, while the toboggan was dragged to the hole.

Quonab sprung to his feet, and then to the lower side of the hole.
The toboggan had swung to the same place and the long trace was tight;
without a moment’s delay the Indian hauled at it steadily, heavily, and
in a few seconds the head of his companion reappeared; still clutching
that long trace he was safely dragged from the ice-cold flood, blowing
and gasping, shivering and sopping, but otherwise unhurt.

Now here a new danger presented itself. The zero wind would soon turn
his clothes to boards. They stiffened in a few minutes, and the Indian
knew that frozen hands and feet were all too easy in frozen clothes.

He made at once for the shore, and, seeking the heart of a spruce
thicket, lost no time in building two roaring fires between which Rolf
stood while the Indian made the bed, in which, as soon as he could be
stripped, the lad was glad to hide. Warm tea and warm blankets made
him warm, but it would take an hour or two to dry his clothes. There is
nothing more damaging than drying them too quickly. Quonab made racks of
poles and spent the next two hours in regulating the fire, watching the
clothes, and working the moccasins.

It was midnight when they were ready and any question of going on at
once was settled by Quonab. “Ogdensburg is under arms,” he said. “It is
not wise to approach by night.”

At six in the morning they were once more going, stiff with travel,
sore-footed, face-frozen, and chafed by delay; but, swift and keen,
trotting and walking, they went. They passed several settlements, but
avoided them. At seven-thirty they had a distant glimpse of Ogdensburg
and heard the inspiring roll of drums, and a few minutes later from
the top of a hill they had a complete view of the heroic little town to
see--yes! plainly enough--that the British flag was flying from the flag
pole.



Chapter 70. Saving the Despatches

Oh, the sickening shock of it! Rolf did not know till now how tired he
was, how eager to deliver the heartening message, and to relax a little
from the strain. He felt weak through and through. There could be no
doubt that a disaster had befallen his country’s arms.

His first care was to get out of sight with his sled and those precious
despatches.

Now what should he do? Nothing till he had fuller information. He sent
Quonab back with the sled, instructing him to go to a certain place two
miles off, there camp out of sight and wait.

Then he went in alone. Again and again he was stung by the thought, “If
I had come sooner they might have held out.”

A number of teams gathered at the largest of a group of houses on the
bank suggested a tavern. He went in and found many men sitting down
to breakfast. He had no need to ask questions. It was the talk of the
table. Ogdensburg had been captured the day before. The story is well
known. Colonel MacDonnell with his Glengarry Highlanders at Prescott
went to drill daily on the ice of the St. Lawrence opposite Ogdensburg.
Sometimes they marched past just out of range, sometimes they charged
and wheeled before coming too near. The few Americans that held the
place watched these harmless exercises and often cheered some clever
manceuvre. They felt quite safe behind their fortification. By an
unwritten agreement both parties refrained from firing random shots at
each other. There was little to suggest enemies entrenched; indeed, many
men in each party had friends in the other, and the British had several
times trotted past within easy range, without provoking a shot.

On February 22d, the day when Rolf and Quonab struck the Oswegatchie,
the British colonel directed his men as usual, swinging them ever nearer
the American fort, and then, at the nearest point, executed a very
pretty charge. The Americans watched it as it neared, but instead of
wheeling at the brink the little army scrambled up with merry shouts,
and before the garrison could realize that this was war, they were
overpowered and Ogdensburg was taken.

The American commander was captured. Captain Forsyth, the second in
command, had been off on a snowshoe trip, so had escaped. All the
rest were prisoners, and what to do with the despatches or how to get
official instructions was now a deep problem. “When you don’t know a
thing to do, don’t do a thing,” was one of Si Sylvanne’s axioms; also,
“In case of doubt lay low and say nothing.” Rolf hung around the town
all day waiting for light. About noon a tall, straight, alert man in a
buffalo coat drove up with a cutter. He had a hasty meal in an inside
room. Rolf sized him up for an American officer, but there was a
possibility of his being a Canadian. Rolf tried in vain to get light on
him but the inner door was kept closed; the landlord was evidently in
the secret. When he came out he was again swaddled in the buffalo coat.
Rolf brushed past him--here was something hard and long in the right
pocket of the big coat.

The landlord, the guest, and the driver had a whispered conference.
Rolf went as near as he dared, but got only a searching look. The driver
spoke to another driver and Rolf heard the words “Black Lake.” Yes,
that was what he suspected. Black Lake was on the inland sleigh route to
Alexandria Bay and Sackett’s Harbour.

The driver, a fresh young fellow, was evidently interested in the
landlord’s daughter; the stranger was talking with the landlord. As soon
as they had parted, Rolf went to the latter and remarked quietly: “The
captain is in a hurry.” The only reply was a cold look and: “Guess
that’s his business.” So it was the captain. The driver’s mitts were on
the line back of the stove. Rolf shook them so that they fell in a dark
corner. The driver missed his mitts, and glad of a chance went back in,
leaving the officer alone. “Captain Forsyth,” whispered Rolf, “don’t go
till I have talked with you. I’ll meet you a mile down the road.”

“Who are you and what do you want?” was the curt and hostile reply,
evidently admitting the identification correct however.

Rolf opened his coat and showed his scout badge.

“Why not talk now if you have any news--come in side.” So the two went
to the inner room. “Who is this?” asked Rolf cautiously as the landlord
came in.

“He’s all right. This is Titus Flack, the landlord.”

“How am I to know that?”

“Haven’t you heard him called by name all day?” said the captain.

Flack smiled, went out and returned with his license to sell liquor, and
his commission as a magistrate of New York State. The latter bore his
own signature. He took a pen and reproduced it. Now the captain threw
back his overcoat and stood in the full uniform of an army officer.
He opened his satchel and took out a paper, but Rolf caught sight of
another packet addressed to General Hampton. The small one was merely a
map. “I think that packet in there is meant for me,” remarked Rolf.

“We haven’t seen your credentials yet,” said the officer. “I have them
two miles back there,” and Rolf pointed to the woods.

“Let’s go,” said the captain and they arose. Kittering had a way of
inspiring confidence, but in the short, silent ride of two miles the
captain began to have his doubts. The scout badge might have been
stolen; Canadians often pass for Americans, etc. At length they stopped
the sleigh, and Rolf led into the woods. Before a hundred yards the
officer said, “Stop,” and Rolf stopped to find a pistol pointed at his
head. “Now, young fellow, you’ve played it pretty slick, and I don’t
know yet what to make of it. But I know this; at the very first sign of
treachery I’ll blow your brains out anyway.” It gave Rolf a jolt. This
was the first time he had looked down a pistol barrel levelled at him.
He used to think a pistol a little thing, an inch through and a foot
long, but he found now it seemed as big as a flour barrel and long
enough to reach eternity. He changed colour but quickly recovered,
smiled, and said: “Don’t worry; in five minutes you will know it’s all
right.”

Very soon a sharp bark was heard in challenge, and the two stepped into
camp to meet Quonab and little dog Skookum.

“Doesn’t look much like a trap,” thought the captain after he had cast
his eyes about and made sure that no other person was in the camp; then
aloud, “Now what have you to show me?”

“Excuse me, captain, but how am I to know you are Captain Forsyth? It is
possible for a couple of spies to give all the proof you two gave me.”

The captain opened his bag and showed first his instructions given
before he left Ogdensburg four days ago; he bared his arm and showed a
tattooed U. S. A., a relic of Academy days, then his linen marked J. F.,
and a signet ring with similar initials, and last the great packet of
papers addressed to General Hampton. Then he said: “When you hand over
your despatches to me I will give mine to you and we shall have good
guarantee each of the other.”

Rolf rose, produced his bundle of papers, and exchanged them for those
held by Forsyth; each felt that the other was safe. They soon grew
friendly, and Rolf heard of some stirring doings on the lake and
preparations for a great campaign in the spring.

After half an hour the tall, handsome captain left them and strode away,
a picture of manly vigour. Three hours later they were preparing their
evening meal when Skookum gave notice of a stranger approaching. This
was time of war; Rolf held his rifle ready, and a moment later in burst
the young man who had been Captain Forsyth’s driver.

His face was white; blood dripped from his left arm, and in his other
hand was the despatch bag. He glanced keenly at Rolf. “Are you General
Hampton’s scout?” Rolf nodded and showed the badge on his breast.
“Captain Forsyth sent this back,” he gasped. “His last words were, ‘Burn
the despatches rather than let the British get them.’ They got him--a
foraging party--there was a spy at the hotel. I got away, but my tracks
are easy to follow unless it drifts. Don’t wait.”

Poor boy, his arm was broken, but he carried out the dead officer’s
command, then left them to seek for relief in the settlement.

Night was near, but Rolf broke camp at once and started eastward with
the double packet. He did not know it then, but learned afterward that
these despatches made clear the weakness of Oswego, Rochester, and
Sackett’s Harbour, their urgent need of help, and gave the whole plan
for an American counter attack on Montreal. But he knew they were
valuable, and they must at once be taken to General Hampton.

It was rough, hard going in the thick woods and swamps away from the
river, for he did not dare take the ice route now, but they pushed on
for three hours, then, in the gloom, made a miserable camp in a cedar
swamp.

At dawn they were off again. To their disgust the weather now was dead
calm; there was no drift to hide their tracks; the trail was as plain as
a highway wherever they went. They came to a beaten road, followed that
for half a mile, then struck off on the true line. But they had no idea
that they were followed until, after an hour of travel, the sun came up
and on a far distant slope, full two miles away, they saw a thin black
line of many spots, at least a dozen British soldiers in pursuit.

The enemy was on snowshoes, and without baggage evidently, for they
travelled fast. Rolf and Quonab burdened with the sled were making
a losing race. But they pushed on as fast as possible--toiling and
sweating at that precious load. Rolf was pondering whether the time had
not yet come to stop and burn the packet, when, glancing back from a
high ridge that gave an outlook, he glimpsed a row of heads that dropped
behind some rocks half a mile away, and a scheme came into his mind. He
marched boldly across the twenty feet opening that was in the enemy’s
view, dropped behind the spruce thickets, called Quonab to follow, ran
around the thicket, and again crossed the open view. So he and Quonab
continued for five minutes, as fast as they could go, knowing perfectly
well that they were watched. Round and round that bush they went,
sometimes close together, carrying the guns, sometimes dragging the
sled, sometimes with blankets on their shoulders, sometimes with a short
bag or even a large cake of snow on their backs. They did everything
they could to vary the scene, and before five minutes the British
officer in charge had counted fifty-six armed Americans marching in
single file up the bank with ample stores, accompanied by five yellow
dogs. Had Skookum been allowed to carry out his ideas, there would have
been fifty or sixty yellow dogs, so thoroughly did he enter into the
spirit of the game.

The track gave no hint of such a troop, but of course not, how could it?
since the toboggan left all smooth after they had passed, or maybe this
was a reinforcement arriving. What could he do with his ten men against
fifty of the enemy? He thanked his stars that he had so cleverly evaded
the trap, and without further attempt to gauge the enemy’s strength, he
turned and made all possible haste back to the shelter of Ogdensburg.



Chapter 71. Sackett’s Harbour

It was hours before Rolf was sure that he had stopped the pursuit, and
the thing that finally set his mind at rest was the rising wind that
soon was a raging and drifting snow storm. “Oh, blessed storm!” he said
in his heart, as he marked all trail disappear within a few seconds
of its being made. And he thought: “How I cursed the wind that held me
back--really from being made prisoner. How vexed I was at that ducking
in the river, that really saved my despatches from the enemy. How
thankful I am now for the storm that a little while back seemed so
bitterly cruel.”

That forenoon they struck the big bend of the river and now did not
hesitate to use the easy travel on the ice as far as Rensselaer Falls,
where, having got their bearings from a settler, they struck across the
country through the storm, and at night were encamped some forty miles
from Ogdensburg.

Marvellously few signs of game had they seen in this hard trip;
everything that could hide away was avoiding the weather. But in a cedar
bottom land near Cranberry Lake they found a “yard” that seemed to be
the winter home of hundreds of deer. It extended two or three miles one
way a half a mile the other; in spite of the deep snow this was nearly
all in beaten paths. The scouts saw at least fifty deer in going
through, so, of course, had no difficulty in selecting a young buck for
table use.

The going from there on was of little interest. It was the same old
daily battle with the frost, but less rigorous than before, for now the
cold winds were behind, and on the 27th of February, nine days after
leaving, they trotted into Ticonderoga and reported at the commandant’s
headquarters.

The general was still digging entrenchments and threatening to
annihilate all Canada. But the contents of the despatches gave him new
topics for thought and speech. The part he must play in the proposed
descent on Montreal was flattering, but it made the Ticonderoga
entrenchments ridiculous.

For three days Rolf was kept cutting wood, then he went with despatches
to Albany.

Many minor labours, from hog-killing to stable-cleaning and trenching,
varied the month of March. Then came the uncertain time of April when
it was neither canoeing nor snow-shoeing and all communication from the
north was cut off.

But May, great, glorious May came on, with its inspiring airs and
livening influence. Canoes were afloat, the woods were brown beneath and
gold above.

Rolf felt like a young stag in his strength. He was spoiling for a run
and volunteered eagerly to carry despatches to Sackett’s Harbour. He
would go alone, for now one blanket was sufficient bed, and a couple of
pounds of dry meat was enough food for each day. A small hatchet would
be useful, but his rifle seemed too heavy to carry; as he halted in
doubt, a junior officer offered him a pistol instead, and he gladly
stuck it in his belt.

Taller than ever, considerably over six feet now, somewhat lanky, but
supple of joint and square of shoulder, he strode with the easy stride
of a strong traveller. His colour was up, his blue-gray eyes ablaze
as he took the long trail in a crow line across country for Sackett’s
Harbour. The sentry saluted, and the officer of the day, struck by his
figure and his glowing face as much as by the nature of his errand,
stopped to shake hands and say, “Well, good luck, Kittering, and may you
bring us better news than the last two times.”

Rolf knew how to travel now; he began softly. At a long, easy stride he
went for half an hour, then at a swinging trot for a mile or two. Five
miles an hour he could make, but there was one great obstacle to speed
at this season--every stream was at flood, all were difficult to cross.
The brooks he could wade or sometimes could fell a tree across them, but
the rivers were too wide to bridge, too cold and dangerous to swim. In
nearly every case he had to make a raft. A good scout takes no chances.
A slight raft means a risky passage; a good one, a safe crossing but
loss of time in preparations. Fifteen good rafts did Rolf make in that
cross-country journey of three days: dry spruce logs he found each time
and bound them together with leather-wood and withes of willow. It meant
a delay of at least an hour each time; that is five hours each day. But
the time was wisely spent. The days were lengthening; he could travel
much at dusk. Soon he was among settlements. Rumours he got at a
settler’s cabin of Sir George Prevost’s attack on Sackett’s Harbour and
the gallant repulse and at morning of the fourth day he came on the hill
above Sackett’s Harbour--the same hill where he had stood three months
before. It was with something like a clutching of his breath that he
gazed; his past experiences suggested dreadful thoughts but no--thank
God, “Old Glory” floated from the pole. He identified himself to the
sentinels and the guard, entered the fort at a trot, and reported at
headquarters.

There was joy on every side. At last the tide had turned. Commodore
Chauncey, after sweeping Lake Ontario, had made a sudden descent on York
(Toronto now) the capital of Upper Canada, had seized and destroyed
it. Sir George Prevost, taking advantage of Chauncey’s being away, had
attacked Sackett’s Harbour, but, in spite of the absence of the fleet,
the resistance had been so vigorous that in a few days the siege was
abandoned.

There were shot holes in walls and roofs, there were a few wounded
in the hospital, the green embankments were torn, and the flag-pole
splintered; but the enemy was gone, the starry flag was floating on the
wind, and the sturdy little garrison filled with a spirit that grows
only in heroes fighting for their homes.

How joyfully different from Ogdensburg.



Chapter 72. Scouting Across Country

That very night, Rolf turned again with the latest news and the
commandant’s reports.

He was learning the country well now, and, with the wonderful
place-memory of a woodman, he was able to follow his exact back trail.
It might not have been the best way, but it gave him this advantage--in
nearly every case he was able to use again the raft he had made in
coming, and thereby saved many hours of precious time.

On the way out he had seen a good many deer and one bear, and had heard
the howling of wolves every night; but always at a distance. On the
second night, in the very heart of the wilderness, the wolves were noisy
and seemed very near. Rolf was camping in the darkness. He made a small
fire with such stuff as he could find by groping, then, when the fire
blazed, he discovered by its light a dead spruce some twenty yards away.
Taking his hatchet he went toward this, and, as he did so, a wolf rose
up, with its forefeet on a log, only five yards beyond the tree and
gazed curiously at him. Others were heard calling; presently this wolf
raised its muzzle and uttered a long smooth howl.

Rolf had left his pistol back at the fire; he dared not throw his
hatchet, as that would have left him unarmed. He stooped, picked up a
stick, and threw that; the wolf ducked so that it passed over, then,
stepping back from the log, stood gazing without obvious fear or menace.
The others were howling; Rolf felt afraid. He backed cautiously to the
fire, got his pistol and came again to the place, but nothing more did
he see of the wolf, though he heard them all night and kept up two great
fires for a protection.

In the morning he started as usual, and before half an hour he was aware
of a wolf, and later of two, trotting along his trail, a few hundred
yards behind. They did not try to overtake him; indeed, when he stopped,
they did the same; and when he trotted, they, true to their dog-like
nature, ran more rapidly in pursuit. How Rolf did wish for his long
rifle; but they gave no opportunity for a shot with the pistol. They
acted, indeed, as though they knew their safe distance and the exact
range of the junior gun. The scout made a trap for them by stealing back
after he had crossed a ridge, and hiding near his own trail. But the
wind conveyed a warning, and the wolves merely sat down and waited
till he came out and went on. All day long these two strange ban dogs
followed him and gave no sign of hunger or malice; then, after he
crossed a river, at three in the afternoon, he saw no more of them.
Years after, when Rolf knew them better, he believed they followed him
out of mild curiosity, or possibly in the hope that he would kill a deer
in which they might share. And when they left him, it was because they
were near the edge of their own home region; they had seen him off their
hunting grounds.

That night he camped sixty miles from Ticonderoga, but he was resolved
to cover the distance in one day. Had he not promised to be back in a
week? The older hands had shaken their heads incredulously, and he, in
the pride of his legs, was determined to be as good as his promise. He
scarcely dared sleep lest he should oversleep. At ten he lay down. At
eleven the moon was due to rise; as soon as that was three hours high
there would be light enough, and he proposed to go on. At least half
a dozen times he woke with a start, fearing he had overslept, but
reassured by a glance at the low-hung moon, he had slumbered again.

At last the moon was four hours high, and the woods were plain in the
soft light. A horned owl “hoo-hoo-ed,” and a far-off wolf uttered
a drawn-out, soft, melancholy cry, as Rolf finished his dried meat,
tightened his belt, and set out on a long, hard run that, in the days of
Greece, would have furnished the theme of many a noble epic poem.

No need to consult his compass. The blazing lamp of the dark sky was his
guide, straight east his course, varied a little by hills and lakes, but
nearly the crow-flight line. At first his pace was a steady, swinging
stride; then after a mile he came to an open lake shore down which he
went at a six-mile trot; and then an alder thicket through which his
progress was very slow; but that soon passed, and for half a mile he
splashed through swamps with water a foot deep: nor was he surprised
at length to see it open into a little lake with a dozen beaver huts in
view. “Splash, prong” their builders went at his approach, but he made
for the hillside; the woods were open, the moonlight brilliant now, and
here he trotted at full swing as long as the way was level or down,
but always walked on the uphill. A sudden noise ahead was followed by
a tremendous crashing and crackling of the brush. For a moment it
continued, and what it meant, Rolf never knew or guessed.

“Trot, trot,” he went, reeling off six miles in the open, two or perhaps
three in the thickets, but on and on, ever eastward. Hill after hill,
swamp after swamp, he crossed, lake after lake he skirted round, and,
when he reached some little stream, he sought a log bridge or prodded
with a pole till he found a ford and crossed, then ran a mile or two to
make up loss of time.

Tramp, tramp, tramp, and his steady breath and his steady heart kept
unremitting rhythm.



Chapter 73. Rolf Makes a Record

Twelve miles were gone when the foreglow--the first cold dawn-light
showed, and shining across his path ahead was a mighty rolling stream.
Guided by the now familiar form of Goodenow Peak he made for this, the
Hudson’s lordly flood. There was his raft securely held, with paddle and
pole near by, and he pushed off with all the force of his young vigour.
Jumping and careening with the stream in its freshet flood, the raft and
its hardy pilot were served with many a whirl and some round spins, but
the long pole found bottom nearly everywhere, and not ten minutes passed
before the traveller sprang ashore, tied up his craft, then swung and
tramped and swung.

Over the hills of Vanderwhacker, under the woods of Boreas. Tramp,
tramp, splash, tramp, wringing and sopping, but strong and hot, tramp,
tramp, tramp, tramp. The partridge whirred from his path, the gray deer
snorted, and the panther sneaked aside. Tramp, tramp, trot, trot, and
the Washburn Ridge was blue against the sunrise. Trot, trot, over the
low, level, mile-long slope he went, and when the Day-god burnt the
upper hill-rim he was by brown Tahawus flood and had covered eighteen
miles.

By the stream he stopped to drink. A partridge cock, in the pride of
spring, strutted arrogantly on a log. Rolf drew his pistol, fired, then
hung the headless body while he made a camper’s blaze: an oatcake, the
partridge, and river water were his meal. His impulse was to go on at
once. His reason, said “go slow.” So he waited for fifteen minutes. Then
again, beginning with a slow walk, he ere long added to his pace. In
half an hour he was striding and in an hour the steady “trot, trot,”
 that slackened only for the hills or swamps. In an hour more he was
on the Washburn Ridge, and far away in the east saw Schroon Lake that
empties in the river Schroon; and as he strode along, exulting in his
strength, he sang in his heart for joy. Again a gray wolf cantered on
his trail, and the runner laughed, without a thought of fear. He seemed
to know the creature better now; knew it as a brother, for it gave
no hostile sound, but only seemed to trot, trot, for the small joy of
running with a runner, as a swallow or an antelope will skim along by
a speeding train. For an hour or more it matched his pace, then left as
though its pleasant stroll was done, and Rolf kept on and on and on.

The spring sun soared on high, the day grew warm at noon. Schroon River
just above the lake was in his path, and here he stopped to rest. Here,
with the last of his oatcake and a little tea, he made his final meal;
thirty eight miles had he covered since he rose; his clothes were torn,
his moccasins worn, but his legs were strong, his purpose sure; only
twenty-two miles now, and his duty would be done; his honours won. What
should he do, push on at once? No, he meant to rest an hour. He made a
good fire by a little pool, and using a great mass of caribou moss as a
sponge, he had a thorough rub-down. He got out his ever-ready needle
and put his moccasins in good shape; he dried his clothes and lay on his
back till the hour was nearly gone. Then he girded himself for this the
final run. He was weary, indeed, but he was far from spent, and the iron
will that had yearly grown in force was there with its unconquerable
support.

Slowly at start, soon striding, and at last in the famous jog trot of
the scout he went. The sky was blackened with clouds at length, and the
jealous, howling east wind rolled up in rain; the spindrift blurred the
way; the heavy showers of spring came down and drenched him; but his
pack was safe and he trotted on and on. Then long, deep swamps of alder
barred his path, and, guided only by the compass, Rolf pushed in and
through and ever east. Barely a mile an hour in the thickest part
he made, but lagged not; drenched and footsore, warm and torn, but
doggedly, steadily on. At three he had made a scant seven miles; then
the level, open wood of Thunderbolt was reached and his stride became a
run; trot, trot, trot, at six-mile gait, for but fifteen miles remained.
Sustained, inspired, the bringer of good news, he halted not and
faltered not, but on and on.

Tramp tramp, tramp tramp--endless, tireless, hour by hour. At five he
was on Thunder Creek, scarce eight miles more to the goal; his limbs
were sore, his feet were sore; bone tired was he, but his heart was
filled with joy.

“News of battle, news of victory” he was bringing, and the thought lent
strength; the five mires passed, the way was plain with good roads now,
but the runner was so weary. He was striding, his running was done, the
sun was low in the west, his feet were bleeding, the courier was brain
worn and leg worn, but he strode and strode. He passed by homes but
heeded them not.

“Come in and rest,” called one who saw nothing but a weary traveller.
Rolf shook his head, but gave no word and strode along. A mile--a short
mile now; he must hold out; if he sat down he feared he could not rise.
He came at last in sight of the fort; then, gathering all his force, he
broke into a trot, weak, so weak that had he fallen, he could scarcely
have got up, and slow, but faster than a walk: and so, as the red sun
sank, he passed the gate. He had no right to give tidings to any but the
general, yet they read it in his eyes. The guard broke into a cheer,
and trotting still, though reeling, Rolf had kept his word, had made his
run, had brought the news, and had safely reached his goal.



Chapter 74. Van Trumper’s Again

Why should the scout bringing good news be differently received from the
one that brings the ill? He did not make, the news, he simply did his
duty; the same in both cases. He is merely the telegraph instrument.
Yet it is so ever. King Pharaoh slew the bearer of ill-tidings; that was
human nature. And General Hampton brought in the tall stripling to his
table, to honour him, to get the fullest details, to glory in every
item as though it all were due to himself. Rolf’s wonderful journey was
dilated on, and in the reports to Albany he was honourably mentioned for
exceptionally meritorious service as a bearer of despatches.

For three days Flying Kittering was hero of the post; then other runners
came with other news and life went on.

Hitherto the scouts had worn no uniform, but the execution of one of
their number, who was captured by the British and treated as a spy,
resulted in orders that all be formally enlisted and put in uniform.

Not a few withdrew from the service; some, like Quonab, reluctantly
consented, but Rolf was developing the fighting spirit, and was proud to
wear the colours.

The drill was tedious enough, but it was of short duration for him.
Despatches were to go to Albany. The general, partly to honour Rolf,
selected him.

“Are you ready for another run, Kittering?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then prepare to start as soon as possible for Fort George and Albany.
Do you want a mate?”

“I should like a paddler as far as Fort George.”

“Well, pick your man.”

“Quonab.”

And when they set out, for the first time Rolf was in the stern, the
post of guidance and command. So once more the two were travelling again
with Skookum in the bow. It was afternoon when they started and the
four-mile passage of the creek was slow, but down the long, glorious
vista of the noble George they went at full canoe-flight, five miles an
hour, and twenty-five miles of the great fair-way were reeled and past
when they lighted their nightly fire.

At dawn-cry of the hawk they sped away, and in spite of a rising wind
they made six miles in two hours.

As they approached the familiar landing of Van Trumper’s farm, Skookum
began to show a most zestful interest that recalled the blackened pages
of his past. “Quonab, better use that,” and Rolf handed a line with
which Skookum was secured and thus led to make a new record, for this
was the first time in his life that he landed at Van Trumper’s without
sacrificing a chicken in honour of the joyful occasion.

They entered the house as the family were sitting down to breakfast.

“Mein Hemel! mein Hemel! It is Rolf and Quonab; and vere is dot tam dog?
Marta, vere is de chickens? Vy, Rolf, you bin now a giant, yah. Mein
Gott, it is I am glad! I did tink der cannibals you had eat; is it dem
Canadian or cannibal? I tink it all one the same, yah!”

Marta was actually crying, the little ones were climbing over Rolf’s
knee, and Annette, tall and sixteen now, stood shyly by, awaiting a
chance to shake hands. Home is the abiding place of those we love; it
may be a castle or a cave, a shanty or a chateau, a moving van, a tepee,
or a canal boat, a fortress or the shady side of a bush, but it is home,
if there indeed we meet the faces that are ever in the heart, and find
the hands whose touch conveys the friendly glow. Was there any other
spot on earth where he could sit by the fire and feel that “hereabout
are mine own, the people I love?” Rolf knew it now--Van Trumper’s was
his home.

Talks of the war, of disasters by land, and of glorious victories on
the sea, where England, long the unquestioned mistress of the waves,
had been humbled again and again by the dauntless seamen of her Western
blood; talks of big doings by the nation, and, yet more interesting,
small doings by the travellers, and the breakfast passed all too soon.
The young scout rose, for he was on-duty, but the long rollers on the
lake forbade the going forth. Van’s was a pleasant place to wait, but
he chafed at the delay; his pride would have him make a record on every
journey. But wait he must. Skookum tied safely to his purgatorial post
whined indignantly--and with head cocked on one side, picked out
the very hen he would like to utilize--as soon as released from his
temporary embarrassment. Quonab went out on a rock to bum some tobacco
and pray for calm, and Rolf, ever active, followed Van to look over
the stock and buildings, and hear of minor troubles. The chimney was
unaccountably given to smoking this year. Rolf took an axe and with two
blows cut down a vigorous growth shrubbery that stood above the chimney
on the west, and the smoking ceased. Buck ox had a lame foot and would
allow no one even to examine it. But a skilful ox-handler easily hobbles
an ox, throws him near some small tree, and then, by binding the lame
foot to the tree, can have a free hand. It proved a simple matter, a
deep-sunk, rusty nail. And when the nail was drawn and the place washed
clean with hot brine, kind nature was left in confidence to do the
rest. They drifted back to the house now. Tomas met them shouting out a
mixture of Dutch and English and holding by the cover Annette’s book of
the “Good Girl.” But its rightful owner rescued the precious volume and
put it on the shelf.

“Have you read it through, Annette?”

“Yes,” was the reply, for she had learned to read before they left
Schuylerville.

“How do you like it?”

“Didn’t like it a bit; I like ‘Robinson Crusoe’,” was the candid reply.

The noon hour came, still the white rollers were pounding the shore.

“If it does not calm by one o’clock I’ll go on afoot.”

So off he went with the packet, leaving Quonab to follow and await his
return at Fort George. In Schuyler settlement he spent the night and at
noon next day was in Albany.

How it stirred his soul to see the busy interest, the marching of men,
the sailing of vessels, and above all to hear of more victories on the
high seas. What mattered a few frontier defeats in the north, when the
arrogant foe that had spurned and insulted them before the world had now
been humbled again and again.

Young Van Cortlandt was away, but the governor’s reception of him
reflected the electric atmosphere--the country’s pride in her sons.

Rolf had a matter of his own to settle. At the bookseller’s he asked for
and actually secured a copy of the great book--“Robinson Crusoe.” It was
with a thrilling feeling of triumph that he wrote Annette’s name in it
and stowed it in his bag.

He left Albany next day in the gray dawn. Thanks to his uniform, he got
a twenty-five mile lift with a traveller who drove a fast team, and the
blue water was glinting back the stars when he joined Quonab at Fort
George, some sixty miles away.

In the calm betwixt star-peep and sun-up they were afloat. It was a
great temptation to stop at Hendrik’s for a spell, but breakfast was
over, the water was calm, and duty called him. He hallooed, then they
drew near enough to hand the book ashore. Skookum growled, probably at
the hens, and the family waved their aprons as he sped on. Thirty miles
of lake and four miles of Ticonderoga Creek they passed and the packet
was delivered in four days and three hours since leaving.

The general smiled and his short but amply sufficient praise was merely,
“You’re a good ‘un.”



Chapter 75. Scouting in Canada

“Thar is two things,” said Si Sylvanne to the senate, “that every
national crisis is bound to show up: first, a lot o’ dum fools in
command; second a lot o great commanders in the ranks. An’ fortunately
before the crisis is over the hull thing is sure set right, and the men
is where they oughter be.”

How true this was the nation was just beginning to learn. The fools in
command were already demonstrated, and the summer of 1813 was replete
with additional evidence. May, June, and July passed with many
journeyings for Rolf and many times with sad news. The disasters at
Stony Creek, Beaver Dam, and Niagara were severe blows to the army on
the western frontier. In June on Lake Champlain the brave but reckless
Lieutenant Sidney Smith had run his two sloops into a trap. Thus the
Growler and the Eagle were lost to the Americans, and strengthened by
that much the British navy on the lake.

Encouraged by these successes, the British north of Lake Champlain made
raid after raid into American territory, destroying what they could not
carry off.

Rolf and Quonab were sent to scout in that country and if possible give
timely notice of raiders in force.

The Americans were averse to employing Indians in warfare; the British
entertained no such scruples and had many red-skinned allies. Quonab’s
case, however, was unusual, since he was guaranteed by his white
partner, and now he did good service, for he knew a little French and
could prowl among the settlers without anyone suspecting him of being an
American scout.

Thus he went alone and travelled far. He knew the country nearly to
Montreal and late in July was lurking about Odletown, when he overheard
scattered words of a conversation that made him eager for more. “Colonel
Murray--twelve hundred men--four hundred men--”

Meanwhile Rolf was hiding in the woods about La Colle Mill. Company
after company of soldiers he saw enter, until at least five hundred were
there. When night came down, he decided to risk a scarer approach. He
left the woods and walked cautiously across the open lands about.

The hay had been cut and most of it drawn in, but there was in the
middle of the field a hay-cock. Rolf was near this when he heard sounds
of soldiers from the mill. Soon large numbers came out, carrying their
blankets. Evidently there was not room for them in the mill, and they
were to camp on the field.

The scout began to retreat when sounds behind showed that another
body of soldiers was approaching from that direction and he was caught
between the two. There was only one place to hide and that was beneath
the haycock. He lifted its edge and crawled under, but it was full of
thistles and brambles; indeed, that was why it was left, and he had the
benefit of all the spines about him.

His heart beat fast as he heard the clank of arms and the trampling;
they came nearer, then the voices became more distinct. He heard
unmistakable evidence too that both bodies were camping for the night,
and that he was nearly surrounded. Not knowing what move was best he
kept quiet. The men were talking aloud, then they began preparing their
beds and he heard some one say, “There’s a hay-cock; bring some of
that.”

A soldier approached to get an armful of the hay, but sputtered out a
chapter of malediction as his bare hands touched the masses of thistle
and briers. His companions laughed at his mishap. He went to the fire
and vowed he’d stick a brand in it and back he came with a burning
stick.

Rolf was all ready to make a dash for his life as soon as the cover
should take fire, and he peered up into the soldier’s face as the latter
blew on the brand; but the flame had died, the thistles were not dry,
and the fire was a failure; so, growling again, the soldier threw down
the smoking stick and went away. As soon as he was safely afar, Rolf
gathered a handful of soil and covered the red embers.

It was a critical moment and his waiting alone had saved him.

Two soldiers came with their blankets and spread them near. For a time
they smoked and talked. One of them was short of tobacco; the other
said, “Never mind, we’ll get plenty in Plattsburg,” and they guffawed.

Then he heard, “As soon as the colonel” and other broken phrases.

It was a most difficult place for Rolf; he was tormented with thistles
in his face and down his neck; he dared not change his position; and
how long he must stay was a problem. He would try to escape when all was
still.

The nearer soldiers settled to rest now. All was very quiet when Rolf
cautiously peeped forth to see two dreadful things: first, a couple
of sentries pacing up and down the edges of the camp; second, a broad,
brilliant, rising moon. How horrible that lovely orb could be Rolf never
before knew.

Now, what next? He was trapped in the middle of a military camp
and undoubtedly La Colle Mill was the rendezvous for some important
expedition.

He had ample time to think it all over. Unless he could get away before
day he would surely be discovered. His uniform might save his life,
but soldiers have an awkward, hasty way of dealing summarily with a
spy--then discovering too late that he was in uniform.

From time to time he peered forth, but the scene was unchanged--the
sleeping regiment, the pacing sentries, the ever-brightening moon. Then
the guard was changed, and the sentries relieved selected of all places
for their beds, the bank beside the hay-cock. Again one of them went to
help himself to some hay for a couch; and again the comic anger as he
discovered it to be a bed of thorns. How thankful Rolf was for those
annoying things that pricked his face and neck.

He was now hemmed in on every side and, not knowing what to do, did
nothing. For a couple of hours he lay still, then actually fell asleep.
He was awakened by a faint rustling near his head and peered forth to
see a couple of field mice playing about.

The moon was very bright now, and the movements of the mice were plain;
they were feeding on the seeds of plants in the hay-cock, and from time
to time dashed under--the hay. Then they gambolled farther off and were
making merry over a pod of wild peas when a light form came skimming
noiselessly over the field. There was a flash, a hurried rush, a clutch,
a faint squeak, and one of the mice was borne away in the claws of its
feathered foe. The survivor scrambled under the hay over Rolf’s face and
somewhere into hiding.

The night passed in many short naps. The bugle sounded at daybreak and
the soldiers arose to make breakfast. Again one approached to use a
handful of hay for fire-kindler, and again the friendly thistles did
their part. More and more now his ear caught suggestive words and
sounds--“Plattsburg”--“the colonel”--etc.

The breakfast smelt wonderfully captivating--poor Rolf was famished. The
alluring aroma of coffee permeated the hay-cock. He had his dried meat,
but his need was water; he was tormented with thirst, and stiff and
tortured; he was making the hardest fight of his life. It seemed long,
though doubtless it was less than half an hour before the meal was
finished, and to Rolf’s relief there were sounds of marching and the
noises were drowned in the distance.

By keeping his head covered with hay and slowly raising it, he was safe
to take a look around. It was a bright, sunny morning. The hay-cock,
or thistle-cock, was one of several that had been rejected. It was a
quarter-mile from cover; the soldiers were at work cutting timber and
building a stockade around the mill; and, most dreadful to relate, a
small dog was prowling about, looking for scraps on the scene of the
soldiers’ breakfast. If that dog came near his hiding-place, he knew the
game was up. At such close quarters, you can fool a man but not a dog.

Fortunately the breakfast tailings proved abundant, and the dog went off
to assist a friend of his in making sundry interesting smell analyses
along the gate posts of the stockade.



Chapter 76. The Duel

This was temporary relief, but left no suggestion of complete escape.
He lay there till nearly noon suffering more and more from the cramped
position and thirst, and utterly puzzled as to the next move.

“When ye don’t like whar ye air, git up without any fuss, and go whar
ye want to be,” was what Sylvanne once said to him, and it came to Rolf
with something like a comic shock. The soldiers were busy in the woods
and around the forges. In half an hour it would be noon and they might
come back to eat.

Rolf rose without attempting any further concealment, then stopped, made
a bundle of the stuff that had sheltered him and, carrying this on his
shoulder, strode boldly across the field toward the woods.

His scout uniform was inconspicuous; the scouts on duty at the mill saw
only one of themselves taking a bundle of hay round to the stables.

He reached the woods absolutely unchallenged. After a few yards in its
friendly shade, he dropped the thorny bundle and strode swiftly toward
his own camp. He had not gone a hundred yards before a voice of French
type cried “‘Alt,” and he was face to face with a sentry whose musket
was levelled at him.

A quick glance interchanged, and each gasped out the other’s name.

“Francois la Colle!”

“Rolf Kittering! Mon Dieu! I ought to shoot you, Rolf; I cannot, I
cannot! But run, run! I’ll shoot over your head,” and his kindly eyes
filled with tears.

Rolf needed no second hint; he ran like a deer, and the musket ball
rattled the branches above his shoulders.

In a few minutes other soldiers came running and from La Colle they
heard of the hostile spy in camp.

“I shoot; I t’ink maybe I not hit eem; maybe some brood dere? No, dat
netting.”

There were both runners and trackers in camp. They were like bloodhounds
and they took up the trail of the fugitive. But Rolf was playing his own
game now; he was “Flying Kittering.” A crooked trail is hard to follow,
and, going at the long stride that had made his success, he left many
a crook and turn. Before two miles I they gave it up and the fugitive
coming to the river drank a deep and cooling draught, the first he had
had that day. Five miles through is the dense forest that lies between
La Colle and the border. He struck a creek affluent of the Richelieu
River and followed to its forks, which was the place of rendezvous with
Quonab.

It was evening as he drew near and after long, attentive listening he
gave the cry of the barred owl:

The answer came: a repetition of the last line, and a minute later the
two scouts were together.

As they stood, they were startled by a new, sudden answer, an exact
repetition of the first call. Rolf had recovered his rifle from its
hiding place and instantly both made ready for some hostile prowler;
then after a long silence he gave the final wail line “hoooo-aw” and
that in the woods means, “Who are you?”

Promptly the reply came:

“Wa wah wa wah Wa wah wa hoooo-aw.”

But this was the wrong reply. It should have been only the last half.
The imitation was perfect, except, perhaps, on the last note, which
was a trifle too human. But the signal was well done; it was an expert
calling, either an Indian or some thoroughly seasoned scout; yet Quonab
was not deceived into thinking it an owl. He touched his cheek and
his coat, which, in the scout sign language, means “red coat,” i. e.,
Britisher.

Rolf and his partner got silently out of sight, each with his rlile
cocked and ready to make a hole in any red uniform or badge that might
show itself. Then commenced a very peculiar duel, for evidently the
enemy was as clever as themselves and equally anxious to draw them out
of cover.

Wa-wah-wa hooo-aw called the stranger, giving the right answer in the
wrong place. He was barely a hundred yards off, and, as the two strained
their senses to locate him, they heard a faint click that told of his
approach.

Rolf turned his head and behind a tree uttered again the Wa-wah-a--hoo
which muffled by his position would convince the foe that he was
retreating. The answer came promptly and much nearer:

Wa--wah--wa--hoooo-aw.

Good! the medicine was working. So Rolf softened his voice still more,
while Quonab got ready to shoot.

The Wa--wa--hooo-aw that came in answer this time was startlingly clear
and loud and nearly perfect in intonation, but again betrayed by the
human timbre of the aw. A minute or two more and they would reach a
climax.

After another wait, Rolf muffled his voice and gave the single hooo-aw,
and a great broad-winged owl came swooping through the forest, alighted
on a tree overhead, peered about, then thrilled them with his weird:

Wa--hoo--wa--boo

Wa--hoo--wa--hooooooooo-aw, the last note with the singular human
quality that had so completely set them astray.



Chapter 77. Why Plattsburg Was Raided

     The owl’s hull reputation for wisdom is built up on lookin’
     wise and keepin’ mum.--Sayings of St Sylvanne

THE owl incident was one of the comedies of their life, now they had
business on hand. The scraps of news brought by Quonab pieced out with
those secured by Rolf, spelt clearly this: that Colonel Murray with
about a thousand men was planning a raid on Plattsburg.

Their duty was to notify General Hampton without delay.

Burlington, forty miles away, was headquarters. Plattsburg, twenty miles
away, was marked for spoil.

One more item they must add: Was the raid to baby land or water? If the
latter, then they must know what preparations were being made at the
British naval station, Isle au Noix. They travelled all night through
the dark woods, to get there, though it was but seven miles away, and in
the first full light they saw the gallant array of two warships, three
gunboats, and about fifty long boats, all ready, undoubtedly waiting
only for a change in the wind, which at this season blew on Champlain
almost steadily form the south.

A three-hour, ten-mile tramp through ways now familiar brought Rolf and
his partner to the north of the Big Chazy where the canoe was hidden,
and without loss of time they pushed off for Burlington, thirty miles
away. The wind was head on, and when four hours later they stopped for
noon, they had made not more than a dozen miles.

All that afternoon they had to fight a heavy sea; this meant they must
keep near shore in case of an upset, and so lengthened the course; but
it also meant that the enemy would not move so long as this wind kept
up.

It was six at night before the scouts ran into Burlington Harbour and
made for Hampton’s headquarters.

His aide received them and, after learning that they had news, went in
to the general. From the inner room now they heard in unnecessarily loud
tones the great man’s orders to, “Bring them in, sah.”

The bottles on the table, his purple visage, and thick tongued speech
told how well-founded were the current whispers.

“Raid on Plattsburg? Ha! I hope so. I only hope so. Gentlemen,” and
he turned to his staff, “all I ask is a chance to get at them--Ha, Ha!
Here, help yourself, Macomb,” and the general pushed the decanter to a
grave young officer who was standing by.

“No, thank you, sir,” was the only reply.

The general waved his hand, the scouts went out, puzzled and ashamed.
Was this the brains of the army? No wonder our men are slaughtered.

Now Macomb ventured to suggest: “Have you any orders, sir? These scouts
are considered quite reliable. I understand from them that the British
await only a change of wind. They have between one thousand and two
thousand men.”

“Plenty of time in the morning, sah. Plattsburg will be the bait of my
trap, not one of them shall return alive,” and the general dismissed his
staff that he might fortify himself against a threatened cold.

Another young man, Lieut. Thomas MacDonough, the naval commandant, now
endeavoured to stir him by a sense of danger. First he announced that
his long boats, and gunboats were ready and in six hours he could
transfer three thousand troops from Burlington to Plattsburg. Then he
ventured to urge the necessity for action.

Champlain is a lake of two winds. It had brown from the south for two
weeks; now a north wind was likely to begin any day. MacDonough urged
this point, but all in vain, and, shocked and humiliated, the young man
obeyed the order “to wait till his advice was asked.”

The next day Hampton ordered a review, not an embarkation, and was not
well enough to appear in person.

The whole army knew now of the situation of affairs, and the militia in
particular were not backward in expressing their minds.

Next day, July 30th, the wind changed. Hampton did nothing. On the
morning of July 31st they heard the booming of guns in the north, and at
night their scouts came with the news that the raid was on. Plattsburg
was taken and pillaged by a force less than one third of those held at
Burlington.

There were bitter, burning words on the lips of the rank and file, and
perfunctory rebukes on the lips of the young officers when they chanced
to overhear. The law was surely working out as set forth by Si Sylvanne:
“The fools in command, the leaders in the ranks.”

And now came news of fresh disasters--the battles of Beaverdam,
Stony Creek, and Niagara River. It was the same story in nearly every
case--brave fighting men, ill-drilled, but dead shots, led into traps by
incompetent commanders.

In September Lieutenant Macomb was appointed to command at Plattsburg.
This proved as happy an omen as it was a wise move. Immediately after,
in all this gloom, came the news of Perry’s famous victory on Lake Erie,
marking a new era for the American cause, followed by the destruction of
Moraviantown and the British army which held it.

Stirred at last to action General Wilkinson sent despatches to Hampton
to arrange an attack on Montreal. There was no possibility of failure,
he said, for the sole defence of Montreal was 600 marines. His army
consisted of 8000 men. Hampton’s consisted of 4000. By a union of these
at the mouth of Chateaugay River, they would form an invincible array.

So it seemed. Rolf had not yet seen any actual fighting and began to
long for the front. But his powers as a courier kept him ever busy
bearing despatches. The road to Sackett’s Harbour and thence to
Ogdensburg and Covington, and back to Plattsburg he knew thoroughly, and
in his canoe he had visited every port on Lakes Champlain and George.

He was absent at Albany in the latter half of October and first of
November, but the ill news travelled fast. Hampton requested MacDonough
to “swoop down on Isle au Noix”--an insane request, compliance with
which would have meant certain destruction to the American fleet.
MacDonough’s general instructions were: “Cooperate with the army, but
at any price retain supremacy of the lake,” and he declined to receive
Hampton’s order.

Threatening court-martials and vengeance on his return, Hampton now set
out by land; but at Chateaugay he was met by a much smaller force of
Canadians who resisted him so successfully that he ordered a retreat and
his army retired to Plattsburg.

Meanwhile General Wilkinson had done even worse. His army numbered 8000.
Of these the rear guard were 2500. A body of 800 Canadians harassed
their line of march. Turning to brush away this annoyance, the Americans
were wholly defeated at Chrystler’s farm and, giving up the attack on
Montreal, Wilkinson crossed the St. Lawrence and settled for the winter
at Chateaugay.

In December, America scored an important advance by relieving Hampton of
his command.

As the spring drew near, it was clearly Wilkinson’s first play to
capture La Colle Mill, which had been turned into a fortress of
considerable strength and a base for attack on the American border, some
five miles away.

Of all the scouts Rolf best knew that region, yet he was the one left
out of consideration and despatched with papers to Plattsburg. The
attack was bungled from first to last, and when Wilkinson was finally
repulsed, it was due to Macomb that the retreat was not a rout.

But good came out of this evil, for Wilkinson was recalled and the law
was nearly fulfilled--the incompetents were gone. General Macomb was in
command of the land force and MacDonough of the Lake.



Chapter 78. Rumours and Papers

MacDonough’s orders were to hold control of the Lake. How he did it will
be seen. The British fleet at Isle au Noix was slightly stronger than
his own, therefore he established a navy yard at Vergennes, in Vermont,
seven miles up the Otter River, and at the mouth erected earthworks
and batteries. He sent for Brown (of the firm of Adam and Noah Brown)
a famous New York shipbuilder. Brown agreed to launch a ship of
twenty-four guns in sixty days. The trees were standing in the forest on
March 2d the keel was laid March 7th, and on April 11th the Saratoga was
launched--forty days after the timbers were green standing trees on the
hills.

Other vessels were begun and pushed as expeditiously. And now
MacDonough’s wisdom in choice of the navy yard was seen, for a British
squadron was sent to destroy his infant fleet, or at least sink
stone-boats across the exit so as to bottle it up.

But their attempts were baffled by the batteries which the far-seeing
American had placed at the river’s mouth.

The American victory at Chippewa was followed by the defeat at Lundy’s
Lane, and on August 25th the city of Washington was captured by the
British and its public buildings destroyed. These calamities, instead of
dampening the spirits of the army, roused the whole nation at last to
a realization of the fact that they were at war. Fresh troops and
plentiful supplies were voted, the deadwood commanders were retired, and
the real men revealed by the two campaigns were given place and power.

At the same time, Great Britain, having crushed Napoleon, was in a
position to greatly reinforce her American army, and troops seasoned in
Continental campaigns were poured into Canada.

All summer Rolf was busied bearing despatches. During the winter he
and Quonab had built a birch canoe on special lines for speed; it would
carry two men but no baggage.

With this he could make fully six miles an hour for a short time, and
average five on smooth water. In this he had crossed and recrossed
Champlain, and paddled its length, till he knew every bay and headland.
The overland way to Sackett’s Harbour he had traversed several times;
the trail from Plattsburg to Covington he knew in all weathers, and had
repeatedly covered its sixty miles in less than twenty-four hours on
foot. The route he picked and followed was in later years the line
selected for the military highway between these two camps.

But the chief scene of his activities was the Canadian wilderness at the
north end of Lake Champlain. Chazy, Champlain, Odelltown, La Colle
Mill, Isle au Noix, and Richelieu River he knew intimately and had also
acquired a good deal of French in learning their country.

It was characteristic of General Wilkinson to ignore the scout who knew
and equally characteristic of his successors, Izard and Macomb, to seek
and rely on the best man.

The news that he brought in many different forms was that the British
were again concentrating an army to strike at Plattsburg and Albany.

Izard on the land at Plattsburg and Champlain, and Macomb at Burlington
strained all their resources to meet the invader at fair terms. Izard
had 4000 men assembled, when an extraordinary and devastating order from
Washington compelled him to abandon the battle front at Champlain and
lead his troops to Sackett’s Harbour where all was peace. He protested
like a statesman, then obeyed like a soldier, leaving Macomb in command
of the land forces of Lake Champlain, with, all told, some 3400 men. On
the day that Izard left Champlain, the British troops, under Brisbane,
advanced and occupied his camp.

As soon as Rolf had seen them arrive, and had gauged their number, he
sent Quonab back to report, and later retired by night ten miles up the
road to Chazy. He was well known to many of the settlers and was
welcome where ever known, not only because he was a patriot fighting his
country’s battles, but for his own sake, for he was developing into
a handsome, alert, rather silent youth. It is notorious that in the
drawing-room, given equal opportunity, the hunter has the advantage over
the farmer. He has less self-consciousness, more calm poise. He is not
troubled about what to do with his feet and hands, and is more convinced
of his native dignity and claims to respect. In the drawin-room Rolf
was a hunter: the leading inhabitants of the region around received him
gladly and honoured him. He was guest at Judge Hubbell’s in Chazy, in
September of 1814. Every day he scouted in the neighbourhood and at
night returned to the hospitable home of the judge.

On the 12th of September, from the top of a tall tree on a distant
wooded hill, he estimated the force at Champlain to be 10,000 to 15,000
men. Already their bodyguard was advancing on Chazy.

Judge Hubbell and anxious neighbours hastily assembled now, discussed
with Rolf the situation and above all, “What shall we do with our
families?” One man broke into a storm of hate and vituperation against
the British. “Remember the burning of Washington and the way they
treated the women at Bladensburg.”

“All of which about the women was utterly disproved, except in one
case, and in that the criminal was shot by order of his own commander,”
 retorted Hubbell.

At Plattsburg others maintained that the British had harmed no one.
Colonel Murray had given strict orders that all private property be
absolutely respected. Nothing but government property was destroyed and
only that which could be construed into war stores and buildings. What
further damage was done was the result of accident or error. Officers
were indeed quartered on the inhabitants, but they paid for what
they got, and even a carpet destroyed by accident was replaced months
afterward by a British officer who had not the means at the time.

So it was agreed that Hubbell with Rolf and the village fathers and
brothers should join their country’s army, leaving wives and children
behind.

There were wet bearded cheeks among the strong, rugged men as they
kissed their wives and little ones and prepared to go, then stopped, as
horrible misgivings rose within. “This was war, and yet again, ‘We have
had proofs that the British harmed no woman or child’.” So they dashed
away the tears, suppressed the choking in their throats, shouldered
their guns, and marched away to the front, commending their dear ones to
the mercy of God and the British invaders.

None had any cause to regret this trust. Under pain of death, Sir George
Prevost enforced his order that the persons of women and children and
all private property be held inviolate. As on the previous raid, no
damage was done to non-combatants, and the only hardships endured were
by the few who, knowing nothing, feared much, and sought the precarious
safety of life among the hills.

Sir George Prevost and his staff of ten officers were quartered in Judge
Hubbell’s house. Mrs. Hubbell was hard put to furnish them with meals,
but they treated her with perfect respect, and every night, not knowing
how long they might stay, they left on the table the price of their
board and lodging.

For three days they waited, then all was ready for the advance.

“Now for Plattsburg this week and Albany next, so good-bye, madam” they
said politely, and turned to ride away, a gay and splendid group.

“Good-bye, sirs, for a very little while, but I know you’ll soon be back
and hanging your heads as you come,” was the retort.

Sir George replied: “If a man had said that, I would call him out; but
since it is a fair lady that has been our charming hostess, I reply that
when your prophecy comes true, every officer here shall throw his purse
on your door step as he passes.”

So they rode away, 13,000 trained men with nothing between them and
Albany but 2000 troops, double as many raw militia, and--MacDonough of
the Lake.

Ten times did Rolf cover that highway north of Plattsburg in the week
that followed, and each day his tidings were the same--the British
steadily advance.



Chapter 79. McGlassin’s Exploit

There was a wonderful spirit on everything in Plattsburg, and the
earthly tabernacle in which it dwelt, was the tall, grave young man who
had protested against Hampton’s behaviour at Burlington--Captain, now
General Macomb. Nothing was neglected, every emergency was planned for,
every available man was under arms. Personally tireless, he was ever
alert and seemed to know every man in his command and every man of
it had implicit confidence in the leader. We have heard of soldiers
escaping from a besieged fortress by night; but such was the inspiring
power of this commander that there was a steady leaking in of men from
the hills, undrilled and raw, but of superb physique and dead shots with
the ride.

A typical case was that of a sturdy old farmer who was marching through
the woods that morning to take his place with those who manned the
breastworks and was overheard to address his visibly trembling legs:
“Shake, damn you, shake; and if ye knew where I was leading you, you’d
be ten times worse.”

His mind was more valiant than his body, and his mind kept control--this
is true courage.

No one had a better comprehension of all this than Macomb. He knew that
all these men needed was a little training to make of them the best
soldiers on earth. To supply that training he mixed them with veterans,
and arranged a series of unimportant skirmishes as coolly and easily as
though he were laying out a programme for an evening’s entertainment.

The first of these was at Culver’s Hill. Here a barricade was thrown up
along the highway, a gun was mounted, and several hundred riflemen were
posted under leaders skilled in the arts of harrying a foe and giving
him no chance to strike back.

Among the men appointed for the barricade’s defence was Rolf and near
him Quonab. The latter had been seasoned in the Revolution, but it was
the former’s first experience at the battle front, and he felt as most
men do when the enemy in brave array comes marching up. As soon as they
were within long range, his leader gave the order “Fire!” The rifles
rattled and the return fire came at once. Balls pattered on the
barricade or whistled above. The man next to him was struck and dropped
with a groan; another fell back dead. The horror and roar were overmuch.
Rolf was nervous enough when he entered the fight. Now he was unstrung,
almost stunned, his hands and knees were shaking, he was nearly
panic-stricken and could not resist the temptation to duck, as the balls
hissed murder over his head. He was blazing away, without aiming, when
an old soldier, noting his white face and shaking form, laid a hand
on his shoulder and, in kindly tones, said: “Steady, boy, steady;
yer losing yer head; see, this is how,” and he calmly took aim, then,
without firing, moved the gun again and put a little stick to raise the
muzzle and make a better rest, then fired as though at target practice.
“Now rest for a minute. Look at Quonab there; you can see he’s been
through it before. He is making a hit with every shot.”

Rolf did as he was told, and in a few minutes his colour came back,
his hand was steady, and thenceforth he began to forget the danger and
thought only of doing his work.

When at length it was seen that the British were preparing to charge,
the Americans withdrew quickly and safely to Halsey’s Corner, where was
another barricade and a fresh lot of recruits awaiting to receive their
baptism of fire. And the scene was repeated. Little damage was done to
the foe but enormous benefit was gained by the Americans, because it
took only one or two of these skirmishes to turn a lot of shaky-kneed
volunteers into a band of steady soldiers--for they had it all inside.
Thus their powder terror died.

That night the British occupied the part of the town that was north
of the Saranac, and began a desultory bombardment of the fortification
opposite. Not a very serious one, for they considered they could take
the town at any time, but preferred to await the arrival of their fleet
under Downie.

The fight for the northern half of the town was not serious, merely part
of Macomb’s prearranged training course; but when the Americans retired
across the Saranac, the planks of the bridges were torn up, loop-holed
barricades were built along the southern bank, and no effort spared to
prepare for a desperate resistance.

Every man that could hold up a gun was posted on the lines of
Plattsburg. The school-boys, even, to the number of five hundred formed
a brigade, and were assigned to places where their squirrel-hunting
experiences could be made of service to their country.

Meanwhile the British had established a battery opposite Fort Brown. It
was in a position to do some material and enormous moral damage. On the
ninth it was nearly ready for bloody work, and would probably begin next
morning. That night, however, an extraordinary event took place, and
showed how far from terror-palsy were the motley troops in Plattsburg. A
sturdy Vermonter, named Captain McGlassin, got permission of Malcomb to
attempt a very Spartan sortie.

He called for fifty volunteers to go on a most hazardous enterprise. He
got one thousand at once. Then he ordered all over twenty-five and under
eighteen to retire. This reduced the number to three hundred. Then,
all married men were retired, and thus again they were halved. Next he
ordered away all who smoked--Ah, deep philosopher that he was!--and from
the remnant he selected his fifty. Among them was Rolf. Then he divulged
his plan. It was nothing less than a dash on the new-made fort to spike
those awful guns--fifty men to dash into a camp of thirteen thousand.

Again he announced, “Any who wish to withdraw now may do so.” Not a man
stirred.

Twenty of those known to be expert with tools were provided with hammers
and spikes for the guns, and Rolf was proud to be one of them.

In a night of storm and blackness they crossed the Saranac; dividing in
two bodies they crawled unseen, one on each side of the battery. Three
hundred British soldiers were sleeping near, only the sentries peered
into the storm-sleet.

All was ready when McGlassin’s tremendous voice was heard, “Charge
front and rear!” Yelling, pounding, making all the noise they could, the
American boys rushed forth. The British were completely surprised, the
sentries were struck down, and the rest assured that Macomb’s army was
on them recoiled for a few minutes. The sharp click, click, click of the
hammers was heard. An iron spike was driven into every touch hole;
the guns were made harmless as logs and quickly wheeling, to avoid the
return attack, these bold Yankee boys leaped from the muzzled redoubt
and reached their own camp without losing one of their number.



Chapter 80. The Bloody Saranac

Sir George Prevost had had no intention of taking Plattsburg, till
Plattsburg’s navy was captured. But the moral effect of McGlassin’s
exploit must be offset at once. He decided to carry the city by storm--a
matter probably of three hours’ work.

He apportioned a regiment to each bridge, another to each ford near the
town, another to cross the river at Pike’s Cantonment, and yet another
to cross twenty miles above, where they were to harry the fragments of
the American as it fled.

That morning Plattsburg was wakened by a renewal of the bombardment. The
heavy firing killed a few men knocked down a few walls and chimneys, but
did little damage to the earthworks.

It was surprising to all how soon the defenders lost their gun-shyness.
The very school-boys and their sisters went calmly about their business,
with cannon and musket balls whistling overhead, striking the walls and
windows, or, on rare occasions, dropping some rifleman who was over-rash
as he worked or walked on the ramparts.

There were big things doing in the British camp--regiments marching and
taking their places--storms of rifle and cannon balls raging fiercely.
By ten o’clock there was a lull. The Americans, from the grandfathers to
the school-boys, were posted, each with his rifle and his pouch full of
balls; there were pale faces among the youngsters, and nervous fingers,
but there was no giving way. Many a man there was, no doubt, who, under
the impulse of patriotism, rushed with his gun to join the ranks, and
when the bloody front was reached, he wished in his heart he was safe at
home. But they did not go. Something kept them staunch.

Although the lines were complete all along the ramparts, there were four
places where the men were massed. These were on the embankments opposite
the bridges and the fords. Here the best shots were placed and among
them was Rolf, with others of McGlassin’s band.

The plank of the bridges had been torn up and used with earth to form
breastworks; but the stringers of the bridges were there, and a body of
red-coats approaching, each of them showed plainly what their plan was.

The farthest effective range of rifle fire in those days was reckoned at
a hundred yards. The Americans were ordered to hold their fire till
the enemy reached the oaks, a grove one hundred yards from the main
bridge--on the other bank.

The British came on in perfect review-day style. Now a hush fell on all.
The British officer in command was heard clearly giving his orders. How
strange it must have been to the veterans of wars in Spain, France,
and the Rhine, to advance against a force with whom they needed no
interpreter.

McGlassin’s deep voice now rang along the defences, “Don’t fire till I
give the order.”

The red-coats came on at a trot, they reached the hundred-yard-mark.

“Now, aim low and fire!” from McGlassin, and the rattle of the Yankee
guns was followed by reeling ranks of red in the oaks.

“Charge!” shouted the British officer and the red-coats charged to the
bridge, but the fire from the embankment was incessant; the trail of the
charging men was cluttered with those who fell.

“Forward!” and the gallant British captain leaped on the central
stringer of the bridge and, waving his sword, led on. Instantly three
lines of men were formed, one on each stringer.

They were only fifty yards from the barricade, with five hundred rifles,
all concentrated on these stringers. The first to fall was the captain,
shot through the heart, and the river bore him away. But on and on came
the three ranks into the whistling, withering fire of lead. It was like
slaughtering sheep. Yet on and on they marched steadily for half an
hour. Not a man held back or turned, though all knew they were marching
to their certain death. Not one of them ever reached the centre of the
span, and those who dropped, not dead, were swallowed by the swollen
stream. How many hundred brave men were sacrificed that day, no one ever
knew. He who gave the word to charge was dead with his second and third
in command and before another could come to change the order, the river
ran red--the bloody Saranac they call it ever since.

The regiment was wrecked, and the assault for the time was over.

Rolf had plied his rifle with the rest, but it sickened him to see the
horrible waste of human valour. It was such ghastly work that he was
glad indeed when a messenger came to say he was needed at headquarters.
And in an hour he was crossing the lake with news and instructions for
the officer in command at Burlington.



Chapter 81. The Battle of Plattsburg

In broad daylight he skimmed away in his one man canoe.

For five hours he paddled, and at star-peep he reached the dock at
Burlington. The howl of a lost dog caught his ear; and when he traced
the sound, there, on the outmost plank, with his nose to the skies, was
the familiar form of Skookum, wailing and sadly alone.

What a change he showed when Rolf landed; he barked, leaped, growled,
tail-wagged, head-wagged, feet-wagged, body-wagged, wig-wagged and
zigzagged for joy; he raced in circles, looking for a sacrificial hen,
and finally uttered a long and conversational whine that doubtless was
full of information for those who could get it out.

Rolf delivered his budget at once. It was good news, but not conclusive.
Everything depended now on MacDonough. In the morning all available
troops should hurry to the defence of Plattsburg; not less than fifteen
hundred men were ready to embark at daylight.

That night Rolf slept with Skookum in the barracks. At daybreak, much
to the latter’s disgust, he was locked up in a cellar, and the troops
embarked for the front.

It was a brisk north wind they had to face in crossing and passing down
the lake. There were many sturdy oarsmen at the sweeps, but they could
not hope to reach their goal in less than five hours.

When they were half way over, they heard the cannon roar; the booming
became incessant; without question, a great naval battle was on, for
this north wind was what the British had been awaiting. The rowers bent
to their task and added to the speed. Their brothers were hard pressed;
they knew it, they must make haste. The long boats flew. In an hour they
could see the masts, the sails, the smoke of the battle, but nothing
gather of the portentous result. Albany and New York, as well as
Plattsburg, were in the balance, and the oarsmen rowed and rowed and
rowed.

The cannon roared louder and louder, though less continuously, as
another hour passed. Now they could see the vessels only four miles
away. The jets of smoke were intermittent from the guns; masts went
down. They could see it plainly. The rowers only set their lips and
rowed and rowed and rowed.

Sir George had reckoned on but one obstacle in his march to Albany, an
obstruction named MacDonough; but he now found there was another called
Macomb.

It was obviously a waste of men to take Plattsburg by front assault,
when he could easily force a passage of the river higher up and take it
on the rear; and it was equally clear that when his fleet arrived and
crushed the American fleet, it would be a simple matter for the war
vessels to blow the town to pieces, without risking a man.

Already a favouring wind had made it possible for Downie to leave Isle
au Noix and sail down the lake with his gallant crew, under gallant
canvas clouds.

Tried men and true in control of every ship, outnumbering MacDonough,
outweighing him, outpointing him in everything but seamanship, they came
on, sure of success.

Three chief moves were in MacDonough’s strategy. He anchored to the
northward of the bay, so that any fleet coming down the lake would have
to beat up against the wind to reach him; so close to land that any
fleet trying to flank him would come within range of the forts; and left
only one apparent gap that a foe might try to use, a gap in front
of which was a dangerous sunken reef. This was indeed a baited trap.
Finally he put out cables, kedges, anchors, and springs, so that with
the capstan he could turn his vessels and bring either side to bear on
the foe.

All was ready, that morning of September the 11th as the British fleet,
ably handled, swung around the Cumberland Head.

The young commander of the Yankee fleet now kneeled bareheaded with his
crew and prayed to the God of Battles as only those going into battle
pray. The gallant foe came on, and who that knows him doubts that he,
too, raised his heart in reverent prayer? The first broadside from the
British broke open a chicken coop on the Saratoga from which a game-cock
flew, and, perching on a gun, flapped his wings and crowed; so all the
seamen cheered at such a happy omen.

Then followed the fighting, with its bravery and its horrors--its
brutish wickedness broke loose.

Early in the action, the British sloop, Finch, fell into MacDonough’s
trap and grounded on the reef.

The British commander was killed, with many of his officers. Still,
the heavy fire of the guns would have given them the victory, but for
MacDonough’s foresight in providing for swinging his ships. When one
broadside was entirely out of action, he used his cables, kedges and
springs, and brought the other batteries to bear.

It was one of the most desperate naval fights the world has ever seen.
Of the three hundred men on the British flagship not more than five, we
are told, escaped uninjured; and at the close there was not left on any
one of the eight vessels a mast that could carry sail, or a sail that
could render service. In less than two hours and a half the fight was
won, and the British fleet destroyed.

To the God of Battles each had committed his cause: and the God of
Battles had spoken.

Far away to the southward in the boats were the Vermont troops with
their general and Rolf in the foremost. Every sign of the fight they had
watched as men whose country’s fate is being tried.

It was a quarter after eleven when the thunder died away; and the
Vermonters were headed on shore, for a hasty landing, if need be, when
down from the peak of the British flag-ship went the Union Jack, and the
Stars and Stripes was hauled to take its place.

“Thank God!” a soft, murmuring sigh ran through all the boats and many
a bronzed and bearded cheek was wet with tears. Each man clasped hands
with his neighbour; all were deeply moved, and even as an audience
melted renders no applause, so none felt any wish to vent his deep
emotion in a cheer.



Chapter 82. Scouting for Macomb

General Macomb knew that Sir George Prevost was a cautious and
experienced commander. The loss of his fleet would certainly make a
radical change in his plans, but what change? Would he make a flank
move and dash on to Albany, or retreat to Canada, or entrench himself to
await reinforcements at Plattsburg, or try to retrieve his laurels by an
overwhelming assault on the town?

Whatever his plan, he would set about it quickly, and Macomb studied
the enemy’s camp with a keen, discerning eye, but nothing suggesting a
change was visible when the sun sank in the rainy west.

It was vital that he know it at once when an important move was begun,
and as soon as the night came down, a score of the swiftest scouts were
called for. All were young men; most of them had been in McGlassin’s
band. Rolf was conspicuous among them for his tall figure, but there
was a Vermont boy named Seymour, who had the reputation of being the
swiftest runner of them all.

They had two duties laid before them: first, to find whether Prevost’s
army was really retreating; second, what of the regiment he sent up the
Saranac to perform the flank movement.

Each was given the country he knew best. Some went westerly, some
followed up the river. Rolf, Seymour, and Fiske, another Vermonter,
skimmed out of Plattsburg harbour in the dusk, rounded Cumberland Bend,
and at nine o’clock landed at Point au Roche, at the north side of
Treadwell’s Bay.

Here they hid the canoe and agreeing to meet again at midnight, set
off in three different westerly directions to strike the highway at
different points. Seymour, as the fast racer, was given the northmost
route; Rolf took the middle. Their signals were arranged--in the woods
the barred-owl cry, by the water the loon; and they parted.

The woods seemed very solemn to Rolf that historic September night,
as he strode along at speed, stopping now and again when he thought he
heard some signal, and opened wide his mouth to relieve his ear-drums of
the heart-beat or to still the rushing of his breath.

In half an hour he reached the high-road. It was deserted. Then he heard
a cry of the barred owl:

Wa--wah--wa--wah Wa--wah--wa--hooooo-aw.

He replied with the last line, and the answer came a repeat of the whole
chant, showing that it might be owl, it might be man; but it was not the
right man, for the final response should have been the hooooo-aw. Rolf
never knew whence it came, but gave no further heed.

For a long time he sat in a dark corner, where he could watch the road.
There were sounds of stir in the direction of Plattsburg. Then later,
and much nearer, a couple of shots were fired. He learned afterward that
those shots were meant for one of his friends. At length there was a
faint tump ta tump ta. He drew his knife, stuck it deep in the ground,
then held the handle in his teeth. This acted like a magnifier, for now
he heard it plainly enough--the sound of a horse at full gallop--but so
far away that it was five minutes before he could clearly hear it while
standing. As the sound neared, he heard the clank of arms, and when it
passed, Rolf knew that this was a mounted British officer. But why, and
whither?

In order to learn the rider’s route, Rolf followed at a trot for a mile.
This brought him to a hilltop, whither in the silent night, that fateful
north wind carried still the sound

     te--rump te--rump te--rump.

As it was nearly lost, Rolf used his knife again; that brought the rider
back within a mile it seemed, and again the hoof beat faded, te--rump
te--rump.

“Bound for Canada all right,” Rolf chuckled to himself. But there was
nothing to show whether this was a mere despatch rider, or an advance
scout, or a call for reinforcements.

So again he had a long wait. About half-past ten a new and larger sound
came from the south. The knife in the ground increased but did not
explain it. The night was moonless, dark now, and it was safe to sit
very near the road. In twenty minutes the sound was near at hand in
five, a dark mass was passing along the road. There is no mistaking the
language of drivers. There is never any question about such and such a
voice being that of an English officer. There can be no doubt about
the clank of heavy wheels--a rich, tangy voice from some one in advance
said: “Oui. Parbleu, tows ce que je sais, c’est par la.” A body of about
one hundred Britishers, two or three wagons, guns, and a Frenchman for
guide. Rolf thought he knew that voice; yes, he was almost sure it was
the voice of Francios la Colle.

This was important but far from conclusive. It was now eleven. He was
due at the canoe by midnight. He made for the place as fast as he could
go, which, on such a night, was slow, but guided by occasional glimpses
of the stars he reached the lake, and pausing a furlong from the
landing, he gave the rolling, quivering loon call:

Ho-o-o-o-ooo-o Ho-o-o-o-ooo-o. Hooo-ooo.

After ten seconds the answer came:

Ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-o Hoo-ooo.

And again after ten seconds Rolf’s reply:

Hoo-ooo.

Both his friends were there; Fiske with a bullet-hole through his arm.
It seemed their duty to go back at once to headquarters with the meagre
information and their wounded comrade. But Fiske made light of his
trouble--it was a mere scratch--and reminded them that their orders were
to make sure of the enemy’s movements. Therefore, it was arranged that
Seymour take back Fiske and what news they had, while Rolf went on to
complete his scouting.

By one o’clock he was again on the hill where he had marked the
horseman’s outward flight and the escorted guns. Now, as he waited,
there were sounds in the north that faded, and in the south were similar
sounds that grew. Within an hour he was viewing a still larger body
of troops with drivers and wheels that clanked. There were only two
explanations possible: Either the British were concentrating on Chazy
Landing, where, protected from MacDonough by the north wind, they
could bring enough stores and forces from the north to march overland
independent of the ships, or else they were in full retreat for Canada.
There was but one point where this could be made sure, namely, at the
forks of the road in Chazy village. So he set out at a jog trot for
Chazy, six miles away.

The troops ahead were going three miles an hour. Rolf could go five.
In twenty minutes he overtook them and now was embarrassed by their
slowness. What should he do? It was nearly impossible to make speed
through the woods in the darkness, so as to pass them. He was forced to
content himself by marching a few yards in their rear.

Once or twice when a group fell back, he was uncomfortably close and
heard scraps of their talk.

These left little doubt that the army was in retreat. Still this was the
mere chatter of the ranks. He curbed his impatience and trudged with
the troop. Once a man dropped back to light his pipe. He almost touched
Rolf, and seeing a marching figure, asked in unmistakable accents “Oi
soi matey, ‘ave ye a loight?”

Rolf assumed the low south country English dialect, already familiar
through talking with prisoners, and replied: “Naow, oi oin’t
a-smowking,” then gradually dropped out of sight.

They were nearly two hours in reaching Chazy where they passed the
Forks, going straight on north. Without doubt, now, the army was bound
for Canada! Rolf sat on a fence near by as their footsteps went tramp,
tramp, tramp--with the wagons, clank, clank, clank, and were lost in the
northern distance.

He had seen perhaps three hundred men; there were thirteen thousand to
account for, and he sat and waited. He did not have long to wait; within
half an hour a much larger body of troops evidently was approaching from
the south; several lanterns gleamed ahead of them, so Rolf got over the
fence, but it was low and its pickets offered poor shelter. Farther back
was Judge Hubbell’s familiar abode with dense shrubbery. He hastened
to it and in a minute was hidden where he could see something of the
approaching troops. They were much like those that had gone before, but
much more numerous, at least a regiment, and as they filled the village
way, an officer cried “Halt!” and gave new orders. Evidently they were
about to bivouac for the night. A soldier approached the picket fence
to use it for firewood, but an officer rebuked him. Other fuel, chiefly
fence rails, was found, and a score or more of fires were lighted on the
highway and in the adjoining pasture. Rolf found himself in something
like a trap, for in less than two hours now would be the dawn.

The simplest way out was to go in; he crawled quietly round the house to
the window of Mrs. Hubbell’s room. These were times of nervous tension,
and three or four taps on the pane were enough to arouse the good lady.
Her husband had come that way more than once.

“Who is it?” she demanded, through a small opening of the sash.

“Rolf Kittering,” he whispered, “the place is surrounded by soldiers;
can’t you hide me?”

Could she? Imagine an American woman saying “No” at such a time.

He slipped in quietly.

“What news?” she said. “They say that MacDonough has won on the Lake,
but Plattsburg is taken.”

“No, indeed; Plattsburgh is safe; MacDonough has captured the fleet. I
am nearly sure that the whole British army is retiring to Canada.”

“Thank God, thank God,” she said fervently, “I knew it must be so; the
women have met here and prayed together every day, morning and night.
But hush!” she laid a warning finger on her lips and pointed up toward
one of the rooms--“British officer.”

She brought two blankets from a press and led up to the garret. At the
lowest part of the roof was a tiny door to a lumber closet. In this
Rolf spread his blankets, stretched his weary limbs, and soon was sound
asleep.

At dawn the bugles blew, the camp was astir. The officer in the house
arose and took his post on the porch. He was there on guard to protect
the house. His brother officers joined him. Mrs. Hubbell prepared
breakfast. It was eaten silently, so far as Rolf could learn. They paid
for it and, heading their regiment, went away northward, leaving the
officer still on the porch.

Presently Rolf heard a stealthy step in his garret, the closed door was
pushed open, and Mrs. Hubbell’s calm, handsome face appeared, as, with a
reassuring nod, she set down a mug of coffee, some bread, and a bowl of
mush and milk. And only those who have travelled and fasted for twelve
hours when they were nineteen know how good it tasted.

From a tiny window ventilator Rolf had a view of the road in front.
A growing din of men prepared him for more troops, but still he was
surprised to see ten regiments march past with all their stores--a brave
army, but no one could mistake their looks; they wore the despondent air
of an army in full retreat.



Chapter 83. The Last of Sir George Prevost

The battle was over at Plattsburg town, though it had not been fought;
for the spirit of MacDonough was on land and water, and it was felt
by the British general, as well as the Yankee riflemen, as soon as the
Union Jack had been hauled from the mast of the Confiance.

Now Sir George Prevost had to face a momentous decision: He could
force the passage of the Saranac and march on to Albany, but his
communications would be cut, and he must rely on a hostile country for
supplies. Every day drew fresh bands of riflemen from the hills. Before
he could get to Albany their number might exceed his, and then what?
Unless Great Britain could send a new army or a fleet to support him, he
must meet the fate of Burgoyne. Prevost proposed to take no such chances
and the night of the 11th eight hours after MacDonough’s victory, he
gave the order “Retire to Canada.”

To hide the move as long as possible, no change was made till after
sundown; no hint was given to the beleaguered town; they must have no
opportunity to reap the enormous advantages, moral and material, of
harrying a retreating foe. They must arise in the morning to find the
enemy safely over the border. The plan was perfect, and would have been
literally carried out, had not he had to deal with a foe as clever as
himself.

How eagerly Rolf took in the scene on Chazy Road; how much it meant! how
he longed to fly at his fastest famous speed with the stirring news. In
two hours and a half he could surely let his leader know. And he gazed
with a sort of superior pride at the martial pomp and bravery of the
invaders driven forth.

Near the last was a gallant array of gentlemen in gorgeous uniforms
of scarlet and gold; how warlike they looked, how splendid beside the
ill-clad riflemen of Vermont and the rude hunters of the Adirondacks.
How much more beautiful is an iron sword with jewels, than a sword of
plain gray steel.

Dame Hubbell stood in her door as they went by. Each and all saluted
politely; her guard was ordered to join his regiment. The lady waved
her sun-bonnet in response to their courteous good-bye, and could not
refrain from calling out:

“How about my prophecy, Sir George, and those purses?”

Rolf could not see his hostess, but he heard her voice, and he saw the
astonishing effect:

The British general reined in his horse. “A gentleman’s word is his
bond, madam,” he said. “Let every officer now throw his purse at the
lady’s feet,” and he set the example. A dozen rattling thuds were heard
and a dozen officers saluting, purseless, rode away.

A round thousand dollars in gold the lady gathered on her porch that
morning, and to this day her grand-kin tell the tale.



Chapter 84. Rolf Unmasks the Ambush

Rolf’s information was complete now, and all that remained was to report
at Plattsburg. Ten regiments he had counted from his peep hole. The
rear guard passed at ten o’clock. At eleven Mrs. Hubbell did a little
scouting and reported that all was quiet as far as she could see both
ways, and no enemy in sight anywhere.

With a grateful hand shake he left the house to cover the fourteen miles
that lay between Chazy and Plattsburg.

Refreshed and fed, young and strong, the representative of a just and
victorious cause, how he exulted in that run, rejoicing in his youth,
his country, his strength, his legs, his fame as a runner. Starting at
a stride he soon was trotting; then, when the noon hour came, he had
covered a good six miles. Now he heard faint, far shots, and going more
slowly was soon conscious that a running fight was on between his own
people and the body of British sent westward to hold the upper Saranac.

True to the instinct of the scout, his first business was to find out
exactly what and where they were. From a thick tree top he saw the
red-coats spotting an opening of the distant country. Then they were
lost sight of in the woods. The desultory firing became volley firing,
once or twice. Then there was an interval of silence. At length a mass
of red-coats appeared on the highway within half a mile. They were
travelling very fast, in full retreat, and were coming his way. On the
crest of the hill over which the road ran, Rolf saw them suddenly drop
to the ground and take up position to form a most dangerous ambuscade,
and half a mile away, straggling through the woods, running or striding,
were the men in the colours he loved. They had swept the enemy before
them, so far, but trained troops speedily recover from a panic, if they
have a leader of nerve, and seeing a noble chance in the angle of this
deep-sunk road, the British fugitives turned like boars at bay. Not a
sign of them was visible to the Americans. The latter were suffering
from too much success. Their usual caution seemed to have deserted them,
and trotting in a body they came along the narrow road, hemmed in by a
forest and soon to be hedged with cliffs of clay. They were heading for
a death-trap. At any price he must warn them. He slid down the tree, and
keeping cover ran as fast as possible toward the ambush. It was the only
hill near--Beekman’s Rise, they call it. As far as possible from the
red-coats, but still on the hill that gave a view, he leaped on to a
high stump and yelled as he never did before: “Go back, go back! A
trap! A trap!” And lifting high his outspread hands he flung their palms
toward his friends, the old-time signal for “go back.”

Not twice did they need warning. Like hunted wolves they flashed from
view in the nearest cover. A harmless volley from the baffled ambush
rattled amongst them, and leaping from his stump Rolf ran for life.

Furious at their failure, a score of red-coats, reloading as they ran,
came hot-footed after him. Down into cover of an alder swamp he plunged,
and confident of his speed, ran on, dashing through thickets and
mudholes. He knew that the red-coats would not follow far in such a
place, and his comrades were near. But the alder thicket ended at a
field. He heard the bushes crashing close at hand, and dashed down a
little ravine at whose lower edge the friendly forest recommenced. That
was his fatal mistake. The moment he took to the open there was a rattle
of rifles from the hill above, and Rolf fell on his face as dead.

It was after noontide when he fell; he must have lain unconscious for
an hour; when he came to himself he was lying still in that hollow,
absolutely alone. The red-coats doubtless had continued their flight
with the Yankee boys behind them. His face was covered with blood. His
coat was torn and bloody; his trousers showed a ragged rent that was
reddened and sopping. His head was aching, and in his leg was the pain
of a cripplement. He knew it as soon as he tried to move; his right leg
was shattered below the knee. The other shots had grazed his arm and
head; the latter had stunned him for a time, but did no deeper damage.

He lay still for a long time, in hopes that some of his friends
might come. He tried to raise his voice, but had no strength. Then he
remembered the smoke signal that had saved him when he was lost in the
woods. In spite of his wounded arm, he got out his flint and steel, and
prepared to make a fire. But all the small wood he could reach was wet
with recent rains. An old pine stump was on the bank not far away; he
might cut kindling-wood from that to start his fire, and he reached for
his knife. Alas! its case was empty. Had Rolf been four years younger,
he might have broken down and wept at this. It did seem such an
unnecessary accumulation of disasters. Without gun or knife, how was he
to call his friends?

He straightened his mangled limb in the position of least pain and lay
for a while. The September sun fell on his back and warmed him. He was
parched with thirst, but only thirty yards away was a little rill. With
a long and fearful crawling on his breast, he dragged himself to the
stream and drank till he could drink no more, then rested, washed his
head and hands, ‘and tried to crawl again to the warm place. But the sun
had dropped behind the river bank, the little ravine was in shadow, and
the chill of the grave was on the young man’s pain-racked frame.

Shadows crossed his brain, among them Si Sylvanne with his quaint
sayings, and one above all was clear:

“Trouble is only sent to make ye do yer best. When ye hev done yer best,
keep calm and wait. Things is comin’ all right.” Yes, that was what he
said, and the mockery of it hurt him now.

The sunset slowly ended; the night wind blew; the dragging hours brought
gloom that entered in. This seemed indeed the direst strait of his lot.
Crippled, dying of cold, helpless, nothing to do but wait and die, and
from his groaning lips there came the half-forgotten prayer his mother
taught him long ago, “O God, have mercy on me!” and then he forgot.

When he awoke, the stars were shining; he was numb with cold, but his
mind was clear.

“This is war,” he thought, “and God knows we never sought it.” And again
the thought: “When I offered to serve my country, I offered my life. I
am willing to die, but this is not a way of my choosing,” and a blessed,
forgetfulness came upon him again.

But his was a stubborn-fibred race; his spark of life was not so quickly
quenched; its blazing torch might waver, wane, and wax again. In the
chill, dark hour when the life-lamp flickers most, he wakened to hear
the sweet, sweet music of a dog’s loud bark; in a minute he heard it
nearer, and yet again at hand, and Skookum, erratic, unruly, faithful
Skookum, was bounding around and barking madly at the calm, unblinking
stars.

A human “halloo” rang not far away; then others, and Skookum barked and
barked.

Now the bushes rustled near, a man came out, kneeled down, laid hand
on the dying soldier’s brow, and his heart. He opened his eyes, the man
bent over him and softly said, “Nibowaka! it’s Quonab.”

That night when the victorious rangers had returned to Plattsburg it
was a town of glad, thankful hearts, and human love ran strong.
The thrilling stories of the day were told, the crucial moment, the
providential way in which at every hopeless pass, some easy, natural
miracle took place to fight their battle and back their country’s cause.
The harrying of the flying rear-guard, the ambuscade over the hill, the
appearance of an American scout at the nick of time to warn them--the
shooting, and his disappearance--all were discussed.

Then rollicking Seymour and silent Fiske told of their scouting on the
trail of the beaten foe; and all asked, “Where is Kittering?” So talk
was rife, and there was one who showed a knife he had picked up near the
ambuscade with R. K. on the shaft.

Now a dark-faced scout rose up, stared at the knife, and quickly left
the room. In three minutes he stood before General Macomb, his words
were few, but from his heart:

“It is my boy, Nibowaka; it is Rolf; my heart tells me. Let me go. I
feel him praying for me to come. Let me go, general. I must go.”

It takes a great man to gauge the heart of a man who seldom speaks. “You
may go, but how can you find him tonight?”

“Ugh, I find him,” and the Indian pointed to a little, prick-eared,
yellow cur that sneaked at his heels.

“Success to you; he was one of the best we had,” said the general, as
the Indian left, then added: “Take a couple of men along, and, here,
take this,” and he held out a flask.

Thus it was that the dawning saw Rolf on a stretcher carried by his
three scouting partners, while Skookum trotted ahead, looking this way
and that--they should surely not be ambushed this time.

And thus the crowning misfortune, the culminating apes of disaster--the
loss of his knife--the thing of all others that roused in Rolf the
spirit of rebellion, was the way of life, his dungeon’s key, the golden
chain that haled him from the pit.



Chapter 85. The Hospital, the Prisoners, and Home

There were wagons and buckboards to be had, but the road was rough,
so the three changed off as litter-bearers and brought him to the lake
where the swift and smooth canoe was ready, and two hours later they
carried him into the hospital at Plattsburg.

The leg was set at once, his wounds were dressed, he was warmed,
cleaned, and fed; and when the morning sun shone in the room, it was a
room of calm and peace.

The general came and sat beside him for a time, and the words he spoke
were ample, joyful compensation for his wounds. MacDonough, too, passed
through the ward, and the warm vibrations of his presence drove death
from many a bed whose inmate’s force ebbed low, whose soul was walking
on the brink, was near surrender.

Rolf did not fully realize it then, but long afterward it was clear that
this was the meaning of the well-worn words, “He filled them with a new
spirit.”

There was not a man in the town but believed the war was over; there was
not a man in the town who doubted that his country’s cause was won.

Three weeks is a long time to a youth near manhood, but there was much
of joy to while away the hours. The mothers of the town came and read
and talked. There was news from the front. There were victories on the
high seas. His comrades came to sit beside him; Seymour, the sprinter,
as merry a soul as ever hankered for the stage and the red cups of life;
Fiske, the silent, and McGlassin, too, with his dry, humorous talk;
these were the bright and funny hours. There were others. There came a
bright-checked Vermont mother whose three sons had died in service at
MacDonough’s guns; and she told of it in a calm voice, as one who speaks
of her proudest honour. Yes, she rejoiced that God had given her three
such sons, and had taken again His gifts in such a day of glory. Had
England’s rulers only known, that this was the spirit of the land that
spoke, how well they might have asked: “What boots it if we win a few
battles, and burn a few towns; it is a little gain and passing; for
there is one thing that no armies, ships, or laws, or power on earth,
or hell itself can down or crush--that alone is the thing that counts or
endures--the thing that permeates these men, that finds its focal centre
in such souls as that of the Vermont mother, steadfast, proud, and
rejoicing in her bereavement.”

But these were forms that came and went; there were two that seldom were
away--the tall and supple one of the dark face and the easy tread, and
his yellow shadow--the ever unpopular, snappish, prick-eared cur, that
held by force of arms all territories at floor level contiguous to,
under, comprised, and bounded by, the four square legs and corners of
the bed.

Quonab’s nightly couch was a blanket not far away, and his daily,
self-given task to watch the wounded and try by devious ways and plots
to trick him into eating ever larger meals.

Garrison duty was light now, so Quonab sought the woods where the flocks
of partridge swarmed, with Skookum as his aid. It was the latter’s
joyful duty to find and tree the birds, and “yap” below, till Quonab
came up quietly with bow and blunt arrows, to fill his game-bag; and
thus the best of fare was ever by the invalid’s bed.

Rolf’s was easily a winning fight from the first, and in a week he was
eating well, sleeping well, and growing visibly daily stronger.

Then on a fleckless dawn that heralded a sun triumphant, the Indian
borrowed a drum from the bandsman, and, standing on the highest
breastwork, he gazed across the dark waters to the whitening hills.
There on a tiny fire he laid tobacco and kinnikinnik, as Gisiss the
Shining One burnt the rugged world rim at Vermont, and, tapping softly
with one stick, he gazed upward, after the sacrificial thread of smoke,
and sang in his own tongue:

“Father, I burn tobacco, I smoke to Thee. I sing for my heart is
singing.”

Pleasant chatter of the East was current by Rolf’s bedside. Stories
of homes in the hills he heard, tales of hearths by far away lakes and
streams, memories of golden haired children waiting for father’s or
brother’s return from the wars. Wives came to claim their husbands,
mothers to bring away their boys, to gain again their strength at home.
And his own heart went back, and ever back, to the rugged farm on the
shores of the noble George.

In two weeks he was able to sit up. In three he could hobble, and he
moved about the town when the days were warm.

And now he made the acquaintance of the prisoners. They were closely
guarded and numbered over a hundred. It gave him a peculiar sensation
to see them there. It seemed un-American to hold a human captive; but
he realized that it was necessary to keep them for use as hostages and
exchanges.

Some of them he found to be sullen brutes, but many were kind and
friendly, and proved to be jolly good fellows.

On the occasion of his second visit, a familiar voice saluted him with,
“Well, Rolf! Comment ca va?” and he had the painful joy of greeting
Francois la Colle.

“You’ll help me get away, Rolf, won’t you?” and the little Frenchman
whispered and winked. “I have seven little ones now on La Riviere, dat
have no flour, and tinks dere pa is dead.”

“I’ll do all I can, Francois,” and the picture of the desolate home,
brought a husk in his voice and a choke in his throat. He remembered too
the musket ball that by intent had whistled harmless overhead. “But,” he
added in a shaky voice, “I cannot help my country’s enemy to escape.”

Then Rolf took counsel with McGlassin, told him all about the affair
at the mill, and McGlassin with a heart worthy of his mighty shoulders,
entered into the spirit of the situation, went to General Macomb
presenting such a tale and petition that six hours later Francis bearing
a passport through the lines was trudging away to Canada, paroled for
the rest of the war.

There was another face that Rolf recognized--hollow-cheeked,
flabby-jowled and purplish-gray. The man was one of the oldest of the
prisoners. He wore a white beard end moustache. He did not recognize
Rolf, but Rolf knew him, for this was Micky Kittering. How he escaped
from jail and joined the enemy was an episode of the war’s first year.
Rolf was shocked to see what a miserable wreck his uncle was. He could
not do him any good. To identify him would have resulted in his being
treated as a renegade, so on the plea that he was an old man, Rolf saw
that the prisoner had extra accommodation and out of his own pocket kept
him abundantly supplied with tobacco. Then in his heart he forgave him,
and kept away. They never met again.

The bulk of the militia had been disbanded after the great battle. A
few of the scouts and enough men to garrison the fort and guard the
prisoners were retained. Each day there were joyful partings--the men
with homes, going home. And the thought that ever waxed in Rolf came on
in strength. He hobbled to headquarters. “General, can I get leave--to
go--he hesitated--home?”

“Why, Kittering, I didn’t know you had a home. But, certainly, I’ll give
you a month’s leave and pay to date.”

Champlain is the lake of the two winds; the north wind blows for six
months with a few variations, and the south wind for the other six
months with trifling.

Next morning a bark canoe was seen skimming southward before as much
north wind as it could stand, with Rolf reclining in the middle, Quonab
at the stern, and Skookum in the bow.

In two days they were at Ticonderoga. Here help was easily got at
the portage and on the evening of the third day, Quonab put a rope on
Skookum’s neck and they landed at Hendrik’s farm.

The hickory logs were blazing bright, and the evening pot was reeking as
they opened the door and found the family gathered for the meal.

“I didn’t know you had a home,” the general had said. He should have
been present now to see the wanderer’s welcome. If war breeds such a
spirit in the land, it is as much a blessing as a curse. The air was
full of it, and the Van Trumpers, when they saw their hero hobble in,
were melted. Love, pity, pride, and tenderness were surging in storms
through every heart that knew. “Their brother, their son come back,
wounded, but proven and glorious.” Yes, Rolf had a home, and in that
intoxicating realization he kissed them all, even Annette of the glowing
cheeks and eyes; though in truth he paid for it, for it conjured up in
her a shy aloofness that lasted many days.

Old Hendrik sputtered around. “Och, I am smile; dis is goood, yah. Vere
is that tam dog? Yah! tie him not, he shall dis time von chicken have
for joy.”

“Marta,” said Rolf, “you told me to come here if I got hurt. Well, I’ve
come, and I’ve brought a boat-load of stuff in case I cannot do my share
in the fields.”

“Press you, my poy you didn’t oughter brung dot stuff; you know we
loff you here, and effery time it is you coom I get gladsomer, and dot
Annette she just cried ven you vent to de war.”

“Oh, mother, I did not; it was you and little Hendrick!” and Annette
turned her scarlet cheeks away.

October, with its trees of flame and gold, was on the hills; purple and
orange, the oaks and the birches; blue blocked with white was the sky
above, and the blue, bright lake was limpid.

“Oh, God of my fathers,” Quonab used to pray, “when I reach the Happy
Hunting, let it be ever the Leaf-falling Moon, for that is the only
perfect time.” And in that unmarred month of sunny sky and woodlands
purged of every plague, there is but one menace in the vales. For who
can bring the glowing coal to the dry-leafed woods without these two
begetting the dread red fury that devastates the hills?

Who can bring the fire in touch with tow and wonder at the blaze? Who,
indeed? And would any but a dreamer expect young manhood in its growing
strength, and girlhood just across the blush-line, to meet in daily
meals and talk and still keep up the brother and sister play? It needs
only a Virginia on the sea-girt island to turn the comrade into Paul.

“Marta, I tink dot Rolf an Annette don’t quarrel bad, ain’t it?”

“Hendrik, you vas von blind old bat-mole,” said Marta, “I fink dat farm
next ours purty good, but Rolf he say ‘No Lake George no good.’ Better
he like all his folk move over on dat Hudson.”


Chapter 86. The New Era of Prosperity

As November neared and his leave of absence ended, Rolf was himself
again; had been, indeed, for two weeks, and, swinging fork or axe, he
had helped with many an urgent job on the farm.

A fine log stable they had rolled up together, with corners dovetailed
like cabinet work, and roof of birch bark breadths above the hay.

But there was another building, too, that Rolf had worked at night and
day. It was no frontier shack, but a tall and towering castle, splendid
and roomy, filled with loved ones and love. Not by the lake near by,
not by the river of his choice, but higher up than the tops of the high
mountains it loomed, and he built and built until the month was nearly
gone. Then only did he venture to ask for aid, and Annette it was who
promised to help him finish the building.

Yes, the Lake George shore was a land of hungry farms. It was off the
line of travel, too. It was neither Champlain nor Hudson; and Hendrik,
after ten years’ toil with barely a living to show, was easily
convinced. Next summer they must make a new choice of home. But now it
was back to Plattsburg.

On November 1st Rolf and Quonab reported to General Macomb. There was
little doing but preparations for the winter. There were no prospects of
further trouble from their neighbours in the north. Most of the militia
were already disbanded, and the two returned to Plattsburg, only to
receive their honourable discharge, to be presented each with the medal
of war, with an extra clasp on Rolf’s for that dauntless dash that
spiked the British guns.

Wicked war with its wickedness was done at last. “The greatest evil that
can befall a country,” some call it, and yet out of this end came three
great goods: The interstate distrust had died away, for now they were
soldiers who had camped together, who had “drunk from the same canteen”;
little Canada, until then a thing of shreds and scraps, had been fused
in the furnace, welded into a young nation, already capable of defending
her own. England, arrogant with long success at sea, was taught a lesson
of courtesy and justice, for now the foe whom she had despised and
insulted had shown himself her equal, a king of the sea-king stock. The
unnecessary battle of New Orleans, fought two weeks after the war was
officially closed, showed that the raw riflemen of Tennessee were
more than a match for the seasoned veterans who had overcome the great
Napoleon, and thus on land redeemed the Stars and Stripes.

The war brought unmeasured material loss on all concerned, but some
weighty lasting gains to two at least. On December 24, 1814, the Treaty
of Ghent was signed and the long rides were hung up on the cabin walls.
Nothing was said in the treaty about the cause of war--the right of
search. Why should they speak of it? If a big boy bullies a smaller one
and gets an unexpected knockdown blow, it is not necessary to have it
all set forth in terms before they shake hands that “I, John, of the
first part, to wit, the bully, do hereby agree, promise, and contract to
refrain in future forevermore from bullying you, Jonathan, of the second
part, to wit, the bullied.” That point had already been settled by the
logic of events. The right of search was dead before the peace was born,
and the very place of its bones is forgotten to-day.

Rolf with Quonab returned to the trapping that winter; and as soon as
the springtime came and seeding was over, he and Van Trumper made their
choice of farms. Every dollar they could raise was invested in the
beautiful sloping lands of the upper Hudson. Rolf urged the largest
possible purchase now. Hendrick looked somewhat aghast at such a
bridge-burning move. But a purchaser for his farm was found with
unexpected promptness, one who was not on farming bent and the way kept
opening up.

The wedding did not take place till another year, when Annette was
nineteen and Rolf twenty-one. And the home they moved to was not exactly
a castle, but much more complete and human.

This was the beginning of a new settlement. Given good land in plenty,
and all the rest is easy; neighbours came in increasing numbers; every
claim was taken up; Rolf and Hendrik saw themselves growing rich, and
at length the latter was thankful for the policy that he once thought so
rash, of securing all the land he could. Now it was his making, for in
later years his grown-up sons were thus provided for, and kept at home.

The falls of the river offered, as Rolf had foreseen, a noble chance for
power. Very early he had started a store and traded for fur. Now, with
the careful savings, he was able to build his sawmill; and about it grew
a village with a post-office that had Rolf’s name on the signboard.

Quonab had come, of course, with Rolf, but he shunned the house, and the
more so as it grew in size. In a remote and sheltered place he built a
wigwam of his own.

Skookum was divided in his allegiance, but he solved the puzzle by
dividing his time between them. He did not change much, but he did
rise in a measure to the fundamental zoological fact that hens are not
partridges; and so acquired a haughty toleration of the cackle-party
throng that assembled in the morning at Annette’s call. Yes, he made
even another step of progress, for on one occasion he valiantly routed
the unenlightened dog of a neighbour, a “cur of low degree,” whose ideas
of ornithology were as crude as his own had been in the beginning.

All of which was greatly to his credit, for he found it hard to learn
now; he was no longer young, and before he had seen eight springs
dissolve the snow, he was called to the Land of Happy Hunting, where the
porcupine is not, but where hens abound on every side, and there is no
man near to meddle with his joy.

Yet, when he died, he lived. His memory was kept ever green, for Skookum
Number 2 was there to fill his room, and he gave place to Skookum 3, and
so they keep their line on to this very day.



Quonab Goes Home

The public has a kind of crawlin’ common-sense, that is always right and
fair in the end, only it’s slow--Sayings of Si Sylvanne.

Twenty years went by. Rolf grew and prospered. He was a man of substance
and of family now; for store and mill were making money fast, and the
little tow-tops came at regular intervals.

And when the years had added ripeness to his thought, and the kind
gods of gold had filled his scrip, it was that his ampler life began to
bloom. His was a mind of the best begetting, born and bred of ancient,
clean-blooded stock; inflexibly principled, trained by a God-fearing
mother, nurtured in a cradle of adversity, schooled in a school of
hardship, developed in the big outdoors, wise in the ways of the woods,
burnt in the fire of affliction, forced into self-reliance, inspired
with the lofty inspiration of sacrificial patriotism--the good stuff
of his make-up shone, as shines the gold in the fervent heat; the hard
blows that prove or crush, had proved; the metal had rung true; and in
the great valley, Rolf Kittering was a man of mark.

The country’s need of such is ever present and ever seeking. Those in
power who know and measure men soon sought him out, and their messenger
was the grisly old Si Sylvanne.

Because he was a busy man, Rolf feared to add to his activities. Because
he was a very busy man, the party new they needed him. So at length it
was settled, and in a little while, Rolf stood in the Halls of Albany
and grasped the hand of the ancient mill-man as a colleague, filling an
honoured place in the councils of the state.

Each change brought him new activities. Each year he was more of a
public man, and his life grew larger. From Albany he went to New York,
in the world of business and men’s affairs; and at last in Washington,
his tall, manly figure was well known, and his good common-sense and
clean business ways were respected. Yet each year during hunting time he
managed to spend a few weeks with Quonab in the woods. Tramping on their
ancient trapping grounds, living over the days of their early hunts;
and double zest was added when Rolf the second joined them and lived and
loved it all.

But this was no longer Kittering’s life, rather the rare precarious
interval, and more and more old Quonab realized that they were meeting
only in the past. When the big house went up on the river-bank, he
indeed had felt that they were at the parting of the ways. His respect
for Nibowaka had grown to be almost a worship, and yet he knew that
their trails had yearly less in common. Rolf had outgrown him; he was
alone again, as on the day of their meeting. His years had brought a
certain insight; and this he grasped--that the times were changed, and
his was the way of a bygone day.

“Mine is the wisdom of the woods,” he said, “but the woods are going
fast; in a few years there will be no more trees, and my wisdom will
be foolishness. There is in this land now a big, strong thing called
‘trade,’ that will eat up all things and the people themselves. You are
wise enough, Nibowaka, to paddle with the stream, you have turned so the
big giant is on your side, and his power is making you great. But this
is not for me; so only I have enough to eat, and comfort to sleep, I am
content to watch for the light.”

Across the valley from the big store he dwelt, in a lodge from which he
could easily see the sunrise. Twenty-five years added to the fifty he
spent in the land of Mayn Mayano had dimmed his eye, had robbed his foot
of its spring, and sprinkled his brow with the winter rime; but they had
not changed his spirit, nor taught him less to love the pine woods
and the sunrise. Yes, even more than in former days did he take his
song-drum to the rock of worship, to his idaho--as the western red man
would have called it. And there, because it was high and the wind blew
cold, he made a little eastward-facing lodge.

He was old and hunting was too hard for him, but there was a strong
arm about him now; he dimly thought of it at times--the arm of the
fifteen-year-old boy that one time he had shielded. There was no lack
of food or blankets in the wigwam, or of freedom in the woods under the
sun-up rock. But there was a hunger that not farseeing Nibowaka could
appease, not even talk about. And Quonab built another medicine lodge
to watch the sun go down over the hill. Sitting by a little fire to
tune his song-drum, he often crooned to the blazing skies. “I am of the
sunset now, I and my people,” he sang, “the night is closing over us.”

One day a stranger came to the hills; his clothes were those of a white
man, but his head, his feet, and his eyes--his blood, his walk, and his
soul were those of a red Indian of the West. He came from the unknown
with a message to those who knew him not: “The Messiah was coming; the
deliverer that Hiawatha bade them look for. He was coming in power
to deliver the red race, and his people must sing the song of the
ghost-dance till the spirit came, and in a vision taught them wisdom and
his will!”

Not to the white man, but to the lonely Indian in the hill cleft he
came, and the song that he brought and taught him was of a sorrowing
people seeking their father.

“Father have pity on us! Our souls are hungry for Thee. There is nothing
here to satisfy us Father we bow to Thy will.”

By the fire that night they sang, and prayed as the Indian
prays--“Father have pity and guide us.” So Quonab sang the new song, and
knew its message was for him.

The stranger went on, for he was a messenger, but Quonab sang again and
again, and then the vision came, as it must, and the knowledge that he
sought.

None saw him go, but ten miles southward on the river he met a hunter
and said: “Tell the wise one that I have heard the new song. Tell him
I have seen the vision. We are of the sunset, but the new day comes. I
must see the land of Mayn Mayano, the dawn-land, where the sun rises out
of the sea.”

They saw no more of him. But a day later, Rolf heard of it, and set out
in haste next morning for Albany. Skookum the fourth leaped into the
canoe as he pushed off. Rolf was minded to send him back, but the dog
begged hard with his eyes and tail. It seemed he ought to go, when it
was the old man they sought. At Albany they got news. “Yes, the Indian
went on the steamboat a few days ago.” At New York, Rolf made no attempt
to track his friend, but took the Stamford boat and hurried to the old
familiar woods, where he had lived and suffered and wakened as a boy.

There was a house now near the rock that is yet called “Quonab’s.” From
the tenants he learned that in the stillest hours of the night before,
they had heard the beating of an Indian drum, and the cadence of a chant
that came not from throat of white man’s blood.

In the morning when it was light Rolf hastened to the place, expecting
to find at least an Indian camp, where once had stood the lodge. There
was no camp; and as he climbed for a higher view, the Skookum of to-day
gave bristling proof of fear at some strange object there--a man that
moved not. His long straight hair was nearly white, and by his side,
forever still, lay the song-drum of his people.

And those who heard the mournful strains the night before knew now from
Rolf that it was Ouonab come back to his rest, and the song that he sang
was the song of the ghost dance.

“Pity me, Wahkonda. My soul is ever hungry. There is nothing here to
satisfy me, I walk in darkness; Pity me, Wahkondal.”





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