Part 3 out of 6
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
"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
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
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
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
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 bim, 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
"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
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 por- cupine 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
"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
"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
"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 retumed, 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 medcine. 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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"He's worth ten martens, they say?" queried Rolf.
"Can't we get him?"
"Can try. But the water set will not work in winter; we must try
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
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
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
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
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
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
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; be- sides 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
Next night, when they reached their half-way shanty, they had the
best haul they had taken on this line since the memorable day
wben 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 triffing 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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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'rytbing 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
"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
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
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
"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?"
"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
"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 recog- nized 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 fn 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 resdond 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
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