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"And seated round the blazing hearth,
In song and jest the time was spent."
THE sight of that house afforded us unspeakable pleasure. Hungry and footsore we took refuge in the office, where
we found a half-dozen sportsmen and guides,
who stared at us with open-mouthed wonder. We dropped our things, pulled of our overcoats, and had a wash, which, after the way we had passed the night, was most refreshing.
Mr. Godwin, the landlord, soon came in, and his eyes opened when he saw us. I have no doubt we looked like a couple of tramps.
"Where did you drop down from, Captain, at this time in the morning? I supposed you were at the Upper Dam."
"We left there yesterday morning, and, on account of several little drawbacks, we had to stop in the woods last night. But I wish you would start some breakfast for us; we have not had anything of any consequence to eat since yesterday morning."
"You don't say so; well, I should think you would be hungry; "and he went off to order our breakfast.
When he returned I gave him the particulars of our tramp, and he told us that they had taken all the boats off the river the day they broke camp at the Middle Dam.
"If I had known you were coming out this way I should have left a boat for you. You are going over to Andover, I suppose."
"Not now. We have started for Parmachenee. Did the 'Diamond' go up the Magalloway this morning?"
"Yes, and she won't make another trip until Friday; so you can stop two or three days with me."
"I don't know about that. We ought to take a rowboat and push on. But I will decide after breakfast."
That welcome meal was soon announced, and to say that Jack and I did not do it justice would be doing us an injustice. Hot biscuit, beefsteak, eggs, coffee, and griddle-cakes disappeared with such celerity that the girl who waited upon us began to turn pale, fancying, I suppose, that we should eat her if the food gave out.
However all things must come to an end sometime, and so did that delicious and ever-memorable breakfast, after which we adjourned to the office, and had a smoke.
There were two or three guests at the hotel, who were staying there for a few days' shooting, and one of them, a doctor from Brooklyn, New York, with whom
I was acquainted, urged me strongly to stop until Friday, and then go as far as we could on the steamer.
"It's a cold, raw day," said he, "and you will find it rough and disagreeable on the lake in a small boat. You will find it more to your taste to sit around this fire than to pull a boat twenty-five or thirty miles in the wind. See how pleasant the fire looks! Just keep quiet, and I'll tell a story, and you shall sing a song."
"I don't doubt your ability for telling the story, but would much prefer some one besides myself to sing the song."
"Then we'll have the colonel sing the song," and the doctor looked at his military friend and smiled.
"You never heard me sing, Doctor, or you would not have made that remark."
The doctor laughed and winked at me, and then said:
"Just rest here contented, and to-morrow we will go out after partridges."
Jack had gone out-doors, and I hunted him up and asked him what he thought about stopping until Friday where we were, and he said he was willing if I was.
I told him the doctor had said that partridges were plenty, and the next day we would go out for some.
Accordingly we stopped at the hotel until Friday morning. The weather was disagreeable most of the time, being very cold and windy, with frequent snow-squalls.
After it was decided that we would wait to go on Friday's boat we took the axe that had caused us so much hard work, and ground it until it bad a decent edge on it once more. Jack declared, as he ran his finger along the edge, that it would cut a hair. I laughed at his remark, and told him that perhaps it would if he laid the hair on a block.
We were promptly "on deck" when the dinner-bell rang, and as we walked into the dining-room the pretty table-girl looked surprised, evidently thinking that we had eaten breakfast enough to last all day. Her looks did not trouble us, however, and we found the dinner as much to our liking as the breakfast lad been. As we arose from the table the girl asked Jack if we were going to stop at the house a great while. He told her, "Only a few days." She looked relieved at his answer, and informed him that, if we thought of stopping a great while, Godwin would have to hire another table-girl, for it took all her time to wait on us. We laughed; but I thought her remarks a trifle impertinent, as we had only met her for the first time at the breakfast-table, and as Jack did not seem to have a reply ready I determined to get even with her.
She was quite tall, but rather thin, although her features were remarkably pretty, and a thought struck me.
"Did you know," I asked her, assuming a serious face, "that Mr. Godwin is not going to have you any longer?"
"Why not?" she asked, a shadow of alarm flitting across her face.
"Because you are long enough already," I returned, with a triumphant laugh, in which Jack joined, and we left the room on the jump.
Although it was a rough day we did not feel like stopping in the house all the time, and soon after dinner walked down to the river-bank, launched a row-boat, and pulled down to the lake, a distance of two miles, owing to the crooks in the river, while in an air-line it was not more than half as far.
Near B Point we fell in with some black ducks, and after chasing them some distance around the shore Jack obtained a good shot at them, just after they had left the water, and brought down three. These we secured, but the remainder of the flock flew to such a distance that we did not think it worth while to follow them, but pulled back to the house. The ducks I took to the kitchen, and asked the cook to serve them for breakfast the next morning.
We passed the evening in the office listening to fishing stories from those present, who seemed to vie with each other in telling the most monstrous yarns. I never saw a fisherman yet who liked to be outdone by his comrades in telling about his exploits in the fishing-line; but, although it is a scaly business, a fisherman was never known to lie.
We went out Wednesday morning after partridges, leaving the house at half-past eight. We carried a lunch with. us, and made a day of it. We first followed an old woods road back of the house nearly to the lake, picking up five birds on the way. From the "Heywood Clearing" we struck through the woods to the "Tyler Place," and then worked that vicinity thoroughly for two hours. By this time it was one o'clock, and we were hungry.
The doctor called a rest; and, sitting on a fallen tree, we sampled our luncheons, and quaffed our thirst from a spring a few feet away. The cold, sparkling spring-water was good enough for me; but, by the doctor's advice, the others had a "stick" in their water, to keep it from hurting them. Said stick was produced by the doctor, and appeared in the shape of a wicker bound flask, which was passed around, each taking his turn. Then we had a smoke, and after that made our way back by a logging road, that ended near the hotel.
Although the weather had been against us, the day being very cold, and cloudy most of the time, we had met with excellent luck, and four of us succeeded in bagging seventeen birds, and that night at supper we tried their quality.
Thursday morning, after breakfast, we walked to the stores, two miles away, and purchased a few things that we thought would be necessary for the Parmachenee trip, but which we should have done without had it not been for our unexpected wait.
Jack, who was developing an interest in the table-girl, invested in peanuts and candy for her benefit, and made the presentation at dinner-time, loitering for that purpose until all had left the room but Clara and himself.
In the afternoon I went off down on the meadow below the house with Mr. Godwin, to inspect some traps he had set there, and we found three muskrats and one otter in them. The otter was the largest I had ever seen, and very handsome. When we returned to the house we found Morse and Sargeant there, two professional hunters who lived in the neighborhood, and they said the skin was worth from eight to twelve dollars. But fur was higher then than now.
"Killed any bears lately, Luman?" inquired Jack of one of the guides, winking at me, as he asked the question, to attract my attention.
"Yes, yes," returned the guide, earnestly; "found one in my trap, over near C Pond, yesterday."
"Was he dead?" I inquired.
"No, no, not when I found him. But I put a couple of bullets into him that settled his hash."
"How much did he weigh?" queried Jack.
"Between three and four hundred, and he was as fat as a hog."
"That is a weigh' they have," laughed Jack. But Luman did not see the point of the joke. In fact, he didn't "catch on."
"Are there many bears about this fall?" I asked, hoping to start the old fellow on a bear story.
"Gorry, yes. Plenty of them. They've been killing sheep in Grafton all the fall."
"I should think the people would turn out, and hunt them," said one of the gentlemen present.
"Wall, they had orter," answered the hunter, who somehow did not seem inclined to talk much, and soon after he and his companion left the house.
In the evening I wrote some letters home, as it was the best chance I should have for some time, while Jack played cards with the three guests, and, much to his chagrin, himself and his partner were badly beaten, the game being whist.