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"Who, when great trials come,
Nor seeks nor shuns them, but doth calmly stay,
Till he the thing and the example weigh."— HERBERT.
OUT OF THE STORM.
"HOW far is it to Sunday Pond Camp, Captain?" asked Jack. "The snow is two feet deep here, and I hope we shall not have to travel in it very far to-night."
"It is about a mile, but the first thing is to find the road."
As Jack had said, the snow was really two feet deep, and it was not a very easy matter getting around in it. We groped our way through the trees for a short distance, then came into a small clearing, and, after hunting around this for fifteen minutes, found the road, and with a gladsome cry struck out for the camp.
As the snow had increased with every mile of our advance northward I judged the storm had swept down from Canada, and wondered how much snow they were getting the other side of the boundary. I learned from the papers after my return home that nearly three feet on a level fell in Quebec during this storm, although it all went off again before winter finally set in.
"How is this for a young winter, Jack?" I screamed, as we wallowed along.
"I call it a pretty good beginning," he replied, and then added, crossly, "If you had taken my advice we shouldn't have been here."
Locomotion was so difficult that much conversation was out of the question.
Our exertions made us puff and pant, and in spite of our best efforts we progressed at a snail's pace. Indeed, we could only go a few rods without stopping to take breath. Our work on the river had been child's play compared with what we were now doing.
We were hungry, wet, and cold, and to add to our discomfort the wind had increased to a gale, and the snow was swept into our faces with a force that nearly blinded ns. Indeed we were in great danger of losing the road, or passing the camp without seeing it, and I encouraged the dog to keep ahead, knowing that he would bark if he came within sight or smell of a house.
For half an hour or more we struggled on, now crawling under some large windfall, then climbing over smaller ones, until we were about used up, and we were just thinking of taking our chances where we were, and camping until morning, when in a lull of the wind we heard the dog bark a short distance ahead of us, and, gazing sharply in the direction of the sound, caught the twinkle of a light through the trees.
At that moment our feelings were better imagined than described. We were like the storm-tossed mariner on the mighty ocean, who, after fighting with the storm for hours, and feeling that in a few minutes more his vessel must be a wreck, suddenly discerns the welcome beacon that guides him safely to a harbor.
One long, loud "Hurrah! there's a light; it must be the camp," and the next moment we were pressing forward regardless of wind or snow. The knowledge that we were so near shelter gave us new life and strength, and nerved us up for increased effort. But fortunate it was for us that the distance was so short, for we could not have traveled another mile had our lives depended upon it. A few moments more and we had reached the building, and were sheltered beneath its hospitable roof.
We found two hunters there who had been setting a line of traps between Parmachenee and Connecticut Lakes, and who were stopping in the camp until the storm was over. One of them, whose name was Morton, told ns that Flint had gone to Bethel, and would not be back for two weeks, so that we should not see him. This was a disappointment; but it was in keeping with the luck that had followed us from the start.
Morton asked me if we were hungry, and I told him we had only had a lunch since breakfast.
"And it is seven o'clock now," he said; "get off your wet things, and I will get you some supper while you dry your clothes."
The other fellow, whom I will call Dick, went out and brought in two or three armfuls of wood, and in a short time the large stove in the kitchen was red-hot, and Jack and I, who stood as near to it as the heat would allow, were enveloped in clouds of steam sent forth from our wet garments.
In about half an-hour Morton announced that supper was ready, and we sat down to the table, on which we found hot biscuit, fried trout and pork, potatoes, cold corned beef (canned), and some currant jelly. We were as hungry as sharks, and I thought we should never get done eating; but finally, with an effort, I tore myself away from the table, and told Jack I had my opinion of any man who could eat longer than myself.
"You can't shame me any," replied Jack, with a laugh, scooping in the one remaining biscuit; "after what we've been through to-day I intend to eat until I get filled up."
"That's right," declared Norton. "Don't let the captain bluff you. Have another cup of tea, Jack?"
"Thanks; don't care if I do, seeing it's you;" and the unblushing fellow passed his empty cup to be filled for the third time.
"Great Jerusalem, Jack! I hope I shall not have to sleep with you to-night. Unless your digestion is better than most people's, you will be dreaming of panthers and bob-cats, and kick me out of bed."
"Don't worry, Cap," laughed Dick; "you can each have a bed to yourself."
After we had appeased our hunger we gathered around the stove, and Jack and I finished the drying-off process. We sat and smoked and talked until about ten o'clock. Morton and his partner, and Jack and I exchanged experiences, and we passed a very pleasant evening. Morton thought we had made the quickest time on record, in coming from the Magalloway settlement to Sunday Pond in ten hours.
"We did not hurry much," I told him, "and I think we could beat our time of to-day in pleasant weather."
"You would have to 'hump her' some to do it," remarked Dick.
"We'll make better time going down, see if we don't," said Jack.
"Have you seen any moose about here, Morton?" I asked.
"Not yet; but we saw the tracks of a thundering big one yesterday. We intended to have gone out for him to-day, but this snow spoiled our sport,— covered his trail up. But we intend to shoot one before we leave."
"I would give five dollars to get a shot at one," declared Jack, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "You can go out with ns some day," said Morton.
"I know about where to look for them, and we can track them easily now, there is so much snow."
"But a fellow would need snow-shoes," returned Jack. "There would not be much fun in hunting only in boots, with two or three feet of snow on the ground."
"There are plenty of snow-shoes here. Did you ever use them?" Morton asked this question with a smile.
"Many a time," replied Jack. "I have done a good deal of snow-shoeing around the Richardson Lakes. I chased a deer last winter over a mountain at the lower end of Lake Welokennebacook, and shot him about three miles from where I first discovered him. The crust was not heavy enough to hold him or he would have given me the lurch. He was a very large buck, and weighed a hundred and fifty pounds."
"That is a pretty large deer," said Morton. "By the way we'll give you some venison for breakfast. We have one hind quarter left of a buck we shot last week over at the foot of Bose-Buck Mountain. How long do you think you will stay up here, Captain? "
"That depends upon circumstances," I replied. "But we shall have to get back to the Brown Farm by next Friday noon at the latest, as the steamer makes her last trip on that day for the season."
"We could hire a boat at the Brown Farm and row down to Upton," suggested Jack.
"Yes; but how would we get the boat back? " I returned.
"I did not think of that."
"We could walk from the Brown Farm down to Errol, and then get a team to take us to Upton by the way of Cambridge; but it would not pay for ns to take that trouble and expense unless we are going to strike pretty good hunting up here."
"There's always plenty of hunting up here," remarked Dick, smiling at me; "but the amount of game you find is another thing."
"Well, there's fun in hunting, whether you shoot anything or not," returned Jack.
I asked Morton what he thought about the weather, and he said his opinion was that it would clear off cold, and that we would not see bare ground again until next spring. Dick thought also that winter had set in, and "reckoned "that the rivers would freeze up as soon as it was through snowing.
I was sorry to hear these men talk in the way they did, because, if their predictions were to be verified, it was evident to me that the sooner Jack and I left for the settlement, the better, without stopping for any sport.
We were not prepared to stay in the woods during winter weather, and had counted on the next two or three weeks being warm and pleasant, when we started on our trip. Neither did we care to break ice on the river if it froze up, and we were in duty bound to return the boat we had come up in to the place where we had taken it from. Therefore I went to bed feeling rather blue, and laid awake for some time thinking what was best to be done, but finally fell off into a doze without coining to any conclusion.
I had slept but a short time when I was awakened by a tremendous crash, and a trembling of the camp; it seemed to me as if the building was coming down around our ears. Every one was on his feet in a moment, anxiously inquiring what was the trouble. Morton lit a lantern and I opened the door, and we all peered out. We found that a large spruce that stood near the camp had been blown down, and in its fall had just grazed the corner of the camp, knocking off some of the shingles, but not doing any further damage.
Before we closed the door we heard another frightful crash but a short distance away, marking the death of another forest monarch. The wind had hauled around to the north-west, and was blowing with a fury that I never saw surpassed. It was only one o'clock, but not knowing what might happen, for there were a number of large spruces standing near the building, we all dressed, and laid down on the outside of the bed, so as to be able to leave in a moment if necessary.
After dressing I lay awake about an hour, listening to the roar of the wind as it howled through the forest, and the crashing of trees as they fell to the ground, some of them, as we found next day, being torn up by the roots. I finally sank into a troubled sleep, during which I dreamed that the steamer had broken from her moorings and had gone ashore. It was seven o'clock when I awoke, and I could hear the voices of the others in the kitchen.
I jumped up and pulled on my boots, then went out and washed. I found Dick and Jack getting breakfast, and the savory smell of broiled venison filled the kitchen. About eight o'clock we sat down to the table. After breakfast Morton and I washed up the dishes and cleared away; then we all sat down for a smoke and a chat.
The wind had entirely ceased, and the snow had stopped falling, but as yet it did not look anything like clearing off.
"Is it not unusual," I asked of Morton, "to have such a big storm as this so early in the season?"
"I don't know as I ever saw quite as much snow as this the second week in October. But we generally get snow-squalls here by the last of September, and more or less after that until the following June."
"I should hate to live in this country then, for I despise snow."
"If you wish to hate yourself," said Dick, "you orter live in a loggin' camp up here one winter. I've seen it snow every day for a month."
"Oh, get out!" I replied, laughing; "a person could not get around in such a storm."
"I don't mean that it snowed hard every day, but that there wasn't a day for a month but what it snowed.
Some days there wouldn't be a quarter of an inch fall, and some days it would spit snow all day while the sun was shining."
"How long do you fellows intend to stop here?" queried Jack.
"We shall leave here as soon as the storm is over, and go back to Connecticut Lake," replied Morton, "and shall probably stay there until January. But it will depend some on the weather and our luck in trapping."
"Have yon a good camp at Connecticut Lake?" I inquired.
"First-rate," said Dick, "you had better go over there with us."
"If this snow had not come I had intended to go over there and stay one or two nights, but, as it is, I think I am far enough from the settlements."
"I wish you could have gone over, Captain," remarked Morton. "I have the head of a moose and a caribou's head set up at the camp, and I should like to have had you seen them."
"I have no doubt they are worth looking at, but I am not likely to get a look at them this trip."
"Was the moose a large one? "questioned Jack.
"I should think he'd weigh a thousand pounds," declared Dick. "It was a bull moose, and we put five bullets into him before we killed him."
"Where did you shoot him?" I asked.
"Between Second and Third Lakes," replied Morton.
"Is there any reading-matter around this shanty?" I inquired, looking at the two hunters.
"Yon may find some old papers," said Morton, and then, with a laugh, added, "They haven't started a public library in this country yet, Captain."
"I suppose not. But I should want them to if I had to stay here. I wouldn't live here through the winter for a thousand dollars a month, unless I could have plenty of books and cigars;" and I took the old papers that Dick had found and began looking them over.
Jack, not caring to read, borrowed a fishing-rod from Morton, and went down to the pond, a few rods away, to see if he could capture a trout.
I smiled when I saw him go out, for it was so cold and blustering I knew he would not stay long.
In half an hour or so he came back, declaring that he was half frozen, and without a single fish. He drew up to the stove, pulled off his boots, and placed his feet in the oven, and began growling about the trout not biting.
"That is all right," remarked Dick, laughing. "It's Sunday. Fish don't bite up in this country Sundays."
"Nor week days either, such weather as this," returned Jack.
"I'll go fishing with you to-morrow, and take you where you can get some trout."
"I don't believe you will unless the weather changes. If it holds on like this we'll be sliding down river to morrow;" and Jack looked to me to corroborate his assertion.
"I think that will be the wisest plan, for we can't have any fun here as things are now."
Just then Jack gave a howl, and pushed back from the stove with such Violence that his chair upset, and over he went. He was on his feet in a moment, and gave the chair a kick that sent it spinning across the room, and then began rubbing his left foot.
As soon as we could stop laughing, for his whole action was exceedingly comical, Morton asked him what the matter was.
"Burned my foot; and it's nothing to laugh at," he added savagely.
As he was evidently not in a mood for joking I returned to my reading, and Morton and Dick went ont for water and wood, and we let Jack alone until he recovered his temper, which had been sadly marred by his accident.