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"This brings a tale into my mind,
Which, if you are not disinclined
To listen, I will now relate."—LONGFELLOW.
A QUIET SUNDAY.
MISERY likes company, and about ten o'clock who should walk into the camp but Fred Parker We were glad to see him. He stared with astonishment when he saw Jack and I, and wanted to know where we came from. I told him, and asked him what he was doing. He said he was trapping with John Canforth, and that they had a camp up at the outlet of Parmachenee, and wanted Jack and I to be sure to come and see them before we went down river, which we promised to do. . Fred stopped until nearly noon, and then went off to his own camp.
After dinner I asked Jack if he was going to church.
"To church? Well, I declare, it is Sunday, isn't it? I had forgot all about it. If we go to any church I guess it will be Mr. Woods'. Suppose we take a walk up to the lake."
I was agreeable; so, putting on our overcoats, for it was much colder than the day before, we went out and struck for the lake.
We found it slow, tiresome walking, and we were an hour and a half in covering the three miles between the camp and the lake. On every side we saw the effects of the terrible tempest of the night before. Large and tall spruces, huge yellow birches, and other trees lay prostrate in every direction; some twisted up by the roots, others broken off five or six feet from the ground, and I felt thankful that we had passed through the night safely.
The clouds were so low that all the hills and mountains about the lake were enveloped in mist, and after watching the water break up on the shore a short time we followed the lake around to the outlet, and went down to the dam, near which was Canforth's Camp. We wallowed through the snow to the camp and went in, and found both Fred and John at home.
We stopped there awhile spinning yarns, and talked with them about their trapping. They were discouraged with the heavy fall of snow, as they had a line of traps set about twenty miles long, and they would have a nice job visiting them and digging them out.
Fred wanted to know how long we were going to stay, and I informed him that unless it cleared up that night we should go down river the next day, for there was no fun stopping where we were with two feet of know on the ground; and, besides, if the river froze up it would be bad for us to get the boat back.
"Have you teen much fur, John?" inquired Jack.
"Not a great deal. We have about a dozen skins. We haven't fairly begun business yet, and this storm has upset some of our calculations."
"How long are you going to stay, Fred?" I inquired.
"Until the first of January, if the pork and beans hold out."
"How about the venison, Fred?" said Jack.
"Oh, there's plenty of that around here on the hoof. We intend to sample some before long."
"I should like to stay here a month," asserted Jack, "and see if I could not kill a moose."
"So should I; but it don't look as if we would this trip; "and I glanced out at the dark and sullen sky.
"Where did you leave your boat, Captain?" inquired Fred.
"At the mouth of the river below the Upper Dam," I returned. "Do you think it is a good place? "
"First-rate," he replied. "The water never freezes there, — the current is too strong."
"Have you any gum around the camp, Fred?" inquired Jack.
"Not a bit. We haven't been gumming yet, but intend to get a lot to take down with us before we leave."
"Never mind," replied Jack, with a smile, as be took a chew of tobacco; "this is better."
We stopped with the hunters until nearly dark, and then we returned to our camp. We had a good supper, and then gathered around the fire, and listened to stories from our two companions, who seemed to have passed through many exciting experiences by field and flood. One of the stories that Dick related I quote in his own words as near as possible.
"Three years ago," began Dick, as he settled himself comfortably in his chair, and took an extra pull at his pipe, "I came over here about the first of November, from Pittsburg, on a hunting trip. I had about sixty pounds of traps, twenty-five of grub, and my rifle, besides a frying-pan, pair of blankets, and a tin teapot.
"The next morning after my arrival here I met an explorer who had been looking out loggin' chances, and who had come across the country from the Seven Ponds. He told me game was very thick over there, and that there were two families of beaver in the vicinity, and said I could do a big fall's business trapping in that vicinity.
"As I had never been farther east than Parmachenee Lake I asked him a good many questions about the country, and whether it would be hard getting there.
"He assured me that an experienced woodsman would have no trouble in making the trip, and, as I always carried a compass in the woods, I obtained some points from him to travel by.
"His account of the country pleased me so much that I determined to try it, for if I could bring back a good pack of beaver-skins it would pay me well for my trouble, and I started eastward that very afternoon, and camped that night on the bank of the Cupsuptic River.
"It was a beautiful day when I started, —a little cool, but clear and bright sunshine, and no snow had as yet fallen to lay on the ground more than a few hours.
"I built a rough bough camp for shelter during the night, and then cutting a small pole I hitched on a fishing-line, and going up the river a few rods caught half-a-dozen small trout. These, with a slice of pork, a couple of slap jacks that I cooked in the spider, and a pot of hot tea, made a supper good enough for any woodsman, or a city fellow either, if he was as hungry as I.
"After my supper I cut up a huge pile of wood, and made a rousing fire in front of the camp; then spreading some cedar boughs that I had cut when I built the camp, I lay down on them, feet to the fire, pulled my blankets over me, and soon fell asleep.
"It must have been well along towards morning when I awoke, with a stream of water pouring into my face. I sat up for a moment rather bewildered, but soon gathered enough of my wits to see that the rain was pouring in torrents; that my fire was about out, and that the roof of my camp, which had not been built for wet weather, was leaking in fifty places. It was darker than a stack of black cats, and as I arose to my feet I could not see two yards away from me.
"I had camped near several large white birches, and to them I now groped my way, and with my hunting-knife cut off an armful of bark, and then got back to the camp and threw this on the fire with what fuel I had left.
"This soon blazed up, and I could see a short distance around me. I had covered up my flour, which was the only article of food I had with me, that the rain would spoil, the night before, and, examining it, found it to be dry. Recovering it I took my axe, and cut off several large slabs from an old "down "pine near me, which was dry inside, and threw on the fire; then, as I could do nothing more, I sat down near the fire, pulled my blankets over my head, and waited for daylight.
"It came slowly enough, and after light I anxiously looked at the sky for some signs of fair weather; but it seemed a hopeless case. My blankets by this time were wet through, and I spread them on top of the camp in the hope that they would keep a little of the water out of it.
"There was not a breath of wind, and the weather had moderated a good deal, it being much warmer than the day before.
"While getting my breakfast I came to the sensible conclusion of staying where I was until the rain stopped,. and, after I had eaten, I walked up the bank of the river a short distance, and finding signs of game went back to camp for a couple of traps, and these I set in hopes of getting a fisher or an otter. Deer-tracks were also plenty along the river, and, while I had not caught sight of any, I was in hopes to during the day, and kept my rifle loaded and under cover ready for immediate use.
"At noon it rained as hard as ever, and after dinner I cut up a lot of white birch, and about half of the old dead pine, and `sacked' it to camp. Then I lit my pipe, took my rifle, and went down river about a mile. On my way back I started up two partridges, and shot one of them. I hunted for the other, but could not find it. The one I shot, however, made me a good supper, and I felt thankful for that.
"By dark the river had risen over four feet, and was now a raging torrent. But as there was a narrow place in it just above my camp, where I could bridge it by falling a sapling pine, I did not borrow any trouble on that account.
"At seven o'clock the rain was falling as hard as ever, and I began to entertain thoughts of another flood, and wondered if I hadn't better build an ark. I was wet through to my skin, with no present prospect of getting dry, and I concluded to sit up all night rather than lie down so wet. I thought best to stir around once in a while, as I had no liquor with me, and in fact I never use it."
"You're a sensible man," I remarked.
He smiled, and continued: "About nine o'clock the rain stopped as suddenly as it commenced. The fire ceased sputtering, and sent out a generous blaze, and I made an effort to dry my clothing, in which I partially succeeded, and at midnight I turned in, after putting a lot of wood on the fire.
"It was six o'clock when I woke, and I was all of a shiver. The wind was beginning to blow a little, and it was very much colder. I stirred around briskly, and after eating my breakfast I went to my traps and found a fisher in one of them. I killed him and carried him and the traps to camp. Then I took off his pelt and stretched it, and then, putting more fuel on the fire, spread my blankets and made a business of drying them.
"By ten o'clock they were dry, and, packing up, I started on. The sun had been shining for an hour or two, but was covered by clouds when I broke camp, and that was the last I saw of it for several days. I crossed the river on a bridge of my own making, and then, taking out my compass, struck out on a northeast course.
"At noon I stopped and built a fire, had dinner, with some hot tea, and then took up my line of march again. Although I had been plenty warm traveling, I found it awful cold when I stopped for dinner, and made up my mind that ice would make that night.
"During the afternoon I put my best foot forward as the saying is, until three o'clock, when I halted and built a camp. It was still cloudy, and looked like snow, and I paid more attention to the construction of this camp than I did to the former one, and made it warmer and tighter.
"After finishing the camp, and cutting a pile of wood for the night, I had my supper, puffed away at my pipe for a while, and then bunked down early.
"I was very tired and dropped asleep in a few moments, and when I awoke it was daylight, and a foot of snow covered the ground, and it was coming down as fast as I ever saw it in my life. I thought this was hard luck, for I had hoped to reach the ponds, and get a good log-camp built before getting much snow. But this was evidently going to be a big storm, and I had got to make the best of it.
"The wind blew quite hard, and had drifted a lot of snow into the camp, and the first thing I did was to remove this, and then fix the front of the camp so it would keep the most of the snow out, and by the aid of one of my blankets I succeeded in doing it. Then I cooked my breakfast and melted some snow for water, for there was no stream near me. While eating I thought if I was going to get snowed in' I had better have plenty of fuel on hand, and I cut wood until the cravings of hunger warned me that it must be dinnertime, and, looking at my watch, I found it was one o'clock. I was not over a hundred feet from 'camp, and it did not take me long to return and get my dinner.
"In the afternoon I brought the wood to camp and piled it near. While I was cooking my supper I heard a noise just behind the camp, and, catching up my rifle, I wallowed toward the sound, for the snow was now three feet deep, and caught sight of a deer as he passed across a glimmer of my camp-fire.
"I shot quick, but took careful aim, and the deer, after a jump or two, fell. When I reached him he was dead, and I found that it was an old buck, that would weigh a hundred and fifty or sixty pounds. I cut his throat, and, dragging him up to camp, hung him to a tree and let him bleed."
"That was a lucky shot," said Jack.
"Yes, in more ways than one; for, if I was obliged to travel in three or four feet of snow, I would need show-shoes, and I had brought none with me. The deer's flesh would furnish me with an abundance of fresh meat, and his hide with material for my snowshoes, the frames of which I could make from some hard-wood tree.
"I thought a fresh venison steak would not be bad for supper, and more to my liking than salt pork, of which I had only a pound or two, and, suspending my cooking, I took the hide off the deer, cut him open, removed his entrails, and hung up the four quarters, after cutting two generous slices from one of the hind ones.
"In spite of the blinding snow-storm that still continued I did not fret, for I now felt that I was pretty well fixed, and after a comfortable smoke I turned in, hoping that the snow would stop during the night. I am a sound sleeper, and I had, probably, lost all consciousness before I had laid down fifteen minutes.
"When I awoke I found myself lying on my face, my hands thrown behind me over my back, and I felt a heavy pressure on my body. I thought at first I was not really awake, but was the victim of nightmare. This idea soon passed away when I heard noises of grunts and hard breathing, and realized that some one had bound my hands, and was engaged in tying my feet."
"That must have been a pleasant awakening," I suggested.
"Very," he replied, in a slightly sarcastic tone, and then resumed his story.
"I had no idea, of course, who the men were, or what they were treating me in such a manner for, but I did not propose to lay still and take it, and I began to struggle, and tried to kick. But before I could accomplish anything I received a clout over the head that made me unconscious.
"When I returned to my senses it was daylight, and I could see, outside, my two captors, who, from their talk and appearance, I soon found were Canadian Indians. They talked mostly in French, which I did not understand, and were cooking some of my deer-meat.
"I hailed them, but beyond looking at me once they paid me no further attention. After they were through eating, the largest one, a very powerful fellow, came in and examined my bonds. I asked him for some breakfast, but he did not let on that he heard me.
"They began to busy themselves about something at once, and after a while I could see that they were making snow-shoes. They had cut up the deer's hide into thongs, and had obtained some wood for frames near the camp, which they were fashioning into shape.
"They worked very rapidly, and about eleven o'clock had finished the two pair, and then prepared to depart. They paid me a farewell visit before they left, and robbed me of my watch, pocket compass, matches, and in fact everything I had about me. They could not have cleaned me out more thoroughly if they had been city footpads. It is needless, perhaps, to tell you that my rifle, frying-pan, blankets, and everything else went with them, and I cursed them savagely, and only wished that I could shoot them; and I would have done it with as little compunction as I would have shot a rat."
"Served them right," echoed Jack.
"It strikes me that you were in a bad plight," I remarked.
"Bad! I should say so. As soon as the villains were out of hearing I began to try and loosen my hands. Fortunately for me they had bound me with some of the thongs of the deer-skin, and, as it was very pliable, I succeeded, after half an hour's work, in freeing my hands, and after that soon had the bands off my feet. When I stood upright I came near falling down I was so stiff and numb, but after a step or two my blood began to circulate, and I found I could get around all right.
"I was as hungry as a wolf, and I found one of the fore-quarters of the deer hanging where I had left it. The rest they had taken with them, and only left this, I suppose, because they could not carry it. They had played me another mean trick by putting out the fire, but luckily I found a few matches in an inner pocket of my hunting-shirt, and, although they were damp, I succeeded in lighting one after spoiling about half of them. I soon had a fire going, and tearing off a piece of the deer-meat by means of a stick, for I had no knife to cut it, I pushed a small maple limb through it, and held it over the fire until it was roasted. I had to eat it without salt, as the villains had taken every crumb I had brought.
"While eating I finally came to the determination of making my way back to Parmachenee Lake in the least possible time. Several different projects suggested themselves to me, but I cast them aside one by one as impracticable; and as soon as I had appeased my hunger I took a look at the sun, which was now shining brightly, and grasping the remains of my venison, which was all the scoundrels had left me to take away, I struck a bee-line for the west, in hopes of reaching some of the lumber camps on the Magalloway, above Parmachenee.
"I found it wearisome work wallowing through the snow, which varied in depth from three to four feet, but as I had no load but my venison, to which I clung with an energy that would have made a spectator laugh, I made very fair progress. I stopped for the night in a group of windfalls, made a fire, supped on my venison, but could not sleep on account of the cold, and amused myself by keeping up the fire.
"With the first streak of dawn I cooked some more of the venison, ate it, and continued my tramp. About noon, as near as I could judge by the sun, I reached the Cupsuptic once more, and found a favorable place to cross, the water being but a few inches deep, the freshet having subsided. When I had crossed the river I started a fire, and roasted what was left of the venison. I was not very particular about the cooking, for daylight was valuable, and I ate the meat pretty rare. Then I took a drink from the river and pushed on for the Magalloway.
"I was in hopes to reach it that night; but I never should have done it if luck had not been on my side. About half an hour before dark I heard the blows of an axe resounding through the woods, and, heading for the sound, came upon a chopper who had just finished his day's work, and was starting for the camp. I told him my story in as few words as possible, and in his company soon reached a sled-road, and, following this, a half-hour brought us to camp. In the crew were some men that I was acquainted with, and they gave me a warm welcome, and after supper, which tasted particularly good that night, I saw the boss and engaged myself to him for the winter, and chopped, instead of trapping."
"That was a rough adventure," remarked Jack, as he knocked the ashes out of his pipe.
"You bet it was," added Dick.
"And did you never see the thieves since?" I asked, as I arose, preparatory to going to bed.
"Not a sign of them. I would like to meet them by daylight with a rifle in my hand, and I would put my mark on them."
"I declare it is eleven o'clock, " I said, looking at my watch. "I must go to bed."
"I guess we had better follow suit," chimed in Morton, as he began putting out the lights.
The interest I had taken in Dick's narrative had kept me wide awake while he was talking, but as I began undressing I realized that I was outrageously sleepy, and I had no sooner struck the bed than I became oblivions to all my surroundings.
Whether I had eaten something for supper that night that caused rebellion in my stomach I did not know, but of one thing I was certain, and that was that I did not sleep well, for in a short time — I judged about an hour — I awoke trembling in every limb, and my body bathed in perspiration.
I had been dreaming of the steamer, and thought that she had sunk while I was in the cabin, and my extraordinary struggles to free myself, that I might rise to the surface of the lake, and make some effort to reach the shore, were probably the cause of my sweating and trembling.
I sat up in bed a few moments to collect my thoughts, but the air in the house was so chilly that I was glad to crawl under the bedclothes again in a very few seconds.
I thought to myself this is the second time I have dreamed of the steamer being wrecked; I do hope that she rode out the gale in safety.
I lay awake for some time worrying over the boat, but finally dropped to sleep again; but I awoke several times before daylight, and always with the impression that the steamer was in trouble.