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though rather feebly, in the laugh, as he brushed himself and picked up his rifle; "for, to be upset and run over by a bear would have been about the last thing I should have dreamed of myself."
"O well," said the other, checking his risibles, "it had better turn out a laughing than a crying matter, as it might have done if you had kept your footing; for, if you had not been overthrown and run over, you would have probably, in this cramped-up place, stood up to be hugged and scratched in a way not so very agreeable; and I rather guess, under the circumstances, you may as well call yourself satisfied to quit so; for the bears have left you with a whole skin and unbroken ribs, though they have escaped themselves where, with our time, it will be useless to follow them. But, if you had not fired just as you did, we would have had all three of them."
"What! have you killed one?" asked Claud, in surprise.
"To be sure I have," answered the hunter. "Then you supposed it was one of your rough visitors I fired at, and missed? No, no. I had got one of the black youngsters in range, and was waiting for a chance at the old one, knowing if I killed her first the young ones would take to the trees, where they could easily be brought down. Seeing them, however, on the point of running at the report of your rifle, I let drive at the only one I was sure of; when the two others, they being nearly between us, tacked about and ran towards you. But go get your 'coon, and come along this way, to look at my black beauty."
"How did you know I had killed a 'coon?" inquired the other.
"Heard him squall before you fired, then strike the ground afterwards with a force that I thought must have killed him, whether your bullet had or not," replied the hunter, moving off for his bear, with which, tugging it along by a hind leg, he soon joined Claud, who was threading his way out with his mottled trophy swung over his shoulder.
"Why, a much larger one than I supposed," exclaimed the latter, turning and looking at the cub; "really, a fine one!"
"Ain't he, now?" complacently said the hunter. "There, heft him; must weigh over half a hundred, and as fat as butter,--for which he is doubtless indebted to the chiefs cornfield. And I presume we may say the same of that streaked squaller of yours, which I see is an uncommonly large, plump fellow. Well," continued the speaker, shouldering the cub, "we may now as well call our hunt over, for to-day,--out of this plaguey hole as soon as we can, and over the lakes to camp, as fast as strong arms and good oars can send us."
On, after reaching and pushing off their now well-freighted canoe, on,--along the extended coast-line of this wild lake, westward to the great inlet, up the gently inflowing waters of that broad, cypress-lined stream, to the Maguntic, and then, tacking eastward, around the borders of that still wilder and more secluded lake,--on, on, they sped for hours, until the ringing of the axe-fall, and the lively echo of human voices in the woods, apprised them of their near approach to the spot which their companions had selected, both for their night's rest and permanent head-quarters for the season.
"And now their hatchets, with resounding stroke, Hew'd down the boscage that around them rose, And the dry pine of brittle branches broke, To yield them fuel for the night's repose; The gathered heap an ample store bespoke. They smite the steel: the tinder brightly glows, And the fired match the kindled flames awoke, And light upon night's seated darkness broke. High branch'd the pines, and far the colonnade Of tapering trunks stood glimmering through the glen; So joyed the hunters in their lonely glade."
"Hurra! the stragglers have arrived!" exclaimed Codman, the first to notice the hunter and Claud as they shot into the mouth of the small, quiet river, on whose bank was busily progressing the work of the incipient encampment. "Hurra for the arrival of the good ship Brag, Phillips, master; but where is his black duck, with a big trout to its foot? Ah, ha! not forthcoming, hey? Kuk-kuk-ke-oh-o!"
"Don't crow till you see what I have got, Mr. Trapper," replied the hunter, running in his canoe by the sides of those of his companions on shore. "Don't crow yet,--especially over the failure of what I didn't undertake: you or Mr. Carvil was to furnish the big trout, you will recollect."
"That has been attended to by me, to the satisfaction of the company, I rather think," remarked Carvil, now advancing towards the bank with the rest. "Not only one big trout, but two more with it, was drawn in by my method, on the way."
"O, accident, accident!" waggishly rejoined the trapper; "they were hooked by mere accident. The fact is, the trouts are so thick in these lakes that a hook and line can't be drawn such a distance through them without getting into some of their mouths. But, allowing it otherwise, it don't cure but half of your case, Mr. Hunter. Where is the black duck?"
"_Here_ is the black duck," responded the hunter, stepping ashore and drawing his cub out from under some screening boughs in the bow of the boat.
A lively shout of laughter burst from the lips of the company at the disclosure, showing alike their amusement at the practical way in which the hunter had turned the jokes of the teasing trapper, and their agreeable surprise at his luck in the uncertain hunting cruise along the shores, on which they, without any expectation of his success, had banteringly dispatched him. "Ah, I think you may as well give up beat, all round, Mr. Codman," observed Mark Elwood, after the surprise and laughter had subsided. "But come up here, neighbor Phillips, and see what a nice place we are going to have for our camp."
Leaving the game in charge of Claud and Carvil, who volunteered to dress it, the rest of the company walked up with the hunter to the spot where the new shanty was in progress, wishing to hear his opinion of the location selected, and the plan on which it had been commenced.
The location to which the company had been guided by the trapper was a level space, about ten rods back from the stream here falling into the lake from the east, and at the foot of a rocky acclivity forming a portion of the southern side of a high ridge that ran down to the lake. The first ten feet of the rise was formed by the smooth, even face of a perpendicular rock, which from the narrow shelf at the top fell off into a less precipitous ascent, extending up as far as the eye could reach among the stunted evergreens and other low bushes that partially covered it. About a dozen feet in front of this abutting rock, equidistant from it, and some fifteen feet apart, stood two spruce trees, six or eight inches in diameter at the bottom, but tall, and tapering towards the top. These, the company, who had reached the place about two hours before, had contrived, by rolling up some old logs to stand on, to cut off, and fell, six or seven feet from the ground; so that the tall stumps might serve for the two front posts of the proposed structure. And, having trimmed out the tops of the two fallen trees, and cut them into the required lengths, they had laid them from the top of the rock to the tops of the stumps, which had been first grooved out, so as to receive and securely fasten the ends of the timbers. These, with the stout poles which they had then cut and laid on transversely, at short intervals, made a substantial framework for the roof of the shantee. And, in addition to this, rows of side and front posts had been cut, sharpened, driven into the ground at the bottom, and securely fastened at the top to the two rafters at the sides and the principal beam, which had been notched into them at the lower ends to serve for the front plate.
"Just the spot," said the hunter, after running his eye over and around the locality a moment, and then going up and inspecting the structure in progress. "I thought Codman could not miss so remarkable a place. I have been thinking of building a camp here for several years; but it never seemed to come just right till this fall. Why, you all must have worked like beavers to get along with the job so well, and to do it so thoroughly. The bones of the thing are all now up, as far as I can see, and made strong enough to withstand all the snows and blows of half a dozen winters. So, now, nothing remains but to put on the bark covering."
"But how are we to get the bark covering?" asked Gaut Gurley. "Bark will not peel well at this season, will it?"
"No, not very well, I suppose," replied the former. "But I will see what I can do towards hunting up the material, to-morrow. A coat of these spruce boughs, spread over this framework above, and set up here against the sides, will answer for to-night. And this rigging up, gathering hemlock boughs for our beds, building a good fire here in front, and cooking the supper, are all we had better think of attempting this evening; and, as it is now about sunset, let us divide off the labor, and go at it."
The encampment of these adventurous woodsmen presented, for the next hour, a stirring and animated scene. The different duties to be performed having been apportioned by mutual agreement among the company, they proceeded with cheerful alacrity to the performance of their respective tasks. Phillips and Carvil set busily to work in covering, inclosing, and rigging up the camp,--to adopt the woodsman's use of that word, as we notify the critic we shall do, as often as we please, albeit that use, contrary to Noah Webster, indicates the structure in which men lodge in the woods, rather than the place or company encamping. Mark Elwood, Gaut Gurley, and the young Indian Tomah, proceeding to a neighboring windfall of different kinds of wood, went to work in cutting and drawing up a supply of fuel, among which, the accustomed backlog, forestick, and intermediate kindling-wood, being adjusted before the entrance of the camp, the fire from the smitten steel and preserving punkwood was soon crackling and throwing around its ruddy glow, as it more and more successfully competed with the waning light of the departing day. Claud and Codman, in fulfilment of their part of the business on hand, then unpacked the light frying-pans, laid in them the customary slices of fat salted pork, and shortly had them sharply hissing over the fire, preparatory to receiving respectively their allotted quotas of the tender and nutritious bearsteaks, or the broad layers of the rich, red-meated trout.
In a short time the plentiful contents of the pans were thoroughly cooked, the pans taken from the fires, the potatoes raked from the glowing embers, in which they had been roasting under the forestick, the brown bread and condiments brought forward, and all placed upon the even face of a broad, thin sheet of cleft rock, which they had luckily found in the adjacent ledge, and brought forward and elevated on blocks within the camp, to serve, as it well did, for their sylvan table. Gathering round this, they proceeded to help themselves, with their camp knives and rude trenchers, split from blocks of the freely-cleaving basswood, to such kinds and portions of the savory viands, smoking so invitingly in the pans before them, as their inclinations severally prompted. Having done this, they drew back to seats on broad chips, blocks of wood, piles of boughs, or other objects nearest at hand, and began upon their long anticipated meal with a gusto which made them for a while too busy for conversation, other than an occasional brief remark on the quality of the food, or some jocose allusion to the adventures of the day. After they had finished their repast,
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