There was no longer any doubt. Someone was approaching.
“If Billy Holcomb had only give us a leetle more time, Hite,” came a voice, “we’d had things fixed up slicker’n they be; but she won’t leak a drop, that’s sartain, and if this here Mr. Thayor hain’t too pertickler—”
“Billy allus spoke ‘bout him as bein’ humin, Freme,” returned his companion, “and seein’ he’s humin I presume likely he’ll understand we done our best. ’Twon’t be long now,” he added, “’fore they’ll git here.”
Two men now emerged into the clearing. The foremost, Hite Holt, as he was known—was a veteran trapper from the valley—lean and wiry, and wearing a coonskin cap. From under this peered a pair of keen gray eyes, as alert as those of a fox. His straight, iron-gray hair reached below the collar of his coat, curling in long wisps about his ears after the fashion of the pioneer trapper. As he came on toward the shanty the chipmunk noticed that he bent under the weight of a pack basket loaded with provisions. He also noticed that his sixty years carried him easily, for he kept up a swinging gait as he picked his way over the fallen timber.
His companion, Freme Skinner, was a young lumberman of thirty, with red hair and blue eyes; a giant in build; clad in a heavy woollen lumber-man’s jacket of variegated colours. One of his distinguishing features—one which gained for him the soubriquet of the “Clown” the country about, was the wearing of a girl’s ring in his ear, the slit having been made with his pocket knife in a moment of gallantry. At the heels of the two men trotted silently a big, brindle hound.
They had reached the dilapidated shanty now and were taking a rapid glance at their surroundings.
“Seems ‘ough it warn’t never goin’ to clear up,” remarked Hite Holt, the trapper, slipping the well-worn straps from his great shoulders and staggering with ninety pounds of dead weight until he deposited it in the driest corner of the shanty. Then he added with a good-natured smile: “Say, we come quite a piece, hain’t we?”
During the conversation the dog stalked solemnly about, took a careful look at the shanty and its surroundings and disappeared in the thick timber in the direction of the brook. The trapper turned and looked after him, and a wistful, almost apologetic expression came into his face.
“I presume likely the old dog is sore about something,” he remarked, when the hound was well out of hearing. “He’s been kind er down in the mouth all day.”
“‘Twarn’t nothin’ we said ‘bout huntin’ over to Lily Pond, was it?” ventured Freme.
“No—guess not,” replied the trapper thoughtfully. “But you know you’ve got to handle him jest so. He’s gettin’ techier and older every day.”
Imaginative as a child, with a subtle humour, often inventing stories that were weird and impossible, this strange character had lived the life of a hermit and a wanderer in the wilderness—a life compelling him to seek his companions among the trees or the black sides of the towering mountains. All nature, to him, was human—the dog was a being.