“If it were only myself!” he whispered, as if talking to his hemlock. “If it were only myself, I wouldn’t care a pin. ’Twould do me no great harm to perch here for hours. But an English youngster, on his first camping-trip! Why, the chill of a forest night might ruin him. He wouldn’t howl or make a fuss, for both those Farrar boys have lots of grit, but he’d never get over it. Dol!” he wound up, raising his voice to a sharp pitch. “Say, Dol, I’m going to try a shout for help. Herb must be getting anxious about us by this time. If we could once make him hear, he could try some trick to lure this old curmudgeon away, or creep up and shoot him. Something must be done.”
Fetching a deep breath, Cyrus sent a distance-piercing “Coo-hoo!” ringing through the night-air. He followed it with another.
But, so far as he could hear, the hails fetched no answer, save from the moose-jailer. The brute was stirred into a fresh tantrum by the noise. He charged the hemlocks once more, butted and shook them like a veritable demon.
When his paroxysm had subsided, and he stood off to get breath, Garst hailed again.
Glad sound! An answer this time! First, a shrill, long “Coo-hoo!” Next, Herb’s voice was heard pealing from far away in the bog: “What’s up, boys? Where in the world are you?”
“Here in the trees—treed by a bull-moose!” yelled Cyrus. “He’s the maddest old monster you ever saw. Could you coax him off, or sneak up and shoot him? He means to keep us prisoners all night.”
There was no wordy answer. But presently the treed heroes heard an odd, bird-like whistle. Dol thought it came from a feathered creature; his more experienced companion guessed that the guide’s lips gave it as a signal that he was coming, but that he didn’t want to draw the moose’s attention in his direction just yet.
Such a quarter of an hour followed! With the fresh spurt of anger the bull-moose became more savage than ever. He grunted, tramped, and hooked the trees with his horns, so that the pair who were perched like night-birds on the branches had to hold on for dear life, lest a surprising shock should dislodge them. Whenever the creature stood off, to gather more fury, they could have counted their heart-beats while they listened, breathlessly anxious to, know what action the approaching woodsman would take.
Once Cyrus spoke.
“Dol Farrar,” he said, “I guess this caps all the adventures that you or I have had up to date. No wonder you felt all day as if you were working up to something. I’ll believe in presentiments in future.”
The words had scarcely passed his lips, when there was the sharp bang! bang! of a rifle not twenty yards distant. A bright sputter of fire cut the darkness beneath the hemlocks.
The moose’s blind rage threatened to be his own undoing. While he was fighting an imaginary danger, ears and nostrils half-choked by fury, through the calm night Herb Heal, Winchester in hand, had crept noiselessly on, till he reached the very trees which sheltered his friends.