Once, twice, three times the rifle snapped. The first shot missed altogether. At the second, the moose rose upon his hind-legs, with a sharp sound of fright and pain, quite unlike his former noises. Then he gave a quick jump.
“Great Governor’s Ghost! he’s gone;” yelled Cyrus, who had swung himself down a few feet, and was hanging by one arm, in his anxiety to see the result of the firing. “You needn’t shoot again, Herb! He’s off! Let him go!”
“I guess that second shot cut some hair from him, and drew blood too,” answered Herb, his deep voice giving the pair a queer sensation as they heard it right beneath. “It was too dark to see plain, but I think he reared; and that’s a sign that he was hurt, little or much. Don’t drop down for a minute, boys, till we see whether he has bolted for good.”
He had bolted for good, vanished into the mysterious deeps of the primeval forest, whether hurt unto death, or merely “nipped” in a fore-leg, as Herb inclined to think, nobody knew.
“It’s too dark to see blood-marks, if there are any, so we can’t trail him to-night. If he’s hit bad—but I guess he ain’t—we can track him in the morning,” said the guide; as, after an interval of listening, the rescued pair dropped down from their perches. “Did he chase you, boys? Where on earth did you come on him?”
Talking together, their words tumbling out like a torrent let loose, Cyrus Garst and Dol Farrar gave an account of the past two hours—strangest hours of their lives—filling up the picture of them bit by bit.
“Whew! whew! You did have a narrow squeak, boys, and a scarey time; but I guess you had a lot of fun out of the old snorter,” said Herb, his rare laugh jingling out, starting the forest echoes like a clang of bells. “You’ve won those antlers, Dol—won ’em like a man. Blest, but you have! I promised ’em to the first fellow who called up a moose; and nary a woodsman in Maine could have done it better. I’m powerful glad ’twasn’t your own death-call you gave. I’ll keep my eye on you now till you leave these woods. Where’s the horn?”
“Smashed to bits,” answered Dol regretfully.
“And the camp-kettle?”
“Lying by the spring, over there on the knoll, unless the moose kicked it to pieces,” said Cyrus.
“My senses! you’re a healthy pair to send for water, ain’t ye? Let’s cruise off and find it. I guess you’ll be wanting a drink of hot coffee, after roosting in them trees for so long.”
Garst led the way to the spring. Its pretty hum sounded like an angel’s whisper through the night, after the tumult of the past scene. Herb fumbled in his leather wallet, brought out a match and a small piece of birch-bark, and kindled a light. With some groping, the kettle was found; it was filled, and the party started for camp.