“Right, as you always are, Herb,” answered Cyrus. “But what on earth made the creature bolt so suddenly? If you had seen him five minutes before he was shot, you’d have said he had as much fight in him as a lion.”
“That’s the way with moose a’most always. Their courage ain’t that o’ flesh-eating animals. It’s only a spurt; though it’s a pretty big spurt sometimes, as you boys know now. It’ll fail ’em in a minute, when you least expect it. And, you see, that one last night didn’t know where his wound came from. I guess he thought he was struck by lightning or a thunder-ball, so he skipped. Talking of thunder-balls, boys,” wound up Herb, “I shouldn’t be surprised if the old Mountain Spirit, who lives up a-top there, gave us a rattling welcome with his thunders to-day. The air is awful heavy for this time of year. Perhaps we’d better give up the trailing after all.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Dol indignantly. “Do you think a shower will melt us? Or that we’ll squeal like girls at a few flashes of lightning? ’Twould be jolly good fun to see old Pamolah sending off his artillery.”
“Well, there’d be no special danger, I guess, if we were past the heavy timber growth before the storm began. There’s lots of rocky dens on the mountain side where we could shelter under a granite ledge, and be safer than we’d be here in tent. Or we might come a-near our old log camp. I guess, if that’s standing yet, you’d like to see it. Say! we’ll leave it to Cyrus. He’s boss, ain’t he?”
Cyrus, desperately anxious to know whether it would be life or death for the wounded moose, and regarding the signs of bad weather as by no means certain, decided in favor of the expedition. The campers hurriedly swallowed the remainder of their breakfast, and made ready for an immediate start.
“In trailing a moose the first rule is: go as light as you can; that is, don’t carry an ounce more stuff than is necessary. Even a man’s rifle is apt to get in his way when he has to scramble over windfalls, or slump between big bowlders of rock, which a’most tear the clothes off his back. And we may have to do some pretty tall climbing. So leave all your traps in the tent, boys; I’ll fasten it down tight. There won’t be any human robbers prowling around, you bet! Bears and coons are the only burglars of these woods, and they don’t do much mischief in daytime.”
The guide rapidly gave these directions, his breezy voice setting a current of energy astir, like a wind-gust cutting through a quiet grove, while he rolled his indispensable axe, some bread that was left from the meal, and a lump of pork into a little bundle, which he strapped on his back.
“Now,” he said, “if that trail should give us a long tramp, or if you boys should take a notion to go a good ways up Katahdin, or anything turns up to hinder our getting back to camp till nightfall, I’ve our snack right here. I can light a fire in two minutes, to toast our pork; and we’ll wash it down with mountain water, the best drink for climbers. I could rig you up a snug shelter, too, in case of accidents. A woodsman ain’t in it without his axe.”