“Hurrah! for you, Herb, old boy,” yelled Cyrus triumphantly. “That was the grittiest thing I ever saw done’ Hurrah! Hurrah! Hoo-ray!”
The English boys, open-throated, swelled the peal.
But their cheering broke off as they came near, and saw the mask-like face over which Herb bent.
“Is he gone, poor fellow?” asked Garst. “What do you suppose caused it—the slide?”
“Why, it was a thundering big lump of granite from the top o’ the mountain,” answered Herb, replying to the second question. “That plaguy heavy rain must ha’ loosened the earth around it the clay and bushes that kep’ it in place. So it got kind o’ top-heavy, and came slumping and pitching down, slow at first, and then a’most as quick as a cannon-ball, bringing all that pile along with it. I’ve seen the like before; but, sho! I never came so near being buried by it.”
He pointed as he spoke to the late camping-ground, with its lodgment of clay, sods, pygmy trees, and pieces of rock, big and little.
[Illustration: “HERB CHARGED THROUGH THE CHOKING DUST-CLOUDS.]
“The old camp’s clean wiped out, boys,” he said; “and I guess one of the men that built it is gone, or a’most gone, too. Stick your arm under his head, Cyrus, while I hunt for some water.”
Garst did as he was bidden, but his help was not needed long. The guide went off like a racer, covering the ground at a stretching gallop. He remembered well the clear Katahdin spring, which had supplied the home-camp during that long-past trapping winter. He returned with his tin mug full.
When the ice-cold drops touched Chris’s forehead, and lay on his parted lips, gem-like drops which he was past swallowing, his malformed eyes slowly opened. There was intelligence in them, shining through the gathering death-film, like a sinking light in a lantern.
He was groping in the dim border-land now, and in it he recognized his old partner with shadowy wonder; for delirium was past, with the other storms of a storm-beaten life.
“Herb,” he gurgled in snatches, the words being half heard, half guessed at, “’twas I—took ’em—the skins—an’ the antlers. I wanted—to get—to the ole camp—an’ let you—take it out o’ me—afore I—keeled over.”
Herb had taken Cyrus’s place, and was upholding him with a tenderness which showed that the guide’s heart was in this hour melted to a jelly. Two tears were dammed up inside his eyelids, which were so unused to tears that they held them in. He neither wiped nor winked them away before he answered:—
“Don’t you fret about that—poor kid. We’ll chuck that old business clean out o’ mind. You’ve jest got to suck this water and try to chipper up, and—we’ll make camp together again.”
But Herb knew as well as he knew anything that the man who had robbed him was long past “chippering up,” and was starting alone to the unseen camping-grounds.