“So you’re English, are you! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!” exclaimed the doctor, looking at the young Farrars. “Well, I suppose we’ll have to put our best foot foremost to give you a good time in American woods.”
“I think that’s what we’re having, sir—such a jolly good time that we’ll never forget it,” answered Neal courteously.
“Yes, it’s jolly enough now; but I tell you I didn’t find it so to-day,” grumbled Dol, while his eyes gleamed like polished steel with the light of present fun. “But as long as I live I’ll remember the sound of your horn, Doctor, when I was dead-beat.”
“Is that so? Well, I guess I’ll have to make you a present of that horn, boy, when we part company, and you go back to civilization, and of the piece of birch-bark, too, which led you to our camp. ’Twas Joe who fixed that to the pine near the swamp; for my lads had a habit of following the trail to the alders, looking for moose or deer signs. He scrawled his sentence on it with the end of a cartridge. I guess it would be a sort of curiosity in England.”
Dol whooped his delight.
“I’ll put it under a glass shade! I’ll”—
While he was casting about in his mind for some way of immortalizing that bit of white bark, Doc’s genial bluster was heard again,—
“Come! come! you fellows! No more skylarking in this camp to-night! It’s high time for all campers to be snoring. Turn in! Turn in!”
But nobody was in a hurry to obey the summons to bed. While hands and feet were being stretched out to the sizzling birch logs for a final toast, Royal Sinclair, who had a trick of speaking very quickly, with a slight click in his utterance, as if his tongue struck his teeth, began to pour some communications into Neal’s ear in rapid dashes of talk,—
“This is just about the jolliest night we ever had in the forest, and we’ve had a staving time all through. We live in Philadelphia, and Uncle Phil—we call him ‘Doc’ like everybody else—brought us out here for our summer vacation. This old log camp was built several years ago by a hunting-party, of whom he was one. The walls were getting mouldy; but he cleaned up the largest of the huts, with Joe’s help, and made it our headquarters. He never needs a guide himself; not a bit of it! He can find his way anywhere through the woods with his compass. But he is a good deal away, so he engaged Joe to go out with us.
“He often starts off at a moment’s notice, and travels dozens of miles on foot, or in a birch canoe, if he hears of a bad accident far away in the forest. Sometimes a lumberman or trapper cuts his foot in two, or nearly chops off his leg with his axe; and these poor fellows would probably die while their comrades were lugging them through the woods on a litter, trying to reach a settlement, if it weren’t for our Doc.
“Once in a while, when he comes to visit us in Philadelphia, a few people call him a crank, because he lives out here and dresses like a settler; but I call him a regular brick.”