Cyrus lifted his hat, and waved it at the distant mass.
“Hurrah!” he cried. “There’s the home of storms! There’s old Katahdin! The Indians named it Ktaadn ‘the biggest mountain.’”
“Want to hear the Indian legend about it, lads?” asked Dr. Phil.
A general chirp of assent was his reply, and the doctor began:—
“Well, when the redskins owned these forests, they believed that the summit of Katahdin was the home of their evil spirit, or, as they call him, ‘The Big Devil.’ He was named Pamolah. And he was a mighty unpleasant sort of neighbor. Once, so tradition says, he ran away with a beautiful Indian maiden, and carried her up to his lonely lair among those peaks. When her tribe tried to rescue her, he let loose great storms upon them, his artillery being thunder, lightning, hail, and rain, before which they were forced to flee helter-skelter. An old red chief long ago told me the story, and added gravely that ’it was sartin true, for han’some squaw always catch ’em debil.’
“The foundation of the legend lies in the fact that there really is a very curious granite basin among Katahdin’s peaks, and it is the birthplace of most storms which sweep over our State. I myself have seen clouds forming in it, when I made an ascent of the mountain in my younger days, and whirling out in all directions. The roar of its winds may sometimes be heard miles away. There are several ponds in the basin; one of them, a tiny, clear lake, without any visible outlet, is Pamolah’s fishing-ground. That’s the yarn about the mountain as I heard it.”
[Illustration: In the shadow of the Katahdin.]
“Ain’t it a’most time for us to be gittin’ down from this Horseback, Doc?” asked Joe, who had been listening with the others. “I thought we’d reach the farm you’re heading for to-night, but we’re half a dozen miles off it yet; and we can’t do more’n another mile or two afore it’ll be time to halt and make camp. There’s some pretty bad travelling and a plaguy bit of swamp ahead.”
“I guess you’re about right, Joe,” said Doc, rising with alacrity from the stone where he had seated himself while telling his yarn.
Joe’s bad travelling meant a great deal of tripping and floundering through soft mud and mire, with slippery moss-stones sandwiched in, and dwarfed bushes which ran along the ground, and twisted themselves in an almost impassable tangle. These had a knack of catching a fellow’s feet, and causing him to sprawl forward on his face and hands, whereupon his knapsack would hit him an astounding thwack on the back.
After three-quarters of an hour of this fun, very muddy, clammy with perspiration, and thoroughly winded, the party reached firmer ground, and the guides called a halt.
“Guess we’d better rest a bit,” said Joe, “afore we go farther. There’s nothing in forest travelling that’ll take the breath out of a man like crossing a swamp,” eying compassionately the city folk; for he himself was as “fit” as when he started. “Then we’d better follow that stream till we strike a good place for a camping-ground. What say, Doc?”