During the first half-dozen miles of the way, though each one manfully did his best to be lively, a sense of loss made their fun flat and pointless. Royal’s tear-away tongue, his brothers’ racket, Joe’s racy talk, Uncle Eb’s kind, dark face, and more than all, Doc’s companionship, which was as tonic to the hearts of those who travelled with him, were missed.
But spirits must be elastic in forest air. When they halted at noon to eat their “snack” on the side of a breezy knoll, with a tiny brook purling through a pine grove beneath them, with Katahdin’s rugged sides and cloud-veiled peaks looming in majesty to the north, the thought of what lay behind was inevitably lost in what lay before. Enthusiasm replaced depression.
“It’s no use grizzling because we can’t have those fellows with us all the time,” remarked Neal philosophically. “’Twas a big piece of luck our running against them at all. And I’ve a sort of feeling that this won’t be the end of it; we’ll come across them again some day or other.”
“And at all events we’ll probably get a sight of Doc at Greenville as we go back,” said Dol, to whom this was no small comfort.
“Well, needless to say, I’d have been glad of their company for the rest of the trip. But still, if they had taken a notion to come on with us, it would have reduced to nothing our chances of seeing a moose. We’re a big party already for moose-calling or stalking—three of us, with Herb;” this from Cyrus.
“Now, fellows, don’t you think we’d better get a move on us?” added the leader. “We’ve half a dozen miles to do yet; but the trail begins right here, and is clearly blazed all the way to our camp. Let’s keep a stiff upper lip, and the journey will soon be over.”
It was very delightful to sit there in the crisp October air, with the brook seemingly humming tender legends of the woods, which witless men could not translate, with an uncertain breeze playing through the newly fallen maple-leaves, now turning them one by one in lazy curiosity, then of a sudden making them caper and swirl in a scarlet merry-go-round. Still, the young Farrars were not loath to move on. Now that they were nearing the climax of their journey, their minds were full of Herb Heal. Their longing to meet this lucky hunter grew with each mile which drew them nearer to him.
They pressed hard after their leader, looking neither right nor left, while he carefully followed the trail; and one hour’s tramping brought them to the shores of Millinokett Lake.
Here, despite their eagerness to reach their new camp, they were forced to stop and admire the great sheet of forest-bound water, smiling back the sky in tints of turquoise and pearl, dotted with apparently countless islets, like specks upon the face of a mirror.
The irregular shores of the lake were broken by “logons,” narrow little bays curving into the land, shining arms of water, sometimes bordered by evergreens, sometimes by graceful poplars and birches. From the opposite bank the woods stretched away in undulating waves of ridge and valley to the foot of Mount Katahdin, which still showed grandly to the northward.