Herb was not long in making ready the stereotyped camp-fare of flapjacks and pork. To light his preparations, he took a candle out of a precious bundle which he had brought from a town a hundred miles distant, and set it in a primitive candlestick. This was simply a long stick of white spruce wood, one end of which was pointed, and stuck into the ground; the other was split, and into it the candle was inserted, the elasticity of the fresh wood keeping the light in place.
The tired hunter did not dawdle over his supper. In a quarter of an hour he had finished it, and was building up the fire again. Then he stretched himself beside the trio in the rude bunk, drawing one thin blanket over him. Neal, who lay on his right, was conscious of some prickings of excitement at having such a bedfellow on the fir-boughs,—the camper’s couch which levels all. There flashed upon the fair-haired English boy a remembrance of how Cyrus had once said that “in the woods manhood is the only passport.” He thought that, measured by this standard, Herb Heal had truly a royal charter, and might be a president of the forest land; for he looked as free, strong, and unconquerable as the forest wind.
A FALLEN KING.
The hunter was the only one who slept soundly that night on the fragrant boughs. Nevertheless, the moose was on his mind. Again in his dreams he imagined himself back by the quiet, shining logon, listening to the ring of the antlers as they struck the trees, and to the heaving snorts and deep grunts of the noble game as it tore through the forest to its death.
The moose was on the minds of his companions too. Again and again they awoke, and pictured him lying by the pond, where he had fallen,—a dead monarch. They tossed and grumbled, longing for day.
Neal and Dol surprised themselves and their elders by being up and dressed shortly after five, before a streak of light had entered the cabin. But their guide was not much behind them. Herb had the camp-fire going well, and was preparing breakfast before six o’clock. The campers tucked away a substantial meal of fried pork, potatoes, and coffee. The first glories of the young sun fell on their way as they started across the clearing and away through the woods beyond, towards the distant pond where the hunter had got his moose.
Lying amid the small growth and grasses, by a lonely, glinting logon, they found the conquered king, sleeping that sleep from which never sun again would wake him. A bullet-hole, crusted with dark blood, showed in his side. The slim legs were bent and stiff, and the mighty forefeet could no more strike a ripping blow which would end a man’s hunting forever. The antlers which had made the forest ring were powerless horn.