“Sho! a man might keep jawing till crack o’ doom, and not give you any idea of it without you heard it,” answered Herb Heal, the dare-all moose-hunter. “The noise begins sort o’ gently, like the lowing of a tame cow. It seems, if you’re listening to it, to come rolling—rolling—along the ground. Then it rises in pitch, and gets impatient and lonely and wild-like, till you think it fills the air above you, when it sinks again and dies away in a queer, quavery sound that ain’t a sigh, nor a groan, nor a grunt, but all three together.
“The call is mostly repeated three times; and the third time it ends with a mad roar as if the lady-moose was saying to her mate, ’Come now, or stay away altogether!’”
“Joe Flint was right, then!” exclaimed Neal, in high excitement. “That’s the very noise I heard in the woods near Squaw Pond, on the night when we were jacking for deer, and our canoe capsized.”
“P’raps it was,” answered Herb, “though the woods near Squaw Pond ain’t much good for moose now. They’re too full of hunters. Still, you might have heard the cow-moose herself calling, or some man who had come across the tracks of a bull imitating her.”
“But if the bull has such sharp ears, can’t he tell the real call from the sham one?” asked Dol.
“Lots of times he can. But if the hunter is an old woodsman and a clever caller, he’ll generally fool the animal, unless he makes some awkward noise that isn’t in the game, or else the moose gets his scent on the breeze. One whiff of a man will send the creature off like a wind-gust, and earthquakes wouldn’t stop him. And though he sneaks away so silently when he hears anything suspicious, yet when he smells danger he’ll go through the forest at a thundering rush, making as much noise as a demented fire-brigade.”
“Good gracious!” ejaculated Neal and Dol together.
“Is the moose ever dangerous, Herb?” asked the former.
“I guess he is pretty often. Sometimes a bull-moose will turn on a hunter, and make at him full tilt, if he’s in danger or finds himself tricked. And he’ll always fight like fury to protect his mate from any enemy. The bulls have awful big duels between themselves occasionally. When they’re real mad, they don’t stop for a few wounds. They prod each other with their terrible brow antlers till one or the other of ’em is stretched dead. If a moose ever charges you, boys, take my advice, and don’t try to face him with your rifles. Half a dozen shots mightn’t stop him. Make for the nearest tree, and climb for your lives. Fire down on him then, if you can. But once let him get a kick at you with his forefeet, and one thing is sure—you’ll never kick again. Are you tired of moose-talk yet?”
“Not by a jugful!” answered Cyrus, laughing. “But tell us, Herb, how are we to proceed to get a sight of this ‘Jabberwock’ alive?”
“If to-morrow night happens to be dead calm, I might try to call one up,” answered the guide. “There’s a pretty good calling-place near the south end of the lake. As this is the height of the season, we might get an answer there. We’ll try it, anyhow, if you’re willing.”