“Willing! I should say we are!” answered Garst. “You’re our captain now, Herb, and it’s a case of ‘Follow my leader!’ Take us anywhere you like, through jungles or mud-swamps. We won’t kick at hardships if we can only get a good look at his mooseship. Up to the present, except for that one moonlight peep, he has always dodged me like a phantom.”
“Are you going to be satisfied with a look?” The guide’s eyes narrowed into two long slits, on which the firelight quivered, as he gazed quizzically down upon Cyrus. “If the moose comes within reach of our shots, ain’t anybody going to pump lead into him? Or is he to get off again scot-free? I’ve got my moose for this season, and I darsn’t send my bullets through the law by dropping another, so I can’t do the shooting.”
“My friends can please themselves,” said the Bostonian, glancing at the English lads. “For my own part I’ll be better pleased if Mr. Moose manages to keep a whole skin. Our grand game is getting scarce enough; I don’t want to lessen it. I once saw the last persecuted deer in a county, after it had been badgered and wounded by men and dogs, limp off to die alone in its native haunts. The sight cured me of bloodthirst.”
“I guess ’twould be enough to cure any man,” responded Herb. “And we don’t want meat, so this time we won’t shoot our moose after we’ve tricked him. Good land! I wouldn’t like any fellow to imitate the call of my best girl, that he might put a bullet through me. Come, boys, it’s pretty late; let’s fix our fire, and turn in.”
Nothing was talked about among the campers on the following day but the forthcoming sport of the evening—moose-calling.
Herb Heal had decided that his call should be given from the water, his “good calling-place” being an alder-fringed logon at the loneliest extremity of the lake.
During the afternoon he took Neal and Dol with him into a grove of poplars and birches which bordered one end of the clearing, leaving Cyrus lounging by the camp-fire. Here the woodsman began the exciting work of preparing his birch-bark horn, that primitive but potent trumpet through which he would sigh, groan, grunt, and roar, imitating each varying mood of the cow-moose. To her call he had often listened as he lay for hours on a mossy bed in the far depths of the forest, learning to interpret the language of every woodland creature.
Unsheathing his hunting-knife, and selecting a sound white-birch tree, Herb carefully removed from it a piece of bark about eighteen inches in length and six in width. This he carefully trimmed, and rolled into a horn as a child would twist paper into a cornucopia package for sweets, tying it with the twine-like roots of the ground juniper. The tapering end of the trumpet, which would be applied to the caller’s lips, measured about one inch across; its mouth measured five.