Returning to camp, Herb dipped the horn in warm water and then let it dry, saying that this would produce a mellow ring. He stoutly refused all appeals from the boys to give them a few illustrations of moose-calling there and then, with a lesson in the art, declaring that it would spoil the night’s sport, and that they must first hear the call amid proper surroundings. From time to time he impressed upon them that they were going to engage in an expedition which required absolute silence and clever stratagem to make it successful. He vowed to wreak a woodsman’s vengeance on any fellow who balked it by shaking the boat, or by moving body or rifle so as to make a noise.
A light, humming breeze had been blowing all day; but as the afternoon waned, it died down. The evening proved clear, chilly, and still.
“Is this a likely night for calling, Herb?” asked Cyrus anxiously, taking a survey of sky and lake from the camp-door about an hour before the start.
“Fine,” answered Herb with satisfaction. “Guess we’ll get an answer sure, if there’s a moose within hearing. There ain’t a puff of wind to carry our scent, and give the trick away. But rig yourselves up in all the clothing you’ve got, boys; the cold, while we’re waiting, may be more than you bargain for.”
The guide had a light boat on the lake, moored below the camp. At six o’clock he seated himself therein, taking the oars in his brawny hands. Cyrus and Neal took their places in the stern; while Dol disposed of himself snugly in the bow, right under a jack-lamp which Herb had carefully trimmed and lit. But he had closed its sliding door, which, being padded with buckskin, could be opened and shut without a sound, so that not a ray of light at present escaped.
“Moose won’t stand to watch a jack as deer do,” he said. “Twill only scare ’em off. They’re a heap too cute to be taken in by an onnatural big star floating over the water. But ’taint the lucky side of the moon for us. She’ll rise late, and her light’ll be so feeble that it wouldn’t show us an elephant clearly if he was under our noses. So if I succeed in coaxing a bull to the brink of the water, I’ll open the jack, and flash our light on him. He’ll bolt the next minute as quick as greased lightning on skates; but if you only get a short sight of him, I promise that ’twill be one you’ll remember.”
“And if he should take a notion to come for us?” said Cyrus.
“He won’t, if we don’t fire. The boat will be lying among the black shadows, snug in by the bank, and he’ll see nothing but the dazzling light. But you fellows must keep still as death. Off we go now, boys, and mum’s the word!”
This was almost the last sentence spoken. Not a syllable moved the lips of any one of the four, as the boat glided away from camp towards the south end of the lake, the oars making scarcely a sound as Herb handled them. By and by he ceased rowing for an instant, took his pipe from his mouth, knocked out its ashes, and put it in his pocket with a wise look at his companions, murmuring, “Don’t want no tobacco incense floating around!”