Here the eagerly desired sight—that sight of all others to the tired camper; namely, the camp itself, with its cheery, blazing camp-fire—burst upon their view, sheltered by a group of sapling pines, which had grown up since their giant brothers went to make timber.
Now, a Maine camp, as every one knows, may consist of any temporary shelter you choose to name, according to the tastes and opportunities of its occupants, from a fair white canvas home to a log cabin or a hastily erected canopy of spruce boughs. In the present instance it was a “wangen,” or hut of strong bark, such as is sometimes used by lumbermen to rest and sleep in when they are driving their floats of timber down one of the rivers of this region to a distant town, which is a centre of the lumber trade.
Cyrus and Neal were making across the clearing in the direction of the camp-fire with revived spirits, when the American suddenly grabbed his friend by the arm, and drew him behind a clump of low bushes.
“Hold on a minute!” he whispered. “By all that’s glorious, there’s Uncle Eb singing his favorite song! It’s worth hearing. You never listened to such music in England.”
“I don’t suppose I ever did,” answered Neal, suppressed laughter making him shake.
Upon a gray pine stump, beside the blaze, which he was feeding with a hemlock bough, sat a battered-looking yet lively personage. Had he been standing upright upon the remnant of trunk, he would certainly, in the bright but changeful firelight, have deceived an onlooker into believing him to be a continuation of it; for the baggy tweed trousers which he wore on his immense legs, and which partially hid his loose-fitting brogans, or woodsman’s boots, his thick, knitted jersey, his mop of woolly hair, with the cap of coon’s fur that adorned it, were a striking mixture of grays, all bordering upon the color of the stump. His skin, however, was a fine contrast, shining as he bent towards the flame like the outside of a copper kettle. In daylight it would be three shades darker, because the thick coral lips, gleaming teeth, and prominent, friendly eyes of the individual, betrayed him to be in his own words, “a colored gen’leman;” that is, a full-blooded negro, and a free American citizen.
Beside him, squatting upon his haunches and wagging his shaggy tail, was a good-sized dog, not of pure breed, but undoubtedly possessed of fire and fidelity, as was shown by the eye he raised to his master. His red coat and general formation showed that his father had been an Irish setter, though he seemed to have other and fiercer blood in his veins, mingling with that of this gentle parent.
To him the negro was chanting a war-song,—some lines by a popular writer which he had found in an old newspaper, and had set to a curious tune of his own composition, rendering the performance more inspiriting by sundry wild whoops, and an occasional whacking of his teeth together.