“It happened that one week he got back to our camp on Togue Ponds,—where most of our stuff was stored, and where I kept that moose-head, waiting for a chance to take it down to Greenville,—a day or two sooner’n me. And the worst luck that ever attended either of us brought a stranger to the camp at the same time, to shelter for a night. He was an explorer, a city swell; and I guess he didn’t know much about Injuns or half-breeds, for he gave Chris a little bottle of fiery whiskey as a parting present. The man told me about it afterwards, and that he was kind o’ scared when the boy—for he wasn’t much more—swallowed it with two gulps, and then followed him into the woods, howling, capering, and offering to sell him my grand moose-head, and all the furs we had, for another drink of the burning stuff. I guess that stranger felt pretty sick over the mischief he had done. He refused to buy ’em. But when I got back to camp next day, to find the skins gone, antlers gone, Chris gone; when I ran across the traveller and ferreted out his story,—I knew, as well as if I seen it, that my partner had skipped with all my belongings, to sell ’em or trade ’em at some settlement for more liquor. We had a couple of big birch canoes,—one of ’em was missing too,—and a river being near, the thing could be easy managed.
“I’ll allow that I raged tremendous. The losses were bad; but to be robbed by your own chum, the man you had saved and stuck to, the only being you had said a word to for months, was sickening. I swore I’d shoot the hound if I found him. I spread the news at every camp and farm-settlement through the forest country, and we had a rousing hunt after the fellow; but he gave us the slip, though I heard of him afterwards at a distant town, where he sold the furs.”
“I suppose he left the State,” said Cyrus.
“I guess he did. But for a big while I used to think he’d come back to our camp some day, and let me have it out with him; for he wasn’t a coward, and we had been fast chums.”
“And he didn’t?”
“Not as I know of. The next year I gave up trapping, which was an awful cruel as well as a lonely business, and took to moose-hunting and guiding. I haven’t been anear the old camps for ages.”
“Perhaps you will come across him again some day,” suggested Dol, with unusual timidity.
“P’raps so, Kid. And, faith, when I think of that, it seems as if there were two creatures inside o’ me fighting tooth and claw. One is all for hammering him to a jelly. The other is sort o’ pitiful, and says, ’Mebbe ‘twasn’t out-an’-out his fault.’ Which of them two’ll get the best of it, if ever I’m face to face with Cross-eyed Chris, I dunno.”