[Footnote 1: Mr. Leland’s translation.]
Then Herb chanted the two lines again in the original tongue.
“There was quite a lot more,” he said; “but I can’t remember it. I learned some queer jargon from Chris, and how to make most of the signs belonging to the Indian sign-talk. The fellow had more of his mother than his father in him. I guess I’d better give over jabbering, and cook our breakfast.”
It was evident that Herb did not want to dwell upon his reminiscences. And Neal had tact enough to swallow his burning curiosity about all things Indian. He asked no more questions, but rolled off the fir-boughs, and dressed himself.
Cyrus and Dol sprang up too. All three were soon busy helping forward preparations for the start. They packed their knapsacks with a few necessaries; and after a hearty breakfast had been eaten,—their last meal off moose-steaks for a while, as Herb informed them he “could not carry any fresh meat along,”—the guide’s voice was heard shouting:—
“Ready, are ye, boys? Got all yer traps? Here, Cyrus, jest strap this pack-basket on my shoulders. Now we’re off!”
The pack contained the tent, the camp-kettle, and frying-pan, together with the aforementioned provisions, a good axe, etc. It was an uncomfortable load, even for a woodsman’s shoulders. But Herb strode ahead with it jauntily. And many times during that first day’s tramp of a dozen miles, his comrades—as they trudged through rugged places after him, spots where it was hard to keep one’s perpendicular, and feet sometimes showed a sudden inclination to start for the sky—threw envious glances at his tall figure, “straight as an Indian arrow,” his powerful limbs, and unerring step. Even the horny, capable hands came in for a share of the admiration.
“I guess anything that got into your grip, Herb, would find it hard to get out again without your will,” said Cyrus, studying the knotted fists which held the straps of the pack-basket.
“Mebbe so,” answered the guide frankly. “I’ve a sort of a trick of holding on to things once I’ve got ’em. P’raps that was why I didn’t let go of Chris in that big blizzard ’till I landed him at camp. But I hope”—here Herb’s shoulders shook with heaving laughter, and the cooking utensils in his pack jingled an accompaniment—“I hope I ain’t like a miserly fellow we had in our lumber-camp. He was awful pious about some things, and awful mean about others. So the boys said, ’he kept the Sabbath and everything else he could lay his hands upon.’ He used to get riled at it.
“Not that I’ve a word to say against keeping Sunday,” went on Herb, in a different key. “Tell you what, out here a fellow thinks a heap of his day o’ rest, when his legs can stop tramping, and his mind get a chance to do some tall thinking. Now, boys, we’ve covered twelve good miles since we left Millinokett Lake, and you needn’t go any farther to-day unless you’ve a mind to. We can make camp right here, near that stream. It will be nice, cold drinking-water, for it has meandered down from Katahdin.”