He pointed to a brook a little way ahead, shimmering in the rays of the afternoon sun, of which they caught stray peeps through the gaps in an intervening wall of pines and hemlocks. A few minutes brought them to its brink. Tired and parched from their journey, each one stooped, and quenched his thirst with a delicious, ice-cold draught.
“Was there ever a soda-fountain made that could give a drink to equal that?” said Cyrus, smacking his lips with content. “But listen to the noise this stream makes, boys. I guess if I were to lie beside it for an hour, I’d think, as the Greenlanders do, that I could hear the spirits of the world talking through it.”
“That’s a mighty queer notion,” answered Herb; “and I never knew as other folks had got hold of it. But, sure’s you live! I’ve thought the same thing myself lots o’ times, when I’ve slept by a forest stream. Who’ll lend a helping hand in cutting down boughs for our fire and bed? I want to be pretty quick about making camp. Then we’ll be able to try some moose-calling after supper.”
At this moment a peculiar gulping noise in Neal’s throat drew the eyes of his companions upon him. His were bright and strained, peering at the opposite bank.
“Look! What is it?” he gasped, his low voice rattling with excitement.
“A cow-moose, by thunder!” said Herb. “A cow-moose and a calf with her! Here’s luck for ye, boys!”
One moment sooner, simultaneously with Neal’s gulp of astonishment, there had emerged from the thick woods on the other bank a brown, wild-looking, hornless creature, in size and shape resembling a big mule, followed by a half-grown reproduction of herself.
Her shaggy mane flew erect, her nostrils quivered like those of a race-horse, her eyes were starting with mingled panic and defiance.
A snort, sudden and loud as the report of a shot-gun, made the four jump. Neal, who was standing on a slippery stone by the brink, lost his balance and staggered forward into the water, kicking up jets of shining spray. The snort was followed by a grunt, plaintive, distracted, which sounded oddly familiar, seeing that it had been so well imitated on Herb’s horn.
And with that grunt, the moose wheeled about and fled, making the air swish as she cut through it, followed by her young, her mane waving like a pennon.
“Well, if that ain’t bang-up luck, I’d like to know what is,” said the guide, as he watched the departure. “I never s’posed you’d get a chance to see a cow-moose; she’s shyer’n shy. Say! don’t you boys think that I’ve done her grunt pretty well sometimes?”
“That you have,” was the general response. “We couldn’t tell any difference between your noise and the real thing.”
“But she wasn’t a patch on the bull-moose in appearance,” lamented Dol.
“No more she was, boy. Most female forest creatures ain’t so good-looking as the males! And that’s queer when you think of it, for the girls have the pull over us where beauty is concerned. We ain’t in it with ’em, so to speak.”