“What is it, Mr. Allen?” softly whispered Willis. Mr. Allen jumped a trifle. “O, I don’t know; I heard it a couple of hours ago. I’d like to see a wild animal, wouldn’t you? I think it must be the fire that attracts it. I’d like to light my dark lantern, but I hate to strike a match.” He leaned over to the fire, picked up a dry pine needle, and lighted it in the fire, applying the tiny flame to his opened lantern. Quietly Mr. Allen opened the shield, and a long, bright gleam swept noiselessly out into the darkness, revealing with almost painful distinctness the outlines of every stem of grass and flower. Then, far at the end of the path of light, something moved. There were two small, luminous spots, then in an instant two more, a little larger. Slowly the shifting lights and shadows took shape, and there, before them, stood two deer—a doe and a tiny fawn.
“O, aren’t they beautiful?” whispered Willis. Just then the fawn left its mother’s side and came fearlessly down the path of light—one, two, six steps—staring into the wonderful, dazzling beam. There was a gentle call from the mother, and in an instant they had disappeared into the shadows from whence they had come. There was a bound, a broken twig, a rustle of dead leaves, and all was quiet again.
For a long time Willis and Mr. Allen waited, watching for them to return; but they did not come. The fire slowly died out and turned into a pile of ghostly ashes, while the party slept on until morning.
The Second Day Out
Ham was the first to awaken in the morning. A pair of saucy jays had been gossiping about the little party for nearly an hour. At first they just exchanged ideas, making their observations from a reasonable distance. One perched on the topmost limb of a dead pine, the other bobbing up and down on the slender twigs of a neighboring aspen.
“Those crazy jabberers would dispute the identity of their own mates,” exclaimed Ham, as he pulled on his trousers and got into his high boots. “They talk about some folks always having too much to say, but—O, shut up, you noisy robbers!” He reached for a heavy stick, and sent it flying into the air toward the aspen. There was a flapping of wings, a harsh, scolding threat, and the jays retreated to talk it over.
Very soon the camp was all astir, and there was a general call for a fire.
“You don’t want to forget that we have the most important ceremony of this entire trip to go through with here yet this morning before any of us can eat breakfast. What’s your hurry, anyway? Get busy here, Fat, and get another armful of wood like this that I have. In about three shakes we’ll have an altar built and we’ll have our oracle fire burning in less than a jiffy. Be quick, now, but don’t disturb the Spirit,” cried Ham.
“Oracle fire, your grandmother,” interrupted Phil. “I’m as hungry as a pet lion, and it’s breakfast for me, and that right soon; oatmeal, a boiled egg, and some rye bread sounds about right!”