A cry in the night.
In the flickering of the camp-fire the glooming wall of firs advanced and receded like the sea upon the shore, whispering, too, like the sea, of mysteries within its depths; for this is true: the wind in the forest and the wave upon the beach make the same music and tell the same strange tales. Through a rift in the darkening wall the last afterglow on the snow-cap of Mount Hood made a rosy point against the western sky, a “goodnight” flashed from the setting sun to the man by the camp-fire.
Out from the enfolding night that fell as a mantle when the light died on Mount Hood, came a shape, followed by a shadow that seemed to be with but not of the shape. Like a menacing enemy the shadow dogged the steps of the man who came out of the night, now towering over him in monstrous height against a tree trunk, now suddenly falling backward and darting swiftly down a forest aisle in panic fear, only to spring forth with gigantic leaps and grotesque waxings and wanings and inane caperings at his heels as the firelight rose and fell.
A cheery “Howdy, stranger!” drew the attention of the man by the fire—known to his Indian guide by the generic name of “Boston,” which is Chinook for white man—and he returned the greeting to the tall, gray-bearded man who strode toward him, glad to have company in the absence of the Indian, Doctor Tom, who had gone down to the Columbia for supplies. A haunch of venison confirmed the stranger’s brief explanation that he was hunting and made his arrival doubly welcome.
When the pipes were lighted, Boston drew the old fellow out, found that he hunted for a living and soon had a hunt for the next day all arranged. They were telling camp-fire yarns, and the stranger was speaking in an animated way of some adventure, when Boston noticed a sudden change in his expression and an abrupt halt in his speech.
Turning in the direction toward which the stranger’s apprehensive gaze was directed, Boston saw a dark figure standing motionless in the shadow of a fir, and he laid his hand upon his rifle. The figure advanced into the firelight and Boston recognized Doctor Tom. The Indian said nothing, but placed his pack upon the ground in silence, and Boston saw him cast one swift, glowering look at the stranger, who was apparently trying to conceal his uneasiness under an assumption of indifference.
Doctor Tom had travelled all day and must have been hungry, but he did not take any food out of the pack or even go to the fire for a cup of tea, and he shook his head when Boston offered him a piece of broiled venison. Not a bite would he touch, but sat, silent and motionless as a statue, upon a log away from the fire and with his back turned to the stranger.