At the crack of the Springfield he lurched forward and toppled slowly out of sight over the edge of the cliff. The two I had been stalking instantly disappeared. But on the very top of the butte opposite appeared another. It was a very long shot,[F] but I had to take chances, for I could not tell whether or not the one I had just shot was accessible or not. On a guess I held six inches over his back. The goat gave one leap forward into space. For twenty feet he fell spread-eagled and right side up as though flying. Then he began to turn and whirl. As far as my personal testimony could go, he is falling yet through that dizzy blue abyss.
“Good-bye, billy,” said I, sadly. It looked then as though I had lost both.
I worked my way down the face of the Citadel until I was just above the steep snow fields. Here was a drop of six feet. If the snow was soft, all right. If it was frozen underneath, I would be very likely to toboggan off into space. I pried loose a small rock and dropped it, watching with great interest how it lit. It sunk with a dull plunk. Therefore I made my leap, and found myself waist deep in feathery snow.
With what anxiety I peered over the edge of that precipice the reader can guess. Thirty feet below was a four-foot ledge. On the edge of that ledge grew two stunted pines about three feet in height—and only two. Against those pines my goat had lodged! In my exultation I straightened up and uttered a whoop. To my surprise it was answered from behind me. Frank had followed my trail. He had killed a nanny and was carrying the head. Everybody had goats!
After a great deal of man[oe]uvring we worked our way down to the ledge by means of a crevice and a ten-foot pole. Then we tied the goat to the little trees, and set to work. I held Frank while he skinned; and then he held me while I skinned. It was very awkward. The tiny landscape almost directly beneath us was blue with the atmosphere of distance. A solitary raven discovered us, and began to circle and croak and flop.
“You’ll get your meal later,” we told him.
Far below us, like suspended leaves swirling in a wind, a dense flock of snowbirds fluttered.
We got on well enough until it became necessary to sever the backbone. Then, try as we would, we could not in the general awkwardness reach a joint with a knife. At last we had a bright idea. I held the head back while Frank shot the vertebrae in two with his rifle!
Then we loosed the cords that held the body. It fell six hundred feet, hit a ledge, bounded out, and so disappeared toward the hazy blue map below. The raven folded his wings and dropped like a plummet, with a strange rushing sound. We watched him until the increasing speed of his swoop turned us a little dizzy, and we drew back. When we looked a moment later he had disappeared into the distance—straight down!
Now we had to win our way out. The trophy we tied with a rope. I climbed up the pole, and along the crevice as far as the rope would let me, hauled up the trophy, jammed my feet and back against both sides of the “chimney.” Frank then clambered past me; and so repeat.