The sun had just risen above the far off eastern horizon, and was struggling to disentangle itself from the drifting tresses of fog hanging in massy banks over the river. Slowly but surely it slipped away from each misty, tremulous embrace, and then like a giant refreshed by the encounter assumed the offensive. Before the mighty champion’s silent fiery darts the surging foggy battalions wavered, loosened their hold on river and land, and broke in utter confusion. Wildly they scattered and fled, but escape they could not, and ere long not the slightest vestige remained of their once proud ranks.
Of all this Old Mammy saw nothing, as she was too busy digging among the ashes of the fire-place for a few live coals. It was only Jean who witnessed the magnificent sight. She had slipped out of the tent shortly after her old servant, and had hurried down to the shore for her morning wash. Here Mother Nature had provided her with basin and mirror combined in the calm water at her feet. Straight and lithe she stood, her dark, unbound hair flowing in ripples to her waist. Her face, turned eastward, was aglow with health and animation, and her eyes shone with the light of a joyous surprise.
“Isn’t it wonderful!” she breathed. “I never saw anything like it. Why, it’s a real fairy-land.”
She was startled by a cry from Mammy, and turning quickly around, she saw the woman pointing excitedly to the big pine tree. The Colonel, aroused from slumber, had leaped to his feet, and was staring straight before him as Jean hurried up from the shore.
“What is the matter?” the girl asked.
“Look, look!” Mammy cried, pointing to the tree. “De debbil has been here.”
Jean’s eyes were now resting upon the object of the woman’s excitement, and she, too, was filled with astonishment. She stared at the trout and the arrow, and then looked wonderingly at her father.
“How do you suppose they got there, daddy?” she questioned.
“It was de debbil, I tell ye,” Mammy insisted before the Colonel could speak. “He’s been in dis place, an’ dat’s his mark.”
“He must be very friendly, then,” the Colonel replied. “I don’t mind how often he comes if he leaves fish, and they are trout at that.”
By this time the entire camp had been aroused, and men, women and children were gathered near, gazing with wide-eyed astonishment upon the big pine. There were numerous conjectures as to the meaning of the arrow and the fish. Most, however, were of the opinion that it was the work of Indians, and that no doubt they were lurking near. Fearful glances were cast along the silent forest aisles, and vivid imagination pictured dusky warriors ready to swoop down with terrible war-whoops. But Old Mammy scoffed at this idea.
“It’s de debbil, I tell ye, an’ no Injun,” she declared. “Dat’s his mark, an’ he’s plannin’ some mischief. It’s a warnin’ to us all. We nebber should hab come to sich a place as dis.”