“Why, that is so!” he exclaimed, pretending surprise; “but, after all, dear, it’s better sport to beat up the alders below Green Pass and try to jump a pig for them. That’s true hospitality——”
She laughed, shaking her head. “Oh, Duane, Duane!” she murmured, suffering him to capture both her hands and lay them against his face to cover the glee that twitched it at his own unholy perfidy.
And so it came about that, after an early luncheon, a big double sleigh jingled up, received its jolly cargo, and sped away again into the white woodlands, Kathleen waving adieu and Scott deriding them with scoffing and snowballs.
The drive was very beautiful, particularly through the pine and hemlock belt where the great trees, clothed heavily with snow, bent branch and crest under the pale winter sunshine. Tall fir-balsams pricked the sky, perfect cones of white; spruces were snowy mounds; far into the forest twilight glimmered the unsullied snow.
As they sped along, Geraldine pointed out imprints of fox and rabbit, faint trails where a field-mouse had passed, the string of henlike footprints recording the deliberate progress of some ruffed grouse picking its leisurely way across the snow; the sharp, indented marks of squirrels.
Rosalie was enchanted, Delancy mildly so, but when a deeper trail ploughed the snow, running parallel to their progress, he regarded it with more animation.
“Pig,” said Geraldine briefly.
“Wild?” he inquired.
“Of course,” she smiled; “and probably a good big boar.”
Rosalie thrilled and unconsciously rested her fur-gloved hand on Delancy’s sleeve.
“You know,” she said, “you must shoot a little straighter than you did at target practice this morning. Because I can’t run very fast,” she added with another delightful shudder.
Delancy, at her anxious request, modestly assured her that he would “plug” the first boar that showed his tusks; and Geraldine laughed and made Rosalie promise to do the same.
“You’re both likely to have a shot,” she said as the sleigh drew up on a stone bridge and Miller and Kemp came over and saluted—big, raw-boned men on snow-shoes, wearing no outer coats over their thin woollen shirts, although every thermometer at Roya-Neh recorded zero.
Gun-cases were handed out, rifles withdrawn, and the cases stowed away in the sleigh again. Fur coats were rolled in pairs, strapped, and slung behind the broad shoulders of the guides. Then snow-shoes were adjusted—skis for Geraldine; Miller walked westward and took post; Kemp’s huge bulk closed the eastern extremity of the line, and between them, two and two at thirty paces apart, stood the hunters, Duane with Rosalie, Geraldine with Delancy, loading their magazines.
Ahead was an open wood of second growth, birch, beech, and maple; sunlight lay in white splashes here and there; nothing except these blinding pools of light and the soft impression of a fallen twig varied the immaculate snow surface as far as the eye could see.