When we entered the shade of the big forest Uncle Eb got out his rifle and loaded it. He sat a long time whispering and looking eagerly for game to right and left. He was still a boy. One could see evidences of age only in his white hair and beard and wrinkled brow. He retained the little tufts in front of his ears, and lately had grown a silver crescent of thin and silky hair that circled his throat under a bare chin. Young as I was I had no keener relish for a holiday than he. At noon we halted beside a brook and unhitched our horses. Then we caught some fish, built a fire and cooked them, and brewed our tea. At sunset we halted at Tuley Pond, looking along its reedy margin, under purple tamaracks, for deer. There was a great silence, here in the deep of the woods, and Tip Taylor’s axe, while he peeled the bark for our camp, seemed to fill the wilderness with echoes. It was after dark when the shanty was covered and we lay on its fragrant mow of balsam and hemlock. The great logs that we had rolled in front of our shanty were set afire and shortly supper was cooking.
Gerald had stood the journey well. Uncle Eb and he stayed in while Tip and I got our jack ready and went off in quest of a dugout He said Bill Ellsworth had one hid in a thicket on the south side of Tuley. We found it after an hour’s tramp near by. It needed a little repairing but we soon made it water worthy, and then took our seats, he in the stern, with the paddle, and I in the bow with the gun. Slowly and silently we clove a way through the star-sown shadows. It was like the hushed and mystic movement of a dream. We seemed to be above the deep of heaven, the stars below us. The shadow of the forest in the still water looked like the wall of some mighty castle with towers and battlements and myriads of windows lighted for a fete. Once the groan of a nighthawk fell out of the upper air with a sound like that of a stone striking in water. I thought little of the deer Tip was after. His only aim in life was the one he got with a gun barrel. I had forgotten all but the beauty of the scene. Suddenly Tip roused me by laying his hand to the gunwale and gently shaking the dugout. In the dark distance, ahead of us, I could hear the faint tinkle of dripping water. Then I knew a deer was feeding not far away and that the water was falling from his muzzle. When I opened my jack we were close upon him. His eyes gleamed. I shot high above the deer that went splashing ashore before I had pulled my trigger. After the roar of the gun had got away, in the distant timber, Tip mentioned a place abhorred of all men, turned and paddled for the landing.
’Could ’a killed ‘im with a club,’ said he snickering. ’Guess he must a looked putty tall didn’t he?’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Cos ye aimed into the sky,’ said he. ’Mebbe ye thought he was a bird.’
‘My hand trembled a little,’ said I.
‘’Minds me of Bill Barber,’ he said in a half-whisper, as he worked his paddle, chuckling with amusement.