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Rolf in the Woods(Chapter26)

2006-09-08 19:35

  CHAPTER XXVI Back to the Cabin

  The far end of the long swamp the stream emerged, now much larger, and the trappers kept on with their work. When night fell they had completed fifty traps, all told, and again they camped without shelter overhead.

  Next day Skookum was so much worse that they began to fear for his life. He had eaten nothing since the sad encounter. He could drink a little, so Rolf made a pot of soup, and when it was cool the poor doggie managed to swallow some of the liquid after half an hour's patient endeavour.

  They were now on the home line; from a hill top they got a distant view of their lake, though it was at least five miles away. Down the creek they went, still making their deadfalls at likely places and still seeing game tracks at the muddy spots. The creek came at length to an extensive, open, hardwood bush, and here it was joined by another stream that came from the south, the two making a small river. From then on they seemed in a land of game; trails of deer were seen on the ground everywhere, and every few minutes they started one or two deer. The shady oak wood itself was flanked and varied with dense cedar swamps such as the deer love to winter in, and after they had tramped through two miles of it, the Indian said, "Good! now we know where to come in winter when we need meat."

  At a broad, muddy ford they passed an amazing number of tracks, mostly deer, but a few of panther, lynx, fisher, wolf, otter, and mink.

  In the afternoon they reached the lake. The stream, quite a broad one here, emptied in about four miles south of the camp. Leaving a deadfall near its mouth they followed the shore and made a log trap every quarter mile just above the high water mark.

  When they reached the place of Rolf's first deer they turned aside to see it. The gray jays had picked a good deal of the loose meat. No large animal had troubled it, and yet in the neighbourhood they found the tracks of both wolves and foxes;

  "Ugh," said Quonab, "they smell it and come near, but they know that a man has been here; they are not very hungry, so keep away. This is good for trap."

  So they made two deadfalls with the carrion half way between them. Then one or two more traps and they reached home, arriving at the camp just as darkness and a heavy rainfall began.

  "Good," said Quonab, "our deadfalls are ready; we have done all the work our fingers could not do when the weather is very cold, and the ground too hard for stakes to be driven. Now the traps can get weathered before we go round and set them. Yet we need some strong medicine, some trapper charm."

  Next morning he went forth with fish-line and fish-spear; he soon returned with a pickerel. He filled a bottle with cut-up shreds of this, corked it up, and hung it on the warm, sunny side of the shanty. "That will make a charm that every bear will come to, " he said, and left it to the action of the sun.

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