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Rolf in the Woods(Chapter27)

2006-09-08 19:36

  CHAPTER XXVII Sick Dog Skookum

  Getting home is always a joy; but walking about the place in the morning they noticed several little things that were wrong. Quonab's lodge was down, the paddles that stood against the shanty were scattered on the ground, and a bag of venison hung high at the ridge was opened and empty.

  Quonab studied the tracks and announced "a bad old black bear; he has rollicked round for mischief, upsetting things. But the venison he could not reach; that was a marten that ripped open the bag."

  "Then that tells what we should do; build a storehouse at the end of the shanty, " said Rolf, adding, "it must be tight and it must be cool."

  "Maybe! sometime before winter," said the Indian; "but now we should make another line of traps while the weather is fine."

  "No," replied the lad, "Skookum is not fit to travel now. We can't leave him behind, and we can make a storehouse in three days."

  The unhappy little dog was worse than ever. He could scarcely breathe, much less eat or drink, and the case was settled.

  First they bathed the invalid's head in water as hot as he could stand it. This seemed to help him so much that he swallowed eagerly some soup that they poured into his mouth. A bed was made for him in a sunny place and the hunters set about the new building.

  In three days the storehouse was done, excepting the chinking. It was October now, and a sharp night frost warned them of the hard white moons to come. Quonab, as he broke the ice in a tin cup and glanced at the low-hung sun, said: "The leaves are falling fast; snow comes soon; we need another line of traps."

  He stopped suddenly; stared across the lake. Rolf looked, and here came three deer, two bucks and a doe, trotting, walking, or lightly clearing obstacles, the doe in advance; the others, rival followers. As they kept along the shore, they came nearer the cabin. Rolf glanced at Quonab, who nodded, then slipped in, got down the gun, and quickly glided unseen to the river where the deer path landed. The bucks did not actually fight, for the season was not yet on, but their horns were clean, their necks were swelling, and they threatened each other as they trotted after the leader. They made for the ford as for some familiar path, and splashed through, almost without swimming. As they landed, Rolf waited a clear view, then gave a short sharp "Hist!" It was like a word of magic, for it turned the three moving deer to three stony-still statues. Rolf's sights were turned on the smaller buck, and when the great cloud following the bang had deared away, the two were gone and the lesser buck was kicking on the ground some fifty yards away.

  "We have found the good hunting; the deer walk into camp," said Quonab; and the product of the chase was quickly stored, the first of the supplies to be hung in the new storehouse.

  The entrails were piled up and covered with brush and stones. "That will keep off ravens and jays; then in winter the foxes will come and we can take their coats."

  Now they must decide for the morning. Skookum was somewhat better, but still very sick, and Rolf suggested: "Quonab, you take the gun and axe and lay a new line. I will stay behind and finish up the cabin for the winter and look after the dog." So it was agreed. The Indian left the camp alone this time and crossed to the east shore of the lake; there to follow up another stream as before and to return in three or four days to the cabin.

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