The Bungalow Boys North of Fifty-Three
ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
CHAPTER XIII Ė THE INDIANíS PREDICTION
When the four poles had been obtained, old Joe erected them in the snow to windward of the excavation. Then from his sled he got an oblong of canvas which he stretched over them.
ďBoosh! So now we get firewood and start a blaze and den everyteeng is fine,Ē he exclaimed, briskly stepping back to admire his handiwork. Although the boys did not know it, this camp which Joe had just erected is a favorite form of temporary resting place in the frozen North. The canvas stretched above the poles serves a double purpose, to keep out the wind and to act as a reflector to the fire in front so that those down in the pit are kept delightfully snug and warm.
The boys next set about getting wood for the fire. This did not take long. Then branches stripped from the balsam boughs were thrown into the snow pit to a depth of several inches, to form a soft, springy mattress for their blankets. The fire was lighted and plenty of wood heaped near by to keep it going.
Finally the kettle was filled with snow, which was set by the fire to melt. From the sled old Joe got some deer meat, by this time frozen hard, which he had obtained from Pegic. While the meat was thawing the boys helped spread their beds in the warm, fire-lighted pit, and then old Joe cooked supper.
The boys were certainly learning woodcraft from the old French Canadian. They would hardly have thought it possible, an hour before, that such a cozy camp could have been made in the snow with such simple means. But the wilderness traveler has had to learn by many hard experiences how to make the best of things, and the experiments of successive travelers have resulted in a score or more of makeshift devices for comfort and safety.
While the party of adventurers ate their supper with hearty appetites, washing it down with big drafts of scalding tea, the dogs outside made their own camp in their peculiar fashion. The mamelukes make themselves comfortable very easily. Having gorged themselves on fish, they burrowed into the snow and slept the sleep of the faithful sled dog.
In their improvised camp the travelers slept till daylight, which to the boys, at least, seemed to be an interval of not more than five minutes. Breakfast, consisting of the remains of supper and more tea, having been consumed, the dogs, which had been routed out and fed, were harnessed up once more. Then, trail sore and stiff after their sleep, the boys resumed their travels.
They followed the river and, of course, the track of the runners of the thiefís sled, which still lay clear and sharp on the snow. About two hours after the start they came upon another of his camps. Clearly he had allowed his dogs to sleep, for there were the marks of their burrowings to be observed in the snow.
ďAha, dey are tiring, mes enfants!Ē cried old Joe. ďNot veree long now. Courage! Boosh!Ē
At the expiration of another period of travel, and not long before noon, on rounding a bend in the river they sighted another party coming toward them.There were three figures and a dog sled. The figures speedily resolved themselves into a Black River Indian and two squaws.
ďBien! Now we get news, maybe!Ē chuckled old Joe.
Then, as they neared the other party, which had come to a halt awaiting them, old Joe breathed a caution.
ďLet me do zee talking. Boosh! Indians are hard to talk unless you know dem, and den Ė not always easy. Tiens!Ē
Old Joe did not drive right up to the Indians, who were squatting down on their sled. Instead, he halted at some little distance. There followed an exchange of greetings in the Black River dialect, and then pipes were produced and both sides, squaws and all, smoked gravely for a time. The boys looked on, much amused at all this ceremony, which, however, as old Joe knew, was necessary. To quote an old proverb, ďThe longest way round is the shortest way home,Ē with an Indian.
The Indian was a short, squat fellow with straight black hair. He was very dirty, but otherwise very like Pegic in appearance. One of the squaws was old and very hideous. The other was a younger woman and not uncomely in a way. She was evidently considered a belle, for she was hung lavishly with beadwork, while the homely old squaw did not display any ornaments.
Old Joe was the first to speak, addressing the man in his own dialect. We will translate the conversation that followed into ďthe Kingís English.Ē
ďIt is very fine weather. The traveling is very pleasant and the wind gods sleep.Ē
The Indian nodded gravely.
ďIt is even so, my white friend,Ē said he. ďThe sky is soft as the cheek of a baby and the storm slumbers like an old man by the fire. But there will come a change before long. Early to-day the river smoked, the frost was low on the trees and the wind stirred in its dreams. Before long we shall get much snow and the wind, too, will awake and set out upon the trail.Ē
ďWhat you say may well be true,Ē rejoined old Joe. ďThe same signs have I noticed. But who are we that we should control the winds or the snows?Ē
Old Joe paused. The Indian did not reply, and for some moments they both smoked on in silence. Blue wreaths rose almost straight from their pipes in the still air. The cracking of the ice on the river alone broke the silence.
Then the Indian removed his pipe and spoke once more in his slow, measured tones.
ďThe owl was abroad in the night and at daybreak my squawís mother, the ill-favored one yonder, did see one with a weasel in its claws. What think you is the meaning of that sign, my white brother?Ē
Old Joe shrugged his shoulders expressively.
ďNo man can read the owl, my friend,Ē he replied. ďTell me, how do you interpret the sign?Ē
ďThat ere long a white man Ė the weasel that my squawís ill-favored mother did see Ė shall be caught by the bearded white man and the two unbearded boys that do travel with him.Ē
This was a typically Indian way of stating a conclusion, and old Joe appeared to feel highly flattered at the comparison of himself to an owl. He smiled and said:
ďIt is even so. The owl that is Joe Picquet does pursue the weasel that is a thieving white man, a robber of trappers, a despoiler of cabins in the woods.Ē
ďThen ere long you will catch him,Ē the Indian assured him gravely, ďfor so do the signs read and no man may gainsay them.Ē
The moment in these roundabout negotiations had now arrived when old Joe deemed he could diplomatically ask a direct question.
CHAPTER XIV Ė SWAPPING STORIES
ďIt is as you have said,Ē rejoined old Joe, ďthe signs are seldom in the wrong. But I have been thinking, my friend, that perhaps on your way you have seen this weasel of a white man whom the owl and the two young hares pursue?Ē
But, to Joeís disappointment, the Indian shook his head.
ďI did meet no white man who is as the weasel and whom the owl and the two young hares pursue,Ē he rejoined; ďneither, till I met you, have I met any man, either white or Indian, since I left Blue Hare Lake.Ē
ďYou do not come from the way of the setting sun, then?Ē For the trail of the fleeing thief had so far led west.
Another negative sign was the reply as the Indian said:
ďWe come from the north. But some half dayís journey back I crossed a trail which was even as the trail you now follow.Ē
ďI am sorry,Ē said old Joe. ďThe weasel must travel as the wind.Ē
ďIt may well be even so,Ē rejoined the Indian. ďBut hasten, my brother, if you would still follow the trail, for the snows are awakening and the wind stirs in its sleep.Ē
They bade the Indian and his two silent women ďGood day,Ē and pushed on. Now there was good reason for haste. Indians are rarely or never mistaken in their weather prophecies, and if the snow came before the pursuers had caught up with the thief, they stood a fair chance of losing him altogether, for the snow would infallibly blot out his trail.
That night they came to a small trading post kept by a tall, gangling American, by name Ephraim Dodge. He had a thin, hatchet face and a bobbing goatee, and on either side of his prominent bridged nose twinkled a shrewd, although kind, eye.
Yes, Ephraim had seen the man they were pursuing and ďallowed he was pretty badly tuckered out.Ē He had stopped at his post and purchased some canned goods and oatmeal. Then he had pressed straight on. No, he had not offered any skins for sale, and, according to Ephraim, was an ďornery-lookiní cuss, anyhow.Ē
When he heard their story Ephraim was sympathetic, but he could not offer much in the way of consolation except to assure them that they were bound to catch the man, for he appeared to be ďright poorly.Ē There was no possibility of their pushing on that night, for old Joe, anxious as he was to continue the pursuit, decided that his dogs must have rest. So they spent the evening with Ephraim, who brought out an old violin and amused them by executing jigs and double shuffles while his old fiddle squeaked out the ďArkansas TravelerĒ and other lively airs.
After Ephraim had exhausted his repertoire they sat about the big stove and talked. Ephraim was a lively companion, and was frankly glad of company. He ďallowed it was plum lonesome with nothing but Injuns and mamelukes fer company.Ē It was not necessary to attempt to join in his incessant flow of talk. He talked like a man who has pent up his thoughts and words for months and lets them go in a flood of conversation.
The talk turned to California, which Ephraim ďílowed was a white manís country, fer sure.Ē He wished he was back there. What a climate it was! What wonderful air!
ďWhy,Ē declared Ephraim, ďthat air out thar is so wonderful deceiving that two fellers who set out fer the mountains from a plains town, thinking the hills werenít but two miles away, rode two days without gettiní any closer to íem. Then they come at last to a river. One of íem was fer crossing it, but the other, he 'lowed they wouldnít. ĎIt donít look to be moreín a few feet across,í says he, Ďbut in this climate itís liable ter be Christmas afore we ford it,í aní so they come back agíin,Ē he concluded.
ď'Nother time Iíve got in mind,Ē he went on, while his auditors gasped, ďa friend of mine went fishiní. He was known as the most truthful man in the San Juaquin Valley, so there ainít no reason ter suppose that his word wasnít gospel truth and nothiní else. Anyhow, he was known as a mighty good shot and right handy with his shootiní iron, so nobody ever was hearn to doubt his word.
ďWell, sir, as Iím a-saying, William Bing Ė that was his name, gents, William Bing Ė went a fishiní. He went up in the mountains, where the air is even clearer than it is on the plains. Bing, he moseyed along, lookiní fer a likely place and totiní his pole, when all at once he happened ter look down over a bluff, and what do you think he seen? Right below him thar was a fine hole in a big creek, and right in that hole, gents, William Bing, he seen hundreds and hundreds of trout and black bass swimming about so thick they was regularly crowdiní one another.
ďBing says he could see their gills pumpiní aní their fins waviní jesí like they was a-sayiní, ĎHello, Bill! Weíre waitiní fer you. Throw us down a line and a bite ter eat, old sport.í Waal, Bing, he didnít lose no time in lettiní down his line. He figgered it was erbout a hundred feet down to that hole, and he had a hundred and fifty feet on his pole. But he fished and fished all that morniní without getting a bite, not even a nibble. Aní thar below he could see all them fish swimminí about and every now and then looking up at him sort of appealiní like. Bing says it looked jesí as if they wanted to be caught and was reproaching him fer not doiní the job aní doiní it quick.
ďBing, he reckoned something was wrong, so he changed his bait. But still nary a bite. Then he changed it again. Not a flicker, and there was those fish jumping around like peas on a griddle. It was plum aggervatiní, Bing 'lowed, and he couldnít figger it out noways.
ďHe ate his lunch up thar on the top of the bluff, and then he decided that heíd kinder investigate the mystery of why those fish didnít bite. He kind of pussyfoots around on the top of the bluff fer a while, and then he finds a place whar he reckons he can climb down right by that pool and dig inter the mystery in due and legal form.
ďHe sticks his pole in the bluff, leaving his bait on the end of the line, thinking that maybe heíll git a bite while heís carryiní on his investigations. Then Bing, he starts to climb down. Waal, sirs, he clumb and clumb, did William Bing, and at last he got to the bottom. And then what do you suppose he found out?
ďThat clear air had fooled him. Made a plum jackass outín him. Instid of beiní a hundred feet high, that bluff was all of three hundred! Then he looked down in that hole whar the trouts and bass were swimming about. Gee whillakers, sirs, that thar hole 'peared to be moreín a hundred feet deep! And thar was all them fish per-ambulatiní and circumambulatiní erbout in it aní looking up at William Bingís bait that was dangliní in the air a good hundred and fifty feet above that thar gosh almighty hole. Yes, sirs,Ē concluded Ephraim, ďthat Californy air is some air.Ē
ďI should say so,Ē laughed Tom. ďI donít see how they can field a ball in it without being gone for a week on the journey.Ē
ďWaal, that may hev happened, too,Ē rejoined Ephraim gravely, ďbut I never hearn tell on it. Leastways, not frum any reliable source such as William Bing.Ē
ďBoosh!Ē exclaimed old Joe. ďLong time 'go I out West. Aní you talk 'bout cleefs! In one part of zee country dere ees beeg cleef. More big dan Beengís cleef. Bien, I had a friend dere. His name Clemente Dubois. He verí fine man, Clemente. But, poor felí, he dead long time ago.Ē
ďHowíd he die?Ē inquired Ephraim.
ďPoor Clemente, he fall offín dat cleef. Oh, he beeg cleef, moreín tíousand feet high!Ē
ďMashed plum ter mush, I reckon?Ē queried Ephraim, while the boys, who had caught a twinkle in old Joeís eye, listened to see the storekeeperís discomfiture.
ďNo, Clemente, he not mashed to pieces. Leesten, I tell you how Clemente die. He was miner. Verí well. One day Clemente take peek, shofel aní he go to aidge of dis cleef. Clemente, he have on one beeg pair rubbaire boots. Oh, verí beeg rubbaire boots. Bien! Clemente, he work aní teenk he strike fine colors. Zee colors of gold. He get verí excited. He deeg aní deeg, aní bimeby he deeg so hard zee aidge of zee cleef geev way.
ďBang! Clemente, over he go right into zee air. He land on zee ground below, but den hees rubbaire boots begin to work. Clemente, he bounce back. Jusí lak zee rubbaire ball. He bounce up and down, up and down and no one can stop Clemente. He bounce all zee day, and once in a while some of zee boys from zee camp zey tírow heem biscuits to keep Clemente from starving. But Clemente, he no can catch zem. Two days he bounce up and down and no stop.
ďDen zee head man of zee camp, he say: ĎBoys, Clemente, he starve if we no do someteeng. We have to put heem out of zee misery of die lak dat way. Somebody have to shoot Clemente.í Everybody say, ĎNo, no,í but zee boss, he make dem draw lot. Man name Beeg Terry, he be zee one as draw lot to shoot Clemente. Everybody feel verí bad, but no can be help. Beeg Terry, he shoot Clemente zee next morniní. Poor fellow, it was hard on heem, but it was better dan starving to deatí in meed-air. After dat, nobody go near zee cleef wiz rubbaire boots on zeer feet.Ē
This truly remarkable and pathetic narrative brought the evening to a close, as a glance at Ephraimís alarm clock showed that it was almost eleven oíclock. With old Joe still chuckling triumphantly over the manner in which he had ďcappedĒ Ephraimís brief and truthful story, they turned in, sleeping in regular beds for the first time since they had taken to the trail.
CHAPTER XV Ė TOM ON ďTHE DOGS OF THE NORTH.Ē
The next morning old Joe was occupied for some time repairing sundry worn places in harness and sleds. The boys seized the opportunity to write some letters home.
Both lads penned newsy epistles teeming with facts gleaned by them about the region in which they were traveling. As a sidelight on their experiences, we may take a peep over their shoulders while their pens are flying and learn something of their impressions.
From Tomís letter to a school chum we can detach some interesting remarks on the ďsteedsĒ of the northern wilds, the faithful mamelukes upon whom the hunter and trapperís success and even life may depend.
ďThere are said to be two seasons in this land,Ē wrote Tom, ďwinter and June-July-and-August. We are now in the midst of the latter, as you, of course, know.
ďDuring the summer the mamelukes Ė the Alaskan dogs I told you something about in a former letter Ė run wild. They mostly forage for themselves and become very bold and ferocious.
ďBut as soon as the winter sets in the canine free-lances are rounded up and led off into captivity by straps, strings and wires. Sometimes one owner gets into a dispute with another concerning his four-footed property, and then there are lively times indeed.
ďAfter their long holiday the dogs, especially the puppies, are very wild. In some cases they have to be broken into their work all over again.
ďThis is no picnic for the dogs, for some of the drivers are very brutal. But they donít dare abuse the dogs too much for fear of injuring their own property.
ďThe dogs used by the government for transporting the mails Ė a team of which will haul this very letter Ė are splendid looking brutes. They are called Labrador Ďhuskiesí and are very large and heavy-coated.
ďSome of them are, without exaggeration, as big as young calves. They carry the mail over vast, snowy wildernesses, and even sometimes to Dawson, when the air is not too nippy. That is to say, when the thermometer is not more than thirty degrees below.
ďThe dog drivers have almost a language of their own, like the Ďmule skinnersí of our western plains. When a group of them gets together you can hear some tall stories of the feats each manís team has performed. And, wild as some of these yarns may seem to an Ďoutsider,í they are not so incredible as they appear.
ďThe big, well-furred, long-legged Labrador Huskies are the most powerful, as well as the fiercest, of the sledge dogs. A load of one hundred and fifty pounds to each dog is the usual burden Ė and no light one, when you consider the trails over which they travel.
ďAs a rule, seven to eight or nine dogs are hitched to a sledge. The harness is of the type called the 'Labrador.í It consists of a single trace. Other traces are attached to it, so that the dogs are spread out fan-shaped from the sledge. This is done to keep them from interfering with each other, for they will fight Ďat the drop of a hat.í And when they do fight Ė well, fur flies!
ďAnd here is where the driverís job comes in. His main care is to keep his animals Ė some of them worth more than one hundred dollars each, from maiming each other. Nor do his troubles end here, for he has to see to it that the dogs donít turn on him. You must recall that some of the Ďhuskiesí are as savage as wolves, and an iron hand is required to keep them disciplined.
ďNearly every driver carries a stout club and a ferocious looking whip of seal-hide. He uses both impartially and unmercifully. If the dogs thought for a moment that you were afraid of them they would turn on you like a flash and probably kill you. That is the reason for the driverís seeming brutality. He literally dare not be kind, except in some instances where, as with our present companion, Joe Picquet, he has an exceptionally gentle team.
ďThen, too, the dogs are forever attacking each other. Every once in a while there will be a desperate battle, which can only be stopped by a free use of the whip. But in their wolflike fury the dogs sometimes cannot be quieted even by these means.
ďAnother curious bit of dog lore is this: In each team Ė just as in a big school of boys Ė there is always one unfortunate that appears to be the butt of the others. They take every opportunity to steal his food and make life miserable for him. Sometimes the whole pack will make an onslaught on the poor beast and, if not stopped in time, will tear his flesh and rip him open, although they rarely eat him.
ďThen, too, some of the dogs are mischievous in the extreme. They will show an almost human intelligence in making life miserable for their driver. It is their delight, sometimes, to spill the sledge and the driver, and gallop madly off, overturning the pack and losing the mail. I hope that will not happen to this letter, for I am writing it under some difficulties and want you to get it.
ďWhen this happens itís tough luck for the driver. It means that he has to wade miles through the snow, tracking the runaways. He usually finds them at the next post-house, unless the sledge has become entangled in brush or trees. When this latter occurs the dogs scoop out snug-holes for themselves in the snow and go to sleep!
ďThe class of dog most used by the ordinary traveler is different from the giant huskies. These are the mamelukes or the native Indian dog. They are supposed to have wolf blood in them, and they certainly act up to the supposition!
ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ