The Living Forest
THE coming of winter was of great interest to us boys. Never before had we had such an opportunity to see nature in all her various moods, from the turning of the sombre summer greens of the forest into a gloriously beautiful mantle of gorgeously enchanting colors that one day seemed to vanish with but a few hours’ breeze, as if taking wing southward with the great flocks of wild fowl that flew overhead.
Later, the grey, bare branches of the trees became so coated with icy crystals that the diameter of every tiny twig was increased tenfold, and when the sun shone on them, one’s delighted eyes grew dim from its dazzling splendor. And eventually we witnessed the locking of the rivers and lakes and the coming of the heavy snows.
Now for the first time in our lives we boys really began to study nature and to try to read every white page of that enchanting book on lifeinthe Great Northern Forest. It had been snowing off and on for the past week, and already the ground was covered to the depth of nearly a foot. It was now four days since we had visited our traps, and as Lincoln had already had some practice at snowshoeing. we started out early the following morning to go the round of our fur path.
It w as a brilliant day, and while the forest’s great white mantle was ablaze with sunlight, its underlying shadows formed a charming harmony of blue and green, Holet and lavender. Here and there, as we tramped through the woods, we saw many curious imprints upon the forest’s soft carpet, and as Link and I eagerly enquired their meaning, the old hunter never wearied of telling every story he read in the snow.
"Those, I know, are rabbits’, but what is this one here?”
Lincoln asked, as we came to the bank of a little frost-locked stream.
“That’s the track of a mink,”
"Let's follow it and see where it goes." I suggested.
As we went along, we soon found the marks spread wider apart, for the animal had evidently broken into a run, as Bill explained. Farther on the trail showed that the little creature had rushed forward in leaps and bounds toward another series of tracks that the old half breed said were those of an ermine that had happened to be passing that way. Evidently it had not realized that it was being pursued. Where their tracks intersected, the snow told of a woodland tragedy. A desperate fight had taken place.
Each had fought long and hard to kill the other, for both white hair and brown lay strewn about. Blood also showed upon the snow. The largest blotch of blood told where the weaker of the two had lost its life, and the single trail leading away from that fatal spot showed how the Hctor had carried off upon his back the body of the vanquished. And seeing that none but the mink’s tracks led away Link sighed:
“Poor little beggar!” Then he coaxed: “Bill, tell us about
“My boy, you needn’t waste much sympathy on him. He’s a Hcious little robber an’ will tackle almost anything regardless
o’ size. Yet he’s easily caught, because he’s so stupid that if his head’s covered an’ he can’t see you, he thinks he’s safe. When he fights he more often tries for the back o’ the neck than for the throat of his enemy, as he can hold on there and suck its blood with less chance o’ bein’ injured. He hunts muskrats, squirrels, chipmunks, an’ mice, as well as partridge, ptarmigan an’ other birds. The Indians say he uses the black tip of his white tail as a decoy when huntin’ birds. The fox sometimes uses his tail in the same way to attract ducks ashore.
“The ermine’s a most determined hunter an’ seldom loses his quarry. He can scent mice through deep snow an’ digs down to get ’em out. He can travel nearly as fast beneath soft snow as he can above it. That’s true, too, of the mink an’ otter.”
“Can an ermine climb a tree?” I asked.
“Yes, my boy, about as easily as he can walk on the ground. When he hunts a bird in a tree, he’ll sometimes go up on the far side o’ the trunk an’ then creep out on
Through the great woods, by frozen stream, and across the trackless snow of open country, the three weary travelers journey. Danger increases with every step, but despite mental stress Old Bill finds time to read, in the magic wilderness book, tul es of thrilling happenings in the nature world about them.
th’ underside of the limb, so the bird won’t see him. Should the bird show alarm, he may poke up the tip of his tail beside the branch so that the bird seein’ it may become curious as to what it really is, an’ thus give th’ ermine a better chance o’ securin’ its prey. At least that’s what he seems to do, though perhaps it’s only accident that he flicks his tail at the bird. But when there’re a number o’ birds in a tree, he always tries for the lowest one first. Whether or not he does that from design, I don’t know. An’ should he kill a number o’ birds he’ll drag ’em away, one at a time, by seizin the bird by the neck an’ carryin’ its body over his back.
But if the snow s too deep for him to carry away his game, he’ll dig a hole an’ bury his catch right there. Then like the skunk he’ll befoul the spot so as to keep other animals from stealin’ his cache. The ermine’s always ready to tackle a mink or a marten, but nearly always gets killed. He’ll even tackle man, an’ can jump four or five feet. So, my boys, be careful if you approach an ermine at bay. He’s a natural born robber an’ a regular little deHl to fight, as he seldom runs away. He’s a good swimmer an’ will in that way cross a big river, though he may make use of a floatin stick on which to rest his chin or forefeet while he shoves away with his hind legs. Once I saw an ermine swimmin’ in that way across the great Mackenzie River.”
Continuing our way, we came upon a very curious looking trail in the snow, the like of which I had never seen or heard of before. It was a long, winding, rounded, gutterlike impression about nine inches wide and five inches deep. It looked as if a great serpent had passed that way.
TX/’HEN I asked the old W hunter what had caused the peculiar runnel-like trail, he said it had been made by an otter shoHng itself through the snow.
“If you look a little closer you’ll see th’ prints of his hind legs, though his broad tail has partly blurred ’em. When goin' down hill th’ otter lays his forelegs alongside his body, gives a shove with his hind legs an' away he glides down th’ incline like a toboggan—except when he curves his body to steer clear of obstructions.”
“Bill, let’s sit down here in the sun while you tell us more about otters,” I suggested.
“You rascal,” the old man smiled, “always ready an’ willin' to loaf an’ be entertained. However, my boys, the Canada otter’s an animal I know you'd be glad to study, as his ways are very interestin’ an' he makes a delightful pet. His home’s usually a burrow in a river bank with an entrance below water line. The nest in which the young are reared is lined with dry grass or leaves, especially the leaves from the tips o' little willows or little poplars. But the mother an' father seldom sleep together, as they’re great snorers—in fact even worse than beavers. Frequent ly their home’s vent dated by a hole above, but in winter it's rather a dangerous thing. Hoar frost is apt to form around the ventilator’s mouth.
an’ becomes a regular tell-tale to the hunter. It also helps his dog to get a whiff of scent of th’ otter below. That’s one reason why th’ Indian likes to have a dog with him when he’s otter huntin’ in winter.
“The young, numberin’ from one to six, but usually two or three, are born in early spring.
The father helps the mother in carin’ for ’em, often bringin’ fish to her when she’s too busy to leave the den, or watchin’ over the young when the mother takes a turn in the river and catches a few o’ the finny tribe herself. If danger threatens the mother or the young, the father’ll fight to the death to defend ’em. An Indian friend o’ mine, who’s given much time to the study of otters, told me that both the mother an’ the father will sometimes moan an’ groan when one o’ their young has been killed, just as a mother bear’ll do. But a mother bear’ll sometimes do even more—she’ll shed real tears.
“When an otter dies in its home, the rest o’ the family may stay there a week or more, an’ then, instead o’ removin’ the dead from the den, they’ll themselves move away an’ hunt for new quarters while they leave the dead in possession o’ their old home. The beaver, however, he says, acts differently, an’ not only removes the dead from their home, but they even carry it far enough away to allow the current to catch it an’ carry it off.
“Th’ otter’s a clean feeder an’ not only is he particular about what he eats, but he’ll also clean himself after finishin’ his meal.
He’s not fond o’ jack fish nor does hé care much for sturgeon, louche or pickerel, but he’s very fond o’ trout, whitefish an’ goldeyes. Th’ observant hunter knows from where th’ otter had been feedin’ just what he had been huntin’ for. He’s also fond o’ clams an’ will sometimes collect a pile as big as an ant hill, but apparently he piles ’em up just for sport. He occasionally eats the tender tips o’ roots, the tips o’ young bull-rushes when in the buddin’ stage, an’ what is locally called ‘water onions,’ which’re found in muddy banks. Because they’re sweet, th’ Indian likes ’em too, an’ when dried he pounds ’em into flour.
"U'VERY once in a while the good hunter wants to ^ change his huntin’ ground, because th’ animals, gettin’ wary of him, move away. Th’ otter’s apt to do the same thing, an’ in his travels he may cover many miles, followin’ the same stream, or he may head across country to make his new home in another fishin’ region. In a locality that’s not been hunted by man, the game may be quite fearless an’ not only stop to look at him, but even go nearer to get a better view. But if fired at or hunted in other ways, th’ animals soon learn to keep out o’ the hunter’s sight.”
“How fast can an otter swim?” Link asked.
“I don’t know just how fast, but he’s a wonder for speed. He can swim so swiftly an’ dodge with such skill, that he can overtake not only the speckled trout but also the salmon. When he enters the water he doesn’t make a great splash like the beaver when it slaps the water with its tail, but he goes in more like a seal. In fact his entrance is almost noiseless. When he comes out, he doesn’t have to shake himself like a dog or bear to dry his coat, as his fur seems to retain only enough water to make his coat look glossy.
“Boys, th’ otter’s an extremely playful animal, an’ good natured too. One game otters seem fond o’ playin’ is a sort o’ hide-an’-seek among submerged logs an’ stranded driftwood. Another game’s slidin’ down hill, toboggan fashion, in both winter an’ summer; in fact th’ otter’s one o’ the most playful of all Canadian animals. The otter’s sight’s very keen, his hearin’ also good, an’ though he has a keen scent, he hasn’t much use for it. As the male do most o’ the huntin’, they’re more often killed. That, no doubt’s one reason why there’re nearly twice as many females.
“When the otter hunts for fish he usually works up stream, as strong currents force the fish to take to eddies, or to rest a while in the slack water behind large stones. In such huntin’ th’ otter, instead o’ swimmin’ up the
strong current, actually walks on the bottom o’ the river. While engaged in such work, he can remain under water for four or five minutes, perhaps more. Then he comes to the top again an’ swimmin’ with head held high, he refreshes his lungs as he drifts to another likely lookin’ eddy, an’ then he sinks once more. At a strong rapids th’ otter may hunt in a different way, that is, as a bear’ll do, from a rock in the stream. Then again, th’ otter may look for a shoal where he may see the fish flappin’ among the half-submerged stones, an’ there he’ll catch ’em in the shallows. There’s still another place where he likes to hunt fish an’ that’s in the pools where fish often resort to rest before they make a violent attempt to ascend a cascade.”
“Is the otter much of a fighter?” I asked.
“You bet he is. His strong body’s almost as supple as a snake’s. I’ve watched ’em fightin’. An otter defends himself in three different ways, either by squattin’ upon his haunches an’ strikin’ with his forefeet, or by standin’ upon his hind legs an’ tail an’ bitin’ an’ strikin’, or by throwin’ himself on his back an’ usin’ all four sets o’ claws as well as his teeth—as a wolverine’ll do. But while an otter tries to bite his opponent’s tail, he tries to protect his own. For that reason an otter may be seen with his tail curled beneath him when he goes into battle.
“The otter when he wants to be is not only very active, but very vicious. When the fight’s long an’ he’s growin’ weaker, he may draw back, then suddenly dive, toboggan fashion, toward his enemy, endeavoring to bite him on the belly, where his hair’s short. Sometimes, too, they may both leap together at the same moment, an’ when they clinch they remind me o’ human beings—clawin’, bitin’, an’ rollin’ over an’ over in their effort to win the battle. They also try to bite one another just above the nostrils, holdin’ on with their teeth, an’ chewin’ away like a bulldog’ll do. Meanwhile th’ other otter tries for his enemy’s forepaws, for like all water animals, th’ otter’s very tender in the front feet. If bitten there he’ll let go his hold. If a certain man’s a good swimmer, Indians’ll say he swims like a beaver, but if a man’s a good wrestler, Indians’ll say he’s almost as active an’ strong as an otter.
“Even in summer time an otter’s trail’s easy to follow because it’s usually well worn by th’ animal constantly goin’ in an’ out o’ water.' He likes to spend part of his time on a river beach, from which he may have a well
beaten runway to the water. Though the print o’, the mink’s foot may only show four o’ his five toes, th’ otter’s track more often shows five. When not disturbed th’ otter walks slowly with footprints close together, whereas when pursued, or in a hurry to get away—especially if there’s snow on the ground— he’ll take a few leaps an’ then toboggan for a little distance, then spring again. If descending a slope he’ll slide as much as he can. In the winter time, too, when he’s pursued, he may dive beneath the soft snow an’ travel out o’ sight for some little distance in an effort to escape. There, my boys, I’ve told you about th’ otter, so let’s get back to our work, or we won’t get much done to-day.”
THUS w7e moved along examining everything, and discussing many things we saw and heard. Here, we observed where a fox had Hushed a ptarmigan from its wintry bed beneath the snow. There we saw where an owl had swooped at a squirrel, but the little animal leaping aside, the owd had missed its prey and struck the snow. Yonder, some martens had been playing. Along a little snowmantled stream a lynx had been in hot pursuit of a rabbit, and farther along we saw where three wolves had taken after a lynx. It made me wonder if it was the same lynx that had chased the rabbit. Every little while the old hunter read us a fascinating story from the snow.
The locality proved to be well supplied with forest creatures, not only with the small furbearing animals, but also wTith big game, and by the time we had made the third round of our trapping path, we had secured a fair amount of fur, among which was an unusually handsome cross fox. During the second week in camp we found many signs of wolves and were frequently awakened by their howling. Though
the stage stood near our lean-to, Bill feared lest the
brutes might break it down and steal the food stored upon it for our overland journey. To keep the wolves away, he stuffed several deerskins with brush, attached broken deer horns, and hung the deerskins in such a way that the skins swayed about in the wind, and rattled the horns so loudly that the wolves dared not approach.
It was now the nineteenth day of our stay on the southern shore of Wolverine Lake. The ice on the waterways was sufficiently thick to afford safe travel in any direction, and the snow was deep enough for fair snowshoeing and sledding. Bill had already thought of breaking camp and starting on our long snowshoe journey. But there was still the deerskin shelter to make. He had left it to the last.
That afternoon, while attending our traps, our fur path led us to where it took a turn for a mile or two toward the south; then it continued westward and homeward again, as Bill had laid it out somewhat in the form of an oval. We were then about three miles east of our camp, and as the turning was made in a valley, Bill left the trapping trail and led us to the top of a neighboring hill to see the eastern country beyond, as he thought it might afford an easier course for us to follow on our southward journey. No sooner had we reached the eastern brow of the hill than we saw a much broken thread of brilliant white—broken where the trees hid it— and it followed the course of a winding little snowcovered creek that ran through the valley before us. Instantly we knew it to be a snow-shoe trail. The sight thrilled us. After a few words of caution, Bill led us down the hillside toward it.
WHEN we arrived at the trail, all that we boys could read from it was that it had been made by two men who had worn snowshoes, the like of which we had never seen. After examining the track, the old woodsman said: “It’s the trail o’ two men southward bound, as you can plainly see. They’re carryin’ packs. They passed here about an hour ago. An’ it’s up to us to find out what they’re doin’ around here before we encounter ’em. Are you good for an extra ten miles or so?”
“Sure,” whispered Lincoln.
"Yes,” 1 answered, both of us almost breathless from excitement.
"Then follow me But walk as little on their trail as you can ” And the old hunter set off toward the north.
But, Bill, you’re going in the wrong direction,” 1 exclaimed.
"Wrong again, my boy. A good trailer always wants to know somethin' about the men he’s trailin' before he runs the risk o' bein' seen by them. An’ the safest way to learn about the men we're goin' to follow is to back-track 'em. We may have to back-track a number o' utiles. But in 'H' end it'll prevent us from wastin' our time.”
After back-tracking for a mile or two, we came to where the creek emptied into the lake, and then we saw where the second rv.au had gone ahead to relieve his companion at track beating otherwise, leading the way. or breaking the trail. Another three miles or more along the snowcovered lake and close to the southeastern shore we followed the trail until it came from among trees on shore, and there we halted just as the strangers had done. But the reason the strangers had halted there was to make a fire and cook their lunch, all of which we could see at a glance.
"Stay where you are, my boys, as I want to look around a bit before we make too many tracks,” and with that the old half breed slipped off his snowshoes in order to disturb less snow— or -ather he slipped his feet out—as the Northern Indians do. They also put them on without having to untie or tie the thongs.
After satisfying himself with a careful examination of the dead ft re. the little brush mattress—upon which the men had sat while cooking their meal—and the marks and signs in the snow, even going so far off as the dead trees from which the strangers had chopped their firewood.'B|ll said:
Now, boys, read aloud the signs you see.”
So Lincoln and I started in to investigate.
That's where they stood their snowshoes in the snow, vies up and well away from the fire,"I proudly proclaimed.
"Right,” replied Bill.
"They had an axe. I can tell by the way that tree is cut," Lincoln announced.
"They had a knife, too. For look at this bark on this little stick. It's been whittled with a sharp blade,” I
"And they carried packs,” Lincoln continued, “for there are the marks where they set them down. That mark there looks as if it had been made by a falling
My boys, you're gettin' on. Now tell me what kind o’ foot gear they wore besides their snowshoes?”
"That’s easy,” smiled Link, “moccasins, of course.” "Yes. but what kind o’ moccasins?”
Now you've got me. I don’t know',” replied Link. "I'll give it up, too,” I added.
What else do you see?” old Bill asked; and we both replied that that was all.
"Then tell me what kind o’ men they were?” requested
the old hunter.
’ I 'HAT was a stickler. But remembering Bill had claimed 'hat the first tracks we had discovered along the shores of The River of the Strange People were those of Indians, and that he expected to come upon them again, I replied:
"They were Indians.”
"Right, my boy, but tell me why?”
“You’ve got me there,” I grinned, and Link laughingly said:
"Now, Bill, tell us what you’ve learned?”
"In the first place you boys remarked on a sign that you only half read, an’ that w'as the little willow that’d been whittled near the fire. In the Strong Woods Country nearly all men smoke. But they don’t smoke cigars or cigarettes. The pipe’s universal. Yet wThile nearly all white men smoke, many of ’em chew. But th’ Indian rarely ever does that, as tobacco to him seems too valuable to be tued that way. If he runs short o’ tobacco to smoke, he counts on smokin’ just the same, as he makes use o’ several substitutes that’re rarely ever used by white men. For instance, th’ inner bark of the red willow's one, an’ that little stick o’ red willow the thickness of a man’s finger that you found beside the fire shows that th’ outer bark'd been shaved off very thin, an’ th’ inner bark scraped into a fringe o’ little coils that encircled the stick. Then it’d been placed before the fire to toast a little, after which th’ inner bark was rubbed off an’ powdered in the hand before placin’ it in the pipe. That’s what these men had been doin’ with that little stick, and it not only proves they had no tobacco, but also goes a long way to prove they were Indians.
“Then again, my son3, you see there’3 a number o’
places where these men have stepped about without their snowshoes, yet you failed to read anythin’ from that. In the lirst place, as you probably know, th’ average Indian treads straight. Rarely ever does he turn out his toes as most white men do. Yet he’s seldom ‘pigeon-toed’ as white men so often try to make ou when they write books about him. All these marks were made by men who treaded straight. Furthermore, I asked you what kind o’ footgear they wore, an’ you said moccasins an’ nothin’ more. True they were wearin’ moccasins, but if you'll examine more carefully you’ll find that the toe marks of their moccasins show that the point o’ the toe was not opposite the centre o’ the foot, as they would have been if made by Ojibway Indians. But they’re pointed opposite the big toe, provin’ that they were
“Mutiny” in November 1
A T THE END of a stormy tropic day two years ago, Norman Reilly Raine stood on the lower bridge of a laboring tramp ship in the middle of the South Pacific and watched, outlined against a red and watery sunset, a lonely dot of land, tiny with the immensity of the tossing ocean all about, and inhabited only by screaming sea birds, scuttling land crabs, a few windbent cocoanut palms and the surf-bleached bones of an ancient wreck. A few months later, in a dingy sailors’ pub on Freres Road in Bombay, he heard from the lips of a drink-battered old shipmaster the story of the strangest cargo he had ever carried, in over forty years at sea.
The result of these two apparently unconnected incidents will be found in November 1 MACLEAN’S, in “MUTINY,” a complete novelette.
wearin’ moccasins o’ the Cree style, known as ‘mitten moccasins.’ Mitten moccasins have no seam over the toe, therefore they’re best for snowshoein’. Judgin’ from that sign, I believe the men were Crees.
“You were right about these men havin’ an axe an' a knife. But you didn’t say how they’re armed. They haven’t any gun, or we’d have seen some sign of where they stood it upright in the snow well back from the fire, so that the heat wouldn’t make it necessary for ’em to dry it an’ oil it again. But they did have bows an’ arrows, as that sign there plainly proves where one man, in takin’ off his pack, pressed his quiver in the snow. The print of th’ outer end of his bow shows as you see it there.
“They’re usin’ caribou robes. See the hairmarks there beside where a pack made that impression. Why there’s even some o’ the hair. You know how brittle it is. But there’s still another sign you overlooked. You didn’t notice what k'nd o’ snowshoes they’re wearin’. You’ve been lookin’ at th’ impressions o’ their shoes for a number o’ miles. Don’t you see they’re different from ours? If you compare their marks with ours, you’ll see though the heels of our shoes always drag upon the snow, theirs rarely do. The reason is that ours have long pointed heels, while theirs are rounded at the back, and are also so short the heel lifts instead o’ drags when they step. They’re w'earin’ the kind o’ snowshoes that’re called ‘bear paws,’ a mere hurried makeshift of a shoe, made with a single stick bent into the form of an oval, an’ with but a single cross bar. They’re strung with coarser deerskin than ours. A ‘bear paw’ shoe’s used merely to carry a stranded hunter to his home camp, where he can procure a proper pair o’ snowshoes, such, for instance, as ours.
“The two men who passed this way are lazy young Crees who don’t take as much pride in their work as they should. You boys know ’em both. They belonged to the crew o’ Perkins’ freight canoe. They’ve escaped from the white men whose six-fathom canoe was, as you saw, burnt on the bank o’ The Eennu Sepe. An’ now that these Indians are once more free, they’re tryin’ to keep clear of O’Brien an’ his cut-throat gang.”
“What! O’Brien and his gang?” Lincoln exclaimed.
“Well T’m makin’ a guess at it . . . but it
won’t be long before I’ll prove it to you. So now my boys, let’s go back to camp an’ get a little rest before we set out to overtake th’ Indian lads. For we must overhaul 'em before they've a chance to travel far to-morrow.”
TT WAS some time after midnight when we arrived,
tired and hungry, at our camp, but after plenty to eat and drink—snow being melted in a birchbark rogan set beside the fire-we boys were in a talkative mood. We asked the old hunter many a question, especially about trailing men, as he had told us that on many occasions he had been engaged as a special constable of the NorthWest Mounted Police to trail outlaws.
“My boys, when a trailer’s after outlaws, one o’ the first things he wants to know is, how’re they armed. Sometimes that can be found out fairly soon by little signs the trailer may find, such as a gun shell or two, a gun wad, an impression of the butt of a gun on the ground or in the snow, a bit of rag, a bit of skin, a few feathers, or some moss that’s been used to clean a gun. As to readin’ man’s footprints, I didn’t mention this afternoon all the differences between a white man’s
“The print of an Indian’s foot’s usually broad at the toe, as most o’ his weight comes upon the ball of the foot, an’ his step’s shorter than the white man’s. The white man’s toe is narrower— on account of his foot bein’ spoilt by wearin’ shoes—an’ most o’ his weight falls upon the heel. Besides, the white man’s much more careless than th’ Indian, an’ walks heavily, often steppin’ upon sticks an’ stones. Whereas th’ Indian walks lightly an’ tries to avoid makin’ a noise. An experienced Indian trailer can, as a rule, read the difference between the footprints of an Indian an’ those of a white man before he’s followed the trail twenty paces.
“One advantage in followin’ the trail of a man over that of an animal is that the man’s not nearly so apt, as an animal would be, to smell the trailer. But when trailin’ a man, the trailer must remember not only to be on his guard in front, but also on guard behind, as the man may circle an’ watch his trail to see if he’s bein’ followed. Sometimes, however, that’s even done by animals. Then again, a trailer may observe how an outlaw’s securin’ his food by watchin’ for feathers or blood along his trail; that would prove whether or not he was usin’ a bow or a gun. Snares, steel traps, nets, or deadfalls may tell another story.
“Should a river lie in th’ outlaw’s way, an’ if he was used to the ways o’ the woods, he’d probably make use of two dry sticks about as thick as a man’s leg, an’ ten to twelve feet long. He’d lash ’em about fourteen inches apart by means o’ two traverse bars an’ green willow bark. Then gettin’ in between the logs, he’d rest his arms over them, an’ with his legs he’d paddle his way across the river. Even a good swimmer’ll make use o’ such a raft, as it helps him keep his gun an’ ammunition, or bow an’ arrows, dry. Or he may lash on a little platform o’ sticks to keep his clothes above water.
“If th’ outlaw’s an Indian, he’ll do what a white man wouldn’t, an’ that is, that while th’ Indian’s indifferent about the place from where he starts, he’s very particular about the place he’ll land, th’ opposite bein’ true of a white man. The Indian doesn’t worry about where he gets in, but where he gets out, an’ thus he avoids makin’ a bad landin’ by avoidin’ mud, matted, over-hangin’ branches or slippery rock. Another thing th’ Indian outlaw will try to do is, to land either on hard ground, slopin’ rock, a fallen tree or stranded driftwood, so that he can gain the shelter o’ the woods without leavin’ many signs o’ his landin’. Th’ outlaw’d also be careful, as soon as his feet touched bottom, to shove his logs out into the current, so that they’d be carried away an’ leave no sign of his raft.
“But to an experienced Indian trailer even a tiny sign’s enough. A white trailer always looks for a continuous trail, while an Indian trailer’s often satisfied with but a single sign. Then he’ll enter the bush an’ circle widely in the hope o’ pickin’ up the trail farther on, as he’d be sure th’ outlaw’d try to fool him as to where he entered the woods, an’ to look for that place’d be but a waste o’ time. Thus th’ outlaw’d waste time by tryin’ to fool the trailer, an’ the trailer’d gain time by circlin’ an’ pickin’ up th’ outlaw’s trail farther on. If th’ outlaw has to hunt his own food, then he’ll have a hard time to cover the signs, which the trailer’ll easily read. Then by followin’ at his utmost speed the trailer’ll either force th’ outlaw to travel without food, or make him easy to capture.
“Trailin’ in summer’s hard work, for then, if th’ outlaw’s a good woodsman he stands about nine chances to one o’ gettin’ away. In summer trailin’, when the trailer’s searchin’ for a trail, he doesn’t look down near his feet; but from ten to twenty feet ahead. If searchin’ on risin’ moss-covered rock, he looks from twenty to fifty feet ahead. If searchin’ in an open, grass-covered country, he may sight the trail on a hillside half a mile away, an’ miles farther away if th’ outlaw traveled in a wagon. A trail leadin’ over moss-covered rock’ll grow out in a week’s time, but if over soft ground it’ll remain much longer.
ONE thing that makes summer trailin' much more difficult than winter trailin’ is the care that must be taken to avoid makin’ a noise by breakin’ dead branches or steppin’ on dead wood An’ for that reason th’ old trailers an’ hunters at that season o’ the year would wear nothin’ but a pair o’ moccasins an’ their breechcloth. So they’d lessen the chance o’ their clothin' catchin’ on dead wood an’ makin’ a loud, breakin’ sound. Even to-day some o’ the Hudson’s Bay posts still sell for that purpose breech-cloths made o’ red, white or blue ‘strouds’; they’re seven inches wide an’ from thirty to thirty-six inches long. An’ by the way, even to-day, th’ trailers often rub their naked bodies with ‘old wives’ grass,’ especially when trailin’ big game. It’s a thin, scraggly grass that grows in bunches something like blue Continued on page 28
Continued from page 26 bunch grass, an't has a very pungent sweet smell that prevents th’ animals from scentin' the Indian’s body smell. Though wild animals don’t much mind the smell of Indians, they simply detest the smell o’ white men. An’ for that matter. Indians hate it too, an’ when they want to roast a filthy tribesman, they’ll declare that he smells almost as bad as a white man. But while th’ Indian hunteris an expert at trailin’ animals, when it comes to trailin’ men he’s sometimes surpassed by the work of Indian women. The reason’s clear Indian men are used to trailin’ game. Indian women are used to trailin’ men.”
My mental picture of Indian maidens pursuing Indian braves amused me.
"Why do you smile, my son. when what I say’s nothin’ but the truth? Th’ Indian hunter’s used to pursuin’ game, an when he kills it. his work's done. So he goehome an’ tells his wife an’ daughters where they’ll find the dead game. Their work is to bring it in. They backtrack the hunter’s trail until they come to the carcass, then they skin it an’ dress it an' carry it home. In that way they're constantly followin' the tracks o’ men, an’ consequently from long experience they often become more expert at trailin’ men than the men are themselves. In fact, Indian boys are trained from childhood to follow the tracks o’ game, an’ Indian girls are trained from childhood to follow the tracks o’ men.
"If an Indian realized . but you boys ought to be asleep. .For we’ve got to be up an’ on the way long before daylight;
"But. Bill I don’t think I’ll sleep.
I'm so excited . anyway, tell us a little more, then I’ll turn in,” coaxed
"Well, only just a word or two, for I •'to say: If an outlaw realized that he was bein' followed by a greenhorn he might, without goin' near the trunk of a tree, use a crooked stick to haul himself trail an’ up to a branch overhead. Then he'd count on travelin’ from one •ree to another by way o’ their branches for a considerable distance, in order to baffle his pursuer. But that wouldn’t work with an experienced Mounted Policeman, or an Indian or halfbreed trailer. Because when they’d come to th' end of the outlaw'trail, they’d simply circle an’ keep on circlin', each time coverin’ a greater circle, until they again picked up the trail.
"The best chance an outlaw has o’ throwin’ the trailer off his trail is to enter water. Buta greenhorn outlaw might wade ¡ninth’opposite direction from what he counted on travelin’, an’ th’ experienced trailerknowin’ that old bluff, would work in th’ opposite direction too, an’ nab his man. One thing the trailer’d soon learn would be whether or not th’ outlaw had used poles in enterin’ the water, as that'd prove th’ outlaw’s ability as a swimmer. It’d also tell whether or not he had a gun. Because ex-en if he had a gun, he couldn't shoot if he took toswimmin’. Therefore—if hecountedonshootin’, he’d have to content himself with wadin’, unless while swimmin’ he carried his gun on a raft. If, however, th’ outlaw dives into a river or lake, the trailer’s at a great disadvantage. For he has to do a heap o’ guessin’ an’ travelin’, too, before he runs any chance o' pickin’ up the trail along the shore. But. my boys, it’s gettin’ late, an’ we best be turnin’ in.”
"Thanks, Bill. Summer trailing is certainly interesting, but isn’t there a lot to learn about winter trailing?” asked Lincoln.
"There certainly is, my boy, for besides ordinary winter trailin', there’s one way o’ both animals an’ men that you’ve never read of in any book. But it’s too late now, so good night, my sons.”
BENEATH a clear, cold sky we turned in, and I slept so soundly Bill had to shake me awake for breakfast. Though it was several hours before dtwn, the sky was strangely illuminated, and a spirit of awe soon possessed me.
"My boys, if you walk out toward the bay. you’ll see the sky completely cox’ered with a wonderful display o’ Northern Lights. Perhaps before we get under way weil hear, as I heard a little while ago, that strange swishin’ an’ hissin’ an’ crackin’ sound the Northern Lights some-
The meal over, we banked our fire. Then each swung a little pack upon his back,
slipped his feet into his snowshoe thongs, raised his hood, slung-his quiver over his shoulder, pulled on his double deerskin mittens, and strode silently out upon the bay, heading eastward along yesterday’s trail. It was then we witnessed the Northern Lights in all their amazing splendor. Great waves of light were flashing from near the northern horizon right up to the zenith in about one second’s time. As they varied in width, they produced different sounds, the wide waves making a rustling noise, while the narrow waves rendered a sort of crackling sound. At times, too, the sounds resembled the swishing back and forth of a long lashed whip, but at that precise moment we heard no crackling sound.
The whole of the sky’s great dome was a vibrating mass of splendor, rising from the nort hern horizon, and broadcasting its enchanting waves so far beyond east and west and zenith, too, that they actually met over the southern horizon. The power of its amazing light lit up the snow as if several moons were shining, and though it was still night, we could see for many miles.
“Bill, what makes those waves of light flash and flare that way?” Lincoln asked.
"My boy . . . many people, both white an' red, haxre been doin’ a heap o’ guessin’ about it for the last few thousand years, an’ though they’ve given it many a fine name, no one’s any the wiser. Th’ Indians call it: ‘The Dance o’ the Dead Men.’
“Lincoln, my boy, you’re not used to snowshoein’, an’ as the trail’s already broken, you better lead the way an’ set the pace. But keep in mind we’ve got to catch those Indians soon,” remarked the old hunter.
With powdery snow flying above our dragging heels, we crossed a muskeg, then through woods and over a hill, descending into the valley where lay the trail we had discovered yesterday. Mile after mile we followed it, Link and I for a while taking turns at setting the pace, until caution warned the old hunter to take the lead. Then nothing was said above a whisper. About five o’clock that morning the Aurora Borealis faded, and as it was still several hours from daylight, the shadow of night again enveloped the forest. But even without the Northern Lights, moon or stars, the northern winter night is never in total darkness. A certain amount of light always falls from the sky, and to a certain extent is reflected back again by the snow. Thus night-travel upon river and lake is common practice. When we halted for a short rest, Bill said:
“My boys, this appears to be a fresh trail, but remember that on a still day a trail, though six or eight hours old, may have th’ appearance o’ bein’ freshly made. Yet in many cases you can learn its age by the hardness o’ the snow; for conditions bein’ equal, the fresher the track, the softer the trail.”
“Bill, I’ve been wondering, if an outlaw tried to fool you by wearing his snowshoes reversed—that is, with the heels in front—could you detect the fraud by examining his trail?” I asked.
“That trick’s often been tried, an’while, if well done, it might fool a greenhorn, it wouldn’t fool an old Mounted Policeman, or the kind o’ natives the police employ as trailers. An’ I’ll tell you why. If an outlaw reversed his snowshoes, the snow-shoe prints would prove the deception in several ways. For instance, th’ edges o’ the prints o’ the toe an’ heel would slant the wrong way. The prints wouldn’t show the draggin’ o’ the heels, an’ might show th’ draggin’ o’ the toes. Also the greatest pressure o’ the tread, that is at the ball o’ the foot, would fall in the wrong place on the shoe, an’ prove it, too, by the print in the snow. Besides, the man’s stride would be shorter, an’ more uneven, an’ the toe o’ the snowshoe would sink deeper than the heel, exactly opposite to what happens when the shoe’s properly worn.”
the trail led over hill and dale, * rocky ridges and swampy places as well as through heavy timber, and whenever it lay in the right direction it followed little streams that emptied into littlelakes, the kind so often found in that well watered country. Finally, as we were passing through fairly heavy timber, Bill, who was still leading the way, stopped suddenly, and silently pointed to a place in the snow where the tracks indicated that the twomenhad halted fora moment. At first the tracks paralleled each other, as when men walk and talk together; then they toed out as when men look
about; finally they led away in single file. Apparently the Indians wanted to camp for the night, but were not satisfied with the site.
“When trailin’, always use caution, my boys. Always make sure you see your quarry before your quarry sees you. In this case, however, we’re followin’ friends; yet we’d better make sure before they even suspect our presence.”
Again we moved forward, but now Bill, more than ever alert, was constantly watching for signs. After traversing several hundred yards, he suddenly halted again, and peering ahead for a while, motioned us to look in the direction he pointed. Though the light of dawn was growing stronger, we could see nothing unusual, and Bill, realizing this, pointed again at a spot about thirty paces away, then whispered:
“See that green branch on the snow? What’s that mean to you?” And as we silently gazed at it, he added: “A freshly cut tree. We’ll probably find their camp just ahead. But to see them before they see us we must move without a sound. I better go ahead alone. You boys keep back as far as you can without losin’ sight o’ me. Remember, be as silent as the dead.”
Avoiding brush and branch, the old trailer slowly and silently advanced, and not until he had almost vanished from view did we follow him. As we now moved along, I noticed where an evergreen had been felled and stripped of its branches— probably to form a bed. Farther on a big dead tree had been chopped and dragged away—no doubt for firewood. Bill now stood still, intently watching something, so we, too, halted. Presently he moved again, and then in a cheery tone I heard him call:
A moment later a voice answered:
Then another added:
Bill now beckoned to us, and as we approached, I could hear the old hunter being heartily welcomed in Indian dialect. When we hove in sight of their camp we recognized two of the Indians from the crew of the freight canoe. We were greeted with friendly smiles and hearty handshakes. Neither of the Indians could speak English. But they seemed glad to see us, and beamed on us for a while, and I remember how happy it made me, but how strange the new voices sounded.
THEY had been asleep when Bill arrived, and now they hastened to renew their fire; so in a little while we boyswere smiling over a second breakfast. Meanwhile the three men talked excitedly in Cree, so Link and I gained no knowledge of what was said until the old hunter turned to inform us:
“My boys, our friends are in a hurry to get away. Be patient an’ I’ll tell you everythin’ as soon as they leave. They want to reach the nearest tradin’ post without delay, so an express can be despatched to the nearest Mounted Police Detachment. They’re in hopes the police can catch the bandits before they get out o’ the country.”
Though the two Indians possessed no firearms, I noticed with envy that they owned an axe and each had a steel-bladed knife.
Breakfast over, the Indians slipped their feet into their snowshoe thongs, donned their packs,thenshaking handsall round, they bade us goodbye and away they went southward. Sitting beside their fire, old Bill told us what he had learned: “Yes, my boys, it was O’Brien an’ his devilish crew that sent our canoe to destruction, shot th’ other three Indians an’ took these two prisoners to help man the freight canoe. An’ O’Brien put these two lads ashore on a barren island in Golden Lake, miles away from the mine, an’ left ’em there until he an’ his gang returned with the gold. An’ havin’ no means of escape, th’ Indians had to stay there until they were picked up.
“Th’ Indians said th’ only reason O’Brien let ’em live was to make ’em help paddle an’ portage the heavy cargo, an’ th’ Indians suspectin’ the brutes would murder ’em before they reached the next tradin’ post, made good their escape. They did it bylaggin’ behind on a portage, seizin’ an axe an' a couple o' packs o' grub, an’ then hurriedly lashin’ together a couple o’ logs, on which they fled down river. Roundin' a turn, they crossed to the northern bank. Unlashin’ an’ settin’ adrift their raft, they made their way
ashore over stones that left no trail. Then they hid in the dense woods for a couple o’ days before they attempted to follow the shore up river again. They said that since their escape they had to do all their travelin’ on foot.”
“But how did O’Brien and his gang get the gold? Did they kill the men at the mine?” Lincoln asked.
“Th’ Indians didn’t know,” the old hunter replied.
“But, Bill, why didn’t we go with the Indians now?” I enquired.
“Because they want to travel as fast as they can, an’ you boys have had so little practice on snowshoes they’d leave you far behind. Besides, I don’t like the direction they’re takin’. I believe we should head west along the lake shore for a while in the hope o’ findin’ an incomin’ river, up which we can travel in the right direction. One day when O’Brien an’ Perkins were lookin’ at the map I heard ’em discussin’ a fairly large river that entered the lake somewhere west o’ here. That river’s still west of us, an’that’s what I’m goin’ to hunt for. If we keep headin’ west along this south shore we’ll find it sure. Then if we follow it, we’ll find easier travelin’. Remember, my boys, whenever possible, follow the line o’ least resistance. It’s often not only the easiest way, but the fastest route. It’s often easier to walk two miles on a frozen river than one mile through the bush.
“Another thing th’ Indians told me was that they believed the outlaws had lost their canoe, as the lads discovered signs that the gang had been trackin’ a raft, an’ that when they reached the big lake, they must’ve done a lot o’ sailin’, as they saw no sign o’ their landin’ on the south eastern shore. But I guess they’ve landed west of our bay, or perhaps even tracked up the very river I’m lookin’ for. It would cut a good deal off their overland journey. But, anyway, they’d have to wait for the freeze-up an’ tackle it with sleds an’ snowshoes. That would hold ’em up for a few weeks. Then, too, the thieves would have to cache the gold. They couldn’t haul all of it on sleds.
“I tried to persuade the lads to trax'el west with us in the hope we might wraylay the gang, but the thought of three unarmed men an’ two boys tacklin’ six armed outlaws who would shoot on sight didn’t appeal to them. However, I’ve made up my mind if I get half a chance I’m goin’ to help the police run those brutes down.”
“But, Bill, it may have snowed a foot since they made their trail, so how on earth do you expect to find it, let alone follow it?” I asked.
“True, my boy, but an experienced tracker can often find an’ follow an unseen trail for miles, even though the track may be covered wTith a foot or so o’ snow. An’ do it, too, even though it’s impossible to see any sign o’ the trail. An’ maybe I’ll get a chance to prove it to you. So now, boys, let’s get back to camp. We must start early to-morrow mornin’.”
That afternoon while Bill was packing up, he requested us to make a round of the trapping trail to gather whatever was caught, and to spring all snares and deadfalls, so that no more animals would be killed.
Next morning at breakfast the old hunter cautioned us to drink all wTe wanted, as we would not get any more water until we either drilled a hole through the ice, or made a fire to melt snow. He also warned us not to eat snow, as it was an unwise way to try to slake thirst .
THE meal over, and everything securely laced upon our toboggans, we started on our overland journey with old Bill leading the way, and breaking the trail. Our sleds were fairly well loaded, and contrary to northern custom. Bill who was acting as “track beater" was hauling the heaxiest load. It is the custom of the country that if three men undertake to haul three hundred pounds of freight on toboggans over an unbroken trail, the first—the track beater—would haul only fifty pounds, the second, one hundred pounds, and the third, one hundred and fifty pounds. Thus trippers claim the difference in trail and the difference in weight result in each man assuming an equal share of the work.
Our sleds were loaded with dried meat, fowl, fish and fruit: hairy caribou robes and hairless caribou skins, extra clothing, also leather and sinews for both mending and snaring, materials for fire-making, as well as our bows, arrows and spears. We Continued on page 44
The Living Forest
Continued from page 28
made a picturesque little party in our hairy home-made clothing, as we trailed in single file across the bay and turned westward along the southern shore of the big lake. But though we kept far enough out to clear the points, we kept close enough in to observe the mouth of any river we might pass.
Some time later, while about to round a point and while we were still screened by a few bushes, we discovered a lynx in pursuit of a rabbit. The lynx had evidently driven the little creature into the open to lessen its chances of escape, and was now gaining rapidly upon its quarry. But just when we expected the lynx to seize its prey, the big beast leaped clean over the rabbit, which instantly dodged and bolted away at a right angle. Again and again the lynx repeated the manoeuvre.
“How strangely the big brute acts,” remarked Lincoln.
“My boy, the lynx is playin’ with the rabbit, just as a cat plays with a mouse before it eventually kills it.”
Then, as Bill strung his bow, the lynx struck the rabbit with its forepaw and knocked it into the air. A moment later an arrow sped past the lynx and buried itself in the snow. The surprised beast suddenly whirled and stood gazing at the little hole in which the arrow had disappeared. That gave the old hunter the chance he needed. The second arrow went true, and while the lynx hissed and snarled as it fought the broken shaft protruding from its shoulder, the hunter sent flying a third arrow and killed it. Affer removing the skin, we cooked some lynx meat for dinner. In taste it somewhat resembled both rabbit and veal. With his knife bound to a shaft, Bill dug a hole in the ice, so we had water to drink.
A little before dusk Bill chose a camp
site, and each using a snowshoe as a shovel we cleared away the snow. While the old hunter started a fire, Link and I erected a lean-to frame and over it stretched some deerskins. Then a brush mattress was laid, not only for our bed, but also to keep our moccasins dry while attending the fire. Soon after dusk it began to snow, and though it fell upon the lower part of our bed, we spent a fairly comfortable night.
Before sunrise we were again on the inarch, and had covered not more than three or four miles before Bill thought he saw the mouth of a river at the southern end of a deep bay. So we headed south to investigate. True enough, we found a river there and traveled up it until nearly noon, when we came upen a band of caribou feeding and sunning themselves in a muskeg covering about a hundred acres. It was dotted here and there with scraggy jack pines, balsam, poplars, clumps of willows and tussocks of wiry grass that showed above the snow.
Bill explained that they were woodland caribou, larger than those of the Barren Grounds, and as the name implies, yearlong denizens of the woods. Though migratory, too, they seldom wander far, usually roaming in bands few in numbers. Some were feeding, others were lying down; fawns were scampering about in play, and young bulls were sparring at each other with prong-like horns. There must have been about fifty in all. We watched them for a while before a few of the young bucks discovered us: then they stopped their fencing and came down wind to investigate the three strange creatures clothed in caribou skins.
WITH heads held high and expanding nostrils quivering in readiness to catch scent of danger, they came on very
slowly, yet not without a great deal of high stepping and prancing. Every now and then they threw their heads down and up, and then held them rigid again. They were brave enough to come within sixty or seventy yards. Suddenly they caught our scent, fell back almost upon their haunches, wheeled round and fled in alarm to the band. The whole herd began leaping into the air with tails up, then sweeping away at full gallop they entered the woods beyond and disappeared.
“It’s too bad they scented us,” Bill exclaimed. “Now they may gallop miles before settlin’ into a trot. If they’d merely sighted us, they’d only gallop a few hundred yards, trot a mile or two an’ then begin feedin’ again.”
“A fine sight though, wasn’t it?” I remarked. “But, Bill, how do Woodland caribou differ from the Barren Ground kind?”
“My boy, I’ll tell you some other time, as we better be movin’ along while the sun’s up.”
So off we started again, but we had not gone a hundred yards before Link ¡ called out:
“Bill, why don’t you let Gord or me take our turn at breaking the trail?”
“Because, my son, your load’s heavy | enough for you, even on a packed trail, an’ anyway, track-beatin’s dangerous work. You might at any moment fall through th’ ice.”
“Why, how could we? We’re much lighter than you!” I exclaimed.
“Weight isn’t half as dangerous as ignorance. It’s lack of experience that creates the risk. At some places on this river there’s likely to be little rapids where th’ ice is sure to be thin enough to let us through, but the surface snow may show no sign of it. You can’t rely on the look o’ the snow. A tripper must be constantly suspicious of the strength of the current, for in certain places the current controls the thickness of th’ ice. Besides, there may be ‘slushes’ an’ air holes, too.”
“Then what should we do if we came to a place where there might be rapids, though the surface snow gave no sign of it?” Link asked.
“Always go ashore, my boy, then you’ll run no risk.”
As we proceeded we heard the hoarse cr-r-r-cruck, cr-r-r-cruck of ravens and saw a number flying by. They appeared about twice the size of crows.
“Ravens Live down north all the year round,” old Bill told us. “But ‘barkin’ crows’ go up south for the winter.”
It was another of those charming winter days of brilliant sunshine that are so often experienced in the northern forest: yet there was just enough powdery rime falling to form a delicate haze that enveloped and softened the distant landscape in a delightful way.
THAT afternoon, before we boys could see any sign of danger, the old hunter left the river and broke the trail among the trees along the bank, because, as he explained, we were approaching dangerous rapids and he suspected treacherous ice below the snow. When we questioned him, he further explained that below the big oval patches we saw, where the surface of the snow appeared in the form of slightly shallow depressions, the ice, on account of the swiftness of the current, had only recently formed, just long enough ago to catch the last few falls of snow. Consequently, the ice would be so thin it might not support us.
Farther along he pointed to a little, dark blue patch of open water, where foam squirmed and leaped as it suddenly rushed out from beneath the ice, dashed across the opening in that brilliant sunlit snow, and as suddenly disappeared from view. Finally we came to where there was much more open water, of a far more violent order, and there, on the shore at a place that appeared as if it had been used as a portage, we found freshly felled trees and newly chopped logs.
Shovelling about with one of his snowshoes, the old man found beneath the snow two brush mattresses where a number of men had been sleeping beneath tents—the tent pegs were still standing. The whole aspect of the snow-covered remains of the camp indicated that a month or more must have passed since it had been used. Above the rapids, which were about a quarter of a mile in length, Bill also found signs of where
rimber had boon out, evidently tu build a large raft.
It was there we spent the night, and after supper Dill told us what he thought of the many signs he had seen that afternoon He was now sure he was on the Irai’; of O'Brien and his gang, and he believed they had been traveling up that r;\er with a raft. If that was true, then he knew that the freeze-up would either force them to spend the winter on the bank of that stream in order to guard the treasure, or they would have to cache part of it somewhere near, before they could haul the rest across country. The total weight would be much more than they could manage, as the bulk of their necessary winter outfit would crowd most of their treasure off their sleds.
"Now, boys, if we find the place where they've stopped travelin’ by raft, I’m certain I'll find where they left the bulk o' the treasure. Then if I find their cache, I'll also find their outgoin’ trail; an' when 1 find that, I'll simply follow well behind ’em until they reach some tradin' post. Then we’ll get men that’ll help capture the whole rotten outfit. So remember, boys, I'm countin’ on each o’ you playin’ a man’s part. To-morrow keep your eyes open, watch the shores for any indication of a raft or another campin' place, or signs of a trail. But the next sign we'll most likely see will be farther up the river, where we’ll encounter another rapids.”
That night Link and I were so excited over the idea of taking part in the capture of tiie outlaws that we found it hard to sleep, and many a time we whispered to one another as we lay awake.
The following day, though the upper course of the stream was steadily growing smaller, and more overshadowed with dense timber, nothing of importance was discovered. Of course, moose, caribou, wolf and lynx tracks crossed our way, as well as many footprints of smaller game, but we were now all eyes for signs of much more dangerous quarry. We were man hunting now, and furthermore hunting the vilest kind of men.
XTEXT morning, however, we had not i-N traveled three miles before we entered a wild, rocky little ravine where the river’s turbulent waters could still be seen in a series of plunging cascades that banished all thought of further navigation by canoe or raft. Judging from the hills that stood beyond, the old hunter concluded that those rapids marked the end of O’Brien’s travel by raft. Sure enough, that proved to be true, for not only did Bill find the forsaken raft beneath the snow, but he could discover no sign of another raft having been built above the rapids. Besides, he also found where the outlaws had camped for several days.
Old Bill told us that if he cared to take the trouble he could make quite an accurate guess as to the number of days the outlaws had remained, by merely counting the felled trees in order to arrive at the amount of wood the fires had consumed, and also by comparing that with the other signs he had read. Yet, not being satisfied with what he had found about the old camp, he began circling the place, at first with a radius of about a hundred feet, then about a hundred yards, until at last he must have been working with a radius of about a quarter of a mile.
He spent the best part of a day at the work, but in the end had to acknowledge he had found no sign of a cache, or of a trail leading to one. He claimed that if they had cached the sacks of gold anywhere near that camp, the snow at that time must have been so thin there was no chance of picking up the trail, or of finding the cache near the camp, at least not until next spring.
"My boys,” said old Bill, as we were re-ring comfortably in the glow of the fire that night, “if the lay o’ the land will tell me which way they’ve travelled from here. I’ve no doubt whatever I can find an' follow their trail. For as you’ll remember, the deepest single fall o’ snow fell within two consecutive days. Now. even if it falls to a depth of a foot an’ a half more, I’ll still be able to follow their invisible trail once I pick it up. Once I stand over it, no matter whether I can see it or not, I’ll never lose their trail again. Then I’ll have ’em sure. Then they’ll never escape . . . unless tkey kill me.”
To be Concluded