CHAPTER II. THE WINTER CAMP.
We resumed our walk, turning back along the bank of the river, which on the east side is high and almost perpendicular. We reached the portage, about three miles to the south, and crossed over to the west side, which is a low, rolling country, covered with moss, which at a distance looked like sun-burned grass. The portage was nearly a quarter of a mile wide, but by the exercise of some agility, where the current ran most swiftly through the large rocks, we got over without wetting our feet, and about a mile from the river bank stopped to rest on a rocky eminence. "Alex" pointed vaguely in the direction of some hills about two or three miles away, and said he thought there were some deer over there; but as I had been walking three days now without seeing a deer, and was desperately tired, I told him to go on if he wanted to, and take my rifle, and I would wait till he came back. He trotted along, and I sat under the lee of a rock, taking advantage of the opportunity to write up my journal and trace the course of the river. In the meantime the sun sank lower and lower, but no signs of "Alex Taylor." About three hours after he left me he reappeared, with his hat in his hand and a heavy bundle over his shoulder, trotting along so nimbly that I envied him. He had shot two deer, a "cooney" and an "isaacer" - that is, a doe and a buck - and he had their warm, bloody skins on his back. He said that there were plenty of deer over there, and to-morrow we would move the camp up to that spot. So we put the skins and some tenderloin in a cairn, and covered it up with heavy stones, and after eating some of the raw tenderloin we started for home. It was long after dark when we reached there, and I was glad to find Sam's tupic already up, with his old father and young mother, and my blankets and a little package of salt, which I had missed very much while eating so much raw meat.
The next day we broke camp at an early hour, and moved bag, and baggage, to the place where "Alex Taylor" had shot the deer the preceding afternoon. Notwithstanding my sore feet and tired limbs, I took a load on my shoulders out of sheer shame, for without that I would have been the only one, old or young, biped or quadruped, without something, so I made a martyr of myself. Just after leaving the spot where "Alex" and I had cached the skins yesterday afternoon, "Sam" dropped his burden from his shoulders, grasped his rifle, and, with the single word "tuk-too," started over the country on a run. Three others joined him, and the rest of us kept on until we reached the lake, where our new camp was to be located. The tents were soon put up, and the boys started off to carry in the two carcasses that "Alex" had shot and buried under stones. Presently the hunters who went off with "Sam" came back, saying they had seen nothing, and later "Sam" came in with the skin of a big buck which he had shot. He is quite young, but one of the best and most indefatigable hunters in the tribe.
I went out in the morning with "Sam" and "Roxy" to find some deer. After some wanderings, in which "Sam" got separated from us, and after several unsuccessful shots at the game, "Roxy" and I returned, I being too weary and footsore to find much interest in the sport, especially as it began to rain and was bitter cold. In fact, the first new ice I have seen this summer was around the shores of the lake that morning, and I had to break it when I went down to bathe. On our way home we passed, on the top of a high, barren hill, a cairn, which "Roxy" at once said had been built by the Kinnepatoos, a tribe which formerly occupied these lands, and the boys soon threw aside the stones to find the dried-up skeleton of a deer killed many years ago. "Sam" did not get back until dark, but he brought with him the skin of an isaacer that he had killed since he left us.
That night I proposed to "Sam" to bring me down to our tent at the salt water, and though I could see that he did not relish leaving the good hunting-grounds just as he had reached them, he consented, and finally seemed delighted when I promised him an old pair of pantaloons for his trouble. "Alex Taylor" also came to the tupic and said he would accompany us, and this made the prospect more cheerful, as I knew it would be at least two days' hard travelling. During the night we were visited by a severe thunder-storm, which frightened my tent-mates because unused to it, and they lighted an ikomer to take the sharp edge off the lightning; but I slept on peacefully while "Old Molasses" held a stick so that the shadow kept the light of the lamp from my eyes. It stopped raining toward morning, but it was still chilly and damp when we started, shortly after daylight, on our long journey.