"I know, but we'll be snug in bed, and won't feel it. You Canadians wouldn't have so much consumption if you breathed purer air when you slept."
_"Oui!"_ was the polite reply; and nothing more was said.
Long before dawn Ray sprang from bed, closed the door and stirred up the fire. The moon, although low in the west, was still brilliant when they made their way to where a stream trickled down to Cedar Lake, and within a half-hour got their first deer, a fine three-year-old buck.
They secured some smaller game during the morning, and in the afternoon took the deer home, and skinned and dressed it. Most of the carcass was hung up in the milk-room, but Jacques carried a hind quarter in and suspended it beside the closed fireplace, later cutting off steaks for supper and breakfast.
They passed a merry evening, each telling stories of his experiences, which were so different in quality that they possessed all the charm of novelty to the respective listeners. Again Ray set the door ajar, after they had undressed, and in a few moments both were asleep.
Several hours passed. Had either young man been awake, he might have heard soft footfalls about the door. A squatty, heavily built animal, with huge feet, bob tail, and pointed ears adorned with tufts of hair, had traced the slaughtered deer to the farmhouse by means of drops of blood, and now was searching eagerly for the meat.
He sought the milk-room again and again, and even sprang to the window-ledge, but could not get inside. Then he came back and sniffed at the partly open door of the living-room.
The human smell was there, and he hesitated. But so, too, was the odor of fresh venison, and his mouth watered.
A round head was thrust inside the door. The moon, peering above the hemlocks to the southeastward, cast its rays through a window directly upon the fresh meat.
The temptation was greater than the intruder was able to withstand.
Inch by inch he crowded past the swaying door, and silently crept toward the venison. The two men were breathing very loudly, but neither stirred; and at last he gathered supreme courage, and leaped upon the meat.
It fell with a crash against the stove, and the two were awakened simultaneously. As Jacques sprang from the bed, the animal backed, dragging the quarter of venison toward the door. He collided with it, knocking the billet of wood outside, and the latch fell into place with a clash.
Finding himself a prisoner, the creature advanced, spitting and growling, straight at Jacques, who, crying, _"Loup cervier! loup cervier!"_ retreated to the bed.
But the pursuit did not end there. Seeing that the beast was about to leap upon the bed, the Canadian hastily climbed one of the posts, not a second too soon, and ensconced himself on the edge of the canopy top, with his back pressed against the timbers of the loft floor above.
Ray had been too much amazed to interfere at first, but now the time seemed ripe to reopen the door and drive the lynx out. He made a rush, but the angry creature turned and dashed at his legs so viciously that in a couple of seconds he, too, found himself perched precariously on the canopy of his own bed, with "prick-ears"
spitting and snarling on the coverlet.
"Can that beast climb up here, like a cat?" he asked, with no little anxiety in his tones.
_"Oui,"_ was the reply, "he can; but _loup cerviers_ don'
In a few moments the lynx went back to the venison, and began eating it voraciously, only stopping to snarl when the young men spoke or moved. The fire was very low, the room had been well aired, and the two were thinly clad. Before long their teeth were chattering.
"Eef Ah can get heem away from door, Ah'll roon an' get goon an'
feex heem!" Jacques said, with marked ill-will underlying his quaint English. He clambered about the creaking canopy frame, which threatened to collapse at any moment, till he reached the side wall. Along this were suspended loops of onions. A big one hurtled through the air and hit the intruder in the side. He whirled about and dashed for the bed.
Babette, the family cat, had been concealed beneath this bed during the preceding scrimmage. She now thrust out her head just in time to be seen by the lynx, and the liveliest sort of chase about the room ensued.
When hard pressed, she somehow reached a shelf close beside Ray, climbed recklessly over him, her claws stabbing him in a dozen places, and hid behind him. The lynx was thoroughly aroused, and although clumsier and heavier, set out sturdily to follow.
Ray's hand fell on the shelf, and clutched a flat-iron, of which there were a half-dozen in a row. Leaning forward, he struck the oncomer a hard blow over the head. Prick-ears fell to the floor, and rolled, writhing, struggling and half-stunned, under the bed.
"Now, Jacques, now!" Ray yelled. His host jumped, and was outside the door in an instant. Ray grasped another flat-iron and waited.
The sound of struggling beneath the bed was unabated.
In five minutes he heard a plaintive voice calling outside:
"Where you put dem goons?"
"In the milk-room."
_"Oui,_ but where? Ah'm freezing!"
"I--I don't remember."
Jacques, saying many things in a _patois_ he had never learned in the provincial school, went back to the milk-room. The lynx ventured to show his head, and a flat-iron dented the floor close beside it. Then the animal circled the room, dodged another missile, and hid in a dark corner.
Ray could hear Jacques tossing things about in the obscurity of the milk-room, but plainly finding no guns, and as plainly getting colder every minute.
Something must be done at once. He clutched a flat-iron in each hand, screwed his courage to the sticking point, and dropped to the floor.
As he flung the door wide open, he heard the rasping of the lynx's claws on the boards behind him. He dashed outside, threw both flat-irons wildly at his pursuer, and jumped as far as he could to one side. The lynx kept straight on, headed for the woods a few rods away.
Jacques had found his gun at last. He took a flying shot in the moonlight, hitting a tree at least a rod at the lynx's right. Then the two went inside, enlivened the fire, and dressed as hastily as possible.
"Consumption is bad, ver' bad for Canadians," said Jacques, a half-hour later, picking his words with care.
Ray grinned, but made no reply.
"Night air is good; but Ah don' lak dese--dese beeg microbes eet bring in."
SOLOMON'S GROUCH: THE STORY OF A BEAR
By Franklin W. Calkins
A pet grizzly bear had been for a number of years a feature at Hartranft's. As a puny infant, barely able to crawl, Solomon, as he was solemnly dubbed, was brought in off the Teton Mountains, and as milk was scarcer than money at the horse-ranch, he was aristocratically fed on malted milk.
On this expensive diet the cub throve amazingly. Good feeding was continued after his weaning from the rubber nipple, and at the end of three years Solomon had grown to be a fat wooly monster. He was kept chained to a post in the warm season, and had an enclosed stall in a big barn for his winter quarters. Ordinarily he was good-natured, but he was a rough and not altogether safe playfellow. The near-by bawling of cattle always aroused in him ebullitions of rage.
"Solomon's got an awful grouch agin any noise bigger than what he can make hisself," was the saying of the ranch hands.
When Joe Hartranft's sister, Mrs. Murray, and her two boys, Rufe and Perry, came to the ranch to spend the month of June, Solomon was promptly hustled into his stall in the barn. It was thought best to have no boys fooling round the grizzly.
This would undoubtedly have been the safest disposition, but for an oversight of the "stable boss." A big Percheron had been kept loose in a closed stall adjoining Solomon's, and one day, when the bear's voice was raised in remonstrance against his shrill neighing, he had turned his heels loose against the partition which separated them. His fierce battery had loosened two boards four or five feet above the floor. And the cracks he made had gone unnoted, or at least the mending had been neglected.
A few days after the visitors came, a fine shorthorn cow with a new calf was turned into the barn for the day.
Men and work-horses were at work at the alfalfa-cutting, and the bear and cow and calf were sole occupants of the barn when Rufe and Perry mounted an outside ladder and entered its loft.
This loft, with its grain-bins, its huge empty space, its cross-beams and braces, offered an attractive gymnasium. In one of the bins, used chiefly for storage, they discovered a lot of fishing-tackle, seines and spears of various sorts for taking the salmon which annually ran up the Snake River and its tributaries.