Copyright, 1895, by Harper & Brothers. All Rights Reserved.
||NEW YORK, TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 1895.
||FIVE CENTS A COPY.
|VOL. XVI.—NO. 816.
||TWO DOLLARS A YEAR.
SNOW-SHOES AND SLEDGES.
BY KIRK MUNROE.
NEL-TE QUALIFIES AS A BRANCH PILOT.
Although disappointed of their guide there was nothing for the sledge party to do but push on and trust to their own good judgment to carry them safely to the end of their journey. So as much of the moose meat as could be loaded on a sledge, or several hundred pounds in all, was prepared and frozen that evening. Both then and in the morning the dogs were given all they could eat—so much, in fact, that they were greatly disinclined to travel during most of the following day.
The latest addition to the party, after being rudely awakened from the slumber into which Jalap Coombs's singing had lulled him, called pitifully for his mother, and, refusing to be comforted, finally sobbed himself to sleep on Phil's bear-skin in front of the fire. Here he spent the night, tucked warmly in a rabbit-skin robe, nestled between Phil and Serge with all his sorrows forgotten for the time being. In the early morning he was a very sober little lad, with a grievance that was not to be banished even by the sight of his beloved "doggies," while the advances of his human friends were treated with a dignified silence. He was too hungry to refuse the food offered him by Serge; but he ate it with a strictly businesslike air, in which there was nothing of unbending nor forgiveness. To Phil's attempts at conversation he turned a deaf ear, nor would he even so much as smile when Jalap Coombs made faces at him, or got down on hands and knees and growled for his special benefit. He was evidently not to be won by any such foolishness.
He was roused to an exhibition of slight interest by the tinkling music of Musky's bells when the dogs were harnessed; and when everything being ready for a start, Phil lifted him on the foremost sledge, and tucked him into a spare sleeping-bag that was securely lashed to it, he murmured: "Mamma, Nel-te go mamma."
The loads having been redistributed to provide for the accommodation of the young passenger, this foremost sledge bore besides Nel-te only the Forty-Mile mail, the sleeping equipment of the party, and their extra fur clothing, the chynik, in which was stored the small quantity of tea still remaining, what was left of the pemmican, and an axe. As with its load it did not weigh over two hundred pounds, its team was reduced to three dogs, Musky, Luvtuk, and big Amook. Serge still drove seven dogs, and his sledge bore the entire camp equipment and stock of provisions, except the recently acquired moose meat. This was loaded on the last sledge, which was drawn by five dogs, and driven by Jalap Coombs according to his own peculiar fashion.
As soon as the sledges were in motion, and Nel-te conceived the idea that he was going home his spirits revived to such an extent that he chirruped cheerfully to the dogs, and even smiled occasionally at Phil, who strode alongside.
They crossed Fox Lake, passed up the stream that connected it with Indian Trail Lake, and finally went into camp on the edge of the forest at the head of the latter earlier than usual, because they could not see their way to the making of any further progress. Although they felt certain that there must be some stream flowing into the lake by which they could leave it, they could discover no sign of its opening. So they made camp, and leaving Jalap Coombs to care for it Phil and Serge departed in opposite directions to scan every foot of the shore in search of a place of exit.
On reaching this camping-place Nel-te looked about him inquiringly, and with evident disappointment, but he said nothing, and only gazed wistfully after the two lads when they set forth on their search. For a time he hung about the camp-fire watching Jalap Coombs, who was too busily engaged in cooking supper and preparing for the night to pay much attention to him. At length the little chap strolled over to the sledges, and engaged in a romp with the three dogs who dragged his particular conveyance. Every now and then his shrill