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John Ingerfield and Other Stories

The Woman Of The Saeter
Wild-reindeer stalking is hardly so exciting a sport as the evening's verandah talk in
Norroway hotels would lead the trustful traveller to suppose. Under the charge of your
guide, a very young man with the dreamy, wistful eyes of those who live in valleys, you
leave the farmstead early in the forenoon, arriving towards twilight at the desolate hut
which, for so long as you remain upon the uplands, will be your somewhat cheerless
headquarters.
Next morning, in the chill, mist-laden dawn, you rise; and, after a breakfast of coffee and
dried fish, shoulder your Remington, and step forth silently into the raw, damp air; the
guide locking the door behind you, the key grating harshly in the rusty lock.
For hour after hour you toil over the steep, stony ground, or wind through the pines,
speaking in whispers, lest your voice reach the quick ears of your prey, that keeps its
head ever pressed against the wind. Here and there, in the hollows of the hills lie wide
fields of snow, over which you pick your steps thoughtfully, listening to the smothered
thunder of the torrent, tunnelling its way beneath your feet, and wondering whether the
frozen arch above it be at all points as firm as is desirable. Now and again, as in single
file you walk cautiously along some jagged ridge, you catch glimpses of the green world,
three thousand feet below you; though you gaze not long upon the view, for your
attention is chiefly directed to watching the footprints of the guide, lest by deviating to
the right or left you find yourself at one stride back in the valley--or, to be more correct,
are found there.
These things you do, and as exercise they are healthful and invigorating. But a reindeer
you never see, and unless, overcoming the prejudices of your British-bred conscience,
you care to take an occasional pop at a fox, you had better have left your rifle at the hut,
and, instead, have brought a stick which would have been helpful. Notwithstanding
which the guide continues sanguine, and in broken English, helped out by stirring
gesture, tells of the terrible slaughter generally done by sportsmen under his
superintendence, and of the vast herds that generally infest these fields; and when you
grow sceptical upon the subject of Reins he whispers alluringly of Bears.
Once in a way you will come across a track, and will follow it breathlessly for hours, and
it will lead to a sheer precipice. Whether the explanation is suicide, or a reprehensible
tendency on the part of the animal towards practical joking, you are left to decide for
yourself. Then, with many rough miles between you and your rest, you abandon the
chase.
But I speak from personal experience merely.
All day long we had tramped through the pitiless rain, stopping only for an hour at noon
to eat some dried venison and smoke a pipe beneath the shelter of an overhanging cliff.
Soon afterwards Michael knocked over a ryper (a bird that will hardly take the trouble to
 
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