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The Spirit of the Border

Chapter 24.
When the first ruddy rays of the rising sun crimsoned the eastern sky, Wetzel slowly
wound his way down a rugged hill far west of Beautiful Spring. A white dog, weary and
footsore, limped by his side. Both man and beast showed evidence of severe exertion.
The hunter stopped in a little cave under a projecting stone, and, laying aside his rifle,
began to gather twigs and sticks. He was particular about selecting the wood, and threw
aside many pieces which would have burned well; but when he did kindle a flame it
blazed hotly, yet made no smoke.
He sharpened a green stick, and, taking some strips of meat from his pocket, roasted them
over the hot flame. He fed the dog first. Mose had crouched close on the ground with his
head on his paws, and his brown eyes fastened upon the hunter.
"He had too big a start fer us," said Wetzel, speaking as if the dog were human. It seemed
that Wetzel's words were a protest against the meaning in those large, sad eyes.
Then the hunter put out the fire, and, searching for a more secluded spot, finally found
one on top of the ledge, where he commanded a good view of his surroundings. The
weary dog was asleep. Wetzel settled himself to rest, and was soon wrapped in slumber.
About noon he awoke. He arose, stretched his limbs, and then took an easy position on
the front of the ledge, where he could look below. Evidently the hunter was waiting for
something. The dog slept on. It was the noonday hour, when the stillness of the forest
almost matched that of midnight. The birds were more quiet than at any other time during
daylight.
Wetzel reclined there with his head against the stone, and his rifle resting across his
knees.
He listened now to the sounds of the forest. The soft breeze fluttering among the leaves,
the rain-call of the tree frog, the caw of crows from distant hilltops, the sweet songs of
the thrush and oriole, were blended together naturally, harmoniously.
But suddenly the hunter raised his head. A note, deeper than the others, a little too strong,
came from far down the shaded hollow. To Wetzel's trained ear it was a discord. He
manifested no more than this attention, for the birdcall was the signal he had been
awaiting. He whistled a note in answer that was as deep and clear as the one which had
roused him.
Moments passed. There was no repetition of the sound. The songs of the other birds had
ceased. Besides Wetzel there was another intruder in the woods.
 
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