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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Along the Mohawk Trail » CHAPTER XIV ON DIBBLE MOUNTAIN
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 The belated quest of the needle in the haystack now went forward in real earnest. In the cool of that same afternoon they stood on the brow of Dibble Mountain. Gordon’s hands were dyed purple from the berries he had picked and eaten along the way, and a goodly smootch ornamented his cheek. Sometimes the ascent was so steep that they found the easiest way was to “shinny” up the slender trees along the mountain side, and step off on to the jutting cliffs. It was slow work. From a great bowlder they finally looked down upon the surrounding country, which now, for the first time, as Gordon said, actually did look like a map.
To the east, and almost under them, as it seemed, was the lake, and beyond it the green hills of western Vermont. On its northern side the mountain sloped gradually, including Breed’s Hill and Sugar Hill in its easy descent, and beyond these lay the little village of Crown Point. Close on the west rose the great bulk of Buck Mountain, towering above them and closing out their view. Five miles southward lay Ticonderoga, and looking to the west of the village the boys followed an imaginary course northward, trying to pick out in the dense woods the location of the Albany camp. The several roads which they had traversed looked like gray pencilings.
Between them and the lofty Buck Mountain ran a high, walled valley, almost a ca?on indeed, known as Burgoyne’s Pass, for it was through this valley that the British general led his army for the surprise of Ticonderoga,—the army which, hungry and forlorn, was destined to surrender to the Americans at Saratoga. Far in the north, but near enough to see its outline clearly, rose Bald Knob, a veritable monarch amid its great neighbors. Here and there thin columns of smoke rose, suggesting pleasant habitations and reminding the hungry boys that it was supper time.
“Well, what do you think of our seats up in the family circle, Kid? Pretty good view up here, hey?”
“It’s A-No. 1! But I don’t see the troop, do you?”
“Certainly, right over there.”
“Not! That’s a church! Let’s take a squint through that field glass, will you? Placing the telescope to his eye,” Gordon continued, suiting the action to the word, “our young hero now proceeded to gaze round the landscape, when suddenly—”
“The bully, who was standing near,” interrupted Harry, also suiting his action to the word, “gently took it from him.”
“Ha! I will be even with you yet!” said Gordon, dramatically.
“Kid, I think the best thing for us to do is to camp here for the night. If the moon comes out, we can see pretty nearly the whole section of country that I marked on the map—I mean we could see any smoke that rose. This is the very nearest mountain to the shore. We can overlook the low land immediately north and south. As for the west, that big chunk of earth is in the way, but they wouldn’t be to the west. If we have to go up Buck Mountain, we will. But to-night I think we’d better perch here, and when these folks about the country get through supper they’ll let their fires go out, and any smoke we see after that will be from a camp-fire. There’s no use going west of that ridge, is there?”
“What ridge?”
“Why, we’re in the Champlain Valley; this mountain happens to be standing almost alone, commanding north and south.”
“Is it standing in the bottom of the valley, Harry?”
“How about old shaggy-headed Buck, next door, here?”
“That’s part of the ridge.”
“I believe you’re honest, Harry, so I’ll take your word for all that.”
“All right, we’ll stay here, then.”
“But answer me one question, Harry, before I trust my fate to thee. Where is the other side of the valley?”
“Over in Vermont. The Green Mountains.”
Gordon looked about. “Over there?”
“Yes, but I’m not considering that side. I’m only considering this side of the lake.”
“You are splitting the valley down the middle like a piece of kindling wood?”
“Harry, you would not deceive me?”
“I’ll gag you in a minute.”
“And this mountain is a kind of knot in the wood, Harry? Do all the splitting you like, but for goodness sake, be careful—”
Harry placed his hand over Gordon’s mouth, and by a dexterous movement tumbled him on to the ground. “Get up now, and help pitch camp, and I’ll make you a rice pudding with figs in it. How does that strike you?”
“I can stand it if you can.”
“No sooner said than stung,” observed Harry.
Their first business was to find water, and this they soon discovered—a crystal spring, ice cold, that bubbled temptingly up between the rocks. While Gordon kindled a fire, Henry felled a small sapling and binding it horizontally between two other saplings, in a sheltered spot, threw his balloon silk shelter over it, drawing it diagonally toward the earth on either side. Gordon kept up a running accompaniment as he busied himself with the fireplace.
“‘Oh, we are merry mountaineers,
And have no carking cares or fears.’
“What kind of a care is a carking care, Harry?”
“Don’t know.”
“One that’s made out of khaki, I guess—don’t you throw that! Roll that green log this way, will you, Harold? Many thanks. Placing the green log in a parallel position to the other one, our young hero now knelt stealthily—”
“Our young hero will never see home again if he isn’t careful,” said Harry, as he tugged at the cover of a can.
“When suddenly,” continued Gordon, “the bully—”
But actions spoke louder than words. The bully let fly both camp cushions, one after the other, and under this rapid fusillade “our young hero” sank to the ground.
“Coward! Coward!” he called.
“Look here, Kid,” said Harry, standing over him and brandishing the can opener, “I’ve got you on the top of this lonely mountain. My contract provides that I shall accompany you in searching for camp. It does not include your old friend Alger, nor Harry Castleman, either. In just a minute—”
Gordon rose contritely. “What next—Harold?”
“Put some water to boil.”
They sat with their backs against the trunk of a large tree, and Gordon admitted that fried bacon never tasted so good, and that nothing went so well with it as pilot biscuit. “I don’t see what they have bread and butter for, anyway,” said he. But his inventive genius would not long remain satisfied with the fare which Harry provided, and presently he was announcing luscious combinations. “I say, try this, Harry—it’s simply great!” He handed Harry two slices of bacon with a fig between them. When the rice pudding was served, words failed him. He ate it with silent and serene delight. They topped off with squares of chocolate, on one of which Gordon was on the point of pouring a little “fly-dope” by way of experiment.
When they had finished the meal, Gordon suggested “going back the way they had come,” beginning with chocolate, thence to rice pudding, thence to bacon; but Harry vetoed this novel plan.
It was with considerable suspense that they awaited the rising of the moon. As the twilight faded, the smoke which rose here and there in the distance disappeared till no stir was visible on the horizon. The boys knew that a cooking fire in the open, unless it were very close at hand, would hardly be discernible, but they set their faith in the campfire of huge logs, such as Red Deer had never tired of describing. About nine o’clock Gordon, who had gone to the spring for water, came rushing back, wildly pointing to a circling line of smoke in the southwest which was thrown into clear relief against the moonlit sky.
“Look, Harry, there they are!” he cried.
“Yes, I saw that,” said Harry. “You see that little silvery streak just beyond? That’s the stream. It’s the Albany camp. I’d like first rate to be there with them, too.”
“We’ll see them again,” said Gordon, somewhat crestfallen.
“You bet,” Harry answered, “when we surprise them in the old fort.”
“We’ll give them a jocular demonstration, all right, hey, Harry?”
“Ocular!” said Harry.
They played mumbly-peg in the moonlight, and discussed the proposed attack upon the “British stronghold.” Gordon was for doing everything, even to the smallest detail, with historical fidelity. “You must be sure to call ‘What, ho!’ Harry, when Mr. Wade asks who it is, because that’s in the book, and you must roll your r’s the way they do up in Vermont. I wish we had an old rusty sword!”
“What’ll we do with them when we’ve made them prisoners, Harry?”
“That’ll be our chance to return their hospitality,” Harry answered. “They’ll be the guests of the Green Mountain Boys, and Mr. Wade will have to go away back and sit quietly down.”
“Oh, it’ll be great!” said Gordon, with a positive groan of delight. “I wish it was the last two weeks of August now!”
“If we do it.”
“If we do it? Of course, we’ll do it!”
It was ten o’clock or after when Gordon’s roaming vision was arrested by a thin, gray line rising out of the black woods far to the north. Harry got out his compass and found that it was a little west of north and, as nearly as he could judge, five or six miles distant. He studied it closely.
“That’s it, sure,” said Gordon.
“You might run up there and see,” Harry answered dryly. “I’ll wait till you get back.” He got out his map and tried to determine the locality. “Port Henry is eight or nine miles north of here, see?” he said. “It may possibly come from there, but it’s not coming out of a chimney, I’m almost certain. Of course, there’s no telling how far north it is, but it’s probably this side of the high land which begins with Bulwagga Mountain. I dare say it’s between Bulwagga and the shore. There’s a stream there, too—Grove Brook—and that would attract them.” He studied it long and carefully. “I don’t see any suggestion of lightness below it, do you? It must be at least five miles off.”
“Harry, I have an idea!”
“Good for you.”
“You know Red Deer’s rule—eleven o’clock sharp. We all agreed to it. You remember what he said about not leaving any fire burning? Well, now, if they smother that at eleven o’clock—I can just see Conway jumping up like a little tin soldier and piling on green stuff as soon as Red Deer gives the word. You’ll see, Harry, something will happen to that at eleven o’clock!”
Harry folded his map, took a piece of chocolate, and settled himself comfortably against the tree trunk. “We’ll wait and see,” he said.
The thin, distant column wavered in the moonlight, its top dissolving in the air. Sometimes it was scarcely visible. As eleven o’clock drew near, they watched it with growing suspense. The smoke in the southwest had long since died away. For twenty minutes or so before the hour the boys fancied that the column was losing somewhat in volume. Eleven o’clock came—five—ten minutes after eleven and nothing happened. Gordon looked puzzled. “I—I guess, maybe, Red Deer’s watch is wrong,” he said.
“Look!” shouted Harry, jumping to his feet.
The thread of smoke had suddenly expanded into a dense mass. They could see it plainly now.
“We’ve found them! We’ve found them!” shouted Gordon.
“When our young hero gets over his fit,” said Harry, “I will gently remind him that we have not found them at all. There is something going on up in that direction—there seems to be a fire. That’s all we know.” But they watched the thickening mass intently. “Well,” said Harry, “we may as well obey the rule, Kid; let’s turn in. In the morning we’ll cut up through Crown Point village and camp on high ground to-morrow night.”
“No, sir! We’ll go straight—”
“To that—to camp.”
“Yes, but where?”
“Right where that smoke is.”
“There won’t be any smoke there to-morrow morning. Where do you propose to go? Can you point me out on the map just where that smoke is? Well, then, come down out of your airship and listen to reason. If to-morrow is very clear we may possibly be able to pick out the smoke of the cook fire—assuming that that’s our own camp. But I don’t think there’s much chance of our seeing it. That smoke has been coming from several good-sized logs—it’s a big fire. To-morrow we’ll drop into Crown Point and return this little reticule to its owner and then—”
“And you’ll ask questions in Crown Point, Harry, and they’ll tell you just where our camp is, and you’ll spoil the whole business. No sirree, we’ve picked up the trail ourselves, and I’m not going to run the chance of our getting information.”
“I’ll promise not to ask a soul, Kid.”
“Then what will you do?”
“We’ll get up north of Crown Point and camp to-morrow night on Bulwagga Mountain. If my idea is correct, we ought to see that smoke to-morrow night close underneath us. Then the next morning we can drop right in on them—if—”
“There’s no if about it,” said Gordon. But he reluctantly agreed to this cautious advance, and they turned in for the night. Gordon sang Kipling’s “Scout Song,” chastising his companion by way of accompaniment:
“These are our regulations:
There’s just one law for the scout.
And the first and the last.
And the future and the past,
And the present and the perfect is,
Look out!”
With every emphasized word a camp cushion came down upon Harry’s head. “And the first” (bang) “and the last” (bang).
“You bet it’s the last!” said Harry, “Look out!” and he promptly returned the compliment with the other cushion.
“And the first and the last,
And the future and the past.
I say, that’s a terrible song, isn’t it, Harry? Say it. Go on, say it once. You can never get it out of your head. There was a fellow over in England—a tenderfoot—and he learned it and it drove him crazy. Go on, say it, Harry.”
“Who told you that?”
“You say it once—please.”
Harry said it, and lost two hours of his night’s sleep in consequence. For while Gordon slept peacefully, dreaming of what the next day was to bring forth, his friend lay looking out into the darkness and saying, over and over:
“And the first and the last,
And the future and the past,
And the first and the last,
And the future and the past,
And the present and the perfect is,
He finally shouted the last two words in hopeless exasperation.
“What’s the matter?” said Gordon, sitting suddenly up. “Look out for what?”
“And the first and the last,
And the future and the past,”
moaned Harry, while a smile of delight stole over Gordon’s sleepy countenance.
“Kipling’s a fiend, isn’t he, Harry?”
“Kid, if you ever mention that song to me again, I’ll do something desperate!”


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