The Indians recoiled from before the Winchesters. But they were two to one, and the dark looks on their faces showed that they were not going to give up their claim to the deer. Indeed, it looked as if they were going to begin shooting when two strangers, looking like border hunters, came through the bushes.
“Hello!” exclaimed one of them, as if greatly astonished at the situation. “What’s the matter? Say lower your arms, partners, and don’t go to shooting, or there won’t be anyone else let in this region in a week. They’ll kill us all. What’s the trouble, anyhow?”
The Indians grunted, but made no answer.
“The trouble is this,” said Charlie, lowering his rifle. “My comrade and I shot this deer as he came by us. It seems that one of the Indians shot him, too, at the same time, from the other side, though we did not hear the report of his gun. We found a bullet wound on the side that was to him, however, and were willing to divide the deer with him, and -’
“That’s fair enough,” said the other stranger.
“Yes, but he claimed the whole carcass. I never saw an Indian before in my life, but am not afraid of all them in the woods. I am going to have my share of that deer or fight.”
“See here, friend,” said the hunter, going up to Charlie and speaking to him in low tones. “These natives are portions of old Spotted Tail’s tribe of Sioux who took refuge in Canada a few years ago when the boys in blue crowded them too close. They are putting up their winter’s supply of meat, so their hunting parties are scattered all over this section. To raise a row with them would cause the loss of our scalps. Let them have the carcass and you take the antlers as your share.”
Charlie thought he would do it as it would be a trophy- and he knew that the meat was not needed in the houseboat.
“Alright,” he said. “Tell ‘em to leave the horns.”
“That’s all right, Sioux,” said the hunter turning to the Indians, “the young hunter says you can have the meat if you will leave him the horns.”
“Yeah! He is wise,” said one of the Indians.
“Yes, he is wise and brave, too,” remarked the hunter.
The head was cut off and left on the ground for him. The Indians scowled at him and Arthur as they went away with the carcass.
Charlie then asked: “How long have you been here?”
“Some two or three weeks. How long have you been here?”
“About two weeks. There’s five of us, with pilot and steward to take care of our boat. We live on the boat, which is now on the lake. What luck have you had in hunting?”
“Best in the world- have shot more deer and bear this season then ever before.”
Just then they heard footsteps coming toward them, and a moment or two after Ben Allen and another hunter appeared.
Ben seemed utterly dumbfounded at seeing Charlie and Arthur there.
“I- I- I got lost!” he said, by way of explanation.
“The heck you did!” said Charlie
“Yes, and happened to meet this gentleman in the woods. He is showing me the way back to the lake.”
“Well, these two gentlemen have done us a good service, too,” said Charlie. “We were going to have a fight with four Indians when he interfered to prevent it,” and he then explained the whole affair to him.
“Where is Joe?” asked Ben looking around for him.
“We haven’t seen him since we separated up by the lake,” said Arthur. “We supposed he was with you.”
“I became separated from him soon after I left you.”
“He must have gone back to the boat if he did not get lost,” remarked Charlie. “I think we had better go back there, too,” and he took hold of the deer’s horns to take them along with him.
They were too heavy for him, and Arthur too helped to assist him.
“Let me carry your rifles for you,” said Ben, taking Charlie’s and Arthur’s guns, as if to carry them with his own.
“Thanks,” said Charlie. “We’ll get on very well now.”
“Let me have them,” said the tall hunter, taking them from Ben.
“Now hold up your hands!” cried one of the hunters in stern tones.
Charlie wheeled around and found that the rifles were leveled at himself and Arthur. Ben held up his hands, though no weapon was aimed at him, and cried out:
“Hold up your hands! hissed the tall hunter to Charlie again, “or I’ll send a bullet through you.”
He held up his hands. So did Arthur. They were searched, robbed, and disarmed- all three.
“What does this mean?” Arthur asked.
The leader laughed and said “What do you think it means, young man?”
“I think it means you are a villainous set of cowardly robbers! blurted out Charlie.
“Hush Charlie!” said Ben. “We are in their power, and it does no good to provoke them.”
“Just let me get the chance, and I’ll give them provocation enough!” retorted Charlie. “It’s bad enough t be robbed of the deer by the Indians. That was bad enough, but to be thus robbed is more than I can forgive.”
“Well, don’t forgive us till we beg pardon,” said the tall leader of the gang. “But if you want to keep your head from being cracked you’d better keep a civil tongue”
Their hands were bound behind them, and then connected by one cord by which they were led through the woods a mile or two to a rude camp, where there were three hunters- or robbers as Charlie knew them to be. There they were told to sit down in a log if they wished to, and they did so. The three men at the camp were told what had been done, and then a whispered conversation took place among them.
“Yes,” said the leader. “We’ll go a little before dark. Dan can take care of them till we come back.”
Charlie heard the remark and looked at the man he heard them call by that name. He thought he saw some sort of a signal pass between him and Ben, but was not sure. By and by as the day waned he saw that they were making preparations to move from the camp. They took Ben and bound him more securely than before.
“See here, young man,” the leader said to him as he tied cords that bound his arms to his sides, “you are going with us, and if you try to escape or give us any trouble, we’ll fill you full of holes.”
They all left save Dan and the two prisoners. Ben was taken along as a prisoner, and in a few minutes they were out of sight and hearing of Charlie and Arthur.