IN CANADA WITH A LYNX

By Roe L. Hendrick

This adventure came about through an invitation which Ray Churchill received from his friend, Jacques Pourbiere of Two Rivers, New Brunswick. Ray had half-promised to visit his New Brunswick acquaintance during the deer-hunting season, and late in August was reminded of the fact. A second letter came in September, the carefully worded school English of the writer not being able to conceal the warmth and urgency of the invitation.

So Ray telegraphed his acceptance, and four days later arrived at Fredericton, where he secured a hunting license. The next morning he reached Two Rivers, and Jacques met him with a span of ponies, attached to a queer spring vehicle, mounted on wheels that seemed out of all proportion to the body of the carriage. Ray wondered if it was a relic of Acadia, but did not like to ask. They drove for a dozen miles through a wooded and hilly country, and arrived at their destination shortly before nightfall.

Jacques was quite alone at the time, as his parents had gone to visit their older children along the St. John River. He promised Ray at least one deer within a couple of days, and another within a week.

The Pourbiere home resembled those of the better class of habitants, but with a difference due to the greater prosperity of the family in preceding generations. The main room had a huge fireplace, used only occasionally, for there was an air-tight stove connected with the chimney just above it, to afford greater warmth in winter. The other rooms Were chiefly detached, although there was an entry-like porch on the south front of the living-room, and a huge door opening at the east end, both connecting with the yard outside.

But the wood-shed, milk-house and summer kitchen were in the rear, each being a rectangular building of heavy logs, with low lofts above. The homestead was, in fact, a cluster of houses rather than a single dwelling.

What most attracted Ray's attention were the huge bedsteads in the living-room. They were tall four-posters, such as he had seen elsewhere, but with the difference that a canopy covered them. Each had a carved wooden frame, surmounting the top of the posts like a roof. The wood was black with age, its surface being covered with elaborate foliage and armorial devices, representing the toil of some old French artisan of the seventeenth century. They probably had been brought across the Atlantic by the original emigrant, and carefully preserved ever since. They stood in diagonally opposite corners of the room, and upheld the hugest of feather beds, with gay, home-made worsted coverlets and valances that shamed the hues of the rainbow. They certainly tempted to rest in that climate and at that season, but would have seemed suffocating in a warmer region.

That evening Ray said:

"See here, Jacques, you have double windows, with no way of opening them that I can find, and your fireplace is closed to make a better draft for this stove. I'm used to fresh air at night. If I leave the end door ajar, you won't be afraid of burglars, will you?"

The Canadian shrugged his shoulders at this exhibition of his guest's eccentricity, but his hospitality was more than equal to the strain.

"Non, non!" he replied. "Nobody rob. We nevaire lock doors here," and his white teeth flashed.

Ray laughed softly as he thrust a billet of wood between the door and its frame. "But why do you say 'br-r-r!' under your breath?" he asked.

"Co-old before morning, ver' cold!"

"I know, but we'll be snug in bed, and won't feel it. You Canadians wouldn't have so much consumption if you breathed purer air when you slept."

"Oui!" was the polite reply; and nothing more was said.

Long before dawn Ray sprang from bed, closed the door and stirred up the fire. The moon, although low in the west, was still brilliant when they made their way to where a stream trickled down to Cedar Lake, and within a half-hour got their first deer, a fine three-year-old buck.

They secured some smaller game during the morning, and in the afternoon took the deer home, and skinned and dressed it. Most of the carcass was hung up in the milk-room, but Jacques carried a hind quarter in and suspended it beside the closed fireplace, later cutting off steaks for supper and breakfast.

They passed a merry evening, each telling stories of his experiences, which were so different in quality that they possessed all the charm of novelty to the respective listeners. Again Ray set the door ajar, after they had undressed, and in a few moments both were asleep.

Several hours passed. Had either young man been awake, he might have heard soft footfalls about the door. A squatty, heavily built animal, with huge feet, bob tail, and pointed ears adorned with tufts of hair, had traced the slaughtered deer to the farmhouse by means of drops of blood, and now was searching eagerly for the meat.

He sought the milk-room again and again, and even sprang to the window-ledge, but could not get inside. Then he came back and sniffed at the partly open door of the living-room.

The human smell was there, and he hesitated. But so, too, was the odor of fresh venison, and his mouth watered.

A round head was thrust inside the door. The moon, peering above the hemlocks to the southeastward, cast its rays through a window directly upon the fresh meat.

The temptation was greater than the intruder was able to withstand. Inch by inch he crowded past the swaying door, and silently crept toward the venison. The two men were breathing very loudly, but neither stirred; and at last he gathered supreme courage, and leaped upon the meat.

It fell with a crash against the stove, and the two were awakened simultaneously. As Jacques sprang from the bed, the animal backed, dragging the quarter of venison toward the door. He collided with it, knocking the billet of wood outside, and the latch fell into place with a clash.

Finding himself a prisoner, the creature advanced, spitting and growling, straight at Jacques, who, crying, "Loup cervier! loup cervier!" retreated to the bed.

But the pursuit did not end there. Seeing that the beast was about to leap upon the bed, the Canadian hastily climbed one of the posts, not a second too soon, and ensconced himself on the edge of the canopy top, with his back pressed against the timbers of the loft floor above.

Ray had been too much amazed to interfere at first, but now the time seemed ripe to reopen the door and drive the lynx out. He made a rush, but the angry creature turned and dashed at his legs so viciously that in a couple of seconds he, too, found himself perched precariously on the canopy of his own bed, with "prick-ears" spitting and snarling on the coverlet.

"Can that beast climb up here, like a cat?" he asked, with no little anxiety in his tones.

"Oui," was the reply, "he can; but loup cerviers don' climb mooch."

In a few moments the lynx went back to the venison, and began eating it voraciously, only stopping to snarl when the young men spoke or moved. The fire was very low, the room had been well aired, and the two were thinly clad. Before long their teeth were chattering.

"Eef Ah can get heem away from door, Ah'll roon an' get goon an' feex heem!" Jacques said, with marked ill-will underlying his quaint English. He clambered about the creaking canopy frame, which threatened to collapse at any moment, till he reached the side wall. Along this were suspended loops of onions. A big one hurtled through the air and hit the intruder in the side. He whirled about and dashed for the bed.

Babette, the family cat, had been concealed beneath this bed during the preceding scrimmage. She now thrust out her head just in time to be seen by the lynx, and the liveliest sort of chase about the room ensued.

When hard pressed, she somehow reached a shelf close beside Ray, climbed recklessly over him, her claws stabbing him in a dozen places, and hid behind him. The lynx was thoroughly aroused, and although clumsier and heavier, set out sturdily to follow.

Ray's hand fell on the shelf, and clutched a flat-iron, of which there were a half-dozen in a row. Leaning forward, he struck the oncomer a hard blow over the head. Prick-ears fell to the floor, and rolled, writhing, struggling and half-stunned, under the bed.

"Now, Jacques, now!" Ray yelled. His host jumped, and was outside the door in an instant. Ray grasped another flat-iron and waited. The sound of struggling beneath the bed was unabated.

In five minutes he heard a plaintive voice calling outside:

"Where you put dem goons?"

"In the milk-room."

"Oui, but where? Ah'm freezing!"

"IóI don't remember."

Jacques, saying many things in a patois he had never learned in the provincial school, went back to the milk-room. The lynx ventured to show his head, and a flat-iron dented the floor close beside it. Then the animal circled the room, dodged another missile, and hid in a dark corner.

Ray could hear Jacques tossing things about in the obscurity of the milk-room, but plainly finding no guns, and as plainly getting colder every minute.

Something must be done at once. He clutched a flat-iron in each hand, screwed his courage to the sticking point, and dropped to the floor.

As he flung the door wide open, he heard the rasping of the lynx's claws on the boards behind him. He dashed outside, threw both flat-irons wildly at his pursuer, and jumped as far as he could to one side. The lynx kept straight on, headed for the woods a few rods away.

Jacques had found his gun at last. He took a flying shot in the moonlight, hitting a tree at least a rod at the lynx's right. Then the two went inside, enlivened the fire, and dressed as hastily as possible.

"Consumption is bad, ver' bad for Canadians," said Jacques, a half-hour later, picking his words with care.

Ray grinned, but made no reply.

"Night air is good; but Ah don' lak deseódese beeg microbes eet bring in."