We discussed the idea of watching by reliefs after this, but concluded that of the two evils we preferred taking chances with the fire; and so, climbing back to our bed, we curled up "spoon fashion," and again fell asleep. To me it was a night of sleeping moments and waking hours, of toasted feet and frozen back; but with all the discomfort it was not unpleasant, lying there on the soft bed, inhaling the delicious fragrance of the resinous pine, and looking up through the motionless leaves to the starlit sky above. All nature seemed, like us, to have gone to bed, so quiet was the night. During one of my waking spells the moon came out from behind a towering crag. Its white light covered the forest and all about us, and made the cheerful glow of the fire appear a flickering red. Its rays slowly passed from peak to peak, from cliff to cliff, leaving in the recesses grew-some shadows, and lighting up and bringing nearer the projecting rocks. A huge snow-bank on the mountain-side was sought out, and made to do its part in illuminating the night with its countless numbers of sparkling jewels. The marmots came out from their homes in the rocks; and their shrill whistling soon filled the night-air, echoing back and forth from wall to wall, and sounding weird and uncanny to the ear.
No, on the whole, that was not an unpleasant night; and when dawn appeared, and roused me out of my waking dreams, it was almost with a shock that I remembered where I was, and the practical nature of the cause of my being there.
Long before sunrise we were in our hiding-place of the evening before, shivering with the cold, and parrying, with cautious movements, the repeated attacks of the mosquitoes.
Ten o'clock found us still in place, with nothing to show for our pains.
But that hour brought the guide with our breakfast; and as he approached us straight across the basin, we considered further concealment useless, and went out to meet him. We sat down and ate, the guide meanwhile telling us that he did not understand the fact of there being no sheep there, and occasionally causing derisive smiles to pass between Hardeman and myself, by pointing to various spots where former hunters, trusting to his leadership, had gotten so many sheep. We considered these fairy-tales. Suddenly, with an exclamation, "Here they come," the guide jumped up, and ran behind a large rock near by, making motion and sound enough, it seemed to me, to attract the attention of all of the animal kingdom within a mile. Hardeman and I showed our nerve (and were exceedingly surprised at each other for it) by not moving a muscle. Gradually we lowered ourselves, and then, by slow, cautious wriggling, managed to conceal ourselves behind the rock in a sportsman-like manner. Then, and not till then, did we venture to look up in the direction the guide was pointing. There, standing on a projecting ledge on the very tip-top of Kootenai, were six beautiful clear-cut figures against the sky. They were "big horns." They had not seen us evidently; but I shall never understand how they missed the gymnastics of that guide when he discovered them and jumped for cover.
Would they come down? And, if they came down, would they chance to approach us near enough for a shot? Oh that we were back in our old cover where we commanded the approaches from above. We felt we were out of luck indeed. For hours and hours we patiently lie in a specially chosen spot and not a lamb appears; but within five minutes after we come out of concealment to a place where we can make no movement without being seen, and near which the game is not likely to approach — then, suddenly, the mountains are covered with sheep.
Yes, we seemed to be in hard luck.
We waited. We were well concealed, and near one of the many licks. Just possibly this would be the lick preferred by our wary mutton.
Finally a movement was noticeable among them, and then one of them began slowly descending the precipitous side of Kootenai. Another and another followed, until all were winding their way downward. Cautiously, suspiciously, they came, the leader halting every few steps, and leaving the trail to perch himself in a commanding position on some projecting ledge, there to take an exhaustive look over the rocks below. At each of these halts I held my breath in suspense, fearful that some unusual sound might startle our game, and set them all running.
But down they came, nearer and nearer. Would they turn as they reached the basin, and seek the nearest lick? If so, we would not get a shot, for we could never get within range without being seen.
We watched with painful intensity as they approached this lick. Slowly they came, daintily picking their way over the jagged rocks, never a misstep, and scarcely a sound. They neared the turning-point, reached it, and, without an instant's hesitation, the leader passed on, taking the straight trail leading in our direction. We looked at each other eloquently; they were as good as ours. They had finally gotten to within about three hundred yards from us when they became hidden from view. We stood this state of things for a moment or two; and then the suspense became too great, and we left our shelter with the intention of ascending the slope of a small spur or ridge near us. Over that spur we should now be able to see our game. We started out, creeping very, very cautiously. The slope was steep, and we had difficulty in going up without disturbing the rock.