That day's march was a short one. Early in the afternoon they saw a thin blue column of smoke rising through the trees ahead, and a few minutes later, to their unbounded delight, they entered the camp of the Mysterious Thirty-six, whose tents were scattered through the grove wherever the snow was level, or a tree or bank afforded shelter. Such members of the company as they saw greeted them pleasantly, and congratulated Uncle Will on making so rapid a journey. They could far better afford to be distanced by the small Bradford party than the Bradfords by them, and showed no trace of ill-humor.[94] Uncle Will declared, however, as the Bradfords were pitching their camp in the edge of the timber, that it was too early to crow yet.

"What place is this?" asked Roly, as he fetched a kettleful of water from the one open spot in a brook everywhere else buried deep under the snow.

Uncle Will hung the kettle over the fire and answered, "Rainy Hollow."

"Ah!" exclaimed the boy, with sudden recollection, "this is where you wrote your letter."

"Yes," said his uncle, "and the place was well named. It storms here most of the time, consequently the crossing of the summit is usually difficult and often quite dangerous. We are close to the summit now, and this is the last of the timber."

"And how far is it across the summit?"

"About twenty miles to the timber on the other side."

After supper the boys paid a visit to the large camp, having a desire to see how the Mysterious Thirty-six looked and lived. As they entered the camp the familiar "Muck-muck" was shouted from the entrance of a large cooking-tent by a jolly, red-faced man, whose general appearance, together with a big spoon which he waved dramatically above a kettle of beans, indicated that he was the cook. The call was taken up in various directions, and repeated to the farthest tents, and presently white men and Indians appeared from every side and[95] took their places indiscriminately in a line before the tent. Each carried an aluminum plate and cup, with knife, fork, and spoon. As fast as they were served, the men either seated themselves on logs and boxes, or stood in groups, eating their beans, bacon, and biscuits, and drinking their hot tea with great relish. The boys saw several sly young Indians finish their rations almost at a gulp, lick their plates clean, and immediately re-enter the line, by which trick they received a double portion, the cook being evidently unable to distinguish them from new-comers.

When all had been served, a white man approached the tent and asked, "Do we get a second helping to-night, Jack? I'm as hungry as I was before. Appetite's just getting whetted."

"No, Si, my boy, there's nothing left. Only one round,—that's the orders to-night."

"H-m," said Si. "I'll bet those Indians didn't go hungry, though. I saw one of 'em go back into the line."

"Well," said the cook, "the Cap'n will have to see to it, then. I can't watch 'em all."