The river-bed was here expanded to a wide basin, in which the logs floated lazily down to the cataract below. Trees and underbrush, which usually stood on dry land, were half-submerged in the yellow water, and the current gurgled slowly about their trunks with muddy foam and bubbles. Now and then a heap of lumber would get wedged in between the jutting rocks above the waterfall, and then the current slackened, only to be suddenly accelerated, when the exertions of the men had again removed the obstruction.
It was an exciting spectacle to see these daring fellows leap from log to log, with birch-bark shoes on their feet. They would ride on a heap of lumber down to the very edge of the cataract, dexterously jump off at the critical moment, and after half a dozen narrow escapes, reach the shore, only to repeat the dangerous experiment, as soon as the next opportunity offered itself.
It was the example of these hardy and agile lumbermen, trained from childhood to sport with danger, which inspired Viggo and his followers with a desire to show their mettle.
"Sergeant Henning," said the General to his ever-faithful shadow, "take a squad of five men with you, and cut steering-poles for those for whom boat-hooks cannot be procured. You will be the last to leave shore. Report to me if any one fails to obey orders."
"Shall be done, General," Marcus responded, with a deferential military salute.
"The bows, you understand, will be slung by the straps across the backs of the men, while they steer and push with their poles."
"Certainly, General," said Marcus, with another salute.
"All right, General," answered Marcus, with a third salute.