It was on such a spring day, when the air was pungent with the smell of sprouting birch and pine, that General Viggo and his trusty army had betaken themselves to the cataract to share in the sport. They were armed with their bows, as usual, knowing that they were always liable to be surprised by their vigilant enemy. Nor were they in this instance disappointed, for Halvor Reitan, with fifty or sixty followers, was presently visible on the east side, and it was a foregone conclusion that if they met there would be a battle.
The river, to be sure, separated them, but the logs were at times so densely packed that it was possible for a daring lad to run far out into the river, shoot his arrow and return to shore, leaping from log to log. The Reitan party was the first to begin this sport, and an arrow hit General Viggo's hat before he gave orders to repel the assault.
Cool and dignified as he was, he could not consent to skip and jump on the slippery logs, particularly as he had no experience in this difficult exercise, while the enemy apparently had much. Paying no heed to the jeers of the lumbermen, who supposed he was afraid, he drew his troops up in line and addressed them as follows:
"Soldiers: You have on many previous occasions given me proof of your fidelity to duty and your brave and fearless spirit. I know that I can, now as always, trust you to shed glory upon our arms, and to maintain our noble fame and honorable traditions.
"The enemy is before us. You have heard and seen his challenge. It behooves us to respond gallantly. To jump and skip like rabbits is unmilitary and unsoldierlike. I propose that each of us shall select two large logs, tie them together, procure, if possible, a boat-hook or an oar, and, sitting astride the logs, boldly push out into the river. If we can advance in a tolerably even line, which I think quite possible, we can send so deadly a charge into the ranks of our adversaries that they will be compelled to flee. Then we will land on the east side, occupy the heights, and rout our foe.
"Now let each man do his duty. Forward, march!"
The lumbermen, whose sympathies were with the East-Siders, found this performance highly diverting, but Viggo allowed himself in nowise to be disturbed by their laughter or jeers. He marched his troops down to the river-front, commanded "Rest arms!" and repeated once more his instructions; then, flinging off his coat and waistcoat, he seized a boat-hook and ran some hundred yards along the bank of the stream.
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.