"Yes; it is the track of a barefooted man," suggested the innocent Skull-Splitter.
Ironbeard and Erling the Lop-Sided flung themselves down among the stones and investigated the tracks; and they were no longer in doubt as to where the pungent wild odor came from, which they had attributed to the ham.
"Boys," said Erling, looking up with an excited face, "a she-bear with one or two cubs has been here within a few minutes."
"This is her drinking-place," said Ironbeard: "the tracks are many and well-worn; if she hasn't been here this morning, she is sure to come before long."
"We are in luck indeed," Wolf-in-the-Temple observed, coolly; "we needn't go far for our bear. He will be coming for us."
At that moment the note of an Alpine horn was heard; but it was impossible to determine how far it was away; for the echo took up the note and flung it back and forth with clear and strong reverberations from mountain to mountain.
"It is Brumle-Knute who is calling us," said Thore the Hound. "The dairymaid must have released him. Shall we answer?"
"Never," cried the chief, proudly; "I forbid you to answer. Here we have our heroic deed in sight, and I want no one to spoil it. If there is a coward among us, let him take to his heels; no one shall detain him."