Frank, the Young Naturalist
Part 3 out of 4
with only the foresail hoisted."
During the conversation the boys had been walking toward the village,
and, in a few moments, they reached the dock behind the post-office,
where the two new boats lay. One of them was a short, "dumpy,"
sloop-rigged boat, with no deck or center-board, and the other was a
"What do you think of them?" inquired Harry, after they had regarded
them several moments.
"Well," answered Archie, "I have seen a good many boats like these in
New York, but I don't think they will do much here. That schooner may
show some fine sailing qualities, but that sloop will prove to be the
slowest boat about the village; she is altogether too short. Take it
where the waves are long and regular, and she will do well enough but
here in the river, where the waves are all chopped up, she can't
"That's your private opinion, expressed here in this public manner, is
it?" said a sneering voice. "You have made a fine show of your
The boys turned, and saw Charles Morgan and several of the Rangers
standing close by.
"If I didn't know more about yachts than that," continued Charles,
"I'd go home and soak my head."
This remark was greeted by the Rangers with a loud laugh; and Archie,
who, like Frank, was a very peaceable fellow, said,
"Every one to his own way of thinking, you know."
"Certainly," answered Charles; "but, if I was as much of a blockhead
as you are, I'd be careful to keep my thoughts to myself."
Archie did not answer, for he knew it would only add fuel to the fire;
for Charles's actions indicated that he was bent on getting up a
quarrel. He had determined to make another attempt to "settle
accounts" between himself and Frank.
"I'll bet you fifty dollars," said Charles, "that there are not half a
dozen boats about the village that can beat that sloop."
"I'm not in the habit of betting," answered Archie; "but, if you will
find a boat about the village that _can't_ beat her, I'll eat your
"You are green, indeed," said Charles. "Now, what do you suppose that
sloop cost me?"
"Well," answered Archie, thrusting his hands deep into his pockets, "I
think ten dollars would foot the bill."
Archie said this in so comical a manner that Frank and the others
could not refrain from laughing outright.
Charles was angry in an instant, and, quick as thought, he sprang
forward and seized Archie. But he soon discovered that he had
undertaken more than he could accomplish; for his antagonist, though
considerably smaller than himself, was possessed of enormous strength,
and was as active as a cat, and he glided like an eel from Charles's
grasp, and, seizing him by both wrists, held him fast. After a few
desperate, but ineffectual, attempts to free himself, Charles shouted
to the Rangers, who had been bustling about in a state of considerable
excitement, but very prudently keeping in the background,
"Help, help, you cowards!"
But nothing could induce them to attempt the rescue.
At this moment a boat, which had entered the creek unnoticed by the
boys, drew up to the dock, and a strong, cheery voice, called out,
"Hang on to him, little fellow--hang on to him. We've got a few little
matters to settle up."
And Leo Powell came running toward them, with half a dozen of his
ragged followers close at his heels.
"Oh, let me go," cried Charles, turning very pale, and writhing and
twisting in the strong grasp that held him; "I'll be civil to you
after this, only don't let them get hold of me; they will half kill
Archie accordingly released his captive, but the Hillers were so close
to him that Charles dare not run, and he remained close to Frank for
protection, while the rest of the Rangers beat a precipitate retreat.
"Here, Pete, hold my coat," said Lee, tossing his tattered garment to
one of his companions; "I'll show this Cap'n Regulator that some folks
are as good as others."
And he advanced toward Charles, and commenced rolling up his sleeves.
"No, Lee," said Frank, placing himself before the frightened Ranger,
"you mustn't touch him."
"Mustn't touch him!" repeated Lee, in surprise. "Why, wasn't he jest
tryin' to wallop your friend here?"
"Oh, he's able to defend himself," answered Frank.
"Then he's all right. But I haven't paid for trying to Regulate me,
"He didn't do it, did he?" inquired Frank.
"No, 'cause you fellows wouldn't let him."
"Then, we don't want you to whip him now."
"Wal, if you say so, I won't; but he oughter be larnt better
manners--hadn't he, Pete?"
"'Course," was Pete's laconic answer.
"Now, Charley," said Archie, "you may take yourself off as soon as you
wish; they will not hurt you."
"Not this time," said Lee, shaking his hard fist in Charles's face;
"but we may come acrost you some time when you hasn't nobody to stand
up for you; then you had better look out--hadn't he, Pete?"
"Hadn't he, though!" was the answer.
Charles did not need any urging, and he was quickly out of sight.
"I'd like to see you jest a minit, Frank," said Lee, as the former was
about to move away.
Frank drew off on one side, and the Hiller continued,
"I promised I'd allers be a friend to you fellers that stood up for me
that night, and I want to let you see that I haven't forgot my
promise. I know that I can't do much for you, but I jest want to show
you that I allers remember favors."
Here he turned, and made a motion to one of his companions, who darted
off to the boat, and soon returned, bringing a young otter in his
"I allers heerd," continued Lee, as his companion came up, "that you
have a reg'lar hankerin' arter ketchin' and tamin' wild varmints. Now,
we want you to take this as a present from us. I know it ain't much,
but, arter all, a young otter is a thing a feller can't ketch every
day. Will you take it?"
"Certainly," answered Frank, as he took the little animal in his arms.
"I have long wished for an otter, and I thank--"
"Hold on there," interrupted Lee. "Keep your thanks for them as needs
them, or likes to hear 'em. We Hillers have got feelings as well as
any body. It's our way of bringin' up that makes us so bad. Now,
good-by; and, if you ever want any thing, jest call on Lee Powell."
And he and his companions walked rapidly toward their boat, and soon
A Deer-Hunt on the Water.
The next morning, after breakfast, Frank and his cousin, accompanied
by the dogs, got into the skiff, and pulled up the creek, on a
"prospecting expedition." They had started for the swamp, which lay
about two miles and a half from the cottage, to see what the prospects
were for a good muskrat-hunt in the spring. This swamp covered,
perhaps, five hundred acres, and near its center was a small lake,
which emptied into Glen's Creek.
A few moments' pulling brought them to this lake, and Frank, who was
seated at the helm, turned the boat's head toward a high point that
projected for some distance out into the lake, and behind which a
little bay set back into the land. This point was the only high land
about the swamp, and stretched away back into the woods for several
miles. It was a favorite place for sunfish and perch; and the boys
landed, and were rigging their poles, intending to catch some for
their dinner, when they heard a strange noise, that seemed to come
from the bay behind the point. They knew in a moment that it was made
by a duck, but still it was a sound they had never heard before, and,
hunter-like, they determined to discover where it came from. So,
reaching for their guns, they crawled carefully through the bushes,
until they came within sight of the bay. A brood of young ducks, under
the direction of two old ones, were sporting about among the broad
leaves of the water-lilies. They had never seen any like them before;
but Frank knew in a moment, from descriptions he had often read, that
they were eider-ducks, and he determined, if possible, to capture some
of the young ones, which, he noticed, were but half-fledged, and too
small to fly. But the question was how to proceed. If the ducklings
could not fly, they could swim like a streak; and he knew that, the
moment they were alarmed, they would either make for the opposite side
of the bay or for the lake, and, if they succeeded in reaching the
open water, he might whistle for his ducks.
His only chance was to corner them in the bay; they would then be
obliged to hide among the lilies, and perhaps they might succeed in
capturing some of them.
Hurriedly whispering to his cousin, they crept back to the skiff,
pulled around the point, and entered the bay. The moment they came in
sight, the old ones uttered their cries of warning, took to wing, and
flew out over the lake, and, as they had expected, the young ones
darted in among the lilies, and were out of sight in an instant. But
the boys had kept their eyes open, and knew about where to look for
them; and, after half an hour's chase, they succeeded in securing
three of them with the dip-net.
After tying them up in their caps, Frank pulled leisurely along out of
the bay, and was just entering the lake, when Archie, who was
steering, suddenly turned the boat toward the shore, and said, in a
scarcely audible whisper,
"A deer--a deer! sure as I live!"
Frank looked in the direction his cousin indicated, and saw a large
buck standing in the edge of the water, not twenty rods from them.
Luckily he had not heard their approach, and Frank drew the boat
closer under the point, to watch his motions.
They were a good deal excited, and Archie's hand trembled like a leaf,
as he reached for his gun.
Another lucky circumstance was, that the dogs had not discovered him.
Brave and Hunter could have been kept quiet, but Lightfoot was not
sufficiently trained to be trusted.
The boys determined to make an effort to capture him; he would make a
splendid addition to their museum. Besides, they had never killed a
deer, and now the opportunity was fairly before them. But the question
was how to proceed. The buck was out of range of their shot-guns, and
they knew it would be worse than useless to fire at him; so they
concluded to lie still in the boat, and await the movements of the
The buck was standing in the water, up to his knees, deliberately
cropping the leaves of the lilies, and now and then gazing toward the
opposite shore, as if he were meditating upon something. At length he
appeared to have decided upon his course, for he waded deeper into the
water, and swam boldly out into the lake.
This was exactly what the boys had wished for; and, when the buck had
made about ten rods from the shore, Archie took his seat at the oars,
and pulled the boat silently out from behind the point. The moment
they entered the lake, Lightfoot discovered the game, and uttered a
loud bark. The buck heard it, and his first impulse was to turn and
regain the shore he had just left. But Archie gave way on the oars
manfully, and succeeded in intercepting him; and the buck, finding
himself fairly cut off, uttered a loud snort, and, seeming to
understand that his only chance for escape was straight ahead, he
settled himself down in the water, and struck out again for the
The dogs now all broke out into a continuous barking, and Archie
exclaimed, in an excited voice,
"Shoot him! shoot him!"
"He is too far off," answered Frank. "You must remember that our guns
are loaded with small shot. Give way lively!"
The boys very soon discovered that they had no easy task before them.
The light skiff, propelled by Archie's powerful strokes, danced
rapidly over the little waves; but the buck was a fast swimmer and
made headway through the water astonishingly.
"Don't we gain on him any?" inquired Archie, panting hard from his
"Yes, a very little," answered Frank. "But he swims like a streak."
At length they reached the middle of the lake, and Frank, to his
delight, discovered that they were gaining rapidly. Archie redoubled
his efforts, and a few more strokes brought them close alongside of
the buck, which snorted aloud in his terror, and leaped half-way out
of the water, then settled down nobly to his work.
Had Frank been an experienced deer-hunter, he would have been very
careful not to approach the game in that manner; for a deer, when he
finds himself unable to escape, will fight most desperately, and his
sharp antlers and hoofs, which will cut like a knife, are weapons not
to be despised. But Frank, in his excitement, did not step to think of
this, and, letting go the tiller, he seized his gun, and fired both
barrels in quick succession. But the shot was not fatal; and the buck,
maddened with pain, leaped almost entirely out of the water.
Frank now saw their danger, and, seizing the oars, attempted to turn
the boat out of the reach of the wounded animal; but it was too late,
for the buck, in his struggles, placed his fore-feet in the bow of the
skiff, and overturned it in an instant, and boys, dogs, ducks, and
all, were emptied into the cold waters of the lake. When they rose to
the surface, they found the skiff right side up, and dancing over the
waves they had made, and the ducks and oars were floating in the water
Their first thought was to discover what had become of the buck; he
and Brave were engaged in a most desperate fight, in which the dog was
evidently getting the better of it. The hounds, probably not relishing
their ducking, were making for the nearest shore, as if their lives
depended upon the issue.
Frank swam up to the skiff, and took hold of it, to keep himself
afloat; but Archie picked up an oar, and struck out toward the buck,
"I guess I'd better take a hand in this fight."
"No, no," said Frank, quickly, "you had better keep away from him; he
has too much strength left. He would beat you down under the water in
less than a minute. Brave can manage him alone."
The next moment Frank happened to think of his gun. Where was it? He
drew himself up and looked into the canoe. It was not there; it was at
the bottom of the lake.
"Archie," he exclaimed, "we've lost our guns."
"Just my luck," answered his cousin, bitterly. "Now, I'll have revenge
And, swimming around behind the buck, out of reach of his dangerous
hoofs, he raised himself in the water, and struck him a powerful blow,
that shivered the blade of the oar into fragments. It was a fatal
blow; and the buck ceased his struggles, and lay motionless on the
water. It was a lucky circumstance for Brave that Archie had taken
part in the fight, for the poor dog had experienced some pretty rough
handling. He had received several wounds from the sharp hoofs of the
buck, and there was a severe cut in his neck, from which the blood was
flowing profusely; but the way he continued to shake the buck after
Archie had dealt the fatal blow showed that there was plenty of fight
left in him. Frank carefully lifted him into the boat, and, by their
united efforts, after a good deal of hard work, the buck was thrown
in after him. The boys then climbed in themselves, and Frank said,
"Well, we have captured our first deer, haven't we?"
"I wish we had never seen him," answered Archie. "We've lost our guns
by the operation."
"I am afraid so; but we will, at least, make an attempt to recover
"How will we go to work?"
"We will dive for them."
Archie shrugged his shoulders, but made no reply.
Frank's first care was to bandage Brave's neck with his handkerchief.
He then divested himself of his clothes, and, after wringing the water
out of them, he spread them out in the bow of the boat to dry.
"I don't much like the idea of going down in there," said Archie,
looking dubiously at the dark, muddy water; "there may be snakes in
it, or it may be full of logs, or the bottom may be covered with weeds
that will catch hold of a fellow's leg and keep him down."
"I can't help it," said Frank; "we must have the guns; I'd rather risk
any thing than lose them. The only thing I am afraid of is that the
water is too deep. I'll be a little careful at first"
So saying, he lowered himself over the side of the boat, and, drawing
in a long breath, sank slowly out of sight.
Meanwhile Archie was pulling off his clothes, and, when his cousin
appeared, he exclaimed,
"How do things look down there? Rather muddy, isn't it?"
"Yes," answered Frank, as he wiped the water from his face, "but the
bottom is all clear, and the water is only about fifteen feet deep."
"Did you see any thing of the guns?"
"No, I couldn't stay down long enough to make observations. I'm going
to dive this time," he continued, as he commenced climbing back into
"Well, here goes!" said Archie.
And, clasping his hands above his head, he dived out of sight, and
Frank followed close after.
When the latter again appeared at the surface, he found Archie holding
on to the boat, with one of the guns elevated above his head, to allow
the water to run out of the barrels.
The boys climbed up into the boat, and dived again, but neither of
them met with any success. The next time Archie was again the
fortunate one, for, when Frank rose to the surface, he was climbing up
into the boat, with the other gun in his hand.
"I don't call this a very unlucky hunt, after all," said Frank.
"Neither do I," said Archie. "I say, Frank," he continued, "I wish we
could reproduce in our museum the scene we have just passed through."
"So do I. If we could represent the buck in the act of upsetting us,
it would be our 'masterpiece,' wouldn't it? But I am afraid that is
further than our ingenuity extends."
The boys drew on their clothes, which were but partially dry, and,
after pulling ashore to get the hounds, which had kept up a loud
barking all the time, they turned the boat's head toward home.
After changing their clothes and eating a hearty dinner--during which
they related their adventure to Mrs. Nelson and Julia--they carefully
removed the buck's skin, and hung it up in the shop by a fire to dry.
Their guns were found to be none the worse for their ducking; the
loads, of course, were wet, and had to be drawn, but a good coat of
oil, and a thorough rubbing inside and out, made them look as good as
During the afternoon, as the boys sat on the piazza in front of the
house, talking over the events of the morning, their attention was
attracted by a combat that was going on between one of Frank's pet
kingbirds and a red-headed woodpecker. The latter was flying zigzag
through the air, and the kingbird was pecking him most unmercifully.
At length the woodpecker took refuge in a tree that stood on the bank
of the creek, and then seemed perfectly at his ease. He always kept on
the opposite side of the tree, and the kingbird, active as he was,
could not reach him. His loud, angry twittering soon brought his mate
to his assistance, and then the woodpecker found himself between two
fires. After trying in vain to elude them, he suddenly popped into a
hole in the tree, and stuck out his long bill, as if defying them to
enter. The kingbirds were completely outwitted; and, after making two
or three angry darts at the hole in which their cunning enemy had
taken refuge, they settled down on the branches close by to wait until
he should show himself. They had no intention of giving up the
contest. The woodpecker seemed to take matters very coolly, and
improved his time by pounding away industriously on the inside of the
tree. Occasionally he would thrust his head out of the hole, but,
seeing his enemies still on the watch, he would dodge back, and go to
After waiting fully a quarter of an hour for him to come out, and
seeing that the kingbirds had no idea of "raising the siege," Archie
concluded (to age his own expression) that he "might as well lend a
little assistance." So he ran round to the shop, and, having procured
an ax, he went up to the tree, and dealt it a heavy blow. The next
moment the woodpecker flew out, and the kingbirds were after him in an
instant They followed him until he reached the woods, and then
returned to the cottage.
We might relate many more interesting events that transpired before
the hunting season set in; we might tell of the "tall times" the boys
had whipping the trout-streams, of the trials of speed that came off
on the river, when it turned out, as Archie had predicted, that
Charles Morgan's sloop "couldn't sail worth a row of pins;" and we
might tell of many more desperate "scrapes" that came off between the
bully and his sworn enemies the Hillers; but we fear, reader, you are
already weary of the Young Naturalist's home-life, and long to see him
engaging in his favorite recreations--roaming through the woods, with
his gun on his shoulder, or dealing death among the ducks on the
Well, autumn came at length; and, early one chilly, moonlight evening,
Frank and his cousin, accompanied by George and Harry, might have
been seen picking their way across the meadow at the back of Mrs.
Nelson's lot, and directing their course toward a large cornfield,
that lay almost in the edge of a piece of thick woods, about a quarter
of a mile distant.
They had started on a 'coon-hunt. Frank and Harry, who were two of the
best shots in the village, were armed with their double-barreled
shot-guns, and the others carried axes and lanterns.
We have said that it was a moonlight night, but, so far as a view of
the chase was concerned, the light of the moon would benefit them but
little; and the boys carried the lanterns, not to be able to follow
the 'coon when started, but to discover him when "treed," and to
assist them in picking their way through the woods.
During a raccoon-hunt, but little is seen either of the dogs or the
game. The woods, let the moon shine ever so bright, are pitch-dark;
and the dogs rely on their scent and the hunter trusts to his ears.
The 'coon seldom strays far from his tree, and, of course, when
started, draws a "bee-line" for home, and the game is for the
dogs--which should be very swift, hardy animals, having the courage to
tackle him if he should turn at bay--to overtake him, and compel him
to take to some small tree, where he can be easily shaken off or shot.
But if he succeeds in reaching home, which he always makes in a large
tree, he is safe, unless the hunter is willing to go to work and fell
The boys were accompanied by their dogs, which followed close at their
heels. Lightfoot was about to take his first lesson in hunting, but
Brave and Sport evidently knew perfectly well what the game was to be,
and it was difficult to restrain them.
A few moments' walk brought them to the corn field. A rail-fence ran
between the field and the woods; and two of the boys, after lighting
their lanterns, climbed over the fence, and the others waved their
hands to the dogs, and ordered them to "hunt 'em up." Brave and Sport
were off in an instant, and Lightfoot was close at their heels,
mechanically following their motions, and evidently wondering at their
The boys moved quietly along the fence, and, in a few moments, a
quick, sharp yelp from Brave announced that he had started the first
'coon. The boys cheered on the dogs, and presently a dark object
appeared, coming at full speed through the corn, and passed, at a
single bound, over the fence. The dogs, barking fierce and loud at
every jump, were close at his heels, and both they and the game
speedily disappeared in the darkness. The boys followed after, picking
their way through the bushes with all possible speed.
The chase was a short one, for the dogs soon broke out in a regular,
continuous barking, which announced that the 'coon was treed. The
hunters, guided by the noise, soon came in sight of them, standing at
the foot of a small sapling. Brave and Sport took matters very easily,
and seemed satisfied to await the arrival of the boys, but Lightfoot
had caught sight of the 'coon as he was ascending the tree, and was
bounding into the air, and making every exertion to reach him.
Frank and Harry stood ready with their guns to shoot him, and the
others held their lanterns aloft, and peered up into the top of the
tree, to discover his hiding-place; but nothing could be seen of him.
The sapling had grown up rather high, and all objects outside of the
circle of light made by their lanterns seemed to be concealed by
"He's up there, I know," said Archie.
And, laying down his ax and lantern, he caught hold of the sapling,
and shook it with all his strength. But it was a little too large for
him to manage, and, although it swayed considerably, the 'coon could
easily retain his hold.
"Well," said Archie, "if he will not come down to us, we'll have to go
up to him, I suppose."
And he commenced ascending the tree. Archie was a good hand at
climbing, and had shaken more than one 'coon from his roost, and he
carefully felt his way up, until he had almost reached the top of the
sapling, when, not wishing to trust his weight on the small limbs, he
stopped, and again shook the tree, and this time with better success.
There was an angry snarling among the branches above his head, and the
'coon, after trying in vain to retain his hold, came tumbling to the
Quick as thought the dogs were upon him, and, although he made a most
desperate resistance, he was speedily overpowered and killed.
The boys picked up their prize, and went back to the cornfield. The
dogs were again sent in, and another 'coon was started, which, like
the first, "drew a bee-line" for the woods, with the dogs close
behind, and the boys, worked up to the highest pitch of excitement,
followed after as fast as their legs could carry them.
The 'coon had managed to get a good start of his pursuers, and he led
them a long chase through a low, swampy part of the woods, to the top
of a ridge, where the heavy timber grew; and when, at length, the boys
came up with the dogs, they found them standing at the foot of a large
maple fully ten feet in circumference.
"There!" exclaimed George, "the rascal has succeeded in reaching home.
"Yes," said Frank, leaning on the muzzle of his gun, and wiping the
perspiration from his forehead, "we're minus that 'coon, easily
enough, unless we wait until morning, and cut the tree down."
"Look here, boys," suddenly exclaimed George, who had been holding his
lantern above his head, and examining the sides of the tree; "did you
ever see a tree look like this before?"
As they moved around to the side where George stood, Archie called
"There must be a big nest of 'coons in here; the tree is completely
"Yes," said Frank, "we've accidentally stumbled upon a regular
'coon-tree. There must be a big family of them living here. The tree
looks as if some one had taken an ax and cleaned off the bark. But,"
he added, "finding where the 'coons have been and catching them are
two very different things."
"What do you mean?" inquired Archie, "You don't pretend to say that
the 'coons are not in the tree?"
"Certainly I do. I wouldn't be afraid to stake Brave against any
little cur in the village that the 'coon the dogs have just followed
here is the only one in the tree."
"What makes you think so?"
"Why, now is their feeding-time, and all the 'coons in this part of
the woods are in the cornfield. It wouldn't pay to cut down this big
tree for one 'coon; so let's go home and go to bed, and early
to-morrow morning we will come back here and bag our game."
The boys agreed to this, and they whistled to their dogs, and started
through the woods toward home.
The next morning, at the first peep of day, they again set out, and in
half an hour arrived at the 'coon-tree.
The boys knew that they had something to accomplish before they could
secure their game, but they were not the ones to shun hard work. They
had frequently cut down trees for a single 'coon, and they felt
confident that there were at least three of the animals in the tree,
and they were willing to work for them.
Archie and George were armed, as on the preceding night, with axes,
and, after pulling off their coats, they placed themselves on opposite
sides of the tree, and set manfully to work. Harry and Frank stood by,
ready to take their places when they grew tired, and the dogs seated
themselves on the ground close by, with their tongues hanging out of
the sides of their mouths, and now and then giving vent to an
The boys worked for an hour and a half--taking their turns at
chopping--almost without speaking. At length the top of the tree began
to waver, and a loud crack announced that it was about to fall. Frank
and Archie were chopping, and the blows of their axes resounded with
redoubled force, and the other boys caught up the guns, and ran off in
the direction in which the tree was about to fall, followed by Sport
and Lightfoot, and Brave stationed himself close behind his master,
and barked and whined furiously.
A few sturdy blows finished the business, and the tree began to
sink--slowly at first, then with a rushing sound, and struck the earth
with a tremendous crash. In an instant boys and dogs were among the
branches. The 'coons--some of which were not injured in the least by
the fall--scattered in every direction; and one of them--a fine, large
fellow--bounded off through the bushes.
Frank discovered him just in time, and, fearing that he would lose
sight of him, he hurled his ax at him with all his strength; but it
went wide of the mark, and Frank started in hot pursuit. He was very
swift of foot, and there seemed to be no limit to his endurance, but,
in running through the bushes, the 'coon had decidedly the advantage.
Frank was not slow to discover this, and he began to think about
sending his ax after him again, when he heard a crashing in the bushes
behind him, and the grayhound passed him like the wind, and two or
three of his tremendous bounds brought him up with the 'coon.
Frank knew very well that Lightfoot had something of a job before him,
for it requires a very tough, active dog to "handle" a full-grown coon
when he is cornered. But Frank thought it was a capital time to judge
of the grayhound's "grit;" so he cheered him on, and hurried forward
to witness the fight.
As Lightfoot came up, he made a grab at the 'coon, which, quick as a
flash, eluded him, and, when the hound turned upon him, the 'coon gave
him one severe bite, when Lightfoot uttered a dismal howl, and,
holding his nose close to the ground, beat a hasty retreat; and the
Young Naturalist could not induce him to return.
During the fight, short as it was, Frank had gained considerably, and,
as the 'coon turned to make off, he again threw his ax at him, which,
true to its aim, struck the 'coon on the head, and stretched him
lifeless on the ground.
Meanwhile Archie was endeavoring to secure his 'coon, under rather
more difficult circumstances.
As soon as the tree had begun to fall, Archie dropped his ax, seized a
short club that lay near him on the ground, and, discovering a 'coon
making for the bushes, he started after him at full speed.
The animal appeared to run heavily, as if he had been partially
stunned by the falling of the tree; and Archie had followed him but a
short distance, when he had the satisfaction of discovering that he
was gaining at every step. The 'coon seemed to understand that his
chance of escape was rather small; and, after various windings and
twistings, commenced ascending a small tree. Archie ran forward with
all possible speed, with the hope of reaching the tree before he could
climb out of the way. The 'coon moved but slowly, and Archie felt sure
of his prize; and, as soon as he came within the proper distance, he
struck a powerful blow at the animal, but he was just out of reach,
and the club was shivered to pieces against the tree.
Archie, however, did not hesitate a moment, but, placing his hands on
the tree, commenced climbing after him. The 'coon ascended to the
topmost branch, and looked down on his enemy, growling and snapping
his teeth, as if to warn him that he intended to make a desperate
resistance; but Archie was not in the least intimidated, and, reaching
the branch on which the 'coon was seated, he shook it violently, and
the animal tumbled to the ground, and, as soon as he could regain his
feet, started off again.
Archie descended as quickly as possible, and started in pursuit,
hoping to overtake his game before he could again take to a tree.
There was an abundance of large trees growing in the woods, and, if
the 'coon should take it into his head to ascend one of them, Archie
might whistle for his game.
The young hunter well understood this, and he "put in his best licks,"
as he afterward remarked, and, in a few moments, had almost overtaken
him, and began to look around for something to strike him with, when
the 'coon, as if guessing his intention, suddenly turned and ran up a
large tree that stood close by, and, crawling out on a limb, about
fifty feet from the ground, he settled himself down, as if he had
concluded to take matters more easily.
This was discouraging; and Archie seated himself on a log under the
tree, and for a moment thought seriously of giving up the chase. But
the 'coon was a fine, fat fellow, and his skin would make a valuable
addition to the museum, and, besides, he had followed him so far
already, that he was reluctant to go back to his companions without
him, and, on second thought, he concluded that he would _not_ go back
unless he could carry the 'coon with him.
He first thought of ascending the tree, but, after taking a hasty
survey of it, he abandoned the idea. The tree was partially decayed;
in fact, there was but one sound limb in it that Archie could
discover, and that was about four feet above the one on which the
'coon was seated, and stretched out directly over it.
Archie did not like the idea of trusting himself among the unsound
limbs, and, besides, the cunning animal had crawled out to the extreme
end of one of the decayed branches, which bent beneath his weight,
and the young hunter, of course, could not follow him.
There was only one way that Archie could discover to bring him down;
and he straightway opened upon the devoted 'coon a tremendous shower
of clubs and sticks. He was a very accurate thrower, and, for some
time, had hopes of being able to bring down the 'coon; but, although
the missiles frequently hit him, Archie could not throw them with
sufficient force; and he again turned his attention to the tree.
Throwing his arms around it, he commenced working his way up. The bark
was very smooth and slippery, and the lowest limb was the one on which
the 'coon had taken refuge; but he kept steadily at work, and his
progress, though slow, was sure, and he reached the limb; and, bearing
as little of his weight as possible upon it, he drew himself up to the
sound limb above.
After testing it thoroughly, to make sure that it would sustain his
weight, he commenced walking out on the branch on which the 'coon was
seated, keeping a firm hold of the limb above his head. He had made
scarcely a dozen steps, when there was a loud crack, and the branch on
which he was standing broke into fragments, and fell to the ground
with a crash, carrying the 'coon with it, and leaving Archie hanging
in the air, fifty feet from the ground.
Not in the least terrified at his dangerous situation, the young
hunter coolly swung himself up on the limb, and, crawling carefully
back to the tree, slid rapidly down the trunk, and, as if nothing had
happened, ran to the place where the 'coon had fallen, hoping that at
last he was secured.
But he was again disappointed. Nothing was to be seen of the animal,
and only a few drops of blood on the leaves indicated the direction in
which he had gone. This quickly caught Archie's eye, and he began to
follow up the trail, which led toward a creek that flowed close by.
But when he arrived upon its bank he was again at fault--the trail was
lost; and, while he was running up and down the bank, searching for
it, he happened to cast his eye toward the opposite side of the creek,
and there was his 'coon, slowly ascending a tall stump that stood at
the water's edge.
Archie could not refrain from giving a shout of joy, for he was
confident that the chase would soon be over; and he hurried,
impatiently, up and down the bank to find some place to cross, and
finally discovered a small tree lying in the water, whose top reached
almost to the opposite bank. The 'coon had undoubtedly crossed on this
bridge; and Archie sprang upon it. It shook considerably, but he kept
on, and had almost reached the opposite side, when the tree broke, and
he disappeared in the cold water. He rose immediately, and, shaking
the water from his face, struck out for the shore, puffing and blowing
like a porpoise. A few lusty strokes brought him to the bank, and, as
he picked up a handful of stones, he said to himself,
"I guess I'm all right now. If I could only have found some stones
when I treed that 'coon in the woods, he would not have been up there
now, and I should not have got this wet hide. But we'll soon settle
As we have said, the 'coon had taken refuge in a high stump. The
branches had all fallen off, with the exception of one short one,
about two feet from the top; and the 'coon, after trying in vain to
squeeze 'himself into a small hole, about half-way up the stump,
settled down on this limb, and appeared to be awaiting his fate.
Archie took a favorable position, and, selecting a stone, hurled it
with all his force at the 'coon. It whizzed harmlessly by, close to
his head; but the next brought him to the ground, dead.
"There!" exclaimed the young hunter, as he shouldered his prize, and
walked up the creek to find a crossing-place, "I've worked pretty hard
for 'coons, first and last, but this beats all the hunts I ever
He at length reached a place where the water was about knee-deep,
waded across the creek, and started through the woods to find his
companions. When he arrived at the place where they had felled the
tree, he saw Harry sitting on a log, with Frank's gun in his hand, but
nothing was to be seen of the other boys.
As soon as the latter discovered Archie, he burst into a loud laugh.
"No doubt you think it a good joke," said Archie, as he came up, "but
I don't. It isn't a funny thing to tramp through the woods, on a cold
day like this, with your clothes wringing wet. But I've got the
"You must have had a tough time catching him," said Harry. "But let us
go down to the camp."
As they walked along, Archie related his adventures; and, when he told
about being "dumped in the creek," Harry laughed louder than ever.
A few moments' walk brought them to what Harry had called the "camp."
It was in a little grove of evergreens, on the banks of a clear,
dancing trout-brook. A place about forty feet square had been cleared
of the trees and bushes and in it stood a small, neatly-built,
log-cabin, which Frank and some of his companions had erected the
Near the middle of the cabin a hole about four feet square, had been
dug, and in this a fire was burning brightly; and a hole in the roof,
directly over it, did duty both as chimney and window.
On the floor, near the fire--or, rather, there _was_ no floor, the
ground serving for that purpose--stood some tin dishes, which one of
the boys had just brought to light from a corner of the cabin, four
plates, as many knives and forks, two large platters, a coffee-pot,
four quart-cups, and a pan containing some trout, which George had
caught in the brook, all cleaned and ready for the spit, and there was
also a large plate of bread and butter.
Frank, who always acted as cook on these expeditions, and knew how to
get up a dinner that would tempt an epicure, was kneeling before the
fire, engaged in skinning some squirrels which Brave had treed for
George was in front of the cabin, chopping wood; and close by the door
lay five 'coons--the fruits of the morning's hunt; and near them lay
the dogs, fast asleep.
Such was the scene presented when Harry and Archie burst in upon the
camp. The latter was greeted with a loud laugh.
"Well, boys," said he, as he threw his 'coon down with the others,
"you may laugh, but I wish some of you were obliged to go through what
I did. I was bound to have the 'coon, if I had to follow him clear to
"That's the way to talk," said Frank. "Now, throw yourself down by the
fire, and I'll soon be ready to give you something to eat. A cup or
two of hot coffee will set you all right again."
Archie's ducking and his long walk in his wet clothes had chilled him
completely through, and he was very willing to comply with his
cousin's suggestion, and he drew up as close as possible to the fire.
When Frank had finished skinning the squirrels, he stuck them up
before the fire, on spits, to roast. The trout he served in the same
manner; and, raking out a few live coals from the fire, he placed the
coffee-pot upon them, when the work of getting breakfast began in
In the course of half an hour the impatience of the hungry hunters
(whose appetites had been sharpened by the savory smell of the cooking
viands) was relieved by Frank's welcome invitation--
"Now, boys, you may help yourselves."
And they _did_ help themselves most bountifully.
Archie kept his place by the fire, and a plate filled with bread and
butter, and roasted squirrel and trout, and a cup of coffee, were
passed over to him; and, supporting himself on one elbow, he did them
The dogs were well supplied with what remained of the breakfast; and,
after washing the dishes in the clear water of the brook, and placing
them carefully away for future use, the boys seated themselves around
the fire, and Harry exclaimed, as he settled himself back into a
"Give us a story, Frank."
"Well," answered Frank, after thinking a few moments, "I remember one
that, I think, will interest you. You will probably remember, Archie,
that, during the last visit we made at Uncle Joe's, we met his brother
Dick, who has passed forty years of his life among the Rocky
Mountains. You will remember, also, that he and I went mink-trapping,
and camped out all night, and during the evening he related to me some
of his adventures, and wound up with the following story of his
'chum,' Bill Lawson. I will try to give it, as nearly as possible, in
his own words.
Bill Lawson's Revenge.
"This Bill Larson," said Dick, knocking the ashes from his pipe, "was
_some_ in his day. I have told you about his trappin' qualities--that
there was only one man in the county that could lay over him any, an'
that was ole Bob Kelly. But Bill had some strange ways about him,
sometimes, that I could not understand, an' the way he acted a'most
made me think he was crazy. Sometimes you couldn't find a more jolly
feller than he was; an' then, again, he would settle down into one of
his gloomy spells, an' I couldn't get a word out of him. He would sit
by the camp-fire, an' first fall to musing; then he would cover his
face with his hands, an' I could see the big, scalding tears trickle
through his fingers, an' his big frame would quiver and shake like a
tree in a gale of wind; then he would pull out his long, heavy
huntin'-knife, an' I could see that he had several notches cut in the
handle. He would count these over an' over again; an' I could see a
dark scowl settle on his face, that would have made me tremble if I
had not known that I was his only sworn friend, an' he would mutter,
"'Only seven! only seven! There ought to be eight. There is one left.
He must not escape me. No, no; he must die!'
"An' then he would sheath his knife, an' roll himself up in his
blanket, an' cry himself to sleep like a child.
"I had been with ole Bill a'most ten years--ever since I was a
boy--but he had never told me the cause of his trouble. I didn't dare
to ask him, for the ole man had curious ways sometimes, an' I knowed
he wouldn't think it kind of me to go pryin' into his affairs, an' I
knowed, too, that some day he would tell me all about it.
"One night--we had been followin' up a bar all day--we camped on the
side of a high mountain. It was very cold. The wind howled through the
branches of the trees above our heads, makin' us pull our blankets
closer about us an' draw as nigh to the fire as possible.
"Ole Bill sat, as usual, leanin' his head on his hands, an' lookin'
steadily into the fire. Neither of us had spoken for more than an
hour. At len'th the ole man raised his head, an' broke the silence by
"'Dick, you have allers been a good friend to me, an' have stuck by
me like a brother, through thick an' thin, an', I s'pose, you think it
is mighty unkind in me to keep any thing from you; an' so it is. An'
now I'll tell you all.'
"He paused a moment, an', wipin' the perspiration from his forehead
with his coat-sleeve, continued, a'most in a whisper,
"'Dick, I was not allers as you see me now--all alone in the world.
Once I was the happiest boy west of the mountains. My father was a
trader, livin' on the Colorado River, I had a kind mother, two as
handsome sisters as the sun ever shone on, an' my brother was one of
the best trappers, for a boy, I ever see. He was a good deal younger
nor I was, but he was the sharer of all my boyish joys an' sorrows. We
had hunted together, an' slept under the same blanket ever since we
were big enough to walk. Oh! I was happy then! This earth seemed to me
a paradise. Now look at me--alone in the world, not one livin' bein'
to claim me as a relation; an' all this was brought upon me in a
"Here the ole man stopped, an' buried his face in his hands; but,
suddenly arousin' himself, he continued,
"'One day, when the ice were a'most out of the river, father an' me
concluded it was about time to start on our usual tradin' expedition;
so we went to work an' got all our goods--which consisted of beads,
hatchets, lookin'-glasses, blankets, an' such like--into the big
canoe, an' were goin' to start 'arly in the mornin' to pay a visit to
the Osage Injuns, an' trade our things for their furs. That night,
while we were eatin' our supper, a party of horsemen came gallopin'
an' yellin' down the bank of the river, an', ridin' up to the door of
the cabin, dismounted, an', leavin' their horses to take care of
themselves, came in without ceremony. We knowed very well who they
were. They were a band of outlaws an' robbers, that had been in the
county ever since I could remember, an', bein' too lazy to make an
honest livin' by trappin', they went around plunderin' an' stealin'
from every one they come across. They had stole three or four horses
from us, an' had often come to our cabin an' called for whisky; but
that was an article father never kept on hand. Although he was an ole
trapper, an' had lived in the woods all his life, he never used it,
an' didn't believe in sellin' it to the red-skins. The captain of the
outlaws was a feller they called "Mountain Tom," an' he was meaner
than the meanest Injun I ever see. He didn't think no more of cuttin'
a man's throat than you would of shootin' a buck. The minute they came
into the cabin we could see that they had all been drinkin'. They
acted like a lot of wild buffalo-bulls, an', young as I was, I could
see that they meant mischief, an' I knowed that our chance for life
was small indeed. As I arterwards learned, they had been up the river,
about two miles, to a half-breed's shanty, an' had found half a barrel
of whisky, an', arter killin' the half-breed, an' drinkin' his liquor,
they felt jest right for a muss, an' had come down to our cabin on
purpose for a fight.
"'"Now, ole Lawson," said Mountain Tom, leanin' his rifle up in the
corner, "we have come down here for whisky. We know you've got some;
so jest draw your weasel, if you want to save unpleasant feelin's; an'
be in a hurry about it, too, for we're mighty thirsty."
"'"Tom," said my father, "how often have I told you that I haven't got
a drop of liquor in the shanty? I never had. I don't use it myself,
an' I don't keep it for--"
"'"That's a lie!" yelled three or four of the band.
"'"You a trader among the Injuns, an' not keep whisky?"
"'"We know a thing or two more than that."
"'"We have heard that story often enough," said Tom. "We know you have
got the liquor, an' we are goin' to get it afore we leave this shanty.
If you won't bring it out an' treat, like white man had ought to do,
we'll have to look for it ourselves--that's all. Here, boys," he said,
turning to his men, "jest jump down into the cellar an' hunt it up,
'cause we know he's got some. An' you, Jake," he added, catching hold
of a big, ugly-lookin' feller, "you stand here, an shoot the first one
that tries to get away."
"'The men ran down into the cellar, and we could hear them cussin' an'
swearin', as they overturned every thing in the useless search. My
mother, a'most frightened to death, gathered us children around her,
an' sank back into the furthest corner. I thought my father had gone
crazy; he strode up an' down the floor of the cabin like some caged
wild animal, clenchin' his hands an' grindin' his teeth in a way that
showed that there was plenty of fight in him, if he only had a chance
to let it out. Once in awhile he would look at his rifle, that hung
against the wall, then at the man that stood at the top of the
cellar-stairs, guardin' us, as if he had a'most made up his mind to
begin a knock-down an' drag-out fight with the rascals. But then he
would look at my mother an' us children, back in the corner, an' go to
pacin' the floor again. If we had been out of the way, I know that he
would not have let them rummage about as he did; he would have had a
fight with them that would do your eyes good to look at. But, as it
was, I guess he kinder thought that if he was peaceable they would go
off an' leave us, arter they found that no whisky was to be had. After
searchin' around the cellar for more 'n ten minutes, one of 'em called
"'"Wal, boys, it's easy enough to see that the cuss has fooled
us. Thar's no liquor here. He's hid it in the woods, somewhere 'bout
"'"That's so," said another. "I'll bet he has got plenty of whisky
somewhere. Let's go up and hang him till he tells us where it is."
"'"No, no, that won't do," said Mountain Tom. "You fellers are gettin'
so that you talk like babies. Shoot the rascal down. We've had trouble
enough with him. If we can't get the liquor here, there are plenty of
places where we can get it."
"'"That's the talk!" yelled the band. "Shoot him down! Tear him to
"'The man who was standin' at the head of the stairs heard all the
rascals had said, an', with a yell of delight, he raised his rifle an'
drew a bead on my mother. But the ole man was too quick for him. With
a bound like a painter, he sprang across the floor, an', grabbin' the
villain by the throat, lifted him from his feet, and throwed him down
into the cellar, an' in an instant shut the door, an' fastened it with
a heavy bar of wood. Then, takin' down his rifle, he said to us,
a'most in a whisper,
"'"Now run! run for your lives! We must cross the prairy an' get into
the woods afore the rascals cut their way out. Run! quick!"
"'My mother took my sisters by the hand an' led them out, an' me an'
my brother followed her. Father closed both the windows an' the door,
an' fastened them on the outside. All this while the robbers had been
yellin' an' swearin', an' cuttin' away at the cellar-door with their
tomahawks; an' we well knowed that they would soon be out an' arter
us. Our cabin stood in a large, natural prairy, an' we had to travel
full half a mile acrost the open ground afore we come to the woods. My
father followed close behind us, with his rifle, ready to shoot the
first one that come in sight, an' kept urgin' us to go faster. We
hadn't gone more'n half the distance acrost the prairy, when a loud
crash and yells of triumph told us, plain enough, that the villains
had worked their way out of the cellar. Then heavy blows sounded on
the window-shutter, which, strong as it was, we knowed could not long
hold out ag'in 'em. In a few minutes it was forced from its hinges,
an' Mountain Tom sprang out.
"'"Here they are, boys," he shouted. "Come on! We'll l'arn 'em not to
"'The report of father's rifle cut short his words, an' Mountain Tom,
throwin' his hands high above his head, sank to the ground like a log.
By this time the rest of the band had come out, an the bullets rattled
around us like hailstones. My father and brother both fell-the latter
never to rise; but father, although he had received three bullets,
staggered to his feet, an' follered along arter us, loadin' his rifle.
Then began the race for life. It seemed to me that we flew over the
ground, but the villains gained on us at every step. Just as we
reached the woods, my father called out,
"'"Down--down, every one of you! They're going to shoot again!"
"'Obeyin' that order was what saved my life. I throwed myself flat
into the bushes, an' escaped unhurt; but both my sisters were shot
dead, an' my father received another ball that brought him to the
ground. My mother, instead of thinkin' of herself, kneeled beside him,
an' supported his head in her arms. The next minute the outlaws
entered the woods, an' one passed so close to me that I could have
"'"Wal, Bill Lawson," said a voice that I knowed belonged to Mountain
Tom, "you see I'm here again. I s'pose you kind o' thought you had
rubbed me out, didn't you?"
"'"Yes, I did," said father--an' his voice was so weak that I could
hardly hear him.
"'"You won't have a chance to draw a bead on me again, I guess. We shoot
consider'ble sharp--don't we?"
"'"I shan't live long," said father. "But, whatever you do to me, be
merciful to my wife an'--"
"'The dull thud of the tomahawk cut short my father's dying prayer, an'
his brains were spattered on the bush where I was concealed; an',
a'most at the same moment, another of the band buried his knife in my
"Old Bill could go no further. He buried his face in his hands an'
cried like a child. At length, by a strong effort, he choked down his
sobs, and went on.
"'I knew no more until I found myself lyin' in the cabin of an ole
hunter, who lived about ten miles from where we used to live. He had
been out huntin', an' had found me lyin' close beside my father an'
mother. He thought I was dead, too, at first, but he found no wounds
on me; so, arter buryin' all my relatives in one grave, he took me
home with him. In three or four days I was able to get around again;
an', beggin' a rifle an' some powder an' ball of the ole hunter, I
started out. I went straight to the grave that contained all I loved
on earth, an' there, kneelin' above their heads, I swore that my life
should be devoted to but one object--vengeance on the villains who had
robbed me of all my happiness. How well I have kept my oath the
notches on my knife will show. Seven of them have fallen by my
tomahawk; one only is left, an' that is Mountain Tom. For fifteen long
years I have been on his trail; but the time will come when my
vengeance will be complete.'
"An' the ole man rolled himself up in his blanket, an', turning his
back to me, sobbed himself to sleep.
"But my story is not yet told," continued Dick. "About a year arter
this, Bill an' me were ridin' along, about noon, in a little valley
among the mountains, when we came, all of a sudden, on the camp of two
"'Heaven be praised! there he is!' said ole Bill.
"An', swinging himself from his horse, he strode up to one of the men,
who sprang from his blanket, and ejaculated,
"'Yea, Mountain Tom,' said ole Bill, 'I'm here. You an' me have got a
long reckonin' to settle now.'
"The villain at first turned as pale as a skewer; but he seemed to
regain his courage, and exclaimed,
"'It won't take us long to settle up,'
"And, quick as lightnin', he drew his knife, an' made a pass at Bill.
"But he had got the wrong buck by the horn. The ole man was as quick
as he; an', grabbin' hold of his arm, he took the knife away from him
as if he had been a baby.
"'Tom,' said he, as he drew his tomahawk from his belt, 'I've followed
you all over this country for fifteen years, an', thank Heaven, I've
found you at last.'
"'Oh, Bill,' shrieked the condemned man, sinkin' on his knees before
the ole man, 'I was--'
"'Stand up,' said Bill, ketchin' hold of him, an' jerkin' him to his
feet. 'You were brave enough when you were killing my wounded father.'
"'With the tomahawk you killed my father, an' by the tomahawk you
"'For mercy's sake, Bill,' again shrieked the terrified man, taking
hold of a tree for support, 'hear me!'
"The tomahawk descended like a streak of light, and the last of the
murderers sank at the ole man's feet. The eighth notch was added to
those on the knife, an' the debt was canceled."
About two o'clock in the afternoon the boys concluded that it was
about time to start for home; so, after putting out the fire and
fastening the door of the cabin, they set out. Archie led the way,
with a 'coon slung over each shoulder, and another dangling from his
belt behind. The others followed close after him, in "Indian file." In
this manner they marched through the woods, joking and shouting, and
talking over the events of the day, and now and then indulging in a
hearty laugh when they happened to think how Archie looked when he
came into the camp, dripping wet. But Archie took matters very
good-naturedly, and replied,
"If I had come back without the 'coon, I should never have heard the
last of it; and now you laugh at me because I fell into the drink
while I was trying to catch him."
In half an hour they reached the edge of the timber, and were about to
climb over the fence into the cornfield, when a long, loud bark echoed
through the woods.
"That's Brave," exclaimed Frank; "and," he continued, as all the dogs
broke out into a continuous cry, "they've found something. Let's go
The boys all agreed to this, and they started back through the woods
as fast as their legs could carry them.
A few moments' run brought them in sight of the dogs, sitting on their
haunches at the foot of a stump, that rose to the hight of twenty
feet, without leaf or branch. Near the top were several holes; and, as
soon as Frank discovered these, he exclaimed,
"The dogs have got a squirrel in here."
"How are we going to work to get him out?" inquired Archie.
"Let's cut the stump down," said George.
"That's too much sugar for a cent," answered Harry. "That will be
working too hard for one squirrel."
"Why will it?" asked George. "The stump is rotten."
And he laid down his 'coon, and walked up and dealt the stump several
lusty blows with his ax.
Suddenly two large black squirrels popped out of one of the holes
near the top, and ran rapidly around the stump. Quick as thought,
Frank, who was always ready, raised his gun to his shoulder, and one
of the squirrels came tumbling to the ground; but, before he had time
to fire the second barrel, the other ran back into the hole.
"Hit the tree again, George," exclaimed Harry, throwing down his
'coon, and bringing his gun to his shoulder.
"It's no use," said Frank; "they will not come out again, if you pound
on the stump all day."
George, however, did as his brother had requested, but not a squirrel
"Let's cut the tree down," said Archie.
And, suiting the action to the word, he set manfully to work.
A few blows brought off the outside "crust," and the heart of the tree
was found to be decayed, and, in a few moments, it came crashing to
the ground, and was shivered into fragments by the fall.
The boys supposed that there was only one squirrel in the tree, and
were running up to secure him, when, to their surprise, they
discovered a number of the little animals scattering in different
directions, and drawing "bee-lines" for the nearest trees.
Frank killed one with his remaining barrel, and Harry, by an excellent
shot, brought down another that had climbed up into the top of a tall
oak, and was endeavoring to hide among the leaves. Brave and Sport
both started after the same one, and overtook and killed it before it
could reach a tree; but the grayhound came very near losing his. As
soon as the stump had fallen, he singled out one of the squirrels,
and, with two or three of his long bounds, overtook it; but, just as
he was going to seize it, the squirrel dived into a pile of brush, out
of the reach of the hound. A few loud, angry yelps brought Archie and
George to his assistance, and they immediately began to pull the pile
of brush to pieces. Suddenly the squirrel darted out, and started for
a tree that stood about two rods distant. The boys threw their clubs
at him, but he reached the foot of the tree unharmed. At this moment
Lightfoot discovered him; two or three bounds carried him to the tree,
and, crouching a moment, he sprang into the air, and attempted to
seize the squirrel. But he was just a moment too late; the little
animal had ascended out of his reach; but the next moment the sharp
report of Harry's gun brought him to the ground.
The squirrels were now all secured, and the young hunters again turned
their faces homeward.
One cold, stormy night, in the latter part of October, Frank and his
cousin lay snug in bed, listening to the howling of the wind and the
pattering of the rain against the window, and talking over their
plans for the future, when, all at once, Frank sat upright in bed,
and, seizing Archie's arm with a grip that almost wrung from him a cry
of pain, exclaimed,
And the next moment, clear and loud above the noise of the storm, they
heard the trumpet-like notes of a flock of wild geese. They passed
over the house, and the sound grew fainter as they flew rapidly away.
"My eye!" exclaimed Archie, "don't I wish it was daylight, and we
stood out in front of the house, with our guns all ready!"
"That's a nice thing to wish for," answered Frank; "but, if it were
daylight, we should not stand any better chance of shooting them than
we do here in bed."
"What's the reason?"
"Why, in the first place, if they went over at all, they would fly so
high that it would need a rifle to reach them; and, in the next place,
we have not got a rifle. Just wait until morning, and we'll make a
scattering among them, if some one don't get the start of us."
"I suppose we are not the only ones that have heard them."
"Not by a good deal. I shouldn't wonder if there were a dozen fellows
that have made up their minds to have a crack at them in the
And Frank was right. Many a young hunter, as he lay in bed and heard
the wild geese passing over, had determined to have the first shot at
them, and many a gun was taken down, and cleaned and loaded, in
readiness for the morning's hunt.
Wild geese seldom remained longer than two or three days about the
village, and then they generally staid in the swamp. This made it
difficult for the young hunters to get a shot at them, and only the
most active and persevering ever succeeded.
Although for a month the young sportsmen had been expecting them, and
had carefully scanned the river every morning, and listened for the
welcome "honk-honk" that should announce the arrival of the wished-for
game, this was the first flock that had made its appearance.
"I am afraid," said Archie, "that some one will get the start of us.
Let's get up."
"No; lie still and go to sleep," said Frank.
"I am afraid we shall oversleep ourselves. I wonder what time it is."
"I'll soon find out," said Frank.
And, bounding out on to the floor, he lighted a match, and held it up
before the little clock that stood on the mantle-piece.
"It's twelve o'clock," he continued.
And he crawled back into bed, and in a few moments was almost asleep,
when Archie suddenly exclaimed,
"They're coming back!"
And the geese again passed over the house, in full cry.
They knew it was the same flock, because they came from toward the
river, and that was the same direction in which they had gone but a
few moments before.
In a short time they again returned; and, during the quarter of an
hour that followed, they passed over three times more.
"I wonder what is the matter with those geese," said Archie, at
"Nothing," replied Frank; "only they have got a little bewildered, and
don't know which way to go."
"Where will we have to go to find them in the morning?"
"Up to the swamp," answered Frank. "The last time they passed over
they flew toward the north, and the swamp is the only place in that
direction where they can go to find water, except Duck Lake, and that
is too far for them to fly this stormy night."
"I wish it was morning," said Archie, again. "Let's get up."
"What's the use? It will be five long hours before it will be light
enough to hunt them up; and we might as well go to sleep."
"I'm afraid we shall sleep too long," said Archie, again, "and that
some one will beat us."
"No fear of that," answered Frank; "I'll wake you up at three
And he turned over and arranged his pillow, and in a few moments was
fast asleep. But Archie was so excited that he found it difficult even
to lie still; and he lay awake almost two hours, thinking of the sport
they should have in the morning, and at last dropped into an unquiet
It seemed to him that he had hardly closed his eyes, when a strong
hand was laid on his shoulder, and a voice said, in his ear,
"Wake up here; it's three o'clock."
He did not need a second call, but was out on the floor in an instant.
It was still storming. The wind moaned and whistled through the
branches of the trees around the cottage, and sent the big drops of
rain rattling against the window. It was a wild time to go hunting,
and some boys would have preferred tumbling back into bed again. But
Frank and his cousin had made up their minds that if any one got a
shot at the geese, they were to be the ones.
As soon as they were dressed, Frank led the way into the kitchen, and,
while he was lighting a fire, Archie brought out of the pantry a pan
of milk, two spoons and bowls, and a loaf of bread. He was so
impatient to "get a crack at the geese," as he said, that, although he
was very fond of bread and milk, he could scarcely eat at all.
"I'm afraid some one will get the start of us," he exclaimed, noticing
that his cousin, instead of being in a hurry, was taking matters very
"What if they do?" answered Frank, deliberately refilling his bowl
from the pan. "We shall stand just as good a chance as they do. It
will not be daylight these two hours. It's as dark as pitch, and all
we can do is to go up to the swamp, and get under a tree, and wait
until it is light enough to see where our geese are."
As soon as they had finished their breakfast, they brought out their
guns, and began to prepare for the hunt. Extra charges were put in
each barrel; and, while they were drawing on their rubber coats,
"We had better leave my dogs at home, hadn't we? Lightfoot would make
too much noise, and Sport, although he would keep still enough, would
be of no use to us, for he will not go into the water after a wounded
"Yes," said Frank, "we had better leave them behind. But we must have
Brave with us. I'll go and call him."
And he opened the door, and, walking out upon the piazza, which ran
entirely around the cottage, gave a low whistle. There was a slight
rustling among the straw in the kennel where the dogs slept, and Brave
came out, and followed his master into the house.
After wrapping up their guns in their coats, they were ready to set
Half an hour's walk, through mud up to their ankles, brought them to
Uncle Mike's house, which stood at the end of the road, and, climbing
over the fence that inclosed his pasture, they struck off through the
woods toward the lake.
After picking their way for half a mile over fallen logs, and through
wet, tangled bushes, Frank, who was leading the way, suddenly stopped,
and, leaning back against a tree to get out of the rain, said,
"Here we are. Had we better try to cross the creek now, or shall we
wait until daylight?"
"You must have cat's eyes," said Archie, trying to peer through the
darkness. "I knew there was a creek here somewhere, but I didn't
suppose we had reached it yet."
"Well, we have; and, unless I am very much mistaken, you will find the
bridge right before you. Shall we try to cross it now? It will be a
The "bridge" that Frank referred to was simply a large tree that the
boys had felled across the creek, and stripped of its branches. It
could easily be crossed in the day-time, but in a dark, stormy night
it was a difficult task to undertake. The boys could scarcely see
their hands before them; and Frank had accomplished something worth
boasting of in being able to conduct his cousin directly to the
"It will require the skill of a rope-dancer to cross that bridge now,"
said Archie; "and, if we should happen to slip off into the water, we
would be in a nice fix."
"Besides," said Frank, "if we did succeed in crossing, we could not go
far in the dark, on account of the swamp; so, I think, we had better
The boys stood under the tree, talking in low tones, when Frank
"We're all right. The geese are in the lake. Do you hear that?"
Archie listened, and heard a splashing in the water, mingled with the
hoarse notes of the gander.
"I wish it was daylight," said he, impatiently.
"Don't be in a hurry," said Frank; "there's time enough."
"I'm afraid they will start off as soon as it gets light."
"Oh, no; the lake is a good feeding-ground, and they would stay,
perhaps, all day, if they were not disturbed."
In about an hour the day began to dawn; and, as soon as objects on the
opposite side of the creek could be discerned, Frank led the way
across the bridge. A short run through the woods brought them to the
Now the hunt began in earnest. The swamp was covered with water,
which, in some places, was two feet deep; and the trees and bushes
grew so thick, that it was with difficulty that they could work their
way through them. Besides, they were obliged to proceed very
carefully, for every step brought them nearer the game; and the
slightest splashing in the water, or even the snapping of a twig,
might alarm them.
At length they found themselves on the shore of the lake; and, peering
out from behind a thicket, where they had crept for concealment, they
discovered, about half-way to the opposite shore, as fine a flock of
geese as one would wish to see--fifteen of them in all. They were
swimming around, turning their heads first one way and then the other,
as if they had been alarmed.
"It's a long shot, isn't it?" said Archie, measuring the distance with
"Yes," answered his cousin; "but that is not the worst of it; they are
getting further away from us every moment."
"Well," said Archie, cocking his gun, and pushing it carefully through
the bushes, "you be ready to take them as they rise."
As he spoke he took a quick aim at the nearest of the flock, and
pulled the trigger. The cap snapped.
"Plague on the gun!" he exclaimed. "Shall I throw it in the lake!"
"No, no," answered Frank; "try the other barrel; and you had better be
quick about it--they're going to fly."
Archie again raised his gun to his shoulder. This time there was no
mistake. The nearest of the geese received the entire charge, and lay
dead on the water.
Frank now waited for his turn; but the geese, after skimming along the
surface of the water until they were out of gun-shot, rose in the air,
and flew rapidly across the lake.
As the boys stood watching their flight, they saw a cloud of smoke
issue from a clump of bushes on the opposite shore, followed by the
report of a gun, and one of the flock fell to the water, and another,
evidently badly wounded, rose high in the air, and flew wildly about.
Another puff of smoke rose from the bushes, a second report was heard,
and the wounded bird came tumbling into the lake.
The geese, surprised at this sudden repulse, quickly wheeled, and flew
back toward the place where our hunters were stationed.
Frank raised his gun to his shoulder, and, as soon as they came within
range, he pulled the trigger, and brought down two geese--one
stone-dead, and the other with a broken wing. Hardly waiting to see
the effect of the shot, he fired his second barrel at the flock, just
as they were disappearing over the tops of the trees. They had flown
so high, that he hardly expected the shot would prove effective. To
his surprise, one of the flock gradually fell behind, and, after
trying in vain to support itself, fell slowly through the air, until
it almost reached the water; then it seemed to regain the power of
using its wings, and began to fly more regularly.
"Try your gun again, Archie," said Frank; "I'm afraid we are going to
Archie accordingly drew a bead on the goose, but with no better
success, and the bird speedily disappeared over the trees.
"Confound my luck!" exclaimed Archie, impatiently. "I'll try and keep
my powder dry after this."
"He can't fly far," said Frank. "Let's be lively, and we will have
him yet. Here, Brave!" he continued, pointing to the geese in the
lake, "fetch 'em out!"
Brave plunged into the water, and made toward the nearest of the
geese, which happened to be the one Frank had wounded. As soon as the
bird saw him approaching, instead of trying to save himself by flight,
he raised himself in the water, elevated his uninjured wing, and set
up a loud hiss. But these hostile demonstrations, instead of
intimidating the Newfoundlander, served rather to enrage him, and he
kept on, with open mouth, ready to seize the game. The moment he came
within reach, the goose thrust out his long neck, and, catching Brave
by the ear, dealt him a hard blow over the head with his wing. But he
did not have time to repeat it, for the dog gave a loud, angry yelp,
and, springing forward in the water, seized the goose, and killed it
with a single bite; then, turning round, he swam back to the shore,
deposited the game at his master's feet, and again plunged in to bring
out the others.
"I wonder who that is on the other side of the lake?" said Archie.
"I guess it's Bill Johnson," answered Frank, who had reloaded his gun,
and stood holding it in the hollow of his arm. "I saw a dog that
looked very much like his bringing out the geese. There he is now!"
And as he spoke the boy stepped out of the bushes, and a loud, shrill
whistle echoed across the lake.
"That's Bill," said Archie. "Hallo!" he continued, raising his voice
so that William could hear; "wait for us at Uncle Mike's--will you?"
"All right," shouted William, in reply.
And, gathering up his game, he again disappeared in the bushes.
By this time Brave had brought out the last of the geese, and Archie
had succeeded in shooting off the wet charge; so they started back
toward the road.
Frank led the way, carrying three of the geese; Brave followed close
at his heels, carrying the fourth; and Archie brought up the rear,
loading his gun as he went.
An hour's walk brought them to Uncle Mike's, where they found William
sitting on the fence, waiting for them.
"What luck?" inquired Archie, as they came up.
"Only two," answered William; "but you have been more fortunate."
"Yes," said Archie, "we've got four; and Frank wounded another so
badly that he can't fly far. We are going to look for him in the
creek, as we go along."
"And I hope we shall get him," said Frank; "for he was the largest of
the flock, and I want him for our museum."
The boys walked slowly down the creek, keeping a good look-out for the
wounded bird among the reeds along the bank; but they reached the
cottage without seeing any signs of him.
"I'm afraid we've lost him," said Archie.
"I'm sorry," said Frank, "for he was a nice, big fellow. Let's go
back; perhaps we've overlooked him. I am certain that he could not
have flown to the river."
At this moment a slight splashing in the water, on the opposite side
of the creek, attracted their attention, and they discovered their
game swimming slowly about among the reeds, as if trying to find some
place of concealment.
"Now, Archie," said Frank, dropping the butt of his gun to the ground,
"there's a chance for you to retrieve your lost reputation."
"And I'll take advantage of it," said Archie, raising his gun to his
A loud report followed his words, and the goose, after a few slight
struggles, lay motionless on the water. Brave immediately sprang into
the creek, and, forcing his way among the reeds, seized the bird and
brought it to the shore.
Chapter of Incidents.
The next day had been set apart by Frank and his cousin for a
squirrel-hunt; but the first thing they heard, when they awoke in the
morning, was the pattering of the rain against their bedroom window,
and the hunt was, to use Archie's expression, "up stump." Although
they had been expecting exciting times, bringing down the squirrels
(for the woods were fairly alive with them), and were a good deal
disappointed at being obliged to postpone their intended excursion,
they were not the ones to complain, they knew there would be many
pleasant days before the winter set in, and the hunt was put off
They were at no loss to know how to pass the day. There was plenty of
work to be done: their traps must be overhauled and put in working
order; the Speedwell was waiting to be dismasted and put cover; their
fishing-tackle must be oiled and packed away, their pets taken care
of and provided with winter-quarters; and there was a host of other
things to attend to; and they were in no fear that the time would hang
heavily on their hands.
As soon as the boys were dressed, they went into the shop and set
manfully to work. Archie kindled a fire in the stove--for it was a
cold, unpleasant day--and Frank pulled from under the work-bench a
large chest, filled with spring-traps, "dead-falls," broken reels,
scraps of lead, and numberless other things he had collected, and
began to pull over the contents. The traps were taken out and
subjected to a thorough rubbing and greasing.
While thus engaged, their attention was attracted by the peculiar
"cawing" of a crow that flew over the shop, and, a moment afterward, a
whole chorus of the harsh notes sounded in the direction of the woods.
The boys hurried to the door, and saw a multitude of crows pouring
from every part of the woods, cawing with all their might, and
directing their course toward a large pine-tree, which stood in the
meadow back of the orchard, and which was already covered with them.
"What's the matter?" inquired Archie.
"They act as if they had discovered an owl," answered Frank.
"Have they? Let's go and shoot him."
"That will, probably, be a harder job than you anticipate," said
Frank. "However, we will try."
After shutting the dogs up in the shop, the boys ran into the house,
drew on their rubber coats, and started through the orchard, loading
their guns as they went--putting an extra charge of powder and a
couple of buck-shot into each barrel.
In a few moments they reached the fence that ran between the orchard
and the meadow, and Archie inquired,
"What shall we do now?"
"We can't go much further," said Frank, drawing a flap of his coat
over his gun, to protect it from the rain. "There isn't a stump, or
even a tuft of grass, in the meadow large enough to cover us. Besides,
if we undertake to climb over the fence, every crow will be out of
sight in a moment; then good-by, owl."
"He wouldn't fly off, would he?"
"I should say he would," answered Frank, with a laugh. "He'd leave
like a streak of lightning."
"That's news to me. I always thought owls couldn't see in the
day-time. Natural history says so."
"I know it," said Frank. "But there is one thing certain: they must be
able to see a little, or else their sense of smell or hearing is very
acute for it is very difficult to get a shot at them, even in the
day-time. That one in our museum led me a chase of half a day before I
shot him, and I had a rifle, too."
"What is to be done now?" inquired Archie. "We don't want to stand
here in the rain much longer."
"We must wait until he flies into the woods, or somewhere else, so
that we can get a shot at him."
"I can make him fly. I've killed squirrels further off than that, many
a time. Suppose I shoot at him?"
"Shoot away; but you must remember that an owl and a squirrel are two
different things. The thick feathers of the owl will glance a charge
of shot that would blow a squirrel to pieces."
Archie made no reply, but crawled up behind a thick cluster of
currant-bushes that grew close by the fence, and, thrusting his gun
between the branches, was settling himself into a comfortable
position, when the owl suddenly leaped from his perch, and flew off
toward the woods, as Frank had said he would, "like a streak of
lightning," followed by the whole flock of his tormentors, which
screamed with all their might.
"Now's our time," said Frank. "Come on!"
And, clearing the fence at a bound, he started across the meadow at
the top of his speed. Archie followed close at his heels, and a few
minutes run brought them to the edge of the woods.
"Now the hunt begins in earnest," said Frank, "We must separate; we
shall make too much noise if we go together."
"Where's the owl?" inquired Archie.
"As near as I can guess, he must be in that tall hemlock," answered
Frank, pointing through the woods toward the tree in question.
Archie immediately moved cautiously off in the direction indicated,
leaving his cousin to take care if himself.
Guided by the noise made by the crows, he soon discovered the owl, not
where Frank had supposed him to be, but on a tree that stood to the
right, and several rods further off. Placing a large tree between
himself and the game, he threw himself on his hands and knees, and
crawled along as silently as possible, taking good care to keep out of
sight of the crows.
He had arrived almost within range of the owl, when he found before
him a spot of considerable extent, which was entirely destitute of
bushes or large trees, and covered only with saplings, which grew so
thinly that he would certainly be discovered if he attempted to pass
through them. This brought him to a stand-still. He stood thinking
whether he had better risk a shot at the owl or retrace his steps,
when one of the crews uttered a cry of warning, which was immediately
answered by the others, and the whole flock was out of sight in an
instant. The owl gazed around a moment with his great eyes, then
spread his wings, leaped into the air, and was flying rapidly away,
when there was a sharp report, and he came tumbling to the ground, and
the indefatigable Frank rose from the bushes, and ran forward to
secure his prize.
"Dished again!" said Archie, to himself. "I would have wagered a good
deal that Frank was not within gun-shot."
"I say, Archie, where are you?" called out Frank.
"Here I am. I thought, sure, that owl was mine."
And Archie came forward, holding his gun in the hollow of his arm, and
looking a little crest-fallen.
"You were not far behind," said Frank, laughing.
"That's poor consolation. I wanted to be first. Never mind," he added,
catching up the owl, and throwing it over his shoulder, "I'll be ahead
of you yet."
This generous rivalry had existed between the cousins from their
earliest boyhood. In all athletic sports--such as running,
ball-playing, swimming, and the like--Archie was acknowledged to be
the superior; but in hunting Frank generally carried off the palm.
Archie, however, perseveringly kept up the contest, and endeavored to
accomplish, by bold and rapid movements, what his cousin gained by
strategy; and, although he sometimes bore off the prize, he more
frequently succeeded in "knocking every thing in the head" by what the
boys called his "carelessness."
This was the source of a great deal of merriment between the cousins;
and, although they sometimes felt a little mortified at their defeat
(as did Archie now), they ever afterward spoke of it as a "good joke."
After breakfast the boys went into the shop again, and Frank sharpened
his knife, and began to remove the skin of the owl, intending to stuff
it and place it in the museum, while Archie took his ax and started
for a grove of willows, that grew on the banks of the creek, to get
some timber to make a dead-fall trap. He had been gone scarcely a
moment before he returned in a great hurry, and, throwing down his ax,
seized his gun, which stood in the corner behind the door, exclaiming,
"Now I've got a chance to make up for losing that owl. A flock of
ducks, regular canvas-backs, have just flown over, and I think they
lit in the swamp. You'll have to make tracks to get the start of me
And he shouldered his gun, and ran out of the shop, banging the door
Frank immediately dropped the owl, caught up his gun, and started in
hot pursuit. But his cousin had made the most of his time, and, when
Frank reached the gate, he saw Archie far up the road, tearing along
as fast as his legs could carry him, and spattering the mud in every
Under any other circumstances, Frank would have stopped to laugh; but,
as it was, he had no time to lose. So he ran down the bank of the
creek, and, untying his skiff, pushed out into the stream, and a few
strokes of the oars brought him to the opposite shore; then, fastening
the skiff to a tree, he started through the woods, toward the swamp.
This enabled him to gain on his cousin almost half a mile.
But Archie happened to have luck on his side this time; for the ducks,
instead of alighting in the swamp, as he had supposed, had come down
in the creek; and, as he was hurrying along the road, which ran close
to the creek, a slight splashing in the water and a hoarse "quack"
attracted his attention, and caused him to proceed with more caution.
He listened until the noise was repeated, in order that he might know
exactly where the ducks were, and then began to worm his way through
the wet bushes, in the direction of the sound. At length he crawled up
behind a large log, that lay close to the water's edge, and had the
satisfaction of finding the game fairly before him.
But the most difficult part of the undertaking was yet to come. The
ducks--seven of them in all--were fully twenty rods off; and, although
Archie had great confidence in the "shooting qualities" of his gun, he
hardly dared to fire--he might only wound the birds; and, as he had no
ammunition with him besides the loads in his gun, he was anxious to
make every shot tell.
"This won't do," he soliloquized. "I must get up nearer."
He was about to retrace his steps, when he noticed that the ducks
began to move impatiently around, and acted as if about to fly.
In an instant Archie's mind was made up; it was now or never; and,
taking a quick aim at the nearest of the flock, he blazed away. It was
his only chance, and a slim one at that, for the distance was so great
that he hardly expected the shot would take effect; but, when the
smoke cleared away, he discovered one of the flock lying motionless on
the water, and another, too badly wounded to rise, was swimming slowly
around him. The rest of the flock were skimming along the surface of
the creek, toward the swamp. They were far beyond the range of his
gun, and he knew it would do no good to fire at them; so he concluded,
to use his own expression, to "make sure of what he had got," and,
taking aim at the wounded bird, was about to give it the contents of
the other barrel, when he heard the report of a gun some distance
further up the creek, and looked up just in time to see one of the
birds fall into the water.
"Who's that, I wonder," said Archie, to himself. "It can't be Frank,
for he wouldn't be on that side of the creek; besides, I had a good
long start of him."
His soliloquy was cut short by the movements of the flock, which,
instead of continuing on their course up the creek, rose higher in the
air, and flew about in confusion.
This opportunity was not lost by the concealed sportsman, and a second
bird came down with a broken wing. The ducks then wheeled and flew
back toward the place where Archie was stationed. As soon as they came
within range, he fired and brought down another bird, which landed
among the bushes on the opposite side of the creek.
He now turned his attention to the wounded duck, which was swimming in
a circle around his dead companion, as if perfectly bewildered.
"I wish I had my powder-flask and shot-bag," said Archie. "How foolish
I was not to bring them! I bet that I'll never start out again with
only one load in my gun."
But there was no time for regrets. The duck seemed to be recovering
his strength, and began co flap his wings, as if preparing to fly.
Archie began to fear that he should lose him; and, throw down his
gun, he gathered up an armful of sticks and branches, and straightway
opened fire on the bird. The duck dodged the missiles like a flash,
and every now and then renewed his attempts to fly; but, at length, a
heavy piece of root struck him, and stretched him out lifeless on the
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed a strong, cheery voice. "That's what I call
shooting ducks under difficulties."
Archie looked up and saw his cousin standing on the opposite side of
the creek, with his gun on one shoulder and two of the flock slung
over the other.
"I came very near getting the start of you, after all--didn't I?"
"Was that you shooting up there?" inquired Archie.
"Yes; I had almost reached the swamp, when I happened to think that
perhaps the ducks might be in the creek, so I turned back."
"A lucky circumstance for you. But I beat you, after all. I've got
"Where are they? I don't see but two."
"The other is over there in the bushes, somewhere."
Frank immediately commenced looking for it, and Archie procured a long
branch, and waded out as far as possible into the creek, and, after
considerable exertion and a thorough wetting, succeeded in pulling
both of his ducks to the shore.
During the three weeks that followed, the boys passed the time in
various ways--sometimes hunting in the woods or on the river, but more
frequently working in the shop. They also spent considerable time in
attending to their pets. The young otter proved to be the most
interesting little animal they had ever seen. He grew quite tame, and
when the boys entered the room where he was kept, he would come toward
them, uttering a faint whine, and, if they seated themselves, he would
jump up into their laps, and search through their pockets for
something to eat--such as bread or crackers, of which the boys always
took especial care to have a good supply.
At length they began to long for winter, and many were the
speculations as to when the "first fell of snow" would come. Their
traps were all in order, and they were impatient for an opportunity to
make use of them. Besides, they had agreed with George and Harry to
"go fox-hunting the very first time there was snow enough for
A week more passed, and Thanksgiving Day came; and in the evening
Frank and his cousin went down to visit George and Harry, intending,
as they said, to "stay only a few minutes." But Mr. Butler soon came
in, and began to relate some of his "sailor yarns," as he called them
(for he was a retired sea-captain), and the boys became so interested
in listening to them, that they did not notice how rapidly the time
flew by, and it was ten o'clock before they knew it. They then bade
the Captain "good-night." George and Harry, as usual, agreed to
accompany them part of the way, and, when they reached the door, what
was their surprise to find the ground white with snow, and the air
filled with the rapidly-falling flakes.
"We'll have that fox-hunt to-morrow," exclaimed Harry, in delight.
"Of course we will," said Archie, "and I wouldn't take ten dollars for
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