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´╗┐Title: Frank, the Young Naturalist
Author: Castlemon, Harry, [pseud.], 1842-1915
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Frank, the Young Naturalist" ***

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FRANK AND ARCHIE SERIES

       *       *       *       *       *



FRANK
THE YOUNG NATURALIST

BY

HARRY CASTLEMON,

AUTHOR OF "THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES,"
"THE GO-AHEAD SERIES," ETC.

1892

[Illustration]

THE GUN-BOAT SERIES.

    FRANK, THE YOUNG NATURALIST,
    FRANK ON A GUN-BOAT,
    FRANK IN THE WOODS,
    FRANK ON THE PRAIRIE,
    FRANK BEFORE VICKSBURG,
    FRANK ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.



    CONTENTS.

    CHAPTER I.
    THE HOME OF THE YOUNG NATURALIST

    CHAPTER II.
    AN UGLY CUSTOMER

    CHAPTER III.
    THE MUSEUM

    CHAPTER IV.
    A RACE ON THE WATER

    CHAPTER V.
    A FISHING EXCURSION

    CHAPTER VI.
    THE REGULATORS

    CHAPTER VII.
    THE REVENGE

    CHAPTER VIII.
    HOW TO SPEND THE "FOURTH"

    CHAPTER IX.
    THE COAST-GUARDS OUTWITTED

    CHAPTER X.
    A QUEER COURSE

    CHAPTER XI.
    TROUT-FISHING

    CHAPTER XII.
    A DUCK-HUNT ON THE WATER

    CHAPTER XIII.
    A 'COON-HUNT

    CHAPTER XIV.
    BILL LAWSON'S REVENGE

    CHAPTER XV.
    WILD GEESE

    CHAPTER XVI.
    A CHAPTER OF INCIDENTS

    CHAPTER XVII.
    THE GRAYHOUND OUTGENERALED



FRANK, THE YOUNG NATURALIST.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER I.

THE HOME OF THE YOUNG NATURALIST.


About one hundred miles north of Augusta, the Capital of Maine, the
little village of Lawrence is situated. A range of high hills skirts
its western side, and stretches away to the north as far as the eye
can reach; while before the village, toward the east, flows the
Kennebec River.

Near the base of the hills a beautiful stream, known as Glen's Creek,
has its source; and, after winding through the adjacent meadows, and
reaching almost around the village, finally empties into the Kennebec.
Its waters are deep and clear, and flow over a rough, gravelly bed,
and under high banks, and through many a little nook where the perch
and sunfish love to hide. This creek, about half a mile from its
mouth, branches off, forming two streams, the smaller of which flows
south, parallel with the river for a short distance, and finally
empties into it. This stream is known as Ducks' Creek, and it is very
appropriately named; for, although it is but a short distance from the
village, every autumn, and until late in the spring, its waters are
fairly alive with wild ducks, which find secure retreats among the
high bushes and reeds which line its banks. The island formed by these
two creeks is called Reynard's Island, from the fact that for several
years a sly old fox had held possession of it in spite of the efforts
of the village boys to capture him. The island contains, perhaps,
twenty-five acres, and is thickly covered with hickory-trees; and
there is an annual strife between the village boys and the squirrels,
to see which can gather the greater quantity of nuts.

Directly opposite the village, near the middle of the river, is
another island, called Strawberry Island, from the great quantity of
that fruit which it produces.

The fishing-grounds about the village are excellent. The river affords
great numbers of perch, black bass, pike, and muscalonge; and the
numberless little streams that intersect the country fairly swarm with
trout, and the woods abound in game. This attracts sportsmen from
other places; and the _Julia Burton_, the little steamer that plies up
and down the river, frequently brings large parties of amateur
hunters and fishermen, who sometimes spend months enjoying the rare
sport.

It was on the banks of Glen's Creek, about half a mile from the
village, in a neat little cottage that stood back from the road, and
which was almost concealed by the thick shrubbery and trees that
surrounded it, that FRANK NELSON, the young naturalist, lived. His
father had been a wealthy merchant in the city of Boston; and, after
his death, Mrs. Nelson had removed into the country with her children,
and bought the place of which we are speaking. Frank was a handsome,
high-spirited boy, about sixteen years of age. He was kind,
open-hearted, and generous; and no one in the village had more friends
than he. But his most prominent characteristic was perseverance. He
was a slow thinker, and some, perhaps, at first sight, would have
pronounced him "dull;" but the unyielding application with which he
devoted himself to his studies, or to any thing else he undertook,
overcame all obstacles; and he was further advanced, and his knowledge
was more thorough than that of any other boy of the same age in the
village. He never gave up any thing he undertook because he found it
more difficult than he had expected, or hurried over it in a
"slipshod" manner, for his motto was, "Whatever is worth doing at all,
is worth doing well."

At the time of which we write Frank was just entering upon what he
called a "long vacation." He had attended the high-school of which the
village boasted for nearly eight years, with no intermission but the
vacations, and during this time he had devoted himself with untiring
energy to his studies. He loved his books, and they were his constant
companions. By intense application he succeeded in working his way
into the highest class in school, which was composed of young men much
older than himself, and who looked upon him, not as a fellow-student,
but as a rival, and used every exertion to prevent him from keeping
pace with them. But Frank held his own in spite of their efforts, and
not unfrequently paid them back in their own coin by committing his
lessons more thoroughly than they.

Things went on so for a considerable time. Frank, whose highest
ambition was to be called the best scholar in his class, kept steadily
gaining ground, and one by one the rival students were overtaken and
distanced. But Frank had some smart scholars matched against him, and
he knew that the desired reputation was not to be obtained without a
fierce struggle; and every moment, both in and out of school, was
devoted to study.

He had formerly been passionately fond of rural sports, hunting and
fishing, but now his fine double-barrel gun, which he had always taken
especial care to keep in the best possible "shooting order," hung in
its accustomed place, all covered with dust. His fishing-rod and
basket were in the same condition; and Bravo, his fine hunting-dog,
which was very much averse to a life of inactivity, made use of his
most eloquent whines in vain.

At last Frank's health began to fail rapidly. His mother was the first
to notice it, and at the suggestion of her brother, who lived in
Portland, she decided to take Frank out of school for at least one
year, and allow him but two hours each day for study. Perhaps some of
our young readers would have been very much pleased at the thought of
so long a respite from the tiresome duties of school; but it was a
severe blow to Frank. A few more months, he was confident, would have
carried him ahead of all competitors. But he always submitted to his
mother's requirements, no matter how much at variance with his own
wishes, without murmuring; and when the spring term was ended he took
his books under his arm, and bade a sorrowful farewell to his
much-loved school-room.

It is June, and as Frank has been out of school almost two months,
things begin to wear their old, accustomed look again. The young
naturalist's home, as his schoolmates were accustomed to say, is a
"regular curiosity shop." Perhaps, reader, if we take a stroll about
the premises, we can find something to interest us.

Frank's room, which he called his "study," is in the south wing of the
cottage. It has two windows, one looking out toward the road, and the
other covered with a thick blind of climbing roses, which almost shut
out the light. A bookcase stands beside one of the windows, and if you
were to judge from the books it contained, you would pronounce Frank
quite a literary character. The two upper shelves are occupied by
miscellaneous books, such as Cooper's novels, Shakspeare's works, and
the like. On the next two shelves stand Frank's choicest
books--natural histories; there are sixteen large volumes, and he
knows them almost by heart. The drawers in the lower part of the case
are filled on one side with writing materials, and on the other with
old compositions, essays, and orations, some of which exhibit a power
of imagination and a knowledge of language hardly to be expected in a
boy of Frank's age. On the top of the case, at either end, stand the
busts of Clay and Webster, and between them are two relics of
Revolutionary times, a sword and musket crossed, with the words
"Bunker Hill" printed on a slip of paper fastened to them. On the
opposite side of the room stands a bureau, the drawers of which are
filled with clothing, and on the top are placed two beautiful
specimens of Frank's handiwork. One is a model of a "fore-and-aft"
schooner, with whose rigging or hull the most particular tar could not
find fault. The other represents a "scene at sea." It is inclosed in a
box about two feet long and a foot and a half in hight. One side of
the box is glass, and through it can be seen two miniature vessels.
The craft in the foreground would be known among sailors as a "Jack."
She is neither a brig nor a bark, but rather a combination of both.
She is armed, and the cannon can be seen protruding from her
port-holes. Every sail is set, and she seems to be making great
exertion to escape from the other vessel, which is following close in
her wake. The flag which floats at her peak, bearing the sign of the
"skull and cross-bones," explains it all: the "Jack" is a pirate; and
you could easily tell by the long, low, black hull, and tall, raking
masts that her pursuer is a revenue cutter. The bottom of the box, to
which the little vessels are fastened in such a manner that they
appear to "heel" under the pressure of their canvas, is cut out in
little hollows, and painted blue, with white caps, to resemble the
waves of the ocean; while a thick, black thunder-cloud, which is
painted on the sides of the box, and appears to be rising rapidly,
with the lightning playing around its ragged edges, adds greatly to
the effect of the scene.

At the north end of the room stands a case similar to the one in which
Frank keeps his books, only it is nearly twice as large. It is filled
with stuffed "specimens"--birds, nearly two hundred in number. There
are bald eagles, owls, sparrows, hawks, cranes, crows, a number of
different species of ducks, and other water-fowl; in short, almost
every variety of the feathered creation that inhabited the woods
around Lawrence is here represented.

At the other end of the room stands a bed concealed by curtains.
Before it is a finely carved wash-stand, on which are a pitcher and
bowl, and a towel nicely folded lies beside them. In the corner, at
the foot of the bed, is what Frank called his "sporting cabinet." A
frame has been erected by placing two posts against the wall, about
four feet apart; and three braces, pieces of board about six inches
wide, and long enough to reach from one post to the other, are
fastened securely to them. On the upper brace a fine jointed
fish-pole, such as is used in "heavy" fishing, protected by a neat,
strong bag of drilling, rests on hooks which have been driven securely
into the frame; and from another hook close by hangs a large
fish-basket which Frank, who is a capital fisherman, has often brought
in filled with the captured denizens of the river or some favorite
trout-stream. On the next lower brace hang a powder-flask and
shot-pouch and a double-barrel shot-gun, the latter protected from the
damp and dust by a thick, strong covering. On the lower brace hang the
clothes the young naturalist always wears when he goes hunting or
fishing--a pair of sheep's-gray pantaloons, which will resist water
and dirt to the last extremity, a pair of long boots, a blue
flannel-shirt, such as is generally worn by the sailors, and an
India-rubber coat and cap for rainy weather. A shelf has been fastened
over the frame, and on this stands a tin box, which Frank calls his
"fishing-box." It is divided into apartments, which are filled with
fish-hooks, sinkers, bobbers, artificial flies, spoon-hooks, reels,
and other tackle, all kept in the nicest order.

Frank had one sister, but no brothers. Her name was Julia. She was ten
years of age; and no boy ever had a lovelier sister. Like her brother,
she was unyielding in perseverance, but kind and trusting in
disposition, willing to be told her faults that she might correct
them. Mrs. Nelson was a woman of good, sound sense; always required
implicit obedience of her children; never flattered them, nor allowed
others to do so if she could prevent it. The only other inmate of the
house was Aunt Hannah, as the children called her. She had formerly
been a slave in Virginia, and, after years of toil, had succeeded in
laying by sufficient money to purchase her freedom. We have already
spoken of Frank's dog; but were we to allow the matter to drop here it
would be a mortal offense in the eyes of the young naturalist, for
Bravo held a very prominent position in his affections. He was a
pure-blooded Newfoundland, black as jet, very active and courageous,
and there was nothing in the hunting line that he did not understand;
and it was a well-established saying among the young Nimrods of the
village, that Frank, with Bravo's assistance, could kill more
squirrels in any given time than any three boys in Lawrence.



CHAPTER II.

An Ugly Customer.


Directly behind the cottage stands a long, low, neatly constructed
building, which is divided by partitions into three rooms, of which
one is used as a wood-shed, another for a carpenter's shop, and the
third is what Frank calls his "museum." It contains stuffed birds and
animals, souvenirs of many a well-contested fight. Let us go and
examine them. About the middle of the building is the door which leads
into the museum, and, as you enter, the first object that catches your
eye is a large wild-cat, crouched on a stand which is elevated about
four feet above the floor, his back arched, every hair in his body
sticking toward his head, his mouth open, displaying a frightful array
of teeth, his ears laid back close to his head, and his sharp claws
spread out, presenting altogether a savage appearance; and you are
glad that you see him dead and stuffed, and not alive and running at
liberty in the forest in the full possession of strength. But the
young naturalist once stood face to face with this ugly customer under
very different circumstances.

About forty miles north of Lawrence lives an old man named Joseph
Lewis. He owns about five hundred acres of land, and in summer he
"farms it" very industriously; but as soon as the trapping season
approaches he leaves his property to the care of his hired men, and
spends most of the time in the woods. About two-thirds of his farm is
still in its primeval state, and bears, wild-cats, and panthers abound
in great numbers. The village boys are never more delighted than when
the winter vacation comes, and they can gain the permission of their
parents to spend a fortnight with "Uncle Joe," as they call him.

The old man is always glad to see them, and enlivens the long winter
evenings with many a thrilling story of his early life. During the
winter that had just passed, Frank, in company with his cousin Archie
Winters, of whom more hereafter, paid a visit to Uncle Joe. One cold,
stormy morning, as they sat before a blazing fire, cracking
hickory-nuts, the farmer burst suddenly into the house, which was
built of logs, and contained but one room, and commenced taking down
his rifle.

"What's the matter, Uncle Joe?" inquired Archie.

"Matter!" repeated the farmer; "why, some carnal varmint got into my
sheep-pen last night, and walked off with some of my mutton. Come," he
continued, as he slung on his bullet-pouch, "let's go and shoot him."

Frank and Archie were ready in a few minutes; and, after dropping a
couple of buck-shot into each barrel of their guns, followed the
farmer out to the sheep-pen. It was storming violently, and it was
with great difficulty that they could find the "varmint's" track.
After half an hour's search, however, with the assistance of the
farmer's dogs, they discovered it, and began to follow it up, the dogs
leading the way. But the snow had fallen so deep that it almost
covered the scent, and they frequently found themselves at fault.
After following the track for two hours, the dogs suddenly stopped at
a pile of hemlock-boughs, and began to whine and scratch as if they
had discovered something.

"Wal," said Uncle Joe, dropping his rifle into the hollow of his arm,
"the hounds have found some of the mutton, but the varmint has took
himself safe off."

The boys quickly threw aside the boughs, and in a few moments the
mangled remains of one of the sheep were brought to light. The thief
had probably had more than enough for one meal, and had hidden the
surplus carefully away, intending, no doubt, to return and make a
meal of it when food was not quite so plenty.

"Wal, boys," said the farmer, "no use to try to foller the varmint any
further. Put the sheep back where you found it, and this afternoon you
can take one of your traps and set it so that you can ketch him when
he comes back for what he has left." So saying, he shouldered his
rifle and walked off, followed by his hounds.

In a few moments the boys had placed every thing as they had found it
as nearly as possible, and hurried on after the farmer.

That afternoon, after disposing of an excellent dinner, Frank and
Archie started into the woods to set a trap for the thief. They took
with them a large wolf-trap, weighing about thirty pounds. It was a
"savage thing," as Uncle Joe said, with a powerful spring on each
side, which severely taxed their united strength in setting it; and
its thick, stout jaws, which came together with a noise like the
report of a gun, were armed with long, sharp teeth; and if a wolf or
panther once got his foot between them, he might as well give up
without a struggle. Instead of their guns, each shouldered an ax.
Frank took possession of the trap, and Archie carried a piece of heavy
chain with which to fasten the "clog" to the trap. Half an hour's walk
brought them to the place where the wild-cat had buried his plunder.
After considerable exertion they succeeded in setting the trap, and
placed it in such a manner that it would be impossible for any animal
to get at the sheep without being caught. The chain was them fastened
to the trap, and to this was attached the clog, which was a long,
heavy limb. Trappers, when they wish to take such powerful animals as
the bear or panther, always make use of the clog. They never fasten
the trap to a stationary object. When the animal finds that he is
caught, his first impulse is to run. The clog is not heavy enough to
hold him still, but as he drags it through the woods, it is
continually catching on bushes and frees, and retarding his progress.
But if the animal should find himself unable to move at all, his long,
sharp teeth would be put to immediate use, and he would hobble off on
three feet, leaving the other in the trap.

After adjusting the clog to their satisfaction, they threw a few
handfuls of snow over the trap and chain, and, after bestowing a few
finishing touches, they shouldered their axes and started toward the
house. The next morning, at the first peep of day, Frank and Archie
started for the woods, with their dogs close at their heels. As they
approached the spot where the trap had been placed they held their
guns in readiness, expecting to find the wild-cat secure. But they
were disappointed; every thing was just as they had left it, and
there were no signs of the wild-cat having been about during the
night. Every night and morning for a week they were regular in their
visits to the trap, but not even a twig had been moved. Two weeks more
passed, and during this time they visited the trap but once. At length
the time allotted for their stay at Uncle Joe's expired. On the
evening previous to the day set for their departure, as they sat
before the huge, old-fashioned fireplace, telling stories and eating
nuts. Uncle Joe suddenly inquired, "Boys, did you bring in your trap
that you set for that wild-cat?"

They had not thought of it; they had been hunting nearly every day,
enjoying rare sport, and they had entirely forgotten that they had a
trap to look after.

"We shall be obliged to let it go until to-morrow," said Frank.

And the next morning, as soon as it was light, he was up and dressed,
and shouldering an ax, set out with Brave as a companion, leaving
Archie in a sound sleep. It was very careless in him not to take his
gun--a "regular boy's trick," as Uncle Joe afterward remarked; but it
did not then occur to him that he was acting foolishly; and he trudged
off, whistling merrily. A few moments' rapid walking brought him to
the place where the trap had been set. How he started! There lay the
remains of the sheep all exposed. The snow near it was saturated with
blood, and the trap, clog, and all were gone. What was he to do? He
was armed with an ax, and he knew that with it he could make but a
poor show of resistance against an enraged wild animal; and he knew,
too, that one that could walk off with fifty pounds fast to his leg
would be an ugly customer to handle. He had left Brave some distance
back, digging at a hole in a stump where a mink had taken refuge, and
he had not yet come up. If the Newfoundlander had been by his side he
would have felt comparatively safe. Frank stood for some minutes
undecided how to act. Should he go back to the house and get
assistance? Even if he had concluded to do so he would not have
considered himself a coward; for, attacking a wounded wild-cat in the
woods, with nothing but an ax to depend on, was an undertaking that
would have made a larger and stronger person than Frank hesitate.
Their astonishing activity and strength, and wonderful tenacity of
life, render them antagonists not to be despised. Besides, Frank was
but a boy, and although strong and active for his age, and possessing
a good share of determined courage that sometimes amounted almost to
rashness, it must be confessed that his feelings were not of the most
enviable nature. He had not yet discovered the animal, but he knew
that he could not be a great distance off, for the weight of the trap
and clog would retard him exceedingly; and he judged, from the
appearance of things, that he had not been long in the trap; perhaps,
at that very moment, his glaring eyes were fastened upon him from some
neighboring thicket.

But the young naturalist was not one to hesitate long because there
was difficulty or danger before him. He had made up his mind from the
first to capture that wild-cat if possible, and now the opportunity
was fairly before him. His hand was none of the steadiest as he drew
off his glove and placed his fingers to his lips; and the whistle that
followed was low and tremulous, very much unlike the loud, clear call
with which he was accustomed to let Brave know that he was wanted and
he hardly expected that the dog would hear it. A faint, distant bark,
however, announced that the call had been heard, and in a few moments
Frank heard Brave's long-measured bounds as he dashed through the
bushes; and when the faithful animal came in sight, he felt that he
had a friend that would stand by him to the last extremity. At this
juncture Frank was startled by a loud rattling in the bushes, and the
next moment the wild-cat sprang upon a fallen log, not half a dozen
rods from the place where he was standing, and, growling fiercely,
crouched and lashed his sides with his tail as if about to spring
toward him. The trap hung from one of his hind-legs, but by some means
he had relieved himself of the clog and chain, and he moved as if the
weight of the trap were no inconvenience whatever. The young
naturalist was frightened indeed, but bravely stood his ground, and
clutched his ax desperately. What would he not have given to have had
his trusty double-barrel in his hands! But he was not allowed much
time for reflection. Brave instantly discovered the wild-cat, and
sprang toward him, uttering an angry growl. Frank raised his ax and
rushed forward to his assistance, and cheered on the dog with a voice
which, to save his life, he could not raise above a whisper. The
wild-cat crouched lower along the log, and his actions seemed to
indicate that he intended to show fight. Brave's long, eager bounds
brought him nearer and nearer to his enemy. A moment more and he could
have seized him; but the wild-cat suddenly turned and sprang lightly
into the air, and, catching his claws into a tree that stood full
twenty feet distant, ascended it like a streak of light; and, after
settling himself between two large limbs, glared down upon his foes as
if he were already ashamed of having made a retreat, and had half a
mind to return and give them battle. Brave reached the log just a
moment too late, and finding his enemy fairly out of his reach, he
quietly seated himself at the foot of the tree and waited for Frank to
come up.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed the young naturalist, wiping his forehead
with his coat-sleeve, (for the exciting scene through which he had
just passed had brought the cold sweat from every pore in his body);
"it is a lucky circumstance for you and me, Brave, that the varmint
did not stand and show fight."

Then ordering the dog to "sit down and watch him," the young
naturalist threw down his ax, and started toward the house for his
gun. He was still very much excited, fearful that the wild-cat might
take it into his head to come down and give the dog battle, in which
case he would be certain to escape; for, although Brave was a very
powerful and courageous dog, he could make but a poor show against the
sharp teeth and claws of the wild-cat. The more Frank thought of it,
the more excited he became, and the faster he ran. In a very few
moments he reached the house, and burst into the room where Uncle Joe
and Archie and two or three hired men sat at breakfast. Frank seemed
not to notice them, but made straight across the room toward the place
where his shot-gun hung against the wall, upsetting chairs in his
progress, and creating a great confusion.

"What in tarnation is the matter?" exclaimed the farmer, rising to his
feet.

"I've found the wild-cat," answered Frank, in a scarcely audible
voice.

"What's that?" shouted Archie, springing to his feet, and upsetting
his chair and coffee-cup.

But Frank could not wait to answer. One bound carried him across the
floor and out of the door, and he started across the field at the top
of his speed, dropping a handful of buck-shot into each barrel of his
gun as he went. It was not until Frank had left the house that Archie,
so to speak, came to himself. He had been so astonished at his
cousin's actions and the announcement that he had "found the
wild-cat," that he seemed to be deprived of action. But Frank had not
made a dozen steps from the house before Archie made a dash for his
gun, and occasioned a greater uproar than Frank had done; and, not
stopping to hear the farmer's injunction to "be careful," he darted
out the door, which Frank in his hurry had left open, and started
toward the woods at a rate of speed that would have done credit to a
larger boy than himself. But Frank gained rapidly on him; and when he
reached the tree where the wild-cat had taken refuge, Archie was full
twenty rods behind. He found that the animals had not changed their
positions. The wild-cat was glaring fiercely down upon the dog as if
endeavoring to look him out of countenance; and Brave, seated on his
haunches, with his head turned on one side, and his tongue hanging out
of the side of his mouth, was steadily returning the gaze. Frank took
a favorable position at a little distance from the foot of the tree,
and cocking both barrels, so as to be ready for any emergency, in case
the first should not prove fatal, raised his gun to his shoulder, and
glancing along the clean, brown tube, covered one of the wild-cat's
eyes with the fatal sight, and pressed the trigger. There was a sharp
report, and the animal fell from his perch stone-dead. At this moment
Archie came up. After examining their prize to their satisfaction, the
boys commenced looking around through the bushes to find the clog
which had been detached from the trap. After some moments' search they
discovered it; and Archie unfastened the chain, and shouldering the ax
and guns, he started toward the house. Frank followed after, with the
wild-cat on his shoulder, the trap still hanging to his leg. The skin
was carefully taken off; and when Archie and Frank got home, they
stuffed it, and placed it as we now see it.



CHAPTER III.

The Museum.


Let us now proceed to examine the other objects in the museum. A wide
shelf, elevated about four feet above the floor, extends entirely
around the room, and on this the specimens are mounted. On one side of
the door stands a tall, majestic elk, with his head thrown forward,
and his wide-spreading antlers lowered, as if he meant to dispute our
entrance. On the opposite side is a large black fox, which stands with
one foot raised and his ears thrown forward, as if listening to some
strange sound. This is the same fox which so long held possession of
Reynard's Island; and the young naturalist and his cousin were the
ones who succeeded in capturing him. The next two scenes are what
Frank calls his "masterpieces." The first is a large buck, running for
dear life, closely followed by a pack of gaunt, hungry wolves, five in
number, with their sharp-pointed ears laid back close to their heads,
their tongues hanging out of their mouths, and their lips spotted with
foam The flanks of the buck are dripping with blood from wounds made
by their long teeth. In the next scene the buck is at bay. Almost
tired out, or, perhaps, too closely pressed by his pursuers, he has at
length turned furiously upon them, to sell his life as dearly as
possible. Two of the wolves are lying a little distance off, where
they have been tossed by the powerful buck, one dead, the other
disabled; and the buck's sharp antlers are buried deep in the side of
another, which had attempted to seize him.

Well may Frank be proud of these specimens, for they are admirably
executed. The animals are neatly stuffed, and look so lifelike and the
positions are so natural, that you could almost fancy that you hear
the noise of the scuffle. The next scene represents an owl, which,
while engaged in one of his nocturnal plundering expeditions, has been
overtaken by daylight, and not being able to reach his usual
hiding-place, he has taken refuge in a clump of bushes, where he has
been discovered by a flock of his inveterate enemies, the crows. The
owl sits upon his perch, glaring around with his great eyes, while his
tormentors surround him on all sides, their mouths wide open, as if
reviling their enemy with all their might. The next scene represents a
flock of ducks sporting in the water, and a sly old fox, concealed
behind the trunk of a tree close by, is watching their motions,
evidently with the intention of "bagging" one of them for his supper.
In the next scene he is running off, at full speed, with one of the
ducks thrown over his shoulder; and the others, with their mouths open
as if quacking loudly, are just rising from the water. In the next
scene is a large black wolf, which has just killed a lamb, and
crouches over it with open mouth, as if growling fiercely at something
which is about to interrupt his feast. The next scene represents a
fish-hawk, which has just risen from the lake, with a large trout
struggling in his talons; and just above him is a bald-eagle, with his
wings drawn close to his body, in the act of swooping down upon the
fish-hawk, to rob him of his hard-earned booty. In the next scene a
raccoon is attempting to seize a robin, which he has frightened off
her nest. The thief had crawled out on the limb on which the nest was
placed, intending, no doubt, to make a meal of the bird; but mother
Robin, ever on the watch, had discovered her enemy, and flown off just
in time to escape. The next scene is a large "dead-fall" trap, nicely
set, with the bait placed temptingly within; and before it crouches a
sleek marten, peeping into it as if undecided whether to enter or
not.

All these specimens have been cured and stuffed by Frank and Archie;
and, with the exception of the deer and wolves, they had killed them
all. The latter had been furnished by Archie's father. The boys had
never killed a deer, and he had promised to take them, during the
coming winter with him up into the northern part of the state, where
they would have an opportunity of trying their skill on the noble
game.

But the museum is not the only thing that has given Frank the name of
the "young naturalist." He is passionately fond of pets, and he has a
pole shanty behind the museum, which he keeps well stocked with
animals and birds. In one cage he has a young hawk, which he has just
captured; in another, a couple of squirrels, which have become so tame
that he can allow them to run about the shanty without the least fear
of their attempting to escape. Then he has two raccoons, several
pigeons, kingbirds, quails, two young eagles, and a fox, all
undergoing a thorough system of training. But his favorite pets are a
pair of kingbirds and a crow, which are allowed to run at large all
the time. They do not live on very good terms with each other. In
their wild state they are enemies, and each seems to think the other
has no business about the cottage; and Frank has been the unwilling
witness to many a desperate fight between them, in which the poor
crow always comes off second best. Then, to console himself, he will
fly upon Frank's shoulder, cawing with all his might, as if scolding
him for not lending some assistance. To make amends for his defeat,
Frank gives him a few kernels of corn, and then shows him a hawk
sailing through the air; and Sam, as he calls the crow, is off in an
instant, and, after tormenting the hawk until he reaches the woods, he
will always return.

Not a strange bird is allowed to come about the cottage. The
kingbirds, which have a nest in a tree close by the house, keep a
sharp look-out; and hawks, eagles, crows, and even those of their own
species, all suffer alike. But now and then a spry little wren pays a
visit to the orchard, and then there is sport indeed. The wren is a
great fighting character, continually getting into broils with the
other birds, and he has no notion of being driven off; and, although
the kingbirds, with Sam's assistance, generally succeed in expelling
the intruder, it is only after a hard fight.

Directly opposite the door that opens into the museum is another
entrance, which leads into a room which Frank calls his shop. A
work-bench has been neatly fitted up in one corner, at the end of
which stands a large chest filled with carpenter's tools. On the bench
are several half-finished specimens of Frank's skill--a jointed
fish-pole, two or three finely-shaped hulls, and a miniature frigate,
which he is making for one of his friends. The shop and tools are kept
in the nicest order, and Frank spends every rainy day at his bench.

The young naturalist is also a good sailor, and has the reputation of
understanding the management of a sail-boat as well as any other boy
in the village. He has two boats, which are in the creek, tied to the
wharf in front of the house. One of them is a light skiff, which he
frequently uses in going to and from the village and on his fishing
excursions, and the other is a scow, about twenty feet long and six
feet wide, which he built himself. He calls her the Speedwell. He has
no sail-boat, but he has passed hour after hour trying to conjure up
some plan by which he might be enabled to possess himself of one. Such
a one as he wants, and as most of the village have, would cost fifty
dollars. Already he has laid by half that amount; but how is he to get
the rest? He has begun to grow impatient. The yachting season has just
opened; every day the river is dotted with white sails; trials of
speed between the swiftest sailers come off almost every hour, and he
is obliged to stand and look on, or content himself with rowing around
in his skiff. It is true he has many friends who are always willing to
allow him a seat in their boats, but that does not satisfy him. He has
determined to have a yacht of his own, if there is any honest way for
him to get it. For almost a year he has carefully laid aside every
penny, and but half the necessary sum has been saved. How to get the
remainder is the difficulty. He never asks his mother for money; he is
too independent for that; besides, he has always been taught to rely
on his own resources, and he has made up his mind that, if he can not
_earn_ his boat, he will go without it.

Three or four days after the commencement of our story, Frank might
have been seen, about five o'clock one pleasant morning, seated on the
wharf in front of the house, with Brave at his side. The question how
he should get his boat had been weighing heavily upon his mind, and he
had come to the conclusion that something must be done, and that
speedily.

"Well," he soliloquized, "my chance of getting a sail-boat this season
is rather slim, I'm afraid. But I've made up my mind to have one, and
I won't give it up now. Let me see! I wonder how the Sunbeam [meaning
his skiff] would sail? I mean to try her. No," he added, on second
thought, "she couldn't carry canvas enough to sail with one of the
village yachts. I have it!" he exclaimed at length, springing to his
feet. "The Speedwell! I wonder if I couldn't make a sloop of her. At
any rate, I will get her up into my shop and try it."

Frank, while he was paying a visit to his cousin in Portland, had
witnessed a regatta, in which the Peerless, a large, schooner-rigged
scow, had beaten the swiftest yachts of which the city boasted; and he
saw no reason why his scow could not do the same. The idea was no
sooner conceived than he proceeded to put it into execution. He sprang
up the bank, with Brave close at his heels, and in a few moments
disappeared in the wood-shed. A large wheelbarrow stood in one corner
of the shed, and this Frank pulled from its place, and, after taking
off the sides, wheeled it down to the creek, and placed it on the
beach, a little distance below the wharf. He then untied the
painter--a long rope by which the scow was fastened to the wharf--and
drew the scow down to the place where he had left the wheelbarrow. He
stood for some moments holding the end of the painter in his hand, and
thinking how he should go to work to get the scow, which was very
heavy and unwieldy, upon the wheelbarrow. But Frank was a true Yankee,
and fruitful in expedients, and he soon hit upon a plan, which he was
about putting into execution, when a strong, cheery voice called out:

"Arrah, me boy! What'll yer be after doing with the boat?"

Frank looked up and saw Uncle Mike, as the boys called him--a
good-natured Irishman, who lived in a small rustic cottage not far
from Mrs. Nelson's--coming down the bank.

"Good morning, Uncle Mike," said Frank, politely accepting the
Irishman's proffered hand and shaking it cordially. "I want to get
this scow up to my shop; but I'm afraid it is a little too heavy for
me to manage."

"So it is, intirely," said Mike, as he divested himself of his coat,
and commenced rolling up his shirt-sleeves. "Allow me to lend yer a
helpin' hand." And, taking the painter from Frank's hand, he drew the
scow out of the water, high upon the bank. He then placed his strong
arms under one side of the boat, and Frank took hold of the other,
and, lifting together, they raised it from the ground, and placed it
upon the wheelbarrow. "Now, Master Frank," said Mike, "if you will
take hold and steady her, I'll wheel her up to the shop for you."

Frank accordingly placed his hands upon the boat in such a manner that
he could keep her steady and assist Mike at the same time; and the
latter, taking hold of the "handles," as he termed them, commenced
wheeling her up the bank. The load was heavy, but Mike was a sturdy
fellow, and the scow was soon at the door of the shop. Frank then
placed several sticks of round wood, which he had brought out of the
wood-shed, upon the ground, about three feet apart, to serve as
rollers, and, by their united efforts, the Speedwell was placed upon
her side on these rollers, and in a few moments was left bottom upward
on the floor of the shop.



CHAPTER IV.

A Race on the Water.


A week passed, and the Speedwell again rode proudly at her moorings,
in front of the cottage; but her appearance was greatly changed. A
"center-board" and several handy lockers had been neatly fitted up in
her, and her long, low hull painted black on the outside and white on
the inside; and her tall, raking mast and faultless rigging gave her
quite a ship-like appearance.

Frank had just been putting on a few finishing touches, and now stood
on the wharf admiring her. It was almost night, and consequently he
could not try her sailing qualities that day; and he was so impatient
to discover whether or not he had made a failure, that it seemed
impossible for him to wait.

While he was thus engaged, he heard the splashing of oars, and,
looking up, discovered two boys rowing toward him in a light skiff As
they approached, he recognized George and Harry Butler, two of his
most intimate acquaintances. They were brothers, and lived about a
quarter of a mile from Mrs. Nelson's, but they and Frank were together
almost all the time. Harry, who was about a year older than Frank, was
a very impulsive fellow, and in a moment of excitement often said and
did things for which he felt sorry when he had time to think the
matter over; but he was generous and good-hearted, and if he found
that he had wronged any one, he never failed to make ample reparation.
George, who was just Frank's age, was a jolly, good-natured boy, and
would suffer almost any indignity rather than retaliate.

"Well, Frank," said Harry, as soon as they came within speaking
distance, "George and I wanted a little exercise, so we thought we
would row up and see what had become of you. Why don't you come down
and see a fellow? Hallo!" he exclaimed, on noticing the change in the
Speedwell's appearance, "what have you been trying to do with your old
scow?"

"Why, don't you see?" said Frank. "I've been trying to make a yacht
out of her."

"How does she sail?" inquired George.

"I don't know. I have just finished her, and have not had time to try
her sailing qualities yet."

"I don't believe she will sail worth a row of pins," said Harry,
confidently, as he drew the skiff alongside the Speedwell, and climbed
over into her. "But I'll tell you what it is," he continued, peeping
into the lockers and examining the rigging, "you must have had plenty
of hard work to do in fixing her over. You have really made a nice
boat out of her."

"Yes, I call it a first-rate job," said George. "Did you make the
sails yourself, Frank?"

"Yes," answered Frank. "I did all the work on her. She ought to be a
good sailer, after all the trouble I've had. How would you like to
spend an hour with me on the river to-morrow? You will then have an
opportunity to judge for yourself."

The boys readily agreed to this proposal, and, after a few moments'
more conversation, they got into their skiff and pulled down the
creek. The next morning, about four o'clock, Frank awoke, and he had
hardly opened his eyes before he was out on the floor and dressing. He
always rose at this hour, both summer and winter; and he had been so
long in the habit of it, that it had become a kind of second nature
with him. Going to the window, he drew aside the curtain and looked
out. The Speedwell rode safely at the wharf, gallantly mounting the
swells which were raised by quite a stiff breeze that was blowing
directly down the creek. He amused himself for about two hours in his
shop; and after he had eaten his breakfast, he began to get ready to
start on the proposed excursion. A large basket, filled with
refreshments, was carefully stowed away in one of the lockers of the
Speedwell, the sails were hoisted, the painter was cast off, and Frank
took his seat at the helm, and the boat moved from the shore "like a
thing of life." The creek was too narrow to allow of much maneuvering,
and Frank was obliged to forbear judging of her sailing qualities
until he should reach the river. But, to his delight, he soon
discovered one thing, and that was, that before the wind the Speedwell
was no mean sailer. A few moments' run brought him to Mr. Butler's
wharf, where he found George and Harry waiting for him. Frank brought
the Speedwell around close to the place where they were standing in
splendid style, and the boys could not refrain from expressing their
admiration at the handsome manner in which she obeyed her helm. They
clambered down into the boat, and seated themselves on the middle
thwarts, where they could assist Frank in managing the sails, and in a
few moments they reached the river.

"There comes Bill Johnson!" exclaimed George, suddenly, "just behind
the Long Dock."

The boys looked in the direction indicated, and saw the top of the
masts and sails of a boat which was moving slowly along on the other
side of the dock.

"Now, Frank," said Harry, "turn out toward the middle of the river,
and get as far ahead of him as you can, and see if we can't reach the
island [meaning Strawberry Island] before he does."

Frank accordingly turned the Speedwell's head toward the island, and
just at that moment the sail-boat came in sight. The Champion--for
that was her name--was classed among the swiftest sailers about
Lawrence; in fact, there was no sloop that could beat her. She was a
clinker-built boat, about seventeen feet long, and her breadth of
beam--that is, the distance across her from one side to the other--was
great compared with her length. She was rigged like Frank's boat,
having one mast and carrying a mainsail and jib; but as her sails were
considerably larger than those of the Speedwell, and as she was a much
lighter boat, the boys all expected that she would reach the island,
which the young skippers always regarded as "home" in their races,
long before the Speedwell. The Champion was sailed by two boys.
William Johnson, her owner, sat in the stern steering, and Ben. Lake,
a quiet, odd sort of a boy, sat on one of the middle thwarts managing
the sails. As soon as she rounded the lock, Harry Butler sprang to his
feet, and, seizing a small coil of rope that lay in the boat, called
out,

"Bill! if you will catch this line, we'll tow you."

"No, I thank you," answered William. "I think we can get along very
well without any of your help."

"Yes," chimed in Ben. Lake, "and we'll catch you before you are
half-way to the island."

"We'll see about that!" shouted George, in reply.

By this time the Speedwell was fairly before the wind, the sails were
hauled taut, the boys seated themselves on the windward gunwale, and
the race began in earnest. But they soon found that it would be much
longer than they had imagined. Instead of the slow, straining motion
which they had expected, the Speedwell flew through the water like a
duck, mounting every little swell in fine style, and rolling the foam
back from her bow in great masses. She was, beyond a doubt, a fast
sailer.

George and Harry shouted and hurrahed until they were hoarse, and
Frank was so overjoyed that he could scarcely speak.

"How she sails!" exclaimed Harry. "If the Champion beats this, she
will have to go faster than she does now."

Their pursuers were evidently much surprised at this sudden exhibition
of the Speedwell's "sailing qualities;" and William hauled more to the
wind and "crowded" his boat until she stood almost on her side, and
the waves frequently washed into her.

"They will overtake us," said Frank, at length; "but I guess we can
keep ahead of them until we cross the river."

And so it proved. The Champion began to gain--it was very slowly, but
still she did gain--and when the Speedwell had accomplished half the
distance across the river, their pursuers were not more than three or
four rods behind.

At length they reached the island, and, as they rounded the point,
they came to a spot where the wind was broken by the trees. The
Speedwell gradually slackened her headway, and the Champion, which
could sail much faster than she before a light breeze, gained rapidly,
and soon came alongside.

"There is only one fault with your boat, Frank," said William; "her
sails are too small. She can carry twice as much canvas as you have
got on her now."

"Yes," answered Frank, "I find that I have made a mistake; but the
fact is, I did not know how she would behave, and was afraid she would
capsize. My first hard work shall be to make some new sails."

"You showed us a clean pair of heels, any way," said Ben. Lake,
clambering over into the Speedwell. "Why, how nice and handy every
thing is! Every rope is just where you can lay your hand on it."

"Let's go ashore and see how we are off for a crop of strawberries,"
said Harry.

William had pulled down his sails when he came alongside, and while
the conversation was going on the Speedwell had been towing the
Champion toward the island, and, just as Harry spoke, their bows ran
high upon the sand. The boys sprang out, and spent two hours in
roaming over the island in search of strawberries; but it was a little
too early in the season for them, and, although there were "oceans" of
green ones, they gathered hardly a pint of ripe ones.

After they had eaten the refreshments which Frank had brought with
him, they started for home. As the wind blew from the main shore, they
were obliged to "tack," and the Speedwell again showed some fine
sailing, and when the Champion entered the creek, she was not a
stone's throw behind.

Frank reached home that night a good deal elated at his success. After
tying the Speedwell to the wharf, he pulled down the sails and carried
them into his shop. He had promised, before leaving George and Harry,
to meet them at five o'clock the next morning to start on a fishing
excursion, and, consequently, could do nothing toward the new sails
for his boat for two days.



CHAPTER V.

A Fishing Excursion.


Precisely at the time agreed upon, Frank might have been seen sitting
on the wharf in front of Mr. Butler's house. In his hand he carried a
stout, jointed fish-pole, neatly stowed away in a strong bag of
drilling, and under his left arm hung his fish-basket, suspended by a
broad belt, which crossed his breast. In this he carried his hooks,
reels, trolling-lines, dinner, and other things necessary for the
trip. Brave stood quietly by his side, patiently waiting for the word
to start. They were not obliged to wait long, for hasty steps sounded
on the gravel walk that led up to the house, the gate swung open, and
George and Harry appeared, their arms filled with their
fishing-tackle.

"You're on time, I see," said Harry, as he climbed down into a large
skiff that was tied to the wharf, "Give us your fish-pole."

Frank accordingly handed his pole and basket down to Harry, who stowed
them away in the boat. He and George then went into the boat-house,
and one brought out a pair of oars and a sail, which they intended to
use if the wind should be fair, and the other carried two pails of
minnows, which had been caught the night before, to serve as bait.

They then got into the boat, and Frank took one oar and Harry the
other, and Brave stationed himself at his usual place in the bow.
George took the helm, and they began to move swiftly down the creek
toward the river. About a quarter of a mile below the mouth of the
creek was a place, covering half an acre, where the water was about
four feet deep, and the bottom was covered with smooth, flat stones.
This was known as the "black-bass ground," and large numbers of these
fish were caught there every season. George turned the boat's head
toward this place, and, thrusting his hand into his pocket, drew out a
"trolling-line," and, dropping the hook into the water behind the
boat, began to unwind the line. The trolling-hook (such as is
generally used in fishing for black-bass) can be used only in a strong
current, or when the boat is in rapid motion through the water. The
hook is concealed by feathers or a strip of red flannel, and a piece
of shining metal in the shape of a spoon-bowl is fastened to it in
such a manner as to revolve around it when the hook is drawn rapidly
through the water. This is fastened to the end of a long, stout line,
and trailed over the stern of the boat, whose motion keeps it near the
surface. It can be seen for a great distance in the water, and the
fish, mistaking it for their prey, dart forward and seize it.

A few moments' pulling brought them to the bass ground, and George,
holding the stick on which the line had been wound in his hand, waited
impatiently for a "bite." They had hardly entered the ground when
several heavy pulls at the line announced that the bait had been
taken. George jerked in return, and, springing to his feet, commenced
hauling in the line hand over hand, while whatever was at the other
end jerked and pulled in a way that showed that he was unwilling to
approach the surface. The boys ceased rowing, and Frank exclaimed,

"You've got a big one there, George. Don't give him any slack, or
you'll lose him."

"Haul in lively," chimed in Harry. "There he breaches!" he continued,
as the fish--a fine bass, weighing, as near as they could guess, six
pounds--leaped entirely out of the water in his mad efforts to escape.
"I tell you he's a beauty."

Frank took up the "dip-net," which the boys had used in catching the
minnows, and, standing by George's side, waited for him to bring the
fish within reach, so that he might assist in "landing" him. The
struggle was exciting, but short. The bass was very soon exhausted,
and George drew him alongside the boat, in which he was soon safely
deposited under one of the seats.

They rowed around the ground for half an hour, each taking his turn at
the line, and during that time they captured a dozen fish. The bass
then began to stop biting; and Frank, who was at the helm, turned the
boat toward the "perch-bed," which was some distance further down the
river. It was situated at the outer edge of a bank of weeds, which
lined the river on both sides. The weeds sprouted from the bottom in
the spring, and by fall they reached the hight of four or five feet
above the surface of the water. They were then literally swarming with
wild ducks; but at the time of which we write, as it was only the
latter part of June, they had not yet appeared above the water. The
perch-bed was soon reached, and Harry, who was pulling the bow-oar,
rose to his feet, and, raising the anchor, which was a large stone
fastened to the boat by a long, stout rope, lifted it over the side,
and let it down carefully into the water. The boat swung around until
her bow pointed up stream, and the boys found themselves in the right
spot to enjoy a good day's sport.

Frank, who was always foremost in such matters, had his pole rigged
in a trice, and, baiting his hook with one of the minnows, dropped it
into the water just outside of the weeds. Half a dozen hungry perch
instantly rose to the surface, and one of them, weighing nearly a
pound, seized the bait and darted off with it, and the next moment was
dangling through the air toward the boat.

"That's a good-sized fish," said Harry, as he fastened his reel on his
pole.

"Yes," answered Frank, taking his prize off the hook and throwing it
into the boat; "and we shall have fine sport for a little while."

"But they will stop biting when the sun gets a little warmer; so we
had better make the most of our time," observed George.

By this time the other boys had rigged their poles, and soon two more
large perch lay floundering in the boat. For almost two hours they
enjoyed fine sport, as Frank had said they would, and they were too
much engaged to think of being hungry. But soon the fish began to stop
biting, and Harry, who had waited impatiently for almost five minutes
for a "nibble," drew up his line and opened a locker in the stern of
the boat, and, taking out a basket containing their dinner, was about
to make an inroad on its contents, when he discovered a boat, rowed by
a boy about his own age, shoot rapidly around a point that extended
for a considerable distance out into the river, and turn toward the
spot where they were anchored.

"Boys," he exclaimed, "here comes Charley Morgan!"

"Charley Morgan," repeated Frank. "Who is he?"

"Why, he is the new-comer," answered George. "He lives in the large
brick house on the hill."

Charley Morgan had formerly lived in New York. His father was a
speculator, and was looked upon by some as a wealthy man; but it was
hinted by those who knew him best that if his debts were all paid he
would have but little ready money left. Be that as it may, Mr. Morgan
and his family, at any rate, lived in style, and seemed desirous of
outshining all their neighbors and acquaintances. Becoming weary of
city life, they had decided to move into the country, and, purchasing
a fine village lot in Lawrence, commenced building a house upon it.
Although the village could boast of many fine dwellings, the one on
Tower Hill, owned by Mr. Morgan, surpassed them all, and, as is always
the case in such places, every one was eager to discover who was to
occupy the elegant mansion. When the house was completed, Mr. Morgan
returned to New York to bring on his family, leaving three or four
"servants," as he called them, to look after his affairs; and the
Julia Burton landed at the wharf, one pleasant morning, a splendid
open carriage, drawn by a span of jet-black horses. The carriage
contained Mr. Morgan and his family, consisting of his wife and one
son--the latter about seventeen years old. At the time of his
introduction to the reader they had been in the village about a week.
Charles, by his haughty, overbearing manner, had already driven away
from him the most sensible of the village boys who had become
acquainted with him; but there are those every-where who seem, by some
strange fatality, to choose the most unworthy of their acquaintances
for their associates; and there were several boys in Lawrence who
looked upon Charles as a first-rate fellow and a very desirable
companion.

George and Harry, although they had frequently seen the "new-comer,"
had not had an opportunity to get acquainted with him; and Frank who,
as we have said, lived in the outskirts of the village, and who had
been very busy at work for the last week on his boat, had not seen him
at all.

"What sort of a boy is he?" inquired the latter, continuing the
conversation which we have so unceremoniously broken off.

"I don't know," replied Harry. "Some of the boys like him, but Ben.
Lake says he's the biggest rascal in the village. He's got two or
three guns, half a dozen fish-poles, and, by what I hear the boys
say, he must be a capital sportsman. But he tells the most ridiculous
stories about what he has done."

By this time Charles had almost reached them, and, when he came
alongside, he rested on his oars and called out,

"Well, boys, how many fish have you caught?"

"So many," answered George, holding up the string, which contained
over a hundred perch and black-bass. "Have you caught any thing?"

"Not much to brag of," answered Charles; "I hooked up a few little
perch just behind the point. But that is a tip-top string of yours."

"Yes, pretty fair," answered Harry. "You see we know where to go."

"That does make some difference," said Charles. "But as soon as I know
the good places, I'll show you how to catch fish."

"We will show you the good fishing-grounds any time," said George.

"Oh, I don't want any of your help. I can tell by the looks of a place
whether there are any fish to be caught or not. But you ought to see
the fishing-grounds we have in New York," he continued. "Why, many a
time I've caught three hundred in less than half an hour, and some of
them would weigh ten pounds."

"Did you catch them with a hook and line?" inquired George.

"Of course I did! What else should I catch them with? I should like to
see one of you trying to handle a ten or fifteen-pound fish with
nothing but a trout-pole."

"Could you do it?" inquired Harry, struggling hard to suppress a
laugh.

"Do it? I _have_ done it many a time. But is there any hunting around
here?"

"Plenty of it."

"Well," continued Charles, "I walked all over the woods this morning,
and couldn't find any thing."

"It is not the season for hunting now," said George; "but in the fall
there are lots of ducks, pigeons, squirrels, and turkeys, and in the
winter the woods are full of minks, and now and then a bear or deer;
and the swamps are just the places to kill muskrats."

"I'd just like to go hunting with some of you. I'll bet I can kill
more game in a day than any one in the village."

The boys made no reply to this confident assertion, for the fact was
that they were too full of laughter to trust themselves to speak.

"I'll bet you haven't got any thing in the village that can come up to
this," continued Charles; and as he spoke he raised a light,
beautifully-finished rifle from the bottom of the boat, and held it up
to the admiring gaze of the boys.

"That is a beauty," said Harry, who wished to continue the
conversation as long as possible, in order to hear some more of
Charles's "large stories." "How far will it shoot?"

"It cost me a hundred dollars," answered Charles, "and I've killed
bears and deer with it, many a time, as far as across this river
here."

Charles did not hesitate to say this, for he was talking only to
"simple-minded country boys," as he called them, and he supposed he
could say what he pleased and they would believe it. His auditors, who
before had been hardly able to contain themselves, were now almost
bursting with laughter. Frank and George, however, managed to draw on
a sober face, while Harry turned away his head and stuffed his
handkerchief into his mouth.

"I tell you," continued Charles, not noticing the condition his
hearers were in, "I've seen some pretty tough times in my life. Once,
when I was hunting in the Adirondack Mountains, in the northern part
of Michigan, I was attacked by Indians, and came very near being
captured, and the way I fought was a caution to white folks. This
little rifle came handy then, I tell you. But I must hurry along now;
I promised to go riding with the old man this afternoon."

And he dipped the oars into the water, and the little boat shot
rapidly up the river. It was well that he took his departure just as
he did, for our three boys could not possibly have contained
themselves a moment longer. They could not wait for him to get out of
sight, but, lying back in the boat, they laughed until the tears
rolled down their cheeks.

"Well, Frank, what do you think of him?" inquired Harry, as soon as he
could speak.

"I think the less we have to do with him the better," answered Frank.

"I did think," said Harry, stopping now and then to indulge in a
hearty fit of laughter, "that there might be some good things about
him; but a boy that can tell such whopping big lies as he told must be
very small potatoes. Only think of catching three hundred fish in less
than half an hour, and with only one hook and line! Why, that would be
ten every minute, and that is as many as two men could manage. And
then for him to talk about that pop-gun of his shooting as far as
across this river!--why, it's a mile and a half--and I know it
wouldn't shoot forty rods, and kill. But the best of all was his
hunting among the Adirondack Mountains, in Michigan, and having to
defend himself against the Indians; that's a good joke."

And Harry laid back in the boat again, and laughed and shouted until
his sides ached.

"He must be a very ungrateful fellow," said Frank, at length. "Didn't
you notice how disrespectfully he spoke of his father? He called him
his 'old man.' If I had a father, I'd never speak so lightly of him."

"Yes, I noticed that," said George. "But," he continued, reaching for
the basket which Harry, after helping himself most bountifully, had
placed on the middle seat, "I'm hungry as blazes, and think I can do
justice to the good things mother has put up for us."

After eating their dinner they got out their fishing-tackle again; but
the perch had stopped biting, and, after waiting patiently for half an
hour without feeling a nibble, they unjointed their poles, drew up the
anchor, and Frank seated himself at the helm, while George and Harry
took the oars and pulled toward home.



CHAPTER VI.

The Regulators


One of the range of hills which extended around the western side of
the village was occupied by several families, known as the "Hillers."
They were ignorant, degraded people, living in miserable hovels, and
obtaining a precarious subsistence by hunting, fishing, and stealing.
With them the villagers rarely, if ever, had intercourse, and
respectable persons seldom crossed their thresholds. The principal man
among the Hillers was known as Bill Powell. He was a giant in strength
and stature, and used to boast that he could visit "any hen-roost in
the village every night in the week, and carry off a dozen chickens
each time, without being nabbed." He was very fond of liquor, too
indolent to work, and spent most of his time, when out of jail, on the
river, fishing, or roaming through the woods with his gun. He had one
son, whose name was Lee, and a smarter boy it was hard to find. He
possessed many good traits of character, but, as they had never been
developed, it was difficult to discover them. He had always lived in
the midst of evil influences, led by the example of a drunken, brutal
father, and surrounded by wicked companions, and it is no wonder that
his youthful aspirations were in the wrong direction.

Lee and his associates, as they were not obliged so attend school, and
were under no parental control, always amused themselves as they saw
it. Most of their time was spent on the river or in the woods, and,
when weary of this sport, the orchards and melon-patches around the
village, although closely guarded, were sure to suffer at their hands;
and they planned and executed their plundering expeditions with so
much skill and cunning, that they were rarely detected.

A day or two after the events related in the preceding chapter
transpired, Charles Morgan, in company with two or three of his chosen
companions, was enjoying a sail on the river. During their
conversation, one of the boys chanced to say something about the
Hillers, and Charles inquired who they were. His companions gave him
the desired information, and ended by denouncing them in the strongest
terms.

Charles, after hearing them through, exclaimed, "I'd just like to
catch one of those boys robbing our orchard or hen-roost. One or the
of us would get a pummeling, sure as shooting."

"Yes," said one of the boys, "but, you see, they do not go alone. If
they did, it would be an easy matter to catch them. But they all go
together, and half of them keep watch, and the rest bag the plunder;
and they move around so still that even the dogs don't hear them."

"I should think you fellows here in the village would take the matter
into your own hands," said Charles.

"What do you mean?" inquired his companions.

"Why don't you club together, and every time you see one of the
Hillers, go to work and thrash him like blazes? I guess, after you had
half-killed two or three of them, they would learn to let things
alone."

"I guess they would, too," said one of the boys.

"Suppose we get up a company of fifteen or twenty fellows," resumed
Charles, "and see how it works. I'll bet my eyes that, after we've
whipped half a dozen of them, they won't dare to show their faces in
the village again."

"That's the way to do it," said one of the boys. "I'll join the
company, for one."

The others readily fell in with Charles's proposal, and they spent
some time talking it over and telling what they intended to do when
they could catch the Hillers, when one of the boys suddenly exclaimed,

"I think, after all, that we shall have some trouble in carrying out
our plans. Although there are plenty of fellows in the village who
would be glad to join the company, there are some who must not know
any thing about it, or the fat will all be in the fire."

"Who are they?" demanded Charles.

"Why, there are Frank Nelson, and George and Harry Butler, and Bill
Johnson, and a dozen others, who could knock the whole thing into a
cocked hat, in less than no time."

"Could they? I'd just like to see them try it on," said Charles, with
a confident air. "They would have a nice time of it. How would they go
to work?"

"I am afraid that, if they saw us going to whip the Hillers, they
would interfere."

"They would, eh? I'd like to see them undertake to hinder us. Can't
twenty fellows whip a dozen?"

"I don't know. Every one calls Frank Nelson and his set the best boys
in the village. They never fight if they can help it; but they are
plaguy smart fellows, I tell you; and, if we once get them aroused, we
shall have a warm time of it, I remember a little circumstance that
happened last winter. We had a fort in the field behind the
school-house, and one night we were out there, snowballing, and I saw
Frank Nelson handle two of the largest boys in his class. There were
about a dozen boys in the fort--and they were the ones that always go
with Frank--and all the rest of the school were against them. The fort
stood on a little hill, and we were almost half an hour capturing it,
and we wouldn't ever have taken it if the wall hadn't been broken
down. We would get almost up to the fort, and they would rush out and
drive us down again. At last we succeeded in getting to the top of the
hill, and our boys began to tumble over the walls, and I hope I may be
shot if they didn't throw us out as fast as we could get in, and--"

"Oh, I don't care any thing about that," interrupted Charles, who
could not bear to hear any one but himself praised. "If I had been
there, I would have run up and thrown _them_ out."

"And you could have done it easy enough," said one of the boys, who
had for some time remained silent.

"Frank Nelson and his set are not such great fellows, after all."

"Of course they ain't," said the other. "They feel big enough; but I
guess, if we get this company we have spoken of started, and they
undertake to interfere with us, we will take them down a peg or two."

"That's the talk!" said Charles. "I never let any one stop me when I
have once made up my mind to do a thing. I would as soon knock Frank
Nelson down as any body else."

By this time the boat, which had been headed toward the shore, entered
the creek, and Charles drew up to the wharf, and, after setting his
companions ashore, and directing them to speak to every one whom they
thought would be willing to join the company, and to no one else, he
drew down the sails, and pulled up the creek toward the place where he
kept his boat.

A week passed, and things went on swimmingly. Thirty boys had enrolled
themselves as members of the Regulators, as the company was called,
and Charles, who had been chosen captain, had carried out his plans so
quietly, that he was confident that no one outside of the company knew
of its existence. Their arrangements had all been completed, and the
Regulators waited only for a favorable opportunity to carry their
plans into execution.

Frank, during this time, had remained at home, working in his garden
or shop, and knew nothing of what was going on.

One afternoon he wrote a letter to his cousin Archie, and, after
supper, set out, with Brave at his heels, to carry it to the
post-office. He stopped on the way for George and Harry Butler, who
were always ready to accompany him. On the steps of the post-office
they met three or four of their companions, and, after a few moments'
conversation, William Johnson suddenly inquired,

"Have you joined the new society, Frank?"

"What society?"

"Why, the Regulators."

"I don't know what you mean," said Frank.

"Yes, I guess they have managed to keep it pretty quiet," said
William. "They don't want any outsiders to know any thing about it.
They asked me to join in with them, but I told them that they ought to
know better than to propose such a thing to me. Then they tried to
make me promise that I wouldn't say any thing about it, but I would
make no such promise, for--"

"Why, Bill, what are you talking about?" inquired Harry. "You rattle
it off as if we knew all about it."

"Haven't you heard any thing about it, either?" inquired William, in
surprise. "I was certain that they would ask you to join. Well, the
amount of it is that Charley Morgan and a lot of his particular
friends have been organizing a company for the purpose of thrashing
the Hillers, and making them stop robbing hen-roosts and orchards and
cutting up such shines."

"Yes," chimed in James Porter, "there are about thirty of them, and
they say that they are going to whip the Hillers out of the village."

"Well, that's news to me," said Frank.

"For my part," said Thomas Benton, "I, of course, know that the
Hillers ought to be punished; but I do not think it is the duty of us
boys to take the law into our own hands."

"Nor I," said James Porter.

"Well, _I_ do," said Harry, who, as we have said, was an impetuous,
fiery fellow, "and I believe I will join the Regulators, and help whip
the rascals out of the country. They ought, every one of them, to be
thrashed for stealing and--"

"Now, see here, Harry," interrupted George. "You know very well that
such a plan will never succeed, and it _ought_ not to. You have been
taught that it is wrong to take things that do not belong to you, but
with the Hillers the case is different; their parents teach them to
steal, and they are obliged to do it."

"Besides," said Frank, "this summary method of correcting them will
not break up their bad habits; kindness will accomplish much more than
force."

"Kindness!" repeated Harry, sneeringly; "as if kindness could have any
effect on a Hiller!"

"They can tell when they are kindly treated as well as any one else,"
said George.

"And another thing," said Ben. Lake; "these Regulators must be a
foolish set of fellows to suppose that the Hillers are going to stand
still and be whipped. I say, as an old sea-captain once said, when it
was proposed to take a man-o'-war with a whale-boat, 'I guess it will
be a puttering job.'"

"Well," said James, "I shall do all I can to prevent a fight."

"So will I," said Frank.

"_I_ won't," said Harry, who, with his arms buried almost to the
elbows in his pockets, was striding backward and forward across the
steps. "I say the Hillers ought to be thrashed."

"I'm afraid," said William, without noticing what Harry had remarked,
"that our interference will be the surest way to bring on a fight;
because, after I refused to join the company, they told me that if any
of us attempted to defend the Hillers, or break up the company, they
would thrash us, too."

"We don't want to break up their company," said Frank, with a laugh.
"We must have a talk with them, and try to show them how unreasonable
they are."

"Here they come, now," said George, pointing up the road.

The boys looked in the direction indicated, and saw the Regulators
just turning the corner of the street that led to Mr. Morgan's house.
They came around in fine order, marching four abreast, and turned up
the street that led to the post-office. They had evidently been well
drilled, for they kept step admirably.

"They look nice, don't they?" said Ben.

"Yes," answered George; "and if they were enlisted in a good cause, I
would off with my hat and give them three cheers."

The Regulators had almost reached the post-office, when they suddenly
set up a loud shout, and, breaking ranks, started on a full run down
the street. The boys saw the reason for this, when they discovered Lee
Powell coming up the road that led from the river, with a large string
of fish in his hand. He always had good luck, but he seemed to have
been more fortunate than usual, for his load was about as heavy as he
could conveniently carry. He walked rapidly along, evidently very much
occupied with his own thoughts, when, suddenly, two or three stones
came skipping over the ground, and aroused him from his reverie. He
looked up in surprise, and discovered that his enemies were so close
to him that flight was useless.

The Regulators drew nearer and nearer, and the stones fell thick about
the object of their wrath, until, finally, one struck him on the
shoulder, and another knocked his cap from his head.

"I can't stand that," said Frank; and, springing from the steps, he
started to the rescue, followed by all of his companions, (except
Harry, who still paced the steps), and they succeeded in throwing
themselves between Lee and his assailants.

Several of the Regulators faltered on seeing Lee thus defended; but
Charles, followed by half a dozen of his "right-hand men," advanced,
and attempted to force his way between Frank and his companions.

"Hold on, here!" said Frank, as he gently, but firmly, resisted
Charles's attempts to push him aside. "What are you trying to do?"

"What business is that of yours?" answered Charles, roughly, as he
continued his efforts to reach Lee. "You question me as if you were my
master. Stand aside, if you don't want to get yourself in trouble."

"You don't intend to hurt Lee, do you?"

"Yes, I do. But it's none of your business, any way. Get out of the
way!"

"Has he ever done you any harm?"

"It's none of your business, I say!" shouted Charles, now almost
beside himself with rage.

"And I want you to keep your hands off me!" he continued, as Frank
seized his arm, which he had raised to strike Lee, who stood close
behind his protector.

Frank released his hold, and Charles sprang forward again, and,
dodging Frank's grasp, slipped under his arm, and attempted to seize
the Hiller. But Frank was as quick as a cat in his motions; and,
before Charles had time to strike a blow, he seized him with a grip
that brought from him a cry of pain, and seated him, unceremoniously,
on the ground.

As soon as Charles could regain his feet, he called out,

"Here it is, boys--just as I expected! Never mind the Hiller, but
let's go to work and give the other fellows a thrashing that they
won't get over in a month."

And he sprang toward Frank, against whom he seemed to cherish an
especial grudge, followed by a dozen Regulators, who brandished their
fists as if they intended to annihilate Lee's gallant defenders. But,
just as Charles was about to attack Frank, a new actor appeared. Harry
Butler, who had greatly changed his mind in regard to "thrashing the
Hillers," seeing that the attack was about to be renewed, sprang down
the steps, and caught Charles in his arms, and threw him to the
ground, like a log.

The others had been no less successful in repulsing their assailants;
and, when Charles rose to his feet, he saw three or four of the
Regulators, who had followed him to the attack, sprawling on the
ground, and the rest retreating precipitately.

"Now," said Harry, "let's stop this. We've had enough of it."

But Charles, and several more of the Regulators, seemed to be of a
different opinion, and were about to recommence their hostile
demonstrations, when Harry continued,

"We've only been playing with you so far Charley; so you had better
not try to come any more of your Regulator tricks on us. We don't want
to fight, but we shall defend ourselves."

"If you had attended to your own affairs, you would not have been
obliged to defend yourselves," said Charles, sullenly.

"What sort of fellows do you suppose we are?" said Harry. "If you
expected us to stand still and see thirty fellows pitch on one, you
are very much mistaken."

"Come, Lee," said Frank, taking the former by the arm, "I guess we can
go now. We'll see you out of harm's way."

The crest-fallen Regulators divided right and left, and allowed Frank
and his companions to depart, unmolested. They accompanied Lee almost
to the miserable hovel he called "home," and, when about to bid him
good-night, he said, with some feeling,

"I'll remember you, boys; and, if it ever comes handy, you will find
that Lee Powell has got feelings, as well as any one else."

And he sprang over a fence, and disappeared.



CHAPTER VII.

The Revenge.


While Frank and his companions were accompanying Lee toward home, some
of the Regulators were indulging in feelings of the deepest malice;
and there were about a dozen of them--Frank's old enemies--who
determined that he should not go unpunished. But there were others who
began to see how cowardly they had acted in attacking a defenseless
boy, for the only reason that he was a bad boy, and to fear that they
had lost the good-will of Frank and his associates. The village boys,
with a few exceptions, were accustomed to look up to Frank as a sort
of leader; not that he aspired to the position, but his generosity,
and the easy way he had of settling the disputes that sometimes arose
among the boys, had won for him many a fast friend. We have seen,
however, that he was not beloved by all; every good boy has his
enemies, and Frank, of course, had his share of them. They were boys
who were jealous of him, and hated him because he held a position in
the estimation of the village people to which they could not attain.
But this class was very small, comprising, as we have said, about a
dozen of the Regulators; and, while they were enraged at their defeat,
and studying plans for revenge, the others were repenting of their
folly, and trying to think of some way by which they might regain
their lost reputation.

Charles's overbearing and haughty manner was so different from Frank's
kind, obliging ways, that they had already grown tired of his company,
and began to think seriously of having nothing more to do with him;
and the things that had just transpired served to convince them that
the sooner they left him the better.

As soon as Lee and his gallant defenders had disappeared, one of the
Regulators remarked,

"Well, boys, I don't call this a paying business, trying to thrash a
boy who has done us no harm."

"That's my opinion," said another.

"And I, for one, wish I had kept out of this scrape," said a third.

"So do I," said the one who had first spoken.

"Oh, you begin to back down, do you, you cowards?" exclaimed Charles,
who was taken completely by surprise by this sudden change of
affairs. "_I_ never give up till I am whipped. If it hadn't been for
my lame hand, I would have knocked some of those fellows into cocked
hats. I'll fix that Frank Nelson, the next time I catch him."

"Why didn't you do it to-night?" inquired one of the boys, sneeringly.

"I've got a lame hand, I tell you," roared the bully; "and I don't
want you to speak to me in that way again; if you do, you and I will
have a meeting."

"That would be an unpleasant job for you, to say the least," said one
of the boys; "the most of us are heartily sick of your company, and we
have been talking, for two or three days, of sending in our
resignations. Now, boys," he continued, "this is as good an
opportunity as we shall have; so those that won't have any thing more
to do with Regulating, say 'I!'"

"I! I!" burst from a score of throats.

"Now," he resumed, turning to Charles, "good-by; and, if you ever wish
to recruit another company, you need not call on any of us."

So saying, he walked off, followed by nearly all the Regulators; those
who remained were Frank's enemies and rivals.

"Well, boys," said Charles, as soon as the others had gone, "there are
a few of us left, and we can annoy the fellows who think they are too
good to associate with us in the worst way. Let us adjourn to our
barn, where we can talk the matter over."

A few moments' walk brought them to Mr. Morgan's house, and, when they
entered the long carriage-way that led up to the barn, Charles said,

"Now, boys, you stay here, and I'll go in and get a light."

He ran into the house, and soon reappeared with a lantern in each
hand, and led the way toward the barn. He unlocked the door, and he
and his companions entered; and, after allowing them time to examine,
to their satisfaction, the splendid equipage that had attracted so
much attention the morning they arrived at the village, Charles
proceeded to call the meeting to order.

"Now, boys," said he, "we don't intend to disband, do we?"

"No," answered several.

"Then, the first thing for us to do is to change our name, for we
don't want to let those cowardly sneaks that deserted us to-night know
any thing about us. What shall we be called?"

Several names were proposed, but they did not suit Charles. At length,
one of the boys inquired,

"What name would you like?"

"I think that 'Midnight Rangers' would be a good name for us,"
answered Charles.

"That's a splendid name!"

"Now," continued Charles, "we must change our plan of operations a
little. We must give up the idea of thrashing the Hillers for awhile,
because there are not enough of us; but I should like it, if we could
go to work and whip every one of those fellows that stuck up for Lee
Powell to-night, especially Frank Nelson."

"So would I," answered William Gage, whom Charles looked upon as his
'right-hand man;' "but it wouldn't do to attempt it, for he has got
too many friends. We must shoot his dog, or steal his boat, or do
something of that kind. It would plague him more than a dozen
whippings."

"That's so!" exclaimed another of the Rangers. "If we could only go up
there, some dark night, and steal his scow, and run her out into the
river, and burn her, wouldn't he be mad?"

"Yes," chimed in another, "but it wouldn't pay even to attempt that.
He always keeps his boats chained up, and the noise we would make in
getting them loose would be sure to start that dog of his, and then we
should have a dusty time, I reckon."

"I guess so, too," said William Gage. "Whatever we do, we must be
careful not to start that dog, for he would go through fire and water
to catch us; and, if he ever got hold of one of us--"

And William shrugged his shoulders, significantly.

"Hasn't he got an orchard or melon-patch that we could visit?"
inquired Charles.

"No," answered one of the Rangers; "but he's got as nice a
strawberry-patch as ever laid out-doors. But it's a little too early
for strawberries."

"Who cares for that?" said Charles. "We don't go to get the fruit; we
only want to pay him for defending the Hiller--meddling with other
people's business. It's too late to do any thing to-night," he added,
glancing at his watch, "but let us go there to-morrow night, and pull
up every strawberry-plant we can lay our hands on. You know, we can do
as much mischief of that kind as we please, and it will all be laid to
the Hillers."

"Where shall we meet?" inquired one of the Rangers.

"Come here at precisely seven o'clock; and, remember, don't lisp a
single word to any one about it, for, if you do, we shall be found
out."

The Rangers were about to disperse, when one of them suddenly
inquired,

"Will not folks mistrust that something is in the wind, if they see us
all starting up the road at that time of night?"

"That's a fact," said William Gage. "Wouldn't it be a better plan for
us to meet in the woods, at the back of Mrs. Nelson's lot? Let us all
be there at eight o'clock; and, if no two of us go in company, no one
will be the wiser for it."

"That is the best plan," said Charles. "Now, remember, don't say any
thing about it."

"All right!" was the answer; and, in a few moments more, the Rangers
were on their way home.

The next evening, at seven o'clock, Charles left his home, and,
avoiding the principal streets as much as possible, started toward the
place of rendezvous, where he arrived at almost precisely the time
agreed upon. He found the Rangers all waiting for him; and, as it was
already dark, it was decided to commence operations immediately.

"We want a guide," said Charles, who, of course, was captain of the
Rangers. "Who knows exactly where that strawberry-bed lies? for, if we
have to fumble about much, we shall start that dog, and then, it
strikes me, from what I have seen and heard of him, we shall be in a
predicament."

"You may safely bet on that," said one of the boys; "he's a savage
fellow."

"And a first-rate watch-dog, too," observed another.

"Well," said Charles, "all we have to do is to move so still that you
can't hear a leaf rustle; but, if we do rouse the dog, let each one
grab a stone and let him have it."

"That would only make a bad matter worse," said one.

"I am afraid we shall have more than we bargained for, if we undertake
that," remarked another.

"Let the cowards go home, and the rest come with me," said Charles,
impatiently. "Bill," he continued, turning to his right-hand man, "can
you act as guide?"

"Yes."

"Then, lead on."

William led the way out of the woods, across a narrow meadow, where
they came to the fence that inclosed Mrs. Nelson's garden.

"Now, boys," he whispered, "keep still as mice; but, if we do start
the dog, don't stop to fight him, but run like white-heads."

The Rangers climbed over the fence, and followed their guide, who
threaded his way through the trees and bushes with a skill worthy of a
better cause, and a few moments sufficed to bring them to the
strawberry-patch.

"Be careful, boys," said Charles, in a low whisper. "Don't leave a
single plant in the ground."

The young scapegraces worked with a will, and, in a few moments, the
strawberry-bed--which was Frank's pride, next to his museum, and on
which he had expended a great amount of labor--was almost ruined; and
so quietly did they proceed in their work of wanton destruction, that
Brave, although a very vigilant dog, was not aroused, and the
marauders retraced their steps, and reached the woods in safety.

"There," said Charles, at length, "that's what I call doing it up
brown. It almost pays off my debts. I don't think they will receive
much benefit from those strawberries this year."

"They have got some nice pears," said one of the Rangers, "and when
they get ripe, we must plan another expedition."

"That's so," answered Charles. "But we must not forget that we have
others to settle with; and we must meet, some time next week, and
determine who shall be visited next."

On the following morning, Frank arose, as usual, at four o'clock, and,
shouldering his fish-pole, started off through the woods to catch a
mess of trout, intending to be back by breakfast-time. But, as the
morning was cloudy, the trout bit voraciously, and in the excitement
of catching them, he forgot that he was hungry, and it was almost noon
before he reached home.

As soon as he entered the house, Aunt Hannah exclaimed,

"Master Frank, you were altogether too good to Lee Powell, the other
night."

"What makes you think so?" he inquired.

At this moment Julia, hearing his voice, burst in from the
dining-room, exclaiming,

"Frank, the Hillers have robbed your strawberry-patch!"

"Not robbed it, exactly," said his mother, who had followed close
after Julia, "but they have completely ruined it. There are not a
dozen plants left in the ground."

Frank was so surprised that he could scarcely utter a word; and,
hardly waiting to hear what his mother said, he hurried from the house
toward the strawberry-patch. It did, indeed, present a strange and
desolate appearance. The bed had covered nearly half an acre; and, so
well had the Rangers performed their work, that but few plants were
left standing. The sight was enough to upset even Frank's
well-established patience, and he exclaimed,

"If I had the rascals that did this mischief, I could pay them for it,
without troubling my conscience much."

"You must tell Lee Powell, the next time you see him," said Julia, who
had followed him, "that he ought not to--"

"Lee didn't do it," said Frank.

"What makes you think so?"

"See here," said Frank, bending over a footprint in the soft earth;
"the Hillers all go bare-foot, and these fellows wore boots. I know
who did it, as well as if I had seen them. It was the work of Charles
Morgan and a few of his particular friends. They must have been very
still about it, for Brave didn't hear them."

"I don't see what object they had in doing it," said Julia.

"I know what they did it for," said Frank; "and if I ever catch--But,"
he added, checking himself, "there's no use in grumbling about it; no
amount of fretting will repair the damage."

So saying, he led the way toward the house.

It did not take him long to don his working-suit, and, shouldering his
hoe, he returned to the strawberry-bed, and, in less than an hour, the
plants were all in the ground again.



CHAPTER VIII.

How to Spend the "Fourth."


That evening, after supper, Frank retired to his room, and, settling
himself in his comfortable armchair, was soon deeply interested in one
of Bayard Taylor's works. While thus engaged, a light step was heard
in the hall, and, afterward, a gentle rap at his door, and Julia came
into the room.

"Now, Frank," she began, "I don't want you to read to-night."

"Why not?" he inquired.

"Why, you know that day after to-morrow is the Fourth of July, and--"

"And you haven't got your fire-works yet?" interrupted Frank.

"That's it, exactly."

"Well," said her brother, rising to put away his book, "then, I
suppose, I shall have to go down to the village and get you some. What
do you want?"

"I want all the things that are written down on this paper."

Frank took the paper and read, "Three packs of fire-crackers, four
boxes of torpedoes, three Roman candles, half a dozen pin-wheels, and
a dozen sky-rockets."

"Whew!" said Frank, as he folded up the paper and put it into his
pocket, "that's what I should call going it strong! Well, I'll tell
Mr. Sheldon [the store-keeper] to send up all the fire-works he has
got."

Julia burst into a loud laugh, and, the next moment, Frank and Brave
were out of the gate, on their way to the village.

In the mean time several of Frank's acquaintances had been amusing
themselves on the village common with a game of ball. At length it
grew too dark for their sport to continue, and one of the boys
proposed that they should decide upon some pleasant way of spending
the Fourth.

In spite of the humiliating defeat which Charles Morgan and his
companions had sustained, they were present; and the former, who had
been making every exertion to regain the good-will of the village
boys, exclaimed,

"Let's go hunting."

"No, no," shouted several.

"The game in the woods isn't good for any thing this time of year,
Charley," said James Porter, who, although he cordially disliked
Charles, always tried to treat him kindly.

"Who cares for that?" exclaimed Charles, who, having always been
accustomed to lead and govern his city associates, could not endure
the steadfastness with which these "rude country boys," as he called
them, held to their own opinions. Although, during the whole
afternoon, he had been endeavoring to work himself into their favor,
he was angry, in an instant, at the manner in which they opposed his
proposition. He had been considerably abashed at his recent defeat,
and he knew that it had humbled him in the estimation of the Rangers,
who, although they still "held true" to him, had changed their minds
in regard to the prowess of their leader, and began to regard him, as
one of them remarked, as a "mere bag of wind."

Charles was not long in discovering this, and he determined to seize
the first opportunity that was offered to retrieve his reputation.

Hastily casting his eyes over the group that surrounded him, he
discovered that Frank and Harry, the ones he most feared, were still
absent. This was exactly what he had wished for. With the assistance
of his companions, the Rangers, who, he was confident, would uphold
him, he could settle up all old scores, without fear of suffering in
return.

Addressing himself to James, he continued, in an insulting tone,

"We don't go to get the game to _eat_, you blockhead, but only for
the sport of killing it."

"I know that," answered James, in a mild voice, not the least
disconcerted by the other's furious manner; "but wouldn't it be better
to--"

"Shut up!" shouted Charles. "I'll do just as I please. Besides, I
never allow any one to dictate to me."

"I didn't intend to dictate at all, Charley. I was going to say--"

"Are you going to keep still," roared the bully, "or shall I make
you?"

And he began to advance toward James.

"See here, old fellow," said Ben. Lake, suddenly striding up, and
placing himself directly in front of Charles, "don't begin another
fight, now."

"I'll show you whether I will or not!" exclaimed Charles; and, turning
to the Rangers, he continued, "Come on, boys! We can have things all
our own way now. We'll see if--"

"Hold on!" shouted William Johnson. "Here comes Frank. Now you had
better take yourself off in a hurry."

Charles's hostile demonstrations ceased in an instant; and, hastily
whispering a few words to the Rangers, they disappeared.

In a few moments, Frank, accompanied by George and Harry, arrived,
and the boys, in a few words, explained to them what had just
happened.

"I hope," said Frank, "that Charley will see, before long, how
unreasonably he acts. He makes himself, and every one around him,
uncomfortable."

"Well," said James Porter, "all I have got to say is that those
fellows who go with him are very foolish. However, we can't help it.
But, come," he added, "we were trying to find some pleasant way of
spending the Fourth."

"Let's have a picnic on Strawberry Island," said one.

"We want something exciting," said another "Let's have a boat-race."

"Come, Frank," said Ben. Lake, "let's hear what you have got to say.
Suggest something."

"Well," answered Frank, who was always ready with some plan for
amusement, "I have been thinking, for two or three days, of something
which, I believe, will afford us a great deal of sport. In the first
place, I suppose, we are all willing to pass part of the day on the
river?"

"Yes, of course," answered the boys.

"The next thing," continued Frank, "is to ascertain how many
sail-boats we can raise."

"I'll bring mine."

"And mine," called out several voices.

"Oh, that's no way to do business," exclaimed William Johnson, who
always liked to see things go off in order. "Let all those who have
boats hold up their hands."

Sixteen hands came up, and Frank said,

"We shall be gone all day, and, of course, we want plenty of
provisions."

"Of course."

"Well, then, what I thought of proposing is this: Let us take three or
four of the swiftest sailing-boats, and give the provisions into their
charge, and call them smugglers, and let the other boats play the part
of revenue-cutters, or a blockading squadron, and let the smugglers
try to land the provisions on Strawberry Island, without being
caught."

"That's capital!" shouted several.

"It's better than shooting game, at this time of year," said one.

"Yes, and being scolded all day by that tyrant," observed another, who
had belonged to the Regulators.

"It will take some time to make all our arrangements," said William,
"and I move that we adjourn to our house, where we can hold our
meeting in order."

This was readily assented to, and William led the way, followed by all
the boys, who were highly delighted at Frank's plan of spending the
Fourth.

George Butler was speedily chosen president of the meeting, and, in
less than half an hour, their arrangements were completed.

The Speedwell, Champion, and Alert--the latter a fine little schooner,
owned by George and Harry--were to act the part of smugglers, and Ben.
Lake and Thomas Benton, who had no boats, were chosen by the smugglers
to assist them. The provisions, of which each boy was expected to
furnish his share, were all to be left at Mr. Butler's boat-house by
six o'clock on the following evening, where they were to be taken
charge of by the smugglers, of whom Frank was chosen leader. It was
also understood that the smugglers were to carry the provisions all in
one boat, and were to be allowed to take every possible advantage of
the "men-o'-war," and to make every effort to land the provisions on
the island.

The other thirteen boats, which were to act as "coast-guards," were to
be under the command of Charles Sheldon, a shrewd, cunning fellow, who
had the reputation of being able to handle a sail-boat as well as any
boy in the village.

The coast-guards were also divided into divisions of three boats each,
and a captain was appointed for each division.

These arrangements, as we have said, were speedily completed; and,
although the coast-guards were almost wild with delight at the
prospect of the exciting times that would occur during the race, they
were confident that the smugglers could be easily caught, and even
some of the smugglers themselves seemed to think that their chances of
landing the provisions were small indeed.

As the meeting was about to break up, one of the coast-guards
exclaimed,

"We'll have easy times catching you smugglers."

"Do you think so?" asked Harry Butler. "It would be funny if you
should slip up on it, wouldn't it?"

"We'll risk that," said another, "for we've got thirteen boats to your
three."

"I say, Frank," said Charles Sheldon, "don't you think we can catch
you?"

"Oh, yes," answered Frank, "easily enough, if you only try. Now,
boys," he continued, "remember that we want all the refreshments left
at Mr. Butler's boat-house, by six o'clock to-morrow evening."

They all promised to be on hand, and the meeting broke up.

But the coast-guards gathered in little knots in front of the house,
or walked slowly toward home, talking the matter over, and
congratulating themselves on the easy manner in which the capture of
the "contrabands" was to be effected.

The smugglers remained together, and, as soon as the others were out
of hearing, George inquired,

"Do you think we can give them the slip?"

"Yes," answered Frank, "I am certain we can. We must not think of
beating them in sailing, because there are too many of them, but we
must outwit them."

"What do you propose to do?" inquired Ben.

"We must get up in the morning before they do."

"We shall be obliged to get up at twelve o'clock, then," said Thomas.

"I had rather stay up all night than have them beat us," said Harry.

"Well, boys," said George, "you must all come and sleep at our house
to-morrow night. Some of us will be sure to wake up early, and, I
think, we shall have no trouble in getting the start of the
coast-guards."

The boys spent some time in talking over their plans, and, finally,
reluctantly separated, and started for home.



CHAPTER IX.

The Coast-guards Outwitted.


About three o'clock in the afternoon of the following day, Frank bade
his mother and sister good-by, and he and Brave got into the
Speedwell, and sailed slowly down the creek. He found the Champion
already moored at Mr. Butler's dock, and the smugglers were all
waiting for him. As soon as he landed, Ben. Lake said,

"Frank, it is a gone case with us. I _know_ we shall be caught."

"You think so, do you?" asked Frank, as if not at all concerned.

"Yes, I'm certain of it. I overheard some conversation among the
coast-guards, this afternoon, and one of them said that Charley
Sheldon would have the whole fleet anchored before the mouth of the
creek at half-past two to-morrow morning."

"Besides," said William Johnson, "they are all going to sleep in their
boats to-night, and the North Star and Sampson are to act as police."

"And I heard Charley Sheldon say," chimed in Harry, "that strict watch
must be kept of the Speedwell, and no attention paid to the other
boats."

"That's all right," said Frank. "I'm glad of it."

"Why are you?" asked George, in surprise. "You know, we agreed to
carry the provisions all in one boat, and yours is the only one that
will hold them all."

"I tell you, Frank, we're gone suckers," said Ben.

"You fellows seem to be pretty well posted as to the coast-guards'
intentions," said Frank.

"Yes," said George; "we've been spying about and playing eavesdroppers
all day."

"I have learned one thing to-day," said Frank, "that pleased me very
much, and that is that the coast-guards intend to keep spies about the
boat-house all night."

"Why does that please you?" inquired Harry. "Do you want them to
discover all our plans, so that they may be ready for us?"

"By no means. I'll risk good deal that they will not learn more than
we want them to know. I've thought of a way to set them on the wrong
scent, and, from what I have heard, I think it will work first-rate."

"What is it?"

"I'll show you in half a minute," said Frank, "All we have got to do
is to fool the spies; then we are all right."

At this moment several boys, belonging to the blockading squadron,
entered the boat-house, bringing their refreshments, and this, of
course, put a stop to all further conversation between the smugglers.

By six o'clock the last basket of provisions had been brought in, and
the coast-guards took their departure, after repeatedly assuring the
smugglers that their capture was certain.

The provisions had been brought in twenty medium-sized market-baskets,
and one large clothes-basket that belonged to George and Harry, and
seven pails. There was, also, a small bag filled with lemons, which
had been brought by Charles Sheldon.

The boys stood for some time looking at them without speaking. At
length, Thomas Benton said,

"You will have to carry them, Frank. They will make too large a load
for either of the other boats."

"I know that," said Frank; "but we must make the coast-guards think
that the Alert is going to carry them."

"How can we manage that?" inquired George.

"Have you got three or four market-baskets, a clothes-basket, one or
two pails, and a salt-bag?" asked Frank, without stopping to answer
George's question.

"I guess so," said Harry. "I'll go up to the house and see."

He led the way, followed by three or four of the smugglers, and the
articles in question were soon brought into the boat-house.

"Now, Bill," said Frank, "you take this salt-bag, if you please, and
fill it with smooth, round stones, about the size of lemons."

"All right," answered William, who began to see through the trick.

"Now," continued Frank, "we want some pieces of cloth, large enough to
tie over the tops of these baskets and pails."

These were speedily procured, and, in a few moments, William returned
with the salt-bag filled with stones.

"Now, tell us what you intend to do," exclaimed Harry, whose patience
was well-nigh exhausted.

"We are making some sham provisions," said Frank.

"Oh, yes, I thought so," said Thomas; "but we haven't got pails and
baskets enough."

"Oh, that's nothing," said Frank. "We'll fill half a dozen of these
old bags with shavings, and, as soon as it grows dark, we'll pull the
Alert alongside the wharf, and tumble these sham provisions into her;
then we will cover them up with that piece of sail, as if we wanted to
keep them dry. We'll be sure to fool the men-o'-war."

"I don't exactly see it," said Thomas.

"Why," said Harry, "as soon as we are out of sight, their spies, who
are, of course, watching every movement, will go and tell Charley
Sheldon that we have got the things stowed away in the Alert."

"That's very well, as far as you go," said Ben; "but suppose they
should mistrust that something is in the wind, and should go to work
and examine the provisions?"

"What if they do?" said Frank. "It will be too dark for them to make
much of an examination; and, if they put their hands into the boat,
they will feel the baskets and pails there, and will go away
satisfied."

The boys now saw through the trick, and there was no longer any
feeling of doubt in their minds. They were now as certain of success
as they had before been of being captured.

In a few moments the "sham provisions," as Frank had called them,
were all completed, and, placing them where they could be easily taken
out, they locked the door, to prevent surprise, and started for the
house.

As they were about to enter the gate, George suddenly exclaimed,

"See there!"

The boys looked in the direction George indicated, and saw the
blockading squadron, with the exception of two boats, anchored in the
creek, just opposite the long dock. The North Star, a fine,
swift-sailing little schooner, was anchored near the middle of the
stream, and a boy sat in the stern sheets, reading a book. The
Sampson, a very large sloop-rigged boat, was standing up the creek,
under full sail. These were the "police boats," and they were taking
their stations.

"I wonder where the Sampson is going," said Harry.

"She's going to take her station in Duck's Creek," said Ben.

Upon hearing this, Harry's expectations fell again.

"It's no use," he exclaimed. "Charley Sheldon knows too much for us."

"Not a bit," said Frank. "This arrangement is only for to-night. When
we get up in the morning, we shall find the boats all out in the
river."

This immediately reassured Harry; and, after watching the Sampson
until she disappeared in Duck's Creek, he led the way to the house.

After supper, as soon as it began to grow dark, they proceeded to put
their plans into execution; but, before they started, Frank said,

"Now, boys, we must watch and see how the trick takes, for I know that
there are spies now around that boat-house. As soon as we get the sham
provisions into the boat, one or two of us had better slip down into
the willows behind the wharf, and see what course things are going to
take."

"Well," said Harry, "suppose you and Bill act as spies."

"Agreed. Come on, but don't act as if you suspected anything."

And he led the way toward the boat-house.

Two of the boys busied themselves in bringing out the sham provisions,
and the others brought the Alert alongside, and fastened her to the
dock, in front of the boat-house. Frank and Harry then got down into
the boat, and the other boys passed the provisions down to them, and
they placed them in such a manner as to take up as much space as
possible. They were soon all stowed away, and covered over with a
large sail, as if to keep off the dew.

Ben and George then got into a small skiff that lay at the dock, and
towed the Alert out into the middle of the creek, and anchored her.
As soon as this was done they returned, and the smugglers began to
amuse themselves by pushing each other about the wharf. They all
appeared to enter heartily into the sport, and kept nearing the
willows which extended along the bank of the creek, close to the
wharf, and Frank and William, watching their opportunity, concealed
themselves, and the others ran toward the house. They had hardly
disappeared, when the smugglers saw several boys steal cautiously
around the corner of the boat-house, where they had been concealed,
and one of them crept up the bank, to assure himself that the coast
was clear, while the others remained in the shadow of the house. The
former, who proved to be Charles Sheldon, the commander of the
coast-guards, as soon as he had satisfied himself that the smugglers
had gone into the house, called out, in a low whisper, to the others,
who were the captains of the divisions of the squadron,

"All right, boys; go ahead, but be careful not to make any noise. I
didn't see Frank Nelson's dog go into the yard," he continued; "he
must be around here somewhere. We must not let him hear us."

Brave _was_, as Charles had said, "around there somewhere." He was
lying by his master's side, among the willows, no doubt wondering at
the strange things that were going on, and, well-trained as he was,
it was with great difficulty that Frank could keep him quiet.

The coast-guards crossed the wharf with noiseless steps, and,
unfastening the skiff which the smugglers had just used, they climbed
down into it, and pushed off toward the Alert. A few strokes brought
them alongside of her, and, thrusting their arms under the sail, they
began the examination which the smugglers had so much dreaded.

"What do you find?" inquired Charles, who still kept watch at the top
of the bank.

"Here are a lot of baskets and pails," said one

"And here's the large basket that George and Harry brought," said
another.

"What are these round things in this bag, I wonder?" said the one who
had first spoken.

"Oh, those are the lemons I brought," said Charles.

"Gracious! how hard they are!" continued the boy, trying to dig his
fingers into them.

At this, Frank and William, who, of course, had heard every word of
the conversation, and had sat fairly trembling with excitement,
fearful that their trick would be discovered, could scarcely refrain
from laughing outright. Had it been daylight, the ruse of the
smugglers would certainly have been detected, but, as it was, the
coast-guards never mistrusted that any thing was wrong. The night was
rather dark, and the sham provisions were so neatly tied up, and so
carefully stowed away, that the deception was complete.

"I guess they are all here," said one of the boys, at length.

"Well, come ashore, then," said Charles, "and let's be off."

The boys pulled back to the wharf, and Charles continued,

"I didn't think that the Alert would hold all of the refreshments, did
you?"

"No," answered one of the boys, whom the smugglers recognized as James
Porter; "I guess it was a tight squeeze; I could hardly get my hand in
between the baskets."

"What do you suppose the smugglers intend to do?" inquired another.

"I don't know," answered Charles, "unless they propose to get up in
the morning before we do, and slip over to the island before we know
it. I wonder how they felt when they saw us taking our positions."

"But what do you suppose made them put the provisions in the Alert?"

"Oh, I think I can see through that easily enough," said James. "Frank
knows that we expected that he was going to carry them over to the
island, and he calculates to get us to chase him and give the Alert a
chance to land the provisions. He is a cunning fellow, but this time
we are too sharp for him."

"I wonder why Frank don't send some one out to act as a spy," said
Charles.

"I guess he's afraid that he would be taken prisoner."

We may as well state here (and we should have done so before) that it
had been agreed that if one side could catch any of the other acting
as spies, they were at liberty to hold them as prisoners until the
race was over, and that the prisoner should, if required, give his
captors all the information possible relative to the movements and
plans of his party, and they could also require him to lend assistance
in carrying out their own. The prisoner, of course, was allowed the
privilege of escaping, if he could.

This _was_ the reason why the smugglers had not sent out any spies;
and, if the coast-guards had been aware that Frank and William were
hidden away in the willows, they could easily have captured them, and,
according to the agreement, obliged them to divulge all their plans.

"Well," said Charles, "we don't want any prisoners now, for we know
all their plans; but I wanted to catch Frank this morning, for I was
afraid he would beat us. If he should find out that this trick was
discovered, he would plan another in five minutes. I guess we had
better remain where we are to-night," he continued, "and, at
half-past two o'clock, we will pull out into the river, and blockade
the creek. All we have to do is to take care of the Alert, and let the
other boats do as they please. But we had better be off, or the
smugglers may slip out and make some of us prisoners."

And the spies departed as cautiously and quickly as they had come.

As soon as they had gone, the smugglers arose from their places of
concealment, and stole into the house, and acquainted the other boys
with the success of their stratagem.

After enjoying a hearty laugh at the expense of the coast-guards, led
by George and Harry, they ran up stairs into the "large chamber," a
room containing three beds, and they were soon snug between the
sheets. But sleep was, for a long time, out of the question; they
laughed and talked until their jaws ached, and the hands of the old
clock that stood in the room pointed to twelve; then they allowed
their tired tongues to rest, and lay for a long time, each occupied
with his own thoughts, and, finally, one after the other fell asleep.

The hours passed on, and nothing was heard but their gentle breathing.
Suddenly Harry, who always talked in his sleep when any thing exciting
was going on, turned over in bed with a jerk, and began to mutter
some unintelligible words. All at once, raising himself to a sitting
posture, he sang out, at the top of his voice,

"Starboard your helm there, George--starboard your helm; bring her
around quick. The Alert can show as clean a pair of heels as any boat
about the village."

In an instant the other boys were awake, and Harry continued to shout
his directions, until several hearty thumps on the back caused him to
change his tune.

"Let me alone!" he shouted. "We haven't cheated you. We promised to
carry the provisions all over in one boat, and we've done it."

Harry was quickly dragged out of bed and placed upon his feet, and he
was wide awake in an instant, but he stood in the middle of the room,
as if bewildered, while the others rolled on the beds, convulsed with
laughter.

At length, William Johnson, who was the first that could speak,
inquired,

"I wonder what time it is."

"Wait until I light this candle, and we'll see," said George.

"No, no, don't do that," said Frank. "The coast-guards may be on the
watch, and, if they see a light in the house, will be getting ready
for us."

And, going to the clock, he opened it, and, feeling of the hands,
said,

"It's about ten minutes to three."

"What shall we do?" inquired Ben.

"Let us go and see what our friends of the squadron are doing," said
Thomas; "and, if they are not on hand, we can slip over and land our
goods."

By this time every one was dressed, and they crept carefully down
stairs and out of the house.

"Hold on a minute, boys," said Frank. "I will bet there are spies
around that boat-house now."

"Let's take them prisoners," exclaimed Harry.

"That's just what I was about to propose," said Frank; "but, in order
to do it, we had better divide into two parties, so as to surround the
house."

"Well," said George, "three of us will go up the road, and cross over
by the bridge, and the rest of you can go down the road, and get into
the willows behind the mill."

"That's a good idea," said Frank. "We will meet at the back of the
boat-house."

The boys accordingly separated, and started in different directions.

Frank and his party, which consisted of Harry and Ben, threaded their
way through the garden, and across a meadow, until they arrived
opposite Mr. Butler's mill. Here they crossed the road, and, after a
careful reconnoissance, entered the willows, and crawled, almost on
their hands and knees, toward the boat-house. At length they arrived
at the place where they were to meet their companions, but nothing was
to be seen or heard of them.

"I hope they have not been taken prisoners," whispered Frank.

"I don't think they have," said Ben, "because we should have heard
something of it. They are not the ones to give up without a struggle.
But I don't see any thing of the spies."

"Neither do I," said Harry. "They must be around the other side of the
boat-house."

"If they are there," said Frank, "we will soon make them show
themselves."

And, as he spoke, he seized a branch above his head, and shook it
violently.

"Oh, that's no way," whispered Harry, excitedly; "you will frighten
the--"

"--sh! there they are!" said Frank.

And, as he spoke, the smugglers saw a boy come cautiously around the
corner of the boat-house. He gazed impatiently toward the willows, and
uttered a low whistle.

Frank instantly answered it, and the boy came down the bank, and said,
in a low voice,

"Come out here, Jim. I thought you would never relieve us. No signs of
the smugglers yet--"

"You must be mistaken," said Frank, springing lightly from his
concealment; and, before the coast-guard could recover from his
surprise, he found himself a prisoner.

"Don't make any noise," said Frank. "Where's your companion? There
must be two of you."

"Yes, there is another one," answered the prisoner. "Ned Wilbur is
around the other side of the boat-house."

"Well, Ben," said Frank, "if you will watch this fellow, Harry and I
will see what we can do for Ned."

So saying, he went carefully around one side of the boat-house, and
Harry disappeared around the other. Frank reached the end of the house
first, and discovered the coast-guard standing in the door-way, as
motionless as a statue. He was waiting for Harry to make his
appearance at the opposite end, when the sentinel suddenly uttered an
ejaculation of surprise, and bounded up the bank; but, just as he
reached the top, a dark form, which seemed to rise out of the ground,
clasped the fleeting coast-guard in its arms, and a voice, which Frank
recognized as William Johnson's, said, in a low whisper,

"You're my prisoner!"

"It's just my luck," said the crest-fallen sentinel, bitterly, as
William led him down the bank. "I told Charley Sheldon that we would
be sure to be gobbled up if we were stationed here. Now, I suppose,
you want me to tell all our plans."

"No, we don't," answered Harry; "we know all your plans already."

By this time the smugglers had all come in, and, holding fast to their
captives, they held a consultation, in which it was decided that it
would be best to reconnoiter before attempting to leave the creek. It
was very dark, and not a sound broke the stillness of the night; but
the smugglers were too cunning to believe that the coast was clear,
for they knew that the enemy would resort to every possible means to
effect their capture.

Three of the smugglers were directed to get into Mr. Butler's yawl,
taking one of the prisoners with them, and drop down to the mouth of
Glen's Creek, and note the position of the enemy there; and Frank and
the other boys stepped into the skiff, and started up toward Ducks'
Creek, to ascertain the condition of affairs, taking Ned with them.
They pulled rapidly, but noiselessly, along, and had almost reached
the creek, when a strong, cheery voice, directly before them, called
out,

"Boat ahoy!"

"There," whispered Harry, "we're discovered."

"No, I guess not," said Frank. "Ned," he continued, turning to the
prisoner, "you must talk for us. Answer them."

"Ay, ay, sir," shouted Ned, in reply to the hail.

"What boat is that?"

"Dispatch boat," answered Ned, prompted by Frank; "and we bring orders
for you to pull down and join the fleet, which is now blockading the
mouth of Glen's Creek."

"All right," answered the voice. "We've been waiting an hour for that
order. This playing police is dull business."

And the smugglers heard the rattling of a chain, as if the anchor was
being pulled up.

"Tell them to make haste," whispered Frank.

"Come, hurry up there, now," shouted Ned.

"Ay, ay," was the answer.

And, in a few moments, the Sampson, propelled by four oars, shot past
them, on her way down the creek.

"That's what I call pretty well done," said Ben, as soon as the
coast-guards were out of hearing.

"I don't," said Ned. "It goes against me to fool a fellow in that way;
and my own friends, too."

The smugglers now continued on their way, and a few strong pulls
brought them within a short distance of the mouth of Ducks' Creek; and
Frank, who was at the helm, turned the boat's head toward the shore,
and, as soon as her keel touched the bottom, he and Ben sprang out,
leaving Harry to watch the prisoner.

They had landed upon Reynard's Island, and immediately started for the
opposite side, to learn, if possible, what was going on upon the
river. Every thing was as silent as midnight; and the smugglers were
obliged to move very carefully, for the slightest sound--the snapping
of a twig or the rustling of a leaf--could be heard at a long
distance. After proceeding a quarter of a mile in this cautious
manner, they reached the opposite side of the island.

"Well," said Ben, after trying in vain to peer through the darkness,
"how do matters stand? I wonder if we could not have slipped by their
police, and reached the island, before they knew it?"

"No, sir," said Frank, "not by a good deal. We should certainly have
been captured."

"How do you know? I can't see any thing."

"Neither can I; but listen, and you will _hear_ something. They are
taking their positions."

The boys remained silent, and the suppressed murmur of voices, the
strokes of muffled oars, and, now and then, a gentle splashing in the
water, as of an anchor dropped carefully overboard, could be
distinctly heard.

"I am still of the opinion," said Ben, "that we could run the blockade
before they could catch us."

"And I still think that we should get caught," said Frank. "If we
should attempt to hoist a sail, it could be heard across the river;
besides, there is no breeze."

"Then, try the oars."

"They would overtake us before we had gone twenty rods. You must
remember that they outnumber us, six to one, and could easily tire us
out, or cut us off from the island. Wait until the breeze springs up,
and then we will see what we can do."

"Listen," whispered Ben, suddenly; "some of the boats are coming down
this way. They are sending a division of the fleet to guard Ducks'
Creek."

And so it proved. The slow, measured strokes of oars came nearer and
nearer, and, finally, the tall, raking masts of three of the
swiftest-sailing boats in the squadron could be dimly seen moving down
the river toward the creek. As they approached, the smugglers
discovered that two boys, in a light skiff, led the way, and one of
them, who proved to be Charles Sheldon, pointed out the position he
wished each boat to occupy. The places assigned them were not directly
opposite the mouth of the creek, but a little up the river, and about
twenty feet from the shore; and this, afterward, proved to be a very
favorable circumstance for the smugglers.

"Now, boys," said Charles, after he had placed the little vessels to
his satisfaction, "keep a good look-out up the river."

"I should think," said the captain of the division "that you ought to
have us anchor directly in the mouth of the creek. We shall have a
good stiff breeze before long, and the Alert might slip out at any
time, and, before we could hoist a sail, she would be half-way across
the river."

"I don't think she will trouble you down here," said Charles. "Frank
Nelson wouldn't be foolish enough to send her out here, for it's a
good quarter of a mile below the foot of the island; and, even if she
does come out here, and succeeds in getting by you, all we will have
to do will be to send a division down to the foot of the island to
meet her there, and then her capture is certain. Now, remember, keep
an eye open to everything that goes on up the river. Never mind the
Speedwell and Champion--let them go where they please; but, if you see
the Alert, why, you know what to do."

And Charles and his attendant pulled back up the river.

"Now, Ben," said Frank, "we've heard enough to know that we have
fooled them nicely; so let's go back."

This, however, was no easy undertaking. The way to their boat lay
through bushes that could scarcely be penetrated, even in the
day-time. The coast-guards were anchored close by the shore, and the
slightest noise would arouse their suspicions.

Frank led the way on his hands and knees, carefully choosing his
ground, and they, at length, succeeded in reaching their boat, without
disturbing the coast-guards.

A few moments' pulling brought them alongside Mr. Butler's wharf,
where they found the others waiting for them.

"What news?" inquired George, as they clambered up out of the boat.

Frank explained, in a few words, the position of the squadron at the
mouth of Ducks' Creek, as well as the conversation they had overheard,
and also inquired of George the result of his observations.

"It was too dark to see much," he answered; "but we could plainly hear
them taking their positions opposite the mouth of the creek. It will
be hard work to get through them, I tell you."

"How are you going to work it, Frank?" inquired Ben.

"I'll tell you what I thought of doing," he answered "By the way
Charley Sheldon spoke, I should judge that he expects to see the Alert
start from Glen's Creek; so, I think, it would be a good plan, as soon
as the breeze springs up, to have the Champion and Alert drop down
Ducks' Creek, and let the former run out and start for the island.
The coast-guards will not give chase, of course, but will think it is
only a ruse of ours to make them believe that the Alert is going to
start from the same place, and that will make them watch Glen's Creek
closer than ever, and the Alert will have a chance to get a good start
before they can hoist their sails, and, while they are after her, Ben
and I will run out and land our goods."

"That's the way to do it," said William, approvingly. "We will fool
them so completely that they will not want to hear of smugglers again
for six months."

"Let's go and get some breakfast," said George. "Never go to work on
an empty stomach, you know."

"Yes, come on," said Harry, taking each of the captive coast-guards by
the arm; "we never feed our prisoners on half rations."

After "stowing away" a large supply of bread and milk, the smugglers,
in company with their prisoners, again repaired to the boat-house. By
this time it was five o'clock, and the breeze which the coast-guards
had predicted began to spring up, and promised to freshen into a
capital "sailing wind."

In a few moments the _real_ provisions were all packed away, as
closely as possible, in the Speedwell, and the load was as large as
she could well carry, there being scarcely room enough left for the
action of the sails.

"I guess we are all ready now," said Frank; "so, Bill, you might as
well drop down Ducks' Creek and sail out."

"All right," answered William.

And he and Thomas clambered down into the boat, with the prisoners,
the sails were hoisted, and the Champion was soon hidden from sight by
the tall reeds and bushes that lined the banks of the creek.

"Now, Harry," continued Frank, "Ben and I will take our boat and hide
behind the point, and, in about five minutes, you may follow the
Champion."

"Now, make use of your best seamanship," said Ben. "You can lead them
a long chase, if you try."

"I assure you that we will do our best," said George.

The Speedwell's sails were hoisted, and Frank took his seat at the
helm, while Ben placed himself so as to assist in managing the sails.
Brave took his usual station in the bow, and they moved slowly down
the creek.

The point of which Frank had spoken was a long, low neck of land,
covered with trees, which completely concealed the mouth of Glen's
Creek. In a few moments they reached this point, and the Speedwell's
bow ran high upon the sand, and the boys sprang out, and hurried over
to the other side of the point, to watch the proceedings on the river,
while Brave, at his master's command, remained in the boat. Concealing
themselves behind a large log, they waited impatiently for the
appearance of the Champion.

The vessels of the squadron, with the exception of the division
stationed at the foot of Reynard's Island, were anchored in a
semicircle directly before the mouth of Glen's Creek, from which it
was expected that the Alert would start. Each sloop was manned by two
boys, and the schooners had a crew of four. Every one stood at his
post, and was ready to move at the word.

"They meant to be ready for us, didn't they?" asked Frank. "I wonder
if they thought we would be foolish enough to send the Alert out of
this creek, in the face of all those boats?"

"I don't know," answered Ben. "I suppose they thought--See there!
there goes the Champion."

Frank looked down the river, and saw that the stanch little sloop had
already run the blockade, and was standing boldly toward the island.
Her appearance was sudden and wholly unexpected and several of the
coast-guards sprang to their feet, and a dozen sails were half-way up
the mast in a twinkling; but, as soon as they discovered that it was
not the Alert, they quickly returned to their posts, and, in a moment,
all the bustle and confusion was over.

The eye of every boy in the squadron was now directed toward Glen's
Creek, expecting, every moment, to see the schooner round the point.

The Champion had accomplished, perhaps, half the distance across the
river, when the Alert suddenly shot from Ducks' Creek, and, hauling
around before the wind, ran in between two of the blockading fleet, so
close as to almost graze them, and stood toward the foot of the
island.

As soon as the coast-guards could recover from their surprise, Charles
shouted,

"Up anchor--quick!"

The next moment he called out,

"Jim, take your division, and creep down the shore of the island, and
be ready to catch her there, if she gets away from us."

For a few moments there was a "great hurrying" among the coast-guards.
The anchors were drawn up with a jerk, the sails flew up the masts,
and the little fleet bore rapidly down upon the smuggler.

As soon as Frank saw that the race had fairly begun, he exclaimed,

"Now's our time, Ben!"

They ran back to their boat, and hastily shoved from the shore, and
the Speedwell, making good her name, was soon plowing the river, in
the direction of the island.

So intent were the coast-guards upon catching the Alert, that they
thought of nothing else; and Frank rounded the head of the island, and
landed, without being discovered.

Meanwhile, George and Harry were leading their pursuers a long chase.
Under their skillful management--standing first on one tack and then
on the other--they had succeeded in outmaneuvering several of the
swiftest-sailing vessels in the squadron.

Two or three small sloops had succeeded in getting between the Alert
and the island; but Harry, who was at the helm, did not deem them
worthy a moment's notice. He was confident that his schooner, by her
superior sailing qualities, would soon leave these behind also.

The smugglers began to grow jubilant over their success, and George
called out,

"Where are your men-o'-war now? Throw us a line, and we'll tow you."

"Come on, you coast-guards," chimed in Harry. "You will never catch
us, at this rate."

If the smugglers _had_ succeeded in eluding their pursuers, it would,
indeed, have been an achievement worth boasting of; but they had to
deal with those who were as cunning and skillful as themselves.
Charles was not to be beaten so easily; and, although he said nothing,
the smugglers saw him smile and shake his head, as if he were certain
that he could yet win the day.

"Can you discover any fast boats ahead of us, George?" inquired Harry.

George rose to his feet to take a survey of the squadron, and
answered,

"No, there are only two or three little things standing across our
bows, but we'll soon--We're caught, sure as shooting!" he suddenly
exclaimed, changing his tone. "Bring her around before the
wind--quick! There's the North Star, Sunshine, and Sampson. We might
as well haul down the sails."

James Porter's division, which had been "laying to" at the foot of
Glen's Island, now bore down upon the Alert, and George had just
discovered them; and they were coming on in such a manner that escape
was impossible.

"Yes," answered Harry, as soon as he had noted the positions of the
approaching vessels, "we are caught. We began to brag too soon."

"Well, we don't lose any thing," said George. "Frank has landed the
provisions long before this."

"I know it; but still I wish we could have beaten them."

"What do you think now, Harry?" asked Charles, whose boat was
following close in the wake of the Alert.

"I think we are done for."

And, as Harry "luffed in the wind," George drew down the sails, and
gave up the struggle.

In a moment the little fleet closed about the smuggler, and, to
prevent accident, the sails were all hauled down, and the boats lay
motionless on the water.

"I tell you," said Charles, "you fellows worked it pretty well."

"Yes," answered George, as if a little crest-fallen at their defeat.
"We did the best we could."

"I thought we had more provisions than this," said one of the captains
of the squadron, pulling his boat alongside of the Alert. "I didn't
think you could get them all in here."

And he pulled up the covering, and looked under it.

"They are packed in tight, you see," said Harry, who wished to keep up
the "sell," as he called it, as long as possible.

"What are in these bags?" inquired one.

"Shavings," answered George. "We thought we might want to kindle a
fire for something."

"I say, George," said James Porter, standing up in his boat to get a
good view of the things in the Alert. "I wish you would feel in my
basket, and get a cup that is in there, and pass it over this way. I'm
thirsty. I was so excited," he continued, taking off his hat and
wiping the perspiration from his forehead, "that I sweat as if I had
been dumped in the river. There isn't a dry rag on me."

"Which is your basket?" inquired Harry, struggling hard to suppress a
laugh.

"It's a brown basket, with a white cover," answered James.

George and Harry were too full of laughter to trust themselves to
speak; but Charles exclaimed, as he drew aside the covering,

"There's no brown basket here."

"There ought to be," said one of the coast-guards; "I brought my
things in a brown basket."

"So did I," exclaimed another.

"There's a cheat somewhere," said James.

"You haven't done as you agreed," said Charles. "You promised to carry
all the things in one boat."

"Yes, that's what you agreed to do," shouted several.

"And we've kept our promise," said Harry.

"Then, where's _my_ basket?" inquired one of the boys, who had failed
to discover it among the things in the Alert.

"I'll bet the Champion carried some of the provisions over," said
another, "for there are not half of them here."

"No, the Champion didn't have a thing in her," said a third. "She
passed so close to my boat, that I could have jumped into her, and I
took particular pains to see that she was empty."

"Well, here are the things that I brought, at any rate," said Charles,
who had just caught sight of the bag which contained, as he supposed,
his lemons. "My goodness!" he continued, as he lifted them out of the
boat, "how heavy they are!"

And he began to untie the bag, and soon disclosed to the view of the
coast-guards, not the lemons, but almost half a peck of smooth, round
stones.

George and Harry, who could contain themselves no longer, rolled on
the bottom of the boat, convulsed with laughter; and several ready
hands tore off the coverings of the baskets and pails, and they were
found to be empty.

A more astonished set of boys one never saw; and, as soon as they
could speak, they burst out with a volley of ejaculations that will
hardly bear repetition.

"We've been chasing the wrong boat," said one.

"Yes," answered another, "and I knew it would be so. That Frank
Nelson is too much of a Yankee for us."

"The Speedwell--the Speedwell!" shouted another; "keep a good look-out
for her."

"Oh, you're too late," said Harry, with a laugh, "the provisions were
landed long ago."

"I don't believe it. I didn't see any thing of her."

"Of course you didn't," said Charles; "you were too intent on catching
the Alert. Boys," he continued, "we're fairly beaten. Let's start for
the island."

The coast-guards silently obeyed, and the smugglers refrained from
making any remarks, for they saw that the squadron's crew took their
defeat sorely to heart.

In a few moments the little fleet rounded the foot of the island, and
the boys discovered the Champion and Speedwell, lying with their bows
high upon the sand, and their crews were busy carrying the provisions
under the shade of a large oak, that stood near the water's edge.

As soon as the last vessel came in sight, the smugglers on shore
greeted them with three hearty cheers, which George and Harry answered
with a will, but the coast-guards remained silent.

In a few moments they had all landed, and the smugglers joined their
companions; and Charles took off his hat, and said to the
coast-guards,

"Boys, I want to have just one word with you. We have been beaten," he
continued, as they gathered silently about him, "completely outwitted;
but it was fairly done. We took all the advantage of the smugglers
that we could, but they have beaten us at our own game. I feel as
cheap as any of you do, but it can't be helped now; and there's no use
of having unpleasant feelings about it, for that would spoil a good
day's sport. If we didn't catch them, we did our best, and we had a
good, exciting race--one that I wouldn't have missed for a good deal.
Now, boys, show that you appreciate the good trick that has been
played on us, by giving the smugglers three hearty cheers."

This little speech--showing Charles to be a boy of good feeling--had
the effect of convincing the coast-guards that to manifest any
ill-will at their defeat would be both unkind and selfish, and the
cheer that rose from forty strong lungs was almost deafening. The
smugglers, who had heard what Charles had said, cheered lustily, in
turn, for the coast-guards, and instantly every unkind feeling
vanished. The coast-guards readily entered into conversation with the
smugglers, and the latter explained the trick of which they had made
use, as well as the manner in which the capture of the prisoners was
affected, and the adventure with the police-boat; and, although the
coast-guards were provoked at themselves for "not having more sense,"
as they termed it, they could not refrain from joining in a hearty
laugh.

By this time the refreshments had all been carried under the tree of
which we have spoken, where there was a smooth grass-plat, which made
a nice place to set the table.

The boys had spent some time relating various incidents that had
occurred during the chase, when Ben suddenly inquired,

"Well, boys, what's to be the order of the day? You know that we came
over here to enjoy ourselves, and we had better be about it."

"I think," said Charles, "that it would be a good plan to appoint a
committee to arrange those eatables. We came away without our
breakfast, and I, for one, feel hungry."

"There's where we had the advantage of you," said Thomas. "While you
were hurrying around, and taking your positions, we were eating our
breakfast. You see, we took matters easy."

"And beat us, after all," said one of the coast-guards; "it's too bad.
But let's have that committee appointed."

A dozen boys were speedily chosen to set the table, and the others,
catching up all the empty pails and baskets they could find, scattered
over the island in search of strawberries.

In about an hour they met again under the tree, and found the
refreshments all ready for them, and they fell to work in earnest. So
full were they of their sport, that it took them two hours to eat
their dinner, as they had said they had come to enjoy themselves, and
felt in duty bound to eat all their baskets contained.

After dinner, one of the smugglers proposed to go squirrel-hunting;
but many of the coast-guards had passed the preceding night without
any sleep, and, to use their own expression, they "didn't feel like
it;" so this project was abandoned, and the boys lay on the grass,
under the tree, telling stories, until almost three o'clock, and then
began to get ready to start for home.



CHAPTER X.

A Queer Cousin.


As every one knows, it would be almost an impossibility for sixteen
sail-boats to go any where in company without trying their speed,
especially if they were sailed by boys. When our heroes stepped into
their vessels, each skipper made up his mind that his boat must be the
first one to touch the opposite shore. Not a word was said about a
race, but every one knew that one would be sure to come off. Every
thing was done in a hurry, and the little vessels were all afloat in a
moment. They were on the leeward side of the island--that is, the side
from the wind--and they would be obliged to get around to the opposite
side before they could use their sails.

The coast-guards shoved their boats out into the current, and allowed
themselves to float down toward the foot of the island, thinking that
course easier than pulling, against the current, up to the head of
the island.

Frank noticed this movement, and said, in a low voice, to the
smugglers,

"Don't follow them, boys. They will find themselves becalmed in less
than a quarter of an hour. The breeze is dying away. If you want to
beat them, hoist your sails, and get out your oars, and row up to the
head of the island; we can reach it before they reach the foot, and,
besides, the current will carry them further down the river than they
want to go."

The smugglers did as Frank had directed; and as they moved from the
shore, and turned up the river, one of the coast-guards called out,

"Where are you fellows going?"

"Home," answered Ben.

"You are taking the longest and hardest way."

"The longest way around is the nearest way home, you know," answered
William.

"I don't believe it is, in this instance," said James Porter. "Let's
see who will be at the long dock first."

"All right," answered the smugglers.

And they disappeared behind a high-wooded promontory of the island.

It was hard work, pulling against a current that ran four miles an
hour, but they were accustomed to it, and the thought of again
beating the coast-guards gave strength to their arms.

In a few moments a sudden filling of the sails announced that they had
caught the breeze. The oars were drawn in, and every sheet hauled
taut, and, when they rounded the head of the island, not one of the
squadron was in sight.

"I expected," said Harry, speaking in a loud voice, so that the others
could hear, "that they would feel the wind long before this."

"Even if they had," answered Frank, "we could have beaten them easily
enough. You see, when they come around the foot of the island, they
will be some distance below the long dock, and the current will carry
them still further down, while we are above it, and can sail right
down to it. Here they come!"

The boys looked down the river, and saw the men-o'-war rapidly
following each other around the foot of the island.

"I guess they have discovered their mistake before this time," said
William. "Now," he continued, as he drew his mainsail down a little
closer "the Champion is going to be the first to sail into the creek."

"That's the game, is it?" said Frank. "Ben, perch yourself up on the
windward side, and we'll see which is the best boat."

Ben did as he was desired, and the little vessels increased their
speed, and bounded over the gentle swells as if some of their crews'
spirit had been infused into them. They had started nearly even--the
Alert and Champion being a little in advance of the Speedwell--and the
boys knew that the race was to be a fair trial of the speed of their
boats. The Alert and Speedwell had never been "matched" before, and
the boys were anxious to learn their comparative speed. The former was
the "champion" boat of the village, and Harry and George were
confident that Frank's "tub," as they jokingly called it, would soon
be distanced. Frank thought so, too; but the reputation of owning the
swiftest boat in the village was well worth trying for, and he
determined to do his best.

Since his race with the Champion, he had made larger sails for his
boat, and added a flying-jib and a gaff-topsail, and he found that her
speed was almost doubled.

The Champion soon fell behind, and the two rival boats were left to
finish the race, which, for a long time, seemed undecided. But, at
length, the Speedwell, with her strong mast groaning and creaking
under the weight of the heavy canvas, began to gain steadily, and soon
passed the Alert. Ten minutes' run brought them across the river; and
when Frank, proud of the victory he had gained, rounded the long dock,
the Alert was full four rods behind.

The breeze was rapidly dying away, and not one of the coast-guards had
yet reached the shore. Some of them had been carried almost a mile
below the creek, and lay with the sails idly flapping against the
masts.

Frank and Ben sailed slowly along up the creek, and, when they arrived
at the end of the dock, the Speedwell was "made fast," and the boys
started to get their mail.

As they entered the post-office, Frank stepped up to the
"pigeon-hole," and the postmaster handed him two letters; one was
addressed to his mother, and the other bore his own name, written in a
full, round, school-boy's hand.

"Ben," he exclaimed, as he broke the seal, "I've got a letter from
Archie. I wrote to him a month ago; I should think it was about time
to get an answer."

"See if he says any thing about getting a letter from me," said Ben.
"I haven't heard from him in a long time."

Before proceeding further, it may not be improper to say a word about
Archie Winters. He was, as we have already said, Frank's cousin, and
lived in the city of Portland. He was just Frank's age, and, like him,
was kind and generous; but he was not the boy for books. When in
school, he was an obedient and industrious pupil, and learned very
readily; but, when four o'clock came, he was the first to lay aside
his books. He was very fond of rural sports, and, for a city boy, was
a very expert hunter; he even considered himself able to compete with
Frank. He was also passionately fond of pets, and, if he could have
had his own way, he would have possessed every cat and dog in the
city. His father was a wealthy ship-builder, and Archie was an only
child. But he was not, as is generally the case, spoiled by
indulgence; on the contrary, his parents always required his prompt
and cheerful obedience, and, when out of their sight, Archie was very
careful to do nothing of which he thought his parents would not
approve. Every vacation he paid a visit to his cousin, and sometimes
staid until late in the winter, to engage in his favorite sport. He
was well known to the village boys, among whom his easy and obliging
manners had won many a steadfast friend.

But let us now return to the letter, which ran as follows:

     PORTLAND, _June_ 28, 18--.

     DEAR COUSIN: Your letter of the 16th of last month was duly
     received, and, I suppose, you think it is about time for me
     to answer it. They say that a person who is good at making
     excuses is good for nothing else; but, I suppose, you will
     expect some apology for my seeming neglect. You perhaps
     remember hearing your mother speak of James Sherman, a cousin
     whom we had never seen. About two weeks since, father
     received a letter from his mother, stating that she and James
     would be at our house in about three days. Well, they came
     agreeably to notice, and I have had the pleasure of
     entertaining our cousin ever since. I have had to pilot him
     around, and show him all the sights, and I have had time for
     nothing else.

     I will not tell you what sort of a fellow he is; I will leave
     you to judge of his general character, etc. He and his mother
     are now on their way to Lawrence, and they expect to be at
     your house about the 6th (July). They intend to remain about
     two weeks. When I saw them getting into the train, and knew
     that in a few days they would be with you, I wanted very much
     to accompany them. But mother says _one_ noisy boy in the
     house is sufficient. (I wonder whether she means you or
     James!) But as soon as they have ended their visit, if
     nothing happens, you may expect to see our family landing
     from the Julia Burton, some fine morning. I have been pent up
     in the city now almost six months, and I am impatient to get
     into the country again--especially among the trout-streams
     about your quiet little village.

     I have often thought of the sport we had the day we went up
     to Dungeon Brook. I know it rained hard, but the string of
     trout we caught beat any thing of the kind I ever happened to
     see.

     But I've got some good news for you. Father has decided to
     spend part of the winter at Uncle Joe's, and he promises to
     take you and me with him; so you can begin to pack up your
     duds as soon as you wish.

     That trout-pole you made for me last winter met with a
     serious accident a few days since. One of my schoolmates
     invited me to go up the river with him, and try a perch-bed
     he had accidentally discovered. I had sent off my heavy pole
     to the painters, so I was obliged to take my trout-pole. I
     was afraid that I should break it, but it behaved beautifully
     for about two hours, during which time I drew in sixty fine
     perch and rock-bass--some of the former weighing between one
     and two pounds--and I began to think that the pole was too
     tough to break. But I was very soon convinced of my mistake,
     for, as bad luck would have it, I hooked on to a black-bass.
     I thought I handled him very carefully, but, before we could
     land him, he broke my pole in three pieces; but the line
     held, and he was soon floundering in the boat. He was a fine
     fellow--a regular "sockdologer"--weighing six pounds and a
     half. But I heartily wished him safe in the bottom of the
     river. I have laid the pole away, and intend to bring it to
     you for repairs.

     But it is ten o'clock, and father suggests that, if I wish to
     get to the post-office before the mail closes, I had "better
     make tracks." So I must stop. Love to all.

     Yours affectionately,               A. Winters.

     P.S.--Please tell Ben and Harry that I will answer their
     letters immediately. A.W.

By this time the rest of the smugglers had arrived, and, as soon as
Frank had run his eye over the letter, and began to fold it up, George
inquired,

"Well, what does he say? Did he receive Harry's letter?"

"Yes, and also one from Ben. He says he will answer them at once."

After a few moments' conversation, the boys separated, and started for
home, expressing themselves highly delighted at Frank's way of
spending the Fourth.

The day on which Mrs. Sherman and her son were expected at length
arrived. As a fine breeze was blowing, Frank and his sister--accompanied,
of course, by Brave--stepped into the Speedwell, and started to enjoy a
sail on the river.

It was now the summer vacation, and the boys were determined to have
plenty of recreation after their long siege of study; and, when Frank
reached the mouth of the creek, he found the river dotted with white
sails as far as he could see. Several of the boats had started on
fishing excursions, but the majority of them were sailing idly about,
as if nothing particular had been determined on.

Frank turned the Speedwell's head down the river, and soon joined the
little fleet. He had hoisted every stitch of canvas his boat could
carry, and she flew along, passing several of the swiftest vessels,
and finally encountered the Alert. The race was short, for the
Speedwell easily passed her, and George and Harry were compelled to
acknowledge that, to use their own expression, "the Alert was
nowhere."

In about two hours the Julia Burton was seen rounding the point, and a
loud, clear whistle warned the villagers of her approach. Frank turned
the Speedwell toward home, and arrived at the wharf about ten minutes
after the steamer had landed.

As they sailed along up the creek, Julia suddenly exclaimed,

"I wonder who those people are!"

Frank turned, and saw a lady just getting into a carriage, and a boy,
apparently about his own age, stood by, giving orders, in a loud
voice, to the driver, about their baggage. Both were dressed in the
hight of fashion, and Frank knew, from the description his aunt had
given his mother, that they were the expected visitors.

As soon as the boy had satisfied himself that their baggage was safe,
he continued, in a voice loud enough to be heard by Frank and his
sister,

"Now, driver, you're sure you know where Mrs. Nelson lives?"

"Yes, sir," answered the man, respectfully.

"Well, then, old beeswax, hurry up. Show us how fast your cobs can
travel."

So saying, he sprang into the carriage, and the driver closed the door
after him, mounted to his seat, and drove off.

"Why," said Julia, in surprise, "I guess that's Aunt Harriet--don't
you?"

"Yes," answered her brother, "I know it is."

"I am afraid I shall not like James," continued Julia; "he talks too
loud."

Frank did not answer, for he was of the same opinion. He had inferred
from Archie's letter that James would prove any thing but an agreeable
companion.

The brisk wind that was blowing carried them rapidly along, and, in a
few moments, they came to a place where the road ran along close to
the creek. The distance to Mrs. Nelson's, by the road, was greater, by
a quarter of a mile, than by the creek, and, consequently, they had
gained considerably on the carriage. Soon they heard the rattling of
wheels behind them, and the hack came suddenly around a turn in the
road.

James was leaning half-way out of the window, his cap pushed on one
side of his head, and, not knowing Frank, he accosted him, as he came
up, with his favorite expression.

"Hallo, old beeswax! Saw-logs must have been cheap when you had that
boat built. You've got timber enough there to finish off a good-sized
barn."

Frank, of course, made no reply; and, in a moment more, the hack was
out of sight.

They soon reached the wharf, in front of the house, and Frank helped
Julia out, and, after making his boat fast, started toward the house,
and entered the room where their visitors were seated.

His aunt's greeting was cold and distant, and she acted as if her
every motion had been thoroughly studied. James's acknowledgment was
scarcely more than agreeable. To Frank's inquiry, "How do you do,
sir?" he replied,

"Oh, I'm bully, thank you, old beeswax. Not you the cod I twigged[A]
navigating that scow up the creek?"

[Footnote A: Saw.]

Frank acknowledged himself to be the person, and James continued,

"I suppose she's the champion yacht, isn't she?"

"Yes," answered Frank, "she is. There's no boat about the village that
can beat her."

"Ah, possibly; but, after all, you had better tell that to the
marines. I've seen too much of the world to have a country chap stuff
me, now I tell you, old beeswax."

We will not particularize upon James's visit. It will suffice to
relate one or two incidents that will illustrate his character.

A day or two after his arrival, he discovered the schooner standing on
Frank's bureau, and he could not be contented until he should see "how
she carried herself in the water," and Frank, reluctantly, carried it
down to the creek and set it afloat.

For a few moments James seemed to have forgotten his evil
propensities, and they amused themselves by sailing the schooner from
one side of the creek to the other. But he very soon grew tired of
this "lame, unexciting sport," as he called it, and, gathering up an
armful of stones, he began to throw them into the water near the
boat, shouting,

"Storm on the Atlantic! See her rock!"

"Please don't, James," urged Frank; "I'm afraid you will hit the
schooner."

"No fear of that," answered James, confidently, still continuing to
throw the stones; "I can come within a hair's-breadth of her, and not
touch her. Now, see."

And, before Frank could speak, away flew a large stone, with great
force, and, crashing through the mainsail of the little vessel, broke
both masts and the bowsprit short off.

"There," exclaimed Frank, "I was afraid you would do that."

James did not appear to be in the least sorry for it, but he skipped
up the bank, shouting, in an insulting tone,

"There's your boat, old beeswax. When do you expect her in port?"

Frank did not answer, but drew what remained of the schooner to the
shore, and, taking it under his arm, started for his shop, saying,

"Now, that's a nice cousin for a fellow to have. I'll do my best to
treat him respectfully while he stays, but I shall not be sorry when
the time comes to bid him good-by."

And that time was not far distant. James often complained to his
mother that Frank was a "low-minded, mean fellow," and urged an
immediate departure. His mother always yielded to his requests, or
rather _demands_, no matter how unreasonable they might be; and they
had scarcely made a visit of a week, when they announced their
intention of leaving Lawrence by the "next boat."

On the day previous to their departure, Mrs. Nelson had occasion to
send Frank to the village for some groceries, and, as a favorable wind
was blowing, he decided to go in his boat. But, before starting, he
managed to slip away from James long enough to write a few lines to
Archie, urging him to come immediately.

Frank intended to start off without James's knowledge; but the uneasy
fellow was always on the look-out, and, seeing his cousin going
rapidly down the walk, with a basket on each arm, and his dog--which,
like his master, had not much affection for James--he shouted,

"Hallo, old beeswax, where are you bound for?"

"For the village," answered Frank.

"Are you going to take the tow-path?"

"The tow-path! I don't know what you mean."

"Are you going to ride shanks' horses?"

"I don't understand that, either."

"Oh, you are a bass-wood man, indeed," said James, with a taunting
laugh. "Are you going to _walk_? Do you think you can comprehend me
now?"

"Yes," answered Frank, "I can understand you when you talk English.
No, I am not going to walk."

"Then I'll go with you, if you will leave that dog at home."

"I don't see what objections you can have to his company. He always
goes with me."

"I suppose you think more of him than you do of your relations; but
I'm going with you, at any rate."

And he quickened his pace to overtake Frank.

While his cousin was hoisting the sails, James deliberately seated
himself in the stern of the boat, and took hold of the tiller.

"Do you understand managing a sail-boat?" inquired Frank, as he stood
ready to cast off the painter.

"If any one else had asked me that question," answered James, with an
air of injured dignity, "I should have considered it an insult. Of
course I _do_."

"All right, then," said Frank, as he pushed the boat from the wharf.
"Go ahead. We shall be obliged to tack a good many times, going down
but we can sail back like a book, and--"

"Oh, you teach your grandmother, will you?" interrupted James. "I've
sailed more boats than you ever saw."

Frank, at first, did not doubt the truth of this assertion, for James
lived in a seaport town, and had had ample opportunity to learn how to
manage a yacht; but they had not made twenty feet from the wharf, when
he made up his mind that his cousin had never before attempted to act
as skipper.

Instead of keeping as close as possible to the wind, as he should have
done, he turned the boat's head first one way and then another, and,
of course, made no headway at all.

"I never saw such a tub as this," said James, at length; "I can't make
her mind her helm."

Just at this moment a strong gust of wind filled the sails, and, as
James was not seaman enough to "luff" or "let go the sheet," the
Speedwell same very near capsizing. As she righted, the wind again
filled the sails, and the boat was driven with great speed toward the
shore. Frank had barely time to pull up the center-board before her
bows ran high upon the bank, and the sheet was roughly jerked from
James's hand, and flapped loudly against the mast.

"There," said Frank, turning to his cousin, who sat, pale with terror,
"I guess it's a long time since you attempted to sail a boat; you seem
to have forgotten how, I tell you," he continued as he noticed
James's trepidation, "if I hadn't pulled up that center-board just as
I did, we should have been obliged to swim for it."

"I can't swim," said James, in a weak voice.

"Then you would have been in a fix," said Frank. "Now, let me see if I
can have any better luck."

James very willingly seated himself on one of the middle thwarts, and
Frank pushed the boat from the shore, and took hold of the tiller,
and, under his skillful management, the Speedwell flew through the
water like a duck.

James soon got over his fright, and his uneasy nature would not allow
him to remain long inactive, and, as he could find nothing else to do,
he commenced to rock the boat from one side to the other, and, as she
was "heeling" considerably, under the weight of her heavy canvas, the
water began to pour in over her side. Although the speed of the boat
was greatly diminished, Frank, for some time, made no complaint,
hoping that his cousin would soon grow tired of the sport. But James
did not seem inclined to cease, and Frank, at length, began to
remonstrate.

He reminded James that it would not require much to capsize the boat,
and, as the creek was very deep, and as he (James) had said he could
not swim, he might be a "gone sucker."

This, at first, had the effect of making James more careful, but he
soon commenced again as bad as ever.

Brave was seated in his usual place, and directly behind James. He
seemed to dislike the rocking of the boat as much as his master, but
he bore it very patiently for awhile, thinking, no doubt, that the
best way to deal with James was to "let him severely alone." But the
rocking increased, and Brave began to slide from one side of the boat
to the other. This was enough to upset his patience; and, encouraged,
perhaps, by some sly glances from Frank, he sprang up, and, placing a
paw on each shoulder of his tormentor, barked fiercely, close to his
ear.

James screamed loudly; and Brave, evidently thinking he had punished
him enough, returned to his seat.

"Let me ashore," shouted James; "I shan't stay in here any longer."

Frank gladly complied, and, the moment the Speedwell's bows touched
the bank, James sprang out.

"I wouldn't risk my life in that tub again for any money," he shouted;
"you may bet on that, old beeswax."

Frank made no reply, but pushed the boat from the shore again as soon
as possible.

James now felt safe; and, gathering up a handful of stones,
determined to wreak his vengeance on Brave. The sensible
Newfoundlander, at first, paid no attention to this cowardly assault;
but the stones whizzed by in unpleasant proximity, now and then
striking the sail or the side of the boat, and he began to manifest
his displeasure, by showing his teeth and growling savagely.

Frank stood it as long as possible, knowing that the best plan was to
remain silent; but James continued to follow the boat, and the stones
struck all around the object of his vengeance.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," said Frank, at length.

"You do, eh?" said James. "How are you going to hinder it? But perhaps
you would rather have me throw at you."

And, picking up a large stone, he hurled it at his cousin with great
force. It fell into the creek, close to the boat, and splashed the
water all over Frank.

This seemed to enrage Brave more than ever, and he sprang into the
water, and swam toward the shore, and no amount of scolding on Frank's
part could induce him to return. James, fearing that he was about to
be punished in a way he had not thought of, turned and took to his
heels.

At this moment a loud shout was heard, and several boys sprang over
the fence into the road, and James was speedily overtaken and
surrounded. They were a ragged, hard-looking set of fellows, and Frank
knew that they were the Hillers; besides, he recognized the foremost
of them as Lee Powell. They had their fishing-rods on their shoulders,
and each boy carried in his hand a long string of trout.

"Look'e here, you spindle-shanked dandy," said Lee, striding up and
laying hold of James's collar with no friendly hand, "does yer know
who yer was a heavin' rocks at? Shall we punch him for yer?" he added,
turning to Frank.

"No," answered Frank; "let him go; he's my cousin."

Lee accordingly released him, and James said, in a scarcely audible
voice,

"I was only in fun."

"Oh, only playin', was yer?" said Lee; "that alters the case
'tirely--don't it, Pete?"

The boy appealed to nodded his assent, and Lee continued,

"We thought yer was in blood arnest. If yer _had_ been, we wouldn't a
left a grease-spot of yer--would we, Pete?"

"Mighty cl'ar of us," answered Pete.

As soon as James found himself at liberty, he started toward home at
full speed, hardly daring to look behind him. Brave had by this time
gained the shore, and was about to start in pursuit, but a few sharp
words from Frank restrained him.

"Whar are yer goin'?" inquired Lee, walking carelessly down the bank.

"I'm going to the village," answered Frank.

"Will yer give a feller a ride?"

"Certainly. Jump in."

The Hillers accordingly clambered into the boat, and, in a few
moments, they reached the wharf, at the back of the post-office.

Lee and his companions immediately sprang out, and walked off, without
saying a word; and Frank, after fastening his boat to the wharf, began
to pull down the sails, when he discovered that the Hillers had left
two large strings of trout behind them.

Hastily catching them up, he ran around the corner of the post-office,
and saw Lee and his followers, some distance up the road.

"Hallo!" he shouted, at the top of his lungs; "Lee Powell!"

But they paid no attention to him.

"I know they heard me," said Frank.

And he shouted again, but with no better success.

At length, one of the village boys, who was coming across the fields,
with a basket of strawberries on his arm, shouted to the Hillers,
and, when he had gained their attention, pointed toward Frank,

"See here!" Frank shouted, as he held up the fish; "you have forgotten
these."

"No, I guess not," shouted Lee, in reply. "We Hillers don't forget
favors as easy as all that comes to. Ye're welcome to 'em."

And he and his companions walked rapidly off.



CHAPTER XI.

Trout-Fishing.


A few days after the events related in the preceding chapter
transpired, Frank, with one or two companions, was standing in the
post-office, waiting for the opening of the mail. The steamer had just
landed, and the passengers which she had brought were slowly walking
toward the hotel, where they intended to take dinner. At length, a
village hack came rapidly down the road leading from the wharf, and,
when it came opposite the post-office, a head was suddenly thrust out
at the window, the driver reined in his horses, the door flew open,
and Archie Winters sprang out.

We shall not attempt to describe the meeting of the cousins, nor the
joy that prevailed among the village boys at the arrival of their city
friend.

Archie had not written that it was his intention to come so soon, and
his sudden appearance among them took them completely by surprise.

After a few moments' conversation, Frank and Archie got into the
carriage, and, in a short time, were set down at the door of Mrs.
Nelson's house.

Frank's mother and sister expressed much joy at Archie's arrival, and,
after the excitement of meeting was over, they inquired after his
parents.

"When are they coming?" asked Frank.

"They intended to come in the fall," answered Archie, "but father has
more business on his hands than he expected, and they may not be here
before the holidays; but I couldn't wait."

"I'm glad you didn't," said Frank. "You are not going home before
spring, are you?"

"No," said Archie, "I'm going to stay as long as you will keep me."

Frank was overjoyed at this, and, if he had not been in the house, he
would have given, as he said, "a yell that would have done credit to
an Indian."

But, before going further, we must say a word about Archie's
companions--we mean his dogs. One of them, that answered to the name
of Sport, was as fine a fox-hound as one would wish to see. He was a
large, tan-colored animal, very fleet and courageous, and was well
acquainted with all the tricks of his favorite game, and the boys
often boasted that "Sport had never lost a fox in his life." The black
fox, which had held possession of Reynard's Island so long, was
captured by Frank and his cousin, with the assistance of Sport, after
a chase of three hours. Lightfoot--for that was the name of the
other--was an English grayhound. He stood full three feet high at the
shoulders, and his speed was tremendous. He was young, however, and
knew nothing about hunting; but he had been taught to "fetch and
carry," and, as he learned very readily, the boys expected plenty of
sport in training him.

After supper, Archie's trunk was carried into the "study," and the
boys busied themselves in taking out its contents. The clothing was
all packed away in the bureau; and then came Archie's "sporting
cabinet," as he called it--a fine double-barreled shot-gun, which was
hung upon the frame at the foot of the bed; a quantity of ammunition,
a small hatchet, powder-flasks, shot bags, and a number of other
things, which were stowed away in safe places.

At length Archie drew out two fish-poles, neatly stowed away in strong
bags, and one of them proved to be the one about which Archie had
written. This was placed away in one corner, and Frank promised to
mend it immediately.

"See here," said Archie, as he drew out two queer-looking implements;
"I have been acting on the suggestion of Uncle Joe Lewis."

"What are they?" inquired Frank.

One of them was a thin rod of steel, about three feet in length, very
pointed and sharp at the end the other looked very much like a
fish-spear, only the "tines" were smaller and sharper.

"They are spears," said Archie, in answer to Frank's question.

"So I see; but what use can you put them to?"

"This," said Archie, taking up the rod of steel, "is a mink-spear.
Last winter we lost a good many minks, when, if we had had an
instrument like this, we could have secured them easily enough. You
know that sometimes you get a mink into a place where you can see him,
but, if you go to work to chop a hole large enough to get a stick in
to kill him, he will jump out before you know what you are about. You
will remember a little incident of this kind that happened last
winter--that day we had such good luck. We were following a mink up
the creek on the ice, when Brave suddenly stopped before a hollow
stub, and stuck his nose into a hole, and acted as if there was a mink
in there; and, you know, we didn't believe there was, but we thought
we could stop and see. So we cut a hole in the stub, and, sure enough,
there was a mink, and, as good luck would have it, we had cut the hole
close to the place where he was, and we thought we had him sure; and,
while Harry Butler went to cut a stick to kill him with, I chopped the
hole a little larger, so that we could see him plainer, when, all of a
sudden, out popped the mink, and, before we could say 'scat,' it was
under the ice."

"Yes," said Frank, "I remember it very well; and, I guess, there were
some mad boys around that place, somewhere."

"Yes," said Archie, "I was provoked because it was all my fault that
we lost him. If we had had this spear, we could have killed him easy
enough. We wouldn't be obliged to cut a hole larger than an inch
square, and no mink I ever saw could get through that. And this," he
continued, taking up the other instrument, "is a muskrat-spear. The
way to proceed is this: Go to a muskrat's house, and, with an ax, cut
a chunk out of the top, directly over where they sleep."

"And, by the time you get that done," said Frank, with a laugh, "the
muskrats will be out of your way."

"I know that; they will undoubtedly start off the first blow you
strike, and swim to some breathing-hole; but in a quarter of an hour
they will be sure to return. While they are gone, you will have plenty
of time to cut the chunk, and, after taking it out, place it carefully
back, in such a manner that it can be removed instantly; then, if
there are any other houses near, serve them in the same way. Then, in
half an hour or so, take your spear and go to the houses, making as
little noise at possible, and let your companion lift out the chunk
suddenly, and you be ready to strike. Father says he has seen Uncle
Joe Lewis catch half a dozen in one house, in this way, very
frequently. He always spears the one nearest the passage that leads
from the house down into the water, and this will prevent the others
from escaping."

"I don't much like the idea," said Frank.

"Neither do I," said Archie. "It will do well enough for those who
make their living by hunting; but, if I want to hunt muskrats, I would
rather wait until the ice breaks up, in spring; I can then shoot them
quite fast enough to suit me, and the sport is more exciting."

One morning, about a week after Archie's arrival, they arose, as
usual, very early, and, while they were dressing, Frank drew aside the
curtain, and looked out.

"I say, Archie," he exclaimed, "you've got your wish; it's a
first-rate morning to go trout-fishing."

Archie had been waiting impatiently for a cloudy day; he was very fond
of trout-fishing, and he readily agreed to his cousin's proposal to
"take a trip to Dungeon Brook," and they commenced pulling on their
"hunting and fishing rig," as they called it, which consisted of a
pair of stout pantaloons that would resist water and dirt to the last
extremity, heavy boots reaching above their knees, and a blue flannel
shirt.

While Archie was getting their fishing-tackle ready, Frank busied
himself in placing on the table in the kitchen such eatables as he
could lay his hands on, for he and his cousin were the only ones up.

Their breakfast was eaten in a hurry; and, after drawing on their
India-rubber coats--for Frank said it would rain before they
returned--they slung on their fish-baskets, and took their trout-poles
in their hands, and started out.

Dungeon Brook lay about five miles distant, through the woods. It was
a long tramp, over fallen logs and through thick bushes; but it was
famous for its large trout, and the boys knew they would be well
repaid for their trouble.

In about two hours they arrived at their destination; and, after
partaking of a lunch, which Frank had brought, they rigged their
"flies," and Archie went up the brook a little distance, to try a
place known among the boys as the "old trout-hole," while Frank
dropped his hook down close to a large log that lay across the stream,
near the place where he was standing. The bait sank slowly toward the
bottom, when, suddenly, there was a tremendous jerk, and the line
whizzed through the water with a force that bent the tough, elastic
pole like a "reed shaken with the wind." Frank was a skillful
fisherman, and, after a few moments' maneuvering, a trout weighing
between three and four pounds lay floundering on the bank.

Archie soon came up, having been a little more successful, as two
good-sized fish were struggling in his basket.

They walked slowly down the brook, stopping now and then to try some
favorite spot, and, about three o'clock in the afternoon, they reached
the place where the brook emptied into Glen's Creek, and were about
two miles from home. They had been remarkably successful; their
baskets were filled, and they had several "sockdologers" strung on a
branch, which they carried in their hands.

After dropping their hooks for a few moments among the perch, at the
mouth of the brook, they unjointed their poles, and started toward
home, well satisfied with their day's work.

The next day, as Frank and Archie were on their way to the village, on
foot--the wind being contrary, they could not sail--they met George
and Harry, who had started to pay them a visit.

"Hallo, boys!" exclaimed the former, as soon as they came within
speaking distance, "we've got news for you."

"And some that you will not like to hear, Frank," said Harry, with a
laugh.

"What is it?" inquired Archie.

"Why, you know, Charley Morgan, some time since, sent to New York for
a couple of sail-boats, a sloop and schooner. They arrived yesterday,
and he thinks they are something great, and says the Speedwell is
nowhere."

"Yes," chimed in Harry, "he said, when those boats came, he would show
us 'country chaps' some sailing that would make us open our eyes; but,
come to find out, they are perfect tubs. I saw the sloop coming up the
creek, and she made poor headway. The Alert can beat her all hollow,
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
beautifully-modeled schooner.

"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
accomplish much."

"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
ignorance."

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
sloop."

"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
me."

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,
that night."

"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
arms.

"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
disappeared.



CHAPTER XII.

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
game.

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
opposite shore.

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
exertions.

"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
around them.

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,
exclaiming,

"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
for that."

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
them."

"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
the boat.

"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
new.

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
work again.

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.



CHAPTER XIII.

A 'Coon-Hunt.


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
river.

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 tree.

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
strange movements.

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
Egyptian darkness.

"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
ground.

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.
Good-by, 'coon!"

"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
out,

"There must be a big nest of 'coons in here; the tree is completely
skinned."

"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
impatient whine.

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
accounts now."

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
engaged in."

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
'coon."

"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
winter previous.

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
him.

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
Moosehead Lake."

"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
earnest.

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
ample justice.

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
comfortable position,

"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.



CHAPTER XIV.

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
sayin',

"'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
single day.'

"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
out,

"'"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
the shantee."

"'"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
pieces!"

"'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
hide--"

"'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
touched him.

"'"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
mother's heart.'

"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
trappers.

"'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,

"'Bill Lawson!'

"'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.'

"'Oh, Bill--'

"'With the tomahawk you killed my father, an' by the tomahawk you
shall die.'

"'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."



CHAPTER XV.

Wild Geese.


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
back."

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
appeared.

"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,

"Listen! listen!"

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
morning."

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
length.

"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
o'clock."

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
slumber.

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
coolly.

"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,
Archie said,

"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
bird."

"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
out.

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
slippery job."

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
bridge.

"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
wait."

The boys stood under the tree, talking in low tones, when Frank
suddenly exclaimed,

"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
swamp.

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
his eye.

"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
lose him."

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
shoulder.

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 XVI.

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
without ceremony.

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
this time."

And he shouldered his gun, and ran out of the shop, banging the door
after him.

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
direction.

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
water.

"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?"
continued Frank.

"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
three ducks."

"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
tracking."

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
my chance of catching one."

"You mean, if the snow doesn't melt," said Frank, quietly.

"Oh, that's always the way with you," said Archie. "What makes you try
to throw cold water on all our expectations, in that way?"

"I didn't intend to," answered Frank, with a laugh; "but, you know, we
have been disappointed very often."

"Yes," said George, "but I guess we are all right this time. It snows
pretty fast, and the air doesn't feel like a thaw or rain."

Frank acknowledged this; and they walked along, talking about the
exciting times they expected to have on the morrow, until they reached
the "big elm"--a large tree that stood leaning over the creek, just
half-way between Captain Butler's and where Frank lived. Here George
and Harry stopped, and, after promising to be at the cottage early on
the following morning, turned their faces homeward.



CHAPTER XVII.

The Grayhound Outgeneraled.


The next morning, at an early hour, George and Harry arrived at the
cottage, and, after a light and hastily-eaten breakfast, they set out.
Frank and Harry were armed, as usual, with their guns, while the
others carried axes. They crossed the meadow at the back of the
orchard, passed through the cornfield which had been the scene of the
'coon-hunt, a few weeks before, and struck out through the woods. The
dogs were then sent out ahead, and they had not gone more than half a
mile, when Sport uttered a long, loud howl, and, when the boys came up
with him, he was running impatiently about with his nose close to the
ground.

"A fox has been along here," said Frank, bending over and examining a
track in the snow, "and the trail looks fresh."

"Hunt 'em up! hunt 'em up!" shouted Archie, excitedly, waving his hand
to the dogs.

Sport bounded off on the track like a shot, and Lightfoot followed
close after. Brave barked and howled furiously, and acted as if he
wished very much to accompany them; but the swift hounds would have
distanced him in a moment.

It must not be supposed that it was the intention of the boys to
follow up the hounds--that would have been worse than useless. Perhaps
the chase would continue for several hours. They had once hunted a fox
all day, without coming in sight of him. Reynard has ways and habits
of his own, which a person who has had experience in hunting him
understands. He always runs with the wind, and generally follows a
ridge. The hunters take advantage of this, and "run cross-lots" to
meet him, sometimes gaining on him several miles in this manner.

The moment the hounds had disappeared on the trail, Frank--who knew
all the "run-ways" of the game like a book--led the way through the
woods toward a ridge that lay about a mile distant, where they
expected the fox would pass.

A quarter of an hour's run brought them to this ridge, and they began
to conceal themselves behind trees and bushes, when Archie suddenly
exclaimed,

"We're dished, boys. The fox has already passed."

"Come on, then," said Frank. "No time to lose. We must try again."

And he again led the way, on a keen run, through a strip of woods,
across a wide meadow toward another ridge, that lay fully three miles
distant.

At length the baying of the hounds echoed through the woods, far below
them. Louder and louder it grew, and, in a few moments, they swept up
the ridge in full cry. The boys hurried on as rapidly as possible, and
reached the ridge in about an hour. Although they were accustomed to
such sport, they were pretty well tired out. They had run the greater
part of the way through thick woods, filled with fallen logs and
tangled bushes; but they now felt confident that the hunt was nearly
over. They knew they had gained considerably on the fox, and his
capture would be an ample reward for their trouble.

As soon as they reached the ridge, they threw themselves rapidly
across it in all directions, and, to their delight, discovered that
the fox had not yet passed. They stationed themselves in such a manner
that it would be impossible for him to pass on either side of them
without coming within reach of their guns, and patiently awaited his
appearance. They had not remained long in this position, when Archie,
who was stationed lowest down the ridge, exclaimed in a subdued voice,

"There they come, boys! Now, look sharp!"

The boys listened intently, and heard, faint and far off, the
well-known bay of Sport. It was sharp and short--very different from
the note he had uttered when the chase first commenced. Louder and
louder grew the noise, as the hounds came rapidly up the ridge toward
the place where the boys were stationed, and every one was on the
alert, expecting every moment to see the fox break cover.

Suddenly a loud howl blended with Sport's baying, and the hounds
seemed to turn and sweep down the valley.

"The fox has left the ridge, boys," said Frank.

"Then we're dished again," exclaimed Archie.

"Perhaps not," continued Frank. "He will have to go across the meadow,
and will run the risk of being caught by Lightfoot. We must try and
cut him off."

And he led the way down the ridge, in the direction the chase was
tending.

In a few moments the hounds broke out into a continuous cry, and, when
the boys emerged from the woods, they saw them standing at the foot of
a tall stump, which stood near the middle of the meadow.

Brave immediately ran to join them, and Harry exclaimed,

"I'd like to know what those dogs are doing there?"

"Why, they've got the fox treed," said Frank.

"A fox treed!" repeated Harry, with a laugh, "Whoever heard of such a
thing?"

"I have often read," answered Frank, "that when a fox is hard pressed,
and finds himself unable to escape, he will take advantage of any
place of concealment he can find."

While this conversation was going on, the boys had been running toward
the stump, and, when they reached it, they found Brave with his head
buried in a hole near the ground, now and then giving his tail a jerk,
but otherwise remaining as motionless as a statue.

"What do you think now of the possibility of seeing a fox?" inquired
Frank, turning to Harry.

"I don't believe it yet," said the latter.

"Then how is it that the dogs are here?"

"The fox may have run down here and doubled on his trail, and thus
thrown the dogs off the scent."

"He didn't have time to do that," said Archie, who had divested
himself of his coat, and stood with his ax, ready to cut down the
stump. "He's in here, I'm certain. See how Brave acts."

"It will not take long to find out," said George, who was a good deal
of his brother's opinion that the fox was not in the tree.

And he and Archie set to work, with the intention of cutting it down.
But it was found to be hollow; and, after taking out a few chips,
Archie stooped down to take a survey of the interior, and spied the
fox crouched in the darkest corner.

"Hand me your gun, Frank," said he; "I'll shoot him."

"I wouldn't shoot him," said Frank. "It is a good time to try
Lightfoot's speed. Let's get the fox out, and give him a fair start,
and if he gets away from the hound, he is entitled to his life."

The boys readily agreed to this proposal--not out of any desire to
give the fox a chance for his liberty, but in order to witness a fair
trial of the grayhound's speed, and to enjoy the excitement of the
race.

George and Harry provided themselves with long poles, with which to
"poke" the fox out of his refuge. Brave and Sport were unceremoniously
conducted away from the tree, and ordered to "lie down;" and Frank
took hold of the grayhound, intending to restrain him until the fox
could get a fair start.

"All ready now," said Archie. "Keep a good look-out, Frank, and let
the hound go the instant the fox comes out. You know, Lightfoot is
young yet, and it won't do to give the game too long a start."

"All right," answered Frank.

And he tightened his grasp on the strong, impatient animal, which
struggled desperately to free himself, while George and Harry began
the work of "poking out the fox." They thrust their poles into the
holes they had cut in the roots of the stump, and the next moment out
popped the fox, and started toward the woods like a streak of light.

The meadow was about a mile and a half square, and was laid off in
"dead furrows"--deep ditches, which are dug, about four rods apart, to
drain off the water. The fox took to the bank of one of these furrows,
and followed it at a rate of speed which the boys had never seen
equaled.

The moment Lightfoot discovered him, he raised himself on his
hind-legs, and struggled and fought furiously. But Frank would not
release him in that position, for fear the hound would "throw"
himself; and he commenced striking him on the head, to compel him, if
possible, to place his fore-feet on the ground, but all to no purpose.

During the struggle, short as it was, the fox had gained nearly thirty
rods. Archie was not slow to notice this, and he shouted to his
cousin,

"Let him go! let him go! The fox has too long a start already."

Frank accordingly released the hound, which made an enormous bound,
and, as Frank had expected, he landed, all in a heap, in one of the
dead furrows, and, before he could recover himself, the fox had
gained two or three rods more. But when the hound was fairly started,
his speed was astonishing. He settled down nobly to his work, and
moved over the ground as lightly as if he had been furnished with
wings.

Had he been a well-trained dog, the boys would have felt no concern
whatever as to the issue of the race; but, as it was, they looked upon
the escape of the fox as a very probable thing. The fox was still
following the dead furrow, and Lightfoot, instead of pursuing directly
after him, as he ought to have done, took to another furrow which ran
parallel to the one the fox was following, and about four rods from
it.

The fox had a good start, but the enormous bounds of the greyhound
rapidly lessened the distance between them; he gained at every step,
and finally overtook him, and the two animals were running side by
side, and only four rods apart.

Suddenly the cunning fox turned, and started off exactly at right
angles with the course he had been following. The gray hound, of
course, had not been expecting this, and he made a dozen of his long
bounds before he could turn himself. During this time the fox gained
several rods.

As before, the hound pursued a course parallel with that of the fox,
instead of following directly after him.

In a few moments they were again running side by side, but this time
further apart than before. Again and again the fox turned, each time
nearing the woods, and gaining considerably; and finally, reaching the
end of the meadow, he cleared the fence at a bound, and disappeared in
the bushes.

"Now, that's provoking!" exclaimed Archie.

"Never mind," answered Frank. "I don't think the fox can go much
further. He must be pretty well tired out, judging by the way he ran.
Here, Sport!" he continued, "hunt 'em up!"

Sport was off like a shot, and the boys followed after as fast as
their legs could carry them.

When they reached the woods, they found Lightfoot beating about in the
bushes, as if he expected to find the fox concealed among them. Sport
was standing over the trail of the fox, as motionless as if he had
been turned into stone.

"Hunt 'em up!" shouted Frank, again--"hunt 'em up."

The hound uttered a loud bark, and instantly set off on the trail, and
Lightfoot, as before, followed close at his heels.

"Now," exclaimed Frank, "we must change our tactics."

"Yes," said Harry. "A little further on, the ridge branches off, and
there is no knowing which one the fox will follow. Come, George, we
will go this way."

And he turned and ran down into the meadow again.

"Run like blazes, now!" shouted Frank.

And, suiting the action to the word, he turned off in the opposite
direction, and led the way through the woods at a rate which made
Archie wonder. They ran along in "Indian file"--Brave bringing up the
rear--for almost two miles, through the thickest part of the woods,
when they again found themselves on the ridge. After ascertaining that
the fox had not yet passed, they took their stations.

"I would really like to know which way that fox went," said Archie,
panting hard after his long run.

"I am almost certain that he took to the other ridge," answered Frank.
"I think we should have heard the hound before this time, if he had
turned this way."

They remained in their places of concealment for almost an hour,
without hearing any sounds of the chase, and Frank said,

"We might as well start for home."

"Dished again, are we?" said Archie, in a deprecating tone. "That's
too bad! Well," he continued, "we can't always be the fortunate ones,
but I wish I could have had the pleasure of shooting that fox. But
which way do we go to get home?"

"We must go exactly south," said Frank.

"Which way is that?"

"I will soon tell you."

And Frank drew a small compass from his pocket, and, in a moment,
continued,

"This is the way. Come on!"

And he turned his face, as Archie thought, directly _from_ home, and
struck boldly out. Their long run had taxed their endurance to the
utmost. If they had "been in practice," they would have looked upon it
as merely a "little tramp;" for, during the previous winter, they had
often followed a fox all day without experiencing any serious
inconvenience; but, as this was the first exercise of the kind they
had had for almost a year, they felt the effects of it pretty
severely.

Archie, who had lived in the city during the summer, was "completely
used up," as he expressed it; and his cousin was weary and footsore;
and it seemed as though neither of them had sufficient strength left
to take another step.

They kept on, hour after hour, however, without once stopping to rest;
and, about three o'clock in the afternoon, they climbed over the fence
that inclosed Uncle Mike's pasture, and came in sight of the cottage.

George and Harry were sitting on the piazza, and, as soon as they came
within speaking distance, the latter held up the fox, exclaiming,

"We were lucky, for once in our lives."

"If we had been five minutes later, we should have lost him," said
George, as Frank and his cousin came up to where the brothers were
sitting. "We reached the ridge just in the 'nick of time,' The fox was
just passing, and Harry brought him down by a chance shot. Here,
Frank," he continued, "you take the fox; we have no use for him."

Frank thanked him; and the boys then went into the house, and, after
dinner, the brothers started for home.

Frank and his cousin went into the study, and the former selected his
favorite book from his library, and settled himself in an easy-chair
before the fire; while Archie stretched himself on the bed, and was
fast asleep in a moment.

And here, reader, we will leave them reposing after their long run;
but we hope soon to introduce them again in works entitled, "FRANK IN
THE WOODS," and "FRANK ON THE PRAIRIE."


THE END.





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