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´╗┐Title: The Boy Trapper
Author: Castlemon, Harry, [pseud.], 1842-1915
Language: English
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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 "The Boy Trapper" ***

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[Illustration: Dave meets Lester Brigham.]


Boy Trapper Series

THE

BOY TRAPPER.

By HARRY CASTLEMON,

AUTHOR OF "THE FRANK NELSON SERIES," "THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB SERIES,"
"GUNBOAT SERIES," &C.

PHILADELPHIA
HENRY T. COATES & CO.



FAMOUS CASTLEMON BOOKS.

Gunboat Series. By Harry Castlemon. 6 vols. 12mo.
  Frank the Young Naturalist.
  Frank on a Gunboat.
  Frank in the Woods.
  Frank before Vicksburg.
  Frank on the Lower Mississippi.
  Frank on the Prairie.

Rocky Mountain Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  Frank among the Rancheros.
  Frank at Don Carlos' Ranch.
  Frank in the Mountains.

Sportsman's Club Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  The Sportsman's Club in the Saddle.
  The Sportsman's Club Afloat.
  The Sportsman's Club among the Trappers.

Frank Nelson Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  Snowed Up.
  Frank in the Forecastle.
  The Boy Traders.

Boy Trapper Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  The Buried Treasure.
  The Boy Trapper.
  The Mail-Carrier.

Roughing It Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  George in Camp.
  George at the Wheel.
  George at the Fort.

Rod and Gun Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  Don Gordon's Shooting Box.
  Rod and Gun Club.
  The Young Wild Fowlers.

Go-Ahead Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  Tom Newcombe.
  Go-Ahead.
  No Moss.

Forest and Stream Series. By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  Joe Wayring.
  Snagged and Sunk.
  Steel Horse.

War Series. By Harry Castlemon. 5 vols. 12mo. Cloth.
  True to his Colors.
  Rodney the Partisan.
  Rodney the Overseer.
  Marcy the Blockade-Runner.
  Marcy the Refugee.

Other Volumes in Preparation.



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, by PORTER &
COATES, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



CONTENTS

     I. A GLANCE AT THE PAST
    II. DAVID'S VISITORS
   III. AN OFFER OF PARTNERSHIP
    IV. MORE BAD NEWS
     V. DAN IS ASTONISHED
    VI. BRUIN'S ISLAND
   VII. WHAT HAPPENED THERE
  VIII. DOGS IN THE MANGER
    IX. NATURAL HISTORY
     X. A BEAR HUNT
    XI. TRAPPING QUAILS
   XII. WHERE THE POINTER WAS
  XIII. TEN DOLLARS REWARD
   XIV. SOME DISCOVERIES
    XV. BOB'S ASPIRATIONS
   XVI. DON'S HOUNDS TREE SOMETHING
  XVII. CONCLUSION



CHAPTER I.

A GLANCE AT THE PAST.


"Don't worry about it, mother. It is nothing we can help."

"It seems to me that I might have helped it. If I had gone to General
Gordon when your father first spoke about that barrel with the eighty
thousand dollars in it, and told him the whole story, things might
have turned out differently. But in spite of all he said, I did not
suppose that he was in earnest."

"Neither did I. That any man in his sober senses should think of such
a thing! Why, mother, if there had been so much money buried in that
potato-patch, the General would have known it, and don't you suppose
he would have found it if he'd had to plough the field up ten feet
deep? Of course he would."

"But just think of the disgrace that has been brought upon us."

"Father is the only one who has done anything to be ashamed of, and
he made matters worse by running away. If he would come home and
attend to his business, no one would say a word to him. The General
told me so this morning."

"I am afraid you couldn't make your father believe it."

"Perhaps not, but if I knew where to find him I should try."

It was David Evans who spoke last. He and his mother were talking
over the strange incidents that had happened in the settlement during
the last few days, and which we have attempted to describe in the
preceding volume of this series. The events were brought about by a
very foolish notion which Godfrey Evans, David's father, suddenly got
into his head.

During our late war it was the custom of the people living in the
South to conceal their valuables when they heard of the approach of
the Union army. They were also careful to take the same precautions
to save their property when it became known that the rebel guerillas
were near at hand; for these worthies were oftentimes but little
better than organized bands of robbers, and the people stood as much
in fear of them as they did of the Federals. These valuables,
consisting for the most part of money, jewelry and silverware, were
sometimes hidden in cellars, in hollow logs in the woods and in
barns; but more frequently they were buried in the ground. The work
of hiding them was sometimes performed by the planters themselves, if
they happened to be at home, but it was generally intrusted to old
and faithful servants in whom their owners had every confidence. It
not unfrequently happened that these old and faithful servants proved
themselves utterly unworthy of the trust reposed in them. Sometimes
they told the raiding soldiers where the property was concealed, and
at others they ran away without telling even their masters where the
valuables were hidden. General Gordon's old servant, Jordan, was one
of this stamp. He went off with the Union forces, who raided that
part of Mississippi, and before he went he told a rebel soldier,
Godfrey Evans, who happened to be at home on a furlough, and who was
skulking in the woods to avoid capture, that he had just buried a
barrel containing eighty thousand dollars in gold and silver in his
master's potato-patch, and that none of the family knew where it was.

This Godfrey Evans had been well off in the world at one time. He had
property to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars; but, like many
others, he lost it all during the war, and returned home after the
surrender of General Lee to find himself a poor man. His comfortable
house had been burned over the heads of his wife and children, who
were now living in a rude hut which some kind-hearted neighbors had
hastily erected; his negroes, who had made his money for him, were
all gone; his cattle had been slaughtered by both rebel and Union
troops, and his mules and horses carried off; his fine drove of hogs,
which ran loose in the woods, and upon which he relied to furnish his
year's supply of bacon, had wandered away and become wild; and
Godfrey had nothing but his rifle and his two hands with which to
begin the world anew. But it was hard to go back and begin again
where he had begun forty years ago. The bare thought of it was enough
to discourage Godfrey, who declared that he wouldn't do it, and made
his words good by becoming a roving vagabond. He spent the most of
his time at the landing, watching the steamers as they came in, and
the rest in wandering listlessly about the woods, shooting just game
enough to keep him in powder, lead and tobacco. His sole companion
and friend was his son Daniel, who, being a chip of the old block,
faithfully imitated his father's lazy, useless mode of life. Mrs.
Evans and the younger son, David, were the only members of the family
who worked. They never lost an opportunity to turn an honest penny,
and there were times when Godfrey and Dan would have gone supperless
to bed if it had not been for these two faithful toilers.

Godfrey disliked this aimless, joyless existence as much as he
disliked work, and even Dan at times longed for something better.
They both wanted to be rich. Godfrey wanted to see his fine
plantation, which was now abandoned to briers and cane, cultivated as
it used to be; while it was Dan's ambition to have two or three
painted boats in the lake, to have a pointer following at his heels,
and to do his shooting with a double-barrel gun that "broke in two in
the middle." He wanted to take his morning's exercise on a spotted
pony--a circus horse, he called it; and to wear a broadcloth suit,
a Panama hat and patent leather boots, when he went to church on
Sundays. Don and Bert Gordon had all these aids to happiness, and
they were the jolliest fellows he had ever seen--always laughing,
singing or whistling. Dan thought he would be happy too, if he could
only have so many fine things to call his own, but he could see no
way to get them, and that made him angry. He hated Don and Bert so
heartily that he could never look at them without wishing that some
evil might befall them. He threatened to steal their horses, shoot
their dogs, sink their boats, and do a host of other desperate
things, believing that in this way he could render the two happy
brothers as miserable as he was himself.

Godfrey and Dan lived in a most unenviable frame of mind for a year
or more, and then the former one day happened to think of the barrel
which old Jordan had told him was hidden in the potato-patch. He
spoke of it while the family were at dinner, and announced that he
and Dan would begin the work of unearthing the BURIED TREASURE that
very night. If they didn't find it the first time they tried, they
would go the next night; and they would keep on digging until they
obtained possession of it, if they had to dig up the whole state of
Mississippi. Dan almost went wild over the news. He and his father
spent a few minutes in building air-castles, and then Godfrey, who
felt as rich as though he already had the money in his possession,
hurried down to the landing, entered the store there and called for a
plug of tobacco, which the merchant refused to give him until he
showed that he had twenty-five cents to pay for it.

Although Dan and his father had great expectations, which they
believed would very soon be realized, they did not neglect to pay
attention to small matters, and to pick up any stray dollars that
chanced to fall in their way. David was a famous dog-breaker, and Don
Gordon had offered him ten dollars to train a pointer for him. The
offer was made in the presence of Dan and his father, and the former
at once laid his plans to obtain possession of a portion of the
money. While the two were on their way to the landing, where a
shooting-match was to be held that afternoon, Dan stopped at General
Gordon's barn, and having borrowed a shovel, with which to dig up the
buried treasure, he went to the house, where he found Bert reading a
book. He told him that David had sent him there after five dollars,
as he wished to buy a new dress for his mother, and Bert, although
he was well aware that, according to the agreement his brother had
made with David, the money was not to be paid until the pointer
was thoroughly broken for the field, advanced him the amount he
requested. Arriving at the landing, Dan got the bill changed for
notes of smaller denomination, and, while he was picking up his
money, was surprised by his father, who was greatly amazed to see his
son with such a roll of greenbacks in his hand. Knowing that Dan
was too lazy to work--too much of a gentleman was the way Godfrey
expressed it--he could not imagine where the money came from, and Dan
refused to enlighten him on this point, fearing that if he did his
father would go straight to Don Gordon and ask for the rest of the
ten dollars. Godfrey urged and commanded to no purpose, and was
obliged to be satisfied with the loan of a dollar, which he promised
to return with heavy interest as soon as the barrel was found. He
paid seventy-five cents of it for the privilege of entering as one
of the contestants in the shooting-match, and the rest he used in
purchasing the plug of tobacco for which the grocer had refused
to credit him. He won nothing during the match, while Dan, to his
father's great disgust, came in for one of the first prizes--a fine
quarter of beef.

When the shooting-match was over, the father and son returned to the
little hovel they called home. Dan at once put the mule into the cart
and started back to the landing to bring home his quarter of beef;
while Godfrey, by pretending to fall asleep on the bench in front of
the cabin, was able to carry out a little stratagem that suddenly
suggested itself to him. He knew that Dan was a thrifty lad in spite
of his laziness, and that he believed in laying by something for
a rainy day. He was never out of ammunition for his rifle, but he
always took care to keep his little stock hidden away, so that his
father could not find it. By watching him on this particular day,
Godfrey was lucky enough to find out where the boy's hiding-place
was. He went to it as soon as Dan drove away in the cart, and found
there a goodly supply of powder, lead and caps, and also three
dollars and twenty-five cents in money; all of which he put into his
pocket.

Dan came back from the landing in due time, and his father, who had
been calculating on having a good supper that night, was astonished
to find that the beef had been sold. He was enraged at first, but
when he learned that Dan had received three dollars and a half for
it, he was quieted at once, and a happy thought came into his mind.
He sent Dan into the woods to shoot some squirrels for supper, and
while the boy was gone he went to the hiding-place and put back the
ammunition and money just as he found them, believing that when Dan
returned he would put the three dollars and a half there too. Nor was
he mistaken. The boy presently came back with squirrels enough for
supper, and as soon as he thought he could do so without being seen
by any one, he went to his storehouse, and having made sure that the
property he had already hidden there was safe, he added to it the sum
he had received for the quarter of beef, and went away happy. His
father was happy too for he had seen the whole operation.

Godfrey was too tired to dig for the buried treasure that night, so
Dan went to bed as soon as it was fairly dark. His father waited
until he was soundly asleep, and then went to the storehouse and took
out all it contained. Dan's rage when he discovered his loss the next
morning was something to wonder at. He knew where his property was,
and he demanded its immediate return, threatening in case of refusal,
to tell General Gordon about the barrel in the potato-field. This
frightened Godfrey, who gave up the contents of his pockets, but not
until he had forced Dan to tell him where he obtained the money he
had seen in his hands at the landing the day before. He was
astonished when he learned that it came from Bert Gordon, and set his
wits at work to conjure up some plan, by which he might obtain
possession of the rest. He went over to the General's at once, and
there learned that Don and Bert had gone down to the landing with
their father, where they were awaiting the arrival of two cousins,
whom they were expecting from the North. Godfrey followed them there
with all haste, sought an interview with Don, and by telling him some
plausible story, induced him to advance the other five dollars.
Godfrey hoped in this way to get the start of Dan and enjoy his
ill-gotten gains all by himself, but Dan was there and saw it all,
and his father, alarmed by the look he saw on his face, divided the
money with him. Of course David knew nothing of this. He was saving
those ten dollars for his mother. He did not expect to spend a cent
of it on himself; and how he first learned of his loss and what was
done about it, perhaps we shall see as our story progresses.

The two young gentlemen, Clarence and Marshall Gordon, for whom Don
and Bert were waiting, and who landed from the steamer, Emma Deane,
that morning, had been sent away from the city by their father, in
order that they might be out of the way of temptation; but, as it
happened, one of them ran directly into it. Clarence, the older, was
anything but a model boy. He was much addicted to ale and cigars, and
thought of nothing in the world so much as money. He was a
spendthrift, and, like Godfrey Evans, had a great desire to be rich,
but he never thought of working and saving in order to gain the
wished-for end. This good old-fashioned and safe way was too long and
tedious for him, and he was constantly on the lookout for a short
road to wealth and consequent happiness. Before he had been
twenty-four hours under his uncle's roof, he thought he had
discovered it, and this was the way it came about:

Clarence and his brother arrived at the General's house in the
forenoon, and before night came, the former wished most heartily that
he had stayed at home. He was lonely and utterly disgusted with the
quiet of the country, and the old-fashioned, prosy way his two
cousins had of enjoying themselves. Music, horseback-riding, hunting,
fishing and visiting made up the round of their amusements, and
Clarence could see no fun in such things. As soon as it grew dark he
slipped out of the house, and leaning over a fence that ran between
the barnyard and a potato-patch, lighted a cigar and settled into a
comfortable position to enjoy it. He had not been there many minutes,
before he was startled by the stealthy approach of two persons, a man
and a boy, who stopped a short distance from him and began digging
with a shovel. Clarence listened to the words which the man uttered
for the encouragement of the boy, who was doing the work, and was
amazed to learn that there was a fortune hidden in that field, and
that these two had come there to dig it up. In his eagerness and
excitement Clarence leaned half way over the fence, puffing
vigorously at his cigar all the while. The little round ball of fire
glowing through the darkness caught the eye of the boy, who showed it
to his companion, and the two, frightened almost out of their senses,
took to their heels, leaving the eavesdropper lost in wonder.

Clarence was almost overwhelmed by the discovery he had just made. It
was an opportunity too good to be lost, and he at once resolved that
if there were eighty thousand dollars buried in that field, he must
have a share of the money when it was brought to light. In order to
bring this about, he must find out who this man and boy were. He had
a very slight cue to guide him, but he followed it up so skillfully
that by noon of the next day he knew as much about the eighty
thousand dollars as Godfrey did, and had formed a partnership with
that worthy, Dan being dropped as a useless encumbrance. They met,
according to agreement, as soon as it grew dark. It happened that
there was one who witnessed their interview, and heard all that
passed between them, and that was Don Gordon, who had just returned
from the landing, whither he had been to mail a letter to his cousin.
Not finding the hostler about when he came back, Don attended to his
pony himself, and was about to shut up the barn for the night, when
he discovered what he supposed to be a thief prowling about. The
lighted end of a cigar glowed through the darkness a moment later,
and then Don saw that the prowler was his cousin Clarence. Greatly
amused at his mistake, he was about to make his presence known, when
it occurred to him that since Clarence had taken so much pains to get
out of sight of the family, in order that he might enjoy his cigar,
perhaps he would not like it if Don caught him in the act; so Don
remained in his place of concealment, heard every word that was said
when Godfrey came up, saw both of them get over the fence in the
potato-patch, and followed and watched them while they were digging
for the barrel.

Now, Don was one of the most inveterate practical jokers in the
world, and the most accomplished one we ever saw. Godfrey had
received more than one proof of his skill. He had been tripped up
when there was no one near him; his hat had been knocked off his head
by invisible hands, and he had seen horrid great things with eyes of
fire staring at him from fence-corners, until he had become fully
satisfied that the General's lane was haunted, and he would go a mile
around through the fields before he would pass through it after
nightfall. Here was another opportunity to frighten him, and Don knew
just how to do it. Before he went to sleep that night, he had thought
of something that beat all the other tricks he had heard of far out
of sight.



CHAPTER II.

DAVID'S VISITORS.


The trouble began the very next morning. While Godfrey was sitting on
the bench in front of his cabin, deeply engrossed with his own
thoughts, Dan came rushing up with a face full of terror, and
conveyed to him the startling intelligence that a "haunt"--a Northern
boy would have called it a ghost--had been seen at General Gordon's
barn. It looked exactly like old Jordan, the negro, who had buried
the treasure in the potato-patch; but of course it couldn't be old
Jordan, for he had never been heard of since he ran away with the
Yankees, and everybody believed him to be dead. Godfrey listened in
great amazement to his son's story, and, to satisfy himself of the
truth of it, went up to the barn, with his rifle for company. He had
not been there many minutes before he received convincing proof that
Dan had told the truth, for he saw the object with his own eyes--a
feeble old negro, dressed in a white plantation suit, and wearing a
battered plug hat, who limped along in plain view of him, and finally
disappeared, no one could tell how or when. That was enough for
Godfrey. He started for home at the top of his speed, and scarcely
dared to venture out of doors that night. He had an appointment with
Clarence Gordon at dark, but he would not have passed that barn in
his present state of mind, if he had known that he could make twice
eighty thousand dollars by it.

Bright and early the next morning, Clarence came down to see why he
had not kept his promise, and talked to him in such a way that
Godfrey finally agreed to meet him that night, the boy promising to
protect him from anything in the shape of a ghost that might cross
their path. He kept his appointment this time, but he was sorry
enough for it afterward, for the first object on which his eyes
rested, when he and his companion reached the potato-field, was old
Jordan, digging away as if he too were in search of the buried
treasure. Godfrey would have taken to his heels at once, but
Clarence, who did not believe in "haunts," walked up and seized the
negro by the arm. After much argument, Godfrey was induced to do the
same, and then his fears all vanished, for it was a veritable human
being that he took hold of and not a spirit, as he feared it was. He
declared, too, that the interloper was the missing Jordan, beyond a
doubt, and that he had come there to steal the money he had buried in
that same field years before. The negro was commanded to point out
the spot where the treasure was hidden, but nothing could be learned
from the old fellow. He would not speak at all, until Godfrey
threatened to punch him in the ribs with his shovel, and then he
denied all knowledge of the barrel. Upon hearing this, Clarence and
his companion seized him by the arms, dragged him across the field,
over the fence and down the road to Godfrey's potato-cellar, where he
was tied to a stanchion with a plough-line and left with the
assurance that he should never see daylight again until he told where
the fortune was to be found.

Godfrey was stirring the next morning before it was fairly light, and
the first sound that fell on his ears caused him to start and tremble
with terror. He listened until it was repeated, and then started post
haste for General Gordon's house. When he reached it, he found the
whole plantation in an uproar. Don was missing and a search was being
instituted. Clarence came out about this time, and Godfrey told him a
most astounding piece of news. It wasn't old Jordan at all whom they
had captured the night before, it was Don Gordon. Godfrey was sure of
it, for he had heard him whistle as nobody in the world except Don
Gordon could whistle. As soon as Clarence recovered from his
amazement and terror, he mounted Don's pony and set out for the
potato-cellar to see for himself. When he reached it, he found that
the prisoner had already been liberated by somebody (it was Bert, who
was guided to his place of confinement by Don's loud and continued
whistling) and was no doubt on the way home by that time. What was
Clarence to do? Of course he could not go back to the plantation and
face his relatives after what he had done, and there was no other
house in the settlement open to him. Just then he heard the whistle
of a steamer coming up the river, and that settled the matter for
him. He would go home. He jumped on the pony and was riding post
haste toward the landing when he was waylaid by Godfrey Evans, who
robbed him of twenty dollars, all the money he had in the world. As
soon as he was released, Clarence made his way to the landing on
foot, reaching it just in time to secure passage on the Emma Deane,
pawned his watch for money enough to pay his way home, and finally
reached his father's house in safety, only to be packed off to sea on
the school-ship, where he remains to this day.

Don Gordon reached home with his brother's assistance, and has been a
close prisoner there ever since, not yet having recovered from the
effects of his night in the potato-cellar. Godfrey Evans is hiding in
the swamp somewhere, fearing that if he comes home he will be
arrested for three offences--robbing Clarence, assaulting Don, and
trying to steal the eighty thousand dollars, which he still firmly
believes to be hidden in the potato-patch. A week has passed since
the occurrence of the events which we have so rapidly reviewed, and
now that you are acquainted with them, we are prepared to resume our
story.

"And if your father doesn't come back, how are we to live this
winter?" asked Mrs. Evans, continuing the conversation which we have
so long interrupted. "How is _he_ to live?"

"His living will trouble him more than ours will trouble us," replied
David, who, knowing that he was his mother's main dependence now,
tried hard to keep up a brave heart. "It will be cold out there in
the swamp pretty soon. I saw a flock of wild geese in the lake this
morning, and that is a sure sign that winter is close at hand. Father
had no coat on when he went away, and he was barefooted, too. And as
for _our_ living, mother, who's kept you in clothes and coffee, sugar
and tea, for the last year?"

"You have, David. I don't know what I should do without you. You are
a great comfort to me."

"And I'm never going to be anything else, mother. I never made you
cry, did I? I ain't going to, either. I can take care of you, and I
will, too. If I can't get work to do, I can hunt and trap small game,
you know; and if I only had a rifle, I am sure I could kill at least
one deer every week. That, reckoning venison worth six cents a pound,
would bring us in about thirty dollars a month. Who says we couldn't
live and save money on that?"

"But you don't own a rifle," said his mother, smiling at the boy's
enthusiasm.

"Well, that's so," said David, sadly. "But," he added, his face
brightening, "I shall have ten dollars coming to me as soon as Don
Gordon's pointer is field-broken, and you shall have every cent of
it. Besides, you haven't forgotten that I'm going to get a hundred
and fifty dollars for trapping quail for that man up North, have
you?"

"Have you heard from him yet?"

David was obliged to confess that he had not.

"He may have made a bargain with some one else before Don's letter
reached him," continued Mrs. Evans. "You know this is not the only
country in which quails are to be found, and neither are you the only
one who would be glad to make a hundred and fifty dollars by trapping
them."

"I know it, mother; but even if I can't get that job, I can get some
other that will bring us in money," said David, who was determined to
look on the bright side of things. "I'll earn another ten-dollar bill
before the one I get from Don Gordon is gone, you may depend upon
it."

With this assurance the boy kissed his mother and hurried out of the
door, and Mrs. Evans, after clearing away the remnants of their
frugal breakfast, also went out to begin her daily toil at the house
of a neighbor. David made his way around the cabin, and was met by
Don's pointer, which, coming as close to him as the length of his
chain would permit, waited for the friendly word and caress that the
boy never failed to bestow when he passed the kennel in which the
animal was confined. The greeting he extended to his four-footed
friend was a short one this morning, for David had other matters on
his mind. He confidently expected that a few days more would bring
him the wished-for order from the man who had advertised for the
quails, and when it came he wanted to be ready to go to work without
the loss of an hour; so he was spending all his spare time in
building traps. He had four completed already, and just as he had got
boards enough split out for the fifth, he heard the clatter of
horses' hoofs on the road and looked up to see Bert Gordon and his
brother ride up to the fence.

"Why, Don, I am glad to see you out again," exclaimed David, dropping
his hammer and hurrying forward to greet his friend.

"Thank you," replied Don, accepting David's proffered hand. "I assure
you I am glad to be out again, too. It's a fearful bore to be tied up
in the house for a whole week, but I was bound to come down here this
morning, if I had to come in the carriage, for I have news for you,"
added Don, putting his hand into the breast-pocket of his coat.

"Has it come?" asked David, in a voice that trembled with excitement.

"It certainly has. It was addressed to me, you know, and so Bert
opened it. The man says, he wants fifty dozen live quails
immediately, and--but there it is, read it for yourself."

Don produced the letter, and David took it with a very unsteady hand.
A hundred and fifty dollars was a fortune in his eyes, a larger one
too than he had hoped to earn for some years to come. He opened the
letter and one glance at it showed him that the money was his, if he
could only capture the required number of birds. They were to be
trapped at once, the sooner the better, put into boxes, which were to
be marked C. O. D. and forwarded, charges paid, to the address at the
bottom of the letter.

"Cod," repeated David, whose opportunities for learning how business
was transacted had been very limited, "does he mean codfish?" Don and
Bert laughed heartily.

"No," said the former, as soon as he could speak. "C. O. D. means
'collect on delivery.'"

"O," said David, in a tone of voice which showed that he did not yet
fully understand.

"It is nothing to be ashamed of," said Bert; "we didn't know what the
letters meant until father told us."

"That's so," said Don; "how is a fellow to know a thing he has never
had a chance to learn? Now when the birds are caught, you put so many
of them in a box and on each box you mark the value of its contents.
You send a notice of shipment to the man, and he will know when to
look for the birds. When they arrive he pays the amount of your bill
to the express agent, and the agent forwards it to you. You run no
risk whatever, for the man can't get the quails until your bill is
paid."

"Now I'll tell you what we'll do," said Bert, who saw by the
expression on David's face that his brother had not made matters much
clearer by his explanation, "you go to work and catch the quails, and
when you have made up the required number, we'll help you ship them
off."

"That's the idea," said Don. "We'll do anything we can for you."

"Thank you," answered David, who felt as if a tremendous
responsibility had been removed from his shoulders.

"I'll write to the man to-day, informing him that you will go to work
at once," added Don. "I don't suppose you could tell, even within a
week or two, of the time it will take you to fill the order, could
you?"

"I shouldn't like to make a guess," said David. "The birds rove
around so that a fellow can't tell anything about them. They are
plenty now, but next week there may not be half a dozen flocks to be
found."

"Then I will write to him that the best you can say is, that you will
lose no time. How does the pointer come on?"

"Finely," said David. "He works better than half the old dogs now.
He's smart, I tell you."

"He takes after his owner, you see. I hope to get firmly on my feet
next week, and if I do, I want to try him. Good-by."

"Now, there are two friends worth having," thought David, gazing
almost lovingly after the brothers, as they rode away. "I don't
wonder that everybody likes them. A hundred and fifty dollars! Whew!
won't mother have some nice, warm clothes this winter, and won't she
have everything else she wants, too?"

The boy did not see how he could possibly keep his good fortune to
himself until his mother came home that night. His first impulse was
to go over to the neighbor's house, and tell her all about it, but he
was restrained by the thought that that would be a waste of time. He
could make one trap in the hour and a half that it would take him to
go and return, and the sooner his traps were all completed, the
sooner he could get to work. His next thought was that he would let
the traps rest for that day, go down to the landing, purchase some
nice present for his mother and surprise her with it when she came
home. Of course he had no money to pay for it, but what did that
matter? Silas Jones was always willing to trust anybody whom he knew
to be reliable, and when he learned that his customer would have a
hundred and fifty dollars of his own in a few weeks, he would surely
let him have a warm dress or a pair of shoes. When his money came he
would get his mother something fine to wear to church; and, while he
was about it, wouldn't it be a good plan for him to send to Memphis
for a nice hunting outfit and a few dozen steel traps? Like his
father, when he first thought of the barrel with the eighty thousand
dollars in it, David looked upon himself as rich already; and if he
had attempted to carry out all the grand ideas that were continually
suggesting themselves to him, it was probable that his hundred and
fifty dollars would be gone before he had earned them.

"Halloo, there!" shouted a voice.

David looked up and saw another horseman standing beside the
fence--Silas Jones, who kept the store at the landing, and the very
man of whom he had been thinking but a moment before.

"Come here, David," continued Silas. "I am out collecting bills, and
I thought I would ride around and see if you have heard anything of
that respected father of yours during the last few days."

"No, sir; we haven't," answered David, hanging his head.

"Well, I suppose you know that he owes me eight dollars, don't you?"
said Silas.

"I knew he owed you something, but I didn't think it was as much as
that," replied David, opening his eyes. In his estimation, eight
dollars was a debt of some magnitude.

"That's the amount, as sure as you live, and if I had charged him as
much as I charge others, it would have been more. I made a little
reduction to him, because I knew that he didn't own more of this
world's goods than the law allows. What is to be done about it? Am I
to lose my money because he has run away?"

"O, no," said David, quickly. "I'll pay it, and be glad to do so. We
may want groceries some time, you know, when we have no money to pay
for them."

"That's the way to talk. Pay up promptly and your credit will always
be good."

"All I ask of you," continued David, "is that you will wait about a
month longer, until----"

"Can't do it; can't possibly do it," exclaimed Silas, shaking his
head and waving his hands up and down in the air. "Must have money
to-day. My creditors are pushing me, and I must push everybody whose
name is on my books."

"But my name isn't on your books."

"Your father's is, and if you have any honor about you, you will see
the debt paid."

"That's what I mean to do, but I can't pay it now."

"Can't wait a single day," said Silas. "If the money isn't
forthcoming at once, you can't get a single thing at my store from
this time forward, unless you have the cash to plank right down on
the counter."

"I have always paid you for everything I have bought of you," said
David, with some spirit.

"I know it; but your father hasn't, and if you want me to show you
any favors, you will pay that debt to-day. You have always been
called an honest boy, and if you want to keep that reputation, you
had better be doing something."

So saying, Silas wheeled his horse and rode away, leaving David lost
in wonder.



CHAPTER III.

AN OFFER OF PARTNERSHIP.


This was the first time David had ever heard that a son could be held
responsible for debts contracted by his father. At first he did not
believe it; but Silas seemed to think it could be done, and he was a
business man and ought to know what he was talking about. The truth
of the matter was, that Silas Jones was a hard one to deal with. He
wanted every cent that was due him and more too, if he could get it.
It made no difference how poor his customers were, he always found
means to make them pay the bills they contracted at his store. The
eight dollars that Godfrey owed him looked almost as large in his
eyes as it did in David's. He could not bear to lose it, and he did
not care what tricks he resorted to to get it. When he rode away he
took all David's peace of mind with him, "Wasn't it lucky that I
didn't go down to his store and ask him to trust me for a dress for
mother?" thought the boy; as he picked up his hammer and resumed work
upon his trap. "He would have refused me sure. Now there is only one
way I can pay that debt, and that is to ask Don Gordon for the ten
dollars he promised to give me for breaking his pointer. That's
something I don't like, for the money isn't fairly earned yet, but I
don't see what else I can do. Mother must have something to eat, and
the only way I can get it is by making a friend of Silas by paying
him this debt father owes him. I don't care for myself, and as for
Dan--let him look out for number one. That's what he makes me do."

While David was soliloquising in this way he heard a footstep near
him, and looking up saw his brother Dan, whose appearance and actions
surprised him not a little. His face wore a smile instead of the
usual scowl, he had no coat on, his sleeves were rolled up, and he
carried a frow in one hand (a frow is a sharp instrument used for
splitting out shingles), and a heavy mallet in the other. He really
looked as if he had made up his mind to go to work, and David could
not imagine what had happened to put such an idea into his head. He
stopped on the way to speak to the pointer and give him a friendly
pat, and that was another thing that surprised his brother. Dan would
have acted more like himself if he had given the animal a kick.

"He's up to something," thought David. "He wouldn't act that way if
he wasn't. I shouldn't wonder if he wants part of that money I am
going to get from Don Gordon, but he needn't waste his breath in
asking for it. Every cent of it goes into mother's hands."

"Halloo, Davy!" said Dan, cheerfully. "I thought mebbe you wouldn't
care if I should come out and lend you a hand. I hain't got nothing
much to do this morning."

David made no reply. He was waiting to hear what object his brother
had in view in offering his assistance, and he knew it would all be
made plain to him in a few minutes.

"You got a heap of traps to build, hain't you?" continued Dan. "When
be you goin' to set 'em?"

"I am going to set some of them to-night," was David's reply.

"Fifty dozen is a heap of birds, ain't it?" said Dan.

"How do you happen to know anything about it?" demanded David, who
was greatly astonished.

"I heerd you an' Don talkin' about it."

"Where were you at the time?"

"O, I was around," answered Dan, who did not care to confess that he
had intentionally played the part of eavesdropper.

David was silent, for he wanted to think about it. Here was another
piece of ill luck. His experience had taught him that if he wished to
make his enterprise successful, he must keep it from the knowledge of
his father and Dan. If they found out that he expected to earn so
much money, they would insist on a division of the spoils, and if
their demand was not complied with, there would be trouble in the
cabin. He had no fear of his father now, but here was Dan, who was an
unpleasant fellow to have about when he was crossed, and he seemed to
know all about it. There were troublous times ahead; David was sure
of that.

"What does that feller up North want with so many quails, anyhow?"
asked Dan, as he placed one of the oak blocks upon its end and began
splitting off a shingle with the frow. "He can't eat 'em all by
hisself."

"No, he wants to turn them loose and let them run," replied David,
with as much good nature as he could assume. "You see they had an
awful hard winter up there last year, and the quails were all killed
off."

"Wall, what does the fule want to let 'em go fur, arter he's bought
'em?"

"Why, he wants to stock the country. He belongs to a Sportsman's Club
up there. He and his friends will have a law passed keeping folks
from shooting them for two or three years, and then there'll be just
as many birds as there were before."

"Is that the way them rich fellers does?"

"That's what Don says."

"It's mighty nice to be rich, ain't it, Davy; to have all the money
you want to spend, a nice hoss to ride, one of them guns what breaks
in two in the middle to do your shootin' with, an' shiny boots an' a
straw hat to wear to church! I wish me an' pap had found that thar
bar'l with the eighty thousand dollars into it. I wouldn't be wearin'
no sich clothes as these yere."

"That's all humbug," exclaimed David. "The silver things that old
Jordan buried, the spoons, knives and dishes, were all dug up again
and are in use now every day. General Gordon never had eighty
thousand dollars in gold and silver."

"Don't you b'lieve no sich story as that ar," replied Dan, with a
knowing shake of his head.

"That's what the Gordons say, anyhow."

"In course they do; an' they say it kase they don't want nobody
diggin' arter that thar bar'l. They wants to find it theirselves. How
much be you goin' to get fur these quail, Davy? As much as
twenty-five dollars, mebbe thirty, won't you?"

This question showed that Dan didn't know all about the matter, and
David took courage. "Yes, all of that," he replied.

"More, I reckon mebbe, won't ye?"

"I think so."

"You won't get fifty, will you?" said Dan, opening his eyes.

"I hope I shall."

"Whew!" whistled Dan. He threw down his frow and mallet and seated
himself on the pile of shingles, with an air which said very plainly,
that with such an amount of money in prospect there was no need that
any more work should be done. "That's a fortin, Davy. It's an amazin'
lot fur poor folks like us, an' I can't somehow git it through my
head that we're goin' to git so much. But if we do get it, Davy,
we'll have some high old times when it comes, me an' you."

"You and me!" exclaimed David.

"Sartin; I want some good clothes an' so do you. 'Twon't be enough to
get us a hoss apiece. I _do_ wish I had a circus hoss like Don
Gordon's, but we kin get some better shootin' irons, me an' you kin,
an' mebbe we can git a boat to hunt ducks in, an' some of them
fish-poles what breaks all in pieces an' you carry 'em under your
arm. An', Davy, mebbe we'll have a leetle left to get something fur
the ole woman."

"For mother! I rather think she'll get something," said David, in a
tone of voice that made his brother look up in surprise. "She'll get
it all, every cent of it."

"Not by no means she won't," exclaimed Dan, striking his open palm
with his clenched hand. "No, sir, not by a long shot. You kin give
her your shar', if you're fule enough to do it, but mine I'll keep
fur myself. I'll bet you on that."

"_Your_ share?"

"In course."

"I didn't know that you had any share in this business."

"Whoop!" yelled Dan.

He dashed his hat upon the ground, jumped up and knocked his heels
together, coming down with his feet spread out and his clenched hands
hanging by his side, as if he were waiting for an attack from his
brother.

"No, sir," said David, quietly but firmly, "this is my own business.
If you want money, go to work and earn it for yourself. You've got
six dollars and six bits hidden away somewhere that you never offered
to share with me or mother either."

"I know it, kase it is my own. I worked hard fur it too."

"I don't know how, or when you got it," answered David, who little
dreamed that his brother had more ready money than that, and that the
most of it rightfully belonged to himself, "and I have never asked
you for any of it. The money I shall receive for these quails will be
mine, all mine."

Dan uttered another wild Indian yell and once more went through the
process of preparing himself for a fight, leaping high into the air,
knocking his heels together, coming down with his feet spread out and
his hands clenched, and when he was fairly settled on the ground
again, he exclaimed:

"Dave, does you want me to wallop you?"

"No, I don't," was the reply; "but if you do you won't keep me from
doing what I please with my own money."

"But it won't be your own when you get it. I'm older nor you be, an'
now that pap's away I'm the man of the house, I want you to know, an'
it's the properest thing that I should have the handlin' of all the
money that comes into the family. If you don't go 'have yourself it's
likely you won't tech a cent of them fifty dollars when it comes. If
you don't go to crossin' me, I'll give you your shar' an' I'll take
mine; an' we'll get some nice things like Don and Bert Gordon has
got."

"But how does it come that you will have any share in it? That's what
I can't understand."

"Why, I kalkerlate to help you set the traps an' take out the quail
when they're ketched, an' do a heap of sich hard work."

"I intend to do all that myself, and it isn't work either. It's
nothing but fun."

"But I'll have a shar' in it anyhow," said Dan, with a grin, which
showed that he felt sure of his position, "kase look at the boards
I've split out fur you."

David laughed outright. "How many of them are there?" said he. "Five;
and I could have split them out in less than half the time you took
to do it, and made better boards besides. I can't use these at all."

"Dave," said Dan, solemnly, as he picked up the frow and mallet, "I
see you're bound to go agin me."

"No, I am not, and I don't want you to go against me, either."

"Yes, you be. You're goin' to cheat me outen my shar' of them fifty
dollars, ain't you now?"

"You will have no share in the money. It will all belong to me, and I
shall give it to mother."

"Then, Dave, not a quail do you ketch in these yere fields so long as
you hold to them idees. Don't you furget it, nuther."

"What do you mean?" asked David, in alarm. "What are you going to
do?"

"I don't make no threatenings. I only say you can't ketch no birds so
long as you go agin me, an' that's jest what I mean. If you come to
me some day an' say, 'I wus wrong, Dannie, an' now I'm goin' to act
decent, like a brother had oughter do,' I'll give you my hand an' do
what I can to help you. You've got a big job afore you, an' you can't
by no means do it alone. You'd oughter have somebody to help you, an'
thar's a heap of hard work in me, the fust thing you know."

"That's so," thought David, running his eyes over his brother's
stalwart figure; "but I guess it will stay there."

"We can make them fifty dollars easy, if we pull together; but you
can't make 'em by yourself, an' you shan't, nuther. You hear me?"

As Dan said this he disappeared around the corner of the cabin,
leaving his brother standing silent and thoughtful. He came out again
in a few minutes with his rifle on his shoulder, and without saying
another word to David or even looking toward him, climbed over the
fence and went into the woods. When he was out of sight, David sat
down on one of his traps and went off into a brown study. He was in a
bad scrape, that was plain; and the longer he thought about it, the
darker the prospect seemed to grow. He had his choice between two
courses of action: he must either take Dan into partnership, divide
the money with him when it was earned, and permit himself to be
browbeaten and driven about as if he were little better than a dog;
or he must make an enemy of him by asserting his rights. Which of the
two was the more disagreeable and likely to lead to the most
unpleasant consequences, he could not determine. If Dan were accepted
as a partner, he would insist on handling all the money, and in that
case Mrs. Evans would probably see not a single cent of it; for Dan
did not care who suffered so long as his own wishes were gratified.
If he stuck to the resolution he had already formed, and went ahead
on his own responsibility, Dan would smash his traps whenever he
happened to find them (he was always roaming about in the woods, and
there was hardly a square rod of ground in the neighborhood that he
did not pass over in the course of a week), and liberate or wring the
necks of the birds that might chance to be in them. He never could
capture so many quails if Dan was resolved to work against him, and
neither could he make his enterprise successful if he allowed him an
interest in it. David did not know what to do.

"I might as well give it up," said he to himself, after a few
minutes' reflection. "I'll go up and tell Don that I can't fill the
order; and while I am about it, I might as well ask him for that
money. Perhaps, if I pay father's debt, Silas Jones will give us
what we need until I can find something to do."

With this thought in his mind, David arose and went into the cabin.
He put on the tattered garment he called a coat, exchanged his
dilapidated hat for another that had not seen quite so hard service,
and bent his steps toward General Gordon's house. While he was
hurrying along, thinking about his troubles and the coming interview
with Don Gordon, and wondering how he could word his request so that
his friend would not feel hard toward him for asking for his money
before it had been earned, he was almost ridden down by a horseman,
who came galloping furiously along the road, and who was close upon
him before David knew there was any one near.

"Get out of the way, there!" shouted the rider. "Are you blind, that
you run right under a fellow's horse that way?"

David sprang quickly to one side, and the horseman drew up his nag
with a jerk and looked down at him. It was Lester Brigham, one of the
neighborhood boys of whom we have never before had occasion to speak.
He was comparatively a new resident in that country. He had been
there only about a year, but during that time he had made himself
heartily detested by almost all the boys about Rochdale. Of course he
had his cronies--every fellow has; but all the best youngsters, like
Don and Bert Gordon and Fred and Joe Packard, would have little to do
with him. He had lived in the North until the close of the war, and
then his father removed to Mississippi, purchased the plantation
adjoining General Gordon's, and began the cultivation of cotton.

Mr. Brigham was said to be the richest man in that county, and Lester
had more fine things than all the rest of the boys about there put
together. He took particular pride in his splendid hunting and
fishing outfit, and it was coveted by almost every boy who had seen
it. He had four guns--all breech-loaders; a beautiful little
fowling-piece for such small game as quails and snipes; a larger one
for ducks and geese; a light squirrel rifle, something like the one
Clarence Gordon owned; and a heavier weapon, which he called his deer
gun, and which carried a ball as large as the end of one's thumb. He
had two jointed fish-poles--one a light, split bamboo, such as is
used in fly-fishing, and the other a stout lancewood, for such heavy
fish as black bass and pike.

If there was any faith to be put in the stories he told, Lester was a
hunter and fisherman who had few equals. Before he came to the South,
it was his custom, he said, to spend a portion of every winter in the
woods in the northern part of Michigan, and many a deer and bear had
fallen to his rifle there. He could catch trout and black bass where
other fellows would not think of looking for them, and as for quails,
it was no trouble at all for him to make a double shot and bag both
the birds every time. There were boys in the neighborhood who doubted
this. Game of all kinds was abundant, and Lester was given every
opportunity to exhibit the skill of which he boasted so loudly, but
he was never in the humor to do it. He seldom went hunting, and when
he did he always went alone, and no one ever knew how much game he
brought home.

"Your name is Evans, isn't it?" demanded Lester.

David replied that it was.

"Are you the fellow who intends to trap fifty dozen quail in this
county, and send them up North?"

"I am," answered David.

"Well, I just rode down here on purpose to tell you that such work as
that will not be allowed."

"Who will not allow it?"

"I will not, for one, and my father for another."

"What have you to say about it?" asked David, who did not like the
insolent tone assumed by the young horseman. "Do the birds belong to
you?"

"They are as much mine as they are yours, and if you have a right to
trap them and ship them off, I have a right to say that you shan't do
it."

"Why not? What harm will it do?"

"It will do just this much harm: it will make the birds scarce about
here, and there are no more than we want to shoot ourselves. O, you
needn't laugh about it, I mean just what I say; and if you don't
promise that you will let the quail alone, you will see trouble. I am
going to get up a Sportsman's Club among the fellows, and then we'll
keep such poachers and pot-hunters as you where you belong. No one
objects to your shooting the birds over a dog--that's the way to
shoot them; but you shan't trap them and send them out of the
country. Will you promise that you will give up the idea?"

"No, I won't," answered David.

"Then you'll find yourself in the hands of the law, the first thing
you know," exclaimed Lester, angrily. "We won't stand any such work.
Don Gordon ought to be ashamed of himself for what he has done. He's
the meanest----"

"Hold on, there!" interrupted David, with more spirit than he had yet
exhibited. "You don't want to say anything hard about Don while I am
around. He's a friend of mine, and I won't hear anybody abuse him.
He's the best fellow in the settlement, and so is his brother; and
any one who talks against him is just the opposite."

Lester seemed very much astonished at this bold language. He glared
down at David for a moment and then slipping his right hand through
the loop on the handle of his riding-whip, pulled his feet out of the
stirrups and acted as if he were about to dismount. "Do you know who
you are talking to?" said he.

"Yes, I do," replied David, "and that's just the kind of a fellow I
am."

Lester looked sharply at the ragged youth before him and then put his
feet back into the stirrups again and settled himself firmly in the
saddle. He felt safer there. "I'll be even with you for that," said
he. "You shan't catch any quail in these woods this winter. I'll
break up every trap I find and I'll make the rest of the fellows do
the same."

Lester gave emphasis to his words by shaking his riding-whip at
David, and then wheeled his horse and rode away.



CHAPTER IV.

MORE BAD NEWS.


David's feelings, as he stood there in the road, gazing after the
retreating horseman, were by no means of the most pleasant nature. He
was naturally a cheerful, light-hearted boy, and he would not look on
the dark side of things if he could help it. But he couldn't help it
now. Here was more trouble. If he had been disposed to give up in
despair when he found that his brother was working against him, he
had more reason to be discouraged when he learned that a new enemy
had suddenly appeared, and from a most unexpected quarter, too. That
was the way he looked at the matter at first; but after a little
reflection, he felt more like defying Dan and Lester both. What
business had either of them to interfere with his arrangements, and
say that he should not earn an honest dollar to give his mother, if
he could? None whatever, and he would succeed in spite of them.
He would get that grocery bill off his hands the first thing, and
when he was square with the world, he would go to work in earnest and
outwit all his foes, no matter how numerous or how smart they might
be. He would tell Don all about it and be governed by his advice.

Having come to this determination, David once more, turned his face
toward the General's house. A few minutes' rapid walking brought him
to the barn and there he found the boy he wanted to see. The brothers
had just returned from a short ride--Don was not yet strong enough to
stand his usual amount of exercise--and having turned the ponies over
to the hostler, were on the point of starting for the house, when
David came in.

"Halloo, Dave!" exclaimed Don, who was always the first to greet him.
"Traps all built?"

"Not yet," answered David, trying to look as cheerful as usual.

"You have plenty of nails and timber, I suppose. If not come straight
to us. It will never do to let this thing fall through for want of a
little capital to go on," said Don, who was as much interested in
David's success as though he expected to share in the profits of the
enterprise.

"I have everything I want in the way of nails and boards," replied
David, "but I--you know--may I see you just a minute, Don?"

"Of course you may, or two or three minutes if you wish. Come on,
Bert. I have no secrets from my brother, _now_," said Don with a
laugh. "I kept one thing secret from him and got myself into trouble
by it. If I had told him of it perhaps he would have made me behave
myself. Now what is it?" he added, when the three had drawn up in one
corner of the barn, out of earshot of the hostler.

David was silent. He had made up his mind just what he wanted to say
to Don, but Lester Brigham's sudden appearance and the threats he had
made had scattered all his ideas, and he could not utter a word.

"Speak up," said Bert encouragingly. "You need not hesitate to talk
freely to us. But what's the matter with you? You look as though you
were troubled about something."

"I am troubled about a good many things," said David, speaking now
after a desperate effort. "In the first place, there are two fellows
here who say I shan't trap any birds."

"Who are they?" demanded Don, surprised and indignant.

"My brother Dan is one of them."

"Whew!" whistled Don, opening his eyes and looking at Bert.

"I didn't want him to know anything about it," continued David, "for
I was certain that he would make me trouble; but he found it out by
listening while I was talking about it, and wanted to join in with
me. I told him I didn't want him, and he said I shouldn't catch any
birds."

"Did he say what he would do to prevent it?" asked Bert.

"O, it's easy enough to tell what he will do," exclaimed Don. "He'll
steal or break the traps and kill the quails. There are plenty of
ways in which he can trouble us, if he makes up his mind to it."

"Who is the other?" asked Bert.

"Lester Brigham."

Don whistled again, and then looked angry.

"When did you see him, and what did he have to say about it?" he
asked. "Has he any reason to hold a grudge against you?"

"I didn't know that he had until I met him in the road this morning.
He says he won't have me trapping quails and sending them off North,
because it will make them scarce here. He says he is going to get up
a Sportsman's Club among the fellows, and then he will keep
pot-hunters like me where we belong."

"Oho!" exclaimed Bert. "It seems to me that he is taking a good deal
upon himself."

"That is what he has done ever since he has been here, and that's why
there are so many boys in the settlement who don't like him," said
Don. "But he mustn't meddle with this business. He can't come down
here into a country that is almost a wilderness and manage matters as
they do up North. Father told me the other day that in some states
they have laws to protect game, and it is right that they should
have, for there are so many hunters that if they were not restrained
they would kill all the birds and animals in a single season. The
most of the hunters live in the city, and when they get out with
their guns they crack away at everything they see; and if they happen
to kill a doe with a fawn at her side, or a quail with a brood of
chicks, it makes no difference to them. Sportsman's Clubs are of some
_use_ there, but we have no need of them in this country."

"He wants the quails left here, so that he can shoot them over his
dog," continued David.

"O, he does! When is he going to begin? He has been here more than a
year, and nobody has ever heard of his killing a quail yet. He must
keep his fingers out of this pie. We can't put up with any
interference from him. Any more bad news?" added Don, seeing that
David's face had not yet wholly cleared up.

"Yes, there is," replied the latter, speaking rapidly, for fear that
his courage might desert him again. "Just after you left me this
morning, Silas Jones rode up and dunned me for eight dollars that
father owes him."

"Why, you have nothing to do with that," said Bert.

"Nothing whatever," chimed in Don. "You tell Mr. Jones that if he
wants his money he had better hunt up your father and ask him for it.
You don't owe him anything, do you?"

"No, but he says that if I don't settle that bill, he'll never let me
have a thing at his store again unless I have the money in my hand to
pay for it. I haven't a cent of my own, and I thought if you could
let me have the ten dollars you promised me for breaking the pointer,
I should be much obliged to you."

"If I would do what?" asked Don, in amazement.

"Why, David," said Bert, "the money was all paid to you in less than
twenty-four hours after the dog was placed in your keeping."

"Paid to me?" gasped David.

"Well, no, not to you, but to your order."

"To my order!" repeated the boy, who began to think he was dreaming.

"Yes, to your order," said Don. "We left the pointer in your hands at
noon, while you were at dinner. In less than an hour afterward, Dan
came over and said that you wanted five dollars to buy a dress for
your mother, and Bert gave him the money. The next forenoon your
father met me at the landing and told me you wanted the other five to
buy some medicine for your mother, who was ill with the ague, and I
gave it to him, and I just know I made a mess of it," added Don,
bringing his hands together with a loud slap.

It was plain from the looks of David's face that he had. The boy
listened with eyes wide open, his under jaw dropping down and his
face growing pale, as the duplicity of which his father and brother
had been guilty was gradually made plain to him, and when at last his
mind grasped the full import of Don's words, he covered his face with
his hands and cried aloud. Don and Bert looked at him in surprise,
and then turned and looked at each other. They who had never wanted
for the necessities, and who had never but once, and that was during
the war, lacked the luxuries of life, could not understand why his
grief should be so overwhelming; but they could understand that they
had been deceived, and even the gentle-spirited Bert was indignant
over it. The impulsive Don could scarcely restrain himself. He walked
angrily up and down the floor, thrashing his boots with his
riding-whip and cracking it in the air so viciously that the ponies
danced about in their stalls.

"Dave," said Bert, at length, "are we to understand that your father
and brother came to us and got that money without any authority from
you?"

"That's just what they did," sobbed David.

"And you never saw a cent of it?"

"Not one cent, or mother either."

"Well, what of it?" exclaimed Don. "Brace up and be a man, Dave. A
ten-dollar bill is not an everlasting fortune."

"I know it isn't much to you, but it is a good deal to me. You don't
know what the loss of it means. It means corn-bread and butter-milk
for breakfast, dinner and supper."

"Well, what of that?" said Don, again. "I have eaten more than one
dinner at the Gayoso House, in Memphis--and it is one of the best
hotels in the country--when corn-bread and butter-milk were down in
the bill of fare as part of the dessert."

"Well, if all the folks who stop at that hotel had to live on it, as
we do, they would call for something else," replied David. "How am I
to settle Silas Jones's bill, I'd like to know?"

"Never mind Silas Jones's bill. If he says anything more to you about
it, tell him that you don't owe him a cent."

"And how am I to send my quails away? That man said the charges must
be paid."

"Ah! that's a more serious matter," said Don, placing his hands on
his hips, and looking down at the floor.

"It is all serious to me," said David, brushing the tears from his
eyes, "but I'll work through somehow. I'll go home now and think
about it, and if I don't earn that money in spite of all my bad luck,
it will not be because I don't try."

"That's the way to talk," said Don, giving David an encouraging slap
on the back. "That's the sort of spirit I like. Bert and I will see
you again, perhaps this afternoon. In the meantime we'll talk the
matter over, and if we three fellows are not smart enough to beat the
two who are opposing us, we'll know the reason why."

David hurried out of the barn, in order to hide his tears, which
every instant threatened to break forth afresh, and Don, turning to
the hostler, ordered him to put the saddles on the ponies again.
"Father is down in the field," said he, to his brother, "and it may
be two or three hours before he will come to the house. I can't wait
so long, so we'll ride down there and talk the matter over with him.
He hasn't forgotten that he was a boy once himself, and he will tell
us just what we ought to do."

The ponies were led out again in a few minutes, and Bert, having
assisted his brother into the saddle, mounted his own nag, and the
two rode down the lane toward the field. Of course they could talk
about only one thing, and that was the ill-luck that seemed to meet
their friend David at every turn. The longer Bert thought and talked
of the trick that had been played upon himself and his brother, the
more indignant he became; while Don, having had time to recover a
little of his usual good nature, was more disposed to laugh over it.
He declared that it was the sharpest piece of business he had ever
heard of, and wondered greatly that Godfrey and Dan, whom he had
always believed to be as stupid as so many blocks, should have
suddenly exhibited so much shrewdness. Bert declared that it was a
wicked swindle; and the earnestness with which he denounced the whole
proceeding made Don laugh louder than ever. Of course the latter did
not forget that the trick which so highly amused him, had been the
means of placing David in a very unpleasant situation, but still he
did not think much about that, for he believed that his father would
be able to make some suggestions, which, if acted upon, would
straighten things out in short order.

"Well, Don, how does it seem, to find yourself in the saddle again?
You appear to enjoy the exercise, but Bert doesn't. He looks as
though he had lost his last friend."

This was the way General Gordon greeted his boys, when they rode up
beside the stump on which he was seated, superintending the negroes
who were at work in the field. Bert brightened up at once, but
replied that he thought he had good cause to look down-hearted, and
with this introduction he went on and told David's story just as the
latter had told it to him and his brother. The General listened
good-naturedly, as he always did to anything his boys had to tell
him, and when Bert ceased speaking, he pulled off a piece of the
stump and began to whittle it with his knife. The boys waited for him
to say something, but as he did not, Bert continued:

"We came down here to ask you what we ought to do about it, and we
want particularly to know your opinion concerning the trick Dan and
his father played on us."

"That is easily given," replied the General. "My opinion is that
Master Don is just ten dollars out of pocket."

"You don't mean that I must pay it over again?" exclaimed Don.

"No, I don't mean that, because you haven't paid it at all."

"Why, father, I----"

"I understand. Dan made a demand upon Bert, and Bert borrowed five
dollars of his mother and gave it to him. Godfrey came to you for the
other five, and you gave it to him. David has not yet been paid for
breaking the pointer."

"No, sir; but we supposed that his father and brother had authority
to ask us for the money."

"You had no right to suppose anything of the kind. You ought to have
paid the money into David's own hands, or else satisfied yourselves
that he wanted it paid to some one else. Among business men it is
customary, in such cases, to send a written order. You must pay
David, and this time be sure that he gets the money."

"Whew!" whistled Don, who was very much surprised by this decision.
"That will make a big hole in the money I was saving for Christmas;
but David needs it more than I do, and besides it belongs to him.
What shall we do to Godfrey and Dan? They obtained those ten dollars
under false pretences, did they not?"

"I don't know whether a lawyer could make a case out of that or not,"
said the General, with a laugh. "I am afraid he couldn't, so you will
have to stand the loss. Perhaps you will learn something by it."

"I am quite sure that I have learned something already," replied Don.
"But now about Dan and Lester. How are we going to keep them from
interfering with David?"

"Why, it seems to me that I could hide my traps where they would
never think of looking for them, and where I would be sure to catch
quails, too. If I thought I couldn't, I would set them all on this
plantation, and any one who troubled them would render himself liable
for trespass."

"Aha!" exclaimed Don, who caught the idea at once.

"But, in order to throw Dan off the scent entirely, you might have
David come up to our shop every day and build his traps there. He
will find all the tools he wants, and those shingles we tore off that
old corn-crib will answer his purpose better than new ones, because
they are old and weather-beaten, and look just like the wood in the
forest. When I was a boy, I never had any luck in catching birds in
bright new traps. When the birds are caught, he can put them into one
of those unoccupied negro cabins and lock them up until he is ready
to send them off."

"That's the very idea!" cried Don, gleefully. "We knew that if there
was any way out of the difficulty, you would be sure to see it."

The General bowed in acknowledgment of the compliment, and the
brothers turned their horses about and rode away. When they reached
the barn Don was willing to confess that he was very tired. Riding on
horseback is hard work for one who is stiff in every joint and lame
all over; but Don could not think of going into the house and taking
a rest. He had been a close prisoner there for a whole week, and now
that he had taken a breath of fresh air and stirred his sluggish
blood with a little exhilarating exercise, he could not bear to go
back to his sofa again. He proposed that they should leave their
ponies at the barn and go up to David's in the canoe. They would take
their guns with them, he said, and after they had paid David his
money, they would row a short distance up the bayou, and perhaps they
might be fortunate enough to knock over a duck or two for the next
day's dinner.

Bert, of course, agreed to the proposition, and went into the shop
after the oars belonging to the canoe, while Don went into the house
again after the guns. When he came out again he had a breech-loader
on each shoulder and David's ten dollars in his pocket. Paying that
bill twice did make a big hole in his Christmas money, for it took
just half of it.

The brothers walked along the garden path that ran toward the lake,
and when Don, who was leading the way, stepped upon the jetty he
missed something at once. The canoe was gone. They had not been near
the jetty for a week, and the last time they were there the boat was
all right. It could not have got away without help, for it was firmly
tied to a ring in the jetty by the chain, which served as a painter,
and even if that had become loosened the canoe would have remained
near its moorings, for there was no current in the lake to carry it
from the shore. Beyond a doubt, it had been stolen. Don would not
have felt the loss more keenly if the thief had taken his fine
sail-boat. The canoe was almost as old as he was, and in it he and
Bert had taken their first ride on the lake and captured their first
wounded duck.

"It's gone," said Don, after he and Bert had looked all around the
lake as far as their eyes could reach, "and that's all there is of
it. But we'll not give up our trip. We'll go in the sail-boat."

The sail-boat had been dismantled, and the masts, sails, rudder and
everything else belonging to her had been stored in the shop under
cover. While Bert was gone after the oars, Don drew the boat up to
the jetty, and having stowed the guns away in the stow-sheets, he got
in himself and took another survey of the lake to make sure that the
canoe was nowhere in sight. It was hard to give it up as lost.

Bert came back in a few minutes, and having shipped the oars shoved
off and pulled down the lake. A quarter of an hour afterward they
landed on the beach in front of Godfrey's cabin. They found David
wandering listlessly about in the back yard with his hands in his
pockets; and when he came up to the fence in response to their call,
they saw that he had been crying again.

"David," exclaimed Don, putting his hand into his pocket, "we've got
news for you that will make you wear a different looking face when
you hear it. After you went home, we rode down to see father, and he
told us--Eh!" cried Don, turning quickly toward his brother, who just
then gave his arm a sly pinch.

"Let me tell it," said Bert. "We'd like to see you at our house this
evening about five o'clock; can you come?"

"I reckon I can," answered David. "Was that the good news you wanted
to tell me?"

"No--I believe--yes, it was," said Don, who received another fearful
pinch on the arm and saw his brother looking at him in a very
significant way. "You come up, anyhow."

"We've got some work for you to do up there," said Bert. "It will not
pay you much at first, but perhaps you can make something out of it
by-and-by. It will keep you busy for two or three weeks, perhaps
longer. Will you come?"

David replied that he would, and turned away with an expression of
surprise and disappointment on his face. The eager, almost excited
manner in which Don greeted him, led him to hope that he had
something very pleasant and encouraging to tell, and somehow he
couldn't help thinking that his visitors had not said just what they
intended to say when they first came up to the fence.

"What in the name of sense and Tom Walker was the matter with you,
Bert?" demanded Don, as soon as the two were out of David's hearing.
"My arm is all black and blue, I know!"

"I didn't want you to say too much," was Bert's reply, "and I didn't
know any other way to stop your talking. There was a listener close
by."

"A listener! Who was it?"

"David's brother. Just as you began speaking I happened to look
toward the cabin, and saw through the cracks between the logs that
the window on the other side was open. Close to one of those cracks,
and directly in line with the window, was a head. I knew it was Dan's
head the moment I saw it."

"Aha!" exclaimed Don. "He had his trouble for his pains this time,
hadn't he? Or, rather, he had the trouble and I had the pain," he
added, rubbing his arm.

Bert laughed and said he thought that was about the way the matter
stood.



CHAPTER V.

DAN IS ASTONISHED.


Many times during his life had David had good reason to be
discouraged, but he had never been so strongly tempted to give up
trying altogether and settle down into a professional vagabond, as he
was when he left General Gordon's barn and turned his face toward
home. He had relied upon Don to show him a way out of his trouble,
but his friend had not helped him at all; he had only made matters
worse by telling him more bad news. Nothing seemed to go right with
him. There was Dan, who never did anything, and yet he was better off
in the world and seemed to be just as happy as David, who was always
striving to better his condition and continually on the lookout for a
chance to earn a dollar or two. Why should he not stop work and let
things take their own course, as his brother did? He reached home
while he was revolving this question in his mind, and the first
person he saw when he climbed the fence and walked toward the
shingle-pile to resume work upon his traps, was his brother Dan.

"Whar you been an' what you been a doin' of?" demanded the latter, as
if he had a right to know.

"I've been over to Don's house," answered David; "and while I was
there I found out that you and father borrowed my ten dollars."

"'Tain't so nuther," cried Dan, trying to look surprised and
indignant.

"I believe everything Don and Bert tell me. They have never lied to
me and you have."

"Whoop!" yelled Dan, jumping up and knocking his heels together.

"I mean every word of it," said David, firmly. "You have got me into
a tight scrape, but I'll work out of it somehow. And let me tell you
one thing, Dan; you'll never have a chance to steal any more of my
money."

"Then why don't you divide it like a feller had oughter do?" asked
Dan, angrily.

"Why don't you divide with mother and me when you have some?"

"Kase I work hard for it an' it b'longs to me; that's why." And
knowing by his past experience that he could not hold his own in an
argument with his brother, Dan turned about and went into the house.

David worked faithfully at his traps, paying no further heed to his
brother's movements. He tried to keep his mind on what he was doing,
but now and then the recollection of the heavy loss he had sustained
would come back to him with overwhelming force and the tears would
start to his eyes in spite of all he could do to prevent it. Then he
would throw down his hammer and wander about with his hands in his
pockets, wondering what was the use of trying to do anything or be
anybody while things were working so strongly against him.

It was during one of these idle periods that Don and Bert came up.
David's hopes arose immediately when he caught sight of Don's smiling
face, for he was sure that he was about to hear something
encouraging. Indeed, Don's first words confirmed this impression; but
it turned out that they had come there simply to offer him work that
would keep him busy for two or three weeks. Of course David wanted
work, but just then he wanted money more. He wanted to pay that
grocery bill, so that he could look Silas Jones in the face the next
time he met him.

When the brothers got into their boat and rowed away, David went back
to his traps, while Dan, who had been disappointed in his hopes of
hearing some private conversation between the visitors and his
brother, shouldered his rifle and disappeared in the woods.

David worked away industriously until the sun told him that it was
nearly four o'clock, and then he put on his coat and started off to
keep his appointment with Don and Bert. He found them waiting for him
at the General's barn, and he was not a little surprised when they
seized him by the arms and pulled him into the carpenter-shop, the
door of which they were careful to close and lock behind them.

"Now I know we can talk without danger of being overheard," exclaimed
Don. "We've got lots to tell you; but in the first place," he added,
opening his pocket-book, "there's your money."

The expression of joy and surprise that came upon David's face as he
hesitatingly, almost reluctantly, took the crisp, new bill that was
held toward him, amply repaid Don for the loss of the pleasure he had
expected to derive in spending the money for Christmas presents.

"Why, I understood you to say that father and Dan had drawn this
money," said he, as soon as he could speak.

"So they did, but my father says the loss is mine and not yours."

David drew a long breath. He understood the matter now. "It isn't
fair that you should pay it twice," said he.

"I haven't paid it twice; that is, I haven't paid you at all. It's
all right, David, you may depend upon it. They'll never fool us
again. If I should ever have any more of your money, nobody could get
it except yourself."

"Or mother," added David.

"O, of course. I wouldn't be afraid to trust her."

"I was in hopes that you would have a good deal of my money in your
hands some day," continued David. "I was going to ask you to keep my
hundred and fifty dollars for me; but I don't know now whether I
shall ever get it or not."

"Of course you'll get it," exclaimed Bert. "You are not going to give
up the idea of trapping the quails, are you?"

"No, but I don't know that I shall make anything at it, for Dan and
Lester can break up my traps faster than I can make them."

"Well, they'll not break up a single one of your traps, because----"

Here Don began and hurriedly repeated the conversation which he and
Bert had had with their father a few hours before. As David listened
the look of trouble his face had worn all that day gradually faded
away, and the old happy smile took its place. His confidence in his
friends had not been misplaced; Dan and Lester Brigham were to be
outwitted after all.

The traps and the "figure fours" with which they were to be set,
could be built there in the shop, Don said. There were tools and a
bench and everything else needful close at hand, so that the work
could be done in half the time that David had expected to devote to
it. As fast as the traps were completed they were to be set in
General Gordon's fields. They would be safe there and Dan Evans or
Lester Brigham or anybody else who came near them, would be likely to
get himself into trouble. The negroes were always at work in the
fields in the daytime, and if they were told to keep their eyes open
and report any outsiders who might be seen prowling about the fences,
they would be sure to do it. The best course David could pursue would
be to say nothing more about trapping the quails. Let Dan believe
that he had become discouraged and given up the enterprise. If he
wanted to know what it was that took his brother over to General
Gordon's house so regularly, David could tell him that he was doing
some work there, which would be the truth; and besides it would be
all Dan had any right to know.

As fast as the birds were caught, they could be locked up in one of
the empty negro cabins; and any one who found out that they were
there and tried to steal them, would run the risk of being caught by
Don's hounds. It was a splendid plan, taken altogether, and David's
eyes fairly glistened while it was unfolded to him. He thanked the
brothers over and over again for their kindness and the interest they
took in his success, and might have kept on thanking them if Don had
not interrupted him with--

"O, that's all understood. Now, before you begin work on those traps
we want you to help us one day. We've had a good deal of excitement
and some good luck since we last saw you. We have recovered my canoe,
which somebody stole from me, and we have found out that there is a
bear living on Bruin's Island."

"He must be a monster, too, for such growls I never heard before,"
said Bert.

"Didn't you see him?" asked David.

"No. We landed to explore the island, and while we were going through
the cane he growled at us, and we took the hint and left. We didn't
have a single load of heavy shot with us. We're going up there
to-morrow, and we want you to go with us. We'll go fixed for him,
too. We'll have a couple of good dogs with us; I'll take my rifle;
Bert will take father's heavy gun; and we'd like to have you take
your single-barrel. If he gets a bullet and three loads of buckshot
in his head, he'll not growl at us any more. If we don't get a chance
to shoot him, we'll build a trap and catch him alive the next time he
comes to the island. Will you go?"

Of course David would go. He would have gone anywhere that Don told
him to go. He promised to be at the barn at an early hour the next
morning, and then showed a desire to leave the shop; so Don unlocked
the door, and David hurried out and turned his face toward the
landing. He had money now, and that grocery bill should not trouble
him any longer.

"If there ever was a lucky boy in the world I am the one," thought
David, whose spirits were elevated in the same ratio in which they
had before been depressed. "I'll earn my hundred and fifty dollars
now, and mother shall have her nice things in spite of Dan and
Lester. It isn't every fellow who has such friends as Don and Bert
Gordon. But I shall have a hard time of it, anyhow. Dan will be so
mad when he finds out that he can't ruin me, that he will do
something desperate."

David, however, did not waste much time in thinking of the troubles
that might come in the future. He preferred to think about pleasanter
things. He was so wholly engrossed with his plans that it seemed to
him that he was not more than five minutes in reaching the landing.
There was no one in the street, and nothing there worth looking at,
except General Gordon's white horse, which was hitched to a post in
front of Silas Jones's store. As David approached, the General
himself came out, accompanied by the grocer, who was as polite and
attentive to his rich customers as he was indifferent to the poor
ones.

"Ah, David!" exclaimed the General, extending his hand; "how are
times now? Business looking up any?"

"Y-yes, sir," stammered the boy, who could scarcely speak at all. He
was not abashed by the rich man's presence, for he had learned to
expect a friendly nod or a cordial grasp of the hand every time he
met him; but he was very much astonished by the greeting which Silas
Jones extended to him. No sooner had the General released David's
hand than it was seized by the grocer, who appeared to be as glad to
see him as though he knew that the boy had come there to buy a bill
of goods worth hundreds of dollars.

"It never does any good to give away to our gloomy feelings," said
the General. "There are many times when things don't go just as we
would like to have them, but the day always follows the night, and a
little perseverance sometimes works wonders."

David understood what the General meant, but it was plain that the
grocer did not, for he looked both bewildered and surprised. He bowed
to his rich customer, as he rode off, and then, turning to David,
conducted him into the store with a great deal of ceremony.

"Mr. Jones," said David, who began to think that the grocer must have
taken leave of his senses, "I have come here to settle father's
bill."

"O, that's all right," was the smiling reply. "It isn't fair that I
should hold you responsible for that debt, and I have concluded that
I will not do it. Your father will pay me some time, perhaps, and if
he doesn't, I'll let it go. The loss of it won't break me. Can I do
anything for you this evening?"

David was more astonished than ever. Was this the man who had spoken
so harshly to him no longer ago than that very morning? What had
happened to work so great a change in him? It was the General's visit
that did it. When Don and Bert left their father, after holding that
short consultation with him in the field, the latter took a few
minutes to think the matter over, and when his hands had finished
their work, he mounted his horse and rode down to the landing, to
have a talk with Mr. Jones. What passed between them no one ever
knew, but it was noticed that from that day forward, whenever David
came into the store to trade, he was treated with as much respect as
he would have been had he been known to have his pockets full of
money.

"Want anything in my line this evening?" continued the grocer,
rubbing his hands; "a hat or a pair of shoes and stockings for
yourself, a nice warm dress for mother, or----"

"O, I want a good many things," replied David, "but I shall have only
two dollars left after your bill is paid, and that must keep us in
groceries for at least a month--perhaps longer."

To David's great amazement, the merchant replied: "Your credit is
good for six months. As for your father's debt, I wouldn't let you
pay it if you were made of money. Better take home some tea, coffee
and sugar with you, hadn't you? It is always a good plan to replenish
before you get entirely out, you know."

"O, we were out long ago," said David, who could not help smiling at
the mistake Silas made in supposing that tea, coffee and sugar
appeared on his mother's table every day. "We haven't had any in our
house for almost a month."

"Is that so?" exclaimed the grocer, "Then I'll put up some for you,
and lend you a basket to carry it home in."

David leaned upon the counter and began a little problem in mental
arithmetic, with the view of ascertaining how much of his money it
would take to keep his mother supplied with the luxuries the grocer
had mentioned for one month, and how much he would have left to
invest in clothing for her; but before the problem was solved the
grocer had placed three neat packages, good-sized ones, too, on the
counter, and was looking for a basket to put them in.

"Now, then," said he, briskly, "what next? A dress for mother or a
pair of shoes for yourself? The mornings are getting to be pretty
cold now, and you can't run around barefooted much longer. Ah, Dan!
how do you do?"

David looked up and was surprised to see his brother standing by his
side. He was surprised, too, to notice that the grocer greeted him
almost as cordially as he had greeted himself but a few minutes
before. David was not glad that he was there, for the expression on
Dan's face told him that he had seen and heard more than he had any
business to know. David made haste to finish his trading after that,
and when he had purchased a dress and a pair of shoes for his mother,
and a pair of shoes and stockings for himself, he handed out his
ten-dollar bill in payment. Dan's eyes seemed ready to start from
their sockets at the sight of it.

"Never mind that, now," said the grocer, pushing it back. "Perhaps
you will need it some day and I can wait six months, if you are not
ready to settle up before."

Dan's eyes opened still wider, and when his brother, after thanking
the grocer for his kindness and confidence, gathered up his purchases
and left the store, he followed slowly after him, so wholly lost in
wonder that he never recollected that he had six dollars in his own
pocket, and that he had come there to spend the best part of five of
it. He walked along at a little distance behind his brother, looking
thoughtfully at the ground all the while, as if he were revolving
some perplexing question in his mind, and then quickened his pace to
overtake him.

"Le' me carry some of them things," said he, as he came up with
David.

"No, I thank you," replied the latter, who knew that Dan never would
have offered to help him, if he had not hoped to gain something by
it. "I can get along very well by myself. The load is not a heavy
one."

"You're an amazin' lucky feller, Davy," continued Dan. "What you been
a doin' to Silas, to make him speak so kind to us poor folks?"

"I haven't done anything to him. I don't know how to account for it,
any more than you do."

"What's the matter, now? Forgot something?" asked Dan, as his brother
suddenly stopped and looked toward the landing, as if he had half a
mind to turn around and go back there.

Yes, David had forgotten something, and it was very important too, he
thought. He knew that Dan was always on the lookout for a chance to
make a penny without work, and David was afraid that he might be
tempted to repeat the trick which he and his father had played upon
Don and Bert with so much success.

It would be a very easy matter for Dan to make up some plausible
story to tell the grocer, and perhaps on the strength of his
brother's almost unlimited credit, he might be able to obtain a few
little articles of which he stood in need. David had never thought to
put Silas on his guard.

"I'll hold them things fur you, if you want to run back thar," said
Dan, reaching out his hand for the basket.

"No, I'll let it go until the next time I come down," answered David.
"A day or two will not make much difference."

"Whar did you get them ten dollars, any how?" asked Dan, as the two
once more turned their faces homeward.

"That's the money you tried to cheat me out of," replied his brother.
"Don says the loss was his and not mine."

"Did he give you ten dollars more?" exclaimed Dan.

"Not ten dollars more, for this is the first he has given me. You and
father got what I ought to have had."

"An' you never spent none on it, did you? I seen Silas shove it back
to you."

"Yes, I've got it safe in my pocket. I'm going to keep it, too."

"Wal, I'll bet a hoss you don't," was Dan's mental reflection. "I'd
oughter have some on it, an' if you don't give it to me without my
axin' you, I'll have it all. I'm the man of the house now, an' it's
the properest thing that I should have the handlin' of all the money
that comes in."

Of course Dan was much too smart to say this aloud. He knew that any
threats from him would put his brother on his guard, and then he
might whistle for the ten dollars. He said no more, and the two
walked along in silence until they came to General Gordon's barn.
Just as David was going into it, he met Lester Brigham riding out of
it. Lester scowled down at him, but David did not scowl back. He was
quite willing to forget that they had ever had any difficulty and to
be friendly with Lester, if the latter wanted him to be. It is
probable, however, that he would have had different feelings, if he
had known what it was that brought Lester over to Don's house.

David, as we have said, turned into the barn, and Dan, who had more
than his share of curiosity, would have given almost anything he
possessed to know what business he had there; but he could not go in
to see, for he dared not face Don and Bert after what he had done, so
he kept on toward home.

David deposited his basket and bundles on the steps that led to the
loft, and making his way around the north wing of the house, knocked
at the door, which was presently opened by Bert. David asked if Don
was in, and receiving an affirmative reply, was ushered into the
library, where his friend, wearied with his day's exercise, was
taking his ease on the sofa, which had been drawn up in front of a
cheerful wood fire. David declined to accept the chair which Bert
placed for him, and opened his business at once.

"Don," said he, "would you be willing to take that money you gave me
and keep it until I call for it?"

"Of course I would," replied Don, readily. "You haven't paid that
grocery bill, then? Well, I wouldn't either. You are not responsible
for it."

"I offered to pay it, but Mr. Jones wouldn't take the money. He says
my credit is good for six months."

"Why, what has come over him all of a sudden?" said Don, who did not
know that his father had had an interview with Silas that very day.

"I wish I knew. There's the money, and you won't let anybody have it,
except mother or me, will you?"

"You may be sure that I will take good care of it this time. Don't
forget that bear hunt, tomorrow."

"No. I'll be on hand bright and early. Good-by."

David hurried out, and picking up the basket and bundles he had left
in the barn, started for home. When he got there, he was surprised to
see that Dan was at work. He had pulled off his coat, rolled up his
sleeves and with a frow and mallet in his hands, was busy splitting
out shingles. David said nothing to him, but went into the house to
put away the tea, coffee and sugar and place the articles he had
bought for his mother in a conspicuous position, so that she would be
sure to see them, the moment she entered the door. While he was thus
engaged, Dan came in smiling, and trying to look good-natured. David
was on his guard at once.

"I'll tell you what I've made up my mind to do by you, Davy," said
Dan, "an' when you hear what it is, if you don't say I'm the best
brother you ever had, I want to know what's the reason why. I ain't
goin' agin you like I told you I was."

"I am very glad to hear it," said David.

"No, I ain't. I'm goin' to be pardners with you, an' I'm goin' to
give you half the money we make outen them quail. I'll give you half
what I've got hid away, too."

"I have no claim upon that," replied David. "It belongs to Don
Gordon, and if you are honest you'll give him every cent of it."

"I can't do it," said Dan. "Kase why, I give pap three an' a half of
it, an' spent six bits myself."

"Then give him what you have, and tell him that you will hand him the
rest as soon as you can earn it."

"Not by no means, I won't," said Dan, quickly. "Ten dollars ain't
nothing to him."

"That makes no difference. It is his, and he ought to have it."

"Wal, I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll pay him outen them fifty
dollars we're goin' to get fur them quail. An', Davy, if you'll give
me the money you've got in your pocket, I'll hide it with mine whar
nobody can't find it, and then it'll be safe."

"It is safe now."

"But if I go halves with you, you had oughter go halves with me.
Let's go out to them traps agin, and we kin talk it over while we're
workin'."

"I am not going to do anything more with those traps."

"You hain't give it up, have you? You ain't goin' to let them fifty
dollars slip through your fingers, be you?"

"What encouragement have I to do anything after what you said this
morning? I have made other arrangements. I am going to work over at
the General's."

David expected that his brother would be very angry when he heard
this, but if he was, he did not show it. He looked steadily at David
for a moment and then turned and walked around the corner of the
cabin out of sight.



CHAPTER VI.

BRUIN'S ISLAND.


"That's a purty way he's got of doin' business, I do think. He's a
trifle the meanest feller I ever seed, Dave is, an' if I don't pay
him fur it afore he's a great many weeks older, I'll just play myself
out a tryin'. If me an' him works together we kin get them fifty
dollars as easy as fallin' off a log; but he can't arn 'em by
hisself, an' he shan't, nuther."

This was the way Dan Evans talked to himself, as he trudged through
the woods with his rifle on his shoulder, after his unsuccessful
attempt to overhear what passed between his brother and Don and Bert
Gordon; or, rather, after his failure to find out what it was that
brought Don and Bert to the cabin. He _did_ overhear what passed
between them, but he did not learn anything by it. Of course that
made him angry. A good many things had happened that day to make him
angry, and he had gone off in the woods by himself to think and plan
vengeance.

"Bein' the man of the house I've got more right to them fifty dollars
nor Dave has," thought Dan, "an' if he don't give me half of 'em, he
shan't see a cent of 'em hisself. Wouldn't I look nice loafin' around
in these yere clothes while Dave was dressed up like a gentleman an'
takin' his ease? I'll bust up them traps of his'n faster'n he kin
make 'em. I'll show him that I'm the boss of this house now that
pap's away, no matter if them Gordon fellers is a backin' on him up.
I've larned a heap by listenin'. I heard Dave tell the ole woman that
he's goin' to make three dollars a dozen outen them quail. I didn't
larn nothing this arternoon, howsomever. Them fellers must a seed me
lookin' through the cracks, kase they didn't tell him what they was
agoin' to tell him when they fust come up to the fence."

Dan walked about for an hour or more, talking in this way to himself.
The squirrels frisked and barked all around him, but he did not seem
to hear them. He was so busy thinking over his troubles that he
scarcely knew where he was going, until at last he found himself
standing on the banks of a sluggish bayou that ran through the swamp.
The stream was wide and deep, and near the middle of it and opposite
the spot where Dan stood, was a little island thickly covered with
briers and cane. It was known among the settlers as Bruin's Island.
Dan knew the place well. Many a fine string of goggle-eyes had he
caught at the foot of the huge sycamore which grew at the lower end
of the island, and leaned over the water until its long branches
almost touched the trees on the main shore, and it was here that he
had trapped his first beaver. More than that, the island had been a
place of refuge for his father during the war. He retreated to it on
the night the levee was blown up by the Union soldiers, and spent the
most of his time there until all danger of capture was past.

When Dan appeared upon the bank of the bayou a dark object, which was
crouching at the water's edge near the foot of the sycamore, suddenly
sprang up and glided into the bushes out of sight. Its movements were
quick and noiseless, but still they did not escape the notice of Dan,
who dropped on the instant and hid behind a fallen log that happened
to be close at hand. He did not have time to take a good look at the
object, but he saw enough of it to frighten him thoroughly. He thrust
his cocked rifle cautiously over the log, directing the muzzle toward
the sycamore, but his hand was unsteady and his face was as white as
a sheet.

"Looked to me like a man," thought Dan, trembling in every limb, "but
in course it couldn't be; so it's one of them haunts what lives in
the General's lane."

Dan kept his gaze directed across the bayou, and could scarcely
restrain himself from jumping up and taking to his heels when he saw
a head, covered with a torn and faded hat, raised slowly and
cautiously above the leaning trunk of the sycamore. It remained
motionless for a moment and Dan's eyes were sharp enough to see that
there was a face below the hat--a tanned and weather-beaten face, the
lower portion of which was concealed by thick, bushy whiskers. As Dan
looked his eyes began to dilate, his mouth came open, and the butt of
his rifle was gradually lowered until the muzzle pointed toward the
clouds. He was sure he saw something familiar about the face, but the
sight of it was most unexpected, and so was the sound of the voice
which reached his ears a moment later.

"Dannie!" came the hail, in subdued tones, as if the speaker were
afraid of being overheard by some one besides the boy whom he was
addressing.

"Pap!" cried Dan.

[Illustration: Dan Recognizes his Father.]

As he spoke he arose from his concealment, and the man on the other
side of the bayou--Dan was pretty certain now that it was a
man--stepped out into view, disclosing the well-known form and
features of Godfrey Evans. Dan could hardly believe his eyes, and
even Godfrey seemed a little doubtful.

"Is that you, Dannie?" asked the latter.

"You're just a shoutin'," was the reply.

"Nobody ain't thar with you, I reckon," said Godfrey.

"No, I'm all by myself. But be you sartin that's you, pap?"

"In course I am, an' I've been a waitin' an' a watchin' fur yer. I'll
bring you over. You're an ongrateful an' ondutiful boy to leave your
poor ole pap, what's fit the Yankees an' worked so hard to bring you
up like a gentleman's son had oughter be brung up, out here in the
cane so long all by hisself."

"Why, pap, I didn't know you was here," said Dan.

Godfrey walked briskly along the shore until he reached a little
thicket of bushes into which he plunged out of sight. He appeared
again almost immediately, dragging behind him a small lead-colored
canoe which Dan recognized the moment he saw it. It was Don Gordon's
canoe, the one he used to pick up his dead and wounded ducks when he
was shooting over his decoys. It was a beautiful little craft, and
Dan had often wished that he could call it his own. It was one thing
that made him hate Don and Bert so cordially, and he had often told
himself that when he was ready to carry out the threats he had so
often made, that canoe should be one of the first things to suffer.
The brothers took altogether too much pleasure in it, and he wouldn't
have them rowing about the lake enjoying themselves while he was
obliged to stay ashore. The sight of it satisfied him that the man on
the opposite bank was his father, and nobody else. If he had been a
"haunt" he would not have needed a canoe to carry him across the
bayou.

Having placed the canoe in the water Godfrey went back into the cane
after the oars--the little craft was provided with rowlocks and
propelled by oars instead of paddles--and in a few seconds more he
was on Dan's side of the bayou. The moment the canoe touched the bank
he sprang out, and if one might judge by the cordial manner in which
father and son greeted each other, they were glad to meet again.

"I didn't never expect to feel your grip no more, pap," said Dan, who
was the first to speak, "an' I'm ridikilis proud to see you with this
yere dug-out. How came you by it, and whar did you git it?"

"I jest took it an' welcome," answered Godfrey. "I wasn't goin' to
swim over to the island every time I wanted to go there, was I?"

"In course not. I'm scandalous glad you tuk it; an' now I'll have a
ride in it, an' no thanks to Don Gordon nuther. Been a livin' here
ever since you've been gone?" added Dan, as he stepped into the boat
and picked up the oars.

"Yes, an' I've been a lookin' fur you every day. Seems to me you
might a knowed where to find me, kase here's whar I hung out when the
Yanks was in the country. Hear anything about me, in the settlement?"

"Yes, lots. Silas Jones has done been to Dave fur them eight dollars
you owe him."

"Much good may they do him, when he gets 'em," said Godfrey, snapping
his fingers in the air.

"Dave's goin' to pay the bill," added Dan. "I done heard him say so."

"The ongrateful an' ondutiful scamp!" exclaimed Godfrey. "If he's got
that much money, why don't he give it to me, like he had oughter do?
I need it more'n Silas does. Hear anything else, Dannie?"

"Yes; General Gordon says, why don't you come home an' go 'have
yourself? Nobody wouldn't pester you."

"Does you see anything green in these yere eyes?" asked Godfrey,
looking steadily at Dan. "That would do to tell some folks, but a man
what's fit the Yanks ain't so easy fooled. I'm safe here, an' here
I'll stay, till----Hear anything else, Dannie--anything 'bout them
two city chaps, Clarence an' Marsh Gordon?"

"O, they've gone home long ago."

"You didn't hear nothing about them gettin' into a furse afore they
went, did you?"

"Course I have. Everybody knows that you an' Clarence thought Don was
ole Jordan an' shet him up in the tater-hole."

"An' sarved him right, too," exclaimed Godfrey. "I reckon he's well
paid fur cheatin' me outen that chance of making eighty thousand
dollars. I heard Clarence was robbed afore he went away," added
Godfrey, at the same time turning away his head and looking at Dan
out of the corner of his eyes.

"I didn't hear nothing about that," said Dan.

Godfrey drew a long breath of relief. Ever since he took up his abode
on the island he had been torturing himself with the belief that the
robbery of which he was guilty was the talk of the settlement, and
that he would be arrested for at if he should ever show himself at
the landing again. He breathed much easier to know that his fears on
this score were groundless.

"Hear anything else, Dannie?" asked Godfrey, and his voice was so
cheerful and animated that the boy looked at him in amazement.
"What's Dave an' the ole woman doin'?"

"That thar Dave is goin' to git rich, dog-gone it," replied Dan, in
great disgust. "He got a letter from some feller up North this
mornin' tellin' him if he would trap fifty dozen live quail fur him,
he'd pay him so't he could make three dollars a dozen on 'em. I seed
Don give him the letter, an' I heard 'em a talkin' and a laughin'
about it."

"That's what makes me 'spise them Gordons so," said Godfrey, slapping
the side of the canoe with his open hand. "They're all the time a
boostin' Dave, an' me and you could starve fur all they keer. Now
jump out, an' we'll go up to my house an' talk about it. We'll leave
the boat here, so't it will be handy when you want to go back."

As Godfrey spoke the bow of the canoe ran deep into the soft mud
which formed the beach on that side of the island, and the father and
son sprang out. Godfrey led the way along a narrow, winding path
which ran through the cane, and after a few minutes walking ushered
Dan into an open space in the centre of the island. Here stood the
little bark lean-to that he called his house. The cane had been
cleared away from a spot about fifteen feet square, and piled up
around the outside, so that it looked like a little breastwork.

The lean-to was not a very imposing structure--Godfrey would much
rather sit in the sun and smoke his pipe then expend any of his
strength in providing for his comfort--but it was large enough to
shelter one man, and with a few more pieces of bark on the roof and a
roaring fire in front, it might have been made a very pleasant and
inviting camp. Just now, however, it looked cheerless enough. There
was a little armful of leaves under the roof of the lean-to and there
was a block of wood beside the fire-place, the position of which was
pointed out by a bed of ashes and cinders. The leaves served for a
bed and the block of wood for a chair; and they were all the
"furniture" that was to be seen about the camp. But Godfrey was very
well satisfied with his surroundings and Dan was delighted with them.
It must be splendid, he thought, to live there all by one's self with
nothing to worry over and no work to do. It was not even necessary
that Godfrey should chop wood for the fire, for the upper end of the
island was covered with broken logs and branches, and five minutes'
work every morning would suffice to provide him with all the fuel he
would be likely to burn during the day.

"What a nice place you've got here, pap!" said Dan, when he had taken
a hurried survey of the camp.

"I reckon it's about right," replied Godfrey. "I had this fur a
hidin' place while the Yanks was a scoutin' about through the
country, an' I come here now kase nobody won't think of lookin' fur
me so nigh the settlement. An' they won't stumble onto me afore I
know it, nuther. They can't git to me if they come afoot kase the
bayou'll stop 'em; an' I never heard of nobody coming up here in a
boat. Nothing bothers me 'ceptin' a bar. He comes over every night
to feed on the beech-nuts an' acorns, an' some night he'll come fur
the last time. I'll jest knock him over, and then I'll have meat
enough to last me a month. I build my fire and do my cookin' at
night, so't nobody can't see the smoke, an' that's what frightened
the bar away afore I could shoot him."

"I've a notion to come here an' live with you, pap," said Dan.

"'Twon't be safe," replied his father, quickly. "If you're missin'
from home folks might begin to hunt fur us, an' that's somethin' I
don't want 'em to do. 'Sides you must stay in the settlement an' help
me. I shall need things from the store now an' then, an' as I can't
go and git 'em myself, you'll have to git 'em fur me. But what was
you sayin' about Dave?" asked Godfrey, throwing himself down on one
of the piles of cane and motioning to Dan to occupy the block of
wood.

"I was a sayin' that he's a little the meanest feller I ever seed,"
replied Dan, "an' don't you say so too, pap? Kase why, he's goin' to
git fifty dollars fur them quail, an' he's goin' to give the money
all to the ole woman."

"An' leave me to freeze an' starve out here in the cane?" exclaimed
Godfrey, with a great show of indignation. "Not by no means he won't.
If he don't mind what he's about we'll take the hul on it, Dan, me
an' you will."

"_He_ won't get none on it, you kin bet high on that," said Dan. "I
told him I was goin' agin him, an' so I am. I'll bust his traps as
fast as I kin find 'em, an' I won't do nothin' but hunt fur 'em, day
an' night."

"Now, haint you got no sense at all?" cried his father, so fiercely
that Dan jumped up and turned his face toward the path, as if he were
on the point of taking to his heels.

"Wal, I wanted to go pardners with him an' he wouldn't le' me,"
protested Dan.

"What's the odds? Set down thar an' listen while somebody what knows
somethin' talks to you. What odds does it make to you if he won't go
pardners with you?"

"Kase I want some of the money; that's the odds it makes to me."

"Wal, you kin have it, an' you needn't do no work, nuther. I'm Dave's
pap an' your'n too, an' knows what's best fur all of us. You jest
keep still an' let Dave go on an' ketch the birds; an' when he's
ketched 'em an' got the money in his pocket, then I'll tell you what
else to do. Le' me see: fifty dozen birds at three dollars a dozen!
That's--that's jest----"

Godfrey straightened up, locked his fingers together, rested his
elbows on his knees and looked down at the pile of ashes in the
fire-place.

"It's a heap of money, the fust thing you know," said Dan. "It's
fifty dollars. Dave told me so."

"Fifty gran'mothers!" exclaimed Godfrey. "Dave done said that jest to
make a fule of you. It would be fifty dollars if he got only a dollar
a dozen. If he got two it would be a hundred dollars, an' if he got
three, it would be----"

Godfrey stopped, believing that he must have made a mistake
somewhere, and stared at Dan as if he were utterly bewildered. Dan
returned the stare with interest. "A hundred dollars!" he repeated,
slowly. "That thar Dave of our'n goin' to make a hundred dollars all
by hisself! Some on it's mine."

"It's more'n that, Dannie," said Godfrey, who, as soon as he could
settle his mind to the task, went over his calculations again, adding
the astounding statement--

"An' if he gets three dollars a dozen, he'll get a hundred an' fifty
dollars for the lot."

Dan's astonishment was so great that for a few seconds he could not
speak, and even his father looked puzzled and amazed. He was certain
that he had made no mistake in his mental arithmetic this time, and
the magnitude of David's prospective earnings fairly staggered him.
It made him angry to think of it.

"The idee of that triflin' leetle Dave's makin' so much money," he
exclaimed, in great disgust; "an' here's me, who has worked an'
slaved fur a hul lifetime, an' I've got jest twenty dollars."

"Eh?" cried Dan.

Godfrey was frightened at what he had said, but he could not recall
it without exciting Dan's suspicions; so he put on a bold face and
continued:--

"Yes, I've got that much, an' I worked hard fur it, too. But a
hundred an' fifty dollars! We must have that when it's 'arned,
Dannie."

"The hul on it?"

"Every cent. I'm Dave's pap, an' the law gives me the right to his
'arnin's, an' yours, too, until you's both twenty-one years ole. Now,
Dannie, I've done a power of hard thinkin' since I've been here on
this island, an' I've got some idees in my head that will make you
look wild when you hear 'em. I didn't know jest how to carry 'em out
afore, but I do now. These yere hundred an' fifty dollars will keep
us movin' till we kin find them eighty thousand."

"Be you goin' to look fur them agin, pap?"

"No, I hain't, but you be."

"Not much, I ain't," replied Dan, emphatically.

"Who's to do it, then?" demanded his father. "I can't, kase I'm
afeared to go into the settlement even at night. You hain't goin' to
give up the money, be you? Then what'll become of your circus-hoss,
an' your painted boats, an' your fine guns what break in two in the
middle?"

"I don't keer," answered Dan, doggedly. "I wouldn't go into that
tater-patch alone, arter dark; if I knowed it was chuck full of
yaller gold an' silver pieces."

The savage scowl that settled on Godfrey's face, as he listened to
these words, brought Dan to his feet again in great haste. The man
was fully as angry as he looked, and it is possible he might have
said or done something not altogether to Dan's liking, had it not
been for an unlooked-for interruption that occurred just then.
Godfrey had raised his hand in the air to give emphasis to some
remark he was about to make, when he was checked by a slight
splashing in the water, accompanied by the measured clatter of oars,
as they were moved back and forth in the row-locks. This was followed
by a clear, ringing laugh, which Godfrey and his son could have
recognized anywhere, and a cheery voice said:--

"I'm getting tired. It is time for me to stop and rest when I begin
to catch crabs."

There was a boat in the bayou, and Don and Bert Gordon were in it.
They were so close at hand, too, that flight was impossible.

"I don't think there's much difference between riding on horseback
and rowing in a boat, as far as the work is concerned," said the same
voice. "I've done about all I can do to-day. There don't seem to be
any ducks in the bayou; so we'll stop here and take a breathing spell
before we go back."

"Is thar any place in the wide world a feller could crawl into
without bein' pestered by them two oneasy chaps?" whispered Dan,
jumping up from his block of wood and looking all around, as if he
were seeking a way of escape.

"Not a word out of you," replied Godfrey, shaking his fist at his
son.

Following Godfrey's example, Dan threw himself behind one of the
piles of cane, and the two held their breath and listened.



CHAPTER VII.

WHAT HAPPENED THERE.


"You're not going to get out, are you, Don?" asked Bert, and as he
was not more than four or five rods away, every word he uttered was
distinctly heard by the two listeners in the cane.

"I want to stretch my legs a little," was Don's reply. "Come on, and
let's explore the island. You know it used to be a famous bear's den,
don't you?"

"I should think I ought to know it, having heard father tell the
story of the animal's capture a dozen times or more. He must have
been a monster: he was so large and heavy that it was all a span of
mules could do to drag him from the shore of the lake, where he was
taken out of the boat, up to the house."

"And didn't he make things lively before he was killed, though?" said
Don. "He destroyed nine dogs and wounded two men. I'd like to take
part in a hunt like that."

"Well, I wouldn't. It looks gloomy in the cane, doesn't it? What
would we do if we should find a bear in there?"

"I don't know," answered Don, with a laugh. "Our guns are loaded with
small shot, and they would hardly penetrate a bear's thick skin. If
he should come at us, I'd be a goner, sure, for I am so stiff I
couldn't run to save my life. But I don't think we'll find----Halloo!
Bert, just look here!"

A chorus of exclamations followed, and Godfrey and Dan looked at each
other and scowled fiercely.

"That's my canoe," said Don, and they heard the oars rattle as he
stepped into it.

"There's no doubt about that," said Bert, in surprised and delighted
tones; "but how came it here?"

"That's the question. The fellow who stole it took it up the bayou
and then turned it loose, having no further use for it, or else it
got away from him and drifted down here."

"Who knows but the thief brought it here himself, and that he is on
the island now, hidden in the cane?" said Bert, lowering his voice,
but still speaking quite loud enough to make himself heard by Godfrey
and Dan.

"I hardly think that can be possible," replied Don. "You see the bow
of the canoe was caught on this root; and that makes me think it was
brought down by the current and lodged here."

Godfrey and Dan looked at each other again. They had taken no pains
to secure the boat when they left it, and the current had moved it
from its place on the bank and was carrying it toward the lake, when
it caught on the root where it was discovered by its lawful owner.

"I am glad to get it again," said Don, "for I don't know what we
should have done without it. It is just the thing to chase crippled
ducks with. If I could see the man who stole it, I'd give him a piece
of my mind, I tell you."

After that there was a pause in the conversation and the rattling of
a chain told Godfrey and Dan that the canoe was being fastened to the
stern of the boat in which the brothers had come up the bayou. Then
there was more conversation in a subdued tone of voice, and presently
a commotion in the cane indicated that Don and Bert were working
their way slowly toward the camp. Dan began to tremble and turn
white, and his father looked as though he would have been glad to run
if he had only known where to go.

"Halloo!" exclaimed Bert, suddenly, "here we are. Come this way, Don.
I've found a path."

"A path!" repeated his brother. "What should make a path through this
cane?"

"I don't know, I am sure. What's this? Can you tell a bear track when
you see it?"

"Of course I can," answered Don, and the listeners heard him pushing
his way through the cane toward the path in which his brother stood.
"But I don't call this a bear track," he added, after a moment's
pause, during which he was closely examining the footprint his
brother pointed out to him. "A barefooted man or boy has been along
here, and that track was made not more than ten minutes ago. And,
Bert," he continued, in a lower tone, "you were right about that boat
after all. Come on, now, and if the thief is here we'll have a look
at him."

"Pap," whispered Dan, hurriedly, "they're comin' sure's you're
livin'. Le's slip around to the other side of the island, easy like,
and steal their boats afore they know what is goin' on."

"We couldn't do it," replied his father, in the same cautious
whisper. "They'd be sure to see us. I'll fix 'em when they come nigh
enough. I'd like to shoot 'em both, to pay 'em for findin' my hidin'
place."

"Don't do that, pap," said Dan, in great alarm. "Here they come,
an'---- Laws a massy? What's that?"

As Dan uttered these words, a deep, hoarse, growl, so suddenly and
fiercely uttered, that it almost made his hair stand on end, sounded
close at his side. Don and Bert heard it, and they were as badly
frightened as Dan was.

"What was that, Don?" asked Bert, in an excited whisper. "You heard
it, didn't you?"

"I should think so," was Don's reply, and the words were followed by
the clicking of the locks of his gun.

After that came a long pause. Don and Bert waited for the warning
growl to be repeated, and stooping down, tried to peer through the
cane in front of them, in the hope of obtaining a view of the animal,
which had been disturbed by their approach, while Dan, crouching low
in his place of concealment, looked first at his father and then
glanced timidly about, as if in momentary expectation of seeing
something frightful. He could hardly bring himself to believe that
the noise, which so greatly terrified him, had been made by his
father, but such was the fact.

If there was a person in the world, Godfrey did not want to meet face
to face, that person was Don Gordon; and when he first became aware
that the boy was close at hand, and that he was about to explore the
island, he was greatly alarmed and utterly at a loss how to avoid
him. If Don saw him there, of course he would tell of it, and that
would set the officers of the law on his track (no evidence that
could be produced was strong enough to convince Godfrey, that he had
nothing to fear from the officers of the law) and compel him to look
for a new hiding-place. The conversation he overheard between the
brothers, regarding the capture of the bear, which had so long held
possession of the island, brought a bright idea into his mind, and he
acted upon it at the right time, too. It was the only thing that
saved him from discovery. Don was not afraid of a man, and if he had
known that Godfrey was hidden in the cane a few feet in advance of
him, he would have walked straight up to him, and accused him of
stealing his boat; but he had no desire to face a wild animal alone
and unaided, and he was in no condition to do it, either. We say
alone and unaided, because Bert would have been of no assistance to
him. Bert was a famous shot with his double-barrel, and no boy in the
settlement could show more game, after a day spent among the
waterfowl, than he could; but he was too timid and excitable to be of
any use to one placed in a situation of danger. Even the sight of a
deer dashing through the woods, or the whirr of a flock of quails as
they unexpectedly arose from the bushes at his feet, would set him to
shaking so violently that he could not shoot.

"What do you suppose it was, Don?" asked Bert, and Godfrey did not
fail to notice that his voice trembled when he spoke. "Was it a wild
cat or a panther?"

"O, no," replied Don. "One of those animals wouldn't warn us. He'd be
down on us before we knew he was about. I wish I had my rifle and the
free use of my legs. I'd never leave the island until I had one good
pop at him."

A slight rustling in the cane told the listeners that Don was again
advancing slowly along the path. Dan was afraid that he had made up
his mind to risk a shot with his double-barrel, and so was Godfrey,
who uttered another growl, louder and fiercer than the first, and
rattled the cane with his hands. That was too much even for Don's
courage; and Bert was frightened almost out of his senses.

"Look out, Don! Look out!" he exclaimed. "He is coming!"

"Let him come," replied Don, retreating backward along the path.

"Run! run!" entreated Bert.

"That's quite impossible. I'm doing the best I can now. If he shows
himself I'll fill his head full of number six shot."

Godfrey continued to growl and rattle the cane at intervals, but
there was no need of it, for Don was quite as anxious to reach his
boat and leave the island as Godfrey and Dan were to have him do so.
He retreated along the path with all the speed he could command,
holding himself ready to make as desperate a fight as he could if
circumstances should render it necessary, and presently a rattling of
oars and a splashing in the water told the listeners that he and his
brother were pushing off and making their way down the bayou. In
order to satisfy himself on this point, Godfrey crawled over the pile
of cane, behind which he had been concealed and moved quickly, but
noiselessly along the path, closely followed by Dan. On reaching the
edge of the cane they looked down the stream and saw the brothers
twenty rods away in their boat, Bert tugging at the oars as if his
life depended on his exertions. The danger of discovery was over for
the present, but how were Dan and his father to leave the island now
without swimming? Don had taken his canoe away with him.

"If I could have my way with them two fellers they'd never trouble
nobody else," exclaimed Godfrey, shaking his fist at the departing
boat. "Whar be I goin' to hide now, I'd like to know?"

"Stay here," replied Dan, "an' if they come back to pester you, growl
'em off 'n the island like you done this time."

"An' git a bullet into me fur my pains?" returned his father. "No,
sar. Don'll be up here agin in the mornin', sartin, an' he'll have
his rifle with him, too; but I won't be here to stand afore it, kase
I've seed him shoot too ofter. He kin jest beat the hind sights off'n
you, any day in the week."

"Whoop!" cried Dan, jumping up and knocking his heels together.

"I don't see what bring them two oneasy chaps up here, nohow," said
Godfrey, taking no notice of the boy's threatening attitude. "I never
knowed them or anybody else to come up the bayou in a small boat
afore, 'ceptin' when that bar was killed here. That was an amazin'
smart trick of mine, Dannie. Howsomever, we hain't got no more time
to talk. I'm goin' to give you five dollars, Dannie, an' I want you
to go to the landin' an' spend it fur me. Get me a pair of
shoes--number 'levens, you know--an' two pair stockin's, an' spend
the heft of the rest fur tobacker. Then when it comes dark, I want
you to get that canoe agin, an' bring it up here with the things you
buy at the store."

"How am I goin' to git the canoe?"

"Take it an' welcome, like I did."

Dan shrugged his shoulders, and his father, believing from the
expression on his face that he was about to refuse to undertake the
task, made haste to add:--

"An' when you come, Dannie, I'll tell you how we're goin' to work it
to git them hundred and fifty dollars that Dave's goin' to 'arn by
trappin' them birds fur that feller up North. I have a right to it,
kase I'm his pap: an' when I get it, I'll give you half--that is, if
you do right by me while I'm hidin' here. I'll give you half that
bar'l, too, when we find it. Then you kin have your circus hoss an'
all your other nice things, can't you?" added Godfrey, playfully
poking his son in the ribs.

Dan's face relaxed a little, but his father's affected enthusiasm was
not as contagious now as it was when the subject of the buried
treasure was first brought up for discussion. Godfrey had no
intention of renewing his efforts to find the barrel--he could not
have been hired to go into that potato-patch after what had happened
there--but it was well enough, he thought, to hold it up to Dan as an
inducement. Besides, if he could get the boy interested in the matter
again, and induce him to prosecute the search, and Dan should, by any
accident, stumble upon the barrel, so much the better for himself.
The great desire of his life would be attained. He would be rich, and
that, too, without work.

"Why can't you steal the canoe yourself?" asked Dan.

"Kase I've got to pack up an' get ready to leave here; that's why.
It'll take me from now till the time you come back to get all my
traps together."

Dan hurriedly made a mental inventory of the valuables his father
possessed and which he had seen in the camp, and the result showed
one rifle, one powder-horn and one bullet-pouch. All Godfrey had
besides he carried on his back. It certainly would not take him three
or four hours to gather these few articles together.

"Pap's mighty 'feared that he'll do something he can make somebody
else do fur him," thought the boy. "But he needn't think he's goin'
to get me into a furse. I ain't agoin' to steal no canoe fur nobody."

"An' since it's you," added Godfrey, seeing that Dan did not readily
fall in with his plans, "I'll give you a dollar of my hard-'arned
money for doin' the job."

"Wal, now that sounds like business," exclaimed Dan, brightening up.
"Whar's the money, an' how am I goin' to get off'n the island?"

"The money's safe, and I'll bring it to you in a minute," replied
Godfrey. "You stay here till I come back. As fur gettin' acrosst the
bayou, that's easy done. Thar's plenty of drift wood at the upper end
of the island, an' you kin get on a log an' pole yourself over. When
you get home, Dannie, make friends with Dave the fust thing you do,
an' tell him you was only foolin' when you said you was goin' agin
him. Help him every way you kin, an' when he gits the money we'll
show our hands."

So saying, Godfrey walked down the path out of sight. After a few
minutes' absence, he came back and handed Dan the money of which he
had spoken, a five-dollar bill to be expended for himself at the
store, and a one-dollar bill to pay Dan for stealing the canoe. When
Dan had put them both carefully away in his pocket, he went back to
the camp after his rifle, and then followed his father through the
cane toward the upper end of the island. They found an abundance of
drift wood there, and from it selected two small logs of nearly the
same size and length. By fastening these together with green withes,
a raft was made, which was sufficiently buoyant to carry Dan in
safety to the main land. When it was completed, the boy swung his
rifle over his shoulder by a piece of stout twine he happened to have
in his pocket, and taking the pole his father handed him, pushed off
into the stream.

Poling the raft was harder work than rowing the canoe, and Dan's
progress was necessarily slow; but he accomplished the journey at
last, and after waving his hand to his father, disappeared in the
bushes. He took a straight course for the landing and after a little
more than an hour's rapid walking, found himself in Silas Jones's
store. He was greatly surprised at something he saw when he got
there, and so bewildered by it that he forgot all about the money he
had in his pocket, and the stockings, shoes and tobacco of which his
father stood so much in need. There was David making the most
extravagant purchases, and there was Silas bowing and smiling and
acting as politely to him as he ever did to his richest customers. If
Dan was astonished at this, he was still more astonished, when David
threw down a ten-dollar bill and the grocer pushed it back to him
with the remark, that his credit was good for six months. Dan could
not imagine how David had managed to obtain possession of so much
money, and when he found out, as he did when he and his brother were
on their way home, he straightway went to work to think up some plan
by which he might get it into his own hands. This problem and a
bright idea, which suddenly suggested itself to him, occupied his
mind during the walk; and shortly after parting from his brother at
General Gordon's barn, Dan hit upon a second idea, which made his
usually gloomy face brighten wonderfully while he thought about it.

Dan's first duty was to rectify his mistake of the morning, and make
his brother understand that he had repented of the determination he
had made to work against him, and that he was going to do all he
could to assist him. He tried to do this, as we know, but did not
succeed, for to his great surprise and sorrow David announced that he
was not going to waste any more time in building traps for Dan to
break up, and this led the latter to believe that nothing more was to
be done toward catching the quails. He walked slowly around the
cabin, after a short interview with his brother, and the first thing
he saw on which to vent his rage was Don's pointer, which came
frisking out of his kennel and wagging his tail by way of greeting,
only to be sent yelping back again by a vicious kick from Dan's foot.

"I'm jest a hundred an' fifty dollars outen pocket an' so is pap,"
soliloquized Dan, almost ready to cry with vexation when he thought
of the magnificent prize which had slipped through his fingers. "A
hundred an' fifty dollars! My circus hoss an' fine gun an' straw hat
an' shiny boots is all up a holler stump, dog-gone my buttons, an'
that thar's jest what's the matter of me. An' what makes it wusser
is, I lost 'em by bein' a fule," added Dan, stamping his bare feet
furiously upon the ground.

Just then a lively, cheerful whistle sounded from the inside of the
cabin where David was busy arranging his purchases. Things were
taking a turn for the better with him now, and he whistled for the
same reason that a bird sings--because he was happy.

"If I could only think up some way to make that thar mean Dave feel
as bad as I do, how quick I'd jump at it! I wish pap was here. He'd
tell me how. He's as jolly as a mud-turtle on a dry log on a sunshiny
day, Dave is, while I---- Whoop!" yelled Dan, jumping up and striking
his heels together in his rage. "Howsomever, I'll have them ten
dollars afore I take a wink of sleep this blessed night----"

Here Dan stopped and looked steadily at the pointer for a few
minutes. Then he slapped his knee with his open hand, thrust both
arms up to the elbows in his pockets and walked up and down the yard,
smiling and shaking his head as if he were thinking about something
that afforded him the greatest satisfaction.



CHAPTER VIII.

DOGS IN THE MANGER.


David would not have been as happy as he was if he had known all that
was going on in the settlement. As it happened, his father and
brother were not the only ones he had to fear. These two had an eye
on the money he expected to earn by trapping the quails, and for
that reason they were not disposed to interfere with him until his
work was all done and he had reaped the reward of it; but there
were two others who had suddenly made up their minds that it was
unsportsmanlike to trap birds and that it should not be done if they
could prevent it. They were Lester Brigham and his particular friend
and crony--almost the only one he had in the settlement, in fact--Bob
Owens.

Bob lived about two miles from General Gordon's, and might have made
one of the select little company of fellows with whom Don and Bert
delighted to associate, if he had been so inclined. But he was much
like Dan Evans in a good many respects, and had been guilty of so
many mean actions that he had driven almost all his friends away from
him. He rode over to the General's about twice each week, and while
he was there he was treated as civilly and kindly as every other
visitor was: but the brothers never returned his visits, and would
have been much better satisfied if Bob had stayed at home.

These two boys, Lester and Bob, were determined that David should not
earn the hundred and fifty dollars if they could help it, and they
knew that by annoying him in every possible way, they would annoy
Don and Bert, too: and that was really what they wanted to do. What
reason had they for wishing to annoy Don and Bert? No good reason.
Did you ever see a youth who was popular among his fellows, and who
was liked by almost everybody, both old and young, who did not have
at least one enemy in some sneaking boy, who would gladly injure him
by every means in his power? Lester and Bob were jealous of Don and
Bert, that was the secret of the matter; and more than that, they
were disappointed applicants for the very contract which Don had
secured for David.

Bob regularly borrowed and read the "_Rod and Gun_," and when his eye
fell upon the advertisement calling for fifty dozen live quails, he
thought he saw a chance to make a goodly sum of pocket money, and
hurried off to lay the matter before his friend Lester, proposing
that they should go into partnership and divide the profits. Of
course Lester entered heartily into the scheme. He knew nothing about
building and setting traps, but Bob did, and when they had discussed
the matter and calculated their chances for success, they told each
other that in two weeks' time the required number of birds would be
on their way up the river. That very day Bob addressed a letter to
the advertiser, and as soon as it was sent off he and Lester went to
work on the traps.

It is hardly necessary to say that they lived in a fever of
excitement and suspense after that, and anxiously awaited an answer
from the gentleman who wanted the quails. The mail was brought in by
the carrier from the county seat, on Wednesday and Friday afternoons,
and Bob and Lester made it a point to be on hand when the letters
were distributed. One Wednesday, about two weeks after the letter
applying for the order was mailed, Bob went down to the post-office
alone, and the first person he met there was Bert Gordon. They leaned
against the counter and talked while the mail was being put into the
boxes, and when the pigeon-hole was opened, the postmaster handed
each of them a good-sized bundle of letters and papers, which
they began to stow away in their pockets, glancing hastily at the
addresses as they did so. It happened that each of them found a
letter in his bundle, which attracted his attention, and, as if moved
by a common impulse, they walked toward opposite ends of the counter
to read them.

The letter Bert found was addressed to Don; but he was pretty certain
he could tell where it came from, and knowing that his brother
wouldn't care--there were no secrets between them, now--he opened and
read it. He was entirely satisfied with its contents, but the other
boy was not so well satisfied with the contents of his. When Bert
picked up his riding-whip and turned to leave the store, he saw Bob
leaning against the counter, mechanically folding his letter, while
his eyes were fastened upon the floor, at which he was scowling
savagely.

"What's the matter?" asked Bert. "No bad news, I hope."

"Well, it is bad news," replied Bob, so snappishly, that Bert was
sorry that he had spoken to him at all. "You see, I found an
advertisement in one of your father's papers, asking for live quails.
I wrote to the man that I could furnish them, and I have just
received an answer from him, stating that he has already sent
the order to another party, and one who lives in my immediate
neighborhood. What's the matter with you?" exclaimed Bob, as Bert
broke out into a cheery laugh.

"When did you write to him?" asked Bert.

"On the very day I borrowed the paper."

"Well, Don was just three days ahead of you. I've got the order in my
pocket."

"What do you and Don want to go into the trapping business for?"
asked Bob, with ill-concealed disgust. "You don't need the money."

"Neither do you," replied Bert.

"Yes, I do. I intended to buy a new shot-gun with it. I am almost the
only decent fellow in the settlement who doesn't own a breech-loader.
I have racked my brain for months, to think up some way to earn money
enough to get one, and when I am just about to accomplish my object,
you and Don have to jump up and rob me of the chance. The man tells
me that he would be glad to give me the contract, if he hadn't given
it to you. I've a good notion to slap you over."

"It isn't for us," replied Bert. "It is for Dave Evans; and I think
you will acknowledge that he needs the money if anybody does."

"Dave Evans!" sneered Bob.

"Yes; and he needs clothes and food more than you need a new
shot-gun."

"I guess I know what I want and how much I want it," retorted Bob.
"I'm to be shoved aside to give place to that lazy ragamuffin, am I?
If I don't make you wish that you had kept your nose out of my
business, I'm a Dutchman."

Bert did not wait to hear all of this speech. Seeing that Bob was
getting angrier every minute, and that his rage was likely to get the
better of him, he drew on his gloves, mounted his pony and set out
for home. Bob followed a quarter of a mile or so in his rear, and
once or twice he whipped up his horse and closed in on Bert as if he
had made up his mind to carry out his threat of slapping him over.
But every time he did so a sturdy, broad-shouldered figure, with a
face that looked wonderfully like Don Gordon's, seemed to come
between him and the unconscious object of his pursuit, and then
Bob would rein in his horse and let Bert get farther ahead of him.
Presently Bob came to a road running at right angles with the one
he was following, and there he stopped, for he saw Lester Brigham
approaching at a full gallop. The latter was by his side in a few
seconds, and his first question was:--

"Been to the post-office?"

"I have, and there's the letter on which I built so many hopes,"
replied Bob, handing out the document which he had crumpled into a
little round ball. "We were too late. The order has been given to
that meddlesome fellow, Don."

Lester looked first at his companion, then at Bert, who was now
almost out of sight, and began to gather up his reins.

"You'd better not do it, unless you want to feel the weight of his
brother's arm," said Bob, who seemed to read the thoughts that were
passing through Lester's mind. "I gave him a good going-over, and
told him I had a notion to knock him down."

"Why didn't you do it?" exclaimed Lester. "I'd have backed you
against Don or anybody else."

"Haw! haw!" laughed Bob. "I shall want _good_ backing before I
willingly raise a row in that quarter, I tell you."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Lester.

"O, I was just joking, of course. But what's to be done about this
business? Don got the contract for Dave Evans, and I want to know if
we are to be kicked out of the way to make room for him."

Lester did not reply at once. He did not feel very highly flattered
by the low estimate Bob seemed to put upon him as a "backer" in case
of trouble with Don Gordon, and while he was trying to make up his
mind whether he ought to let it pass or get sulky over it, he was
unfolding and smoothing out the letter he held in his hand. When he
had made himself master of its contents, he said:--

"You come over and stay with me to-night, and we'll put our heads
together and see what we can make of this. I must go down to the
store now, and I'll meet you here in half an hour. That will give
you time enough to go home and speak to your folks."

Bob spent the night at Lester's house, and it was during the long
conversation they had before they went to sleep, that they made up
their minds that it was a mean piece of business to trap quails, and
that nobody but a miserable pot-hunter would do it. They adopted the
dog-in-the-manger policy at once. If they could not trap the birds,
nobody should; and that was about all they could decide on just then.

The next morning after breakfast they mounted their horses and rode
in company, until they came to the lane that led to Bob's home and
there they parted, Lester directing his course down the main road
toward the cabin in which David Evans lived. He met David in the
road, as we know, and laid down the law to him in pretty strong
language; but strange enough the latter could not be coaxed or
frightened into promising that he would give up his chance of
earning a hundred and fifty dollars.

Lester was in a towering passion when he rode away after his
conversation with David. Lashing his horse into a run, he turned into
the first road he came to, and after a two-mile gallop, drew rein in
front of the double log-house in which Bob Owens lived. There was an
empty wagon-shed on the opposite side of the road, and there he found
Bob, standing with his hands in his pockets, and gazing ruefully
at the pile of traps upon which he and Lester had worked so
industriously, and which he had hoped would bring them in a nice
little sum of spending money.

"Well, did you see him?" asked Bob, as his friend rode up to the shed
and swung himself out of the saddle.

"I did," was the reply, "and he was as defiant as you please. He was
downright insolent."

"These white trash are as impudent as the niggers," said Bob, "and no
one who has the least respect for himself will have anything to do
with them. I used to think that Don Gordon was something of an
aristocrat, but now I know better."

"I wish I had given him a good cowhiding," continued Lester, who did
not think it worth while to state that he had been on the point of
attempting that very thing, but had thought better of it when he saw
how resolutely David stood his ground. "But never mind. We'll get
even with him. We'll touch his pocket, and that will hurt him worse
than a whipping. It will hurt the Gordons, too."

"Then he wouldn't promise to give up the idea of catching them
quails? I am sorry, for if we could only frighten him off the track,
we would write to that man up North telling him that the party with
whom he made his contract wasn't able to fill it, but we could catch
all the birds he wants in two weeks."

"That's a good idea--a splendid idea!" exclaimed Lester; "and perhaps
we'll do it any how, if the plan I have thought of doesn't prove
successful."

Lester then went on to repeat the conversation he had had with David,
as nearly as he could recall it, and wound up by saying:--

"I told him that we were going to start a Sportsman's Club among the
fellows, and that after we got fairly going, our first hard work
should be to break up this practice of trapping birds. Of course that
wasn't true--I just happened to think of it while I was talking to
him--but why can't we make it true? If all the boys will join in with
us, I'd like to see him do any trapping this winter."

"But who can we get to go in with us?"

"We'll ask Don and Bert the first thing."

"Nary time," exclaimed Bob, quickly. "If they are the sort you're
going to get to join your club, you may just count me out. I don't
like them."

"You like them just as well as I do; but we have an object to gain,
and we mustn't allow our personal feelings to stand in our way."

"Do you suppose Don would join such a club after getting Dave the
job?"

"Perhaps he would. He likes to be first in everything, doesn't he?"

"I should say so," replied Bob, in great disgust. "I never saw a
fellow try to shove himself ahead as that Don Gordon does."

"Well, we'll flatter him by offering to make him President of the
club; and we'll promise to make Bert Vice or Secretary."

"I'll not vote for either of them."

"Yes, you will. We want to get them on our side; for if they promise
to go in with us every boy in the settlement will do the same."

"That's what makes me so mad every time I think of those Gordons,"
exclaimed Bob, spitefully throwing down a stick which he had been
cutting with his knife. "Every fellow about here, except you and me,
is ready to hang on to their coat tails and do just what they do. One
would think by the way they act that they belonged to some royal
family. They don't notice me at all. They've had a crowd of boys
in that shooting-box of theirs every spring and fall since I can
remember, and I have never had an invitation to go there yet. They
take along a nigger to cook for them, and have a high old time
shooting over their decoys; but the first thing they know they'll
find that shanty missing some fine morning. I'll set fire to it."

"Don't say that out loud," said Lester, quickly, at the same time
extending his hand to his companion, as if to show that what he had
said met his own views exactly. "Don't so much as hint it to a living
person. We'll give them a chance to make friends with us if they want
to, and if they don't, let them take the consequences. But we can
talk about that some other time. What do you say to getting up a
Sportsman's Club?"

Bob did not know what to say, for he had never heard of such a thing
until he became acquainted with Lester. The latter explained the
objects of such organizations as well as he could, and after some
debate they crossed over to the house, intending to go into Bob's
room and draw up a constitution for the government of the proposed
society. On the way Bob suddenly thought of something.

"You and I want to earn this money, don't we?" said he. "That's what
we're working for, isn't it? Well, now, if we put a stop to trapping,
how are we going to do it?"

"This is the way we're going to do it: we'll drive Dave Evans off the
track first. When that is done, we'll tell that man up North that we
are the only one's here who can fill his order. Then we'll go quietly
to work and catch our birds, saying nothing to nobody about it, and
when we have trapped all we want, we'll ship them off."

"But somebody will see us when we are putting them on the boat."

"No matter for that. The mischief will be done, and we'll see how Don
and Dave will help themselves. We can afford to be indifferent to
them when we have seventy-five dollars apiece in our pockets, can't
we?"

"Lester, you're a brick!" exclaimed Bob. "I never could have thought
up such a plot. I'll have my gun after all."

"Of course you will."

"And what will become of the club?"

"We don't care what becomes of it. Having served our purpose, it can
go to smash and welcome. Now will you vote for Don and Bert?"

"I'll be only too glad to get the chance. But you'll have to manage
the thing, Lester."

"I'll do that. All I ask of you is to talk the matter up among the
boys, that is, if Don and Bert agree to join us, and put in your vote
when the time comes."

The two friends spent the best part of the day in Bob's room, drawing
up the constitution that was to govern their society. Lester, who did
all the writing, had never seen a document of the kind, and having
nothing to guide him he made rather poor work of it. He had read a
few extracts from game laws, and remembered that Greek and Latin
names were used therein. He could recall some of these names, and he
put them in as they occurred to him, and talked about them so glibly,
and appeared to be so thoroughly posted in natural history that
Bob was greatly astonished. Of course there was a clause in the
instrument prohibiting pot-hunting and the snaring of birds, and that
was as strong as language could make it. The work being done at last
to the satisfaction of both the boys, Lester mounted his horse and
galloped away in the direction of Don Gordon's home.



CHAPTER IX.

NATURAL HISTORY.


Lester Brigham was not at all intimate with Don and Bert. The
brothers, as in duty bound, called upon him when he first arrived in
the settlement, and a few days afterward Lester rode over and took
dinner with them; and that was the last of their visiting. The boys
could see nothing to admire in one another. Don and Bert were a
little too "high-toned;" in other words, they were young gentlemen,
and such fellows did not suit Lester, who preferred to associate with
Bob Owens and a few others like him. Lester had been a leader among
his city schoolmates, and he expected to occupy the same position
among the boys about Rochdale; but before he had been many weeks in
the settlement he found that there were some fellows there who knew
just as much as he did, who rode horses and wore clothes as good as
his own, and who had some very decided opinions and were in the habit
of thinking for themselves. They wouldn't "cotton" to him even if he
was from the city, and so Lester made friends with those whom he
regarded as his inferiors in every way.

Lester was not at all pleased with the task he had set himself on
this particular day. He never felt easy in Don's presence and Bert's,
and nothing but the hope of compelling David to give up his contract
and thus leave the way clear for Bob and himself, would have induced
him to call upon them. He rode slowly in order to postpone the
interview as long as he could, but the General's barn was reached at
last, and the hostler, who came forward to take his nag, told him
that Don and Bert had just gone into the house. The latter opened the
door in response to his knock, and Lester knew by the way he looked
at him that he was very much surprised to see him. But he welcomed
him very cordially, and conducted him into the library, where Don was
lying upon the sofa.

"That night in the potato cellar was a serious matter for you, wasn't
it?" said the visitor, after the greeting was over and he had seated
himself in the chair which Bert placed in front of the fire. "Haven't
you been able to take any exercise at all yet?"

"O, yes; I've been out all day. I've had almost too much exercise,
and that is what puts me here on the sofa."

"We've had some excitement, too," added Bert.

"Yes. We went up the bayou to see if the ducks had begun to come in
any yet, and we found a bear on Bruin's Island."

"Did you shoot him?"

"No. He gave us notice to clear out and we were only too glad to do
so. Such growls _I_ never heard before."

"One's nerves do shake a little under such circumstances, that is, if
he is not accustomed to shooting large game," said Lester, loftily.
"You ought to have had me there. Perhaps I'll go up some day and pay
my respects to him."

Don, who thought this a splendid opportunity to test Lester's
courage, was on the very point of telling him that he and Bert were
going up there the next day to see if they could find the animal, and
that they would be glad to have his assistance; but on second thought
he concluded that he would say nothing about it. He expected to have
some sport as well as some excitement during the trip, and he didn't
want his day's enjoyment spoiled by any such fellow as Lester
Brigham.

"I came over to see you two boys on business," continued the visitor,
drawing an official envelope from his pocket. "We talk of getting up
a Sportsman's Club here in the settlement: will you join it?"

"Who are talking of getting it up, and what is the object of it?"
asked Don.

"All the boys are talking of it. One object is to bring the young
sportsmen of the neighborhood into more intimate relations, and
another is to protect the game. Perhaps I can give you no better idea
of the proposed organization than by reading this constitution, which
will be acted upon by the club at its first meeting."

As Lester said this he looked from one to the other of the brothers,
and receiving a nod from each which signified that they were ready to
listen, he drew out the document of which he had spoken, and
proceeded to read it in his best style. He glanced at his auditors
occasionally while he was reading the paper, and when he came to a
certain paragraph, the one upon which he and Bob had expended the
most time and thought, he told himself that he had certainly made an
impression, for Bert looked bewildered and Don straightened up, drew
a note-book from his pocket and began making entries therein with a
lead-pencil. The paragraph read as follows:

"The great object of the club being to put down pot-hunters and
poachers, and stop the practice, which is so common, of trapping game
and shipping it out of the country, it is hereby

"_Resolved_, that on and after the date of the adoption of this
constitution, it shall be unlawful for any person to take by
trapping, at any season of the year, or on any lands, whether private
in their own occupation, public or waste, any of the game animals and
birds hereinafter described, to wit: pheasant (_T. Scolopax_);
partridge (_Picus Imperialis_); rabbit (_Ortyx Virgiana_); and red
deer (_Canis Lupus_). The penalty for disobedience shall be a fine of
ten dollars for the first offence, twenty for the second, thirty for
the third, and so on; the fines to be sued and recovered before any
justice of the peace in the county, and to be divided in equal parts
between the informer and the poor; and in default of payment the
offender shall be imprisoned for ten days in the county jail."

When the document was finished, Don asked him to read this clause
over again. He complied with the request, and as he folded the paper
very deliberately waited for his auditors to say a word of
commendation; but as they didn't do it, he said it himself.

"Now, I drew up that instrument, and I think it is just about right,"
said he, complacently. "It is nothing but the truth, if I do say it
myself, that there is not another fellow in the settlement who could
have done it. Of course it will be open to amendments, but I don't
see how or where it could be improved. It covers all the ground,
doesn't it?'

"It covers a good deal, and especially the article you read twice,"
replied Don. "But I can't join such an organization as that. I'm a
pot-hunter myself. I never went hunting yet, without I intended to
shoot something for the table."

"But you are not a poacher."

"I don't know about that. I hunt in every field and piece of woods I
find, no matter who owns them."

"Perhaps I had better change that," said Lester, after thinking a
moment, "and say market-shooters instead of pot-hunters."

"There are no such things as market-shooters in the county."

"But there are market-trappers," said Lester. "There are persons
here, who are catching quails and shipping them out of the state."

"Yes, there is one who thinks of going into the business, and I got
him the job. It wouldn't look very well for me to turn around now and
tell him that he must not do it."

"You could say to him that you have had reason to change your mind
lately, and that you know it isn't right to do such things."

"But I haven't changed my mind."

"You ought to. The first thing you know there will be no birds for
you and me to shoot."

"I'll risk that. You may trap two hundred dozen if you want to, and
send them out of the county, and when you have done it, I will go out
any morning with my pointer and shoot birds enough for breakfast.
I'll leave more in the fields, too, than you can bag in six months,"
added Don, and Bert saw the point he was trying to make, if Lester
did not. "Besides, what right have I to tell Dave what he shall do
and what he shall not do? He'd laugh at me."

"Well, he wouldn't do it more than once. A few days in the calaboose
would bring him to his senses."

"Who would put him there?"

"The club would."

"Where's the club's authority for such a proceeding?"

Lester lifted the constitution and tapped it with his forefinger by
way of reply.

"I think I had better have nothing to do with it," said Don, who
could scarcely refrain from laughing outright.

"We intend to make you our president," said Lester.

"I am obliged to you," replied Don, but still he did not take any
more interest in the Sportsman's Club than he had done before. He did
not snap up the bait thus thrown out, as Lester hoped he would. He
was not to be bought, even by the promise of office. Lester saw that,
and arose to take his leave.

"Well, think it over," said he. "Sleep on it for a few nights, and if
at any time you decide to go in with us, just let me know. Good
evening!"

"I'll do so," answered Don. "Good evening!"

Lester bowed himself out of the room and Bert accompanied him to the
door. The first question the latter asked when he came back was:--

"Is there a beast or a bird in the world whose Latin name is
canis-lupus?"

Don threw himself back upon the sofa and laughed until the room rang
again. "Is there a beast or a bird in the world whose English name is
dog-wolf?" he asked, as soon as he could speak. "I did give Lester
credit for a little common sense and a little knowledge, but I
declare he possesses neither. It beats the world how he has got
things mixed. Just listen to this," added Don, consulting his
note-book. "He speaks of a pheasant and calls it _T. Scolopax_. Now
_Scolopax_ is a snipe. He probably meant ruffed grouse, and should
have called it _Tetrao Umbellus_. He speaks of a partridge when he
means quail, or more properly Bob White, there being no quails on
this side the Atlantic----"

"Why do people call them quails then?" asked Bert.

"The name was given to them by our forefathers, because they
resembled the European quail. There is no pheasant in America either;
but our grouse looked like one, and so they gave it that name, Lester
calls a quail _Pious Imperialis_. Now that's an imperial
woodpecker--that big black fellow with a red topknot that we
sometimes see when we are hunting. He used to be called
cock-of-the-woods, but the name was twisted around until it became
woodcock, and some people believe that he is the gamey little bird we
so much delight to shoot and eat. But they belong to different
orders, one being a climber and the other a wader. Lester speaks of a
rabbit, not knowing that there is no such thing as a wild rabbit in
our country, and calls it _Ortyx Virgiana_, when he should have
called it _Lepus Virginianus_, the name he uses being the one by
which our quail is known to ornithologists. A deer, which he calls a
dog-wolf, is _Cervus Virginianus_. O, he's a naturalist as well as a
sportsman," shouted Don, as he laid back upon the sofa and laughed
until his sides ached.

"Then he didn't get one of the names right?"

"Not a single one. After all, his ignorance on these points is not so
astonishing, for everybody is liable to make mistakes; but that any
boy living in this day and age should imagine that, by simply getting
up a club and adopting a constitution, he could imprison or fine
another boy because he didn't do just to suit him, is too ridiculous
to be believed. That particular paragraph was probably copied after
some old game law Lester read years ago; but he ought to know that
before a sportsman's club, or any other organization, can have
authority to prosecute persons for trapping birds and sending them
away, there must first be a law passed prohibiting such trapping and
sending away; and there's no such law in this state. It doesn't seem
possible that he could have been in earnest."

But Lester was in earnest for all that--so very much in earnest that
he was willing to run a great risk in order to punish Don for
refusing to join his society. Of course he was angry. He and Bob had
felt sure of obtaining the contract, had laid many plans for the
spending of the money after it was earned, and it was very provoking
to find that their scheme had been defeated, and that they were to be
pushed aside for the sake of such a fellow as David Evans. Lester was
sorry now that he had not given David a good thrashing when he met
him in the road that morning, and told himself that he would do it
the very next time he put eyes on him and risk the consequences. The
thought had scarcely passed through his mind when the opportunity was
presented. He met David coming along the road in company with his
brother Dan. David did not seem to remember that any sharp words had
passed between Lester and himself, for he looked as cheerful and
smiling as usual, and, following the custom of the country, bowed to
the horseman as he rode past. Lester did not return the bow, and
neither did he dismount to give David the promised thrashing. He was
afraid to attempt it; but, coward-like, he had to take vengeance upon
something, and so he hit his horse a savage cut with his riding-whip.

"Dave can afford to be polite and good-natured," thought Lester, as
he went flying down the road. "He is rejoicing over his success and
my failure; but if he only knew it, this thing isn't settled yet.
I'll write to that man to-night, telling him, that the parties to
whom he gave the contract can't catch the birds, and then Bob and I
will go to work and make it true. If we don't earn that money, nobody
shall. As for those stuck-up Gordons--I'll show them how I'll get
even with them."

The spirited animal on which he was mounted made short work of the
two miles that lay between Don's home and Bob's, and in a few minutes
Lester dismounted in front of the wagon-shed, where his crony was
waiting for him.

"I've had no luck at all," said he, in reply to Bob's inquiring look.
"I might as well have stayed at home. Don says he can't join a club
of this kind, because, having got David the job of trapping the
quails, he can't go back on him. He says he's a poacher and
pot-hunter himself; and what surprised me was, he did not seem to be
at all ashamed of it."

"Of course he wasn't ashamed," said Bob. "He thinks that everything
he and his pale-faced brother do is just right. Did he say anything
about what passed between Bert and myself at the post-office?"

"Not a word."

"I was afraid he would," said Bob, drawing a long breath of relief,
"for he knows that you and I are friends."

Yes, Don knew that, but there were two good reasons why he had not
spoken to Lester about Bob's threat of slapping Bert over. In the
first place, he was not aware that Bob had made any such threat. Bert
was one of the few boys we have met, who did not believe in telling
everything he knew. Do you know such a boy among your companions? If
you do, you know one whom nobody is afraid to trust. Bert wanted to
live in peace, and thought it a good plan to quell disturbances,
instead of helping them along. He knew that if he told his brother
what had happened in the post-office, there would be a fight, the
very first time Don and Bob met, and Bert didn't believe in fighting.
But even if Don had known all about it, he would not have said
anything to Lester. He would have waited until he met Bob, and then
he would have used some pretty strong arguments, and driven them home
by the aid of his fist. How much trouble might be avoided, if there
were a few more boys like Bert Gordon in the world!

"I am not sorry I went down there," continued Lester, "for I had the
satisfaction of showing those conceited fellows that there are some
boys in the settlement besides themselves who know a thing or two. I
read the constitution to them, and it would have made you laugh to
see them open their eyes. Bert was so astonished that he couldn't say
a word, and Don never took his gaze off my face while I was reading.
When I got through he asked me to read that clause with the Latin and
Greek in it over again, so that he could copy the names in his
note-book. He'll learn them by heart, and use them some time in
conversation and so get the reputation of being a very smart and a
very learned boy. If he does it in your presence, I want you to let
folks know that he is showing off on the strength of _my_ brains. I
don't suppose the ignoramus ever knew before----"

"Well, who cares whether he did or not?" exclaimed Bob, impatiently.
"That's a matter that doesn't interest me. Is Dave Evans going to
make that hundred and fifty dollars and cheat me out of a new
shot-gun? That's what I want to know!"

"Of course he isn't," replied Lester. "We can't stop him by the aid
of the Sportsman's Club, and so we will stop him ourselves without
the aid of anybody. Let him go to work and set his traps, and we'll
see how many birds he will take out of them. We'll rob every one we
can find and keep the quail ourselves. In that way we may be able to
make up the fifty dozen without setting any of our own traps. We'll
write to that man, as you suggested, and when Dave finds he can't
catch any birds, he'll get discouraged and leave us a clear field.
But first I want to touch up Don and Bert Gordon a little to pay them
for the way they treated me this evening. That shooting-box shall be
laid in ashes this very night. I expected an invitation to shoot
there last spring, but I didn't get it, and now I am determined that
they shall never ask anybody there. What do you say?"

"I say, I'm your man," replied Bob.

And so the thing was settled. Lester put his horse in the barn, went
in to supper, which was announced in a few minutes (Bob found
opportunity before he sat down to the table to purloin a box of
matches, which he put carefully away in his pocket), and when the
meal was over, the two boys went back to the wagon-shed, where they
sat and talked until it began to grow dark. Then Bob brought a couple
of paddles out of the corner of the wagon-shed, handed one to his
companion, and the two walked slowly down the road. When they were
out of sight of the house they climbed the fence, and directed their
course across the fields toward the head of the lake. Then they
quickened their pace. They had much to do, and they wanted to finish
their work and return to the house before their absence was
discovered.

Half an hour's rapid walking brought them to the road just below
General Gordon's barn. The next thing was to make their way along the
foot of the garden until they reached the jetty, and that was an
undertaking that was not wholly free from danger. Don Gordon's hounds
were noted watch-dogs, and any prowlers they discovered were pretty
certain to be severely treated. But there was no flinching on the
part of the two boys. Bob led the way almost on his hands and knees,
stopping now and then to listen, and finally brought his companion to
the place where the boats were moored. There was only one of them
available, however, for the canoe, which they had intended to take,
was secured to a tree by a heavy padlock.

"Did you ever hear of such luck?" whispered Bob.

"Couldn't we paddle the other up there?" asked Lester, feeling of the
chain with which the sail-boat was fastened to the wharf, to make
sure that it was not locked.

"O, yes; but why is this canoe locked up? That's what bothers me.
Perhaps Don suspects something and is on the watch."

"Who cares if he is?" exclaimed Lester. "I've come too far to back
out now. I wouldn't do it if Don and all his friends stood in my
way."

"All right. If you are not afraid, I am not. Be careful when you cast
off that chain. You know that sound travels a long way on a still
night like this."

Lester was careful, and the boat was pushed off and got under way so
noiselessly that a person standing on the bank would not have known
that there was anything going on. Bob, who knew just where the
shooting-box was located, sat in the stern and did the steering, at
the same time assisting Lester in paddling. The heavy boat moved
easily through the water, and before another half hour had passed
they were at their journey's end.

"Hold up now," whispered Bob, "and let's make sure that everything
is all right before we touch the shore."

Lester drew in his paddle and listened. He heard a whistling in the
air, as a solitary duck flew swiftly up the lake, and that was the
only sound that broke the stillness. The trees on the shore loomed up
darkly against the sky, and presented the appearance of a solid wall
of ebony. Lester could not see anything that looked like a
shooting-box, but Bob knew it was there, and when he had listened
long enough to satisfy himself that there was nobody in it or about
it, he brought the bow of the boat around and paddled toward the
shore.

"Which way is it from here?" asked Lester, when the two had
disembarked. "I can't see anything."

"Hold fast to my coat-tail," replied Bob, "and I'll show it to you
in a minute."

Lester being thus taken in tow was safely conducted up the bank.
Presently he heard a door unlatched and opened, a match was struck
and he found himself inside the shooting-box. He could scarcely have
been more surprised if he had found himself inside a little palace.
The shooting-box was not a shanty, as he expected to find it, but a
conveniently-arranged and neatly-constructed house. He borrowed a few
matches of Bob and proceeded to take a thorough survey of it. "Don
must have spent a good deal of time in fixing this up," said he.

"He certainly has," replied Bob, "and he handles tools like a born
carpenter, too. I suppose this is a nice place to get away to when
the fellows are here shooting over their decoys. Joe Packard says so,
at any rate. They have mattresses and bed clothes in the bunks, a
carpet and rugs on the floor, camp chairs and stools enough for the
whole party, and they sit here of evenings and crack hickory-nuts
and tell stories and have boss times."

"It's almost a pity to break up their fun."

"It's a greater pity that Don should take money out of our pockets
and put it into those of that beggar, Dave Evans," answered Bob,
spitefully.

"That's so," said Lester, who grew angry every time he thought of it.
"Set her agoing!"

That was a matter of no difficulty. There was an abundance of dry
fuel and kindling wood in the little closet under the chimney, and
some of the latter was quickly whittled into shavings by the aid of
Bob's pocket knife, Lester standing by and burning matches to light
him at his work. More kindling wood was placed upon the shavings,
dry stove wood was piled upon the top of this, then the slats in
the bunks, the table and every other movable thing in the cabin
that would burn was thrown on, and Bob took a match in his hand
and extended another to his companion.

"You light one side and I'll light the other," said he. "Then you
can't say I did it, and I can't say you did it!"

The matches blazed up on opposite sides at the same instant. The
flames made rapid progress, and by the time the boys had closed the
door and got into the boat, they were roaring and crackling at a
great rate. They quickly shoved off and laid out all their strength
on the paddles, but before they could reach the jetty the flames
burst through the roof of the shooting-box, and the lake was lighted
up for a quarter of a mile around. But no one saw it, and Lester and
his companion put the boat back where they found it, made their way
across the road into the fields, without alarming the hounds, and
started for home on a keen run, no one being the wiser for what
they had done.

[Illustration: The Burning of the Shooting-Box.]



CHAPTER X.

A BEAR HUNT.


"I'll jest do it, an' it's the luckiest thing in the world that I
thought of it. That will make me wuth--" here he stopped and counted
his fingers--"twenty-two dollars and two bits, anyhow. Then my
clothes, an' stockings, an' shoes, an' all the powder an' lead I want
this winter, won't cost me nothing; so I shall be rich fur all that
thar mean Dave is workin' so hard agin me."

It was Dan Evans who talked thus to himself, and he was standing
behind the cabin, with his hands in his pockets, and looking at Don's
pointer, just as he was the last time we saw him. He was so very much
delighted with certain plans he had determined upon that that he
did not dare meet his brother again just then, for fear that the
expression of joy and triumph which he knew his face wore would
attract David's notice and put him on his guard. So he remained in
the rear of the cabin with his thoughts for company, until his mother
came home. The dress David had purchased for her, and which he had
placed in the most conspicuous position he could find, was the first
thing that attracted her attention as she entered the door. Dan heard
her exclamation of joyful surprise, and listened with all his ears in
the hope of overhearing some of the conversation that passed between
her and David; but it was carried on in a low tone of voice, and Dan
was no wiser when it was concluded than he was before. He knew,
however, by the ejaculations that now and then fell from his mother's
lips that David was telling her something which greatly interested
her, and Dan would have given almost anything to know what it was. He
heard his mother laugh a little occasionally, and that brought the
scowl back to his face again. He could not bear to know that any one
about that house was happy.

When supper was over, and David had done the chores and assisted
in clearing away the dishes, he and his mother seated themselves
in front of the fireplace and prepared to pass the evening in
conversation, as they always did, while Dan threw himself upon the
"shake-down" on which he and his brother slept, and in a few minutes
began snoring lustily. He was not asleep, however. His ears were
open, and so were his eyes the most of the time. He saw everything
that was done and heard all that passed between his mother and
David, but not a word did he hear that interested him. David had
already given his mother a history of the events of the day. She
knew what his plans were and approved them.

When nine o'clock came David took possession of the other half of the
"shake-down" and prepared to go to sleep. He deposited his clothes at
the head of the bed, as usual, and Dan, through his half-closed eyes,
saw that he threw them down in a careless sort of way, as though
there was nothing of value in them.

"But he can't fool me so easy," thought Dan. "Not by no means. Thar's
ten dollars somewhar in them thar dry goods, unless he give 'em to
the ole woman when she fust come hum, an' they'll be mine afore
mornin'. He wouldn't go snacks with me, like a feller had oughter do,
an' now I'll have 'em all!"

In an hour from that time everybody in the cabin appeared to be
asleep. Mrs. Evans certainly was and David seemed to be, for he lay
with his eyes closed, and breathed long and heavily. Dan took a good
look at him--the blazing fire on the hearth made the cabin almost as
light as day--and then reaching out his hand drew David's clothes
toward him. He searched all the pockets carefully, but there was
nothing in them except a pocket-knife with two broken blades, and
that was not what Dan was looking for. Muttering something under his
breath Dan turned all the pockets inside out and then felt of the
lining of the coat; but as nothing rewarded his search he tossed the
clothes back upon the floor, and cautiously slipped his hand under
his brother's pillow. As he did so David suddenly raised himself
upright in bed, and seizing the pillow, lifted it from its place.

"If you want to look under there, why don't you say so?" he asked.

Almost any other boy would have been overcome with shame and
mortification, but Dan was not easily abashed, and although he felt
a little crestfallen, his face did not show it.

"It isn't there you see, don't you?" said David.

"What isn't thar?" growled Dan.

"Why, the ten-dollar bill you saw me have at the landing. It isn't
in my clothes either, or anywhere about the house."

"I wasn't lookin' fur it," returned Dan.

"I'll tell you where it is, if you want to know," continued David.
"It is safe in Don Gordon's pocket-book, and you can't get it out of
there. I told you that you'd never have another chance to steal any
of my money, and I think you will believe it now. Good-night, and
pleasant dreams to you; that is, if you can sleep after such a
performance."

Dan could sleep, and he did, too, after he got over his rage, but
his night's rest did not seem to refresh him much, for he was cross
and sullen the next morning, and ate his breakfast without saying a
word to anybody. David was as bright as a lark; and after he had
assisted his mother in her household duties, he took down his rusty
old single-barrel from the pegs over the fireplace, slung on his
powder-horn and shot-pouch, and when his mother was ready to go, he
accompanied her down the road toward General Gordon's, leaving Dan
sitting on the bench, moody and thoughtful.

"They don't take no more notice of me nor if I was a yaller dog or a
crooked stick," growled Dan, when he found himself alone. "I'll pay
'em fur it by kickin' up a wusser row nor pap done 'bout that thar
bar'l, an' I shan't be long a doin' of it nuther!"

Mrs. Evans and David separated at the forks of the road, the former
directing her course toward the house of the neighbor by whom she was
employed, and David hurrying on toward General Gordon's. When he
reached the head of the lake he heard a loud shout; and looking in
the direction from which it came, he saw Don and Bert standing on the
wharf beckoning to him. David ran across the garden to join the
brothers, and found that they were all ready to start on the hunt
they had planned the day before. A well-filled basket, which David
knew contained a substantial lunch, stood on the wharf, and near it
lay the General's heavy double-barrel gun, which Bert had borrowed
for the occasion, knowing that it would throw buck-shot with more
force than his light bird gun. Bert was unfastening the canoe, and
Don stood close by, with his trusty rifle in one hand and an axe in
the other. Two other axes lay near the lunch basket, and a couple of
Don's best hounds stood as close to the edge of the wharf as they
could get, wagging their tails vigorously and whining with
impatience.

These hounds were large and powerful animals, and their courage
had been tested in more than one desperate bear fight. If they had
been with their master when he visited the island the day before,
something disagreeable might have happened. Godfrey Evans could not
have driven them away by imitating the growl of a wild animal. They
welcomed the newcomer with their bugle-like notes, and were answered
by a chorus of angry yelps from the rest of the pack, which had been
shut up in the barn and were to be left behind.

"Now, I call this rather a formidable expedition," said Don, as David
came up. "If that bear is there to-day I wouldn't take a dollar for
my chance of shooting him. One bullet and three loads of buckshot
will be more than he can carry away with him. Here are the axes to
build the trap with, if we don't find him on the island; there's a
bag of corn for bait, an auger to bore the holes and the pins with
which to fasten the logs together. Bert and I worked in the shop last
night until ten o'clock, making those pins. I think we have
everything we wan't, so we'll be off."

The canoe having been hauled alongside the wharf, and the articles
which Don had enumerated being packed away in it, the hounds jumped
in and curled themselves up in the bow, David took his place at
the oars and the brothers found comfortable seats in the stern.
Altogether it was a heavy load the little boat had to carry, and
she was so deep in the water that her gunwales were scarcely three
inches above the surface; but there were never any heavy seas to be
encountered in that little lake, and so there was no danger to be
apprehended.

David sent the canoe rapidly along, and presently it entered the
bayou that led to Bruin's Island. As it approached Godfrey Evans's
cabin Dan arose from the bench on which he was seated in front of the
door, and ran hastily around the corner of the building. He did not
mean that Don and Bert should see him again, even at a distance, if
he could help it. He remained concealed until the canoe was out of
sight, and then came back to his bench again.

While on the way up the bayou the young hunters stopped once, long
enough to pick up a brace of ducks which Bert killed out of a flock
that arose from the water just in advance of them, and at the end of
an hour came within sight of the leaning sycamore which pointed out
the position of Bruin's Island. There was no one to be seen, but that
was no proof that the island was deserted. There was some one there
whom the three boys did not expect to see or hear of very soon, and
that was Godfrey Evans. He was waiting for Dan to come with the canoe
and the tobacco and other articles he had been instructed to purchase
at the store. He had watched for him until long after midnight, then
retreated to his bed of leaves under the lean-to for a short nap,
and at the first peep of day he was again at his post behind the
sycamore. To his great relief he saw the boat coming at last, but his
joy was of short duration, for a second look showed him that Dan was
not in it.

The canoe came nearer to the island with every stroke of the oars,
and presently one of Don's hounds started to his feet, snuffed the
air eagerly for a moment and uttered a deep-toned bay. Godfrey ducked
his head on the instant and crawled swiftly away from the sycamore on
his hands and knees. He was careful to keep the tree between himself
and those in the boat until he reached the cane, and then he arose to
his feet and worked his way toward his camp with all possible haste.

"Them two oneasy chaps has come back agin, just as I thought they
would," said he to himself, "and our Dave's with 'em. Don's got his
rifle now and his dogs, too, so't thar ain't no use tryin' to scare
him this time. I must hunt a new hidin'-place now."

Godfrey stopped in his camp just long enough to seize his rifle and
ammunition; after which he plunged into the cane again and ran toward
the head of the island. The muddy beach was thickly covered with
drift-wood, and behind a convenient pile of branches and logs Godfrey
crouched down and waited to see what was going to happen.

The actions of Don's hounds made the young hunters almost as nervous
as they made Godfrey Evans. David stopped tugging at the oars and
looked over his shoulder; Bert caught up his father's double-barrel
and hastily loaded it with two cartridges containing buckshot; while
Don, after bringing the canoe broadside to the island, dropped the
paddle with which he was steering, and picked up his rifle.

"He's there yet," said Bert. "The hounds have scented him already."

"It looks like it," replied Don. "Well, we came here to find him, and
if he drives us away to-day he'll have to fight to do it. Dave, you'd
better load up--Bert has plenty of loose buckshot in his pocket--and
mind you now, fellows, don't get excited and shoot the dogs. I'd
rather let the bear go than have one of them hurt."

While David was loading his single-barrel--his hands trembled a
little, and it took him longer than usual to do it--Don and Bert sat
with their guns across their knees, closely watching the island,
while the hounds stood in the bow snuffing the air. They caught some
taint upon the breeze, that was evident, for the long hair on the
back of their necks stood erect and now and then they growled
savagely.

When David had driven home a good-sized charge of buckshot and placed
a cap upon his gun, he leaned the weapon against the thwart upon
which he was sitting and picked up the oars. Don dropped his paddle
into the water, and the canoe moved around the foot of the island and
along the beach, until it reached a point opposite the place where
Bert had found the path the day before. Then it was turned toward the
bank, and the moment the bow grounded, the hounds sprang out. The
boys followed with all haste, and Bert, as he stepped ashore, drew
the canoe half way out of the water, so that the current could not
carry her down the stream.

"Now, we'll send the dogs in to drive him out," said Don, "and if
they can push him fast enough to make him take to a tree, he's our
bear; but if he takes to the water and swims to the mainland, we
shall lose him. We don't care for that, however. He'll be sure to
come back, and when he does he'll find a trap waiting for him. We'll
see as much sport in catching him alive as we would in shooting him.
Hunt 'em up, there!" he added, waving his hand along the path.

The hounds, baying fierce and loud at every jump, went tearing
through the cane, followed by the boys, who moved in single file, Don
leading the way. A very few minutes sufficed to bring them to the
cleared spot in which Godfrey's camp was located, and there they
found the hounds running about showing every sign of anger and
excitement.

"They're on a warm trail," said Don, looking first into each corner
of the cleared space and then up into the trees over his head. "The
game has just left here. This is somebody's old camp, and the bear
has taken possession of it. No doubt he slept in that shanty. Hunt
'em up, there!"

The hounds followed Godfrey's trail through the camp, and diving into
the cane on the opposite side were quickly out of sight. The boys
followed, and presently stood panting and almost breathless beside
the drift-wood where the hounds were running about close to the
water's edge, now and then looking toward the opposite shore and
baying loudly. But Godfrey was safely out of their reach. Seizing the
opportunity when the hunters and dogs were hidden from view in the
cane, he stepped into the water and struck out for the mainland. He
had hardly time to climb the bank and conceal himself in the bushes
before Don's hounds were running about on the very spot where he had
been hidden but a few minutes before. Why was it that the hounds
followed his trail as they would have followed that of a bear or
deer? Simply because they scented him before they reached the island,
and because Godfrey took so much pains to keep out of their way. Had
he stood out in plain view while the boat was approaching, the hounds
would have paid no attention to him.

"Well, he's gone," said Bert, and the deep sigh that escaped his lips
as he uttered the words would have led one to believe that he was
glad of it, "and now comes the hard work. It's an all-day's job to
build that trap."

"It would be if we had to cut down the trees and trim off the
branches," replied David; "but there is some timber in this
drift-wood that will answer our purpose as well as any we could get
ourselves. Where are you going to build the trap, Don?"

"In there where his den is would be the best place, wouldn't it? Now
let's go after the axes; and while you and Bert are cutting the logs,
I'll unload the boat and open a road through the cane, so that we can
haul our timber in without any difficulty."

The work being thus divided rapid progress was made. By the time Don
had unloaded the boat and cut a path leading from Godfrey's camp to
the upper end of the island, Bert and David had selected and notched
all the logs that were needed for the trap. Then a stout rope, which
Don had been thoughtful enough to put into the boat, was brought into
requisition, and the work of hauling in the logs began. As fast as
they were placed in position, Don fastened them down with the pins he
and his brother had made the night before, and when lunch time came,
a neat log cabin about six feet square was standing in front of
Godfrey's lean-to. With a little "chinking" and the addition of a
door and perhaps a window, it would have made a much more comfortable
place of abode than the miserable bark structure which Godfrey had so
long occupied.

Their hard work had given the boys glorious appetites, and they did
full justice to the good things Mrs. Gordon had put up for them. Don
said their lunch might have been much improved by the addition of one
of the ducks Bert had shot that morning, but their time was much too
precious to be wasted in cooking. The hardest part of their task was
yet to be done, and that was to build a movable roof for their cabin.
Don, who had received explicit instructions from his father the night
before, superintended this work, and by the middle of the afternoon
the trap was completed and set, ready for the bear's reception.

It looked, as we have said, like a little log cabin with a flat roof.
One end of the roof rested on the rear wall of the trap, while the
other was raised in the air, leaving an opening sufficiently large to
admit of the entrance of any bear that was likely to come that way.
The roof was held in this position by a stout lever, which rested
across the limb of a convenient tree. A rope led from the other end
of the lever, down through a hole in the roof, to the trigger, to
which the bait--an ear of corn--was attached. The bear was expected
to crawl through the opening and seize the ear of corn; and in so
doing, he would spring the trigger, release the lever and the roof
would fall down and fasten him in the pen. When all the finishing
touches had been put on, the boys leaned on their axes and admired
their work.



CHAPTER XI.

TRAPPING QUAILS.


"Now, I call that a pretty good job for a first attempt," said Don;
"and considering the work we have had to do, it hasn't taken us a
great while either. I wish I dare crawl in there and set it off, just
to be sure that it will work all right."

"But that wouldn't be a very bright proceeding," replied Bert. "We
could never get you out. You would be as securely confined as you
were when you were tied up in the potato-cellar."

Don was well aware of that fact. The roof was made of logs as heavy
as they could manage with their united strength, and there were other
logs placed upon it in such a position that when the roof fell, their
weight would assist in holding it down. All these precautions were
necessary, for a bear can exert tremendous strength if he once makes
up his mind to do it; and David had repeatedly declared that if they
should chance to capture an animal as large as the one that had been
killed on that very island years before, the pen would not prove half
strong enough to hold him. But it was quite strong enough to hold Don
if he got into it, and the only way his companions could have
released him would have been by cutting the roof in pieces with their
axes.

The work was all done now, and the boys were ready to start for home.
While Bert and David were gathering up the tools and stowing them
away in the canoe, Don scattered a few ears of corn around, so that
the bear would be sure to find them the next time he visited the
island, and threw a dozen or so more into the trap close about the
trigger. The rest of the corn he hung up out of reach on a sapling
which he knew was too small for the bear to climb.

Assisted by the current the canoe made good time down the bayou. Bert
and David lay back in the stern-sheets and said they were tired,
while Don, who was seated at the oars, declared that his day's work
had relieved his stiff joints, and that he began to feel like himself
again. He was fresh enough to assist in building another trap without
an hour's rest; and in order to work off a little of his surplus
energy, he thought when he reached home he would take a turn through
the fields in company with his pointer, and see if he could bag
quails enough for his next morning's breakfast. Bert said he would go
with him, for he wanted to see the pointer work.

In about three quarters of an hour the canoe entered the lake and
drew up to the bank in front of Godfrey's cabin. David sprang out,
and after placing his gun upon the bench in front of the door, went
behind the building to unchain the pointer. He was gone a long
time--so long that Don and Bert, who were sitting in the canoe
waiting for him, began to grow impatient--and when he came back he
did not bring the pointer with him. He brought instead a chain and a
collar. His face told the brothers that he had made a most unwelcome
discovery.

"Where's the dog?" asked Bert.

"I don't know," answered David, looking up and down the road. "He
must have slipped the collar over his head and gone off; but I never
knew him to do it before."

"Well, you needn't look so sober about it," said Don. "He isn't far
away. I'll warrant I can bring him back."

Don set up a whistle that could have been heard for half a mile.
Indeed it was heard and recognised at a greater distance than that.
An answering yelp came from the direction of his father's house,
but it was not given by the dog Don wanted to see just then. It was
uttered by one of the hounds which had been shut up in the barn when
Don went away that morning, and afterward released by the hostler.
The others answered in chorus, and half a dozen fleet animals were
seen coming down the road at the top of their speed. But the pointer
was not with them.

"It's likely we shall find him at the house," said Bert, who wanted
to say something encouraging for David's benefit.

"I don't doubt it," returned Don. "If he's there, Dave, we'll take a
short hunt with him and bring him down in the morning."

"If you don't care I'll go up with you," said David, "It would be a
great relief to me to know that he is safe."

"All right. Jump aboard."

David got into the canoe again and Don pulled up the lake toward the
wharf. When they reached it the boat was made fast to the tree again,
and the three boys started for the house. Don at once began making
inquiries concerning his pointer, but no one had seen him, and his
loud and continued whistling brought only the hounds, which snuffed
at the guns and yelped and jumped about as if trying to make their
master understand that they were there, and ready for anything he
might want them to do.

"Never mind," said Don, who did not seem to feel half as bad as David
did; "dogs of his breed never stray far away, and he'll be at your
house or ours before morning, you may depend upon it. Good-by now,
and don't forget to be on hand at an early hour. We must set to work
upon those traps without any more delay."

David reluctantly turned his face toward home, and Don and Bert
went into the house. "I didn't tell him just what I think about the
matter, for he feels badly enough already," said Don, when he and his
brother were in their room, dressing for supper. "There's an awful
thief about here, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to know that the
pointer has gone where our canoe went."

"Do you know that that thought has been in my mind all the while?"
returned Bert. "Who is the thief?"

"I give it up. If he lives about here he's foolish to steal my dog,
for he never can use him in hunting. There isn't a man or boy in the
settlement but would recognise him the moment he saw him."

"Perhaps he was stolen in the hope that a reward would be offered for
his return," suggested Bert.

"Well, there's something in that. But after all," added Don, a few
minutes later, "there isn't so much in it, for how could the thief
return the dog without making himself known? Still I hope it is
so--that is, if the dog was stolen--for rather than lose him, I'll
give ten dollars to anybody who will bring him back to me, and ask no
questions. If I have to do that it will ruin me, for it will take my
last cent."

The ringing of the supper bell put a stop to their conversation for
the time being, but it was resumed as soon as the family were
gathered about the table. Various explanations were offered for the
pointer's absence, and when that matter had been talked over, the
events of the day were brought up for discussion. Bert acted as
spokesman, and when he told how the hounds had driven the bear from
his den and forced him to swim the bayou, Don was surprised to see
that his father smiled as if he did not quite believe it. "It's the
truth, every word of it," said Don, almost indignantly.

"O, I don't doubt that you found something on the island and drove it
off," replied the General, "but I don't think it was a bear."

"What was it?" asked Don.

"It was something you will not be likely to catch in your trap. It
was Godfrey Evans."

Don dropped his knife and fork, and settled back in his chair. "We
saw tracks in the mud that did not look to me like bear tracks,
that's a fact," said he. "If that was Godfrey, he's the one who stole
our canoe."

"Then we have had all our trouble for nothing," said Bert.

"Perhaps not," replied his father. "The island has been much
frequented by bears ever since I can remember, and it may be that
your labor will be rewarded in a day or two. It might be well for you
to watch your trap at any rate. If you should happen to catch a young
bear, that you could bring home alive, Silas Jones would give you
twenty dollars for it. That would be a big addition to David's little
capital, for of course you wouldn't want any of the money."

"Of course not. All we want is the fun of catching the bear."

Don and Bert were up the next morning before the sun, as they always
were, and as soon as they were dressed, they went out to the shop and
found David there busy with his traps. He knew where the key was
kept, under the door-step, and at the first peep of day he had let
himself in and gone to work. Of course the first questions that were
asked and answered were in regard to the missing pointer, but no one
had seen or heard anything of him. David seemed to take the loss very
much to heart. The animal was a valuable one, and he felt that he was
in some degree responsible for his safe-keeping.

Three pairs of willing hands made light work, and by two o'clock in
the afternoon a dozen traps were completed and ready for setting. The
boys then stopped long enough to take a hasty lunch, which they ate
in the shop, in order to save time, and after that one of the mules
was hitched to a wagon and brought before the door. The traps, a
basket containing the "figure fours," with which they were to be
set, a bag of corn for bait, an axe, with which to clear away the
underbrush, and a spade to dig the trenches, having been packed away
in the vehicle, the boys got in and drove off. They directed their
course along the fence, which ran around the plantation, and wherever
they found a clump of bushes or a little thicket of briers and cane,
there they stopped long enough to set one of their traps.

The traps were made of slats split from oak boards, and were a little
less than four feet square and a little more than a foot in height.
In the top was a slide covering a hole large enough to admit one's
arm, and it was through this hole that the captured birds were to be
taken out. The undergrowth was first cut away with the axe and the
trap put down in the clear space, a narrow board being placed under
two sides of it, to give it a solid foundation. A trench just large
enough to admit a single quail was dug under each of these boards,
one end of the trench being on the outside of the trap and the other
on the inside. A small ear of corn was tied firmly to the trigger,
the trap set with the "figure four," a few kernels were scattered
about in the immediate neighborhood, and the trap was ready for the
first flock of quails that might come that way. When they came, they
would, of course, find the corn, and while they were eating it they
would be sure to find the trap. One or more of them would go in and
spring it by pecking at the ear that was tied to the trigger, and the
others, no matter if there were a hundred in the flock, would all go
in to him through the trenches before spoken of. After they had eaten
the corn, they would look _up_ instead of down for a way of escape,
and, although the trenches at which they came in were still open to
them, they would not know enough to make use of them. If the trap was
once sprung, the capture of the entire flock was certain, provided
those outside were not frightened away before they had time to go in
to their imprisoned companions.

In two hours' time the traps had all been set and the boys were at
home again. They had done a good day's work, but they wanted to do
a better; so as soon as the mule was unharnessed and the wagon put
under the shed where it belonged, they set to work in the shop again,
and before dark a large coop, which would just fit into the wagon
box, was completed. This was to be used to bring home the captured
quails. After that one of the unoccupied negro cabins was selected to
confine the birds in until the required number had been trapped. It
received a thorough sweeping, the floor was covered with clean sand,
and the broken window was boarded up so that the captives could not
escape. When this was done David started for home, and Don and Bert
went into the house to get ready for supper.

The next day was spent much as the preceding one had been spent. At
eleven o'clock seven more traps were ready for the field. Then the
mule and wagon were brought into use again, and the new traps were
distributed along the fence. When the boys came back they took time
to eat lunch, after which the coop was put into the wagon, and they
set out to visit the traps they had set the day before.

"There's nothing here," said Bert, as he drew rein in front of the
thicket in which the first trap was located. He could not see the
trap, but his ears told him all he wanted to know. If there had been
any quails in it they would have uttered their notes of alarm as soon
as they heard the wagon coming.

"No, there's nothing here!" said Don, after listening a moment. "I'll
scatter a little more corn about and make sure that the trap is all
right."

He got out of the wagon as he spoke, and while he was working his way
into the thicket he flushed a blue-jay, which flew into a tree close
by and scolded him with all its might. Don shied a stick at it and
kept on to the trap. It was down, and there was something in it which
fluttered its wings against the bars and made the most frantic
efforts to escape. Don knew it was not a quail, so he did not stop to
see what it was. He threw back the slide, thrust his hand into the
opening and when he clutched the bird received a severe bite from it.
"I have half a mind to wring your little neck for you," thought Don,
as he brought the fluttering captive, a beautiful red-bird, into
view. "Not because you have bitten me, but because you will make it
your business to come here and spring this trap every day. Red-birds
and blue-jays are perfect nuisances when a fellow is trapping, and I
wouldn't blame Dave for shooting every one he sees."

But Don did not injure the bird. He was a sportsman, and never made
war on game of this sort. He tossed the captive into the air and it
flew away out of sight.

Having set the trap again and scattered a little more corn about to
replace that which had been picked up by the birds, Don went back to
the wagon and Bert drove on down the field. They found the second
trap thrown, and the marks of little teeth on the ear of corn that
was tied to the trigger showed that a ground squirrel had been at
work. The third trap was also sprung, and the shrill, piping notes of
alarm which came to their ears when Bert stopped the wagon, told them
that they had made their first capture. Jumping quickly out of the
wagon the boys made their way into the bushes, and when they came
within sight of the trap they found that it was so full that the
little prisoners had scarcely room to turn about.

"Here's the first instalment of your hundred and fifty dollars,
Dave," cried Don. "We've got more than a dozen, I know!"

Having stopped up the ends of the trenches so that the quails could
not escape, Don thrust his arm through the opening in the top of the
trap and began passing out the birds to his brother and David, who
carried them to the wagon and put them into the coop. He counted them
as he took them out, and found that there were nearer two dozen than
one, twenty being the exact number. One, however, escaped from Bert,
who, through fear of injuring it, handled it too tenderly.

"Never mind," said Don, when his brother told him of the loss. "He'll
go off and join some other flock, so we are bound to catch him
anyhow. I call this a good beginning, don't you, Dave? It looks now
as though you were going to earn your money in spite of Lester and
Dan."

After re-setting the trap the boys got into the wagon and drove on.
They found some of their traps just as they had left them; a few had
been thrown by ground squirrels or red-birds; and from the others
they took enough quails to make their day's catch amount to a little
over four dozen. These were all safely transferred to the cabin, the
mule was unharnessed and the young trappers, greatly encouraged by
their success, replenished the fire in the shop, for the day was raw
and chilly, and went to work to build more traps.



CHAPTER XII.

WHERE THE POINTER WAS.


"Yes, sar, I'm goin' to raise a furse here now, an' I won't be long
about it, nuther. They think I don't amount to nothin' in this yere
house, but I'll show 'em that I do. Pap bein' away, I had oughter be
the man of the family, an' that leetle Dave shan't crowd me outen the
place, nuther. When he comes back to-night his eyes'll stick out so't
a feller could hang his hat onto 'em. You hear me?"

This was the way Dan Evans talked to himself, as he sat on the bench
in front of the door, gazing after his mother and David, as they
walked down the road toward General Gordon's. He was greatly enraged
over his failure to steal his brother's ten dollars, and really
thought David had been guilty of a mean piece of business in putting
his money where it would be safe.

"He hain't went off with that thar shootin'-iron on his shoulder fur
nothin'," thought Dan. "He's goin' huntin' with them Gordon fellers,
and he'll have a nice time an' get somethin' good to eat, while I
must go without my dinner, dog-gone it, kase thar hain't nobody here
to cook it fur me. They don't take half so much notice of me as they
would if I was a pinter dog!"

Dan sat on the bench for half an hour or more, now and then looking
down the road as if he were waiting for something, and all the while
his mind was occupied with such thoughts as these. At last the sight
of Don Gordon's canoe, which suddenly appeared in the lake, brought
him to his feet and sent him behind the cabin in great haste. It did
more. It recalled to him the fact that his father had told him to
steal that same canoe and bring it to Bruin's Island, together with
several necessary articles that were to be purchased at Silas Jones's
store. Dan had not once thought of this since he saw David at the
landing with ten dollars in his hand, and heard the grocer tell him
that his credit was good for six months; but he thought of it the
moment he saw the canoe with the hounds curled up in the bow. His
eyes were sharp enough to see that Don carried his rifle in his
hands, and that a heavy shot-gun, which Dan knew belonged to General
Gordon, leaned over Bert's shoulder. Godfrey's prediction was about
to be fulfilled. Don was going back to the island to shoot the bear
which had frightened him and his brother the day before. The thought
made Dan almost frantic. He jumped up and knocked his heels together,
slapped his hands, dashed his hat upon the ground and made other
demonstrations indicative of a very perturbed state of mind.

"Pap's in fur it now, an' so am I," said he, in an excited whisper.
"He'll get his jacket wet swimmin' the bayou to get away from them
fellers, if they give him the chance, an' I'll get mine dusted with a
hickory, kase I didn't fetch that canoe up thar. I jest wish I knowed
what to do."

Dan, almost ready to cry with vexation and alarm, watched the canoe
until it turned into the bayou and passed out of his sight, and then
went back to the bench and sat down to think about this new
difficulty in which he found himself, and to find a way out of it if
he could. His father would be compelled to hunt up a new hiding-place
now--there was no way to prevent that--and in order to leave the
island he would probably be forced to swim the bayou, for he would
have no time to build a raft. That would, of course, make him angry,
and he never could breathe easily again until he had taken
satisfaction out of somebody. That somebody Dan knew was certain to
be himself, unless--

"I'll fix him," thought the boy, his face clearing up, as a bright
idea came into his mind. "I'll take him the pinter. I was goin' to
hide him in the woods somewhar, but pap kin take keer on him as well
as not. Don'll pay a dollar or two to get him back, an' I'll give the
ole man half. But fust, I must go down to the landin' an' buy them
shoes an' tobacker; an' while I'm thar, I'll jest say a good word
to Silas fur myself. I'm a nobody about this yere house, am I? Dave
wouldn't give me them ten dollars to keep fur him, an' now I'll take
somethin' outen his pocket without sayin' a word to him."

Dan shook his head in a very wise and knowing manner, and went into
the house after his rifle. He did not take it because he expected to
find any game while he was on the way to the landing, but because he
had fallen into the habit of carrying it with him everywhere he went
and felt lonely without it.

Knowing that Don and Bert were not at home, Dan did not go around
through the fields to avoid the General's barn, as he usually did,
but boldly followed the road. There were a few idle men hanging about
the store, as there almost always were, but none of them appeared to
be doing any trading, and the grocer was ready to attend to Dan's
wants at once. The boy bought the articles his father wanted, and
having pocketed his change, cleared his throat, preparatory to saying
a good word for himself.

"Mr. Jones, if you please, sar, Dave done sent me down here this
mornin' to ax you would you give me somethin' fur myself, if you
please, sar--some shoes an' sich like."

"Certainly," replied the grocer, readily, and Dan was surprised to
see that he held out his hand as if he expected to receive something.

"I hain't got no money," said Dan.

"That makes no difference. I don't want any money from David."

"Then I'll take a pair of them amazin' fine lookin' shoes of
your'n--number nines, please, sar."

"All right. Hand out the order."

"Sar!" exclaimed Dan, opening his eyes.

"Why, if David doesn't come here himself and tell me to give you the
things, he must send a written order."

"Dave, he done told me to git 'em," faltered Dan.

"I don't doubt it; but in order to have things straight, you go home
and get an order for such things as you want and I'll give them to
you."

Dan gathered the articles which he had purchased for his father under
one arm, took his rifle under the other, backed slowly away from the
counter and went out of the store. He wasn't quite so smart as he
thought he was. His shoes and stockings, and the ammunition for his
rifle, which he thought he was going to get for nothing, were likely
to cost him something after all. It was an easy matter to cheat
confiding fellows like Don and Bert, who were much more familiar with
Greek than they were with the way business was conducted, but it was
not so easy to deceive a man like Silas Jones. Dan was surprised
and disappointed, and of course as angry as he could be. He walked
rapidly along the road with his bundles, under his arm and his rifle
on his shoulder, and it was not until he reached home and had sunned
himself for a few minutes on the bench in front of the door, that he
cooled down so that he could think the matter over. But he could
think to no purpose even then; and after resting a few minutes
longer, he arose and went into the cabin.

He walked straight to the "shake-down" which he and his brother
occupied, and drew from under the head of it a piece of rope he had
placed there the night before. With this in his hand he came out
again, and after looking up and down the road, to make sure that
there was no one in sight, he went around the building to the kennel
where Don's pointer was confined. The animal came out to meet him,
and Dan did not send him back with a kick, as he usually did. He took
off his collar, and having tied the rope about his neck, buckled the
collar again and threw it on the ground, hoping in this way to give
David the impression that his charge had liberated himself. He then
led the dog to the high rail fence which surrounded the lot, assisted
him to climb over it, and left him there in the bushes, while he
returned to the bench after his rifle and bundles. These secured, he
climbed the fence himself, picked up the rope and hurried into the
woods, the pointer trotting along contentedly by his side.

Dan thought he knew just where to go to find his father. The latter
would, of course, be on the lookout for his son, and it was
reasonable to suppose that he would remain somewhere in the vicinity
of the island; so Dan followed the course of the bayou, taking care
to keep so far away from it that he would not be discovered by any
one who might chance to be passing in a boat, and when he had
approached close enough to the island to hear the voices of the young
hunters and the sound of their axes, he tied the pointer to a tree,
deposited his bundles on the ground near by, and with his rifle for
a companion crept through the bushes to see what they were doing.

There was no one in sight when he first reached the bank of the
bayou, but in a few minutes Bert and David came out of the cane with
a rope in their hands. There were several logs scattered about the
beach, and David made the rope fast to one of them and he and Bert
dragged it into the cane. While Dan was wondering what they were
going to do with the log a twig snapped near him, and he turned
quickly to find his father almost within reach of him.

"Halloo, pap!" said Dan, jumping to his feet and backing into the
bushes.

"Whar's the tobacker?" demanded Godfrey, in a subdued tone of voice.

"I've got it. You ain't mad, be you, pap?"

"I ain't so scandalous mad now, but if I could have got my fingers
into your collar about the time I was a shiverin' in my wet clothes,
I'd a played 'Far'well to the Star Spangled Banner' on your back with
a good hickory, I bet you!"

"'Kase if you be mad 'tain't my fault," continued Dan. "I tried my
level best to steal the canoe, but couldn't do it. It was locked up
tighter'n a brick. I tried to get ten dollars fur you too, pap, but I
couldn't do that nuther; so I brung Don Gordon's pinter along. Swum
the bayou, I reckon, didn't you?"

"I didn't walk acrosst, did I? In course I swum it."

"Your clothes ain't wet!"

"No, 'kase I went back in the woods an' built a fire an' dried 'em.
Le's go back thar now, so't we kin talk. We don't want them fellers
to hear us."

"What be they doin' over thar, anyhow?" asked Dan.

"They're buildin' a bar trap, looks like. They'll be sartin to ketch
one too, 'kase thar's a bar comes thar a'most every night. If I had a
boat they wouldn't get much good of him arter they do ketch him."

Dan handed his rifle to his father and went back after the pointer
and his bundles; and when he came up again Godfrey led the way toward
his temporary camp. He was gloomy and sullen, and there was an
expression on his face which Dan did not like to see there, for it
made him fear that a storm was brewing. But after they had been a few
minutes in the camp, and Godfrey had filled his pipe and smoked a
whiff or two, the scowl faded away and Dan began to breathe easier.

"I've put you in the way to make a dollar, pap," said he, as soon
as the soothing effects of the tobacco began to be perceptible. "If
you'll take that pinter an' keep him till I call fur him, I'll give
you half of what Don pays me to get him back."

"I seed you bringin' the dog an' I knowed what you was up to,"
replied his father. "But Don don't get him back fur no dollar, I tell
you. That animile is wuth fifty dollars anyhow, an' if Don wants him
agin he'll have to plank down five dollars."

"Whew!" whistled Dan. "We're gettin' rich, ain't we? Now, pap, thar's
your shoes an' stockin's, an' thar's the change Silas give me. You
kin put it with what you've got left of your twenty dollars, an'
when----O, laws!"

Dan jumped to his feet, opened his mouth and eyes and looked at his
father in the greatest astonishment. Something he had said seemed to
produce a wonderful effect upon Godfrey. His pipe dropped from his
lips, the color all left his face and after sitting silent and
motionless for a moment, he gave utterance to a loud yell, sprang to
his feet and strode about the camp as if he were almost beside
himself.

"What's the matter of you, pap?" Dan ventured to inquire, as soon as
he could find his tongue.

"I hain't got no money at all no more!" Godfrey almost shouted.
"That's what's the matter of me. It's over thar on the island whar
them fellers is!"

"No!" gasped Dan.

"But I say, yes, it is too!" exclaimed Godfrey. "You see," he added,
controlling himself with a great effort, "when I fust seed them
fellers comin' up the bayou the sun was kinder shinin' on the water,
an' it blinded me so't I thought it was you. I was jest goin' to
speak, when I seed thar was three fellers in the boat; an' afore I
could ax myself what that meant, one of the hounds that Don had with
him set up a yelp. I knowed that meant business, an' it skeared me
so't I didn't think of nothin' only how to get off'n that thar island
without bein' diskivered. I got off all right, but I left my money in
that thar holler log, an' I never thought of it till this blessed
minute."

"Mebbe they won't find it," said Dan.

"Wal, that's a comfortin' thought," returned his father, sighing
heavily, as he picked up his pipe, "but luck's agin me. It allers is.
Other folks can get along smooth an' easy, but I can toil an' slave
an' slave an' toil till--jest look at me," added Godfrey, rising to
his feet again and turning slowly about, so that Dan could have a
fair view of him. "Ain't this a purty fix fur a man to be in who
owned niggers an' cotton, by the acre only a little while ago? That's
jest what makes me 'spise them Gordons."

"An' that's what makes me 'spise that Dave of our'n," exclaimed Dan.
"He's gettin' richer every day. He's got ten dollars in greenback
money now, an' I done heard Silas Jones tell him that his credit was
good at the store for six months."

Godfrey opened his eyes when he heard this, and so interested was he
in the story Dan had to tell that he forgot his troubles for the time
being. He seated himself again, and while he was refilling his pipe
Dan gave him a history of what had happened at the store, and told
how David had come by the ten dollars. He also described the manner
in which he had tried to obtain possession of it, and told how he had
failed in his attempt to induce Silas to give him a pair of shoes on
the strength of David's credit. This led to a long discussion between
the father and son, during which various plans were laid and one or
two things determined upon which will probably be revealed in due
time. Dan paid strict attention to all his father said, but he was
glad when the interview was over. Godfrey was almost beside himself
with fury. Having been unfortunate himself he was enraged to learn
that anybody else was prosperous; and when he heard of David's good
luck he looked and acted so savagely that Dan began to fear for his
own personal safety. He started for home as soon as he could find an
excuse for so doing, and it was not until he was out of sight and
hearing of his father's camp that he began to breathe easily.

Dan did not go directly home. He was in no hurry to meet his brother,
for he was afraid the latter might have something to say to him about
the pointer. He roamed through the woods, and having shot a few
squirrels, built a fire and roasted and ate them. He stayed in his
camp until the sun went down and it began to grow dark, and then
shouldered his rifle and reluctantly turned his face toward the
cabin. He did not find his brother there, but he came in shortly
afterward, and then Dan found that he had been borrowing trouble, for
David never said a word to him about the pointer. He told his mother
of the loss, and of course she sympathized with him, and offered
every explanation except the right one. The thief opened his eyes and
looked surprised while they were talking, but neither of them paid
any attention to him; and Dan, muttering angrily to himself that he
was nothing more than a crooked stick about that house any way,
undressed and went to bed.

Dan passed the next day in his usual idle and shiftless manner. He
saw David go up to General Gordon's, and would have been glad to know
what sort of work he was doing up there, and how much he was to
receive for it. He did not find out that day, but he did the next,
and the discovery made him feel like a new boy.

Growing tired of staying by himself, Dan thought he would go down to
the landing, hoping that he would find a shooting-match going on
there, or that a steamer would come in, bringing a stranger or two
for him to stare at. The weather was raw and chilly, too, and Dan's
bare feet were blue with the cold. He must have a pair of shoes and
stockings; and since he couldn't get them in any other way, a portion
of the money he had hidden in that hollow log in the woods must be
brought into use. Dan took out the necessary amount, and groaned
when he looked at the small sum he had left.

As soon as the sun had warmed the air a little, Dan shouldered his
rifle and set out. He did not follow the road, as he did before, for
that would take him past the General's barn, and Don and Bert were at
home now. He went around through the fields; and it was while he was
sitting on a log near General Gordon's fence, watching the only
squirrel he had seen since leaving home, that he accidentally learned
what it was that took David over to Don's house so regularly every
morning, and kept him there all day. He first heard the creaking of
wheels and the sound of voices, and they came from the General's
field, which was not more than twenty feet distant, and which was
concealed from his view by the thick bushes that lined the fence. Dan
recognised the voices, and his first impulse was to jump up and take
to his heels. His next was to stay where he was until the wagon
passed by, and this he did; for he was in an excellent hiding-place
and no one could have found him without taking pains to look for him.

The wagon came nearer, the voices grew louder, and presently Dan
heard the shrill notes of a quail directly in front of him and just
on the other side of the fence. He paid no attention to the sound
until the wagon was brought to a stand-still in front of the thicket,
and somebody, after working his way into the bushes, called out in a
cheery voice:

"Here's the first instalment of your hundred and fifty dollars,
David!"

These words made Dan so excited that he almost betrayed his presence
by letting his rifle fall out of his hands. He cautiously raised
himself to a standing position on the log, and looking through the
tops of the bushes, listened intently to catch every word that was
said.



CHAPTER XIII.

TEN DOLLARS REWARD.


When the quails had been taken out of the trap and put into the coop,
the wagon drove on, and Dan sat down on his log to think about what
he had just heard, and to wait until the coast was clear, so that he
could resume his walk toward the landing. He had learned two things.
One was that his brother had not given up the idea of trapping the
quails, as he had supposed, and the other was that there was somebody
besides himself whom David had reason to fear.

"Looks now as though you were goin' to 'arn your money in spite of
Dan and Lester," thought the listener, recalling the last words he
had heard Don utter. "That must be that Brigham boy up to that big
white house. What's he got to say 'bout it, I'd like to know? I'll
jest keep an eye on him. He don't want to let me ketch him foolin'
round them traps, 'kase I'll make him think war times has come back
sure enough. Now that I've got another chance to 'arn a share in them
hundred and fifty dollars, nobody shan't take it away from me."

Dan was as good as his word. He kept a sharp watch over David's
interests, and perhaps we shall see that he was the means of
defeating a certain plan, which, if it had been carried into
execution, would have worked a great injury to the boy trapper.

The wagon having passed on out of hearing, Dan shouldered his rifle
and started toward the landing. While he was skulking through the
woods at the lower end of the field, he stopped in a fence corner
long enough to see David and his two friends transfer another
good-sized catch from one of the traps to the coop in the wagon. The
sight encouraged him greatly. If David's good luck would only
continue for just one week, the fifty dozen birds would certainly be
captured, and Dan would stand a chance of making a small fortune. It
was not so very small either in his estimation. His share would be
seventy-five dollars--his father had told him so--and that would make
a larger pile of greenbacks than Dan had ever seen at one time in his
life. With it he was sure he could buy a new gun as fine as the one
Don Gordon owned (he would not have believed it if any one had told
him that that little breech-loader cost a hundred and twenty-five
dollars in gold), a jointed fish-pole, and some good clothes to wear
to church; and when he had purchased all these nice things, he hoped
to have enough left to buy a circus-horse like Don's, and perhaps a
sail-boat also. Godfrey, for reasons of his own, had held out these
grand ideas to him during one of their interviews, and Dan, being
unable to figure the matter out for himself, believed all his father
told him.

Having seen the second catch put into the coop, Dan started toward
the landing again. It was mail day, and consequently there was a
larger number of loafers about the post-office than there usually
was. Among them were Lester Brigham and Bob Owens, who seemed to be
very much interested in something that was fastened to the
bulletin-board in the store. Having nothing better to do just then
Dan walked up behind them, and looking over their shoulders spelled
out with much difficulty the following--

"NOTICE.

"_Ten Dollars Reward_.

"Strayed or stolen, my black-and-white pointer, _Dandy_. I will pay
the above reward for his safe return, and ask no questions; or I will
give _Five Dollars_ for any information that will lead to his
recovery.

"DONALD GORDON."

"I am glad he has lost him, and I hope he will never see him again,"
said Bob, spitefully. "If I knew where he was, I wouldn't tell him
for five times five dollars."

"What does he want him back for, anyhow?" said Lester. "Don is
assisting in shipping quails out of the country, and the first thing
he knows the dog will be of no use to him."

Dan did not waste five minutes in loafing about the store after that.
Here was something he had been waiting for ever since he stole the
pointer. The owner had offered a heavy reward for his safe return--it
was twice as much as Godfrey said they ought to have--and the next
thing to be settled was, how to obtain the money, without facing Don
Gordon. This was a question over which Dan had often bothered his few
brains, but without finding any way of answering it. Something must
be determined upon now, however, for there was a nice little sum of
money at stake.

Dan made all haste to do his trading, and taking his stockings and
shoes under his arm, set out for home, avoiding the road, as he
always did when Don and Bert were about, and skulking around through
the woods and fields. When he reached the cabin, he seated himself
upon the bench beside the door, and there he remained building
air-castles until four o'clock in the afternoon. Then he began to
bestir himself, and David, who came home that night before his mother
did, was surprised to find a roaring fire on the hearth, a pile of
wood large enough to last all the evening beside it, and in a pan
upon the table a half a dozen squirrels, dressed and ready for the
frying-pan.

"What in the world is up now?" thought David. "Dan's got an axe to
grind, for he never does such things, unless he intends to make
something by it."

"Halloo, Davy!" exclaimed Dan, cheerfully. "I thought mebbe you'd be
cold when you come hum, so I built up a fire to warm you. Jest look
at them thar squirrels, will you? Every one on 'em was shot through
the head. Can you beat that?"

"No," answered David. "It can't be beaten."

"If we had a few quail now, we'd have a bully supper, wouldn't we?"
continued Dan. "You don't seem to shoot no more quail lately, do you,
Davy?"

"O, I can't hunt them without a dog to tell me where they are."

"Hain't you never heard nothin' from that pinter pup at all?"

"Not a word."

"I'm sorry. I wish I knowed whar he was, so't I could fetch him hack.
I'm scandalous mad at myself fur takin' that money from you an' Don,
an' if I had ten dollars I'd give 'em back to-night; but I hain't got
'em, an' so I'm goin' to try an' find his dog fur him."

"He'll be very glad to get him," said David, who knew very well that
his brother had some other reason for taking this sudden interest in
the pointer.

"I want to act decent now, like a gentleman had oughter act," Dan
went on; "an' if I do what I can fur Don, do you reckon he'll call it
squar'?"

"I don't know. You must talk to him about that."

"But I ain't agoin' to face him 'till I know how he feels towards me,
I bet you. I don't know whar the dog is, more'n the man in the moon;
but I'm kinder scentin' round, when I hain't got no work to do, an'
if I should happen to find him, would you take him to Don fur me?"

"Of course I would, and be very glad to do it."

"Then I'll do what I kin, an' if I do say it myself, I kin find him
if anybody kin. I kin afford to spend all my time lookin' fur him,
kase I was down to the landin' to-day, an' I seed a notice stuck up
thar sayin' that Don'll give ten dollars fur him an' ax no questions.
What's the matter of you?" demanded Dan, as David turned quickly
about and walked toward the door. "Hain't goin' off mad, be you?"

"I don't know what to make of you, Dan," replied David. "A little
while ago you gave me to understand that the reason why you wanted to
bring the dog back to Don, was because you wanted to make everything
square between you and him; and now you say you want to do it because
Don has offered a reward for him."

"An' I told you the gospel truth both times," exclaimed Dan. "That
thar animile is wuth every cent of fifty dollars; an' if I bring him
back, it'll be that much in Don's pocket an' ten dollars in mine. I
kin afford to work fur that, can't I?"

"Very well," said David. "If you will produce the dog, safe and
sound, I'll take him to his master for you, and bring back the reward
if he gives it to me."

This interview had a perceptible effect upon both the boys. It took
away all Dan's industry, and all David's peace of mind. The former
had gained his point. He had made his brother promise to take Dandy
to his owner and bring back the reward, and that was happiness for
one day. He didn't chop any more wood or take any more interest in
the supper. He seated himself on the bench again and resumed the
agreeable occupation in which he had spent the most of the
afternoon--that of building air-castles.

David walked up and down the floor, with his hands in his pockets,
thinking busily. He told himself over and over again that if it were
not for his mother, he would not care if he should never see his home
again. He was cheerful and happy when he was away from it, but it
almost always happened that as soon as he crossed the threshold
something transpired to make him miserable and gloomy. His
conversation with Dan had confirmed a suspicion that had been lurking
in his mind ever since the pointer disappeared. He had all the while
held to the belief that Dan knew where the dog was, and Dan might as
well have confessed it, for his face and his actions constantly
betrayed him. David believed, too, that his father had not left the
country, as a good many people in the settlement seemed to think, but
that he was hiding in the woods somewhere in the immediate
neighborhood. Of this he had received proof that was almost positive.
He knew, if Don and Bert did not, that it was something besides a
bear they had driven off Bruin's Island, on the day they went up the
bayou with the hounds. He had seen footprints in the mud that were
made by a barefooted man; and more than that, having been the first
to come out of the cane when the dogs led the way toward the head of
the island, he had caught a glimpse of something, as it was
disappearing in the bushes on the main shore, which looked
wonderfully like the tattered hickory shirt his father had worn the
last time he saw him. This discovery, taken in connection with Dan's
behavior, led David to believe that his father and brother were often
in communication with each other; and when the pointer disappeared,
he promptly settled it in his own mind that Godfrey and Dan were to
blame for it. He was as certain now that Dan had had a finger in the
business as he would have been if he had seen him going off with the
dog; and he resolved that as soon as the next day dawned, he would
take pains to find out whether or not he was correct in supposing
that his father was Dan's accomplice.

"Father hid on Bruin's Island while the Yankees were raiding through
here," thought David. "When we drove him off, thinking he was a bear,
of course he had to hunt a new hiding-place, and it is possible that
he is now camping close about there on the main shore. If I can find
his camp, I'll take a good look at it. If I don't see the pointer
there, well and good; I shall be very glad of it. But if he is there,
I must get hold of him somehow. Don has been swindled out of enough
money by the black sheep of our family, and he shan't lose any more
by them if I can help it."

As this thought passed through David's mind, an expression of
determination settled on his face, which did not fail to attract the
notice of Dan, who just then happened to look into the cabin to see
what his brother was doing.

"What you lookin' that ar way fur?" demanded Dan. "Ain't puttin' up a
job on me, be you?"

David replied that he was not.

"You'll take the pinter to Don an' fetch me back the ten dollars,
honor bright?" continued Dan.

"That is what I promised to do, isn't it?" asked David in reply. "But
if I can help it you will never have the dog in your possession
again," he added, mentally. "I didn't promise that I wouldn't head
you off if I could."

"An' you won't answer no questions? Don said in that notice that he
wouldn't ax none."

"Then of course I shall not answer any. You needn't be afraid. I
shan't mention your name."

"Kase if you're thinkin' of puttin' up a job on me, Davy," said Dan,
shaking his finger at his brother, "you won't never see that pinter
ag'in so long as you live. Keep still now. Here comes the ole woman."

Dan settled back on the bench again, and David took his hands out of
his pockets long enough to throw a fresh log of wood on the fire--not
because it was needed, but for the reason that he wanted to hide his
face from his mother for a minute or two until he could call to it a
more cheerful expression than the one it was then wearing. He had
never said a word to his mother about his suspicions regarding his
father and Dan, for he wanted to talk to her about nothing but
pleasant and agreeable things. She had enough to trouble her already.

David had everybody in the cabin up at an earlier hour than usual the
next morning, and after eating a very hasty breakfast, he took his
gun under his arm, bade his mother good-by and disappeared down the
road that led to General Gordon's. Dan sat on the bench and watched
him as long as he remained in sight.

"It's a heap easier to have a feller to 'arn your money fur you nor
it is to 'arn it yourself," thought Dan. "Here's Dave a toilin' an' a
slavin' fur them hundred an' fifty dollars, an' when he gets 'em,
they'll go plump into pap's pocket an' mine, an' he'll never see no
good of 'em at all. I'll have ten dollars in my pocket this very
night. It's 'most too frosty to go slashin' round through the bushes
now, so I'll wait till the sun gets a little higher, then I'll go
arter that pinter."

David kept on down the road, until he was out of sight of the cabin,
and then he climbed the fence and plunged into a dense thicket of
briers, through which he made his way with great difficulty,
following nearly the same path that Clarence Gordon followed on the
morning he went through there to release his cousin Don from the
potato-cellar. Reaching the woods at last, he took a straight course
for Bruin's Island, and half an hour's rapid walking brought him
within sight of it.

David's first care was to satisfy himself that it was a man and not a
bear that Don's hounds had driven off the island; and in order to set
all his doubts on this point at rest, he looked for the footprints
which the man or animal must have made when he left the water and
climbed the bank. David found the tracks after a few minutes' search,
and a single glance at them confirmed his suspicions. They were made
by a barefooted man, and that man must have been Godfrey Evans, for
there was no one else in the settlement, that he knew of, who was so
very anxious to escape observation that he was willing to swim a
bayou on a cold day.

"I was right," said David to himself, feeling grieved and mortified
when he remembered that his father had been hunted like a wild
animal. "He is somewhere about here, and if I find him, I shall find
the pointer with him. There he is now!"

The sharp crack of a rifle rang through the woods at that moment, and
David scrambled up the bank and hurried away in the direction from
which it sounded. He knew it was his father's gun (those who are
experienced in such matters will tell you that there is as much
difference in the reports of rifles as there is in the sound of the
human voice), even before he received the proof that came a moment
later. Scarcely had the report died away when he heard an impatient
yelp just in front of him, and that he also recognised. It was
uttered by Dandy. Godfrey was probably out hunting for his breakfast,
and the pointer, excited by the report of the gun, was complaining
because he was tied up in the camp and left behind. This was the way
David explained the situation to himself, and the sequel proved that
he was right.

After running through the bushes for a short distance, David came
within sight of a little cloud of smoke, which ascended from a hollow
just in advance of him. A few steps more brought him within sight of
the camp, and the first object his eyes rested upon was Don Gordon's
pointer, which was tied to a sapling near a little bark lean-to,
something like the one Godfrey occupied while he was living on the
island. The animal, hearing his approach, advanced to meet him as far
as the length of his rope would allow, and stood wagging his tail
with every demonstration of joy.

"I've saved Don ten dollars," thought David, as he pulled out his
knife and cut the rope, "and I have kept Dan and father from playing
a most contemptible trick upon one who would be a good friend to
them, if they would only let him."

David had taken no pains to approach his father's camp without being
discovered. He knew he was in the right, and he intended to be open
and above board in everything he did. He expected to meet his father
face to face, and he was ready to use every argument he could think
of to induce him to surrender the pointer, that is, if the animal
should be found in his possession. If arguments and entreaties
failed, he was prepared to use other means, although he knew that by
so doing he would bring certain punishment upon himself. Very
fortunately, however, he chanced to reach the camp during his
father's absence, and all he had to do was to liberate the pointer
and go home with him.

"I'm glad it happened just as it did," thought David, drawing a long
breath of relief; "I don't want to get into trouble with father, for
I have seen him angry too many times. If he should catch me here now
I believe he'd half kill me."

"Halloo, Dannie! What brung you up here so 'arly, an' whar be you
goin' with the dog?"

David's heart seemed to stop beating, and his old single-barrel grew
so heavy that he could scarcely sustain its weight. His first impulse
was to take to his heels, but the unexpected sound of the familiar
voice seemed to have deprived him of all power of motion. He did
manage, however, to turn his head and look in the direction from
which the voice sounded, and saw his father standing a little way
off, with his rifle on his shoulder and a squirrel in his hand.

"Dave!" exclaimed the latter, so surprised that he could scarcely
speak.

"Yes, it's Dave," replied the boy, who saw that the battle for which
he had prepared himself was likely to come off after all.

"What business you got up here, an' how come you by that pinter pup?"
demanded Godfrey.

"My business up here was to get the dog. I found him in your camp,
and I cut him loose because I have a better right to him than you
have."

"Wal, we'll see 'bout that thar," returned Godfrey, throwing down his
squirrel and leaning his rifle against the nearest tree. David's face
grew pale, for he knew what was coming now. His father's next move
would be to reach for a hickory.

"Who told you I was up here?" demanded Godfrey, and David's
uneasiness increased when he saw that his father was running his eyes
over the bushes nearest him. He was picking out a good stout switch.

"No one told me," answered David.

"Then how did you know whar I was?"

"I was up here with Don and Bert on the day you swam the bayou, and I
saw you just after you had climbed the bank and were dodging into the
bushes."

"Don't you think you was a very grateful an' dutiful' son to hunt
your poor ole pap outen a good hidin'-place an' make him take to the
water like a hounded deer, in this cold weather too, an' my rheumatiz
so bad?" asked Godfrey, angrily. "Who told you the pinter was here?"

"Nobody. I just guessed at it."

"Wal, what be you goin' to do with him, now you got him?"

"I'm going to take him back to his master and save him ten dollars."

"Ten dollars!" repeated Godfrey. "Is that what he's goin' to give to
get him back? Now, Dave," and here Godfrey pulled out the
hunting-knife which he always carried in a sheath attached to his
bullet-pouch, and cut down the switch he had selected, "you jest take
that thar pinter dog back whar you got him an' tie him up thar; you
hear me?"

"I do, but I'll hold fast to the dog. You and Dan have swindled Don
out of enough money already; and now I'll tell you what's a fact----"

David did not finish the sentence. He saw his father dash his hat
upon the ground, and knowing what was coming, he faced about and took
to his heels.



CHAPTER XIV.

SOME DISCOVERIES.


David would have been glad to reason with his father, but he had not
been allowed the opportunity, and now it was too late to find one.
His first thought was of the pointer. Giving the animal a hasty kick,
to start him on his way home, David sought to save himself by flight,
although he had little hope of success. Everybody said he was a swift
runner for a boy of his age, and he did his best now, but fast as he
went, Godfrey gained at every step. David heard his heavy footfalls
growing louder and more distinct, and once or twice he lost all
heart, and was on the point of stopping and surrendering at
discretion. But he knew that the beating he would receive would be a
most severe one, and he was sure he did not deserve it, and that his
father had no business to give it to him. This thought lent him
wings, and a few more jumps brought him to the bayou.

"I've got you now!" cried Godfrey, and David heard the switch whistle
through the air, as his pursuer made an effort to reach him with it.

Godfrey thought the bayou would offer an effectual check to David's
flight, but the boy himself looked upon it as his only means of
escape. He ran straight to the bank, which at this point arose almost
perpendicularly from the water to the height of at least twenty feet,
and just as Godfrey was stretching forth his hand to seize him by the
collar, he disappeared. His pursuer tried to stop himself, but so
rapid was his flight that he made one or two involuntary steps, and
it was only by catching hold of a friendly bush that he saved himself
from following David over the bluff.

"Dog-gone my buttons!" thought Godfrey, gazing in astonishment at the
bubbles on the surface of the water, which marked the spot where
David had gone down. "Who'd a thought he would a jumped into the
Bayou sooner nor take a leetle trouncin'? He's gettin' to be a
powerful bad boy, Dave is, an' I had oughter be to hum every day to
keep him straight. Come back here!" he shouted, as the fugitive's
head suddenly bobbed up out of the water. "If you'll ketch the pinter
fur me an' promise to say nothin' to nobody, I'll let you off this
time."

David could not say a word in reply. He felt as if every drop of
blood in his body had been turned into ice. He wiped the water from
his eyes, glanced over his shoulder, to make sure that his father had
not followed him into the bayou, and struck out for the opposite
bank. Godfrey coaxed, promised and threatened to no purpose. David
would not come back, and neither would he make any answer. He held as
straight across the bayou as the current would permit, and when he
reached the shore, he climbed out and disappeared in the bushes.

"He's gone," thought Godfrey, throwing away his switch and slowly
retracing his steps toward the camp, "an' here's more trouble for me.
The pinter's gone too, an' that takes money outen my pocket an' puts
it into the pockets of them pizen Gordons. Dave'll tell everything he
knows as soon as he gets hum, an' that'll bring the constable up here
arter me. I must go furder back in the cane, but I won't go outen the
settlement, an' nobody shan't drive me out nuther, till I get my
hands onto them hundred an' fifty dollars. Then nobody won't ever
hear of me ag'in--Dan nor none of 'em. It's jest a trifle comfortin'
to know that that thar mean Dave can't do no more shootin'; he lost
his gun."

Yes, David's faithful friend and companion was gone. It slipped from
his grasp as he struck the water, and was now lying at the bottom of
the bayou. He felt the loss as keenly as Don Gordon would have felt
the loss of his fine breech-loader.

David thought he had never before been so nearly frozen as he was
when he struck the opposite bank of the bayou; but a few minutes'
vigorous exercise put his blood in circulation again, and then he
began to feel more comfortable. He followed the bayou until he
reached the lake, and then he plunged into the water again, and swam
across to the other shore. It was cold work, but he had no boat, and
so there was nothing else he could do. He was a very forlorn-looking
object indeed, when he reached the cabin. Dan, who was still sunning
himself on the bench, must have thought so, for when his brother
first appeared in sight, he jumped up and stared at him as if he
could not quite make up his mind whether the approaching object was
David Evans, or one of the dreaded haunts that lived in the General's
lane. He could not wholly satisfy himself on this point until he had
made some inquiries. "Is that you your own self, Davy?" he asked,
holding himself ready to take to his heels in case a satisfactory
answer was not promptly returned.

David replied that it was.

"What's the matter of you, an' whar you been?" continued Dan. "Whar's
your gun?"

"I have swam the bayou twice, and I have been taking a walk in the
woods. My gun is in the water near the foot of Bruin's Island."

Dan opened his eyes and was about to propound a multitude of
questions, when something that came around the corner of the cabin
just then checked him. It was Don Gordon's pointer. He had found his
way to the cabin and taken quiet possession of his bed in the kennel,
and Dan was none the wiser for it until that moment. Hearing the
sound of David's voice, the dog came out to meet him, and the two
appeared to be overjoyed to see each other again. Dan opened his eyes
wider than ever, and backed toward his seat on the bench without
saying a word.

"I found him right where you left him, Dan," said David, who thought
it high time his brother should know that some of his mean acts were
being brought to light. "I've got him again, you see, and you'll
never have another chance to steal him."

"What have you got, an' whar did I leave him?" Dan managed to ask at
last.

"O, I wouldn't try to play off innocent, if I were you. I know all
about it; and I want to tell you now that you had better turn over a
new leaf and be quick about it, too. Mother says that if folks don't
grow better every day, they grow worse, and I can see that it is true
in your case and father's. You are both going down hill, and the
first thing you know you'll do something that will get you in the
calaboose. Three months ago neither one of you would have been guilty
of stealing."

"Whoop!" yelled Dan, jumping up and knocking his heels together.

"I don't want to go back on either one of you," continued David, "and
neither do I want to tell mother how bad you are; but I'll do it
sooner than let you swindle Don Gordon or anybody else. Why don't you
go to work?"

"Kase I've got jest as much right to set around an' do nothin' as
other folks has," answered Dan, who had had time to recover himself
in some measure. "That's jest why!"

"Mother and I don't sit around and do nothing."

"No, but them Gordons does."

"No, they don't. They all work, Don and Bert as well as the rest."

"If I hadn't seed them ridin' round so much on them circus hosses an'
sailin' in them painted boats of their'n, mebbe I'd be willin' to
b'lieve that," said Dan. "They don't work, nuther. They don't do
nothin', but have good times. They've got good clothes an' nice
things, an' I've got jest as much right to 'em as they have."

"Those ideas will get you into trouble some day," replied David,
earnestly. "If you want nice things go to work and earn them; that's
the way to get them."

While this conversation was going on, David was pulling off his wet
clothes and putting on his best suit, the one he wore on Sundays. It
was not just such a suit as the most of us would like to go to church
in, but it was whole and neat, and David looked like another boy in
it. He kept the pointer in the house with him all the while, for fear
that his brother might attempt to steal him again; but Dan was too
much astonished at the turn affairs were taking, and too badly
frightened, to make any more efforts to win the ten dollars reward.
He sat on the bench, with his eyes fastened thoughtfully on the
ground, and saw David come out with the pointer and lead him down the
road toward General Gordon's, without saying a word.

When David reached the barn he walked straight through it to the
shop, and there he found Don and Bert, busy at work building more
traps. They were surprised to see him dressed in his best, and still
more surprised, and delighted too, when the pointer bounded in and
fawned upon them.

"Father said that the offer of a reward would bring him if anything
would," exclaimed Don, as he wound his arms around the animal's neck
and hugged him as he might have hugged a brother he had not seen for
a long time.

"Yes, the reward did it," replied David, and that was true. If Dan
had not seen the notice in the post-office, he never would have had
that conversation with David, and consequently the latter would not
have known where to go to find the pointer.

"We all thought he was stolen," continued Don. "I am glad you are the
one to bring him back, for I would rather give you the ten dollars
than give it to anybody else."

"I don't want the money," said David, "and I won't take it."

"You can't help yourself. Where did you find him?"

"Didn't you promise that you wouldn't ask any questions?" asked
David, with a smile.

"Well----yes, I did," answered Don, somewhat astonished. "But I made
that promise just to let the thief see that he would run no risk in
returning the dog. I can question you, can't I?"

"I'd rather you wouldn't."

Don uttered a long-drawn whistle and looked at Bert to see what he
thought about it; but the blank expression on the latter's face
showed that he was altogether in the dark.

"Well, let it go," said Don, picking up his hammer again. "I've got
the dog back and with that I'll be satisfied. You'll take him home
with you tonight, of course?"

"No, I think not. I am afraid to take him there."

"Then leave him here," said Don, who now began to think that he knew
pretty nearly what had been going on. "He'll be safe with us, and you
can find him when you want him. He isn't broken yet."

"I know it, but I can't do any more for him. I shall have to give you
back your ten dollars."

"I'll not take it. A bargain is a bargain. I want my dog broken, and
you need the money to send off your quails with."

"I know it," said David again; "but I can't shoot any more birds over
him. I have no gun."

"Where is it?"

"At the bottom of the bayou."

The brothers grew more and more astonished the longer they talked
with David, and Don told himself that there had been some queer
doings in the settlement that morning. His interest and curiosity
were thoroughly aroused, but he did not ask any more questions, for
he knew that David could not explain matters without exposing one or
more members of his own family. He turned the conversation into a
new channel by saying suddenly:

"Bert and I made the rounds of the traps this morning, and took out a
hundred and fifty birds. What do you say to that?"

Under almost any other circumstances David would have had a good deal
to say about it; but just now he seemed to have lost all interest in
his business. It would have been hard for any boy to wear a merry
smile and keep up a light heart after such a scene as David had
passed through that morning. He could not banish it from his memory.
His father was hiding in the woods, because he was afraid to show his
face among his neighbors again; he was a receiver of stolen property
and his brother Dan was a thief, and the remembrance of these facts
was enough to depress the most buoyant spirits. David wanted to do
something to bring his father and brother to their senses, and induce
them to become decent, respected members of the community, but he
did not know how to set about it, and there was no one of whom he
could ask advice. He never talked to his mother about the family
difficulties now. She had more than her share of trouble, and David
always tried to talk about cheerful things when he was in her
presence.

"Doesn't it cheer you up any to know that your business is
prospering?" exclaimed Bert. "Then we will tell you something else.
How would you like to be mail carrier? How would you like to put
thirty dollars in your pocket every month?"

"That is more money than I shall be able to earn for long years to
come," replied David.

"Perhaps not. Father told us this morning that the old mail carrier
is going to give up his route, his contract having expired, and
he thinks he can get you appointed in his place. He's been to see
Colonel Packard, and Silas Jones, and all the rest of the prominent
men in the settlement, and they have promised to give you all their
influence and to go on your bond."

"What does that mean?" asked David, who now began to show some
interest in the matter.

"Why, there are certain legal forms to go through with, which father
explained, but which I don't pretend to understand," said Bert. "You
must promise to attend to your business----"

"O, I'll do that," exclaimed David.

"Of course you will," said Don, "but that will not satisfy the
authorities in Washington. They don't know you, and even if they did
it would make no difference. The law must be complied with, and you
must give bonds for the faithful performance of your duty. But that
needn't trouble you; father will attend to it. He says your chances
are good, for you are the only one on the track so far."

This was the first time David knew that there was anybody on the
track. He was greatly astonished and delighted, and his attempts to
express his gratitude for the General's kindness and thoughtfulness
were awkward enough. Thirty dollars was a large sum of money in his
eyes. His earnings would amount to three hundred and sixty dollars
a year, and couldn't he and his mother live nicely on that and save
something for a rainy day besides? If he could get the contract, and
his father and Dan would only abandon their lazy, worthless mode of
life and go to work, how happy they would all be!

"What's the matter?" asked Don, for David's face became clouded again
when he thought of his father and Dan.

"There's a good deal the matter," replied David, "but it is nothing I
can help."

"You don't act like yourself at all to-day," continued Don. "Suppose
you go home and take a rest. Don't brood over your troubles, whatever
they are. Let them go, if you can't help them. Think about pleasant
things, and to-morrow you will come up here, feeling like a new boy.
Bert and I will set the traps we have made this morning, and then
we'll go up and take a look at our bear trap."

David thought it would be a good plan to follow this advice, so he
closed the door of the shop to keep the pointer from following him,
and started for home.

"Well," said Bert, as he picked up his knife and resumed work upon
the figure four he was making, "Dave has seen his father!"

"And had trouble with him, too," added Don.

"It was about the pointer," said Bert.

"My idea exactly. Godfrey is hiding somewhere in the cane; Dan wanted
to make a little more money without work, so he stole the pointer
and gave him to his father to keep until I offered a reward for him.
David found it out, and to save me from being swindled, he recovered
the pointer and got himself into difficulty by it."

The boys, who were merely guessing at all this, would have been
surprised to know that their surmises were all correct. David and his
troubles, and his manful efforts to better his condition in spite of
his adverse circumstances, afforded them topics of conversation while
they were at work; and when the figure four, on which Bert was
employed, was completed, the mule was harnessed to the wagon, and the
boys drove off to set the half a dozen new traps they had built that
morning. It was twelve o'clock when they returned, and they found
lunch waiting for them. When they had done ample justice to it, they
began making hasty preparations for their visit to the island, and a
quarter of an hour more saw them well on their way up the bayou.

They found to their great delight that the ducks were beginning to
come in now, and Don was kept busy rowing from one side of the bayou
to the other to pick up the dead and wounded birds that Bert brought
out of the numerous flocks which took wing as they approached. After
a dozen fine fat mallards had been brought to bag, Bert declared
that it was a sin to shoot any more, and took his place at the oars,
while Don sat in the stern and steered.

"These ducks tell us that it is time to go to our shooting-box," said
the latter. "We always wait until they begin to come in before we
make up our party, you know."

"We ought to go over there and fix up a bit first," said Bert. "If we
don't find anything in our trap, let's go over there and see how
things look. We have had some splendid times in that little
shooting-box, haven't we?"

They certainly had, and they found much pleasure in living them over
again in imagination. While they were talking about the many happy
hours they had spent there, they reached Bruin's Island, and Don
brought the canoe around and ran the bow upon the beach. The hounds
jumped out, and running about with their noses close to the ground,
began to show the same signs of excitement that they had exhibited
on the day of their first visit to the island. The boys knew more
now than they did then, and consequently were not in such haste to
declare that it was a bear the dogs scented. It might be Godfrey
Evans; and that he or somebody else had been there since they left
was very evident. Their trap had been sprung by the aid of a long
pole, which was still fast under the heavy roof; the lever and rope
had been carried away; and the bag of corn which Don had hung upon
the sapling had also disappeared. Don was provoked, and laid up in
his mind a few sharp words, to be addressed to Godfrey on the
subject, should they ever happen to meet again; but he had very
little to say. The boys had been thoughtful enough to bring an axe, a
piece of rope and another small bag of corn with them, and, although
they had no assurance that their labor would not be wasted, they set
the trap again and started for home.

"If Godfrey did that," said Don, "he must have swam the bayou, unless
he has a boat hidden away in the bushes somewhere, which is not
likely. If it was summer now, he would probably spring that trap
every day, just to keep us from catching that bear; but the weather
is getting frosty, and he'll not relish many more cold baths. I don't
think he will trouble us that way any more."

When they reached the mouth of the bayou, Bert, who was steering,
directed the canoe across the lake, toward the point on which the
shooting-box was located. During a pause in the conversation, he
looked toward the place where it ought to be, but could see nothing
of it. "What's the matter?" asked his brother, who saw that there
was something wrong.

"That's Long Point, isn't it?" asked Bert, in reply. "It certainly
is, but where's the house?"

"You haven't been there in almost six months, and perhaps you have
forgotten where it is," said Don, with a laugh.

"No, I haven't. It stood close beside a big shell-bark, didn't it?
Well, there's the tree; now show me the shooting-box?"

Don faced about on his seat, expecting to point the building out to
his brother at once, and was a good deal surprised when he found that
he could not see it himself. There was the tree, sure enough, but the
spot which the shooting-box ought to have occupied, was vacant. After
running his eyes all along the shore, to satisfy himself that he had
made no mistake as to the locality, Don picked up the oars again, and
with a few more strokes brought the canoe to the bank. All there was
left of the shooting-box they could have carried away in their arms.
Even the stove had not escaped destruction. The chimney had fallen
upon it and it was completely ruined.

"Godfrey means to put a stop to all our fun if he can, doesn't he?"
said Bert, who thought that a man who would steal a canoe and spring
a trap, would be guilty of any meanness.

"Let's go home," was Don's reply. "We'll have another shooting-box
here some day, Bert, and it will beat the old one all to pieces."

The boys thought they had had hard luck that day, and so did their
father, when he had heard their story; but they came very near having
worse luck that night, and they never knew anything about it until
several days afterward. The General found it out the next morning.
He went to the fields at an early hour, as he always did, to set his
negroes at work, and was met by the hostler, who had an exciting
piece of news to communicate. "Misser Gordon," said he, "Misser Don's
hound dogs done treed two fellers down dar in de quarter. Dey's been
dar all de blessed night top o' dat ar house; yes, sar, dat's what
dey says, sar!"

The General replied that if the two fellows had come there for the
purpose of stealing, he was glad of it, and said he would go and take
a look at them. When he saw them, perhaps he would know where the
contents of his smoke-house had been going lately. He rode down to
the quarters as soon as his horse was brought out, and when he came
within sight of the cabin in which the boys kept their captured
quails, he saw two persons sitting astride of the ridge-pole and
Don's hounds gathered about the building, keeping guard over them.
The General could scarcely believe his eyes, although when he came to
recall several little things which Don and Bert had told him, he was
not so very much surprised after all. The persons whom the hounds had
forced to take refuge on the roof of the cabin were boys; and as soon
as the General was near enough to them to distinguish their features,
he saw that they were Lester Brigham and Bob Owens.



CHAPTER XV.

BOB'S ASPIRATIONS.


"I think it my duty to inform you that the parties to whom you have
given your order for fifty dozen live quails will certainly
disappoint you. They did not seek the contract for themselves, but
for another person, who knows nothing whatever about trapping, and
who is much too indolent to put forth the necessary exertion if he
did. You will get no birds from him. If, after waiting a reasonable
time--I should think two weeks would be long enough--you become
satisfied of this fact, I shall be happy to receive your order, and
will guarantee you satisfaction."

This was a rough copy of the letter Lester drew up to send to the
advertiser in the "_Rod and Gun_," on the evening of the day on which
he held that interview with Don and Bert, when the former refused to
join his sportsman's club. He read it to Bob in his best style and
was astonished when his friend declared that it wouldn't do at all.
"You seem to forget that I am working for a new shot-gun," said Bob.
"The language isn't half strong enough."

"You can't improve it anywhere," replied Lester, who was rather proud
of the production. "Do you want me to abuse Don and the rest? That
would be poor policy, for the man would say right away that we were
jealous of them and trying to injure them. I have told him that he
will get no birds from David, and if he does, it will be our fault."

Bob could not see the force of this reasoning. There was so much at
stake that it was necessary they should do everything in their power
to secure the contract, and he was sure it would help matters if a
few hard words were added respecting Don and David. So they were put
in, and the letter was copied and dropped into the post-office.

After that Lester took up his abode with Bob Owens. According to an
agreement made between them, Bob went through the ceremony of sending
a note to Lester by a negro boy, inviting him to come over and spend
a week with him, bringing his horse and gun, and they would have a
fine time shooting turkeys and driving the ridges for deer. This
arrangement enabled the two conspirators to be together day and
night. They intended to pass the most of their time in riding about
through the woods, and if a deer or turkey happened to come in their
way and they should be fortunate enough to shoot it, so much the
better; but if the game kept out of their sight they would not spend
any precious moments in looking for it. Their object was to devote
themselves exclusively to destroying all David's chances for earning
the hundred and fifty dollars. They would watch him closely, and when
they found out where his traps were set, they would visit them daily,
and steal every quail they found in them.

During the first few days the boys spent together they found out two
things: one was that there was a pile of traps in the yard behind
Godfrey Evans's cabin, and that they were never touched except when
the family happened to be in want of kindling wood. The other was,
that David left home bright and early every morning and went straight
to General Gordon's. What he did after he got there they could not
find out. They would always wait an hour or two to see if he came
out again, and then they would grow tired of doing nothing, and spend
the rest of the day searching the woods and brier-patches in the
neighborhood of the cabin, in the hope of finding some of David's
traps. But they never found a single one, for the reason that they
were all set on the General's plantation, and the boys never thought
of looking there for them.

"It's my opinion," said Lester, one day, when the two were seated at
a camp-fire in the woods, broiling a brace of squirrels which Bob had
shot, "that David has given it up as a bad job and left the way clear
for us."

"Hurrah!" shouted Bob.

"Well--yes; but I'd hurrah louder if he had only set a dozen or two
traps and given us a chance to rob them. If he'd done that, we might
have had a hundred birds on hand now. The best thing we can do is to
set our own traps and catch the quails as fast as we can. We'll keep
an eye on David all the same, however."

This programme was duly carried out--that is, they spent the rest of
the day in setting their traps, but they did not devote any more time
to watching David's movements. Two incidents happened within a few
hours that suggested new ideas to them, and made them sure that at
last they had the game in their own hands. They had built a good many
traps, and having no mule and wagon at their command, as Don Gordon
had, it took them all the rest of the day to set them, so that it was
dark by the time they reached home. They found the family at supper
and listening with great interest and attention to something Mr.
Owens was saying.

Mr. Owens was like Godfrey Evans in two respects. His ideas ran just
as far ahead of his income as Godfrey's did, and he hated those who
were better off in the world than himself. Especially did he dislike
General Gordon. The latter was looked up to by all the best people as
the leading man in the community, and that was something Mr. Owens
could not endure. He wanted that honor himself; and because he could
not have it, he made it a point to oppose and injure the General in
every possible way.

"What do you think Gordon is trying to do now?" Mr. Owens asked, just
as the boys came in and took their seats at the table. "Gardner's
mail contract has run out, and as he doesn't intend to put in another
bid, that meddlesome Silas Jones asked the General who would be a
good man to take his place; and Gordon hadn't any more sense than to
recommend Dave Evans."

"Well, of all the things I ever heard of!" exclaimed Bob.

"That's what I thought," continued Mr. Owens. "I heard them talking
about it at the post-office. Gordon was as busy as a candidate on
election day. He was going around speaking to all the men about it,
and asking them if they would lend their influence to secure the
contract for David, and, although I put myself in his way two or
three times, he never said a word to _me_. I suppose he thought my
influence didn't amount to anything one way or the other, but perhaps
he'll see his mistake some day."

"What's the pay, father?" asked Bob.

"Thirty dollars a month was Gardner's bid, and he rode the route only
twice each week. But he had to go rain or shine. How would you like
it, Bob?"

"The best in the world!" exclaimed the boy, eagerly. "Three hundred
and sixty dollars a year! Couldn't I sport just as fine a hunting and
fishing rig as anybody? Can't you get it for me, father?"

"I was thinking about it on the way home, and I made up my mind that
I could try. Gordon thinks he holds the whole state of Mississippi
under his thumb, but he hasn't got me there."

"Nor my father, either," said Lester. "He'll help you, Mr. Owens."

"I was counting on him. When I send in the application, I'll have to
send a bond for a few hundred dollars with it."

"Father will go on it, if I ask him, and I will, for I'll do anything
to help Bob and beat that beggar, Dave Evans."

The conversation continued for an hour or more in this strain, and
when the boys had heard David and all his friends soundly abused, and
Bob had provided for the spending of every cent of the money he would
earn during the first year he rode the route, if his father succeeded
in obtaining the appointment for him, he and Lester went out to
attend to their horses and talk the matter over by themselves. Bob
was in ecstacies; and while he was counting off on his fingers the
various articles he intended to purchase with his wages, Lester
suddenly laid his hand on his arm.

"What's that?" said he, in a suppressed whisper.

Bob looked in the direction indicated by his companion, and saw a
dark figure creeping stealthily along the fence. His actions plainly
showed that he had no business there, and, as if moved by a common
impulse, the two boys dropped to the ground and waited to see what
he was going to do.

"It's some thieving nigger," whispered Bob. "If he lays a hand on
anything we'll jump up and catch him."

"Hadn't I better go into the house and call your father?" asked
Lester.

"O, no; you and I can manage him. Do you see those fence pickets over
there? Well, we'll sneak up and get one apiece, and then if he
attempts any resistance, we shall be ready for him."

The pickets, of which Bob spoke, were piled about twenty yards nearer
to the barn than the boys then were, and they succeeded in creeping
up to them and arming themselves without attracting the notice of
the prowler. The latter followed the fence until he reached a point
opposite the spot where the barn, corn-cribs and other out-buildings
were located, and there he stopped to survey the ground before him.
Having made sure that there was no one in sight, he moved quickly
toward the smokehouse and tried the door.

"I don't think you'll make much there, my friend," whispered Bob.
"That door is locked."

The prowler found it so, and after a few ineffectual attempts to
force it open by pushing with his shoulder against it, he faced about
and disappeared in the barn. While the boys were trying to make up
their minds whether or not they ought to run up and corner him there,
he came out again, and he did not come empty-handed either. He
carried a bag of meal on his shoulder--the one Mr. Owens had put in
the barn that morning for the use of his horses--and in his hand
something that looked like a stick of stove-wood; but it was in
reality a strong iron strap, which he had found in the barn and which
he intended to use to force an entrance into the smokehouse. He
deposited his bag of meal upon the ground, set to work upon the hasp
with his lever and in a few minutes more the door swung open.

"Now is our time," whispered Bob, as the robber disappeared in the
smoke-house. "Stand by me and we'll have a prisoner when we go back
to the house."

Lester would have been very glad indeed to have had some excuse for
remaining in his place of concealment, and allowing his companion to
go on and capture the robber alone; but he could not think of any,
and when Bob jumped up and ran toward the smoke-house, Lester
followed him, taking care, however, to regulate his pace so that his
friend could keep about ten or fifteen feet in advance of him. Bob,
who was in earnest and not in the least alarmed, moved with noiseless
footsteps, while Lester, preferring to let the robber escape rather
than face him with no better weapon than a fence picket in his hand,
made all the noise he conveniently could, hoping that the man would
take the alarm and run out of the smoke-house before they could reach
it. But the thief was so busily engaged that he did not hear their
approach, and never dreamed of danger until the boys halted in front
of the door and ordered him to come out and give himself up. We ought
rather to say that Bob halted in front of the door and boldly stood
his ground there, while Lester took care to shelter himself behind
the building, and showed only the top of his cap to the robber.

"We've got you now, you rascal!" exclaimed Bob, bringing his club
against the side of the smokehouse with a sounding whack. "Come out
and surrender yourself, or we'll come in and take you out."

"Yes," chimed in Lester, in a trembling voice, at the same time
hitting the building a very feeble blow with his fence picket. "Come
out, and be quick about it. There are a dozen of us here, enough to
make----"

Lester finished the sentence with a prolonged shriek of terror, for
just then something that seemed to move with the speed and power of
a lightning express train, dashed out of the intense darkness which
concealed all objects in the interior of the smoke-house, and Lester
received a glancing blow on the shoulder that floored him on the
instant. While the latter was calling upon the robber to surrender,
Bob heard a slight rustling in the smoke-house, and knowing very well
what it meant, he jumped back out of the door-way, and raised his
club in readiness to strike; but the thief was out and gone before he
could think twice. The instant the robber landed on his feet outside
the door, he turned toward the place where he had left his bag of
meal and happened to come into collision with Lester, who went down
with a jar that made him think every bone in his body was broken. It
was a minute or two before he could collect his scattered wits and
raise himself to his feet, and then he found that he was alone. Bob
was scudding across the field in pursuit of the robber, who carried
a side of bacon on one shoulder and the bag of meal on the other;
but burdened as he was he ran quite fast enough to distance Bob, who
presently came back to the smoke-house, panting and almost exhausted.

"Is he gone?" asked Lester, who was groping about on the ground in
search of his club.

"I should say he was," Bob managed to reply. "He ran like a deer. He
knocked you flatter than a pancake, didn't he?"

"He didn't hurt me as badly as I hurt him," said Lester. "Did you
hear my club ring on his head?"

"No, but I heard you yell. You didn't strike him."

"What's the reason I didn't? I did, too, but it must have been a
glancing blow, for if I had hit him fairly, I should have knocked him
flatter than he knocked me. I yelled just to frighten him."

"I guess you succeeded, for I never saw a man run as he did. He got
away, and he took the meal and bacon with him. They'll not do him any
good, however, for he'll be in the calaboose by this time to-morrow,
if there are men enough in the settlement to find him. I know him."

"You do? Who was he?"

"Godfrey Evans. He's been hiding in the cane ever since he and
Clarence Gordon got into that scrape, and no one has ever troubled
him. But somebody will trouble him now. I'll tell my father of it
the first thing. I wonder how Dave will feel when he sees his father
arrested and packed off to jail?"

"I wouldn't do anything of the kind, if I were you," said Lester.

"You wouldn't?" cried Bob, greatly astonished. "Well, I won't let
this chance to be revenged on Dave slip by unimproved, now I tell
you."

"We can take revenge in a better way than that. We've got just as
good a hold on him now as we want, and we'll make him promise that
he will make no effort to catch those quails."

"O, I am no longer interested in that quail business," said Bob,
loftily. "I'd rather have three hundred and sixty dollars than
seventy-five."

"But you must remember that you haven't been appointed mail carrier
yet, so you are by no means sure of your three hundred and sixty
dollars. And even if you were, it would be worth your while to earn
the seventy-five dollars, if you could, for that amount of money
isn't to be found on every bush."

Lester went on to tell his friend of a bright idea that had just then
occurred to him, and before he had fully explained how the events of
the night could be made to benefit them, he had won Bob over to his
way of thinking. The latter promised that he would say nothing to his
father about the theft of which Godfrey had been guilty, until he and
Lester had first told David of it and noted the effect it had upon
him. If they could work upon his feelings sufficiently to induce him
to give up the idea of trapping the quails, well and good. Godfrey
might have the meal and bacon, and welcome. But if David was still
obstinate and refused to listen to reason, they would punish him by
putting the officers of the law on his father's track.

"It is a splendid plan and it will work, I know it will,"
exclaimed Bob, in great glee. "It will be some time before my
appointment--those folks in Washington move very slowly--and while I
am waiting for it, I may as well make seventy-five dollars. I can get
my shot-gun with it, and spend my three hundred and sixty for the
other things I need."

Bob slept but little that night for excitement, and dreaming about
the glorious things that might be in store for him, kept him awake.
He and Lester were up long before the sun, and as soon as they had
eaten breakfast, they mounted their horses and rode off in the
direction of Godfrey Evans's house. Early as it was when they arrived
there, they found the cabin deserted by all save Dan, who sat on the
bench by the door. David was hastening through the woods toward his
father's camp, intent on finding the pointer, and Mrs. Evans had gone
to her daily labor.

"He's just went over to the General's house, Dave has," said Dan, in
reply to a question from Lester; and he thought he told the truth,
for we know that David went in that direction on purpose to mislead
his brother. "Yes, he's went up thar, an' 'tain't no ways likely that
he'll be to hum afore dark."

The visitors turned their horses about and rode away, and as soon as
they were out of sight of the cabin, they struck into the woods to
make one more effort to find David's traps, if he had set any. But,
as usual, they met with no success, and Lester again gave it as his
opinion, that David had no intention of trying to trap the quails.
Bob thought so too; but in less than half an hour, they received
positive proof that they were mistaken. They were riding around the
rear of one of the General's fields, on their way home, when they
happened to cast their eyes through the bushes that lined the fence,
and saw something that surprised them greatly, and caused them to
draw rein at once. There was a wagon in the field, and Don and Bert
Gordon were passing back and forth between it and a little thicket of
bushes and briers that stood a short distance away. They left the
wagon with empty hands, and when they came back, they brought their
arms full of something, which they stowed away in a box. While Lester
and Bob were looking at them, a small, dark object suddenly arose
from the box and came toward them, passing swiftly over their heads
and disappearing in the woods.

"That's a quail!" exclaimed Bob. "It escaped from Don's hands."

"Yes, sir, and we have made a discovery," said Lester. "Dave Evans
hasn't given up trapping the quails after all. He's catching them
every day, and Don and Bert are helping him."

"It's just like them," replied Bob, in great disgust. "They're always
poking their noses into other people's business. But I don't feel as
badly over it as I did a short time ago."

"I know what you are counting on. You are as sure of that mail
carrier's berth as you would be if you were to ride the route for the
first time to-day; but if you should happen to slip up on it, you'd
be glad to have the seventy-five dollars to fall back on."

"O, I am willing to work for it," replied Bob, quickly, "not only
because I want it myself, but because I don't want Dave Evans to have
it. What's to be done?"

"That trap must have been as full as it could hold," said Lester,
thoughtfully. "They have made five or six trips between the wagon and
that clump of bushes since we have been here. We know where one of
the traps is set now, and that will guide us in finding the rest.
When we do find them, we'll carry out our plan of robbing them every
day. They must have trapped some birds before, and if we watch them
when they go home we can find out where they keep them. What do you
say to that?"

Bob replied that he was willing, and so the two dismounted, and
having hitched their horses, set themselves to watch the wagon. They
followed it at a respectful distance, as it made the rounds of the
traps (they did not know that they also were followed by somebody,
who kept a sharp eye on all their movements), and Bob grew angry
every time he saw more quails added to those already in the coop.

"Those fellows are always lucky," he growled. "I'll warrant that if
we visit those traps we set yesterday, we'll not find a single bird
in them. Don and Bert are hauling them in by dozens."

"So much the better for us," returned his companion. "Every quail
they catch makes it just so much easier for us to earn seventy-five
dollars apiece."

Bob, feeling somewhat mollified by this view of the case, turned his
attention to Don and his brother, who, having visited all their traps
by this time, climbed into the wagon and drove toward home.



CHAPTER XVI.

DON'S HOUNDS TREE SOMETHING.


Lester and his companion followed the wagon at a safe distance and
saw it driven to the negro quarters, which were located about half
a mile below the General's house. It stopped in front of one of the
cabins, and Don and Bert began the work of transferring the quails
from the coop to the building in which they were to remain until they
were sent up the river. Bob and Lester counted the number of trips
they made between the wagon and the door of the cabin, and made a
rough estimate of the number of birds they had caught that morning.

"They've got at least a hundred," said Lester, when the wagon was
driven toward the house, "and that is just one-sixth of the number
they want. At that rate that beggar Dave will be rich in a week
more."

"Not if we can help it!" exclaimed Bob, angrily. "That cabin will
burn as well as the shooting-box did!"

"But we don't want to do too much of that sort of work," answered
Lester. "We may get the settlement aroused, and that wouldn't suit
us. I'd rather steal the birds, wouldn't you?"

Bob replied that he would, but hinted that if they attempted it they
might have a bigger job on their hands than they had bargained for.
In the first place, there were Don's hounds.

"But we braved them once--that was on the night we borrowed Don's
boat to go up and burn his shooting-box--and we are not afraid to
do it again," said Lester. "We didn't alarm them then."

Bob acknowledged the fact, but said he was afraid they might not be
so lucky the next time. And even if they succeeded in breaking into
the cabin without arousing the dogs, how were they to carry away a
hundred live quails? The only thing they could do would be to put
them in bags, and it was probable that half of them would die for
want of air before they could get them home. They would be obliged to
make two or three trips to the cabin in order to secure them all, and
each time they would run the risk of being discovered by the hounds.

While the two friends were talking these matters over, they were
walking slowly toward the place where they had left their horses.
Having mounted, they started for home again, and the very first
person they saw when they rode out of the woods into the road was
David Evans, who had just been up to the shop to restore the pointer
to his owner.

"There he is!" said Bob, in a low whisper. "He is dressed up in his
best, too."

"Best!" sneered Lester. "Why, I wouldn't be seen at work in the
fields in such clothes as those!"

"Nor in any other, I guess. They are the best he can afford," said
Bob, who had some soft spots in his heart, if he was a bad boy, "and
I don't believe in making fun of him."

"You believe in cheating him out of a nice little sum of money
though, if you can," retorted Lester.

"No, I don't. I am working to keep him from cheating _me_ out of it.
If he will keep his place among the niggers, where fellows of his
stamp belong, I'll be the last one to say or do anything against him;
but when he tries to shove himself up among white folks, and swindle
me out of a new shot-gun and get appointed mail carrier over my head,
it's something I won't stand. Say, Dave," he added, drawing rein, as
the subject of his remarks approached, "can you spare us just about
two minutes for a little private conversation?"

"I reckon," replied David. "Have you joined that sportsman's club,
and are you going to prosecute me for being a pot-hunter?"

"Lester has already told you what we are going to do about that, and
you may rest assured that we shall _do_ it," answered Bob, sharply.
"What we say, we always stand to. What we want to talk to you about
now is this: We know, as well as you do, that your father is hiding
out here in the cane, and that he dare not show himself in the
settlement for fear he will be arrested. You wouldn't like to see
him sent to jail, would you?"

"I know what you mean," replied David. "My father may have been
foolish, but he has done nothing that the law can touch him for."

When he said this he was thinking of Clarence Gordon and the barrel
with the eighty thousand dollars in it. He did not know that Godfrey
was guilty of highway robbery, and he forgot that he had also
committed an assault upon Don, and that he had received and cared for
stolen property, knowing it to be stolen.

"Hasn't he, though!" cried Bob. "He got into my father's smoke-house
last night and stole some meal and bacon. He forced a lock to do it,
too. The law can touch him for that, can't it?"

David leaned against the fence and looked at the two boys without
speaking. He did not doubt Bob's story. He had been expecting to hear
of such things for a long time. He had told himself more than once
that when his father grew tired of living on squirrels, somebody's
smoke-house and corn-crib would be sure to suffer. Godfrey was
getting worse every day, and something told David that he would yet
perform an act that would set every man in the settlement on his
track.

"We can send him to prison," continued Bob. "You would not like that,
of course, and you can prevent it if you feel like it. Lester and I
are the only ones who know that he robbed my father last night, and
we will keep it to ourselves on one condition."

"I know what it is," said David. "You want me to promise that I will
trap no more quails. Perhaps you want the money yourselves."

"That's the very idea," said Lester.

"It isn't the money we care about," exclaimed Bob, quickly. "We've
set out to put down this business of trapping birds and shipping them
out of the country, and we're going to do it. You think that because
Don and Bert are backing you up, you can do just as you please; but
we'll show you that they don't run this settlement. You're getting
above your business, Dave, and it is high time you were taught a
lesson you will remember the longest day you live. What do you say?
Will you trap any more quails?"

"Yes, I will," replied David, without an instant's hesitation.

"Don't forget that we can put the constable on your father's track
to-morrow morning," said Bob, his voice trembling with rage.

"I wasn't thinking of my father. He has made his bed and he must lie
in it. I was thinking of my mother. She must have something to eat
and wear this winter, and how is she to get it, if I give up this
chance of making a little money?"

"Just listen to you, now!" Bob almost shouted. "One would think to
hear you talk that you are used to handling greenbacks by the bushel.
You are a pretty looking ragamuffin to call a hundred and fifty
dollars 'a little money,' are you not? It's more than your old
shantee and all you've got in it are worth. Go on!" he yelled,
shaking his riding whip at David, as the latter hurried down the road
toward home. "I'll send you word when to come down to the landing and
see your father go off to jail."

"I never saw such independence exhibited by a fellow in his
circumstances," said Lester, as he and Bob rode away together. "One
would think he was worth a million dollars."

"He thinks he will soon be worth a hundred and fifty, and that's what
ails him," answered Bob, whose face was pale with fury. "But there's
many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, as he will find before he is
many days older. I'll tell my father to-night what Godfrey Evans did,
and as soon as it grows dark we'll go down to that cabin and carry
off all the birds we can catch. The rest we will liberate."

A part of this programme was duly carried out. As soon as they
reached home Bob told his father what had happened the night before,
and was a good deal surprised as well as disgusted, because Mr. Owens
did not grow very angry, and declare that Godfrey should be punished
to the full extent of the law.

"A bag of meal and a side of bacon are hardly worth making a fuss
about," said Bob's father. "I will put a new lock on the smoke-house.
But how does it come that you boys did not tell me of this at once?"

"Because we wanted to make something out of it," replied Bob. "If it
hadn't been for Dave, Lester and I would have pocketed a nice little
sum of spending money; but he's gone and got the job of trapping the
quails, or rather that meddlesome Don Gordon got it for him, and, not
satisfied with that, he has the cheek to run against me when I am
trying to be appointed mail carrier."

"Well," said Mr. Owens.

"Well," repeated Bob, "I told him his father was a thief, and I could
prove it, but I would say nothing about it if he would agree not to
trap any more quails. If he had done that, I should have brought up
this matter of carrying the mail, and made him promise to leave me a
clear field there, too; but he wouldn't listen to anything."

"I am glad you told me this," said Mr. Owens, after thinking a
moment, "and it is just as well that you did not say anything to
David about the mail. No one knows that I am going to put in a bid
for the contract, and I don't want it known; so be careful what you
say. Gordon will never get that mail route for David, for the
authorities will think twice before appointing the son of a thief
to so responsible a situation."

"But are you going to do nothing to Godfrey?"

"I'll keep him in mind, and if it becomes necessary I'll put the
constable after him, and tell him that the more fuss he makes in
capturing him, the better it will suit me."

The first thing the two boys did after they had eaten their dinner,
was to fit up one of the unoccupied negro cabins for the reception of
the birds they intended to steal that night. There were a good many
holes to be patched in the roof where the shingles had been blown
off, and numerous others to be boarded up in the walls where the
chinking had fallen out, and the afternoon was half gone before their
work was done. They still had time to visit their traps, but all the
birds they took out of them could have been counted on the fingers of
one hand. Bob looked at them a moment, then thought of the big box
full he had seen Don and Bert take home that morning, and grew very
angry over his ill luck. He proposed to wring the necks of the
captives and have them served up for breakfast the next morning, but
Lester would not consent. Every one helped, he said, and these five
birds, added to the forty or fifty they were to steal that night,
would make a good start toward the fifty dozen they wanted.

After the boys had eaten supper, they secured four meal bags, which
they hid away in a fence corner, so that they could find them again
when they wanted them, and then adjourned to the wagon-shed to lay
their plans for the night's campaign. Of course their expedition
could not be undertaken until everybody about the General's
plantation was abed and asleep. That would not be before ten or
twelve o'clock--the negroes kept late hours since they gained their
freedom, Bob said--and they dared not go to sleep for fear that they
would not awake again before morning. They hardly knew what to do
with themselves until bed time came. They spent an hour in talking
over their plans, then went into the house and played checkers, and
were glad indeed when the hour for retiring arrived. They made a show
of going to bed, but they removed nothing but their boots, which they
slammed down on the floor with more noise than usual. They heard the
clock in the kitchen strike every hour, and when it struck twelve
they began to bestir themselves.

Bob's room being located on the first floor, in one of the wings of
the house, it was a matter of no difficulty for him and his companion
to leave it without arousing any of the family. All they had to do
was to open one of the windows, drop to the ground, pull on their
boots and be off; and this they did in about the same time that it
takes to tell it. They picked up their meal bags as they passed along
the fence, and in half an hour more were inside General Gordon's
fence, and moving cautiously along the lane that led toward the negro
quarters. A few steps brought them into the midst of the cabins,
which were as dark and silent as though they had been deserted. Some
of them were deserted, while others were occupied by the field hands.
The one in which the quails were confined stood on the outskirts of
the quarters, and Bob, who had taken particular pains to mark the
building, so that he would know it again, had no difficulty in
finding it. It was the only cabin that was provided with a covered
porch; and that same porch, or rather the posts which supported the
roof, came very handy to the young prowlers a few minutes later. They
walked around the building two or three times to make sure that there
was no one near it, and then Bob cautiously mounted the steps and
tried the door. The patter of little feet and the shrill notes of
alarm that sounded from the inside told him that he had aroused the
prisoners.

"Just listen to that," whispered Lester, greatly amazed. "The cabin
must be full of them."

"We'll soon know how many there are," answered Bob. "I'd give
something if I could see Don Gordon's face when he comes down here in
the morning."

As Bob spoke, he opened one of the meal bags and drew from it the
iron strap, which Godfrey Evans had used in prying open the door of
the smoke-house two nights before. Lester struck a match on his coat
sleeve, and when it blazed up, so that Bob could see how to work, he
placed the strap between the hasp and the door, and exerted all his
strength in the effort to draw out the staple with which it was
confined. But that staple was put there to stay. It was made by the
plantation blacksmith under Don's personal supervision, and as it was
long enough to be clinched on the inside of the door, Bob made no
progress whatever in his efforts to force an entrance.

"We can do nothing here," said he, after he had pulled and pushed
until the inside of his hands seemed to be on fire. "We must try the
window."

"But that is so high you can't reach it," said Lester.

"Not from the ground, I know. You will have to hold me up."

Descending from the porch with noiseless footsteps, the boys passed
around to the rear of the cabin, and when Lester had stationed
himself under the window, Bob quickly mounted to his shoulders. He
examined the window as well as he could in the dark, and began to
grow discouraged. It was boarded up with two-inch planks, and they
were held in their places by the largest spikes Don could find at Mr.
Jones's store. Bob pushed his lever under one of the planks, but when
he laid out his strength upon it, Lester rocked about in so alarming
a manner, that Bob lost his balance, and to save himself from
falling, jumped to the ground.

"We might as well go home," said he, rubbing his elbow, which, owing
to Lester's unsteadiness, he had scratched pretty severely on the
rough planks. "If we only had a bundle of straw we'd start a
bonfire."

"It's a pity to go home and leave all these birds here," replied
Lester. "Let's get up on the roof and tear off some of the shingles.
We can climb up by those posts that support the roof of the porch."

"O, it is easy enough to get up there, but what good will it do to
tear off the shingles? We couldn't get the birds out unless one of
us went down after them, and it wouldn't be me, I tell you!"

"We'll not try to get the birds at all. We'll leave the holes open
so that they can escape. Wouldn't that be better than allowing them
to stay here for Dave Evans to make money out of?"

"I should say it would," exclaimed Bob, who always grew angry
whenever anything was said about David's chances of making money.
"But we'll first make one more effort to get the birds ourselves.
Hold me up again and don't wobble about as you did before."

In a few seconds more Bob was again perched upon his companion's
shoulders, and this time he was sure that his efforts would be
crowned with success. The planks were fastened to the window casing,
which, on one side, was too badly decayed to hold the spikes. He
started some of them with the first pull he made at his lever, and,
encouraged by his progress, was about to prepare for a greater
effort, when Lester uttered an exclamation of alarm and jumped from
under him.

"Great Moses!" exclaimed Bob, who came to the ground with fearful
violence. "Do you want to kill a fellow?"

"No," said Lester, whose voice trembled so that it was almost
inaudible. "There's somebody coming!"

Before Bob could ask any more questions, a loud, shrill whistle,
which sounded only a little distance away, rang through the quarters,
followed almost immediately by the impatient yelp of a hound. The
young prowlers were frightened almost out of their senses. Before
they could make up their minds what ought to be done, a voice
shouted:

"Here they be! Take 'em, fellers! Take 'em down!"

Another impatient yelp and the rush of feet on the hard road told the
boys that Don Gordon's hounds were coming. This aroused them, and
showed them the necessity of making an effort to escape. It was
useless to run; the only place of safety was the roof of the cabin,
and they made the most frantic efforts to reach it. They darted
quickly around the corner of the building, sprang upon the porch and
squirmed up the posts with the agility of monkeys. But with all their
haste they did not have a second to spare. They had scarcely left the
porch before the hounds bounded up the steps and a pair of gleaming
jaws came together with a snap close to Lester's foot, which he drew
out of the way just in time to escape being caught. Panting and
almost breathless with terror the two boys crept cautiously up the
roof--the moss-covered shingles were so slippery that it was all they
could do to keep from sliding off among the hounds--and seating
themselves on the ridge-pole looked at each other and at the savage
brutes from which they had so narrowly escaped. Then they looked all
around to find the person who had set the dogs upon them, but could
see nothing of him.

[Illustration: Treed by Don Gordon's Hounds.]

"Where has he gone, I wonder?" said Lester, who was the first to
speak.

"Haven't the least idea," replied Bob.

"Who was it?"

"Don't know that, either. It didn't sound to me like Don's voice,
but it sounded like his whistle, and if it was him, I wish he'd come
and call the dogs off. I am willing to give up now, Lester. Luck is
always on his side, and if he will let us go home without making any
fuss about it, I'll promise to leave him alone in future."

Lester could not find fault with his companion for losing his courage
and talking in this strain, for he was frightened half to death
himself, and he would have made all sorts of promises if he could
only have climbed down from that roof and sneaked off to bed without
being seen by anybody. Don did not show himself, although they called
his name as loudly as they dared, and neither did the hounds grow
tired and go away, as Lester hoped they would. They were much too
well trained for that. It not unfrequently happened while Don and
Bert were hunting 'coons and 'possums at night, that the game took
refuge in a tree much too large to be cut down in any reasonable
time by such choppers as they were. In that case Don would order the
hounds to watch the tree, and he and Bert would go home, knowing that
when daylight came they would find the dogs still on duty and the
game closely guarded. The animals seemed to be perfectly satisfied
when they found that Lester and Bob had taken refuge on the top of
the cabin. They walked around the building two or three times, as if
to make sure that there was no way of escape, and then laid down on
the ground and prepared to take matters very easily until their
master should come out to them in the morning. When Bob saw that,
he lost all heart.

"If we never were in a scrape before, we're in one now," said he. "We
may as well make up our minds to stay here all night."

"O, we can't do that," replied Lester, greatly alarmed. "Some one
will certainly see us."

"Of course they will. How can we help it?"

"I should never dare show my face in the settlement again, if this
night's work should become known," continued Lester, who was almost
ready to cry with vexation. "It would ruin me completely, and you,
too. Don and Bert would ask no better fun than to spread it all over,
and your chances of carrying the mail would be knocked higher than a
kite. Let's pull off some of these shingles and throw them at the
dogs. Perhaps we can drive them away."

"You don't know them as well as I do. They'll not drive worth a cent.
We're here, and here we must stay until somebody comes and calls them
away. We'll hail the first nigger we see in the morning, and perhaps
we can hire him to help us and keep his mouth shut."

This was poor consolation for Lester, but it was the best Bob had to
offer. Things turned out just as he said they would. They sat there
on the ridge pole for more than four hours, Lester racking his brain,
in the hope of conjuring up some plan for driving the dogs away, and
Bob grumbling lustily over the ill luck which met him at every turn.

At last, when they had grown so cold that they could scarcely talk,
and Lester began to be really afraid that he should freeze to death,
the gray streaks of dawn appeared in the east. Shortly afterward the
door of the nearest cabin opened, and a negro came out and stood on
the steps, stretching his arms and yawning.

"It's the luckiest thing that ever happened to us," said Bob,
speaking only after a great effort. "That's the hostler. He knows me
and will help us if anybody will. Say, Sam," he added, raising his
voice. "Sam!"

"Who dar?" asked the negro, looking all around, as if he could not
make up his mind where the voice came from. "Who's dat callin' Sam?"

"It's me. Here I am, up here on top of this cabin," replied Bob,
slapping the shingles with his open hand to show the negro where he
was.

"Wal, if dat ain't de beatenest thing!" exclaimed Sam. "What you two
gemmen doin' up dar?"

"O, we were coming through here last night, taking a short cut
through the fields, you know, and the dogs discovered us and drove us
up here."

"I thought I heerd 'em fursin," said Sam; "but I thought mebbe they'd
done cotch a 'coon."

"Well, call 'em off and let us go home," exclaimed Lester,
impatiently.

"Dat's impossible, dat is. Dem dar dogs don't keer no mo' fur us
black uns dan nuffin, dem dogs don't. Can't call 'em off, kase why,
dey won't mind us. Have to go arter some of de white folks, suah!"

"Go on and get somebody, then, and be quick about it," said Bob,
desperately. "And, Sam, if you can find Bert send him down. We want
to see him particularly, and it will save us walking up to the
house."

The negro went back into his cabin, but came out again a few minutes
later and started up the road toward the house.



CHAPTER XVII.

CONCLUSION.


Bob and his companion were so utterly disheartened, and so nearly
overcome with the cold, that they no longer looked upon exposure as
the worst thing that could happen to them. They had made up their
minds that it could not be avoided, and told themselves that the
sooner it was over and they were allowed to leave their airy perch
the sooner they would breathe easily again. They could not talk now.
They could only sit and gaze in the direction in which the hostler
had disappeared, and wait for somebody to come and call off the dogs.
Bob hoped _that_ somebody would be Bert. He was a simple-minded
little fellow, and might be persuaded to believe the story that Bob
had told the hostler. But Bert did not come to their relief; it was
his father. When Bob saw him he wished most heartily that the roof
would open and let him down out of sight.

"Why, boys, what is the meaning of this?" asked the General, as soon
as he came within speaking distance.

"It means that we have been up here since midnight and are nearly
frozen," replied Bob, trying to smile and looking as innocent as a
guilty boy could. "We were out 'coon-hunting in the river bottoms and
came through your fields, because that was the nearest way home; but
the dogs saw us and drove us up here."

The General had but to use his eyes to find all the evidence he
needed to prove this story false. The meal bags, in which the boys
expected to carry away the stolen quails, were lying on the ground
in plain sight, one of them having fallen in such a position that
the owner's name, which was painted on it in large black letters,
was plainly visible. More than that, under one of the planks which
protected the window, was the iron lever with which Bob had tried to
force an entrance into the cabin. He left it sticking there when he
fell off Lester's shoulders.

"Well, you may come down now," said the General. "The hounds will not
trouble you."

It was easy enough to say come down, but it was not so easy to do it,
as the boys found when they began working their way over the frosty
roof. The shingles were as slippery as glass, and their hands seemed
to have lost all their strength; but they reached the ground without
any mishap, and were about to hurry away as fast as their cramped
legs would carry them, when the General asked:

"Hadn't you better go up to the house and get warm?"

"O, no, thank you, sir," replied Bob. "We'll go directly home. Our
folks will wonder what has become of us."

"Are these your bags?"

"No, sir," replied Bob, promptly. "One doesn't usually carry meal
bags to bring home 'coons in."

"I am aware of that fact," said the General, "but couldn't they be
used to carry quails in? These bags have you father's name on them,
and you had better come and get them."

These words were uttered in a tone of command, and Bob thought it
best to obey. He snatched up the bags, and with Lester by his side
made his way down the lane with all possible haste. When they were
safe in the road, Bob drew a long breath and remarked:

"That's the end of that scrape."

"I don't see it," returned Lester. "It is only the beginning of it.
Everybody in the settlement will know it before night."

"Who cares if they do?" cried Bob, who began to feel like himself,
now that he was on solid ground once more. "They can't prove that
we went there to steal the quails, and we'll not confess it."

"No, sir," replied Lester, emphatically. "You're a sharp one, Bob, to
make up such a plausible story on the spur of the moment, but I know
the General did not believe a word of it."

"So do I, but what's the odds? Let's see him prove that I didn't tell
him the truth. Now the next thing is something else; we must make up
a story to tell my folks when we get home."

"Can't we run back to the house and go to bed before any of the
family are up?"

"I am afraid to try it. A better plan would be to go back in the
woods and build a fire and get warm. Then we'll go home, and if
anybody asks us where we have been, we'll say we couldn't sleep,
and so we got up and went 'coon-hunting."

"I wish we had one or two 'coons to back up the story," said Lester.

"O, that wouldn't help us any. People often go hunting and return
empty-handed, you know."

Leaving Bob and his friend to get out of their difficulties as best
they can, we will go back to Godfrey's cabin and see what the two
boys who live there are doing. The day of rest, which Don said would
work such wonders in David, did not seem to be of much benefit to him
after all. He had been somewhat encouraged by Bert's cheering words
and the knowledge that influential friends were working for him, and,
like Bob Owens, he had indulged in some rosy dreams of the future;
but that short interview with the young horsemen who met him in the
road below the General's house, reminded him that he had active
enemies, who would not hesitate to injure him by every means in their
power. He thought about his father all day, and wondered if there
was anything he could do that would bring him back home where he
belonged, and make a respectable man of him. He had ample leisure to
turn this problem over in his mind, for he was alone the most of the
day. As soon as he reached the cabin, Dan, who acted as if he did not
want to be in his brother's company, shouldered his rifle and went
off by himself; and it was while he was roaming through the woods
that he made a discovery which did much to bring about some of the
events we have already described.

Dan felt so mean and sneaking that he did not want to see anybody, if
he could help it; and when he accidentally encountered Bob Owens and
Lester Brigham in the woods, he darted into the bushes and concealed
himself. He watched them while they were watching Don and Bert,
and when he saw them hitch their horses and creep along the fence
in pursuit of the wagon, he suddenly recalled some scraps of a
conversation he had overheard a few days before. He knew that Lester
was working against David, and believing from his stealthy movements
and Bob's that there was mischief afoot, he followed them with the
determination of putting in a word, and perhaps a blow, if he found
that David's interests were in jeopardy. He saw every move the two
boys made. He was lying in the bushes not more than fifty yards from
them, while they were watching Don and Bert put the captured quails
into the cabin, and when they went back to the place where they had
left their horses, they passed so close to him that he caught some of
their conversation. When they were out of sight and hearing Dan arose
and sat down on the nearest log to make up his mind what he was going
to do about it.

"I'll bet a hoss you don't steal them quail nor set fire to the
cabin, nuther," said he, to himself. "Thar's a heap of birds in
thar--seems to me that they had oughter ketched 'most as many as they
want by this time--an' they shan't be pestered; kase if they be,
what'll become of my shar' of them hundred an' fifty dollars? It'll
be up a holler stump, whar I thought it had gone long ago!"

Dan knew that if Lester and his friend had any designs upon the cabin
and the quails that were in it, they would not attempt to carry them
out before night; but the fear that something might happen if he went
home again troubled him greatly, and he resolved that he would not
lose sight of the cabin for a few hours at least. He did not know
what he would do to Lester and Bob if he caught them in the act of
trying to steal the quails; that was a point on which he could not
make up his mind until something happened to suggest an idea to him.
While he was sitting in his place of concealment, thinking busily, he
heard a rustling in the bushes and looked up to see one of Don's
hounds approaching.

In the days gone by, before Dan became such a rascal as he was now,
he had often accompanied Don and Bert on their 'coon and 'possum
hunting expeditions, and the old dogs in the pack were almost as well
acquainted with him as they were with their master. Bose recognised
him at once, and appeared to be glad to see him.

"I want you to stay here with me till it comes dark, ole feller,"
said Dan, patting the animal's head. (He never kicked the hounds, as
he did the pointer. He knew better.) "If them fellers comes we'll
make things lively fur 'em. You hear me?"

Dan waited almost twelve hours before he had an opportunity to carry
out the plan he had so suddenly formed. When he became tired of
sitting still and began to feel the cravings of appetite, he went
into the woods and shot four squirrels which Bose treed for him.
These he roasted over a fire and divided with his four-footed friend.
When it began to grow dark he went back to his hiding-place, where he
remained until he thought it time to take up a new position. This was
by the side of the road, and a short distance from the big gate,
which opened into the lane leading to the negro quarters. There Dan
lay for almost four hours, stretched out behind a log, with the hound
by his side. He saw several negroes pass in and out of the gate, and,
although some of them walked by within ten feet of him, no one saw
him, and the well-trained hound never betrayed his presence by so
much as a whimper.

Finally, to Dan's great relief, the lights in the General's house
were put out, then a door or two was slammed loudly in the quarters,
and after that all was still. Dan had grown tired of watching and
must have fallen asleep, for he knew nothing more until a low growl
from the hound aroused him. He was wide awake in an instant, and
having quieted the animal by placing his hand on his neck, he looked
all around to see what it was that had disturbed him. He heard
footsteps in the field on the opposite side of the road, and
presently two figures appeared and clambered over the fence. They
crossed to the gate, which they opened and closed very carefully and
went down the lane.

"Them's our fellers, Bose," whispered Dan, who was highly excited.
"They've got bags slung over their shoulders, an' they think they're
goin' to play smash stealin' them birds of our'n; but me and you will
see how many they'll get, won't we?"

As soon as Bob and Lester were out of hearing Dan arose, and holding
the hound firmly by the neck with one hand he opened the gate with
the other, and moved noiselessly down the lane toward the quarters.
His plan was to make sure that Bob and his friend had come there to
force an entrance into the cabin in which the quails were confined,
and if he found that that was their object, he would make a pretence
of setting Bose upon them. He did not intend to do so in reality, for
he knew the dog too well. The animal always did serious work when
he began to use his teeth, and Dan didn't want either of the young
thieves killed or maimed. He knew that if he could excite the hound
and induce him to give tongue, the rest of the pack would be on the
ground in two minutes' time; and as they were all young dogs (Carlo
was shut up in the barn every night to do guard duty there), they
would not be likely to take hold of the boys, if left to themselves.
They would not permit them to escape, either. They would surround
them and keep them there until morning, and that was what Dan wanted.
He could not afford to watch the cabin every night, and he thought it
would be a good plan to give Bob and his friend a lesson they would
not forget.

That the prowlers had come there to force an entrance into the cabin,
was quickly made plain to even Dan's dull comprehension. He saw them
try the door, and then go around to the other side of the building
and attempt to pry off the planks that covered the window. Dan heard
something crack as Bob laid out his strength on the lever he was
using, and believing that the thieves were on the point of
accomplishing their object, he uttered a loud whistle to let the rest
of the pack know that they were wanted, and shouted:

"Here they be! Take 'em, fellers! Take 'em down!"

Bose, who had been growing more and more impatient every moment, was
quite ready to obey. Uttering a loud yelp, which was almost
immediately answered by the rest of the pack, he raised himself upon
his hind legs, and struggled so furiously to escape that Dan was
obliged to drop his rifle and seize him with both hands. But when the
brute was thoroughly aroused, it was hard to restrain him. The thick,
loose skin on the back of his neck did not afford Dan a very good
hold, and almost before he knew it, Bose slipped from his grasp, and
bounded toward the cabin. At the same instant, a chorus of loud bays
sounding close at hand announced that the rest of the pack were
coming at the top of their speed. Bob and Lester had never before
been in so much danger as they were at that moment.

Dan, who began to fear that the plan he had adopted for protecting
the quails was about to result in a terrible tragedy, was very badly
frightened. He stood for a few seconds as if he had been deprived of
all power of action, and then caught up his rifle and took to his
heels. He ran as if the pack were after him instead of Bob and
Lester, and never slackened his pace until he was out of hearing of
their angry voices. He crept home like a thief and got into bed
without arousing either David or his mother. But he could not sleep.
He was haunted by the fear that something dreadful had happened down
there in the quarters, and that there would be a great uproar in the
settlement the next morning. He felt that he could never be himself
again until he knew the worst, so a little while before daylight he
put on his clothes, slipped quietly out of the cabin and bent his
steps toward the big gate near which he had been concealed the night
before. By the time he reached it there, was light enough for him to
distinguish objects at a considerable distance, and we can imagine
how greatly relieved he was when he discovered Bob and Lester perched
upon the ridge pole of the cabin. At first, he thought his eyes were
deceiving him, but a second look told him that there was no mistake
about it. He would have been glad to know if either of them had been
injured by the hounds before they got there, but that was something
he could not find out just then. They had not been torn in pieces, as
he feared, and that was a great comfort to him.

"They never had a closer shave, that thar is sartin," thought Dan, as
he turned about and trudged toward home. "I wonder what pap would say
if he knowed what a smart trick I played onto 'em! I wish I could go
an' tell him, but I am a'most afeared, kase he must be jest a bilin'
over with madness. He's lost the pinter--I reckon Dave must have
stole him, kase I don't see how else he could have got him--an' I
don't keer to go nigh him ag'in, till I kin kinder quiet his feelin's
by tellin' him some good news 'bout them hundred an' fifty dollars."

The events of this night were the last of any interest that
transpired in the settlement for more than two weeks. Affairs seemed
to take a turn for the better now, and the boy trapper and his two
friends were left to carry out their plans without any opposition.
Bob and Lester kept out of sight altogether; but they need not have
been so careful to do that, for the General was the only one who was
the wiser for what they had done, and he never said a word about it
to anybody. They could not even muster up energy enough to go out of
nights to rob David's traps; and perhaps it was just as well that
they did not attempt it, for they might have run against Dan Evans in
the dark. The latter spent very little time at home now. He was
sometimes absent for two days and nights, and David and his mother
did not know what to make of it. He had built a camp near the field
in which the traps were set, and there he lived by himself,
subsisting upon the squirrels and wild turkeys that fell to his
rifle.

Things went on smoothly for a week, and during this time David and
his friends were as busy as they could be. Quails were more abundant
than they had ever known them to be before. They seemed to flock into
the General's fields on purpose to be caught, and before many days
had passed, it became necessary to fit up another cabin for the
reception of the prisoners. In the meantime the General's timber and
nails were used up rapidly. The boys had the hardest part of their
work to do now, and that was to build a sufficient number of coops to
hold all the birds. Silas Jones said that the Emma Deane was expected
down every day, and Don declared that the birds must be shipped on
her when she came back from New Orleans, if it took every man and
woman on the plantation to get them ready. She came at last, and Don
was at the landing to meet her. He held a short interview with her
captain and Silas Jones, who was freight agent as well as express
agent and post-master, and when it was ended he jumped on his pony
and rode homeward as if his life depended upon the speed he made.
When he arrived within sight of the field where the traps were set,
he saw his brother and David coming in with another wagon load of
birds.

"How many this morning?" asked Don.

"We have enough now to make fifty-five dozen altogether," replied
Bert.

"Hurrah for our side!" cried Don. "We'll ship them all. Some may die
on the way, you know, and that man must have the number he advertised
for. Captain Morgan will stop and get the birds when he comes back.
He will see them shipped on the railroad at Cairo, and all we have to
do is to be sure that the game is at the landing in time."

"Did he say how much it would cost to send them off?" asked David.

"No. He will put in his bill when he comes down again. He carries
freight by the hundred, you know. He will pay the railroad charges,
too, and add that to his own bill."

"But what shall I do if both bills amount to more than ten dollars?"
asked David, with some anxiety.

Don did not seem to hear the question, for he paid no attention to
it. The truth was he had arranged matters so that David would not be
required to use any of his ten dollars. Silas Jones was to foot all
the bills and pay himself out of David's money when it was forwarded
to him by the agent at S----, the place where the quails were going.
But Don couldn't stop to explain this just now. He told his brother
and David to make haste and put the quails into the cabin; and when
that was done and they came into the shop, he set them at work on the
coops. There was much yet to be done, but they had ample time to do
it in, with more than a day to spare. When the next Wednesday night
arrived fifty-five dozen quails, boxed and marked ready for shipment,
were at the landing, waiting to begin the journey to their new home
in the North, and Don carried in his pocket a letter addressed to the
advertiser, which Captain Morgan was to mail at Cairo.

The boys camped at the landing that night to keep guard over their
property. They pitched a little tent on the bank, built a roaring
fire in front of it, and in company with Fred and Joe Packard, who
came down to stay with them, passed the hours very pleasantly. The
Emma Deane came up the next afternoon, and when the freight had been
carried aboard and she backed out into the stream again, David drew
a long breath, expressive of the deepest satisfaction. His task was
done, and he hoped in a few days more to reap the reward of his
labor.

The boys felt like resting now. They had worked long and faithfully,
and they were all relieved to know that their time was their own. Don
and Bert paid daily visits to their bear trap, hunted wild turkeys
and drove the ridges for deer, while David stayed at home and made
himself useful there, until he began to think it time to hear from
somebody, and then he took to hanging about the post-office as
persistently as ever his father had done. Finally, his anxiety was
relieved by the arrival of the first letter that had ever been
addressed to himself. He tore it open with eager hands, and read
that the quails had been received in good order, and that the money,
amounting to one hundred and ninety-two dollars and fifty cents, had
been paid over to the agent from whom they were received. David could
hardly believe it. The man had paid him for the extra five dozen
birds; he was to receive forty-two dollars more than he expected;
and there had been no freight charges deducted. David could not
understand that, and there was no one of whom he could ask an
explanation, for Don and Bert had gone over to Coldwater that
morning, and were not to be back for a week. He had a long talk with
his mother about it that night, and when he went to bed never closed
his eyes in slumber. Every succeeding day found him at the landing
waiting for his money, and so little did he know about business that
he could not imagine who was to give it to him.

At last the Emma Deane came down again. David stood around with the
rest and watched her while she was putting off her freight, and
having seen her back out into the stream, was about to start for
home, when Silas Jones came up and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Don't go away," said he. "I want to see you." David waited an hour
before Silas was ready to tell him what he wanted of him. By that
time the most of the hangers-on had dispersed; and when the last
customer finished his trading, Silas stepped behind his desk and
opened his safe.

"There it is," said he, slapping a package of greenbacks on the desk
and then holding it up to David's view. "How do you like the looks of
it?"

David's eyes opened to their widest extent. He had never seen so
large a package of money before. He looked hastily about the store to
see if Dan was anywhere in sight, and was greatly relieved to find
that he was not. There were three, or four men standing by, and they
appeared to be enjoying David's astonishment.

"Is--is it mine, Mr. Jones?" he managed to ask.

"Some of it is, and some of it is mine. There are a hundred and
ninety-two dollars and a half here, and twenty-eight of it belongs to
me. Freight bills, you know. The coops you put those birds in were as
heavy as lead. If you had put less timber in them your expenses would
not have been so heavy."

"Don thought it best to have them strong, so that they would not be
broken in handling," said David.

"That was all right. Now let me see," added Silas, consulting his
books; "fifty-five dozen live quails at three fifty per dozen--one
ninety-two, fifty; less twenty-eight, leaves one sixty-four, fifty.
Just step around here and sign this receipt."

David obeyed like one in a dream. He put his name to the receipt,
and, scarcely knowing what he was about, thrust the package of money
which Silas handed him into his pocket and walked out of the store.

"There goes the proudest boy in the United States," said the grocer.

Yes, David was proud, but he was grateful, too. He was indebted to
Don and Bert for his good fortune, and he was sorry that he could do
nothing but thank them when they came home. He went straight to the
cabin, and to his great surprise and joy found his mother there. She
was alone in the house, but David, profiting by his past experience,
made a thorough examination of the premises before he said a word to
her. Having thus made sure that Dan was not about, he pulled out his
package of greenbacks and laid it in his mother's lap.

There was joy in the cabin that day. If David had never before
realized that it is worth while to keep trying, no matter how hard
one's luck may be, he realized it now. We will leave him in the full
enjoyment of his success, promising to bring him to the notice of the
reader again at no distant day, in the concluding volume of this
series, which will be entitled THE MAIL CARRIER.

THE END.





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