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Title: Through Forest and Fire - Wild-Woods Series No. 1
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Through Forest and Fire - Wild-Woods Series No. 1" ***

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[Illustration: Book Cover]



_WILD-WOODS SERIES--No. 1._

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: "Heavenly Father! please take care of me," prayed
Nellie.]


THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE


BY

EDWARD S. ELLIS,

AUTHOR OF "YOUNG PIONEER SERIES," "LOG CABIN
SERIES," "DEERFOOT SERIES," "WYOMING
SERIES," ETC., ETC.


[Illustration]


PHILADELPHIA:
PORTER & COATES.


COPYRIGHT, 1891,

BY

PORTER & COATES.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER                                       PAGE

    I.--NICK,                                    5

   II.--SCHOOL DAYS,                            14

  III.--A MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSION,              21

   IV.--LOST,                                   29

    V.--THE PARTY OF SEARCH,                    37

   VI.--GROPING IN DARKNESS,                    47

  VII.--AN ALARMING DISCOVERY,                  55

 VIII.--STARTLING FOOTPRINTS,                   63

   IX.--THE LITTLE WANDERER,                    69

    X.--IN GREAT DANGER,                        79

   XI.--"GOTT SEI DANK!"                        88

  XII.--OMINOUS PREPARATIONS,                   96

 XIII.--THE BEAR HUNTERS,                      103

  XIV.--A RECRUIT,                             113

   XV.--A SURPRISE,                            119

  XVI.--THE DINNER IN THE WOODS,               126

 XVII.--A TEST OF MARKSMANSHIP,                132

XVIII.--A QUAIL,                               139

  XIX.--AN UNEXPECTED LESSON,                  145

   XX.--BOWSER PROVES HIMSELF OF SOME USE,     152

  XXI.--FACE TO FACE,                          158

 XXII.--THE "VACANT CHAIR,"                    165

  XXIII.--HUNTING A BUCK,                      171

   XXIV.--HUNTED BY A BUCK,                    176

    XXV.--THE CAMP FIRE,                       183

   XXVI.--AN UNEXPECTED ATTACK,                190

  XXVII.--WAS IT A JOKE?                       196

 XXVIII.--THE TRAIL OF THE BEAR,               205

   XXIX.--"HELP! HELP!"                        209

    XXX.--A FRIEND IN NEED,                    216

   XXXI.--THE "DARK DAY" OF SEPTEMBER, 1881,   222

 XXXII.--THE BURNING FOREST,                   231

 XXXIII.--THROUGH THE FIRE,                    246

  XXXIV.--CALLING IN VAIN,                     248

   XXXV.--WHAT FRIGHTENED NELLIE,              257

  XXXVI.--AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER,              266

 XXXVII.--A BRAVE STRUGGLE,                    275

XXXVIII.--BEAR AND FORBEAR,                    283

  XXXIX.--CONCLUSION,                          292


THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE;

OR,

"God Helps Them that Help Themselves."



CHAPTER I.

NICK.


Nicholas Ribsam was a comical fellow from his earliest babyhood, and had
an original way of doing almost everything he undertook.

When he became big enough to sit on the porch of the humble little home,
where he was born, and stare with his great round eyes at the world as
it went by, that world, whether on horseback, in carriage, or on foot,
was sure to smile at the funny-looking baby.

Nick, although born in western Pennsylvania, was as thoroughly Dutch as
if he had first opened his eyes on the banks of the Zuyder Zee, in the
lowlands of Holland. His parents had come from that part of the world
which has produced so many fine scholars and done so much for science
and literature. They talked the language of the Fatherland, although
they occasionally ventured on very broken English for the instruction of
the boy and girl which heaven had given them.

When Nick was a year old, he seemed as broad as he was long, and his
round, red cheeks, big, honest eyes, and scanty hair, which stood out in
every direction, always brought a smile to whomsoever looked at him.

"That's the Dutchest baby I ever saw!" exclaimed a young man, who, as he
threw back his head and laughed, expressed the opinion of about every
one that stopped to admire the youngster.

When we add that Nick was remarkably good natured, his popularity will
be understood. Days and weeks passed without so much as a whimper being
heard from him. If his mother forgot she was the owner of such a prize,
and allowed him to remain on the porch until he was chilled through or
half famished, she was pretty sure to find him smiling, when she
suddenly awakened to her duties respecting the little fellow.

Several times he tipped over and rolled off the porch, bumping his head
against the stones. A hoarse cry instantly made known the calamity but
by the time he was snatched up (often head downward) his face was
illumined again by his enormous grin, even though the big teardrops
stood on his cheeks.

When he grew so as to be able to stand with the help of something which
he could grasp, a board about a foot and a half high was placed across
the lower part of the open door to prevent him getting outside.

The first day fat little Nick was confronted with this obstruction he
fell over it, out upon the porch. How he managed to do such a wonderful
thing puzzled father and mother, who half believed some person or animal
must have "boosted" him over; but, as there was no other person in sight
and they did not own a dog, the explanation was not satisfactory.

True, they had a big Maltese cat, but he was hardly strong enough, even
if he had the disposition, to hoist a plump baby over such a gate, out
of pure mischief.

But the most remarkable thing took place the next week, when Nick not
only fell out of the door and over the obstruction, but a few minutes
later fell in again. In fact, it looked as if from that time forward
Nick Ribsam's position was inverted almost as often as it was upright.

"There's one thing I want my little boy to learn," said the father, as
he took him on his knee and talked in the language of his Fatherland
"and that is, 'God helps them that help themselves.' Don't ever forget
it!"

"Yaw, I ish not forgots him," replied the youngster, staring in the
broad face of his parent, and essaying to make use of the little English
he had picked up.

The good father and mother acted on this principle from the beginning.
When Nick lost his balance he was left to help himself up again; when he
went bumping all the way down the front steps, halting a moment on each
one, his father complacently smoked his long pipe and waited to see how
the boy was going to get back, while the mother did not think it worth
while to leave her household duties to look at the misfortunes of the
lad.

"God helps them that help themselves."

There is a great deal in this expression, and the father of Master
Nicholas Ribsam seemed to take in the whole far-reaching truth. "You
must do everything you possibly can," he said, many a time; "you must
use your teeth, your hands, and your feet to hang on; you must never let
go; you must hammer away; you must always keep your powder dry; you must
fight to the last breath, and all the time ask God to help you pull
through, and _He'll do it!_"

This was the creed of Gustav Ribsam and his wife, and it was the creed
which the children drew in with their breath, as may be said; it was
such a grand faith that caused Nick to develop into a sturdy,
self-reliant, brave lad, who expected to take his own part in the battle
of life without asking odds from any one.

The parents of our hero and heroine proved their faith by their works.
By hard, honest toil and economy, they had laid up a competence which
was regularly invested each year, and of which the children were not
allowed to know anything, lest it might make them lazy and unambitious.

The little house and fifty acres were paid for, and the property was
more than sufficient to meet the wants of the family, even after the
youngsters became large enough to go to school.

The morning on which young Nick Ribsam started for the country school, a
half mile away, was one which he can never forget. He was six years old,
and had picked up enough of the English language to make himself
understood, though his accent was of that nature that it was sure to
excite ridicule on the part of the thoughtless.

As Nick had a large head, he wore of necessity a large cap, with a long
frontispiece and with a button on the top. His coat was what is called a
"roundabout," scarcely reaching to his waist, but it abounded with
pockets, as did the vest which it partly inclosed. His trousers were
coarse, thick, and comfortable, and his large boots were never touched
by blacking, Nick's father having no belief in such nonsense, but
sticking to tallow all the time.

Nick carried a spelling book and slate under his arm, and, as he started
off, any one looking at him would have been struck by his bright eyes,
ruddy cheeks, and generally clean appearance. As he was so very good
natured, he was certain to become quite an acquisition to the school.

There are no more cruel, or perhaps thoughtless people in the world than
a number of school-boys, under certain conditions. The peculiar dress
and the broken language of little Nick excited laughter at once, and
this soon turned into ridicule.

Nick was beset continually at recess and at noon by the boys, who
immediately christened him "Dutchy." He laughed and did not seem to mind
it, for his philosophy was that no words applied to him could injure
him, and so long as the boys kept their hands off he did not care.

Among the pupils was Herbert Watrous, a spruce young gentleman from the
city, who dressed better than the others, and who threw out hints about
the sparring lessons he had taken at home, and his wish that he might
soon have a chance to show his playmates how easily he could vanquish an
opponent, much larger than himself, by reason of his "science."

He was fully four years older than Nick, and much taller--a fact which
Herbert regretted as the Pennsylvania Hollander was too insignificant
for him to pick a quarrel with.

But that was no reason, as he looked at his privileges in this life, why
he should not play the tyrant and bully over the honest little fellow
and he proceeded at once to make life unbearable to Nicholas.

He began the cry of "Dutchy," and, finding that it did not disturb the
serenity of the lad, he resorted to more active measures on the way home
from school.

He began by knocking off his hat, and when Nick looked at him in a
surprised way and asked why he did it, the city youth assumed a
pugilistic attitude and answered, "Greens; what are you going to do
about it, Dutchy?"

"Be careful of him," whispered one of the boys, who felt some sympathy
for Nick in his persecutions; "he's _science_."

"I don't care vat he ain't," replied Nick, beginning to lose his temper;
"if he don't lets me be, he'll got into trouble."

Just then Nick started to overtake a lad, who tapped him on the back and
invited him to play a game of tag. As he passed close to Herbert, that
boy threw out his foot and Nick went sprawling headlong, his book and
slate flying from under his arm, while his cap shot a dozen-feet in
another direction.

The other boys broke into laughter, while several of the girls cried out
that it was a shame.

Nick picked himself up, and putting on his cap, turned about to ask
Herbert what he meant by such cruelty, when he was confronted by the
bully, who had thrown himself into his fancy pugilistic posture, and
with one eye shut and his tongue thrust out, said:

"What are you going to do about it, Dutchy?"

"I'll show you vot I do!"



CHAPTER II.

SCHOOL DAYS.


Nicholas Ribsam proceeded to show Master Herbert Watrous what he meant
to do about it.

Paying no heed to the formidable attitude of the city youth, Nick rushed
straight upon him, and embracing him about the waist so as to pinion his
arms, he threw him flat upon the ground with great emphasis. Then, while
Herbert lay on his face, vainly struggling to rise, Nick sat down
heavily on his back. Although he could have used his fists with great
effect, Nick declined to do so; but, rising some six or eight inches, he
sat down on him again, and then repeated the performance very fast,
bounding up and down as a man is sometimes seen to do when a horse is
trotting; descending each time on the back of Herbert with such vigor
that the breath was almost forced from his body.

"Let me up!" shouted the victim, in a jerky, spasmodic manner, as the
words were helped out; "that ain't the right way to fight: that isn't
fair."

"It suits me better as nefer vas," replied the grinning Nick, banging
himself down on the back of the struggling Herbert, until the latter
began to cry and ask the boys to pull Nick off.

No one interfered, however, and when the conqueror thought he had
flattened out the city youth to that extent that he would never acquire
any plumpness again, he rose from his seat and allowed Herbert to climb
upon his feet.

Never was a boy more completely cowed than was this vaunting youth, on
whom all the others had looked with such admiration and awe. He meekly
picked up his hat, brushed off the dirt, and looking reproachfully at
Nick said:

"Do you know you broke two of my ribs?"

"I dinks I brokes dem _all_: dat's what I meant to do; I will try him
agin."

"No, you won't!" exclaimed Herbert, darting off in a run too rapid for
the short legs of Nick to equal.

Nick Ribsam had conquered a peace, and from that time forth he suffered
no persecution at school. Master Herbert soon after went back to his
city home, wondering how it was that a small, dumpy lad, four years
younger than he, was able to vanquish him so completely when all the
science was on the side of the elder youth.

Young as was Nick Ribsam, there was not a boy in the school who dared
attempt to play the bully over him. The display he had given of his
prowess won the respect of all.

Besides this he proved to be an unusually bright scholar. He dropped his
faulty accent with astonishing rapidity, and gained knowledge with great
facility. His teacher liked him, as did all the boys and girls, and when
he was occasionally absent he was missed more than half a dozen other
lads would have been.

The next year Nick brought his sister Nellie to school. He came down the
road, holding her fat little hand in his, while her bright eyes peered
out from under her plain but odd-looking hat in a timid way, which
showed at the same time how great her confidence was in her big brother.

Nellie looked as much like Nick as a sister can look like a brother.
There were the same ruddy cheeks, bright eyes, sturdy health, and
cleanly appearance. Her gingham pantalettes came a little nearer the
tops of her shoes, perhaps than was necessary, but the dress, with the
waist directly under the arms, would have been considered in the height
of fashion in late years.

One daring lad ventured to laugh at Nellie, and ask her whether she had
on her father's or mother's shoes, but when Nick heard of it he told the
boy that he would "sit down" on any one that said anything wrong to
Nellie. Nothing of the kind was ever hinted to the girl again. No one
wished to be "sat down" on by the Pennsylvania Hollander who banged the
breath so utterly from the body of the city youth who had aroused his
wrath.

The common sense, sturdy frame, sound health, and mental strength of the
parents were inherited in as marked a degree by the daughter Nellie as
by Nick. She showed a quickness of perception greater than that of her
brother; but, as is generally the case, the boy was more profound and
far-reaching in his thoughts.

After Nick had done his chores in the evening and Nellie was through
helping her mother, Gustav, the father, was accustomed to light his
long-handled pipe, and, as he slowly puffed it while sitting in his
chair by the hearth, he looked across to his boy, who sat with his slate
and pencil in hand, preparing for the morrow. Carefully watching the
studious lad for a few minutes, he generally asked a series of
questions:

"Nicholas, did you knowed your lessons to-day?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you know efery one dot you knowed?"

"Yes, sir,--every one," answered Nick respectfully, with a quiet smile
over his father's odd questions and sentences. The old gentleman could
never correct or improve his accent, while Nick, at the age of ten,
spoke so accurately that his looks were all that showed he was the child
of German parents.

"Did nopody gif you helps on der lessons?"

"Nobody at all."

"Dot is right; did you help anypodies?"

"Yes, sir,--three or four of the girls and some of the boys asked me to
give them a lift--"

"Gif dem _vat_?"

"A lift--that is, I helped them."

"Dot ish all right, but don't let me hears dot nopody vos efer helping
_you_; if I does--"

And taking his pipe from his mouth, Mr. Ribsam shook his head in a way
which threatened dreadful things.

Then the old gentleman would continue smoking a while longer, and more
than likely, just as Nick was in the midst of some intricate problem, he
would suddenly pronounce his name. The boy would look up instantly, all
attention.

"Hef you been into any fights mit nopodies to-day?"

"I have not, sir; I have not had any trouble like that for a long
while."

"Dot is right--dot is right; but, Nick, if you does get into such bad
tings as fightin', don't ax nopodies to help you; _takes care mit
yorself!_"

The lad modestly answered that he did not remember when he had failed to
take care of himself under such circumstances, and the father resumed
his pipe and brown study.

The honest German may not have been right in every point of his creed,
but in the main he was correct, his purpose being to implant in his
children a sturdy self-reliance. They could not hope to get along at all
times without leaning upon others, but that boy who never forgets that
God has given him a mind, a body, certain faculties and infinite powers,
with the intention that he should cultivate and use them to the highest
point, is the one who is sure to win in the great battle of life.

Then, too, every person is liable to be overtaken by some great
emergency which calls out all the capacities of his nature, and it is
then that false teaching and training prove fatal, while he who has
learned to develop the divine capacities within him comes off more than
conqueror.



CHAPTER III.

A MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSION.


The elder Ribsam took several puffs from his pipe, his eyes fixed
dreamily on the fire, as though in deep meditation. His wife sat in her
chair on the other side, and was busy with her knitting, while perhaps
her thoughts were wandering away to that loved Fatherland which she had
left so many years before, never to see again. Nellie had grown sleepy
and gone to bed.

Mr. Ribsam turned his head and looked at Nick. The boy was seated close
to the lamp on the table, and the scratching of his pencil on his slate
and his glances at the slip of paper lying on the stand, with the
problems written upon it, told plainly enough what occupied his
thoughts.

"Nicholas," said the father.

"Just one minute, please," replied the lad, glancing hastily up: "I am
on the last of the problems that Mr. Layton gave us for this week, and
I have it almost finished."

The protest of the boy was so respectful that the father resumed his
smoking and waited until Nick laid his slate on the table and wheeled
his chair around.

"There, father, I am through."

"Read owed loud dot sum von you shoost don't do."

"Mr. Layton gave a dozen original problems as he called them, to our
class to-day, and we have a week in which to solve them. I like that
kind of work, and so I kept at it this evening until I finished them
all."

"You vos sure dot you ain't right, Nicholas, eh?"

"I have proved every one of them. Oh, you asked me to read the last one!
When Mr. Layton read that we all laughed because it was so simple, but
when you come to study it it isn't so simple as you would think. It is
this: If New York has fifty per cent. more population than Philadelphia,
what per cent. has Philadelphia less than New York?"

Mr. Ribsam's shoulders went up and down, and he shook like a bowl of
jelly. He seemed to be overcome by the simplicity of the problem over
which his son had been racking his brains.

"Dot makes me laughs. Yaw, yaw, yaw!"

"If you will sit down and figure on it you won't laugh quite so hard,"
said Nick, amused by the jollity of his father, which brought a smile to
his mother; "what is your answer?"

"If I hafs feefty tollar more don you hafs, how mooch less tollar don't
you hafs don I hafs? Yaw, yaw, yaw!"

"_That_ is plain enough," said Nick sturdily "but if you mean to say
that the answer to the problem I gave you is fifty per cent., you are
wrong."

"Oxplains how dot ain't," said Mr. Ribsam, suddenly becoming serious.

The mother was also interested, and looked smilingly toward her bright
son. Like every mother, her sympathies went out to him. When Nick told
his father that he was in error, the mother felt a thrill of delight;
she wanted Nick to get the better of her husband, much as she loved
both, and you and I can't blame her.

Nick leaned back in his chair, shoved his hands into his pockets, and
looked smilingly at his father and his pipe as he said:

"Suppose, to illustrate, that Philadelphia has just one hundred people.
Then, if New York has fifty per cent. more, it must have one hundred and
fifty people as its population; that is correct, is it not, father?"

Mr. Ribsam took another puff or two, as if to make sure that his boy was
not leading him into a trap, and then he solemnly nodded his head.

"Dot ish so,--dot am,--yaw."

"Then if Philadelphia has one hundred people for its population, New
York has one hundred and fifty?"

"Yaw, and Pheelatelphy has feefty per cent. less--yaw, yaw, yaw!"

"Hold on, father,--not so fast. I'm teacher just now, and you mustn't
run ahead of me. If you will notice in this problem the per cent. in the
first part is based on Philadelphia's population, while in the second
part it is based on the population of New York, and since the
population of the two cities is different, the per cent. cannot be the
same."

"How dot is?" asked Mr. Ribsam, showing eager interest in the reasoning
of the boy.

"We have agreed, to begin with, that the population of Philadelphia is
one hundred and of New York one hundred and fifty. Now, how many people
will have to be subtracted from New York's population to make it the
same as Philadelphia?"

"Feefty,--vot I says."

"And fifty is what part of one hundred and fifty,--that is, what part of
the population of New York?"

"It vos one thirds."

"And one third of anything is thirty-three and one third per cent. of
it, which is the correct answer to the problem."

Mr. Ribsam held his pipe suspended in one hand while he stared with open
mouth into the smiling face of his son, as though he did not quite grasp
his reasoning.

"Vot you don't laughs at?" he said, turning sharply toward his wife, who
had resumed her knitting and was dropping many a stitch because of the
mirth, which shook her as vigorously as it stirred her husband a few
minutes before.

"I laughs ven some folks dinks dey ain't shmarter don dey vosn't all te
vile, don't it?"

And stopping her knitting she threw back her head and laughed
unrestrainedly. Her husband hastily shoved the stem of his pipe between
his lips, sunk lower down in the chair, and smoked so hard that his head
soon became almost invisible in the vapor.

By-and-by he roused himself and asked Nick to begin with the first
problem and reason out the result he obtained with each one in turn.

Nick did so, and on the last but one his parent tripped him. A few
pointed questions showed the boy that he was wrong. Then the hearty
"Yaw, yaw, yaw!" of the father rang out, and looking at the solemn
visage of his wife, he asked:

"Vy you don't laughs now, eh? Yaw, yaw, yaw!"

The wife meekly answered that she did not see anything to cause mirth,
though Nick proved that he did.

Not only that, but the son became satisfied from the quickness with
which his father detected his error, and the keen reasoning he gave,
that he purposely went wrong on the first problem read to him with the
object of testing the youngster.

Finally, he asked him whether such was not the case. Many persons in the
place of Mr. Ribsam would have been tempted to fib, because almost every
one will admit any charge sooner than that of ignorance; but the
Dutchman considered lying one of the meanest vices of which a man can be
guilty. Like all of his countrymen, he had received a good school
education at home, besides which his mind possessed a natural
mathematical bent. He said he caught the answer to the question the
minute it was asked him, and, although Mr. Layton may not have seen it
before, Mr. Ribsam had met and conquered similar ones when he was a boy.

While he persistently refused to show Nick how to solve some of the
intricate problems brought home, yet when the son, after hours of
labor, was still all abroad, his father would ask him a question or two
so skillfully framed that the bright boy was quick to detect their
bearing on the subject over which he was puzzling his brain. The
parent's query was like the lantern's flash which shows the ladder for
which a man is groping.

The task of the evening being finished, Mr. Ribsam tested his boy with a
number of problems that were new to him. Most of them were in the nature
of puzzles, with a "catch" hidden somewhere. Nick could not give the
right answer in every instance, but he did so in a majority of cases; so
often, indeed, that his father did a rare thing,--he complimented his
skill and ability.



CHAPTER IV.

LOST.


It was two miles from the home of Mr. Ribsam to the little stone
school-house where his children were receiving their education. A short
distance from the dwelling a branch road turned off to the left, which,
being followed nine miles or so, mostly through woods, brought one to
the little country town of Dunbarton.

Between the home of Gustav Ribsam and the school-house were only two
dwellings. The first, on the left, belonged to Mr. Marston, whose land
adjoined that of the Hollander, while the second was beyond the fork of
the roads and was owned by Mr. Kilgore, who lived a long distance back
from the highway.

Nick Ribsam, as he grew in years and strength, became more valuable to
his father, who found it necessary, now and then, to keep him home from
school. This, however, did not happen frequently, for the parents were
anxious that their children should receive a good school education, and
Nick's readiness enabled him to recover, very quickly, the ground thus
lost.

There was not so much need of Nellie, and, when at the age of six she
began her attendance, she rarely missed a day. If it was stormy she was
bundled up warmly, and, occasionally, she was taken in the carriage when
the weather was too severe for walking.

The summer was gone when Nick helped harness the roan mare to the
carriage, and, driving down to the forks, let Nellie out, and kept on
toward Dunbarton, while the little girl continued ahead in the direction
of the school-house.

"I've got to stay there so long," said Nick, in bidding his sister
good-by, "that I won't be here much before four o'clock, so I will look
out for you and you can look out for me and I'll take you home."

Nellie said she would not forget, and walked cheerfully up the road,
singing a school song to herself.

The little girl, when early enough, stopped at the house of Mr.
Marston, whose girl Lizzie attended school. This morning, however, when
Nick called from the road, he was told that Lizzie had been gone some
time, so he drove on without her.

The dwelling of Mr. Kilgore stood so far back that Nellie never could
spare the time to walk up the long lane and back again, but she
contented herself with peering up the tree-lined avenue in quest of
Sallie and Bobby Kilgore.

However, they were also invisible, and so it was that Nellie made the
rest of the journey alone.

The distance being so considerable, Nellie and Nick always carried their
dinners with them, so that, after their departure in the morning, the
parents did not expect to see them again until between four and five in
the afternoon.

The roan mare was young and spirited, but not vicious, and the boy had
no trouble in controlling her.

When half way through the stretch of woods they crossed a bridge, whose
planks rattled so loudly under the wheels and hoofs that the animal
showed a disposition to rear and plunge over the narrow railing at the
side.

But the boy used his whip so vigorously that he quickly tamed the beast,
which was not slow to understand that her master was holding the reins.

When Nick was on such journeys as these, he generally carried his
father's watch, so as to "make his connections" better. The timepiece
was of great size and thickness, having been made somewhere in England a
good many years before. It ticked so loudly that it sounded like a
cricket, and would have betrayed any person in an ordinary sized room,
when there was no unusual noise. Nick's own handsome watch was too
valuable for him to carry.

The former was so heavy that it seemed to Nick, when walking with it,
that he went in a one-sided fashion. However, the lad was quite proud of
it, and perhaps took it out oftener than was necessary, especially when
he saw the eyes of others upon him.

Nick was kept in Dunbarton so long by the many errands he had to
perform, that he was fully an hour late in starting. The mare was
spirited enough to make up this time, if urged, but there was no need of
doing so, and the boy knew his father would prefer him not to push the
animal when no urgency existed.

Thus it came about that when Nick re-entered the main highway that
afternoon, and looked in the direction of the school-house, he saw
nothing of Nellie, nor indeed of any one coming from the school.

"She has gone home long ago," was his conclusion, as he allowed the mare
to drop into a brisk trot, which speedily took him to his house.

When Nick had put away the horse and rendered up his account of the
errands done, he was surprised to learn that Nellie had not yet
appeared.

"I cannot understand what keeps her," said the father, in his native
tongue; "she was never so late before."

It was plain from the mother's face and manner that she also was
anxious, for she frequently went to the gate, and, shading her eyes,
looked long and anxiously down the road, hoping that the figure of the
little girl would come to view, with some explanation of the cause for
her delay.

But the sun was low in the west, and its slanting rays brought to light
the figure of no child hurrying homeward. The single object that was
mistaken for the loved one proved to be a man on horseback, who turned
off at the forks and vanished.

"Nick, go look for your sister," said his mother, as she came back from
one of these visits to the gate; "something has happened."

The boy was glad of the order, for he was on the point of asking
permission to hunt for Nellie.

"I'll stay till I find out something," said Nick, as he donned his hat
and took a general look over himself to see that he was in shape, "so
don't worry about _me_."

"But you ought not to be gone so long," said the father, whose anxious
face showed that he was debating whether he should not join his boy in
the search, "for it won't take long to find out where Nellie is."

"I think she has been taken sick and has stopped with some of the
neighbors," ventured the mother, "but it is strange they do not send me
word."

And it was the very fact that such word was not sent that prevented the
husband and son from believing in the theory of the distressed mother.

But Nick did not let the grass grow under his feet. His worriment was as
great as that of his parents, and as soon as he was in the road he broke
into a trot, which he kept up until beyond sight, both father and mother
standing at the gate and watching him until he faded from view in the
gathering twilight.

The point where he disappeared was beyond the house of Mr. Marston, so
it was safe to conclude he had learned nothing of his sister there,
where he was seen to halt.

There is nothing more wearisome than waiting in such suspense as came to
the hearts of the father and mother, while they sat watching and
listening for the sound of the childish footsteps and voices whose music
would have been the sweetest on earth to them.

The supper on the table remained untasted, and the only sounds heard
were the solemn ticking of the old clock, the soft rustling of the
kettle on the stove, and now and then a long drawn sigh from father or
mother, as one strove to utter a comforting word to the other.

All at once the gate was opened and shut hastily. Then a hurried step
sounded along the short walk and upon the porch.

"There they are! there they are!" exclaimed the mother, starting to her
feet, as did the father.

Almost on the same instant the door was thrown open, and, panting and
excited, Nick Ribsam entered.

But he was alone, and the expression of his face showed that he had
brought bad news.



CHAPTER V.

THE PARTY OF SEARCH.


When Nick Ribsam set out to find his missing sister Nellie, he made the
search as thorough as possible.

The first house at which he stopped was that of Mr. Marston, which, it
will be remembered, was only a short distance away from his own home.
There, to his disappointment, he learned that their little girl had not
been at school that day, and consequently they could tell him nothing.

Without waiting longer than to give a few words of explanation he
resumed his trot, and soon after turned into the lane leading to the
home of Mr. Kilgore. He found that both Bobby and Sallie had been to
school, but they had nothing to tell. When we are more than usually
anxious to learn something, it seems that every one whom we meet is
stupid beyond endurance. If we are in a strange place and apply for
information, the ignorance of nearly every person is exasperating.

Bobby and Sallie remembered seeing Nellie in school during the forenoon
and afternoon, but, while the boy insisted that she came along the road
with them after dismissal, Sallie was just as positive that the missing
girl was not with them.

The party of school children which usually went over the highway was so
small in number that it is hard to understand how such a mistake could
be made, but the difference between Bobby and Sallie was irreconcilable.

"I _know_ she didn't come home with us," said Sallie, stamping her foot
to give emphasis to the words.

"And I _know_ she did," declared Bobby, equally emphatically, "for me
and her played tag."

"Why don't you say she and I played tag?" asked Nick, impatient with
both the children.

"'Cause it was me and her," insisted Bobby.

"What a dunce-head!" exclaimed his sister; "that was _last_ night when
you played tag, and you tumbled over into the ditch and bellered like
the big baby you are."

"I remember that he did that last night," said Nick, hoping to help the
two to settle the dispute.

"I know I done that last night, but this afternoon I done it too. I fall
into the ditch every night and beller; I do it on purpose to fool them
that are chasing me."

Nick found he could gain nothing; but he believed the sister was right
and the brother wrong, as afterward proved to be the case.

There were no more houses between his own home and the school building,
and Nick resumed his dog trot, never halting until he came in front of a
little whitewashed cottage just beyond the stone school-house.

The latter stood at the cross roads, and the cottage to the left was
where the teacher, Mr. Layton, an old bachelor, lived with his two
maiden sisters.

Mr. Layton, although strict to severity in the school-room, was a
kind-hearted man and was fond of the Ribsam children, for they were
bright, cheerful, and obedient, and never gave him any trouble, as did
some of his other pupils. He listened to Nick's story, and his sympathy
was aroused at once.

"I am very sorry," said he, "that your good father and mother, not to
mention yourself, should be so sorely troubled; but I hope this is not
serious. Nellie came to me about three o'clock and asked whether I would
let her go home."

"Was she sick?" asked the distressed brother.

"Not at all; but she said you had gone to Dunbarton in your carriage and
she wanted to meet you coming back. She knew her lessons perfectly, and
Nellie is such a good girl that I felt that I could not refuse so simple
a request. So I told her she could go. I saw her start homeward with her
lunch-basket in one hand and her two school-books in the other. She
stepped off so briskly and was in such cheerful spirits that I stood at
the window and watched her until she passed around the bend in the
road."

Nick felt his heart sink within him, for the words of the teacher had
let in a great deal of alarming truth upon him.

Nellie had reached the forks two hours ahead of him, and then, not
wishing to sit down and wait, she had started up the road in the
direction of Dunbarton to meet him. She must have entered the eight mile
stretch of woods from the south about the same time Nick himself drove
into it on his return from Dunbarton.

The two should have met near Shark Creek, but neither had seen the
other. Nick, as a matter of course, had kept to the road, but what had
become of Nellie?

This was the question the lad put to himself, and which caused him to
feel so faint that he sank down in a chair unable to speak for a minute
or two. Then, when he tried to do so, he had to stop, and was kept busy
swallowing the lump that would rise in his throat, until finally the
tears suddenly appeared, and, putting his hands to his eyes, he gave way
to his grief.

"There, there," said Mr. Layton soothingly, "don't cry, Nick, for it
will do no good. Nellie has strayed off in the woods to gather flowers
or perhaps wild grapes and has missed her way."

"She--is--lost--poor--Nellie!" said the lad as best he could between his
sobs; "we'll never see her again."

"Oh, it isn't as bad as that! I suppose she has grown weary, and,
sitting down to rest, has fallen asleep."

If the good teacher meant this to soothe the lad, it had the contrary
effect, for the picture of his little sister wandering alone in the
woods was one of the most dreadful that could be imagined, and it took
all the manhood of his nature to keep from breaking down again.

While the interview was under way, Mr. Layton was busy changing his
slippers for his boots, his wrapper for his coat, and his hat was donned
just as he spoke the last words.

His sympathy did not expend itself in talk, but the instant he saw what
the trouble was he was eager to do all he could to help his suffering
friends. He even reproached himself for having given Nellie permission
to meet her brother, though no matter what harm may have befallen her,
no one could blame her instructor therefor.

"We must hunt for her," said Mr. Layton, when he was ready to go out; "I
will tell my sisters they need not be alarmed over my absence, and I
guess I will take the lantern with me."

Nick passed out to the front gate, where he waited a minute for the
teacher, until he should speak with his friends and get the lantern
ready. When he came forth, the boy felt much like the patient who sees
the surgeon take out his instruments and try their edge to make sure
they are in condition before using upon him.

The sight of the lantern in the hand of Mr. Layton gave such emphasis to
the danger that it caused another quick throb of Nick's heart, but he
forced it down as the two started back over the road, toward the
school-house.

"There is no need of lighting the lantern until we get to the woods,"
said the teacher, "for we don't need it, and I hope we won't need it
after we reach the forest. Poor Nellie! she will feel dreadfully
frightened, when she wakes up in the dark forest."

He regretted the words, for the two or three sobs that escaped the
brother, before he could master himself, showed that his heart was
swelled nigh to bursting.

The night was mild and pleasant, although a little too chilly for any
one to sleep out of doors. The moon was gibbous, and only a few white,
feathery clouds now and then drifted across its face. Where there was no
shadow, one could see for a hundred yards or so with considerable
distinctness--that is, enough to recognize the figure of a man in
motion.

Opposite the lane leading to the house of Mr. Kilgore, the teacher
stopped.

"I will go in and get him to join us," said Mr. Layton; "and you had
better hurry home for your father. On your way back, stop for Mr.
Marston; that will give us a pretty large party. If when you reach the
forks you do not find us there, don't wait, but hurry on toward
Dunbarton; you will meet us before you reach the bridge over Shark
Creek."

Nick did as told, and, still on a rapid trot, reached home panting and
excited, with the story which the reader has just learned.

Mr. Ribsam threw down his pipe, donned his hat and coat, and started out
the door. With his hand on the latch, he paused, and, looking back,
commanded his voice so as to say:

"Katrina, you and Nick needn't wait up for me."

"Oh, father," pleaded the lad, moving toward him: "would you make me
stay at home when Nellie is lost?"

"No, no--I did not think," answered the parent, in a confused way; "I
feel so bad I do not know what I do and say. Katrina, don't feel too
bad; we will come back as soon as we can."

Again the half distracted father placed his hand on the latch, and he
had drawn the door partly open, when his wife, pale and trembling,
called out in a voice of touching pathos:

"Gustav, my heart would break should I try to stay here, when no one but
God knows where my darling Nellie is; but, wherever she may be, no
sorrow or pain or suffering can come to her that her mother will not
share, and may our Heavenly Father let her mother take it all upon her
own shoulders!"

"Come on, Katrina; come on and bring the lantern with you."



CHAPTER VI.

GROPING IN DARKNESS.


When the parents and brother of Nellie Ribsam reached the forks a few
minutes later, they saw nothing of the three parties whom they expected
to meet there.

"They have gone on to the woods to look for Nellie," said the father.

"They cannot be far off," suggested Nick, turning to the left.

All were too anxious to lose a minute, and they started after their
friends on a rapid walk, Nick taking the lead, and now and then dropping
into a loping trot, which he would have increased had he been alone.

A chill seemed to settle over all as they reached the deep shadow of the
woods, which was one of the largest tracts of forest in that section of
the country.

The road which bisected them was fully eight miles in length, as has
already been stated, while the forest was much greater in extent in the
other direction.

Being of such large area, there were necessarily many portions which
rarely if ever were visited by hunters. Years before an occasional deer
had been shot, and a few of the old settlers told of the thrilling bear
hunts they had enjoyed when they were not so very much younger than now.

Those who were capable of judging were certain that if the gloomy depths
were explored these dreaded animals would be met; but if such were the
fact, the beasts were so few in number that no one gave them a thought.

It was now four miles to Shark Creek, and, by common consent, it was
agreed that the missing Nellie must be found, if found at all, before
reaching the stream.

As this creek was deep enough to drown any person who could not swim,
not to mention the large pond into which it emptied, every one of the
searchers felt a vague, awful dread that poor Nellie had fallen into the
water.

No one spoke of it, but the thought was there all the same.

Shortly after entering the wood, Nick called attention to two star-like
points of light twinkling ahead of them.

"They are the lanterns of Mr. Layton and Kilgore," said Nick, who
immediately added, "we forgot to stop and get Mr. Marston."

"That is too bad, but it isn't worth while to go back now," replied his
father, hardly slackening his gait.

As the lantern which Mrs. Ribsam had handed to her husband was lighted
before leaving home, the men in advance detected it immediately after
they were seen themselves, and the halloo of the teacher was answered by
Nick.

"Have you found anything of Nellie?" asked the mother, in broken
English, as soon as the parties came together.

"It could scarcely be expected," answered the instructor, in a kindly
voice; "we have just got here, and have only looked along the road. I
have little doubt that she is soundly sleeping somewhere not far off."

While all stood still, the father lifted up his voice, and in clear,
penetrating tones called the name of his missing child:

"Nellie!"

The ticking of the big watch in the pocket of Nick was plainly heard as
the little company awaited the answering call of the child.

But it came not, and three times more was the name of the missing girl
repeated by the father, who broke down completely the last time.

Nick now joined his thumb and finger against the end of his tongue, and
emitted a blast like that of a steam whistle. It resounded among the
trees, and then followed the same oppressive stillness as before.

It was useless to remain where they were any longer, and, without a
word, the five moved on. The three lamps were swung above their heads,
and they peered into the gloomy depths on the right and left.

Nick, as might have been expected, kept the advance, and his father
allowed him to carry the lantern. As the other lights were behind the
lad, the latter saw his huge shadow continually dancing in front and
taking all manner of grotesque shapes, while, if the others had looked
to the rear, they would have seen the same spectacle, as it affected
their own figures.

"Wait!" suddenly called out the father, who was now obliged to use his
broken English, "mebbe my Nellie she does hears me."

Thereupon he called to her as before, Nick ending the appeal with an
ear-splitting whistle, which must have been heard several miles on such
a still night.

Not the slightest result followed, and with heavy hearts the little
company moved on again.

"I think," said Mr. Layton, "that she has turned aside, where, possibly,
some faint path has caught her eye, and it may be that we may discover
the spot."

"Let's look here!"

It was the mother who spoke this time, and, as they turned toward her,
she was seen bending over the ground at the side of the highway, where
something had arrested her attention.

Instantly all the lanterns were clustered about the spot, and it was
seen that the eyes of affection had detected just such a place as that
named by the teacher. Persons who walked along the road were accustomed
to turn aside into the woods, and the five now did the same, moving
slowly, with the lanterns held close to the earth, and then swung aloft,
while all eyes were peering into the portions penetrated by the yellow
rays.

The path was followed some fifty yards, when, to the disappointment of
all, it came back to the road: it was one of those whimsical footways
often met in the country, the person who started it having left the
highway without any real reason for doing so.

Again the name of the missing Nellie was repeated, and again the woods
sent back nothing but the echo.

"Hark!"

It was the quick-eared Nick who spoke, just as the hum of conversation
began, and all listened.

As they did so the rattle of wheels was heard coming from the direction
of Dunbarton. The peculiar noise enabled the friends to recognize it as
made by a heavy, lumbering farmer's wagon. The team was proceeding on a
walk.

A few minutes later some one shouted:

"Halloo, there! what's the matter?"

The voice was recognized as that of Mr. Marston, whom they intended to
ask to join them.

Instantly a hope was aroused that he might be able to tell them
something of Nellie. Mr. Layton called back, saying they were friends,
and asking whether the farmer had seen anything of Nellie Ribsam.

At this Mr. Marston whipped up his horses, which were showing some fear
of the twinkling lanterns, and halted when opposite to the party of
searchers.

"My gracious! is she lost?" asked the good man, forgetting the anguish
of his friends in his own curiosity.

"Yes, she started up this road this afternoon toward Dunbarton to meet
her brother, who was returning, but, somehow or other, missed him, and
we are all anxious about her."

"My gracious alive! I should think you would be: it would drive my wife
and me crazy if our Lizzie should be lost in the woods."

"I suppose, from the way you talk," continued the teacher, "that you
have seen nothing of her?"

"No, I wish I had, for I tell you these woods are a bad place for a
little girl to get lost in. Last March, when we had an inch of snow on
the ground, I seen tracks that I knowed was made by a bear, and a mighty
big one, too, and--"

But just then a half-smothered moan from the mother warned the
thoughtless neighbor that he was giving anything but comfort to the
afflicted parents.

"I beg pardon," he hastened to say, in an awkward attempt to apologize;
"come to think, I am sure that it wasn't a bear, but some big dog; you
know a large dog makes tracks which can be mistook very easy for those
of a bear. I'll hurry on home and put up my team and git the lantern and
come back and help you."

And Mr. Marston, who meant well, whipped up his horses, and his wagon
rattled down the road as he hastened homeward.



CHAPTER VII.

AN ALARMING DISCOVERY.


By this time the searching party began to realize the difficulties in
the path of their success.

If, as was believed, or rather hoped, Nellie had fallen asleep in the
woods, they were liable to pass within a dozen feet of where she lay
without discovering the fact. Should they call to her, or should Nick
emit his resounding signal whistle, she might be awakened, provided only
such a brief space separated them, but the chances were scarcely one in
a thousand that they would be so fortunate.

This view, at the worst, was a favorable one, and behind it rose the
phantoms that caused all to shudder with a dread which they dared not
utter.

Only a short distance farther they came upon another path which diverged
from the side of the road, returning a little ways beyond. There, an
unusually careful search was made, and Nick almost split his cheeks in
his efforts to send his penetrating whistle throughout the surrounding
country. The three men also called out the name of Nellie in their
loudest tones, but nothing except the hollow echoes came back to them.

Nick examined the face of his father's watch by the light of the lantern
he carried, and saw that it lacked but a few minutes of nine. They had
been searching for the lost child, as this proved, for nearly two hours.

"It seems to me," said Mr. Layton, as the party came to a halt, "that we
are not likely to accomplish anything by hunting in this aimless
fashion."

"What better can we do?" asked Mr. Kilgore.

"Thus far we have been forced to confine ourselves to the road,
excepting when we diverge a few feet: this renders our work about the
same as if done by a single person. What I propose, therefore, is that
we separate."

"How will that help us?"

"It may not, but we shall cover three or four times the amount of space
(I judge Mrs. Ribsam would prefer to remain with her husband and son on
account of the single lantern), and it follows that some one of us must
pass closer to the spot where Nellie is lying."

This seemed a sensible suggestion, and the two men turned to the
afflicted father to learn what he thought of it.

He shook his head.

"Not yet,--not yet; we goes a leetle furder."

Nothing was added by way of explanation, and yet even little Nick knew
why he had protested: he wished that all might keep together until they
reached the creek. If nothing was learned of his child there, then he
would follow the plan of the teacher.

But something seemed to whisper to the parent that the place where they
would gain tidings of little Nellie was near that dark, flowing water,
which, like such streams, seemed to be always reaching out for some one
to strangle in its depths.

"Perhaps Mr. Ribsam is right," said the teacher, after a silence which
was oppressive even though brief; "we will keep each other's company,
for it is lonely work tramping through the woods, where there is no
beaten path to follow."

Thereupon the strange procession resumed its march toward the distant
town of Dunbarton, pausing at short intervals to call and signal to the
missing one.

It was a vast relief to all that the weather continued so mild and
pleasant. In the earlier part of the day there were some signs of an
approaching storm, but the signs had vanished and the night was one of
the most pleasant seen in September.

Had the rain begun to fall, or had the temperature lowered, the mother
would have been distracted, for nothing could have lessened the pangs
caused by her knowledge that her darling one was suffering. The true
mother lives for her children, and their joys and sorrows are hers.

Whenever the wind rustled among the branches around them she shuddered
and instinctively drew her own shawl closer about her shoulder; she
would have given a year's toil could she have wrapped the thick woolen
garment about the tiny form of her loved one, who never seemed so dear
to her as then.

"Gustav," she whispered, twitching his elbow, "I want to speak one word
to you."

"Speak out; they cannot understand us," he answered, alluding to the
fact that they were using their own language.

"Yes, but I don't want Nick to know what I say."

The husband thereupon fell back beside her, and in a tremulous voice she
said:

"Do you remember when Nellie was three years old?"

"Of course I remember further back than that: why do you ask?"

"When she had the fever and was getting well?"

"Yes, I cannot forget it; poor girl, her cheeks were so hot I could
almost light a match by them; but, thank God, she got over it."

"You remember, Gustav, how cross she was and how hard it was to please
her?"

"But that was because she was sick; when she was well, then she laughed
all the time, just like Nick when he don't feel bad."

"But--but," and there was an unmistakable tremor in the voice, "one day
when she was cross she asked for a drink of water; Nick was sitting in
the room and jumped up and brought it to her, but she was so out of
humor she shook her head and would not take it from him; she was
determined I should hand it to her. I thought she was unreasonable and I
told Nick to set it on the bureau, and I let Nellie know she shouldn't
have it unless she took it from him; I meant that I wouldn't hand it to
her and thereby humor her impatience. She cried, but she was too
stubborn to give in, and I refused to hand her the water. Nick felt so
bad he left the room, and I was sorry; but Nellie was getting well, and
I was resolved to be firm with her. She was very thirsty, for her fever
was a terrible one. I was tired and dropped into a doze. By-and-by I
heard Nellie's bare feet pattering on the floor, and softly opening my
eyes, without stirring I saw her walk hastily to the bureau, catch hold
of the tumbler and she drank every drop of water in it. She was so weak
and dizzy that she staggered back and threw herself on the bed like one
almost dead. The next day she was worse, and we thought we were going to
lose her. You saw how hard I cried, but most of my tears were caused by
the remembrance of my cruelty to her the night before."

"But, Katrina, you did right," said the father, who heard the affecting
incident for the first time. "It won't do to humor children so much: it
will spoil them."

"That may be, but I cannot help thinking of that all the time; it would
have done no harm to humor Nellie that time, for she was a good girl."

"You speak truth, but--"

The poor father, who tried so bravely to keep up, broke down and was
unable to speak. The story touched him as much as it did the mother.

"Never mind, Katrina--"

At that moment Nick called out:

"Here's the bridge!"

The structure loomed through the gloom as it was dimly lighted by the
lanterns, and all walked rapidly forward until they stood upon the rough
planking.

Suddenly the mother uttered a cry, and stooping down snatched up
something from the ground close to the planks.

The startled friends looked affrightedly toward her, and saw that she
held the lunch basket of her little daughter in her hand.



CHAPTER VIII.

STARTLING FOOTPRINTS.


On the very edge of the bridge over Shark Creek, the mother of Nellie
Ribsam picked up the lunch basket which her daughter had taken to school
that morning. It lay on its side, with the snowy napkin partly out, and
within it was a piece of brown bread which the parent had spread with
golden butter, and which was partly eaten.

No wonder the afflicted woman uttered a half-suppressed scream when she
picked up what seemed a memento of her dead child.

While the lanterns were held in a circle around the basket, which the
father took from his wife, Mr. Ribsam lifted the piece of bread in his
hand. There were the prints made by the strong white teeth of little
Nellie, and there was not a dry eye when all gazed upon the food, which
the father softly returned to the basket and reverently covered with the
napkin.

No one ventured to speak, but the thoughts of all were the same.

Stepping to the railing at the side of the bridge Mr. Layton held his
lantern over, Nick and Mr. Kilgore immediately doing the same. The rays
extended right and left and far enough downward to reach the stream,
which could be seen, dark and quiet, flowing beneath and away through
the woods to the big pond, a quarter of a mile below.

In the oppressive stillness the soft rustling of the water was heard as
it eddied about a small root which grew out from the shore, and a tiny
fish, which may have been attracted by the yellow rays, leaped a few
inches above the surface and fell back with a splash which startled
those who were peering over the railing of the structure.

The trees grew close to the water's edge, and as the trunks were dimly
revealed they looked as if they were keeping watch over the deep creek
that flowed between.

The five were now searching for that which they did not wish to find;
they dreaded, with an unspeakable dread, the sight of the white face
turned upward, with the abundant hair floating about the dimpled
shoulders.

Thank heaven, that sight was spared them; nothing of the kind was seen,
and a sigh escaped from each.

"We are all tortured by the thought that Nellie has fallen into the
creek and been drowned," said the teacher; "but I cannot see any grounds
for such fear."

The yearning looks of the parents and brother caused the teacher to
explain more fully.

"No child, unless a very stupid one, would stumble from this bridge, and
there could have been no circumstances which in my judgment would have
brought such a mishap to Nellie."

This sounded reasonable enough, but:

"De basket,--vot of dot?" asked the father.

"She has dropped that from some cause; but that of itself is a favorable
sign, for had she fallen accidentally into the water she would have
taken it with her."

This sounded as if true, but it did not remove the fears of any one.
Even he who uttered the words could not bring himself fully to believe
in their truth, for none knew better than he that the evil one himself
seems to conspire with guns and pistols that appear to be unloaded, and
with water which is thought to be harmless.

All wanted to place faith in the declaration, and no protest was
uttered. As nothing was to be seen or learned where they stood, they
crossed the bridge and descended the wooded slope until they reached the
edge of the stream, which wound its way through the woods to the big
pond.

Every heart was throbbing painfully and no one spoke: there was no need
of it, for no comfort could be gained therefrom.

Mr. Layton and Kilgore moved carefully up the creek, while Nick and his
parents walked toward the pond, which lay to the left.

The two wished to be apart from the others that they might consult
without danger of being overheard by those whose hearts were suffering
so much anguish.

"It's very strange," said Mr. Kilgore, "that the basket should be found
on the bridge: what do you make of it, Mr. Layton?"

The teacher shook his head.

"It is strange, indeed; had there been no water in the creek you could
have set it down as certain that the child had not fallen from it, but,
as she could not have done so without drowning, I am inclined to
think--"

The instructor hesitated, as if afraid to pronounce the dreadful words.

"You think she is drowned?" said his friend, supplying the answer with
his own question.

Mr. Layton nodded his head by way of reply, and, holding the lanterns in
front, they began groping their way along the margin of the creek.

By raising the lights above their heads the rays reached the opposite
bank, lighting up the water between. This was unusually clear, and they
could see the bottom some distance from shore.

Both felt that if the body was floating anywhere they could not fail to
see it, though the probabilities were that it was already far below
them, and would be first discovered by the parents and brother.

"Halloa!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Layton, lowering his lantern close to
the ground, "I don't like _that_."

By way of explanation, he pointed to the damp soil where no vegetation
grew: it was directly in front and close to the water, being that
portion which was frequently swept by the creek when above its present
level.

Parallel to the stream, for a distance of several rods or so, were a
number of imprints in the yielding earth, which the first glance showed
were made by some large animal.

"It must have been a dog," ventured the teacher, who had little
practical knowledge of the animals of the wood.

Mr. Kilgore shook his head.

"It was a bear; there can be no mistake about it. Mr. Marston was right;
it was the track of a similar animal which he saw last March."

"You are not mistaken, Mr. Kilgore?"

The farmer answered impatiently:

"I have hunted bears too often to be mistaken; I can tell their trail
among a hundred others, and the one which went along here a little while
ago was one of the largest of his kind."



CHAPTER IX.

THE LITTLE WANDERER.


Although Nellie Ribsam was only eight years old at the time she was lost
in the big woods, yet the results of the training received from her
sensible father and mother showed themselves in a marked degree on that
memorable occasion.

She had been taught, as was her brother, that under heaven she must rely
upon herself to get forward in the world. Nick was rarely if ever
allowed to extend her a helping hand in her lessons, and she was given
to understand that whatever was possible for her to do must be done
without the aid of any one.

As for sitting down and crying when in trouble, without making any
effort to help herself, she knew better than to try that when either her
father or mother were likely to find it out.

Her intention, when she left school that afternoon before the session
closed, was to keep on in the direction of Dunbarton until she met Nick
returning.

She turned off at the forks, and did not lessen her gait until she
reached the woods. Her rapid walking caused her to feel quite warm, and
the cool shade of the woods was refreshing.

She began wandering aimlessly forward, swinging her hat in her hand,
singing snatches of school songs, and feeling just as happy as a little
girl can feel who is in bounding health, high spirits, and without an
accusing conscience.

It was not the time of year for flowers, and Nellie knew better than to
look for any. They had drooped and died long ago; but some of the leaves
were turning on the trees, and they gave a peculiar beauty to the
autumnal forest.

At intervals she caught sight of the cleanly, symmetrical maple, with
some of its leaves turning a fiery red and looking like flecks of flame
through the intervening vegetation. At the least rustling of the wind
some of the leaves came fluttering downward as lightly as flakes of
snow; the little brown squirrel scampered up the shaggy trunks and out
upon the limbs, where, perching on his hind legs, he peeped
mischievously down at the girl, as if inviting her to play hide-and-seek
with him; now and then a rabbit, fat and awkward from his gluttony on
the richness around him, jumped softly a few steps, then munched rapidly
with his jaws, flapped his long silken ears, looked slyly around with
his big, pretty eyes, and, as the girl made a rush toward him, he was
off like a shot.

The woods were fragrant with ripening grapes and decaying vegetation,
and were putting on a garb whose flaming splendor surpassed the hues of
spring.

Indeed, everything conspired to win a boy or girl away from study or
work, and to cause the wish on the part of both that they might be a
bird or squirrel, with no thought of the responsibilities of life.

Nellie Ribsam forgot for the time everything else except her own
enjoyment; but by-and-by the woods took on such tempting looks that she
turned off from the highway she had been following, with the intention
of taking a stroll, which she meant should not lead her out of sight of
the road.

The first view which stopped her was that of a large vine of wild
grapes.

Some of them were green, some turning, while others were a dark purple,
showing they were fully ripe: the last, as a matter of course, were at
the top.

These wild grapes were small and tart, inferior to those which grew in
the yard of Nellie at home; but they seemed to be trying to hide in the
woods, and they were hard to get, therefore they were more to be desired
than the choicest Catawba, Isabella, or Concord.

The main vine, where it started from the ground, was as thick as a man's
wrist, and it twisted and wound about an oak sapling as if it were a
great African constrictor seeking to strangle the young tree. Other
vines branched out from the sides until not only was the particular
sapling enfolded and smothered, but the greedy vine reached out and
grasped others growing near it.

Nellie felt like the fox who found the grapes more tempting the longer
he looked at them.

"I'm going to have some of them," she said, and straightway proceeded to
help herself.

She climbed as readily as Nick himself could have done, and never
stopped until she was so high that the sapling bent far over with her
weight. Then she reached out her chubby hand and plucked a cluster of
the wild fruit. They were about the size of buckshot, and when her sound
teeth shut down on them, the juice was so sour that she shut both eyes
and felt a twinge at the crown of her head as though she had taken a
sniff of the spirits of ammonia.

But the grapes were none the less delicious for all that; the fact that
there seemed to be something forbidden about them added a flavor that
nothing else could give.

Nellie had managed to crush a handful of the vinegar-like globules, when
she caught sight of another vine deeper in the woods. It was much larger
and climbed fully a dozen yards from the ground, winding in and out
among the limbs of a ridgy beech, which seemed to be forever struggling
upward to get away from the smothering embrace of the vegetable python.

Five minutes later, Nellie was clambering upward like a monkey, never
pausing until the bending tree-top warned her that if she went any
higher it would yield to her weight.

Nellie disposed of one bunch and that was enough: she concluded that she
was not very hungry for grapes and, without eating or even gathering
more, she devoted herself to another kind of enjoyment.

Standing with one foot on a limb and the other on one near it, she
grasped a branch above her and began swaying back and forth, with the
vim and abandon of a child in a patent swing.

The tree bent far over as she swung outward, then straightened up and
inclined the other way as her weight passed over to that side. Any one
looking at the picture would have said that a general smash and giving
away were certain, in which case the girl was sure to go spinning
through the limbs and branches, as though driven forth by the springs
within the big gun which fling the young lady outward just as the
showman touches off some powder.

But a green sapling is very elastic, and, although the one climbed by
Nellie bent back and forth like a bow, it did not give way. Her hair
streamed from her head, and there was a thrilling feeling as the wind
whistled by her ears, and she seemed to be shooting like a bird through
space.

All this was well enough, and it was no more than natural that Nellie
should have forgotten several important facts: she was so far from the
highway that she could not see any one passing over it; the rush of the
wind in her ears shut out sounds that otherwise would have been noticed,
and she had gone so far and had lingered so long by the way that it was
time to look for Nick on his return from Dunbarton, even though he was
later than he expected to be.

It was while she was swinging in this wild fashion that her brother
drove by on his way home, without either suspecting how close they were
to each other.

Nellie displayed a natural, childish thoughtlessness by keeping up this
sport for a half hour longer, when she came down to the ground, simply
because she was tired of the amusement.

Although out of sight of the road she managed to find her way back to it
without trouble. With her lunch basket in hand, she continued in the
direction of Dunbarton, taking several mouthfuls of the bread which had
been left over at noon.

In this aimless manner she strolled forward, stopping now and then to
look at the squirrel or rabbit or the yellow-hued warbler, the noisy and
swift-flying finch, the russet-coated thrush, or dark brown and mottled
woodpecker, as his head rattled against the bark of the tree trunks,
into which he bored in quest of worms.

The first real surprise of the girl came when she reached the bridge.
This proved that she was more than four miles from home, a distance much
greater than she had suspected.

"Where can Nick be?" she asked herself, never once thinking that they
might have missed each other when she was swinging in the tree-top. It
struck her that the day was nearly gone, for she noticed the gathering
twilight diffusing itself through the forest.

"I don't think I will go any farther," she said; "Nick will be along
pretty soon, and I'll wait here for him."

Standing on the bridge and looking down the road and listening for the
sound of the carriage wheels were tiresome to one of Nellie's active
habits, and it was not long before she broke off some of the bread, set
down her lunch basket, and then dropped some crumbs into the water.

As they struck the surface, sending out little rings toward the shore,
several tiny fish came up after the food. Nellie laughed outright, and,
in her eagerness, was careless of how she threw the crumbs, most of
which fell upon the bank.

It occurred to her that she could do better by going down to the edge of
the stream, where she would not mistake her aim.

Childlike, she did not pause to think of the wrong of so doing, for she
ought to have known that her parents never would have consented to such
an act.

Just there, Nellie, like many another little girl, made a great mistake.



CHAPTER X.

IN GREAT DANGER.


A little child is like a butterfly, thinking only of the pleasures of
the moment. Nellie Ribsam came down close to the edge of the creek and
threw some crumbs out upon the surface. In the clear water she could see
the shadowy figures of the minnows, as they glided upward and snapped at
the morsels.

She became so interested in the sport that she kept walking down the
bank of the stream, flinging out the crumbs until there was none left in
her hand; then she debated whether she should go back after her lunch
basket or wait where she was until Nick appeared on the bridge.

"It's a bother to carry the basket with me," she said to herself; "I had
to leave it on the ground when I was after grapes, so I'll wait till
Nick comes, and then I'll call to him. Won't he be scared when he sees
me down here!"

From where she stood, she observed the bridge above her head, and
consequently Nick could look directly down upon her whenever he should
reach the structure.

Nellie felt that she would like to go on down the creek to the big pond
into which it emptied; but she knew better than to do that, for she
would be certain to miss her big brother, and it was already beginning
to grow dark around her.

"I wonder what makes Nick so long," she said to herself, as she sat down
on a fallen tree; "I'm so tired that I never can walk the four miles
home."

She had sat thus only a brief while, when her head began to droop; her
bright eyes grew dull, then closed, and leaning against a limb which put
out from the fallen tree, on which she was sitting, she sank into the
sweet, dreamless sleep of childhood and health.

Had she not been disturbed she would not have wakened until the sun
rose, but at the end of an hour, an involuntary movement of the head
caused it to slip off the limb against which it was resting with such a
shock that instantly she was as wide awake as though it was mid-day.

Ah, but when she sprang to her feet and stared about her in the gloom
she was dreadfully alarmed!

She was quick-witted enough to understand where she was and how it had
all come about. The gibbous moon was directly overhead, and shone down
upon her with unobstructed fullness.

"Nick has gone over the bridge while I was asleep," was her instant
conclusion; "and father and mother will be worried about me."

Her decision as to what she should do could not but be the one
thing--that was to climb back up the bank to the bridge, cross it, and
hurry homeward.

There was a little throbbing of the heart, when she reflected that she
had several miles to travel, most of which was through the gloomy woods;
but there was no hesitation on the part of Nellie, who, but for the
sturdy teaching of her parents, would have crouched down beside the log
and sobbed in terror until she sank into slumber through sheer
exhaustion.

"I have been a bad girl," she said to herself, as she reflected on her
thoughtlessness; "and mother will whip me, for I know she ought to; and
mother always does what she ought to do."

There was no room for doubt in the mind of the child, for she understood
the nature of her parents as well as any child could understand that of
its guardian.

Nellie was some distance below the point where the bridge spanned the
creek, but she could see the dim outlines of the structure as she
started toward it. It seemed higher than usual, but that was because the
circumstances were different from any in which she had ever been placed.

The little one was making her way as best she could along the stream in
the direction of the bridge, when she was frightened almost out of her
senses by hearing a loud, sniffing growl from some point just ahead of
her.

It was a sound that would have startled the bravest man, and Nellie was
transfixed for the moment. She did not turn and run, nor did she sink in
a swoon to the ground, but she stood just where she had stopped, until
she could find out what it meant.

She was not kept long in waiting, for in less than a minute the noise
was repeated, and at the same moment she caught the outlines of a huge
black bear swinging along toward her. He was coming down the bed of the
creek, with his awkward, ponderous tread, and when seen by Nellie was
within fifty feet of her.

When it is remembered that he was of unusual size and proceeding
straight toward the child, it seems impossible that she should have done
anything at all to help herself. The sight was enough to deprive her of
the power of motion and speech.

But it was in such a crisis as this that little Nellie Ribsam showed
that she had not forgotten the teaching of her parents: "God helps them
that help themselves."

With scarcely a second's pause, she whirled on her heel and dashed down
the stream with the utmost speed at her command.

The bear could not have failed to see her, though it is not to be
supposed that he was looking for the little girl when he first came
that way. Furthermore, had the chase lasted several minutes Nellie must
have fallen a victim to the savage animal.

It required no instruction to teach her that there was but one way in
which she could escape, and that was by climbing a tree. Had there been
a large one near at hand she would have ascended that as quickly as
possible; but, fortunately, the first one to which she fled was a
sapling, no larger than those she had climbed during the afternoon, and
no one could have clambered to the highest point attainable quicker than
did the frightened little girl.

Had she been a veteran hunter, Nellie could not have made a better
selection, for she was fully twenty feet from the ground, and as much
beyond the reach of the bear as though she were in her trundle-bed at
home.

But the position was a frightful one to her, and for several minutes she
believed the animal would tear the tree down and destroy her.

"I have done all I can for myself," she murmured, recalling the
instruction of her parents, "and now God will do the rest."

Beautiful, trusting faith of childhood! Of such, indeed, is the kingdom
of heaven.

The huge bear, which from some cause or other had ventured from the
recesses of the wood, was but a short distance behind the little
wanderer when she climbed so hastily beyond his reach. He acted as
though he was somewhat bewildered by the unusual scene of a small child
fleeing from him, but nothing is so tempting to pursuit as the sight of
some one running from us, and the brute galloped after Nellie with an
evident determination to capture her, if the thing could be done.

When he found the child had eluded him for the time, he sat down on his
haunches and looked upward, as though he intended to wait till she would
be compelled to descend and surrender herself.

The small tree in which Nellie had taken refuge was several yards from
the edge of the stream, the bank sloping so steeply that the water never
reached the base, excepting during a freshet.

It was a chestnut, whose smooth bark rendered it all the more difficult
to climb, but Nellie went up it as rapidly as a man ascends telegraph
poles with the spikes strapped to his boots.

The bear clawed the bark a little while, as a cat is sometimes seen to
do when "stretching" herself, and it was during these few minutes that
the girl thought nothing could save her from falling into his clutches.

When he ceased, she peered downward through the branches, and could just
see the massy animal near the base of the tree, as if asking himself
what was the next best thing to do.

It will be admitted that the situation of Nellie Ribsam was one in which
few children of her tender years are ever placed. Happy it is, indeed,
that it is so, for what one in a thousand would have retained her
self-possession?

In explanation, it may be doubted indeed whether Nellie fully
comprehended her peril. Had she been older, her consternation,
doubtless, would have been greater, as the emotion she showed some years
later, when placed in great danger, would seem to prove.

But there was one fact of which she was firmly convinced: she had
complied with her father's instructions, for, as has been shown, she put
forth every possible exertion to save herself, and now she called on
Heaven to assist her.

Perched in the top of the tree, with the enormous bear sitting beneath
and looking hungrily upward, she prayed:

"Heavenly Father, please take care of me and don't let that big bear
catch me; don't let papa and mamma feel too bad, and please make the bad
bear go away and let me alone."



CHAPTER XI.

"GOTT SEI DANK!"


The prayer of little Nellie Ribsam--so far as it related to herself--was
answered.

She secured her seat, as best she could, in the branches of the chestnut
sapling, and, by arranging her dress and the yielding limbs with
considerable skill, she made herself quite comfortable.

The trying situation in which she was placed, it would be thought, was
enough to drive away all disposition to sleep, but at the end of less
than half an hour the little head was nodding again, and, forgetful of
her peril, her senses soon left her.

It will be understood that the danger of the young wanderer was rendered
all the greater by this loss of consciousness, for her muscles would
relax in slumber, and, unless her position was unusually secure, she was
certain to fall.

But that gracious Father in whom she so implicitly trusted watched over
the little one, and she remained as though seated in the broad
rocking-chair at home.

When at last she moved slightly and was on the point of losing her
balance, she awoke so quickly that she saved herself just in the nick of
time.

She was shocked and startled, but regaining her breath she held fast
with one hand while she parted the branches with the other and carefully
peered down among the limbs.

"He is gone!" was her joyous exclamation; "I knew the Lord would make
him go away, because I asked him to."

She was right: the bear had vanished, and all danger from that source
for the time had passed.

The brute probably found enough to eat without waiting for little girls
to fall into his clutches. As he had never been known to trouble any one
in the neighborhood, it was reasonable to believe that he got all he
wanted without venturing away from the depths of the woods, and rousing
an ill-will against himself that would speedily result in his
destruction.

Nellie did not feel surprised at all, for, as I have shown, she had the
faith to believe that her prayer would be answered.

"Now I will go down to the ground and start for home. I guess the bear
isn't far off, but the Lord will not let him hurt me."

She carefully descended the tree and stood on the ground a minute later.
She found that her dress was torn and she had lost part of the ribbon
from her hat. This troubled her more than anything else, for her frugal
mother had told her many a time that she must take the best care of her
clothing.

"I was so scared that I forgot to look out," she said to herself, after
taking an inventory of the damages; "but I guess mother will excuse me
for losing the ribbon, though I know she won't for coming so far into
the woods without permission."

She now set out resolutely for the bridge, determined to lose no more
time in reaching home. As is the rule, the brief space she had passed in
sleep seemed three times as long as was actually the case, and she
thought it must be near morning.

She had gone but a short distance when she stopped with another shock of
affright.

"My gracious! what can that be?"

A point of light appeared between her and the bridge, flickering about
like an _ignis-fatuus_ or jack-o'-lantern. Nellie felt like taking to
the tree again, but she bravely stood her ground until she could satisfy
her curiosity as to its nature.

Watching it closely she observed shadowy figures flitting around the
light in a curious and grotesque way. She was in greater doubt than
ever, when she heard voices.

"I think I saw her tracks, but I couldn't be sure; Nellie knows too much
to walk or fall into the deep water."

"I hope so, but my heart misgives me sorely. God be merciful, for if she
is lost I can never recover!"

The first speaker was Nick Ribsam, and the second was the father, the
mother immediately adding:

"Why the poor child came here is more than I can understand, but He
doeth all things well."

_"Oh, mother! Oh, father! Oh, Nick! It is I, Nellie! I am so glad to see
you!"_

And the little wanderer flew like the wind along the bank of the creek.
The mother was the first to recognize the voice, and rushing forward she
caught her child in her arms, murmuring in her own language:

"Mein Kind! Mein Kind! Gott sei Dank!" (My child! My child! God be
thanked!)

"Mein lieber Nellie! Komm an mein Herz! Kannst du es sein?" (My dear
Nellie! Come to my heart! Can it be you?) exclaimed the overjoyed
father.

"O meine abtrünnige Schwester! Wie du uns erschreckt hast! Wie es mich
freut dich zu finden!" (Oh, my truant sister! What a scare you have
given us! How glad I am to find you!) shouted Nick.

And the child that was lost and was found was hugged first by mother,
then by father, and then by Nick, and then all strove to get hold of her
at the same time, till the brother ceased, through fear that she would
be torn apart.

Nellie was laughing and crying, and wondering why it was such commotion
was caused by her return to her folks.

Mr. Layton and Kilgore heard the tumult, and knew what it meant. A few
minutes brought them to the spot, and, though their greeting was less
demonstrative, their eyes filled with tears over the exceeding joy of
the reunited family.

When the excitement had subsided somewhat, the group listened to the
story of Nellie. She told it in her childish, straightforward manner,
and it was all the more impressive on that account.

The listeners were greatly touched; but the probability that a large
bear was in the neighborhood hastened their footsteps and they lost no
time in hurrying away.

When they reached the highway above, crossed the bridge, and had gone
some distance on their way home, they began to feel there was nothing to
be feared from the animal. Mr. Layton referred to the tracks of the
beast which they had noticed when hunting for Nellie, but said he would
never have mentioned it until the fate of the girl became known; for the
suggestions which must have followed were too dreadful.

Nothing was seen of the animal, however, and, as the distance from the
bridge was increased the party finally gave up all thought and
conversation respecting it.

There was a grateful household that night, when, at a late hour, they
gathered about the family altar and the head returned thanks to Him who
had been so merciful to them and theirs.

The happy mother held the daughter in her arms all night, while they
both slept; and when the parent awoke, now and then, through the
darkness, she shuddered, pressed the little one closer to her and kissed
the chubby cheek, on which her former tears had not yet dried.

But Katrina Ribsam was none the less an affectionate mother when,
several days later, she called Nellie to her knee and told her how
wrongly she had acted in venturing on such a dangerous tramp without
asking permission from her parents.

Nellie said she knew it, and wondered why it was her mother delayed the
punishment so long. She was ready, and loved and respected her mother
the more for administering it.

But truth compels me to say that the chastisement was given with such a
gentle hand that it was hardly worth the name, and the mother herself
suffered far more than did the child, who to this day is not conscious
that she received anything like physical pain.



CHAPTER XII.

OMINOUS PREPARATIONS.


Happily there are few little girls in this favored land who are called
upon to go through such trials as fell to the lot of little Nellie
Ribsam when she was but eight years old.

It created much talk in the neighborhood, and she was complimented on
the bravery she had shown, while the glad father became more confirmed
than ever in his favorite belief that God helps them that help
themselves.

"'Spose dot she didn't try to helps herself some," he said, in talking
the matter over with Mr. Marston, "don't you not sees dot she would get
eat up doo, dree times by dot bear dot vos bigger as nefer vos?"

"It is a good thing for one, even though he be a child, to be able to do
his utmost when overtaken by danger--there can be no question about
_that_; but it would require a great deal of training to bring some
children to that point, even when they are double the years of your
little girl."

"Dot's becos dere folks don't not begins right; we starts mit Nick and
Nellie when dey was so small dot dey didn't know nuffin, which is why it
happens dey knows so much now."

Great as was the interest excited by the adventure of Nellie, it was not
long before it was thrown in the shade by another fact which was brought
to light by that same experience: that was the existence of a large bear
in the woods which lay to the east and west of the road leading to
Dunbarton.

This forest, as has already been intimated, covered a large tract of
country, in which, a few years previous, bears, deer, and wolves had
been hunted by many of those dwelling on the outskirts. Large inroads
had been made on the woodland, and here and there the cabin of a settler
or squatter was found by those who penetrated any distance.

There were clearings extending over several acres, while, again, a man
might wander for hours without emerging from the timber, which included
the common varieties found in the Middle States--oak, beech, maple,
birch, hickory, hemlock, black walnut, American poplar or whitewood,
gum, elm, persimmon, and others less important.

The pine resembled the famous white pine of the Allegheny mountains, and
predominated. Where there was such a large area covered with timber,
about every variety of surface was known. In some places were rocks,
ravines, hollows, and gulches; in others there were marshy swamps
through which a hunter would find it hard work to force his way.

Shark Creek entered from the east and was of considerable volume. In
many places it was deep, while elsewhere it widened into broad and
shallow expansions. It wound its way through the woods in the sinuous
course always taken by such streams, and, crossing the road, where it
was spanned by a bridge, it continued onward a quarter of a mile, when
it reached Shark Pond, the overflow of which ultimately found its way
into the Susquehanna and so to the Atlantic.

Why the waters were called Shark Creek and Pond was more than any one
could explain. Most likely it was because no such fish as the shark had
ever been seen near them, the circumstances of the case rendering it
impossible that such a voracious creature ever should have sported in
their depths.

From what has been said, it will be seen that the woods offered a most
inviting home for a few wild bears, and there was the best reason for
the belief of many of the neighbors that if the tract was well hunted
over several of the animals would be found.

The universal opinion was that they should be exterminated, for so long
as they were in the woods, so long were they a standing menace to all
the men, women, and children who dwelt in the section. The children,
especially, were considered in great peril, and several timid mothers
refused to let their girls and boys go to school, which stood at no
great distance from the woods.

There was more than one farmer who contended that, if the few bears were
left alone they would multiply to that degree that they would sally
forth from the forest, like the Delaware Indians of the last century,
and carry death and destruction before them.

A few individuals, like Gustav Ribsam, said there was nothing to fear,
for when the bears showed any marked increase they would be killed, and
it would be no very difficult job, either.

But no one could dispute the desirability of ridding the country of the
brute which came so near eating little Nellie Ribsam; and, where there
was so much talk, something was done, or at least attempted.

A hunting party of six men was organized in the month of October, and
they tramped through the woods for days, with a couple of dogs, but the
trail of the animal could not be found. They finally gave up the hunt,
the most tired and disgusted not hesitating to declare they did not
believe a bear had been seen in the forest for half a century.

The opinion of those best qualified to judge, was that bruin obtained
all the food he wanted with such little trouble that he did not care to
molest any persons, and therefore kept out of the way of the hunters.

Nick Ribsam, like all boys, was fond of a gun and dog, and he did not
own either. His father had brought from Holland an old musket, used
before the country was erected into a kingdom for Louis Bonaparte, more
than eighty years ago; but when Nick rammed a charge down its dusty
throat one day, forgetful that one had been resting there for months,
and pulled trigger, it hung fire a long time; but, when it did go off,
it did so in an overwhelming fashion, bursting into a dozen pieces and
narrowly missing killing the astounded lad who discharged it.

But Nick was so anxious to own a gun, that his father bought him one on
the day he reached the age of ten years, which was shortly after
Nellie's adventure with the bear. Although the farmer was frugal in all
things, he believed it was the cheapest to buy the best, and the gun
which was placed in the hands of Nick was a breech-loader with double
barrels. It was a shot-gun, as a matter of course, for little use could
be found for a rifle in that neighborhood.

But Nick had practiced with this piece only a few weeks, when his
ambition was turned in another direction by a large, strong boy, who
hired himself out upon the farm of Mr. Marston. He was sixteen years of
age, and was named Sam Harper. His father had been a soldier in the late
war, and gave to Sam a fine breech-loading rifle, which he brought with
him when he hired out to Mr. Marston.

The lad had owned it two years, and, under the tutelage of his father,
who was wounded and living upon a pension, he became very skillful for
one of his age.

Beside this, Mr. Marston himself, as I have shown, was fond of hunting
in his early manhood, and was the owner of an excellent muzzle-loading
rifle, which was as good as when his keen eye glanced along the brown
barrel and the bullet was buried in the unsuspicious deer, so far away
as to be scarcely visible to the ordinary vision.

"If you and Sam want to hunt the bear," said the kind owner, "you are
welcome to my rifle, for you know a shot-gun ain't exactly the thing to
go hunting bears with."

"That's just what I want it for," said Nick, with sparkling eyes.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE BEAR HUNTERS.


Nothing is impossible to pluck and perseverance. That boy who is
determined to become brilliant in his studies, no matter what their
nature, or to master a difficult profession, or to attain any point
possible of attainment, is sure to win, if he will but _stick to it_.

Nick Ribsam was resolved to become skillful with the rifle, and he gave
all the time he could spare to practice with the gun which belonged to
Mr. Marston. He was desirous of starting after the bear with Sam, as
soon as he could use the gun, but his sensible father shook his head.

"No, Nicholas, that would be doing wrong, for you do not know how to
handle the rifle; God does not step in and help the lazy and careless;
first learn how to use the weapon, so you will never miss; then you may
go hunt bears."

Although a lusty lad, Nick found the heavy gun was quite a burden, and
he preferred to rest the barrel on the fence, or in the crotch of a
tree, when aiming, but Sam Harper told him he could never amount to
anything unless he used his weapon off-hand, and was ready to do so
effectively, no matter how sudden the call.

Nick applied all his energies, and in the course of a few weeks won the
praise of Sam, who had become very fond of the bright and good-natured
"Pennsylvania Dutchman," who, in return, helped him in his efforts to
improve his knowledge in arithmetic, which he studied in a desultory way
on the long autumn evenings, having promised his father to do so.

Mr. Marston owned a dog which was not of much account, but the boys
trained him with rare patience, and were confident he would prove
valuable when they took him on the hunt.

By the time they were ready to start autumn was advanced, and Nick, who
had carefully studied up the peculiarities of the animal, said he was
afraid the bear had gone into some hollow tree or cave to take his
winter's sleep.

"I don't think they do that till the weather gets colder," said Sam, who
had once helped hunt bruin in the wilds of Tennessee, "and even in very
cold weather I have seen their tracks in the snow; but if we can only
find the tree or cave where he is hiding, why, that will just be
splendid."

"Why so?"

"He is fat, lazy, and so sleepy that he don't fight much; but in the
spring-time he is lean, hungry, and fierce, and then everybody must look
out. There are so many chestnuts and hickory nuts in the woods now that
he can get all he wants to eat without scaring the farmers by visiting
them."

"The bear eats almost everything," said Nick, "but I don't believe he
can make much of a meal off hickory nuts."

"Well, he has got a good thing of it anyway, here, there is so much food
around him, and if he had only been smart enough to keep out of sight
and never show himself he might have died of old age without being once
disturbed by hunters."

"I ain't sure he won't die of old age as it is," said Nick, with a
laugh; "for every one who went after him came back without the first
glimpse. I guess they have all given up hope of shooting him, and I
shouldn't wonder if we had to do the same."

But whether such was to be the result or not remained to be seen, and
the boys were sure of plenty of sport in an all-day ramble through the
woods.

During all this time Nick and Nellie were attending school, and they
maintained their places in their studies, and were surpassed by none in
the excellence of their deportment.

Nick rose early and helped his father with his work, and at night did
his chores. With all this, he found opportunity to practice with the
rifle and to prepare his lessons for the morrow, so that it need not be
said he had little idle time on his hands.

On a bright Saturday morning in November, when the smoky haze of the
delicious Indian summer overspread forest, stream, and country, Sam
Harper came to the house of Nick Ribsam according to appointment.

His rifle was slung over his shoulder, and the dog, which they had
christened Bowser, was at his heels. There was no school that day, and
Mr. Ribsam, having satisfied himself of the ability of Nick to handle
the rifle of his neighbor, had given him permission to go on a hunt for
the bear which had so frightened Nellie a couple of months before.

The mother and daughter were a little anxious when the rosy-cheeked boy
donned his heavy boots, pushed his trousers down the legs, and taking
the long-barreled rifle from where it rested in the corner turned to
kiss them good-by.

Mr. Ribsam seemed as cool and stolid as ever; but any one looking
closely at him would have observed that he puffed his pipe a little
oftener than was his wont, while his eye beamed more kindly upon his
brave little boy.

"Look out, Nick, and don't be too venturesome," said the mother, as she
pressed her lips to those of her only son.

"And remember that the bear is an awful big animal," said Nellie, "for
I _seen_ him."

The brother, who was in the act of leaning over his sister to kiss her,
drew back with a reproving look.

"Why is it a girl can't talk without saying 'awful' in every sentence? I
wish for variety's sake, Nellie, you and the rest of the girls would
leave 'awful' out of one sentence in a hundred, and don't say 'I _seen_
him,' for you know better than that, sister."

She hung her head and her eyes were growing misty, when Nick took the
kiss with a laugh and moved to the door.

"There, there, good-by; you all act as if I was going to Africa to hunt
lions and tigers."

Nellie snapped him up in a flash:

"There ain't any tigers in Africa, smarty!"

"You got me that time," laughed Nick; "where is father?"

"He went out of the door a minute ago; he is standing by the gate," said
the mother, after a quick glance through the window.

Mr. Ribsam was leaning on the gate-post, as was a favorite custom of
his, and the tobacco smoke ascended in clouds and rings, as though he
was a locomotive tugging hard at a train, with the wheels continually
slipping.

He looked at the boys without stirring or speaking, as they passed out
the gate and gently closed it, so as not to jar the old gentleman
leaning upon it.

When they had gone a rod or so, Mr. Ribsam called out:

"Nicholas!"

"Yes, sir!" answered the son, wheeling instantly.

The father took the long stem of his pipe from his mouth, emitted a
blast of vapor, and then shut his eyes and flung his head backward with
a quick flirt, which meant that his boy should come to him.

Nick obeyed with his usual promptness, and paused immediately in front
of his parent, while Sam Harper stopped short and looked backward at the
two, with the purpose of waiting until the interview ended.

The old gentleman meant his words for both, and he therefore used the
English tongue as best he could, and spoke loud:

"Nicholas, bears ish shtrong amimals as nefer vos: they can squeeze in
der ribs of a ox of dey tried, I dinks, so looks out dot de bears don't
not squeeze mit you."

"I will take good care, you may depend."

"His claws am sharp and he has big jaws; look outs for dem, Nicholas!"

"You may be sure I will."

"And, Nicholas, ven you goes for to hunt bears _you must helps one
anoder; you hears_?"

This was the all-important sentence the father had prepared himself to
utter. It will be observed that it was in violation of his oft repeated
creed, for it clearly called upon the boys to render mutual support
should danger arise; and they would have been zanies had they not done
so.

The father expected them to show that much sense, but he was impelled to
impress the necessity of it: he meant them to understand that his
declarations were subject to amendment under certain conditions.

Nick gave the pledge and stepped briskly up the road with Sam, while
Bowser frolicked in the fields and road until they were fairly in the
woods, when he frisked among the trees, sometimes starting up a squirrel
or rabbit, which had no trouble in skurrying out of his reach.

As the bear when seen by Nellie was near Shark Creek, the boys agreed to
follow the road to the bridge, descend into the bed of the stream, and
then go downward toward the pond and finally off into the woods, where
they intended to pass that day and probably the night and following day.

They had reached and passed the tree in which Nellie Ribsam took refuge
two months before, when Nick suddenly exclaimed:

"Hallo, there is some one ahead of us!"

"It's the season for game and we shall find plenty of hunters in the
wood," said Sam Harper, who, nevertheless, scanned the person with much
interest.

The fact that the boys were following precisely in his footsteps raised
the suggestion that perhaps he was engaged on the same business or
sport, as it might be termed.

Our friends hastened their pace so as to overtake him, for his company
might be desirable, or possibly it might be otherwise.

"Hallo, there!" called out Nick; "wait a minute!"

The individual thus hailed turned about, and looked back to see who it
was that called.

As he did so his face was seen, and Nick Ribsam gave utterance to an
expression of astonishment.



CHAPTER XIV.

A RECRUIT.


The stranger ahead of the two boys was Herbert Watrous, the city youth
upon whom Nick had sat down so hard three years before.

He was unusually tall when visiting the country school, and during the
intervening time he had continued to grow upward, until his height
equaled that of an ordinary man. He was scarce fourteen years old, but
he lacked very little of six feet in altitude.

He was correspondingly slim, so that he looked as if a smart blow on the
back would snap him in two. He was arrayed in a most gorgeous hunting
suit of green, with all the paraphernalia which the hunter from the city
thinks necessary when he honors the country with a tramp for game.

Herbert, beyond question, was fitted out in fine style, and there was
nothing lacking, except perhaps skill. He carried one of the finest of
breech-loading rifles, which would have been very effective in the hands
of a party who knew how to use it.

The face of the lad had not changed in expression to any extent since
Nick Ribsam drove him into the earth, but there was some downy furze on
his upper lip and chin, while his voice was of that squeaky and
uncertain tone heard when "changing."

"Hallo! is that you?" was the rather superfluous question of Herbert, as
he waited for the two boys to come up. He recognized Nick, but of course
was a stranger to Sam Harper, to whom Nick introduced him, and there was
a general shaking of hands all around.

Young Watrous glanced rather askance at his old school-mate, but there
was such a cordial welcome on the part of the young "American of Dutch
descent" that all reserve vanished.

A certain loftiness of manner and conceit of expression, however, were
natural to Herbert, and he did not fail to look down, in a literal and
figurative sense, upon the two hunters.

"That's a fine gun you have there, Herbert," said Nick, venturing to
reach out his hand for it.

"Yes," answered Herbert, passing it to him rather gingerly, "be careful
not to drop it."

The gun was a beautiful weapon, known as the long range "Creedmoor." It
was a Remington, highly finished, and cost $125. It had a front sight,
known as the wind-gauge, with the spirit-level, and with the vernier
sight on the stock, which is raised from its flat position when the
hunter wishes to shoot a long distance, and is graduated up to a
thousand yards, carrying a 44 cartridge.

"That isn't of much account in this part of the world," said Sam Harper,
passing the weapon back; "it's light enough, for I don't suppose it
weighs more than six or seven pounds."

"It's just the thing for these woods," said Herbert, in his important
manner, "for I calculate to bring down game a half mile away, if I
happen to see it."

"And provided it will stand still and you can know the exact distance."

"I can tell that by my eye easily enough."

"You can't guess within two hundred yards of it, if your life depended
on it."

"That remains to be seen."

"The first time you try it will prove it. I have seen them shoot with
the telescopes, globe, and peep sights and all the new fangled notions,
and they're good only for fancy shooting. You've got to use that
breech-loader off-hand, just as I do, or it won't be worth a cent to
you."

"I understand that a big black bear has been seen in the woods," said
Herbert, in his loftiest style; "I've come to kill him."

Nick and Sam looked significantly at each other, and Nick said:

"That is what we are after; won't you join us?"

Instead of responding promptly, Herbert said:

"Well, I don't know as I have any objection to letting you go with me,
though you must promise to do as I say."

Without giving this pledge, the two said they would render all the help
they could, and the party moved on down the creek toward the pond.

"Have you a dog?" asked Nick of their new recruit.

"No, what do I want of a dog? He would only be a bother; you ought to
send back that pumpkin of yours."

"We don't expect him to be of much help, except to find the track of the
bear, if he is anywhere in the neighborhood--_there!_ do you hear that?"

At that moment Bowser, who had trotted into the woods ahead, gave
utterance to a hoarse, resounding bay, which sounded as though his voice
had also changed, for it ended in a dismal squeaking howl that made all
laugh.

"He is on the track of something," said Nick in some excitement.

"A rabbit, I am sure," remarked Herbert, with a sneer.

The three started off at a rapid walk, which occasionally broke into a
trot, and following the baying of the hound they turned to the right
before reaching the big pond, and struck into the very heart of the
woods.

Herbert was so much taller and lighter than his companions that he drew
away from them once or twice, but was obliging enough to stop and wait.

Hurrying along in this headlong fashion they soon stopped, all pretty
well out of breath.

Although Herbert had laughed at their tardiness, he was the most
exhausted and the first one to wish to rest.



CHAPTER XV.

A SURPRISE.


All this time the baying of the hound continued, the sounds showing that
he had circled and was approaching the boys, who were not a little
astonished at the unexpected turn of affairs.

"That's a pretty dog," laughed Herbert; "he is making fools of us all."

"There isn't any need of that so far as _you_ are concerned," retorted
Nick, losing patience with the slurs of their companion. "You had better
wait till you find out what it means before you condemn Bowser."

Herbert made no answer, for the dog was now so close that the interest
of all was centered on his actions.

"My gracious, what a terrible racket he makes!" exclaimed Nick; "there
must be something unusual to excite Bowser like that."

The dog was not heard for several minutes, but the crashing through the
undergrowth sounded nearer and nearer, and, as Sam declared, showed that
Bowser had steam up and was going for something.

Suddenly the bushes parted only a short ways from where the three
wondering lads stood, and, instead of the hound, some kind of a wild
animal came toward them on a dead run.

The group were too amazed to think of the guns they held, and only
stared in mute wonder.

The game did not see them until within a hundred feet, when he whirled
at right angles and plunged away with arrowy speed.

As he did so, he exposed his flank to the young hunters, who could not
have been given a better opportunity to bring him down, for the throwing
forward of the foreleg, opened his most vulnerable part to the bullet.

But none was sent after him; at that instant he was recognized as a fine
buck deer, with branching antlers thrown back so that they seemed to
rest on his spine, while his legs were flung straight in front and then
backward, as he took his long graceful leaps.

The boys had set out to hunt a bear, and were astounded that, when they
dared not hope they were anywhere in his vicinity, a splendid deer
should spring up and dash by them.

Before they could give utterance to their amazement, Bowser came along
with his nose to the ground and baying hoarsely.

Just as he turned to follow the deer, Herbert Watrous raised his
breech-loader to his shoulder and fired point blank at him.

"What did you do that for?" demanded Sam Harper, striding threateningly
toward him with his fist raised.

"Why--why--I declare! I thought it was the bear!" exclaimed the abashed
Herbert; "I never dreamed it was the dog."

Sam was not disposed to believe this story, and he stood irresolute,
strongly inclined to punish the city youth who had fired at his hound;
but Nick compelled his angry friend to laugh by saying:

"You shouldn't be mad, Sam, for Bowser is safe so long as Herbert aims
at him. I don't think he came within twenty feet. If he should hit him
you can make up your mind it is an accident."

Herbert hardly knew how to answer this remark, for he saw that he had
not done a very creditable thing, view it as he might, so he made a
radical turn in the conversation.

"Who would have thought it, boys? We've got not only a bear, but a deer
to hunt, and I say, may the best fellow win!"

And with this manly sentiment on his lips he broke into a rapid run
after the buck and hound, the others following, forgetful of the little
flurry a few minutes before.

It was not in the order of things that the lads should be able to make
their way through the woods and undergrowth with anything like the speed
of the fallow deer or dog. Hunters don't expect to overtake their game
in anything like a fair chase when all are on foot, but resort to
stratagem.

By stationing themselves so as to head off a deer, they secure the one
shot which is all-sufficient. It would be counted an extremely good
piece of fortune could they obtain such a fair target as has already
been given the young hunters; and, having let it pass unimproved, they
scarcely would have expected to be so favored again.

It was natural, therefore, that they should make a pell-mell rush after
the deer and hound, and that they should keep going until, once more,
they were forced to stop from exhaustion.

By this time the baying of Bowser came to them so faintly that it was
plain he was a mile distant at the least, while there could be little
doubt that the buck was much farther off.

"Well!" exclaimed the panting Herbert Watrous, "I can't say I see much
fun in this; it's too much like chasing a railroad train."

"No," added Nick, "I don't see that there is any hope of running down
the deer, who is more used to traveling than we are."

"Maybe he'll come round in a circle again," said Sam, "and we may have
another chance to see him sail by, while not one of us raises his gun."

"I suppose we ought to understand something more about the habits of
the deer, so that we would know what course he would be likely to take.
We could then get there ahead of him and fire as soon as he gave us a
chance."

"Well," added Sam, with a sigh, "he seems to have taken the route we
were going to follow to hunt the bear, so we may as well tramp along. We
may get a glimpse of a buffalo or elephant next."

The baying of the hound had ceased, and, though the boys often stopped
and listened, they heard nothing more of it.

"I guess he has caught the deer," said Herbert, who showed a desire to
speak well of Bowser since he had failed to shoot him, "and is waiting
for us."

But Sam shook his head; he knew the canine too well to believe him
capable of such an exploit as that.

"I don't think he ever ran down anything yet, unless it was a chicken or
cat--hallo!"

At that moment the subject of their conversation appeared on the scene,
approaching as quietly as though the boys were sheep that he wished to
surprise.

He slouched along with a lazy, tired gait, his tongue out, and dripping
with perspiration, while he panted as though he had been on the severest
chase of his life, which most likely was the fact.

He lay down at the feet of Sam Harper, and, stretching out his paws,
rested his head between them as much as to say, "Gentlemen, I have had
enough of this sport, and resign; you will now carry it on without my
assistance."

"He is tired out, and I don't wonder," said Sam, stooping over and
patting the head of the hound; "he ain't used to deer hunting, and don't
know much more about it than do we."

"Then he don't know anything," was the truthful observation of Nick
Ribsam.

"It's my opinion that it's best to give up hunting that particular deer
until we learn a little more about the right way to do it."



CHAPTER XVI.

THE DINNER IN THE WOODS.


By this time it was close to the hour of noon, and the young hunters
were hungry. They had brought no lunch with them, for that would have
been an admission that they doubted their own ability to provide food
for themselves in a country abounding with game.

Nick Ribsam had a paper of salt and pepper mixed, with which to season
their dinner as soon as it should be secured.

The common red squirrels, or chickarees, were so plentiful that they
were nearly always in sight, and, without moving from where they stood,
the lads descried several running along the limbs of the trees.

"Let each of us shoot one," said Sam, walking forth to get a better aim
at a fellow perched high on the branch of a large oak.

Slowly bringing his gun to his shoulder, he took careful aim, and the
game came tumbling through the leaves to the ground, his head punctured
by the cruel bullet. Bowser started at a lazy walk to bring the body in,
but Sam stopped him and picked it up himself.

"I think I will take _that_ one," said Herbert, indicating a squirrel
which was nearer than the others. It was sitting in the crotch of a
tree, nigh enough to be struck with a stone flung by a skillful thrower.

The other two watched his actions with some interest as he raised the
handsome breech-loader. He took a long and deliberate aim, and gave a
grunt the instant he pulled the trigger, and the sharp report broke the
stillness of the woods.

Nick and Sam laughed, for the frightened rodent scampered up the tree
and ran out upon a heavy branch, where he whisked from sight and then
back again, chattering in such a lively fashion that it was plain he had
suffered no inconvenience from the bullet sent after him.

"Well, I'll be hanged!" exclaimed the chagrined Herbert, "I don't
understand how that came about."

"The squirrel doesn't seem to understand it, either," said Sam; "let's
see whether you can do any worse, Nick."

"I'm going to try and bark him," remarked Nick, cocking his rifle and
sighting at the little animal.

Before he could make his aim sure, the chickaree started to run along
the limb, which was large and covered with thick, shaggy bark; but the
muzzle of the weapon swerved slowly in a corresponding direction, and
just as the game gathered itself to make a leap, the explosion came.

The others, who were watching the squirrel to note the result, saw
several pieces of bark suddenly fly upward with such force that the
rodent was hurled fully a foot above the limb, dropping like a wet rag
at the feet of the lad, killed, without its skin being broken.

"That was a good shot!" exclaimed Sam Harper admiringly; "no hunter in
the land could have barked him better than did you."

"What do you mean by barking a squirrel?" asked Herbert, who had never
seen anything of the kind before.

"It is easy enough; all you have to do is to cut the bark right under
the squirrel's body, so that the pieces fly upward with such force as to
knock the life from him."

"That's the way I'm going to kill them after this."

"It is best to practice hitting them with the ball first," Nick
suggested.

Herbert solemnly removed the shell of the cartridge from his
breech-loader and replaced it with a fresh one, pretending not to hear
the remark of Nick.

As the two squirrels were large and in excellent condition, it was
thought they would afford enough dinner for the boys, who went some
distance farther until they reached a small stream of clear, icy water,
where they decided to make their fire.

While Nick and Herbert busied themselves gathering some dry twigs and
sticks, Sam Harper, with his keen knife, skillfully skinned the
chickarees, dressed them, and then holding them over the flame on
green, forked sticks, they were soon cooked to a turn.

For a few minutes before they were ready, the odor of the broiling game
so sharpened the appetites of the boys that Nick sprang up, and,
hurrying out in the woods, shot another for Sam to dress and cook.

"Two ain't enough," he said in explanation, as he threw the last to his
friend; "I can eat a couple myself, and Bowser looks sort of faint."

"The waste parts ought to be enough for him," said Sam, glancing at the
hound, who had gulped down everything thrown him and was gazing
wistfully for the next tid-bits that should fall to his share.

The clear, pure air, the vigorous exercise, and the rugged health of the
boys gave them appetites scarcely less forceful than that of Bowser; and
when Nick had carefully sprinkled the seasoning over the juicy, crisp
flesh, and each, taking one of the squirrels in hand, began wrenching
off the tender meat, he was sure he had never tasted such a delicious
dinner in all his life.

Even Herbert Watrous, accustomed as he was to the delicacies and
refinements of a city home, admitted that there was something about the
meal which, washed down with clear, pure water, had a flavor surpassing
anything of the kind he had ever known.

The causes why it tasted thus I have already stated.



CHAPTER XVII.

A TEST OF MARKSMANSHIP.


The boys were so tired from their severe tramp, and the rest was so
grateful after finishing their dinner, that they stayed where they were
an hour longer. Then, realizing that nothing could be done by idleness,
they slung their reloaded rifles over their shoulders, took another
drink of water, and lazily made their way to higher ground.

"I have been thinking," said Nick, when they paused again, "that we will
be more likely to learn something of the bear if we separate."

"For how long?" Herbert asked.

"Until night, or until we find him."

"But how can we find each other at night?"

"That can be fixed easily enough; if necessary, we can signal to each
other, or we can pick out some landmark that can be seen a long ways
off and gradually approach that as the sun goes down."

There was nothing brilliant in this proposition, but after some
discussion it was agreed to by the others, and they began looking around
for something which might serve them as a guide.

Directly to the north, the woods rose in a series of hills of no great
elevation, but among them were numerous large rocks of limestone
formation, some of them of such a light color that they could be seen a
long distance.

"Right yonder," said Nick, pointing toward the largest, "is one which we
cannot mistake; let's agree to meet there at nightfall and go into camp.
If either one of us loses his reckoning he will fire his gun and the
others will answer him, so there need be no danger at all."

"I don't see as there would be any danger if we failed to find each
other before morning," said Sam; "we are not in a wild country where
Indians will hunt for us."

"There ain't any danger," said Herbert, "only it will be a great deal
more pleasant to spend the night together; you will feel safer by
knowing that I am with you with my patent breech-loader."

"Yes," said Nick, "for by keeping close to you there won't be half as
much likelihood of being hit when you fire at something else."

"I haven't tried yet," said Herbert; "my gun is a long-distance shooter:
there's where I get my work in. Show me a mark a good long distance off
and you'll open your eyes."

"Well, I declare, if that doesn't beat all!"

It was Sam Harper who uttered this exclamation. He had been gazing
steadily at a broad, flat rock about a quarter of a mile distant to the
northwest of them, and his words announced that he had made some
important discovery.

The peculiar tone in which he spoke caused the others to turn toward him
and ask the cause.

"Look at that yellowish white rock," he answered, pointing toward it,
"and tell me whether that isn't a little ahead of anything yet."

One brief searching glance showed that the young man had sufficient
cause for his excitement.

[Illustration: "Now I'll show you what my Creedmoor will do," said
Herbert Watrous.]

Standing on the top of the rock, so that his figure was thrown in clear
relief against the tinted sky behind him, was the very buck they had
been vainly chasing. He seemed to be looking back at the young hunters
as though he disdained their prowess and defied them to renew their
attempt to bring him down.

"_That's my chance!_" exclaimed Herbert, in excitement; "that's just my
distance; get out of my way! give me room! now I'll show you what my
Creedmoor will do, when aimed by a master of the art."

With great display and ceremony the youth prepared to give an exhibition
of shooting like that shown at the international matches. The others
stepped back, so as not to impede his movements, and he deliberately
threw off his cap, got down on his back, raised the rear sight, crossed
his feet and drew them half way up to his body, then rested the barrel
of his gun on the support thus furnished between the knees, and with his
left hand beneath his head, and turned so as to rest against the stock
of his gun, while his right was crooked around with the finger lightly
pressing the trigger, he was in the proper position to make a "crack
shot."

The others watched his actions with the closest attention, only fearful
that the deer would not keep his position long enough for Herbert to
obtain the aim he wished.

The conditions could not have been more favorable; the buck being to the
northwest, while the sun was high in the heavens, there was no confusion
of vision from that cause. The smokiness of the atmosphere was so slight
that it was scarcely perceptible at so brief a distance, while there was
not the least breath of air stirring.

"I am afraid he will lose his chance if he waits too long," said Nick
impatiently, in an undertone to Sam, who whispered back:

"The buck understands him and will wait."

It was evident that Mr. Herbert Watrous did not mean to spoil his aim by
haste. Shutting one eye, he squinted carefully through his sights,
lowering or raising the stock or barrel so as to shift the aim, until
at last he had it elevated and pointed to suit him.

Sam watched the buck, while Nick kept his eye on the marksman, who was
holding his breath, with his finger crowding the trigger harder and
harder until the explosion came.

As before, Herbert uttered a grunt the instant the piece was discharged,
and then, hastily clambering to his feet, he put on his cap and said
with the utmost assurance:

"That bullet struck him in the chest and will be found buried in his
body."

"He doesn't know you fired at him," said Sam Harper, as the buck, a
moment later, turned about and walked out of sight.

"The deer doesn't fall at once, even if you drive the bullet through his
heart. That buck may go a hundred yards or so, but he will then drop as
if struck by lightning."

The confidence with which these words were uttered puzzled Nick and
caused him to think that possibly the boaster was right after all, and
he had made the shot he claimed.

The truth would probably be learned during the afternoon, for Nick
meant to learn it for himself.

Now that they agreed to separate, it was decided that Herbert should
keep straight along the route they had been following. Sam should
diverge to the right, while Nick would swerve far enough to the left to
pass the rock whereupon the buck stood at the time he was shot or rather
shot at.

"I am bound to find out the truth," said Nick, with a shake of the head.

And so he did; but little did he dream of what was to happen to him
during this search for the truth.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A QUAIL.


As the hound belonged to Sam Harper and showed a disposition to go with
him, he was allowed to do so, the lad moving off to the right and Nick
Ribsam to the left, as was agreed upon.

Nick had not his father's watch with him, but Herbert Watrous carried a
handsome gold hunting-piece, which was now consulted and showed it was
nearly two o'clock.

"The days are getting short," said Sam Harper, with a doubtful shake of
the head; "that doesn't leave us more than three hours of daylight, and
it is hardly worth while to part company."

"What's the odds?" laughed Nick, who was anxious to look for the deer;
"we won't be far apart, as we may be to-morrow."

And, without waiting to discuss the question, he struck to the left with
his strong step, the others following the courses already mentioned.

No afternoon could have been more charming, with the summer lingering
and mellowing the approaching winter.

The faint, smoky haze of the atmosphere, the clear sky, the warm sun,
the brilliant-hued vegetation in the woods, the faint cawing of crows in
the distance, and the flight of birds overhead, looking like
mathematical figures in India-ink gliding across the blue heavens, the
delicious languor everywhere: all these were at their best, and he who
was wandering through the rainbow-tinted forest, where the sleepy waters
flowed, could well understand why it was the pioneers, like Daniel
Boone, Simon Kenton, and others, turned their backs on civilization,
and, plunging into the wilderness, buried themselves for months from the
sight of their fellow-men.

Sam Harper was moving quietly toward the north, when it seemed to him
that a large leaf suddenly blew forward from beneath his feet and was
carried swiftly over the ground, straight ahead and away from him.

Looking closely, he discovered that it was a plump quail which he had
startled, and which was speeding from him. Although the bird has short
legs it runs very swiftly, and it was gone almost before Sam identified
it.

"Ah, if I could only get a shot at you," said the lad, his mouth fairly
watering, "what a splendid supper you would make!"

The words were yet in his mouth, when a sudden whirring sound broke the
air, and he caught a glimpse of a second quail flying like an arrow
below the principal limbs.

Sam raised his rifle as quick as a flash, took aim as best he could, and
fired. Even the great Dr. Carver would have missed under such
circumstances, and the lad came nowhere near hitting the game.

So swift was the flight of the bird, that as soon as the trigger was
pulled and Sam looked for it it had vanished. That man who handles the
rifle must be wonderfully skillful to bring down one of those birds on
the wing.

It is curious how the name of the common quail is disputed and varied.
There are plenty who will insist that I should have called this bird a
partridge, when, in point of fact, there is no true representative of
the partridge in America.

The spruce partridge is the Canada grouse; the partridge of New England
is the ruffed grouse; the partridge of the Middle and Southern States is
the quail, of which several varieties are called partridges; while in
Europe the birds which are called quails are in reality partridges.

Without tiring my readers by attempting anything like a scientific
discussion of the question, I may say there are a dozen species of
quails found in North and Central America and the West Indies, and Mr.
Baird proposes that, as neither the name quail, partridge, nor pheasant
is properly given to any American bird, the species to which I refer
should be called the Bob White.

If this should be done, the smallest urchin will be able to recognize
the species from its peculiar call.

Sam Harper would have been glad indeed if he could have secured one of
these delicious birds for supper, but there was little prospect of
doing so. The game looks so much like the brown and mottled leaves among
which it searches for food, that a hunter would almost place his foot
upon one without observing it, while the nest of the quail or partridge
is almost as impossible to find as the remains of an elephant in Ceylon,
where it is said no such remains have ever been discovered.

One of the lessons Sam had learned from his father was to reload his gun
immediately after firing it, so as to be ready for any emergency.
Accordingly, before stirring from his place, he threw out the shell from
his breech-loader and replaced it with a new cartridge.

Just as he did so, he heard the report of a gun only a short distance to
the left, at a point where Herbert Watrous should have been.

"He's scared up something," was the natural conclusion of Sam, who
smiled as he added; "I wonder whether he could hit a bear a dozen feet
off with that wonderful Remington of his. It's a good weapon, and I wish
I owned one; but I wouldn't start out to hunt big game until I learned
something about it."

The boy waited a minute, listening for some signal from his companion,
but none was heard and he moved on again.

Sam, like many an amateur hunter, began to appreciate the value of a
trained hunting dog. Bowser was not a pure-blooded hound; he was fat and
he was faultily trained. He had stumbled upon the trail of the buck by
accident and had plunged ahead in pursuit, until "pumped," when he
seemed to lose all interest in the sport.

He now stayed close to Sam, continually looking up in his face as if to
ask him when he was going to stop the nonsense and go back home.

He scarcely pricked his ears when the quail ran ahead of him, and paid
no attention to the whirring made by the other. He had had all he wanted
of that kind of amusement and showed no disposition to tire himself any
further.



CHAPTER XIX.

AN UNEXPECTED LESSON.


As it was the height of the hunting season, the reports of guns were
heard at varying distances through the woods, so that Sam could only
judge when they were fired by his friends from their nearness to him.

He was well satisfied that the last shot was from the Remington of
Herbert, while the one that preceded it a few minutes, he was convinced
came from the muzzle-loader of Nick Ribsam, owned by Mr. Marston.

"The boys seem to have found something too do, but I don't believe they
have seen anything of the bear--hallo!"

His last exclamation was caused by his unexpected arrival at a clearing,
in the center of which stood a log cabin, while the half acre
surrounding it showed that it had been cultivated during the season to
the highest extent.

There was that air of thrift and cleanliness about the place which told
the lad that whoever lived within was industrious, frugal, and neat.

"That's a queer place to build a house," said Sam, as he surveyed the
scene; "no one can earn a living there, and it must make a long walk to
reach the neighborhood where work is to be had."

Prompted by a natural curiosity, Sam walked over the faintly marked path
until he stepped upon the piece of hewed log, which answered for a
porch, directly in front of the door.

Although the latch string hung invitingly out, he did not pull it, but
knocked rather gently.

"Come in!" was called out in a female voice, and the boy immediately
opened the door.

A pleasing, neatly-clad young woman was working with her dishes at a
table, while a fat chub of a boy, about two years old, was playing on
the floor with a couple of kittens.

The mother, as she evidently was, turned her head so as to face the
visitor, nodded cheerily, bade him good afternoon, and told him to help
himself to one of the chairs, whose bottoms were made of white mountain
ash, as fine and pliable as silken ribbons.

Sam was naturally courteous, and, thanking the lady for her invitation,
he sat down, placing his cap on his knee. He said he was out on a hunt
with some friends, and coming upon the cabin thought he would make a
call, and learn whether he could be of any service to the lady and her
child.

The mother thanked him, and said that fortunately she was not in need of
any help, as her husband was well and able to provide her with all she
needed.

Without giving the conversation in detail, it may be said that Sam
Harper learned a lesson, during his brief stay in that humble cabin,
which will go with him through life: it was a lesson of cheerfulness and
contentment, to which he often refers, and which makes him thankful that
he was led to turn aside from his sport even for a short while.

The husband of the woman worked for a farmer who lived fully four miles
away, on the northern edge of the woods, and who paid only scant wages.
The employee walked the four miles out so as to reach the farm by seven
o'clock in the morning, and he did not leave until six in the evening.
He did this summer and winter, through storm and sunshine, and was
happy.

He lived in the lonely log cabin, because his employer owned it and gave
him the rent free. It had been erected by some wood-choppers several
years before, and was left by them when through with their contract, so
that it was nothing to any one who did not occupy it.

The young man, although now the embodiment of rugged health and
strength, had lain on a bed of sickness for six months, during which he
hovered between life and death. His wife never left his side during that
time for more than a few minutes, and the physician was scarcely less
faithful. At last the wasting fever vanished, and the husband and father
came back to health and strength again.

But he was in debt to the extent of $200, and he and his wife determined
on the most rigid economy until the last penny should be paid.

"If Fred keeps his health," said the cheery woman, "we shall be out of
debt at the end of two years more. Won't you bring your friends and stay
with us to-night?"

This invitation was given with great cordiality, and Sam would have been
glad to accept it, but he declined, through consideration for the brave
couple, who would certainly be put to inconvenience by entertaining
three visitors.

Sam thanked her for her kindness, and, rising to go, drew back the door
and remarked:

"I notice you have a good rifle over the mantle; I don't see how your
husband can get much time to use it."

"He doesn't; it is I who shoot the game, which saves half the cost of
food; but," added the plucky little woman, "there is one game which I am
very anxious to bring down."

"What is that?"

"_A bear._"

"Do you know whether there are any in the woods?"

"There is one, and I think more. My husband has seen it twice, and he
took the gun with him when going to work, in the hope of gaining a
chance to shoot it; but, when I caught sight of it on the edge of the
clearing, he thought it best to leave the rifle for me to use."

"Why are you so anxious to shoot the bear?" asked Sam.

"Well, it isn't a very pleasant neighbor, and I have to keep little
Tommy in the house all the time for fear the brute will seize him. Then,
beside that, the bear has carried off some of Mr. Bailey's (that's the
man my husband works for) pigs, and has so frightened his family that
Mr. Bailey said he would give us twenty dollars for the hide of every
bear we brought him."

"I hope it may be your fortune to shoot all in the woods," said Sam, as
he bade her good-day again, and passed out and across the clearing into
the forest.

"That's about the bravest woman I ever saw," said the lad to himself, as
he moved thoughtfully in the direction of the limestone-rock, where it
was agreed the three should meet to spend the night; "she ought to win,
and if this crowd of bear hunters succeed in bagging the old fellow we
will present him to her."

The thought was a pleasing one to Sam, who walked a short way farther,
when he added, with a grim smile, "But I don't think that bear will lose
any night's sleep on account of being disturbed by _this_ crowd."



CHAPTER XX.

BOWSER PROVES HIMSELF OF SOME USE.


Sam Harper saw, from the position of the sun in the heavens, that he had
stayed longer than he intended to in the cabin, and the short afternoon
was drawing to a close.

He therefore moved at a brisk walk for a quarter of a mile, Bowser
trotting at his heels as though he thought such a laborious gait
uncalled for; but, as the lad then observed that the large limestone was
not far away, he slackened his pace, and sat down on a fallen tree to
rest.

"This is a queer sort of a hunt," he said to himself, "and I don't see
what chance there is of any one of us three doing anything at all.
Bowser isn't worth a copper to hunt with; all there was in him expended
itself when he chased the buck and let it get away from him--hallo,
Bowser, what's the matter with you?"

The hound just then began acting as though he felt the slighting
remarks of his master, and meant to make him sorry therefor.

He uttered several sharp yelps and began circling around the fallen tree
on which Sam was sitting. He went with what might be called a nervous
gallop, frequently turning about and circumnavigating the lad and the
log in the opposite direction.

All the time he kept up his barking and demonstrations, now and then
running up to Sam, galloping several paces away, and then looking toward
him and barking again with great vigor.

Sam watched his antics with amusement and interest.

"He acts as though he wanted me to follow him from this spot, though I
cannot understand why he wants me to do that, since he is so lazy he
would be glad to lie down and stay here till morning."

Studying the maneuvers of the hound, Sam became satisfied that the brute
was seeking to draw him away from the fallen tree on which he was
sitting.

The dog became more excited every minute. He trotted back and forth,
running up to his young master and then darting off again, looking
appealingly toward Sam, who finally saw that his actions meant something
serious.

"I don't know why he wishes me to leave, but he has some reason for it,
and I will try to find out."

Sam slowly rose from the fallen oak tree on which he was sitting, and as
he did so his cap fairly lifted from his head with terror.

He caught the glint and scintillation in the sunlight of something on
the ground on the other side of the trunk, and separated from him only
by the breadth thereof, at the same instant that his ear detected the
whirring rattle which told the fact that an immense rattlesnake had
coiled itself therefor, and had just given its warning signal that it
meant to strike.

Sam Harper never made such a quick leap in all his life as he did, when
he bounded several feet from the log, with a yell as if the ground
beneath him had become suddenly red-hot.

There is nothing on the broad earth which is held in such universal
abhorrence as a snake, the sight of which sends a shiver of disgust and
dread over nearly every one that looks upon it.

When Sam sat down on the fallen tree, he was probably almost near enough
for the coiled _crotalus_ to bury its fangs in him. It reared its head,
and, without uttering its customary warning, most likely measured the
intervening space with the purpose of striking.

The instinct of Bowser at this juncture told him of the peril of his
master, and he began his demonstrations, intended to draw him away from
the spot. At the same time, his barking, and trotting back and forth,
diverted the attention of the rattlesnake to the hound, and thereby
prevented him striking the unsuspicious boy.

It must have been, also, that during these few minutes the serpent
vibrated his tail more than once, for the nature of the reptile leads
him to do so; but the sound could not have been very loud, as it failed
to attract the attention of Sam until he rose from the log and turned
partly about.

The boy moved around the head of the fallen tree, so as to place
himself on the same side with the rattlesnake, and then he spent a
minute or two in contemplating him at that safe distance.

He was a large one, with sixteen rattles and a button. He lay coiled in
several perfect rings, with his tail softly vibrating and his head
thrown back, as if he expected his enemy to come nigh enough for him to
bury his curved needle-like fangs in some portion of his body, injecting
his poison, so deadly that nothing could have saved the boy from dying
within a few minutes.

The first natural feeling which comes over one when he sees a crawling
snake is to kill it, and Sam Harper did not wait long before yielding to
his inclination.

Standing less than a rod distant, he brought his gun to his shoulder,
and sighted at the head of the venomous reptile, which was held almost
stationary, while the crimson tongue darted in and out as if it were a
tiny spray of blood.

The aim was true, and the head was shattered as though the cartridge
had exploded within it. The body made a few furious writhings and
struggles, and then became still.

Sam viewed the ruin he had wrought for a minute or so, and then,
appreciating the service his dog had wrought him, he turned and patted
the animal.

"You're a fine dog, Bowser, and I forgive you for being good for
nothing."



CHAPTER XXI.

FACE TO FACE.


Herbert Watrous, when he separated from his companions on that balmy
afternoon in Indian summer, assumed a loftiness of bearing which was far
from genuine.

The fact was, he felt dissatisfied with himself, or rather with the
rifle which his indulgent father had presented to him only a few weeks
before.

"I don't like the way the thing behaves," he said, as he stopped to
examine it; "father paid one hundred and twenty-five dollars for it, and
it was warranted the best. It's pretty hard to hit a deer a quarter of a
mile off, but I ought to have brought down that squirrel which was only
a hundred feet distant."

He turned the weapon over and over in his hand, looked down the barrel,
tried the hammer and trigger, carefully examined the wind-gauge and
vernier rear-sights, but could not see that anything was out of order.

"I'm afraid it was my fault," he said, with a sigh, "but it will never
do to let the boys know it. I'll insist that I struck the buck, though
I'm afraid I didn't."

After going a little ways he noticed he was walking over a path which
was not marked very distinctly; it was, in fact, the route which Mr.
Fred Fowler, the industrious dweller in the log cabin, had worn for
himself in going to and from his work.

"That's lucky," said the lad, "for it's much easier traveling over a
path like that than tramping among the trees, where you have to walk
twice as far as there is any need of--confound it!"

This impatient remark was caused by a protruding branch, which just then
caught Herbert under the chin and almost lifted him off his feet.

The boy was sensible enough to understand that his failure to display
any good marksmanship was due to his own want of practice rather than to
any fault of his piece.

"That Nick Ribsam can beat me out of my boots; I never heard of such a
thing as 'barking' a squirrel till he showed me how it is done, and he
used a gun that is older than himself. Well, Nick was always smarter
than other boys; he is younger than I, and I have taken sparring lessons
of the best teachers in the country, while he never heard of such a
thing as science in using his fists; but he just sailed into me that
day, and the first thing I knew he had me down, and was banging himself
on me so hard that I have never got over the flattening out--hallo!"

A gray squirrel, flirting its bushy tail, whisked across the path in
front of him that moment, scampered up a hickory and perched itself near
the top, where it offered the best chance for a shot that one could
wish.

"Now I'll see what I can do," muttered Herbert, sighting at the saucy
little fellow, who seemed to be ridiculing his purpose of reaching it
with a bullet at such a height.

The young hunter aimed with great care, pressed the trigger, and, as the
sharp report rang through the woods, the squirrel came tumbling to the
ground, with its skull shattered.

Herbert Watrous was surprised and delighted, scarcely believing in his
own success. He picked up the slain rodent and saw that its destruction
had been caused by the bullet he fired.

"That's business," he exclaimed, with a thrill of pride; "but why
couldn't I shoot that way when Nick and Sam were looking at me? I know
how the thing is done now, and when we get together I'll give them some
lessons in marksmanship."

He left the squirrel on the ground, but had not gone far when a new idea
struck him and he came back, picked it up, and put it in his game-bag.

"If I show them a squirrel, they can't help believing that I shot him."

The serious question which Herbert had been discussing with himself,
ever since being alone, was what he would do if he should happen to come
upon the bear. He had not quite so much confidence in his gun as he had
when he started out, though the shooting of the squirrel brought back
considerable of his natural assurance.

The conclusion he reached was that it would be just as well if he and
bruin did not meet. Excellent as was his Remington, it was not a
repeating rifle, and he was afraid that one shot, even if well aimed,
would not be enough.

"If I had a Henry, which shoots sixteen shots in sixteen seconds, I
could fill him so full of lead that he couldn't run fast enough to
overtake me if I didn't happen to kill him."

But the Henry, which he desired so much, was beyond his reach, and it
was idle to wish for it.

Accordingly, he slung his gun over his shoulder in true sportsman style,
and strode along the path until the greater part of the distance was
passed, when, like his friends, he found a fallen tree at a convenient
spot and sat down for a rest.

Herbert, in his luxurious home in the city, had become accustomed to
irregular hours, so that it was now the most natural thing in the world
for him to fall asleep and not open his eyes until he shivered with
cold and it was growing dark around him.

He started up in no little surprise, and, recalling where he was,
hastened along the path toward the camp.

"They'll be worried almost to death about me," was his thought, "and I
shouldn't wonder if they start out to hunt me up. Ah!"

The reverberating report of a rifle came from the direction of the
limestone rock, and he felt no doubt that it was meant as a signal to
direct him.

Herbert replied by firing his own gun in the air and shouting that he
was coming. He did not forget to place another cartridge in his rifle,
for, truth to tell, he was a little nervous over this lonely tramp
through the woods at such a late hour.

He listened, and heard the answering shout of Sam Harper, and,
communication being thus established, Herbert held his peace and
hastened forward as best he could in the faint moonlight.

"I hope I won't meet any sort of game now," was the wish of the lad,
"for I am in a hurry to join the boys--"

Could he believe his eyes!

He had hardly given expression to the wish, when a dark mass loomed up
to sight directly ahead of him, and he plainly saw the gleam and glow of
a pair of frightful eyes fixed upon him. He was sure, too, that he had
heard the threatening growl of the monster, which might well believe he
had the youngster in his power.

"It's the bear, as sure as I'm alive!" gasped Herbert. "There's no
getting away from him! Heaven save me from missing, for if my gun fails
me now, it is all over! He won't give me time to climb a tree, and I
_must_ shoot!"



CHAPTER XXII.

THE "VACANT CHAIR."


It is hard to imagine a more trying situation than that of Master
Herbert Watrous, who, while walking along a path in the woods, saw by
the faint moonlight what he believed to be the figure of an enormous
black bear, sitting on its haunches, and waiting for him to move either
forward or backward before springing upon him.

He shuddered with fear, but, with a courage hardly to be expected in his
case, he drew up his rifle, sighted as best he could, and fired
point-blank at the brute, when no more than a rod separated the two.

It was impossible to miss, even with such an unsteady aim, and the lad
had not a particle of doubt that he had hit him; but had he inflicted a
mortal wound?

Without waiting an unnecessary second, Herbert flung out the shell of
the cartridge and placed a new one in the breech. His hands trembled so
that he could hardly keep from dropping it, but he succeeded better than
would have been supposed.

Once more the gun was raised, and the leaden missile was buried in the
dark object.

But it did not stir, and the amazed lad was transfixed. What did it
mean?

"I'll give him another, and if that don't answer--"

From out the gloom in front he discerned a figure advancing upon him,
but a second glance showed that it was a man instead of a wild animal.

"Hallo, my friend? what are you firing at?"

The voice was such a cheery one that the courage of Herbert instantly
came back, and it may be said that he was never gladder in all his life
to see a person.

"Why, I thought that was a wild animal--that is, a bear, in the path in
front of me; what is it?"

The man laughed heartily.

"The path makes a little bend right there, so it is not in, but beside
the path; it is an oak stump on which you have been wasting your lead."

"But those glaring eyes--"

"That is fox-fire, which does look odd in the night-time."

"But I heard it growling."

"Be assured it was all imagination, my young friend; there is no bear or
wild animal near us--at least he hasn't shown himself yet."

"Well, I'm blamed glad to hear it, for there isn't much fun in hunting
wild beasts when it is too dark to aim well: may I ask how it is you
happen along here without a gun?"

"I live only a little ways off, and, if you will go back with me, I will
be glad to entertain you over night."

"I'm obliged to you, but I have two friends who are expecting me, up by
the rock yonder."

"I judged you belonged to the party, but there is only one of them
there, unless the other has come since I left. The one named Harper, who
called at my house this afternoon, is there, and has started his camp
fire. He is impatient for the others to come in, and asked me to tell
you, if we met, that he particularly wished you to 'hurry up your
cakes'--I suppose you know what that means."

"I do, and will bid you good-night."

They exchanged pleasant greetings, and separated, each to pursue his own
way.

Herbert was anxious to join his friends; for the fact that he had fired
into a stump, under the belief that it was a bear, was no proof that the
dreaded quadruped was not somewhere in the neighborhood.

As the path, which he was able to keep without difficulty, led by the
rock where the three lads were to meet, he had not gone far when he
caught the starlike twinkle of a point of light, which told him he was
not far from camp.

"Hallo, Sam, are you there?" called out Herbert, while yet a
considerable distance off.

"Yes. What makes you so late?" was the impatient response and question.

Without pausing to reply, Herbert hurried forward and a few minutes
later joined Sam Harper, who had a large fire going, and had broiled a
squirrel and a rabbit, both of which were in fine condition.

"Where's Nick?" asked Sam, as soon as he saw the youth was alone.

"How should I know anything about him? I haven't seen him since we
parted."

"It's mighty queer, any way you may look at it; Nick is always the most
prompt to keep any bargain he made, and I haven't seen anything of him
for hours. He ought to have been here the very first."

"Have you signaled to him?"

"I have fired off my gun, and shouted and whistled till my cheeks ache,
and I haven't had the first show of an answer."

The manner in which these disheartening words were uttered showed that
Sam Harper was ill at ease, not so much over the continued absence of
Nick, as from his utter silence. It was fully understood by all, that,
if anything happened to either one, he was to signal immediately to the
others.

Neither Herbert nor Sam had heard Nick's rifle, though it might have
been discharged without recognition by them.

Herbert had been asleep so long that he could have missed the report
very readily, while Sam was so far from Nick that the sound of his gun
could have been mistaken for that fired by some wandering hunter,
unknown to either.

Every few minutes, Sam halloed or whistled, after Nick's favorite manner
of signaling, and then the two bent their heads and listened for the
answer, which came not.

The broiled game remained untasted, for Sam's appetite was suspended,
and Herbert refused to eat while his companion was in such mental
trouble.

"There's no use of talking," finally exclaimed Sam, unable to repress
his uneasiness, "something has gone wrong with Nick, and I'm bound to
find out what it is."



CHAPTER XXIII.

HUNTING A BUCK.


It will be remembered that when Nick Ribsam left his companions, early
in the afternoon, it was with the resolution to find out whether the
showy shot made by Herbert Watrous at the buck, had done the execution
he claimed for it.

This forced him to make a much longer detour than did Sam Harper, and,
as he was obliged to move with great caution, he found no time to sit
down and rest or sleep.

The more he reflected on the exploit which Herbert attempted, the more
did he doubt it.

"I suppose they hit a target a mile off, as Sam told me; but that is
when they know the exact distance. No person can hit a deer a quarter of
a mile away, unless he does it by chance. Herbert proved he can't shoot
anything close to him, and it isn't likely he hit the deer by accident,
for such accidents don't happen unless it's a person that you don't
want to hurt."

But he had started out to find the truth of the matter, and it was in
accordance with his disposition to do so, if it was possible.

Nick knew that if the buck which they had seen was anywhere in the
neighborhood, it was necessary to proceed with extreme caution to avoid
giving alarm. The wonder was that it had shown itself after the fright
caused by the dog.

The drowsy autumn afternoon was well advanced when the boy saw, from his
surroundings, that he was close to the spot where the deer stood when
Herbert fired at it with his long-range rifle. There was the rock, but
the animal was invisible.

Just beyond was an oak which had been upturned by some wrenching tornado
or storm. The roots protruded upward and from the sides, the dirt still
clinging to them, so that the bottom spread out like a fan.

The base of the trunk lay flat on the ground, but the branching limbs
supported the top to that extent that it was raised five or six feet
from the earth. Consequently, it sloped away in an incline from the
crested summit to the base.

Such a sight is not unusual in any forest, for it is the general fashion
of trees to fall that way; but Nick was struck by the evident fact that,
although the oak was uprooted, as it is termed, yet enough connection
with the ground remained to afford nourishment, and to keep life within
it.

He started toward it, but had moved only a few steps when a slight
rustling in the undergrowth arrested his attention. Stopping short he
looked about him, and, with an amazement which can hardly be imagined,
saw the buck within fifty feet of him.

He was in a clump of undergrowth, and was browsing on some tender
shoots. His position was such that his side was toward Nick, who first
caught sight of his antlers above the bushes: and it was a remarkable
thing that he did not detect the approach of the young hunter, despite
the caution he used.

The sight was so unexpected that Nick was taken aback, and had a spasm
of that nervous affection which sometimes seizes the inexperienced
hunter, and is known as "buck fever."

Knowing that the game would bound away with the speed of the wind the
instant he scented danger, the lad brought up his rifle and pointed at
him.

Poor Nick shook as if he had a chill; it was impossible to control his
nerves; but, aiming as best he could, he fired. The deer was "hit hard,"
though not so hard as young Ribsam meant and most ardently desired.

Dropping the breech of his gun, Nick looked to see the result of his
shot, and found it amazing to a startling degree.

The buck, which was a noble fellow, stopped browsing, and, with his head
thrown high in air, looked around to learn where his assailant was.
Catching sight of the staring lad, the animal emitted a furious sniff
and charged upon him at full speed.

This is a most unusual thing for a deer to do, though many a hunter has
been killed by a wounded buck or moose, who has turned upon and attacked
him with the fury of a tiger.

[Illustration: "He turned on his heel and ran with might and main for
the fallen tree."]

Nick Ribsam thought it very singular, but he thought it very alarming
as well, and, without waiting to watch matters further, he turned on his
heel and ran with might and main for the fallen tree.

The lusty youngster was a good runner, but the buck made three times as
much speed as he "went for him," with head lowered like a charging bull.

Nick had to think fast, but fast as he thought he couldn't see how the
fallen oak was to offer him refuge against the fury of the animal, and,
unless it did so, he was in a bad predicament.

It was impossible to reach any tree in time to climb out of reach, as
Nellie did when pursued by the bear, and the highest portion of the
prostrate trunk would not protect him from the antlers of the savage
buck.

There was no use for the empty rifle as it seemed, and Nick was on the
point of throwing it away, when it occurred to him that it might still
serve as a weapon of defense.

"I will club it and see what can be done."



CHAPTER XXIV.

HUNTED BY A BUCK.


Glancing over his shoulder, Nick Ribsam kept informed of the movements
of his fierce foe, who was certainly carrying things with a hurricane
rush.

Finding there was no getting away from him, Nick, just as he reached the
fallen tree, whirled around and, grasping his rifle by the barrel, swung
the stock back over his shoulder and poised himself for the blow, which
he believed must decide his own fate.

The boy made a formidable-looking picture; but it was all lost on the
buck, which did not halt nor slacken his pace.

It was a terrifying sight as he plunged toward the lad with lowered head
and glowering front, for the deer was an exceptionally large and
powerful one, and he meant to kill the individual that had sent the
bullet into his side, and from which the red blood was already
streaming.

It may be said just here, that Nick Ribsam no longer doubted the
failure of the long-range shot of Herbert Watrous.

The imperiled lad drew a deep respiration, poised himself on his
advanced foot, and, swinging to one side, with a view of avoiding the
full force of the charge, he brought down the stock of his gun with the
utmost strength he could command.

It descended with great power--so far as a ten-year-old boy is
concerned--but it was not sufficient to throw the buck off his base nor
to interfere with his plan of procedure.

He struck the lad with tremendous force, sending the gun flying from his
grasp and knocking Nick fully a dozen feet. Never in all his life had
the boy received such a terrific shock, which drove the breath from his
body and sent him spinning, as it seemed, through twenty yards of space.

Poor Nick believed half his bones were broken and that he was mortally
hurt; but the result of the charge was most extraordinary.

As the antlers of the buck struck him he was thrown like a limp dummy
toward the fallen tree, and, in reality, his greatest peril was
therefrom. Had he been driven with full momentum against the solid
trunk, he would have been killed as if smitten by a lightning stroke.

But his feet were entangled in some way and he fell headlong, his
forehead within a few inches of the bark, and his head itself was driven
under the trunk, which at that point was perhaps a foot above the
ground.

Instinctively the nearly senseless lad did the only thing that could
save him. He crawled under the trunk, so that it stood like a roof over
him.

His head was toward the base, and he pushed along until the lessening
space would not permit him to go further.

Thus he lay parallel with the uprooted tree, his feet at a point where
the bark almost touched his heels, the space growing less and less
toward his shoulders, until the back of his head rested against the
shaggy bark and his nose touched the leaves.

He had scarcely done this when he heard a thud at his elbow: it was
made by the knife-like hoofs of the buck, who, rearing on his hind
legs, gathered his two front ones close together and brought them down
with such force that, had they fallen on the body of the lad, as was
intended, they would have cut into him like the edge of a powerfully
driven ax.

As it was, the shielding tree trunk prevented it, and, grazing the bark,
they were driven into the yielding earth half a foot deep.

The buck immediately reared and repeated the terrible blow several
times, missing the body of the lad by what may be called a hair's
breadth.

The animal was in a fury, and, believing his foe was at his mercy, he
showed him none.

Nick heard the first thump of the sharp hoofs as they cut their way into
the earth, and then his head seemed to spin, as though he had been
whirled around with inconceivable velocity; innumerable stars danced
before his eyes, he felt as if shooting through space, and then
consciousness left him.

The buck could know nothing of this, and, had he known it, his actions
would not have been affected. He continued his rearing and plunging
until he saw he was inflicting no injury. Then he stopped, backed off
several paces, and, lowering his head, tried to dislodge the lad from
his place of refuge.

But the breadth of his antlers prevented success, which would have
placed Nick just where he could finish him. The oak barred his progress,
stopping the head and horns when they were almost against the body.

Then the buck reared and struck again, trying all manner of maneuvers
which his instinct suggested, but providentially none of them succeeded.

All this time Nick Ribsam, who had been so badly bruised, was oblivious
of the efforts against his life. Had he possessed his faculties, he
could not have done anything more for his protection than he did, by
lying motionless, extended along and below the trunk of the oak.

But the lusty, rugged nature of the lad soon asserted itself, and he
began rallying from the shock. A reaction gradually set in, and slowly
his senses returned.

It was a considerable time, however, before he realized where he was
and what had befallen him. His head was still ringing, as though the
clangor of a hundred anvils were sounding in his ears, and, when he drew
a deep breath, a pain, as if made by a knife, was in his side.

He listened, but heard nothing of his enemy. Then, with a great labor
and more suffering, he pushed himself a few inches backward, so as to
give some freedom to his body and to enable him to move his head.

Turning his face, he peered out on his right: the buck was not visible
in that direction.

Then he did the same toward the left: his enemy was invisible on that
side also.

"He is gone," said the lad to himself, still afraid to venture from the
shielding trunk that had been the means of saving him from the fury of
the enraged deer.

Nick believed he was close at hand, waiting for him to make a move that
would give another chance to assault him.

After several more minutes, the lad hitched farther backward, so that he
was able to raise his head a few inches. This extended his field of
observation, and, with a feeling of inexpressible relief, he still
failed to catch sight of the game.

"I guess he got discouraged and left," said Nick, startled at the
evidences of the buck's wrath so near him.

Finally the lad backed clear out from under the tree, and climbed to his
feet; it was climbing in every sense, for he nearly cried with pain
several times, and, still fearful that he had been seriously injured, he
examined himself as best he could.

A few minutes convinced him that none of his bones was broken, although
he afterward declared that he suspected his head had been fractured.

He now looked about for his gun and found it within a short distance,
much scratched by the hard treatment it had received, but without any
real injury.

Throwing the weapon over his shoulder, he started in the direction of
the appointed rendezvous, and, as he did so, observed that it was
already grown dark in the woods. Night had come, and he had quite a long
distance to walk.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE CAMP FIRE.


But Nick Ribsam was full of grit, and, though every step he took caused
him pain, he persevered with that grim resolution that was a part of his
nature from his very birth.

After walking some distance he found the soreness and stiffness leaving
him, and he straightened up with something of his natural vim and
elasticity of spirits.

"There's one thing certain," he added, recalling his encounter with the
buck, "I didn't have any one to help me out of that scrape, except the
One who always helps him that helps himself; but I never wanted a friend
more than then, and, if it hadn't been for that oak, it would have been
the last of Nicholas Ribsam."

"There is another thing I have learned," he added, with that glimmer of
humor which was sure to show itself, "I know considerable more than I
did yesterday; I have a good idea of how it feels when a wounded buck
_raises_ you, and, after this, I won't shoot one of the creatures unless
I'm sure of making a better shot than I did a while ago--hallo!"

Well might he utter the last exclamation, for at that moment he came
upon the dead body of the buck, lying as he had fallen on the earth,
when at last he succumbed to the wound received at the hands of Nick
himself.

The boy stopped to examine it, for he was much impressed by the
discovery.

"That came very near ending in the death of us both: nothing but the oak
saved me. I wonder whether I am going right."

He raised his head from his examination, and looked about him, but he
was without the means of judging whether he was following the proper
direction or not. When leaving the scene of his encounter with the deer,
he had taken the course that seemed to be right, without pausing until
he could make himself certain in the matter.

This is pretty sure, in a majority of cases, to lead one astray, but it
so happened with Nick that he headed in a bee-line for the camp, where
the impatient Sam Harper was awaiting him.

But the error came afterward: he toiled forward without any guide, and
soon began to turn to the left, so that he was in reality moving on the
circumference of a large circle, without suspecting how much he wandered
from the true course.

This peculiar mistake is made by many who are lost in the wilderness,
and is supposed to be due to the fact that everybody is either right or
left handed, instead of being ambidextrous as we all ought to be.

One side of the body being stronger than the other, we unconsciously
exert the limb on that side the most, and swerve from a straight line,
unless we have something to direct in the shape of a landmark or
guiding-post.

It was not until Nick had gone a long ways out of the right course that
he suspected his error: the appearance of the camp fire which Sam Harper
had kindled, was what led him to stop and make the best investigation he
could.

There was little else he could appeal to, and he was in doubt as to
whether that had not been kindled by some other party; but fortunately,
while he was debating the matter, he caught the faint but distinct
signal of his friend, who was on the point of starting out to look for
him.

Nick replied, and in the course of half an hour had joined Sam and
Herbert by the fire.

They were relieved beyond expression to see the figure of the sturdy
little fellow, as he emerged from the gloom, and took his seat around
the camp fire.

They noticed that he limped, and knew something unusual must have taken
place to delay him. He had the most attentive of listeners when he
related his dangerous encounter with the buck, which came so nigh ending
his life.

But, happily, he had come out without any serious injury, and the lads
attacked their supper with the keenest of appetites.

"The reason the buck did not kill you," said Herbert, "was because he
was disabled by the wound I gave him."

"He was struck by one bullet only, and that one was mine," said Nick,
who saw no sense in deferring to the absurd claims of the youth.

"Possibly not, but we shall have to examine his carcass to make sure of
that."

"I don't believe we shall have much time to look after dead deer," said
Sam, "for I believe we are in the neighborhood of the very bear we're
looking for."

His friends turned toward him for an explanation of this remark, which
was uttered with all seriousness.

"Bowser has been acting very queer for the last half-hour."

"I think he has acted queer all day," observed Nick.

"I did not consider him of much account until he saved me from the
rattlesnake this afternoon; after that, I'm ready to believe he's got a
good deal more sense than you are willing to think."

Then Sam told his story, and added that the hound had left the vicinity
of the fire several times, and, going some distance in the woods, had
come back, giving utterance to a peculiar whine. At the same time he
looked up in the face of his master with much the same expression as he
did when seeking to warn him of his danger from the poisonous serpent.

"There he goes now!" suddenly exclaimed Sam; "just watch him!"

Bowser had been stretched out near enough to the fire to receive much of
its warmth, and appeared to be asleep. All at once he threw up his head
and sniffed the air, as though he scented something; then he rose, with
a low whine, and trotted straight out in the gloom.

The lads listened attentively for some sound from him, but all remained
still. At the end of ten minutes he came trotting to view again, and
walked straight up to his master, looked up in his face, wagging his
tail, and whined again.

"You can depend on it," said Sam, "he has made some discovery, though I
have no idea what it is."

"Let's follow him and find out."

It was Nick Ribsam who made the proposal; the others were inclined to
hold back, but the plucky little fellow insisted, and it was agreed that
Bowser's secret should be learned by keeping him company to the spot
which he visited.



CHAPTER XXVI.

AN UNEXPECTED ATTACK.


The three boys had scarcely agreed to the proposition to follow the
hound, when Bowser, as if he understood their intention, rose from the
ground where he had been lying, close to the camp fire, looked sharply
out in the gloom of the surrounding woods, and then moved along the same
course he had taken several times before.

He did not trot, but walked with a deliberate gait, as if he felt the
importance of being the leader of such a party.

"It must be a wild animal," said Sam, in an undertone, "or Bowser
wouldn't act that way."

"It's the bear, of course; see that your guns are ready, and when you
fire be sure you don't miss," warned Herbert.

An idea suddenly occurred to Nick Ribsam.

"All wild animals are afraid of fire: let's each take a torch to keep
him off."

The others eagerly caught up a blazing brand and strode forward with
more confidence than ever.

Herbert Watrous, who was sensible that he had not made such an
exhibition before the others as he desired, placed himself at the head
of the little company.

He hardly would have done this, had he not been certain that the flaming
brands would act as a shield to keep away the wild animal, whatever its
nature.

Each lad found it a little awkward to carry his loaded and cocked rifle
in one hand and the flaming stick of wood in the other. It cannot be
said there was any special difficulty in the task itself, but if a
crisis came the boy would have to surrender one of his weapons.

The young hunters formed a picturesque group as they moved forward in
Indian file, each holding a burning torch above his head and swinging it
so as to keep the blaze going, while his gun was trailed in the other
hand.

The hound Bowser was at the head, Herbert Watrous next, Sam Harper
followed, and Nick Ribsam, who still limped slightly, brought up the
rear.

The hound showed an intelligence which would have been surprising but
for his action respecting the rattlesnake. He kept on a slow walk, so as
not to leave his friends, and now and then looked at them, as if to make
sure they were not trying to shrink from an important duty.

"Keep your torches going," called out Herbert, in a husky whisper, as he
swung his own so vigorously that a large piece dropped off, and, falling
on his foot, caused him to leap up with an exclamation of affright.

The fact was, they had gone no more than a hundred feet from the camp
fire when Herbert began to feel that he had not shown enough care in
picking out his torch, for the blaze was feeble, and, in spite of
continued nursing, showed a tendency to collapse altogether.

"Keep close to me, boys," he said, waiting for Sam to come still nearer,
"for I don't like the way this torch is behaving; I believe it is going
out altogether, and I think I'll get a better--"

"_Look out! there he is now!_" exclaimed Sam, in no little excitement.

As he uttered the warning words, Bowser turned squarely about and ran
back to where his master had halted with the smoking torch, and crouched
at his feet, whining and appealing for protection against some enemy.

Just then a savage sniff was heard, followed instantly by the sound of
hoofs, as the unknown animal charged upon Herbert Watrous, who was
whirling his half-expired torch around his head with such swiftness that
it made a ring of fire, similar to those which all boys delight to look
upon during the pyrotechnic displays on the Fourth of July.

Herbert was so impressed with the importance of this action, that he
threw all his energy in it, stooping down and rising on his tip-toes
with the motion of the torch, and grunting hard and with much
regularity, as he always did when exerting himself with unusual vigor.

He caught the warning cry of Sam and the rattle of the hoofs at the same
instant.

"_Shoot him! Shoot him!_" he shouted to his friends, who could not gain
the view of the beast necessary to make the shot safe for Herbert
himself.

The savage creature, from some reason, probably because the torch was
less formidable, made for the city youth, who was not aware of his
danger until too late.

The brute went directly between his outspread feet, and, lifting him on
his back, carried him several paces, when Herbert, his gun, torch, and
himself, mixed up in great confusion, rolled off backward, turning a
partial somersault and landing solidly on his head, his gun going off in
the confusion and adding to it.

Sam Harper threw down his torch, so as to use his rifle, but he saw
Herbert's dilemma and waited the chance to shoot without danger of
harming him; but the partial extinguishment of his own torch, and the
total blotting out of Herbert's, rendered the risk still greater.

While he stood, with gun partly raised and hand on the trigger, Herbert
rolled off, but Sam had not time to catch the fact when the beast shot
between his legs, and he felt himself lifted off his feet and fairly
whizzing through the air.

Nick Ribsam's torch was burning brightly and illuminated the whole
scene. He was in a stooping position, holding his flaming brand so he
could see everything, and he was laughing so hard that he could hardly
keep from falling to the ground from weakness.

He had recognized the animal, which they had held in such terror, as a
large hog that had doubtless wandered in the woods so long with his
mates, eating the acorns and nuts fallen from the trees, that he was
half wild and ready to attack any one who came near him.

The hog was a lank, bony fellow, with great strength and swiftness of
gait, and, like his fiercer brother the wild boar of Europe, he
possessed undoubted courage.

"Well, if that ain't the funniest sight I ever saw!" roared Nick,
bending himself almost double with laughter; "we thought it was a bear,
and I guess Herbert and Sam are sure it is a royal Bengal tiger or mad
elephant--"



CHAPTER XXVII.

WAS IT A JOKE?


At that instant, Nick Ribsam felt himself suddenly lifted in air and
spinning forward with great speed on the back of the vigorous hog, which
plunged between his rather short legs.

The astounded lad instantly stopped laughing, and, dropping his gun and
torch, grasped at something to sustain himself against the peril, the
nature of which he could hardly guess.

The hog had struck him from the front, so that Nick was seated in
reverse position on his back. The object which he grasped was the spiral
tail of the animal, but, before he could make his grip certain, the
porker swerved so suddenly to one side that Nick rolled off and bumped
against a tree.

His body was not hurt to one half the extent that his feelings were, for
he heard Sam Harper roaring with mirth, loud enough to be heard half a
mile; and as Nick hastily clambered upon his feet, he was certain
Herbert's cracked laugh was also rending the night air.

The porker, having made the round and paid his tribute to each member of
the company in turn, whisked off into the woods, with a triumphant
grunt, as if to say, "I guess you folks and your dog will let me alone
now."

As soon as the boys found their guns, and restored two of the torches to
a blaze, they looked at each other and gave way to their unrestrained
mirth for several minutes before they could speak so as to be
understood.

Never had a pompous expedition ended more ignobly: they had started out
to attack a fierce black bear, and unexpectedly were overturned by a
large-sized pig, which resented the interference with his slumber.

Some naturalists maintain that many animals possess a sense of the
humorous, and it looked as though the sluggish Bowser enjoyed the joke
as much as did the victims; for, when the latter made their way back to
the camp fire, they saw the hound stretched out close to the warm blaze
with his head between his paws and apparently asleep; but, watching him
closely, he was seen to open one of his eyes, just a little ways, and,
surveying them a minute, he closed it to open again a minute later.

No animal could have said more plainly:

"I've got the joke on you this time, boys, and I'm laughing so hard that
I can't keep my eyes open."

"I tell you there is a good deal more in the heads of brutes than many
of us think," said Nick Ribsam, after he had studied the actions of the
hound; "I believe he wanted to make us believe there was some sort of
game out there so as to play the fool with us."

"Do you think he foresaw the trick of the hog?" asked Herbert, who was
rubbing his bruised elbows and knees.

"That would have been impossible, for we could not have foreseen it
ourselves if we had arranged the joke; he simply meant to mislead us,
and then we acted the fool for _his_ amusement."

It looked very much as if Nick Ribsam was correct in his supposition,
and that Bowser enjoyed even more than they the shrewd trick he had
played on them.

"I suppose there are several hundred hogs wandering through the woods,"
said Nick, "picking up acorns and nuts that have fallen off the trees,
and making a good living at it."

"Yes, lots of them have been running wild for weeks and months," added
Sam, "and when their owners try to gather them in, there will be
trouble, for it doesn't take hogs long to become savage."

"It didn't take that hog very long, I'm sure," observed Herbert, sitting
down with care upon the ground.

"But how was it there was but _one_?" asked Sam.

"There wasn't need of any more than one," said Nick; "he had no trouble
in doing as he pleased with us."

"But hogs go in droves, and you wouldn't be apt to find one of them by
himself in the woods."

"There were others close by, for I am sure I heard them; but it is a
little curious that they didn't attack us, for hogs don't know as much
as dogs, and they had no reason to feel that one of their number was
more than enough for us."

"I don't see the use in talking about it," remarked Herbert, who gently
tipped his body to the other side, so as to rest differently on the
ground; "I am sure I never was so upset in all my life."

"Nor were we," added Nick; "hogs are queer creatures; if a drove finds
it is going to be attacked by an enemy, the boars will place themselves
on the outside, with the sows and younger ones within, so as to offer
the best resistance to the bear or whatever it is, and they will fight
with great fury. In a wild state, they can run fast, and when the tusks
of the boars get to be six or eight inches long, as they do in time,
they are afraid of no animal in the woods."

"How is that?" asked Herbert, again shifting his position with great
care, but feeling interested in what the lad was telling.

"I suppose because they haven't any reason to be afraid. With those
frightful tusks curving upward from the lower jaw, and with a strength
like Sampson in their necks, they can rip up a bear, a tiger, or any
animal that dare attack them."

"I s'pose they're very strong, Nick?" continued Herbert.

"So strong, indeed, that one of the wild boars in Germany has run under
the horse of a hunter, and, lifting both clear from the ground, trotted
fifty yards with them, before the struggling animal could get himself
loose."

Herbert looked fixedly at the narrator for a moment, then solemnly
reached out his hand to Sam, for him to shake over the last astounding
statement, which was altogether too much for him to credit.

Sam Harper grasped the hand and wabbled it once or twice, but said:

"It's as true as gospel, Herbert; I don't know anything about it myself,
but when Nick Ribsam tells you anything for truth, you can make up your
mind it is the truth and nothing else."

The friends lay for a long time by the camp fire, talking over the
events of the day, while Nick Ribsam gave them many wonderful facts
concerning the various wild animals found in different parts of the
world. The lad read everything he could obtain relating to natural
history, and his strong memory retained nearly all the facts.

But, as the night wore on, all three began to feel drowsy, and they made
ready to sleep.

The arrangements for doing this were not so perfect as they could wish.
Not one of them had anything like a blanket, and, though it was the time
of the balmy Indian summer, the nights were quite cold.

There was an abundance of wood around them, and they gathered all they
could possibly need. Then they heaped up a big lot of leaves and lay
down as close to each other as possible.

This was the best that could be done; but it gave a great advantage to
the one who lay in the middle, as the warmth of the others kept him
comfortable, while they were forced to turn one side to the cold air.

By changing about, however, they got along quite well until past
midnight, when the pile of leaves caught fire and caused them to leap to
their feet with so much vigor that the outside ones got sufficiently
warm to last till daylight.

The friends were glad enough when it began growing red in the east. They
rose early, washed their hands and faces in the clear brook, which
flowed near at hand, using their handkerchiefs for towels. Then a rabbit
and couple of squirrels were shot, and, with the same wolf-like
appetites, they made a nourishing and substantial meal.

The brook, from which they took a draught of clear, strengthening water,
lay a short distance to the south of their camp, that is, between it and
Shark Pond, which they passed the day before.

The three were standing by this stream, considering the best thing to be
done to get on the track of the bear, when Sam Harper suddenly stopped
talking and looked fixedly at a point a few yards away. Then he walked
slowly to it, without removing his gaze, stooped down, and attentively
scrutinized the ground.

Without speaking, he turned and beckoned to the others to approach.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE TRAIL OF THE BEAR.


The boys did as directed, and, also stooping down, saw in the soft earth
near the water the prints of the feet of a large animal, such tracks
indeed as could have been made only by the bear.

All agreed that it was that much desired and yet dreaded animal, and
that it was more than likely he had moved to the southward, so that in
point of fact the hunters and hunted had exchanged relative positions.

Sam sternly directed the attention of Bowser to the trail, and ordered
him to "look into the matter."

The hound sniffed the ground, ran back and forth several times, and then
gazed up at his master, as if awaiting further orders.

"I won't stand any such nonsense as that," said his impatient master,
grasping him by the baggy skin at the back of the neck and giving him
several sharp blows with a switch.

Bowser yelped and kicked lustily, and, when released, placed his nose to
the ground, emitted several more cries, and then trotted off, taking a
direction leading almost directly back over the path Herbert had
followed the day before.

"He's on the trail _this_ time," said Sam, with restored admiration for
the hound, "and if he does well, I'll consider him a great deal better
hunting dog than he has shown himself yet."

In fact, Bowser acted as if anxious to redeem his tainted reputation,
and, trotting quite briskly, was soon out of sight among the trees, the
lads hurrying after him.

A few minutes later, the yelping of the hound ceased, but the young
hunters kept up their pursuit, the fresh trail made by the dog being
easily followed, as he turned over and rumpled the abundant leaves on
the ground, so that it was plainly discernible.

"I wonder why he has stopped barking," said Sam.

"I guess he has got tired," was the rather original reply of Herbert,
who was ready to give information, whether reliable or not.

"Bowser seems to have a way of doing things which is different from
other dogs--hallo! there he goes again."

The resounding cries of the hound echoed through the woods, seemingly at
a distance of a half mile, and a little to the east of south.

"I guess he has treed him!" said Herbert, striking into a trot, the
others doing the same, and very much doubting whether the odd dog had
ever treed anything in his life.

A short run only was necessary, when, by stopping and listening, they
learned that the hound was standing instead of running. If he had been a
regular hunting dog, this fact would have proven that he had brought the
game to bay.

As respecting Bowser, it was uncertain what it signified.

It did not take the lads long to hurry over the intervening space, when
they came upon the hound, who was standing under a large red oak,
looking up and barking with all the vigor he possessed.

"He has treed the bear, I do believe!" exclaimed Sam Harper, breaking
ahead of the others in his excitement.

Nick Ribsam also thought the indications pointed that way.



CHAPTER XXIX.

"HELP! HELP!"


The belief that they were close upon the bear threw the boys into a
flutter of excitement, and they walked slowly as they approached the
tree, up which the hound was barking.

As has been stated, it was what was known as the red oak, very large,
with branching limbs at no great distance from the ground.

"_I see him!--I see him!_" whispered Herbert, just as he caught his foot
in a root and pitched forward.

"Where?"

Herbert picked up his hat, muttered something impatient, and then looked
upward again, and found he was mistaken.

"I thought that big knot up there was the bear," replied the city youth,
in meeker tones.

The boys slowly circled about the tree again and again, back and forth,
scrutinizing trunk, limbs, and twigs so closely that a cat could not
have concealed itself from view.

The result was disheartening: there was no bear in sight.

"May be the trunk is hollow," suggested Sam, "and he has gone into a
hole."

They struck against the bark, but the sound showed that the wood beneath
was solid. Besides, an examination of the bark itself failed to bring to
view the scratching and abrasion that would have been made by a bear in
going up, and especially in coming down, the trunk.

Bowser, beyond all question, had been "barking up the wrong tree."

"You're a pretty hunting dog, ain't you?" sneered Sam Harper, addressing
the canine; "come here, that I may give you another switching."

But Bowser wheeled about, and, taking the trail again, trotted to the
southward, his nose close to the ground, while he bayed at intervals of
a few seconds.

"The bear ain't far off, you can make up your mind to that," said
Herbert, still all excitement; "if we keep close to the dog, we'll run
upon the other pretty soon."

In fact, the youthful Watrous showed such an interest in the sport that
he forgot the danger which always accompanies it. Had he stopped a
minute or so to reflect, he would have seen that now was the time for
the three to stick together, for never was there likely to be an
occasion which would demonstrate more certainly that in union there is
strength.

Forgetful of this, Herbert sped forward so fast that in a brief while he
vanished from view.

Nick shouted to him not to hasten so fast, but the young gentleman was
not to be checked in that style, and he kept up his flight with
undiminished speed.

"Let him go, then," said Nick, dropping down to a rapid walk, in which
Sam joined him; "his legs are so long that he can outrun us both."

"Which is a good thing."

"Why so?"

"As soon as he catches sight of the bear, he will turn about and run
with might and main."

"I'm not so sure of that," remarked Nick, who began to think there was
more in Herbert than they had suspected.

"He is so anxious to get the animal that he doesn't know the risk he is
running. The fight you had with the buck yesterday shows what a more
harmless animal will do when he turns to fight the hunter."

"But Herbert will be likely to wait till we come up to him if he sees
the bear."

"There's no telling what such a fellow will do when he loses his head;
the only chance for him is that we may be so close that we can turn in
and help him."

"Then we had better hurry."

Thereupon the two broke into a run again, which they kept up till pretty
well tired out.

They could hear Bowser baying at no great distance, and, consequently,
were sure that Herbert himself was not far off.

"If we three come upon him we ought to be able to kill him without much
risk to ourselves--that is, if we use any sort of care in taking aim."

"We must try and do that--hark!"

At that instant they were startled by the sharp report of a rifle, the
distance and direction leaving no doubt that it was fired by Herbert
Watrous.

Sam and Nick fairly turned pale, and something like a feeling of envy
came over them at the belief that Herbert, after all his boasting, had
succeeded in bringing down the royal game without their help.

The shot was fired so close that, as they hastened forward again, they
expected to come upon the hunter and his game every minute.

"Hallo! what does that mean?"

The question was caused by the sudden appearance of Bowser, who was
limping toward them in a panic of terror. At every leap he uttered a
yelp, which was of pain and fear.

The boys stopped, and the hound, running up, crouched down at their
feet, whining and moaning.

"He is hurt!" said Sam, who noticed that he was bleeding from a wound in
the shoulder, where the claws of some animal had struck him with great
force.

"It was done by the bear," said Nick, "and he hit Bowser a hard blow; I
shouldn't wonder if it kills him."

Sam stooped over the dog and tried to soothe him by patting and speaking
kind words.

"He is badly hurt, but I hope he isn't going to die. Poor fellow! we
have been unjust to him; he's a good deal braver dog than we gave him
credit for."

They were still patting and soothing the wounded hound, when the report
of Herbert's rifle was heard again. Sam and Nick started up and stared
in the direction whence the sound came.

"He has got the bear--"

Just then the voice of Herbert was heard ringing through the forest
arches:

"Quick! quick! help! help! the bear has got me! Hurry up, boys, or I'm a
goner!"

The lads dashed forward, excited and fearful they would be too late.

The voice of the imperiled hunter rang out again.

"Quick! quick! the bear has got me sure! Hurry boys, hurry, for pity's
sake!"

The next instant Sam and Nick came upon an extraordinary scene.



CHAPTER XXX.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


Herbert Watrous had been set upon by a huge bear, and, throwing aside
his Creedmoor, had run with might and main for a large stump, behind
which he took refuge. Had he climbed a sapling, he would have been safe,
but he was too flustered to think of that.

Dodging behind this shelter he squatted down, hoping that his enemy did
not notice where he had gone; but, when he heard the brute lumbering
after him, he hastily shifted his quarters to the other side of the
stump. While doing so, he emitted the ringing cries for help which
brought his friends in such haste to his rescue.

The situation would have been laughable but for its element of peril.
Darting to the side of the stump opposite to that of the bear, Herbert
would drop his head, and then instantly pop up again, like a
jack-in-the-box, to see what the brute was doing. The latter, it may be
said, kept things moving.

When Herbert lowered his head and yelled, his voice had a muffled sound,
as though it came from a distance, but when he shot up in sight, his
cries were clear and distinct.

The beast, although heavy and awkward of movement, managed to move
around the stump and to reverse his course with such facility that there
can be little doubt that he would have caught the lad, had not his
friends been so prompt to rush to his help.

Sam and Nick felt no disposition to laugh; indeed, they were so
impressed by the danger that, without exercising the care they would
have done any other time, and which they meant to show when talking of
the matter a few minutes before, they raised their guns together and
fired.

Although the aim was not as deliberate as it should have been, yet both
bullets struck the bear, though neither inflicted a mortal wound.

The brute stopped short in his circular pursuit, looked confusedly
about him for a second or two, and then made straight for the lads who
had fired upon him, just as the buck did in the case of Nick Ribsam.

"Scatter and climb a tree!" called out Nick, who saw they had no chance
to reload.

Now was the time for Herbert to recover, and reload his gun and to take
another shot at the brute, so as to draw him off from his hot pursuit of
the others; but the panic-stricken youth could not realize that the
danger was removed, and that his terrible foe was bestowing his
attention elsewhere. He continued calling for help in a louder voice
than before, believing that every minute would be his last.

Sam Harper whirled about to make for a sapling, but caught his foot in
an obstruction and fell violently to the ground. Nick was so alarmed
that he stopped to help him up.

"I'm all right," said Sam, "look out for yourself!"

But Nick could not desert him, until assured he was not mangled by the
fall, and by that time the bear was too close for them to escape by
climbing a tree.

It looked as if it would go ill with one at least (for no gun in the
party was loaded, and the brute was almost upon them), when most
providentially, but unexpectedly, the report of another rifle broke upon
their ear, and the bullet reached the heart of the monstrous beast, who
reared himself on his haunches and used his paws as though trying to
draw out the splinters which he imagined were thrust into his body.

Then he swerved to one side, sagged heavily to the ground, and then it
was plain that all was over.

"Are any of you hurt?"

It was the voice of the plucky Mrs. Fowler, who hurried forward with
anxious face, the smoking rifle in her hands.

Herbert was still peering from behind the stump and shouting himself
hoarse, with no thought of what had taken place within the last few
minutes. By and by, however, after he had been called to, he
comprehended the facts and came forth, when a general explanation
followed.

Although Herbert would not admit it, there was no doubt that of the two
shots which he fired at the bear only one touched him, and that only to
a sufficient extent to graze his body and to draw his attention to the
young hunter.

Herbert then dropped his gun and made for the stump, which was not a
secure refuge.

This took place so near the cabin-home of Mrs. Fowler that she heard the
cries for help, and, taking down her rifle, hurried to the spot,
arriving just in time to save the other lads from serious danger, if not
from death.

The boys overwhelmed the brave woman with thanks, and though she
modestly disclaimed her right to the bear--expressing her belief that
the two shots they had fired were fatal--they would not listen to it,
but they turned to, skinned the animal, and presented the hide to her,
regretting that they had not several others, that her husband might
collect twenty dollars apiece from Mr. Bailey, his employer.

"This isn't the only bear in the woods," said she, thanking them for
their kindness; "and some of you will see another before long. But this
will do for to-day."

They thought so, too; and, swinging their hats in the air, bade her
good-by and started homeward.

Sam Harper proposed that they should go out of their path to examine the
carcass of the deer, so as to learn whether the shot of Herbert took
effect; but that young gentleman was frank enough to admit, after his
experience, that it was impossible he had come anywhere near hitting the
buck. Accordingly, they continued homeward, Herbert going back to the
city a few days afterward to find out, if he could, why his gun so often
failed to hit the object he aimed at.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE "DARK DAY" OF SEPTEMBER, 1881.


The summer during which Nicholas Ribsam attained the age of twelve years
was viewed with dismal forebodings by many people, for the reason that a
celebrated weather prophet had foretold that it would be unusually
rainy, cold, and wet.

As a consequence, it proved to be the driest known in years. Days,
weeks, and even months passed without a drop of rain falling from the
brassy sky, and the fine powdery dust permeated everywhere. The weather
prophet lost caste, but he persisted in announcing rain, knowing that he
had only to stick to it long enough to hit it in the course of time.

As the autumn approached and the drought continued over a vast extent of
territory, the forest fires raged in different parts of the country. All
day and night immense volumes of smoke and vapor hung over the land, and
the appearance of the sun was so peculiar as to cause alarm on the part
of those who were superstitious.

There came a "dark day," like that of the 19th of May, 1780, which
overspread New England, and was most marked in Massachusetts. The
Connecticut Legislature was in session, and the belief was so universal
that the last awful day had come that the motion was made to adjourn.
Then, as the graphic Quaker poet says:

    All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
    He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
    The intolerable hush. "This well may be
    The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
    But be it so or not, I only know
    My present duty, and my Lord's command
    To occupy till He come. So at the post
    Where He has set me in His providence,
    I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face--
    No faithless servant frightened from my task,
    But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
    And, therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
    Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
    Bring in the candles." And they brought them in.

Tuesday, September 7, 1881, was a day very similar to the memorable one
of a century ago. A strange, greenish-yellow pall overspread the
heavens, and so darkened the light of the sun that lamps and gas were
lighted, schools and factories closed, and multitudes of the ignorant
and superstitious believed that the Day of Judgment had come.

Everything looked changed and unnatural. The faces of people on the
streets were ghastly, the gas jets in the stores, instead of showing
yellow, were as white and clear as the electric lights, and thousands of
the sect known as Second Adventists gathered in their places of worship
and confidently awaited the appearing of the Lord.

The "dark day" was more wonderful in the country. The leaves and
withering foliage assumed a most singular tint of green, changing, like
that of the grass, to a brownish hue; fowls went to roost, and the
animal creation must have been greatly mystified by a phenomenon such as
they had never witnessed before.

A curious feature of this luminous haze was that it cast no shadow. It
was as light under the trees as away from them, the whole unnatural
appearance of things most likely being due to the immense forest fires
which were raging in many parts of the country.

It was during the summer, I repeat, in which Nick Ribsam reached the age
of twelve years, that so many forest fires raged, and it was in the
autumn of the same year that he saw the famous dark day, so similar to
that of September, 1881; in fact, it could not have resembled it more
closely, for I may as well state it was that very day to which I refer.

"Nick," said his father, on that September morning, addressing his boy
in Dutch, "I promised to pay James Bradley one hundred dollars to-day
before three o'clock."

"Yes, sir," responded the boy, who knew that the debt would be paid on
time.

"He was to come here to our house to get it, but he sent me word last
night that he would be much obliged if I would send it to him at
Martin's store in Dunbarton, as he is obliged to be there all day. I
like to accommodate any one, and I will therefore send you to take it to
him."

"Yes, sir; I am ready to go whenever you want me to do so."

Dunbarton, as has been stated, was a village nine miles away, and the
principal grocery store in the place was kept by Jacob Martin. It was
there that Nick was to take the one hundred dollars which was to be
handed to James Bradley, to whom his father owed it.

It was like a holiday for Nick to take such a drive, and he was glad
when his father made known his wishes.

"Harness up the mare to the fall-top and drive over; you ought to be
back early in the afternoon."

"I will, if nothing happens to prevent."

Just then rosy-faced Nellie came out to feed the chickens. As the fowls
flocked toward her, some perching on her shoulders, head, and wherever
they could find a resting-place, she scattered the golden grains of corn
with a deft and lavish hand.

Her father looked at the cheeks as red as apples and the eyes glowing
with health, and, dropping into English, said with a sigh and shake of
the head:

"I dinks dot Nellie looks some bale."

He meant to say pale, and Nick laughed.

"I don't think she is very sick; she ate more breakfast than I did this
morning."

"Dot ish so, but I dinks dot I leafes her go mit you to Dunbarton, if
she can shpare her moder."

Mr. Ribsam meant all right, and when his wishes were made known to
Nellie she was delighted; her mother was glad to give her the privilege
of an excursion, for she was an industrious little girl, and,
furthermore, there were some purchases to be made both for the mother
and daughter, which Nellie could attend to better than could any boy, no
matter how intelligent.

The famous "dark day" of 1881 prevailed principally in New England and
the State of New York; but it was noticed further south, especially in
some of the wooded portions of Pennsylvania, though in the larger part
of the commonwealth it attracted no great attention.

It was between seven and eight o'clock when the four-wheeled carriage
with the single seat, and which vehicle is known as a "fall top" in
some sections of the country, was driven from the humble home of the
Ribsams, with the brother and sister seated in it.

As they approached the scene of Nellie's adventure with the bear, they
naturally talked about it, while Nick again related his own thrilling
experience, when the animal was shot by Mrs. Fowler, just in the nick of
time.

Shark Creek had suffered so much from the long continued drought that it
was no more than one fourth its usual volume; but the pond below was not
much diminished in size, as it did not flow off except when at a certain
height.

The brother and sister did not speak of the peculiar appearance of the
atmosphere until nearly to the bridge. There had been a great deal of
smoke floating over the country for several days, but there was nothing
to cause any fear on the part of those who lived near the large
stretches of timber.

As the darkness increased, however, Nick said:

"It must be caused by the thick smoke; but I don't think it will last,
and when we reach Dunbarton that will be the end of it."

"It won't make any difference," said Nellie, "unless it gets so dark we
can't see the way."

"No fear of that."

But when at last they emerged from the woods, and shortly after entered
the village, the impressive gloom was deeper than ever. The villagers
were awed by the unnatural appearance of nature, and were standing in
groups looking at the sky and talking in undertones.

Many were frightened, and not a few hurried to their homes, terrified
with the belief that the last awful day, when the heavens shall be
burned up as a scroll and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, was
at hand.

Ah, had it been the final Judgment Day, how many of us would have had
our houses in order for the coming of the angel of the Lord?

Nick Ribsam sprang out of the carriage, helped Nellie to alight, and
went into the store of Mr. Martin, where James Bradley was found
awaiting him. The money was handed over, a receipt taken, the horse
fed, during which Nellie attended to the errand on which she was sent,
and, an hour later, the mare was given water, and brother and sister
started homeward, little dreaming of what awaited them.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE BURNING FOREST.


"It is growing darker all the time."

"So it seems; I never saw anything like it."

"Maybe it is really night, Nick, and we have lost our reckoning. Isn't
there any way by which the world might swing out of its--what do you
call it?"

"Orbit, I suppose, you mean; there may be such a way, but from what I
have studied, when it does do that there will be more of a disturbance
than simple darkness like this."

These words were exchanged between brother and sister after they had
penetrated the woods a considerable distance on their return home. It
had become like night around them, except that, as has been shown, the
gloom was of that peculiar lurid nature which can hardly be described,
and can never be forgotten by those who saw it.

Even Nick Ribsam was impressed. It could not have been otherwise, for
any one would have been lacking in natural sensibility had he failed to
be awed by the singular sight. It can scarcely be said that the lad was
frightened, although there came over him a yearning feeling that he
might hurry home so the family could all be together, if the awful
calamity--whatever it might be--should descend.

It was different with the sister Nellie; her nature was more
impressible, and it was only by a strong effort that she kept her
self-control so long. As she peeped furtively out from the carriage, she
looked at the woods, penetrated by the strange haze, which perhaps took
on a more striking appearance in an autumnal forest like that, than
anywhere else.

"Nick, I believe it's the Last Day that has come."

The lad turned toward his sister, who was sitting far back in her seat,
as though trying to shut out the scene which had such a fascination for
her.

The face of the girl wore such a ghastly color, that Nick could not
wonder at her fright, but he shook his head. He felt he was the man now,
and it would not do for him to show any weakness.

"It isn't the Judgment Day, Nellie; for, according to the Bible, it will
come in a different way than this. There are a good many things which
are not understood by folks, and I suppose this must be one of them."

"I can smell burning wood," broke in the sister, leaning forward and
snuffing the smoky air.

"I am sure I do, and that's what is making all this trouble."

"But suppose, Nick, these woods are on fire? How far is it back to where
we entered them?"

"About three miles, and it is five to the open country ahead, where we
leave them; but there is the creek, less than a mile ahead, so if we
should find the woods burning, we can stop there till it is over."

The sister, however, had suggested a danger to the brother which alarmed
him. The mare had been walking slowly, for it seemed more in harmony
with the scene that she should do so. The driver now jerked the lines so
sharply that she pricked up her ears and started off at a rapid gait,
that is as the mare herself doubtless looked upon traveling.

The first real thrill of alarm came to the lad, when he recalled that if
a fire should appear, he and his sister were in the worst possible
position: there were three miles of forest behind and five in front.

The mare seemed to awaken to a sense of danger, for she threw up her
head with unusual sprightliness, struck into a trot so rapid that Nick
was a little frightened, lest in the gloom the carriage should come in
contact with some obstruction which he could not detect in time.

"See there!"

As Nellie uttered the exclamation, she caught the arm of her brother and
pointed ahead, but there was no need of her doing so, for he had seen
the peril. The road immediately in front was filled with heavy smoke,
which, as it rolled forward, caused them to cough almost to the
strangulation point. At the same time, a crimson streak of flame shot
in and out of the murky vapor, like the flashing of lightning: the fire
was burning immediately in front and it would not do to go further.

Nick stopped the horse, and, half rising and bending forward, peered
into the suffocating vapor. Then he turned and looked behind him, in
which direction Nellie was also gazing.

"How is it there?" he asked.

"There is plenty of smoke, but I see no fire."

"Then we must go back."

The road was quite narrow, though there was room for two teams to pass
each other, and Nick turned the frightened mare as quickly as he could;
she was so nervous and fidgety that it was hard work to control her, but
she was headed toward Dunbarton, after some difficulty, and as soon as
the rein was given her, away she went at a spanking trot.

But neither the brother nor sister was relieved of fear, for the smoke
grew denser every minute, and Nick might well ask himself whether he
would be able to pass the three miles before he could reach the safety
of the open country.

The question was answered much sooner than he anticipated. The sharp
crackling was heard, and they caught glimpses of the fiery tongues
leaping in and out among the dried leaves and vegetation on either hand.
Suddenly the flames seemed to meet in front in such a rushing, roaring
volume that it was vain to think of pushing any further in the face of
it.

"Oh, Nick," moaned Nellie, shrinking close to him, "we are going to be
burned alive!"

"It does look bad, Nellie, but we mustn't give up yet; one thing is
certain, it won't do to try to reach Dunbarton to-day."

"But we can't go homeward."

"It doesn't look so bad that way as it does toward Dunbarton: we must
try one of the roads, and I would rather work toward home than away from
it."

Nick was busy while talking; he saw that the mare was becoming
panic-stricken, and it required all his strength and firmness to keep
her from breaking away from him.

[Illustration: "O Nick," moaned Nellie, "we are going to be burned
alive."]

By using the whip, he managed to turn her again in the road, and then he
struck her sharply with the lash.

"Nellie, catch hold of my arm," he said to her, feeling that even if
everything came out in the best form, a severe struggle was before them.

The mare sniffed, and, glancing to her right and left, gave a whinny of
terror as she dropped into her swiftest trot, which, a minute after, she
changed to a gallop; but Nick brought her down instantly to her more
natural gait.

Nellie slipped her arm under the elbow of her brother, and then clasped
her two hands, so as to hold fast for the shock which she believed would
soon come.

A large branch had fallen across the road, and Nick did not catch sight
of it until too late to check the flying mare. The carriage seemed to
bound fully a foot into the air, and an ominous wrench told the driver
that it had suffered material damage.

But there was no time to stop and examine; the terrified horse sprang
into a gallop again, and this time Nick did not restrain her.

There was smoke all around them; the air was hot and suffocating; they
could hear the crackling of flames, and now and then the crimson flash
through the murky vapor showed that a frightful forest fire was raging
on every hand.

Still the mare kept forward at the same swift gallop, and Nick knew that
more than once she felt the blistering heat on her haunches. It is a
strange peculiarity of the horse, which often shows a wonderful degree
of intelligence, that he generally loses his wits when caught in a
conflagration. Instead of running away from the flames he often charges
among them, and there remains, fighting those who are trying to save
him.

Very probably the mare would have acted similarly in the instance of
which I am speaking had the circumstances permitted it; but there was
fire all about her, and the temptation was as strong, therefore, in one
direction as another.

Nick kept his self-possession. He knew by the desperate energy with
which Nellie clung to his arm that she was helpless, and that every
minute they were likely to plunge headlong into and among the roaring
flames.

He could not guide the mare, which was now controlled by her own
instinctive desire to escape a danger which was on every hand. He merely
sought to direct her, so far as possible, in the hope that he might save
the carriage from being dashed to pieces.

When he saw the flames meeting across the road he shouted to Nellie to
hold her breath, and he did the same, until they had swept through the
fiery, strangling ring, and were able to catch a mouthful of the smoky
and scorching atmosphere beyond.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THROUGH THE FIRE.


It was hard to remain cool when surrounded by such peril as were Nick
and Nellie Ribsam but the sturdy lad acquitted himself like a hero.

His belief was that all the woods were not on fire--that is, the entire
tract was not burning at once, and that, as a consequence, if he could
break through the flaming circle in which he was caught, he could place
himself and sister in front of the danger, so to speak, and then they
would be able to run away from it altogether.

If such were the case, it followed that just then speed was the most
important of all things, and for that reason he kept the mare on her
sweeping gallop, at the imminent risk of dashing the carriage to pieces
every minute.

He was glad that he did not meet any vehicles, for it not only showed
that no one else in the neighborhood was placed in the same extremity
as were he and his sister, but it lessened the danger of collision.

Nick thought it was all over with them, when a fiery serpent, as it
seemed, darted across from one side of the road to the other, directly
in front. It was at the height of five or six feet, and coiling itself
about a dry pine it shot horizontally toward another pine, wrapped with
a flaming girdle, which sent out a line of fire to meet it, like the
intense blaze seen when a blow-pipe is used.

It was a curious manifestation, and it would be hard to explain it, for,
though a strong wind was blowing, that would not account for the fact
that the two tongues of fire, as they really were, met each other in
this fashion across the road, for of a necessity they extended
themselves in opposite directions.

They did not burn steadily, but whisked back and forth, just as it may
be imagined two serpents would have done who saw the fugitives coming,
and, making ready, said by their actions, "Thus far, but no farther."

To Nick Ribsam it looked like the flaming sword of Hazael, sweeping
across the highway; but it would never do to hesitate, and the mare
galloped straight on. The fiery serpents darted angrily at each other,
but the head of the horse glided beneath and the boy caught a hot blast
as he shot by.

"Where is the bridge?" shouted Nellie, who could see nothing, and who
clung more desperately than ever to the supporting arm of her brother.

"It must be close at hand--there it is!"

So it was, indeed, but the fire was ahead of them; the whole structure
was one mass of flames, roaring and crackling with fury.

The scene that followed was a dreadful one: the sight of the
furnace-like structure set the mare wild, and she broke into a dead run
toward the blazing mass of kindling wood, determined to plunge headlong
into it.

Nick Ribsam rose to his feet, and bent back with might and main, but he
might as well have tried to check a runaway locomotive: the mare took
the bit in her teeth and was beyond control.

With a presence of mind which did him credit, Nick wrenched her to one
side, while she was at the height of this mad flight, so that the hub of
the fore wheel struck a tree at the side of the road, checking the
vehicle so abruptly that both traces snapped as if they were ribbons,
and the mare continued her gallop in the direction of the bridge.

The momentum of Nellie threw her violently against the dashboard, while
Nick, before he could let go the reins, was jerked out the carriage,
and, lighting on his feet, ran a dozen steps ere he could check himself
and free his hands from the reins.

He stopped almost on the edge of the creek, and caught one glimpse of
the mare as she bounded out of sight into the smoke and flames, and was
gone forever.

The lad felt a pang of sorrow for the foolish beast, who stood as good a
chance of saving herself as he, had she but used a tithe of common
sense; but there was no time for mourning, and he ran back to the
vehicle, where Nellie was crouching, and crying violently.

"Why, Nellie, I am ashamed of you!" said her brother, reprovingly. "Is
it going to mend matters to sit down and cry?"

"But how can I help it, Nick?" she asked, rubbing her red eyes with her
apron and trying to check herself; "I don't see how you can keep from
crying yourself!"

"I'm glad I ain't such a ninny as you, and when I get home I am going to
tell father and mother."

"You needn't be so smart," said Nellie, beginning to fire up under the
reproof of her brother; "you haven't got home yet."

"And mighty little chance I would stand of ever getting there if I
should sit down like you and begin to blubber. Come out of the carriage
and go with me."

Nellie's face was very red and there were tears on her cheeks, her
countenance wearing a strange appearance in the lurid haze around them.

The girl did not make any objection, for she could not do otherwise than
lean on the strong arm of her brother, who never seemed to lose his head
over anything. Every minute or so a distressing feeling came over
them--such a feeling as we can imagine would be ours were we suddenly to
find ourselves shut in a room where the air was so impure we could not
breathe it.

There was a gasping, hurried inhalation of the strangling hot smoke--a
coughing and filling of the eyes with tears, and then a frantic rush of
several steps, during which the breath was held until a chance to get a
mouthful of fresh air was gained.

It was useless to turn back. The children were in the very heart of the
wood, and the conflagration was raging so furiously on both sides, and
in front and rear, that it was impossible to escape in either direction.

But for the timely arrival at the edge of the creek they must have
perished a few minutes later, and they could not feel certain as yet
that even water would save them.

The creek was so low, that when they hurriedly picked their way down the
bank to it, Nick could have taken Nellie on his back and carried her
across without wetting her feet; but there was nothing to be gained by
doing so, as the fire was burning as fiercely on one side as on the
other.

The conflagration must stop when it should reach the margin of the
stream, and Nick drew a sigh of relief, feeling that they were safe.

"We will wait here till the fire is done burning," said he, standing
with the hand of his sister in his own, while he gazed about him on the
extraordinary scene.

The day had been quite warm, and Nick and Nellie, pausing on the bank of
the shrunken creek, began to find themselves exceedingly uncomfortable;
for not only was there a great increase of heat, but the smoke was too
heavy to be breathed without great pain and irritation to the lungs.

"It looks as if we are to be strangled to death, after all," Nick said,
"for it is hard to breathe now, and it is growing worse every minute."

"Let's go up by the pond: it isn't far away."

"It must be as bad there as anywhere else, but we shall die if we stay
here."

There seemed little choice in the matter, but one of the impossibilities
is for a boy or girl to stand still when suffering, and the suggestion
of Nellie was acted upon at once.

She had released the arm of Nick, who started up the right bank, she
following close behind him. The walking was easy, for the creek had
receded from the greater portion of the bed it usually occupied, and
that had become hardened by long exposure to the heat of the sun.

It was not far to the pond of which I have spoken, and which occupied an
extent of an acre, or perhaps more. The place was a favorite with the
boys of the neighborhood, and some of the most delightful swims Nick
Ribsam had ever enjoyed were in that sheet of water.

The water was cold, clear, and deep in many places. What more tempting
resort for a tired, thirsty and overheated lad can be imagined
especially when he knows that it will be a piece of disobedience for him
to go there?

"That's the place," he exclaimed, hastening his footsteps; "when we get
there, we'll have a chance to breathe."

"Hurry up, then, Nick, for I can't stand this much longer."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

CALLING IN VAIN.


The distress of the brother and sister became greater every minute. They
walked hurriedly along the bank of the creek, their path through the
gloom illuminated now and then by the flashes of fire which shot through
the strangling volumes of vapor. Nick, more than likely, would have gone
astray but for his familiarity with the neighborhood.

It seemed to him as if the smoke, heavy, dense, sulphurous and
suffocating, caused by the burning forest, was driven toward the bed of
the stream, where it was pressed down by the weight from above, until it
was the utmost he and Nellie could do to inhale enough of the
contaminated air to sustain life.

They hurried and struggled forward as best they could, and at last
caught the glimmer of the broad expanse of water, which presented
itself in the light of a haven of refuge to them.

It was a most welcome relief indeed, for they were now assured of one
thing--they could not die the frightful death that overtook the poor
mare. This broad expanse of cool, refreshing water could not burn up, no
matter how fervent the heat that might envelop its shores. Its cool
depths offered a refreshing refuge, such as can hardly be understood by
one who is not suffering similarly.

But it was rather curious that the boy and girl had endured more from
the suffocating vapor than from the fire itself. Looking down at their
garments, they were surprised to find them scorched in several places,
and Nellie gave just the faintest scream when a pungent odor directed
her gaze to a large hole burning in her dress.

Nick glanced around, and, understanding what the matter was, called
rather sharply:

"Pinch it out!"

She was already doing so, and she asked:

"Why don't you pinch out that fire on your coat?"

Just then her brother jumped into the air and shouted, "Oh--ouch!" for
the burning sleeve had gone through the shirt and reached the bare skin.
He whipped off his coat in a twinkling, dipped it hastily into the
water, doing the same with his right elbow, the element which
extinguished the smoking garment being very grateful to the scorched
limb.

"Nellie," said he, "just cast your eye over me, and let me know whether
there are any more fires going."

He made up his mind that if she reported other conflagrations breaking
out, he would subdue them in a lump by taking a header in the pond,
whose shore they reached at that moment. But Nellie said he was in no
danger so far as she could see, of immediate combustion and when she
came to examine her own garments they were also free from the same
peril.

"Now, what shall we do that we have got here?" she asked, as, after
walking a few steps, he came to a stop.

"Wait, and see how things are coming out," he answered. "I begin to
feel tired, so suppose we sit down and rest ourselves."

The moment this was done, both uttered an exclamation of pleasure; for
the relief from the distressing smoke was so great that it was as if
they had emerged into the open country, where there was none of it at
all.

"Why did we not think of this before?" said Nick; "we ought to have
known that smoke doesn't keep close to the ground."

The atmosphere was not clear by any means, but the change was so marked
that it appeared more than pure, and they sat several minutes gratefully
inhaling that from which it seemed they had been shut off for many
hours.

But their rejoicing was too soon; for, though it may be true that in a
burning building the surest place in which to gain enough air to support
life is close to the floor, yet there can be so much of the strangling
vapor that it will penetrate everywhere.

Less than five minutes had passed, when a volume of smoke swept over and
enveloped them, so dense that it was like the darkness of Egypt, that
could be felt, and the suffering of the brother and sister was pitiful.

"Put your face close to the water," called out Nick, as well as he could
do from coughing and strangling.

At the same moment, their fevered cheeks touched the cold, refreshing
surface, and something of relief was experienced.

"It won't do to stay here," said Nick, a moment later.

"But where can we go?"

"Out in the pond; there's a better chance to breathe there than along
shore."

"But I can't swim, Nick."

"What of that? I can, and I'll take care of you; but there is plenty of
wood and we can make a raft. That reminds me that there _was_ a raft
here last week, when Sam Harper and I had a swim: I wonder where it can
be. Help me to look for it."

They moved slowly along the margin of the pond, peering through the
gloom as best they could, but seeing nothing of the support on which
they now placed so much hope.

Nick Ribsam, however, did not fail to notice one thing--it was becoming
hotter every minute and they could not wait much longer before entering
the water in very self-defense.

They pushed bravely on, and when the circuit of Shark Pond was half
completed, reached a point where the thick vapor lifted, or, more
properly, it had not yet descended, and they stopped to rest themselves
again.

"Well," exclaimed Nick, with a sigh, "some folks would call this fun,
but I don't see where it comes in."

"I don't see how any one could find fun in such suffering; but, Nick,
you will have to make a raft."

"I believe you are right; there isn't much chance to fasten these dry
logs together, and I haven't time to build one that will hold us both."

"What will you do?"

"I will place you on it, and I'll swim along-side----"

"There's the raft! I see it! I see it!"

Nellie sprang to her feet and pointed out on the pond where, through the
smoky gloom, the outlines of the half dozen logs, which Nick and
several of his playmates had bound together with withes, when frolicking
in the water, were seen.

The lad threw off his hat, vest, shoes, and stockings, so that only his
shirt and trousers remained, and then took a header, his whole being
thrilling with pleasure as the cold water closed around him.

"Take care of my clothes!" he called to Nellie, "and I'll bring the raft
over to you."

As there was no immediate hurry, the situation of his sister being quite
comfortable, the lad could not resist the temptation to disport himself
awhile in the cool, refreshing element. He sank until his bare feet
touched the pebbly bottom, and then shot upward with a bound; then he
went over backward, floundered, and tumbled about like a porpoise.

"Nick," called his sister, "you had better hurry and get that raft, for
I cannot see it now."

This startled the lad, but when he found he could not see Nellie either,
he understood that it was on account of the overshadowing gloom that had
fallen still lower; at the same time the disturbance of the atmosphere
had caused a strong wind to blow across the pond, and it was doubtless
this which had started the mass of pine logs from the land, and was now
bearing it away from where it lay when discovered by the girl.

"Are you comfortable there?" called out Nick to his sister.

"Yes, but don't wait too long, for it is growing warm, and I think the
fire is close to me."

The lad felt he had done wrong in idling his time, and he bent all his
energies toward swimming to the raft, which, under any circumstances
could not be far off.

As it was, Nick was amazed to find it necessary to go a considerable
ways before he caught sight of the familiar pile of logs floating
buoyantly on the water, but he speedily reached them, and, drawing
himself on top, hunted for the long pole that he had used so many times
in navigating the pond.

But it was not there, and he sank back into the water, and, holding on
with his hands, used his feet vigorously to propel the raft toward the
bank, where he had left his loved sister but a short time before.

"I'll soon be there, Nellie," he called; "are you all right?"

This was a curious question to ask, though it was natural, perhaps, for
any boy, under similar circumstances, but Nick felt a pang of fear when
he repeated the call and did not receive any answer.

He put forth all the energy at his command, and steadily pushed the
float toward land. Now and then, while doing so, he shouted to his
sister, without hearing any reply.

"Can it be anything has happened to her?" he asked himself several times
as he peered through the gloom, unable to catch the outlines of brave
little Nellie.



CHAPTER XXXV.

WHAT FRIGHTENED NELLIE.


Nick Ribsam thought not of himself, in his anxiety for his sister. He
had left her but a few brief minutes before, sitting on the shore of the
lake, and now when he returned she was missing.

He had called to her repeatedly without receiving any answer, and when
he looked about him in the smoke and gloom, he could see nothing of her
loved figure.

He noticed that it was very hot where he stood, and there could be no
doubt that the flames were advancing in that direction. His dread was
that Nellie had lost her wits in the presence of the new danger, and had
run blindly into the burning woods where there could be no escape for
her.

"Nellie! Nellie!" he shouted in agonized tones; "Where are you? Why
don't you answer me?"

He thought he heard something like a faint response, but it was not
repeated, and poor Nick was half distracted. For the first time since
entering the burning forest he lost his self-control, and not doubting
that his sister was somewhere close at hand, he dashed among the trees,
still calling to her at the height of his voice.

He had gone but a short distance when he was brought face to face with
such a fierce blast of flame that he was forced to turn and run back to
the water's edge, where he stopped for a minute or two gasping for
breath.

This repulse served to give him time to collect his wits, and he tried
hard to decide what was best to do, for he was resolved never to leave
that place until he learned the fate of Nellie.

"She had good sense," he added to himself, "and she would not have done
such a foolish thing. She has gone to some other spot along the shore
and is waiting for me."

Possibly this was so, but it did not explain the curious fact that all
the calls of Nick remained unanswered. The space inclosing the pond was
so slight that his voice must have penetrated every portion of it, and
it did seem that if she were in any place safe for her to be, she could
not fail to hear him.

Nick found a long branch, which answered for a pole with which to guide
the raft, and stepping on it he began pushing it along shore as rapidly
as he could, looking into the gloom about him and often pronouncing the
name of his sister. His heart sank within him when this continued
several minutes, and half the circuit of the pond was completed without
bringing him the first evidence of the whereabouts of Nellie.

Finally he paused, wearied and distressed beyond description.

The darkness of night rested on Shark Pond and the surrounding woods.
The murky volumes of smoke seemed to shut out all light, excepting when
the tongues of fire shot through them. The wind blew a gale, stirring
the water into tiny waves, and the roaring of the fire through the
woods, the sound of trees crashing to the earth, and the millions of
sparks, with blazing bits of wood, were carried a great distance
through the air. Some of these flaming brands fell on the raft on which
Nick Ribsam stood, and they continually dropped hissing into the water
around him.

The problem was, how the children had escaped thus far; and as the
sturdy lad stood out on the pond with the long limb grasped in his hand,
staring around him, he could not but wonder how it was he had been
preserved after driving directly into the forest when it was literally
aflame from one end to the other.

But these thoughts were only for the moment; he had left Nellie, not
expecting to be out of her sight, much less beyond her hearing, and she
had vanished as mysteriously as if the earth had opened and swallowed
her up.

And yet he could not believe she was lost. She had proven that she was
not the weak girl to do anything rashly, or to sit down and fold her
hands and make no attempt to save herself. Something more than the
general danger which impended over both must have arisen, during that
brief period, to drive her from her post.

"Nellie! Nellie!" he called again, shoving the pole vigorously against
the bottom of the pond.

He was sure he heard the faint response this time, and so distinctly
that he caught the direction; it was from a point on the shore very
nearly opposite where he had left her.

"I hear you," he called back, working the unwieldy float toward the
spot; "I'll soon be there."

The distance was not great and it took but a few minutes to approach
quite close to the land, where, with a delight which can scarcely be
imagined, he saw Nellie standing close to the water's edge, beckoning
him to make all haste.

"Are you hurt?" he asked, as he forced the craft close to her.

"No," she answered, with a strange laugh, "but I thought my last moment
had come."

"Didn't you hear me call you?"

"Of course I did; any one within a mile could hear you."

"Why then didn't you answer me?"

"I was afraid to."

"Afraid of what?"

"Didn't you see him?" was the puzzling question of Nellie in return, as
she stepped carefully upon the raft, helped by the extended hand of her
brother.

"Nellie, stop talking in puzzles," said Nick; "I was so scared about you
that I won't get over it for a week; I called to, and hunted for you,
and you say you heard me; you must have known how frightened I was, and
yet you stood still and never made any answer, except a minute ago, when
I just managed to hear you. If you think it is right, I don't--that's
all."

He turned away offended, when she said:

"Forgive me, Nick; but I was afraid to answer you."

"Afraid of _what_?"

"Of that _bear_--you must have seen him," was the astonishing answer of
the girl.

Nellie then told her story: she was standing on the shore awaiting the
return of her brother, when she was terrified almost out of senses by
the appearance of a large black bear, which was evidently driven out of
the burning forest by the flames.

He did not seem to notice the girl, but when he began lumbering toward
her, as if seeking a good spot where he might enter the pond, Nellie did
not stay on the order of her going, but fled from the new peril, hardly
conscious of what direction she took. She knew better than to venture
among the blazing trees from which she and her brother had had such a
narrow escape, and she sped forward around the lake until she reached a
point nearly opposite. On the way she never looked behind her once,
certain as she was that the creature was ready to seize and devour her.

She was sure she heard him crashing almost upon her heels; but when she
paused, and finally turned her frightened looks backward, nothing of the
brute was to be seen, and she did not know what had become of him.

"That's the other bear which Mrs. Fowler saw, and which she told Sam
Harper, Herbert Watrous, and me, we would see some time or other."

"But that was almost two years ago."

"I know that; don't you suppose a bear will keep that long? This one has
known enough to stay out of sight until the fire has forced him from
his hiding-place."

After Nellie had heard her brother call to her, she was fearful that if
she answered she would betray herself to the brute, who would instantly
make for her; so she held her peace, even though she saw nothing of the
bear, and venturing on a rather feeble answer when the tones of Nick
told how much apprehension he was suffering over his failure to find
her.

Now that the two were on the raft, which was shoved out in the deep
water, something like confidence came back to her, and she was willing
to talk about the beast.

"I can't imagine what has become of him," said the brother, after her
story was told; "from what I have heard and read, the bear is not afraid
of water, and they often go in to bathe, just like us boys, for the fun
of the thing. I don't see why he should have waited when he had the fire
to urge him on."

"Maybe he is swimming around the lake now," whispered Nellie, looking
over as much of the surface as was visible through the hot smoke.

"I shouldn't be surprised, though it is odd that I did not see him,"
said Nick, pressing his pole against the bottom; "he is not far off, you
may depend."

"There! didn't you hear him?" asked Nellie, a moment later, as something
like the grunt of a huge hog alarmed both brother and sister.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER.


A second time a loud snort was heard, as though some large animal were
blowing the water from his nostrils, and at the same instant Nick and
Nellie caught sight of the huge snout of the bear coming through the
water toward them.

He was making directly for the raft beyond all question.

"By jingo, this raft wasn't built to carry bears!" exclaimed the
startled lad, who used the pole with all the strength of which he was
master; but, unfortunately, the bottom of the pond was composed of
slippery rocks in many places, and the blunt end of the crooked limb
slid along the upper surface of one of these so quickly that Nick
dropped on his side and came within a hair's breadth of rolling
overboard.

But he was up again like a flash, and toiling with might and main.

Rafts as generally constructed, are not capable of much speed, and
though Nick Ribsam got out all there was in the one which he had
managed, it was not to be expected that he could compare with the
velocity of a strong, healthy bear.

"He's coming, Nick! Oh, he will catch us sure!" exclaimed the sorely
frightened Nellie, edging so far away that she, too, was in danger of
going over.

"I know he is," replied the sturdy lad, working hard with the guiding
pole, "and I think he can beat us. Do you stay where you are, and don't
try to get any further off or you will be drowned. I'll bang him over
the head if he tries to climb on here and ride with us."

Such was the purpose of the beast, beyond question; and, approaching
fast, only a brief time elapsed ere his huge snout was shoved against
the logs, his big paws, dripping with wet, flapped out from below the
surface and both rested on the raft, which sank so low that Nellie
screamed and Nick turned pale.

Determined to keep off such an undesirable passenger, the lad raised
the stick in his hand and brought it down with all his strength on the
head of the bear, which acted as though unaware that he was struck.

Nick repeated the blows, that would have settled the business for a less
formidable animal but it was plain that brain did not consider the
matter a serious one. Having secured a rest for his paws, his whole body
was supported in the water, and the beast, which was no doubt very
tired, simply ceased all effort, and floated with the wind.

"Why don't you knock him off?" asked Nellie, impatiently.

"Because I ain't strong enough, I suppose; he's the toughest customer I
ever got hold of, or seemed to have a good chance to get hold of me."

"I've a great notion to dig out his eyes myself."

"If you try it, it will be the last bear you ever scratch; look at those
paws! did you ever see such nails? didn't you hear them rattle against
the logs when he struck them?"

"Suppose he tries to climb upon the raft," ventured Nellie, trying to
edge still further away, "what will become of us?"

"The raft won't hold him; he'll sink it, and we'll have to get along as
best we can; but, Nellie, he acts to me as though he is satisfied with
being where he is, and he won't disturb us so long as we let him alone."

"But you struck him several hard blows."

"He's forgotten all about it, if he ever knew it. I guess he has had a
pretty lively run to reach the pond in time to save his hide, and now
that he is in the water, he will stay there a good while."

There was a likelihood that Nick was right, and that the bear wanted
nothing more than a rest; and yet the possibility that he would soon try
to draw his entire body upon the raft prevented the brother and sister
from having any peace of mind.

When this singular tableau had lasted several minutes, it was discovered
that the wind was carrying the raft, with its incubus, toward the
western shore again, and Nick, afraid that if they all landed together,
the bear might seize the occasion to make a supper off of them, reached
the pole over the side, and began working the logs to the middle of the
pond.

During this performance the brute never stirred. His head, shoulders and
paws were out of the water, the principal bulk of his body being
beneath, and he seemed contented to be navigated about the small lake in
any fashion the proprietor of the raft deemed best.

When considerable time had passed without his offering to destroy them,
the boy and girl were able to view the beast with feelings of less
alarm. They looked at the large head, pig-like snout, round, dark eyes,
and could well understand the terror which an unarmed person feels on
meeting one of them in the woods.

But so long as bruin remained there, so long was he a threat; and Nick
was trying hard to think of some plan by which to get rid of him.

He had tested beating him, but with no success, while he ran the risk of
exciting him to a dangerous degree of savagery if he should persist in
it. The boy had no weapon about him, unless his jack-knife should be
counted as such, and nothing could be accomplished with that. He asked
himself whether it were possible to dive under the raft and give him two
or three vigorous thrusts with the implement; but, fortunately, the lad
had too much sense to undertake anything of that sort, which, more than
likely, would have resulted in the destruction of himself and sister.

There really seemed no way open for the young hero to do anything at
all, except to follow the advice of his father: "Do all you can for
yourself and then leave the rest to Providence."

"If I could think of anything," said he to Nellie, "I would do it, but
we shall have to wait."

"Maybe when he is rested he will swim off and go ashore."

"I wish he would; but it seems to me that he has got a look in his eye,
which says that pretty soon he will try to enjoy a little more of the
raft than he now does: and when he undertakes it, you can make up your
mind, Nellie, that there will be a row."

"Why not let the raft drift close to land, so as to give him a chance to
get off?" she asked.

"Suppose he doesn't take the chance, which he has now; no, we'll wait
awhile and see what he thinks about it."

So soon as they could feel anything like relief from watching the
passenger, the brother and sister looked at the scene around them, which
was enough to strike any one with awe.

The murky vapor was pouring across the water; burning leaves, sticks,
and large branches of wood seemed to be carried almost horizontally on
the wind, while the blazing forest roared like the ocean when swept by
the monsoon.

Whether the memorable dark day of 1881 still overspread the earth
beyond, the two had no means of knowing; but they did know and feel that
they were enveloped in an awful night, illumined only by the burning
forests about them.

Should the bear fail to harm them, they might well ask themselves the
question, when would they be able to leave the water, in which they had
taken refuge. It was not likely they would be forced to keep to the raft
itself very long, but, after stepping foot on shore, they would be
surrounded, if not by the burning forest itself, by its embers, which
would render traveling perilous for days to come.

Altogether, it will be seen that the situation of the two was as
unpleasant--if, not absolutely dangerous--as it could well be.

Nick was on the point, more than once, of following the advice of his
sister,--to allow the raft to be carried by the wind against the shore,
with the hope that the bear, when his hind legs should touch bottom,
would take himself off; but he was afraid to do so, for it seemed to him
that when the brute should be relieved of the necessity of looking after
himself, he would turn and look after the boy and girl too closely for
their safety.

The very danger, however, that was dreaded more than all others, came
when least expected.

Nick had worked the unwieldy craft out in the pond again and had sat
down beside Nellie, when, with one of his startling sniffs, the bear
made a plunge, which heaved half of his body out of the water and lifted
it upon the raft.

As Nick Ribsam had previously remarked, the structure was not built for
the accommodation of such passengers, and it began sinking, as the
unwonted weight bore it down.

"Don't be scared," said he to his sister; "maybe it's the best thing
that could happen; put your hands on my shoulders and keep cool, and
we'll swim out yet."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

A BRAVE STRUGGLE.


It was a trying ordeal for little Nellie Ribsam; but she met it with the
courage and coolness of her brother. She could not swim a stroke, and,
under heaven, everything depended on him. If she should lose her
self-control, as would be the case with nine tenths of the girls of her
age placed in a similar situation she was likely to drown both herself
and her brother.

But so long as she obeyed instructions, and the bear did not interfere,
they were safe. She placed her hands on the shoulders of Nick, as he
told her to do, and he struck out with his powerful stroke, which he
could keep up for an hour if need be.

The difficulty of the situation was deepened tenfold by the anxiety to
know what the bear meant to do. He had it in his power to overtake both,
and it would have been a trifling matter for him to "dispose" of them
in a twinkling: one or two strokes of his immense paw were sufficient.

It was the aim of Nick, therefore, to get away as speedily as possible;
and he exerted himself to the utmost, glancing continually over his
shoulder, as did the sorely frightened Nellie, who could not avoid a
half gasping scream as the waters closed about her to her chin.

But bruin seemed to be absorbed in the management of the raft, which, in
fact, was more than he could manage. It was all well enough, so long as
it only half supported him; but when he came to lift his huge bulk out
of the water the buoyancy of the float was overcome, and it went down.

The bear did not seem to understand it: a moment before he was resting
upon a mass of logs, and now, when he looked around, they were
invisible, and he was compelled to swim to support himself. He therefore
struck out with a loud splash, and had scarcely done so when the light
pine logs popped up again like so much cork.

The brute turned around and dropped both paws upon them. Finding they
kept afloat, he was too foolish to be content, but repeated his
performance, and, as a consequence, speedily found himself pawing the
water again to keep his own head above the surface.

This second failure seemed to disgust him, and he paid no further
attention to the logs, but headed for the shore, which was so close at
hand that he reached it in a minute or two.

This proceeding on the part of the bear, it will be understood, was of
great benefit to the brother and sister, who improved it to the utmost.
It occupied a brief time, during which Nick swam strongly and steadily,
and before the brute was master of the situation Nick's feet touched
bottom, and, taking the hand of Nellie in his own, they walked ashore.

"Where is he?" asked the girl, the moment their feet rested on dry land.

"He isn't far off," replied Nick, "and I don't think he cares to disturb
us, but I would rather keep him at a distance."

It may be set down as certain that Nick and Nellie were never in such
serious peril from the beast as they believed. The bear was of the
ordinary black kind, found in the Middle States, which is not
particularly savage, and often passes a person without offering him
harm.

It is only when the hunter and his dogs assail the brute, or when he is
driven by hunger, that he will boldly attack a person.

Besides this, the animal of which I am speaking, had, no doubt, been
routed out of his lair in the woods by the approach of the fire, and it
was the most he could do to reach the pond in time to save himself. This
accounted for his excessive fatigue, which made him loth to enter the
water, where he knew he must swim, and which caused him, after entering
it, immediately to make for the raft, that he might avail himself of its
support.

He had no purpose of molesting the children, and was too indolent to
resent the insignificant attack made upon him by Nick with the stick.

But it was not to be supposed that the boy and girl could feel any
assurance on this point, and their fright was such as would have come
to any older person placed as they were.

It was only through the protection of a wonderful Providence that they
had escaped thus far from the fate of hundreds who, in different parts
of the country, fell victims to the innumerable forest fires.

When the two emerged from the water, they saw nothing of the bear that
had caused them so much disquietude. He had probably headed for the
other side of the pond, and was now shut out from view by the volume of
smoke which intervened.

"He'll be here after us," said the alarmed Nellie, whose nervousness was
excusable; "and I wish you would hurry away."

"I don't think there is any need to be scared, after all," replied her
brother; "the bear has all he can do to look after himself, without
bothering us."

The fugitives were in a pitiable plight. Nellie's garments were soaked
by the water through which she had passed, but the heavy heat of the air
prevented her suffering from cold, though the clinging garments caused
her to feel ill at ease; and, like her tidy mother, she longed to be at
home, that she might change them for clean, dry ones.

When Nick found they had to leave the raft, he caught up his shoes, with
the stockings stuffed in them, and, hastily tying the strings together,
slung them around his neck. He did not forget, in the excitement of the
moment, that they were indispensable.

But there was no way of saving coat, vest and hat, without running more
risk than any one ought to run, and the lad let them go, hoping that,
possibly, he might recover them after a time.

He had scarcely set his feet upon the ground, when he took them off
again. The earth was baking hot to the water's edge, and a live ember,
which the ashes concealed from sight, was revealed when the bare foot
was placed upon it.

Nick cooled his blistering toes, and then, as quick as possible, drew on
his wet shoes and stockings.

"I would be in a pretty fix if barefoot," said he, "I wouldn't have been
able to walk home through these woods for a week or less."

It was plain to be seen that the fury of the conflagration had spent
itself, so far as it affected this portion of the wood. That tornado of
the flame, which swept everything before it, had leaped across the pond,
and was speeding onward until it should die out from want of fuel.

In its path was the blackness of desolation. The trees were still
burning, but it was in a smoldering, smoking way, with blazing branches
here and there, dropping piecemeal to the ground. The flames, which
charged forward as they do through the dry prairie grass, had passed by,
and the brother and sister had now the opportunity to attempt to reach
home.

But it would be hard to overestimate the distress caused by the
atmosphere which the forest fires left behind them. There are many gases
and vapors which we cannot breathe; but the trouble about smoke is that
although we can manage to get along with it when it is not too dense, it
is excessively irritating to the lungs.

Several minutes passed, during which little trouble was experienced,
and then the two were forced to cough and gasp until they almost sank to
the ground from exhaustion. Occasionally the vapor would lift, and,
floating away, leave the air below comparatively pure, and then the
black and blue atmosphere, heavy with impurities, would descend and wrap
them about as with a garment.

"There's one thing sure," said Nick, when he found himself able to speak
with some degree of comfort.

"What is that?" asked his sister.

"This will gradually get better and better."

"I don't see how it can get any worse," was the truthful answer of
Nellie, who felt as though she had stood all she could bear.

Since the danger of being caught in the flames was gone, the two were at
liberty to venture in any direction they chose.

"We'll make the start, any way!" said Nick, with his old resolution of
manner; "keep close to me, and, if you see any new bears, don't run into
the woods to hide without saying something to me."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

BEAR AND FORBEAR.


"See here," said Nick Ribsam, stopping suddenly, after taking only a few
steps, "I don't like this idea of going home and leaving so many of my
clothes behind. That's a good coat and vest, and the hat is my Sunday
one."

"You ain't going back to get them, Nick, when the bear is waiting for
you!" exclaimed the sister; "if you do, I just think you haven't got any
sense at all--now there! that's all there is about _that_."

This was a severe denunciation, but it did not deter the lad from
turning directly about and hurrying to the spot where he had landed,
when forced to help Nellie ashore.

A strong breeze was still blowing, so that the craft, whether the bear
was clinging to it or not, would be sure to come to land again. Nick did
not know that the animal had left it, and he was not foolish enough to
invite the beast to assail him.

The logs, relieved from their burden, were floating over the surface,
and the lad caught sight of them but a short distance off, steadily
approaching the shore.

"The raft must have gone under with the coat, vest, and hat," he said,
watching the floating mass, "and I should think my clothes would have
been lost; but there is something on the logs that looks like my coat
and vest. It would be odd if they had kept their place."

Naturally, the whole attention of Nick was absorbed in this matter; and,
when he found that the wind was carrying the raft and its freight toward
another point, he moved along the margin so as to anticipate its
arrival.

As he did so, like the renowned Captain John Smith when pursued by
Powhatan's warriors, he paid no attention to where his feet led him. He
was studying the raft, as best he could through the smoky darkness, and,
knowing the shore as well as he did, he saw no need of looking downward.

All at once his feet struck a large, soft mass, and, before he could
check himself, he pitched headlong over it, as though it were a bale of
cloth in his path. The nimble boy was on his feet like a flash, and,
quick as he was, he was not a moment too soon.

He had caught the ominous growl, and he knew the bear had got in his way
again, as it had persisted in doing before.

It did seem singular that the boy and bruin should meet so often, and it
may be that the animal, that was resting himself, lost patience over
such persecution, for he raised his huge body and made for the
frightened boy.

It was an alarming situation for the latter, who did not lose his
presence of mind. He knew much of the nature of the animal, though he
had never before been brought face to face in this fashion with a wild
one.

Desperate as was the haste with which Nick Ribsam fled, he did not
forget to run directly away from his sister, so as to prevent her
becoming involved in this new danger.

Nor did the lad make any outcry, that could only have resulted in
frightening her, but he simply devoted all his energy to getting away
from his pursuer, whose whole savage nature seemed to have been aroused
by the last disturbance.

Who shall not say that bruin did not identify the youngster as the one
that had rapped him so smartly over the snout when he was seeking a
resting-place on the raft? If such were the fact, it cannot be wondered
that the beast pursued the fellow with such persistency.

Nick Ribsam was considered a rapid runner by his playmates, but it took
only a minute or two for him to find out he was no match for his
pursuer, who, starting only a short distance to the rear, was
overhauling him "hand-over-hand."

The boy hoped that the scorching earth would keep the beast from chasing
him with too much ardor, but it did not; and, as there was no other
recourse, he ran to a sapling, up which he climbed with the celerity of
a monkey.

Even as it was, it was within a second of being too late. The bear was
so close that, rising on his haunches, he reached his paws and grasped
the lowermost foot of Nick, whose hair fairly rose on end, as he thought
for the moment that he was going to be dragged down into the crushing
embrace of the dreaded animal.

But, fortunately, the shoe pulled off, and, before the bear could
understand it, the supple lad was perched above his reach and looking
down upon him.

"Well," said Nick, with a sigh, "this is considerably more than I
counted on. I didn't think, from the way you acted in the water, that
you were anything but a big coward; but I'm thankful enough you didn't
get your claws on me."

The huge creature examined the shoe carefully and, finding there was no
boy in it, dropped it to the ground, and, sitting on his haunches, again
looked longingly upward at the fellow perched just above his reach, as
though he understood what a choice dinner he would afford a bruin of his
size.

When he ran out his red tongue and licked his inky snout, Nick could not
help laughing.

"Not just yet, old fellow; I'd rather stay here two or three days than
come down to you."

When some minutes had passed, Nick began to feel that the situation had
nothing funny in it at all. What more likely than that the beast, having
made up his mind to take the next meal off a plump boy, would stay there
until that same boy would be unable to keep his perch any longer, and
would drop of his own accord, like a ripe apple.

The question was a serious one indeed, and while the lad was trying hard
to determine what was best to do, he heard Nellie calling to him. She,
too, was becoming impatient over the long separation and was coming to
find out what it meant.

Nick shouted back for her not to approach, explaining that he was up a
tree with a bear watching him, and that if she came any nearer the
animal would be sure to change his attention to her.

This was enough to keep any one at a respectful distance, but, when
Nellie Ribsam heard the alarming announcement, she was determined on
one thing: she would see for herself what sort of a picture was made by
a boy up a tree with a black bear watching him as the one watched her
two years before.

Nick having warned her against coming any nigher, it followed that the
temptation to do so was irresistible.

The lifting of the smoke had let in some sunlight, and it did not take
her long to reach a position from which she could look on the
interesting scene.

"Nick! Nick!" she called, in a guarded voice, not intended for the ears
of the bear.

The boy, alarmed for his sister's safety, turned toward the quarter
whence it came, and saw the white face peering from behind the trunk of
a tree no more than a hundred feet distant. He instantly gesticulated
for her to keep out of sight.

"You have done a silly thing, Nellie," said he, impatiently; "the bear
is sure to see you, and if he does, it will be the last of you."

"But I don't mean he shall see me," said the brave but not very prudent
girl; "if he looks around, why I'll dodge my head back--My gracious!
he's looking now!"

And Nellie threw her head so far from the side around which she was
peeping, that, if the bear had looked sharp, he would have detected the
somewhat bedraggled hat on the other side of the charred trunk.

Nick called to her to be more careful, as he plainly discerned her hat,
and the head-gear vanished.

The lad's fear was now on account of his sister, for he knew that so
long as he himself could maintain his position in the tree, so long was
he safe. The bear species cannot climb trees whose trunks are so small
that their claws meet around them, and although this brute scratched at
the sapling as though he meditated an attempt, yet he made none, but sat
still, looking wistfully upward, and probably hopeful that the boy
perched there would soon come down.

"Keep yourself out of sight!" called Nick to Nellie, "for you can't do
anything to help me."

The girl understood this, and she began to believe, with Nick, that she
had done an exceedingly foolish thing in venturing into the bear's field
of vision in this fashion.

And what was to be the end of this singular and most uncomfortable
condition of affairs?



CHAPTER XXXIX.

CONCLUSION.


For a half hour the situation remained unchanged. Nick Ribsam kept his
perch in the branches of the sapling, and, before the end of the time
named, he found the seat becoming so uncomfortable that he was sure he
could not bear it much longer.

The narrow limb on which he rested, while he held himself in place by
grasping the sapling itself, seemed to grow narrower and sharper, while
his own weight increased, until he believed it would be preferable to
let go and hang on with his hands.

It was not much better with Nellie, who had awakened to such a sense of
her position that she did not dare to do more than peep out from where
she stood, at rare intervals, quickly drawing back her head lest the
savage animal should see her.

The bear himself showed a patience which was astonishing, and was like
that of the Esquimau, who never stirs a muscle for hour after hour,
while sitting beside the air-hole in the ice, waiting for the seal to
show his nose above the surface.

Bruin moved more slightly now and then, but went no more than a dozen
yards from the tree, and seemed never to take his eyes from his victim
for more than a second or two.

During these trying minutes, the smoke sometimes filled the air scarcely
less than before and the eyes of the brother and sister smarted and
stung and shed tears, and their lungs became sore from continual
coughing, rendered the more distressing in the case of Nellie, who was
obliged to suppress the noise by cramming her handkerchief in her mouth.

But during the same period, the wits of Nick Ribsam were not idle. He
had thought of sending Nellie home to bring her father to his
assistance, but he was restrained by the fear that the bear would detect
her, and, even if she should get away, he doubted whether she would be
able to find her way through the woods to the open country beyond.

Here and there the trees were burning, and the dry limbs lay on the
ground, giving out the red glow of smoldering embers, or sending out
little twists of smoke to join the enormous mass of vapor which hung
like a pall over so many square miles of country.

Nellie, for the twentieth time, leaned her head forward and looked out
from behind the tree trunk that sheltered her. She saw the bear sitting
on his haunches some twenty feet away, looking steadily upward, as
though he were a charred stump, which could never change its posture or
position. Nick rested uneasily on the narrow limb, when he made a
movement which the quick-witted girl knew at once meant that he had
resolved on trying to do something for himself.

Carefully freeing his legs from the branch, he lowered himself so that
he hung by his hands, within ten feet of the ground. Hanging only a
second or two, he let go and dropped lightly upon his feet.

The whole thing took less than a minute, but the bear had observed it
almost as quickly as did Nellie, and the minute the lad struck the
ground the beast was lumbering toward him.

Poor, terrified Nellie screamed and ran from behind the tree, certain
that it was all over with her brave brother; but the latter did not
despair by any means. With astonishing celerity, he dashed to where a
large pine branch lay on the ground, burned in two; and catching up one
of the pieces, which was so hot that it scorched his fingers, he whirled
it about with such quickness that the glowing end made one steady, even
wheel of fire about his head. He recalled his experience in the woods
two years before when hunting the other bear.

While doing this, bruin was advancing rapidly on the boy, who kept
circling the torch until the beast was within ten feet, by which time
the stick was blazing as though it were a pine knot.

Then, with a boyish shout, Nick extended his arm at full length,
pointing the flaming torch straight at the head of his foe, as though he
held a Damascus sword of needle-like sharpness which he meant to drive
through the iron skull, and he strode directly at the beast with the
step of a conqueror.

Every animal, wild or domestic, dreads fire, and this strange attack was
more than the bear could stand. Without the least attention to dignity,
he turned about and swung off toward the lake, doubtless of the opinion
that there alone he could find safety from the element that drove him
thither in the first place.

Nick shouted and broke into a run, and the bear did the same! Just under
the tree, the lad stopped and put on his shoe, which had been somewhat
damaged by the claws of the brute. Then, being well shod and in no
further danger from the animal, on which he had turned the tables so
unexpectedly, Nick joined his sister, still carrying his torch as a
precaution in the event of bruin's changing his mind and making after
him.

But there was no danger of anything of the kind, and the bear was not
seen to look behind him, even to learn whether the pursuit was kept up.

"I guess I will give over my hunt for the rest of my clothes till some
better time," said Nick, once more taking the hand of Nellie and
starting up the bank of the stream which fed the pond, toward the bridge
that had burned some time before.

By carefully picking their path they reached it without mishap, being on
the southern side, so that it was not necessary to ford it in order to
continue the road homeward.

The structure was an ordinary one, consisting of a single uncovered
span, so that its loss was not serious, except on account of the
inconvenience it would cause.

The two stood several minutes looking upon the ruins, that were not very
extensive, but their chief interest centered around the carcass of the
mare lying at the bottom of the creek, where it had floated against the
shore.

The children were naturally attached to the animal, and there were tears
in their eyes, when, with a deep sigh, they turned away and climbed up
the steep bank to the level of the road and started for home.

They had reason to doubt their ability to force their way through the
several miles of forest remaining between them and the open country
beyond, but they were resolved to do their utmost, for they dreaded
staying any longer in the section where they had suffered and escaped so
much.

As has been stated, the fury of the conflagration had expended itself,
and there was nothing to be feared from the scorching flames, which had
confronted and endangered them shortly after they entered the woods, on
their return.

The road was strewn with burning debris, and many a time they were
forced to stop, in doubt whether they could get by the obstruction but
some way always opened: they would find a point where it could be
leaped, or they would flank it by a little circuit through the woods
themselves.

In this manner they toiled on until half the distance was passed, when
they were brought to a stand-still by a discovery which took away their
breath for the time.

They saw the ruins of something which they did not recognize until they
drew near, when they discovered that an ordinary farmer's wagon, with
its two horses, had been burned. Little more than the iron work of the
body was left, and the animals seemed to have gone down side by side,
where they lay burned and burst open by the flames, that were less
merciful to them than to the brother and sister who had made such a
gallant fight for life.

The sight was sad enough, but it was rendered tenfold more so by the
figure of the driver, only a few rods distant. When his team gave out he
had probably leaped to the ground and started to run from the fire, but
was overtaken and perished miserably.

"How thankful we ought to be!" said Nellie, in a subdued voice, as they
moved forward again.

"So I am," was the fervent response of Nick, whose heart was melted with
pity for the unfortunate stranger, and with thankfulness that he and
Nellie had been selected by Heaven for such a signal display of mercy.

They were in constant dread of coming upon similar scenes, but they
were spared the sight, and, at the end of about an hour from the time of
leaving the bridge, they emerged into the open country, where they were
near their own home.

The afternoon was pretty well gone, and the sky still wore that
impressive appearance which we all remember well; but it was not so
marked as a short time before, and was rapidly passing away.

There was a great deal of smoke drifting and floating through the air,
but it caused less inconvenience and annoyance than it did when they
fled to the pond for safety.

The children gave another expression of their gratitude, and then
hastened toward the humble home, which was, indeed, the dearest spot on
earth to them.

The parents were full of anxiety, though they hoped that Nick had seen
the danger, and had stayed in Dunbarton with horse and carriage.

But the couple stood at the gate, shading their eyes, and looking
yearningly down the road, in the hope of catching sight of the loved
forms of the brave children.

When they saw and recognized the figures, they rushed forth to meet
them, with swelling hearts. Father and mother pressed them to their
breasts, and the eyes of all were streaming with tears, for of Nick and
Nellie might it not be said--"For these, my children, were dead, and are
alive again: they were lost, and they are found?"

When Nick had told the whole wonderful story, the father took his hand
and said in his native tongue:

"My boy, I have taught you that God helps them that help themselves. I
am glad that at no time, so far as I can gather, did you despair. You
and Nellie have been tried by fire, and have come out as pure gold.
Heaven be praised for its mercies. The lesson you have learned will go
with you through life. Never despair, but press onward and upward, and
the reward shall be yours at last."

And what did the good man say but that which our own beloved and mourned
poet has so beautifully limned in lines that shall be as immortal as
his own fragrant deeds and revered memory?

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
      Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
      Seeing, shall take heart again.
    Let us then be up and doing,
      With a heart for any fate,
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
      Learn to labor and to wait.



THE END.



_The second volume of the Wild-Woods Series will be_ "On the Trail
of the Moose."



==THE FAMOUS CASTLEMON BOOKS.==

==BY==

==HARRY CASTLEMON.==


[Illustration: Specimen Cover of the Gunboat Series.]

No author of the present day has become a greater favorite with boys
than "Harry Castlemon:" every book by him is sure to meet with hearty
reception by young readers generally. His naturalness and vivacity lead
his readers from page to page with breathless interest, and when one
volume is finished the fascinated reader, like Oliver Twist, asks "for
more."

*** Any volume sold separately.

       *       *       *       *       *

==GUNBOAT SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon. 6
vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box      ==$7 50==

==Frank, the Young Naturalist==      ==1 25==

==Frank in the Woods==               ==1 25==

==Frank on the Prairie==             ==1 25==

==Frank on a Gunboat==               ==1 25==

==Frank before Vicksburg==           ==1 25==

==Frank on the Lower Mississippi==   ==1 25==

==GO AHEAD SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon. 3
vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==Go Ahead;== or, The Fisher Boy's Motto               ==1 25==

==No Moss;== or, The Career of a Rolling Stone         ==1 25==

==Tom Newcombe;== or, The Boy of Bad Habits            ==1 25==

==ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES.== By Harry
Castlemon. 3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth,
extra, printed in colors. In box                      ==$3 75==

==Frank at Don Carlos' Rancho==                        ==1 25==

==Frank among the Rancheros==                          ==1 25==

==Frank in the Mountains==                             ==1 25==

==SPORTSMAN'S CLUB SERIES.== By Harry
Castlemon. 3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth,
extra, printed in colors. In box                      ==$3 75==

==The Sportsman's Club in the Saddle==                 ==1 25==

==The Sportsman's Club Afloat==                        ==1 25==

==The Sportsman's Club among the Trappers==            ==1 25==

==FRANK NELSON SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon
3 vols. 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra,
printed in colors. In box                             ==$3 75==

==Snowed Up;== or, The Sportsman's Club in the Mts.    ==1 25==

==Frank Nelson in the Forecastle;== or, The Sportsman's
Club among the Whalers                                 ==1 25==

==The Boy Traders;== or, The Sportsman's Club among
the Boers                                              ==1 25==

==BOY TRAPPER SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon.
3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==The Buried Treasure;== or, Old Jordan's "Haunt"      ==1 25==

==The Boy Trapper;== or, How Dave Filled the Order     ==1 25==

==The Mail Carrier==                                   ==1 25==

==ROUGHING IT SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon.
3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==George in Camp;== or, Life on the Plains             ==1 25==

==George at the Wheel;== or, Life in a Pilot House.    ==1 25==

==George at the Fort;== or, Life Among the Soldiers.   ==1 25==

==ROD AND GUN SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon.
3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==Don Gordon's Shooting Box==                          ==1 25==

==Rod and Gun==                                        ==1 25==

==The Young Wild Fowlers==                             ==1 25==

==FOREST AND STREAM SERIES.== By Harry
Castlemon. 3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth,
extra, printed in colors. In box                      ==$3 75==

==Joe Wayring at Home;== or, Story of a Fly Rod        ==1 25==

==Snagged and Sunk;== or, The Adventures of a Canvas
Canoe                                                  ==1 25==

==Steel Horse;== or, The Rambles of a Bicycle          ==1 25==

==WAR SERIES.== By Harry Castlemon. 3 vols.,
12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed in
colors. In box                                        ==$3 75==

==True to his Colors==                                 ==1 25==

==Rodney, the Partisan==                               ==1 25==

==OUR FELLOWS;== or, Skirmishes with the Swamp
Dragoons. By Harry Castlemon. 16mo. Fully illustrated
Cloth, extra, printed in colors. In box                ==1 25==

==Marcy, the Blockade Runner==                         ==1 25==



==Alger's
Renowned
Books.==

==BY==

==Horatio
Alger, Jr.==

[Illustration: Specimen Cover of the Ragged Dick Series.]

Horatio Alger, Jr., has attained distinction as one of the most popular
writers of books for boys, and the following list comprises all of his
best books.

*** Any volume sold separately.

       *       *       *       *       *

==RAGGED DICK SERIES.== By Horatio Alger,
Jr. 6 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra,
printed in colors. In box                             ==$7 50==

==Ragged Dick;== or, Street Life in New York           ==1 25==

==Fame and Fortune;== or, The Progress of Richard
Hunter                                                 ==1 25==

==Mark, the Match Boy;== or, Richard Hunter's Ward     ==1 25==

==Rough and Ready;== or, Life among the New York
Newsboys                                               ==1 25==

==Ben, the Luggage Boy;== or, Among the Wharves        ==1 25==

==Rufus and Rose;== or, the Fortunes of Rough and
Ready                                                  ==1 25==

==TATTERED TOM SERIES.== (FIRST SERIES.)
By Horatio Alger, Jr. 4 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated
Cloth, extra, printed in colors. In box                ==5 00==

==Tattered Tom;== or, The Story of a Street Arab       ==1 25==

==Paul, the Peddler;== or, The Adventures of a Young
Street Merchant                                        ==1 25==

==Phil, the Fiddler;== or, The Young Street Musician   ==1 25==

==Slow and Sure;== or, From the Sidewalk to the Shop   ==1 25==

==TATTERED TOM SERIES.== (SECOND SERIES.)
4 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$5 00==

==Julius;== or the Street Boy Out West                 ==1 25==

==The Young Outlaw;== or, Adrift in the World          ==1 25==

==Sam's Chance and How He Improved It==                ==1 25==

==The Telegraph Boy==                                  ==1 25==

==LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES.== (FIRST SERIES.)
By Horatio Alger, Jr. 4 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated
Cloth, extra, printed in colors. In box               ==$5 00==

==Luck and Pluck;== or John Oakley's Inheritance       ==1 25==

==Sink or Swim;== or, Harry Raymond's Resolve          ==1 25==

==Strong and Steady;== or, Paddle Your Own Canoe.      ==1 25==

==Strive and Succeed;== or, The Progress of Walter
Conrad                                                 ==1 25==

==LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES.== (Second
Series.) By Horatio Alger, Jr. 3 vols., 12mo.
Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed in colors. In
box                                                   ==$5 00==

==Try and Trust;== or, The Story of a Bound Boy        ==1 25==

==Bound to Rise;== or Harry Walton's Motto             ==1 25==

==Risen from the Ranks;== or, Harry Walton's Success   ==1 25==

==Herbert Carter's Legacy;== or, The Inventor's Son.   ==1 25==

==CAMPAIGN SERIES.== By Horatio Alger, Jr. 3
vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==Frank's Campaign;== or, The Farm and the Camp        ==1 25==

==Paul Prescott's Charge==                             ==1 25==

==Charlie Codman's Cruise==                            ==1 25==

==BRAVE AND BOLD SERIES.== By Horatio
Alger, Jr. 4 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth,
extra, printed in colors. In box                      ==$5 00==

==Brave and Bold;== or, The Story of a Factory Boy     ==1 25==

==Jack's Ward;== or, The Boy Guardian                  ==1 25==

==Shifting for Himself;== or, Gilbert Greyson's
Fortunes                                               ==1 25==

==Wait and Hope;== or, Ben Bradford's Motto            ==1 25==

==PACIFIC SERIES.== By Horatio Alger, Jr. 4
vols. 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$5 00==

==The Young Adventurer;== or, Tom's Trip Across
the Plains                                             ==1 25==

==The Young Miner;== or, Tom Nelson in California      ==1 25==

==The Young Explorer;== or, Among the Sierras          ==1 25==

==Ben's Nugget;== or, A Boy's Search for Fortune. A
Story of the Pacific Coast                             ==1 25==

==ATLANTIC SERIES.== By Horatio Alger, Jr. 4
vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$5 00==

==The Young Circus Rider;== or, The Mystery of
Robert Rudd                                            ==1 25==

==Do and Dare;== or, A Brave Boy's Fight for Fortune   ==1 25==

==Hector's Inheritance;== or, Boys of Smith Institute  ==1 25==

==Helping Himself;== or, Grant Thornton's Ambition     ==1 25==

==WAY TO SUCCESS SERIES.== By Horatio
Alger, Jr. 4 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth,
extra, printed in colors. In box                      ==$5 00==

==Bob Burton==                                         ==1 25==

==The Store Boy==                                      ==1 25==

==Luke Walton==                                        ==1 25==

==Struggling Upward==                                  ==1 25==

==Five Hundred Dollars Legacy.== By Horatio
Alger, Jr. 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra,
printed in colors                                      ==1 25==

==A
New Series
of Books.==

       *       *       *       *       *

==Indian Life
and
Character
Founded on
Historical
Facts.==

[Illustration: Specimen Cover of the Wyoming Series.]

==By Edward T. Ellis.==

*** Any volume sold separately.

       *       *       *       *       *

==BOY PIONEER SERIES.== By Edward S. Ellis.
3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==Ned in the Block House;== or, Life on the Frontier   ==1 25==

==Ned in the Woods.== A Tale of the Early Days in
the West                                               ==1 25==

==Ned on the River==                                   ==1 25==

==DEERFOOT SERIES.== By Edward S. Ellis. In
box containing the following. 3 vols., 12mo.
Illustrated                                           ==$3 75==

==Hunters of the Ozark==                               ==1 25==

==Camp in the Mountains==                              ==1 25==

==The Last War Trail==                                 ==1 25==

==LOG CABIN SERIES.== By Edward S. Ellis.
3 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==Lost Trail==                                        ==$1 25==

==Camp-Fire and Wigwam==                               ==1 25==

==Footprints in the Forest==                           ==1 25==

==WYOMING SERIES.== By Edward S. Ellis. 3
vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box                                     ==$3 75==

==Wyoming==                                            ==1 25==

==Storm Mountain==                                     ==1 25==

==Cabin in the Clearing==                              ==1 25==

==Through Forest and Fire.== By Edward S. Ellis.
12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed in
colors      ==1 25==

       *       *       *       *       *

==By C.A. Stephens.==

       *       *       *       *       *

==Rare books for boys--bright, breezy, wholesome and instructive; full of
adventure and incident, and information upon natural history. They blend
instruction with amusement--contain much useful and valuable information
upon the habits of animals, and plenty of adventure, fun and jollity.==

==CAMPING OUT SERIES.== By C.A. Stephens.
6 vols., 12mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box      ==$7 50==

==Camping Out.== As recorded by "Kit"      ==1 25==

==Left on Labrador==; or The Cruise of the Schooner
Yacht "Curfew." As recorded by "Wash"      ==1 25==

==Off to the Geysers==; or, The Young Yachters in Iceland
As recorded by "Wade"      ==1 25==

==Lynx Hunting.== From Notes by the author of
"Camping Out"      ==1 25==

==Fox Hunting.== As recorded by "Raed"      ==1 25==

==On the Amazon==; or, The Cruise of the "Rambler."
As recorded by "Wash"      ==1 25==

       *       *       *       *       *

==By J.T. Trowbridge.==

       *       *       *       *       *

==These stories will rank among the best of Mr. Trowbridge's books for the
young--and he has written some of the best of our juvenile literature.==

==JACK HAZARD SERIES.== By J.T. Trowbridge.
6 vols., 12mo. Fully Illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed
in colors. In box      ==$7 50==

==Jack Hazard and His Fortunes==                        ==$1 25==

==A Chance for Himself;== or, Jack Hazard and his
Treasure                                                 ==1 25==


=Doing His Best==                                        ==1 25==

==Fast Friends==                                         ==1 25==

==The Young Surveyor;== or, Jack on the Prairies         ==1 25==

==Lawrence's Adventures Among the Ice Cutters==
Glass Makers, Coal Miners, Iron Men and Ship Builders    ==1 25==

       *       *       *       *       *

==--GOOD BOOKS--==

==Suitable for Girls between the Ages of 12 and 15.==

==Ways and Means.== A Story for girls. By Margaret
Vandegrift. With four illustrations. 12mo.
Cloth, extra                                               ==1 50==

==The Queen's Body-Guard.== A Story for Girls. By
Margaret Vandegrift. With four illustrations. 12mo.
Cloth, extra                                               ==1 50==

==Rose Raymond's Wards.== A Story for Girls. By
Margaret Vandegrift. Illustrated with four engravings
on wood. 12mo. Cloth, extra                                ==1 50==

==Doris and Theodora.== A Story for Girls. By Margaret
Vandegrift. Illustrated with four engravings on
wood. 12mo. Cloth, extra                                   ==1 50==

==Dr. Gilbert's Daughters.== A Story for Girls. By
Margaret Harriet Mathews. Illustrated with four engravings
on wood. 12mo. Cloth, extra                                ==1 50==

==Esther's Fortune.== A Romance for Girls. By Lucy
C. Lillie. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, extra, brown
and gold                                                   ==1 50==

==Helen Glenn;== or, My Mother's Enemy. A Story for
Girls. By Lucy C. Lillie. Illustrated with eight illustrations
12mo. Cloth, extra                                         ==1 50==

==The Squire's Daughter.== By Lucy C. Lillie. 12mo.
Illustrated. Cloth, extra                                  ==1 50==

==For Honor's Sake.== By Lucy C. Lillie. 12mo.
Illustrated. Cloth, extra                                  ==1 50==

==Marion Berkley.== A Story for Girls. By Lizzie B.
Comins (Laura Caxton). 12mo. Illustrated. Cloth,
extra, brown and gold                                      ==1 25==

==Hartwell Farm.== A Story for Girls. By Lizzie B.
Comins (Laura Caxton). 12mo. Illustrated. Cloth,
extra, brown and gold                                      ==1 25==

==THE HANDSOMEST AND CHEAPEST GIFT BOOKS.==

==The "Bells" Series.==

       *       *       *       *       *

The "BELLS" Series has been undertaken by the publishers with a view to
issue original illustrated poems of a high character, at a price within
the reach of all classes.

Small 4to. Cloth, gilt edges        $1 50
Ivory surface                        1 50
Embossed calf, gilt edges            1 50

==GEMS FROM TENNYSON.==

By ALFRED TENNYSON. Elegantly illustrated by Hammatt Billings.

==BEAUTIES OF TENNYSON.==

By ALFRED TENNYSON. Elegantly illustrated with twenty
engravings, from original drawings by Frederic B. Schell. Beautifully
printed on the finest plate paper.

==FROM GREENLAND'S ICY MOUNTAINS.==

By BISHOP HEBER. Elegantly illustrated with twenty-two
engravings, from original drawings by Frederic B. Schell. Beautifully
printed on the finest plate paper.

==LADY CLARE.==

By ALFRED TENNYSON. Elegantly illustrated with twenty-two
engravings, from original drawings by Alfred Fredericks, F.S. Church,
Harry Fenn, F.B. Schell, E.P. Garret and Granville Perkins. Beautifully
printed on the finest plate paper.

==THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.==

By CLEMENT C. MOORE. Never before has this popular poem--a
favorite with both the old and the young--been presented in such a
beautiful dress. It is elegantly illustrated with twenty-two engravings,
from original drawings by F.B. Schell, W.T. Smedley, A. Fredericks and
H.R. Poore.

==BINGEN ON THE RHINE.==

By CAROLINE E. NORTON. Elegantly illustrated with twenty-two
engravings, from original drawings by W.T. Smedley, F.B. Schell, A.
Fredericks, Granville Perkins and E.P. Garrett.

==THE BELLS.==

By EDGAR ALLAN POE. Elegantly illustrated with twenty-two
engravings, from original drawings by F.O.C. Darley, A. Fredericks,
Granville Perkins and others.

==THE DESERTED VILLAGE.==

By OLIVER GOLDSMITH. Elegantly illustrated with thirty-five
engravings, from drawings by Hammatt Billings.

==THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.==

By ROBERT BURNS. Elegantly illustrated with fifty engravings,
from drawings by Chapman.



==Standard Histories.==

       *       *       *       *       *

==History of England, from the Accession of
James the Second.== By Thomas Babington
Macaulay. _Standard edition._ With a steel portrait
of the author. Printed from new electrotype plates
from the last English edition. Being by far the most
correct edition in the American market. 5 vols.,
12mo. Cloth, extra, per set                               ==$5 00==

Sheep, marbled edges, per set                              ==7 50==

Half Russia (imitation), marbled edges                     ==7 50==

Half calf, gilt                                           ==10 00==


==History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire.== By Edward Gibbon. With notes by Rev.
H.H. Milman. _Standard edition._ To which is
added a complete Index of the work. A new edition
from entirely new stereotype plates. With portrait on
steel. 5 vols., 12mo. Cloth, extra, per set                ==5 00==

Sheep, marbled edges, per set                              ==7 50==

Half Russia (imitation), marbled edges,                    ==7 50==

Half calf, gilt, per set                                  ==10 00==


==History of England, from the Invasion of
Julius Cæsar to the Abdication of James the
Second, 1688.== By David Hume. _Standard
edition._ With the author's last corrections and
improvements to which is prefixed a short
account of his life, written by himself. With a
portrait on steel. A new edition from entirely
new stereotype plates. 5 vols., 12mo. Cloth, extra,
per set                                                    ==5 00==

Sheep, marbled edges, per set                              ==7 50==

Half Russia (imitation), marbled edges                     ==7 50==

Half calf, gilt                                           ==10 00==



==Miscellaneous.==

       *       *       *       *       *

==A Dictionary of the Bible.== Comprising its Antiquities
Biography, Geography, Natural History and
Literature. Edited by William Smith, LL.D. Revised
and adapted to the present use of Sunday-school
Teachers and Bible Students by Revs. F.N. and
M.A. Peloubet. With eight Colored maps and 440
engravings on wood. 8vo. Cloth, extra                     ==$2 00==

Sheep, marbled edges                                       ==3 00==

Half morocco, gilt top                                     ==3 50==

==History of the Civil War in America.== By the
Comte de Paris. Translated with the approval of the
author. With maps faithfully engraved from the originals
and printed in three colors. 8vo.

Cloth, extra, per vol.                                     ==3 50==

Red cloth, extra, Roxburgh style, uncut edges, per vol.    ==3 50==

Sheep, library style, per vol.                             ==4 50==

Half Turkey morocco, per vol.                              ==6 00==

Volumes I, II, III and IV now ready, put up in a neat
box, or any volume sold separately.

==The Battle of Gettysburg.== By the Comte de Paris.
With maps. 8vo. Cloth, extra                               ==1 50==

==Comprehensive Biographical Dictionary.== Embracing
accounts of the most eminent persons of all
ages, nations and professions. By E.A. Thomas.
Crown 8vo.

Cloth, extra, gilt top                                     ==2 50==

Sheep, marbled edges                                       ==3 00==

Half morocco, gilt top                                     ==3 50==

Half Russia, gilt top                                      ==4 50==

==The Amateur Photographer.== A manual of photographic
manipulations intended especially for beginners
and amateurs, with suggestions as to the choice of
apparatus and of processes. By Ellerslie Wallace,
Jr., M.D. New edition, with two new chapters on
paper negatives and microscopic photography. 12mo.
Limp morocco, sprinkled edges                              ==1 00==

==Interest Tables.== Containing accurate calculations of
interest at 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 3-1/2, 4, 4-1/2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10
per cent. per annum, both simple and compound, on
all sums from $1.00 to $10.00, and from one day to six
years. Also some very valuable tables, calculated by
John E. Coffin. 8vo. Cloth, extra                         ==$1 00==

==England, Picturesque and Descriptive.== A
Reminiscence of Travel. By Joel Cook, author of
"A Holiday Tour in Europe," "Brief Summer Rambles"
etc. Elegantly illustrated with 487 engravings
on wood. 4to. Cloth, extra                                 ==7 50==

Half calf, gilt, marbled edges                            ==10 00==

Half Morocco, full gilt edges                             ==10 00==

Full Turkey morocco, gilt edges                           ==15 00==


==The Waverley Novels.== By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
23 vols.

_Household Edition._ Illustrated. 12mo.
     Cloth, extra, per set                                ==23 00==
     Half calf, gilt, per set                             ==46 00==
     Half morocco, gilt top                               ==46 00==

_Universe Edition._ Printed on thin paper, and containing
one illustration to the volume. 25 vols., 12mo.

Cloth, extra, per vol.                                       ==75==

_World Edition._ 12 vols., thick 12mo.

(Sold in sets only.) Cloth, extra                         ==18 00==

Half im't. Russia, marbled edges                          ==24 00==

==Captain Jack the Scout;== or, The Indian Wars
about Old Fort Duquesne. An Historical Novel, with
copious notes. By Charles McKnight. With eight
engravings. 12mo. Cloth, extra                             ==1 50==

==Ladies' and Gentlemen's Etiquette.== A Complete
Manual of the Manners and Dress of American
Society. Containing forms of Letters, Invitations, Acceptances
and Regrets. By E.B. Duffey. 12mo.

Cloth, extra                                               ==1 50==

==The Count of Monte Cristo.== By Alexandre
Dumas. Complete in one volume, with two illustrations
by George G. White. 12mo. Cloth, extra                     ==1 25==

==The Iliad of Homer Rendered into English
Blank Verse.== By Edward, Earl of Derby. With
a biographical sketch of Lord Derby by R. Shelton
Mackenzie, D.C.L. Popular edition. Two vols. in
one. 12mo.

Cloth, extra                                              ==$1 50==

==Ten Nights in a Bar Room and What I Saw
There.== By T.S. Arthur. Entirely new edition from
new electrotype plates. Illustrated. 12mo.

Cloth, extra                                               ==1 25==


==Jane Eyre.== By Charlotte Bronté (Currer Bell). New
Library Edition. With five illustrations by E.M.
Wimperis. 12mo. Cloth, extra                               ==1 00==

==Shirley.== By Charlotte Bronté (Currer Bell). New
Library Edition. With five illustrations by E.M.
Wimperis. 12mo. Cloth, extra                               ==1 00==

==Villette.== By Charlotte Bronté (Currer Bell). New
Library Edition. With five illustrations by E.M.
Wimperis. 12mo. Cloth, extra                               ==1 00==

==The Professor==, ==Emma== and ==Poems==. By Charlotte
Bronté (Currer Bell). New Library Edition. With
five illustrations by E.M. Wimperis. 12mo.

Cloth, extra, black and gold                               ==1 00==

The four volumes, forming the complete works of Charlotte
Bronté, in a neat box.

Cloth, extra, black and gold, per set                      ==4 00==

Fancy cloth, paper label, gilt top, uncut edges            ==5 00==

Half calf, gilt, per set                                   ==8 00==

==History of Scotland.== (Tales of a Grandfather.)
By Sir Walter Scott. 3 vols., 12mo. Cloth, plain           ==3 00==

Half calf, gilt tops                                       ==6 00==

Half morocco, gilt tops                                    ==6 00==


==Tales of a Grandfather.== By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
4 vols. Uniform with the Waverley Novels.


==Household Edition.== Illustrated. 12mo.

Cloth, extra, per vol.                                     ==1 00==

Sheep, marbled edges, per vol.                             ==1 50==

Half calf, gilt, marbled edges, per vol.                   ==3 00==

==Ten Thousand a Year.== By Samuel C. Warren,
author of "The Diary of a London Physician." A
new edition, carefully revised, with three illustrations
by George G. White. 12mo. Cloth, extra                    ==$1 50==

==The Works of Flavius Josephus.== Comprising the
Antiquities of the Jews; a History of the Jewish Wars
and a Life of Flavius Josephus, written by himself.
Translated from the original Greek by William
Whiston, A.M. 8vo. Cloth, plain                            ==2 00==

Sheep, marbled edges, library style                        ==3 00==

Embossed leather, "new style"                              ==3 50==

Morocco, gilt edges                                        ==5 00==

This is the largest type one volume edition published.

==Stanley and the Congo.==--Explorations and Achievements
in the Wilds of Africa of Henry M. Stanley.
Also, a full description of his perilous descent, thrilling
adventures and late labors on the Congo River. Together
with an account of the expedition to the Central
Lake Regions, by Sir Samuel W. Baker, and the journey
across Africa in 1874-75, and the discoveries made by
Lieut. V.S. Cameron. By J.F. Packard, author of
"Young Folks' History of the United States," etc., etc.
Fully illustrated. 12mo.

Cloth, extra, black and gold                               ==1 50==

==Cookery from Experience.== A Practical Guide for
Housekeepers in the Preparation of Every-day Meals,
containing more than One Thousand Domestic Recipes,
mostly tested by Personal Experience, with Suggestions
for Meals, List of Meats and Vegetables in
Season, etc. By Mrs. Sara T. Paul. 12mo.

Cloth, extra                                               ==1 50==

==The Imitation of Christ.== By Thomas à Kempis.
New and best edition, from entirely new electrotype
plates, single column, large, clear type. 18mo.

PLAIN EDITION, ROUND CORNERS.

1. Cloth, extra, red edges                                   ==50==
2. French seal, limp, gilt edges                             ==75==
3. Russia, limp, inlaid cross, red and gold edges          ==2 00==
E. French morocco, padded, gilt edges                      ==1 25==
G. Polished, Persian calf, limp, red and gold edges        ==1 25==
L. Persian calf, line pattern, limp, red and gold edges    ==1 50==



==THE==

==Fireside Encyclopædia of Poetry==

COLLECTED AND ARRANGED

==By HENRY T. COATES.==

       *       *       *       *       *

27th edition, enlarged and thoroughly revised, and containing portraits
of prominent American poets, with facsimiles of their handwriting.

       *       *       *       *       *

Imperial 8vo., cloth, extra, gilt side and edges          ==$5 00==
Half calf, gilt                                            ==7 50==
Half morocco, antique, gilt edges                          ==7 50==
Turkey morocco, antique, full gilt edges                  ==10 00==
Tree calf                                                 ==12 00==
Plush, padded sides, nickel lettering                     ==14 00==

The remarkable success that has attended the publication of "The
Fireside Encyclopædia of Poetry"--26 editions having been printed--has
induced the author to thoroughly revise it, and to make it in every way
worthy of the high place it has attained. About one hundred and fifty
new poems have been inserted, and the work now contains nearly fourteen
hundred poems, representing four hundred and fifty authors, English and
American. The work is now illustrated by finely-engraved portraits of
many prominent poets, with their signatures and facsimiles of their
handwriting.

       *       *       *       *       *

==The Children's Book of Poetry.==

Compiled by HENRY T. COATES.

With nearly 200 illustrations. The most complete collection of poetry
for children ever published. 4to.

Cloth, extra, gilt edges                                   ==3 00==
Full Turkey morocco, gilt edges                            ==7 50==





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