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´╗┐Title: Shaggycoat - The Biography of a Beaver
Author: Hawkes, Clarence, 1869-1954
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 "Shaggycoat - The Biography of a Beaver" ***

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                            SHAGGYCOAT

                     The Biography of a Beaver
                        by CLARENCE HAWKES

        _Author of Black Bruin, The Biography of a Bear_

          _Shovelhorns, The Biography of a Moose, etc._

    _Illustrations by
    CHARLES COPELAND_

    PHILADELPHIA
    MACRAE SMITH COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS

    Copyright, 1906,
    BY GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY

    _All rights reserved_
    Printed in U. S. A.

       *       *       *       *       *

    _Dedicated to my Little Brother, the Venetian, who, living in a
    house that his hands have made, surrounded by a moat of his own
    device, the head of a large family and a citizen in a goodly
    community, is more like man in his mode of life, than any other of
    God's creatures.

       *       *       *       *       *

       KING OF ALL THE BEAVERS

    Till he came unto a streamlet
    In the middle of the forest,
    To a streamlet still and tranquil,
    That had overflowed its margin,
    To a dam made by the beavers,
    To a pond of quiet water,
    Where knee-deep the trees were standing,
    Where the water-lilies floated,
    Where the rushes waved and whispered.
    On the dam stood Pau-Puk-Keewis,
    On the dam of trunks and branches,
    Through whose chinks the water spouted,
    O'er whose summit flowed the streamlet.
    From the bottom rose the beaver,
    Looked with two great eyes of wonder,
    Eyes that seemed to ask a question,
    At the stranger Pau-Puk-Keewis.

                                --LONGFELLOW.

       *       *       *       *       *

    [Illustration: REACHED DOWN AND GRIPPED HIS BROTHER]



_CONTENTS_


    INTRODUCTION                                           11

    I. THE FUGITIVES                                       23

    II. ALONE IN THE WORLD                                 39

    III. THE COURTSHIP OF SHAGGYCOAT                       53

    IV. HOW THE GREAT DAM WAS BUILT                        67

    V. A BEAVER LODGE                                      81

    VI. HOW THE WINTER WENT                                97

    VII. LIFE IN THE WATER WORLD                          111

    VIII. A BIT OF TRAGEDY                                125

    IX. STRANGERS AT THE LAKE                             141

    X. A TROUBLESOME FELLOW                               163

    XI. A BANK BEAVER                                     181

    XII. THE BUILDERS                                     195

    XIII. BEAVER JOE                                      211

    XIV. RUNNING-WATER                                    225

    XV. KING OF BEAVERS                                   243

    XVI. OLD SHAG                                         261



_ILLUSTRATIONS_


    Reached down and gripped his brother                  _Frontispiece_

    The final touches were put upon this curious
    dome-shaped house                                   _Facing page_ 86

    Tearing at their house and filling the night
    with awful sounds                                         "       96

    The buck gave a mighty leap and fell midway in
    the stream                                                "      122

    There is where the hunter and hunted met                  "      193



A FOURFOOTED AMERICAN

INTRODUCTORY


Just how long the red man, in company with his wild brothers, the deer,
the bear, the wolf, the buffalo, and the beaver had inhabited the
continent of North America, before the white man came, is a problem for
speculation; but judging from all signs it was a very long time. The
Mound Builders of Ohio and the temple builders of Mexico speak to us out
of a dim prehistoric past, but the song and story of the red man and
many a quaint Indian tradition tell us how he lived, and something of
his life and religion.

If we look carefully into these quaint tales and folk-lore of the red
man, we shall find that he lived upon very intimate relations with all
his wild brothers and while he hunted them for meat and used their
skins for garments and their hides for bowstrings, yet he knew and
understood them and treated them with a reverence that his white brother
has never been able to feel.

Before the red man bent the bow he sought pardon from the deer or bear
for the act that he was about to commit. Often when he had slain the
wild creature, he made offerings to its departed spirit, and also wore
its likeness tattooed upon his skin as a totem. Thus we see that these
denizens of the wilderness were creatures of importance, playing their
part in the life of the red man, even before the white man came to these
shores. But that they should have continued to play a prominent part
after the advent of the white man is still more vital to us.

It was principally for beaver skins that the Hudson Bay Company unfurled
its ensign over the wilds of Labrador and upon the bleak shores of
Hudson Bay, during the seventeenth century. H. B. C. was the monogram
upon their flag. Their coat of arms had a beaver in each quarter of the
shield, and their motto was _Pro Pelle Cutem_, meaning skin for skin. An
official of the company once interpreted the H. B. C. as "here before
Christ," saying that the company was ahead of the missionaries with its
emblem of civilization.

For more than two hundred and twenty-five years this company has held
sway over a country larger than all the kingdoms of Europe, counting out
Russia. For the first one hundred years it was the only government and
held power of life and death over all living in its jurisdiction.

It was because the Indian knew that he could get so many knives or so
much cloth for a beaver skin, that he endured the terrible cold of the
Arctic winter, and hunted and trapped close to the sweep of the Arctic
Circle. For this valuable skin white trappers built their camp-fire and
slept upon ten feet of snow. It was a common day's work for a trapper to
drag his snow-shoes over twenty miles of frozen waste to visit his
traps.

For the pelts of the beaver, otter and mink, those bloody battles were
fought between the Hudson Bay Company men and the trappers of the
Northwest Company. The right to trap in disputed territory was held by
the rifle, and human life was not worth one beaver skin.

In those old days, so full of hardship and peril, the beaver skin was
the standard of value in all the Hudson Bay Company's transactions. Ten
muskrat skins, or two mink skins made a beaver skin, and the beaver skin
bought the trapper his food and blanket.

The first year of its existence the Hudson Bay Company paid seventy-five
per cent. upon all its investments, and for over two centuries it has
been rolling up wealth, while to-day it is pushing further and further
north and is more prosperous than ever, and all this at the expense of
the beaver and his warm-coated fellows.

Even the civilization of Manhattan comprising what is now New York and
Brooklyn was founded upon the beaver skin. It was a common thing in the
days of Wouter Van Twiller, for the colony of the Hudson to send home to
the Netherlands eighty thousand beaver skins a year.

John Jacob Astor, the head of the rich New York family laid the
foundations for his colossal wealth in beaver skins, and this is the
history of the frontier in nearly all parts of the country.

But there were other ways in which the beaver was advancing the white
man's civilization and making his pathway smooth, even before he came to
destroy his four-footed friend, for the beaver was the first woodsman
to fell the forest and clear broad acres of land that were afterward
used for tillage. He also was the first engineer to dam the streams and
rivers. To-day almost anywhere in New England you can see traces of his
industry. You may not recognize it, but it is there.

Nearly all the small meadows along our streams were made by the beavers
and acres of the best tillage that New England contains were cleared by
them.

They dammed the stream to protect their communities from their enemies,
and flowed large sections of territory. All the timber upon the flooded
district soon rotted and fell into the lake and in this way great
sections were cleared.

Each spring the freshets brought down mud and deposited it in the bottom
of the lake until it was rich with rotting vegetable matter and decaying
wood. Then the trapper came and caught the beaver, so that the dam fell
into disuse. Finally it was swept away entirely, and a broad fertile
meadow was left where there had been a woodland lake. Thus the beaver
has made meadowland for us all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
and we have shoved him further and further from his native haunts.

To-day he has entirely disappeared from New England, with the exception
of a few scattered colonies in Maine, where he is protected by his
neighbors who have become interested in his ways. There is also a
protected colony in Northern New York, and a few scattered beavers in
the mountains of Virginia, but this industrious prehistoric American has
largely disappeared from the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains.
His home, if he now has any in the land he once possessed, is in
Montana, where he lives in something of his old abandon. There he still
makes new meadow lands for the cattle men and rears his conical house in
his forest lake.

Like the red man he has been thrust further and further into the wild;
retreating before the shriek of the locomotive, and those ever advancing
steel rails. But the debt that we owe the beaver will remain as long as
we cut grass upon our meadow land, or appropriate the coat of this sleek
American for our own.

Thus the blazed trail is pushed on and on into the wilderness and the
old is succeeded by the new. Animals, birds, and trees disappear, and
brick blocks and telephone poles take their places.

Though he will ultimately disappear from the continent, we shall always
be heavily in debt to the beaver for the important part that he played
in the colonial history of America.

Like the red man he is a true American, for he was here before
Columbus, and his pelt was the prize for which the wilderness was
scoured. His only disqualification for citizenship in our great and
growing country is that he is a four-footed American, while we, his
masters, are bipeds.



CHAPTER I

FUGITIVES


At the time when our story begins, Shaggycoat was a two-year-old beaver,
fleeing with his grandfather from he knew not what. They had been so
happy in the woodland lake, which was their home before the terrible
intrusion, that the whole matter seemed more like a hideous dream than a
reality.

When Shaggycoat thought of the old days and his family, he could
remember warm summer afternoons upon clean sand banks, where he and his
brothers and sisters frolicked together. Then there were such delightful
swims in the deep lake, where they played water-tag, and all sorts of
games, diving and plunging and swimming straight away, not to mention
deep plunges to the bottom of the lake where they vied with one another
in staying down. Then when they were hungry, the bulbs of the lily and a
cluster of wild hops made a dinner that would make a beaver's mouth
water; with perhaps some spicy bark added as a relish.

Then came the cold and the pond was covered with ice. They could still
see the sun by day and the stars by night, but they could not come to
the surface to breathe as they had done before. There were a great many
air holes, and places under the ice where the water did not reach it,
but for breathing space they had to depend largely upon the queer
conical houses in which they lived and their burrows along the bank.

There was still another way to breathe that I had nearly forgotten. A
beaver or any of these little Water Folks can come up to the surface and
breathe against the ice. A big flat bubble is at once formed and as it
strikes the ice it is purified and then the beaver breathes it in again
and it is almost as fresh as though it came from the upper air. This he
can do three or four times before having to find an air hole or going
into one of the houses or burrows.

The beavers were very snug under the ice which kept away the wind and
cold, and also their worst enemy, man.

The breath of the family made the houses warm, and as the walls were
frozen solid, and were two or three feet thick, they were very hard to
break into.

A store of wood had been laid up from which the bark was stripped for
food as fast as it was needed, so that Beaver City had been very snug
and comfortable, before the trouble came.

Then when they were sleeping through the short winter days, and prowling
about the lake in the night in search of fresh twigs or sticks that had
been frozen into the ice, the trouble began.

First there came the sound of pounding and soon there were holes in the
ice near their supply of wood. Then occasionally a beaver who was hungry
and had gone for breakfast was missed from the family or lodge where he
lived. At first they thought he had gone for a swim on the lake and
would soon come back, but when several had gone out to the winter's
store and had not returned, the truth dawned upon some of the older and
wiser beavers. Their forest lake had been invaded by some enemy,
probably man, and one by one the colony was being slaughtered.

There is but one thing to do at such a time and that is to take safety
in flight, for the beaver does not consider that he can match his
cunning against that of man.

While the beavers were still considering whether to go at once or wait
another day, there were sounds of heavy blows upon the tops of their
houses and then there was a loud explosion and the water began to fall.
Then they fled in every direction, some taking refuge in the burrows
that they had dug under the banks all along the lake for such an
emergency, while others sought to leave the lake altogether; some going
up stream and some down. But the destruction of Beaver City had been
planned very carefully by their cunning enemy, man, and most of them
perished while leaving the lake.

When the men who were watching on the ice above saw a beaver swimming in
the water under them, they would follow upon the ice, going just where
the beaver went. The beaver would stay near the bottom of the lake as
long as he could hold his breath, but finally he would have to come to
the surface for air when the trapper would strike a hard blow upon the
ice, stunning him, or perhaps killing him outright. Then he would cut a
hole in the ice and fish out his unfortunate victim.

It was from such perils as these, although they were not fully
understood by the beavers, that Shaggycoat and his grandfather fled the
second night of this reign of terror. They would gladly have gone in a
larger company, with Shaggycoat's brothers and sisters and with his
father and mother, but all the rest of their immediate family were
missing and they never saw them again.

They went in the inky night, before the moon had risen. Silently, like
dark shadows, they glided along the bottom of the lake, which was still
about half full of water, for the white man's thunder had not been able
to entirely destroy the beaver's strong dam.

Shaggycoat's grandfather, being very old, and wise according to his
years, took the lead, and the younger beaver followed, keeping close to
the tail of his guide. They swam near the bottom and were careful to
avoid the bright light of the great fires that men had built upon the
ice in many places to prevent their escape.

By the time the moon had risen they were near the upper end of the lake.
They at once took refuge in an old burrow that the trappers had
overlooked and lay still until the moon went under a cloud when they
came out and crept along the bank, still going under the ice. When the
moon appeared again they hid under the roots of a tree that made a sort
of natural burrow. There they lay for all the world like the ends of two
black logs, until a friendly cloud again obscured the moon when they
pushed on. Once the trappers came very near to them when they were
hiding behind some stones, waiting for a friendly cloud, and Shaggycoat
was about to dash away and betray their whereabouts, when his
grandfather nipped him severely in the shoulder which kept him still,
and alone saved his fine glossy coat.

They were now getting well up into the river that had supplied their
lake, and it was not so easy to find breathing places as it had been in
the lake where the water was low. But they could usually find some crack
or crevice or some point where there were a few inches between the water
and the ice and where they could fill their lungs before they journeyed
on.

They had come so far and so fast that poor Shaggycoat's legs ached with
the ceaseless motion, but the older beaver gave him no rest, and led him
on and on, swimming with easy, steady strokes. Although his own legs
were weary and a bit rheumatic, he valued his life more than he did his
legs and so set his teeth and breasted the current bravely. They both
held their fore paws close up under them and used their hind legs
entirely for propelling themselves, so these had to do double duty,
plying away like the screw wheel on a great steamer.

When Shaggycoat remonstrated against going any farther, saying in beaver
language that his legs were ready to drop off, his senior reminded him
that his skin would drop off if they stopped, and, with a new wild
terror tugging at his heart, he fled on.

When daylight came, they had covered five good English miles up the
river, and were nearly eight miles from their dam and the beautiful
woodland lake that had been their home.

Then the old beaver began looking for some burrow or overhanging bank
where they might hide during the day and get some sleep, of which they
were in great need. Finally they found a suitable place where the bank
had shelved in, leaving a natural den, high and dry above the water.
Here they rested and passed the day, getting nothing better to eat than
a few frozen lily stems and some dead bark from a log that had been
frozen into the ice. The dry lifeless bark was not much like the tender
juicy bark that they were used to, but it helped a little to still the
gnawings of hunger, and in this retreat they soon fell asleep and slept
nearly the whole of the day.

But the older beaver was always watchful, sleeping with one eye open, as
you might say, and waking very easily.

Once, when he was awakened by a sense of danger, he saw a large otter
swim leisurely by their hiding-place and his heart beat hard and fast
until he was out of sight, for he knew that if the otter discovered
them, he would at once attack them and the battle would probably end in
his favor.

Shaggycoat would be of little help in a real fight for life and the old
beaver was far past his prime, his teeth being dull and broken. When the
otter was out of sight, the watchman lay down and resumed his nap.

When Shaggycoat awoke, he knew it was evening for he could plainly see
the stars shining through the ice.

His legs were cramped and stiff and there was a gnawing sensation in the
region of his stomach, but there was nothing in sight to eat. His
grandfather informed him in beaver language that there were weary miles
to cover before they could rest again.

As soon as it was fairly dark, they came out from under the overhanging
bank that had shielded them so nicely during the day and resumed their
journey, swimming like two ocean liners, on and on. Their track was not
as straight as that of the boats would have been, for they dodged in and
out, going where the darker ice and projecting banks gave them cover,
and stopping when they scented danger.

When they had gone about a mile, they found a spot where the river had
set back over the bank, freezing in some alder bushes. Upon the stems of
these they made a scant meal and went on feeling a bit better. This
night seemed longer and wearier to Shaggycoat than the first had. He was
not so fresh and the first excitement was over, but the old beaver would
not let him rest as he knew their only safety lay in putting a long
distance between them and their destroyers.

They were not so fortunate in finding a hiding-place as they had been
the day before, but they finally took refuge in a deserted otter's
burrow, which made them a very good nest, although it was possible that
some wandering otter might happen in, and dispossess them.

When night again came round, they made a light supper on frozen lily
stems and pushed on. They covered less distance that night than they had
done before, for both were feeling the strain of the long flight, and so
they rested frequently and took more time to hunt for food.

About daybreak of this third night of their journey, they found an open
place in the ice where the stream was rapid and went ashore; here they
soon satisfied their hunger upon the bark of the poplar and birch.

When they had made a good meal, the prudent old beaver, assisted by
Shaggycoat, felled several small poplars and cutting them in pieces
about three feet long dragged them under the ice to a protected bank and
hid them against the time of need, for he had decided to spend a few
days where they were, getting the rest and sleep which they both
needed.



CHAPTER II

ALONE IN THE WORLD


For two or three weeks the beavers kept very quiet in their new retreat,
only going out at night, which is their usual habit. They replenished
their food of birch and poplar bark frequently by felling small
saplings, cutting them up in pieces about three feet in length and then
securing them under the ice.

This was great fun for Shaggycoat, who had never done any work before
and he loved to see the tall saplings come swishing down, but it was no
fun for his grandfather who was getting very old. The long flight, the
loss of sleep, and want of food, had been too much for him, and he did
not recuperate as quickly as the two-year-old.

One day just at dusk, Shaggycoat thought he would steal out and fell a
tree for himself. His teeth fairly ached to be gnawing something, so he
slipped away from his grandfather and paddled out to the open spot in
the ice. Although he is a great swimmer and is only excelled by the
otter, the beaver does not swim like other quadrupeds, for he holds his
forefeet up under him, and works his powerful hind legs like lightning.
As the feet are broad and webbed and he strikes at a slight angle, he
propels himself through the water with great velocity.

As Shaggycoat neared the open place in the river where the water ran
swiftly and it was easy to clamber out on the bank, a queer feeling came
over him.

He was not afraid to go out alone, although his grandfather had always
gone with him. It was only a few steps and he thought nothing could harm
him, but something seemed to hold him back and fill him with a sense of
danger. Then he happened to glance up and, close to the opening in the
ice, he saw a large gray animal crouched, watching the hole intently.

The stranger was two or three times the size of Shaggycoat, as large as
any beaver he had ever seen, but he was not a beaver. His fore paws were
too long and powerful, his head with tufted ears too flat, and his eyes
were too cruel and hungry. The longer Shaggycoat looked at the fierce
animal above him on the ice, the greater grew his fear, until he fled at
a headlong pace to the overhanging bank, where his grandfather was
sleeping. His precipitate flight into the burrow awoke the old beaver
who slept lightly and was always watchful.

When Shaggycoat related his adventure, the old beaver looked troubled
and combed his head thoughtfully with the claws upon his hind leg. After
dusk had fallen and the stars appeared, he carefully reconnoitred,
leaving Shaggycoat in the burrow. After half an hour's time, he returned
and his manner was anxious.

He told Shaggycoat that they must not use the opening in the ice any
more or go upon the land, for a lynx had found their hiding-place and
would watch by their front door until he dined upon beaver meat. They
must start that very night and go farther up the river and find a new
opening, and even then they must be cautious. This was sorrowful news
for them both and the younger beaver remonstrated against leaving their
fine store of bark, but he got a sharp nip in his ear and was told to
keep his advice until it was asked for. So, after making a hearty
supper, they went sorrowfully upon their way to find a new open spot in
the river where the lynx would not be watching for them.

They went only about a mile that night, but found several open spots for
the ice was getting ready to break up. At last, they found a place that
suited them and dragged themselves up under a sheltering bank, near a
rapid, that afforded them a chance to go in search of food. Then the old
beaver slept long and sound, leaving Shaggycoat upon guard with orders
to wake him if anything uncommon appeared.

The young beaver did not like these silent vigils and the hours seemed
very long to him, but he did as he was told. He thought his grandfather
never would wake, but at last he did, late in the afternoon, but they
did not go ashore for bark--it was too dangerous, the older beaver
said--so they had a slim supper of frozen lily pads. But this was not
enough for the hungry stomach of Shaggycoat who gnawed away at some tree
roots that pierced the bank where they were hiding. It was not as good
as the fresh bark of the birch, but it filled him up and made him feel
better.

If Shaggycoat had been older and wiser, he would have been alarmed at
the old beaver's symptoms, but he was young and thoughtless, and knew
not of age, or the signs of failing life.

At last the spring freshet came and the ice in the river broke up. Then
they had to look for a spot where the bank was very high so they would
not be drowned out. It was a long and arduous search to find the right
spot, but at last it was found just in time, for the old beaver's
strength was nearly spent. But every day that the snow melted and the
ice went out of the river, food for the beavers grew more plentiful and
the sunshine and hope of spring made them glad.

Shaggycoat was now left to himself, to swim in the river and feed upon
the bark of saplings along the shore. The old beaver was too tired with
their long journey to venture out of the burrow they had chosen. He
gave Shaggycoat much good advice, and among other things told him to
always keep close to the water where he was comparatively safe, while
upon land, he was the easy prey of all his natural enemies. The peculiar
angle of his hind legs made it impossible for him, or any other beaver,
to travel much on shore, but, while in the water they were his
safeguard.

These were delightful days for the two-year-old. The water was getting
warm and the mere act of swimming filled him with delight. Besides, it
seemed like a very wonderful world in which he lived. He had come so far
and seen so many strange things. He wondered if there were other rivers
and if they were all as long as this one.

One spring morning when the air was warm and balmy and birds had begun
to sing in the tree-tops along the bank, Shaggycoat went for a swim in a
deep pool. It was not his custom to be abroad in the daylight, for
beavers as a rule love the dark and do most of their work in inky
darkness, but the two-year-old felt restless. He must be stirring. His
grandfather was too old and stupid for him, so he went.

He had a delightful play and a good breakfast upon some alders that grew
in a little cove. He stayed much longer than usual, so that when he
returned the sun was low in the west.

He found his grandfather stretched out much as he had left him, but
there was something peculiar about him. He was so still. He was not
sleeping, for there was no motion of the chest and no steam from the
nostrils. Shaggycoat went up to him and put his nose to his, but it was
quite cold. Then he poked him gently with his paw, but he did not stir.
Then he nipped his ear as the older beaver had so frequently done to
him, but there was no response.

He would wait; perhaps this was a new kind of sleep. He would probably
wake in the morning, but a strange uneasiness filled Shaggycoat. He was
almost afraid of his grandfather, for he was so quiet and his nose was
so cold.

He waited an hour or two and then tried to waken him again, but with no
better success. This time to touch the icy nose of the old beaver sent a
chill through Shaggycoat's every nerve, and a sudden terror of the
lifeless silent thing before him seized him.

Then a sense of loss, coupled with a great fear, came over him and he
fled from the burrow like a hunted creature. He must put as many miles
as possible between himself and that sleep from which there was no
waking.

The river had never seemed so dark and uninviting before, nor held so
many terrors. His grandfather had always led the way and he had merely
to follow. Now he was to lead. But where? He did not know the way, but
that silence and the terror of that stiff form with the cold nose
haunted him and he fled on.

Morning found him many miles from the shelving bank, where the old
beaver had been left behind.

Shaggycoat feared the river and all it contained. The world too was
strange to him, but most of all he feared that silent form under the
dark bank.

From that day he became a wanderer in the great world. He went by river
courses and through mountain lakes, always keeping out of danger as well
as he could.

Many scraps of good advice he now remembered which had been given him by
his grandfather. Perhaps his grandfather had felt the heavy sleep coming
upon him and had given the advice that Shaggycoat might take care of
himself when he should be left alone; or maybe it was only an instinct
that had come down through many generations of aquatic builders. But
certain things he did and others he refrained from doing, because
something told him that it would be dangerous.

Other bits of information he gathered from sad experience. Many things
befell him that probably never would, had he been in company with wiser
heads, but, he was an orphan, and the lot of the orphan is always hard.

These are a few of the lessons that he learned during that adventurous
summer: that the water is the beaver's element, but on land he is the
laughing-stock of all who behold him; that in the water is comparative
safety, but on land are many dangers; that the otter is the beaver's
deadly enemy, always to be avoided if possible; that minks and muskrats
are harmless little creatures, but not suitable company for a
self-respecting beaver; that sweet-smelling meat, for which you do not
have to work, is dangerous and bites like a clam, holding on even more
persistently.

These and other things too numerous to mention Shaggycoat learned, some
by observation and some by personal experience.

At first, the summer passed quickly. There were so many things to see,
and so many rivers and lakes to visit, but by degrees a sense of
loneliness came over him. He had no friend, no companion.

He was positively alone in all the great world.



CHAPTER III

THE COURTSHIP OF SHAGGYCOAT


My young readers may wonder why I have called the beaver, whose fortunes
we are following, Shaggycoat, so I will tell them.

The fur of the beaver and the otter is very thick and soft, but, in its
natural state, it is quite different from what it is when worn by women
in cloaks and coats, for the fine short fur is sprinkled with long hairs
that give the coat a shaggy, uneven appearance. In the case of our own
beaver, Shaggycoat, these long hairs were very pronounced, so you see
the name fitted him nicely.

When the fur of any of these little animals is prepared for market, the
long hairs are all pulled out with a small pair of tweezers. This is
called plucking the skin.

As the summer days went by and August ripened into September, the
loneliness that had oppressed Shaggycoat during the summer grew tenfold
and he became more restless than ever. There seemed to be something for
which he was looking and longing. It was not right that he should wander
up and down lakes and streams and have no living creatures to stop to
speak with him. His world was too large; the lakes and streams were too
endless. He wanted to share them with somebody or something. He had
found many a wondrous water nook, which he would like to show some one;
but still up and down he wandered, and no one did he find to share his
great world. Yet it seemed sometimes as though he had come near to
somebody or something, for which he was looking, but it always vanished
at the next turn of the stream or at the waterfall.

Thus in this endless searching that came to naught, like searching for
the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the autumn days passed.

The maples and the oaks shook out their crimson and golden streamers,
and a touch of surpassing glory was on all the world. Sometimes the
merry wind would shower down maple leaves until the edge of the stream
was as bright as the boughs above.

It seemed that their fire touched Shaggycoat as he swam among them,
making him burn and glow like the autumn forest.

Then a new plan came into his wise head. If what he was looking for
could not be found by searching, perhaps it might be coaxed to come to
him. He would try and see. So he gathered some grass and mud and made a
very queer patty, which looked much like a child's mud pie. This he
smoothed off with as much care as a baker would a cream cake.

This patty had been made by a beaver. He was sure that whoever found it
would know that, for it had a strong musky smell, so he left his
love-letter under a bush near a watercourse, and went away to wait
developments.

A day he waited, but his letter remained unopened, and, of course,
unread. Two days, and no better result, but the third day he found to
his great joy that the letter had been opened. There was an unmistakable
beaver musk about it, and new paw and nose prints upon it.

This was his answer. It said as plainly as words could have said, "I
have read your letter and know what it means. I am waiting in some pool,
or under a shelving bank near-by. Come."

Then Shaggycoat raced up and down the stream churning the water like a
tug boat, until he found fresh beaver tracks in the mud. These he
followed rapidly along the bank until he came to where it overhung the
water and there he found his mate waiting for him with glad eyes.

Shaggycoat went up to her and rubbed his nose against hers. It was not
like his grandfather's nose, cold and repellent, but warm and caressing.
He backed away a pace or two to look at her and there was new joy in his
heart.

She was not quite as large as he, and her coat was just a shade lighter
drab, but she was very sleek and Shaggycoat was well satisfied.

I know not what they said there under the shelving bank, during their
first tryst, but I do not agree with those niggardly naturalists who
would strip the brute kingdom of feeling and intelligence and the power
to express joy and pain, and appropriate all these feelings to
themselves.

It may be that Shaggycoat told his newly found mate how bright her eyes
were and how long he had searched for her or perhaps she confessed that
she had seen him many times just around the bend in the stream, but had
not thought that he was looking for her. We are none of us certain of
any of these things, but we are sure of one thing. It was a very happy
meeting.

Then Shaggycoat led the way through lake and river to many wonderful
water grottoes; to deep pools where the bottom of the lake was as dark
and forbidding as midnight, or to shallows, where the bottom of the
stream was gay with bright pebbles, and where the sunlight danced upon
the uneven water until it made a wondrous many colored mirror.

He showed her his waterfall, and a part of a small dam that he had
constructed just for fun across a little brook. The waterfall was not
really his any more than it was any one else's, but he called it his.

These and many other water wonders he showed his young mate, and her
eyes grew brighter as the wonders of their world grew. She wondered how
he had traveled so far, and seen so many things. But all the time
Shaggycoat was leading the way toward a dear little brook that he knew
of away back in the wilderness, in one of the fastnesses of nature. He
had a definite plan in his head concerning this stream. He had made it
weeks before and arranged many of its details. But one day as they
journeyed, a sad accident befell Brighteyes, and for a time it bade fair
to end all their hopes.

They were swimming leisurely up stream and had stopped at the mouth of a
little rill where the water was very fresh, when Brighteyes discovered a
stick of sweet smelling birch hanging just above the water's edge. It
fairly made her mouth water.

But Shaggycoat was suspicious. He had seen wood fixed like this before.
He had tasted it and something had caught him by the paw, and only after
several hours of wrenching had he been able to free himself. Even then
he had left one claw and a part of the toe in the trap.

So he pushed Brighteyes from the trap and tried to hurry away with her.
But, with true feminine wilfulness and curiosity, she persisted, and a
moment later the trap was sprung and she was held fast by the toes of
one of her forefeet.

She tugged and twisted, pulled and turned in every direction, but it
would not let go. Then Shaggycoat got hold of the chain with his teeth
and pulled too, but with no better success.

Brighteyes struggled until her paw was nearly wrenched from the
shoulder, but the persistent thing that held her by three toes still
clung like a vise.

At last when both beavers were filled with despair, and a wild terror of
being held so firmly had seized them, a bright idea came to Shaggycoat.
He gnawed off the stake that held the chain upon the trap and his mate
was free to go, with the trap still clinging to her paw, and the chain
rattling along upon the stones. Then they tried all sorts of experiments
to get the trap off, the two most ingenious ways being drowning it, and
burying it in the mud, and then seeking to steal away quietly without
disturbing it. But the trap was not to be taken unawares in this way,
and always followed. Finally it caught between two stones where the
brook was shallow, and came off itself. You may imagine they were glad
to see the last of it, and Brighteyes never forgot the lesson.

It was several days before her shoulder got fairly over the wrenching,
but it may have saved her glossy coat in after years.

Finally, after traveling leisurely for about a week, they came to the
mountain stream that Shaggycoat had in mind. It wound through a broad
alder covered meadow, with steep foothills a mile or so back on either
side. The meadow was about two miles long and at the lower end, where
the stream ran into a narrow valley, there were two large pines, one on
either bank.

Up in the foothills were innumerable birch and maple saplings and here
and there in the meadow were knolls of higher land, covered with small
pines and spruces.

Perhaps Shaggycoat had seen this wild meadow covered with water in the
spring during a freshet, or maybe he had only imagined it, but there was
a picture in his active mind of a strong beaver dam at the foot of the
narrows and a broad lake that should be enclosed by the foothills; upon
the islands were to be many beaver lodges, the first of which should be
occupied by Brighteyes and himself.



CHAPTER IV

HOW THE GREAT DAM WAS BUILT


Shaggycoat, of course, had had no experience in dam-building, but he had
often watched repairs upon the dam in the colony where he and his
grandfather lived, before that terrible winter and the destruction of
their snug city. He was too young at the time to be allowed to help in
such important work as strengthening the dam, which needed old and wise
heads, but there was no rule against his watching and seeing how it was
done.

He had planned to model his dam in the alder meadow after the one at the
old colony.

He had traveled many weary miles by lakes and rivers, to find a spot
where such a dam could be built. A broad meadow surrounded by
foothills, with a narrow neck at the lower end where the dam was to be,
and large trees near to use in its construction. There were many places
where the ordinary dams, made of short sections of logs, piled up like a
cob house, could be built. The brush and stone dam could also be made
almost anywhere, but the kind Shaggycoat wanted, which was easier to
make than any other could be built only in certain places, so he had
chosen the spot with great care.

His observation of repairs on the old dam would stand him in good stead,
but even had he not seen this work, it is probable that his beaver's
building instinct would have supplied the needed knowledge. His kind had
been dam builders for ages.

It was the beaver dams of the eighteenth century that gave us most of
our pleasant meadows, where hay and crops now grow so plentifully.
Originally these lowlands were covered with timber, but the beaver dams
overflowed the valleys, and made them fertile. This also killed off the
timber, which finally rotted and fell into the water, and the meadow was
cleared as effectually as though the settlers had done it with their
axes. Traces of these dams may still be found.

Just to illustrate how ingrained the building instinct is in the beaver:
a young beaver was held in captivity in the third story of an apartment
house in London. There were no sticks, no mud, nor anything to suggest
building. He had no parents to teach him this industry, yet he soon set
to work and built brushes, shoes, hassocks, and anything else movable
that he could get hold of into a wall across one corner of the room.
This was his dam.

One October evening, when the harvest moon was at its full and its
mellow radiance shimmered on tree-top and water, and the world was like
a beautiful dream, half in light, half in shadow, Shaggycoat and
Brighteyes took their places at the foot of one of the great pines at
the lower end of the meadow and the work of dam-building began. But just
how they set to work you could never guess, unless you are familiar with
the habits of these most interesting animals.

They stood upon their hind legs, balancing themselves nicely upon their
broad flat tails, and began nipping a ring about the tree. It was not a
very deep cut, and looked for all the world like the girdle that the
nurseryman makes upon his apple trees, only it was a little more ragged.
When the tree had been circled, they began again about three inches
above the first girdle, and cut another. When they touched noses again
at the farther side of the tree, they began pulling out the chips
between the two girdles. When this operation had been completed for the
entire circumference of the tree, they had made the first cut which was
about three inches broad, and perhaps a half an inch deep, for they had
the bark to help them, and this was the easiest cut on the tree.

Do you imagine that they stopped for a frolic when the first cut had
been made, as many boys or girls would have done? Not a bit of it, for
they knew better than man could have told them how soon cold weather
would make work upon the dam impossible, and there was the lodge to
build after the dam had been made.

You would have laughed if you had seen these two comparatively small
animals at the foot of that giant pine, nipping away at it like
persistent little wood-choppers. The old tree was tall and majestic. It
had withstood the winds of a century, and its heart was still stout. The
chips that they took were so small, and the task before them so great,
but, if you had happened by the following day and seen the furrow, some
two or three inches in depth, you would have marveled, and not been so
sure of the old pine's ability to withstand these ambitious rodents.

Night after night they worked, and once or twice they had to widen the
cut, which had become so narrow that they could not get their heads in
to work, but, even as water wears away stone by constant action, they
wore away the stout heart of the old pine.

At last, one morning, just as the moon was setting and the pale stars
were fading, a shudder ran through the tall pine and it quivered as they
cut through the last fibres of its strong heart. A moment it tottered
like an old man upon his staff, then swayed, as though uncertain which
way to go, and fell with a rush of wind and a roar that resounded from
foothill to foothill until the meadow echoed with the downfall of the
old sentinel.

It had fallen squarely across the stream, just as they had hoped. This
was probably not through any prowess of the beavers as woodsmen, but
nearly all timber that grows upon the bank of a stream leans toward the
water, owing to the fact that trees grow more freely upon that side.

The sun was now rising, so they left their work, well pleased that the
tree was down, but by dusk they were at it again.

The trunk of the pine, and particularly its thick foliage, had dammed
the water somewhat, so it was already beginning to set back, but most of
it trickled through and went upon its way rejoicing at its escape. Some
large limbs upon the tree still held it several feet from the ground, so
they set to work on the under side of the tree, cutting off the limbs
and lowering the trunk to just the height they wished. Some of this
work had to be done under water, but that is no hardship for a beaver,
for he can stay under several minutes. When breathing had become
difficult they would come up, bringing the severed limbs in their teeth.
These would be jammed into the mud just in front of the tree trunk, like
the pickets upon a fence. If you had tried to pull out one of these
limbs after they had once planted it, you would have found it a
difficult task.

In two nights they lowered the pine to the desired height, and made it
look like a dam.

The following night, they began upon the other pine on the opposite
bank, and girdled it as they had done the first. The tree looked lonely
now with its mate gone. Perhaps it felt so and did not care that the
sharp teeth were nipping away at its bark, or maybe it still longed to
battle with the elements, and this spasmodic pain in its sap filled it
with forebodings.

As relentlessly as they had gnawed away at the first tree, they worked
at the second until it, too, fell with a rush of air, the snap of
breaking branches and a thunderous thud that shook the valley. They were
not as fortunate this time as they had been before and though the pine
fell across the stream, it fell further up than its mate, leaving a gap
between them.

You could never guess how they remedied this mishap. They certainly
could not move the tree, but that was really what they did, for they
gnawed off the limbs that supported it on the down-stream side, and it
rolled over of its own weight, so that in this way the gap was filled.
The structure now looked quite like the outline of a dam.

Then work upon it was suspended for a time and they went up-stream about
twenty rods and dug three holes in a knoll that would soon be an
island, for the reason that the water was now setting back quite
rapidly. These holes were started near the bank of the stream running
back under ground for several feet, and then turning upward and coming
out at the surface. Three such holes were dug, each leading to a
different place near the bank of the stream, but all coming out at the
same spot at the top of the knoll.

They soon resumed work upon the dam and small trees and brush might have
been seen floating down the stream, guided by industrious beavers, who
gave the material a shove here and a push there to keep it in the
current. Now that the dam was beginning to flow the meadows, they would
make the stream do their carrying just as it did cargoes for man.

The brush and saplings were stuck vertically in front of the pine
barricade, and the holes between were plastered up with mud and sods,
until the structure was fairly tight. The mud they carried in their fore
paws hugged up under the chin, or on the broad tail which made a fine
trowel with which to smooth it off.

Little by little the holes on the dam were filled, until finally it was
quite smooth and symmetrical. It could be built larger and stronger the
next year, but for this year they only needed a small pond that should
make a primitive Venice for them, and shield their lodge from a land
attack. By the time the first hard freeze came, the dam had been
completed for that year, and the freeze strengthened it just as they had
intended.

A beautiful little lake about a quarter of a mile in length, and half as
wide, now shimmered and sparkled in the valley and the beavers were glad
that they had been so prospered.



CHAPTER V

A BEAVER LODGE


It will be remembered that before beginning work on the dam the beavers
went to a point a few rods above where it was to be placed and dug three
holes running back from the stream. These holes started at different
points in the bank but all converged at the top of the knoll.

The water had now set back and covered the lower end of the holes near
the stream, but the opening at the top of the knoll was high and dry.

The beavers now set to work with mud, sticks, stones, fine brush, and
weeds, and built a circular wall about eight feet in diameter around the
hole at the top of the knoll. The wall was about two feet thick and
during the first two or three days of building looked for all the world
like the snow fort that children build by rolling huge snowballs into a
circular wall, and then plastering in the cracks with loose snow, only
the beavers' work was more regular and symmetrical than that of the
children.

It was now the first of November and freezing a little each night; just
the best time imaginable for a beaver to work upon his house, for it was
really a house that the beavers were building.

While the November sky was bright with stars, and the milky way was
luminous; while the frost scaled over the edges of their little pond,
and the fresh north winds rapidly stripped the forest of its last
leaves, the beavers worked upon their house with that industry which is
proverbial of them.

They brought mud in their paws or on their broad flat tails, and sticks
and brush in their teeth and plastered away like skilful masons. When a
pile of mud had been placed in the proper position, it would be smoothed
off carefully with the patient fore paws or perhaps that broad strong
tail would come down upon it with a resounding slap and the trick was
done.

When the wall began to round over for the roof, the difficulty began.
Here they had to put in rafters. These were formed of pliable sticks of
alder or willow, one end being stuck in the mud wall, and the other bent
over at the top, until all came together where the chimney would be just
like the poles in an Indian's wigwam. Here they also had to use great
care in placing the mud, for it would frequently fall through between
the rafters, or slide down upon them. If they could work, when it was
freezing, the cold froze the mud to the rafters and helped to keep it in
place. Several times, part of the roof fell in and had to be relaid, but
they still worked away and, finally, all but a very small opening, two
or three inches in diameter, had been closed. This opening was the vent
or chimney, where foul air might escape. This hole had to be just large
enough to permit the escape of hot air, but not large enough to admit
any of their enemies.

The same night that the final touches were put upon the roof of this
curious dome-shaped house, the ground froze hard, and in the morning the
wall of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's new abode was quite substantial. But later
on when the hard freeze had made the earth like rock, this little mud
house would be a veritable fortress, capable of withstanding almost any
onset with ordinary weapons. Even a man with a crowbar and axe would
have found it a hard task to enter this stronghold of these queer little
people.

[Illustration: THE FINAL TOUCHES WERE PUT UPON THIS CURIOUS DOME-SHAPED
HOUSE]

So you see the beaver had planned his work well and the frost and the
wind had helped him. He had harnessed the stream to do his work, and
made its water protect him from his enemies. Just as men built their
castles in days of old, the beaver had made his dam, so that a moat
should surround his house, where the drawbridge should always be up, and
the only way of entrance or exit should be by water.

You may wonder how after the roof of their house had been closed up, and
no door left, the beavers went to and from their dwelling, but do you
not remember the three holes that had been dug several weeks before.
These were now their three submerged channels to the outer world,
through which only a good swimmer could pass. This was the way they
went. A plunge down the hole at the centre of the lodge, and a dark form
would shoot out at the bank of the river. Perhaps a beaver's head,
dripping with water would be poked up, only a few feet from the mud
house, or maybe they would go the entire width of the pond before
coming to the surface, for they are great swimmers, and can stay down
for several minutes without coming to the surface to breathe.

Besides having three doors through which to escape to their water world,
the beavers took other precautions against being entrapped in their snug
house, or caught in the pond without a place of refuge to flee to.

They searched the bank for places where it was steep or shelving,
overhanging the water. At such points they dug burrows back into the
bank, gradually running them upward, but stopping a foot or two short of
the surface. Here they would scoop out a snug burrow or nest to which
they could retreat when living in the house became dangerous. They made
three or four such burrows, the lower end of each being under water, and
the nest end high and dry, but still underground. By this time they
felt that their pond was fairly well fortified, and they set to work,
laying in their winter store of food, for they knew that the pond would
soon freeze over thus making them prisoners under the ice for the entire
winter, so they must make their plans accordingly.

They went to the upper end of the pond and began felling birch, poplar
and maple saplings, three or four inches in diameter. These small trees
they limbed out, and cut up into pieces about three feet in length, just
as a wood-chopper would cut cord wood.

When a tree had been cut up into these convenient pieces, one of the
beavers would load it upon the shoulders of the other, who would cling
to the stick with his teeth, and they would begin dragging it to the
water. The beaver usually went obliquely, dragging the stick after him,
with one end trailing. When it had been rolled into the water, it was
left to the current which they knew would float it down to the dam. If
the channel became blocked and logs lodged along the shore, they pushed
them off like the good log-men they were.

It took two or three weeks to cut the winter's supply of wood, which was
not for fuel but food. All the logs had been floated down to the dam and
secured under water near the lodge, when the great freeze came. It was
quite difficult to make the sticks stay under water, but this they
managed to do in several ways. Some of them they thrust into the mud,
while others were secured under roots, and a large pile was made safe at
the dam by thrusting one stick under another and allowing the top sticks
to keep the under ones down.

One clear, crisp night, about the first of December, the North Wind
awoke and came galloping over the frozen fields, bringing with him
legions of frost folks. The fingers of these myriad little people were
like icicles, and everything that they touched was congealed. They found
the beavers' pond, and danced a merry dance over the sparkling water,
and every time that they stooped to touch the clear water, crystals of
ice formed and spread in every direction.

It had been a very pleasant autumn, but the North Wind was angry
to-night, and he howled like a demon, and smote lake and river with his
icy mittens, so that when the sun rose next morning, lakes and streams
were cased in a glittering armor of ice and the beavers were prisoners
for the winter.

For the next four or five months they would live under ice, but they did
not care about that. It was what they had planned and worked for for
weeks. They were snugly housed with plenty of tender bark for their
winter's food, so the wind might howl, and the frost freeze. It would
only strengthen their barricade and make them more secure against the
outer world.

In their thick-walled house it was quite snug. The heat of their bodies
made it warm and the vent at the top carried off the foul air. Whenever
they were tired of confinement, they would go for a swim in the pond
through one of the three sub-marine passages, just as though the pond
had not been frozen over. The only care that they needed to exercise was
to look out that these holes did not ice over and thus lock them in
their lodge like rats in a trap. To prevent this, they broke the ice
frequently with their tails during cold days. Some cold nights they were
obliged to watch the holes for hours to prevent them from freezing.

It was twilight of a bleak December day. The sun had taken his
accustomed plunge behind the western horizon, but still shone blood red
upon the clouds above the gray hills. There was still light enough from
the afterglow to cast shadows, and phantom shapes peopled the aisles of
the forest, or stretched their long arms across the fields.

The moon was just rising in the east, and it made shadows and shapes
uncanny and unearthly. Already the heavens were studded with stars, and
the wind moaned fitfully, rattling down snow and ice and whistling in
the leafless twigs.

Down from the foothills, coming like a wary hunter, a wildcat prowled to
the edge of the beavers' pond. A part of the way he had followed a
rabbit's track, but it had proved so old that he had finally given it
up. When he hurried he moved by quick jumps, bringing down all four feet
at a time quite close together, and leaving those four telltale
paw-prints in a bunch that hunters know so well. When he wanted to be
more cautious, he walked cat-like, setting his fore paw down as softly
as though his foot were velvet. He was an ugly looking brute, rather
heavily built, with a thick head, and square topped club ears that
usually lay back close to his head. His visage was generously sprinkled
with whiskers, but it was accented by two hungry yellow green eyes, that
seemed almost phosphorescent. His habitual expression was a snarl.

At the edge of the beaver pond, he tried the wind this way and that. His
nostrils dilated, his eyes snapped fire, and his stump of a tail
twitched. There was game abroad. He knew that scent of old. It was quite
common away to the north from whence he had wandered. Cautiously he
crept forward, putting down his paws in the dainty cat-like manner; but
he must have known that the beavers were out of his reach at this time
of year. Perhaps his hunger made him forgetful or he may have looked for
the unexpected.

Half-way across the pond he stopped and sniffed again; it was close at
hand now. Then he noticed the conical house on the island near, and
crept cautiously toward it. Twice he walked about the house, which was
now partly covered with snow, then with one jump he landed upon the very
dome of the beavers' dwelling and peeked in at the air hole. What he saw
made saliva drip from his mouth and his eyes dilate. There within three
feet of his death-dealing paws were a pair of sleek beavers, warm and
cozy. The hot scent fairly ravished his nostrils. It was unendurable,
and he tore at the frozen mud house like a fury, first with his fore
paws, then with his powerful hind paws armed with one of the best set of
claws in the New England woods. But it was as hard as a stone wall and
the beavers might just as well have been miles away as far as he was
concerned.

Then the wildcat peeked in again, and ungovernable rage seized him. He
reared upon his haunches, and beat the air with his fore paws and
howled and shrieked like a demon. The beavers started from their
twilight nap with sudden terror. This fury that was tearing at their
house and filling the night with awful sounds seemed almost upon their
very backs, so they fled precipitately through the water passages into
the pond and took refuge in one of the burrows along the bank.

[Illustration: TEARING AT THEIR HOUSE AND FILLING THE NIGHT WITH AWFUL
SOUNDS]

A moment later when the wildcat again peeped in at the vent, the house
was quite empty. Then after a few more futile efforts to break through
the frozen walls he went away, going from bush to bush, alert and
watchful. Only the tracks remained to tell that the beavers had had so
unwelcome a caller.



CHAPTER VI

HOW THE WINTER WENT


December came and went, and the first of the new year found the beavers
snugly caught beneath a barricade of six inches of ice. The water from
the little brook that fed their pond was very clear, so that the ice was
as transparent as glass. This enabled them to see what was going on
outside almost as well as they could before the ice had formed, and
besides, it kept out the wind and the cold.

You may wonder at this, and think that no place on earth could be colder
than the bottom of an ice-bound pond; but I am sure that a thermometer
under water would have registered much higher temperature than one
above, for if this were not so, the water would freeze solid to the
bottom.

Did you ever have your playmates bury you in the snow just for fun? The
snow looks cold, and seems uninviting, but once snugly tucked away in
it, it is quite a warm white blanket. People of northern latitudes
frequently save their lives, when caught out in a cold storm, by
covering themselves in the snow. In the same manner the dog teams in
Alaska pass the bitter cold nights of an arctic winter buried in the
snow. So the ice made the beavers' pond snug in the same manner.

Besides being warmed by its coating of ice, the frost folks had also
made the pond very beautiful. Wherever there was an uneven spot in the
ice, the sunlight was broken into a wonderful rainbow prism of dazzling
colors, that showed more plainly under the ice than above. There were
green, blue, opal, and many shades of light red, all of which made a
beautiful roof for the beavers' winter palace.

In addition to this, all the grasses and reeds along the edge of the
pond were gemmed with ice-diamonds. These globules of ice caught the
sun's rays, and in many cases refracted them as brilliantly as real
diamonds would have done. In all the little inlets where reeds and flags
had been frozen into the ice, the frost folks had played queer pranks,
so that the pond was a most beautiful place, as well as a very snug one.

The phrase "as busy as a beaver" was anything but descriptive of their
life now, for they did little but sleep and eat bark. They had provided
well for these cold months, and now they had nothing to do but enjoy
themselves. I am inclined to think that the maxim about working like a
beaver only applies to two or three months in the autumn, for the rest
of the year the beaver is a very lazy fellow. All through the winter
months he sleeps in his snug house, or nibbles away at his store of
bark. Then, as soon as the ice breaks up, all the male beavers over
three years of age start on their annual wanderings through lakes and
streams. There is no particular object in this quest, but it is just a
nomadic habit, an impulse that stirs in the blood, as soon as the sap
starts in the maple, and keeps them moving until some time in September.

One day must have been very much like another under their covering of
ice. Inside the lodge, the diameter was three or four feet and about the
same in height. Each beaver has his own particular bed, which he always
occupies, and the house is kept very neat and clean. I do not imagine
there was much regularity in their meals, but whenever they felt hungry,
one would go to the pile of logs near the dam and select a piece. This
was then dragged into the lodge and peeled leisurely. When it was white
and shining, it was taken back and thrust into some crevice in the dam,
or piled by itself. It had served its turn, and was now discarded.

One enemy the beavers had who gave them considerable annoyance and some
anxiety. This was the gluttonous wolverine, which is a mongrel wolf,
meaner than any other member of the family. His prey is small animals,
and his particular delicacy is beaver meat. He is also a lover of
carrion and dark deeds, and is altogether a despicable fellow.

The crowning event in the life of the beaver lodge during that first
winter, was the coming of four fuzzy, awkward, beaver babies. They were
very queer looking little chaps, with long, clumsy hind legs, which they
never knew quite how to use until they were shown the mysteries of the
water world and swimming. These mites of beavers were not as well clad
as their parents, for their fur was very short, but they nestled close
to their mother, and, by dint of wriggling into her warm coat, kept warm
until spring.

Shaggycoat was much busier after the young beavers came. He now had to
bring all the wood into the lodge, for Brighteyes stuck close to her
children and Shaggycoat was glad to wait upon her. So, when she was
hungry, he brought logs into the mud house and peeled them for her.

Several times during the winter, they heard sounds of some animal
digging at the outer wall of their castle, and occasionally an ugly
looking wolfish muzzle was thrust in at the vent, which at first gave
them great uneasiness, but, by degrees, this wore away, as they found
out how strong the house was and how little the digging of their enemy
accomplished.

At last the spring rains came, and the ice began to break up. Then, as
the water rose, and the ice was tumbled about by the current, which was
swollen, there were loud reports from the cracking ice that echoed
across the valley, just as they had when the great pines fell.

Huge cakes of ice were piled upon their island, and one struck the mud
house, threatening to demolish it, but it withstood the shock.

The dam was severely tried during these spring freshets. The ice pounded
and ground away at it, and the water set back, until the pond was twice
the size it had been in the autumn. The beavers were nearly drowned out
of their lodge during this high water, but finally a portion of the dam
gave way and the water fell. Then the ice went churning and scraping
through the break. Driftwood and brush and all sorts of debris came down
with the flood, and the water was full of silt and gravel. The pond was
not the crystal lake it had been.

It gradually settled, and things looked as they had in the autumn; the
trees were leafless, and the landscape cheerless. The pond also froze
over along the edges at night and thawed by day.

Away down in the heart of the earth, the secret forces of nature were
stirring. The maple had already felt the touch of life, and its sap
coursed gleefully in its veins. The awakening had not come yet, but it
was coming. The flowers and the buds had been sleeping, the nuts and the
seeds had been waiting patiently, but their time of waiting was nearly
over.

Already daffodil and arbutus stirred uneasily in their slumber. Their
dreams were light, like the sleep of early morning. Into their dreams
would steal a sense of soft winds and warm sunshine.

Then, one day, the sense of this life about them became so certain, and
their dreams were so real, that they awoke, and spring had really come.
Up they sprang like children who had overslept and opened their hearts
to the joy of living in the warmth of the new spring.

Now the pond was no longer frozen over along the bank, but the shores
were very muddy with the coming out of the frost. Soon birds began to
sing in the bushes along the pond, and a sense of restlessness came over
Shaggycoat, for everything seemed to be moving. The birds were all going
somewhere, and why not he?

He first cut a good supply of fresh poplar logs at the upper end of the
pond and floated them down near the lodge. This took him several days,
during which time the spring had been advancing, so, when this task was
finished, the frogs were singing in his pond. This was a sure sign of
spring and one that should not go unheeded.

The water was pouring through several large breaks in his dam, but what
cared he? There was still water enough in the pond to keep the entrances
to the lodge under water, but even if it did not, the house could be
abandoned, and his family could live in one of the burrows along the
bank for a while.

There were Brighteyes and the four frolicsome young beavers to keep him,
but the rush of distant waters was in his ears, and he felt just like
swimming miles and miles away. Distant waterfalls and rapids were
calling to him; deep pools in the river, and wonderful mountain lakes
were all waiting for him.

So, one day, when the air was soft and sweet, and the water was getting
warm, he slipped away, and Brighteyes knew that she should not see him
again until early in September. He was gone to the world of
water-wonders, far beyond their limited horizon. She would stay and take
care of the babies until his return.



CHAPTER VII

LIFE IN THE WATER WORLD


We have followed the fortunes of Shaggycoat so long that the reader will
be interested to know just how he looked, as he swam away into his water
world on this warm spring morning.

He was three years old and his weight was already about thirty-five
pounds. When he was fully grown, he would weigh fifty-five or possibly
sixty pounds. His length was about forty inches, and he would add five
or six more to it before he got his full size.

His head and body would then be two feet and three quarters or three
feet of his length, and the other foot would be the queerest kind of a
paddle shaped tail you ever saw. It was five inches broad at the widest
place, and instead of being covered with fur, like the rest of the
beaver's body, it was covered with a tough, scaly skin, that gave it
quite a fishy look.

It was believed by the ancients that the beaver's tail was fish, and the
rest of him was flesh, thus it was lawful to eat the beaver's tail on
fast days, when they could not eat meat.

If Shaggycoat had lifted his head out of the water and looked at you as
he swam, you would have seen that it was rather small and flat, and that
his ears which were small even for the head, nestled down in his fur so
that they could hardly be noticed. If you could have examined him
near-by, you would have seen that the entrance of each ear was guarded
by a fur-covered water pad, which the beaver can close at will and keep
the water from his ears. This is very important as he lives so much of
the time in the water.

The fact is noticeable all through nature, and particularly in the study
of animals, that whenever an animal has need for a peculiar organ, or a
peculiar sense, it has been given him.

Sometimes, it is a specially warm coat to shield him from the cold, as
in the case of the beaver or otter. Again it will be a long bill, with
which to bore in the mud for worms, like that which whistle-wing, the
woodcock, possesses; or perhaps it is a stout beak, which can bore into
the heart of oak or maple, as the woodpecker does. Wherever there is a
peculiar need in nature, there is always a peculiar organism to supply
it.

Shaggycoat's fore paws were very short and were held well up under him
as he swam. He rarely used them in the water except to hold things in,
so they were used more like hands than feet. But his hind legs were long
and stout, and they worked away like the screw upon a steamboat, as he
moved easily along through the water. His hind feet were also webbed,
which gave more resistance, while the legs were set high up on the body,
and the stroke was given at an angle, which gave him greater power and
sweep. He was altogether a wonderful animal built specially for
swimming.

His front teeth were shovel-shaped, two upon each jaw. They came
together like wire cutters, and whatever was between them was severed.
An alder stick an inch in diameter was severed at a single bite, and
small saplings came down in a few seconds.

You may wonder what Shaggycoat saw as he loitered by lake and stream,
now skirting a noisy waterfall or turbulent rapids and now loitering in
a deep pool. It was a most wonderful world, full of strange creatures
and fishes, and the shores of the rivers were frequented by many
creatures.

Water is the first necessity with which to sustain life, and lakes and
springs are the drinking places of the wild creatures, as well as the
home of many of them.

With the fishes that swam in the stream, Shaggycoat was well acquainted,
but he rarely molested them and never ate them as the otter did,
preferring bark or lily bulbs, for he was a vegetarian.

A beautiful sight that he frequently saw was a lot of salmon jumping a
low fall to the pool above. There would be a ripple and a splash, a
shower of water would be thrown up, and the sunlight would break into a
myriad rainbow hues, and the silver gleam of the fish would glint for a
moment in the light. Then there would be a big splash and another
rainbow in the pool above and the salmon was gone, and the way was clear
for the next one.

Sometimes, Osprey, the great fish-hawk of the Atlantic seaboard (also
called in Florida the gray fishing eagle) would come sailing
majestically by.

Frequently he uttered his piercing fisherman's cry as he flew.
Occasionally, he would almost pause in mid-air, giving just enough
motion to his wings to steady himself, then down he would come like a
falling star, cleaving the water easily and when he appeared a second or
two later, a fish was usually dangling from his talons. Sometimes, it
was a sucker, or chub, or if he had been unusually successful, it might
be a pickerel or trout.

When he came up, there was always a great shower of water. This when the
sunlight played upon it made him look like a bird of wondrous plumage,
but, when he had shaken off the water, he was just the plain fish-hawk,
though magnificent in flight.

Another smaller fisherman was the queer blue and white kingfisher who
caught his fish in his beak instead of his claws. He did not make a
great plunge like the fish-hawk when he went fishing, but skimmed along
close to the water, and plunged under suddenly and was up again in a
second.

He was a comparatively small bird, so had to content himself with small
fish.

Then there was Blue-coat, the frog catcher, who could wade easily in a
foot of water, his legs being so long and slender. He looked more like a
bird on stilts than one on his natural legs, and his beak, which was
made especially for frog catching, was long and strong.

He might be seen stepping daintily in some shallow near the shore where
there were plenty of lily pads and water grasses. He was very cautious
in his movements so as not to scare his victim. He would stand for five
minutes on one leg, if he suddenly discovered a frog that he was afraid
of scaring, then his long neck would suddenly shoot out. When he drew up
his head, a frog would be seen kicking in his bill. He would then
hammer the frog on a rock, or spear him with his bill, until life had
left him, when he would hide the catch upon the bank and return to his
sport.

At dawn and twilight, Shaggycoat frequently saw flocks of ducks and wild
geese feeding upon water grasses in sheltered coves. Some of them picked
away at things above the water, but others would dive head first and
come up bringing a choice bit of grass.

Once a couple of half-grown muskrats were playing in a shallow, chasing
each other about in high glee, when the ugly head of a water-snake shot
out, and jaws that gripped like death closed upon the young rat's
throat. There was a short struggle under water and then a few bubbles
floated to the surface and the musquash had been done for. A few moments
later Shaggycoat saw the snake swallowing his breakfast on an island in
the middle of the stream.

These and other experiences taught the young beaver to always be on the
watch and distrust things that seemed strange to him.

The buck drank in the river, and the pretty doe, lank and half starved
from suckling her fawn, ate ravenously of the lily pads in the shallow
water.

One evening, just at twilight, thoughts of Brighteyes and the baby
beavers had so haunted Shaggycoat that he had turned his nose homeward
when a peculiar object came round the bend in the stream and on toward
the pool where the beaver was playing. It came like a duck, but it was
larger than many ducks, and it had two wings, like the fish-hawk, which
rose and fell regularly, with a splash of water each time.

There was a buck drinking in the opposite side of the pool from the
beaver, and he, too, saw the strange, bright bird that sailed like a
duck with wings that splashed in the water. Then a bright flame leaped
up, and a roar like thunder resounded across the waters, and rolled away
into the distant foothills. The buck snorted, gave a mighty leap, and
fell midway in the stream, kicking and thrashing, like a frenzied thing.

[Illustration: THE BUCK GAVE A MIGHTY LEAP AND FELL MIDWAY IN THE
STREAM]

All this was strange and terrible to the beaver, who had never heard
such thunder, or seen such deadly lightning before, so, without waiting
to see more, he fled down stream and hid under the first shelving bank
that offered him a hiding-place.

There he lay very still for several hours, but when he ventured out, it
was quite dark, and the stranger had gone.

It was man with his deadly "thunderstick," and even the strong buck,
with the feet of the wind had been as helpless when it spoke, as his
little dappled fawn would have been in the same plight.

Shaggycoat never forgot the scene, or the roar of the "thunderstick,"
and the scent of the strange creature seemed to linger in his nostrils
for days. He had seen enough of this strange and terrible water world
for one summer, and would seek his pond, and Brighteyes.



CHAPTER VIII

A BIT OF TRAGEDY


Shaggycoat made his way home in a leisurely manner, stopping a day here
and there at some lake or river that pleased his fancy. The home sense
had not yet fully mastered him and he still found pleasure in running
water, and upon grassy fringed banks.

One morning when he had been upon his homeward journey for about a week,
he turned aside to explore a little stream that looked inviting. He
intended to return to the river and resume his journey in a few minutes,
but the unexpected happened and he did not do as he had intended. He was
swimming leisurely in a shallow spot, where the stream was very narrow,
when, without any warning, or premonition of danger, he set his foot in
a trap. The trap had not been baited but merely set at a narrow point in
the stream, in hope that some stray mink or muskrat would blunder into
it. It was nothing that Shaggycoat could blame himself for, but merely
one of those accidents that befall the most wary animals at times.

The trap was rather light for a beaver, but it had caught him just above
the first joint, and held on like a vise. At first Shaggycoat tore about
frantically, churning up the water and roiling the stream, seeking by
mere strength to free himself, but he soon found that this was in vain.
He then tried drowning the trap, but this was equally futile. Next he
buried it in the mud but it always came up after him when he sought to
steal away. Then he waited for a long time and was quiet, thinking it
might let him go of its own accord, but the trap had no such intention.

As the hours wore on, his paw began to swell and pain him, but finally
the pain gave place to numbness, and his whole fore leg began to prickle
and feel queer. With each hour that passed, a wild terror grew upon
Shaggycoat, a terror of he knew not what. The trap gripped him tighter
and tighter, and Brighteyes and the young beavers seemed so far away
that he despaired of ever seeing them again.

Finally the day passed, the sun set, and the stars came out. The hours
of darkness that hold no gloom for a beaver, in which he glories as the
other creatures do in day, were at hand; but they held no joy for poor
Shaggycoat. Every few minutes he would have a spell of wrenching at the
trap, but he was becoming exhausted, although he had thought his
strength inexhaustible. At last a desperate thought came to him. It
seemed the only way out of the difficulty.

He edged the end of the trap where the chain was, between two stones,
then began slowly moving about it in a circle. Occasionally the trap
would come loose, then it would be replaced and the twisting process
renewed. Finally there was a snap, like the crack of a dry twig, and the
bone had been broken. The worst was over. He gnawed away and twisted at
the broken paw until it was severed.

Did it hurt? There was no outcry, only the splashing of the water, and a
bright trail of blood floated down-stream, and the trap sunk to the
bottom to hide the ragged bleeding paw that it still held, while a wiser
and a sadder beaver made his way cautiously back to the main stream,
licking the ragged stump of his fore paw as he went.

The cold water soon stopped the bleeding and helped to reduce the fever,
but Shaggycoat was so spent with the night in the trap that he stopped
to rest for two days before resuming his journey homeward.

Just as the sun peeped over the eastern hills on the morning that
Shaggycoat freed himself from the trap, a boy of some twelve summers
might have been seen hurrying across the fields toward the brook,
closely followed by an old black and tan hound. The boy carried a small
Stevens Rifle known as the hunter's pet, across his arm, and both boy
and dog were excited and eager for the morning's tramp.

In low places where it was moist, the first frost of the season lay
heavy upon the grass, and its delicate lace work was still plainly seen
on stones and by the brookside. It was a fresh crisp morning, just such
a morning as makes one's blood tingle, and whets the appetite.

The birds, as well as the boy, had seen the frost, and the robins were
flocking, though most of the summer songsters had already gone.

About half an hour after Shaggycoat left his ragged paw in the trap and
swam away, leaving a trail of blood behind him, the boy and dog parted
the alder bushes, and came to the spot where the trap had been set.

"By vum, Trixey, something has been in the trap!" exclaimed the boy, as
he noted the muddy water and the tracks upon the bank, but he could not
see whether there was still anything in the trap because of the silt. He
began slowly to haul up the chain, Trixey watching the process eagerly.
At last the end of the chain was reached, and the trap dripping water,
but containing only the ragged paw, came to the surface.

"Why, Trixey, he's gone!" exclaimed the boy. "It wasn't no muskrat,
either. I'll bet it was an otter."

After examining his bloody trophy carefully for a time, the boy reset
the trap, and, wrapping the paw in some fern leaves, took it home to
prove his story, but it was not until several days afterward when he
showed the paw to an old trapper, that he learned that a beaver had been
in his trap.

While Shaggycoat is making his way painfully back to his mountain lake,
occasionally stopping to favor his freshly amputated paw, let us go back
to the lake and see how Brighteyes and the young beavers have been
spending the summer.

For the first few days after Shaggycoat's going, it had seemed very
lonely without him. He had always been so active, coming and going, that
he was greatly missed. But a mother beaver with four lively youngsters
to provide for, has many things to think of, so Brighteyes soon found
that she was kept quite busy attending to the family and providing food,
which had been done before by her mate.

One bright May morning when the air was sweet with the scent of
quickening buds, the winds soft with the breath of spring and a throb
of joy was in each heart; when beast and bird and man were all glad
because the spring had come again, Brighteyes went to the upper end of
the pond for some saplings for the supply of bark was low. She left the
young beavers in the lodge, where they seemed to be quite safe, but the
smell of beaver meat had been tickling the nostrils of the gluttonous
wolverine, and he had lingered about the pond all the spring. The beaver
lodge had been too hard for him to dig through in midwinter, when it was
frozen like a rock, but the sun and winds had drawn the frost from the
walls, and now it was no harder than any other mud house.

It was so pleasant outside where everything was singing and springing to
the light that Brighteyes stayed longer than she intended, and when she
returned and dove into the underground passage, leading to the lodge,
she was surprised to find three of the young beavers in the underground
channel, as close to the water as they could get. They were very much
frightened and did not want to go back into the lodge, so she took them
to one of the underground burrows along the bank, and left them there
while she reconnoitred.

Brighteyes found to her great surprise that a large hole had been dug in
the side of the lodge, and, through the opening, she could see the brown
coat of the wolverine. He was eating something, for she could hear the
crunching of bones. Presently he heard Brighteyes in the passage and
thrust his ugly wolfish head through the hole in the wall. His eye was
evil, and his chops were bloody, and something told the mother beaver
that the blood was that of her missing young one. Then the wolverine
sprang for her through the opening, and she fled precipitately and the
friendly water of the pond enfolded her, where she was safe from the
glutton.

Brighteyes returned to the remaining youngsters, and after that she
guarded them with untiring vigilance. They did not return to the lodge
that summer, but lived in the burrows that Shaggycoat had made along the
bank. When they got tired of living in one, they moved to another. In
this way they were able to shift their base, and still keep the friendly
waters of the pond about them.

Although the glutton lingered about the lake for a week or two, he did
not again taste beaver meat. So one night he slunk away into the woods
in search of some rabbit burrow or fox's hole, from which he might dig
out the luckless victims, and the beavers did not see him again. After
he had been gone for several days, they came out of hiding and had the
freedom of the pond.

When they were large enough, they were taught more of the mysteries of
swimming and diving, at which they would play for an hour at a time. In
fact they never tired of it.

When they had explored the pond and knew all its windings and its many
water recesses, they went upon the bank, but their watchful mother never
allowed them to go far ashore. They early learned that the water world
was the only safe place for them, and there were dangers to be guarded
against even there.

Sometimes, after a swim, they would come upon the bank and sit in the
sun to make their toilet. They would rest upon their flat tails, and
comb their soft fur with the claws upon their hind paws. It was hard to
reach all places upon the body, but they were very patient and combed
away persistently. When they had finished, and the sun had dried their
coats, they were very sleek and glossy.

One starlight night in September, Brighteyes was swimming home from the
upper end of the pond, when she heard a splash in the lake behind her.
She quickened her pace, but her pursuer came steadily nearer. There
seemed to be something familiar in the sound, so she stopped to
investigate. She was now certain of it, so with true female coquetry,
she slipped out upon the bank and hid. A moment later Shaggycoat found
her there, pretending that she did not know all the time it was he.

Her nose was just as warm, and he was just as glad to see her, as he had
been that first night of their tryst. Then the queerest love song that
ever broke the starry stillness floated out across the pond. It was a
mere murmur, like the sighing of autumn winds in leafless branches. This
plaintive love ditty and the weird concert heard in beaver lodges
during the summer months and the signal whistle given when a beaver is
lost are the three vocal accomplishments of the colony.



CHAPTER IX

STRANGERS AT THE LAKE


After his return to the shimmering Mountain Lake, Shaggycoat allowed
himself a few days leisure in which to enjoy the company of Brighteyes
and get acquainted with the frolicsome young beavers. They were very shy
of him at first, but finally came to know that he was the head of the
lodge.

One crisp autumn morning when he went for a swim he discovered that the
frost had painted all the trees on the hilltops, and seared the grasses
and fronds along the bank of the lake. Then he knew that this idling
must cease and hard work upon the dam begin.

The same day just at twilight he went far up-stream to see where he
could get material for the dam. It had been badly washed by the spring
freshet, and his lake had shrunk to about half its original size. He now
planned to rebuild the whole structure, using the two old pines as
foundation.

He had slipped out upon the bank, and was busily girdling a poplar, when
a strange rhythmic splashing in the stream above fell upon his ear. His
first impression was that he had heard something like it before, and
somehow the sound filled him with a strange dread. He scrambled quickly
to the water and slipped under a friendly screen of pickerel weed where
he lay watching and waiting. He could hear the steady splashing plainer
now. Then in an instant he remembered the terrifying scene of the
drinking buck and the roaring "thunderstick," and his own precipitate
flight. This splashing was like that the great duck had made when it
came round the bend in the stream. He had hoped to leave that dread
thing far behind, and here it was coming to his own home to seek him
out, and perhaps destroy them all as it had the buck.

Then it came in sight and he saw that it was larger than many ducks with
its two wings rising and falling making a bright splash in the water at
each stroke.

Shaggycoat waited to see no more but fled swiftly and noiselessly toward
his dilapidated lodge, but he occasionally stopped in a well screened
spot to watch and listen for the coming of this monster.

It was not many minutes before he saw it enter the lake, and then he
knew that his retreat had been discovered by the most subtle and
destructive of all his foes, man.

Shaggycoat fled to the lodge and told Brighteyes all that he had seen
and heard, and they counseled together as to what course to pursue.

Brighteyes was for fleeing at once, but Shaggycoat could not tear
himself away from this spot that he had selected so carefully and the
dam that had cost him so much labor, so he counseled waiting another
day. They could be very wary and never show themselves except by night
and if they kept to the burrows that he had dug along the bank, he felt
quite sure that the stranger could not get at them, so he went back to
watch these invaders of his stronghold, while Brighteyes hid the young
beavers in the largest of the burrows near the dam. Although the water
was low in the lake, it was deep here, and she felt quite secure.

The two canoeists never imagined as they paddled down the lake, that a
wary beaver was keeping just so far ahead of them, swimming from stump
to overhanging bank and watching their every movement. When they hauled
their canoe ashore and made a camp-fire, they little suspected that
they were camping within fifty feet of the underground burrow of the
beaver.

While they were cooking supper a flock of ducks came sailing over and
three of their number alighted in the lake to feed upon water grass.
Then Shaggycoat saw one of the strangers pick up the black stick that
had spoken so loudly to the buck on the river bank a few days before. He
felt a strong impulse to flee but there was a strange fascination about
it all and he wanted to see what happened.

While he was still wondering which was the better course to pursue, the
"thunderstick" spoke, and its echo rolled along the lake and was thrown
from hillside to hillside, again and again. It seemed to Shaggycoat that
his quiet lake had suddenly become the abode of thunder and lightning.
He waited to see no more but fled to the burrow, where he found
Brighteyes and the young beavers trembling with fright.

The same evening, an hour or two later, Shaggycoat heard an ominous
whack, whack, whack upon his dam. It reminded him so forcibly of the
pounding that they heard in the old Beaver City, before he and his
grandfather had fled that he was filled with dismay. Was his own small
dam and the lodge that he had reared with so much labor to be destroyed
just as the old Beaver City had been, and he and Brighteyes slain?

The following day the strangers made very free with the beaver's pond,
or at least Shaggycoat thought so, as he watched them covertly from a
bunch of alders that grew partly in the water.

What right had they to go paddling about in their great red duck just as
though they owned his lake?

They stopped at the island and examined the dilapidated lodge
critically, but they took still greater liberties for they finally dug
a hole in the side of the house and looked inside.

They were much interested in the beaver's dwelling and seemed to be
trying to find out all about him.

It angered Shaggycoat extremely to see all these liberties taken with
his possessions but what could he do against the strangers with a
"thunderstick" that could kill a tall buck; so he discreetly kept out of
sight, knowing that he could repair the house in a few minutes if they
would only go away and leave the lake to its rightful owners.

At night the strangers again killed a duck with the "thunderstick" and
drawing their canoe upon the bank made a fire.

Shaggycoat determined to go nearer to them that night and see if he
could discover what kind of creatures they were. He had just left the
burrow upon his hazardous expedition when he heard a pounding that
reminded him of the pounding on the ice when the trappers had come and
cut holes about their lodges. It could not be that they were cutting
holes in the ice now, for there was no ice, but the steady pounding
filled him with dread.

Again Brighteyes counseled that they flee at once leaving all to the
strangers, but Shaggycoat would not go.

When the pounding ceased and the usual quiet reigned, for there was
always the sighing of the wind, or perhaps the hooting of an owl, he
crept cautiously forth to see what these meddlesome creatures had been
doing.

The first thing he discovered alarmed him extremely. The water was
falling and there was a great hole in his dam. Why not flee at once? But
where? Had not he and his grandfather fled for days and weeks, and the
strangers had found him out at last. They would discover him again if he
fled.

But the rapidity with which the water was falling alarmed him more than
even the thought of these dread strangers. If it should fall below the
mouth of their burrow, their enemies could get them. The break in the
dam must be repaired at once, so he hurried back to the burrow to tell
his mate and they set to work.

First they sought to stem the flow of water temporarily, until they
could do it thoroughly, so they swam up the lake fifteen or twenty rods
and going ashore gathered each an armful of weeds and cat-tails. These
they carried to the dam, holding them in their arms and swimming in a
more upright position than usual.

They threw the weeds into the break, but the swift current swept them
away in a very few seconds. This would not do; they must try something
more substantial, so Shaggycoat went ashore and cut strong stakes and
stuck them in the mud at either end of the break. Then they cut a dozen
alder bushes and laid them across, allowing the stakes to hold them at
either end. The current could not sweep this away, but the water still
flowed freely through the bushes and something finer was now needed.

They again swam up the lake and returned with their arms full of weeds.
These they wove in and out among the alder bushes, but the work was not
complete until they had brought mud and plastered it solid. When this
had been done, the flow of water was effectually stopped.

Then Shaggycoat sat upon his broad tail and viewed their work
critically. He had become so absorbed in repairing the dam that he had
for the moment forgotten the strangers who had caused him this trouble.

He was wondering whether they had better bring more mud when a strong
puff of wind filled his nostrils with a strange repugnant scent. It sent
a shiver of dread through him, and caused the long hairs to rise upon
his neck. Where had he smelled that before? Somewhere he had caught such
a scent, and the remembrance of it was not pleasant.

Then it came back to him. It was at the old Beaver City when the
trappers were chopping holes in the ice and destroying its inhabitants.
The trap also into which he had stepped the summer before had been
strong with the same odor. Then the beaver's eyes grew big with wonder
and fright, for there in the tree above him, not fifty feet away, he saw
one of the dreaded strangers watching him. With a resounding slap his
tail smote the water and a second later, only a ripple showed where the
beaver had disappeared.

The following morning the meddlesome strangers loaded their belongings
into the great duck, carried it around the end of the dam and paddled
away down stream.

It was with great joy that Shaggycoat observed from his place of hiding,
these movements on their part. But he thought they might be trying to
fool him, so he followed at a distance.

When he had seen them round a bend in the stream nearly a mile from the
dam, he concluded that their leaving was no sham, and went back to his
lake, well pleased with the turn of affairs.

He and Brighteyes and another pair of beavers, who had returned with him
from his summer ramble, began work on the dam and by the time the first
freeze came, it was strong and symmetrical and higher and longer than it
had been before. This made the water set back and several families of
musquash, who had built along the shore of the lake, were drowned out,
and obliged to gather new supplies of winter edibles.

This angered the muskrat families who revenged themselves on the
beavers in a way they did not like.

In the morning, when the builders left off working on the dam, it would
be in good shape, but by twilight it would be leaking badly.

Examination showed many holes tunneled through the mud, which made the
dam leak. For several days Shaggycoat could not discover who was
molesting his dam, but he finally set a watchman, and the destroyers
were caught in the act. After that whenever a muskrat was seen anywhere
near the dam, he was rudely hurried to another part of the lake. When
the dam had been repaired, the lodge was attended to, but this winter
there were two lodges on the island instead of one.

The forest was now entirely denuded and the naked arms of maple and
poplar swayed fitfully in the rude gusts of the boisterous early winter
wind. In its mad careering down the aisles of the pathetic forest, it
caught up the dead leaves and whirled them about gleefully.

Summer had had its day, and November must now have its inning.

Down from the distant foothills which were now sere and brown, came a
shuffling, shambling black figure, closely followed by two little
shuffling, shambling figures. It was evident that more strangers were
coming to the beavers' lake.

They sniffed at the bushes, and poked under the dead leaves
inquisitively as they came. Whenever they discovered nuts, they ate them
greedily. These figures were not agile, like most of the denizens of the
woods, but rather clumsy. Whenever they planted their large paws (which
were armed with massive claws) upon a twig, it crunched under the weight
with a muffled sound.

It did not snap as it would have done under the hoof of a deer or crack
as under the hoof of a moose, but it simply crunched.

The figures did not go stealthily like the cat family or furtively like
a fox, but there was a certain cunning in their manner, which was more
shrewd than suspicious.

Whenever they crowded through heavy underbrush, they occasionally left
long black hairs, which hunters would at once identify, as coming from
the warm winter coat of Bruin.

An old mother bear and two cubs were making their way down to the
beavers' lake, which they had seen from the foothills.

The old bear was leading the way as was her wont, and the cubs were
following like dutiful children.

There were no sheepfolds in this wilderness so far from the haunts of
man, and, as for pig, the old bear had not tasted it since early in the
spring. Some instinct or intuition told her that the beautiful forest
lake was the work of a beaver, and if their houses had not been frozen
up too hard, they might be broken into and made to pay toll to the
family of Bruin.

So the errand of these strangers boded no good for Shaggycoat and his
household.

The old bear and the two cubs came out upon the lake just at the dam,
and as there was a fresh wind blowing from up-stream, beaver scent was
strong.

Then the countenance of the old bear, which was usually droll and good
natured, became cunning and eager with the thought of beaver meat.

The conical beaver houses were out on an island some distance from the
shore so the old bear tried the ice and found that it held. Then she
went slipping and sliding over the smooth surface to the island, closely
followed by the cubs.

She walked about the larger of the two lodges several times before
deciding what to do, then reared upon her hind legs and peeped in at
the vent. There, almost within reach of her paw, were four or five sleek
beavers.

The sight of meat so near at hand caused the old bear to forget her
cunning and she thrust one of her powerful forearms in at the vent
reaching wildly for the beavers. Then what a scrambling there was for
both the front and back door of the lodge, as the astonished and
terrified beavers made their escape.

Seeing that this tactic was useless, Bruin withdrew her paw, and again
peeped in, but the beaver house was quite empty.

Even with her strong arms, she could not tear off the top of the lodge
which was frozen hard as stone.

After spending two days in futile efforts to get at the beavers, the
three bears shambled off through the wood in search of winter quarters.

They were not long in finding a fallen tree with a heavy top which made
a good covering, so they crawled in and went to sleep. Soon the heavy
snow-storms covered them up snug and warm, and the only evidence that
the tree-top was the home of three bears, was a small hole melted in the
snow where the breath of the three sleepers thawed it. This was their
chimney through which their warm breath would ascend until spring.

When the strong forearm of the old bear, with its powerful claws, had
raked the beavers' lodge in search of supper, Shaggycoat and his family
had not fully understood the intruder's motive, although they knew quite
well that it was sinister.

The following summer, however, during his annual ramble, Shaggycoat
learned all about the bears' fondness for the beaver, and this bit of
knowledge increased his fear of the bear family.

He had frequently seen Bruin watching the fish in some deep pool and
trying whenever they came to the surface to sweep one out on the land
with his paw, but one day he discovered a bear watching something else
in the water.

Shaggycoat could not see anything to watch, but he did notice an
occasional bubble coming to the surface. This was what interested the
bear.

Presently Bruin dove head first into the water and after remaining down
for several seconds came blowing and puffing to the surface, bringing a
half drowned beaver in his jaws. If anything more was needed to add to
the unfortunate beaver's trouble, it was that one of his forepaws was
firmly held in a trap. The bear had evidently discovered the beaver in a
trap, and had driven him to the bottom. He laid his unfortunate victim
down and with one blow of his strong paw broke the beaver's neck.

This was enough for Shaggycoat and he fled like a hunted thing, and
after that day he always kept as much water between himself and the bear
family as possible.



CHAPTER X

A TROUBLESOME FELLOW


The first time that Shaggycoat saw the brown fisherman, he came sliding
over the surface of the beavers' pond, and the manner of his coming both
astonished and angered Shaggycoat.

The thing that astonished him was to see the otter slide, and he was
angry, because the stranger acted just as though the pond belonged to
him and Shaggycoat knew that it was his own. Had he not spent days and
weeks searching in the wilderness for a spot where he could make his
home and had not he and Brighteyes built the dam that flowed the meadow?
It was all his and the manner of this merry stranger made him furious.

He would show him who was master here, so the beaver began swimming
rapidly about under the ice, trying vainly to find an escape to the
outer air. But Jack Frost had shut down a transparent ice window over
the pond the night before, and, although Shaggycoat could still see the
sky and the trees along the shore, yet the outer world would not be his
again until spring. He could find an airhole by going up-stream two or
three miles to some rapids, but the return trip overland was not
inviting, for he, like other beavers, was a poor pedestrian and would
not go any long distance except by water. So true is this of the beaver,
that one naturalist says he may be kept a prisoner in a certain portion
of a stream, simply by placing wire netting across the current and
running it inland for a hundred feet in either direction. A beaver so
held between two wire fences at right angles to the stream, will spend
several days in captivity before he will venture around the end of the
fence to freedom.

It was out of the question for Shaggycoat to go two miles up-stream and
think of returning overland merely to fight, so he gave up the plan and
amused himself by watching the otter.

He had never seen any one so agile before and he would have been amused
at the otter's pranks, had it not been upon his own particular pond.

The otter would go up the bank where it was steep and give three or four
great jumps. When he struck the surface ice, he would double his fore
legs up so that they lay along his sides, and slide across the ice on
his breast, trailing his hind legs.

Then he would scramble up the opposite bank and repeat the performance,
carrying him nearly back to the other side. Shaggycoat thought he had
never seen anything quite so interesting in his life and he swam about
under the ice watching his visitor.

Finally in one of his slides the otter passed over the spot where
Shaggycoat was and saw him for the first time.

He could not stop in his slide in time to pay his compliments to the
beaver, but he soon came slipping and sliding back and glared down at
the owner of the pond showing a set of teeth, almost as good as the
beaver's own.

Shaggycoat glared back at him and they both knew the fight would come
some other day.

The otter seemed to say by his looks, "Come up here and I will shake you
out of that drab coat," and the beaver's countenance replied, "You just
come down here and I'll drown you and then tear you to pieces just to
see what your brown coat is made of."

Shaggycoat saw a great deal of the otter on these crisp, clear days,
before the ice became clouded, and his coming and going always made the
beaver uneasy.

Sometimes this playful coaster would slide the entire length of the
pond, going half a mile in two or three minutes. He would stick his
sharp claws into the ice and give two or three bounds, then he would
slide a long distance.

The momentum that he got from the springs would usually carry him
seventy-five or a hundred yards.

Shaggycoat thought it must be great sport, but the coaster should play
upon his own pond, if he had one, and leave other people's undisturbed.

Finally a great fall of snow spread a soft, white, impenetrable blanket
over the ice, and the beaver saw no more of his enemy until spring.

At last with their golden key the sun-beams unlocked the ice door over
the lake and the denizens of beaver city were again free to go and come
in the outer world. Then Shaggycoat swam a mile or so up-stream to look
for elderberry wood. There was something in the pungent acid sap of the
elderberry that he craved after the inactive life of winter. This was
his spring medicine, a tonic that the beaver always seeks if he can find
it, when the first great thaw opens the ice in the river.

He also was fond of the sweet maple sap and stopped to girdle a small
soft maple on the way. He would remember that maple and come again. The
sap would run freely during the day and freeze at night and in the
morning the ice would be covered with syrup, white, transparent, and
sweet as honey. This was a primitive sugar-making in which the beaver
indulged.

He had satisfied his spring craving for both sweet and sour with maple
and elder sap and was swimming leisurely down-stream toward his lake
when he heard a sound on shore. Something was coming through the woods,
for he heard the snow crackling. Shaggycoat kept very still and watched
and listened. Nearer and nearer the sounds came and presently he saw the
otter coming with long jumps, breaking the crust at every spring. They
discovered each other almost at the same instant and the otter was all
fight in a second. The fur stood up on his neck, his eyes snapped, and
his lips parted showing a white, gleaming set of teeth.

He made straight for the beaver, covering the snow with great jumps and
Shaggycoat saw that his best course was to meet his enemy in the water.
On land he would be no match for so agile a foe. So he swam in
mid-stream and clambered upon a low rock and waited for the attack. This
was the hour for which he had longed all through the winter months, but
now that it was at hand, he almost wished that he was back in his snug
house on the lake. The otter was a third larger than he, and he swam so
easily and his every motion was so quick and strong that the beaver
feared him even before he had found how good a fighter he was.

He began by swimming about the rock several times, snapping at his
adversary at every chance. This necessitated Shaggycoat's turning very
fast and as he was not as quick as his foe, he got his tail nipped twice
almost before he knew it. Then he concluded the rock was no place for
him so made a clumsy spring for the otter's back. But when he fell in
the water with a great splash, the otter was not where he had been a
second before, but was glaring at the beaver from the rock which he had
reached in some unaccountable manner.

While Shaggycoat was still wondering what to do next, the otter took
matters into his own hands, by jumping squarely upon the beaver's back,
and setting his teeth into his neck. It would have been a sorry day for
poor Shaggycoat had not a projecting rock been near by, under which he
plunged, scraping off his enemy, and thus saving his neck from being
badly chewed, if not broken. He was getting decidedly the worst of it,
so when the otter went back to the rock, Shaggycoat swam out from his
hiding-place, and started for the lake at his best speed with his foe in
hot pursuit.

What a swim that was and how they churned up the water in that running
fight back to the lake. The beaver with his strong hind legs working
desperately, doubling, twisting, and turning, snapping at his enemy
whenever that agile fellow gave him a chance, and the otter gliding with
swift, strong strokes, swimming over and under the beaver and punishing
him at every turn. Foam and blood flecked the water and a line of
bubbles marked their progress.

It seemed to Shaggycoat that his stronghold toward which he was
retreating, fighting off his heavy foe so valiantly, was miles away, but
at last, to his great joy, it was reached, and there, at the upper end
of the lake was Brighteyes, licking at the maple stump that he had
girdled that morning. Like a faithful helpmate she flew to his relief,
and the otter, seeing that he had two beavers to fight instead of one,
gave up the chase and swam away.

It is doubtful if he would have fought a female beaver, for there is a
certain chivalry shown the sex, even in the woods.

The next otter that Shaggycoat saw was much smaller than his enemy and
he at once concluded that it was a female, which proved to be the case.
She was lying upon a rock in mid-stream, watching the water closely.
Her intense manner at once attracted the beaver's attention, so he kept
quiet and watched just to find out what she was doing.

Presently she sprang from the rock like a flash and swam down-stream
with a rapidity that fairly took Shaggycoat's breath away, good swimmer
that he was. But he was still more astonished, when a second later she
struck out for the shore bearing a large fish in her jaws. The fish was
giving a few last feeble flops with its tail.

What she wanted with the nasty fish, Shaggycoat could not imagine, so he
kept still and watched. She lay down upon the sand, and holding the fish
down with one paw, began tearing it to pieces and eating it. She had not
been long at work when Shaggycoat noticed two otter pups, that had
previously escaped his attention, playing in the sand near the old
otter. They were as playful as kittens and were rolling and tumbling
about having a merry time. When the old otter had finished her fish, she
called the youngsters to her, and lying down upon the sand, gave them
their own supper, which was neither flesh nor fish.

When they were satisfied, she tried to coax them into the water. She
would plunge in herself, and then face about and stand pleading with
them, but they were afraid and would not venture in. Finally, one a
little bolder than the other, came to the water's edge, and dipped his
paw in it, but evidently did not like it, for he went back on the bank.
Then the old otter resorted to a strange stratagem, and got her way as
mothers will.

She lay down upon the sand and romped and rolled with her pups, tumbling
them over and over. Finally at the height of the play, they were coaxed
upon her back, when she slipped quickly into the stream, where she
tumbled them off, and left them kicking and sputtering. A moment later
they scrambled out looking like drowned rats. But the lesson that she
had sought to teach them had been learned. They had discovered that the
water did them no harm and before the shades of night had fallen and the
stars appeared, they were playing in the stream of their own accord.

All this amused Shaggycoat so much that he forgot to be angry with the
old otter, and finally went away to look for his own supper of poplar
bark.

Later in the summer, he did really meet his enemy face to face, but
under such strange conditions that the beaver never forgot the incident.

He was swimming rapidly down-stream on the return trip to Brighteyes and
his own forest lake. There were other lakes in the wilderness that he
visited each summer during his long rambles but none quite like his, so
he was hastening in the autumn twilight, for he knew that in two or
three days he would again be at home.

Suddenly, as he rounded a sharp bend in the stream, he came upon his
enemy close at hand. The otter seemed to be engaged in wrestling with
something in the water. He was near shore and making quite a splash.

All of the old fury came back to Shaggycoat. This was the fellow who had
so punished him on that memorable day, but Shaggycoat was now larger and
stronger than he had been the year before. He felt that he was a match
for the otter. He would punish him now so that he would never dare to
slide upon his pond again.

Shaggycoat started forward noiselessly to take his enemy by surprise and
had gotten within twenty yards before the otter saw him and then that
bold fellow seemed greatly frightened. He plunged about frantically and
churned up the water, roiling the stream. Then it was that Shaggycoat
noticed something strange which sent the fur up on his neck and all
along his back and recalled sensations that were anything but pleasant.
When the otter reared and plunged, the beaver saw that his forepaw was
firmly held in the cruel thing that had caught him the year before.

Now was his time. The trap would hold the otter tight and he would
punish him. Again the otter reared and plunged, and a new possibility
came to Shaggycoat. Perhaps there were more traps all about them. Maybe
there was one right under his paws this very minute. His fury at his
enemy gave way to fear for his own safety and he fled precipitately not
even waiting to see if his enemy got free. As he fled, the terror of
traps grew upon him, so that for miles he did not dare to touch his paws
on the bottom of the stream.

At last, weary and exhausted, he crawled under an overhanging bank and
slept, and in sleep forgot the fear that had pursued him all through the
night. But his enemy never troubled him again, either upon the streams
that he frequented in summer, or on his own forest lake in winter.



CHAPTER XI

A BANK BEAVER


When Shaggycoat returned from his second summer's ramble, he brought
home with him a large good natured beaver whom we will call Brownie.

This newcomer to the valley was a third larger than Shaggycoat, and
lighter colored. The long hairs in his glossy coat were light brown,
while his under fur was a drab. His tail was also larger and longer than
that of his host.

Brownie turned out to be what is called a bank beaver. In France all the
beavers are bank beavers; in America they were all house beavers
originally, but they have been so crowded and hunted from their native
haunts by trappers and frontiersmen, that many of them have become bank
beavers; probably because this mode of life is less conspicuous, and
leaves them better protected from the attacks of man, but they are a
more easy prey to their natural enemies, and to starvation in the
winter.

Naturalists have quarreled and disputed as scientists will, as to
whether the bank beaver in America is a separate specie, or merely the
house beaver, who has adopted the methods and manners of the bank
beaver.

I am inclined to the latter view, as birds, animals, and even plants
will modify their mode of life to suit changing conditions.

At first Shaggycoat liked Brownie very much. He was so good natured and
playful that he made a pleasant companion, on the return trip home, but,
when work upon the dam began, and he was invited to put his strong
muscles in play, he demurred. There was no need of building a dam he
thought. Why not be content with a hole in the bank, and then there
would be no need of cutting these great trees, and tugging and hauling
on logs and stones. Small trees furnished just as good bark as large
ones, and were much easier to cut. But Shaggycoat did not like this lazy
manner of living, besides he did not think it safe. When day after day
Brownie refused to help on the dam, he flew into a rage with so lazy a
fellow, and gave Brownie such a severe trouncing that he never dared
show himself about the lake afterward, so he went a mile or so down
stream, and set up housekeeping for himself. But there was not much
house about it, for his home was merely a deserted otter's den, although
he considered it quite adequate.

One naturalist asserts that the bank beaver in America is a forlorn,
sorrowful fellow, who has been disappointed in love, and has to go
through life without a mate; while another avers that he is a drone who
will not labor, and so is driven from the colony.

Brownie certainly was a drone, and perhaps he had left his little mud
love token along the watercourse that autumn, and it had remained
unopened, but certainly his was a lonely life.

He took up his abode about a mile below the dam, and although they
sometimes saw him watching them from a distance, he never dared again
trespass on the premises of these more ambitious beavers.

His burrow was located where the river was deep so that he might be well
protected from the waterside. He could not lay up a large supply of wood
for food as the house beaver did, but he managed to secure considerable
under roots and stones along the shore. Some of this the current carried
down stream, and his stock ran short before spring.

Perhaps he thought of his snugly housed cousins on cold winter days and
nights, as he nestled alone in his comfortless burrow. In the beaver
houses, the warmth of several bodies, and the breath from many nostrils,
kept the temperature quite comfortable, but lonely Brownie had to be his
own bedfellow, and what warmth there was came from his own body, and
warming one's self with one's own heat is rather a forlorn task.

Also when his supply of bark ran low, and he had to gnaw upon tree roots
to keep the breath of life in his body, he remembered the house beaver's
generous supply of wood.

If the winter was not too severe, the stream might be open for a while
at the rapids near by, when he could replenish his store, but,
floundering about in the deep snow in midwinter, leaving telltale tracks
at every step, and an unmistakable beaver scent, was hazardous business.
There were many creatures in the wilderness who were fiercer and
stronger than the harmless beaver, and they all loved beaver meat.

As we have already seen, the bear would prowl about in beaver land, just
before denning up, for a last smack of blood. The wildcat and the lynx
were about as fond of beaver as of fish and they could watch for both at
the same time, which made it doubly interesting. The sneaking wolverine
also considered the beaver his particular titbit.

For all of these reasons Brownie would go hungry for several meals
before he would venture outside to replenish his store of bark.

One evening late in November, he was leaving his burrow to go ashore and
do some wood cutting when just at the entrance a premonition of danger
came upon him. That peculiar sense of danger that many animals have told
him that something was wrong. I have known several cases where dogs had
premonitions of coming disaster in the family, and it was probably this
instinctive power that told Brownie that something was waiting for him
at the mouth of his burrow, so he just poked the tip of his nose out, to
see what it was that made him so uncomfortable.

Quick as a flash a mighty paw armed with a raking set of claws, struck
him a stunning blow in the nose. He had just sense enough left to
wriggle back a few feet into the burrow, and keep quiet.

Although his nose was bleeding profusely and he had been severely
stunned, in a few seconds he recovered, for without doctors, or
medicine, the wild creatures have a way of recovering rapidly from any
hurt.

From the strong bear scent that penetrated his burrow, Brownie knew that
his enemy was a bear, even before Bruin reached his strong arm in and
tried to poke him out. But he had no mind to be poked, so he wriggled
out of reach and was glad that he had escaped so easily. The bear hung
about the spot for a day or two, often watching cat-like at the hole.
Sometimes he would go back into the woods, hoping to entrap the beaver
into coming out, but Brownie had no desire to become further acquainted
with the ugly fellow and so stayed in, although this two days'
imprisonment hindered his wood cutting.

The next watcher at his front door was the mean, sneaking wolverine, who
kept him a prisoner for two or three days more. This enemy was even more
to be dreaded than the bear, for he would have dug the beaver out if the
mouth of his burrow had not been so far under water. He did start to dig
him out from the bank above, running a shaft down to strike the beaver
den. He would have found the burrow without a doubt, but a hard freeze
put a stop to his digging so he left the bank beaver and went up to the
dam to try his luck with the house beavers.

All these things made Brownie's supply of wood much smaller than it
should have been. But the trouble was not there. He should have been
more provident, and worked earlier in the autumn when he had a chance.

Finally the ice door was shut down over lake and stream, and there was
no more going out for the beaver family.

Now Brownie was unwise again, for he did not guard his store carefully,
but ate greedily without a thought of how long the winter before him
might be.

By the time the great January thaw came he had entirely exhausted his
supply of bark and had gnawed all the tree roots that he could reach
under the ice.

He would have famished in a few days more had not the great thaw opened
an airhole in the ice, through which he escaped into the adjacent woods.
He knew that this was hazardous, but hunger impelled him and hunger is
a mighty argument. For about a week all went well and he was
congratulating himself upon his good fortune, and had about concluded
that he had been too cautious, when the unexpected happened. This night
he went forth as usual to cut sapling for his supper but did not return.

Just what happened I shall not tell, but we will follow his tracks in
the snow and see if we can guess.

For three or four rods we can see where he floundered along to a clump
of bushes, and here there are four ragged stumps and near by three small
poplars lying in the snow. Then here are the marks of brush being
dragged along on the snow to the burrow. Then there is a second beaver
track leading back to the fallen poplars, and here is another track
coming from down-stream and following beside the beaver track. This
track shows four large paw prints in a bunch and the creature did not
trot but hopped like a rabbit.

Now he has stopped, for the paw prints are spread out as though he stood
watching and listening. See where the fur on his belly brushed the snow
as he crept forward. Now he is crouching low, the belly mark on the snow
is plainer. What a break in the track is this. Three great jumps, each
measuring ten feet, and here are other tracks of the same kind coming
from two directions.

See how the snow is tramped and blurred. Ah, there is where the hunter
and hunted met, and the pale winter moon and the gleaming stars know
what happened.

[Illustration: THERE IS WHERE THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED MET]

There are still a few small drops of blood, and eager tongues have
licked up many more, for the snow is blotted and streaked with these
tongue marks. Here and there are brown hairs that tell their pathetic
story to the woodsman who can see it all in the tracks as well as
though it had happened before his own eyes.

The unfortunate wood-cutter had fallen a victim to one of those
ferocious lynx bands, that range the woods in extreme winters when
hunger drives them to hunt in company. It had been cleverly done as
things are, in the woods. One of the company had come up the stream and
cut off the beaver's chance of escape to his burrow. He had then
followed on the fresh track to the poplars where the band had closed in
on their unfortunate prey.

Only the uncanny night knows how pitiful was the cry from the terrified
and agonized beaver as these three furies hurled themselves upon him and
in fewer seconds than it takes to tell it, tore him to shreds.



CHAPTER XII

THE BUILDERS


When the tardy spring at last came to Beaver City, it was with a rush.

On the first day of March the snow was three feet deep in the woods
along the foothills, and two feet upon the smooth surface of the
beavers' lake. By the tenth of the month, one might search long to find
even a small snow-bank along the north side of the woods, or behind some
protecting boulder.

The wind, the rain, and the sun had all combined to bring about this
marvelous change.

For three days "it had rained suds," as the country people say, and then
a merry south wind had blown across the fog-covered snow-banks.

All the little streams hastening down the mountainside became raging
torrents, and the larger stream emptying into Beaver Lake, fairly went
mad.

In a single night it rose several feet, breaking up the ice, and tossing
it about as a child might his toys.

In some places the great gleaming cakes were shouldered out upon the
shore, and piled up in massive blockhouses. In other places they jammed,
making a very good ice dam across the stream. Then the water would set
back until it felt strong enough to cope with the ice, when it would
sweep the dam away and go thundering down-stream tossing the ice about
and sweeping all before it.

It was such a jam as this that dammed the water just above Beaver Lake,
holding it until the stream foamed and raged like an infuriated monster.
Then with a roar like thunder it burst through. Thousands of tons of
ice accumulated and piled up mountains high. The ice in the lake was
broken up like glass, and the mighty weight of all these contending
forces, pressed continually upon the beaver's strong dam.

For a while the sturdy old pines which were the backbone of the
structure held, but finally, creaking, groaning and snapping, they were
wrenched from their places, and with a great rush the beaver dam went
out. Then hundreds of grating, grinding, thundering cakes of ice
followed after the rushing waters.

When the ice jam struck the upper end of the island where the lodges
were, Shaggycoat knew that it was no place for him and his family, so
led a precipitate flight for terra firma. They were fortunate enough to
find an open place between the cakes of ice at the lower end of the
island, and all escaped into the alder bushes along the shore.

But they did not feel safe out in the open, with no house to flee to, so
as soon as the ice went out and the water fell, they went back to the
burrows.

When the spring freshet had passed, even the entrances to these
strongholds were left high and dry, and the broad area that had been
their lake looked very much as it had the first time Shaggycoat saw it.

It would never do to leave the female beavers and the youngsters in this
unprotected way while the males were off for their summer ramble, so
they constructed a brush and stone dam that should flow a small area,
and make the lodges again tenable. This was done by weighting down the
brush with heavy stones, letting the butts of the bushes point
down-stream. This structure was finally covered with sods and mud,
making a good temporary dam.

When Shaggycoat returned from his third summer of rambling in distant
lakes and streams he brought back three sturdy pairs of beaver, whom he
had invited to share his pleasant valley.

There was a definite plan in the wise head of our beaver, for the
furtherance of which he needed more help than his small colony now
afforded.

When the water had stood six feet deep in the bed of the stream, where
the old pines had been, it had flowed the lowlands from foothill to
foothill, and had stretched away up-stream until it was lost in the
distance. The picture of this silvern lake, sparkling and shimmering in
the bright spring sunlight, had captivated Shaggycoat, who had seen it
all from a knoll on shore. The old dam and the old lake, covering about
half this territory, would never do for him again. There must be a dam
built that would flow all this country, and he would be the builder.

When the water had fallen, he had gone over the meadows, noting by the
watermark upon trees and bushes just how his lake would extend, and how
deep the water would be in certain places. The flood had surveyed the
meadows for him, and all he had to do was to look about.

He had noticed when the water stood six feet deep in the channel, that
the width of the stream where the dam would be placed was about one
hundred and fifty feet, so this would be the length of his dam.

Although it was still early in the fall, no time was lost. The task
before them was seemingly almost impossible for such small creatures.

Ten eager wood-cutters were sent up-stream about a mile to a poplar
grove, where they began felling trees of from six to twelve inches in
diameter. These were cut into logs about three feet in length, and
tumbled into the stream. When it became choked or the sticks lodged
along the shore, two or three beavers were detailed to act as
river-men, so they pushed and pulled, swimming about among the logs
until the channel was free again. Several two-year-olds worked
industriously, gathering flood wood that had lodged upon the meadows,
after the spring freshet. This was also pushed into the water and
started down-stream.

On the site of the new dam, Shaggycoat and Brighteyes, with one other
old beaver, were working away with might and main, straightening out the
remains of the old dam, and getting the foundations of the new structure
ready.

Soon the poplar logs came floating down to the waiting builders. Here
they were seized by strong paws, and carried upon sturdy backs to their
place, in the cobwork dam.

For the first two feet, the dam would be built three tiers wide. This
would make the thickness at the base about ten feet. The cracks between
the logs were plastered up with sods and mud or if it seemed to call for
more weight stones were occasionally used.

Soon the logs and drift-wood began to come down faster than the three at
the dam could handle it for it must be laid nicely, and often one stick
was placed in several positions before it suited. It would never do to
have any of this building material go down-stream so two or three of the
cutting gang were shifted to the dam, and the work went on.

Whenever the logs in the stream grew scarce, some of the workers at the
dam went back to cutting logs. When the logs in the current jammed,
river-men were quickly hurried to loosen them. There was one accident
that marred the pleasure of dam-building and made the day memorable in
the colony. This did not stop the work, for these things happen in the
woods and the waters, where they get used to the unexpected.

One of Shaggycoat's first litter, who was now a sturdy beaver of three
summers, was felling a poplar larger than most of the trees which they
were using.

He was a famous wood-cutter, and wanted to distinguish himself by
cutting a large tree. He had worked away all night, and when the others
stopped at daylight his tree was not yet down so he stayed to finish it,
but, as the morning hours went by and he did not return to the lodge,
Shaggycoat went in search of him.

He found him lying at the stump of the fallen tree with his skull
crushed. He had evidently tried to take one more bite at the tottering
tree, when a prudent beaver would have stopped, and his head had been
crushed between the stump and the falling trunk.

This is an accident that sometimes occurs, although as a whole these
little wood-cutters are very cautious.

There was nothing to do in this case but leave the unfortunate victim
where he had fallen, but the tree was never used.

When the dam was two feet high, it was narrowed to two tiers of logs.
Then they could get on faster, but the higher it went, the longer it had
to be carried out at the ends. As the water set back it was much easier
to float the logs down.

The three tiers of logs at the bottom of the dam were occasionally tied
together by putting on a log ten feet long that would lie across all
three tiers. The cutting and placing of such a stick would take the
combined strength of four or five beavers.

When this long stick was ready, extra help was summoned and it was
rolled into the stream.

About the same tactics were used in placing it in the dam, but, when it
was once placed, it tied the three tiers of logs firmly together.

When the water rose too high above the dam, a small opening would be
made just large enough to keep it a little below the working line.

Thus, night after night they worked, felling trees, floating down logs,
and placing them, bringing mud and sods, and slowly moulding the whole
into a strong symmetrical structure.

Men would have required skilful engineers with levels and other
instruments and much figuring before the work had been begun, but not so
the beaver. The spring freshet had done the surveying to Shaggycoat's
entire satisfaction, and the small difficulties were overcome as fast as
they arose by their remarkable building genius.

I do not suppose the beaver knew the old maxim that "water seeks its
level," but they always acted as though they did, and were continually
profiting by the fact.

Before the first of December, the dam was completed, at least for that
year. This kind of a dam could be enlarged at any time, as the needs of
Beaver City grew.

Then the lodges had to be attended to. The new level of water had
flooded the lower story of the old lodge on the island, so the top was
ripped off, and a new floor laid and another story was added.

While the old lodges were being repaired, four new houses went up, so
that the colony now numbered seven lodges, while the lake stretched back
through the lowlands for more than a mile.

Along the newly formed shores, alder bushes now stood deep in the water.
When it had frozen over, and fresh bark could not longer be gotten,
these bushes would be remembered.

At last the great freeze came; the glass door was shut down over the
lake, and Jack Frost installed as doorkeeper until spring-time.

But what cared the beaver? Their lodges were now frozen like adamant,
and the new dam was equal to the task put upon it. There were cords of
poplar logs stored along the dam under the water, and thrust into the
mud about the lodges, so they could eat and sleep while the winter
months went by. They had done their work well, and this was their
reward.



CHAPTER XIII

BEAVER JOE


Joe Dubois, or Beaver Joe, as he was known to the Factor and his fellow
woodsmen, was the most successful trapper who had ever baited steel jaws
for the Hudson Bay Company in all its long history of two hundred and
twenty-five years. Not in all the howling wilderness from the Great
Lakes to the mouth of the Mackenzie, and from Labrador to the Selkirks,
was there another who brought in such packs of skins.

Joe's fellow trappers said that mink and muskrat would play tag on the
pans of his traps just for fun, and that the beaver loved Joe's body
scent on the trap, better than its own castor, an oily substance taken
from the beaver and nearly always used in baiting the trap.

Joe was a half-breed, his father being a Frenchman and his mother an
Indian girl. It was his father who had given him the nickname of Beaver
Joe, but his mother called him by a long Indian name, which I can
neither spell nor pronounce, but it signified man of many traps.

This famous woodsman always went further into the wilderness than any
other trapper, and his rounds of traps were spread over a larger area.
He had to travel fifty miles through a trackless wilderness to make the
circle of his traps. How true his Indian's instinct must have been to
scatter several hundred traps over an area of fifty miles, and then go
to them month after month unerringly. How easy one could have gone
astray in the shifting gray glooms of the snow-laden forest, which
changed from week to week as the snow was piled higher and higher and
the full fury of winter settled on the land.

But Joe was never lost, and owing to his Indian inheritance, and his
knowledge of the woods in wind and rain, snow and sleet, he rarely lost
a trap.

He always located his cabin at a central point where he could return to
it every two or three days.

His was not the ordinary shack but a well built cabin with a hole about
six by eight under it called the cellar.

Why Joe wanted a good cabin, instead of a rude shack, and why he took
pains to make it comfortable, you will see later.

On the fourth summer of his rambles, Shaggycoat went much further from
home than usual. This nomadic habit grew upon him, and each year he
visited new lakes and streams. But this year he left all his old
landmarks far behind and penetrated a new country.

Occasionally he saw signs that made him think this country was inhabited
by the strange creature who had visited his lake two years before, in
the great red duck. Something told him that it was a fearful country but
curiosity and a desire to visit new places impelled him on and on.

Once he heard a loud pounding in the forest near the stream, and going
cautiously forward, saw one of the strange creatures standing by a large
tree, pounding upon it with mighty strokes. He was about to turn and
flee from the place in haste, when he noticed a tremor in the top of the
tree. He had seen this shudder in a tree many times before and knew well
what it meant, so waited to watch and listen.

Then the strange creature struck upon the tree a few times more and it
wavered, as though uncertain where to lay its tall form. Then with a
rush and a roar, and a thunderous sound that rolled away through the
forest, it fell and was no more a tree, but only a stick of timber.

When the sable mantle of night had been spread over the land and the
creature who stood on his hind legs and pounded at the tree so
vigorously had gone away, Shaggycoat went ashore and examined his work
critically.

Tree-felling was in his line and this interested him very much.

Perhaps the queer creature was a beaver after all, for he was cutting
trees just as they did about his own lake, but when he had examined the
stump, he felt quite sure it was not the work of a beaver. The cleft was
very smooth, and there were no teeth marks. The trunk had been cut in
two, and here the cut was also smooth. The chips were much larger than
those left by a beaver.

During the next few days Shaggycoat saw signs of much tree-cutting and
they were all evidently cut by the creature who pounded on the trunk
with his bright stick. The following week he came upon something that
interested and astonished him even more than this, and that was a real
dam, more symmetrical than his own, and holding in its strong arms a
beautiful lake. He was sure that the dam was not made by beavers, for
many of the logs used in its construction were too large for a beaver to
manage. Besides there was a queer doorway in the middle of the dam for
the water to run through. The lake was rather low and considerable water
was escaping through the door.

Our industrious dam-builder thought this waste of water a great pity,
and although the dam did not belong to him, he set to work and in half a
day had stopped the sluiceway very effectively.

This industry greatly astonished the real owners of the dam, who
discovered it a week later. They were a party of log-men, who had built
the dam to help them in getting their logs through a long stretch of
shallow water.

The following day Shaggycoat came upon a great number of logs in the
stream.

They stretched miles and miles, and he thought these must be remarkable
creatures, who could cut so many logs. He also thought it was getting to
be a perilous country, and no place for a beaver who wished to live a
long life, so he started homeward.

The leaves had just turned red upon the soft maple along the little
water courses and that was a sign that he always heeded.

The second day of his return journey, while wading through a shallow in
the stream, he put his remaining good forepaw in one of Joe Dubois's
traps. It was only a mink trap, and would not have held, had he been
given time to wrench himself free, but he had barely sprung the trap
when the alder bushes on the bank parted and the celebrated trapper,
club in hand, stood upon the shore within ten feet of the terrified
beaver.

"Oh, by gar!" exclaimed Joe at the sight of him. "You is just one pig,
fine skin by gar. I got you.

"Now you run away, I shoot. You keep still, I kill you with my club.
That not tear you fine coat."

So Joe got hold of the end of the chain and began carefully working the
beaver in toward him, holding the club ready.

When he had drawn poor Shaggycoat within striking distance he raised the
club slowly.

The beaver saw the flash of the sunlight on the stick and the sinister
look in Joe's eye, and something told him that his hour had come. He had
seen a beaver killed once by a falling limb, and he knew quite well how
stiff and motionless he would be when the club had descended. All in a
second the picture of his woodland lake and Beaver City flashed before
him and there was Brighteyes, and the beaver kids all waiting
expectantly for him; all the colony waiting for his home-coming that
they might begin repairs upon the dam.

The sun had never shone so brightly in all his life as it did at that
moment, and the murmur of a brook had never sounded so sweet in his
ears. But some great lady in the far away city was waiting impatiently
for her cloak, and the factor at the post was holding out two bright
shillings, so Joe brought the club down with a mighty stroke.

But the love of life was strong in Shaggycoat, as it is in nearly all
animate things, so, quick as a flash, he twitched his head to one side,
and the club fell in the stream with a great splash, filling the
trapper's eyes with water.

"By gar," ejaculated Joe, blowing the water from his mouth, and laying
down the club to wipe his eyes. "You is one mighty slick beaver, that
you is, but it wasn't smart of you to get into my trap. Dat time you was
one pig fool." Then a sudden inspiration came to Joe.

"By gar," he exclaimed, "I good mind to pring you home to my leetle gal.
How she laugh when she see you. You pehave, I do it. You bother me, I
prain you."

Then Joe scratched his head and thought. How could it be done? Finally a
plan came to him, for he went to the alder bushes and cut a crotched
stick, and another stick which was straight. With the crotched stick, he
pinned Shaggycoat's neck to the ground, while with a piece of buckskin
thong taken from his pocket he made a tight fitting collar for the
beaver's neck. Then with another piece of thong he bound his hind legs
tightly together. When this had been done, he passed a stout stick
through the collar and the other end of it, between the beaver's hind
legs. He then loosed the trap, and, grasping the stick half-way between
the collar and the thong on the hind legs, started off with the unhappy
beaver, carrying him, so that all the landscape looked upside down.

At first, Shaggycoat struggled violently but whenever he struggled Joe
tapped him on the nose with his club and he soon saw that his best
course was to keep still and let his captor carry him wherever he would.

The stick through the collar choked him so that he could hardly breathe,
and the thong on his hind legs cut into the muscles, but even these
discomforts were better than the club from which he had so narrowly
escaped, so he behaved very well for a wild thing and watched Joe's
every motion, always with a view of making a break for freedom at the
first opportunity. But there seemed little chance of escape as long as
the stick held him stretched out at his full length so that he could not
get at his fetters.

So the woods went by with the trees all upside down, sticking their tops
into the sky.

The blood surged into Shaggycoat's head, and his eyes grew dim. The
great sleep was coming to him, that into which his grandfather had
fallen, from which there was no awakening.



CHAPTER XIV

RUNNING-WATER


When Shaggycoat regained his sight and full consciousness, for the stick
and the tight collar on his neck had choked him almost into the long
sleep, he was lying on the floor of what seemed to be a very large
lodge, only this lodge was square and his own in the beaver colony was
circular. It was many times larger on the inside than even the great
house in which Shaggycoat's own numerous family lived.

There must be some underground passages, he thought, just as there were
in the beaver house, surely such powerful creatures as these would take
that precaution. He would watch his chance, and before they knew it
plunge down the tunnel to freedom.

Once in the water, this terrifying creature would not get hold of him
again.

There were two of the strangers in the great lodge; the one with the
cruel eyes, and a look that made Shaggycoat's long dark hair stand erect
on his neck, and the other, smaller, and gentler.

When the smaller one talked, it was in a low, sweet voice that soothed
Shaggycoat's wild terror of being held a prisoner.

Her voice reminded him of a little rill gurgling through pebbly
grottoes, and he was glad when she spoke. When Shaggycoat first
struggled to consciousness, she had been bending over him and somehow he
was not afraid to have her look at him, for there was no murder in her
eyes, as there was in Joe's.

"I pring him to you, leetle gal," said Joe, "one long way, by gar. He
heavy, like one pig stone. He your beaver, you got no dog. He good pet
when you tame him. Injun often keep tame beaver in lodge. He pretty,
Wahawa, don't you think, leetle gal?"

"Yes, very handsome, Joe, and I thank you. He will make a good pet if I
can tame him, but he is rather too old."

Wahawa, or Running-water, as her people called her, was Joe's Indian
wife. She had been at the mission school for two years, and as she was
very bright, spoke quite good English for the wilderness.

"See, how he trembles, Joe," she said. "He shakes like the aspen, when
the fingers of the breezes are playing with it. Do you think I can tame
him?"

"O yes, you tame anything," laughed Joe. "You tame me and I wild as
hawk."

"See how he starts every time we move or speak," said the dusky daughter
of the forest. "I am afraid we scare his wits out, before he knows us."

Shaggycoat squeezed into the darkest corner of the shack, where he
stood trembling with fright. There were many sights and smells in the
room that filled him with fear. First there was the strong repellent
man-scent. This he always associated with traps and the "thunder stick"
that killed the wild creatures so easily. One of these fearful things
now rested on some hooks against the wall and the hooks looked very much
like a deer's horns. There were a great many of those cruel things that
lay in the water waiting for the paws of beaver or otter, hanging upon
the wall, suspended by the rattling snake-like thing that Shaggycoat
knew the sound of, as it clattered over the stones. Some of these things
were also lying on the floor, and, as Joe kicked them into a corner,
they made the noise that the beaver knew so well.

"Don't, Joe, you scare him," said the Indian girl, seeing how the beaver
started at the sound.

"Py thunder, we not run this shack just for one beaver," retorted Joe.
"He get used to noise. If he don't, I take his coat off, then he no mind
noise."

At first the captive beaver was so terrified that he noticed almost
nothing of his surroundings, but his eyes roamed wildly about for some
underground passage through which he might escape, and, seeing none, he
got as far into one corner as he could.

Presently he noticed what at first looked like another beaver lying on
the floor asleep near him. But there was something strange and unnatural
about the beaver that filled Shaggycoat with fear.

He seemed to be all flattened out just as though a tree or large stone
had fallen upon him. But even any kind of a beaver's company was
preferable to these creatures into whose power he had fallen, so
Shaggycoat poked the sleeping beaver, to waken him.

His nose was not warm and moist, as it should have been, but dry and
hard. Shaggycoat poked again, and the sleeping beaver moved, not by his
own power, but the slight touch he had given had moved him. Again the
bewildered Shaggycoat nosed his companion and the sleeper rolled over.

At the sight that met his eyes, every hair upon Shaggycoat's back and
neck stood up, for the sleeping beaver was not a live beaver at all, but
merely a beaver skin that had come off in some unaccountable manner. He
had often seen the winter coat of the water-snake lying on the bank of
the stream, but never that of a beaver. What strange unknown thing was
this that had happened to his dead kinsman!

Presently Joe opened a trap-door in the floor to descend to his
improvised cellar, and quick as a flash the captive beaver shot down
ahead of him. But, alas, no fresh cool lake opened its inviting arms to
receive him as he had expected. Instead of this he landed with a bump
on the bottom of a cold, dark hole, which seemed even more like a prison
than the room above.

It was something though to be away from their eyes, especially Joe's,
and it was quiet down here and perhaps he could think what to do, so
Shaggycoat wriggled into a far corner and kept very quiet while Joe
rummaged about for flour and bacon. When he ascended the ladder to the
room above, the beaver felt less terrified, although he knew that his
plight was still desperate.

He had not been long alone when he began to dig himself a burrow in one
corner of the cellar. Perhaps it would lead down to the lake, for surely
these creatures would not be so foolish as to build their lodge on the
land. Even if he could not strike water, the burrow would make a place
of refuge where he could get away from the noise and the man-scent that
fairly made his nostrils tingle.

So industriously he labored that when Wahawa came down the following
morning to see if the beaver was spoiling their provisions, she could
see nothing of him at first. Finally, after flashing the torchlight into
all the corners, she discovered a pile of dirt, and holding the torch
down to the entrance of the hole, found the beaver staring wild-eyed and
pitifully up at her from the bottom of his new hiding-place.

"O thou, Puigagis, king of the beavers," she cried in a low rippling
voice that again reminded the prisoner of the purling of a tiny stream,
"come up to Wahawa, whose name is Running-water. She will not hurt you.
She will feed you and caress you." The beaver was always the Indian's
friend, teaching him industry and the need of a store of food for the
cold winter months.

"Come up to Wahawa, O king of the beavers, and she will be your friend.
The great trapper has gone to the lake and the streams to visit his
many traps and cannot harm you; besides you belong to Running-water.
Come up and she will be your friend."

But the poor captive only cowered at the bottom of his burrow and would
not come up, so the Indian girl finally went away disappointed, but like
the rest of her race she was patient, and knew that it takes days and
weeks, or even months to gain the confidence of the wild creatures.
Nevertheless she had accomplished more than she knew, for Shaggycoat was
not afraid of her voice. There seemed something about its tones akin to
the wind and the waters; a touch of nature, like the song of a bird or
the murmur of distant rivers. There was something in the voice that told
him this creature was kind.

Later on in the day when she brought him a maple sapling that she had
cut with a hatchet, he felt that his confidence in the kindness of this
stranger was not misplaced and although he was too frightened and
homesick to eat, yet it did him good to see the tempting bark so near
and to know that the Indian girl understood his wants.

When darkness again spread its sombre mantle over the land, Shaggycoat,
hearing Joe's voice in the room above and the rattle of chains, as he
kicked some traps into one corner, scurried into his burrow.

There were two events in Shaggycoat's life during the old days when he
had been a beaver kid, playing with his brothers and sisters on the
shores of their forest lake, in the old beaver city that he always
remembered in time of peril. Both were startling and tragic and they had
burned into his brain so deeply that he had never forgotten them, and he
remembered them now in his lonely burrow.

One evening, just at twilight, he had been searching in the bushes along
the shore for wild hops, a favorite dainty with young beavers, when he
heard a noise in the woods close at hand. A strange noise always meant,
"keep still and watch and listen." Although Shaggycoat was only five or
six months old, the wild instinct of animal cunning was strong enough in
him to prompt this wariness.

Presently the bushes parted and a tall, imperious creature came striding
down to the lake. As he was coming directly for the spot where the young
beaver was concealed, Shaggycoat made haste to scramble into the water,
where he hid under the lily pads.

At the sound of his splashing, the tall creature stopped and snorted and
stamped. He, too, was suspicious of strange noises, but, finally
concluding that it was either a big bullfrog or a musquash, he strode
down and began drinking in the lake. He stood very close to Shaggycoat,
who should have kept quiet and let the stranger drink in peace, but
curiosity, which is strong in many wild creatures, prompted the young
beaver to peep out from under his lily pad screen at the tall stranger.

Shaggycoat did not think that the buck looked harmful so he slowly edged
out from under the pads to get a better look at him. Then quick as a
flash one of those slender hoofs rose and fell, and the young beaver
went kicking to the bottom, leaving a bright streak of blood behind him.
One of the older beavers found him half an hour later, lying on his back
in the lily pads, stunned and bleeding. His head did not resume its
normal size for several days, but the event taught him a lesson that he
never forgot and after that day curiosity was always tempered with
prudence.

The second event that Shaggycoat could never forget happened like the
first just at dusk. This time neither he nor his brother with whom he
was playing was at fault, but the thing happened, as things do in the
woods and the waters, and when the ripple had passed, the lake was as
placid and smiling as ever.

They were playing in the shallows. The game might have been water-tag,
or perhaps it was just rough and tumble, but, in either event, they were
having a jolly time. The sun had just set in a blaze of glory at the
upper end of the lake and long shadows were stealing across the water.
Then upon the stillness there broke a peculiar sound, who-o-o, who-o-o,
who-o-o, who-o-o; the first few notes long and loud, and the last short
and soft like an echo. It was the hunting cry of the great horned owl,
going forth on his twilight quest for food. There were two impatient
owlets in the top of a tall tree, back in the woods who were waiting for
their supper of mice and chipmunks or small birds. But Shaggycoat and
his brother had never even heard of the great horned owl so they
continued their romp in the lily pads.

Who-o-o, who-o-o, who-o-o, who-o-o, came the cry again, this time close
at hand, but the young beavers continued their play and the great horned
owl his hunt.

Suddenly Shaggycoat noticed something large above them that darkened the
sky and which kept flapping like the bushes along the lake when the wind
blew. There were two fiery, yellow balls and a strong hook between them,
and two other sets of hooks that looked sharp as the brambles on the
thorn-bush. This much Shaggycoat saw, for the great flapping thing was
just above them and much nearer than he wished. Then a set of hooks
reached down and gripped his brother in the back of the neck and bore
him away. Higher and higher the strange thing went, carrying the
owlets' supper in the strong set of hooks, and Shaggycoat knew by the
piteous cry floating back that something dreadful had happened, but he
was too young to understand just what.

Then a strange terror of the woods and the shore came over him and he
fled to the lodge and did not leave it again for days.

Where his brother went, and who the stranger was, Shaggycoat never knew,
but the owlets in the top of the tall tree in the deep woods tasted
beaver meat and found it good.



CHAPTER XV

KING OF BEAVERS


"Joe," said Wahawa to the trapper one evening, as they sat by the fire,
munching corn bread and bacon, "I believe you have caught the sacred
beaver of my people, the good Puigagis, King of all the Beavers."

Joe laughed. "Py gar, what foolishness you tink in your hade now. You is
one foolish leetle gal, he your sacred beaver, you say?"

But Wahawa did not laugh. She looked very serious as she replied, "It is
nothing to laugh at, Joe. If this is really the sacred beaver, no good
will come of it. Did you notice he had lost one forepaw? My people
always let a maimed beaver go when they trap him because of something
that happened many moons ago. Listen, Joe, and I will tell."

The man of many traps looked interested for he, too, was touched with
superstition, and fearful of anything that might affect his good luck as
a trapper.

"As many moons ago as the old pine back of the shack has needles on its
boughs," began Wahawa, "the Great Spirit became angry with my people.
The squaws said it was because the warriors went on the war-path instead
of killing and preparing meat for the winter months, and the braves said
it was because the squaws were lazy and did not raise corn. But for one
reason or another the Manito was angry so he covered the face of the sun
with his right hand, and it was like a sick man's smile, and he covered
the moon and the stars by night with his blanket and they were no longer
bright, but like a camp-fire that has gone out.

"The corn did not grow in the summer-time, and the snow and the wind
were furious in the winter.

"Such cold as this was never known in the land before and never since.
The ice froze so deeply on lake and river that it could not be broken
and no fish could be taken. The deer all yarded in the deep forest and
did not stir abroad so the hunters could not find them, and many
perished before spring. Still deeper and deeper fell the snow and colder
and colder grew the breath of the wind, and the kiss of the frost was
like death.

"The warm skins of bear and beaver were no longer warm and the camp-fire
had lost its heat.

"Finally, the warriors were obliged to kill their ponies, and the
wolves, running in great packs, came down to help with the feast. At
night they would stand about the camp, just on the border of the
firelight, watching and waiting. They seemed to know that powder and
ball were low in the pouch of the warrior, and that he no longer had
strength to draw the bow. They knew that the camp-fires would soon go
out, and the warriors and the squaws fall asleep at their post. So the
great gray wolfs watched and waited for they knew that the hour of
feasting was near at hand.

"Then my grandmother, who was the daughter of the chief, and whose
withered lips told me the story, had a dream.

"She dreamed that Puigagis, the King of the Beavers, came into her lodge
and spoke to her in the tongue of her people.

"'O Singing Bird, daughter of the great chief,' he said, and his voice
was sweet to hear. 'The great spirit was angry because his warriors did
not hunt, and the women were lazy, but he has seen the suffering of thy
people, and the great wolf, Famine, looking in at your lodges. This
melted his anger and he has sent me to save your people. Tell your
father, the chief, to send his warriors in the morning to a valley, one
day's march to the northward, and they shall find a colony of beavers as
large as an Indian village. Many lodges they shall see, and all will
contain beaver meat, and warm furs to protect them and their women
against the wind and frost. I, Puigagis, the King of all the Beavers,
will go before them to show the way. My own life and all the lives of my
kind I will give to save the lives of the redmen and their daughters.'

"Then the wind lifted Puigagis, King of the Beavers, in its strong arms
and bore him away over the tree-tops.

"The daughter of the chief awoke and saw that the camp-fire was very
low, and that the wind was shaking the tepee as though to tear it down.
When she put new faggots on the fire and it blazed up, she saw there
were beaver tracks on the snow and her dream had been true. She awoke
her father, the chief, who called his warriors and they examined the
tracks in the snow and saw that they were the tracks of a beaver; a
beaver of great size, who had lost one forepaw in a trap.

"The chief then bade his warriors make ready for in the morning they
would go to the lake of which the King of the Beavers had spoken.

"In the morning the sun was brighter than it had been for weeks, and
they started out with more hope than they had felt for many moons. They
went due north as Puigagis, the King of the Beavers, had directed, and,
whenever they were uncertain of the way, they would examine the snow and
always at just the right moment would find the tracks of the
three-footed beaver.

"Although he went on the wings of the wind, he touched the snow every
mile or two that they might not go astray and miss the Beaver Lake.

"Late in the afternoon, when they were weary and very cold with the long
march, they came to a beautiful valley, and there before them, covered
with snow, stretched the broad bosom of the lake.

"Here and there showing their domes above the ice were beaver lodges,
many more than the oldest hunters had ever seen. On the top of the
largest lodge of all sat Puigagis, King of all the Beavers, and the
warriors saw that his right forepaw had been taken off by a trap. A
moment he sat there as though in welcome, then disappeared as if the
lodge had opened and swallowed him.

"Then the warriors built great fires upon the ice, made a hole in the
beaver dam with their hatchets and strong stakes which they cut in the
woods, and destroyed the entire colony, with the exception of the great
lodge of Puigagis, King of all the Beavers. This they would not touch,
lest evil befall them; nor will they take the skin of a maimed beaver to
this day.

"They loaded their packs with meat and skins until they bent beneath
them. The wind and weather befriended them on their homeward journey.
The beaver meat and the new skins kept life in the Indian village until
the great Spirit lifted his hand from the face of the sun, till flowers
and birds returned and the children of the woods were again glad.

"But the three-footed beaver they will not trap or harm to this day and
it is an ill omen to hold one captive."

"Dat ees vun fine story," commented Joe, as the narrator finished.
"Maybe he true, maybe he not. I do not know me. But he ver good," and
Joe blew rings of blue smoke and watched them meditatively.

"Did you ever hear how the beaver got his flat tail?" asked Wahawa.

"By gar, no, I tink he always have he. Tell one more pretty story,
leetle gal."

"Well, this was the way," replied the Indian girl.

"Many, many moons ago, so long ago that it is only known by pictures
that my people cut in stone, there was a King Beaver, wiser and larger
than all his fellows. In those days, the beaver had a round bushy tail
like the raccoon, but he saw one day when he was building a house that
it would be very handy to have a flat tail. He pondered long on how to
get it. Finally a plan came to him and he called the four strongest
beavers in the land and told them to bring a large flat stone.

"When they had brought the stone, the King Beaver placed his tail upon
another flat stone and made the four strong beavers drop the stone they
had brought upon his tail. It hurt him very much but he shut his teeth
tight and thought how nice it would be to have a flat tail. When they
lifted the stone off his tail, it was not as flat as he wished, so they
tried again, but still it did not suit him, but he thought they had
flattened it enough for that day.

"Every day for a week he had the four strong beavers drop the stone on
his tail until at last it was flat enough. After that he used it so much
in handling mud that the hair soon wore off, and it looked just as the
beaver tail does now. The descendants of this beaver all had flat tails,
and they were so much stronger and better workmen that they survived all
the other kinds and the round-tailed beavers soon became extinct.

"There is another Indian legend about how the beaver learned to build
houses. Once an Indian caught a beaver in a pitfall and took him home to
his wigwam where he kept him all winter. The beaver saw how warm and
nice the Indian house was and the following fall when he escaped he
built himself a mud house as near like the Indian's as he could, and he
was the first beaver to live in a lodge."

"Ver good stories," commented Joe. "Ver good. Maybe they true, maybe
they not, but I tink He make um beaver tail flat, because He know the
beaver want a flat tail. And for He," Joe pointed with his thumb to the
roof of the shack, "He give de eagle hees strong wing because he live in
the cloud, an' de fish fins, because he want to swim. He made de deer
with springs in his laigs because he got no teeth to bite his enemy, nor
claws. He made de fox cunning becase he not strong, so he run mighty
fast like de wind. De wildcat an' de bar, He also give claws an' strong
arms, so they all lib an' not starb.

"De flower it smile, an' de tree talk an' de wind an' de water they
better company than much folks. Dar no lie in de woods. Dar all tings
good. He make all tings ver good, by gar. Me like um wind an' water.
They all make me glad."

One day when Shaggycoat had been in captivity about a week, Wahawa came
down to his burrow and coaxed and dragged him out. He was not so much
afraid of her as he had been and he loved the sound of her voice, for it
was like the water slipping between stones. But when she had brought him
forth, Wahawa did something that both astonished and frightened the
beaver, for, quick as a flash, she threw a camp blanket over his head,
and before he had time to bite, she had gathered up the four corners and
Shaggycoat was a prisoner in an improvised bag.

Although he bit and clawed at the blanket, it was so soft and yielding
that he could make no impression on it, so he finally lay still and let
the Indian girl do with him what she would. She talked to him all the
time in that low rippling voice which somewhat allayed his fear.

She slowly ascended the ladder leading to the room above with the heavy
load upon her back and then rested him for a moment on the floor.

What new peril awaited him, Shaggycoat did not know. Maybe his coat was
to be taken off now, and he would be just like the poor beaver he had
seen the first night of his captivity. But Wahawa soon lifted him to her
strong back again and bore him away, he knew not where. When she had
carried him about a quarter of a mile over rough country, she laid down
her burden, and, to the great astonishment of the beaver, dropped the
four corners of the blanket and the beautiful world that Shaggycoat had
known before his captivity, the world with a sky and fresh green trees
and bushes with grass and sweet smelling air, was before him. But better
than all that a swift stream was flowing almost at his very feet. The
music of its rippling made him wild with joy.

Here was freedom almost within reach. But his captor was standing by and
the buckskin collar was still about his neck and he imagined it held him
in some mysterious manner. He looked up at the Indian girl with large
pleading eyes, and she understood his misgivings, so she drew the
hunting knife from her belt and severed the buckskin collar. It had cut
into his neck for so long that the beaver did not realize it was gone
until he saw it lying on the ground, then his heart gave a great bound.
Was freedom to be his after all? His nostrils dilated as he looked
furtively about. There was his captive standing by him and her eyes were
full of kindness. There was the water calling to him, calling as it had
never called before, but he did not quite know what it all meant. Then
the Indian girl spoke and he understood.

"Go, Puigagis, King of the Beavers," she said. "Go and be happy after
thy kind. We have held thee captive too long. Go at once, lest evil
befall us."

With a sudden jump, a scramble and a great splash, Shaggycoat clove the
water of the deep pool at their feet. The ripples widened and widened
and a few bubbles rose to the surface as the dark form sank from sight
and Puigagis disappeared as suddenly from the life of the Indian girl as
though the earth had opened and swallowed him.

Once she thought she saw a dark form gliding stealthily along under the
shadow of the further bank, but was not sure. Although she watched and
listened for a long time, she saw or heard nothing of him. Puigagis,
King of the Beavers, had gone to his kind. The lakes and the streams had
reclaimed their wilderness child, and the Indian girl was glad.



CHAPTER XVI

OLD SHAG


Eight years have now passed since Shaggycoat brought his mate into the
beautiful wilderness valley, and they had proceeded to make it
habitable, according to the ideas of a beaver.

Wonderful changes have taken place in the alder meadow since then, and
one would not know it to be the same spot. It is no more an alder
meadow, but a beautiful forest lake stretching away into the distance
until it is lost between the foothills, nearly two miles above the dam.
On either side, the sparkling waters flow back to the amphitheatre of
hills that enfold it and the lake is altogether like a wonderful
sparkling jewel set in the emerald surrounding of the foothills.

Each summer, during his wanderings, Shaggycoat has met other wanderers
like himself, and many of them have returned with him to his mountain
lake. Even the first autumn, when he returned with his amputated paw, a
pair of sleek beavers came with him, so there were two beaver lodges in
the pond during the second winter instead of one. The dam was also
strengthened and broadened during that second autumn until the pond was
twice its original size.

The third spring Shaggycoat's own first family of beavers left the lodge
to roam during the summer months, and to return in the autumn with
mates. This is the arrangement in a well ordered beaver lodge. The
children stay with their parents until they are three years of age, so a
lodge usually contains the babies, the yearlings and two-year-olds, who
allow themselves shelter under the family lodge until their third
birthday, when they are shoved out to make room for the babies who have
just come. So there is a general nose breaking at this time, and the
elders are sent into the world while all the rest are promoted. But I do
not imagine that they have to be shoved very hard, for their love of
freedom and wild life, and also the mating instinct, is calling to them
that third year, and they always obey the call of nature.

It must not be imagined that the little dam originally built on the
spot, flows all this broad expanse of country, for, as we have already
seen, year by year it has been added to, until now the gorge is blocked
by a log and stone structure that would do credit to man, with all his
building and engineering skill. It seems to me that the beaver, with his
building instinct, and his ingenuity in making his world over to suit
his manner of life, more nearly resembles man than any other wild
creature.

Each beaver colony is a veritable city, and each lodge contains a large
and well ordered family.

The house is always scrupulously clean, and each member of the family
has his own bed which he occupies. The front gate is surrounded by a
moat, like the castles of old, and the drawbridge is always up.

The beaver is a veritable Venitian, and his city is a real Venice, with
its waterway and its islands of solid earth upon which stand the houses
of its many citizens. The new dam which is most important to Beaver
City, for it holds the water above the entrances of the score or more of
houses, is a fine structure about two hundred feet in length, and nine
feet in diameter at its base. Into the structure many thousand logs have
been rolled, some of them coming from two or three miles up the lake,
for timber is not so plentiful near to the dam as it was.

The engineering genius of this huge undertaking was Shaggycoat, who sat
upon his broad flat tail and directed his many workmen. Near by, seated
upon the top of one of the lodges, a sentinel was always posted while
they worked. He warned them of danger, and they gave their whole
attention to the work. At the first suspicious sound he would bring his
broad tail down upon the water with a resounding slap that could be
heard all along the dam, and all through Beaver City, for water is very
mobile, and conducts motion or sound easily. At this well-known signal,
the workers who, a moment before, might have been lifting and tugging
logs or laying on mortar, would disappear as though the lake had opened
and swallowed them. This was really just what happened, but the waters
did not open; they were always waiting and ready to receive their little
water folks.

For a few moments the lake would be as quiet as though there were not a
beaver in the whole shimmering expanse, then a brown muzzle, dripping
water, would be cautiously thrust up from some shady corner of the dam,
and a careful reconnaissance made. When the beaver had made sure that it
was a false alarm, he would call the rest and work would go on as
before.

Most of the conical shaped houses, of which there are now about twenty,
are on islands or on the bank near the dam. They look as much like a
small Indian village, as they do like the abodes of wild animals.

For a long time, the overflow water from the lake troubled the beavers
by wearing away their dam, but, finally, they dug a little channel in
the sand around one end of the dam, and now the water runs off nicely in
this artificial duct, and the dam is left unimpaired by the flow. If you
could stand upon this dam, partly overgrown by willows, and see the
symmetrical structure and the little lodges of Beaver City above, and
the sparkling water running nicely away in the sluiceway, you would
marvel at the ingenuity and patience of these ingenious rodents. But the
wisest and oldest head in the colony is that of Shaggycoat, or old Shag,
as I shall now call him, for he was the pioneer of the city, and his was
the first lodge on the large island.

Little by little he has seen his lake widen and broaden, and one by one
new lodges have been reared, until now, as he sits upon his broad tail
and views Beaver City from the vantage ground of the dam, he must be
well satisfied with his planning, for it is all his world and he loves
it as each wild creature does the element it inhabits. To his ears the
sound of running water is sweetest music, and the roar of the freshet,
which fills man with dismay has no terrors for him; he knows it is only
his beloved water world, wild and turbulent, with the joy of melting
snow, and the bliss of spring rains.

He also knows that soon the buds will start and the birds sing, and he
will be off for his summer ramble. He has never outgrown the habit of
wandering during the summer months, but autumn will surely see him back
directing repairs upon the dam and seeing that the winter supply of
unpeeled logs is stored. It takes a great many logs to supply Beaver
City with food now so that when the winter supply is piled up in the
water in front of the dam, it would probably make several cords. If you
could have seen the everchanging beauty of that forest lake through
spring, summer, autumn and winter, you would not have been surprised
that the beavers were well satisfied with their surroundings, or that
the water seemed always to be calling to them in low sweet tones.

When the spring freshet filled their lake to overflowing, the ice piled
up against the dam, and the mad waters rushed through the crevasse
roaring and hissing like an infuriated monster. Though the waters were
angry and tossed the great cakes of ice about disdainfully, yet the foam
upon its fretful surface looked soft as wool and the little water folks
knew that the anger would pass, even as the fury of the spring wind.

Finally the water would go down, and the lake would become clear and
calm. Then it was a wonderful opal like the spring sky from which it
took its color. When the warm spring winds kissed its sparkling surface,
it dimpled and sparkled, and little wavelets lapped the pebbly beach
with a low soft sound.

Then June came with its lily pads, and the pickerel grass in the
shallows along the edge, and the waters near shore were green like
emerald. July brought the lilies, whose mysterious sweetness ravished
the nostrils, and whose creamy white faces nestled among the green pads
in sweet content.

The summer passed like a wonderful dream with soft skies, balmy winds,
and warm delightful waters in which to swim, but the male beavers over
three years of age were always away during the summer, and the lake was
left to the females and the youngsters.

Soon autumn came and the maples back in the foothills were made gorgeous
by the first frost. The merry fall winds soon rattled down showers of
scarlet, crimson, yellow and golden leaves till the waters along the
edge of the lake were as bright as the branches above. Even then the
trees were all reflected in the lake, so it had its own beauty as well
as that of the world above it.

When the first frost came, the male beavers returned to repair the dam,
and build new lodges or repair the old ones. These were active nights
when the sky was so thick with stars that there was hardly room for
more, and the Milky Way was bright and luminous.

When the clear glass window was shut down over the lake and the beavers
in their snug city were made prisoners for the winter, December had
come.

Then the whole lake sparkled like a jewel, and by night it vied with the
stars for mysterious beauty; but soon the lake would be covered with
snow, and then it would be a wonderful marble floor, smooth as a board
stretching away as far as the eye could reach.

There snugly locked under the ice, where not even the gluttonous
wolverine can dig them out, with plenty of food for the coming winter,
let us leave the inhabitants of Beaver City, happy in the assurance that
spring will come again when their lake will be warm and bright, nestling
like a wonderful jewel on the breast of mother earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

_BOOKS BY_ CLARENCE HAWKES

_Animal Biographies_


BLACK BRUIN. The Biography of a Bear.

KING OF THE FLYING SLEDGE. The Biography of a Reindeer.

KING OF THE THUNDERING HERD. The Biography of an American Bison.

PIEBALD, KING OF BRONCOS. The Biography of a Wild Horse.

SHAGGYCOAT. The Biography of a Beaver.

SHOVELHORNS. The Biography of a Moose.

TENANTS OF THE TREES.

TRAILS TO WOODS AND WATERS.

THE WAY OF THE WILD.

A WILDERNESS DOG. The Biography of a Gray Wolf.

       *       *       *       *       *

WANTED A MOTHER. A Story for Children.





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