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

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[Illustration:

The GUNBOAT SERIES.

BOOKS for BOYS, by a GUNBOAT BOY.

FRANK IN THE WOODS.

PORTER & COATES,
PHILADELPHIA, PA.]


Frank and Archie Series.

FRANK IN THE WOODS.

by

HARRY CASTLEMON,

Author of "The Rocky Mountain Series," "The Go-Ahead
Series," etc.



Philadelphia:
Porter & Coates.
Cincinnati, O.:
R. W. Carroll & Co.



Contents.

        CHAPTER I.      THE ENCAMPMENT                              7
       CHAPTER II.      AN UNPLEASANT COMPANION                    15
      CHAPTER III.      AN INDIAN HUNT                             27
       CHAPTER IV.      THE "OLE SETTLER"                          47
        CHAPTER V.      THE FIGHT IN THE WOODS                     52
       CHAPTER VI.      THE WHITE BUCK                             76
      CHAPTER VII.      A MIDNIGHT ATTACK                          90
     CHAPTER VIII.      A COUPLE OF NEW PETS                      101
       CHAPTER IX.      CLOSE QUARTERS WITH A GRIZZLY             116
        CHAPTER X.      A BEAVER HUNT                             132
       CHAPTER XI.      BREAKING UP A MOOSE-PEN                   143
      CHAPTER XII.      THE MOOSE SHOWS HIS QUALITIES             152
     CHAPTER XIII.      THE BLACK MUSTANG                         169
      CHAPTER XIV.      A BRUSH WITH THE GREASERS                 180
       CHAPTER XV.      CAUGHT AT LAST                            194
      CHAPTER XVI.      THE LOST WAGON-TRAIN                      204
     CHAPTER XVII.      THE STRUGGLE IN THE CAVE                  216
    CHAPTER XVIII.      END OF THE TRAPPER AND BLACK MUSTANG      227
      CHAPTER XIX.      THE INDIANS AGAIN                         236
       CHAPTER XX.      THE JOURNEY HOMEWARD                      251



FRANK IN THE WOODS.



CHAPTER I.

The Encampment.


Our scene opens in the swamp that stretches away for miles north of
Lawrence.

It was a cold, dreary night. The wind moaned and whistled through the
leafless branches of the trees, sending the snow in fitful gusts
through every nook and corner of the forest. On the banks of a small
lake, that lay hemmed in on all sides by tall trees, which bowed to
every gust of the winter's storm, was an encampment. A rude
hut--built, however, after the most approved hunter fashion, with its
back to the wind, and its front open to a cheerful fire--stood in a
little grove of evergreens, ready to receive beneath its friendly
shelter four boys, whom you could easily recognize as our old
friends of the sailing and fishing frolics described in "THE
YOUNG NATURALIST." We left them, after a hard day's work at
fox-hunting--Archie asleep on the bed, and Frank seated in his easy
chair, reading one of his favorite authors; while George and Harry,
who had a quarter of a mile to go before they reached home, were
walking slowly along the road, so weary that they could scarcely drag
one foot after the other. To enable the reader to understand how we
come to find them here in the woods, twenty miles from any human
habitation, we must conduct him back to Lawrence, and relate a few
incidents with which he is not acquainted.

On the day following the one on which the foxhunt took place, the boys
were too lame to tramp about, and they passed most of their time in
the shop. Frank commenced to prepare the fox-skin for mounting in the
museum, and Archie busied himself in putting his traps in working
order. While thus engaged, Frank exclaimed:

"Archie, let's go and make Uncle Joe a visit. What do you say?"

"I should like to go very much," said Archie; "but you know it's a
mean journey to make in winter. I don't like the idea of carrying my
baggage on"----

"We need not carry any thing," interrupted Frank. "I have been
thinking it all over, and I don't see why we can't do as the Canadian
trappers do--drag our baggage after us on sleds."

The village boys had always been in the habit of visiting Uncle Joe in
the summer; the journey could then be made with scarcely any
inconvenience, for Glen's Creek ran within a few feet of the old
hunter's cabin; but in winter the traveling was much more difficult,
for the boys were obliged to carry their provisions, blankets, and
other needful articles, on their backs. But Frank's plan obviated this
difficulty. The creek was frozen over, and using it as a highway, they
could accomplish the journey to Uncle Joe's almost as easily as with a
boat.

"That's a first-rate idea," said Archie. "I wonder why we did not
think of it before! Let us go right to work and make the sled."

"We had better wait until we find out whether mother will let us go or
not," said Frank; "besides, we want Harry and George to go with us."

"I think Aunt Mary will give her consent," said Archie, laying aside
his traps. "Let's go in and ask her."

The boys readily answered all Mrs. Nelson's objections--such as being
lost in the woods and eaten up by bears--by assuring her that they
were well acquainted with the road to Uncle Joe's, for they had
traveled it several times before; besides, they had a compass, and it
was impossible to get lost; and, as to the bears, there were very few
of them in the woods, and no bear that ever lived was a match for four
boys, all good marksmen, armed with double-barrel shot-guns, and
assisted by three good dogs. So Mrs. Nelson was obliged to consent,
and the boys started off to see George and Harry. The latter easily
obtained their parents' permission, and the boys adjourned to the
kitchen to talk over their plans. It was decided that two sleds would
carry all their baggage, and that every thing should be ready for the
start early on Monday morning; it was then Friday. After making all
their arrangements, Frank and his cousin returned home, and
immediately commenced working on their sled. A stout hickory sapling,
which they had used in stretching and curing the skin of the deer they
killed in the lake, was sawed in twain for the runners, and bent into
shape by steaming. The braces were then put in, and before dark the
body of the sled was completed. It was light and very strong, and
Archie dragged it about the shop in high glee.

"It's all done but the box," said he.

"We don't want any box," said his cousin. "It would only make the sled
heavy, without doing any good. We will get an old quilt or blanket
from mother, and that will do better than a box."

This article was soon obtained, and fastened to the sled in such a
manner that it could be strapped around the baggage; and just as
Hannah called them to supper, the sled was pronounced ready for the
journey.

The next day Hannah was kept busy baking biscuit and other provisions
sufficient to last until they reached Uncle Joe's; while the boys
busied themselves in cleaning their guns, sharpening their knives and
axes, and getting every thing ready for the start.

Time seemed to move on laggard wings, so impatient were they to be
off; but Monday morning came at length, and the boys were stirring
long before daylight. As soon as they had eaten breakfast, the sled
was brought out of the shop, and their baggage--which consisted of a
change of clothes, blankets, ammunition, axes, and provisions--was
strapped on securely. Just as they completed their preparations,
George and Harry came along. Bidding Mrs. Nelson and Julia good-by,
they all started off; and, after a hard day's tramp, encamped at the
place where we now find them.

After they had finished carrying their baggage into the hut, a lively
scene was presented. Harry sat before the fire, cutting a pair of
leggins out of a finely-dressed deer-skin, which he had spread on the
floor of the hut; George was engaged in arranging their beds; Archie
was in front of the hut, chopping the evening's supply of fire-wood;
and Frank was superintending the cooking of their supper. The dogs lay
stretched out on a blanket, enjoying a quiet nap.

"There," said Archie, at length, leaning on his ax, and surveying the
pile of wood he had cut; "I guess that will last us through the
night."

"Yes, that's a plenty," said Frank. "Come, boys, supper is ready!"

Archie accordingly entered the hut, and, after depositing his ax in a
corner, picked out a warm place by the fire, and commenced helping
himself to the eatables. The meal consisted of squirrels, which had
been roasted on spits before the fire, coffee, and bread and butter.
Their long tramp--they had made about twenty miles since morning--had
sharpened their appetites, and the supper rapidly disappeared. But
there was enough left for the dogs, and after they had been
bountifully fed, and the supper dishes washed, the boys stretched
themselves out on their blankets before the fire. Each seemed to be
occupied with his own thoughts. The sifting of the snow over the roof
of the hut, the crackling of the fire, and an occasional howl of a
wolf, were the only sounds that broke the stillness. At length, Harry
said:

"Now, boys, this is the kind of a life I enjoy. Doesn't it make a
fellow feel comfortable, to lie here and listen to the storm, and know
that he is securely sheltered? For my part, I don't see how a person
can live cooped up in a city all his life."

"It is a difficult matter," answered Archie; "for I have tried it, and
profess to know something about it. How many times I have sat in
school, when I had a hard lesson to get, and looked out of the window,
and wished that I was off in the woods somewhere!"

"Well, you're here at last," said George; "but the only way to pass a
long winter evening is in listening to a good story. Come, Frank, give
us one."

"Yes," chimed in Harry, "give us something exciting."

"A hunting adventure," said Archie, "or a fight with the Indians."

"O, you will hear plenty of such stories when we get to Uncle Joe's,"
said Frank. "But I will tell you of an adventure which happened to my
uncle, who was a young lawyer at the time, settled in St. Louis;" and
Frank, after rearranging his blanket commenced as follows:



CHAPTER II.

An Unpleasant Companion.


"It was one bright evening, in the fall of 18--," said my uncle, "while
I was traveling on horseback through the northern part of Missouri,
that I reined up before a pleasant little tavern, where I purposed to
stop for the night. The landlord, a bustling little Englishman, soon
had supper ready for me, and as I had not eaten a mouthful since
morning, I sat down to it with a most ravenous appetite, and ate until
I began to feel ashamed of myself, and finally stopped, not because I
was satisfied, but because I had eaten every thing on the table, and
did not wish to call for more. As I was rising from the table, the
hostler entered the room, and said:

"'What be the matter with your 'orse, sir? He be so lame he can 'ardly
walk?'

"'The matter with my horse!' I repeated; 'there was nothing the matter
with him when I gave him into your charge;' and, in no amiable mood, I
started for the stable.

"My horse, which was the gift of a deceased friend, was one of the
finest animals I ever saw. I had owned him for more than six years,
during which he had been my almost constant companion; and as I had
neither wife nor child to love, it is no wonder that my affections
clustered around him. I found that he was indeed lame; one of his legs
was swollen to twice its usual size, and it was with great difficulty
that he could move. I was for some time entirely at a loss how to
account for it, and felt very much like giving the hostler, who stood
at a little distance, eyeing me as though he expected a kicking, a
piece of my mind, when I happened to remember that, as I was that
afternoon descending a steep hill, my horse had stepped upon a rolling
stone, and almost thrown me from the saddle; and I noticed that he
limped a little afterward; but I thought it was nothing serious, and
had almost forgotten the circumstance. This I explained, in a few
words, to the hostler, who drew a long breath, as if a mighty load
had been removed from his breast. After rubbing the animal's leg with
some liniment, which I had brought with me, I saw him plentifully fed
and bedded down, and returned to the tavern. After spending an hour
listening to the 'yarns' of the occupants of the bar-room, I went up
to bed, and was soon fast asleep. Near the middle of the night, I was
aroused by loud voices under my window; and, as soon as I was fairly
awake, I found that something unusual was going on. The shrill,
frightened voices of the females mingled with the hoarse ejaculations
of the men, and every thing appeared to be in the greatest confusion.
I sprang out of bed, and after hastily drawing on my clothes, ran down
into the bar-room.

"'What's the matter, landlord?' I inquired of my host, as he hurried
by me, pale and almost breathless with excitement.

"'Matter!' he repeated. 'Come and see. Giles Barlow has been around
again, and there is one poor fellow less in the world, I'm afraid.'

"He led the way to a small bed-room, which opened off the bar-room,
where I found several persons crowded around a bed, on which lay the
form of a man, and a surgeon was engaged in bandaging an ugly-looking
wound, which he had received in his breast. As soon as the operation
was completed, he informed us, in reply to an inquiry of one of the
bystanders, that the wound was dangerous, but that by careful nursing
the man might recover; and ended by requesting us to leave the room,
as much depended on his being kept quiet. We moved back into the
bar-room, and I inquired of one of the men who Giles Barlow was.

"'Why, don't you know?' he asked, in surprise. 'I thought everybody
had heard of him! I guess you are a stranger in these parts, ain't
you?'

"I replied in the affirmative.

"'You must live a good piece from here,' said the man, 'or you would
certainly have heard of Giles Barlow. He is a highwayman, that has
been about here for almost ten years, murdering folks and stealing
their money. He goes on the principle that "dead men tell no tales."'

"'Why haven't you arrested him before this time?' I inquired.

"'O, yes,' answered the man, 'that's all easy enough to talk about.
Haven't we tried that game? We've hunted him with rifles, and tracked
him with blood-hounds, but you might as well try to catch a
will-o'-the-wisp.'

"'What sort of a looking man is he?' I asked.

"'He's a small man,' answered my informant, 'and looks like a dried-up
mullen-stalk. But, the Lord love you, he's quick as lightning, and
he's got an eye that can look right through a common man. And such
hair! It is long and curly, and looks like snakes stuck on his head.
I've seen him once, and I never want to meet him alone in the woods,
now, I tell you.'

"I felt some curiosity to know something more of this noted robber,
but before I could ask another question the man had walked away,
shrugging his shoulders, and joined a group of his companions, who
stood in one corner of the room, talking over the matter.

"After the exciting scenes through which I had just passed, sleep was
of course out of the question; and I stretched myself out on a bench
by the fireplace, and waited impatiently for the morning. It came at
length, and, as was my usual custom, I hurried out to the stable to
look after my horse. I found him much better, but his leg was still
swollen, and I knew that he would not be in good traveling condition
for at least a week.

"'Landlord,' I exclaimed, as I entered the bar-room, 'where can I hire
a horse for two or three days? I must be in Bennington by day after
to-morrow, and my horse is too lame to travel.'

"'Well,' said the landlord, 'you are in a nice fix. I don't believe
there is a horse about here you can get.'

"'I must have one,' I answered, 'for I must be in Bennington as soon
as possible.'

"'Well, I'll see what I can do for you,' said the landlord, and, going
to the door, he shouted to the hostler, who stood in the stable,
rubbing down my horse, 'Tom, go over to Bill Parker's and see if you
can get his mare. Tell him there's a gentleman here who wants to hire
her for two or three days.'

"Tom started off immediately, but soon returned with the information
that Mr. Parker had gone off into the country to buy cattle, and would
not return in less than a week.

"What should I do? I had an important case to attend to in Bennington,
and must be there in time. I was about making up my mind that I would
start off on foot, when the landlord suddenly exclaimed:

"'I'll tell you what you can do. This creek' (pointing to a wide, deep
stream which flowed by a little distance from the tavern) 'runs within
half a mile of where you want to go; and I guess you might hire Jim
Hilton's boat.'

"Mr. Hilton's dwelling was pointed out to me, and, in a few moments, I
found my man chopping wood in the yard. I made known my wants. After
rolling his quid about in his mouth, he concluded to let me have the
boat, or rather dugout, provided I would 'do the fair thing' by him.
To this I readily agreed. After giving emphatic directions as to the
treatment of my horse, I stepped into the canoe, and was soon out of
sight of the tavern. I used my paddle with a will, and made good
headway. When I became weary, I would cease paddling, and allow the
canoe to glide along with the current, giving only an occasional
stroke to direct its course.

"About noon, I began to grow hungry, and turned the canoe's head
toward the shore, to eat my dinner and rest myself, for I had become
very tired from the cramped position in which I was obliged to sit. In
about an hour I made preparations to continue my journey, and was
about pushing the canoe from the shore, when a strong, cheery voice
called out:

"'Hallo, friend! whither bound?'

"I looked up, and saw a man, dressed in the garb of a hunter, standing
on the bank above me, leaning on his rifle.

"'I am going to Bennington,' I replied.

"'Are you? That's lucky. I am traveling in the same direction. Would
you have any objections to good company?'

"'No sir,' I replied. 'Come on.'

"The hunter came down the bank; depositing his rifle and knapsack
carefully in the bow of the canoe, he took up one of the paddles, and
we pulled from the shore. As soon as we got out into the current, I
turned, with some casual remark, to take a nearer look at my
passenger. Merciful Heaven! how I started! He was a small man,
considerably below the medium hight, very slim, but well formed, and
wiry as an eel, and the enormous muscles on his limbs showed plainly
with every motion he made. But his eye! How it flashed! and when he
turned it on me I felt as though he were reading my very thoughts. And
then there were the long 'snaky' ringlets, which the man at the tavern
had described to me. My companion was none other than Giles Barlow,
the highwayman and murderer.

"You may be sure I was not very well pleased with this discovery, and
the cold sweat started out from every pore of my body; still I did not
feel afraid, for I was accustomed to scenes of danger, was well armed,
and had the reputation of being a tough customer to handle. But the
situation in which I was placed would have tried stronger nerves than
mine. I thrust my hand into my pocket, and felt that my revolvers were
safe. I concluded that, if the worst came to the worst, I could at
least have two pulls at him before he could reach me; and, as I was a
good shot, I had little fear of missing my mark.

"My companion was a very jolly fellow, and joked and laughed as though
he felt extremely happy, and I, of course, joined with him, keeping a
close watch on all his movements.

"The afternoon wore slowly away, and as it began to grow dark, I
became doubly watchful, for I knew that if he intended to make an
attempt upon my life, the time was approaching. About nine o'clock my
companion suddenly said, as he wound up one of his stories:

"'There's no need of both of us sitting up. It's a good forty miles to
Bennington, and we shan't reach it before morning.'

"'Very well,' said I, 'you may go to sleep first, and I will call you
at midnight.'

"'O, no,' said he, 'I'm not in the least sleepy; I will steer the
canoe, and you can lie down here in the bow, and sleep as long as you
like.'

"Of course it would not answer for me to raise any objections to this,
for I knew it would arouse his suspicions; so we changed places, and
the highwayman took his seat in the stern of the canoe. After wrapping
my cloak around me, and placing myself so that I could see every
motion he made, I drew one of my revolvers, and waited impatiently to
see what course things would take.

"For almost an hour my companion steered the boat very well, and I
began to think that perhaps I had been mistaken in my man, when I saw
him carefully draw in his paddle, muttering, as he did so:

"'Ah, my chicken, you little thought that you had Giles Barlow for a
passenger. I'll just quietly douse your glim, and take what money and
other little valuables you may have, to pay your traveling expenses to
the other world.'

"As he spoke, he bent over and drew out of his knapsack a long,
shining bowie-knife, and, after trying its edge with his thumb, rose
slowly to his feet. In an instant, I threw aside my cloak, and,
supporting myself on my elbow, I raised my revolver, and took a quick,
steady aim at his breast. He uttered a cry of surprise, but without
hesitating a moment, threw himself forward. But the sharp report of
the revolver echoed through the woods, and the robber sank back into
the canoe, dead.

"I arrived at Bennington the next morning about ten o'clock, and
delivered the body to the authorities. The news spread like wildfire,
for the name of Giles Barlow was as familiar as a household word.

"I prosecuted my case with success, and, in a week, returned to the
place where I had left my horse. He had received excellent care, and
was entirely cured of his lameness; but the landlord stubbornly
refused any remuneration. He had heard of my exploit, and that was his
way of showing his gratitude."



CHAPTER III.

An Indian Hunt.


The next morning, a little after daylight, Frank awoke, and, raising
himself on his elbow, he gazed about him. The storm had ceased, and
the morning was clear and intensely cold. The fire, however, still
burned brightly, for the boys had replenished it several times during
the night. His companions, comfortably wrapped up in their thick
blankets, were sleeping soundly; but Frank thought it was high time
they were stirring, for they had a good twenty miles to travel that
day; so, reaching over, he seized Archie by the shoulder and shook
him. The long tramp of the previous day had wearied the boys
considerably; but with several hearty shakes, Frank succeeded in
getting them all on their feet; then, after washing his hands and
face in the snow, he commenced to prepare their breakfast.

After a good deal of yawning and stretching, the others began to
bestir themselves; and while Archie cut a supply of wood, with which
to cook their breakfast, George and Harry busied themselves in packing
their baggage on the sleds. As soon as they had eaten breakfast, they
put out the fire, and renewed their journey.

The traveling was much more difficult than it had been the day before,
for the snow was piled on the ice in deep drifts, and it was dark
before they reached Uncle Joe's cabin.

As they approached, they were welcomed by the old trapper's dogs, and
Uncle Joe finally appeared at the door.

"Get out, you whelps!" he exclaimed. "Who's that a comin' there?" he
continued, trying to peer through the darkness.

"Friends," answered Frank.

"Jeroomagoot!" ejaculated the old man, who recognized Frank's voice.
"What are you boys doin' out in these woods this time o' night? Come
in--glad to see you any how," and Uncle Joe seized their hands as
they came up, and shook them heartily. "What have you got on them
sleds--your plunder?"

"Yes," answered Archie. "That's a new way we have got of carrying our
baggage."

"Fetch it right into the house then, boys;" and, suiting the action to
the word, Uncle Joe seized the sleds and pulled them into the cabin.

"Bars and buffalers!" exclaimed a voice, as the boys entered. "How de
do youngsters?" and a tall, powerfully built man arose from his chair,
and, striding across the floor, approached the boys. It was Dick
Lewis--Uncle Joe's brother.

He was a fine specimen of a North American trapper; fully six feet in
hight, with a frame that seemed capable of enduring any amount of
fatigue. Thirty years among savage beasts, and still more savage men,
had brought him in contact with almost every variety of danger. He had
hunted and trapped on every little stream between the Rio Grande and
the Great Bear Lake; had taken more than one rough-and-tumble fight
with Rocky Mountain grizzlies; was very expert with the rifle; could
throw the tomahawk with all the skill of an Indian; and could lasso
and ride the wildest horse that ever roamed the prairie.

He was a good-natured, jovial fellow, and when stretched out on his
blanket before the cheerful camp-fire, no one delighted more to tell
stories and crack jokes than he. He used to say that there was but one
thing in the world he hated, and that was an Indian. And good cause
had he for enmity; for, if the prairie and the deep, dark woods could
speak, they could tell of many a deed of cruelty which he had seen
practiced upon the unoffending trappers.

Dick had three times been bound to the stake, once when a mere boy,
and had escaped by making use of his prodigious strength, and almost
incredible swiftness of foot, which had won for him, from the Indians,
the appellation of Big Thunder.

Of all the trappers, none was more active in punishing the Indians, or
more hated and feared than he. One night, mounted on a powerful,
well-trained mustang, he would appear, in spite of their vigilance, in
their very midst, picking off their favorite chiefs, or "stampeding"
their swiftest horses; and the next morning a warrior, seated at his
solitary camp-fire, fifty miles away, would be startled by the crack
of the rifle that was to start his spirit on its way to the happy
hunting-grounds. He seemed to delight in danger, and being perfectly
acquainted with the Indian mode of warfare, he eluded all the plans to
capture him, with the same skill and cunning he would exhibit in
laying his own. But he did not always escape unhurt, for many an ugly
scar on his body bore evidence to the valor of his enemies, and the
severity of the struggles in which he had engaged. He did not call
Uncle Joe's his home. He had lived on the prairie, and among the
mountains, from boyhood, and despising the ordinary modes of
conveyance used by more enlightened men, he had traveled the entire
distance, from the head-waters of the Missouri to his brother's cabin,
on foot.

"How are you, youngsters? I say," he exclaimed, continuing his
greeting, which we have so unceremoniously interrupted; and he seized
Frank's hand, and gave it a gripe and a shake, which he felt for a
quarter of an hour afterward.

"Draw a cheer up to the fire, young'uns," said Uncle Joe, "an' set
down."

The boys were well acquainted with the trappers, and always made
themselves quite at home with them; so, after brushing the snow from
their feet, they pulled off their overcoats and seated themselves
before the huge fireplace. The cabin--or, as Uncle Joe called it,
"shantee"--was built in the most primitive style, having but one room
and a "loft," to which access was obtained by a ladder. There were
four beds in the room--rude-looking, indeed, but very clean, and
abundantly supplied with quilts and blankets; while around on the
walls hung the trappers' rifles, hunting-knives, and powder-horns.
Three large dogs lay stretched out before the fireplace, and one of
them, a huge, powerful animal, was the only companion Dick had had for
three years. He was an ungainly looking animal, but his strength and
courage had been severely tested in many a desperate encounter, and
twice he had saved his master's life. No wonder, then, that he held a
prominent place in the trapper's affections. The only other inmates of
the cabin were the four hired men--tall, brawny fellows, who despised
the city, with its "eternal jostlings and monotonous noises," but
delighted in the freedom and solitude of the forest.

"Had any supper, youngsters?" inquired Uncle Joe, as the boys drew
their chairs up to the fire. "No, I reckon not," he continued, without
giving them time to reply. "Bob, just fetch out some grub. I'll bet
the boys are as hungry as wolves, after their long tramp."

The boys did not raise any objections, for they _were_ hungry, and
they knew that the supper they would get would be worth having.

Bob, who was one of the hired men, began to bustle about, and, after
hanging the tea-kettle over the fire, he drew out a pine table, and
covered it with a snow-white cloth, and dishes which shone in the
fire-light in a manner that would have delighted a New England
housewife. Then came ham and eggs, which, with the coffee, were cooked
in the fireplace, wheat-bread, honey, and fresh butter and milk.
Although they were forty miles from any settlement or neighbor, in the
midst of an almost unbroken forest, there was no danger but what they
would fare well, for Uncle Joe was famous for good living.

The boys ate very heartily, and Uncle Joe sat by, smoking his pipe,
and watching them with evident satisfaction. After supper, while they
were engaged in unpacking their sleds, Dick's dog, which answered to
the name of Useless, arose suddenly to his feet, looked toward the
door for a moment, and uttered a dismal howl.

"Injuns ag'in, by all that's miserable," ejaculated Dick, removing his
pipe from his mouth, and instinctively reaching toward his rifle,
which hung on the wall above his head; but instantly recollecting
himself, he resumed his former position, while a dark scowl settled on
his face. In a few moments, light steps sounded in the snow outside
the cabin, and Useless bounded toward the door barking, and showing
his teeth, with every demonstration of rage.

"Come back here, dog," said Dick; "I don't blame you, 'cause they are
a mean, thievin' race. The animal understands their natur' as well as
I do," he continued, as the dog reluctantly returned to his place. "Me
an' him war brought up to hate Injuns, an' we believe in makin' war on
'em wherever we find 'em. It's a mighty wonder that they don't steal
Joe out o' house an' home."

The country around Moosehead Lake was inhabited by the remnant of a
once-powerful tribe, and the Indians, in going to and from the
settlements to dispose of their furs, frequently made Uncle Joe's
cabin a stopping-place. Dick was not at all pleased with this state of
affairs; but, as he often remarked, he was not "boss of the shantee,
and couldn't help himself."

The footsteps drew nearer, and finally the door opened softly, and two
Indians entered.

"How are you, Jim," exclaimed Uncle Joe, shaking the outstretched hand
of the foremost.

"How de do, brother," replied the Indian, in imperfect English; and
this was all the greeting that passed between them. They deposited
their rifles and packs carefully in one corner of the cabin, and then
advanced to the fire, and seated themselves on the floor without
saying a word. They were dressed in the regular Indian costume, with
leggins, moccasins, and hunting-shirts of the finest deer-skin,
gaudily ornamented, and wore knives in their belts. Such sights were
not new to the boys, for Lawrence was a regular Indian trading-post.
Frank thought that he had never seen such fine specimens of savages
before. But different thoughts seemed to be passing through Dick's
mind, for he twisted uneasily in his chair, and smoked and scowled
more vigorously than ever. Useless seated himself by his master's
side, and watched them as closely as a cat ever watched a mouse, now
and then uttering a low, angry growl. Neither of the Indians took part
in the conversation that followed, but, after emptying their pipes,
they spread their blankets out on the floor, and were fast asleep in a
few moments.

"I don't see what in tarnation you let them ar painted heathen camp in
your shantee in this way for," said Dick, at length, addressing
himself to his brother. "The woods are open, an' they won't ketch cold
by sleepin' out-doors."

"O, I don't mind it," answered Uncle Joe. "Me an' the Injuns allers
have been on good terms together."

"Wal, you'll wake up some mornin' an' find your shantee gone," said
Dick, "unless it is fastened down tarnation tight. I hate the rascals
wusser nor pisen, an' I allers ache to begin a knock-down-an'-drag-out
fight with 'em whenever I see 'em. Now, Useless," he continued,
turning to his dog, and speaking as though the animal could understand
every word he said, "I'm goin' to bed, an' I want you to keep an eye
on them fellers;" and Dick stretched his heavy frame out on one of
the beds, while Useless crawled under the blankets, and lay down
beside him. The others soon followed his example, and, in a few
moments, nothing was heard in the cabin but the regular breathing of
the sleepers.

The next morning the boys slept later than usual. When they awoke,
they found Bob engaged in getting breakfast. The Indians had gone.
According to their usual custom, they had resumed their journey at the
first peep of day. Dick sat by the fire, engaged in looking over his
"plunder," as he called it, to see if any thing had been stolen.

"Wal," said Uncle Joe, as they arose from the breakfast-table, "what
do you youngsters kalkerlate to do first?"

"Let's go and set our traps for foxes," said Archie, who was
particularly fond of hunting that kind of game, and had become quite
proficient in the art.

"Wal," said Dick, "I'll go with you. I have some traps that need
'tendin' to;" and the trapper took down his long rifle and thrust his
never-failing pipe into his pocket, and was ready for the start.

Archie began to overhaul his traps, which had been piled in one corner
of the cabin. He looked them over and over several times, and finally
inquired:

"Frank, do you know what has become of all my fox traps? Three of them
are missing."

"They ought to be in that pile with the others," answered Frank.

"There are only two of them here," said Archie. "My best ones are
gone; I'm afraid we have lost them. They must have got loose, and
tumbled off the sled."

"No, I guess not," said his cousin; "they were all there last night,
for I counted them."

"That ar is what comes of allowin' them Injuns to camp here," said
Dick.

"Jeroomagoot!" ejaculated Uncle Joe. "You don't s'pose them Injuns
stole the traps, do you?"

"Sartin, I do," answered Dick, dropping the butt of his rifle heavily
to the floor. "I don't s'pose nothin' else."

"Wal, it's the first thing I ever had stole," said Uncle Joe.

"Thar's whar the traps have gone to, any how," said Dick. "Useless,"
he continued, turning to his dog, "you aint worth a pinch o'
gunpowder. I told you to watch them fellers. I don't see how the
rascals could do it, for if Useless had seed one of 'em prowlin'
around, he would have muzzled him quicker nor lightnin'. If you want
your traps, youngsters, you'll have to foller them Injuns. I'll go
with you."

"Will you," exclaimed Archie. "Then, let's start right off."

"Wal, then," said the trapper, "pull off them overcoats, 'cause it
'ill be the hardest job you ever done to ketch them Injuns."

There was something novel and exciting in the idea of a chase after
Indians. The boys had often read of such things, and now there was an
opportunity for them to take part in one. They were soon ready for the
chase. Shouldering their guns, they followed Dick from the cabin, and
immediately set out on the trail of the Indians, which could be easily
followed by the prints of their moccasins in the snow. All the dogs
were left at home, except Useless; for he was the only one that
understood "Injun hunting," and the others would only be in the way.
The trail ran directly down to the creek, and as soon as they were
fairly on the ice, the trapper broke into a "dog trot," and the boys
followed close behind him, in Indian file. After going a little way,
Frank said:

"Dick, I don't believe that both of those Indians went this way."

"Why not?" inquired the trapper.

"Because there is only a single track, such as one person would make."

"I guess you haven't hunted Injuns much," said Dick, with a laugh.
"Don't you know that when they are travelin', the hindermost ones step
exactly in the leader's tracks? If fifty Injuns had been along here,
they would not have left a bigger trail nor those two have. But arter
you have hunted and fit 'em as much as I have, you could tell by
lookin' at a trail how many there was in the party. I hope you
youngsters are good at runnin'."

"We should not care about running a race with you," answered George;
"but if you will hold this gait, we will agree to keep up with you."

"O, you'll have to go faster nor this, if you want to ketch them
Injuns," said Dick. "See here--here's where the rascals began to run."

"How can you tell?" inquired Archie.

"Why, easy enough. You see the tracks are further apart nor they wur a
little piece back. Come, youngsters! let out a little."

The boys thought that Dick "let out" a good deal, for he almost
redoubled his pace, and they concluded it was best to discontinue
their talking; for they soon found that they had no breath to waste.
After they had gone about two miles, the trail led them from the creek
off into the woods; and, in a few moments, the trapper came to a
stand-still on the bank of a small stream, where the trail abruptly
ended.

"Where did they go to?" inquired Frank, after he had looked in vain
for the trail. "They couldn't have jumped across the creek."

"No;" answered the trapper, "that would be a better jump nor I ever
saw made. We must go back."

"What for?" asked George.

"Why, the thieves knowed that we would foller 'em, an' they have
doubled on their trail, just like a fox."

"The tracks all point the same way," said Frank, stooping down and
examining the trail.

"In course they do," said Dick. "You don't s'pose you can tell by the
looks of a red-skin's track which way he is goin', do you? I have
knowed 'em to travel backward for more 'n a mile, to throw their
enemies off the scent. But we hain't got no time to waste. Come on."

The boys followed the trapper back to the creek, and he immediately
started off again at a rapid pace. There was not the least sign of a
trail, and they were at a loss how to account for the trapper's
reasons for following the creek, when he knew that the trail ran back
into the woods. At length he said, by way of explanation:

"This is takin' a short cut on the Injuns. You see, they went back
into the woods, an' doubled an' twisted about on their trail, an' when
they think they have fooled us nicely, they will come back to the
creek again."

The next two miles were passed over in silence. The boys could not
have talked if they had wished to, for the rapid pace was telling on
them severely, and they began to think that they had never known what
running was. But the trapper did not seem to mind it in the least. His
motions were easy and graceful, and he appeared to move along without
making any exertion whatever. They ran until almost noon, without
seeing any signs of the Indians, and the boys began to think that the
trapper had been mistaken in his calculations. But their doubts were
soon removed by the finding of the trail.

"Hurry on now, youngsters," exclaimed Dick; "but don't make too much
noise, for the redskins aint far off."

And so it proved; for the next bend in the creek brought them in sight
of the Indians, who were walking leisurely along, with their packs on
their backs, thinking, no doubt, that they had effectually eluded
pursuit. But they soon became aware of the approach of the hunters,
and, without stopping to look back, they commenced running at the top
of their speed.

"Bars an' buffalers!" exclaimed the trapper. "This is somethin' like
ole times. Now, youngsters, I'll show you some runnin' as is runnin'.
Come, Useless, show us what you're made of."

The dog seemed to understand him perfectly, and was off on the
instant, and the trapper followed after him at a rate of speed which
the boys had never expected to see accomplished by a human being. The
creek, for almost a mile, was perfectly straight, and afforded them a
fine view of the race, which was worth going miles to see. The Indians
were no inferior runners; and, as they had nearly three hundred yards
the start of Dick, the boys were doubtful as to the manner in which
the chase would end. But the trapper had lost none of that lightness
of foot which had rendered him so famous, both among friends and foes,
and before they had gone half a mile, he was near enough to seize one
of the Indians, while Useless pulled down the other as though he had
been a deer.

The boys had been doing their best; but, of course, were left far
behind; and when they came up they found the Indians standing as
motionless as statues, apparently perfectly unconcerned, and the
trapper and his dog were keeping guard over them.

"Now, little 'un," said Dick, addressing himself to Archie, and
pointing to the packs which the Indians had thrown down, "look in
them ar bundles an' see if you can find your traps."

Archie accordingly handed his gun to his cousin, and, kneeling down in
the snow, opened one of the packs, when the first thing he discovered
was his missing property. He arose slowly to his feet, and surveying
the Indian to whom the pack belonged, with a comical expression on his
face, said:

"You're a grand rascal. I've a good notion to take the ramrod out of
my gun and give you a good trouncing."

The Indian was a man fully as large as Dick, very powerfully built,
and muscular; while Archie was a little, "spindle-shanked" fellow,
very small for his age, and looked as though he were in danger of
being carried away by the first gust of wind that passed. The former,
after regarding the diminutive hunter for a moment, with an expression
of contempt, drew himself up to his full hight, and ejaculated:

"Ugh! me big Injun."

He, no doubt, considered it a gross insult that a person of Archie's
proportions should talk of "trouncing" him.

"Wal," said the trapper, "we're done with you, you painted niggers;
travel on about your business; but I wouldn't advise you to cross my
trail, in these woods, this winter;" and Dick tapped his rifle in a
very significant manner.

The savages raised their packs to their shoulders without making any
reply, and walked off as though nothing had happened. As soon as they
were out of sight, Archie packed up his traps, and the hunters turned
their faces homeward.



CHAPTER IV.

THE "OLE SETTLER".


It was dark before they reached the cabin, but they found a good
supper waiting for them. After they had eaten heartily, they drew
their chairs up around the fireplace, and Uncle Joe inquired:

"Wal, youngsters, how do you like Injun-huntin'?"

"I don't believe we like it well enough to try it again," said Harry.
"I never was so completely tired out in my life."

"O, that wasn't nothin' at all," said Dick. "Such Injun-huntin' as
that we had to-day is fun. What would you have thought if we had
follered them thieves for a week afore we found 'em? But, I must say,
that you youngsters done very well. I'll own up, that when we
started, I thought I would see what sort o' stuff you wur made of; an'
I thought I'd stretch your legs for you in a way that would make you
give in. But you fellers are purty good shakes at runnin', for boys of
your age. But this reminds me o' a scrape I onct had near the Colorado
River. Do yer see this? If you can ketch as many grizzly bars in your
lifetime as this trap has, you are smarter nor I think you are. This
is what I call the 'Ole Settler!'"

And, as the trapper spoke, he raised from the floor the object of his
admiration, and held it up to the view of the boys. It was an ordinary
bear-trap, with double springs, and huge jaws, which were armed with
long, sharp teeth. It had received a thorough rubbing and greasing,
and shone in the fire-light like silver; but, after all, there was
nothing uncommon in its appearance. There were plenty of traps in the
cabin that were quite as well made, and could, probably, do quite as
much execution. In the trapper's mind, however, the "Ole Settler" was
evidently associated with some exciting event.

"The reason why I call this trap the 'Ole Settler'" continued Dick,
"is, 'cause it has been in the service so long. My gran'father bought
it, when he war only a boy, of a Mexikin trader, an' he give two
ten-dollar bar-skins for it. When he got too ole to trap, he give it
to my father, an' he give it to me. It has been stole from me a good
many times; but I allers made out to get it back agin. Onct a
yaller-hided Mexikin Greaser bagged it, an' I didn't set eyes on it
for more 'n a year; but I knowed it in a minit when I did see it; an',
arter a little brush with the Greaser, I made him give it up. The last
time I lost it war while I war trappin' in Utah. It war stole from me
by a Blackfoot Injun; and the way it happened war this:

"I allers had the name of bein' able to bring into market jest as
many an' jest as fine furs as any trapper in the mountains. But I
had a good many good trappers to go agin, and arter awhile my
huntin'-grounds begun to give out; so, one summer, I packed my
plunder, an' moved to the west side of the mountains. I war right in
the heart of the Pawnee region, the wust Injun country in the world;
but I kalkerlated to get all my trappin' done arly in the spring, an'
move out; 'cause as soon as the ice breaks up in the spring, the
red-skins allers come round on a grand hunt, an' I didn't care to have
the rascals near me. I never yet see the Injun that I war afeared of,
but it's mighty onpleasant to have them around; they go screechin'
through the woods, shootin' at a feller, when he can't see 'em, an'
steal his traps an' other plunder in a mighty onfriendly way.

"Wal, in less than a week arter I got to my new quarters, I war
settled. I had all my traps sot in the best places, an' had mighty
good luck. The streams war full of beaver, otter, an' mink, an' I used
to have a fight with the grizzlies in the mountains every day. In this
way the winter passed; an' about the time that spring come, I had
well-nigh trapped every thing in the valley. It war gettin' about time
for the Injuns to come round on their reg'lar hunts; so one mornin,'
arter a good breakfast on buffaler hump, I started out an' begun to
gather up my traps. A'most every one had some kind o' game in it, an'
I soon got as big a load as I could wag under. So I started back for
camp. I war goin' along mighty keerless like, an' wasn't thinkin' o'
nothin', when all to onct I seed something that made me prick up my
ears, an' step a little lighter. I see that something had been
passin' through the bushes. You, in course, wouldn't have noticed it,
but I knowed in a minit that an Injun had been along; an', arter
lookin' around a little, I found his track. It wasn't a Pawnee; but,
arter examinin' the trail, I found that it war a Blackfoot. What one
of them should be doin' so far from home I didn't know, but most
likely he war layin' around for scalps.

"'Wal,' thinks I, 'Dick Lewis, you had better be lookin' out for them
traps o' yourn;' so I hid my spelter in the bushes, an' started up
toward the mountains. I had sot the Ole Settler the day before, to
ketch a grizzly that had been botherin' me a good deal, an' I war
afeared the Injun would come acrost it an' bag it. I saw plenty of
Injun signs all the way, but the tracks had all been made by the same
feller. I could see, by the way the rascal had moved, that he knowed I
war in the valley; for he took mighty good care to cover up his trail
as much as possible. Arter a few minits' walk, I come to the place
where I had set the Ole Settler; but, just as I had expected, the trap
war gone. The Blackfoot had been there afore me, an' I knowed that if
I wanted my trap, I must look for it; an' I made up my mind that I
did want it, an' that I would have it, if I had to foller the Injun
clar to his home. So I started arter him, an', for a mile or so, the
trail was toler'ble plain, an' I got along first-rate. I made up my
mind that if the thief got away from me he would have to be smarter
nor I thought he war. But, at last, I come to where he had tuk to a
swamp, an' two or three times I come mighty nigh losin' the trail. The
swamp war full o' logs, an' the Injun had walked on them, an', in
course, he didn't leave no trail. I follered him more 'n a mile by the
marks on the bushes, an' finally I couldn't see a single sign. There
war the print of one of his moccasins in the mud as plain as daylight;
an' there the trail ended. I couldn't tell which way the rascal had
gone. I looked around, examinin' every bush an' twig, but it war no
use. Now, I s'pose you think I war beat at the Injun's own game, don't
you? Wal, I wasn't. In course, I couldn't find the trail in the swamp;
but I knowed which way the Blackfoot war goin', an' if I crossed the
swamp, I knowed that I would find it on the other side. So I started
out, an' as it war gettin' late, I wanted to find the trail agin
afore dark. I guess I made purty good time. I done my best, an' the
way I got through that swamp war a thing to look at. The runnin' you
see to-day wasn't a patchin' to the runnin' I done that night. But I
tuk mighty good care to keep my ears open, an' to make no more noise
than I could help; for, just as like as not, there war Injuns in the
swamp, an' one of 'em might take it into his head to send a chunk of
lead into me when I couldn't see him.

"About an hour afore dark, I reached the other side of the swamp; an'
in less nor ten minits more I had found the trail, and wur follerin'
it up as fast as my legs could carry me. But afore I had gone a mile
it begun to grow dark. In course, I couldn't foller the trail no
further; an' the only thing I could do, war to camp down where I war,
an' wait for daylight. So, arter makin' my supper out o' parched corn,
I picked out a nice place by the side of a log, and settled myself
down to sleep.

"The next mornin', bright and arly, I war up, an' on the trail agin. I
follered it all day, without onct stoppin' or losin' sight of it, an'
about night it begun to grow fresher; but it came on dark agin, and I
had to camp. Long about midnight I heerd a sort of rustlin' like in
the bushes. I war wide awake in a minit; for a feller that lives in
the woods larns to keep his ears about him. I lifted my head an'
listened. Yes, thar war no mistake--I could hear something steppin'
keerfully over the leaves, an' I thought it war comin' right toward
me. At first I thought it war some wild varmint; but, as it come
nigher, I found that it war a two-legged critter; so I cocked my rifle
an' waited for the Injun--for I knowed by the step that it war a
red-skin--to come in sight. The steps sounded nigher an' nigher, an'
all to onct the bushes parted without any noise, an' out come the
biggest Blackfoot that it ever war my luck to set eyes on. He didn't
seem to know that me an' my rifle war around; if he had, I reckon it
wouldn't have made him feel very pleasant; but he walked past, within
ten foot of me, an' disappeared in the darkness.

"Now, perhaps you would like to know why I didn't up and shoot him.
Wal, I'll tell you. That would have jest knocked the hul thing in the
head, an' I should have had all my trouble for nothin'. I knowed that
the Injun that stole my trap wasn't a great way off, and I knowed,
too, that the feller that jest passed war a sort of friend of his'n,
an' that they war goin' to meet somewhere in the woods close by. So I
thought that perhaps, if I took matters easy, I could rub out both of
the rascals.

"As soon as the Injun wur out o' hearin', I picked myself up, an'
started along arter him, purty certain that before long I would come
in sight of their camp-fire; an' I wasn't mistaken I hadn't gone half
a mile afore I see a light shinin' through the trees; an' droppin' on
all-fours, I begun to crawl along through the bushes, until I come to
a place where I had a full view of the fire. As I had expected, there
war two Injuns settin' by it. One of them--the one that had just
passed me--war eaten' his supper, an' the other lay stretched out on
his blanket, and war showin' his friend the trap he had stole from me;
an' they war both laughin' over it, as though they thought it war a
mighty good joke. This kinder riled me, an' I knowed that I could soon
put an end to their skylarkin'. I might have shot one of them where he
sot easy enough, but that wouldn't do, for the other would have
escaped, an' I wanted to make sure of both of 'em. I wasn't fool
enough to think of walkin' into their camp an' tacklin' both of 'em to
onct; they would have made an end of me in the shake of a buck's tail.
The only way I could work it war to get 'em apart, an' take 'em one at
a time. So I dropped my rifle an' drawed my knife, an' gave two loud
yells, which war a signal to let the Injuns know that one of 'em war
wanted. They both sprang to their feet an' listened for a moment, an'
one of 'em--the one that had stole my trap--picked up his rifle and
come toward me; an' the other went on eatin' his supper.

"I waited until the Injun had come within ten foot of me, then all to
onct I stepped out from behind my tree an' stood before him. Bar an'
buffaler! how the rascal started! He looked at me for a minit, as if
to make sure that I war a human critter, an' then, givin' an unarthly
yell, he dropped his rifle, an' made at me with his tomahawk. But I
met him half way, an' ketchin' hold of the hand that held the
tomahawk, I give him a stab with my knife that settled his business
for him. He fell to the ground like a log, an' I had hardly time to
grab my rifle afore I seed the big Injun comin' toward me. But he
hadn't made more'n two steps, afore a chunk of lead brought him to the
ground.

"I then walked up to the camp, and stretched myself out on one of the
Injuns' blankets; and arter makin' a good supper on a piece of venison
I found hung up on a tree close by, I covered myself up, an' in a few
minits war fast asleep.

"The next mornin' I war up bright an' arly, an' pickin' up my trap,
an' all the Injuns' plunder I wanted, I drew a bee-line for camp. In
another day I had gathered up all the rest of my traps, without seein'
any more Injun signs; but I knowed they would soon be around. As I
didn't care about bein' in their company, an' as game war gettin'
scarce, I tumbled all my spelter into my canoe, an' started down the
river."



CHAPTER V.

The Fight in the Woods.


The next morning, after breakfast, the trapper took down his long
rifle, saying, as he did so:

"Now, youngsters, I'm goin' off into the woods, about twenty mile or
so, to camp out for a week, an' see if I can't find some otter. If you
want good sport, you had better go, too. The game is gettin' too
scarce around here to suit me."

The boys readily agreed to this proposal, and began to talk of packing
their sleds; but the trapper scouted the idea.

"You'll never larn to be what I call woodsmen," said he, "until you
get rid of some of your city notions. You must larn to tote all your
plunder on your backs. Just fill your possible-sacks[1] with coffee
and bread; take plenty of powder an' shot, a change of clothes, an ax
or two, an' some blankets, and that's all you need."

[Footnote 1: Haversack.]

These simple preparations were soon completed, and, after bidding
Uncle Joe good-by, they set out, accompanied by their dogs.

Dick carried the "Old Settler," and had his blanket strapped fast to
his belt. Frank and George each carried an ax. Archie had several of
his fox-traps, which he could not think of leaving behind; and Harry
brought up the rear, carrying a large bundle of blankets. Besides
these necessary articles, the boys carried their shot-guns, and the
trapper his long rifle.

Dick led the way directly up the creek, following the same course they
had taken the day before in pursuit of the Indians, for about ten
miles, and then struck off into the woods. About noon they halted in a
little grove of evergreens, and the trapper said:

"We'll camp here for awhile, youngsters, an' eat our dinner."

The boys were very glad to hear this; for, strong and active as they
were, they found that they were no match for Dick in traveling.
Archie and George leaned their guns up against a tree, took the axes,
and commenced to clear away a place where they could build a fire.

"Now," said the trapper, turning to the others, "we'll leave them here
to 'tend to the camp, an' make a good cup of coffee for us agin we
come back, an' the rest of us will take a tramp through the woods, an'
see what we can get for dinner. Take different directions now, so as
to scare up more game."

The boys immediately set out as directed, each accompanied by his dog.
Brave ran on ahead of his master, beating about through the bushes,
but not a rabbit or squirrel showed himself. But Frank kept on, taking
good care to remember the points of the compass, determined that he
would not go back to the camp empty-handed. At length Brave's
well-known bark caused him to start forward at a more rapid pace, and
the next moment he heard some heavy animal crashing through the
underbrush, just in advance of him, at a tremendous rate. The woods
were so thick that Frank could not see the game, but the angry yelping
of the dog told him that it was being closely pursued. Guided by the
noise they made, he followed after them as fast as his legs could
carry him, keeping a sharp look-out on all sides, for he did not know
but that it might be a bear which the dog had started. He remembered
his meeting with the wild-cat, but felt no fear now, for he had his
trusty gun in his hand, heavily loaded with buck-shot, and knew, from
experience, that, at short range, it was a very efficient weapon. His
first care was to find the trail which the game had made, and, upon
examination, he found that Brave had started, not a bear, but several
moose. He knew their tracks in a moment, for he had often seen them in
the woods; but he could not tell how many of them there were, for
their trails crossed each other in every direction. He had never had
the fortune to meet one of these animals, and his feelings were worked
up to the highest pitch of excitement by the discovery. He started
forward again at the top of his speed. The rapid pace of the game soon
carried all sounds of the chase out of hearing; but Frank had no
difficulty in following the trail. He had run nearly a mile, when the
angry yelps of the dog sounded through the woods in fiercer and more
abrupt echoes. Frank hurried forward, and soon came in sight of the
game. The moose--a huge bull, with wide-spreading antlers--was
standing at bay, and the dog was bounding around him, watching an
opportunity to seize him, but was met at every point. Now and then the
moose would lower his head, and rush upon his enemy, but the latter
nimbly kept out of his way.

Frank did not pause long to witness the battle, but immediately ran
forward, holding his gun in readiness for a shot. The moose, upon
discovering him, suddenly wheeled, and started off at a rapid trot.
The snow in that part of the woods was nearly three feet deep, and was
covered with a crust strong enough to sustain the hunter and his dog,
but the moose sank into it at every step, and his trail could be
easily traced by the blood which was running from numerous wounds on
his legs, made by the sharp crust. He ran heavily, and Frank, who was
exerting himself to his utmost, had the satisfaction of finding that
he was gaining on him. Brave easily kept pace with him and finally
succeeded in bringing the moose at bay again. This was what Frank
wanted. Just as the deer was about to make a charge upon the dog, he
fired, and the huge animal tumbled to the ground. The young hunter ran
forward, intending to give him the contents of the other barrel, but,
before he could fire, the moose staggered to his feet, and
disregarding the attacks of the dog, which were renewed with redoubled
fierceness and vigor, rushed straight upon the hunter, and bore him to
the ground.

In falling, Frank lost his gun. The enraged animal pressed upon the
young hunter, burying his antlers in the snow on each side of him,
holding him fast to the ground. Frank gave himself up for lost; but he
determined that he would not yield his life without a struggle. He was
unarmed, and the contest must be one of strength and endurance. Before
the moose could draw back to make another charge upon him, Frank
seized him by the antlers, and clung to them with all his strength.
Brave seemed to understand the perilous situation in which his master
was placed, and fought more furiously than ever. But the moose,
although severely wounded by the teeth of the dog, did not appear to
notice him in the least, but struggled desperately to free himself
from the young hunter's grasp. Frank was dragged about through the
snow, and pressed down into it, until his clothing was almost reduced
to tatters; and he was severely wounded by the sharp crust and the
hoofs of the enraged deer, which cut through his garments like a
knife. It required all his strength to retain his hold. He did not
seem to be in the least frightened; but the manner in which he clung
to the moose, and cheered on the dog, showed that he well knew the
danger of his situation. But he was growing weaker every moment, while
the moose appeared to be growing proportionately stronger, and his
struggles became more furious and determined. Frank knew that the
animal would soon succeed in freeing himself, and then----. It was a
horrible thought!

At this moment he heard the noise of approaching feet on the crust,
and a voice exclaimed, "Bars and buffaler! Hang on to the creetur jest
a minute longer, youngster! Take 'em, dog! take 'em!" And the next
instant a dark object bounded lightly over him, and commenced a
furious battle with the moose. Benumbed and exhausted, Frank could
hold out no longer. As the moose tore himself from his grasp, the
young hunter saw him pulled to the ground by the trapper's dog, and
then a mist gathered before his eyes, and he sank back on the snow
insensible.

When his consciousness returned, he found himself in a
rudely-constructed hut, lying in front of a blazing fire, and so
tightly wrapped up in blankets that he could scarcely breathe. Dick
sat in one corner of the hut, smoking his pipe, and gazing vacantly
into the fire. Brave lay stretched out by his master's side, with his
head resting on his shoulder, gazing into his face with every
expression of concern. As soon as Frank opened his eyes, the faithful
animal announced the fact by a joyful bark, which brought all the boys
into the hut.

"How do you feel, Frank?" inquired Archie, whose pale face showed that
he had more than a common interest in his cousin's well-being.

"O! I'm all right," answered Frank, in a weak voice. "But you've got
me bundled up so tight I can hardly breathe. I wish you would take a
dozen or two of these blankets off."

"No, you don't," said Dick, as the boys crowded up around Frank. "I
believe I've got the bossin' of this yere job. Here," he continued, as
he arose from his seat and approached his patient, "drink this;" and
he raised Frank from his blankets with one hand, and, with the other,
held to his lips a cup containing some of the most bitter stuff he had
ever drank. The young hunter made wry faces over it, but succeeded in
draining the cup. "Now," resumed Dick, "lay down agin an' go to sleep.
Shut up! No back talk!" he continued, as Frank essayed to speak. "You
musn't talk till I say you may;" and the rough but kind-hearted
trapper laid him back on his bed, and, drawing the blankets more
closely about him, left him to his meditations.

He soon fell off into a refreshing slumber; and when he awoke it was
dark, and his companions were seated around the fire, eating their
supper.

"Wal, youngster," said Dick, "how do you feel now?"

"O! I'm much better," answered Frank; "and hungry as blazes. Won't you
give a fellow some thing to eat?"

"In course," said Dick; and he brought Frank some pieces of toast and
a cup of coffee.

"I don't like your style of doctoring a bit," said Frank, as the
trapper carefully removed the blankets with which his patient was
enveloped. "The remedies you use are worse than the disease. You've
kept me wrapped up so tight that I am sore all over."

"I shouldn't wonder," said the trapper, laughing heartily; "but that
doesn't come of bein' wrapped up in the blankets. You war purty well
chawed up when me an' Useless diskivered you."

Dick raised Frank to a sitting posture, and, in spite of his
objections, once more drew the blankets about him, allowing him,
however, the free use of his arms; and the young hunter soon
discovered that he was not quite so well as he had imagined, for sharp
pains shot through his body, and he was so weak he could scarcely sit
up.

"I believe I had something of a fight with that moose, didn't I?" he
inquired, as he broke off a piece of the toast.

"I believe you did, judging from the looks of your clothes," answered
Harry, as he laid down his plate, and took from a peg in one corner of
the hut all that remained of Frank's garments.

The coat and pants were torn almost into shreds, and covered with
blood, and the sole of one of his boots had been pulled off by the
sharp hoofs of the deer. Brave had also suffered severely, judging
from the bloody bandages that he wore.

"It was a narrow escape, wasn't it?" said Frank, as he gazed in
astonishment at his tattered garments.

"Yes, indeed," said Archie; "I shouldn't have cared about being in
your boots just then. How you ever made out to get out of those
clothes alive, is more than I can tell."

"It war a careless trick," said Dick, "tacklin' that animal in that ar
way. You ought to knowed better."

"Well, we got the moose, didn't we?" inquired Frank.

"Yes," answered George, chewing away at a large piece of meat; "and we
are eating him up as fast as we can."

As soon as Frank had finished his toast and coffee, he was glad to lie
down again, for he was still very weak from the loss of blood. The
others, after putting away the supper-dishes, replenished the fire,
and stretched themselves out on their blankets.

"How do you feel now, youngster?" asked the trapper, as he drew a
brand from the fire and lit his pipe.

"O! I guess I shall get along."

"It's a'most time for you to take some more of your medicine."

"I don't care about taking any more of it," answered Frank. "It's the
meanest stuff I ever tasted."

"It's Injun medicine," answered the trapper, as he sank back on his
blanket, and puffed away vigorously at his pipe. "I remember," he
continued, after a few moments' pause, "of doctorin' up my chum, Bill
Lawson, an' that war the way me an' him come to get acquainted. But he
war used to Injun doctorin', and didn't growl as much as you do. I've
heered him tell of that scrape a hundred times; an' he used to tell it
in this way:

"'The way me an' Dick Lewis come to get together,' he used to say,
'war this. I war onct trappin' among the mountains on a little stream
called Muddy Creek. It war about the wust bit of Injun country in the
world; but they didn't bother me, an' I tuk mighty good care not to
meddle with their corn an' beans, an' for a long time I had jest the
best kind of luck in trappin'. Beaver were plenty as black flies in
summer, an' the woods war chuck full o' otter, an' the mountains of
grizzly bars an' black-tails, so I had plenty to do.

"'I had made my camp in the woods, about a mile back from the creek
where I war trappin', so as not to skeer away the game. Beaver is
mighty skeery animals, an' don't like to have a feller trampin' around
them all the while; and when a man sets a trap, he musn't go to it
agin afore arly the next mornin', for if he does, the game soon gets
mighty shy, an' the first thing the trapper knows, he'll have to hunt
somewhere else for beaver. You see I knowed all this, an' so kept out
of their way. I got along first-rate, until arly in the spring, jest
as the ice begun to break up, an' hadn't seed nothin' of the Injuns.
But one mornin', while I war on my way to 'tend to my traps, I seed
the prints of some moccasins, where three or four fellers had crossed
the creek. I knowed in a minit, from the looks of them, that they
wasn't white fellers' tracks; so I begun to prick up my ears an' look
around me a little. I examined the trail agin, an' I knowed there
could be no mistake. The Comanches had been along there, sure. I begun
beatin' keerfully around through the bushes, for I didn't know but
that the tarnal red-skins war watchin' me all the time; when all to
onct I come acrost another trail, which war as different from the
first as a muskrat is different from a grizzly. It war a white
feller's track. The tracks looked as though he had been crawlin' along
on his hands an' knees, an' onct in awhile I could see the place where
the butt of his rifle had trailed on the ground. I knowed in a minit
that the white hunter, whoever he war, had been follerin' up the
Injuns.

"'"Wal," thinks I, "Bill Lawson, you had better keep an eye out for
them traps o' yourn." So I begun to draw a bee-line through the woods
toward the place where I had sot one o' my traps, keepin' my gun ready
to put a chunk of lead into the first thing in the shape of an Injun
that I should see. But instead o' goin' up to my trap in the way I
generally did, I went round so as to come up on the other side. Purty
soon I begun to come near the place where the trap was sot; so I
dropped down on all-fours, an' commenced to crawl through the thick
brush. I knowed I should have to be mighty keerful, for an Injun has
got ears like a painter, an' he allers keeps 'em open, too. Wal, purty
soon I poked my head over a log, an' peeked through the bushes; an'
what do you think I seed? There war my trap, with a big beaver in it,
ketched fast by the hind leg; an' right behind some big trees that
stood near the trap war three Injuns, listenin', an' watchin', an'
waitin' for me to come an' get my game.

"'"That's the way you painted heathen watch for a white gentleman, is
it," thinks I; "I'll fix some o' you." So I drawed my knife an'
tomahawk, an' laid them on the ground beside me, an' then, arter
examinin' my rifle to see that it war all right, I drawed a bead on
the biggest Injun, an' fired. He rolled over, dead as a door nail, an'
the others jumped up an' yelled like two screech owls. I didn't stop
to ax no questions; but, throwin' away my rifle, I grabbed up my knife
an' tomahawk, an' walked into 'em.

"'They both fired as I came up--one missed, an' the other tuk me in
the leg, an' kerflumux I come to the ground. The Injuns thought they
had me now, sure, an' they came toward me, drawin' their knives an'
yellin' like mad. But I war on my pins agin in less than no time; an',
standin' as well as I could on my broken leg, I swung my tomahawk
around my head, an' let fly at the nighest Injun. It tuk him plumb
atween the eyes, an' I knowed that the work war done for him. But the
next minit the other heathen clinched me, an', liftin' me off my legs,
throwed me to the ground like a log. He had two legs to use, an' I had
only one; there war where he had the advantage of me. But I had the
use of my hands; an' I jest made up my mind that if he wanted my scalp
he would have to work for it; so, quick as lightnin', I grabbed the
hand that held the knife, an' give it a squeeze that actooally made
the bones crack, an' the rascal give one yell, an' let go the weapon.
Then, with the other hand, I ketched him by the scalp-lock, an' done
my best to turn him, knowin' that if I could onct get on top of him, I
would be all right; but I couldn't use my leg; so, thinks I, I'll hold
him here awhile, an' I pulled his head down close to me. But I had
bled so much that I begun to give out; an' the Injun, who hadn't made
a move arter I got hold of his har, knowed that I war growin' weak,
an' the first thing I knowed, he broke away from me, an' sprung to his
feet. I tried to get up too, but the Injun grabbed up his knife, an'
pinned me agin. I fit as well as I could, but the rascal knowed I
couldn't do nothin'; and, placing one knee on my breast to hold me
down, he put one hand to his mouth, an' give a loud yell.

"'It war answered close by, an' somebody come out o' the bushes. At
first I thought it war another Injun comin' up to help rub me out; but
another look showed me that it war a white feller. He didn't stop to
ax no questions, but made a dash at the Comanche, who got off me in a
tarnal hurry, an' callin' out some name that showed that he knowed who
the white feller war, he begun to make tracks; but he hadn't gone ten
foot afore the trapper had him by the neck. The fight war mighty
short, for the Comanche wasn't nowhere--the trapper handled him as
though he had been a baby, an' in less than two minits he war a dead
Injun.'

"That's the way ole Bill used to tell his story," continued Dick; "an'
he allers used to pint me out as the man that saved him. The white
feller's trail that he seed by the creek war my own, an' I war
follerin' up the Comanches. Wal, I tuk the old man back to his camp,
an', arter two months' doctorin', I got him all right agin. When he
got well, he wouldn't let me leave him, nor I didn't want to, for he
war jest the kind of a man I wanted for a chum. He hated an Injun as
bad as I did, an' I used to like to listen to the stories he told of
his fights with them. How do you come on now, youngster?"

"O! I feel pretty well," answered Frank, "only I'm a little weak."

"You can thank your lucky stars that you wasn't rubbed out
altogether," said the trapper, as he approached the young hunter. "Me
an' Useless got there jest in time. But you won't allers be so lucky."

After wrapping Frank up carefully in the blankets again, he knocked
the ashes from his pipe, and sought his own couch.



CHAPTER VI.

The White Buck.


It was a week before Frank was able to travel, during which time
George and Archie had been sent back to Uncle Joe's after supplies of
bread, coffee, and salt. Early one morning they again set out, the
trapper leading the way more slowly than at the former part of the
journey, so as not to weary his young companion. They halted at noon
for dinner, and about four o'clock in the afternoon they reached a
dilapidated cabin.

"This yere is to be our camp for awhile," said Dick, throwing his
rifle into the hollow of his arm. "I camped here last winter; but I
see the shantee is well-nigh broke down. But we can soon set it to
rights agin."

They leaned their guns against the logs of the cabin, and Archie and
George cut down some saplings with which to repair the roof; while the
others cleared out the old pine boughs that covered the floor, and
erected a new crane over the fireplace, which was a hole about four
feet in diameter and a foot and a half deep, that had been dug in the
middle of the floor. An opening in the roof directly over this did
duty both as chimney and window. Before dark the cabin was put in
order again, and the hunters began to prepare their supper.

The next morning the trapper, after giving Frank emphatic directions
to remain quiet during the day, set out, with Useless at his heels, to
look for "otter signs." George and Archie followed him with their
fox-traps; and Frank and Harry, being left to themselves, shouldered
their guns, and strolled slowly through the woods, and amused
themselves in shooting rabbits, which were very abundant. In a short
time they had secured game enough for dinner, and were about to
retrace their steps toward the cabin, when the dog, which was some
distance in advance of them, suddenly stopped, and, after listening a
moment, uttered a low whine, ran back to his master, and took refuge
behind him.

"What's the matter with the dog, I wonder?" said Frank, patting the
animal's head, and endeavoring to encourage him.

"I don't know," answered Harry, clutching his gun more firmly; "he
must have seen or scented some wild animal. Perhaps it would be safer
to go back a little way. I shouldn't like the idea of meeting a bear
or panther;" and Harry began to retreat.

"Hold on," said Frank; "don't be in a hurry. If it is a panther, we
are certainly a match for him. Our guns are loaded with buck-shot."

"I know it; but if I should see one of the 'varmints,' as Dick calls
them, I should be so excited that I couldn't shoot at all. I think we
had better"--

"Hush!" interrupted Frank. "Don't you hear something?"

The boys listened, and a faint cry, like the yelping of a pack of
hounds, was borne to their ears.

"It can't be dogs," said Frank, "for if it was, Brave would not have
been so frightened; besides, it does not sound exactly like them, and
I know of no hunter in this part of the country that keeps hounds."

"I wonder if that is what Brave heard?" said Harry.

"It must be," replied Frank, watching the motions of his dog, which
appeared to grow more excited as the sound came nearer. "I would like
to know what it is."

"We shall soon find out, for it seems to be coming this way. Let's
hide behind some of these trees."

The boys, accordingly, concealed themselves, and waited impatiently,
with a great deal of anxiety, for the animals to come in sight. Louder
and louder grew the noise, and Harry, turning to his companion, with
blanched cheeks, exclaimed:

"It's the cry of a pack of wolves. Let's get away from here."

"O, no," said Frank. "They must be in pursuit of something. Let us
wait and see what it is."

There was something appalling in the sound, which now began to echo
loudly through the woods, and it was no wonder that Harry wished to
retreat. Even Brave, although he was a very courageous dog, seemed
struck with terror, and crept up behind his master, as if endeavoring
to get out of sight. But Frank, with his usual recklessness,
determined to stand his ground as long as possible.

The wolves seemed to be running directly toward them, and the boys
held their guns to their shoulders, ready to shoot the first one that
appeared. In a few moments there was a crashing in the bushes, and a
white object was seen gliding among the trees, while behind him
followed a pack of a dozen wolves. They ran with their ears laid close
back to their heads, and their mouths open, displaying frightful rows
of teeth. Frank gazed at them a moment, and then turned his attention
to the game. Could he believe his eyes! It was a _white buck_. He was
running at the top of his speed; but his tongue was hanging out of his
mouth, and his legs were horribly lacerated by the sharp crust, into
which he sank at every step. He was evidently almost tired out, and
the wolves were gaining on him rapidly. Frank had often heard of white
deer, but had never seen one before, and he determined to take a hand
in the affair, and, if possible, rescue the buck from his pursuers.

"Shoot the wolves, Harry," he exclaimed, "and save the deer. We want
him ourselves."

"Don't shoot--don't," urged Harry. "The wolves will turn on us."

But it was too late. Frank's gun was at his shoulder in an instant,
and the foremost of the pack leaped high in the air, and fell to the
ground, dead. The others stopped and ravenously attacked their fallen
comrade, and in a moment every vestige of him had disappeared. The
white buck kept on his way, and soon disappeared from their sight.

"Shoot 'em, Harry," exclaimed Frank, excitedly, turning to his
companion, who stood holding his gun in his hand, and gazing at the
wolves as though he had suddenly been deprived of all action; "shoot
'em, and don't be standing there like a bump on a log. They'll pitch
into us, sure, and the more we kill now, the less we shall have to
deal with by-and-by."

This seemed to bring Harry back to his senses, and he hurriedly raised
his gun to his shoulder and endeavored to cover one of the wolves with
the sight. But he was trembling violently, and his gun swayed about
like a leaf in a storm.

"Why don't you shoot?" exclaimed Frank.

Harry pressed the trigger, and the loud yell that followed showed that
the shot had not been thrown away. One of the wolves was severely
wounded. Maddened by the pain, he dashed toward the place where the
boys were standing, followed by the whole pack.

"Take to a tree, quick!" exclaimed Frank, who began to be surprised at
his own coolness; "it's our only chance. Be sure and keep a good hold
of your gun." Suiting the action to the word, he swung himself into
the lowest branches of a small pine that stood near, and, reaching
down, seized Brave by his long hair and pulled him up after him. It
was slow climbing among the thick branches, with a gun in one hand and
a dog nearly as heavy as himself in the other; and he had scarcely
ascended out of reach before the wolves were around the tree. Several
of the pack leaped among the branches, and made desperate efforts to
reach him, while their dismal howls made his blood run cold.

"Hold on, down there," muttered Frank. "Wait until I get Brave fixed,
and then I'll soon be even with you."

After feeling in all his pockets, he found a stout strap, with which
he tied his dog fast to the branches, so that he would not fall down
among the wolves.

"I say, Frank, where are you?" shouted Harry, from his tree.

"Here I am," answered Frank. "Are you all right?"

"Yes; but I had a narrow escape, I tell you. The wolves pulled off one
of my boots as I was climbing up this tree. You're always getting a
fellow into some scrape or other, ain't you?"

"I don't call this much of a scrape," answered Frank. "We're safe, at
any rate."

"I know it," replied Harry, who seemed to be regaining his courage.
"But we may have to stay up here a week."

"No we won't--not if our ammunition holds out," answered Frank,
pushing his gun through the branches of the tree. "I'm going to
commence shooting them."

"That's a good plan; I did not think of that."

The report of Harry's gun followed his words, and feeling safe in his
tree, he made a good shot, the largest of the wolves receiving the
entire charge in his head. The boys continued to load and fire until
the last wolf was killed, when they dropped down from the trees, and
took a survey of their work. Nine wolves were lying dead on the snow,
which was saturated with blood, and a tenth was endeavoring to crawl
away on two legs. Brave immediately commenced a battle with him, but
the wolf had plenty of fight left in him, and was killed only after a
hard struggle.

"Now," said Frank, "let's follow up that white buck. I would give
almost any thing to catch him alive. He is pretty well tired out, and
can't run far."

"Lead on, then," said Harry; "but, if Dick was here, he would say it
was no use. You know hunters are inclined to be superstitious about
such things."

The boys had often heard extravagant stories told about the incredible
speed and tenacity of life possessed by white deer, and had heard old
hunters say that it was impossible to kill or capture them. But Frank
was not superstitious. He could not see why a white deer should be so
widely different from one of the ordinary color. At all events, he
determined to make an attempt to capture the white buck--which would
make a valuable addition to his museum. So, leaving the wolves where
they had fallen, he led the way along the trail, which could be easily
followed by the blood on the snow. They had run nearly a mile, when
they discovered the white buck a short distance ahead of them, making
his way slowly through the snow, and staggering as though he were
scarcely able to keep his feet.

"There he is," exclaimed Frank, joyfully. "Catch him, Brave."

The dog was off in an instant, and although the buck made an effort to
run, he was speedily overtaken, and pulled down without a show of
resistance. The boys hurried forward to secure their captive, which
struggled desperately as they approached. But at length Frank
succeeded in fastening his belt around his neck. The buck staggered to
his feet, and, after a few ineffectual attempts to escape, seemed to
submit to his fate, and suffered himself to be led toward the cabin.
He was one of the most noble specimens of the common deer that the
boys had ever seen. He stood nearly five feet high at the shoulders,
and his head was crowned with antlers, which Frank had learned, from
experience, would prove no mean weapons in a fight. He was evidently
an "old settler," and had seen some stirring times during his life,
for his body was almost covered with scars. They reached the camp
without any mishap, and Harry brought from the cabin a long rope with
which the captive was fastened to a tree. After a short struggle,
during which the boys received some pretty severe scratches from the
buck's sharp hoofs, his legs were rudely bandaged, and he was left to
himself.

After a hastily-eaten dinner, the boys returned to the scene of their
late fight with the wolves, to procure some of the skins, which Frank
wished to mount in his museum. They got back to the cabin just before
dark, and found Dick leaning on his long rifle, and closely examining
the buck. Useless was seated at his side, and near him lay three
otter-skins, which they had captured during the day.

"See here, youngsters," exclaimed the trapper, as the boys came up,
"what's all this yere?"

"O, that's our day's work," replied Frank.

"Give us your hands, youngsters," continued Dick. "Shoot me if you
hain't done somethin' that I tried all last winter to do an'
couldn't. If I shot at that buck onct, I shot at him twenty times. Do
you see that scar on his flank? I made that. An' there's another on
his neck. When I hit him there I thought I had him sure; for he war
throwed in his tracks, an' when Useless come up to grab him, he war up
an' off like a shot. If you war with some trappers I know, they would
tell you to cut that rope an' let him get away from here as fast as he
could travel. Some fellers think these yere white deer have got the
Evil One in 'em."

"O, that's all nonsense," said Frank; "a white deer isn't a bit
different from any other, only in the color."

"That's what I used to tell 'em," said Dick. "But this yere is my
day's work," he added, lifting the otter-skins from the ground; "and a
good one it is, too. But five mile back the woods are full of otter,
an' a little further on is a beaver-dam--eight houses in it--forty
beaver at the least kalkerlation."

As the trapper finished speaking, he shouldered his rifle and led the
way into the cabin, where a fire was soon started, and some choice
pieces of venison, which had been brought in by him were laid on the
coals to broil. In a few moments, George and Archie entered, and the
latter inquired:

"Who caught that white buck?"

Frank gave him the desired information, and also related their
adventure with the wolves; when Archie continued:

"I'm glad you caught him, for you always wanted one for your museum.
We came near catching a black fox for you."

"A black fox!" repeated the trapper.

"Yes; the largest one I ever saw," said George. "He's black as a
coal--hasn't got a white hair on him, except the very tip of his
tail."

"I know him," answered the trapper. "Him an' Useless had more'n one
race last winter. You found his trail down by that little creek that
runs through that deep hollow."

"Yes," answered Archie.

"An' lost it up here in the woods but two mile back."

"Yes," said Archie again.

"An' that's the way you'll keep doin' as often as you chase him. You
can't ketch him. He's an ole one in these parts, an' I guess he'll
stay here till he dies a nat'ral death."

"No, I'll be shot if he does," said Archie, decidedly, as he deposited
his gun on a couple of pegs in one corner of the cabin, and began to
divest himself of his overcoat. "I've got a dog that was never fooled
yet. There was a fox that used to live on Reynard's Island, a short
distance from Lawrence, and he had been chased by all the best dogs in
the country; but the first time he got Sport on his trail, he was a
gone sucker. I'm going to start out early to-morrow and try that black
fox again, and if I don't catch him the first day, I'll try him the
next, and keep it up till I do succeed. I don't mean to leave these
woods without him."

"Then you'd better send home for plenty of grub," said the trapper,
"for you'll have to stay here all winter."

"Supper's ready," said Frank; and this announcement cut short the
conversation.



CHAPTER VII.

A Midnight Attack.


After supper, the hunters stretched themselves out on their blankets
around the fire; but the usual evening conversation was omitted. Their
day's work had fatigued them all, and soon their regular breathing
told that sleep had overpowered them.

About midnight Frank, who slept away from the fire, and almost against
the door, was aroused by a slight noise outside the cabin, like the
stealthy tread of some animal in the snow. He had begun to acquire
something of a hunter's habits, and the noise, slight as it was,
aroused him in an instant. The dogs had also heard it, for they stood
looking at the door, with every hair sticking toward their heads, but
without uttering a sound. Frank reached for his gun, which hung on
some pegs just above his head, and at that moment he heard a sound
resembling the "wheeze" of a glandered horse.

"Bars and buffaler!" exclaimed Dick, suddenly arousing from a sound
sleep, and drawing his long hunting-knife, which he always carried in
his belt; "there's a painter around here somewhere--I'm sartin I
heered the sniff of one."

"I heard something," replied Frank, "but I didn't know what it was."

By this time all the inmates of the cabin were aroused, and there was
a hurried reaching for guns, and a putting on of fresh caps.

"Lend me your rifle, Dick," said Frank, "and I'll shoot him. I have
never killed a panther."

"Wal, don't be keerless, like you generally are," said the trapper,
handing him the weapon. "Be keerful to shoot right between his eyes.
Hist--I'll be shot if the varmint ain't a pitchin' into the white
buck--he are, that's sartin!"

As Dick spoke there was a violent rustling in the bushes, and a sound
as of a heavy body falling on the snow. Then there was a slight
struggle, and all was still again. Frank quickly threw open the door,
and hunters and dogs all rushed out together. It was very dark; but
Frank, who was in advance of his companions, could just distinguish a
black object crouching in the snow near the tree where the white buck
had been fastened. In an instant his rifle was at his shoulder, and as
the whip-like report resounded through the woods, the panther uttered
a howl that sounded very much like the voice of a human being in
distress, and, with one bound, disappeared in the bushes.

The quick-scented dogs found his trail in a twinkling. Guided by their
barking, the hunters followed after them as rapidly as possible, in
hopes that the dogs would soon overtake the panther and compel him to
take to a tree. Running through a thick woods in a dark night is not a
pleasant task; and the hunters made headway very slowly. But at length
they came up with three of the dogs, which were standing at the foot
of a large tree, barking furiously. Brave was nowhere to be seen.

"I shouldn't wonder if the varmint war up here," said the trapper,
walking around the tree and peering upward into the darkness. "No he
ain't, neither," he continued. "Useless, ye're fooled for onct in your
life. You see, youngsters, where that big limb stretches out? Wal,
the painter ran out on that, an' has got out of our way."

"I wonder where Brave is?" said Frank, anxiously.

"That ar is a hard thing to tell," answered the trapper. "The varmint
may have chawed him up too, as well as the white buck."

"If he has," said Frank, bitterly, "I won't do any thing all the rest
of my life but shoot panthers. Hold on! what's that?" he added,
pointing through the trees.

"It looks mighty like somethin' comin' this way," said Dick. "Turn me
into a mullen-stalk if I don't believe it's the painter! He's creepin'
along a'most on his belly."

In an instant four guns were leveled at the approaching object, and
the boys were about to fire, when the trapper, who had thrown himself
almost flat on the snow, to obtain a better view of the animal, heard
a suppressed whine. Springing to his feet, he knocked up the weapons,
and quietly said,

"I guess I wouldn't shoot, boys. That's the dog comin back. I
shouldn't wonder if he had been follerin' the painter all alone by
himself."

The boys lowered their guns, and, in a few moments, to the infinite
joy of Frank, Brave came up. He crawled slowly and with difficulty
toward his master, and the hunters could see that he had been severely
handled. He had several long, ugly wounds on his body, which were
bleeding profusely.

"Wal, I'll be shot!" exclaimed the trapper, "if that ar fool of a dog
didn't tackle the painter! He ought to knowed better. The varmint
could chaw him up in two minits. Useless here wouldn't have thought o'
doin' sich a thing. But it'll do no good for us to stay here, so we
might as well travel back to the shantee. Ye're minus a white buck,
Frank," he continued, as he led the way through the woods.

The young naturalist made no reply, for it was a severe blow to him.
He had anticipated a great deal of pleasure in taming the white buck,
and in showing him to his friends, and relating the circumstances of
his capture. But the panther had put an end to these anticipations;
and Frank determined, as long as he remained in the woods, to wage a
merciless war against all his tribe.

A few moments' walk brought the hunters to the cabin, and they went at
once to the place where they had left the white buck. The panther had
torn an ugly-looking hole in his throat, and he was stone dead. It was
evident, from the position in which he lay, that the panther had
endeavored to drag him away, but was prevented by the rope and the
timely interference of the hunters. As regrets were useless, Frank and
his cousin carried the remains of the buck into the cabin. After
fastening the door and replenishing the fire, the hunters again sought
their blankets.

The next morning they were stirring long before daybreak, and Archie
busied himself in removing the skin of the white buck, while his
cousin, who was impatient to commence his war upon the panthers, was
employed in cleaning his gun and sharpening his hunting-knife. Brave
seemed to understand that something unusual was on hand. In spite of
the rough treatment he had received the night before, he appeared to
have plenty of spirit left in him still, and acted as though he were
impatient to be off.

"Dick, will you lend me your trap?" inquired Frank, after he had
finished his breakfast, and was preparing to set out.

"The 'Ole Settler' do you mean?" asked the trapper. "Sartin I will.
Goin' to ketch the painter, ain't you?"

"Yes; I'm going to try. I must have at least three panther-skins to
make up for the killing of the white buck. He was worth more to me
than my entire museum."

"Wal," said Dick, as he handed Frank the trap, "if you can get him to
stick his foot in the 'Ole Settler,' he's yourn, an' no mistake. That
ar trap sticks tighter nor a brother when it gets a hold o' any thing.
Now, be mighty keerful o' yourself."

"All right," answered Frank. "I'll have something to show you when I
come back."

He set out, with Brave as his only companion. The trapper did not
accompany him, for the reason that he had work of his own to attend
to; and besides, although he was constantly scolding and finding fault
with Frank for his "carelessness," he was proud of his courage, and
admired the spirit that prompted this somewhat hazardous undertaking,
and wished to allow him to reap all the honors himself. Archie and
George did not go, for they were very anxious to visit their traps,
and see whether there were any foxes in them. They did not like the
idea of panther-hunting, and had tried every means in their power to
induce Frank to abandon his project. Harry thought at first that he
would be delighted to go, but, on reflection, he remembered his
adventure with the wolves, and was fearful of another similar
"scrape." So, as we have said, Frank started out alone, with nothing
on which to depend except the faithful Brave, and his own courage and
skill as a marksman. He was well enough acquainted with the woods, and
the animals that inhabited them, to know that there was danger in the
undertaking; but he thought only of the disappointment he had suffered
in the death of the white buck, and the pleasure there would be in
seeing the panther that had killed him stuffed and mounted in his
museum.

He followed the same course the panther had taken the night before,
until he reached the place where the animal had taken to the tree and
escaped, Here the trail, of course, ended; but Brave had no
difficulty in finding it again, and from this Frank concluded that he
must have seen the panther jumping from tree to tree, and had followed
him, until the latter, seeing that he was pursued by only one of his
enemies, had descended to the ground and given battle, which had, of
course, ended in Brave's defeat.

After a careful examination, Frank could discover but three
foot-prints in the trail, which looked as though some one had
endeavored to obliterate it, by drawing a heavy stick over it. He
could not account for this, but he knew, by the blood on the snow,
that the panther had been severely wounded by the shot he had fired at
him; so, without stopping to make any more observations, he ordered
Brave to "Hunt 'em up."

The dog immediately set off on the trail, and Frank kept as close to
him as possible. The panther had made good use of his time, for they
followed the trail until almost four o'clock in the afternoon, without
coming up with him. In the excitement of the chase, Frank had not
thought of stopping to eat his dinner, and he was both tired and
hungry. A few moments' rest, and a piece of the cold venison and
bread, with which his haversack was well stored, he thought would
enable him to follow the trail until dark. He began to look around to
find a good place to build a fire, when a loud bark from Brave drove
all such thoughts out of his mind, and he ran forward to the place
where the dog was standing, and suddenly came in sight of the panther,
which had killed a wild turkey, and was crouching at the foot of a
tree, just ready to begin his meal.

One of his hind-legs was entirely useless, having been broken by the
shot from the rifle; and that it was which had given that peculiar
look to his trail. How he had managed to climb so many trees, and
travel such a distance, with his leg in that condition, Frank could
not imagine. But he was not allowed much time to make observations,
for the panther crouched lower over his prey, and lashed his sides
with his tail, as if about to spring toward him. He was within easy
range, and Frank cocked both barrels of his gun, and slowly raised the
weapon to his shoulder. His hand could not have been more steady if he
had been aiming at a squirrel. He glanced along the clean, brown tubes
for a moment, and fired both barrels in quick succession. The gun had
been heavily loaded, in order to "make sure work" of the panther, and
the immense recoil threw Frank flat on his back. When he recovered his
feet, he saw the panther stretched out motionless on the ground. The
buck-shot had done its work.



CHAPTER VIII.

A Couple of New Pets.


Frank was a big-feeling boy just then. He knew that he had done
something that many an older person than himself would hesitate to
undertake. He was fast becoming accustomed to scenes of excitement and
danger, and he thought only of the feat he had accomplished, and not
of the perilous position in which he had placed himself but a few
moments before. What if his gun had missed fire, or he had only
wounded the panther? How long could he and Brave have withstood his
attacks? The panther would certainly have conquered them. And what
could he have done if he had been disabled in the depths of those
woods, so far from any human being? Such questions as these passed
through the reckless young hunter's mind, but he dismissed them with
the thought that the panther was dead, and that he had nothing to
fear.

The animal was one of the largest of his kind, measuring, as near as
Frank could judge, fully seven feet in length, including the tail. The
rifleshot which had broken his leg had made an ugly-looking wound, and
he had received both charges of buck-shot in his head; but the skin
was not spoiled, and Frank's first thought was to take it off and cure
it for stuffing.

Around the tree was a little space, which was clear of bushes, and was
probably as good a camping-ground as he could find. So he placed his
gun where he could put his hand upon it at a moment's warning, and
removed his haversack, hanging it up on a small tree that stood near.
He then unfastened his belt, and took from it his blanket and a small
tin pail, which was to do duty as a coffee-pot. With the aid of his
heavy hunting-knife, he soon erected a hut--rude-looking, indeed, but
sufficiently strong and tight to protect him from the wind. Over the
floor he spread hemlock branches to the depth of four or five inches,
and the camp was finished. He then kindled a fire in front of the hut,
and filled his pail with snow, and hung it on a crane to boil. In a
little while the turkey, which the panther had killed, was dressed,
and cooking as fast as a hot fire could make it. Before his supper was
cooked, the panther was hauled into the cabin, and his skin taken off,
and hung upon a frame to dry.

The turkey was equally divided between master and dog; and as neither
had eaten any dinner, not a vestige of the fowl was left. While Frank
was building his camp, he had heard a faint ripple, like the noise of
a small water-fall; and he was somewhat surprised thereat, for the
intensely cold weather had formed ice, even in the swiftest water,
almost two feet in thickness. As soon as he had finished his supper,
he started out to see what had occasioned the noise, taking the trap
with him, intending to find a good place to set it. When he arrived at
the stream, he found it had its source in a salt spring, or, as the
hunters would call it, a "deer-lick." The snow on the banks was
trodden as hard as a floor, and the paths that the animals had made,
in going to and from the stream, ran up into the woods in all
directions. These springs are favorite resorts of deer and other wild
animals, which delight to taste their brackish waters; and it is a
common way of killing deer, in places where they are scarce, to watch
one of these "licks" during the night, and shoot the animals as they
approach.

Frank walked up one of the paths that led to the spring, and began to
make preparations to set his trap. It was just the place for it, as he
would be certain to catch something before morning. He first dug a
hole with his hunting-knife, directly in the middle of the path, and
the next job was to set the trap. He knew how it ought to be done. But
the powerful jaws of the "Ole Settler" had often resisted the efforts
of a stronger person than himself. After half an hour's work, during
which time the skirts of his coat had been cut almost entirely off by
the long, sharp teeth, he succeeded in getting it set, and placed
safely in the hole which he had dug for its reception. Then, with his
hunting-knife, he cut down a good-sized sapling that stood near, and
to this he fastened one end of a short, heavy chain; the other end of
the chain he fastened to the trap. After he had placed every thing to
his satisfaction, he carefully covered the trap and chain with snow,
removed all the twigs and leaves he had scattered about, and returned
to his camp. He employed himself until dark in gathering his evening's
supply of fire-wood, and then lay down on his bed of boughs, well
satisfied with his day's work.

As it grew dark, it seemed to him that his camp became the center of
attraction to every wild animal in the woods for a circle of ten miles
around. The owl flew down around his fire, uttering his dismal scream;
the barking of foxes was heard in all directions; and, now and then, a
dark object would come out of the bushes, and gaze at him a moment
with eyes that shone through the darkness like coals of fire, and then
beat a hasty retreat. Once or twice he heard a sound that made him
reach, rather hurriedly, for his gun--the same sound that the trapper,
the night before, had pronounced the "sniff of a painter."

Frank did not feel exactly safe in going to sleep, and sat for a long
time with his gun in his hand. Several times he was half inclined to
shoot at some of the animals that came around the camp; but he finally
concluded to keep the peace as long as they would. In a few moments
after he had made this resolution, he sank back on his blanket, and
was soon fast asleep.

Near midnight he was awakened by a chorus of loud yells. Starting up,
he found his camp surrounded by wolves. The fire had almost gone out,
and the wolves appeared to be growing bolder by degrees, having
already approached quite close to the cabin. Frank started to his feet
and threw a firebrand among them, when they scattered in every
direction, and were out of sight in a moment. He was not disturbed
again, and when he awoke it was daylight. After putting a good supply
of wood on the fire, and hanging his coffee-pot on the crane, he
shouldered his gun, and started toward the place where the trap had
been set, hoping to find something in it that would make a breakfast
for him.

There _was_ something in it, beyond a doubt, for both trap and clog
were gone; and the way Brave growled and showed his teeth led him to
believe that he had caught something besides a deer. The hole in which
he had placed the trap was trodden down as though a flock of sheep had
passed over it. It was a matter of some difficulty to follow the
trail of the animal that had been caught in the trap, for he had moved
directly up the path, and the only "sign" that Frank had to guide him
was, now and then, a slight scraping in the snow, which he knew had
been made by the clog, as the animal dragged it after him. He followed
the trail in this manner for nearly half a mile, when it suddenly
turned off into the woods, where he could follow it up considerably
faster. Here he discovered that there was a bear in the trap, for the
prints of his great feet were in the snow. His progress had evidently
been retarded a good deal, for, at intervals along the trail, the
broken bushes and trodden snow showed where the clog had caught and
held him fast.

Brave led the way, but they had not gone far before he began to show
signs of uneasiness. A little further on, he suddenly came to a halt,
and stood gazing steadily before him, toward a thicket of bushes, that
looked as though it would afford a splendid hiding-place for a wild
animal.

Frank began to be excited now, and his hand was none of the steadiest
as he cocked his gun and stooped down to caress his dog. He had faced
the wounded panther without flinching, but he did not like the idea
of attacking that bear in his den, for such it undoubtedly was, as
under an immense pile of limbs and bushes Frank could see something
dark, that looked like a cave.

Brave ran around the bushes, with every hair on his body sticking
toward his head, and now and then making a dash at the den, as though
challenging the bear to come out. But the cave was as silent as death.
Frank could not see how he could attack the bear in there, and the
question was, how to get him out into open ground, so that he could
have a fair shot at him, and a good opportunity to retreat, if that
shot should not prove fatal. After waiting nearly half an hour for the
bear to come out and give them battle, Frank grew impatient, and
determined to commence fight himself. Grasping his gun firmly in one
hand, he set to work with his hunting-knife to cut a passage through
the bushes, so that he could get a fair view of the mouth of the cave.

While thus employed, he heard a slight rustling of leaves in the den,
accompanied by a low, wailing cry, and followed by a hoarse growl. He
bravely stood his ground, holding his gun in readiness; but, as the
bear did not come out, Frank went on with his work, more determined
than ever to effect the destruction of the animal, for that wailing
noise was the cry of a cub, which he was determined to have. He knew
that this would be no boy's play, for, of course, the old bear must be
killed before he could venture down into the cave. He was also well
aware that she would fight for her young with a ferocity and
stubbornness, against which only the most determined courage and a
steady hand and quick eye could avail. He had heard Uncle Joe relate a
story of a man, and one not wanting in courage either, who, upon
discovering a couple of young bears playing together in the woods, had
shouldered his rifle and made for home at the top of his speed. The
least cry from one of those clumsy little fellows would have brought
upon him an enemy that the bravest hunter would not care to encounter.

But Frank had great confidence in himself, and worked away
industriously, now and then pausing to look down into the cave and
listen. He had cut away most of the bushes before the opening, and as
soon as he could get a good view of the interior, threw himself flat
upon the snow and looked in. It was dark as midnight inside the cave,
but he could see two fiery eyeballs glaring upon him through the
darkness, which appeared to be approaching the opening. This afforded
a fine mark, and one that he thought he could not possibly miss; so,
throwing forward his gun, he took a steady aim, and fired.

The report was followed by a howl that made the cold sweat start from
every pore of his body; but, without hesitating a moment, he
discharged the other barrel, and then, springing to his feet, rapidly
retreated, just as the enormous head and shoulders of the bear rose
out of the opening. After running a little distance, and finding that
he was not pursued, he turned and looked behind him, and saw the bear,
in front of the cave, rolling over and over in the snow. The "Ole
Settler" was fast to one of her hind-legs, and the clog had caught and
was holding her fast.

Frank immediately commenced to reload his gun, keeping his eye on the
bear, ready to retreat again if she should succeed in freeing herself.
He hastily rammed down the charges, and poured a handful of buck-shot
into each barrel, and then crawled toward the bear, which, almost
beside herself with rage and pain, was tearing at her wounds, and
pulling up all the bushes within her reach.

Frank felt comparatively safe now, knowing that the bear could not
escape; and besides, if she should succeed in getting the clog loose,
she could not overtake him, incumbered as she was with the heavy trap.
He waited until a fair mark was presented, and then fired again. The
wound was mortal. After a few struggles, the bear lay motionless on
the snow.

The next work was to draw her away from the mouth of the cave and take
off the trap. This was no easy task, for the animal was very heavy,
and, as Dick had predicted, the "Ole Settler" "stuck tighter nor a
brother." After much exertion, this was accomplished, and Frank was
about to commence skinning the bear, when, all at once, the thought
struck him, Where was the father of the family? This thought made him
spring to his feet rather hurriedly, and cast anxious glances at the
cave.

"The old fellow can't be in there," he soliloquized, "or he would
certainly have come out before this time; but I'll just keep an eye
open for him, and if he shows himself, and undertakes to interfere in
this business, he'll get the worst of the bargain."

He was not disturbed, however. The old bear, if he was about, probably
thought that his family was capable of taking care of itself and
fighting its own battles.

As soon as he had taken off the bear's skin, he began to make
preparations to enter the cave and bring out the cubs, which, all the
while, had kept up an impatient cry. He first cut down a stout
sapling, and, after he had lopped off all its branches, fastened his
hunting-knife firmly to it. This he intended to use as a spear, in
case he should be attacked while in the den. Grasping it in one hand,
and his gun in the other, he crawled down into the cave. It was so
dark that he could scarcely see his hand before him; but, after a few
moments' search, he discovered the cubs, nicely covered up in a bed of
leaves. There were two of them, and they were about the size of a cat.
They fought and screamed furiously as Frank took them up, but he
unceremoniously thrust them into the capacious pockets of his
hunting-shirt, and crawled out of the cave.

When he reached his camp he found that the fire had gone out. It was
soon rekindled, when, after wrapping the cubs up in his overcoat, and
putting them carefully away in one corner of the tent, he sat down on
his bed of boughs, and made a hearty breakfast on cold venison and
bread. While he was eating, he began to think seriously of setting out
for "home," as he called the encampment where he had left his
companions. He had accomplished much more than he had expected he
could during the two days that he had been in the woods, and now had
about as much on hand as he could conveniently attend to. The skins of
the panther and bear must be prepared for stuffing, which would
require his close attention; the cubs, also, must be taken care of and
watched, for they would escape, if left to themselves. If he was at
home, they could be shut up in the cabin while he was off hunting, and
he could have his cousin's assistance in curing the skins. So, after
resting an hour, he pulled on his overcoat again, stowing the cubs
away in his pockets, folded up his blanket, strapped it fast to his
belt, shouldered his gun, and set out.

It was dark before he reached the cabin. His companions had just
finished eating their supper, and had not expected his return that
night.

"Why, Frank, how are you?" exclaimed Archie, springing to his feet and
seizing his cousin's hand. "I'm glad to see you back safe. What kind
of a time did you have?--rather lonesome, I guess. What have you got?"
he continued, as one of the cubs, thinking that something unusual was
going on, again set up a furious yelping.

"I've the skin of the panther that killed the white buck," answered
Frank, "and also a bearskin, and two young cubs." As he spoke, he drew
the cubs from his pocket.

"You keerless feller!" exclaimed Dick, who had not yet spoken; "I
know'd you'd be in some scrape or other."

"So did I," chimed in Harry, "and that's the reason why I wouldn't go
with him. It's a wonder you ain't all clawed to pieces."

"Hain't had any supper yet I reckon?" said the trapper. "Come an' set
down here, an' tell us all about it."

Frank was quickly relieved of his gun and overcoat, while a plateful
of venison, some bread and butter, and a cup of hot coffee were
passed over to him. Stretching his feet out toward the fire, he
related the details of his adventures, while the trapper sat by,
smoking his pipe, apparently deeply interested in his story.



CHAPTER IX.

Close Quarters with a Grizzly.


"Wal," said Dick, as soon as Frank had finished his story, "that war
about the keerlessest trick I ever hearn tell on. Here, in the woods,
it's jest the same as it is in a city; let a boy have his own way, an'
he'll make an eend of himself in a tarnal hurry. Don't you know that
that bar could have chawed you up in a minit?"

"Yes," answered Frank, "I suppose she could; but I had to run the risk
of that in order to get the cubs."

"Yes, that's another of your boy tricks," continued Dick, knocking the
ashes from his pipe, "an' it 'minds me of some scrapes I had when I
war a youngster. It war while my ole man war livin'. Him an' me were
onct huntin' somewhar nigh the head-waters o' the Colorado River. I
war about seventeen year ole, an' a purty good boy I war for my age,
too. It tuk a smart, lively young Injun to take my measure on the
ground, an' I used to think that what I didn't know about trappin',
shootin', and fightin' grizzly bars, warn't wuth knowin'. I was allers
gettin' into some scrape or another, an' sometimes I used to get pawed
up purty badly, too; but as long as I could crawl round I war all
right.

"I 'member onct that I had been over to a little creek about two mile
from the camp, to 'tend to some traps I had sot for muskrats, an' as I
war comin' home through the woods, I seed a young bar, jest about the
size of them you brought home. He come out of the bushes, an' looked
at me a minit, an' then jumped back agin. I thought he war a purty
little feller, an' made up my mind that I would ketch him an' take him
to camp with me. I had a kinder hankerin' arter pets, jest like you,
Frank, an' I wanted to tame this young bar, an' I thought me an' him
would have some tall fights when he growed up; so I put arter him, an'
finally ketched the little feller, an' tuk him in my arms, an' started
for camp. He hollered an' fit like the mischief; but I hung on to
him, an' arter half an hour's walk reached home. My ole man warn't
there; he had gone off to 'tend to his traps; but I didn't keer, for I
war used to bein' alone in the woods. Arter feelin' in all my pockets,
I found a long strip o' buckskin, an' I thought I would tie the little
feller to a saplin' that stood close by the cabin; so I sot down on
the ground an' war tyin' the string fast to his neck--he hollerin' an'
fightin' all the while--when, all to onct, I heerd a loud growlin' and
crashin' in the bushes behind me. I looked up, an' seed the ole bar a
comin'. She had heered her baby squallin', an' was comin' arter him. I
jumped up an' let the young bar fall, as though he had been a live
coal. My gun war standin' agin a tree, close by, but I knowed I
wouldn't have time to reach it, so I turned an' begun to go up the
saplin'. You better believe I climbed _some_, an' I thought I war
gettin' along mighty fast; but I warn't a minit too quick. I hadn't
hardly got out of reach afore the bar made a grab at me, an' pulled
off one of my moccasins. I war fairly treed; an' there I had to stay,
too, 'cause the ole bar kept a close watch on me; but the tree war
too small for her to climb, so I knowed I war safe. 'Bout an hour
afore dark I heered the ole man a comin', an' the bar left off
watchin' me, an' begun to get ready for him. So, I hollered to the ole
man, an' he put a chunk o' lead into her. As soon as I see that she
war done for, I slid down the saplin' as fast as I could to ketch the
young bar; but the ole man, who knowed in a minit what I had been
doin', give him a clip side the head with the butt of his rifle, that
knocked the daylights out of him; an' then, bars an' buffaler, didn't
he scold me for bein' so keerless; but, law sakes, it didn't do a bit
o' good, for, in about three days arterward, I war in a wusser scrape
nor that.

"Arter 'tendin' to my traps, as usual, I started out through the
mountains, on a hunt. 'Bout noon I killed a big-horn, an' while I war
cookin' my dinner, I happened to see, in a rocky place up the side o'
the mountain, a small openin' 'bout large enough for a man to crawl
into, an' I knowed it war a sort of cave. I didn't stop to think any
more 'bout dinner jest then, but picked up my rifle an' started up the
mountain. I wanted to see what kind of a place the cave war. When I
got purty nigh to the openin' I seed a kind o' path runnin' up to it,
an' I knowed the cave must be the home of some wild animal. This made
me prick up my ears, an' be a little more keerful. I didn't like the
idee of havin' a varmint jump down on me afore I knowed it. But I
reached the mouth o' the cave without seein' any thing, and poked my
head in, keepin' my gun ready to crack away at the first live thing I
should set eyes on; but the cave war so dark that I couldn't see into
it two foot; but I _heered_ something, an' I scrambled up into
the openin' an' listened. It war a faint moanin' kind of a
noise--somethin' like the squall of a young kitten, an' I knowed in a
minit what it war that made it; it war a young painter. Now, if I had
knowed any thing, I would have climbed down out o' that place as fast
as my legs would let me. But, no; I tuk it into my head all to onct
that I must have them young painters. I wanted one of 'em to play
with; an' without stoppin' to think, I begun to crawl down into the
cave, an' along a narrer, crooked passage that must a been twenty
yards long. One little feller kept up his cryin', an' it kept growin'
louder an' louder, an' I knowed that he warn't a great way off. At
last I come to a place where the cave seemed to widen into quite a
large room, an' after a few minits' lookin'--or, I should say,
feelin'--for the cave war as dark as a nigger's pocket--I found the
young painters--three of 'em--in a nice bed of leaves made up in one
corner. I didn't mind the hollerin' they made when I tuk hold of 'em,
but chucked 'em all into my cap, an' started back. I had tuk good keer
to 'member my bearin's, an' I knowed I should have no trouble in
findin' my way out; so I crawled along keerless like, as usual,
chucklin' over my good luck, an' thinkin' what nice pets I would make
of the young painters, when all to onct I come within sight of the
mouth o' the cave. Bars and buffaler! I would have give all the
beaver-skins I ever expected to be wuth, if I had been safe out o'
that cave. The ole painter was comin' in. She had smelt my tracks, an'
I could see by the light that come in, in little streaks on each side
of her, that every hair on her body war stickin' toward her head. She
meant mischief. Any greenhorn could a told that I war in somethin' of
a fix. I dropped the cubs, an' as I did so, they all set up a yell.
The ole lady couldn't stand that, an' givin' a growl that made my
blood run cold, she begun to get ready to spring at me. I used to
think I war tall timber at rifle shootin', but, although the painter
war not thirty feet from me, I war 'most afraid to risk the shot. But
I knowed I didn't have much time to waste in sich thoughts, an'
drawin' up my shootin' iron, I blazed away, expectin' to have the
painter grab me the next minit. But when the smoke cleared away, I see
the old lady stretched out, stone dead. I have been in tight places
since then, in fights with varmints an' wild Injuns, an' many a time a
single chunk o' lead has saved my scalp; but that war the best shot I
ever made. It war a thing that many a Rocky Mountain trapper wouldn't
keer to undertake. I like to hunt now as well as I ever did, an'
expect to be in a good many rough-an'-tumble fights with Injuns an'
grizzly bars, but I'd rather be excused from crawlin' down into a dark
hole like that agin. But arter I had got out o' the cave, I didn't
stop to think o' the danger I had been in; the cubs war mine, an'
that's all I keered for."

Here the trapper paused, and thrusting his hand into the pocket of his
hunting-shirt, he drew forth a clasp-knife and a plug of tobacco, and
after cutting off a generous "chaw," as he called it, and stowing it
away in his cheek, he continued:

"But 'bout the nighest I ever come to bein' rubbed out, war while I
war trappin' on the Missouri River, with my chum, Bill Lawson--the
poor fellow is gone now"--and here the trapper lowered his voice
almost to a whisper, in reverence to the memory of his departed
companion, and hastily drew his hand across his eyes--"an' I am left
alone. It'll be lonesome on the prairy when I get back there, an' when
I visit the places where me an' him used to camp an' trap together, I
shall miss the ole man. He war one of the best trappers I ever come
acrost. He war generally very good natered an' jolly; but he had
strange ways with him sometimes, an' when he got one of his gloomy
fits on him, there would be days when--although we ate at the same
fire, an' p'rhaps slept under the same blanket--he wouldn't speak to
me. I knowed something war troublin' him, an' it war a sorry sight for
me to see that strong man weepin' like a child; but I trapped with him
for better nor five years afore he told me his story. There would be
weeks at a time when he would seem to forget his troubles, an' then
it done me good to lay beside our camp-fire an' listen to his stories.
He war a'most as big agin as I am, an' strong as a hoss. He could pull
up a saplin' that two common men couldn't budge; and he war as brave
as he war strong--as brave as a man could be; he didn't seem to keer
for any thing, for I never see him frightened in my life, an' I war
with him for better nor twenty years. An' he war a great Injun
fighter, too. It tuk a mighty lively red-skin, an' one that could pick
up his feet in a tarnal hurry, to get away when ole Bill onct set eyes
on his trail; for the way he could run war a caution to owls, an' if
there war one of them varmints in the country for fifty miles round,
ole Bill allers knowed it. He used to tell me that he could smell an
Injun further than he could see him; an' I believe he could.

"But what I started to tell you 'bout war a little scrape we onct had
with a grizzly. As I said, we war trappin' on the Missouri River,
right among the mountains. One mornin', arter a good breakfast on
buffaler hump, I war gettin' ready to start out to 'tend to my traps,
when ole Bill said:

"'Dick, I see some grizzly bar tracks down in the gully last night.
Let's go an' hunt up the varmint. I would have follered him up last
night, only it war too dark.'

"In course I agreed, an' we ketched our hosses, which we had picketed
close by the cabin, an' started out--ole Bill leadin' the way.

"Huntin' a grizzly is fine sport sometimes; but if a feller is any way
skeery, he had better not take a hand in it. Even the Injuns don't
keer to meddle with the varmint, unless a dozen or two of 'em, well
mounted an' armed, can ketch him out in clar open ground; an' even
then they have to handle themselves round purty lively, for if the bar
onct gets his claws on a hoss he has to go under. You couldn't hire a
red-skin to go into the mountains alone an' hunt up a grizzly. The
varmint allers lives in the thickest part of the woods; an' if you
don't plug him through the brain at the first shot, or if your hoss
gets tangled in the bushes, you're in a mighty onpleasant fix the
first thing you know. But me an' Bill had hunted grizzlies plenty o'
times, an' allers come out o' the fight right side up, an' we war used
to the sport.

"Wal, as I was sayin', we started out toward the place where Bill had
seed the trail o' the bar, an', arter four hours' hard ridin' over
rocks an' fallen logs an' thick bushes, we come to the gully. It war
'bout a hundred feet deep an' a quarter of a mile broad, an' the banks
on both sides war as steep as the roof o' this cabin, an' covered with
bushes so thick that a hoss couldn't hardly work a way through 'em. It
war a fine place for a bar, an' many a trapper wouldn't have liked the
idea o' goin' down in there to hunt one up, an' I couldn't help
sayin':

"'Ugly place, ain't it?'

"'Yes,' answered ole Bill. 'But look over there;' an' he pinted acrost
the gully to a sort o' clar spot, where there warn't no bushes, an'
the timber didn't grow very thick. 'If the bar gets arter us,' he went
on to say, 'we must run for that ar place; an' if we onct get him up
there, he's ourn, sure.'

"Arter stoppin' a few minits to give our hosses a chance to rest, we
took a look at our rifles, to see that they war all right, an' then
begun to work our way down into the gully. It must have tuk us an hour
to reach the bottom, for the brake war higher than our hosses' heads,
an' it war hard work to get through it. We had sent out the dogs--we
had two of the best bar dogs I ever happened to see--when we first
started down, and jest as we reached the bottom of the gully, they
give notice, by their howlin', that they had found the grizzly's
trail. We rid up to the place as fast as we could, an' ole Bill jumped
off his hoss an' examined the tracks. They war fresh. The bar had jest
passed along, an' we knowed that he warn't far off.

"'Hunt 'em up, dogs! hunt 'em up! Off with you!' shouted ole Bill; an'
he jumped on to his hoss agin, and the dogs, understandin' what he
meant, war out o' sight in no time. We follered them as fast as we
could, an', purty quick, we heered a great crashin' in the brake, an'
the dogs broke out into a reg'lar yelpin'. We knowed that they had
started the bar, an' war arter him. In a few minits we come up with
'em, and see the bar settin' on his haunches. The dogs war jumpin'
round him, now an' then takin' a grab at his hams, an' they kept the
varmint spinnin' round as though he war sot on a pivot. Ole Bill drew
his rifle up to his shoulder, an' sent an ounce-ball into the bar's
hide, which brought him to the ground; but he war on his pins agin in
less than no time, an', leaving the dogs, he took arter ole Bill, who
made straight acrost the gully toward the clar spot he had spoken of.
The dogs follered close at the bar's heels, onct in awhile makin' a
grab at his back settlements, which seemed to bother him a good deal;
but he didn't stop to fight 'em, cause he thought the ole trapper war
bigger game. The bushes an' trees war so thick that for some time I
couldn't get a chance to put in a shot. I didn't want to fire till I
war sartin of killin' the bar, 'cause it war only throwin' away powder
without doin' no good. So I cheered on the dogs, hopin' that they
would bring the bar to a stand-still; an' I warn't mistakened, for
they begun to pitch in so rough, that the varmint had to stop to keep
'em off. This war what I war waitin' for, an' I sent another chunk o'
cold lead atween his ribs. But he didn't seem to mind it at all; an',
arter beating off the dogs, he started agin for the trapper.

"Ole Bill had made mighty good use of his time, an' the way he stuck
his heels into his hoss' sides war a thing to look at. He tried to
load up his rifle, but the bushes war so thick that he had to lay
close along his hoss, to keep from bein' swept off by them.

"I drawed up long enough to ram home a ball, an' then started on agin,
an' when I come up with Bill, I found that he had got into a reg'lar
laurel brake. The bushes war thicker than ever, an' as tough as green
hickory, an' Bill's hoss couldn't hardly make no headway at all. But
they didn't seem to bother the varmint any, for he tumbled along as
though the bushes hadn't been more'n straws; an' he war gainin' on
Bill.

"It war a fine sight to see the way the ole feller carried himself
then. He held his knife in one hand, an' his clubbed rifle in the
other, keepin' his eyes on the bar all the while, an' leavin' his hoss
to pick out his own way. He didn't look the least bit skeery, but I
knowed he war kalkerlatin' how many clips he could get at the bar
afore the varmint could grab him. The dogs war bitin' at the bar's
legs all the while, an' purty soon he had to stop agin to fight 'em
off. He raised on his haunches, an' struck at the hounds, which war as
spry as cats, an' had been in barfights often enough to know how to
keep out of his reach.

"'Now's your time, Dick,' said ole Bill. 'Shoot close! My hoss ar
purty nigh tuckered.'

"I war all ready, an' ridin' up purty close, so as to get in a good
shot, I drawed a bead on him, an' fired, expectin' to bring him, sure.
But a bush atween me an' him glanced the ball, so that I only made an
ugly wound in his shoulder. He give an angry growl, an', beatin' off
the dogs, he dropped on all-fours, an' made arter me.

"'Now,' thinks I, 'Dick Lewis, you're in a blamed ugly scrape;' and so
I war. The bar warn't more'n twenty feet from me; and afore my hoss
had made three jumps, the bar made a claw at him, an' pulled out half
his tail. The animal was doin' his best, but I see that it warn't
healthy to stay on his back, an', as we passed under a tree, I grabbed
hold of a limb jest above my head, an' swung myself clar off the
saddle, jest in time to see the varmint put both paws on my hoss, an'
pull him to the ground. But that war his last move, for ole Bill sent
a bullet through his brain that throwed him dead in his tracks.

"I come down out of my tree, feelin' about as mean as any feller you
ever see, for a man might as well be on the prairy without his head
as without his hoss, an' mine war one of the best that ever wore a
saddle. But the bar had done the work for him, an' no amount of
grievin' could fetch me another; so I choked down my feelin's, an'
begun to help ole Bill to take off the grizzly's hide. But there war
plenty of Injuns about, an' it warn't long afore I had another hoss;
an' 'bout a year arter that I ketched one for which many a trapper
would have give all the beaver-skins he ever had. But that's another
story."



CHAPTER X.

A Beaver Hunt.


The next morning, as soon as they had eaten their breakfast, the
trapper went to the door, and, after listening, and looking at the sky
a few moments, said:

"Youngsters, if we intend to ketch any of them beaver, we had better
do it to-day. We are goin' to have a storm as is a storm, an' afore
two days the woods will be blocked up so that we can't do no huntin'
at all."

Frank and George were eager to accompany the trapper, for
beaver-hunting was something entirely new to them; but Archie and
Harry concluded to make another attempt to capture the black fox; for
the trapper's description of his swiftness and cunning had rendered
him an object worthy of attention, and made the young hunters more
anxious than ever to catch him.

Frank and George drew on their overcoats, strapped their blankets fast
to their belts, and filled their haversacks. When all was ready, each
shouldered his gun and an ax, and followed the trapper from the cabin.
About noon they came to a halt on the banks of a large pond that lay
hemmed in on all sides by the trees. Near the center of this pond were
several objects of a conical shape, looking like drifts of snow. These
were the beavers' houses.

The boys were entirely at a loss to conceive how they were to go to
work to capture the beaver. If they began to cut through the houses,
the animals would take the alarm in a moment, and dive under the ice,
where they would be safe from all pursuit.

"I'll show you how it is done," said the trapper, who perceived that
they did not understand it. "In the first place, take your axes and go
and pound on every house you can see."

"Why, that will frighten out all the beaver," said Frank.

"That's jest what I want to do," said Dick; "but you must know that a
beaver can't live under the ice any longer than me or you."

He then went on to explain that the banks on each side of the pond
were supplied with "breathing-holes," which were dug into the bank,
and extended upward above the level of the water, and that the beaver,
when frightened out of their houses, would seek refuge in these holes,
where they could be easily captured.

"But how do we know where these holes are?" asked George.

"Easy enough," answered Dick. "All you have got to do is to go along
the bank an' strike the ice with an ax, an' you can tell by the sound
where they are. But I fixed all that when I first diskivered this
pond. I know jest where the holes are. Now, you go an' pound on them
houses, an' drive out the beaver."

The boys accordingly laid down their guns, and commenced an attack on
the dwellings of the beaver, when the animals at once plunged into the
water under the ice. After every house had been visited, and the boys
were satisfied that they had made noise sufficient to drive out all
the beaver, they returned to the place where they had left the
trapper, and found him engaged in cutting a hole in the ice close to
the bank. As the boys came up, he directed one of them to fasten his
hunting-knife to a long sapling for a spear, and the other to chop a
hole in the bank directly opposite to the one he had cut in the ice.

By the time the spear was finished, an opening had been cut down into
the "breathing-hole," and the hunters discovered three beaver
crouching in the furthest corner. Useless thrust his head into the
hole, and contented himself with barking at the game; but Brave
squeezed himself down into the opening among the beavers, and attacked
them furiously. The animals made a desperate resistance, and in a few
moments Brave backed out of the hole, with his ears and nose bleeding
from several wounds, which showed that the long teeth of the beaver
had been used to a good advantage. Frank gazed in surprise at the
dog's lacerated head, and exclaimed:

"There's something besides a beaver in there."

"No, I reckon not," replied the trapper. "Your dog is jest about as
keerless as you be, an' hasn't got no more sense than to pitch into
every wild varmint he comes acrost. You must understand that a beaver
can get up a tarnal good fight if he onct makes up his mind to it. An'
when you get one of 'em cornered up, it takes somethin' besides a
'coon dog to whip him."

Frank made no reply, and the trapper reached down with his long spear,
when one after the other of the beavers were killed and pulled out on
the bank. The attack on the houses was then renewed, to drive out any
of the animals which might have returned. In the next breathing-hole
two beavers were found, but only one was secured, the other making his
escape by plunging back under the ice. While they were cutting into
the next hole, a large mink suddenly popped out from under the roots
of a tree into which the trapper was chopping; and although George
made a frantic blow at him with the handle of his ax, he succeeded in
getting past him, and started across the pond toward the opposite
shore. The boys immediately went in pursuit, George leading the way,
and Frank following close behind him, brandishing his spear, and
shouting to the dogs, which were close upon the mink's heels. The
little animal made headway through the snow with a rapidity that was
surprising; but the long bounds of the dogs were rapidly diminishing
the distance between them, and when about half way across the pond,
Useless overtook and seized him. The boys increased their speed,
fearful that the dog might spoil the skin, which was one of the finest
they had ever seen.

"Useless!" shouted George, "get out! Drop that"----

He did not finish the sentence; for suddenly there was a loud crack,
and the ice opened beneath him, and he sank out of sight in the cold
water. Frank, as we have said, was following close behind him, and at
the rate of speed at which he was running, it was impossible to stop;
and the trapper, who had been watching the race, and had witnessed the
accident with an expression of great concern depicted on his
weather-beaten countenance, expected to see Frank disappear also. But
the young naturalist always had his wits about him, and summoning all
his strength, he sprang into the air, and cleared the hole into which
George had fallen, by an extraordinary leap, and landed on the firm
ice on the opposite side. George rose almost instantly, for he was an
expert swimmer; but his sudden immersion into the cold water seemed
to have paralyzed his limbs, and rendered him incapable of action.
Frank turned immediately and made a desperate clutch at George's long
hair; but he was too late, for the unfortunate young hunter again sank
slowly out of sight. Frank's mind was made up in an instant, and
hastily pulling off his fur cap and comforter, he unbuckled his belt
and began to divest himself of his overcoat.

"Take care now, youngster," exclaimed the trapper, who at this moment
came up. "Don't let George get a hold of you, or you'll both go down
together;" and Dick threw himself on his knees, and stretched his long
arm out over the water ready to catch George if he should come up
within his reach, while Frank stood upon the edge of the ice, ready to
plunge into the water the moment his companion should rise again.

But his intentions were anticipated; for at this moment Brave came
bounding to the spot, carrying the mink in his mouth. Understanding,
in an instant, that something was wrong, he dropped his game and
sprang into the water. At this moment George's head appeared at the
surface, and the dog seized him, when, to the horror of the hunters,
both disappeared together. But they arose a moment afterward, and
Brave, holding the rescued hunter by the collar of his coat, swam
toward his master, and George was drawn out on the ice, in a state of
insensibility.

"Here! here!" exclaimed Dick, running around to the place where Frank
was kneeling, holding George in his arms; "give him to me, an' you run
back an' get the axes."

The trapper raised his young companion in his arms as easily as though
he had been an infant, and started toward the bank at the top of his
speed; while Frank, after pulling Brave out of the water, ran back
after the axes, as Dick had directed. When he again found the trapper,
he was on the bank, kneeling beside George, and engaged in chafing his
hands and temples.

"Now, youngster!" he exclaimed, hurriedly, "if you ever worked in your
life, work now. Build a fire and throw up a shantee. We must get his
wet clothes off him to onct."

Frank, as may be supposed, worked with a will, knowing that the life
of his companion depended on his exertions. In a short time a roaring
fire was started, and a rude shelter erected, when George's wet and
frozen clothes were pulled off and hung up to dry, and he was warmly
wrapped up in blankets. The rubbing was continued a few moments
longer, when they had the satisfaction of seeing him open his eyes and
gaze about him. Dick now left the hut. In a short time he returned,
with a bunch of herbs in his hand, and soon afterward a cup of strong,
nauseating tea was pressed to George's lips, and he was compelled to
swallow the whole of it. He was then enveloped in more blankets, and
ordered to "go to sleep."

While Frank and the trapper were seated beside the fire, talking over
the accident, they heard the noise of approaching footsteps on the
crust, and presently Archie and Harry hurried up to the hut.

"What's the matter with George?" inquired the latter, hurriedly, for
he saw that Dick and Frank were the only ones at the fire.

"O, he got a duckin' in the pond, that's all," replied the trapper.
"Don't be alarmed. He's sleepin' nicely now."

"We thought somebody was drowned, sure," said Archie, "for we saw the
hole in the ice, and your guns and overcoats scattered about, as
though they had been thrown down in a great hurry."

In about an hour George awoke, and, of course, was immediately
assailed with innumerable questions. Among others, his brother asked
him why he didn't swim when he fell into the water.

"Why didn't I swim!" repeated George; "I couldn't move. It seemed as
though every drop of blood in my body was frozen solid as soon as I
touched the water. But where's the black fox you were going to bring
back with you? Did you catch him?"

Archie replied in the negative; and then went on to tell how they had
found the trail in the gully, followed it for a mile, then suddenly
lost it again, all efforts to recover it proving unsuccessful.

About the middle of the afternoon, George, declaring that he was able
to travel, was allowed to put on his clothes, and the hunters
shouldered their guns and started for home.

The sight of their snug little cabin was a pleasant thing to the eyes
of the trappers that evening, for the day's hunt had been a hard as
well as a profitable one. A fire was quickly started, and, while
their supper was cooking, George changed his wet clothes; and a strong
cup of coffee, as the trapper remarked, "set _him_ all right again."
After supper, how soft and comfortable their blankets felt! They lay
for a long time in silence, watching the sparks as they arose slowly
toward the opening in the roof that served as a chimney, and listening
to the whistling of the wind and the sifting of the snow against the
walls of the cabin; for the storm that the trapper had predicted had
already set in.



CHAPTER XI.

Breaking up a Moose-Pen.


On awaking the next morning, they found that the cabin was almost
covered with snow, and the woods were filled with drifts, that
rendered it impossible for them to resume their hunting. The two days
that followed were passed in-doors, curing the skins of the animals
they had taken, and listening to the trapper's stories.

On the third day, a heavy thaw set in, and at night the wind changed
around to the north, and covered the snow with a crust that would
easily bear a man. Early the next morning the hunters set out. George
and Frank accompanied the trapper, to assist in breaking up a
moose-pen, which the latter had discovered a few days previous to the
storm, and Archie and Harry determined to again attempt the capture
of the black fox.

The trapper led his young companions through the woods, and across the
pond where George had met with his accident. About a mile further on,
he came to a halt, and said, almost in a whisper:

"Now, youngsters, we are a'most to the moose-pen. You stay here,
George; an' remember, don't go to movin' up on the game till you hear
me shoot."

"I don't see any moose," said George.

"In course you don't," said the trapper. "But they are in the woods
here, an' me and Frank will go an' surround them. It'll take mighty
keerful steppin', though," he continued, turning to Frank, "for moose
have got an ear like an Injun's. Be keerful now how you walk." So
saying, the trapper shouldered his heavy rifle, and moved off through
the woods, accompanied by Frank. About half a mile further on, the
latter was stationed on the banks of a deep ravine; and Dick, after
repeating his instructions, continued on alone.

The stalwart form of the trapper had scarcely disappeared, when Frank
heard a noise in the bushes, and presently a large moose appeared,
leisurely wading through the deep snow, and cropping the branches as
he approached. As if by instinct, Frank's gun was leveled; but
remembering the trapper's instructions, the weapon was lowered, and
the young hunter stepped back into the bushes, and watched the motions
of the animal. He was a noble fellow--very much like the one with
which Frank had engaged in that desperate struggle in the woods--with
antlers fully four feet in length. The animal appeared totally
unconscious of danger, and, after browsing about among the bushes for
a few moments, walked back into the woods again, but almost instantly
reappeared, and made for the ravine at the top of his speed. At this
moment, the well-known report of the trapper's rifle echoed through
the woods. It was followed by a crashing in the crust, and presently
another moose appeared, and, like the former, ran toward the ravine. A
short distance behind him came the trapper, holding his rifle in one
hand and his huge hunting-knife in the other, and rapidly gaining on
the deer, which sank through the crust into the deep snow at every
step. Frank and Brave immediately joined in the pursuit, and the
moose had not run far before he was overtaken and seized by the dog.
Frank, remembering his first experience in moose-hunting, halted at a
safe distance, and was about to "make sure work" of the game, when the
trapper darted past him, exclaiming:

"Don't shoot, youngster. That's a young moose; an' if you can ketch
him, he'll be worth more nor all the stuffed critters you've got at
home."

Here was an opportunity which, to Frank, was too good to be lost.
Hastily dropping his gun, and producing a piece of rope from the
pocket of his overcoat, he ran up to the game, and, after a brief
struggle, succeeded in fastening it around his neck. The dog was then
ordered to let go his hold, when the moose instantly sprang to his
feet and started to run. Frank was thrown flat in the snow, but he
clung to the rope with all his strength. After a short time the young
moose, wearied with his useless efforts to escape, ceased his
struggles, and his captors led, or rather pulled, him along through
the woods toward the place where the game had first been started.

"Now," said the trapper, "you've got a pet that is worth something.
He's jest the thing you want. You won't have to drag your sleds home
now."

"Why not?" inquired Frank.

"Cause this yere moose can pull you four fellers further in one day
than you can travel in two. I knowed a trader at Fort Laramie that had
one o' them critters, and he used to hitch him up to a sled, an' think
nothin' o' travelin' sixty miles a day."

While they were talking, George came up, and, after the hunters had
collected their game, Dick led the way toward home, while Frank
brought up the rear, leading the young moose.

Meanwhile, Archie and Harry were in hot pursuit of the black fox. They
found the trail, as before, in the gully, and Sport started off on it,
and met with no difficulty until they arrived on the banks of a small
stream that ran a short distance from the cabin. Here the trail came
to an abrupt termination, and all efforts to recover it were
unavailing. This was the identical spot where they had lost it before.
For almost an hour they continued, but without any success; and Harry
exclaimed, as he dropped the butt of his gun to the ground, and leaned
upon the muzzle with rather a dejected air:

"It's no use. We're fooled again. That fox has got his regular
run-ways, and we might as well call off the dogs, and go home."

"Not yet," said Archie; "I can't give up in this way; neither do I
believe that any fox that ever lived can fool Sport. Hunt 'em up! hunt
'em up!" he continued, waving his hand to the dog, which was running
about, tearing the bushes with his teeth, and whining, as if he, too,
felt the disgrace of being so easily defeated. The obedient animal
sprang upon the trail and followed it to its termination, and then
commenced circling around through the bushes again; and Archie walked
across the stream and examined the banks for the twentieth time, but
no signs of a trail could be found.

At length, Harry suddenly exclaimed:

"Look here, Archie; here's where the rascal went to;" and he pointed
to a small tree that had been partially uprooted by the wind, and
leaned over until its top reached within ten feet of the ground.

"You see," Harry went on to say, "that the tops of all the other trees
are almost loaded down with snow, but this one hasn't got a bit on it.
The fox must have shaken it off when he jumped up there."

Archie, who was ready to catch at any thing that looked like
encouragement, hurriedly recrossed the stream, and, after examining
the top of the tree, climbed up on it, when he discovered the tracks
of the fox in the snow that had fallen on the trunk. He descended to
the ground, and the boys ran along up the stream, carefully examining
every log and stick that was large enough for a fox to walk upon, and
finally, to their joy, discovered the trail, which ran back toward the
gully from which it had started.

The dogs immediately set off upon it, and the boys, who had learned
considerable of the "lay of the land," struck off through the woods,
in an almost contrary direction to the one the dogs were pursuing,
toward a ridge that lay about three miles distant.

Archie led the way at a rapid pace, now and then looking over his
shoulder, and exclaiming, "Hurry up, Harry." Half an hour's run
brought them to the ridge, and their feelings were worked up to the
highest pitch of excitement, when they discovered that the fox had not
yet passed.

"We're all right now," said Archie, joyfully; "that black fox is
ours."

"Yes," said Harry, "provided this is his runway."

"O, don't begin to throw cold water on our expectations," said Archie.
"It'll be too bad if----. There they come, now; get out of sight,
quick."

As Archie spoke, a long, drawn-out bay came faintly to their ears, and
the dogs appeared to be coming up the ridge. The young hunters hastily
concealed themselves, and Archie had just cocked his gun, when the
black fox broke from the bushes, and, as if suspicious of danger
ahead, turned off down the ridge. It was a long shot, but Archie,
without a moment's hesitation, raised his gun to his shoulder and
fired.

"I told you he was ours," he shouted, as the smoke cleared away, and
the black fox was seen struggling in the snow. A blow on the head with
a stick stilled him, and the boys, after examining their prize, which
was the finest of his species they had ever seen, started down the
ridge to meet the dogs, and soon arrived at the cabin with their
prize, and were delighted to find how successful their comrades had
been in capturing the moose.

Frank and Archie immediately set to work to break the young moose to
harness. He proved very tractable, and soon learned to draw the boys
in a sled, over the ice, with all the regularity of a well-broken
horse, more than compensating them for all the care they had bestowed
upon him.



CHAPTER XII.

The Moose Shows his Qualities


A severe storm having set in, rendering hunting or trapping
impossible, the hunters passed a few succeeding days in-doors, and
busied themselves in making a sled and harness for the moose, which,
since his capture, had received a large share of Frank's attention. He
had been hitched to a sled regularly every day, and had been trained
until he had learned to obey almost as well as a horse. He was very
much afraid of a whip, and his only fault was a desire to get over the
ground as fast as possible. Sometimes, when fairly started, it was a
difficult task to restrain him. But the boys, far from considering
this a failing, looked upon it as a quality worth cultivating; and
their horned horse was always allowed to show off his speed to the
very best advantage.

One morning, after the weather became settled, Archie proposed taking
a ride up the creek, to which the others readily agreed. The moose was
brought from the barn, and after considerable trouble--for the new
harness had been made too small--he was finally hitched to the sled.
It was their intention to camp in the woods and eat their dinner.
After providing the necessary articles, an ax, plenty of ammunition, a
supply of coffee, salt, and pepper, a camp-kettle and frying-pan, they
sprang into the sled, and waving their hands to Uncle Joe and the
trapper, who stood in the door, watching their departure, they shouted
to their horned horse, which set off up the creek at a rapid pace.

"Let him out now!" shouted Frank to his cousin, who was driving. "Let
him out. We've got all day before us, and let us see how fast he can
go."

Archie pulled his cap down over his ears, and commenced shouting to
the moose, which almost redoubled his pace, and whirled them over the
snow at a rate the boys had never seen equaled by a living animal.
His gait was an awkward, shambling trot; and as the boys watched his
movements, they could not help laughing outright, whereupon the dogs
joined in the chorus, yelping and barking furiously. This frightened
the moose, which uttered a loud snort, and throwing back his head, ran
faster than ever; and Archie, who began to fear that he was running
away with them, pulled and jerked at the lines, but all to no purpose;
the moose ran faster and faster, and the boys, who did not pause to
consider the danger they might be in, laughed and shouted until they
were hoarse. At length Frank exclaimed:

"You had better check him up a little. The first thing you know, the
concern will run away with us."

"I believe that is what the rascal is trying to do now," answered
Archie, pulling with all his strength at the reins. "He has got a
mouth like iron."

"Well, let him go then, until he gets tired," said George; "he can't
run this way all day, and besides, if we are obliged to spend a night
in the woods, it will be no new thing to us. Get up there! Hi! hi!"

Archie, finding that it was impossible to stop the "concern," as Frank
had called it, turned his entire attention to keeping him in the
creek, in which he succeeded very well, until, as they came suddenly
around a bend, they discovered before them a huge log, lying across
the ice. To avoid it was impossible, for the log reached entirely
across the creek.

"Stop him! stop him!" shouted Harry. "If he hits that log he'll break
the sled all to smash. Stop him, I tell you!"

"I can't," replied Archie, pulling at the reins.

"Let him go, then," said Frank. "Lay on the whip, and perhaps he will
carry us, sled and all, clean over the log."

This was a desperate measure; but before Archie had time to act upon
the suggestion, or the others to oppose it, they reached the log. The
moose cleared it without the least exertion, but the next moment there
was a loud crash, and Frank, who had seated himself on the bottom of
the sled, and was holding on with both hands, suddenly arose in the
air like a rocket, and pitching clear over his cousin, turned a
complete somersault, and landed on the crust with such force, that it
broke beneath his weight, and he sank out of sight in the snow. The
next moment he felt a heavy weight upon him, and heard a smothered
laugh, which he knew was uttered by Archie. The latter regained his
feet in an instant, and making a blind clutch at his cousin--for his
face was so completely covered up with snow that he could not
see--inquired, as he helped him to his feet:

"Who's this?"

"It is I," answered Frank. "But where is the moose?"

"Gone off to the woods, I suppose," answered Archie. "It's just our
luck. Eh! what? No, he hasn't--he's here, safe."

He had succeeded in clearing his eyes of the snow, and saw the moose
struggling desperately to free himself from the sled, which had caught
against the log, and was holding him fast. Frank and his cousin at
once sprang to secure him, and, while the former lifted the sled over
the log, Archie seized the lines, and, in order to render escape
impossible, made them fast to a tree. By this time George and Harry
had come up, and at once commenced searching about in the snow for
their weapons, and the others busied themselves in repairing the
runners of the sled, both of which were broken. In a short time every
thing was ready for the start. George volunteered to act as driver,
provided the dogs could be kept quiet, and, after a few objections
from Harry, who "didn't like the idea of riding after that moose,"
they again set out. Fortunately no one was injured in the least--not
even frightened--the only damage sustained by the establishment being
the breaking of the runners. Boy-like, they gave not one thought to
the danger they had been in, but amused themselves in laughing at the
comical figures they must have cut, as they all "pitched
head-over-heels out of the sled together." The dogs, however, did not
seem to regard it in the light of an amusing adventure, for they could
not be induced to enter the sled again. They ran along behind it,
keeping at a respectful distance, and the moment the sled stopped, and
their masters began trying to coax them in, they would retreat
precipitately.

The moose now seemed to have become quieted. Whether it was for the
reason that the dogs were kept still, and there was less noise behind
him, or that he had been fatigued by his sharp run, the boys were
unable to decide. He trotted along at an easy gait, but still going as
fast as they wished to travel, until Harry announced "that it was half
past eleven o'clock, and high time that they were looking up a place
to eat their dinner." A suitable spot for an encampment was soon
selected, and, after the moose had been unharnessed and fastened to a
tree, Frank and Harry set out to procure something for dinner, leaving
the others to attend to the duties of the camp.

The Newfoundlander, which accompanied the hunters, was sent on ahead
to start up any game that might be in his way. After he had led them
about a mile from the camp, his loud barking announced that he had
discovered something. The boys hurried forward, and found the dog
seated on his haunches at the foot of a tall hemlock, barking
furiously at something which had taken refuge among the branches.

"It's a bear," exclaimed Harry, as soon as he could obtain a view of
the animal.

"Yes, so I see," answered Frank, coolly pouring a handful of buck-shot
into each barrel of his gun. "We'll soon bring him down from there.
You be ready to finish him, in case I should miss."

"Shoot close, then," answered Harry; "for if you only wound him, he
will prove a very unpleasant fellow to have about."

Frank, in reply, raised his gun to his shoulder, and a loud report
echoed through the woods, followed by a savage growl. The shot was not
fatal, for, when the smoke cleared away, they discovered the bear
clinging to the tree, apparently none the worse for an ugly-looking
wound in his shoulder.

"Shoot me if the rascal isn't coming down!" exclaimed Harry. "Try the
other barrel, Frank, quickly."

It was as Harry had said. The bear was beginning to descend the tree,
and his whole appearance indicated that he meant fight. Frank was a
good deal surprised at this, for he had great confidence in his
double-barrel, and in his skill as a marksman, and had been sanguine
of either killing or disabling him at the first shot; but the celerity
of the animal's movements proved that his wound did not trouble him in
the least. It was evident that their situation would soon be any
thing but a pleasant one, unless the other barrel should prove fatal.
Frank could not pause long to debate upon the question, for the bear
was every moment nearing the ground, now and then turning toward his
enemies, and displaying a frightful array of teeth, as if warning them
that it was his intention to take ample revenge on them. Again he
raised his gun to his shoulder, his nerves as steady as if he were
about to shoot at a squirrel, and carefully sighting the head of their
shaggy enemy, pulled the trigger. The bear uttered another of his
terrific growls, and after trying in vain to retain his hold upon the
tree, fell to the ground. Brave was upon him in an instant, but the
bear, easily eluding him, raised on his haunches, and seized the dog
in his paws. One smothered howl came from Brave's throat, and Frank,
clubbing his gun, was rushing forward to the rescue of the
Newfoundlander, whose death now seemed inevitable, when another charge
of buck-shot, from Harry's gun, rattled into the bear's head, and
again brought him to the ground. Brave was released from his dangerous
situation, and the moment he regained his feet he attacked the bear
with redoubled fury; but the animal easily beat him off, and rushed,
with open mouth, upon Frank.

"Run! run!" shouted Harry; "the rascal isn't hurt a bit."

But with Frank, retreat was impossible; the bear was close upon him,
and he would have been overtaken in an instant. Bravely standing his
ground, he struck the animal a powerful blow, which staggered him for
an instant; but, before he had time to repeat it, his gun went flying
out of his hands, and he was stretched, stunned and bleeding, on the
snow. The bear, no doubt, considered him disposed of, for he kept on
after Harry, who, being unable to fire for fear of wounding either
Frank or the dog, had been compelled to witness the struggle, without
having the power of lending any assistance.

The bear had struck Frank a severe blow, which, for a few seconds,
rendered him incapable of action; but as soon as he had recovered, he
ran for his gun, and while he was ramming home the charge, he saw
Harry's coat-tails disappearing in a thicket of bushes, and the bear,
seated on his haunches, engaged in fighting the dog, which, having
experienced some pretty rough handling, had learned to keep out of
reach of the dangerous claws.

As soon as Frank had loaded his gun, he hurried forward to put an end
to the fight, when a sheet of flame shot out from the bushes, and the
bear ceased his fighting, and lay motionless on the snow. A moment
afterward Harry appeared, and, upon seeing Frank, exclaimed:

"I've finished the job for him! But he gave you fits, didn't he? Your
face is all bloody. I guess he made your head ache!"

"I guess he did, too," replied Frank. "I tell you, he hit me an awful
crack. I had as soon be struck with a sledge-hammer."

Fortunately, there were no bones broken. After Frank's wounded head
had been bandaged with his handkerchief, the boys proceeded to remove
the skin of the bear, which was the largest of his species they had
ever seen. Selecting some of the choice parts of the meat, they then
started toward the camp.

Their appearance relieved the anxiety the others had begun to feel at
their prolonged absence. The story of their adventure afforded
abundant material for conversation while they were eating their
dinner, which Frank, who had experienced no serious inconvenience from
the blow he had received, speedily served up; and many were the
speculations in regard to the lecture they would be certain to receive
from the trapper, for their "keerlessness."

It was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon before the boys started
for Uncle Joe's cabin. As it promised to be a fine, moonlight night,
they were in no hurry. Allowing the moose to trot along at an easy
gait, they sat in the bottom of the sled, enveloped in furs, amusing
themselves in shouting and singing, when Archie suddenly exclaimed:

"Look there, boys! Now, see me make that varmint jump."

The boys looked in the direction indicated, and saw a large, gaunt
wolf standing on the bank of the creek, regarding them attentively,
and seeming to be not the least concerned about their approach. As
Archie spoke, he raised his gun; but the wolf, as if guessing his
intention, suddenly turned, and disappeared in the bushes.

"Boys," said Frank, "that little circumstance has set me to thinking.
Supposing that a pack of those fellows should get after us to-night,
wouldn't we be in a fix?"

"That's so," answered the others, in a breath, their cheeks blanching
at the very thought.

"I never thought of that," said Archie. "Hurry up, Harry. Lay on the
goad, and let's get home as soon as possible."

The joking and laughing instantly ceased, and the boys bent suspicious
glances on the woods, on each bank of the creek, over which darkness
was fast settling, and their hands trembled as they reached for their
guns, and placed them where they could be found at a moment's warning.

Harry urged on the moose, intent on reaching the tree where the
accident had happened in the morning, if possible, before dark. That
passed, they would feel comparatively safe; for if the wolves should
overtake them before they reached the tree, escape would be
impossible. The moose shuffled over the snow at a rapid rate, as if
he, too, knew that they were in danger; but Harry kept him completely
under his control, and in less than half an hour the tree was in
sight. After considerable exertion, the sled was lifted over the
obstruction, and as the boys resumed their seats, they felt relieved
to know that the worst part of the ride had been accomplished; but
they had not gone far when, faintly, to their ears came the sound for
which they had been waiting and listening--the mournful howl of a
wolf. The moose heard it too, for, with a bound like a rocket, he set
off on that break-neck pace that had so amused the boys in the
morning. But it was far from a laughing matter now. The moose was not
running from a harmless noise behind him, but from a danger that
threatened them as well.

Presently the dreadful sound was repeated from another part of the
woods, still distant, but nearer than before. The boys had often heard
the same sound, when seated around their blazing camp-fire, and had
smiled to think what a momentary horror would seize upon them as the
sound first came pealing from the depths of the woods. But they had no
camp-fire to protect them now; nothing but the speed of their horned
horse and their own bravery could save them.

In a few moments, another and another joined in the hideous chorus,
each nearer and more fearfully distinct than the others. The wolves
were closing in behind them from all sides; but with their usual
cowardice, were delaying the attack, until a sufficient force could be
collected to render an easy victory certain. Up to this time not a
wolf had been seen, save the one that Archie had first discovered; but
in a few moments they could be heard dashing through the bushes on
either side of the creek, and, soon after, the boldest began to show
themselves on the ice behind them.

To describe the thoughts that ran with lightning speed through the
minds of the terrified boys were impossible. In spite of the piercing
cold, so intense were their feelings of horror, that they were covered
with perspiration, and every thing they had done in their
lives--minute incidents, long since forgotten--seemed spread out
before their eyes like a panorama. Rapidly ran the terrified moose;
but nearer and nearer came their dreadful pursuers, each moment
increasing in numbers, and growing more bold. The moment was fast
approaching when they would make the attack.

"Let us commence the fight, boys," said Frank, in as firm a voice as
he could command. "We must kill as many of them as we can, before they
close on us. George, take Harry's gun. Archie, you and I will fire
first. Remember now, no putting two charges into one wolf. Harry, keep
on the ice. Ready--now!"

The guns cracked in rapid succession, and the howls which followed
proved that the ammunition had not been thrown away. The wolves sprang
upon their wounded comrades and commenced to devour them, and George
seized the opportunity to put in two excellent shots. During the delay
thus occasioned, short as it was, the wolves were left far behind, and
the boys had ample opportunity to load their guns. Harry, although
generally very timid, when he found himself placed in danger, was the
most cool and collected one of the party; and it was well that it was
so, for it required all his presence of mind and power of muscle to
keep the moose on the ice. He was struggling desperately, first to
relieve himself of the weight of the sled, and, failing in this, he
would make frantic endeavors to turn into the woods. If any part of
the harness should break, they would be left at the mercy of their
pursuers.

Again and again did the fierce animals overtake them, and as often
were some of their number stretched on the snow. At length, a loud
hurrah from Harry announced that they were nearing home; and a few
moments afterward, just as the wolves were closing around them again,
the sled entered Uncle Joe's "clearing." The noise of purling waters
to the desert-worn pilgrim never sounded sweeter than did the sharp
crack of rifles and the familiar voices of the trapper and his
brother, to the ears of the rescued boys. The inmates of the cabin had
heard the noise of the pursuit, and had rushed out to their
assistance.

The moose was speedily unhitched from the sled, and after the boys had
closed and fastened the doors of the cabin, they began to breathe more
freely.



CHAPTER XIII.

The Black Mustang.


Supper over, the hunters drew their chairs around the fireplace, and
Dick, after filling his pipe, and drawing a few puffs by way of
inspiration, said:

"I believe I onct told you 'bout havin' my hoss pulled out from under
me by a grizzly bar, didn't I? Wal, I told you, too, that I ketched
another, an' I had a job to do it, too--to ketch the one I wanted; an'
the time you've had tryin' to ketch that black fox reminds me of it.
You know, I s'pose, that large droves of wild hosses roam all over the
prairy, an' them droves ar allers led by some splendid animal--allers
a stallion--one that has got the legs to go like lightnin', an' the
wind to keep it up. An' he's allers the cock o' the walk, too--the
best fighter in the drove; an' when he moves round, it would make you
laugh to see the other hosses get out of his way. He holds his place
until he dies, unless some other hoss comes along an' wallops him.
Then he takes his place with the common fags o' the drove, an' the new
one is king till he gets licked, an' so on. It ar a mighty hard thing
to capture one o' them leaders. You can ketch one o' the others easy
enough, but when it comes to lassoin' the 'king,' it's a thing that
few trappers can do. Jest arter my scrape with the grizzly bar, Bill
Lawson an' me fell in with a lot o' fellers that war goin' to spend a
season on the Saskatchewan, an' they wanted me an' Bill to join 'em;
so I bought me a hoss of an ole Injun for a couple o' plugs o'
tobacker--reg'lar Jeems River it war, too--an' we started out. My new
hoss was 'bout as ugly a lookin' thing as I ever happened to set eyes
on. He war big as all out-doors, an' you could see every bone in his
body. An' he war ugly actin', too; an' if a feller come within reach
of his heels, the way he would kick war a caution to Injuns. But I
hadn't been on the road more'n a day afore I diskivered that he could
travel like a streak o' greased lightnin'. That war jest the kind of
a hoss I wanted, an' I didn't care 'bout his ugly looks arter that.

"For more'n three year, me an' Bill had been keepin' an eye on a hoss
that we wanted to ketch. He war the leader of a large drove. He war a
sort o' iron-gray color, with a thick, archin' neck--a purty feller;
an' the way he could climb over the prairy was a caution to cats. We
warn't the only ones arter him, either, for a'most every trapper in
the country had seed him, an' had more'n one chase arter him. But,
bars and buffaler! It war no use 't all, for he could run away from
the fastest hosses, an' not half try; an' many a poor feller, who
straddled a hoss that every body thought couldn't be tuckered out, had
left his animal dead on the prairy, an' found his way back to his camp
on foot. We war in hopes that we should see him, for we war travelin'
right through his country; an' I knowed that if we did find him, I
would stand as good a chance o' ketchin' him as any one, for my
ugly-lookin' hoss was the best traveler in the crowd.

"One night we camped on a little stream, called Bloody Creek. We
called it so from a fight that a party of us fellers had there with
the Injuns. About an hour arter supper, while we war all settin'
round the fire, smokin' an' telling stories, ole Bob Kelly--the oldest
an' best trapper in the country--started up off his blanket, an',
cockin' his ear for a moment, said, 'Somebody's comin', boys.' An',
sure 'nough, in a few minits up walked a stranger.

"It ar a mighty uncommon thing to meet a teetotal stranger on the
prairy, an' a man don't know whether he is a friend or foe; but we war
mighty glad to see him, and crowded round him, askin' all sorts o'
questions; an' one took his rifle, an' another pulled off his
powder-horn an' bullet-pouch, an' a big feller dragged him to the
fire, where we could all get a good look at him, an' made him drink a
big cup o' coffee.

"'Whar do you hail from, stranger?' inquired ole Bob Kelly, who allers
took them matters into his own hands, an' we little fellers had to set
round an' listen.

"'I b'long anywhere night ketches me,' answered the stranger. 'I'm an
ole trapper in these yere parts.'

"'Whar's your hoss?' asked ole Bob.

"'I left him dead on the prairy--dead as a herrin'. I rid him a
leetle too hard, I reckon. I war chasin' up the black mustang.'

"If I should live to be a hundred year older 'n I'm now, an' should
live among the Blackfoot Injuns the hull time, I shouldn't expect to
hear another sich a yell as 'em trappers give when the stranger
mentioned the black mustang. They crowded round him like a flock o'
sheep, all askin' him questions; an' he tried to answer 'em all to
onct; an' sich a row as there war round that camp-fire for a few
minits! It war wusser nor any Injun war-dance I ever seed. Now, me an'
Bill hadn't never seed the black mustang, nor heerd o' him afore,
'cause we hadn't trapped in that part o' the country for a'most three
year, but we knowed in a minit that it must be the leader o' some
drove. But Bill had lived among the Injuns so much that he had got
kinder used to their ways, an' he didn't like to see them trappers
carryin' on so, an' actin' like a parcel o' young'uns jest turned
loose from school; so, as soon as he could make himself heered, he
yelled:

"'What in tarnation's the matter with you fellers? As soon as you git
through hollerin', me an' Dick would like to know what all this yere
fuss is about.'

"'Why, the black mustang has been within ten mile of this yere camp
to-night,' said one of the trappers.

"'Wal, an' what o' that?' said Bill. 'Ar the black mustang any better
hoss than the gray king?'

"They all set up another yell at this, an' one of 'em said:

"'Why, the gray ain't nothin' 'long side o' the black mustang. He
could run away from him in less'n two minits. I guess you hain't hearn
tell of him, have you?'

"'In course I hain't,' said Bill.

"'Then you ain't no great shakes of a trapper,' said another.

"Now, the rascal knowed that war a lie, for there warn't no trapper in
the country that could lay over Bill, 'cept ole Bob Kelly, an' every
one said as how he war the best trapper agoin'; an' the way Bill eyed
the feller, made him kinder keerful of his we'pons for a day or two
arterward.

"Arter talking a little while, we found out the black mustang war the
leader o' the largest drove on the prairy. He had been round for 'bout
a year, an' every trapper in that part of the country had had a chase
arter him; but it war like chasin' the wind; an' besides this, he
could run all day, an' be jest as fresh at night as when he started in
the mornin'.

"'Wal,' thinks I, 'Dick, here's a good chance for you to try your
hoss's travelin' qualities;' an' I made up my mind that I would start
off an' foller the black mustang till I ketched him, if it tuk me my
lifetime.

"The next mornin', arter breakfast, one o' the trappers proposed that
we should spend three or four days in huntin' up the mustang, an', in
course, we all agreed to it. The stranger wanted to go, too, but we
had no hoss to give him; so, arter biddin' us all good-by, he
shouldered his rifle an' started out alone acrost the prairy. Wal, we
spent a week tryin' to find that hoss, but didn't even get a sight at
him; so one mornin' old Bob Kelly concluded that we had better make
another strike for the Saskatchewan. We packed up an' got all ready to
start, when I tuk them a good deal by surprise by tellin' 'em that I
war goin' to stay an' hunt up the black mustang. How they all laughed
at me!

"'Laugh away, boys,' says I, as I got on to my hoss. 'I'll see you on
the Saskatchewan in a month or so, an' I'll either bring the mustang
with me, or he'll be a dead hoss. If I can't ketch him, I can shoot
him, you know; an' I won't see you agin till I do one or the other.
Good-by, fellers.' An' I turned my hoss an' rode away from the camp.

"Wal, I rode all over them prairies for a'most six weeks, without
seein' the sign of a hoss; an' one arternoon I stopped on the top of a
high swell to take my reckonin'. I found myself on the east side o'
the Black Hills, an' I knowed that my first job was to get on the
_other_ side; the mustang had prob'bly struck off toward the
mountains. So I began to look around for a good place to get over. The
hills rose from the prairy reg'lar bluff-like--sometimes a hundred
feet high, an' so steep that a sheep couldn't climb up 'em. Jest as it
begun to grow dark, I come to a deep ravine, that seemed to run up
into the hills a good way; an' the bottom of this yere ravine was as
hard an' smooth as a floor, an' looked as if it had been traveled
over a good deal. But I war kinder tired with my day's tramp, an'
didn't notice it much, for I thought it war nothin' more'n a buffaler
road; so I picked out a good place an' camped for the night.

"'Arly the next mornin' I set out agin; but as soon as I got on the
road I knowed that no buffaler had made them tracks; they war
mustangs, an' there war the prints of their hoofs in the dust, plain
as a bar's ears. When I come to examine the signs, I found, as nigh as
I could kalkerlate, that there war about three hundred hosses in the
drove, an' I knowed, from the looks of the tracks, that they had been
along lately; so I pushed ahead as fast as my hoss could carry me, an'
that wasn't slow, I tell you. I rid him all day at a tearin' rate, an'
at dark he seemed as willin' to go as when I started out. This put me
in high spirits, an' I made up my mind that if me and my hoss ever got
arter that black mustang, he would have to pick up his feet mighty
lively to get away from us. The next day, about noon, I war riding
along at a thumpin' rate, when all to onct I come to a place where the
ravine opened into a small prairy, and scattered all over it war the
wild hosses, feedin' away as peaceably as if no one had ever thought
of disturbin' them there. I pulled up so quick that it a'most brought
my hoss on his haunches; but the mustangs had seed me, an' the way
they snorted an' galloped about war a purty thing to look at. I drawed
off into the bushes as quick as I could, an' gathered up my lasso,
which I allers carried at my saddle-bow, an' then looked toward the
drove agin. The first hoss I seed was the black mustang. He war
runnin' about, tossin' his head an' snortin' as though he didn't
hardly understand the matter. He war the purtiest hoss I ever sot eyes
on; but I couldn't stop to examine his pints then. Then I tuk a look
round the prairy, an' saw that the hills rose on all sides of it;
there was but one way the hosses could get out, an' that war through
the ravine. I war in luck for onct in my life. Now, you boys, if you
had been there, would, most like, run out into the prairy to onct, an'
tried to ketch him, but that would have been a reg'lar boy trick, and
would have spiled it all. I knowed that I had the black hoss
surrounded, but if I begun to race him round that prairy, he would
dodge me, an' be off down the ravine like a shot; so I kept still in
the bushes; an' my hoss knowed his own bisness, and stood as though he
war made of rock.

"Purty soon the hosses begun to get over their skeer an' commenced
comin' toward me--the black hoss leadin' the way. He would come a few
steps, an' then stop an' paw the ground, an' then come a little
nearer, an' so on, till he come within 'bout half a lasso-throw, when,
all of a sudden, I give my hoss the word, an' he jumped out o' them
bushes like a streak o' lightnin'. It would have made you laugh to see
the way them hosses put off; the black hoss, seemed to me, war on
wings; but he hadn't made three jumps afore my lasso war around his
neck. _The black mustang war mine!_

"In about three weeks I reached the Saskatchewan, an' if you could
have heard the yell them trappers give when I rode up to the camp on
the mustang, it would have done your heart good. I had kept my
promise."



CHAPTER XIV.

A Brush with the Greasers.


Dick replenished his pipe and prepared to rest, after his tale was
completed, when Frank suddenly inquired:

"Dick, how came that scar on your face?"

The "scar" Frank had reference to, was an ugly-looking wen, extending
entirely across the trapper's face, and completely "spilin' his good
looks," as he sometimes used to remark.

"That war done in a fight with some tarnal Greasers," answered Dick.
"I come mighty nigh havin' my neck stretched that night, an' the way
it happened war this:"

After a few whiffs at his pipe, he continued:

"When our government war settlin' our little dispute with the Mexikin
Greasers, I, like a good many other trappers, thought that I should
like to take a hand in the muss. I hate a Greaser wusser nor I do an
Injun. So, arter a little talk, me an' Bill jined a company o' Rangers
that war raised by an ole trapper we used to call Cap'n Steele. A'most
every man in the company war a trapper or hunter, for the cap'n
wouldn't take only them as could show the claws o' three or four
grizzlies they had rubbed out, an' as many Injun scalps.

"Wal, when we got together, I reckon we war about the roughest lookin'
set o' men you ever see. Each one dressed as suited him best, an' all
armed with rifles, tomahawks, an' huntin'-knives. But our looks didn't
seem to set ole Gen'ral Taylor agin us, for when we rode up to his
camp, an' our cap'n had told him what we war, an' what we could do, he
seemed mighty glad to see us; and we war sent to onct to the
quarter-master, an' detailed to take care o' his cattle an' hosses,
fight guerrillas, an' carry letters from one place to another. We
knowed the country purty well, for there were few of us that hadn't
traveled over it more'n onct in our lives; but whenever we war sent
off anywhere we used to have a Mexikin guide, who showed us the short
cuts through the mountains.

"Wal, just arter the battle o' Monterey, our company war cut up into
little squads, an' scattered all over the country; some went with the
gen'ral, an' some war put in Cap'n Morgan's company, an' sent scoutin'
around, an' four of us war left at Monterey with the quarter-master.

"One day ole Bill come to me an' said:

"'Dick, the kurnel wants to see you. I guess he's got some business
for you to 'tend to.'

"I went up to the head-quarters, an' the kurnel told me that he had
some very important letters which he wanted to send to Major Davis,
who was then stationed at a little town called Alamo, an' as I had the
finest hoss in the town, he thought it best to send me. Alamo war on
the other side o' the mountains, an' about a hundred an' fifty miles
off. As the kurnel had said, I had the best hoss in the hull camp,
an', in course, it wouldn't have been no trouble to have gone there if
the country had been clear--the ride wasn't nothin'; but the Mexikins
war comin' down toward Monterey, an' the kurnel thought that they war
goin' to try to take the city from us agin. I knowed there war danger
in it, but I didn't mind that. I war used to it, an' if I got into a
scrape, it wouldn't be the first one I war in; so I started off arter
my hoss, an' in a few minits I war ready an' waitin' at the kurnel's
door for the letters. Purty soon he come out an' give 'em to me,
sayin':

"'Now, Dick, be mighty keerful of 'em, 'cause there's some news in 'em
that I shouldn't like to have the Mexikins get hold of. This man,'
pintin' to a Greaser that stood a little behind me, holdin' his hoss,
'will be your guide. He knows all about the mountains.' Then, movin'
up a little closer to me, he whispered: 'He'll bear watchin', I think;
I don't know much about him, but he is the only man I have got to send
with you, an' them letters must be in Major Davis's hands by to-morrow
night.'

"'All right, kurnel,' I answered; 'I'll look out for him. I never see
a Greaser yet that could pull the wool over my eyes. I'll give the
letters to Major Davis afore this time to-morrow. Good by.' An' me an'
the guide rid off.

"As soon as I had got out of the city, I turned to have a look at my
guide, an' I thought, as the kurnel had said, that he would bear
watchin'. He war the most villainous lookin' Mexikin I ever sot eyes
on. He war a young feller, not more'n twenty-two or twenty-three year
old; but he had an eye that looked like an eagle's, an' it wasn't
still a minit. He war dressed in a reg'lar Greaser's rig, with a
slouch hat, short jacket, all covered with gold lace, an' pantaloons,
wide at the bottom, an' open on the side as far as his knees. He had a
splendid hoss, an' war armed with a carbine, short saber, an' a lasso;
an' I knowed that if me an' him got into a muss, that lasso would
bother me more'n his sword or shootin'-iron. The Greasers, as a
gen'ral thing, ain't no great shakes at shootin', an' in a
rough-an'-tumble fight they ain't nowhere; but them ar raw-hide
lassoes ar the meanest things in the world to fight; they'll have one
of 'em around your neck afore you know it. I had a little experience
in that line afore I got back. Arter we had got outside o' the pickets
a little way, he turned in his saddle, an' tried to commence a talk
with me in Spanish; but I made him believe that I couldn't understand
a word he said. I thought that if I should tell him that I couldn't
talk his lingo, it would make him a little keerless; an' so it did.

"We rid all day as fast as our hosses could travel, an' afore dark we
got acrost the mountains, an' stopped afore a little house, where the
guide said would be a good place to pass the night. I didn't much like
the idee; had rather camp right down in the woods; but, in course,
that would only put him on the look-out, an' I knowed that the best
way to do war to act as though I thought every thing war all right. A
man come to the gate as we rid up, an', as soon as he see my guide, he
touched his hat to him in reg'lar soldier style. The guide answered
the salute, an' asked the man, in Spanish:

"'Are you alone, José?'

"'Yes, gen'ral,' answered the man. Then making a slight motion toward
me, which, I made believe I didn't notice, he asked:

"'But the American?'

"'O, he can't understand Spanish,' said my rascally guide. 'No fear of
him; he thinks it's all right. Did you receive my letter?'

"'Yes, gen'ral,' answered the man, touching his hat agin.

"'Don't make so many motions, you fool,' said my guide; 'the American
is not blind. You got my letter all right, you say? Then Bastian, with
five hundred men, will be here at midnight?'

"'Yes, gen'ral.'

"The guide seemed satisfied, for he got off his hoss, an' motioned me,
with a good many smiles an' grimaces, to do the same. I could see that
I war in a purty tight place, an' I had a good notion to draw one o'
my six-shooters an' kill both o' the rascals where they stood. But,
thinks I, there may be more of these yere yaller-bellies around here
somewhere, an' besides, if I wait, I may get a chance to capture the
gen'ral, for my guide war none other than Gen'ral Cortinas, an' one o'
the best officers the Mexikins had. He had bothered us more'n their
hull army, an' the kurnel had offered to give a thousand dollars for
him alive, or five hundred for his scalp. I didn't care a snap for the
money, 'cause it warn't no use to me on the prairy; all I wanted war a
good Kentucky rifle, plenty o' powder an' lead, an' a good hoss, an' I
war satisfied. But I wanted to capture that gen'ral, an' take him into
camp, for he war a nuisance. In battle he never showed no quarter,
an' if he tuk any prisoners, it war only that he might let his men try
their hands at shootin'. He seemed to understand fightin' better nor
the rest o' the Mexikins, an' it showed that he war a brave feller
when he would come right into camp, with sich a price sot on his head.

"I warn't long in makin' up my mind what I ought to do, an' I got down
off my hoss, as though there warn't a Greaser within a hundred miles
o' me; but, instead o' givin the hoss into charge o' the man, I hit
him a cut with my whip that sent him flyin' up the road. I knowed that
he wouldn't be far off when I wanted him, an' I knowed, too, that my
saddle an' pistols war safe, 'cause nobody couldn't ketch him besides
me. Arter goin' a little way up the road, he turned an' looked back,
an' then jumped over a hedge into a field, an' begun to eat. I could
see that the Mexikins didn't like it a bit, for they looked at each
other an' scowled, an' José said:

"'_Carrajo!_ do you s'pose the American suspects any thing, gen'ral?'

"'It don't make no difference whether he does or not, said my guide,
turnin' on his heel, an' motionin' me to follow him to the house;
'he's in our power, an' don't leave this place alive.'

"Now, you wouldn't have called that very pleasant news, I take it.
Wal, it did make me feel rather onpleasant; but I didn't exactly
believe what the ole rascal had said about my not goin' away alive.
Thinks I, shootin' is a game two can play at, an' as long as you don't
bring them tarnal lassoes round, I'm all right. I had never seed a
six-shooter afore I went into the army, but I had l'arnt to use 'em
a'most as well as I could my rifle. I found that they war mighty handy
things in a fight. I had four of 'em, two in my huntin'-shirt, and two
had gone off with my hoss; an' I knowed that when the time come I
could get up a nice little fight for the Greasers.

"There war only two women in the house, an' they seemed mighty glad to
see him, an' sot out a cheer for him; but they scowled at me, an' left
me to stand up. But that didn't trouble me none, for I helped myself
to a seat, an' listened to what my guide war sayin' to 'em. He war
mighty perlite, an' talked an' laughed, an' told the women as how he
war goin' to rub me out as soon as his men come; an' then he war
goin' to pitch into Cap'n Morgan, who war out scoutin' with his
company, an' had camped a little piece back in the mountains.

"It war the kurnel's order that I should see him as we passed through
the mountains, an' send him to Monterey to onct, afore the Mexikins
could ketch him. But my rascally guide had heered the order, an' had
led me out o' my way, so that I shouldn't see him. I listened with
both my ears, an' arter I had heered all the rascal's plans, which
were purty nicely laid out for a boy, I made up my mind that he would
be a leetle disappointed when he tried to ketch Cap'n Morgan.

"In a little while the man that had tuk charge o' the gen'ral's hoss
come in, an' I soon found out that he war the man that war expected to
do the business of cuttin' my throat. But the gen'ral told him not to
try it till midnight, when he would have plenty of men to back him up.
This showed me that, brave as the young Greaser war when leadin' his
men, he didn't like the idee o' pitchin' into an American
single-handed. I guess he knowed by my looks that I could do some
purty good fightin'.

"Arter eatin' a hearty supper, an' smokin' a cigar with the gen'ral, I
wrapped myself up in my blanket, which I had tuk from my saddle afore
lettin' my hoss go, an' laid myself away in one corner of the room.
The Mexikins didn't like this, an' one o' the women made me understand
by signs that there war a bed for me up stairs. But I thought that my
chances for escape would be much better where I war; so I motioned her
to go away, an' pretended to go to sleep. The gen'ral an' his man had
a long talk about it, an' I expected every minit to hear him tell the
feller to shoot me. If he had, it would have been the signal for his
own death, for I had both my revolvers under my blanket. But no sich
order war given, an' finally the gen'ral, arter tellin' the man to
keep a good watch on me, went into another room an' went to bed, an'
his man stretched himself out on his cloak, right afore the door.

"Wal, I waited about two hours for him to go to sleep, an' then made
up my mind that I might as well be travelin'. So I throwed off my
blanket an' war risin' to my feet, when 'bang' went the feller's
pistol, an' the bullet whizzed by my head an' went into the wall. I
warn't more'n ten feet from him, an' I'll be blamed if he didn't miss
me. The next minit I had him by the throat, an' a blow from the butt
of one o' my six-shooters done the work for him. I dragged him away
from the door, jumped down the steps, an' made tracks through the
garden.

"The night war purty dark, but I knowed which way to go to get out o'
the yard, which war surrounded by a palin' eight foot high. You'd
better believe I run _some_; but I hadn't gone twenty yards from the
house afore I run slap agin somebody. I thought at first that it war
the gen'ral, an' I muzzled him. '_Carrajo!_ what does this mean?' said
the Mexikin, in Spanish. As soon as I heered his voice, I knowed that
he warn't the feller I wanted; most likely he war one o' the men the
gen'ral had been expectin'; so I give him a settler with my knife, an'
tuk to my heels agin.

"The pistol that the Mexikin had fired in the house had set the women
a goin'; an', when I reached the fence, I heered 'em yellin' an'
wailin' over the feller I had knocked down. I didn't stop to listen to
'em, but jumped over into the field where my hoss war, an' commenced
whistlin' for him. I thought he war a long while a coming an' I ran
along whistlin', an' wonderin' where he had gone to. Purty soon I
heered his whinny, an' see him comin' toward me like mad; an' right
behind him war three or four Mexikins, with their lassoes all ready to
ketch him. But my hoss war leavin' 'em behind fast; for the way he
could climb over the ground when he onct made up his mind to run, war
a caution to them Greasers. He come right up to me, an' in a minit I
war on his back.

"I now felt safe. The first thing I did war to pull out my
huntin'-knife an' fasten it to my wrist with a piece o' buckskin;
then, drawin' one o' my revolvers, I turned in my saddle, an' thought
I would stir up the Greasers a little, when all to onct somethin'
struck me in the face like a club, an' I war lifted from my saddle
clean as a whistle, and the next minit I war bumpin' an' draggin' over
the ground in a mighty onpleasant kind of a way. One o' the Greasers
had slipped his lasso over me, an' war pullin' me along as fast as his
hoss could travel. I fell right flat on my face, an' every step the
Greaser's hoss tuk plowed my nose in the ground, an' my eyes war so
full o' dirt an' blood that I could scarcely see.

"But I war not quite so fast as the Greaser had thought for. The lasso
hadn't gone down round my neck, but had ketched jest above my chin. I
hadn't never been in sich a mighty onpleasant fix afore, but I warn't
long in gettin' my wits about me. Reachin' up with my huntin'-knife, I
made a slash at the lasso, an' the next minit wor standin' on my feet
agin. I had hung onto my revolver, an', drawin' a bead on the Greaser
that had ketched me, I tumbled him from his saddle in a twinklin'. My
hoss hadn't run an inch arter I war pulled off his back, an' I war
soon in the saddle agin.

"I knowed I war safe now, for, as I galloped over the field, I see the
Greasers travelin' down the road as though Gen'ral Taylor's army war
arter 'em. They war three to my one, but didn't think themselves a
match for a single American."



CHAPTER XV.

Caught at Last.


"But that isn't all the story," said the trapper, again filling his
pipe. "As soon as the Greasers had got out o' sight, I galloped back
toward the road an' tuk the back track, intendin' to find Cap'n
Morgan, an' tell him that the Mexikins were kalkerlatin' on ketchin'
him, an' then go on with my dispatches.

"I had paid purty good attention to what the gen'ral had told the
women, an' I knowed exactly what road to take to find the cap'n's
camp; an' you'd better believe I rid _some_. Purty soon some one
yelled out:

"'Who goes there?'

"'Friend!' I shouted, 'an' I want to see Cap'n Morgan to onct. I've
got some news for him.'

"You'd better believe the ole cap'n opened his eyes when I told him
my story; an' arter furnishin' me with a fresh hoss--the best one in
the camp--he set to work gettin' ready for the Greasers. I didn't much
like the idee o' startin' out agin, for I didn't know the short cuts
through the country as well as I ought to, an' the cap'n had no guide
to send with me. But I knowed that them letters must be in Alamo by
night, an' I shouldn't ever be able to look ole Bill Lawson in the
face agin if I didn't obey my orders; so, arter biddin' the boys
good-by, an' wishin' 'em good luck in fightin' the Mexikins, I set
out.

"I did plenty of doublin' an' twistin' to get clear o' the Greasers,
for I met 'em about half way atween the mountains an' the house where
we had stopped, goin' up to ketch the cap'n. They war in high spirits,
but when they come down agin, about two hours arterward, they were
runnin' like white-heads, an' the Texas boys were close at their
heels.

"I war used to hard work, but when I got off my hoss that night in
Alamo, I war about as tired a man as you ever see. Two days arterward
I war back in Monterey agin. Ole Bill didn't know me, for my face war
purty well cut up. I told him the story of the Mexikin gen'ral, an'
arter talkin' the matter over, me an' him concluded we would capture
that Greaser, an' started up to head-quarters to have a talk with the
kurnel about it.

"'You can't do it, boys,' says he. 'If Cortinas war an Injun, you
would be jist the fellers to do it; but you don't know enough about
soldierin'. Howsomever, you can try.'

"The next mornin', when me an' Bill rid up to the kurnel's
head-quarters to bid him good-by, you wouldn't a knowed us. We had
pulled off our huntin'-shirts an' leggins, an' war dressed in reg'lar
Mexikin style. We left our rifles behind, an' tuk carbines in their
place. We didn't like to do this; but if we had carried our long
shootin'-irons into a Mexikin camp, any one would a knowed what we
war. We had our six-shooters and huntin'-knives stowed away in our
jackets.

"'Good-by, kurnel,' said Bill, shakin' the ole soldier's hand. 'We'll
ketch that Greaser, or you'll never see us agin.'

"'Do your best, boys,' said the kurnel. 'Bring back the Greaser, an'
the thousand dollars are yourn.'

"We follered the same path that the gen'ral had led me--takin' keer
not to ride too fast, 'cause we didn't know what we might have for our
hosses to do--an' afore dark we come to the house where me an' my
guide had stopped, an' knocked at the gate. When it war opened we
could see that the place war full o' Greasers; but that didn't trouble
us any, for we knowed that we should have to go into their camp if we
wanted to ketch the gen'ral. We told the Greaser that come to the
gate, that we were Mexikin soldiers, an' wanted to stay there all
night, an' he war as perlite as we could wish--asked us to walk in,
an' sent a man to take keer of our hosses.

"This war the first time we had met a soldier in our new rig, an' we
were a little afeered that he might diskiver who we were; but we could
both talk Spanish as well as he could, an' the rascal didn't suspect
us.

"We asked to see the commandin' officer, an' when we found him we
reported to him as scouts belongin' to Gen'ral Santa Anna's
head-quarters, an' that we had come with very important news for
Gen'ral Cortinas. What that news was we didn't know ourselves; but we
knowed that we could get up a purty good story when the time come.

"'All right,' said the Greaser cap'n. 'I'm goin' up to Gen'ral
Cortinas' camp to-morrow, an' you can ride right up with me.'

"We touched our hats to him an' left the room. I hated mighty bad to
salute that dirty Greaser jest as I would my kurnel. I had rather put
a bullet in his yaller hide; but we war in for it, an' we knowed that
the hull thing depended on our behavin' ourselves properly. As we
passed out o' the house we met the women, an' I begun to shake in my
boots agin, 'cause I knowed them women had sharp eyes, an' I war
afeered it war all up with us. But they didn't suspect nothin', an' I
knowed that we war safe; 'cause if they couldn't see through the game
we war playin', nobody could.

"Wal, we went out into the yard an' eat supper, an' lay down around
the fire with them ar dirty Mexikins, an' listened to their insultin'
talk agin the Americans, an', in course, jined in with 'em. They
thought me an' ole Bill war lucky dogs in bein' with a great gen'ral
like Santa Anna; but I couldn't see what there war great in a man who,
with an army o' fifty thousand men, would run from six thousand. But
we told 'em a good many things about the gen'ral that I guess they
never heered afore, an' we hadn't heered of 'em neither; but they
believed every thing we said war gospel truth, an' we made our
kalkerlations that in less nor a month the American army would all be
prisoners.

"The next mornin' we made an 'arly start, an' that arternoon drew up
in the Mexikin camp. It war a purty sight, I tell you--nothin' to be
seen but white tents as far as our eyes could reach. There warn't less
nor a hundred thousand men in that ar camp, an' I begun to feel rather
shaky when I thought of our small army at Monterey. While me an' Bill
war lookin' about, a spruce little Greaser come up, an' said that
Gen'ral Cortinas war waitin' to see us. We found the rascal in a large
tent, with a sentry afore the door, an' when I sot eyes on him, my
fingers ached to ketch him by the throat. He looked jest as he did
when me an' him set out from Monterey together, only he had on a blue
uniform.

"'Wal, boys,' said he, smilin' an' motionin' us to set down, 'I
understand that you're from Gen'ral Santa Anna, an' have news for me.'

"'Yes, gen'ral,' said ole Bill, takin' off his slouch-hat, an'
scratchin' his head as if thinkin' what to say. 'We've got news for
you. If you want to ketch Cap'n Morgan an' his band o' cutthroats,
I'll tell you jest how you can do it.'

"'How can it be done, my good feller,' said the gen'ral, rubbin' his
hands. 'I thought I should capture him the other night, but he had too
many men for me.'

"'Wal,' said ole Bill, 'me an' this feller here'--pintin' to me--'war
in Monterey yesterday, an' heered an order read to Cap'n Morgan to
march out o' the city at midnight, an' jine Cap'n Davis at Alamo. Now,
if you want to ketch him, all you have got to do is to take fifty men,
an' wait for him in the mountains. He has got jest twenty-eight men in
his company.'

"'I'll do it,' said the Greaser. 'But I'll take a hundred men, to make
sure of him. Which road is he going to take?'

"'That's what we can't tell exactly,' said ole Bill. 'But me an' this
feller thought that we would come an' tell you, so that you could have
every thing ready, an' then go back and find out all their plans.'

"'Very well,' said the Greaser; an', arter writin' somethin' on a
piece o' paper, he handed it to ole Bill, sayin': 'Here's a pass for
you an' your friend to go in an' out o' the lines whenever you please.
Now, you go back to Monterey, an' find out all Cap'n Morgan's plans,
an' I'll go out with a hundred men an' ketch him.'

"This war exactly what me an' Bill wanted. We were afeered at first
that he would send some one else instead o' goin' himself; but now we
knowed that we war all right; the gen'ral war ourn, an' no mistake.

"As soon as we got out o' sight o' the camp, we made good time, an'
afore midnight we war in the kurnel's head-quarters. As soon as he
heered our story, he sent for one o' his officers, an' told him to
march 'arly the next evenin' with eighty men, an' draw up an ambush,
in a deep gorge, through which ran the road that led to Alamo. An' he
ordered Cap'n Morgan, who had reached Monterey the day afore, to be
ready to march through that gorge at midnight.

"Arter me an' Bill had rested a little while, we set out on fresh
hosses, an', in a few hours, were back in the Mexikin camp agin. That
arternoon we rid out, side by side, with Gen'ral Cortinas, an' about
ten o'clock in the evenin' we reached the gorge. Every thing war as
silent as death; but I knowed that eighty Western rifles war stowed
away among the trees, on each side o' the road, an' behind 'em war
sturdy hunters an' trappers, achin' to send a bullet in among us.

"Arter the gen'ral had fixed his men to suit him, we drawed back into
the bushes, an' waited for Cap'n Morgan to come up. Jest a little
afore midnight we heered a faint tramp, an' in a few minits the
rangers swept down into the gorge. For a minit nothin' war heered but
the noise o' their hosses' hoofs on the road. It war a fine sight to
see them brave men ridin' right down into that ambush, knowin', as
they did, that death war on each side o' them. Nigher an' nigher they
come; an' the gen'ral war about to give the order to fire, when, all
to onct, a yell like an Injun's burst from among the trees, an' the
reports of eighty rifles echoed through the mountains. You never seed
a more astonished Greaser nor that Gen'ral Cortinas war about that
time.

"'_Carrajo_,' he yelled, 'you have betrayed me.'

"'Shouldn't wonder if we had, you tarnal yaller-hided scoundrel,' said
ole Bill; an' afore the Greaser could make a move, we had him by the
arms, an' two six-shooters were lookin' him in the face. His cowardly
men didn't fire a shot, but throwed down their guns, an' run in every
direction. But our boys closed up about 'em, an' out o' them ar
hundred men that come out to ketch Cap'n Morgan, not half a dozen
escaped. The only prisoner we tuk back to Monterey war the gen'ral."

After Dick had got through his tale, the hunters held a consultation
over the state of their larder. As their coffee, bread, and other
supplies were exhausted, and they did not like the idea of living on
venison and water, they concluded to break up camp. The next morning
they packed their baggage into the sled, and, taking a last look at
the place where they had spent so many happy hours, set out for Uncle
Joe's cabin, which they reached a little before dark.



CHAPTER XVI.

The Lost Wagon-Train.


Uncle Joe met them at the door, and, while they were relieving
themselves of their overcoats and weapons, asked innumerable questions
about their sojourn in the woods. Dick took the part of spokesman, and
described, in his rude, trapper's style, the scenes through which they
had passed, dwelling with a good deal of emphasis on the
"keerlessness" displayed by the Young Naturalist in attacking the
moose, and in starting off alone to fight the panther. The trapper
tried hard to suppress the feelings of pride which he really felt, and
favored the young hunter with a look that was intended to be severe,
but which was, in fact, a mingling of joy and satisfaction.

Frank bore the scolding which Uncle Joe administered with a very good
grace, for he knew that he deserved it.

"I'd like to take the youngster out on the prairy," said Dick, seating
himself before the fire, and producing his never-failing pipe. "I'll
bet that, arter he had follered me and Useless a year or two, he
wouldn't be in no great hurry to pitch into every wild varmint he come
acrost."

Frank made no reply, but taking the cubs from the pockets of his
overcoat, allowed them to run about the cabin--a proceeding which the
dogs, especially Brave, regarded with suspicion, and which they could
not be persuaded to permit, until they had received several hearty
kicks and cuffs from their masters.

"You can't blame the critters," said the trapper, puffing away at his
pipe. "It's their natur', an' I sometimes think that them dogs have a
deal more sense than their human masters, an'"----

"Supper's ready," interrupted Bob, the cook and man-of-all-work, and
this announcement put an end to all further conversation on the
subject.

The boys were highly delighted to find themselves seated at a
well-filled table once more, and Uncle Joe's good things rapidly
disappeared before their attacks. It made no difference to the
trapper, however. With him a few weeks "roughing it" in the woods was,
of course, no novelty. A log for a table, and a piece of clean bark
for a plate, answered his purpose as well as all the improvements of
civilization, which those who have been brought up in the settlements
regard as necessary to their very existence.

After supper, they drew their chairs in front of the fire, and Uncle
Joe and his brother solaced themselves with their pipes, while Bob
busied himself in clearing away the table and washing the dishes.

"This Bill Lawson," said the trapper, after taking a few puffs at his
pipe, to make sure that it was well lighted, "used to take it into his
head onct in awhile to act as guide for fellers as wanted to go to
Californy. He knowed every inch of the country from St. Joseph to the
mines, for he had been over the ground more'n you ever traveled
through these yere woods, an' he was called as good a guide as ever
tuk charge of a wagon-train. In course, I allers went with him on
these trips, as a sort o' pack-hoss an' hunter, cause ole Bill
couldn't think o' goin' anywhere without me; an' I have often thought
that the reason why he made them trips as guide, was jest to get a
good look at the folks; it reminded him o' the time when he had
parents, an' brothers an' sisters. He never laughed an' joked round
the camp-fires, as he used to do when me and him war off alone in the
mountains. He hardly ever said a word to any body besides me, an'
allers appeared to be sorrowful. This give him the name of 'Moody
Bill,' by which he was knowed all through the country. Every trader on
the prairy war acquainted with him, an' he allers tuk out a big train.
I never knowed him to lose but one, an' he lost himself with it. The
way it happened war this:

"One night, arter we had got about a week's journey west of Fort
Laramie, we stopped in a little oak opening, where we made our camp.
It war right in the heart o' the wust Injun country I ever see, an'
near a place where me an' ole Bill had often _cached_ our furs an'
other fixins, an' which we used as a kind o' camp when we war in that
part o' the country trappin' beaver an' fightin' Injuns. It war a cave
in the side of a mountain, an' the way we had it fixed nobody besides
ourselves couldn't find it. We never went in or come out of it until
arter dark, 'cause the Comanches were a'most allers huntin' 'bout the
mountains, an' we didn't want em to break up our harborin' place. We
had made up our minds that, arter we had seed our train safe through,
we would come back to our 'bar's hole,' as we called it, an' spend a
month or so in fightin' the Comanches an' skrimmagin' with the
grizzlies in the mountains.

"Wal, as I war sayin' we made our camp, an' while I war dressin' a
buck I had shot, ole Bill, as usual, leaned on his rifle, an' watched
the emigrants unpack their mules an' wagons, an' make their
preparations for the night. Arter supper he smoked a pipe, an' then
rolled himself up in his blanket an' said----'Dick, you know this
place, but you ain't no trapper;' an', without sayin' any more, he lay
down and went to sleep, leavin' me to station the guards, an' see that
every thing went on right durin' the night.

"I knowed well enough what ole Bill meant when he said, 'Dick, you
ain't no trapper.' He had seed Injun sign durin' the day, an' war
pokin' fun at me, cause I hadn't seed it too. I don't know, to this
day, how it war that I had missed it, for I had kept a good look-out,
an' I had allers thought that I war 'bout as good an Injun hunter as
any feller in them diggins, (allers exceptin' ole Bill and Bob Kelly;)
but the way the ole man spoke tuk me down a peg or two, an' made me
feel wusser nor you youngsters do when you get trounced at school for
missin' your lessons.

"Wal, as soon as it come dark, I put out the guards, an' then
shouldered my rifle, an' started out to see if I could find any sign
o' them Injuns that ole Bill had diskivered. It war as purty a night
as you ever see. The moon shone out bright an' clear, an', savin' the
cry of a whippoorwill, that come from a gully 'bout a quarter of a
mile from the camp, an' the barkin' o' the prairy wolves, every thing
war as still as death. You youngsters would have laughed at the idea
o' goin' out to hunt Injuns on such a night; but I knowed that there
must be somethin' in the wind, for ole Bill never got fooled about
sich things. Here in the settlements he wouldn't have knowed enough to
earn his salt; but out on the prairy he knowed all about things.

"Wal, I walked all round the camp, an' back to the place where I had
started from, an' not a bit of Injun sign did I see. There war a high
hill jest on the other side of the gully, an' I knowed that if there
war any Injuns about, an' they should take it into their heads to
pounce down upon us, they would jest show themselves in that
direction; so I sot down on the prairy, outside o' the wagons, which
war drawn up as a sort o' breastwork round the camp, and begun to
listen. I didn't hear nothin', however, until a'most midnight, and
then, jest arter I had changed the guards, an' was goin' back to my
place, I heered somethin' that made me prick up my ears. It war the
hootin' of an owl, an' it seemed to come from the hill.

"Now, you youngsters would'n't have seed any thing strange in that;
but a man who has spent his life among wild Injuns and varmints can
tell the difference atween a sound when it comes from an owl's throat,
and when it comes from a Comanche's; an' I to onct made up my mind
that it war a signal. Presently from the gully come the song of a
whippoorwill. It didn't sound exactly like the notes I had heered come
from that same gully but a few minits afore, an' I knowed that it war
another signal. When the whippoorwill had got through, I heered the
barkin' of a prairy wolf further up the gully to the right o' the
camp; an' all to onct the wolves, which had been barkin' an'
quarrelin' round the wagons, set up a howl, an' scampered away out o'
sight. This would have been as good a sign as I wanted that there war
Injuns about, even if I hadn't knowed it afore; so I sot still on the
ground to see what would be the next move.

"In a few minits I heered a rustlin' like in the grass a little to one
side of me. I listened, an' could tell by the sound that there was
somebody in there, crawlin' along on his hands an' knees. Nearer an'
nearer it come, an' when it got purty clost to me it stopped, an' I
seed an' Injun's head come up over the top o' the grass, an' I could
see that the rascal war eyein' me purty sharp. I sot mighty still,
noddin' my head a leetle as if I war fallin' asleep, keepin' an' eye
on the ole feller all the time to see that he didn't come none of his
Injun tricks on me, and finally give a leetle snore, which seemed to
satisfy the painted heathen, for I heered his 'ugh!' as he crawled
along by me into camp.

"What made you do that?" interrupted Archie, excitedly. "Why didn't
you muzzle him?"

"That the way you youngsters, what don't know nothin' about fightin'
Injuns, would have done," answered the trapper, with a laugh, "an' you
would have had your har raised for your trouble. But, you see, I
knowed that he had friends not a great way off, an' that the fust
motion I made to grab the rascal, I would have an arrer slipped into
me as easy as fallin' off a log. But I didn't like to have the varlet
behind me; so, as soon as I knowed that he had had time to get into
the camp, I commenced noddin' agin, an' finally fell back on the
ground, ker-chunk.

"I guess them Injuns that were layin' round in the grass laughed
_some_ when they see how quick I picked up my pins. I got up as though
I expected to see a hull tribe of Comanches clost on to me, looked all
round, an', arter stretchin' my arms as though I had enjoyed a good
sleep, I started along toward the place where one o' the guards war
standin'. I walked up clost to him, an' whispered:

"'Don't act as though you thought that any thing was wrong, but keep
your eyes on the grass. There's Injuns about.'

"The chap turned a leetle pale when he heered this; but although he
was as green as a punkin, as far as Injun fightin' war consarned, he
seemed to have the real grit in him, for he nodded in a way that
showed that he understood what I meant. I then dropped down on
all-fours, an' commenced crawlin' into the camp to find the Injun. The
fires had burned low, an' the moon had gone down, but still there war
light enough for me to see the rascal crawlin' along on the ground,
an' making toward one of the wagons. When he reached it, he raised to
his feet, an', arter casting his eyes about the camp, to make sure
that no one seed him, he lifted up the canvas an' looked in. Now war
my time. Droppin' my rifle, I sprung to my feet, an' started for the
varlet; but jest as I war goin' to grab him, one o' the women in the
wagon, who happened to be awake, set up a screechin'. The Injun
dropped like a flash o' lightnin', an', dodgin' the grab I made at
him, started for the other side o' the camp, jumpin' over the fellers
that were layin' round as easy as if he had wings. I war clost arter
him, but the cuss run like a streak; an finding that I war not likely
to ketch him afore he got out into the prairy, I jumped back for my
rifle an' tuk a flyin' shot at him, jest as he war divin' under a
wagon. I don't very often throw away a chunk o' lead, an', judgin' by
the way he yelled, I didn't waste one that time. He dropped like a
log, but war on his feet agin in a minit, an', without waitin' to ax
no questions, set up the war-whoop. I tell you, youngsters, the sound
o' that same war-whoop war no new thing to me. I've heered it
often--sometimes in the dead o' night, when I didn't know that there
war any danger about, an' it has rung in my ears when I've been
runnin' for my life, with a dozen o' the yellin' varlets clost to my
heels; but I never before, nor since, felt my courage give way as it
did on that night. Scarcely a man in the hull wagon-train, exceptin'
me an ole Bill, had ever drawed a bead on an Injun, an' I war a'most
sartin that I should have a runnin' fight with the rascals afore
mornin'.

"The whoop war answered from all round the camp, an' the way the
bullets an' arrers come into them ar wagons warn't a funny thing to
look at. My shot had 'wakened a'most every one in the camp, but there
warn't much sleepin' done arter the Injuns give that yell. Men, women,
an' children poured out o' the wagons, an' run about, gettin' in
everybody's way; an' sich a muss as war kicked up in that ar camp I
never heered afore. There war about seventy men in the train, an' they
war all good marksmen, but there war scarcely a dozen that thought o'
their rifles. They kept callin' on me an' ole Bill to save 'em, an'
never onct thought o' pickin' up their we'pons an' fightin' to save
themselves; an', in spite of all we could do, them ar cowardly sneaks
would get behind the women an' children for protection. It war enough
to frighten any one; an' although that ar warn't the fust muss o' the
kind I had been in, I felt my ole 'coon-skin cap raise on my head when
I thought what a slaughter there would be when them Comanches onct got
inside o' the camp. There war only a few of us to fight 'em, an' we
did the best we could, sendin' back their yells, an' bringin' the
death-screech from some unlucky rascal at every shot. But the Injuns
warn't long in findin' out how the land lay, an', risin' round us like
a cloud, they come pourin' into camp."



CHAPTER XVII.

The Struggle in the Cave.


"Me an ole Bill warn't hired to run away, an' we wouldn't need to have
done it if them ar cowards had stood up to the mark like men; but when
I seed them Injuns comin', I knowed that the game war up--it warn't no
use to fight longer. I jest ketched a glimpse of ole Bill makin' for
his hoss, an' I did the same, 'cause I knowed that he would stay as
long as there war any chance o' beatin' back the Injuns.

"To jump on my hoss, an' cut the lasso with which he war picketed,
warn't the work of a minit, an' then, clubbin' my rifle, I laid about
me right an' left, an' my hoss, knowin' as well as I did what war the
matter, carried me safely out o' the camp.

"As I rode out on to the prairy, the Injuns started up on all sides o'
me, but my hoss soon carried me out o' their reach. As soon as I
thought I war safe, I hauled up to load my rifle, an' wait for ole
Bill. I felt a leetle oneasy about him, 'cause, if the Comanches
should onct get a good sight at him, they would be sartin to know who
he war, an' wouldn't spare no pains to ketch him; an' if they
succeeded, he couldn't expect nothin' but the stake.

"Wal, arter I had loaded up my rifle, an' scraped some bullets, I
started back toward the camp, to see if I could find any thing o'
Bill; an' jest at that minit I heered a yell that made my blood run
cold. By the glare o' the camp-fires, which the Comanches had started
agin, I seed the cause of the yell, for there war ole Bill on foot,
an' makin' tracks for the gully, with a dozen yellin' varlets clost at
his heels. In course I couldn't help the old man any; an', besides, I
knowed that they would take him alive at any risk, an' that, if I kept
out o' the scrape, I might have a chance to save him. Wal, jest at the
edge o' the gully he war ketched, an' arter a hard tussle--for the ole
man warn't one of them kind that gives up without a fight--he war
bound hand an' foot, an' carried back to the camp.

"In course the news spread among the Comanches like lightnin', an' it
had the effect o' stoppin' the slaughterin' that war goin' on, for the
Injuns all wanted to have a look at the man who had sent so many o'
their best warriors to the happy huntin'-grounds.

"Finally, some o' the varlets yelled out my name--the rest took it up,
an' clouds of the warriors went scourin' through the camp an' over the
prairy to find me; 'cause they knowed that whenever the ole man war to
be found, I warn't a great way off. It begun to get mighty onhealthy
for me in them diggins, so I turned my hoss, an' made tracks acrost
the prairy. I rid _some_, now, I reckon, an', in a short time, war out
o' hearin' o' the yells o' the savages.

"As soon as I thought I war safe, I camped down on the prairy, an',
with my hoss for a sentinel, slept soundly until mornin'. I then
started for the camp, or, rather, the place where the camp had been,
for when I got there, I found nothin' but its ruins. The Injuns had
burned every thing they did not want or could not carry away, an'
made off with their prisoners. Their trail war plain enough, an' I to
onct commenced follerin' it up, determined that I would either save
ole Bill or die with him; an', on the fourth day, durin' which time I
had lived on some parched corn I happened to have in the pockets o' my
huntin'-shirt, an' war in constant danger of being ketched by
stragglers, I seed the Injuns enter their camp. In course there war a
big rejoicin' over the prisoners an' plunder they had brought in, an'
it war kept up until long arter dark.

"The camp, which numbered 'bout fifty lodges, war pitched in a small
prairy, surrounded on three sides by the woods. The nearest I could
get to it without bein' diskivered war half a mile; an' here I tied my
hoss in the edge o' the woods, an' lay down to sleep.

"'Arly the next mornin' I war aroused by a yellin' and the noise o'
drums, an' found the hull camp in motion. Near the middle o' the
village war a small clear spot, where the prisoners war stationed.
They war not bound, but a single glance at a dozen armed warriors, who
stood at a little distance, showed that escape warn't a thing to be
thought of. All except two o' the prisoners sot on the ground, with
their heads on their hands, as if they wished to shut out all sights
an' sounds o' what war going on around 'em. The two who were standin'
seemed to take matters more easy. They stood leanin' against a post
with their arms folded, an' watched the motions o' the Injuns as
though they war used to sich sights. One o' these I picked out as ole
Bill, but, in course, I couldn't tell sartin which one war him, it war
so far off.

"A little way from the prisoners were the principal chiefs o' the
tribe, holdin' a palaver regardin' what should be done, an' a little
further off stood the rest o' the tribe--men, women, an'
children--waitin' the word to begin their horrid work.

"It war nigh noon afore the council broke up; then one o' the chiefs
commenced shoutin' some orders, an' one o' the prisoners was led out
o' the camp by two Injuns, while the rest o' the varlets set up a
yell, an' armin' themselves with whatever they could lay their hands
on, commenced formin' themselves in two lines; the prisoner, whoever
he was, must run the gauntlet. While the savages war fixin'
themselves, the white chap stood between the Injuns who had led him
out, watchin' what war goin' on, an' I could easy tell what he war
thinkin' of, 'cause I had been in sich scrapes myself. I knowed that,
as he looked through them long lines o' screechin' Injuns, an' seed
the tomahawks, clubs, knives, an' whips, all ready to give him a cut
as he passed, he thought of every thing he had done durin' his life.
But he warn't given much time for thinkin', for, purty quick, the
chief set up a yell to let the prisoner know that the time had come.
The chap didn't hesitate a minit, but jumped from the place where he
war standin', like a streak o' lightnin'. I see him disappear atween
the lines, and made up my mind that that chap war a goner, when, all
to onct, out he come, all right, and made toward the place where I war
standin'. I guess them Injuns never see any thing done quite so purty
afore, an' I knowed well enough now who the fellow war, 'cause there
warn't but one man livin' that could come through them lines in that
way, an' that war Bill Lawson. In course, the hull tribe, yellin' an'
screechin' like a pack o' wolves, war arter him in less nor the shake
of a buck's tail, and tomahawks, bullets, an' arrers whizzed by the
prisoner in a mighty onpleasant kind o' way; but Bill kept jumpin'
from one side to the other in a way that made him a mighty onhandy
mark to shoot at, an' the way he did climb over that prairy was
somethin' for owls to look at. But, fast as he run, I could see that
there war one Injun gainin' on him, an' I made up my mind that if the
ole man could hold out long enough to fetch him within pluggin'
distance o' my shootin'-iron, I would put an end to his jumpin' for
awhile. Nearer an' nearer they come, the Injun all the while gainin'
purty fast, an' when they got within 'bout forty rod o' me, I could
see that the varlet war gettin' ready to throw his tomahawk. I watched
him until he raised his arm, an' sent a bullet plumb atween his eyes.
The next minit the ole man jumped into the bushes.

"There warn't no time for talkin' or sayin' how de do?' for the rest
o' the Injuns war comin' up, an' we must put a good stretch o' prairy
atween us an' them afore we war safe.

"'Bill, says I, there's my hoss. I'm younger nor you be, so jump on
him, and be off in a hurry; I'll meet you at the ole bar's hole,
Good-by.'

"I didn't wait to give the ole man a chance to say a word, 'cause I
knowed that he didn't like to take that hoss; but I made off through
the bushes. Ole Bill seed that I war gone, an' jumpin' on the hoss, he
rode out on the prairy in plain sight, to get the Comanches to foller
him, which some of 'em did; but the ole braves, who had heered my
shot, an', in course, knowed that there war more'n one feller 'bout,
couldn't be fooled easy, an' thinkin' they could ketch a man on foot
sooner nor a man on hossback, they kept on arter me. But I war fresh
for a long run--a week's travelin' acrost the prairy on foot warn't no
new thing for me--an' as I never see the Injun yet that could beat me
in a fair race, I felt safe, an' knowed that I should come out all
right. I didn't waste time in tryin' to throw 'em off my trail, but
kept straight ahead at a steady pace, an' whenever an Injun come in
sight, me an' my rifle settled things with him in a tarnal hurry. This
made 'em kind o' keerful, an' afore sundown I war out o' hearin o'
their yells, an' a greenhorn wouldn't have thought that there war an
Injun in them woods. But I war too ole a coon to believe that they had
give up the chase, an' it warn't until the next mornin' that I camped
to take a leetle sleep, an' eat a squirrel I had shot.

"Wal, I traveled for 'bout ten days, durin' which time I didn't see a
bit o' Injun sign, an' finally found myself gettin' purty nigh the ole
bar's hole. As soon as I come to the woods that run down from the
mountain, I tuk to a creek that run clost by the cave, an' walked
along in the water, all the while keepin' a good look-out for Injun
sign an' for ole Bill. Arter I had gone 'bout a mile, I come to the
mouth o' the cave. It war a hole jest large enough for a man to
squeeze himself through, an' so covered up with bushes that a feller
might hunt a week without findin' it. The cave itself war 'bout as
large as this yere cabin; an' right acrost from the entrance war a
passage which led up to the top o' the hill. Me an' ole Bill had made
this ourselves, so that, in case our harborin' place should be
diskivered, we would have a chance for escape.

"When I come to the cave it war purty dark; so, arter listenin' awhile
for signs of Injuns, if there war any around, I crawled along into the
hole, which war, in course, as dark as pitch, an' commenced fumblin'
around for a torch that I had left stuck into the wall o' the cave,
all ready to be lighted. Arter searchin' 'bout for a long time I found
it--not where I had left it, but lyin' on the ground in the middle o'
the cave. This seemed suspicious, an' I begun to be afraid that
something war wrong. I hadn't seed no Injun sign near the cave,
neither had I seed any thing of ole Bill, an' I knowed that that torch
couldn't get moved clear acrost that cave without somebody had been
foolin' with it. I reckon my hand war none o' the steadiest, as I
lifted the torch an' commenced feelin' in my possible-sack for my
flint an' steel, thinkin' that as soon as I could strike a light, I
would jest examine into things a leetle.

"Wal, I hadn't made more 'n one blow at my flint, when the cave echoed
with the war-whoop, an' the next minit I found myself lyin' flat on my
back, with a big Comanche on top o' me.

"When I first heered the yell, I thought the cave war full of Injuns,
an' I'll allow it made me feel a heap easier when I found that the
feller that clinched me war alone, for I knowed that if any one Injun
could master my scalp, he must be a tarnal sight smarter nor any
red-skin I had ever met; an', without waitin' to ask no questions, I
made a grab at the varmint, an', by good luck, ketched the hand that
held his knife; an' then commenced one o' the liveliest little fights
I war ever in.

"The Injun war mighty strong, an' as wiry as an eel, an', although I
could keep him from usin' his knife, I could not get him off me,
neither could I get my left arm free, which, in fallin', he had pinned
to my side; but I kept thrashin' about in a way that made it mighty
onhandy for him to hold me. But findin' that I could do nothin' in
that way, I all to onct let go the hand that held the knife, an' give
him a clip 'side the head that would have knocked down a buck. It
kinder staggered his daylight some, I reckon', for I made out to get
my arm free, an', ketchin' the varlet by the scalp-lock, I had him on
his back in a minit. He yelled an' kicked wusser nor I I did when he
had me down, an' slashed right an' left with his scalpin'-knife; but
it didn't take long to settle matters, an' all fears that our
harborin' place had been broke up war put at rest by the death o' the
Comanche."



CHAPTER XVIII.

End of the Trapper and Black Mustang.


"My first job, arter I war sartin that the Comanche war done for, war
to light the torch an' examine the cave. First makin' sure that thar
war no more Injuns about, I crawled along up the passage that led to
the top o' the hill, where I found that the log which covered the hole
had been moved, an' I knowed in a minit that that war the place where
the Comanche had come in. I didn't care 'bout showin' myself much,
'cause I didn't know how many more o' the savages there might be
about; so I pulled the log over the hole agin' an' crawled back into
the cave. I stuck my torch in the ground, an' arter movin' the
Comanche up in one corner out of the way, I pulled over a pile of
hemlock-boughs, that had many a time served me an' ole Bill for a
bed, an' found a kag o' spruce beer, an' enough jerked meat to last a
month. Me an' Bill allers took good keer to leave plenty o' provender
at the cave when we left, so that if we should get hard pressed by the
Injuns, or game should get scarce, we would know where to go to find
good livin'. As I hadn't had a good meal since we lost the train, I
eat a heap o' that jerked meat, an' then lay down to sleep, hopin'
that when I woke I should find ole Bill with me. I warn't much anxious
about him, 'cause I knowed he war on as good a hoss as ever tracked a
prairy, an' war too ole in Injun fightin' to be ketched easy; an' I
went to sleep, sartin that he would turn up all right afore daylight.

"Wal, I slept like a top until 'arly the next mornin', but didn't see
nothin' of ole Bill. Arter a breakfast on jerked meat an' spruce beer,
I smoked a pipe, an' crawled up the passage to the top o' the hill,
pushed off the log, an' settled down to listen. For two days, I kept
watch at that hole, listenin' an' peepin', but there war no signs of
ole Bill. On the second arternoon, I heered the tramp of a hoss in the
creek, an' a'most at the same minit a big Comanche poked his head
over the bushes not ten foot from where I war, an' looked toward the
place where the sound come from. How the rascal got there without
seein' me, I didn't stop to think; but, risin' to my feet, I chucked
my tomahawk at him, an' there war one Injun less in them woods. Nigher
and nigher come the trampin' o' the hoss, an' I war sartin it war ole
Bill; so when he got within yellin' distance, I give the gobble of a
turkey, jest to let him know that there war danger ahead. The ole man
heered it, for the trampin' o' the hoss stopped, an', for a minit, the
woods war as still as death; but all to onct I heered the crack of a
rifle, follered by the death-screech of a Comanche, an' then the
clatter of hoofs an' a loud laugh told me that the ole man war
retreatin'. I knowed there warn't no use o' watchin' any more, so I
pulled the log over the hole agin, crawled back into the cave, an'
went to sleep. It war night when I woke, an' takin' my rifle, I
crawled out into the gully an' lay down in the shade o' the bushes. I
lay there till near midnight without hearin' any thing, an' had a'most
made up my mind that ole Bill warn't comin', when the low hootin' of
an owl come echoin' down the gully. I answered it, an', in a few
minits, up come Bill an' crawled into the cave.

"'Here I am,' said he, 'an' I had mighty hard work to get here,
too--the timmer's chuck full o' the outlyin' varlets.'

"'Where's my hoss?' I asked.

"'He's down in the bushes, all right side up with keer, an' hid away
where the rascals will have to hunt a long time to find him. He's
worth his weight in beaver-skins, that hoss is.

"Ole Bill eat his supper in silence; but, arter fillin' his pipe,
said:

"'Dick, them 'ar Comanches have got my hoss, an' I'm goin' back arter
it.'

"Now a feller would think that, arter what Bill had gone through, he
wouldn't be in no hurry about goin' back among the Injuns agin. But
sich scrapes warn't no new thing to him; an' when he said 'Go,' in
course I warn't goin' to stay behind. So, arter takin' another smoke,
the ole man tuk the knife and tomahawk o' the Injun I had killed in
the cave, an' led the way out into the gully. As he had said, the
timmer was full of Injuns, an', as we crawled along on our hands an'
knees, we could hear 'em talkin' to each other all around us. But we
got past 'em all right, an' as soon as we got out o' the gully, the
ole man rose to his feet and said:

"'That hoss knows that there's somethin' wrong; he hasn't moved an
inch; he knows a'most as much as a human man, he does;' an' pullin'
aside the branches of a thicket of scrub pines, I see my hoss standin'
as quiet an' still as could be, jest as Bill had left him. He seemed
mighty glad to see me agin, an' rubbed his head agin my shoulder, as I
fastened on the saddle an' jumped on his back.

"It war a good two weeks' work to get back to that camp, for the
prairy an' woods war full o' Comanches huntin' around for Bill, an'
sometimes we had to go miles round to get out o' their way.

"When we reached the camp, we found it nearly deserted by the braves;
still, there war enough left to ketch me an' ole Bill, if we should be
diskivered. Wal, we lay round in the woods until dark, but not a glimp
could we get o' the ole man's mustang. The critter might be in the
camp, but more 'n likely as not he war carryin' a Comanche on his
back, an' scourin' the prairy in search o' Bill.

"As soon as it war fairly dark, the ole man stuck out his hand, and
said:

"'Dick, I'm goin' now. Good-by.'

"I never before felt so bad at partin' from him. Somehow I knowed that
somethin' mighty onpleasant war goin' to happen; but it warn't no use
to try to keep him from goin'; so I bid him good-by, an' he commenced
crawlin' through the grass toward the camp. I watched him as long as
he war in sight, an' then settled back agin a tree, an' waited to see
what would turn up. For two hours I sot there listenin', an' thinkin'
of all the fights me an' ole Bill had been in, an' wonderin' when the
time would come when we must part--not as we had now, for a little
while, but forever--when all to onct I heered the barkin' of a dog in
the camp. In course the hull village war aroused to onct, an' a loud
yell told me that ole Bill had been diskivered. The yell was follered
by the crack of a rifle, an' the ole man come gallopin' out o' the
camp on his own hoss, shoutin':

"'Come on now, Dick, I'm even with the rascals. There's one less
Comanche in the world.'

"The Injuns were clost on to Bill's trail, an' come pourin' out o' the
camp on foot an' on hossback; an', seem' one big feller far ahead of
the others, I hauled up for a minit, sent him from his saddle, an'
then, jumpin' on my hoss, started arter the ole man. In course the
yellin' hounds war soon left behind, 'cause there warn't no hosses on
them prairies that could hold a candle to ourn; an' we war beginnin'
to grow jolly over our good luck, when, the fust thing we knowed,
crack went a couple o' rifles, an' Bill throwed his arms above his
head an' fell from his saddle.

"We had run chuck into a party o' Comanches who had been out huntin'
the ole man, an' had give up the chase, an' were 'turnin' to camp. The
minit ole Bill fell I war by his side, an', while I war liftin' him
from the ground, the rascals charged toward us with loud yells, sartin
that they had now got both of us in their power.

"'Dick,' said the ole man, a'most in a whisper, 'I've sent a good many
o' them screechin' imps out o' the world, an' it's my turn to go now.
They have finished me at last. You can't help me--so save yourself;
but remember that every Comanche that crosses your trail falls, to pay
for this. Leave me.'

"'Bill, me an' you have been together too long for that. When I leave
you it'll be arter this, said I, an', liftin him in my arms, I got him
on my hoss, an' started off agin. The way that little mustang got over
the ground carried us ahead of all except two o' the Comanches, who
kept bangin' away at us as fast as they could load their rifles. If I
hadn't had ole Bill in my arms I would have put an eend to their
shootin' an' yellin' in a tarnal hurry.

"It war no light load that hoss had to carry, an' I knowed that we
must come to closer quarters soon, 'cause he couldn't stand that gait
long. But he carried us five mile 'bout as quick as I ever traveled,
an' then, all to onct, commenced to run slow. He war givin' out fast.
The yellin' varlets kept comin' nearer an' nearer, an' I had only one
chance for life, an' a poor one at that. I would stick to the hoss as
long as he could step, an' then try it on foot. So I turned toward a
strip o' woods which lay 'bout a mile off, but he hadn't made a dozen
jumps when one o' the pursuin' Injuns sent a ball through his head,
an' we all come to the ground together.

"The minit I touched the prairy I dropped ole Bill an', at the crack
o' my rifle, one o' the Injuns fell; the other then commenced
circlin' round me, 'fraid to come to clost quarters. But I kept my eye
on him, an' jest as he war goin' to fire, I dropped behind my hoss,
and kept dodgin' 'bout till I got my rifle loaded, and then I settled
matters to onct. I war safe--but ole Bill war dead. I tuk him up in my
arms agin, and carried him into the woods, where I rolled a log from
its place, an' arter scoopin' out some o' the ground, I put him in,
an' pulled the log back over him. It war the best I could do for him,
an' arter swearin' above his grave that a Comanche should fall for
every har on his head, I shouldered my rifle, an', jest as the sun war
risin', struck out acrost the prairy, which I knowed I must now tread
alone.

"Is it a wonder, then, that I hate an Injun? The bones of many a brave
that lay scattered 'bout the prairy can tell how well I have kept my
oath. Of all the Injuns that have crossed my trail since ole Bill's
death, the three that camped in this shantee that night ar the only
ones that ever escaped. I am not done with 'em yet; an' when I go back
to the prairy, the Comanches will have further cause to remember the
night that see the eend of ole Bill Lawson an' the Black Mustang."



CHAPTER XIX.

The Indians Again.


The next morning the boys were up before the sun, and after a hearty
breakfast, set out to spend the day in the woods; Frank and Harry,
bending their steps toward the creek that ran through the woods, about
a mile from the cabin, to set their traps for minks, while Archie and
George started toward a ridge--the well-known "fox run-way" as it was
called--to engage in their favorite sport. The trapper and Uncle Joe
set off in an opposite direction, to cut down a bee-tree, which the
latter had discovered a few days before.

When Frank and Harry arrived at the creek, the latter said:

"Now I want to understand something about this business, before we
commence operations We're after minks, and nothing else; and I don't
want you to endanger a fellow's life by getting him into any more wolf
scrapes, or any thing of that kind."

"All right," answered Frank, with a laugh. "I'll not get you into any
scrape to-day."

This satisfied Harry, and he was ready to begin the hunt. They found
plenty of mink tracks on the bank of the creek. After eating their
dinner, they commenced following up some of them, and, before night,
succeeded, with Brave's assistance, in capturing two large minks,
after which they returned to the cabin, well satisfied with their
day's work.

They found Uncle Joe and his brother seated at the supper-table, and a
large plate full of honey, which was rapidly disappearing before their
attacks, proved that they also had been successful. Archie and George
came in shortly after dark, tired and hungry. A fox-skin, which the
former threw down in the corner, bore testimony to the fact that Sport
was losing none of those hunting qualities of which his young master
so often boasted. The day's hunt had been successful on all hands; and
the boys being pretty well tired out, the trapper's stories were
omitted, and all the inmates of the cabin sought their couches at an
early hour.

The next morning the boys were "fresh and fierce" for the woods again,
and once more started out in their respective directions, leaving
Uncle Joe and the trapper seated before the fire, solacing themselves
with their pipes. Frank and Harry, as usual, went together; the
latter, as on the previous morning, exacting a promise that Frank
would not get him into any "scrapes," to which the latter, as before,
readily agreed, little dreaming what was to happen before night.

A few moments' walk brought them to the place at which they had set
their first trap, in a hollow stump, where they had noticed a
multitude of "mink signs," as the trapper would have called them, and
as Harry bent down and looked into the stump, Frank exclaimed:

"Look at these tracks; somebody besides ourselves has been here."

"Yes, some other hunters, I suppose," answered Harry, peering into the
stump. "I hope they were gentlemen enough not to interfere with our
arrangements here. But where's that trap gone to?"

"These tracks were not made by white persons," said Frank, bending
over and examining them, "for the hunters in this part of the country
all wear boots. These fellows wore moccasins, and the tracks all toe
in."

"Indians, as sure as I'm alive!" ejaculated Harry; "and, shoot me, if
our trap isn't gone." And thrusting his arm into the stump, he
commenced feeling around for the article in question, but it could not
be found.

"Yes, sir," he continued, rising to his feet, "it is gone, and no
mistake. Feel in there."

Frank accordingly got down on his knees and made an examination of the
stump; but the trap, beyond a doubt, had been carried off.

"Now, that is provoking!" he exclaimed.

"There was a mink in the trap, too," continued Harry, pointing to some
bits of fur that lay scattered about over the snow. "I wish the
rascals that took it had it crammed down their throats."

"It does no good to scold, Harry," said Frank, "for that won't mend
the matter. But let us go around and visit the other traps; perhaps
they have carried off all of them."

The boys accordingly went around to every place where they had left
their traps, but not one of them could be found.

"Now, there's thirteen dollars gone to the dogs," said Harry, angrily;
"for every one of those traps was worth a dollar, at least. I wish
Dick was here. We would follow up the scoundrels and recover our
property. What shall we do?"

"Let's follow them up, any how," replied Frank. "Perhaps we can catch
them--the trail seems plain enough. How many of them do you suppose
there were?"

"There were two Indians and as many dogs," answered Harry. "Here's a
track made by a fellow that must have had a foot as big as all
out-doors; and here's another, of very respectable size."

The boys commenced measuring the tracks, and found, as Harry had said,
that there were but two different sizes. As soon as this had been
determined, Frank exclaimed:

"Well, we mustn't waste any more time. Let's start after the rascals;
and if we catch them, we'll make them give up those traps or fight."

Harry shrugged his shoulders, and answered:

"If you are going in for a fight, just count me out, will you? One of
those Indians must be a strapping big fellow, judging by the size of
his feet; and the other, although he may be a smaller man, would
probably prove a tough customer. If Dick was here, I wouldn't mind it.
Let us go after him."

"O no," answered the reckless Frank. "I guess we and our double-barrel
shot-guns, with Brave's assistance, can recover those traps. If we
can't catch the thieves, we'll make the trail, at any rate."

Harry made no reply, but ran along after Frank, who commenced
following up the trail of the Indians, which, as no care had been
taken to conceal it, was very plain. As on the former occasion, it
appeared as if the tracks had been made by one person; but, on closer
examination, Frank discovered that the larger savage had taken the
lead, and that his companion had stepped exactly in his tracks. The
trail ran directly away from Uncle Joe's cabin, and then turned
abruptly and ran parallel with a ridge for the same distance; and here
the boys came to a place where there was a confused mingling of
tracks, conspicuous among which were some made by boots. There were
also the tracks of two more dogs, and several drops of blood on the
snow.

"The thieves have received reinforcements here," said Harry. "A couple
of white hunters, or else two more Indians, with boots on."

"Yes, it looks like it," answered Frank. "And they must have killed
some game, for here's blood on the snow."

"I guess we've gone about far enough," said Harry. "Four men and four
dogs are more than a match for us."

"No matter; I'm going to see the end of it now. You won't leave me to
go on alone!"

"O no. If you are bound to go on, I shall stick to you."

Frank immediately set off on the trail, which turned suddenly to the
left, and led toward a ravine. After running a short distance, he
said:

"These last fellows that joined them are not Indians, Harry, because
they didn't step in each other's tracks."

The trail led directly through the gully, and up the other side; and
while the boys were climbing up the bank, they heard the angry barking
of dogs, followed by the report of a gun, and a yell that made their
blood run cold. Harry immediately drew back, but Frank kept on; and
when he reached the top of the bank, he saw a sight that filled him
with horror, and which disturbed his sleep for many a night afterward.

But let us now return to Archie and George, whom we left starting out
with their hounds.

When they reached the bottom, through which the creek ran, they found
Sport standing over a fox-trail; and, at his master's command, he at
once set off upon it, followed by Lightfoot, while the boys struck off
through the woods toward a ridge which they knew the fox would be
certain to follow. They reached it just as the hounds passed; and were
about to start off again, when they were startled by the crack of two
rifles in rapid succession, accompanied by a howl of anguish. The
baying of the hound ceased, and, the next moment, Lightfoot came
running back, and took refuge behind his master.

"What's the matter, I wonder?" inquired Archie, in alarm.

"Somebody has shot Sport," answered George, as the howls of pain
continued to come from the part of the woods where the shots had been
heard.

"Sport shot!" repeated Archie, indignantly. "I won't stand that, you
know. Come on; let's see who it was."

As the boys commenced running up the ridge, the howls ceased, and
Archie began to be afraid that his hound had been killed; but, in a
few moments, he saw Sport coming toward him. He bore an ugly-looking
wound on his back, which had been made by a bullet; and although it
had at first disabled him, he was fast recovering his strength and
ferocity, and answered his master's caresses by showing his teeth, and
giving vent to angry growls.

"I'm going to find out who that was," said Archie. "Hunt 'em up,
Sport! hunt 'em up, sir!"

The hound was off on the instant, and led the way to the place where
he had been shot, which was marked by a little pool of blood on the
snow, and here he turned off to the left of the ridge and ran down
into a gully. Instead of baying as when on the trail of a fox, he ran
in silence, and the boys soon lost sight of him; but just as they
reached the bottom of the gully, they heard his bark, followed by a
yell, and a crashing in the bushes, as if a severe struggle was going
on; and when they gained the top of the bank, they found Sport
resolutely defending himself against two Indians and their dogs. The
latter--large, shaggy animals, of the wolf species--had closed with
the hound, which would undoubtedly have proved more than a match for
both of them, had not the Indians (who could not use their rifles for
fear of wounding their own dogs) attacked him with clubs. But Sport
was valiantly holding his own against their combined assaults, now and
then seizing one of the dogs in his powerful jaws, and giving him a
tremendous shaking, and then turning fiercely upon one of the Indians,
who found it necessary to retreat, in order to save himself.

The boys comprehended the state of affairs at a glance. Running
fearlessly up to the place where the fight was going on, Archie placed
the muzzle of his gun against the head of one of the dogs, and killed
him on the spot, exclaiming:

"Turn about is fair play, you know. I'll teach you to shoot my hound
when he isn't bothering you."

The large Indian immediately ceased his attacks upon Sport, and,
turning upon Archie with a yell, threw his brawny arms about him, and
hurled him to the ground. But Archie still retained his presence of
mind, and, while struggling with his assailant, shouted to his
companion:

"Shoot the other dog! shoot the other dog!"

George had just time to act upon this suggestion, when the smaller
savage closed with him. Of course the boys, although they fought
desperately, were speedily overpowered by the athletic Indians, who at
once commenced beating them most unmercifully with their clubs.
Archie, especially, was being punished most severely, when the hound,
finding himself at liberty, sprang upon the Indian, and pulled him to
the ground. Archie was on his feet in an instant; and, cheering on the
dog, was about to spring to George's assistance, when he noticed that
his late assailant was in a most dangerous situation, the long teeth
of the hound being fastened in his throat; and although he struggled
desperately, he could not release himself. Archie at once hurried to
his relief, and endeavored to choke off the hound, while the smaller
Indian continued to shower his blows upon George, who received them
without giving vent to a single cry of pain.

Such was the scene presented to Frank's gaze as he came up out of the
gully. Of course he was entirely ignorant of the cause of the trouble,
but, seeing George's situation, he at once ran to his assistance. The
Indian, seeing him approach, uttered a yell, and, springing to his
feet, was about to "make himself scarce," when the sight of Frank's
double-barrel, which the latter aimed straight at his head, brought
him to a stand-still. By this time, Archie, with Harry's aid, had
succeeded in releasing the Indian, but it required their utmost
strength to prevent the hound from renewing his attacks.

The savage, however, had not fared so badly as they had at first
supposed; for, although during the last few moments of the struggle he
had lain so still that Archie began to fear that he was dead, the
moment he was released he sprang to his feet, and, uttering the usual
"ugh," was about to retreat, when he also was brought to a halt by
Frank's double-barrel.

The circumstances which had brought the boys together in so singular a
manner were speedily explained, after which Frank commenced an
examination of the "possible-sacks" that the Indians carried slung
over their shoulders, which resulted in the recovery of the missing
traps.

"Now, what shall we do with these rascals?" he inquired.

"They're the same ones that camped in the cabin that night," answered
Archie; "and this is the second time they have been guilty of stealing
traps, and I say let's take 'em prisoners, and let Dick pass judgment
upon them."

This plan was hailed with delight by the others; and the savages, who,
during the conversation, had stood with their arms folded, as if they
were in no wise concerned in what was going on, were at once relieved
of their knives and hatchets, and, in obedience to Archie's order,
fell in behind Frank, who led the way toward the cabin. George and
Harry followed close after them, carrying the weapons that had been
taken from the prisoners, and ready to resist the first attempt that
should be made at escape, while Archie brought up the rear, struggling
hard to restrain the hound, which, every moment, renewed his
endeavors to reach the Indians. In this order they marched through the
woods, and, just before dark, reached the cabin. Frank entered first,
standing with his gun at a shoulder-arms until the prisoners had
passed him and the rest of the boys had entered and closed the door.

"Eh! what?" ejaculated the trapper, who had watched these movements in
surprise. "What did you youngsters fetch them ar tarnal varlets back
here for?"

The affair was soon explained, and Uncle Joe and the trapper rolled up
their eyes in astonishment. At length the latter said:

"They stole your traps, did they, an' shot the hound, an' you follered
'em up an' ketched 'em, did you?"

"Yes," answered Archie, "and they mauled George and me with clubs; and
we have brought them here to know what to do with them."

"Wal, I never _did_ see sich keerless fellers as you youngsters be,"
said Dick. "You get wusser every day. Why didn't you come arter me?"

"We should have lost too much time. Besides, we wanted to catch them
ourselves."

"Wal, 'cordin' to prairy law," continued the trapper, "there oughter
be short work made of 'em; but what's law on the prairy won't do in
the settlements. Pitch 'em out-doors, and don't never bring no more
Injuns here."

"Shall we give them their guns?" asked Frank.

"No; don't give 'em nothin'. Open that door."

Frank did as the trapper ordered, and the latter walked up to the
large Indian, and, seizing him around the body, lifted him from his
feet, and threw him headlong into a deep snow-drift outside of the
cabin. A smothered "ugh" broke from his lips as he sank out of sight.
After considerable struggling, he reappeared, completely covered with
snow, looking very unlike the sedate Indian that had stood in the
cabin but a moment before, and started, at the top of his speed, for
the woods. As soon as he had disappeared in the darkness, the trapper
seized the smaller Indian, and served him in the same manner; then,
without waiting to see what became of him, closed the door, and
returned to his seat in front of the fire.



CHAPTER XX.

The Journey Homeward.


Next morning, as soon as they had finished their breakfast, in
accordance with the promise they had made their parents before
starting, that they would be at home before the holidays, the boys
began to make preparations to leave the woods. The sled was brought
around to the door, and, while George and Harry were engaged in
loading it, Frank and his cousin went to the barn to harness the young
moose, which had become very tractable, and would trot off with a load
as well as a horse. Their traps and guns, together with the furs they
had taken, were stowed carefully away in the bottom of the sled; then
came the cubs, and the skins of the moose, bear, white buck, and
panther, and the whole was crowned by the huge antlers of the moose,
to give it, as Harry said, "an imposing appearance."

After the moose had been hitched to the sled, and all was ready for
the start, the boys turned to shake hands with Uncle Joe and the
trapper. Dick seemed to regret their parting very much. After drawing
his coat-sleeve across his eyes, he seized Frank's hand, and said:

"Good-by, youngster! We have had some good times in these yere woods
this winter. I'm sorry that the partin' time has come, for I hate to
have you leave us. You are a gritty feller--jest sich a one as I like
to see; an' I have tuk to you jest the same as poor ole Bill Lawson
onct tuk to me. As soon as spring opens I shall start agin for the
prairy. The woods here are too small for me. We prob'bly shall never
meet agin, but I hope you won't forget your ole friend, Dick Lewis.
Good-by! an' may your trail never be as rugged an' rough as mine has
been."

"I shall never forget you, Dick," replied Frank, as he returned the
trapper's hearty grasp. "You saved my life."

At length the farewells had all been said, and the boys got into the
sled. Frank took up the reins, and the moose broke into a rapid trot,
that soon carried them out of sight of the cabin.

There was no danger that the boys would soon forget the wild scenes
through which they had passed during their short sojourn in the woods.
Each had something to remind him of some exciting hunt which he had
gone through. Frank thought of his desperate struggle with the buck,
during which he had received scars that would go with him through
life. Harry remembered his adventure with the wolves. George shivered
as he thought of his cold bath in the pond. And Archie, in
imagination, was again in pursuit of the black fox.

"Well," said the latter, at length, "we've had some fine times since
we traveled over this road."

"Yes," said George, "and I should like to go through them
again--ducking and all."

"I had rather be excused," said Frank.

"So had I," chimed in Harry.

"I shouldn't like the idea of going through the fight with that moose
again," continued Frank.

"Nor I shouldn't like to meet those wolves again, and have them pull
off my boots as I was climbing up a tree," said Harry.

"I wonder what the folks will think, when they see us coming home in
this rig?" said Archie.

That question was answered when, about an hour before dark, they
turned up off the creek into the road, in full view of the cottage.

They were first discovered by Aunt Hannah, who, after shading her eyes
with her hand, and gazing at them a few moments, ran into the house. A
moment afterward the whole family appeared at the door.

"There's my folks!" exclaimed Archie. "I thought they would be here to
spend the holidays. Show them what we can do, Frank."

His cousin accordingly put the moose through his best paces, and in a
few moments they whirled through the gate, and drew up before the
door.

"Well, boys, I'm glad to see you all back safe," said Mr. Winters, as
soon as the greeting was over. "It's a wonder that Archie didn't shoot
some of you--he's so careless with his gun."

"O no, father," replied the boy, "I've got over that. I always hold my
gun muzzle down, as you told me."

The boys began to unload the sled, and one after another of the
articles were taken out and laid on the portico. Finally, Harry drew
out the panther's skin.

"A panther!" exclaimed Mr. Winters. "Where did you buy that skin?"

"Buy it!" repeated Archie. "We didn't buy it. Frank killed the panther
that once wore this skin; with a shot-gun, too; and that isn't all he
killed, either. Look here!" and he threw out the bear and moose-skins,
and finally the cubs. "He had a nice time killing that moose," Archie
went on to say, "and he came near being"----

Here he was interrupted by a look from his cousin. He was about to
say, "and came near being killed himself;" but finished his sentence
by saying, "He came near killing the moose at the first shot, but
didn't quite."

Mr. Winters had seen the glances that the boys exchanged, and knew
that it meant something more than they were willing to reveal; but he
made no remark. After the things had all been taken out, with the
exception of those that belonged to George and Harry, and the cubs had
been taken into the kitchen and delivered into Aunt Hannah's especial
charge, the boys got into the sled again and started for Mr. Butler's.

Their appearance in the village created a great commotion. After
driving around to the post-office for the mail, as well as to show off
the qualities of their horned horse, they started home again.

That evening was passed in a pleasant manner, in the recital of the
boys' adventures in the woods, which also formed the topic of
conversation for many days. In spite of the emphatic instructions
Frank had given his companions "not to say a word about his fight with
the moose," it gradually "leaked out somewhere," as Archie expressed
it, and Frank became a hero in his own family, and in the village.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here we will leave them, only to introduce them again in other and
more stirring scenes on the Western Prairies.


THE END.


FAMOUS CASTLEMON BOOKS.


    GUNBOAT SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 6 vols. 16mo.
    Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      FRANK THE YOUNG NATURALIST.
      FRANK ON A GUNBOAT.
      FRANK IN THE WOODS.
      FRANK BEFORE VICKSBURG.
      FRANK ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.
      FRANK ON THE PRAIRIE.

    ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 3 vols.
    16mo. Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      FRANK AMONG THE RANCHEROS.
      FRANK AT DON CARLOS' RANCHO.
      FRANK IN THE MOUNTAINS.

    SPORTSMAN'S CLUB SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 3
    vols. 16mo. Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB IN THE SADDLE.
      THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB AFLOAT.
      THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB AMONG THE TRAPPERS.

    GO-AHEAD SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 3 vols. 16mo.
    Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      TOM NEWCOMBE. GO-AHEAD. NO MOSS.

    FRANK NELSON SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 3 vols.
    16mo. Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      SNOWED UP. FRANK IN THE FORECASTLE. BOY TRADERS.

    BOY TRAPPER SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 3 vols.
    16mo. Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      THE BURIED TREASURE; OR, OLD JORDAN'S HAUNT.
      THE BOY TRAPPER; OR, HOW DAVE FILLED THE ORDER.
      THE MAIL-CARRIER.

    ROUGHING IT SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. Illustrated. 16mo.
    Cloth, extra, black and gold.
      GEORGE IN CAMP.


_Other Volumes in Preparation._

    Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by
    R. W. CARROLL & CO.,
    In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States,
    for the Southern District of Ohio.





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