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Title: The Bears of Blue River
Author: Major, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                        THE BEARS OF BLUE RIVER


[Illustration: The MM Co.]

[Illustration: “Balser was more fortunate in his aim, and gave the bear
a mortal wound.”]



                                  The
                          Bears of Blue River


                                   BY

                             CHARLES MAJOR

            AUTHOR OF “WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER,” ETC.


             _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. B. FROST AND OTHERS_


                                New York
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                     LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.

                                  1908

                         _All rights reserved_



                         COPYRIGHT, 1900, 1901,
           BY CURTIS PUBLISHING CO.       BY JOHN WANAMAKER.

                            COPYRIGHT, 1901,
                           BY CHARLES MAJOR.


          First published elsewhere. Reprinted November, 1902;
                      March, 1904; October, 1908.
                      New edition September, 1906.


                             Norwood Press
                  J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith
                          Norwood Mass. U.S.A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CONTENTS.


                              CHAPTER I.

                                             PAGE

                      The Big Bear              3


                              CHAPTER II.

                      How Balser got a Gun     31


                             CHAPTER III.

                      Lost in a Forest         53


                              CHAPTER IV.

                      The One-eared Bear       79


                              CHAPTER V.

                      The Wolf Hunt           104


                              CHAPTER VI.

                      Borrowed Fire           140


                             CHAPTER VII.

                      The Fire Bear           171


                             CHAPTER VIII.

                      The Black Gully         190


                              CHAPTER IX.

                      On the Stroke of Nine   217


                              CHAPTER X.

                      A Castle on Brandywine  238



                             ILLUSTRATIONS.


 “Balser was more fortunate in his aim, and gave the bear
   a mortal wound”                                        _Frontispiece_

                                                                    PAGE

 Bass and sunfish and big-mouthed redeye                               4

 “A wildcat almost as big as a cow”                                   14

 “Little Balser noticed fresh bear tracks, and his breath
   began to come quickly”                                             15

 “Fresh bear tracks”                                                  17

 “Imagine ... his consternation when he saw upon the
   bank, quietly watching him, a huge black bear”                     19

 “The bear had a peculiar, determined expression about
   him”                                                               21

 “When the bear got within a few feet of Balser ... the
   boy grew desperate with fear, and struck at the beast
   with the only weapon he had—his string of fish”                    25

 “The bear had caught the fish, and again had climbed
   upon the log”                                                      29

 “He could hear the bear growling right at his heels, and
   it made him just fly”                                     _facing_ 44

 “Tige was told to go into the cave”                         _facing_ 48

 “Each with a saucy little bear cub”                         _facing_ 52

 “Down came Tom and Jerry from the roof”                     _facing_ 60

 Tige and Prince swimming about the canoe                    _facing_ 74

 “’Lordy, Balser! It’s the one-eared bear’”                  _facing_ 88

 “’Let’s get out of here’”                                   _facing_ 94

 “Balser rushed into the fight”                             _facing_ 102

 “Mischief! they never thought of anything else”                     108

 “Balser turned in time to see a great, lank, gray wolf
   emerge from the water, carrying a gander by the neck”             109

 “Bang! went Balser’s gun, and the wolf ... paid for his
   feast with his life”                                              117

 “Caught them by the back of the neck”                               123

 “The boys tied together the legs of the old wolves and
   swung them over the pole ... and started home leading
   the pups”                                                         127

 “These hives were called ‘gums’”                                    135

 “The cubs went every way but the right way”                _facing_ 146

 “The bear rose to climb after the boy”                     _facing_ 160

 “Liney thrust the burning torch into the bear’s face and
   held it there despite its rage and growls”               _facing_ 168

 “’Help! help!’ came the cry”                               _facing_ 176

 “’Now, hold up the torch, Polly’”                          _facing_ 204

 “Polly continued slowly toward the bear”                   _facing_ 212

 “Imagine his consternation when he recognized the forms
   of Liney Fox and her brother Tom”                                 229

 “He fell a distance of ten or twelve feet, ... and lay
   half stunned”                                                     233

 En route for the castle                                             244

 The castle on the Brandywine                                        252

 “Balser hesitated to fire, fearing that he might kill
   Tom or one of the dogs”                                           263

 “Espied a doe and a fawn, standing upon the opposite
   side of the creek”                                                273



                                   I.

                             THE BIG BEAR.



                        THE BEARS OF BLUE RIVER.



                               CHAPTER I.
                             THE BIG BEAR.


Away back in the “twenties,” when Indiana was a baby state, and great
forests of tall trees and tangled underbrush darkened what are now her
bright plains and sunny hills, there stood upon the east bank of Big
Blue River, a mile or two north of the point where that stream crosses
the Michigan road, a cozy log cabin of two rooms—one front and one back.

The house faced the west, and stretching off toward the river for a
distance equal to twice the width of an ordinary street, was a
blue-grass lawn, upon which stood a dozen or more elm and sycamore
trees, with a few honey-locusts scattered here and there. Immediately at
the water’s edge was a steep slope of ten or twelve feet. Back of the
house, mile upon mile, stretched the deep dark forest, inhabited by deer
and bears, wolves and wildcats, squirrels and birds, without number.

[Illustration: BASS AND SUNFISH AND THE BIG-MOUTHED REDEYE.]

In the river the fish were so numerous that they seemed to entreat the
boys to catch them, and to take them out of their crowded quarters.
There were bass and black suckers, sunfish and catfish, to say nothing
of the sweetest of all, the big-mouthed redeye.

[Illustration]

South of the house stood a log barn, with room in it for three horses
and two cows; and enclosing this barn, together with a piece of ground,
five or six acres in extent, was a palisade fence, eight or ten feet
high, made by driving poles into the ground close together. In this
enclosure the farmer kept his stock, consisting of a few sheep and
cattle, and here also the chickens, geese, and ducks were driven at
nightfall to save them from “varmints,” as all prowling animals were
called by the settlers.

The man who had built this log hut, and who lived in it and owned the
adjoining land at the time of which I write, bore the name of Balser
Brent. “Balser” is probably a corruption of Baltzer, but, however that
may be, Balser was his name, and Balser was also the name of his boy,
who was the hero of the bear stories which I am about to tell you.

Mr. Brent and his young wife had moved to the Blue River settlement from
North Carolina, when young Balser was a little boy five or six years of
age. They had purchased the “eighty” upon which they lived, from the
United States, at a sale of public land held in the town of Brookville
on Whitewater, and had paid for it what was then considered a good round
sum—one dollar per acre. They had received a deed for their “eighty”
from no less a person than James Monroe, then President of the United
States. This deed, which is called a patent, was written on sheepskin,
signed by the President’s own hand, and is still preserved by the
descendants of Mr. Brent as one of the title-deeds to the land it
conveyed. The house, as I have told you, consisted of two large rooms,
or buildings, separated by a passageway six or eight feet broad which
was roofed over, but open at both ends—on the north and south. The back
room was the kitchen, and the front room was parlour, bedroom, sitting
room and library all in one.

At the time when my story opens Little Balser, as he was called to
distinguish him from his father, was thirteen or fourteen years of age,
and was the happy possessor of a younger brother, Jim, aged nine, and a
little sister one year old, of whom he was very proud indeed.

On the south side of the front room was a large fireplace. The chimney
was built of sticks, thickly covered with clay. The fireplace was almost
as large as a small room in one of our cramped modern houses, and was
broad and deep enough to take in backlogs which were so large and heavy
that they could not be lifted, but were drawn in at the door and rolled
over the floor to the fireplace.

The prudent father usually kept two extra backlogs, one on each side of
the fireplace, ready to be rolled in as the blaze died down; and on
these logs the children would sit at night, with a rough slate made from
a flat stone, and do their “ciphering,” as the study of arithmetic was
then called. The fire usually furnished all the light they had, for
candles and “dips,” being expensive luxuries, were used only when
company was present.

The fire, however, gave sufficient light, and its blaze upon a cold
night extended half-way up the chimney, sending a ruddy, cozy glow to
every nook and corner of the room.

The back room was the storehouse and kitchen; and from the beams and
along the walls hung rich hams and juicy side-meat, jerked venison,
dried apples, onions, and other provisions for the winter. There was a
glorious fireplace in this room also, and a crane upon which to hang
pots and cooking utensils.

The floor of the front room was made of logs split in halves with the
flat, hewn side up; but the floor of the kitchen was of clay, packed
hard and smooth.

The settlers had no stoves, but did their cooking in round pots called
Dutch ovens. They roasted their meats on a spit or steel bar like the
ramrod of a gun. The spit was kept turning before the fire, presenting
first one side of the meat and then the other, until it was thoroughly
cooked. Turning the spit was the children’s work.

South of the palisade enclosing the barn was the clearing—a tract of
twenty or thirty acres of land, from which Mr. Brent had cut and burned
the trees. On this clearing the stumps stood thick as the hair on an
angry dog’s back; but the hard-working farmer ploughed between and
around them, and each year raised upon the fertile soil enough wheat and
corn to supply the wants of his family and his stock, and still had a
little grain left to take to Brookville, sixty miles away, where he had
bought his land, there to exchange for such necessities of life as could
not be grown upon the farm or found in the forests.

The daily food of the family all came from the farm, the forest, or the
creek. Their sugar was obtained from the sap of the sugar-trees; their
meat was supplied in the greatest abundance by a few hogs, and by the
inexhaustible game of which the forests were full. In the woods were
found deer just for the shooting; and squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys,
pheasants, and quails, so numerous that a few hours’ hunting would
supply the table for days. The fish in the river, as I told you, fairly
longed to be caught.

One day Mrs. Brent took down the dinner horn and blew upon it two strong
blasts. This was a signal that Little Balser, who was helping his father
down in the clearing, should come to the house. Balser was glad enough
to drop his hoe and to run home. When he reached the house his mother
said:—

“Balser, go up to the drift and catch a mess of fish for dinner. Your
father is tired of deer meat three times a day, and I know he would like
a nice dish of fried redeyes at noon.”

“All right, mother,” said Balser. And he immediately took down his
fishing-pole and line, and got the spade to dig bait. When he had
collected a small gourdful of angleworms, his mother called to him:—

“You had better take a gun. You may meet a bear; your father loaded the
gun this morning, and you must be careful in handling it.”

Balser took the gun, which was a heavy rifle considerably longer than
himself, and started up the river toward the drift, about a quarter of a
mile away.

There had been rain during the night and the ground near the drift was
soft.

Here, Little Balser noticed fresh bear tracks, and his breath began to
come quickly. You may be sure he peered closely into every dark thicket,
and looked behind all the large trees and logs, and had his eyes wide
open lest perchance “Mr. Bear” should step out and surprise him with an
affectionate hug, and thereby put an end to Little Balser forever.

So he walked on cautiously, and, if the truth must be told, somewhat
tremblingly, until he reached the drift.

Balser was but a little fellow, yet the stern necessities of a settler’s
life had compelled his father to teach him the use of a gun; and
although Balser had never killed a bear, he had shot several deer, and
upon one occasion had killed a wildcat, “almost as big as a cow,” he
said.

I have no doubt the wildcat seemed “almost as big as a cow” to Balser
when he killed it, for it must have frightened him greatly, as wildcats
were sometimes dangerous animals for children to encounter. Although
Balser had never met a bear face to face and alone, yet he felt, and
many a time had said, that there wasn’t a bear in the world big enough
to frighten him, if he but had his gun.

[Illustration: “A WILDCAT ALMOST AS BIG AS A COW.”]

He had often imagined and minutely detailed to his parents and little
brother just what he would do if he should meet a bear. He would wait
calmly and quietly until his bearship should come within a few yards of
him, and then he would slowly lift his gun. Bang! and Mr. Bear would be
dead with a bullet in his heart.

[Illustration: “LITTLE BALSER NOTICED FRESH BEAR TRACKS, AND HIS BREATH
BEGAN TO COME QUICKLY.”]

[Illustration: “FRESH BEAR TRACKS.”]

But when he saw the fresh bear tracks, and began to realize that he
would probably have an opportunity to put his theories about bear
killing into practice, he began to wonder if, after all, he would become
frightened and miss his aim. Then he thought of how the bear, in that
case, would be calm and deliberate, and would put _his_ theories into
practice by walking very politely up to him, and making a very
satisfactory dinner of a certain boy whom he could name. But as he
walked on and no bear appeared, his courage grew stronger as the
prospect of meeting the enemy grew less, and he again began saying to
himself that no bear could frighten him, because he had his gun and he
could and would kill it.

So Balser reached the drift; and having looked carefully about him,
leaned his gun against a tree, unwound his fishing-line from the pole,
and walked out to the end of a log which extended into the river some
twenty or thirty feet.

Here he threw in his line, and soon was so busily engaged drawing out
sun fish and redeyes, and now and then a bass, which was hungry enough
to bite at a worm, that all thought of the bear went out of his mind.

After he had caught enough fish for a sumptuous dinner he bethought him
of going home, and as he turned toward the shore, imagine, if you can,
his consternation when he saw upon the bank, quietly watching him, a
huge black bear.

If the wildcat had seemed as large as a cow to Balser, of what size do
you suppose that bear appeared? A cow! An elephant, surely, was small
compared with the huge black fellow standing upon the bank.

[Illustration: “IMAGINE ... HIS CONSTERNATION WHEN HE SAW UPON THE BANK,
QUIETLY WATCHING HIM, A HUGE BLACK BEAR.”]

It is true Balser had never seen an elephant, but his father had, and so
had his friend Tom Fox, who lived down the river; and they all agreed
that an elephant was “purt nigh as big as all outdoors.”

The bear had a peculiar, determined expression about him that seemed to
say:—

[Illustration: “THE BEAR HAD A PECULIAR, DETERMINED EXPRESSION ABOUT
HIM.”]

“That boy can’t get away; he’s out on the log where the water is deep,
and if he jumps into the river I can easily jump in after him and catch
him before he can swim a dozen strokes. He’ll _have_ to come off the log
in a short time, and then I’ll proceed to devour him.”

About the same train of thought had also been rapidly passing through
Balser’s mind. His gun was on the bank where he had left it, and in
order to reach it he would have to pass the bear. He dared not jump into
the water, for any attempt to escape on his part would bring the bear
upon him instantly. He was very much frightened, but, after all, was a
cool-headed little fellow for his age; so he concluded that he would not
press matters, as the bear did not seem inclined to do so, but so long
as the bear remained watching him on the bank would stay upon the log
where he was, and allow the enemy to eye him to his heart’s content.

There they stood, the boy and the bear, each eying the other as though
they were the best of friends, and would like to eat each other, which,
in fact, was literally true.

Time sped very slowly for one of them, you may be sure; and it seemed to
Balser that he had been standing almost an age in the middle of Blue
River on that wretched shaking log, when he heard his mother’s dinner
horn, reminding him that it was time to go home.

Balser quite agreed with his mother, and gladly would he have gone, I
need not tell you; but there stood the bear, patient, determined, and
fierce; and Little Balser soon was convinced in his own mind that his
time had come to die.

He hoped that when his father should go home to dinner and find him
still absent, he would come up the river in search of him, and frighten
away the bear. Hardly had this hope sprung up in his mind, when it
seemed that the same thought had also occurred to the bear, for he began
to move down toward the shore end of the log upon which Balser was
standing.

Slowly came the bear until he reached the end of the log, which for a
moment he examined suspiciously, and then, to Balser’s great alarm,
cautiously stepped out upon it and began to walk toward him.

Balser thought of the folks at home, and, above all, of his baby sister;
and when he felt that he should never see them again, and that they
would in all probability never know of his fate, he began to grow
heavy-hearted and was almost paralyzed with fear.

On came the bear, putting one great paw in front of the other, and
watching Balser intently with his little black eyes. His tongue hung
out, and his great red mouth was open to its widest, showing the sharp,
long, glittering teeth that would soon be feasting on a first-class boy
dinner.

When the bear got within a few feet of Balser—so close he could almost
feel the animal’s hot breath as it slowly approached—the boy grew
desperate with fear, and struck at the bear with the only weapon he
had—his string of fish.

Now, bears love fish and blackberries above all other food; so when
Balser’s string of fish struck the bear in the mouth, he grabbed at
them, and in doing so lost his foothold on the slippery log and fell
into the water with a great splash and plunge.

This was Balser’s chance for life, so he flung the fish to the bear, and
ran for the bank with a speed worthy of the cause.

[Illustration: “WHEN THE BEAR GOT WITHIN A FEW FEET OF BALSER ... THE
BOY GREW DESPERATE WITH FEAR, AND STRUCK AT THE BEAST WITH THE ONLY
WEAPON HE HAD—HIS STRING OF FISH.”]

When he reached the bank his self-confidence returned, and he remembered
all the things he had said he would do if he should meet a bear.

The bear had caught the fish, and again had climbed upon the log, where
he was deliberately devouring them.

This was Little Balser’s chance for death—to the bear. Quickly snatching
up the gun, he rested it in the fork of a small tree near by, took
deliberate aim at the bear, which was not five yards away, and shot him
through the heart. The bear dropped into the water dead, and floated
down-stream a little way, where he lodged at a ripple a short distance
below.

Balser, after he had killed the bear, became more frightened than he had
been at any time during the adventure, and ran home screaming. That
afternoon his father went to the scene of battle and took the bear out
of the water. It was very fat and large, and weighed, so Mr. Brent said,
over six hundred pounds.

Balser was firmly of the opinion that he himself was also very fat and
large, and weighed at least as much as the bear. He was certainly
entitled to feel “big”; for he had got himself out of an ugly scrape in
a brave, manly, and cool-headed manner, and had achieved a victory of
which a man might have been proud.

The news of Balser’s adventure soon spread among the neighbours and he
became quite a hero; for the bear he had killed was one of the largest
that had ever been seen in that neighbourhood, and, besides the gallons
of rich bear oil it yielded, there were three or four hundred pounds of
bear meat; and no other food is more strengthening for winter diet.

There was also the soft, furry skin, which Balser’s mother tanned, and
with it made a coverlid for Balser’s bed, under which he and his little
brother lay many a cold night, cozy and “snug as a bug in a rug.”

[Illustration: “THE BEAR HAD CAUGHT THE FISH AND AGAIN HAD CLIMBED UPON
THE LOG.”]



                              CHAPTER II.
                         HOW BALSER GOT A GUN.


For many years after the killing of the big bear, as told in the
preceding chapter, time was reckoned by Balser as beginning with that
event. It was, if I may say it, his “Anno Domini.” In speaking of
occurrences, events, and dates, he always fixed them in a general way by
saying, “That happened before I killed the big bear;” or, “That took
place after I killed the big bear.” The great immeasurable eternity of
time was divided into two parts: that large unoccupied portion preceding
the death of the big bear, and the part, full to overflowing with
satisfaction and pride, after that momentous event.

Balser’s adventure had raised him vastly in the estimation of his
friends and neighbours, and, what was quite as good, had increased his
respect for himself, and had given him confidence, which is one of the
most valuable qualities for boy or man. Frequently when Balser met
strangers, and the story of the big bear was told, they would pat the
boy on the shoulder and call him a little man, and would sometimes ask
him if he owned a gun. Much to Balser’s sorrow, he was compelled to
admit that he did not. The questions as to whether or not he owned a gun
had put into his mind the thought of how delightful life would be if he
but possessed one; and his favourite visions by day and his sweetest
dreams by night were all about a gun; one not so long nor so heavy as
his father’s, but of the shorter, lighter pattern known as a smooth-bore
carbine. He had heard his father speak of this gun, and of its
effectiveness at short range; and although at long distances it was not
so true of aim as his father’s gun, still he felt confident that, if he
but possessed the coveted carbine he could, single-handed and alone,
exterminate all the races of bears, wolves and wildcats that inhabited
the forests round about, and “pestered” the farmers with their
depredations.

But how to get the gun! That was the question. Balser’s father had
received a gun as a present from _his_ father when Balser Sr. had
reached the advanced age of twenty-one, and it was considered a rich
gift. The cost of a gun for Balser would equal half of the sum total
that his father could make during an entire year; and, although Little
Balser looked forward in fond expectation to the time when he should be
twenty-one and should receive a gun from his father, yet he did not even
hope that he would have one before then, however much he might dream
about it. Dreams cost nothing, and guns were expensive; too expensive
even to be hoped for. So Balser contented himself with inexpensive
dreams, and was willing, though not content, to wait.

But the unexpected usually happens, at an unexpected time, and in an
unexpected manner.

About the beginning of the summer after the killing of the big bear,
when Balser’s father had “laid by” his corn, and the little patch of
wheat had just begun to take on a golden brown as due notice that it was
nearly ready to be harvested, there came a few days of idleness for the
busy farmer. Upon one of those rare idle days Mr. Brent and Balser went
down the river on a fishing and hunting expedition. There was but one
gun in the family, therefore Balser could not hunt when his father was
with him, so he took his fishing-rod, and did great execution among the
finny tribe, while his father watched along the river for game, as it
came down to drink.

Upon the day mentioned Balser and his father had wandered down the river
as far as the Michigan road, and Mr. Brent had left the boy near the
road fishing, after telling him to go home in an hour or two, and that
he, Mr. Brent, would go by another route and be home in time for supper.

So Balser was left by himself, fishing at a deep hole perhaps a hundred
yards north of the road. This was at a time when the river was in flood,
and the ford where travellers usually crossed was too deep for passage.

Balser had been fishing for an hour or more, and had concluded to go
home, when he saw approaching along the road from the east a man and
woman on horseback. They soon reached the ford and stopped, believing it
to be impassable. They were mud-stained and travel-worn, and their
horses, covered with froth, were panting as if they had been urged to
their greatest speed. After a little time the gentleman saw Balser, and
called to him. The boy immediately went to the travellers, and the
gentleman said:—

“My little man, can you tell me if it is safe to attempt the ford at
this time?”

“It will swim your horses,” answered Balser.

“I knew it would,” said the lady, in evident distress. She was young and
pretty, and seemed to be greatly fatigued and frightened. The gentleman
was very attentive, and tried to soothe her, but in a moment or two she
began to weep, and said:—

“They will catch us, I know. They will catch us. They cannot be more
than a mile behind us now, and we have no place to turn.”

“Is some one trying to catch you?” asked Balser.

The gentleman looked down at the little fellow for a moment, and was
struck by his bright, manly air. The thought occurred to him that Balser
might suspect them of being fugitives from justice, so he explained:—

“Yes, my little fellow, a gentleman is trying to catch us. He is this
lady’s father. He has with him a dozen men, and if they overtake us they
will certainly kill me and take this lady home. Do you know of any place
where we may hide?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Balser, quickly; “help me on behind you, and I’ll
take you to my father’s house. There’s no path up the river, and if they
attempt to follow they’ll get lost in the woods.”

Balser climbed on the horse behind the gentleman, and soon they plunged
into the deep forest, and rode up the river toward Balser’s home. The
boy knew the forest well, and in a short time the little party of three
was standing at the hospitable cabin door. Matters were soon explained
to Balser’s mother, and she, with true hospitality, welcomed the
travellers to her home. During the conversation Balser learned that the
gentleman and lady were running away that they might be married, and,
hoping to finish a good job, the boy volunteered the advice that they
should be married that same evening under his father’s roof. He also
offered to go in quest of a preacher who made his home some two miles to
the east.

The advice and the offer of services were eagerly accepted, and the lady
and gentleman were married that night, and remained a few days at the
home of Mr. Brent until the river was low enough to cross.

The strangers felt grateful to the boy who had given them such timely
help, and asked him what they could do for him in return.

Balser hesitated a moment, and said, “There’s only one thing I want very
bad, but that would cost so much there’s no use to speak of it.”

“What is it, Balser? Speak up, and if it is anything I can buy, you
shall have it.”

“A gun! A gun! A smooth-bore carbine. I’d rather have it than anything
else in the world.”

“You shall have it if there’s one to be bought in Indianapolis. We are
going there, and will return within a week or ten days, and you shall
have your carbine if I can find one.”

Within two weeks after this conversation Balser was the happiest boy in
Indiana, for he owned a carbine, ten pounds of fine powder, and lead
enough to kill every living creature within a radius of five miles.

Of course the carbine had to be tested at once. So the day after he
received it Balser started out with his father on a hunting expedition,
fully determined in his own mind to kill a bear twice as large as his
first one. They took with them corn-bread and dried venison for dinner,
and started east toward Conn’s Creek, where the houses of the settlers
were thinly scattered and game plentiful.

They had with them two faithful dogs, “Tige” and “Prince.” Balser
considered these dogs the most intelligent animals that walked on four
feet. They were deerhounds with a cross of bulldog, and were swift of
foot and very strong.

Our hunters had travelled perhaps three or four miles into the forest
when they started a deer, in pursuit of which the dogs bounded off with
their peculiar bark, and soon deer and dogs were lost to sight. Balser
and his father listened carefully for the voices of the dogs, for should
the deer turn at bay, the dogs, instead of the quick bark, to which they
gave voice in the chase, would utter a long-drawn-out note—half howl,
half yelp.

The bay of the hounds had died away in the distance, and Balser and his
father had heard nothing of them for two or three hours.

The hunters had seen other deer as they walked along, but they had been
unable to obtain a shot. Smaller game was plentiful, but Balser and his
father did not care to frighten away large game by shooting at squirrels
or birds. So they continued their walk until they reached the bank of
Conn’s Creek, near the hour of noon; by that time Balser’s appetite was
beginning to call loudly for dinner, and he could not resist the
temptation to shoot a squirrel, which he saw upon a limb of a
neighbouring tree. The squirrel fell to the ground and was soon skinned
and cleaned. Balser then kindled a fire, and cutting several green
twigs, sharpened the ends and fastened small pieces of the squirrel upon
them. He next stuck the twigs in the ground so that they leaned toward
the fire, with the meat hanging directly over the blaze. Soon the
squirrel was roasted to a delicious brown, and then Balser served dinner
to his father, who was sitting on a rock near by. The squirrel, the
corn-bread, and the venison quickly disappeared, and Balser, if
permitted to do so, would have found another squirrel and would have
cooked it. Just as dinner was finished, there came from a long way
up-stream the howling bark of Tige and Prince, telling, plainly as if
they had spoken English, that the deer was at bay.

Thereupon Balser quickly loaded his gun, and he and his father looked
carefully to their primings. Then Mr. Brent directed Balser to climb
down the cliff and move toward the dogs through the thicket in the
bottom, while he went by another route, along the bluff. Should the
hunters be separated, they were to meet at an agreed place in the
forest. Balser climbed cautiously down the cliff and was soon deep in a
dark thicket of tangled underbrush near the creek.

Now and then the deep bay of the dogs reached his ears from the
direction whence he had first heard it, and he walked as rapidly as the
tangled briers and undergrowth would permit toward his faithful
fellow-hunters.

He was so intent on the game which he knew the dogs held at bay, that he
did not look about him with his accustomed caution, and the result of
his unwatchfulness was that he found himself within ten feet of two huge
bears before he was at all aware of their presence. They were evidently
male and female, and upon seeing him the great he-bear gave forth a
growl that frightened Balser to the depths of his soul. Retreat seemed
almost impossible; and should he fire at one of the bears, his gun would
be empty and he would be at the mercy of the other. To attempt to outrun
a bear, even on level ground, would be almost a hopeless undertaking;
for the bear, though an awkward-looking creature, is capable of great
speed when it comes to a foot-race. But there, where the tangled
underbrush was so dense that even walking through it was a matter of
great difficulty, running was out of the question, for the thicket which
would greatly impede Balser would be but small hindrance to the bears.

After Balser had killed the big bear at the drift, he felt that he never
again would suffer from what hunters call “buck ager”; but when he found
himself confronted by those black monsters, he began to tremble in every
limb, and for the life of him could not at first lift his gun. The
he-bear was the first to move. He raised himself on his haunches, and
with a deep growl started for poor Balser. Balser should have shot the
bear as he came toward him, but acting solely from an instinct of
self-preservation he started to run. He made better headway than he had
thought possible, and soon came to a small open space of ground where
the undergrowth was not so thick, and where the bright light of the sun
dispelled the darkness. The light restored Balser’s confidence, and the
few moments of retreat gave him time to think and to pull himself
together. So, turning quickly, he lifted his gun to his shoulder and
fired at the bear, which was not two yards behind him. Unfortunately,
his aim was unsteady, and his shot wounded the bear in the neck, but did
not kill him.

Balser saw the disastrous failure he had made, and felt that the bear
would be much surer in his attack upon him than he had been in his
attack upon the bear. The boy then threw away his gun, and again began a
hasty retreat.

He called for his father, and cried, “Tige! Prince! Tige! Tige!” not so
much with a hope that either the dogs or his father would hear, but
because he knew not what else to do. Balser ran as fast as he could,
still the bear was at his heels, and the frightened boy expected every
moment to feel a stroke from the brute’s huge rough paw. Soon it came,
with a stunning force that threw Balser to the ground, upon his back.
The bear was over him in an instant, and caught his left arm between his
mighty jaws. It seemed then that the light of the world went out for a
moment, and he remembered nothing but the huge, blood-red mouth of the
bear, his hot breath almost burning his cheeks, and his deep, terrible
growls nearly deafening his ears. Balser’s whole past life came up
before him like a picture, and he remembered everything that had ever
happened to him. He thought of how deeply his dear father and mother
would grieve, and for the only time in his life regretted having
received the carbine, for it was the gun, after all, that had got him
into this trouble. All this happened in less time than it takes you to
read ten lines of this page, but it seemed very, very long to Balser,
lying there with the huge body of the bear over him.

[Illustration: “He could hear the bear growling right at his heels, and
it made him just fly.”]

Suddenly a note of hope struck his ear—the sweetest sound he had ever
heard. It was the yelp of dear old Tige, who had heard his call and had
come to the rescue. If there is any creature on earth that a bear
thoroughly hates, it is a dog. Tige wasted not a moment’s time, but was
soon biting and pulling at the bear’s hind legs. The bear immediately
turned upon the dog, and gave Balser an opportunity to rise. Of this
opportunity he quickly took advantage, you may be sure. Soon Prince came
up also, and in these two strong dogs the bear had foemen worthy of his
steel.

Balser’s great danger and narrow escape had quickened all his faculties,
so he at once ran back to the place where he had dropped his gun, and
although his left arm had been terribly bitten, he succeeded in loading,
and soon came back to the help of the dogs, who had given him such
timely assistance.

The fight between the dogs and the bear was going on at a merry rate,
when Balser returned to the scene of action. With Prince on one side and
Tige on the other, both so strong and savage, and each quick and nimble
as a cat, the bear had all he could do to defend himself, and
continually turned first one way and then another in his effort to keep
their fangs away from his legs or throat. This enabled Balser to
approach within a short distance of the bear, which he cautiously did.
Taking care not to wound either of his faithful friends, he was more
fortunate in his aim than he had been the first time, and gave the bear
a mortal wound.

The wounded animal made a hasty retreat back into the thicket, followed
closely by the dogs; but Balser had seen more than enough of bear
society in the thicket, and prudently concluded not to follow. He then
loaded his gun with a heavy charge of powder only, and fired it to
attract his father’s attention. This he repeated several times, until at
last he saw the welcome form of his father hurrying toward him from the
bluff. When his father reached him and saw that he had been wounded, Mr.
Brent was naturally greatly troubled; but Balser said: “I’ll tell you
all about it soon. Let’s go in after the bears. Two of them are in the
thicket up there next to the cliff, and the dogs have followed them. If
Tige had not come up just in time, one of the bears would have killed
me; but I think the shot I gave him must have killed him by this time.”

So without another word, Balser having loaded his gun, they started into
the dark thicket toward the cliff, in the direction whence came the
voices of the dogs.

They had not proceeded farther than a hundred yards when they found the
bear which Balser had shot, lying dead in the path over which Balser had
so recently made his desperate retreat. The dogs were farther in, toward
the cliff, where the vines, trees, and brush grew so thick that it was
almost dark.

The two hunters, however, did not stop, but hurried on to the help of
their dogs. Soon they saw through the gloom of the thicket the she-bear,
and about her the dogs were prancing, barking, and snapping most
furiously.

Carefully Balser and his father took their position within a few yards
of the bear, and Balser, upon a signal from his father, called off the
dogs so that a shot might be made at the bear without danger of killing
either Tige or Prince.

[Illustration: “Tige was told to go into the cave.”]

Soon the report of two guns echoed through the forest, almost at the
same instant, and the great she-bear fell over on her side, quivered for
a moment, and died. This last battle took place close by the stone
cliff, which rose from the bottom-land to a height of fifty or sixty
feet.

Balser and his father soon worked their way through the underbrush to
where the she-bear lay dead. After having examined the bear, Balser’s
attention was attracted to a small opening in the cliff, evidently the
mouth of a cave which had probably been the home of the bear family that
he and his father had just exterminated. The she-bear had taken her
stand at the door of her home, and in defending it had lost her life.
Balser examined the opening in the cliff, and concluded to enter; but
his father said:—

“You don’t know what’s in there. Let’s first send in one of the dogs.”

So Tige was called and told to go into the cave. Immediately after he
had entered he gave forth a series of sharp yelps which told plainly
enough that he had found something worth barking at. Then Balser called
the dog out, and Mr. Brent collected pieces of dry wood, and made a fire
in front of the cave, hoping to drive out any animal that might be on
the inside.

He more than suspected that he would find a pair of cubs.

As the smoke brought nothing forth, he concluded to enter the cave
himself and learn what was there.

Dropping upon his knees, he began to crawl in at the narrow opening, and
the boy and the two dogs followed closely. Mr. Brent had taken with him
a lighted torch, and when he had gone but a short distance into the cave
he saw in a remote corner a pair of gray-black, frowzy little cubs, as
fat and round as a roll of butter. They were lying upon a soft bed of
leaves and grass, which had been collected by their father and mother.

Balser’s delight knew no bounds, for, next to his gun, what he wanted
above all things was a bear cub, and here were two of them. Quickly he
and his father each picked up a cub and made their way out of the cave.

The cubs, not more than one-half larger than a cat, were round and very
fat, and wore a coat of fur, soft and sleek as the finest silk. Young
bears usually are gray until after they are a year old, but these were
an exception to the rule, for they were almost black.

Leaving the old bears dead upon the ground, Balser and his father
hurried down to the creek, where Mr. Brent washed and dressed his son’s
wounded arm. They then marked several trees upon the bank of the creek
by breaking twigs, so that they might be able to find the bears when
they returned that evening with the horses to take home the meat and
skins.

All this, which has taken so long to tell, occurred within the space of
a few minutes; but the work while it lasted was hard and tiresome, and,
although it was but a short time past noon, Balser and his father were
only too glad to turn their faces homeward, each with a saucy little
bear cub under his arm.

“As we have killed their mother,” said Balser, referring to the cubs,
“we must take care of her children and give them plenty of milk, and
bring them up to be good, honest bears.”

The evening of the same day Mr. Brent and a few of his neighbours
brought home the bear meat and skins. Balser did not go with his father
because his arm was too sore. He was, however, very proud of his wound,
and thought that the glory of the day and the two bear cubs were
purchased cheaply enough after all.

[Illustration: “Each with a saucy little cub.”]



                              CHAPTER III.
                          LOST IN THE FOREST.


Balser’s arm mended slowly, for it had been terribly bitten by the bear.
The heavy sleeve of his buckskin jacket had saved him from a wound which
might have crippled him for life; but the hurt was bad enough as it was,
and Balser passed through many days and nights of pain before it was
healed. He bore the suffering like a little man, however, and felt very
“big” as he walked about with his arm in a buckskin sling.

Balser was impatient that he could not hunt; but he spent his time more
or less satisfactorily in cleaning and polishing his gun and playing
with the bear cubs, which his little brother Jim had named “Tom” and
“Jerry.” The cubs soon became wonderfully tame, and drank eagerly from a
pan of milk. They were too small to know how to lap, so the boys put
their hands in the pan and held up a finger, at which the cubs sucked
lustily. It was very laughable to see the little round black fellows
nosing in the milk for the finger. And sometimes they would bite, too,
until the boys would snatch away their hands and soundly box the cubs on
the ears. A large panful of milk would disappear before you could say
“Christmas,” and the bears’ silky sides would stand out as big and round
as a pippin. The boys were always playing pranks upon the cubs, and the
cubs soon learned to retaliate. They would climb everywhere about the
premises, up the trees, on the roofs of the barn and house, and over the
fence. Their great delight was the milk-house and kitchen, where they
had their noses into everything, and made life miserable for Mrs. Brent.
She would run after them with her broomstick if they but showed their
sharp little snouts in the doorway. Then off they would scamper, yelping
as though they were nearly killed, and ponder upon new mischief. They
made themselves perfectly at home, and would play with each other like a
pair of frisky kittens, rolling over and over on the sod, pretending to
fight, and whining and growling as if they were angry in real earnest.
One day Balser and his little brother Jim were sitting on a log, which
answered the purpose of a settee, under the eaves in front of the house.
The boys were wondering what had become of Tom and Jerry, as they had
not seen them for an hour or more, and their quietness looked
suspicious.

“I wonder if those cubs have run away,” said Balser.

“No,” said Jim, “bet they won’t run away; they’ve got things too
comfortable here to run away. Like as not they’re off some place
plannin’ to get even with us because we ducked them in the water trough
awhile ago. They looked awful sheepish when they got out, and as they
went off together I jus’ thought to myself they were goin’ away to think
up some trick on us.”

Balser and Jim were each busily engaged eating the half of a blackberry
pie. The eave of the house was not very high, perhaps seven or eight
feet from the ground, and Balser and Jim were sitting under it, holding
the baby and eating their pie.

Hardly had Jim spoken when the boys heard a scraping sound from above,
then a couple of sharp little yelps; and down came Tom and Jerry from
the roof, striking the boys squarely on the head.

To say that the boys were frightened does not half tell it. They did not
know what had happened. They fell over, and the baby dropped to the
ground with a cry that brought her mother to the scene of action in a
moment. The blackberry pie had in some way managed to spread itself all
over the baby’s face, and she was a very comical sight when her mother
picked her up.

The bears _had_ retaliated upon the boys sooner than even Jim had
anticipated, and they all had a great laugh over it; the bears seeming
to enjoy it more than anybody else. The boys were ready to admit that
the joke was on them, so they took the cubs back to the milk-house, and
gave them a pan of rich milk as a peace-offering.

The scrapes these cubs got themselves and the boys into would fill a
large volume; but I cannot tell you any more about them now, as I want
to relate an adventure having no fun in it, which befell Balser and some
of his friends soon after his arm was well.

It was blackberry time, and several children had come to Balser’s home
for the purpose of making a raid upon a large patch of wild blackberries
that grew on the other side of the river, a half-hour’s walk from Mr.
Brent’s cabin.

Soon after daybreak one morning, the little party, consisting of Balser
and Jim, Tom Fox and his sister Liney (which is “short” for
Pau-_li_-ne), and three children from the family of Mr. Neigh, paddled
across the river in a canoe which Balser and his father had made from a
large gum log, and started westward for the blackberry patch.

Tom and Jerry had noticed the preparations for the journey with
considerable curiosity, and felt very much hurt that they were not to be
taken along. But they were left behind, imprisoned in a pen which the
boys had built for them, and their whines and howls of complaint at such
base treatment could be heard until the children were well out of sight
of the house.

The party hurried along merrily, little thinking that their journey home
would be one of sadness; and soon they were in the midst of the
blackberries, picking as rapidly as possible, and filling their gourds
with the delicious fruit.

They worked hard all the morning, and the deerskin sacks which they had
brought with them were nearly full.

Toward noon the children became hungry, and without a dissenting voice
agreed to eat dinner.

They had taken with them for lunch a loaf of bread and a piece of cold
venison, but Balser suggested that he should go into the woods and find
a squirrel or two to help out their meal. In the meantime Tom Fox had
started out upon a voyage of discovery, hoping that he, too, might
contribute to the larder.

In a few minutes Balser’s gun was heard at a distance, and then again
and again, and soon he was back in camp with three fat squirrels.

Almost immediately after him came Tom Fox carrying something in his
coonskin cap.

“What have you there, Limpy?” cried Liney.

The children called Tom “Limpy” because he always had a sore toe or a
stone bruise on his heel.

“You’ll never guess,” answered Tom. All the children took a turn at
guessing, and then gave it up.

“Turkey eggs,” said Tom. “We’ll have eggs as well as squirrel for dinner
to-day.”

“How will you cook them?” asked one of the Neigh children.

“I’ll show you,” answered Tom.

So now they were guessing how Limpy would cook the eggs, but he would
not tell them, and they had to give it up.

The boys then lighted a fire from the flint-lock on the gun, and Balser,
having dressed the squirrel, cut twigs as he had done when he and his
father dined on Conn’s Creek, and soon pieces of tender squirrel were
roasting near the flame, giving forth a most tempting odour.

In the meantime Limpy had gone away, and none of the children knew where
he was, or what he was doing.

[Illustration: “Down came Tom and Jerry from the roof.”]

Soon, however, he returned bearing a large flat rock eight or ten inches
in diameter, and two or three inches thick. This rock he carefully
washed and scrubbed in a spring, until it was perfectly clean. He then
took coals from the fire which Balser had kindled, and soon had a great
fire of his own, in the midst of which was the stone. After the blaze
had died down, he made a bed of hot coals on which, by means of a couple
of sticks, he placed the rock, and then dusted away the ashes.

“Now do you know how I’m going to cook the eggs?” he asked.

They, of course, all knew; and the girls greased the rock with the fat
of the squirrel, broke the eggs, and allowed them to fall upon the hot
stone, where they were soon thoroughly roasted, and the children had a
delicious meal. After dinner they sat in the cool shade of the tree
under which they dined, and told stories and asked riddles for an hour
or two before they again began berry-picking. Then they worked until
about six o’clock, and stopped to have another play before returning
home.

They played “Ring around a rosey,” “Squat where ye be,” “Wolf,” “Dirty
dog,” and then wound up with the only never-grow-old, “Hide-and-seek.”

The children hid behind logs and trees, and in dense clumps of bushes.
The boys would often climb trees, when, if “caught,” the one who was
“it” was sure to run “home” before the hider could slide half-way down
his tree. Now and then a hollow tree was found, and that, of course, was
the best hiding-place of all.

Beautiful little Liney Fox found one hollow tree too many; and as long
as they lived all the children of the party remembered it and the
terrible events that followed her discovery. She was seeking a place to
hide, and had hurried across a small open space to conceal herself
behind a huge sycamore tree. When she reached the tree and went around
it to hide upon the opposite side, she found it was hollow at the root.

Balser was “it,” and with his eyes “hid” was counting one hundred as
rapidly and loudly as he could. He had got to sixty, he afterward said,
when a shriek reached his ears. This was when Liney found the hollow
tree. Balser at once knew that it was Liney’s voice; for, although he
was but a little fellow, he was quite old enough to have admired Liney’s
exquisite beauty, and to have observed that she was as kind and gentle
and good as she was pretty.

So what wonder that Balser, whom she openly claimed as her best friend,
should share not only in the general praise, but should have a boy’s
admiration for her all his own?

In persons accustomed to exercise the alertness which is necessary for a
good hunter, the sense of locating the direction and position from which
a sound proceeds becomes highly developed, and as Balser had been
hunting almost ever since he was large enough to walk, he knew instantly
where Liney was.

He hurriedly pushed his way through the bushes, and in a moment reached
the open space of ground, perhaps one hundred yards across, on the
opposite side of which stood the tree that Liney had found. Some twenty
or thirty yards beyond the tree stood Liney. She was so frightened that
she could not move, and apparently had become powerless to scream.

Balser hastened toward her at his utmost speed, and when he reached a
point from which he could see the hollow side of the tree, imagine his
horror and fright upon beholding an enormous bear emerging from the
opening. The bear started slowly toward the girl, who seemed unable to
move.

“Run, Liney! run for your life!” screamed Balser, who fearlessly rushed
toward the bear to attract its attention from the girl, and if possible
to bring it in pursuit of himself.

“I just felt,” said Balser afterward, “that I wanted to lie down and let
the bear eat me at once if I could only keep it away from Liney. I
shouted and threw clods and sticks at it, but on it went toward her. I
reckon it thought she was the nicest and preferred her to me. It was
right, too, for she was a heap the nicest, and I didn’t blame the bear
for wanting her.

“Again I shouted, ‘Run, Liney! run!’ My voice seemed to waken her, and
she started to run as fast as she could go, with the bear after her, and
I after the bear as fast as I could go. I was shouting and doing my best
to make the bear run after me instead of Liney; but it kept right on
after her, and she kept on running faster and faster into the dark
woods. In a short time I caught up with the bear, and kicked it on the
side as hard as I could kick. That made it mad, and it turned upon me
with a furious growl, as much as to say that it would settle with me
pretty quick and then get Liney. After I had kicked it I started to run
toward my gun, which was over by the blackberry patch. For a while I
could hear the bear growling and puffing right at my heels, and it made
me just fly, you may be sure. I never ran so fast in all my life, for I
knew that I could not hold out long against the bear, and that if I
didn’t get my gun quick he would surely get me. I did not care as much
as you might think, nor was I very badly frightened, for I was so glad I
had saved Liney. But naturally I wanted to save myself too, if possible,
so, as I have said, I ran as I never ran before—or since, for that
matter.

“Soon the growls of the bear began to grow indistinct, and presently
they ceased and I thought I had left it behind. So I kept on running
toward my gun, and never stopped to look back until I heard another
scream from Liney. Then I looked behind me, and saw that the bear had
turned and was again after her, although she was quite a distance ahead
of it.

“I thought at first that I should turn back and kick the bear again, and
just lie down and let it eat me if nothing else would satisfy it; but I
was so near my gun that I concluded to get it and then hurry back and
shoot the bear instead of kicking it.

“I heard Liney scream again and heard her call ‘B-a-l-s-e-r,’ and that
made me run even faster than the bear had made me go. It was but a few
seconds until I had my gun and had started back to help Liney.

“Soon I was at the hollow sycamore, but the bushes into which Liney had
run were so thick and dark that I could see neither her nor the bear. I
quickly ran into the woods where I thought Liney had gone, and when I
was a little way into the thicket I called to her, but she did not
answer. I then went on, following the track of the bear as well as I
could. Bears, you know, have long flat feet that do not sink into the
ground and leave a distinct track like a deer’s foot does, so I soon
lost the bear tracks and did not know which way to go.

“I kept going, however, calling loudly for Liney every now and then, and
soon I was so deep into the forest that it seemed almost night. I could
not see far in any direction on account of the thick underbrush, and at
a little distance objects appeared indistinct. On I went, knowing not
where, calling ‘Liney! Liney!’ at nearly every step; but I heard no
answer, and it seemed that I liked Liney Fox better than anybody in all
the world, and would have given my life to save her.”

After Balser had gone into the woods to help Liney the other children
gathered in a frightened group about the tree under which they had eaten
dinner. There they waited in the greatest anxiety and fear until the sun
had almost sunk below the horizon, but Balser and Liney did not return.
Shortly before dark the children started homeward, very heavy-hearted
and sorrowful, you may be sure. When they reached the river they paddled
across and told Mr. Brent that Balser and Liney were lost in the woods,
and that when last seen a huge bear was in pursuit of Liney. Balser’s
father lost not a moment, but ran to a hill near the house, upon the top
of which stood a large stack of dry grass, leaves, and wood, placed
there for the purpose of signalling the neighbours in case of distress.
He at once put fire to the dry grass, and soon there was a blaze, the
light from which could be seen for miles around.

Mr. Brent immediately crossed the river, and leaving Tom Fox behind to
guide the neighbours, walked rapidly in the direction of the place where
Balser and Liney had last been seen. He took with him the dogs, and a
number of torches which he intended to light from a tinder-box if he
should need them.

The neighbours soon hurried to the Brent home in response to the fire
signal, and several of them started out to rescue the children, if
possible. If help were to be given, it must be done at once. A night in
the woods meant almost certain death to the boy and girl; for, besides
bears and wolves, there had been for several weeks a strolling band of
Indians in the neighbourhood.

Although the Indians were not brave enough to attack a settlement, they
would be only too ready to steal the children, did they but have the
opportunity.

These Indians slept all day in dark, secluded spots, and roamed about at
night, visiting the houses of the settlers under cover of darkness, for
the purpose of carrying off anything of value upon which they could lay
their hands. Recently several houses had been burned, and some twenty
miles up the river a woman had been found murdered near the bank. Two
children were missing from another house, and a man while out hunting
had been shot by an unseen enemy.

These outrages were all justly attributed to the Indians; and if they
should meet Balser and Liney in the lonely forest, Heaven itself only
knew what might become of the children,—a bear would be a more merciful
enemy.

All night Mr. Brent and the neighbours searched the forest far and near.

Afterward Balser told the story of that terrible night, and I will let
him speak:—

“I think it was after six o’clock when I went into the woods in pursuit
of Liney and the bear. It was almost dark at that time in the forest,
and a little later, when the sun had gone down and a fine drizzle of
rain had begun to fall, the forest was so black that once I ran against
a small tree because I did not see it.

“I wandered about for what seemed a very long time, calling for Liney;
then I grew hopeless and began to realize that I was lost. I could not
tell from which direction I had come, nor where I was going. Everything
looked alike all about me—a deep, black bank of nothing, and a nameless
fear stole over me. I had my gun, but of what use was it, when I could
not see my hand before me? Now and then I heard wolves howling, and it
seemed that their voices came from every direction. Once a black shadow
ran by me with a snarl and a snap, and I expected every moment to have
the hungry pack upon me, and to be torn into pieces. What if they should
attack Liney? The thought almost drove me wild.

“I do not know how long I had wandered through the forest, but it must
have been eight or nine hours, when I came to the river. I went to the
water’s edge and put my hand in the stream to learn which way the
current ran, for I was so confused and so entirely lost that I did not
know which direction was down-stream. I found that the water was running
toward my right, and then I climbed back to the bank and stood in
helpless confusion for a few minutes.

“Nothing could be gained by standing there watching the water, like a
fish-hawk, so I walked slowly down the river. I had been going
down-stream for perhaps twenty minutes, when I saw a tall man come out
of the woods, a few yards ahead of me, and walk rapidly toward the river
bank. He carried something on his shoulder, as a man would carry a sack
of wheat, and when he had reached the river bank, where there was more
light, I could see from his dress that he was an Indian. I could not
tell what it was he carried, but in a moment I thought of Liney and ran
toward him. I reached the place where he had gone down the bank just in
time to see him place his burden in a canoe. He himself was on the point
of stepping in when I called to him to stop, and told him I would shoot
him if he did not. My fright was gone in an instant, and I would not
have feared all the lions, bears, and Indians that roamed the
wilderness. I had but one thought—to save Liney, and something told me
that she lay at the other end of the canoe.

“The open space of the river made it light enough for me to see the
Indian, and I was so close to him that even in the darkness I could not
miss my aim. In place of answering my call, he glanced hurriedly at me,
in surprise, and quickly lifted his gun to shoot me. But I was quicker
than he, and I fired first. The Indian dropped his gun and plunged into
the river. I did not know whether he had jumped or fallen in, but he
immediately sank. I thought I saw his head a moment afterward above the
surface of the water near the opposite bank, and I do not know to this
day whether or not I killed him. At the time I did not care, for the one
thing on my mind was to rescue Liney.

“I did not take long to climb into the canoe, and sure enough there she
was at the other end. I had not taken the precaution to tie the boat to
the bank, and I was so overjoyed at finding Liney, and was so eager in
my effort to lift her, and to learn if she were dead or alive, that I
upset the unsteady thing. I thought we should both drown before we could
get out, for Liney was as helpless as if she were dead, which I thought
was really the case.

“After a hard struggle I reached shallow water and carried Liney to the
top of the bank. I laid her on the ground, and took away the piece of
wood which the Indian had tied between her teeth to keep her from crying
out. Then I rubbed her hands and face and rolled her over and over until
she came to. After a while she raised her head and opened her eyes, and
looked about her as if she were in a dream.

[Illustration: Tige and Prince swimming about the Canoe.]

‘Oh, Balser!’ she cried, and then fainted away again. I thought she was
dead this time sure, and was in such agony that I could not even feel.
Hardly knowing what I was doing, I picked her up to carry her home,
dead—as I supposed. I had carried her for perhaps half an hour, when,
becoming very tired, I stopped to rest. Then Liney wakened up again, and
I put her down. But she could not stand, and, of course, could not walk.

“She told me that after she had run into the woods away from the bear,
she became frightened and was soon lost. She had wandered aimlessly
about for a long time, how long she did not know, but it seemed ages.
She had been so terrified by the wolves and by the darkness, that she
was almost unconscious, and hardly knew what she was doing. She said
that every now and then she had called my name, for she knew that I
would try to follow her. Her calling for me had evidently attracted the
Indian, whom she had met after she had been in the woods a very long
time.

“The Indian seized her, and placed the piece of wood between her teeth
to keep her from screaming. He then threw her over his shoulder, and she
remembered very little of what happened after that until she was
awakened in the canoe by the flash and the report of my gun. She said
that she knew at once I had come, and then she knew nothing more until
she awakened on the bank. She did not know of the upsetting of the
canoe, nor of my struggle in the water, but when I told her about it,
she said:—

“’Balser, you’ve saved my life three times in one night.’

“Then I told her that I would carry her home. She did not want me to,
though, and tried to walk, but could not; so I picked her up and started
homeward.

“Just then I happened to look toward the river and saw the Indian’s
canoe floating down-stream, bottom upward. I saw at once that here was
an opportunity for us to ride home, so I put Liney down, took off my wet
jacket and moccasins, and swam out to the canoe. After I had drawn it to
the bank and had turned out the water, I laid Liney at the bow, found a
pole with which to guide the canoe, climbed in myself, and pushed off.
We floated very slowly, but, slow as it was, it was a great deal better
than having to walk.

“It was just beginning to be daylight when I heard the barking of dogs.
I would have known their voices among ten thousand, for they were as
familiar to me as the voice of my mother. It was dear old Tige and
Prince, and never in my life was any voice more welcome to my ears than
that sweet sound. I whistled shrilly between my fingers, and soon the
faithful animals came rushing out of the woods and plunged into the
water, swimming about us as if they knew as well as a man could have
known what they and their master had been looking for all night.”
Balser’s father had followed closely upon the dogs, and within an hour
the children were home amid the wildest rejoicing you ever heard.

When Liney became stronger she told how she had seen the hollow in the
sycamore tree, and had hurried toward it to hide; and how, just as she
was about to enter the hollow tree, a huge bear raised upon its haunches
and thrust its nose almost in her face. She said that the bear had
followed her for a short distance, and then for some reason had given up
the chase. Her recollection of everything that had happened was confused
and indistinct, but one little fact she remembered with a clearness that
was very curious: the bear, she said, had but one ear.

When Balser heard this, he arose to his feet, and gave notice to all
persons present that there would soon be a bear funeral, and that a
one-eared bear would be at the head of the procession. He would have the
other ear of that bear if he had to roam the forest until he was an old
man to find it.

How he got it, and how it got him, I will tell you in the next chapter.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                          THE ONE-EARED BEAR.


“You, Tom! You, Jerry! come here!” called Balser one morning, while he
and Jim were sitting in the shade near the river in front of the house,
overseeing the baby.

“You, Tom! You, Jerry!” called Balser a second time with emphasis. The
cubs, snoozing in the sun a couple of paces away, rolled lazily over two
or three times in an effort to get upon their feet, and then trotted to
their masters with a comical, waddling gait that always set the boys
laughing,—it was such a swagger.

When they had come, Balser said, “Stop right there!” and the cubs, being
always tired, gladly enough sat upon their haunches, and blinked
sleepily into Balser’s face, with a greedy expression upon their own, as
if to say, “Well, where’s the milk?”

“Milk, is it?” asked Balser. “You’re always hungry. You’re nothing but a
pair of gluttons. Eat, eat, from morning until night. Well, this time
you’ll get nothing. There’s no milk for you.”

The cubs looked disgusted, so Jim said, and no doubt he was right, for
Jim and the cubs were great friends and understood each other
thoroughly.

“Now, I’ve been a good father to you,” said Balser. “I’ve always given
you as much milk as you could hold, without bursting, and have tried to
bring you up to be good respectable bears, and to do my duty by you. I
have whipped you whenever you needed it, although it often hurt me worse
than it did you.”

The bears grunted, as if to say: “But not in the same place.”

“Now what I want,” continued Balser, regardless of the interruption,
“is, that you tell me what you know, if anything, concerning a big
one-eared bear that lives hereabouts. Have you ever heard of him?”

Tom gave a grunt, and Jim, who had been studying bear language, said he
meant “Yes.”

Jerry then put his nose to Tom’s ear, and whined something in a low
voice.

“What does he say, Jim?” asked Balser.

“He says for Tom not to tell you anything until you promise to give them
milk,” answered Jim, seriously.

“Jerry, you’re the greatest glutton alive, I do believe,” said Balser;
“but if you’ll tell me anything worth knowing about the one-eared bear,
I’ll give you the biggest pan of milk you ever saw.”

Jerry in his glee took two or three fancy steps, awkwardly fell over
himself a couple of times, got up, and grunted to Tom to go ahead. Jim
was the interpreter, and Tom grunted and whined away, in a mighty effort
to earn the milk.

“The one-eared bear,” said he, “is my uncle. Used to hear dad and mother
talk about him. Dad bit his ear off. That’s how he came to have only
one. Dad and he fought about mother, and when dad bit uncle’s ear off
mother went with dad and wouldn’t have anything to do with the other
fellow. Couldn’t abide a one-eared husband, she said.”

“That’s interesting,” answered Balser. “Where does he live?”

Tom pointed his nose toward the northwest, and opened his mouth very
wide.

“Up that way in a cave,” interpreted Jim, pointing as the cub had
indicated.

“How far is it?” asked Balser.

Jerry lay down and rolled over twice.

“Two hours’ walk,” said Jim.

“How shall I find the place?” asked Balser.

Tom stood upon his hind legs, and scratched the bark of a tree with his
fore paws as high as he could reach.

“Of course,” said Balser, “by the bear scratches on the trees. I
understand.”

Jerry grunted “milk,” so Jim said, and the whole party, boys, bears, and
baby, moved off to the milk-house, where the cubs had a great feast.

After the milk had disappeared, Jerry grew talkative, and grunted away
like the satisfied little pig that he was.

Again Jim, with a serious face, acted as interpreter.

“Mighty bad bear,” said Jerry. “Soured on the world since mother threw
him over. Won’t have anything to do with anybody. He’s as big and strong
as a horse, fierce as a lion, and meaner than an Injun. He’s bewitched,
too, with an evil spirit, and nobody can ever kill him.”

“That’s the name he has among white folks,” remarked Balser.

“Better be careful when you hunt him, for he’s killed more men and boys
than you have fingers and toes,” said Tom. Then the cubs, being full of
milk and drowsy, stretched themselves out in the sun, and no amount of
persuasion could induce them to utter another grunt.

The bears had told the truth—that is, if they had told anything; for
since it had been learned throughout the settlement that it was a
one-eared bear which had pursued Liney, many stories had been told of
hairbreadth escapes and thrilling adventures with that same fierce
prowler of the woods.

One hunter said that he had shot at him as many as twenty times, at
short range, but for all he knew, had never even wounded him.

The one-eared bear could not be caught by any means whatsoever. He had
broken many traps, and had stolen bait so frequently from others, that
he was considered altogether too knowing for a natural bear; and it was
thought that he was inhabited by an evil spirit which gave him
supernatural powers.

He certainly was a very shrewd old fellow, and very strong and fierce;
and even among those of the settlers who were not superstitious enough
to believe that he was inhabited by an evil spirit, he was looked upon
as a “rogue” bear; that is, a sullen, morose old fellow, who lived by
himself, as old bachelors live. The bachelors, though, being men, should
know better and act more wisely.

Notwithstanding all these evil reports concerning the one-eared bear,
Balser clung to his resolution to hunt the bear, to kill him if
possible, and to give Liney the remaining ear as a keepsake.

Balser’s father knew that it was a perilous undertaking, and tried to
persuade the boy to hunt some less dangerous game; but he would not
listen to any of the warnings, and day by day longed more ardently for
the blood of the one-eared bear.

So one morning shortly after the conversation with the cubs, Balser
shouldered his gun and set out toward the northwest, accompanied by
Limpy Fox and the dogs.

In truth, the expedition had been delayed that Limpy’s sore _toe_ might
_heal_. That was one of Liney’s jokes.

Limpy had no gun, but he fairly bristled with knives and a hatchet,
which for several days he had been grinding and whetting until they were
almost as sharp as a razor.

The boys roamed through the forest all day long, but found no trace of
the one-eared bear, nor of any other, for that matter. So toward evening
they turned their faces homeward, where they arrived soon after sunset,
very tired and hungry.

Liney had walked over to Balser’s house to learn the fate of the
one-eared bear, and fully expected to hear that he had been slaughtered,
for she looked upon Balser as a second Saint Hubert, who, as you know,
is the patron saint of hunters.

One failure, however, did not shake her faith in Balser, nor did it
affect his resolution to kill the one-eared bear.

Next day the boys again went hunting, and again failed to find the bear
they sought. They then rested for a few days, and tried again, with
still another failure.

After several days of fruitless tramping through the forests, their
friends began to laugh at them.

“If he ever catches sight of Tom,” said Liney, “he’ll certainly die, for
Tom’s knives and hatchet would frighten any bear to death.”

Balser also made sport of Tom’s armament, but Tom, a little “miffed,”
said:—

“You needn’t be so smart; it hasn’t been long since you had nothing but
a hatchet. You think because you’ve got a gun you’re very big and cute.
I’ll bet the time will come when you’ll be glad enough that I have a
hatchet.”

Tom was a truer prophet than he thought, for the day soon came when the
hatchet proved itself true steel.

The boys had started out before sun-up one morning, and were deep into
the forest when daylight was fairly abroad. Tige and Prince were with
them, and were trotting lazily along at the boys’ heels, for the day was
very warm, and there was no breeze in the forest. They had been walking
for several hours, and had almost lost hope, when suddenly a deep growl
seemed to come from the ground almost at their feet. The boys sprang
back in a hurry, for right in their path stood an enormous bear, where a
moment before there had been nothing.

“Lordy! it’s the one-eared bear,” cried Tom, and the hairs on his head
fairly stood on end.

My! what a monster of fierceness the bear was. His head, throat, and
paws, were covered with blood, evidently from some animal that he had
been eating, and his great red mouth, sharp white teeth, and cropped ear
gave him a most ferocious and terrifying appearance.

Balser’s first impulse, now that he had found the long-sought one-eared
bear, I am sorry to say, was to retreat. That was Tom’s first impulse
also, and, notwithstanding his knives and hatchet, he acted upon it
quicker than a circus clown can turn a somersault.

Balser also started to run, but thought better of it, and turned to give
battle to the bear, fully determined to act slowly and deliberately, and
to make no mistake about his aim.

[Illustration: “’Lordy, Balser! It’s the one-eared bear.’”]

He knew that a false aim would end his own days, and would add one more
victim to the already long list of the one-eared bear.

The dogs barked furiously at the bear, and did not give Balser an
opportunity to shoot. The bear and dogs were gradually moving farther
away from Balser, and almost before he knew it the three had disappeared
in the thicket. Balser was loath to follow until Tom should return, so
he called in an undertone:—

“Tom! Limpy!”

Soon Tom cautiously came back, peering fearfully about him, hatchet in
hand, ready to do great execution upon the bear—he afterward said.

“You’re a pretty hunter, you are. You’d better go home and get an ax.
The bear has got away just because I had to wait for you,” said Balser,
only too glad to have some one to blame for the bear’s escape.

The boys still heard the dogs barking, and hurried on after them as
rapidly as the tangle of undergrowth would permit. Now and then they
caught a glimpse of the bear, only to lose it again as he ran down a
ravine or through a dense thicket. The dogs, however, kept in close
pursuit, and loudly called to their master to notify him of their
whereabouts.

The boys and bears played at this exciting game of hide-and-seek for two
or three hours, but Balser had no opportunity for a good shot, and Tom
found no chance to use his deadly hatchet.

When the bear showed a disposition to run away rather than to fight,
Limpy grew brave, and talked himself into a high state of heroism.

It was an hour past noon and the boys were laboriously climbing a steep
ascent in pursuit of the bear and dogs, which they could distinctly see
a few yards ahead of them, at the top of a hill. The underbrush had
become thinner, although the shadow of the trees was deep and dark, and
Balser thought that at last the bear was his. He repeated over and over
to himself his father’s advice: “When you attack a bear, be slow and
deliberate. Do nothing in a hurry. Don’t shoot until you’re sure of your
aim.”

He remembered vividly his hasty shot when he wounded the bear on Conn’s
Creek, and his narrow escape from death at that time had so impressed
upon him the soundness of his father’s advice, that he repeated it night
and morning with his prayers.

When he saw the bear at the top of the hill, so close to him, he raised
his gun to his shoulder and held it there for a moment, awaiting a
chance for a sure shot. But disappointment, instead of the bear, was
his, for while he held his gun ready to fire, the bear suddenly
disappeared, as if the earth had opened and swallowed him.

It all happened so quickly that even the dogs looked astonished. Surely,
this _was_ a demon bear.

The boys hurried to the spot where they had last seen the animal, and,
although they carefully searched for the mouth of a cave, or burrow,
through which the bear might have escaped, they saw none, but found the
earth everywhere solid and firm. They extended their search for a
hundred feet or more about them, but still with the same result. They
could find no hole or opening into which the bear could possibly have
entered. His mysterious disappearance right before their eyes seemed
terribly uncanny.

There was certainly something wrong with the one-eared bear. He had
sprung from the ground, just at their feet, where a moment before there
had been nothing; and now he had as mysteriously disappeared into the
solid earth, and had left no trace behind him.

Balser and Tom stood for a moment in the greatest amazement, and all
they had heard about the evil spirit which inhabited the one-eared bear
quickly flashed through their minds.

“We’d better let him go, Balser,” said Tom, “for we’ll never kill him,
that’s sure. He’s been leading us a wild-goose chase all the morning
only to get us up here to kill us. I never saw such an awful place for
darkness. The bushes and trees don’t seem natural. They all have thorns
and great knots on them, and their limbs and twigs look like huge bony
arms and fingers reaching out after us. I tell you this ain’t a natural
place, and that bear is an evil spirit, as sure as you live. Lordy!
let’s get out of here, for I never was so scared in my life.”

Balser was also afraid, but Tom’s words had made him wish to appear
brave, and he said:—

“Shucks! Limpy; I hope you ain’t afraid when you have your hatchet.”

“For goodness’ sake, don’t joke in such a place as this, Balser,” said
Tom, with chattering teeth. “I’m not afraid of any natural bear when I
have my hatchet, but a bewitched bear is too much for me, and I’m not
ashamed to own it.”

“How do you know he’s bewitched?” asked Balser, trying to talk himself
out of his own fears.

“Bewitched? Didn’t he come right out of the ground just at our very
feet, and didn’t he sink into the solid earth right here before our
eyes? What more do you want, I’d like to know? Just you try to sink into
the ground and see if you can. Nobody can, unless he’s bewitched.”

Balser felt in his heart that Tom told the truth, and, as even the dogs
seemed anxious to get away from the dark, mysterious place, they all
descended the hill on the side opposite to that by which they had
ascended. When they reached the bottom of the hill they unexpectedly
found that they were at the river’s edge, and after taking a drink they
turned their faces toward home. They thought of dinner, but their
appetite had been frightened away by the mysterious disappearance of the
bear, and they did not care to eat. So they fed the dogs and again
started homeward down the river.

After a few minutes’ walking they came to a bluff several hundred feet
long, and perhaps fifty feet high, which at that time, the water being
low, was separated from the river by a narrow strip of rocky, muddy
ground.

[Illustration: “’Let’s get out of here.’”]

This strip of ground was overgrown with reeds and willows, and the bluff
was covered with vines and bushes which clung in green masses to its
steep sides and completely hid the rocks and earth. Tom was in front,
Balser came next, and the dogs, dead tired, were trailing along some
distance behind. Suddenly Tom threw up his hands and jumped frantically
backward, exclaiming in terrified tones:—

“Oh, Lord! the one-eared bear again.”

When Tom jumped backward his foot caught in a vine, and he fell
violently against Balser, throwing them both to the ground. In falling,
Tom dropped his hatchet, which he had snatched from his belt, and Balser
dropped his gun, the lock of which struck a stone and caused the charge
to explode. Thus the boys were on their backs and weaponless, while the
one-eared bear stood almost within arm’s length, growling in a voice
like distant thunder, and looking so horrid and fierce that he seemed a
very demon in a bear’s skin.

Tom and Balser were so frightened that for a moment they could not move;
but the deep growls which terrified them also brought the dogs, who came
quickly to the rescue, barking furiously.

The bear sprang upon the boys just as the dogs came up, and Balser
received the full force of a great flat horny paw upon his back, and was
almost stunned. The long sharp claws of the bear tore through the
buckskin jacket as if it were paper, and cut deep gashes in Balser’s
flesh. The pain seemed to revive him from the benumbing effect of the
stroke, and when the bears attention was attracted by the dogs, Balser
crawled out from beneath the monster and arose to his feet, wounded,
bloody, and dizzy.

Tom also felt the force of the bear’s great paw, and was lying a few
feet from Balser, with his head in a tangle of vines and reeds.

Balser, having escaped from under the bear, the brute turned upon Tom,
who was lying prostrate in the bushes.

The dogs were still vigorously fighting the bear, and every second or
two a stroke from the powerful paw brought a sharp yelp of pain from
either Tige or Prince, and left its mark in deep, red gashes upon their
bodies. The pain, however, did not deter the faithful animals from their
efforts to rescue the boys; and while the bear was making for Tom it was
kept busy in defending itself from the dogs.

In an instant the bear reached Tom, who would have been torn in pieces
at once, had not Balser quickly unsheathed his long hunting knife and
rushed into the fight. He sprang for the bear and landed on his back,
clinging to him with one arm about his neck, while with the other he
thrust his sharp hunting knife almost to the hilt into the brute’s side.

This turned the attack from Tom, and brought it upon Balser, who soon
had his hands full again.

The bear rose upon his hind feet, and before Balser could take a step in
retreat, caught him in his mighty arms for the purpose of hugging him to
death, which is a bear’s favourite method of doing battle.

The hunting knife was still sticking in the rough black side of the
bear, where Balser had thrust it, and blood flowed from the wound in a
great stream.

The dogs were biting at the bear’s hind legs, but so intent was the
infuriated monster upon killing Balser that he paid no attention to
them, but permitted them to work their pleasure upon him, while he was
having the satisfaction of squeezing the life out of the boy.

In the meantime Tom recovered and rose to his feet. He at once realized
that Balser would be a dead boy if something were not done immediately.
Luckily, Tom saw his hatchet, lying a few feet away, and snatching it up
he attacked the bear, chopping away at his great back as if it were a
tree.

At the third or fourth stroke from Tom’s hatchet, the bear loosened his
grip upon Balser and fell in a great black heap to the ground, growling
and clawing in all directions as if he were frantic with rage and pain.
He bit at the rocks and bushes, gnashed his teeth, and dug into the
ground with his claws.

Balser, when released from the bear, fell in a half conscious condition,
close to the river’s edge. Tom ran to him, and, hardly knowing what he
did, dashed water in his face to remove the blood-stains and to wash the
wounds. The water soon revived Balser, who rose to his feet; and, Tom
helping his friend, the boys started to run, or rather to walk away as
fast as their wounds and bruises would permit, while the dogs continued
to bark and the bear to growl.

As the boys were retreating, Tom, turned his head to see if the bear was
following, but as it was still lying on the ground, growling and biting
at the rocks and scratching the earth, he thought perhaps that the
danger was over, and that the bear was so badly wounded that he could
not rise, or he certainly would have been on his feet fighting Tige and
Prince, who gave him not one moment’s peace. Balser and Tom paused for
an instant, and were soon convinced that the bear was helpless.

“I believe he can’t get up,” said Balser.

“Of course he can’t,” answered Tom, pompously. “I cut his old backbone
in two with my hatchet. When he was hugging you I chopped away at him
hard enough to cut down a hickory sapling.”

The boys limped back to the scene of conflict, and found that they were
right. The bear could not rise to his feet, but lay in a huge struggling
black heap on the ground.

Balser then cautiously went over to where his gun lay, picked it up, and
ran back to Tom. He tried to load the gun, but his arms were so bruised
and torn that he could not; so he handed it to Tom, who loaded it with a
large bullet and a heavy charge of powder.

Balser then called off the dogs, and Tom, as proud as the President of
the United States, held the gun within a yard of the bear’s head and
pulled the trigger. The great brute rolled over on his side, his mighty
limbs quivered, he uttered a last despairing growl which was piteous—for
it was almost a groan—and his fierce, turbulent spirit fled forever.
Balser then drew his hunting knife from the bear’s body, cut off the
remaining ear, and put it in the pocket of his buckskin coat.

The boys were sorely wounded, and Balser said that the bear had squeezed
his “insides” out of place. This proved to be true to a certain extent,
for when he got home it was found that two of his ribs were broken.

The young hunters were only too glad to start homeward, for they had
seen quite enough of the one-eared bear for one day.

After walking in silence a short distance down the river, Balser said to
Tom:—

“I’ll never again say anything bad about your hatchet. It saved my life
to-day, and was worth all the guns in the world in such a fight as we
have just gone through.”

Tom laughed, but was kind-hearted enough not to say, “I told you so.”

You may imagine the fright the boys gave their parents when they arrived
home wounded, limping, and blood-stained; but soon all was told, and
Balser and Tom were the heroes of the settlement.

They had killed the most dangerous animal that had ever lived on Blue
River, and had conquered where old and experienced hunters had failed.

The huge carcass of the bear was brought home that evening, and when the
skin was removed, his backbone was found to have been cut almost through
by Tom’s hatchet.

When they cut the bear open somebody said he had two galls, and that
fact, it was claimed, accounted for his fierceness.

Where the bear had sprung from when the boys first saw him in the
forest, or how he had managed to disappear into the ground at the top of
the hill was never satisfactorily explained. Some settlers insisted that
he had not been inhabited by an evil spirit, else the boys could not
have killed him, but others clung to the belief with even greater faith
and persistency.

[Illustration: “Balser rushed into the fight.”]

Liney went every day to see Balser, who was confined to his bed for a
fortnight.

One day, while she was sitting by him, and no one else was in the room,
he asked her to hand him his buckskin jacket; the one he had worn on the
day of the bear fight. The jacket was almost in shreds from the
frightful claws of the bear, and tears came to the girl’s eyes as she
placed it on the bed.

Balser put his hand into one of the deep pockets, and, drawing out the
bear’s ear, handed it to Liney, saying:—

“I cut this off for you because I like you.”

The girl took the bear’s ear, blushed a deep red, thanked him, and
murmured:—

“And I will keep it, ugly as it is, because I—because—I—like you.”



                               CHAPTER V.
                             THE WOLF HUNT.


It was a bright day in August. The whispering rustle of the leaves as
they turned their white sides to the soft breath of the southwest wind,
the buzzing of the ostentatiously busy bees, the lapping of the river as
it gurgled happily along on its everlasting travels, the half-drowsy
note of a thrush, and the peevish cry of a catbird seemed only to
accentuate the Sabbath hush that was upon all nature.

The day was very warm, but the deep shade of the elms in front of the
cabin afforded a delightful retreat, almost as cool as a cellar.

Tom and Liney Fox had walked over to visit Balser and Jim; and Sukey
Yates, with her two brothers, had dropped in to stay a moment or two,
but finding such good company, had remained for the day.

[Illustration]

The children were seated at the top of the slope that descended to the
river, and the weather being too warm to play any game more vigorous
than “thumbs up,” they were occupying the time with drowsy yawns and
still more drowsy conversation, the burden of which was borne by Tom.

Balser often said that he didn’t mind “talking parties,” if he could
only keep Tom Fox from telling the story of the time when he went to
Cincinnati with his father and saw a live elephant. But that could never
be done; and Tom had told it twice upon the afternoon in question, and
there is no knowing how often he would have inflicted it upon his small
audience, had it not been for an interruption which effectually disposed
of “Cincinnati” and the live elephant for that day.

A bustling old hen with her brood of downy chicks was peevishly clucking
about, now and then lazily scratching the earth, and calling up her
ever-hungry family whenever she was lucky enough to find a delicious
worm or racy bug.

[Illustration: “MISCHIEF! THEY NEVER THOUGHT OF ANYTHING ELSE.”]

The cubs were stretched at full length in the bright blaze of the sun,
snoring away like a pair of grampuses, their black silky sides rising
and falling with every breath. They looked so pretty and so innocent
that you would have supposed a thought of mischief could never have
entered their heads. (Mischief! They never thought of anything else.
From morning until night, and from night until morning, they studied,
planned, and executed deeds of mischief that would have done credit to
the most freckle-faced boy in the settlement. Will you tell me why it is
that the boy most plentifully supplied with freckles and warts is the
most fruitful in schemes of mischief?) A flock of gray geese and snowy
ganders were floating on the placid surface of the river, opposite the
children, where a projection of the bank had caused the water to back,
making a little pool of listless eddies.

[Illustration: “BALSER TURNED IN TIME TO SEE A GREAT, LANK, GRAY WOLF
EMERGE FROM THE WATER, CARRYING A GANDER BY THE NECK.”]

Suddenly from among the noiseless flock of geese came a mighty squawking
and a sound of flapping wings, and the flock, half flying, half
swimming, came struggling at their utmost speed toward home.

“Look, Balser! Look!” said Liney in a whisper. “A wolf!”

Balser turned in time to see a great, lank, gray wolf emerge from the
water, carrying a gander by the neck.

The bird could not squawk, but he flapped his wings violently, thereby
retarding somewhat the speed of Mr. Wolf.

[Illustration]

Balser hurried to the house for his gun, and with Tom Fox quickly
paddled across the river in pursuit of the wolf. The boys entered the
forest at the place the wolf had chosen. White feathers from the gander
furnished a distinct spoor, and Balser had no difficulty in keeping on
the wolf’s track. The boys had been walking rapidly for thirty or forty
minutes, when they found that the tracks left by the wolf and the
scattered feathers of the gander led toward a thick clump of pawpaw
bushes and vines, which grew at the foot of a small rocky hill. Into
this thicket the boys cautiously worked their way, and, after careful
examination, they found, ingeniously concealed by dense foliage, a small
hole or cleft in the rocks at the base of the hill, and they at once
knew that the wolf had gone to earth, and that this was his den.

Foxes make for themselves and their families the snuggest, most
ingenious home in the ground you can possibly imagine. They seek a place
at the base of a hill or bluff, and dig what we would call in our houses
a narrow hallway, straight into the hill. They loosen the dirt with
their front feet, and throw it back of them; then with their hind feet
they keep pushing it farther toward the opening of the hole, until they
have cast it all out. When they have removed the loose dirt, they at
once scatter it over the ground and carefully cover it with leaves and
vines, to avoid attracting unwelcome visitors to their home.

When the hallway is finished, the fox digs upward into the hill, and
there he makes his real home. His reason for doing this is to prevent
water from flowing through his hall into his living apartment. The
latter is often quite a cave in the earth, and furnishes as roomy and
cozy a home for Mr. and Mrs. Fox and their children as you could find in
the world. It is cool in summer and warm in winter. It is softly
carpeted with leaves, grass, and feathers, and the foxes lie there
snugly enough when the winter comes on, with its freezing and snowing
and blowing.

When the fox gets hungry he slips out of his cozy home, and briskly
trots to some well-known chicken roost; or perhaps he finds a covey of
quails huddled under a bunch of straw. In either case he carries home
with him a dainty dinner, and after he has feasted, he cares not how the
wind blows, nor how the river freezes, nor how the snow falls, for he is
housed like a king, and is as warm and comfortable and happy as if he
owned the earth and lived in a palace.

Wolves also make their dens in the earth, but they usually hunt for a
place where the hallway, at least, is already made for them. They seek a
hill with a rocky base, and find a cave partially made, the entrance to
which is a small opening between the rocks. With this for a
commencement, they dig out the interior and make their home, somewhat
upon the plan of the fox.

The old wolf which Balser and Tom had chased to earth had found a fine
dinner for his youngsters, and while the boys were watching the hole, no
doubt the wolf family was having a glorious feast upon the gander.

The boys, of course, were at their rope’s end. The dogs were not with
them, and, even had they been, they were too large to enter the hole
leading to the wolf’s den. So the boys seated themselves upon a rock a
short distance from the opening, and after a little time adopted the
following plan of action.

Balser was to lie upon his breast on the hillside, a few yards above the
opening of the wolf den, while Tom was to conceal himself in the dense
foliage, close to the mouth of the cave, and they took their positions
accordingly. Both were entirely hidden by vines and bushes, and remained
silent as the tomb. They had agreed that they should lie entirely
motionless until the shadow of a certain tree should fall across Tom’s
face, which they thought would occur within an hour. Then Tom, who could
mimic the calls and cries of many birds and beasts, was to squawk like a
goose, and tempt the wolf from his den so that Balser could shoot him.

It was a harder task than you may imagine to lie on the ground amid the
bushes and leaves; for it seemed, at least so Tom said, that all the
ants and bugs and worms in the woods had met at that particular place,
and at that exact time, for the sole purpose of “drilling” up and down,
and over and around, his body, and to bite him at every step. He dared
not move to frighten away the torments, nor to scratch. He could not
even grumble, which to Tom was the sorest trial of all.

[Illustration: “BANG! WENT BALSER’S GUN, AND THE WOLF ... PAID FOR HIS
FEAST WITH HIS LIFE.”]

The moment the shadow of the tree fell upon his face Tom squawked like a
goose, so naturally, that Balser could hardly believe it was Tom, and
not a real goose. Soon he uttered another squawk, and almost at the same
instant Mr. Wolf came out of his hall door, doubtless thinking to
himself that that was his lucky day, for he would have two ganders, one
for dinner and one for supper, and plenty of cold goose for breakfast
and dinner the next day. But he was mistaken, for it was the unluckiest
day of the poor wolf’s life. Bang! went Balser’s gun, and the wolf, who
had simply done his duty as a father, by providing a dinner for his
family, paid for his feast with his life.

“We’ll drag the body a short distance away from the den,” said Balser,
“and you lie down again, and this time whine like a wolf. Then the old
she-wolf will come out and we’ll get her too.”

Tom objected.

“I wouldn’t lie there another hour and let them ants and bugs chaw over
me as they did, for all the wolves in the state.”

“But just think, Tom,” answered Balser, “when the wagons go to
Brookville this fall we can get a shilling apiece for the wolfskins!
Think of it! A shilling! One for you and one for me. I’ll furnish the
powder and shot if you’ll squawk and whine. Squawks and whines don’t
cost anything, but powder and lead does. Now that’s a good fellow, just
lie down and whine a little. She’ll come out pretty quick.”

Tom still refused, and Balser still insisted. Soon Balser grew angry and
called Tom a fool, Tom answered in kind, and in a moment the boys
clinched for a fight. They scuffled and fought awhile, and soon stumbled
over the dead wolf and fell to the ground. Balser was lucky enough to
fall on top, and proceeded to pound Tom at a great rate.

“Now will you whine?” demanded Balser.

“No,” answered Tom.

“Then take that, and that, and that. Now will you whine?”

“No,” cried Tom, determined not to yield.

So Balser went at it again, but there was no give up to stubborn Tom,
even if he was on the under side.

At last Balser wiped the perspiration from his face, and, sitting
astride of his stubborn foe, said:—

“Tom, if you’ll whine I’ll lend you my gun for a whole day.”

“And powder and bullets?” asked Tom.

“Well, I guess not,” answered Balser. “I’ll lick you twenty times
first.”

“If you’ll lend me your gun and give me ten full loads, I’ll whine till
I fetch every wolf in the woods, if the bugs do eat me up.”

“That’s a go,” said Balser, glad enough to compromise with a boy who
didn’t know when he was whipped.

Then they got up, and were as good friends as if no trouble had occurred
between them.

Balser at once lay down upon the hillside above the wolf den, and Tom
took his place to whine.

The boys understood their job thoroughly, and Tom’s whines soon brought
out the old she-wolf. She looked cautiously about her for a moment,
stole softly over to her dead mate, and dropped by his side with a
bullet through her heart.

Tom was about to rise, but Balser said:—

“Whine again; whine again, and the young ones will come out.”

Tom whined, and sure enough, out came two scrawny, long-legged wolf
whelps.

The boys rushed upon them, and caught them by the back of the neck, to
avoid being bitten, for the little teeth of the pups were as sharp as
needles and could inflict an ugly wound. Balser handed the whelp he had
caught to Tom, and proceeded to cut two forked sticks from a tough bush,
which the children called “Indian arrow.” These forked branches the boys
tied about the necks of the pups, with which to lead them home.

[Illustration: “CAUGHT THEM BY THE BACK OF THE NECK.”]

Tom then cut a strong limb from a tree with his pocket-knife. This was
quite an undertaking, but in time he cut it through, and trimmed off the
smaller branches. The boys tied together the legs of the old wolves and
swung them over the pole, which they took upon their shoulders, and
started home leading the pups. They arrived home an hour or two before
sunset, and found that Liney and Sukey had arranged supper under the
elms.

The boys scoured their faces and hands with soft soap, for that was the
only soap they had, and sat down to supper with cheeks shining, and hair
pasted to their heads slick and tight.

“When a fellow gets washed up this way, and has his hair combed so
slick, it makes him feel like it was Sunday,” said Tom, who was uneasily
clean.

“Tom, I wouldn’t let people know how seldom I washed my face if I were
you,” said Liney, with a slight blush. “They’ll think you clean up only
on Sunday.”

Tom, however, did not allow Liney’s remarks to interrupt his supper, but
continued to make sad havoc among the good things on the log.

There was white bread made from wheat flour, so snowy and light that it
beat cake “all holler!” the boys “allowed.” Wheat bread was a luxury to
the settler folks in those days, for the mill nearest to the Blue River
settlement was over on Whitewater, at Brookville, fifty miles away.
Wheat and the skins of wild animals were the only products that the
farmers could easily turn into cash, so the small crops were too
precious to be used daily, and wheat flour bread was used only for
special occasions, such as Christmas, or New Year’s, or company dinner.

Usually three or four of the farmers joined in a little caravan, and
went in their wagons to Brookville twice a year. They would go in the
spring with the hides of animals killed during the winter, that being
the hunting season, and the hides then taken being of superior quality
to those taken at any other time.

[Illustration: “THE BOYS TIED TOGETHER THE LEGS OF THE OLD WOLVES AND
SWUNG THEM OVER THE POLE ... AND STARTED HOME LEADING THE PUPS.”]

Early in the fall they would go again to Brookville, to market their
summer crop of wheat.

Mr. Fox and a few neighbours had returned from an early trip to market
only a day or two before the children’s party at Balser’s home, and had
brought with them a few packages of a fine new drink called coffee. That
is, it was new to the Western settler, at the time of which I write,
milk sweetened with “tree sugar” being the usual table drink.

Liney had brought over a small gourdful of coffee as a present to Mrs.
Brent, and a pot of the brown beverage had been prepared for the supper
under the elms.

The Yates children and Tom were frank enough to admit that the coffee
was bitter, and not fit to drink; but Liney had made it, and Balser
drank it, declaring it was very good indeed. Liney knew he told a story,
but she thanked him for it, nevertheless, and said that the Yates
children and Tom were so thoroughly “country” and green that she
couldn’t expect them to like a civilized drink.

This would have made trouble with Tom, but Balser, who saw it coming,
said:—

“Now you shut up, Tom Fox.” And Balser had so recently whipped Tom that
his word bore the weight of authority.

Besides the coffee and the white bread there was a great gourd full of
milk with the cream mixed in, just from the springhouse, delicious and
cold. There was a cold loin of venison, which had been spitted and
roasted over a bed of hot coals in the kitchen fireplace that morning.
There was a gourd full of quail eggs, which had been boiled hard and
then cooled in the springhouse. There were heaping plates of fried
chicken, and rolls of glorious yellow butter just from the churn, rich
with the genuine butter taste, that makes one long to eat it by the
spoonful; then there was a delicious apple pie, sweet and crusty,
floating in cream almost as thick as molasses in winter.

They were backwoods, homely children; but the supper to which they sat
down under the elms was fit for a king, and the appetite with which they
ate it was too good for any king.

During the supper the bear cubs had been nosing about the log table,
begging each one by turns for a bite to eat. They were so troublesome
that Jim got a long stick, and whenever they came within reach he gave
them a sharp rap upon the head, and soon they waddled away in a pet of
indignant disgust.

For quite a while after Jim had driven them off there had been a season
of suspicious quietude on the part of the cubs.

Suddenly a chorus of yelps, howls, growls, and whines came from the
direction of the wolf pups. The attention of all at the table was, of
course, at once attracted by the noise, and those who looked beheld
probably the most comical battle ever fought. Tom and Jerry, with their
everlasting desire to have their noses into everything that did not
concern them, had gone to investigate the wolf pups, and in the course
of the investigation a fight ensued, whereby the wolves were liberated.
The cubs were the stronger, but the wolves were more active, thus the
battle was quite even. The bears, being awkward, of course, were in each
other’s way most of the time, and would fall over themselves and roll
upon the ground for a second or two, before they could again get upon
their clumsy feet. The consequence was that the wolves soon had the best
of the fight, and, being once free from the cubs, scampered off to the
woods and were never seen again.

When the wolves had gone the cubs turned round and round, looking for
their late antagonists; but, failing to find them, sat down upon their
haunches, grinned at each other in a very silly manner, and then began
to growl and grumble in the worst bear language any one had ever heard.

Balser scolded the cubs roundly, and told them he had taught them better
than to swear, even in bear talk. He then switched them for having
liberated the wolves, and went back to supper.

The switching quieted the bears for a short time, but soon their spirit
of mischief again asserted itself.

After another period of suspicious silence on the part of the cubs, Jim
put a general inquiry to the company:—

“What do you s’pose they’re up to this time?”

“Goodness only knows,” responded Balser. “But if I hear another grunt
out of them, I’ll take a stick to them that’ll hurt, and off they’ll go
to their pen for the night.”

The settlers frequently caught swarms of bees in the woods, and Balser’s
father had several hives near the house. These hives were called “gums,”
because they were made from sections of a hollow gum tree, that being
the best wood for the home of the bees. These hollow gums were placed on
end upon small slanting platforms, and were covered with clapboards,
which were held tightly in their places by heavy stones. There was a
small hole, perhaps as large as the end of your finger, cut in the wood
at the base, through which the bees entered, and upon the inside of the
hive they constructed their comb and stored their honey.

I told you once before how bears delight to eat fish and blackberries.
They are also very fond of honey. In fact, bears seem to have a general
appetite and enjoy everything, from boys to blackberries.

Hardly had Balser spoken his threat when another duet of howls and yelps
reached his ears.

“Now what on earth is it?” he asked, and immediately started around the
house in the direction whence the howls had come.

“Geminy! I believe they’ve upset the bee-gum,” said Jim.

“Don’t you know they have?” asked Balser. By that time the boys were in
sight of the bears.

[Illustration: “THESE HIVES WERE CALLED ‘GUMS.’”]

“Well, I know now they have, if that suits you any better. Golly! Look
at them paw and scratch, and rub their eyes when the bees sting. Good
enough for you. Give it to ‘em, bees!” And Jim threw back his head and
almost split his sides with laughter.

Sure enough, the bears had got to nosing about the bee-gums, and in
their ever hungry greediness had upset one. This, of course, made the
bees very angry, and they attacked the cubs in a buzzing, stinging swarm
that set them yelping, growling, and snapping, in a most desperate and
comical manner. All their snapping and growling, however, did no good,
for the bees continued to buzz and sting without any indication of being
merciful. A little of this sort of thing went a long way with the black
mischief-makers, and they soon ran to Balser and Jim for help. The bees,
of course, followed, and when the boys and girls saw the bees coming
toward them they broke helter-skelter in all directions, and ran as fast
as they could go. The bears then ran to the river, and plunged in to
escape their tormentors.

When the gum had been placed in position again and the bees had become
quiet, the cubs, thinking the field clear, came out of the water
dripping wet. Then they waddled up close to the girls, and out of pure
mischief shook themselves and sprinkled the dainty clean frocks with a
shower from their frowzy hides.

That sealed the fate of the cubs for the day, and when Balser marched
them off to their pen they looked so meek and innocent that one would
have thought that they had been attending bear Sunday-school all their
lives, and were entirely lacking in all unwarrantable and facetious
instincts.

They went to bed supperless that evening, but had their revenge, for
their yelps and whines kept the whole family awake most of the night.

By the time the bears had been put to bed, darkness was near at hand, so
the supper dishes and gourds were washed and carried to the kitchen.
Then the visitors said good night and left for home.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER VI.
                             BORROWED FIRE.


One day Tom Fox was told by his mother to kindle the fire, which had
been allowed to grow so dim that only a smouldering bed of embers was
left upon the hearth. Hanging from the crane was a large kettle, almost
full of water. Now, in addition to his reputation for freckles, Tom was
also believed to be the awkwardest boy in the Blue River settlement.
Upon the day above referred to, he did all in his power to live up to
his reputation, by upsetting the kettle of water upon the fire, thereby
extinguishing the last spark of that necessary element in the Fox
household.

Of course there was not a lucifer match on all Blue River, from its
source to its mouth; and as Mr. Fox had taken the tinder-box with him on
a hunting expedition, and would not return till night, Limpy received a
sound thrashing, and was sent to the house loft, there to ponder for the
rest of the day over his misdeeds.

Mrs. Fox then sent Liney over to Mrs. Brent’s to borrow fire. Limpy
would have been glad to go, had his mother seen fit to send him, but the
task would have been a reward rather than a punishment. Liney was
delighted to have an opportunity to visit the Brent cabin, so away she
went, very willingly indeed. Before the day was finished she was doubly
glad she had gone, and the help she was able to give to a friend in need
made her devoutly thankful to the kind fate which, operating through
Mrs. Fox, had sent her on her errand. The terrible adventure, which
befell her, and the frightful—but I am telling my story before I come to
it.

When Balser was a boy, each season brought its separate work and
recreation on the farm, as it does now. But especially was this true in
the time of the early settlers.

The winter was the hunting season. The occupation of hunting, which was
looked upon as sport and recreation combined, was also a business with
the men who cleared the land and felled the forests of Indiana; for a
wagon-load of good pelts, taken during the winter season when the fur is
at its best, was no inconsiderable matter, and brought at market more
money than the same wagon filled with wheat would have been worth. So
the settler of Balser’s time worked quite as hard in the winter with his
rifle, as he did with his hoe and plough in the fields during the months
of summer.

Spring, of course, was the time for breaking up and ploughing. Summer
was the wheat harvest. Then, also, the various kinds of wild berries
were gathered, and dried or preserved. In the summer casks of rich
blackberry wine were made, to warm the cold hunter upon his return from
the chase during the cold days to come, or to regale company upon long
winter evenings before the blazing fire. Blackberries could be had by
the bushel for the mere gathering, and the wine could be made so cheaply
that almost every house was well stocked with the delicious beverage.

Then came the corn gathering, and bringing in the fodder. The latter was
brought in by wagon-loads, and was stacked against the sides of the barn
and of the cow shed. It answered a double purpose: it made the barn and
sheds warm and cozy homes for the stock during the cold bleak winter,
and furnished food for the cattle and the horses, so that by spring they
had eaten part of their houses. The wheat straw was stacked in the
barnyard; and into this the sheep and calves burrowed little caves,
wherein they would lie so snug and warm that it made no difference to
them how much the wind blew, or the snow and rain fell, or how hard it
froze outside; for the bad weather made their cozy shelter seem all the
more comfortable by contrast.

The fall also had its duties, part task, and part play. The woods
abounded in hickory nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts, and a supply of all
these had to be gathered, for they furnished no small part of the winter
food. Preparation was always made for this work by the boys of Mr.
Brent’s family long before a hickory nut had thought of falling. Shortly
after the wolf hunt which I described to you in the last chapter, Balser
and Jim began to make ready for the nut campaign. Their first task was
to build a small wagon, for the purpose of carrying home the nuts. They
found a tree twelve or fourteen inches in diameter, which they felled.
They then sawed off four round sections of the tree, each about one inch
thick, to serve as wheels. From the outer edge of these wheels they
removed the bark, and bound them with tires made from the iron hoops of
a barrel. They then cut round holes in the centre in which to insert the
axles of the wagon. With their hatchets they split clapboards, which
they made smooth, and of the clapboards they made the bottom, sides, and
ends. The boys worked pretty hard for ten or twelve days, and completed
as perfect a two-horse wagon, in miniature, as any one ever beheld.
There were the tongue, the axletree, the sideboard, the headboard, and
the tail-gate and floor, all fitted so tightly together that you would
have declared a wagon maker had made them. The wheels, bound with
barrel-hoop tires, were marvels of their kind. The wagon bed would hold
as much as could be contained in two large flour sacks, and when filled
with nuts would prove quite a load to draw, consequently the boys must
have a team of some sort. The team which they eventually rigged up was
probably the most absurd and curious combination that ever drew a load.

The boys selected strong pieces of deer-hide, and made four sets of
harness. For what purpose, do you suppose? You never could guess. Two
for the dogs, Tige and Prince, and two for the bear cubs, Tom and Jerry,
who they proposed should do something to earn their bread and milk, for
they were growing to be great awkward, big-footed, long-legged fellows,
and were very strong.

So the four sets of harness were finished, and one day the odd team was
hitched up for trial. The little wagon was loaded with rocks, and the
boys tried to start the team. The dogs seemed willing enough to obey,
but the cubs, which were hitched in front, went every way but the right
one, and showed a disposition to rebel against the indignity of work.

The bears were then taken from the lead, the dogs were put in their
places, and the bears were put next to the wagon. The team was started
again, but the cubs lay down flat upon the ground and refused to move.
After trying in vain to induce the cubs to do their duty, Balser spoke
to Jim, who was standing at the dogs’ heads, and Jim started forward,
leading the dogs, and Jim and the dogs dragged after them the cubs and
the wagon. At almost every step the heavily loaded wagon would roll upon
the hind feet of the cubs, and Balser threw thorns upon the ground,
which pricked the bears as they were dragged along, until the black
sluggards came to the conclusion that it was easier to work than to be
dragged over thorns; so they arose to their feet, and followed the dogs,
without, however, drawing an ounce of the load.

[Illustration: The cubs went every way but the right way.]

The boys kept patiently at this sort of training for three weeks; and at
the end of that time, between bribes in the way of milk and honey, and
beatings with a thick stick, the cubs little by little submitted to
their task, and eventually proved to be real little oxen at drawing a
load. The dogs, of course, had been broken in easily.

By the time the cubs were ready for work, the hickory nuts, walnuts, and
hazelnuts were ready to be gathered; and the boys only waited for a
heavy black frost to loosen the nuts from their shells, and a strong
wind to shake them from the branches.

During the summer of which I told you in the preceding chapters, Mr.
Brent had raised the roof of his house, so as to make a room in the loft
for the boys. This room was floored with rough boards, between which
large cracks were left, so that heat from the room below might arise and
warm the boys’ room. The upper room was reached by the most primitive of
stairways. It was nothing more than a small log, or thick pole, with
notches cut on each side for footholds, or steps. In going up this
stairway the boys climbed hand over hand, and foot over foot, as a bear
climbs a tree; and to come down without falling was a task of no small
proportions to one inexperienced in the art.

One morning Jim awakened, and looked out from under the warm bearskin
which served for a blanket, comforter, and sheet. He listened for a
moment to the wind, which was blowing a gale, and then awakened Balser.

“Balser! Balser!” said Jim. “Wake up! There’s frost enough to freeze a
brass monkey, and the wind is blowing hard enough to blow down the
trees, to say nothing of the nuts. Let’s get up and have an early
start.” Balser was willing, and soon the boys had climbed out from under
the warm bearskin, and were downstairs preparing to kindle the fires.

The fire-kindling was no hard task; for the backlog which had been put
in the fireplace the evening before was a great roll of red coals, and
all that the boys had to do to kindle the fire was to “poke” the
backlog, and it fell in chunks of half-charred, burning hickory, that
hissed and popped and flamed, and made the room warm before you could
say “Jack Robinson.” Then the boys threw on a large armful of cut wood,
and soon the blaze was crackling cozily, and the kettle singing merrily
on the flames.

The morning was cold, and the boys sat upon the great hearth, with their
palms to the fire, getting “good and warm for the day,” while the gray,
frosty dawn was slowly frightening the shadows of night away from the
forest, to which they seemed to cling.

Then came the mother, who made the breakfast of sweet fried venison,
buckwheat-cakes floating in maple syrup and butter, hoe-cake, and eggs.
Instead of coffee they drank warm milk, sweetened with maple sugar, and
I can tell you it was a breakfast to wax fat on.

The sun was hardly above the horizon, when breakfast was finished, and
the dogs and cubs were fed. Then they were harnessed to the wagon, and
boys, bears, dogs, and wagon, all started on their way to the woods.
Hickory trees did not grow plentifully in the bottom-lands, so the boys
made for the hills, perhaps a mile away.

Shortly after they had reached the hills, Jim cried out:—

“Oh, here’s a great big shellbark! I’ll bet the ground’s covered with
nuts.”

Sure enough, the ground was covered with them, and the boys filled their
wagon in a very short time. Then they started home. The trip home was
marred by an upset, owing to the perversity of the cubs; but the boys
righted the wagon, loaded it with nuts again, and after considerable
trouble deposited them safely at home, and went back for another load.

The dog-bear team worked admirably, barring a general tendency to run
over logs and stones, and two great loads of hickory nuts were safely
brought to the house before dinner.

After the boys, bears, and dogs had eaten a hurried meal, they again
went forth in quest of nuts; but they took a different course this time,
toward the south—that is, in the direction of the house of Mr. Fox—for
the purpose of visiting a hazel thicket, which was a mile from home.
Soon the hazel patch was reached, and about five o’clock the wagon was
full of beautiful, brown little nuts, than which there is none sweeter.

When the wagon was loaded the boys hitched up the team, much to the
delight of the latter, for by that time the dogs and cubs had come to
think it great sport, and the caravan moved homeward.

Soon after leaving the hazel patch, the boys entered a dark strip of
woods and undergrowth, through which it was very hard work to draw the
wagon. So they attached a long piece of tanned deerskin to the tongue of
the wagon, and gave the team a helping hand.

There was but one path through this dark strip of forest over which the
wagon could be drawn, and it led through a low piece of ground that was
wet and marshy. Upon the soft earth of the path Balser soon noticed the
long, broad tracks of a bear, and the dogs at once began to bark and
plunge in their harness. The tracks appeared to Balser to be an hour
old, so he quieted the dogs, but did not release them from the wagon as
he should have done. The boys went forward, regardless of the warning
bear tracks, and the dogs and bears, drawing the wagon, followed closely
at their heels. As they proceeded the bear tracks became fresher, and
Balser began to grow somewhat fearful. Jim had become frightened, and
had taken a position at the rear of the wagon to give a helping hand by
pushing at the load. He said he could push better than he could pull
anyway.

After the little party had got well into the darkest part of the forest,
the dogs began to show such evident signs of uneasiness that Balser
grasped his gun, and held it in readiness, prepared for a fight, should
one become necessary.

The ground had been frozen earlier in the day, but it had thawed, and
the path was slippery. Balser, who was walking a short distance ahead of
the train, as a sort of advance guard, suddenly stopped and held up his
hand warningly to Jim; for right ahead of him in the path stood a huge
bear, with its head turned backward, looking inquiringly in the
direction of the boys, Jim at once stopped the team. The dogs, of
course, were dancing with impatience to be released from the harness,
and even the dull-witted bears seemed to realize that something was
wrong.

“It’s running away,” said Balser. “It’s not safe to shoot at it from
behind. I might wound it, and then we should be the ones to run. What
shall we do?”

“Let it run,” answered Jim, quickly. “I don’t like to run with a bear
after me, anyway. If you’re going to shoot, I’ll run now so as to get a
good start.”

“No, you don’t! You stand right where you are, and take care of the
team. If you move a foot, I’ll lick you,” answered Balser, as he moved
cautiously ahead in the direction of the retreating bear.

Jim was frozen by fear to the spot upon which he stood, as Balser walked
out of sight. In a moment he again heard Balser speak, and then he heard
a loud, deep growl.

The dogs barked and plunged; the cubs whined and gave forth savage
little baby-bear growls, half whines, for they were only learning to
growl. Jim began to weep and to scream. Balser, who had disappeared from
sight around a curve in the path, cried out:—

“Let the dogs loose, for goodness’ sake, Jim! It’s after me.”

The dogs seemed to understand Balser’s cry better than Jim did; for they
barked and plunged more violently than ever in their harness. Jim seemed
dazed, and could not, or at least did not, unharness the dogs. Then it
was that the good dog sense of old Prince showed itself. Instead of
waiting for help from Jim, who he saw had lost his wits, the good dog
began to gnaw at the leather harness which held him and Tige to the
wagon, and in a short time the dogs were freed from the wagon, though
still tied to each other.

Tige caught inspiration from Prince, and the dogs backed away from each
other and pulled with all their strength, until the harness slipped over
the head of Prince and left the dogs free. Then Prince plunged rapidly
into the thicket to the rescue of his master, followed closely by Tige,
dragging the broken harness.

“Help! help!” cried Balser. “Why don’t you send the dogs?” And his voice
seemed to be going farther and farther away.

“Where are you?” cried Jim, in despair. His terror was so strong upon
him that he could not move, and could not have helped Balser, had he
been able to go to him. Jim was a little fellow, you must remember.

“Help! help!” cried Balser again, his voice sounding from a still
greater distance. “I’ve wounded it, and it’s about to kill me. Help!
help!” but the cries came fainter and fainter.

Jim stood his ground and screamed manfully. Soon after Balser had left
Jim and the wagon, the bear turned toward its pursuer and presented to
Balser its broadside. This gave the boy a good chance for a shot. For
the moment, Balser forgot his father’s admonition to be deliberate and
to act slowly, and his forgetfulness almost cost him his life. Balser
shot, and wounded the bear in the neck, but did not kill it. Then it
turned, and Balser, fearing to run back upon the path lest he should
bring the bear upon Jim, started into the thicket, toward the river,
with the bear in hot pursuit. Balser gained rapidly upon the bear at
first, but he knew that his advantage could not last, for the bear was
sure to catch him soon. What should he do? He hastily went over in his
mind the possibilities in the case, and soon determined to put forth his
utmost speed to gain as much upon the bear as possible, and then to
climb the first tree, of the proper size, to which he should come. With
this intent he flung his carbine over his back, by a strap attached to
the gun for that purpose, and ran for dear life.

Soon the boy reached a small beech tree, the branches of which were ten
or twelve feet from the ground. Up this tree he climbed with the agility
of a squirrel. He afterward said:—

“I was so badly scared that it seemed as if my hands and feet had claws
like a wildcat.”

The bear had followed so closely upon his track, that, just as the boy
was about to draw himself up among the branches of the tree, the bear
rose upon its hind legs and caught the boy’s toes between his teeth.
Balser screamed with pain, and tried to draw his foot away; but the
harder he pulled the harder pulled the bear, and the pain was so great
that he thought he could not stand it. While he clung to the limb with
one hand, he reached toward the bear with the other, and caught it by
the nose. He twisted the bear’s nose until the brute let loose of his
foot. Then he quickly drew himself into the tree, and seated himself
none too soon astride of a limb.

[Illustration: “The bear rose to climb after the boy.”]

When Balser had fixed himself firmly on the limb he proceeded at once to
load his gun. This was no slight matter under the circumstances; for,
aside from the fact that his position in the tree was an uneasy one, the
branches were in his way when he began to use his ramrod. Balser had
hardly poured the powder into his gun, when the bear again rose on its
hind legs, and put its front paws upon the body of the tree, with
evident intent to climb after the boy who had wounded it and had so
insultingly twisted its nose. Bears like to scratch the bark of trees,
and seem to take the same pride in placing their marks high upon the
tree-trunks that a young man does in making a long jump or a good shot.
Vanity, in this case, proved to be the bear’s undoing, as it has often
been with men and boys. When it was reaching upward to make a high
scratch, that it thought would be the envy of every bear that would see
it, it should have been climbing; for while it was scratching Balser was
loading. Not hurriedly, as he had shot, but slowly and deliberately,
counting one, two, three with every movement; for when he had shot so
hurriedly a few minutes before and had only wounded the bear, he had
again learned the great lesson to make haste slowly. The lesson was to
be impressed upon Balser’s mind more firmly than ever before he was
through with the wounded bear; for to the day of his death he never
forgot the events which befell him after he came down from the tree.
Although Balser was deliberate, he had no time to waste, for soon the
bear began climbing the tree, aided by a few small branches upon the
lower part of the trunk, which had given help to Balser. Up the bear
went, slowly and surely. Its great red tongue hung out at one side of
its mouth, and its black, woolly coat was red and gory with blood from
the wound that Balser had inflicted upon its huge neck. Its sharp little
eyes were fixed upon Balser, and seemed to blaze with fury and rage, and
its long bright teeth gleamed as its lips were drawn back in anger when
it growled. Still the bear climbed, and still Balser was loading his
gun. Would he have it loaded before the bear reached him? Now the powder
was all in—a double charge. Now the first patch was in, and Balser was
trying to ram it home. The branches of the trees were in his way, and
the ramrod would not go into the gun. Inanimate things are often
stubborn just when docility is most needed. Ah! At last the ramrod is
in, and the first patch goes home, hard and fast upon the powder. On
comes the bear, paw over paw, foot over foot, taking its time with
painful deliberation, and, bearlike, carefully choosing its way; for it
thinks full sure the boy cannot escape. Hurriedly Balser reaches into
his pouch for a bullet. He finds one and puts it to the muzzle of his
gun. Ah! worse luck! The bullet will not go in. It is too large. Balser
feels with his finger a little ridge extending around the bullet, left
there because he had not held the bullet moulds tightly together when he
had cast the bullet. The boy impatiently throws the worthless bullet at
the bear and puts his hand into the pouch for another. This time the
bullet goes in, and the ramrod drives it home. Still there is the last
patch to drive down,—the one which holds the bullet,—and still the bear
climbs toward its intended victim. Its growls seem to shake the tree and
its eyes look like burning embers. The patches and the bullets Balser
kept in the same pouch, so, when the bullet has been driven home, the
boy’s hand again goes into the pouch for the last patch. He can find
nothing but bullets. Down goes his hand to each corner of the pouch in
search of a patch; but alas! the patch, like a false friend, is wanting
when most needed. On comes the bear. Not a moment is to be lost. A patch
must be found; so the boy snatches off his cap of squirrel skin, and
with his teeth bites out a piece of the skin which will answer his
purpose. Then he dashes the mutilated cap in the bear’s face, only a
foot or two below him. Quickly is the squirrel-skin patch driven home,
but none too quickly, for the bear is at Balser’s feet, reaching for him
with his great, rough, horny paw, as a cat reaches for a mouse. Balser
quickly lifts himself to the limb above him, and hurriedly turning the
muzzle of his gun right into the great red mouth, pulls the trigger.
Bang! And the bear falls to the ground, where it lies apparently dead.
It was only apparently dead, though, as you will presently see. Balser
breathed a sigh of relief as the bear fell backward, for he was sure
that he had killed it. No bear, thought he, could survive a bullet
driven by the heavy charge of powder behind the one which had sped so
truly into the bear’s mouth. Again Balser failed to make haste slowly.
He should have remained in his secure position until he was sure that
the bear was really dead; for a badly wounded bear, although at the
point of death, is more dangerous than one without a scar. Without
looking at the bear Balser called Jim to come to him, and began climbing
down the tree, with his carbine slung over his shoulder, and his back to
the bear. All this happened in a very short space of time. In fact, the
time during which Balser was loading his gun, and while the bear was
climbing the tree, was the same time in which the dogs were freeing
themselves from the wagon; and Balser’s second shot was heard by Jim
just as the dogs went bounding off to Balser’s relief. When the boy
jumped to the ground, lo! the bear was alive again, and was on its feet,
more ferocious than ever, and more eager for fight. Like our American
soldiers, the bear did not know when it was whipped.

At the time the dogs bounded away from Jim, there came down the path
toward him a young girl. Who do you think it was? Liney Fox. She was
carrying in her hand a lighted torch, and was swinging it gently from
side to side that she might keep it ablaze. This was the fire which
Liney had been sent to borrow. She had heard Balser’s cry and had heard
both the shots that Balser had fired. She ran quickly to Jim, and with
some difficulty drew from him an explanation of the situation. Then, as
the dogs bounded away, she followed them, feeling sure that their
instinct would lead them to Balser. The girl’s strength seemed to be
increased a thousand fold, and she ran after the dogs in the hope that
she might help the boy who had saved her life upon the night when she
was lost in the forest. How could she help him? She did not know; but
she would at least go to him and do her best.

Just as Balser reached the ground, the bear raised itself upon its hind
feet and struck at the boy, but missed him. Then Balser ran to the side
of the tree opposite the bear, and bear and boy for a few moments played
at a desperate game of hide-and-seek around the tree. It seemed a very
long time to Balser. He soon learned that the bear could easily beat him
at the game, and in desperation he started to run toward the river,
perhaps two hundred yards away. He cried for help as he ran, and at that
moment the dogs came up, and Liney followed in frantic, eager haste
after them. Balser had thrown away his gun, and was leading the bear in
the race perhaps six or eight feet. Close upon the heels of the bear
were the dogs, and closer than you would think upon the heels of the
dogs came Liney. Her bonnet had fallen back and her hair was flying
behind her, and the torch was all ablaze by reason of its rapid movement
through the air.

At the point upon the river’s bank toward which Balser ran was a little
stone cliff, almost perpendicular, the top of which was eight or ten
feet from the water. Balser had made up his mind that if he could reach
this cliff he would jump into the river, and perhaps save himself in
that manner. Just as the boy reached the edge of the cliff Liney
unfortunately called out “Balser!”

Her voice stopped him for a moment, and he looked back toward her. In
that moment the bear overtook him and felled him to the ground with a
stroke of its paw. Balser felt benumbed and was almost senseless.
Instantly the bear was standing over him, and the boy was blinded by the
stream of blood which flowed into his eyes and over his face from the
wound in the bear’s great mouth. He felt the bear shake him, as a cat
shakes a mouse, and then for a moment the sun seemed to go out, and all
was dark. He could see nothing. He heard the dogs bark, as they clung to
the bear’s ears and neck close to his face, and he heard Liney scream;
but it all seemed like a far-away dream. Then he felt something burn his
face, and sparks and hot ashes fell upon his skin and blistered him. He
could not see what was happening, but the pain of the burns seemed to
revive him, and he was conscious that he was relieved from the terrible
weight of the bear upon his breast. This is what happened: after Balser
had fallen, the dogs had held the bear’s attention for a brief moment or
two, and had given Liney time to reach the scene of conflict. The bear
had caught Balser’s leather coat between its jaws, and was shaking him
just as Liney came up. It is said that the shake which a cat gives a
mouse produces unconsciousness; and so it is true that the shake which
the larger animals give to their prey before killing it has a benumbing
effect, such as Balser felt. When Liney reached Balser and the bear, she
had no weapon but her torch, but with true feminine intuition she did,
without stopping to think, the only thing she could do, and for that
matter the best thing that any one could have done. She thrust the
burning torch into the bear’s face and held it there, despite its rage
and growls. Then it was that Balser felt the heat and sparks, and then
it was that the bear, blinded by the fire, left Balser. The bear was
frantic with pain, and began to rub its eyes and face with its paws,
just as a man would do under the same circumstances. It staggered about
in rage and blindness, making the forest echo with its frightful growls,
until it was upon the edge of the little precipice of which I have
spoken. Then Liney struck it again with her burning torch, and gave it a
push, which, although her strength was slight, sent the bear rolling
over the cliff into the river. After that she ran back to Balser, who
was still lying upon the ground, covered with blood. She thought he was
terribly wounded, so she tore off her muslin petticoat, and wiped the
blood from Balser’s face and hands. Her joy was great when she learned
that it was the bear’s blood and not Balser’s that she saw. The boy soon
rose to his feet, dazed and half blinded.

[Illustration: “Liney thrust the burning torch into the bear’s face and
held it there despite its rage and growls.”]

“Where’s the bear?” he asked.

“We pushed him into the river,” said Jim, who had come in at the last
moment.

“Yes, ‘we pushed him in,’” said Balser, in derision. “Liney, did you—”

“Yes,” answered Liney. “I don’t know how I did it; but after I had put
my torch in the bear’s face, when he was over you, I—I pushed him into
the river.” And she cast down her sweet, modest eyes, as if ashamed of
what she had done.

“Liney, Liney—” began Balser; but his voice was choked by a great lump
of sobs in his throat. “Liney, Liney—” he began again; but his gratitude
was so great he could not speak. He tried again, and the tears came in a
flood.

“Cry-baby!” said Jim.

“Jim, you’re a little fool,” said Liney, turning upon the youngster with
a blaze of anger in her eyes.

“Jim’s right,” sobbed Balser. “I—I am a c-c-cry-baby.”

“No, no! Balser,” said Liney, soothingly, as she took his hand. “I know.
I understand without you telling me.”

“Yes,” sobbed Balser, “I—I—c-c-cry—because—I—thank you so much.”

“Don’t say that, Balser,” answered Liney. “Think of the night in the
forest, and think of what you did for me.”

“Oh! But I’m a boy.”

Balser was badly bruised, but was not wounded, except in the foot where
the bear had caught him as he climbed the tree. That wound, however, was
slight, and would heal quickly. The cubs had broken away from the loaded
wagon, and Jim, Liney, Balser, dogs, and cubs all marched back to Mr.
Brent’s in a slow and silent procession, leaving the load of nuts upon
the path, and the bear dead upon a ripple in the river.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                             THE FIRE BEAR.


One evening in December, a few weeks after Liney had saved Balser’s life
by means of the borrowed fire, Balser’s father and mother and Mr. and
Mrs. Fox, went to Marion, a town of two houses and a church, three miles
away, to attend “Protracted Meeting.” Liney and Tom and the Fox baby
remained with Balser and Jim and the Brent baby, at the Brent cabin.

When the children were alone Liney proceeded to put the babies to sleep,
and when those small heads of their respective households were dead to
the world in slumber, rocked to that happy condition in a cradle made
from the half of a round, smooth log, hollowed out with an adze, the
other children huddled together in the fireplace to talk and to play
games. Chief among the games was that never failing source of delight,
“Simon says thumbs up.”

Outside the house the wind, blowing through the trees of the forest,
rose and sank in piteous wails and moans, by turns, and the snow fell in
angry, fitful blasts, and whirled and turned, eddied and drifted, as if
it were a thing of life. The weather was bitter cold; but the fire on
the great hearth in front of the children seemed to feel that while the
grown folks were away it was its duty to be careful of the children, and
to be gentle, tender, and comforting to them; so it spluttered, popped,
and cracked like the sociable, amiable, and tender-hearted fire that it
was. It invited the children to go near it and to take its warmth, and
told, as plainly as a fire could,—and a fire can talk, not English
perhaps, but a very understandable language of its own,—that it would
not burn them for worlds. So, as I said, the children sat inside the
huge fireplace, and cared little whether or not the cold north wind
blew.

After “Simon” had grown tiresome, Liney told riddles, all of which Tom,
who had heard them before, spoiled by giving the answer before the
others had a chance to guess. Then Limpy propounded a few riddles, but
Liney, who had often heard them, would not disappoint her brother by
telling the answers. Balser noticed this, and said, “Limpy, you ought to
take a few lessons in good manners from your sister.”

“Why ought I?” asked Tom, somewhat indignantly.

“Because she doesn’t tell your riddles as you told hers,” answered
Balser.

“He wants to show off,” said Jim.

“No, he doesn’t,” said Liney. But she cast a grateful glance at Balser,
which said, “Thank you” as plainly as if she had spoken the words. Tom
hung his head, and said he didn’t like riddles anyway.

“Let’s crack some nuts,” proposed Jim, who was always hungry.

This proposition seemed agreeable to all, so Balser brought in a large
gourd filled with nuts, and soon they were all busy cracking and
picking.

Then Liney told stories from “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and the Bible. She
was at the most thrilling part of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den,
and her listeners were eager, nervous, and somewhat fearful, when the
faint cry of “Help!” seemed to come right down through the mouth of the
chimney.

“Listen!” whispered Balser, holding up his hands for silence. In a
moment came again the cry, “Help!” The second cry was still faint, but
louder than the first; and the children sprang together with a common
impulse, and clung to Balser in unspoken fear.

“Help! help!” came the cry, still nearer and louder.

“Some one wants help,” whispered Balser. “I—must—go—to—him.” The latter
clause was spoken rather hesitatingly.

“No, no!” cried Liney. “You must not go. It may be Indians trying to get
you out there to kill you, or it may be a ghost. You’ll surely be killed
if you go.”

Liney’s remark somewhat frightened Balser, and completely frightened the
other children; but it made Balser feel all the more that he must not be
a coward before her. However much he feared to go in response to the cry
for help, he must not let Liney see that he was afraid. Besides, the boy
knew that it was his duty to go; and although with Balser the sense of
duty moved more slowly than the sense of fear, yet it moved more surely.
So he quickly grasped his gun, and carefully examined the load and
priming. Then he took a torch, lighted it at the fire, and out he rushed
into the blinding, freezing storm.

“Who’s there?” cried Balser, holding his torch on high.

“Help! help!” came the cry from a short distance down the river,
evidently in the forest back of the barn. Balser hurried in the
direction whence the cry had come, and when he had proceeded one hundred
yards or so, he met a man running toward him, almost out of breath from
fright and exhaustion. Balser’s torch had been extinguished by the wind,
snow, and sleet, and he could not see the man’s face.

“Who are you, and what’s the matter with you?” asked brave little
Balser, meanwhile keeping his gun ready to shoot, if need be.

“Don’t you know me, Balser?” gasped the other.

“Is it you, Polly?” asked Balser. “What on earth’s the matter?”

“The Fire Bear! The Fire Bear!” cried Poll. “He’s been chasin’ me fur
Lord knows how long. There he goes! There! Don’t you see him? He’s
movin’ down to the river. He’s crossin’ the river on the ice now. There!
There!” And he pointed in the direction he wished Balser to look. Sure
enough, crossing on the ice below the barn, was the sharply defined form
of a large bear, glowing in the darkness of the night as if it were on
fire. This was more than even Balser’s courage could withstand; so he
started for the house as fast as his legs could carry him, and Polly
came panting and screaming at his heels.

[Illustration: “’Help! help!’ came the cry.”]

Polly’s name, I may say, was Samuel Parrott. He was a harmless, simple
fellow, a sort of hanger-on of the settlement, and his surname, which
few persons remembered, had suggested the nickname of Poll, or Polly, by
which he was known far and wide.

By the time Balser had reached the house he was ashamed of his
precipitate retreat, and proposed that he and Polly should go out and
further investigate the Fire Bear.

This proposition met with such a decided negative from Polly, and such a
vehement chorus of protests from Liney and the other children, that
Balser, with reluctance in his manner, but gladness in his heart,
consented to remain indoors, and to let the Fire Bear take his way
unmolested.

“When did you first see him?” asked Balser of Polly Parrot.

“’Bout a mile down the river, by Fox’s Bluff,” responded Polly. “I’ve
been runnin’ every step of the way, jist as hard as I could run, and
that there Fire Bear not more’n ten feet behind me, growlin’ like
thunder, and blazin’ and smokin’ away like a bonfire.”

“Nonsense,” said Balser. “He wasn’t blazing when I saw him.”

“Of course he wasn’t,” responded Poll. “He’d about burned out. D’ye
think a bear could blaze away forever like a volcano?” Poll’s logical
statement seemed to be convincing to the children.

“And he blazed up, did he?” asked Liney, her bright eyes large with
wonder and fear.

“Blazed up!” ejaculated Polly. “Bless your soul, Liney, don’t you see
how hot I am? Would a man be sweatin’ like I am on such a night as this,
unless he’s been powerful nigh to a mighty hot fire?”

Poll’s corroborative evidence was too strong for doubt to contend
against, and a depressing conviction fell upon the entire company,
including Balser, that it was really the Fire Bear which Polly and
Balser had seen. Although Balser, in common with most of the settlers,
had laughed at the stories of the Fire Bear which had been told in the
settlement, yet now he was convinced, because he had seen it with his
own eyes. It was true that the bear was not ablaze when he saw him, but
certainly he looked like a great glowing ember, and, with Polly’s
testimony, Balser was ready to believe all he had heard concerning this
most frightful spectre of Blue River, the Fire Bear.

One of the stories concerning the Fire Bear was to the effect that when
he was angry he blazed forth into a great flame, and that when he was
not angry he was simply aglow. At times, when the forests were burned,
or when barns or straw-stacks were destroyed by fire, many persons,
especially of the ignorant class, attributed the incendiarism to the
Fire Bear. Others, who pretended to more wisdom, charged the Indians
with the crimes. Of the latter class had been Balser. But to see is to
believe.

Another superstition about the Fire Bear was, that any person who should
be so unfortunate as to behold him would die within three months after
seeing him, unless perchance he could kill the Fire Bear,—a task which
would necessitate the use of a potent charm, for the Fire Bear bore a
charmed life. The Fire Bear had been seen, within the memory of the
oldest inhabitant, by eight or ten persons, always after night. Each one
who had seen the bear had died within the three months following. He had
been stalked by many hunters, and although several opportunities to kill
him had occurred, yet no one had accomplished that much-desired event.

You may be sure there were no more games, riddles, or nut-cracking that
evening in the Brent cabin. The children stood for a few moments in a
frightened group, and then took their old places on the logs inside the
fireplace. Polly, who was stupid with fright, stood for a short time
silently facing the fire, and then said mournfully: “Balser, you and me
had better jine the church. We’re goners inside the next three
months,—goners, just as sure as my name’s Polly.” Then meditatively, “A
durned sight surer than that; for my name ain’t Polly at all; but
Samuel, or Thomas, or Bill, or something like that, I furgit which; but
we’re goners, Balser, and we might as well git ready. No livin’ bein’
ever seed that bear and was alive three months afterwards.”

Then Liney, who was sitting next to Balser, touched his arm gently, and
said:—

“I saw him too. I followed you a short way when you went out, and I saw
something bright crossing the river on the ice just below the barn. Was
that the bear?”

“Yes, yes,” cried Balser. “For goodness’ sake, Liney, why didn’t you
stay in the house?”

“You bet I stayed in,” said Jim.

“And so did I,” said Tom.

No one paid any attention to what Jim and Limpy said, and in a moment
Liney was weeping gently with her face in her hands.

Jim and Limpy then began to cry, and soon Polly was boohooing as if he
were already at the point of death. It required all of Balser’s courage
and strength to keep back the tears, but in a moment he rose to his feet
and said: “Stop your crying, everybody. I’ll kill that bear before the
three months is half gone; yes, before a month has passed. If Liney saw
him, the bear dies; that settles it.”

Liney looked up to Balser gratefully, and then, turning to Polly, said:—

“He’ll save us, Polly; he killed the one-eared bear, and it was enough
sight worse to fight than the Fire Bear. The one-eared bear was a—was a
devil.”

Polly did not share Liney’s confidence; so he sat down upon the hearth,
and gazed sadly at the fire awhile. Then, taking his elbow for his
pillow, he lay upon the floor and moaned himself to sleep.

The children sat in silence for a short time; and Jim lay down beside
Polly, and closed his eyes in slumber. Then Limpy’s head began to nod,
and soon Limpy was in the land of dreams. Balser and Liney sat upon the
spare backlog for perhaps half an hour, without speaking.

The deep bed of live coals cast a rosy glow upon their faces, and the
shadows back in the room grew darker, as the flame of the neglected fire
died out. Now and then a fitful blaze would start from a broken ember,
and the shadows danced for a moment over the floor and ceiling like
sombre spectres, but Balser and Liney saw them not.

Despite their disbelief in the existence of the Fire Bear, the
overwhelming evidence of the last two hours had brought to them a
frightful conviction of the truth of all they had heard about the
uncanny, fatal monster. Three short months of life was all that was left
to them. Such had been the fate of all who had beheld the Fire Bear.
Such certainly would be their fate unless Balser could kill him—an event
upon which Liney built much greater hope than did Balser.

After a long time Balser spoke, in a low tone, that he might not disturb
the others:—

“Liney, if I only had a charm, I might kill the Fire Bear; but a gun by
itself can do nothing against a monster that bears a charmed life. We
must have a charm. You’ve read so many books and you know so much; can’t
you think of a charm that would help me?”

“No, no, Balser,” sighed Liney, “you know more than I, a thousand
times.”

“Nonsense, Liney. Didn’t you spell down everybody—even the grown
folks—over at Caster’s bee?”

“Yes, I know I did; but spelling isn’t everything, Balser. It’s mighty
little, and don’t teach us anything about charms. You might know how to
spell every word in a big book, and still know nothing about charms.”

“I guess you’re right,” responded Balser, dolefully. “I wonder how we
can learn to make a charm.”

“Maybe the Bible would teach us,” said Liney. “They say it teaches us
nearly everything.”

“I expect it would,” responded Balser. “Suppose you try it.”

“I will,” answered Liney. Silence ensued once more, broken only by the
moaning wind and the occasional popping of the backlog.

After a few minutes Liney said in a whisper:—

“Balser, I’ve been thinking, and I’m going to tell you about something I
have. It’s a great secret. No one knows of it but mother and father and
I. I believe it’s the very thing we want for a charm. It looks like it,
and it has strange words engraved upon it.”

Balser was alive with interest.

“Do you promise never to tell any one about it?” asked Liney.

“Yes, yes, indeed. Cross my heart, ’pon honour, hope to die.”

Balser’s plain, unadorned promise was enough to bind him to secrecy
under ordinary circumstances, for he was a truthful boy; but when his
lips were sealed by such oaths as “Cross my heart,” and “Hope to die,”
death had no terrors which would have forced him to divulge.

“What is it? Quick, quick, Liney!”

“You’ll never tell?”

“No, cross my—”

“Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve a thing at home that’s almost like a cross,
only the pieces cross each other in the middle and are broad at each
end. It’s a little larger than a big button. It’s gold on the back and
has a lot of pieces of glass, each the size of a small pea, on the front
side. Only I don’t believe they’re glass at all. They are too bright for
glass. You can see them in the dark, where there’s no light at all. They
shine and glitter and sparkle, so that it almost makes you blink your
eyes. Now you never saw glass like that, did you?”

“No,” answered Balser, positively.

Liney continued; “That’s what makes me think it’s a charm; for you
couldn’t see it in the dark unless it was a charm, could you, Balser?”

“I should think not.”

“There’s a great big piece of glass, or whatever it is, in the centre of
it—as big as a large pea, and around this big piece are four words in
some strange language that nobody can make out,—at least, mother says
that nobody in this country can make them out. Mother told me that the
charm was given to her for me by a gypsy man, when I was a baby. Mother
says there’s something more to tell me about it when I become a woman.
Maybe that’s the charm of it; I’m sure it is.” And she looked up to
Balser with her soft, bright eyes full of inquiry and hope.

“I do believe that thing is a charm,” said Balser. Then meditatively: “I
know it’s a charm. Don’t tell me, Liney, that you don’t know a lot of
things.”

Liney’s sad face wore a dim smile of satisfaction at Balser’s
compliments, and again they both became silent. Balser remained in a
brown study for a few moments, and then asked:—

“Where does your mother keep the—the charm?”

“She keeps it in a box under my bed.”

“Good! good!” responded Balser. “Now I’ll tell you what to do to make it
a sure enough charm.”

“Yes, yes,” eagerly interrupted Liney.

“You take the charm and hold it on your lips while you pray seven times
that I may kill the bear. Do that seven times for seven nights, and on
the last night I’ll get the charm, and Polly, Limpey, and I will go out
and kill the bear, just as sure as you’re alive.”

The plan brought comfort to the boy and girl.

Soon Liney’s eyes became heavy, and she fell asleep; and as Balser
looked upon her innocent beauty, he felt in his heart that if seven
times seven prayers from Liney’s lips could not make a charm which would
give him strength from on high to kill the bear, there was no strength
sufficient for that task to be had any place.

Late in the night—nine o’clock—the parents of the children came home.
The sleepers were aroused, and all of them tried to tell the story of
the Fire Bear at one and the same time.

“Tell me about it, Balser,” said Mr. Fox, seriously; for he, too, was
beginning to believe in the story of the Fire Bear. Then Balser told the
story, assisted by Polly, and the strange event was discussed until late
into the night, without, however, the slightest reference to the charm
by either Balser or Liney. That was to remain their secret.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox remained with the Brents all night, and before they
left next morning, Liney whispered to Balser:—

“I’ll begin to-night, as you told me to do, with the charm. Seven nights
from this the charm will be ready—if I can make it.”

“And so will I be ready,” answered Balser, and both felt that the fate
of the Fire Bear was sealed.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                            THE BLACK GULLY.

    NOTE.—The author, fearing that the account of fire springing from
    the earth, given in the following story, may be considered by the
    reader too improbable for any book but one of Arabian fables,
    wishes to say that the fire and the explosion occurred in the
    place and manner described.


The Fire Bear had never before been seen in the Blue River
neighbourhood. His former appearances had been at or near the mouth of
Conn’s Creek, where that stream flows into Flatrock, five or six miles
southeast of Balser’s home.

Flatrock River takes its name from the fact that it flows over layers of
broad flat rocks. The soil in its vicinity is underlaid at a depth of a
few feet by a formation of stratified limestone, which crops out on the
hillsides and precipices, and in many places forms deep, cañon-like
crevasses, through which the river flows. In these cliffs and miniature
cañons are many caves, and branching off from the river’s course are
many small side-cañons, or gullies, which at night are black and
repellent, and in many instances are quite difficult to explore.

One of these side-cañons was so dark and forbidding that it was called
by the settlers “The Black Gully.” The conformation of the rocks
composing its precipitous sides was grotesque in the extreme; and the
overhanging trees, thickly covered with vines, cast so deep a shadow
upon the ravine that even at midday its dark recesses bore a cast of
gloom like that of night untimely fallen. How Balser happened to visit
the Black Gully, and the circumstances under which he saw
it—sufficiently terrible and awe-inspiring to cause the bravest man to
tremble—I shall soon tell you.

The country in the vicinity of Flatrock was full of hiding-places, and
that was supposed to be the home of the Fire Bear.

The morning after Polly and Balser had seen the Fire Bear, they went
forth bright and early to follow the tracks of their fiery enemy, and if
possible to learn where he had gone after his unwelcome visit.

They took up the spoor at the point where the bear had crossed the river
the night before, and easily followed his path three or four miles down
the stream. There they found the place where he had crossed the river to
the east bank. The tracks, which were plainly visible in the new-fallen
snow, there turned southeast toward his reputed home among the caves and
gullies of Flatrock and Conn’s Creek.

The trackers hurried forward so eagerly in their pursuit that they felt
no fatigue. They found several deer, and at one time they saw at a great
distance a bear; but they did not pursue either, for their minds were
too full of the hope that they might discover the haunts of the monster
upon whose death depended, as they believed, their lives and that of
Liney Fox. When Balser and Polly reached the stony ground of Flatrock
the bear tracks began to grow indistinct, and soon they were lost
entirely among the smooth rocks from which the snow had been blown away.
The boys had, however, accomplished their purpose, for they were
convinced that they had discovered the haunts of the bear. They
carefully noticed the surrounding country, and spoke to each other of
the peculiar cliffs and trees in the neighbourhood, so that they might
remember the place when they should return. Then they found a dry little
cave wherein they kindled a fire and roasted a piece of venison which
they had taken with them. When their roast was cooked, they ate their
dinner of cold hoe-cake and venison, and then sat by the fire for an
hour to warm and rest before beginning their long, hard journey home
through the snow. Polly smoked his after-dinner pipe,—the pipe was a
hollow corn-cob with the tip of a buck’s horn for a stem,—and the two
bear hunters talked over the events of the day and discussed the coming
campaign against the Fire Bear.

“I s’pose we’ll have to hunt him by night,” said Polly. “He’s never seen
at any other time, they say.”

“Yes, we’ll have to hunt him by night,” said Balser; “but darkness will
help us in the hunt, for we can see him better at night than at any
other time, and he can’t see us as well as he could in daylight.”

“Balser, you surprise me,” answered Polly. “Have you hunted bears all
this time and don’t know that a bear can see as well after night as in
the daytime—better, maybe?”

“Maybe that’s so,” responded Balser. “I know that cats and owls can see
better by night, but I didn’t know about bears. How do you know it’s
true?”

“How do I know? Why, didn’t that there bear make a bee-line for this
place last night, and wasn’t last night as dark as the inside of a
whale, and don’t they go about at night more than in the daytime? Tell
me that. When do they steal sheep and shoats? In daytime? Tell me that.
Ain’t it always at night? Did you ever hear of a bear stealing a shoat
in the daytime? No, sirree; but they can see the littlest shoat that
ever grunted, on the darkest night,—see him and snatch him out of the
pen and get away with him quicker than you or I could, a durned sight.”

“I never tried; did you, Polly?” asked Balser.

Polly wasn’t above suspicion among those who knew him, and Balser’s
question slightly disconcerted him.

“Well, I—I—durned if that ain’t the worst fool question I ever heerd a
boy ask,” answered Polly. Then, somewhat anxious to change the
conversation, he continued:—

“What night do you propose to come down here? To-morrow night?”

“No, not for a week. Not till seven nights after to-night,” answered
Balser, mindful of the charm which he hoped Liney’s prayers would make
for him.

“Seven nights? Geminy! I’m afraid I’ll get scared of this place by that
time. I’ll bet this is an awful place at night; nothing but great chunks
of blackness in these here gullies, so thick you could cut it with a
knife. I’m not afraid now because I’m desperate. I’m so afraid of dyin’
because I saw the Fire Bear that I don’t seem to be afraid of nothin’
else.”

Polly was right. There is nothing like a counter-fear to keep a coward’s
courage up.

After they were warm and had rested, Balser and Polly went out of the
cave and took another survey of the surrounding country from the top of
the hill. They started homeward, and reached the cozy cabin on Blue
River soon after sunset, tired, hungry, and cold. A good warm supper
soon revived them, and as it had been agreed that Polly should remain at
Mr. Brent’s until after the Fire Bear hunt, they went to bed in the loft
and slept soundly till morning.

After Balser announced his determination to hunt the Fire Bear, many
persons asked him when he intended to undertake the perilous task, but
the invariable answer he gave was, that he would begin after the seventh
night from the one upon which the Fire Bear had visited Blue River. “Why
after the seventh night?” was frequently asked; but the boy would give
no other answer.

Balser had invited Tom Fox to go with him; and Tom, in addition to his
redoubtable hatchet, intended to carry his father’s gun. Polly would
take Mr. Brent’s rifle, and of course Balser would carry the greatest of
all armaments, his smooth-bore carbine. Great were the preparations made
in selecting bullets and in drying powder. Knives and hatchets were
sharpened until they were almost as keen as a razor. Many of the men and
boys of the neighbourhood volunteered to accompany Balser, but he would
take with him no one but Tom and Polly.

“Too many hunters spoil the chase,” said Balser, borrowing his thought
from the cooks and the broth maxim.

Upon the morning of the eighth day Balser went over to see Liney, and to
receive from her the precious charm redolent with forty-nine prayers
from her pure heart. When she gave it to him he said:—

“It’s a charm; I know it is.” And he held it in his hand and looked at
it affectionately. “It looks like a charm, and it feels like a charm.
Liney, I seem to feel your prayers upon it.”

“Ah! Balser, don’t say that. It sounds almost wicked. It has seemed
wicked all the time for me to try to make a charm.”

“Don’t feel that way, Liney. You didn’t try to make it. You only prayed
to God to make it, and God is good and loves to hear you pray. If He
don’t love to hear you pray, Liney, He don’t love to hear any one.”

“No, no, Balser, I’m so wicked. The night we saw the Fire Bear father
read in the Bible where it says, ‘The prayers of the wicked availeth
not.’ Oh, Balser, do you think it’s wicked to try to make a charm—that
is, to pray to God to make one?”

“No, indeed, Liney, God makes them of His own accord. He made you.” But
Liney only half understood.

The charm worked at least one spell. It made the boy braver and gave him
self-confidence.

Balser, Tom, and Polly had determined to ride down to Flatrock on
horseback, and for that purpose one of Mr. Fox’s horses and two of Mr.
Brent’s were brought into service. At three o’clock upon the famous
eighth day the three hunters started for Flatrock, and spent the night
in the vicinity of the mouth of Conn’s Creek; but they did not see the
Fire Bear. Four other expeditions were made, for Balser had no notion of
giving up the hunt, and each expedition was a failure. But the
fifth—well, I will tell you about it.

Upon the fifth expedition the boys reached Flatrock River just after
sunset. A cold drizzling rain had begun to fall, and as it fell it froze
upon the surface of the rocks. The wind blew and moaned through the
tree-tops, and the darkness was so dense it seemed heavy. The boys had
tied their horses in a cave, which they had used for the same purpose
upon former visits, and were discussing the advisability of giving up
the hunt for that night and returning home. Tom had suggested that the
rain might extinguish the Fire Bear’s fire so he could not be seen. The
theory seemed plausible. Polly thought that a bear with any sense at all
would remain at home in his cave upon such a night as that, and all
these arguments, together with the slippery condition of the earth,
which made walking among the rocks and cliffs very dangerous, induced
Balser to conclude that it was best to return to Blue River without
pursuing the hunt that night. He announced his decision, and had given
up all hope of seeing the Fire Bear upon that expedition. But they were
not to be disappointed after all, for, just as the boys were untying
their horses to return home, a terrific growl greeted their ears,
coming, it seemed, right from the mouth of the cave in which they stood.

“That’s him,” cried Polly. “I know his voice. I heerd it for one mortal
hour that night when he was a chasin’ me, and I’ll never furgit it. I’d
know it among a thousand bears. It’s him. Oh, Balser, let’s go home! For
the Lord’s sake, Balser, let’s go home! I’d rather die three months from
now than now. Three months is a long time to live, after all.”

“Polly, what on earth are you talking about? Are you crazy? Tie up your
horse at once,” said Balser. “If the bear gets away from us this time,
we’ll never have another chance at him. Quick! Quick!”

Polly’s courage was soon restored, and the horses were quickly tied
again.

Upon entering the cave a torch had been lighted, and by the light of the
torch, which Polly held, the primings of the guns were examined, knives
and hatchets were made ready for immediate use, and out the hunters
sallied in pursuit of the Fire Bear.

On account of the ice upon the rocks it was determined that Polly should
carry the torch with him. Aside from the dangers of the slippery path,
there was another reason for carrying the torch. Fire attracts the
attention of wild animals, and often prevents them from running away
from the hunter. This is especially true of deer. So Polly carried the
torch, and a fatal burden it proved to be for him. After the hunters had
emerged from the cave, they at once started toward the river, and upon
passing a little spur of the hill they beheld at a distance of two or
three hundred yards the Fire Bear, glowing like a fiery heap against the
black bank of night. He was running rapidly up the stream toward Black
Gully, which came down to the river’s edge between high cliffs. This was
the place I described to you a few pages back. Balser and Polly had seen
Black Gully before, and had noticed how dark, deep, and forbidding it
was. It had seemed to them to be a fitting place for the revels of
witches, demons, snakes, and monsters of all sorts, and they thought
surely it was haunted, if any place ever was. They feared the spot even
in the daytime.

Polly, who was ingenious with a pocket-knife, had carved out three
whistles, and in the bowl of each was a pea. These whistles produced a
shrill noise when blown upon, which could be heard at a great distance,
and each hunter carried one fastened to a string about his neck. In case
the boys should be separated, one long whistle was to be sounded for the
purpose of bringing them together; three whistles should mean that the
bear had been seen, and one short one was to be the cry for help. When
Balser saw the bear he blew a shrill blast upon his whistle to attract
the brute’s attention. The ruse produced the desired effect, for the
bear stopped. His curiosity evidently was aroused by the noise and by
the sight of the fire, and he remained standing for a moment or two
while the boys ran forward as rapidly as the slippery rocks would
permit. Soon they were within a hundred yards of the bear; then fifty,
forty, thirty, twenty. Still the Fire Bear did not move. His glowing
form stood before them like a pillar of fire, the only object that could
be seen in the darkness that surrounded him. He seemed to be the
incarnation of all that was brave and demoniac. When within twenty yards
of the bear Balser said hurriedly to his companions:—

“Halt! I’ll shoot first, and you fellows hold your fire and shoot one at
a time, after me. Don’t shoot till I tell you, and take good aim. Polly,
I’ll hold your torch when I want you to shoot.” Polly held the torch in
one hand and his gun in the other, and fear was working great havoc with
his usefulness. Balser continued: “It’s so dark we can’t see the sights
of our guns, and if we’re not careful we may all miss the bear, or still
worse, we may only wound him. Hold up the torch, Polly, so I can see the
sights of my gun.”

[Illustration: “’Now, hold up the torch, Polly.’”]

Balser’s voice seemed to attract the bear’s attention more even than did
the torch, and he pricked up his short fiery ears as if to ask, “What
are you talking about?” When Balser spoke next it was with a tongue of
fire, and the words came from his gun. The bear seemed to understand the
gun’s language better than that of Balser, for he gave forth in answer a
terrific growl of rage, and bit savagely at the wound which Balser had
inflicted. Alas! It was only a wound; for Balser’s bullet, instead of
piercing the bear’s heart, had hit him upon the hind quarters.

“I’ve only wounded him,” cried Balser, and the note of terror in his
voice seemed to create a panic in the breasts of Tom and Polly, who at
once raised their guns and fired. Of course they both missed the bear,
and before they could lower their guns the monster was upon them.

Balser was in front, and received the full force of the brute’s
ferocious charge. The boy went down under the bear’s mighty rush, and
before he had time to draw his knife, or to disengage his hatchet from
his belt, the infuriated animal was standing over him. As Balser fell
his hand caught a rough piece of soft wood which was lying upon the
ground, and with this he tried to beat the bear upon the head. The bear,
of course, hardly felt the blows which Balser dealt with the piece of
wood, and it seemed that another terrible proof was about to be given of
the fatal consequences of looking upon the Fire Bear. Tom and Polly had
both run when the bear charged, but Tom quickly came to Balser’s relief,
while Polly remained at a safe distance. The bear was reaching for
Balser’s throat, but by some fortunate chance he caught between his jaws
the piece of wood with which Balser had been vainly striking him; and
doubtless thinking that the wood was a part of Balser, the bear bit it
and shook it ferociously. When Tom came up to the scene of conflict he
struck the bear upon the head with the sharp edge of his hatchet, and
chopped out one of his eyes. The pain of the wound seemed to double the
bear’s fury, and he sprang over Balser’s prostrate form toward Tom. The
bear rose upon his haunches and faced Tom, who manfully struck at him
with his hatchet, and never thought of running. Ah! Tom was a brave one
when the necessity for bravery arose. But Tom’s courage was better than
his judgment, for in a moment he was felled to the ground by a stroke
from the bear’s paw, and the bear was standing over him, growling and
bleeding terribly. Polly had come nearer and his torch threw a ghastly
glamour over the terrible scene. As in the fight with Balser, the bear
tried to catch Tom’s throat between his jaws; but here the soft piece of
wood which Balser had grasped when he fell proved a friend indeed, for
the bear had bitten it so savagely that his teeth had been embedded in
its soft fibre, and it acted as a gag in his mouth. He could neither
open nor close his jaws. After a few frantic efforts to bite Tom, the
bear seemed to discover where the trouble was, and tried to push the
wood out of his mouth with his paws. This gave Tom a longed-for
opportunity, of which he was not slow to take advantage, and he quickly
drew himself from under the bear, rose to his feet, and ran away. In the
meantime Balser rose from the ground and reached the bear just as Tom
started to run. Balser knew by that time that he had no chance of
success in a hand-to-hand conflict with the brute. So he struck the bear
a blow upon the head with his hatchet as he passed, and followed Tom at
a very rapid speed. Balser at once determined that he and Tom and Polly
should reach a place of safety, quickly load their guns, and return to
the attack. In a moment he looked back, and saw the bear still
struggling to free his mouth from the piece of wood which had saved two
lives that night. As the bear was not pursuing them, Balser concluded to
halt; and he and Tom loaded their guns, while Polly held the torch on
high to furnish light. Polly’s feeble wits had almost fled, and he
seemed unconscious of what was going on about him. He did mechanically
whatever Balser told him to do, but his eyes had a far-away look, and it
was evident that the events of the night had paralyzed his poor, weak
brain. When the guns were loaded Balser and Tom hurried forward toward
the bear, and poor Polly followed, bearing his torch. Bang! went
Balser’s gun, and the bear rose upon his hind feet, making the cliffs
and ravines echo with his terrible growls.

“Take good aim, Tom; hold up the torch, Polly,” said Balser. “Fire!” and
the bear fell over on his back and seemed to be dead. Polly and Tom
started toward the bear, but Balser cried out: “Stop! He may not be dead
yet. We’ll give him another volley. We’ve got him now, sure, if we’re
careful.” Tom and Polly stopped, and it was fortunate for them that they
did so; for in an instant the bear was on his feet, apparently none the
worse for the ill-usage the boys had given him. The Fire Bear stood for
a little time undetermined whether to attack the boys again or to run.
After halting for a moment between two opinions, he concluded to
retreat, and with the piece of wood still in his mouth, he started at a
rapid gait toward Black Gully, a hundred yards away.

“Load, Tom; load quick. Hold the torch, Polly,” cried Balser. And again
the guns were loaded, while poor demented Polly held the torch.

The bear moved away rapidly, and in a moment the boys were following him
with loaded guns. When the brute reached the mouth of Black Gully he
entered it. Evidently his home was in that uncanny place.

“Quick, quick, Polly!” cried Balser; and within a moment after the bear
had entered Black Gully his pursuers were at the mouth of the ravine,
making ready for another attack, Balser gave a shrill blast upon his
whistle, and the bear turned for a moment, and deliberately sat down
upon his haunches not fifty yards away. The place looked so black and
dismal that the boys at first feared to enter, but soon their courage
came to their rescue, and they marched in, with Polly in the lead. The
bear moved farther up the gully toward an overhanging cliff, whose dark,
rugged outlines were faintly illumined by the light of Polly’s torch.
The jutting rocks seemed like monster faces, and the bare roots of the
trees were like the horny fingers and the bony arms of fiends. The boys
followed the bear, and when he came to a halt near the cliff and again
sat upon his haunches, it was evident that the Fire Bear’s end was near
at hand. How frightful it all appeared! There sat the Fire Bear, like a
burning demon, sullen and motionless, giving forth, every few seconds,
deep guttural growls that reverberated through the dark cavernous place.
Not a star was seen, nor a gleam of light did the overcast sky afford.
There stood poor, piteous Polly, all his senses fled and gone,
unconsciously holding his torch above his head. The light of the torch
seemed to give life to the shadows of the place, and a sense of fear
stole over Balser that he could not resist.

“Let’s shoot him again, and get out of this awful place,” said Balser.

“You bet I’m willing to get out,” said Tom, his teeth chattering,
notwithstanding his wonted courage.

“Hold the torch, Polly,” cried Balser, and Polly raised the torch. The
boys were within fifteen yards of the bear, and each took deliberate aim
and fired. The bear moaned and fell forward. Then Balser and Tom started
rapidly toward the mouth of the gully. When they had almost reached the
opening they looked back for Polly, who they thought was following them,
but there he stood where they had left him, a hundred yards behind them.

Balser called, “Polly! Polly!” but Polly did not move. Then Tom blew his
whistle, and Polly started, not toward them, alas! but toward the bear.

“Don’t go to him, Polly,” cried Balser. “He may not be dead. We’ve had
enough of him to-night, for goodness’ sake! We’ll come back to-morrow
and find him dead.” But Polly continued walking slowly toward the bear.

[Illustration: “Polly continued slowly toward the bear.”]

“Polly! Polly! Come back!” cried both the boys. But Polly by that time
was within ten feet of the bear, holding his torch and moving with the
step of one unconscious of what he was doing. A few steps more and Polly
was by the side of the terrible Fire Bear. The bear revived for a
moment, and seemed conscious that an enemy was near him. With a last
mighty effort he rose to his feet and struck Polly a blow with his paw
which felled him to the ground. When Polly fell, the Fire Bear fell upon
him, and Balser and Tom started to rescue their unfortunate friend. Then
it was that a terrible thing happened. When Polly’s torch dropped from
his hand a blue flame three or four feet in height sprang from the
ground just beyond the bear. The fire ran upon the ground for a short
distance like a serpent of flame, and shot like a flash of chain
lightning half-way up the side of the cliff. The dark, jutting
rocks—huge demon faces covered with ice—glistened in the light of the
blaze, and the place seemed to have been transformed into a veritable
genii’s cavern. The flames sank away for a moment with a low, moaning
sound, and then came up again the colour of roses and of blood. A great
rumbling noise was heard coming from the bowels of the earth, and a
tongue of fire shot twenty feet into the air. This was more than flesh
and blood could endure, and Balser and Tom ran for their lives, leaving
their poor, demented friend behind them to perish. Out the boys went
through the mouth of the gully, and across the river they sped upon the
ice. They felt the earth tremble beneath their feet, and they heard the
frightful rumbling again; then a loud explosion, like the boom of a
hundred cannons, and the country for miles around was lighted as if by
the midday sun. Then they looked back and beheld a sight which no man
could forget to the day of his death. They saw a bright red flame a
hundred yards in diameter and two hundred feet high leap from the Black
Gully above the top of the cliffs. After a moment great rocks, and
pieces of earth half as large as a house, began to fall upon every side
of them, as if a mighty volcano had burst forth; and the boys clung to
each other in fear and trembling, and felt sure that judgment day had
come.

After the rocks had ceased to fall, the boys, almost dead with fright,
walked a short distance down the river and crossed upon the ice. The
fire was still burning in the Black Gully, and there was no need of
Polly’s torch to help them see the slippery path among the rocks.

The boys soon found the cave in which the horses were stabled. They lost
no time in mounting, and quickly started home, leading between them the
horse which had been ridden by Polly. Poor Polly was never seen again.
Even after the fire in the Black Gully had receded into the bowels of
the earth whence it had come, nothing was found of his body nor that of
the Fire Bear. They had each been burned to cinder.

Many of the Blue River people did not believe that the Fire Bear derived
its fiery appearance from supernatural causes. They suggested that the
bear probably had made its bed of decayed wood containing foxfire, and
that its fur was covered with phosphorus which glowed like the light of
the firefly after night. The explosion was caused by a “pocket” of
natural gas which became ignited when Polly’s torch fell to the ground
by the side of the Fire Bear.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                         ON THE STROKE OF NINE.


Late one afternoon—it was the day before Christmas—Balser and Jim were
seated upon the extra backlog in the fireplace, ciphering. Mrs. Brent
was sitting in front of the fire in a rude home-made rocking-chair,
busily knitting, while she rocked the baby’s cradle with her foot and
softly sang the refrain of “Annie Laurie” for a lullaby. Snow had begun
to fall at noon, and as the sun sank westward the north wind came in
fitful gusts at first, and then in stronger blasts, till near the hour
of four, when Boreas burst forth in the biting breath of the storm. How
he howled and screamed down the chimney at his enemy, the fire! And how
the fire crackled and spluttered and laughed in the face of his wrath,
and burned all the brighter because of his raging! Don’t tell me that a
fire can’t talk! A fire upon a happy hearth is the sweetest
conversationalist on earth, and Boreas might blow his lungs out ere he
could stop the words of cheer and health and love and happiness which
the fire spoke to Jim and Balser and their mother in the gloaming of
that cold and stormy day.

“Put on more wood,” said the mother, in a whisper, wishing not to awaken
the baby. “Your father will soon be home from Brookville, and we must
make the house good and warm for him. I hope he will come early. It
would be dreadful for him to be caught far away from home in such a
storm as we shall have to-night.”

Mr. Brent had gone to Brookville several days before with wheat and
pelts for market, and was expected home that evening. Balser had wanted
to go with his father, but the manly little fellow had given up his wish
and had remained at home that he might take care of his mother, Jim, and
the baby.

Balser quietly placed a few large hickory sticks upon the fire, and then
whispered to Jim:—

“Let’s go out and feed the stock and fix them for the night.”

So the boys went to the barnyard and fed the horses and cows, and drove
the sheep into the shed, and carried fodder from the huge stack and
placed it against the north sides of the barn and shed to keep the wind
from blowing through the cracks and to exclude the snow. When the stock
was comfortable, cozy, and warm, the boys milked the cows, and brought
to the house four bucketfuls of steaming milk, which they strained and
left in the kitchen, rather than in the milk-house, that it might not
freeze over night.

Darkness came on rapidly, and Mrs. Brent grew more and more anxious for
her husband’s return. Fearing that he might be late, she postponed
supper until Jim’s ever ready appetite began to cry aloud for
satisfaction, and Balser intimated that he, too, might be induced to
eat. So their mother leisurely went to work to get supper, while the
baby was left sleeping before the cheery, talkative fire in the front
room.

A fat wild turkey roasted to a delicious brown upon the spit, eggs fried
in the sweetest of lard, milk warm from the cows, corn-cakes floating in
maple syrup and yellow butter, sweet potatoes roasted in hot ashes, and
a great slice of mince pie furnished a supper that makes one hungry but
to think about it. The boys, however, were hungry without thinking, and
it would have done your heart good to see that supper disappear.

As they sat at supper they would pause in their eating and listen
attentively to every noise made by the creaking of the trees or the
falling of a broken twig, hoping that it was the step of the father. But
the supper was finished all too soon, and the storm continued to
increase in its fury; the snow fell thicker and the cold grew fiercer,
still Mr. Brent did not come.

Mrs. Brent said nothing, but as the hours flew by her anxious heart
imparted its trouble to Balser, and he began to fear for his father’s
safety. The little clock upon the rude shelf above the fireplace
hoarsely and slowly drawled out the hour of seven, then eight, and then
nine. That was very late for the Brent family to be out of bed, and
nothing short of the anxiety they felt could have kept them awake. Jim,
of course, had long since fallen asleep, and he lay upon a soft bearskin
in front of the fire, wholly unconscious of storms or troubles of any
sort. Mrs. Brent sat watching and waiting while Jim and the baby slept,
and to her anxious heart it seemed that the seconds lengthened into
minutes, and the minutes into hours, by reason of her loneliness. While
she rocked beside the baby’s cradle, Balser was sitting in his favourite
place upon the backlog next to the fire. He had been reading, or trying
to read, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” but visions of his father and of the
team lost in the trackless forest, facing death by freezing, to say
nothing of wolves that prowled the woods in packs of hundreds upon such
a night as that, continually came between his eyes and the page, and
blurred the words until they held no meaning. Gradually drowsiness stole
over him, too, and just as the slow-going clock began deliberately to
strike the hour of nine his head fell back into a little corner made by
projecting logs in the wall of the fireplace, and, like Jim, he forgot
his troubles as he slept.

Balser did not know how long he had been sleeping when the neighing of a
horse was heard. Mrs. Brent hastened to the door, but when she opened
it, instead of her husband she found one of the horses, an intelligent,
raw-boned animal named Buck, standing near the house. Balser had heard
her call, and he quickly ran out of doors and went to the horse. The
harness was broken, and dragging upon the ground behind the horse were
small portions of the wreck of the wagon. Poor Buck’s flank was red with
blood, and his legs showed all too plainly the marks of deadly conflict
with a savage, hungry foe. The wreck of the wagon, the broken harness,
and the wounds upon the horse told eloquently, as if spoken in words,
the story of the night. Wolves had attacked Balser’s father, and Buck
had come home to give the alarm.

[Illustration]

Balser ran quickly to the fire pile upon the hill and kindled it for the
purpose of calling help from the neighbours. Then he went back to the
house and took down his gun. He tied a bundle of torches over his
shoulder, lighted one, and started out in the blinding, freezing storm
to help his father, if possible.

He followed the tracks of the horse, which with the aid of his torch
were easily discernible in the deep snow, and soon he was far into the
forest, intent upon his mission of rescue.

After the boy had travelled for an hour he heard the howling of wolves,
and hastened in the direction whence the sound came, feeling in his
heart that he would find his father surrounded by a ferocious pack. He
hurried forward as rapidly as he could run, and his worst fears were
realized.

Soon he reached the top of a hill overlooking a narrow ravine which lay
to the eastward. The moon had risen and the snow had ceased to fall. The
wind was blowing a fiercer gale than ever, and had broken rifts in the
black bank of snow-cloud, so that gleams of the moon now and then
enabled Balser’s vision to penetrate the darkness. Upon looking down
into the ravine he beheld his father standing in the wagon, holding in
his hand a singletree which he used as a weapon of defence. The wolves
jumped upon the wagon in twos and threes, and when beaten off by Mr.
Brent would crowd around the wheels and howl to get their courage up,
and renew the attack.

[Illustration]

Mr. Brent saw the boy starting down the hill toward the wagon and
motioned to him to go back. Balser quickly perceived that it would be
worse than madness to go to his father. The wolves would at once turn
their attack upon him, and his father would be compelled to abandon his
advantageous position in the wagon and go to his relief, in which case
both father and son would be lost. Should Balser fire into the pack of
wolves from where he stood, he would bring upon himself and his father
the same disaster. He felt his helplessness grievously, but his quick
wit came to his assistance. He looked about him for a tree which he
could climb, and soon found one. At first he hesitated to make use of
the tree, for it was dead and apparently rotten; but there was none
other at hand, so he hastily climbed up and seated himself firmly upon a
limb which seemed strong enough to sustain his weight.

Balser was now safe from the wolves, and at a distance of not more than
twenty yards from his father. There he waited until the clouds for a
moment permitted the full light of the moon to rest upon the scene, and
then he took deliberate aim and fired into the pack of howling wolves. A
sharp yelp answered his shot, and then a black, seething mass of
growling, fighting, snapping beasts fell upon the carcass of the wolf
that Balser’s shot had killed, and almost instantly they devoured their
unfortunate companion.

Balser felt that if he could kill enough wolves to satisfy the hunger of
the living ones they would abandon their attack upon his father, for
wolves, like cowardly men, are brave only in desperation. They will
attack neither man nor animal except when driven to do so by hunger.

After Balser had killed the wolf, clouds obscured the moon before he
could make another shot. He feared to fire in the dark lest he might
kill his father, so he waited impatiently for the light which did not
come.

Meanwhile, the dead wolf having been devoured, the pack again turned
upon Mr. Brent, and Balser could hear his father’s voice and the
clanking of the iron upon the singletree as he struck at the wolves to
ward them off.

It seemed to Balser that the moon had gone under the clouds never to
appear again. Mr. Brent continually called loudly to the wolves, for the
human voice is an awesome sound even to the fiercest animals. To Balser
the tone of his father’s voice, mingled with the howling of wolves, was
a note of desperation that almost drove him frantic. The wind increased
in fury every moment, and Balser felt the cold piercing to the marrow of
his bones. He had waited it seemed to him hours for the light of the
moon again to shine, but the clouds appeared to grow deeper and the
darkness more dense.

While Balser was vainly endeavouring to watch the conflict at the wagon,
he heard a noise at the root of the tree in which he had taken refuge,
and, looking down, he discovered a black monster standing quietly
beneath him. It was a bear that had been attracted to the scene of
battle by the noise. Balser at once thought, “Could I kill this huge
bear, his great carcass certainly would satisfy the hunger of the wolves
that surround my father.” Accordingly he lowered the point of his gun,
and, taking as good aim as the darkness would permit, he fired upon the
bear. The bear gave forth a frightful growl of rage and pain, and as it
did so its companion, a beast of enormous size, came running up,
apparently for the purpose of rendering assistance.

[Illustration: “... IMAGINE HIS CONSTERNATION WHEN HE RECOGNIZED THE
FORMS OF LINEY FOX AND HER BROTHER TOM.”]

Balser hastily reloaded his gun and prepared to shoot the other bear.
This he soon did, and while the wolves howled about his father the two
wounded bears at the foot of the tree made night hideous with their
ravings.

Such a frightful bedlam of noises had never before been heard.

Balser was again loading his gun, hoping to finish the bears, when he
saw two lighted torches approaching along the path over which he had
just come, and as they came into view imagine his consternation when he
recognized the forms of Liney Fox and her brother Tom. Tom carried his
father’s gun, for Mr. Fox had gone to Brookville, and Liney, in addition
to her torch, carried Tom’s hatchet. Liney and Tom were approaching
rapidly, and Balser called out to them to stop. They did not hear him,
or did not heed him, but continued to go forward to their death. The
bears at the foot of the tree were wounded, and would be more dangerous
than even the pack of wolves howling at the wagon.

“Go back! Go back!” cried Balser desperately, “or you’ll be killed. Two
wounded bears are at the root of the tree I’m in, and a hundred wolves
are howling in the hollow just below me. Run for your lives! Run! You’ll
be torn in pieces if you come here.”

The boy and girl did not stop, but continued to walk rapidly toward the
spot from which they had heard Balser call. The clouds had drifted away
from the moon, and now that the light was of little use to Balser—for he
was intent upon saving Liney and Tom—there was plenty of it.

[Illustration: “... HE FELL A DISTANCE OF TEN OR TWELVE FEET, ... AND
LAY HALF STUNNED.”]

The sound of his voice and the growling of the bears had attracted the
attention of the wolves. They were wavering in their attack upon Mr.
Brent, and evidently had half a notion to fall upon the bears that
Balser had wounded. Meantime Liney and Tom continued to approach, and
their torches, which under ordinary circumstances would have frightened
the animals away, attracted the attention of the bears and the wolves,
and drew the beasts upon them. They were now within a few yards of
certain death, and again Balser in agony cried out: “Go back, Liney! Go
back! Run for your lives!” In his eagerness he rose to his feet, and
took a step or two out upon the rotten limb on which he had been seated.
As he called to Liney and Tom, and motioned to them frantically to go
back, the limb upon which he was standing broke, and he fell a distance
of ten or twelve feet to the ground, and lay half stunned between the
two wounded bears. Just as Balser fell, Liney and Tom came up to the
rotten tree, and at the same time the pack of wolves abandoned their
attack upon Mr. Brent and rushed like a herd of howling demons upon the
three helpless children.

One of the bears immediately seized Balser, and the other one struck
Liney to the ground. By the light of the torches Mr. Brent saw all that
had happened, and when the wolves abandoned their attack upon him he
hurried forward to rescue Balser, Liney, and Tom, although in so doing
he was going to meet his death. In a few seconds Mr. Brent was in the
midst of the terrible fight, and a dozen wolves sprang upon him. Tom’s
gun was useless, so he snatched the hatchet from Liney, who was lying
prostrate under one of the bears, and tried to rescue her from its jaws.
Had he done so, however, it would have been only to save her for the
wolves. But his attempt to rescue Liney was quickly brought to an end.
The wolves sprang upon Tom, and soon he, too, was upon the ground. The
resinous torches which had fallen from the hands of Tom and Liney
continued to burn, and cast a lurid light upon the terrible scene.

Consciousness soon returned to Balser, and he saw with horror the fate
that was in store for his father, his friends, and himself. Despair took
possession of his soul, and he knew that the lamp of life would soon be
black in all of them forever. While his father and Tom lay upon the
ground at the mercy of the wolves, and while Liney was lying within
arm’s reach of him in the jaws of the wounded bear, and he utterly
helpless to save the girl of whom he was so fond, Balser’s mother shook
him by the shoulder and said, “Balser, your father is coming.” Balser
sprang to his feet, looked dazed for a moment, and then ran, half
weeping, half laughing, into his father’s arms ... just as the sleepy
little clock had finished striking nine.



                               CHAPTER X.
                      A CASTLE ON THE BRANDYWINE.


Christmas morning the boys awakened early and crept from beneath their
warm bearskins in eager anticipation of gifts from Santa Claus. Of
course they had long before learned who Santa Claus was, but they loved
the story, and in the wisdom of their innocence clung to an illusion
which brought them happiness.

The sun had risen upon a scene such as winter only can produce. Surely
Aladdin had come to Blue River upon the wings of the Christmas storm,
had rubbed his lamp, and lo! the humble cabin was in the heart of a
fairyland such as was never conceived by the mind of a genie. Snow lay
upon the ground like a soft carpet of white velvet ten inches thick. The
boughs of the trees were festooned with a foliage that spring cannot
rival. Even the locust trees, which in their pride of blossom cry out in
June time for our admiration, seemed to say, “See what we can do in
winter;” and the sycamore and beech drooped their branches, as if to
call attention to their winter flowers given by that rarest of artists,
Jack Frost.

The boys quickly donned their heavy buckskin clothing and moccasins, and
climbed down the pole to the room where their father and mother were
sleeping. Jim awakened his parents with a cry of “Christmas Gift,” but
Balser’s attention was attracted to a barrel standing by the fireplace,
which his father had brought from Brookville, and into which the boys
had not been permitted to look the night before. Balser had a shrewd
suspicion of what the barrel contained, and his delight knew no bounds
when he found, as he had hoped, that it was filled with steel traps of
the size used to catch beavers, coons, and foxes.

Since he had owned a gun, Balser’s great desire had been to possess a
number of traps. As I have already told you, the pelts of animals taken
in winter are of great value, and our little hero longed to begin life
on his own account as a hunter and trapper.

I might tell you of the joyous Christmas morning in the humble cabin
when the gifts which Mr. Brent had brought from Brookville were
distributed. I might tell you of the new gown for mother, of the bright,
red mufflers, of the shoes for Sunday wear and the “store” caps for the
boys, to be used upon holiday occasions. I might tell you of the candies
and nuts, and of the rarest of all the gifts, an orange for each member
of the family, for that fruit had never before been seen upon Blue
River. But I must take you to the castle on Brandywine.

You may wonder how there came to be a castle in the wilderness on
Brandywine, but I am sure, when you learn about it, you will declare
that it was fairer than any castle ever built of mortar and stone, and
that the adventures which befell our little heroes were as glorious as
ever fell to the lot of spurred and belted knight.

Immediately after breakfast, when the chores had all been finished,
Balser and Jim started down the river to visit Liney and Tom. Balser
carried with him two Christmas presents for his friends—a steel trap for
Tom, and the orange which his father had brought him from Brookville for
Liney.

I might also tell you of Tom’s delight when he received the trap, and of
Liney’s smile of pleasure, worth all the oranges in the world, when she
received her present; and I might fell you how she divided the orange
into pieces, and gave one to each of the family; and how, after it had
all been eaten, tears came to her bright eyes when she learned that
Balser had not tasted the fruit. I might tell you much more that would
be interesting, and show you how good and true and gentle were these
honest, simple folk, but I must drop it all and begin my story.

Balser told Tom about the traps, and a trapping expedition was quickly
agreed upon between the boys.

The next day Tom went to visit Balser, and for three or four days the
boys were busily engaged in making two sleds upon which to carry
provisions for their campaign. The sleds when finished were each about
two feet broad and six feet long. They were made of elm, and were very
strong, and were so light that when loaded the boys could easily draw
them over the snow. By the time the sleds were finished the snow was
hard, and everything was ready for the moving of the expedition.

First, the traps were packed. Then provisions, consisting of sweet
potatoes, a great lump of maple sugar, a dozen loaves of white bread,
two or three gourds full of butter, a side of bacon, a bag of meal, a
large piece of bear meat for the dogs, and a number of other articles
and simple utensils such as the boys would need in cooking, were loaded
upon the sleds. They took with them no meat other than bacon and the
bear meat for the dogs, for they knew they could make traps from the
boughs of trees in which they could catch quail and pheasants, and were
sure to be able, in an hour’s hunting, to provide enough venison to
supply their wants for a much longer time than they would remain in
camp. There were also wild turkeys to be killed, and fish to be caught
through openings which the boys would make in the ice of the creek.

Over the loaded sleds they spread woolly bearskins to be used for beds
and covering during the cold nights, and they also took with them a
number of tanned deerskins, with which to carpet the floor of their
castle and to close its doors and windows. Tom took with him his
wonderful hatchet, an axe, and his father’s rifle. Axe, hatchets, and
knives had been sharpened, and bullets had been moulded in such vast
numbers that one would have thought the boys were going to war. Powder
horns were filled, and a can of that precious article was placed
carefully upon each of the sleds.

Bright and early one morning Balser, Tom, and Jim, and last, but by no
means least, Tige and Prince, crossed Blue River, and started in a
northwestern direction toward a point on Brandywine where a number of
beaver dams were known to exist, ten miles distant from the Brent cabin.

[Illustration: EN ROUTE FOR THE CASTLE.]

Tom and Tige drew one of the sleds, and Balser and Prince drew the
other. During the first part of the trip, Jim would now and then lend a
helping hand, but toward the latter end of the journey he said he
thought it would be better for him to ride upon one of the sleds to keep
the load from falling off. Balser and Tom, however, did not agree with
him, nor did the dogs; so Jim walked behind and grumbled, and had his
grumbling for his pains, as usually is the case with grumblers.

[Illustration]

Two or three hours before sunset the boys reached Brandywine, a babbling
little creek in springtime, winding its crooked rippling way through
overhanging boughs of water elm, sycamore, and willows, but, at the time
of our heroes’ expedition, frozen over with the mail of winter. It is in
small creeks, such as Brandywine, that beavers love to make their dams.

Our little caravan, upon reaching Brandywine, at once took to the ice
and started up-stream along its winding course.

Jim had grown tired. “I don’t believe you fellows know where you’re
going,” said he. “I don’t see any place to camp.”

“You’ll see it pretty quickly,” said Balser; and when they turned a bend
in the creek they beheld a huge sycamore springing from a little valley
that led down to the water’s edge.

“There’s our home,” said Balser.

The sycamore was hollow, and at its roots was an opening for a doorway.

Upon beholding the tree Jim gave a cry of delight, and was for entering
their new home at once, but Balser held him back and sent in the dogs as
an exploring advance guard. Soon the dogs came out and informed the boys
that everything within the tree was all right, and Balser and Tom and
Jim stooped low and entered upon the possession of their castle on
Brandywine.

The first task was to sweep out the dust and dry leaves. This the boys
did with bundles of twigs rudely fashioned into brooms. The dry leaves
and small tufts of black hair gave evidence all too strongly that the
castle which the boys had captured was the home of some baron bear who
had incautiously left his stronghold unguarded. Jim spoke of this fact
with unpleasant emphasis, and was ready to “bet” that the bear would
come back when they were all asleep, and would take possession of his
castle and devour the intruders.

“_What_ will you bet?” said Tom.

“I didn’t say I would bet anything. I just said I’d bet, and you’ll see
I’m right,” returned Jim.

Balser and Tom well knew that Jim’s prophecy might easily come true, but
they had faith in the watchfulness of their sentinels, Tige and Prince,
and the moon being at its full, they hoped rather than feared that his
bearship might return, and were confident that, in case he did, his
danger would be greater than theirs.

After the castle floor had been carefully swept, the boys carried in the
deerskins and spread them on the ground for a carpet. The bearskins were
then taken in, and the beds were made; traps, guns, and provisions were
stored away, and the sleds were drawn around to one side of the door,
and placed leaning against the tree.

The boys were hungry, and Jim insisted that supper should be prepared at
once; but Tom, having made several trips around the tree, remarked
mysteriously that he had a plan of his own. He said there was a great
deal of work to be done before sundown, and that supper could be eaten
after dark when they could not work. Tom was right, for the night gave
promise of bitter cold.

Limpy did not tell his plans at once, but soon they were developed.

The hollow in the tree in which the boys had made their home was almost
circular in form. It was at least ten or eleven feet in diameter, and
extended up into the tree twenty or thirty feet. Springing from the same
root, and a part of the parent tree, grew two large sprouts or branches,
which at a little distance looked like separate trees. They were,
however, each connected with the larger tree, and the three formed one.

“What on earth are you pounding at that tree for?” asked Jim, while Tom
was striking one of the smaller trees with the butt end of the hatchet,
and listening intently as if he expected to hear a response.

Tom did not reply to Jim, but in a moment entered the main tree with axe
in hand, and soon Balser and Jim heard him chopping.

The two boys at once followed Tom, to learn what their eccentric
companion was doing. Tom did not respond to their questions, but after
he had chopped vigorously for a few minutes the result of his work gave
them an answer, for he soon cut an opening into the smaller tree, which
was also hollow. Tom had discovered the hollow by striking the tree with
his hatchet. In fact, Tom was a genius after his own peculiar pattern.

The newly discovered hollow proved to be three or four feet in diameter,
and, like that in the larger tree, extended to a considerable height.
After Tom had made the opening between the trees, he sat upon the
ground, and with his hatchet hewed it to an oval shape, two feet high
and two feet broad.

Jim could not imagine why Tom had taken so much trouble to add another
room to their house, which was already large enough. But when Tom,
having finished the opening upon the inside, went out and began to climb
the smaller tree with the help of a few low-growing branches, the
youngest member of the expedition became fully convinced in his own mind
that the second in command was out of his head entirely. When Tom,
having climbed to a height of twelve or fifteen feet, began to chop with
his hatchet, Jim remarked, in most emphatic language, that he thought “a
fellow who would chop at a sycamore tree just for the sake of making
chips, when he might be eating his supper, was too big a fool to live.”

Tom did not respond to Jim’s sarcasm, but persevered in his chopping
until he had made an opening at the point to which he had climbed.
Balser had quickly guessed the object of Tom’s mighty labors, but he did
not enlighten Jim. He had gone to other work, and by the time Tom had
made the opening from the outside of the smaller tree, had collected a
pile of firewood, and had carried several loads of it into the castle.
Then Tom came down, and Jim quickly followed him into the large tree,
for by that time his mysterious movements were full of interest to the
little fellow.

Now what do you suppose was Tom’s object in wasting so much time and
energy with his axe and hatchet?

A fireplace.

You will at once understand that the opening which Tom had cut in the
tree at the height of twelve or fifteen feet was for the purpose of
making a chimney through which the smoke might escape.

The boys kindled a fire, and in a few minutes there was a cheery blaze
in their fireplace that lighted up the room and made “everything look
just like home,” Jim said.

Then Jim went outside and gave a great hurrah of delight when he saw the
smoke issuing from the chimney that ingenious Tom had made with his
hatchet.

[Illustration: THE CASTLE ON THE BRANDYWINE.]

Jim watched the smoke for a few moments, and then walked around the tree
to survey the premises. The result of his survey was the discovery of a
hollow in the third tree of their castle, and when he informed Balser
and Tom of the important fact, it was agreed that the room which Jim had
found should be prepared for Tige and Prince. The dogs were not
fastidious, and a sleeping-place was soon made for them entirely to
their satisfaction.

Meantime the fire was blazing and crackling in the fireplace, and the
boys began to prepare supper. They had not had time to kill game, so
they fried a few pieces of bacon and a dozen eggs, of which they had
brought a good supply, and roasted a few sweet potatoes in the ashes.
Then they made an opening in the ice, from which they drew a bucketful
of sparkling ice water, and when all was ready they sat down to supper,
served with the rarest of all dressings, appetite sauce, and at least
one of the party, Jim, was happy as a boy could be.

The dogs then received their supper of bear meat.

The members of the expedition, from the commanding officer Balser to the
high privates Tige and Prince, were very tired after their hard day’s
work, and when Tom and Balser showed the dogs their sleeping-place, they
curled up close to each other and soon were in the land of dog dreams.

By the time supper was finished night had fallen, and while Tom and
Balser were engaged in stretching a deerskin across the door to exclude
the cold air, Jim crept between the bearskins and soon was sound asleep,
dreaming no doubt of suppers and dinners and breakfasts, and scolding in
his dreams like the veritable little grumbler that he was. A great bed
of embers had accumulated in the fireplace, and upon them Balser placed
a hickory knot for the purpose of retaining fire till morning, and then
he covered the fire with ashes.

After all was ready Balser and Tom crept in between the bearskins, and
lying spoon-fashion, one on each side of Jim, lost no time in making a
rapid, happy journey to the land of Nod.

Tom slept next to the wall, next to Tom lay Jim, and next to Jim was
Balser. The boys were lying with their feet to the fire, and upon the
opposite side of the room was the doorway closed by the deerskin, of
which I have already told you.

Of course they went to bed “all standing,” as sailors say when they lie
down to sleep with their clothing on, for the weather was cold, and the
buckskin clothing and moccasins were soft and pleasant to sleep in, and
would materially assist the bearskins in keeping the boys warm.

It must have been a pretty sight in the last flickering light of the
smouldering fire to see the three boys huddled closely together, covered
by the bearskins. I have no doubt had you seen them upon that night they
would have appeared to you like a sleeping bear. In fact, before the
night was over they did appear to—but I must not go ahead of my story.

The swift-winged hours of darkness sped like moments to the sleeping
boys. The smouldering coals in the fireplace were black and lustreless.
The night wind softly moaned through the branches of the sycamore, and
sighed as it swept the bare limbs of the willows and the rustling tops
of the underbrush. Jack Frost was silently at work, and the cold, clear
air seemed to glitter in the moonlight. It was an hour past midnight.
Had the boys been awake and listening, or had Tige and Prince been
attending to their duties as sentinels, they would have heard a crisp
noise of footsteps, as the icy surface of the snow cracked, and as dead
twigs broke beneath a heavy weight. Ah, could the boys but awaken! Could
the dogs be aroused but for one instant from their deep lethargy of
slumber!

Balser! Tom! Jim! Tige! Prince! Awaken! Awaken!

On comes the heavy footfall, cautiously. As it approaches the castle a
few hurried steps are taken, and the black, awkward form lifts his head
and sniffs the air for signs of danger.

The baron has returned to claim his own, and Jim’s prophecy, at least in
part, has come true. The tracks upon the snow left by the boys and dogs,
and the sleds leaning against the tree, excite the bear’s suspicion, and
he stands like a statue for five minutes, trying to make up his mind
whether or not he shall enter his old domain. The memory of his cozy
home tempts him, and he cautiously walks to the doorway of his house.
The deerskin stretched across the opening surprises him, and he
carefully examines it with the aid of his chief counsellor, his nose.
Then he thrusts it aside with his head and enters.

He sees the boys on the opposite side of the tree, and doubtless fancies
that his mate has gotten home before him, so he complacently lies down
beside the bearskins, and soon, he, too, is in the land of bear dreams.

When a bear sleeps he snores, and the first loud snort from the baron’s
nostrils aroused Balser. At first Balser’s mind was in confusion, and he
thought that he was at home. In a moment, however, he remembered where
he was, and waited in the darkness for a repetition of the sound that
had awakened him. Soon it came again, and Balser in his drowsiness
fancied that Tom had changed his place and was lying beside him, though
never in all his life had he heard such sounds proceed from Limpy’s
nose. So he reached out his hand, and at once was undeceived, for he
touched the bear, and at last Balser was awake. The boy’s hair seemed to
stand erect upon his head, and his blood grew cold in his veins, as he
realized the terrible situation. All was darkness. The guns, hatchets,
and knives were upon the opposite side of the tree, and to reach them or
to reach the doorway Balser would have to climb over the bear. Cold as
the night was, perspiration sprang from every pore of his skin, and
terror took possession of him such as he had never before known. It
seemed a long time that he lay there, but it could not have been more
than a few seconds until the bear gave forth another snort, and Tom
raised up from his side of the bed, and said: “Balser, for goodness’
sake stop snoring. The noise you make would bring a dead man to life.”

Tom’s voice aroused the bear, and it immediately rose upon its haunches
with a deep growl that seemed to shake the tree. Then Jim awakened and
began to scream. At the same instant Tige and Prince entered the tree,
and a fight at once ensued between the bear and dogs. The bear was as
badly frightened as the boys, and when it and the dogs ran about the
room the boys were thrown to the ground and trampled upon.

The beast, in his desperate effort to escape, ran into the fireplace and
scattered the coals and ashes. As he could not escape through the
fireplace, he backed into the room, and again made the rounds of the
tree with the dogs at his heels. Again the boys were knocked about as if
they were ninepins. They made an effort to reach the door, but all I
have told you about took place so quickly, and the darkness was so
intense, that they failed to escape. Meantime the fight between the dogs
and the bear went on furiously, and the barking, yelping, growling, and
snarling made a noise that was deafening. Balser lifted Jim to his arms
and tried to save him from injury, but his efforts were of small avail,
for with each plunge of the bear the boys were thrown to the ground or
dashed against the tree, until it seemed that there was not a spot upon
their bodies that was not bruised and scratched. At last, after a minute
or two of awful struggle and turmoil—a minute or two that seemed hours
to the boys—the bear made his exit through the door followed closely by
Tige and Prince, who clung to him with a persistency not to be shaken
off.

You may be sure that the boys lost no time in making their exit also.
Their first thoughts, of course, were of each other, and when Balser
learned that Jim and Tom had received no serious injury, he quickly
turned his head in the direction whence the bear and dogs had gone, and
saw them at a point in the bend of the creek not fifty yards away. The
bear had come to bay, and the dogs were in front of him, at a safe
distance, barking furiously. Then Balser’s courage returned, and he
hastily went into the tree, brought out his carbine, and hurried toward
the scene of conflict. The moon was at its full, and the snow upon the
trees and upon the ground helped to make the night almost as light as
day. The bear was sitting erect upon his haunches, hurling defiant
growls at the dogs, and when Balser approached him, the brute presented
his breast as a fair mark. Tom also fetched his gun and followed closely
at Balser’s heels. The attention of the bear was so occupied with the
dogs that he gave no heed to the boys, and they easily approached him to
within a distance of five or six yards. Tom and Balser stood for a
moment or two with their guns ready to fire, and Balser said: “Tom, you
shoot first. I’ll watch carefully, and hold my fire until the bear makes
a rush, should you fail to kill him.”

Much to Balser’s surprise, Tom quickly and fearlessly took three or four
steps toward the bear, and when he lifted his father’s long gun to fire,
the end of it was within three yards of the bear’s breast.

[Illustration: “BALSER HESITATED TO FIRE, FEARING THAT HE MIGHT KILL TOM
OR ONE OF THE DOGS.”]

Balser held his ground, much frightened at Tom’s reckless bravery, but
did not dare to speak. When Tom fired, the bear gave forth a fearful
growl, and sprang like a wildcat right upon the boy. Tom fell to the
ground upon his back, and the bear stood over him. The dogs quickly made
an attack, and Balser hesitated to fire, fearing that he might kill Tom
or one of the dogs. Then came Jim, who rushed past Balser toward Tom and
the bear, and if Jim’s courage had ever before been doubted, all such
doubts were upon that night removed forever. The little fellow carried
in his hand Tom’s hatchet, and without fear or hesitancy he ran to the
bear and began to strike him with all his little might. Meantime poor,
prostrate Tom was crying piteously for help, and, now that Jim was added
to the group, it seemed impossible for Balser to fire at the bear. But
no time was to be lost. If Balser did not shoot, Tom certainly would be
killed in less than ten seconds. So, without stopping to take thought,
and upon the impulse of one of those rare intuitions under the influence
of which persons move so accurately, Balser lifted his gun to his
shoulder. He could see the bear’s head plainly as it swayed from side to
side, just over Tom’s throat, and it seemed that he could not miss his
aim. Almost without looking, he pulled the trigger. He felt the rebound
of the gun and heard the report breaking the heavy silence of the night.
Then he dropped the gun upon the snow and covered his face with his
hands, fearing to see the result of his shot. He stood for a moment
trembling. The dogs had stopped barking; the bear had stopped growling;
Jim had ceased to cry out; Tom had ceased his call for help, and the
deep silence rested upon Balser’s heart like a load of lead. He could
not take his hands from his face. After a moment he felt Jim’s little
hand upon his arm, and Tom said, as he drew himself from beneath the
bear, “Balser, there’s no man or boy living but you that could have made
that shot in the moonlight.”

Then Balser knew that he had killed the bear, and he sank upon the snow
and wept as if his heart would break.

Notwithstanding the intense cold, the excitement of battle had made the
boys unconscious of it, and Tom and Jim stood by Balser’s side as he sat
upon the snow, and they did not feel the sting of the night.

Poor little Jim, who was so given to grumbling, much to the surprise of
his companions fell upon his knees, and said, “Don’t cry, Balser, don’t
cry,” although the tears were falling over the little fellow’s own
cheeks. “Don’t cry any more, Balser, the bear is dead all over. I heard
the bullet whiz past my ears, and I heard it strike the bear’s head just
as plain as you can hear that owl hoot; and then I knew that you had
saved Tom and me, because nobody can shoot as well as you can.”

The little fellow’s tenderness and his pride in Balser seemed all the
sweeter, because it sprang from his childish gruffness.

Tom and Jim helped Balser to his feet, and they went over to the spot
where the bear was lying stone dead with Balser’s bullet in his brain.
The dogs were sniffing at the dead bear, and the monster brute lay upon
the snow in the moonlight, and looked like a huge incarnate fiend.

After examining him for a moment the boys slowly walked back to the
tree. When they had entered they raked the coals together, put on an
armful of wood, called in the dogs to share their comfort, hung up the
deerskin at the door, drew the bearskins in front of the fire, and sat
down to talk and think, since there was no sleep left in their eyes for
the rest of that night.

After a long silence Jim said, “I told you he’d come back.”

“But he didn’t eat us,” replied Tom, determined that Jim should not be
right in everything.

“He’d have eaten you, Limpy Fox, if Balser hadn’t been the best shot in
the world.”

“That’s what he would,” answered Tom, half inclined to cry.

“Nonsense,” said Balser, “anybody could have done it.”

“Well, I reckon not” said Jim. “Me and Tom and the dogs and the bear was
as thick as six in a bed; and honest, Balser, I think you had to shoot
around a curve to miss us all but the bear.”

After a few minutes Jim said: “Golly! wasn’t that an awful fight we had
in here before the bear got out?”

“Yes, it was,” returned Balser, seriously.

“Well, I rather think it was,” continued Jim. “Honestly, fellows, I ran
around this here room so fast for a while, that—that I could see my own
back most of the time.”

Balser and Tom laughed, and Tom said: “Jim, if you keep on improving,
you’ll be a bigger liar than that fellow in the Bible before you’re half
his age.”

Then the boys lapsed into silence, and the dogs lay stretched before the
fire till the welcome sun began to climb the hill of the sky and spread
his blessed tints of gray and blue and pink and red, followed by the
glorious flood of day.

After breakfast the boys skinned the bear and cut his carcass into small
pieces—that is, such portions of it as they cared to keep. They hung the
bearskin and meat upon the branches of their castle beyond the reach of
wolves and foxes, and they gave to Tige and Prince each a piece of meat
that made their sides stand out with fulness.

The saving of the bear meat and skin consumed most of the morning, and
at noon the boys took a loin steak from the bear and broiled it upon the
coals for dinner. After dinner they began the real work of the
expedition by preparing to set the traps.

When all was ready they started up the creek, each boy carrying a load
of traps over his shoulder. At a distance of a little more than half a
mile from the castle they found a beaver dam stretching across the
creek, and at the water’s edge near each end of the dam they saw
numberless tracks made by the little animals whose precious pelts they
were so anxious to obtain.

I should like to tell you of the marvellous home of that wonderful
little animal the beaver, and of his curious habits and instincts; how
he chops wood and digs into the ground and plasters his home, under the
water, with mud, using his tail for shovel and trowel. But all that you
may learn from any book on natural history, and I assure you it will be
found interesting reading.

The boys placed five or six traps upon the beaver paths on each side of
the creek, and then continued their journey up stream until they found a
little opening in the ice down to which, from the bank above, ran a
well-beaten path, telling plainly of the many kinds of animals that had
been going there to drink. There they set a few traps and baited them
with small pieces of bear meat, and then they returned home, intending
to visit the traps next morning at an early hour, and hoping to reap a
rich harvest of pelts.

When the boys reached home it lacked little more than an hour of sunset,
but the young fellows had recovered from the excitement of the night
before, which had somewhat destroyed their appetites for breakfast and
dinner, and by the time they had returned from setting their traps those
same appetites were asserting themselves with a vigour that showed
plainly enough a fixed determination to make up for lost time.

“How would a wild turkey or a venison steak taste for supper?” asked
Balser.

Jim simply looked up at him with a greedy, hungry expression, and
exclaimed the one word—“Taste?”

“Well, I’ll go down the creek a little way and see what I can find. You
fellows stay here and build a fire, so that we can have a fine bed of
coals when I return.”

Balser shouldered his gun and went down the creek to find his supper. He
did not take the dogs, for he hoped to kill a wild turkey, and dogs are
apt to bark in the pursuit of squirrels and rabbits, thereby frightening
the turkey, which is a shy and wary bird.

[Illustration]

When the boy had travelled quite a long distance down stream, he began
to fear that, after all, he should be compelled to content himself with
a rabbit or two for supper. So he turned homeward and scanned the woods
carefully for the humble game, that he might not go home entirely
empty-handed.

Upon his journey down the creek rabbits had sprung up on every side of
him, but now that he wanted a pair for supper they all had mysteriously
disappeared, and he feared that he and the boys and the dogs would be
compelled to content themselves with bear meat.

[Illustration: “ESPIED A DOE AND A FAWN, STANDING UPON THE OPPOSITE SIDE
OF THE CREEK.”]

When the boy was within a few hundred yards of home, and had almost
despaired of obtaining even a rabbit, he espied a doe and a fawn,
standing upon the opposite side of the creek at a distance of sixty or
seventy yards, watching him intently with their great brown eyes, so
full of fatal curiosity. Balser imitated the cry of the fawn, and held
the attention of the doe until he was enabled to lessen the distance by
fifteen or twenty yards. Then he shot the fawn, knowing that if he did
so, its mother, the doe, would run for a short distance and would return
to the fawn. In the meantime Balser would load his gun and would kill
the doe when she returned. And so it happened that the doe and the fawn
each fell a victim to our hunter’s skill. Balser threw the fawn over his
shoulder and carried it to the castle; then the boys took one of the
sleds and fetched home the doe.

They hung the doe high upon the branches of the sycamore, and cut the
fawn into small pieces, which they put upon the ice of the creek and
covered with snow, that the meat might quickly cool. The bed of coals
was ready, and the boys were ready too, you may be sure.

Soon the fawn meat cooled, and soon each boy was devouring a savoury
piece that had been broiled upon the coals.

After supper the boys again built a fine fire, and sat before it talking
of the events of the day, and wondering how many beavers, foxes, coons,
and muskrats they would find in their traps next morning.

As the fire died down drowsiness stole over our trappers, who were in
the habit of going to bed soon after sunset, and they again crept in
between the bearskins with Jim in the middle. They, however, took the
precaution to keep Tige and Prince in the same room with them, and the
boys slept that night without fear of an intrusion such as had disturbed
them the night before.

Next morning, bright and early, the boys hurried up the creek to examine
their traps, and greatly to their joy found five beavers and several
minks, coons, and muskrats safely captured. Near one of the traps was
the foot of a fox, which its possessor had bitten off in the night when
he learned that he could not free it from the cruel steel.

The boys killed the animals they had caught by striking them on the head
with a heavy club, which method of inflicting death did not damage the
pelts as a sharp instrument or bullet would have done. After resetting
the traps, our hunters placed the game upon the sled and hurried home to
their castle, where the pelts were carefully removed, stretched upon
forked sticks, and hung up to dry.

Our heroes remained in camp for ten or twelve days, and each morning
brought them a fine supply of fur. They met with no other adventure
worthy to be related, and one day was like another. They awakened each
morning with the sun, and ate their breakfast of broiled venison, fish,
or quail, with now and then a rabbit. Upon one occasion they had the
breast of a wild turkey. They sought the traps, took the game, prepared
the pelts, ate their dinners and suppers of broiled meats and baked
sweet potatoes, and slumbered cozily beneath their warm bearskins till
morning.

One day Balser noticed that the snow was melting and was falling from
the trees. He and his companions had taken enough pelts to make a heavy
load upon each of the sleds. They feared that the weather might suddenly
grow warm and that the snow might disappear. So they leisurely packed
the pelts and their belongings, and next morning started for home on
Blue River, the richest, happiest boys in the settlement.

They were glad to go home, but it was with a touch of sadness, when they
passed around the bend in the creek, that they said “Good-by” to their
“Castle on Brandywine.”

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                     Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall


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------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES


 1. Changed “CHAPTER IX. A CASTLE ON THE BRANDYWINE” to “CHAPTER X. A
      CASTLE ON THE BRANDYWINE” on p. 238.
 2. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 3. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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