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´╗┐Title: Wild Kindred
Author: Thompson, Jean M. (Jean May)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wild Kindred" ***

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Wild Kindred

[Illustration: (snowy egret chick)]



[Frontispiece: THIS WAS A LUCKY NIGHT FOR PETER, AND HE MANAGED TO
SAVE HIS GREY PELT. (_Frontispiece_)]



[Illustration: Title page]



  Wild Kindred

  Jean M. Thompson



  The Illustrations
  by Warwick Reynolds
  & Charles Copeland



  Jonathan Cape
  Eleven Gower Street, London



  First Published, 1922
  All Rights Reserved



Contents

CHAP.

I. The Narrow Escape of Velvet Wings

II. How Lhoks went back to the Forest

III. The Trials of Peter Possum

IV. The Minnow Twins

V. How Porcupine Ridge was Settled

VI. Methuselah, the Tyrant of Black Pond

VII. Mahug, the Champion Diver

VIII. Fierce Star Nose, and Burrower

IX. The Loyalty of Silver Wing, the Gull

X. How Kos-Ko-Menos, the Kingfisher, won his Belt

XI. The Wit of Clown-face, the Badger

XII. The Sugar Camp on Lone Mountain

XIII. The Peril of the Snowy Egrets

XIV. Mogul, last Buffalo of the Herd

XV. The Last Panther on Cushman Range

XVI. Nemox, the Crafty Robber of the Marshes



List of Illustrations


"This was a lucky night for Peter, and he managed to save his grey
pelt" (_Frontispiece_)

"Suddenly the ball unrolled itself, and an ugly blunt snout appeared"

"Spitting, snarling, yelling ... it charged upon the porcupines"

"Down like an avalanche he came, snatching the mink in his beak"

"He rose from the great wave, bearing aloft a glistening herring"

"Out popped the funny painted face of the badger"

"On his way to the nest, with a pouch full of fish"

"The panther crouched at the foot of the ladder ... making up its
mind to climb"



Wild Kindred


CHAPTER I

THE NARROW ESCAPE OF VELVET WINGS

"Whir, whir, whir," sounded the swish of many silken wings.  The
swallows had arrived from the South; thousands of them there were,
long winged and dusky brown, with faintly russet breasts.  So full of
joyous bustle they were over their arrival, "cheep, cheep, cheeping,"
making a great clamour as they separated into colonies, seeking a
home for the summer.  The old red barn seemed to invite them; in
fact, two colonies had a regular pitched battle over its possession,
until at last the stronger band drove away the weaker, and took
possession of the coveted spot.  They swarmed into the old barn
through small windows high in its peak, chattering together as they
selected building sites.  So great a clamour did the swallows make in
the silence of the dim, old barn that they disturbed and finally
awakened many who had not aroused themselves from their winter's
torpor and sleep.

Far up in a distant peak of the barn, in a certain dim corner where a
great rafter lapped, forming a secluded sort of shelf, there hung,
stretched across the corner, an unusually large cobweb curtain.  The
old grey spider who had spun the web had abandoned it when cold
weather came, and crawled down into the warm hay.  Gradually thick
dust collected upon the web curtain, and well it did, because behind
it, upon the wide, dusty beam it covered, lay two torpid things,
resembling nothing so much as two round balls of brown fur.

The strident chatter of the swallows had penetrated the small round
ears of the two fur balls, perhaps, or it might have been the light
from a stray yellow sunbeam, which at a certain hour of each day had
a way of filtering through a crack and warming their retreat.  At any
rate, one of the torpid things began slowly to undo itself; a small,
mouse-like head appeared, having round, delicate ears of membrane,
which seemed rather too large for its head.  Its eyes, when it opened
them, were exactly like two jet-black beads, and its rather wide,
pink mouth was liberally armed with tiny, saw-like teeth, which the
fur ball showed as it yawned sleepily, stretching itself and
spreading out its wings, to which were attached by a thin membrane
its forearms and legs.  Then, fully awake, it plunged straight
through the cobweb curtain, tearing it apart from end to end, and
sending back a sharp, encouraging squeak to the smaller fur ball to
follow.

Of course the two ridiculous fur balls were just the bat family.  The
smaller, more timorous bat, soon followed her mate from behind the
web curtain and joined him upon the broad beam.  But so clumsy and
half awake was she that the very first thing she did was to make a
misstep and go pitching off the high beam into space.  She landed
upon the hay, fortunately, and then began the funniest sight.  Did
you ever chance to see a bat when it attempted to walk?  They seldom
use their feet, and when they do it is a droll sight.

As soon as Mrs. Bat recovered from her dizzy fall, she put forth one
wing and a hind leg and began to walk toward a beam, for strangely
enough she could not fly from so low an elevation, but must climb
some distance in order to launch herself properly into the air.
Hitching and tumbling along she finally reached a beam, and clutching
it she began to climb it head downward, exactly as a woodpecker does.
Then, having reached the desired height, she whirled away, and landed
finally beside her mate.

The barn was a very silent place.  The rasping of its rusty latch
always gave ample time for all its little wild tenants to get under
cover, so usually all you heard when you entered would be the hidden,
lonely trill of a cricket or a faint, stealthy rustle in the hay.

Upon a broad beam far up over the loft where the oat straw was
stored, lived rather an exclusive family, that of the barn owl.  You
would never have dreamed they were there, so well did the brown
feathers of the owls blend with the dimness of the shadows.  Under
the grain bins, far down below, lived a large colony of fat rats,
while in among the dried clover raced and romped shoals of field-mice
who wintered there.  But there was another, a new tenant, feared and
shunned by all the others.  He came from no one knew where exactly;
still the farmer's boy might have explained, for he had lost a pet
ferret.

The ferret was an ugly creature to look upon, its body long and
snaky, and covered with yellowish-white, rather dirty-looking fur;
its movements were sly and furtive, and somehow always struck terror
to every tenant of the barn whenever they saw him steal forth.  All
winter the ferret had been there, and the hay was literally
honeycombed with its secret tunnels, and woe to anything which
happened to cross its evil trail.

Each evening soon after twilight the swallows would return to the
barn from their raids, and when the shadows grew quite dusky far down
beneath them, then the bats and the barn owl family would launch
themselves out into the night.

"Squeak, squeak," ordered the big male bat; then like two shadows
they would flit silently off upon their velvety wings.  All during
the early part of the night they chased gnats and moths, because they
invariably got their best pickings before midnight.  Before the dim
shadows began to lift, the bats and owls had returned usually, but
the bat family did not retire again behind their cobweb curtain;
instead they hung themselves by their wing-claws head downward from
the beam, folding their wings closely over their beady eyes, and thus
they would sleep all day.

Warmer days came, and livelier times were stirring among the tenants
of the barn.  Far up on her own beam Mrs. Barn Owl tended and fed two
young downy owlets faithfully.  Of course the owl mother knew the
beam to be quite a safe spot for baby owls, but somehow she
distrusted the skulking old ferret, whom she occasionally caught
sight of; besides, rats sometimes climb beams, and once, before the
owl eggs had hatched, something had stolen one egg; so that is really
why there were but _two_ owlets instead of three.

The swallows were the busiest tenants, for each nest now held a
circle of gaping, hungry mouths to feed.  All day long, and far into
twilight, the swallows were whirring incessantly, in and out.  But up
in the secret corner, partially hidden by the torn cobweb curtain,
clung Mrs. Bat herself, and if you could only have peeped beneath one
of her wings you might have seen the dearest little mite of a bat,
with eyes of jet, clinging close to its mother's breast as she folded
it tenderly beneath her wing.  There the helpless little creature
stayed, close to its mother, until it became older and stronger, for
among all the tiny, fur-bearing animals there is no little mother
more considerate of her young than the bat.  And rather than leave
the furry thing all alone upon the great beam when she had to go off
for food, as she could not carry it _beneath_ her wing in flight, she
would make a kind of little basket cradle by spreading out her wing,
and thus the baby bat would ride with its mother, clinging close to
her back with its wing hooks and tiny teeth, and he never fell from
the wing basket nor was he afraid.

When the young owlets were out of the pin-feather stage they began to
go out with the old ones.  But once when they were left behind,
sitting huddled together upon their beam, when the mother owl came
back only one small, chuckle-faced owlet remained.  Hunt as she
might, the robber had left no clue behind.  However, her suspicions
centred upon the sly old ferret and she took to watching his
movements more than ever.  There she would sit, sullen and
revengeful, far up among the shadows and beams, with her one owlet.
She frequently saw the sinuous, snake like body of the ferret creep
forth, and even caught the sound of his peculiarly hateful hiss when
he encountered anything in his path.  Once, in a great fury she
swooped clear down to the barn floor after her enemy, but she got
there a second too late.  The sly creature had heard the swish of the
owl's wings when she left the beam, and caught a fleeting glimpse of
her blazing yellow eyes, so he hastily slid into the nearest runway,
and the owl flew back to her beam defeated; but she never forgot, she
simply waited.

More and more bold became the raids of the hateful old ferret.  He
robbed the swallows' nests; frequently you might see his dirty-white,
sinuous body stealing across some high beam, creeping, creeping
warily, arching his back, holding his snaky head high, one foot
gathered up, looking for an unguarded nest; then if he found one, he
would arch his snaky neck over the edge of the nest and suck every
egg.

Velvet Wings, the young bat, grew very fast.  He foraged for himself
now, for his wings were as broad and fleet as his mother's.
Sometimes, however, he made a clumsy start and so got many a fall.
So one night as he started forth he fell fluttering and squeaking and
protesting, until with a soft thud he landed far below upon the barn
floor.  Completely stunned Velvet Wings lay there, his wings
outspread and helpless, his little heart beating so hard it shook his
whole body.  Of course he saw nothing, so did not notice the peaked
snout of the sly old ferret as he peered inquisitively forth from his
lair in the hay to see what the soft thud might be.  The next instant
the ferret had Velvet Wings in his cruel mouth, but instead of
devouring him at once he began to have some fun with the poor bat,
tossing it in the air, then pouncing upon it as it fell, mauling it
as a cat does a mouse, pinning its wings down with both fore feet.  A
second more and Velvet Wings would have been lost, but that second
was not allowed the ferret; for far up among the brown rafters a pair
of great, blazing yellow eyes had been watching, and like a rocket
from above fell the old mother owl, clear to the barn floor.  "Swish,
swish," went her great wings, as she buried her talons in the back of
the dirty-white fur coat.  With a twist of his snaky, supple body,
the ferret managed to free himself a second from that awful clutch,
and, arching its back, it began to slip away.  But the owl was too
quick; landing upon the ferret's back, she took another, firmer hold
and bore him, struggling and snarling, aloft.

Down through the centre of the old barn a broad sunbeam entered.  It
left a long bar of light through the dimness of the dusky place.  The
barn was strangely silent, hushed, but many bright eyes had witnessed
the tragedy and were watching to see the end, but all that they
finally saw was just a few wisps of white fur, which came floating
lazily down through the bar of light.  It appeared not unlike
floating thistle-down, but it had come from the owl's nest, and was
the last they ever saw of their enemy, the sly old ferret.

Up there in the dim shadows of the old red barn you'll find them all,
and should the yellow beam of sunlight happen to dance across their
dark hiding-place, you may plainly see the bat family.  There they
all hang through the day, looking for all the world like a row of
small velvet bags, their bright eyes shrouded by their soft wings as
they sleep, head downward; while off in quite another corner, perched
upon her own dusty beam drowses the brave barn owl and her one
chuckle-headed owlet.



CHAPTER II

HOW LHOKS WENT BACK TO THE FOREST

Lhoks, the panther, peered sullenly and discontentedly forth from
behind bars of his cage at the curious crowd of people who stared in
at him, and baring his sharp white teeth angrily, snarled at them
crossly.  Again he resumed his uneasy pad, pad, padding walk, up and
down the narrow floor of his prison, which, with six other similar
gaily painted cages occupied by other unfortunate wild animals,
belonged to a small travelling menagerie.

Lhoks was a handsome animal, and the boys and girls who gathered in
crowds around his cage gazed at him with round eyes of admiring awe.
He happened to be a very large specimen of his kind, measuring about
eleven feet in length.  His coat was reddish-brown, now grown
somewhat shabby, owing to his long confinement in the narrow cage.  A
small patch of white fur marked either side of his muzzle.  His
snarling lips showed jet black, also the tip of his tail, which he
lashed angrily.  His eyes, which Lhoks half closed when angry or
cross, were of gleaming greenish yellow, showing golden lights.  Over
his cage door one might read: "Panther, or American Lion."

It happened three years before, that Lhoks and two other small
panther cubs had been left alone by the old panthers, who went off to
hunt; feeling lonely, but full of mischief and play, they came out of
their safe den, to frolic upon a wide flat ledge.  There upon the
rock they all played together happily, rolling over each other and
cuffing with their clumsy kitten-like paws.  And there the hunter
came across them, and so young and unafraid were the small panthers
that they allowed the man to carry them off.  When the old panthers
returned to the den it was quite empty; their babies were gone.  For
days and days they followed vainly the long trail of the robber, with
red, revengeful eyes, but they never caught up with him.

Two of the cubs died in captivity, but Lhoks, stronger and more lusty
than the others, lived.  For three years he had travelled with the
menagerie, but he hated the life, and with all the longing in his
heart he would dream, in his wild way, of the dark, sweet scented
woods, the safe retreats where he might hide in secret, silent places
of his forest.  Most of all did he hate the blare of the loud music,
which made him howl, and deeply too did he resent the staring eyes of
the curious crowds.  Sullenly he would glower back at them.  Often he
felt weak and sick in the close confining quarters of his hated cage;
so much so, that he would stretch out his tawny body miserably upon
the floor and lie there for hours.  But alas for poor Lhoks during
show hours, should he chance to appear stupid and sleepy and ill when
the people came to stare at him!  Then someone was sure to reach into
his cage with a long red pole, to the end of which was attached a
cruel, sharp spike, and then they would poke and prod the poor animal
until he got upon his feet.  Just one sharp prod of the spike was
usually enough to make Lhoks jump up and snarl and begin once more
his endless pacing back and forth, from end to end of his prison.

Then the delighted crowd would shiver and exclaim at his dreadful
fierceness, and often poke him playfully with canes or umbrellas,
just to make him yell loudly.  The howls of Lhoks the panther were
terrifying, and when he screamed out it usually stirred up all the
other animals of the menagerie.

If Lhoks hated the crowds, he soon learned to dread most of all the
long, overland journeys by rail.  Then the cages would all be loaded
upon goods trucks, and for days they would rumble and jolt and sway
dizzily in their close, ill-smelling quarters; if water was not
handy, sometimes the attendants neglected them, and forgot that the
poor caged things were very thirsty.  Often at the end of a trip they
arrived faint, car-sick, and so exhausted they were barely able to
stagger to their cramped legs.

The season for the menagerie was drawing to its close, and they were
about to go East for the winter.  The glittering cages had been
opened to the public for the last time in a small Western town, where
the wondering boys and girls had taken their last look at Lhoks, the
panther, and his wild companions.  The last cage had been loaded upon
the truck, and the long, heavy train started out upon its journey.
Old King, the lion, had died, and most of the other animals showed
only too plainly the effects of their long confinement and hard life.
The tawny coat of poor Lhoks was shabbiest of all.  It actually
looked moth-eaten in places, and his sides showed plainly enough the
scars which the sharp spike had made.  His ribs were seen through his
lean hide, for he had almost lost his appetite; he felt weak and
discouraged.  So he just lay stretched listlessly upon the floor of
his cage, while the long train jolted and screamed its way across the
flat country of the West.  Fortunately, the cage of the panther had
been placed in such a position that Lhoks soon discovered that by
standing upon his hind legs he could actually peer out through his
small, grated window at the country through which they journeyed.  In
this respect, he was more lucky than the others, for the gazelle and
hyena cages had been placed with their small, ventilating windows
pushed up against the other cages, so they could not look out.

For many days, whenever Lhoks chanced to look forth from his small
window, they appeared to be passing over the same flat, uninteresting
plain, although occasionally he caught a fleeting glimpse of forest
and hills in the distance.  At night he would lie flat gazing up
longingly, managing to catch a peep at the little winking stars, and
sometimes, when it was bright moonlight, he would grow very restless
and unhappy, pacing up and down, howling dismally.  How he hated the
commotion and loud noises about the goods yards, when their train was
shunted back and forth over points, creaking and squealing, with much
loose rattling of rusty iron couplings, and yells from the
railwaymen, who swung red-eyed lanterns, and ran swiftly and lightly
over the tops of the cages.

Finally, after many weary days, for their train was a very slow one,
Lhoks began to brighten up, for the air which now found its way into
his close cage had begun to change and freshen; now he would stand at
his small, barred window and sniff in long drafts of it with keen
delight.  Also, Lhoks saw that they had now left the disagreeable,
flat country, and were speeding through wild forests, where giant
spruce and pines grew dense and tall.  Off in the distance there were
glimpses of purple chains of mountains, and rolling, peaceful hills.
From that time on, Lhoks became a changed animal; as by magic all his
weariness appeared to vanish; he was once more himself, wild and
alert.  All night he would stand now at the window just breathing in
the tonic of this fine, new air, the bracing odours which came from
thousands of fragrant balsams and pines.  For, although Lhoks did not
suspect it, he happened to be passing, at that time, right through
the very heart of his own home country, the land where perhaps even
then his parents were still roving wild and free through the hidden
jungles of the great North woods.

The long, snake-like train rumbled and screeched its way through the
night, hooting and echoing through the deep mountain cuts, then
gliding out over long moonlit stretches, where moist odours from the
woods came in waves to poor Lhoks in his prison cage.

"Chuck, chuck, chuck-chuck, chuck," repeated the iron truck wheels,
over and over again, almost like the rhythm of some tiresome song.
Then, suddenly, on ahead, the great engine began to send forth hoot
after hoot, strange alarm cries, whistlings and screechings which
echoed through the silent forest.  Lhoks instinctively knew something
had happened, and leaped to his feet.  The next moment the heavy
truck, cages and all, had been tossed from the rails and lay a
splintered mass at the foot of a deep cutting.

Something wonderful happened to Lhoks, the panther, for his cage had
chanced to fall right side up, and one wall of it had actually fallen
out; he was free--free at last.  It took a few seconds for the poor
wild thing to discover that he was a prisoner no longer, after
spending so many long, hateful years in his close cage.  But very
soon all his old, wild nature asserted itself, and he made out that
there were tall waving pines all about him, instead of walls and iron
bars, and beneath a dense, black jungle of spruce--fine places to
hide.  Gathering up all his strength, with one long leap Lhoks, the
captive, bounded off to his freedom and the shelter of the woods.

Of course, in the excitement which followed the wreck, no one thought
of looking for the panther; for, as it happened, he was the only
animal which had managed to escape alive.  Lhoks could not travel so
very fast at first, for he had a touch of rheumatism, and his legs
were almost stiff from long confinement, while his usually sharp
claws were quite worn off and dulled.  So he skulked along the
ground, hiding himself in some deep, wooded retreat far away from the
shouts of the railwaymen.  Having rested he finally began to take
some interest in his appearance, groomed his roughened coat and
sharpened his dull claws upon a log.  Suddenly he realized that he
was hungry.  Oh, how delightedly did he quench his thirst at a
beautiful, fern-grown pool.  Then one day he discovered the trail of
a lone wood-cutter and followed it for hours, because he began to
feel lonely, and also was hungry.  Perhaps he imagined that the man
would feed him, as had his keeper.  It was lucky for poor, trusting
Lhoks that the man did not spy him, or he might have been shot, for
the man would surely have supposed the panther was trailing _him_ for
its prey.

Lhoks forsook the man's trail finally, and that day he managed to
catch a rabbit, which served him very well.  For weeks so wandered
the poor, solitary panther all alone over the wild forest trails.
Each day fresh strength and courage came to him; already his tawny
coat had lost its roughness; the new hair was coming in, filling the
deep scars upon his sides with soft, fine fur.  Suddenly he began to
feel so very happy that for sheer playfulness, and because of his
loneliness, he would play kittenishly, rolling and pawing about a
round stone which he found; springing high in the air he would often
chase his own shadow down the moonlit trails; occasionally, he would
strive to gain some almost forgotten scent, then he would lift his
black muzzle and utter a long, lonely yell--a cry in the night, once
heard, never forgotten, this yell of a panther--just a pleading cry
for his lost companions for whom he yearned.

Once Lhoks met with an encounter which he never forgot.  He happened
upon a round ball of curious appearance which lay right in his path,
and feeling in a playful mood, he boldly jumped at the thing, tossing
it about.  Then suddenly the bundle unrolled itself, an ugly blunt
snout appeared, and two sullen angry eyes glared at him insolently.
Before he could back away, a prickly tail slapped him smartly right
across his soft, black muzzle, and it was filled with quills.  After
that, Lhoks, the panther, never forgot how Unk-Wunk, the porcupine,
looked when he rolled himself into a ball and went to sleep upon the
trail.  It became harder to find food down in the lowlands, so Lhoks
took to the mountain passes, and thus it happened, one memorable day,
he chanced upon a strangely familiar, alluring scent.  For a day he
trailed it, drawing gradually nearer and nearer, and as he found the
scent keener, Lhoks began to feel greatly excited, filled with
courage and hope, for he had stumbled across an old trail of one of
his own kindred.

[Illustration: SUDDENLY THE BALL UNROLLED ITSELF, AND AN UGLY BLUNT
SNOUT APPEARED.]

With his wild senses all alert, Lhoks now continued to follow
patiently the trail.  It brought him at last out upon a plateau, or
clearing.  Closer and closer to the edge of the ledgy plateau crept
Lhoks, now crawling low upon his stomach, exactly like a cat.  Then,
having gained the edge, hanging his great tawny head over the rock,
he peered with curious, wistful eyes at the strangely beautiful sight
spread just beneath him.  Upon a jutting rock frolicked five panther
cubs; little furry creatures they were, barred with dark tiger-like
stripes, as are all young panthers.  There in the sunshine they were
playing innocently, while Lhoks watched them wistfully and anxiously,
with half-shut, curious yellow eyes, his whole body shaking and
trembling with nervous longing to be with them.  Even the tip of his
tail lashed the rock frantically, so interested had he become in the
kitten cubs.  They were quite alone, for the mother panther, having
lost her mate, was even now away seeking food for them.

At last, unable to withstand the cunning ways of the cubs an instant
longer, Lhoks leaped lightly down among them, and so trusting were
they that he became acquainted with them at once.  When the mother
panther returned, she found a stranger with her babies, playing with
them, letting them roll over him and tease him roughly, mauling him
about as they would, while Lhoks, the lonely one, lay stretched out
contentedly purring for sheer happiness.  Strangely enough the mother
panther did not resent the appearance of Lhoks; perhaps she imagined
he would be useful in helping her forage for food for her family.  At
any rate, she welcomed him with peaceful purrs, and so all was well.
Thus did Lhoks, the panther, come back to his kindred once again in
the heart of the great forest.



CHAPTER III

THE TRIALS OF PETER POSSUM

Peter Possum was in great trouble, for he had lost his mate.  No
wonder that he felt strangely lonely and sad.  Most of the opossum
tribe are noted for their love of family and companionship.  Peter
had been born and reared in the South, right in the heart of a great
cypress swamp, an ideal spot for the home of any possum.  Dark and
lonely was the swamp jungle, with its tall pines and giant gum and
cypress trees, beneath which lay trackless thickets of thorn and
holly, while trailing in long, snaky lengths over all, grew matted
bamboo vines and hanging mosses which looked like long grey beards.

Months before, Peter and his mate had built for themselves a deep,
new nest down in the hollow heart of a giant cypress tree.  And now
what worried Peter most of all was that, wherever Mrs. Possum now
might be, she had carried away their eleven little possum babies with
her in her velvet-lined pouch or pocket which she wore for that
especial purpose in her side.

Not until all the little possums were large enough to be trusted
outside alone would their fond mother allow them to leave this
velvet-lined pouch.  The little possums, when she went away, were
just about the size of mice, with sharp, pink noses, tiny wriggling
tails, bits of beady, black eyes, and the softest, mole-like fur
coats.  Little helpless things they were.  No wonder, then, that
Peter was full of anxiety and almost dazed over the mysterious
disappearance of all his family.  Vainly he searched for them all
through the swamp in their usual haunts, but no trace could he
discover of Mrs. Possum and her pocketful of little possums.

It had been two whole nights now since Mrs. Possum had been away from
the home nest.  As Mrs. Possum had a habit of going off alone
occasionally, Peter had not thought much about it the first night she
was away, for, to tell the truth, that same night he had taken a
secret trip into the far end of the swamp, just to see if a certain
gnarled, old persimmon tree which he happened to remember was going
to bear fruit that year.

So off Peter had started, all by himself.  It was very pleasant to
stroll through the swamp on a moonlight night, and really Peter
travelled much farther than he had intended.  Suddenly, right in the
direction of his home tree, he heard a horrible din which actually
made his long, wavy grey fur rise right up from his fat back.

"Wow-wow-ooo-oo-o!"  It was the hounds, they were out in full cry;
they were scouring the swamp for possums or racoons.  Peter was
thankful now that he was not at home.  Surely, he thought, Mrs.
Possum, whom he had left at home with the eleven little possums,
would have tact enough not to show even the tip of her sharp snout
outside the nest while the hounds were about.  But in spite of all
this, Peter was uneasy about his family; so, without even finding out
if the old persimmon tree would bear fruit that season, he made a
bee-line for home.

"Wow-oow, ow, ow, ooo!"  Again the hounds bayed, and close at hand
this time.  Peter laid his small black ears tight to his head, as he
streaked in and out of the tangled jungles, looking like a glint of
something silvery when the moonbeams struck against his grey fur
coat.  Suddenly the hounds leaped right out in plain sight of Peter.
Instantly he had spied them--three yellow terrors with their long
flappy ears, eager, dribbling jaws, and red, bleary eyes, which could
spy out a coon or possum, no matter how tall a tree he had climbed
into to hide.

This happened to be a lucky night for Peter, and he managed to save
his grey pelt, reaching his home tree before the moon went down.

He began to hitch and claw his way up the tree, not too hurriedly,
because Peter was very fat.  A fat possum cannot climb a large tree
trunk very fast; that is why a possum, if he is big and fat, will
usually select a small tree when he wishes to climb out of danger
very quickly.  When Peter got up to the entrance of the nest, the
grey, furry face of Mrs. Possum, with its round gentle eyes, was not
there to greet him as usual.  When he climbed down deep into the
nest, no soft warm body was there to break his fall, and no gentle
welcoming growl did he hear; the nest was cold and empty.

At first, Peter fancied that she had simply gone out of the nest to
get a breath of fresh air, and perhaps allow the little possums to
get a view of the swamp by moonlight, so he didn't worry so very much
about her absence.  Instead, he just rolled himself up and took a
nap, expecting any minute to be awakened by the coming of his mate,
when she rolled heavily down into the nest.  At daybreak Peter awoke
and still Mrs. Possum had not returned.  Now Peter, in his funny
possum way, was fond of his family, so instead of sleeping all that
day, as he usually did, he started out to look for them.  First, he
took a peep away down below from the edge of the nest; everything was
already beginning to wake up for the day.  Peter watched his hated
neighbours, two old black buzzards, start off, and actually dodged
quickly back into the nest as their great shabby, rag-like wings
swept close to his grey coat.  Once, when the buzzard family were
away, and there were eggs in their nest, Peter and his mate were
foolish enough to visit their untidy home, to which the old birds
returned before Peter and his mate could get away, and then one
horrid old buzzard, with a twist of its ugly, skinny neck had
"unswallowed" its breakfast upon Peter's fine fur coat.  Such is the
disgusting habit of all the buzzard tribe, and one such experience
was enough for Peter; he never went near the buzzards again.

After the scavenger birds had disappeared from sight, Peter climbed
high up into the top of his tree, where he could look far across the
swamp.  He saw away off beyond the swamp, the plantations, stretching
as far as the eye could reach, and criss-crossing them in all
directions the deep irrigation ditches, where one might wander for
miles, and become lost as in a city of many streets.

Finally Peter went back into the nest again; there he slept all day,
expecting to hear the welcome scratching of Mrs. Possum's claws upon
the tree trunk any moment.  But in vain; she did not come.  Had she
been caught by the hounds?

At sunset Peter watched the buzzards come sailing back home for the
night and settle themselves in their soiled feathers, looking just
like two black bundles of rags clinging among the tufted pines.  Then
the whip-poor-wills away down close to the ground, hidden among the
thorn tangles, began their lonely calls.  And at last, unable to bear
the loneliness a minute longer, Peter slid hastily down the tree into
the shadows.  Soon the moon, which was now big and yellow, came
peeping through the dark pines, lighting up the dark places and
finally, to his great joy, Peter actually stumbled upon the trail of
his lost mate.

Poor thing!  She had not been able to travel very fast because she
carried the eleven little possums in her pouch, so it was easy to
follow her tracks, as her heavy body had left certain deep
impressions in the soft moss.  He discovered many places where she
had stopped to rest--deep, round hollows; perhaps she had lain low to
keep away from the hounds.  Peter followed her trail patiently, and
at last he came to the edge of the plantations crossed by the maze of
ditches, almost as deep as two men are high.  Then Peter's troubles
and trials began at the first ditch.  He found where his mate had
entered a ditch, gone over it for a long distance, then turned off
uncertainly into still another ditch, finally coming back again to
the very place she had started from.  Oh, it was a very easy matter
indeed to lose one's way in the perplexing ditches, and so all the
next day Peter travelled hopefully up and down them, searching
everywhere for his lost family.  There was not much to eat in the
ditches, although, when very hard pressed by hunger, an opossum will
eat anything.  Opossums, you know, are really _night scavengers_.
But you may be certain that the unpleasant old buzzards who float all
day over the plantations, watching the ditches, had left little which
a possum might care to eat.

Next day Peter climbed out of the ditches and hid himself in a very
thick holly tree, trusting that its prickly leaves would conceal him
while he rested.  When twilight came, again he took up his search in
the ditches.  Bravely poor Peter searched them night after night.
Occasionally he came across a trap which some negro labourer had
placed in the mouth of a ditch, hoping to catch a coon.  But Peter
managed to keep his feet out of them.

Up and down, up and down, wearily searched the faithful Peter,
occasionally filled with great hope, for the scent which he followed
would appear quite fresh and near, but the next moment he lost all
clue again.  At last, in spite of himself, Peter had almost made up
his mind to the terrible thought that his little grey-coated mate had
been trapped, or perhaps she had become bewildered and lost her way
in some deep, dark hole, finally perishing of hunger.  Of course the
little possums weighed her down heavily, so she could never climb up
out of the ditches.

Peter very sadly and reluctantly made up his mind to give up his vain
search and go back to the swamps again.  But they say "'Tis always
darkest before dawn," and that very night, when he was about to give
up, he struck into an unusually deep ditch.  A stray moonbeam
filtered down into the dark hole, lighting up the path ahead for some
distance.  Then, all of a sudden, Peter thought he saw something
moving toward him; perhaps it was a coon, for dearly the coons love
to roam through the broom-corn ditches when the young corn is in the
milk.  The longer Peter looked at the thing coming toward him,
however, the less did it appear like a coon, and somehow, it seemed
strangely familiar to him--the heavy swaying, waddling body; and the
next moment Peter saw, where the moonlight struck it, the thing was
all _silvery grey_.  The reason Peter did not recognise his little
mate in the first place, for indeed it was Mrs. Possum herself, was
just this:

It seems that the eleven little possum babies had been gone so long,
they had now quite outgrown their mother's pocket, and so she had let
them all climb out upon her broad, silvery back.  And in order to
keep them together safely, she showed each little possum that by
curling its tail tight around her own long, muscular one, which she
carried over her back, it might ride in safety.  In this fashion Mrs.
Possum herself waddled hopefully up and down the long, maze-like
ditches, vainly looking for an outlet.

"Grr-r-r-r," rumbled the delighted Peter, recognising his mate, and
greeting her in his queer possum way by rubbing his black nose fondly
against Mrs. Possum's black, pointed snout.  Then Peter and his mate
with the eleven little possum children still clinging to her back
turned about, and Peter found the right road at last, which led them
all straight back to the swamp.

Back in the jungles they found themselves after a long, weary
journey.  They were very happy to be once more among their jolly
neighbours, the racoons, sniffing again the sweet scented woods, the
yellow jasmine flowers, listening again to catch the soft, sweet
notes of their friends, the mocking-birds, who sang their beautiful
trills in the moonlight.  Peter and his mate were even glad to see
their unpleasant neighbours again, the buzzards, who actually craned
their skinny necks curiously, watching the return of Mrs. Possum and
her large family as she climbed back into the cypress tree.

The persimmons on the old, gnarled persimmon tree are growing plumper
and riper; it needs but a light touch of Jack Frost to make them
tasty.  Then Peter Possum and his mate, with the eleven possum
babies, who by that time will be able to travel alone, are planning
to have a grand feast, far away from the dreaded plantation ditches,
right in the safe shelter of their dear old swamp.



CHAPTER IV

THE MINNOW TWINS

Once upon a time the minnow family had been a very large one, for
there were fifteen of the children by actual count; but one day a
cruel net was dropped lightly into the brook, and twelve of them were
scooped up and taken away.  All that remained were Father and Mother
Minnow, Baby Minnow, and the Twins.

It was such a delightful brook where the minnow family lived--one of
the kind which runs along quietly for a short way, then suddenly
bursts into little laughing ripples, bubbling, foaming, and hurrying
along madly, as though it were trying to race away from itself.  The
brown bed of the brook was all paved with wonderful pebbles, and when
the sun shone down upon them they sparkled just like fairy jewels.
Oh, quite wonderful are the hidden treasures of the brook!  It is
filled with queer, interesting brook people.

The black and yellow turtle family lived beneath a tussock of coarse
grass just at the bend of the brook, where the limb of an old tree
had fallen, and lay half submerged in the water.  Quite convenient it
was, too, for the turtles; one would usually find some of them
sunning upon the log; and when they all came out, they made a long
line quite across the log, and frequently jostled each other "plump"
off into the deep water.

Below, in a dark, still place, all day long the "lucky bug" family
darted stupidly and aimlessly to and fro upon the mirror-like
surface; and just above, under the roots of an old willow tree, whose
snaky roots projected far into the water, lived Mr. and Mrs. Muskrat,
and their three young ones.  Beneath a flat rock, which shelved out
into the water further down-stream, where it was deep, still, and
mysteriously shadowy, two large fierce pickerel had their haunts;
regular robbers and bandits they were, who made their living by
preying upon everything which came within their reach.  There were
endless other families, all more or less interesting, which lived
upon the banks, or within the brown waters of the brook.

But this time I am going to tell you about the minnows.  In spite of
the cruel net, which of course broke up the family, the minnows were
about the jolliest family living in the brook.  Father and Mother
Minnow were very old and wise.  They had wonderfully large, green
bulging eyes, which looked not unlike green glass marbles, and could
detect the approach of an enemy yards away.  Then they would whisk
out of sight in an instant, under the nearest stone, remaining right
there until the danger passed.

Next in importance came the Twins, and they were so precisely alike
that only their mother could really tell them apart.  She knew quite
well that one of them wore an extra speckle of brown upon his right
side.  The Twins were for ever getting into scrapes, and were full of
mischievous pranks, which caused their parents no end of anxiety.
Because they were so full of curiosity about everything, these Twins
had to investigate any strange thing which entered the brook; this,
in spite of oft-repeated warnings from their parents.  I must not
forget to mention the baby, a little bit of a slim, brown minnow, and
so very timid that he seldom left his mother's side.

One day the minnows were all swimming together happily down-stream,
pausing occasionally to exchange pleasant greetings with their
neighbours.  Just as they were passing the coarse grass tussock, Mrs.
Spotted-Turtle stuck her head out between the grasses to tell them of
an accident which had befallen one of her family, the youngest; one
of his feet had been bitten off by the cruel old pickerel who lived
down stream.

So very much interested were Mr. and Mrs. Minnow in listening to this
sad story that they forgot to keep a watchful eye upon the Twins,
who, as soon as they discovered that they were not being watched,
darted fleetly off and were soon out of sight around a bend of the
brook.  They longed for strange, new adventures, thrilling things,
and were quite mad with joy to be out of sight of the kind, watchful
eyes of their parents, whom they considered unduly fussy and strict.
Baby Minnow attempted to follow the Twins, but soon gave up and just
waited under the edge of a pebble until his parents should join him.

Off and away darted the Twins; so swiftly did they travel that their
slim sides flashed through the water like arrows of gold and silver.
Wild with delight and freedom they often gave little sudden leaps and
skips quite out of the water.  They mischievously and wilfully swam
in among the "lucky bug" family, scattering them far and wide, until
the foolish things completely lost their heads, darting confusedly in
all directions.  The Twins even forgot to watch the spot where a pair
of cruel jaws armed with sharp teeth usually lay in wait for them,
snapping dangerously as they passed by the pickerel's den.  But he
did not catch them, because they were swimming too rapidly for the
sly old fellow, who had been napping and was sluggish in his
movements.

A whole drove of pale yellow butterflies joined the Twins just above
the pickerel hole, and kept them company a long distance downstream,
dancing merrily along over the water until a robin flew in among them
and scattered them in all directions.  Oh, they were never lonely
upon their way; there was plenty of company.  Musically hummed the
blue, lace wings of a team of giant dragon-flies which escorted them
for some distance.  As the dragon-flies spent too much time darting
for gnats, the Twins left them far behind.  Soon they were a long way
down-stream.  The brook was full of surprises for them, as it
gradually widened, and the sweet-flags and cat-tails grew tall and
dense to the very edge of the water.  They travelled less swiftly and
swam in and out of the shallows, investigating the jewelled pebbles,
aimlessly nibbling in a bed of watercress.  Finally they paused to
rest and take a leisurely view of their new surroundings.

Just in the edge of the water directly in front of them, near the
watercress patch, suddenly they espied a strange, glittering object.
Never in their lives had the Twins seen anything like this thing
before them.  Larger than any pebble it was and far more beautiful.
They knew about scoop-nets, and for a time viewed the strange thing
before them with misgivings.  However, it failed to move, so they
sidled cautiously nearer and nearer.  Perhaps it was something good
to eat, and they were decidedly hungry.  It felt smooth and cool to
the touch as they brushed it with their fins.  Wonderful!  There was
an opening at one end, but it was not a mouth, because there were no
teeth; therefore it would not bite.

Finally, one Twin poked his head boldly into the opening and entered.
Strangely enough his twin could plainly see him upon the other side
of the object.  He signalled with one fin for his brother to join
him, that all was safe, nothing to fear, and then both the Minnow
Twins went right inside the glass jar, for that was what it was.  In
an instant the boy who owned the glass jar had pulled the string
which was tied about its neck, only the foolish minnows had not seen
it, and the next moment they were captives.

Frantically they dashed about the glass prison, bumping their noses
cruelly, until at last, quite exhausted by their efforts to get free,
they finally lay panting at the bottom of the jar.  Occasionally they
would rise to the top for air, but oh, how miserably unhappy they
were.  They could picture to themselves even now the agony of mind
their parents and little brother endured as they searched frantically
behind every pebble to find their wayward children.

They longed, oh, so sadly, for their beloved brook with its shady
haunts, to lie basking in the clear water which the sun warmed
pleasantly, while their neighbours sang sweetly above them--the
bluebird, the thrush, and hundreds of other birds which charmed and
entertained them all day long when they came to bathe in the brook.

The water in the fruit-jar was rapidly growing stale and lifeless.
The Twins realised that they could not live there very long.  What
would be their sad fate?  Cautiously they looked from their glass
prison; the boy was no longer in sight.  Soon all became dark about
them and they knew it was night.  Doubtless their parents and little
brother were dreaming peacefully deep down in the cool, dark waters
of the brook in a favourite nook beneath some broad lily leaf.

Next morning the Twins were barely alive; they lay gasping weakly.
Suddenly a great striped paw armed with hooked claws was thrust down
into the jar which it overturned, Minnow Twins and all, and the Twins
thought their last moment had come.  Then the boy appeared and they
heard him say:

"Hi, there, Pussy, you rogue.  Clear out.  You're trying to steal my
minnows that I worked so hard to catch for bait.  Get out!"

The boy put the minnows back into the jar and poured fresh water upon
them, which served to revive them wonderfully.  Another boy finally
appeared carrying a tin pail in which he had many other unfortunate
minnows.

"I know a fine place to fish," he exclaimed; "there's an awful big
pickerel lives right under a great, flat stone, down near the
swimming hole.  Come on; let's go and try for him."

It was a very hot day, and by the time the boys reached the brook
they had decided to take a little swim in a certain deep hole, down
by the willows, so they set the pail and jar carefully on a stone
beside the brook.  They were in such a rush to get undressed and
plunge into the water that they had a race to see which should get in
first.

Thus it happened that one boy in pulling off his shoe aimed it
carelessly at the fruit-jar.  Over it toppled with a jingling crash,
and the next instant the Minnow Twins were back in the brook and had
darted out of sight under a stone.  Here they lay just a few seconds,
because they felt a little weak after their confinement.  At last
they stole cautiously forth, and as good luck would have it found
themselves right in a little bed of mint.  They nibbled greedily of
the healing mint roots, and soon the wonderful tonic made them quite
strong again.  Whisking off and looking warily to right and left,
they started in the direction of their old haunts.

Soon dear, familiar landmarks began to appear.  They hailed with
delight the form of old Mrs. Muskrat, grey and fat, sitting upon the
bank scolding her children crossly through her whiskers.  Their
little friend, the water wag-tail bird, came tiptoeing in and out of
the brook, searching every pebble for bugs, just as she always did
day after day.  She gave a droll little flirt, a sort of welcome,
with her funny little tail as the Minnow Twins slid quickly by.  The
grey squirrels were chasing each other up and down the tree trunks
merrily, and surely--yes, far up-stream, they caught sight of the
old, familiar log, which lay just below the grass tussock, and right
there Mrs. Spotted-Turtle and her family lay sunning themselves,
ranged in a long line down the log.  All the little turtles craned
their scaly, spotted necks over the log as the minnows passed under,
and one of the turtles which recognised the Twins flopped off the log
in his excitement into deep water.

Quickly the Twins passed on and soon they arrived at the familiar
bend where the white birch hung, dipping its silvery leaves into the
brook.  Two chubby, glistening minnows closely followed by a little
bit of a slim baby minnow darted out to meet the homesick Twins.
They were made welcome with rejoicing and much nose-rubbing right
back into the bosom of the minnow family once more.

That night all the minnows rested quietly far down in the bottom of
the brook just beneath the protection of a large flat stone.  The
whip-poor-wills came as they always did every evening to sing their
lullaby songs on the top of the old rail fence near, and everything
was peaceful and beautiful once more.  If you tread very carefully
and lightly through the long grasses bordering the brook and peer
down into a certain nook perhaps you may be able to discover the
entire minnow family some day.  You may be sure of the very spot if
you look for the old log, the grass tussock, and you may see some of
the yellow-spotted turtle family sunning themselves, if you have good
luck.



CHAPTER V

HOW PORCUPINE RIDGE WAS SETTLED

The remains of a large camp-fire smouldered, right in the heart of a
forest of giant spruces far up in the North country.  It had
smouldered there sullenly all through a long, summer day, being left
by the campers to die of its own accord.  By this time they were far
away, striking a new trail through the woods.

Night was coming on now.  Down in the still, dark places, stealthy
sounds, rustlings, and padded footsteps might be heard along wild
trails, for with the coming of darkness the prowlers, who forage best
at night, were beginning to stir abroad.  Certain dark, shambling
figures--one, two, three--came shuffling across a streak of moonlit
forest.  It was Moween, the little black mother bear and her two
cubs.  They had come down from their mountain den to hunt in the deep
forest lowlands and swamps.  Redbrush, the old fox, hit the trail in
hot haste; he had scented wonderful game, perhaps a covey of plump,
sleeping partridges.  Impatiently he made a sudden, wide detour, even
crossing a brook and wetting his feet, which he disliked, just to
avoid meeting a cross old lynx whom he despised.  Two cottontails,
also scenting both fox and lynx, leaped high over the tops of the
rank brakes and bounded off in another direction with long leaps,
halting to lie flat, trembling and panting, staying there concealed
until the dreaded ones had gone on.  It happened that what the
cottontails had imagined to be a lynx or Redbrush, the fox, was only
Unk-Wunk, the porcupine, grubbing unconcernedly over the trail,
grunting to himself monotonously his "unk-wunk, unk-wunk," rattling
his quills softly as he crept leisurely in and out among the tall
ferns, fearing neither man nor beast.

Occasionally he would halt to root, pig fashion, beneath some rotten
log for grubs or wake-robin roots, for which he had a great desire.
Then again he would stop, and standing upon his hind legs he would
reach up and strip off the bark from some young, tender sapling with
his sharp teeth.  Not very far behind Unk-Wunk followed another
porcupine, his mate.  She was somewhat smaller in size and less
aggressive and also, if possible, just a trifle more stupid-looking
and droll than he.  In fact, she would actually pass right by some
really choice morsel which she wished keenly, just because it
happened to be a little outside the range of her small, dull piggy
eyes.  So, often Unk-Wunk would stop to nose out food for her, for
she usually depended upon him to locate the meals for both of them,
and he seldom failed her.

To-night Unk-Wunk was very keen upon a new trail, but you would never
have suspected it from his manner, because he never hurried.  Still,
if you knew him very well indeed, you might detect that his gait was
rather more confident than usual, that in spite of his devious
turnings aside, he always returned again to the same trail.  All day
the two porcupines had slept well in the round, deeply hollowed-out
hole of a spruce tree, and between naps Unk-Wunk had watched with
growing interest a thin, blue spiral of smoke as it filtered and
wavered through the tops of the tall spruces far above.  Upon several
occasions the porcupine had seen similar trails of mysterious blue
smoke, and whenever, out of sheer curiosity, he had followed the
smoke to its lair, always had he been repaid for his long journey,
because smoke usually meant a camp, and campers recklessly threw away
much food, more especially bones, bacon rinds, and even, pieces of
mouldy pork or ham.

So Unk-Wunk, the wise one, lifted his blunt muzzle from time to time
and sniffed deeply of the faint, delicious odours which sudden winds
blew in whiffs from the far-off camp.  As soon as it commenced to
grow dusky down below, Unk-Wunk grunted to his mate to follow, and
together they started off upon their raids.

Naturally selfish of nature and secretive is the porcupine, and when
an inquisitive intruder ventured to cross Unk-Wunk's trail, he would
hold his own ground, never stirring from his tracks, but, standing
sullenly in the path, force everything to turn out for him.  Or,
should they presume to show courage enough to face him, he would
simply drop right down in his tracks, roll himself into the
well-known prickly ball, and let them come on.  This they usually
decided not to do in the end, for most wanderers along the trails
were not deceived; well they knew that out of his small,
dull-appearing eyes Unk-Wunk was craftily watching their every
movement, waiting for them to come near enough to him to slap them
with his barb-laden tail.

Thus Unk-Wunk and his mate grubbed along, not too hurriedly, which
would have been a mistake, for some other watcher might have its
curiosity aroused and follow them, and they would perhaps be
compelled to share their find with another.  Finally following
devious trails, the porcupines reached the deserted camp.  Unk-Wunk
was glad there was no one there, because once, when he had gnawed
very loudly, a sleeping man had been awakened and fired a gun at him.

Wandering in and out among the blackened embers groped Unk-Wunk,
grunting impatiently while nosing over a pile of empty tins cans.
But soon, to his joy, he discovered a bone which he rasped and
rasped, pushing away his mate when she presumed to touch it.  Next,
oh, joy, he found a long bacon rind.  He actually fought with his
mate for this, forcing her to go back to a greasy board which he had
been gnawing.

Things began to look more promising and Unk-Wunk and his mate were so
busy with their foraging, they utterly failed to hear the soft,
velvet, padded footsteps of another, who had been following their
trail from the first.  They failed also to catch the gleam of a pair
of blazing, yellow eyes which peered out at them maliciously from
behind the blackened background of a stump, watching, watching their
every movement.  It was a large tawny wildcat.  For some time the cat
watched the porcupines, lashing its tail softly against the pliant
ferns; each instant the tail seemed to switch a trifle more
impatiently; the wildcat was making ready for an attack.  Finally,
unable to endure their grunts of joy an instant longer, for the cat
was gaunt with hunger, it crouched low, then shot right into the very
centre of the camp.  Spitting, snarling, yelling its horrid wails,
which echoed through the woods, it charged upon the porcupines.
Regardless of Unk-Wunk's raised, quilly armour it flew straight at
him, tussling, scuffling, spitting and snarling, eager to take away
the bone.

[Illustration: SPITTING, SNARLING, YELLING ... IT CHARGED UPON THE
PORCUPINES.]

"Slap."  The tail of the porcupine, laden with its most deadly
quills, landed right between the blazing, yellow eyes of the wildcat,
almost blinding it.  Then a terrific battle took place; the whirling
wildcat, mad with pain, tore about in a wide circle, scattering
blackened firebrands in all directions.  It looked, for a time, as if
a small cyclone had struck the camp.  All the while the cat kept up
its uncanny screams which struck sudden terror to many a small wild
thing along the trails, sending them cowering back into their dens
and hidden coverts.  Under the whirling rain of ashes and embers,
wise Unk-Wunk and his mate managed to sneak off into the woods
unobserved.  And at last the wildcat, angry and defeated, slunk away,
rubbing its snout, trying to rid itself of the awful quills, spitting
and scolding as it went.

But the really tragic part of all this was what followed.  Back in
the deserted camp had lain one sullen, smouldering firebrand.  It
might have died out of its own accord in time had it not been
disturbed.  But the wild scuffle between the wildcat and the
porcupine had revived it, tossing it right into a bed of dry leaves
and sun-baked ferns.

Out upon the hills the summer drought had been hard; the pastures lay
brown and scorched by the hot sun, while in the woods the underbrush
was tinder dry.  So the fire took courage, kindled, snapped and
crackled, then burst into bright flames and started on its travels.
Up the tall stems of giant spruces it ran, leaping across from one
feathery top into the next.  Behind, it left blackened trunks; and
below, beds of glowing embers, while all in an instant the forest
trails became fairly alive with multitudes of wild things, frenzied
animals, great and small, all trying to get away from the raging
flames.  Wildcats, timid cottontails, the black bear and her cubs,
they all travelled together hurrying, hurrying on ahead of the fire.
Wild deer left their runs, and, forgetting their lifelong terror of
enemies, leaped off and away.  Ahead, far in advance, tore one great,
brave buck deer, trying to lead his mate and her fawn to safety.  The
bear shambled close behind, howling as she ran, snapping back at a
biting firebrand which scorched her back.  Great snakes cut through
the fern jungles like black whips, rushing on ahead of the scorching
breath of the destroying flames.

Back of the larger, stronger ones travelled the less fleet of foot,
the more timid of the wild things.  Among these were the porcupines,
Unk-Wunk and his mate.  Most of them were headed for Balsam Swamp,
for there, instinctively, they knew they would find water, because
deep in the swamp lay Black Pond, a never-failing water hole, which
had its source in many a mountain stream.  If they only could get to
the water then they would be safe.

Never in all his lifetime had Unk-Wunk travelled so fast, and they
were even then far behind the others; surely they would be caught by
the fire.  Already, in spite of their protecting quills, the
porcupines began to feel the scorching breath of the flames close
behind them.  Old Unk-Wunk was almost spent and deliberately halted
right in his tracks.  His usually half-shut eyes were strained with
anxiety; besides they smarted and stung from the smoke.  He was
almost tempted to lie right down and give up the awful chase, to defy
the cruel thing which was even now scorching and blistering his tired
feet.  His mate, always following his example, would, of course, do
exactly as he did; in fact, she would have followed him straight back
into the flames.

But no, Unk-Wunk was not ready to give up.  Instead, grunting,
scrambling, hastening as fast as he was able, the porcupine suddenly
and deliberately left the trail; it looked almost as if he were going
straight into the track of the fire.  He managed to reach a certain
flat, shelving ledge, which was just ahead of the fire.  Then rolling
himself into a round ball, he lay down upon the high ledge and rolled
right off into space, landing some distance down below upon another
ridge of rock.  In between the rocky ledges he crept, where the
moisture trickled constantly down from above, making it cold and wet;
right close to the great rocky ridge he lay and waited.  The next
instant down tumbled another round, quilly ball from the ledge above.
It was his mate; the faithful thing had followed Unk-Wunk, just as he
knew she would do.  There in the cool, moist-laden rock they clung
tight together and went fast asleep, too weary and scorched and
terror-stricken to move; and the great fire raged around them, but
when it came to the ridge, it leaped right over the spot where they
lay, and they were safe.

Most of the more fortunate fleet-footed wild animals managed to reach
Balsam Swamp.  There the great snowy owl finally settled, and makes
her nest there each year.  The eagles built their nest above upon a
ledge, and the heron tribe located close by.  But Moween, the little
black bear and her cubs, went back to the forest and made her den
right beneath the ridge where Unk-Wunk and his mate found safety, so
that the porcupines and the bears have ever since been near
neighbours.

The spot has for many years been known as Porcupine Ridge.  Almost
any time, if you stray that way, and care for a stiff climb, you can
pick up quantities of loose quills near the spot, and sometimes you
may even run across a quilly ball lying right on top of the ledge, or
catch one of the numerous porcupine family picking its way leisurely
among the rocks.  So now you can fully understand why this particular
spot has always been called Porcupine Ridge, because it was really
settled by none other than old Unk-Wunk and his mate at the time of
the great forest fire.



CHAPTER VI

METHUSELAH, THE TYRANT OF BLACK POND

Methuselah, the Tyrant, was very old, so old that none of the
inhabitants of the pond could have told you his exact age.  Like the
knights of old he, too, wore armour, which served very well to
protect him and turn aside many a stray bullet or dangerous missile
aimed in his direction.  In fact, Methuselah, the giant snapping
turtle of Black Pond, appeared to have led a sort of charmed life,
escaping all kinds of dangers in the most lucky manner, and
absolutely ruling over all wild things which came near or made their
homes in or about the pond.

If the old Tyrant wore knightly armour, he in no other respect
resembled the brave knights of ancient days, for by nature he was
malicious, sly and wicked.  And, if the truth were only known, a very
great glutton.  Just as soon as the frost left the strata of mud
above him where he had wintered, old Methuselah would rouse himself
for action.  Quite torpid at first, he would crawl to some spot where
the sun might strike his chilled, mud-caked shell, and gradually thaw
out.  Soon would commence his eager search for food, and in early
spring he made regular hourly trips around the pond, gobbling up the
very first young things which had come out of winter quarters,
usually small tender frogs.  He loved to lie motionless near the
surface of the water, sending up pearly air bubbles through his horny
snout, waving a flipper idly, just to keep his huge shell afloat,
looking precisely like a round-topped rock, for the old fellow's back
was rough and so moss-grown that he resembled a stone more than
anything living.  But all the while his cold, wicked-looking eyes,
when not shaded by their filmy lids, were quite watchful and always
on the alert, and his wrinkled neck was ever in readiness to dart out
like a flash to snap up anything which came his way.

Snap, snap, would crash his horny, toothless jaws, closing over one
after another of the unsuspecting minnow shoals as they slid by him.
As for the catfish, with their terrible lance-like spines, rising
just behind their gills, and which every boy who goes fishing dreads
more than anything--they never bothered the old Tyrant; his armour
protected him so well he feared nothing.  His hard, warty fore legs
were so tough and strong, they could ward off anything troublesome;
besides, they were armed with sharp black claws.  Usually, Methuselah
would come upon the catfish from beneath the shoal; a swift snap of
his scaly jaws and he had taken a bite from a pearl-white stomach,
thus escaping the horn, and discarding every portion of the fish but
the choicest morsels.  Sometimes, so silently did the old Tyrant
approach the shoal from beneath, that he would succeed in snapping
several fish even before the leader of the shoal knew what was going
on behind him.

Quite as much at home upon the land as water was old Methuselah.  He
could remain beneath water a long time, while in between the rank
reeds and grasses along-shore ran his wide flattened trails; regular
runways they were.  You might readily distinguish where the nimble
muskrats ran, because their trails were round and hollow, but when
the old Tyrant passed, he cut a wide swath.  Fully two feet wide was
his great shell.  It was marked off beautifully in diamonds, each
diamond being ringed about with layers or rings in the shell, which,
if you were expert enough to read, might have given you a clue to his
great age.

His horny legs possessed such wonderful strength that he could
readily pin down and hold a large muskrat with one fore leg.
Usually, when the muskrat colony came across old Methuselah's fresh
trail, they would either leap nimbly over it at a high jump, or back
out, making a wide detour to reach their huts, because the water rats
always got the worst of it in an encounter with the old Tyrant.  Many
of them were even forced to swim in lop-sided fashion because of a
lost fore paw or hind leg, which had been snapped off by the wicked
old turtle.

Nesting time was a pleasant season for Methuselah.  Then he would
spend more than half his days foraging among the rank, reedy places,
and usually he was smart enough to find the old blue heron's nesting
place, no matter how skilfully she might conceal it.  Once or twice
the old birds had come back and actually found the old Tyrant
occupying their nest, surrounded by broken egg shells.  Of course
they fell upon him and thrashed him badly with their great blue
wings, but this made no impression upon the diamond armour of the old
fellow, although he looked out well to protect his eyes from the
heron's lance-like bill--the only thing which he had to fear from
them.  He just doted upon bird's eggs, but more than eggs did he
fancy young, tender fledglings.

Who is it that tells us the tortoise is so slow?  Just let one of the
larger wild creatures of the forest, something which Methuselah
really had cause to fear, get after him, and then you should watch
him sprint for the safety of the pond.  Putting forth his clumsy, but
fearfully strong flippers, with his snaky neck stretching forth to
its limit from its wrinkles, his spiky tail held stiff, old
Methuselah would start off on a wild, shambling run, hissing back
angrily through his black nose-holes as he travelled.  His black
claws barely touched the earth as he slid over the ground, and it
would have taken a very swift runner to keep up with him.  Once he
reached the water, without pausing to take observations, he would
launch himself off into its depths, sinking straight down among the
snaky water-weed roots to the bottom of the pond.  The pursuer
arriving too late at the edge of the water usually went away quite
baffled.

Old Ring Neck, the goose, who came each year to Black Pond to rear
her wild brood, one season hatched out nine fine goslings, and when
the time came she piloted them to the water for their first swimming
lesson.  All the way the little ones kept up a timorous "peep, peep,
peep," which, of course, Methuselah heard plainly enough, for he
happened to be right on the edge of the bank sunning himself.  Deftly
and silently he slid into the water, and from behind a knot of
tangled lily roots he watched and laid his plans.

One after another the trusting goslings slipped into the water, their
shadows from below looking like floating lily pads, only behind each
shadow trailed two pink, webbed feet.  Bubbles began to rise from the
knot of lily roots below them, but the old goose did not see them;
she was too taken up with the young ones.  The old Tyrant was making
ready to rise.

As soon as the floating shadows of the goslings came just over his
hiding place, silently he began to paddle with just one flipper,
while his wicked eyes were fixed upon a certain pink foot.  Even
before the innocent gosling could utter one warning "peep," the old
Tyrant had pulled it quickly under water, and borne it off among the
matted water-weeds.  That day the old goose lost two of her brood in
the most mysterious manner.  How they had gone, or where, she never
found out, and in time Methuselah managed to steal most of her brood,
just as he had the young herons.  Oh, there was no question about it,
the sly old turtle was about the worst Tyrant the pond had ever known.

Now it happened that because the catfish in Black Pond were large and
biting unusually well that summer, the two Newton boys, who lived in
a lumber camp the other side of the mountain, used often to come
there to fish.  Frequently they had caught sight of old Methuselah as
he lay sunning himself upon the bank, and never in all their lives
had they seen such a giant turtle, and they had often spoken about
him in the camp.

"You boys better look out for that old turtle," advised one of the
lumbermen as the boys were about starting for the pond; "they're ugly
customers, them snapping turtles, when you tackle 'em."

"Guess you boys better not go in swimmin'," spoke grandfather from
his corner.  "I remember a swim I took in Black Pond once when I was
a boy, an' say--I left part of one of my toes behind there somewhere;
always thought some old snapper got it.  We caught a buster there
once; managed to hold him, three of us, long enough to cut a date on
his shell, but he was so 'tarnal sassy and strong he got away from
us.  This might be one of his relatives," chuckled the old man.

The boys were allowed to drive the colt and make a day of it.  They
fished until afternoon, but at last the fish failed to bite and the
gnats bothered them so, they left the fishing and tramped alongshore
to look at some snares they had set.

"Say, Dick; hi, come here and look at the track I've struck," called
Joe; "believe it's our old friend, the snapping turtle.  Yes, here he
is, fast asleep.  Ain't he just a corker?"  The two boys had come
upon the old fellow as he lay sunning himself.

"Let's wake him up and have some fun with him," suggested Joe.  "I'll
get a stout stick; you watch him and see that he don't get away."

Methuselah had not been asleep, however, so he just raised one cold
eye and stared after the boys insolently, as much as to say, "Who's
afraid?"

Soon the boys began to prod the old fellow rather too much for his
comfort, for there are certain vulnerable places upon a turtle, and
one of these is his wrinkled neck.  The stick bothered him so he
began twisting his snaky head about angrily and snapping at the boys,
hissing savagely, finally clinging obstinately to the stick, so that
the boys managed to raise him and turn him upon his back where he
waved his flippers helplessly, trying in vain to right himself and
crawl away.

"Oh, oh, Joe, look! see! why, here's a date.  It says--why, it says
'1825'; it surely does, see!"

"Great Scott, Dick, it surely does," cried Joe excitedly, as he read
the worn date cut in the shell.  "Why, it's grandfather's old
snapper, the one he thinks bit off his toe when he was a boy.  This
old fellow must be terribly old; he was big when grandfather first
saw him and grandfather's awful old.  Oh, if we could only get him
back to camp.  Tell you what, before anything happens, let us carve a
date right under this one.  Give me your knife, Dick."  So, together,
the boys carved 1913 right under the old date.  By prodding the old
turtle they made him seize the stick again firmly and together they
managed to lift him into their wagon, leaving him helplessly waving
his flippers, flat upon his back.

Soon they started for home, but not a minute too soon, for a
thunderstorm was beginning to travel over the mountain.  Before they
were half-way home it began, and the colt, frightened by the rattle
of the thunder in the mountain passes, broke and ran.  The old wagon
swayed and bounced from side to side and the boys had all they could
do to manage the colt.  They were glad enough to reach camp, finally,
and not until they drove to the shed did they remember the snapping
turtle, but, to their dismay when they looked for him, he was gone.

"It's a shame!" exclaimed Dick.  "I wanted grandfather to see him.
Hold the lantern, Joe; perhaps he's slid away under the seat."  But
they searched in vain, for during their wild ride the old Tyrant had
righted himself and slid off the tail end of their wagon.

Away back on the mountain road lay Methuselah, somewhat stunned by
his fall.  All night he lay there with a piece nicked from his shell.
At sunrise he was off over the rough road heading for the pond.  He
crawled along aimlessly at first.  Finally reaching a rise in the
ground, all at once he lifted his snaky neck, scenting moisture--the
pond.  Raising himself high upon his great flippers, his horny head
stretched out like a racer, he ran scrambling over stones and through
matted jungles of weeds.  At last he saw the gleam of the pond lying
steel-like and sullen ahead.  The hot sun heated his thick shell to
furnace heat, scorching his flesh beneath; he longed to plunge into
the cooling water.  Finally, in desperate haste having reached a high
place in the bank, he rolled the remainder of the distance and fell
with a loud splash into the pond, straight down into the oozing mud
to the bottom, scattering catfish and small fry in all directions.

And there he is still, old Methuselah, the Tyrant of Black Pond, and
no one actually knows his age, for 'tis said _some_ turtles have
lived a thousand years.  But if you ever run across the old Tyrant
you may recognise him readily if you have courage and strength enough
to turn him over upon his back, for there you will find upon his
shell the two dates--1825 and 1913.



CHAPTER VII

MAHUG, THE CHAMPION DIVER

A strange, uncanny scream rang out over the sullen waters of Black
Lake one night in June, and, although there was no human being near
the desolate spot to hear the awful cry, it was quite scary enough to
startle certain of the wild inhabitants all alongshore.  There were
others among them, however, who were unafraid; they had heard the
same cry before and recognised it.  They knew that Mahug, the Great
King Loon, and his wild mate had arrived at the lake, where each year
they came from warmer climes, to build their hidden nest in some
secluded spot among the rushes.

This lonely spot had always suited the King Loon so well that, no
matter how far off he had wintered, he invariably made for Black Lake
during nesting time.  Mahug, like all his tribe, was a mighty diver
and, for water-fowl, he had very fashionable habits, spending a
portion of each year near the salt sea, usually camping upon some
desolate island, fishing, swimming, and diving with thousands of
other water-fowl, yet never mingling at all familiarly with them, or
encouraging acquaintances in a sociable way, because the loon is a
very solitary bird.  So, when nesting time came, Mahug always went
off as far away from the crowd as he possibly could go.  Quite
frequently he and his mate would fly thousands of miles in order to
be exclusive and alone.  The old loon was a large, imposing bird, his
wing and back feathers of a glossy, metallic black, while his
beautiful breast was dazzling, pearly white, the feathers very soft
and thick.  When Mahug stood erect, at first sight, he appeared to be
wearing a dark coat thrown back from a pearl-white waistcoat.  His
head was beautifully marked, the top of fine, iridescent feathers,
the neck ringed about with green and bronze.  On the wing, you never
would have suspected how very awkward Mahug could be upon his feet.
On land he just waddled about in the most ungainly fashion, choosing
to fly, usually, rather than walk, because his clumsy webbed feet
were not intended for tramping.  They were set so far back upon his
body that they were of small use to him excepting when he used them
for paddles in the water.

Mahug was in his element in water or upon the wing.  And my, how the
old King could dive!  In fact, the loon family are all noted divers,
for they not only dive deeper than other birds, but they can also
stay under water a long time.  So quickly could old Mahug dive, that
several times in his life when a hunter had fired at him, even before
the bullet touched water, the old King Loon was already deep down in
the depths of the lake among the snake-like lily roots, safe.

This June when Mahug and his mate reached the shores of Black Lake,
he sent his great cry of triumph abroad, for he was glad to be there.
Then he and his mate nested low among the sedges and rested for the
night, but the very next morning, even before the fog lifted from the
lake, both set about their nest building.  Right upon the ground they
built it, and not very carefully, I am afraid, their main idea being
to conceal it cleverly behind a thick curtain of reeds and matted
water-weeds, but not so very far from the water.  In due time three
baby loons pipped their dark green shells, and queer looking little
specimens of birds they were--bare, homely and always hungry.

Although it appeared desolate and lonely enough, still, if one but
knew, back in the thick undergrowth about the lake, hidden by thick
jungles of blackberry vines and dark spruces, there were many secret
coverts and dens where the wild of the forest made their homes.  The
lake itself was almost completely surrounded by treacherous, oozy
bogs and morasses, so that it was seldom visited by man.  For this
very reason the wild things felt safe, and the old King Loon had
especially selected the spot, for the loon is the wildest of all wild
water-fowl.

Few of the other birds cared to meet the loon in battle, because of
the mighty strength of his great wings, which could soon beat out the
life of anything upon which they descended, while his heavy coat of
feathers protected their wearer well.  So when the loon sent its
uncanny scream across the lake, more than one timid, wild thing
cowered close to the ground and shook with sudden fear.

[Illustration: DOWN LIKE AN AVALANCHE HE CAME, SNATCHING THE MINK IN
HIS BEAK.]

As soon as the young loons could tumble over the edge of their
comfortless nest among the sedges, they made for the near-by water,
and speedily began to imitate their elders, diving far down among the
matted water-weeds and chasing minnows and little chunky perch, which
they would gobble at one mouthful.  At first Mahug and his mate
watched the young loons, taking pains to give them diving lessons,
and then encouraging them to take short flights, as soon as their
wing feathers sprouted.  Gradually the old birds left them more to
themselves.  So it happened one day that one of the young loons
waddled forth from the nest and began to follow in the wake of a
heron who was leisurely fishing alongshore.  The loon mounted upon a
large round stone, as he supposed; he did not notice that the stone
moved a trifle.  It did, and that which the young loon took for a
mud-caked stone, was nothing less than a very old, giant snapping
turtle, which lay there sunning himself.  So old was this particular
turtle that his flippers were covered with large scales and his shell
looked to be fairly moss-covered.  Over the top of the shell waddled
the young loon, while the old turtle, without moving its ugly,
snake-like head, watched with its hateful beady eyes every movement
of the loon.  It climbed over the top of the shell and when it came
within reach of the turtle's long neck, like a flash it was snapped
up by the old fellow.  The heron gave a loud "kreay, kreay" of alarm,
but no one heard him, so when the old loons got back to the nest one
of the baby loons was missing.  They flew out over the water,
searching, screaming loudly, calling in and out among the sedges and
tussocks, but of course the young loon never answered their wild
calls.

Mahug strongly suspected someone of the muskrat family, so he began
watching a colony of them which had pitched their huts alongshore.
Even at night, especially if it was moonlight, the old King Loon
would skim low over the water, uttering scream after scream as he
followed the trails of the muskrats swimming about the lake.  If
Mahug had caught one of them he would have made short work of it, so
furious was he.  But somehow the muskrats always escaped, for they
kept sentinels upon duty, who always slapped their tails upon the
water, at which signal the muskrats always vanished.

Almost before Mahug had forgotten about the disappearance of the
first small loon, another one disappeared.  This time Mahug was quite
certain that the old bald-headed eagle, which lived far above upon a
cliff the other side of the lake, had gone off with it.  Now there
were several young eaglets up there on the cliff and the old birds
foraged for them all day long.  They took anything they could find
upon the shore, especially if it were young, tender and unprotected.
Mahug and the old eagle crossed each other in the air and they had
one terrible battle together, but the eagle proved to be more than a
match for the loon.  The King of the Air had sharp talons and a
razor-like beak which tore through the heavy feathers of the loon and
bit into his flesh sharply, so at length he had to settle down among
the sedges and own himself beaten for once.

The summer moon, round and yellow, came peeping over the tops of the
tallest spruces upon the summit of Mount Cushman and lighted a broad
path right across Black Lake.  Out in the centre of the lake the
horn-pouts and pickerel were leaping, and over in the shadows on the
far shore Mahug, the old loon, screamed and suddenly dived for a fish
in the moonlight.  All manner of wild things of fur and feathers were
stirring.  The muskrats were playing, squeaking merrily and chasing
each other in and out of their huts and leaving long silvery trails
behind them as they swam about.  Back in the thickets of rushes dozed
one lonely little loon, last of the brood of Mahug.  Too young to
venture forth upon a moonlight fishing trip, it cuddled down flat,
its webbed feet beneath its scantily feathered body, uttering a
plaintive little sound whenever it heard the old loons screaming out
on the lake.

Because of these little lonely cries, the dark, fur-clad stranger who
had been feeling its way alongshore, in and out among the tall reeds,
paused, erecting its small ears, trying to locate the whereabouts of
the sound.  Long and lithe of body was the stranger, a full-grown
mink.  Its dark fur coat mingled well with the shadows, but when a
streak of moonlight touched its breast, its pure white breast-plate
of fur shone dazzlingly white.  The mink's legs were short, so it
crouched low along the ground as it crept nearer and nearer the
lonely nest among the reeds.

The next instant it poked its hateful snout through an opening and
saw the loon.  Already its fetid breath reached the little loon,
which gave a startled, whimpering call out into the night.  The call
had been heard just in time.  Like a great black shadow something
flew across the strip of moonlight, and with a wild whirl of giant
wings the old King Loon charged for the nest.  Instantly his fierce
eyes sighted the sneaking mink, then down like a perfect avalanche he
came, snatching the surprised mink in his beak and soaring out over
the water.  Somehow the mink managed to free its neck and its sharp
teeth met in the pearly breast feathers of the old loon.  For a
second it seemed as though Mahug would loosen his hold upon the mink,
but, instead, uttering a terrific scream of rage and vengeance, which
fairly awoke the echoes alongshore, the great bird plunged straight
into the water and dived and dived; far down into the muddy depths he
sank, never loosing his terrible hold upon the mink.  Now the mink is
quite as much at home in the water as a muskrat.  But never had the
old King Loon stayed under water so long before.  In vain his mate
screamed for him alongshore, but only the whip-poor-wills answered
her call.  At last, when she had almost given him up, from out the
centre of the lake arose old Mahug, amid a perfect shower of whirling
spray, and he was _alone_.  He had been able to stay under water
longer than the mink.

Mahug joined his mate, and then, as it was late and the moon was very
low, the two great birds gave up their fishing and went back to their
nest in the reeds.  There in the darkness, with no light but the
little flitting fireflies twinkling in and out among the sedges,
while the whip-poor-wills sang a lullaby, they guarded their one
nestling through the night.  And when the time came to leave Black
Lake, _three_ loons flew away together.



CHAPTER VIII

FIERCE STAR NOSE, THE BURROWER

Star Nose, the mole, loved best of all very dark places.  In fact he
spent most of his life underground, so that whenever he did venture
abroad into strong sunlight, the glare would nearly blind his tiny,
almost concealed eyes.  It was on this very account, more than any
other, that he preferred to come forth from his underground home
about twilight.  Now if you chanced to come across Star Nose above
ground, at first sight you might judge him to be a very slow-moving,
dull-witted creature.  In reality he was just about the most fierce,
blood-thirsty little fellow on earth or under it.  For, if Star Nose
had actually been about the size of a lion, instead of a tiny mole,
he might readily, with one grasp of teeth or claws, so it is said,
tear a great ox asunder.  So it was just as well for everybody that
he was a mere mole.

Wonderfully fine and soft, beyond words, was his smoke-grey,
plush-like coat, and by special providence the fur of this coat did
not grow in just one direction like that of most furred animals.
Instead, you might stroke it either way, up or down.  For this reason
Star Nose was able to travel backward or forward with equal speed.
So strong was Star Nose that he could upheave a long section of the
hardest earth, no matter if a steam roller had gone over it.
Sometimes, when travelling swiftly through one of his subway
passages, his velvety coat would become caked with soil; then he
would give himself a quick shake which sent it flying from his back,
thus cleaning his fur.

It is never well to judge anything by mere appearances, so, although
Star Nose had tiny bits of eyes and no visible ears, he was by no
means a dullard.  Nature, ever helpful, had shown him exactly the way
to take care of himself, and, unlike his cousins, the plain little
shrews, Star Nose wore upon the tip end of his small pointed snout a
pink star.  This star was not given him for just an ornament; it
helped him wonderfully in finding his way about underground and,
besides, he used it in rooting out deep holes, precisely as a pig
uses its flattened snout.  Star Nose spent most of his life digging,
and for this very reason his claws, instead of curving inward when
shut, as do those of most other animals, were arranged in quite a
queer fashion--they curved back.  This was a great help to him, for
he could use them precisely as though they were little spades to toss
aside the dirt out of his road.  So quickly did he work that, if you
but turned your head away for a minute, by the time you looked again
Star Nose had dug a hole and was out of sight.

Of all the burrowing tribes which live below ground Star Nose was
perhaps the prize digger.  He was not content to dig out a burrow for
himself a little distance below ground and then sit still in its
doorway as did his neighbours, the gopher family.  No, nothing would
suit Star Nose but a regular city subway, with such straight streets
that you wondered how, with his half blindness, he could ever manage
to dig them.  In addition to this, there were spacious chambers,
passages, and regular galleries--long roads which led to his feeding
places.  You would soon have lost your way in such a maze, but Star
Nose never did.  He lived in a great bank, and the entrance to his
home he had concealed beneath a bush where you would never have seen
it, so deftly was it hidden.  There was just a little spot raised in
the earth which led straight into a large chamber.  Five passageways
descended from this, connected by galleries lower down, and from this
ran many subways and long roads which were worn quite hard and smooth
by the passage of old Star Nose, the hermit mole.  It was very well
for him that these walls were solid, otherwise his whole home might
have come tumbling in upon him during a storm.

Now the real reason why Star Nose happened to be occupying such a
grand apartment alone was this.  Last June he had chanced to meet and
select for his mate a little silver-coated mole.  But one of his
plain, shrew mole cousins had upset all his well laid plans.
Happening to meet Star Nose and his companion just outside their
burrow, he actually tried to persuade her to go off with him.  This
was entirely too much for Star Nose to stand; it made him so
furiously angry and jealous that he fell upon the impudent shrew, and
right there under the home bush they had a dreadful battle.  Long and
hard they fought there; they scratched and tore and bit each other's
beautiful fur coats until they were in tatters, uttering fierce
squeaks of rage, rolling over and over in a deadly grip, each mole
quite determined to win little Silver Coat, while she, poor thing,
sat stupidly by, wondering what it all meant.  As she sat there
shaking gently, old Golden Eyes, the hawk, went sailing overhead, and
making one swift lunge downward bore her away.  Neither Star Nose nor
his antagonist noticed that she was missing; they kept on with their
awful fight, biting each other savagely, as they had in the
beginning, until finally the shrew had to give up; he was getting the
worst of it, and crawled miserably away.  Then Star Nose, for the
first time remembering what the fight had been about, searched vainly
for his little companion.  He peered anxiously everywhere, nosing the
earth on all sides and searching; then, thinking perhaps she had gone
down into the burrow, down he scurried, peering up and down the long
roads and galleries, calling softly to her with little muffled
squeaks; this because of the earth which sometimes filled his
nostrils.  In vain he searched.  He did not find Silver Coat.
Discouraged and worn out on account of his terrific struggles, he
gave up, huddled himself in a soft little ball, covered his head with
his flat claws, and took a long sleep in the main chamber of his
home, hoping to forget his troubles.

All that summer Star Nose lived alone, and so he became a kind of
hermit mole.  Of course he was not so very happy; in fact his
disposition had become sadly changed.  So upset was he by the loss of
his little mate that he felt disagreeable with everything which
happened to cross his path.  Sometimes, so fiercely jealous and full
of hate was he that he would enter the subways of the shrew family
when they were away, and when he came across a nest full of baby
shrews would bite and kill them viciously, in the meanest way.
Finally all the shrews for miles about dreaded the approach of old
Star Nose and avoided his trails.  Even the sight of his star-tipped
snout seen breaking through the earth, on a moonlight night, would
put them in a panic and they would scurry away.

Star Nose cared nothing for them.  He now laid all his troubles to
the shrew tribe and so planned in this unjust way to get even with
them.

At last the warm, autumnal sunshine no longer shone down and warmed
the bank with its rays.  As it grew colder, many of those who lived
in underground homes, the fur-coated burrowing tribes, began to make
ready their winter quarters.  The chipmunks had laid in their stores,
the woodchucks, now sleek and very fat, had gone into their inner
chambers and closed up their front and back doors snugly that they
might sleep warm all winter.  So there were really very few among the
wild ones stirring abroad.  Colder and bleaker grew the hillside, but
thicker, softer and more elegant became the velvety coat of old Star
Nose.  He didn't care how cold it grew; in fact he worked all the
harder, even beginning new subways deeper down in the ground, which
ran far beneath, so the frost could not enter.  Star Nose did not
close up his doors as had the woodchuck family, for he loved to creep
outside and gnaw among the roots and grasses.  When the sun came out
it warmed his thick fur coat very pleasantly.  He took even longer
journeys underground, digging frantically in new directions, and he
never forgot the fright he had once when in digging he actually broke
right through into the hut of Musquash, the muskrat, where it faced
the water.  It chanced to be vacant, and while he was busy exploring
the hut, wondering what kind of cement Musquash used to harden its
walls, he heard the slap of a muskrat's tail upon the water.  Peering
out he saw bubbles rising, then a brown pointed snout, and two
indignant eyes looking right at him.  Star Nose tried to back out
down a passageway, but he was not quick enough, and even before he
could turn about Musquash, with a squeak of rage, had him right
beneath his claws.  Sly old Star Nose thought his time had come then,
but, strangely enough, he managed to wriggle his soft body free and
had slipped quickly off down a long, narrow passage, too small for
the muskrat to follow him.  Star Nose realised he had had a narrow
escape that time.  But, I suspect, if the truth were known, Musquash
did not happen to be very hungry, for he had just had a fine meal of
lily roots; then, too, Star Nose is not reckoned so great a dainty,
for he carries such a disagreeable scent of musk about him, even
stronger than that of Musquash himself; 'tis said no wild thing will
devour him unless very, very hungry.

After this escape, you may be quite certain Star Nose did not visit
the huts of Musquash again.  One day Star Nose poked his snout out of
a runway of earth which he was raising, and soft white snow feathers
came whirling down.  He crept forth, and finally the little flakes
were sprinkled thickly over his heavy fur coat.  He enjoyed the snow
although it cut off his food supply above ground.  This fact did not
worry him, for deep down below the frost line in the earth, grew a
matted network of all kinds of succulent roots, some of them
terminating in bunches of little, juicy ground nuts.  The teeth of
the mole were sharp and fine as needles, so all he had to do was to
dig and then feast as he worked, which was pleasant, for he was
always coming upon some unexpected dainty ahead of him.

At last the snow fell; deep and soft it covered over the hill with a
white, thick blanket.  Yet beneath the blanket worked and travelled
Star Nose.  All winter long his trails ran just beneath the deep snow
and in the spring, when the ground became bare once more, one is able
to see all these blind trails for oneself.  The first warm sun shone
out at last.  It was the beginning of the spring thaws; then the snow
blanket upon the hill began to grow thinner each day.  Already the
great snowy owl had begun to think about a nest, and certain of the
fur tribes had ventured to come out, at least upon sunny days, for
they were terribly hungry after their long winter sleep.

Right out upon the white snow crust finally crept Star Nose, the
mole.  At first the glare almost blinded him, he had stayed so long
under ground; besides, he loved night best of all.  However, he liked
to feel the grateful sun warming his back, so there he lay, a soft,
blind, stupid bunch of fur, out in plain sight upon the white snow.
A long, slim figure, fur-clad, all in white, excepting the tip of its
tail, which was brown, came mincing along, picking its way warily
over the snow, craning its long neck and peering, first to this side
then the other.  Over the little snow hummocks it crept, its crafty
yellow eyes searching everywhere for food.  This was just Kagax, the
weasel, wearing his winter coat of white fur, which did not show
against the snow, and Kagax was glad, for he was very, very hungry.
He spied the little grey heap of fur upon the snow, saw Star Nose
huddled there, covering his blinded eyes from the glare, and
instantly he pounced upon him, and carried him off.

So this was the end, finally, of Star Nose, the cruel, crafty old
hermit mole; such a fierce creature that even his own relatives
feared him.  And now his fine, secret chambers which he worked so
long building, and all his subway passages are vacant, temporarily.
But I dare say by spring some of the shrew family will move into his
old home.



CHAPTER IX

THE LOYALTY OF SILVER WING, THE GULL

Far out on the bosom of the wide ocean lay Lonely Island, a small,
rock-bound hummock of sand against which the breakers roared and
dashed furiously.  So wild and barren was the spot that no one
visited it, for no human being could live there; nothing throve but
rank grasses and stunted beech plum shrubs.  Over upon the south side
of the island were steep ledges, shelving down into deep water, and
this spot alone was never lonely or still, because it was inhabited
by thousands of screaming water-fowl.

Down between the cliffs in the lowliest tenements dwelt the snipe and
petrel families, the latter seldom at home except during their
nesting season.  Along the shelf-like places of the rocks above dwelt
the gannets, the terns and all other tribes belonging to the gull
family.  High up in their home crannies the sea birds could always
catch the pearly shimmer of the breaking of an approaching school of
herrings, even before they reached the line of tossing foam below.
Then, swift and sure, they would dart out to meet them.  It was
wonderful to watch the herring gulls at their fishing, now skimming
low over giant, green waves, now sinking into the trough of the sea.
Then, with a sudden swift splash of feathery spray, behold the
sharp-eyed gull secures the fish and is back again in his own nest
upon the cliff.  Strangely enough, although the cliff was swarmed
with other gull families, each cranny bearing its nest looking
precisely like another, never did a returning gull make a mistake or
intrude upon another family.

For many seasons the gulls and their kindred had nested upon Lonely
Island, but one year hunters discovered their retreat, and set up a
temporary camp upon the barren sands.  They had come to hunt for
terns, killing and slaughtering them by hundreds, just for the sake
of their beautiful, delicate feathers for which they were to be paid
much money.  Finally the hunters abandoned the island, leaving behind
them many wounded, besides scores of deserted young birds, not out of
the pin-feather age, who would finally pine and die alone upon the
lonely ledges, when the parent birds failed to come back to feed them.

For a season, fear and chaos reigned among the gull settlements.  Day
after day the frightened sea fowl circled wildly about their cliffs,
their weird, lonely calls alone breaking the silence, ringing even
above the noise of the breakers below them.  So many of the colonies
were broken up and disturbed that they flew off in detached numbers,
perhaps seeking some safer retreat inland.

High up, perched upon one of the topmost crags of Lonely Island, sat
all alone a solitary gull.  Below, within sight, upon a shelf-like
rock, a smaller bird, his mate, sat disconsolately upon the very edge
of her dismantled nest, unwilling to tear herself away from two
featherless young gulls, her babies, who would never stretch out
their long necks to her for food again.  They were limp and dead--the
hunters had wantonly thrown down loose rocks and broken up the nest.

Although Silver Wing, the old leader of the gull tribe, felt badly
enough over the loss of the little gulls, he was much older and wiser
than his mourning mate; he had lived through many seasons and similar
tragic events in his life.  So even while his mate sat mourning, his
sharp eyes had been fixed upon a certain wave crest out beyond the
breaker line.

With a sudden swift rush of his wide wings he launched himself from
the cliff; a wild plunge and he rose from the great wave bearing
aloft a glistening herring.  With a graceful sweeping detour, he
swerved in toward the cliff, and finally landed close beside his
mate, where he dropped the fish beside her with a little crooning,
plaintive cry, which meant, of course, "Take this nice herring which
I have brought you, and be comforted, little mate."  With another
swirl of his wings he flew to fish for another herring before the
school could get away.

[Illustration: HE ROSE FROM THE GREAT WAVE, BEARING ALOFT A
GLISTENING HERRING.]

In spite of the efforts of Silver Wing, who tried for days to rouse
his mate and tempt her to fly off over the water upon fishing trips,
she continued to linger around the old nest until he became almost
discouraged.  Finally he determined to leave Lonely Island, start off
and found a new home, as many of his kindred had already done after
the invasion of the cruel hunters.  Accordingly, Silver Wing, in some
manner known to his tribe, induced his companion to accompany him
upon a long flight.  One fine day, in company with others of the
colony who decided to follow their old leader, they started for the
far distant coast.

Occasionally they would halt upon some small, lonely island, but, as
it happened, none of them proved to be exactly suited to the gulls'
needs.  The islands were often flat and sterile, mere strips of white
sand and beech grass, with no rocky ledges suitable for nest
building.  So on and on flew the gulls, with heavy wings.  Sometimes
they would sight what appeared to be a small island, from which would
trail long streamers of smoke.  When the gulls came up close to these
islands they would be terrified by strange, uncanny hootings and
tootings.  Besides, whenever they gained courage to hover over these
strange, floating islands, they always proved to be filled with
people, creatures like the hunters.  One thing they discovered was
that by following in the wake of the floating islands they always
found plenty to eat, strange food of all kinds upon which they
eagerly fed.

For a sea bird the worst storms at sea have small terror.  The
petrels, or "Mother Gary's Chickens," as the sailors call these
birds, love best, it is said, to ride upon the very crest of a giant
wave during a wild storm, and the gulls are equally at home upon the
bosom of the ocean.  It is only when straying birds are adrift,
seeking a new country, and are driven ahead of a storm toward the
coast, that they are occasionally overcome by the elements.  So it
happened that a great storm arose and struck the colony of fleeing
gulls, sweeping them inland.  On their great wide wings they flew
ahead of the gale, on and ever on through the blackness of the inky
night, until at last the poor wind-driven things finally sighted an
object big and bright, beckoning, winking to them out of the
darkness; and toward this the gulls, and a host of other smaller
straying birds who were swept ahead of the storm, made their way.
Hopefully they neared the bright beacon.  The next rough, whirling
gale caught them and dashed them pitilessly against the lantern of
the lighthouse, and down again upon the blackness of the cruel rocks
beneath them.

Fortunately.  Silver Wing, the brave, giant gull, whose broad wings
were still strong and unwearied, had penetrated the inky darkness
with his sharp eyes.  He had seen the danger ahead, and just at the
right instant had swerved aside, with powerful wing strokes, just
clearing the great lamp, which had almost blinded his eyes.  So he
with his mate, who invariably followed his lead, were swept coastward
ahead of the mighty gale, but to safety.

When morning broke, Silver Wing and his mate found themselves upon
the bank of a great river.  Here were plenty of other gulls, but of a
strange, new tribe.  The river was bordered with mud flats, which at
low tide formed splendid feeding grounds.  Crayfish, and shoals of
small, shining fish abounded.  But, to tell the truth, neither the
old gull nor his mate were very happy or contented with the river
bank.  They had known only the wild life of their lonely ocean island
and missed the booming breakers along the cliffs, the companionship
of the sea bird colonies, the terns, the gannets, and the little
roving petrels.  Besides, this new, almost tame tribe of gulls was
vastly different in other respects.  Silver Wing and his mate felt
they could never mix with these small, brownish plumaged birds who
fought and wrangled among themselves, who were content to brood for
hours in the black mud of the river flats.  More than once during
their stay Silver Wing had really to thrash one of these bold,
foolhardy brown gulls for presuming to pay attention to his own mate,
and at last he came to hate the very spot, becoming wildly jealous of
every brown gull who crossed him in any way.  He and his mate
determined to go off and seek a new home, for it was almost nesting
time again, and Silver Wing realised the importance of settling as
soon as possible.  So, one day he gave the starting signal, and after
hovering triumphantly overhead above the gormandising brown tribe
upon the mud flats beneath them, screaming back a loud, lonely
challenge, off they flew.

For many days they flew along the shores of the sound, now skimming
low to dip their grey wings in the blue waves, flirting the spray
high in silvery showers, or feeding along the beaches for little
tender mussels or soft-shell clams, and playing tag with the funny
little sandpipers who ran across the sands, and scattering them just
for fun.  At last they reached a desolate, rocky strip of coast, and
after much flying about they finally settled upon a convenient cliff
beneath which stretched a long line of sandy beach, while out beyond
tumbled their dear, familiar breakers.  Down below the cliff were
jagged, brown rocks, over which trailed long, emerald green and brown
sea kelp, where the water came in and out with the tides, leaving in
the shallow places shoals of little fish, sea anemones, and starfish.
Through these the gulls would pick their way daintily, with their
pink, webbed feet, searching out the barnacles which clung to the
rocks, pecking at tiny, sheltering shells where lurked sweet morsels
to be had for the cracking.

The busy season came at last, however, and two young gulls had to be
fed, so all day long Silver Wing and his mate foraged and fished for
them.  They brought young, tender herrings which the small gulls, as
they grew older, would swallow at one gulp.  Occasionally they
carried shell-fish to the nest; these they would prepare for the
young gulls by dropping them upon the rocks beneath and cracking the
shells.

One day the mother gull chanced to be long away.  Already had Silver
Wing travelled alone, so many times back and forth from the nest to
the water with food for the little gulls, that he began to think his
mate was trying to leave all the work for him, and he actually grew
indignant at the very thought of such an imposition.  He resolved to
hunt up his lazy mate and make her do her share.  With wide, swift
strokes of his grey wings he started off, scanning with his sharp
eyes every flashing wing to make sure it was not his mate.  In vain
he flew far and wide, even across to the other beach, more than a
mile away; still no trace of her could he find.

Finally he began to fly low over the beach, searching in and out
among the little coves.  At last he heard a shrill cry; plaintive and
beseeching, and it belonged to his mate.  With great, wide sweeps he
soon reached her side.  She was down upon the sandy beach and seemed
to be fluttering wildly.  As Silver Wing drew near he saw her
trouble; she had been caught, and was being firmly held by one foot,
by nothing less than a giant clam.

Meantime, slowly but surely the tide was coming in; each wave that
broke upon shore swirled just a little closer to his trapped mate.
Soon she must be caught by the tide, and, entrapped as she was, held
as if in a vice by the giant shell-fish, she would surely drown.

At first Silver Wing rose in the air in bewilderment, calling wildly
for his mate to join him, beating up and down the beach, hovering
over her, then rising high in the air and screaming his commands.
Still she did not follow him.  At last the great gull seemed to have
sized up the situation, and like a plummet he fell from the air and
began a savage attack upon the hard shell of the clam.  With his
strong beak he hammered, while his mate continued to beat her wings
helplessly upon the sand, screaming wildly.

Smash, smash, rang the beak of the gull, while in swirled the
creeping tide, each time a little nearer the struggling gulls.  It
broke now in little foamy ripples close beside them.  If the
shell-fish failed to loosen its hold, the tide would soon cover them
all.  Down like a chisel came the strong beak of Silver Wing, while
with his great webbed, sinewy feet he held the shell of the clam
firmly, delivering his blows now always upon the one spot.

Another blow, still another.  Would the great shell-fish never loosen
its grip?  Another ringing, cracking blow, and just as a larger wave
came creeping stealthily inshore and broke over them, the giant clam
loosened its awful hold upon the foot of the little mother gull, and
the two birds with long, plaintive cries mounted into the free air.
Dipping low just once over the incoming tide to snatch a herring from
the waves in their beaks, away they flew swiftly back to the little
gulls, who were impatiently awaiting their coming back upon the
lonely ledges, far above the breakers.



CHAPTER X

HOW KOS-KO-MENOS, THE KINGFISHER, WON HIS BELT

Heaps of strange events in Nature go unexplained.  Some say 'tis
because the wonderful old Indian story tellers who knew many wood
secrets are gone.  Long ago the little Indian children loved to squat
beside some smouldering lodge fire and listen to these tales--these
hidden secrets told of their little brothers of the wood.  They were
told how Moo-wee-suk, the racoon, always wore five rings about his
plumy tail, why the red-winged blackbird is branded with two spots of
living fire on its jetty wings, why the woodpecker carries a bright
splash of fresh blood upon his crest, and also why the badger is
always a kind of joke, just because of his war-paint markings.  Some
tales remain untold and one of them is how Kos-ko-menos, the great
kingfisher, won his beautiful blue belt.

Dee-dee-askh, the blue jay, had wintered in the deep pine forests
instead of flying south one autumn.  Wild berries had been plentiful
that year and the greedy jay hated to leave behind such good
feasting, so he remained behind the migrating birds.  He was glad
though when the long, cold months of "The Snow Shoes" passed, for he
was tired of feeding upon pine-cone seeds, or anything which he could
pick up in the forest.  The snow had begun to melt away from the
south sides of the hills and the mountain brooks roared tremendously,
breaking free from their strong ice prisons, making pleasant music
through the valleys and in the rocky passes of the mountains.

The crows were colonising, coming out from their retreats in the
thick pine coverts, where they had huddled all winter to keep from
freezing.  They cawed hoarsely to each other.  The jay screamed
loudly, trying to drown their cries and break up their council.
Dee-dee-askh is not popular with the wood people, for he has always
had the bad reputation of being a thief.  He loves to watch smaller
birds at their nest building and rob them of their eggs or the very
young birds; no wonder he is unpopular.

Dee-dee-askh filled the woods with his harsh, strident screams and
swooped down the valley, following Otter Creek until he reached a
spot where it broadens.  One side is a steep bank, and across towers
the mountain, green with thick spruces to its summit.  This forest
was where the jay and his mate decided to build their nest.  Year
after year they had built there and Dee-dee-askh had managed to rid
himself of very near neighbours, fighting them savagely if they
intruded upon his privacy, so remained a sort of monarch.  He loved
to conceal himself in some thick bush and frighten more timid birds,
or little furry things.

"Kee-oo, Kee-oo," would scream the jay, imitating to perfection the
harsh scream of a hawk; then how he would chuckle to himself to see
the frightened things scurry, or fly off to hide themselves in the
thick woods.

One day Kos-ko-menos himself, King of all the kingfisher tribes, came
journeying down the creek; he was looking for a new building site,
for, as it happened, the old fishing pool where he had lived the
season before was too shallow, owing to the drought.  So the fish had
all gone up-stream seeking deeper pools.  It was important that the
kingfisher should build near good fishing, because soon there would
be young birds to feed.

Taking six little flapping short flights, then a glide, on came
Kos-ko-menos, followed closely by his smaller mate.  His beautiful
crimson eyes searched up and down the creek as he flew, trying to
decide upon the best building site.  But when he came to the clay
bank, he knew he need search no further; nothing could be better.
Without even waiting to rest themselves, Kos-ko-menos and his mate
soon began to make the dirt fly in all directions as they excavated
deeply for their new home.  Round and smooth was their doorway, just
large enough to admit one kingfisher at a time.  About half-way up
the side of the bank it was placed, and ran fully six feet, straight
into the clay.  Into a little hollow at the very end they threw a few
fish bones and loose leaves, then the beautiful eggs were laid, which
in time would become three goggle-eyed, frowsy-headed little
kingfishers, very ugly, but handsome to their parents, of course.

Kos-ko-menos darted back and forth, flashing like a great blue jewel,
as he took up his sentinel-like position upon a stake in the water,
where he could peer straight down into the deep water for fish.  He
preened his feathers, shaking out the clinging clay, and gave loud
screams, he felt so happy about the nest.

"Kerrr-ik-r-r-r," he screamed triumphantly, making a terrific sound,
just exactly like that of a harsh, wooden toy rattle, only louder, if
possible.  The very mountains rang with his cry.  Then all the furry
tribes knew for certain that Kos-ko-menos had come to live in that
spot.  Many of them disliked the idea very much; they dreaded his
harsh scream which made the more timid jump and disturbed their
babies, it was such a horrid cry.  The kingfisher has always been
considered a kind of outcast among other birds.  They imagine that he
is uncanny; that is, because of his wonderful skill at fishing, and
because he can dart into the water quickly and stay under a long
time, so they think perhaps he is himself more of a fish than a bird.
They cannot understand why he does not walk properly, but has a way
of waddling which is very funny because his legs are very short and
placed far back upon his body.  His great bushy crest makes him
appear almost top-heavy and his appearance is ungainly.  I think,
however, that the real reason why he is shunned by some birds and
shabbily treated, is because they are, secretly in their hearts,
jealous of the beautiful feathers which Kos-ko-menos wears, because,
no matter how homely his body may be, it is beautifully clothed.
Upon the top of his head he wears a long, high crest of rich, dark
green, which colour extends down his neck, and each little feather is
flecked with spots of blue of a wonderful hue.  Violet and blue is
his coat, his tail a deep indigo blue.  Over each crimson eye and
just beneath it, is a cunning dot of black.  He wears a thick,
feathered waistcoat of yellowish-white, and his beak is jet black.

Once more Kos-ko-menos screamed his wooden-rattle cry.  Then like a
flash he darted straight into the deepest part of the pool, and
before the spray had fallen he was out again with a fine, wriggling
fish.  As he was about to kill the fish upon a near-by stone, a blue,
flashing fury came dashing out of the woods with a harsh, angry
scream, and Dee-dee-askh landed upon the crest of the kingfisher.
They had a terrific battle; back and forth, back and forth over the
creek they flew, showers of light blue feathers barred with black and
white fell, and a few speckled green ones.  Mrs. Kingfisher poked her
head curiously forth from the bank to see what all the screaming
meant.  At last the jay flew back to the woods with a portion of his
proud crest gone, and the kingfisher, smoothing down his ruffled
feathers, gave another scream and went back to his fishing.  'Tis
said that certain of the wood creatures who witnessed the conquering
of the jay chuckled and grunted with joy, remembering sundry
robberies of nests and burrows by Dee-dee-askh, the cruel one.  After
this they began to have a little more regard for Kos-ko-menos, the
kingfisher; but this was just the _beginning_ of things.

Musquash, the muskrat, lived under the bank of the creek.  Many of
the little muskrats used to stray out upon the bank right in plain
sight of an old pirate eagle which lived on the mountain, and which
used to come sailing down the creek, watching to swoop down upon
anything alive which he saw below.

Musquash himself was old and almost blind; he could not detect the
eagle when he soared high above.  One after another the young ones
were stolen by the old pirate, old Bald Head.  This had happened
_before_ the kingfisher came to live in the bank.  One day Musquash
himself ventured up the bank after roots; he did not see old Bald
Head high above, watching him.

But Kos-ko-menos sat upon his sentinel post watching.  He thought he
saw a faint white dot in the sky--the flashing of the sun upon the
bald head of the old pirate.

"Khr-r-r-r-rrr," screamed the kingfisher defiantly, as the old pirate
was hovering his wings, making ready to drop down upon poor, old
blind Musquash.  Before he reached earth, Musquash, heeding the
warning scream of Kos-ko-menos, was paddling straight for his hut
under water.

The kingfisher was glad to see the old sky pirate outwitted, and so
glad to save Musquash, that he dived down after the fish he had been
watching, caught it, and all the time he was eating the fish he kept
up a little glad, chattering chuckle, deep down inside.  Many had
seen how the kingfisher had saved old Musquash, and finally they all
came to depend upon him to warn them when danger came that way.
Kos-ko-menos never failed them.

The jay family raised three young, impudent jays.  Already the young
ones in the kingfishers' nest had stuck their fuzzy heads out of the
hole in the bank, and both Dee-dee-askh and Kos-ko-menos had all they
could do to get food enough for their families.  One day the jay
caught a fine catfish, and he thought to himself that he might as
well gobble it all up instead of taking it home.  He flew quickly to
a near-by stone to beat the catfish, lest it sting him with its sharp
horn.  As he was about to swallow the fish whole, he heard an angry
scream from his home.  His mate had been watching him all the time.
Again came the cry, which sounded not unlike the sharp striking of
metal, then a loud, shrill scream, "Cray-cray, cray!"  Dee-dee-askh
saw a whirl of light blue feathers approaching.  In his haste to bolt
the fish whole, lest his mate take it from him, he choked and choked
and swallowed.  But alas, greedy fellow!  The fish was too large for
just one mouthful, and he began to flutter helplessly upon the rock,
while the tail of the catfish protruded from his mouth.

Kos-ko-menos saw it all and chuckled to himself, but he had a kind
heart.  Flying straight to the jay, he gave one sharp, strong tug at
the tail of the catfish, and the greedy jay was saved.  Some say the
_real_ reason the kingfisher seized the catfish was because he wished
to gobble it down himself--but that point is not certain.
Kos-ko-menos had certainly saved his neighbour from choking to death,
which showed he bore no grudge against the jay.  Of course all the
wood people saw the kind act of Kos-ko-menos, and it made a deep
impression upon them; they marvelled, because the jay had been so
rude to the kingfisher.  It was nice of him to forget his mean
treatment, they thought.

Down deep in a certain pool of the creek lived old Kenozha, the
pickerel, dreaded and feared for years by all the inhabitants of the
banks who swam in the water, or fished for a living.  The sly old
fellow had a cruel way of coming up just beneath them when they were
in the water, and before they knew it he had nipped off a toe, a
tail, or even a head.  The turtles had lost claws, the giant
bullfrog, leader of the spring choruses, was minus a foot, and even
the wary old loon had lost a toe.  Kos-ko-menos, who knew all about
the old pickerel and his crafty ways, determined to rid the pool of
him, and took to watching for him, as many another had before him;
the jay, the loon, and the hawks had all fished for Kenozha, but this
is why they had failed: the old fellow had seen their _shadows_ upon
the water.  So wise Kos-ko-menos, the kingfisher, knew better than to
let his shadow fall upon the water, but took good care to perch upon
his watch tower at just the right angle so that he should throw no
reflection, and the green, goggle eyes of the pickerel could not spy
him.  There was great excitement along the banks of the creek one
day, when Kos-ko-menos arose from the creek bearing the struggling
old pickerel in his strong beak, and much interest as they watched
him subdue and beat Kenozha until he could struggle no longer.  All
were glad; even Dee-dee-askh came screaming out of the forest, while
grunts and chuckles of approval might be heard from many a retreat
where hid the wood brothers.  And 'tis said that even a soft,
murmuring song of praise stirred among the whispering pines up aloft.

Soon after that time, the watchful ones noticed the beginning of a
faint blue band across the breast feathers of the kingfisher.
Gradually it deepened and widened, finally becoming a well-defined
belt right across the pale yellow waistcoat of the kingfisher.

And ever since that time Kos-ko-menos and all his tribe after him
continue to wear this badge of honour, this belt of azure blue, like
belted knights of old.  The kingfisher is no longer an outcast among
the little brothers of the wood.



CHAPTER XI

THE WIT OF CLOWN-FACE, THE BADGER

It was full of the moon at the seashore, and the young field corn
close by was ripe; each pearly kernel almost bursting with its
milky-sweet contents.  What a time for a corn roast or frolic; so
thought all the boys along that particular strip of beach, which
shelved its way down from a dense forest of spruce and hemlock to the
edge of the water.

There were others, the furry things, the four-footed people of the
woods, who knew just as well as the boys what good times were to be
had at that particular season, and they made their plans accordingly.
The boys had visited the beach that same night, roasted their corn
and oysters, and left long before.  The shore was apparently quite
deserted.  The ebbing tide was stealing out softly, scraping and
rasping upon the little round pebbles, sending little golden shells
tinkling musically against each other, as the water lapped and
filtered through them.  Overhead shone the great yellow moon, making
a wide silvery path straight out across the water.  One wondered
where the road ended.  Back from the beach in the dark woods, plenty
of life was now stirring, for the nocturnal prowlers were waking up,
though the small windows of the scattered farmhouses were dark and
still.  Above the noise of the ebb tide the katy-dids were heard
contradicting each other tirelessly, hoarsely, "katy-did,
katy-didn't."  Crickets shrilled in the long, coarse beach grass; a
distant screech-owl set up an occasional shivery wail.  Then, from
amid the thickets of scrub oak and barberry bushes, came another
call--an unusual cry, not often heard, which began with a tremulous
whimper, ceased, then went on; and was finally taken up and answered
by another similar whimpering cry, and still another, from different
parts of the woods.  The first call had been given forth by an old
hermit racoon, or a "little brother of the bear."  He was something
of a leader, and was sending out a summons for all his relatives to
join him in a moonlight frolic.

The old hermit scrambled hastily down from his home tree, which
happened to be the deserted nest of a great owl.  Plainly the old
hermit would soon outgrow this borrowed home, for when sweet corn is
in the milk, and the little salt wild oysters are plentiful down on
the beach, then the racoon became so very fat that he could barely
waddle.  Of course he felt obliged to fatten himself in late summer,
for already he was making ready for his all-winter's sleep and his
long, long season of fasting.

Having reached the ground, the hermit sent out another call--the
rallying cry of his tribe; for dearly the racoon loves to feast and
frolic in company and was becoming impatient to start off.  The only
reason, I suspect, why the old hermit lived absolutely alone, at this
time, was merely because there was absolutely not an inch of spare
room for another racoon in the nest.

To his joy, his kindred had responded, and soon from out of the
shadowy places stole one waddling form, then another, until finally
five racoons were in the party.  Then with the hermit leading them,
Indian file, they all made their way leisurely to the distant corn
field.  In and out among the tall rows of nodding, whispering blades
they stole, and standing upon their little black hind feet, they
would reach up the corn stalk, and deftly pull down a plump ear with
their forepaws, which they used as cleverly as hands.  They never
made the mistake of selecting blackened, mildewed ears; these and the
shrivelled, dwarfed ears they tossed disdainfully aside, and my! what
havoc those coons did make in the corn field that night!  They would
strip off the silky green husks and eat out only the full, milky
kernels, smearing their black noses and paws liberally with the
juice, which they would hasten to rinse off at the first water they
found.

[Illustration: OUT POPPED THE FUNNY PAINTED FACE OF THE BADGER.]

There were others in the field that night, but they never interfered
with one another; there was plenty of corn for all.  The woodchuck
family also enjoyed sweet corn in the milk and, tempted by the
moonlight, they had left their burrow to feast.  Off beyond, skirting
the edges of the tall corn, skulked a swift, fleeting
shadow--Redbrush, the fox, bound for the chicken coops, or hoping to
find a covey of quails or partridges sleeping in the edge of the
wheat field.  Back in a little creek which bubbled in places,
broadening out into still, deep haunts for trout and pickerel, the
moonlight found its way.  Here and there you might discover the huts
of the muskrats, mostly deserted, for the inhabitants were all
abroad.  You might see their brown heads above water, follow the wake
of their silvery trails, and hear their playful squeaks as they
chased each other from village to village.  Oh, there were squeaks
a-plenty that night all through the deep clover and among the tall
grain, while beneath roofs, fast asleep and dreaming, were the
children.

For the most part the wild things appeared to live together in peace
and harmony; occasionally bitter feelings were felt when the racoons
thrust their black paws into a woodpecker's nest and robbed it of
eggs.  Then, too, old Mrs. Diamond-back, the turtle, would deposit
her eggs in a spot which she fondly imagined very secret, failing
utterly to look up above, where, from a branch, the greenish
inquisitive eyes of the hermit watched her every movement.  Taking it
altogether, there was little to disturb their happy life then.  Times
were going to change and very soon in an unexpected fashion.

Clown-face, the badger, had been routed out of his distant home-nest
on the far side of the mountain by an enemy.  Because he enjoyed
roving, he took up the life of a tramp and made a trip to the
seashore, for he dearly loved the little black mussels which he
remembered having once found there.  As it happened, badgers were not
common in that section of the country; perhaps one of them had never
happened to venture over upon that side of the mountain even, so none
of the wild things had ever encountered this queer-looking fellow.

Queer looking he certainly was, and the funniest thing about him was
that the sly old fellow, who had often looked at himself in some
still pool, knew exactly how odd he appeared to others.  He had wit
enough to use this knowledge for his own purposes.  Once seen, the
clown face of the badger was not soon forgotten by other animals.  He
soon discovered that when a stranger appeared suddenly on the trail
whom he did not care to meet, all he had to do usually was to stand
still, and stare and stare at the intruder, who invariably would back
out or side-step from the trail, leaving it clear to the badger; why,
I will explain.

In the first place, the badger was just about as broad as he was
long.  His thick fur coat, which was flowing and parted in the middle
of his back, nearly reaching the ground, looked for all the world as
if he carried a goatskin rug across his back.  His legs were short
and he appeared not unlike a great, hairy caterpillar as he waddled
along.  But his fore feet carried two tremendously long hooked claws
which, if cornered, he would use in fight, for his courage was very
great.  His head was broad and furry, with short ears.  The strangest
thing about the badger was his face, which was marked exactly like a
funny clown.  Although his back was grey--one may still hear the
saying, "grey as a badger"--his head and neck were of short, dark
brown fur, while like a dash of white paint ran a mark of snowy fur
from the bridge of his nose, back to the nape of his neck.  On either
cheek was another dash of white, reaching from the tops of his ears
to the corners of his mouth.  Below this was marked out a little
crescent of white, set off by a stripe of dark fur.  Altogether, the
badger always appeared to be wearing a kind of painted disguise.  No
wonder then, when he stared straight at any animal who had never seen
such a funny face, that it turned and ran in an opposite direction.
Such was the make-up of Clown-face, the badger.  Even now he was
making his way in the moonlight to new grounds, where he would be
seen and feared.  Clown-face was in search of a deserted burrow into
which he could crawl and rest, for he was tired.  He soon came to the
deserted home of the woodchuck family.  Into this he crept, taking
care to crawl in and turn around, so as to leave his painted face
right in the doorway; then he went to sleep.

After the hermit racoon and his friends had feasted upon sweet corn,
they left the corn field and took a stroll down the beach.  The tide
was out.  In among the wet pebbles scurried droves of little green
crabs, while clinging to rocks were small, salt wild oysters, which
racoons dearly love and which, for this reason, are sometimes called
"coon oysters," so greedily do the racoons search for them.  It was a
funny sight to see the five fat racoons strolling along the beach by
moonlight.  When they came to a bunch of oysters, down they would
plump and, taking the oyster in their hind feet, they would deftly
crack it open against a stone and dabble it up and down in the water
with their little black hands, washing it thoroughly.  For the
racoon, you know, from its habit of washing its food, is often called
"Lotor, the washer."  There the little company of coons stayed until
turn of tide, when they went back over the wet sand, treading upon
their toes and leaving their almost human five-fingered little tracks
all along the beach, as they went back to the forest again.

The first to reach home that night was the woodchuck family.  They
were quite ready for sleep, in the fine burrow which they had spent
days in digging.  The bushes rustled as they swished them aside, and
the rustling they made awakened the badger who had been dozing in the
entrance of the burrow.  Just as Dame Woodchuck came to her door, out
popped the funny painted face of the badger right into her very eyes.
It grunted at her fiercely and she hastily backed away with a cry of
terror.  Never had the woodchucks seen anything like the badger.
They waited for it to come out, but it stayed right in the burrow, so
the old woodchuck made bold to go to the _rear_ entrance, and
squeezing her fat body flat she entered, only to be met by the awful
clown-like face again.  She hastily backed out.  All night the badger
remained in possession of the woodchuck's burrow and for days after,
until finally they left it to him and began to dig a new burrow some
distance away from the old one.

The next night all the wild kindred were again astir.  The woodchucks
had spent most of the day upon their new burrow.  They still had to
add chambers; it was at least a home, so off they went foraging with
the others, for corn is not always in the milk and it is not always
moonlight.  That night the old hermit racoon had planned to go back
into the forest to dig wake-robin roots.  Often, after a great feast,
the coons enjoy a diet of these roots, perhaps eating them as a sort
of medicine, because they are hot and as fiery as pepper, although,
with all their biting, peppery taste, the coons devour them greedily.
In Indian file, off started the coons, and soon succeeded in finding
a bed of the coveted wake-robin roots, which they began to tear up
hastily.

Clown-face, the badger, was also abroad, hunting field-mice or any
young, tender creature which he might track.  Creeping through the
matted jungles of undergrowth, he soon discovered the racoons digging
up roots.  Thinking to have some fun at their expense and perhaps
drive them away from something which he might eat, suddenly he stuck
his painted clown-like face through a dark opening of the bushes and
grunted at them.  The old hermit himself spied the horrible face
first, and so frightened was he that without pausing to finish the
root in his black paws, he tore off through the bushes with all the
others following him.  The hermit did not stop running until he
reached his home tree, for never had he seen or dreamed of such a
face as that which had peered out at him from the woods.

In time Clown-face, the badger, by using his wits managed to have
things pretty much his own way there in the forest.  He found where
the young quails nested.  He foraged in the unprotected huts of the
muskrats and stole their young.  He ate the turtles' eggs and made
himself a great nuisance to all.  The only living thing which
Clown-face, the badger, dreads now is the hedgehog, for, being almost
as ugly and strange-appearing as the badger, it does not fear him or
turn aside.  So between the two is a bitter feud, because Clown-face
often ventures to devour the hedgehog's rations.  Some time I know
there is going to be a terrific encounter between them in the woods,
because the stupid-appearing hedgehog never troubles himself to get
out of the badger's way, but lies down in his very path, quite
unconcernedly.  One day Clown-face is going to get to the limit of
his patience and rebel.  Then I wonder which one will come off the
better, the badger or the hedgehog?

Meantime, the wit of Clown-face, the badger, serves him very well.
He still roams over the forest trails and along the beach unmolested
by the dwellers of the wild.



CHAPTER XII

THE SUGAR CAMP ON LONE MOUNTAIN

It was nearing March, but deep snow still covered the hills up in the
North country, and there were, as yet, scant signs of spring; not
even a bird was to be seen, excepting occasionally a solitary crow.
When the sun shone out in the middle of the day, the brown fence tops
began to show above the white drifts down in the clearings.  By night
the freezing cold returned; everything froze up solid, and upon the
snow crusts which were thick and glossy it was just the best kind of
slide.

There were other important things for boys to think about besides fun
and tobogganing; it was just the right sort of weather to begin
making maple sugar.  For when it freezes hard, then thaws, the sap
will run; so up near the lumber camps, where Dick and Joe lived, the
sugar season was commencing.  Several miles beyond the camps upon the
side of a wild mountain, rightly called Lone Mountain, grew a great
forest of maples.  The spot was too far away for most of the campers
to bother about sugar making, but Dick and Joe did not mind
distances, and as all the spending money which the boys had they were
expected to earn for themselves, they were only too glad to have the
privilege of tapping the maples on Lone Mountain.  Even before the
sap began to flow, they had actually counted over the money they
would earn with their sugar and had really spent almost every cent.

They whittled out hundreds of fine ash spills to run the sap, then
borrowed every crock and pail their mother could spare from the camp
to hold it, besides two great black iron kettles, which they would
set over an arch built of large flat stones, where they would boil
their syrup.  After packing provisions and all their outfit upon a
sledge, off they started for Lone Mountain, a day's journey from camp.

Wild and lonely enough was Lone Mountain, a kind of scary spot at
best for two boys to camp out alone, but they were not at all afraid,
for they were used to wild places: having lived so long in the great
spruce forests they felt quite at home.  Several years before, they
had found the remains of an old sugar house standing in the maple
grove on the mountain below a great overhanging crag.  Here they
would live, and boil the sap outside the shack.  After tapping their
trees, they drove in the spills, hanging the buckets beneath.  As
fast as the sap collected they had to boil it, or it would soon sour
and be wasted.  So, as you can well imagine, both boys were kept very
busy, collecting sap, keeping up fires under the great iron kettles,
watching the boiling sugar, and testing it upon the snow to find out
when it was boiled enough.  When night came they were very tired, but
they kept at their sugar making as long as the sap continued to run
from the trees.  They had been on Lone Mountain over a week.  With
the continued thawings and freezing, the sap kept on running, and the
boys were glad, for it meant a fine lot of sugar and they were
greatly elated over their good luck.  They would carry back more
sugar to camp than ever before.

"If we can only have two days more like to-day's run of sap, we'd
make a pile of money this year," spoke Dick happily; "we could buy
two fine overcoats, and have something toward our new sugaring outfit
that we talked with father about buying."

"Yes, I know; great!" replied Joe, as he ladled out a great waxy
spoonful of amber sugar upon a pan of snow, and after it had cooled a
bit divided it with Dick.

"Bully, ain't it?" said Dick, cleaning off the spoon.  "Best we ever
made--fine and white; it'll fetch top price.  But say, we could make
it still better if we only had a new up-to-date outfit.  We've got to
get it somehow, I guess, even if we don't buy new coats this year;
guess our old ones will go another year; we ain't dudes."

Sure enough, that day, to the delight of the boys, another thaw came
and the sap ran as it never had done before and kept them jumping
well to save it all.

"One of us will have to stay awake and tend fires and watch to-night.
We can't finish up anyhow, and we can't afford to waste all this sap.
I'll boil all night," said Dick, tucking the embers in around the
great kettle.

"You won't tend alone.  If you stay up all night I shall too," said
Joe stoutly.  "Guess we're partners on this sugar making, ain't we?"

"Of course.  Tell you what we will do: I'll tend till midnight, while
you sleep, then you can work the rest of the night while I sleep,"
suggested Dick.  To which his brother agreed willingly.

The boys ate their supper, boiling their eggs in sap, and finishing
up with brown bread spread thickly with soft, new maple sugar.  And
oh, how fine it tasted to the two tired boys.  Soon Joe was fast
asleep in the shack upon his fragrant bed of balsam boughs, rolled up
in an old patchwork quilt his mother had made him take, for it always
grows bitterly cold in the mountains before morning.  Dick grinned to
himself, as he worked alone and heard Joe's tired snores coming from
the shack, and he made up his mind to let him sleep after midnight
and get well rested.  He kept very busy himself tending the bubbling
syrup in both kettles and bringing firewood.  It was somewhat lonely
off up there in the mountain, now there was no one to talk to,
thought Joe to himself.  The wind sighed and whined in the tops of
the spruces.  Occasionally he heard a mysterious crack upon the snow
crusts, off in the woods, where some hoof or paw broke through.
Finally, an old owl began its lonely hoot above the shack somewhere,
and once he heard a long, whimpering yell, far across the valley.  He
knew what that meant; a lynx was abroad, venturing down into the
clearings after a sheep perhaps.  Joe looked back into the shack
rather longingly after the lynx yelled; he was almost tempted to
awaken Dick, but decided, unselfishly, not to.

At last, long after midnight, Joe himself began to feel extremely
worn out and sleepy.  A great stillness had settled over everything;
even the wind seemed to soothe him to drowsiness, while the sap
bubbled and blubbered softly and monotonously in the iron kettles.
In spite of all he could do, Joe's tired eyes closed together, and,
untended, the fires under the black kettles burned lower and lower.

Out beyond the camp, breaking through the snow crusts, unheard, stole
a huge, black, shambling figure, closely followed by two smaller
ones.  A great black mother bear and her two very young cubs, and she
was heading them straight for the boys' sugar camp.  The cubs were so
young they had difficulty in keeping up with their mother, for they
were tired.  It had been a long distance down from the den, but the
mother bear did not spare them, and kept nosing them along
impatiently when they halted along the trail.  Now if there is one
thing on earth a bear loves even more than honey it is maple sugar.
The scent of the boiling syrup arose even above the woody, odours,
and delicious enough it seemed to the old bear; she was eager to
reach the camp.

At last the little trio came out into a small clearing surrounding
the shack.  The old bear halted, warily, but all was now silent.
Inside the shack lay one boy fast asleep, rolled in his patchwork
quilt, while half leaning against a tree slept another.  The sugar
had ceased to bubble and heave in the great kettles, for the fires
were almost out.  Between the kettles shuffled the old bear, followed
by the cubs, whimpering wearily and crossly.  The old bear arose upon
her hind feet snuffing and grunting, but never offering to disturb
the sleeping boys; all she cared about now was to find maple sugar.
She was of monstrous size, and when she finally entered the shack,
she completely filled up the rude doorway with her huge form.  She
nosed about, but did not find the stored sugar, so out she shambled,
and cautiously approaching a great black kettle, she sniffed long and
deliriously at its contents, blowing out the whitened ashes in clouds
from the blackened embers with her breath.  The cubs meantime seated
themselves close by and watched her movements curiously.

Then the old bear did a very foolish thing.  So eager was she to get
a taste of the sugar in the kettle that she reached in with one great
furry paw, burning it severely.  She immediately lost her head, and
in her rage upset the whole kettle full of hot syrup all over
herself.  _Then_ there was something doing!  With a terrific howl of
pain and sudden terror, which made such a racket that the mountains
fairly echoed back her cries, the old bear tore off into the woods in
a perfect frenzy of agony, her heavy coat soaked with hot syrup,
which burned its way deeper and deeper at every step.  Without
heeding the cubs, or what became of them, she ran wildly on, only
seeking water where she might cool her burning flesh.  As soon as
Dick and Joe heard the first yell of the bear, they were wide awake,
you may be sure.  Joe saw the old bear just as she disappeared in the
woods, and scared almost out of his wits he shouted:

"Hi, Dick, bears!  Look!  There goes one big as a house, and see,
there's another one," pointing out one helpless, whimpering little
cub which had been left behind by the old bear in her madness.

"Where?" inquired Dick sceptically, as he appeared from inside the
shack, rubbing his eyes sleepily.  "What, _that thing_?  It couldn't
hurt a fly; it's just a baby.  I hope you aren't afraid of a bear cub
that size."

"Well, I didn't say I was," replied Joe, rather touchily.  "You just
ought to have seen the big one I saw, and heard its yells.  It was
awful.  It turned over almost a whole kettle of hot syrup.  Look!"
and Joe pointed to the overturned kettle.

"No wonder it yelled," grinned Dick; "though come to think, it got
pretty well scalded; that's why it yelled so, I guess.  And say, it
won't come back here right off either, I'll bet.  But look, he's
wasted almost a whole kettle full of good syrup--meddling old thing.
Say, why in creation didn't you wake a fellow up?"

"Oh, well, I guess, come to think of it, I must have been asleep.  I
seem to remember closing my eyes once or twice," confessed Joe.

"Great Scott!  I should think you did.  Let a bear come into camp and
not wake you up; ha! ha!" jeered Dick.  "But look here; we're _in_
something, if we did lose some sugar; we've got a bear cub, and my,
ain't he a dandy?"

"Look, look, Dick!  He's sitting up and rubbing his eyes with his paw
and crying, just like a little kid.  My, ain't he the funniest little
fellow?" spoke Joe delightedly, watching the cub, and both boys had
great fun over their new pet, which they meant to take back with them
to the lumber camps.

"Sugaring all finished to-day," commented Dick, as the sun rose over
the tops of the tall spruces, and they ate their breakfast, sharing
their bacon rinds with the bear cub, which had seemed to take to them
at once.

"Won't we surprise the folks when we lug all this sugar home, and a
bear cub too?" spoke Joe.  "Say, look at his head, Dick; see, he's
got a funny mark from his nose to the back of his ears; I'll bet when
he sheds his woolly baby fur, it'll be a regular white streak right
across his face.  I heard Indian Pete tell once about a white-faced
bear; they're awful rare."

"Hope the folks will let us keep this fellow in camp," said Joe.
"He'll make a fine pet, and Indian Pete 'll help us to teach him
tricks perhaps."

"Say, what if the old bear comes back for her cub?  She'll be awful
mad at us, and I guess we better make tracks and leave here soon as
we can," suggested Dick, peering back into the thick woods, almost
expecting to see the old bear making for them.

"Huh, I ain't afraid; she's probably so badly burned, she won't think
of anything else for a while.  Just the same, we'll break camp,"
replied Joe.

So back to camp they went in triumph, their sugar packed on the
sledge, and on top of the load sat the little, furry bear cub, which
they had already named Whitey.  Because Whitey was such a cunning
little fellow he was accepted in camp, and soon became a perfect pet.
He was full of mischief, however, and could never be left within
reach of the sugar crocks.  He broke and filched eggs, and even
gnawed whole sides of bacon.  To make up for his mischief he acquired
many taking tricks.  He soon learned to stand on his head, and beg
for lumps of maple sugar, and was beginning to take a few clumsy,
capering steps, which Indian Pete called dancing.

Evil days came, and as Whitey grew older he became cross, and would
often bite and scratch roughly.  So finally, the boys were told they
would have to part with their pet.  Now, as good luck would have it,
an opportunity came to sell the bear to a man who dealt in trained
animals.  Dick and Joe went sadly to work, and built for him a rough
coop with slats in front.  In this coop Whitey was placed, and the
following day he would be taken away.  For the last time the boys
visited him in his crate, which had been set behind the camp, in the
edge of the woods, so that his whines might not disturb the camp
through the night.  Early the next morning before sunrise the team
would take him away.  The boys threw in lumps of sugar and things
which their pet fancied most, and after shaking his rough paw, sadly
they said good-bye to him, for Whitey would be gone before they were
astir in the morning.

That very night, when everybody was asleep, from far across the
valley travelled a great, shambling black bear.  She had come from
far over the other side of Lone Mountain.  She shuffled her way to
the boys' sugar camp first.  In and out of the desolate shack she
stole, stopped to sniff at the blackened firebrands, nosed anxiously
about the spot where her cub had rested so long ago, when one cub had
followed her back to the den and the other had been lost.  Then,
wheeling suddenly about, she took an almost worn-out, indistinct
trail which led into the forest; and starting into a broken canter
she headed toward the lumber camps.

Thus it happened when the team halted to pick up the wooden crate and
carry the bear cub to town, there was no cub to be found.  All that
remained was a heap of broken, splintered boards.  The boys soon
spied out the small tracks of Whitey, and then Indian Pete pointed
out two other great broad marks--the tracks of a full-grown bear.
The mother bear had never forgotten her cub; she had come back for it
at last, and just in the nick of time.  The boys were secretly glad
that their pet had regained his freedom.  Surely, in the great, green
spruce forests, where the red raspberries grew thick and sweet on the
mountain sides, and the wild honey may be taken any day, Whitey would
be far, far happier than capering and doing tricks to amuse a curious
crowd.

Years after, a white-faced bear boldly approached the boys' sugar
camp, and was seen by them, but they did not fear him, for they were
almost certain it must be their old pet Whitey, who gained his
freedom long before.



CHAPTER XIII

THE PERIL OF THE SNOWY EGRETS

In the heart of a certain dense cypress swamp, in the middle South,
lies a pond of water, which is fed by many streams winding and
percolating their sluggish courses through the vast swamp lands.  It
is lonely and wild there.  This is what makes the place such a safe
retreat for the birds.  Each spring they come back to this spot, the
wood ducks, the bitterns, the teal, and the little blue heron family.
Their flashing, brilliant plumage lights up the sombre darkness of
the jungles, while their strident cries make the spot less lonely.
Perhaps the little blue herons are the very noisiest of all.  Wading
in the water on their stilt-like legs, searching for minnows or
crayfish, they are almost sure to have a quarrel if one of them gets
a prize fish, and then what a clamour they can make.  Away off in the
swamp it sounds almost as if they were screaming back and forth,
"Tell you what, tell you what," over and over again.

One spring day after most of the birds had arrived at the pond,
peering skyward from their fishing, they saw two specks approaching.
Gradually the specks drew nearer and nearer, and finally, when they
reached the precise spot where they meant to settle, straight down,
like plummets, they fell, right into the swamp.  Then all the other
birds set up a noisy, clamorous welcome, for the great Snowy Egrets,
the most important newcomers of the season, had arrived.  Beautiful
beyond description is the great Snowy Egret.  Snow white is its
exquisite plumage, that wherever it appears it lights up the dark,
gloomy swamps and jungles with its purity.  The beak and legs of the
egret are black, its eyes a golden yellow, while from its back trails
a wonderful long spray of soft, snowy plumes, which float behind like
a white robe as it flies.  These beautiful plumes are longer on the
mother bird, and at nesting time she uses them to cover the baby
egrets.

Having found a choice place in a stunted cypress, the egrets soon set
about their nest building, choosing a site about forty feet above the
swamp.  Very affectionate and loving with each other are the egrets;
whenever the male bird leaves the cypress, on his return he makes
such a fuss over his mate, greeting her as joyfully and tenderly as
though he had been gone a week.  In fact, the egrets are gentle,
trusting birds, and have few enemies among the wild.  The father
egret does most of the hard work too, for he gathers all the twigs
for the nest, which the mother egret carefully builds.  Taking turns,
the egrets sit upon the four eggs, and in eighteen days the little,
homely, featherless egrets appear, naked except for a few tufts of
down.  This makes them very tender, and the mother egret covers them
over during the intense heat of the day with her soft trailing plumes.

At daybreak the father egret would fly off, returning with a crop or
pouch full of tiny fish, and while the mother was away getting her
own breakfast the young egrets were fed.  Clinging to the edge of the
nest, father egret would stretch forth his long, snowy neck over the
little ones.  And one by one he would produce the fish which he had
brought home, only partially swallowed, and which the little egrets
would gobble up quickly.  It took such a quantity of food to satisfy
the baby egrets that the old birds made many, many, trips across the
swamp to the water during the day.

Now, although the desolate swamp country appeared deserted enough,
excepting for its bird and wild life, back on the edges of the vast
wilderness Italian families had located, to begin clearing up the
jungles of wild timber, and drain the swamp lands.  So this is how it
happened that Tony and Papita, his small sister, came to live in the
swamps.  Not a very pleasant place to live in, but their father and
mother were there, so they did not mind; besides, as Tony and his
sister were too young to work, they had fine times exploring
together.  In the swamps they found plenty of wild, new things,
wonderful flowers, and long mosses, and queer toadstools.  Tony came
across an old dugout one day, abandoned by some swamper, and then the
children began to go upon voyages of discovery.  They paddled up and
down the narrow, sluggish streams which wound through the swamp, and
each day they would venture a little farther.  They were never afraid
of the loneliness, or any wild thing they saw.  Often a great snake
would slide heavily off a log into the water, as they stole by in the
old boat.  At first Papita would shiver, but Tony always laughed at
her fears, and now she had become quite as brave at swamp sights as
her brother.

One day Tony almost thought himself lost; they found themselves in
such a dense, dark spot.  At first there seemed no way of getting
through.

"We best turn back now, Tony," suggested Papita; "it's the end, I
think."

"No, see, the light comes through, soon--we go on a little further."
Tony paddled on manfully, and they leaned low to avoid the long,
snake-like vines of bamboo.  Sure enough, a few tugs of the paddles
brought them right through the dark place, out into such a wonderful
new spot, they were glad they had kept on.  At first such a noise
began around them, as the old boat shot through into the light, that
Tony and Papita were almost afraid, until they found out what it all
meant.  Hawks whistled sharply overhead, and the air was filled with
water-fowl, which arose from a little island in the middle of the
pond they had entered.  Wings flapped, there were harsh croaks on all
sides, while the blue herons set up their "Tell you what, tell you
what," cry.

The children stared about them in astonishment, and, as they stared,
a strange thing happened.  Right out of the skies, so it first
appeared to Tony, a wonderful, snowy form came flying, trailing
behind it, what appeared to the children, a beautiful white robe.
Its great snowy wings were wide spread, and it finally settled in a
dark cypress, where its wonderful plumes shone out so pure and white
that both the children were awed by the strange sight.  Now there was
one thing only which they knew about, and which they imagined bore a
faint resemblance to this white-winged thing: their mother treasured
an illuminated card with a pictured angel.

"Say, Tony," almost whispered Papita, "perhaps it is an _angel_."

"No, no," replied more sensible Tony.  "It's a real bird, but a
_kind_ of angel bird perhaps."

[Illustration: ON HIS WAY TO THE NEST WITH A POUCH FULL OF FISH.]

Thus did Tony and his little sister catch their first sight of the
great Snowy Egret.  After that, having once found their way to its
haunts, they often came to the hidden pond, to watch the egrets at
their nest-building, taking care never to alarm them.  At first the
egrets, which are shy, did not like the children so near, especially
in nesting time.  Often, the male egret would hover over the old
dugout, calling down impatiently, "Cruk, cruk, cruk," which meant
plainly enough, "Go away, go away, go away."  But the children came
so often, that the egrets, even the blue heron tribes and other
water-fowl, became accustomed to the old boat, and did not mind its
coming and going.

It was an exciting time for the children when the little egrets came;
then Tony and Papita came every day.  They watched the feeding of the
babies and heard the old egret call, "Cruk, cruk, cruk" on his way
back to the nest with a pouch full of little fish.  Soon the little
egrets raised themselves in the nest and called back eagerly, "Kek,
kek, kek," which Tony said meant, "More, more, more."

And now comes the sad part of my story, but it must be told, because
every boy and girl should learn about the peril of the beautiful
Snowy Egret, and know what happened to these wonderful "angel birds"
which Tony and Papita so loved and watched.

It was Tony who learned about it first, so he told Papita one night
before they went to sleep, up aloft in their shack, where the stars
had a way of peeping in through the board roof and winking at them.

"Those men with guns, Papita, I don't like," complained Tony
bitterly.  "They shoot all our birds in the swamp.  Once I see _long,
white feathers_.  They're angel bird feathers, I think, only not
white--no, all black with swamp mire.  I see plenty and _some were
red_, Papita, red with blood.  One man, the big one, he laugh and
say, 'Plenty money for these fine plumes.'"

"What for they get those angel bird feathers, Tony?" asked Papita
anxiously.

"Huh, I hear grand ladies buy white angel feathers, to make them
fine," replied Tony.  "But _no one_ could ever be so beautiful as our
angel birds."

"Oh, Tony, what if these bad men shoot _our_ angel birds?" Papita's
voice trembled.

"I know, but wait; to-morrow we go at sunrise, quick, to the bird
place," spoke Tony.

As soon as they neared the bird island the next morning they knew
some one had broken through the jungles, for the vines were torn
aside and the birds, still disturbed, were circling and screaming
wildly about the pond.  The first thing they looked for was the
egret's nest.  Perched upon the edge of the nest were the baby egrets
alone, screaming shrilly, "Kek, kek, kek," calling vainly now for
their parents, and to be fed; they wanted their breakfast.

Tony and Papita waited some time, but in vain; the father and mother
egret did not come back to the nest.

"They don't come back ever, the big angel birds; but we go and look
for them, Papita.  You see, the little ones are so hungry; they die
if we don't feed them."  The children paddled up and down the swamp,
searching everywhere, and finally found the old egrets--all that the
plume hunters had left--just the two snowy bodies, from which the
beautiful, long aigrette plumes had been roughly torn.

"Oh, oh, what _can_ we do?  The little ones wait; they so hungry,"
spoke Papita, her eyes full of tears.

"Papita, I tell you what--we, you and I, we be father and mother now
to these little angel birds.  We bring the little fish, until they be
large enough to get for themselves.  But first, we hide them, these
little ones."

"Oh, yes, yes, so no hunters find them, Tony," replied Papita,
seizing her paddle eagerly.

Back the children went to the cypress tree, where the little egrets
had been left alone to starve, and after much hard work, between
them, they finally took the birds in the dug-out to the little,
lonely island, where they placed them in an abandoned heron's nest,
over which they managed to build a rude sort of cage of long bamboos
to keep the birds from falling out.  They had an old fishing net in
the boat, and succeeded in scooping up enough fish from the edges of
the pond to keep the little egrets from starving.  The little things
were so very hungry that they fed readily, showing no fear, but
setting up a constant worrying "Kek, kek, kek" for more.  Finally it
was time to go home, but the children visited the young egrets each
day faithfully.  After feeding them, they would leave a supply of
fish on the edge of the nest.  Soon the young egrets had grown
accustomed to the children, and became so tame that they would allow
their heads to be gently scratched by Papita.  One of the birds, the
largest of the brood, would perch upon Tony's shoulder sometimes, to
his great joy.  This was a very happy time for the children, and they
never wearied of watching their pets grow.  The bamboo cage was
finally taken away, and the egrets were able to fish for themselves.
By early November they were almost full grown and Tony and Papita
knew that they would not stay upon the island much longer, for
already many of the other water-fowl had migrated to other and warmer
climes.

One night a light frost visited the swamp, and the next morning the
children came to the island, perhaps for the last time.  They saw
that the egrets were showing much excitement, flying back and then
forth and screaming back to each other wildly, circling low over the
children's heads, then darting up again, curving their long, graceful
necks.

"Look, Papita!  They like to tell us something--hear, they try to
speak; they don't hear me even when I call; see."  Vainly Tony tried
to call the egrets to him.  Usually, the large bird would come to him
willingly enough, but now, as they watched the big fellow, he began
to rise straight into the air, mounting ever higher and higher, and
they could hear him calling back for the others to follow.  Then,
with wide-spread wings, the others mounted into the air, and then
they all sailed off together to find the warm, safe shelter of
another retreat, farther south.  Tony and Papita, away down below
them in the swamp, stood hand in hand and watched them, until they
were lost to sight.

"They are gone from us, Tony," spoke Papita sadly.

"Yes, sister, but wait; another year they will come back to us, I
know; for the birds do always find the way back again.  And think--we
_saved_ them, those little ones, which was a brave thing to do.  Now
they are beautiful, big angel birds and their white plumes are safe."



CHAPTER XIV

MOGUL, LAST BUFFALO OF THE HERD

The great plains lay hot and parched at sunset.  Silent and lonely it
was, too, for the drought of weeks had been so terrific that even the
usually sociable little prairie dogs stayed in their holes to escape
the scorching heat.  At sunset they were beginning to liven up, and
all other wild things which had stayed in the cool places were coming
out.  Between the dried, stunted clumps of mesquite trees, and the
sagebrush patches, certain dark shadows skulked: the coyotes were
starting off upon their nightly raids.  The little prairie chickens
had gone to roost, but the hooting of the small brown-barred owls
which lived in the earth burrows, had begun among the sage-brush
thickets.

A coyote, stealing in and out along its trail, suddenly squatted upon
its lean haunches, resting upon the raised dirt of a dog village.
From this site it peered curiously off into the distance, for its
bleary, green eyes saw something moving against the sky-line.  What
the coyote saw was this: a great, black, hulking, moving object was
stumbling its way westward, following the last golden glow of the
sunset, and, as the creature watched, it made out another, smaller
figure, following close beside the large one.  Then, after satisfying
its curiosity the coyote raised its lean snout, and howled dismally
from sheer disappointment, for that which he hoped might be game had
turned out to be nothing but just an old, sick or wounded buffalo,
followed by her little calf.  The sight so disgusted the half-starved
coyote, that it started in an opposite direction on a slinking run,
for with all its meanness it will not pursue another which is wounded.

The huge mother buffalo stumbled bravely on and on; she was very
weak, for she still carried an Indian's arrow in her side.  How she
had managed to escape at all with her calf was a wonder.  The herd
had stampeded, and somehow, after they had gone, she found herself
wounded, alone with her calf.  Lowing to the little fellow, she
encouraged it to follow her and all day they had journeyed over the
long, hot trail.  If she could only manage to find water, then she
could wallow, and perhaps her stinging wound would heal.
Occasionally she stumbled, almost breaking her leg as she plunged
into the hole of some dog village which her glazing old eyes had not
seen.

Suddenly she raised her great shaggy head, and roared out a low cry
of triumph; she had scented water.  She urged on the weary, tottering
steps of her calf, pushing him on ahead with her nose, lowing gently
and affectionately, encouraging it to hold out a little longer, for
soon they would come to the beautiful, longed-for water hole.

They entered a small canyon between two notches, and right down in a
hollow, a short distance off, the little new moon flashed a gleam
across the water.  As soon as they had quenched their dreadful
thirst, the mother dropped down heavily among the undergrowth, and
the little calf, already refreshed, stepped in and out of the
thickets, cropping contentedly among the tender cactus sprouts and
arrow weed.  Mogul, the calf, perhaps wondered, the next morning as
the sun beat its hot way into the canyon, why his mother did not rise
as usual from her all-night resting place, and low for him to follow
her.  After a time he understood, for such is the keen instinct of
the wild; she would _never_ rise again.  Thus did Mogul, the calf
buffalo, begin his lonely life.  His brave mother had just managed to
lead him into the safe canyon for water, and then had died.

Mogul was an unusually fine, large calf, for his age.  He was full of
courage and daring, but he stayed safe in the canyon, where the
forage was plentiful and water never failed him, for a long while,
every day growing bigger and stronger.  When spring came and the
passes began to grow bright with gay-coloured flowers, the water
holes bubbled, and prairie chickens called their "Coos, coos, coos"
from the thickets; then Mogul began to look about and long for
companionship, for he was lonely.  He noticed the happy frolics of
the jack-rabbits with approving, gentle eyes.  Contentedly chewing
the cud, he would watch the prairie dogs romping happily in and out
of the doors of their villages.  A bark from the watching sentinel
would sound an alarm note, and, like a flash, they would vanish into
a hundred holes.  With the sprouting of his small, sharp black horns
came a sudden restlessness to Mogul.  He remembered the herd, so he
determined to leave the canyon and find them.

He had never encountered any real danger in his life as yet, never
heard the swish of an Indian's arrow, or sighted a painted, brown
body topped off with painted feathers, astride a loping pony.  Once
on the open plains he would soon find out about all these things for
himself.  Through the mouth of the sheltering canyon travelled Mogul,
so full of courage and life that he gambolled and leaped playfully by
the way; he would shake his huge, top-heavy head, and rip up great
tufts of sage-brush with his sharp horns.  Occasionally he halted,
bellowing fiercely and stamping.  A yellow, diamond-back rattlesnake
presumed to coil and rattle at him impudently, right in his path.
Knowing no fear, Mogul charged at it, sending it spinning high in the
air, then stamping it out beneath his shining hoofs.

The sun baked down mercilessly upon his heavy coat out on the open
plain, where there was no shelter.  Almost he wished himself back in
the canyon.  Gnats bit right through his tough hide; he swung his
great head incessantly and angrily, lashing them with his tail; still
they clung, biting and stinging his flesh until blood flowed.  The
plains stretched on ahead with no companionship in sight.  Poor,
lonely Mogul!  For days he had not tasted water.  If he could but
find a water hole, he would wallow and rid himself of the stinging
pests.  That night he reached a small, brackish pool of water and,
dropping into a moist place, Mogul rolled about until he had made a
fine hole about as long and wide as himself.  Into this the water
gradually oozed and, with a snort of joy, Mogul rolled his tormented
body about, coating himself well with the wet clay which cured the
biting stings.  Early next morning a stray buffalo cow came to the
pool; she was young and very pleasing, and Mogul's joy seemed
complete, for he had found company.  That night the pair caught up
with the great herd and joined it.  Black King, leader of the great
herd, had never been crossed, but as soon as Mogul appeared he
disapproved of him, because of his jealous disposition, for the old
leader noticed that Mogul was fully as large as himself, and even
more powerful--a born leader.  The Black King was growing old; he
feared this stranger might become a favourite with the herd, which
might desert him, as they frequently did, for a younger leader.
Whenever Mogul met Black King, the latter would charge savagely,
bellowing mightily and throwing up great showers of earth with his
hoofs and horns, to frighten Mogul.  Then the eyes of Mogul would
suddenly grow red with inner fires, and he would charge wildly at
Black King.  One day, somewhat to his surprise, the old leader
actually backed off and away from Mogul, bellowing and calling his
followers after him.  Thus Mogul won a position of respect from the
herd, a greater part of which took to following his leadership,
others remaining loyal to Black King.

Grazing near the edge of a rocky canyon with a favourite cow and her
calf one day, Mogul almost met his match in "Ezekiel," as the
plainsmen had named the great grizzly bear--the terror of the
Rockies.  Ezekiel, full grown, and with four young cubs back in a den
of the mountains with their mother, was seeking food.  The young cubs
needed fresh meat.  Afar off, peering over the edges of the canyon,
Ezekiel had sighted the three grazing figures of the buffaloes.
Buffalo calf meat he intended to carry back to the waiting cubs.  In
and out crept the shambling figure of the great bear, taking care to
keep low down among the underbrush, making for the site nearest the
little calf, which was feeding somewhat apart from its mother's side.

With a snort, Mogul raised his heavy head; instantly he sighted the
great hulking thing which was making its way towards the calf.  With
a wild bellow of rage, he charged straight for the waving underbrush,
and as he came on Ezekiel, the terrible one, rose upon his great
haunches and boldly faced Mogul, for the grizzly is absolute monarch
of the plains, fearing no foe.  For a moment Mogul, the fearless, was
daunted by the sight of the tremendous creature facing him.  With
outstretched paws armed with great, razor-like claws, its wide, red
mouth bared to show its cruel teeth, the bear came on with savage,
thunder-like growls.  It was unfortunate, however, that Ezekiel did
not travel on all fours, for, seeing his advantage, the buffalo
lowered its shaggy head, lunged straight for the unprotected stomach
of the bear and, before it could even seize him in its terrible
grasp, he had pinned its great body to earth, pressing his sharp
horns, and making the bear howl for mercy.  Then, after goring the
bear well, without waiting to see whether Ezekiel was able to get up
or not Mogul bellowed a summons; the cow and calf joined him, and
they tore off to join the herd.

One day, as the herd was contentedly grazing together, Mogul and his
followers, upon a small plateau which ended in a high cliff, across
the plains came a band of hunting Indians.  Once the herd becomes
frightened it usually starts a stampede.  One buffalo cow snorted in
alarm, then the whole herd suddenly lost their heads, which was just
what the Indians had planned.  Wheeling about, Mogul led his herd
straight away from the cliff, off towards a canyon.  Alas for Black
King!  The Indians were behind him, and, completely losing his head,
he charged across the plateau, heading for the cliff.  Like thunder
was the roar of the thousands of hoofs, which fairly shook the earth
as they madly ran, following their leader to certain destruction.
Roaring, bellowing, raising the dust in clouds, they ran.  Too late!
When at the very verge of the cliff Black King saw their peril, he
swerved, bravely trying to turn back.  Like an avalanche the herd
rushed upon him, a great brown waving mass of heads and flashing
hoofs, and over the cliff they fell.  When the Indians went back to
their village they held a festival and gave the great "dance of the
war shield" to celebrate their fine hunt.  They had enough buffalo
meat to feed all the dogs of the village, and skins enough to keep
the squaws busy curing them for many moons.  Afterwards they had a
great feast, and there was joy in every wigwam of the village.

Mogul led his herd for many years, and a mighty herd it became,
spreading in thousands far across the plain.  The mighty thunder of
its passing might be heard very far off, and the dust, when it moved,
arose on high until it almost reached the sky.  Gradually, but
surely, the great herd began to diminish and thin out.  Once a
terrific drought killed many of them.  For days and weeks they
journeyed, the vast herd seeking old, well-remembered buffalo wallows
over the trails, but when reached they were found dried out.  The
buffaloes pawed and dug deeply into the arid, salt-caked holes for
moisture, but none came.  They died by thousands.  Afterwards the
settlers came across stacks of their bleaching bones, lying just
where they had fallen.  So, weakened and hungry, for the drought had
killed off the scant herbage, they travelled on, ever westward.
Merciless Indians drove them farther on, and hunters of the plains,
who coveted their valuable skins, made after them.  Finally the great
herd, all that was left of it, split, as by common consent, and chose
a younger leader for their thinned ranks.  One day Mogul, the king of
the old herd, found himself deserted, and left to wander alone upon
the great plains.  In vain he tried to follow the herd, but they soon
out-distanced him, and he came to realise that his company was no
longer wanted.  For many years he wandered, always alone,
occasionally seeing scattered remnants of the great herd, but
gradually they dropped off, either killed by Indians or dying from
starvation.  Somehow, old Mogul managed to escape the wolves, the
skulking coyotes, the mountain lions and the Indians.  One day,
utterly lonely, he sighted a vast herd.  At first he thought they
were buffaloes, but on coming up with them he saw they were
long-horned red cattle, which had now taken the place of his lost
tribe.  Because he longed for company, Mogul joined the red cattle,
and they did not molest or drive him away.

Now, out on a reservation, somewhere in the West, herding with the
long-horned cattle of the plains, grazes Mogul, the old buffalo
leader.  His teeth are broken, but he still crops at the grass, and
when he lifts his head you may see that he has but one horn; he lost
the other in a fierce battle for his life with a grizzly.  Sometimes
the old buffalo lifts his great shaggy head and gazes straight out
across the broad plains with his old, dim eyes and lows deeply and
longingly, perhaps remembering his lost tribe and other days.  When
the cowboys round up the cattle, they often point out to strangers
from the East a solitary old buffalo, grazing, usually somewhat apart
from the cattle, on the edge of the herd, and then they say, not
without some pride: "See that old buffalo out there.  He was once
leader of a well-known powerful tribe, but he is old, just how old we
cannot say, and he's now the last great buffalo left of a mighty
herd."



CHAPTER XV

THE LAST PANTHER ON CUSHMAN RANGE

Tom and Ned Manning lived upon a farm in Northern Vermont.  The
Manning home was in a beautiful valley, and all about, as far as the
eye could see, ranged the Green Mountains; the range which towered
over this valley was called Cushman.

The boys were quite elated one day when their father told them he
would have to send them over the mountain to a far-off lumber camp,
upon a very important errand.  This meant a two days' holiday for
them, no school, and plenty of adventure in the woods.

"We'll start early," called Tom to his brother, already splitting his
next morning's wood.  "And if we have good luck, we can reach camp
early in the afternoon.  Snow-shoeing will be dandy, and say, we can
just about ski down on the crusts, going down."

"That's so; it's going to be a bully trip," replied Ned, "and
mother's sure to put us up a big feed.  Say, somehow mother doesn't
like the idea of us two going alone over the mountain.  Guess it's
because the Eatons have been losing their sheep; and now the Strongs
have lost a young calf, some think there's something big and wild
around loose on the mountain somewhere--a panther, or something like
that."

"Joe Strong said their calf _never strayed_ away," replied Tom, "but
father thinks it did.  He thinks dogs got the sheep anyway, and he
says nowadays there isn't anything big enough on the mountains to
carry off such a big creature as a calf--hasn't been, for years.
Anyhow, I'm not a coward.  Say, let's ask for grandfather's gun to
take with us," suggested Ned.

The boys went to bed early that night, so as to get started by
sunrise.  The morning was keen, cold and sparkly, and the sun shone
out upon the snow crusts as it came peeping over the pointed spruces
on the summit of the mountain, and made them sparkle as if sprinkled
with trillions of diamonds.  They stowed away the ample lunch which
their mother had put up, and Tom shouldered the old gun, while Ned
carried the gum pole.  They had decided to halt at a certain grove of
giant spruces, half-way up Cushman, which they meant to visit for
gum.  The pole was long enough to reach into a tall tree, at the end
was a sharp knife, and just beneath this a small cup, so that when
the gum was chipped off, instead of falling down and being lost
beneath among the pine needles, it dropped right into the cup.

Soon the boys left the steep hilly pastures, the foot-hills of the
mountains, behind them, and began climbing the side of old Cushman.

"Look ahead, Ned; we're right in range of some dandy old spruces,"
called back Tom, who forged on ahead with the gun.  "See, just beyond
that ledge up there, we'll halt and get our gum, then we can soon
climb up top and have our lunch.  It won't take us long to go down.
Come on; we must have that gum; it'll be good picking."

"Say, guess that ledge ahead must be Vulture Cliff; looks as if we're
kind of off the main trail.  We never strike off quite so far east as
this, do we?" asked Ned, halting to look up at the great black,
snow-capped crag which towered above them, jutting far out over the
valley.  They halted just below, and visited some giant spruces
which, to their joy, yielded such a fine harvest of gum that they
hated to leave the grove.

"We got to be making tracks now, I guess, Ned.  Come on."

Just then Ned chipped off a splendid lump of amber gum from his tree,
and still higher up he saw several large nuggets clinging temptingly
to the brown spruce trunk.  As prime gum would readily fetch a dollar
a pound, these Vermont boys, to whom pocket money was rare, were
reluctant to leave it behind.

Tom insisted upon their going on.  "We've got to go on right off,
Ned.  But say, we'll come up on purpose some time when we don't have
to go over the mountain."

Soon they were directly beneath the grim shadow of Vulture Cliff; it
would be a stiff climb to go around it, and this they found they must
do to reach the summit of the mountain.  They had halted a second to
get breath, when Tom spied a queer-looking object lying just beneath
the crag upon the snow, and went to investigate.

"What is it?" called down Ned curiously.

"Come on down and see!" shouted back Tom, and soon the two boys were
staring at their find--a great bone, the knuckle joint of a cow,
having the hoof still attached.  The bone had been gnawed, but was
still fresh.

"Great Scott!  What do you think of that?" exclaimed Tom excitedly.
"It's surely some young creature's hoof, and whatever was gnawing it
surely dropped it down from the ledge above, I believe."  The boys
had sudden misgivings.  What could it have been?

"Say, Tom, it must have been something big and fierce and hungry to
carry off a big bone like that.  Perhaps the bone belonged to that
heifer that was lost," suggested Ned.

"Might have," commented Tom, taking in the situation, which suggested
to him the idea of getting away from the lonely spot as soon as
possible.  Besides, it was evident that much time had already been
taken up with their gumming, more than they had meant to take, and
now, to their dismay, they discovered suddenly that the sun had
disappeared; great clouds were swiftly gathering about them, while
down below in the valley, already the snow whirled thickly.  A swift
storm had arisen, as is often the case in these mountains.  It had
been brooding, but the boys had not noticed it.  Already the giant
spruces rocked and tossed far above, as the biting wind whined
through their tops.  The boys realised their best plan now was to
make for the nearest shelter, or they were liable to be overtaken by
a blizzard on the mountains, and so lose their way.  Swifter and
faster swirled the snow; it shut them off completely from everything,
blinding them and stinging their faces like fine needles.  Nothing
but vapour and clouds all about, and they were off the main trail.
They forged on ahead, climbing bravely up and up, sliding back at
each step, but clinging to small spruces to keep from slipping.

[Illustration: THE PANTHER CROUCHED AT THE FOOT OF THE LADDER, ...
MAKING UP ITS MIND TO CLIMB.]

"Do you know where we are, Tom?" called Ned, trying to keep up with
his elder brother, slipping over rocks, plunging down into deep
gullies and over great fallen spruces.

"Not sure," called back Tom, above the howling gale.  "We can't begin
to get down the mountain, though, to-night.  Look ahead; it's almost
dark now.  I hope we can strike the old mountain house, that is, if
it isn't blown down.  We'll try; come on."  This old mountain house
had originally been built for a cattle shelter, to protect the stock
which ranged across the clearings in autumn.  A desolate, barn-like
structure upon the summit of Cushman which the fierce storms had done
their best to demolish.

"I see it," called back Tom.  "Look!  It's right ahead--a big black
thing; it's the mountain house all right.  Brace up; we've got to get
inside.  We're in luck to strike even this crazy old place."  The old
house, black and forlorn, stood there, its windows gone; through its
empty casements the wind howled and whined.  The flooring of loose
planks flapped and tipped as the boys stepped inside.  There was a
rude loft, some timbers thrown across beams, where hay had been
stored; against one side stood a rickety ladder.

"Wish we could start a fire; I'm nearly frozen," spoke Ned.

"No matches, anyhow and no fireplace in this old shebang," replied
Tom regretfully.  "Tell you what: perhaps we can find some hay left
up in the loft and make a bunk; it would keep us warmer than staying
down here."

They climbed up the ladder, and creeping cautiously over the wabbling
beams upon their hands and knees, they collected enough coarse hay to
make a small bunk, selecting the most sheltered corner where the
boards were closest.  Here, snuggling in the hay, they ate their last
doughnut.  The place was dark and still inside; as the storm raged,
and rattled the old building, it seemed as if it would be whirled off
the top of the mountain at the very next blast.

"Guess we shan't sleep much up here," commented Ned dejectedly.
"Gee, I'm hungry; wish we hadn't been such pigs and eaten up our
lunch so soon."

"Well, we might as well turn in and try to get a few naps; though if
the storm keeps up I don't know how we'll get through in the
morning," replied Tom.  They snuggled down in the hay in their bunk
upon the precarious scaffolding, being careful not to move about lest
they might fall below, and at last went to sleep.  While they
slumbered the fierceness of the storm abated, the moon came out and
little twinkly, cold stars shone in through the roof above them.

Suddenly, a swift tap, tapping sound beneath on the old flooring
awoke the boys.  What could it be?  Then, by the moonlight which
shone through the windows, they suddenly spied a young buck deer
which had leaped into the room below and stood panting, head raised,
listening, watching.

"Look, Ned!  It's a deer," hissed Tom, spying it first.  "It's been
running; hear it pant.  It's _afraid_.  See it stand watching for
something.  Look! look! it's going to jump out that back window.
Something's chasing it.  Oh, look, look!"  As they peered down a
great cat-like figure appeared in the opening of the window,
crouching there and glaring inside.  It was a huge tawny panther.
Its wicked-looking head was thrust forward, and its eyes shone like
living coals.  The deer, off and away by this time, had escaped.
Then, to the great dismay of the boys, the panther sprang lightly
into the room beneath them, and they clung to each other in terror,
for the next instant the beast had lifted its great flat head, giving
a baffled yell of rage which shook the old rafters.  To their horror,
instead of chasing the deer, it began to lope about the old building,
snuffling from side to side, finally halting at the foot of the
ladder, and gazing up curiously at the two trembling boys, sighting
them as they crouched together on the rickety scaffolding.

"It's a panther, ain't it?" whispered Ned shakily.  "And can't they
climb?"

"Yep," replied Tom briefly, fussing over the old gun.  "Say, crawl
over to the ladder, Ned, and knock it down somehow, can't you, while
I load the gun.  Quick!  Don't be scared.  I'll fire before you get
there."

"S'pose it climbs up _before_ I get there?" hissed Ned shakily, not
liking the job very well.

"It won't--not if you hurry.  Go now, now, Ned, quick!" ordered Tom.

Meantime, the panther still crouched at the foot of the ladder,
staring up at the boys with its wicked yellow eyes, evidently making
up its mind to climb into the loft.  Cautiously Ned began to creep
over the beams to the ladder.  Oh, if he could only reach it in time!
Would Tom never get the gun loaded and fire?  What if a beam should
slip, and let him down below?  Ned lay out flat upon the shaking
beam; he succeeded in reaching the top of the ladder, then, putting
all his strength into his arms, he gave it a swift shove, and it fell
below with a crash.  Just then the old gun rang out; the kick which
it gave sent Tom sprawling backward into the hay.  As Tom hoped, he
had shot the beast; the panther gave another yell.  Before the smoke
cleared Tom missed Ned; at the same time he heard a faint call.  But
from where?  Where had Ned vanished?  Could it be that he had fallen
down through the shaking beams to the floor below _with_ the panther?

"Quick, Tom, help, help!" called Ned.  "I can't hold on any longer;
my wrist's hurt."  Then Tom saw what had really happened.  Ned had
slipped through the timbers and hung down below the loft, clinging to
a beam with his hands.  If he let go, he would fall to the floor
below.  So, leaping like a cat over the shaking beams, Tom had soon
pulled Ned up on to the platform.

"Gee, that was a close shave, all right," grunted Tom, quickly
reloading the gun, while Ned bade him hurry, for he just knew the
panther would jump into the loft.  "He don't have to wait for any
ladder to climb up here."

Right across a wide streak of moonlight crept the panther, and then
Tom, aiming for its gleaming eyes, fired the old gun again.

"Don't miss him this time, Tom," warned Ned tensely, "or he'll get
us."

"Bang!"  The trusty gun rang out once more, and the boys distinctly
heard the sounds of a wild scuffling down upon the old, loose
flooring below.

"Guess I fixed him _then_," said Tom triumphantly.  The panther gave
a baffled howl of pain and rage, and deciding that the place was no
spot to tarry in, it leaped out and disappeared.

"You hit him!  I know you did," declared Ned admiringly.

"Had to; it was my last shot," replied Tom, wiping his damp forehead
with his jacket sleeve.  "And say, Ned, I call it a narrow escape."

"Think he'll come back?" asked Ned rather huskily, nursing his wrist.

"No, not to-night; he's scared stiff, I think; a good thing, too,"
grinned Tom.  "See, it's almost daylight; he won't come back before
night, I guess."

The boys climbed stiffly down from the loft.  To their joy the snow
crusts held up, and they soon struck the main trail, reaching camp in
time for breakfast.  When they returned home, a lumberman was sent
with them, for the story of their brave fight with the huge panther
had excited much interest in camp and they found themselves heroes.

All the remainder of that winter, the farmers were troubled for the
safety of their stock, as soon as they heard there was a panther on
the mountain.  Strangely enough, it never appeared again in the
valley, and some even doubted that the boys had actually seen a
full-grown panther.  The following spring hunters came across the
dead panther in its lair, just above Vulture Cliff.  Tom's last shot
had put an end to it--the last panther ever seen on Cushman Range.



CHAPTER XVI

NEMOX, THE CRAFTY ROBBER OF THE MARSHES

Nemox, the fisher, who lived in the hollow of a great pine tree in
the depths of the marsh country, lay stretched out flat upon a lofty
limb of his home tree, intently watching a clumsy black figure which
shuffled through the aisles of the pines far beneath him.

He thought the black, shadowy figure must be Moween, the black bear,
but not feeling quite certain about it, Nemox peeped down over the
limb curiously, hanging over as far as he dared, keeping his position
upon the limb by digging his claws in deeply.  His eyes sparkled
maliciously and cunningly as he made sure that it actually was Moween
herself.  Then he knew she had come straight from her den up on
Porcupine Ridge to forage for food, because down below, on the
needle-strewn floor of the forest, Moween knew she could find plenty
of prey for the taking.  Close hidden beneath the low-hanging
branches of the spruce bush, she sometimes came across a frightened
partridge, and the roots of the pines were simply riddled with rabbit
burrows.  One might always rout out a sleepy hedgehog or two, if
there chanced to be nothing better, for Moween knew the secret of
avoiding its terrible quills and searching out the creature's weak
spot without injury to her own snout.  So while Moween rummaged
about, waddling in and out among the bushes, snuffing and grunting as
she threw over a rotting log with her great padded foot, Nemox, the
crafty one, continued to watch her and think deeply.  Very well he
knew that the old mother bear had left her two innocent furry little
cubs back in her den, up on the side of the mountain.  Nemox, the
fisher, in one of his cat-like rambles, had run across them one day,
just outside their door, cuffing each other about, and rolling over
each other like kittens, as their mother watched them fondly.  Well
Nemox knew that the two cubs were still too young to follow their
mother long distances, or down the steep ledges, so of course, he
reasoned, they must be at home, alone and unprotected, this very
minute.

Instantly Nemox had made his plans, and while the little black mother
bear had buried her whole head in a hollow log, hoping to find honey,
Nemox began to slide and claw himself down out of the pine tree,
being careful, of course, to climb down upon the far side that Moween
should not spy him.  Then, like a fleet shadow, he slipped off
through the thick underbrush, and following the wide swath of the
mother bear's trail, he set out for her den.

Everybody knows that Nemox, the fisher, is the craftiest, most savage
and powerful fighter of his age in the marshes, and most of his
kindred feared him, giving him a wide berth.  Nemox belonged to the
cat family, and was sometimes called "the black cat of the woods."
Sinuous of body and not unlike his cousin the weasel, only larger, he
could readily leap forty or fifty feet, and always landed, cat-like,
upon his prey.  To all this was added great knowledge of woodcraft
and reasoning powers, for the clever fisher had easily studied out
the fact that the bear had left her cubs unprotected.  No wonder then
that the fisher was reckoned as a terror of the marsh country, for it
took the craftiest of the wild to outwit him.

In and out between the rocky ledges and tall ferns, always heading
for the bear's den, travelled Nemox, and just as he drew near the
spot where the little mother bear had cleverly hidden her den, he
came right upon the little cubs, who were just outside the entrance
of the den, and lay rolling over each other, having a regular frolic,
cuffing at a swarm of black butterflies which fluttered about the
milkweed blossoms.  But the pretty sight of the round furry babies of
Moween at play did not for an instant touch the cruel heart of the
fisher, who merely bared his sharp teeth as he hid behind a
convenient blackberry bush, watching them.

With twitching tail and whiskers, cat-like, the fisher began to creep
stealthily towards his prey, flattening his lithe body and keeping
out of sight as he crept nearer and nearer the innocent cubs.  A
swift dart, and he shot straight through the air and launched himself
upon one of the cubs, while the other one sat up in amazement and
began to whimper like a frightened child.  Soon Nemox was busy with
tooth and nail over the limp carcass of the cub, when suddenly his
keen ear caught the sound of a stealthy pad, pad, pad; so light a
footstep it was that no one but Nemox could have heard it.
Instantly, fearing the return of the mother bear, Nemox left the
wounded cub, for he had no notion of letting Moween, the angry
mother, catch him at his cruel work, as well Nemox knew that with one
blow of her great paw, armed with its lance-like claws, she could
strike him to earth.  He realised he would be no match for her unless
he chanced to catch her napping.

So the fisher drew off, watching his chances from a safe distance,
for, if the truth were known, Nemox was in some respects, unless
cornered, cowardly.  He slunk into the shadow of a dark ledge, where
his dark fur blended so well with the gloom that he remained
completely concealed.  He realised that he had taken himself off just
in time, for the next instant the tall brakes were thrust aside; but
instead of the mother bear making her appearance, who should peer out
but Eelemos, the fox.  Very cautiously the fox came forth from the
bushes, and peered out in rather surprised fashion upon the scene
before him; the badly wounded cub, and the other one, who still
whimpered and whined helplessly, crying for its mother.  Now the fox
chanced to be very hungry, and the sight of the wounded cub tempted
him.  So he crept warily forward, his yellow eyes all agleam, and so
intent was the fox upon the coming feast that he paid no attention to
the other cub's little whine of joy and recognition as a great,
black, furry bulk fairly tore its way through the thick jungle.  Mad
with rage and fear Moween's little red eyes flashed with anger as she
caught sight of the fox and her wounded cub, and with one great bound
she was upon him, growling terribly, and then, before the fox could
even defend himself, the mother bear had laid him low, and soon all
that remained of the proud, sly fox was just a battered red pelt, and
a bedraggled, limp brush.  Then Moween went back to attend to the
little wounded cub, uttering low whines of distress, and lapping it
tenderly, trying to revive it.

All this time Nemox, the fisher, was peering out at her from a crack
in the ledge, and he had seen the awful fate of Eelemos, the fox, and
was very thankful he had got away from the den just in time.  Now the
fisher had not chanced to select the best spot for his hiding-place,
for at the back of the ledge was the home of Unk-Wunk, the hedgehog,
who had been asleep inside all the time, curled up in a round ball,
until, finally, Nemox had so crowded him that he became impatient and
suddenly unrolling himself, just to teach the intruder better
manners, he gave him a smart slap across his sneaky pointed snout
with his dreadful quilly tail.  Nemox was so taken by surprise that,
stifling his angry snarls so the mother bear might not hear him, he
sneaked back home to the pine forest, his snout full of sharp quills,
and spent most of the night spitting crossly and trying to pull them
out of his burning flesh.

Next morning, bright and early, Nemox started off hunting once more.
He climbed many trees looking for game, but in vain; he even found no
partridges roosting down in lower branches, as usual, for already
they had left their nightly haunts.  At last Nemox reached the foot
of a giant larch tree, and right in the top of its branches he spied
a great loose bundle of leaves and twigs.

"Ah," thought Nemox, "the hawks have a young family up there, or
possibly there are eggs in the nest; so much the better," for Nemox
loved eggs almost more than a young hawk.  Very hungry was Nemox by
this time, so he began to climb the tree.  At last he reached a limb
where he could peer into the nest.  He was thankful that the old
hawks were away, for there were eggs in the nest.  Nemox knew he must
hasten, for a brooding hawk is never long away from her eggs.
Flattening himself close to the limb Nemox crawled to it, and had
just sampled one egg when, with a sudden, wild rush of whirling
wings, the mother hawk landed right upon his back, digging her sharp
talons into his quivering flesh, as he snarled and spit and tore in
her grasp.  Finally, with a swift twist of his agile body, Nemox
managed to reach the throat of the hawk, and in spite of the beating
wings, which nearly thrashed the breath from his body, Nemox clung
and clung to the hawk's throat, until they both fell to earth.  And
then Nemox had his first decent meal for days, and afterwards he
climbed up to the nest and finished off the eggs, which he did not
forget.

Now high above the nest of the hawk, and over towards the lake, stood
a lonely hemlock tree, its limbs broken off by storm after storm.
Upon the summit of this tree Quoskh, the great blue heron, came year
after year to build her nest and raise her brood.  From her high
nest, where she sat with the young herons, now just out of their
pin-feather age, the mother heron could plainly look down upon her
neighbour the hawk, and saw all the terrible tragedy which took
place.  She saw the dark, slim body of Nemox, the robber of the
marshes, as he battled with the mother hawk, and then the end of it
all.  Quoskh, the heron, was afraid for her own young, so much so
that for a long while afterwards she dreaded to leave them alone long
enough to fly off after food.  Soon, however, they became large
enough to fly to the lake with her, and she was glad.  But Quoskh
never forgot about the hateful fisher, and always hoped that some day
she might get the better of him.

Right in the heart of the marsh-land lay Black Lake.  Spread out like
a sheet of molten lead it lay, its lonely waters walled about by
thick jungles of sedge and cat-tails; a desolate spot, seldom visited
by man, but known and haunted by all the kindred of the wild.  You
might trace their well-worn trails through the swamp on all sides.
Here came Moween, the black bear, and her one cub, for the other she
had lost.  The sharp teeth of Nemox had done their work.  On the edge
of the lake Unk-Wunk, the porcupine, loved to loaf, digging out lily
roots, and towards night, when shadows crept over the water, Nemox,
the fisher, would sneak down, hoping to trap some little wild thing.

One day about twilight, when the little herons were half-grown, a
large colony of herons came to the lake.  It was approaching time for
their annual colonizing plans, and they always meet and talk it over.
Down they flocked in droves, on wide azure wings, calling to each
other their lonely salute, "Quoskh, quoskh."  And after standing on
the pebbly shore solemnly upon one foot for a while, at a signal they
all began to dance a most fantastic sort of a dance, which is called
"the heron dance."  Many were the curious eyes watching the strange
dance of the herons.  Among them was Nemox, the fisher, who almost
forgot to hide himself, so taken up in watching the herons was he.
However, as he watched them a sudden fascinating odour came to his
nostrils and he forgot everything else--it was catnip.

Soon he reached the bed of catnip, all silvery green leaves,
sparkling with dew.  He nibbled and ate, until finally, overcome
completely by the fascinating odour, he simply lay down and rolled
about, purring like a cat for sheer delight.  He felt dreamy and
care-free.  But just as he was enjoying himself supremely, down
floated the wide wings of Quoskh, the great blue heron, and with two
stabs of her sword-like beak she had blinded Nemox, and with her
wings beaten the breath completely out of his body.

Then, triumphantly, the heron spread her great blue wings and flew
off into the twilight, calling "Quoskh, quoskh, quoskh" to her mate
across the silence of the marshes.



  THE BOTOLPH
  PRINTING WORKS,
  8, GATE STREET,
  KINGSWAY, W.C.2





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