A CASTLE ON BRANDYWINE
 CHRISTMAS morning the boys awakened early and crept from beneath
their warm bearskins in eager anticipation of gifts
from Santa Claus. Of course they had long before
learned who Santa Claus was, but they loved the story,
and in the wisdom of their innocence clung to an
illusion which brought them happiness.
The sun had risen upon a scene such as winter only can
produce. Surely Aladdin had come to Blue River upon the
wings of the Christmas storm, had rubbed his lamp, and
lo! the humble cabin was in the heart of a fairyland
such as was never conceived by the mind of a genie.
Snow lay upon the ground like a soft carpet of white
velvet ten inches thick. The boughs of the trees were
festooned with a foliage that spring cannot rival. Even
the locust trees, which in their
 pride of blossom
cry out in June time for our admiration, seemed to say,
"See what we can do in winter;" and the sycamore and
beech drooped their branches, as if to call attention
to their winter flowers given by that rarest of
artists, Jack Frost.
The boys quickly donned their heavy buckskin clothing
and moccasins, and climbed down the pole to the room
where their father and mother were sleeping. Jim
awakened his parents with a cry of "Christmas Gift,"
but Balser's attention was attracted to a barrel
standing by the fireplace, which his father had brought
from Brookville, and into which the boys had not been
permitted to look the night before. Balser had a shrewd
suspicion of what the barrel contained, and his delight
knew no bounds when the found, as he had hoped, that it
was filled with steel traps of the size used to catch
beavers, coons, and foxes.
Since he had owned a gun, Balser's great desire had
been to possess a number of traps. As I have already
told you, the pelts of
ani-  mals taken in winter are
of great value, and our little hero longed to begin
life on his own account as a hunter and trapper.
I might tell you of the joyous Christmas morning in the
humble cabin when the gifts which Mr. Brent had brought
from Brookville were distributed. I might tell you of
the new gown for mother, of the bright, red mufflers,
of the shoes for Sunday wear and the "store" caps for
the boys, to be used upon holiday occasions. I might
tell you of the candies and nuts, and of the rarest of
all the gifts, an orange for each member of the family,
for that fruit had never before been seen upon Blue
River. But I must take you to the castle on Brnadywine.
You may wonder how there came to be a castle in the
wilderness on Brandywine, but I am sure, when you learn
about it, you will declare that it was fairer than any
castle ever built of mortar and stone, and that the
adventures which befell out little heroes were as
glorious as ever fell to the lot of spurred and belted
 Immediately after breakfast, when the chores had
all been finished, Balser and Jim started down the
river to visit Liney and Tom. Balser carried with him
two Christmas presents for his friends—a steel trap for
Tom, and the orange which his father had brought him
from Brookville for Liney.
I might also tell you of Tom's delight when he received
the trap, and of Liney's smile of pleasure, worth all
the oranges in the world, when she received her
present; and I might tell you how she divided the
orange into pieces, and gave one to each of the family;
and how, after it had all been eaten, tears came to her
bright eyes when she learned that Balser had not tasted
the fruit. I might tell you much more that would be
interesting, and show you how good and true and gentle
were these honest, simple folk, but I must drop it all
and begin my story.
Balser told Tom about the traps, and a trapping
expedition was quickly agreed upon between the boys.
The next day Tom went to visit Balser,
 and for
three or four days the boys were busily engaged in
making two sleds upon which to carry provisions for
their campaign. The sleds when finished were each about
two feet broad and six feet long. They were made of
elm, and were very strong, and were so light that when
loaded the boys could easily draw them over the snow.
By the time the sleds were finished the snow was hard,
and everything was ready for the moving of the
First, the traps were packed. Then provisions,
consisting of sweet potatoes, a great lump of maple
sugar, a dozen loaves of white bread, two or three
gourds full of butter, a side of bacon, a bag of meal,
a large piece of bear meat for the dogs, and a number
of other articles and simple utensils such as the boys
would need in cooking, were loaded upon the sleds. They
took with them no meat other than bacon and the bear
meat for the dogs, for they knew they could make traps
from the boughs of trees in which they could catch
pheas-  ants, and were sure to be able, in
an hour's hunting, to provide enough venison to supply
their wants for a much longer time than they would
remain in camp. There were also wild turkeys to be
killed, and fish to be caught through openings which
the boys would make in the ice of the creek.
Over the loaded sleds they spread woolly bearskins to
be used for beds and covering during the cold nights,
and they also took with them a number of tanned
deerskins, with which to carpet the floor of their
castle and to close its doors and windows. Tom took
with him his wonderful hatchet, an axe, and his
father's rifle. Axe, hatchets, and knives had been
sharpened, and bullets had been moulded in such vast
numbers that one would have thought the boys were going
to war. Powder horns were filled, and a can of that
precious article was placed carefully upon each of the
Bright and early one morning Balser, Tom, and Jim, and
last, but by no means least, Tige and Prince, crossed
 and started in a northwestern
direction toward a point on Brandywine where a number
of beaver dams were known to exist, ten miles distant
from the Brent cabin.
Tom and Tige drew one of the sleds, and Balser and
Prince drew the other. During the first part of the
trip, Jim would now and then lend a helping hand, but
toward the latter end of the journey he said he thought
it would be better for him to ride upon one of the
sleds to keep the load from
fall-  ing off. Balser
and Tom, however, did not agree with him, nor did the
dogs; so Jim walked behind and grumbled, and had his
grumbling for his pains, as usually is the case with
Two or three hours before sunset the boys reached
Brandywine, a babbling little creek in springtime,
winding its crooked rippling way through overhanging
boughs of water elm. Sycamore, and willows, but, at the
time of our heroes' expedition, frozen over with the
mail of winter. It is in small creeks, such as
Brandywine, that beavers love to make their dams.
Our little caravan, upon reaching Brandywine, at once
took to the ice and started up stream along its winding
Jim had grown tired. "I don't believe
 you fellows
know where you're going," said he. "I don't see any
place to camp."
"You'll see it pretty quickly," said Balser; and when
they turned a bend in the creek they beheld a huge
sycamore springing from a little valley that led down
to the water's edge.
"There's our home," said Balser.
The sycamore was hollow, and at its roots was an
opening for a doorway.
Upon beholding the tree Jim gave a cry of delight, and
was for entering their new home at once, but Balser
held him back and sent in the dogs as an exploring
advance guard. Soon the dogs came out and informed the
boys that everything within the tree was all right, and
Balser and Tom and Jim stooped low and entered upon the
possession of their castle on Brandywine.
The first task was to sweep out the dust and dry
leaves. This the boys did with bundles of twigs rudely
fashioned into brooms. The dry leaves and small tufts
of black hair gave evidence all too strongly that the
castle which the boys had captured was the home of
 some baron bear who had incautiously left his
stronghold unguarded. Jim spoke of this fact with
unpleasant emphasis, and was ready to "bet" that the
bear would come back when they were all asleep, and
would take possession of his castle and devour the
"What will you bet?" said Tom.
"I didn't say I would bet anything. I just said I'd
bet, and you'll see I'm right," returned Jim.
Balser and Tom well knew that Jim's prophecy might
easily come true, but they had faith in the
watchfulness of their sentinels, Tige and Prince, and
the moon being at its full, they hoped rather than
feared that his bearship might return, and were
confident that, in case he did, his danger would be
greater than theirs.
After the castle floor had been carefully swept, the
boys carried in the deerskins and spread them on the
ground for a carpet. The bearskins were then taken in,
and the beds were made; traps, guns, and provisions
were stored away, and the sleds were drawn
to one side of the door, and placed leaning against the
The boys were hungry, and Jim insisted that supper
should be prepared at once; but Tom, having made
several trips around the tree, remarked mysteriously
that he had a plan of his own. He said there was a
great deal of work to be done before sundown, and that
supper could be eaten after dark when they could not
work. Tom was right, for the night gave promise of
Limpy did not tell his plans at once, but soon they
The hollow in the tree in which the boys had made their
home was almost circular in form. It was at least ten
or eleven feet in diameter, and extended up into the
tree twenty or thirty feet. Springing from the same
root, and a part
Of the parent tree, grew two large sprouts or
branches, which at a little distance looked like
separate trees. They were, however, each connected with
the larger tree, and the three formed one.
"What on earth are you pounding at that
for?" asked Jim, while Tom was striking one of the
smaller trees with the butt end of the hatchet, and
listening intently as if he expected to hear a
Tom did not reply to Jim, but in a moment entered the
main tree with axe in hand, and soon Balser and Jim
heard him chopping.
The two boys at once followed Tom, to learn what their
eccentric companion was doing. Tom did not respond to
their questions, but after he had chopped vigorously
for a few minutes the result of his work gave them an
answer, for he soon cut an opening into the smaller
tree, which was also hollow. Tom had discovered the
hollow by striking the tree with his hatchet. In fact,
Tom was a genius after his own peculiar pattern.
The newly discovered hollow proved to be three or four
feet in diameter, and, like that in the larger tree,
extended to a considerable height. After Tom had made
the opening between the trees, he sat upon the ground,
and with his hatchet hewed it to an oval shape, two
feet high and two feet broad.
 Jim could not imagine why Tom had taken so much trouble
to add another room to their house, which was already
large enough. But when Tom, having finished the opening
upon the inside, went out and began to climb the
smaller tree with the help of a few low-growing
branches, the youngest member of the expedition became
fully convinced in his own mind that the second in
command was out of his head entirely. When Tom, having
climbed to a height of twelve or fifteen feet, began to
chop with his hatchet, Jim remarked, in most emphatic
language, that he thought "a fellow who would chop at a
sycamore tree just for the sake of making chips, when
he might be eating his supper, was too big a fool to
Tom did not respond to Jim's sarcasm, but persevered in
his chopping until he had made an opening at the point
to which he had climbed. Balser had quickly guessed the
object of Tom's mighty labors, but he did not enlighten
Jim. He had gone to other work, and by the time Tom had
 the opening from the outside of the smaller
tree, had collected a pile of firewood, and had carried
several loads of it into the castle. Then Tom came
down, and Jim quickly followed him into the large tree,
for by that time his mysterious movements were full of
interest to the little fellow.
Now what do you suppose was Tom's object in wasting so
much time and energy with his axe and hatchet?
You will at once understand that the opening which Tom
had cut in the tree at the height of twelve or fifteen
feet was for the purpose of making a chimney through
which the smoke might escape.
The boys kindled a fire, and in a few minutes there was
a cheery blaze in their fireplace that lighted up the
room and made "everything look just like home," Jim
Then Jim went outside and gave a great hurrah of
delight when he saw the smoke issuing from the chimney
that ingenious Tom had made with his hatchet.
 Jim watched the smoke for a few moments, and then
walked around the tree to survey the premises. The
result of his survey was the discovery of a hollow in
the third tree of their castle, and when he informed
Balser and Tom of the important face, it was agreed
that the room which Jim had found should be prepared
 and Prince. The dogs were not
fastidious, and sleeping-place was soon made for them
entirely to their satisfaction.
Meantime the fire was blazing and crackling in the
fireplace, and the boys began to prepare supper. They
had no had time to kill game, so they fried a few
pieces of bacon and a dozen eggs, of which they had
brought a good supply, and roasted a few sweet
potatoes in the ashes. Then they made an opening in the
ice, from which they drew a bucketful of sparkling ice
water, and when all was ready they sat down to supper,
served with the rarest of all dressings, appetite
sauce, and at least one of the part, Jim, was happy as
a boy could be.
The dogs then received their supper of bear meat.
The members of the expedition, from the commanding
officer Balser to the high privates Tige and Prince,
were very tired after their hard day's work, and when
Tom and Balser showed the dogs their sleeping-place,
 they curled upclose to each other and soon were in the
land of dog dreams.
By the time supper was finished night had fallen, and
while Tom and Balser were engaged in stretching a
deerskin across the door to exclude the cold air, Jim
crept between the bearskins and soon was sound asleep,
dreaming no doubt of suppers and dinners and
breakfasts, and scolding in his dreams like the
veritable little grumbler that he was. A great bed of
embers had accumulated in the fireplace, and upon them
Balser placed a hickory knot for the purpose of
retaining fire till morning, and then he covered the
fire with ashes.
After all was ready Balser and Tom crept in between the
bearskins, and lying spoon-fashion, one on each side of
Jim, lost no time in making a rapid, happy journey to
the land of Nod.
Tom slept next to the wall, next to Tom lay Jim, and
next to Jim was Balser. The boys were lying with their
feet to the fire, and upon the opposite side of
 the room was the doorway closed by the deerskin, of
which I have already told you.
Of course they went to bed "all standing," as sailor
say went they lie down to sleep with their clothing on,
for the weather was cold, and the buckskin clothing and
moccasins were soft and pleasant to sleep in, and would
materially assist the bearskins in keeping the boys
It must have been a pretty sight in the last flickering
light of the smouldering fire to see the three boys
huddled closely together, covered by the bearskins. I
have no doubt had you seen them upon that night they
would have appeared to you like a sleeping bear. In
fact, before the night was over they did appear to—but
I must not go ahead of my story.
The swift-winged hours of darkness sped like moments to
the sleeping boys. The smouldering coals in the
fireplace were black and lustreless. The right wind
softly moaned through the branches of the
syca-  more, and sighed as it swept the bare limbs of the
willows and the rustling tops of the underbrush. Jack
Frost was silently at work, and the cold, clear air
seemed to glitter in the moonlight. It was an hour past
midnight. Had the boys been awake and listening, or had
Tige and Prince been attending to their duties as
sentinels, they would have heard a crisp noise of
footsteps, as the icy surface of the snow cracked, and
as dead twigs broke beneath a heavy weight. Ah, could
the boys but awaken! Could the dogs be aroused but for
one instant from their deep lethargy of slumber!
Balser! Tom! Jim! Tige! Prince! Awaken! Awaken!
On comes the heavy footfall, cautiously. As it
approaches the castle a few hurried steps are taken,
and the black, awkward form lifts his head and sniffs
the air for signs of danger.
The baron has returned to claim his own, and Jim's
prophecy, at least in part, has come true. The tracks
upon the snow
 left by the boys and dogs, and the
sleds leaning against the tree, excite the bear's
suspicion, and he stands like a statue for five
minutes, trying to make up his mind whether or not he
shall enter his old domain. The memory of his cozy home
tempts him, and he cautiously walks to the doorway of
his house. The deerskin stretched across the opening
surprises him, and he carefully examines it with the
aid of his chief counsellor, his nose. Then he thrusts
it aside with his head and enters.
He sees the boys on the opposite side of the tree, and
doubtless fancies that his mate has gotten home before
him, so he complacently lies down beside the bearskins,
and soon, he, too, is in the land of bear dreams.
When a bear sleeps he snores, and the first loud snort
from the baron's nostrils aroused Balser. At first
Balser's mind was in confusion, and he thought that he
was at home. In a moment, however, he remembered where
he was, and waited in the darkness for a repetition of
the sound that had
 awakened him. Soon it came
again, and Balser in his drowsiness fancied that Tom
had changed his place and was lying beside him, though
never in all his life had he heard such sounds proceed
from Limpy's nose. So he reached out his hand, and at
once was undeceived, for he touched the bear, and at
last Balser was awake. The boy's hair seemed to stand
erect upon his head, and his blood grew cold in his
veins, as he realized the terrible situation. All was
darkness. The guns, hatchets, and knives were upon the
opposite side of the tree, and to reach them or to
reach the doorway Balser would have to climb over the
bear. Cold as the night was, perspiration sprang from
every pore of his skin, and terror took possession of
him such as he had never before known. It seemed a long
time that he lay there, but it could not have been more
than a few seconds until the bear gave forth another
snort, and Tom raised up from his side of the bed, and
said: "Balser, for goodness' sake stop
snor-  ing.
The noise you make would bring a dead man to life."
Tom's voice aroused the bear, and it immediately rose
upon its haunches with a deep growl that seemed to
shake the tree. Then Jim awakened and began to scream.
At the same instant Tige and Prince entered the tree,
and a fight at once ensued betweeen the bear and dogs.
The bear was as badly frightened as the boys, and when
it and the dogs ran about the room the boys were thrown
to the ground and trampled upon.
The beast, in his desperate effort to escape, ran
into the fireplace and scattered the coals and
ashes. As he could not escape through the fireplace, he
backed into the room, and again made the rounds of the
tree with the dogs at his heels. Again the boys were
knocked about as if they were ninepins. They made an
effort to reach the door, but all I have told you about
took place so quickly, and the darkness was so intense,
that they failed to escape. Meantime the fight between
the dogs and the
 bear went on furiously, and the
barking, yelping, growling, and snarling made a noise
that was deafening. Balser lifted Jim to his arms and
tried to save him from injury, but his efforts were of
small avail, for with each plunge of the bear the boys
were thrown to the ground or dashed against the tree,
until it seemed that there was not a spot upon their
bodies that was not bruised and scratched. At last,
after a minute or two of awful struggle and turmoil—a
minute or two that seemed hours to the boys—the bear
made his exit through the door followed closely by Tige
and Prince, who clung to him with a persistency not to
be shaken off.
You may be sure that the boys lost no time in making
their exit also. The first thoughts, or course, were of
each other, and when Balser learned that Jim and Tom
had received no serious injury, he quickly turned his
head in the direction whence the bear and dogs had
gone, and saw them at a point in the bend of the creek not
fifty yards away. The bear had come to bay, and the
 were in front of him, at a safe distance,
barking furiously. Then Balser's courage returned, and
he hastily went into the tree, brought out his carbine,
and hurried toward the scene of conflict. The moon was
at its full, and the snow upon the trees and upon the
ground helped to make the night almost as light as day.
The bear was sitting erect upon his haunches, hurling
defiant growls at the dogs, and when Balser approached
him, the brute presented his breast as a fair mark. Tom
also fetched his gun and followed closely at Balser's
heels. The attention of the bear was so occupied with
the dogs that he gave no heed to the boys, and they
easily approached him to within a distance of five or
six yards. Tom and Balser stood for a moment or two
with their guns ready to fire, and Balser said: "Tom,
you shoot first. I'll watch carefully, and hold my fire
until the bear makes a rush, should you fail to kill
Much to Balser's surprise, Tom quickly and fearlessly
took three or four steps toward
 the bear, and
when he lifted his father's long gun to fire, the end
of it was within three yards of the bear's breast.
Balser held his ground, much frightened at Tom's
reckless bravery, but did not dare to speak. When Tom
fired, the bear gave forth a fearful growl, and sprang
like a wildcat right upon the boy. Tom fell to the
ground upon his back, and the bear stood over him. The
dogs quickly made an attack, and Balser hesitated to
fire, fearing that he might kill Tom or one of the
dogs. Then came Jim, who rushed past Balser toward Tom
and the bear, and if Jim's courage had ever before been
doubted, all such doubts were upon that night removed
forever. The little fellow carried in his hand Tom's
hatchet, and without fear or hesitancy he ran to the
bear and began to strike him with all his little might.
Meantime poor, prostrate Tom was crying piteously for
help, now that Jim was added to the group, it seemed
impossible for Balser to fire at the bear. But no time
was to be lost. If
Bal-  ser did not shoot, Tom
certainly would be killed in less than ten seconds. So,
without stopping to take thought, and upon the impulse
of one of those rare intuitions under the influence of
which persons move so accurately, Balser lifted his gun
to his shoulder. He could see the bear's head plainly
as it swayed from side to side, just over Tom's throat,
and it seemed that he could not miss his aim. A most
without looking, he pulled the trigger. He felt the
rebound of the gun and heard the report breaking the
heavy silence of the night. Then he dropped the gun
upon the snow and covered his face with his hands,
fearing to see the result of his shot. He stood for a
moment trembling. The dogs had stopped barking; the
bear had stopped growling; Jim had ceased to cry out;
Tom had ceased his call for help, and the deep silence
rested upon Balser's heart like a load of lead. He
could not take his hands from his face. After a moment
he felt Jim's little hand upon his arm, and Tom said,
as he drew himself from beneath
 the bear,
"Balser, there's no man or boy living but you that
could have made that shot in the moonlight."
Then Balser knew that he had killed the bear, and he
sank upon the snow and wept as if his heart would
Notwithstanding the intense cold, the excitement of
battle had made the boys unconscious of it, and Tom and
Jim stood by Balser's side as he sat upon the snow, and
they did not feel the sting of the night.
Poor little Jim, who was so given to grumbling, much to
the surprise of his companions fell upon his knees, and
said, "Don't cry, Balser, don't cry," although the
tears were falling over the little fellow's own cheeks.
"Don't cry any more, Balser, the bear is dead all over.
I heard the bullet whiz past my ears, and I heard it
strike the bear's head just as plain as you can hear
that owl hoot; and then I knew that you had saved Tom
and me, because nobody can shoot as well as you can."
The little fellow's tenderness and his
 pride in
Balser seemed all the sweeter, because it sprang from
his childish gruffness.
Tom and Jim helped Balser to his feet, and they went
over to the spot where the bear was lying stone dead
with Balser's bullet in his brain. The dogs were
sniffing at the dead bear, and the monster brute lay
upon the snow in the moonlight, and looked like a huge
After examining him for a moment the boys slowly walked
back to the tree. When they had entered they raked the
coals together, put on an armful of wood, called in the
dogs to share their comfort, hung up the deerskin at
the door, drew the bearskins in front of the fire, and
sat down to talk and think, since there was no sleep
left in their eyes for the rest of that night.
After a long silence Jim said, "I told you he'd come
"But he didn't eat us," replied Tom, determined that Jim
should not be right in everything.
"He'd have eaten you, Limpy Fox, if
 Balser hadn't
been the best shot in the world."
"That's what he would," answered Tom, half inclined to
"Nonsense," said Balser, "anybody could have done it."
"Well, I reckon not," said Jim. "Me and Tom and the
dogs and the bear was as thick as six in a bed; and
honest, Balser, I think you had to shoot around a curve
to miss us all but the bear."
After a few minutes Jim said: "Golly! wasn't that an
awful fight we had in here before the bear got out?"
"Yes, it was," returned Balser, seriously.
"Well, I rather think it was," continued Jim.
"Honestly, fellows, I ran around this here room so fast
for a while, that—that I could see my own back most of
Balser and Tom laughed, and Tom said: "Jim, if you keep
on improving, you'll be a bigger liar than that fellow
in the Bible before you're half his age."
Then the boys lapsed into silence, and the
 dogs lay stretched before the fire till the welcome sun
began to climb the hill of the sky and spread his
blessed tints of gray and blue and pink and red,
followed by the glorious flood of day.
After breakfast the boys skinned the bear and cut his
carcass into small pieces—that is, such portions of it
as they cared to keep. They hung the bearskin and meat
upon the branches of their castle beyond the reach of
wolves and foxes, and they gave to Tige and Prince each
a piece of meat that made their sides stand out with
The saving of the bear meat and skin consumed most of
the morning, and at noon the boys took a loin steak
from he bear and broiled it upon the coals for dinner.
After dinner they began the real work of the expedition
by preparing to set the traps.
When all was ready they started up the creek, each boy
carrying a load of traps over his shoulder. At a
distance of a little more that half a mile from the
castle they found a beaver dam stretching across the
 at the water's edge near each end of
the dam they saw numberless tracks made by the little
animals whose precious pelts they were so anxious to
I should like to tell you of the marvellous home of
that wonderful little animal the beaver, and of his
curious habits and instincts; how he chops wood and
digs into the ground and plasters his home, under the
water, with mud, using his tail for shovel and trowel.
But all that you may learn from any book on natural
history, and I assure you it will be found interesting
The boys placed five or six traps upon the beaver paths
on each side of the creek, and then continued their
journey up stream until they found a little opening in
the ice down to which, from the bank above, ran a
well-beaten path, telling plainly of the many kinds of
animals that had been going there to drink. There they
set a few traps and baited them with small pieces of
bear meat, and then they returned home, intending to
visit the traps next morning at an early
and hoping to reap a rich harvest of pelts.
When the boys reached home it lacked little more than
an hour of sunset, but the young fellows had recovered
from the excitement of the night before, which had
somewhat destroyed their appetites for breakfast and
dinner, and by the time they had returned from setting
their traps those same appetites were asserting
themselves with a vigour that showed plainly enough a
fixed determination to make up for lost time.
"How would a wild turkey or a venison steak taste for
supper?" asked Balser.
Jim simply looked up at him with a greedy, hungry
expression, and exclaimed the one word—"Taste?"
"Well, I'll go down the creek a little way and see what
I can find. You fellows stay here and build a fire, so
that we can have a fine bed of coals when I return."
Balser shouldered his gun and went down the creek to
find his supper. He did not take the dogs, for he
hoped to kill
 a wild turkey, and dogs are apt to
bark in the pursuit of squirrels and rabbits, thereby
frightening the turkey, which is a shy and wary bird.
When the boy had travelled quite a long distance down
stream, he began to fear that, after all, he should be
compelled to content himself with a rabbit or two for
supper. So he turned homeward and scanned the woods
carefully for the humble game, that he might not go
home entirely empty-handed.
Upon his journey down the creek rabbits had sprung up
on every side of him, but now that he wanted a pair for
supper they all had mysteriously disappeared, and he
feared that he and the boys and the dogs would be
compelled to content themselves with bear meat.
When the boy was within a few hundred yards of home,
and had almost despaired of
 obtaining even a
rabbit, he espied a doe and a fawn, standing upon the
opposite side of the creek at a distance of sixty or
seventy yards, watching him intently with their great
brown eyes, so full of fatal curiosity. Balser imitated
the cry of the fawn, and held the attention of the doe
until he was enabled to lessen the distance by fifteen
or twenty yards. Then he shot the fawn, knowing that if
he did so, its mother, the doe, would run for a short
 would return to the fawn. In the meantime
Balser would load his gun and would kill the doe when
she returned. And so it happened that the doe and the
fawn each fell a victim to our hunter's skill. Balser
threw the fawn over his shoulder nad carried it to the
castle; then the boys took one of the sleds and fetched
home the doe.
They hung the doe high upon the branches of the
sycamore, and cut the fawn into small pieces, which
they put upon the ice of the creek and covered with
snow, that the meat might quickly cool. The bed of
coals was ready, and the boys were ready too, you may
Soon the fawn meat cooled, and soon each boy was
devouring a savoury piece that had been broiled upon
After supper the boys again built a fine fire, and sat
before it talking of the events of the day, and
wondering how many beavers, foxes, coons, and nuskrats
they would find in their traps next morning.
As the fire died down drowsiness stole
 over out
trappers, who were in the habit of going to bed soon
after sunset, and they again crept in between the
bearskins with Jim in the middle. They, however, took
the precaution to keep Tige and Prince in the same room
with them, and the boys slept that night without fear
of an intrusion such as had disturbed them the night
Next morning, bright and early, the boys hurried up the
creek to examine their traps, and greatly to their joy
found five beavers and several minks, coons, and
muskrats safely captured. Near one of the traps was the
foot of a fox, which its possessor had bitten off in
the night when he learned that he could not free it
from the cruel steel.
The boys killed the animals they had caught by striking
them on the head with a heavy club, which method of
inflicting death did not damage the pelts as a sharp
instrument or bullet would have done. After resetting
the traps, our hunters placed the
 game upon the
sled and hurried home to their castle, where the pelts
were carefully removed, stretched upon forked sticks,
and hung up to dry.
Our heroes remained in camp for ten or twelve days, and
each morning brought them a fine supply of fur. They met
with no other adventure worthy to be related, and one
day was like another. They awakened each morning with
the sun, and ate their breakfast of broiled venison,
fish, or quail, with now and then a rabbit. Upon one
occasion they had the breast of a wild turkey. They
sought the traps, took the game, prepared the pelts,
ate their dinners and suppers of broiled meats and
baked sweet potatoes, and slumbered cozily beneath
their warm bearskins till morning.
One day Balser noticed that the snow was melting and
was falling from the trees. He and his companions had
taken enough pelts to make a heavy load upon each of
the sleds. They feared that the weather might suddenly
grow warm and that the snow
 might disappear. So
they leisurely packed the pelts and their belongings,
and next morning started for home on Blue River, the
richest, happiest boys in the settlement.
They were glad to go home, but it was with a touch of
sadness, when they passed around the bend in the creek,
that they said "Good-by" to their "Castle on
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics