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"The stately stag, that seems so stout,
By yelping hounds at day is set;
The swiftest bird, that flies about,
Is caught at length in fowler's net;
The greatest fish, in deepest brook,
Is soon deceived by subtle hook."
A SUCCESSFUL HUNT.
PETE BARLEYCORN, who had charge of the hotel, introduced us after dinner to the agent of the Berlin Mills Company, and from him we learned that the steamer would only make two more trips up the river that season, on the following Tuesday and Friday. I told him we were going up to Parmachenee, and that the length of our stay would depend entirely on the weather. I asked him about a team to take us to the Upper Magalloway settlement, six miles above, and found we could procure one at the house.
He said partridges were thick in the vicinity, and that we could have some good sport there that afternoon if we would stop a few hours. He directed us to a piece of hard-wood growth that began on a hill at the back of the house and ran down to Sturtevant's Pond.
As we had not intended going beyond the Upper Settlement that day a delay of a few hours did not matter much, and a partridge hunt seemed to offer an advantageous manner of passing away the time. Besides, there was a possibility of meeting with larger game, as the country back of the Brown Farm was a wilderness for miles.
Chris had told us, while coming up on the steamer, of several deer being shot in the vicinity of Sturtevant's Pond in the last two years, and it might be our good fortune to see one, even if we did not shoot it. I concluded, therefore, to visit the pond and see what luck Dame Fortune had in store for us.
Calling the dog, Jack and I started off for the woods, and, reaching the forest, beat our way carefully through it, until we stood on the shore of the pond. Here we found signs of deer, and a moment later were startled by a noise to the left, and, looking in that direction, saw a deer swimming across the pond.
Although Jack had nothing but bird-shot in his gun he took careful aim at the deer and fired, while I blazed away until my revolver was empty.
"If we only had a boat now we could overtake him," cried Jack, in a wild state of excitement.
I run my eye along the shore in each direction, but nothing in the shape of a boat was to be seen. Taking out a box of cartridges I reloaded my revolver, and then proposed to Jack that we should make our way around the shore of the pond, in hopes to get another shot at the deer. Although my proposition was doubtful, Jack accepted it, and we pushed our way along as fast as possible, taking a glance at the deer occasionally to see how fast he was getting along.
We soon found, however, that we stood no sight for getting another shot at him, for, before we were half-way around to the point for which he was heading, he had reached the shore and disappeared in the woods. As we knew it would be useless to follow him then we turned toward the house.
"Confound the luck!" cried Jack, in no very good humor; "we have lost that deer just because there was no boat here. I should think Brown would keep one in the pond."
"Don't cry for spilled milk," I returned cheerfully; "if we have lost the deer that need not prevent our losing the partridges. Find them, Spot!" I cried, and the dog wagged his tail and started ahead. His short, sharp bark soon announced that he had treed something, and upon reaching him we found seven partridges on a young spruce, and killed five of them.
Picking up our game we moved on. All through the vicinity the cover for partridges was excellent, there being a plentiful sprinkling of young spruces among the hard wood.
Suddenly Jack stopped and examined the ground in an excited manner. I was a few feet behind him, and hurried up to see what had attracted his attention.
"Look here," cried Jack, who was down on his knees, as I stood beside him; "do you see that?" pointing to a track in the earth.
"Yes," I replied; "what of it?"
"It's a bear-track."
I looked at it with more interest.
"Are you sure of it?" I inquired.
"Of course I am. Don't you think I know a bear-track when I see one?"
"That's a debatable question," I returned; "but we'll mention it to Pete, so that he can look after his sheep to-night."
"Suppose we try and follow him," suggested Jack.
"Not much," I answered. "I think we shall be more successful hunting partridges than we shall trailing a bear that may be ten miles away from here now."
"I would like to kill one mighty well," asserted Jack.
"So would I; but we need rifles if we are going bear-hunting. I don't care to meet one while I have only this little revolver to defend myself with. Let's move along; we have no time to spare; "and I started homewards.
Just before getting out of the woods we run upon another flock of seven birds, out of which we shot four. We tried to find the other three, but did not succeed, and as it was four o'clock we gave up all idea of any more shooting, and again started for the hotel, which we reached after an absence of about four hours. As soon as we arrived at the house one of the men harnessed a horse to a single buckboard, and we started off, having given five of our birds to the hotel people.
Our ride up the valley would have been enjoyable had it not been so cold, and verging on darkness. We obtained a good idea of the country, however, and the driver pointed out in succession Mount Dustan, the Diamond Peaks, and Half-Moon Mountain, — all of them standing on the opposite side of the road and the river.
The swift Diamond empties into the Magalloway, about a mile from the hotel, its waters rushing down between Mount Dustan and the Diamond Peaks. It drains a large extent of country, and is the outlet of the Diamond Ponds.
The driver told us we would find good sport if we went up on the Dead Diamond, a branch of the Swift, and informed us that large game was very plenty up there.
"I will take a look at that country some other time," I replied. "I am not going to Parmachenee Lake especially for hunting, but more to see the country."
"We might go over on the Diamond next fall," suggested Jack.
"Yes, we might. But next fall is too far ahead. We may all be dead before that time."
The driver now called our attention to a rough-looking log-house, on the side of which was stretched a bearskin, and told us that a great bear-hunter lived there, and added that this was the third skin the man had taken that fall.
"Does he shoot them?" inquired Jack.
"No, he traps them. He caught the bear that hide came off from up to the head of the falls."
"Do you mean Aziscohos Falls ?" I asked.
"Yes. Bears are awful thick around there and on the mountain."
"We shall have to keep our eyes open, when we go up there," remarked Jack.
"You needn't be afeered; the bears won't trouble you as long as you let 'em alone. I have met three in the woods at different times, and never had one show fight yet. They allers run as soon as they see ye, or wind ye. Come, git up, er lane "and he brought the whip down on the horse's rump.
Three of us were rather too much load for the horse, or else he was lazy; and we were crowded in the most uncomfortable manner on the seat. It was tiresome riding, especially so after it became dark, with the landscape blotted out.
"I am getting about enough of this," declared Jack, as the buckboard went over a rough place in the road, shaking us up, and nearly throwing us out. "I guess I'll walk the rest of the way."
"I wouldn't," said the driver; "we are most there, and it is so dark you'll find it bad footing."
A drive of a little more than an hour brought us to the Upper Settlement, and as there was no hotel here we had to skirmish around a little to find a place to stop in. It really seemed like being out of the world, to find a village without a public house.
After trying two or three houses we went to a Mr. Fickett's, and he agreed to give us supper, lodging, and breakfast, if Jack and I would occupy the same bed and room. He had some men stopping with him that night who were thrashing grain in the vicinity, and that made the house crowded. As it was "Hobson's choice," that or nothing, we agreed, and the fellow who had brought us up river left our things and drove back. We were ushered into the kitchen, a fair-sized room, with a large brick fireplace, in which a cheerful fire blazed, and we had become so chilled during our ride that we were glad to avail ourselves of its genial warmth. The table was in the middle of the floor when we went in, and, by the time we had become comfortably warm, supper was ready, and we were hungry enough to do it justice.
After supper I asked Mrs. Fickett if she would cook our partridges for breakfast, and she promised to. Then we drew up to the fire and smoked, and listened to bear stories.
From the talk of the men it appeared that bears were very thick there that fall, and had killed quite a number of sheep in the settlement.
"These fellows can tell bare lies as well as bear stories," whispered Jack to me with a smile, during a lull in the conversation.
"Yes, that little fellow, smoking the short-stemmed pipe, is very proficient at drawing the long bow. He would make a good soap manufacturer."
"Because there is so much lie in him. But I have heard enough of it," and I arose to my feet.
Feeling quite tired after our day's racket we went to bed early, and obtained a good night's rest.