How Two Schoolboys Killed a Bear by H. F. Marsh
It was an unpleasant day. The gray clouds looked cold and dark, and the
wind was blowing a gale as the stage left the little village of Lowton
on its daily trip to the Summit. The weather prophets said it was the
equinoctial, although it was ten days too early if the almanac was
right; and every one predicted a storm, a northeaster that would set all
the streams boiling, and probably carry away all the bridges between
Lowton and the Summit.
But little for northeasters cared Leon and Sam Bearer, as they settled
themselves cosily inside. They each carried a shot-gun, and under the
care of their elder brother, Herbert, they were going on a two weeks'
hunt among the well stocked forests on the mountains back of the
At noon they stopped at the Half-Way House, a little hotel built just at
the rise of the mountain, where they were served with fresh venison in a
dining-room hung with great antlers from the deer killed by the
landlord, and his son, who was only fourteen years old—no older than
Sam. The boys became very much excited listening to their hunting
stories; and after dinner nothing but Herbert's decided command
prevented their loading the guns to be ready for any game they might see
on the road. The landlord and the driver said that they never saw any
deer driving along the road; but the boys thought it might be that they
would, and after they started a strict watch was kept, which resulted in
seeing forty-one squirrels but nothing larger.
They had not driven many miles up the mountain before it cleared off,
and the sun came out. The forest road, lined with ferns and banks of
moss, was very picturesque, and Leon and Sam enjoyed the ride as only
happy schoolboys can, in the pleasantest spot that boys can be—a forest
peopled with deer and squirrels. And when they reached the Summit House
they were in as good spirits as jolly boys could be who expected a
glorious chase the next day.
The hotel was a large, pleasant one, and on every side were the trophies
of game that so delight a boy's heart. The office and dining-room were
hung with antlers, and the hat rack in the hall was made from them. Then
there was a couch and some seats covered with bear skins and supported
by great branching antlers with so many prongs that Leon tired of
counting them, although he knew each one represented a year, and that he
could compute the deer's age by them. In the sitting-room there were a
stuffed deer, a fox, a number of similar animals, a partridge, some
pigeons and many small birds; and in the office were two large panthers
that looked very fierce and natural, their glass eyes glaring as if
watching a victim, their feet placed as if ready for a leap. But the
boys enjoyed most the deer in the large park back of the hotel. There
were four old deer and two pretty young fawns with glossy, spotted
coats, that Sam and Leon thought were the most beautiful animals they
had ever seen, as they ran and played together like lambs, jumping and
capering with a perfect grace that only deer possess.
After a nice venison supper the boys went to bed, and in a few minutes
both were dreaming of deer, and bears, panthers and hounds, and all the
excitements of the chase among the game-covered mountains.
Early in the morning, and long before Herbert was up, Sam and Leon were
out again watching the deer in the park, and examining again the
terrible panthers whose changeless eyes looked just as fierce as the
night before. Their guns were loaded, and when they had eaten breakfast
and the men were ready to start, the boys were off ahead ready for the
expected game. All the way up the mountain path to the runways they kept
the lead, occasionally stopping to rest in the shade of some great pine
where chattering squirrels were quarrelling over their breakfast. Often,
too, they would leave the path and plunge off in search of "track,"
which they failed to find, so that by the time the runways were reached
they were well tired.
The landlord stationed Sam and Leon on the lower runway, while he and
Herbert went to those higher up the mountain. There was a long time to
wait before any game could be expected, as the man who was to start the
hounds had a good distance to make before sending them off, and he was
only a half-hour ahead of the watchers.
Leon laid down to rest after making sure that his gun was in good order;
but Sam wandered around, looking for squirrels and "signs of game,"
until suddenly he heard, away back on the mountain, the bay of a hound.
This was a signal that the chase had begun, and he hurried back to the
watching-place to be ready for the deer, should the deer come. For
nearly an hour the boys stood with guns ready, every minute hoping to
see a deer. A squirrel running through the brush would bring their guns
to their faces, and at the slightest rustle of the bushes they would
start and listen. Meanwhile the hounds were surely coming nearer and
nearer, their excited barking proclaiming that they were close upon the
game; and at last Sam was sure they were down on the lower runway and,
turning to Leon in great excitement, he said, "Let's keep cool and we
can kill this deer! Then won't Herb be sorry he went further up?" Both
boys felt sure there must be a deer coming, although they had been told
that the hounds often came in without anything.
At last they could hear the brush crackling—yes, the hounds were surely
down on their runway; and in a minute the dogs and game did come in
sight together. But what a surprised pair of huntsmen they were when
they saw what the game was! Leon was frightened, while even Sam felt a
little uneasy. The hounds had not started a deer at all. Instead they
were pursuing an old bear, and two young cubs about the size of a large
dog. The old bear was very large and fierce, and whenever the hounds
came up with the cubs, that could not run very fast, she would turn
around and fight until the cubs ran on a few rods and then she would run
Just as the bear and cubs reached the watching place there was a fight,
and the great creature caught one of the hounds and hugged him in her
arms till he was breathless, all the time sitting up on her hind legs
and looking as tall as a man. While she was in this position Sam took
aim at her head and fired, and a moment later Leon fired too. Then the
bear started to run, and they both fired the other barrel of their
shot-guns, though without taking much aim, but a moment after they saw
her lying on the ground, surrounded by the pack.
By this time Herbert and the landlord had come down in hot haste to see
what the shooting was for, and in great surprise they gathered around
the huge creature which the boys had secured. Leon and Sam had really
killed a bear, a genuine black bear, a large one too—the landlord said
the largest he had seen that year; and there were never two prouder
fellows than these two schoolboys, as they surveyed their noble game.
But this was not all. The hounds were sent after the cubs, and in a few
minutes they were caught alive. They were taken to the hotel and caged.
Very quiet animals they were; in a few days they would eat from the
boys' hands, as tame as the fawns in the park, never trying to bite or
showing any crossness. With these pets and with their fine bear skin to
show, it is no wonder that the boys thought there was never a pleasanter
place than the hotel in the mountains; and it is not at all strange that
they hated to leave it when their two weeks were up. But they had a new,
strong cage made for the baby bears, and took them home to keep in the
little yard near the barn, where every boy, and nearly every man in town
came to see them, and to hear the story of their capture, and take the
dimensions of the handsome black bear skin. At school certainly nothing
else was talked of that term, and I fear the boys really believed they
were the best hunters in the State. How long their mamma will allow them
to keep their pets they do not know, but they hope it will be as long as
the two bears live and behave.