The Doughnut Bait by George Varney

A schoolboy a few weeks since told me of an amusing encounter that he and his brother had just had with a bear. It was at Thanksgiving time, and they were enjoying the few days' vacation in hunting in the Maine woods. The locality, to be exact, was the north side of Roach River, about half-way from the first pond to where the stream empties into Moosehead Lake.

Near a deserted log hut, known as "McPheter's Camp," they had discovered signs of a bear—his tracks, and the spot where he had lain down among the tall dead grasses.

"Let's stay here all night and watch for him," said Willie—Willie was the one who related the adventure to me.

"That wouldn't be right; for they're looking for us at home," replied his brother Dick to this somewhat tempting invitation. "Besides there might not come a bear here again for a week."

"Well, let's rest here a few minutes anyway," said Willie.

Opposite the door of the hut was its one window, the glass so covered with cobwebs that very little light came through. It was dark enough in there for a bear's den—he might, in fact, be in there. But flinging the door wide open, the boys ventured in. There was a visible movement at the window, but it proved to be only three or four great, gray spiders hurrying to their coverts from the unwonted light.

"What's this, Dick?" and Will kicked a tangled mass of iron from a corner into the sunshine.

Dick eyed it a moment. "Aha—it's a bear trap," said he.

"Well, we will catch him, now," said Will triumphantly.

"The old thing's too rusty and weak," Dick pronounced finally, after examining it. "'Twouldn't hold a bear."

"Oh, let's just set it, anyhow, and try," coaxed Will.

After repeated efforts, in which Will got caught himself—or, rather, his boot—they got the huge iron jaws wide open, and the trencher in place.

"Next thing we must shoot something for bait," said Will.

"I really think we haven't time, not to-night, Will," said Dick. "See! it's almost sunset, and we are two miles from home through the woods."

"Well, then, I've got two doughnuts left. Let's put them on."

"Very well," laughed Dick, good-naturedly, "if you can wait for your supper."

So the trap, with a doughnut tied to the trencher, was placed a few feet just outside the cabin where any one within could plainly see it from the window. The chain was made fast, and the other doughnut broken to bits, and scattered about.

The next morning the boys were early on the tramp, in order to visit a shallow pond some three miles eastward, where they expected to find moose. After tiptoing about and impatiently watching the shores till afternoon, they did see a moose; but before they were within range, he turned to run.

"Fire, Will!" shouted Dick.

The report of two guns echoed from the woods about, while the moose with a sudden bound or two, disappeared among the trees. They could hear the great creature crashing through the woods, and they hurried on in pursuit. After going about a mile they lost track of him, and they gave it up as neither had detected any token that the animal was hurt.

The chase had led them near a trail that passed the McPheter's camp; and they jokingly turned that way to see if anything had happened there.

"If that doughnut isn't gone, I'm going to eat it," murmured Will. "I'm awful hungry."

"I doubt that the birds and squirrels have left any till this time," said Dick.

"A large bird, or a gray squirrel would get caught, if they touched it, wouldn't they?" questioned Will hopefully.

"Perhaps—if the old trap wasn't so rusty—but hush—there's the camp. Supposing we keep behind it and go in until we see if there's anything in the trap."

They opened the door softly, and moved lightly in and toward the window. The first glance gave them a start. There was a big bear sitting bolt upright, with his forepaws hanging, right before the window. He had evidently heard the sound of their approach, and was looking around for them. Dick gave one long, but weary look. Then he shouted:

"All right, Will. He's caught! The doughnut did it!"

For a moment the boys stood looking out of the window, and the bear sat looking in. It was too much for Bruin—that gaze of exultant victory. He struggled a moment with the trap, then, with one vigorous leap, he cleared himself and went head and shoulders into that window.

Dick sprang for a hole in the low roof, and Will dashed out of the door. He had just time to shut it behind him before the bear came bumping against it.

It were hard to say who was hunter and who was hunted just then. Will was outside, but virtually the bear's captive, as he stood braced back against the door. Dick was creeping about on the rotten, creaking roof. The bear was inside, vigorously snuffing about for his enemies. He repeatedly tried the door, but it failed to open. He growled up the hole in the roof at Dick, but couldn't reach him. There they were, three very uncomfortable parties.

At last the boys heard the sound of rattling glass again; evidently the bear was going to try the hunt outside. Will made a frantic endeavor to open the door, but he had pushed so hard that now it stuck. He got it open at last, and peeped in, just at the instant when the bear came round the corner.

This was the situation now: Will was looking in after the bear, the bear had come round after Will, and Dick, on the roof, was trying to get a good sight at the bear without slipping off. By holding to the hole in the roof with his foot, he found himself able to peep over the eaves; and when the bear turned the corner, he with lucky aim, and plucky quickness put a moose-charge into the back of the creature's head.

Will turned and was putting his gun out to fire, just as Dick dropped down through the roof. But the bear lay still. Dick's shot had finished him.

There was, of course, great rejoicing between the two young hunters. They started a fire, then took off Bruin's skin; and soon some most delicious bearsteaks were broiling on the coals.

"I don't miss that doughnut at all, somehow," said Will as they sat at dinner.