Trapped in A Tree Mayne Reid
A BACKWOODS ADVENTURE.
AMONG the many queer characters I have encountered, in the shadow of the
forest or the sunshine of the prairie, I can remember none queerer than
Zebulon Stump, or old Zeb, as he was familiarly known. “Kaintuck by
birth and raisin',” as he described himself, he was a hunter of the
Daniel Boone sort. The chase was his sole calling; and he would have
indignantly scouted the suggestion that he ever followed it for mere
amusement. Though not of ungenial disposition, he held all amateur
hunters in lordly contempt; and his conversation with such was always of
a condescending character, although he was not, after all, averse to
their company. Being myself privileged with his acquaintance, many of my
hunting excursions were made in company with Old Zeb. He was in truth my
guide and instructor, as well as companion, and initiated me into many
mysteries of American woodcraft.
One of the most inexplicable of these mysteries was Old Zeb's own
existence; and I had known him for a considerable time before I could
unravel it. He stood six feet high in his boots of alligator-skin, into
the ample tops of which were crowded the legs of his coarse “copperas”
trousers; while his other garments were a deer-skin shirt, and a blanket
coat that had once been green, but, like the leaves of the autumnal
forest, had become sere and yellow. A slouched felt hat shaded his
cheeks from the sun upon the rare occasions when Old Zeb strayed beyond
the shadow of the “timber.” Where and how he lived were the two points
that most required explanation. In the tract of virgin forest where I
usually met him, there was neither house nor hut. So said the people of
Grand Gulf, the small town upon the Mississippi where I was staying. Yet
Old Zeb had told me that in this forest was his “hum.” It was only after
our acquaintance had ripened into strong fellowship, that I had the
pleasure of spending an hour under his humble roof. It consisted of the
hollow trunk of a gigantic sycamore-tree, still standing and growing!
Here Old Zeb found shelter for himself, his squaw,—as he termed Mrs.
Stump,—his household goods, and the tough old nag that carried him in
his wanderings. His establishment was no longer a puzzle,—though there
was still the mystery of how he maintained it. A skilled hunter might
easily procure food for himself and family; but even the hunter disdains
a diet exclusively game. There were the coffee, the “pone” of
corn-bread, the corn itself necessary for the “critter,” the gown that
wrapped the somewhat angular outlines of Mrs. Stump, and many other
things that could not be procured by a rifle. Even the rifle itself
required food not to be found in the forest.
Presuming on our intimacy, I asked, “How do you manage to live? You
don't appear to make anything, nor do I see any signs of cultivation.
How then do you support yourselves?”
“Them duds thar,” answered my host, pointing to a corner of his
tree-cabin. I looked and saw the skins of several animals,—among which
I recognized those of the “painter,” “possum,” and “'coon,” along with a
haunch or two of recently killed venison. “I sell 'em, boy; the skins to
the storekeepers, and the deer-meat to anybody as 'll buy it.”
Old Zeb's shooting appeared marvellous to me. He could “bark” a squirrel
in the top of the tallest tree, or kill it by a bullet through its eye.
He used to boast, in a quiet way, that he never spoilt a skin, though it
was only that of a “contemptible squir'l.”
What most interested me was his tales of adventure, of which he was
often the hero; one possessed especial interest, partly from its own
essential oddness, and partly from its hinging on a phenomenon which I
had more than once witnessed. I allude to the “caving in,” or breaking
down, of the banks of the Mississippi River, caused by the undermining
of the current, when large strips of land, often whole acres, thickly
studded with gigantic trees, slip into the water, to be “swished” away
with a violence eclipsing the fury of fabled Charybdis. It was at the
time of these land-slides that old Zeb had met with this adventure,
which, by the way, came very near killing him.
I shall try to set it forth in his own piquant patois, as nearly as I
can transcribe it from the tablets of my memory. I was indebted for the
tale to a chance circumstance, for old Zeb seldom volunteered a story,
unless something suggested it. We had killed a fine buck, that had run
several hundred times his length with the bullet in his body, and fallen
within a few feet of the bank of the great river. While stopping to
dress him, old Zeb looked around keenly, exclaiming, “If this ain't the
place whar I war trapped in a tree! Thar's the very saplin' itself!”
I looked at the “saplin'.” It was a swamp cypress of some thirty feet in
girth, by at least a hundred and fifty in height.
“Trapped in a tree!” I echoed with emphatic interest, perceiving that he
was upon the edge of some odd adventure; and, desirous of tempting him
to the relation, I continued: “Trapped in a tree! How could that be with
an old forester like you?”
“It dud be, howsomedever,” was the quaint reply of my companion; “an'
not so very long agone, neyther. Ef ye'll sit down a bit, I'll tell ye
all, as I kin tell it; for I hain't forgotten neery sarcumstance; an'
I'll lay odds, young feller, thet ef ever you be as badly skeeart,
you'll carry the recollection o' that skeer ter yer coffin.
“Ye see, kumrade, I war out arter deer jest as we are the day; only it
had got to be nigh sundown, i'deed, an' I hedn't emptied my rifle the
hul day. Fact is, I hedn't sot eye on a thing wuth a charge o' powder
an' lead. I war afut; an' it are a good six mile from this to my shanty.
I didn't like goin' home empty-handed, specially as I knowed we war
empty-housed; an' the ole 'ooman wanted somethin' to git us a pound or
two o' coffee an' sugar with. So I thort I shed stay all night i' the
wuds, trustin' to gettin' a shot at a stray buck or a turkey in the
early mornin'. I war jest in this spot; but it looked quite different
then. The hul place about hyar war kivered wi' the tallest o' cane, an'
so thick, a coon ked sca'ce worm his way through it; but sence then the
under-scrub's all been burnt out. So I tuk up my quarters for the night
under that 'ere big cyprus. The ground war dampish; for thar hed been a
spell o' rain. So I tuk out my bowie, an' cut me enough o' the green
cane to make a sort o' a shake-down. It war comf'table enough; an' in
the twinklin' o' a buck's tail, I war soun' asleep. I slep' like a
possum, till daybreak, an' then I war awoke by the worst noises as ever
rousted a feller out o' his slumber. I heerd a skreekin' an' screamin'
an' screevin', as ef all the saws in Massissippi wor bein' sharped
'ithin twenty yards o' my ear. It all kim from overhead,—from out the
top o' the cyprus; an' it war the callin' o' the baldy eagles; it wa'n't
the fust time I had listened to them hyar. 'That's a neest,' sez I to
myself; 'an' young 'uns, too. That's why the birds is makin' sech a
rumpis.' Not that I cared much about a eagle's nest, nor the birds
neyther. But jest then I remembered my ole 'ooman had told me that there
war a rich Englishman at the tavern in Grand Gulf who offered no eend o'
money for a brace o' young baldy eagles.
“So in coorse I clomb the tree. 'T warn't so easy as you may s'pose.
Thar war forty feet o' the stem 'ithout a branch, an' so smooth thet a
catamount kedn't 'a' scaled it. I thort at fust that the cyprus wa'n't
climable no how; but jest then I seed a big fox grape-vine, that, arter
sprawlin' up another tree clost by, left it an' sloped off to the one
whar the baldies had thar nest. This war the very thing I wanted,—a
sort o' Jaykup's ladder; an', 'ithout wastin' a minit, I shinned up the
grape-vine. The shaky thing wobbled about, till I war well-nigh pitched
back to the groun'; an' thar war a time when I thort seriously o'
slippin' down agin.
“But then kim the thort o' the ole 'ooman, an' the empty larder, along
wi' the Englishman an' his full purse; an' bein' freshly narved by these
recollections, I swarmed up the vine like a squir'l. Once upon the
cyprus, thar warn't no differculty in reachin' the neest. Thar war
plenty o' footing among the top branches whar the birds had made thar
eyeray. But it warn't so easy to get into the neest. Thar kedn't 'a'
been less than a wagon-load o' sticks in it, to say nothin' o' Spanish
moss, an' all sorts o' bones o' fish and four-footed animals. It tuk me
nigh a hour to make a hole, so that I ked git my head above the edge,
an' see what the neest contained. As I expected, thur war young 'uns in
it,—two o' them about half feathered.
“All this time the old birds were abroad lookin' up a breakfast, I
suppose, for thar chicks. 'How disappointed they'll be!' sez I to
myself, 'when they come back an' find that the young 'uns have fled the
neest, without feathers!'
“I war too sure o' my game, an' too curious about the young baldies,
watching them, as they cowered clos't thegither, hissin' an' threatenin'
me, to take notice o' anythin' besides. But I war roused by feelin' the
hat suddintly snatched from my head, an' at the same time gettin' a
scratch acrost the cheek, that sent the blood spurtin' out all over my
face. It was from the talon o' the she-eagle, while the ole cock war
makin' a confusion o' noises as if he hed jest come all a-strut from the
towers o' Babylon. I had grupped one o' the young baldies, but I war
only too glad to lot it go an' duck my head under the nest, till the
critters were tired threatenin' me, an' guv up the attack. By this time
I guv up all thought o' takin' the young eagles. Arter my scratch, I war
contented to leave 'em alone, an' no Englishman's gold ked hev bought
that brace o' birds. I only waited a bit to rekiver myself, an' then I
commenced makin' back-tracks down the tree.
“I hed got 'bout half-way to the place whar the fox-grapes tuck holt o'
the cyprus, when I was stopped by a sound far more terrefic than the
screech o' the eagles. It was the creakin' an' crashin' o' timber along
wi' that unairthly rumblin' ye may hear when the banks o' the
Massissippi be a cavin' in, as they war then. I ked see the trees that
stood atween me an' the river trimblin' and tossin' about, an' then
goin' with a loud swish, an' a plunge, into the fast flowin' current o'
the stream. The cyprus itself shook, as if the wind war busy among its
branches. I felt a suddint jerk upon it, an' then it righted agin', an'
stood steady as a rock. The eagles above screamed wuss than iver, while
Zeb Stump below war tremblin' like an aspick.
“I know'd well enough what it all meant, but knowin' didn't give me any
great satesfaction, since I believed that in another minit the cyprus
mout cave in too! I didn't stay the ten thousanth fraction o' a minit. I
hurried to get back to the groun'; an' soon reached the place whar the
grape-vine joined on to the cyprus. Thur warn't no grape-vine to be
seen. It war clear gone! The tother tree to which its roots had been
clingin' had gone into the river, takin' the fox-grape along wi' it. It
war that gev the pluck I felt when descendin' fro' the neest. I looked
below. The river had changed its channel. Instead o' runnin' twenty
yards from the spot, it war surgin' along clost to the cyprus, which in
another minit mout topple over, whirl along, and be swallowed in the
“I ked do nuthin' but stay whar I war,—nothin' but wait an'
watch,—listenin' to the screamin' o' the eagles,—skeeart like
myself,—the hoarse roarin' o' the angry water, an' the crashin' o' the
trees, as one arter another fell victims to the flood.”
I was fascinated by this narration. Old Zeb's thoughts, notwithstanding
the patois in which they were expressed, had risen to the sublime; and
although he paused for some minutes, I made no attempt to interrupt his
reflections, but in silence awaited the continuance of his tale.
“Wal, what do ye suppose I did nixt?” asked Zeb.
“Really, I cannot imagine,” I replied, considerably astonished by Old
Zeb's abrupt and unexpected question.
“Wal, ye don't suppose I kim down from the tree?”
“I don't see how you could.”
“Neyther did I, for I kedn't. I mout as well 'a' tried to git down the
purpendiklar face o' the Chickasaw bluffs, or the wall o' Jackson
Court-House. So I guv it up, an' stayed whar I war, cross-legs on a
branch o' the tree. It warn't the most comf'table kind o' seat; but I
hed somethin' else than cushions to think of. I didn't know the minit I
mout be shot out into the Massissippi; an' as I niver war much o' a
swimmer,—to say nothin' o' bein' smashed by the branches in fallin',—I
warn't over satesfied wi' my sitiwation.
“So I passed the hull o' that day; tho' thar warn't an easy bone in my
body, I hed got to be a bit easier in my mind; for on lookin' down at
the river, it seemed that the cave-in hed come to a eend. But my comfort
didn't last long. It war follered by the reflection that, whether the
tree war to stand or fall, I war equally a lost man. I knew that I war
beyont the reach o' human help. Nothin' but chance ked fetch a livin'
critter within reach o' my voice. I seed the river plain enough, an'
boats passin' up an' down; but I know'd they war 'custom'd to steer
along the opposite shore, to 'void the dangerous eddy as sets torst this
side. The river's more 'n a mile wide here, and the people on a passin'
boat wudn't hear me; an' ef they did, they'd take it for some one a
mockin' 'em. A man hailin' a boat from the top o' a cyprus-tree! It 'ud
be of no use. For all that I tried it. Steamers, keels, and flats,—I
hailed them all till I war hoarse; some o' 'em heard me, for I war
answered by shouts o' scornful laughter. My own shouts o' despair mout
a' been mistuk for the cries o' a fool or a madman.
“Wul, I kim to the conclusion that I war trapped in that tree, an' no
mistake. I seed no more chance o' gittin' clur than wud a bar wi' a
two-ton log across the small o' his back.
“It war jest arter I hed gin up all hope o' bein' suckered by anybody
else, thet I 'gan to think o' doin' suthin' for myself. I needed to do
suthin'. Full thirty hours hed passed since I'd eyther ate or drank; for
I'd been huntin' all the day afore 'ithout doin' eyther. I ked 'a'
swallered the muddiest water as ever war found in a puddle, an' neyther
frogs nor tadpoles would 'a' deterred me. As to eatin', when I thort o'
that, I kedn't help turnin' my eyes up'ard; an', spite o' the spurt I'd
hed wi' thar parents, I ked 'a' tolt them young baldies that thar lives
war in danger.
“Possible, I mout 'a' feeled hungrier an' thurstier then I did, if it
hadn't been for the fear I war in 'bout the cyprus topplin' over into
the river. Thet hed kep' me in sich a state o' skear, as to hinder me
from thinking of most anythin' else.
“As the time passed, hows'ever, an' the tree still kep' its
purpendic'lar, I begun to b'lieve that the bank warn't agoin' to move
any more. I ked see the water down below through the branches o' the
cyprus, an' tho' it war clost by, thar 'peared to be a clamjamfery o'
big roots stickin' out from the bank, as war like to keep the dirt firm
agin the underminin' o' the current,—leastwise for a good while.
“Soon as I bekum satersfied o' the firmness o' the cyprus, I tuk to
thinkin' again how I war to git down. Thinkin' warn't o' no use. Thar
war no way but to jump it; an' I mout as well ha' thort o' jumpin' from
the top o' a 'Piscopy church steeple 'ithout breakin' my ole
thigh-bones, tough as they be.
“By this time it hed got to be night; an' as thar wa'n't no use o' me
makin' things wuss then they war, I groped about the cyprus to see ef
thar war ary limb softer than the others, whar I ked lay myself for a
snooze. I foun' a place in one o' the forks, large enough to 'a' lodged
a bar; an' thar I squatted. I slep' putty well, considerin'; but the
scratch the eagle hed gin me hed got to be sorish, an' war wuss torst
the mornin'. At peep o' day I war wide awake, an' feelin' hungry enuf to
“While I war thinkin' o' climbin' up to the neest an' wringin' one o'
the eagles' necks, I chanced to look out over the river. All at oncet I
see one o' them big water-hawks—osprey, they call 'em—plunge down, an'
rise up agin wi' a catfish in his claws. He hadn't got twenty feet above
the surface when one o' the old baldies went shootin' torst him like a
streak o' lightnin'. Afore ye kud 'a' counted six, I seed the she-baldy
comin' for the tree wi' the catfish in her claws.
“'Good,' sez I to myself; 'ef I must make my breakfast on raw stuff, I'd
rayther it shed be fish than squab eagle.'
“I started for the neest. This time I tuk the purcaution to unsheathe my
bowie an' carry it in my hand ready for a fight; an' it warn't no idle
purcaution, as it proved; for sca'ce hed I got my head above the edge o'
the neest when both the old birds attackted me jest as afore. The fight
war now more even atween us, an' the cunnin' critters appeared to know
it; for they kep' well out o' reach o' the bowie, though floppin' an'
clawin' at me whenever they seed a chance. I guv the ole hen a prod that
cooled her courage consid'able; an' as for the cock, he warn't a
sarcumstance to her; for, as yer know, the pluckiest o' eagles is allers
the hen bird.
“The fish war lyin' in the bottom o' the neest, whar they had dropped
it. It hedn't been touched, 'ceptin' by the claws thet hed carried it,
an' the young 'uns war too much skeart durin' the skurmidge to think o'
beginnin' breakfast. I spiked it on the blade o' my bowie, an', drawin'
it torst me, I slid back down the tree to the fork whar I hed passed the
night. Thar I ate it.”
“You don't mean to say you ate it raw?”
“Jest as it come from the river! I mout 'a' gin it a sort o' a cookin',
ef I'd liked; for I hed my punk pouch on me, an' I ked 'a' got firin'
from the dead bark o' the cyprus. But I war too hungry to wait, an' I
ate it raw. The fish war a couple o' pound weight; an' I left nothin' o'
it but the bones, fins, an' tail.
“As ye may guess, I wa'n't hungry any longer; but jest then come upon me
a spell o' the driest thirst I ever 'sperienced in all my life. The fish
meat made it wuss; for, arter I hed swallered it, I feeled as ef I war
afire. The sun war shinin' full upon the river, an' the glitterin' water
made things wuss; for it made me hanker arter it all the more. Oncet or
twice I got out o' the fork, thinkin' I ked creep along a limb an' drop
into the river. I shed 'a' done so, hed it been near enough, tho' I
knowed I ked niver 'a' swum ashore. But the water war too fur off.
“'T war no use chawin' the leaves o' the cyprus. They war full o' rosin,
an' 'ud only make the chokin' wuss. Thar war some green leaves on the
fox-grape-vine, an' I chawed all o' them that I ked git my paws on. Thet
dud some good; but my suffering war still unbarable.
“How war I to git at the water o' that river, that flowed so tauntin'ly
jest out o' reach? I 'most jumped off o' the tree when at last I bethort
me o' a way to manage it.
“I had a piece o' cord I allers carries about me. 'T war long enough to
reach the river bank an' let down into the water. I ked empty my
powder-horn an' let it down. It would fill, an' I ked then draw it up
“I cried that hooray only oncet. On lookin' for the horn, I diskivered
that I hed left it whar I hed tuk it off afore goin' to sleep, under the
“I warn't agoin' to be beat in that way. Ef I hed no vessel thet wud
draw water, I hed my ole doe-skin shirt. I ked let that down, soak it,
an' pull it up agin. No sooner said than done. The shirt war peeled off,
gathered up into a clew, tied to the eend o' the string, an' chucked
out'ard. It struck a branch o' the cyprus an' fell short. I tried over
an' over agin. It still fell short several feet from the bank o' the
river. Yet the cord war long enough. It war the thick branches o' the
cyprus that gin me no chance to make a clur cast, and havin' tried till
I war tired, I gev that up too.
“I shed 'a' felt dreadful at failin' arter bein' so sure o' success; but
jest then I bethunk me o' another plan for reachin' that preecious
“I've tolt ye 'bout my cuttin' a lot o' cane to make me a shake-down for
sleepin' on. Thur it still war right under me,—armfuls o' it. The sight
o' its long tubes suggested a new idee, which I warn't long in puttin'
to practice. Takin' the shirt out o' its loop, I made the cord fast to
the heft o' my bowie. I then shot the knife down among the cane, sendin'
it wi' all my might, an' takin' care to keep the p'int o' the blade
down'ards. It warn't long till I had spiked up as much o' thet 'ere cane
as wud 'a' streetched twenty yards into the river.
“Thar war no eend o' whittlin' an' punchin' out the p'ints, an' then
splicin' the tubes one to the other. But I knowed it war a case o' life
or death, an' knowin' that, I worked on steady as an ole gin-hoss.
“I war rewarded for my patience. I got my blow-gun completed, an'
shovin' it carefully out, takin' the purcaution to give it a double rest
upon the branches, I hed the satersfaction ter see its p'int dippin'
down into the river. I tell ye, thar warn't no mint-juleps ever sucked
through a straw as tasted like the flooid that cum gurdlin' up through
that cane. I thort I ked niver take the thing from my lips; an' I feel
putty sartin that while I war drinkin', the Massissippi must 'a' fell
clur a couple o' feet. Ye may larf at the idee, young feller, an' I'm
gled to see ye in setch good sperits; but ye aren't so elevated as I war
when I tuk my mouth from the cane. I feeled all over a new man,—jest as
ef I hed been raised from the dead, or dragged out o' a consoomin' fire.
“I lived in the fork o' that ere cyprus for six long days,—occasionally
payin' a visit to the eagles' neest, an' robbin' the young baldies o'
the food thar parents hed pervided for 'em. Thar diet war various, an'
on a konsequence so war mine. I hed vittles consistin' o' fish, flesh,
an' fowl,—sometimes a rabbit, sometimes a squir'l, with feathered game
to foller, sech as partridge, teals, an' widgeons. I didn't cook 'em,
for I war afraid o' settin' fire to the withered leaves o' the tree an'
burnin' up the neest, which wud 'a' been like killin' the goose as laid
the eggs o' gold.
“I mout a managed that sort o' existence for a longer spell, tho' I
acknowledge it war tiresome enuf. But it warn't that as made me anxious
to see it up, but suthin' very different. I seed that the young baldies
war every day gettin' bigger. Thar feathers war comin' out all over, an'
I ked tell that it wudn't be long till they wud take wing.
“When that time kum, about whar shed I be? still in the tree or worse;
but whar was my purvision to kum from? who wud supply me wi' fish, an'
flesh, an' fowl, as the eagles hed done? Clurly neery one. It war this
thort as made me uneasy.
“I must do suthin' to git down out o' that tree, or die among its
branches, an' I spent all my spare time in thinkin' what mout be did. I
used to read in Webster's Spellin' Book that needsessity are the mother
o' invention. I reckon Ole Web warn't far astray when he prented them
ere words. Anyways it proved true in the case o' Zeb Stump, when he war
trapped in that cyprus.
“I hed noticed that the two ole eagles becum tamer, as they got used to
me. They seed that I did no harm to their chicks, 'ceptin' so far as to
abstrack from 'em a portion o' thar daily allowance. But I allers tuk
care to leave them sufficient for themselves; an' as thar parents
appeared to hev no difficulty in purvidin' them wi' plenty,—unlike many
parents in yur country, friend, as I've heerd,—my pilferin' didn't seem
much to distress 'em. They grew at last so that they'd sit on the one
side o' the neest, while I war peepin' over the other! I seed that I ked
easily snare them; an' I made up my mind to do this very thing; for a
partickler purpuss which promised to extercate me out o' the ugly scrape
I hed so foolishly got into.
“I hed noticed that the eagles war both big birds, an' strong i' the
wing. Everybody ort to know thet much. It therefore occurred to me that
I mout make them wings do me a sarvice,—otherways that they shed carry
me out o' the tree. In coorse I didn't intend they shed take me up i'
the air. There warn't much danger o' that. I only thort they mout sarve
to break my fall, like one o' them flyin' things,—paryshoots I believe
they calls 'em. Arter I'd got my plan tol'ably well traced out, I sot
about trappin' the ole eagles. In less 'n an hour's time I hed both on
'em in my keepin' wi' thar beaks spliced to keep 'em from bitin' me, an'
thar claws cut clur off wi' my bowie. I then strengthened my cord by
doublin' it half a dozen times, until it war stout enough to carry my
weight. One eend o' it I looped around the legs o' the eagles, gatherin'
all four into a bunch, while the other eend I made fast around myself
just under the arm-pits. I hed done all this upon the lowest limb o' the
cyprus, whar I hed fetched down the eagles. When all war ready, I drew
my bowie from its sheath, an' with its sharp point pricked both the
baldies at the same time, so as to set 'em a floppin'. As soon as I seed
thar four wings in full play, I slid off the branch, directin' myself
torst the groun' underneath. I ain't very clur as to what followed; I
only recollex bein' dragged through the branches o' the cyprus, an' the
minit arter plumpin' cochuck into the waters o' the Massissippi.
“I shed most sartinly a been drownded ef that ere cord had broken, or
the eagles had got loose. As it war, the birds kep' beatin' the water
wi' thar big wings; an' in that way hindered me from goin' under. I've
heerd o' a woman, they called Veenis, bein' drawed through the sea by a
couple o' swans; but I don't b'lieve they ked a drawed her at 'a'
quicker pace than I war carried over the Massissippi. In less 'n five
minits from the time I had dropped out o' the tree, I war in the middle
o' the river, an' still scufflin' on. The baldies were boun' for the
Arkansaw shore, an' knowin' that my life depended on thar reachin' it, I
offered no opposition to thar efforts, but lay still and let 'em go it.
“As good luck wud hev it, they hed strength enough left to complete the
crossin'; an' thar war another bit o' good luck in the Arkansaw bank
bein' on a level wi' the surface o' the water; so that in five minits
more I found myself among the bushes, the baldies still flutterin' about
me, as if determined to carry me on over the great peraries. I feeled
that it war time to stop the steam; so, clutchin' holt o' a branch, I
brought up to an anchor. I tuk good care not to let the birds go,—tho'
sartin I owed them that much for the sarvice they hed done me. But jest
then I bethunk me o' the Englishman at Grand Gulf,—ah! it war you, ye
“Certainly! And those are the eagles I purchased from Mrs. Stump?”
“Them same birds! Yer shed 'a' hed the young 'uns, but thar warn't no
chance ever agin to climb that cyprus, an' what bekim o' the poor
critters arterward I haint the most distant idee. I reckon they eended
thar days in the neest, which ye can still see up thar, an' ef they dud,
I reckon the buzzarts wudn't be long afore makin' a meal o' 'em.”
With my eyes directed to the top of that tall cypress-tree, and fixed
upon a dark mass of dead sticks resembling a stack of faggots, I
listened to the concluding words of this queer chapter of backwoods