"HeaveFh peka f m e
"Heavenly Father please take care of me," prayed Nellie.
WILD-WOODS SERIES-No. 1.
THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE
EDWARD S. ELLIS,
AUTHOR OF "YOUNG PIONEER SERIES," "LOG CABIN
SERIES," "DEERFOOT SERIES," "WYOMING
SERIES," ETC., ETC.
HENRY T. COATES & CO.
PORTER & COATES.
III.-A MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSION,
V.-THE PARTY OF SEARCH,
VI.-GROPING IN DARKNESS,
VII.-AN ALARMING DISCOVERY,
IX.-THE LITTLE WANDERER,
X.-IN GREAT DANGER,,. .
XI.-" GOTT SEI DANK ".
XIII.-THE BEAR HUNTERS,
XIV.-A RECRUIT, .
XV.-A SURPRISE, .
XVI.-THE DINNER IN THE WOODS,
XVII.-A TEST OF IIARKSMANSHIP,
XVIII.-A QUAIL, .
XIX.-AN UNEXPECTED LESSON,
XX.-BOWSER PROVES HIMSELF OF SOME USE,
XXI.-FACE TO FACE, .
XXII.-TIE "VACANT CHAIR,"
XXIII.-IUNTING A BUCK, 171
XXIV.-HUNTED BY A BUCK, 176
XXV.-THE CAMP FIRE,. 183
XXVI.-AN UNEXPECTED ATTACK, 190
XXVII.-WAS IT A JOKE ? .. 196
XXVIII.-THE TRAIL OF THE BEAR, 205
XXIX.-" HELP I HELP I 209
XXX.-A FRIEND IN NEED, 216
XXXI.-THE "DARK DAY" OF SEPTEMBER, 1881, .222
XXXII.-THE BURNING FOREST, 231
XXXIII.-THROUGH THE FIRE, 240
XXXIV.-CALLING IN VAIN, 2.. 48
XXXV.-WHAT FRIGHTENED NELLIE, 257
XXXVI.-AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER, 266
XXXVII.-A BRAVE STRUGGLE, .. 275
XXXVIII.-BEAR AND FORBEAR, 283
THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE;
N ICHOLAS RIBSAM was a comical fellow
from his earliest babyhood, and had an
original way of doing almost everything he
When he became big enough to sit on the
porch of the humble little home, where he was
born, and stare with his great round eyes at the
world as it went by, that world, whether on
horseback, in carriage, or on foot, was sure to
smile at the funny-looking baby.
Nick, although born in Western Pennsyl-
vania, was as thoroughly Dutch as if he had
first opened his eyes on the banks of the Zuyder
6 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
Zee, in the lowlands of Holland. His parents
had come from that part of the world which
has produced so many fine scholars and done
so much for science and literature. They
talked the language of the Fatherland, although
they occasionally ventured on very broken
English for the instruction of the boy and girl
which heaven had given them.
When Nick was a year old, he seemed as
broad as he was long, and his round, red cheeks,
big, honest eyes, and scanty hair, which stood
out in every direction, always brought a smile
to whomsoever looked at him.
"That's the Dutchest baby I ever saw!"
exclaimed a young man, who, as he threw back
his head and laughed, expressed the opinion of
about every one that stopped to admire the
When we add that Nick was remarkably
good natured, his popularity will be understood.
Days and weeks passed without so much as a
whimper being heard from him. If his mother
forgot she was the owner of such a prize, and
allowed him to remain on the porch until he
was chilled through or half famished, she was
pretty sure to find him smiling, when she sud-
denly awakened to her duties respecting the
Several times he tipped over and rolled off
the porch, bumping his head against the stones.
A hoarse cry instantly made known the calam-
ity, but by the time he was snatched up (often
head downward) his face was illumined again
by his enormous grin, even though the big tear-
drops stood on his cheeks.
When he grew so as to be able to stand with
the help of something which he could grasp, a
board about a foot and a half high was placed
across the lower part of the open door to pre-
vent him getting outside.
The first day fat little Nick was confronted
with this obstruction he fell over it, out upon
the porch. How he managed to do such a
wonderful thing puzzled father and mother,
who half believed some person or animal must
have "boosted" him over; but, as there was
no other person in sight and they did not own
a dog, the explanation was not satisfactory.
True, they had a big Maltese cat, but he
was hardly strong enough, even if he had the
8 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
disposition, to hoist a plump baby over such a
gate, out of pure mischief.
But the most remarkable thing took place
the next week, when Nick not only fell out of
the door and over the obstruction, but a few
minutes later fell in again. In fact, it looked
as if from that time forward Nick Ribsam's
position was inverted almost as often as it was
There's one thing-I want my little boy to
learn," said the father, as he took him on his
knee and talked in the language of his Father-
land, "and that is, 'God helps them that help
themselves.' Don't ever forget it! "
"Yaw, I ish not forgots him," replied the
youngster, staring in the broad face of his
parent, and essaying to make use of the little
English he had picked up.
The good father and mother acted on this
principle from the beginning. When Nick
lost his balance he was left to help himself up
again; when he went bumping all the way
down the front steps, halting a moment on
each one, his father complacently smoked his
long pipe and waited to see how the boy was
going to get back, while the mother did not
think it worth while to leave her household
duties to look at the misfortunes of the lad.
God helps them that help themselves."
There is a great deal in this expression, and
the father of Master Nicholas Ribsam seemed
to take in the whole far-reaching truth.
" You must do everything you possibly can,"
he said, many a time; "you must use your
teeth, your hands, and your feet to hang on;
you must never let go; you must hammer
away; you must always keep your powder
dry; you must fight to the last breath, and all
the time ask God to help you pull through,
and He'll do itW!"
This was the creed of Gustav Ribsam and
his wife, and it was the creed which the chil-
dren drew in with their breath, as may be
said; it was such a grand faith that caused
Nick to develop into a sturdy, self-reliant,
brave lad, who expected to take his own part
in the battle of life without asking odds from
The parents of our hero and heroine proved
their faith by their works. By hard, honest
10 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
toil and economy, they had laid up a compe-
tence, which was regularly invested each year,
and of which the children were not allowed to
know anything, lest it might make them lazy
The little house and fifty acres were paid
for, and the property was more than sufficient
to meet the wants of the family, even after
the youngsters became large enough to go to
The morning on which young Nick Ribsam
started for the country school, a half mile
away, was one which he can never forget. He
was six years old, and had picked up enough
of the English language to make himself un-
derstood, though his accent was of that nature
that it was sure to excite ridicule on the part
of the thoughtless.
As Nick had a large head, he wore of
necessity a large cap, with a long frontispiece
and with a button on the top. His coat was
what is called a roundabout," scarcely reach-
ing to his waist, but it abounded with pockets,
as did the vest which it partly inclosed. His
trousers were coarse, thick, and comfortable,
and his large boots were never touched by
blacking, Nick's father having no belief in
such nonsense, but sticking to tallow all the
Nick carried a spelling book and slate under
his arm, and, as he started off, any one look-
ing at him would have been struck by his
bright eyes, ruddy cheeks, and generally clean
appearance. As he was so very good nature,
he was certain to become quite an acquisition
to the school.
There are no more cruel, or perhaps thought-
less people in the world than a number of
school-boys, under certain conditions. The
peculiar dress and the broken language of
little Nick excited laughter at once, and this
soon turned into ridicule.
Nick was beset continually at recess and at
noon by the boys, who immediately christened
him "Dutchy." He laughed and did not
seem to mind it, for his philosophy was that
no words applied to him could injure him, and
so long as the boys kept their hands off he did
Among the pupils was Herbert Watrous, a
12 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
spruce young gentleman from the city, who
dressed better than the others, and who threw
out hints about the sparring lessons he had
taken at home, and his wish that he might
soon have a chance to show his playmates how
easily he could vanquish an opponent, much
larger than himself, by reason of his "science."
He was fully four years older than Nick,
and much taller-a fact which Herbert re-
gretted, as the Pennsylvania Hollander was
too insignificant for him to pick a quarrel with.
But that was no reason, as he looked at his
privileges in this life, why he should not play
the tyrant and bully over the honest little fel-
low, and he proceeded at once to make life un-
bearable to Nicholas.
He began the cry of "Dutchy," and, finding
that it did not disturb the serenity of the lad,
he resorted to more active measures on the
way home from school.
He began by knocking off his hat, and when
Nick looked at him in a surprised way and
asked why he did it, the city youth assumed a
pugilistic attitude and answered, Greens;
what are you going to do about it, Dutchy ?"
"Be careful of him," whispered one of the
boys, who felt some sympathy for Nick in his
persecutions; "he's science."
"I don't care vat he ain't," replied Nick,
beginning to lose his temper; "if he don't lets
me be, he'll got into trouble."
Just then Nick started to overtake a lad,
who tapped him on the back and invited him
to play a game of tag. As he passed close to
Herbert, that boy threw out his foot and Nick
went sprawling headlong, his book and slate
flying from under his arm, while his cap shot a
dozen feet in another direction.
The other boys broke into laughter, while
several of the girls cried out that it was a
Nick picked himself up, and putting on his
cap, turned about to ask Herbert what he
meant by such cruelty, when he was con-
fronted by the bully, who had thrown himself
into his fancy pugilistic posture, and with one
eye shut and his tongue thrust out, said:
"What are you going to do about it,
"I'll show you vot I do!"
N ICHOLAS RIBSAM proceeded to show
Master Herbert Watrous what he meant
to do about it.
Paying no heed to the formidable attitude of
the city youth, Nick rushed straight upon him,
and embracing him about the waist so as to
pinion his arms, he threw him flat upon the
ground with great emphasis. Then, while
Herbert lay on his face, vainly struggling to
rise, Nick sat down heavily on his back.
Although he could have used his fists with
great effect, Nick declined to do so; but, ris-
ing some six or eight inches, he sat down on
him again, and then repeated the performance
very fast, bounding up and down as a man is
sometimes seen to do when a horse is trotting;
descending each time on the back of Herbert
with such vigor that the breath was almost
forced from his body.
"Let me up!" shouted the victim, in a
jerky, spasmodic manner, as the words were
helped out; that ain't the right way to fight:
that isn't fair."
"It suits me better as nefer vas," replied
the grinning Nick, banging himself down on
the back of the struggling Herbert, until the
latter began to cry and ask the boys to pull
No one interfered, however, and when the
conqueror thought he had flattened out
the city youth to that extent that he would
never acquire any plumpness again, he rose
from his seat and allowed Herbert to climb
upon his feet.
Never was a boy more completely cowed
than was this vaunting youth, on whom all the
others had looked with such admiration and
awe. He meekly picked up his hat, brushed
off the dirt, and looking reproachfully at Nick
Do you know you broke two of my ribs ? "
"I dinks I broke dem all: dat's what I
meant to do ; I will try him agin."
No, you won't! exclaimed Herbert, dart-
16 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
ing off in a run too rapid for the short legs of
Nick to equal.
Nick Ribsam had conquered a peace, and
from that time forth he suffered no persecu-
tion at school. Master Herbert soon after went
back to his city home, wondering how it was
that a small, dumpy lad, four years younger
than he, was able to vanquish him so com-
pletely when all the science was on the side of
the elder youth.
Young as was Nick Ribsam, there was not
a boy in the school who dared attempt to play
the bully over him. The display he had given
of his prowess won the respect of all.
Besides this he proved to be an unusually
bright scholar. He dropped his faulty accent
with astonishing rapidity, and gained knowl-
edge with great facility. His teacher liked
him, as did all the boys and girls, and when he
was occasionally absent he was missed more
than half a dozen other lads would have been.
The next year Nick brought his sister Nellie
to school. He came down the road, holding
her fat little hand in his, while her bright eyes
peered out from under her plain but odd-look-
ing hat in a timid way, which showed at the
same time how great her confidence was in her
Nellie looked as much like Nick as a sister
can look like a brother. There were the same
ruddy cheeks, bright eyes, sturdy health, and
cleanly appearance. Her gingham pantalettes
came a little nearer the tops of her shoes, per-
haps, than was necessary, but the dress, with the
waist directly under the arms, would have been
considered in the height of fashion in late years.
One daring lad ventured to laugh at Nellie,
and ask her whether she had on her father's or
mother's shoes, but when Nick heard of it he
told the boy that he would "sit down" on
any one that said anything wrong to Nellie.
Nothing of the kind was ever hinted to the
girl again. No one wished to be sat down"
on by the Pennsylvania Hollander who banged
the breath so utterly from the body of the city
youth who had aroused his wrath.
The common sense, sturdy frame, sound
health, and mental strength of the parents
were inherited in as marked a degree by the
daughter Nellie as by Nick. She showed a
18 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
quickness of perception greater than that of
her brother; but, as is generally the case, the
boy was more profound and far-reaching in his
After Nick had done his chores in the even-
ing, and Nellie was through helping her
mother, Gustav, the father, was accustomed to
light his long-handled pipe, and, as he slowly
puffed it while sitting in his chair by the
hearth, he looked across to his boy, who sat
with his slate and pencil in hand, preparing for
the morrow. Carefully watching the studious
lad for a few minutes, he generally asked a
series of questions:
"Nicholas, did you knowed your lessons to-
, "Yes, sir."
"Did you know efery one dot you knowed ?"
"Yes, sir,-every one," answered] Nick re-
spectfully, with a quiet smile over his father's
odd questions and sentences. The old gentle-
man could never correct or improve his ac-
cent, while Nick, at the age of ten, spoke so
accurately that his looks were all that showed
he was the child of German parents.
Did nobody gif you helps on der lessons ?"
"Nobody at all."
"Dot is right; did you help anypodies ?."
"Yes, sir,-three or four of the girls and
some of the boys asked me to give them a
"Gif dem at v?"
"A lift-that is, I helped them."
"Dot ish all right, but don't let me hears dot
nopody vos efer helping you; if I does-"
And taking his pipe from his mouth, Mr.
Ribsam shook his head in a way which threat-
ened dreadful things.
Then the old gentleman would continue
smoking a while longer, and more than likely,
just as Nick was in the midst of some intricate
problem, he would suddenly pronounce his
name. The boy would look up instantly, all
"Hef you been into any fights mit nopodies
I have not, sir; I have not had any trouble
like that for a long while."
"Dot is right-dot is right; but, Nick, if
you does get into such bad tings as fighting ,
20 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
don't ax nopodies to help you; takes care mit
yor'self / "
The lad modestly answered that he did not
remember when he had failed to take care
of himself under such circumstances, and the
father resumed his pipe and brown study.
The honest German may not have been right
in every point of his creed, but in the main he
was correct, his purpose being to implant in
his children a sturdy self-reliance. They could
not hope to get along at all times without lean-
ing upon others, but that boy who never for-
gets that God has given him a mind, a body,
certain faculties and infinite powers, with the
intention that he should cultivate and use them
to the highest point, is the one who is sure to
win in the great battle of life.
Then, too, every person is liable to be over-
taken by some great emergency which calls out
all the capacities of his nature, and it is then
that false teaching and training prove fatal,
while he who has learned to develop the divine
capacities within him comes off more than con-
A MATHEMATICAL. DISCUSSION.
T HE elder Ribsam took several puffs from
his pipe, his eyes fixed dreamily on the
fire, as though in deep meditation. His wife
sat in her chair on the other side, and was
busy with her knitting, while perhaps her
thoughts were wandering away to that loved
Fatherland which she had left so many years
before, never to see again. Nellie had grown
sleepy and gone to bed.
Mr. Ribsam turned his head and looked at
Nick. The boy was seated close to the lamp
on the table, and the scratching of his pencil
on his slate and his glances at the slip of
paper lying on the stand, with the problems
written upon it, told plainly enough what
occupied his thoughts.
"Nicholas," said the father.
Just one minute, please," replied the lad,
glancing hastily up: "I am on the last of the
22 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
problems that Mr. Layton" gave us for this
week, and I have it almost finished."
The protest of the boy was so respectful
that the father resumed his smoking and
waited until Nick laid his slate on the table
and wheeled his chair around.
There, father, I am through."
"Read owed loud dot sum von you shoost
"Mr. Layton gave a dozen original prob-
lems, as he called them, to our class to-day,
and we have a week in which to solve them.
I like that kind of work, and so I kept at it
this evening until I finished them all."
"You vos sure dot you ain't right, Nicho-
las, eh "
"I have proved every one of them. Oh,
you asked me to read the last one! When
Mr. Layton read that we all laughed because
it was so simple, but when you come to study
it it isn't so simple as you would think. It is
this: If New York has fifty per cent. more
population than Philadelphia, what per cent.
has Philadelphia less than New York "
Mr. Ribsam's shoulders went up and down,
A MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSION.
and he shook like a bowl of jelly. He seemed
to be overcome by the simplicity of the prob-
lem over which his son had been racking his
"Dot makes me laughs. Yaw, yaw, yaw!"
If you will sit down and figure on it you
won't laugh quite so hard," said Nick,
amused by the jollity of his father, which
brought a smile to his mother; what is your
If I hafs feefty dollar more don you hafs,
how mooch less tollar don't you hafs don I
hafs Yaw, yaw, yaw "
That is plain enough," said Nick sturd-
ily; but if you mean to say that the answer
to the problem I gave you is fifty per cent.,
you are wrong."
"Oxplains how dot ain't," said Mr. Rib-
sam, suddenly becoming serious.
The mother was also interested, and looked
smilingly toward her bright son. Like every
mother, her sympathies went out to him.
When Nick told his father that he was in
error, the mother felt a thrill of delight; she
wanted Nick to get the better of her husband,
24 .THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.'
much as she loved both, and you and I can't
Nick leaned back in his chair, shoved his
hands into his pockets, and looked smilingly
at his father and his pipe as he said:
Suppose, to illustrate, that Philadelphia
has just one hundred people. Then, if New
York has fifty per cent. more, it must have
one hundred and fifty people as its popula-
tion ; that is correct, is it not, father "
Mr. Ribsam took another puff or two, as if
to make sure that his boy was not leading him
into a trap, and then he solemnly nodded his
Dot ish so,-dot am,-yaw."
"Then if Philadelphia has one hundred peo-
ple for its population, New York has one hun-
dred and fifty ?"
"Yaw, and Pheelatelphy has feefty per
cent. less-yaw, yaw, yaw!"
"HIold on, father,-not so fast. I'm teacher
just now, and you mustn't run ahead of me.
If you will notice in this problem the per cent.
in the first part is based on Philadelphia's
population, while in the second part it is
A MATIHEMAITICAL DISCUSSION.
based on the population of New York, and
since the population of the two cities is differ-
ent, the per cent. cannot be the same."
How dot is ?" asked Mr. Ribsam, showing
eager interest in the reasoning of the boy.
"We have agreed, to begin with, that the
population of Philadelphia is one hundred and
of New York one hundred and fifty. Now,
how many people will have to be subtracted
from New York's population to make it the
same as Philadelphia ? "
Feefty,-vot I says."
And fifty is what part of one hundred and
fifty,-that is, what part of the population of
New York? "
"It vos one thirds."
"And one third of anything is thirty-three
and one third per cent. of it, which is the cor-
rect answer to the problem."
Mr. Ribsam held his pipe suspended in one
hand while he stared with open mouth into the
smiling face of his son, as though he did not
quite grasp his reasoning.
Vot you don't laughs at? he said, turn-
ing sharply toward his wife, who had resumed
26 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
her knitting and was dropping many a stitch
because of the mirth, which shook her as vig-
orously as it stirred her husband a few minutes
"I laughs ven some folks dinks dey ain't
shmarter don dey vosn't all te vile, don't it ? "
And stopping her knitting she threw back
her head and laughed unrestrainedly. Her
husband hastily shoved the stem of his pipe
between his lips, sunk lower down in the chair,
and smoked so hard that his head soon became
almost invisible in the vapor.
By-and-by he roused himself and asked
Nick to begin with the first problem and
reason out the result he obtained with each
one in turn.
Nick did so, and on the last but one his
parent tripped him. A few pointed questions
showed the boy that he was wrong. Then the
hearty Yaw, yaw, yaw of the father rang
out, and looking at the solemn visage of his
wife, he asked:
"Vy you don't laughs now, eh? Yaw, yaw,
The wife meekly answered that she did not
A MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSION.
see anything to cause mirth, though Nick
proved that he did.
Not only that, but the son became satisfied
from the quickness with which his father de-
tected his error, and the keen reasoning he
gave, that he purposely went wrong on the
first problem read to him with the object of
testing the youngster.
Finally, he asked him whether such was not
the case. Many persons in the place of Mr.
Ribsam would have been tempted to fib, be-
cause almost every one will admit any charge
sooner than that of ignorance ; but the Dutch-
man considered lying one of the meanest vices
of which a man can be guilty. Like all of his
countrymen, he had received a good school
education at home, besides which his mind
possessed a natural mathematical bent. He
said he caught the answer to the question the
minute it was asked him, and, although Mr.
Layton may not have seen it before, Mr. Rib-
sam had met and conquered similar ones when
he was a boy.
While he persistently refused to show Nick
how to solve some of the intricate problems
28 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
brought home, yet when the son, after hours
of labor, was still all abroad, his father would
ask him a question or two so skillfully framed
that the bright boy was quick to detect their
bearing on the subject over which he was
puzzling his brain. The parent's query was
like the lantern's flash which shows the ladder
for which a man is groping.
The task of the evening being finished, Mr.
Ribsam tested his boy with a number of prob-
lems that were new to him. Most of them
were in the nature of puzzles, with a catch"
hidden somewhere. Nick could not give the
right answer in every instance, but he did so
in a majority of cases; so often, indeed, that
his father did a rare thing,-he complimented
his skill and ability.
IT was two miles from the home of Mr. Rib-
Ssam to the little stone school-house where
his children were receiving their education.
A short distance from the dwelling a branch
road turned off to the left, which, being fol-
lowed nine miles or so, mostly through woods,
brought one to the little country town of Dun-
Between the home of Gustav Ribsam and the
school-house were only two dwellings. The
first, on the left, belonged to Mr. Marston,
whose land adjoined that of the Hollander,
while the second was beyond the fork of the
roads and was owned by Mr. Kilgore, who
lived a long distance back from the highway.
Nick Ribsam, as he grew in years and
strength, became more valuable to his father,
who found it necessary, now and then, to keep
him home from school. This, however, did
30 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
not happen frequently, for the parents were
anxious that their children should receive a,
good school education, and Nick's readiness
enabled him to recover, very quickly, the
ground thus lost.
There was not so much need of Nellie, and,
when at the age of six she began her attend-
ance, she rarely missed a day. If it was
stormy she was bundled up warmly, and,
occasionally, she was taken in the carriage
when the weather was too severe for walking.
The summer was gone when Nick helped
harness the roan mare to the carriage, and,
driving down to the forks, let Nellie out, and
kept on toward Dunbarton, while the little girl
continued ahead in the direction of the school-
I've got to stay there so long," said Nick,
in bidding his sister good-by, "that I won't be
here much before four o'clock, so I will look
out for you and you can look out for me and
I'll take you home."
Nellie said she would not forget, and walked
cheerfully up the road, singing a school song
The little girl, when early enough, stopped
at the house of Mr. Marston, whose girl Lizzie
attended school. This morning, however,
when Nick called from the road, he was told
that Lizzie had been gone some time, so he
drove on without her.
The dwelling of Mr. Kilgore stood so far
back that Nellie never could spare the time to
walk up the long lane and back again, but she
contented herself with peering up the tree-
lined avenue in quest of Sallie and Bobby Kil-
However, they were also invisible, and so it
was that Nellie made the rest of the journey
The distance being so considerable, Nellie
and Nick always carried their dinners with
them, so that, after their departure in the
morning, the parents did not expect to see
them again until between four and five in the
The roan mare was young and spirited, but
not vicious, and the boy had no trouble in con-
When half way through the stretch of
32 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
woods they crossed a bridge, whose planks
rattled so loudly under the wheels and hoofs
that the animal showed a disposition to rear
and plunge over the narrow.railing at the side.
But the boy used his whip so vigorously
that he quickly tamed the beast, which was
not slow to understand that her master was
holding the reins.
When Nick was on such journeys as these,
he generally carried his father's watch, so as
to "make his connections" better. The time-
piece was of great size and thickness, having
been made somewhere in England a good
many years before. It ticked so loudly that
it sounded like a cricket, and would have
betrayed any person in an ordinary sized
room, when there was no unusual noise.
Nick's own handsome watch was too valu-
able for him to carry.
The former was so heavy that it seemed to
Nick, when walking with it, that he went in a
one-sided fashion. However, the lad was
quite proud of it, and perhaps took it out
oftener than was necessary, especially when
he saw the eyes of others upon him.
Nick was kept in Dunbarton so long by the
many errands he had to perform, that he was
fully an hour late in starting. The mare was
spirited enough to make up this time, if
urged, but there was no need of doing so, and
the boy knew his father would prefer him not
to push the animal when no urgency existed.
Thus it came about that when Nick re-
entered the main highway that afternoon, and
looked in the direction of the school-house, he
saw nothing of Nellie, nor indeed of any one
coming from the school.
"She has gone home long ago," was his
conclusion, as he allowed the mare to drop
into a brisk trot, which speedily took him to
When Nick had put away the horse and
rendered up his account of the errands done,
he was surprised to learn that Nellie had not
"I cannot understand what keeps her,"
said the father, in his native tongue; "she
was never so late before."
It was plain from the mother's face and
manner that she also was anxious, for she
34 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
frequently went to the gate, and, shading her
eyes, looked long and anxiously down the
road, hoping that the figure of the little girl
would come to view, with some explanation of
the cause for her delay.
But the sun was low in the west, and its
slanting rays brought to light the figure of no
child hurrying homeward. The single object
that was mistaken for the loved one proved to
be a man on horseback, who turned off at the
forks and vanished.
"Nick, go look for your sister," said his
mother, as she came back from one of these
visits to thegate ; something has happened."
The boy was glad of the order, for he was on
the point of asking permission to hunt for Nellie.
"I'll stay till I find out something," said
Nick, as he donned his hat and took a general
look over himself to see that he was in shape,
" so don't worry about me."
"But you ought not to be gone so long,"
said the father, whose anxious face showed
that he was debating whether he should not
join his boy in the search, for it won't take
long to find out where Nellie is."
"I think she has been taken sick and has
stopped with some of the neighbors," ventured
the mother, "but it is strange they do not
send me word."
And it was the very fact that such word was
not sent that prevented the husband and
son from believing in the theory of the dis-
But Nick did not let the grass grow under
his feet. His worriment was as great as that
of his parents, and as soon as he was in the
road he broke into a trot, which he kept up
until beyond sight, both father and mother
standing at the gate and watching him until
he faded from view in the gathering twilight.
The point where he disappeared was beyond
the house of Mr. Marston, so it was safe to
conclude he had learned nothing of his sister
there, where he was seen to halt.
There is nothing more wearisome than
waiting in such suspense as came to the hearts
of the father and mother, while they sat watch-
ing and listening for the sound of the childish
footsteps and voices whose music would have
been the sweetest on earth to them.
36 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
The supper on the table remained untasted,
and the only sounds heard were the solemn
ticking of the old clock, the soft rustling of
the kettle on the stove, and now and then a
long drawn sigh from father or mother, as one
strove to utter a comforting word to the other.
All at once the gate was opened and shut
hastily. Then a hurried step sounded along
the short walk and upon the porch.
"There they are! there they are!" ex-
claimed the mother, starting to her feet, as did
Almost on the same instant the door was
thrown open, and, panting and excited, Nick
But he was alone, and the expression of his
face showed that he had brought bad news.
THE PARTY OF SEARCH.
WT HEN Nick Ribsam set out to find his
missing sister Nellie, he made the search
as thorough as possible.
The first house at which he stopped was that
of Mr. Marston, which, it will be remembered,
was only a short distance away from his own
home. There, to his disappointment, he learned
that their little girl had not been at school
that day, and consequently they could tell him
Without waiting longer than to give a few
words of explanation he resumed his trot, and
soon after turned into the lane leading to the
home of Mr. Kilgore. He found that both
Bobby and Sallie had been to school, but they
had nothing to tell. When we are more than
usually anxious to learn something, it seems
that every one whom we meet is stupid beyond
endurance. If we are in a strange place and
38 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
apply for information, the ignorance of nearly
every person is exasperating.
Bobby and Sallie remembered seeing Nellie
in school during the forenoon and afternoon,
but, while the boy insisted that she came along
the road with them after dismissal, Sallie was
just as positive that the missing girl was not
The party of school children which usually
went over the highway was so small in number
that it is hard to understand how such a mis-
take could be made, but the difference between
Bobby and Sallie was irreconcilable.
"I know she didn't come home with us,"
said Sallie, stamping her foot to give emphasis
to the words.
"And I know she did," declared Bobby,
equally emphatically, "for me and her played
"Why don't you say she and I played
tag ?" asked Nick, impatient with both the
"'Cause it was me and her," insisted
"What a dunce-head exclaimed his sis-
THE PARTY OF SEARCH.
ter; "that was last night when you played
tag, and you tumbled over into the ditch and
bellered like the big baby you are."
"I remember that he did that last night,"
said Nick, hoping to help the two to settle the
"I know I done that last night, but this
afternoon I done it too. I fall into the ditch
every night and beller; I do it on purpose to
fool them that are chasing me."
Nick found he could gain nothing; but he
believed the sister was right and the brother
wrong, as afterward proved to be the case.
There were no more houses between his own
home and the school building, and Nick re-
sumed his dog trot, never halting until he
came in front of a little whitewashed cottage
just beyond the stone school-house.
The latter stood at the cross roads, and the
cottage to the left was where the teacher, Mr.
Layton, an old bachelor, lived with his two
Mr. Layton, although strict to severity in
the school-room, was a kind-hearted man and
was fond of the Ribsam children, for. they
40 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
were bright, cheerful, and obedient, and never
gave him any trouble, as did some of his other
pupils. He listened to Nick's story, and his
sympathy was aroused at once.
"I am very sorry," said he, "that your good
father and mother, not to mention yourself,
should be so sorely troubled ; but I hope this
is not serious. Nellie came to me about three
o'clock and asked whether I would let her go
"Was she sick? asked the distressed
"Not at all; but she said you had gone to
Dunbarton in your carriage and she wanted to
meet you coming back. She knew her lessons
perfectly, and Nellie is such a good girl that I
felt that I could not refuse so simple a request.
So I told her she could go. I saw her start
homeward with her lunch-basket in one hand
and her two school-books in the other. She
stepped off so briskly and was in such cheer-
ful spirits that I stood at the window and
watched her until she passed around the bend
in the road."
Nick felt his heart sink within him, for the
THE PARTY OF SEARCH.
words of the teacher had let in a great deal of
alarming truth upon him.
Nellie had reached the forks two hours
ahead of him, and then, not wishing to sit
down and wait, she had started up the road in
the direction of Dunbarton to meet him. She
mast have entered the eight mile stretch of
woods from the south about the same time
Nick himself drove into it on his return from
The two should have met near Shark Creek,
but neither had seen the other. Nick, as a
matter of course, had kept to the road, but
what had become of Nellie ?
This was the question the lad put to himself,
and which caused him to feel so faint that he
sank down in a chair unable to speak for a
minute or two. Then, when he tried to do so,
he had to stop, and was kept busy swallowing
the lump that would rise in his throat, until
finally the tears suddenly appeared, and, put-
ting his hands to his eyes, he gave way to his
"There, there," said Mr. Layton sooth-
ingly, "don't cry, Nick, for it will do no good.
42 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
Nellie has strayed off in the woods to gather
flowers or perhaps wild grapes and has missed
She-is-lost-poor-Nellie 1" said the
lad as best he could between his sobs; we'll
never see her again."
"Oh, it isn't as bad as that! I suppose she
has grown weary, and, sitting down to rest,
has fallen asleep."
If the good teacher meant this to soothe the
lad, it had the contrary effect, for the picture
of his little sister wandering alone in the
woods was one of the most dreadful that could
be imagined, and it took all the manhood
of his nature to keep from breaking down
While the interview was under way, Mr.
Layton was busy changing his slippers for his
boots, his wrapper for his coat, and his hat
was donned just as he spoke the last words.
His sympathy did not expend itself in talk,
but the instant he saw what the trouble was he
was eager to do all he could to help his suffer-
ing friends. He even reproached himself for
having given Nellie permission to meet her
THE PARTY OF SEARCH.
brother, though no matter what harm may
have befallen her, no one could blame her in-
We must hunt for her," said Mr. Layton,
when he was ready to go out; "I will tell my
sisters they need not be alarmed over my
absence, and I guess I will take the lantern
Nick passed out to the front gate, where he
waited a minute for the teacher, until he
should speak with his friends and get the lan-
tern ready. When he came forth, the boy felt
much like the patient who sees the surgeon
take out his instruments and try their edge to
make sure they are in condition before using
The sight of the lantern in the hand of Mr.
Layton gave such emphasis to the danger that
it caused another quick throb of Nick's heart,
but he forced it down as the two started back
over the road, toward the school-house.
"There is no need of lighting the lantern
until we get to the woods," said the teacher,
"for we don't need it, and I hope we won't
need it after we reach the forest. Poor Nel-
44 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
lie! she will feel dreadfully frightened, when
she wakes up in the dark forest."
He regretted the words, for the two or three
sobs that escaped the brother, before he could
master himself, showed that his heart was
swelled nigh to bursting.
The night was mild and pleasant, although
a little too chilly for any one to sleep out of
doors. The moon was gibbous, and only a few
white, feathery clouds now and' then drifted
across its face. Where there was no shadow,
one could see for a hundred yards or so with
considerable distinctness-that is, enough to
recognize the figure of a man in motion.
Opposite the lane leading to the house of
Mr. Kilgore, the teacher stopped.
"I will go in and get him to join us," said
Mr. Layton; "and you had better hurry
home for your father. On your way back,
stop for Mr. Marston; that will give us a
pretty large party. If when you reach the
forks you do not find us there, don't wait, but
hurry on toward Dunbarton; you will meet
us before you reach the bridge over Shark
THE PARTY OF SEARCH.
Nick did as told, and, still on a rapid trot,
reached home panting and excited, with the
story which the reader has jist learned.
Mr. Ribsam threw down his pipe, donned
his hat and coat, and started out the door.
With his hand on the latch, he paused, and,
looking back, commanded his voice so as to
"Katrina, you and Nick needn't wait up
"Oh, father," pleaded the lad, moving to-
ward him: "would you make me stay at
home when Nellie is lost "
"No, no-I did not think," answered the
parent, in a confused way; "I feel so bad I do
not know what I do and say. Katrina, don't
feel too bad; we will come back as soon as we
Again the half distracted father placed his
hand on the latch, and he had drawn the door
partly open, when his wife, pale and trem-
bling, called out in a voice of touching pathos:
"Gustav, my heart would break should I
try to stay here, when no one but God knows
where my darling Nellie is; but, wherever she
46 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
may be, no sorrow or pain or suffering can
come to her that her mother will not share,
and may our Heavenly Father let her mother
take it all upon her own shoulders !"
Come on, Katrina; come on and bring the
lantern with you."
GROPING IN DARKNESS.
WHEN the parents and brother of Nellie
Ribsam reached the forks a few min-
utes later, they saw nothing of the three parties
whom they expected to meet there.
"They have gone on to the woods to look
for Nellie," said the father.
"They cannot be far off," suggested Nick,
turning to the left.
All were too anxious to lose a minute, and
they started after their friends on a rapid walk,
Nick taking the lead, and now and then drop-
ping into a loping tro b, which he would have
increased had he been alone.
A chill seemed to settle over all as they
reached the deep shadow of the woods, which
was one of the largest tracts of forest in that
section of the country.
The road which bisected them was fully
eight miles in length, as has already been
48 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
stated, while the forest was much greater in
extent in the other direction.
Being of such large area, there were neces-
sarily many portions which rarely if ever were
visited by hunters. Years before an occasional
deer had been shot, and a few of the old
settlers told of the thrilling bear hunts they
had enjoyed when they were not so very much
younger than now.
Those who were capable of judging were cer-
tain that if the gloomy depths were explored
these dreaded animals would be met; but if
such were the fact, the beasts were so few in
number that no one gave them a thought.
It was now four miles to Shark Creek, and,
by common consent, it was agreed that the
missing Nellie must be found, if found at all,
before reaching the stream.
As this creek was deep enough to drown any
person who could not swim, not to mention
the large pond into which it emptied, every one
of the searchers felt a vague, awful dread that
poor Nellie had fallen into the water.
No one spoke of it, but the thought was
there all the same.
GROPING IN DARKNESS.
Shortly after entering the wood, Nick called
attention to two star-like points of light
twinkling ahead of them.
They are the lanterns of Mr. Layton and
Kilgore," said Nick, who immediately added,
"we forgot to stop and get Mr. Marston."
That is too bad, but it isn't worth while to
go back now," replied his father, hardly slack-
ening his gait.
As the lantern which Mrs. Ribsam had
handed to her husband was lighted before leav-
ing home, the men in advance detected it im-
mediately after they were seen themselves, and
the halloo of the teacher was answered by Nick.
Have you found anything of Nellie "
asked the mother, in broken English, as soon
as the parties came together.
"It could scarcely be expected," answered
the instructor, in a kindly voice; "we have
just got here, and have only looked along the
road. I have little doubt that she is soundly
sleeping somewhere not far off."
While all stood still, the father lifted up his
voice, and in clear, penetrating tones called the
name of his missing child :
50 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
The ticking of the big watch in the pocket of
Nick was plainly heard as the little company
awaited the answering call of the child.
But it came not, and three times more was
the name of the missing girl repeated by the
father, who broke down completely the last
Nick now joined his thumb and finger against
the end of his tongue, and emitted a blast like
that of a steam whistle. It resounded among
the trees, and then followed the same oppres-
sive stillness as before.
It was useless to remain where they were any
longer, and, without a word, the five moved
on. The three lamps were swung above their
heads, and they peered into the gloomy depths
on the right and left.
Nick, as might have been expected, kept the
advance, and his father allowed him to carry
the lantern. As the other lights were behind
the lad, the latter saw his huge shadow contin-
ually dancing in front and taking all manner
of grotesque shapes, while, if the others had
looked to the rear, they would have seen the
GROPING. IN DARKNESS.
same spectacle, as it affected their own
"Wait!" suddenly called out the father,
who was now obliged to use his broken English,
"mebbe my Nellie she does hears me."
Thereupon he called to her as before, Nick
ending the appeal with an ear-splitting whistle,
which must have been heard several miles on
such a still night.
Not the slightest result followed, and with
heavy hearts the little company moved on
"I think," said Mr. Layton, "that she has
turned aside, where, possibly, some faint path
has caught her eye, and it may be that we
may discover the spot."
"Let's look here !"
It was the mother who spoke this time, and,
as they turned toward her, she was seen bend-
ing over the ground at the side of the highway,
where something had arrested her attention.
Instantly all the lanterns were clustered
about the spot, and it was seen that the eyes
of affection had detected just such a place as
that named by the teacher. Persons who
52 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
walked along the road were accustomed to
turn aside into the woods, and the five now did
the same, moving slowly, with the lanterns
held close to the earth, and then swung aloft,
while all eyes were peering into the portions
penetrated by the yellow rays.
The path was followed some fifty yards,
when, to the disappointment of all, it came
back to the road: it was one of those whimsi-
cal footways often met in the country, the
person who started it having left the highway
without any real reason for doing so.
Again the name of the missing Nellie was
repeated, and again the woods sent back noth-
ing but the echo.
It was the quick-eared Nick who spoke, just
as the hum of conversation began, and all
As they did so the rattle of wheels was
heard coming from the direction of Dunbar-
ton. The peculiar noise enabled the friends to
recognize it as made by a heavy, lumbering
farmer's wagon. The team was proceeding on
GROPING IN DARKNESS.
A few minutes later some one shouted:
Halloo, there what's the matter? "
The voice was recognized as that of Mr.
Marston, whom they intended to ask to join
Instantly a hope was aroused that he might
be able to tell them something of Nellie. Mr.
Layton called back, saying they were friends,
and asking whether the farmer had seen any-
thing of Nellie Ribsam.
At this Mr. Marston whipped up his horses,
which were showing some fear of the twinkling
lanterns, and halted when opposite to the
party of searchers.
"My gracious! is she lost ?" asked the
good man, forgetting the anguish of his
friends in his own curiosity.
"Yes, she started up this road this after-
noon toward Dunbarton to meet her brother,
who was returning, but, somehow or other,
missed him, and we are all anxious about her."
My gracious alive! I should think you
would be: it would drive my wife and me
crazy if our Lizzie should be lost in the
54 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
"I suppose, from the way you talk," con-
tinued the teacher, that you have seen noth-
ing of her?"
"No, I wish I had, for I tell you these
woods are a bad place for a little girl to get
lost in. Last March, when we had an inch
of snow on the ground, I seen tracks that I
knowed was made by a bear, and a mighty big
one, too, and-"
But just then a half-smothered moan from
the mother warned the thoughtless neighbor
that he was giving anything but comfort to
the afflicted parents.
"I beg pardon," he hastened to say, in an
awkward attempt to apologize; "come to
think, I am sure that it wasn't a bear, but
some big dog; you know a large dog makes
tracks which can be mistook very easy for
those of a bear. I'll hurry on home and put
up my team and git the lantern and come
back and help you."
And Mr. Marston, who meant well, whipped
up his horses, and his wagon rattled down the
road as he hastened homeward.
AN ALARMING DISCOVERY.
BY this time the searching party began to
realize the difficulties in the path of their
If, as was believed, or rather hoped, Nellie
had fallen asleep in the woods, they were
liable to pass within a dozen feet of where
she lay without discovering the fact. Should
they call to her, or should Nick emit his re-
sounding signal whistle, she might be awak-
ened, provided only such a brief space sepa-
rated them, but the chances were scarcely one
in a thousand that they would be so fortunate.
This view, at the worst, was a favorable one,
and behind it rose the phantoms that caused
all to shudder with a dread which they dared
Only a short distance farther they came
upon another path which diverged from the
side of the road, returning a little ways
56 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
beyond. There, an unusually careful search
was made, and Nick almost split his cheeks
in his efforts to send his penetrating whistle
throughout the surrounding country. The
three men also called out the name of Nellie
in their loudest tones, but 'nothing except the
hollow echoes came back to them.
Nick examined the face of his father's
watch by the light of the lantern he carried,
and saw that it lacked but a few minutes of
nine. They had been searching for the lost
child, as this proved, for nearly two hours.
It seems to me," said Mr. Layton, as the
party came to a halt, "that we are not likely
to accomplish anything by hunting in this
What better can we do i" asked Mr. Kil-
"Thus far we have been forced to confine
ourselves to the road, excepting when we
diverge a few feet: this renders our work
about the same as if done by a single person.
What I propose, therefore, is that we sepa-
"How will that help us?"
AN ALARMING DISCOVERY.
"It may not, but we shall cover three or
four times the amount of space (I judge Mrs.
Ribsam would prefer to remain with her hus-
band and son on account of the single lantern),
and it follows that some one of us must pass
closer to the spot where Nellie is lying."
This seemed a sensible suggestion, and the
two men turned to the afflicted father to learn
what he thought of it.
He shook his head.
"Not yet,-not yet; we goes a leetle fur-
Nothing was added by way of explanation,
and yet even little Nick knew why he had
protested: he wished that all might keep
together until they reached the creek. If
nothing was learned of his child there, then
he would follow the plan of the teacher.
But something seemed to whisper to the
parent that the place where they would gain
tidings of little Nellie was near that dark,
flowing water, which, like such streams,
seemed to be always reaching out for some one
to strangle in its depths.
"Perhaps Mr. Ribsam is right," said the
58 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
teacher, after a silence which was oppressive
even though brief; "we will keep each other's
company, for it is lonely work tramping
through the woods, where there is no beaten
path to follow."
Thereupon the strange procession resumed
its march toward the distant town of Dunbar-
ton, pausing at short intervals to call and
signal to the missing one.
It was a vast relief to all that the weather
continued so mild and pleasant. In the earlier
part of the day there were some signs of an
approaching storm, but the signs had vanished
and the night was one of the most pleasant
seen in September.
Had the rain begun to fall, or had the tem-
perature lowered, the mother would have been
distracted, for nothing could have lessened the
pangs caused by her knowledge that her dar-
ling one was suffering. The true mother lives
for her children, and their joys and sorrows
Whenever the wind rustled among the
branches around them she shuddered and in-
stinctively drew her own shawl closer about
AN ALARMING DISCOVERY.
her shoulder; she would have given a year's
toil could she have wrapped the thick woolen
garment about the tiny form of her loved one,
who never seemed so dear to her as then.
"Gustav," she whispered, twitching his
elbow, I want to speak one word to you."
"Speak out; they cannot understand us,"
he answered, alluding to the fact that they
were using their own language.
Yes, but I don't want Nick to know what
The husband thereupon fell back beside her,
and in a tremulous voice she said:
"Do you remember when Nellie was three
years old "
S"Of course I remember further back than
that: why do you ask ?"
"When she had the fever and was getting
"Yes, I cannot forget it; poor girl, her
cheeks were so hot I could almost light a
match by them; but, thank God, she got over
"You remember, Gustav, how cross she was
and how hard it was to please her? "
60 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
But that was because she was sick; when
she was well, then she laughed all the time,
just like Nick when he don't feel bad."
But-but," and there was an unmistakable
tremor in the voice, "one day when she was
cross she asked for a drink of water; Nick
was sitting in the room and jumped up and
brought it to her, but she was so out of humor
she shook her head and would not take it
from him; she was determined I should hand
it to her. I thought she was unreasonable and
I told Nick to set it on the bureau, and I let
Nellie know she shouldn't have it unless she
took it from him; I meant that I wouldn't
hand it to her and thereby humor her im-
patience. She cried, but she was too stubborn
to give in, and I refused to hand her the
water. Nick felt so bad he left the room, and
I was sorry; but Nellie was getting well, and
I was resolved to be firm with her. She was
very thirsty, for her fever was a terrible one.
I was tired and dropped into a doze. By-and-
by I heard Nellie's bare feet pattering on the
floor, and softly opening my eyes, without stir-
ring, I saw her walk hastily to the bureau,
AN ALARMING DISCOVERY.
catch hold of the tumbler and she drank every
drop of water in it. She was so weak and
dizzy that she staggered back and threw her-
self on the bed like one almost dead. The
next day she was worse, and we thought we
were going to lose her. You saw how hard I
cried, but most of my tears were caused by
the remembrance of my cruelty to her the
"But, Katrina, you did right," said the
father, who heard the affecting incident for
the first time. It won't do to humor chil-
dren so much: it will spoil them."
"That may be, but I cannot help thinking
of that all the time; it would have done no
harm to humor Nellie that time, for she was a
You speak truth, but- "
The poor father, who tried so bravely to keep
up, broke down and was unable to speak.
The story touched him as much as it did the
Never mind, Katrina- "
At that moment Nick called out:
Here's the bridge! "
62 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
The structure loomed through the gloom as
it was dimly lighted by the lanterns, and all
walked rapidly forward until they stood upon
the rough planking.
Suddenly the mother uttered a cry, and
stooping down snatched up something from the
ground close to the planks.
The startled friends looked affrightedly to-
ward her, and saw that she held the lunch
basket of her little daughter in her hand.
ON the very edge of the bridge over
Shark Creek, the mother of Nellie Rib-
sam picked up the lunch basket which her
daughter had taken to. school that morning.
It lay on its side, with the snowy napkin
partly out, and within it was a piece of brown
bread which the parent had spread with golden
butter, and which was partly eaten.
No wonder the afflicted woman uttered a
half-suppressed scream when she picked up
what seemed a memento of her dead child.
While the lanterns were held in a circle
around the basket, which the father took from
his wife, Mr. Ribsam lifted the piece of bread
in his hand. There were the prints made by
the strong white teeth of little Nellie, and
there was not a dry eye when all gazed upon
the food, which the father softly returned to
the basket and reverently covered with the
64 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
No one ventured to speak, but the thoughts
of all were the same.
Stepping to the railing at the side of the
bridge Mr. Layton held his lantern over, Nick
and Mr. Kilgore immediately doing the same.
The rays extended right and left and far
enough downward to reach the stream, which
could be seen, dark and quiet, flowing beneath
and away through the woods to the big pond,
a quarter of a mile below.
In the oppressive stillness the soft rustling
of the water was heard as it eddied about a
small root which grew out from the shore, and
a tiny fish, which may have been attracted by
the yellow rays, leaped a few inches above the
surface and fell back with a splash which
startled those who were peering over the rail-
ing of the structure.
The trees grew close to the water's edge, and
as the trunks were dimly revealed they looked
as if they were keeping watch over the deep
creek that flowed between.
The five were now searching for that which
they did not wish to find; they dreaded, with
an unspeakable dread, the sight of the white
face turned upward, with the abundant hair
floating about the dimpled shoulders.
Thank heaven, that sight was spared them;
nothing of the kind was seen, and a sigh
escaped from each.
We are all tortured by the thought that
Nellie has fallen into the creek and been
drowned," said the teacher ; "but I cannot see
any grounds for such fear."
The yearning looks of the parents and brother
caused the teacher to explain more fully.
"No child, unless a very stupid one, would
stumble from this bridge, and there could have
been no circumstances which in my judgment
would have brought such a mishap to Nellie."
This sounded reasonable enough, but:
De basket,-vot of dot ?" asked the
She has dropped that from some cause;
but that of itself is a favorable sign, for had
she fallen accidentally into the water she would
have taken it with her."
This sounded as if true, but it did not re-
move the fears of any one. Even he who
uttered the words could not bring himself fully
66 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
to believe in their truth, for none knew better
than he that the evil one himself seems to con-
spire with guns and pistols that appear to be
unloaded, and with water which is thought to
All wanted to place faith in the declaration,
and no protest was uttered. As nothing was
to be seen or learned where they stood, they
crossed the bridge and descended the wooded
slope until they reached the edge of the
stream, which wound its. way through the
woods to the big pond.
Every heart was throbbing painfully and no
one spoke: there was no need of it, for no com-
fort could be gained therefrom.
Mr. Layton and Kilgore moved carefully up
the creek, while Nick and his parents walked
toward the pond, which lay to the left.
The two wished to be apart from the others
that they might consult without danger of
being overheard by those whose hearts were
suffering so much anguish.
"It's very strange," said Mr. Kilgore, "that
the basket should be found on the bridge:
what do you make of it, Mr. Layton ?"
The teacher shook his head.
"It is strange, indeed; had there been no
water in the creek you could have set it down
as certain that the child had not fallen from it,,
but, as she could not have done so without
drowning, I am inclined to think-"
The instructor hesitated, as if afraid to pro-
nounce the dreadful words.
"You think she is drowned said his
friend, supplying the answer with his own
Mr. Layton nodded his head by way of reply,
and, holding the lanterns in front, they began
groping their way along the margin of the creek.
By raising the lights above their heads the
rays reached the opposite bank, lighting up
the water between. This was unusually clear,
and they could see the bottom some distance
Both felt that if the body was floating any-
where they could not fail to see it, though the
probabilities were that it was already far below
them, and would be first discovered by the
parents and brother.
"Halloa!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Lay-
68 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
ton, lowering his lantern close to the ground,
"I don't like that."
By way of explanation, he pointed to the
damp soil where no vegetation grew: it was
directly in front and close to the water, being
that portion which was frequently swept by
the creek when above its present level.
Parallel to the stream, for a distance of
several rods or so, were a number of imprints
in the yielding earth, which the first glance
showed were made by some large animal.
"It must have been a dog," ventured the
teacher, who had little practical knowledge of
the animals of the wood.
Mr. Kilgore shook his head.
"'It was a bear; there can be no mistake about
it. Mr. Marston was right; it was the track
of a similar animal which he saw last March."
"You are not mistaken, Mr. Kilgore ?"
The farmer answered impatiently:
"I have hunted bears too often to be mis-
taken; I can tell their trail among a hundred
others, and the one which went along here a
little while ago was one of the largest of his
THE LITTLE WANDERER.
A LTHOUGH Nellie Ribsam was only eight
years old at the time she was lost in
the big woods, yet the results of the training
received from her sensible father and mother
showed themselves in a marked degree on that
She had been taught, as was her brother,
that under heaven she must rely upon herself
to get forward in the world. Nick was rarely
if ever allowed to extend her a helping hand in
her lessons, and she was given to understand
that whatever was possible for her to do must
be done without the aid of any one.
As for sitting down and crying when in
trouble, without making any effort to help her-
self, she knew better than to try that when
either her father or mother were likely to find
Her intention, when she left school that
70 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
afternoon before the session closed, was to
keep on in the direction of Dunbarton until
she met Nick returning.
She turned off at the forks, and did not
lessen her gait until she reached the woods.
Her rapid walking caused her to feel quite
warm, and the cool shade of the woods was
She began wandering aimlessly forward,
swinging her hat in her hand, singing snatches
of school songs, and feeling just as happy as a
little girl can feel who is in bounding health,
high spirits, and without an accusing con-
It was not the time of year for flowers, and
Nellie knew better than to look for any.
They had drooped and died long ago; but
some of the leaves were turning on the trees,
and they gave a peculiar beauty to the au-
At intervals she caught sight of the cleanly,
symmetrical maple, with some of its leaves
turning a fiery red and looking like flecks of
flame through the intervening vegetation. At
the least rustling of the wind some of the
THE LITTLE WANDERER.
leaves came fluttering downward as lightly as
flakes of snow; the little brown squirrel
scampered up the shaggy trunks and out
upon the limbs, where, perching on his hind
legs, he peeped mischievously down at the girl,
as if inviting her to play hide-and-seek with
him; now and then a rabbit, fat and awkward
from his gluttony on the richness around him,
jumped softly a few steps, then munched rap-
idly with his jaws, flapped his long silken
ears, looked slyly around with his big, pretty
eyes, and, as the girl made a rush toward him,
he was off like a shot.
The woods were fragrant with ripening
grapes and decaying vegetation, and were put-
ting on a garb whose flaming splendor sur-
passed the hues of spring.
Indeed, everything conspired to win a boy
or girl away from study or work, and to cause
the wish on the part of both that they might
be a bird or squirrel, with no thought of the
responsibilities of life.
Nellie Ribsam forgot for the time every-
thing else except her own enjoyment; but by-
and-by the woods took on such tempting looks
72 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
that she turned off from the highway she had
been following, with the intention of taking a
stroll, which she meant should not lead her out
of sight of the road.
The first view which stopped her was that of
a large vine of wild grapes.
Some of them were green, some turning,
while others were a dark purple, showing they
were fully ripe: the last, as a matter of course,
were at the top.
These wild grapes were small and tart, in-
ferior to those which grew in the yard of
Nellie at home; but they seemed to be trying
to hide in the woods, and they were hard to
get, therefore they were more to be desired than
the choicest Catawba, Isabella, or Concord.
The main vine, where it started from the
ground, was as thick as a man's wrist, and it
twisted and wound about an oak sapling as if
it were a great African constrictor seeking to
strangle the young tree. Other vines branched
out from the sides until not only was the par-
ticular sapling enfolded and smothered, but
the greedy vine reached out and grasped
others growing near it.
THE LITTLE WANDERER.
Nellie felt like the fox who found the
grapes more tempting the longer he looked
"I'm going to have some of them," she
said, and straightway proceeded to help her-
She climbed as readily as Nick himself
could have done, and never stopped until she
was so high that the sapling bent far over with
her weight. Then she reached out her chubby
hand and plucked a cluster of the wild fruit.
They were about the size of buckshot, and
when her sound teeth shut down on them, the
juice was so sour that she shut both eyes and
felt a twinge at the crown of her head as
though she had taken a sniff of the spirits of
But the grapes were none the less delicious
for all that; the fact that there seemed to be
something forbidden about them added a
flavor that nothing else could give.
Nellie had managed to crush a handful of
the vinegar-like globules, when she caught
sight of another vine deeper in the woods. It
was much larger and climbed fully a dozen
74 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
yards from the ground, winding in and out
among the limbs of a ridgy beech, which
seemed to be forever struggling upward to get
away from the smothering embrace of the
Five minutes later, Nellie was clambering
upward like a monkey, never pausing until
the bending tree-top warned her that if she
went any higher it would yield to her weight.
Nellie disposed of one bunch.and that was
enough: she concluded that she was not very
hungry for grapes and, without eating or even
gathering more, she devoted herself to another
kind of enjoyment.
Standing with one foot on a limb and the
other on one near it, she grasped a branch
above her and began swaying back and forth,
with the vim and abandon of a child in a
The tree bent far over as she swung out-
ward, then straightened up and inclined the
other way as her weight passed over to that
side. Any one looking at the picture would
have said that a general smash and giving
away were certain, in which case the girl was
TIE LITTLE WANDERER.
sure to go spinning through the limbs and
branches, as though driven forth by the
springs within the big gun which fling the
young lady outward just as the showman
touches off some powder.
But a green sapling is very elastic, and,
although the one climbed by Nellie bent back
and forth like a bow, it did not give way.
Her hair streamed from her head, and there
was a thrilling feeling as the wind whistled by
her ears, and she seemed to be shooting like a
bird through space.
All this was well enough, and it was no
more than natural that Nellie should have for-
gotten several important facts: she was so far
from the highway that she could not see any
one passing over it; the rush of the wind in
her ears shut out sounds that otherwise would
have been noticed, and she had gone so far
and had lingered so long by the way that it
was time to look for Nick on his return from
Dunbarton, even though he was later than he
expected to be.
It was while she was swinging in this wild
fashion that her brother drove by on his way
76 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
home, without either suspecting how close
they were to each other.
Nellie displayed a natural, childish thought-
lessness by keeping up this sport for a half
hour longer, when she came down to the
ground, simply because she was tired of the
Although out of sight of the road she man-
aged to find her way back to it without
trouble. With her lunch basket in hand, she
continued in the direction of Dunbarton,
taking several mouthfuls of the bread which
had been left over at noon.
In this aimless manner she strolled forward,
stopping now and then to look at the squirrel
or rabbit or the yellow-hued warbler, the
noisy and swift-flying finch, the russet-coated
thrush, or dark brown and mottled wood-
pecker, as his head rattled against the bark of
the tree trunks, into which he bored in quest
The first real surprise of the girl came when
she reached the bridge. This proved that she
was more than four miles from home, a distance
much greater than she had suspected.
THE LITTLE WANDERER.
Where can Nick be? she asked herself,
never once thinking that they might have
missed each other when she was swinging in
the tree-top. It struck her that the day was
nearly gone, for she noticed the gathering twi-
light diffusing itself through the forest.
I don't think I will go any farther," she
said; "Nick will be along pretty soon, and
I'll wait here for him."
Standing on the bridge and looking down
the road and listening for the sound of the
carriage wheels were tiresome to one of Nellie's
active habits, and it was not long before she
broke off some of the bread, set down her lunch
basket, and then dropped some crumbs into
As they struck the surface, sending out
little rings toward the shore, several tiny fish
came up after the food. Nellie laughed out-
right, and, in her eagerness, was careless of
how she threw the crumbs, most of which fell
upon the bank.
It occurred to her that she could do better
by going down to the edge of the stream,
where she would not mistake her aim.
78 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
Childlike, she did not pause to think of
the wrong of so doing, for she ought to have
known that her parents never would have con-
sented to such an act.
Just there, Nellie, like many another little
girl, made a great mistake.
IN GREAT DANGER.
A LITTLE child is like a butterfly, think
ing only of the pleasures of the moment.
Nellie Ribsam came down close to the edge
of the creek and threw some crumbs out upon
the surface. In the clear water she could see
the shadowy figures of the minnows, as they
glided upward and snapped at the morsels.
She became so interested in the sport that
she kept walking down the bank of the
stream, flinging out the crumbs until there was
none left in her hand; then she debated
whether she should go back after her lunch
basket or wait where she was until Nick
appeared on the bridge.
"It's a bother to carry the basket with me,"
she said to herself ; "I had to leave it on the
ground when I was after grapes, so I'll wait
till Nick comes, and then I'll call to him.
Won't he be scared when he sees me down
80 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
From where she stood, she observed the
bridge above her head, and consequently Nick
could look directly down upon her whenever
he should reach the structure.
Nellie felt that she would like to go on
down the creek to the big pond into which it
emptied ; but she knew better than to do that,
for she would be certain to miss her big
brother, and it was already beginning to
grow dark around her.
"I wonder what makes Nick so long," she
said to herself, as she sat down on a fallen
tree; "I'm so tired that I never can walk the
four miles home."
She had sat thus only a brief while, when
her head began to droop; her bright eyes
grew dull, then closed, and leaning against a
limb which put out from the fallen tree, on
which she was sitting, she sank into the sweet,
dreamless sleep of childhood and health.
Had she not been disturbed she would not
have wakened until the sun rose, but at the
end of an hour, an involuntary movement of
the head caused it to slip off the limb against
which it was resting with such a shock that
IN GREAT DANGER.
instantly she was as wide awake as though it
Ah, but when she sprang to her feet and
stared about her in the gloom she was dread-
She was quick-witted enough to understand
where she was and how it had all come about.
The gibbous moon was directly overhead, and
shone down upon her with unobstructed full-
Nick has gone over the bridge while I was
asleep," was her instant conclusion; "and
father and mother will be worried about me."
Her decision as to what she should do could
not but be the one thing-that was to climb
back up the bank to the bridge, cross it, and
There was a little throbbing of the heart,
when she reflected that she had several miles
to travel, most of which was through the
gloomy woods; but there was no hesitation on
the part of Nellie, who, but for the sturdy
teaching of her parents, would have crouched
down beside the log and sobbed in terror until
she sank into slumber through sheer exhaustion.
82 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
I have been a bad girl," she said to herself,
as she reflected on her thoughtlessness ; and
mother will whip me, for I know she ought to;
and mother alwrnyi- does what she ought to
There was no room for doubt in the mind of
the child, for she understood the nature of her
parents as well as any child could understand
that of its guardian.
Nellie was some distance below the point
where the bridge spanned the creek, but she
could see the dim outlines of the structure as
she started toward it. It seemed higher than
usual, but that was because the circumstances
were different from any in which she had ever
The little one was making her way as best
she could along the stream in the direction of
the bridge, when she was frightened almost
out of her senses by hearing a loud, sniffing
growl from some point just ahead of her.
It was a sound that would have startled the
bravest man, and Nellie was transfixed for the
moment. She did not turn and run, nor did
the sink in a swoon to the ground, but she
IN GREAT DANGER.
stood just where she had stopped, until she
could find out what it meant.
She was not kept long in waiting, for in less
than a minute the noise was repeated, and at
the same moment she caught the outlines of a
huge black bear swinging along toward her.
He was coming down the bed of the creek,
with his awkward, ponderous tread, and when
seen by Nellie was within fifty feet of her.
When it is remembered that he was of un-
usual size and proceeding straight toward the
child, it seems impossible that she should have
done anything at all to help herself. The
sight was enough to deprive her of the power
of motion and speech.
But it was in such a crisis as this that little
Nellie Ribsam showed that she had not for-
gotten the teaching of her parents: God helps
them that help themselves."
With scarcely a second's pause, she whirled
on her heel and dashed down the stream with
the utmost speed at her command.
The bear could not have failed to see her,
though it is not to be supposed that he was
looking for the little girl when he first came
84 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
that way. Furthermore, had the chase lasted
several minutes Nellie must have fallen a vic-
tim to the savage animal.
It required no instruction to teach her that
there was but one way in which she could
escape, and that was by climbing a tree. Had
there been a large one near at hand she would
have ascended that as quickly as possible;
but, fortunately, the first one to which she fled
was a sapling, no larger than those she had
climbed during the afternoon, and no one
could have clambered to the highest point
attainable quicker than did the frightened
Had she been a veteran hunter, Nellie could
not have made a better selection, for she was
fully twenty feet from the ground, and as much
beyond the reach of the bear as though she
were in her trundle-bed at home.
But the -position was a frightful one to her,
and for several minutes she believed the ani-
mal would tear the tree down and destroy her.
I have done all I can for myself," she mur-
mured, recalling the instruction of her parents,
"and now God will do the rest."
IN GREAT DANGER.
Beautiful, trusting faith of childhood! Of
such, indeed, is the kingdom of heaven.
The huge bear, which from some cause or
other had ventured from the recesses of the
wood, was but a short distance behind the
little wanderer when she climbed so hastily be-
yond his reach. He acted as though he was
somewhat bewildered by the unusual scene of a
small child fleeing from him, but nothing is so
tempting to pursuit as the sight of some one
running from us, and the brute galloped after
Nellie with an evident determination to cap-
ture her, if the thing could be done.
When he found the child had eluded him
for the time, he sat down on his haunches and
looked upward, as though he intended to wait
till she would be compelled to descend and
The small tree in which Nellie had taken
refuge was several yards from the edge of the
stream, the bank sloping so steeply that the
water never reached the base, excepting during
It was a chestnut, whose smooth bark rendered
it all the more difficult to climb, but Nellie
86 rIHROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
went up it as rapidly as a man ascends tele-
graph poles with the spikes strapped to his
The bear clawed the bark a little while, as a
cr t is sometimes seen to do when "stretching"
herself, and it was during these few minutes
that the girl thought nothing could save her
"rom falling into his clutches.
When he ceased, she peered downward
through the branches, and could just see the
massy animal near the base of the tree, as if
asking himself what was the next best thing
It will be admitted that the situation of
Nellie Ribsam was one in which few children
of her tender years are ever placed. -Happy it
is, indeed, that it is so, for what one in a
thousand would have retained her self-posses-
In explanation, it may be doubted indeed
whether Nellie fully comprehended her peril.
Had she been older, her consternation, doubt-
less, would have been greater, as the emotion
she showed some years later, when placed in
great danger, would seem to prove.
IN GREAT DANGER. 87
But there was one fact of which she was
firmly convinced: she had complied with her
father's instructions, for, as has been shown,
she put forth every possible exertion to save
herself, and now she called on Heaven to assist
Perched in the top of the tree, with the
enormous bear sitting beneath and looking
hungrily upward, she prayed:
Heavenly Father, please take care of me
and don't let that big bear catch me; don't
let papa and mamma feel too bad, and please
make the bad bear go away and let me alone."
"GOTT SEI DANK! "
T HE prayer of little Nellie Ribsam-so far
as it related to herself-was answered.
She secured her seat, as best she could, in
the branches of the chestnut sapling, and, by
arranging her dress and the yielding limbs with
considerable skill, she made herself quite com-
The trying situation in which she was placed,
it would be thought, was enough to drive
away all disposition to sleep, but at the end of
less than half an hour the little head was nod-
ding again, and, forgetful of her peril, her
senses soon left her.
It will be understood that the danger of the
young wanderer was rendered all the greater
by this loss of consciousness, for her muscles
would relax in slumber, and, unless her posi-
tion was unusually secure, -she was certain to
"GOTT SEI DANK I"
But that gracious Father in whom she so
implicitly trusted watched over the little one,
and she remained as though seated in the
broad rocking-chair at home.
When at last she moved slightly and was on
the point of losing her balance, she awoke so
quickly that she saved herself just in the nick
She was shocked and startled, but regaining
her breath she held fast with one hand while
she parted the branches with the other and
carefully peered down among the limbs.
He is gone !" was her joyous exclamation;
I knew the Lord would make him go away,
because I asked him to."
She was right: the bear had vanished, and
'all danger from that source for the time had
The brute probably found enough to eat
without waiting for little girls to fall into his
clutches. As he had never been known to
trouble any one in the neighborhood, it was
reasonable to believe that he got all he wanted
without venturing away from the depths of
the woods, and rousing an ill-will against
90 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
himself that would speedily result in his
Nellie did not feel surprised at all, for, as I
have shown, she had the faith to believe that
her prayer would be answered.
"Now I will go down to the ground and
start for home. I guess the bear isn't far off,
but the Lord will not let him hurt me."
She carefully descended the tree and stood
on the ground a minute later. She found that
her dress was torn and she had lost part of the
ribbon from her hat. This troubled her more
than anything else, for her frugal mother had
told her many a time that she must take the
best care of her clothing.
"I was so scared that I forgot to look out,"
she said to herself, after taking an inventory
of the damages; "but I guess mother will
excuse me for losing the ribbon, though I
know she won't for coming so far into the
woods without permission."
She now set out resolutely for the bridge,
determined to lose no more time in reaching
home. As is the rule, the brief space she had
passed in sleep seemed three times as long as
" GOTT SEI DANK "
was actually the case, and she thought it must
be near morning.
She had gone but a short distance when she
stopped with another shock of affright.
My gracious what can that be ?"
A point of light appeared between her and
the bridge, flickering about like an ignis-
fatuus or jack-o'-lantern. Nellie felt like
taking to the tree again, but she bravely stood
her ground until she could satisfy her curiosity
as to its nature.
Watching it closely she observed shadowy
figures flitting around the light in a curious
and grotesque way. She was in greater doubt
than ever, when she heard voices.
"I think I saw her tracks, but I couldn't be
sure ; Nellie knows too much to walk or fall
into the deep water."
"I hope so, but my heart misgives me
sorely. God be merciful, for if she is lost I
can never recover "
The first speaker was Nick Ribsam, and the
second wao the father, the mother immediately
"Why the poor child came here is more
92 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
than I can understand, but He doeth all things
Oh, mother! Oh, father! Oh, Nic It
is I, Nellie I am so glad to see you !"
And the little wanderer flew like the wind
along the bank of the creek. The mother was
the first to recognize the voice, and rushing
forward she caught her child in her arms, mur-
muring in her own language:
"Mein Kind! Mein Kind! Gott sei
Dank!" (My child! My child! God be
"Mein lieber Nellie! Komm an mein Herz*!
Kannst du es sein (My dear Nellie!
Come to my, heart! Can it be you?) ex-
claimed the overjoyed father.
"0 meine abtriinnige Schwester! Wie dil
uns erschreckt hast! WTie es mich freut dich
zu finden !" (Oh, my truant sister What a
scare you have given us How glad I am to
find you!) shouted Nick.
And the child that was lost and was found
was hugged first by mother, then by father,
and then by Nick, and then all strove to get
.hold of her at the same time, till the brother -
S qGOTT SEI DANK "
ceased,'through fear that she would be torn
Nellie was laughing and crying, and wonder-
ing why it was such commotion was caused by
her return to her folks.
Mr. Layton and Kilgore heard the tumult,
and knew what it meant. A few minutes
brought them to the spot, and, though their
greeting was less demonstrative, their eyes
filled with tears over the exceeding joy of the
When the excitement had subsided some-
what, the group listened to the story of Nellie.
She told it in her childish, straightforward
nianner, and it was all the more impressive on
The listeners were greatly touched ; but the
probability that a large bear was in the neigh-
borhood hastened their footsteps and they lost
no time in hurrying away.
When they reached the highway above,
crossed the bridge, and had gone some dis-
tance on their way home, they began to feel
there was nothing to be feared from the ani-
imal. Mr. Layton referred to the tracks of the
94 THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE.
beast which they had noticed when hunting
for Nellie, but said he would never have men-
tioned it until the fate of the girl became
known; for the suggestions which must have
followed were too dreadful.
Nothing was seen of the animal, however,
and, as the distance from the bridge was in-
creased, the party finally gave up all thought
and conversation respecting it.
There was a grateful household that night,
when, at a late hour, they gathered about the
family altar and the head returned thanks to
Him who had been so merciful to them and
The happy mother held the daughter in
her arms all night, while they both slept;
and when the parent awoke, now and then,
through the darkness, she shuddered, pressed
the little one closer to her and kissed the
chubby cheek, on which her former tears had
not yet dried.
But Katrina Ribsam was none the less an
affectionate mother when, several days later,
she called Nellie to her knee and told her how
wrongly she had acted in venturing on such a
"GOTT SEI DANK! 95
dangerous tramp without asking permission
from her parents.
Nellie said she knew it, and wondered why
it was her mother delayed the punishment so
long. She was ready, and loved and respected
her mother the more for administering it.
But truth compels me to say that the chas-
tisement was given with such a gentle hand
that it was hardly worth the name, and the
mother herself suffered far more than did the
child, who to this day is not conscious that she
received anything like physical pain.