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does. The trap in the hollow end is the best, but the others
just at the ends are mighty good, too. And mind you,
never set crossways to a path or hole or trail. The jaws of
the trap don't close fair and square, that way. Set 'em
lengthways." Bob cannily stored this information away in
his mind for future use. Clearly there was a good deal
more to this trapping game than just tramping about in
the cold carrying a lot of heavy traps and chains and
things. Incidentally, Bob needed some pelts as well as
Dave. Pelts meant money. With enough of them, he
might be able to save up toward a new saddle. There
was another long pause, then Bob spoke again.

"Say, Davey, how much do you think we'll be able to
get for our pelts this year? I guess it all depends on how
many we catch and how good they are, doesn't it? Pity
we didn't begin regular trapping like this last year."

"They always want good skins, the men that buy for
the towns. Some regular trappers make a fortune, most,
selling to 'em but they're lots further back in the woods
than we could go, those real trappers. Over at the inn at
Newtown Square, they'll buy pelts from us, though. AIL



32 SANDY FLASH

we can get hold of. I was talking to the landlord there
about it, when you were busy with Burgandine. He said
he'd gladly take our furs and pay us best he could for the
good ones. When I asked what kind fetched the most,
he said beaver and otter. But they're hard to find as an
eel's foot!" Dave laughed, then spoke more seriously
again. "Let's get to work and catch an otter. There must
be some of 'em left hereabouts, I'll bet. And we might
even get a beaver, if we tried hard enough to find their
dam. An otter's the hardest of them all to trap, though.
Come on! My! If it wasn't war time, we could make
lots of money." The boys moved off in silence.

Hunting Hill in Edgemont was a good way from home,
but Bob had agreed to ride over on his horse from Syca-
more Mills now and then during the week days to look
at the trap line there, with the understanding that the
pelts won be divided equally between him and his chum.
Dave's share in the work lay in overseeing the setting of
the line and visiting it on weekends when he, too, could
be spared from farm chores.

The lads soon left the coon sets behind, working a short
distance down-stream. Then they turned back and ap-
proached a sweep in Ridley where the waters swung
through a meadow that sloped up to the winter skyline
on their left. The trees rose sharply across the clearing,
covering to its very top a high cone-shaped hill. The
height was nearly an eighth of a mile away. The waters
of Ridley, six or seven yards in width, swept round the
base of it. That was the goal of their trapping Hunt-
ing Hill in Edgemont, known from the days of the Lenni-
Lenape Indians as a covert for game. On the summit of



THE TRAPS 33

the same eminence they had rescued Peter Burgandine
that very morning. Neither boy had thought for that
now, however.

Dave had never trapped in this neighborhood before,
although he had trudged over the hill on the west bank
of Ridley many times and found game signs aplenty.
His dark eyes began to glow with that sharp, keen passion
of the chase that had come down to him from the mists of
the past a heritage of unconquered generations who had
stalked and hunted for their livelihood on the hills of far-
off Wales. There was nothing moody about him now.
Even Bob, familiar as he was with his chum's ways, could
not fail to notice the eagerness that began to set the
younger lad a-quiver.

"Bet I find signs before you do, Bob," whispered the
excited boy, lowering his voice unconsciously, as though
he were stalking. "Bet I do ! I know I will because "

"Should think you might, seeing you tramped over this
way just before the snow. I say, Dave, you're keen as
mustard, all right, when it comes to trapping. Puts me in
mind of a terrier after a rat! Must be lots of game here;
it's wild enough. See all those rabbit tracks criss-cross-
ing? And look at that big hawk yonder ! There it goes
into the wood!" Bob Allyn pointed ahead to where the
brook disappeared in the forest at the foot of Hunting
Hill. The great roving bird of prey glided from view,
uttering the shrill challenge of its kind the questing call
of a hawk.

Dave did not answer. The boy had suddenly come to
a halt, gazing at a patch of briers close at hand. Bob,
noting the action, froze stockstill beside him, thinking his



34 SANDY FLASH

companion had sighted game. Though they had no guns
along, the traps being heavy enough as it was, yet it
would be fine sport to stalk a bit just for practice, if they
came close enough upon anything worth while.

Following Dave's gaze, the older boy could detect noth-
ing. The open meadow lay before them; the little clump
of thorns and greenbriers stood bare against the back-
ground of snow. Bob waited while Dave ran forward a
few steps. Then he followed.

"I say, Dave! What in the world ails you?"

"Nothing. Thought that sapling looked sprung, bu
there's nothing on it." Dave's voice showed ill-covered
disappointment. "This is where I made that rabbit snare
I was telling you of, Bob. I saw it'd been sprung as soon
as we came out of the Woods and I wanted to see how
close you'd come to it before you saw the rabbit." He
broke off with a dry laugh. "But there wasn't any rabbit !
He must have touched it and gotten away. Look at the
snow all knocked off the bushes? I tried awfully hard to
make a good snare, too. Right in a regular rabbit run
through these briers. See the tracks everywhere?" He
reached up to examine the dangling loop.

"Oh, well, a fellow can't make a catch every time.
Just like breaking a colt. Takes a deal of patience,
Davey. Let's set it again and go on," consoled Bob.
"That otter and beaver business sounds pretty well worth
while to me. I've been thinking it over all along through
the woods. If we could get an otter, it'd be better than
all the rabbits from Edgemont to Chichester! I'm going
to try for one, anyway." He watched Dave as the latter
rapidly set the rabbit snare in place.



THE TRAPS 35

"You're right about the pelts. A rabbit skin isn't
worth a fippeny bit for anything I know of," said Dave,
"but it takes skill to snare 'em just the same and we can
use all the meat we can get. You don't suppose I'd trap
at all, do you, if we didn't need the food and the hides?"
Dave worked at the trap among the briers. "That's why
I wanted to get one in a sapling snare to-day. I've often
got 'em that way before. Fresh rabbit is mighty good,
when my mother broils it, I can tell you!"

As he was speaking, the boy bent down the tough,
springy young hickory and cleverly fastened its top close
to the ground with a couple of forked sticks set so that
when one of them was moved at all it released the other
and allowed the sapling to spring upright. The noose
made fast to the hickory, was a simple affair of thin hair-
woven cord amazingly tough, so spread that when the
tree sprang, the loop would instantly draw tight about
the neck or body of the animal that had caused the sticks
to fall and the trap to be sprung. Dave set this cord loop
carefully in an opening between the briers. Then he
twisted a few thorn sticks so as to block the other open-
ings on either side. The working of the rabbit snare was
not unlike the well-known figure 4 trap, only instead of
a box or deadfall, the moving of the sticks resulted in the
freeing of the tree. For bait, Dave stuck a small apple
on the trigger stick. He had brought it along in his pocket
for this very purpose. As he finished the work and
straightened up from the runway, he heard an exclama-
tion of surprise from Bob, who had been following the
maze of tracks about in the snow, while he had been busy
with the apple.



3 6 SANDY FLASH

"I say! There's been more than cottontails round here,
Dave, and not so long ago at that! See here! " Bob was
on his knees pointing to a little patch of snow that lay
cupped in a hollow between two outcropping rocks. "If
that's not the mark of a boot, plain as White Horse Hill
on a clear day, I'll miss my guess. What did "

"It sure is." Dave was crouching, on the instant, low
beside his comrade, scanning the unmistakable outline of
a heavy heel. "But where's the rest of the trail? There's
snow all about."

"That's just what puzzled me while you were fixing the
bait. I saw this was a footmark all right and I knew you
couldn't have made it in your moccasins last time you
were here. Do you think "

"Sandy Flash!" Dave leaped to his feet. "He might
have"

"No, couldn't be the highwayman." The older boy's
voice was tense with excitement in spite of the calmness
he tried to put in it. "He couldn't very well be here and
up with Burgandine at the same time. And we were close
by just before that, you know. I thought of Sandy Flash
first thing till I saw it couldn't be. It might "

"Where's the rest of the trail? It doesn't seem to lead
anywhere " Dave eyed the mark.

"But there isn't any more to it. That's the puzzle!"
Bob swung his arm in a circle. "I say! Not a sign!"

Dave's answer was to jump to his feet and to look about
him with a roving sort of glance that would have delighted
the heart of a woodsman in that it quartered the ground
systematically for all its quickness. He did not need much
backwoods skill to read the story of that footprint, once



THE TRAPS 37

the beginning of it had been found. Step by step he fol-
lowed it up, as the full meaning of the legend unraveled.
Bob had failed to trace it, mostly because he had searched
too near the lone print rather than casting wide to pick
it up further away from the snare. At the edge of the
brook the tracks disappeared, but a line of boulder step-
ping stones, clean of snow, showed a way across to the
wooded bank on the other side. The boy paused, un-
certainly.

"I did have a rabbit in that snare! Sure as can be I
did, this very morning!" Dave spoke sharply, his sud-
den anger flaring quick, as he took in the signs before
him. "Some poaching thief has seen it and robbed my
set! Let's follow back again to the snare and see if we
can make any more out of it. I'd say it was Sandy Flash
in a jiffy, if it weren't we'd seen him at the inn and knew
he was with old Peter right after he got away from those
men."

At the end of fifteen minutes little more had been dis-
covered. The footmarks here and there among the rocks
showed that a man, evidently wearing boots, had come
down stream from the direction of Hunting Hill. On near-
ing the snare, he must have noticed it, as his tracks in the
snow showed that he had come to a halt. Both boys
could see that clearly, as the signs were plain at this point.
So far the trail had been easy, but it was a good twenty
yards nearer the creek than the clump of briers that hid
the clever rabbit loop. From the place where he had
stopped, the man had used some care in avoiding leaving
a trail as he approached the set an easy matter enough,
for the ground was littered with stones and boulders



38 SANDY FLASH

blown free from the dry, powdery snow. He had simply
stepped from one to the other until he had reached the
sapling, then having removed the rabbit, he must have
gone back to his original path near the brook and thence
crossed over on the stepping stones placed there at hazard
by nature.

"Somebody's poached my snare all right. It's plain
in the snow as if he'd left us a letter telling how he did it! "
Dave stopped disconsolately on the bank pushing hunks
of snow into the water with his foot. "I just knew there'd
be a rabbit in that loop. I counted on him for dinner!
It'd be fresh as a daisy, too! If he finds the other sets,
the whole trap line'll be done for. Any one low enough
to rob"

"Who do you think it could be, seeing as we've counted
Flash out of it? Would any of the fellows from Provi-
dence way or Springfield be mean enough to follow you
up and "

Small good it did the angry trappers to guess. The
proof was there that the snare had been pilfered, but who
was the poacher and how long he had been gone were
questions that could not be answered. It was already ap-
proaching evening. They had other sets to make before
hurrying home to chores and supper, so the boys, in disap-
pointment, turned once more toward Hunting Hill.

Their luck changed quickly for the better once they had
entered the denser woodland of the covert. This time it
was Bob who first saw tracks worth scanning. Glancing
about a rocky slope that rose a score of yards above the
brook, he spied a broad trail, wide apart, equidistant,
leading upward among the beeches. He was climbing



THE TRAPS 39

toward it almost before he had time to point it out to
Dave. The fever of the woodsman was getting into his
blood, too, and spurring him on. There could be no mis-
taking that track. Even Bob Allyn, untrained in the
ways of the wild, knew that few animals aside from the
skunk, dared walk so boldly and unconcerned as went
that line of steps up the hillside. The prints of the feet
were not very large, almost triangular in shape, with the
five toes forming a perfect semicircle. Earthy scratch-
ings through the light snow showed where the skunk had
sought worms among the roots, but evidently there had
been too much frost to keep him very long at work in
search of his favorite summer provender.

Dave spotted the hole first, close by the roots of a huge
beech tree. Eagerly he pointed it out to the slower climb-
ing lad who was not finding it so easy as his lighter com-
panion to scramble up the steep and slippery hill.

"There's his earth! Knew we'd come on it up here
somewheres! Didn't have to go round by Robin Hood's
barn to see it, either! We'd have smelled him long ago
if it'd been summertime. Look, Bob, he's using this hole
all right. See those black hairs stuck on the sides ! That's
proof, sure as pudding! They'd be red if a fox had the
hole. Whee! We're going to get this old codger quick
as a wink!" Dave's excitement was fast mastering him,
as Bob came panting up to the earth. "Then there'll be
lots of skunk-oil liniment. Mother was saying we needed
some mightily about the house.

"Once father got a big skunk and we made two full
quarts of oil from the fat that covered him just under the
skin. You never saw the like of it! We ought to have



40 SANDY FLASH

luck here. A skunk's awfully easy to trap, only they've
a way sometimes of gnawing their foot off. A deadfall's
really best, for it breaks their backs right away and
there's no bother with the scent. Besides, they don't suf-
fer any. But we'll put a plain trap here for luck."

Dave looked at Bob a moment strangely, then reading
the thought on the latter's frank face, he said: "Bob, you
think I'm mighty cruel, don't you? I can see you do, so
you might as well say it. But just remember this. I've
never trapped yet except when we really needed the meat
or the pelt money at home. And I've never let any ani-
mal, big or small, suffer a moment longer than I could help
it. Whenever I can, I use a deadfall and I visit the trap
lines regularly. Don't forget that, for it's the truth. And
it's fair, too."

"I know all that, Davey. 'Course we have to trap or
we'd go cold as well as hungry winters like this. Let's
fix it."

The boys soon had a medium trap, the same kind they
had used at the coon set, in place just at the entrance to
the hole. The chain was fastened securely at the foot of
a tree with as little leeway as possible. Then they cov-
ered the whole thing with leaves. Last of all, Dave
reached into the earth and stuck his bait on a stick a few
inches beyond the trap. It consisted of a bit of meat he
had brought along in his pocket. The meat was decidedly
prime. As they were sliding and scrambling down the
hillside, Bob examined the tracks once more. Not half
so quick as David, the older boy, none the less, had a way
of making lasting use of whatever he learned. Now he



THE TRAPS 41

was laying those new tracks away in his mind where they
would be well remembered.

"It's queer how a little animal like a skunk can walk
straight as an arrow through the forest wherever it wants
to go, not even afraid of a bobcat or a bear," mused Bob.
"I say, did you ever know, Dave, that a skunk can blind
a fox for good if he sprays him fairly in the eyes? I had
a dog nearly ruined that way once. Old Rambler, it was.
I guess you remember the time it happened? They say
nothing living can close with a skunk, once the "

"They give you three fair warnings, though, and don't
spray you if you don't bother 'em," interrupted Dave,
eager to show his own observant woodcraft. "If you ever
meet with one, Bob, and he stops and stamps his front
foot a couple of times, you'd better go back or round. If
he raises his tail, it's almost too late. But if you see the
white tip of it straight up in the air and you keep on
toward him," Dave laughed, "why, just bury your clothes
before coming over Rose Tree way! That's all!"

The short afternoon was fast wearing on to twilight, as
the skunk set was completed, so the lads turned south for
home and supper. It had been a day of adventure, a day
that Dave and Bob would remember as long as they lived.
The boys were tired, dog tired, yet filled with a feeling of
satisfaction for work well done.

"We can get over the creek all right down by the
stones. It's shorter." Dave plodded wearily on. "It's
lucky they are there when the water's high."

"Go first. You know the way best," answered Bob,
his mind still intent on the new wood lore he had learned.



42 SANDY FLASH

A hundred yards before them, a man slipped from view
behind a mighty chestnut a veritable sire of the forest.
As Dave turned down the glade toward the crossing in
Ridley, the fellow hissed softly between pursed lips, and
motioned with his arm. In answer, a second figure ap-
peared for an instant, then dropped back between the
cedars that had covered him. The tired lads rounded a
bend and drew nearer with never a glance at tree or
thicket where the footway passed between them, never the
faintest thought of impending ambuscade.



CHAPTER III
THE HEARTH RUG

A I ^HE sudden parting of the bushes was the first inti-
JL mation the lads had of the men by the path that,
and the sight of a figure springing toward them from the
chestnut. Both boys halted in alarm. A moment later a
hearty laugh reassured them, as it echoed through the
dimming lanes of the forest. One of the men came for-
ward into clearer view.

"Caught you napping that time, the pair of you! Made
you jump nigh out your skin, we did!"

"Father ! I say ! " Bob looked again to make sure, then,
joined in the merriment at his own expense.

"None other ! " sang out John Allyn, so hugely pleased
at the success of his little ruse that he failed to note his
son's excited face or even catch the purport of his alarm.
"None other, 'I say' or no! We just thought, Neighbor
Thomas and I, that we'd put in a bit of a Saturday after-
noon ourselves in the woods to show we weren't so old or
so dead to fun as you lads most likely reckoned we
were!" John Allyn laughed again in glee. The whole
affair was the sort of lark that the great good-natured
farmer loved to take part in on those rare occasions when
he could find the time from work.

"That we did, boys, that we did," volunteered Hugh
Thomas, David's father. He was a spare man, wiry like

43



44 SANDY FLASH

his son, but with an endurance that never seemed to tire.
He stepped closer to see whether his boy still carried a
trap at his belt. "All set, are they, right and proper?
That's the way to go about it! I'm glad as John Allyn,
here, I came along, though it did seem a bit like passing
by more needful things at first. A long day you've made
of it for a fact!"

"Oh, father," interrupted Dave, eager to tell of their
adventures, "we've had the wildest time you ever heard
of. First, we heard a "

"It was Sandy Flash, the highwayman!" broke in Bob,
unable longer to restrain himself. With both lads trying
to speak at the same time, a troublesome task their par-
ents had to get at the bottom of the Newtown outrage. At
last, it was made clear to them and their many questions
answered. The older men grew serious at once. Hugh
Thomas stood motionless in thought for a moment, then
nodded at his companion.

"It's a bad day for us when Sandy Flash comes riding
our end of the country. I've heard tell of his thievery and
mischief many a time, John. But we may have seen the
last of him, at that. I surely hope so. What a vain
jangling they must have made of it at the Square! In-
stead of closing with him! That's drinking for you!"
He fairly snorted in disgust.

John Allyn agreed. The man was too interested now
in his boy's trapping to pay much heed to the chance of
the outlaw coming back. Till he did, at any rate, there
was no need of worry. The posse had been quick in pur-
suit. Perhaps, even now the blackguard had been seized.
Farmer Allyn shrugged his shoulders as though to dis-



THE HEARTH RUG 45

miss the matter altogether, then glanced toward the
warmly glowing west.

"I reckon we'd best be hastening back, friends. I only
wish we'd thought to come to the woods earlier, for I'd
like to have seen the sets you made. I've a bit to say
about this trapping business. Hugh and I've been talk-
ing it over as we walked along. The thing's a piece of
useful work we both think well of. Especially, if you
two go about it in earnest and really get the pelts. Tell
'em what we've decided, Hugh."

The older Thomas turned down the path toward the
stepping stones, speaking over his shoulder, as he
moved off.

"Come on, then. I'll tell you everything after we cross
the creek. It'll be dark, as it is, before we're back to Blue
Hill lane. Look yonder at the sun, lads. 'Twill be fair
as a bell to-morrow. 'Red at night is shepherd's delight.'
I can hear your granddaddy saying that now, David. The
old gaffer knew weather with the best of 'em."

The little party swung off in single file, the men lead-
ing. Once safely across Ridley, they availed themselves
of the more open going to walk abreast. In this manner,
they made steady way toward the Providence Road above,
while Hugh explained to the boys what they waited to
hear.

"You see, it's this way. The war and the taking of so
much food and supplies for our troops has meant that
things are not going to be half so easy to get hold of, this
winter, as they used to be. Not hereabouts. You boys'll
have to do your part in keeping the farms up to the mark.
That'll mean harder chores for the pair of you, but the



46 SANDY FLASH

trapping is apart from that. Before the winter's out,
we'll need every last pelt you're likely to get. More, too.
If you can show us that there's game about worth taking,
'twouldn't surprise me if we older folks joined in the work
ourselves a bit, when we've time to spare from the farms.
That has to come first always."

Hugh paused till the others had joined him in scram-
bling over the wayside wall of stone. As they dropped
down the bank to the road, he went on speaking.

"Pelts can help us in many ways. We can get the
women folks to make 'em up into good snug caps and
mufflers and mittens for us all. We can even make a fine
coat or two out of the big ones, if you boys prove to be
the trappers you ought. Then John, here, has another
great thought on it. He says we might let you have as
much time as we could possibly spare and that in return
for the sport you'd get from it, you two should agree to
put the gain toward buying what little you could for the
men of the army. They're camping out in the wet and
cold over somewheres by the Valley Forge right now.
Even pelts and hides would help 'em mightily. I heard
that close to ten thousand men were setting up their huts
there!"

The boys fairly shouted in approval. To tell the truth
they had been a mite uncertain as to just how far their
parents would favor the regular trapping work they had
in mind for the winter. In ordinary times it would have
been easy to find all the leisure they needed, but with the
county in disorder, food of many kinds very scarce, sup-
plies hard to get hold of in the little wayside hamlets,
each boy knew well that his first duty was at home, work-



THE HEARTH RUG 47

ing his hardest there to keep up the chores assigned him.

"Then we can put out another line of traps, can't we,
Dave? At Castle Rock, maybe! Oh, I say! You could
easily see to one and I could try "

"Hold steady there, lad! Easy dpes it!" Hugh Thomas
broke in, smiling at the boy's enthusiasm. "It's best to


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