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_WILD-WOODS SERIES--No. 1._

* * * * *

[Illustration: "Heavenly Father! please take care of me," prayed
Nellie.]


THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE


BY

EDWARD S. ELLIS,

AUTHOR OF "YOUNG PIONEER SERIES," "LOG CABIN
SERIES," "DEERFOOT SERIES," "WYOMING
SERIES," ETC., ETC.


[Illustration]


PHILADELPHIA:
PORTER & COATES.


COPYRIGHT, 1891,

BY

PORTER & COATES.




CONTENTS.

CHAPTER PAGE

I.--NICK, 5

II.--SCHOOL DAYS, 14

III.--A MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSION, 21

IV.--LOST, 29

V.--THE PARTY OF SEARCH, 37

VI.--GROPING IN DARKNESS, 47

VII.--AN ALARMING DISCOVERY, 55

VIII.--STARTLING FOOTPRINTS, 63

IX.--THE LITTLE WANDERER, 69

X.--IN GREAT DANGER, 79

XI.--"GOTT SEI DANK!" 88

XII.--OMINOUS PREPARATIONS, 96

XIII.--THE BEAR HUNTERS, 103

XIV.--A RECRUIT, 113

XV.--A SURPRISE, 119

XVI.--THE DINNER IN THE WOODS, 126

XVII.--A TEST OF MARKSMANSHIP, 132

XVIII.--A QUAIL, 139

XIX.--AN UNEXPECTED LESSON, 145

XX.--BOWSER PROVES HIMSELF OF SOME USE, 152

XXI.--FACE TO FACE, 158

XXII.--THE "VACANT CHAIR," 165

XXIII.--HUNTING 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! HELP!" 209

XXX.--A FRIEND IN NEED, 216

XXXI.--THE "DARK DAY" OF SEPTEMBER, 1881, 222

XXXII.--THE BURNING FOREST, 231

XXXIII.--THROUGH THE FIRE, 246

XXXIV.--CALLING IN VAIN, 248

XXXV.--WHAT FRIGHTENED NELLIE, 257

XXXVI.--AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER, 266

XXXVII.--A BRAVE STRUGGLE, 275

XXXVIII.--BEAR AND FORBEAR, 283

XXXIX.--CONCLUSION, 292


THROUGH FOREST AND FIRE;

OR,

"God Helps Them that Help Themselves."




CHAPTER I.

NICK.


Nicholas Ribsam was a comical fellow from his earliest babyhood, and had
an original way of doing almost everything he undertook.

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 Pennsylvania, was as thoroughly Dutch as
if he had first opened his eyes on the banks of the Zuyder 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 youngster.

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
suddenly awakened to her duties respecting the little fellow.

Several times he tipped over and rolled off the porch, bumping his head
against the stones. A hoarse cry instantly made known the calamity but
by the time he was snatched up (often head downward) his face was
illumined again by his enormous grin, even though the big teardrops
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 prevent 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 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 upright.

"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 Fatherland
"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 it!_"

This was the creed of Gustav Ribsam and his wife, and it was the creed
which the children 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 any one.

The parents of our hero and heroine proved their faith by their works.
By hard, honest toil and economy, they had laid up a competence which
was regularly invested each year, and of which the children were not
allowed to know anything, lest it might make them lazy and unambitious.

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 school.

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
understood, 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 reaching 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 time.

Nick carried a spelling book and slate under his arm, and, as he started
off, any one looking at him would have been struck by his bright eyes,
ruddy cheeks, and generally clean appearance. As he was so very good
natured, he was certain to become quite an acquisition to the school.

There are no more cruel, or perhaps thoughtless 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 not care.

Among the pupils was Herbert Watrous, a 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 regretted 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 fellow
and he proceeded at once to make life unbearable 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.



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