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Rolf in the Woods(Chapter36)

2006-09-08 19:40

  CHAPTER XXXVI Something Wrong At the Beaver Traps

  Once they had run the trap lines, and their store of furs was increasing finely. They had taken twenty-five beavers and counted on getting two or three each time they went to the ponds. But they got an unpleasant surprise in December, on going to the beaver grounds, to find all the traps empty and unmistakable signs that some man had been there and had gone off with the catch. They followed the dim trail of his snowshoes, half hidden by a recent wind, but night came on with more snow, and all signs were lost.

  The thief had not found the line yet, for the haul of marten and mink was good. But this was merely the beginning.

  The trapper law of the wilderness is much like all primitive laws; first come has first right, provided he is able to hold it. If a strong rival comes in, the first must fight as best he can. The law justifies him in anything he may do, if he succeeds. The law justifies the second in anything he may do, except murder. That is, the defender may shoot to kill; the offender may not.

  But the fact of Quonab's being an Indian and Rolf supposedly one, would turn opinion against them in the Adirondacks, and it was quite likely that the rival considered them trespassers on his grounds, although the fact that he robbed their traps without removing them, and kept out of sight, rather showed the guilty conscience of a self-accused poacher.

  He came in from the west, obviously; probably the Racquet River country; was a large man, judging by his foot and stride, and understood trapping; but lazy, for he set no traps. His principal object seemed to be to steal.

  And it was not long before he found their line of marten traps, so his depredations increased. Primitive emotions are near the surface at all times, and under primitive conditions are very ready to appear. Rolf and Quonab felt that now it was war.

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