ONE bright October morning my uncle, whom I was visiting, said to me, "I must go to mill today; wouldn't you like to ride over to Town with me?" Now the road to the village led for two miles through the pine woods; and though it was an old country all around, this road had never been settled, because the land was not worth the trouble of clearing, so uncle said. 

Well, I shall never forget that ride, though it was years ago. The tall pines rose on either side of us, but along the roadside were shrubs and small maple trees, from which the bright leaves fell, and carpeted the winding road before us, while the yellow autumn sunlight fell in strange checkers on our path. We crossed some pretty brooks and one strong, dashing creek. On the bridge over it, uncle stopped his team, and pointed up the stream a little way. "There," said he, "are the remains of an old beaver-dam." As I looked, I could see it plainly, also on the edge of the creek were some strange grassy mounds, which he said had once been beavers' lodges; and when the dam was whole, and the stream high, they had been in the water. Uncle said that he well remembered, years before, when the country was new, that the beavers had had a prosperous settlement there. Never having heard of such a thing before, I was delighted with his description of these interesting animals and their strange ways.

The beaver is about two feet in length, and quite short in stature, its body being thick and heavy. It has small ears, and its eyes are small, and wide apart. The fur of the beaver is soft and close, and is considered very valuable. The tail, however, is the most curious part of the animal. It is broad and flat, nearly half as long as the body, and is covered with a kind of horny scales instead of fur like the rest of the body. The beaver lives mostly in the water, and when on land, has a slow, wriggling gait, which makes him appear quite awkward.

The beaver has many curious habits, and is withal a great builder; but he is very shy, and almost always works by night, so that those who would watch him must take some pains. The poet Longfellow intimates as much when he says of Hiawatha: 

"Of all beasts he learned the language, 

Learned their names and all their secrets, 

How the beavers built their lodges, 

Where the squirrels hid their acorns, 

How the reindeer ran so swiftly, 

Why the rabbit was so timid, 

Talked with them when e'er he met them, 

Called them 'Hiawatha's brothers.'"

Many marvelous stories are told about the wisdom of the beaver, some of which are doubtless too wonderful to be true; yet it cannot be denied that he seems to show much intelligence in his doings.

Beavers build in colonies, and usually choose the place for their homes on some shallow running stream, though they sometimes build on the borders of a lake. In the first instance, they have to construct a dam across the stream in order to make the water deep enough so it will not freeze to the bottom in winter. To do this they select a shallow part of the brook or river, and if they find on the margin a large tree of soft wood so situated as to fall across the stream readily, they at once commence to cut it down. 

If they do not find such a one convenient, and the stream be of considerable size, they go farther up, and cut one and bring it down with the current to the proper place.

Their front teeth answer the purpose of a woodcutter's hatchet, and they begin the work of felling the tree about a foot and a half above the ground. The beaver lives on the bark of certain trees, such as the willow, birch, poplar, and alder; so they eat much of the bark and wood, which they gnaw off in cutting down these trees. While some of the more able- bodied are employed in felling large timber, others traverse the banks and cut down smaller trees and poles, which they drag to the water with their teeth, and then float them to the place where the dam is to be built. 

Still others are employed in bringing earth, which they pack in among the trees and sticks, and thus make quite a solid dam. If at any time, these dams are injured by a freshet, the busy architects repair them at once. It is such a dam that the poet again refers to in the following lines: 

"Over rock and over river, 

Through bush and brake and forest, 

Ran the cunning Pau-Puk-Keewis; 

Like an antelope he bounded, 

Till he came into a streamlet 

In the middle of the forest, 

To a streamlet still and tranquil, 

That had overflowed its margin, 

To a dam made by the beavers, 

To a pond of quiet water, 

Where knee-deep the trees were standing

Where the water lilies floated

Where the rushes waved and whispered.

On the dam stood Pau-Puk-Keewis, 

On the dam of trunks and branches, 

Through whose chinks the water spouted, 

O'er whose summit flowed the streamlet. 

From the bottom rose the beaver, 

Looked with two great eyes of wonder, 

Eyes that seemed to ask a question, 

At the stranger, Pau-Puk-Keewis."

The beavers usually choose the site and commence their building in the latter part of August, though they sometimes begin earlier. Their greatest work is to make the dam, and this done, their next care is to go about building these houses. These are built partly in and partly above the water, near the edge of the pond, and have two openings, one facing the land and the other the water. These houses are usually in the shape of a dome, and the walls are frequently two feet thick, neatly plastered within and without, and so solid as to be impenetrable to the rain, and able to resist the strongest winds. Various materials are used in making these houses, such as wood, stone, and a kind of sandy earth not easily soaked by water.

After their houses are done, the beavers spend their time until winter in gathering quantities of wood and bark, which they store in their curious" huts. Sometimes these beaver villages consist of as many as twenty or thirty cabins, which often give homes to one hundred and fifty or two hundred beavers. But however numerous the colony, universal peace and good-will seem always to reign. On a sunny autumn day numbers of them may be seen sitting just outside the window of their cabins, half sunk in the water, and complacently gazing over the surrounding country. But let any sign of danger appear, and the one who first sees or hears it, strikes on the water with his tail; and lo, not a beaver is to be seen. In a moment they are gone, some into the water and others behind their cabin walls, where they are safe from the attacks of other animals.

Might we not all learn useful lessons from these interesting creatures, with their peaceful, brotherly ways?

E. B.