Written by Richard Barnum.
Toto, the bustling beaver, ran as fast as he could and took shelter under a big rock that made a place like a little cave on the side of the hill.
“What’s the matter?” asked Don, the dog. “Are you afraid because I told you about the men?”
“Oh, no,” answered Toto. “But didn’t you hear that thumping sound just now?”
“Yes, I heard it,” answered Don. “What was it—somebody beating a carpet?”
“I don’t know what a carpet is,” replied Toto. “We don’t have any at our house. But, whatever it is, it wasn’t that. The noise you heard was one of my beaver friends thumping his tail on the ground.”
“Oh, you mean wagging his tail!” barked Don. “Well, I do that myself when I feel glad. I guess one of your beaver friends must be glad.”
“No, it isn’t that,” went Toto. “Whenever any of the beavers thumps his tail on the ground it means there’s danger around, and all of us who hear it run and hide. You’d better come under this rock with me. Then you’ll be out of danger.”
Once more the thumping sound echoed through the woods.
“Better come under here with me,” advised Toto.
“Well, I guess I will,” barked Don.
No sooner was he under the big rock with Toto than, all of a sudden, there was a loud crash, and a great tree fell almost on the place in the woods where Toto and Don had been standing talking.
“My goodness!” barked Don, speaking as dogs do. “It’s a good thing we were under this rock, Toto, or else that tree would have fallen on us! Did you know it was going to fall?”
“Well, no, not exactly. My brother and I have been practicing gnawing a tree this morning, but ours isn’t cut down yet. My father is going to finish cutting it, and show Sniffy and me how it is done. But he promised not to cut all the way through until I got back. So I don’t believe it was our tree that fell.”
“Is it alright for us to come out now?” asked Don. Though he was older than the beaver boy, he felt that perhaps Toto knew more about the woods—especially when tree-cutting was going on.
Toto sat up on his tail under the big rock and listened with his little ears. He heard the beavers, which were all about, talking among themselves, and he and Don heard some of them say:
“It’s all right now. Cuppy and Slump have cut down the big tree for the dam. It has fallen, and now it is safe for us to come out.”
The dog and the little beaver came out from under the overhanging rock, and Don noticed the pieces of bark Toto had stripped off.
“What are you going to do with them?” asked Don. “Make a basket?”
“A basket? I should say not!” exclaimed Toto. “I’m going to eat some and take the rest to my father and brother. They are farther back in the woods, cutting down a tree. Don’t you like bark?”
“Bark? I should say not!” laughed Don in a barking manner. “I like bones to gnaw, but not bark, though I bark with my mouth. That is a different kind, though. But I suppose it wouldn’t do for all of us to eat the same things. There wouldn’t be enough to go around. But tell me: Do you always hear a thumping sound whenever there is danger in the woods?”
“Yes, that’s one of the ways we beavers have of talking to one another,” answered Toto. “Whenever one of us is cutting a tree down, and he sees that it is about to fall, he thumps on the ground as hard as he can with his tail. You see our tails are broad and flat, and they make quite a thump.”
Don turned and looked at Toto’s tail.
“Yes, it’s quite different from mine,” said the dog. “I sometimes thump my tail on the floor, when my owner gives me something good to eat or pats me on the head. But my tail doesn’t make much noise.”
“Well, a beaver’s tail does,” explained Toto. “So whenever any of us hear the thumping sound we know there is danger, and we run away or hide.”
“I’m glad to know this,” said Don. “When I’m in the woods, from now on, and hear that thumping sound, I’ll look around for danger, and I’ll hide if I can’t get out of the way. Well, I’m glad to have met you,” went Don.
“I must be going,” barked Don. “I want to see if I can find that camp where the men live. These men are no good. They keep coming around the house where I live, and taking our owner’s things. If I see the men I’m going to bark at them and try to drive them away.”
Then he trotted on through the woods, and Toto, after eating a little more bark, gathered some up in his paws, and, walking on his hind legs, brought it to where his father and Sniffy were waiting for him.
“Here’s Toto,” said Sniffy.
“Where have you been?” asked Mr. Beaver.
“Oh, getting some sweet bark,” answered Toto, and he laid down on some clean moss the strips he had pulled off. “I met a dog, too.”
“A dog!” cried Mr. Beaver. “My goodness, I hope he isn’t chasing after you!” and he looked through the trees as if afraid.
“Oh, this was Don, a good dog,” explained Toto. “He’s only looking for some men. He won’t hurt any beavers.”
“Well, if he’s a good dog, all right,” said the beaver daddy.
“Where were you when Cuppy whacked with his tail just before the big tree fell?” asked Sniffy, as he nibbled at some of the tender bark his brother had brought.
“Oh, Don and I hid under a big rock,” answered Toto. “I told him the whacking sound meant danger. He didn’t know it. And it’s a good thing we hid when we did, for the tree would have crushed us if we hadn’t been under the rock. Is our tree ready to finish gnawing down, Daddy?”
“Yes,” answered Mr. Beaver. “You and Sniffy may start now, and cut a little more. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
“But I thought you were going to finish, Dad,” said Sniffy.
“He will, Sniffy, if he said so. But he’s letting us help a little more first so we can learn faster!”
So the beaver boys sat up on their tails again, and gnawed at the big tree—the largest one they had ever helped to cut down. They gnawed and gnawed and gnawed with their orange-colored front teeth, and then Mr. Beaver said:
“That’s enough, boys. I’ll do the rest. But you may whack on the ground with your tails to warn the others out of the way.”
So Toto and Sniffy, much delighted to do this, found a smooth place near a big rock, and then they went:
“Whack! Whack! Whack!”
“Danger! Danger!” cried a lot of the other beavers who were working nearby. “A tree is going to fall! Run, everybody! Danger!”
“See!” exclaimed Toto to his brother. “We can make the old beavers run out of the way just as Cuppy made Don and me run.”
“Yes, you beaver boys are growing up,” said Mr. Beaver, who had waited to see that his two sons gave the danger signal properly. “You are learning very well. Now here goes the tree.”
He gave a few more bites, or gnaws, at the place where the tree was almost cut through, and then Mr. Beaver himself ran out of the way.
“Crash! Bang!” went the big tree down in the forest. It broke down several other smaller trees, and finally was stretched out on the ground near the waters of Winding River.
“We helped do that!” said Toto to Sniffy, when the woods were again silent.
“Yes, you have learned how to cut down big trees,” said their father. “You are no longer playing beavers—you are working beavers. Now we must dig the canal to float the tree nearer the dam, as it is too heavy for us to roll or pull along, and we do not want to cut it.”
I will tell you, a little farther on, how the beavers cut canals to float logs to the places where they want to use them. Just now all I’ll say about them is that it took some time to get the tree Toto and Sniffy had helped cut to the place where it was needed for the dam. The two beaver boys and many others of the wonderful animals were busy for a week or more.
Then, one day, when the tree was in place, Toto asked his mother if he might go off into the woods and look for some more aspen bark, as all that had been stored in the stick house had been eaten.
“Yes, you may go,” said Mrs. Beaver. “But don’t go too far, and don’t stay too long.”
“I won’t,” promised Toto. Then he waddled off through the woods, after having swum across the beaver pond, made by damming the river, and soon he found himself under the green trees.
“I wonder if I’ll meet Don, the nice dog?” thought Toto. “or that little girl who scared me so that day on the ice?”
Toto looked off through the trees, but he saw neither Don nor the girl.
Toto found a place where some aspen bark grew on trees, and he gnawed off and ate as much as he wanted. Then he walked on a little farther and, pretty soon, he saw something in the woods that looked like a big beaver house. It was a heap of branches and limbs of trees, and over the outside were big sheets and strips of rough bark.
“But that can’t be a beaver house,” thought Toto. “It isn’t near water, and no beavers would build a house unless it had water near it. I wonder what it is.”
Toto sat up on his tail and looked at the unusual object. Then all at once he heard rough voices speaking, and he saw some ragged men come out of the pile of bark. One or two of them had tin cans in their hands, and another was holding a pan over a fire that blazed on a flat rock.
“Oh, I know who they are!” said Toto to himself. “These must be the men Don was looking for. This is their camp! I’ve found those bad men. I wish I could find Don to tell him!”