P UTNAM was a brave soldier. He fought many battles against the Indians. After that he became a general in the Revolution. But this is a story of his battle with a wolf. It took place when he was a young man, before he was a soldier.
Putnam lived in Connecticut. In the woods there were still a few wolves. One old wolf came to Putnam's neighborhood every winter. She always brought a family of young wolves with her.
The hunters would always kill the young wolves. But they could not find the old mother wolf. She knew how to keep out of the way.
The farmers tried to catch her in their traps. But she was too cunning. She had had one good lesson when she was young. She had put the toes of one foot into a steel trap. The trap had snipped them off. After that she was more careful.
One winter night she went out to get some meat. She came to Putnam's flock of sheep and goats. She killed some of them. She found it great fun.
There were no dogs about. The poor sheep had nobody to protect them. So the old wolf kept on killing. One sheep was enough for her supper. But she killed the rest just for sport. She killed seventy sheep and goats that night.
Putnam and his friends set out to find the old sheep killer. There were six men of them. They agreed that two of them should hunt for her at a time. Then another two should begin as soon as the first two should stop. So she would be hunted day and night.
The hunters found her track in the snow. There could be no mistake about it. The track made by one of her feet was shorter than those made by the other feet. That was because one of her feet had been caught in a trap.
The hunters found that the old wolf had gone a long way off. Perhaps she felt guilty. She must have thought that she would be hunted. She had trotted away for a whole night.
Then she turned and went back again. She was getting hungry by this time. She wanted some more sheep.
The men followed her tracks back again. The dogs drove her into a hole. It was not far from Putnam's house.
All the farmers came to help catch her. They sent the dogs into the cave where the wolf was. But the wolf bit the dogs, and drove them out again.
Then the men put a pile of straw in the mouth of the cave. They set
the straw on fire. It filled the cave with smoke. But
Then they burned brimstone in the cave. It must have made the wolf sneeze. But the cave was deep. She went as far in as she could, and staid there. She thought that the smell of brimstone was not so bad as the dogs and men who wanted to kill her.
Putnam wanted to send his negro into the cave to drive out the wolf. But the negro thought that he would rather stay out.
Then Putnam said that he would go in himself. He tied a rope to his
legs. Then he got
some pieces of
He got down on his hands and knees. He held the blazing bark in his hand. He crawled through the small hole into the cave. There was not room for him to stand up.
At first the cave went downward into the ground. Then it was level a little way. Then it went upward. At the very back of this part of the cave was the wolf. Putnam crawled up until he could see the wolf's eyes.
When the wolf saw the fire, she gave a sudden growl. Putnam jerked the rope that was tied to his leg. The men outside thought that the wolf had caught him. They pulled on the other end of the rope.
The men pulled as fast as they could. When they had drawn Putnam out, his clothes were torn. He was badly scratched by the rocks.
He now got his gun. He held it in one hand. He held the burning birch-bark in the other. He crawled into the cave again.
When the wolf saw him coming again, she was very angry. She snapped her teeth. She got ready to spring on him. She meant to kill him as she had killed his sheep. Putnam fired at her head.
As soon as his gun went off, he jerked the rope. His friends pulled him out.
He waited awhile for the smoke of his gun to clear up. Then he went in once more. He wanted to see if the wolf was dead.
He found her lying down. He tapped her nose with his
This time the men saw him come out, bringing the dead wolf. Now the sheep would have some peace.