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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/121

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113
DO ANIMALS REASON?.

in the right position in the stream. Here the force of the running waters acting upon it soon carried the whole net down into the open place as far as the two ropes fastened on the shores would admit. Papanekis, after placing the best fish in his basket for consumption in the mission house and for his own family, divided what was left among the eager dogs that had accompanied him. This work went on for several days, and the supply of fish continued to increase, much to our satisfaction.

One day Papanekis came into my study in a state of great perturbation. He was generally such a quiet, stoical sort of an Indian that I was at once attracted by his mental disquietude. On asking the reason why he was so troubled, he at once blurted out, "Master, there is some strange animal visiting our net!"

In answer to my request for particulars, he replied that for some mornings past when he went to visit it he found, entangled in the meshes, several heads of whitefish. Yet the net was always in its right position in the water. On my suggesting that perhaps otters, fishers, minks, or other fish-eating animals might have done the work, he most emphatically declared that he knew the habits of all these and all other animals living on fish, and it was utterly impossible for any of them to have thus done this work. The mystery continuing for several following mornings, Papanekis became frightened and asked me to get some other fisherman in his place, as he was afraid longer to visit the net. He had talked the matter over with some other Indians, and they had come to the conclusion that either a windegoo was at the bottom of it or the meechee munedoo (the devil). I laughed at his fears, and told him I would help him to try and find out who or what it was that was giving us this trouble. I went with him to the place, where we carefully examined both sides of the stream for evidences of the clever thief. There was nothing suspicious, and the only tracks visible were those of his own and of the many dogs that followed him to be fed each morning. About two or three hundred yards north of the spot where he overhauled the net there rose a small abrupt hill, densely covered with spruce and balsam trees. On visiting it we found that a person there securely hid from observation could with care easily overlook the whole locality.

At my suggestion, Papanekis with his axe there arranged a sort of a nest or lookout spot. Orders were then given that he and another Indian man should, before daybreak on the next morning, make a long detour and cautiously reach that spot from the rear, and there carefully conceal themselves. This they succeeded in doing, and there, in perfect stillness, they waited for the morning. As soon as it was possible to see anything they were on