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Robert. Do they put stones in the way mill dams are made?
Frank. Uncle told us that they prepare for building early in the summer, but do not begin to build until August. With their sharp teeth, they cut down quite large trees that grow on the edge of the water, and float them to where they mean to build. They drag bushes from a distance, and then tow them along in the water.
Robert. I should think that the water would run through between bushes and branches of trees.
Frank. I suppose they think so too, for they carry stones and mud out of the banks, between their fore paws and their throat, and mix them with the trees and bushes which they lay across the stream, and so make a strong wall. Uncle said he had seen beaver dams that had been made many years, and were used as bridges when he saw them.Sometimes the willow branches take root in the bottom of the stream, and grow so as to make almost a hedge.
George. How do they make their houses?
Frank. They build them in the middle of the pond which the dam makes, something like the shape of a sugar loaf flattened at the top.
Robert. But what do they build them of?
Frank. Of sticks, and mud, and stones; the upper part is sometimes five or six feet thick; they leave a hole under water, on the side farthest from the land, to go in and out through. After the frost has come, they plaster the outside with mud, and it freezes and gets as hard as a stone.
Robert. Why, they know how to work like masons; you said their tails are broad and flat, they might use them for trowels.
Frank. Uncle told us that when they are at work, they often strike what they have placed with their tails, but he did not think it was for any use; and that when they dive they strike the top of the water with their tails.
George. What do they feed on?
Frank. The bark of trees, and on roots that grow
in the bottoms of rivers. In summer time they get branches of birch, and wil.
low, and poplar trees, and place them in the water near to their huts, that they may get the bark in winter.
Robert. How curious it is that they should be so wise.
Mr. Hilton. That Almighty Creator, Robert, who teaches us how to make homes and get food, teaches them too; and every creature that he has made, shows his goodness, as well as his wisdom.
George. Frank, do the beavers stay long at a time under water?
Frank. No; they can swim a great distance under water, but they have often to come to the top for air.
Robert. I should like to see them at work?
Frank. That would be no easy thing to do, for they always work at night, uncle said; they make caves in the banks of the river, that they can swim into when the hunters disturb their huts.
Robert. What do the hunters want them for?
Frank. To get their skins; and they eat their flesh and say it is very good.
Robert. Now, I remember; beaver skins, make beaver hats.
Frank. The fur is short, soft, and thick, of a lead colour; but there is another kind of hair on them too, which is stiff and reddish at the end. At that moment, Robert looked at something moving in the water, and said, 6. I do believe there is a rat swimming."
Frank. Yes, it is a musk rat; I have often seen them, and their burrows too; they begin to make them in the bank under water, and slope them up, so as to be at last above high tide. Sometimes they build little huts in marshes of grass and mud, something like the beaver huts. And where beavers are, they sometimes go and live with them. We must go on, boys, said Mr. Hilton, and they followed him to a terrace that was along the side of the mill race, and is railed and paved with bricks for a walk. At the upper end of it, they stood looking at the dam, which does not run in a straight line across the river, but the whole extent of which, including the pier on the western side, is about sixteen hundred feet, backing the water up the river for nearly six miles. George told Frank to look at the canal on the opposite side, with locks built of dressed stone, for the boats to ascend and descend; and he pointed to a boat filled with barrels of flour, that was at a short distance, drawn by one horse, that walked along a tow path at the side of the river.
Large passage boats filled with people, said George, are drawn in the same way.
Frank, in silence, admired the water as it fell sparkling over the breast of the dam; and the pleasing landscape which is formed on the east side of the Schuylkill, above the dam, by high grounds, and a gentleman's handsome country seat and green house, and the variety of vines, shrubs, and trees, which were then gay with the bright colourings of October. “Frank, (said Robert) could beavers make such a dam as that?” “They could make one, (replied Frank) that would suit them as well as this suits for the purpose
it is for.” Mr. Hilton directed their attention to the tops of the race, where the water enters it through three arches. They then walked back to the mill buildings, which form a part of the west wall of the race,