In the Wilderness
Charles Dudley Warner

Part 1 out of 2

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By Charles Dudley Warner



So many conflicting accounts have appeared about my casual encounter
with an Adirondack bear last summer that in justice to the public, to
myself, and to the bear, it is necessary to make a plain statement of
the facts. Besides, it is so seldom I have occasion to kill a bear,
that the celebration of the exploit may be excused.

The encounter was unpremeditated on both sides. I was not hunting
for a bear, and I have no reason to suppose that a bear was looking
for me. The fact is, that we were both out blackberrying, and met by
chance, the usual way. There is among the Adirondack visitors always
a great deal of conversation about bears,--a general expression of
the wish to see one in the woods, and much speculation as to how a
person would act if he or she chanced to meet one. But bears are
scarce and timid, and appear only to a favored few.

It was a warm day in August, just the sort of day when an adventure
of any kind seemed impossible. But it occurred to the housekeepers
at our cottage--there were four of them--to send me to the clearing,
on the mountain back of the house, to pick blackberries. It was
rather a series of small clearings, running up into the forest, much
overgrown with bushes and briers, and not unromantic. Cows pastured
there, penetrating through the leafy passages from one opening to
another, and browsing among the bushes. I was kindly furnished with
a six-quart pail, and told not to be gone long.

Not from any predatory instinct, but to save appearances, I took a
gun. It adds to the manly aspect of a person with a tin pail if he
also carries a gun. It was possible I might start up a partridge;
though how I was to hit him, if he started up instead of standing
still, puzzled me. Many people use a shotgun for partridges. I
prefer the rifle: it makes a clean job of death, and does not
prematurely stuff the bird with globules of lead. The rifle was a
Sharps, carrying a ball cartridge (ten to the pound),--an excellent
weapon belonging to a friend of mine, who had intended, for a good
many years back, to kill a deer with it. He could hit a tree with it
--if the wind did not blow, and the atmosphere was just right, and
the tree was not too far off--nearly every time. Of course, the tree
must have some size. Needless to say that I was at that time no
sportsman. Years ago I killed a robin under the most humiliating
circumstances. The bird was in a low cherry-tree. I loaded a big
shotgun pretty full, crept up under the tree, rested the gun on the
fence, with the muzzle more than ten feet from the bird, shut both
eyes, and pulled the trigger. When I got up to see what had
happened, the robin was scattered about under the tree in more than a
thousand pieces, no one of which was big enough to enable a
naturalist to decide from it to what species it belonged. This
disgusted me with the life of a sportsman. I mention the incident to
show that, although I went blackberrying armed, there was not much
inequality between me and the bear.

In this blackberry-patch bears had been seen. The summer before, our
colored cook, accompanied by a little girl of the vicinage, was
picking berries there one day, when a bear came out of the woods, and
walked towards them. The girl took to her heels, and escaped. Aunt
Chloe was paralyzed with terror. Instead of attempting to run, she
sat down on the ground where she was standing, and began to weep and
scream, giving herself up for lost. The bear was bewildered by this
conduct. He approached and looked at her; he walked around and
surveyed her. Probably he had never seen a colored person before,
and did not know whether she would agree with him: at any rate, after
watching her a few moments, he turned about, and went into the
forest. This is an authentic instance of the delicate consideration
of a bear, and is much more remarkable than the forbearance towards
the African slave of the well-known lion, because the bear had no
thorn in his foot.

When I had climbed the hill,--I set up my rifle against a tree, and
began picking berries, lured on from bush to bush by the black gleam
of fruit (that always promises more in the distance than it realizes
when you reach it); penetrating farther and farther, through leaf-
shaded cow-paths flecked with sunlight, into clearing after clearing.
I could hear on all sides the tinkle of bells, the cracking of
sticks, and the stamping of cattle that were taking refuge in the
thicket from the flies. Occasionally, as I broke through a covert, I
encountered a meek cow, who stared at me stupidly for a second, and
then shambled off into the brush. I became accustomed to this dumb
society, and picked on in silence, attributing all the wood noises to
the cattle, thinking nothing of any real bear. In point of fact,
however, I was thinking all the time of a nice romantic bear, and as
I picked, was composing a story about a generous she-bear who had
lost her cub, and who seized a small girl in this very wood, carried
her tenderly off to a cave, and brought her up on bear's milk and
honey. When the girl got big enough to run away, moved by her
inherited instincts, she escaped, and came into the valley to her
father's house (this part of the story was to be worked out, so that
the child would know her father by some family resemblance, and have
some language in which to address him), and told him where the bear
lived. The father took his gun, and, guided by the unfeeling
daughter, went into the woods and shot the bear, who never made any
resistance, and only, when dying, turned reproachful eyes upon her
murderer. The moral of the tale was to be kindness to animals.

I was in the midst of this tale when I happened to look some rods
away to the other edge of the clearing, and there was a bear! He was
standing on his hind legs, and doing just what I was doing,--picking
blackberries. With one paw he bent down the bush, while with the
other he clawed the berries into his mouth,--green ones and all. To
say that I was astonished is inside the mark. I suddenly discovered
that I didn't want to see a bear, after all. At about the same
moment the bear saw me, stopped eating berries, and regarded me with
a glad surprise. It is all very well to imagine what you would do
under such circumstances. Probably you wouldn't do it: I didn't.
The bear dropped down on his forefeet, and came slowly towards me.
Climbing a tree was of no use, with so good a climber in the rear.
If I started to run, I had no doubt the bear would give chase; and
although a bear cannot run down hill as fast as he can run up hill,
yet I felt that he could get over this rough, brush-tangled ground
faster than I could.

The bear was approaching. It suddenly occurred to me how I could
divert his mind until I could fall back upon my military base. My
pail was nearly full of excellent berries, much better than the bear
could pick himself. I put the pail on the ground, and slowly backed
away from it, keeping my eye, as beast-tamers do, on the bear. The
ruse succeeded.

The bear came up to the berries, and stopped. Not accustomed to eat
out of a pail, he tipped it over, and nosed about in the fruit,
"gorming" (if there is such a word) it down, mixed with leaves and
dirt, like a pig. The bear is a worse feeder than the pig. Whenever
he disturbs a maple-sugar camp in the spring, he always upsets the
buckets of syrup, and tramples round in the sticky sweets, wasting
more than he eats. The bear's manners are thoroughly disagreeable.

As soon as my enemy's head was down, I started and ran. Somewhat out
of breath, and shaky, I reached my faithful rifle. It was not a
moment too soon. I heard the bear crashing through the brush after
me. Enraged at my duplicity, he was now coming on with blood in his
eye. I felt that the time of one of us was probably short. The
rapidity of thought at such moments of peril is well known. I
thought an octavo volume, had it illustrated and published, sold
fifty thousand copies, and went to Europe on the proceeds, while that
bear was loping across the clearing. As I was cocking the gun, I
made a hasty and unsatisfactory review of my whole life. I noted,
that, even in such a compulsory review, it is almost impossible to
think of any good thing you have done. The sins come out uncommonly
strong. I recollected a newspaper subscription I had delayed paying
years and years ago, until both editor and newspaper were dead, and
which now never could be paid to all eternity.

The bear was coming on.

I tried to remember what I had read about encounters with bears. I
couldn't recall an instance in which a man had run away from a bear
in the woods and escaped, although I recalled plenty where the bear
had run from the man and got off. I tried to think what is the best
way to kill a bear with a gun, when you are not near enough to club
him with the stock. My first thought was to fire at his head; to
plant the ball between his eyes: but this is a dangerous experiment.
The bear's brain is very small; and, unless you hit that, the bear
does not mind a bullet in his head; that is, not at the time. I
remembered that the instant death of the bear would follow a bullet
planted just back of his fore-leg, and sent into his heart. This
spot is also difficult to reach, unless the bear stands off, side
towards you, like a target. I finally determined to fire at him

The bear was coming on.

The contest seemed to me very different from anything at Creedmoor.
I had carefully read the reports of the shooting there; but it was
not easy to apply the experience I had thus acquired. I hesitated
whether I had better fire lying on my stomach or lying on my back,
and resting the gun on my toes. But in neither position, I
reflected, could I see the bear until he was upon me. The range was
too short; and the bear wouldn't wait for me to examine the
thermometer, and note the direction of the wind. Trial of the
Creedmoor method, therefore, had to be abandoned; and I bitterly
regretted that I had not read more accounts of offhand shooting.

For the bear was coming on.

I tried to fix my last thoughts upon my family. As my family is
small, this was not difficult. Dread of displeasing my wife, or
hurting her feelings, was uppermost in my mind. What would be her
anxiety as hour after hour passed on, and I did not return! What
would the rest of the household think as the afternoon passed, and no
blackberries came! What would be my wife's mortification when the
news was brought that her husband had been eaten by a bear! I cannot
imagine anything more ignominious than to have a husband eaten by a
bear. And this was not my only anxiety. The mind at such times is
not under control. With the gravest fears the most whimsical ideas
will occur. I looked beyond the mourning friends, and thought what
kind of an epitaph they would be compelled to put upon the stone.

Something like this:



Aug. 20, 1877

It is a very unheroic and even disagreeable epitaph. That "eaten by
a bear" is intolerable. It is grotesque. And then I thought what an
inadequate language the English is for compact expression. It would
not answer to put upon the stone simply "eaten"; for that is
indefinite, and requires explanation: it might mean eaten by a
cannibal. This difficulty could not occur in the German, where essen
signifies the act of feeding by a man, and fressen by a beast. How
simple the thing would be in German!

HERR _____ _______

Aug. 20, 1877

That explains itself. The well-born one was eaten by a beast, and
presumably by a bear,--an animal that has a bad reputation since the
days of Elisha.

The bear was coming on; he had, in fact, come on. I judged that he
could see the whites of my eyes. All my subsequent reflections were
confused. I raised the gun, covered the bear's breast with the
sight, and let drive. Then I turned, and ran like a deer. I did not
hear the bear pursuing. I looked back. The bear had stopped. He
was lying down. I then remembered that the best thing to do after
having fired your gun is to reload it. I slipped in a charge,
keeping my eyes on the bear. He never stirred. I walked back
suspiciously. There was a quiver in the hindlegs, but no other
motion. Still, he might be shamming: bears often sham. To make
sure, I approached, and put a ball into his head. He didn't mind it
now: he minded nothing. Death had come to him with a merciful
suddenness. He was calm in death. In order that he might remain so,
I blew his brains out, and then started for home. I had killed a

Notwithstanding my excitement, I managed to saunter into the house
with an unconcerned air. There was a chorus of voices:

"Where are your blackberries?"
"Why were you gone so long?"
"Where's your pail?"

"I left the pail."

"Left the pail? What for?"

"A bear wanted it."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"Well, the last I saw of it, a bear had it."

"Oh, come! You didn't really see a bear?"

"Yes, but I did really see a real bear."

"Did he run?"

"Yes: he ran after me."

"I don't believe a word of it. What did you do?"

"Oh! nothing particular--except kill the bear."

Cries of "Gammon!" "Don't believe it!" "Where's the bear?"

"If you want to see the bear, you must go up into the woods. I
couldn't bring him down alone."

Having satisfied the household that something extraordinary had
occurred, and excited the posthumous fear of some of them for my own
safety, I went down into the valley to get help. The great bear-
hunter, who keeps one of the summer boarding-houses, received my
story with a smile of incredulity; and the incredulity spread to the
other inhabitants and to the boarders as soon as the story was known.
However, as I insisted in all soberness, and offered to lead them to
the bear, a party of forty or fifty people at last started off with
me to bring the bear in. Nobody believed there was any bear in the
case; but everybody who could get a gun carried one; and we went into
the woods armed with guns, pistols, pitchforks, and sticks, against
all contingencies or surprises,--a crowd made up mostly of scoffers
and jeerers.

But when I led the way to the fatal spot, and pointed out the bear,
lying peacefully wrapped in his own skin, something like terror
seized the boarders, and genuine excitement the natives. It was a
no-mistake bear, by George! and the hero of the fight well, I will
not insist upon that. But what a procession that was, carrying the
bear home! and what a congregation, was speedily gathered in the
valley to see the bear! Our best preacher up there never drew
anything like it on Sunday.

And I must say that my particular friends, who were sportsmen,
behaved very well, on the whole. They didn't deny that it was a
bear, although they said it was small for a bear. Mr... Deane, who
is equally good with a rifle and a rod, admitted that it was a very
fair shot. He is probably the best salmon fisher in the United
States, and he is an equally good hunter. I suppose there is no
person in America who is more desirous to kill a moose than he. But
he needlessly remarked, after he had examined the wound in the bear,
that he had seen that kind of a shot made by a cow's horn.

This sort of talk affected me not. When I went to sleep that night,
my last delicious thought was, "I've killed a bear!"



It ought to be said, by way of explanation, that my being lost in the
woods was not premeditated. Nothing could have been more informal.
This apology can be necessary only to those who are familiar with the
Adirondack literature. Any person not familiar with it would see the
absurdity of one going to the Northern Wilderness with the deliberate
purpose of writing about himself as a lost man. It may be true that
a book about this wild tract would not be recognized as complete
without a lost-man story in it, since it is almost as easy for a
stranger to get lost in the Adirondacks as in Boston. I merely
desire to say that my unimportant adventure is not narrated in answer
to the popular demand, and I do not wish to be held responsible for
its variation from the typical character of such experiences.

We had been in camp a week, on the Upper Au Sable Lake. This is a
gem--emerald or turquoise as the light changes it--set in the virgin
forest. It is not a large body of water, is irregular in form, and
about a mile and a half in length; but in the sweep of its wooded
shores, and the lovely contour of the lofty mountains that guard it,
the lake is probably the most charming in America. Why the young
ladies and gentlemen who camp there occasionally vex the days and
nights with hooting, and singing sentimental songs, is a mystery even
to the laughing loon.

I left my companions there one Saturday morning, to return to Keene
Valley, intending to fish down the Au Sable River. The Upper Lake
discharges itself into the Lower by a brook which winds through a
mile and a half of swamp and woods. Out of the north end of the
Lower Lake, which is a huge sink in the mountains, and mirrors the
savage precipices, the Au Sable breaks its rocky barriers, and flows
through a wild gorge, several miles, to the valley below. Between
the Lower Lake and the settlements is an extensive forest, traversed
by a cart-path, admirably constructed of loose stones, roots of
trees, decayed logs, slippery rocks, and mud. The gorge of the river
forms its western boundary. I followed this caricature of a road a
mile or more; then gave my luggage to the guide to carry home, and
struck off through the forest, by compass, to the river. I promised
myself an exciting scramble down this little-frequented canyon, and a
creel full of trout. There was no difficulty in finding the river,
or in descending the steep precipice to its bed: getting into a
scrape is usually the easiest part of it. The river is strewn with
bowlders, big and little, through which the amber water rushes with
an unceasing thunderous roar, now plunging down in white falls, then
swirling round in dark pools. The day, already past meridian, was
delightful; at least, the blue strip of it I could see overhead.

Better pools and rapids for trout never were, I thought, as I
concealed myself behind a bowlder, and made the first cast. There is
nothing like the thrill of expectation over the first throw in
unfamiliar waters. Fishing is like gambling, in that failure only
excites hope of a fortunate throw next time. There was no rise to
the "leader" on the first cast, nor on the twenty-first; and I
cautiously worked my way down stream, throwing right and left. When
I had gone half a mile, my opinion of the character of the pools was
unchanged: never were there such places for trout; but the trout were
out of their places. Perhaps they didn't care for the fly: some
trout seem to be so unsophisticated as to prefer the worm. I
replaced the fly with a baited hook: the worm squirmed; the waters
rushed and roared; a cloud sailed across the blue: no trout rose to
the lonesome opportunity. There is a certain companionship in the
presence of trout, especially when you can feel them flopping in your
fish basket; but it became evident that there were no trout in this
wilderness, and a sense of isolation for the first time came over me.
There was no living thing near. The river had by this time entered a
deeper gorge; walls of rocks rose perpendicularly on either side,--
picturesque rocks, painted many colors by the oxide of iron. It was
not possible to climb out of the gorge; it was impossible to find a
way by the side of the river; and getting down the bed, over the
falls, and through the flumes, was not easy, and consumed time.

Was that thunder? Very likely. But thunder showers are always
brewing in these mountain fortresses, and it did not occur to me that
there was anything personal in it. Very soon, however, the hole in
the sky closed in, and the rain dashed down. It seemed a
providential time to eat my luncheon; and I took shelter under a
scraggy pine that had rooted itself in the edge of the rocky slope.
The shower soon passed, and I continued my journey, creeping over the
slippery rocks, and continuing to show my confidence in the
unresponsive trout. The way grew wilder and more grewsome. The
thunder began again, rolling along over the tops of the mountains,
and reverberating in sharp concussions in the gorge: the lightning
also darted down into the darkening passage, and then the rain.
Every enlightened being, even if he is in a fisherman's dress of
shirt and pantaloons, hates to get wet; and I ignominiously crept
under the edge of a sloping bowlder. It was all very well at first,
until streams of water began to crawl along the face of the rock, and
trickle down the back of my neck. This was refined misery, unheroic
and humiliating, as suffering always is when unaccompanied by

A longer time than I knew was consumed in this and repeated efforts
to wait for the slackening and renewing storm to pass away. In the
intervals of calm I still fished, and even descended to what a
sportsman considers incredible baseness: I put a "sinker" on my line.
It is the practice of the country folk, whose only object is to get
fish, to use a good deal of bait, sink the hook to the bottom of the
pools, and wait the slow appetite of the summer trout. I tried this
also. I might as well have fished in a pork barrel. It is true that
in one deep, black, round pool I lured a small trout from the bottom,
and deposited him in the creel; but it was an accident. Though I sat
there in the awful silence (the roar of water and thunder only
emphasized the stillness) full half an hour, I was not encouraged by
another nibble. Hope, however, did not die: I always expected to
find the trout in the next flume; and so I toiled slowly on,
unconscious of the passing time. At each turn of the stream I
expected to see the end, and at each turn I saw a long, narrow
stretch of rocks and foaming water. Climbing out of the ravine was,
in most places, simply impossible; and I began to look with interest
for a slide, where bushes rooted in the scant earth would enable me
to scale the precipice. I did not doubt that I was nearly through
the gorge. I could at length see the huge form of the Giant of the
Valley, scarred with avalanches, at the end of the vista; and it
seemed not far off. But it kept its distance, as only a mountain
can, while I stumbled and slid down the rocky way. The rain had now
set in with persistence, and suddenly I became aware that it was
growing dark; and I said to myself, "If you don't wish to spend the
night in this horrible chasm, you'd better escape speedily."
Fortunately I reached a place where the face of the precipice was
bushgrown, and with considerable labor scrambled up it.

Having no doubt that I was within half a mile, perhaps within a few
rods, of the house above the entrance of the gorge, and that, in any
event, I should fall into the cart-path in a few minutes, I struck
boldly into the forest, congratulating myself on having escaped out
of the river. So sure was I of my whereabouts that I did not note
the bend of the river, nor look at my compass. The one trout in my
basket was no burden, and I stepped lightly out.

The forest was of hard-wood, and open, except for a thick undergrowth
of moose-bush. It was raining,--in fact, it had been raining, more
or less, for a month,--and the woods were soaked. This moose-bush is
most annoying stuff to travel through in a rain; for the broad leaves
slap one in the face, and sop him with wet. The way grew every
moment more dingy. The heavy clouds above the thick foliage brought
night on prematurely. It was decidedly premature to a near-sighted
man, whose glasses the rain rendered useless: such a person ought to
be at home early. On leaving the river bank I had borne to the left,
so as to be sure to strike either the clearing or the road, and not
wander off into the measureless forest. I confidently pursued this
course, and went gayly on by the left flank. That I did not come to
any opening or path only showed that I had slightly mistaken the
distance: I was going in the right direction.

I was so certain of this that I quickened my pace and got up with
alacrity every time I tumbled down amid the slippery leaves and
catching roots, and hurried on. And I kept to the left. It even
occurred to me that I was turning to the left so much that I might
come back to the river again. It grew more dusky, and rained more
violently; but there was nothing alarming in the situation, since I
knew exactly where I was. It was a little mortifying that I had
miscalculated the distance: yet, so far was I from feeling any
uneasiness about this that I quickened my pace again, and, before I
knew it, was in a full run; that is, as full a run as a person can
indulge in in the dusk, with so many trees in the way. No
nervousness, but simply a reasonable desire to get there. I desired
to look upon myself as the person "not lost, but gone before." As
time passed, and darkness fell, and no clearing or road appeared, I
ran a little faster. It didn't seem possible that the people had
moved, or the road been changed; and yet I was sure of my direction.
I went on with an energy increased by the ridiculousness of the
situation, the danger that an experienced woodsman was in of getting
home late for supper; the lateness of the meal being nothing to the
gibes of the unlost. How long I kept this course, and how far I went
on, I do not know; but suddenly I stumbled against an ill-placed
tree, and sat down on the soaked ground, a trifle out of breath. It
then occurred to me that I had better verify my course by the
compass. There was scarcely light enough to distinguish the black
end of the needle. To my amazement, the compass, which was made near
Greenwich, was wrong. Allowing for the natural variation of the
needle, it was absurdly wrong. It made out that I was going south
when I was going north. It intimated that, instead of turning to the
left, I had been making a circuit to the right. According to the
compass, the Lord only knew where I was.

The inclination of persons in the woods to travel in a circle is
unexplained. I suppose it arises from the sympathy of the legs with
the brain. Most people reason in a circle: their minds go round and
round, always in the same track. For the last half hour I had been
saying over a sentence that started itself: "I wonder where that road
is!" I had said it over till it had lost all meaning. I kept going
round on it; and yet I could not believe that my body had been
traveling in a circle. Not being able to recognize any tracks, I
have no evidence that I had so traveled, except the general testimony
of lost men.

The compass annoyed me. I've known experienced guides utterly
discredit it. It couldn't be that I was to turn about, and go the
way I had come. Nevertheless, I said to myself, "You'd better keep a
cool head, my boy, or you are in for a night of it. Better listen to
science than to spunk." And I resolved to heed the impartial needle.
I was a little weary of the rough tramping: but it was necessary to
be moving; for, with wet clothes and the night air, I was decidedly
chilly. I turned towards the north, and slipped and stumbled along.
A more uninviting forest to pass the night in I never saw. Every-
thing was soaked. If I became exhausted, it would be necessary to
build a fire; and, as I walked on, I couldn't find a dry bit of wood.
Even if a little punk were discovered in a rotten log I had no
hatchet to cut fuel. I thought it all over calmly. I had the usual
three matches in my pocket. I knew exactly what would happen if I
tried to build a fire. The first match would prove to be wet. The
second match, when struck, would shine and smell, and fizz a little,
and then go out. There would be only one match left. Death would
ensue if it failed. I should get close to the log, crawl under my
hat, strike the match, see it catch, flicker, almost go out (the
reader painfully excited by this time), blaze up, nearly expire, and
finally fire the punk,--thank God! And I said to myself, "The public
don't want any more of this thing: it is played out. Either have a
box of matches, or let the first one catch fire."

In this gloomy mood I plunged along. The prospect was cheerless;
for, apart from the comfort that a fire would give, it is necessary,
at night, to keep off the wild beasts. I fancied I could hear the
tread of the stealthy brutes following their prey. But there was one
source of profound satisfaction,--the catamount had been killed. Mr.
Colvin, the triangulating surveyor of the Adirondacks, killed him in
his last official report to the State. Whether he despatched him
with a theodolite or a barometer does not matter: he is officially
dead, and none of the travelers can kill him any more. Yet he has
served them a good turn.

I knew that catamount well. One night when we lay in the bogs of the
South Beaver Meadow, under a canopy of mosquitoes, the serene
midnight was parted by a wild and humanlike cry from a neighboring
mountain. "That's a cat," said the guide. I felt in a moment that
it was the voice of "modern cultchah." "Modern culture," says Mr.
Joseph Cook in a most impressive period,--" modern culture is a child
crying in the wilderness, and with no voice but a cry." That
describes the catamount exactly. The next day, when we ascended the
mountain, we came upon the traces of this brute,--a spot where he had
stood and cried in the night; and I confess that my hair rose with
the consciousness of his recent presence, as it is said to do when a
spirit passes by.

Whatever consolation the absence of catamount in a dark, drenched,
and howling wilderness can impart, that I experienced; but I thought
what a satire upon my present condition was modern culture, with its
plain thinking and high living! It was impossible to get much
satisfaction out of the real and the ideal,--the me and the not-me.
At this time what impressed me most was the absurdity of my position
looked at in the light of modern civilization and all my advantages
and acquirements. It seemed pitiful that society could do absolutely
nothing for me. It was, in fact, humiliating to reflect that it
would now be profitable to exchange all my possessions for the woods
instinct of the most unlettered guide. I began to doubt the value of
the "culture" that blunts the natural instincts.

It began to be a question whether I could hold out to walk all night;
for I must travel, or perish. And now I imagined that a spectre was
walking by my side. This was Famine. To be sure, I had only
recently eaten a hearty luncheon: but the pangs of hunger got hold on
me when I thought that I should have no supper, no breakfast; and, as
the procession of unattainable meals stretched before me, I grew
hungrier and hungrier. I could feel that I was becoming gaunt, and
wasting away: already I seemed to be emaciated. It is astonishing
how speedily a jocund, well-conditioned human being can be
transformed into a spectacle of poverty and want, Lose a man in the
Woods, drench him, tear his pantaloons, get his imagination running
on his lost supper and the cheerful fireside that is expecting him,
and he will become haggard in an hour. I am not dwelling upon these
things to excite the reader's sympathy, but only to advise him, if he
contemplates an adventure of this kind, to provide himself with
matches, kindling wood, something more to eat than one raw trout, and
not to select a rainy night for it.

Nature is so pitiless, so unresponsive, to a person in trouble! I
had read of the soothing companionship of the forest, the pleasure of
the pathless woods. But I thought, as I stumbled along in the dismal
actuality, that, if I ever got out of it, I would write a letter to
the newspapers, exposing the whole thing. There is an impassive,
stolid brutality about the woods that has never been enough insisted
on. I tried to keep my mind fixed upon the fact of man's superiority
to Nature; his ability to dominate and outwit her. My situation was
an amusing satire on this theory. I fancied that I could feel a
sneer in the woods at my detected conceit. There was something
personal in it. The downpour of the rain and the slipperiness of the
ground were elements of discomfort; but there was, besides these, a
kind of terror in the very character of the forest itself. I think
this arose not more from its immensity than from the kind of
stolidity to which I have alluded. It seemed to me that it would be
a sort of relief to kick the trees. I don't wonder that the bears
fall to, occasionally, and scratch the bark off the great pines and
maples, tearing it angrily away. One must have some vent to his
feelings. It is a common experience of people lost in the woods to
lose their heads; and even the woodsmen themselves are not free from
this panic when some accident has thrown them out of their reckoning.
Fright unsettles the judgment: the oppressive silence of the woods is
a vacuum in which the mind goes astray. It's a hollow sham, this
pantheism, I said; being "one with Nature" is all humbug: I should
like to see somebody. Man, to be sure, is of very little account,
and soon gets beyond his depth; but the society of the least human
being is better than this gigantic indifference. The "rapture on the
lonely shore" is agreeable only when you know you can at any moment
go home.

I had now given up all expectation of finding the road, and was
steering my way as well as I could northward towards the valley. In
my haste I made slow progress. Probably the distance I traveled was
short, and the time consumed not long; but I seemed to be adding mile
to mile, and hour to hour. I had time to review the incidents of the
Russo-Turkish war, and to forecast the entire Eastern question; I
outlined the characters of all my companions left in camp, and
sketched in a sort of comedy the sympathetic and disparaging
observations they would make on my adventure; I repeated something
like a thousand times, without contradiction, "What a fool you were
to leave the river!" I stopped twenty times, thinking I heard its
loud roar, always deceived by the wind in the tree-tops; I began to
entertain serious doubts about the compass,--when suddenly I became
aware that I was no longer on level ground: I was descending a slope;
I was actually in a ravine. In a moment more I was in a brook newly
formed by the rain. "Thank Heaven!" I cried: "this I shall follow,
whatever conscience or the compass says." In this region, all
streams go, sooner or later, into the valley. This ravine, this
stream, no doubt, led to the river. I splashed and tumbled along
down it in mud and water. Down hill we went together, the fall
showing that I must have wandered to high ground. When I guessed
that I must be close to the river, I suddenly stepped into mud up to
my ankles. It was the road,--running, of course, the wrong way, but
still the blessed road. It was a mere canal of liquid mud; but man
had made it, and it would take me home. I was at least three miles
from the point I supposed I was near at sunset, and I had before me a
toilsome walk of six or seven miles, most of the way in a ditch; but
it is truth to say that I enjoyed every step of it. I was safe; I
knew where I was; and I could have walked till morning. The mind had
again got the upper hand of the body, and began to plume itself on
its superiority: it was even disposed to doubt whether it had been
"lost" at all.



Trout fishing in the Adirondacks would be a more attractive pastime
than it is but for the popular notion of its danger. The trout is a
retiring and harmless animal, except when he is aroused and forced
into a combat; and then his agility, fierceness, and vindictiveness
become apparent. No one who has studied the excellent pictures
representing men in an open boat, exposed to the assaults of long,
enraged trout flying at them through the open air with open mouth,
ever ventures with his rod upon the lonely lakes of the forest
without a certain terror, or ever reads of the exploits of daring
fishermen without a feeling of admiration for their heroism. Most of
their adventures are thrilling, and all of them are, in narration,
more or less unjust to the trout: in fact, the object of them seems
to be to exhibit, at the expense of the trout, the shrewdness, the
skill, and the muscular power of the sportsman. My own simple story
has few of these recommendations.

We had built our bark camp one summer and were staying on one of the
popular lakes of the Saranac region. It would be a very pretty
region if it were not so flat, if the margins of the lakes had not
been flooded by dams at the outlets, which have killed the trees, and
left a rim of ghastly deadwood like the swamps of the under-world
pictured by Dore's bizarre pencil,--and if the pianos at the hotels
were in tune. It would be an excellent sporting region also (for
there is water enough) if the fish commissioners would stock the
waters, and if previous hunters had not pulled all the hair and skin
off from the deers' tails. Formerly sportsmen had a habit of
catching the deer by the tails, and of being dragged in mere
wantonness round and round the shores. It is well known that if you
seize a deer by this "holt" the skin will slip off like the peel from
a banana--This reprehensible practice was carried so far that the
traveler is now hourly pained by the sight of peeled-tail deer
mournfully sneaking about the wood.

We had been hearing, for weeks, of a small lake in the heart of the
virgin forest, some ten miles from our camp, which was alive with
trout, unsophisticated, hungry trout: the inlet to it was described
as stiff with them. In my imagination I saw them lying there in
ranks and rows, each a foot long, three tiers deep, a solid mass.
The lake had never been visited except by stray sable hunters in the
winter, and was known as the Unknown Pond. I determined to explore
it, fully expecting, however, that it would prove to be a delusion,
as such mysterious haunts of the trout usually are. Confiding my
purpose to Luke, we secretly made our preparations, and stole away
from the shanty one morning at daybreak. Each of us carried a boat,
a pair of blankets, a sack of bread, pork, and maple-sugar; while I
had my case of rods, creel, and book of flies, and Luke had an axe
and the kitchen utensils. We think nothing of loads of this sort in
the woods.

Five miles through a tamarack swamp brought us to the inlet of
Unknown Pond, upon which we embarked our fleet, and paddled down its
vagrant waters. They were at first sluggish, winding among triste
fir-trees, but gradually developed a strong current. At the end of
three miles a loud roar ahead warned us that we were approaching
rapids, falls, and cascades. We paused. The danger was unknown. We
had our choice of shouldering our loads and making a detour through
the woods, or of "shooting the rapids." Naturally we chose the more
dangerous course. Shooting the rapids has often been described, and
I will not repeat the description here. It is needless to say that I
drove my frail bark through the boiling rapids, over the successive
waterfalls, amid rocks and vicious eddies, and landed, half a mile
below with whitened hair and a boat half full of water; and that the
guide was upset, and boat, contents, and man were strewn along the

After this common experience we went quickly on our journey, and, a
couple of hours before sundown, reached the lake. If I live to my
dying day, I never shall forget its appearance. The lake is almost
an exact circle, about a quarter of a mile in diameter. The forest
about it was untouched by axe, and unkilled by artificial flooding.
The azure water had a perfect setting of evergreens, in which all the
shades of the fir, the balsam, the pine, and the spruce were
perfectly blended; and at intervals on the shore in the emerald rim
blazed the ruby of the cardinal flower. It was at once evident that
the unruffled waters had never been vexed by the keel of a boat. But
what chiefly attracted my attention, and amused me, was the boiling
of the water, the bubbling and breaking, as if the lake were a vast
kettle, with a fire underneath. A tyro would have been astonished at
this common phenomenon; but sportsmen will at once understand me when
I say that the water boiled with the breaking trout. I studied the
surface for some time to see upon what sort of flies they were
feeding, in order to suit my cast to their appetites; but they seemed
to be at play rather than feeding, leaping high in the air in
graceful curves, and tumbling about each other as we see them in the
Adirondack pictures.

It is well known that no person who regards his reputation will ever
kill a trout with anything but a fly. It requires some training on
the part of the trout to take to this method. The uncultivated,
unsophisticated trout in unfrequented waters prefers the bait; and
the rural people, whose sole object in going a-fishing appears to be
to catch fish, indulge them in their primitive taste for the worm.
No sportsman, however, will use anything but a fly, except he happens
to be alone.

While Luke launched my boat and arranged his seat in the stern, I
prepared my rod and line. The rod is a bamboo, weighing seven
ounces, which has to be spliced with a winding of silk thread every
time it is used. This is a tedious process; but, by fastening the
joints in this way, a uniform spring is secured in the rod. No one
devoted to high art would think of using a socket joint. My line was
forty yards of untwisted silk upon a multiplying reel. The "leader"
(I am very particular about my leaders) had been made to order from a
domestic animal with which I had been acquainted. The fisherman
requires as good a catgut as the violinist. The interior of the
house cat, it is well known, is exceedingly sensitive; but it may not
be so well known that the reason why some cats leave the room in
distress when a piano-forte is played is because the two instruments
are not in the same key, and the vibrations of the chords of the one
are in discord with the catgut of the other. On six feet of this
superior article I fixed three artificial flies,--a simple brown
hackle, a gray body with scarlet wings, and one of my own invention,
which I thought would be new to the most experienced fly-catcher.
The trout-fly does not resemble any known species of insect. It is a
"conventionalized" creation, as we say of ornamentation. The theory
is that, fly-fishing being a high art, the fly must not be a tame
imitation of nature, but an artistic suggestion of it. It requires
an artist to construct one; and not every bungler can take a bit of
red flannel, a peacock's feather, a flash of tinsel thread, a cock's
plume, a section of a hen's wing, and fabricate a tiny object that
will not look like any fly, but still will suggest the universal
conventional fly.

I took my stand in the center of the tipsy boat; and Luke shoved off,
and slowly paddled towards some lily-pads, while I began casting,
unlimbering my tools, as it were. The fish had all disappeared.
I got out, perhaps, fifty feet of line, with no response, and
gradually increased it to one hundred. It is not difficult to learn
to cast; but it is difficult to learn not to snap off the flies at
every throw. Of this, however, we will not speak. I continued
casting for some moments, until I became satisfied that there had
been a miscalculation. Either the trout were too green to know what
I was at, or they were dissatisfied with my offers. I reeled in, and
changed the flies (that is, the fly that was not snapped off). After
studying the color of the sky, of the water, and of the foliage, and
the moderated light of the afternoon, I put on a series of beguilers,
all of a subdued brilliancy, in harmony with the approach of evening.
At the second cast, which was a short one, I saw a splash where the
leader fell, and gave an excited jerk. The next instant I perceived
the game, and did not need the unfeigned "dam" of Luke to convince me
that I had snatched his felt hat from his head and deposited it among
the lilies. Discouraged by this, we whirled about, and paddled over
to the inlet, where a little ripple was visible in the tinted light.
At the very first cast I saw that the hour had come. Three trout
leaped into the air. The danger of this manoeuvre all fishermen
understand. It is one of the commonest in the woods: three heavy
trout taking hold at once, rushing in different directions, smash the
tackle into flinders. I evaded this catch, and threw again. I
recall the moment. A hermit thrush, on the tip of a balsam, uttered
his long, liquid, evening note. Happening to look over my shoulder,
I saw the peak of Marcy gleam rosy in the sky (I can't help it that
Marcy is fifty miles off, and cannot be seen from this region: these
incidental touches are always used). The hundred feet of silk
swished through the air, and the tail-fly fell as lightly on the
water as a three-cent piece (which no slamming will give the weight
of a ten) drops upon the contribution plate. Instantly there was a
rush, a swirl. I struck, and "Got him, by---!" Never mind what Luke
said I got him by. "Out on a fly!" continued that irreverent guide;
but I told him to back water, and make for the center of the lake.
The trout, as soon as he felt the prick of the hook, was off like a
shot, and took out the whole of the line with a rapidity that made it
smoke. "Give him the butt!" shouted Luke. It is the usual remark in
such an emergency. I gave him the butt; and, recognizing the fact
and my spirit, the trout at once sank to the bottom, and sulked. It
is the most dangerous mood of a trout; for you cannot tell what he
will do next. We reeled up a little, and waited five minutes for him
to reflect. A tightening of the line enraged him, and he soon
developed his tactics. Coming to the surface, he made straight for
the boat faster than I could reel in, and evidently with hostile
intentions. "Look out for him!" cried Luke as he came flying in the
air. I evaded him by dropping flat in the bottom of the boat; and,
when I picked my traps up, he was spinning across the lake as if he
had a new idea: but the line was still fast. He did not run far. I
gave him the butt again; a thing he seemed to hate, even as a gift.
In a moment the evil-minded fish, lashing the water in his rage, was
coming back again, making straight for the boat as before. Luke, who
was used to these encounters, having read of them in the writings of
travelers he had accompanied, raised his paddle in self-defense. The
trout left the water about ten feet from the boat, and came directly
at me with fiery eyes, his speckled sides flashing like a meteor. I
dodged as he whisked by with a vicious slap of his bifurcated tail,
and nearly upset the boat. The line was of course slack, and the
danger was that he would entangle it about me, and carry away a leg.
This was evidently his game; but I untangled it, and only lost a
breast button or two by the swiftly-moving string. The trout plunged
into the water with a hissing sound, and went away again with all the
line on the reel. More butt; more indignation on the part of the
captive. The contest had now been going on for half an hour, and I
was getting exhausted. We had been back and forth across the lake,
and round and round the lake. What I feared was that the trout would
start up the inlet and wreck us in the bushes. But he had a new
fancy, and began the execution of a manoeuvre which I had never read
of. Instead of coming straight towards me, he took a large circle,
swimming rapidly, and gradually contracting his orbit. I reeled in,
and kept my eye on him. Round and round he went, narrowing his
circle. I began to suspect the game; which was, to twist my head
off.--When he had reduced the radius of his circle to about twenty-
five feet, he struck a tremendous pace through the water. It would
be false modesty in a sportsman to say that I was not equal to the
occasion. Instead of turning round with him, as he expected, I
stepped to the bow, braced myself, and let the boat swing. Round
went the fish, and round we went like a top. I saw a line of Mount
Marcys all round the horizon; the rosy tint in the west made a broad
band of pink along the sky above the tree-tops; the evening star was
a perfect circle of light, a hoop of gold in the heavens. We whirled
and reeled, and reeled and whirled. I was willing to give the
malicious beast butt and line, and all, if he would only go the other
way for a change.

When I came to myself, Luke was gaffing the trout at the boat-side.
After we had got him in and dressed him, he weighed three-quarters of
a pound. Fish always lose by being "got in and dressed." It is best
to weigh them while they are in the water. The only really large one
I ever caught got away with my leader when I first struck him. He
weighed ten pounds.



If civilization owes a debt of gratitude to the self-sacrificing
sportsmen who have cleared the Adirondack regions of catamounts and
savage trout, what shall be said of the army which has so nobly
relieved them of the terror of the deer? The deer-slayers have
somewhat celebrated their exploits in print; but I think that justice
has never been done them.

The American deer in the wilderness, left to himself, leads a
comparatively harmless but rather stupid life, with only such
excitement as his own timid fancy raises. It was very seldom that
one of his tribe was eaten by the North American tiger. For a wild
animal he is very domestic, simple in his tastes, regular in his
habits, affectionate in his family. Unfortunately for his repose,
his haunch is as tender as his heart. Of all wild creatures he is
one of the most graceful in action, and he poses with the skill of an
experienced model. I have seen the goats on Mount Pentelicus scatter
at the approach of a stranger, climb to the sharp points of
projecting rocks, and attitudinize in the most self-conscious manner,
striking at once those picturesque postures against the sky with
which Oriental pictures have made us and them familiar. But the
whole proceeding was theatrical.

Greece is the home of art, and it is rare to find anything there
natural and unstudied. I presume that these goats have no nonsense
about them when they are alone with the goatherds, any more than the
goatherds have, except when they come to pose in the studio; but the
long ages of culture, the presence always to the eye of the best
models and the forms of immortal beauty, the heroic friezes of the
Temple of Theseus, the marble processions of sacrificial animals,
have had a steady molding, educating influence equal to a society of
decorative art upon the people and the animals who have dwelt in this
artistic atmosphere. The Attic goat has become an artificially
artistic being; though of course he is not now what he was, as a
poser, in the days of Polycletus. There is opportunity for a very
instructive essay by Mr. E. A. Freeman on the decadence of the Attic
goat under the influence of the Ottoman Turk.

The American deer, in the free atmosphere of our country, and as yet
untouched by our decorative art, is without self-consciousness, and
all his attitudes are free and unstudied. The favorite position of
the deer--his fore-feet in the shallow margin of the lake, among the
lily-pads, his antlers thrown back and his nose in the air at the
moment he hears the stealthy breaking of a twig in the forest--is
still spirited and graceful, and wholly unaffected by the pictures of
him which the artists have put upon canvas.

Wherever you go in the Northern forest you will find deer-paths. So
plainly marked and well-trodden are they that it is easy to mistake
them for trails made by hunters; but he who follows one of them is
soon in difficulties. He may find himself climbing through cedar
thickets an almost inaccessible cliff, or immersed in the intricacies
of a marsh. The "run," in one direction, will lead to water; but, in
the other, it climbs the highest hills, to which the deer retires,
for safety and repose, in impenetrable thickets. The hunters, in
winter, find them congregated in "yards," where they can be
surrounded and shot as easily as our troops shoot Comanche women and
children in their winter villages. These little paths are full of
pitfalls among the roots and stones; and, nimble as the deer is, he
sometimes breaks one of his slender legs in them. Yet he knows how
to treat himself without a surgeon. I knew of a tame deer in a
settlement in the edge of the forest who had the misfortune to break
her leg. She immediately disappeared with a delicacy rare in an
invalid, and was not seen for two weeks. Her friends had given her
up, supposing that she had dragged herself away into the depths of
the woods, and died of starvation, when one day she returned, cured
of lameness, but thin as a virgin shadow. She had the sense to shun
the doctor; to lie down in some safe place, and patiently wait for
her leg to heal. I have observed in many of the more refined animals
this sort of shyness, and reluctance to give trouble, which excite
our admiration when noticed in mankind.

The deer is called a timid animal, and taunted with possessing
courage only when he is "at bay"; the stag will fight when he can no
longer flee; and the doe will defend her young in the face of
murderous enemies. The deer gets little credit for this eleventh-
hour bravery. But I think that in any truly Christian condition of
society the deer would not be conspicuous for cowardice. I suppose
that if the American girl, even as she is described in foreign
romances, were pursued by bull-dogs, and fired at from behind fences
every time she ventured outdoors, she would become timid, and
reluctant to go abroad. When that golden era comes which the poets
think is behind us, and the prophets declare is about to be ushered
in by the opening of the "vials," and the killing of everybody who
does not believe as those nations believe which have the most cannon;
when we all live in real concord,--perhaps the gentle-hearted deer
will be respected, and will find that men are not more savage to the
weak than are the cougars and panthers. If the little spotted fawn
can think, it must seem to her a queer world in which the advent of
innocence is hailed by the baying of fierce hounds and the "ping" of
the rifle.

Hunting the deer in the Adirondacks is conducted in the most manly
fashion. There are several methods, and in none of them is a fair
chance to the deer considered. A favorite method with the natives is
practiced in winter, and is called by them "still hunting." My idea
of still hunting is for one man to go alone into the forest, look
about for a deer, put his wits fairly against the wits of the keen-
scented animal, and kill his deer, or get lost in the attempt. There
seems to be a sort of fairness about this. It is private
assassination, tempered with a little uncertainty about finding your
man. The still hunting of the natives has all the romance and danger
attending the slaughter of sheep in an abattoir. As the snow gets
deep, many deer congregate in the depths of the forest, and keep a
place trodden down, which grows larger as they tramp down the snow in
search of food. In time this refuge becomes a sort of "yard,"
surrounded by unbroken snow-banks. The hunters then make their way
to this retreat on snowshoes, and from the top of the banks pick off
the deer at leisure with their rifles, and haul them away to market,
until the enclosure is pretty much emptied. This is one of the
surest methods of exterminating the deer; it is also one of the most
merciful; and, being the plan adopted by our government for
civilizing the Indian, it ought to be popular. The only people who
object to it are the summer sportsmen. They naturally want some
pleasure out of the death of the deer.

Some of our best sportsmen, who desire to protract the pleasure of
slaying deer through as many seasons as possible, object to the
practice of the hunters, who make it their chief business to
slaughter as many deer in a camping season as they can. Their own
rule, they say, is to kill a deer only when they need venison to eat.
Their excuse is specious. What right have these sophists to put
themselves into a desert place, out of the reach of provisions, and
then ground a right to slay deer on their own improvidence? If it is
necessary for these people to have anything to eat, which I doubt, it
is not necessary that they should have the luxury of venison.

One of the most picturesque methods of hunting the poor deer is
called "floating." The person, with murder in his heart, chooses a
cloudy night, seats himself, rifle in hand, in a canoe, which is
noiselessly paddled by the guide, and explores the shore of the lake
or the dark inlet. In the bow of the boat is a light in a "jack,"
the rays of which are shielded from the boat and its occupants. A
deer comes down to feed upon the lily-pads. The boat approaches him.
He looks up, and stands a moment, terrified or fascinated by the
bright flames. In that moment the sportsman is supposed to shoot the
deer. As an historical fact, his hand usually shakes so that he
misses the animal, or only wounds him; and the stag limps away to die
after days of suffering. Usually, however, the hunters remain out
all night, get stiff from cold and the cramped position in the boat,
and, when they return in the morning to camp, cloud their future
existence by the assertion that they "heard a big buck" moving along
the shore, but the people in camp made so much noise that he was
frightened off.

By all odds, the favorite and prevalent mode is hunting with dogs.
The dogs do the hunting, the men the killing. The hounds are sent
into the forest to rouse the deer, and drive him from his cover.
They climb the mountains, strike the trails, and go baying and
yelping on the track of the poor beast. The deer have their
established runways, as I said; and, when they are disturbed in their
retreat, they are certain to attempt to escape by following one which
invariably leads to some lake or stream. All that the hunter has to
do is to seat himself by one of these runways, or sit in a boat on
the lake, and wait the coming of the pursued deer. The frightened
beast, fleeing from the unreasoning brutality of the hounds, will
often seek the open country, with a mistaken confidence in the
humanity of man. To kill a deer when he suddenly passes one on a
runway demands presence of mind and quickness of aim: to shoot him
from the boat, after he has plunged panting into the lake, requires
the rare ability to hit a moving object the size of a deer's head a
few rods distant. Either exploit is sufficient to make a hero of a
common man. To paddle up to the swimming deer, and cut his throat,
is a sure means of getting venison, and has its charms for some.
Even women and doctors of divinity have enjoyed this exquisite
pleasure. It cannot be denied that we are so constituted by a wise
Creator as to feel a delight in killing a wild animal which we do not
experience in killing a tame one.

The pleasurable excitement of a deer-hunt has never, I believe, been
regarded from the deer's point of view. I happen to be in a
position, by reason of a lucky Adirondack experience, to present it
in that light. I am sorry if this introduction to my little story
has seemed long to the reader: it is too late now to skip it; but he
can recoup himself by omitting the story.

Early on the morning of the 23d of August, 1877, a doe was feeding on
Basin Mountain. The night had been warm and showery, and the morning
opened in an undecided way. The wind was southerly: it is what the
deer call a dog-wind, having come to know quite well the meaning of
"a southerly wind and a cloudy sky." The sole companion of the doe
was her only child, a charming little fawn, whose brown coat was just
beginning to be mottled with the beautiful spots which make this
young creature as lovely as the gazelle. The buck, its father, had
been that night on a long tramp across the mountain to Clear Pond,
and had not yet returned: he went ostensibly to feed on the succulent
lily-pads there. "He feedeth among the lilies until the day break
and the shadows flee away, and he should be here by this hour; but he
cometh not," she said, "leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the
hills." Clear Pond was too far off for the young mother to go with
her fawn for a night's pleasure. It was a fashionable watering-place
at this season among the deer; and the doe may have remembered, not
without uneasiness, the moonlight meetings of a frivolous society
there. But the buck did not come: he was very likely sleeping under
one of the ledges on Tight Nippin. Was he alone? "I charge you, by
the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not nor awake my
love till he please."

The doe was feeding, daintily cropping the tender leaves of the young
shoots, and turning from time to time to regard her offspring. The
fawn had taken his morning meal, and now lay curled up on a bed of
moss, watching contentedly, with his large, soft brown eyes, every
movement of his mother. The great eyes followed her with an alert
entreaty; and, if the mother stepped a pace or two farther away in
feeding, the fawn made a half movement, as if to rise and follow her.
You see, she was his sole dependence in all the world. But he was
quickly reassured when she turned her gaze on him; and if, in alarm,
he uttered a plaintive cry, she bounded to him at once, and, with
every demonstration of affection, licked his mottled skin till it
shone again.

It was a pretty picture,--maternal love on the one part, and happy
trust on the other. The doe was a beauty, and would have been so
considered anywhere, as graceful and winning a creature as the sun
that day shone on,--slender limbs, not too heavy flanks, round body,
and aristocratic head, with small ears, and luminous, intelligent,
affectionate eyes. How alert, supple, free, she was! What untaught
grace in every movement! What a charming pose when she lifted her
head, and turned it to regard her child! You would have had a
companion picture if you had seen, as I saw that morning, a baby
kicking about among the dry pine-needles on a ledge above the Au
Sable, in the valley below, while its young mother sat near, with an
easel before her, touching in the color of a reluctant landscape,
giving a quick look at the sky and the outline of the Twin Mountains,
and bestowing every third glance upon the laughing boy,--art in its

The doe lifted her head a little with a quick motion, and turned her
ear to the south. Had she heard something? Probably it was only the
south wind in the balsams. There was silence all about in the
forest. If the doe had heard anything, it was one of the distant
noises of the world. There are in the woods occasional moanings,
premonitions of change, which are inaudible to the dull ears of men,
but which, I have no doubt, the forest-folk hear and understand. If
the doe's suspicions were excited for an instant, they were gone as
soon. With an affectionate glance at her fawn, she continued picking
up her breakfast.

But suddenly she started, head erect, eyes dilated, a tremor in her
limbs. She took a step; she turned her head to the south; she
listened intently. There was a sound,--a distant, prolonged note,
bell-toned, pervading the woods, shaking the air in smooth
vibrations. It was repeated. The doe had no doubt now. She shook
like the sensitive mimosa when a footstep approaches. It was the
baying of a hound! It was far off,--at the foot of the mountain.
Time enough to fly; time enough to put miles between her and the
hound, before he should come upon her fresh trail; time enough to
escape away through the dense forest, and hide in the recesses of
Panther Gorge; yes, time enough. But there was the fawn. The cry of
the hound was repeated, more distinct this time. The mother
instinctively bounded away a few paces. The fawn started up with an
anxious bleat: the doe turned; she came back; she couldn't leave it.
She bent over it, and licked it, and seemed to say, "Come, my child:
we are pursued: we must go." She walked away towards the west, and
the little thing skipped after her. It was slow going for the
slender legs, over the fallen logs, and through the rasping bushes.
The doe bounded in advance, and waited: the fawn scrambled after her,
slipping and tumbling along, very groggy yet on its legs, and whining
a good deal because its mother kept always moving away from it. The
fawn evidently did not hear the hound: the little innocent would even
have looked sweetly at the dog, and tried to make friends with it, if
the brute had been rushing upon him. By all the means at her command
the doe urged her young one on; but it was slow work. She might have
been a mile away while they were making a few rods. Whenever the
fawn caught up, he was quite content to frisk about. He wanted more
breakfast, for one thing; and his mother wouldn't stand still. She
moved on continually; and his weak legs were tangled in the roots of
the narrow deer-path.

Shortly came a sound that threw the doe into a panic of terror,--a
short, sharp yelp, followed by a prolonged howl, caught up and
reechoed by other bayings along the mountain-side. The doe knew what
that meant. One hound had caught her trail, and the whole pack
responded to the "view-halloo." The danger was certain now; it was
near. She could not crawl on in this way: the dogs would soon be
upon them. She turned again for flight: the fawn, scrambling after
her, tumbled over, and bleated piteously. The baying, emphasized now
by the yelp of certainty, came nearer. Flight with the fawn was
impossible. The doe returned and stood by it, head erect, and
nostrils distended. She stood perfectly still, but trembling.
Perhaps she was thinking. The fawn took advantage of the situation,
and began to draw his luncheon ration. The doe seemed to have made
up her mind. She let him finish. The fawn, having taken all he
wanted, lay down contentedly, and the doe licked him for a moment.
Then, with the swiftness of a bird, she dashed away, and in a moment
was lost in the forest. She went in the direction of the hounds.

According to all human calculations, she was going into the jaws of
death. So she was: all human calculations are selfish. She kept
straight on, hearing the baying every moment more distinctly. She
descended the slope of the mountain until she reached the more open
forest of hard-wood. It was freer going here, and the cry of the
pack echoed more resoundingly in the great spaces. She was going due
east, when (judging by the sound, the hounds were not far off, though
they were still hidden by a ridge) she turned short away to the
north, and kept on at a good pace. In five minutes more she heard
the sharp, exultant yelp of discovery, and then the deep-mouthed howl
of pursuit. The hounds had struck her trail where she turned, and
the fawn was safe.

The doe was in good running condition, the ground was not bad, and
she felt the exhilaration of the chase. For the moment, fear left
her, and she bounded on with the exaltation of triumph. For a
quarter of an hour she went on at a slapping pace, clearing the
moose-bushes with bound after bound, flying over the fallen logs,
pausing neither for brook nor ravine. The baying of the hounds grew
fainter behind her. But she struck a bad piece of going, a dead-wood
slash. It was marvelous to see her skim over it, leaping among its
intricacies, and not breaking her slender legs. No other living
animal could do it. But it was killing work. She began to pant
fearfully; she lost ground. The baying of the hounds was nearer.
She climbed the hard-wood hill at a slower gait; but, once on more
level, free ground, her breath came back to her, and she stretched
away with new courage, and maybe a sort of contempt of her heavy

After running at high speed perhaps half a mile farther, it occurred
to her that it would be safe now to turn to the west, and, by a wide
circuit, seek her fawn. But, at the moment, she heard a sound that
chilled her heart. It was the cry of a hound to the west of her.
The crafty brute had made the circuit of the slash, and cut off her
retreat. There was nothing to do but to keep on; and on she went,
still to the north, with the noise of the pack behind her. In five
minutes more she had passed into a hillside clearing. Cows and young
steers were grazing there. She heard a tinkle of bells. Below her,
down the mountain slope, were other clearings, broken by patches of
woods. Fences intervened; and a mile or two down lay the valley, the
shining Au Sable, and the peaceful farmhouses. That way also her
hereditary enemies were. Not a merciful heart in all that lovely
valley. She hesitated: it was only for an instant. She must cross
the Slidebrook Valley if possible, and gain the mountain opposite.
She bounded on; she stopped. What was that? From the valley ahead
came the cry of a searching hound. All the devils were loose this
morning. Every way was closed but one, and that led straight down
the mountain to the cluster of houses. Conspicuous among them was a
slender white wooden spire. The doe did not know that it was the
spire of a Christian chapel. But perhaps she thought that human pity
dwelt there, and would be more merciful than the teeth of the hounds.

"The hounds are baying on my track:
O white man! will you send me back?"

In a panic, frightened animals will always flee to human-kind from
the danger of more savage foes. They always make a mistake in doing
so. Perhaps the trait is the survival of an era of peace on earth;
perhaps it is a prophecy of the golden age of the future. The
business of this age is murder,--the slaughter of animals, the
slaughter of fellow-men, by the wholesale. Hilarious poets who have
never fired a gun write hunting-songs,--Ti-ra-la: and good bishops
write war-songs,--Ave the Czar!

The hunted doe went down the "open," clearing the fences splendidly,
flying along the stony path. It was a beautiful sight. But consider
what a shot it was! If the deer, now, could only have been caught I
No doubt there were tenderhearted people in the valley who would have
spared her life, shut her up in a stable, and petted her. Was there
one who would have let her go back to her waiting-fawn? It is the
business of civilization to tame or kill.

The doe went on. She left the sawmill on John's Brook to her right;
she turned into a wood-path. As she approached Slide Brook, she saw
a boy standing by a tree with a raised rifle. The dogs were not in
sight; but she could hear them coming down the hill. There was no
time for hesitation. With a tremendous burst of speed she cleared
the stream, and, as she touched the bank, heard the "ping" of a rifle
bullet in the air above her. The cruel sound gave wings to the poor
thing. In a moment more she was in the opening: she leaped into the
traveled road. Which way? Below her in the wood was a load of hay:
a man and a boy, with pitchforks in their hands, were running towards
her. She turned south, and flew along the street. The town was up.
Women and children ran to the doors and windows; men snatched their
rifles; shots were fired; at the big boarding-houses, the summer
boarders, who never have anything to do, came out and cheered; a
campstool was thrown from a veranda. Some young fellows shooting at
a mark in the meadow saw the flying deer, and popped away at her; but
they were accustomed to a mark that stood still. It was all so
sudden! There were twenty people who were just going to shoot her;
when the doe leaped the road fence, and went away across a marsh
toward the foothills. It was a fearful gauntlet to run. But nobody
except the deer considered it in that light. Everybody told what he
was just going to do; everybody who had seen the performance was a
kind of hero,--everybody except the deer. For days and days it was
the subject of conversation; and the summer boarders kept their guns
at hand, expecting another deer would come to be shot at.

The doe went away to the foothills, going now slower, and evidently
fatigued, if not frightened half to death. Nothing is so appalling
to a recluse as half a mile of summer boarders. As the deer entered
the thin woods, she saw a rabble of people start across the meadow in
pursuit. By this time, the dogs, panting, and lolling out their
tongues, came swinging along, keeping the trail, like stupids, and
consequently losing ground when the deer doubled. But, when the doe
had got into the timber, she heard the savage brutes howling across
the meadow. (It is well enough, perhaps, to say that nobody offered
to shoot the dogs.)

The courage of the panting fugitive was not gone: she was game to the
tip of her high-bred ears. But the fearful pace at which she had
just been going told on her. Her legs trembled, and her heart beat
like a trip-hammer. She slowed her speed perforce, but still fled
industriously up the right bank of the stream. When she had gone a
couple of miles, and the dogs were evidently gaining again, she
crossed the broad, deep brook, climbed the steep left bank, and fled
on in the direction of the Mount-Marcy trail. The fording of the
river threw the hounds off for a time. She knew, by their uncertain
yelping up and down the opposite bank, that she had a little respite:
she used it, however, to push on until the baying was faint in her
ears; and then she dropped, exhausted, upon the ground.

This rest, brief as it was, saved her life. Roused again by the
baying pack, she leaped forward with better speed, though without
that keen feeling of exhilarating flight that she had in the morning.
It was still a race for life; but the odds were in her--favor, she
thought. She did not appreciate the dogged persistence of the
hounds, nor had any inspiration told her that the race is not to the

She was a little confused in her mind where to go; but an instinct
kept her course to the left, and consequently farther away from her
fawn. Going now slower, and now faster, as the pursuit seemed more
distant or nearer, she kept to the southwest, crossed the stream
again, left Panther Gorge on her right, and ran on by Haystack and
Skylight in the direction of the Upper Au Sable Pond. I do not know
her exact course through this maze of mountains, swamps, ravines, and
frightful wildernesses. I only know that the poor thing worked her
way along painfully, with sinking heart and unsteady limbs, lying
down "dead beat" at intervals, and then spurred on by the cry of the
remorseless dogs, until, late in the afternoon, she staggered down
the shoulder of Bartlett, and stood upon the shore of the lake. If
she could put that piece of water between her and her pursuers, she
would be safe. Had she strength to swim it?

At her first step into the water she saw a sight that sent her back
with a bound. There was a boat mid-lake: two men were in it. One
was rowing: the other had a gun in his hand. They were looking
towards her: they had seen her. (She did not know that they had
heard the baying of hounds on the mountains, and had been lying in
wait for her an hour.) What should she do? The hounds were drawing
near. No escape that way, even if she could still run. With only a
moment's hesitation she plunged into the lake, and struck obliquely
across. Her tired legs could not propel the tired body rapidly. She
saw the boat headed for her. She turned toward the centre of the
lake. The boat turned. She could hear the rattle of the oarlocks.
It was gaining on her. Then there was a silence. Then there was a
splash of the water just ahead of her, followed by a roar round the
lake, the words "Confound it all!" and a rattle of the oars again.
The doe saw the boat nearing her. She turned irresolutely to the
shore whence she came: the dogs were lapping the water, and howling
there. She turned again to the center of the lake.

The brave, pretty creature was quite exhausted now. In a moment
more, with a rush of water, the boat was on her, and the man at the
oars had leaned over and caught her by the tail.

"Knock her on the head with that paddle!" he shouted to the gentleman
in the stern.

The gentleman was a gentleman, with a kind, smooth-shaven face, and
might have been a minister of some sort of everlasting gospel. He
took the paddle in his hand. Just then the doe turned her head, and
looked at him with her great, appealing eyes.

"I can't do it! my soul, I can't do it!" and he dropped the paddle.
"Oh, let her go!"

"Let H. go!" was the only response of the guide as he slung the deer
round, whipped out his hunting-knife, and made a pass that severed
her jugular.

And the gentleman ate that night of the venison.

The buck returned about the middle of the afternoon. The fawn was
bleating piteously, hungry and lonesome. The buck was surprised. He
looked about in the forest. He took a circuit, and came back. His
doe was nowhere to be seen. He looked down at the fawn in a helpless
sort of way. The fawn appealed for his supper. The buck had nothing
whatever to give his child,--nothing but his sympathy. If he said
anything, this is what he said: "I'm the head of this family; but,
really, this is a novel case. I've nothing whatever for you. I
don't know what to do. I've the feelings of a father; but you can't
live on them. Let us travel."

The buck walked away: the little one toddled after him. They
disappeared in the forest.



There has been a lively inquiry after the primeval man. Wanted, a
man who would satisfy the conditions of the miocene environment, and
yet would be good enough for an ancestor. We are not particular
about our ancestors, if they are sufficiently remote; but we must
have something. Failing to apprehend the primeval man, science has
sought the primitive man where he exists as a survival in present
savage races. He is, at best, only a mushroom growth of the recent
period (came in, probably, with the general raft of mammalian fauna);
but he possesses yet some rudimentary traits that may be studied.

It is a good mental exercise to try to fix the mind on the primitive
man divested of all the attributes he has acquired in his struggles
with the other mammalian fauna. Fix the mind on an orange, the
ordinary occupation of the metaphysician: take from it (without
eating it) odor, color, weight, form, substance, and peel; then let
the mind still dwell on it as an orange. The experiment is perfectly
successful; only, at the end of it, you haven't any mind. Better
still, consider the telephone: take away from it the metallic disk,
and the magnetized iron, and the connecting wire, and then let the
mind run abroad on the telephone. The mind won't come back. I have
tried by this sort of process to get a conception of the primitive
man. I let the mind roam away back over the vast geologic spaces,
and sometimes fancy I see a dim image of him stalking across the
terrace epoch of the quaternary period.

But this is an unsatisfying pleasure. The best results are obtained
by studying the primitive man as he is left here and there in our
era, a witness of what has been; and I find him most to my mind in
the Adirondack system of what geologists call the Champlain epoch. I
suppose the primitive man is one who owes more to nature than to the
forces of civilization. What we seek in him are the primal and
original traits, unmixed with the sophistications of society, and
unimpaired by the refinements of an artificial culture. He would
retain the primitive instincts, which are cultivated out of the
ordinary, commonplace man. I should expect to find him, by reason of
an unrelinquished kinship, enjoying a special communion with nature,-
-admitted to its mysteries, understanding its moods, and able to
predict its vagaries. He would be a kind of test to us of what we
have lost by our gregarious acquisitions. On the one hand, there
would be the sharpness of the senses, the keen instincts (which the
fox and the beaver still possess), the ability to find one's way in
the pathless forest, to follow a trail, to circumvent the wild
denizens of the woods; and, on the other hand, there would be the
philosophy of life which the primitive man, with little external aid,
would evolve from original observation and cogitation. It is our
good fortune to know such a man; but it is difficult to present him
to a scientific and caviling generation. He emigrated from somewhat
limited conditions in Vermont, at an early age, nearly half a century
ago, and sought freedom for his natural development backward in the
wilds of the Adirondacks. Sometimes it is a love of adventure and
freedom that sends men out of the more civilized conditions into the
less; sometimes it is a constitutional physical lassitude which leads
them to prefer the rod to the hoe, the trap to the sickle, and the
society of bears to town meetings and taxes. I think that Old
Mountain Phelps had merely the instincts of the primitive man, and
never any hostile civilizing intent as to the wilderness into which
he plunged. Why should he want to slash away the forest and plow up
the ancient mould, when it is infinitely pleasanter to roam about in
the leafy solitudes, or sit upon a mossy log and listen to the
chatter of birds and the stir of beasts? Are there not trout in the
streams, gum exuding from the spruce, sugar in the maples, honey in
the hollow trees, fur on the sables, warmth in hickory logs? Will
not a few days' planting and scratching in the "open" yield potatoes
and rye? And, if there is steadier diet needed than venison and
bear, is the pig an expensive animal? If Old Phelps bowed to the
prejudice or fashion of his age (since we have come out of the
tertiary state of things), and reared a family, built a frame house
in a secluded nook by a cold spring, planted about it some apple
trees and a rudimentary garden, and installed a group of flaming
sunflowers by the door, I am convinced that it was a concession that
did not touch his radical character; that is to say, it did not
impair his reluctance to split oven-wood.

He was a true citizen of the wilderness. Thoreau would have liked
him, as he liked Indians and woodchucks, and the smell of pine
forests; and, if Old Phelps had seen Thoreau, he would probably have
said to him, "Why on airth, Mr. Thoreau, don't you live accordin' to
your preachin'?" You might be misled by the shaggy suggestion of Old
Phelps's given name--Orson--into the notion that he was a mighty
hunter, with the fierce spirit of the Berserkers in his veins.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The hirsute and grisly
sound of Orson expresses only his entire affinity with the untamed
and the natural, an uncouth but gentle passion for the freedom and
wildness of the forest. Orson Phelps has only those unconventional
and humorous qualities of the bear which make the animal so beloved
in literature; and one does not think of Old Phelps so much as a
lover of nature,--to use the sentimental slang of the period,--as a
part of nature itself.

His appearance at the time when as a "guide" he began to come into
public notice fostered this impression,--a sturdy figure with long
body and short legs, clad in a woolen shirt and butternut-colored
trousers repaired to the point of picturesqueness, his head
surmounted by a limp, light-brown felt hat, frayed away at the top,
so that his yellowish hair grew out of it like some nameless fern out
of a pot. His tawny hair was long and tangled, matted now many years
past the possibility of being entered by a comb.

His features were small and delicate, and set in the frame of a
reddish beard, the razor having mowed away a clearing about the
sensitive mouth, which was not seldom wreathed with a childlike and
charming smile. Out of this hirsute environment looked the small
gray eyes, set near together; eyes keen to observe, and quick to
express change of thought; eyes that made you believe instinct can
grow into philosophic judgment. His feet and hands were of
aristocratic smallness, although the latter were not worn away by
ablutions; in fact, they assisted his toilet to give you the
impression that here was a man who had just come out of the ground,--
a real son of the soil, whose appearance was partially explained by
his humorous relation to-soap. "Soap is a thing," he said, "that I
hain't no kinder use for." His clothes seemed to have been put on
him once for all, like the bark of a tree, a long time ago. The
observant stranger was sure to be puzzled by the contrast of this
realistic and uncouth exterior with the internal fineness, amounting
to refinement and culture, that shone through it all. What communion
had supplied the place of our artificial breeding to this man?

Perhaps his most characteristic attitude was sitting on a log, with a
short pipe in his mouth. If ever man was formed to sit on a log, it
was Old Phelps. He was essentially a contemplative person. Walking
on a country road, or anywhere in the "open," was irksome to him. He
had a shambling, loose-jointed gait, not unlike that of the bear: his
short legs bowed out, as if they had been more in the habit of
climbing trees than of walking. On land, if we may use that
expression, he was something like a sailor; but, once in the rugged
trail or the unmarked route of his native forest, he was a different
person, and few pedestrians could compete with him. The vulgar
estimate of his contemporaries, that reckoned Old Phelps "lazy," was
simply a failure to comprehend the conditions of his being. It is
the unjustness of civilization that it sets up uniform and artificial
standards for all persons. The primitive man suffers by them much as
the contemplative philosopher does, when one happens to arrive in
this busy, fussy world.

If the appearance of Old Phelps attracts attention, his voice, when
first heard, invariably startles the listener. A small, high-
pitched, half-querulous voice, it easily rises into the shrillest
falsetto; and it has a quality in it that makes it audible in all the
tempests of the forest, or the roar of rapids, like the piping of a
boatswain's whistle at sea in a gale. He has a way of letting it
rise as his sentence goes on, or when he is opposed in argument, or
wishes to mount above other voices in the conversation, until it
dominates everything. Heard in the depths of the woods, quavering
aloft, it is felt to be as much a part of nature, an original force,
as the northwest wind or the scream of the hen-hawk. When he is
pottering about the camp-fire, trying to light his pipe with a twig
held in the flame, he is apt to begin some philosophical observation
in a small, slow, stumbling voice, which seems about to end in
defeat; when he puts on some unsuspected force, and the sentence ends
in an insistent shriek. Horace Greeley had such a voice, and could
regulate it in the same manner. But Phelps's voice is not seldom
plaintive, as if touched by the dreamy sadness of the woods

When Old Mountain Phelps was discovered, he was, as the reader has
already guessed, not understood by his contemporaries. His
neighbors, farmers in the secluded valley, had many of them grown
thrifty and prosperous, cultivating the fertile meadows, and
vigorously attacking the timbered mountains; while Phelps, with not
much more faculty of acquiring property than the roaming deer, had
pursued the even tenor of the life in the forest on which he set out.
They would have been surprised to be told that Old Phelps owned more
of what makes the value of the Adirondacks than all of them put
together, but it was true. This woodsman, this trapper, this hunter,
this fisherman, this sitter on a log, and philosopher, was the real
proprietor of the region over which he was ready to guide the
stranger. It is true that he had not a monopoly of its geography or
its topography (though his knowledge was superior in these respects);
there were other trappers, and more deadly hunters, and as intrepid
guides: but Old Phelps was the discoverer of the beauties and
sublimities of the mountains; and, when city strangers broke into the
region, he monopolized the appreciation of these delights and wonders
of nature. I suppose that in all that country he alone had noticed
the sunsets, and observed the delightful processes of the seasons,
taken pleasure in the woods for themselves, and climbed mountains
solely for the sake of the prospect. He alone understood what was
meant by "scenery." In the eyes of his neighbors, who did not know
that he was a poet and a philosopher, I dare say he appeared to be a
slack provider, a rather shiftless trapper and fisherman; and his
passionate love of the forest and the mountains, if it was noticed,
was accounted to him for idleness. When the appreciative tourist
arrived, Phelps was ready, as guide, to open to him all the wonders
of his possessions; he, for the first time, found an outlet for his
enthusiasm, and a response to his own passion. It then became known
what manner of man this was who had grown up here in the
companionship of forests, mountains, and wild animals; that these
scenes had highly developed in him the love of beauty, the aesthetic
sense, delicacy of appreciation, refinement of feeling; and that, in
his solitary wanderings and musings, the primitive man, self-taught,
had evolved for himself a philosophy and a system of things. And it
was a sufficient system, so long as it was not disturbed by external
skepticism. When the outer world came to him, perhaps he had about
as much to give to it as to receive from it; probably more, in his
own estimation; for there is no conceit like that of isolation.

Phelps loved his mountains. He was the discoverer of Marcy, and
caused the first trail to be cut to its summit, so that others could
enjoy the noble views from its round and rocky top. To him it was,
in noble symmetry and beauty, the chief mountain of the globe. To
stand on it gave him, as he said, "a feeling of heaven up-h'isted-
ness." He heard with impatience that Mount Washington was a thousand
feet higher, and he had a childlike incredulity about the surpassing
sublimity of the Alps. Praise of any other elevation he seemed to
consider a slight to Mount Marcy, and did not willingly hear it, any
more than a lover hears the laudation of the beauty of another woman
than the one he loves. When he showed us scenery he loved, it made
him melancholy to have us speak of scenery elsewhere that was finer.
And yet there was this delicacy about him, that he never over-praised
what he brought us to see, any more than one would over-praise a
friend of whom he was fond. I remember that when for the first time,
after a toilsome journey through the forest, the splendors of the
Lower Au Sable Pond broke upon our vision,--that low-lying silver
lake, imprisoned by the precipices which it reflected in its bosom,--
he made no outward response to our burst of admiration: only a quiet
gleam of the eye showed the pleasure our appreciation gave him. As
some one said, it was as if his friend had been admired--a friend
about whom he was unwilling to say much himself, but well pleased to
have others praise.

Thus far, we have considered Old Phelps as simply the product of the
Adirondacks; not so much a self-made man (as the doubtful phrase has
it) as a natural growth amid primal forces. But our study is
interrupted by another influence, which complicates the problem, but
increases its interest. No scientific observer, so far as we know,
has ever been able to watch the development of the primitive man,
played upon and fashioned by the hebdomadal iteration of "Greeley's
Weekly Tri-bune." Old Phelps educated by the woods is a fascinating
study; educated by the woods and the Tri-bune, he is a phenomenon.
No one at this day can reasonably conceive exactly what this
newspaper was to such a mountain valley as Keene. If it was not a
Providence, it was a Bible. It was no doubt owing to it that
Democrats became as scarce as moose in the Adirondacks. But it is
not of its political aspect that I speak. I suppose that the most
cultivated and best informed portion of the earth's surface--the
Western Reserve of Ohio, as free from conceit as it is from a
suspicion that it lacks anything owes its pre-eminence solely to this
comprehensive journal. It received from it everything except a
collegiate and a classical education,--things not to be desired,
since they interfere with the self-manufacture of man. If Greek had
been in this curriculum, its best known dictum would have been
translated, "Make thyself." This journal carried to the community
that fed on it not only a complete education in all departments of
human practice and theorizing, but the more valuable and satisfying
assurance that there was nothing more to be gleaned in the universe
worth the attention of man. This panoplied its readers in
completeness. Politics, literature, arts, sciences, universal
brotherhood and sisterhood, nothing was omitted; neither the poetry
of Tennyson, nor the philosophy of Margaret Fuller; neither the
virtues of association, nor of unbolted wheat. The laws of political
economy and trade were laid down as positively and clearly as the
best way to bake beans, and the saving truth that the millennium
would come, and come only when every foot of the earth was subsoiled.

I do not say that Orson Phelps was the product of nature and the Tri-
bune: but he cannot be explained without considering these two
factors. To him Greeley was the Tri-bune, and the Tri-bune was
Greeley; and yet I think he conceived of Horace Greeley as something
greater than his newspaper, and perhaps capable of producing another
journal equal to it in another part of the universe. At any rate, so
completely did Phelps absorb this paper and this personality that he
was popularly known as "Greeley" in the region where he lived.
Perhaps a fancied resemblance of the two men in the popular mind had
something to do with this transfer of name. There is no doubt that
Horace Greeley owed his vast influence in the country to his genius,
nor much doubt that he owed his popularity in the rural districts to
James Gordon Bennett; that is, to the personality of the man which
the ingenious Bennett impressed upon the country. That he despised
the conventionalities of society, and was a sloven in his toilet, was
firmly believed; and the belief endeared him to the hearts of the
people. To them "the old white coat"--an antique garment of
unrenewed immortality--was as much a subject of idolatry as the
redingote grise to the soldiers of the first Napoleon, who had seen
it by the campfires on the Po and on the Borysthenes, and believed
that he would come again in it to lead them against the enemies of
France. The Greeley of the popular heart was clad as Bennett said he
was clad. It was in vain, even pathetically in vain, that he
published in his newspaper the full bill of his fashionable tailor
(the fact that it was receipted may have excited the animosity of
some of his contemporaries) to show that he wore the best broadcloth,
and that the folds of his trousers followed the city fashion of
falling outside his boots. If this revelation was believed, it made
no sort of impression in the country. The rural readers were not to
be wheedled out of their cherished conception of the personal
appearance of the philosopher of the Tri-bune.

That the Tri-bune taught Old Phelps to be more Phelps than he would
have been without it was part of the independence-teaching mission of
Greeley's paper. The subscribers were an army, in which every man
was a general. And I am not surprised to find Old Phelps lately
rising to the audacity of criticising his exemplar. In some
recently-published observations by Phelps upon the philosophy of
reading is laid down this definition: "If I understand the necessity
or use of reading, it is to reproduce again what has been said or
proclaimed before. Hence, letters, characters, &c., are arranged in
all the perfection they possibly can be, to show how certain language
has been spoken by the, original author. Now, to reproduce by
reading, the reading should be so perfectly like the original that no
one standing out of sight could tell the reading from the first time
the language was spoken."

This is illustrated by the highest authority at hand: I have heard as
good readers read, and as poor readers, as almost any one in this
region. If I have not heard as many, I have had a chance to hear
nearly the extreme in variety. Horace Greeley ought to have been a
good reader. Certainly but few, if any, ever knew every word of the
English language at a glance more readily than he did, or knew the
meaning of every mark of punctuation more clearly; but he could not
read proper. 'But how do you know?' says one. From the fact I heard
him in the same lecture deliver or produce remarks in his own
particular way, that, if they had been published properly in print, a
proper reader would have reproduced them again the same way. In the
midst of those remarks Mr. Greeley took up a paper, to reproduce by
reading part of a speech that some one else had made; and his reading
did not sound much more like the man that first read or made the
speech than the clatter of a nail factory sounds like a well-
delivered speech. Now, the fault was not because Mr. Greeley did not
know how to read as well as almost any man that ever lived, if not
quite: but in his youth he learned to read wrong; and, as it is ten
times harder to unlearn anything than it is to learn it, he, like
thousands of others, could never stop to unlearn it, but carried it
on through his whole life.

Whether a reader would be thanked for reproducing one of Horace
Greeley's lectures as he delivered it is a question that cannot
detain us here; but the teaching that he ought to do so, I think,
would please Mr. Greeley.

The first driblets of professional tourists and summer boarders who
arrived among the Adirondack Mountains a few years ago found Old
Phelps the chief and best guide of the region. Those who were eager
to throw off the usages of civilization, and tramp and camp in the
wilderness, could not but be well satisfied with the aboriginal
appearance of this guide; and when he led off into the woods, axe in
hand, and a huge canvas sack upon his shoulders, they seemed to be
following the Wandering Jew. The contents--of this sack would have
furnished a modern industrial exhibition, provisions cooked and raw,
blankets, maple-sugar, tinware, clothing, pork, Indian meal, flour,
coffee, tea, &c. Phelps was the ideal guide: he knew every foot of
the pathless forest; he knew all woodcraft, all the signs of the
weather, or, what is the same thing, how to make a Delphic prediction
about it. He was fisherman and hunter, and had been the comrade of
sportsmen and explorers; and his enthusiasm for the beauty and
sublimity of the region, and for its untamable wildness, amounted to
a passion. He loved his profession; and yet it very soon appeared
that he exercised it with reluctance for those who had neither
ideality, nor love for the woods. Their presence was a profanation
amid the scenery he loved. To guide into his private and secret
haunts a party that had no appreciation of their loveliness disgusted
him. It was a waste of his time to conduct flippant young men and
giddy girls who made a noisy and irreverent lark of the expedition.
And, for their part, they did not appreciate the benefit of being
accompanied by a poet and a philosopher. They neither understood nor
valued his special knowledge and his shrewd observations: they didn't
even like his shrill voice; his quaint talk bored them. It was true
that, at this period, Phelps had lost something of the activity of
his youth; and the habit of contemplative sitting on a log and
talking increased with the infirmities induced by the hard life of
the woodsman. Perhaps he would rather talk, either about the woods-
life or the various problems of existence, than cut wood, or busy
himself in the drudgery of the camp. His critics went so far as to
say, "Old Phelps is a fraud." They would have said the same of
Socrates. Xantippe, who never appreciated the world in which
Socrates lived, thought he was lazy. Probably Socrates could cook no
better than Old Phelps, and no doubt went "gumming" about Athens with
very little care of what was in the pot for dinner.

If the summer visitors measured Old Phelps, he also measured them by
his own standards. He used to write out what he called "short-faced
descriptions" of his comrades in the woods, which were never so
flattering as true. It was curious to see how the various qualities
which are esteemed in society appeared in his eyes, looked at merely
in their relation to the limited world he knew, and judged by their
adaptation to the primitive life. It was a much subtler comparison
than that of the ordinary guide, who rates his traveler by his
ability to endure on a march, to carry a pack, use an oar, hit a
mark, or sing a song. Phelps brought his people to a test of their
naturalness and sincerity, tried by contact with the verities of the
woods. If a person failed to appreciate the woods, Phelps had no
opinion of him or his culture; and yet, although he was perfectly
satisfied with his own philosophy of life, worked out by close
observation of nature and study of the Tri-bune, he was always eager
for converse with superior minds, with those who had the advantage of
travel and much reading, and, above all, with those who had any
original "speckerlation." Of all the society he was ever permitted
to enjoy, I think he prized most that of Dr. Bushnell. The doctor
enjoyed the quaint and first-hand observations of the old woodsman,
and Phelps found new worlds open to him in the wide ranges of the
doctor's mind. They talked by the hour upon all sorts of themes, the
growth of the tree, the habits of wild animals, the migration of
seeds, the succession of oak and pine, not to mention theology, and
the mysteries of the supernatural.

I recall the bearing of Old Phelps, when, several years ago, he
conducted a party to the summit of Mount Marcy by the way he had
"bushed out." This was his mountain, and he had a peculiar sense of
ownership in it. In a way, it was holy ground; and he would rather
no one should go on it who did not feel its sanctity. Perhaps it was
a sense of some divine relation in it that made him always speak of
it as "Mercy." To him this ridiculously dubbed Mount Marcy was
always "Mount Mercy." By a like effort to soften the personal
offensiveness of the nomenclature of this region, he invariably spoke
of Dix's Peak, one of the southern peaks of the range, as "Dixie."
It was some time since Phelps himself had visited his mountain; and,
as he pushed on through the miles of forest, we noticed a kind of
eagerness in the old man, as of a lover going to a rendezvous. Along
the foot of the mountain flows a clear trout stream, secluded and
undisturbed in those awful solitudes, which is the "Mercy Brook" of
the old woodsman. That day when he crossed it, in advance of his
company, he was heard to say in a low voice, as if greeting some
object of which he was shyly fond, "So, little brook, do I meet you
once more?" and when we were well up the mountain, and emerged from
the last stunted fringe of vegetation upon the rock-bound slope, I
saw Old Phelps, who was still foremost, cast himself upon the ground,
and heard him cry, with an enthusiasm that was intended for no mortal
ear, "I'm with you once again!" His great passion very rarely found
expression in any such theatrical burst. The bare summit that day
was swept by a fierce, cold wind, and lost in an occasional chilling
cloud. Some of the party, exhausted by the climb, and shivering in
the rude wind, wanted a fire kindled and a cup of tea made, and
thought this the guide's business. Fire and tea were far enough from
his thought. He had withdrawn himself quite apart, and wrapped in a
ragged blanket, still and silent as the rock he stood on, was gazing
out upon the wilderness of peaks. The view from Marcy is peculiar.
It is without softness or relief. The narrow valleys are only dark
shadows; the lakes are bits of broken mirror. From horizon to
horizon there is a tumultuous sea of billows turned to stone. You
stand upon the highest billow; you command the situation; you have
surprised Nature in a high creative act; the mighty primal energy has
only just become repose. This was a supreme hour to Old Phelps.
Tea! I believe the boys succeeded in kindling a fire; but the
enthusiastic stoic had no reason to complain of want of appreciation
in the rest of the party. When we were descending, he told us, with
mingled humor and scorn, of a party of ladies he once led to the top
of the mountain on a still day, who began immediately to talk about
the fashions! As he related the scene, stopping and facing us in the
trail, his mild, far-in eyes came to the front, and his voice rose
with his language to a kind of scream.

"Why, there they were, right before the greatest view they ever saw,
talkin' about the fashions!"

Impossible to convey the accent of contempt in which he pronounced
the word "fashions," and then added, with a sort of regretful
bitterness, "I was a great mind to come down, and leave 'em there."

In common with the Greeks, Old Phelps personified the woods,
mountains, and streams. They had not only personality, but
distinctions of sex. It was something beyond the characterization of
the hunter, which appeared, for instance, when he related a fight
with a panther, in such expressions as, "Then Mr. Panther thought he
would see what he could do," etc. He was in "imaginative sympathy"
with all wild things. The afternoon we descended Marcy, we went away
to the west, through the primeval forests, toward Avalanche and
Colden, and followed the course of the charming Opalescent. When we
reached the leaping stream, Phelps exclaimed,

"Here's little Miss Opalescent!"

"Why don't you say Mr. Opalescent?" some one asked.

"Oh, she's too pretty!" And too pretty she was, with her foam-white
and rainbow dress, and her downfalls, and fountainlike uprising. A
bewitching young person we found her all that summer afternoon.

This sylph-like person had little in common with a monstrous lady
whose adventures in the wildernes Phelps was fond of relating. She
was built some thing on the plan of the mountains, and her ambition
to explore was equal to her size. Phelps and the other guides once
succeeded in raising her to the top of Marcy; but the feat of getting
a hogshead of molasses up there would have been easier. In
attempting to give us an idea of her magnitude tha night, as we sat
in the forest camp, Phelps hesitated a moment, while he cast his eye
around the woods: "Waal, there ain't no tree!"

It is only by recalling fragmentary remarks and incidents that I can
put the reader in possession of the peculiarities of my subject; and
this involves the wrenching of things out of their natural order and
continuity, and introducing them abruptly, an abruptness illustrated
by the remark of "Old Man Hoskins" (which Phelps liked to quote),
when one day he suddenly slipped down a bank into a thicket, and
seated himself in a wasps' nest: "I hain't no business here; but here
I be!"

The first time we went into camp on the Upper Au Sable Pond, which
has been justly celebrated as the most prettily set sheet of water in
the region, we were disposed to build our shanty on the south side,
so that we could have in full view the Gothics and that loveliest of
mountain contours. To our surprise, Old Phelps, whose sentimental
weakness for these mountains we knew, opposed this. His favorite
camping ground was on the north side,--a pretty site in itself, but
with no special view. In order to enjoy the lovely mountains, we
should be obliged to row out into the lake: we wanted them always
before our eyes,--at sunrise and sunset, and in the blaze of noon.
With deliberate speech, as if weighing our arguments and disposing of
them, he replied, "Waal, now, them Gothics ain't the kinder scenery
you want ter hog down!"

It was on quiet Sundays in the woods, or in talks by the camp-fire,
that Phelps came out as the philosopher, and commonly contributed the
light of his observations. Unfortunate marriages, and marriages in
general, were, on one occasion, the subject of discussion; and a good
deal of darkness had been cast on it by various speakers; when Phelps
suddenly piped up, from a log where he had sat silent, almost
invisible, in the shadow and smoke, "Waal, now, when you've said all
there is to be said, marriage is mostly for discipline."

Discipline, certainly, the old man had, in one way or another; and
years of solitary communing in the forest had given him, perhaps, a
childlike insight into spiritual concerns. Whether he had formulated
any creed or what faith he had, I never knew. Keene Valley had a
reputation of not ripening Christians any more successfully than
maize, the season there being short; and on our first visit it was
said to contain but one Bible Christian, though I think an accurate
census disclosed three. Old Phelps, who sometimes made abrupt
remarks in trying situations, was not included in this census; but he
was the disciple of supernaturalism in a most charming form. I have
heard of his opening his inmost thoughts to a lady, one Sunday, after
a noble sermon of Robertson's had been read in the cathedral
stillness of the forest. His experience was entirely first-hand, and
related with unconsciousness that it was not common to all. There
was nothing of the mystic or the sentimentalist, only a vivid
realism, in that nearness of God of which he spoke,--"as near some-
times as those trees,"--and of the holy voice, that, in a time of
inward struggle, had seemed to him to come from the depths of the
forest, saying, "Poor soul, I am the way."

In later years there was a "revival" in Keene Valley, the result of
which was a number of young "converts," whom Phelps seemed to regard
as a veteran might raw recruits, and to have his doubts what sort of
soldiers they would make.

"Waal, Jimmy," he said to one of them, "you've kindled a pretty good
fire with light wood. That's what we do of a dark night in the
woods, you know but we do it just so as we can look around and find
the solid wood: so now put on your solid wood."

In the Sunday Bible classes of the period Phelps was a perpetual
anxiety to the others, who followed closely the printed lessons, and
beheld with alarm his discursive efforts to get into freer air and
light. His remarks were the most refreshing part of the exercises,
but were outside of the safe path into which the others thought it
necessary to win him from his "speckerlations." The class were one
day on the verses concerning "God's word" being "written on the
heart," and were keeping close to the shore, under the guidance of
"Barnes's Notes," when Old Phelps made a dive to the bottom, and
remarked that he had "thought a good deal about the expression,
'God's word written on the heart,' and had been asking himself how
that was to be done; and suddenly it occurred to him (having been
much interested lately in watching the work of a photographer) that,
when a photograph is going to be taken, all that has to be done is to
put the object in position, and the sun makes the picture; and so he
rather thought that all we had got to do was to put our hearts in
place, and God would do the writin'."

Phelps's theology, like his science, is first-hand. In the woods,
one day, talk ran on the Trinity as being nowhere asserted as a
doctrine in the Bible, and some one suggested that the attempt to
pack these great and fluent mysteries into one word must always be
more or less unsatisfactory. "Ye-es," droned Phelps: "I never could
see much speckerlation in that expression the Trinity. Why, they'd a
good deal better say Legion."

The sentiment of the man about nature, or his poetic sensibility, was
frequently not to be distinguished from a natural religion, and was
always tinged with the devoutness of Wordsworth's verse. Climbing
slowly one day up the Balcony,--he was more than usually calm and
slow,--he espied an exquisite fragile flower in the crevice of a
rock, in a very lonely spot.

It seems as if," he said, or rather dreamed out, it seems as if the
Creator had kept something just to look at himself."

To a lady whom he had taken to Chapel Pond (a retired but rather
uninteresting spot), and who expressed a little disappointment at its
tameness, saying, of this "Why, Mr. Phelps, the principal charm of
this place seems to be its loneliness,"

"Yes," he replied in gentle and lingering tones, and its nativeness.
"It lies here just where it was born."

Rest and quiet had infinite attractions for him. A secluded opening
in the woods was a "calm spot." He told of seeing once, or rather
being in, a circular rainbow. He stood on Indian Head, overlooking
the Lower Lake, so that he saw the whole bow in the sky and the lake,
and seemed to be in the midst of it; "only at one place there was an
indentation in it, where it rested on the lake, just enough to keep
it from rolling off." This "resting" of the sphere seemed to give
him great comfort.

One Indian-summer morning in October, some ladies found the old man
sitting on his doorstep smoking a short pipe.

He gave no sign of recognition except a twinkle of the eye, being
evidently quite in harmony with the peaceful day. They stood there a
full minute before he opened his mouth: then he did not rise, but
slowly took his pipe from his mouth, and said in a dreamy way,
pointing towards the brook,--

"Do you see that tree?" indicating a maple almost denuded of leaves,
which lay like a yellow garment cast at its feet. "I've been
watching that tree all the morning. There hain't been a breath of
wind: but for hours the leaves have been falling, falling, just as
you see them now; and at last it's pretty much bare." And after a
pause, pensively: "Waal, I suppose its hour had come."

This contemplative habit of Old Phelps is wholly unappreciated by his
neighbors; but it has been indulged in no inconsiderable part of his
life. Rising after a time, he said, "Now I want you to go with me
and see my golden city I've talked so much about." He led the way to
a hill-outlook, when suddenly, emerging from the forest, the
spectators saw revealed the winding valley and its stream. He said
quietly, "There is my golden city." Far below, at their feet, they
saw that vast assemblage of birches and "popples," yellow as gold in
the brooding noonday, and slender spires rising out of the glowing
mass. Without another word, Phelps sat a long time in silent
content: it was to him, as Bunyan says, "a place desirous to be in."

Is this philosopher contented with what life has brought him?
Speaking of money one day, when we had asked him if he should do
differently if he had his life to live over again, he said, "Yes, but


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