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List Of Contents | Contents of In the Wilderness, by Charles Dudley Warner
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requirements of the known facts, but the lively imagination at once
rejects it as unworthy of the subject.  I think the guide put it
forward in order to have it rejected.  The fact is,--at least, it has
never been disproved,--these strangers whose movements were veiled
belonged to that dark and mysterious race whose presence anywhere on
this continent is a nest-egg of romance or of terror.  They were
Spaniards!  You need not say buccaneers, you need not say gold-
hunters, you need not say swarthy adventurers even: it is enough to
say Spaniards!  There is no tale of mystery and fanaticism and daring
I would not believe if a Spaniard is the hero of it, and it is not
necessary either that he should have the high-sounding name of
Bodadilla or Ojeda.

Nobody, I suppose, would doubt this story if the moose, quaffing deep
draughts of red wine from silver tankards, and then throwing
themselves back upon divans, and lazily puffing the fragrant Havana.
After a day of toil, what more natural, and what more probable for a
Spaniard?

Does the reader think these inferences not warranted by the facts?
He does not know the facts.  It is true that our guide had never
himself personally visited the cave, but he has always intended to
hunt it up.  His information in regard to it comes from his father,
who was a mighty hunter and trapper.  In one of his expeditions over
Nipple Top he chanced upon the cave.  The mouth was half concealed by
undergrowth.  He entered, not without some apprehension engendered by
the legends which make it famous.  I think he showed some boldness in
venturing into such a place alone.  I confess that, before I went in,
I should want to fire a Gatling gun into the mouth for a little
while, in order to rout out the bears which usually dwell there.  He
went in, however.  The entrance was low; but the cave was spacious,
not large, but big enough, with a level floor and a vaulted ceiling.
It had long been deserted, but that it was once the residence of
highly civilized beings there could be no doubt.  The dead brands in
the centre were the remains of a fire that could not have been
kindled by wild beasts, and the bones scattered about had been
scientifically dissected and handled.  There were also remnants of
furniture and pieces of garments scattered about.  At the farther
end, in a fissure of the rock, were stones regularly built up, the
rem Yins of a larger fire,--and what the hunter did not doubt was the
smelting furnace of the Spaniards.  He poked about in the ashes, but
found no silver.  That had all been carried away.

But what most provoked his wonder in this rude cave was a chair I
This was not such a seat as a woodman might knock up with an axe,
with rough body and a seat of woven splits, but a manufactured chair
of commerce, and a chair, too, of an unusual pattern and some
elegance.  This chair itself was a mute witness of luxury and
mystery.  The chair itself might have been accounted for, though I
don't know how; but upon the back of the chair hung, as if the owner
had carelessly flung it there before going out an hour before, a
man's waistcoat.  This waistcoat seemed to him of foreign make and
peculiar style, but what endeared it to him was its row of metal
buttons.  These buttons were of silver!  I forget now whether he did
not say they were of silver coin, and that the coin was Spanish.  But
I am not certain about this latter fact, and I wish to cast no air of
improbability over my narrative.  This rich vestment the hunter
carried away with him.  This was all the plunder his expedition
afforded.  Yes: there was one other article, and, to my mind, more
significant than the vest of the hidalgo.  This was a short and stout
crowbar of iron; not one of the long crowbars that farmers use to pry
up stones,  but a short handy one, such as you would use in digging
silver-ore out of the cracks of rocks.

This was the guide's simple story.  I asked him what became of the
vest and the buttons, and the bar of iron.  The old man wore the vest
until he wore it out; and then he handed it over to the boys, and
they wore it in turn till they wore it out.  The buttons were cut
off, and kept as curiosities.  They were about the cabin, and the
children had them to play with.  The guide distinctly remembers
playing with them; one of them he kept for a long time, and he didn't
know but he could find it now, but he guessed it had disappeared.  I
regretted that he had not treasured this slender verification of an
interesting romance, but he said in those days he never paid much
attention to such things.  Lately he has turned the subject over, and
is sorry that his father wore out the vest and did not bring away the
chair.  It is his steady purpose to find the cave some time when he
has leisure, and capture the chair, if it has not tumbled to pieces.
But about the crowbar?  Oh I that is all right.  The guide has the
bar at his house in Keene Valley, and has always used it.
     I am happy to be able to confirm this story by saying that next
day I saw the crowbar, and had it in my hand.  It is short and thick,
and the most interesting kind of crowbar.  This evidence is enough
for me.  I intend in the course of this vacation to search for the
cave; and, if I find it, my readers shall know the truth about it, if
it destroys the only bit of romance connected with these mountains.




VIII

WHAT SOME PEOPLE CALL PLEASURE

My readers were promised an account of Spaniard's Cave on Nipple-Top
Mountain in the Adirondacks, if such a cave exists, and could be
found.  There is none but negative evidence that this is a mere cave
of the imagination, the void fancy of a vacant hour; but it is the
duty of the historian to present the negative testimony of a
fruitless expedition in search of it, made last summer.  I beg leave
to offer this in the simple language befitting all sincere exploits
of a geographical character.

The summit of Nipple-Top Mountain has been trodden by few white men
of good character: it is in the heart of a hirsute wilderness; it is
itself a rough and unsocial pile of granite nearly five thousand feet
high, bristling with a stunted and unpleasant growth of firs and
balsams, and there is no earthly reason why a person should go there.
Therefore we went.  In the party of three there was, of course, a
chaplain.  The guide was Old Mountain Phelps, who had made the ascent
once before, but not from the northwest side, the direction from
which we approached it.  The enthusiasm of this philosopher has grown
with his years, and outlived his endurance: we carried our own
knapsacks and supplies, therefore, and drew upon him for nothing but
moral reflections and a general knowledge of the wilderness.  Our
first day's route was through the Gill-brook woods and up one of its
branches to the head of Caribou Pass, which separates Nipple Top from
Colvin.

It was about the first of September; no rain had fallen for several
weeks, and this heart of the forest was as dry as tinder; a lighted
match dropped anywhere would start a conflagration.  This dryness has
its advantages: the walking is improved; the long heat has expressed
all the spicy odors of the cedars and balsams, and the woods are
filled with a soothing fragrance; the waters of the streams, though
scant and clear, are cold as ice; the common forest chill is gone
from the air.  The afternoon was bright; there was a feeling of
exultation and adventure in stepping off into the open but pathless
forest; the great stems of deciduous trees were mottled with patches
of sunlight, which brought out upon the variegated barks and mosses
of the old trunks a thousand shifting hues.  There is nothing like a
primeval wood for color on a sunny day.  The shades of green and
brown are infinite; the dull red of the hemlock bark glows in the
sun, the russet of the changing moose-bush becomes brilliant; there
are silvery openings here and there; and everywhere the columns rise
up to the canopy of tender green which supports the intense blue sky
and holds up a part of it from falling through in fragments to the
floor of the forest.  Decorators can learn here how Nature dares to
put blue and green in juxtaposition: she has evidently the secret of
harmonizing all the colors.

The way, as we ascended, was not all through open woods; dense masses
of firs were encountered, jagged spurs were to be crossed, and the
going became at length so slow and toilsome that we took to the rocky
bed of a stream, where bowlders and flumes and cascades offered us
sufficient variety.  The deeper we penetrated, the greater the sense
of savageness and solitude; in the silence of these hidden places one
seems to approach the beginning of things.  We emerged from the
defile into an open basin, formed by the curved side of the mountain,
and stood silent before a waterfall coming down out of the sky in the
centre of the curve.  I do not know anything exactly like this fall,
which some poetical explorer has named the Fairy-Ladder Falls.  It
appears to have a height of something like a hundred and fifty feet,
and the water falls obliquely across the face of the cliff from left
to right in short steps, which in the moonlight might seem like a
veritable ladder for fairies.  Our impression of its height was
confirmed by climbing the very steep slope at its side some three or
four hundred feet.  At the top we found the stream flowing over a
broad bed of rock, like a street in the wilderness, slanting up still
towards the sky, and bordered by low firs and balsams, and bowlders
completely covered with moss.  It was above the world and open to the
sky.

On account of the tindery condition of the woods we made our fire on
the natural pavement, and selected a smooth place for our bed near by
on the flat rock, with a pool of limpid water at the foot.  This
granite couch we covered with the dry and springy moss, which we
stripped off in heavy fleeces a foot thick from the bowlders.  First,
however, we fed upon the fruit that was offered us.  Over these hills
of moss ran an exquisite vine with a tiny, ovate, green leaf, bearing

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