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List Of Contents | Contents of In the Wilderness, by Charles Dudley Warner
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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:

               HERE LIE THE REMAINS

                       OF
                 _______________

                 EATEN BY A BEAR
                 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!

                   HIER LIEGT
                HOCHWOHLGEBOREN
               HERR _____ _______

                   GEFRESSEN
                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
bear!

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!"




II

LOST IN THE WOODS

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,--

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