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

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

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