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

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
pursuers.

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.

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