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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 did n'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 travelling in a circle. Not being able to recognize any tracks, I have no evidence that I had so travelled, except the general testimony of lost men.
I've known experi
The compass annoyed me. enced guides utterly discredit it. It could n't be that I was to turn about, and the go 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. Everything was soaked. If I became exhausted, it would be necessary to build a fire; and, as I walked on, I could n'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 barometer does not matter:
he is officially dead, and none of the travellers 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 human-like 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,
nething 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