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Lost In The Woods
by [?]

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.