Adieu to Katahdin. — The “Head of Chesuncook.” — A Long Day’s Tramp. —
Farewell to Cluey. — Home again. — Parting with the Boys. — An Author by Lot.
ADIEU TO KATAHDIN.
IN a quarter of an hour we were following Cluey through the woods, N. W. by W., toward the “head of Chesuncook,” distant about thirteen miles.
So inured had we become to the rough walking of the forest, that we made this distance in a little over four hours without any extra fatigue.
The little settlement at the head of this picturesque lake consists of seven or eight families, whose “clearings” extend down on both sides of the water for over a mile. Their business is chiefly to raise vegetables and hay for the lumber camps.
At the house of Mr. Berdeen, with whom Cluey was acquainted, we had dinner, — a substantial meal of pork and beans, with a baked Indian pudding, — quite an improvement on our hasty-pudding; for a change, at least. This was the first meal we had taken under a roof (unless we except the wretched days we spent in the loggers’ hut on the pond-shore) for over a month. Mrs. Berdeen, a very motherly body, made us so comfortable at the table, that it seemed really delicious. Not a cent would they take for our dinner, either. We, however, struck a bargain with Mr. Berdeen and son to take us down the lake in their four-oared bateau for the sum of four dollars; and set off at about two in the afternoon, we assisting at the oars. I should think that any small party of tourists might find the “head of Chesuncook” a delightful place to spend a few weeks any time during August or September. They would hardly fail to find good gunning and fishing; very possibly get a moose.
Lake Chesuncook, down which we sped at a jolly rate, is about sixteen miles in length by one and a half in breadth. Its shores are not bold, but slope up from the water very gently, and are covered with a mixed growth of maple, birch, cedar, spruce, and fir. We saw no ledges till near the lower end. The lake itself is but an expansion of the West Branch, which enters it at the head, and flows out at the foot. It was just ten minutes past six when the nose of the bateau touched up against the lumber-dam at the foot of the lake. It was not quite sunset. The Berdeens decided to return up the lake during the evening, — a feat at oars which only Penobscot boatmen would have undertaken.
Cluey’s shanty was about five miles down the river. We concluded to push on for it. Below the dam the West Branch is too rapid for boats. There is, however, a well-beaten portage-path along the bank down to the head of the Ripogneus Lake, three-fourths of a mile. This is a small lake, with a very wild look; at least, such was the impression we gained as we hurried along its shores in the gathering dusk.
The old shanty was finally reached at about eight o’clock. Coffee and pudding, with potatoes and fried pork, were prepared; and we supped, and went to bed on hay-shake-downs, after one of the hardest day’s tramps (thirty-four miles in all) of our tour. In the morning, after breakfast, we paid Cluey, and bought, from his supplies, meal and pork for three days.
As the season for mosquitoes was now past, we gave Cluey the “bar” for the next year.
It was not without sorrow that we bade the old fellow farewell, standing in his shanty-door, the same place where we had first espied him.
“Gud-by, yonkers!” he said feelingly. “Yere a pooty good lot. I shan’t sune forgit ye.”
“Good-by, old man!”
“We shall hope to see you again,” said Raed.
“Wal, mabbe; but an ole chap like me can’t last allus, ye know. I ‘xpect sum un’ll find me keeled over ‘ere” (pointing into the shanty) “un o’ these days.”
We made the trip down home in two days and a half. Save a trifling adventure with a family of adders at the rick of old logs on the “brulé,” and a glimpse of two bears “blueberrying” on a knoll, it was uneventful.
I will not weary the reader with a second ac count of the same places, especially since my narrative has, I fear, been already too far prolonged.
On the second evening we encamped on the “big rock” again. The basket still hung in the spruce. In the morning we went down to the boat, which lay at its moorings undisturbed. Embarking, we sailed down the pond, passed through the thoroughfare, and finally arrived at the landing opposite the farm at about one o’clock.
As will be supposed, “the folks” had wondered at our long absence; and not only wondered, but worried: in fact, they were about despatching a man in search of us. It did seem good to get back where there were grandmothers and girls once more; though the latter declared that we were “frights,” with our long, uncut hair, sunburnt faces, and fearfully soiled and ragged clothing. We spent the rest of that day fixing up. Luckily the boys had brought their summer suits with them, else they would have made a sensation going home.
We urged them to stay another week with us, and have a general good time after our labors. But Raed and Wash declared that they scarcely dared to go home, as it was, they had been gone so long; besides, there Were several paternal letters peremptorily urging a return to school: so, the next morning, they started for Boston. I took them down to the fork of the road in the wagon.
“I shall take the specimens to the assayer as soon as I get home,” remarked Raed as we stood waiting for the stage, which was late that morning. “You shall know the result immediately if it turns out to be worth any thing. You are all agreed to use the money for a yacht, I suppose?”
“We all were, decidedly.”
“I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour,” I said.
“Of course,” said Wash. “We’ve had some adventures, too, that wouldn’t read bad in a book. What say for having this written out?”
“Not so bad a plan, certainly,” said Raed; “and, if we get our yacht, we may have something better still.”
“That’s so!” cried Wade. “Let’s have it done!”
“But who’s to do it?” asked Wash.
“Must be one of us four, of course; for we’re the ones who have had the adventures.”
“Raed’s the man,” said I.
“Not much. I should get aground the first thing.”
“Then Wash must do it,” said Wade.
“Not I!” cried the naturalist. “But I’ll tell you: let’s draw lots for it.”
“Do you agree to that?”
Wash then cut four lots from a hard hack twig, put them in his hat, and held it over his head. We all stepped up, and, standing on tiptoe, took out one. We then compared lots. And such a shout as arose!
“Jonah” had the short one.
“Hard-hacked!” cried Wash; and they all laughed till the tears came.
Just then, the stage came rattling along. “Good-by, old fellow!”
They went off laughing, and swinging their hats.
I felt rather lonesome after they had gone, and so fell to work writing out this account of our expedition. As it is the first thing of the sort I have ever undertaken, I hope the reader will for give its faults, kindly considering the fact that the narrator is not an author by inclination or profession, but simply by lot. It has been quite a task for me; but I console myself by thinking that some of the rest of them will have to try it next time.
Day before yesterday I received the following letter from Raed: —