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"Out of the bosom of the air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow."— LONGFELLOW.
UP THE RIVER.
I WAS the first to awaken in the morning, and, jumping ont of bed, I pulled up the curtain to get a look out-doors and to my surprise found the ground covered with snow, and the air filled with the fast-falling flakes.
"How is the weather out?" asked Jack, who had been awakened by my noise.
"Bad. It is snowing as hard as I ever saw it, and there are already about three inches on the ground."
"I suppose you'll give up going, then."
"Not much. It will take more than a little snow to frighten me."
"But it will be no fool of a joke to get snowed up in the woods."
"I don't intend to get snowed up; but I started for Parmachenee Lake, and, by the great horn spoon,' I am going there before I return home, if I go alone."
"If you go, Captain, I shall. But it will be anything but a pleasant trip."
"Can't help it; we must take the weather as it comes, and do the best we can; "and I finished dressing and went out to the kitchen.
Jack soon joined me, and again attempted to persuade me to give up the trip. But, although he was heartily seconded by Mr. Pickett, who thought there would be a heavy storm, I would not give up the idea.
Having lived nearly all my life in Boston and New York, it did not seem possible to me that we could have much of a snow-storm the second week in October. I did not know the ways of the weather clerk in that Northern climate then as well as I do now, or I should have had no doubts on the subject at all.
I have heard some of the people who live along the Magalloway river, in speaking of the weather, say that "they had nine months winter and three months late in the fall." And, although that statement is something of an exaggeration, it is a pretty fair average description of the weather.
As I had been hard at work all summer, looking forward to this trip with a great deal of pleasure, I hated to give it up, and determined to push on until I reached the lake, regardless of consequences.
As it turned out I had more pleasure in the anticipation than the realization of my wish; but, then, that is the way with many others in this world. We chase phantoms from childhood to the grave, and never catch them on this side of the Styx. Perhaps in the unknown world toward which we are all drifting we shall be more fortunate.
We had a splendid breakfast, our partridges being nicely cooked, and those, with excellent coffee, good biscuit, and baked potatoes, made a meal fit for a king.
After breakfast I had Mrs. Fickett put us up a large firkin of cooked food, as we would have no chance to get anything more to eat until we reached Sunday Pond Camp, and we did not expect to get there until late at night.
At eight o'clock we left the house, and tramped up the road a short distance, then turned off into a pasture, and, striking the road that led to the head of Aziscohos Falls, trudged steadily onward. It was three miles to the head of the Falls, and the walking was horrible, — snow, slush, and mud, and the damp snow wet our clothing as quickly as if it had been rain. However we made the best of it, and laughed and joked as we plodded our way along.
We called the firkin our commissary department, and, as it was rather heavy to "sack," took turns in carrying it.
"By Jove! Captain, we ought to have tried to hire Fickett to carry us to the head of the Falls with his team. This is the worst walking I ever experienced."
"It is nothing after you get used to it. It will give you a good appetite for dinner, Jack."
Just then Jack slipped, and came down in the slush; as he rose to his feet he let off a string of verbal fireworks that would have made a missionary turn pale, and to save my life I could not help laughing.
He glared at me a moment as if he would like to eat me, and then renewed his struggle with the elements.
"Come, old fellow," I said, when I thought he had recovered his temper a little, "carry the firkin awhile, for I am tired."
He took it willingly, and we jogged along in silence for a spell, ruminating over the delightful (?) time we were having. After making another laborious half mile, Jack broke out with:
"It seems to me, Captain, that this grub is confounded heavy."
"I hope not," I replied, laughing; "at least I hope the bread is light."
The words had scarcely left my mouth when I caught my toe under a root, and down I went into the mud and snow. I felt less like joking than I bad a minute before.
"How do you like it?" queried Jack, laughing, as I scrambled to my feet, feeling, and no doubt looking, disgusted.
"Don't like it a bit," I replied, savagely, as I brushed the slush from my clothing. "How far do you suppose we have come?"
"I don't believe we are more than half-way over, Captain, and I shall be almighty glad when we get there. I had rather row a boat in this storm all day than travel over such an infernal road. I don't believe the people ever work on it."
"Well, it is time they did, but I suppose it is not a county road."
The dog was having about as bard a time as we were, for in some places the mud was so soft, and with the snow so deep, that he could scarcely wallow through it, and he stopped frequently to rest.
By this time the trees were getting badly loaded with the fast-falling flakes, and, as we occasionally brushed by them, we found this another disagreeable feature. Several times a lot of snow went into my neck, and before I could get it off it would melt, and run down my back, adding to my discomfort.
Once a large fir limb, completely loaded with snow, struck Jack fair in the face, and brushed off his cap. This was followed by another exhibition of verbal fireworks. I suppose I did wrong to laugh at such times, but I could not help it.
To make amends I relieved him of the "commissary department," and that had a soothing effect.
Just as we began to wonder if we bad not lost our way we heard the roaring of water, and concluded that we could not be a great way from the river.
We reached the landing at the head of the Falls at half-past nine, and found more snow there than we had seen before. It was quite evident that the storm was coming from the direction in which we were going.
It was a wild-looking place where the carry road ended, just beyond the commencement of the swift water; straggling trees of various kinds overhung the dark current below us. The river falls about two hundred feet in a distance of two miles; there are several heavy pitches, and one of these bad places, known as the "Big Pitch," is a terror to the river divers, several having been drowned there.
At the time of which I am writing there was no dam at the head of the Falls, but since then one has been built by the enterprising (?) lumbermen who operate on the river above.
These gentlemen are the Goths and Vandals of Northern New England. Every beautiful stream, every pond and lake, every picturesque piece of scenery, is doomed to ruin if there is any lumber in the vicinity.
If the Legislature of Maine was awake to the best interests of the State it would secure a large tract of these wild lands for a public park, before it is too late, and keep them in their original state.
The amount of money left in Maine during a year by the people who visit it for sport and pleasure is largely in excess of that received from the lumbering business. In other words, the sporting and pleasure travel is worth more to the State than its lumbering operations, and some means should be taken to encourage and foster this travel, which is only in its infancy.
Damming the streams, ponds, and lakes, cutting down the forests, arid otherwise disfiguring the natural scenery, is a poor way to do it, and a pine or a spruce standing is sometimes worth more than after it has been run through a mill.
And not only the scenery and the forests, but the game has to suffer from lumbering operations. Take a crew composed of from forty to sixty men, many of whom spend their Sundays in hunting, this being the favorite amusement of a large proportion of the men in every camp, and the number of large animals they will kill during the winter would surprise the Fish and Game Commissioners of the State if they knew it. And a large part of this game is killed in the close season, when the snows are so deep that it is difficult for a moose, deer, or caribou to escape the hunter, who always travels on snow-shoes.
The interest I. feel in my subject, and which I am sure a majority of my readers share, has made me digress from my story, and, without further argument, I return to it, only adding that what I have said of Maine is just as applicable to New Hampshire.
At the Berlin Mills House Mr. Brown had told us that the Company had four boats at the landing, and that we could take either one of them, and described them to me carefully.
We found six or seven boats at the landing, but they were all heavy but one. Some of them also were deficient in oars and rowlocks, and when I fortunately stumbled upon a light "Graves "boat, of the Adirondack pattern, I told Jack that he need not spend any more time looking over the boats, for that was the craft for us, and the oars and paddle that belonged to it we found all right underneath. It laid bottom up, and, righting it, we launched it and stowed our things away in it. As Fickett had told me that Mr. Flint owned the boat, and as we were going to his camp and expected to see him up there, I had no hesitation in taking it, although it is a poor plan, generally speaking, to use a boat without permission of the owner.
We were soon afloat, and with Jack at the oars, and I at the paddle, the boat sped up the river rapidly. As we wished to know how long it would take us from the Falls to Flint's Camp, I looked at my watch as we left the landing, and it was just ten o'clock.
To make all the progress possible we agreed to spell each other at the oars every hour. Theo boat shot swiftly along, the snow fell as fast as ever, the air literally being white with the falling flakes so thickly did they come; and, although they were not as large as clam-shells, they were the largest snow-flakes that I had ever seen.
The air was quite mild, and the snow that fell upon us and into the boat melted about as fast as it struck. As I looked ahead up the river everything was a sheet of snowy white but the dark water over which we were gliding, and the air was so thick with the snow that I could see but a short distance.
At eleven o'clock we reversed places, and I took the oars, and Jack the paddle. Soon after we had changed we passed old Bennet, one of the best guides in the country, and two of his boys, who were camped on the right bank. They hailed us as we went by, and inquired where we were going.
I told them "To Parmachenee," and the old man advised us to turn back, saying that winter had commenced, and that we would get snowed in.
I replied, with a laugh, that I would risk it, and we kept on.
With each mile of our advance, however, we noticed the snow deeper on the banks of the river. It reminded me of Longfellow's lines: —
"Ever deeper, deeper, deeper,
Fell the snow o'er all the landscape,—
Fell the covering snow, and drifted
Through the forest, round the village."
When we stopped at noon, and went on shore to take our lunch, we found nearly a foot on the ground, and everything completely soaked. Under the circumstances it was hardly worth while making a. fire, so we squatted down in the snow, ate a couple of cold biscuits and a piece of meat each, smoked a few moments, and then were ready to go on. Before we started we turned our boat over and emptied out several inches of water that had made from the melting snow.
Jack took the oars, and again we were heading up the river. I told him not to pull too hard for the present, as we ought to reach the Narrows before his hour was up, and, as the current is very strong there, he would need all his strength.
Nothing could he more disagreeable than such a storm as we were now encountering. The great flakes of snow, swept in our face by little gusts of wind, melted about as soon as they struck, and our clothing was thoroughly soaked, as much so as if it had rained all the time. We did not feel very pleasant, but we obtained a little consolation from watching the trees nearest us as we swept along. Fairly loaded with feathery flakes of dazzling whiteness, they presented a most beautiful appearance.
"I wish it would clear up," growled Jack, after a silence that became unbearable.
"So do I; but you need not look for the sun today."
About quarter of one we reached the foot of the Narrows, and stopped a moment to take a look at the water. The river contracts at this point to a few yards in width, running between two ledges. Some people in ascending the river haul their boats up this rapid water by a long rope, one staying in the boat to keep it clear of the rocks, while the others walk along the high bank and tow the boat. This is much the easiest way; but, as we had no rope, we had either to overcome the current, or carry around the swift water, a job we did not like with a foot of snow on the ground.
"What do you think of it, Jack ?" I asked, as he sat watching the current over his shoulder.
"I think it is pretty quick water, as the Indians say, but I guess we are good for it; say when you are ready."
We backed the boat down a rod or two, to give us a chance to get some speed before we struck the swift part of the current, and then started up again. Oars and paddle were plied with a will; but, as we struck the bottom of the swift water, our speed began to slacken, until, as we neared the upper end, we entirely lost our headway, and in a moment were going down stream like an arrow shot from a bow. We kept the boat straight, however, and, quicker than I can write, we were back to our starting-point.
"By Jove!" cried Jack, as our boat swung around in the eddy at the foot of the rapid, "we won't give it up that way. Let's try it again."
"All right! But, instead of taking long strokes as you did before, try short, sharp ones. I think they are better in quick water."
Backing down again we put on steam in starting, and as the boat's bow struck the quick water we changed our long stroke to short and sharp ones, with a perceptibly better effect. Inch by inch we gained on the current. Now we reached the middle of the passage, and, although the boat had lost some speed, she moved considerably faster than the first time.
"Put her through," cried Jack; "we shall fetch it this time."
And in fact we did, for in a few moments more we had struck the head of the Narrows, and swept on up the river where the stream was wider, and the current not more than one-fourth as strong.
A half mile or so above the Narrows we stopped for five minutes' rest and smoke, and Jack and I changed places. From this point up, the river was much more shallow than below the Narrows, and we came to occasional rips, where we had to push with the oars, the water being too low to row in. We should have made better headway in these places with a setting-pole, but there was none in the boat.
When we reached the Lower Metalluc Pond I had half a mind to stop, and camp overnight, in the hope that we might have better weather the next day.
I proposed it to Jack, but he did not receive it favorably, saying we would be much better off in a good log-camp like Flint's than in any shelter we could build in such a storm.
There are some very pleasant camping spots around this pond, and its outlet is a good place for trout. It is also a favorite resort for ducks, and many are shot there during the fall of each year. Jack suggested that we stop there a day or two, on our return, if the weather was favorable; and, with this understanding, we continued on our way.
About three o'clock we had to go on shore and turn the water and slush out of the boat again, for the snow was falling as fast as ever. In going through the meadows we were surprised to see a number of robins, and hear them singing as gaily as they would in May. Some of the old guides and hunters, familiar with this part of the country, say that the robins stop around the meadows all winter, and feed on the round wood and other berries that grow in the vicinity.
Along these meadows are some very fine elm-trees, that would be worth a large sum of money for shade-trees, if they grew anywhere near a city. The river through this meadow-land is also very crooked, and as you sweep around some of the sharp turns you obtain, on a clear day, beautiful views of the mountains in the vicinity.
The Upper Metalluc Pond lies a short distance back from the right-hand side of the river, about half-way through the meadows, and is a shoal, marshy pond of several acres in extent. This is also a good place for ducks in the fall, and a favorite resort for parties who visit this wilderness to camp out.
A spotted line runs three miles east to Lincoln Pond, the largest pond contiguous to the Magalloway, into which it empties by means of Lincoln Pond Brook. This sheet of water is about two miles long, surrounded by a dense forest, and offers splendid trout-fishing in the proper season. Small trout are plentiful in it, and we have heard of cases where they were taken weighing from two to six pounds each.
Daylight hung on better than we expected, but everything being covered with a mantle of white we did not look for a very dark night. After leaving the meadows we struck the fir woods again, and the trees were so loaded with snow that you could hardly see a limb. About five o'clock we reached the foot of the Big Rips, and tried to row up them, but we could not do it. Twice we tried it, and twice the current bore us down.
Thinking, however, that we were about as wet as we could be, I told Jack that we would try it once more, and as soon as the boat began to stop we would both jump into the river and wade up the rest of the way. At this time he was rowing and I was using the paddle.
We backed off from the foot of the rapids a short distance, and then started ahead. We plied oars and paddle valiantly, and shot the boat half-way up the incline before she began to waver. As soon as her head-way slackened I went out over the stern, and lit in three feet of water. So rapid was the current that I had to dig my feet into the gravel in order to keep from being swept down. The rocks and pebbles on the bottom were as slippery as glass, and that did not improve our footing much.
Jack struck the water about as soon as I did, and Spot, like a good sailor, followed us; but the current was too much for him, and he was swept down to the foot of the rapids, where he took to the shore, and, wallowing through the snow, joined us at the head of the Rips.
"How do you like it, Jack?" I cried, as we worked our way slowly up the rapids.
"I have seen warmer water than this," he answered, as he tugged away at the painter, and then muttered to himself something about "Arctic boating."
A moment after this the water suddenly deepened, and in one step Jack went nearly to his arms. This was too much of a good thing, and while I was laughing at the way he went down he climbed into the boat.
Taking the oars he held the boat against the current while I tumbled in, and hauled in the dog, who had swam out to us. Then we went on again, and soon passed the mouth of the little Magalloway, which empties into the main river from the left. This stream was nearly filled up with snow, and it really began to look as if winter was upon us.
A short distance above the Forks we run our boat into a little logon on the left, and, hauling her out, turned her bottom up. Everything was so covered with snow, and it was so dark, that we could not find the regular landing.
Before making a start I sat down on the boat and pulled off my rubber boots, which had extra long legs, coming clear to my hips. I turned the water out of them which I had taken in while climbing up the Big Rips, and Jack laughed at me while I was thus engaged. By wearing these boots I bad hoped to keep my feet and legs dry, but one or two unlucky slips, while walking the boat up the rapid, had ruined my precaution, and I laughed in concert with my companion.