Lost in the Forest

However much we may desire to retain the unconscious spirit of youth, it vanishes with life’s first nipping frost, and although the leaves may not fall in a night, they have no sap or potency left in them. Thus it was with me from that melancholy day when my father went down broken and disheartened. The shell, however, had not yet fallen apart, but from the day that I left Wild Plum childhood vanished, and the weeks were like years in growth and knowledge of worldly things. So that now, at twelve, my youth was already a thing of the past, and not to be considered in any other light. It mattered not that others did not see the change. This pleased me rather than otherwise; but Moth made me less than I was—a mere creature not worthy of thought—and because of it I hated him, and my aunt not less. They threatened all I at present regarded, so fast had I grown in love of things apart; and to shake them off, and in all matters go contrary to their wishes, was now uppermost in the desire of my heart. In this I was again successful, and going forward in the bright sunshine, my heart lightened as I reached the summit of the bluff and looked down on the village I had left behind. Its scattered houses lay bathed in the afternoon’s sun, and beyond them the great river, smooth and glistening, stretched away on either side, broken only by the lofty trees that lined its eastern shore. To the south the little inlet, bordered about with willows, where Cousin Rolland and I were wont to go, I could plainly see; and in the heart of the village his house stood out among its neighbors, as if somehow greater than them all. Looking, I imagined I could see Cousin Angeline watching from her door, and beckoning me to return. Knowing it could not be, I yet was none the less alarmed, and turning, ran on, the quicker to hide myself in the forest that lay behind.
As I went forward my spirits mounted with every step; for such is ever the elasticity of our young life, its shadows losing themselves in the smallest ray of light. Now again I was free, beneath the spreading trees and overhanging sky, and hurrying on, a frenzy seized me, and I sang and cried aloud like one crazed. Never had the odors of the woods seemed so sweet or the flowers that bordered the road so full of beauty. Hastening, the murmurings of the forest and the sight of the birds flying back and forth across my path, or running forward in semblance of fear, little by little soothed my mind and made me share with them the peaceful sweetness of the surrounding scene. The path I followed, for it was little more, now plain, now obscure, had no set rule, but went here and there, as in the old days of Indian life. If the trees were dense, it went around them, as it did the rocks and hills. So, too, with the slumbering pools and impassable stretches that lay along the way. These it dodged as if in play, leaving Nature’s tracing undisturbed as in the grace of its first creation. Each turn in the meanderings of the road, as if in jealousy, hid some mystery of its own. A vista or cluster of trees it might be, or perhaps a distant view of some quiet valley, clothed in vestments of color and asleep in its hazy depths. Thus I went on, disregardful, noting only what was about me, softly beguiled, and after a while silent, plucking at the wild flowers by the way, or bathing my face in their soft perfume. Coming in this mood upon a wild-plum tree that grew beside the road, I gathered its leaves in remembrance of my home, and pressing them to my lips, thrust them into my bosom, wet with my tears. In this way the afternoon passed, the openings in the forest showing more and more the sun hastening to its setting.
As I proceeded, idly and unconcerned as to what might be before me, the sound of a galloping horse reached my ear, and turning, I discovered Moth coming toward me at full speed. As I stood gazing, unable to move, scarce to breathe, another horseman, turning into the road from the overhanging shrubbery, followed on. Wondering idly whether he were a confederate or some one in waiting, my senses came back to me, and turning, I plunged without thought into the tangled undergrowth that bordered the road where I stood. As I did so Moth called my name, but not regarding it, I hastened on, seeking only to pursue a course he could neither trace nor follow. When I had gone some distance in this distracted way, the report of a pistol reached me, followed a moment later by another discharge. Startled anew, I hurried on, and faster than before, not knowing what it meant, nor caring, so that I might only hide myself in the forest depths. Thus I ran, always in the direction of the deep woods, making such haste as I could, often falling, but paying little heed if I but made some headway. In this way I came at last upon an opening in the trees, and here I stopped and threw myself upon the ground, worn out with fatigue and the fear that had oppressed me. When I was somewhat rested it was already growing dark, so that I could not retrace my steps had I desired. This, however, I had no thought of doing; the forest hid me, and I welcomed its solitude and deepening shadows as a cover under which I was secure. Looking about me, in the center of the opening a giant sycamore reared its height far above the surrounding trees. Dead and glistening white, its extended limbs, long since fallen, had left an opening to the sky, and about this the trees reached out their arms like beggars seeking alms. On the edge of the cleared space, and as a tracing to the picture, shrubs and wild raspberries grew, and dense, so as to form an impassable barrier save where I stood.
Beside the dead tree, whence I could see the overhanging sky, I determined to pass the night; and hastening ere darkness set in, I gathered a handful of berries, and placing them beside my little store of food, sat down in happy contentment to my evening meal. Ere this was finished, darkness had closed in, and fatigued with the events of the day and what had gone before, I stretched my body on the soft grass with the dead sycamore for a pillow. Looking up as I lay outstretched, the sky, which was before clear, had now become overcast, gray, filmy clouds scattering themselves across its face like puffs of steam, and seeming to fly rather than float in the summer air. Nor was this the only change. The treetops, no longer still, gave forth faint murmurings, swaying and curtesying to each other as if in welcome or expectancy of some coming event. The wind rising as I gazed, filled the air with fitful meanings, not unlike fear, and soon flying leaves and bits of wood tossed from the swaying trees, falling on my face, gave notice that the storm was gaining in strength. The moan of the forest as the wind whipped the branches of the trees presently rose into wild uproar, like the mad rush of multitudes of men. Then, as if worn out with the effort, it would die away into pitiful murmurings, only to spring up again a moment later with greater fury than before. Thus as I watched, the storm came on with ever-increasing tumult and confusion of sounds, but orderly and in sequence, like a great orchestra getting under way. The whirl and roar of the wind as the rising tempest swept the impeding forest in no wise disturbed my repose, but soothed, rather, both my body and mind. Now again I was once more at Wild Plum, and listening, as in childhood, to the woods and the voices of the air and the night.
3No feature of Nature’s storehouse, it may be said, is so full of grandeur and expectancy as a storm in the forest. A scourge, maybe, but not in the sense of punishment, but of playfulness and reviving life! A carnival of the air, a frolicking of the atoms, where moderation gives place to fantasies and all the world joins in the fullness of life! Many, I know, do not look upon such things with any pleasure, but for the most part all such are city born, and not used to wide expanses where the wind is free to work its will, nor cumbered about with the devices of men that serve to stay its strength and hinder its progress. To such, storms are fraught with direful happenings, in which the wind and lightning are dreaded agents; but not so do those who are country bred look upon the tempest. Nor did I, but lay with upturned face, harkening to each sound as if it conveyed some form of speech, which I have no doubt it did.
In a little while, and as couriers might carry the news, flashes of lightning shone through the trees and spun out across the open sky until presently the wide expanse of heaven was ablaze with the reflected light. Counting from these to the thunder that followed, I kept track in idle curiosity of the storm as it approached. Nor was it long delayed, but came on, preceded by flurries of rain, which the wind, catching up, whipped into shreds of mist and spray. At last, as if satisfied with the preparation made for its coming, the storm burst, and not lightly, as it sometimes does, but deluging the earth with water and overspreading the sky with masses of phosphorescent light and deep reverberating thunder. Rising to my feet, I sought shelter behind the great tree, harkening to the wild roar of the tempest as it swept past, echoing and reëchoing through the forest like the beating of the ocean on some rockbound coast. In the midst of this, and confusing, a sound as of booming cannon caught my ear. Listening, I thought it the cry of a wild beast, but in a moment, catching the direction more clearly, found it came from the hollow of the great tree beside which I stood. Thus the night wore on, the rain after a while dying away, but the wind, as if in recompense, increasing each moment in violence, its wild shrieking and the mad rush of the trees as they bent this way and that rising and falling like no sound that man can describe or imitate. For in such things Nature claims its sole prerogative, and strive as we may, we cannot in any way mimic its voices or varying moods. NORFLOXACIN EP
Entertained as one bred in the city might be at a play, I neither sought nor desired sleep; but as the storm reached its climax a tremor shook my frame and fear laid hold of me, as if some great and pressing danger threatened. Of what nature, however, or from whence, I could not tell, for in no way were the sounds that reached me different from those I had heard before. What was it, then? Some instinct of life that cried out within me, or a voice of the night that bade me beware! Listening, I could distinguish nothing, nor make aught of my fear. Weak and scarce able to stand, I reached out my hand to steady myself against the great tree, and doing so, found it rocking in the storm like a gigantic pendulum turned bottom side up. This it was, then, that had caused my tremblings. Its silent movements, unnoticed in the darkness of the night, had yet in some mysterious way conveyed a note of warning, and I, as if it were some kindred spirit, had felt its vibrations, and so was filled with fear. Conscious the tree was about to fall, I drew back, but unable to make out the direction it would take, I stood still, not knowing which way to turn. At last, guided by the storm, I sprang to one side, and then, as if only awaiting my movements, the great tree, leaning more and more, fell with a mighty crash on the spot where I had stood. Outstretched before me, it lay like some huge animal, its glistening trunk towering far above my head. Seeing it, a cry of terror burst from my lips, and throwing myself on my face, I gave thanks to God for my escape from death.
Rising to my feet after a while, I looked about to find the storm, as if only awaiting the overthrow of the great tree, had died away, and the moon coming out full and clear, cast its peaceful light over the silent glade. Seeking some spot not drenched with rain where I might pass the night, the hollow of the fallen tree, like some great cavern partly lighted, loomed before me. Here I determined to find a bed, and entering its secure depths, stretched my weary body on its smooth surface, and in a moment was lost in dreams of Constance and Little Sandy.