Part 3 out of 3
side of the road, on a sort of hill. It is in the Jones district."
"What sort of a school-house is it?" asked Forester.
"It is a small school-house, with a little cupola upon the top of it,"
said James, "for a bell. It stands upon a knoll by the side of the
road. Just beyond it the main road turns to the right, and there is
a narrower road leading off to the left through a gate. You must go
through that gate and then follow the path into the woods."
"We can find it, I think," said Forester.
"Yes," said Marco, "I know the place very well."
Forester said he thought that they should find the way without any
difficulty, and so bidding his uncle and aunt good-bye, he and Marco
They went through the garden, and from the garden they passed out
through a small gate into the orchard. Marco wished to go this way in
order to get some apples. He chose two from off his favorite tree and
put them into the knapsack, and took another in his hand to eat by the
way. Forester did the same, only he put the two that he carried with
him, into his pockets.
From the orchard the travelers walked across a field and down into
the glen, and after crossing a brook upon some stepping-stones, they
ascended upon the other side, and presently climbing over a fence,
they came out into what James had called the back road. They walked
along upon this road, for about three quarters of a mile, until at
last they came in sight of the school-house. Marco spied it first.
"There," said Marco, "that is the school-house."
"How do you know that that is the one?" asked Forester.
"Oh, I know the Jones district very well," said Marco.
In New England the tract of country included within the jurisdiction
of a town, is divided into districts for the establishment and support
of schools. These districts are called school-districts, and each one
is generally named from some of the principal families that happen to
live in it. It happened that there were several families of the name
of Jones that lived in this part of the town, and so their district
was called the Jones district.
"How do you happen to know it?" said Forester.
"Oh, I came out here two or three times with Thomas Jones to set my
squirrel trap," said Marco. "There goes Thomas Jones now."
"Where?" asked Forester.
"There," said Marco, pointing along the road a little way.
Forester looked forward, and saw in the road before them a boy walking
toward the school-house, with his slate under his arm. Beyond the boy,
upon the knoll on the left side of the road, was the school-house
[Illustration: THE SCHOOL-HOUSE.]
The school-house was not far from the road, and there was a little
grove of trees behind it. Beyond the school-house, and almost directly
before them, Marco and Forester saw the road turning a little to the
left toward the gate.
"There is the gate," said Marco, "that we are to go through."
"Yes," said Forester, "that must be the one."
Forester and Marco walked on until they came to the school-house.
Thomas got to the school-house before them, and went in. Forester and
Marco passed on and went through the gate. They then went on beyond
the gate a little way till they came to a pair of bars. Marco took
down all but the topmost bar, and Forester, stooping down, passed
under. Marco attempted to do the same; but forgetting that he had a
knapsack upon his back, he did not stoop low enough, and gave his
knapsack such a knock as almost threw him down. Fortunately there was
nothing frangible inside, and so no damage was done. One of his apples
was mellowed a little; that was all.
The path led the travelers first across a rough and rocky pasture, and
then it suddenly entered a wood where every thing wore an expression
of wild and solemn grandeur. The trees were very lofty, and consisted
of tall stems, rising to a vast height and surmounted above with a
tuft of branches, which together formed a broad canopy over the heads
of the travelers, and produced a sort of somber twilight below. Birds
sang in plaintive notes on the tops of distant trees, and now and then
a squirrel was seen running along the ground, or climbing up the trunk
of some vast hemlock or pine.
"I hope that we shall not lose our way in these woods," said Forester.
"Oh, there is no danger of that," rejoined Marco. "The path is very
"It seems plain here," said Forester, "and I presume that there can
not be any danger, or James would have recommended to us to go the
"We shall come home the other way," said Marco. "I wonder if there are
any saddles. Twelve miles would be too far to ride bareback."
"Yes," said Forester, "there are saddles. I asked James about that."
The path which Forester and Marco were pursuing soon began to
ascend. It ascended at first gradually, and afterward more and more
precipitously, and at length began to wind about among rocks and
precipices in such a manner, that Marco said he did not wonder at all
that James said it would be a rough road for horses.
"I think it is a very rough road for boys," said Forester.
"Boys?" repeated Marco. "Do you call yourself boys."
"For _men_ then," said Forester.
"But _I_ am not a man," said Marco.
"Then I don't see how I can express my idea," said Forester.
Marco's attention was here diverted from the rhetorical difficulty in
which Forester had become involved, by a very deep chasm upon one side
of the path. He went to the brink of it and could hear the roaring of
a torrent far below.
"I mean to throw a stone down," said Marco. He accordingly, after
looking around for a moment, found a stone about as large as his head.
This stone he contrived to bring to the edge of the precipice and then
to throw it over. It went thundering down among the rocks and trees
below, while Marco stood upon the brink and listened to the sound of
the echoes and reverberations. He then got another stone larger than
the first, and threw that down; after which he and Forester resumed
The path, though it was a very rough and tortuous one, was pretty
plain; and it is probable that the travelers would have found no
difficulty in following it to the end of their route, had it not been
for an occurrence which they had not at all anticipated, but which was
one, nevertheless, that has often taken place to confuse the steps of
mountain travelers and make them lose their way. This occurrence was a
fall of snow.
It was not late enough in the year for snow upon the lowlands, but
snow falls very early in the autumn upon the summits of mountains.
Marco and Forester had not anticipated stormy weather of any kind,
when they left home; for the wind was west and the sky was clear.
When, however, they had accomplished about one half of their journey,
large masses of fleecy clouds began to drive over the mountains,
and presently, all at once, it began to snow. Marco was extremely
delighted to see the snow falling. Forester was not so much pleased.
On the other hand, he looked somewhat concerned. He did not at first
think how the snow could do them any serious injury, but he seemed to
have an undefined sense of danger from it, and appeared uneasy. They
both, however, walked on.
The region through which the path led at the time when the snow came
on, was a tract of flat land on the summit of the mountainous range,
with small and scattered trees here and there upon it. The best thing,
probably, for the travelers to have done in the emergency would have
been to have turned round the moment it began to snow, and go back as
fast as possible by the way that they came, as long as they were sure
of the path, and then to wait until the fallen snow had melted. If
they found then that the snow did not melt, so that they could see the
path again, it would be better to return altogether, as their chance
of being able to follow the path back toward their home would be much
greater than that of pursuing it forward; for they might expect to
find some guidance, in going back, by their recognition of the place
which they had passed in ascending.
Forester, however, did not happen to think of this; and so when it
began to snow, his only immediate desire was to go forward as fast as
possible, so as to get into the woods again where he and Marco would
be in some measure under shelter.
Marco finding that Forester appeared somewhat anxious, began to feel
some sentiment of fear himself.
"Who would have thought," said he, "that we should have got caught out
in this snow-storm?"
"Oh, it is not a snow-storm," replied Forester. "It is only a little
snow flurry. It will be over in a few minutes."
"How do you know that it is not going to be a snow-storm?" asked
"Because storms never come out of the west," replied Forester.
It snowed, however, faster and faster, and the ground soon began to be
entirely whitened. Forester pressed on, but he soon found himself at
a loss for his way. The air was so filled with the descending flakes,
that he could see only a very short distance before him. The view
of the forests and mountains was cut off on every side, and nothing
presented itself to the eye but the dim forms of the rocks and trees
which were near. These, too, were indistinct and shapeless. The ground
was soon entirely covered, and all hope of finding the path entirely
disappeared. Forester went back then a short distance, endeavoring to
retrace his steps. He followed the foot-prints a little way, but all
traces of them were soon obliterated. When he found that the steps
could no longer be seen, he went toward a tree which he saw rising
dimly at a little distance before him. The tree proved to be a large
hemlock, with wide-spreading branches. There was a place under this
tree where the ground was bare, having been sheltered from the snow by
the branches of the tree. There were some rocks too lying under this
tree. Forester walked up to them and sat down. Marco followed his
"Well, Marco," said Forester, "we are really lost."
"And what are we going to do?" asked Marco, with a countenance of
"The first thing is," said Forester, "to open the knapsack, and see
what there is inside that is good to eat."
So Forester took the knapsack off from his shoulders,--for he had
taken it from Marco some time before, and laying it upon a large
flat stone by his side, he began to open it, and to take out the
Forester was afraid that he and Marco had got themselves into somewhat
serious difficulty, but he wished to teach Marco that in emergencies
of such a nature, it would do no good to give way to a panic, or to
unnecessary anxiety. So he assumed an unconcerned and contented air,
and made arrangements for the luncheon, just as if they had stopped
there to eat it of their own accord, and without being in any
difficulty whatever about the prosecution of the journey.
Marco, however, seemed to be quite uneasy.
"What are we going to do?" said he. "If we get lost in this
snow-storm, we shall have to stay in the woods perhaps all night."
"Yes," said Forester, "that we can do. We have done that before."
Forester here alluded to an occasion on which he and Marco had spent
the night in a hut in the woods, when traveling in Maine.
"But we had an axe then," said Marco, "to make a camp."
"Yes," replied Forester, "that is true. I don't think, however, that
we shall have to stay in the woods all night now. We have _three_
chances for avoiding it."
"What are the three?" said Marco.
"Why, in the first place," replied Forester, "we can stay where we are
until it stops snowing,--in fact it has almost stopped now. Then I
presume that the sun will come out, and in half an hour melt away all
the snow. Then we can find our path again, and go on."
"But I don't think it is certain that we can find our path again,"
"Nor do I," said Forester, "but there's a chance of it. I did not say
that we had three certainties, but three chances."
"Well," said Marco; "go on; what are the other two?"
"If we can not find the path," said Forester, "either because the snow
does not melt, or for any other reason, then we can remain where we
are until night, and the people, finding that we do not come home,
will send up for us."
"And how can they find us?" asked Marco.
"Why, they will come up the path, of course, and we can not be very
far from the path, for we only lost it a few minutes before we came
here. Of course they will come up very near to this place;--and they
will come shouting out, every few minutes, as loud as they can, and so
we shall hear them."
"Yes," said Marco, "I see; that is a pretty good chance."
"The third chance for us," said Forester, "is to go down into the
first glen or valley that we can find, and then we shall probably come
to a stream. Then we can follow the stream down to the river."
"How do you know that it goes to the river?" asked Marco.
"All mountain streams do, of course," said Forester. "They go down
wherever they can find a valley or a hollow,--joining together and
taking in branches as they proceed,--until they get down into the
level country, and then they flow to the nearest river, and so to the
sea. Now I know that the river takes a bend around this mountainous
tract, and almost surrounds it, and all the streams from it must flow
into the river without going very far. We could follow one down,
though we should probably find the way very rough and difficult."
"Let us try it," said Marco.
This plan was decided upon, and so, when the snow squall was entirely
over and the sun had come out Marco and Forester, taking their
departure from the great tree and guiding their course by the sun,
the travelers set out, proceeding as nearly in a straight line as
possible, intending to go on in that manner until they should come to
some stream, and then to follow the stream down to the river. The plan
succeeded perfectly well. They soon descended into a valley, where
they found a little brook flowing over a bed of moss-covered stones.
They followed this brook down for about a mile, when they came to a
junction between the brook that they were following and another one.
After this junction of course the stream was larger, and in many
places they found it difficult to get along. The way was encumbered
with bushes, rocks, and fallen trees, and in one place the stream
flowed in a foaming torrent through the bottom of a deep chasm, with
sides rising directly out of the water. Here the travelers were
obliged to find a way at a distance from the brook--guiding
themselves, however, by the sound of its roaring. After passing the
chasm, they got back to the stream again.
They came out into the open country about one o'clock, and found to their
great joy that they were very near the place where the horses were
pastured. The horses were all ready for them, and Forester and Marco
mounted them immediately, and set out on their return home.
It was very pleasant riding along at their ease on horseback, after all
the dangers and fatigues that they had encountered. A part of the way
the road which they took lay along the shore of the river. Marco enjoyed
this part of the ride very much indeed.
They reached home about sunset, with an excellent appetite for supper.
Marco was very enthusiastic in his manner of giving his aunt Forester
an account of his adventures, and he said, in conclusion, that he would
just as lief get lost in the woods as not. It was good fun.