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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


Mr. Gilian Bakerís. When I called to see her in June, 1842, she was
gone a-hunting in the woods, as was her wont (I am not sure whether
it was a male or female, and so use the more common pronoun), but
her mistress told me that she came into the neighborhood a little
more than a year before, in April, and was finally taken into their
house; that she was of a dark brownish-gray color, with a white spot
on her throat, and white feet, and had a large bushy tail like a fox;
that in the winter the fur grew thick and flatted out along her sides,
forming stripes ten or twelve inches long by two and a half wide, and
under her chin like a muff, the upper side loose, the under matted
like felt, and in the spring these appendages dropped off. They gave
me a pair of her "wings," which I keep still. There is no appearance
of a membrane about them. Some thought it was part flying squirrel
or some other wild animal, which is not impossible, for, according to
naturalists, prolific hybrids have been produced by the union of the
marten and domestic cat. This would have been the right kind of cat
for me to keep, if I had kept any; for why should not a poetís cat be
winged as well as his horse?

In the fall the loon (Colymbus glacialis) came, as usual, to moult and
bathe in the pond, making the woods ring with his wild laughter
before I had risen. At rumor of his arrival all the Mill-dam sportsmen
are on the alert, in gigs and on foot, two by two and three by three,
with patent rifles and conical balls and spyglasses. They come
rustling through the woods like autumn leaves, at least ten men to
one loon. Some station themselves on this side of the pond, some on
that, for the poor bird cannot be omnipresent; if he dive here he must
come up there. But now the kind October wind rises, rustling the
leaves and rippling the surface of the water, so that no loon can be
heard or seen, though his foes sweep the pond with spy-glasses, and
make the woods resound with their discharges. The waves
generously rise and dash angrily, taking sides with all water-fowl,
and our sportsmen must beat a retreat to town and shop and
unfinished jobs. But they were too often successful. When I went to
get a pail of water early in the morning I frequently saw this stately
bird sailing out of my cove within a few rods. If I endeavored to
overtake him in a boat, in order to see how he would manoeuvre, he
would dive and be completely lost, so that I did not discover him
again, sometimes, till the latter part of the day. But I was more than a
match for him on the surface. He commonly went off in a rain.

As I was paddling along the north shore one very calm October
afternoon, for such days especially they settle on to the lakes, like
the milkweed down, having looked in vain over the pond for a loon,
suddenly one, sailing out from the shore toward the middle a few
rods in front of me, set up his mild laugh and betrayed himself. I
pursued with a paddle and he dived, but when he came up I was
nearer than before. He dived again, but I miscalculated the direction
he would take, and we were fifty rods apart when he came to the
surface this time, for I had helped to widen the interval; and again he
laughed long and loud, and with more reason than before. He
manoeuvred so cunningly that I could not get within half a dozen
rods of him. Each time, when he came to the surface, turning his
head this way and that, he cooly surveyed the water and the land,
and apparently chose his course so that he might come up where
there was the widest expanse of water and at the greatest distance
from the boat. It was surprising how quickly he made up his mind
and put his resolve into execution. He led me at once to the widest
part of the pond, and could not be driven from it. While he was
thinking one thing in his brain, I was endeavoring to divine his
thought in mine. It was a pretty game, played on the smooth surface
of the pond, a man against a loon. Suddenly your adversaryís
checker disappears beneath the board, and the problem is to place
yours nearest to where his will appear again. Sometimes he would
come up unexpectedly on the opposite side of me, having apparently
passed directly under the boat. So long-winded was he and so
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