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


unweariable, that when he had swum farthest he would immediately
plunge again, nevertheless; and then no wit could divine where in the
deep pond, beneath the smooth surface, he might be speeding

his way like a fish, for he had time and ability to visit the bottom of
the pond in its deepest part. It is said that loons have been caught in
the New York lakes eighty feet beneath the surface, with hooks set
for trout-though Walden is deeper than that. How surprised must the
fishes be to see this ungainly visitor from another sphere speeding
his way amid their schools! Yet he appeared to know his course as
surely under water as on the surface, and swam much faster there.
Once or twice I saw a ripple where he approached the surface, just
put his head out to reconnoitre, and instantly dived again. I found
that it was as well for me to rest on my oars and wait his reappearing
as to endeavor to calculate where he would rise; for again and again,
when I was straining my eyes over the surface one way, I would
suddenly be startled by his unearthly laugh behind me. But why,
after displaying so much cunning, did he invariably betray himself
the moment he came up by that loud laugh? Did not his white breast
enough betray him? He was indeed a silly loon, I thought. I could
commonly hear the splash of the water when he came up, and so also
detected him. But after an hour he seemed as fresh as ever, dived as
willingly, and swam yet farther than at first. It was surprising to see
how serenely he sailed off with unruffled breast when he came to the
surface, doing all the work with his webbed feet beneath. His usual
note was this demoniac laughter, yet somewhat like that of a water-
fowl; but occasionally, when he had balked me most successfully
and come up a long way off, he uttered a long-drawn unearthly howl,
probably more like that of a wolf than any bird; as when a beast puts
his muzzle to the ground and deliberately howls. This was his
looning-perhaps the wildest sound that is ever heard here, making
the woods ring far and wide. I concluded that he laughed in derision
of my efforts, confident of his own resources. Though the sky was
by this time overcast, the pond was so smooth that I could see where
he broke the surface when I did not hear him. His white breast, the
stillness of the air, and the smoothness of the water were all against
him. At length having come up fifty rods off, he uttered one of those
prolonged howls, as if calling on the god of loons to aid him, and
immediately there came a wind from the east and rippled the surface,
and filled the whole air with misty rain, and I was impressed as if it
were the prayer of the loon answered, and his god was angry with
me; and so I left him disappearing far away on the tumultuous
surface.

For hours, in fall days, I watched the ducks cunningly tack and veer
and hold the middle of the pond, far from the sportsman; tricks
which they will have less need to practise in Louisiana bayous.
When compelled to rise they would sometimes circle round and
round and over the pond at a considerable height, from which they
could easily see to other ponds and the river, like black motes in the
sky; and, when I thought they had gone off thither long since, they
would settle down by a slanting flight of a quarter of a mile on to a
distant part which was left free; but what beside safety they got by
sailing in the middle of Walden I do not know, unless they love its
water for the same reason that I do.

HOUSE-WARMING.

IN OCTOBER I went a-graping to the river meadows, and loaded
myself with clusters more precious for their beauty and fragrance
than for food. There, too, I admired, though I did not gather, the
cranberries, small waxen gems, pendants of the meadow grass,
pearly and red, which the farmer plucks with an ugly rake, leaving
the smooth meadow in a snarl, heedlessly measuring them by the
bushel and the dollar only, and sells the spoils of the meads to
Boston and New York; destined to be jammed, to satisfy the tastes of
lovers of Nature there. So butchers rake the tongues of bison out of
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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