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


Baker Farm. For a long time he stood still and listened to their
music, so sweet to a hunterís ear, when suddenly the fox appeared,
threading the solemn aisles with an easy coursing pace, whose sound
was concealed by a sympathetic rustle of the leaves, swift and still,
keeping the round, leaving his pursuers far behind; and, leaping upon
a rock amid the woods, he sat erect and listening, with his back to
the hunter. For a moment compassion restrained the latterís arm; but
that was a short-lived mood, and as quick as thought can follow
thought his piece was levelled, and whang!- the fox, rolling over the
rock, lay dead on the ground. The hunter still kept his place and
listened to the hounds. Still on they came, and now the near woods
resounded through all their aisles with their demoniac cry. At length
the old hound burst into view with muzzle to the ground, and
snapping the air as if possessed, and ran directly to the rock; but,
spying the dead fox, she suddenly ceased her hounding as if struck
dumb with amazement, and walked round and round him in silence;
and one by one her pups arrived, and, like their mother, were
sobered into silence by the mystery. Then the hunter came forward
and stood in their midst, and the mystery was solved. They waited in
silence while he skinned the fox, then followed the brush a while,
and at length turned off into the woods again. That evening a Weston
squire came to the Concord hunterís cottage to inquire for his
hounds, and told how for a week they had been hunting on their own
account from Weston woods. The Concord hunter told him what he
knew and offered him the skin; but the other declined it and
departed. He did not find his hounds that night, but the next day
learned that they had crossed the river and put up at a farmhouse for
the night, whence, having been well fed, they took their departure
early in the morning.

The hunter who told me this could remember one Sam Nutting, who
used to hunt bears on Fair Haven Ledges, and exchange their skins
for rum in Concord village; who told him, even, that he had seen a
moose there. Nutting had a famous foxhound named Burgoyne-he
pronounced it Bugine-which my informant used to borrow. In the
"Wast Book" of an old trader of this town, who was also a captain,
town-clerk, and representative, I find the following entry. Jan. 18th,
1742-3, "John Melven Cr. by 1 Grey Fox 0-2-3"; they are not now
found here; and in his ledger, Feb, 7th, 1743, Hezekiah Stratton has
credit "by 1/2 a Catt skin 0-1-4 1/2"; of course, a wild-cat, for
Stratton was a sergeant in the old French war, and would not have
got credit for hunting less noble game. Credit is given for deerskins
also, and they were daily sold. One man still preserves the horns of
the last deer that was killed in this vicinity, and another has told me
the particulars of the hunt in which his uncle was engaged. The
hunters were formerly a numerous and merry crew here. I remember
well one gaunt Nimrod who would catch up a leaf by the roadside
and play a strain on it wilder and more melodious, if my memory
serves me, than any hunting-horn.

At midnight, when there was a moon, I sometimes met with hounds
in my path prowling about the woods, which would skulk out of my
way, as if afraid, and stand silent amid the bushes till I had passed.

Squirrels and wild mice disputed for my store of nuts. There were
scores of pitch pines around my house, from one to four inches in
diameter, which had been gnawed by mice the previous winter-a
Norwegian winter for them, for the snow lay long and deep, and they
were obliged to mix a large proportion of pine bark with their other
diet. These trees were alive and apparently flourishing at
midsummer, and many of them had grown a foot, though completely
girdled; but after another winter such were without exception dead.

It is remarkable that a single mouse should thus be allowed a whole
pine tree for its dinner, gnawing round instead of up and down it; but
perhaps it is necessary in order to thin these trees, which are wont to
grow up densely.
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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