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likely to hold together much longer-I was let out through the rear
avenues, and so escaped to the woods again.

It was very pleasant, when I stayed late in town, to launch myself
into the night, especially if it was dark and tempestuous, and set sail
from some bright village parlor or lecture room, with a bag of rye or
Indian meal upon my shoulder, for my snug harbor in the woods,
having made all tight without and withdrawn under hatches with a
merry crew of thoughts, leaving only my outer man at the helm, or
even tying up the helm when it was plain sailing. I had many a
genial thought by the cabin fire "as I sailed." I was never cast away
nor distressed in any weather, though I encountered some severe
storms. It is darker in the woods, even in common nights, than most
suppose. I frequently had to look up at the opening between the trees
above the path in order to learn my route, and, where

there was no cart-path, to feel with my feet the faint track which I
had worn, or steer by the known relation of particular trees which I
felt with my hands, passing between two pines for instance, not more
than eighteen inches apart, in the midst of the woods, invariably, in
the darkest night. Sometimes, after coming home thus late in a dark
and muggy night, when my feet felt the path which my eyes could
not see, dreaming and absent-minded all the way, until I was aroused
by having to raise my hand to lift the latch, I have not been able to
recall a single step of my walk, and I have thought that perhaps my
body would find its way home if its master should forsake it, as the
hand finds its way to the mouth without assistance. Several times,
when a visitor chanced to stay into evening, and it proved a dark
night, I was obliged to conduct him to the cart-path in the rear of the
house, and then point out to him the direction he was to pursue, and
in keeping which he was to be guided rather by his feet than his
eyes. One very dark night I directed thus on their way two young
men who had been fishing in the pond. They lived about a mile off
through the woods, and were quite used to the route. A day or two
after one of them told me that they wandered about the greater part
of the night, close by their own premises, and did not get home till
toward morning, by which time, as there had been several heavy
showers in the meanwhile, and the leaves were very wet, they were
drenched to their skins. I have heard of many going astray even in
the village streets, when the darkness was so thick that you could cut
it with a knife, as the saying is. Some who live in the outskirts,
having come to town a-shopping in their wagons, have been obliged
to put up for the night; and gentlemen and ladies making a call have
gone half a mile out of their way, feeling the sidewalk only with
their feet, and not knowing when they turned. It is a surprising and
memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods
any time. Often in a snow-storm, even by day, one will come out
upon a well-known road and yet find it impossible to tell which way
leads to the village. Though he knows that he has travelled it a
thousand times, he cannot recognize a feature in it, but it is as
strange to him as if it were a road in Siberia. By night, of course, the
perplexity is infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks, we are
constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain
well-known beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our usual
course we still carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring
cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned round-for a man
needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world
to be lost-do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature.
Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as be
awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost,
in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find
ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our

One afternoon, near the end of the first summer, when I went to the
village to get a shoe from the cobbler’s, I was seized and put into
jail, because, as I have elsewhere related, I did not pay a tax to, or
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