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A Long Storm. — What Day is it? — Fishing for Trout. — The Devil’s Dinner-Pot.
AFTER breakfast the search began in earnest, and was continued, during that day and the next, about the north-east peak. It consisted simply of climbing from one crag to another, glancing into crevices and under overhanging rocks, with an eye for lead.
The next day it came on to rain heavily, with the wind from the north-east. The peak sheltered us somewhat from its fury. Gluey had foreseen the storm, and thatched our shelter so thickly that we kept dry. It continued raining during the following day and the day after. That was a dull time. Cluey’s whole stock of stories, and all our resources of talk and joke, got dreadfully low. The storm came in showers: first it would pour for twenty minutes, then slacken up for half an hour. During these lulls we would make short gunning-excursions out into the dripping woods. On two occasions, Wash secured a gray squirrel; and Wade and I, each, shot a hare apiece. These Cluey dressed, and roasted quarter by quarter on sharp sticks before the fire after the Indian method. There is a sort of barbarous pleasure in running out to secure a dainty bit of game, and then coming back to roast and eat it.
On the third day of the storm we had quite a dispute as to what day it was.
Wash thought it was Friday. Wade thought it was Saturday. The rest of us were far from positive. It is curious how hazy one’s dates will get while off in the woods. Finally, after a great deal of dubious reference, it was settled to be Saturday, Aug. 15.
After that we agreed to mark each day with an especial entry in our note-books.
The next day being Sunday, we kept it very strictly; more especially since our last Sabbath on the “table-land” of Katahdin had not been so well kept. (The absence of fuel on the plateau had made it necessary to go on.)
Monday, Aug. 17. — A foggy, lowery morning. Wind south-east. Mosquitoes rabidly hungry: put their bills in deeper than usual.
“Trout ‘ud bite well this morning,” said Cluey while getting breakfast. “‘Twouldn’t be a bard plan to fish a leetle, nuther. Cubbard’s gettin ruther bar. Wouldn’t wonder ef this leettle burke down in the valley below us war chuck full o’ trout. Strikes me I wunst fished thar, — in a mighty curi’s hole. B’l’eve that war the place.”
So acting on Cluey’s suggestion, we concluded to take the forenoon to fish; and after breakfast, cutting some hazel-rods, and taking a bit of hare-meat for bait, we started down to the brook. It was a smallish stream, not more than ten or twelve feet wide. The course was very rapid how ever, and foamed over the rocks with a loud brawling. The volume of water, even at this season, was nearly or quite enough to turn a small mill. Wash and I jumped across, and fished up the left bank. Cluey and the other two boys kept on the right bank.
The trout bit. They were little fellows, though; the largest not being over half a pound weight. The mosquitoes bit too. When a fellow is coaxing a trout to bite, it is absolutely necessary to hold the pole tolerably quiescent, and keep his body in a state of becoming repose: especially must he avoid sudden movements. The mosquitoes, therefore, make the trout-fisher his favorite game. During those ecstatic moments, while a fine speckled-sided chap is coquetting with the bait, half a dozen big, famished mosquitoes will be silently tapping the backs of the fisher’s hands. Cotton gloves are no protection; nor will kids keep them entirely aloof. Either they will seek out some pin-role at the seams, or else boldly bore through at the thin spots; their exquisite scent of blood telling them just where to bite. One can muffle up his neck with his coat-collar and handkerchief, and; by dint of grimacing and facial jerks, manage to keep the little torments out of his face; but, under ordinary circum stances, he must reckon on getting his hands bitten profusely. Whiskey, applied externally, is said to keep them off; but, as we did not have it with us, I cannot speak from experience. Cluey used to smear his face with fat of any sort, — a remedy liable to much the same objections as his “smudge.”
About a mile above where we had begun to fish, the brook comes down through a gorge with very steep, ledgy sides; and presently, as we climbed along the bank from “hole” to “hole,” a dull roar began to be heard from above. The noise of plunging waters grew louder as we got farther up the gorge; till at length we came to a place where the brook foamed out from under a high ledge, seething up from some hidden orifice beneath the rocks. In front of us the ledge rose abruptly twenty or twenty-five feet in height. The roaring noise seemed to come either through it or from under it. Wash and I were a little ahead of the party on the other side, and, reaching this rocky barrier, waited for them to come up.
“We’ve found the end of the brook!” shouted Wash as Cluey came climbing along the rocks on the other side.
“Not quite,” said the old man. “Jest ye come over an’ climb up round ‘ere with me. I’ll show ye suthin I call singler.”
After some hard clambering we got up the side of the ravine, and followed the old man for some rods along the rocks on the top of the ledge. The roaring sounded louder as we proceeded; till, turning the corner of a big bowlder, Cluey stepped aside, and demanded, —
“Wot d’ye think o’ that ar’?”
We were standing on the brink of a huge hole fifteen or twenty feet in diameter, and from thirty to thirty-five feet in depth. It was nearly circular. The sides were smooth, as if polished with sand-paper. On the upper side the brook came dashing down in a white cascade, and leaped with a vast, hollow plunge down to the bottom of the hole, where the water boiled and foamed. It at once suggested the idea of a huge boiling pot. It would seem that the water made its way out through a hole at the bottom, and, passing under the ledge, reappeared in the gorge below. There were marks on the rocks, as if, in times of freshets, the waters had overflown the hole, and fallen down the ledge on the outside; but now there was not more than seven or eight feet of water at the bottom.
“I’ve seen pot-holes afore,” said Cluey. “Pot holes is common anough all along our swift brukes; but this ‘ere is ‘bout the biggest an’ most ragerler ‘un I ever come acrost. An’ I’ve named it tu,” he continued, with a twinkle in his queer old eye.
“What do you call it?” asked Raed.
“Wal, thar’s a story ‘ow the fust hunter as ever come along ‘ere saw an Injin dav’l standin’ up on the rocks thar, an’ fishin’ in the pot-hole with a split pole. So farst as he’d ketch um, he’d draw um up an’ chaw uni down, bones an’ all, at one mouthful. The hunter — his name war Flagg, I b’l’eve — staid ‘ere behind this rock till he saw ‘im ketch an’ eat forty-seven; then he crep’ off down the ledge, an’ left the old chap fishin’. An’ so,” continued Cluey, with a shrug and a grin, “I’ve named it the Dav’l’s Dinner-pot.
We concurred with Cluey that it was a very appropriate, and withal a very significant name.
“If Pomoola had such good success fishing here, I see no reason why we should not,” said Raed. Let’s try it anyway.”
Tying several lines together, we dropped into the “dinner-pot,” and in a few minutes had caught out thirteen, one weighing nearly a pound.
Having now as many as we could conveniently carry, we went back to prepare a dinner of fried trout rolled in meal.