STORY OF THE FOG ON THE MOUNTAINS.
THERE was once a girl named Mary, who lived with her father and mother, in a farm-house at the foot of the mountains. When she was about eight years old, her mother taught her to milk, and she was very much pleased with this attainment.
Her father made her a little milking stool with three legs and a handle, which she used to keep upon the barn yard fence, by the side of her mother's larger milking stool ; and every morning and evening she went out, and while her mother was milking the two other cows, she would milk the one which she called hers. Her cow's name was May-day.
One night May-day did not come home with the other cows; but Mary's mother said that she thought she would be in the lane at the bars the next morning. But on the next morning no May-day was to be seen; and Mary asked her mother to let her set off after breakfast, and go up the mountain and find her. For the pasture. where the cows fed, extended some distance up the sides of one of the mountains. Her mother consented, and Mary put some bread and cheese in a little basket for luncheon, and bade her mother good morning, and went away. She crept through the bars which led to the lane, and then followed the path, until she disappeared from view among the trees and bushes.
After a short time, she came to a brook. The path led across the brook, there was a log across it for Mary to walk on. She stopped upon the middle of the log to look down into the water. The bed of the brook was filled with stones, which were all covered with green moss, and the water, in flowing along, seemed to be meandering among tufts of moss. It was very beautiful.
Mary determined to come some day and get some moss from these stones, and make a moss seat near the house, to sit upon; and then she reflected that she ought not to stop any longer looking at the brook, but that she must go on in search of her cow. So she walked along to the end of the log, and then stepped off, and followed the path which led through the woods, gently ascending.
In about half an hour, Mary came out into an opening; that is, to a place where the trees had been cleared away, and grass had grown up all over the ground. There were several clumps of trees growing here and there, and a good many raspberry bushes, with ripe raspberries, upon them. Mary thought that, after she had found the cow, she would gather some of the raspberries, and eat them with her luncheon. So she went on to the top of a little hill, or swell of land, which was in the middle of the opening, and looked around.
The cow was no where [sic] to be seen. The opening was bounded by woods, in every direction. On one side, these woods extended far back among glens and valleys, and up the sides of the mountains. On the other, Mary could see over the tops of the forest trees, away to her father's house, which was far below her, down the valley. She could distinguish the house and the barn, and the long shed between them; and presently she noticed something moving in the barn yard, and by close attention she made it out to be her father with the cart and oxen going off to the field.
There was, however, a kind of mist slowly creeping up the valley, which soon began to hide this group of buildings from Mary's view. It was one of those mornings in autumn when a fog hangs over the rivers and brooks, and creeps along the valleys, and at length, as the morning advances, it rises and spreads until the whole country is covered; and then it breaks away, and floats off in clouds, and is gradually dissipated by the sun. The fog was rising in this way now, and Mary watched it for a few minutes, as it moved slowly on. First the barn yard fence disappeared; then the barn; then the house, all but the chimneys, then the barn; and finally nothing but a great white cloud could be seen covering the whole. As Mary looked around her, she saw similar fog banks lying in long, waving lines over the courses of the streams, or spreading slowly through the valleys.
She took one more look in every direction, all around the opening, for the cow; and then she concluded that she would eat her luncheon, before she went any farther. There were two reasons for this; she began to feel hungry, — and then she was tired of carrying her basket. So she lightened her basket by eating up the bread and cheese, and then rambled around among the raspberry bushes for some minutes, eating raspberries.
When, at length, Mary came out from among the bushes, she was surprised to find that the whole country all around the little hill, that she was standing upon, was covered with fog. It looked like a sea, or rather like a great lake surrounded by mountains in the distance, and spotted with islands, which were, in fact, the summits of the nearer hills, which rose above the surface of the vapor.
Although Mary could still thus see a great deal of land, yet it looked so strange to her, that she could not recognize any of it. The hills were her old familiar friends, but she did not know them under the disguise of islands and promontories in a lake. She did not know what to do.
She concluded, however, pretty soon, that she would ramble about a little while, looking for the cow, but not far away from the hill, and then, when the fog should clear off, she could see which way to go. So she came down the hill, and began to walk about the opening, and in the edge of the woods; but no cow was to be seen.
At one time, when she had got into the woods a little farther than usual, following a little path which led along a green bank under some tall maples, she observed a gray squirrel, running, or rather gliding, along a log, with his plume of a tail curved gracefully over his back. From the end of the log he passed through the air, with a very graceful leap, to the extremity of a low limb hanging down from a great hemlock tree. The limb bent down with his weight almost to the ground. He ran up the limb to the body of the tree, and then up the tree half way to the top, where he ran out to the extremity of a long branch; and then leaped across, at a great height, into the top of a maple which grew at a little distance. Mary was delighted with the beautiful form and graceful motions of the squirrel, and she followed him along, until at last he ran into a hole in the side of a monstrous tree. It was rather the trunk of a tree,—for it was so old that the top had long since fallen away, and left the trunk alone standing,—old, shaggy, and hollow. His nest was there.
Mary waited a few minutes to see if he would come out; but he did not. Just at this time she began to observe that it was somewhat misty around her, in the woods. She then thought that the fog must have been rising and spreading until it had reached the place where she was; and she began to be afraid that she should not be able to see across the opening, so as to find her way back to the hill, in the middle of it. She immediately attempted to go back to the opening, but she could not find her way. She soon became bewildered and lost; and the more she wandered about, the more she seemed to get entangled in the woods.
Mary did not know what to do. She sat down upon a large stone, and began to feel very anxious and unhappy. She thought that, if the sun would only shine, she could tell which way to go; for she had often observed, when she was coming up into the pasture in the morning, that she was coming away from the sun; and when she went back, it shone in her face. So she knew that if she could see the sun, and go towards it, she would soon come down near to her father's house.
She sat here for some time, but the fog seemed to grow thicker and thicker. As she was musing upon her lonely and somewhat dangerous situation, she heard a rustling in a thicket pretty near her. At first she thought it was a bear; and she was alarmed. Then she reflected that her father had told her there were no bears in his pasture, and she concluded that she would go cautiously and see what it was.
So she crept along softly, and presently began to get glimpses through the thicket. The bushes moved more and more. There was something red there; it was a cow. A moment afterwards, she came into full view of it; and behold it was May-day!
Mary was rejoiced, but she could not think what May-day was doing there; she seemed to be hooking the bushes. Mary took up a stick, and attempted to drive her out; but May-day did not move from her place,—she only stepped about a little, and hooked the bushes more than ever. This was very mysterious; and Mary came up nearer, and looked very earnestly to discover what it could mean. At length the mystery was unravelled. The cow was caught by the horns in the thicket, and could not get away. Somehow or other, in rubbing her head upon the trunk of a tree, she had got her horns locked in a sort of tangle of branches which grew there, and she could not get them out again.
At first, Mary did not see that she could do any thing herself to help the poor cow out of her difficulty, except to find her own way out of the woods as soon as possible, and get her father to come and release her. On more mature reflection, however, it seemed to her that it would be an excellent thing if she could get the cow free; for probably the cow would know the way home, and so she could herself find the way by just following her. She accordingly went nearer, in order to examine the branches, by which the horns had been entangled, more closely, so as to see if she could not do something to help the cow to extricate herself.
She found that the horns had got caught in such a way, that if the cow would move her head sideways, she could get it out,—though she could not get it out by moving it backwards or forwards, nor by working it up and down. So she determined to try to make the cow move sideways. First, however, she took hold of the end of one long branch, which helped to confine the horns, and pulled it away as far as she could; and then she contrived to got this end around behind another tree, so as to prevent its springing back. This made it easier for the cow to got out. Then she got a stick, and came around to the side of the cow, and tried to drive her. The cow pulled, and pushed, and staggered around this way and that, —every way, in fact, but the right way. Mary perceived, however, that her horns were gradually working along between the limbs, towards the place where they could get free. So she persevered. At length one horn slipped out, and the other followed immediately after; and the cow, partly through her joy at being released from her confinement, and partly from fear of the great
stick which Mary had been brandishing against her, wheeled around, and gallopped [sic] out of the thicket, tossing her horns and whisking her tail.
Mary walked along after her, in hopes that she would at once take the road which would lead home. The cow walked steadily on, and Mary soon perceived that there was something like a path where she was going. It led sometimes over grass ground, and sometimes through trees and bushes; but it all looked strange to Mary, arid the fog was so thick that she could see but a very short distance on each side of her. Once the path which the cow was taking led through a low, wet place in the woods, which looked very muddy. But Mary did not dare to stop; for she did not know what she should do to find her way out, if she should lose sight of the cow. So she pulled off her stockings and shoes as quick as possible, in order to keep them clean and dry, and then followed on, running along upon the mossy logs, and leaping from stump to stone. She got safely over; but she had not time to put on her stockings and shoes again, for fear of losing the track of the cow, and so she went on barefoot.
She proceeded in this way for some time, -- until, at length, suddenly the cow came out into a wider and better path; and in a minute or two after, she came up to a pair of bars, and stopped. Mary could not think where she was. She looked around. She could perceive the dim form of some great square building at a little distance just distinguishable through the fog. She climbed up upon the fence, to look at it more distinctly. It was her father's barn; and the house was close by. In a word, the cow had conducted her safely home. Mary could excel her altogether in contriving a way to get her horns disentangled from the branches of a tree; but she could beat Mary in finding her way out of the woods in a fog. In fact, Mary found that, though she was a very poor contriver, she was a very good guide.
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