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Castle Nowhere   By: (1840-1894)

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CASTLE NOWHERE

BY

CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON

Not many years ago the shore bordering the head of Lake Michigan, the northern curve of that silver sea, was a wilderness unexplored. It is a wilderness still, showing even now on the school maps nothing save an empty waste of colored paper, generally a pale, cold yellow suitable to the climate, all the way from Point St. Ignace to the iron ports on the Little Bay de Noquet, or Badderknock in lake phraseology, a hundred miles of nothing, according to the map makers, who, knowing nothing of the region, set it down accordingly, withholding even those long legged letters, 'Chip pe was,' 'Ric ca rees,' that stretch accommodatingly across so much townless territory farther west. This northern curve is and always has been off the route to anywhere; and mortals, even Indians, prefer as a general rule, when once started, to go somewhere. The earliest Jesuit explorers and the captains of yesterday's schooners had this in common, that they could not, being human, resist a cross cut; and thus, whether bark canoes of two centuries ago or the high, narrow propellers of to day, one and all, coming and going, they veer to the southeast or west, and sail gayly out of sight, leaving this northern curve of ours unvisited and alone. A wilderness still, but not unexplored; for that railroad of the future which is to make of British America a garden of roses, and turn the wild trappers of the Hudson's Bay Company into gently smiling congressmen, has it not sent its missionaries thither, to the astonishment and joy of the beasts that dwelt therein? According to tradition, these men surveyed the territory, and then crossed over (those of them at least whom the beasts had spared) to the lower peninsula, where, the pleasing variety of swamps being added to the labyrinth of pines and sand hills, they soon lost themselves, and to this day have never found what they lost. As the gleam of a camp fire is occasionally seen, and now and then a distant shout heard by the hunter passing along the outskirts, it is supposed, that they are in there somewhere surveying still.

Not long ago, however, no white man's foot had penetrated within our curve. Across the great river and over the deadly plains, down to the burning clime of Mexico and up to the arctic darkness, journeyed our countrymen, gold to gather and strange countries to see; but this little pocket of land and water passed they by without a glance, inasmuch as no iron mountains rose among its pines, no copper lay hidden in its sand ridges, no harbors dented its shores. Thus it remained an unknown region, and enjoyed life accordingly. But the white man's foot, well booted, was on the way, and one fine afternoon came tramping through. 'I wish I was a tree,' said this white man, one Jarvis Waring by name. 'See that young pine, how lustily it grows, feeling its life to the very tip of each green needle! How it thrills in the sun's rays, how strongly, how completely it carries out the intention of its existence! It never, has a headache, it Bah! what a miserable, half way thing is man, who should be a demigod, and is a creature for the very trees to pity!' And then he built his camp fire, called in his dogs, and slept the sleep of youth and health, none the less deep because of that Spirit of Discontent that had driven him forth, into the wilderness; probably the Spirit of Discontent knew what it was about. Thus for days, for weeks, our white man wandered through the forest and wandered at random, for, being an exception, he preferred to go nowhere; he had his compass, but never used it, and, a practised hunter, eat what came in his way and planned not for the morrow. 'Now am I living the life of a good, hearty, comfortable bear,' he said to himself with satisfaction.

'No, you are not, Waring,' replied the Spirit of Discontent, 'for you know you have your compass in your pocket and can direct yourself back to the camps on Lake Superior or to the Sault for supplies, which is more than the most accomplished bear can do... Continue reading book >>




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