My wife and I were both so fond of
country life and country pursuits that month after
month passed by at our little farm in a succession
of delightful days. Time flew like a “limited
express” train, and it was September before
we knew it.
I had been working very hard at the
office that summer, and was glad to think of my two
weeks’ vacation, which were to begin on the first
Monday of the month. I had intended spending these
two weeks in rural retirement at home, but an interview
in the city with my family physician caused me to
change my mind. I told him my plan.
“Now,” said he, “if
I were you, I’d do nothing of the kind.
You have been working too hard; your face shows it.
You need rest and change. Nothing will do you
so much good as to camp out; that will be fifty times
better than going to any summer resort. You can
take your wife with you. I know she’ll
like it. I don’t care where you go so that
it’s a healthy spot. Get a good tent and
an outfit, be off to the woods, and forget all about
business and domestic matters for a few weeks.”
This sounded splendid, and I propounded
the plan to Euphemia that evening. She thought
very well of it, and was sure we could do it.
Pomona would not be afraid to remain in the house,
under the protection of Lord Edward, and she could
easily attend to the cow and the chickens. It
would be a holiday for her too. Old John, the
man who occasionally worked for us, would come up
sometimes and see after things. With her customary
dexterity Euphemia swept away every obstacle to the
plan, and all was settled before we went to bed.
As my wife had presumed, Pomona made
no objections to remaining in charge of the house.
The scheme pleased her greatly. So far, so good.
I called that day on a friend who was in the habit
of camping out to talk to him about getting a tent
and the necessary “traps” for a life in
the woods. He proved perfectly competent to furnish
advice and everything else. He offered to lend
me all I needed. He had a complete outfit; had
done with them for the year, and I was perfectly welcome.
Here was rare luck. He gave me a tent, camp-stove,
dishes, pots, gun, fishing-tackle, a big canvas coat
with dozens of pockets riveted on it, a canvas hat,
rods, reels, boots that came up to my hips, and about
a wagon-load of things in all. He was a real
We laid in a stock of canned and condensed
provisions, and I bought a book on camping out so
as to be well posted on the subject. On the Saturday
before the first Monday in September we would have
been entirely ready to start had we decided on the
place where we were to go.
We found it very difficult to make
this decision. There were thousands of places
where people went to camp out, but none of them seemed
to be the place for us. Most of them were too
far away. We figured up the cost of taking ourselves
and our camp equipage to the Adirondacks, the lakes,
the trout-streams of Maine, or any of those well-known
resorts, and we found that we could not afford such
trips, especially for a vacation of but fourteen days.
On Sunday afternoon we took a little
walk. Our minds were still troubled about the
spot toward which we ought to journey next day, and
we needed the soothing influences of Nature.
The country to the north and west of our little farm
was very beautiful. About half a mile from the
house a modest river ran; on each side of it were
grass-covered fields and hills, and in some places
there were extensive tracks of woodlands.
“Look here!” exclaimed
Euphemia, stopping short in the little path that wound
along by the river bank. “Do you see this
river, those woods, those beautiful fields, with not
a soul in them or anywhere near them; and those lovely
blue mountains over there?” as she
spoke she waved her parasol in the direction of the
objects indicated, and I could not mistake them.
“Now what could we want better than this?”
she continued. “Here we can fish, and do
everything that we want to. I say, let us camp
here on our own river. I can take you to the very
spot for the tent. Come on!” And she was
so excited about it that she fairly ran.
The spot she pointed out was one we
had frequently visited in our rural walks. It
was a grassy peninsula, as I termed it, formed by a
sudden turn of a creek which, a short distance below,
flowed into the river. It was a very secluded
spot. The place was approached through a pasture-field, we
had found it by mere accident, and where
the peninsula joined the field (we had to climb a
fence just there), there was a cluster of chestnut
and hickory trees, while down near the point stood
a wide-spreading oak.
“Here, under this oak, is the
place for the tent,” said Euphemia, her face
flushed, her eyes sparkling, and her dress a little
torn by getting over the fence in a hurry. “What
do we want with your Adirondacks and your Dismal Swamps?
This is the spot for us!”
“Euphemia,” said I, in
as composed a tone as possible, although my whole
frame was trembling with emotion, “Euphemia,
I am glad I married you!”
Had it not been Sunday, we would have
set up our tent that night.
Early the next morning, old John’s
fifteen-dollar horse drew from our house a wagon-load
of camp-fixtures. There was some difficulty in
getting the wagon over the field, and there were fences
to be taken down to allow of its passage; but we overcame
all obstacles, and reached the camp-ground without
breaking so much as a teacup. Old John helped
me pitch the tent, and as neither of us understood
the matter very well, it took us some time. It
was, indeed, nearly noon when old John left us, and
it may have been possible that he delayed matters a
little so as to be able to charge for a full half-day
for himself and horse. Euphemia got into the
wagon to ride back with him, that she might give some
parting injunctions to Pomona.
“I’ll have to stop a bit
to put up the fences, ma’am,” said old
John, “or Misther Ball might make a fuss.”
“Is this Mr. Ball’s land?” I asked.
“Oh yes, sir, it’s Mr. Ball’s land.”
“I wonder how he’ll like our camping on
it?” I said, thoughtfully.
“I’d ‘a’ thought,
sir, you’d ‘a’ asked him that before
you came,” said old John, in a tone that seemed
to indicate that he had his doubts about Mr. Ball.
“Oh, there’ll be no trouble
about that,” cried Euphemia. “You
can drive me past Mr. Ball’s, it’s
not much out of the way, and I’ll
“In that wagon?” said
I. “Will you stop at Mr. Ball’s door
“Certainly,” said she,
as she arranged herself on the board which served
as a seat. “Now that our campaign has really
commenced, we ought to begin to rough it, and should
not be too proud to ride even in a in a ”
She evidently couldn’t think
of any vehicle mean enough for her purpose.
“In a green-grocery cart,” I suggested.
“Yes, or in a red one. Go ahead, John.”
When Euphemia returned on foot, I
had a fire in the camp-stove and the kettle was on.
“Well,” said Euphemia,
“Mr. Ball says it’s all right, if we keep
the fence up. He don’t want his cows to
get into the creek, and I’m sure we don’t
want ’em walking over us. He couldn’t
understand, though, why we wanted to live out here.
I explained the whole thing to him very carefully,
but it didn’t seem to make much impression on
him. I believe he thinks Pomona has something
the matter with her, and that we have come to stay
out here in the fresh air so as not to take it.”
“What an extremely stupid man Mr. Ball must
be!” I said.
The fire did not burn very well, and
while I was at work at it, Euphemia spread a cloth
upon the grass, and set forth bread and butter, cheese,
sardines, potted ham, preserves, biscuits, and a lot
of other things.
We did not wait for the kettle to
boil, but concluded to do without tea or coffee, for
this meal, and content ourselves with pure water.
For some reason or other, however, the creek water
did not seem to be very pure, and we did not like
it a bit.
“After lunch,” said I,
“we will go and look for a spring; that will
be a good way of exploring the country.”
“If we can’t find one,”
said Euphemia, “we shall have to go to the house
for water, for I can never drink that stuff.”
Soon after lunch we started out.
We searched high and low, near and far, for a spring,
but could not find one.
At length, by merest accident, we
found ourselves in the vicinity of old John’s
little house. I knew he had a good well, and so
we went in to get a drink, for our ham and biscuits
had made us very thirsty.
We told old John, who was digging
potatoes, and was also very much surprised to see
us so soon, about our unexpected trouble in finding
“No,” said he, very slowly,
“there is no spring very near to you. Didn’t
you tell your gal to bring you water?”
“No,” I replied; “we
don’t want her coming down to the camp.
She is to attend to the house.”
“Oh, very well,” said
John; “I will bring you water, morning and night, good,
fresh water, from my well, for, well,
for ten cents a day.”
“That will be nice,” said
Euphemia, “and cheap, too. And then it will
be well to have John come every day; he can carry
“I don’t expect to write any letters.”
“Neither do I,” said Euphemia;
“but it will be pleasant to have some communication
with the outer world.”
So we engaged old John to bring us
water twice a day. I was a little disappointed
at this, for I thought that camping on the edge of
a stream settled the matter of water. But we
have many things to learn in this world.
Early in the afternoon I went out
to catch some fish for supper. We agreed to dispense
with dinner, and have breakfast, lunch, and a good
For some time I had poor luck.
There were either very few fish in the creek, or they
were not hungry.
I had been fishing an hour or more
when I saw Euphemia running toward me.
“What’s the matter?” said I.
“Oh! nothing. I’ve
just come to see how you were getting along. Haven’t
you been gone an awfully long time? And are those
all the fish you’ve caught? What little
bits of things they are! I thought people who
camped out caught big fish and lots of them?”
“That depends a good deal upon where they go,”
“Yes, I suppose so,” replied
Euphemia; “but I should think a stream as big
as this would have plenty of fish in it. However,
if you can’t catch any, you might go up to the
road and watch for Mr. Mulligan. He sometimes
comes along on Mondays.”
“I’m not going to the
road to watch for any fish-man,” I replied, a
little more testily than I should have spoken.
“What sort of a camping out would that be?
But we must not be talking here or I shall never get
a bite. Those fish are a little soiled from jumping
about in the dust. You might wash them off at
that shallow place, while I go a little further on
and try my luck.”
I went a short distance up the creek,
and threw my line into a dark, shadowy pool, under
some alders, where there certainly should be fish.
And, sure enough, in less than a minute I got a splendid
bite, not only a bite, but a pull.
I knew that I had certainly hooked a big fish!
The thing actually tugged at my line so that I was
afraid the pole would break. I did not fear for
the line, for that, I knew, was strong. I would
have played the fish until he was tired, and I could
pull him out without risk to the pole, but I did not
know exactly how the process of “playing”
was conducted. I was very much excited. Sometimes
I gave a jerk and a pull, and then the fish would
give a jerk and a pull.
Directly I heard some one running
toward me, and then I heard Euphemia cry out:
“Give him the butt! Give him the butt!”
“Give him what?” I exclaimed,
without having time even to look up at her.
“The butt! the butt!”
she cried, almost breathlessly. “I know
that’s right! I read how Edward Everett
Hale did it in the Adirondacks.”
“No, it wasn’t Hale at
all,” said I, as I jumped about the bank; “it
was Mr. Murray.”
“Well, it was one of those fishing
ministers, and I know that it caught the fish.”
“I know, I know. I read
it, but I don’t know how to do it.”
“Perhaps you ought to punch him with it,”
“No! no!” I hurriedly
replied, “I can’t do anything like that.
I’m going to try to just pull him out lengthwise.
You take hold of the pole and go in shore as far as
you can and I’ll try and get hold of the line.”
Euphemia did as I bade her, and drew
the line in so that I could reach it. As soon
as I had a firm hold of it, I pulled in, regardless
of consequences, and hauled ashore an enormous cat-fish.
“Hurrah!” I shouted, “here is a
Euphemia dropped the pole, and ran to me.
“What a horrid beast!” she exclaimed.
“Throw it in again.”
“Not at all!” said I.
“This is a splendid fish, if I can ever get him
off the hook. Don’t come near him!
If he sticks that back-fin into you, it will poison
“Then I should think it would poison us to eat
him,” said she.
“No; it’s only his fin.”
“I’ve eaten cat-fish,
but I never saw one like that,” she said.
“Look at its horrible mouth! And it has
whiskers like a cat!”
“Oh! you never saw one with
its head on,” I said. “What I want
to do is to get this hook out.”
I had caught cat-fish before, but
never one so large as this, and I was actually afraid
to take hold of it, knowing, as I did, that you must
be very careful how you clutch a fish of the kind.
I finally concluded to carry it home as it was, and
then I could decapitate it, and take out the hook
at my leisure. So back to camp we went, Euphemia
picking up the little fish as we passed, for she did
not think it right to catch fish and not eat them.
They made her hands smell, it is true; but she did
not mind that when we were camping.
I prepared the big fish (and I had
a desperate time getting the skin off), while my wife,
who is one of the daintiest cooks in the world, made
the fire in the stove, and got ready the rest of the
supper. She fried the fish, because I told her
that was the way cat-fish ought to be cooked, although
she said that it seemed very strange to her to camp
out for the sake of one’s health, and then to
eat fried food.
But that fish was splendid! The
very smell of it made us hungry. Everything was
good, and when supper was over and the dishes washed,
I lighted my pipe and we sat down under a tree to
enjoy the evening.
The sun had set behind the distant
ridge; a delightful twilight was gently subduing every
color of the scene; the night insects were beginning
to hum and chirp, and a fire that I had made under
a tree blazed up gayly, and threw little flakes of
light into the shadows under the shrubbery.
“Now isn’t this better
than being cooped up in a narrow, constricted house?”
“Ever so much better!”
said Euphemia. “Now we know what Nature
is. We are sitting right down in her lap, and
she is cuddling us up. Isn’t that sky lovely?
Oh! I think this is perfectly splendid,”
said she, making a little dab at her face, “if
it wasn’t for the mosquitoes.”
“They are bad,” I
said. “I thought my pipe would keep them
off, but it don’t. There must be plenty
of them down at that creek.”
“Down there!” exclaimed
Euphemia. “Why there are thousands of them
here! I never saw anything like it. They’re
getting worse every minute.”
“I’ll tell you what we
must do,” I exclaimed, jumping up. “We
must make a smudge.”
“What’s that? do you rub
it on yourself?” asked Euphemia, anxiously.
“No, it’s only a great
smoke. Come, let us gather up dry leaves and make
a smoldering fire of them.”
We managed to get up a very fair smudge,
and we stood to the leeward of it, until Euphemia
began to cough and sneeze, as if her head would come
off. With tears running from her eyes, she declared
that she would rather go and be eaten alive, than
stay in that smoke.
“Perhaps we were too near it,” said I.
“That may be,” she answered,
“but I have had enough smoke. Why didn’t
I think of it before? I brought two veils!
We can put these over our faces, and wear gloves.”
She was always full of expedients.
Veiled and gloved, we bade defiance
to the mosquitoes, and we sat and talked for half
an hour or more. I made a little hole in my veil,
through which I put the mouth-piece of my pipe.
When it became really dark, I lighted
the lantern, and we prepared for a well-earned night’s
rest. The tent was spacious and comfortable, and
we each had a nice little cot-bed.
“Are you going to leave the
front-door open all night?” said Euphemia, as
I came in after a final round to see that all was right.
“I should hardly call this canvas-flap
a front-door,” I said, “but I think it
would be better to leave it open; otherwise we should
smother. You need not be afraid. I shall
keep my gun here by my bedside, and if any one offers
to come in, I’ll bring him to a full stop quick
“Yes, if you are awake.
But I suppose we ought not to be afraid of burglars
here. People in tents never are. So you needn’t
It was awfully quiet and dark and
lonely, out there by that creek, when the light had
been put out, and we had gone to bed. For some
reason I could not go to sleep. After I had been
lying awake for an hour or two, Euphemia spoke:
“Are you awake?” said
she, in a low voice, as if she were afraid of disturbing
the people in the next room.
“Yes,” said I. “How long have
you been awake?”
“I haven’t been asleep.”
“Neither have I.”
“Suppose we light the lantern,”
said she. “Don’t you think it would
“It might be,” I replied;
“but it would draw myriads of mosquitoes.
I wish I had brought a mosquito-net and a clock.
It seems so lonesome without the ticking. Good-night!
We ought to have a long sleep, if we do much tramping
In about half an hour more, just as
I was beginning to be a little sleepy, she said:
“Where is that gun?”
“Here by me,” I answered.
“Well, if a man should come
in, try and be sure to put it up close to him before
you fire. In a little tent like this, the shot
might scatter everywhere, if you’re not careful.”
“All right,” I said. “Good-night!”
“There’s one thing we never thought of!”
she presently exclaimed.
“What’s that,” said I.
“Snakes,” said she.
“Well, don’t let’s think of them.
We must try and get a little sleep.”
“Dear knows! I’ve
been trying hard enough,” she said, plaintively,
and all was quiet again.
We succeeded this time in going to
sleep, and it was broad daylight before we awoke.
That morning, old John came with our
water before breakfast was ready. He also brought
us some milk, as he thought we would want it.
We considered this a good idea, and agreed with him
to bring us a quart a day.
“Don’t you want some wegetables?”
said he. “I’ve got some nice corn
and some tomatoes, and I could bring you cabbage and
We had hardly expected to have fresh
vegetables every day, but there seemed to be no reason
why old John should not bring them, as he had to come
every day with the water and milk. So we arranged
that he should furnish us daily with a few of the
products of his garden.
“I could go to the butcher’s
and get you a steak or some chops, if you’d
let me know in the morning,” said he, intent
on the profits of further commissions.
But this was going too far. We
remembered we were camping out, and declined to have
meat from the butcher.
John had not been gone more than ten
minutes before we saw Mr. Ball approaching.
“Oh, I hope he isn’t going
to say we can’t stay!” exclaimed Euphemia.
“How d’ye do?” said
Mr. Ball, shaking hands with us. “Did you
stick it out all night?”
“Oh yes, indeed,” I replied,
“and expect to stick it out for a many more
nights if you don’t object to our occupying your
“No objection in the world,”
said he; “but it seems a little queer for people
who have a good house to be living out here in the
fields in a tent, now, don’t it?”
“Oh, but you see,” said
I, and I went on and explained the whole thing to
him, the advice of the doctor, the discussion
about the proper place to go to, and the good reasons
for fixing on this spot.
“Ye-es,” said he,
“that’s all very well, no doubt. But
how’s the girl?”
“What girl?” I asked.
“Your girl. The hired girl you left at
“Oh, she’s all right,” said I; “she’s
“Well,” said Mr. Ball,
slowly turning on his heel, “if you say so, I
suppose she is. But you’re going up to the
house to-day to see about her, aren’t you?”
“Oh, no,” said Euphemia.
“We don’t intend to go near the house until
our camping is over.”
“Just so, just so,”
said Mr. Ball; “I expected as much. But
look here, don’t you think it would be well
for me to ask Dr. Ames to stop in and see how she
is gettin’ along? I dare say you’ve
fixed everything for her, but that would be safer,
you know. He’s coming this morning to vaccinate
my baby, and he might stop there, just as well as not,
after he has left my house.”
Euphemia and I could see no necessity
for this proposed visit of the doctor, but we could
not well object to it, and so Mr. Ball said he would
be sure and send him.
After our visitor had gone, the significance
of his remarks flashed on me. He still thought
that Pomona was sick with something catching, and
that we were afraid to stay in the house with her.
But I said nothing about this to Euphemia. It
would only worry her, and our vacation was to be a
season of unalloyed delight.