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Title: God's Country; The Trail to Happiness
Author: Curwood, James Oliver
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Additional Transcriber’s Notes are at the end.

       *       *       *       *       *



GOD’S COUNTRY _The Trail to Happiness_


  _By_
  JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD
  _Author of_
  The Valley of Silent Men
  The River’s End, etc.

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  Cosmopolitan Book Corporation
  MCMXXI

       *       *       *       *       *

  Copyright, 1921, by
  COSMOPOLITAN BOOK CORPORATION

  _All rights reserved, including that of translation
  into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian_

  _PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA_

  The Quinn & Boden Company
  BOOK MANUFACTURERS
  RAHWAY NEW JERSEY



The Four Trails to Happiness


                                         PAGE

  _The First Trail_ MY SECRET OF HAPPINESS  3

  _The Second Trail_ I BECOME A KILLER     29

  _The Third Trail_ MY BROTHERHOOD         53

  _The Fourth Trail_ THE ROAD TO FAITH     83

       *       *       *       *       *

_The First Trail_ MY SECRET OF HAPPINESS

       *       *       *       *       *



_The First Trail_ MY SECRET OF HAPPINESS


To-night I am in a little cabin in the heart of a great wilderness.
Outside it is dark. I can hear the wind sighing in the thick spruce
tops. I hear the laughter of a stream out of which I took my supper
of trout. The People of the Night are awake, for a little while ago I
heard a wolf howl, and, not far away, in an old stub, lives an owl that
hoots at the light in my window. I think it’s going to storm. There
is a heaviness in the air, and, in the drowse of it, the sweetness of
distant rain.

I am strangely contented as I start the writing of this strangest of
all the things I have written. I had never thought to give voice to the
things that I am about to put on paper; yet have I dreamed that every
soul in the world might know of them. But the task has seemed too great
for me, and I have kept them within myself, expecting them to live and
die there.

I am contented on this black night, with its promise of storm, for
many reasons--though I am in the heart of a peopleless forest fifteen
hundred miles from my city home. In the first place, I have built,
with my own hands, this cabin that shelters me. My palms are still
blistered by the helve of the ax. I am the architect of the fireplace
of stone and mud in which a small fire burns for cheer, though it is
late spring, with summer in the breath of the forests. I have made the
chair in which I sit and the table on which I write, and the builder of
a marble palace could take no greater pleasure in his achievement than
have I.

I am contented because, just now, I have the strange conviction that,
in this wild and peopleless place, I am very close to that which many
peoples have sought through many ages and have not found.

In the distance, I can hear thunder, and a flash of lightning illumines
my window. A cry of a loon comes with the flash. It is strange; it
is weird--and wonderful. And also, in a way, it has just occurred
to me that it is a fitting kind of night to begin that which I have
been asked to write. For this night, for a short space, will be like
the great world at large--a world that is rocking in the throes of a
mighty tumult--a tumult of unrest, of discontent, of mad strivings,
of despair, and lack of faith--a world that is rushing blindfold into
unknown things, that is seeking rest and peace, yet can never find them.

It is, I repeat, a strange night to begin the writing of that which I
have been asked to write, and yet I do not think that I would have the
night changed. It seems to picture to me more vividly the unrest of the
world fifteen hundred miles away--and fifteen thousand miles away. I
seem to see with clearer vision what has happened during the past two
years--the mad questing of a thousand million people for a spiritual
thing which they cannot find. I see, from this vantage-point of the
deep forest, a world torn by five hundred schisms and religions, and I
see not one religion that fills the soul with faith and confidence. I
see the multitudes of the earth reaching up their arms and crying for
the Great Mystery of life to be solved. Questions that are racking the
earth come to me in the whisperings of the approaching storm. Can the
ghosts of the dead return? Can the spirits of the departed commune with
the living? Is the world on the edge of an inundation of spiritualism?
Does the salvation of humanity lie there--or there--or there? What
shall I believe? What _can_ I believe?

The rain is beginning to beat on the roof of my cabin and, in number,
the drops of the rain remind me of the millions and the tens of
millions of restless men and women who are reading avidly, in the pages
of magazines and books, the “experiences” of those who are giving voice
to new creeds and new beliefs or reviving old ones long lost in the
dust of forgotten ages.

Ghosts have been revived; spirits are on the move again. New
generations are drinking in with wonder and suspense the whole bagful
of tricks worn out ten thousand generations ago. To-morrow it may be
the revival of witchcraft. And the next day new prophets may arise
and new religions take the place of the old. For so travel the minds
of men; and so they have traveled for hundreds of thousands of years
before Christ was born and Christianity was known; and so they will go
on seeking until God is found in a form so simple and intimate that all
humanity will at last understand.

The storm has broken. It is like a deluge over the cabin. The thunder
and crash of it is in the spruce tops--and such is the dreadfulness of
the tumult and the aloneness of the place that I am in, that I would
cease where I am did I think that anything I am about to say might be
sacrilege. But when a mind gives expression to that which it holds as
truth, there cannot be sacrilege.

I have been asked to put on paper something of that religion which I
have discovered for myself in nature. There are many who will laugh;
there are many who will disbelieve, for it will be impossible for me to
make myself entirely clear in such a matter as this. For I have found
what, to me, is God; and I cannot expect to startle the world, even
if I desired to do so, for what I have found has been found in a very
simple way--without bringing spirits back from the dead, or hearing
voices out of tombs, or gathering faith through the inspiration of
mediums.

I have found the heart of nature. I believe that its doors have
opened to me, and that I have learned much of its language. Through
adventure and bloodshed I have come to a great understanding; and
understanding has brought me health and faith and a joy in life. And
because these things will do the world no harm, and may do some good,
I am undertaking to write the story of a great and inclusive God whom
men and women and little children should be made to know, but to
whom, unfortunately, the swift pace of the times has made most of us
strangers.

I fear that I am going to shock many people, and so I am of a mind
to get the shock over with and come to the meat of what I have to
say. But I shall start with something which those who read this must
concede--that everyone in the world seems to be looking for something
which will bring him more comfort and more happiness from life. That,
I think, is the reason the Catholic Church is the only Church which
is growing to any extent. It is growing because it is the only Church
which is holding out its arms as a mother and giving a human being a
breast upon which to lay his head when he is in trouble. Yet I am not
a Catholic. Neither am I a Protestant. I do not belong to the High,
Low, Broad, or Free Church. I do not confess to Romanism, Popery, or
Protestantism any more than I do to Mohammedanism, Calvinism, or the
doctrines of the Latter-Day Saints. I am not a sectarian any more
than I am a Shaker or a Restitutionist. I do not believe that one
necessarily goes to hell because he does not accept Christ as the Son
of God. I believe that Christ was a good man and a great teacher of
his times, just as there have been other good men and great teachers
in their times. I can look upon the Mussulman at prayer, or the Parsee
at his devotion, or the Eskimo calling upon his unseen spirits with
the same feeling of brotherhood and understanding that I can see a
congregation of Baptists or Methodists singing their praise to the God
on high. I do not pity or condemn the African savage and the Indian of
the Great Barrens because they see their God through another vision
than that of the Christian. There were many roads that led to old Rome.
And there are many roads, no matter how twisted and dark they seem to
us, that lead to the better after-life.

I wish that some mighty power would rise that could show to man how
little and how insignificant he is. Only therein, I think, could the
thorns and brambles be taken out of that path to peace and contentment
which he would like to find, and would find if he were not blinded
by his own importance. He is the supreme egoist and monopolist. His
conceit and self-sufficiency are at times almost blasphemous. He is
the human peacock, puffed up, inflated, flushed in the conviction
_that everything in the universe was made for him_. He looks down in
supercilious lordship on all other life in creation. He goes out and
murders millions of his kind with his scientific inventions; yet he
calls a tiger bad and a pest because the tiger occasionally kills the
two-legged thing that hunts it. If he kills a man illegally, it is
called murder, and he is hanged and goes to hell. If his government
tells him it is proper to kill a thousand men, he kills them, and is
called a hero--and a chosen place is kept waiting for him in heaven.
His conceit blinds him to fact. He thinks our little earth was the
chosen creation of the Supreme Power--forgetting that the earth is
but a fly-speck compared with the other worlds in space. He thinks
that Christ was born a long time ago, and that time began with our own
knowledge of history--when, as a matter of fact, he has no reason for
disbelieving that man lived and died hundreds of thousands of years
ago, and that countless religions have come and gone in the eons of the
past. He does not stop to reason that, in number, he is as a drop in
the ocean compared with other beating hearts on earth.

To me, every heart that beats is a spark from the breath of God. I
believe that the warm and beating heart in the breast of a singing
robin is as precious to the Creator of things as the heart of a man
counting money. I believe that a vital spark exists in every blade of
grass and in every leaf of the trees. It is the great law of existence
that life must destroy in order to live, and when destruction is
inevitable and necessary, it ceases to be a misdemeanor. But to let
live, when it is not necessary to destroy, is a beautiful thing to
consider.

Before men find a satisfying faith and peace, they must come to see
their own littleness. They must discover that they are not _alone_ in
a partnership with God, but that all manifestation of life, whether in
tree or flower or flesh and blood, is a spark loaned for a space by
that Supreme Power toward which we all, in our individual ways, are
groping. There is one teacher very close to us, as close to the poor
as to the rich, to show us this littleness and make us understand.
That teacher is nature--and, in my understanding of things, all nature
is rest and peace. I believe that nature is the Great Doctor, and, if
given the chance, can cure more ills and fill more empty souls than all
the physicians and preachers of the earth. I have had people say to me
that my creed is a beautiful one for a person as fortunately situated
as myself, but that it is impossible for the great multitudes to go out
and find nature as I have found it. To these people, I say that one
need not make a two-thousand-mile trip along the Arctic coast and live
with the Eskimo to find nature. After all, it is our nerves that kill
us in the long run, our over-restless minds, our worrying, questing
brains. And nature whispers its great peace to these things even in
the rustling leaves of a corn field--if one will only get acquainted
with that nature. And my desire--my ambition--the great goal I wish to
achieve in my writings is to take my readers with me into the heart of
this nature. I love it, and I feel that they must love it--if I can
only get the two acquainted.

“Fine line of talk for a man whose home is filled from cellar to garret
with mounted heads and furs,” I hear some of my good friends say.

Quite true, too. It is hard for one to confess oneself a murderer, and
it is still harder to explain one’s regeneration. Yet, to be genuine, I
must at least make the confession, though it is less the fact of murder
than the fact of regeneration that I have the inclination to emphasize,
now that I have the opportunity. There was a time when I took pride
in the wideness and diversity of my killings. I was a destroyer of
life. Now I am only glad that these killings ultimately brought me to a
discovery which is the finest thing I have to contemplate through the
rest of my existence.

In my home are twenty-seven guns, and all of them have been used.
Many of the stocks are scarred with tiny notches whereby I kept track
of my “kills.” With them, I have left red trails to Hudson’s Bay, to
the Barren Lands, to the country of the Athabasca and the Great Bear,
to the Arctic Ocean, to the Yukon and Alaska, and throughout British
Columbia. This is not intended as a pæan of triumph. It is a fact which
I wish had never existed. And yet it may be that my love of nature and
the wild things, at the last, is greater because of those reckless
years of killing. I am inclined to believe so. In my pantheistic heart,
the mounted heads in my home are no longer crowned with the grandeur
of trophies, but rather with the nobility of martyrs. I love them. I
commune with them. I am no longer their enemy, and I warm myself with
the belief that they know I am fighting for them now.

In this religion of the open, I have come to understand and gather
peace from the whispering voices and even the silence of all God-loving
things. I have learned to love trees, and there are times when I put
my hands on them because I love them, and rest my head against them
because they are comrades and their comradeship and their might give
me courage. There is a gnarled old cripple of an oak in the yard of
my Michigan home, a broken and twisted dwarf which many people have
told me to destroy. But that tree and I have “talked over” many things
together; it has pointed out to me how to stand up under adversity,
has shown me how to put up a man’s fight. For, eaten to the heart, a
deformity among its kind, each spring and summer saw it making its
valiant struggle to “do its best.” It was then I became its friend,
gave it a helping hand, stopped its decay and death, and each season
now the old oak is stronger, and often I go out and sit with my back
against it, and I hear and understand its voice, and I know that it is
a great friend that will never do me wrong.

It is thus that this religion of mine finds its strength from the
sources of great and unknown power. But before it comes in all its
peace and joy, man must bring down his head from out of the clouds of
egoism, and say, “The oak is as great as I--perhaps greater.”

Not long ago, it seemed to me that my world had gone dark and that it
would never grow completely light again. In perhaps the darkest hour,
I flung myself down upon the ground close to the bank of a stream. And
then, close over my head--so close I could have tossed a pebble to
it--a warbler near burst its little throat in song. And the miracle of
it was that it was a dark and sunless day. But the warbler sang, and
then he chirped in the boughs above; and when I looked at the ground
beside me again, I saw there, peeping up at me out of the grass, a
single violet. And the bird and the violet gave me more courage and
cleared my world for me more than all the human friends who had told me
they were sorry. The violet said, “I am still here; you will never lose
me,” and the little warbler said, “I will always sing--through all the
years you live.” And stronger than ever came the faith in me that these
things were no more an accident of creation than man himself.

Once I saw this Great Doctor of mine a burning, vibrant force in a
room of a crowded tenement, from the roof of which one could not see
a blade of grass or a tree. In fact, that force filled three rooms, in
which lived a man and woman and five children. I spent an hour in those
rooms on a Sunday afternoon, and the experience of that hour in a hot
and crowded tenement was a mightier sermon than was ever preached to
me in the heart of a forest. At every window was a box in which green
stuff was growing. There were flowers in pots. A pair of canary-birds
looked down upon the smoky roofs of a great city and sang. What
interested me most was two contrivances the man had made to force oats
into swift germination and growth. In a week, he told me, the green
sprout of an oat would be two inches long. Then I saw why they were
grown. Several times while I was there would a dove come to a window
and wait for a bit of the green. I could see they were different doves.
They told me at least a dozen were accustomed to come in that way. They
were the children’s pets. A little baby in arms cooed at them and waved
his arms in delight. I have seen many poor tenement families, but that,
I think, was the only happy one. The singing of the birds, the coming
of the doves, the growing of green things in their room were their
inspiration, their hope, the promise of dreams that would some day
come true. Nature had become their religion, and yet they did not know
it as such. It was calling them out into the great open spaces--and
they were living in anticipation of that day when they would answer the
call.

Because I have spent much of my time in adventuring in distant
wildernesses, and exploring where other men have not gone, it has been
accepted by many that my love for nature means a love for the distant
and, for most people, the inaccessible wilds. It is true that in the
vast and silent places one comes nearer, perhaps, to the deeper truths
of life. Of the wild and its miracles I love to write, and when I come
to that part of my story, I shall possibly be happiest. But I would be
unfair to myself, and the religion of nature itself, if the great truth
were not first emphasized that its treasures are to be possessed by
mankind wherever one may turn--even in a prison cell. I was personally
in touch with one remarkable instance of this in the Michigan State
Penitentiary, at Jackson, where a canary-bird and a red geranium saved
a man from madness and eventually gained him a pardon, sending him out
into the world a living being with a new and better religion than he
had ever dreamed of before.

But the open skies and the free air were intended from the beginning of
things as the greatest gifts to man, and it is there, if one is sick in
body or soul, that one should seek. Whether it is a mile or a thousand
miles from a city makes little difference. For nature is the universal
law. It is everywhere. It is neither mystery nor mysterious. Its pages
are open; its life is vibrant with the desire to be understood. The
one miracle is for man to bring himself down out of the clouds of his
egoism and replace his passion for destruction with the desire to
understand.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have in mind a case in point.

I had a very dear friend, a newspaper man, whose wife had died. I don’t
know that I ever saw a man more utterly broken up, for his love for
her was more than love. It was worship. He grew faded and thin, and a
gray patch over his temple turned white. The mightiest efforts of his
friends could do nothing. He wanted to be alone, alone in his home,
where he could grieve himself to death by inches. I knew that his case
was harder because he was merely tolerant of religion. One day, the
idea came to me that resulted in his spiritual and physical salvation.
I took him in my auto, and we went out into the country four or five
miles, opened a gate, drove down a long lane, and stopped at the edge
of a forty-acre wood.

“Fred, I am going to show you a wonderful city,” I said. “Come with
me--quietly.”

We climbed over the fence, and I led him to the heart of the wood, and
there we sat down, with our backs to a log.

“Now, just to humor me, be very still,” I said. “Don’t move, don’t
speak--just listen.”

It was three o’clock in the afternoon, that wonderful time of a summer
day when nature seems to rouse herself from midday slumber to fill the
world with her rustling life. The sun fell slantwise through the wood,
and here and there, under the roofs of the trees, we could see golden
pools and streams of it on the cool earth.

“This is one of the most wonderful cities in the world,” I whispered,
“and there are hundreds and thousands of such cities, some of them
within the reach of all.”

The musical ripple of a creek came to our ears. And then, slowly
at first, there came upon my friend the wonder of it all. He
understood--at last. About us, through all that forty acres of wood,
the air seemed to whisper forth a strange and wonderful life. Over our
heads, we heard a grating sound. It was a squirrel gnawing through the
shell of a last autumn’s nut. On an old stub, a woodpecker hammered.
Close about us were the “cheep, cheep, cheep,” and “twit, twit, twit,”
of little brown brushbirds. A warbler burst suddenly into a glorious
snatch of song. A quarter of a mile away, a crow cawed, and between us
and the crow we heard a fox-squirrel barking, and, a little later, saw
it, with its mate, scrambling in play up and down the trees. My friend
caught my arm and pointed. He was becoming interested, and what he saw
was a fat young woodchuck passing near us on a foraging expedition to a
neighboring clover field.

For an hour we did not move, and through all that city was the drone
and voice of life, and that life was a soft and wonderful song,
soothing one almost to sleep. And when, at last, my friend whispered
again, “It sounds as though everything is talking,” I knew that the
spirit of the thing had got into him. Then I drew his attention to a
colony of big black ants whose fortress was in the log against which we
were resting. They were working. Two of them were trying to drag a dead
caterpillar over my friend’s knee. When we rose to go, I led him past
a little swale in which a score of blackbirds had bred their young. On
a slender willow, a bobolink was singing. A land-turtle lumbered back
into the water, and the bright eyes of green-headed frogs stared at
us from patches of scum. Under a bush, a score of toads were teaching
their tiny youngsters to swim. When my friend saw the little fellows
clinging to their mothers’ backs, he laughed--the first time in many
months.

When we went back to the car, I said:

“You have seen just one ten-thousandth of what nature holds for you and
every other man and woman. You haven’t believed in God very strongly.
But you’ve got to now. That’s God back there in the wood.”

That was four years ago. To-day, that man not only lives in the heart
of nature but, from a special assignment man, he has risen to the
managing editorship of a big metropolitan daily. He has only his summer
vacation in which to get out into the big woods, but he has made room
for nature all about him. From early spring until late autumn, his
front and back yard fairly burst with life. And it is not, like most
yards, merely for show and passing pleasure to the eyes. He has brought
himself down out of the clouds of man’s egoism, and is learning and
taking strength from nature--which he now worships as the great “I am.”
He has developed a hobby for “interbreeding plants,” as he calls it,
and especially gladioli. Each morning in spring and summer and autumn,
he goes out into his garden, and, from the thousand living things
there, he receives strength for his nerve-racking duties of the day;
and at night, after his task is done, he returns to his garden to seek
that peace which is the great and vibrant force of the life that is
there. During the months of winter, he has his little conservatory. And
this man--for more than thirty years--hardly knew whether an oak grew
from an acorn or a seed!

Yet has he one great regret. And more than once he has said to me, with
that grief in his voice which will never quite die out: “If we had only
found these things before, she would be with me now. I am convinced of
it. It was this strength she needed to keep her from fading away--to
build her up into joyous life again. Sometimes I wonder why the Great
Power that is above did not let her live to go into the wood with us
that day.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Hours have passed since I first sat down to write these thoughts that
were in my mind. The storm has passed, and, following it, there has
come a marvelous silence. Both my door and window are open, and there
is rare sweetness in the breath of the rain-washed air. I can hear
the near-by trees dripping. The creek runs with a louder ripple. The
moon is shimmering through the fleecy clouds that are racing south and
east--toward my “civilized” home, fifteen hundred miles away. Over all
this world of mine there is, just now, a vast and voiceless quiet. And
if I were superstitious, or filled with the imagination of some of the
prophets of old, I am sure I would hear a Voice speaking out of that
mighty solitude, and it would say:

“O you mortal, blind--blind as the rocks which make up the mountains!

“Blind as the trees which you think have neither ears nor eyes!

“Made to see, yet unseeing; making mystery out of that which was born
with you; seeking--yet seeking afar for that which lies close at hand!

“You want peace. You go in quest of a Breast mightier than all life to
rest thy tired head upon. And thy quest is like the drifting of a ship
without a rudder at sea. For you think that the world is young because
thou livest in it now--and it is old, so old that thousands and tens
of thousands of peoples lived and died before Christ was born. You
think that civilization has come to pass, and ‘civilization’ has died a
thousand times under the dust of the ages. You believe you are treading
the only path to God--yet have a million billion people died before
you, unknowing the religions which you now know.

“O you mortals of to-day, you are small and near-sighted, and hard of
hearing--even more than they who lived a million years before you, when
the world was an hour or two younger than now!

“What are you? Proud of thy purse, vain of thy power, conceited in
thy self-glorification--yet you seek a simple thing and cannot find
it. You cannot find _rest_. You cannot find _faith_. You cannot find
_understanding_. You cannot find that Breast mightier than all life
upon which to rest thy head when the end comes and when you go to join
those trillions who have gone before you.

“And, in your despair, you cry out that you know not which way to turn,
that you seek in darkness, that the world is a wilderness of schisms
and religions, and that you cannot tell which is the right and which
is the wrong. For you know that worlds have lived and died through the
eons of centuries before Christianity was born. And you are oppressed
by doubt even as you grope!

“Yet you know deep in thy soul that the heavens were not an accident.
You know that hundreds and thousands of worlds greater than thine own
have traveled their paths in space for eternities. You know that the
sun was set in the skies so long ago that all the people of the earth
could not count the years of its life. And you know that a Great Hand
placed it there. And that Hand, you say, was God.

“Yet you seek--and you seek--and you seek--and doubt everlastingly
clouds thine eyes; and when darkness comes and you stand at the edge of
the Great Beyond, you look back, and--lo!--the path you have traveled
seems very short, and it is cluttered with brambles and thorns and the
wreckage of shattered hopes and wasted years.

“And then you see the Light!

“And, as thy spirit departs, the mystery unveils--the answer comes.

“For that which you sought, you looked too far. Close under thy feet
and close over thy head might you have found it!”

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Second Trail_ I BECOME A KILLER

       *       *       *       *       *



_The Second Trail_ I BECOME A KILLER


This morning is a glory of sunshine and peace after last night’s rain.
It seems inconceivable that the blue sky above the forest was filled
a few hours ago with the crash of thunder and the blaze of lightning.
I was up at dawn, wakened by a pair of red squirrels playing upon the
roof of my cabin. Together we watched the sun rise, and after that they
chattered about my open door while I prepared my breakfast. We are
becoming great friends. One of them I have given the name of Nuts, and
for no reason in the world unless it is because there are no nuts up
here; and the other, the sleek, beautiful little female, I call Spoony
because she looks at me so slyly, with her pretty head perked on one
side, as if flirting with me.

It is only eight o’clock, yet we have been up nearly four hours. At
the edge of the creek, less than a stone’s throw from the cabin, I
have built me a narrow table of smooth-hewn saplings between two old
spruce trees, and this is my open-air studio when the weather is fine.
Word of it has gone abroad, though I am many hundreds of miles from
civilization. Many kinds of wild things have come to get acquainted
with me, fascinated chiefly, I think, by the marvelous new language
of my clicking typewriter. The welcome and friendship of these little
wilderness-hearts are growing nearer and more apparent to me every day;
and with each day the Great Truth speaks to me even more clearly than
the day before--that each of these beating hearts, like my own, is a
part of that nature which I worship and is as vitally a spark of its
life as the heart which is beating inside my own flannel shirt.

These friends of mine, gathering about me more intimately and in
greater number with each passing day, are individuals to me because
I have come to understand them and know their language. There is the
Artful Dodger, for instance--I sometimes call him Bill Sykes or Captain
Kidd--screaming close over my head this very moment. In very intimate
moments I call him Arty, or Kid, or Bill. He is a big blue jay. In
spite of all that has been said and written against him, I have a
very brotherly affection for Bill. He is a man’s man, among birds,
notwithstanding that he occasionally breakfasts on the eggs of other
birds, and kills more than is good for his reputation. Also, he is the
greatest liar and the biggest fraud and the most brazen-faced cheat in
the bird kingdom. But I know Bill intimately now, where I used to kill
him as a pest, and I love him for all his sins.

He is a pirate who never loses his sense of humor. He is always
raising a disturbance just for the excitement of it, and when he has
drawn a crowd, so to speak, he will slip slyly away to some nearby
vantage-point and laugh and chuckle over the rumpus he has raised.
Right now, he is screaming himself hoarse forty feet above my head.
Two others have joined him, and they are making such a bedlam of sound
that Nuts and Spoony have ceased their chattering. There!--I have fired
a stick at them, and they are gone. They have had their joke, and are
quite satisfied--for the present.

I can hear the musical rippling of the creek again, now that Bill and
his blustering pals are gone, and my typewriter is like a tiny machine
gun sending its clicking notes out into the still forest. A pair of
moose-birds, almost as big as the jays, are hopping about, so near
that, at times, they are perched on the end of my sapling table.
They are the tamest birds in the wilderness, and within another day
or so will be eating out of my hand. Unlike the jays, they make no
disturbance. They are soft and quiet, never making a sound, and their
big, beautiful eyes fairly pop with their intense interest in me. I
like their company, because there is a philosophy about them. They
never tire of looking at me, and studying me, and at times I have the
very pleasant fancy that they are bursting with a desire to speak. They
are very gentle, and never fight or scold or commit any sins that I
know of; and just now, as the two look at me with their big soft eyes,
I find myself wondering which of us is of most account in the final
analysis of things.

Ten or fifteen rods above me, the creek widens and forms a wide
pool overhung with trees, so that, in the hottest weather, it must
be a delightfully refreshing place. I can see it plainly from where
I am sitting, for the creek twists a little, so that it is running
directly toward me when I look in that direction. Many wild things
come to that pool. This morning, I found a bear-track there, and the
fresh hoof-prints of a doe and fawn. Yesterday, a pair of traveling
otters discovered it, but when I tried them out with the voice of my
typewriter, they turned back. I am confident they will return, and that
we shall get acquainted.

At the present moment, in looking toward the pool, I am struck by what
at first thought I might consider a discordant note in this wonderland
of quiet and peace that is about me. At the edge of the pool, rigid
and watchful, a hawk is poised on a dead limb projecting from a
lightning-struck stub. He is hungry and eager to kill. I have seen him
launch himself twice after a victim, but each time without success.
Finally, he will succeed. He will kill a living thing that he himself
may continue to live. Yet I have no inclination to shoot him. For to
live, and to cherish that spark of life that is in him, is as much his
right as it is mine. He is not, like man, a killer for the love of
killing. He wants his breakfast.

And in fairness to him I think of two tender young spruce-partridges
which I shot late last evening, and which I shall roast for my dinner,
along with a potato and a flavor of bacon. My religion does not demand
vegetarianism any more than it does flesh; for that, too, is life.
For the trees whispering above me now are as alive to me as the
moose-birds perched at the end of my table, yet when necessity comes
I cut them down with an ax, and make a cabin or cook my food with
them. All nature cries out that life must exist upon life, that one
tree must grow upon the mold of another, that for each green blade of
grass another blade must die. It is not against a wise and necessary
destruction that the God of all nature cries out. The crime--the crime
greater than all other crimes--is destruction without cause.

       *       *       *       *       *

That is what I must come to now, even in this glory of peace that is
whispering about me--I must face the task of confessing my own sins as
a killer, as a destroyer of life for the love and thrill of killing. I
was born, like all the children of men, a monumental egoist. My parents
were egoists. My forefathers for ten thousand generations were egoists
before me, and I was the last product of their egoism--one of the
billion and a half people who are living to-day in the blindness of a
self-conceit that has filled their worlds with schisms and religions as
false and as unstable as the treacherous sands of human “almightiness”
upon which they have been built.

From the beginning, I did not need argument or education to tell me
that I was the greatest of all created things--that my particular
brand of life, of all life on the earth, was the only life that God
had intended to be inviolate. That fact was pounded home to me in the
public schools; it was preached to me in the churches. I was part and
parcel of the great “I Am.” For me, all the universe had been built.
For me, the Great Hereafter was solely created. All other life was
merely incidental, and created especially for my benefit. It was mine
to do with as I pleased. In a mild sort of way, the school and the
church told me to have a little charity, and not to “hurt the poor
little birdies.”

But church and school did not tell me, and has never told its pupils,
that all other life on the earth was as precious as my own, and had
an equal right to fight for its existence. It is true I was told that
never a sparrow falls that God does not see it, but it is also true
that, for six years, my state urged its children to kill sparrows for
a bounty of two cents a head. I found no course in school or college
that attempted to teach me that the spark of life animating my own
body was no different from the sparks which animated all other living
things. Both religion and school instilled into me that I was next in
place to God. All other life, from the life of trees and flowers to
that of beasts and birds, was put on earth for my special benefit. No
other life had a right to exist unless the human egoist saw fit to let
it live. And all this simply because human life happened to be the most
powerful life, and cleverest in the art and science of destroying other
life.

I wonder what would happen if for ten generations the churches and
schools would teach their little children and their grown-ups that
there is a heaven for flowers and trees and birds and butterflies
just as surely as there is a heaven for man! What would happen if the
teaching of the Great Truth of nature began in the kindergarten, and
went on through the lives of men and women, growing stronger in the
race as generation added itself to generation? It is something to think
about in these days when, in our madness for a faith, we are reviving
ghosts and phantom voices and are frightening our children again with
the diseased and weird belief that the spirits of the dead can come
back to us. We want something that is clean and healthy and inspiring,
something that is beautiful to contemplate, and which is not an
overwhelming insult to that Great Power of the universe of which we are
so small a part--and in the kindergarten we could plant the seed of
that thing, so that, through the school and the church and all life, it
would continue to grow stronger with each generation, until, at last,
man would shake off that deadliest of all his enemies, his own egoism
and self-conceit. Then, and not until then, will he find contentment
and peace and happiness in the brotherhood of all other life that is
about him.

But I seem to be evading the issue--my own confession as a monumental
egoist and a killer. I have said that my parents were egoists, like
all their forefathers before them. Yet the world never held a better
mother than mine. I do not except any who may sit in heaven at the
present time. And my father, as a man, was far better than his son will
ever be. He was a gentleman of the old school, living, as he died, an
example of courage and fearlessness and honor to all who knew him.
Yet did these two splendid people, like all other parents, foster and
cultivate my egoism from the beginning. They did it unconsciously,
blindly, as hundreds of millions of other parents are doing to-day.

My father loved hunting and fishing, and at eight years of age I
possessed my own gun. I remember with what pride he taught me to shoot
and to stalk my first living victims; and when we returned from a hunt,
if I had killed anything, it was always to me that my beloved mother
gave her greatest attention and commendation. We lived on an Ohio farm
then, and I became a sort of boy prodigy in the art of hunting. When
I was nine years old, a newspaper in a near-by city published a story
of my prowess, and I do not think I was more puffed up over it than my
father himself. By the time I was twelve, I had lost all respect for
that life which the laws of our state said I might take. I had a fine
collection of birds’ eggs, and another “splendid” collection of birds’
wings. My room was decorated with the wings.

I always recall with an odd sort of feeling that at this particular
height of my boyish slaughter of life I “got religion,” and got it
hard. At Joppa, a “four-corners” two miles from our farm, a series
of revival meetings was going on that winter, and I cannot remember
anyone in all our community who did not get the religious fever,
except most of the youngsters. But it hit me hard. I felt that I was
actually inspired. So deeply did the excited preachings effect my mind
that frequently, when I was alone, I felt that angels were with me.
One moonlight night, in returning from a revival, I actually saw an
angel, and the beautiful thing with white wings and white raiment and
wonderful flowing hair walked halfway home with me. When I told that
story at school the next day, and insisted that it was true, I had five
different fights. My mother said that it probably was true, for she was
delighted that I had become religious. So I fought, and licked--and got
licked--for about a month because of my faith.

But what I am coming to is this: Though practically our whole township
was converted, at no time did this religion tell me to stop killing. So
inspired was I that Mr. Teachout, the revivalist, had me give a short
“sermon” one evening--and I recall vividly how, in “introducing” me,
he said, in a loud voice and with a great flourish of his arms, that
I “was the best hunter in all Erie County and could kill more game
in a day than almost any grown hunter there.” Whereupon there was a
mighty applause from the hundred people present, and I was the proudest
youngster in Ohio.

Why?

Because from a church rostrum I was hailed as the greatest boy killer
in that county! No one of all those Christians told me that I should
stop killing. They made a hero of me because I was already becoming
a master in the art of killing. They built up my egoism to a point
where it became blasphemous--to a point where it more than offset my
mother’s pleadings that I stop shooting birds for their wings. Then
came a thing which, as I look back upon it now, seems to me monstrous.
There was to be a big “hunters’ supper” to end the revival. The men
chose sides, and on a certain day all these men set out to kill. They
were to kill nothing “outside the law.” But all life not protected by
law might be sacrificed. I remember that a rabbit counted five points,
a squirrel four, a hawk six, a blue jay two, and so on. The side that
lost out on “points,” or, in other words, destroyed the least life,
was compelled to furnish the supper. How I did slaughter! When I came
in to the “count” that night, my game-bag was filled to the brim with
dead things. Among other creatures I had killed seventeen blue jays!
Any wonder that Captain Kidd and his pals screamed over my head this
morning?

And yet good Christian people still regard with horror the day when
pagan Rome burned the martyrs.

My education in the art of destruction increased as my years grew in
number. I was not alone. All the human world was destroying, just as
it is destroying to-day. We moved back to the little city of Owosso,
in Michigan, where I was born. In Erie County, Ohio, my nickname had
been Slippery--just why I don’t know; now, in Michigan, it became
Nimrod and Wildcat Jim. I haunted our beautiful Shiawassee River as
ghosts are now haunting some of our scientific writers. I trapped and
hunted and fished more than I studied--so much more, in fact, that I
became decidedly unpopular with our high-school principal, Mr. Austin,
who is now my very good friend. At last, I stood at the splitting of
the ways--and I chose my own course. I trapped a season, and, with
the money earned, started in on a special course at the University of
Michigan. Things went well. I slipped through college with the ease of
an eel, took up newspaper work in Detroit, became a special writer and
a magazine writer and the youngest metropolitan newspaper editor in
Michigan. I felt inclined to believe that I was a wild and uproarious
success.

But under it all burned my desire to get back to my old job of
destruction, and this desire led me into my long years of adventuring
into the far northern wildernesses.

As I sit here now, clicking my typewriter in the still heart of the
forest, it is a wonder to me that some colossal spirit of vengeance
does not rise up out of it and destroy me. And yet, when I consider, I
know why that vengeance does not come--and in the face of this “great
reason,” I see my littleness as I have never seen it before. It is
because, very slowly, my egoism is crumbling away. And as it crumbles,
my big brother--all nature--grips my hand ever more closely, and
whispers to me to tell others something of what I have found. And that
big brother is not only the spirit of the heart-beating things about
me, but also the spirit and voice of the trees, of the living earth
that throbs under my feet, of the flowers, the sun, the sky. It is
all reaching out to me with a great show of friendliness, and I seem
to feel that fear and misunderstanding have slipped away from between
us. It is inviting me to accept of it all that I may require, yet to
cherish that which I cannot use. It is telling me, as it has whispered
to me a thousand times before, the secret of life; that the life in
my own breast and all this that is about me are one and the same--and
that, in our partnership for happiness, we each belong to the other.
And there must be no desire for vengeance between us.

Yet, to me, it does not seem like justice, looking at it from the
warped and narrow point of view of my human mind. It is the human
instinct to demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And I
cannot see why my God of nature should give me such reward of peace and
friendship after what I have done. It has always been my logic that
life is the cheapest thing in existence. There is just so much earth,
so much water, so much air about us; but of life there is no end. So
we go on destroying. If nature would keep this destroyed life unto
herself for a few generations, instead of giving it back to us in her
unvengeful way, the earth would soon become a desert. Then we would
learn our lesson.

I am thinking, as I write this, of a beautiful little forest in a
wonderful valley in the heart of the British Columbia mountains. It
was a glorious thing to look down upon that day when I destroyed it.
I call it a forest, though there was not more than an acre of it, or
two at the most. And the valley was really a “pocket” among the mighty
peaks of the Firepan Range. It was of balsams and cedars, rich green,
and densely thick--a marvelous patch of living tapestry, vibrant with
the glow and pulse of life in the sunset of that day. Into its shelter
we had driven a wounded grizzly which had refused to turn and fight.
And so thick and protecting was the heart of it that we could not get
the grizzly out. Night was not far away, and in its darkness we knew
our game would escape us. And the thought came to us to burn that
little paradise of green. There was no danger of a spreading fire. The
mountain walls of the “pocket” would prevent that. And it was I who
struck the match!

In twenty minutes, the little forest was a sea of writhing, leaping
flame. It cried out and moaned in the agony of conflagration. The bear
fled from its torture and its ruin, and we killed him. That night, the
moon shone down on a black and smoldering mass of ruin where a little
while before had been the paradise.

In our camp, we laughed and exulted. The egoism of man made us feel our
false triumph. What it had taken a thousand years to place in that
cup of the mountains we had destroyed in half an hour--yet we felt no
regret. We had destroyed a thousand times more life than filled our own
pitiable bodies, yet did the false ethics of our breed assure us that
we had done no wrong--simply because the life we had destroyed had not
possessed a form and tongue like our own.

“This man must be losing his reason,” I hear some of my readers say. Is
it that, or is a bit of reason just returning to me, after a million
years of sleep? If it is madness, it is of a kind that would comfort
the world could all be mad as I am mad. Life is Life. It is a spark
of the same Supreme Power, whether in a tree, a flower, or a thing of
flesh and blood. To me, as I view it now, the wanton destruction of
that little paradise was as tragic as the destruction of life carried
about on two legs or four. I feel that the crime of its destruction was
as great as that of another day which I recall most vividly in these
moments.

I was in another wonderland of the northern mountains, and my companion
was a grizzled old hunter who had learned the art of killing through
a lifetime of experience. With our pack-outfit of seven horses, we
were hitting for the Yukon over a trail never traveled by white man
before. So glorious was the valley we were in on this day of which I
write that at noon we struck our camp. So awesome was the vastness
and beauty of it that my soul was held spellbound with the magic of
it. On all sides of us rose the mighty mountains, with snow-crowned
peaks rising here and there out of the towering ranges. The murmur of
rippling water filled the soft air with soothing song; green meadows,
sweet with the perfume of wild hyacinths, violets, and a hundred
other flowers, carpeted the rich earth about us; on the sun-warmed
rocks, whistlers lay in fat contentment, calling to one another like
small boys whistling between their teeth; the slopes were dotted with
ptarmigan; a pair of eagles soared high above us, and from the patches
and fingers of timber came the cry and song of birds. With my back
propped against a pile of saddles and panniers I carefully scanned the
slides and slopes through my hunting-glasses. High up on the crag of
a mountain-shoulder, I picked up a nanny-goat feeding with her kid.
Still farther away, on a green “slide” at least two miles from camp, I
discovered five mountain-sheep lying down. And after that, swinging
my glasses slowly, I came to something which sent a thrill through
my blood. It was a mile away, a great, slow-moving hulk that I might
have mistaken for a rock had my eyes not been trained to the ways and
movement of game. It was a grizzly.

Alone I went after him, armed with man’s deadliest weapon of
extinction, a .405 Winchester. Inside of half an hour I was well in the
teeth of the breeze coming up the valley, and almost within gunshot of
my victim. I came to a coulee and crept up that, and when I reached the
table-land meadow where it began, a thousand feet above the valley, I
found myself within a hundred yards of the grizzly.

He was digging like a dog for a gopher. And, then, suddenly, my heart
gave a thump that almost choked me. In a twist of the mountain-bench,
not more than seventy or eighty yards above me, were two more
grizzlies. I hesitated, and looked back down the coulee, for a moment
doubtful whether to retreat or declare war. Then I decided. In my hands
was a killer of the deadliest and surest kind. I was an expert shot and
my nerves were steady. I began. I think I fired five shots in perhaps
thirty seconds, and the three big grizzlies died almost in their
tracks. A conqueror returning in his triumph to old Rome could not
have been more elated than I. I remember that I leaped and danced and
shrieked out at the top of my voice in the direction of camp. I was mad
with joy. Three thousand pounds of flesh and blood lay hot and lifeless
under my eyes, and I, the human near-god, with my own two insignificant
hands and a mechanical thing, _had taken the life from it_!

I sat down on one of the huge carcasses that still breathed under me.
I wiped my face, and my blood was running a race that heated me as if
with fire. And the thought came to me: “Oh, if the world could only see
me now--here in my glorious triumph--with these great beasts about me!”
For it was a mighty triumph for man, the egoist. In thirty seconds I
had destroyed a possible one hundred years of throbbing, heart-beating
life, a hundred years of winter, a hundred years of summer, a hundred
mating-seasons, and the thousand other lives that now would never be
born! I stood up, and shrieked again toward the camp, and far above me
out of the blue of the sky I heard an answering cry from one of the
eagles....

Yes, as I sit here, looking back over the days that are gone, I wonder
that the spirit of vengeance does not rise up out of the forest and
destroy me, even as I have destroyed. It would be justice, according to
that justice which man the egoist metes out. And yet, even as I wonder,
the answer comes to me very clearly. I am no different than hundreds of
millions of others. I have destroyed in my own way, while others have
destroyed in theirs. And nature, the most blessed of all things, is not
vengeful. God forgives. And nature is God. It is God that lives in the
rose, in the violet, in the tree, just as he lives in the heart of man.
It is God that breathes in the grass which makes the earth sweet to
tread upon, and it is God that lives in the song of birds. His “life”
is all-encompassing, the vital spark of all existent things. Instead of
sending ghosts back to earth to prove his power, he gives us all these
things, and lives and breathes in them, that we may have him with us in
physical things all the days of our lives if we will only rise out of
our egoism--and understand.

And now I have come again to the parting of a way. I have bared the
black side of my ledger, and it has not been pleasant work for
me. To-morrow begins the joyous part of my task--the beginning of
that story which will tell how at last my eyes were opened, how
understanding came to me, and with that understanding a new faith which
will live with me through all the rest of the years of my life.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Third Trail_ MY BROTHERHOOD

       *       *       *       *       *



_The Third Trail_ MY BROTHERHOOD


To-day is Sunday, and I have just returned from a week’s hike up the
mysterious little creek that runs past my cabin. It seems good to be
home again, and Nuts and Spoony and Wild Bill, the blue jay, have given
me a royal welcome, and I am almost convinced my pop-eyed moose-bird
friends are trying to tell me who was the thief in my cabin while I
was gone. On that “to-morrow” when I had promised myself another day
of writing, the _Wanderlust_ came to me, and I packed up a kit and a
week’s supply of grub and started out to explore my creek. It is a
very individual sort of creek--it has character, even, if it hasn’t a
name. It comes out of deep, dark, and unexplored masses of forest to
the north, and I have fancied it bringing down all sorts of romance
and tragedy out of the hidden places if it could only talk. So I went
to the end of it to find out its secrets for myself. And there was so
much of interest that I could fill a book with it. I don’t think any
other white feet have ever traveled up this creek, which I now call
“Lonesome.” Surely not even an Indian has been along it for at least a
generation, for I did not find the mark of an ax or sign of a fire or
vestige of deadfall or trap-house.

But it did take me forty miles back into a country of such savage
wilderness and dense forests that I have almost determined to build me
another cabin there a little later, if for no other reason than to live
for a while with the hundreds of owls that inhabit certain parts of it.
I have never seen so many owls anywhere in the Northland, and I figure
this is because the big snow-shoe rabbits have been multiplying for
several years past, and now exist there literally in thousands. At many
places along the creek, the earth was beaten hard by their furred feet.
By all the signs, I have predicted that next year, or the year after,
the “seven-year rabbit-plague” will come along and kill off ninety out
of every hundred. Then the owls will scatter, and most of the lynxes
and foxes and wolves will wander off into other hunting grounds, for
the rabbit is the staff of life of the flesh-eating birds and beasts
of the big northern forests, just as all the world over wheat is the
mainstay of human stomachs.

But I am wandering a bit from the point in mind--which is to say that,
in leaving on my journey of exploration, I forgot to close the window
of my cabin, and through that open window entered the rascally thief
whom the pair of moose-birds are trying to tell me about. I think Bill
knows also, but I don’t believe he would give a brother robber away,
even if he did have four feet and a tail. By tracks and two or three
other signs, I know the thief is a wolverine, who, like the pack-rat
over in the mountains, steals almost entirely for the fun of it. This
mischief-making humorist, among other things, has carried away a hat,
one of my two frying-pans, several tins, half a slab of bacon, and my
favorite fish-cleaning knife during my absence. But I know this clever
fellow’s ways, and have hope that I shall soon recover my property if I
keep my eyes open and listen with both my ears.

And I shall not kill him, no matter how red-handed--or red-footed--I
catch him. A few years ago, I would have planned to ambush him with
a rifle. But now I have the desire to become as intimate with him as
possible and learn a little more definitely what he wants with a
knife, a skillet, and my pans. I feel that, for his theft, he should
in some way be rewarded and not slain, for he has added to my interest
in life by rousing a keen and harmless curiosity. His is only one way
in which nature is constantly adding fullness of life and greater
contentment to my years. Everywhere, even to the smallest things under
my feet and at my hand, I am learning more and more of the marvelous
ways and life of all creation, and the more I learn the more I am
convinced that I am simply an atom in its vast brotherhood, and I am
finding a great happiness by making myself actually a part of it.

Heretofore, I have been a self-expatriated spark of life, so to speak;
in my human egoism, I have held myself apart from all other sparks of
life that were not formed in my own poor and unlovely shape--and, even
then, I considered myself considerably better than those who did not
happen to be of my particular color and breed.

Two very simple things are adding to my pleasure in life this early
afternoon, and illustrate the point I have in mind--if one can bow
one’s head down to the level of understanding. I am writing again
between the two big spruce trees, but during my week of absence other
sparks of life have, in a way, taken possession of my table. From
between two of the hewn saplings that form the top of this table, where
the big storm of wind must have flung a bit of earth and a seed, a
tender green sprout of something has started to grow. It is a single
spear now, not of grass, and its green is the whitish green of the
lower part of an asparagus shoot. To me, it seems fairly to pulse with
life, and I have the very foolish feeling within me that nature planned
this little surprise for me while I was away, and that, if I give it a
bit of brotherly attention, I am going to have a flower on my table,
not transplanted or plucked, but there deliberately through friendship
for me. However foolish this notion may be, it is a very pleasant one
to have, and its effect is to bring me much nearer to the Creator of
things than any sermon I could hear preached from a pulpit; for I am
not listening merely to words about God, but I am looking directly at a
physical part of God, and I find a great satisfaction in this faith.

A second interesting thing that has happened to my table is that it has
become a plain across which now runs the trail of a big tribe of ants.
These ants, I have found, climb up the farthest right-hand support of
my table and proceed straight across to the big spruce on my left, up
which they disappear; and a returning file of the workers come down
the spruce and hit it “cross-country” to the table-leg again. They
don’t seem to be bearing any burdens, yet they move with precision and
purpose, and I have come to understand that, when ants move in this
way, they have something very definite in mind. I am convinced they
are moving from one fortress home to another, or at least that every
“working” individual in the tribe is personally investigating some new
discovery that has been made either up the spruce or in the direction
of the creek. Later, I will know more about it.

But the point that impresses itself upon me most is that, in my
destroying days, I would have swept the friendly little green sprout
from its cradle, and would have driven the ant tribe from my property,
destroying as many of them as possible. Again I want to emphasize
that I am not a crank, or narrow-minded in my religion of “live and
let live.” If this same tribe of ants had invaded my cabin, and were
preying on things necessary to me, I would destroy them or drive them
away. That is my nature-given privilege--to protect myself and what is
mine. It is also the privilege of every other spark of life. These same
ants, were I to stand on their fortress, would attack me desperately.
But now they do not molest me. And I do not molest them. It is the
beautiful law of “live and let live”--so long as the necessity for
destruction does not arise.

When I sat down at my typewriter an hour ago, I had planned to
begin immediately the telling of what I have wandered somewhat away
from--the story of a few incidents which helped to bring about my own
regeneration, and which at last impressed upon me this great Golden
Rule of all nature--live and let live. The big dramatic climax in that
part of my life happened over in the British Columbia mountains, where
my love of adventure has taken me on many long journeys.

But the change had begun to work in me before then. My conscience was
already stabbing me. I was regretting, in a mild sort of way, that
I had killed so much. But I was still the supreme egoist, believing
myself the God-chosen animal of all creation, and when at any time I
withheld my destroying hand, I flattered myself with a thought of my
condescension and human kindness.

At the particular time I am going to write about, I was on a big
grizzly-hunt in a wild and unhunted part of the British Columbia
mountains. I had with me one man, seven horses, and a pack of Airedales
trained to hunt bear. We had struck a grizzly-and-caribou paradise,
and there had been considerable killing, when, one day, we came upon
the trail of Thor, the great beast that showed me how small in soul
and inclination a man can be. In a patch of mud his feet had left
tracks that were fifteen inches from tip to tip, and so wide and deep
were the imprints that I knew I had come upon the king of all his
kind. I was alone that morning, for I had left camp an hour ahead of
my man, who was two or three miles behind me with four of the horses
and the Airedale pack. I went on watching for a new campsite, for the
thrill of a great desire possessed me--the desire to take the life of
this monster king of the mountains. It was in these moments that the
unexpected happened. I came over a little rise, not expecting that my
bear was within two or three miles of me, when something that was very
much like a low and sullen rumble of far-away thunder stopped the blood
in my veins.

Ahead of me, on the edge of a little wallow of mud, stood Thor. He
had smelled me, and, I believe, it was the first time he had ever
smelled the scent of man. Waiting for this new mystery in the air, he
had reared himself up until the whole nine feet of him rested on his
haunches, and he sat like a trained dog, with his great forefeet, heavy
with mud, drooping in front of his chest. He was a monster in size,
and his new June coat shone a golden brown in the sun. His forearms
were almost as large as a man’s body, and the three largest of his five
knifelike claws were five and a half inches long. He was fat and sleek
and powerful. His upper fangs, sharp as stiletto-points, were as long
as a man’s thumb, and between his great jaws he could have crushed the
neck of a caribou. I did not take in all these details in the first
startling moments; one by one they came to me later. But I had never
looked upon anything in life quite so magnificent. Yet did I have no
thought of sparing that splendid life. Since that day, I have rested in
camp with my head pillowed on the arm of a living grizzly that weighed
a thousand pounds. Friendship and love and understanding have sprung
up between us. But in that moment my desire was to destroy this life
that was so much greater than my own. My rifle was at my saddle-horn in
its buckskin jacket. I fumbled it in getting into action, and in those
precious moments Thor lowered himself slowly and ambled away. I fired
twice, and would have staked my life that I had missed both times. Not
until later did I discover that one of my bullets had opened a furrow
two inches deep and a foot long in the flesh of Thor’s shoulder. Yet I
did not see him flinch. He did not turn back, but went his way.

Shame burns within me as I write of the days that followed; and yet,
with that shame, there is a deep and abiding joy, for they were also
the days of my regeneration. Day and night, my one thought was to
destroy the big grizzly. We never left his trail. The dogs followed
him like demons. Five times in the first week we came within long
shooting-range, and twice we hit him. But still he did not wait for us
or attack us. He wanted to be left alone. In that week, he killed four
of the dogs, and the others we tied up to save them. We trailed him
with horses and afoot, and never did the spoor of other game lure me
aside. The desire to kill him became a passion in me. He outgeneraled
us. He beat all our games of trickery. But I knew that we were bound
to win--that he was slowly weakening because of exhaustion, and the
sickness of his wounds. We loosed the dogs again, and another was
killed.

Then, at last, came that splendid day when Thor, master of the
mountains, showed me how contemptible was I--with my human shape and
soul.

It was Sunday. I had climbed three or four thousand feet up the side
of a mountain and below me lay the wonder of the valley, dotted with
patches of trees and carpeted with the beauty of rich, green grass,
mountain-violets and forget-me-nots, wild asters, and hyacinths. On
three sides of me spread out the wonderful panorama of the Canadian
Rockies, softened in the golden sunshine of late June. From up and down
the valley, from the breaks between the peaks, and from the little
gullies cleft in shale and rock that crept up to the snow-lines came a
soft and droning murmur. It was the music of running water--music ever
in the air of summer, for the rivers and creeks and tiny streamlets
gushing down from the melting snow up near the clouds are never still.
Sweet perfumes as well as music came to me; June and July--the last
of spring and the first of summer in the northern mountains--were
commingling. All the earth was bursting with green; flowers were
turning the sunny slopes and meadows into colored splashes of red
and white and purple, and everything that had life was giving voice
to exultation--the fat whistlers on their rocks, the pompous little
gophers on their mounds, the squirrel-like rock-rabbits, the big
bumblebees that buzzed from flower to flower, the hawks in the valley,
and the eagles over the peaks.

Earth, it seemed, was at peace.

And I, looking over all that vastness of life, felt my own greatness
thrust upon me.

For had not the Creator, of all things, made this wonderland for _me_?

There could be no denial. I was master--master because I could think,
because I could reason, because I held the reins to an unutterable
power of destruction. And then the vastness of time seized upon me like
a living thing. Yesterday, a thing had happened which came strongly
into my thoughts of to-day. Under a great overhanging cliff I had found
a part of a monster bone, as heavy as iron--a section of a gigantic
vertebra. Two years before I had found part of the skeleton of a
prehistoric creature, identical with this, and, from photographs which
I took of it the scientific departments of the University of Michigan
and the government at Ottawa agreed that the bones were part of the
skeleton of a mammoth whale that once had swum where the valleys and
peaks of the Rocky Mountains now disrupt the continent.

And on this Sunday, looking down, I thought of the monster bone I
had found yesterday in the dry shale and sand under the cliff. When
the Three Wise Men saw the star in the east, that bone was as I had
found it. It was there when Christ was born. It was there, unmoved
and untouched, before Rome was founded, before Troy died in the mists
of the past, before history, as we know history, began. It was there
a million years ago, ten million, fifty, a hundred. And, thinking of
this, I felt myself growing smaller and smaller; my egoism died away,
and I saw these mountains obliterated and under the blue of a vast
ocean, and rising out of that ocean I saw other continents, peopled
with other people, moved by other religions, beating to the pulse of
other civilizations long dead. I heard the beat of waves below me,
where grew the grass and the flowers of the valley. And the droning
music of that valley seemed to change into the low whisperings of
countless trillions of men and women and little children who had
lived and died in those other civilizations of the lost ages; and
that fancied whispering of dead worlds told me a great truth--that
the Supreme Arbiter of things had watched over all those trillions
just as he was now watching over me, that I was but a pitifully small
grain of dust in the great scheme of things, that my egoism was
criminal, sacrilegious, a curse set upon myself by myself. And the
soft and droning whisper also told me the time would come when my own
“civilization” would be obliterated, to be followed by a hundred, a
thousand, or a million others, each in its turn to live and die.

And it was then, on that Sunday precious to me, that I asked myself an
old, old question in a great, new way--“What is God?”

And looking down into the valley, and up into the sky, understanding
came to me. God is there, and there, and there. He is the Infinite
Power. He is Life. Life began infinities ago, and it will continue
through other infinities. While we are squabbling among ourselves with
our little religions and our little views, while we are preaching the
damnation of beliefs that are not ours, while sects fight to convert
sects that do not think as they think, while our narrow-gage minds
travel in their narrow-gage paths,--that Infinite Power is watching
and waiting, as it has watched and waited from the beginning, and
as it will watch and wait until the end. And I stared down into the
valley, green and glorious and filled with sunshine and peace, and that
low-sung whisper seemed to say, “If this is not God what _is_ God?” And
then also, in a new way, came something in my brain which said to me,
“_And who are you?_”

       *       *       *       *       *

I climbed higher up the mountain. I felt my greatness gone. Kindly,
something had told me how pitiful I was. I was not mighty. I was no
more in the ultimate of things than a blade of grass. My egoism, on
that glorious Sunday, began to crumble in my soul. And then, by chance
if you will have it so, came the climax of that day.

I came to a sheer wall of rock that rose hundreds of feet above me.
Along this ran a narrow ledge, and I followed it. The passage became
craggy and difficult, and in climbing over a broken mass of rock, I
slipped and fell. I had brought a light mountain-gun with me, and in
trying to recover myself I swung it about with such force that the
stock struck a sharp edge of rock and broke clean off. But I had saved
myself from possible death, and was in a frame of mind to congratulate
myself rather than curse my luck. Fifty feet farther on I came to
a “pocket” in the cliff, where the ledge widened until, at this
particular place, it was like a flat table twenty feet square. Here I
sat down, with my back to the precipitous wall, and began to examine my
broken rifle.

I laid it beside me, useless. Straight up at my back rose the sheer
face of the mountain; in front of me, had I leaped from the ledge,
my body would have hurtled through empty air for a thousand feet. In
the valley I could see the creek, like a ribbon of shimmering silver;
two or three miles away was a little lake; on another mountain I
saw a bursting cascade of water leaping down the heights and losing
itself in the velvety green of the lower timber. For many minutes,
new and strange thoughts possessed me. I did not look through my
hunting-glasses, for I was no longer seeking game. My blood was
stirred, but not with the desire to kill.

And then, suddenly, there came a sound to my ears that seemed to
stop the beating of my heart. I had not heard it until it was very
near--approaching along the narrow ledge.

It was the click,--click,--click of claws rattling on rock!

I did not move. I hardly breathed. And out from the ledge I had
followed came a monster bear!

With the swiftness of lightning, I recognized him. It was Thor! And, in
that same instant, the great beast saw me.

In thirty seconds I lived a lifetime, and in those thirty seconds
what passed through my mind was a thousand times swifter than spoken
word. A great fear rooted me, and yet in that fear I saw everything to
the minutest detail. Thor’s massive head and shoulders were fronting
me. I saw the long naked scar where my bullet had plowed through
his shoulder; I saw another wound in his fore leg, still ragged and
painful, where another of my soft-nosed bullets had torn like an
explosion of dynamite. The giant grizzly was no longer fat and sleek
as I had first seen him ten days ago. All that time he had been
fighting for his life; he was thinner; his eyes were red; his coat was
dull and unkempt from lack of food and strength. But at that distance,
less than ten feet from me, he seemed still a mighty brother of the
mountains themselves. As I sat stupidly, stunned to the immobility of a
rock in my hour of doom, I felt the overwhelming conviction of what had
happened. Thor had followed me along the ledge, and, in this hour of
vengeance and triumph, it was I, and not the great beast, who was about
to die.

It seemed to me that an eternity passed in these moments. And Thor,
mighty in his strength, looked at me and did not move. And this thing
that he was looking at,--shrinking against the rock,--was the creature
that had hunted him; this was the creature that had hurt him, and
it was so near that he could reach out with his paw and crush it!
And how weak and white and helpless it looked now! What a pitiful,
insignificant thing it was! Where was its strange thunder? Where was
its burning lightning? Why did it make no sound?

Slowly Thor’s giant head began swinging from side to side; then he
advanced--just one step--and in a slow, graceful movement reared
himself to his full, magnificent height. For me, it was the beginning
of the end. And in that moment, doomed as I was, I found no pity for
myself. Here, at last, was justice! I was about to die. I, who had
destroyed so much of life, found how helpless I was when I faced life
with my naked hands. _And it was justice!_ I had robbed the earth of
more life than would fill the bodies of a thousand men, and now my
own life was to follow that which I had destroyed. Suddenly fear left
me. I wanted to cry out to that splendid creature that I was sorry,
and could my dry lips have framed the words, it would not have been
cowardice--but truth.

I have read many stories of truth and hope and faith and charity.
From a little boy, my father tried to teach me what it meant to be a
gentleman, and he lived what he tried to teach. And from the days of my
small boyhood, mother told me stories of great and good men and women,
and in the days of my manhood, she faithfully lived the great truth
that of all precious things charity and love are the most priceless.
Yet had I accepted it all in the narrowest and littlest way. Not until
this hour on the edge of the cliff did I realize how small can be the
soul of a man buried in his egoism--or how splendid can be the soul of
a beast.

For Thor knew me. That I know. He knew me as the deadliest of all
his enemies on the face of the earth. Yet until I die will I believe
that, in my helplessness, he no longer hated me or wanted my life. For
slowly he came down upon all fours again, and, limping as he went, he
continued along the ledge--_and left me to live_!

       *       *       *       *       *

I am not, in these days, sacrilegious enough to think that the Supreme
Power picked my poor insignificant self from among a billion and a half
other humans especially to preach a sermon to that glorious Sunday
on the mountainside. Possibly it was all mere chance. It may be that
another day Thor would have killed me in my helplessness. It may all
have been a lucky accident for me. Personally, I do not believe it,
for I have found that the soul of the average beast is cleaner of hate
and of malice than that of the average man. But whether one believes
with me or not, does not matter, so far as the point I want to make is
concerned--that from this hour began the great change in me, which has
finally admitted me into the peace and joy of universal brotherhood
with Life. It matters little how a sermon or a great truth comes to
one; it is the result that counts.

I returned down the mountain, carrying my broken gun with me. And
everywhere I saw that things were different. The fat whistlers, big as
woodchucks, were no longer so many targets, watching me cautiously from
the rock-tops; the gophers, sunning themselves on their mounds, meant
more to me now than a few hours ago. I looked off to a distant slide
on another mountain and made out the half-dozen sheep I had studied
through my glasses earlier in the day. But my desire to kill was gone.
I did not realize the fullness of the change that was upon me then.
In a dull sort of way, I accepted it as an effect of shock, perhaps
as a passing moment of repentance and gratitude because of my escape.
I did not tell myself that I would never kill sheep again except when
mutton was necessary to my camp fire. I did not promise the whistlers
long lives. And yet the change was on me, and growing stronger in my
blood with every breath I drew. The valley was different. Its air was
sweeter. Its low song of life and running waters and velvety winds
whispering between the mountains was new inspiration to me. The grass
was softer under my feet; the flowers were more beautiful; the earth
itself held a new thrill for me.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few nights later, beside a small fire we had built in the
cool of evening, I tried to tell old Donald something about the
Transfiguration, how Christ had gone up on the mount with Peter and
John and James, and what had happened there.

“It wasn’t that Christ himself was actually changed as he prayed on
the mountain-top,” I said to Donald. “The change was in Peter and John
and James, who in these moments saw Christ with a new vision and a new
understanding. The Transfiguration was simply a mental process of their
own; they saw clearly now where before they had been half blind. And I
am wondering if this old world of ours wouldn’t change for us in the
same way if we saw it with understanding, and looked at it with clean
eyes?”

       *       *       *       *       *

So, on this other Sunday, as the evening draws on, I look back through
the years between me and that day on the mountain-top, and the memory
of Thor fills a warm corner of my heart. Through him I have the happy
thought that I was given birth into a new world, and all things now
hold a new significance for me. I have discovered for myself, in a
small way, the wonderful secret of the instinctive processes of nature,
and in a thousand ways I have found this instinct, coming directly from
the fount of supreme direction, far more amazing than reasoning itself.
I understand more clearly, I think, why all humanity loves a baby, no
matter how ugly it may be. It is because it is so utterly dependent
upon instinct alone, so completely helpless, so absolutely without
reason or protection of its own. We like to believe that a baby is very
close to God, simply because it has no reasoning and because it is as
yet purely a creature of instinctive processes. And yet, as we lay down
our lives for its protection, we forget that adult man, with all his
reasoning and his power, was originally a creature of instinct himself.
We forget that it took millions of years to give him a language, and
that possession of language alone has made him a super-creature. For
it is language that gives birth to reason, allows of communication
of thought, and should man be suddenly bereft of all language and
thought-communication he would, in the course of ages, revert again
into a creature guided solely by instinct. In that event he would be
nothing more or less than a brother to all other creatures of instinct.
He would again become an ordinary member of the Ancient Brotherhood of
Common Heritage, and could no longer call himself the Chosen One and
the Ordained of God. But good luck came to him, perhaps even in the
days when he may have swung from the trees by his tail--good luck in
the discovery of a crude method of thought-communication, a discovery
that developed through the ages, until now his head is turned, so to
speak, and for tens of thousands of years he has looked down more and
more upon his poor relations who have not had his own good fortune.

But I am learning that time has not freed him, and never will free
him, from his blood relationship. And creed may follow creed, and
religion may follow religion, but never will he find that full peace
and contentment which might be his lot until he recognizes and admits
into his comradeship again the soul of that nature which is his own
mother, and forgets his monumental egoism in a new understanding of
those instinctive processes of nature through which he, himself, passed
in the kindergarten of his own existence.

This is my faith, my religion. Close to where I am sitting is an old
stub, clothed in a mass of wood-vine, warm and vivid in the golden glow
of the setting sun. The wood-vine has climbed, instinctively, to the
top of the stub, and now, finding their support gone, half a dozen long
tendrils are reaching out toward a tall young birch six or eight feet
away. One tendril, stronger and older than the others, has reached and
clasped the nearest branch. The others are following unerringly. _Yet
they have no eyes to see._ No voice calls back to them to point out
the way. It is the instinct of life itself that is guiding them, the
same instinct, in a smaller way, that dragged man up bit by bit from
out of the black chaos of the past. In a thousand other ways, if one
will take the blindfold from his eyes and try to understand, he may see
this mightiest of all the forces of the earth--instinct--a vibrant,
breathing, struggling thing about him, a force so much more powerful
than his own, so all-consuming and indestructible that it stands out as
a giant mountain compared with the mole-hill of his own littleness. In
my own faith, I see it as a vast and inexhaustible reservoir of life,
of strength, of “upward climb,” of inspiration. I see it as the one
great, all-necessary force of creation--a force more precious to man
than all the mines of the earth, more precious than all the treasure of
the mints, if he would forget his greatness and reach out his hands to
it in the gladness of a new brotherhood.

Dusk is falling. And, as I stop my work, here in the heart of a forest,
I seem to see the smiles of many who will read this, and I seem to hear
the low and unbelieving laughter of those who think themselves of the
flesh and blood of God. And I seem to hear their voices saying:

“He is wrong. Nature is beautiful--sometimes. Also, it is crude. It
is rough. It is destructive. It is, half the time, a pest. While
we--we--have we not performed wonders? Have we not _proved_ ourselves
the chosen of God? Have we not created nations? Have we not built up
great cities? Have we not accumulated vast riches? Have we not invented
the Dollar? Are we not, in a hundred ways, shackling nature as a man
harnesses a horse, proving ourselves its masters, and it our slave?”

I hear--and then I hear another voice, and softly, distantly, it says:

“Yea! you are great--in your own eyes. You have made nations and
cities and great tabernacles--and you have created the Dollar. But,
when, for a moment, you cease the mad struggle you are making, you
are _afraid_. Yes; you cry out loudly then in your fear. You fight to
bring ghosts back, that they may tell you what happens when you lie
down and die. You cry out for a religion which will give you absolute
faith and comfort and cannot find it. You think you are great because
you have built skyscrapers and ride close to the clouds and have made
it possible to rush swiftly through a country choked with dust. But you
forget quickly. You forget how little you were--yesterday. You do not
tell yourself that you are a pest, perhaps the greatest of all. Yea;
you are great, and in your greatness you are wise, but all that which
you have achieved cannot give you that which you so vainly seek--the
contentment of a deep and abiding faith.”

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Fourth Trail_ THE ROAD TO FAITH

       *       *       *       *       *



_The Fourth Trail_ THE ROAD TO FAITH


It has been some time since I sat down to work at my table under the
tall spruce trees. I have had an experience during the past five or six
days which is one of my rewards for letting nature live, and, for a
space, it quite completely upset me, so far as work was concerned.

In other words, I have been having an experience with a species of
vermin which I love. The baby vermin of this particular species are,
to me, almost as lovable and quite as cute in their ways as human
babies; and for the adult vermin, the mothers and fathers of the
babies, I have a far greater love and respect than I have for many
males and females of my own breed. And, taking it all round, they are
a cleaner, handsomer, and more wholesome-looking lot than the average
crowd of humans, though they are--because of the mightiness of man’s
edict--nothing more than vermin.

I am speaking of bears. A few years ago, one of my most thrilling
sports was to hunt them--blacks, grizzlies, and polars. Now I consider
them, in a way, my brothers, and I am having a lot of fun in the
comradeship. I am filled with resentment when I consider that in all
the states of this country, with the exception of two or three, the
law says these friends of mine are “vermin,” along with lice and fleas
and maggots, and that they may be killed on sight, babies and all,
because,--perhaps once in his lifetime,--a bear living very close to
civilization may make a meal of pig or lamb. If every human mother in
the land could hold a baby cub in her arms for five minutes, there
would be such an uprising of feminine sympathy that the laws would be
repealed.

In thinking again of our mothers, I would give a good year of my
life if a million of them could have seen what I have seen during
the past few days. For, after all, I believe that nearly all great
movements toward better and bigger and more beautiful things must and
will begin with women. No amount of “equality” will ever take that
blessed superiority to men away from them. To-day, even religion,
shameful to men as the fact may be, rests on a pillar of women’s white
shoulders, and all the faith that the world possesses first finds
its resting-place in their soft breasts. And I look ahead to the day,
with unbounded faith of my own, when women will see, and understand,
and begin the great fight toward comradeship with all that other life
which is so utterly dependent about them now--life which throbs and
urges in every living thing from the grass-blade and the oak to the
“instinct” creatures of flesh and blood. Then shall we have a “religion
of nature,” with a force and a might behind it which will glorify the
earth, and man will come to realize that he is not God, but only an
insignificantly small part of God’s handiwork. And when man comes to
that point, where he casts off his arrogance and his ego, then will the
time have come for the birth of a satisfying and universal faith in
that great and all-embracing Power which we know and speak of in our
own language as God.

And the very foundation of this faith, I believe, will be an
understanding of _all_ life, the acknowledgment at last that man
himself may not be a more precious physical manifestation of the
Supreme Vital Force than many of the other created things about him.

It is because I believe that nature, the mother of all life, is trying
to teach us this great truth in a thousand or a million different ways,
in the smoke and grime and crush of big cities as well as in farm-land
and forest, that I come back to my little experience with the bears.

About six or seven miles to the north of me is a great ridge, plainly
visible from one of the halfway limbs of my lookout spruce, a sort
of barrier which rises up between me and the still vaster hinterland
beyond it. Sometime in the past, a fire swept over it, so that now
it is covered with a gorgeous and splendid growth of young birch and
poplars, and virile patches of vines on which, a little later, there
will be an abundance of strawberries, raspberries, rose-berries, and
black currants. It is also richly sprinkled with mountain-ash trees,
which give promise of a yield of hundreds of bushels of fruit this late
summer and autumn. Altogether, it is an ideal feeding-range for wild
things, hoof, claw, and feathers. Three times I have traveled for miles
along the cap of this ridge. To me, in all its richness and promise,
it is a glorious manifestation of Life. It breathes under me and about
me. I can fairly hear its compelling youth bursting from its growing
leaves, its swelling fruits, its flowers, and from the mold that
pulses and throbs with the vital forces under my feet. I almost think I
could live and die on this ridge, or another ridge like it, and never
be at loss for company.

On my first visit to the ridge, being overtaken by storm, I built me
a brush shelter in a lovely spot close to it, with a tiny creek of
spring-cold water not more than a dozen paces away. On my third and
last visit, I returned to this spot, and ran face on into my adventure.

From the sheltered bower of balsams where I had built my wigwam, I
could look up a rolling, meadowy breast of the ridge, so perfect in its
adornment of vine and bush and small clumps of young trees that, to
one not entirely acquainted with the exquisite art of nature, it would
almost seem as though a human landscape-architect had “laid out” the
little paradise which was my hillside back yard. On this particular
morning, coming up quietly, my eyes were greeted by an amazingly pretty
spectacle. The green hillside, soft and velvety in the sunlight and
shadow of the morning, was in full possession of two families of black
bears.

So close were the nearest of them to me that I dropped like a shot
behind a big rock, and the breath of air that was stirring being in my
favor, I was at a splendid vantage-point to take in the whole scene.
Within forty yards of me were a mother and three cubs, and a little
higher up--perhaps twice that distance--were a mother and two cubs.
At almost the very crest of the ridge were two more bears, which I at
first thought were adults. A closer inspection assured me they were
last year’s cubs, and possibly not more than a third grown, though to
which of the two mothers they belonged, if to either, I could not make
up my mind. Frequently, instead of setting out in life for itself, a
black bear cub will follow its mother through a second season, and I
judged this to be the situation here.

For two hours, I did not move from my place of concealment. That
spectacle of motherhood and babyhood on the hillside, with the virile
and luxuriant life of nature pulsing and beating all about it, was
a new chapter in my book of religion. It was pointing out to me, in
perhaps a hundredth or a thousandth lesson, that all life is the same,
and that it is only language, or the want of language, that makes the
difference in the “life-relationship” of all created things. I could
fancy, as I lay there, just how the Supreme Arbiter of things had
given physical being to all this life that was about me, as well as
the life that was in me. It has all come from the same dynamo, so to
speak--a spark of it in each tree, a spark of it in each flower and
shrub, and blade of grass, a spark of it in each of the beasts of flesh
and blood on the hillside, and a spark of it in me. Our life was the
same. It had all come from the same vital source, from the same supreme
fount of existence. Yet how different were the forms it animated! Close
to my hand was a beautiful rock-violet, blue as the sky, its velvety
petals freckled with tiny flecks of gold; a few yards away, perched
among the rustling leaves of a birch, a brush-warbler filled the air
with melody; back of me, the tops of the thick balsams whispered
softly, and up there I could hear the grunting of the mother bears,
the squealing of the little cubs, and a gentle murmuring sound that
came from the ridge itself, as if all living things were fighting for a
language, struggling to give voice to something that was in them.

I have had some amusement and a little discord over the teapot tempests
that so-called nature-scientists occasionally stir up among themselves
over the “humanizing” of wild life. Man’s ego has possessed him so
utterly that it is distasteful to him to concede anything “humanlike”
to any creature that is not in his own flesh and form. For my part,
loving all wild life as I do, I am proud and glad that it does not
possess more of our human qualities. If I write honestly of what has
come to me in my own wide experience in nature, I must--no matter how
unpleasant the statement may be--confess that wild life _does_ possess
a great many characteristics that are very “human,” and the ways of its
members are in many instances strangely the same. I could see little
difference between my bears on the hillside and two human mothers and
their children, except in their physical appearance, and the fact that
the humans would undoubtedly have made a great deal more noise. But the
bears were handsomer--begging the ladies’ pardon. Their sleek coats
shone like black satin in the sun, and the cubs were cute enough to
hug to death. But they were a worry to their mothers for all that, and
especially one of them, which appeared to be the hog-it-all member of
the family nearest me. Whenever the mother bear pawed over a stone or
pulled down a tender bush, this little customer was always there ahead
of the rest of the family, licking up the choicest grubs and ants and
getting the first mouthful of greens. Half a dozen times, the mother
slapped him with her paw, rolling him over like a fat ball. But there
could have been no very great corrective power in the cuffings, or else
he was toughened to them by usage, for he was back on the job again
without very much loss of time.

For almost two hours, the bears fed on the hillside. Several times
the two families drew so near together that the cubs intermingled and
the mothers almost rubbed sides. I feel that the interest of this
particular page would be greatly increased for many of my readers
if I added a ferocious imaginary fight between the two mothers and
a bloody feud between the youngsters. Bears do fight when they
meet--sometimes--just like humans, only not as often. But it is my
duty to relate that these bears were at peace on this particular day,
and that they seemed to enjoy the mutual companionship. It was all so
fine that I had an impelling desire to go up on the hillside and become
a comrade with them. When the feeding was over, and the cubs were
wrestling and running about in play, I almost rose up from behind my
rock to call out my friendship to them. The lack of one thing held me
back--that one thing which all nature is crying out for--_a language_.
I feel they would have welcomed me could I have told them I was a
friend, and wanted to play with them, and make them a present of some
sugar. But instead of that this is what happened:

In their play, two of the cubs had descended within twenty feet of my
rock. One of these was the gourmand. Somehow, he lost his balance,
rolled over, and came tumbling down. When he stopped he was not more
than half a dozen feet from me. As he brought his fat little body to
its feet he saw me. His eyes fairly popped. It seemed to me that for a
full minute he did not move or breathe. And during that same minute I
remained as still as a rock. In his amazement and his wonder, he was
the funniest thing I had ever seen, and in spite of myself, my face
broke into a grin. Instantly there came out of him a little, piggish
grunt,--and he was off. Up that hillside he went as if the world was
after him. He did not stop when he reached his mother and the other
cubs, but seemed to hit it still faster for the top of the ridge. The
mother looked after him, sniffed the air, and rose to her feet. In
half a minute, she was lumbering after him, the two remaining cubs
hustling ahead of her.

A hundred yards away, the second mother bear took the warning. In a
very short time, they had all disappeared over the cap of the ridge.
I had not shown myself. I had made no sound. The wind was still in my
favor. Yet the frightened cub had given warning to them all. For no
other creature but man would they have fled like that. Even in the face
of a pack of wolves, the mothers would have turned to fight. Something
had told them that man was near--yet only the cub had seen and smelled
that man, and he had probably never seen or smelled another. Yet he
knew, and all the others knew, that man was the deadliest of all
enemies. And I am half convinced, as I write this, that nature has
at least the beginning of a universal language, that the centuries
and hundreds of centuries have given it four words, and these words
are: “Man is our enemy.” I might fancy that the winds carry these
words, that the tree-tops whisper them, that they are in the undertone
of running waters, that all life outside of man and man’s pitiably
few friends has, in some strange way, come to learn them. It is, I
confess, an elusive sort of fancy,--but it sets one to thinking.

It makes one wonder, for instance, why man is so jealous of himself.
The Supreme Power is immeasurable, he tells himself. It has no such a
thing as limitation. Heaven, no matter in what form he may conceive
it, is utterly boundless. Yet he is jealous of it. He does not want to
concede that any other life will form a part of it but that of his own
breed. He has tried, through unnumbered centuries, to fool himself into
the belief that he is the one and only thing in all creation upon which
the Ruling Power of the universe has its guardian eye. He has tried
to make himself believe that he is the one toad in the huge puddle of
life. He has not conceded that an all-powerful but tender God might
love flowers and birds and trees and many other living things as well
as he loves man. And as I sit here under my spruce trees again, it
seems to me that, just because he has been so near-sighted, man has not
yet found a faith which is all-comforting and of which he is utterly
sure.

I seem to see a very clear reason for this. In this age, though
still fettered by his egoism, man is not utterly blind to his own
deformities. As “civilization” progresses, he sees more and more what
a monster he has been in the past, and what a monster in many ways he
is to-day. He sees his breed committing every crime known to the ages,
from petty larceny to world-slaughters that devastate nations. He sees
everywhere the strong taking advantage of the weak. He sees millions go
hungry and cold that a few may profit. In great convention-halls, he
sees the “statesmen” that rule the destiny of a mighty nation cutting
capers and acting generally like a lot of silly little children. He
sees every man in a great game fighting to see who can accumulate the
most dollars, no matter at what cost to the others. He sees sickening
and disgusting fads come and go. He looks on a world-brothel of
iniquity, of discontent, of avarice and greed and butchery among men.
Nowhere does he see the stability, the dignity, and the mighty forces
of good that should walk hand in hand with “the chosen of God.”

He is beginning to see himself, at last, as a contemptible specimen of
life--in spite of his brain and his inventions.

He is beginning to understand that the most perfect airship his brain
will ever conceive cannot take him to heaven.

He is beginning to realize that there is a thing greater than brain,
greater than mechanical progress.

And as he comes to understand more and more how imperfect a thing he
is, the more unstable his faith becomes; and the sacrilegious thought
comes to him, unconsciously but with terrific force: “If I am the
chosen handiwork of God, then I can have no very great faith in the
judgment and workmanship of God.”

And as the suspicion grows upon him that he may not be the “one and
only” child of God, he cries out wildly in these modern days for
evidence. He tries to bring spirits back from the dead that they may
offer him some proof. He quests vainly for “revelations” that may
satisfy him. He says with his mouth, “Yes; I believe absolutely in
God,” yet, in his heart, he knows that he is half lying,--because of
fear of what his neighbor will think if he speaks the truth. He wants
to believe there is a God. He wants to _know_ there is a God. Yet he is
afraid.

And, personally, I am glad that the time has come when he is afraid. I
think it is the real beginning of his salvation and the dropping-away
of his egoism. To-day he is beginning to see all life as he did not
see it yesterday. And to-morrow his eyes will be wide open.

That is my faith. I believe that God is greater than humanity has ever
conceived him to be. I think he is “a common sort of fellow,” and I
write these words with all the holy reverence of which the soul is
capable. I do not mean to imply that I think he is in my form, or in
any particular form. But he is Life. And it is his intention and his
desire that every living thing that is worthy of life be a part of him.
I am almost Indian in this faith. I can hear the buoyant, cheering call
of Life in a waterfall. The inspiration of it comes into my own body
from out of a whispering tree, from a bush glowing with bloom, from a
flower, from the song of a bird, from the rain itself. I find great
peace and contentment in my faith that this God is everywhere, and that
we may meet him face to face fifty times a day if we throw off the hard
shell of our egoism, and realize that all nature is God--and that we,
as men and women and children, are a part of that all-embracing nature.

Even now the sun is filtering through the tree-branches upon this
partly written page. I look at it, and I see again the inconceivable
greatness of the Supreme Power, and my own microscopic littleness. For
we of the earth have thought that the earth is great, and that we,
having inherited the earth, are of all things greatest. Yet is that sun
which warms and lights my page as I write--more than a million times
as large as the earth--more than eight hundred thousand miles from
one end of its diameter to the other. And the still more stupendous
fact is that this sun is itself only a small bit of mechanism in the
mighty forces of infinity, for there are a _hundred million other
suns in space_, each lighting and warming its own worlds--innumerable
worlds--each peopled with its own type of flesh and blood, and each
possessing, perhaps, its own peculiar forms of “civilization” and its
own savagery.

Just that great, and vast, and all-embracing is the handiwork of that
vital force which rules all infinity--and to which we have given the
name of God.

And here I emphasize again that great truth which nature has impressed
upon me--that, just so long as man considers himself the one and only
chosen part of God, and therefore next to him in greatness, just that
long will his egoism and self-conceit blind him to the greatness and
glory of the real truth, and to the glory of the faith which might be
his. I believe that Christ was a great teacher, that he was a great
student of his times, and incorporated into his teachings all that was
highest and best in the teachings of other great men who had lived
and died before him. And I have always regretted that Christ was
unfortunate to have for his historians a set of men who were unequal
to their task, many of them narrow-minded, moved by “visions” and
superstitions instead of fact, men who believed in all the miracles of
the imagination from conversing with angels to stopping the sun,--men
utterly incapable of writing down calmly and truthfully those mighty
teachings of Christ which, had they been written as they were spoken,
would have meant so much for the world to-day. For I believe, in my
own heart, that Christ was the greatest lover of nature that history
knows of to the present day. I believe that in the many years of his
“disappearance,” Christ was not only studying the teachings of the
past, but that, close to the breast of nature, he was learning the
splendid truths of life--all life--which were afterward the very heart
and soul of his messages to mankind.

I believe that Christ, could he return to earth to-day, would say:
“My biographers have given you a wrong impression of me, and they
have misquoted me. What my soul was called upon to teach nineteen
hundred years ago, they have clothed in the raiment of superstition, of
misunderstanding, and of impossible miracle. For I am a man, even as
thee and thine. But I have found the true faith. And that faith, as I
told them then, depends utterly upon the dropping of the scales of self
from man’s eyes, and his understanding of _all life_. For that I gladly
died.”

The greatest regret I have is that Christ, as a man, did not foresee
more clearly the tremendous influence his teachings were to exert upon
humanity through the ages. Had he guessed this, he would have written
down with his own hand those teachings which were so carelessly left
to the mercy of superstitious--frequently fanatical--and at nearly all
times incapable biographers. For Christ, of all men that ever lived,
was undoubtedly one of the best and the most humble. His teachings
came straight from his heart. He did not intend that they should be
smothered in hyperbole, metaphor, and rhetorical embroidery until no
two living men could agree absolutely upon their meaning. I believe
that he spoke simply and directly, for only in that way could he have
reached the hearts of the masses. And I believe that the greatest of
all his lessons was the lesson of humility. As a man, he had dropped
his egoism, had submitted himself to the Master of all life, and in
that submission he had found the truth, and the glory of a great
faith. The misfortune of the humanity to follow in after-ages was that
the world of Jesus Christ was small--so small that by word of mouth
he could reach from end to end of it. Had he dreamed that there were
still undiscovered worlds so great that in comparison his own was but a
handful of dirt out of a wagon-load, I am convinced within myself that
the world to-day would not be struggling to understand a faith written
in parables and riddles, for Christ would have set his own hand to the
task which others so poorly accomplished.

With such a priceless inheritance in the form of Christ’s own
handiwork, I am equally sure that humanity would no longer have
an excuse for its egoism, or be ashamed of that humility which
is necessary to the understanding of life, and essential to the
possession of a deep and abiding faith.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have, at times, heard intelligent people express amazement that
I should dare to place human life on an equal level with all other
life, that I should so “blaspheme the Creator” as to say that the
life in a two-legged animal who can talk is the same as that in a
flower or a plant or a tree or some other animal which cannot talk. I
have sometimes allowed myself to point out the innumerable advantages
possessed over man by many living things which have no language, as
we know language. I could fill a dozen volumes with word-pictures of
the thousands and tens of thousands of advantages which living things
outside of man possess over man, and which, if man could achieve, would
be stupendous miracles. But man, collectively, is blinded by his egoism
to the marvelous attainments of all life that does not walk and talk as
he walks and talks. When confronted by the incontrovertible wonder and
apparent miracle of other life as compared with his own I have nearly
always found that men and women fall back, as a last resort, on the
absurd and shallow argument: “But this other life you speak of has
only instinct. It cannot talk; it cannot reason, and therefore it is
impossible for it to have a soul.”

Once a beautiful young matron said to me, “There is much in your creed
that is inspiring and beautiful, but it reaches a point where it is
inconceivable, for you must concede that a human being is the most
perfect of all created things.”

I gave her an exquisite rose which I had plucked from my garden only a
few minutes before.

“There are, outside of men and women and children, innumerable things
more perfectly created than this flower,” I said. “Are you, in your
youth and beauty, as perfect as that rose?”

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet I know that such arguments as these, innumerable though they
might be, cannot prevail until men and women bring themselves face
to face with nature itself, filled with a willingness and a yearning
to understand. They point out the pests of life--the serpent, the
deadly insects, the plants that scar and poison; yet they cannot
see themselves as perhaps the deadliest and the most relentless of
all pests. For it is one of the mysterious laws of Creation that
every living thing--flower, and tree, and beast, and man--has a pest
born unto it; and unto these pests other pests are born, until at
last,--when the thing is analyzed,--a pest is a pest only in so far as
its enemy, and not its friends, judge it to be a pest. If the world
to-day were eliminated of human pests as each individual in the world
might judge for himself, how many of us would be left alive to-morrow?

And always, when I have listened to the age-old arguments prompted by
man’s egoism and self-glorification, I love to return to the peace
and the comfort of nature, whether that nature be in the form of a
deep forest, a clover field, an orchard, or the little back plot of a
crowded city home. And if I am where there is no cool earth to stand my
feet upon, I find my peace and rest in the printed pages which describe
that nature-world of mine. From the most beautifully written volumes
to the honest pages and unembellished fact of farm-journals, I have,
times without number, found enthralling interest, consolation, and the
strength and courage of the cool and glorious earth itself. Nature’s
Bible is not hard to find. It is everywhere, living, breathing,
printed--the one universal and ever-present Book of Life.

Whenever I think of the commonest of human arguments: “But this other
life you speak of has only instinct. It cannot talk; it cannot reason,
and therefore it is impossible for it to have a soul,” my mind always
travels back to a certain incident in my experience as a refutation. I
could, had I the space, answer that argument with a hundred compelling
facts; I might answer it from the point of the flower, the vine, the
tree, the grass that carpets the earth, but I always think first of the
particular tragedy I am going to describe, because of the chief human
actor in it, and because this actor was, in my humble estimation, one
of the most physically perfect of her species.

I will not give her name. She is the daughter of one of the best known
men in the nation, and one of the foremost scientists of the world; and
should she happen to read these lines, I hope that she will see, with a
new vision and a new understanding, that “triumph” of years ago.

I think she was about twenty when my outfit happened to join trails
with her father’s in the far north. She will remember that early
afternoon when we camped together close to the Cochrane, in the
Reindeer Lake country.

I believe that I am quite reasonably sure of myself when I say that
she was the most beautiful woman I had seen up to that time or have
seen since. It is simply because of her perfection that she has
always appealed as having furnished to me one of the most dramatic
object-lessons of my experience. She was athrill with life. She
worshiped her father. She loved the sun, the sky, the wind, the trees,
the whole world. Life seemed to have given her everything that it
possessed--the rare coloring of the most beautiful flower under her
feet, a form that was divine, hair and eyes that no artist could paint,
and, I think, one of the sweetest voices I have ever heard. She is,
I have heard, beloved in her own environment. She is a worker for
human betterment, and spends much of her time in actual work with the
poor. Not long ago she was responsible for the building of a home for
unfortunate little children.

That day in camp there was a sudden excitement. Three of the Indians
had driven a cow moose, a yearling, and a bull into a small cover. It
was a splendid chance for the girl. I can see her eyes glowing with
the fires of excitement now, as she caught up her rifle and hurried
with her father and brother and the Indians to the refuge-place of
the family of moose. She was placed at the head of an open space, and
the moose were driven out. First came the yearling calf, then the
mother, and after them came the old bull. The girl’s lovely face, as I
looked at it, was flushed. It seemed as though I might hear the excited
beating of her heart as she waited, quivering with the desire to kill.

She fired first at the calf, and then at the mother--and from that
moment all that was big and beautiful and noble in life seemed to
leave her own body and enter that of the old bull moose. For the first
shot had struck the calf, laming it so that it could run but slowly,
with the mother urging it on from behind. Not once in the moments that
followed did the mother run ahead of her calf. And then I beheld a
thing that I believe to be as noble as anything that man has ever done
in all the ages. Believe, if you will, that the magnificent old bull
had no reason. Believe, if you cannot sacrifice your egoism, that he
did not think. Do not give him the credit of possessing a heart or a
soul or feelings, if that sacrifice of egoism hurts you. But consider
what happened.

The old bull ran alongside the cow, alongside the calf, and then, by
reason or instinct, he _knew_ what had happened. He did not forge
ahead. He did not race for safety, but deliberately he dropped behind,
turned himself broadside, and stopped, _making of his own splendid body
a barrier in the path of the bullets_.

I heard the girl’s rifle cracking. Twice I saw the bull flinch, and I
knew that he was struck. Then I heard her cry out, almost frantically,
that her last shot was gone. In the same instant, her brother ran up
from the cover and thrust his own rifle into her hands.

“Give it to him, sis!” he cried. “Give it to him!”

The big bull had turned. He staggered a bit as he ran, but in a hundred
feet he had overtaken the cow and the calf. The calf was going still
more slowly, and in my desire to see the cow and the bull break away, I
shouted.

Almost simultaneously with the sound of my voice, the bull stopped
again. He placed himself broadside, at perhaps a three-quarter angle,
so that, by turning his head slightly, he was looking back at us. He
was directly between the cow and the calf, and the girl’s bullets
continued to rip into him. I remember that I cried out in protest, but
she did not sense my words. Every fiber of her being was strung to
the thrilling achievement of that crime. She was deaf and blind to the
nobility of the great-hearted beast who, in my eyes, was deliberately
sacrificing his life. The flaming lust to kill had driven all other
things out of her heart and soul. Her father had run up, and brother
and father cried out in triumph when the old bull sagged suddenly in
the middle and almost fell to his knees. Four times he had been struck
when again he went on.

From my experience in big-game hunting, I knew that he was done for.
Yet, even in these moments when he was dying, the glorious soul of him
was unafraid. Three hundred yards away he stopped and turned again,
giving the cow and the calf a last chance to reach the timber. The
girl fired her last shots, and missed. Then the bull swung after the
cow and the calf and disappeared in the cover. But, as he went, there
came back to us a terrible, deep-chested cough, and my heart gave up
its hope. It told me the heroic old bull was shot through the lungs.
I did not hurry after the girl and her father and brother as they ran
over the blood-stained trail. I continued to hear the coughing for a
few moments. Then it was silent. When I came up to them, just inside
the timber, the three were standing in triumph close to the dead body
of the bull. Hardly more than twenty paces from it was the yearling
calf, dying, but not quite dead. The brother had ended it with a
revolver-shot.

And then I looked at the creature who had committed this double murder.
Many times I had done this same crime, but with me, crude and rough,
with all the inborn savagery of man, killing had not seemed quite so
horrible. And standing there, a little later,--red-lipped, her face
aflame, her eyes glowing, exquisite in her beauty,--the girl had her
picture taken in triumph as she stood with one booted little foot on
the neck of her victim.

When I hear of the vaunted human soul, and when men and women tell me
there is no soul but the soul of a human, my mind goes back to that
day. I might tell of a hundred other instances that are convincing unto
myself, but that one stands out with unforgettable vividness.

I am sure, for instance, that the soul of a flower once saved my life.
This is not unusual, or even remarkable, for the souls of flowers
have saved unnumbered lives, as well as giving cheer and courage to
countless millions; and when we die it is still the Soul of the Flower
that watches over us in our resting-places. No place in the world do
flowers live more beautifully than in our gardens of the dead, cheering
us when we come with our grief to the place of our lost ones, giving
us courage to go on. Take the Soul of the Flower away from us, and the
world would be hard and bleak to live in.

To me, the soul is synonymous with life. I do not disassociate the
two. When we breathe our last, our life--our soul--is gone. The two, I
believe, are one. When we pluck a flower we destroy neither, but when
we tear it up by the roots so that it dies, then has its soul, or its
life, gone the same way as that of man who dies. I have spent many
wonderful hours in those gardens of the dead which every city, hamlet,
and countryside must have. To me, there are only beauty and the glory
of God in a cemetery. It seems to me that there, if never before, one
must come to understand the brotherhood of all life. It seems to me
that the very stillness and peace of a resting-place of the dead softly
whisper to us the great secret which those who are lying there have at
last discovered--that life is the same, that its only difference is in
form and manifestation. I seem to feel that I have come into the one
place where there are only charity and faith and good will, and I have
always the thought--which to me gives courage and hope--that this is
why the flowers and the trees are so beautiful and so comforting there.
I have stood in other cemeteries which, to the passing eye, have been
barren and ugly, where man has lent but very feebly a helping hand, but
even there, if I looked a little closer, I have found the Soul of the
Flower, the same peace, the same tranquillity, perhaps even greater
courage to inspire one to “keep on.”

I have a case in point, so convincing to myself that all the preaching
in the world could not change my sentiment in the matter. I happened,
at this particular time, to be traveling alone in the Northland, and
when a certain accident befell me, the nearest help I knew of was at
a half-breed’s cabin between twenty and thirty miles away. Thirty
miles is not a very great matter in a country of paved roads and
level paths, but it is a far distance in a country of dense forest
and swamp, without trails or guide-posts--and especially when one is
badly crippled. Like the most amateurish tenderfoot, I took a chance
along the face of a cliff near a small waterfall, slipped, fell, and
came tumbling down a matter of thirty feet with a sixty-pound pack and
my rifle on top of me. In the fall, my foot received a terrific blow,
probably on a projecting ledge of rock.

The man who has faced many situations is usually the man who is
cautious, and though I had just committed an inexcusable error in my
carelessness, I now lost no time in putting up my small silk tent while
I could still drag myself about. It was well I did so. For ten days
thereafter, I was not able to rest a pound of weight upon my injured
foot.

With the music and refreshing coolness of the waterfall less than a
hundred feet from my tent door, and the creek itself not more than
a quarter of that distance, I was most fortunately situated under
the circumstances. The first morning after my fall found me almost
helpless. Every move I made gave me excruciating pain. My entire foot
and ankle, and my leg halfway to the knee, were swollen to twice their
normal size. This first day I dragged myself to a sapling, cut it as I
lay on my side, and made me a rough crutch of it. The second day, my
entire lower limb was swollen until it had lost all semblance to form,
and was so badly discolored that a cold and terrible dread began to
grow in me. I had only thirty cartridges. I fired ten that first day,
in the futile hope that some wandering adventurer might have drifted
within the sound of my rifle. Occasionally I hallooed. Night of the
second day found me in the beginning of a fever, and, at a cost of
physical agony, I prepared myself for the worst--placed my possessions
within the reach of my hands, and dragged myself up from the creek with
a small pail of water.

I shall never forget the dawn of the third day. Racked with pain, with
the fever in my blood, my leg now stiff as a board to the thigh, I was
still not blind to the beauty of the morning. The rising sun first
lighted up the waterfall, then it fell in a warm and golden flood where
I had made my camp. In that silence, broken only by the music of the
water, every soft note that was made by the wild things came to me
distinctly. It was a morning to put cheer and hope into the heart of a
dying man. Then my eyes turned, and, a few feet beyond the reach of my
hand, I _found something looking at me_.

Yes; to me, in that moment, it was a thing living and vibrant with
life, and yet it was nothing more than a flower. It grew on a stem a
foot high, and the face of it made me think of one of our home-garden
pansies; only, the flower was all one color, with longer petals--a
soft, velvety blue. It seemed to have turned to face the morning sun,
and, in facing the sun, it was squarely facing me--a piquant, joyous,
laughing little face, asking me as clearly as in words, “What can
possibly be the matter with you on this fine morning?”

I am not going into the psychology or soul-language of that flower. I
am not going to argue about it at all, but simply tell what it did for
me. Perhaps, if you want to lay it all to something, you may say it was
because I was out of my head a part of the time with fever. But that
flower was my doctor through the days of torture and hopelessness that
followed. Now and then a bird sang near me; occasionally a wild thing
would come and peer at me curiously, then go its way. But the flower
never left me, and only turned its face partly away from me in the
hours of its evening worship. For its God was the sun. It faced the sun
in the morning, wide-awake and open. Late in the afternoon, it would
turn a little on its stem, and with the setting of the sun, its soft
petals would begin to close, and it would go to sleep, like a little
child, with the coming of dusk. Day after day, it grew nearer and more
of a beloved comrade to me.

After the fourth day, it did not, for an instant, allow me to think
that I was going to die. Never for an instant did it lose its cheer and
confidence. It was there to say “Hello!” to me every morning, and there
to say “Good-night” to me when the shadows grew deep--and all through
the day it talked to me, and bobbed its little head in the whispers of
the breezes, and I had the foolish sentiment, at times, that it was
actually flirting with me. I do not think I realized how precious it
had become to me until, one day, there came a terrific thunder-storm.
I thought the first blast of the wind and beat of rain were going to
destroy my comrade, and, almost in a panic, I dragged myself right and
left, forgetful of pain, until I had built a protection about my flower.

That was the sixth day, and, from that day, the swelling and the pain
began to leave my limb. On the tenth, I could move about a little on my
feet. On the fifteenth, I was prepared to undertake my journey again.
I felt a real grief in leaving that solitary flower. It had become
a part of me, had encouraged me in my blackest hours, had cheered
and comforted me even in the darkness of nights, because I knew it
was there--my little comrade--waiting for the sun. For me, it had
individualized itself from among all the other flowers in the forest.
And now, when I was about to go, I saw that the flower itself had about
lived the span of its life; in a very short time it would fade and die.
On the morning I left, the petals were drooping, and its tiny face did
not look up at the sun and at me as brightly as before, and I fancied
that I could hear its little voice saying, “Please take me with you.”
And I did. Call it foolish and trivial sentiment if you will, but the
flower and I went together, and afterward I wrote a novel and called it
“Flower of the North.”

I have often heard strong men say, “Oh, that is merely a matter of
sentiment. Life is too hard and real for a thing like that.”

I agree with them to an extent. Sentiment does not play a large part
in the world to-day. For sentiment, as that word is understood by the
millions, is the heart and soul of all that is good and great. Without
sentiment in the hearts of a man and a woman, there cannot be the
fullness of real love between them, even though the law has made them
man and wife. Without sentiment, no good act is ever done from the
heart out. Without sentiment--a sentiment that warms the soul as a fire
warms a cold room--there will never be a deep and comforting faith. I
have seen this “co-operation of rational power and moral feeling” make
plain faces beautiful, and I have seen the lack of it make others hard
as rock. Selfishness, egoism, the desire to get everything possible out
of life, no matter at what expense to others, is its antithesis.

As I write these last pages, I have at hand facts which seem to show
that sentiment, and therefore faith, is as nearly dead as it has ever
been. For science in all the great nations of the earth is planning and
plotting frantically for the extermination of their fellow men, and
this, in the hour when all the world is crying out for a faith, is what
is being achieved:

Deadly gases that will make gunpowder and the rifles anachronisms, that
in the next war will depopulate whole regions, men, women, and little
children alike.

Perfection of the lethal ray, which will shrivel up and paralyze human
beings over vast areas, irrespective of whether they are combatants or
not.

Development of plans for “germ-warfare,” whereby whole nations will be
infected by plagues.

And then consider the words of one great military scientist of the
English-speaking race: “Germ-warfare was tried on a small scale in the
late war, and its results have been promising. The method of its use
was in the poisoning of water supplies with cholera and typhus germs,
and the loosing of dogs inoculated with rabies and of women inoculated
with syphilis into the enemy country. _Here apparently is a promising
beginning from which vast developments are to be hoped for._”

A promising beginning--vast developments expected for the
future--typhus--rabies--the commercial breeding of diseased women.

Yes; the world is crying aloud for a great faith, even as it smashes
itself into moral fragments on the rocks of its own egoism and its own
selfishness. But there has come a rent in its armor, and as it commits
crimes and plans for still greater crimes, it also begins to realize
its colossal wickedness. And in its terror it shrieks aloud for a
manifestation of the Divine Power. It demands proof.

And again I say that the proof is so near that the world looks over
its head--and does not see it. Not until man’s egoism crumbles will he
understand. For ghosts will not come back from the dead to quiet his
frenzies, nor will angels descend from out of the heavens. The Divine
Power is too great and all-encompassing for that. God, speaking of that
Power as God, is not a trickster. He is not a mountebank. He is not a
lawyer arguing his case. He is Life. And this Life That Never Dies has
no favorites. Such is my humble faith.

       *       *       *       *       *

A long time has passed since I wrote these pages. All day the
countryside has lain in that sleepy, golden shimmer that is the pulse
of Indian summer. The nights are touched with frost. There is glory in
the warmth of the sun.

I am in a little valley that I love--Sleepy Hollow, I call it.
The farmhouse is old and unpainted, and it has stood on its stone
foundation for almost a century. The barn is sagging in the middle,
and between the barn and the house is an old well that a long-dead
grandfather rigged when the timber in the hollow knew the howl of
wolves and the screech of bobcats. Crowding close up to the back of the
old house is an orchard of apple and cherry trees, so old they could
tell many an interesting story if they could talk.

And all about the sides and the front of the house are great trees--a
huge cottonwood, and ancient oaks from which the Indians may have shot
squirrels with their bows and arrows two hundred years ago. The “woman
of the house” has been in an invalid’s chair for years, and the husband
does little but care for her. Therefore Life has crept up and almost
inundated the place. The grass grows high and uncut. Wild flowers bloom
in the yard. Quail come to feed with the chickens. And beyond this, all
about, is the whisper of corn fields in growing-time, the ripples of
fields of wheat and oats and rye, the music of the mowing-machine and
the lowing of cattle. In this little old house of Sleepy Hollow, there
is a woman who has not walked for years, and who will never walk again;
and there is a little man with a great fierce mustache who watches
her tenderly, and who knows that he must go on watching her until the
end of her time--and yet in this house there is happiness, and also
_a great faith_. And nature seems to rejoice in that faith. Birds
build their nests under the porches. There is melody in the trees. At
night, crickets sing in the long grass under the open windows, and the
whippoorwills come and perch on the roof under the old sycamore.

Here are suffering--and peace; few of the riches of man, but an
unlimited wealth of contentment and faith. These two, prisoned to the
end of their days, have found what all the world is seeking. The little
old house of the hollow, even with its tragedy, is glad. And life has
made it so, the understanding of life, the voice and living presence of
life as it whispers about me now in the golden sheen of Indian summer.

And its whisper seems to be, “Men are seeking me, reaching out for me,
crying for me--yet they do not find me. They are looking far, and I am
very near--so far that they look over and beyond me when I am waiting
at their feet. When at last they see me, and understand, then will they
have discovered the greatest of all treasures--Faith!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication.





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