Chapter 3. Shooting The Chutes--And After
Through the fog I felt my way along by means of my compass. I no longer heard the
bears, nor did I encoun- ter one within the fog.
Experience has since taught me that these great beasts are as terror-stricken by this
phenomenon as a landsman by a fog at sea, and that no sooner does a fog envelop them
than they make the best of their way to lower levels and a clear atmosphere. It was well
for me that this was true.
I felt very sad and lonely as I crawled along the diffi- cult footing. My own predicament
weighed less heavily upon me than the loss of Perry, for I loved the old fellow.
That I should ever win the opposite slopes of the range I began to doubt, for though I am
naturally sanguine, I imagine that the bereavement which had befallen me had cast such a
gloom over my spirits that I could see no slightest ray of hope for the future.
Then, too, the blighting, gray oblivion of the cold, damp clouds through which I
wandered was distress- ing. Hope thrives best in sunlight, and I am sure that it does not
thrive at all in a fog.
But the instinct of self-preservation is stronger than hope. It thrives, fortunately, upon
nothing. It takes root upon the brink of the grave, and blossoms in the jaws of death. Now
it flourished bravely upon the breast of dead hope, and urged me onward and upward in a
stern endeavor to justify its existence.
As I advanced the fog became denser. I could see nothing beyond my nose. Even the
snow and ice I trod were invisible.
I could not see below the breast of my bearskin coat. I seemed to be floating in a sea of
To go forward over a dangerous glacier under such conditions was little short of
madness; but I could not have stopped going had I known positively that death lay two
paces before my nose. In the first place, it was too cold to stop, and in the second, I
should have gone mad but for the excitement of the perils that beset each forward step.
For some time the ground had been rougher and steeper, until I had been forced to scale a
considerable height that had carried me from the glacier entirely. I was sure from my
compass that I was following the right general direction, and so I kept on.
Once more the ground was level. From the wind that blew about me I guessed that I must
be upon some ex- posed peak of ridge.