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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

IV. Ampersand

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But when we turned to the south and east, how wonderful and how different was the view! Here was no widespread and smiling landscape with gleams of silver scattered through it, and soft blue haze resting upon its fading verge, but a wild land of mountains, stern, rugged, tumultuous, rising one beyond another like the waves of a stormy ocean,--Ossa piled upin Pelion,--Mcintyre's sharp peak, and the ragged crest of the Gothics, and, above all, Marcy's dome-like head, raised just far enough above the others to assert his royal right as monarch of the Adirondacks.

But grandest of all, as seen from this height, was Mount Seward,--a solemn giant of a mountain, standing apart from the others, and looking us full in the face. He was clothed from base to summit in a dark, unbroken robe of forest. Ou-kor-lah, the Indians called him--the Great Eye; and he seemed almost to frown upon us in defiance. At his feet, so straight below us that it seemed almost as if we could cast a stone into it, lay the wildest and most beautiful of all the Adirondack waters--Ampersand Lake.

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On its shore, some five-and-twenty years ago, the now almost forgotten Adirondack Club had their shanty--the successor of "the Philosophers' Camp" on Follensbee Pond. Agassiz, Appleton, Norton, Emerson, Lowell, Hoar, Gray, John Holmes, and Stillman, were among the company who made their resting-place under the shadow of Mount Seward. They had bought a tract of forest land completely encircling the pond, cut a rough road to it through the woods, and built a comfortable log cabin, to which they purposed to return summer after summer. But the civil war broke out, with all its terrible excitement and confusion of hurrying hosts: the club existed but for two years, and the little house in the wilderness was abandoned. In 1878, when I spent three weeks at Ampersand, the cabin was in ruins, and surrounded by an almost impenetrable growth of bushes. The only philosophers to be seen were a family of what the guides quaintly call "quill pigs." The roof had fallen to the ground; raspberry-bushes thrust themselves through the yawning crevices between the logs; and in front of the sunken door-sill lay a rusty, broken iron stove, like a dismantled altar on which the fire had gone out forever.

After we had feasted upon the view as long as we dared, counted the lakes and streams, and found that we could see without a glass more than thirty, and recalled the memories of "good times" which came to us from almost every point of the compass, we unpacked the camera, and proceeded to take some pictures.

If you are a photographer, and have anything of the amateur's passion for your art, you will appreciate my pleasure and my anxiety. Never before, so far as I knew, had a camera been set up on Ampersand. I had but eight plates with me. The views were all very distant and all at a downward angle. The power of the light at this elevation was an unknown quantity. And the wind was sweeping vigorously across the open summit of the mountain. I put in my smallest stop, and prepared for short exposures.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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