But shyly, Lafayette was shrouded with pearl-white mist, the edges of it catching the rose on Lincoln–veiled and hidden by itself thinking–wondering why on earth two such strange tiny beings had climbed her that day, but she had suffered them to come unharmed and see her treasures. And she gathered her long undulating shroud about her closer, and waited for the feathers to come. Some mountains love to stand free, but some like Lafayette and Washington and Moosilauke love more the white mist and the frost feathers.
In the summer of 1932, eighteen year-old Barbara Follett and her “semi-platonic” friend Nickerson Rogers quit New York City and headed to Maine with the plan of following (or semi-following) the nascent Appalachian Trail from its northern terminus at Katahdin as far south as they could get before winter set in. To make matters tricky, the AT had not yet been cut in Maine, so bush-whacking and guesswork were in order. Travels Without a Donkey recounts their adventures from Katahdin to Lake Umbagog on the New Hampshire border. They then continued their walk over the White Mountains and down Vermont’s Long Trail to western Massachusetts. They had been planning to hitch-hike to Tennessee to continue their AT adventure, but something changed their minds and they sailed to Majorca instead, spending the winter of 1932 and most of 1933 exploring southern Europe.
“John, you’re an old kidnapper, that’s what you are!”
“Sure I’m glad, but I think you’re a menace to the country, all the same.”
“What do you propose to do about it, Janie?”
“That’s just what I’m trying to figure out. Dangerous business, you know, to transplant a person several hundred miles without even giving them a chance to breathe. New York — presto! — the Maine woods.”
At the end of the week, when his steamer sailed, Davidson was considerably cheered up. But Jane, although glad of her victory, was left exhausted. Every ounce of the spirit and determination she had given him during that week had correspondingly drained her own resources. She could not even keep up a pretense of courage. She was haunted by grotesque visions of the monstrous ogre with which Davidson was fighting a losing fight, almost single-handed. And there was nothing she could do to fend off the iron fist. Even in the wilds of an unknown island, there had been no ultimate escape from that fist.
John apparently hadn’t the slightest intentions of ever leaving New York. He lived in a cheap hotel room which he rented by the week; and he attended to his business with publishers day after day. He would refer, in a confidential, mysterious tone, to his “Business with Publishers.” As to its exact nature, Jane was quite in the dark. But in any event, that was the least of her worries.
He was gone. There were some facts you could deny, or argue with, or ignore, but there was nothing to do about this one, except coldly look it between the eyes and say: “I’m not afraid of you.”
But Jane was afraid. When you were with another human being, and suddenly were made to drift about and act as an independent unit, what happened? Where and who were you then?
New York was exactly as Jane had known it would be. As the schooner came close and swung into the harbor, using her auxiliary engine, the water was gray with hard usage. Skyscrapers rose up, domineering, in a gesture of ugly triumph. Undefeatable, inevitable, that city. There was no more permanent escape from it than from death.
“Jane — come here and look.”
She had just awakened. Early morning light filled the cave, shimmered faintly golden on the sand floor. She stretched lazily, then got up and came to where Davidson stood, on the threshold, pointing out to sea. She followed his finger, but saw only the long blueness.
There was no way of keeping track of the time. That was measured by the life-span of a leaf. Good to have done with it for once. Let the leaves go on measuring the infinite and whispering about it among themselves. The waves, too, kept up the cosmic rhythm, if one could entirely interpret and understand it. Jane never could. Sometimes it seemed that with just one more beat she would know what those waves were saying or singing. But it remained a mystery.
Davidson was whittling. He sat in the mouth of the cave, with the big green ferns around him, the rocky turrets and soft blue sea for background. He was naked and tawny-colored among green fronds. The thick soft hair on his chest and forearms was spun gold in the sun.