Out of Sympathy by Florence Finch Kelly
"Sympathy with his kind and well-doing for its
welfare, direct or indirect, are the essential conditions of
the existence and development of the more complex
social organism; and no mortal can transcend these
conditions with any success."—HENRY MAUDSLEY.
Our party was going from the Yosemite
Valley to Lake Tenaiya—that
beautiful bit of shining, liquid sapphire ringed
by its mighty setting of granite peaks and
domes—by the long and roundabout way of
Cloud's Rest. It would be an all-day trip, but
we knew that at the end would be the cabin
of Henry Moulton, a lone mountaineer, to
receive us, with such comfort as it could give,
and Henry Moulton himself to cook for us
a supper of fresh fish and game. The thoughts
of the whole party began to turn longingly in
that direction as the afternoon of the late
summer day waned, and in straggling, silent file
we hurried our horses, with such speed as was
possible, over the blind trail. The Artist, who
was next in front of me, turned in his saddle
"We ought to get a warm welcome at Moulton's
cabin. For this is the first party that has
been up here for two months, and it's not likely
that he has seen another human being in all that time."
"Does he live all alone, then?"
"Absolutely alone. He has a cabin on the
banks of Lake Tenaiya—it is only about three
or four miles farther, now—and whenever
parties of tourists come up from the Valley to
stay a day or two, he cooks for them and lets
them sleep in his shanty if they wish. He is
a very strange man, and I hope you will be
able to draw him into conversation, for I 'm
sure you would find him an interesting
character. His life story is the queerest thing I 've
run across on the Pacific Coast, and if you
won't give away to him that you know
anything about it, I 'll tell it to you."
At once I scented big game, for the Artist
had spent many summers in that region and
knew all that was strange or weird or startling
in its history. Already he had told me many
tales, and if this was to be the strangest of them
all I wanted to hear it. So I urged my horse
on and by dint of circling around trees and
jumping over logs and occasionally falling
into single file, we managed to keep within
talking distance of each other while he told
me this tale of the lone man at Lake Tenaiya:
"I knew Moulton years ago—thirty, yes,
thirty-five of them—in Cambridge, where we
were boys together. He went to Harvard and
was graduated from both the academic and the
law departments, and was looked upon as a
promising young man. If any prophet had
foretold to me, in those days, that Henry
Moulton would become a hermit in the Sierras
and do cooking for tourists, I would have told
him he was the father of lies, and had better
retreat to his natural home. Moulton married
a handsome young woman of an influential
family—his own people were poor—and all
his friends were confident that a brilliant
future awaited him.
"A few years after his marriage he came
West, intending to settle in San Francisco and
practise law. His wife stayed behind until he
should get a start. The gold fever was n't
dead yet in those days, and Moulton had a bad
attack of it. When I came to the Coast he
was working in some played-out placer mines,
and feeling perfectly sure that he was going
to strike a fortune almost any day. When a
man has once dug gold out of the ground with
his own hands, he seems to be unfitted for doing
anything else. It's as bad as the gambler's
mania. Well, the fever got into Moulton's
blood, and he gave himself up to it, drifting
about, prospecting, and sometimes striking a
good thing, but often quite the contrary.
"Finally his wife came on, and she persuaded
him to give up the gold hunt and his roving
life and settle down in San Francisco to the
practice of his profession. He got on
remarkably well, had all the business he could attend
to, and was making a heap more money than
there was the slightest probability of his ever
digging out of the ground. But the fever of
his vagrant, irresponsible life was still in his
veins, and with all that promise of a successful
career before him he was restless and unhappy.
He could not forget the camp fire in the
mountains and the whispering of the pine trees and
the life of the woods. I don't know if you
understand—" and the Artist hesitated,
turning upon me an uncertain, questioning glance.
"I know what you mean," I answered. "Go
on and say what you had in mind. It's a
"That it is," he replied, "and I never can
decide whether it is something fine and high
in a man's nature which makes him want to
yield to that sort of a yearning, or whether it
is mere latent savagery, coming out all the
stronger for having been long repressed.
"But what's the use of speculating? The
bald truth is that if a man has a strong feeling
for Nature and once knows the charm of
wandering alone in wild places, he 'll have a string
tied to him forever after, that will give him
some mighty hard jerks.
"Moulton felt all that fascination very
keenly, and the mountains and the forests
seemed to be always calling him and commanding
him to return to them. The follies and the
faults of men and the baseness of human
nature, of which, of course, the practice of his
profession gave him special knowledge,
irritated him, and every new case made him more
impatient with civilization and more
contemptuous of his fellow men.
"I was in the courtroom once when he won
a big case which had been bitterly contested.
A crowd of lawyers was there, and they were
all enthusiastic about the way he had conducted
it and the brilliant victory he had won. They
pressed around to congratulate him, but he got
away from them as soon as he could and went
into the street with me. We walked a block
or more before he spoke, and then he burst out bitterly:
"'I 've won some thousands of dollars and
a lot of prestige in this case, but what is it all
worth? I 'd give it all to lie just one night,
perfectly free, under the pine trees in the
mountains, beside a worthless prospect hole,
watching a bear shambling through the brush,
and listening to the coyotes yelping in the
distance. Even a coyote is better than most men,
and a bear is noble company beside them!'
"Moulton's wife was as dissatisfied as he, but
in a different way. She was of Puritan
stock—and the sturdy moral sense of those old
fellows, their rock-ribbed principles, and their
determination to make other people think as they
thought, came out strong in her character.
"Of course, that kind of a woman was bound
to be shocked by the more free and easy life
of the Pacific Coast. Her constant mental
state was one of stern disapproval. And the
gypsy outcropping in her husband's nature
filled her with anxiety. It was quite
impossible for her to understand it or to sympathize
with it in the least.
"Their marriage had been an ardent love
match, and notwithstanding the way their
natures had been drifting apart they still loved
each other devotedly. At home, where she
had been in harmony with her surroundings,
she had been a very charming woman. And
so she was still—only—well, I must admit
that she did seem out of place here. She was
so uncompromising, you know.
"I did n't wonder, though, that she was
amazed and confounded by the change in her
husband's character. It would have shocked
any of his old friends and it must have been
an awful blow to his wife, who was still as
ambitious for him as he had once been for himself.
"She had one general name for this
unexpected development in him and called it all
his 'bearism.' At first she applied it in fun,
when he told her how much he had enjoyed
watching and hunting the wild animals in the
mountains, but she soon decided that it was a
pretty good name for his new characteristics.
And so his 'bearism' came to be more and more
of a division between them. Not that they ever
quarrelled—I am sure they did not. They
just agonized over the hopeless state of affairs,
and each one seemed to be always pained and
grieved because it was impossible to come round
to the other one's way of thinking.
"Finally, Dorothy—his wife—went home
on a visit. I think she did it in a last desperate
hope that she might induce him to follow her
and stay in the East. For a little while after
she left, Moulton braced up and put more heart
into his work. He seemed to feel, at last, some
pride in his really splendid capacities, and to
have some revival of his old ambitions.
"I thought he had overcome the gypsy
longing, and had buckled down to work for good.
And so I was much surprised one day, when I
found him in an unusually gloomy mood, to
see him take down both of his diplomas and
fling them into the fire.
"'Gewgaws!' he exclaimed, contemptuously.
'Trinkets! No sensible man ought to care a
snap of his finger either for them or for what
"We had a long talk after that, and he told
me fully what shape his thoughts had been
taking. It was that same story, which so many
people have been telling of late years, of
sneering pessimism as to the human race and its
possibilities, and of contempt for the labors and
rewards of life. We argued the matter for
hours, and each one of us convinced himself
that the other was entirely wrong.
"Moulton was then finishing up an
important case, and as soon as it was concluded, he
and some friends went away to have a few days
of hunting in the mountains. He did not
return with the others, who said that he had not
quite finished his hunt, but that he expected to
be back within a week. I went East just then
and stayed a year, and when I reached San
Francisco again I found he had not yet
returned. And he has not been back to this day.
"I heard of him occasionally, sometimes in
one part of the State, sometimes in another,
prospecting, hunting, trapping, roaming
about, but always in the mountains, and always
keeping pretty well away from signs of civilization.
"Six years ago, when I first came to the
Yosemite, I found Moulton here, acting as a
guide. The loveliness and the majesty of the
place had entranced him, just as they have
entranced many another, and he stayed here,
working as a guide, for several years. But he
let me know at once that he did n't want me
to speak about his past life, either to him or
to others, and so no one here ever knew that
we were anything more than the merest
"Four or five years ago he tired of even the
civilization of the Valley, and built a cabin up
here at Lake Tenaiya, so that he would not see
so many people. He is willing to cook for the
occasional parties that go up to the lake, and
very glad, I guess, when they leave him alone
again with the trees and the mountains. When
the snow drives him out in the fall he goes down
to the Valley and lives as caretaker during the
winter in one of the hotels—which is quite as
lonely as his summer life—until it is possible
to come up to his cabin again in the spring."
"And his wife?" I asked. "What has become of her?"
"After she found that she could not induce
him to return to civilization she got a divorce;
and the last I knew of her she was devoting
herself to the advancement—Whoa, there!
What's the matter with you?"
Both his horse and mine gave a sudden snort
and a bound, and started to run. We checked
them at the second leap and peered through the
underbrush to see what had frightened them.
A dark object was rustling the leaves on the
ground beside a clump of bushes.
"It's a bear!" the Artist whispered excitedly,
drawing his revolver. "I know this is reckless,
but—you are n't afraid, are you?—the
temptation is too much for my prudence. If he
comes for us we 'll give our horses the rein and
they 'll outrun him."
I leaned forward, trying to get a better view,
and just as I heard the click of the trigger I
caught a glimpse of a white human foot.
"Stop!" I cried. "It's a man!"
It was too late to stop the discharge, but a
quick turn of his wrist sent the bullet whistling
harmlessly through the trees. The creature
scrambled hurriedly away through the dead
leaves, and our horses, trembling and snorting,
tried again to run.
"It is a bear!" he cried as we saw its shaggy
bulk awkwardly climbing the slope between
two clumps of bushes. "No, by Jove, it's got
hands and feet! Now, what in the—"
Then the thing half turned toward us, and
we saw that it had a man's head and face,
covered with hair and beard.
"Good God! It's Henry Moulton!" cried
the Artist. "Moulton! Moulton! Come back
here! What's the matter with you!"
At the sound of his name the man sprang
to his feet, facing us. The bearskin which
wrapped his body slipped down and left him
entirely nude. In an instant he dropped upon
all fours again, drew the skin over him and
We turned our staring eyes upon each other,
and there was no need to speak the appalling
thought that was in both our minds. With one
accord we plied our whips and drove our
unwilling and terrified horses in the direction he
had taken. We came near enough to see that
he was digging among the dry leaves for
acorns, and that his beard and mouth were
defiled with earth, and full of fragments of
leaves and acorn shells. But as soon as he saw
us he darted off into the thick underbrush,
whither we could not follow him.
We hurried on to his shack, where the rest
of the party had already arrived, and the men
all started back at once with ropes and lariats
for Moulton's capture and garments for his covering.
The cabin was a rough affair, made of logs
and chinked with fir boughs, and having an
earthen floor. A bunk made of rough timbers
and mattressed with twigs of fur was covered
with some blankets and clothing, tossed into
heaps. Under the blankets at the head of the
bunk I found a little pile of books—a
Shakespeare, a volume of Emerson's essays,
Thoreau's "Walden," and a well-worn "Iliad," in
the Greek text.
"How queer," said one of the women, as she
looked curiously at the volumes, "that an
ignorant creature such as this crazy mountaineer
must be should have such books as these in his
cabin! They must have been left here by some
tourist, and he has put them away and kept
them. It shows how much respect even the
ignorant have for learning."
Some torn scraps of paper were scattered
over the floor, and I picked them all up and
tried to piece them together.
When the men returned with the lunatic he
was quiet and obedient, except when they tried
to substitute proper clothing for his bearskin.
Against this he fought with all his strength,
striking, scratching, and kicking with hands
and feet, snapping and biting viciously, and all
the time either roaring with fury, or, when they
succeeded in pulling the hide a little away from
him, groaning, shrieking, and writhing as if
he were being flayed.
So they desisted and left him wrapped in
the skin and tied to a tree near the cabin door.
There he constantly walked back and forth on
all fours, the length of his rope, restlessly and
in silence, as caged animals do. If any one
approached too near he sprang at the intruder
with a savage growl and a snap of his jaws.
But otherwise he paid no attention to any of
those who had expected to be his guests. He
refused to eat, unless they offered him acorns
or dry oak leaves. These he devoured voraciously.
There was some scrawled writing on the
scraps of paper I had pieced together and the
Artist and I made out some disjointed
sentences. We agreed that the lunatic must have
written them himself, in the first beclouding of
his mind, and we thought the words might have
some effect upon him. So we went out to
where the poor, crazed creature was tied, and,
looking him squarely in the eyes, the Artist
spoke very slowly:
"Dorothy. Dorothy. She said I am a bear.
Where is Dorothy?"
He stopped and stared and a puzzled, human
look came into his eyes. He rose slowly to
his feet and stood upright, leaning against the
tree. For the moment he forgot his bearskin
covering and it half fell off. He stared at us,
mumbling strange sounds, which presently
became incoherent words of human speech. But
he spoke thickly and uncertainly, like one long
unused to the sound of his voice:
"Where is—Dorothy? I want—she
Then he dropped to all fours again and drew
his bearskin closely about him and that was the
last flicker of human intelligence that he showed.
The next morning the men made a small
platform of some loose boards to which they
tied the lunatic. He fought desperately
against his bonds, and it required the combined
strength of all the men of the party to fasten
him securely to the platform. Then the guide
improvised a harness of ropes and hitched to
this primitive sled the horse which he himself
rode. Watching the poor creature closely, our
little party went slowly back to the Valley,
whence he was sent to an asylum. The Artist
wrote to Mrs. Moulton an account of his
condition, and told her also its probable cause.
Some months afterward I went to the
asylum, purposely to learn what had become of
him. The physician said his mental condition
was steadily improving, that there was a pretty
sure prospect of his recovery, and that he would
probably be sane all the rest of his life, if—and
the doctor put a significant emphasis upon
that little word—"if he lives as a sane man
should, among men, and busies himself as other men do."
Then the man of healing took from a shelf
a book and read to me the words which I have
put at the beginning of this account.
He told me also that Mrs. Moulton was
there, that she had been there almost from
the first, and that she spent all the time with the
unfortunate man that the physicians would allow.
"Her presence," the doctor added, "has had a
singularly helpful effect upon him."