Isabella is recounting her first night in her little cabin for her sister.
“…. I was soon in my hay bed. I was frightened — that is, afraid of being frightened, it was so eerie — but sleep soon got the better of my fears. I was awoke by a heavy breathing,* a noise like someone sawing under the floor, and a pushing and upheaving, all very loud. My candle was all burned, and, in truth, I dare not stir.”
The noise continued for about an hour, then stopped just as quickly as I started. Isabella went back to sleep.
When she woke up, she recounted her story at the breakfast table at the big cabin, and her host “contorted his face dismally.”
“… there was a skunk’s lair under my cabin, and that they dare not make any attempt to dislodge him for fear of rendering the cabin untenable. They have tried to trap him since, but without success, and each night the noisy performance is repeated.”
Judging by what Isabella says next, I get the feeling there aren’t skunks in England? She describes them as if she’d never heard of them.**
“The bravest man in a coward in its neighborhood. Dogs run their noses on the ground until they bleed when they have touched the fluid, and even die of the vomiting produced by the effluvia. The odor can be smelt a mile off. If clothes are touched by the fluid they must be destroyed.”***
The pelts, however, are hot commodities and the trappers take shots at them when they can. One was killed the day before Isabella wrote this letter.
“Plunk, the big dog, touched it and has to be driven into exile. The body was valiantly removed by a man with a long fork, and carried to a running stream, but we are nearly choked with odor from the spot where it fell. I hope that my skunk will enjoy a quiet spirit so long as we are near neighbors.”
* It’s not Jim.
** Bit of trivia: the owners have named this skunk “Mephitis.”
*** I mean… really? Are Rocky Mountain skunks more potent than East Coast skunks?