He had been following the trail for days.
It could have been longer. He lost track of time around the fourth pair.
Well, he was finding a pair a day, generally speaking, and he had how many now?
With a weary groan, he lowered himself to a mossy boulder by the stream and pulled his bag off his shoulder. Folded neatly atop his foraged food and camping gear were his finds – his curious treasures. One, two, five… eight… eleven. Eleven pairs altogether. So he had been on the move for eleven days, more or less.
He folded them back into his bag and hoisted it onto his shoulder with a grunt, then cupped his filthy hands and filled them with water from the stream he had been following all day. Refreshed, he reoriented himself and set off through the brambles and branches.
Sunset came, washing the valley in a burnished glow. He paused, panting softly, to admire it. One good thing about his strange quest, he supposed, was how he was subject to the intricate beauties of the wild.
He turned back to the deer paths he had been following – and froze when the glorious sunlight filtered through a jagged hole. His heart swelled and he raced over and snatched them off the branch from which they dangled. Another – and a new direction in which to search.
With a renewed sense of accomplishment, he set off into the woods, clutching the twelfth pair of ripped and ragged pants.