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´╗┐Title: Fishin' Jimmy
Author: Slosson, Annie Trumbull
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fishin' Jimmy" ***

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It was on the margin of Pond Brook, just back of Uncle Eben's, that
I first saw Fishin' Jimmy.  It was early June, and we were again at
Franconia, that peaceful little village among the northern hills.

The boys, as usual, were tempting the trout with false fly or real
worm, and I was roaming along the bank, seeking spring flowers, and
hunting early butterflies and moths.  Suddenly there was a little
plash in the water at the spot where Ralph was fishing, the slender
tip of his rod bent, I heard a voice cry out, "Strike him, sonny,
strike him!" and an old man came quickly but noiselessly through
the bushes, just as Ralph's line flew up into space, with, alas! no
shining, spotted trout upon the hook.  The new comer was a spare,
wiry man of middle height, with a slight stoop in his shoulders, a
thin brown face, and scanty gray hair.  He carried a fishing-rod,
and had some small trout strung on a forked stick in one hand.  A
simple, homely figure, yet he stands out in memory just as I saw
him then, no more to be forgotten than the granite hills, the
rushing streams, the cascades of that north country I love so well.

We fell into talk at once, Ralph and Waldo rushing eagerly into
questions about the fish, the bait, the best spots in the stream,
advancing their own small theories, and asking advice from their
new friend.  For friend he seemed even in that first hour, as he
began simply, but so wisely, to teach my boys the art he loved.
They are older now, and are no mean anglers, I believe; but they
look back gratefully to those brookside lessons, and acknowledge
gladly their obligations to Fishin' Jimmy.  But it is not of these
practical teachings I would now speak; rather of the lessons of
simple faith, of unwearied patience, of self-denial and cheerful
endurance, which the old man himself seemed to have learned,
strangely enough, from the very sport so often called cruel and
murderous.  Incomprehensible as it may seem, to his simple
intellect the fisherman's art was a whole system of morality, a
guide for every-day life, an education, a gospel.  It was all any
poor mortal man, woman, or child, needed in this world to make him
or her happy, useful, good.

At first we scarcely realized this, and wondered greatly at certain
things he said, and the tone in which he said them.  I remember at
that first meeting I asked him, rather carelessly, "Do you like
fishing?"  He did not reply at first; then he looked at me with
those odd, limpid, green-gray eyes of his which always seemed to
reflect the clear waters of mountain streams, and said very
quietly: "You would n't ask me if I liked my mother--or my wife."
And he always spoke of his pursuit as one speaks of something very
dear, very sacred.  Part of his story I learned from others, but
most of it from himself, bit by bit, as we wandered together day by
day in that lovely hill-country.  As I tell it over again I seem to
hear the rush of mountain streams, the "sound of a going in the
tops of the trees," the sweet, pensive strain of white-throat
sparrow, and the plash of leaping trout; to see the crystal-clear
waters pouring over granite rock, the wonderful purple light upon
the mountains, the flash and glint of darting fish, the tender
green of early summer in the north country.

Fishin' Jimmy's real name was James Whitcher.  He was born in the
Franconia Valley of northern New Hampshire, and his whole life had
been passed there.  He had always fished; he could not remember
when or how he learned the art.  From the days when, a tiny,
bare-legged urchin in ragged frock, he had dropped his piece of
string with its bent pin at the end into the narrow, shallow
brooklet behind his father's house, through early boyhood's season
of roaming along Gale River, wading Black Brook, rowing a leaky
boat on Streeter or Mink Pond, through youth, through manhood, on
and on into old age, his life had apparently been one long day's
fishing--an angler's holiday.  Had it been only that?  He had not
cared for books, or school, and all efforts to tie him down to
study were unavailing.  But he knew well the books of running
brooks.  No dry botanical text-book or manual could have taught him
all he now knew of plants and flowers and trees.

He did not call the yellow spatterdock Nuphar advena, but he knew
its large leaves of rich green, where the black bass or pickerel
sheltered themselves from the summer sun, and its yellow balls on
stout stems, around which his line so often twined and twisted, or
in which the hook caught, not to be jerked out till the long,
green, juicy stalk itself, topped with globe of greenish gold, came
up from its wet bed.   He knew the sedges along the bank with their
nodding tassels and stiff lance-like leaves, the feathery grasses,
the velvet moss upon the wet stones, the sea-green lichen on
boulder or tree-trunk.  There, in that corner of Echo Lake, grew
the thickest patch of pipewort, with its small, round,
grayish-white, mushroom-shaped tops on long, slender stems.  If he
had styled it Eriocaulon septangulare, would it have shown a closer
knowledge of its habits than did his careful avoidance of its
vicinity, his keeping line and flies at a safe distance, as he
muttered to himself, "Them pesky butt'ns agin!"  He knew by sight
the bur-reed of mountain ponds, with its round, prickly balls
strung like big beads on the stiff, erect stalks; the little
water-lobelia, with tiny purple blossoms, springing from the waters
of lake and pond.  He knew, too, all the strange, beautiful
under-water growth: bladderwort in long, feathery garlands,
pellucid water-weed, quillwort in stiff little bunches with
sharp-pointed leaves of olive-green,--all so seldom seen save by
the angler whose hooks draw up from time to time the wet, lovely
tangle.  I remember the amusement with which a certain well-known
botanist, who had journeyed to the mountains in search of a little
plant, found many years ago near Echo Lake, but not since seen,
heard me propose to consult Fishin' Jimmy on the subject.  But I
was wiser than he knew.  Jimmy looked at the specimen brought as an
aid to identification.  It was dry and flattened, and as unlike a
living, growing plant as are generally the specimens from an
herbarium.  But it showed the awl-shaped leaves, and thread-like
stalk with its tiny round seed-vessels, like those of our common
shepherd's-purse, and Jimmy knew it at once.  "There's a dreffle
lot o' that peppergrass out in deep water there, jest where I
ketched the big pick'ril," he said quietly.  "I seen it nigh a foot
high, an' it 's juicier and livin'er than them dead sticks in your
book."  At our request he accompanied the unbelieving botanist and
myself to the spot; and there, looking down through the sunlit
water, we saw great patches of that rare and long-lost plant of the
Cruciferse known to science as Subularia aquatica.  For forty years
it had hidden itself away, growing and blossoming and casting
abroad its tiny seeds in its watery home, unseen, or at least
unnoticed, by living soul, save by the keen, soft, limpid eyes of
Fishin' Jimmy.  And he knew the trees and shrubs so well: the alder
and birch from which as a boy he cut his simple, pliant pole; the
shad-blow and iron-wood (he called them, respectively, sugarplum
and hard-hack) which he used for the more ambitious rods of maturer
years; the mooseberry, wayfaring-tree, hobble-bush, or triptoe,--it
has all these names, with stout, trailing branches, over which he
stumbled as he hurried through the woods and underbrush in the
darkening twilight.

He had never heard of entomology.  Guenee, Hubner, and Fabricius
were unknown names; but he could have told these worthies many new
things.  Did they know just at what hour the trout ceased leaping
at dark fly or moth, and could see only in the dim light the
ghostly white miller?  Did they know the comparative merits, as a
tempting bait, of grasshopper, cricket, spider, or wasp; and could
they, with bits of wool, tinsel, and feather, copy the real
dipterous, hymenopterous, or orthopterous insect?  And the birds:
he knew them as do few ornithologists, by sight, by sound, by
little ways and tricks of their own, known only to themselves and
him.  The white-throat sparrow with its sweet, far-reaching chant;
the hermit-thrush with its chime of bells in the calm summer
twilight; the vesper-sparrow that ran before him as he crossed the
meadow, or sang for hours, as he fished the stream, its unvarying,
but scarcely monotonous little strain; the cedar-bird, with its
smooth brown coast of Quaker simplicity, and speech as brief and
simple as Quaker yea or nay; the winter-wren sending out his
strange, lovely, liquid warble from the high, rocky side of Cannon
Mountain; the bluebird of the early spring, so welcome to the
winter-weary dwellers in that land of ice and show, as he

  "From the bluer deeps
  Lets fall a quick, prophetic strain,"

of summer, of streams freed and flowing again, of waking, darting,
eager fish; the veery, the phoebe, the jay, the vireo,--all these
were friends, familiar, tried and true to Fishin' Jimmy.  The cluck
and coo of the cuckoo, the bubbling song of bobolink in buff and
black, the watery trill of the stream-loving swamp-sparrow, the
whispered whistle of the stealthy, darkness-haunting whippoorwill,
the gurgle and gargle of the cow-bunting,--he knew each and all,
better than did Audubon, Nuttall, or Wilson.  But he never dreamed
that even the tiniest of his little favorites bore, in the
scientific world, far away from that quiet mountain nest, such
names as Troglodytes hyemalis or Melospiza palustris.  He could
tell you, too, of strange, shy creatures rarely seen except by the
early-rising, late-fishing angler, in quiet, lonesome places: the
otter, muskrat, and mink of ponds and lakes,--rival fishers, who
bore off prey sometimes from under his very eyes,--field-mice in
meadow and pasture, blind, burrowing moles, prickly hedge-hogs,
brown hares, and social, curious squirrels.

Sometimes he saw deer, in the early morning or in the dusk of the
evening, as they came to drink at the lake shore, and looked at him
with big, soft eyes not unlike his own.  Sometimes a shaggy bear
trotted across his path and hid himself in the forest, or a
sharp-eared fox ran barking through the bushes.  He loved to tell
of these things to us who cared to listen, and I still seem to hear
his voice saying in hushed tones, after a story of woodland sight
or sound: "Nobody don't see 'em but fishermen.  Nobody don't hear
'em but fishermen."


But it was of another kind of knowledge he oftenest spoke, and of
which I shall try to tell you, in his own words as nearly as

First let me say that if there should seem to be the faintest tinge
of irreverence in aught I write, I tell my story badly.   There was
no irreverence in Fishin' Jimmy.  He possessed a deep and profound
veneration for all things spiritual and heavenly; but it was the
veneration of a little child, mingled as is that child's with
perfect confidence and utter frankness.  And he used the dialect of
the country in which he lived.

"As I was tellin' ye," he said, "I allers loved fishin' an' knowed
't was the best thing in the hull airth.  I knowed it larnt ye more
about creeters an' yarbs an' stuns an' water than books could tell
ye.  I knowed it made folks patienter an' commonsenser an'
weather-wiser an' cuter gen'ally; gin 'em more fac'lty than all the
school larnin' in creation.  I knowed it was more fillin' than
vittles, more rousin' than whisky, more soothin' than lodlum.  I
knowed it cooled ye off when ye was het, an' het ye when ye was
cold.  I knowed all that, o' course--any fool knows it.  But--will
ye b'l'eve it?--I was more 'n twenty-one year old, a man growed,
'fore I foun' out why 't was that away.  Father an' mother was
Christian folks, good out-an'-out Calv'nist Baptists from over
East'n way.  They fetched me up right, made me go to meetin' an'
read a chapter every Sunday, an' say a hymn Sat'day night a'ter
washin'; an' I useter say my prayers mos' nights.  I wa'n't a bad
boy as boys go.  But nobody thought o' tellin' me the one thing,
jest the one single thing, that 'd ha' made all the diffunce.  I
knowed about God, an' how he made me an' made the airth, an'
everything an' once I got thinkin' about that, an' I asked my
father if God made the fishes.  He said 'course he did, the sea an'
all that in 'em is; but somehow that did n't seem to mean nothin'
much to me, an' I lost my int'rist agin.  An' I read the Scripter
account o' Jonah an' the big fish, an' all that in Job about
pullin' out levi'thing with a hook an' stickin' fish spears in his
head, an' some parts in them queer books nigh the end o' the ole
Test'ment about fish-ponds an' fish-gates an' fish-pools, an' how
the fishers shall l'ment--everything I could pick out about fishin'
an' seen; but it did n't come home to me; 't wa'n't my kind o'
fishin' an' I did n't seem ter sense it.

"But one day--it's more 'n forty year ago now, but I rec'lect it
same 's 't was yest'day, an' I shall rec'lect it forty thousand
year from now if I 'm 'round, an' I guess I shall be--I
heerd--suthin'--diffunt.  I was down in the village one Sunday; it
wa'n't very good fishin'--the streams was too full; an' I thought I
'd jest look into the meetin'-house 's I went by.  'T was the ole
union meetin'-house, down to the corner, ye know, an' they had n't
got no reg'lar s'pply, an' ye never knowed what sort ye 'd hear, so
't was kind o' excitin'.

"'T was late, 'most 'leven o'clock, an' the sarm'n had begun.
There was a strange man a-preachin', some one from over to the
hotel.  I never heerd his name, I never seed him from that day to
this; but I knowed his face.  Queer enough I 'd seed him a-fishin'.
I never knowed he was a min'ster; he did n't look like one.  He
went about like a real fisherman, with ole clo'es an' an ole hat
with hooks stuck in it, an' big rubber boots, an' he fished, reely
fished, I mean--ketched 'em.  I guess 't was that made me liss'n a
leetle sharper 'n us'al, for I never seed a fishin' min'ster afore.
Elder Jacks'n, he said 't was a sinf'l waste o' time, an' ole
Parson Loomis, he 'd an idee it was cruel an' onmarciful; so I
thought I 'd jest see what this man 'd preach about, an' I settled
down to liss'n to the sarm'n.

"But there wa'n't no sarm'n; not what I 'd been raised to think was
the on'y true kind.  There wa'n't no heads, no fustlys nor
sec'ndlys, nor fin'ly bruthrins, but the first thing I knowed I was
hearin' a story, an' 't was a fishin' story.  'T was about Some
One--I had n't the least idee then who 't was, an' how much it all
meant--Some One that was dreffle fond o' fishin' an' fishermen,
Some One that sot everythin' by the water, an' useter go along by
the lakes an' ponds, an' sail on 'em, an' talk with the men that
was fishin'.  An' how the fishermen all liked him, 'nd asked his
'dvice, an' done jest 's he telled 'em about the likeliest places
to fish; an' how they allers ketched more for mindin' him; an' how
when he was a-preachin' he would n't go into a big meetin'-house
an' talk to rich folks all slicked up, but he 'd jest go out in a
fishin' boat, an' ask the men to shove out a mite, an' he 'd talk
to the folks on shore, the fishin' folks an' their wives an' the
boys an' gals playin' on the shore.  An' then, best o' everythin',
he telled how when he was a-choosin' the men to go about with him
an' help him an' larn his ways so 's to come a'ter him, he fust o'
all picked out the men he 'd seen every day fishin', an' mebbe
fished with hisself; for he knowed 'em an' knowed he could trust

"An' then he telled us about the day when this preacher come along
by the lake--a dreffle sightly place, this min'ster said; he 'd
seed it hisself when he was trav'lin' in them countries--an' come
acrost two men he knowed well; they was brothers, an' they was
a-fishin'.  An' he jest asked 'em in his pleasant-spoken, frien'ly
way--there wa'n't never sech a drawin', takin', lovin' way with any
one afore as this man had, the min'ster said--he jest asked 'em to
come along with him; an' they lay down their poles an' their lines
an' everythin', an' jined him.  An' then he come along a spell
further, an' he sees two boys out with their ole father, an' they
was settin' in a boat an' fixin' up their tackle, an' he asked 'em
if they 'd jine him, too, an' they jest dropped all their things,
an' left the ole man with the boat an' the fish an' the bait an'
follered the preacher.  I don't tell it very good.  I 've read it
an' read it sence that; but I want to make ye see how it sounded to
me, how I took it, as the min'ster telled it that summer day in
Francony meetin'.  Ye see I 'd no idee who the story was about, the
man put it so plain, in common kind o' talk, without any
come-to-passes an' whuffers an' thuffers, an' I never conceited 't
was a Bible narr'tive.

"An' so fust thing I knowed I says to myself, 'That 's the kind o'
teacher I want.  If I could come acrost a man like that, I 'd jest
foller him, too, through thick an' thin.'  Well, I can't put the
rest on it into talk very good; 't aint jest the kind o' thing to
speak on 'fore folks, even sech good friends as you.  I aint the
sort to go back on my word,--fishermen aint, ye know,--an' what I
'd said to myself 'fore I knowed who I was bindin' myself to, I
stuck to a'terwards when I knowed all about him.  For 't aint for
me to tell ye, who've got so much more larnin' than me, that there
was a dreffle lot more to that story than the fishin' part.  That
lovin', givin' up, suff'rin', dyin' part, ye know it all yerself,
an' I can't kinder say much on it, 'cept when I 'm jest all by
myself, or--'long o' him.

"That a'ternoon I took my ole Bible that I had n't read much sence
I growed up, an' I went out into the woods 'long the river, an'
'stid o' fishin' I jest sot down an' read that hull story.  Now ye
know it yerself by heart, an' ye 've knowed it all yer born days,
so ye can't begin to tell how new an' 'stonishin' 't was to me, an'
how findin' so much fishin' in it kinder helped me unnerstan' an'
b'l'eve it every mite, an' take it right hum to me to foller an'
live up to 's long 's I live an' breathe.  Did j'ever think on it,
reely?  I tell ye, his r'liging 's a fishin' r'liging all through.
His friends was fishin' folks; his pulpit was a fishin' boat, or
the shore o' the lake; he loved the ponds an' streams; an' when his
d'sciples went out fishin', if he did n't go hisself with 'em, he
'd go a'ter 'em, walkin' on the water, to cheer 'em up an' comfort

"An' he was allers 'round the water; for the story 'll say, 'he
come to the seashore,' or 'he begun to teach by the seaside,' or
agin, 'he entered into a boat,' an' 'he was in the stern o' the
boat, asleep.'

"An' he used fish in his mir'cles.  He fed that crowd o' folks on
fish when they was hungry, bought 'em from a little chap on the
shore.  I 've oft'n thought how dreffle tickled that boy must 'a'
ben to have him take them fish.  Mebbe they wa'n't nothin' but
shiners, but the fust the little feller 'd ever ketched; an' boys
set a heap on their fust ketch.   He was dreffle good to child'en,
ye know.  An' who 'd he come to a'ter he 'd died, an' ris agin?
Why, he come down to the shore 'fore daylight, an' looked off over
the pond to where his ole frien's was a-fishin'.  Ye see they 'd
gone out jest to quiet their minds an' keep up their sperrits; ther
's nothin' like fishin' for that, ye know, an' they 'd ben in a
heap o' trubble.  When they was settin' up the night afore,
worryin' an' wond'rin' an' s'misin' what was goin' ter become on
'em without their master; Peter 'd got kinder desprit, an' he up
an' says in his quick way, says he, 'Anyway, _I_ 'm goin'
a-fishin'.'  An' they all see the sense on it,--any fisherman
would,--an' they says, says they, 'We '11 go 'long too.'  But they
did n't ketch anythin'.  I suppose they could n't fix their minds
on it, an' everythin' went wrong like.   But when mornin' come
creepin' up over the mountings, fust thin' they knowed they see him
on the bank, an' he called out to 'em to know if they'd ketched
anythin'.  The water jest run down my cheeks when I heerd the min'r
ster tell that, an' it kinder makes my eyes wet every time I think
on 't.  For 't seems 's if it might 'a' ben me in that boat, who
heern that v'ice I loved so dreffle well speak up agin so nat'ral
from the bank there.  An' he eat some o' their fish!  O' course he
done it to sot their minds easy, to show 'em he wa'n't quite a
sperrit yit, but jest their own ole frien' who 'd ben out in the
boat with 'em so many, many times.  But seems to me, jest the fac'
he done it kinder makes fish an' fishin' diffunt from any other
thing in the hull airth.  I tell ye them four books that gin his
story is chock full o' things that go right to the heart o'
fishermen,--nets, an' hooks, an' boats, an' the shores, an' the
sea, an' the mountings, Peter's fishin'-coat, lilies, an' sparrers,
an' grass o' the fields, an' all about the evenin' sky bein' red or
lowerin', an' fair or foul weather.

"It 's an out-doors, woodsy, country story, 'sides bein' the
heav'nliest one that was ever telled.  I read the hull Bible, as a
duty ye know.  I read the epis'les, but somehow they don't come
home to me.  Paul was a great man, a dreffle smart scholar, but he
was raised in the city, I guess, an' when I go from the gospils
into Paul's writin's it 's like goin' from the woods an' hills an'
streams o' Francony into the streets of a big city like Concord or

The old man did not say much of his after life and the fruits of
this strange conversion, but his neighbors told us a great deal.
They spoke of his unselfishness, his charity, his kindly deeds;
told of his visiting the poor and unhappy, nursing the sick.  They
said the little children loved him, and everyone in the village and
for miles around trusted and leaned upon Fishin' Jimmy.  He taught
the boys to fish, sometimes the girls too; and while learning to
cast and strike, to whip the stream, they drank in knowledge of
higher things, and came to know and love Jimmy's "fishin'
r'liging."  I remember they told me of a little French Canadian
girl, a poor, wretched waif, whose mother, an unknown tramp, had
fallen dead in the road near the village.  The child, an untamed
little heathen, was found clinging to her mother's body in an agony
of grief and rage, and fought like a tiger when they tried to take
her away.  A boy in the little group attracted to the spot, ran
away, with a child's faith in his old friend, to summon Fishin'
Jimmy.  He came quickly, lifted the little savage tenderly, and
carried her away.

No one witnessed the taming process, but in a few days the pair
were seen together on the margin of Black Brook, each with a
fish-pole.  Her dark face was bright with interest and excitement
as she took her first lesson in the art of angling.  She jabbered
and chattered in her odd patois, he answered in broadest New
England dialect, but the two quite understood each other, and
though Jimmy said afterward that it was "dreffle to hear her call
the fish pois'n," they were soon great friends and comrades.  For
weeks he kept and cared for the child, and when she left him for a
good home in Bethlehem, one would scarcely have recognized in the
gentle, affectionate girl the wild creature of the past.  Though
often questioned as to the means used to effect this change,
Jimmy's explanation seemed rather vague and unsatisfactory.  "'T
was fishin' done it," he said; "on'y fishin'; it allers works.  The
Christian r'liging itself had to begin with fishin', ye know."


But one thing troubled Fishin' Jimmy.

He wanted to be a "fisher of men."  That was what the Great Teacher
had promised he would make the fishermen who left their boats to
follow him.  What strange, literal meaning he attached to the
terms, we could not tell.  In vain we--especially the boys, whose
young hearts had gone out in warm affection to the old man--tried
to show him that he was, by his efforts to do good and make others
better and happier, fulfilling the Lord's directions.  He could not
understand it so.  "I allers try to think," he said, "that 't was
me in that boat when he come along.  I make b'l'eve that it was out
on Streeter Pond, an' I was settin' in the boat, fixin' my lan'in'
net, when I see him on the shore.  I think mebbe I 'm that
James--for that's my given name, ye know, though they allers call
me Jimmy--an' then I hear him callin' me 'James, James.'  I can
hear him jest 's plain sometimes, when the wind 's blowin' in the
trees, an' I jest ache to up an' foller him.  But says he, 'I 'll
make ye a fisher o' men,' an' he aint done it.  I 'm waitin'; mebbe
he 'll larn me some day."

He was fond of all living creatures, merciful to all.   But his
love for our dog Dash became a passion, for Dash was an angler.
Who that ever saw him sitting in the boat beside his master,
watching with eager eye and whole body trembling with excitement
the line as it was cast, the flies as they touched the surface--who
can forget old Dash?  His fierce excitement at rise of trout, the
efforts at self-restraint, the disappointment if the prey escaped,
the wild exultation if it was captured, how plainly--he who runs
might read--were shown these emotions in eye, in ear, in tail, in
whole quivering body!  What wonder that it all went straight to the
fisher's heart of Jimmy!  "I never knowed afore they could be
Christians," he said, looking, with tears in his soft, keen eyes,
at the every-day scene, and with no faintest thought of
irreverence.  "I never knowed it, but I'd give a stiffikit o'
membership in the orthodoxest church goin' to that dog there."

It is almost needless to say that as years went on Jimmy came to
know many "fishin' min'sters;" for there are many of that school
who know our mountain country, and seek it yearly.  All these knew
and loved the old man.  And there were others who had wandered by
that sea of Galilee, and fished in the waters of the Holy Land, and
with them Fishin' Jimmy dearly loved to talk.  But his wonder was
never-ending that, in the scheme of evangelizing the world, more
use was not made of the "fishin' side" of the story.  "Haint they
ever tried it on them poor heathen?" he would ask earnestly of some
clerical angler casting a fly upon the clear water of pond or
brook.  "I should think 't would 'a' ben the fust thing they 'd
done.  Fishin' fust, an' r'liging 's sure to foller.  An' it 's so
easy; fur heath'n mostly r'sides on islands, don't they?  So ther
's plenty o' water, an' o' course ther 's fishin'; an' oncet gin
'em poles an' git 'em to work, an' they 're out o' mischief fur
that day.  They 'd like it better 'n cannib'ling, or cuttin' out
idles, or scratchin' picters all over theirselves, an' bimeby--not
too suddent, ye know, to scare 'em--ye could begin on that story,
an' they could n't stan' that, not a heath'n on 'em.  Won't ye
speak to the 'Merican Board about it, an' sen' out a few fishin'
mishneries, with poles an' lines an' tackle gen'ally?  I 've tried
it on dreffle bad folks, an' it alters done 'em good.  But"--so
almost all his simple talk ended--"I wish I could begin to be a
fisher o' men.  I 'm gettin' on now, I 'm nigh seventy, an' I aint
got much time, ye see."

One afternoon in July there came over Franconia Notch one of those
strangely sudden tempests which sometimes visit that mountain
country.  It had been warm that day, unusually warm for that
refreshingly cool spot; but suddenly the sky grew dark and darker,
almost to blackness, there was roll of thunder and flash of
lightning, and then poured down the rain--rain at first, but soon
hail in large frozen bullets, which fiercely pelted any who
ventured outdoors, rattled against the windows of the Profile House
with sharp cracks like sounds of musketry, and lay upon the piazza
in heaps like snow.  And in the midst of the wild storm it was
remembered that two boys, guests at the hotel, had gone up Mount
Lafayette alone that day.  They were young boys, unused to mountain
climbing, and their friends were anxious.  It was found that Dash
had followed them; and just as some one was to be sent in search of
them, a boy from the stables brought the information that Fishin'
Jimmy had started up the mountain after them as the storm broke.
"Said if he could n't be a fisher o' men, mebbe he knowed nuff to
ketch boys," went on our informant, seeing nothing more in the
speech, full of pathetic meaning to us who knew him, than the idle
talk of one whom many considered "lackin'."  Jimmy was old now, and
had of late grown very feeble, and we did not like to think of him
out in that wild storm.  And now suddenly the lost boys themselves
appeared through the opening in the woods opposite the house, and
ran in through the sleet, now falling more quietly.  They were wet,
but no worse apparently for their adventure, though full of
contrition and distress at having lost sight of the dog.  He had
rushed off into the woods some hours before, after a rabbit or
hedgehog, and had never returned.  Nor had they seen Fishin' Jimmy.

As hours went by and the old man did not return, a search party was
sent out, and guides familiar with the mountain paths went up
Lafayette to seek for him.  It was nearly night when they at last
found him, and the grand old mountains had put on those robes of
royal purple which they sometimes assume at eventide.  At the foot
of a mass of rock, which looked like amethyst or wine-red agate in
that marvellous evening light, the old man was lying, and Dash was
with him.  From the few faint words Jimmy could then gasp out, the
truth was gathered.  He had missed the boys, leaving the path by
which they had returned, and while stumbling along in search of
them, feeble and weary, he had heard far below a sound of distress.
Looking down over a steep, rocky ledge, he had seen his friend and
fishing comrade, old Dash, in sore trouble.  Poor Dash!  He never
dreamed of harming his old friend, for he had a kind heart.  But he
was a sad coward in some matters, and a very baby when frightened
and away from master and friends.  So I fear he may have assumed
the role of wounded sufferer when in reality he was but scared and
lonesome.  He never owned this afterward, and you may be sure we
never let him know, by word or look, the evil he had done.  Jimmy
saw him holding up one paw helplessly, and looking at him with
wistful, imploring brown eyes, heard his pitiful whimpering cry for
aid, and never doubted his great distress and peril.  Was Dash not
a fisherman?  And fishermen, in Fishin' Jimmy's category, were
always true and trusty.  So the old man without a second's
hesitation started down the steep, smooth decline to the rescue of
his friend.

We do not know just how or where in that terrible descent he fell.
To us who afterward saw the spot, and thought of the weak old man,
chilled by the storm, exhausted by his exertions, and yet
clambering down that precipitous cliff, made more slippery and
treacherous by the sleet and hail still falling, it seemed
impossible that he could have kept a foothold for an instant.  Nor
am I sure that he expected to save himself, and Dash too.  But he
tried.  He was sadly hurt, I will not tell you of that.

Looking out from the hotel windows through the gathering darkness,
we who loved him--it was not a small group--saw a sorrowful sight.
Flickering lights thrown by the lanterns of the guides came through
the woods.  Across the road, slowly, carefully, came strong men,
bearing on a rough hastily made litter of boughs the dear old man.
All that could have been done for the most distinguished guest, for
the dearest, best-beloved friend, was done for the gentle
fisherman.  We, his friends, and proud to style ourselves thus,
were of different, widely separated lands, greatly varying creeds.
Some were nearly as old as the dying man, some in the prime of
manhood.  There were youths and maidens and little children.  But
through the night we watched together.   The old Roman bishop,
whose calm, benign face we all know and love; the Churchman,
ascetic in faith, but with the kindest, most indulgent heart when
one finds it; the gentle old Quakeress with placid, unwrinkled brow
and silvery hair; Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist,--we were
all one that night.  The old angler did not suffer--we were so glad
of that!  But he did not appear to know us, and his talk seemed
strange.  It rambled on quietly, softly, like one of his own
mountain brooks, babbling of green fields, of sunny summer days, of
his favorite sport, and ah! of other things.  But he was not
speaking to us.  A sudden, awed hush and thrill came over us as,
bending to catch the low words, we all at once understood what only
the bishop put into words as he said, half to himself, in a sudden,
quick, broken whisper, "God bless the man, he 's talking to his

"Yes.  sir, that 's so," went on the quiet voice; "'t was on'y a
dog sure nuff; 'twa'n't even a boy, as ye say, an' ye ast me to be
a fisher o' men.  But I haint had no chance for that, somehow;
mebbe I wa'n't fit for 't.  I 'm on'y jest a poor old fisherman,
Fishin' Jimmy, ye know, sir.  Ye useter call me James--no one else
ever done it.  On'y a dog?  But he wa'n't jest a common dog, sir;
he was a fishin' dog.  I never seed a man love fishin' mor 'n
Dash."  The dog was in the room, and heard his name.  Stealing to
the bedside, he put a cold nose into the cold hand of his old
friend, and no one had the heart to take him away.  The touch
turned the current of the old man's talk for a moment, and he was
fishing again with his dog friend.  "See 'em break, Dashy!  See 'em
break!  Lots on 'em to-day, aint they?  Keep still, there 's a good
dog, while I put on a diffunt fly.  Don't ye see they 're jumpin'
at them gnats?  Aint the water jest 'live with 'em?  Aint it
shinin' an' clear an'--"  The voice faltered an instant, then went
on: "Yes, sir, I 'm comin'--I 'm glad, dreffle glad to come.  Don't
mind 'bout my leavin' my fishin'; do ye think I care 'bout that?  I
'll jest lay down my pole ahin' the alders here, an' put my lan'in'
net on the stuns, with my flies an' tackle--the boys 'll like 'em,
ye know--an' I 'll be right along.

"I mos' knowed ye was on'y a-tryin' me when ye said that 'bout how
I had n't been a fisher o' men, nor even boys, on'y a dog.  'T was
a--fishin' dog--ye know--an' ye was allers dreffle good to
fishermen,--dreffle good to--everybody; died--for 'em, did n't ye?--

"Please wait--on--the bank there, a minnit; I 'm comin' 'crost.
Water 's pretty--cold this--spring--an' the stream 's
risin'--but--I--can--do it;--don't ye mind--'bout me, sir.  I 'll
get acrost."  Once more the voice ceased, and we thought we should
not hear it again this side that stream.

But suddenly a strange light came over the thin face, the soft gray
eyes opened wide, and he cried out, with the strong voice we had so
often heard come ringing out to us across the mountain streams
above the sound of their rushing: "Here I be, sir!  It 's Fishin'
Jimmy, ye know, from Francony way; him ye useter call James when ye
come 'long the shore o' the pond an' I was a-fishin.'  I heern ye
agin, jest now--an' I--straightway--f'sook--my--nets--an'--follered--"

Had the voice ceased utterly?  No, we could catch faint, low
murmurs and the lips still moved.  But the words were not for us;
and we did not know when he reached the other bank.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fishin' Jimmy" ***

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