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´╗┐Title: Fisherman's Luck and Some Other Uncertain Things
Author: Van Dyke, Henry, 1852-1933
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 "Fisherman's Luck and Some Other Uncertain Things" ***

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by Henry van Dyke

     "Now I conclude that not only in Physicke, but likewise in
     sundry more certaine arts, fortune hath great share in

     M. DE MONTAIGNE: Divers Events.


Here is the basket; I bring it home to you. There are no great fish in
it. But perhaps there may be one or two little ones which will be to
your taste. And there are a few shining pebbles from the bed of the
brook, and ferns from the cool, green woods, and wild flowers from the
places that you remember. I would fain console you, if I could, for the
hardship of having married an angler: a man who relapses into his mania
with the return of every spring, and never sees a little river without
wishing to fish in it. But after all, we have had good times together as
we have followed the stream of life towards the sea. And we have passed
through the dark days without losing heart, because we were comrades.
So let this book tell you one thing that is certain. In all the life of
your fisherman the best piece of luck is just YOU.


   I.  Fisherman's Luck

  II.  The Thrilling Moment

 III.  Talkability

  IV.  A Wild Strawberry

   V.  Lovers and Landscape

  VI.  A Fatal Success

 VII.  Fishing in Books

VIII. A Norwegian Honeymoon

  IX.  Who Owns the Mountains?

   X.  A Lazy, Idle Brook

  XI.  The Open Fire

 XII.  A Slumber Song


Has it ever fallen in your way to notice the quality of the greetings
that belong to certain occupations?

There is something about these salutations in kind which is singularly
taking and grateful to the ear. They are as much better than an ordinary
"good day" or a flat "how are you?" as a folk-song of Scotland or the
Tyrol is better than the futile love-ditty of the drawing-room. They
have a spicy and rememberable flavour. They speak to the imagination and
point the way to treasure-trove.

There is a touch of dignity in them, too, for all they are so free and
easy--the dignity of independence, the native spirit of one who takes
for granted that his mode of living has a right to make its own forms of
speech. I admire a man who does not hesitate to salute the world in the
dialect of his calling.

How salty and stimulating, for example, is the sailorman's hail of "Ship
ahoy!" It is like a breeze laden with briny odours and a pleasant dash
of spray. The miners in some parts of Germany have a good greeting for
their dusky trade. They cry to one who is going down the shaft, "Gluck
auf!" All the perils of an underground adventure and all the joys
of seeing the sun again are compressed into a word. Even the trivial
salutation which the telephone has lately created and claimed for its
peculiar use--"Hello, hello"--seems to me to have a kind of fitness
and fascination. It is like a thoroughbred bulldog, ugly enough to be
attractive. There is a lively, concentrated, electric air about it. It
makes courtesy wait upon dispatch, and reminds us that we live in an age
when it is necessary to be wide awake.

I have often wished that every human employment might evolve its own
appropriate greeting. Some of them would be queer, no doubt; but
at least they would be an improvement on the wearisome iteration of
"Good-evening" and "Good-morning," and the monotonous inquiry, "How
do you do?"--a question so meaningless that it seldom tarries for an
answer. Under the new and more natural system of etiquette, when you
passed the time of day with a man you would know his business, and the
salutations of the market-place would be full of interest.

As for my chosen pursuit of angling (which I follow with diligence when
not interrupted by less important concerns), I rejoice with every true
fisherman that it has a greeting all its own and of a most honourable
antiquity. There is no written record of its origin. But it is quite
certain that since the days after the Flood, when Deucalion

     "Did first this art invent
      Of angling, and his people taught the same,"

two honest and good-natured anglers have never met each other by the way
without crying out, "What luck?"

Here, indeed, is an epitome of the gentle art. Here is the spirit of
it embodied in a word and paying its respects to you with its native
accent. Here you see its secret charms unconsciously disclosed. The
attraction of angling for all the ages of man, from the cradle to the
grave, lies in its uncertainty. 'Tis an affair of luck.

No amount of preparation in the matter of rods and lines and hooks
and lures and nets and creels can change its essential character.
No excellence of skill in casting the delusive fly or adjusting the
tempting bait upon the hook can make the result secure. You may reduce
the chances, but you cannot eliminate them. There are a thousand points
at which fortune may intervene. The state of the weather, the height of
the water, the appetite of the fish, the presence or absence of other
anglers--all these indeterminable elements enter into the reckoning of
your success. There is no combination of stars in the firmament by which
you can forecast the piscatorial future. When you go a-fishing, you just
take your chances; you offer yourself as a candidate for anything that
may be going; you try your luck.

There are certain days that are favourites among anglers, who regard
them as propitious for the sport. I know a man who believes that the
fish always rise better on Sunday than on any other day in the week. He
complains bitterly of this supposed fact, because his religious scruples
will not allow him to take advantage of it. He confesses that he has
sometimes thought seriously of joining the Seventh-Day Baptists.

Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, in the Alleghany Mountains, I have found
a curious tradition that Ascension Day is the luckiest in the year
for fishing. On that morning the district school is apt to be thinly
attended, and you must be on the stream very early if you do not wish to
find wet footprints on the stones ahead of you.

But in fact, all these superstitions about fortunate days are idle and
presumptuous. If there were such days in the calendar, a kind and firm
Providence would never permit the race of man to discover them. It
would rob life of one of its principal attractions, and make fishing
altogether too easy to be interesting.

Fisherman's luck is so notorious that it has passed into a proverb.
But the fault with that familiar saying is that it is too short and too
narrow to cover half the variations of the angler's possible experience.
For if his luck should be bad, there is no portion of his anatomy,
from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, that may not be
thoroughly wet. But if it should be good, he may receive an unearned
blessing of abundance not only in his basket, but also in his head and
his heart, his memory and his fancy. He may come home from some obscure,
ill-named, lovely stream--some Dry Brook, or Southwest Branch of
Smith's Run--with a creel full of trout, and a mind full of grateful
recollections of flowers that seemed to bloom for his sake, and birds
that sang a new, sweet, friendly message to his tired soul. He may climb
down to "Tommy's Rock" below the cliffs at Newport (as I have done many
a day with my lady Greygown), and, all unnoticed by the idle, weary
promenaders in the path of fashion, haul in a basketful of blackfish,
and at the same time look out across the shining sapphire waters and
inherit a wondrous good fortune of dreams--

     "Have glimpses that will make him less forlorn;
      Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
      Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn."

But all this, you must remember, depends upon something secret and
incalculable, something that we can neither command nor predict. It is
an affair of gift, not of wages. Fish (and the other good things which
are like sauce to the catching of them) cast no shadow before. Water is
the emblem of instability. No one can tell what he shall draw out of
it until he has taken in his line. Herein are found the true charm and
profit of angling for all persons of a pure and childlike mind.

Look at those two venerable gentlemen floating in a skiff upon the
clear waters of Lake George. One of them is a successful statesman, an
ex-President of the United States, a lawyer versed in all the curious
eccentricities of the "lawless science of the law." The other is a
learned doctor of medicine, able to give a name to all diseases from
which men have imagined that they suffered, and to invent new ones
for those who are tired of vulgar maladies. But all their learning is
forgotten, their cares and controversies are laid aside, in "innocuous
desuetude." The Summer School of Sociology is assembled. The Medical
Congress is in session.

But they care not--no, not so much as the value of a single live bait.
The sun shines upon them with a fervent heat, but it irks them not.
The rain descends, and the winds blow and beat upon them, but they
are unmoved. They are securely anchored here in the lee of Sabbath-Day

What enchantment binds them to that inconsiderable spot? What magic
fixes their eyes upon the point of a fishing-rod, as if it were the
finger of destiny? It is the enchantment of uncertainty: the same
natural magic that draws the little suburban boys in the spring of the
year, with their strings and pin-hooks, around the shallow ponds where
dace and redfins hide; the same irresistible charm that fixes a row of
city gamins, like ragged and disreputable fish-crows, on the end of a
pier where blear-eyed flounders sometimes lurk in the muddy water. Let
the philosopher explain it as he will. Let the moralist reprehend it as
he chooses. There is nothing that attracts human nature more powerfully
than the sport of tempting the unknown with a fishing-line.

Those ancient anglers have set out upon an exodus from the tedious realm
of the definite, the fixed, the must-certainly-come-to-pass. They are on
a holiday in the free country of peradventure. They do not know at this
moment whether the next turn of Fortune's reel will bring up a perch or
a pickerel, a sunfish or a black bass. It may be a hideous catfish or
a squirming eel, or it may be a lake-trout, the grand prize in the Lake
George lottery. There they sit, those gray-haired lads, full of hope,
yet equally prepared for resignation; taking no thought for the morrow,
and ready to make the best of to-day; harmless and happy players at the
best of all games of chance.

"In other words," I hear some severe and sour-complexioned reader say,
"in plain language, they are a pair of old gamblers."

Yes, if it pleases you to call honest men by a bad name. But they
risk nothing that is not their own; and if they lose, they are not
impoverished. They desire nothing that belongs to other men; and if
they win, no one is robbed. If all gambling were like that, it would be
difficult to see the harm in it. Indeed, a daring moralist might even
assert, and prove by argument, that so innocent a delight in the taking
of chances is an aid to virtue.

Do you remember Martin Luther's reasoning on the subject of "excellent
large pike"? He maintains that God would never have created them so good
to the taste, if He had not meant them to be eaten. And for the same
reason I conclude that this world would never have been left so full of
uncertainties, nor human nature framed so as to find a peculiar joy and
exhilaration in meeting them bravely and cheerfully, if it had not been
divinely intended that most of our amusement and much of our education
should come from this source.

"Chance" is a disreputable word, I know. It is supposed by many pious
persons to be improper and almost blasphemous to use it. But I am not
one of those who share this verbal prejudice. I am inclined rather to
believe that it is a good word to which a bad reputation has been
given. I feel grateful to that admirable "psychologist who writes like a
novelist," Mr. William James, for his brilliant defence of it. For what
does it mean, after all, but that some things happen in a certain way
which might have happened in another way? Where is the immorality, the
irreverence, the atheism in such a supposition? Certainly God must be
competent to govern a world in which there are possibilities of various
kinds, just as well as one in which every event is inevitably determined
beforehand. St. Peter and the other fishermen-disciples on the Lake
of Galilee were perfectly free to cast their net on either side of the
ship. So far as they could see, so far as any one could see, it was a
matter of chance where they chose to cast it. But it was not until they
let it down, at the Master's word, on the right side that they had good
luck. And not the least element of their joy in the draft of fishes was
that it brought a change of fortune.

Leave the metaphysics of the question on the table for the present. As
a matter of fact, it is plain that our human nature is adapted to
conditions variable, undetermined, and hidden from our view. We are
not fitted to live in a world where a + b always equals c, and there is
nothing more to follow. The interest of life's equation arrives with the
appearance of x, the unknown quantity. A settled, unchangeable, clearly
foreseeable order of things does not suit our constitution. It tends to
melancholy and a fatty heart. Creatures of habit we are undoubtedly; but
it is one of our most fixed habits to be fond of variety. The man who
is never surprised does not know the taste of happiness, and unless the
unexpected sometimes happens to us, we are most grievously disappointed.

Much of the tediousness of highly civilized life comes from its
smoothness and regularity. To-day is like yesterday, and we think that
we can predict to-morrow. Of course we cannot really do so. The
chances are still there. But we have covered them up so deeply with
the artificialities of life that we lose sight of them. It seems as if
everything in our neat little world were arranged, and provided for,
and reasonably sure to come to pass. The best way of escape from this
TAEDIUM VITAE is through a recreation like angling, not only because it
is so evidently a matter of luck, but also because it tempts us into a
wilder, freer life. It leads almost inevitably to camping out, which is
a wholesome and sanitary imprudence.

It is curious and pleasant, to my apprehension, to observe how many
people in New England, one of whose States is called "the land of Steady
Habits," are sensible of the joy of changing them,--out of doors. These
good folk turn out from their comfortable farm-houses and their snug
suburban cottages to go a-gypsying for a fortnight among the mountains
or beside the sea. You see their white tents gleaming from the
pine-groves around the little lakes, and catch glimpses of their
bathing-clothes drying in the sun on the wiry grass that fringes the
sand-dunes. Happy fugitives from the bondage of routine! They have found
out that a long journey is not necessary to a good vacation. You may
reach the Forest of Arden in a buckboard. The Fortunate Isles are within
sailing distance in a dory. And a voyage on the river Pactolus is open
to any one who can paddle a canoe.

I was talking--or rather listening--with a barber, the other day, in
the sleepy old town of Rivermouth. He told me, in one of those easy
confidences which seem to make the razor run more smoothly, that it had
been the custom of his family, for some twenty years past, to forsake
their commodious dwelling on Anchor Street every summer, and emigrate
six miles, in a wagon to Wallis Sands, where they spent the month of
August very merrily under canvas. Here was a sensible household for
you! They did not feel bound to waste a year's income on a four weeks'
holiday. They were not of those foolish folk who run across the sea,
carefully carrying with them the same tiresome mind that worried them
at home. They got a change of air by making an alteration of life. They
escaped from the land of Egypt by stepping out into the wilderness and
going a-fishing.

The people who always live in houses, and sleep on beds, and walk on
pavements, and buy their food from butchers and bakers and grocers, are
not the most blessed inhabitants of this wide and various earth. The
circumstances of their existence are too mathematical and secure
for perfect contentment. They live at second or third hand. They are
boarders in the world. Everything is done for them by somebody else.

It is almost impossible for anything very interesting to happen to them.
They must get their excitement out of the newspapers, reading of the
hairbreadth escapes and moving accidents that befall people in real
life. What do these tame ducks really know of the adventure of living?
If the weather is bad, they are snugly housed. If it is cold, there is
a furnace in the cellar. If they are hungry, the shops are near at hand.
It is all as dull, flat, stale, and unprofitable as adding up a column
of figures. They might as well be brought up in an incubator.

But when man abides in tents, after the manner of the early patriarchs,
the face of the world is renewed. The vagaries of the clouds become
significant. You watch the sky with a lover's look, eager to know
whether it will smile or frown. When you lie at night upon your bed of
boughs and hear the rain pattering on the canvas close above your head,
you wonder whether it is a long storm or only a shower.

The rising wind shakes the tent-flaps. Are the pegs well driven down and
the cords firmly fastened? You fall asleep again and wake later, to
hear the rain drumming still more loudly on the tight cloth, and the
big breeze snoring through the forest, and the waves plunging along
the beach. A stormy day? Well, you must cut plenty of wood and keep the
camp-fire glowing, for it will be hard to start it up again, if you
let it get too low. There is little use in fishing or hunting in such a
storm. But there is plenty to do in the camp: guns to be cleaned, tackle
to be put in order, clothes to be mended, a good story of adventure to
be read, a belated letter to be written to some poor wretch in a summer
hotel, a game of hearts or cribbage to be played, or a hunting-trip to
be planned for the return of fair weather. The tent is perfectly dry. A
little trench dug around it carries off the surplus water, and luckily
it is pitched with the side to the lake, so that you get the pleasant
heat of the fire without the unendurable smoke. Cooking in the rain has
its disadvantages. But how good the supper tastes when it is served up
on a tin plate, with an empty box for a table and a roll of blankets at
the foot of the bed for a seat!

A day, two days, three days, the storm may continue, according to your
luck. I have been out in the woods for a fortnight without a drop of
rain or a sign of dust. Again, I have tented on the shore of a big lake
for a week, waiting for an obstinate tempest to pass by.

Look now, just at nightfall: is there not a little lifting and breaking
of the clouds in the west, a little shifting of the wind toward a
better quarter? You go to bed with cheerful hopes. A dozen times in the
darkness you are half awake, and listening drowsily to the sounds of the
storm. Are they waxing or waning? Is that louder pattering a new burst
of rain, or is it only the plumping of the big drops as they are shaken
from the trees? See, the dawn has come, and the gray light glimmers
through the canvas. In a little while you will know your fate.

Look! There is a patch of bright yellow radiance on the peak of the
tent. The shadow of a leaf dances over it. The sun must be shining. Good
luck! and up with you, for it is a glorious morning.

The woods are glistening as fresh and fair as if they had been
new-created overnight. The water sparkles, and tiny waves are dancing
and splashing all along the shore. Scarlet berries of the mountain-ash
hang around the lake. A pair of kingfishers dart back and forth across
the bay, in flashes of living blue. A black eagle swings silently around
his circle, far up in the cloudless sky. The air is full of pleasant
sounds, but there is no noise. The world is full of joyful life, but
there is no crowd and no confusion. There is no factory chimney to
darken the day with its smoke, no trolley-car to split the silence with
its shriek and smite the indignant ear with the clanging of its impudent
bell. No lumberman's axe has robbed the encircling forests of their
glory of great trees. No fires have swept over the hills and left behind
them the desolation of a bristly landscape. All is fresh and sweet, calm
and clear and bright.

'Twas rather a rude jest of Nature, that tempest of yesterday. But
if you have taken it in good part, you are all the more ready for her
caressing mood to-day. And now you must be off to get your dinner--not
to order it at a shop, but to look for it in the woods and waters. You
are ready to do your best with rod or gun. You will use all the skill
you have as hunter or fisherman. But what you shall find, and
whether you shall subsist on bacon and biscuit, or feast on trout and
partridges, is, after all, a matter of luck.

I profess that it appears to me not only pleasant, but also salutary, to
be in this condition. It brings us home to the plain realities of life;
it teaches us that a man ought to work before he eats; it reminds us
that, after he has done all he can, he must still rely upon a mysterious
bounty for his daily bread. It says to us, in homely and familiar words,
that life was meant to be uncertain, that no man can tell what a day
will bring forth, and that it is the part of wisdom to be prepared for
disappointments and grateful for all kinds of small mercies.

There is a story in that fragrant book, THE LITTLE FLOWERS OF ST.
FRANCIS, which I wish to transcribe here, without tying a moral to it,
lest any one should accuse me of preaching.

"Hence [says the quaint old chronicler], having assigned to his
companions the other parts of the world, St. Francis, taking Brother
Maximus as his comrade, set forth toward the province of France. And
coming one day to a certain town, and being very hungry, they begged
their bread as they went, according to the rule of their order, for the
love of God. And St. Francis went through one quarter of the town, and
Brother Maximus through another. But forasmuch as St. Francis was a man
mean and low of stature, and hence was reputed a vile beggar by such as
knew him not, he only received a few scanty crusts and mouthfuls of dry
bread. But to Brother Maximus, who was large and well favoured, were
given good pieces and big, and an abundance of bread, yea, whole loaves.
Having thus begged, they met together without the town to eat, at a
place where there was a clear spring and a fair large stone, upon which
each spread forth the gifts that he had received. And St. Francis,
seeing that the pieces of bread begged by Brother Maximus were bigger
and better than his own, rejoiced greatly, saying, 'Oh, Brother Maximus,
we are not worthy of so great a treasure.' As he repeated these words
many times, Brother Maximus made answer: 'Father, how can you talk of
treasures when there is such great poverty and such lack of all things
needful? Here is neither napkin nor knife, neither board nor trencher,
neither house nor table, neither man-servant nor maid-servant.' St.
Francis replied: 'And this is what I reckon a great treasure, where
naught is made ready by human industry, but all that is here is prepared
by Divine Providence, as is plainly set forth in the bread which we have
begged, in the table of fair stone, and in the spring of clear water.
And therefore I would that we should pray to God that He teach us with
all our hearts to love the treasure of holy poverty, which is so noble a
thing, and whose servant is God the Lord.'"

I know of but one fairer description of a repast in the open air; and
that is where we are told how certain poor fishermen, coming in very
weary after a night of toil (and one of them very wet after swimming
ashore), found their Master standing on the bank of the lake waiting for
them. But it seems that he must have been busy in their behalf while he
was waiting; for there was a bright fire of coals burning on the shore,
and a goodly fish broiling thereon, and bread to eat with it. And when
the Master had asked them about their fishing, he said, "Come, now, and
get your breakfast." So they sat down around the fire, and with his own
hands he served them with the bread and the fish.

Of all the banquets that have ever been given upon earth, that is the
one in which I would rather have had a share.

But it is now time that we should return to our fishing. And let
us observe with gratitude that almost all of the pleasures that are
connected with this pursuit--its accompaniments and variations, which
run along with the tune and weave an embroidery of delight around
it--have an accidental and gratuitous quality about them. They are not
to be counted upon beforehand. They are like something that is thrown
into a purchase by a generous and open-handed dealer, to make us pleased
with our bargain and inclined to come back to the same shop.

If I knew, for example, before setting out for a day on the brook,
precisely what birds I should see, and what pretty little scenes in the
drama of woodland life were to be enacted before my eyes, the expedition
would lose more than half its charm. But, in fact, it is almost entirely
a matter of luck, and that is why it never grows tiresome.

The ornithologist knows pretty well where to look for the birds, and
he goes directly to the places where he can find them, and proceeds to
study them intelligently and systematically. But the angler who idles
down the stream takes them as they come, and all his observations have a
flavour of surprise in them.

He hears a familiar song,--one that he has often heard at a distance,
but never identified,--a loud, cheery, rustic cadence sounding from
a low pine-tree close beside him. He looks up carefully through the
needles and discovers a hooded warbler, a tiny, restless creature,
dressed in green and yellow, with two white feathers in its tail, like
the ends of a sash, and a glossy little black bonnet drawn closely about
its golden head. He will never forget that song again. It will make the
woods seem homelike to him, many a time, as he hears it ringing
through the afternoon, like the call of a small country girl playing at
hide-and-seek: "See ME; here I BE."

Another day he sits down on a mossy log beside a cold, trickling spring
to eat his lunch. It has been a barren day for birds. Perhaps he has
fallen into the fault of pursuing his sport too intensely, and tramped
along the stream looking for nothing but fish. Perhaps this part of the
grove has really been deserted by its feathered inhabitants, scared
away by a prowling hawk or driven out by nest-hunters. But now, without
notice, the luck changes. A surprise-party of redstarts breaks into full
play around him. All through the dark-green shadow of the hemlocks
they flash like little candles--CANDELITAS, the Cubans call them. Their
brilliant markings of orange and black, and their fluttering, airy,
graceful movements, make them most welcome visitors. There is no bird in
the bush easier to recognize or pleasanter to watch. They run along
the branches and dart and tumble through the air in fearless chase of
invisible flies and moths. All the time they keep unfolding and furling
their rounded tails, spreading them out and waving them and closing
them suddenly, just as the Cuban girls manage their fans. In fact, the
redstarts are the tiny fantail pigeons of the forest.

There are other things about the birds, besides their musical talents
and their good looks, that the fisherman has a chance to observe on his
lucky days. He may sea something of their courage and their devotion to
their young.

I suppose a bird is the bravest creature that lives, in spite of its
natural timidity. From which we may learn that true courage is not
incompatible with nervousness, and that heroism does not mean the
absence of fear, but the conquest of it. Who does not remember the first
time that he ever came upon a hen-partridge with her brood, as he was
strolling through the woods in June? How splendidly the old bird forgets
herself in her efforts to defend and hide her young!

Smaller birds are no less daring. One evening last summer I was walking
up the Ristigouche from Camp Harmony to fish for salmon at Mowett's
Rock, where my canoe was waiting for me. As I stepped out from a thicket
on to the shingly bank of the river, a spotted sandpiper teetered along
before me, followed by three young ones. Frightened at first, the mother
flew out a few feet over the water. But the piperlings could not fly,
having no feathers; and they crept under a crooked log. I rolled the log
over very gently and took one of the cowering creatures into my hand--a
tiny, palpitating scrap of life, covered with soft gray down, and
peeping shrilly, like a Liliputian chicken. And now the mother was
transformed. Her fear was changed into fury. She was a bully, a fighter,
an Amazon in feathers. She flew at me with loud cries, dashing herself
almost into my face. I was a tyrant, a robber, a kidnapper, and she
called heaven to witness that she would never give up her offspring
without a struggle. Then she changed her tactics and appealed to my
baser passions. She fell to the ground and fluttered around me as if her
wing were broken. "Look!" she seemed to say, "I am bigger than that poor
little baby. If you must eat something, eat me! My wing is lame. I can't
fly. You can easily catch me. Let that little bird go!" And so I
did; and the whole family disappeared in the bushes as if by magic. I
wondered whether the mother was saying to herself, after the manner of
her sex, that men are stupid things, after all, and no match for the
cleverness of a female who stoops to deception in a righteous cause.

Now, that trivial experience was what I call a piece of good luck--for
me, and, in the event, for the sandpiper. But it is doubtful whether it
would be quite so fresh and pleasant in the remembrance, if it had not
also fallen to my lot to take two uncommonly good salmon on that same
evening, in a dry season.

Never believe a fisherman when he tells you that he does not care about
the fish he catches. He may say that he angles only for the pleasure of
being out-of-doors, and that he is just as well contented when he takes
nothing as when he makes a good catch. He may think so, but it is not
true. He is not telling a deliberate falsehood. He is only assuming an
unconscious pose, and indulging in a delicate bit of self-flattery. Even
if it were true, it would not be at all to his credit.

Watch him on that lucky day when he comes home with a full basket of
trout on his shoulder, or a quartette of silver salmon covered with
green branches in the bottom of the canoe. His face is broader than it
was when he went out, and there is a sparkle of triumph in his eye.
"It is naught, it is naught," he says, in modest depreciation of his
triumph. But you shall see that he lingers fondly about the place
where the fish are displayed upon the grass, and does not fail to look
carefully at the scales when they are weighed, and has an attentive ear
for the comments of admiring spectators. You shall find, moreover, that
he is not unwilling to narrate the story of the capture--how the big
fish rose short, four times, to four different flies, and finally took a
small Black Dose, and played all over the pool, and ran down a terribly
stiff rapid to the next pool below, and sulked for twenty minutes, and
had to be stirred up with stones, and made such a long fight that, when
he came in at last, the hold of the hook was almost worn through, and it
fell out of his mouth as he touched the shore. Listen to this tale as
it is told, with endless variations, by every man who has brought home
a fine fish, and you will perceive that the fisherman does care for his
luck, after all.

And why not? I am no friend to the people who receive the bounties of
Providence without visible gratitude. When the sixpence falls into your
hat, you may laugh. When the messenger of an unexpected blessing takes
you by the hand and lifts you up and bids you walk, you may leap and run
and sing for joy, even as the lame man, whom St. Peter healed, skipped
piously and rejoiced aloud as he passed through the Beautiful Gate of
the Temple. There is no virtue in solemn indifference. Joy is just as
much a duty as beneficence is. Thankfulness is the other side of mercy.

When you have good luck in anything, you ought to be glad. Indeed, if
you are not glad, you are not really lucky.

But boasting and self-glorification I would have excluded, and most
of all from the behaviour of the angler. He, more than other men, is
dependent for his success upon the favour of an unseen benefactor. Let
his skill and industry be never so great, he can do nothing unless LA
BONNE CHANCE comes to him.

I was once fishing on a fair little river, the P'tit Saguenay, with two
excellent anglers and pleasant companions, H. E. G---- and C. S. D----.
They had done all that was humanly possible to secure good sport. The
stream had been well preserved. They had boxes full of beautiful flies,
and casting-lines imported from England, and a rod for every fish in the
river. But the weather was "dour," and the water "drumly," and every day
the lumbermen sent a "drive" of ten thousand spruce logs rushing down
the flooded stream. For three days we had not seen a salmon, and on the
fourth, despairing, we went down to angle for sea-trout in the tide of
the greater Saguenay. There, in the salt water, where men say the salmon
never take the fly, H. E. G----, fishing with a small trout-rod, a poor,
short line, and an ancient red ibis of the common kind, rose and hooked
a lordly salmon of at least five-and-thirty pounds. Was not this pure

Pride is surely the most unbecoming of all vices in a fisherman. For
though intelligence and practice and patience and genius, and many
other noble things which modesty forbids him to mention, enter into his
pastime, so that it is, as Izaak Walton has firmly maintained, an art;
yet, because fortune still plays a controlling hand in the game, its net
results should never be spoken of with a haughty and vain spirit. Let
not the angler imitate Timoleon, who boasted of his luck and lost it. It
is tempting Providence to print the record of your wonderful catches in
the sporting newspapers; or at least, if it must be done, there should
stand at the head of the column some humble, thankful motto, like "NON
NOBIS, DOMINE." Even Father Izaak, when he has a fish on his line, says,
with a due sense of human limitations, "There is a trout now, and a good
one too, IF I CAN BUT HOLD HIM!"

This reminds me that we left H. E. G----, a few sentences back, playing
his unexpected salmon, on a trout-rod, in the Saguenay. Four times that
great fish leaped into the air; twice he suffered the pliant reed to
guide him toward the shore, and twice ran out again to deeper water.
Then his spirit awoke within him: he bent the rod like a willow wand,
dashed toward the middle of the river, broke the line as if it had been
pack-thread, and sailed triumphantly away to join the white porpoises
that were tumbling in the tide. "WHE-E-EW," they said, "WHE-E-EW!
PSHA-A-AW!" blowing out their breath in long, soft sighs as they rolled
about like huge snowballs in the black water. But what did H. E. G----
say? He sat him quietly down upon a rock and reeled in the remnant
of his line, uttering these remarkable and Christian words: "Those
porpoises," said he, "describe the situation rather mildly. But it was
good fun while it lasted."

Again I remembered a saying of Walton: "Well, Scholar, you must endure
worse luck sometimes, or you will never make a good angler."

Or a good man, either, I am sure. For he who knows only how to enjoy,
and not to endure, is ill-fitted to go down the stream of life through
such a world as this.

I would not have you to suppose, gentle reader, that in discoursing of
fisherman's luck I have in mind only those things which may be taken
with a hook. It is a parable of human experience. I have been thinking,
for instance, of Walton's life as well as of his angling: of the losses
and sufferings that he, the firm Royalist, endured when the Commonwealth
men came marching into London town; of the consoling days that were
granted to him, in troublous times, on the banks of the Lea and the Dove
and the New River, and the good friends that he made there, with whom
he took sweet counsel in adversity; of the little children who played
in his house for a few years, and then were called away into the silent
land where he could hear their voices no longer. I was thinking how
quietly and peaceably he lived through it all, not complaining nor
desponding, but trying to do his work well, whether he was keeping a
shop or writing hooks, and seeking to prove himself an honest man and
a cheerful companion, and never scorning to take with a thankful heart
such small comforts and recreations as came to him.

It is a plain, homely, old-fashioned meditation, reader, but not
unprofitable. When I talk to you of fisherman's luck, I do not forget
that there are deeper things behind it. I remember that what we call our
fortunes, good or ill, are but the wise dealings and distributions of a
Wisdom higher, and a Kindness greater, than our own. And I suppose that
their meaning is that we should learn, by all the uncertainties of our
life, even the smallest, how to be brave and steady and temperate and
hopeful, whatever comes, because we believe that behind it all there
lies a purpose of good, and over it all there watches a providence of

In the school of life many branches of knowledge are taught. But the
only philosophy that amounts to anything, after all, is just the secret
of making friends with our luck.


     "In angling, as in all other recreations into which
     excitement enters, we have to be on our guard, so that we
     can at any moment throw a weight of self-control into the
     scale against misfortune; and happily we can study to some
     purpose, both to increase our pleasure in success and to
     lessen our distress caused by what goes ill.  It is not only
     in cases of great disasters, however, that the angler needs
     self-control.  He is perpetually called upon to use it to
     withstand small exasperations."

     --SIR EDWARD GREY: Fly-Fishing.

Every moment of life, I suppose, is more or less of a turning-point.
Opportunities are swarming around us all the time, thicker than gnats
at sundown. We walk through a cloud of chances, and if we were always
conscious of them they would worry us almost to death.

But happily our sense of uncertainty is soothed and cushioned by habit,
so that we can live comfortably with it. Only now and then, by way of
special excitement, it starts up wide awake. We perceive how delicately
our fortune is poised and balanced on the pivot of a single incident. We
get a peep at the oscillating needle, and, because we have happened to
see it tremble, we call our experience a crisis.

The meditative angler is not exempt from these sensational periods.
There are times when all the uncertainty of his chosen pursuit seems
to condense itself into one big chance, and stand out before him like
a salmon on the top wave of a rapid. He sees that his luck hangs by a
single strand, and he cannot tell whether it will hold or break. This is
his thrilling moment, and he never forgets it.

Mine came to me in the autumn of 1894, on the banks of the
Unpronounceable River, in the Province of Quebec. It was the last day,
of the open season for ouananiche, and we had set our hearts on catching
some good fish to take home with us. We walked up from the mouth of
the river, four preposterously long and rough miles, to the famous
fishing-pool, "LA PLACE DE PECHE A BOIVIN." It was a noble day for
walking; the air was clear and crisp, and all the hills around us
were glowing with the crimson foliage of those little bushes which
God created to make burned lands look beautiful. The trail ended in
a precipitous gully, down which we scrambled with high hopes, and
fishing-rods unbroken, only to find that the river was in a condition
which made angling absurd if not impossible.

There must have been a cloud-burst among the mountains, for the water
was coming down in flood. The stream was bank-full, gurgling and eddying
out among the bushes, and rushing over the shoal where the fish used to
lie, in a brown torrent ten feet deep. Our last day with the land-locked
salmon seemed destined to be a failure, and we must wait eight
months before we could have another. There were three of us in the
disappointment, and we shared it according to our temperaments.

Paul virtuously resolved not to give up while there was a chance left,
and wandered down-stream to look for an eddy where he might pick up a
small fish. Ferdinand, our guide, resigned himself without a sigh to
the consolation of eating blueberries, which he always did with great
cheerfulness. But I, being more cast down than either of my comrades,
sought out a convenient seat among the rocks, and, adapting my anatomy
as well as possible to the irregularities of nature's upholstery, pulled
from my pocket AN AMATEUR ANGLER'S DAYS IN DOVE DALE, and settled down
to read myself into a Christian frame of mind.

Before beginning, my eyes roved sadly over the pool once more. It
was but a casual glance. It lasted only for an instant. But in that
fortunate fragment of time I distinctly saw the broad tail of a big
ouananiche rise and disappear in the swift water at the very head of the

Immediately the whole aspect of affairs was changed. Despondency
vanished, and the river glittered with the beams of rising hope.

Such is the absurd disposition of some anglers. They never see a fish
without believing that they can catch him; but if they see no fish, they
are inclined to think that the river is empty and the world hollow.

I said nothing to my companions. It would have been unkind to disturb
them with expectations which might never be realized. My immediate duty
was to get within casting distance of that salmon as soon as possible.

The way along the shore of the pool was difficult. The bank was very
steep, and the rocks by the river's edge were broken and glibbery.
Presently I came to a sheer wall of stone, perhaps thirty feet high,
rising directly from the deep water.

There was a tiny ledge or crevice running part of the way across the
face of this wall, and by this four-inch path I edged along, holding
my rod in one hand, and clinging affectionately with the other to such
clumps of grass and little bushes as I could find. There was one
small huckleberry plant to which I had a particular attachment. It was
fortunately a firm little bush, and as I held fast to it I remembered
Tennyson's poem which begins

     "Flower in the crannied wall,"

and reflected that if I should succeed in plucking out this flower,
"root and all," it would probably result in an even greater increase of
knowledge than the poet contemplated.

The ledge in the rock now came to an end. But below me in the pool there
was a sunken reef; and on this reef a long log had caught, with one
end sticking out of the water, within jumping distance. It was the only
chance. To go back would have been dangerous. An angler with a large
family dependent upon him for support has no right to incur unnecessary

Besides, the fish was waiting for me at the upper end of the pool!

So I jumped; landed on the end of the log; felt it settle slowly down;
ran along it like a small boy on a seesaw, and leaped off into shallow
water just as the log rolled from the ledge and lunged out into the

It went wallowing through the pool and down the rapid like a playful
hippopotamus. I watched it with interest and congratulated myself that
I was no longer embarked upon it. On that craft a voyage down the
Unpronounceable River would have been short but far from merry. The "all
ashore" bell was not rung early enough. I just got off, with not half a
second to spare.

But now all was well, for I was within reach of the fish. A little
scrambling over the rocks brought me to a point where I could easily
cast over him. He was lying in a swift, smooth, narrow channel between
two large stones. It was a snug resting-place, and no doubt he would
remain there for some time. So I took out my fly-book and prepared to
angle for him according to the approved rules of the art.

Nothing is more foolish in sport than the habit of precipitation.
And yet it is a fault to which I am singularly subject. As a boy, in
Brooklyn, I never came in sight of the Capitoline Skating Pond, after a
long ride in the horse-cars, without breaking into a run along the board
walk, buckling on my skates in a furious hurry, and flinging myself
impetuously upon the ice, as if I feared that it would melt away before
I could reach it. Now this, I confess, is a grievous defect, which
advancing years have not entirely cured; and I found it necessary to
take myself firmly, as it were, by the mental coat-collar, and
resolve not to spoil the chance of catching the only ouananiche in the
Unpronounceable River by undue haste in fishing for him.

I carefully tested a brand-new leader, and attached it to the line with
great deliberation and the proper knot. Then I gave my whole mind to the
important question of a wise selection of flies.

It is astonishing how much time and mental anxiety a man can spend on
an apparently simple question like this. When you are buying flies in a
shop it seems as if you never had half enough. You keep on picking out
a half-dozen of each new variety as fast as the enticing salesman shows
them to you. You stroll through the streets of Montreal or Quebec and
drop in at every fishing-tackle dealer's to see whether you can find a
few more good flies. Then, when you come to look over your collection at
the critical moment on the bank of a stream, it seems as if you had ten
times too many. And, spite of all, the precise fly that you need is not

You select a couple that you think fairly good, lay them down beside you
in the grass, and go on looking through the book for something better.
Failing to satisfy yourself, you turn to pick up those that you have
laid out, and find that they have mysteriously vanished from the face of
the earth.

Then you struggle with naughty words and relapse into a condition of
mental palsy.

Precipitation is a fault. But deliberation, for a person of precipitate
disposition, is a vice.

The best thing to do in such a case is to adopt some abstract theory of
action without delay, and put it into practice without hesitation. Then
if you fail, you can throw the responsibility on the theory.

Now, in regard to flies there are two theories. The old, conservative
theory is, that on a bright day you should use a dark, dull fly, because
it is less conspicuous. So I followed that theory first and put on a
Great Dun and a Dark Montreal. I cast them delicately over the fish, but
he would not look at them.

Then I perverted myself to the new, radical theory which says that on a
bright day you must use a light, gay fly, because it is more in harmony
with the sky, and therefore less noticeable. Accordingly I put on a
Professor and a Parmacheene Belle; but this combination of learning and
beauty had no attraction for the ouananiche.

Then I fell back on a theory of my own, to the effect that the
ouananiche have an aversion to red, and prefer yellow and brown. So I
tried various combinations of flies in which these colours predominated.

Then I abandoned all theories and went straight through my book, trying
something from every page, and winding up with that lure which the
guides consider infallible,--"a Jock o' Scott that cost fifty cents at
Quebec." But it was all in vain. I was ready to despair.

At this psychological moment I heard behind me a voice of hope,--the
song of a grasshopper: not one of those fat-legged, green-winged
imbeciles that feebly tumble in the summer fields, but a game
grasshopper,--one of those thin-shanked, brown-winged fellows that leap
like kangaroos, and fly like birds, and sing KRI-KAREE-KAREE-KRI in
their flight.

It is not really a song, I know, but it sounds like one; and, if you had
heard that Kri-karee carolling as I chased him over the rocks, you would
have been sure that he was mocking me.

I believed that he was the predestined lure for that ouananiche; but it
was hard to persuade him to fulfill his destiny. I slapped at him
with my hat, but he was not there. I grasped at him on the bushes, and
brought away "nothing but leaves." At last he made his way to the very
edge of the water and poised himself on a stone, with his legs well
tucked in for a long leap and a bold flight to the other side of the
river. It was my final opportunity. I made a desperate grab at it and
caught the grasshopper.

My premonition proved to be correct. When that Kri-karee, invisibly
attached to my line, went floating down the stream, the ouananiche was
surprised. It was the fourteenth of September, and he had supposed the
grasshopper season was over. The unexpected temptation was too strong
for him. He rose with a rush, and in an instant I was fast to the best
land-locked salmon of the year.

But the situation was not without its embarrassments. My rod weighed
only four and a quarter ounces; the fish weighed between six and seven
pounds. The water was furious and headstrong. I had only thirty yards of
line and no landing-net.


I thought it must be an hour while he was making his way over the hill,
through the underbrush, around the cliff. Again and again the fish ran
out my line almost to the last turn. A dozen times he leaped from the
water, shaking his silvery sides. Twice he tried to cut the leader
across a sunken ledge. But at last he was played out, and came in
quietly towards the point of the rock. At the same moment Ferdinand
appeared with the net.

Now, the use of the net is really the most difficult part of angling.
And Ferdinand is the best netsman in the Lake St. John country. He never
makes the mistake of trying to scoop a fish in motion. He does not grope
around with aimless, futile strokes as if he were feeling for something
in the dark. He does not entangle the dropper-fly in the net and tear
the tail-fly out of the fish's mouth. He does not get excited.

He quietly sinks the net in the water, and waits until he can see the
fish distinctly, lying perfectly still and within reach. Then he makes a
swift movement, like that of a mower swinging the scythe, takes the fish
into the net head-first, and lands him without a slip.

I felt sure that Ferdinand was going to do the trick in precisely this
way with my ouananiche. Just at the right instant he made one quick,
steady swing of the arms, and--the head of the net broke clean off the
handle and went floating away with the fish in it!

All seemed to be lost. But Ferdinand was equal to the occasion. He
seized a long, crooked stick that lay in a pile of driftwood on the
shore, sprang into the water up to his waist, caught the net as it
drifted past, and dragged it to land, with the ultimate ouananiche, the
prize of the season, still glittering through its meshes.

This is the story of my most thrilling moment as an angler.

But which was the moment of the deepest thrill?

Was it when the huckleberry bush saved me from a watery grave, or when
the log rolled under my feet and started down the river? Was it when the
fish rose, or when the net broke, or when the long stick captured it?

No, it was none of these. It was when the Kri-karee sat with his legs
tucked under him on the brink of the stream. That was the turning-point.
The fortunes of the day depended on the comparative quickness of the
reflex action of his neural ganglia and mine. That was the thrilling

I see it now. A crisis is really the commonest thing in the world. The
reason why life sometimes seems dull to us is because we do not perceive
the importance and the excitement of getting bait.



     "He praises a meditative life, and with evident sincerity:
     but we feel that he liked nothing so well as good talk."



The inventor of the familiar maxim that "fishermen must not talk" is
lost in the mists of antiquity, and well deserves his fate. For a more
foolish rule, a conventionality more obscure and aimless in its tyranny,
was never imposed upon an innocent and honourable occupation, to
diminish its pleasure and discount its profits. Why, in the name of all
that is genial, should anglers go about their harmless sport in stealthy
silence like conspirators, or sit together in a boat, dumb, glum, and
penitential, like naughty schoolboys on the bench of disgrace? 'Tis
an Omorcan superstition; a rule without a reason; a venerable, idiotic
fashion invented to repress lively spirits and put a premium on

For my part, I incline rather to the opinion of the Neapolitan fishermen
who maintain that a certain amount of noise, of certain kinds, is likely
to improve the fishing, and who have a particular song, very sweet
and charming, which they sing to draw the fishes around them. It is
narrated, likewise, of the good St. Brandan, that on his notable voyage
from Ireland in search of Paradise, he chanted the service for St.
Peter's day so pleasantly that a subaqueous audience of all sorts and
sizes was attracted, insomuch that the other monks began to be afraid,
and begged the abbot that he would sing a little lower, for they were
not quite sure of the intention of the congregation. Of St. Anthony of
Padua it is said that he even succeeded in persuading the fishes, in
great multitudes, to listen to a sermon; and that when it was ended
(it must be noted that it was both short and cheerful) they bowed their
heads and moved their bodies up and down with every mark of fondness and
approval of what the holy father had spoken.

If we can believe this, surely we need not be incredulous of things
which seem to be no less, but rather more, in harmony with the course
of nature. Creatures who are sensible to the attractions of a sermon can
hardly be indifferent to the charm of other kinds of discourse. I can
easily imagine a company of grayling wishing to overhear a conversation
between I. W. and his affectionate (but somewhat prodigal) son and
servant, Charles Cotton; and surely every intelligent salmon in Scotland
might have been glad to hear Christopher North and the Ettrick
Shepherd bandy jests and swap stories. As for trout,--was there one in
Massachusetts that would not have been curious to listen to the
intimate opinions of Daniel Webster as he loafed along the banks of
the Marshpee,--or is there one in Pennsylvania to-day that might not be
drawn with interest and delight to the feet of Joseph Jefferson,
telling how he conceived and wrote RIP VAN WINKLE on the banks of a

Fishermen must be silent? On the contrary, it is far more likely that
good talk may promote good fishing.

All this, however, goes upon the assumption that fish can hear, in
the proper sense of the word. And this, it must be confessed, is an
assumption not yet fully verified. Experienced anglers and students of
fishy ways are divided upon the question. It is beyond a doubt that all
fishes, except the very lowest forms, have ears. But then so have all
men; and yet we have the best authority for believing that there are
many who "having ears, hear not."

The ears of fishes, for the most part, are inclosed in their skull, and
have no outward opening. Water conveys sound, as every country boy
knows who has tried the experiment of diving to the bottom of the
swimming-hole and knocking two big stones together. But I doubt whether
any country boy, engaged in this interesting scientific experiment, has
heard the conversation of his friends on the bank who were engaged in
hiding his clothes.

There are many curious and more or less venerable stories to the effect
that fishes may be trained to assemble at the ringing of a bell or the
beating of a drum. Lucian, a writer of the second century, tells of a
certain lake wherein many sacred fishes were kept, of which the largest
had names given to them, and came when they were called. But Lucian
was not a man of especially good reputation, and there is an air of
improbability about his statement that the LARGEST fishes came. This is
not the custom of the largest fishes.

In the present century there was a tale of an eel in a garden-well, in
Scotland, which would come to be fed out of a spoon when the children
called him by his singularly inappropriate name of Rob Roy. This seems
a more likely story than Lucian's; at all events it comes from a more
orthodox atmosphere. But before giving it full credence, I should like
to know whether the children, when they called "Rob Roy!" stood where
the eel could see the spoon.

On the other side of the question, we may quote Mr. Ronalds, also a
Scotchman, and the learned author of THE FLY-FISHER'S ENTOMOLOGY, who
conducted a series of experiments which proved that even trout, the most
fugacious of fish, are not in the least disturbed by the discharge of a
gun, provided the flash is concealed. Mr. Henry P. Wells, the author of
THE AMERICAN SALMON ANGLER, says that he has "never been able to make a
sound in the air which seemed to produce the slightest effect upon trout
in the water."

So the controversy on the hearing of fishes continues, and the
conclusion remains open. Every man is at liberty to embrace that side
which pleases him best. You may think that the finny tribes are as
sensitive to sound as Fine Ear, in the German fairy-tale, who could hear
the grass grow. Or you may hold the opposite opinion, that they are

     "Deafer than the blue-eyed cat."

But whichever theory you adopt, in practice, if you are a wise
fisherman, you will steer a middle course, between one thing which must
be left undone and another thing which should be done. You will refrain
from stamping on the bank, or knocking on the side of the boat, or
dragging the anchor among the stones on the bottom; for when the water
vibrates the fish are likely to vanish. But you will indulge as freely
as you please in pleasant discourse with your comrade; for it is certain
that fishing is never hindered, and may even be helped, in one way or
another, by good talk.

I should therefore have no hesitation in advising any one to choose, for
companionship on an angling expedition, long or short, a person who has
the rare merit of being TALKABLE.


"Talkable" is not a new adjective. But it needs a new definition, and
the complement of a corresponding noun. I would fain set down on paper
some observations and reflections which may serve to make its meaning
clear, and render due praise to that most excellent quality in man
or woman,--especially in anglers,--the small but useful virtue of

Robert Louis Stevenson uses the word "talkable" in one of his essays
to denote a certain distinction among the possible subjects of human
speech. There are some things, he says in effect, about which you can
really talk; and there are other things about which you cannot properly
talk at all, but only dispute, or harangue, or prose, or moralize, or

After mature consideration I have arrived at the opinion that this
distinction among the themes of speech is an illusion. It does not
exist. All subjects, "the foolish things of the world, and the weak
things of the world, and base things of the world, yea, and things that
are not," may provide matter for good talk, if only the right people are
engaged in the enterprise. I know a man who can make a description of
the weather as entertaining as a tune on the violin; and even on the
threadbare theme of the waywardness of domestic servants, I have heard a
discreet woman play the most diverting and instructive variations.

No, the quality of talkability does not mark a distinction among things;
it denotes a difference among people. It is not an attribute unequally
distributed among material objects and abstract ideas. It is a virtue
which belongs to the mind and moral character of certain persons. It
is a reciprocal human quality; active as well as passive; a power of
bestowing and receiving.

An amiable person is one who has a capacity for loving and being loved.
An affable person is one who is ready to speak and to be spoken to,--as,
for example, Milton's "affable archangel" Raphael; though it must be
confessed that he laid the chief emphasis on the active side of his
affability. A "clubable" person (to use a word which Dr. Samuel Johnson
invented but did not put into his dictionary) is one who is fit for the
familiar give and take of club-life. A talkable person, therefore, is
one whose nature and disposition invite the easy interchange of thoughts
and feelings, one in whose company it is a pleasure to talk or to be
talked to.

Now this good quality of talkability is to be distinguished, very
strictly and inflexibly, from the bad quality which imitates it and
often brings it into discredit. I mean the vice of talkativeness. That
is a selfish, one-sided, inharmonious affair, full of discomfort, and
productive of most unchristian feelings.

You may observe the operations of this vice not only in human beings,
but also in birds. All the birds in the bush can make some kind of a
noise; and most of them like to do it; and some of them like it a great
deal and do it very much. But it is not always for edification, nor are
the most vociferous and garrulous birds commonly the most pleasing. A
parrot, for instance, in your neighbour's back yard, in the summer time,
when the windows are open, is not an aid to the development of Christian
character. I knew a man who had to stay in the city all summer, and in
the autumn was asked to describe the character and social standing of
a new family that had moved into his neighbourhood. Were they "nice
people," well-bred, intelligent, respectable? "Well," said he, "I don't
know what your standards are, and would prefer not to say anything
libellous; but I'll tell you in a word,--they are the kind of people
that keep a parrot."

Then there is the English Sparrow! What an insufferable chatterbox,
what an incurable scold, what a voluble and tiresome blackguard is this
little feathered cockney. There is not a sweet or pleasant word in all
his vocabulary.

I am convinced that he talks altogether of scandals and fights and

The kingdom of ornithology is divided into two departments,--real birds
and English sparrows. English sparrows are not real birds; they are
little beasts.

There was a church in Brooklyn which was once covered with a great and
spreading vine, in which the sparrows built innumerable nests. These
ungodly little birds kept up such a din that it was impossible to hear
the service of the sanctuary. The faithful clergy strained their voices
to the verge of ministerial sore throat, but the people had no peace in
their devotions until the vine was cut down, and the Anglican intruders
were evicted.

A talkative person is like an English sparrow,--a bird that cannot
sing, and will sing, and ought to be persuaded not to try to sing. But
a talkable person has the gift that belongs to the wood thrush and
the veery and the wren, the oriole and the white-throat and the
rose-breasted grosbeak, the mockingbird and the robin (sometimes); and
the brown thrush; yes, the brown thrush has it to perfection, if you can
catch him alone,--the gift of being interesting, charming, delightful,
in the most off-hand and various modes of utterance.

Talkability is not at all the same thing as eloquence. The eloquent man
surprises, overwhelms, and sometimes paralyzes us by the display of his
power. Great orators are seldom good talkers. Oratory in exercise is
masterful and jealous, and intolerant of all interruptions. Oratory in
preparation is silent, self-centred, uncommunicative. The painful
truth of this remark may be seen in the row of countenances along the
president's table at a public banquet about nine o'clock in the evening.
The bicycle-face seems unconstrained and merry by comparison with
the after-dinner-speech-face. The flow of table-talk is corked by the
anxious conception of post-prandial oratory.

Thackeray, in one of his ROUNDABOUT PAPERS, speaks of "the sin
of tall-talking," which, he says, "is the sin of schoolmasters,
governesses, critics, sermoners, and instructors of young or old
people." But this is not in accord with my observation. I should say it
was rather the sin of dilettanti who are ambitious of that high-stepping
accomplishment which is called "conversational ability."

This has usually, to my mind, something set and artificial about it,
although in its most perfect form the art almost succeeds in concealing
itself. But, at all events, ''conversation'' is talk in evening dress,
with perhaps a little powder and a touch of rouge. 'T is like one of
those wise virgins who are said to look their best by lamplight. And
doubtless this is an excellent thing, and not without its advantages.
But for my part, commend me to one who loses nothing by the early
morning illumination,--one who brings all her attractions with her when
she comes down to breakfast,--she is a very pleasant maid.

Talk is that form of human speech which is exempt from all duties,
foreign and domestic. It is the nearest thing in the world to thinking
and feeling aloud. It is necessarily not for publication,--solely an
evidence of good faith and mutual kindness. You tell me what you have
seen and what you are thinking about, because you take it for granted
that it will interest and entertain me; and you listen to my replies and
the recital of my adventures and opinions, because you know I like
to tell them, and because you find something in them, of one kind or
another, that you care to hear. It is a nice game, with easy, simple
rules, and endless possibilities of variation. And if we go into it
with the right spirit, and play it for love, without heavy stakes, the
chances are that if we happen to be fairly talkable people we shall have
one of the best things in the world,--a mighty good talk.

What is there in this anxious, hide-bound, tiresome existence of ours,
more restful and remunerative? Montaigne says, "The use of it is more
sweet than of any other action of life; and for that reason it is that,
if I were compelled to choose, I should sooner, I think, consent to lose
my sight than my hearing and speech." The very aimlessness with which
it proceeds, the serene disregard of all considerations of profit and
propriety with which it follows its wandering course, and brings up
anywhere or nowhere, to camp for the night, is one of its attractions.
It is like a day's fishing, not valuable chiefly for the fish you bring
home, but for the pleasant country through which it leads you, and the
state of personal well-being and health in which it leaves you, warmed,
and cheered, and content with life and friendship.

The order in which you set out upon a talk, the path which you pursue,
the rules which you observe or disregard, make but little difference
in the end. You may follow the advice of Immanuel Kant if you like, and
begin with the weather and the roads, and go on to current events, and
wind up with history, art, and philosophy. Or you may reverse the order
if you prefer, like that admirable talker Clarence King, who usually set
sail on some highly abstract paradox, such as "Civilization is a nervous
disease," and landed in a tale of adventure in Mexico or the Rocky
Mountains. Or you may follow the example of Edward Eggleston, who
started in at the middle and worked out at either end, and sometimes at
both. It makes no difference. If the thing is in you at all, you will
find good matter for talk anywhere along the route. Hear what Montaigne
says again: "In our discourse all subjects are alike to me; let there
be neither weight nor depth, 't is all one; there is yet grace and
pertinence; all there is tented with a mature and constant judgment, and
mixed with goodness, freedom, gayety, and friendship."

How close to the mark the old essayist sends his arrow! He is right
about the essential qualities of good talk. They are not merely
intellectual. They are moral. Goodness of heart, freedom of spirit,
gayety of temper, and friendliness of disposition,--these are four fine
things, and doubtless as acceptable to God as they are agreeable to men.
The talkability which springs out of these qualities has its roots in a
good soil. On such a plant one need not look for the poison berries of
malign discourse, nor for the Dead Sea apples of frivolous mockery.
But fair fruit will be there, pleasant to the sight and good for food,
brought forth abundantly according to the season.


Montaigne has given as our text, "Goodness, freedom, gayety, and
friendship,"--these are the conditions which produce talkability. And
on this fourfold theme we may embroider a few variations, by way of
exposition and enlargement.

GOODNESS is the first thing and the most needful. An ugly, envious,
irritable disposition is not fitted for talk. The occasions for offence
are too numerous, and the way into strife is too short and easy. A
touch of good-natured combativeness, a fondness for brisk argument, a
readiness to try a friendly bout with any comer, on any ground, is a
decided advantage in a talker. It breaks up the offensive monotony of
polite concurrence, and makes things lively. But quarrelsomeness is
quite another affair, and very fatal.

I am always a little uneasy in a discourse with the Reverend Bellicosus
Macduff. It is like playing golf on links liable to earthquakes. One
never knows when the landscape will be thrown into convulsions. Macduff
has a tendency to regard a difference of opinion as a personal insult.
If he makes a bad stroke he seems to think that the way to retrieve it
is to deliver the next one on the head of the other player. He does
not tarry for the invitation to lay on; and before you know what has
happened you find yourself in a position where you are obliged to cry,
"Hold, enough!" and to be liberally damned without any bargain to that
effect. This is discouraging, and calculated to make one wish that human
intercourse might be put, as far as Macduff is concerned, upon the gold
basis of silence.

On the other hand, what a delight it was to talk with that old worthy,
Chancellor Howard Crosby. He was a fighting man for four or five
generations hack, Dutch on one side, English on the other. But there was
not one little drop of gall in his blood. His opinions were fixed to a
degree; he loved to do battle for them; he never changed them--at least
never in the course of the same discussion. He admired and respected
a gallant adversary, and urged him on, with quips and puns and daring
assaults and unqualified statements, to do his best. Easy victories were
not to his taste. Even if he joined with you in laying out some common
falsehood for burial, you might be sure that before the affair was
concluded there would be every prospect of what an Irishman would call
"an elegant wake." If you stood up against him on one of his favorite
subjects of discussion you must be prepared for hot work. You would have
to take off your coat. But when the combat was over he would be the man
to help you on with it again; and you would walk home together arm in
arm, through the twilight, smoking the pipe of peace. Talk like that
does good. It quickens the beating of the heart, and leaves no scars
upon it.

But this manly spirit, which loves

     "To drink delight of battle with its peers,"

is a very different thing from that mean, bad, hostile temper which
loves to inflict wounds and injuries just for the sake of showing power,
and which is never so happy as when it is making some one wince. There
are such people in the world, and sometimes their brilliancy tempts us
to forget their malignancy. But to have much converse with them is as if
we should make playmates of rattlesnakes for their grace of movement and
swiftness of stroke.

I knew a man once (I will not name him even with an initial) who was
malignant to the core. Learned, industrious, accomplished, he kept
all his talents at the service of a perfect genius for hatred. If you
crossed his path but once, he would never cease to curse you. The grave
might close over you, but he would revile your epitaph and mock at your
memory. It was not even necessary that you should do anything to incur
his enmity. It was enough to be upright and sincere and successful, to
waken the wrath of this Shimei. Integrity was an offence to him, and
excellence of any kind filled him with spleen. There was no good cause
within his horizon that he did not give a bad word to, and no decent
man in the community whom he did not try either to use or to abuse. To
listen to him or to read what he had written was to learn to think a
little worse of every one that he mentioned, and worst of all of him. He
had the air of a gentleman, the vocabulary of a scholar, the style of a
Junius, and the heart of a Thersites.

Talk, in such company, is impossible. The sense of something evil,
lurking beneath the play of wit, is like the knowledge that there are
snakes in the grass. Every step must be taken with fear. But the
real pleasure of a walk through the meadow comes from the feeling of
security, of ease, of safe and happy abandon to the mood of the moment.
This ungirdled and unguarded felicity in mutual discourse depends, after
all, upon the assurance of real goodness in your companion. I do not
mean a stiff impeccability of conduct. Prudes and Pharisees are poor
comrades. I mean simply goodness of heart, the wholesome, generous,
kindly quality which thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, hopeth
all things, endureth all things, and wisheth well to all men. Where you
feel this quality you can let yourself go, in the ease of hearty talk.

FREEDOM is the second note that Montaigne strikes, and it is essential
to the harmony of talking. Very careful, prudent, precise persons are
seldom entertaining in familiar speech. They are like tennis players in
too fine clothes. They think more of their costume than of the game.

A mania for absolutely correct pronunciation is fatal. The people who
are afflicted with this painful ailment are as anxious about their
utterance as dyspeptics about their diet. They move through their
sentences as delicately as Agag walked. Their little airs of nicety,
their starched cadences and frilled phrases seem as if they had just
been taken out of a literary bandbox. If perchance you happen to
misplace an accent, you shall see their eyebrows curl up like an
interrogation mark, and they will ask you what authority you have
for that pronunciation. As if, forsooth, a man could not talk without
book-license! As if he must have a permit from some dusty lexicon before
he can take a good word into his mouth and speak it out like the people
with whom he has lived!

The truth is that the man who is very particular not to commit himself,
in pronunciation or otherwise, and talks as if his remarks were being
taken down in shorthand, and shudders at the thought of making a
mistake, will hardly be able to open your heart or let out the best that
is in his own.

Reserve and precision are a great protection to overrated reputations;
but they are death to talk.

In talk it is not correctness of grammar nor elegance of enunciation
that charms us; it is spirit, VERVE, the sudden turn of humour, the
keen, pungent taste of life. For this reason a touch of dialect, a
flavour of brogue, is delightful. Any dialect is classic that has
conveyed beautiful thoughts. Who that ever talked with the poet
Tennyson, when he let himself go, over the pipes, would miss the savour
of his broad-rolling Lincolnshire vowels, now heightening the humour,
now deepening the pathos, of his genuine manly speech? There are many
good stories lingering in the memories of those who knew Dr. James
McCosh, the late president of Princeton University,--stories too good, I
fear, to get into a biography; but the best of them, in print, would not
have the snap and vigour of the poorest of them, in talk, with his own
inimitable Scotch-Irish brogue to set it forth.

A brogue is not a fault. It is a beauty, an heirloom, a distinction. A
local accent is like a landed inheritance; it marks a man's place in the
world, tells where he comes from. Of course it is possible to have too
much of it. A man does not need to carry the soil of his whole farm
around with him on his boots. But, within limits, the accent of a native
region is delightful. 'T is the flavour of heather in the grouse,
the taste of wild herbs and evergreen-buds in the venison. I like the
maple-sugar tang of the Vermonter's sharp-edged speech; the round,
full-waisted r's of Pennsylvania and Ohio; the soft, indolent vowels
of the South. One of the best talkers now living is a schoolmaster from
Virginia, Colonel Gordon McCabe. I once crossed the ocean with him on
a stream of stories that reached from Liverpool to New York. He did not
talk in the least like a book. He talked like a Virginian.

When Montaigne mentions GAYETY as the third clement of satisfying
discourse, I fancy he does not mean mere fun, though that has its value
at the right time and place. But there is another quality which is far
more valuable and always fit. Indeed it underlies the best fun and makes
it wholesome. It is cheerfulness, the temper which makes the best
of things and squeezes the little drops of honey even out of
thistle-blossoms. I think this is what Montaigne meant. Certainly it is
what he had.

Cheerfulness is the background of all good talk. A sense of humour is a
means of grace. With it I have heard a pleasant soul make even that
most perilous of all subjects, the description of a long illness,
entertaining. The various physicians moved through the recital as
excellent comedians, and the medicines appeared like a succession of
timely jests.

There is no occasion upon which this precious element of talkability
comes out stronger than when we are on a journey. Travel with a
cheerless and easily discouraged companion is an unadulterated
misery. But a cheerful comrade is better than a waterproof coat and a

I remember riding once with my lady Graygown fifteen miles through a
cold rainstorm, in an open buckboard, over the worst road in the world,
from LAC A LA BELLE RIVIERE to the Metabetchouan River. Such was the
cheerfulness of her ejaculations (the only possible form of talk)
that we arrived at our destination as warm and merry as if we had been
sitting beside a roaring camp-fire.

But after all, the very best thing in good talk, and the thing that
helps it most, is FRIENDSHIP. How it dissolves the barriers that divide
us, and loosens all constraint, and diffuses itself like some fine old
cordial through all the veins of life--this feeling that we understand
and trust each other, and wish each other heartily well! Everything into
which it really comes is good. It transforms letter-writing from a task
into a pleasure. It makes music a thousand times more sweet. The people
who play and sing not at us, but TO us,--how delightful it is to listen
to them! Yes, there is a talkability that can express itself even
without words. There is an exchange of thought and feeling which is
happy alike in speech and in silence. It is quietness pervaded with

Having come thus far in the exposition of Montaigne, I shall conclude
with an opinion of my own, even though I cannot quote a sentence of his
to back it.

The one person of all the world in whom talkability is most desirable,
and talkativeness least endurable, is a wife.


     "Such is the story of the Boblink; once spiritual, musical,
     admired, the joy of the meadows, and the favourite bird of
     spring; finally a gross little sensualist who expiates his
     sensuality in the larder. His story contains a moral, worthy
     the attention of all little birds and little boys; warning
     them to keep to those refined and intellectual pursuits
     which raised him to so high a pitch of popularity during the
     early part of his career; but to eschew all tendency to that
     gross and dissipated indulgence, which brought this mistaken
     little bird to an untimely end."

     --WASHINGTON IRVING: Wolfert's Roost.

The Swiftwater brook was laughing softly to itself as it ran through a
strip of hemlock forest on the edge of the Woodlings' farm. Among the
evergreen branches overhead the gayly-dressed warblers,--little friends
of the forest,--were flitting to and fro, lisping their June songs of
contented love: milder, slower, lazier notes than those in which
they voiced the amourous raptures of May. Prince's Pine and golden
loose-strife and pink laurel and blue hare-bells and purple-fringed
orchids, and a score of lovely flowers were all abloom. The late spring
had hindered some; the sudden heats of early summer had hastened others;
and now they seemed to come out all together, as if Nature had suddenly
tilted up her cornucopia and poured forth her treasures in spendthrift

I lay on a mossy bank at the foot of a tree, filling my pipe after a
frugal lunch, and thinking how hard it would be to find in any quarter
of the globe a place more fair and fragrant than this hidden vale among
the Alleghany Mountains. The perfume of the flowers of the forest is
more sweet and subtle than the heavy scent of tropical blossoms. No
lily-field in Bermuda could give a fragrance half so magical as the
fairy-like odour of these woodland slopes, soft carpeted with the green
of glossy vines above whose tiny leaves, in delicate profusion,

     "The slight Linnaea hangs its twin-born heads."

Nor are there any birds in Africa, or among the Indian Isles, more
exquisite in colour than these miniature warblers, showing their gold
and green, their orange and black, their blue and white, against the
dark background of the rhododendron thicket.

But how seldom we put a cup of pleasure to our lips without a dash of
bitters, a touch of faultfinding. My drop of discontent, that day, was
the thought that the northern woodland, at least in June, yielded no
fruit to match its beauty and its fragrance.

There is good browsing among the leaves of the wood and the grasses of
the meadow, as every well-instructed angler knows. The bright emerald
tips that break from the hemlock and the balsam like verdant flames have
a pleasant savour to the tongue. The leaves of the sassafras are full
of spice, and the bark of the black-birch twigs holds a fine cordial.
Crinkle-root is spicy, but you must partake of it delicately, or it will
bite your tongue. Spearmint and peppermint never lose their charm for
the palate that still remembers the delights of youth. Wild sorrel has
an agreeable, sour, shivery flavour. Even the tender stalk of a young
blade of grass is a thing that can be chewed by a person of childlike
mind with much contentment.

But, after all, these are only relishes. They whet the appetite more
than they appease it. There should be something to eat, in the June
woods, as perfect in its kind, as satisfying to the sense of taste, as
the birds and the flowers are to the senses of sight and hearing and
smell. Blueberries are good, but they are far away in July. Blackberries
are luscious when they are fully ripe, but that will not be until
August. Then the fishing will be over, and the angler's hour of need
will be past. The one thing that is lacking now beside this mountain
stream is some fruit more luscious and dainty than grows in the tropics,
to melt upon the lips and fill the mouth with pleasure.

But that is what these cold northern woods will not offer. They are too
reserved, too lofty, too puritanical to make provision for the grosser
wants of humanity. They are not friendly to luxury.

Just then, as I shifted my head to find a softer pillow of moss after
this philosophic and immoral reflection, Nature gave me her silent
answer. Three wild strawberries, nodding on their long stems, hung over
my face. It was an invitation to taste and see that they were good.

The berries were not the round and rosy ones of the meadow, but the
long, slender, dark crimson ones of the forest. One, two, three; no more
on that vine; but each one as it touched my lips was a drop of nectar
and a crumb of ambrosia, a concentrated essence of all the pungent
sweetness of the wildwood, sapid, penetrating, and delicious. I tasted
the odour of a hundred blossoms and the green shimmering of innumerable
leaves and the sparkle of sifted sunbeams and the breath of highland
breezes and the song of many birds and the murmur of flowing
streams,--all in a wild strawberry.

Do you remember, in THE COMPLEAT ANGLER, a remark which Isaak Walton
quotes from a certain "Doctor Boteler" about strawberries? "Doubtless,"
said that wise old man, "God could have made a better berry, but
doubtless God never did."

Well, the wild strawberry is the one that God made.

I think it would have been pleasant to know a man who could sum up
his reflections upon the important question of berries in such a pithy
saying as that which Walton repeats. His tongue must have been in close
communication with his heart. He must have had a fair sense of that
sprightly humour without which piety itself is often insipid.

I have often tried to find out more about him, and some day I hope I
shall. But up to the present, all that the books have told me of this
obscure sage is that his name was William Butler, and that he was an
eminent physician, sometimes called "the Aesculapius of his age." He was
born at Ipswich, in 1535, and educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge; in the
neighbourhood of which town he appears to have spent the most of his
life, in high repute as a practitioner of physic. He had the honour of
doctoring King James the First after an accident on the hunting field,
and must have proved himself a pleasant old fellow, for the king looked
him up at Cambridge the next year, and spent an hour in his lodgings.
This wise physician also invented a medicinal beverage called "Doctor
Butler's Ale." I do not quite like the sound of it, but perhaps it was
better than its name. This much is sure, at all events: either it was
really a harmless drink, or else the doctor must have confined its use
entirely to his patients; for he lived to the ripe age of eighty-three

Between the time when William Butler first needed the services of a
physician, in 1535, and the time when he last prescribed for a patient,
in 1618, there was plenty of trouble in England. Bloody Queen Mary sat
on the throne; and there were all kinds of quarrels about religion and
politics; and Catholics and Protestants were killing one another in
the name of God. After that the red-haired Elizabeth, called the Virgin
Queen, wore the crown, and waged triumphant war and tempestuous love.
Then fat James of Scotland was made king of Great Britain; and Guy
Fawkes tried to blow him up with gunpowder, and failed; and the king
tried to blow out all the pipes in England with his COUNTERBLAST AGAINST
TOBACCO; but he failed too. Somewhere about that time, early in the
seventeenth century, a very small event happened. A new berry was
brought over from Virginia,--FRAGRARIA VIRGINIANA,--and then, amid wars
and rumours of wars, Doctor Butler's happiness was secure. That new
berry was so much richer and sweeter and more generous than the familiar
FRAGRARIA VESCA of Europe, that it attracted the sincere interest of all
persons of good taste. It inaugurated a new era in the history of the
strawberry. The long lost masterpiece of Paradise was restored to its
true place in the affections of man.

Is there not a touch of merry contempt for all the vain controversies
and conflicts of humanity in the grateful ejaculation with which the old
doctor greeted that peaceful, comforting gift of Providence?

"From this time forward," he seems to say, "the fates cannot beggar
me, for I have eaten strawberries. With every Maytime that visits this
distracted island, the white blossoms with hearts of gold will arrive.
In every June the red drops of pleasant savour will hang among the
scalloped leaves. The children of this world may wrangle and give one
another wounds that even my good ale cannot cure. Nevertheless, the
earth as God created it is a fair dwelling and full of comfort for all
who have a quiet mind and a thankful heart. Doubtless God might have
made a better world, but doubtless this is the world He made for us; and
in it He planted the strawberry."

Fine old doctor! Brave philosopher of cheerfulness! The Virginian berry
should have been brought to England sooner, or you should have lived
longer, at least to a hundred years, so that you might have welcomed a
score of strawberry-seasons with gratitude and an epigram.

Since that time a great change has passed over the fruit which Doctor
Butler praised so well. That product of creative art which Divine wisdom
did not choose to surpass, human industry has laboured to improve. It
has grown immensely in size and substance. The traveller from America
who steams into Queenstown harbour in early summer is presented (for a
consideration) with a cabbage-leaf full of pale-hued berries, sweet and
juicy, any one of which would outbulk a dozen of those that used to grow
in Virginia when Pocahontas was smitten with the charms of Captain John
Smith. They are superb, those light-tinted Irish strawberries. And there
are wonderful new varieties developed in the gardens of New Jersey and
Rhode Island, which compare with the ancient berries of the woods and
meadows as Leviathan with a minnow. The huge crimson cushions hang among
the plants so thick that they seem like bunches of fruit with a few
leaves attached for ornament. You can satisfy your hunger in such a
berry-patch in ten minutes, while out in the field you must pick for
half an hour, and in the forest thrice as long, before you can fill a
small tin cup.

Yet, after all, it is questionable whether men have really bettered
God's CHEF D'OEUVRE in the berry line. They have enlarged it and made
it more plentiful and more certain in its harvest. But sweeter, more
fragrant, more poignant in its flavour? No. The wild berry still stands
first in its subtle gusto.

Size is not the measure of excellence. Perfection lies in quality, not
in quantity. Concentration enhances pleasure, gives it a point so that
it goes deeper.

Is not a ten-inch trout better than a ten-foot sturgeon? I would rather
read a tiny essay by Charles Lamb than a five-hundred page libel on
life by a modern British novelist who shall be nameless. Flavour is the
priceless quality. Style is the thing that counts and is remembered, in
literature, in art, and in berries.

No JOCUNDA, nor TRIUMPH, nor VICTORIA, nor any other high-titled fruit
that ever took the first prize at an agricultural fair, is half so
delicate and satisfying as the wild strawberry that dropped into my
mouth, under the hemlock tree, beside the Swiftwater.

A touch of surprise is essential to perfect sweetness.

To get what you have been wishing for is pleasant; but to get what
you have not been sure of, makes the pleasure tingle. A new door of
happiness is opened when you go out to hunt for something and discover
it with your own eyes. But there is an experience even better than that.
When you have stupidly forgotten (or despondently forgone) to look
about you for the unclaimed treasures and unearned blessings which are
scattered along the by-ways of life, then, sometimes by a special mercy,
a small sample of them is quietly laid before you so that you cannot
help seeing it, and it brings you back to a sense of the joyful
possibilities of living.

How full of enjoyment is the search after wild things,--wild birds, wild
flowers, wild honey, wild berries! There was a country club on Storm
King Mountain, above the Hudson River, where they used to celebrate a
festival of flowers every spring. Men and women who had conservatories
of their own, full of rare plants and costly orchids, came together
to admire the gathered blossoms of the woodlands and meadows. But the
people who had the best of the entertainment were the boys and girls who
wandered through the thickets and down the brooks, pushed their way into
the tangled copses and crept venturesomely across the swamps, to look
for the flowers. Some of the seekers may have had a few gray hairs; but
for that day at least they were all boys and girls. Nature was as young
as ever, and they were all her children. Hand touched hand without a
glove. The hidden blossoms of friendship unfolded. Laughter and merry
shouts and snatches of half-forgotten song rose to the lips. Gay
adventure sparkled in the air. School was out and nobody listened for
the bell. It was just a day to live, and be natural, and take no thought
for the morrow.

There is great luck in this affair of looking for flowers. I do not see
how any one who is prejudiced against games of chance can consistently
undertake it.

For my own part, I approve of garden flowers because they are so orderly
and so certain; but wild flowers I love, just because there is so much
chance about them. Nature is all in favour of certainty in great laws
and of uncertainty in small events. You cannot appoint the day and the
place for her flower-shows. If you happen to drop in at the right moment
she will give you a free admission. But even then it seems as if the
table of beauty had been spread for the joy of a higher visitor, and in
obedience to secret orders which you have not heard.

Have you ever found the fringed gentian?

          "Just before the snows,
     There came a purple creature
      That lavished all the hill:
     And summer hid her forehead,
      And mockery was still.

     The frosts were her condition:
      The Tyrian would not come
     Until the North evoked her,--
      'Creator, shall I bloom?'"

There are strange freaks of fortune in the finding of wild flowers,
and curious coincidences which make us feel as if some one were playing
friendly tricks on us. I remember reading, one evening in May, a passage
in a good book called THE PROCESSION OF THE FLOWERS, in which Colonel
Higginson describes the singular luck that a friend of his enjoyed, year
after year, in finding the rare blossoms of the double rueanemone. It
seems that this man needed only to take a walk in the suburbs of any
town, and he would come upon a bed of these flowers, without effort or
design. I envied him his good fortune, for I had never discovered
even one of them. But the next morning, as I strolled out to fish the
Swiftwater, down below Billy Lerns's spring-house I found a green bank
in the shadow of the wood all bespangled with tiny, trembling, twofold
stars,--double rueanemones, for luck! It was a favourable omen, and that
day I came home with a creel full of trout.

The theory that Adam lived out in the woods for some time before he was
put into the garden of Eden "to dress it and to keep it" has an air of
probability. How else shall we account for the arboreal instincts that
cling to his posterity?

There is a wilding strain in our blood that all the civilization in the
world will not eradicate. I never knew a real boy--or, for that matter,
a girl worth knowing--who would not rather climb a tree, any day, than
walk up a golden stairway.

It is a touch of this instinct, I suppose, that makes it more delightful
to fish in the most insignificant of free streams than in a carefully
stocked and preserved pond, where the fish are brought up by hand and
fed on minced liver. Such elaborate precautions to ensure good luck
extract all the spice from the sport of angling. Casting the fly in such
a pond, if you hooked a fish, you might expect to hear the keeper say,
"Ah, that is Charles, we will play him and put him back, if you please,
sir; for the master is very fond of him,"--or, "Now you have got hold of
Edward; let us land him and keep him; he is three years old this month,
and just ready to be eaten." It would seem like taking trout out of cold

Who could find any pleasure in angling for the tame carp in the
fish-pool of Fontainebleau? They gather at the marble steps, those
venerable, courtly fish, to receive their rations; and there are
veterans among them, in ancient livery, with fringes of green moss on
their shoulders, who could tell you pretty tales of being fed by the
white hands of maids of honour, or even of nibbling their crumbs of
bread from the jewelled fingers of a princess.

There is no sport in bringing pets to the table. It may be necessary
sometimes; but the true sportsman would always prefer to leave the
unpleasant task of execution to menial hands, while he goes out into the
wild country to capture his game by his own skill,--if he has good
luck. I would rather run some risk in this enterprise (even as the young
Tobias did, when the voracious pike sprang at him from the waters of the
Tigris, and would have devoured him but for the friendly instruction
of the piscatory Angel, who taught Tobias how to land the monster),--I
would far rather take any number of chances in my sport than have it
domesticated to the point of dulness.

The trim plantations of trees which are called "forests" in certain
parts of Europe--scientifically pruned and tended, counted every year by
uniformed foresters, and defended against all possible depredations--are
admirable and useful in their way; but they lack the mystic enchantment
of the fragments of native woodland which linger among the Adirondacks
and the White Mountains, or the vast, shaggy, sylvan wildernesses which
hide the lakes and rivers of Canada. These Laurentian Hills lie in No
Man's Land. Here you do not need to keep to the path, for there is none.
You may make your own trail, whithersoever fancy leads you; and at night
you may pitch your tent under any tree that looks friendly and firm.

Here, if anywhere, you shall find Dryads, and Naiads, and Oreads. And
if you chance to see one, by moonlight, combing her long hair beside
the glimmering waterfall, or slipping silently, with gleaming shoulders,
through the grove of silver birches, you may call her by the name that
pleases you best. She is all your own discovery. There is no social
directory in the wilderness.

One side of our nature, no doubt, finds its satisfaction in the regular,
the proper, the conventional. But there is another side of our
nature, underneath, that takes delight in the strange, the free, the
spontaneous. We like to discover what we call a law of Nature, and make
our calculations about it, and harness the force which lies behind it
for our own purposes. But we taste a different kind of joy when an
event occurs which nobody has foreseen or counted upon. It seems like
an evidence that there is something in the world which is alive and
mysterious and untrammelled.

The weather-prophet tells us of an approaching storm. It comes according
to the programme. We admire the accuracy of the prediction, and
congratulate ourselves that we have such a good meteorological service.
But when, perchance, a bright, crystalline piece of weather arrives
instead of the foretold tempest, do we not feel a secret sense of
pleasure which goes beyond our mere comfort in the sunshine? The whole
affair is not as easy as a sum in simple addition, after all,--at least
not with our present knowledge. It is a good joke on the Weather Bureau.
"Aha, Old Probabilities!" we say, "you don't know it all yet; there are
still some chances to be taken!"

Some day, I suppose, all things in the heavens above, and in the earth
beneath, and in the hearts of the men and women who dwell between, will
be investigated and explained. We shall live a perfectly ordered life,
with no accidents, happy or unhappy. Everybody will act according to
rule, and there will be no dotted lines on the map of human existence,
no regions marked "unexplored." Perhaps that golden age of the machine
will come, but you and I will hardly live to see it. And if that seems
to you a matter for tears, you must do your own weeping, for I cannot
find it in my heart to add a single drop of regret.

The results of education and social discipline in humanity are fine. It
is a good thing that we can count upon them. But at the same time let us
rejoice in the play of native traits and individual vagaries. Cultivated
manners are admirable, yet there is a sudden touch of inborn grace and
courtesy that goes beyond them all. No array of accomplishments can
rival the charm of an unsuspected gift of nature, brought suddenly to
light. I once heard a peasant girl singing down the Traunthal, and the
echo of her song outlives, in the hearing of my heart, all memories of
the grand opera.

The harvest of the gardens and the orchards, the result of prudent
planting and patient cultivation, is full of satisfaction. We anticipate
it in due season, and when it comes we fill our mouths and are grateful.
But pray, kind Providence, let me slip over the fence out of the garden
now and then, to shake a nut-tree that grows untended in the wood. Give
me liberty to put off my black coat for a day, and go a-fishing on a
free stream, and find by chance a wild strawberry.


"He insisted that the love that was of real value in the world was
n't interesting, and that the love that was interesting was n't always
admirable. Love that happened to a person like the measles or fits, and
was really of no particular credit to itself or its victims, was the
sort that got into the books and was made much of; whereas the kind that
was attained by the endeavour of true souls, and that had wear in it,
and that made things go right instead of tangling them up, was too much
like duty to make satisfactory reading for people of sentiment."--E. S.
MARTIN: My Cousin Anthony.

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is
another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.

The first day of spring is due to arrive, if the calendar does not break
down, about the twenty-first of March, when the earth turns the corner
of Sun Alley and starts for Summer Street. But the first spring day
is not on the time-table at all. It comes when it is ready, and in the
latitude of New York this is usually not till after All Fools' Day.

About this time,--

     "When chinks in April's windy dome
      Let through a day of June,
      And foot and thought incline to roam,
      And every sound's a tune,"--

it is the habit of the angler who lives in town to prepare for the
labours of the approaching season by longer walks or bicycle-rides in
the parks, or along the riverside, or in the somewhat demoralized
Edens of the suburbs. In the course of these vernal peregrinations and
circumrotations, I observe that lovers of various kinds begin to occupy
a notable place in the landscape.

The burnished dove puts a livelier iris around his neck, and practises
fantastic bows and amourous quicksteps along the verandah of the
pigeon-house and on every convenient roof. The young male of the human
species, less gifted in the matter of rainbows, does his best with a
gay cravat, and turns the thoughts which circulate above it towards the
securing or propitiating of a best girl.

The objects of these more or less brilliant attentions, doves and girls,
show a becoming reciprocity, and act in a way which leads us to infer
(so far as inferences hold good in the mysterious region of female
conduct) that they are not seriously displeased. To a rightly tempered
mind, pleasure is a pleasant sight. And the philosophic observer
who could look upon this spring spectacle of the lovers with any but
friendly feelings would be indeed what the great Dr. Samuel Johnson
called "a person not to be envied."

Far be it from me to fall into such a desiccated and supercilious mood.
My small olive-branch of fancy will be withered, in truth, and ready to
drop budless from the tree, when I cease to feel a mild delight in the
billings and cooings of the little birds that separate from the
flocks to fly together in pairs, or in the uninstructive but mutually
satisfactory converse which Strephon holds with Chloe while they dally
along the primrose path.

I am glad that even the stony and tumultuous city affords some
opportunities for these amiable observations. In the month of April
there is hardly a clump of shrubbery in the Central Park which will not
serve as a trysting-place for yellow warblers and catbirds just home
from their southern tours. At the same time, you shall see many a bench,
designed for the accommodation of six persons, occupied at the sunset
hour by only two, and apparently so much too small for them that they
cannot avoid a little crowding.

These are infallible signs. Taken in conjunction with the eruption
of tops and marbles among the small boys, and the purchase of
fishing-tackle and golf-clubs by the old boys, they certify us that the
vernal equinox has arrived, not only in the celestial regions, but also
in the heart of man.

I have been reflecting of late upon the relation of lovers to the
landscape, and questioning whether art has given it quite the same place
as that which belongs to it in nature. In fiction, for example, and in
the drama, and in music, I have some vague misgivings that romantic love
has come to hold a more prominent and a more permanent position than it
fills in real life.

This is dangerous ground to venture upon, even in the most modest and
deprecatory way. The man who expresses an opinion, or even a doubt, on
this subject, contrary to the ruling traditions, will have a swarm of
angry critics buzzing about him. He will be called a heretic, a heathen,
a cold-blooded freak of nature. As for the woman who hesitates to
subscribe all the thirty-nine articles of romantic love, if such a one
dares to put her reluctance into words, she is certain to be accused
either of unwomanly ambition or of feminine disappointment.

Let us make haste, then, to get back for safety to the ornithological
aspect of the subject. Here there can be no penalties for heresy. And
here I make bold to avow my conviction that the pairing season is not
the only point of interest in the life of the birds; nor is the instinct
by which they mate altogether and beyond comparison the noblest passion
that stirs their feathered breasts.

'T is true, the time of mating is their prettiest season; but it is very
short. How little we should know of the drama of their airy life if we
had eyes only for this brief scene! Their finest qualities come out
in the patient cares that protect the young in the nest, in the varied
struggles for existence through the changing year, and in the incredible
heroisms of the annual migrations. Herein is a parable.

It may be observed further, without fear of rebuke, that the behaviour
of the different kinds of birds during the prevalence of romantic
love is not always equally above reproach. The courtship of English
sparrows--blustering, noisy, vulgar--is a sight to offend the taste
of every gentle on-looker. Some birds reiterate and vociferate their
love-songs in a fashion that displays their inconsiderateness as well as
their ignorance of music. This trait is most marked in domestic fowls.
There was a guinea-cock, once, that chose to do his wooing close under
the window of a farm-house where I was lodged. He had no regard for
my hours of sleep or meditation. His amatory click-clack prevented the
morning and wrecked the tranquillity of the evening. It was odious,
brutal,--worse, it was absolutely thoughtless. Herein is another

Let us admit cheerfully that lovers have a place in the landscape and
lend a charm to it. This does not mean that they are to take up all
the room there is. Suppose, for example, that a pair of them, on Goat
Island, put themselves in such a position as to completely block out
your view of Niagara. You cannot regard them with gratitude. They
even become a little tedious. Or suppose that you are visiting at a
country-house, and you find that you must not enjoy the moonlight on the
verandah because Augustus and Amanda are murmuring in one corner, and
that you must not go into the garden because Louis and Lizzie are there,
and that you cannot have a sail on the lake because Richard and Rebecca
have taken the boat.

Of course, unless you happen to be a selfish old curmudgeon, you
rejoice, by sympathy, in the happiness of these estimable young people.
But you fail to see why it should cover so much ground.

Why should they not pool their interests, and all go out in the boat, or
all walk in the garden, or all sit on the verandah? Then there would be
room for somebody else about the place.

In old times you could rely upon lovers for retirement. But nowadays
their role seems to be a bold ostentation of their condition. They rely
upon other people to do the timid, shrinking part. Society, in America,
is arranged principally for their convenience; and whatever portion of
the landscape strikes their fancy, they preempt and occupy. All
this goes upon the presumption that romantic love is really the only
important interest in life.

This train of thought was illuminated, the other night, by an incident
which befell me at a party. It was an assembly of men, drawn together by
their common devotion to the sport of canoeing. There were only three or
four of the gentler sex present (as honorary members), and only one
of whom it could be suspected that she was at that time a victim or an
object of the tender passion. In the course of the evening, by way of
diversion to our disputations on keels and centreboards, canvas and
birch-bark, cedar-wood and bass-wood, paddles and steering-gear, a fine
young Apollo, with a big, manly voice, sang us a few songs. But he did
not chant the joys of weathering a sudden squall, or running a rapid
feather-white with foam, or floating down a long, quiet, elm-bowered
river. Not all. His songs were full of sighs and yearnings, languid lips
and sheep's-eyes. His powerful voice informed us that crowns of thorns
seemed like garlands of roses, and kisses were as sweet as samples of
heaven, and various other curious sensations were experienced; and at
the end of every stanza the reason was stated, in tones of thunder--

     "Because I love you, dear."

Even if true, it seemed inappropriate. How foolish the average
audience in a drawing-room looks while it is listening to passionate
love-ditties! And yet I suppose the singer chose these songs, not from
any malice aforethought, but simply because songs of this kind are so
abundant that it is next to impossible to find anything else in the

In regard to novels, the situation is almost as discouraging. Ten
love-stories are printed to one of any other kind. We have a standing
invitation to consider the tribulations and difficulties of some young
man or young woman in finding a mate. It must be admitted that the
subject has its capabilities of interest. Nature has her uses for the
lover, and she gives him an excellent part to play in the drama of life.
But is this tantamount to saying that his interest is perennial and
all-absorbing, and that his role on the stage is the only one that is
significant and noteworthy?

Life is much too large to be expressed in the terms of a single passion.
Friendship, patriotism, parental tenderness, filial devotion, the ardour
of adventure, the thirst for knowledge, the ecstasy of religion,--these
all have their dwelling in the heart of man. They mould character.
They control conduct. They are stars of destiny shining in the inner
firmament. And if art would truly hold the mirror up to nature, it must
reflect these greater and lesser lights that rule the day and the night.

How many of the plays that divert and misinform the modern theatre-goer
turn on the pivot of a love-affair, not always pure, but generally
simple! And how many of those that are imported from France proceed
upon the theory that the Seventh is the only Commandment, and that the
principal attraction of life lies in the opportunity of breaking it! The
matinee-girl is not likely to have a very luminous or truthful idea of
existence floating around in her pretty little head.

But, after all, the great plays, those that take the deepest hold upon
the heart, like HAMLET and KING LEAR, MACBETH and OTHELLO, are not
love-plays. And the most charming comedies, like THE WINTER'S TALE, and
THE RIVALS, and RIP VAN WINKLE, are chiefly memorable for other things
than love-scenes.

Even in novels, love shows at its best when it does not absorb the whole
plot. LORNA DOONE is a lovers' story, but there is a blessed minimum of
spooning in it, and always enough of working and fighting to keep the
air clear and fresh. THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN, and HYPATIA, and ROMOLA,
great novels because they are much more than tales of romantic love. As
for HENRY ESMOND, (which seems to me the best of all,) certainly "love
at first sight" does not play the finest role in that book.

There are good stories of our own day--pathetic, humourous,
entertaining, powerful--in which the element of romantic love is
altogether subordinate, or even imperceptible. THE RISE OF SILAS LAPHAM
does not owe its deep interest to the engagement of the very charming
young people who enliven it. MADAME DELPHINE and OLE 'STRACTED are
perfect stories of their kind. I would not barter THE JUNGLE BOOKS for a

The truth is that love, considered merely as the preference of one
person for another of the opposite sex, is not "the greatest thing in
the world." It becomes great only when it leads on, as it often does,
to heroism and self-sacrifice and fidelity. Its chief value for art (the
interpreter) lies not in itself, but in its quickening relation to the
other elements of life. It must be seen and shown in its due proportion,
and in harmony with the broader landscape.

Do you believe that in all the world there is only one woman specially
created for each man, and that the order of the universe will be
hopelessly askew unless these two needles find each other in the
haystack? You believe it for yourself, perhaps; but do you believe it
for Tom Johnson? You remember what a terrific disturbance he made in the
summer of 189-, at Bar Harbor, about Ellinor Brown, and how he ran away
with her in September. You have also seen them together (occasionally)
at Lenox and Newport, since their marriage. Are you honestly of the
opinion that if Tom had not married Ellinor, these two young lives would
have been a total wreck?

Adam Smith, in his book on THE MORAL SENTIMENTS, goes so far as to say
that "love is not interesting to the observer because it is AN AFFECTION
OF THE IMAGINATION, into which it is difficult for a third party to
enter." Something of the same kind occurred to me in regard to Tom and
Ellinor. Yet I would not have presumed to suggest this thought to either
of them. Nor would I have quoted in their hearing the melancholy and
frigid prediction of Ralph Waldo Emerson, to the effect that they would
some day discover "that all which at first drew them together--those
once sacred features, that magical play of charm--was deciduous."

DECIDUOUS, indeed? Cold, unpleasant, botanical word! Rather would I
prognosticate for the lovers something perennial,

     "A sober certainty of waking bliss,"

to survive the evanescence of love's young dream. Ellinor should turn
out to be a woman like the Lady Elizabeth Hastings, of whom Richard
Steele wrote that "to love her was a liberal education." Tom should
prove that he had in him the lasting stuff of a true man and a hero.
Then it would make little difference whether their conjunction had been
eternally prescribed in the book of fate or not. It would be evidently a
fit match, made on earth and illustrative of heaven.

But even in the making of such a match as this, the various stages of
attraction, infatuation, and appropriation should not be displayed too
prominently before the world, nor treated as events of overwhelming
importance and enduring moment. I would not counsel Tom and Ellinor,
in the midsummer of their engagement, to have their photographs taken
together in affectionate attitudes.

The pictures of an imaginary kind which deal with the subject of
romantic love are, almost without exception, fatuous and futile. The
inanely amatory, with their languishing eyes, weary us. The endlessly
osculatory, with their protracted salutations, are sickening. Even when
an air of sentimental propriety is thrown about them by some such title
as "Wedded" or "The Honeymoon," they fatigue us. For the most part, they
remind me of the remark which the Commodore made upon a certain painting
of Jupiter and lo which hangs in the writing-room of the Contrary Club.

"Sir," said that gently piercing critic, "that picture is equally
unsatisfactory to the artist, to the moralist, and to the voluptuary."

Nevertheless, having made a clean breast of my misgivings and
reservations on the subject of lovers and landscape, I will now confess
that the whole of my doubts do not weigh much against my unreasoned
faith in romantic love. At heart I am no infidel, but a most obstinate
believer and devotee. My seasons of skepticism are transient. They
are connected with a torpid liver and aggravated by confinement to a
sedentary life and enforced abstinence from angling. Out-of-doors, I
return to a saner and happier frame of mind.

As my wheel rolls along the Riverside Drive in the golden glow of the
sunset, I rejoice that the episode of Charles Henry and Matilda Jane has
not been omitted from the view. This vast and populous city, with all
its passing show of life, would be little better than a waste, howling
wilderness if we could not catch a glimpse, now and then, of young
people falling in love in the good old-fashioned way. Even on a
trout-stream, I have seen nothing prettier than the sight upon which I
once came suddenly as I was fishing down the Neversink.

A boy was kneeling beside the brook, and a girl was giving him a drink
of water out of her rosy hands. They stared with wonder and compassion
at the wet and solitary angler, wading down the stream, as if he were
some kind of a mild lunatic. But as I glanced discreetly at their
small tableau, I was not unconscious of the new joy that came into the
landscape with the presence of

     "A lover and his lass."

I knew how sweet the water tasted from that kind of a cup. I also have
lived in Arcadia, and have not forgotten the way back.


     "What surprises me in her behaviour," said he, "is its
     thoroughness. Woman seldom does things by halves, but often
     by doubles."

     --SOLOMON SINGLEWITZ: The Life of Adam.

Beekman De Peyster was probably the most passionate and triumphant
fisherman in the Petrine Club. He angled with the same dash and
confidence that he threw into his operations in the stock-market. He was
sure to be the first man to get his flies on the water at the opening of
the season. And when we came together for our fall meeting, to compare
notes of our wanderings on various streams and make up the fish-stories
for the year, Beekman was almost always "high hook." We expected, as
a matter of course, to hear that he had taken the most and the largest

It was so with everything that he undertook. He was a masterful man.
If there was an unusually large trout in a river, Beekman knew about it
before any one else, and got there first, and came home with the fish.
It did not make him unduly proud, because there was nothing uncommon
about it. It was his habit to succeed, and all the rest of us were
hardened to it.

When he married Cornelia Cochrane, we were consoled for our partial loss
by the apparent fitness and brilliancy of the match. If Beekman was a
masterful man, Cornelia was certainly what you might call a mistressful
woman. She had been the head of her house since she was eighteen years
old. She carried her good looks like the family plate; and when she came
into the breakfast-room and said good-morning, it was with an air as if
she presented every one with a check for a thousand dollars. Her tastes
were accepted as judgments, and her preferences had the force of laws.
Wherever she wanted to go in the summer-time, there the finger of
household destiny pointed. At Newport, at Bar Harbour, at Lenox, at
Southampton, she made a record. When she was joined in holy wedlock to
Beekman De Peyster, her father and mother heaved a sigh of satisfaction,
and settled down for a quiet vacation in Cherry Valley.

It was in the second summer after the wedding that Beekman admitted to
a few of his ancient Petrine cronies, in moments of confidence
(unjustifiable, but natural), that his wife had one fault.

"It is not exactly a fault," he said, "not a positive fault, you know.
It is just a kind of a defect, due to her education, of course. In
everything else she's magnificent. But she does n't care for
fishing. She says it's stupid,--can't see why any one should like the
woods,--calls camping out the lunatic's diversion. It's rather awkward
for a man with my habits to have his wife take such a view. But it can
be changed by training. I intend to educate her and convert her. I shall
make an angler of her yet."

And so he did.

The new education was begun in the Adirondacks, and the first lesson was
given at Paul Smith's. It was a complete failure.

Beekman persuaded her to come out with him for a day on Meacham River,
and promised to convince her of the charm of angling. She wore a new
gown, fawn-colour and violet, with a picture-hat, very taking. But the
Meacham River trout was shy that day; not even Beekman could induce him
to rise to the fly. What the trout lacked in confidence the mosquitoes
more than made up. Mrs. De Peyster came home much sunburned, and
expressed a highly unfavourable opinion of fishing as an amusement and
of Meacham River as a resort.

"The nice people don't come to the Adirondacks to fish," said she; "they
come to talk about the fishing twenty years ago. Besides, what do you
want to catch that trout for? If you do, the other men will say you
bought it, and the hotel will have to put in a new one for the rest of
the season."

The following year Beekman tried Moosehead Lake. Here he found an
atmosphere more favourable to his plan of education. There were a good
many people who really fished, and short expeditions in the woods were
quite fashionable. Cornelia had a camping-costume of the most approved
style made by Dewlap on Fifth Avenue,--pearl-gray with linings of
rose-silk,--and consented to go with her husband on a trip up Moose
River. They pitched their tent the first evening at the mouth of Misery
Stream, and a storm came on. The rain sifted through the canvas in a
fine spray, and Mrs. De Peyster sat up all night in a waterproof cloak,
holding an umbrella. The next day they were back at the hotel in time
for lunch.

"It was horrid," she told her most intimate friend, "perfectly horrid.
The idea of sleeping in a shower-bath, and eating your breakfast from a
tin plate, just for sake of catching a few silly fish! Why not send your
guides out to get them for you?"

But, in spite of this profession of obstinate heresy, Beekman observed
with secret joy that there were signs, before the end of the
season, that Cornelia was drifting a little, a very little but still
perceptibly, in the direction of a change of heart. She began to take
an interest, as the big trout came along in September, in the reports
of the catches made by the different anglers. She would saunter out with
the other people to the corner of the porch to see the fish weighed
and spread out on the grass. Several times she went with Beekman in the
canoe to Hardscrabble Point, and showed distinct evidences of pleasure
when he caught large trout. The last day of the season, when he returned
from a successful expedition to Roach River and Lily Bay, she inquired
with some particularity about the results of his sport; and in the
evening, as the company sat before the great open fire in the hall of
the hotel, she was heard to use this information with considerable skill
in putting down Mrs. Minot Peabody of Boston, who was recounting the
details of her husband's catch at Spencer Pond. Cornelia was not a
person to be contented with the back seat, even in fish-stories.

When Beekman observed these indications he was much encouraged, and
resolved to push his educational experiment briskly forward to his
customary goal of success.

"Some things can be done, as well as others," he said in his masterful
way, as three of us were walking home together after the autumnal dinner
of the Petrine Club, which he always attended as a graduate member. "A
real fisherman never gives up. I told you I'd make an angler out of
my wife; and so I will. It has been rather difficult. She is 'dour'
in rising. But she's beginning to take notice of the fly now. Give me
another season, and I'll have her landed."

Good old Beekman! Little did he think--But I must not interrupt the
story with moral reflections.

The preparations that he made for his final effort at conversion were
thorough and prudent. He had a private interview with Dewlap in regard
to the construction of a practical fishing-costume for a lady, which
resulted in something more reasonable and workmanlike than had ever been
turned out by that famous artist. He ordered from Hook and Catchett a
lady's angling-outfit of the most enticing description,--a split-bamboo
rod, light as a girl's wish, and strong as a matron's will; an oxidized
silver reel, with a monogram on one side, and a sapphire set in the
handle for good luck; a book of flies, of all sizes and colours, with
the correct names inscribed in gilt letters on each page. He surrounded
his favourite sport with an aureole of elegance and beauty. And then he
took Cornelia in September to the Upper Dam at Rangeley.

She went reluctant. She arrived disgusted. She stayed incredulous. She
returned--Wait a bit, and you shall hear how she returned.

The Upper Dam at Rangeley is the place, of all others in the world,
where the lunacy of angling may be seen in its incurable stage. There is
a cosy little inn, called a camp, at the foot of a big lake. In front of
the inn is a huge dam of gray stone, over which the river plunges into
a great oval pool, where the trout assemble in the early fall to
perpetuate their race. From the tenth of September to the thirtieth,
there is not an hour of the day or night when there are no boats
floating on that pool, and no anglers trailing the fly across its
waters. Before the late fishermen are ready to come in at midnight, the
early fishermen may be seen creeping down to the shore with lanterns
in order to begin before cock-crow. The number of fish taken is
not large,--perhaps five or six for the whole company on an average
day,--but the size is sometimes enormous,--nothing under three pounds is
counted,--and they pervade thought and conversation at the Upper Dam to
the exclusion of every other subject. There is no driving, no dancing,
no golf, no tennis. There is nothing to do but fish or die.

At first, Cornelia thought she would choose the latter alternative.
But a remark of that skilful and morose old angler, McTurk, which she
overheard on the verandah after supper, changed her mind.

"Women have no sporting instinct," said he. "They only fish because they
see men doing it. They are imitative animals."

That same night she told Beekman, in the subdued tone which the
architectural construction of the house imposes upon all confidential
communications in the bedrooms, but with resolution in every accent,
that she proposed to go fishing with him on the morrow.

"But not on that pool, right in front of the house, you understand.
There must be some other place, out on the lake, where we can fish for
three or four days, until I get the trick of this wobbly rod. Then I'll
show that old bear, McTurk, what kind of an animal woman is."

Beekman was simply delighted. Five days of diligent practice at the
mouth of Mill Brook brought his pupil to the point where he pronounced
her safe.

"Of course," he said patronizingly, "you have 'nt learned all about it
yet. That will take years. But you can get your fly out thirty feet, and
you can keep the tip of your rod up. If you do that, the trout will hook
himself, in rapid water, eight times out of ten. For playing him, if
you follow my directions, you 'll be all right. We will try the pool
tonight, and hope for a medium-sized fish."

Cornelia said nothing, but smiled and nodded. She had her own thoughts.

At about nine o'clock Saturday night, they anchored their boat on the
edge of the shoal where the big eddy swings around, put out the lantern
and began to fish. Beekman sat in the bow of the boat, with his rod over
the left side; Cornelia in the stern, with her rod over the right side.
The night was cloudy and very black. Each of them had put on the largest
possible fly, one a "Bee-Pond" and the other a "Dragon;" but even these
were invisible. They measured out the right length of line, and let
the flies drift back until they hung over the shoal, in the curly water
where the two currents meet.

There were three other boats to the left of them. McTurk was their only
neighbour in the darkness on the right. Once they heard him swearing
softly to himself, and knew that he had hooked and lost a fish.

Away down at the tail of the pool, dimly visible through the gloom, the
furtive fisherman, Parsons, had anchored his boat. No noise ever came
from that craft. If he wished to change his position, he did not pull
up the anchor and let it down again with a bump. He simply lengthened or
shortened his anchor rope. There was no click of the reel when he played
a fish. He drew in and paid out the line through the rings by hand,
without a sound. What he thought when a fish got away, no one knew,
for he never said it. He concealed his angling as if it had been a
conspiracy. Twice that night they heard a faint splash in the water
near his boat, and twice they saw him put his arm over the side in the
darkness and bring it back again very quietly.

"That's the second fish for Parsons," whispered Beekman, "what a
secretive old Fortunatus he is! He knows more about fishing than any man
on the pool, and talks less."

Cornelia did not answer. Her thoughts were all on the tip of her own
rod. About eleven o'clock a fine, drizzling rain set in. The fishing was
very slack. All the other boats gave it up in despair; but Cornelia said
she wanted to stay out a little longer, they might as well finish up the

At precisely fifty minutes past eleven, Beekman reeled up his line, and
remarked with firmness that the holy Sabbath day was almost at hand and
they ought to go in.

"Not till I 've landed this trout," said Cornelia.

"What? A trout! Have you got one?"

"Certainly; I 've had him on for at least fifteen minutes. I 'm playing
him Mr. Parsons' way. You might as well light the lantern and get the
net ready; he's coming in towards the boat now."

Beekman broke three matches before he made the lantern burn; and when he
held it up over the gunwale, there was the trout sure enough, gleaming
ghostly pale in the dark water, close to the boat, and quite tired out.
He slipped the net over the fish and drew it in,--a monster.

"I 'll carry that trout, if you please," said Cornelia, as they stepped
out of the boat; and she walked into the camp, on the last stroke
of midnight, with the fish in her hand, and quietly asked for the

Eight pounds and fourteen ounces,--that was the weight. Everybody was
amazed. It was the "best fish" of the year. Cornelia showed no sign of
exultation, until just as John was carrying the trout to the ice-house.
Then she flashed out:--"Quite a fair imitation, Mr. McTurk,--is n't it?"

Now McTurk's best record for the last fifteen years was seven pounds and
twelve ounces.

So far as McTurk is concerned, this is the end of the story. But not for
the De Peysters. I wish it were. Beekman went to sleep that night with
a contented spirit. He felt that his experiment in education had been a
success. He had made his wife an angler.

He had indeed, and to an extent which he little suspected. That Upper
Dam trout was to her like the first taste of blood to the tiger. It
seemed to change, at once, not so much her character as the direction
of her vital energy. She yielded to the lunacy of angling, not by slow
degrees, (as first a transient delusion, then a fixed idea, then a
chronic infirmity, finally a mild insanity,) but by a sudden plunge into
the most violent mania. So far from being ready to die at Upper Dam,
her desire now was to live there--and to live solely for the sake of
fishing--as long as the season was open.

There were two hundred and forty hours left to midnight on the thirtieth
of September. At least two hundred of these she spent on the pool; and
when Beekman was too exhausted to manage the boat and the net and the
lantern for her, she engaged a trustworthy guide to take Beekman's place
while he slept. At the end of the last day her score was twenty-three,
with an average of five pounds and a quarter. His score was nine, with
an average of four pounds. He had succeeded far beyond his wildest

The next year his success became even more astonishing. They went to the
Titan Club in Canada. The ugliest and most inaccessible sheet of
water in that territory is Lake Pharaoh. But it is famous for the
extraordinary fishing at a certain spot near the outlet, where there
is just room enough for one canoe. They camped on Lake Pharaoh for six
weeks, by Mrs. De Peyster's command; and her canoe was always the first
to reach the fishing-ground in the morning, and the last to leave it in
the evening.

Some one asked him, when he returned to the city, whether he had good

"Quite fair," he tossed off in a careless way; "we took over three
hundred pounds."

"To your own rod?" asked the inquirer, in admiration.

"No-o-o," said Beekman, "there were two of us."

There were two of them, also, the following year, when they joined the
Natasheebo Salmon Club and fished that celebrated river in Labrador. The
custom of drawing lots every night for the water that each member was
to angle over the next day, seemed to be especially designed to fit the
situation. Mrs. De Peyster could fish her own pool and her husband's
too. The result of that year's fishing was something phenomenal. She had
a score that made a paragraph in the newspapers and called out editorial
comment. One editor was so inadequate to the situation as to entitle the
article in which he described her triumph "The Equivalence of Woman." It
was well-meant, but she was not at all pleased with it.

She was now not merely an angler, but a "record" angler of the most
virulent type. Wherever they went, she wanted, and she got, the pick
of the water. She seemed to be equally at home on all kinds of streams,
large and small. She would pursue the little mountain-brook trout in
the early spring, and the Labrador salmon in July, and the huge speckled
trout of the northern lakes in September, with the same avidity and
resolution. All that she cared for was to get the best and the most of
the fishing at each place where she angled. This she always did.

And Beekman,--well, for him there were no more long separations from
the partner of his life while he went off to fish some favourite stream.
There were no more home-comings after a good day's sport to find her
clad in cool and dainty raiment on the verandah, ready to welcome him
with friendly badinage. There was not even any casting of the fly around
Hardscrabble Point while she sat in the canoe reading a novel, looking
up with mild and pleasant interest when he caught a larger fish than
usual, as an older and wiser person looks at a child playing some
innocent game. Those days of a divided interest between man and wife
were gone. She was now fully converted, and more. Beekman and Cornelia
were one; and she was the one.

The last time I saw the De Peysters he was following her along the
Beaverkill, carrying a landing-net and a basket, but no rod. She paused
for a moment to exchange greetings, and then strode on down the stream.
He lingered for a few minutes longer to light a pipe.

"Well, old man," I said, "you certainly have succeeded in making an
angler of Mrs. De Peyster."

"Yes, indeed," he answered,--"have n't I?" Then he continued, after a
few thoughtful puffs of smoke, "Do you know, I 'm not quite so sure as I
used to be that fishing is the best of all sports. I sometimes think of
giving it up and going in for croquet."


     "SIMPSON.--Have you ever seen any American books on angling,

     "FISHER.--No, I do not think there are any published.
     Brother Jonathan is not yet sufficiently civilized to
     produce anything original on the gentle art.  There is good
     trout-fishing in America, and the streams, which are all
     free, are much less fished than in our Island, 'from the
     small number of gentlemen,' as an American writer says, 'who
     are at leisure to give their time to it.'"

     --WILLIAM ANDREW CHATTO: The Angler's Souvenir (London,

That wise man and accomplished scholar, Sir Henry Wotton, the friend of
Izaak Walton and ambassador of King James I to the republic of Venice,
was accustomed to say that "he would rather live five May months than
forty Decembers." The reason for this preference was no secret to those
who knew him. It had nothing to do with British or Venetian politics. It
was simply because December, with all its domestic joys, is practically
a dead month in the angler's calendar.

His occupation is gone. The better sort of fish are out of season. The
trout are lean and haggard: it is no trick to catch them and no treat to
eat them. The salmon, all except the silly kelts, have run out to sea,
and the place of their habitation no man knoweth. There is nothing
for the angler to do but wait for the return of spring, and meanwhile
encourage and sustain his patience with such small consolations in kind
as a friendly Providence may put within his reach.

Some solace may be found, on a day of crisp, wintry weather, in the
childish diversion of catching pickerel through the ice. This method of
taking fish is practised on a large scale and with elaborate machinery
by men who supply the market. I speak not of their commercial enterprise
and its gross equipage, but of ice-fishing in its more sportive and
desultory form, as it is pursued by country boys and the incorrigible
village idler.

You choose for this pastime a pond where the ice is not too thick, lest
the labour of cutting through should be discouraging; nor too thin, lest
the chance of breaking in should be embarrassing. You then chop out,
with almost any kind of a hatchet or pick, a number of holes in the ice,
making each one six or eight inches in diameter, and placing them about
five or six feet apart. If you happen to know the course of a current
flowing through the pond, or the location of a shoal frequented by
minnows, you will do well to keep near it. Over each hole you set a
small contrivance called a "tilt-up." It consists of two sticks fastened
in the middle, at right angles to each other. The stronger of the two is
laid across the opening in the ice. The other is thus balanced above
the aperture, with a baited hook and line attached to one end, while the
other end is adorned with a little flag. For choice, I would have the
flags red. They look gayer, and I imagine they are more lucky.

When you have thus baited and set your tilt-ups,--twenty or thirty of
them,--you may put on your skates and amuse yourself by gliding to
and fro on the smooth surface of the ice, cutting figures of eight and
grapevines and diamond twists, while you wait for the pickerel to begin
their part of the performance. They will let you know when they are

A fish, swimming around in the dim depths under the ice, sees one of
your baits, fancies it, and takes it in. The moment he tries to run away
with it he tilts the little red flag into the air and waves it backward
and forward. "Be quick!" he signals all unconsciously; "here I am; come
and pull me up!"

When two or three flags are fluttering at the same moment, far apart on
the pond, you must skate with speed and haul in your lines promptly.

How hard it is, sometimes, to decide which one you will take first! That
flag in the middle of the pond has been waving for at least a minute;
but the other, in the corner of the bay, is tilting up and down more
violently: it must be a larger fish. Great Dagon! There's another red
signal flying, away over by the point! You hesitate, you make a few
strokes in one direction, then you whirl around and dart the other way.
Meantime one of the tilt-ups, constructed with too short a cross-stick,
has been pulled to one side, and disappears in the hole. One pickerel in
the pond carries a flag. Another tilt-up ceases to move and falls flat
upon the ice. The bait has been stolen. You dash desperately toward
the third flag and pull in the only fish that is left,--probably the
smallest of them all!

A surplus of opportunities does not insure the best luck.

A room with seven doors--like the famous apartment in Washington's
headquarters at Newburgh--is an invitation to bewilderment. I would
rather see one fair opening in life than be confused by three dazzling

There was a good story about fishing through the ice which formed part
of the stock-in-conversation of that ingenious woodsman, Martin Moody,
Esquire, of Big Tupper Lake. "'T was a blame cold day," he said, "and
the lines friz up stiffer 'n a fence-wire, jus' as fast as I pulled 'em
in, and my fingers got so dum' frosted I could n't bait the hooks. But
the fish was thicker and hungrier 'n flies in June. So I jus' took
a piece of bait and held it over one o' the holes. Every time a fish
jumped up to git it, I 'd kick him out on the ice. I tell ye, sir, I
kicked out more 'n four hundred pounds of pick'rel that morning. Yaas,
't was a big lot, I 'low, but then 't was a cold day! I jus' stacked 'em
up solid, like cordwood."

Let us now leave this frigid subject! Iced fishing is but a chilling and
unsatisfactory imitation of real sport. The angler will soon turn from
it with satiety, and seek a better consolation for the winter of his
discontent in the entertainment of fishing in books.

Angling is the only sport that boasts the honour of having given a
classic to literature.

Izaak Walton's success with THE COMPLEAT ANGLER was a fine illustration
of fisherman's luck. He set out, with some aid from an adept in
fly-fishing and cookery, named Thomas Barker, to produce a little
"discourse of fish and fishing" which should serve as a useful manual
for quiet persons inclined to follow the contemplative man's recreation.
He came home with a book which has made his name beloved by ten
generations of gentle readers, and given him a secure place in the
Pantheon of letters,--not a haughty eminence, but a modest niche, all
his own, and ever adorned with grateful offerings of fresh flowers.

This was great luck. But it was well-deserved, and therefore it has not
been grudged or envied.

Walton was a man so peaceful and contented, so friendly in his
disposition, and so innocent in all his goings, that only three other
writers, so far as I know, have ever spoken ill of him.

One was that sour-complexioned Cromwellian trooper, Richard Franck, who
wrote in 1658 an envious book entitled NORTHERN MEMOIRS, CALCULATED FOR
PRACTICAL ANGLER. In this book the furious Franck first pays Walton the
flattery of imitation, and then further adorns him with abuse, calling
THE COMPLEAT ANGLER "an indigested octavo, stuffed with morals from
Dubravius and others," and more than hinting that the father of anglers
knew little or nothing of "his uncultivated art." Walton was a Churchman
and a Loyalist, you see, while Franck was a Commonwealth man and an

The second detractor of Walton was Lord Byron, who wrote

     "The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb in his gullet
      Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it."

But Byron is certainly a poor authority on the quality of mercy. His
contempt need not cause an honest man overwhelming distress. I should
call it a complimentary dislike.

The third author who expressed unpleasant sentiments in regard to
Walton was Leigh Hunt. Here, again, I fancy that partizan prejudice had
something to do with the dislike. Hunt was a radical in politics and
religion. Moreover there was a feline strain in his character, which
made it necessary for him to scratch somebody now and then, as a relief
to his feelings.

Walton was a great quoter. His book is not "stuffed," as Franck
jealously alleged, but it is certainly well sauced with piquant
references to other writers, as early as the author of the Book of Job,
and as late as John Dennys, who betrayed to the world THE SECRETS OF
ANGLING in 1613. Walton further seasoned his book with fragments of
information about fish and fishing, more or less apocryphal, gathered
from Aelian, Pliny, Plutarch, Sir Francis Bacon, Dubravius, Gesner,
Rondeletius, the learned Aldrovandus, the venerable Bede, the divine
Du Bartas, and many others. He borrowed freely for the adornment of
his discourse, and did not scorn to make use of what may be called
LIVE QUOTATIONS,--that is to say, the unpublished remarks of his near
contemporaries, caught in friendly conversation, or handed down by oral

But these various seasonings did not disguise, they only enhanced, the
delicate flavour of the dish which he served up to his readers. This was
all of his own taking, and of a sweetness quite incomparable.

I like a writer who is original enough to water his garden with
quotations, without fear of being drowned out. Such men are Charles Lamb
and James Russell Lowell and John Burroughs.

Walton's book is as fresh as a handful of wild violets and sweet
lavender. It breathes the odours of the green fields and the woods. It
tastes of simple, homely, appetizing things like the "syllabub of new
verjuice in a new-made haycock" which the milkwoman promised to give
Piscator the next time he came that way. Its music plays the tune of A
CONTENTED HEART over and over again without dulness, and charms us into
harmony with

     "A noise like the sound of a hidden brook
      In the leafy month of June,
      That to the sleeping woods all night
      Singeth a quiet tune."

Walton has been quoted even more than any of the writers whom he quotes.
It would be difficult, even if it were not ungrateful, to write
about angling without referring to him. Some pretty saying, some wise
reflection from his pages, suggests itself at almost every turn of the

And yet his book, though it be the best, is not the only readable one
that his favourite recreation has begotten. The literature of angling
is extensive, as any one may see who will look at the list of the
collection presented by Mr. John Bartlett to Harvard University, or
study the catalogue of the piscatorial library of Mr. Dean Sage,
of Albany, who himself has contributed an admirable book on THE

Nor is this literature altogether composed of dry and technical
treatises, interesting only to the confirmed anglimaniac, or to the
young novice ardent in pursuit of practical information. There is a good
deal of juicy reading in it.

Books about angling should be divided (according to De Quincey's method)
into two classes,--the literature of knowledge, and the literature of

The first class contains the handbooks on rods and tackle, the
directions how to angle for different kinds of fish, and the guides to
various fishing-resorts. The weakness of these books is that they soon
fall out of date, as the manufacture of tackle is improved, the art
of angling refined, and the fish in once-famous waters are educated or

Alas, how transient is the fashion of this world, even in angling! The
old manuals with their precise instruction for trimming and painting
trout-rods eighteen feet long, and their painful description of
"oyntments" made of nettle-juice, fish-hawk oil, camphor, cat's fat, or
assafoedita, (supposed to allure the fish,) are altogether behind the
age. Many of the flies described by Charles Cotton and Thomas Barker
seem to have gone out of style among the trout. Perhaps familiarity has
bred contempt. Generation after generation of fish have seen these same
old feathered confections floating on the water, and learned by sharp
experience that they do not taste good. The blase trout demand something
new, something modern. It is for this reason, I suppose, that an
altogether original fly, unheard of, startling, will often do great
execution in an over-fished pool.

Certain it is that the art of angling, in settled regions, is growing
more dainty and difficult. You must cast a longer, lighter line; you
must use finer leaders; you must have your flies dressed on smaller

And another thing is certain: in many places (described in the
ancient volumes) where fish were once abundant, they are now like the
shipwrecked sailors in Vergil his Aeneid,--

     "rari nantes in gurgite vasto."

The floods themselves are also disappearing. Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman
was telling me, the other day, of the trout-brook that used to run
through the Connecticut village when he nourished a poet's youth.
He went back to visit the stream a few years since, and it was gone,
literally vanished from the face of earth, stolen to make a watersupply
for the town, and used for such base purposes as the washing of clothes
and the sprinkling of streets.

I remember an expedition with my father, some twenty years ago, to Nova
Scotia, whither we set out to realize the hopes kindled by an ANGLER'S
GUIDE written in the early sixties. It was like looking for tall clocks
in the farmhouses around Boston. The harvest had been well gleaned
before our arrival, and in the very place where our visionary author
located his most famous catch we found a summer hotel and a sawmill.

'T is strange and sad, how many regions there are where "the fishing was
wonderful forty years ago"!

The second class of angling books--the literature of power--includes
all (even those written with some purpose of instruction) in which
the gentle fascinations of the sport, the attractions of living
out-of-doors, the beauties of stream and woodland, the recollections of
happy adventure, and the cheerful thoughts that make the best of a day's
luck, come clearly before the author's mind and find some fit expression
in his words. Of such books, thank Heaven, there is a plenty to bring a
Maytide charm and cheer into the fisherman's dull December. I will name,
by way of random tribute from a grateful but unmethodical memory, a few
of these consolatory volumes.

First of all comes a family of books that were born in Scotland and
smell of the heather.

Whatever a Scotchman's conscience permits him to do, is likely to be
done with vigour and a fiery mind. In trade and in theology, in fishing
and in fighting, he is all there and thoroughly kindled.

There is an old-fashioned book called THE MOOR AND THE LOCH, by John
Colquhoun, which is full of contagious enthusiasm. Thomas Tod Stoddart
was a most impassioned angler, (though over-given to strong language,)
and in his ANGLING REMINISCENCES he has touched the subject with a happy
hand,--happiest when he breaks into poetry and tosses out a song for the
fisherman. Professor John Wilson of the University of Edinburgh held the
chair of Moral Philosophy in that institution, but his true fame rests
on his well-earned titles of A. M. and F. R. S.,--Master of Angling,
and Fisherman Royal of Scotland. His RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH,
albeit their humour is sometimes too boisterously hammered in, are
genial and generous essays, overflowing with passages of good-fellowship
and pedestrian fancy. I would recommend any person in a dry and
melancholy state of mind to read his paper on "Streams," in the first
volume of ESSAYS CRITICAL AND IMAGINATIVE. But it must be said, by way
of warning to those with whom dryness is a matter of principle, that all
Scotch fishing-books are likely to be sprinkled with Highland Dew.

Among English anglers, Sir Humphry Davy is one of whom Christopher
North speaks rather slightingly. Nevertheless his SALMONIA is well worth
reading, not only because it was written by a learned man, but because
it exhales the spirit of cheerful piety and vital wisdom. Charles
Kingsley was another great man who wrote well about angling. His
CHALK-STREAM STUDIES are clear and sparkling. They cleanse the mind
and refresh the heart and put us more in love with living. Of quite a
FISHING, which were written by Richard Penn, a grandson of the founder
of Pennsylvania. This is a curious and rare little volume, professing
to be a compilation from the "Common Place Book of the Houghton Fishing
Club," and dealing with the subject from a Pickwickian point of view.
I suppose that William Penn would have thought his grandson a frivolous

But he could not have entertained such an opinion of the Honourable
Robert Boyle, of whose OCCASIONAL REFLECTIONS no less than twelve
discourses treat "of Angling Improved to Spiritual Uses." The titles
of some of these discourses are quaint enough to quote. "Upon the being
called upon to rise early on a very fair morning." "Upon the mounting,
singing, and lighting of larks." "Upon fishing with a counterfeit fly."
"Upon a danger arising from an unseasonable contest with the steersman."
"Upon one's drinking water out of the brim of his hat." With such good
texts it is easy to endure, and easier still to spare, the sermons.

Englishmen carry their love of travel into their anglimania, and many of
their books describe fishing adventures in foreign parts. RAMBLES WITH
A FISHING-ROD, by E. S. Roscoe, tells of happy days in the Salzkammergut
and the Bavarian Highlands and Normandy. FISH-TAILS AND A FEW OTHERS, by
Bradnock Hall, contains some delightful chapters on Norway. THE ROD IN
INDIA, by H. S. Thomas, narrates wonderful adventures with the Mahseer
and the Rohu and other pagan fish.

But, after all, I like the English angler best when he travels at home,
and writes of dry-fly fishing in the Itchen or the Test, or of wet-fly
fishing in Northumberland or Sutherlandshire. There is a fascinating
booklet that appeared quietly, some years ago, called AN AMATEUR
ANGLER'S DAYS IN DOVE DALE. It runs as easily and merrily and kindly
as a little river, full of peace and pure enjoyment. Other books of the
same quality have since been written by the same pen,--DAYS IN CLOVER,
FRESH WOODS, BY MEADOW AND STREAM. It is no secret, I believe, that
the author is Mr. Edward Marston, the senior member of a London
publishing-house. But he still clings to his retiring pen-name of "The
Amateur Angler," and represents himself, by a graceful fiction, as all
unskilled in the art. An instance of similar modesty is found in Mr.
Andrew Lang, who entitles the first chapter of his delightful
ANGLING SKETCHES (without which no fisherman's library is complete),
"Confessions of a Duffer." This an engaging liberty which no one else
would dare to take.

The best English fish-story pure and simple, that I know, is "Crocker's
Hole," by H. D. Black-more, the creator of LORNA DOONE.

Let us turn now to American books about angling. Of these the merciful
dispensations of Providence have brought forth no small store since Mr.
William Andrew Chatto made the ill-natured remark which is pilloried at
the head of this chapter. By the way, it seems that Mr. Chatto had never
heard of "The Schuylkill Fishing Company," which was founded on that
romantic stream near Philadelphia in 1732, nor seen the AUTHENTIC
HISTORICAL MEMOIR of that celebrated and amusing society.

I am sorry for the man who cannot find pleasure in reading the appendix
of THE AMERICAN ANGLER'S BOOK, by Thaddeus Norris; or the discursive
pages of Frank Forester's FISH AND FISHING; or the introduction and
notes of that unexcelled edition of Walton which was made by the
Reverend Doctor George W. Bethune; or SUPERIOR FISHING and GAME FISH OF
THE NORTH, by Mr. Robert B. Roosevelt; or Henshall's BOOK OF THE BLACK
BASS; or the admirable disgressions of Mr. Henry P. Wells, in his
Prime has never put his profound knowledge of the art of angling into a
manual of technical instruction; but he has written of the delights of
the sport in OWL CREEK LETTERS, and in I GO A-FISHING, and in some of
with a persuasive skill that has created many new anglers, and made
many old ones grateful. It is a fitting coincidence of heredity that his
niece, Mrs. Annie Trumbull Slosson, is the author of the most tender and
pathetic of all angling stories, FISHIN' JIMMY.

But it is not only in books written altogether from his peculiar point
of view and to humour his harmless insanity, that the angler may find
pleasant reading about his favourite pastime. There are excellent bits
of fishing scattered all through the field of good literature. It seems
as if almost all the men who could write well had a friendly feeling for
the contemplative sport.

Plutarch, in THE LIVES OF THE NOBLE GRECIANS AND ROMANS, tells a capital
fish-story of the manner in which the Egyptian Cleopatra fooled that
far-famed Roman wight, Marc Antony, when they were angling together on
the Nile. As I recall it, from a perusal in early boyhood, Antony was
having very bad luck indeed; in fact he had taken nothing, and was sadly
put out about it. Cleopatra, thinking to get a rise out of him, secretly
told one of her attendants to dive over the opposite side of the barge
and fasten a salt fish to the Roman general's hook. The attendant was
much pleased with this commission, and, having executed it, proceeded to
add a fine stroke of his own; for when he had made the fish fast on the
hook, he gave a great pull to the line and held on tightly. Antony was
much excited and began to haul violently at his tackle.

"By Jupiter!" he exclaimed, "it was long in coming, but I have a
colossal bite now."

"Have a care," said Cleopatra, laughing behind her sunshade, "or he will
drag you into the water. You must give him line when he pulls hard."

"Not a denarius will I give!" rudely responded Antony. "I mean to have
this halibut or Hades!"

At this moment the man under the boat, being out of breath, let the line
go, and Antony, falling backward, drew up the salted herring.

"Take that fish off the hook, Palinurus," he proudly said. "It is not
as large as I thought, but it looks like the oldest one that has been
caught to-day."

Such, in effect, is the tale narrated by the veracious Plutarch. And
if any careful critic wishes to verify my quotation from memory, he may
compare it with the proper page of Langhorne's translation; I think it
is in the second volume, near the end.

Sir Walter Scott, who once described himself as

     "No fisher,
      But a well-wisher
      To the game,"

has an amusing passage of angling in the third chapter of REDGAUNTLET.
Darsie Latimer is relating his adventures in Dumfriesshire. "By the
way," says he, "old Cotton's instructions, by which I hoped to qualify
myself for the gentle society of anglers, are not worth a farthing for
this meridian. I learned this by mere accident, after I had waited four
mortal hours. I shall never forget an impudent urchin, a cowherd, about
twelve years old, without either brogue or bonnet, barelegged, with a
very indifferent pair of breeches,--how the villain grinned in scorn at
my landing-net, my plummet, and the gorgeous jury of flies which I had
assembled to destroy all the fish in the river. I was induced at last to
lend the rod to the sneering scoundrel, to see what he would make of it;
and he not only half-filled my basket in an hour, but literally taught
me to kill two trouts with my own hand."

Thus ancient and well-authenticated is the superstition of the angling
powers of the barefooted country-boy,--in fiction.

Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, in that valuable but over-capitalized book,
MY NOVEL, makes use of Fishing for Allegorical Purposes. The episode of
John Burley and the One-eyed Perch not only points a Moral but adorns
the Tale.

In the works of R. D. Blackmore, angling plays a less instructive but a
pleasanter part. It is closely interwoven with love. There is a magical
description of trout-fishing on a meadow-brook in ALICE LORRAINE. And
who that has read LORNA DOONE, (pity for the man or woman that knows not
the delight of that book!) can ever forget how young John Ridd dared
his way up the gliddery water-slide, after loaches, and found Lorna in a
fair green meadow adorned with flowers, at the top of the brook?

I made a little journey into the Doone Country once, just to see that
brook and to fish in it. The stream looked smaller, and the water-slide
less terrible, than they seemed in the book. But it was a mighty pretty
place after all; and I suppose that even John Ridd, when he came back to
it in after years, found it shrunken a little.

All the streams were larger in our boyhood than they are now, except,
perhaps, that which flows from the sweetest spring of all, the fountain
of love, which John Ridd discovered beside the Bagworthy River,--and I,
on the willow-shaded banks of the Patapsco, where the Baltimore girls
fish for gudgeons,--and you? Come, gentle reader, is there no stream
whose name is musical to you, because of a hidden spring of love that
you once found on its shore? The waters of that fountain never fail, and
in them alone we taste the undiminished fulness of immortal youth.

The stories of William Black are enlivened with fish, and he knew,
better than most men, how they should be taken. Whenever he wanted to
get two young people engaged to each other, all other devices failing,
he sent them out to angle together. If it had not been for fishing,
everything in A PRINCESS OF THULE and WHITE HEATHER would have gone

But even men who have been disappointed in love may angle for solace or
diversion. I have known some old bachelors who fished excellently well;
and others I have known who could find, and give, much pleasure in a day
on the stream, though they had no skill in the sport. Of this class was
Washington Irving, with an extract from whose SKETCH BOOK I will bring
this rambling dissertation to an end.

"Our first essay," says he, "was along a mountain brook among the
highlands of the Hudson; a most unfortunate place for the execution of
those piscatory tactics which had been invented along the velvet margins
of quiet English rivulets. It was one of those wild streams that lavish,
among our romantic solitudes, unheeded beauties enough to fill the
sketch-book of a hunter of the picturesque. Sometimes it would leap down
rocky shelves, making small cascades, over which the trees threw their
broad balancing sprays, and long nameless weeds hung in fringes from the
impending banks, dripping with diamond drops. Sometimes it would brawl
and fret along a ravine in the matted shade of a forest, filling it with
murmurs; and, after this termagant career, would steal forth into open
day, with the most placid, demure face imaginable; as I have seen some
pestilent shrew of a housewife, after filling her home with uproar and
ill-humour, come dimpling out of doors, swimming and courtesying, and
smiling upon all the world.

"How smoothly would this vagrant brook glide, at such times, through
some bosom of green meadow-land among the mountains, where the quiet
was only interrupted by the occasional tinkling of a bell from the lazy
cattle among the clover, or the sound of a woodcutter's axe from the
neighbouring forest!

"For my part, I was always a bungler at all kinds of sport that required
either patience or adroitness, and had not angled above half an hour
before I had completely 'satisfied the sentiment,' and convinced myself
of the truth of Izaak Walton's opinion, that angling is something like
poetry,--a man must be born to it. I hooked myself instead of the fish;
tangled my line in every tree; lost my bait; broke my rod; until I gave
up the attempt in despair, and passed the day under the trees, reading
old Izaak, satisfied that it was his fascinating vein of honest
simplicity and rural feeling that had bewitched me, and not the passion
for angling."


     "The best rose-bush, after all, is not that which has the
     fewest thorns, but that which bears the finest roses."

     --SOLOMON SINGLEWITZ: The Life of Adam.


It was not all unadulterated sweetness, of course. There were enough
difficulties in the way to make it seem desirable; and a few stings
of annoyance, now and then, lent piquancy to the adventure. But a good
memory, in dealing with the past, has the art of straining out all the
beeswax of discomfort, and storing up little jars of pure hydromel. As
we look back at our six weeks in Norway, we agree that no period of our
partnership in experimental honeymooning has yielded more honey to the
same amount of comb.

Several considerations led us to the resolve of taking our honeymoon
experimentally rather than chronologically. We started from the
self-evident proposition that it ought to be the happiest time in
married life.

"It is perfectly ridiculous," said my lady Graygown, "to suppose that
a thing like that can be fixed by the calendar. It may possibly fall in
the first month after the wedding, but it is not likely. Just think how
slightly two people know each other when they get married. They are
in love, of course, but that is not at all the same as being well
acquainted. Sometimes the more love, the less acquaintance! And
sometimes the more acquaintance, the less love! Besides, at first there
are always the notes of thanks for the wedding-presents to be written,
and the letters of congratulation to be answered, and it is awfully hard
to make each one sound a little different from the others and perfectly
natural. Then, you know, everybody seems to suspect you of the folly of
being newly married. You run across your friends everywhere, and they
grin when they see you. You can't help feeling as if a lot of people
were watching you through opera-glasses, or taking snap-shots at you
with a kodak. It is absurd to imagine that the first month must be the
real honeymoon. And just suppose it were,--what bad luck that would be!
What would there be to look forward to?"

Every word that fell from her lips seemed to me like the wisdom of

"You are right," I cried; "Portia could not hold a candle to you for
clear argument. Besides, suppose two people are imprudent enough to get
married in the first week of December, as we did!--what becomes of the
chronological honeymoon then? There is no fishing in December, and all
the rivers of Paradise, at least in our latitude, are frozen up. No, my
lady, we will discover our month of honey by the empirical method. Each
year we will set out together to seek it in a solitude for two; and we
will compare notes on moons, and strike the final balance when we are
sure that our happiest experiment has been completed."

We are not sure of that, even yet. We are still engaged, as a committee
of two, in our philosophical investigation, and we decline to make
anything but a report of progress. We know more now than we did when we
first went honeymooning in the city of Washington. For one thing, we are
certain that not even the far-famed rosemary-fields of Narbonne, or
the fragrant hillsides of the Corbieres, yield a sweeter harvest to the
busy-ness of the bees than the Norwegian meadows and mountain-slopes
yielded to our idleness in the summer of 1888.


The rural landscape of Norway, on the long easterly slope that leads up
to the watershed among the mountains of the western coast, is not unlike
that of Vermont or New Hampshire. The railway from Christiania to the
Randsfjord carried us through a hilly country of scattered farms and
villages. Wood played a prominent part in the scenery. There were dark
stretches of forest on the hilltops and in the valleys; rivers filled
with floating logs; sawmills beside the waterfalls; wooden farmhouses
painted white; and rail-fences around the fields. The people seemed
sturdy, prosperous, independent. They had the familiar habit of coming
down to the station to see the train arrive and depart. We might have
fancied ourselves on a journey through the Connecticut valley, if it had
not been for the soft sing-song of the Norwegian speech and the uniform
politeness of the railway officials.

What a room that was in the inn at Randsfjord where we spent our first
night out! Vast, bare, primitive, with eight windows to admit the
persistent nocturnal twilight; a sea-like floor of blue-painted boards,
unbroken by a single island of carpet; and a castellated stove in one
corner: an apartment for giants, with two little beds for dwarfs on
opposite shores of the ocean. There was no telephone; so we arranged
a system of communication with a fishing-line, to make sure that
the sleepy partner should be awake in time for the early boat in the

The journey up the lake took seven hours, and reminded us of a voyage
on Lake George; placid, picturesque, and pervaded by summer boarders.
Somewhere on the way we had lunch, and were well fortified to take the
road when the steamboat landed us at Odnaes, at the head of the lake,
about two o'clock in the afternoon.

There are several methods in which you may drive through Norway. The
government maintains posting-stations at the farms along the main
travelled highways, where you can hire horses and carriages of various
kinds. There are also English tourist agencies which make a business of
providing travellers with complete transportation. You may try either of
these methods alone, or you may make a judicious mixture.

Thus, by an application of the theory of permutations and combinations,
you have your choice among four ways of accomplishing a driving-tour.
First, you may engage a carriage and pair, with a driver, from one of
the tourist agencies, and roll through your journey in sedentary case,
provided your horses do not go lame or give out. Second, you may rely
altogether upon the posting-stations to send you on your journey; and
this is a very pleasant, lively way, provided there is not a crowd
of travellers on the road before you, who take up all the comfortable
conveyances and leave you nothing but a jolting cart or a ramshackle
KARIOL of the time of St. Olaf. Third, you may rent an easy-riding
vehicle (by choice a well-hung gig) for the entire trip, and change
ponies at the stations as you drive along; this is the safest way. The
fourth method is to hire your horseflesh at the beginning for the whole
journey, and pick up your vehicles from place to place. This method is
theoretically possible, but I do not know any one who has tried it.

Our gig was waiting for us at Odnaes. There was a brisk little
mouse-coloured pony in the shafts; and it took but a moment to strap our
leather portmanteau on the board at the back, perch the postboy on top
of it, and set out for our first experience of a Norwegian driving-tour.

The road at first was level and easy; and we bowled along smoothly
through the valley of the Etnaelv, among drooping birch-trees and green
fields where the larks were singing. At Tomlevolden, ten miles farther
on, we reached the first station, a comfortable old farmhouse, with a
great array of wooden outbuildings. Here we had a chance to try our
luck with the Norwegian language in demanding "en hest, saa straxt som
muligt." This was what the guide-book told us to say when we wanted a

There is great fun in making a random cast on the surface of a strange
language. You cannot tell what will come up. It is like an experiment in
witchcraft. We should not have been at all surprised, I must confess, if
our preliminary incantation had brought forth a cow or a basket of eggs.

But the good people seemed to divine our intentions; and while we were
waiting for one of the stable-boys to catch and harness the new horse, a
yellow-haired maiden inquired, in very fair English, if we would not be
pleased to have a cup of tea and some butter-bread; which we did with
great comfort.

The SKYDSGUT, or so-called postboy, for the next stage of the journey,
was a full-grown man of considerable weight. As he climbed to his perch
on our portmanteau, my lady Graygown congratulated me on the prudence
which had provided that one side of that receptacle should be of an
inflexible stiffness, quite incapable of being crushed; otherwise, asked
she, what would have become of her Sunday frock under the pressure of
this stern necessity of a postboy?

But I think we should not have cared very much if all our luggage had
been smashed on this journey, for the road now began to ascend, and the
views over the Etnadal, with its winding river, were of a breadth and
sweetness most consoling. Up and up we went, curving in and out through
the forest, crossing wild ravines and shadowy dells, looking back at
every turn on the wide landscape bathed in golden light. At the station
of Sveen, where we changed horse and postboy again, it was already
evening. The sun was down, but the mystical radiance of the northern
twilight illumined the sky. The dark fir-woods spread around us, and
their odourous breath was diffused through the cool, still air. We were
crossing the level summit of the plateau, twenty-three hundred feet
above the sea. Two tiny woodland lakes gleamed out among the trees. Then
the road began to slope gently towards the west, and emerged suddenly
on the edge of the forest, looking out over the long, lovely vale of
Valders, with snow-touched mountains on the horizon, and the river
Baegna shimmering along its bed, a thousand feet below us.

What a heart-enlarging outlook! What a keen joy of motion, as the wheels
rolled down the long incline, and the sure-footed pony swung between the
shafts and rattled his hoofs merrily on the hard road! What long,
deep breaths of silent pleasure in the crisp night air! What wondrous
mingling of lights in the afterglow of sunset, and the primrose bloom
of the first stars, and faint foregleamings of the rising moon creeping
over the hill behind us! What perfection of companionship without words,
as we rode together through a strange land, along the edge of the dark!

When we finished the thirty-fifth mile, and drew up in the courtyard of
the station at Frydenlund, Graygown sprang out, with a little sigh of

"Is it last night," she cried, "or to-morrow morning? I have n't the
least idea what time it is; it seems as if we had been travelling in

"It is just ten o'clock," I answered, "and the landlord says there will
be a hot supper of trout ready for us in five minutes."

It would be vain to attempt to give a daily record of the whole
journey in which we made this fair beginning. It was a most idle and
unsystematic pilgrimage. We wandered up and down, and turned aside when
fancy beckoned. Sometimes we hurried on as fast as the horses would
carry us, driving sixty or seventy miles a day; sometimes we loitered
and dawdled, as if we did not care whether we got anywhere or not. If a
place pleased us, we stayed and tried the fishing. If we were tired of
driving, we took to the water, and travelled by steamer along a fjord,
or hired a rowboat to cross from point to point. One day we would be in
a good little hotel, with polyglot guests, and serving-maids in stagey
Norse costumes,--like the famous inn at Stalheim, which commands the
amazing panorama of the Naerodal. Another day we would lodge in a plain
farmhouse like the station at Nedre Vasenden, where eggs and fish were
the staples of diet, and the farmer's daughter wore the picturesque
peasants' dress, with its tall cap, without any dramatic airs. Lakes
and rivers, precipices and gorges, waterfalls and glaciers and snowy
mountains were our daily repast. We drove over five hundred miles in
various kinds of open wagons, KARIOLS for one, and STOLKJAERRES for
two, after we had left our comfortable gig behind us. We saw the ancient
dragon-gabled church of Burgund; and the delightful, showery town of
Bergen; and the gloomy cliffs of the Geiranger-Fjord laced with filmy
cataracts; and the bewitched crags of the Romsdal; and the wide,
desolate landscape of Jerkin; and a hundred other unforgotten scenes.
Somehow or other we went, (around and about, and up and down, now
on wheels, and now on foot, and now in a boat,) all the way from
Christiania to Throndhjem. My lady Graygown could give you the exact
itinerary, for she has been well brought up, and always keeps a diary.
All I know is, that we set out from one city and arrived at the other,
and we gathered by the way a collection of instantaneous photographs.
I am going to turn them over now, and pick out a few of the clearest


Here is the bridge over the Naeselv at Fagernaes. Just below it is a
good pool for trout, but the river is broad and deep and swift. It is
difficult wading to get out within reach of the fish. I have taken half
a dozen small ones and come to the end of my cast. There is a big one
lying out in the middle of the river, I am sure. But the water already
rises to my hips; another step will bring it over the top of my waders,
and send me downstream feet uppermost.

"Take care!" cries Graygown from the grassy bank, where she sits
placidly crocheting some mysterious fabric of white yarn.

She does not see the large rock lying at the bottom of the river just
beyond me. If I can step on that, and stand there without being swept
away, I can reach the mid-current with my flies. It is a long stride
and a slippery foothold, but by good luck "the last step which costs" is
accomplished. The tiny black and orange hackle goes curling out over the
stream, lights softly, and swings around with the current, folding
and expanding its feathers as if it were alive. The big trout takes
it promptly the instant it passes over him; and I play him and net him
without moving from my perilous perch.

Graygown waves her crochet-work like a flag, "Bravo!" she cries. "That's
a beauty, nearly two pounds! But do be careful about coming back; you
are not good enough to take any risks yet."

The station at Skogstad is a solitary farmhouse lying far up on the
bare hillside, with its barns and out-buildings grouped around a central
courtyard, like a rude fortress. The river travels along the valley
below, now wrestling its way through a narrow passage among the rocks,
now spreading out at leisure in a green meadow. As we cross the bridge,
the crystal water is changed to opal by the sunset glow, and a gentle
breeze ruffles the long pools, and the trout are rising freely. It is
the perfect hour for fishing. Would Graygown dare to drive on alone to
the gate of the fortress, and blow upon the long horn which doubtless
hangs beside it, and demand admittance and a lodging, "in the name of
the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress,"--while I angle down the
river a mile or so?

Certainly she would. What door is there in Europe at which the American
girl is afraid to knock? "But wait a moment. How do you ask for fried
chicken and pancakes in Norwegian? KYLLING OG PANDEKAGE? How fierce it
sounds! All right now. Run along and fish."

The river welcomes me like an old friend. The tune that it sings is the
same that the flowing water repeats all around the world. Not otherwise
do the lively rapids carry the familiar air, and the larger falls drone
out a burly bass, along the west branch of the Penobscot, or down the
valley of the Bouquet. But here there are no forests to conceal the
course of the stream. It lies as free to the view as a child's thought.
As I follow on from pool to pool, picking out a good trout here and
there, now from a rocky corner edged with foam, now from a swift
gravelly run, now from a snug hiding-place that the current has hollowed
out beneath the bank, all the way I can see the fortress far above me on
the hillside.

I am as sure that it has already surrendered to Graygown as if I could
discern her white banner of crochet-work floating from the battlements.

Just before dark, I climb the hill with a heavy basket of fish. The
castle gate is open. The scent of chicken and pancakes salutes the weary
pilgrim. In a cosy little parlour, adorned with fluffy mats and pictures
framed in pine-cones, lit by a hanging lamp with glass pendants,
sits the mistress of the occasion, calmly triumphant and plying her

There is something mysterious about a woman's fancy-work. It seems
to have all the soothing charm of the tobacco-plant, without its
inconveniences. Just to see her tranquillity, while she relaxes her mind
and busies her fingers with a bit of tatting or embroidery or crochet,
gives me a sense of being domesticated, a "homey" feeling, anywhere in
the wide world.

If you ever go to Norway, you must be sure to see the Loenvand. You can
set out from the comfortable hotel at Faleide, go up the Indvik Fjord
in a rowboat, cross over a two-mile hill on foot or by carriage, spend a
happy day on the lake, and return to your inn in time for a late supper.
The lake is perhaps the most beautiful in Norway. Long and narrow, it
lies like a priceless emerald of palest green, hidden and guarded by
jealous mountains. It is fed by huge glaciers, which hang over the
shoulders of the hills like ragged cloaks of ice.

As we row along the shore, trolling in vain for the trout that live in
the ice-cold water, fragments of the tattered cloth-of-silver far above
us, on the opposite side, are loosened by the touch of the summer
sun, and fall from the precipice. They drift downward, at first,
as noiselessly as thistledowns; then they strike the rocks and come
crashing towards the lake with the hollow roar of an avalanche.

At the head of the lake we find ourselves in an enormous amphitheatre
of mountains. Glaciers are peering down upon us. Snow-fields glare at us
with glistening eyes. Black crags seem to bend above us with an eternal
frown. Streamers of foam float from the forehead of the hills and the
lips of the dark ravines. But there is a little river of cold, pure
water flowing from one of the rivers of ice, and a pleasant shelter of
young trees and bushes growing among the debris of shattered rocks; and
there we build our camp-fire and eat our lunch.

Hunger is a most impudent appetite. It makes a man forget all the
proprieties. What place is there so lofty, so awful, that he will not
dare to sit down in it and partake of food? Even on the side of Mount
Sinai, the elders of Israel spread their out-of-door table, "and did eat
and drink."

I see the Tarn of the Elk at this moment, just as it looked in the clear
sunlight of that August afternoon, ten years ago. Far down in a hollow
of the desolate hills it nestles, four thousand feet above the sea. The
moorland trail hangs high above it, and, though it is a mile away, every
curve of the treeless shore, every shoal and reef in the light green
water is clearly visible. With a powerful field-glass one can almost see
the large trout for which the pond is famous.

The shelter-hut on the bank is built of rough gray stones, and the roof
is leaky to the light as well as to the weather. But there are two beds
in it, one for my guide and one for me; and a practicable fireplace,
which is soon filled with a blaze of comfort. There is also a random
library of novels, which former fishermen have thoughtfully left behind
them. I like strong reading in the wilderness. Give me a story with
plenty of danger and wholesome fighting in it,--"The Three Musketeers,"
or "Treasure Island," or "The Afghan's Knife." Intricate studies of
social dilemmas and tales of mild philandering seem bloodless and

The trout in the Tarn of the Elk are large, undoubtedly, but they are
also few in number and shy in disposition. Either some of the peasants
have been fishing over them with the deadly "otter," or else they
belong to that variety of the trout family known as TRUTTA DAMNOSA,--the
species which you can see but cannot take. We watched these aggravating
fish playing on the surface at sunset; we saw them dart beneath our boat
in the early morning; but not until a driving snowstorm set in, about
noon of the second day, did we succeed in persuading any of them to take
the fly. Then they rose, for a couple of hours, with amiable perversity.
I caught five, weighing between two and four pounds each, and stopped
because my hands were so numb that I could cast no longer.

Now for a long tramp over the hills and home. Yes, home; for yonder in
the white house at Drivstuen, with fuchsias and geraniums blooming in
the windows, and a pretty, friendly Norse girl to keep her company, my
lady is waiting for me. See, she comes running out to the door, in the
gathering dusk, with a red flower in her hair, and hails me with the
fisherman's greeting. WHAT LUCK?

Well, THIS luck, at all events! I can show you a few good fish, and sit
down with you to a supper of reindeer-venison and a quiet evening of
music and talk.

Shall I forget thee, hospitable Stuefloten, dearest to our memory of all
the rustic stations in Norway? There are no stars beside thy name in the
pages of Baedeker. But in the book of our hearts a whole constellation
is thine.

The long, low, white farmhouse stands on a green hill at the head of
the Romsdal. A flourishing crop of grass and flowers grows on the
stable-roof, and there is a little belfry with a big bell to call the
labourers home from the fields. In the corner of the living-room of the
old house there is a broad fireplace built across the angle. Curious
cupboards are tucked away everywhere. The long table in the dining-room
groans thrice a day with generous fare. There are as many kinds of hot
bread as in a Virginia country-house; the cream is thick enough to
make a spoon stand up in amazement; once, at dinner, we sat embarrassed
before six different varieties of pudding.

In the evening, when the saffron light is beginning to fade, we go out
and walk in the road before the house, looking down the long mystical
vale of the Rauma, or up to the purple western hills from which the
clear streams of the Ulvaa flow to meet us.

Above Stuefloten the Rauma lingers and meanders through a smoother and
more open valley, with broad beds of gravel and flowery meadows. Here
the trout and grayling grow fat and lusty, and here we angle for them,
day after day, in water so crystalline that when one steps into the
stream one hardly knows whether to expect a depth of six inches or six

Tiny English flies and leaders of gossamer are the tackle for such water
in midsummer. With this delicate outfit, and with a light hand and
a long line, one may easily outfish the native angler, and fill a
twelve-pound basket every fair day. I remember an old Norwegian, an
inveterate fisherman, whose footmarks we saw ahead of us on the stream
all through an afternoon. Footmarks I call them; and so they were,
literally, for there were only the prints of a single foot to be seen
on the banks of sand, and between them, a series of small, round, deep

"What kind of a bird made those marks, Frederik?" I asked my faithful

"That is old Pedersen," he said, "with his wooden leg. He makes a dot
after every step. We shall catch him in a little while."

Sure enough, about six o'clock we saw him standing on a grassy point,
hurling his line, with a fat worm on the end of it, far across the
stream, and letting it drift down with the current. But the water was
too fine for that style of fishing, and the poor old fellow had but a
half dozen little fish. My creel was already overflowing, so I emptied
out all of the grayling into his bag, and went on up the river to
complete my tale of trout before dark.

And when the fishing is over, there is Graygown with the wagon, waiting
at the appointed place under the trees, beside the road. The sturdy
white pony trots gayly homeward. The pale yellow stars blossom out above
the hills again, as they did on that first night when we were driving
down into the Valders. Frederik leans over the back of the seat, telling
us marvellous tales, in his broken English, of the fishing in a certain
lake among the mountains, and of the reindeer-shooting on the fjeld
beyond it.

"It is sad that you go to-morrow," says he "but you come back another
year, I think, to fish in that lake, and to shoot those reindeer."

Yes, Frederik, we are coming back to Norway some day, perhaps,--who can
tell? It is one of the hundred places that we are vaguely planning to
revisit. For, though we did not see the midnight sun there, we saw the
honeymoon most distinctly. And it was bright enough to take pictures by
its light.


"My heart is fixed firm and stable in the belief that ultimately the
sunshine and the summer, the flowers and the azure sky, shall become, as
it were, interwoven into man's existence. He shall take from all their
beauty and enjoy their glory."--RICHARD JEFFERIES: The Life of the

It was the little lad that asked the question; and the answer also, as
you will see, was mainly his.

We had been keeping Sunday afternoon together in our favourite fashion,
following out that pleasant text which tells us to "behold the fowls
of the air." There is no injunction of Holy Writ less burdensome in
acceptance, or more profitable in obedience, than this easy out-of-doors
commandment. For several hours we walked in the way of this precept,
through the untangled woods that lie behind the Forest Hills Lodge,
where a pair of pigeon-hawks had their nest; and around the
brambly shores of the small pond, where Maryland yellow-throats and
song-sparrows were settled; and under the lofty hemlocks of the fragment
of forest across the road, where rare warblers flitted silently among
the tree-tops. The light beneath the evergreens was growing dim as we
came out from their shadow into the widespread glow of the sunset,
on the edge of a grassy hill, overlooking the long valley of the Gale
River, and uplooking to the Franconia Mountains.

It was the benediction hour. The placid air of the day shed a new
tranquillity over the consoling landscape. The heart of the earth
seemed to taste a repose more perfect than that of common days.
A hermit-thrush, far up the vale, sang his vesper hymn; while the
swallows, seeking their evening meal, circled above the river-fields
without an effort, twittering softly, now and then, as if they must give
thanks. Slight and indefinable touches in the scene, perhaps the mere
absence of the tiny human figures passing along the road or labouring in
the distant meadows, perhaps the blue curls of smoke rising lazily
from the farmhouse chimneys, or the family groups sitting under the
maple-trees before the door, diffused a sabbath atmosphere over the

Then said the lad, lying on the grass beside me, "Father, who owns the

I happened to have heard, the day before, of two or three lumber
companies that had bought some of the woodland slopes; so I told him
their names, adding that there were probably a good many different
owners, whose claims taken all together would cover the whole Franconia
range of hills.

"Well," answered the lad, after a moment of silence, "I don't see what
difference that makes. Everybody can look at them."

They lay stretched out before us in the level sunlight, the sharp peaks
outlined against the sky, the vast ridges of forest sinking smoothly
towards the valleys, the deep hollows gathering purple shadows in their
bosoms, and the little foothills standing out in rounded promontories of
brighter green from the darker mass behind them.

Far to the east, the long comb of Twin Mountain extended itself back
into the untrodden wilderness. Mount Garfield lifted a clear-cut
pyramid through the translucent air. The huge bulk of Lafayette ascended
majestically in front of us, crowned with a rosy diadem of rocks. Eagle
Cliff and Bald Mountain stretched their line of scalloped peaks across
the entrance to the Notch. Beyond that shadowy vale, the swelling
summits of Cannon Mountain rolled away to meet the tumbling waves of
Kinsman, dominated by one loftier crested billow that seemed almost
ready to curl and break out of green silence into snowy foam. Far down
the sleeping Landaff valley the undulating dome of Moosilauke trembled
in the distant blue.

They were all ours, from crested cliff to wooded base. The solemn groves
of firs and spruces, the plumed sierras of lofty pines, the stately
pillared forests of birch and beech, the wild ravines, the tremulous
thickets of silvery poplar, the bare peaks with their wide outlooks, and
the cool vales resounding with the ceaseless song of little rivers,--we
knew and loved them all; they ministered peace and joy to us; they were
all ours, though we held no title deeds and our ownership had never been

What is property, after all? The law says there are two kinds, real and
personal. But it seems to me that the only real property is that which
is truly personal, that which we take into our inner life and make our
own forever, by understanding and admiration and sympathy and love. This
is the only kind of possession that is worth anything.

A gallery of great paintings adorns the house of the Honourable Midas
Bond, and every year adds a new treasure to his collection. He knows
how much they cost him, and he keeps the run of the quotations at the
auction sales, congratulating himself as the price of the works of
his well-chosen artists rises in the scale, and the value of his art
treasures is enhanced. But why should he call them his? He is only their
custodian. He keeps them well varnished, and framed in gilt. But he
never passes through those gilded frames into the world of beauty that
lies behind the painted canvas. He knows nothing of those lovely places
from which the artist's soul and hand have drawn their inspiration. They
are closed and barred to him. He has bought the pictures, but he cannot
buy the key. The poor art student who wanders through his gallery,
lingering with awe and love before the masterpieces, owns them far more
truly than Midas does.

Pomposus Silverman purchased a rich library a few years ago. The books
were rare and costly. That was the reason why Pomposus bought them. He
was proud to feel that he was the possessor of literary treasures which
were not to be found in the houses of his wealthiest acquaintances.
But the threadbare Bucherfreund, who was engaged at a slender salary to
catalogue the library and take care of it, became the real proprietor.
Pomposus paid for the books, but Bucherfreund enjoyed them.

I do not mean to say that the possession of much money is always a
barrier to real wealth of mind and heart. Nor would I maintain that all
the poor of this world are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom. But
some of them are. And if some of the rich of this world (through the
grace of Him with whom all things are possible) are also modest in their
tastes, and gentle in their hearts, and open in their minds, and ready
to be pleased with unbought pleasures, they simply share in the best
things which are provided for all.

I speak not now of the strife that men wage over the definition and
the laws of property. Doubtless there is much here that needs to be set
right. There are men and women in the world who are shut out from the
right to earn a living, so poor that they must perish for want of daily
bread, so full of misery that there is no room for the tiniest seed of
joy in their lives. This is the lingering shame of civilization. Some
day, perhaps, we shall find the way to banish it. Some day, every
man shall have his title to a share in the world's great work and the
world's large joy.

But meantime it is certain that, where there are a hundred poor bodies
who suffer from physical privation, there are a thousand poor souls who
suffer from spiritual poverty. To relive this greater suffering there
needs no change of laws, only a change of heart.

What does it profit a man to be the landed proprietor of countless acres
unless he can reap the harvest of delight that blooms from every rood of
God's earth for the seeing eye and the loving spirit? And who can reap
that harvest so closely that there shall not be abundant gleaning left
for all mankind? The most that a wide estate can yield to its legal
owner is a living. But the real owner can gather from a field of
goldenrod, shining in the August sunlight, an unearned increment of

We measure success by accumulation. The measure is false. The true
measure is appreciation. He who loves most has most.

How foolishly we train ourselves for the work of life! We give our most
arduous and eager efforts to the cultivation of those faculties which
will serve us in the competitions of the forum and the market-place.
But if we were wise, we should care infinitely more for the unfolding of
those inward, secret, spiritual powers by which alone we can become
the owners of anything that is worth having. Surely God is the
great proprietor. Yet all His works He has given away. He holds no
title-deeds. The one thing that is His, is the perfect understanding,
the perfect joy, the perfect love, of all things that He has made. To
a share in this high ownership He welcomes all who are poor in spirit.
This is the earth which the meek inherit. This is the patrimony of the
saints in light.

"Come, laddie," I said to my comrade, "let us go home. You and I are
very rich. We own the mountains. But we can never sell them, and we
don't want to."


     "Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only
     to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.
     And it is not by any means certain that a man's business is
     the most important thing he has to do."

     --ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON: An Apology for Idlers.


On the South Shore of Long Island, all things incline to a natural
somnolence. There are no ambitious mountains, no braggart cliffs, no
hasty torrents, no hustling waterfalls in that land,

   "In which it seemeth always afternoon."

The salt meadows sleep in the summer sun; the farms and market-gardens
yield a placid harvest to a race of singularly unhurried tillers of the
soil; the low hills rise with gentle slopes, not caring to get too high
in the world, only far enough to catch a pleasant glimpse of the sea and
a breath of fresh air; the very trees grow leisurely, as if they felt
that they had "all the time there is." And from this dreamy land, close
as it lies to the unresting ocean, the tumult of the breakers and the
foam of ever-turning tides are shut off by the languid lagoons of the
Great South Bay and a long range of dunes, crested with wire-grass,
bay-bushes, and wild-roses.

In such a country you could not expect a little brook to be noisy,
fussy, energetic. If it were not lazy, it would be out of keeping.

But the actual and undisguised idleness of this particular brook was
another affair, and one in which it was distinguished among its fellows.
For almost all the other little rivers of the South Shore, lazy as they
may be by nature, yet manage to do some kind of work before they finish
the journey from their crystal-clear springs into the brackish waters
of the bay. They turn the wheels of sleepy gristmills, while the miller
sits with his hands in his pockets underneath the willow-trees. They
fill reservoirs out of which great steam-engines pump the water to
quench the thirst of Brooklyn. Even the smaller streams tarry long
enough in their seaward sauntering to irrigate a few cranberry-bogs
and so provide that savoury sauce which makes the Long Island turkey a
fitter subject for Thanksgiving.

But this brook of which I speak did none of these useful things. It was
absolutely out of business.

There was not a mill, nor a reservoir, nor a cranberry-bog, on all its
course of a short mile. The only profitable affair it ever undertook was
to fill a small ice-pond near its entrance into the Great South Bay.
You could hardly call this a very energetic enterprise. It amounted to
little more than a good-natured consent to allow itself to be used by
the winter for the making of ice, if the winter happened to be cold
enough. Even this passive industry came to nothing; for the water, being
separated from the bay only by a short tideway under a wooden bridge on
the south country road, was too brackish to freeze easily; and the ice,
being pervaded with weeds, was not much relished by the public. So the
wooden ice-house, innocent of paint, and toned by the weather to a soft,
sad-coloured gray, stood like an improvised ruin among the pine-trees
beside the pond.

It was through this unharvested ice-pond, this fallow field of water,
that my lady Graygown and I entered on acquaintance with our lazy, idle
brook. We had a house, that summer, a few miles down the bay. But it was
a very small house, and the room that we like best was out of doors.
So we spent much time in a sailboat,--by name "The Patience,"--making
voyages of exploration into watery corners and byways. Sailing past the
wooden bridge one day, when a strong east wind had made a very low
tide, we observed the water flowing out beneath the road with an eddying
current. We were interested to discover where such a stream came from.
But the sailboat could not go under the bridge, nor even make a landing
on the shore without risk of getting aground. The next day we came back
in a rowboat to follow the clue of curiosity. The tide was high now, and
we passed with the reversed current under the bridge, almost bumping our
heads against the timbers. Emerging upon the pond, we rowed across its
shallow, weed-encumbered waters, and were introduced without ceremony to
one of the most agreeable brooks that we had ever met.

It was quite broad where it came into the pond,--a hundred feet from
side to side,--bordered with flags and rushes and feathery meadow
grasses. The real channel meandered in sweeping curves from bank to
bank, and the water, except in the swifter current, was filled with an
amazing quantity of some aquatic moss. The woods came straggling down on
either shore. There were fallen trees in the stream here and there. On
one of the points an old swamp-maple, with its decrepit branches and its
leaves already touched with the hectic colours of decay, hung far out
over the water which was undermining it, looking and leaning downward,
like an aged man who bends, half-sadly and half-willingly, towards the

But for the most part the brook lay wide open to the sky, and the tide,
rising and sinking somewhat irregularly in the pond below, made curious
alternations in its depth and in the swiftness of its current. For about
half a mile we navigated this lazy little river, and then we found
that rowing would carry us no farther, for we came to a place where the
stream issued with a livelier flood from an archway in a thicket.

This woodland portal was not more than four feet wide, and the branches
of the small trees were closely interwoven overhead. We shipped the oars
and took one of them for a paddle. Stooping down, we pushed the boat
through the archway and found ourselves in the Fairy Dell. It was a
long, narrow bower, perhaps four hundred feet from end to end, with the
brook dancing through it in a joyous, musical flow over a bed of clean
yellow sand and white pebbles. There were deep places in the curves
where you could hardly touch bottom with an oar, and shallow places
in the straight runs where the boat would barely float. Not a ray
of unbroken sunlight leaked through the green roof of this winding
corridor; and all along the sides there were delicate mosses and tall
ferns and wildwood flowers that love the shade.

At the upper end of the bower our progress in the boat was barred by a
low bridge, on a forgotten road that wound through the pine-woods. Here
I left my lady Graygown, seated on the shady corner of the bridge with a
book, swinging her feet over the stream, while I set out to explore its
further course. Above the wood-road there were no more fairy dells, nor
easy-going estuaries. The water came down through the most complicated
piece of underbrush that I have ever encountered. Alders and swamp
maples and pussy-willows and gray birches grew together in a wild
confusion. Blackberry bushes and fox-grapes and cat-briers trailed and
twisted themselves in an incredible tangle. There was only one way to
advance, and that was to wade in the middle of the brook, stooping low,
lifting up the pendulous alder-branches, threading a tortuous course,
now under and now over the innumerable obstacles, as a darning-needle is
pushed in and out through the yarn of a woollen stocking.

It was dark and lonely in that difficult passage. The brook divided into
many channels, turning this way and that way, as if it were lost in the
woods. There were huge clumps of OSMUNDA REGALIS spreading their fronds
in tropical profusion. Mouldering logs were covered with moss. The water
gurgled slowly into deep corners under the banks. Catbirds and blue
jays fluttered screaming from the thickets. Cotton-tailed rabbits darted
away, showing the white flag of fear. Once I thought I saw the fuscous
gleam of a red fox stealing silently through the brush. It would have
been no surprise to hear the bark of a raccoon, or see the eyes of a
wildcat gleaming through the leaves.

For more than an hour I was pushing my way through this miniature
wilderness of half a mile; and then I emerged suddenly, to find myself
face to face with--a railroad embankment and the afternoon express, with
its parlour-cars, thundering down to Southampton!

It was a strange and startling contrast. The explorer's joy, the sense
of adventure, the feeling of wildness and freedom, withered and crumpled
somewhat preposterously at the sight of the parlour-cars. My scratched
hands and wet boots and torn coat seemed unkempt and disreputable.
Perhaps some of the well-dressed people looking out at the windows
of the train were the friends with whom we were to dine on Saturday.
BATECHE! What would they say to such a costume as mine? What did I care
what they said!

But, all the same, it was a shock, a disenchantment, to find that
civilization, with all its absurdities and conventionalities, was so
threateningly close to my new-found wilderness. My first enthusiasm was
not a little chilled as I walked back, along an open woodland path, to
the bridge where Graygown was placidly reading. Reading, I say, though
her book was closed, and her brown eyes were wandering over the green
leaves of the thicket, and the white clouds drifting, drifting lazily
across the blue deep of the sky.


On the voyage home, she gently talked me out of my disappointment, and
into a wiser frame of mind.

It was a surprise, of course, she admitted, to find that our wilderness
was so little, and to discover the trail of a parlour-car on the edge
of Paradise. But why not turn the surprise around, and make it pleasant
instead of disagreeable? Why not look at the contrast from the side that
we liked best?

It was not necessary that everybody should take the same view of life
that pleased us. The world would not get on very well without people
who preferred parlour-cars to canoes, and patent-leather shoes to
India-rubber boots, and ten-course dinners to picnics in the woods.
These good people were unconsciously toiling at the hard and necessary
work of life in order that we, of the chosen and fortunate few, should
be at liberty to enjoy the best things in the world.

Why should we neglect our opportunities, which were also our real
duties? The nervous disease of civilization might prevail all around
us, but that ought not to destroy our grateful enjoyment of the lucid
intervals that were granted to us by a merciful Providence.

Why should we not take this little untamed brook, running its humble
course through the borders of civilized life and midway between two
flourishing summer resorts,--a brook without a single house or a
cultivated field on its banks, as free and beautiful and secluded as if
it flowed through miles of trackless forest,--why not take this brook as
a sign that the ordering of the universe had a "good intention" even for
inveterate idlers, and that the great Arranger of the world felt some
kindness for such gipsy-hearts as ours? What law, human or divine, was
there to prevent us from making this stream our symbol of deliverance
from the conventional and commonplace, our guide to liberty and a quiet

So reasoned Graygown with her

          "most silver flow
     Of subtle-paced counsel in distress."

And, according to her word, so did we. That lazy, idle brook became to
us one of the best of friends; the pathfinder of happiness on many a
bright summer day; and, through long vacations, the faithful encourager
of indolence.

Indolence in the proper sense of the word, you understand. The meaning
which is commonly given to it, as Archbishop Trench pointed out in his
suggestive book about WORDS AND THEIR USES, is altogether false. To
speak of indolence as if it were a vice is just a great big verbal

Indolence is a virtue. It comes from two Latin words, which mean freedom
from anxiety or grief. And that is a wholesome state of mind. There are
times and seasons when it is even a pious and blessed state of mind. Not
to be in a hurry; not to be ambitious or jealous or resentful; not
to feel envious of anybody; not to fret about to-day nor worry about
to-morrow,--that is the way we ought all to feel at some time in our
lives; and that is the kind of indolence in which our brook faithfully
encouraged us.

'T is an age in which such encouragement is greatly needed. We have
fallen so much into the habit of being always busy that we know not how
nor when to break it off with firmness. Our business tags after us into
the midst of our pleasures, and we are ill at ease beyond reach of the
telegraph and the daily newspaper. We agitate ourselves amazingly
about a multitude of affairs,--the politics of Europe, the state of the
weather all around the globe, the marriages and festivities of very rich
people, and the latest novelties in crime, none of which are of vital
interest to us. The more earnest souls among us are cultivating
a vicious tendency to Summer Schools, and Seaside Institutes of
Philosophy, and Mountaintop Seminaries of Modern Languages.

We toil assiduously to cram something more into those scrap-bags of
knowledge which we fondly call our minds. Seldom do we rest tranquil
long enough to find out whether there is anything in them already that
is of real value,--any native feeling, any original thought, which would
like to come out and sun itself for a while in quiet.

For my part, I am sure that I stand more in need of a deeper sense of
contentment with life than of a knowledge of the Bulgarian tongue, and
that all the paradoxes of Hegel would not do me so much good as one hour
of vital sympathy with the careless play of children. The Marquis du
Paty de l'Huitre may espouse the daughter and heiress of the Honourable
James Bulger with all imaginable pomp, if he will. CA NE M'INTRIGUE
POINT DU TOUT. I would rather stretch myself out on the grass and watch
yonder pair of kingbirds carrying luscious flies to their young ones in
the nest, or chasing away the marauding crow with shrill cries of anger.

What a pretty battle it is, and in a good cause, too! Waste no pity on
that big black ruffian. He is a villain and a thief, an egg-stealer, an
ogre, a devourer of unfledged innocents. The kingbirds are not afraid of
him, knowing that he is a coward at heart. They fly upon him, now from
below, now from above. They buffet him from one side and from the other.
They circle round him like a pair of swift gunboats round an antiquated
man-of-war. They even perch upon his back and dash their beaks into
his neck and pluck feathers from his piratical plumage. At last his
lumbering flight has carried him far enough away, and the brave little
defenders fly back to the nest, poising above it on quivering wings for
a moment, then dipping down swiftly in pursuit of some passing insect.
The war is over. Courage has had its turn. Now tenderness comes into
play. The young birds, all ignorant of the passing danger, but always
conscious of an insatiable hunger, are uttering loud remonstrances and
plaintive demands for food. Domestic life begins again, and they that
sow not, neither gather into barns, are fed.

Do you suppose that this wondrous stage of earth was set, and all the
myriad actors on it taught to play their parts, without a spectator in
view? Do you think that there is anything better for you and me to do,
now and then, than to sit down quietly in a humble seat, and watch a few
scenes in the drama? Has it not something to say to us, and do we not
understand it best when we have a peaceful heart and free from dolor?
That is what IN-DOLENCE means, and there are no better teachers of it
then the light-hearted birds and untoiling flowers, commended by the
wisest of all masters to our consideration; nor can we find a more
pleasant pedagogue to lead us to their school than a small, merry brook.

And this was what our chosen stream did for us. It was always luring us
away from an artificial life into restful companionship with nature.

Suppose, for example, we found ourselves growing a bit dissatisfied
with the domestic arrangements of our little cottage, and coveting the
splendours of a grander establishment. An afternoon on the brook was
a good cure for that folly. Or suppose a day came when there was an
imminent prospect of many formal calls. We had an important engagement
up the brook; and while we kept it we could think with satisfaction of
the joy of our callers when they discovered that they could discharge
their whole duty with a piece of pasteboard. This was an altruistic
pleasure. Or suppose that a few friends were coming to supper, and there
were no flowers for the supper-table. We could easily have bought them
in the village. But it was far more to our liking to take the children
up the brook, and come back with great bunches of wild white honeysuckle
and blue flag, or posies of arrowheads and cardinal-flowers. Or suppose
that I was very unwisely and reluctantly labouring at some serious
piece of literary work, promised for the next number of THE SCRIBBLER'S
REVIEW; and suppose that in the midst of this labour the sad news came
to me that the fisherman had forgotten to leave any fish at our cottage
that morning. Should my innocent babes and my devoted wife be left to
perish of starvation while I continued my poetical comparison of the two
Williams, Shakspeare and Watson? Inhuman selfishness! Of course it was
my plain duty to sacrifice my inclinations, and get my fly-rod, and row
away across the bay, with a deceptive appearance of cheerfulness, to
catch a basket of trout in--


THERE! I came within eight letters of telling the name of the brook,
a thing that I am firmly resolved not to do. If it were an ordinary
fishless little river, or even a stream with nothing better than
grass-pike and sunfish in it, you should have the name and welcome. But
when a brook contains speckled trout, and when their presence is known
to a very few persons who guard the secret as the dragon guarded the
golden apples of the Hesperides, and when the size of the trout is large
beyond the dreams of hope,--well, when did you know a true angler who
would willingly give away the name of such a brook as that? You may find
an encourager of indolence in almost any stream of the South Side, and
I wish you joy of your brook. But if you want to catch trout in mine
you must discover it for yourself, or perhaps go with me some day, and
solemnly swear secrecy.

That was the way in which the freedom of the stream was conferred
upon me. There was a small boy in the village, the son of rich but
respectable parents, and an inveterate all-round sportsman, aged
fourteen years, with whom I had formed a close intimacy. I was telling
him about the pleasure of exploring the idle brook, and expressing the
opinion that in bygone days, (in that mythical "forty years ago" when
all fishing was good), there must have been trout in it. A certain
look came over the boy's face. He gazed at me solemnly, as if he were
searching the inmost depths of my character before he spoke.

"Say, do you want to know something?"

I assured him that an increase of knowledge was the chief aim of my

"Do you promise you won't tell?"

I expressed my readiness to be bound to silence by the most awful pledge
that the law would sanction.

"Wish you may die?"

I not only wished that I might die, but was perfectly certain that I
would die.

"Well, what's the matter with catching trout in that brook now? Do you
want to go with me next Saturday? I saw four or five bully ones last
week, and got three."

On the appointed day we made the voyage, landed at the upper bridge,
walked around by the woodpath to the railroad embankment, and began
to worm our way down through the tangled wilderness. Fly-fishing, of
course, was out of the question. The only possible method of angling
was to let the line, baited with a juicy "garden hackle," drift down the
current as far as possible before you, under the alder-branches and the
cat-briers, into the holes and corners of the stream. Then, if there
came a gentle tug on the rod, you must strike, to one side or the other,
as the branches might allow, and trust wholly to luck for a chance to
play the fish. Many a trout we lost that day,--the largest ones, of
course,--and many a hook was embedded in a sunken log, or hopelessly
entwined among the boughs overhead. But when we came out at the bridge,
very wet and disheveled, we had seven pretty fish, the heaviest about
half a pound. The Fairy Dell yielded a brace of smaller ones, and
altogether we were reasonably happy as we took up the oars and pushed
out upon the open stream.

But if there were fish above, why should there not be fish below? It was
about sunset, the angler's golden hour. We were already committed to
the crime of being late for supper. It would add little to our guilt and
much to our pleasure to drift slowly down the middle of the brook and
cast the artful fly in the deeper corners on either shore. So I took off
the vulgar bait-hook and put on a delicate leader with a Queen of the
Water for a tail-fly and a Yellow Sally for a dropper,--innocent little
confections of feathers and tinsel, dressed on the tiniest hooks, and
calculated to tempt the appetite or the curiosity of the most capricious

For a long time the whipping of the water produced no result, and it
seemed as if the dainty style of angling were destined to prove less
profitable than plain fishing with a worm. But presently we came to
an elbow of the brook, just above the estuary, where there was quite a
stretch of clear water along the lower side, with two half-sunken logs
sticking out from the bank, against which the current had drifted a
broad raft of weeds. I made a long cast, and sent the tail-fly close to
the edge of the weeds. There was a swelling ripple on the surface of the
water, and a noble fish darted from under the logs, dashed at the fly,
missed it, and whirled back to his shelter.

"Gee!" said the boy, "that was a whacker! He made a wake like a

It was a moment for serious thought. What was best to be done with that
fish? Leave him to settle down for the night and come back after him
another day? Or try another cast for him at once? A fish on Saturday
evening is worth two on Monday morning. I changed the Queen of the
Water for a Royal Coachman tied on a number fourteen hook,--white wings,
peacock body with a belt of crimson silk,--and sent it out again, a foot
farther up the stream and a shade closer to the weeds. As it settled on
the water, there was a flash of gold from the shadow beneath the logs,
and a quick turn of the wrist made the tiny hook fast in the fish. He
fought wildly to get back to the shelter of his logs, but the four ounce
rod had spring enough in it to hold him firmly away from that dangerous
retreat. Then he splurged up and down the open water, and made fierce
dashes among the grassy shallows, and seemed about to escape a dozen
times. But at last his force was played out; he came slowly towards the
boat, turning on his side, and I netted him in my hat.

"Bully for us;" said the boy, "we got him! What a dandy!"

It was indeed one of the handsomest fish that I have ever taken on the
South Side,--just short of two pounds and a quarter,--small head, broad
tail, and well-rounded sides coloured with orange and blue and gold and
red. A pair of the same kind, one weighing two pounds and the other a
pound and three quarters, were taken by careful fishing down the lower
end of the pool, and then we rowed home through the dusk, pleasantly
convinced that there is no virtue more certainly rewarded than the
patience of anglers, and entirely willing to put up with a cold supper
and a mild reproof for the sake of sport.

Of course we could not resist the temptation to show those fish to
the neighbours. But, equally of course, we evaded the request to give
precise information as to the precise place where they were caught.
Indeed, I fear that there must have been something confused in our
description of where we had been on that afternoon. Our carefully
selected language may have been open to misunderstanding. At all events,
the next day, which was the Sabbath, there was a row of eager but
unprincipled anglers sitting on a bridge OVER ANOTHER STREAM, and
fishing for trout with worms and large expectations, but without visible

The boy and I agreed that if this did not teach a good moral lesson it
was not our fault.

I obtained the boy's consent to admit the partner of my life's joys and
two of our children to the secret of the brook, and thereafter, when
we visited it, we took the fly-rod with us. If by chance another boat
passed us in the estuary, we were never fishing, but only gathering
flowers, or going for a picnic, or taking photographs. But when the
uninitiated ones had passed by, we would get out the rod again, and try
a few more casts.

One day in particular I remember, when Graygown and little Teddy were
my companions. We really had no hopes of angling, for the hour was
mid-noon, and the day was warm and still. But suddenly the trout, by
one of those unaccountable freaks which make their disposition so
interesting and attractive, began to rise all about us in a bend of the

"Look!" said Teddy; "wherever you see one of those big smiles on the
water, I believe there's a fish!"

Fortunately the rod was at hand. Graygown and Teddy managed the boat and
the landing-net with consummate skill. We landed no less than a dozen
beautiful fish at that most unlikely hour and then solemnly shook hands
all around.

There is a peculiar pleasure in doing a thing like this, catching trout
in a place where nobody thinks of looking for them, and at an hour when
everybody believes they cannot be caught. It is more fun to take one
good fish out of an old, fished-out stream, near at hand to the village,
than to fill a basket from some far-famed and well-stocked water. It
is the unexpected touch that tickles our sense of pleasure. While life
lasts, we are always hoping for it and expecting it. There is no country
so civilized, no existence so humdrum, that there is not room enough in
it somewhere for a lazy, idle brook, an encourager of indolence, with
hope of happy surprises.


     "It is a vulgar notion that a fire is only for heat.  A
     chief value of it is, however, to look at.  And it is never
     twice the same."

     --CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER: Backlog Studies.


Man is the animal that has made friends with the fire.

All the other creatures, in their natural state, are afraid of it. They
look upon it with wonder and dismay. It fascinates them, sometimes,
with its glittering eyes in the night. The squirrels and the hares come
pattering softly towards it through the underbrush around the new camp.
The fascinated deer stares into the blaze of the jack-light while the
hunter's canoe creeps through the lily-pads. But the charm that masters
them is one of dread, not of love. It is the witchcraft of the serpent's
lambent look. When they know what it means, when the heat of the
fire touches them, or even when its smell comes clearly to their most
delicate sense, they recognize it as their enemy, the Wild Huntsman
whose red hounds can follow, follow for days without wearying, growing
stronger and more furious with every turn of the chase. Let but a trail
of smoke drift down the wind across the forest, and all the game for
miles and miles will catch the signal for fear and flight.

Many of the animals have learned how to make houses for themselves.
The CABANE of the beaver is a wonder of neatness and comfort, much
preferable to the wigwam of his Indian hunter. The muskrat knows how
thick and high to build the dome of his waterside cottage, in order to
protect himself against the frost of the coming winter and the floods of
the following spring. The woodchuck's house has two or three doors; and
the squirrel's dwelling is provided with a good bed and a convenient
storehouse for nuts and acorns. The sportive otters have a toboggan
slide in front of their residence; and the moose in winter make a
"yard," where they can take exercise comfortably and find shelter for
sleep. But there is one thing lacking in all these various dwellings,--a

Man is the only creature that dares to light a fire and to live with it.
The reason? Because he alone has learned how to put it out.

It is true that two of his humbler friends have been converted to
fire-worship. The dog and the cat, being half-humanized, have begun to
love the fire. I suppose that a cat seldom comes so near to feeling a
true sense of affection as when she has finished her saucer of bread and
milk, and stretched herself luxuriously underneath the kitchen stove,
while her faithful mistress washes up the dishes. As for a dog, I am
sure that his admiring love for his master is never greater than when
they come in together from the hunt, wet and tired, and the man gathers
a pile of wood in front of the tent, touches it with a tiny magic wand,
and suddenly the clear, consoling flame springs up, saying cheerfully,
"Here we are, at home in the forest; come into the warmth; rest, and
eat, and sleep." When the weary, shivering dog sees this miracle, he
knows that his master is a great man and a lord of things.

After all, that is the only real open fire. Wood is the fuel for it.
Out-of-doors is the place for it. A furnace is an underground prison
for a toiling slave. A stove is a cage for a tame bird. Even a broad
hearthstone and a pair of glittering andirons--the best ornament of a
room--must be accepted as an imitation of the real thing. The veritable
open fire is built in the open, with the whole earth for a fireplace and
the sky for a chimney.

To start a fire in the open is by no means as easy as it looks. It is
one of those simple tricks that every one thinks he can perform until he
tries it.

To do it without trying,--accidentally and unwillingly,--that, of
course, is a thing for which any fool is fit. You knock out the ashes
from your pipe on a fallen log; you toss the end of a match into a patch
of grass, green on top, but dry as punk underneath; you scatter the
dead brands of an old fire among the moss,--a conflagration is under way
before you know it.

A fire in the woods is one thing; a comfort and a joy. Fire in the woods
is another thing; a terror, an uncontrollable fury, a burning shame.

But the lighting up of a proper fire, kindly, approachable, serviceable,
docile, is a work of intelligence. If, perhaps, you have to do it in the
rain, with a single match, it requires no little art and skill.

There is plenty of wood everywhere, but not a bit to burn. The fallen
trees are waterlogged. The dead leaves are as damp as grief. The charred
sticks that you find in an old fireplace are absolutely incombustible.
Do not trust the handful of withered twigs and branches that you gather
from the spruce-trees. They seem dry, but they are little better for
your purpose than so much asbestos. You make a pile of them in some
apparently suitable hollow, and lay a few larger sticks on top. Then
you hastily scratch your solitary match on the seat of your trousers and
thrust it into the pile of twigs. What happens? The wind whirls around
in your stupid little hollow, and the blue flame of the sulphur spirts
and sputters for an instant, and then goes out. Or perhaps there is
a moment of stillness; the match flares up bravely; the nearest twigs
catch fire, crackling and sparkling; you hurriedly lay on more sticks;
but the fire deliberately dodges them, creeps to the corner of the pile
where the twigs are fewest and dampest, snaps feebly a few times, and
expires in smoke. Now where are you? How far is it to the nearest match?

If you are wise, you will always make your fire before you light it.
Time is never saved by doing a thing badly.


In the making of fires there is as much difference as in the building of
houses. Everything depends upon the purpose that you have in view. There
is the camp-fire, and the cooking-fire, and the smudge-fire, and the
little friendship-fire,--not to speak of other minor varieties. Each of
these has its own proper style of architecture, and to mix them is false
art and poor economy.

The object of the camp-fire is to give heat, and incidentally light, to
your tent or shanty. You can hardly build this kind of a fire unless you
have a good axe and know how to chop. For the first thing that you need
is a solid backlog, the thicker the better, to hold the heat and reflect
it into the tent. This log must not be too dry, or it will burn
out quickly. Neither must it be too damp, else it will smoulder and
discourage the fire. The best wood for it is the body of a yellow birch,
and, next to that, a green balsam. It should be five or six feet long,
and at least two and a half feet in diameter. If you cannot find a
tree thick enough, cut two or three lengths of a smaller one; lay the
thickest log on the ground first, about ten or twelve feet in front of
the tent; drive two strong stakes behind it, slanting a little backward;
and lay the other logs on top of the first, resting against the stakes.

Now you are ready for the hand-chunks, or andirons. These are shorter
sticks of wood, eight or ten inches thick, laid at right angles to the
backlog, four or five feet apart. Across these you are to build up the
firewood proper.

Use a dry spruce-tree, not one that has fallen, but one that is dead and
still standing, if you want a lively, snapping fire. Use a hard maple
or a hickory if you want a fire that will burn steadily and make few
sparks. But if you like a fire to blaze up at first with a splendid
flame, and then burn on with an enduring heat far into the night, a
young white birch with the bark on is the tree to choose. Six or eight
round sticks of this laid across the hand-chunks, with perhaps a few
quarterings of a larger tree, will make a glorious fire.

But before you put these on, you must be ready to light up. A few
splinters of dry spruce or pine or balsam, stood endwise against
the backlog, or, better still, piled up in a pyramid between the
hand-chunks; a few strips of birch-bark; and one good match,--these
are all that you want. But be sure that your match is a good one. It is
better to see to this before you go into the brush. Your comfort, even
your life, may depend on it.

"AVEC CES ALLUMETTES-LA," said my guide at LAC ST. JEAN one day, as he
vainly tried to light his pipe with a box of parlour matches from the

In the woods, the old-fashioned brimstone match of our grandfathers--the
match with a brown head and a stout stick and a dreadful smell--is the
best. But if you have only one, do not trust even that to light your
fire directly. Use it first to touch off a roll of birch-bark which you
hold in your hand. Then, when the bark is well alight, crinkling and
curling, push it under the heap of kindlings, give the flame time to
take a good hold, and lay your wood over it, a stick at a time, until
the whole pile is blazing. Now your fire is started. Your friendly
little red-haired gnome is ready to serve you through the night.

He will dry your clothes if you are wet. He will cheer you up if you are
despondent. He will diffuse an air of sociability through the camp, and
draw the men together in a half circle for storytelling and jokes and
singing. He will hold a flambeau for you while you spread your blankets
on the boughs and dress for bed. He will keep you warm while you
sleep,--at least till about three o'clock in the morning, when you dream
that you are out sleighing in your pajamas, and wake up with a shiver.

"HOLA, FERDINAND, FRANCOIS!" you call out from your bed, pulling the
blankets over your ears; "RAMANCHEZ LE FEU, S'IL VOUS PLAIT. C'EST UN


Of course such a fire as I have been describing can be used for cooking,
when it has burned down a little, and there is a bed of hot embers in
front of the backlog. But a correct kitchen fire should be constructed
after another fashion. What you want now is not blaze, but heat, and
that not diffused, but concentrated. You must be able to get close to
your fire without burning your boots or scorching your face.

If you have time and the material, make a fireplace of big stones. But
not of granite, for that will split with the heat, and perhaps fly in
your face.

If you are in a hurry and there are no suitable stones at hand, lay two
good logs nearly parallel with each other, a foot or so apart, and build
your fire between them. For a cooking-fire, use split wood in short
sticks. Let the first supply burn to glowing coals before you begin.
A frying-pan that is lukewarm one minute and red-hot the next is the
abomination of desolation. If you want black toast, have it made before
a fresh, sputtering, blazing heap of wood.

In fires, as in men, an excess of energy is a lack of usefulness. The
best work is done without many sparks. Just enough is the right kind of
a fire and a feast.

To know how to cook is not a very elegant accomplishment. Yet there are
times and seasons when it seems to come in better than familiarity with
the dead languages, or much skill upon the lute.

You cannot always rely on your guides for a tasteful preparation of
food. Many of them are ignorant of the difference between frying and
broiling, and their notion of boiling a potato or a fish is to reduce it
to a pulp. Now and then you find a man who has a natural inclination to
the culinary art, and who does very well within familiar limits.

Old Edouard, the Montaignais Indian who cooked for my friends H. E. G.
and C. S. D. last summer on the STE. MARGUERITE EN BAS, was such a man.
But Edouard could not read, and the only way he could tell the nature
of the canned provisions was by the pictures on the cans. If the picture
was strange to him, there was no guessing what he would do with the
contents of the can. He was capable of roasting strawberries, and
serving green peas cold for dessert. One day a can of mullagatawny soup
and a can of apricots were handed out to him simultaneously and without
explanations. Edouard solved the problem by opening both cans and
cooking them together. We had a new soup that day, MULLAGATAWNY AUX
APRICOTS. It was not as bad as it sounds. It tasted somewhat like

The real reason why food that is cooked over an open fire tastes so good
to us is because we are really hungry when we get it. The man who puts
up provisions for camp has a great advantage over the dealers who must
satisfy the pampered appetite of people in houses. I never can get any
bacon in New York like that which I buy at a little shop in Quebec to
take into the woods. If I ever set up in the grocery business, I shall
try to get a good trade among anglers. It will be easy to please my

The reputation that trout enjoy as a food-fish is partly due to the fact
that they are usually cooked over an open fire. In the city they never
taste as good. It is not merely a difference in freshness. It is a
change in the sauce. If the truth must be told, even by an angler, there
are at least five salt-water fish which are better than trout,--to eat.
There is none better to catch.


But enough of the cooking-fire. Let us turn now to the subject of
the smudge, known in Lower Canada as LA BOUCANE. The smudge owes its
existence to the pungent mosquito, the sanguinary black-fly, and the
peppery midge,--LE MARINGOUIN, LA MOUSTIQUE, ET LE BRULOT. To what it
owes its English name I do not know; but its French name means simply a
thick, nauseating, intolerable smoke.

The smudge is called into being for the express purpose of creating
a smoke of this kind, which is as disagreeable to the mosquito, the
black-fly, and the midge as it is to the man whom they are devouring.
But the man survives the smoke, while the insects succumb to it, being
destroyed or driven away. Therefore the smudge, dark and bitter in
itself, frequently becomes, like adversity, sweet in its uses. It must
be regarded as a form of fire with which man has made friends under the
pressure of a cruel necessity.

It would seem as if it ought to be the simplest affair in the world to
light up a smudge. And so it is--if you are not trying.

An attempt to produce almost any other kind of a fire will bring forth
smoke abundantly. But when you deliberately undertake to create a
smudge, flames break from the wettest timber, and green moss blazes with
a furious heat. You hastily gather handfuls of seemingly incombustible
material and throw it on the fire, but the conflagration increases.
Grass and green leaves hesitate for an instant and then flash up like
tinder. The more you put on, the more your smudge rebels against its
proper task of smudging. It makes a pleasant warmth, to encourage the
black-flies; and bright light to attract and cheer the mosquitoes. Your
effort is a brilliant failure.

The proper way to make a smudge is this. Begin with a very little, lowly
fire. Let it be bright, but not ambitious. Don't try to make a smoke

Then gather a good supply of stuff which seems likely to suppress fire
without smothering it. Moss of a certain kind will do, but not the soft,
feathery moss that grows so deep among the spruce-trees. Half-decayed
wood is good; spongy, moist, unpleasant stuff, a vegetable wet blanket.
The bark of dead evergreen trees, hemlock, spruce, or balsam, is better
still. Gather a plentiful store of it. But don't try to make a smoke

Let your fire burn a while longer; cheer it up a little. Get some clear,
resolute, unquenchable coals aglow in the heart of it. Don't try to make
a smoke yet.

Now pile on your smouldering fuel. Fan it with your hat. Kneel down and
blow it, and in ten minutes you will have a smoke that will make you
wish you had never been born.

That is the proper way to make a smudge. But the easiest way is to ask
your guide to make it for you.

If he makes it in an old iron pot, so much the better, for then you can
move it around to the windward when the breeze veers, and carry it into
your tent without risk of setting everything on fire, and even take it
with you in the canoe while you are fishing.

Some of the pleasantest pictures in the angler's gallery of remembrance
are framed in the smoke that rises from a smudge.

With my eyes shut, I can call up a vision of eight birch-bark canoes
floating side by side on Moosehead Lake, on a fair June morning, fifteen
years ago. They are anchored off Green Island, riding easily on the
long, gentle waves. In the stern of each canoe there is a guide with
a long-handled net; in the bow, an angler with a light fly-rod; in the
middle, a smudge-kettle, smoking steadily. In the air to the windward
of the little fleet hovers a swarm of flies drifting down on the
shore breeze, with bloody purpose in their breasts, but baffled by the
protecting smoke. In the water to the leeward plays a school of speckled
trout, feeding on the minnows that hang around the sunken ledges of
rock. As a larger wave than usual passes over the ledges, it lifts the
fish up, and you can see the big fellows, three, and four, and even five
pounds apiece, poising themselves in the clear brown water. A long cast
will send the fly over one of them. Let it sink a foot. Draw it up with
a fluttering motion. Now the fish sees it, and turns to catch it. There
is a yellow gleam in the depth, a sudden swirl on the surface; you
strike sharply, and the trout is matching his strength against the
spring of your four ounces of split bamboo.

You can guess at his size, as he breaks water, by the breadth of his
tail: a pound of weight to an inch of tail,--that is the traditional
measure, and it usually comes pretty close to the mark, at least in the
case of large fish. But it is never safe to record the weight until the
trout is in the canoe. As the Canadian hunters say, "Sell not the skin
of the bear while he carries it."

Now the breeze that blows over Green Island drops away, and the smoke
of the eight smudge-kettles falls like a thick curtain. The canoes, the
dark shores of Norcross Point, the twin peaks of Spencer Mountain, the
dim blue summit of Katahdin, the dazzling sapphire sky, the flocks of
fleece-white clouds shepherded on high by the western wind, all have
vanished. With closed eyes I see another vision, still framed in
smoke,--a vision of yesterday.

It is a wild river flowing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the COTE
NORD, far down towards Labrador. There is a long, narrow, swift pool
between two parallel ridges of rock. Over the ridge on the right pours
a cataract of pale yellow foam. At the bottom of the pool, the water
slides down into a furious rapid, and dashes straight through an
impassable gorge half a mile to the sea. The pool is full of salmon,
leaping merrily in their delight at coming into their native stream. The
air is full of black-flies, rejoicing in the warmth of the July sun. On
a slippery point of rock, below the fall, are two anglers, tempting the
fish and enduring the flies. Behind them is an old HABITANT raising a
mighty column of smoke.

Through the cloudy pillar which keeps back the Egyptian host, you see
the waving of a long rod. A silver-gray fly with a barbed tail darts out
across the pool, swings around with the current, well under water, and
slowly works past the big rock in the centre, just at the head of the
rapid. Almost past it, but not quite: for suddenly the fly disappears;
the line begins to run out; the reel sings sharp and shrill; a salmon is

But how well is he hooked? That is the question. This is no easy pool to
play a fish in. There is no chance to jump into a canoe and drop below
him, and get the current to help you in drowning him. You cannot follow
him along the shore. You cannot even lead him into quiet water, where
the gaffer can creep near to him unseen and drag him in with a quick
stroke. You must fight your fish to a finish, and all the advantages are
on his side. The current is terribly strong. If he makes up his mind to
go downstream to the sea, the only thing you can do is to hold him by
main force; and then it is ten to one that the hook tears out or the
leader breaks.

It is not in human nature for one man to watch another handling a fish
in such a place without giving advice. "Keep the tip of your rod up.
Don't let your reel overrun. Stir him up a little, he 's sulking. Don't
let him 'jig,' or you'll lose him. You 're playing him too hard. There,
he 's going to jump again. Drop your tip. Stop him, quick! he 's going
down the rapid!"

Of course the man who is playing the salmon does not like this. If he is
quick-tempered, sooner or later he tells his counsellor to shut up. But
if he is a gentle, early-Christian kind of a man, wise as a serpent and
harmless as a dove, he follows the advice that is given to him, promptly
and exactly. Then, when it is all ended, and he has seen the big fish,
with the line over his shoulder, poised for an instant on the crest of
the first billow of the rapid, and has felt the leader stretch and give
and SNAP!--then he can have the satisfaction, while he reels in his
slack line, of saying to his friend, "Well, old man, I did everything
just as you told me. But I think if I had pushed that fish a little
harder at the beginning, AS I WANTED TO, I might have saved him."

But really, of course, the chances were all against it. In such a pool,
most of the larger fish get away. Their weight gives them a tremendous
pull. The fish that are stopped from going into the rapid, and dragged
back from the curling wave, are usually the smaller ones. Here they
are,--twelve pounds, eight pounds, six pounds, five pounds and a half,
FOUR POUNDS! Is not this the smallest salmon that you ever saw? Not
a grilse, you understand, but a real salmon, of brightest silver,
hall-marked with St. Andrew's cross.

Now let us sit down for a moment and watch the fish trying to leap up
the falls. There is a clear jump of about ten feet, and above that an
apparently impossible climb of ten feet more up a ladder of twisting
foam. A salmon darts from the boiling water at the bottom of the fall
like an arrow from a bow. He rises in a beautiful curve, fins laid close
to his body and tail quivering; but he has miscalculated his distance.
He is on the downward curve when the water strikes him and tumbles him
back. A bold little fish, not more than eighteen inches long, makes a
jump at the side of the fall, where the water is thin, and is rolled
over and over in the spray. A larger salmon rises close beside us with
a tremendous rush, bumps his nose against a jutting rock, and flops back
into the pool. Now comes a fish who has made his calculations exactly.
He leaves the pool about eight feet from the foot of the fall, rises
swiftly, spreads his fins, and curves his tail as if he were flying,
strikes the water where it is thickest just below the brink, holds on
desperately, and drives himself, with one last wriggle, through the
bending stream, over the edge, and up the first step of the foaming
stairway. He has obeyed the strongest instinct of his nature, and gone
up to make love in the highest fresh water that he can reach.

The smoke of the smudge-fire is sharp and tearful, but a man can learn
to endure a good deal of it when he can look through its rings at such
scenes as these.


There are times and seasons when the angler has no need of any of the
three fires of which we have been talking. He sleeps in a house. His
breakfast and dinner are cooked for him in a kitchen. He is in no great
danger from black-flies or mosquitoes. All he needs now, as he sets out
to spend a day on the Neversink, or the Willowemoc, or the Shepaug,
or the Swiftwater, is a good lunch in his pocket, and a little
friendship-fire to burn pleasantly beside him while he eats his frugal
fare and prolongs his noonday rest.

This form of fire does less work than any other in the world. Yet it is
far from being useless; and I, for one, should be sorry to live without
it. Its only use is to make a visible centre of interest where there are
two or three anglers eating their lunch together, or to supply a kind of
companionship to a lone fisherman. It is kindled and burns for no other
purpose than to give you the sense of being at home and at ease. Why the
fire should do this, I cannot tell, but it does.

You may build your friendship-fire in almost any way that pleases you;
but this is the way in which you shall build it best. You have no axe,
of course, so you must look about for the driest sticks that you can
find. Do not seek them close beside the stream, for there they are
likely to be water-soaked; but go back into the woods a bit and gather
a good armful of fuel. Then break it, if you can, into lengths of about
two feet, and construct your fire in the following fashion.

Lay two sticks parallel, and put between them a pile of dried grass,
dead leaves, small twigs, and the paper in which your lunch was wrapped.
Then lay two other sticks crosswise on top of your first pair. Strike
your match and touch your kindlings. As the fire catches, lay on other
pairs of sticks, each pair crosswise to the pair that is below it, until
you have a pyramid of flame. This is "a Micmac fire" such as the Indians
make in the woods.

Now you can pull off your wading-boots and warm your feet at the blaze.
You can toast your bread if you like. You can even make shift to broil
one of your trout, fastened on the end of a birch twig if you have a
fancy that way. When your hunger is satisfied, you shake out the crumbs
for the birds and the squirrels, pick up a stick with a coal at the end
to light your pipe, put some more wood on your fire, and settle down for
an hour's reading if you have a book in your pocket, or for a good talk
if you have a comrade with you.

The stream of time flows swift and smooth, by such a fire as this. The
moments slip past unheeded; the sun sinks down his western arch; the
shadows begin to fall across the brook; it is time to move on for the
afternoon fishing. The fire has almost burned out. But do not trust it
too much. Throw some sand over it, or bring a hatful of water from the
brook to pour on it, until you are sure that the last glowing ember is
extinguished, and nothing but the black coals and the charred ends of
the sticks are left.

Even the little friendship-fire must keep the law of the bush. All
lights out when their purpose is fulfilled!


It is a question that we have often debated, in the informal meetings of
our Petrine Club: Which is pleasanter,--to fish an old stream, or a new

The younger members are all for the "fresh woods and pastures new."
They speak of the delight of turning off from the high-road into some
faintly-marked trail; following it blindly through the forest, not
knowing how far you have to go; hearing the voice of waters sounding
through the woodland; leaving the path impatiently and striking straight
across the underbrush; scrambling down a steep bank, pushing through
a thicket of alders, and coming out suddenly, face to face with a
beautiful, strange brook. It reminds you, of course, of some old friend.
It is a little like the Beaverkill, or the Ausable, or the Gale
River. And yet it is different. Every stream has its own character and
disposition. Your new acquaintance invites you to a day of discoveries.
If the water is high, you will follow it down, and have easy fishing.
If the water is low, you will go upstream, and fish "fine and far-off."
Every turn in the avenue which the little river has made for you opens
up a new view,--a rocky gorge where the deep pools are divided by
white-footed falls; a lofty forest where the shadows are deep and the
trees arch overhead; a flat, sunny stretch where the stream is spread
out, and pebbly islands divide the channels, and the big fish are
lurking at the sides in the sheltered corners under the bushes. From
scene to scene you follow on, delighted and expectant, until the night
suddenly drops its veil, and then you will be lucky if you can find your
way home in the dark!

Yes, it is all very good, this exploration of new streams. But, for my
part, I like still better to go back to a familiar little river, and
fish or dream along the banks where I have dreamed and fished before. I
know every bend and curve: the sharp turn where the water runs under the
roots of the old hemlock-tree; the snaky glen, where the alders stretch
their arms far out across the stream; the meadow reach, where the trout
are fat and silvery, and will only rise about sunrise or sundown, unless
the day is cloudy; the Naiad's Elbow, where the brook rounds itself,
smooth and dimpled, to embrace a cluster of pink laurel-bushes. All
these I know; yes, and almost every current and eddy and backwater I
know long before I come to it. I remember where I caught the big trout
the first year I came to the stream; and where I lost a bigger one. I
remember the pool where there were plenty of good fish last year, and
wonder whether they are there now.

Better things than these I remember: the companions with whom I have
followed the stream in days long past; the rendezvous with a comrade at
the place where the rustic bridge crosses the brook; the hours of sweet
converse beside the friendship-fire; the meeting at twilight with my
lady Graygown and the children, who have come down by the wood-road to
walk home with me.

Surely it is pleasant to follow an old stream. Flowers grow along its
banks which are not to be found anywhere else in the wide world. "There
is rosemary, that 's for remembrance; and there is pansies, that 's for

One May evening, a couple of years since, I was angling in the
Swiftwater, and came upon Joseph Jefferson, stretched out on a large
rock in midstream, and casting the fly down a long pool. He had passed
the threescore years and ten, but he was as eager and as happy as a boy
in his fishing.

"You here!" I cried. "What good fortune brought you into these waters?"

"Ah," he answered, "I fished this brook forty-five years ago. It was in
the Paradise Valley that I first thought of Rip Van Winkle. I wanted to
come back again for the sake of old times."

But what has all this to do with an open fire? I will tell you. It is
at the places along the stream, where the little flames of love and
friendship have been kindled in bygone days, that the past returns most
vividly. These are the altars of remembrance.

It is strange how long a small fire will leave its mark. The charred
sticks, the black coals, do not decay easily. If they lie well up the
hank, out of reach of the spring floods, they will stay there for years.
If you have chanced to build a rough fireplace of stones from the brook,
it seems almost as if it would last forever.

There is a mossy knoll beneath a great butternut-tree on the Swiftwater
where such a fireplace was built four years ago; and whenever I come to
that place now I lay the rod aside, and sit down for a little while by
the fast-flowing water, and remember.

This is what I see: A man wading up the stream, with a creel over his
shoulder, and perhaps a dozen trout in it; two little lads in gray
corduroys running down the path through the woods to meet him, one
carrying a frying-pan and a kettle, the other with a basket of lunch on
his arm. Then I see the bright flames leaping up in the fireplace, and
hear the trout sizzling in the pan, and smell the appetizing odour. Now
I see the lads coming back across the foot-bridge that spans the stream,
with a bottle of milk from the nearest farmhouse. They are laughing
and teetering as they balance along the single plank. Now the table is
spread on the moss. How good the lunch tastes! Never were there such
pink-fleshed trout, such crisp and savoury slices of broiled bacon.
Douglas, (the beloved doll that the younger lad shamefacedly brings
out from the pocket of his jacket,) must certainly have some of it. And
after the lunch is finished, and the bird's portion has been scattered
on the moss, we creep carefully on our hands and knees to the edge
of the brook, and look over the bank at the big trout that is poising
himself in the amber water. We have tried a dozen times to catch him,
but never succeeded. The next time, perhaps--

Well, the fireplace is still standing. The butternut-tree spreads its
broad branches above the stream. The violets and the bishop's-caps and
the wild anemones are sprinkled over the banks. The yellow-throat
and the water-thrush and the vireos still sing the same tunes in the
thicket. And the elder of the two lads often comes back with me to that
pleasant place and shares my fisherman's luck beside the Swiftwater.

But the younger lad?

Ah, my little Barney, you have gone to follow a new stream,--clear as
crystal,--flowing through fields of wonderful flowers that never fade.
It is a strange river to Teddy and me; strange and very far away. Some
day we shall see it with you; and you will teach us the names of those
blossoms that do not wither. But till then, little Barney, the other
lad and I will follow the old stream that flows by the woodland
fireplace,--your altar.

Rue grows here. Yes, there is plenty of rue. But there is also
rosemary, that 's for remembrance! And close beside it I see a little


          Furl your sail, my little boatie;
              Here 's the haven, still and deep,
          Where the dreaming tides, in-streaming,
                   Up the channel creep.
          See, the sunset breeze is dying;
          Hark, the plover, landward flying,
          Softly down the twilight crying;
              Come to anchor, little boatie,
                  In the port of Sleep.

          Far away, my little boatie,
              Roaring waves are white with foam;
          Ships are striving, onward driving,
                  Day and night they roam.
          Father 's at the deep-sea trawling,
          In the darkness, rowing, hauling,
          While the hungry winds are calling,--
             God protect him, little boatie,
                  Bring him safely home!

          Not for you, my little boatie,
              Is the wide and weary sea;
          You 're too slender, and too tender,
                  You must rest with me.
          All day long you have been straying
          Up and down the shore and playing;
          Come to port, make no delaying!
              Day is over, little boatie,
                  Night falls suddenly.

          Furl your sail, my little boatie;
              Fold your wings, my tired dove.
          Dews are sprinkling, stars are twinkling
                  Drowsily above.
          Cease from sailing, cease from rowing;
          Rock upon the dream-tide, knowing
          Safely o'er your rest are glowing,
              All the night, my little boatie,
                  Harbour-lights of love.

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