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Angling Sketches by Andrew Lang

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morte et vita sua.

"Dear Smith" (the document begins), "Before you read this--long
before, I hope--I shall have solved the great mystery--if, indeed,
we solve it. If the water runs down to-morrow, and there is every
prospect that it will do so, I must have the opportunity of making
such an end as even malignity cannot suspect of being voluntary.
There are plenty of fish in the water; if I hook one in "The
Trows," I shall let myself go whither the current takes me. Life
has for weeks been odious to me; for what is life without honour,
without love, and coupled with shame and remorse? Repentance I
cannot call the emotion which gnaws me at the heart, for in similar
circumstances (unlikely as these are to occur) I feel that I would
do the same thing again.

"Are we but automata, worked by springs, moved by the stronger
impulse, and unable to choose for ourselves which impulse that
shall be? Even now, in decreeing my own destruction, do I exercise
free-will, or am I the sport of hereditary tendencies, of mistaken
views of honour, of a seeming self-sacrifice, which, perhaps, is
but selfishness in disguise? I blight my unfortunate father's old
age; I destroy the last of an ancient house; but I remove from the
path of Olive Dunne the shadow that must rest upon the sunshine of
what will eventually, I trust, be a happy life, unvexed by memories
of one who loved her passionately. Dear Olive! how pure, how
ardent was my devotion to her none knows better than you. But
Olive had, I will not say a fault, though I suffer from it, but a
quality, or rather two qualities, which have completed my misery.
Lightly as she floats on the stream of society, the most casual
observer, and even the enamoured beholder, can see that Olive Dunne
has great pride, and no sense of humour. Her dignity is her idol.
What makes her, even for a moment, the possible theme of ridicule
is in her eyes an unpardonable sin. This sin, I must with
penitence confess, I did indeed commit. Another woman might have
forgiven me. I know not how that may be; I throw myself on the
mercy of the court. But, if another could pity and pardon, to
Olive this was impossible. I have never seen her since that fatal
moment when, paler than her orange blossoms, she swept through the
porch of the church, while I, dishevelled, mud-stained, half-
drowned--ah! that memory will torture me if memory at all remains.
And yet, fool, maniac, that I was, I could not resist the wild, mad
impulse to laugh which shook the rustic spectators, and which in my
case was due, I trust, to hysterical but NOT unmanly emotion. If
any woman, any bride, could forgive such an apparent but most
unintentional insult, Olive Dunne, I knew, was not that woman. My
abject letters of explanation, my appeals for mercy, were returned
unopened. Her parents pitied me, perhaps had reasons for being on
my side, but Olive was of marble. It is not only myself that she
cannot pardon, she will never, I know, forgive herself while my
existence reminds her of what she had to endure. When she receives
the intelligence of my demise, no suspicion will occur to her; she
will not say "He is fitly punished;" but her peace of mind will
gradually return.

It is for this, mainly, that I sacrifice myself, but also because I
cannot endure the dishonour of a laggard in love and a recreant
bridegroom.

So much for my motives: now to my tale.

The day before our wedding-day had been the happiest in my life.
Never had I felt so certain of Olive's affections, never so
fortunate in my own. We parted in the soft moonlight; she, no
doubt, to finish her nuptial preparations; I, to seek my couch in
the little rural inn above the roaring waters of the Budon. {3}

Move eastward, happy earth, and leave
Yon orange sunset fading slow;
From fringes of the faded eve
Oh, happy planet, eastward go,

I murmured, though the atmospheric conditions were not really those
described by the poet.

"Ah, bear me with thee, smoothly borne,
Dip forward under starry light,
And move me to my marriage morn,
And round again to -

"River in grand order, sir," said the voice of Robins, the keeper,
who recognised me in the moonlight. "There's a regular monster in
the Ashweil," he added, naming a favourite cast; "never saw nor
heard of such a fish in the water before."

"Mr. Dick must catch him, Robins," I answered; "no fishing for me
to-morrow."

"No, sir," said Robins, affably. "Wish you joy, sir, and Miss
Olive, too. It's a pity, though! Master Dick, he throws a fine
fly, but he gets flurried with a big fish, being young. And this
one is a topper."

With that he gave me good-night, and I went to bed, but not to
sleep. I was fevered with happiness; the past and future reeled
before my wakeful vision. I heard every clock strike; the sounds
of morning were astir, and still I could not sleep. The ceremony,
for reasons connected with our long journey to my father's place in
Hampshire, was to be early--half-past ten was the hour. I looked
at my watch; it was seven of the clock, and then I looked out of
the window: it was a fine, soft grey morning, with a south wind
tossing the yellowing boughs. I got up, dressed in a hasty way,
and thought I would just take a look at the river. It was, indeed,
in glorious order, lapping over the top of the sharp stone which we
regarded as a measure of the due size of water.

The morning was young, sleep was out of the question; I could not
settle my mind to read. Why should I not take a farewell cast,
alone, of course? I always disliked the attendance of a gillie. I
took my salmon rod out of its case, rigged it up, and started for
the stream, which flowed within a couple of hundred yards of my
quarters. There it raced under the ash tree, a pale delicate
brown, perhaps a little thing too coloured. I therefore put on a
large Silver Doctor, and began steadily fishing down the ash-tree
cast. What if I should wipe Dick's eye, I thought, when, just
where the rough and smooth water meet, there boiled up a head and
shoulders such as I had never seen on any fish. My heart leaped
and stood still, but there came no sensation from the rod, and I
finished the cast, my knees actually trembling beneath me. Then I
gently lifted the line, and very elaborately tested every link of
the powerful casting-line. Then I gave him ten minutes by my
watch; next, with unspeakable emotion, I stepped into the stream
and repeated the cast. Just at the same spot he came up again; the
huge rod bent like a switch, and the salmon rushed straight down
the pool, as if he meant to make for the sea. I staggered on to
dry land to follow him the easier, and dragged at my watch to time
the fish; a quarter to eight. But the slim chain had broken, and
the watch, as I hastily thrust it back, missed my pocket and fell
into the water. There was no time to stoop for it; the fish
started afresh, tore up the pool as fast as he had gone down it,
and, rushing behind the torrent, into the eddy at the top, leaped
clean out of the water. He was 70 lbs. if he was an ounce. Here
he slackened a little, dropping back, and I got in some line. Now
he sulked so intensely that I thought he had got the line round a
rock. It might be broken, might be holding fast to a sunken stone,
for aught that I could tell; and the time was passing, I knew not
how rapidly. I tried all known methods, tugging at him, tapping
the butt, and slackening line on him. At last the top of the rod
was slightly agitated, and then, back flew the long line in my
face. Gone! I reeled up with a sigh, but the line tightened
again. He had made a sudden rush under my bank, but there he lay
again like a stone. How long? Ah! I cannot tell how long! I
heard the church clock strike, but missed the number of the
strokes. Soon he started again down-stream into the shallows,
leaping at the end of his rush--the monster. Then he came slowly
up, and "jiggered" savagely at the line. It seemed impossible that
any tackle could stand these short violent jerks. Soon he showed
signs of weakening. Once his huge silver side appeared for a
moment near the surface, but he retreated to his old fastness. I
was in a tremor of delight and despair. I should have thrown down
my rod, and flown on the wings of love to Olive and the altar. But
I hoped that there was time still--that it was not so very late!
At length he was failing. I heard ten o'clock strike. He came up
and lumbered on the surface of the pool. Gradually I drew him,
plunging ponderously, to the gravelled beach, where I meant to
"tail" him. He yielded to the strain, he was in the shallows, the
line was shortened. I stooped to seize him. The frayed and
overworn gut broke at a knot, and with a loose roll he dropped back
towards the deep. I sprang at him, stumbled, fell on him,
struggled with him, but he slipped from my arms. In that moment I
knew more than the anguish of Orpheus. Orpheus! Had I, too, lost
my Eurydice? I rushed from the stream, up the steep bank, along to
my rooms. I passed the church door. Olive, pale as her orange-
blossoms, was issuing from the porch. The clock pointed to 10.45.
I was ruined, I knew it, and I laughed. I laughed like a lost
spirit. She swept past me, and, amidst the amazement of the gentle
and simple, I sped wildly away. Ask me no more. The rest is
silence."

* * *

Thus ends my hapless friend's narrative. I leave it to the
judgment of women and of men. Ladies, would you have acted as
Olive Dunne acted? Would pride, or pardon, or mirth have ridden
sparkling in your eyes? Men, my brethren, would ye have deserted
the salmon for the lady, or the lady for the salmon? I know what I
would have done had I been fair Olive Dunne. What I would have
done had I been Houghton Grannom I may not venture to divulge. For
this narrative, then, as for another, "Let every man read it as he
will, and every woman as the gods have given her wit." {4}

A TWEEDSIDE SKETCH

The story of the following adventure--this deplorable confession,
one may say--will not have been written in vain if it impresses on
young minds the supreme necessity of carefulness about details.
Let the "casual" and regardless who read it--the gatless, as they
say in Suffolk--ponder the lesson which it teaches: a lesson which
no amount of bitter experience has ever impressed on the
unprincipled narrator. Never do anything carelessly whether in
fishing or in golf, and carry this important maxim even into the
most serious affairs of life. Many a battle has been lost, no
doubt, by lack of ammunition, or by plenty of ammunition which did
not happen to suit the guns; and many a salmon has been lost, ay,
and many a trout, for want of carefulness, and through a culpable
inattention to the soundness of your gut, and tackle generally.
What fiend is it that prompts a man just to try a hopeless cast, in
a low water, without testing his tackle? As sure as you do that,
up comes the fish, and with his first dash breaks your casting
line, and leaves you lamenting. This doctrine I preach, being my
own "awful example." "Bad and careless little boy," my worthy
master used to say at school; and he would have provoked a smile in
other circumstances. But Mr. Trotter, of the Edinburgh Academy,
had something about him (he usually carried it in the tail-pocket
of his coat) which inspired respect and discouraged ribaldry.
Would that I had listened to Mr. Trotter; would that I had
corrected, in early life, the happy-go-lucky disposition to scatter
my Greek accents, as it were, with a pepper-caster, to fish with
worn tackle, and, generally, to make free with the responsibilities
of life and literature. It is too late to amend, but others may
learn wisdom from this spectacle of deserved misfortune and
absolute discomfiture.

I am not myself a salmon-fisher, though willing to try that art
again, and though this is a tale of salmon. To myself the
difference between angling for trout and angling for salmon is like
the difference between a drawing of Lionardo's, in silver point,
and a loaded landscape by MacGilp, R.A. Trout-fishing is all an
idyll, all delicacy--that is, trout-fishing on the Test or on the
Itchen. You wander by clear water, beneath gracious poplar-trees,
unencumbered with anything but a slim rod of Messrs. Hardy's make,
and a light toy-box of delicate flies. You need seldom wade, and
the water is shallow, the bottom is of silver gravel. You need not
search all day at random, but you select a rising trout, and
endeavour to lay the floating fly delicately over him. If you part
with him, there is always another feeding merrily:

Invenies alium si te hic fastidit.

It is like an excursion into Corot's country, it is rich in
memories of Walton and Cotton: it is a dream of peace, and they
bring you your tea by the riverside. In salmon-fishing, on the
Tweed at least, all is different. The rod, at all events the rod
which some one kindly lent me, is like a weaver's beam. The high
heavy wading trousers and boots are even as the armour of the giant
of Gath. You have to plunge waist deep, or deeper, into roaring
torrents, and if the water be at all "drumly" you have not an idea
where your next step may fall. It may be on a hidden rock, or on a
round slippery boulder, or it may be into a deep "pot" or hole.
The inexperienced angler staggers like a drunken man, is
occasionally drowned, and more frequently is ducked. You have to
cast painfully, with steep precipitous banks behind you, all
overgrown with trees, with bracken, with bramble. It is a boy's
work to disentangle the fly from the branches of ash and elm and
pine. There is no delicacy, and there is a great deal of exertion
in all this. You do not cast subtilely over a fish which you know
is there, but you swish, swish, all across the current, with a
strong reluctance to lift the line after each venture and try
another. The small of the back aches, and it is literally in the
sweat of your brow that you take your diversion. After all, there
are many blank days, when the salmon will look at no fly, or when
you encounter the Salmo irritans, who rises with every appearance
of earnest good-will, but never touches the hook, or, if he does
touch it, runs out a couple of yards of line, and vanishes for
ever. What says the poet?

There's an accommodating fish,
In pool or stream, by rock or pot,
Who rises frequent as you wish,
At "Popham," "Parson," or "Jock Scott,"
Or almost any fly you've got
In all the furred and feathered clans.
You strike, but ah, you strike him not
He is the Salmo irritans!

It may be different in Norway or on the lower casts of the Tweed,
as at Floors, or Makerstoun; but higher up the country, in Scott's
own country, at Yair or Ashiesteil, there is often a terrible
amount of fruitless work to be done. And I doubt if, except in
throwing a very long line, and knowing the waters by old
experience, there is very much skill in salmon-fishing. It is all
an affair of muscle and patience. The choice of flies is almost a
pure accident. Every one believes in the fly with which he has
been successful. These strange combinations of blues, reds, golds,
of tinsel and worsted, of feathers and fur, are purely fantastic
articles. They are like nothing in nature, and are multiplied for
the fanciful amusement of anglers. Nobody knows why salmon rise at
them; nobody knows why they will bite on one day and not on
another, or rather, on many others. It is not even settled whether
we should use a bright fly on a bright day, and a dark fly on a
dark day, as Dr. Hamilton advises, or reverse the choice as others
use. Muscles and patience, these, I repeat, are the only
ingredients of ultimate success.

However, one does do at Rome as the Romans do, and fishes for
salmon in Tweed when the nets are off in October, when the
yellowing leaves begin to fall, and when that beautiful reach of
wooded valley from Elibank to the meeting of Tweed and Ettrick is
in the height of its autumnal charm. Why has Yarrow been so much
more besung than Tweed, in spite of the greater stream's far
greater and more varied loveliness? The fatal duel in the Dowie
Dens of Yarrow and the lamented drowning of Willie there have given
the stream its 'pastoral melancholy,' and engaged Wordsworth in the
renown of the water. For the poetry of Tweed we have chiefly,
after Scott, to thank Mr. Stoddart, its loyal minstrel. "Dearer
than all these to me," he says about our other valleys, "is sylvan
Tweed."

Let ither anglers choose their ain,
And ither waters tak' the lead
O' Hieland streams we covet nane,
But gie to us the bonny Tweed;
And gie to us the cheerfu' burn,
That steals into its valley fair,
The streamlets that, at ilka turn,
Sae saftly meet and mingle there.

He kept his promise, given in the following verse:

And I, when to breathe is a labour, and joy
Forgets me, and life is no longer the boy,
On the labouring staff, and the tremorous knee,
Will wander, bright river, to thee!

Life is always "the boy" when one is beside the Tweed. Times
change, and we change, for the worse. But the river changes
little. Still he courses through the keen and narrow rocks beneath
the bridge of Yair.

From Yair, which hills so closely bind,
Scarce can the Tweed his passage find,
Though much he fret, and chafe, and toil,
Till all his eddying currents boil.

Still the water loiters by the long boat-pool of Yair, as though
loath to leave the drooping boughs of the elms. Still it courses
with a deep eddy through the Elm Wheel, and ripples under Fernilea,
where the author of the "Flowers of the Forest" lived in that now
mouldering and roofless hall, with the peaked turrets. Still
Neidpath is fair, Neidpath of the unhappy maid, and still we mark
the tiny burn at Ashiesteil, how in November,

Murmuring hoarse, and frequent seen,
Through bush and briar, no longer green,
An angry brook, it sweeps the glade,
Brawls over rock and wild cascade,
And foaming brown, with doubled speed,
Hurries its waters to the Tweed.

Still the old tower of Elibank is black and strong in ruin;
Elibank, the home of that Muckle Mou'd Meg, who made Harden after
all a better bride than he would have found in the hanging ash-tree
of her father. These are unaltered, mainly, since Scott saw them
last, and little altered is the homely house of Ashiesteil, where
he had been so happy. And we, too, feel but little change among
those scenes of long ago, those best-beloved haunts of boyhood,
where we have had so many good days and bad, days of rising trout
and success; days of failure, and even of half-drowning.

One cannot reproduce the charm of the strong river in pool and
stream, of the steep rich bank that it rushes or lingers by, of the
green and heathery hills beyond, or the bare slopes where the blue
slate breaks through among the dark old thorn-trees, remnants of
the forest. It is all homely and all haunted, and, if a Tweedside
fisher might have his desire, he would sleep the long sleep in the
little churchyard that lies lonely above the pool of Caddon-foot,
and hard by Christopher North's favourite quarters at Clovenfords.

However, while we are still on earth, Caddon-foot is more
attractive for her long sweep of salmon-pool--the home of sea-trout
too--than precisely for her kirk-yard. There will be time enough
for that, and time it is to recur to the sad story of the big fish
and the careless angler. It was about the first day of October,
and we had enjoyed a "spate." Salmon-fishing is a mere child of
the weather; with rain almost anybody may raise fish, without it
all art is apt to be vain. We had been blessed with a spate. On
Wednesday the Tweed had been roaring red from bank to bank.
Salmon-fishing was wholly out of the question, and it is to be
feared that the innumerable trout-fishers, busy on every eddy, were
baiting with salmon roe, an illegal lure. On Thursday the red
tinge had died out of the water, but only a very strong wader would
have ventured in; others had a good chance, if they tried it, of
being picked up at Berwick. Friday was the luckless day of my own
failure and broken heart. The water was still very heavy and
turbid, a frantic wind was lashing the woods, heaps of dead leaves
floated down, and several sheaves of corn were drifted on the
current. The long boat-pool at Yair, however, is sheltered by
wooded banks, and it was possible enough to cast, in spite of the
wind's fury. We had driven from a place about five miles distant,
and we had not driven three hundred yards before I remembered that
we had forgotten the landing-net. But, as I expected nothing, it
did not seem worth while to go back for this indispensable
implement. We reached the water-side, and found that the trout
were feeding below the pendent branches of the trees and in the
quiet, deep eddies of the long boat-pool. One cannot see rising
trout without casting over them, in preference to labouring after
salmon, so I put up a small rod and diverted myself from the bank.
It was to little purpose. Tweed trout are now grown very shy and
capricious; even a dry fly failed to do any execution worth
mentioning. Conscience compelled me, as I had been sent out by
kind hosts to fish for salmon, not to neglect my orders. The
armour--the ponderous gear of the fisher--was put on with the
enormous boots, and the gigantic rod was equipped. Then came the
beginning of sorrows. We had left the books of salmon flies
comfortably reposing at home. We had also forgotten the whiskey
flask. Everything, in fact, except cigarettes, had been left
behind. Unluckily, not quite everything: I had a trout fly-book,
and therein lay just one large salmon fly, not a Tweed fly, but a
lure that is used on the beautiful and hopeless waters of the
distant Ken, in Galloway. It had brown wings, a dark body, and a
piece of jungle-cock feather, and it was fastened to a sea-trout
casting-line. Now, if I had possessed no salmon flies at all, I
must either have sent back for some, or gone on innocently dallying
with trout. But this one wretched fly lured me to my ruin. I saw
that the casting-line had a link which seemed rather twisted. I
tried it; but, in the spirit of Don Quixote with his helmet, I did
not try it hard. I waded into the easiest-looking part of the
pool, just above a huge tree that dropped its boughs to the water,
and began casting, merely from a sense of duty. I had not cast a
dozen times before there was a heavy, slow plunge in the stream,
and a glimpse of purple and azure.

"That's him," cried a man who was trouting on the opposite bank.
Doubtless it was "him," but he had not touched the hook. I believe
the correct thing would have been to wait for half an hour, and
then try the fish with a smaller fly. But I had no smaller fly, no
other fly at all. I stepped back a few paces, and fished down
again. In Major Traherne's work I have read that the heart leaps,
or stands still, or otherwise betrays an uncomfortable interest,
when one casts for the second time over a salmon which has risen.
I cannot honestly say that I suffered from this tumultuous emotion.
"He will not come again," I said, when there was a long heavy drag
at the line, followed by a shrieking of the reel, as in Mr. William
Black's novels. Let it be confessed that the first hooking of a
salmon is an excitement unparalleled in trout-fishing. There have
been anglers who, when the salmon was once on, handed him over to
the gillie to play and land. One would like to act as gillie to
those lordly amateurs. My own fish rushed down stream, where the
big tree stands. I had no hope of landing him if he took that
course, because one could neither pass the rod under the boughs,
nor wade out beyond them. But he soon came back, while one took in
line, and discussed his probable size with the trout-fisher
opposite. His size, indeed! Nobody knows what it was, for when he
had come up to the point whence he had started, he began a policy
of violent short tugs--not "jiggering," as it is called, but
plunging with all his weight on the line. I had clean forgotten
the slimness of the tackle, and, as he was clearly well hooked,
held him perhaps too hard. Only a very raw beginner likes to take
hours over landing a fish. Perhaps I held him too tight: at all
events, after a furious plunge, back came the line; the casting
line had snapped at the top link.

There was no more to be said or done, except to hunt for another
fly in the trout fly-book. Here there was no such thing, but a
local spectator offered me a huge fly, more like a gaff, and
equipped with a large iron eye for attaching the gut to. Withal I
suspect this weapon was meant, not for fair fishing, but for
"sniggling." Now "sniggling" is a form of cold-blooded poaching.
In the open water, on the Ettrick, you may see half a dozen
snigglers busy. They all wear high wading trousers; they are all
armed with stiff salmon-rods and huge flies. They push the line
and the top joints of the rod deep into the water, drag it along,
and then bring the hook out with a jerk. Often it sticks in the
side of a salmon, and in this most unfair and unsportsmanlike way
the free sport of honest people is ruined, and fish are diminished
in number. Now, the big fly MAY have been an honest character, but
he was sadly like a rake-hook in disguise. He did not look as if
an fish could fancy him. I, therefore, sent a messenger across the
river to beg, buy, or borrow a fly at "The Nest." But this pretty
cottage is no longer the home of the famous angling club, which has
gone a mile or two up the water and builded for itself a new
dwelling. My messenger came back with one small fatigued-looking
fly, a Popham, I think, which had been lent by some one at a farm-
house. The water was so heavy that the small fly seemed useless;
however, we fastened it on as a dropper, using the sniggler as the
trail fly; so exhausted were our resources, that I had to cut a
piece of gut off a minnow tackle and attach the small fly to that.
The tiny gut loop of the fly was dreadfully frayed, and with a
heavy heart I began fishing again. My friend on the opposite side
called out that big fish were rising in the bend of the stream, so
thither I went, stumbling over rocks, and casting with much
difficulty, as the high overgrown banks permit no backward sweep of
the line. You are obliged to cast by a kind of forward thrust of
the arms, a knack not to be acquired in a moment. I splashed away
awkwardly, but at last managed to make a straight, clean cast.
There was a slight pull, such as a trout gives in mid-stream under
water. I raised the point, and again the reel sang aloud and
gleefully as the salmon rushed down the stream farther and faster
than the first. It is a very pleasant thing to hook a salmon when
you are all alone, as I was then--alone with yourself and the
Goddess of Fishing. This salmon, just like the other, now came
back, and instantly began the old tactics of heavy plunging tugs.
But I knew the gut was sound this time, and as I fancied he had
risen to the sniggler, I had no anxiety about the tackle holding.
One more plunge, and back came the line as before. He was off.
One could have sat down and gnawed the reel. What had gone wrong?
Why, the brute had taken the old fly from the farmhouse and had
snapped the loop that attaches the gut. The little loop was still
on the fragment of minnow tackle which fastened it to the cast.

There was no more chance, for there were now no more flies, except
a small "cobbery," a sea-trout fly from the Sound of Mull. It was
time for us to go, with a heavy heart and a basket empty, except
for two or three miserable trout. The loss of those two salmon,
whether big or little fish, was not the whole misfortune. All the
chances of the day were gone, and seldom have salmon risen so
freely. I had not been casting long enough to smoke half a
cigarette, when I hooked each of those fish. They rose at flies
which were the exact opposites of each other in size, character,
and colour. They were ready to rise at anything but the sniggler.
And I had nothing to offer them, absolutely nothing bigger than a
small red-spinner from the Test. On that day a fisher, not far
off, hooked nine salmon and landed four of them, in one pool, I
never had such a chance before; the heavy flood and high wind had
made the salmon as "silly" as perch. One might have caught half a
dozen of the great sturdy fellows, who make all trout, even sea-
trout, seem despicable minnows. Next day I fished again in the
same water, with a friend. I rose a fish, but did not hook it, and
he landed a small one, five minutes after we started, and we only
had one other rise all the rest of the day. Probably it was not
dark and windy enough, but who can explain the caprices of salmon?
The only certain thing is, that carelessness always brings
misfortune; that if your tackle is weak fish will hook themselves
on days, and in parts of the water, where you expected nothing, and
then will go away with your fly and your casting-lines. Fortune
never forgives. He who is lazy, and takes no trouble because he
expects no fish, will always be meeting heart-breaking adventures.
One should never make a hopeless or careless cast; bad luck lies in
wait for that kind of performance. These are the experiences that
embitter a man, as they embittered Dean Swift, who, old and ill,
neglected and in Irish exile, still felt the pang of losing a great
trout when he was a boy. What pleasure is there in landscape and
tradition when such accidents befall you?

The sun upon the Weirdlaw hill,
In Ettrick's vale is sinking sweet.

There is a fire of autumn colour in the tufted woods that embosom
Fernilea. "Bother the setting sun," we say, and the Maid of
Neidpath, and the "Flowers of the Forest," and the memories of
Scott at Ashiesteil, and of Muckle Mou'd Meg, at Elibank. These
are filmy, shadowy pleasures of the fancy, these cannot minister to
the mind of him who has been "broken" twice, who cannot resume the
contest for want of ammunition, and who has not even brought the
creature-comfort of a flask. Since that woful day I have lain on
the bank and watched excellent anglers skilfully flogging the best
of water, and that water full of fish, without hooking one.
Salmon-fishing, then, is a matter of chance, or of plodding
patience. They will rise on one day at almost any fly (but the
sniggler), however ill-presented to them. On a dozen other days no
fly and no skill will avail to tempt them. The salmon is a
brainless brute and the grapes are sour!

If only the gut had held, this sketch would have ended with
sentiment, and a sunset, and the music of Ettrick, the melody of
Tweed. In the gloaming we'd be roaming homeward, telling, perhaps,
the story of the ghost seen by Sir Walter Scott near Ashiesteil, or
discussing the Roman treasure still buried near Oakwood Tower,
under an inscribed stone which men saw fifty years ago. Or was it
a treasure of Michael Scott's, who lived at Oakwood, says
tradition? Let Harden dig for Harden's gear, it is not for me to
give hints as to its whereabouts. After all that ill-luck, to be
brief, one is not in the vein for legendary lore, nor memories of
boyhood, nor poetry, nor sunsets. I do not believe that one ever
thinks of the landscape or of anything else, while there is a
chance for a fish, and no abundance of local romance can atone for
an empty creel. Poetical fishers try to make people believe these
fallacies; perhaps they impose on themselves; but if one would
really enjoy landscape, one should leave, not only the fly-book and
the landing-net, but the rod and reel at home. And so farewell to
the dearest and fairest of all rivers that go on earth, fairer than
Eurotas or Sicilian Anapus with its sea-trout; farewell--for who
knows how long?--to the red-fringed Gleddis-wheel, the rock of the
Righ-wheel, the rushing foam of the Gullets, the woodland banks of
Caddon-foot.

The valleys of England are wide,
Her rivers rejoice every one,
In grace and in beauty they glide,
And water-flowers float at their side,
As they gleam in the rays of the sun.

But where are the speed and the spray -
The dark lakes that welter them forth,
Tree and heath nodding over their way -
The rock and the precipice grey,
That bind the wild streams of the North?

Well, both, are good, the streams of north and south, but he who
has given his heart to the Tweed, as did Tyro, in Homer, to the
Enipeus will never change his love.

P.S.--That Galloway fly--"The Butcher and Lang"--has been avenged.
A copy of him, on the line of a friend, has proved deadly on the
Tweed, killing, among other victims, a sea-trout of thirteen
pounds.

THE DOUBLE ALIBI

Glen Aline is probably the loneliest place in the lone moorlands of
Western Galloway. The country is entirely pastoral, and I fancy
that the very pasture is bad enough. Stretches of deer-grass and
ling, rolling endlessly to the feet of Cairnsmure and the circle of
the eastern hills, cannot be good feeding for the least Epicurean
of sheep, and sheep do not care for the lank and sour herbage by
the sides of the "lanes," as the half-stagnant, black, deep, and
weedy burns are called in this part of the country. The scenery is
not unattractive, but tourists never wander to these wastes where
no inns are, and even the angler seldom visits them. Indeed, the
fishing is not to be called good, and the "lanes," which "seep," as
the Scotch say, through marshes and beneath low hillsides, are not
such excellent company as the garrulous and brawling brooks of the
Border or of the Highlands. As the lanes flow, however, from far-
away lochs, it happens that large trout make their way into them--
trout which, if hooked, offer a gallant resistance before they can
be hauled over the weeds that usually line the watercourses.

Partly for the sake of trying this kind of angling, partly from a
temporary distaste for the presence of men and women, partly for
the purpose of finishing a work styled "A History of the
Unexplained," I once spent a month in the solitudes of Glen Aline.
I stayed at the house of a shepherd who, though not an
unintelligent man was by no means possessed of the modern spirit.
He and his brother swains had sturdily and successfully resisted an
attempt made by the school-master at a village some seven miles off
to get a postal service in the glen more frequently than once a
week. A post once a week was often enough for lucky people who did
not get letters twice a year. It was not my shepherd, but another,
who once came with his wife to the village, after a twelve miles'
walk across the hills, to ask "what the day of the week was?" They
had lost count, and the man had attended to his work on a day which
the dame averred to be the Sabbath. He denied that it WAS the
Sabbath, and I believe that it turned out to be a Tuesday. This
little incident gives some idea of the delightful absence of
population in Glen Aline. But no words can paint the utter
loneliness, which could actually be felt--the empty moors, the
empty sky. The heaps of stones by a burnside, here and there,
showed that a cottage had once existed where now was no habitation.
One such spot was rather to be shunned by the superstitious, for
here, about 1698, a cottar family had been evicted by endless
unaccountable disturbances in the house. Stones were thrown by
invisible hands--though occasionally, by the way, a white hand,
with no apparent body attached to it, WAS viewed by the curious who
came to the spot. Heavy objects of all sorts floated in the air;
rappings and voices were heard; the end wall was pulled down by an
unknown agency. The story is extant in a pious old pamphlet called
"Sadducees Defeated," and a great deal more to the same effect--a
masterpiece by the parish minister, signed and attested by the
other ministers of the Glen Kens. The Edinburgh edition of the
pamphlet is rare; the London edition may be procured without much
difficulty.

The site of this ruined cottage, however, had no terrors for the
neighbours, or rather for the neighbour, my shepherd. In fact, he
seemed to have forgotten the legend till I reminded him of it, for
I had come across the tale in my researches into the Unexplained.
The shepherd and his family, indeed, were quite devoid of
superstition, and in this respect very unlike the northern
Highlanders. However, the fallen cottage had nothing to do with my
own little adventure in Glen Aline, and I mention it merely as the
most notable of the tiny ruins which attest the presence, in the
past, of a larger population. One cannot marvel that the people
"flitted" from the moors and morasses of Glen Aline into less
melancholy neighbourhoods. The very sheep seemed scarcer here than
elsewhere; grouse-disease had devastated the moors, sportsmen
consequently did not visit them; and only a few barren pairs, with
crow-picked skeletons of dead birds in the heather now and then,
showed that the shootings had once perhaps been marketable. My
shepherd's cottage was four miles from the little-travelled road to
Dalmellington; long bad miles they were, across bog and heather.
Consequently I seldom saw any face of man, except in or about the
cottage. My work went on rapidly enough in such an undisturbed
life. Empires might fall, parties might break like bursting
shells, and banks might break also: I plodded on with my labour,
and went a-fishing when the day promised well. There was a hill
loch (Loch Nan) about five miles away, which I favoured a good
deal. The trout were large and fair of flesh, and in proper
weather they rose pretty freely, and could be taken by an angler
wading from the shore. There was no boat. The wading, however,
was difficult and dangerous, owing to the boggy nature of the
bottom, which quaked like a quicksand in some places. The black
water, never stirred by duck or moorhen, the dry rustling reeds,
the noisome smell of decaying vegetable-matter when you stirred it
up in wading, the occasional presence of a dead sheep by the sullen
margin of the tarn, were all opposed to cheerfulness. Still, the
fish were there, and the "lane," which sulkily glided from the loch
towards the distant river, contained some monsters, which took worm
after a flood. One misty morning, as I had just topped the low
ridge from which the loch became visible, I saw a man fishing from
my favourite bench. Never had I noticed a human being there
before, and I was not well pleased to think that some emissary of
Mr. Watson Lyall was making experiments in Loch Nan, and would
describe it in "The Sportsman's Guide." The mist blew white and
thick for a minute or two over the lochside, as it often does at
Loch Skene; so white and thick and sudden that the bewildered
angler there is apt to lose his way, and fall over the precipice of
the Grey Mare's Tail. When the curtain of cloud rose again, the
loch was lonely: the angler had disappeared. I went on rejoicing,
and made a pretty good basket, as the weather improved and grew
warmer--a change which gives an appetite to trout in some hill
lochs. Among the sands between the stones on the farther bank I
found traces of the angler's footsteps; he was not a phantom, at
all events, for phantoms do not wear heavily nailed boots, as he
evidently did. The traces, which were soon lost, of course,
inclined me to think that he had retreated up a narrow green
burnside, with rather high banks, through which, in rainy weather,
a small feeder fell into the loch. I guessed that he had been
frightened away by the descent of the mist, which usually "puts
down" the trout and prevents them from feeding. In that case his
alarm was premature. I marched homewards, happy with the
unaccustomed weight of my basket, the contents of which were a
welcome change from the usual porridge and potatoes, tea (without
milk), jam, and scones of the shepherd's table. But, as I reached
the height above the loch on my westward path, and looked back to
see if rising fish were dimpling the still waters, all flushed as
they were with sunset, behold, there was the Other Man at work
again!

I should have thought no more about him had I not twice afterwards
seen him at a distance, fishing up a "lane" ahead of me, in the
loneliest regions, and thereby, of course, spoiling my sport. I
knew him by his peculiar stoop, which seemed not unfamiliar to me,
and by his hat, which was of the clerical pattern once known,
perhaps still known, as "a Bible-reader's"--a low, soft, slouched
black felt. The second time that I found him thus anticipating me,
I left off fishing and walked rather briskly towards him, to
satisfy my curiosity, and ask the usual questions, "What sport?"
and "What flies?" But as soon as he observed me coming he strode
off across the heather. Uncourteous as it seems, I felt so
inquisitive that I followed him. But he walked so rapidly, and was
so manifestly anxious to shake me off, that I gave up the pursuit.
Even if he were a poacher whose conscience smote him for using
salmon-roe, I was not "my brother's keeper," nor anybody's keeper.
He might "otter" the loch, but how could I prevent him?

It was no affair of mine, and yet--where had I seen him before?
His gait, his stoop, the carriage of his head, all seemed familiar-
-but a short-sighted man is accustomed to this kind of puzzle: he
is always recognising the wrong person, when he does not fail to
recognise the right one.

I am rather short-sighted, but science has its resources. Two or
three days after my encounter with this very shy sportsman, I went
again to Loch Nan. But this time I took with me a strong field-
glass. As I neared the crest of the low heathery slope immediately
above the loch, whence the water first comes into view, I lay down
on the ground and crawled like a deer-stalker to the skyline.

Then I got out the glass and reconnoitred. There was my friend,
sure enough; moreover, he was playing a very respectable trout.
But he was fishing on the near side of the loch, and though I had
quite a distinct view of his back, and indeed of all his attenuated
form, I was as far as ever from recognising him, or guessing where,
if anywhere, I had seen him before. I now determined to stalk him;
but this was not too easy, as there is literally no cover on the
hillside except a long march dyke of the usual loose stones, which
ran down to the loch-side, and indeed three or four feet into the
loch, reaching it at a short distance to the right of the angler.
Behind this I skulked, in an eagerly undignified manner, and was
just about to climb the wall unobserved, when two grouse got up,
with their wild "cluck cluck" of alarm, and flew down past the
angler and over the loch. He did not even look round, but jerked
his line out of the water, reeled it up, and set off walking along
the loch-side. He was making, no doubt, for the little glen up
which I fancied that he must have retreated on the first occasion
when saw him. I set off walking round the tarn on my own side--the
left side--expecting to anticipate him, and that he must pass me on
his way up the little burnside. But I had miscalculated the
distance, or the pace. He was first at the burnside; and now I
cast courtesy and everything but curiosity to the winds, and
deliberately followed him. He was a few score of yards ahead of
me, walking rapidly, when he suddenly climbed the burnside to the
left, and was lost to my eyes for a few moments. I reached the
place, ascended the steep green declivity and found myself on the
open undulating moor, with no human being in sight!

The grass and heather were short. I saw no bush, no hollow, where
he could by any possibility have hidden himself. Had he met a
Boojum he could not have more "softly and suddenly vanished away."

I make no pretence of being more courageous than my neighbours,
and, in this juncture, perhaps I was less so. The long days of
loneliness in waste Glen Aline, and too many solitary cigarettes,
had probably injured my nerve. So, when I suddenly heard a sigh
and the half-smothered sound of a convulsive cough-hollow, if ever
a cough was hollow--hard by me, at my side as it were, and yet
could behold no man, nor any place where a man might conceal
himself--nothing but moor and sky and tufts of rushes--then I
turned away, and walked down the glen: not slowly. I shall not
deny that I often looked over my shoulder as I went, and that, when
I reached the loch, I did not angle without many a backward glance.
Such an appearance and disappearance as this, I remembered, were in
the experience of Sir Walter Scott. Lockhart does not tell the
anecdote, which is in a little anonymous volume, "Recollections of
Sir Walter Scott," published before Lockhart's book. Sir Walter
reports that he was once riding across the moor to Ashiesteil, in
the clear brown summer twilight, after sunset. He saw a man a
little way ahead of him, but, just before he reached the spot, the
man disappeared. Scott rode about and about, searching the low
heather as I had done, but to no purpose. He rode on, and,
glancing back, saw the same man at the same place. He turned his
horse, galloped to the spot, and again--nothing! "Then," says Sir
Walter, "neither the mare nor I cared to wait any longer." Neither
had I cared to wait, and if there is any shame in the confession,
on my head be it!

There came a week of blazing summer weather; tramping over moors to
lochs like sheets of burnished steel was out of the question, and I
worked at my book, which now was all but finished. At length I
wrote THE END, and "o le bon ouff! que je poussais," as Flaubert
says about one of his own laborious conclusions. The weather
broke, we had a deluge, and then came a soft cloudy day, with a
warm southern wind suggesting a final march on Loch Nan. I packed
some scones and marmalade into my creel, filled my flask with
whiskey, my cigarette-case with cigarettes, and started on the
familiar track with the happiest anticipations. The Lone Fisher
was quite out of my mind; the day was exhilarating--one of those
true fishing-days when you feel the presence of the sun without
seeing him. Still, I looked rather cautiously over the edge of the
slope above the loch, and, by Jove! there he was, fishing the near
side, and wading deep among the reeds! I did not stalk him this
time, but set off running down the hillside behind him, as quickly
as my basket, with its load of waders and boots, would permit. I
was within forty yards of him, when he gave a wild stagger, tried
to recover himself, failed, and, this time, disappeared in a
perfectly legitimate and accountable manner. The treacherous peaty
bottom had given way, and his floating hat, with a splash on the
surface, and a few black bubbles, were all that testified to his
existence. There was a broken old paling hard by; I tore off a
long plank, waded in as near as I dared, and, by help of the plank,
after a good deal of slipping, which involved an exemplary
drenching, I succeeded in getting him on to dry land. He was a
distressing spectacle--his body and face all blackened with the
slimy peat-mud; and he fell half-fainting on the grass, convulsed
by a terrible cough. My first care was to give him whiskey, by
perhaps a mistaken impulse of humanity; my next, as he lay,
exhausted, was to bring water in my hat, and remove the black mud
from his face.

Then I saw Percy Allen--Allen of St. Jude's! His face was wasted,
his thin long beard (he had not worn a beard of old), clogged as it
was with peat-stains, showed flecks of grey.

"Allen--Percy!" I said; "what wind blew YOU here?"

But he did not answer; and, as he coughed, it was too plain that
the shock of his accident had broken some vessel in the lungs. I
tended him as well as I knew how to do it. I sat beside him,
giving him what comfort I might, and all the time my memory flew
back to college days, and to our strange and most unhappy last
meeting, and his subsequent inevitable disgrace. Far away from
here--Loch Nan and the vacant moors--my memory wandered.

It was at Blocksby's auction-room, in a street near the Strand, on
the eve of a great book-sale three years before, that we had met,
for almost the last time, as I believed, though it is true that we
had not spoken on that occasion. It is necessary that I should
explain what occurred, or what I and three other credible witnesses
believed to have occurred; for, upon my word, the more I see and
hear of human evidence of any event, the less do I regard it as
establishing anything better than an excessively probable
hypothesis.

To make a long story as short as may be, I should say that Allen
and I had been acquainted when we were undergraduates; that, when
fellows of our respective colleges, our acquaintance had become
intimate; that we had once shared a little bit of fishing on the
Test; and that we were both book-collectors. I was a comparatively
sane bibliomaniac, but to Allen the time came when he grudged every
penny that he did not spend on rare books, and when he actually
gave up his share of the water we used to take together, that his
contribution to the rent might go for rare editions and bindings.
After this deplorable change of character we naturally saw each
other less, but we were still friendly. I went up to town to
scribble; Allen stayed on at Oxford. One day I chanced to go into
Blocksby's rooms; it was a Friday, I remember--there was to be a
great sale on the Monday. There I met Allen in ecstasies over one
of the books displayed in the little side room on the right hand of
the sale-room. He had taken out of a glass case and was gloating
over a book which, it seems, had long been the Blue Rose of his
fancy as a collector. He was crazed about Longepierre, the old
French amateur, whose volumes, you may remember, were always bound
in blue morocco, and tooled, on the centre and at the corners, with
his badge, the Golden Fleece. Now the tome which so fascinated
Allen was a Theocritus, published at Rome by Caliergus--a
Theocritus on blue paper, if you please, bound in Longepierre's
morocco livery, double with red morocco, and, oh ecstasy! with a
copy of Longepierre's version of one Idyll on the flyleaf, signed
with the translator's initials, and headed "a Mon Roy." It is
known to the curious that Louis XIV. particularly admired and
praised this little poem, calling it "a model of honourable
gallantry." Clearly the grateful author had presented his own copy
to the king; and here it was, when king and crown had gone down
into dust.

Allen showed me the book; he could hardly let it leave his hands.

"Here is a pearl," he had said, "a gem beyond price!"

"I'm afraid you'll find it so," I said; "that is for a Paillet or
Rothschild, not for you, my boy."

"I fear so," he had answered; "if I were to sell my whole library
to-morrow, I could hardly raise the money;" for he was poor, and it
was rumoured that his mania had already made him acquainted with
the Jews.

We parted. I went home to chambers; Allen stayed adoring the
unexampled Longepierre. That night I dined out, and happened to
sit next a young lady who possessed a great deal of taste, though
that was the least of her charms. The fashion for book-collecting
was among her innocent pleasures; she had seen Allen's books at
Oxford, and I told her of his longings for the Theocritus. Miss
Breton at once was eager to see the book, and the other books, and
I obtained leave to go with her and Mrs. Breton to the auction-
rooms next day. The little side-room where the treasures were
displayed was empty, except for an attendant, when we went in; we
looked at the things and made learned remarks, but I admit that I
was more concerned to look at Miss Breton than at any work in
leather by Derome or Bauzonnet. We were thus a good deal occupied,
perhaps, with each other; people came and went, while our heads
were bent over a case of volumes under the window. When we DID
leave, on the appeal of Mrs. Breton, we both--both I and Kate--Miss
Breton, I mean--saw Allen--at least I saw him, and believed SHE
did--absorbed in gazing at the Longepierre Theocritus. He held it
rather near his face; the gas, which had been lit, fell on the
shining Golden Fleeces of the cover, on his long thin hands and
eager studious features. It would have been a pity to disturb him
in his ecstasy. I looked at Miss Breton; we both smiled, and, of
course, I presumed we smiled for the same reason.

I happen to know, and unluckily did it happen, the very minute of
the hour when we left Blocksby's. It was a quarter to four
o'clock--a church-tower was chiming the three-quarters in the
Strand, and I looked half mechanically at my own watch, which was
five minutes fast. On Sunday I went down to Oxford, and happened
to walk into Allen's rooms. He was lying on a sofa reading the
"Spectator." After chatting a little, I said, "You took no notice
of me, nor of the Bretons yesterday, Allen, at Blocksby's."

"I didn't see you," he said; and as he was speaking there came a
knock at the door.

"Come in!" cried Allen, and a man entered who was a stranger to me.
You would not have called him a gentleman perhaps. However, I
admit that I am possibly no great judge of a gentleman.

Allen looked up.

"Hullo, Mr. Thomas," he said, "have you come up to see Mr. Mortby?"
mentioning a well-known Oxford bibliophile. "Wharton," he went on,
addressing me, "this is Mr. Thomas from Blocksby's." I bowed. Mr.
Thomas seemed embarrassed. "Can I have a word alone with you,
sir?" he murmured to Allen.

"Certainly," answered Allen, looking rather surprised. "You'll
excuse me a moment, Wharton," he said to me. "Stop and lunch,
won't you? There's the old "Spectator" for you;" and he led Mr.
Thomas into a small den where he used to hear his pupils read their
essays, and so forth.

In a few minutes he came out, looking rather pale, and took an
embarrassed farewell of Mr. Thomas.

"Look here, Wharton," he said to me, "here is a curious business.
That fellow from Blocksby's tells me that the Longepierre
Theocritus disappeared yesterday afternoon; that I was the last
person in whose hand it was seen, and that not only the man who
always attends in the room but Lord Tarras and Mr. Wentworth, saw
it in MY hands just before it was missed."

"What a nuisance!" I answered. "You were looking at it when Miss
Breton and I saw you, and you didn't notice us; Does Thomas know
WHEN--I mean about what o'clock--the book was first missed?"

"That's the lucky part of the whole worry," said Allen. "I left
the rooms at three exactly, and it was missed about ten minutes to
four; dozens of people must have handled it in that interval of
time. So interesting a book!"

"But," I said, and paused--"are you sure your watch was right?"

"Quite certain; besides, I looked at a church clock. Why on earth
do you ask?"

"Because--I am awfully sorry--there is some unlucky muddle; but it
was exactly a quarter, or perhaps seventeen minutes, to four when
both Miss Breton and I saw you absorbed in the Longepierre."

"Oh, it's quite IMPOSSIBLE," Allen answered; "I was far enough away
from Blocksby's at a quarter to four."

"That's all right," I said. "Of course you can prove that; if it
is necessary; though I dare say the book has fallen behind a row of
others, and has been found by this time. Where were you at a
quarter to four?"

"I really don't feel obliged to stand a cross-examination before my
time," answered Allen, flushing a little. Then I remembered that I
was engaged to lunch at All Souls', which was true enough;
convenient too, for I do not quite see how the conversation could
have been carried on pleasantly much further. For I HAD seen him--
not a doubt about it. But there was one curious thing. Next time
I met Miss Breton I told her the story, and said, "You remember how
we saw Allen, at Blocksby's, just as we were going away?"

"No," she said, "I did not see him; where was he?"

"Then why did you smile--don't you remember? I looked at him and
at you, and I thought you smiled!"

"Because--well, I suppose because YOU smiled," she said. And the
subject of the conversation was changed.

It was an excessively awkward affair. It did not come "before the
public," except, of course, in the agreeably mythical gossip of an
evening paper. There was no more public scandal than that. Allen
was merely ruined. The matter was introduced to the notice of the
Wardens and the other Fellows of St. Jude's. What Lord Tarras saw,
what Mr. Wentworth saw, what I saw, clearly proved that Allen was
in the auction-rooms, and had the confounded book in his hand, at
an hour when, as HE asserted, he had left the place for some time.
It was admitted by one of the people employed at the sale-rooms
that Allen had been noticed (he was well known there) leaving the
house at three. But he must have come back again, of course, as at
least four people could have sworn to his presence in the show-room
at a quarter to four o'clock. When he was asked in a private
interview, by the Head of his College, to say where he went after
leaving Blocksby's Allen refused to answer. He merely said that he
could not prove the facts; that his own word would not be taken
against that of so many unprejudiced and even friendly witnesses.
He simply threw up the game. He resigned his fellowship; he took
his name off the books; he disappeared.

There was a good deal of talk; people spoke about the
unscrupulousness of collectors, and repeated old anecdotes on that
subject. Then the business was forgotten. Next, in a year's time
or so, the book--the confounded Longepierre's Theocritus--was found
in a pawnbroker's shop. The history of its adventures was traced
beyond a shadow of doubt. It had been very adroitly stolen, and
disposed of, by a notorious book-thief, a gentleman by birth--now
dead, but well remembered. Ask Mr. Quaritch!

Allen's absolute innocence was thus demonstrated beyond cavil,
though nobody paid any particular attention to the demonstration.
As for Allen, he had vanished; he was heard of no more.

He was HERE; dying here, beside the black wave of lone Loch Nan.

All this, so long in the telling, I had time enough to think over,
as I sat and watched him, and wiped his lips with water from the
burn, clearer and sweeter than the water of the loch.

At last his fit of coughing ceased, and a kind of peace came into
his face.

"Allen, my dear old boy," I said--I don't often use the language of
affection--"did you never hear that all that stupid story was
cleared up; that everyone knows you are innocent?"

He only shook his head; he did not dare to speak, but he looked
happier, and he put his hand in mine.

I sat holding his hand, stroking it. I don't know how long I sat
there; I had put my coat and waterproof under him. He was "wet
through," of course; there was little use in what I did. What
could I do with him? how bring him to a warm and dry place?

The idea seemed to strike him, for he half rose and pointed to the
little burnside, across the loch. A plan occurred to me; I tore a
leaf from my sketch-book, put the paper with pencil in his hand,
and said, "Where do you live? Don't speak. Write."

He wrote in a faint scrawl, "Help me to that burnside. Then I can
guide you."

I hardly know how I got him there, for, light as he was, I am no
Hercules. However, with many a rest, we reached the little dell;
and then I carried him up its green side, and laid him on the
heather of the moor.

He wrote again:

"Go to that clump of rushes--the third from the little hillock.
Then look, but be careful. Then lift the big grass tussock."

The spot which Allen indicated was on the side of a rather steep
grassy slope. I approached it, dragged at the tussock of grass,
which came away easily enough, and revealed the entrance to no more
romantic hiding-place than an old secret whiskey "still." Private
stills, not uncommon in Sutherland and some other northern shires,
are extinct in Galloway. Allen had probably found this one by
accident in his wanderings, and in his half-insane bitterness
against mankind had made it, for some time at least, his home. The
smoke-blackened walls, the recesses where the worm-tub and the
still now stood, all plainly enough betrayed the original user of
the hiding-place. There was a low bedstead, a shelf or two,
whereon lay a few books--a Shakespeare, a Homer, a Walton,
Plutarch's "Lives"; very little else out of a library once so rich.
There was a tub of oatmeal, a heap of dry peat, two or three eggs
in a plate, some bottles, a keg of whiskey, some sardine-tins, a
box with clothes--that was nearly all the "plenishing" of this
hermitage. It was never likely to be discovered, except by the
smoke, when the inmate lit a fire. The local shepherd knew it, of
course, but Allen had bought his silence, not that there were many
neighbours for the shepherd to tattle with.

Allen had recovered strength enough by this time to reach his den
with little assistance. He made me beat up the white of one of the
eggs with a little turpentine, which was probably, under the
circumstances, the best styptic for his malady within his reach. I
lit his fire of peats, undressed him, put him to bed, and made him
as comfortable as might be in the den which he had chosen. Then I
went back to the shepherd's, sent a messenger to the nearest
doctor, and procured a kind of sledge, generally used for dragging
peat home, wherein, with abundance of blankets for covering, I
hoped to bring Allen back to the shepherd's cottage.

Not to delay over details, this was managed at last, and the
unhappy fellow was under a substantial roof. But he was very ill;
he became delirious and raved of many things--talked of old college
adventures, bid recklessly for imaginary books, and practised other
eccentricities of fever.

When his fever left him he was able to converse in a way--I
talking, and he scrawling faintly with a pencil on paper. I told
him how his character had been cleared, how he had been hunted for,
advertised for, vainly enough. To the shepherds' cottages where he
had lived till the beginning of that summer, newspapers rarely
came; to his den in the old secret still, of course they never came
at all.

His own story of what he had been doing at the fatal hour when so
many people saw him at the auction-rooms was brief. He had left
the rooms, as he said, at three o'clock, pondering how he might
raise money for the book on which his heart was set. His feet had
taken him, half unconsciously, to

a dismal court,
Place of Israelite resort,

where dwelt and dealt one Isaacs, from whom he had, at various
times, borrowed money on usury. The name of Isaacs was over a
bell, one of many at the door, and, when the bell was rung, the
street door "opened of his own accord," like that of the little
tobacco-and-talk club which used to exist in an alley off Pall
Mall. Allen rang the bell, the outer door opened, and, as he was
standing at the door of Isaacs' chambers, before he had knocked,
THAT portal also opened, and the office-boy, a young Jew, slunk
cautiously out. On seeing Allen, he had seemed at once surprised
and alarmed. Allen asked if his master was in; the lad answered
"No" in a hesitating way; but on second thoughts, averred that
Isaacs "would be back immediately," and requested Allen to go in
and wait. He did so, but Isaacs never came, and Allen fell asleep.
He had a very distinct and singular dream, he said, of being in
Messrs. Blocksy's rooms, of handling the Longepierre, and of seeing
Wentworth there, and Lord Tarras. When he wakened he was very
cold, and, of course, it was pitch dark. He did not remember where
he was; he lit a match and a candle on the chimney-piece. Then
slowly his memory came back to him, and not only his memory, but
his consciousness of what he had wholly forgotten--namely, that
this was Saturday, the Sabbath of the Jews, and that there was not
the faintest chance of Isaacs' arrival at his place of business.
In the same moment the embarrassment and confusion of the young
Israelite flashed vividly across his mind, and he saw that he was
in a very awkward position. If that fair Hebrew boy had been
robbing, or trying to rob, the till, then Allen's position was
serious indeed, as here he was, alone, at an untimely hour, in the
office. So he blew the candle out, and went down the dingy stairs
as quietly as possible, took the first cab he met, drove to
Paddington, and went up to Oxford.

It is probable that the young child of Israel, if he had been
attempting any mischief, did not succeed in it. Had there been any
trouble, it is likely enough that he would have involved Allen in
the grief. Then Allen would have been in a, perhaps, unprecedented
position. He could have established an alibi, as far as the Jew's
affairs went, by proving that he had been at Blocksby's at the hour
when the boy would truthfully have sworn that he had let him into
Isaacs' chambers. And, as far as the charge against him at
Blocksby's went, the evidence of the young Jew would have gone to
prove that he was at Isaacs', where he had no business to be, when
we saw him at Blocksby's. But, unhappily, each alibi would have
been almost equally compromising. The difficulty never arose, but
the reason why Allen refused to give any account of what he had
been doing, and where he had been, at four o'clock on that Saturday
afternoon--a refusal that told so heavily against him--is now
sufficiently clear. His statement would, we may believe, never
have been corroborated by the youthful Hebrew, who certainly had
his own excellent reasons for silence, and who probably had
carefully established an alibi of his own elsewhere.

The true account of Allen's appearance, or apparition, at
Blocksby's, when I and Tarras, Wentworth and the attendant
recognised him, and Miss Breton did NOT, is thus part of the
History of the Unexplained. Allen might have appealed to
precedents in the annals of the Psychical Society, where they exist
in scores, and are technically styled "collective hallucinations."
But neither a jury, nor a judge, perhaps, would accept the
testimony of experts in Psychical Research if offered in a criminal
trial, nor acquit a wraith.

Possibly this scepticism has never yet injured the cause of an
innocent man. Yet I know, in my own personal experience, and have
heard from others, from men of age, sagacity, and acquaintance with
the greatest affairs, instances in which people have been
distinctly seen by sane, healthy, and honourable witnesses, in
places and circumstances where it was (as we say) "physically
impossible" that they should have been, and where they certainly
were not themselves aware of having been. That is why human
testimony seems to me to establish no more, in certain
circumstances, than a highly probable working hypothesis--a
hypothesis on which, of course, we are bound to act.

There is little more to tell. By dint of careful nursing, poor
Allen was enabled to travel; he reached Mentone, and there the
mistral ended him. He was a lonely man, with no kinsfolk; his
character was cleared among the people who knew him best; the
others have forgotten him. Nobody can be injured by this
explanation of his silence when called on to prove his innocence,
and of his unusually successful vanishing from a society which had
never tried very hard to discover him in his retreat. He has lived
and suffered and died, and left behind him little but an incident
in the History of the Unexplained.

THE COMPLETE BUNGLER

SCENE I.--HAMPSHIRE

PISCATOR ANGLUS. PISCATOR SCOTUS

Scotus.--Well, now let's go to your sport of angling. Where,
Master, is your river?

Anglus.--Marry, 'tis here; mark you, this is the famous Test.

Scotus.--What, Master, this dry ditch? There be scarce three
inches of water in it.

Anglus.--Patience, Scholar, the water is in the meadows, or Master
Oakley, the miller, is holding it up. Nay, let us wait here some
hour or so till the water is turned on. Or perchance, Scholar, for
the matter of five shillings, Master Oakley will even raise his
hatches, an you have a crown about you.

Scotus.--I like not to part with my substance, but, as needs must,
here, Master, is the coin.

[Exit ANGLUS to the Mill. He returns.

Anglus.--Now, Scholar, said I not so? The water is turned on
again, and, lo you, at the tail of yonder stream, a fair trout is
rising. You shall see a touch of our craft.

[ANGLUS crawls on his belly into a tuft of nettles, where he kneels
and flicks his fly for about ten minutes.

Anglus.--Alas, he has ceased rising, and I am grievously entangled
in these nettles. Come, Scholar, but warily, lest ye fright my
fish, and now, disentangle my hook.

Scotus.--Here is your hook, but, marry, my fingers tingle shrewdly
with the nettles; also I marked the fish hasting up stream.

Anglus.--Nay, come, we shall even look for another.

Scotus.--Oh, Master, what is this? That which but now was dry
ditch is presently salad bowl! Mark you how the green vegetables
cover the waters! We shall have no sport.

Anglus.--Patience, Scholar; 'tis but Master Hedgely's men, cutting
the weeds above. We may rest us some hour or two, till they go by.
Or, perchance, for a matter of five shillings -

Scotus.--Nay, Master, this English angling is over costly. The
rent of your ditch is high, the expenses of travel are burdensome.
In crawling through your nettles and thistles I have scratched my
face, and torn my raiment, and I will not pay the labourer to cease
labouring in his industry.

Anglus.--Why then, pazienza, Scholar, or listen while I sing that
sweet ditty of country contentment and an angler's life, writ by
worthy Master Hackle long ago.

SONG

The Angler hath a jolly life
Who by the rail runs down,
And leaves his business and his wife,
And all the din of town.
The wind down stream is blowing straight,
And nowhere cast can he;
Then lo, he doth but sit and wait
In kindly company.

Or else men turn the water off,
Or folk be cutting weed,
While he doth at misfortune scoff,
From every trouble freed.
Or else he waiteth for a rise,
And ne'er a rise may see;
For why, there are not any flies
To bear him company.

Or, if he mark a rising trout,
He straightway is caught up,
And then he takes his flasket out,
And drinks a rousing cup.
Or if a trout he chance to hook,
Weeded and broke is he,
And then be finds a goodly book
Instructive company.

What think you of my song, Scholar? 'Tis choicely musical. What,
he is gone! A pest on those Northerners; they have no manners.
Now, methinks I do remember a trout called George, a heavy fellow
that lies ever under the arch of yonder bridge, where there is
shelter from the wind. Ho for George!

[Exit singing.

SCENE II.--A BRIDGE

Enter ANGLUS

Anglus.--Now to creep like your Indian of Virginia on the prey, and
angle for George. I'faith, he is a lusty trout; many a good
Wickham have I lost in George.

[He ensconces himself in the middle of a thorn bush.

Anglus.--There he is, I mark his big back fin. Now speed me, St.
Peter, patron of all honest anglers! But first to dry my fly!

[He flicks his fly for ten minutes. Enter BOY on Bridge. ANGLUS
makes his cast, too short. BOY heaves a great stone from the
Bridge. Exit GEORGE. Exit BOY.

Anglus.--Oh, Mass! verily the angler had need of patience! Yonder
boy hath spoiled my sport, and were it not that swearing frights
the fish, I could find it in my heart to say an oath or twain.
But, ha, here come the swallows, hawking low on the stream. Now,
were but my Scholar here, I could impart to him much honest lore
concerning the swallow, and other birds. But where she hawks,
there fly must be, and fish will rise, and, look you, I do mark the
trout feeding in yonder ford below the plank bridge.

[ANGLUS steals off, and gingerly takes up his position.

Anglus.--Marry, that is a good trout under the burdock!

[He is caught up in the burdock, and breaks his tackle.

Anglus.--Now to knot a fresh cast. Marry, but they are feeding
gaily! How kindly is the angler's life; he harmeth no fish that
swims, yet the Spectator deemeth ours a cruel sport. Ah, good
Master Townsend and learned Master Hutton, little ye wot of our
country contents. So, I am ready again, and this Whitchurch dun
will beguile yonder fish, I doubt not. Marry, how thick the flies
come, and how the fish do revel in this merciful provender that
Heaven sendeth! Verily I know not at which of these great fellows
to make my essay.

[Enter twenty-four callow young ducks, swimming up stream. The
ducks chevy the flies, taking them out of the very mouths of the
trout.

Anglus.--Oh, mercy. I have hooked a young duck! Where is my
landing-net? Nay, I have left it under yonder elm!

[He struggles with the young duck. By the conclusion of the fray
the Rise is over.

Anglus.--I have saved my fly, but lo, the trout have ceased to
feed, and will rise no more till after sunset. Well, "a merry
heart goes all the way!" And lo, here comes my Scholar. Ho,
runaway, how have you sped?

Scotus.--Not ill. Here be my spoils, great ones; but how faint-
hearted are your southern trout!

Anglus.--That fat fellow is a good three pounds by the scales.
But, Scholar, with what fly caught ye these, and where?

Scotus.--Marry, Master, in a Mill-tail, where the water lagged not,
but ran free as it doth in bonny Scotland; nor with no fly did I
grip him, but with an artificial penk, or minnow. It was made by a
handsome woman that had a fine hand, and wrought for Master Brown,
of Aberdeen. The mould, or body of the minnow, is of parchment,
methinks, and he hath fins of copper, all so curiously dissembled
that it will beguile any sharp-sighted trout in a swift stream.
Men call it a Phantom, Master; wilt thou not try my Phantom?

Anglus.--Begone, sirrah. I took thee for an angler, and thou art
but a poaching knave!

Scotus.--Knave thyself! I will break thy head!

Anglus.--Softly, Scholar. Here comes good Master Hedgely, who will
see fair play. Now lie there, my coat, and have at you!

[They fight, SCOTUS is knocked down.

Anglus.--Half-minute time! Time is up! Master Hedgely, in my dry
fly box thou wilt find a little sponge for moistening of my casting
lines. Wilt thou, of thy courtesy, throw it up for my Scholar?
And now, Scholar, trust me, thy guard is too low. I hope thou
bearest no malice.

Scotus.--None, Master. But, lo! I am an hungered; wilt thou taste
my cates? Here I have bread slices and marmalade of Dundee. This
fishing is marvellous hungry work.

Anglus.--Gladly will I fall to, but first say me a grace--
Benedictus benedicat! Where is thine usquebaugh? Marry, 'tis the
right Talisker!

Scotus.--And now, Master, wherefore wert thou wroth with me? Came
we not forth to catch fish?

Anglus.--Nay, marry, Scholar, by no means to catch fish, but to
fish with the dry fly. Now this, humanly speaking, is impossible;
natheless it is rare sport. But for your fish, as they were ill
come by, let us even give them to good Master Hedgely here, and so
be merry till the sedges come on in the late twilight. And, trust
me, this is the rarest fishing, and the peacefulest; only see that
thou fish not with the wet fly, for that is Anathema. So shall we
have light consciences.

Scotus.--And light baskets!

Anglus.--Ay, it may be so.

Footnotes:

{1} Too true, alas!

{2} It should be added that large trout, up to six pounds, are
sometimes taken. One boatman assured me that he had caught two
three-pounders at one cast.

{3} From motives of delicacy I suppress the true name of the
river.

{4} After this paper was in print, an angler was actually drowned
while engaged in playing a salmon. This unfortunate circumstance
followed, and did not suggest the composition of the story.

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