Part 2 out of 3
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
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
'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 parable.
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 shops.
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, and THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH, and JOHN
INGLESANT, and THE THREE MUSKETEERS, and NOTRE DAME, and PEACE AND
WAR, and QUO VADIS,--these are 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 hundred of THE BRUSHWOOD BOY.
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
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
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
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.
A FATAL SUCCESS
"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 fish.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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 week.
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
"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
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 hopes.
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
"Quite fair," he tossed off in a careless way; "we took over three
"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
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."
FISHING IN BOOKS
"SIMPSON.--Have you ever seen any American books on angling, Fisher?"
"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, 1835).
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
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 ready.
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
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
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
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 THE MERIDIAN OF SCOTLAND, ETC., TO WHICH IS ADDED THE
CONTEMPLATIVE AND 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 Independent.
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 he called LIVE QUOTATIONS,--that is to say, the
unpublished remarks of his near contemporaries, caught in friendly
conversation, or handed down by oral tradition.
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
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 subject.
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 RISTIGOUCHE.
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 power.
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 exterminated.
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 hooks.
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
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 different style are the MAXIMS AND HINTS FOR AN ANGLER, AND
MISERIES OF 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 writer.
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
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 FLY-RODS AND FLY-TACKLE, and THE AMERICAN
SALMON ANGLER. Dr. William C. 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 the chapters of
ALONG NEW ENGLAND ROADS and AMONG NEW ENGLAND HILLS, 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
"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
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 wrong.
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
"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."
A NORWEGIAN HONEYMOON
"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
"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 morning.
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
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
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 horse.
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 regret.
"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 eternity."
"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 pictures.
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
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
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
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 crochet-needle.
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
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
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 insipid.
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
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 feet.
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 holes.
"What kind of a bird made those marks, Frederik?" I asked my
"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
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.
WHO OWNS THE MOUNTAINS?
"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 Fields.
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
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 world.
Then said the lad, lying on the grass beside me, "Father, who owns
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
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 recorded.
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
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
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
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 delight.
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."
A LAZY, IDLE BROOK
"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.
A CASUAL INTRODUCTION
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,
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
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 grave.
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