Part 3 out of 3
express, with its parlour-cars, thundering down to Southampton!
It was a strange and startling contrast. The explorer's joy, the
sense of adventure, the feeling of wildness and freedom, withered
and crumpled somewhat preposterously at the sight of the parlour-
cars. My scratched hands and wet boots and torn coat seemed unkempt
and disreputable. Perhaps some of the well-dressed people looking
out at the windows of the train were the friends with whom we were
to dine on Saturday. BATECHE! What would they say to such a
costume as mine? What did I care what they said!
But, all the same, it was a shock, a disenchantment, to find that
civilization, with all its absurdities and conventionalities, was so
threateningly close to my new-found wilderness. My first enthusiasm
was not a little chilled as I walked back, along an open woodland
path, to the bridge where Graygown was placidly reading. Reading, I
say, though her book was closed, and her brown eyes were wandering
over the green leaves of the thicket, and the white clouds drifting,
drifting lazily across the blue deep of the sky.
A BETTER ACQUAINTANCE
On the voyage home, she gently talked me out of my disappointment,
and into a wiser frame of mind.
It was a surprise, of course, she admitted, to find that our
wilderness was so little, and to discover the trail of a parlour-car
on the edge of Paradise. But why not turn the surprise around, and
make it pleasant instead of disagreeable? Why not look at the
contrast from the side that we liked best?
It was not necessary that everybody should take the same view of
life that pleased us. The world would not get on very well without
people who preferred parlour-cars to canoes, and patent-leather
shoes to India-rubber boots, and ten-course dinners to picnics in
the woods. These good people were unconsciously toiling at the hard
and necessary work of life in order that we, of the chosen and
fortunate few, should be at liberty to enjoy the best things in the
Why should we neglect our opportunities, which were also our real
duties? The nervous disease of civilization might prevail all
around us, but that ought not to destroy our grateful enjoyment of
the lucid intervals that were granted to us by a merciful
Why should we not take this little untamed brook, running its humble
course through the borders of civilized life and midway between two
flourishing summer resorts,--a brook without a single house or a
cultivated field on its banks, as free and beautiful and secluded as
if it flowed through miles of trackless forest,--why not take this
brook as a sign that the ordering of the universe had a "good
intention" even for inveterate idlers, and that the great Arranger
of the world felt some kindness for such gipsy-hearts as ours? What
law, human or divine, was there to prevent us from making this
stream our symbol of deliverance from the conventional and
commonplace, our guide to liberty and a quiet mind?
So reasoned Graygown with her
"most silver flow
Of subtle-paced counsel in distress."
And, according to her word, so did we. That lazy, idle brook became
to us one of the best of friends; the pathfinder of happiness on
many a bright summer day; and, through long vacations, the faithful
encourager of indolence.
Indolence in the proper sense of the word, you understand. The
meaning which is commonly given to it, as Archbishop Trench pointed
out in his suggestive book about WORDS AND THEIR USES, is altogether
false. To speak of indolence as if it were a vice is just a great
big verbal slander.
Indolence is a virtue. It comes from two Latin words, which mean
freedom from anxiety or grief. And that is a wholesome state of
mind. There are times and seasons when it is even a pious and
blessed state of mind. Not to be in a hurry; not to be ambitious or
jealous or resentful; not to feel envious of anybody; not to fret
about to-day nor worry about to-morrow,--that is the way we ought
all to feel at some time in our lives; and that is the kind of
indolence in which our brook faithfully encouraged us.
'T is an age in which such encouragement is greatly needed. We have
fallen so much into the habit of being always busy that we know not
how nor when to break it off with firmness. Our business tags after
us into the midst of our pleasures, and we are ill at ease beyond
reach of the telegraph and the daily newspaper. We agitate
ourselves amazingly about a multitude of affairs,--the politics of
Europe, the state of the weather all around the globe, the marriages
and festivities of very rich people, and the latest novelties in
crime, none of which are of vital interest to us. The more earnest
souls among us are cultivating a vicious tendency to Summer Schools,
and Seaside Institutes of Philosophy, and Mountaintop Seminaries of
We toil assiduously to cram something more into those scrap-bags of
knowledge which we fondly call our minds. Seldom do we rest
tranquil long enough to find out whether there is anything in them
already that is of real value,--any native feeling, any original
thought, which would like to come out and sun itself for a while in
For my part, I am sure that I stand more in need of a deeper sense
of contentment with life than of a knowledge of the Bulgarian
tongue, and that all the paradoxes of Hegel would not do me so much
good as one hour of vital sympathy with the careless play of
children. The Marquis du Paty de l'Huitre may espouse the daughter
and heiress of the Honourable James Bulger with all imaginable pomp,
if he will. CA NE M'INTRIGUE POINT DU TOUT. I would rather stretch
myself out on the grass and watch yonder pair of kingbirds carrying
luscious flies to their young ones in the nest, or chasing away the
marauding crow with shrill cries of anger.
What a pretty battle it is, and in a good cause, too! Waste no pity
on that big black ruffian. He is a villain and a thief, an egg-
stealer, an ogre, a devourer of unfledged innocents. The kingbirds
are not afraid of him, knowing that he is a coward at heart. They
fly upon him, now from below, now from above. They buffet him from
one side and from the other. They circle round him like a pair of
swift gunboats round an antiquated man-of-war. They even perch upon
his back and dash their beaks into his neck and pluck feathers from
his piratical plumage. At last his lumbering flight has carried him
far enough away, and the brave little defenders fly back to the
nest, poising above it on quivering wings for a moment, then dipping
down swiftly in pursuit of some passing insect. The war is over.
Courage has had its turn. Now tenderness comes into play. The
young birds, all ignorant of the passing danger, but always
conscious of an insatiable hunger, are uttering loud remonstrances
and plaintive demands for food. Domestic life begins again, and
they that sow not, neither gather into barns, are fed.
Do you suppose that this wondrous stage of earth was set, and all
the myriad actors on it
taught to play their parts, without a spectator in view? Do you
think that there is anything better for you and me to do, now and
then, than to sit down quietly in a humble seat, and watch a few
scenes in the drama? Has it not something to say to us, and do we
not understand it best when we have a peaceful heart and free from
dolor? That is what IN-DOLENCE means, and there are no better
teachers of it then the light-hearted birds and untoiling flowers,
commended by the wisest of all masters to our consideration; nor can
we find a more pleasant pedagogue to lead us to their school than a
small, merry brook.
And this was what our chosen stream did for us. It was always
luring us away from an artificial life into restful companionship
Suppose, for example, we found ourselves growing a bit dissatisfied
with the domestic arrangements of our little cottage, and coveting
the splendours of a grander establishment. An afternoon on the
brook was a good cure for that folly. Or suppose a day came when
there was an imminent prospect of many formal calls. We had an
important engagement up the brook; and while we kept it we could
think with satisfaction of the joy of our callers when they
discovered that they could discharge their whole duty with a piece
of pasteboard. This was an altruistic pleasure. Or suppose that a
few friends were coming to supper, and there were no flowers for the
supper-table. We could easily have bought them in the village. But
it was far more to our liking to take the children up the brook, and
come back with great bunches of wild white honeysuckle and blue
flag, or posies of arrowheads and cardinal-flowers. Or suppose that
I was very unwisely and reluctantly labouring at some serious piece
of literary work, promised for the next number of THE SCRIBBLER'S
REVIEW; and suppose that in the midst of this labour the sad news
came to me that the fisherman had forgotten to leave any fish at our
cottage that morning. Should my innocent babes and my devoted wife
be left to perish of starvation while I continued my poetical
comparison of the two Williams, Shakspeare and Watson? Inhuman
selfishness! Of course it was my plain duty to sacrifice my
inclinations, and get my fly-rod, and row away across the bay, with
a deceptive appearance of cheerfulness, to catch a basket of trout
THE SECRETS OF INTIMACY
THERE! I came within eight letters of telling the name of the
brook, a thing that I am firmly resolved not to do. If it were an
ordinary fishless little river, or even a stream with nothing better
than grass-pike and sunfish in it, you should have the name and
welcome. But when a brook contains speckled trout, and when their
presence is known to a very few persons who guard the secret as the
dragon guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, and when the
size of the trout is large beyond the dreams of hope,--well, when
did you know a true angler who would willingly give away the name of
such a brook as that? You may find an encourager of indolence in
almost any stream of the South Side, and I wish you joy of your
brook. But if you want to catch trout in mine you must discover it
for yourself, or perhaps go with me some day, and solemnly swear
That was the way in which the freedom of the stream was conferred
upon me. There was a small boy in the village, the son of rich but
respectable parents, and an inveterate all-round sportsman, aged
fourteen years, with whom I had formed a close intimacy. I was
telling him about the pleasure of exploring the idle brook, and
expressing the opinion that in bygone days, (in that mythical "forty
years ago" when all fishing was good), there must have been trout in
it. A certain look came over the boy's face. He gazed at me
solemnly, as if he were searching the inmost depths of my character
before he spoke.
"Say, do you want to know something?"
I assured him that an increase of knowledge was the chief aim of my
"Do you promise you won't tell?"
I expressed my readiness to be bound to silence by the most awful
pledge that the law would sanction.
"Wish you may die?"
I not only wished that I might die, but was perfectly certain that I
"Well, what's the matter with catching trout in that brook now? Do
you want to go with me next Saturday? I saw four or five bully ones
last week, and got three."
On the appointed day we made the voyage, landed at the upper bridge,
walked around by the woodpath to the railroad embankment, and began
to worm our way down through the tangled wilderness. Fly-fishing,
of course, was out of the question. The only possible method of
angling was to let the line, baited with a juicy "garden hackle,"
drift down the current as far as possible before you, under the
alder-branches and the cat-briers, into the holes and corners of the
stream. Then, if there came a gentle tug on the rod, you must
strike, to one side or the other, as the branches might allow, and
trust wholly to luck for a chance to play the fish. Many a trout we
lost that day,--the largest ones, of course,--and many a hook was
embedded in a sunken log, or hopelessly entwined among the boughs
overhead. But when we came out at the bridge, very wet and
disheveled, we had seven pretty fish, the heaviest about half a
pound. The Fairy Dell yielded a brace of smaller ones, and
altogether we were reasonably happy as we took up the oars and
pushed out upon the open stream.
But if there were fish above, why should there not be fish below?
It was about sunset, the angler's golden hour. We were already
committed to the crime of being late for supper. It would add
little to our guilt and much to our pleasure to drift slowly down
the middle of the brook and cast the artful fly in the deeper
corners on either shore. So I took off the vulgar bait-hook and put
on a delicate leader with a Queen of the Water for a tail-fly and a
Yellow Sally for a dropper,--innocent little confections of feathers
and tinsel, dressed on the tiniest hooks, and calculated to tempt
the appetite or the curiosity of the most capricious trout.
For a long time the whipping of the water produced no result, and it
seemed as if the dainty style of angling were destined to prove less
profitable than plain fishing with a worm. But presently we came to
an elbow of the brook, just above the estuary, where there was quite
a stretch of clear water along the lower side, with two half-sunken
logs sticking out from the bank, against which the current had
drifted a broad raft of weeds. I made a long cast, and sent the
tail-fly close to the edge of the weeds. There was a swelling
ripple on the surface of the water, and a noble fish darted from
under the logs, dashed at the fly, missed it, and whirled back to
"Gee!" said the boy, "that was a whacker! He made a wake like a
It was a moment for serious thought. What was best to be done with
that fish? Leave him to settle down for the night and come back
after him another day? Or try another cast for him at once? A fish
on Saturday evening is worth two on Monday morning. I changed the
Queen of the Water for a Royal Coachman tied on a number fourteen
hook,--white wings, peacock body with a belt of crimson silk,--and
sent it out again, a foot farther up the stream and a shade closer
to the weeds. As it settled on the water, there was a flash of gold
from the shadow beneath the logs, and a quick turn of the wrist made
the tiny hook fast in the fish. He fought wildly to get back to the
shelter of his logs, but the four ounce rod had spring enough in it
to hold him firmly away from that dangerous retreat. Then he
splurged up and down the open water, and made fierce dashes among
the grassy shallows, and seemed about to escape a dozen times. But
at last his force was played out; he came slowly towards the boat,
turning on his side, and I netted him in my hat.
"Bully for us;" said the boy, "we got him! What a dandy!"
It was indeed one of the handsomest fish that I have ever taken on
the South Side,--just short of two pounds and a quarter,--small
head, broad tail, and well-rounded sides coloured with orange and
blue and gold and red. A pair of the same kind, one weighing two
pounds and the other a pound and three quarters, were taken by
careful fishing down the lower end of the pool, and then we rowed
home through the dusk, pleasantly convinced that there is no virtue
more certainly rewarded than the patience of anglers, and entirely
willing to put up with a cold supper and a mild reproof for the sake
Of course we could not resist the temptation to show those fish to
the neighbours. But, equally of course, we evaded the request to
give precise information as to the precise place where they were
caught. Indeed, I fear that there must have been something confused
in our description of where we had been on that afternoon. Our
carefully selected language may have been open to misunderstanding.
At all events, the next day, which was the Sabbath, there was a row
of eager but unprincipled anglers sitting on a bridge OVER ANOTHER
STREAM, and fishing for trout with worms and large expectations, but
without visible results.
The boy and I agreed that if this did not teach a good moral lesson
it was not our fault.
I obtained the boy's consent to admit the partner of my life's joys
and two of our children to the secret of the brook, and thereafter,
when we visited it, we took the fly-rod with us. If by chance
another boat passed us in the estuary, we were never fishing, but
only gathering flowers, or going for a picnic, or taking
photographs. But when the uninitiated ones had passed by, we would
get out the rod again, and try a few more casts.
One day in particular I remember, when Graygown and little Teddy
were my companions. We really had no hopes of angling, for the hour
was mid-noon, and the day was warm and still. But suddenly the
trout, by one of those unaccountable freaks which make their
disposition so interesting and attractive, began to rise all about
us in a bend of the stream.
"Look!" said Teddy; "wherever you see one of those big smiles on the
water, I believe there's a fish!"
Fortunately the rod was at hand. Graygown and Teddy managed the
boat and the landing-net with consummate skill. We landed no less
than a dozen beautiful fish at that most unlikely hour and then
solemnly shook hands all around.
There is a peculiar pleasure in doing a thing like this, catching
trout in a place where nobody thinks of looking for them, and at an
hour when everybody believes they cannot be caught. It is more fun
to take one good fish out of an old, fished-out stream, near at hand
to the village, than to fill a basket from some far-famed and well-
stocked water. It is the unexpected touch that tickles our sense of
pleasure. While life lasts, we are always hoping for it and
expecting it. There is no country so civilized, no existence so
humdrum, that there is not room enough in it somewhere for a lazy,
idle brook, an encourager of indolence, with hope of happy
THE OPEN FIRE
"It is a vulgar notion that a fire is only for heat. A chief value
of it is, however, to look at. And it is never twice the same."--
CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER: Backlog Studies.
Man is the animal that has made friends with the fire.
All the other creatures, in their natural state, are afraid of it.
They look upon it with wonder and dismay. It fascinates them,
sometimes, with its glittering eyes in the night. The squirrels and
the hares come pattering softly towards it through the underbrush
around the new camp. The fascinated deer stares into the blaze of
the jack-light while the hunter's canoe creeps through the lily-
pads. But the charm that masters them is one of dread, not of love.
It is the witchcraft of the serpent's lambent look. When they know
what it means, when the heat of the fire touches them, or even when
its smell comes clearly to their most delicate sense, they recognize
it as their enemy, the Wild Huntsman whose red hounds can follow,
follow for days without wearying, growing stronger and more furious
with every turn of the chase. Let but a trail of smoke drift down
the wind across the forest, and all the game for miles and miles
will catch the signal for fear and flight.
Many of the animals have learned how to make houses for themselves.
The CABANE of the beaver is a wonder of neatness and comfort, much
preferable to the wigwam of his Indian hunter. The muskrat knows
how thick and high to build the dome of his waterside cottage, in
order to protect himself against the frost of the coming winter and
the floods of the following spring. The woodchuck's house has two
or three doors; and the squirrel's dwelling is provided with a good
bed and a convenient storehouse for nuts and acorns. The sportive
otters have a toboggan slide in front of their residence; and the
moose in winter make a "yard," where they can take exercise
comfortably and find shelter for sleep. But there is one thing
lacking in all these various dwellings,--a fireplace.
Man is the only creature that dares to light a fire and to live with
it. The reason? Because he alone has learned how to put it out.
It is true that two of his humbler friends have been converted to
fire-worship. The dog and the cat, being half-humanized, have begun
to love the fire. I suppose that a cat seldom comes so near to
feeling a true sense of affection as when she has finished her
saucer of bread and milk, and stretched herself luxuriously
underneath the kitchen stove, while her faithful mistress washes up
the dishes. As for a dog, I am sure that his admiring love for his
master is never greater than when they come in together from the
hunt, wet and tired, and the man gathers a pile of wood in front of
the tent, touches it with a tiny magic wand, and suddenly the clear,
consoling flame springs up, saying cheerfully, "Here we are, at home
in the forest; come into the warmth; rest, and eat, and sleep."
When the weary, shivering dog sees this miracle, he knows that his
master is a great man and a lord of things.
After all, that is the only real open fire. Wood is the fuel for
it. Out-of-doors is the place for it. A furnace is an underground
prison for a toiling slave. A stove is a cage for a tame bird.
Even a broad hearthstone and a pair of glittering andirons--the best
ornament of a room--must be accepted as an imitation of the real
thing. The veritable open fire is built in the open, with the whole
earth for a fireplace and the sky for a chimney.
To start a fire in the open is by no means as easy as it looks. It
is one of those simple tricks that every one thinks he can perform
until he tries it.
To do it without trying,--accidentally and unwillingly,--that, of
course, is a thing for which any fool is fit. You knock out the
ashes from your pipe on a fallen log; you toss the end of a match
into a patch of grass, green on top, but dry as punk underneath; you
scatter the dead brands of an old fire among the moss,--a
conflagration is under way before you know it.
A fire in the woods is one thing; a comfort and a joy. Fire in the
woods is another thing; a terror, an uncontrollable fury, a burning
But the lighting up of a proper fire, kindly, approachable,
serviceable, docile, is a work of intelligence. If, perhaps, you
have to do it in the rain, with a single match, it requires no
little art and skill.
There is plenty of wood everywhere, but not a bit to burn. The
fallen trees are waterlogged. The dead leaves are as damp as grief.
The charred sticks that you find in an old fireplace are absolutely
incombustible. Do not trust the handful of withered twigs and
branches that you gather from the spruce-trees. They seem dry, but
they are little better for your purpose than so much asbestos. You
make a pile of them in some apparently suitable hollow, and lay a
few larger sticks on top. Then you hastily scratch your solitary
match on the seat of your trousers and thrust it into the pile of
twigs. What happens? The wind whirls around in your stupid little
hollow, and the blue flame of the sulphur spirts and sputters for an
instant, and then goes out. Or perhaps there is a moment of
stillness; the match flares up bravely; the nearest twigs catch
fire, crackling and sparkling; you hurriedly lay on more sticks; but
the fire deliberately dodges them, creeps to the corner of the pile
where the twigs are fewest and dampest, snaps feebly a few times,
and expires in smoke. Now where are you? How far is it to the
If you are wise, you will always make your fire before you light it.
Time is never saved by doing a thing badly.
In the making of fires there is as much difference as in the
building of houses. Everything depends upon the purpose that you
have in view. There is the camp-fire, and the cooking-fire, and the
smudge-fire, and the little friendship-fire,--not to speak of other
minor varieties. Each of these has its own proper style of
architecture, and to mix them is false art and poor economy.
The object of the camp-fire is to give heat, and incidentally light,
to your tent or shanty. You can hardly build this kind of a fire
unless you have a good axe and know how to chop. For the first
thing that you need is a solid backlog, the thicker the better, to
hold the heat and reflect it into the tent. This log must not be
too dry, or it will burn out quickly. Neither must it be too damp,
else it will smoulder and discourage the fire. The best wood for it
is the body of a yellow birch, and, next to that, a green balsam.
It should be five or six feet long, and at least two and a half feet
in diameter. If you cannot find a tree thick enough, cut two or
three lengths of a smaller one; lay the thickest log on the ground
first, about ten or twelve feet in front of the tent; drive two
strong stakes behind it, slanting a little backward; and lay the
other logs on top of the first, resting against the stakes.
Now you are ready for the hand-chunks, or andirons. These are
shorter sticks of wood, eight or ten inches thick, laid at right
angles to the backlog, four or five feet apart. Across these you
are to build up the firewood proper.
Use a dry spruce-tree, not one that has fallen, but one that is dead
and still standing, if you want a lively, snapping fire. Use a hard
maple or a hickory if you want a fire that will burn steadily and
make few sparks. But if you like a fire to blaze up at first with a
splendid flame, and then burn on with an enduring heat far into the
night, a young white birch with the bark on is the tree to choose.
Six or eight round sticks of this laid across the hand-chunks, with
perhaps a few quarterings of a larger tree, will make a glorious
But before you put these on, you must be ready to light up. A few
splinters of dry spruce or pine or balsam, stood endwise against the
backlog, or, better still, piled up in a pyramid between the hand-
chunks; a few strips of birch-bark; and one good match,--these are
all that you want. But be sure that your match is a good one. It
is better to see to this before you go into the brush. Your
comfort, even your life, may depend on it.
"AVEC CES ALLUMETTES-LA," said my guide at LAC ST. JEAN one day, as
he vainly tried to light his pipe with a box of parlour matches from
the hotel,--AVEC CES GNOGNOTTES D'ALLUMETTES ON POURRA MOURIR AU
In the woods, the old-fashioned brimstone match of our grandfathers--
the match with a brown head and a stout stick and a dreadful smell--
is the best. But if you have only one, do not trust even that to
light your fire directly. Use it first to touch off a roll of
birch-bark which you hold in your hand. Then, when the bark is well
alight, crinkling and curling, push it under the heap of kindlings,
give the flame time to take a good hold, and lay your wood over it,
a stick at a time, until the whole pile is blazing. Now your fire
is started. Your friendly little red-haired gnome is ready to serve
you through the night.
He will dry your clothes if you are wet. He will cheer you up if
you are despondent. He will diffuse an air of sociability through
the camp, and draw the men together in a half circle for
storytelling and jokes and singing. He will hold a flambeau for you
while you spread your blankets on the boughs and dress for bed. He
will keep you warm while you sleep,--at least till about three
o'clock in the morning, when you dream that you are out sleighing in
your pajamas, and wake up with a shiver.
"HOLA, FERDINAND, FRANCOIS!" you call out from your bed, pulling the
blankets over your ears; "RAMANCHEZ LE FEU, S'IL VOUS PLAIT. C'EST
UN FREITE DE CHIEN."
Of course such a fire as I have been describing can be used for
cooking, when it has burned down a little, and there is a bed of hot
embers in front of the backlog. But a correct kitchen fire should
be constructed after another fashion. What you want now is not
blaze, but heat, and that not diffused, but concentrated. You must
be able to get close to your fire without burning your boots or
scorching your face.
If you have time and the material, make a fireplace of big stones.
But not of granite, for that will split with the heat, and perhaps
fly in your face.
If you are in a hurry and there are no suitable stones at hand, lay
two good logs nearly parallel with each other, a foot or so apart,
and build your fire between them. For a cooking-fire, use split
wood in short sticks. Let the first supply burn to glowing coals
before you begin. A frying-pan that is lukewarm one minute and red-
hot the next is the abomination of desolation. If you want black
toast, have it made before a fresh, sputtering, blazing heap of
In fires, as in men, an excess of energy is a lack of usefulness.
The best work is done without many sparks. Just enough is the right
kind of a fire and a feast.
To know how to cook is not a very elegant accomplishment. Yet there
are times and seasons when it seems to come in better than
familiarity with the dead languages, or much skill upon the lute.
You cannot always rely on your guides for a tasteful preparation of
food. Many of them are ignorant of the difference between frying
and broiling, and their notion of boiling a potato or a fish is to
reduce it to a pulp. Now and then you find a man who has a natural
inclination to the culinary art, and who does very well within
Old Edouard, the Montaignais Indian who cooked for my friends H. E.
G. and C. S. D. last summer on the STE. MARGUERITE EN BAS, was such
a man. But Edouard could not read, and the only way he could tell
the nature of the canned provisions was by the pictures on the cans.
If the picture was strange to him, there was no guessing what he
would do with the contents of the can. He was capable of roasting
strawberries, and serving green peas cold for dessert. One day a
can of mullagatawny soup and a can of apricots were handed out to
him simultaneously and without explanations. Edouard solved the
problem by opening both cans and cooking them together. We had a
new soup that day, MULLAGATAWNY AUX APRICOTS. It was not as bad as
it sounds. It tasted somewhat like chutney.
The real reason why food that is cooked over an open fire tastes so
good to us is because we are really hungry when we get it. The man
who puts up provisions for camp has a great advantage over the
dealers who must satisfy the pampered appetite of people in houses.
I never can get any bacon in New York like that which I buy at a
little shop in Quebec to take into the woods. If I ever set up in
the grocery business, I shall try to get a good trade among anglers.
It will be easy to please my customers.
The reputation that trout enjoy as a food-fish is partly due to the
fact that they are usually cooked over an open fire. In the city
they never taste as good. It is not merely a difference in
freshness. It is a change in the sauce. If the truth must be told,
even by an angler, there are at least five salt-water fish which are
better than trout,--to eat. There is none better to catch.
But enough of the cooking-fire. Let us turn now to the subject of
the smudge, known in Lower Canada as LA BOUCANE. The smudge owes
its existence to the pungent mosquito, the sanguinary black-fly, and
the peppery midge,--LE MARINGOUIN, LA MOUSTIQUE, ET LE BRULOT. To
what it owes its English name I do not know; but its French name
means simply a thick, nauseating, intolerable smoke.
The smudge is called into being for the express purpose of creating
a smoke of this kind, which is as disagreeable to the mosquito, the
black-fly, and the midge as it is to the man whom they are
devouring. But the man survives the smoke, while the insects
succumb to it, being destroyed or driven away. Therefore the
smudge, dark and bitter in itself, frequently becomes, like
adversity, sweet in its uses. It must be regarded as a form of fire
with which man has made friends under the pressure of a cruel
It would seem as if it ought to be the simplest affair in the world
to light up a smudge. And so it is--if you are not trying.
An attempt to produce almost any other kind of a fire will bring
forth smoke abundantly. But when you deliberately undertake to
create a smudge, flames break from the wettest timber, and green
moss blazes with a furious heat. You hastily gather handfuls of
seemingly incombustible material and throw it on the fire, but the
conflagration increases. Grass and green leaves hesitate for an
instant and then flash up like tinder. The more you put on, the
more your smudge rebels against its proper task of smudging. It
makes a pleasant warmth, to encourage the black-flies; and bright
light to attract and cheer the mosquitoes. Your effort is a
The proper way to make a smudge is this. Begin with a very little,
lowly fire. Let it be bright, but not ambitious. Don't try to make
a smoke yet.
Then gather a good supply of stuff which seems likely to suppress
fire without smothering it. Moss of a certain kind will do, but not
the soft, feathery moss that grows so deep among the spruce-trees.
Half-decayed wood is good; spongy, moist, unpleasant stuff, a
vegetable wet blanket. The bark of dead evergreen trees, hemlock,
spruce, or balsam, is better still. Gather a plentiful store of it.
But don't try to make a smoke yet.
Let your fire burn a while longer; cheer it up a little. Get some
clear, resolute, unquenchable coals aglow in the heart of it. Don't
try to make a smoke yet.
Now pile on your smouldering fuel. Fan it with your hat. Kneel
down and blow it, and in ten minutes you will have a smoke that will
make you wish you had never been born.
That is the proper way to make a smudge. But the easiest way is to
ask your guide to make it for you.
If he makes it in an old iron pot, so much the better, for then you
can move it around to the windward when the breeze veers, and carry
it into your tent without risk of setting everything on fire, and
even take it with you in the canoe while you are fishing.
Some of the pleasantest pictures in the angler's gallery of
remembrance are framed in the smoke that rises from a smudge.
With my eyes shut, I can call up a vision of eight birch-bark canoes
floating side by side on Moosehead Lake, on a fair June morning,
fifteen years ago. They are anchored off Green Island, riding
easily on the long, gentle waves. In the stern of each canoe there
is a guide with a long-handled net; in the bow, an angler with a
light fly-rod; in the middle, a smudge-kettle, smoking steadily. In
the air to the windward of the little fleet hovers a swarm of flies
drifting down on the shore breeze, with bloody purpose in their
breasts, but baffled by the protecting smoke. In the water to the
leeward plays a school of speckled trout, feeding on the minnows
that hang around the sunken ledges of rock. As a larger wave than
usual passes over the ledges, it lifts the fish up, and you can see
the big fellows, three, and four, and even five pounds apiece,
poising themselves in the clear brown water. A long cast will send
the fly over one of them. Let it sink a foot. Draw it up with a
fluttering motion. Now the fish sees it, and turns to catch it.
There is a yellow gleam in the depth, a sudden swirl on the surface;
you strike sharply, and the trout is matching his strength against
the spring of your four ounces of split bamboo.
You can guess at his size, as he breaks water, by the breadth of his
tail: a pound of weight to an inch of tail,--that is the traditional
measure, and it usually comes pretty close to the mark, at least in
the case of large fish. But it is never safe to record the weight
until the trout is in the canoe. As the Canadian hunters say, "Sell
not the skin of the bear while he carries it."
Now the breeze that blows over Green Island drops away, and the
smoke of the eight smudge-kettles falls like a thick curtain. The
canoes, the dark shores of Norcross Point, the twin peaks of Spencer
Mountain, the dim blue summit of Katahdin, the dazzling sapphire
sky, the flocks of fleece-white clouds shepherded on high by the
western wind, all have vanished. With closed eyes I see another
vision, still framed in smoke,--a vision of yesterday.
It is a wild river flowing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the
COTE NORD, far down towards Labrador. There is a long, narrow,
swift pool between two parallel ridges of rock. Over the ridge on
the right pours a cataract of pale yellow foam. At the bottom of
the pool, the water slides down into a furious rapid, and dashes
straight through an impassable gorge half a mile to the sea. The
pool is full of salmon, leaping merrily in their delight at coming
into their native stream. The air is full of black-flies, rejoicing
in the warmth of the July sun. On a slippery point of rock, below
the fall, are two anglers, tempting the fish and enduring the flies.
Behind them is an old HABITANT raising a mighty column of smoke.
Through the cloudy pillar which keeps back the Egyptian host, you
see the waving of a long rod. A silver-gray fly with a barbed tail
darts out across the pool, swings around with the current, well
under water, and slowly works past the big rock in the centre, just
at the head of the rapid. Almost past it, but not quite: for
suddenly the fly disappears; the line begins to run out; the reel
sings sharp and shrill; a salmon is hooked.
But how well is he hooked? That is the question. This is no easy
pool to play a fish in. There is no chance to jump into a canoe and
drop below him, and get the current to help you in drowning him.
You cannot follow him along the shore. You cannot even lead him
into quiet water, where the gaffer can creep near to him unseen and
drag him in with a quick stroke. You must fight your fish to a
finish, and all the advantages are on his side. The current is
terribly strong. If he makes up his mind to go downstream to the
sea, the only thing you can do is to hold him by main force; and
then it is ten to one that the hook tears out or the leader breaks.
It is not in human nature for one man to watch another handling a
fish in such a place without giving advice. "Keep the tip of your
rod up. Don't let your reel overrun. Stir him up a little, he 's
sulking. Don't let him 'jig,' or you'll lose him. You 're playing
him too hard. There, he 's going to jump again. Drop your tip.
Stop him, quick! he 's going down the rapid!"
Of course the man who is playing the salmon does not like this. If
he is quick-tempered, sooner or later he tells his counsellor to
shut up. But if he is a gentle, early-Christian kind of a man, wise
as a serpent and harmless as a dove, he follows the advice that is
given to him, promptly and exactly. Then, when it is all ended, and
he has seen the big fish, with the line over his shoulder, poised
for an instant on the crest of the first billow of the rapid, and
has felt the leader stretch and give and SNAP!--then he can have the
satisfaction, while he reels in his slack line, of saying to his
friend, "Well, old man, I did everything just as you told me. But I
think if I had pushed that fish a little harder at the beginning, AS
I WANTED TO, I might have saved him."
But really, of course, the chances were all against it. In such a
pool, most of the larger fish get away. Their weight gives them a
tremendous pull. The fish that are stopped from going into the
rapid, and dragged back from the curling wave, are usually the
smaller ones. Here they are,--twelve pounds, eight pounds, six
pounds, five pounds and a half, FOUR POUNDS! Is not this the
smallest salmon that you ever saw? Not a grilse, you understand,
but a real salmon, of brightest silver, hall-marked with St.
Now let us sit down for a moment and watch the fish trying to leap
up the falls. There is a clear jump of about ten feet, and above
that an apparently impossible climb of ten feet more up a ladder of
twisting foam. A salmon darts from the boiling water at the bottom
of the fall like an arrow from a bow. He rises in a beautiful
curve, fins laid close to his body and tail quivering; but he has
miscalculated his distance. He is on the downward curve when the
water strikes him and tumbles him back. A bold little fish, not
more than eighteen inches long, makes a jump at the side of the
fall, where the water is thin, and is rolled over and over in the
spray. A larger salmon rises close beside us with a tremendous
rush, bumps his nose against a jutting rock, and flops back into the
pool. Now comes a fish who has made his calculations exactly. He
leaves the pool about eight feet from the foot of the fall, rises
swiftly, spreads his fins, and curves his tail as if he were flying,
strikes the water where it is thickest just below the brink, holds
on desperately, and drives himself, with one last wriggle, through
the bending stream, over the edge, and up the first step of the
foaming stairway. He has obeyed the strongest instinct of his
nature, and gone up to make love in the highest fresh water that he
The smoke of the smudge-fire is sharp and tearful, but a man can
learn to endure a good deal of it when he can look through its rings
at such scenes as these.
THE LITTLE FRIENDSHIP-FIRE
There are times and seasons when the angler has no need of any of
the three fires of which we have been talking. He sleeps in a
house. His breakfast and dinner are cooked for him in a kitchen.
He is in no great danger from black-flies or mosquitoes. All he
needs now, as he sets out to spend a day on the Neversink, or the
Willowemoc, or the Shepaug, or the Swiftwater, is a good lunch in
his pocket, and a little friendship-fire to burn pleasantly beside
him while he eats his frugal fare and prolongs his noonday rest.
This form of fire does less work than any other in the world. Yet
it is far from being useless; and I, for one, should be sorry to
live without it. Its only use is to make a visible centre of
interest where there are two or three anglers eating their lunch
together, or to supply a kind of companionship to a lone fisherman.
It is kindled and burns for no other purpose than to give you the
sense of being at home and at ease. Why the fire should do this, I
cannot tell, but it does.
You may build your friendship-fire in almost any way that pleases
you; but this is the way in which you shall build it best. You have
no axe, of course, so you must look about for the driest sticks that
you can find. Do not seek them close beside the stream, for there
they are likely to be water-soaked; but go back into the woods a bit
and gather a good armful of fuel. Then break it, if you can, into
lengths of about two feet, and construct your fire in the following
Lay two sticks parallel, and put between them a pile of dried grass,
dead leaves, small twigs, and the paper in which your lunch was
wrapped. Then lay two other sticks crosswise on top of your first
pair. Strike your match and touch your kindlings. As the fire
catches, lay on other pairs of sticks, each pair crosswise to the
pair that is below it, until you have a pyramid of flame. This is
"a Micmac fire" such as the Indians make in the woods.
Now you can pull off your wading-boots and warm your feet at the
blaze. You can toast your bread if you like. You can even make
shift to broil one of your trout, fastened on the end of a birch
twig if you have a fancy that way. When your hunger is satisfied,
you shake out the crumbs for the birds and the squirrels, pick up a
stick with a coal at the end to light your pipe, put some more wood
on your fire, and settle down for an hour's reading if you have a
book in your pocket, or for a good talk if you have a comrade with
The stream of time flows swift and smooth, by such a fire as this.
The moments slip past unheeded; the sun sinks down his western arch;
the shadows begin to fall across the brook; it is time to move on
for the afternoon fishing. The fire has almost burned out. But do
not trust it too much. Throw some sand over it, or bring a hatful
of water from the brook to pour on it, until you are sure that the
last glowing ember is extinguished, and nothing but the black coals
and the charred ends of the sticks are left.
Even the little friendship-fire must keep the law of the bush. All
lights out when their purpose is fulfilled!
ALTARS OF REMEMBRANCE
It is a question that we have often debated, in the informal
meetings of our Petrine Club: Which is pleasanter,--to fish an old
stream, or a new one?
The younger members are all for the "fresh woods and pastures new."
They speak of the delight of turning off from the high-road into
some faintly-marked trail; following it blindly through the forest,
not knowing how far you have to go; hearing the voice of waters
sounding through the woodland; leaving the path impatiently and
striking straight across the underbrush; scrambling down a steep
bank, pushing through a thicket of alders, and coming out suddenly,
face to face with a beautiful, strange brook. It reminds you, of
course, of some old friend. It is a little like the Beaverkill, or
the Ausable, or the Gale River. And yet it is different. Every
stream has its own character and disposition. Your new acquaintance
invites you to a day of discoveries. If the water is high, you will
follow it down, and have easy fishing. If the water is low, you
will go upstream, and fish "fine and far-off." Every turn in the
avenue which the little river has made for you opens up a new view,--
a rocky gorge where the deep pools are divided by white-footed
falls; a lofty forest where the shadows are deep and the trees arch
overhead; a flat, sunny stretch where the stream is spread out, and
pebbly islands divide the channels, and the big fish are lurking at
the sides in the sheltered corners under the bushes. From scene to
scene you follow on, delighted and expectant, until the night
suddenly drops its veil, and then you will be lucky if you can find
your way home in the dark!
Yes, it is all very good, this exploration of new streams. But, for
my part, I like still better to go back to a familiar little river,
and fish or dream along the banks where I have dreamed and fished
before. I know every bend and curve: the sharp turn where the water
runs under the roots of the old hemlock-tree; the snaky glen, where
the alders stretch their arms far out across the stream; the meadow
reach, where the trout are fat and silvery, and will only rise about
sunrise or sundown, unless the day is cloudy; the Naiad's Elbow,
where the brook rounds itself, smooth and dimpled, to embrace a
cluster of pink laurel-bushes. All these I know; yes, and almost
every current and eddy and backwater I know long before I come to
it. I remember where I caught the big trout the first year I came
to the stream; and where I lost a bigger one. I remember the pool
where there were plenty of good fish last year, and wonder whether
they are there now.
Better things than these I remember: the companions with whom I have
followed the stream in days long past; the rendezvous with a comrade
at the place where the rustic bridge crosses the brook; the hours of
sweet converse beside the friendship-fire; the meeting at twilight
with my lady Graygown and the children, who have come down by the
wood-road to walk home with me.
Surely it is pleasant to follow an old stream. Flowers grow along
its banks which are not to be found anywhere else in the wide world.
"There is rosemary, that 's for remembrance; and there is pansies,
that 's for thoughts!"
One May evening, a couple of years since, I was angling in the
Swiftwater, and came upon Joseph Jefferson, stretched out on a large
rock in midstream, and casting the fly down a long pool. He had
passed the threescore years and ten, but he was as eager and as
happy as a boy in his fishing.
"You here!" I cried. "What good fortune brought you into these
"Ah," he answered, "I fished this brook forty-five years ago. It
was in the Paradise Valley that I first thought of Rip Van Winkle.
I wanted to come back again for the sake of old times."
But what has all this to do with an open fire? I will tell you. It
is at the places along the stream, where the little flames of love
and friendship have been kindled in bygone days, that the past
returns most vividly. These are the altars of remembrance.
It is strange how long a small fire will leave its mark. The
charred sticks, the black coals, do not decay easily. If they lie
well up the hank, out of reach of the spring floods, they will stay
there for years. If you have chanced to build a rough fireplace of
stones from the brook, it seems almost as if it would last forever.
There is a mossy knoll beneath a great butternut-tree on the
Swiftwater where such a fireplace was built four years ago; and
whenever I come to that place now I lay the rod aside, and sit down
for a little while by the fast-flowing water, and remember.
This is what I see: A man wading up the stream, with a creel over
his shoulder, and perhaps a dozen trout in it; two little lads in
gray corduroys running down the path through the woods to meet him,
one carrying a frying-pan and a kettle, the other with a basket of
lunch on his arm. Then I see the bright flames leaping up in the
fireplace, and hear the trout sizzling in the pan, and smell the
appetizing odour. Now I see the lads coming back across the foot-
bridge that spans the stream, with a bottle of milk from the nearest
farmhouse. They are laughing and teetering as they balance along
the single plank. Now the table is spread on the moss. How good
the lunch tastes! Never were there such pink-fleshed trout, such
crisp and savoury slices of broiled bacon. Douglas, (the beloved
doll that the younger lad shamefacedly brings out from the pocket of
his jacket,) must certainly have some of it. And after the lunch is
finished, and the bird's portion has been scattered on the moss, we
creep carefully on our hands and knees to the edge of the brook, and
look over the bank at the big trout that is poising himself in the
amber water. We have tried a dozen times to catch him, but never
succeeded. The next time, perhaps--
Well, the fireplace is still standing. The butternut-tree spreads
its broad branches above the stream. The violets and the bishop's-
caps and the wild anemones are sprinkled over the banks. The
yellow-throat and the water-thrush and the vireos still sing the
same tunes in the thicket. And the elder of the two lads often
comes back with me to that pleasant place and shares my fisherman's
luck beside the Swiftwater.
But the younger lad?
Ah, my little Barney, you have gone to follow a new stream,--clear
as crystal,--flowing through fields of wonderful flowers that never
fade. It is a strange river to Teddy and me; strange and very far
away. Some day we shall see it with you; and you will teach us the
names of those blossoms that do not wither. But till then, little
Barney, the other lad and I will follow the old stream that flows by
the woodland fireplace,--your altar.
Rue grows here. Yes, there is plenty of rue. But there is also
rosemary, that 's for remembrance! And close beside it I see a
A SLUMBER SONG
FOR THE FISHERMAN'S CHILD
Furl your sail, my little boatie;
Here 's the haven, still and deep,
Where the dreaming tides, in-streaming,
Up the channel creep.
See, the sunset breeze is dying;
Hark, the plover, landward flying,
Softly down the twilight crying;
Come to anchor, little boatie,
In the port of Sleep.
Far away, my little boatie,
Roaring waves are white with foam;
Ships are striving, onward driving,
Day and night they roam.
Father 's at the deep-sea trawling,
In the darkness, rowing, hauling,
While the hungry winds are calling,--
God protect him, little boatie,
Bring him safely home!
Not for you, my little boatie,
Is the wide and weary sea;
You 're too slender, and too tender,
You must rest with me.
All day long you have been straying
Up and down the shore and playing;
Come to port, make no delaying!
Day is over, little boatie,
Night falls suddenly.
Furl your sail, my little boatie;
Fold your wings, my tired dove.
Dews are sprinkling, stars are twinkling
Cease from sailing, cease from rowing;
Rock upon the dream-tide, knowing
Safely o'er your rest are glowing,
All the night, my little boatie,
Harbour-lights of love.