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Little Rivers by Henry van Dyke

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This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, charlie@idirect.com.




"And suppose he takes nothing, yet he enjoyeth a delightful walk by
pleasant Rivers, in sweet Pastures, amongst odoriferous Flowers,
which gratifie his Senses, and delight his Mind; which Contentments
induce many (who affect not Angling) to choose those places of
pleasure for their summer Recreation and Health."

COL. ROBERT VENABLES, The Experienc'd Angler, 1662.


To one who wanders by my side
As cheerfully as waters glide;
Whose eyes are brown as woodland streams,
And very fair and full of dreams;
Whose heart is like a mountain spring,
Whose thoughts like merry rivers sing:
To her--my little daughter Brooke--
I dedicate this little book.


I. Prelude

II. Little Rivers

III. A Leaf of Spearmint

IV. Ampersand

V. A Handful of Heather

VI. The Ristigouche from a Horse-Yacht

VII. Alpenrosen and Goat's-Milk

VIII. Au Large

IX. Trout-Fishing in the Traun

X. At the sign of the Balsam Bough

XI. A Song after Sundown



When tulips bloom in Union Square,
And timid breaths of vernal air
Are wandering down the dusty town,
Like children lost in Vanity Fair;

When every long, unlovely row
Of westward houses stands aglow
And leads the eyes toward sunset skies,
Beyond the hills where green trees grow;

Then weary is the street parade,
And weary books, and weary trade:
I'm only wishing to go a-fishing;
For this the month of May was made.

I guess the pussy-willows now
Are creeping out on every bough
Along the brook; and robins look
For early worms behind the plough.

The thistle-birds have changed their dun
For yellow coats to match the sun;
And in the same array of flame
The Dandelion Show's begun.

The flocks of young anemones
Are dancing round the budding trees:
Who can help wishing to go a-fishing
In days as full of joy as these?

I think the meadow-lark's clear sound
Leaks upward slowly from the ground,
While on the wing the bluebirds ring
Their wedding-bells to woods around:

The flirting chewink calls his dear
Behind the bush; and very near,
Where water flows, where green grass grows,
Song-sparrows gently sing, "Good cheer:"

And, best of all, through twilight's calm
The hermit-thrush repeats his psalm:
How much I'm wishing to go a-fishing
In days so sweet with music's balm!

'Tis not a proud desire of mine;
I ask for nothing superfine;
No heavy weight, no salmon great,
To break the record, or my line:

Only an idle little stream,
Whose amber waters softly gleam,
Where I may wade, through woodland shade,
And cast the fly, and loaf, and dream:

Only a trout or two, to dart
From foaming pools, and try my art:
No more I'm wishing--old-fashioned fishing,
And just a day on Nature's heart.



A river is the most human and companionable of all inanimate
things. It has a life, a character, a voice of its own, and is as
full of good fellowship as a sugar-maple is of sap. It can talk in
various tones, loud or low, and of many subjects, grave and gay.
Under favourable circumstances it will even make a shift to sing,
not in a fashion that can be reduced to notes and set down in black
and white on a sheet of paper, but in a vague, refreshing manner,
and to a wandering air that goes

"Over the hills and far away."

For real company and friendship, there is nothing outside of the
animal kingdom that is comparable to a river.

I will admit that a very good case can be made out in favour of
some other objects of natural affection. For example, a fair
apology has been offered by those ambitious persons who have fallen
in love with the sea. But, after all, that is a formless and
disquieting passion. It lacks solid comfort and mutual confidence.
The sea is too big for loving, and too uncertain. It will not fit
into our thoughts. It has no personality because it has so many.
It is a salt abstraction. You might as well think of loving a
glittering generality like "the American woman." One would be more
to the purpose.

Mountains are more satisfying because they are more individual. It
is possible to feel a very strong attachment for a certain range
whose outline has grown familiar to our eyes, or a clear peak that
has looked down, day after day, upon our joys and sorrows,
moderating our passions with its calm aspect. We come back from
our travels, and the sight of such a well-known mountain is like
meeting an old friend unchanged. But it is a one-sided affection.
The mountain is voiceless and imperturbable; and its very loftiness
and serenity sometimes make us the more lonely.

Trees seem to come closer to our life. They are often rooted in
our richest feelings, and our sweetest memories, like birds, build
nests in their branches. I remember, the last time that I saw
James Russell Lowell, (only a few weeks before his musical voice
was hushed,) he walked out with me into the quiet garden at Elmwood
to say good-bye. There was a great horse-chestnut tree beside the
house, towering above the gable, and covered with blossoms from
base to summit,--a pyramid of green supporting a thousand smaller
pyramids of white. The poet looked up at it with his gray, pain-
furrowed face, and laid his trembling hand upon the trunk. "I
planted the nut," said he, "from which this tree grew. And my
father was with me and showed me how to plant it."

Yes, there is a good deal to be said in behalf of tree-worship; and
when I recline with my friend Tityrus beneath the shade of his
favourite oak, I consent in his devotions. But when I invite him
with me to share my orisons, or wander alone to indulge the luxury
of grateful, unlaborious thought, my feet turn not to a tree, but
to the bank of a river, for there the musings of solitude find a
friendly accompaniment, and human intercourse is purified and
sweetened by the flowing, murmuring water. It is by a river that I
would choose to make love, and to revive old friendships, and to
play with the children, and to confess my faults, and to escape
from vain, selfish desires, and to cleanse my mind from all the
false and foolish things that mar the joy and peace of living.
Like David's hart, I pant for the water-brooks. There is wisdom in
the advice of Seneca, who says, "Where a spring rises, or a river
flows, there should we build altars and offer sacrifices."

The personality of a river is not to be found in its water, nor in
its bed, nor in its shore. Either of these elements, by itself,
would be nothing. Confine the fluid contents of the noblest stream
in a walled channel of stone, and it ceases to be a stream; it
becomes what Charles Lamb calls "a mockery of a river--a liquid
artifice--a wretched conduit." But take away the water from the
most beautiful river-banks, and what is left? An ugly road with
none to travel it; a long, ghastly scar on the bosom of the earth.

The life of a river, like that of a human being, consists in the
union of soul and body, the water and the banks. They belong
together. They act and react upon each other. The stream moulds
and makes the shore; hollowing out a bay here, and building a long
point there; alluring the little bushes close to its side, and
bending the tall slim trees over its current; sweeping a rocky
ledge clean of everything but moss, and sending a still lagoon full
of white arrow-heads and rosy knot-weed far back into the meadow.
The shore guides and controls the stream; now detaining and now
advancing it; now bending it in a hundred sinuous curves, and now
speeding it straight as a wild-bee on its homeward flight; here
hiding the water in a deep cleft overhung with green branches, and
there spreading it out, like a mirror framed in daisies, to reflect
the sky and the clouds; sometimes breaking it with sudden turns and
unexpected falls into a foam of musical laughter, sometimes
soothing it into a sleepy motion like the flow of a dream.

Is it otherwise with the men and women whom we know and like? Does
not the spirit influence the form, and the form affect the spirit?
Can we divide and separate them in our affections?

I am no friend to purely psychological attachments. In some
unknown future they may be satisfying, but in the present I want
your words and your voice with your thoughts, your looks and your
gestures to interpret your feelings. The warm, strong grasp of
Greatheart's hand is as dear to me as the steadfast fashion of his
friendships; the lively, sparkling eyes of the master of Rudder
Grange charm me as much as the nimbleness of his fancy; and the
firm poise of the Hoosier Schoolmaster's shaggy head gives me new
confidence in the solidity of his views of life. I like the pure
tranquillity of Isabel's brow as well as her

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

The soft cadences and turns in my lady Katrina's speech draw me
into the humour of her gentle judgments of men and things. The
touches of quaintness in Angelica's dress, her folded kerchief and
smooth-parted hair, seem to partake of herself, and enhance my
admiration for the sweet order of her thoughts and her old-
fashioned ideals of love and duty. Even so the stream and its
channel are one life, and I cannot think of the swift, brown flood
of the Batiscan without its shadowing primeval forests, or the
crystalline current of the Boquet without its beds of pebbles and
golden sand and grassy banks embroidered with flowers.

Every country--or at least every country that is fit for
habitation--has its own rivers; and every river has its own
quality; and it is the part of wisdom to know and love as many as
you can, seeing each in the fairest possible light, and receiving
from each the best that it has to give. The torrents of Norway
leap down from their mountain home with plentiful cataracts, and
run brief but glorious races to the sea. The streams of England
move smoothly through green fields and beside ancient, sleepy
towns. The Scotch rivers brawl through the open moorland and flash
along steep Highland glens. The rivers of the Alps are born in icy
caves, from which they issue forth with furious, turbid waters; but
when their anger has been forgotten in the slumber of some blue
lake, they flow down more softly to see the vineyards of France and
Italy, the gray castles of Germany, the verdant meadows of Holland.
The mighty rivers of the West roll their yellow floods through
broad valleys, or plunge down dark canyons. The rivers of the
South creep under dim arboreal archways hung with banners of waving
moss. The Delaware and the Hudson and the Connecticut are the
children of the Catskills and the Adirondacks and the White
Mountains, cradled among the forests of spruce and hemlock, playing
through a wild woodland youth, gathering strength from numberless
tributaries to bear their great burdens of lumber and turn the
wheels of many mills, issuing from the hills to water a thousand
farms, and descending at last, beside new cities, to the ancient

Every river that flows is good, and has something worthy to be
loved. But those that we love most are always the ones that we
have known best,--the stream that ran before our father's door, the
current on which we ventured our first boat or cast our first fly,
the brook on whose banks we first picked the twinflower of young
love. However far we may travel, we come back to Naaman's state of
mind: "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than
all the waters of Israel?"

It is with rivers as it is with people: the greatest are not always
the most agreeable, nor the best to live with. Diogenes must have
been an uncomfortable bedfellow: Antinous was bored to death in the
society of the Emperor Hadrian: and you can imagine much better
company for a walking trip than Napoleon Bonaparte. Semiramis was
a lofty queen, but I fancy that Ninus had more than one bad
quarter-of-an-hour with her: and in "the spacious times of great
Elizabeth" there was many a milkmaid whom the wise man would have
chosen for his friend, before the royal red-haired virgin. "I
confess," says the poet Cowley, "I love littleness almost in all
things. A little convenient Estate, a little chearful House, a
little Company, and a very little Feast, and if I were ever to fall
in Love again, (which is a great Passion, and therefore, I hope, I
have done with it,) it would be, I think, with Prettiness, rather
than with Majestical Beauty. I would neither wish that my
Mistress, nor my Fortune, should be a Bona Roba, as Homer uses to
describe his Beauties, like a daughter of great Jupiter for the
stateliness and largeness of her Person, but as Lucretius says:

'Parvula, pumilio, [Greek text omitted], tota merum sal.'"

Now in talking about women it is prudent to disguise a prejudice
like this, in the security of a dead language, and to intrench it
behind a fortress of reputable authority. But in lowlier and less
dangerous matters, such as we are now concerned with, one may dare
to speak in plain English. I am all for the little rivers. Let
those who will, chant in heroic verse the renown of Amazon and
Mississippi and Niagara, but my prose shall flow--or straggle along
at such a pace as the prosaic muse may grant me to attain--in
praise of Beaverkill and Neversink and Swiftwater, of Saranac and
Raquette and Ausable, of Allegash and Aroostook and Moose River.
"Whene'er I take my walks abroad," it shall be to trace the clear
Rauma from its rise on the fjeld to its rest in the fjord; or to
follow the Ericht and the Halladale through the heather. The
Ziller and the Salzach shall be my guides through the Tyrol; the
Rotha and the Dove shall lead me into the heart of England. My
sacrificial flames shall be kindled with birch-bark along the
wooded stillwaters of the Penobscot and the Peribonca, and my
libations drawn from the pure current of the Ristigouche and the
Ampersand, and my altar of remembrance shall rise upon the rocks
beside the falls of Seboomok.

I will set my affections upon rivers that are not too great for
intimacy. And if by chance any of these little ones have also
become famous, like the Tweed and the Thames and the Arno, I at
least will praise them, because they are still at heart little

If an open fire is, as Charles Dudley Warner says, the eye of a
room; then surely a little river may be called the mouth, the most
expressive feature, of a landscape. It animates and enlivens the
whole scene. Even a railway journey becomes tolerable when the
track follows the course of a running stream.

What charming glimpses you catch from the window as the train winds
along the valley of the French Broad from Asheville, or climbs the
southern Catskills beside the Aesopus, or slides down the
Pusterthal with the Rienz, or follows the Glommen and the Gula from
Christiania to Throndhjem. Here is a mill with its dripping, lazy
wheel, the type of somnolent industry; and there is a white
cascade, foaming in silent pantomime as the train clatters by; and
here is a long, still pool with the cows standing knee-deep in the
water and swinging their tails in calm indifference to the passing
world; and there is a lone fisherman sitting upon a rock, rapt in
contemplation of the point of his rod. For a moment you become a
partner of his tranquil enterprise. You turn around, you crane
your neck to get the last sight of his motionless angle. You do
not know what kind of fish he expects to catch, nor what species of
bait he is using, but at least you pray that he may have a bite
before the train swings around the next curve. And if perchance
your wish is granted, and you see him gravely draw some unknown,
reluctant, shining reward of patience from the water, you feel like
swinging your hat from the window and crying out "Good luck!"

Little rivers seem to have the indefinable quality that belongs to
certain people in the world,--the power of drawing attention
without courting it, the faculty of exciting interest by their very
presence and way of doing things.

The most fascinating part of a city or town is that through which
the water flows. Idlers always choose a bridge for their place of
meditation when they can get it; and, failing that, you will find
them sitting on the edge of a quay or embankment, with their feet
hanging over the water. What a piquant mingling of indolence and
vivacity you can enjoy by the river-side! The best point of view
in Rome, to my taste, is the Ponte San Angelo; and in Florence or
Pisa I never tire of loafing along the Lung' Arno. You do not know
London until you have seen it from the Thames. And you will miss
the charm of Cambridge unless you take a little boat and go
drifting on the placid Cam, beneath the bending trees, along the
backs of the colleges.

But the real way to know a little river is not to glance at it here
or there in the course of a hasty journey, nor to become acquainted
with it after it has been partly civilised and spoiled by too close
contact with the works of man. You must go to its native haunts;
you must see it in youth and freedom; you must accommodate yourself
to its pace, and give yourself to its influence, and follow its
meanderings whithersoever they may lead you.

Now, of this pleasant pastime there are three principal forms. You
may go as a walker, taking the river-side path, or making a way for
yourself through the tangled thickets or across the open meadows.
You may go as a sailor, launching your light canoe on the swift
current and committing yourself for a day, or a week, or a month,
to the delightful uncertainties of a voyage through the forest.
You may go as a wader, stepping into the stream and going down with
it, through rapids and shallows and deeper pools, until you come to
the end of your courage and the daylight. Of these three ways I
know not which is best. But in all of them the essential thing is
that you must be willing and glad to be led; you must take the
little river for your guide, philosopher, and friend.

And what a good guidance it gives you. How cheerfully it lures you
on into the secrets of field and wood, and brings you acquainted
with the birds and the flowers. The stream can show you, better
than any other teacher, how nature works her enchantments with
colour and music.

Go out to the Beaver-kill

"In the tassel-time of spring,"

and follow its brimming waters through the budding forests, to that
corner which we call the Painter's Camp. See how the banks are all
enamelled with the pale hepatica, the painted trillium, and the
delicate pink-veined spring beauty. A little later in the year,
when the ferns are uncurling their long fronds, the troops of blue
and white violets will come dancing down to the edge of the stream,
and creep venturously out to the very end of that long, moss-
covered log in the water. Before these have vanished, the yellow
crow-foot and the cinquefoil will appear, followed by the star-
grass and the loose-strife and the golden St. John's-wort. Then
the unseen painter begins to mix the royal colour on his palette,
and the red of the bee-balm catches your eye. If you are lucky,
you may find, in midsummer, a slender fragrant spike of the purple-
fringed orchis, and you cannot help finding the universal self-
heal. Yellow returns in the drooping flowers of the jewel-weed,
and blue repeats itself in the trembling hare-bells, and scarlet is
glorified in the flaming robe of the cardinal-flower. Later still,
the summer closes in a splendour of bloom, with gentians and asters
and goldenrod.

You never get so close to the birds as when you are wading quietly
down a little river, casting your fly deftly under the branches for
the wary trout, but ever on the lookout for all the various
pleasant things that nature has to bestow upon you. Here you shall
come upon the cat-bird at her morning bath, and hear her sing, in a
clump of pussy-willows, that low, tender, confidential song which
she keeps for the hours of domestic intimacy. The spotted
sandpiper will run along the stones before you, crying, "wet-feet,
wet-feet!" and bowing and teetering in the friendliest manner, as
if to show you the way to the best pools. In the thick branches of
the hemlocks that stretch across the stream, the tiny warblers,
dressed in a hundred colours, chirp and twitter confidingly above
your head; and the Maryland yellow-throat, flitting through the
bushes like a little gleam of sunlight, calls "witchery, witchery,
witchery!" That plaintive, forsaken, persistent note, never
ceasing, even in the noonday silence, comes from the wood-pewee,
drooping upon the bough of some high tree, and complaining, like
Mariana in the moated grange, "weary, weary, weary!"

When the stream runs out into the old clearing, or down through the
pasture, you find other and livelier birds,--the robins, with his
sharp, saucy call and breathless, merry warble; the bluebird, with
his notes of pure gladness, and the oriole, with his wild, flexible
whistle; the chewink, bustling about in the thicket, talking to his
sweetheart in French, "cherie, cherie!" and the song-sparrow,
perched on his favourite limb of a young maple, dose beside the
water, and singing happily, through sunshine and through rain.
This is the true bird of the brook, after all: the winged spirit of
cheerfulness and contentment, the patron saint of little rivers,
the fisherman's friend. He seems to enter into your sport with his
good wishes, and for an hour at a time, while you are trying every
fly in your book, from a black gnat to a white miller, to entice
the crafty old trout at the foot of the meadow-pool, the song-
sparrow, close above you, will be chanting patience and
encouragement. And when at last success crowns your endeavour, and
the parti-coloured prize is glittering in your net, the bird on the
bough breaks out in an ecstasy of congratulation: "catch 'im, catch
'im, catch 'im; oh, what a pretty fellow! sweet!"

There are other birds that seem to have a very different temper.
The blue-jay sits high up in the withered-pine tree, bobbing up and
down, and calling to his mate in a tone of affected sweetness.
"salute-her, salute-her," but when you come in sight he flies away
with a harsh cry of "thief, thief, thief!" The kingfisher,
ruffling his crest in solitary pride on the end of a dead branch,
darts down the stream at your approach, winding up his red angrily
as if he despised you for interrupting his fishing. And the cat-
bird, that sang so charmingly while she thought herself unobserved,
now tries to scare you away by screaming "snake, snake!"

As evening draws near, and the light beneath the trees grows
yellower, and the air is full of filmy insects out for their last
dance, the voice of the little river becomes louder and more
distinct. The true poets have often noticed this apparent increase
in the sound of flowing waters at nightfall. Gray, in one of his
letters, speaks of "hearing the murmur of many waters not audible
in the daytime." Wordsworth repeats the same thought almost in the
same words:

"A soft and lulling sound is heard
Of streams inaudible by day."

And Tennyson, in the valley of Cauteretz, tells of the river

"Deepening his voice with deepening of the night."

It is in this mystical hour that you will hear the most celestial
and entrancing of all bird-notes, the songs of the thrushes,--the
hermit, and the wood-thrush, and the veery. Sometimes, but not
often, you will see the singers. I remember once, at the close of
a beautiful day's fishing on the Swiftwater, I came out, just after
sunset, into a little open space in an elbow of the stream. It was
still early spring, and the leaves were tiny. On the top of a
small sumac, not thirty feet away from me, sat a veery. I could
see the pointed spots upon his breast, the swelling of his white
throat, and the sparkle of his eyes, as he poured his whole heart
into a long liquid chant, the clear notes rising and falling,
echoing and interlacing in endless curves of sound,

"Orb within orb, intricate, wonderful."

Other bird-songs can be translated into words, but not this. There
is no interpretation. It is music,--as Sidney Lanier defines it,--

"Love in search of a word."

But it is not only to the real life of birds and flowers that the
little rivers introduce you. They lead you often into familiarity
with human nature in undress, rejoicing in the liberty of old
clothes, or of none at all. People do not mince along the banks of
streams in patent-leather shoes or crepitating silks. Corduroy and
home-spun and flannel are the stuffs that suit this region; and the
frequenters of these paths go their natural gaits, in calf-skin or
rubber boots, or bare-footed. The girdle of conventionality is
laid aside, and the skirts rise with the spirits.

A stream that flows through a country of upland farms will show you
many a pretty bit of genre painting. Here is the laundry-pool at
the foot of the kitchen garden, and the tubs are set upon a few
planks close to the water, and the farmer's daughters, with bare
arms and gowns tucked up, are wringing out the clothes. Do you
remember what happened to Ralph Peden in The Lilac Sunbonnet when
he came on a scene like this? He tumbled at once into love with
Winsome Charteris,--and far over his head.

And what a pleasant thing it is to see a little country lad riding
one of the plough-horses to water, thumping his naked heels against
the ribs of his stolid steed, and pulling hard on the halter as if
it were the bridle of Bucephalus! Or perhaps it is a riotous
company of boys that have come down to the old swimming-hole, and
are now splashing and gambolling through the water like a drove of
white seals very much sun-burned. You had hoped to catch a goodly
trout in that hole, but what of that? The sight of a harmless hour
of mirth is better than a fish, any day.

Possibly you will overtake another fisherman on the stream. It may
be one of those fabulous countrymen, with long cedar poles and bed-
cord lines, who are commonly reported to catch such enormous
strings of fish, but who rarely, so far as my observation goes, do
anything more than fill their pockets with fingerlings. The
trained angler, who uses the finest tackle, and drops his fly on
the water as accurately as Henry James places a word in a story, is
the man who takes the most and the largest fish in the long run.
Perhaps the fisherman ahead of you is such an one,--a man whom you
have known in town as a lawyer or a doctor, a merchant or a
preacher, going about his business in the hideous respectability of
a high silk hat and a long black coat. How good it is to see him
now in the freedom of a flannel shirt and a broad-brimmed gray felt
with flies stuck around the band.

In Professor John Wilson's Essays Critical and Imaginative, there
is a brilliant description of a bishop fishing, which I am sure is
drawn from the life: "Thus a bishop, sans wig and petticoat, in a
hairy cap, black jacket, corduroy breeches and leathern leggins,
creel on back and rod in hand, sallying from his palace, impatient
to reach a famous salmon-cast ere the sun leave his cloud, . . .
appears not only a pillar of his church, but of his kind, and in
such a costume is manifestly on the high road to Canterbury and the
Kingdom-Come." I have had the good luck to see quite a number of
bishops, parochial and diocesan, in that style, and the vision has
always dissolved my doubts in regard to the validity of their claim
to the true apostolic succession.

Men's "little ways" are usually more interesting, and often more
instructive than their grand manners. When they are off guard,
they frequently show to better advantage than when they are on
parade. I get more pleasure out of Boswell's Johnson than I do out
of Rasselas or The Rambler. The Little Flowers of St. Francis
appear to me far more precious than the most learned German and
French analyses of his character. There is a passage in Jonathan
Edwards' Personal Narrative, about a certain walk that he took in
the fields near his father's house, and the blossoming of the
flowers in the spring, which I would not exchange for the whole of
his dissertation On the Freedom of the Will. And the very best
thing of Charles Darwin's that I know is a bit from a letter to his
wife: "At last I fell asleep," says he, "on the grass, and awoke
with a chorus of birds singing around me, and squirrels running up
the tree, and some woodpeckers laughing; and it was as pleasant and
rural a scene as ever I saw; and I did not care one penny how any
of the birds or beasts had been formed."

Little rivers have small responsibilities. They are not expected
to bear huge navies on their breast or supply a hundred-thousand
horse-power to the factories of a monstrous town. Neither do you
come to them hoping to draw out Leviathan with a hook. It is
enough if they run a harmless, amiable course, and keep the groves
and fields green and fresh along their banks, and offer a happy
alternation of nimble rapids and quiet pools,

"With here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling."

When you set out to explore one of these minor streams in your
canoe, you have no intention of epoch-making discoveries, or
thrilling and world-famous adventures. You float placidly down the
long stillwaters, and make your way patiently through the tangle of
fallen trees that block the stream, and run the smaller falls, and
carry your boat around the larger ones, with no loftier ambition
than to reach a good camp-ground before dark and to pass the
intervening hours pleasantly, "without offence to God or man." It
is an agreeable and advantageous frame of mind for one who has done
his fair share of work in the world, and is not inclined to grumble
at his wages. There are few moods in which we are more susceptible
of gentle instruction; and I suspect there are many tempers and
attitudes, often called virtuous, in which the human spirit appears
to less advantage in the sight of Heaven.

It is not required of every man and woman to be, or to do,
something great; most of us must content ourselves with taking
small parts in the chorus. Shall we have no little lyrics because
Homer and Dante have written epics? And because we have heard the
great organ at Freiburg, shall the sound of Kathi's zither in the
alpine hut please us no more? Even those who have greatness thrust
upon them will do well to lay the burden down now and then, and
congratulate themselves that they are not altogether answerable for
the conduct of the universe, or at least not all the time. "I
reckon," said a cowboy to me one day, as we were riding through the
Bad Lands of Dakota, "there's some one bigger than me, running this
outfit. He can 'tend to it well enough, while I smoke my pipe
after the round-up."

There is such a thing as taking ourselves and the world too
seriously, or at any rate too anxiously. Half of the secular
unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the
vain idea that every man is bound to be a critic of life, and to
let no day pass without finding some fault with the general order
of things, or projecting some plan for its improvement. And the
other half comes from the greedy notion that a man's life does
consist, after all, in the abundance of the things that he
possesses, and that it is somehow or other more respectable and
pious to be always at work making a larger living, than it is to
lie on your back in the green pastures and beside the still waters,
and thank God that you are alive.

Come, then, my gentle reader, (for by this time you have discovered
that this chapter is only a preface in disguise,--a declaration of
principles or the want of them, an apology or a defence, as you
choose to take it,) and if we are agreed, let us walk together; but
if not, let us part here with out ill-will.

You shall not be deceived in this book. It is nothing but a
handful of rustic variations on the old tune of "Rest and be
thankful," a record of unconventional travel, a pilgrim's scrip
with a few bits of blue-sky philosophy in it. There is, so far as
I know, very little useful information and absolutely no criticism
of the universe to be found in this volume. So if you are what
Izaak Walton calls "a severe, sour-complexioned man," you would
better carry it back to the bookseller, and get your money again,
if he will give it to you, and go your way rejoicing after your own
melancholy fashion.

But if you care for plain pleasures, and informal company, and
friendly observations on men and things, (and a few true fish-
stories,) then perhaps you may find something here not unworthy
your perusal. And so I wish that your winter fire may burn clear
and bright while you read these pages; and that the summer days may
be fair, and the fish may rise merrily to your fly, whenever you
follow one of these little rivers.




"It puzzles me now, that I remember all these young impressions so,
because I took no heed of them at the time whatever; and yet they
come upon me bright, when nothing else is evident in the gray fog
of experience."--B. D. BLACKMORE: Lorna Doone.

Of all the faculties of the human mind, memory is the one that is
most easily "led by the nose." There is a secret power in the
sense of smell which draws the mind backward into the pleasant land
of old times.

If you could paint a picture of Memory, in the symbolical manner of
Quarles's Emblems, it should represent a man travelling the highway
with a dusty pack upon his shoulders, and stooping to draw in a
long, sweet breath from the small, deep-red, golden-hearted flowers
of an old-fashioned rose-tree straggling through the fence of a
neglected garden. Or perhaps, for a choice of emblems, you would
better take a yet more homely and familiar scent: the cool
fragrance of lilacs drifting through the June morning from the old
bush that stands between the kitchen door and the well; the warm
layer of pungent, aromatic air that floats over the tansy-bed in a
still July noon; the drowsy dew of odour that falls from the big
balm-of-Gilead tree by the roadside as you are driving homeward
through the twilight of August; or, best of all, the clean, spicy,
unexpected, unmistakable smell of a bed of spearmint--that is the
bed whereon Memory loves to lie and dream!

Why not choose mint as the symbol of remembrance? It is the true
spice-tree of our Northern clime, the myrrh and frankincense of the
land of lingering snow. When its perfume rises, the shrines of the
past are unveiled, and the magical rites of reminiscence begin.


You are fishing down the Swiftwater in the early Spring. In a
shallow pool, which the drought of summer will soon change into dry
land, you see the pale-green shoots of a little plant thrusting
themselves up between the pebbles, and just beginning to overtop
the falling water. You pluck a leaf of it as you turn out of the
stream to find a comfortable place for lunch, and, rolling it
between your fingers to see whether it smells like a good salad for
your bread and cheese, you discover suddenly that it is new mint.
For the rest of that day you are bewitched; you follow a stream
that runs through the country of Auld Lang Syne, and fill your
creel with the recollections of a boy and a rod.

And yet, strangely enough, you cannot recall the boy himself at all
distinctly. There is only the faintest image of him on the endless
roll of films that has been wound through your mental camera: and
in the very spots where his small figure should appear, it seems as
if the pictures were always light-struck. Just a blur, and the dim
outline of a new cap, or a well-beloved jacket with extra pockets,
or a much-hated pair of copper-toed shoes--that is all you can see.

But the people that the boy saw, the companions who helped or
hindered him in his adventures, the sublime and marvellous scenes
among the Catskills and the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, in
the midst of which he lived and moved and had his summer holidays--
all these stand out sharp and clear, as the "Bab Ballads" say,

"Photographically lined
On the tablets of your mind."

And most vivid do these scenes and people become when the vague and
irrecoverable boy who walks among them carries a rod over his
shoulder, and you detect the soft bulginess of wet fish about his
clothing, and perhaps the tail of a big one emerging from his
pocket. Then it seems almost as if these were things that had
really happened, and of which you yourself were a great part.

The rod was a reward, yet not exactly of merit. It was an
instrument of education in the hand of a father less indiscriminate
than Solomon, who chose to interpret the text in a new way, and
preferred to educate his child by encouraging him in pursuits which
were harmless and wholesome, rather than by chastising him for
practices which would likely enough never have been thought of, if
they had not been forbidden. The boy enjoyed this kind of father
at the time, and later he came to understand, with a grateful
heart, that there is no richer inheritance in all the treasury of
unearned blessings. For, after all, the love, the patience, the
kindly wisdom of a grown man who can enter into the perplexities
and turbulent impulses of a boy's heart, and give him cheerful
companionship, and lead him on by free and joyful ways to know and
choose the things that are pure and lovely and of good report, make
as fair an image as we can find of that loving, patient Wisdom
which must be above us all if any good is to come out of our
childish race.

Now this was the way in which the boy came into possession of his
undreaded rod. He was by nature and heredity one of those
predestined anglers whom Izaak Walton tersely describes as "born
so." His earliest passion was fishing. His favourite passage in
Holy Writ was that place where Simon Peter throws a line into the
sea and pulls out a great fish at the first cast.

But hitherto his passion had been indulged under difficulties--with
improvised apparatus of cut poles, and flabby pieces of string, and
bent pins, which always failed to hold the biggest fish; or perhaps
with borrowed tackle, dangling a fat worm in vain before the noses
of the staring, supercilious sunfish that poised themselves in the
clear water around the Lake house dock at Lake George; or, at best,
on picnic parties across the lake, marred by the humiliating
presence of nurses, and disturbed by the obstinate refusal of old
Horace, the boatman, to believe that the boy could bait his own
hook, but sometimes crowned with the delight of bringing home a
whole basketful of yellow perch and goggle-eyes. Of nobler sport
with game fish, like the vaulting salmon and the merry, pugnacious
trout, as yet the boy had only dreamed. But he had heard that
there were such fish in the streams that flowed down from the
mountains around Lake George, and he was at the happy age when he
could believe anything--if it was sufficiently interesting.

There was one little river, and only one, within his knowledge and
the reach of his short legs. It was a tiny, lively rivulet that
came out of the woods about half a mile away from the hotel, and
ran down cater-cornered through a sloping meadow, crossing the road
under a flat bridge of boards, just beyond the root-beer shop at
the lower end of the village. It seemed large enough to the boy,
and he had long had his eye upon it as a fitting theatre for the
beginning of a real angler's life. Those rapids, those falls,
those deep, whirling pools with beautiful foam on them like soft,
white custard, were they not such places as the trout loved to hide

You can see the long hotel piazza, with the gossipy groups of
wooden chairs standing vacant in the early afternoon; for the
grown-up people are dallying with the ultimate nuts and raisins of
their mid-day dinner. A villainous clatter of innumerable little
vegetable-dishes comes from the open windows of the pantry as the
boy steals past the kitchen end of the house, with Horace's
lightest bamboo pole over his shoulder, and a little brother in
skirts and short white stockings tagging along behind him.

When they come to the five-rail fence where the brook runs out of
the field, the question is, Over or under? The lowlier method
seems safer for the little brother, as well as less conspicuous for
persons who desire to avoid publicity until their enterprise has
achieved success. So they crawl beneath a bend in the lowest
rail,--only tearing one tiny three-cornered hole in a jacket, and
making some juicy green stains on the white stockings,--and emerge
with suppressed excitement in the field of the cloth of buttercups
and daisies.

What an afternoon--how endless and yet how swift! What perilous
efforts to leap across the foaming stream at its narrowest points;
what escapes from quagmires and possible quicksands; what stealthy
creeping through the grass to the edge of a likely pool, and
cautious dropping of the line into an unseen depth, and patient
waiting for a bite, until the restless little brother, prowling
about below, discovers that the hook is not in the water at all,
but lying on top of a dry stone,--thereby proving that patience is
not the only virtue--or, at least, that it does a better business
when it has a small vice of impatience in partnership with it!

How tired the adventurers grow as the day wears away; and as yet
they have taken nothing! But their strength and courage return as
if by magic when there comes a surprising twitch at the line in a
shallow, unpromising rapid, and with a jerk of the pole a small,
wiggling fish is whirled through the air and landed thirty feet
back in the meadow.

"For pity's sake, don't lose him! There he is among the roots of
the blue flag."

"I've got him! How cold he is--how slippery--how pretty! Just
like a piece of rainbow!"

"Do you see the red spots? Did you notice how gamy he was, little
brother; how he played? It is a trout, for sure; a real trout,
almost as long as your hand."

So the two lads tramp along up the stream, chattering as if there
were no rubric of silence in the angler's code. Presently another
simple-minded troutling falls a victim to their unpremeditated art;
and they begin already, being human, to wish for something larger.
In the very last pool that they dare attempt--a dark hole under a
steep bank, where the brook issues from the woods--the boy drags
out the hoped-for prize, a splendid trout, longer than a new lead-
pencil. But he feels sure that there must be another, even larger,
in the same place. He swings his line out carefully over the
water, and just as he is about to drop it in, the little brother,
perched on the sloping brink, slips on the smooth pine-needles, and
goes sliddering down into the pool up to his waist. How he weeps
with dismay, and how funnily his dress sticks to him as he crawls
out! But his grief is soon assuaged by the privilege of carrying
the trout strung on an alder twig; and it is a happy, muddy, proud
pair of urchins that climb over the fence out of the field of
triumph at the close of the day.

What does the father say, as he meets them in the road? Is he
frowning or smiling under that big brown beard? You cannot be
quite sure. But one thing is clear: he is as much elated over the
capture of the real trout as any one. He is ready to deal mildly
with a little irregularity for the sake of encouraging pluck and
perseverance. Before the three comrades have reached the hotel,
the boy has promised faithfully never to take his little brother
off again without asking leave; and the father has promised that
the boy shall have a real jointed fishing-rod of his own, so that
he will not need to borrow old Horace's pole any more.

At breakfast the next morning the family are to have a private
dish; not an every-day affair of vulgar, bony fish that nurses can
catch, but trout--three of them! But the boy looks up from the
table and sees the adored of his soul, Annie V----, sitting at the
other end of the room, and faring on the common food of mortals.
Shall she eat the ordinary breakfast while he feasts on dainties?
Do not other sportsmen send their spoils to the ladies whom they
admire? The waiter must bring a hot plate, and take this largest
trout to Miss V---- (Miss Annie, not her sister--make no mistake
about it).

The face of Augustus is as solemn as an ebony idol while he plays
his part of Cupid's messenger. The fair Annie affects surprise;
she accepts the offering rather indifferently; her curls drop down
over her cheeks to cover some small confusion. But for an instant
the corner of her eye catches the boy's sidelong glance, and she
nods perceptibly, whereupon his mother very inconsiderately calls
attention to the fact that yesterday's escapade has sun-burned his
face dreadfully.

Beautiful Annie V----, who, among all the unripened nymphs that
played at hide-and-seek among the maples on the hotel lawn, or
waded with white feet along the yellow beach beyond the point of
pines, flying with merry shrieks into the woods when a boat-load of
boys appeared suddenly around the corner, or danced the lancers in
the big, bare parlours before the grown-up ball began--who in all
that joyous, innocent bevy could be compared with you for charm or
daring? How your dark eyes sparkled, and how the long brown
ringlets tossed around your small head, when you stood up that
evening, slim and straight, and taller by half a head than your
companions, in the lamp-lit room where the children were playing
forfeits, and said, "There is not one boy here that DARES to kiss
ME!" Then you ran out on the dark porch, where the honeysuckle
vines grew up the tall, inane Corinthian pillars.

Did you blame the boy for following? And were you very angry,
indeed, about what happened,--until you broke out laughing at his
cravat, which had slipped around behind his ear? That was the
first time he ever noticed how much sweeter the honeysuckle smells
at night than in the day. It was his entrance examination in the
school of nature--human and otherwise. He felt that there was a
whole continent of newly discovered poetry within him, and
worshipped his Columbus disguised in curls. Your boy is your true
idealist, after all, although (or perhaps because) he is still


The arrival of the rod, in four joints, with an extra tip, a brass
reel, and the other luxuries for which a true angler would
willingly exchange the necessaries of life, marked a new epoch in
the boy's career. At the uplifting of that wand, as if it had been
in the hand of another Moses, the waters of infancy rolled back,
and the way was opened into the promised land, whither the tyrant
nurses, with all their proud array of baby-chariots, could not
follow. The way was open, but not by any means dry. One of the
first events in the dispensation of the rod was the purchase of a
pair of high rubber boots. Inserted in this armour of modern
infantry, and transfigured with delight, the boy clumped through
all the little rivers within a circuit of ten miles from Caldwell,
and began to learn by parental example the yet unmastered art of
complete angling.

But because some of the streams were deep and strong, and his legs
were short and slender, and his ambition was even taller than his
boots, the father would sometimes take him up pickaback, and wade
along carefully through the perilous places--which are often, in
this world, the very places one longs to fish in. So, in your
remembrance, you can see the little rubber boots sticking out under
the father's arms, and the rod projecting over his head, and the
bait dangling down unsteadily into the deep holes, and the
delighted boy hooking and playing and basketing his trout high in
the air. How many of our best catches in life are made from some
one else's shoulders!

From this summer the whole earth became to the boy, as Tennyson
describes the lotus country, "a land of streams." In school-days
and in town he acknowledged the sway of those mysterious and
irresistible forces which produce tops at one season, and marbles
at another, and kites at another, and bind all boyish hearts to
play mumble-the-peg at the due time more certainly than the stars
are bound to their orbits. But when vacation came, with its annual
exodus from the city, there was only one sign in the zodiac, and
that was Pisces.

No country seemed to him tolerable without trout, and no landscape
beautiful unless enlivened by a young river. Among what delectable
mountains did those watery guides lead his vagrant steps, and with
what curious, mixed, and sometimes profitable company did they make
him familiar!

There was one exquisite stream among the Alleghanies, called
Lycoming Creek, beside which the family spent a summer in a
decadent inn, kept by a tremulous landlord who was always sitting
on the steps of the porch, and whose most memorable remark was that
he had "a misery in his stomach." This form of speech amused the
boy, but he did not in the least comprehend it. It was the
description of an unimaginable experience in a region which was as
yet known to him only as the seat of pleasure. He did not
understand how any one could be miserable when he could catch trout
from his own dooryard.

The big creek, with its sharp turns from side to side of the
valley, its hemlock-shaded falls in the gorge, and its long, still
reaches in the "sugar-bottom," where the maple-trees grew as if in
an orchard, and the superfluity of grasshoppers made the trout fat
and dainty, was too wide to fit the boy. But nature keeps all
sizes in her stock, and a smaller stream, called Rocky Run, came
tumbling down opposite the inn, as if made to order for juvenile

How well you can follow it, through the old pasture overgrown with
alders, and up past the broken-down mill-dam and the crumbling
sluice, into the mountain-cleft from which it leaps laughing! The
water, except just after a rain-storm, is as transparent as glass--
old-fashioned window-glass, I mean, in small panes, with just a
tinge of green in it, like the air in a grove of young birches.
Twelve feet down in the narrow chasm below the falls, where the
water is full of tiny bubbles, like Apollinaris, you can see the
trout poised, with their heads up-stream, motionless, but quivering
a little, as if they were strung on wires.

The bed of the stream has been scooped out of the solid rock. Here
and there banks of sand have been deposited, and accumulations of
loose stone disguise the real nature of the channel. Great
boulders have been rolled down the alleyway and left where they
chanced to stick; the stream must get around them or under them as
best it can. But there are other places where everything has been
swept clean; nothing remains but the primitive strata, and the
flowing water merrily tickles the bare ribs of mother earth.
Whirling stones, in the spring floods, have cut well-holes in the
rock, as round and even as if they had been made with a drill, and
sometimes you can see the very stone that sunk the well lying at
the bottom. There are long, straight, sloping troughs through
which the water runs like a mill-race. There are huge basins into
which the water rumbles over a ledge, as if some one were pouring
it very steadily out of a pitcher, and from which it glides away
without a ripple, flowing over a smooth pavement of rock which
shelves down from the shallow foot to the deep head of the pool.

The boy wonders how far he dare wade out along that slippery floor.
The water is within an inch of his boot-tops now. But the slope
seems very even, and just beyond his reach a good fish is rising.
Only one step more, and then, like the wicked man in the psalm, his
feet begin to slide. Slowly, and standing bolt upright, with the
rod held high above his head, as if it must on no account get wet,
he glides forward up to his neck in the ice-cold bath, gasping with
amazement. There have been other and more serious situations in
life into which, unless I am mistaken, you have made an equally
unwilling and embarrassed entrance, and in which you have been
surprised to find yourself not only up to your neck, but over,--and
you are a lucky man if you have had the presence of mind to stand
still for a moment, before wading out, and make sure at least of
the fish that tempted you into your predicament.

But Rocky Run, they say, exists no longer. It has been blasted by
miners out of all resemblance to itself, and bewitched into a dingy
water-power to turn wheels for the ugly giant, Trade. It is only
in the valley of remembrance that its current still flows like
liquid air; and only in that country that you can still see the
famous men who came and went along the banks of the Lyocoming when
the boy was there.

There was Collins, who was a wondrous adept at "daping, dapping, or
dibbling" with a grasshopper, and who once brought in a string of
trout which he laid out head to tail on the grass before the house
in a line of beauty forty-seven feet long. A mighty bass voice had
this Collins also, and could sing, "Larboard Watch, Ahoy!" "Down in
a Coal-Mine," and other profound ditties in a way to make all the
glasses on the table jingle; but withal, as you now suspect, rather
a fishy character, and undeserving of the unqualified respect which
the boy had for him. And there was Dr. Romsen, lean, satirical,
kindly, a skilful though reluctant physician, who regarded it as a
personal injury if any one in the party fell sick in summer time;
and a passionately unsuccessful hunter, who would sit all night in
the crotch of a tree beside an alleged deer-lick, and come home
perfectly satisfied if he had heard a hedgehog grunt. It was he
who called attention to the discrepancy between the boy's appetite
and his size by saying loudly at a picnic, "I wouldn't grudge you
what you eat, my boy, if I could only see that it did you any
good,"--which remark was not forgiven until the doctor redeemed his
reputation by pronouncing a serious medical opinion, before a
council of mothers, to the effect that it did not really hurt a boy
to get his feet wet. That was worthy of Galen in his most inspired
moment. And there was hearty, genial Paul Merit, whose mere
company was an education in good manners, and who could eat eight
hard-boiled eggs for supper without ruffling his equanimity; and
the tall, thin, grinning Major, whom an angry Irishwoman once
described as "like a comb, all back and teeth;" and many more were
the comrades of the boy's father, all of whom he admired, (and
followed when they would let him,) but none so much as the father
himself, because he was the wisest, kindest, and merriest of all
that merry crew, now dispersed to the uttermost parts of the earth
and beyond.

Other streams played a part in the education of that happy boy: the
Kaaterskill, where there had been nothing but the ghosts of trout
for the last thirty years, but where the absence of fish was almost
forgotten in the joy of a first introduction to Dickens, one very
showery day, when dear old Ned Mason built a smoky fire in a cave
below Haines's Falls, and, pulling The Old Curiosity Shop out of
his pocket, read aloud about Little Nell until the tears ran down
the cheeks of reader and listener--the smoke was so thick, you
know: and the Neversink, which flows through John Burroughs's
country, and past one house in particular, perched on a high bluff,
where a very dreadful old woman come out and throws stones at "city
fellers fishin' through her land" (as if any one wanted to touch
her land! It was the water that ran over it, you see, that carried
the fish with it, and they were not hers at all): and the stream at
Healing Springs, in the Virginia mountains, where the medicinal
waters flow down into a lovely wild brook without injuring the
health of the trout in the least, and where the only drawback to
the angler's happiness is the abundance of rattlesnakes--but a boy
does not mind such things as that; he feels as if he were immortal.
Over all these streams memory skips lightly, and strikes a trail
through the woods to the Adirondacks, where the boy made his first
acquaintance with navigable rivers,--that is to say, rivers which
are traversed by canoes and hunting-skiffs, but not yet defiled by
steamboats,--and slept, or rather lay awake, for the first time on
a bed of balsam-boughs in a tent.


The promotion from all-day picnics to a two weeks' camping-trip is
like going from school to college. By this time a natural process
of evolution has raised the first rod to something lighter and more
flexible,--a fly-rod, so to speak, but not a bigoted one,--just a
serviceable, unprejudiced article, not above using any kind of bait
that may be necessary to catch the fish. The father has received
the new title of "governor," indicating not less, but more
authority, and has called in new instructors to carry on the boy's
education: real Adirondack guides--old Sam Dunning and one-eyed
Enos, the last and laziest of the Saranac Indians. Better men will
be discovered for later trips, but none more amusing, and none
whose woodcraft seems more wonderful than that of this queerly
matched team, as they make the first camp in a pelting rain-storm
on the shore of Big Clear Pond. The pitching of the tents is a
lesson in architecture, the building of the camp-fire a victory
over damp nature, and the supper of potatoes and bacon and fried
trout a veritable triumph of culinary art.

At midnight the rain is pattering persistently on the canvas; the
fronts flaps are closed and tied together; the lingering fire
shines through them, and sends vague shadows wavering up and down:
the governor is rolled up in his blankets, sound asleep. It is a
very long night for the boy.

What is that rustling noise outside the tent? Probably some small
creature, a squirrel or a rabbit. Rabbit stew would be good for
breakfast. But it sounds louder now, almost loud enough to be a
fox,--there are no wolves left in the Adirondacks, or at least only
a very few. That is certainly quite a heavy footstep prowling
around the provision-box. Could it be a panther,--they step very
softly for their size,--or a bear perhaps? Sam Dunning told about
catching one in a trap just below here. (Ah, my boy, you will soon
learn that there is no spot in all the forests created by a
bountiful Providence so poor as to be without its bear story.)
Where was the rifle put? There it is, at the foot of the tent-
pole. Wonder if it is loaded?

"Waugh-ho! Waugh-ho-o-o-o!"

The boy springs from his blankets like a cat, and peeps out between
the tent-flaps. There sits Enos, in the shelter of a leaning tree
by the fire, with his head thrown back and a bottle poised at his
mouth. His lonely eye is cocked up at a great horned owl on the
branch above him. Again the sudden voice breaks out:

"Whoo! whoo! whoo cooks for you all?"

Enos puts the bottle down, with a grunt, and creeps off to his

"De debbil in dat owl," he mutters. "How he know I cook for dis
camp? How he know 'bout dat bottle? Ugh!"

There are hundreds of pictures that flash into light as the boy
goes on his course, year after year, through the woods. There is
the luxurious camp on Tupper's Lake, with its log cabins in the
spruce-grove, and its regiment of hungry men who ate almost a deer
a day; and there is the little bark shelter on the side of Mount
Marcy, where the governor and the boy, with baskets full of trout
from the Opalescent River, are spending the night, with nothing but
a fire to keep them warm. There is the North Bay at Moosehead,
with Joe La Croix (one more Frenchman who thinks he looks like
Napoleon) posing on the rocks beside his canoe, and only reconciled
by his vanity to the wasteful pastime of taking photographs while
the big fish are rising gloriously out at the end of the point.
There is the small spring-hole beside the Saranac River, where
Pliny Robbins and the boy caught twenty-three noble trout, weighing
from one to three pounds apiece, in the middle of a hot August
afternoon, and hid themselves in the bushes when ever they heard a
party coming down the river, because they did not care to attract
company; and there are the Middle Falls, where the governor stood
on a long spruce log, taking two-pound fish with the fly, and
stepping out at every cast a little nearer to the end of the log,
until it slowly tipped with him, and he settled down into the

Among such scenes as these the boy pursued his education, learning
many things that are not taught in colleges; learning to take the
weather as it comes, wet or dry, and fortune as it falls, good or
bad; learning that a meal which is scanty fare for one becomes a
banquet for two--provided the other is the right person; learning
that there is some skill in everything, even in digging bait, and
that what is called luck consists chiefly in having your tackle in
good order; learning that a man can be just as happy in a log
shanty as in a brownstone mansion, and that the very best pleasures
are those that do not leave a bad taste in the mouth. And in all
this the governor was his best teacher and his closest comrade.

Dear governor, you have gone out of the wilderness now, and your
steps will be no more beside these remembered little rivers--no
more, forever and forever. You will not come in sight around any
bend of this clear Swiftwater stream where you made your last cast;
your cheery voice will never again ring out through the deepening
twilight where you are lingering for your disciple to catch up with
you; he will never again hear you call: "Hallo, my boy! What luck?
Time to go home!" But there is a river in the country where you
have gone, is there not?--a river with trees growing all along it--
evergreen trees; and somewhere by those shady banks, within sound
of clear running waters, I think you will be dreaming and waiting
for your boy, if he follows the trail that you have shown him even
to the end.



It is not the walking merely, it is keeping yourself in tune for a
walk, in the spiritual and bodily condition in which you can find
entertainment and exhilaration in so simple and natural a pastime.
You are eligible to any good fortune when you are in a condition to
enjoy a walk. When the air and water taste sweet to you, how much
else will taste sweet! When the exercise of your limbs affords you
pleasure, and the play of your senses upon the various objects and
shows of Nature quickens and stimulates your spirit, your relation
to the world and to yourself is what it should be,--simple, and
direct, and wholesome."--JOHN BURROUGHS: Pepacton.

The right to the name of Ampersand, like the territory of Gaul in
those Commentaries which Julius Caesar wrote for the punishment of
schoolboys, is divided into three parts. It belongs to a mountain,
and a lake, and a little river.

The mountain stands in the heart of the Adirondack country, just
near enough to the thoroughfare of travel for thousands of people
to see it every year, and just far enough from the beaten track to
be unvisited except by a very few of the wise ones, who love to
turn aside. Behind the mountain is the lake, which no lazy man has
ever seen. Out of the lake flows the stream, winding down a long,
untrodden forest valley, to join the Stony Creek waters and empty
into the Raquette River.

Which of the three Ampersands has the prior claim to the name, I
cannot tell. Philosophically speaking, the mountain ought to be
regarded as the head of the family, because it was undoubtedly
there before the others. And the lake was probably the next on the
ground, because the stream is its child. But man is not strictly
just in his nomenclature; and I conjecture that the little river,
the last-born of the three, was the first to be christened
Ampersand, and then gave its name to its parent and grand-parent.
It is such a crooked stream, so bent and curved and twisted upon
itself, so fond of turning around unexpected corners and sweeping
away in great circles from its direct course, that its first
explorers christened it after the eccentric supernumerary of the
alphabet which appears in the old spelling-books as &--and per se,

But in spite of this apparent subordination to the stream in the
matter of a name, the mountain clearly asserts its natural
authority. It stands up boldly; and not only its own lake, but at
least three others, the Lower Saranac, Round Lake, and Lonesome
Pond, lie at its foot and acknowledge its lordship. When the cloud
is on its brow, they are dark. When the sunlight strikes it, they
Wherever you may go over the waters of these lakes you shall see
Mount Ampersand looking down at you, and saying quietly, "This is
my domain."

I never look at a mountain which asserts itself in this fashion
without desiring to stand on the top of it. If one can reach the
summit, one becomes a sharer in the dominion. The difficulties in
the way only add to the zest of the victory. Every mountain is,
rightly considered, an invitation to climb. And as I was resting
for a month one summer at Bartlett's, Ampersand challenged me

Did you know Bartlett's in its palmy time? It was the homeliest,
quaintest, coziest place in the Adirondacks. Away back in the
ante-bellum days Virgil Bartlett had come into the woods, and built
his house on the bank of the Saranac River, between the Upper
Saranac and Round Lake. It was then the only dwelling within a
circle of many miles. The deer and bear were in the majority. At
night one could sometimes hear the scream of the panther or the
howling of wolves. But soon the wilderness began to wear the
traces of a conventional smile. The desert blossomed a little--if
not as the rose, at least as the gilly-flower. Fields were
cleared, gardens planted; half a dozen log cabins were scattered
along the river; and the old house, having grown slowly and
somewhat irregularly for twenty years, came out, just before the
time of which I write, in a modest coat of paint and a broad-
brimmed piazza. But Virgil himself, the creator of the oasis--well
known of hunters and fishermen, dreaded of lazy guides and
quarrelsome lumbermen,--"Virge," the irascible, kind-hearted,
indefatigable, was there no longer. He had made his last clearing,
and fought his last fight; done his last favour to a friend, and
thrown his last adversary out of the tavern door. His last log had
gone down the river. His camp-fire had burned out. Peace to his
ashes. His wife, who had often played the part of Abigail toward
travellers who had unconsciously incurred the old man's mistrust,
now reigned in his stead; and there was great abundance of maple-
syrup on every man's flapjack.

The charm of Bartlett's for the angler was the stretch of rapid
water in front of the house. The Saranac River, breaking from its
first resting-place in the Upper Lake, plunged down through a great
bed of rocks, making a chain of short falls and pools and rapids,
about half a mile in length. Here, in the spring and early summer,
the speckled trout--brightest and daintiest of all fish that swim--
used to be found in great numbers. As the season advanced, they
moved away into the deep water of the lakes. But there were always
a few stragglers left, and I have taken them in the rapids at the
very end of August. What could be more delightful than to spend an
hour or two, in the early morning or evening of a hot day, in
wading this rushing stream, and casting the fly on its clear
waters? The wind blows softly down the narrow valley, and the
trees nod from the rocks above you. The noise of the falls makes
constant music in your ears. The river hurries past you, and yet
it is never gone.

The same foam-flakes seem to be always gliding downward, the same
spray dashing over the stones, the same eddy coiling at the edge of
the pool. Send your fly in under those cedar branches, where the
water swirls around by that old log. Now draw it up toward the
foam. There is a sudden gleam of dull gold in the white water.
You strike too soon. Your line comes back to you. In a current
like this, a fish will almost always hook himself. Try it again.
This time he takes the fly fairly, and you have him. It is a good
fish, and he makes the slender rod bend to the strain. He sulks
for a moment as if uncertain what to do, and then with a rush darts
into the swiftest part of the current. You can never stop him
there. Let him go. Keep just enough pressure on him to hold the
hook firm, and follow his troutship down the stream as if he were a
salmon. He slides over a little fall, gleaming through the foam,
and swings around in the next pool. Here you can manage him more
easily; and after a few minutes' brilliant play, a few mad dashes
for the current, he comes to the net, and your skilful guide lands
him with a quick, steady sweep of the arm. The scales credit him
with an even pound, and a better fish than this you will hardly
take here in midsummer.

"On my word, master," says the appreciative Venator, in Walton's
Angler, "this is a gallant trout; what shall we do with him?" And
honest Piscator, replies: "Marry! e'en eat him to supper; we'll go
to my hostess from whence we came; she told me, as I was going out
of door, that my brother Peter, [and who is this but Romeyn of
Keeseville?] a good angler and a cheerful companion, had sent word
he would lodge there tonight, and bring a friend with him. My
hostess has two beds, and I know you and I have the best; we'll
rejoice with my brother Peter and his friend, tell tales, or sing
ballads, or make a catch, or find some harmless sport to content
us, and pass away a little time without offence to God or man."

Ampersand waited immovable while I passed many days in such
innocent and healthful pleasures as these, until the right day came
for the ascent. Cool, clean, and bright, the crystal morning
promised a glorious noon, and the mountain almost seemed to beckon
us to come up higher. The photographic camera and a trustworthy
lunch were stowed away in the pack-basket. The backboard was
adjusted at a comfortable angle in the stern seat of our little
boat. The guide held the little craft steady while I stepped into
my place; then he pushed out into the stream, and we went swiftly
down toward Round Lake.

A Saranac boat is one of the finest things that the skill of man
has ever produced under the inspiration of the wilderness. It is a
frail shell, so light that a guide can carry it on his shoulders
with ease, but so dexterously fashioned that it rides the heaviest
waves like a duck, and slips through the water as if by magic. You
can travel in it along the shallowest rivers and across the
broadest lakes, and make forty or fifty miles a day, if you have a
good guide.

Everything depends, in the Adirondacks, as in so many other regions
of life, upon your guide. If he is selfish, or surly, or stupid,
you will have a bad time. But if he is an Adirondacker of the best
old-fashioned type,--now unhappily growing more rare from year to
year,--you will find him an inimitable companion, honest, faithful,
skilful and cheerful. He is as independent as a prince, and the
gilded youths and finicking fine ladies who attempt to patronise
him are apt to make but a sorry show before his solid and
undisguised contempt. But deal with him man to man, and he will
give you a friendly, loyal service which money cannot buy, and
teach you secrets of woodcraft and lessons in plain, self-reliant
manhood more valuable than all the learning of the schools. Such a
guide was mine, rejoicing in the Scriptural name of Hosea, but
commonly called, in brevity and friendliness, "Hose."

As we entered Round Lake on this fair morning, its surface was as
smooth and shining as a mirror. It was too early yet for the tide
of travel which sends a score of boats up and down this
thoroughfare every day; and from shore to shore the water was
unruffled, except by a flock of sheldrakes which had been feeding
near Plymouth Rock, and now went skittering off into Weller Bay
with a motion between flying and swimming, leaving a long wake of
foam behind them.

At such a time as this you can see the real colour of these
Adirondack lakes. It is not blue, as romantic writers so often
describe it, nor green, like some of those wonderful Swiss lakes;
although of course it reflects the colour of the trees along the
shore; and when the wind stirs it, it gives back the hue of the
sky, blue when it is clear, gray when the clouds are gathering, and
sometimes as black as ink under the shadow of storm. But when it
is still, the water itself is like that river which one of the
poets has described as

"Flowing with a smooth brown current."

And in this sheet of burnished bronze the mountains and islands
were reflected perfectly, and the sun shone back from it, not in
broken gleams or a wide lane of light, but like a single ball of
fire, moving before us as we moved.

But stop! What is that dark speck on the water, away down toward
Turtle Point? It has just the shape and size of a deer's head. It
seems to move steadily out into the lake. There is a little
ripple, like a wake, behind it. Hose turns to look at it, and then
sends the boat darting in that direction with long, swift strokes.
It is a moment of pleasant excitement, and we begin to conjecture
whether the deer is a buck or a doe, and whose hounds have driven
it in. But when Hose turns to look again, he slackens his stroke,
and says: "I guess we needn't to hurry; he won't get away. It's
astonishin' what a lot of fun a man can get in the course of a
natural life a-chasm' chumps of wood."

We landed on a sand beach at the mouth of a little stream, where a
blazed tree marked the beginning of the Ampersand trail. This line
through the forest was made years ago by that ardent sportsman and
lover of the Adirondacks, Dr. W. W. Ely, of Rochester. Since that
time it has been shortened and improved a little by other
travellers, and also not a little blocked and confused by the
lumbermen and the course of Nature. For when the lumbermen go into
the woods, they cut roads in every direction, leading nowhither,
and the unwary wanderer is thereby led aside from the right way,
and entangled in the undergrowth. And as for Nature, she is
entirely opposed to continuance of paths through her forest. She
covers them with fallen leaves, and hides them with thick bushes.
She drops great trees across them, and blots then out with
windfalls. But the blazed line--a succession of broad axe-marks on
the trunks of the trees, just high enough to catch the eye on a
level--cannot be so easily obliterated, and this, after all, is the
safest guide through the woods.

Our trail led us at first through a natural meadow, overgrown with
waist-high grass, and very spongy to the tread. Hornet-haunted
also was this meadow, and therefore no place for idle dalliance or
unwary digression, for the sting of the hornet is one of the
saddest and most humiliating surprises of this mortal life.

Then through a tangle of old wood-roads my guide led me safely, and
we struck one of the long ridges which slope gently from the lake
to the base of the mountain. Here walking was comparatively easy,
for in the hard-wood timber there is little underbrush. The
massive trunks seemed like pillars set to uphold the level roof of
green. Great yellow birches, shaggy with age, stretched their
knotted arms high above us; sugar-maples stood up straight and
proud under their leafy crowns; and smooth beeches--the most
polished and parklike of all the forest trees--offered
opportunities for the carving of lovers' names in a place where few
lovers ever come.

The woods were quiet. It seemed as if all living creatures had
deserted them. Indeed, if you have spent much time in our Northern
forests, you must have often wondered at the sparseness of life,
and felt a sense of pity for the apparent loneliness of the
squirrel that chatters at you as you pass, or the little bird that
hops noiselessly about in the thickets. The midsummer noontide is
an especially silent time. The deer are asleep in some wild
meadow. The partridge has gathered her brood for their midday nap.
The squirrels are perhaps counting over their store of nuts in a
hollow tree, and the hermit-thrush spares his voice until evening.
The woods are close--not cool and fragrant as the foolish romances
describe them--but warm and still; for the breeze which sweeps
across the hilltop and ruffles the lake does not penetrate into
these shady recesses, and therefore all the inhabitants take the
noontide as their hour of rest. Only the big woodpecker--he of the
scarlet head and mighty bill--is indefatigable, and somewhere
unseen is "tapping the hollow beech-tree," while a wakeful little
bird,--I guess it is the black-throated green warbler,--prolongs
his dreamy, listless ditty,--'te-de-terit-sca,--'te-de-us--wait.

After about an hour of easy walking, our trail began to ascend more
sharply. We passed over the shoulder of a ridge and around the
edge of a fire-slash, and then we had the mountain fairly before
us. Not that we could see anything of it, for the woods still shut
us in, but the path became very steep, and we knew that it was a
straight climb; not up and down and round about did this most
uncompromising trail proceed, but right up, in a direct line for
the summit.

Now this side of Ampersand is steeper than any Gothic roof I have
ever seen, and withal very much encumbered with rocks and ledges
and fallen trees. There were places where we had to haul ourselves
up by roots and branches, and places where we had to go down on our
hands and knees to crawl under logs. It was breathless work, but
not at all dangerous or difficult. Every step forward was also a
step upward; and as we stopped to rest for a moment, we could see
already glimpses of the lake below us. But at these I did not much
care to look, for I think it is a pity to spoil the surprise of a
grand view by taking little snatches of it beforehand. It is
better to keep one's face set to the mountain, and then, coming out
from the dark forest upon the very summit, feel the splendour of
the outlook flash upon one like a revelation.

The character of the woods through which we were now passing was
entirely different from those of the lower levels. On these steep
places the birch and maple will not grow, or at least they occur
but sparsely. The higher slopes and sharp ridges of the mountains
are always covered with soft-wood timber. Spruce and hemlock and
balsam strike their roots among the rocks, and find a hidden
nourishment. They stand close together; thickets of small trees
spring up among the large ones; from year to year the great trunks
are falling one across another, and the undergrowth is thickening
around them, until a spruce forest seems to be almost impassable.
The constant rain of needles and the crumbling of the fallen trees
form a rich, brown mould, into which the foot sinks noiselessly.
Wonderful beds of moss, many feet in thickness, and softer than
feathers, cover the rocks and roots. There are shadows never
broken by the sun, and dark, cool springs of icy water hidden away
in the crevices. You feel a sense of antiquity here which you can
never feel among the maples and birches. Longfellow was right when
he filled his forest primeval with "murmuring pines and hemlocks."

The higher one climbs, the darker and gloomier and more rugged the
vegetation becomes. The pine-trees soon cease to follow you; the
hemlocks disappear, and the balsams can go no farther. Only the
hardy spruce keeps on bravely, rough and stunted, with branches
matted together and pressed down flat by the weight of the winter's
snow, until finally, somewhere about the level of four thousand
feet above the sea, even this bold climber gives out, and the
weather-beaten rocks of the summit are clad only with mosses and
Alpine plants.

Thus it is with mountains, as perhaps with men, a mark of superior
dignity to be naturally bald.

Ampersand, falling short by a thousand feet of the needful height,
cannot claim this distinction. But what Nature has denied, human
labour has supplied. Under the direction of the Adirondack Survey,
some years ago, several acres of trees were cut from the summit;
and when we emerged, after the last sharp scramble, upon the very
crest of the mountain, we were not shut in by a dense thicket, but
stood upon a bare ridge of granite in the centre of a ragged

I shut my eyes for a moment, drew a few long breaths of the
glorious breeze, and then looked out upon a wonder and a delight
beyond description.

A soft, dazzling splendour filled the air. Snowy banks and drifts
of cloud were floating slowly over a wide and wondrous land. Vast
sweeps of forest, shining waters, mountains near and far, the
deepest green and the palest blue, changing colours and glancing
lights, and all so silent, so strange, so far away, that it seemed
like the landscape of a dream. One almost feared to speak, lest it
should vanish.

Right below us the Lower Saranac and Lonesome Pond, Round Lake and
the Weller Ponds, were spread out like a map. Every point and
island was clearly marked. We could follow the course of the
Saranac River in all its curves and windings, and see the white
tents of the hay-makers on the wild meadows. Far away to the
northeast stretched the level fields of Bloomingdale. But westward
all was unbroken wilderness, a great sea of woods as far as the eye
could reach. And how far it can reach from a height like this!
What a revelation of the power of sight! That faint blue outline
far in the north was Lyon Mountain, nearly thirty miles away as the
crow flies. Those silver gleams a little nearer were the waters of
St. Regis. The Upper Saranac was displayed in all its length and
breadth, and beyond it the innumerable waters of Fish Creek were
tangled among the dark woods. The long ranges of the hills about
the Jordan bounded the western horizon, and on the southwest Big
Tupper Lake was sleeping at the base of Mount Morris. Looking past
the peak of Stony Creek Mountain, which rose sharp and distinct in
a line with Ampersand, we could trace the path of the Raquette
River from the distant waters of Long Lake down through its far-
stretched valley, and catch here and there a silvery link of its

But when we turned to the south and east, how wonderful and how
different was the view! Here was no widespread and smiling
landscape with gleams of silver scattered through it, and soft blue
haze resting upon its fading verge, but a wild land of mountains,
stern, rugged, tumultuous, rising one beyond another like the waves
of a stormy ocean,--Ossa piled upin Pelion,--Mcintyre's sharp peak,
and the ragged crest of the Gothics, and, above all, Marcy's dome-
like head, raised just far enough above the others to assert his
royal right as monarch of the Adirondacks.

But grandest of all, as seen from this height, was Mount Seward,--a
solemn giant of a mountain, standing apart from the others, and
looking us full in the face. He was clothed from base to summit in
a dark, unbroken robe of forest. Ou-kor-lah, the Indians called
him--the Great Eye; and he seemed almost to frown upon us in
defiance. At his feet, so straight below us that it seemed almost
as if we could cast a stone into it, lay the wildest and most
beautiful of all the Adirondack waters--Ampersand Lake.

On its shore, some five-and-twenty years ago, the now almost
forgotten Adirondack Club had their shanty--the successor of "the
Philosophers' Camp" on Follensbee Pond. Agassiz, Appleton, Norton,
Emerson, Lowell, Hoar, Gray, John Holmes, and Stillman, were among
the company who made their resting-place under the shadow of Mount
Seward. They had bought a tract of forest land completely
encircling the pond, cut a rough road to it through the woods, and
built a comfortable log cabin, to which they purposed to return
summer after summer. But the civil war broke out, with all its
terrible excitement and confusion of hurrying hosts: the club
existed but for two years, and the little house in the wilderness
was abandoned. In 1878, when I spent three weeks at Ampersand, the
cabin was in ruins, and surrounded by an almost impenetrable growth
of bushes. The only philosophers to be seen were a family of what
the guides quaintly call "quill pigs." The roof had fallen to the
ground; raspberry-bushes thrust themselves through the yawning
crevices between the logs; and in front of the sunken door-sill lay
a rusty, broken iron stove, like a dismantled altar on which the
fire had gone out forever.

After we had feasted upon the view as long as we dared, counted the
lakes and streams, and found that we could see without a glass more
than thirty, and recalled the memories of "good times" which came
to us from almost every point of the compass, we unpacked the
camera, and proceeded to take some pictures.

If you are a photographer, and have anything of the amateur's
passion for your art, you will appreciate my pleasure and my
anxiety. Never before, so far as I knew, had a camera been set up
on Ampersand. I had but eight plates with me. The views were all
very distant and all at a downward angle. The power of the light
at this elevation was an unknown quantity. And the wind was
sweeping vigorously across the open summit of the mountain. I put
in my smallest stop, and prepared for short exposures.

My instrument was a thing called a Tourograph, which differs from
most other cameras in having the plate-holder on top of the box.
The plates are dropped into a groove below, and then moved into
focus, after which the cap is removed and the exposure made.

I set my instrument for Ampersand Pond, sighted the picture through
the ground glass, and measured the focus. Then I waited for a
quiet moment, dropped the plate, moved it carefully forward to the
proper mark, and went around to take off the cap. I found that I
already had it in my hand, and the plate had been exposed for about
thirty seconds with a sliding focus!

I expostulated with myself. I said: "You are excited; you are
stupid; you are unworthy of the name of photographer. Light-
writer! You ought to write with a whitewash-brush!" The reproof
was effectual, and from that moment all went well. The plates
dropped smoothly, the camera was steady, the exposure was correct.
Six good pictures were made, to recall, so far as black and white
could do it, the delights of that day.

It has been my good luck to climb many of the peaks of the
Adirondacks--Dix, the Dial, Hurricane, the Giant of the Valley,
Marcy, and Whiteface--but I do not think the outlook from any of
them is so wonderful and lovely as that from little Ampersand: and
I reckon among my most valuable chattels the plates of glass on
which the sun has traced for me (who cannot draw) the outlines of
that loveliest landscape.

The downward journey was swift. We halted for an hour or two
beside a trickling spring, a few rods below the summit, to eat our
lunch. Then, jumping, running, and sometimes sliding, we made the
descent, passed in safety by the dreaded lair of the hornet, and
reached Bartlett's as the fragrance of the evening pancake was
softly diffused through the twilight. Mark that day, Memory, with
a double star in your catalogue!



"Scotland is the home of romance because it is the home of Scott,
Burns, Black, Macdonald, Stevenson, and Barrie--and of thousands of
men like that old Highlander in kilts on the tow-path, who loves
what they have written. I would wager he has a copy of Burns in
his sporran, and has quoted him half a dozen times to the grim Celt
who is walking with him. Those old boys don't read for excitement
or knowledge, but because they love their land and their people and
their religion--and their great writers simply express their
emotions for them in words they can understand. You and I come
over here, with thousands of our countrymen, to borrow their
emotions."--ROBERT BRIDGES: Overheard in Arcady.

My friend the Triumphant Democrat, fiercest of radicals and kindest
of men, expresses his scorn for monarchical institutions (and his
invincible love for his native Scotland) by tenanting, summer after
summer, a famous castle among the heathery Highlands. There he
proclaims the most uncompromising Americanism in a speech that
grows more broadly Scotch with every week of his emancipation from
the influence of the clipped, commercial accent of New York, and
casts contempt on feudalism by playing the part of lord of the
manor to such a perfection of high-handed beneficence that the
people of the glen are all become his clansmen, and his gentle lady
would be the patron saint of the district--if the republican
theology of Scotland could only admit saints among the elect.

Every year he sends trophies of game to his friends across the sea--
birds that are as toothsome and wild-flavoured as if they had not
been hatched under the tyranny of the game-laws. He has a pleasant
trick of making them grateful to the imagination as well as to the
palate by packing them in heather. I'll warrant that Aaron's rod
bore no bonnier blossoms than these stiff little bushes--and none
more magical. For every time I take up a handful of them they
transport me to the Highlands, and send me tramping once more, with
knapsack and fishing-rod, over the braes and down the burns.



Some of my happiest meanderings in Scotland have been taken under
the lead of a book. Indeed, for travel in a strange country there
can be no better courier. Not a guide-book, I mean, but a real
book, and, by preference, a novel.

Fiction, like wine, tastes best in the place where it was grown.
And the scenery of a foreign land (including architecture, which is
artificial landscape) grows less dreamlike and unreal to our
perception when we people it with familiar characters from our
favourite novels. Even on a first journey we feel ourselves among
old friends. Thus to read Romola in Florence, and Les Miserables
in Paris, and Lorna Doone on Exmoor, and The Heart of Midlothian
in Edinburgh, and David Balfour in the Pass of Glencoe, and The
Pirate in the Shetland Isles, is to get a new sense of the
possibilities of life. All these things have I done with much
inward contentment; and other things of like quality have I yet
in store; as, for example, the conjunction of The Bonnie Brier-Bush
with Drumtochty, and The Little Minister with Thrums, and The
Raiders with Galloway. But I never expect to pass pleasanter
days than those I spent with A Princess of Thule among the Hebrides.

For then, to begin with, I was young; which is an unearned
increment of delight sure to be confiscated by the envious years
and never regained. But even youth itself was not to be compared
with the exquisite felicity of being deeply and desperately in love
with Sheila, the clear-eyed heroine of that charming book. In this
innocent passion my gray-haired comrades, Howard Crosby, the
Chancellor of the University of New York, and my father, an ex-
Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, were ardent but
generous rivals.

How great is the joy and how fascinating the pursuit of such an
ethereal affection! It enlarges the heart without embarrassing the
conscience. It is a cup of pure gladness with no bitterness in its
dregs. It spends the present moment with a free hand, and yet
leaves no undesirable mortgage upon the future. King Arthur, the
founder of the Round Table, expressed a conviction, according to
Tennyson, that the most important element in a young knight's
education is "the maiden passion for a maid." Surely the safest
form in which this course in the curriculum may be taken is by
falling in love with a girl in a book. It is the only affair of
the kind into which a young fellow can enter without
responsibility, and out of which he can always emerge, when
necessary, without discredit. And as for the old fellow who still
keeps up this education of the heart, and worships his heroine with
the ardour of a John Ridd and the fidelity of a Henry Esmond, I
maintain that he is exempt from all the penalties of declining
years. The man who can love a girl in a book may be old, but never

So we sailed, lovers all three, among the Western Isles, and
whatever ship it was that carried us, her figurehead was always the
Princess Sheila. Along the ruffled blue waters of the sounds and
lochs that wind among the roots of unpronounceable mountains, and
past the dark hills of Skye, and through the unnumbered flocks of
craggy islets where the sea-birds nest, the spell of the sweet
Highland maid drew us, and we were pilgrims to the Ultima Thule
where she lived and reigned.

The Lewis, with its tail-piece, the Harris, is quite a sizable
island to be appended to such a country as Scotland. It is a
number of miles long, and another number of miles wide, and it has
a number of thousand inhabitants--I should say as many as three-
quarters of an inhabitant to the square mile--and the conditions of
agriculture and the fisheries are extremely interesting and
quarrelsome. All these I duly studied at the time, and reported in
a series of intolerably dull letters to the newspaper which
supplied a financial basis for my sentimental journey. They are
full of information; but I have been amused to note, after these
many years, how wide they steer of the true motive and interest of
the excursion. There is not even a hint of Sheila in any of them.
Youth, after all, is a shamefaced and secretive season; like the
fringed polygala, it hides its real blossom underground.

It was Sheila's dark-blue dress and sailor hat with the white
feather that we looked for as we loafed through the streets of
Stornoway, that quaint metropolis of the herring-trade, where
strings of fish alternated with boxes of flowers in the windows,
and handfuls of fish were spread upon the roofs to dry just as the
sliced apples are exposed upon the kitchen-sheds of New England in
September, and dark-haired women were carrying great creels of fish
on their shoulders, and groups of sunburned men were smoking among
the fishing-boats on the beach and talking about fish, and sea-
gulls were floating over the houses with their heads turning from
side to side and their bright eyes peering everywhere for
unconsidered trifles of fish, and the whole atmosphere of the
place, physical, mental, and moral, was pervaded with fish. It was
Sheila's soft, sing-song Highland speech that we heard through the
long, luminous twilight in the pauses of that friendly chat on the
balcony of the little inn where a good fortune brought us
acquainted with Sam Bough, the mellow Edinburgh painter. It was
Sheila's low sweet brow, and long black eyelashes, and tender blue
eyes, that we saw before us as we loitered over the open moorland,
a far-rolling sea of brown billows, reddened with patches of bell-
heather, and brightened here and there with little lakes lying wide
open to the sky. And were not these peat-cutters, with the big
baskets on their backs, walking in silhouette along the ridges, the
people that Sheila loved and tried to help; and were not these
crofters' cottages with thatched roofs, like beehives, blending
almost imperceptibly with the landscape, the dwellings into which
she planned to introduce the luxury of windows; and were not these
Standing Stones of Callernish, huge tombstones of a vanished
religion, the roofless temple from which the Druids paid their
westernmost adoration to the setting sun as he sank into the
Atlantic--was not this the place where Sheila picked the bunch of
wild flowers and gave it to her lover? There is nothing in
history, I am sure, half so real to us as some of the things in
fiction. The influence of an event upon our character is little
affected by considerations as to whether or not it ever happened.

There were three churches in Stornoway, all Presbyterian, of
course, and therefore full of pious emulation. The idea of
securing an American preacher for an August Sabbath seemed to fall
upon them simultaneously, and to offer the prospect of novelty
without too much danger. The brethren of the U. P. congregation,
being a trifle more gleg than the others, arrived first at the inn,
and secured the promise of a morning sermon from Chancellor Howard
Crosby. The session of the Free Kirk came in a body a little
later, and to them my father pledged himself for the evening sermon.
The senior elder of the Established Kirk, a snuff-taking man and
very deliberate, was the last to appear, and to his request for an
afternoon sermon there was nothing left to offer but the services
of the young probationer in theology. I could see that it struck
him as a perilous adventure. Questions about "the fundamentals"
glinted in his watery eye. He crossed and uncrossed his legs with
solemnity, and blew his nose so frequently in a huge red silk
handkerchief that it seemed like a signal of danger. At last he
unburdened himself of his hesitations.

"Ah'm not saying that the young man will not be orthodox--ahem!
But ye know, sir, in the Kirk, we are not using hymns, but just the
pure Psawms of Daffit, in the meetrical fairsion. And ye know,
sir, they are ferry tifficult in the reating, whatefer, for a young
man, and one that iss a stranger. And if his father will just be
coming with him in the pulpit, to see that nothing iss said amiss,
that will be ferry comforting to the congregation."

So the dear governor swallowed his laughter gravely and went surety
for his son. They appeared together in the church, a barnlike
edifice, with great galleries half-way between the floor and the
roof. Still higher up, the pulpit stuck like a swallow's nest
against the wall. The two ministers climbed the precipitous stair
and found themselves in a box so narrow that one must stand
perforce, while the other sat upon the only seat. In this "ride
and tie" fashion they went through the service. When it was time
to preach, the young man dropped the doctrines as discreetly as
possible upon the upturned countenances beneath him. I have
forgotten now what it was all about, but there was a quotation from
the Song of Solomon, ending with "Sweet is thy voice, and thy
countenance is comely." And when it came to that, the
probationer's eyes (if the truth must be told) went searching
through that sea of faces for one that should be familiar to his
heart, and to which he might make a personal application of the
Scripture passage--even the face of Sheila.

There are rivers in the Lewis, at least two of them, and on one of
these we had the offer of a rod for a day's fishing. Accordingly
we cast lots, and the lot fell upon the youngest, and I went forth
with a tall, red-legged gillie, to try for my first salmon. The
Whitewater came singing down out of the moorland into a rocky
valley, and there was a merry curl of air on the pools, and the
silver fish were leaping from the stream. The gillie handled the
big rod as if it had been a fairy's wand, but to me it was like a
giant's spear. It was a very different affair from fishing with
five ounces of split bamboo on a Long Island trout-pond. The
monstrous fly, like an awkward bird, went fluttering everywhere but
in the right direction. It was the mercy of Providence that
preserved the gillie's life. But he was very patient and
forbearing, leading me on from one pool to another, as I spoiled
the water and snatched the hook out of the mouth of rising fish,
until at last we found a salmon that knew even less about the
niceties of salmon-fishing than I did. He seized the fly firmly,
before I could pull it away, and then, in a moment, I found myself
attached to a creature with the strength of a whale and the agility
of a flying-fish. He led me rushing up and down the bank like a
madman. He played on the surface like a whirlwind, and sulked at
the bottom like a stone. He meditated, with ominous delay, in the
middle of the deepest pool, and then, darting across the river,
flung himself clean out of water and landed far up on the green
turf of the opposite shore. My heart melted like a snowflake in
the sea, and I thought that I had lost him forever. But he rolled
quietly back into the water with the hook still set in his nose. A
few minutes afterwards I brought him within reach of the gaff, and
my first salmon was glittering on the grass beside me.

Then I remembered that William Black had described this very fish
in A Princess of Thule. I pulled the book from my pocket, and,
lighting a pipe, sat down to read that delightful chapter over
again. The breeze played softly down the valley. The warm
sunlight was filled with the musical hum of insects and the murmur
of falling waters. I thought how much pleasanter it would have
been to learn salmon-fishing, as Black's hero did, from the Maid of
Borva, than from a red-headed gillie. But, then, his salmon, after
leaping across the stream, got away; whereas mine was safe. A man
cannot have everything in this world. I picked a spray of rosy
bell-heather from the bank of the river, and pressed it between the
leaves of the book in memory of Sheila.



It is not half as far from Albany to Aberdeen as it is from New
York to London. In fact, I venture to say that an American on foot
will find himself less a foreigner in Scotland than in any other
country in the Old World. There is something warm and hospitable--
if he knew the language well enough he would call it couthy--in the
greeting that he gets from the shepherd on the moor, and the
conversation that he holds with the farmer's wife in the stone
cottage, where he stops to ask for a drink of milk and a bit of
oat-cake. He feels that there must be a drop of Scotch somewhere
in his mingled blood, or at least that the texture of his thought
and feelings has been partly woven on a Scottish loom--perhaps the
Shorter Catechism, or Robert Burns's poems, or the romances of Sir
Walter Scott. At all events, he is among a kindred and
comprehending people. They do not speak English in the same way
that he does--through the nose---but they think very much more in
his mental dialect than the English do. They are independent and
wide awake, curious and full of personal interest. The wayside
mind in Inverness or Perth runs more to muscle and less to fat, has
more active vanity and less passive pride, is more inquisitive and
excitable and sympathetic--in short, to use a symbolist's
description, it is more apt to be red-headed--than in Surrey or
Somerset. Scotchmen ask more questions about America, but fewer
foolish ones. You will never hear them inquiring whether there is
any good bear-hunting in the neighbourhood of Boston, or whether
Shakespeare is much read in the States. They have a healthy
respect for our institutions, and have quite forgiven (if, indeed,
they ever resented) that little affair in 1776. They are all born
Liberals. When a Scotchman says he is a Conservative, it only
means that he is a Liberal with hesitations.

And yet in North Britain the American pedestrian will not find that
amused and somewhat condescending toleration for his peculiarities,
that placid willingness to make the best of all his vagaries of
speech and conduct, that he finds in South Britain. In an English
town you may do pretty much what you like on a Sunday, even to the
extent of wearing a billycock hat to church, and people will put up
with it from a countryman of Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Show.
But in a Scotch village, if you whistle in the street on a Lord's
Day, though it be a Moody and Sankey tune, you will be likely to
get, as I did, an admonition from some long-legged, grizzled elder:

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