« AnteriorContinuar »
securing it, by fair means if possible, by foul means if fair were not sufficient. He spun the reach where the pike lay. He gave it a rest, and trolled up and down. He caught a gudgeon and tried live-baiting. Then he tried spoon bait; but all was of no use. Then he gave himself a rest for an hour, and afterwards walked quietly up one bank, waded across at a ford, and walked down the other bank of the river. There the pike was, in his old haunt, and over which Three had cast his bait several times that day. The fish lay suspended midway in the water, and apparently asleep. Three drew from his pocket a piece of long, thin, pliable wire, with a noose already made at the end of it, and artistically blackened in the fire to make it less visible. This he attached to the end of his line, and reeled up until the end of the wire entered the top ring of the rod, and so held the noose out with some degree of stiffness. Crafty Three, kneeling down, inserted the rod in the water, and very quietly and cautiously guided the noose over the head of the pike. A sudden jerk fixed the wire tight around his gills, and after a little cautious play the pike was basketed.
Of Stroke's doings there is little to be said. He managed somehow to catch a great long eel, and after this, finding his efforts unavailing, he bathed and then fell asleep on the grass, in which happy state he con
tinued until he was awakened by a cow trying to munch his hair. He then strolled quietly homewards.
Coxswain took his sketch-book up to the highwooded ground behind the house. From thence he had a good view of the trout stream. Struck by the eccentric movements of Bow, he stole downwards, and came upon that individual lying flat on his stomach on a ledge of rock, with his arms in the water, and too busily engaged in groping to see his coxswain. The latter crept away unperceived, carrying Bow's rod away with him, justly observing that its owner did not appear to want it.
The time for ascertaining the winner had come. Parker stood ready with a pair of scales. Coxswain sat in a big armchair, in his most important attitude. "Now, Bow, produce your fish."
Everybody admired the speckled beauties, and envied their possessor. They weighed six pounds. Bow looked modestly conscious of his merits as an angler.
"By the way, Bow, how did you catch those fish, considering I have your rod?" said Cox.
"You beggar! Have you got my rod? I am so glad. I wouldn't have lost it for worlds. Where did you find it?"
"Where did you get your fish?"
"Oh, bother the fish! I groped for them."
Strange to say, this confession did not meet with the indignation it should have received. Stroke only looked reproachfully at his Bow, and thought of his big eel.
"Two, turn out your Eight pounds-I shouldn't have thought it. Why, how hard they feel. Well! if he hasn't stuffed them full of stones. He and Bow have forfeited their chance. They may well retire into the background. Three, what have you caught? Why, look! look at the mark on his shoulders. You have snared him.
Shame upon you!"
Coxswain's expostulations were drowned in an universal roar of laughter, in the midst of which long Stroke pulled out his long eel, which he had caught fairly, and he was pronounced the winner.
A merry evening closed the day. After a famous dinner, the pipes and "materials" were ordered in, and the fun by-and-by grew fast and furious.
Two volunteered a song, which he said was of his own composing. Here it is:
"WHERE THE TROUT LIE."
"Where wave the alder branches,
Shadowing o'er the stream,
And round the drooping leaflets
Changing circles gleam,
There lie the trout
"O'er fords of golden gravel,
Round the mossy stones,
Where thousand wavelets warble
Passing sweet in tones,
There play the trout
"Where moan the gurgling deeps,
Full of some great mystery
Half of their dark history),
There lurk the trout
'And in all those places, boys, we follow him and take him. 'Oh, the jolly angler's life! It is the best of any,' as somebody says."
Singing once started, one after another took it up, and while the room was ringing to the chorus of "The British Lion," "Beware how you tread on his tail," the door opened, and Parker's granddaughter appeared. "Please shall you want anything more to-night?" "What, is it late?" said Stroke. Come, Jenny, you must sing to us, and then we will go to bed like good boys. We won't go without.”
Jenny demurred very much, but was at last prevailed upon to sing to us. She was, in fact, too timid to refuse pointblank. Silence being obtained, she began in a low sweet voice, while the fragrant evening air came in at the open window, and we could only
just see her in her white dress as she stood there in
"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide ;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide ;
Help of the helpless, O abide with me."
By the time she had finished the whole crew was quieted and softened.
"You are a good girl, Jenny," said Stroke. "I am glad you sang that. It suits the time better than the noisy songs we have been singing. Good night."
So to bed they went, and slept the sleep of the just, notwithstanding the attempts at cheating which had been made by some of the crew. As a rule, conscience is very lenient with healthy young men.
When they met the next morning at an early breakfast, each acknowledged to the others that he felt somewhat sad that the short holiday was over, and that the approaching break-up of the party was an event greatly to be deplored.
Still it was inevitable. Life could not be all play, and business had claims upon them which could not be gainsaid. A hearty meal did something towards relieving their depressed spirits. It may be a very unsentimental thing to say, but our mental troubles are very greatly assuaged by the creature comforts.