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quietly about the croft,-not hear of them being furiously driven-a panting, lowing, exhausted herdto the far-away safe keeping of some lord of the country stronger and bolder than himself. He cut peats and dried them; he made quantities of coarse moorland hay; he worked on his rough, badlydrained fields without being discouraged at the exceeding scantiness of the crops they gave him in return for his labours. He made long journeys twice a-year to Kilmichael, and spent much time and energy-generally in vain-in try ing to persuade other people that his two or three beasts were fat instead of thin-well-bred instead of ill-bred-handsome instead of ill-favoured the pick of the country round instead of its black shots. And for pastime he did a little poaching; as salt to savour his labours, quite as much as for the sake of varying his fare, he killed grouse and hares and salmon whenever he got a chance. Lights were often seen at night in this district at that period, but they were harmless bits of bog pine roots, used for burning fish-haunted waters instead of substantial byre or rick.
The sun was barely peeping
round the shoulder of Ben Bhurich when Archie got on to the high bit of tableland where he could look down on the river Awe. The day gave promise of being a very hot one, but as yet a dull white frosty mist lay over the hills, filling up the hollows and corries with its cotton-wool-like masses: every step he took left its trace behind (how often must it have happened in old fighting days that a man has been followed to his death by such trail as this!), and he was soon wet above the knee by the drip from the
heather and long grass. In these days, when salmon are scarce and wary, the frosty morning which ushers in a broiling day is not loved by a fisherman, but at that happy period things were different, and better, and he must have been a novice indeed who could not do something almost any time during the season with the fish in the Awe.
When MacCorquodale reached the watershed, he looked down on a district which, save in one respect, sixty years have done little to change. The dark river, flecked with white here and there, made its rapid way to the sea; beyond it stood up the bare grey-green face of Ben Cruachan; and the woods of Invera we showed, as they show nowadays, against Loch Etive, and the granite face of Bonaw. Far away to the west you can see Morvern, and the higher peaks of Mull. Till quite recently the place must have looked just the same as it has looked for centuries. The railway is the only change-a mighty convenience, but the thin line of iron doubtless takes something from the loneliness of what used to be one of the wildest passes in Scotland.
Archie ran quickly down the hillside till he came to a great rock in the shelter of which lay his rod, with reel and line on it ready for work. Rod and line and fisherman have long been resolved into their component parts, but the reel lies before the writer now- a long wooden one, black painted, wormeaten, but still in good order; it has a large hole in it through which the rod was run. He put on a fly, dark-bodied, with heron-wings, very different to the brilliant doctors and butchers which are chiefly in use now, and began to
fish his pool. Carefully he fished it-a step and a cast-a step and a cast, the while going through the mental process of anticipation at the start, surprise at the negative result of the first half-dozen throws, disappointment when no boil in the water or pull beneath it awaited him at the first likely place. Before, however, disappointment had time to change into disgust he felt the pull, raised his rod a little, and found the strain increase; saw the water open enough to let him catch a glimpse of some part of a salmon, and then as rapidly close.
Archie came up the hill a little to have more command over the fish; a thrill of joyful exultation ran through him, and the frown on his face indicated only concentrated attention. With feet well apart, finger ready to check the line, and eyes following anxiously the point where it, slowly moving, cut the water tight as a strained steel wire, he stood on the bank, perhaps at that moment the happiest man in all the far-stretching parish of Glenorchy and Innishail. But near are joys and sorrows in this world; close together, ever watching mankind, sit Fortuna and the Fates.
From behind a grey rock on the opposite side of the river rose up now a grey man-long of leg, tough in sinew, stern of countenance; no greeting gave he to the fisherman, no friendly congratulations or applause. He stalked down to a convenient boulder, which commanded a good view of the pool, and sat down on it; he got out his pipe-his eye the while glued to the point of interest-and soon the gentle wind carried over to Archie's nostrils the fragrant scent of his tobacco.
A Prime Minister, who, thinking he had a certain majority on a
critical division, finds the Opposition have it instead, could hardly be more overwhelmed than Archie was at this bodeful appearance. Fishing was fairly free at the time we are writing of, because, as a rule, it was of little value, but on this part of the Awe the owner had lately been asserting his rights and warning off trespassers. Archie had offended, and had been caught; had offended again, with the same result; had offended again-and the patience of the authorities had at length been worn out. So the edict had gone forth that if ever again-only once-he was caught dipping a fly in the river, then would he have to leave his little cottage in Glen Nant, and the tiny well-loved farm-that never more on all those wide lands would he find a resting-place for his feet, "Not if you lived for a hundred and seventy years!" added the factor, shaking a quill pen at him. But word had come to Archie the previous night that his enemy the keeper had been summoned to see a dying son far away up at Loch Tulla in the Blackmount, a long day's journey for an active man. And lo! regardless of that affection which is felt by all but the basest of men, this unnatural father was lying in wait for him here!
So it came about that Archibald MacCorquodale stood chained to the river by a big salmon within seventy yards of a man whom he looked on as a natural enemy; from whom he always felt inclined to fly even when merely pursuing his natural lawful occupation. His first thought was to break his line and be off. But what would he gain by that? He would not so shake off his foe. And there was another reason. There is a grim story of a laird of the old school who was busily engaged in playing a very
heavy fish when a messenger came to tell him of the sudden and serious illness of his wife. The fisherman, reasoning that his wife might recover, but that he was never likely to get hold of such a monstrous specimen of the Salar tribe again, could not bring himself to loose his hold, so sent for further tidings. "The mistress is dying," was the answer: but the laird now saw that he was engaged in a struggle with such a creature as Tweedside in all its history had never seen the like of, and again he hardened his heart; and it was only when he heard that all was over that he reluctantly broke, and went up to the house. "She was a good wife to you, laird!" cried a weeping and sympathising retainer. "Ay, she was that, Jeanie, she was a' that!" said the disconsolate widower; "but eh, woman! yon was the varra mucklest fish that eyes of man ever yet saw on Tweed!"
The crofter felt something like the old laird: he had not seen the fish, beyond the merest glimpse of it as it slowly walloped away out into the stream after being hooked, but he judged from the weight put on his hand and arm, and from the strain on the rod, that if it were only once on the bank, good kipper to eat with his porridge would be plentiful in his house for many a day to come. Always provided and this was indeed a very large "if" no one prevented him carrying it off when it was landed. So in a swither of discomfiture and uncertainty Archie played his fish for five or ten minutes, and then, unable to bear the silence any longer, cried out to the man on the other shore
"It's a fine day this!"
"It'll be a day you'll be wishing it was night, before I've done wi'
ye!" was the grim answer that came back, and Archie almost fell into the river at the response.
"It'll be a bad day's work for me this!" he cried out almost in a whine.
"It'll be all that, my man!" replied the keeper, cheerfully.
The fish, so passive hitherto, had behaved as large fish often do behave, he had shown no hurry or undignified alarm. The disagreeable thing he had got into his mouth would soon be swallowed or spat out. So he sailed up and down the pool, unwilling to allow that there was any force guiding or compelling him from above. Then all of a sudden he got irritated, and made a furious rush across and down the stream without breaking water. The stiff unoiled reel screeched as it had never done before, and a red streak ran up the man's thumb as the coarse horse-hair line cut it almost to the bone. The salmon nearly ran aground in the shoaling water on the keeper's side, and then turned and went up the stream again, and the latter saw the great white belly flash under the thin water as the mighty rudder of a tail twisted it round as on a pivot. Something like five feet of blue-brown back came shooting up the pool close to the bank, and then disappeared like a ghost in the deep stream above. Archie thought he had hold of a prize, but the other knew it, and his experienced eye told him that he had just seen the heaviest salmon which had ever come into his ken either in or out of the Awe. "By he is a fish!" he cried to himself, as with straining eyes he followed the wake in the water.
Great, indeed, was this keeper's wrath and indignation. It was bad enough that this poaching
crofter should be at the river at all, but that he should fall on such a piece of luck as this was almost more than mortal man could bear. It made matters still worse for the spectator to think that he had been sitting for half an hour within twenty yards of the fish, and might have been playing him himself - if only he had known. The thought flashed through his brain that perhaps this was the way in which he was to be punished for the elaborate manœuvre by which MacCorquodale had been decoyed to the river.
If Rory MacGilp was miserable, Archibald was in a much more parlous state. He would have felt very diffident at working a salmon before this keeper's critical eye under the most favourable and lawful circumstances, and to do justice to himself he would require the ever-ready help of a thorough ly sympathetic friend. Indeed it would be incorrect to speak at this period of the fish as a captive. Archie was the captive: the creature did what it liked with him; moved up and down the slackwater just as it chose; stopped and sank, and dug its nose down into the bottom when it wanted without asking any leave from the man on the bank. If such things were to be done in the green tree, what might be expected in the dry? if the salmon was all-powerful in the smooth, quiet pool, what would be his proceedings when he went seawards -into the wild rapids, and among the dangerous sunken rocks down the stream? Archie felt he would go down sooner or later-it was merely a question of time; and the perspiration poured from his forehead, his legs shook, and his hands trembled as he moved to and fro
along the grassy bank. Whether he landed it, or whether it broke him, the end would be the same; certainly this time the offence would not be overlooked: he might say farewell to Barrachander, and bonnie Loch Tromlie, and green primrose-haunted Glen Nant.
The fish moved down to the tail of the pool, and sank himself there; he got his nose up-stream, and began to "jig" at the line, each jig taking him a little farther down, and each vibration communicating a dreadful shock to the heart of the man above. "In five minutes," thought Archie, "I'll be likely a mile down, with my rod broken, and that old heathen grinning at me!" Oh, for a friend now!
"Rory!" he cried out softly to his enemy-"Rory!" But no answer came back across the water. Rory sat like a carved statue on his rock.
"Mr MacGilp!-my fingers is cut to the quick! Will ye no pitch a stone in below him and turn him up?" Still there was no answer. "My back's fairly broken!" cried Archie, piteously.
"I'm right glad to hear it," roared back the keeper-" of that same back!"
He's forty pound weight!" cried Archie, appealingly.
"HE'S SIXTY!" screamed Rory, jumping off his rock, and dancing about on the bank. "You poach
ing deevil! I hope he'll break your neck and drown you afterwards!"
“Oh-what'll I do if he goes down?" howled the other man; "he's off-he's off-what'll I do if he goes down?"
The fish lay now on the top of the rapid stream, furiously flapping his tail.
"Give him line!" shouted Rory, "you great!" "But what am I doing?" he cried to himself. "Let him break-I hope he will!" Archie lowered the point of his rod, and the fish-as they so often will-stopped at the strain being taken off. But he was too far down to get back,-foot by foot he walloped down; he was fairly out of the pool, he got into the stream, he struggled against it for a moment, and the next he was raging away down the river : now deep down in it, now showing his huge breadth of tail at the top, turning over and over like a porpoise, careless where he went so long as he got clear.
Archie stood in the old place on the bank with his mouth open and most of his hundred yards of line run out, as incapable of checking its movements as if it had been a hundredweight of iron.
"Follow him! follow him!" roared Rory, forgetting himself again. "Keep him in But
let him alone, you fool!" was again his second thought; "let him be! he'll never get by the point!" The keeper ran down the bank, hopping lightly over the boulders, and never taking his eye off the bit of foaming water where he judged the runaway to be; and Archie, his first stupefaction over, did the same, and got a slight pull on the salmon some two hundred yards farther down.
Rory, when coming up in the morning, had left his rod here, and now got possession of it, and of his gaff, which latter he slung over his back. A little lower the river turned, and the two men and the fish followed the curve, and got the last at any rate-into bad bit of rock-protected stream, dangerous enough now, though
VOL. CLXI.-—NO. DCCCCLXXIX.
much worse in low water. Whatever knowledge the fisherman had of the place was clean driven out of him by the agitation he was in, and it would have been purely by luck, and not by any sort of guidance, that he would have found a safe passage through. But every inch of the passage was known to the other: every rock and shoal was as clearly photographed on his mind as if it lay before him in bodily shape; the information which for fifty years had slowly percolated to his brain was complete; his hands twitched and his heart leapt when he saw the salmon make for a bad bit of water, and he was quite unable to stop himself from shouting out directions, though all the time he was heartily hoping that the fish would break his hold. The advice, which was plentifully accompanied with abuse of Archie, was always immediately followed by denunciation of himself-the giver of it.
"Keep your rod west and bring him in!" roared the keeper; "are ye no' seeing the muckle rock there?"-the said rock being at the time six feet under water. Then to himself, "Whisht, you old fool, and let him cut!" "Let him come in my side, you black thief!" he thundered again, "or he'll be round yon stob!"-" and I hope he will, and be damned to him! If it isn't enough to sicken a fox to see him wi' such a fish as that!"
By this time Archie had got three-quarters of a mile down the river, and was much more exhausted than the fish. What with keeping a tight hold on it when sulking, and hopping among slippery smooth rocks and stones when it was lively, listening to the threatening advice from the other side-the penalty, moreover, which