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he would have to pay for his sport ever being present in his mindhe thought he had never had such a time of it since he was born, and felt that the hardest day's work he had ever done was child's play to what he was going through.
"If I was only quit of this cursed fish for good and all!" he now thought to himself; "ay, if I was lying on my back wi' lumbago like Johnnie Ross, as I was pittyin' sae much!"
The playing of a salmon is not often monotonous, and is sometimes exciting in the very highest degree, but, alas! how hopeless a task it is to attempt to communicate the exhilaration by written words! The reel "screeches" or "whirrs," according as it is welloiled, or a rusty implement like our poacher's. The line "cuts the water," the gaff "went with a soft plunge" into the thick back. "Fresh up from the sea with the lice on him." All these words are appropriate and expressive, and they have been used over and over again hundreds and hundreds of times; scarce an account of a day's salmon-fishing is complete without them. The horrid vibration of the line as a big fish "jigs" at it, and every thrill runs like an electric shock right into the very heart of the rod-holder, has been referred to in almost every account of a tussle with a heavy salmon. How stale the words are! how difficult to put in fresher or better ones! and yet how very freshly every individual shock comes home in practice! Each jig you think will be the last -will find out the weak place in the hold, or the gear, and he will be off. We were once playing a big salmon in a very heavy rough pool: he was nearly done, and was being slowly wound up to the gaffsman kneeling in front, when
he gave two or three horrid wriggles and slipped off the hook. The heavy stream kept the line pretty tight, and the other man never noticed what had happened, or that the rod-top was straight. We suddenly jerked the fly out of the water, right in front of him, as if preparing to make a new cast, and we shall never forget his face as he turned round and stared at us. And we would not like to put down here what he said. But what language-what eloquence could do justice to such a two minutes' incident in life!
What a cold blooded animal must that acquaintance of Mr Stoddart's have been who considered the hooking of a fish to be the only thing worth accomplishing, and who was accustomed then to "hand the rod to an attendant," to spare himself what he was pleased to call the "drudgery of playing it! How easily might a master of the English language utterly fail to convey to his audience almost any part of the effect produced on him at times when playing a great salmon in a wide, rough, rock-sprinkled river! He has him well on-the fish of the season-the fish of many seasons -perhaps of his life. The next hour will see him the happiest or the most miserable of men. Think of the feelings of the late Mr Dennison not a novice but a fine fisherman-when, after eight hours' work on the Ness, the handle of his reel caught in his watch-chain, and the salmon broke him-the salmon of his life escaped! Grilse must get off at times, and ten, and twenty, and even thirty pounders, but surely monsters ought not to be allowed to escape and make a man's life a howling desolation for a week, with a mournful reminiscence attached to it ever after
wards. The very magnitude of such calamities sometimes makes people preternaturally calm we have seen a friend, not remark able for extreme moderation in his language, reel up the late tightly held, and now merely dancing, fly after a long fruitlessly ending battle, without saying a word. Like the man who, pulling up at the top of a long hill, looked back and saw the flour which ought to have been in his cart whitening it for a mile-he was not equal to it. Often fish escape through no fault of the fisherman, often through his want of skill, but what when the loss is to be put down to pure carelessness? Think of the feelings of those hapless beings-we heard of another of them the other day-who, when putting the line on the reel, omit to fasten the one to the other, and see the salmon go off with the eighteenth part of a mile of cord trailing behind him! The last victim of this sort we know of was standing on a bridge and couldn't follow. John Bright is said to have taken a header after a line so disappearing.
On a big river a man will have 120 yards of line on his reel : seldom, indeed, will he require the whole of this. But if even eighty yards are run out the fish is a long way from you, and with a strong wind blowing down the stream it is very difficult to know what strain you are putting on the tackle. What a moment is that when-at such a distance—a salmon suddenly turns and comes back at you, with every chance in his favour of shaking out a lightholding hook, or getting round a rock or tree! What a dreadful sight is a big salmon jumping just opposite you, when your line lies in a huge drowned bag far below you both! worse than jiggering or
anything else that! There is a good illustration of what we mean in a plate in Scrope's 'Days and Nights of Salmon-Fishing,' but the angler looks singularly calm for such an emergency.
At six o'clock Archie rose his fish; at half-past eight he was more than a mile down the river, pretty well well beaten. He had passed through all the mental phases we have spoken of-apprehension, hope, and deadly fear; and now, after all this manœuvring, it seemed as if the end had come, and he would be able to reel up-what he had left-and go home to make arrangements for his "flitting." The fish made a wild rush up the river, turned above a big upstanding stone, and then swam slowly down again. The line touched the stone, and Archie could not clear it; the surface was smooth, and it still ran a little, but the end was near: unless the salmon at once retraced his path, he was a free salmon soon.
A good spring landed Rory out on a green-topped slippery boulder with twelve inches of water running over it. He heard the reel opposite give out its contents in sudden uncertain jerks; he caught sight of a huge bar of yellowishwhite coming wobbling down towards him-lost it-saw it again, and delivered his stroke. came the great, wriggling, curling mass-bright silver now-out of the river: with both hands close to the gaff-head, he half lifted, half dragged the fish to shore, struggling, and all but losing his footing in the passage; then up the bank with it till he was able to lie down on it and get his hand into its gills.
Twenty minutes later Archie, with a sinking heart, had crossed the bridge of Awe and travelled
more he had a reprieve, and he wondered how it was he did not feel happier. During the exciting fight he had many a time pictured to himself the little house from which he would be banished at Whitsunday, its rough meadow in front, and the peat-stacks, and the sunny untidy bit of garden, half filled with currant bushes and ribes and southernwood, over which the bees came in the gloaming, slow flying after their afternoon labour on the moor. Now he thought only of the battle he had won, which was not to bring him in any honour now, or happy reminiscences afterwards.
"Deed, I'll never have the chance of doing the like of yon again!" muttered the poor crofter to himself.
GILFRID W. HARTLEY.
Note. The writer would like to add that he knows who the chief guardian of the Awe was at the period of this sketch. The real keeper was a very different man from the entirely imaginary one here depicted, and it is only by a kind of poetical-or prose-licence that the latter is pushed into a position which he never occupied in the flesh.-G. W. H.
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL.
DEEP in the Australian Alps is the little town of Omeo. The hills around are scored with workedout and long-forsaken gold mines; here and there the thud of the pick may still be heard issuing from some deep shaft; but most of the claims are deserted, and the men who worked them swept away towards other adventures, or lying quiet and ambitionless under the Gippsland sod.
Far up the mountain, where the sarsaparilla hangs from the gumtrees its ragged flame of blue, is a deserted mine; great heaps of yellow mullock line the shaft's mouth; above, the windlass rots out its broken existence; and farther in the shadow an uneven mound, a broad crack, a post with a piece of tin and the name "Battista " scrawled upon it, mark a grave.
One of the early rushes had brought Battista to Australia, and drifted him to the little mining camp among the Gippsland hills. The men had laughed at his highpointed hat with its flapping curves, and at his blue-and-gold image of the Madonna; but Battista had wandered under the gum - trees, and paid scant heed to them. Sometimes he had stooped to pick up a piece of quartz and rub it absently on his sleeve; and when the evening came he had taken up his shepherd's pipe and sounded once more the airs he had played in far-off Abruzzi.
At dawn, as Battista stood and watched the sun flame up in the east, and fall in a broad yellow stream upon the Madonna's image, the thought came to him that there where the ray fell he would
At first he could not understand what had happened: afterwards, when he realised, he took his broad keen-edged knife, and laying it at the Madonna's feet, begged her to bless it, and having crossed himself, turned away and went down the mountain-side till he reached the camp. He touched the American on the arm and pointed to his knife; the man from the States laughed lightly; then they drew aside and fought together, and Battista's foot slipped so that his enemy escaped him ; but that evening the American sold the mine to Termater Bill the storekeeper for three long drinks and a new swag, going away to try his luck elsewhere. As for Battista, he returned once more to his claim at the foot of the ragged-breasted gum-trees, and here it was that Termater Bill found him.
"I've jest cum," he said, sitting down on a great heap of mullock, "to talk over that blanky claim. I reckon meself there is gold in it."
But Battista answered that, gold or no gold, the mine was his, and he would kill any one who tried to take it from him.
Termater Bill was silent for a
while, and spat meditatively down