Plain Fishing by Frank R. Stockton

Story type: Literature

“Well, sir,” said old Peter, as he came out on the porch with his pipe, “so you came here to go fishin’?”

Peter Gruse was the owner of the farm-house where I had arrived that day, just before supper-time. He was a short, strong-built old man, with a pair of pretty daughters, and little gold rings in his ears. Two things distinguished him from the farmers in the country round about: one was the rings in his ears, and the other was the large and comfortable house in which he kept his pretty daughters. The other farmers in that region had fine large barns for their cattle and horses, but very poor houses for their daughters. Old Peter’s ear-rings were indirectly connected with his house. He had not always lived among those mountains. He had been on the sea, where his ears were decorated, and he had travelled a good deal on land, where he had ornamented his mind with many ideas which were not in general use in the part of his State in which he was born. His house stood a little back from the high road, and if a traveller wished to be entertained, Peter was generally willing to take him in, provided he had left his wife and family at home. The old man himself had no objection to wives and children, but his two pretty daughters had.

These young women had waited on their father and myself at supper-time, one continually bringing hot griddle cakes, and the other giving me every opportunity to test the relative merits of the seven different kinds of preserved fruit which, in little glass plates, covered the otherwise unoccupied spaces on the tablecloth. The latter, when she found that there was no further possible way of serving us, presumed to sit down at the corner of the table and begin her supper. But in spite of this apparent humility, which was only a custom of the country, there was that in the general air of the pretty daughters which left no doubt in the mind of the intelligent observer that they stood at the wheel in that house. There was a son of fourteen, who sat at table with us, but he did not appear to count as a member of the family.

“Yes,” I answered, “I understood that there was good fishing hereabout, and, at any rate, I should like to spend a few days among these hills and mountains.”

“Well,” said Peter, “there’s trout in some of our streams, though not as many as there used to be, and there’s hills a plenty, and mountains too, if you choose to walk fur enough. They’re a good deal furder off than they look. What did you bring with you to fish with?”

“Nothing at all,” I answered. “I was told in the town that you were a great fisherman, and that you could let me have all the tackle I would need.”

“Upon my word,” said old Peter, resting his pipe-hand on his knee and looking steadfastly at me, “you’re the queerest fisherman I’ve see’d yet. Nigh every year, some two or three of ’em stop here in the fishin’ season, and there was never a man who didn’t bring his jinted pole, and his reels, and his lines, and his hooks, and his dry-goods flies, and his whiskey-flask with a long strap to it. Now, if you want all these things, I haven’t got ’em.”

“Whatever you use yourself will suit me,” I answered.

“All right, then,” said he. “I’ll do the best I can for you in the mornin’. But it’s plain enough to me that you’re not a game fisherman, or you wouldn’t come here without your tools.”

To this remark I made answer to the effect that, though I was very fond of fishing, my pleasure in it did not depend upon the possession of all the appliances of professional sport.

“Perhaps you think,” said the old man, “from the way I spoke, that I don’t believe them fellers with the jinted poles can ketch fish, but that ain’t so. That old story about the little boy with the pin-hook who ketched all the fish, while the gentleman with the modern improvements, who stood alongside of him, kep’ throwin’ out his beautiful flies and never got nothin’, is a pure lie. The fancy chaps, who must have ev’rythin’ jist so, gen’rally gits fish. But for all that, I don’t like their way of fishin’, and I take no stock in it myself. I’ve been fishin’, on and off, ever since I was a little boy, and I’ve caught nigh every kind there is, from the big jew-fish and cavalyoes down South, to the trout and minnies round about here. But when I ketch a fish, the first thing I do is to try to git him on the hook, and the next thing is to git him out of the water jist as soon as I kin. I don’t put in no time worryin’ him. There’s only two animals in the world that likes to worry smaller creeturs a good while afore they kill ’em; one is the cat, and the other is what they call the game fisherman. This kind of a feller never goes after no fish that don’t mind being ketched. He goes fur them kinds that loves their home in the water and hates most to leave it, and he makes it jist as hard fur ’em as he kin. What the game fisher likes is the smallest kind of a hook, the thinnest line, and a fish that it takes a good while to weaken. The longer the weak’nin’ business kin be spun out, the more the sport. The idee is to let the fish think there’s a chance fur him to git away. That’s jist like the cat with her mouse. She lets the little creetur hop off, but the minnit he gits fur enough away, she jumps on him and jabs him with her claws, and then, if there’s any game left in him, she lets him try again. Of course the game fisher could have a strong line and a stout pole and git his fish in a good sight quicker, if he wanted to, but that wouldn’t be sport. He couldn’t give him the butt and spin him out, and reel him in, and let him jump and run till his pluck is clean worn out. Now, I likes to git my fish ashore with all the pluck in ’em. It makes ’em taste better. And as fur fun, I’ll be bound I’ve had jist as much of that, and more, too, than most of these fellers who are so dreadful anxious to have everythin’ jist right, and think they can’t go fishin’ till they’ve spent enough money to buy a suit of Sunday clothes. As a gen’ral rule they’re a solemn lot, and work pretty hard at their fun. When I work I want to be paid fur it, and when I go in fur fun I want to take it easy and cheerful. Now I wouldn’t say so much agen these fellers,” said old Peter, as he arose and put his empty pipe on a little shelf under the porch-roof, “if it wasn’t for one thing, and that is, that they think that their kind of fishin’ is the only kind worth considerin’. The way they look down upon plain Christian fishin’ is enough to rile a hitchin’-post. I don’t want to say nothin’ agen no man’s way of attendin’ to his own affairs, whether it’s kitchen-gardenin’, or whether it’s fishin’, if he says nothin’ agen my way; but when he looks down on me, and grins at me, I want to haul myself up, and grin at him, if I kin. And in this case, I kin. I s’pose the house-cat and the cat-fisher (by which I don’t mean the man who fishes for cat-fish) was both made as they is, and they can’t help it; but that don’t give ’em no right to put on airs before other bein’s, who gits their meat with a square kill. Good-night. And sence I’ve talked so much about it, I’ve a mind to go fishin’ with you to-morrow myself.”

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The next morning found old Peter of the same mind, and after breakfast he proceeded to fit me out for a day of what he called “plain Christian trout-fishin’.” He gave me a reed rod, about nine feet long, light, strong, and nicely balanced. The tackle he produced was not of the fancy order, but his lines were of fine strong linen, and his hooks were of good shape, clean and sharp, and snooded to the lines with a neatness that indicated the hand of a man who had been where he learned to wear little gold rings in his ears.

“Here are some of these feather insects,” he said, “which you kin take along if you like.” And he handed me a paper containing a few artificial flies. “They’re pretty nat’ral,” he said, “and the hooks is good. A man who came here fishin’ gave ’em to me, but I shan’t want ’em to-day. At this time of year grasshoppers is the best bait in the kind of place where we’re goin’ to fish. The stream, after it comes down from the mountain, runs through half a mile of medder land before it strikes into the woods agen. A grasshopper is a little creetur that’s got as much conceit as if his jinted legs was fish-poles, and he thinks he kin jump over this narrer run of water whenever he pleases; but he don’t always do it, and then if he doesn’t git snapped up by the trout that lie along the banks in the medder, he is floated along into the woods, where there’s always fish enough to come to the second table.”

Having got me ready, Peter took his own particular pole, which he assured me he had used for eleven years, and hooking on his left arm a good-sized basket, which his elder pretty daughter had packed with cold meat, bread, butter, and preserves, we started forth for a three-mile walk to the fishing-ground. The day was a favorable one for our purpose, the sky being sometimes over-clouded, which was good for fishing, and also for walking on a highroad; and sometimes bright, which was good for effects of mountain-scenery. Not far from the spot where old Peter proposed to begin our sport, a small frame-house stood by the roadside, and here the old man halted and entered the open door without knocking or giving so much as a premonitory stamp. I followed, imitating my companion in leaving my pole outside, which appeared to be the only ceremony that the etiquette of those parts required of visitors. In the room we entered, a small man in his shirt-sleeves sat mending a basket-handle. He nodded to Peter, and Peter nodded to him.

“We’ve come up a-fishin’,” said the old man. “Kin your boys give us some grasshoppers?”

“I don’t know that they’ve got any ready ketched,” said he, “for I reckon I used what they had this mornin’. But they kin git you some. Here, Dan, you and Sile go and ketch Mr. Gruse and this young man some grasshoppers. Take that mustard-box, and see that you git it full.”

Peter and I now took seats, and the conversation began about a black cow which Peter had to sell, and which the other was willing to buy if the old man would trade for sheep, which animals, however, the basket-mender did not appear just at that time to have in his possession. As I was not very much interested in this subject, I walked to the back-door and watched two small boys in scanty shirts and trousers, and ragged straw hats, who were darting about in the grass catching grasshoppers, of which insects, judging by the frequent pounces of the boys, there seemed a plentiful supply.

“Got it full?” said their father, when the boys came in.

“Crammed,” said Dan.

Old Peter took the little can, pressed the top firmly on, put it in his coat-tail pocket, and rose to go. “You’d better think about that cow, Barney,” said he. He said nothing to the boys about the box of bait; but I could not let them catch grasshoppers for us for nothing, and I took a dime from my pocket, and gave it to Dan. Dan grinned, and Sile looked sheepishly happy, and at the sight of the piece of silver an expression of interest came over the face of the father. “Wait a minute,” said he, and he went into a little room that seemed to be a kitchen. Returning, he brought with him a small string of trout. “Do you want to buy some fish?” he said. “These is nice fresh ones. I ketched ’em this mornin’.”

To offer to sell fish to a man who is just about to go out to catch them for himself might, in most cases, be considered an insult, but it was quite evident that nothing of the kind was intended by Barney. He probably thought that if I bought grasshoppers, I might buy fish. “You kin have ’em for a quarter,” he said.

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It was derogatory to my pride to buy fish at such a moment, but the man looked very poor, and there was a shade of anxiety on his face which touched me. Old Peter stood by without saying a word. “It might be well,” I said, turning to him, “to buy these fish, for we may not catch enough for supper.”

“Such things do happen,” said the old man.

“Well,” said I, “if we have these we shall feel safe in any case.” And I took the fish and gave the man a quarter. It was not, perhaps, a professional act, but the trout were well worth the money, and I felt that I was doing a deed of charity.

Old Peter and I now took our rods, and crossed the road into an enclosed field, and thence into a wide stretch of grass land, bounded by hills in front of us and to the right, while a thick forest lay to the left. We had walked but a short distance, when Peter said: “I’ll go down into the woods, and try my luck there, and you’d better go along up stream, about a quarter of a mile, to where it’s rocky. P’raps you ain’t used to fishin’ in the woods, and you might git your line cotched. You’ll find the trout’ll bite in the rough water.”

“Where is the stream?” I asked.

“This is it,” he said, pointing to a little brook, which was scarcely too wide for me to step across, “and there’s fish right here, but they’re hard to ketch, fur they git plenty of good livin’ and are mighty sassy about their eatin’. But you kin ketch ’em up there.”

Old Peter now went down toward the woods, while I walked up the little stream. I had seen trout-brooks before, but never one so diminutive as this. However, when I came nearer to the point where the stream issued from between two of the foot-hills of the mountains, which lifted their forest-covered heights in the distance, I found it wider and shallower, breaking over its rocky bottom in sparkling little cascades.

Fishing in such a jolly little stream, surrounded by this mountain scenery, and with the privileges of the beautiful situation all to myself, would have been a joy to me if I had had never a bite. But no such ill-luck befell me. Peter had given me the can of grasshoppers after putting half of them into his own bait-box, and these I used with much success. It was grasshopper season, and the trout were evidently on the lookout for them. I fished in the ripples under the little waterfalls; and every now and then I drew out a lively trout. Most of these were of moderate size, and some of them might have been called small. The large ones probably fancied the forest shades, where old Peter went. But all I caught were fit for the table, and I was very well satisfied with the result of my sport.

About noon I began to feel hungry, and thought it time to look up the old man, who had the lunch-basket. I walked down the bank of the brook, and some time before I reached the woods I came to a place where it expanded to a width of about ten feet. The water here was very clear, and the motion quiet, so that I could easily see to the bottom, which did not appear to be more than a foot below the surface. Gazing into this transparent water, as I walked, I saw a large trout glide across the stream, and disappear under the grassy bank which overhung the opposite side. I instantly stopped. This was a much larger fish than any I had caught, and I determined to try for him.

I stepped back from the bank, so as to be out of sight, and put a fine grasshopper on my hook; then I lay, face downward, on the grass, and worked myself slowly forward until I could see the middle of the stream; then quietly raising my pole, I gave my grasshopper a good swing, as if he had made a wager to jump over the stream at its widest part. But as he certainly would have failed in such an ambitious endeavor, especially if he had been caught by a puff of wind, I let him come down upon the surface of the water, a little beyond the middle of the brook. Grasshoppers do not sink when they fall into the water, and so I kept this fellow upon the surface, and gently moved him along, as if, with all the conceit taken out of him by the result of his ill-considered leap, he was ignominiously endeavoring to swim to shore. As I did this, I saw the trout come out from under the bank, move slowly toward the grasshopper, and stop directly under him. Trembling with anxiety and eager expectation, I endeavored to make the movements of the insect still more natural, and, as far as I was able, I threw into him a sudden perception of his danger, and a frenzied desire to get away. But, either the trout had had all the grasshoppers he wanted, or he was able, from long experience, to perceive the difference between a natural exhibition of emotion and a histrionic imitation of it, for he slowly turned, and, with a few slight movements of his tail, glided back under the bank. In vain did the grasshopper continue his frantic efforts to reach the shore; in vain did he occasionally become exhausted, and sink a short distance below the surface; in vain did he do everything that he knew, to show that he appreciated what a juicy and delicious morsel he was, and how he feared that the trout might yet be tempted to seize him; the fish did not come out again.

Then I withdrew my line, and moved back from the stream. I now determined to try Mr. Trout with a fly, and I took out the paper old Peter Gruse had given me. I did not know exactly what kind of winged insects were in order at this time of the year, but I was sure that yellow butterflies were not particular about just what month it was, so long as the sun shone warmly. I therefore chose that one of Peter’s flies which was made of the yellowest feathers, and, removing the snood and hook from my line, I hastily attached this fly, which was provided with a hook quite suitable for my desired prize. Crouching on the grass, I again approached the brook. Gaily flitting above the glassy surface of the water, in all the fancied security of tender youth and innocence, came my yellow fly. Backward and forward over the water he gracefully flew, sometimes rising a little into the air, as if to view the varied scenery of the woods and mountains, and then settling for a moment close to the surface, to better inspect his glittering image as it came up from below, and showing in his every movement his intense enjoyment of summer-time and life.

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Out from his dark retreat now came the trout, and settling quietly at the bottom of the brook, he appeared to regard the venturesome insect with a certain interest. But he must have detected the iron-barb of vice beneath the mask of blitheful innocence, for, after a short deliberation, the trout turned and disappeared under the bank. As he slowly moved away, he seemed to be bigger than ever. I must catch that fish! Surely he would bite at something. It was quite evident that his mind was not wholly unsusceptible to emotions emanating from an awakening appetite, and I believed that if he saw exactly what he wanted, he would not neglect an opportunity of availing himself of it. But what did he want? I must certainly find out. Drawing myself back again, I took off the yellow fly, and put on another. This was a white one, with black blotches, like a big miller moth which had fallen into an ink-pot. It was surely a conspicuous creature, and as I crept forward and sent it swooping over the stream, I could not see how any trout, with a single insectivorous tooth in his head, could fail to rise to such an occasion. But this trout did not rise. He would not even come out from under his bank to look at the swiftly flitting creature. He probably could see it well enough from where he was.

But I was not to be discouraged. I put on another fly; a green one with a red tail. It did not look like any insect that I had ever seen, but I thought that the trout might know more about such things than I. He did come out to look at it, but probably considering it a product of that modern aestheticism which sacrifices natural beauty to mediaeval crudeness of color and form, he retired without evincing any disposition to countenance this style of art.

It was evident that it would be useless to put on any other flies, for the two I had left were a good deal bedraggled, and not nearly so attractive as those I had used. Just before leaving the house that morning, Peter’s son had given me a wooden match-box filled with worms for bait, which, although I did not expect to need, I put in my pocket. As a last resort I determined to try the trout with a worm. I selected the plumpest and most comely of the lot; I put a new hook on my line; I looped him about it in graceful coils, and cautiously approached the water, as before. Now a worm never attempts to wildly leap across a flowing brook, nor does he flit in thoughtless innocence through the sunny air, and over the bright transparent stream. If he happens to fall into the water, he sinks to the bottom; and if he be of a kind not subject to drowning, he generally endeavors to secrete himself under a stone, or to burrow in the soft mud. With this knowledge of his nature I gently dropped my worm upon the surface of the stream, and then allowed him slowly to sink. Out sailed the trout from under the bank, but stopped before reaching the sinking worm. There was a certain something in his action which seemed to indicate a disgust at the sight of such plebeian food, and a fear seized me that he might now swim off, and pay no further attention to my varied baits. Suddenly there was a ripple in the water, and I felt a pull on the line. Instantly I struck; and then there was a tug. My blood boiled through every vein and artery, and I sprang to my feet. I did not give him the butt; I did not let him run with yards of line down the brook; nor reel him in, and let him make another mad course up stream; I did not turn him over as he jumped into the air; nor endeavor, in any way, to show him that I understood those tricks, which his depraved nature prompted him to play upon the angler. With an absolute dependence upon the strength of old Peter’s tackle, I lifted the fish. Out he came from the water, which held him with a gentle suction as if unwilling to let him go, and then he whirled through the air like a meteor flecked with rosy fire, and landed on the fresh green grass a dozen feet behind me. Down on my knees I dropped before him as he tossed and rolled, his beautiful spots and colors glistening in the sun. He was truly a splendid trout, fully a foot long, round and heavy. Carefully seizing him, I easily removed the hook from the bony roof of his capacious mouth thickly set with sparkling teeth, and then I tenderly killed him, with all his pluck, as old Peter would have said, still in him.

I covered the rest of the fish in my basket with wet plantain leaves, and laid my trout king on this cool green bed. Then I hurried off to the old man, whom I saw coming out of the woods. When I opened my basket and showed him what I had caught, Peter looked surprised, and, taking up the trout, examined it.

“Why, this is a big fellow,” he said. “At first I thought it was Barney Sloat’s boss trout, but it isn’t long enough for him. Barney showed me his trout, that gen’rally keeps in a deep pool, where a tree has fallen over the stream down there. Barney tells me he often sees him, and he’s been tryin’ fur two years to ketch him, but he never has, and I say he never will, fur them big trout’s got too much sense to fool round any kind of victuals that’s got a string to it. They let a little fish eat all he wants, and then they eat him. How did you ketch this one?”

I gave an account of the manner of the capture, to which Peter listened with interest and approval.

“If you’d a stood off and made a cast at that feller, you’d either have caught him at the first flip, which isn’t likely, as he didn’t seem to want no feather flies, or else you’d a skeered him away. That’s all well enough in the tumblin’ water, where you gen’rally go fur trout, but the man that’s got the true feelin’ fur fish will try to suit his idees to theirs, and if he keeps on doin’ that, he’s like to learn a thing or two that may do him good. That’s a fine fish, and you ketched him well. I’ve got a lot of ’em, but nothin’ of that heft.”

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After luncheon we fished for an hour or two with no result worth recording, and then we started for home. A couple of partridges ran across the road some distance ahead of us, and these gave Peter an idea.

“Do you know,” said he, “if things go on as they’re goin’ on now, that there’ll come a time when it won’t be considered high-toned sport to shoot a bird slam-bang dead. The game gunners will pop ’em with little harpoons, with long threads tied to ’em, and the feller that can tire out his bird, and haul him in with the longest and thinnest piece of spool thread, will be the crackest sportsman.”

At this point I remarked to my companion that perhaps he was a little hard on the game fishermen.

“Well,” said old Peter, with a smile on his corrugated visage, “I reckon I’d have to do a lot of talkin’ before I’d git even with ’em, fur the way they give me the butt for my style of fishin’. What I say behind their backs I say to their faces. I seed one of these fellers once with a fish on his hook, that he was runnin’ up an’ down the stream like a chased chicken. ‘Why don’t you pull him in?’ says I. ‘And break my rod an’ line?’ says he. ‘Why don’t you have a stronger line and pole?’ says I. ‘There wouldn’t be no science in that,’ says he. ‘If it’s your science you want to show off,’ says I, ‘you ought to fish for mud eels. There’s more game in ’em than there is in any other fish round here, and as they’re mighty lively out of water you might play one of ’em fur half an hour after you got him on shore, and it would take all your science to keep him from reelin’ up his end of the line faster than you could yourn.’”

When we reached the farm the old man went into the barn, and I took the fish into the house. I found the two pretty daughters in the large room, where the eating and some of the cooking was done. I opened my basket, and with great pride showed them the big trout I had caught. They evidently thought it was a large fish, but they looked at each other, and smiled in a way that I did not understand. I had expected from them, at least, as much admiration for my prize and my skill as their father had shown.

“You don’t seem to think much of this fine trout that I took such trouble to catch,” I remarked.

“You mean,” said the elder girl, with a laugh, “that you bought of Barney Sloat.”

I looked at her in astonishment.

“Barney was along here to-day,” she said, “and he told about your buying your fish of him.”

“Bought of him!” I exclaimed, indignantly. “A little string of fish at the bottom of the basket I bought of him, but all the others, and this big one, I caught myself.”

“Oh, of course,” said the pretty daughter, “bought the little ones and caught all the big ones!”

“Barney Sloat ought to have kept his mouth shut,” said the younger pretty daughter, looking at me with an expression of pity. “He’d got his money, and he hadn’t no business to go telling on people. Nobody likes that sort of thing. But this big fish is a real nice one, and you shall have it for your supper.”

“Thank you,” I said, with dignity, and left the room.

I did not intend to have any further words with these young women on this subject, but I cannot deny that I was annoyed and mortified. This was the result of a charitable action. I think I was never more proud of anything than of catching that trout; and it was a good deal of a downfall to suddenly find myself regarded as a mere city man fishing with a silver hook. But, after all, what did it matter?

The boy who did not seem to be accounted a member of the family came into the house, and as he passed me he smiled good-humoredly, and said: “Buyed ’em!”

I felt like throwing a chair at him, but refrained out of respect to my host. Before supper the old man came out on to the porch where I was sitting. “It seems,” said he, “that my gals has got it inter their heads that you bought that big fish of Barney Sloat, and as I can’t say I seed you ketch it, they’re not willin’ to give in, ‘specially as I didn’t git no such big one. ‘Tain’t wise to buy fish when you’re goin’ fishin’ yourself. It’s pretty certain to tell agen you.”

“You ought to have given me that advice before,” I said, somewhat shortly. “You saw me buy the fish.”

“You don’t s’pose,” said old Peter, “that I’m goin’ to say anythin’ to keep money out of my neighbor’s pockets. We don’t do that way in these parts. But I’ve told the gals they’re not to speak another word about it, so you needn’t give your mind no worry on that score. And now let’s go in to supper. If you’re as hungry as I am, there won’t be many of them fish left fur breakfast.”

That evening, as we were sitting smoking on the porch, old Peter’s mind reverted to the subject of the unfounded charge against me. “It goes pretty hard,” he remarked, “to have to stand up and take a thing you don’ like when there’s no call fur it. It’s bad enough when there is a call fur it. That matter about your fish buyin’ reminds me of what happened two summers ago to my sister, or ruther to her two little boys–or, more correct yit, to one of ’em. Them was two cur’ous little boys. They was allus tradin’ with each other. Their father deals mostly in horses, and they must have got it from him. At the time I’m tellin’ of they’d traded everythin’ they had, and when they hadn’t nothin’ else left to swap they traded names. Joe he took Johnny’s name, and Johnny he took Joe’s. Jist about when they’d done this, they both got sick with sumthin’ or other, the oldest one pretty bad, the other not much. Now there ain’t no doctor inside of twenty miles of where my sister lives. But there’s one who sometimes has a call to go through that part of the country, and the people about there is allus very glad when they chance to be sick when he comes along. Now this good luck happened to my sister, fur the doctor come by jist at this time. He looks into the state of the boys, and while their mother has gone downstairs he mixes some medicine he has along with him. ‘What’s your name?’ he says to the oldest boy when he’d done it. Now as he’d traded names with his brother, fair and square, he wasn’t goin’ back on the trade, and he said, ‘Joe.’ ‘And my name’s Johnny,’ up and says the other one. Then the doctor he goes and gives the bottle of medicine to their mother, and says he: ‘This medicine is fur Joe. You must give him a tablespoonful every two hours. Keep up the treatment, and he’ll be all right. As fur Johnny, there’s nothin’ much the matter with him. He don’t need no medicine.’ And then he went away.

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Every two hours after that Joe, who wasn’t sick worth mentionin’, had to swallow a dose of horrid stuff, and pretty soon he took to his bed, and Johnny he jist played round and got well in the nat’ral way. Joe’s mother kept up the treatment, gittin’ up in the night to feed that stuff to him; but the poor little boy got wuss and wuss, and one mornin’ he says to his mother, says he: ‘Mother, I guess I’m goin’ to die, and I’d ruther do that than take any more of that medicine, and I wish you’d call Johnny and we’ll trade names back agen, and if he don’t want to come and do it, you kin tell him he kin keep the old minkskin I gave him to boot, on account of his name havin’ a Wesley in it.’ ‘Trade names,’ says his mother, ‘what do you mean by that?’ And then he told her what he and Johnny had done. ‘And did you ever tell anybody about this?’ says she. ‘Nobody but Dr. Barnes,’ says he. ‘After that I got sick and forgot it.’ When my sister heard that, an idee struck into her like you put a fork into an apple dumplin’. Traded names, and told the doctor! She’d all along thought it strange that the boy that seemed wuss should be turned out, and the other one put under treatment; but it wasn’t fur her to set up her opinion agen that of a man like Dr. Barnes. Down she went, in about seventeen jumps, to where Eli Timmins, the hired man, was ploughin’ in the corn. ‘Take that horse out of that,’ she hollers, ‘and you may kill him if you have to, but git Dr. Barnes here before my little boy dies.’ When the doctor come he heard the story, and looked at the sick youngster, and then says he: ‘If he’d kept his minkskin, and not hankered after a Wesley to his name, he’d a had a better time of it. Stop the treatment, and he’ll be all right.’ Which she did; and he was. Now it seems to me that this is a good deal like your case. You’ve had to take a lot of medicine that didn’t belong to you, and I guess it’s made you feel pretty bad; but I’ve told my gals to stop the treatment, and you’ll be all right in the mornin’. Good-night. Your candlestick is on the kitchen table.”

For two days longer I remained in this neighborhood, wandering alone over the hills, and up the mountain-sides, and by the brooks, which tumbled and gurgled through the lonely forest. Each evening I brought home a goodly supply of trout, but never a great one like the noble fellow for which I angled in the meadow stream.

On the morning of my departure I stood on the porch with old Peter waiting for the arrival of the mail driver, who was to take me to the nearest railroad town.

“I don’t want to say nothin’,” remarked the old man, “that would keep them fellers with the jinted poles from stoppin’ at my house when they comes to these parts a-fishin’. I ain’t got no objections to their poles; ’tain’t that. And I don’t mind nuther their standin’ off, and throwin’ their flies as fur as they’ve a mind to; that’s not it. And it ain’t even the way they have of worryin’ their fish. I wouldn’t do it myself, but if they like it, that’s their business. But what does rile me is the cheeky way in which they stand up and say that there isn’t no decent way of fishin’ but their way. And that to a man that’s ketched more fish, of more different kinds, with more game in ’em, and had more fun at it, with a lot less money, and less tomfoolin’ than any fishin’ feller that ever come here and talked to me like an old cat tryin’ to teach a dog to ketch rabbits. No, sir; agen I say that I don’t take no money fur entertainin’ the only man that ever come out here to go a-fishin’ in a plain, Christian way. But if you feel tetchy about not payin’ nothin’, you kin send me one of them poles in three pieces, a good strong one, that’ll lift Barney Sloat’s trout, if ever I hook him.”

I sent him the rod; and next summer I am going out to see him use it.

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