Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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that he has been unjustly attacked, and so on. When Captain Hope-
Johnstone is Steward of a meeting all interested in it may rest com-
fortably certain that nothing escapes his observation, and that if
inquiry into anything doubtful is necessary that inquiry will be
made, as also that it will be conducted with absolute impartiality
and the shrewdest discrimination. A man does not ride for thirty-
three years, has not passed through the apprenticeship of Kingsbury,
Bromley, Croydon, etc., without seeing a good many strange things
and learning a great deal in various ways. The mere knowledge
that such a Steward is on duty checks the propensities of those who
would like to travel devious paths if they dared.

I remember asking Captain Hope-Johnstone if he betted much
when in the thick of the fray. Riding constantly, as he did, a man
comes to know the form of horses ^and of jockeys, and should not

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seldom get on the track of a good thing — so far as any horse ever is
good in this sense. ** No ; I never bothered about betting," was his
reply. " Sometimes, if I could get 10 to i about an even-money
chance, I had a fiver on ; but that was all."

Liked and respected by all who know him, Wenty Hope-
Johnstone remains the best of good fellows and good sportsmen.


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There were once two men who lived near a chalk stream. Both
were men of means, of middle age, and of some local importance.
One was a baronet and a director of the Great Mudland Railway, the
other was a parson. Both were fishermen — No. The Rev. the Hon.
Philip Harington Foljambe was a fisherman ; Sir Hardman Testie,
of Red Knights, was just a man who fished.

He had four miles of the Twist to fish in : the Twist, beloved of
all dry-fly artists who can buy, rent, or — or contrive the delights of
casting in its dappled reaches, its slumberous pools where the
** pounders " lie darkling below the tumult of the lasher. Four miles
of the Twist to fish in, and the haughty privilege of ordering off any
fellow- creature whom he caught doing likewise. He might ha\-e
been happy, one would think ?

But oh ! as the song says — ** If it wasn't for the man next
door ! "

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The Bshing rights of the glebe meadows belonged to Canon
Foljambe (he was an honorary canon among other things). And
when he was not pounding about the parish of Slapper (which was
most of it comprised in the estate of Red Knights) — when, I say, he
was not hastening to comfort the stricken and to urge the backslider
— hastening on a bicycle in an apostolic undress that included suit-
ably austere knickerbockers, and what ladies call ** a black sailor
hat" — the canon was fishing. Fishing with an airy touch, with a
supple control, as of a grass-widow on the affections of a wary
admirer. Fishing with a second-hand rod tied up at the joints with
bits of string. Fishing — confound his priestcraft! — with •a success
faintly praised, bitterly grudged, by his neighbour, whose bills from
Hardy were distracting merely to read (and would have been more
distracting to pay) ; whose fly went in with a plop and a flump, and
came out with a fluther and a scrape. Well, well ! We cannot be
g^eat executants in all directions. Sir Hardman was a pillar, or say
a sandbag, in the fabric of commerce: he had made a fortune, and
a name, and a handle to it. The Hon. Philip didn't sweat and pant
after these prizes. He had loafed and dandered on till his charm
of manner and a cousinly viscount had foisted him into this soft
sinecure — and there subsided on his luck.

Well might he rest and be thankful and ask no more of fortune.
He had only a mile of water, true ; but the best on the river — clear
of weed — abundantly stocked — too close to the rectory windows for
poachers. They poached Sir Hardman's four-mile beat instead I
(The baronet was thrifty — a Hunks, if you like— and would not pay
a. river- watcher's wages.) In all ways the trend of circumstance
favoured the parson, and accounted for his triumphs ; luck, all luck.
Sir Hardman was ready to swear. Indeed, he was ready to swear
vvithout any further defined grounds for the proceeding, as, much
embarrassed by his sumptuous tackle, he clambered over the river-
side stile one evening. The time was spring, the fly was up, his
creel was almost empty, and the canon was coming over the bridge,
bulging with satisfaction as usual, thought the baronet, who himself
bulged unalterably and with no satisfaction at all — some outworks of
his figure always would protrude from behind the ambush whence
he endeavoured to stalk an astute " two-pounder.*'

" What luck ? " said the layman, with a snarl.

'* What sport ? " said the priest, with a smile, as they advanced
towards each other, and met in the middle of the bridge — neutral
territory that divided their fishing grounds.

** No luck at all," said Sir Hardman bitterly.

** Nor I," said the bland canon, "but I've got fourteen all
the same — beauties, six or seven of them" — and he displayed

wo. cxxix. VOL. xxii." April 1906 C C

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his creel. They were beauties ! ** Let's look at yours," he

The miserable magnate complied.

** Ha ! " said the rector, cheerily, ** you've had a lot of practice
to-day, I see."

** Dashed sight too much," snapped the baronet.

** Not quite enough, I think," the rector suavely corrected him.

" Enough what ? " cried Sir Hardman.

" Fish," said Mr. Foljambe, getting over the stile.

" What for ? " shouted the other.

" Dinner," said the Rev. Philip, over his shoulder as he walked
away. Then he relented and called behind him, '* Did you get a
bow from the Archdeacon to-day, Sir Hardman ? "

" No," said the baronet, seemingly mollified. ** He cut me

" Try him with a * Fisherman's Curse,' " advised the rector.

*' I have," said Sir Hardman. " All I knew, at least ! "

And on this pleasantry they parted. Sir Hardman felt better;
he had capped the parson's joke, and the point was at his own
expense — to be able to get a laugh against himself makes a man feel
magnanimous. He wasn't really a bad sort, Sir Hardman.

The baronet stood on the bridge to light a cigar ; he |>aused,
and puffed, and his anger rankled and rose again as he watched his
rival's satisfied back diminishing across the rectory meadows. A
man's back expresses so much more than his face. There he
strode, with the gait of ownership, along his goodly heritage, and
his neighbour sat on the bridge breaking the Tenth Commandment,
and (what is a deal wors^ breaking it all in vain.

Sir Hardman had hinted that he would enjoy fishing the glebe
water. The rector appeared unaware that any suggestion had been
made to him. The baronet said cordially, ** Look here, Foljambe:
take a day on my beat — next week; say Tuesday — I've a board
meeting. Dine with me when I come back from town."

Foljambe courteously accepted the sport, and declined the
dinner ; made a tremendous basket and sent the best of it to Red
Knights — came in the evening to thank his host and was all wit
and affability over his cigar. And returned the invitation ? Not
he ! covetous old squarson.

Then Sir Hardman spoke out like a man of the world for
neighbourly accommodation and exchange. But the canon was a
man of both worlds, and he smiled and rebuked the greed of the
railway director by quoting Scripture about ewe lambs and Naboth's
vineyard. Smug hireling of a State-pampered Church 1 Confound
his selfish heart, his cunning hand I

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But the ingenuous reader is all this while asking, " Who was the
Archdeacon ? "

He may have been venerable — his age was unknown — but he
wore no gaiters. He was a gigantic trout, who had his habitat
just above the stone bridge. The rector had nicknamed him after
a brother of the cloth. "Just old Maudsley's evasive manner,"
he said pensively, **and very much his expression and figure too."

The trout dwelt between two large stones, and Sir Hardman
had got to know him well by sight — knew the two white marks
on his brown shoulders caused by the attrition of the stones. He
had often and often tried to catch him — with every lawful kind of
dry-fly when the canon watched sardonically from the bridge;
with other and less legal lures (I blush to say it) when he was alone
and unobserved.

But in vain. The Archdeacon was not to be tempted. To tell
the truth, he was a fish with a sense of humour. Alone all day. Sir
Hardman's evening visits appeared to cheer him. He would some-
times flirt and toy with the badly-presented fly — just to amuse the
angler. Sir Hardman's baser lures he scorned. He saw them out
of the tail of his cunning old eye, but let them pass by. He put up
Avith a good deal of splashing (when Sir Hardman's wrist grew tired
with casting, or his temper gave out), but stood it all good-
humouredly for a spell. When he, too, grew tired of it or felt bored,
lazily moving his fins he would drop majestically out of sight under
the arch of the bridge, or would deliberately, being too self-contained
a trout to hurry, seek the seclusion of a patch of duckweed higher
up the stream ; and Sir Hardman, sighing, would reel in his line and

^o in to dinner.

« « ♦ » »

It was a beautiful Sunday evening, and Sir Hardman was out
for a riverside stroll, at peace in his innermost, soothdd by the
blaiul influences of Nature. And the scent of tobacco assailed his
nostrils, and he beheld the rector, in a layman's garb — not even a
priestly collar to sanctify his mufti.

** Thought you were off" for a holiday ! " said the baronet, this
phrase being the politest he could frame for '* What the dickens
are you doing here ? "

*' I am, to-morrow. Rayne, my locum tenens, hospitably insisted
that I should stay as a guest in my own house for the week-end. I
did enjoy hearing him preach this morning ! " said the canon.

•* Is he a sportsman — a fisherman ? " was the director's jealous

'* Rayne? Not he!" said the canon; "he's a married mis-
sionary with a brace of daughters," Foljambe was a bachelor — the

c c 2

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polite sort that never succumbs. " So I've given him leave to
fish in my water. He'll do no harm. Keep -the poachers

Sir Hardman uttered something between a groan and a grunt.
He leant over the bridge parapet. The Archdeacon, at large
leisure, hung fanning himself in mid-stream. The Rev. Philip
followed the magnate's eye, and — moved by what springs, who knows ?
— perhaps in a mere luxury of holiday benevolence — he put a sudden

**Testie!" said he, "here's an offer. If you can land that
fellow this season, we'll * pool our water ' — that's an appropriate
phrase, what ? — we'll share the five-mile stretch, and fish it between
us. What d'ye say ? "

The baronet, after all, was a business man.

" Not I," quoth he. ** That's one for me and four for yourself,
rector. But, suppose I creel the Archdeacon by a given date,
I'll let you, at an easy rent, the mile of my water that's next your
own, and you shall fish my three miles and I'll fish your two,
separately or in company "

** Not more than twice a week," inserted the parson.

** Mf." The baronet paused — considered — agreed. ** Not more
than twice a week without special leave from either side. Yes.
Well, Foljambe ? "

The canon reflected in his turn. " If you basket the Arch-
deacon (I'd like you to produce him — mere formality, of course)
before August, I consent. The arrangement to be binding in sactUa

** Dissoluble only by mutual consent," subjoined Sir Hardman.
** Is it a bargain ? Shake hands on it ! "

They shook. The baronet looked over the bridge at the witness
and subject of the treaty, who still wavered, unconscious of this
conspiracy, above the pebbles. '* Er — any stipulations about what
tackle I may use ? "

'• My dear sir," declared the canon, *' to make any would be to
insult a fellow sportsman ! "

And the curtain drops upon the Rev. Philip making his exit
with a bag of golf clubs in the direction of St. Crambo's. From the
train windows he regarded the shining stretches of the Twist. " He
won't catch the Archdeacon. Let him try any dodge he likes.

Might as well fish for him with his hat ! "

« « « « »

Sir Hardman angled for the Archdeacon with hope, with patience,
with desperation, for the weeks were dwindling, and so was the
water. Then, realising that his intemperate whipping of the river

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^as likely to defeat his ends, he gave the pool by the bridge a long
rest and fished elsewhere.

During this abstinence there came a dreadful evening when he
only saw one fish, and lost that, and lost his cast, and his flies, and
his temper, and nearly lost his balance on the bank and fell in — not
his balance at the bank : that was more stable. After that he
savagely dislocated his rod and stumped homewards.

En route something caught his eye — a fragment of gut floating
from a bush. He paused. " I didn't get hung up just here." He
clawed at the bough with the handle of his landing-net, and secured
the drifting strand.

He scowled. He had lost a lot of tackle that day, but this was
none of his. Coarse Marana — a regular cart-rope — revolting to a
trout of sensibility. No wonder the fish were all sulking !

Who — who was the scoundrel ? Almost Sir Hardman rej>ented
his thrift — wished he had a gang of river- watchers patrolling the
banks, instead of being left to play the detective alone. Alone ?
Why, there was his young nephew, Horace Lyster (Magdalen,
Oxon :) coming next week. He would find the young shaver some
scope for his assumed smartness !

Sir Hardman passed the bridge with a shudder. The poachers
might have caught the Archdeacon ! **They may catch him yet,
if I don't catch them I '' thought he.

In a few days Horace arrived, a youth of muscular build and
sedate manners. He smoked his uncle's cigars with apparent gusto,
and listened to his uncle's grievances with what looked like respect-
ful sympathy.

** I'll come with you," he said, **and if we come across any
poaching rascals I'll try and shove 'em into the river."

On this agreement they sallied out next morning, Horace as
gillie, with a pipe and the landing-net.

'* Hereabouts, Horace," said the baronet, coming to a solemn
pause, " was where I found the broken cast on Tuesday night. On
that bush, Horace."

Horace regarded the bush, regarded the baronet, with un-
faltering eye, and said, ** Sure it wasn't one of your own ? "

Sir Hardman gave vent to that indescribable noise peculiar to
old gentlemen in their scorn. Horace did not wince ; he only stood
at ease with the landing-net and stoppered his pipe with his little
finger and watched attentively the movements of his uncle, who
had got his fly hooked up in some grass.

" Come along," said the irritated baronet jerking out the fly and
the command at the same instant. Followed by his lieutenant he
lowered himself with ponderous precautions down a steep bank.

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The angler here could cast from the convenient screen of a black-
thorn bush. The bulky magnate disposed himself for action, and
then —

" Hullo ! " he breathed, in a stertorous soUo voce. " What's
THAT ? "

It was a pair of legs, long and slim, and visible nearly to the
knee, in brown hose and tan shoes with square toes. The owner,
out of sight, recumbent on the high bank opposite, seemed at ease ;
the legs swung to and fro in sheer abandon, to the rhythm of a
tunefully-whistled air.

The baronet glared and blew. ** It's some beast of a boy ! "

" Quis puer gracilis — " murmured Horace, who flirted, of course,
with his irresponsible old namesake's muse. He recognised the
sex of the phenomenon well enough, young dog; and so did Sir
Hardman next minute.

" It's a girl — why, there are some more ! "

" Are there ? How many ?" inquired his junior in a stage whisper
and with distinct interest.

Peering further from their covert, uncle and nephew observed
another pair — of boots this time; brown boots laced trimly,
thoroughbred ankles, a glimpse of a serge skirt.

** Girls — two girls ! " Sir Hardman gurgled and choked. " D'you
see, Horace ? "

** Yes," said the Oxford man, demurely. Then, in a tone
of detached criticism, and, as the French say, pour soi, " I should
think the girls are pretty."

The enraged uncle neither heard nor heeded his nephew's
comment. He climbed a step backwards up the bank, with a view
to dealing with the situation from the top of it. He could now
see both the intruders quite plain, though neither of them was
plain to see. Tan Shoes was long-limbed and freckled and fifteen,
and going to make a beauty by-and-by, but not worrying herself
about the matter at present. She lay on her back whistling in
ragamuffin content. Brown Boots was some three years older ;
she had no hat on, her hair was the curly sort that doesn't flop
and go limp in the rain, and she was eating jam sandwiches

with keen dispatch
Of real hunger,

like the angel who dropped in to luncheon with Adam and Eve.
At her elbow was propped a rusty and archaic trout-rod, the top
dapping into the water. Between the precious pair lay a creel fit
to carry a Spey salmon. So plainly this apparatus declared the tiro,
contempt almost smothered the baronet's wrath. Probably they
had not done much harm ! But just then the younger damozel

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rolled over with a laugh and said audibly, " Oh, I must take another
look at them ! "

"Baby!" replied the elder sister with indulgent mockery,
biting into another jam sandwich — oh, such dents de jcunc chicn!

The basket opened, and out of it tumbled a cascade of trout,
and trout, and more trout, some stark already, the first of the
catch, some agape and twisting yet, glistening and sleek, creamy
belly and crimson dot, all sizes, here a bulky pounder, a finger-long
skipjack there — a couple of dozen at least. A pretty kettle of

Seething, impotent, hypnotised, the baronet stood at gaze.

** That's all, I think," remarked the graceless hoyden, and she
turned the creel upside down and shook it, and the outraged pro-
prietor's fury burst.

Reckless of the tender age and the fragile sex of the intruders,
he bellowed as through a megaphone, ** Hi ! "

With this apostrophe his foot slipped. The Lord of Red
Knights plunged headlong, flourished his arms like a callow seraph
learning to fly, sat down wildly on a grassy promontory, scrambled
on end with a blaspheming splutter, and remained rooted mid-leg
deep in the cold water with the collar-stud loose at the back of his
neck and his top joint jammed in a tree. Horace put out his pipe,
and stood at attention on the bank. He had expected to be bored ;
but fishing with his uncle was developing picturesquely.

The splash had cooled Sir Hardman, and from his Triton
posture he continued the interview thus, with icy suavity:

" I trust you have enjoyed your sport, ladies ? "

He said ladies. These wretched girls must have seen him fall
in, but he had not heard a giggle, and both looked quite composed
now. The young beauty with the sandwiches suspended her
luncheon, and said with pleasant ease —

" I thmk you must be Sir Hardman Testie, aren't you ? Don't
you live quite close to us ? "

** I hope you did not hurt yourself just now ? " the junior added,

(*' Not bad for the flapper," Horace criticised.)

These inquiries after his identity and his welfare flustered Sir
Hardman. He wanted to find out who the deuce they were ! He
replied in surly confusion, ** Yes — no, thank you," and automati-
cally he lifted his cap in answer to the salute of the fair unknown ;
and Horace, of course, followed suit, which altered the relations
of things, and made it difficult to be frankly brutal. Resuming the
ironic method Sir Hardman began again.

** Nice stream, isn't it ? "

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" Nice bwambly stweam/' the ' flapper ' gurgled with infantine

At this moment Horace, who still stood taking notes, addressed
the elder fisher-maiden with earnest politeness, as his manner was.
** I think your cast's got hooked fast over here," he remarked.
** Can't I get it loose for you ? "

She responded, ** Oh, would you be so kind ? "

Young Oxford, ventre a terre on the edge of a beetling bank, at
the risk of his life, or at any rate of his beautiful grey flannels,
made a bold and victorious grab at the gut. Piscatrix whisked it
across within a few inches of Sir Hardman's nose. The baronet
caught at it in self-defence, and then in amaze, almost in horror,
cried —

*' Why, you're fishing with wet fly ! "

Piscatrix looked puzzled. " Wet ? " said she. ** Oh, yes, I
suppose they are rather."

Mystery thickened round the baronet. Could such ignorance
be? More staggering still, could ignorance have such results as
that pile of silver plunder heaped and stiffening on the grass ? At
that his anger boiled up again. Grimly he inquired —

** Don't you know that you are trespassing here ? "

** But we have leave to fish ! " " But the rector gave us leave
to fish ! " they exclaimed in a reproachful duet, and the baronet
exploded. A-ah, that perjured priest 1

** But it's my water ! " he thundered. '* My water ! My fish !
I can prosecute you both for poaching ! "

The girls for the first time looked taken aback. Then the
younger hurled herself into the gulf of silence. Pulling at her long
pigtail as if it gave her confidence, she declared —

** I only caught one little baby one, and Gwacie only caught
thwee. John caught the w'est. Of course John didn't know

John ! John didn't know ! Very possibly he didn't, but the
baronet didn't care. Who was John ? Some rascally brother,
some blackguard cousin ; anyhow, something male to vent his rage

** Where is John? " he inquired, now bland and deadly ; Horace
reflecting, with mixed feelings, that it might be his part to pitch
John into the river. ** Where is John ? "

The girls looked up stream and down stream, and the younger
one exclaimed brightly, ** Here he comes ! "

Sir Hardman splashed out of the pool and stood ankle-deep in
a shallow, breathing fury against the new-comer. He expected a
pert thirteen-year-old, all impudence and knickerbockers. Horace

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looked out for something of his own calibre, and awaited orders to
collar the ruffian.

John was barely five feet high, and his age might have been any-
thing up to three hundred years. He was lemon-coloured, with the
impassive eye of the Sphinx. His European trousers were turned
up over bare legs that moved with the padding tread of the coolie ;
he wore a vast hat, more like a straw beehive than anything else.
In one arm he was cherishing a large brown sack.

"Jap?*' Horace asked himself. "No; looks too sleepy," he
decided. " Chinee. Heathen Chinee. He is peculiar. And what
the dickens has he got in that bag ? "

Something alive inside the bag was fidgeting about. Horace
conjectured wildly, " He can't have been fishing with a ferret ! "

The baronet simply gaped, and Miss Gracie, with tact, seized
this moment of calm to explain things. Decidedly some explana-
tion was wanted, but up to now Sir Hardman had appeared too
much heated to listen to any.

" I am Miss Rayne, and this is my sister Sydney, Sir Hard-
man," she began. " We are at the rectory, and Canon Foljambe
gave us leave to fish in his part of the river, and we thought this
was it. I hope you won't blame our Chinese boy John. It was
our fault that he caught all your fish, and of course we will give
them all back ; and will you please show us where we may fish ?
We are so sorry for the mistake ! "

" So so'wy," Sydney echoed.

The baronet partly melted. Who would not have done so at
fair words from a fair speaker ? They were the parson's daughters,
neighbours and new-comers — manners must be considered. No
doubt they had been mistaken ; but — he looked at the overpowering
results of the mistake !

" Perhaps your boy John hasn't caught all my fish even yet ! "
he drily remarked. " But oblige me, Miss Rayne, by explaining

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 28 of 52)