Charles W. (Charles Woodbury) Stevens.

Fly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness online

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pier. But his truer sporting feelings predominated ;
and we were content to talk about past victories,
and look forward to a season yet to come when we
should return to our favorite haunts, and again
listen to the rushing roar of Royal River, as it
foams, eddies, and sparkles amid its leaf-fringed
banks in its short yet most beautiful and pictur-
esque windings to the majestic lake which receives

And this evening we linger long and lovingly
upon the most favored spots, where we can drink
in the full glories of the sunset hour, for we feel
that, when we retrace our steps to camp, packing
up is next in order ; and though we ought to be,
and no doubt are, thankful for the pleasant homes
to which we may return, yet there is not quite so
much anticipation or enthusiasm in packing up to
return to them, as after' they have nurtured and
sheltered us for nearly a year we are willing to leave
them without the faintest suspicion of regret.

Here is a splendid opportunity to moralize, and
wind up my chapter on the beauties of home, the
necessity of recreation, etc. ; but as my moral-
" Liza " is averse to being flattered, and there are
some poor forlorn bachelors among my friends,



who may read these sketches, and wish they had
when they could as well as not, we will skip all
reflections of this nature, and, bidding you good-
night, call you early in the morning to witness our
preparations for departure.



HE next morning we arose early;
but our guides had been up hours
before us, and the long row of
beautiful trout, spread upon the
grass preparatory to packing t for
friends at home, greeted our admiring eyes as we
saluted the morning air.

Various are the methods of packing trout for
transportation. I clean mine, and pack them in
moss which has been thoroughly dried in the sun,
placing a goodly quantity of ice at the top and bot-
tom of the box, but none in close proximity to the
fish. Except in extremely hot weather, I have
found that trout packed in this manner reach Bos-
ton in very fine order, and have quite a trouty
taste and appearance ; but and it's a long but
if one wishes to know the true taste and flavor


of the trout, they must go to them : the transport
of eating is lessened by transportation, and their
radiant spots must be seen on the spot. This
many of you well know : and those among my
readers who do not, will, I hope, take the first
opportunity of proving it themselves ; they, also,
will be improved thereby.

" I am sorry you go, Miss Stevens : you have egg,
boil, ten minutes ; you have ham, cold, for lunch,
yes," was Joe's salutation, as we sat down to break-

" Plenty men, my God ! few women," contin-
ued Joe, without waiting for a reply from the mad-
am, who was unconsciously blushing at so flattering
a farewell, but who at "last sufficiently recovered to
thank Joe for his compliment.

A regretful feeling, on the part of us all, that this
is our parting meal, renders us less enthusiastic over
the freshly-killed trout, which Joe has cooked with
unusual care, and we eat like those who go, rather
than those who come ; but we shall soon regain
our appetites, for a pleasant journey is before us.

Our traps, already packed, are hoisted upon the
backs of our ever-willing guides ; and we are gath-
ering our lighter articles to follow with them to the
landing. It is a glorious morning, and the wind is
fair : as we shall have plenty of time, we stop on our



way at Whitney's Camp, where we pass the compli-
ments of the day with brother Cole, whom we find
sole occupant of this delightful retreat.

Here we are again, just entering the narrows ;
and, true to Charlie Cutting's prophecy, we have a
head-wind at first, and shortly none at all : the
sail flaps idly against the mast, and the boys fill '
their pipes preparatory to a practical lesson on the
enlargement of muscle.

While they row along leisurely, as usual, we
amuse ourselves by waking the echoes of the dis-
tant hills, or chaffing each other on various events
that have transpired during our pleasant sojourn
among the hills. Soon the narrows are passed ;
and a famous spurt, which would do credit to a
college crew, and reminding us of Tom Moore's
pretty little song,

" Row, brothers, row ! the stream runs fast,
The rapids are near, and the daylight's past,"

brings us, in quite a lively manner, upon the wa-
ters of the lower lake. Now a fine breeze springs
up, and once more we hoist our sail to its speed-
ing influence. A short hour and a half brings us
to the arm of the lake, where ten days ago we
bade good-by to Uncle John Merrill, and where we
are to-day to meet him and his comfortable buck-


We have just time to build a fire, for Charlie and
the madam would die if they couldn't have their
cup of tea, when we hear a crackling of the bushes,
and a trampling of feet ; and the old black mare,
her tail revolving like a windmill, in vain attempts
to switch off the flies, followed by Uncle John's
smiling face and white beard, emerges from a wil-
derness of leaves.

"Well, boys, what luck?" was John's first salu-
tation, as with the back of his hand he brushed
the perspiration, and a few black flies, from his

" Splendid."

" Capital."

" Lovely," - was the quick response from the
united voices (I leave it to the reader to distin-
guish them), as we point with pride to the boxes,
under which the guides are struggling, and which
soon are securely lashed to the buckboard, and
are completely sheltered from the sun by John's
forethought in covering them, as the robins did the
little babes in the woods, " all over with leaves."

" Any thing new down in the world, John, the
wicked world? "

" No, nothing to speak of: hay's promisin'."

Our thoughts just then were farther on than the
hay-fields, to the region of bricks and granite,


where are heard a Babel of voices and the din of
the city ; but a fresh application of tar (for at the
Arm the mosquitoes and flies hold high carnival)
soon turned the tenor of our thoughts to time pres-
ent. After a hearty lunch, our own enriched by a
few slices of cold spring lamb and a nice little
leaf-lined box of wild strawberries which Mrs.
Merrill's thoughtfulness had provided, from John's
end of the route, we were ready for a start. The
horses, having also finished their dinner, were quite
ready and willing to leave this " winged begirt spot,"
although knowing that a long and hard journey
was before them.

Such a heap of talk, and such wonderful yarns,
did we pour into John's ears for the first hour of our
homeward ride ! I don't wonder, remembering
our volubility, that the poor man said, if I'd drive,
he guessed he'd walk, as 'twas rather hard on the
horses. Hard for him, too, perhaps : but John
was always patient, and a willing listener to stories
oft repeated ; and never would he, by look or ac-
tion, seek to throw discredit on the largest, most
extravagant tale. Only once, he couldn't swallow
the bear-story which Badger and Richardson, from
the Middle Dam, had been bruin for our edifica-
tion, and with which they filled our listening ears
on our arrival at Andover.


"I don't believe it," said John: "bears don't
act that way leastwise, when they have cubs;"
and that ended the discussion, so far as John was
concerned ; and we, why, we thought as John did.
And it soon turned out that there was no bear and
no cubs, and they didn't come out of the woods to
frighten sportsmen from Boston, who hadn't said,
" Go up, baldhead ! "

John was walking briskly along some distance in
advance of the buckboard, a heavy stick in one
hand, and a twig of green in the other with which
he was brushing away at the moving insects, when
suddenly he turned and motioned us to stop : com-
ing towards us, he pointed to a spot ahead, where
his keen eye had discovered a partridge with her
brood lurking in the bushes by the roadside.

Jumping from the buckboard, I hurried to the
spot, thinking to catch a sight, a novel one to me,
of the young brood. When I was apparently right
among them, the old bird started down the road,
limping and dragging one wing upon the ground,
appearing to be very much crippled, either by the
hand of man or by some of the denizens of the

John saw the bird running away, and shouted to
me to catch it ; which I nearly succeeded in doing,
several times getting my hand almost upon it, when


a greater exertion of the wounded fowl would take
her just beyond my reach. Suddenly, 16 ray great
surprise, but evidently not to John's, whose loud
guffaws reached my ears, the poor lame creature
spread its wings, and, " swift as an arrow from an
archer's bow," sped away from me, and was soon
lost to sight in the abundant foliage.

I don't know just how I felt when I reached the
buckboard on the home stretch. I am unable to
describe just how a man does feel when he appre-
ciates that he has been sold : comment, however, is
unnecessary probably " you know how it is, your-

And why should his best friend, and the wife of
his bosom, join with a gray-haired sire in endeav-
oring to outdo each other in hilarity, when only
laziness kept the two former from falling into the
same* trap ? Such, I am sorry to say, was the fact ;
and when I now refer to it, as an incident of the
past, to one sitting beside me, poring over " The
Newcomes," all the satisfaction I get is

"You were pretty well sold, weren't you?" As
if she, " poor thing," didn't fondly expect partridge
that night for supper !

I do not propose to argue upon the reasoning
faculties of the species in general, or my individual
partridge, and have only stated a fact, which, to


three of our party at that time was entirely new
and strange, but which Uncle John assured us he had
often seen before, the parent bird thus endeavor-
ing by cunning artifice to draw attention from its
brood, by encouraging a hope of easy capture of
itself; for it takes but a few moments for the young
to conceal themselves so effectually, that you may
pass them on every side, and not discover their

After passing the No.tch, finding we are in good
time, we improvise a couple of rods by cutting
birch-saplings, and coax out from a few pools in
Black River, whose course our road follows, some
thirty or forty trout in a much less number of min-

These trout average about three ounces, and are
most delicate eating. The stream is full of them :
I think a lively fisherman could capture three hun-
dred in a day, and not have to travel far either.
Having taken all we needed for % our supper, we are
off again for Andover, which we reach in quite a
fresh condition at about five o'clock.

And now commences the putting-off of tar and
fisherman's clothing, and putting on cleanliness
and city habiliments ; for we are once more in civ-
ilized society, and must conduct ourselves after the
manner of men. At nine o'clock the stage arrives,


and brings a few sportsmen, whose ears we regale
with marvellous fish-stories, sending them to bed
with bright anticipations of the sport in store for

B and I were smoking our last pipe on the

piazza, watching the moon as it sank behind the
far-off hills, both of us in a dreamy, half-uncon-
scious state, when suddenly he turned to me, and
in a serious tone of voice propounded the follow-
ing momentous question :

"Stevens, which had you rather -or go a-fish-

This remark was not new : I had heard the same
question put in the same manner, for the first time,
several years after, and double that number before.
Neither was the time or place appropriate for such
a question. I was displeased that he should put it
in that manner : it hurt my feelings ; and, more than
that, it made me mad. I cast upon him a withering
look ; and with all the theatrical scorn I could
crowd into the short sentence I replied,

"B , you're a fool. Go to bed." And he

did, and so did I.



HALL I mention his name ?

It is S . He is an undertaker.

He sits at his window on Tremont
Street ; and, as I pass up and down
in the horse-cars, I often have a
bow from him, also a sweet smile, being an ac-

I know what he is saying to himself :
" One of these days, old fellow ! I'm waiting,
waiting patiently ; but you must come to my little
net one of these days."

I don't think an undertaker is a cheerful acquaint-
ance anyway ; and I wouldn't care to add many
to my list of friends, though without doubt they
are an excellent class of people, but they look at
you as if you were somehow their property, only to
be waited for.



It makes me just a little provoked sometimes,
when Mr. S. smiles so blandly at me ; and as vaca-
tion time comes around, and I begin to lag a little,
and the work of the year shows itself in the face
and frame, somehow my friend's smiles grow more
bland. Far be it from me to suspect that there is
*a trifle of business in that look : not for the world !

But as I disrobe myself to-night, and feel the
renewed strength and the elasticity of youth, and
the mirror reflects the bronzed countenance, the
arms browned and strengthened (having just re-
turned from a glorious camping vacation, not only
the arms but the accompaniments), I feel that I
have got a little start on my friend, and I chuckle
inwardly to think that the next time his smile will
be less "childlike and bland," and that he will be
obliged to lengthen my lease a little.

I felt that way, so far as renewed strength is con-
cerned, as I jumped out of bed the morning after
our arrival at Andover.

We had been watching a little cricket, running in
and out among those fresh green spruce and pine
boughs with which Mrs. Merrill, like many other
farmers' wives, had adorned her fireplace.

He had been chirping merrily for quite a while,
and of course we were reminded of the genial
author who has almost immortalized him.


It was rather rude and unpoetical on my part,
after the madam had been so enthusiastic over him,
to ask her why a cricket was any more lovable
than a water-bug. Her reply was as feminine as it
was satisfactory : " I guess it's because they don't
get into things you don't want them to, little harm-
less creatures ! " Then I was mean enough to say,
" Don't you think, if we had as many crickets in
our kitchen as water-bugs, they would be equally as

"Well, but we don't."

"That's true," said I; "but" And I was
about to proceed with a forcible argument to show
that like precious stones, rare coins, and the like,
the " little harmless creature " was beloved because
he was scarce, and not often found in the pantry ;
but I happened to remember the argument we had
in camp, in regard to the difference of our watches,
and refrained. I never do like to argue with a
woman on general principles, with my wife for par-
ticular reasons : I prefer the barber. It is much
more comfortable to have it cut off than pulled out,
and the difference in the expense is trifling. One
other reason also for not prolonging the argument :
I believe in crickets, I don't in water-bugs; and
arguing for the sake of argument, before breakfast,
is absurd.


Such a charming morning, such an appetite for
breakfast, and such a breakfast ! tiny trout, mere
fmgerlings, fried so crisp they were simply deli-
cious ; thin slices of dry toast with the sweetest of
butter; griddle -cakes upon which we poured the
purest of maple sirup ; coffee without the slightest
suspicion of chiccory, mantled with the richest
cream, no wonder that we felt regretful at leav-
ing such an hostelry.

Next to a meal under one's own roof, where
your own and your loved one's tastes are known
and catered to, give me one like this, though served
in simple manner : let the cloth be white and clean,
the napkins large and ditto, the forks four-tined,
I ask no more. For me no costly service, no
elaborate bill of fare at hotel of high-sounding
name, has half the charm. I have tried both ; the
latter too much for comfort, the former well, I
hope next year may find us there again.

Good-by, John ! may the winter's frosts deal
gently with thee and thine, and returning spring
bring with it renewed strength and vigor, and bring
us too, John, all of us, to this much-loved spot.

" Deacon, those three top seats, remember."

" Oh, they'll be all right ! no danger of any-
body's wantin' 'em at this end but your folks :
country people like the inside best."


Which is a fact I have often noticed, but whether
it can be explained by the same process of reason-
ing that will enable us to tell why Boston people
never visit Bunker-hill Monument, I am unable to
say. I only know, and knew it long before the
Deacon mentioned it that morning, and many of
my readers will bear me out in the fact, having un-
doubtedly witnessed the same thing very many
times themselves, and which was, as Mr. Squeers
would say, in this instance " a very pleasant thing
for all parties."

And so, after seeing the traps well and snugly
stowed, we mount to our lofty positions, and find
ourselves nearly on a level with the top of Uncle
John's piazza,.

The last duty, that of receiving the mail-bag
from the hands of Mr. Purington, having been per-
formed, the great morning event of the day takes
place ; and amid the good-bys of our friends, the
barking of a few village curs, and the rumbling of
wheels, we are fast leaving the scenes of so many
delightful pleasures.

" Take your last look at Old Bald Pate, friends,
for there will be less hair upon your own, perhaps,
when next his form you see : some deeper shadows
than those resting upon his leafy bosom may cross
your path before you come again. What, woman !


shedding a few tears? well done! Not tears,
merely a little dust in your eyes, is it? Well, I
wouldn't have ridiculed them, were they of joy at
pleasures past, or a passing fear of what may come
hereafter ; but better, much better the former, and
I know you too well to believe it could be the

From the first person singular to the first person
plural j and which of us shall hold the umbrella, is
now the subject of anxious debate ; for although

"As yet the early rising sun
Has not attained his noon,"

and there is little fear of his deepening the tints of
ruddy brown upon our faces, yet a covering such
as this gives a subdued tone to the pretty farm
scenes about us, and enables us to gaze with a
clearer vision upon the far-off hills, which, like
mighty barriers, seem to hem us in on every side.
Naturally in this discussion the madam gracefully
withdrew, and hid herself under another covering,
that of her sex, woman's rights being for the
moment forgotten. It remained, therefore, for the
question to be decided between Charlie and myself;
which was settled somewhat summarily by the
Deacon, who remarked that " he guessed the little
fellow couldn't hold it against the wind anyhow : "


so I spread the gingham, and prayed for passing

And now the summit of Zurkin comes into view,
is seen for an hour, then fades and disappears be-
hind the many lesser hills which border our path-
way ; we cross the Androscoggin again, and Rum-
ford greets our sight ; and we regret to hear, as we
leave the hotel where we change horses, that our
female friend, she of the eloquent tongue, has been
ingulfed in a torrent of her own eloquence, and
perchance now in other lands beyond the stars is to
coming strangers unveiling the glories that await

But we must not allow sober thoughts to detract
from the pleasure of this glorious ride ; and, to tell
the truth, she didn't die, had merely returned to
her home as we were doing let us hope, with a
soul as fully satisfied as ours.

"That there plant which you see, that little
patch down yonder, on that sidehill, is terbacker.
The chap that lives there come from Connecticut :
he's trying to raise it, but I guess it won't come to

This from the Deacon, to party in the family
circle. *

" Well, Deacon, let us hope he will succeed ; for,
if it is a curse, it is a most fascinating and enjoya-


ble one, to say the least : so forgive me for quot-
ing one who knew all about it, hush !

* Sublime tobacco ! which from east to west
Cheers the tar's labor or the Turkman's rest ;
Divine in hookahs, glorious in a pipe,
When tipped with amber, mellow, rich, and ripe ;
Like other charmers, wooing the caress
More dazzlingly when daring in full dress ;
Yet thy true lovers more admire by far
Thy naked beauties give me a cigar ! '

" One of those little ones, Charlie, I fain would
smoke ; and hold the umbrella, my boy, while I
light and prepare for the remaining ten miles."

A puff of the fragrant smoke into the left nostril
of the Deacon wakes him from a revery, and causes
him to tickle the right ear of the off leader, at the
same time reminding him of a little " swap " he
made with a brother stage-driver a few days before.
How he chuckled over the good trade he made !
and the nigh pole horse got an extra " cut " in
token of his satisfaction. Very likely the party of
the second part might, even then, be relating to
some willing listeners by his side the story of how
he "jewed the Deacon : " at all events, there never
was a man but thought his the better trade in
"swapping horses."

The Deacon's experiences brought forth a similar


one on the part of the " little fellow j " and the pure
fresh air soon roused us to song and shout, and we
behaved very much like a party of school-children,
who were soon to resume their desks and studies ;
and very likely we felt like them, for well we knew
that all too soon were we to put off our country
manners and customs, and don our city ways.

The madam thought the elderberry-wine, which
we surreptitiously obtained at a wayside "agency,"
had something to do with raising our spirits ; feel-
ing she might possibly be correct, we lowered the
spirits accordingly, which reminds me, memo., never
say " elderberry " to Charlie again.

In due time we arrived at Bryant's Pond to find
nearly half of the male inhabitants of the village
bear-hunting ; for under cover of the night, and
having not the fear of the selectmen before his
eyes, one of these audacious fellows had descended
from his mountain fastness to the plains below,
and taken from under their very noses a goodly
quantity of fine spring lamb ; and now with many
a weapon, from the old queen's-arm which gran'ther
used in the Revolution, to the last breech-loader in
the hands of the great-grandson just arrived from
town, they had gone in search of his bearship.

I had almost a mind to say that the old chap
knew something was bruin ; but it's cheap, I pause,


and simply say he was too much for them ; for,
as one by one returned from the hunt, it was the
same story, " nary bear." The anger and mortifi-
cation showed itself strongest in the young men, as
visions of untold quantities of bear's-grease, with
which to anoint their flowing locks for some fair
Dulcinea's gaze, had danced before their eyes and
vanished forever.

The landlord at whose house we dined shrugged
his shoulders in a manner which seemed to say,
" It's lucky, old fellow, for your hide, that I didn't
go out." " You see, marm," said he, " there ain't
many of 'em as knows a bear's ways ; " and the
madam said "Yes." But, for all of his vanity and
self-assurance, he gave us a good dinner ; to which,
thanks to the bracing stage-ride and the elderberry,
we brought good appetites.

" And so, my dear boy, you are fully and irrevo-
cably fixed in your decision, are you ? Very well,
then, we very soon must part."

This to Charlie, whom we had endeavored to
prevail upon to accompany us to the White Hills,
now so near; but "circumstances over which he
had no control " rendered it necessary that he
should return, and so here was to be our parting.
And here, then, kind reader, shall we part ; for this
fishing story is at an end, unless you will take the


journey, no doubt a familiar one to you, and go
with us through one more chapter, and revel once

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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Woodbury) StevensFly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness → online text (page 4 of 11)