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THE ROMANCE OF
PISCATOR



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'* He got out in two feet of mud and water, and pushed and
tugged."

(Page 2iy)

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THE ROMANCE
OF PISCATOR



BY

HENRY WYSHAM LANIER

With a Frontispiece by William Balfour Ker







NEW YORK

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

1904



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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY

6IFT OF

DANIEL B. FEARINQ

3dJU«t€ 1915



Copyright, 1904,

BY

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

Published March, 1904



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DeMcateO



BVBRYONB WHO HAS HBARKBIfBD
TO THE SIRBN SONO OF THE RBBL



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V Z 'itM.^



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CONTENTS



Chapter
I.


Young Piscator Meets His Destiny


Page
I


II.


The Selt-Reuance or Piscator


«3


III.


Fisherman* s Luck ....


34


IV.


PiSCATOR AND THE PbRI


71


V.


The Odyssey or Piscator


. 107


VI.


The Peri and the Pioneers


. 15a


VII.


Piscator* 8 Revenge


. 196


VIII.


The Fountain or Youth


. 226



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THE ROMANCE OF
PISCATOR

CHAPTER I

Bound fttocator itccts tis Deatftts
I

A BARE-FOOTED boy was trudging
along the red clay road beside a lit-
tle Virginia river. Over his right shoul-
der was a cedar fishing-pole, carefully
selected from the thick undergrowth, where
the saplings g^ow tall and slender, and
lovingly trimmed and " skinned " into
smoothness ; dangling from his left hand, on
an alder twig, were a dozen parched and blis-
tered catfish, " sunnies," homy-headed chub,
and silversides, the quest for which had oc-
cupied his day since he crept out of bed at
dawn, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with
grimy knuckles, to dig a can of worms by
the wood-pile.



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2 Piscator Meets His Destiny

As he passed the big clump of haw-bushes
and came to the old-fashioned box bridge,
he saw a fellow fisherman seated on the
grass by the river bank — an old negro, his
grey kinks of wool unprotected from the
sun by any hat, watching a cork out in the
stream, twice as far from shore as the boy
would have thought necessary.. He stopped
and looked curiously at the slim fifteen-foot
"cane": the saplings in his woods didn't
grow like that. While he stood there, the
cork bobbed out of sight. The darkey
grabbed the pole and threw it up over his
head with a mighty )rank. The boy's eyes
bulged with wonder as there sailed through
the air a fish nearly as long as his whole
string, which broke loose and landed
by the roadside not twenty feet from
him.

The old negro paid no attention to him or
it, but took from his ragged coat a tin box,
over which he seemed to perform some mys-
terious rites. Rebaiting his hook, he threw



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Piscator Meets His Destiny 3

it out again, and then rose with rheumatic
deliberation to pick up his catch.

"What sorter bait d'you use, uncle?"
ventured the boy.

" G'way fum heah, chile, an' don' pester
meh," snapped the veteran. " Yo' spile de
fishin' sho, wif sech lak axin's an' wants-
ter-know."

Much abashed, the boy walked rapidly
on, not venturing to look back till he reached
the bend of the road. The black fisherman
had settled down again into his former half
doze, waiting for another bite.

The boy was informed later that the
secret lure consisted of certain internal fur-
nishings of chickens, upon which Unc' Sam
was wont to work a mighty " cunjer " charm.
It mattered not. The main point with him
was that his horizon had been indefinitely
extended. No longer would he be content
with the "holes" from which he enticed
miniature yellow, sharp-spined " cats " and
rainbow "sunnies"; even the mysterious



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4 Piscator Meets His Destiny

mill-dam, where he had hooked the eel so
big that he could not pull him out, lost a
portion of its fascination. He had mentally
graduated from these things.

No experience of after years, not the cap-
ture of his first salmon nor tuna, nor vast
jew-fish nor tarpon nor leaping shark, gave
him a more definite increase of outlook. He
was accustomed to declare that the sight of
that surprising chub, or red-horse mullet,
or whatever it was, really made him an
angler. Which may well be: for even one
born under the sign of Pisces may fail to
fulfil his destiny if his walk in life lie not
along the leisurely, willow-fringed banks
frequented by Master Izaak, but through
the gloomy, swarming city canyons where
are no living waters. Some thousands of
years before, that sucking-mouthed fish
would have been a portent, a sign straight
from the mystic zodiac.

Moreover — of such incong^ous links is
life's chain forged — ^had the young Piscator



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Piscator Meets His Destiny 5

not thus become a slave of the magical lim-
ber wand, it might never have led him to the
Stream, and the Peri. In such a view, that
fateful chub deserved at the least reincar-
nation as one of the dolphins drawing the
sea-bom Venus; whereas, to the sorrow of
the rcMnantidst be it reccM-ded, it actually
did — suffer the rigors of the frying-pan and
undergo a transmutation into pickaninny.

Truly a dark ending for a celestial har-
binger!

Worst of all, not until Piscator had ac-
complished a full third of the threesccwre
years still allotted to him on this planet did
he even b^^ to suspect that it was celes-
tial.

Then he saw the Peri, and his eyes were
opened.



Now it fell upon this wise. It had been
a lean day on the Stream; beyond an am-
bitious red-spotted little parr and a dejected



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6 Piscator Meets His Destiny

man-handled "racer" of but half his
natural weight and saltatory vigour, both of
whom were prc«nptly returned to the depths
of the Tannery pool, not a rise had rewarded
Piscator's patient efforts, though he had
worked the river minutely since daybreak,
from the dam to Big Falls. A whole hour's
casting at the head of the rapids served
merely to bring discredit upon that hitherto
unfailing eddy.

" No good," declared Peter the Dane
finally. "We wait till dark; den we get
him."

So he and Piscator stretched out on the
grass and smoked away the last lazy hour
of the afternoon, watching with the pleasant
and boundless superiority of recently ac-
quired knowledge the labours of a stout
gentleman in a canoe, striving to entice
something to the surface of the pool they had
just left. There was a lady in the centre of
the canoe, but they could catch only
glimpses of her.



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Piscator Meets His Destiny 7

Dusk settled down. A solemn-eyed
golden moon lifted above the balsam-
crowned hill-top. The canoe swung around
and crawled reluctantly upstream, the
angler in the bow switching away with a
persistence (as a salmc«i might say) worthy
of a better cause.

A tangible silence dosed in upon the
ceaseless rush and roar of the long rapids
down the gorge. Still Peter smoked.

At last he rose. " Now," said he. " A
grey hackle for tail fly — ^no matter w'at de
res'."

Piscator made the transfer of flies,
pushed his way past the birches fringing the
bank, and cautiously waded out, feeling with
his feet for the line of submerged stepping-
stones which led to the big flat rock where
one could command the whole situation.
The moonlight danced gleefully on the little
breaks and swirls in the water gliding
swiftly, smoothly by, and gurgling about his
resisting thighs. Sixty feet downstream a



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8 Piscator Meets His Destiny

dark line across the whole river marked the
first roll of the sleek stream as it curved into
the rapids, rejoicing in its strength and the
merry leap from ledge to ledge for a half-
mile below. Somewhere in the blackness a
swamp sparrow voiced the whole scene in
his liquid, reedy evensong,



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Jen



Chee - chee -che - che - che-che - che-ee,

the most plaintive and searching note of the
woods.

By the theory of chances, the hour seemed
already far too perfect to have a fish added,
even without the day's record as a guide.
But, after a long breath of pleasure, Piscator
deftly cast a fly a yard above that exuberant
curl of the wave below him.

As it drifted down, there was a sudden
heart-stopping miracle. The slim bamboo
instantly became vibrant with a vit.al energy
beside which Aaron's rod were mere lumber.



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Piscator Meets His Destiny 9

The smooth surface of the stream turned to
a miniature geyser from which emerged a
warrior " landlock," the moonlight glinting
upon his silvery armour as he vaulted in a
curving bow ; ere one fairly heard the splash
of his return he was hurtling madly up and
down, across and back, and once more out
of the swift but placid water.

After some thrilling minutes, Piscator
found himself swingeing this discouraged
acrobat up past his boulder, where, having
no landing net, he bent over, cautiously ran
thumb and forefinger along the fish's sides,
and gilled him.

Hardly had the demure but seductive
grey hackle reached the danger line again,
when there was another savage strike, and
a repetition of the zestful combat.

Piscator's heart was filled with pity for
the determined fisherman in the canoe, for
he could see out of the tail of his eye that
the latter lay motionless a couple of hundred
yards upstream.



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lo Piscator Meets His Destiny

"Too bad that other chap didn't wait,"
he called to Peter on shore. " He only came
this morning, and he's been working like a
horse all day."

Peter's response to this was to send a
resounding '' coo-ee " in that direction. The
other guide seemed to understand, for with-
out more ado he let the canoe drop down
with the current till it was almost abreast of
Piscator's rock.

" You are sure, sir, we are not imposing
upon your good nature? " asked the angler
in the bow.

"No, indeed," answered Piscator heart-
ily. " There are lots of fish for both of us.
They're taking the grey hackle, by the
way."

As he looked across the black water the
canoe shifted, and the moonlight fell full
upon the face of the lady.

An eager landlock down by the rapid laid
hold of Piscator's fly — ^and disgustedly
ejected it again. That recreant paid no



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Piscator Meets His Destiny 1 1

more attention either to the strike or the
loss than if he had been a t)rro, deceived by
the tug of the current till the real fish made
no impression on his nerves.

At last he pulled himself together at the
challenge of another fish unable to resist
that tantalising bunch of feathers; the gen-
tleman in the canoe struck a big fellow
simultaneously; and for the space of five
minutes that pair of salmon danced a wild
schottische to the oboe-like pipings of the
swamp sparrow.

Piscator was in a dream : the moonlight,
the charm of the river amid the strong
spruces, — ^now deep and calm and quiet,
now rippling into mirth, — ^the woody notes
of the little singer, and all the other nature-
calls to man's heart seemed to him to have
blended and become incarnated in that
face. To-night she was a being at least
in part belonging to another , world, a
Peri.

And to-morrow? A sudden eagerness



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12 Piscator Meets His Destiny

agitated the tangled threads of Piscator's
maze at that look ahead to the next day,
which must somehow be so strangely differ-
ent from all its predecessors.



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CHAPTER II
tSbc SelNVeUance ot Di0cator



PISCATOR had theories concerning
guides.

"It's a radically false idea of sport,"
he declared at the breakfast table. " If
there's an3rthing at all in fishing, it's a
test of a man's intelligence and skill and
tackle against a fish — an individual contest
But when a guide puts my rod together,
and chooses the cast, and soaks out a leader,
and fastens on the flies, and paddles me in
his canoe to a spot he selects, and tells me
where to cast and how to play the salmon,
and then, as the finishing touch, nets, the fish
when he is tired out — ^whose skill does that
particular landlock victim represent? I'll be
hanged if it's mine."

Piscator had warmed to his subject while
13



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14 The Self-Reliance of Piscator

the cakes and maple syrup grew cold.
Glancing around after this peroration, he
intercq)ted a look from the Peri which sent
his coffee the wrong way and caused him to
pass her father the pickles instead of the
doughnuts, to the infinite disgust of that
purple-gilled old warrior. It took some mo-
ments of chaff from the other men to re-
store his equilibrium, for the Peri was
exceeding good to look upon, and up to this
time she had gazed neither to the right hand
nor to the left. Piscator felt his position
trebly impregnable.

" Why, look at that steel-rod duffer,'' said
he, " who lets Jerry hook half his fish, then
simply socks it into 'em with his iron pole
and a triple-twisted gut leader — and sends
hcmie box after box of salmon to his admir-
ing relatives in 'Wareham, Mass.' Put
that creature on his own resources, and he'd
be food for the fish in twenty-four hours,
instead of boring every living thing he meets
with his ' score ' for each day of the wedc."



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The Self-Reliance of Piscator 1 5

" After all, though, he isn't quite repre-
sentative, even of the sportsmen of this
place, is he? " asked the Peri.

" FU admit he's the limit, as the boys
say," Piscator hastened to reply. " But
he's merely an exaggeraticm of the same
principle which you'll find in nine-tenths of
the city man's sport. The fellow who goes
out to shoot a deer or a moose is led by the
guide, provided he doesn't get tired, till he
gets a sight of the poor beast, and then, if
he isn't too nervous, our mighty Nimrod
pumps lead into him. He might as well,
so far as sport goes, drive a cow into the
woods and fill her full of dum-dum bullets.
Soon we'll be as bad as the Britisher who
sits on his lawn, with brandy and soda
bottles handy and an attendant holding the
guns lest he get wearied, while his flunkies
beat up. the coverts and make the home-
raised pheasants fly over him ! "

"Did you ever try a double on a pair
of pheasants coming down with the



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1 6 The Self-Reliance of Piscator

wind?" asked Grafton the English-
man.

"No; and Fm not particularly keen to.
I'll grant you lots of those chaps can shoot
all around me; but theyVe lost all idea of
true sport and the pleasures of self-reliance
as completely as the Long Island magnate
who casts into a stagnant pond swarming
with logy, liver-fed trout.''

The honours of the morning were clearly
with Piscator, but under the rays from the
Peri's eyes he inflated like a hot-air balloon
until forbearance became a difficult virtue.

" Excuse me, sir," remarked the General,
"but did I not observe you during these
last few days in the company of Peter the
Dane?"

" Yes, sir." Piscator flushed. " It's true
that my theory won't hold absolutely,
for the average man doesn't have time to
learn even the rudiments in his few weeks
of fishing or hunting at any given place.
Consequently he's obliged to submit to this



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The Self-Reliance of Piscator 17

degrading tutelage until he knows the ropes.
But I'm not going to keep it up."

This happened upon a Wednesday. The
next night, true to his determination, Pisca-
tor dismissed the bewildered Peter, finding
it necessary to soothe that worthy's smart-
ing and puzzled professional dignity by a
substantial addition to his bill, and repeated
assurances that one of the two best guides
he had ever struck in all his experience was
named Peter the Dane — ^but that he thought
he would just knock about by himself for
a few days.

Now, it chanced that at dinner the Peri
had turned up her already fascinatingly
retrouss6 nose at the broiled salmon. " They
are beautiful," said she to her father with
finality; "and they skip like young lambs
when they're hooked; and I'll admit every
quality of gameness you choose. But they
are not very good eating to begin with, and
I'm tired to death of them."

Piscator decided to go a-trouting next



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1 8 The Self-Reliance of Piscator

day in Bonny Brook. He knew nothing
about it except what he had gleaned from
rough maps and ff om Peter — and a remem-
brance of having crossed the stream on the
thirteen-mile drive from the railroad. But
no matter ; it would be a welcome change, it
would signalise his emancipation — ^and what
more felicitousi? votive offering for the
shrine at the nor'west corner of the table
than an unexpected dish of delicately
browned, pink-fleshed trout, secured by his
own unaided craft? Clearly a direct and
. manifest inspiration.

n

Eight o'clock next morning found him,
with an after-breakfast pipe, swinging
along the highroad at a five-mile gait, rod
and landing net in cases under his arm.
He had decided not to be conspicuous
and spoil his surprise by either an early start
or an announcement of his intentions. The
robins, and song sparrows and martens



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The Self-Reliance of Piscator 1 9

were filling the air with a conversational
medley in spite of the lowering clouds and
fog. A few moments of rigid self-analysis,
following a comparison of his case with
theirs, led Piscator to the conclusion that his
own exhilaration in the face of the muggy
atmosphere was due to two causes — ^the
entire freedom and solitary dependence on
his own resources, and, perhaps quite
equally, the remembrance of an appointment
at half-past one to teach the Peri how to
catch a salmon off the old dock by the canal.
While apparently contradictory, these two
causes were really harmonious, for he felt
sure it was his pronouncement of the true
principles of sport which had brought the
prize to him rather than that red-faced and
insufferably familiar Grafton. He could
remember her very words. " We wcxnen,"
she said, with the most enticing humility,
"aren't like men and can't be self-reliant.
The world seems to have settled it for us
that we shall be dependent and have at every



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20 The Self-Reliance of Piscator

step instructors and protectors." (Piscator
had blinked rapidly several times at this.)
" But if we must be taught, let it be by a
thorough sportsman and a gentleman, not
by a day labourer who happens to make a
business of guiding."

Piscator broke into a vigorous whistling
of a randy-dandy march tune, setting his
pace to keep time.

After what seemed like a very long two
miles, he met an old man walking to the vil-
lage, who directed him to the trail through
the woods which, he had been told, met the
brook a mile or two above where it crossed
the road. With this timely help he struck
the correct path a little further on, and after
fifteen minutes' brisk walking between the
almost impenetrable young growth of spruce
and birch and hemlock, he descended the
slope of a beautiful little valley at the foot
of which, beneath a line of tall grass and
alders, purled a hidden streamlet.

He jointed his rod with trembling fingers,



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The Self-Reliance of Piscator 21

for he wanted trout badly, and did not
feel entire certainty of his ability — another
humiliating proof, he told himself, of the
truth of his theory. It took some time to do
this, and to rig a cast of a Parmacheene-belle
and a green drake, for the day was one of
those close, heavy-aired, smothery ones in
which the infernal legions of black flies and
mosquitoes rage mightily; so that, bearing
the full brunt of the attack in the m)rriad-
swarming enemy's own stronghold, Piscator
had to pause for a thorough coating of tar
and penn)rroyal " dc^ "on faces and hands.
With every exposed surface glistening oilily,
a pipe going, collar turned up, and hat brim
pulled down all around, it became possible
to look about and consider the question of
trout once more.

Cautiously approaching the bank in this
little clearing, he cast deftly ten feet around
a jutting, overleaning clump of alders.
Hardly had the fly touched the invisible
water when there was a thrilling tug, a



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22 The Self-Reliance of Piscator

splash — and with a business-like yank Pis-
cator urged a handscwne quarter-pound
trout, all gleaming red and yellow and live
brown, into the capacious landing net. He
passed from doubt to triumph in a twin-
kling: the thing was ridiculously easy if a
man could but get down to first principles
and do it all for himself ; and such a zestf ul
flavour was not to be had of a ten-pounder
secured by a personally conducted expedi-
tion. Two more fish came out of this cor-
ner, but he decided they were too small to
keep beside the first capture, so he moved on
downstream.

The going became rather difficult after
leaving this partially cleared space. The
line caught a dozen times in a hundred feet
while pushing one's way through the dense
growth ; often five minutes' patient manoeu-
vring was necessary before the flies could
be induced to drop on the surface of a shal-
low pool ten feet away; and before long he
had to take alternately to the stream bed


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