« НазадПродовжити »
reader, accompany us in imagination as we dive into the wood and rig up our tackle two rods each, long and slender, with fine lines, light porcupine-quill floats, no shot, and a moderate-sized red worm for bait. Off with our shoes and stockings, tuck up our trousers, then cautiously and quietly pushing through the underwood, we enter the water and wade through the flags, which reach as high as our heads; then, fixing each foot firmly on a root, we drop the lines as gently as possible into the water. How quiet everything is ! A heron stands patiently on the shallows, and another is trying, with ludicrously unsuccessful efforts, to perch on the slight topmost branches of a fir. A wild duck leads her brood by the rushes, while nodding water-hens and white-headed coots intersect the water. What curious little black balls the young water-hens are! Hillo ! what's that? A splash that echoes through the woods, and a little black ball has gone down the hungry maw of a pike, the only one in the pool, I think—at least, I could never hook one of its descendants or brothers and sisters, although I have tried early and late, and the haunt of that monster is too far for me to cast. He lies cheek by jowl with the big carp. No bites yet, and the floats lie as still on the water as if there was never a fish in the pool, and we fall into a reverie, as we gaze up at one, two, aye, three kestrels hovering above us. How very still it has suddenly become, and how dark, as the thunder-cloud throws its shadows on the pool ! I am actually afraid of breaking the stillness by shouting to Campbell over yonder to ask what sport he has had. All the water birds have sought the shelter of the rushes, and I begin to feel quite uncanny, when I am startled by a sudden twitch of the loop of running line which I am absently twisting about my finger. See! the float has disappeared; strike! and up comes the line—no fish. In with it again ! We must be more watchful; but we shall have no more bites until the storm is over. A weird rustling goes through the firs, and the water is caught by sudden flaws of wind. We reel up and seek the shelter of the wood. A flash and a rattle, another and another, and the water is whitened with the wind and the rain. Then, as the storm passes away, we run to the brow of the hill, to see it sweeping through the valleys and glens. How dense the cloud seems ! The flashes dart to earth and return to the cloud with almost equal brilliancy.
As soon as our lines are in the water again, the fun begins. The ripples are still on the water, and we can scarcely see the tiny floats. As it gets calmer, one moves a little; then, after a while, a little more, and then walks off quietly along the surface. I tighten my line; no need to strike hard. The carp is a soft, though
leather-mouthed fish. Whizz! What a dash! Again, and again, and then backwards, and I have to pull the slack of the line in with my hand; then out again and boring down into the mud, and—yes, actually there is a bite at the other float. I shout to my friend for help, but see him with a rod in each hand, both bending and springing like mad; the water in front of him white with the struggles of his prey—as white as his face, and as my own probably is, with excitement. Ah! one of mine is off, and the wet and sticky coils of the line fly in my face. Never mind; I land the other, a good three-pounder, and rush round to Campbell's assistance. We land both his fish, each above 21bs. So through the rest of the afternoon; to continue the picture would be monotonous.
The carp there were vigorous fish, and gave plenty of play at first ; but after four or five frantic rushes they submitted to be towed in, a dead, heavy weight, scarcely giving a flap of the tail till they were banked.
As our tackle had need to be light, we had to exercise considerable caution in safely landing them. Our plan was to walk slowly backwards until the carp were hampered in the rushes, and then seize them in our arms and rush ashore, generally, by the way, getting the line entangled in the underwood. We would take home from six to a dozen fish apiece. There were such
incredible numbers of carp in the pool, that it was no wonder we had good sport with this otherwise shy fish. There was no lack of incidents to while away the monotony of waiting. A snake would swim along close to us, with its head and neck above water; or a fox would steal along by the rushes, on the look-out for some sleeping water-fowl. Before leaving, too, we used to climb up to the ledge of rocks which overhung the vale, and take a glimpse at the thousands of rabbits feeding among the debris at the bottom of the cliff; if a stone was thrown down, the rocks seemed absolutely moving with them. Then, when the fairy-like glens and valleys, that looked like highways to the sunset, became undistinguishable from the rugged hills, and the rock dove had sought her nest in a rabbit burrow or in a crevice of the old hunting tower, we would turn homewards, tired and happy.
THE SHROPSHIRE MERES
In all the pleasant country around the Wrekin, there are few prettier districts than that which forms the emerald setting to the silver meres of Salop. Devoid of the magnificence of the Welsh hills which form its western horizon, it has a quiet beauty peculiarly its own.
Situate in the north-west of Shropshire, Ellesmere, the starting-point of the mere district, is a pretty, quiet little town, having for its chief attractions the Mere par excellence; a handsome church, of cruciform plan (and, inside, the gloom of the middle ages); a hill, on the summit of which once stood a castle formerly given in frank marriage to Llewellyn, Prince of North Wales, by King John, and which, after often changing owners, was destroyed during the civil wars of the seventeenth century, not a stone of it now remaining, and the site