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his friends some small share of the pleasure he has himself derived ? I fancy I am not alone in the feeling I experience when I am enjoying some lovely scene, or taking place in some exciting sport, that I should enjoy it more if some friend were with me to share it. I have often felt that part of the pleasure of looking at an exquisite picture was lost to me because some bosom friend was not by my side to see it also.
It was that feeling which induced me to write these papers in the first instance, and it is that feeling which has led to their being brought out in a collected form. I utterly disclaim any literary ambition with regard to them.
Many people have a mistaken notion that when a man dabbles in literature he must of necessity neglect his business. Can anything be more absurd ? Take the case of a bachelor, in lodgings. What is he to do in the long winter evenings after his day's work is over? Why not amuse himself as well by writing an article as in any other way? Yet, if it is known that he does so, he comes to be looked upon as an idle fellow, rather clever, perhaps, but decidedly not a business man. If, on the contrary, he does nothing different to the majority of young men, but spends his time in a billiard-room or debating class—both which ways of spending an evening require rather more time and attention than writing an article—he escapes condemnation.
One word as to the frequent use of the word “I” in this book. It has an egotistical sound about it, and I have striven to avoid it as much as possible; but in papers like these it is manifestly impossible to do without its constant use.
As I wrote these articles the freshness of the hills and streams seemed to be wafted over me by memory's aid. I could not wish them to do more than to bring similar impressions to the reader.
WELL can I remember, during a bird-nesting foray, when a chosen friend and I had rambled far from the town, up beyond the waving uplands into the heart of the Welsh border hills, coming upon a lonely tarn from which a heron slowly flew at our approach, and gazing with a feeling akin to awe at the black water, the tall rushes and flags, and the belt of fir-trees that encircled three sides of it. The feeling of awe was changed to one of wonderment and delight as we saw, circling about and breaking the calmness of the water, dozens and dozens of big brown back-fins projecting above the surface. We had little difficulty in seeing that they belonged to mighty carp. I am not usually a good hand at keeping a secret, but the secret of that pool and its denizens we kept to ourselves for many a year—even
until the fear of rheumatism forbade us to fish it often ourselves, for it could only be fished by wading kneedeep among the rushes. Strictly speaking, we had no right to wet a line there; but, from visiting it often without interruption, we came to look upon the tarn as our exclusive property.
What heavy burdens we oftentimes carried home ! never a fish under a pound and a half, many up to four pounds, but few beyond that weight. The pool, I suppose, had never been fished except by us for the last thirty years, and the very abundance of the fish prevented them growing to any enormous size ; although now and then, out at the end of the flags, where we could never reach, a head would pop up to suck some insect down, with a sounding gulp that would make our hearts beat faster with excitement than they have ever done since.
Our tarn was situated in a hollow on a top of a hill, and had a very boggy and treacherous bottom. More than once have we stood in one place too long, till the flooring of matted roots has sunk lower and lower, and at last, with a horrid swirl of black mud, has given way, when one or other of us, but for the ready hand and active help of his companion, might have found himself fattening the fishes without hope of recovery. Once we set some night-lines there. On a Friday evening in June we laid two dozen of them down, baited with large lobworms. On the Saturday half-holiday we took them up. Seventeen carp, from 2lbs. to 4lbs. in weight, lay gasping on the soft carpet of fir-needles. We caught seven or eight more with the legitimate rod and line, and, what is more, we actually carried the whole of them home. We were a bit ashamed of that exploit, though. It was all very well once in a way, but too unsportsmanlike to be repeated often. It became a question what to do with the fish after we had caught them ; but the avidity with which our poorer neighbours received the present of a few decided the use to which to apply our spoil. To tell the truth, we didn't much care about eating any ourselves. They had a muddy taste, which we found very disagreeable. After such wholesale slaughter, it will be a relief to the reader to see a picture of an ordinary day's sport. We always found that a dull, warm day, with now and then a shower, was the best, and that thunder in the air rather improved our chances. On such days, if we could procure a half-holiday, we would set off at a long, swinging pace (our wind and muscle were in capital condition then), and in due time reach the tarn. As I have said, on three sides it was surrounded by a wood, and on the other side was so shallow and muddy that it was “unfishable.” Having reached the tarn, pray,