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How it did Roger

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Fishing has been a favourite hobby of mine [began Roger] since I was so high; and that wasn't yesterday. Neither did what I am going to tell you occur at any period approaching that date, as you will readily believe. In a month of July, however, a favourable opportunity occurred for the practical application of a scheme I had long cherished in theory. It was nothing less than to make a night-march to Midcalder, in order to reach the Almond by sunrise.

There were none of these disagreeable railways in those days - nothing between the dashing old " Highflyer " and the method I adopted. It is a long time ago, now I think of it; yet I remember it as if it were but yesterday. What changes have taken place since then! Ah! those were the days! If people would only remain content with what they have - I mean with what is sufficient they should ' have - how much more happy they would be! I am sure people were much happier and more kind to their fellows - more mindful of one another in those days – when a snug inn was a great fact, and stagecoaches were a marvel of locomotion – when Boniface was a highly respected authority in every village, and the mighty schism of Temperance was unheeded. I can't help thinking so. Everybody seems to be wrapt up in money-making and time-saving. There isn't a hole in their hearts for anything else. Their very amusements are engaged in with an eye to profit - the contents of their game-bag or basket are calculated less by the pound avoirdupois than the pound sterling.

However, somewhere about midnight I set off briskly on my dismal journey; but a reaction took place in my feelings ere I had left my warm, comfortable home more than a mile behind me. I sincerely regretted the foolish step I had taken; my courage, like Bob Acre's, "oozed out at my finger ends and long before daylight stretched in the east, my excited imagination had conjured up the most frightful images, and drawn from the white-painted, but otherwise inoffensive milestones the semblance of horrible spectres!

I arrived at the desired goal at last, and my trials and terrors were forgot in the consciousness of having triumphed. I commenced operations at once; but the shallowness of the water boded ill for a favourable conclusion of the day's proceedings. Already I felt a presentiment that my toil and trouble would go for nought, and that I was likely to return with a heavier heart and a lighter basket (for I had crammed it with a variety of edibles) than I had taken with me ---

"What d'ye want here, sir? what do you want here?"

I turned round, and there stood right in front of me - surmounting a pair of sky-blue inexpressibles, snuff-brown coat and vest, and apparently kept in its position only by an enormous shirt collar - a white Hat! - a beaver of uncommon capacity! I confess I felt startled at this phenomenon; and it was not till I heard, proceeding from an aperture in front of the collar, those threatening words –

"Go before I lay hands on you! I allow no fishing on my Property?" - that the idea occurred to me that it might be a Man! - though from the top of the Hat to the termination of the sky-blues, could not exceed four and a half feet! The idea forced a smile, which I succeeded in repressing from actual outbreak, and intimating that I was ignorant of trespass, protesting against offending in future, at once removed myself out of his presence and his property.

Returning downwards, I came to yon deep pool we stopped at, and impaling on a " Limerick No. 4 " a refractory lobworm, I seated myself on a large smooth stone, sloping towards the pool, into which I gently dropped my line, and awaited the issue of this - my dernier resort.

I was not long seated, when I saw approaching me, a perfect miniature of the gentleman I met so recently, being dressed similarly in all respects, but only half as tall - the hat and collar, however, suffering no diminution. Politely he bade me good morning, intimated that he was " Mr Dousterswivel of Douster Hall," and proceeded to discourse a rhyme, the droll air of which seems tingling in my ears at the present day. I am not quite sure of the words, but the tune he put them to was very like this:

"If you wish for sport, O come "with me -
"With me, with me!
In the Silver Basin there they be,
Leaping and frisking merrily!
If you wish for sport, O come with me -
With me, with me!
The sight of tarns will gladden thee,
Which mortal eyes did never see!
If you wish for sport, O come with me -
With me, with me!

Glad, for humanity's sake, that all little men were not equally disagreeable, I was not long in following him. He led me across the river to the foot of a narrow gully, intersecting yon cliff I showed you, whence a stream of very clear water came pouring down from an elevation of some eight feet. It seemed singular to me that I had never observed this waterfall before; and the facility with which we got over the river was equally surprising! Up went the dwarf by the side of this gully, and with such agility, that I, with limbs of much greater length, had no little difficulty in keeping sight of him. Up too went I, on hands and knees, grasping by bushes and tufts of grass, which grew here and there in the intertices of the rock, till I began to weary for the end of our journey. At length we reached the top.

The scene now presented to my view was exquisitely grand, and far beyond my powers of description; but besides my guide, I saw no other living thing save the fish in the pond at my feet. This was evidently the "Silver Basin," for I could see thousands of magnificent trout swimming about, rubbing shoulders with each other, and looking at me with a beseeching expression, which said, significant as words, "Do take a few of us out, we've less than no room!"

An appeal such as this would prove irresistible to any angler, to say nothing of a disappointed one, as I certainly was. To work I went at once, and for a full hour pulled them in as hard as I could. I had no time to put fresh bait on my hook, but it was all one to the fish; they seized the naked " Limerick" with the same avidity as if it were a much more delicate morsel; out they came three, four, five-pounders, with the greatest good-will in the world. No floundering, flapping, and spluttering to get back to their proper element. No, no; they lay on the gravelly shore, calm, dignified, and undismayed, with a patriotic expression in their eyes, as if they were happy in their consciousness of having suffered for the good of their native element.

I had long since ceased putting them into the basket, - I'd no time for that, besides it could not have held a fourth of them. But at last I got hold of a tremendous fellow. " A ten-pounder, at least," thought I. I tried to bring him in as usual; but no! There was very little of the patriot in his composition! Away he went, dig, dig, dig, to the bottom of the pool. " Trill-ll-ll," screamed the reel; like lightning flew the line through the flushed rings! I knew it couldn't last long. " Cluck!" says the reel, in a decided tone. Still he dig, dig, digged far out in the depths of the pool. I had either to wade or lose my tackle. Ugh! it was so cold! My heart leaped to my mouth with its very chillness. It got gradually deeper, and I suddenly startled myself by plumping up to my middle in a hole, which had the effect of dazzling my vision for a few seconds; but I felt I still had the fish. He began to yield a little. He was tired and sick. I drew him cautiously towards me. Bother! instead of the ten-pounder I expected, the miserable thing would not turn four ounces! I turned round to Dousterswivel to express my disappointment; but neither he nor the heap of noble-minded trout were to be seen! Had the diminutive thief decamped with them? But how on earth ---

Overcome by the loss of my accustomed rest, the fatigues of the morning, and the warm rays of the sun, I had fallen asleep, and gradually slipped (assisted perhaps, in a remote degree, by the tugging of the fish) off the rock into the water; and Dousterswivel, the enchanted pond, and the heroic trout, were only the various fancies of a dream; but the solitary fish, the empty pannier, and my dripping self, were sad, sad realities!

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