---------------------------------------------------------------
     E.Hemingway. The Complete Short Stories.
     N.Y,.Charles Scribner'S Sons, 1987, P.163-180
     OCR: Проект TextShare.da.ru
---------------------------------------------------------------





     The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of
burnt timber. Nick sat  down on the bundle of canvas and bedding the baggage
man had  pitched out  of  the door of the baggage  car. There was  no  town,
nothing but the rails and the burned-over country. The thirteen saloons that
had lined the  one street of Seney had not  left a trace. The foundations of
the Mansion House hotel stuck up above the ground. The stone was chipped and
split by the fire. It  was  all that was left of the town of Seney. Even the
surface had been burned off the ground.
     Nick  looked  at  the  burned-over stretch  of  hillside, where  he had
expected to find the scattered houses of the town  and then  walked down the
railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there. It swirled
against the log spiles of the bridge. Nick looked down into the clear, brown
water,  colored  from the  pebbly  bottom,  and  watched  the  trout keeping
themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they
changed their positions  by quick  angles,  only to hold steady  in the fast
water again. Nick watched them a long time.
     He watched them holding  themselves with their noses into  the current,
many trout in deep, fast moving water,  slightly distorted as he watched far
down through  the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and
swelling  smooth  against  the  resistance  of the log-driven piles  of  the
bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not  see them
at first. Then  he saw them at the bottom of  the pool, big trout looking to
hold themselves on the  gravel  bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand,
raised in spurts by the current.
     Nick looked  down  into the  pool from the bridge.  It was a hot day. A
kingfisher flew up the stream. It was a long time since Nick had looked into
a stream and  seen trout. They were very satisfactory. As the  shadow of the
kingfisher moved  up the stream, a big trout shot upstream in  a long angle,
only  his shadow marking the angle, then lost his shadow as he came  through
the surface of the water, caught the sun, and then, as he went back into the
stream  under the surface,  his shadow seemed to float down the  stream with
the current, unresisting, to his  post under the  bridge where he  tightened
facing up into the current.
     Nick's heart tightened as the trout moved. He felt all the old feeling.
     He   turned  and   looked   down   the  stream.   It  stretched   away,
pebbly-bottomed with shallows and  big boulders and a deep pool as it curved
away around the foot of a bluff.
     Nick  walked  back  up  the ties  to  where his pack lay in the cinders
beside  the railway track. He was happy. He adjusted the pack harness around
the bundle, pulling straps tight, slung the pack  on  his back, got his arms
through the shoulder straps  and took  some of the pull off his shoulders by
leaning his  forehead against the wide band of the tump-line. Still,  it was
too heavy. It was much  too  heavy. He  had his leather rod-case in his hand
and leaning forward to keep the weight of the pack high on  his shoulders he
walked along the  road that paralleled the railway track, leaving the burned
town  behind in  the heat, and then turned  off around  a hill  with a high,
fire-scarred  hill  on either  side onto a  road  that  went  back  into the
country.  He  walked along the road feeling  the ache from  the pull  of the
heavy pack. The road climbed steadily. It was hard work walking up-hill. His
muscles ached and the day was hot,  but Nick felt happy. He felt he had left
everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs. It
was all back of him.
     From the time he  had gotten down off the train and the baggage man had
thrown his pack  out of  the open car door things had been  different. Seney
was burned,  the country was burned over and changed, but it did not matter.
It  could not all be burned. He knew that. He hiked along the road, sweating
in the sun, climbing  to cross the range of hills that separated the railway
from the pine plains.
     The  road ran on, dipping occasionally, but always  climbing. Nick went
on up. Finally the road  after going parallel  to the burnt hillside reached
the top.  Nick  leaned  back  against a stump  and  slipped  out of the pack
harness.  Ahead  of him, as far  as he  could see, was  the  pine plain. The
burned country  stopped off at the left with the  range  of  hills. On ahead
islands of dark pine trees rose  out of  the plain. Far  off to the left was
the line of  the  river. Nick followed it with his eye and caught glints  of
the water in the sun.
     There was  nothing but the pine plain ahead  of him, until the far blue
hills that marked  the Lake  Superior height  of land.  He could hardly  see
them, faint and far away in the heat-light over the plain. If  he looked too
steadily they  were gone.  But  if he only half-looked  they were there, the
far-off hills of the height of land.
     Nick sat down against the  charred stump  and  smoked a cigarette.  His
pack balanced  on  the top  of  the  stump, harness holding  ready, a hollow
molded in  it from his back. Nick sat smoking, looking out over the country.
He did not need to get his map  out. He  knew where he was from the position
of the river.
     As  he smoked,  his  legs stretched out  in front of him, he  noticed a
grasshopper  walk  along  the  ground  and  up  onto  his  woolen sock.  The
grasshopper was black. As he  had walked  along  the  road, climbing, he had
started many grasshoppers from the  dust. They were all black. They were not
the big grasshoppers  with yellow and black or red and black wings  whirring
out from their black wing sheathing as they fly up. These were just ordinary
hoppers, but all a sooty black in color. Nick had wondered  about them as he
walked,  without really thinking about them.  Now, as he  watched the  black
hopper that was nibbling at the wool of his  sock  with its fourway  lip, he
realized that they had all turned black from living in the burned-over land.
He  realized  that  the  fire  must  have  come  the year  before,  but  the
grasshoppers were all black now. He  wondered how  long they would stay that
way.
     Carefully he reached his hand down  and took hold of the hopper  by the
wings. He turned him up,  all his legs walking in the air, and looked at his
jointed belly. Yes, it was  black  too, iridescent where  the back  and head
were dusty.
     "Go on, hopper,"  Nick said, speaking out loud for the first time. "Fly
away somewhere."
     He tossed the grasshopper up into the air and watched him sail away  to
a charcoal stump across the road.
     Nick  stood up. He leaned his back against the weight of his pack where
it rested upright on the stump and got his arms through the shoulder straps.
He  stood with  the pack  on his back  on the brow  of the hill  looking out
across  the  country  toward the  distant  river  and  then struck  down the
hillside  away  from the road. Underfoot the  ground  was good walking.  Two
hundred  yards  down  the hillside the fire  line stopped. Then it was sweet
fern,  growing ankle high, to walk through, and  dumps of jack pines; a long
undulating country with frequent rises and descents, sandy underfoot and the
country alive again.
     Nick kept his direction by the sun.  He knew  where he wanted to strike
the river and he kept on through the pine plain, mounting small rises to see
other rises ahead  of him and sometimes from the top of a rise a great solid
island  of pines off  to his right or his left.  He broke off some sprigs of
the heathery sweet  fern, and  put them under  his pack  straps. The chafing
crushed it and he smelled it as he walked.
     He was  tired and very  hot, walking  across the uneven, shadeless pine
plain. At any time he knew he could strike the  river by turning off to  his
left. It could not be more than a mile away. But he kept on toward the north
to hit the river as far upstream as he could go in one day's walking.
     For some time  as he walked  Nick had  been in sight of one of  the big
islands of pine standing out above the rolling high ground he was crossing.
     He dipped down and then as he came slowly up to the crest of the bridge
he turned and made toward the pine trees.
     There was no underbrush in the island of  pine trees. The minks of  the
trees  went straight  up  or  slanted  toward  each other.  The trunks  were
straight  and brown without branches.  The branches  were  high above.  Some
interlocked  to make a  solid shadow on  the brown forest floor. Around  the
grove of trees was a bare space. It was brown  and  soft  underfoot as  Nick
walked on it. This was the over-lapping of the pine needle floor,  extending
out beyond the width of the high branches. The  trees had grown tall and the
branches  moved  high,  leaving in  the sun this  bare space  they had  once
covered with shadow. Sharp at the edge of this extension of the forest floor
commenced the sweet fern.
     Nick slipped off his pack and lay down in the shade. He lay on his back
and looked  up into the pine  trees. His neck and back and the small of  his
back rested as he stretched. The earth felt good against his back. He looked
up at the sky, through the branches, and then  shut his eyes. He opened them
and looked  up again. There was a wind high up in  the branches. He shut his
eyes again and went to sleep.
     Nick  woke stiff  and cramped.  The  sun was nearly down. His  pack was
heavy and  the  straps painful as he lifted  it on. He leaned over with  the
pack  on and picked up the  leather rod-case and started  out from  the pine
trees across the sweet fern swale, toward the river. He knew it could not be
more than a mile.
     He came down a hillside covered with stumps  into a meadow. At the edge
of the meadow flowed the river. Nick was glad to get to the river. He walked
upstream through  the  meadow.  His trousers were soaked with the dew as  he
walked. After the hot day, the dew had come  quickly and heavily.  The river
made no sound. It was too fast and smooth. At the edge of the meadow, before
he  mounted to a piece  of  high ground to  make camp. Nick  looked down the
river at the trout  rising. They were rising to  insects come from the swamp
on the other side of the stream when the sun went down. The trout jumped out
of  water  to  take them. While Nick  walked through  the little stretch  of
meadow alongside the stream, trout had jumped high out of  water.  Now as he
looked down the river, the insects must be settling on the  surface, for the
trout were  feeding steadily all down the  stream.  As  far  down  the  long
stretch  as he could see, the trout were rising, making circles all down the
surface of the water, as though it were starting to rain.
     The ground rose, wooded and  sandy, to overlook the meadow, the stretch
of river and the swamp. Nick dropped his pack and rod-case and looked for  a
level  piece of ground.  He was very hungry and  he wanted to make his  camp
before he  cooked.  Between two jack pines,  the  ground was quite level. He
took the ax out of  the pack  and chopped  out  two projecting  roots.  That
leveled a  piece  of ground large  enough to sleep on.  He smoothed out  the
sandy soil  with his hand  and  pulled  all  the sweet  fern bushes by their
roots. His hands smelled good from the sweet fern.  He smoothed the uprooted
earth. He did not want anything making lumps under the blankets. When he had
the ground smooth, he spread his three blankets. One he folded double,  next
to the ground. The other two he spread on top.
     With  the  ax he slit off a bright slab of pine from one of the  stumps
and split  it into  pegs for the tent. He wanted them long and solid to hold
in the ground. With the  tent unpacked and spread on  the  ground, the pack,
leaning against a  jackpine,  looked much smaller. Nick  tied  the rope that
served the tent for a ridge-pole to the trunk of one of  the pine  trees and
pulled the tent up off the ground with the other end of the rope and tied it
to the other  pine.  The tent hung on the rope  like  a canvas blanket  on a
clothesline. Nick poked a pole  he  had  cut up  under the back peak of  the
canvas and then made it a tent by pegging out the sides. He pegged the sides
out taut and drove the pegs deep, hitting them down into the ground with the
flat  of  the ax until  the rope  loops were buried and the canvas  was drum
tight.
     Across the open mouth of  the tent Nick  fixed cheesecloth  to keep out
mosquitoes. He  crawled inside  under the mosquito  bar with various  things
from the pack to  put at the head of the bed under the slant  of the canvas.
Inside  the  tent the  light  came through  the  brown  canvas.  It  smelled
pleasantly of canvas. Already there was  something mysterious and  homelike.
Nick was happy as he crawled inside  the  tent. He had not  been unhappy all
day. This was different though. Now things were done. There had been this to
do. Now  it was  done.  It had been a hard trip. He was very tired. That was
done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him.  It was
a good place to  camp. He  was  there, in the good place. He was in his home
where he had made it. Now he was hungry.
     He came out, crawling under the cheesecloth. It was quite dark outside.
It was lighter in the tent.
     Nick went  over to the pack and found, with his fingers, a long nail in
a paper sack of nails, in the bottom of the pack. He drove  it into the pine
tree, holding it  close and  hitting  it  gently with the flat of the ax. He
hung  the pack up on the nail. All  his supplies were in the pack. They were
off the ground and sheltered now.
     Nick  was  hungry. He  did not  believe he  had ever  been hungrier. He
opened and emptied  a can  of pork and beans and a can of spaghetti into the
frying pan.
     "I've got a  right to eat  this kind of stuff, if I'm  willing to carry
it," Nick said. His voice sounded strange in the darkening woods. He did not
speak again.
     He started a fire with some chunks of pine he  got with the  ax  from a
stump. Over the fire he stuck a  wire grill, pushing the four legs down into
the ground  with  his boot. Nick  put  the  frying pan on the grill over the
flames. He  was hungrier. The  beans and spaghetti wanned. Nick stirred them
and mixed  them  together. They began to  bubble, making little bubbles that
rose with difficulty to  the surface. There was a good smell. Nick got out a
bottle of tomato catchup  and cut four slices of  bread.  The little bubbles
were coming faster now. Nick  sat down beside the fire and lifted the frying
pan off. He poured about half the contents out into the tin plate. It spread
slowly on the plate.  Nick knew it was too hot.  He  poured  on  some tomato
catchup. He knew the  beans  and spaghetti were still too hot. He looked  at
the fire, then at the tent, he was not going to spoil it all by burning  his
tongue. For  years he had never enjoyed fried  bananas  because he had never
been  able to wait for  them to  cool. His tongue was very sensitive. He was
very hungry. Across  the river in  the  swamp, in the almost  dark, he saw a
mist rising. He  looked at the tent  once  more.  All right. He  took a full
spoonful from the plate.
     "Chrise," Nick said, "Geezus Chrise," he said happily.
     He ate the whole plateful before he remembered the bread. Nick finished
the  second plateful with  the  bread,  mopping the plate  shiny. He had not
eaten since a cup of coffee and a ham sandwich in the  station restaurant at
St.  Ignace. It had been  a very fine experience.  He  had been that  hungry
before, but had not been  able to satisfy it. He could have made  camp hours
before if he had wanted to. There were plenty  of good places to camp on the
river. But this was good.
     Nick tucked two big chips of pine under  the grill. The fire flared up.
He had forgotten  to  get  water for the coffee. Out  of the  pack he got  a
folding canvas  bucket and  walked  down the  hill, across  the edge of  the
meadow, to the stream. The other bank  was in the  white mist. The grass was
wet and cold as he  knelt on  the bank and dipped the canvas bucket into the
stream. It bellied and pulled hard in  the current. The water was ice  cold.
Nick rinsed the bucket and carried it full up to the  camp. Up away from the
stream it was not so cold.
     Nick  drove  another big nail  and hung up the bucket full of water. He
dipped  the coffee  pot half full, put some more chips  under the grill onto
the fire and put the pot on. He could not remember which way he made coffee.
He could remember  an argument about it with Hopkins, but not  which side he
had taken. He dedded  to  bring  it  to a  boil. He remembered now that  was
Hopkins's way. He had once  argued  about everything  with Hopkins. While he
waited for the coffee to boil,  he opened a small can of apricots.  He liked
to open cans. He emptied the  can of apricots  out into  a tin cup. While he
watched the coffee on the  fire, he drank the  juice syrup  of the apricots,
carefully at first to  keep  from spilling, then  meditatively, sucking  the
apricots down. They were better than fresh apricots.
     The coffee boiled as he watched. The lid came up and coffee and grounds
ran down the side of the pot. Nick took  it  off the grill. It was a triumph
for Hopkins.  He put sugar in the empty apricot cup  and  poured some of the
coffee out to cool. It was too hot  to pour and  he used his hat to hold the
handle of the coffee pot. He would not let it steep in the  pot at  all. Not
the first cup. It should be straight Hopkins all the way. Hop deserved that.
     He was a very serious coffee drinker. He was the  most serious man Nick
had ever known. Not heavy, serious. That was a long time ago. Hopkins  spoke
without moving his lips. He  had played polo. He made millions of dollars in
Texas. He had borrowed carfare to go to Chicago, when the wire came that his
first big well had come in.  He could have wired  for money. That would have
been  too  slow. They called Hop's  girl the Blonde Venus. Hop  did not mind
because she  was not his real  girl. Hopkins said very confidently that none
of  them would make fun of  his real girl. He was  right.  Hopkins went away
when the telegram came. That was on the Black River. It  took eight days for
the telegram to reach him. Hopkins  gave away his. 22 caliber Colt automatic
pistol  to Nick.  He gave his camera to  Bill. It was to remember him always
by. They were all going fishing again next summer. The Hop Head was rich. He
would  get a  yacht and they would all  cruise along the north shore of Lake
Superior.  He was excited but serious. They said  good-bye and all felt bad.
It broke up the trip. They never saw Hopkins again. That was a long time ago
on the Black River.
     Nick drank the coffee, the coffee according to  Hopkins. The coffee was
bitter.  Nick  laughed.  It made a  good  ending  to the story. His mind was
starting to work. He knew he  could choke it because he was tired enough. He
spilled the coffee out of the pot and shook the grounds loose into the fire.
He  lit  a cigarette  and went  inside  the tent. He took off his  shoes and
trousers, sitting on the blankets,  rolled  the shoes up inside the trousers
for a pillow and got in between the blankets.
     Out through the front of the tent he watched the glow of the fire, when
the  night wind  blew  on it. It was a quiet night. The swamp  was perfectly
quiet. Nick stretched under the blanket comfortably. A mosquito hummed close
to  his ear. Nick  sat up  and  lit a match. The mosquito was on the canvas,
over  his head. Nick moved the match quickly up to it.  The mosquito made  a
satisfactory hiss in the  flame. The match went  out. Nick  lay  down  again
under the  blanket. He turned on his side and shut his eyes. He  was sleepy.
He felt sleep coming. He curled up under the blanket and went to sleep.





     In the morning  the  sun  was up and the tent  was starting to get hot.
Nick crawled out  under the  mosquito netting stretched across the mouth  of
the tent, to look at the morning. The grass was wet on his  hands as he came
out. He held his trousers and his shoes in  his hands. The sun  was  just up
over  the hill. There was the meadow, the  river  and the  swamp. There were
birch trees in the green of the swamp on the other side of the river.
     The river was clear and smoothly fast in the early morning.  Down about
two  hundred yards were three logs  all the way across the stream. They made
the water smooth and  deep above them. As Nick  watched, a mink crossed  the
river on  the logs and went into the swamp. Nick was excited. He was excited
by  the  early morning  and  the  river. He  was really too hurried  to  eat
breakfast, but he knew he must. He built a little fire and put on the coffee
pot.
     While the water was heating in the pot he took an empty bottle and went
down over the edge of the high ground to the meadow. The meadow was wet with
dew and Nick wanted to catch grasshoppers for bait before  the sun dried the
grass.  He found plenty of good grasshoppers.  They  were at the base of the
grass  stems. Sometimes they  clung  to a grass stem. They were cold and wet
with the dew, and could not jump until the sun wanned them. Nick picked them
up,  taking only the  medium-sized brown ones, and put them into the bottle.
He turned over a  log  and just  under the shelter of the  edge were several
hundred hoppers. It was a grasshopper lodging house. Nick put about fifty of
the medium browns into the bottle. While  he was  picking up the hoppers the
others warmed in the sun and  commenced  to  hop  away.  They flew when they
hopped. At first they made one flight and stayed stiff when  they landed, as
though they were dead.
     Nick knew that by the time he was through with breakfast  they would be
as  lively as ever. Without dew in the  grass it would take him  all  day to
catch a  bottle full of good grasshoppers and he would have to crush many of
them,  slamming at them with his hat. He washed his  hands at the stream. He
was excited to be near it. Then he walked  up to the tent. The  hoppers were
already jumping stiffly in the grass. In the bottle, warmed by the sun, they
were jumping in  a mass. Nick put in a pine stick as  a cork. It plugged the
mouth of the bottle enough, so the hoppers could not get out and left plenty
of air passage.
     He had  rolled the log back and knew  he  could get grasshoppers  there
every morning.
     Nick laid the bottle full of jumping grasshoppers against a pine trunk.
Rapidly he mixed some buckwheat flour with  water and stirred it smooth, one
cup of flour, one  cup of water. He put a handful  of  coffee in the pot and
dipped a  lump of grease out of a can  and slid it sputtering across the hot
skillet. On the smoking skillet he poured smoothly the buckwheat  batter. It
spread  like  lava,  the  grease  spitting  sharply.  Around  the  edges the
buckwheat  cake  began  to  firm, then brown,  then  crisp. The  surface was
bubbling slowly to porousness. Nick pushed  under  the browned under surface
with a fresh pine chip. He shook the skillet sideways and the cake was loose
on  the surface. I won't try and  flop  it, he  thought. He slid the chip of
clean wood all the way under the cake, and flopped it over onto its face. It
sputtered in the pan.
     When it was cooked Nick regreased the  skillet. He used all the batter.
It made another big flapjack and one smaller one.
     Nick ate a big  flapjack and  a smaller one, covered with apple butter.
He put apple butter on the  third  cake, folded it over twice, wrapped it in
oiled paper and put it in his shirt pocket. He put the apple butter jar back
in the pack and cut bread for two sandwiches.
     In the pack he found  a big onion.  He sliced it in two and peeled  the
silky  outer  skin.  Then  he  cut  one  half  into  slices  and  made onion
sandwiches. He wrapped them in oiled  paper  and  buttoned them in the other
pocket of his khaki shirt. He turned the  skillet upside down  on the grill,
drank the coffee, sweetened and yellow brown with the condensed milk in  it,
and tidied up the camp. It was a good camp.
     Nick took  his  fly rod  out of the leather rod-case,  jointed it,  and
shoved the rod-case  back into the tent. He put on the reel and threaded the
line through the guides. He had to hold it from hand to hand, as he threaded
it, or  it would slip back through its  own weight. It  was a heavy,  double
tapered fly line. Nick had paid eight dollars for it a long time ago. It was
made heavy  to lift  back  in the air and come  forward flat  and  heavy and
straight to make it possible to cast a fly which has  no weight. Nick opened
the aluminum  leader box. The leaders were  coiled between the damp  flannel
pads. Nick had  wet the pads at  the water cooler  on the train  up  to  St.
Ignace. In the damp pads the  gut leaders had softened and Nick unrolled one
and tied it by a loop at the end to the heavy fly  line. He  fastened a hook
on the end of the leader. It was a small hook; very thin and springy.
     Nick took  it from his hook book, sitting with the rod  across his lap.
He  tested the knot  and the spring  of the rod by pulling the line taut. It
was a good feeling. He was careful not to let the hook bite into his finger.
     He  started down  to  the  stream,  holding  his  rod,  the  bottle  of
grasshoppers hung from his neck by a thong tied in half hitches  around  the
neck of  the bottle. His landing net  hung by a hook from his belt. Over his
shoulder was a long flour sack tied at each comer into an ear. The cord went
over his shoulder. The sack flapped against his legs.
     Nick felt  awkward  and professionally  happy with  all  his  equipment
hanging  from  him. The grasshopper  bottle swung against  his chest. In his
shin the breast pockets bulged against him with the lunch and his fly book.
     He stepped into the stream. It was a shock. His trousers clung tight to
his legs. His shoes felt the gravel. The water was a rising cold shock.
     Rushing, the current  sucked against his legs. Where he stepped in, the
water  was over his knees. He waded  with the current. The gravel slid under
his shoes. He looked down at the swirl of water below each leg and tipped up
the bottle to get a grasshopper.
     The first  grasshopper gave a  jump  in the neck of the bottle and went
out into the water. He was sucked under in the whirl by Nick's right leg and
came  to the surface  a little way down stream. He floated rapidly, kicking.
In a quick circle, breaking the smooth surface of the water, he disappeared.
A trout had taken him.
     Another hopper poked his face out of the  bottle. His antennae wavered.
He  was getting his front legs out of the bottle to jump.  Nick took  him by
the head  and held him while he threaded the slim hook under  his chin, down
through  his  thorax  and  into  the  last  segments  of  his  abdomen.  The
grasshopper took  hold  of  the hook  with his  front feet, spitting tobacco
juice on it. Nick dropped him into the water.
     Holding the  rod in his right hand he  let out line against the pull of
the grasshopper in the current. He stripped off line from the reel  with his
left hand and let it run free.  He could see the hopper in  the little waves
of the current. It went out of sight.
     There was a tug on the line. Nick pulled  against the taut line. It was
his first strike. Holding the now living rod across  the current, he brought
in the  line with his  left  hand. The rod bent in  jerks, the trout pumping
against  the  current.  Nick  knew it was  a small one. He  lifted  the  rod
straight up in the air. It bowed with the pull.
     He saw  the trout in the water jerking with his head  and  body against
the shifting tangent of the line in the stream.
     Nick took the  line in his  left hand  and pulled the  trout,  thumping
tiredly against the current, to the surface. His back was mottled the clear,
water-over-gravel  color, his side flashing  in the  sun.  The rod under his
right arm, Nick stooped, dipping his right hand  into  the  current. He held
the trout,  never still, with his  moist  right  hand, while he unhooked the
barb from his mouth, then dropped him back into the stream.
     He hung unsteadily in the current, then settled to  the bottom beside a
stone. Nick reached  down his hand  to touch him, his arm to the elbow under
water.  The trout was steady  in the moving  stream, resting  on the gravel,
beside a stone. As  Nick's fingers touched him,  touched his  smooth,  cool,
underwater feeling he was  gone,  gone in  a shadow across the bottom of the
stream.
     He's all right. Nick thought. He was only tired.
     He  had  wet his  hand  before he touched  the  trout, so he  would not
disturb the delicate mucus that covered him.  If a trout  was touched with a
dry hand, a white fungus attacked the unprotected spot. Years before when he
had fished crowded streams,  with fly fishermen ahead of him and behind him.
Nick had  again  and  again  come on  dead trout, furry  with  white fungus,
drifted against a rock, or floating belly up in some pool. Nick did not like
to fish with other men on the  river. Unless they were  of  your party, they
spoiled it.
     He wallowed  down the stream, above his knees in the  current,  through
the  fifty yards of shallow water above the  pile  of logs that  crossed the
stream. He did not rebait  his hook and held it  in his hand as he waded. He
was certain he  could catch small trout in the shallows, but he did not want
them. There would be no big trout in the shallows this time of day.
     Now the water deepened up his  thighs sharply and coldly. Ahead was the
smooth dammed-back  flood of water  above the logs. The water was smooth and
dark; on the left, the lower edge of the meadow; on the right the swamp.
     Nick leaned back against the current and took a hopper from the bottle.
He threaded the hopper on the hook and spat  on him for  good  luck. Then he
pulled several yards of line  from  the reel and tossed the hopper out ahead
onto the fast, dark water. It floated down towards the logs, then the weight
of  the  line  pulled  the bait  under the surface. Nick held the rod in his
right hand, letting the line run out through his fingers.
     There was a long tug. Nick struck and the rod came alive and dangerous,
bent double, the line tightening, coming out  of water, tightening, all in a
heavy,  dangerous,  steady  pull. Nick felt the moment when the leader would
break if the strain increased and let the line go.
     The reel ratcheted into a mechanical shriek as the  line went out in  a
rush. Too fast. Nick could not check it, the line rushing out. the reel note
rising as the line ran out.
     With the core of the  reel  showing, his heart feeling stopped with the
excitement, leaning  back against the current that mounted icily his thighs,
Nick  thumbed  the  reel hard with his left hand. It was awkward getting his
thumb inside the fly reel frame.
     As  he put on pressure  the  line  tightened into sudden  hardness  and
beyond the  logs a huge trout went high  out  of  water. As he jumped.  Nick
lowered the tip of the rod. But he felt, as  he dropped the tip  to ease the
strain, the moment when the strain was too great; the hardness too tight. Of
course,  the leader had broken. There was no  mistaking the feeling when all
spring left the line and it became dry and hard. Then it went slack.
     His mouth dry, his heart down. Nick reeled in. He had never seen so big
a trout. There was a heaviness, a power not to be held, and then the bulk of
him, as he jumped. He looked as broad as a salmon.
     Nick's  hand  was shaky. He reeled  in slowly. The thrill  had been too
much. He felt, vaguely,  a little sick,  as though it would be better to sit
down.
     The  leader had broken where the  hook was tied to it. Nick  took it in
his hand. He thought of the trout  somewhere on the bottom, holding  himself
steady over the gravel,  far down below the light, under the logs,  with the
hook in his jaw. Nick knew the trout's teeth  would cut through the snell of
the  hook. The hook  would imbed itself  in his jaw. He'd  bet the trout was
angry.  Anything  that size would be angry. That  was  a  trout. He had been
solidly hooked. Solid as a rock. He felt like a rock, too, before he started
off. By God, he was a big one. By God, he  was the biggest one  I ever heard
of.
     Nick climbed  out onto the  meadow  and stood, water running  down  his
trousers and out of his shoes,  his shoes squelchy. He went  over and sat on
the logs. He did not want to rush his sensations any.
     He  wriggled  his  toes  in  the  water, in  his shoes, and  got  out a
cigarette from  his  breast  pocket. He lit it and tossed the match into the
fast  water below  the logs.  A  tiny  trout rose at  the match, as it swung
around in the fast current. Nick laughed. He would finish the cigarette.
     He  sat on  the logs, smoking, drying in the sun,  the sun warm  on his
back, the river shallow ahead  entering  the woods, curving into  the woods,
shallows, light glittering,  big water-smooth  rocks, cedars along  the bank
and white birches, the logs warm in the sun, smooth to sit on, without bark,
gray to the touch; slowly  the  feeling of  disappointment left him. It went
away  slowly, the  feeling  of disappointment that came  sharply  after  the
thrill that made his shoulders ache. It was all right now. His rod lying out
on the logs. Nick tied a new hook on the leader, pulling the gut tight until
it grimped into itself in a hard knot.
     He  baited up, then picked up  the rod and walked to the far end of the
logs  to get into the water, where it was not too deep. Under and beyond the
logs  was  a deep pool. Nick walked around the shallow shelf  near the swamp
shore until he came out on the shallow bed of the stream.
     On the left, where  the meadow  ended and  the woods began, a great elm
tree was uprooted. Gone  over  in a storm, it lay back  into the  woods, its
roots clotted with dirt,  grass growing in  them, rising a solid bank beside
the stream. The river cut to the edge of the uprooted tree.  From where Nick
stood he could see deep channels, like ruts, cut in  the shallow  bed of the
stream by the flow of the current. Pebbly where he stood and pebbly and full
of boulders beyond;  where it  curved near the tree  roots, the  bed of  the
stream was marly  and between the ruts of deep water green weed fronds swung
in the current.
     Nick swung  the  rod back over his shoulder  and forward, and the line,
curving  forward,  laid the grasshopper down on one of  the deep channels in
the weeds. A trout struck and Nick hooked him.
     Holding the rod far out toward  the uprooted tree and sloshing backward
in the current. Nick worked the trout, plunging, the rod  bending alive, out
of the  danger  of the weeds into the open  river. Holding the  rod, pumping
alive against the current.  Nick brought the trout in. He rushed, but always
came, the  spring of the rod yielding to the rushes, sometimes jerking under
water,  but  always bringing him in. Nick eased downstream with the  rushes.
The rod above his head he led the trout over the net, then lifted.
     The trout hung heavy in the net, mottled trout back and silver sides in
the meshes. Nick unhooked him; heavy sides, good to hold, big undershot jaw,
and slipped him, heaving and big sliding, into the long sack that hung  from
his shoulders in the water.
     Nick  spread the mouth of the sack against the  current and it  filled,
heavy  with  water. He  held  it up, the bottom in the stream, and the water
poured out through the sides. Inside at the  bottom was the big trout, alive
in the water.
     Nick  moved downstream. The  sack out ahead  of him sunk  heavy in  the
water, pulling from his shoulders.
     It was getting hot, the sun hot on the back of his neck.
     Nick  had one good trout. He did not care about getting many trout. Now
the  stream was  shallow  and  wide.  There were trees along both banks. The
trees of  the left bank  made short shadows  on the current in the  forenoon
sun.  Nick knew there were trout in each shadow. In the afternoon, after the
sun had crossed toward the hills, the trout would be in  the cool shadows on
the other side of the stream.
     The very biggest  ones would lie up close to the bank. You could always
pick them  up  there on the Black. When the sun was down they  all moved out
into the current.  Just when the sun  made the water blinding  in  the glare
before it went  down, you were liable to strike a big  trout anywhere in the
current. It was almost impossible to fish then, the surface of the water was
blinding as a mirror in the sun. Of course, you could  fish upstream, but in
a stream like the Black, or  this, you had to wallow against the current and
in a deep place, the water  piled up on you. It  was no fun to fish upstream
with this much current.
     Nick  moved along through  the shallow stretch watching the  banks  for
deep holes. A  beech tree  grew close beside the river, so that the branches
hung down  into the water. The stream  went back in  under the leaves. There
were always trout in a place like that.
     Nick  did not care about fishing  that hole. He was sure  he would  get
hooked in the branches.
     It looked deep  though. He dropped  the grasshopper so the current took
it  under water, back  in under the overhanging branch. The line pulled hard
and Nick struck. The trout threshed heavily, half out of water in the leaves
and branches. The line was caught.  Nick pulled hard and  the trout was off.
He reeled in and holding the hook in his hand, walked down the stream.
     Ahead,  close to  the left bank, was a big log. Nick saw it was hollow;
pointing up  river the current  entered it  smoothly, only  a  little ripple
spread each  side of the log. The water was deepening. The top of the hollow
log was gray and dry. It was partly in the shadow.
     Nick took the  cork out of the grasshopper bottle and a hopper clung to
it.  He  picked him off, hooked him and tossed him out. He held the  rod far
out so that the hopper on the  water moved into the current flowing into the
hollow  log.  Nick lowered the rod and the hopper floated  in. There  was  a
heavy strike. Nick swung the rod against the pull. It felt as though he were
hooked into the log itself, except for the live feeling.
     He tried to force the fish out into the current. It came, heavily.
     The line  went slack and Nick thought  the  trout was gone. Then he saw
him,  very near, in the current,  shaking his head, trying to  get the  hook
out.  His mouth  was  clamped shut. He was  fighting  the hook in  the clear
flowing current.
     Looping in the line with his  left hand. Nick swung the rod to make the
line taut and tried to lead the trout toward  the net, but he was  gone, out
of sight, the line pumping. Nick fought him against the current, letting him
thump in the water against the spring of the rod. He shifted  the rod to his
left hand,  worked  the trout upstream,  holding his weight, fighting on the
rod, and then let him down into the net. He lifted him clear of the water, a
heavy half  circle in the net, the  net dripping, unhooked him  and slid him
into the sack.
     He spread the mouth of the sack and looked down in at the two big trout
alive in the water.
     Through the deepening water. Nick waded over to the hollow log. He took
the sack off, over his head, the trout flopping as it came out of water, and
hung  it so the trout  were  deep in the water. Then he pulled himself up on
the log and sat, the water from his trouser and boots  running down into the
stream. He  laid his rod down, moved along  to the shady end of  the log and
took the sandwiches out of his pocket. He dipped the sandwiches in the  cold
water. The current carried away the crumbs. He ate the sandwiches and dipped
his hat full of water  to  drink, the water running out through his hat just
ahead of his drinking.
     It was cool in the shade, sitting on the log. He took  a  cigarette out
and struck a match to light it. The match sunk  into the gray wood, making a
tiny furrow. Nick leaned  over the side of the log, found  a  hard place and
lit the match. He sat smoking and watching the river.
     Ahead the river narrowed and went into a swamp. The river became smooth
and deep and the  swamp  looked solid with  cedar  trees, their  trunks dose
together, their branches solid. It  would  not be possible to walk through a
swamp  like  that. The  branches grew so  low. You would have to keep almost
level  with  the ground to  move  at  all. You could  not crash  through the
branches. That must  be why the animals  that lived in swamps were built the
way they were. Nick thought.
     He wished he had  brought something to read.  He  felt like reading. He
did not feel like going on  into the swamp. He  looked down the river. A big
cedar slanted all the way across the stream. Beyond that the river went into
the swamp.
     Nick did not  want to go in there now. He felt a reaction  against deep
wading with the water deepening up  under his armpits, to hook big trout  in
places impossible to land them. In  the swamp the banks  were bare, the  big
cedars  came  together  overhead, the  sun  did not come through,  except in
patches; in the fast deep  water, in the  half light,  the fishing  would be
tragic. In  the swamp fishing  was a tragic adventure. Nick did not want it.
He did not want to go down the stream any further today.
     He  took out  his knife, opened it and stuck it  in the  log.  Then  he
pulled  up  the  sack,  reached  into  it and  brought out one of the trout.
Holding him near the tail, hard to hold,  alive, in his hand, he whacked him
against the log. The  trout quivered, rigid. Nick laid him on the log in the
shade and broke the neck  of the other fish the same way. He  laid them side
by side on the log. They were fine trout.
     Nick cleaned them, slitting them from the  vent to the tip  of the jaw.
All  the insides and the  gills and tongue came out in one  piece. They were
both  males;  long  gray-white strips  of milt,  smooth  and clean.  All the
insides clean and  compact,  coming out all together.  Nick tossed the offal
ashore for the minks to find.
     He  washed  the  trout in the stream. When he  held them back up in the
water they looked like  live fish. Their color  was not gone yet. He  washed
his  hands  and dried them on  the log.  Then he  laid the trout on the sack
spread out  on the log, rolled them up in it,  tied the bundle and put it in
the landing net. His  knife was still  standing, blade stuck in  the log. He
cleaned it on the wood and put it in his pocket.
     Nick  stood  up on the log, holding his rod, the  landing  net  hanging
heavy, then  stepped into the water and splashed ashore. He climbed the bank
and  cut  up into  the  woods,  toward the high ground. He was going back to
camp.  He looked  back. The river just showed through the  trees. There were
plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp.

Популярность: 29, Last-modified: Mon, 04 Dec 2000 17:44:35 GMT