« PreviousContinue »
walked slowly up the steep hill, puffing binding caressingly in the dark. He between breaths and mouthing to himself knew the contents by heart-could quote soft Mexican oaths. Upon reaching the from cover to cover but he liked the shelter of the silver firs he opened his bas- substance under his hand. Those gray ket. Huge trout, dripping from the river, eyes saw more than words, searching the ranged between layers of sweet fern. He broad Milky Way. Lonely watches at sea smiled unctuously, displaying them. when he was a lad had made him a re
“A good day's sport, madam, very cluse, he apologized to me when I urged good,” he reiterated. “These” — he held him to come down to the fire. “I am not the largest, the very fattest, by the gills good company; my tongue stumbles over for inspection — “are fine fish, madam, your fine English,” he excused. “I am a good catch. I'll wager there's been no more used to the stars and trees and finer catch on the river to-day." His as- mountains they understand we are sertion was challenging. I thought of the so near.” And he begged pardon lest in sagging basket on the gray-corduroyed some way he should have hurt. “You shoulders. “Have you seen the Judge ?” others know so much, have read many he inquired tentatively.
books. I know only one.” He patted the “He started out with gray hackle,” I book on his knees. “I am not fit comanswered.
pany, madam. I cannot talk — I can Don Danuelo sniffed and slapped his only think; that makes dull company!” big band to his basket.
There was something musical in the Fish is what a fisherman wants – quaint precision of his un-English exactand if he wants fish he must catch them ness that made pleasant hearing. I re- and bait is what they are taking on the membered the very words he had used; Sacramento this season I'm giving they were fixed in my memory with his evidence.” And he thumped his basket deprecating, winning smile. convincingly.
These things were running through my “I saw caddis flies swarming over the head as I listened to Don Danuelo. It Evening pool,” I mildly ventured. pleased him better to do the talking, and
Don Danuelo's knotted veins swelled. he did not mind my not answering. For a time we plodded silent through I felt a pang of disappointment at not the fragrant fir to where the orchard finding the Señor at the bars, though I stretched. Then he waxed grandiloquent had hardly dared hope. Somehow a few over the much-threshed subject of bait kindly words from him were my beneversus flies. I knew he was girded for diction to the day. battle-royal that night across the supper- Bidding Don Danuelo go on, I lingered table. He was merely practicing phrases in the orchard where the smell of rotting on me, and I was a willing target, for I apples perfumed the air with the tinge of knew the kindness of the heart that sped refined musk that no other odor holds, the shaft.
that no one knows the sweetness of unless As we came to the garden gate the breathed in the pine-locked mountains reverent figure at the bars had melted where the fruit is nourished on dew, crysinto the dusk. The gray Señor had a way tal air, generous sunshine, and fragrance of slipping off into lonely corners, and of balsamic things. Then, too, the man muffling himself in the mantle of silence. of the house, after his daily chores, was His evenings were spent on the upper burning brush and dead leaves at the top porch brushed by tips of overshadowing of the hill. The pungent smoke floated fir, - I confess to stealing up the stairs invitingly to my nostrils, and I wondered and peeping, — with a book on his knees, if to the Señor it did not waft thoughts of - the old philosophy that he loved, - his heavenly incense.
- slender, wrinkled fingers touching the A crisp of frost was in the air, a colder glitter in the stars. The day before, I had while the Don fussed about the desk adnoticed a trace of flame creeping up the dressing express tags. He was most genmaples on the ridge, and in the dogwood, erous to his friends
- and in advertising azaleas, and wide-leaved saxifrage down his prowess. I have observed, in many by the river the fire of change was slowly years' wanderings and close observation kindling. I almost expected to see Pan of habits and quirks of men, that there is stealing from a leafy covert to warm his no pride like unto a fisherman's pride, the hands at the glow of the leaves.
pride of pounds. A man would rather be Don Danuelo had passed on to dry considered a good sportsman than a hero. comfort while I snatched the few deli- Mayhap the qualities are synonymous, cious moments to myself — soft dusk- only of different mixing. Don Danuelo moments when smell of earth is strong swelled with more importance over his and sweet, and, if you crouch under a catch than he did, I warrant, when singlepine on the rim of the orchard as I did,' handed he quelled that desperate rising you may hear the rustle of tiny, padding of lawless peons on his Mexican rancho. feet, and sense the presence of shy wood- And that was a gallant deed, I have creatures barely brushing the wide mul- heard; he could never be cajoled into lein leaves as they pass. White butterflies telling of it. drifted, homing through the half-light; The Judge strode in, his curly hair and down in the far field, that drops to flat and shining from much water. Don the river, a thrush called a belated good- Danuelo, bristling with importance, thrust night. Your soul is lifted; you almost the basket under the judicial nose. lose the weight of the human in you, and “Bait ? ” the Judge queried, lifting his reach to the divine. On the heights you eyebrows. breathe spiritual air, and know what “Salmon roe, sir.” great pines stretching strong arms to the The Judge's interest faded to indiffersky know. The wide earth holds — but ence, and he passed to the dining-room the wider heavens call. If the exultant while the Don grumbled to himself. I moment could last! But earth-born must tagged after the party in pretense of cling fast to earth until the appointed helping the overworked mistress of the time to rise shall come. And, somehow, house to serve the overlate supper; partly with all our yearning and uplifting we - I must confess cleanly — to pick up never care to hasten that time.
the crumbs of talk scattered about the The homely gathering-room of the fishermen's table. rambling house turned an inviting face The Señor, well brushed, was already of light to me. Pine cones blazed on the in his place; something of the dignity of hearth, mellowing the cool of evening; the night and the great trees was in his huge back-logs exuded aromatic rosin, manner as he thanked me for the conand cheerfully sizzled an old wood-song diments I set before him. Frugally and to the fire-dogs as I crossed the porch to silently he ate the supper of bacon and be with my kind.
eggs, boylike showing me the cheek of The Judge, his long, lank frame con- a red apple tucked in the gray corduroy juring up whimsical reminiscences of pocket, a bonne bouche for the night. Don Quixote, was bending over a tin The Judge was belligerent; he liked to wash-basin set on a long bench, and tilt. Don Danuelo was defensive between much splashing of water deadened my cups of strong black coffee and hearty footsteps. I joined Don Danuelo in the replenishings of his plate. comfortable light and warmth, and hud- “ Flies are a snare," Don Danuelo dedled to the blaze, palms out, — these clared, “ not honest, a deception, a lure. mountain evenings are cold and drive the You entice the fish - you have the fish warming blood from the finger-tips, - - he, poor beggar, has nothing." His
positive crash of fist made the thick no part in the joust. The Señor weighed crockery rattle nervously.
his words before he spoke, perhaps be“You —," the Judge began, the set cause he did not know the twist of our of his mouth foretelling the trim of his tongue so well, perhaps because — if you sentiments.
balance your words some remain unspokDon Danuelo snatched the words from en, and the measure remains unspilled. the Judge's mouth. “I, sir, give the poor No matter, he was devoting himself to beggar a delicious nibble, a compensation his supper, but I knew by the flash in his before I take him."
eyes that he was following the strife of The Judge mumbled his reply; he al- opinions. . ways talked reflectively, but it was gener- I fidgeted about the table, straightally worth while straining to listen. “You ening the cloth, for I was not a little give your victim his bribe, but he pays for alarmed; the Judge's keen eyes snapped, it with his life - mighty like the grafter his mouth set sharp like the coyote trap and his immunity promise. He gets the in the meadow; words waxed hot. money, but moral death. I don't see that Then the Señor, quietly, when the Don it 's much compensation. I catch my fish paused for spluttering breath, told of the cleanly."
fish, the beautiful trout of many pounds, The Don fired up fiercely, and splut- three or maybe four, he reckoned on his tered about feathers and tinsel until his fingers in his charming foreign way, that
ruddier than the lamplight. he had hooked and lost, alas! in the Then he turned the tables.
Evening pool. “How many fish to-day, Judge ?" “Ah!” He shook his gray head and
There was certainly malice in the well- breathed deeply. “Ah! that was a directed question most suavely put. wonderful catch — that was not caught,
A quick flush reddened the cavernous gentlemen!” cheeks of the Judge's stern face.
“Mine must have weighed more,” the “Three, sir, honestly caught in fair Don, diverted, eagerly bragged. “Lordy! fight,” he thundered.
he felt like a whale. My line snapped, The Judge was prone to study moun- gentlemen, clean as a whistle, and he was tain flora, scurrying chipmunks, water ousels at their bobbing devotions under "And mine," the Judge reminiscently the white spray, swirl of water, drift of softened, “I lifted to the surface — he clouds, the many changing scenes born was a monster. I saw his length as well of earth and tree and sky; he too often as felt his weight. I suspected it was a forgot that when numbers and weight are dace until I caught the glisten of his in the balance, fishing is a very serious sides." business. Bordering willows were draped Those lost fish that were hooked and thick with his snared leaders, and flies in- never caught! What an air of serenity numerable clung to the branches, and his they brought to the company. Every basket oftenest came home empty; but fisherman's heart thrilled in common at his heart and head were always brim- the memory. No catch is ever as the lost ming with joy of river and wood. The catch; and how it grows as memory question hit the sensitive point; a man generously blurs as to weight and size! does n't care to be tripped on his delin- It's the blessedness of life — believing quencies.
more than the evidence of your eyes; “We come to fish,” observed the Don, the delusion is worth a sop to conscience. with a shrug; and drummed on the ta- No matter if your pounds were only blecloth to a hummed Spanish air ounces, you have the satisfaction, the tainly a martial one.
quality that makes joy of the little in life, The Señor sat mildly listening, taking the only true trail to happiness, where
fancy glosses the real, and in childlike of the river, and minutely analyzed the faith you hold to it.
habits of trout. Those lost fish, the fisherman's hall- When the last dish was shelved, and mark! The mysterious bond that brings the tired little woman was setting bread, together all that go down to the rivers. I heard the tramp, tramp of the Señor's They never tire of telling, they never tire feet on the upper porch. I knew he was of listening, for all who cast, know; it is searching the stars and casting into the world-wide sympathy that mellows deeper pools of thought than those of and binds the craft, the genialest craft earth. under the sun.
How cleanly, how frugally he lived, one With their knees under the table they with the stars, the trees, the birds, the sat and listened to the time-mossed sto- restless river, an angling rod, and a book ries, interest ever new and keen in their of philosophy for companions. Alone in hearts. Don Danuelo brought from his the world, he peopled it for himself; and pocket a flask of rare old Scotch, and in closeness to nature he had crept very standing raised his glass.
close to his God. It was our privilege to “Gentlemen, to the lost fish! May have been of his company. their memory never grow old, nor their What sordid husks our bodies are for pounds less.”
beautiful souls! Don Danuelo to me was Before we had quite cleared the table, all tenderness and consideration. I fancy the Don apologetically wagged his head, in memory of that near one, who sleeps and conceded there was skill in casting a long in the old Mexican home, his heart line and dropping a fly — and, if he were was softened to all women. And the younger — there was no telling – Judge! His chivalry was most prized
The Judge generously hastened to ad- when he brought me puffs of delicate mit that in some cases roe might be used milk weed, glistening cascara-sagrada berand the man remain a fisherman. He ries, and sprays of coral-beaded honeycourteously offered to eat his fiery words suckle. The Señor laid at my feet rememand soften his adamantine rule, bluntly brances of his old far-away home and laid down, with an occasional extenuating honey of sweetness and wisdom from his exception. The Judge was didactic, but beloved book, which shortened the days. just and great-hearted as to wounding And I, only an ugly, withered, lone wofeelings.
man, who had wandered to the mounThe Señor rose from his coffee. tains, praying for health, of no comfort,
“Gentlemen,” he said, “it has been beauty, nor sweetness to any one, received a God-given day. I wish you a good- the largesse of their graciousness. night.”
"A God-given day!" Good-night, SeThat sweep of his bow included us all; ñor, Don Danuelo, Judge. May it be a and he was gone, and more than the man God-given night for all three of you! May went with him; we all felt the loss. your baskets of the morrow be heaped
The Judge and the Don moved to the and shining, each to his heart's desire. chimney corner, and talked over reaches And I close my eyes and sleep safe, and pools. disputing as to shadow and knowing that there are yet hearts beating sun, the superiority of this over that side in the world for the old and friendless.
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF WHISTLER
BY SIDNEY STARR
When one speaks of Whistler now, it he (Millais) seized me by the arm and is with the consciousness that he is ac- made me go round the Grosvenor Galcepted as among the masters of painting. lery with him. He stopped longer than "C'est un grand seigneur de la peinture usual before a shadowy graceful portrait qui s'en est allé,” says Arsène Alexandre. of a lady, by one of the most famous To have known Whistler and the atti- painters of our day
painters of our day — an arrangement in tude of the art world and the picture- pink and gray, or rose and silver, shall gallery-going public from 1873 to 1892, I call it ? At last, 'It's damned clever, is, strange as it may sound, to wonder it's a damned sight too clever,' and he how this has come about; to wonder why dragged me on.” This was about 1884, people speak reverently of pictures so and the famous painter was, of course, recently thought ridiculous, and to specu- Whistler; the portrait one of Lady Meux. late as to how many would think them But it seems Whistler somehow learned so now, had they but the courage. As enough of the grammar of art to change indeed one man has, who paid what he the adjective; clever" is not the word thought a "steep price” to get "a Whis- now at all. tler,” and confesses he can see nothing Thinking of these things, it is interestin it, wonders what artists do see, and ing to go back to those years and recall could sell it for three or four times the what Whistler himself told me of his attisum he gave for it, yet keeps it in his tude toward the world of painting, toward possession.
the world that accepts or rejects painting, I speak of Whistler as a painter only. and to recall situations in which I saw As an etcher, I remember, London him and noted what he said and did. No thought him “very clever," although Sir artist of our time, leaving us, has been the Seymour Haden had said that of his two subject of so much writing, so many recolcollections he would part with his Rem- lections. Never has unliterary painting brandts rather than his WI ers. Crit- caused so much literature. Not since ics nearly all spoke of his etchings with Ruskin wrote has there been such wordrespect, until his finest period, when they painting about pictures. Before 1892 pointed out how greatly he had deterior- little of this appeared. In the above quoated. For Whistler's painting, too, by the tations Sir John Millais voices fairly well way, “clever" was the word. Sir John the whole tone of the leading journals. In Millais's dictum, given in his Life and France M. Duret, in England George Letters by his son, is: “Clever a fellow as Moore, Walter Sickert, and Joseph Penhe (Whistler) is - a man who has never nell seem the only writers imbued with a learnt the grammar of his art, whose spirit of appreciation. Whistler himself drawing is as faulty as it can be, he thinks had, it is true, devoted the Ten O'clock nothing of drawing a woman all out of and The Gentle Art of Making Enemies proportion, with impossible legs and arms to painting in words his art and his attiproceeding from no one knows where. tude. And perhaps his own writing inAny affectation of superiority in style has spired much that has followed. In this its effect on certain minds, and attracts a he was not only literary himself, but the certain number of followers.” And Mr. cause of literature in others. And how Archibald Stuart-Wortley says: “Once
characteristic that when Mr. Spielmann,