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A Lazy, Idle Brook Henry van Dyke

The Secrets Of Intimacy

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THERE! I came within eight letters of telling the name of the brook, a thing that I am firmly resolved not to do. If it were an ordinary fishless little river, or even a stream with nothing better than grass-pike and sunfish in it, you should have the name and welcome. But when a brook contains speckled trout, and when their presence is known to a very few persons who guard the secret as the dragon guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, and when the size of the trout is large beyond the dreams of hope,--well, when did you know a true angler who would willingly give away the name of such a brook as that? You may find an encourager of indolence in almost any stream of the South Side, and I wish you joy of your brook. But if you want to catch trout in mine you must discover it for yourself, or perhaps go with me some day, and solemnly swear secrecy.

That was the way in which the freedom of the stream was conferred upon me. There was a small boy in the village, the son of rich but respectable parents, and an inveterate all-round sportsman, aged fourteen years, with whom I had formed a close intimacy. I was telling him about the pleasure of exploring the idle brook, and expressing the opinion that in bygone days, (in that mythical "forty years ago" when all fishing was good), there must have been trout in it. A certain look came over the boy's face. He gazed at me solemnly, as if he were searching the inmost depths of my character before he spoke.

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"Say, do you want to know something?"

I assured him that an increase of knowledge was the chief aim of my life.

"Do you promise you won't tell?"

I expressed my readiness to be bound to silence by the most awful pledge that the law would sanction.

"Wish you may die?"

I not only wished that I might die, but was perfectly certain that I would die.

"Well, what's the matter with catching trout in that brook now? Do you want to go with me next Saturday? I saw four or five bully ones last week, and got three."

On the appointed day we made the voyage, landed at the upper bridge, walked around by the woodpath to the railroad embankment, and began to worm our way down through the tangled wilderness. Fly-fishing, of course, was out of the question. The only possible method of angling was to let the line, baited with a juicy "garden hackle," drift down the current as far as possible before you, under the alder-branches and the cat-briers, into the holes and corners of the stream. Then, if there came a gentle tug on the rod, you must strike, to one side or the other, as the branches might allow, and trust wholly to luck for a chance to play the fish. Many a trout we lost that day,--the largest ones, of course,--and many a hook was embedded in a sunken log, or hopelessly entwined among the boughs overhead. But when we came out at the bridge, very wet and disheveled, we had seven pretty fish, the heaviest about half a pound. The Fairy Dell yielded a brace of smaller ones, and altogether we were reasonably happy as we took up the oars and pushed out upon the open stream.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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