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Fisherman's Luck Henry van Dyke

A Wild Strawberry

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But, after all, these are only relishes. They whet the appetite more than they appease it. There should be something to eat, in the June woods, as perfect in its kind, as satisfying to the sense of taste, as the birds and the flowers are to the senses of sight and hearing and smell. Blueberries are good, but they are far away in July. Blackberries are luscious when they are fully ripe, but that will not be until August. Then the fishing will be over, and the angler's hour of need will be past. The one thing that is lacking now beside this mountain stream is some fruit more luscious and dainty than grows in the tropics, to melt upon the lips and fill the mouth with pleasure.

But that is what these cold northern woods will not offer. They are too reserved, too lofty, too puritanical to make provision for the grosser wants of humanity. They are not friendly to luxury.

Just then, as I shifted my head to find a softer pillow of moss after this philosophic and immoral reflection, Nature gave me her silent answer. Three wild strawberries, nodding on their long stems, hung over my face. It was an invitation to taste and see that they were good.

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The berries were not the round and rosy ones of the meadow, but the long, slender, dark crimson ones of the forest. One, two, three; no more on that vine; but each one as it touched my lips was a drop of nectar and a crumb of ambrosia, a concentrated essence of all the pungent sweetness of the wildwood, sapid, penetrating, and delicious. I tasted the odour of a hundred blossoms and the green shimmering of innumerable leaves and the sparkle of sifted sunbeams and the breath of highland breezes and the song of many birds and the murmur of flowing streams,--all in a wild strawberry.

Do you remember, in THE COMPLEAT ANGLER, a remark which Isaak Walton quotes from a certain "Doctor Boteler" about strawberries? "Doubtless," said that wise old man, "God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."

Well, the wild strawberry is the one that God made.

I think it would have been pleasant to know a man who could sum up his reflections upon the important question of berries in such a pithy saying as that which Walton repeats. His tongue must have been in close communication with his heart. He must have had a fair sense of that sprightly humour without which piety itself is often insipid.

I have often tried to find out more about him, and some day I hope I shall. But up to the present, all that the books have told me of this obscure sage is that his name was William Butler, and that he was an eminent physician, sometimes called "the Aesculapius of his age." He was born at Ipswich, in l535, and educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge; in the neighbourhood of which town he appears to have spent the most of his life, in high repute as a practitioner of physic. He had the honour of doctoring King James the First after an accident on the hunting field, and must have proved himself a pleasant old fellow, for the king looked him up at Cambridge the next year, and spent an hour in his lodgings. This wise physician also invented a medicinal beverage called "Doctor Butler's Ale." I do not quite like the sound of it, but perhaps it was better than its name. This much is sure, at all events: either it was really a harmless drink, or else the doctor must have confined its use entirely to his patients; for he lived to the ripe age of eighty-three years.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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