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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

IX. Trout-Fishing in the Traun

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"Have you been fishing?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"Have you any right to fish?"

"What right have you to ask?"

"I am a keeper of the river. Where is your card?"

"It is in my pocket. But pardon my curiosity, where is YOUR card?"

This question appeared to paralyse him. He had probably never been asked for his card before. He went lumbering off in the darkness, muttering "My card? Unheard of! MY card!"

The routine of angling at Ischl was varied by an excursion to the Lake of St. Wolfgang and the Schafberg, an isolated mountain on whose rocky horn an inn has been built. It stands up almost like a bird-house on a pole, and commands a superb prospect; northward, across the rolling plain and the Bavarian forest; southward, over a tumultuous land of peaks and precipices. There are many lovely lakes in sight; but the loveliest of all is that which takes its name from the old saint who wandered hither from the country of the "furious Franks" and built his peaceful hermitage on the Falkenstein. What good taste some of those old saints had!

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There is a venerable church in the village, with pictures attributed to Michael Wohlgemuth, and a chapel which is said to mark the spot where St. Wolfgang, who had lost his axe far up the mountain, found it, like Longfellow's arrow, in an oak, and "still unbroke." The tree is gone, so it was impossible to verify the story. But the saint's well is there, in a pavilion, with a bronze image over it, and a profitable inscription to the effect that the poorer pilgrims, "who have come unprovided with either money or wine, should be jolly well contented to find the water so fine." There is also a famous echo farther up the lake, which repeats six syllables with accuracy. It is a strange coincidence that there are just six syllables in the name of "der heilige Wolfgang." But when you translate it into English, the inspiration of the echo seems to be less exact. The sweetest thing about St. Wolfgang was the abundance of purple cyclamens, clothing the mountain meadows, and filling the air with delicate fragrance like the smell of lilacs around a New England farmhouse in early June.

There was still one stretch of the river above Ischl left for the last evening's sport. I remember it so well: the long, deep place where the water ran beside an embankment of stone, and the big grayling poised on the edge of the shadow, rising and falling on the current as a kite rises and falls on the wind and balances back to the same position; the murmur of the stream and the hissing of the pebbles underfoot in the rapids as the swift water rolled them over and over; the odour of the fir-trees, and the streaks of warm air in quiet places, and the faint whiffs of wood-smoke wafted from the houses, and the brown flies dancing heavily up and down in the twilight; the last good pool, where the river was divided, the main part making a deep, narrow curve to the right, and the lesser part bubbling into it over a bed of stones with half-a-dozen tiny waterfalls, with a fine trout lying at the foot of each of them and rising merrily as the white fly passed over him--surely it was all very good, and a memory to be grateful for. And when the basket was full, it was pleasant to put off the heavy wading-shoes and the long rubber-stockings, and ride homeward in an open carriage through the fresh night air. That is as near to sybaritic luxury as a man should care to come.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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