Изображения страниц


"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God.”



ERRIS and I had had a dispute, a bitter one, and, as usual, Ferris had pushed his cap over his eyes until the hair on the back of his head stuck out.

"You can't do it," he said, shoving both hands up to the wrists in his canvas fishing-coat. "I'll prove it," said I. "What a stubborn mule you are, Ferris!"

"Stubborn nothing," he retorted, "you and your theories must have your little airing, I suppose, but I don't intend to assist."

"I'm right sometimes," I said.

"Sometimes you 're wrong, too," said Ferris. Then he walked off toward the cliffs, whistling, uncompromising, untidy.

"There's a hole in your leggings!" I called after him, but he did not deign to answer me. "Obstinate ass," I thought, for we were very

fond of each other, "if he wastes his time with the Silver Doctor he'll rue it." Then I looked at Solomon and lighted a cigarette.

Solomon was a bird, an enervating bird of the Ibis species, wrinkled and wizened, like the mummies of his native land, which was Egypt. The bird was mine, a sarcastic tribute from Ferris, and the bird and the sarcasm both bore directly on the only disputes which ever arose between Ferris and myself. The cause of these disputes was a trout-fly, an innocent toy of scarlet and tinsel, known to anglers as the "Red Ibis." I swore by it, Ferris swore at it. In the long winter nights when the streams gurgled under the frozen forests and the lake was a sheet of soggy snow, Ferris and I loafed before the fire pulling tangled masses of leaders and flies about and dragging the silken lines over the rugs to hear the reels click. Every fly known to the brethren of the angle was discussed-every fly except the Red Ibis. We both honestly tried to avoid this bone of contention. We talked of Duns and Hackles, and Spinners and Gnats, but in spite of every precaution the Red Ibis would occasionally rise like a fiery spectre between us, and then we disputed vehemently.

"No angler with a rag of self-respect would use the Ibis," said Ferris, with that obstinate shrug which added gall to the insult, and Iwell, the crowning insult came when Ferris sent to Cairo and imported a live Egyptian Ibis for me.

"Pull out his tail feathers when you're short of Red Ibis," gasped Ferris, weak with laughter, as I stood silently inspecting the bird in my studio.

"I'll send him to Central Park," said I, swallowing my wrath; but I thought better of it, and Solomon, the wizened, became an important member of my household.

The bird was a mystery. I never cared to encounter his filmy eyes. Centuries seemed to roll away when he unclosed them, visions of tombs and obelisks filled my mind-glimpses of desert sunsets and the warm waters of lazy rivers. His black shrivelled head, bare as a skull, lay like a withered gourd among the garish flame-coloured feathers on his breast.


Solly," said I, when Ferris disappeared below the cliff, "do you want a frog?"

The bird unclosed one eye. I went to a pail of water in which I kept minnows, and Solomon followed me, solemnly hopping.

"Help yourself, Solly," said I, uncovering the pail.

I called him Solly because I wished to put myself at ease with this relic of Egyptian Royalty. The splendour of Pharo's court had not dimmed. this hoary prophet's eye, which was piercing when the sleepy film left it-piercing enough to make me feel thousands of years young, and very bourgeois. In vain I addressed him as Solly, in vain I gave him chocolate creams,—he was the aristocrat, the venerable high-priest of

an Empire dead-and I was his man-servant, his ass, and his ox.

Solomon dabbed once or twice at a sportive minnow, pecked pensively at the handle of the pail, swallowed a pebble or two, and then, ruffling his scarlet feathers, sidled aimlessly back into the sedge by the frog-pond. I watched him for awhile, brooding dreamily among the rushes, but he paid no further attention either to me or to the small green frogs that squatted on the lily-pads or floated half submerged, watching him with enormous eyes.

A noisy blue-jay flitted through the orchard and alighted on a crab-apple tree solely to insult Solomon. He of course was unsuccessful, and his language became so utterly unfit for publication that I moved away, shocked and annoyed.

The sun was very hot. It glittered with a blinding light across the rippling pond, where dragon-flies darted and sailed and chased each other over the water, or flitted among the clouds of dancing midges, searching for prey.

A sweet smell came to me from orchard and sedge; there was an odour of scented rushes in the air, and the lingering summer wind bore puffs of perfume from clover-fields and meadows fragrant with flowering mint. I looked again toward the cliffs. Ferris was not in sight.

"Obstinate mule," I thought, and, picking up my rod and fly-book, I sauntered toward the forest.

"Ferris," said I to myself, "is after that big trout by the Red Rock Rapids, but he 'll never raise him with a Silver Doctor, and he 'll come home in a devil of a temper."

I sat down in a clump of sweet fern and joined my rod. When I had run the silk through the guides and had fastened the nine-foot leader, I opened my fly-book and sought for a Red Ibis fly. There was not one in the book.

"I must send to New York to-morrow," I thought, turning the aluminum leaves impatiently; "fancy my being out of Red Ibis !" I selected a yellow Oak fly for the dropper and a nameless Gnat for the hand-fly, and, drawing the leader down to the reel, started on again, carrying my rod with the tip behind me.

The forest was dim and moist and silent. Where the sunshine fell among the ferns a few flies buzzed in the gilded warmth; but except for this and a strange grey bird which flitted before me silently as I walked, there was no sign of life, nothing stirring, not a rustle among the leaves, not a movement, not a bird-note.

Over moss and dead leaves aglisten in the pale forest light I passed,-over crumbling logs, damp and lichen-covered, half submerged in little pools; and the musty fragrance of the forest mould set me dreaming of dryads, and fauns, and lost altars, whose marbles, stained with tender green, glimmer in ancient forests.

This belt of woods was always silent; I often

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »