The season was now growing late. College was to begin September 23d. On Tuesday, September 9th, Carl and Lee set out at daybreak on their quest. They fished long and carefully, but got no strike.
They left the cove for half an hour, then tried again. This time the great fish struck, but was not hooked. Soon Forest Lodge was astir, and fishing for Old Muskie ended for that day.
Then came the last day. Carl was to leave for college the following Monday. "We just _must_ get him this morning!" he said, as they pushed out from the landing with the first glow of daylight.
They knew a little later in the day would be better, but they felt that they must lose no time.
Carl worked the canoe down the shore, the little craft slipping through the water as quietly as a floating swan. Lee outdid himself in length of cast, for he did not wish Old Muskie to take fright because they were too near.
At the fifth cast the big fish hit the bait. He rushed savagely at it, and closed his jaws down squarely upon it. Lee struck as if for his life, and drove the hooks deep into the fish's jaw, and with click and drag both on the reel and his thumb adding to the pressure, he pulled all he thought his tackle would bear--pulled straight back toward the treetops, which he was most anxious to avoid.
Stubbornly the big fish pulled in the opposite direction, and with a rush started across the cove. So fast did the line run out that Lee's thumb was almost blistered, but he held it hard against the spinning reel, and the fish rushed on across the cove.
Straight through the forest of rushes he dashed, and Lee and Carl held their breath, as the line cut through the water. Lee held the rod high, Carl sent the canoe along the track taken by the fish; and in a few dizzy seconds Old Muskie was through the rushes and out into the open lake. And now Lee made no effort to check him, but let him run as far as possible from the shore, although he continued his mad rush till less than thirty feet of line remained on his reel.
Forest Lodge was quickly awake and astir. Mr. Gardner was just at the landing for a trip across the lake, when out in front of him came the canoe as if being towed by the great fish, which leaped high into the air.
He rushed into Forest Lodge and roused Mr. Cameron and all the rest by beating upon his door and crying, "Get up! Get up! Your fifty-pound maskinonge is hooked, and by a boy!" No further call was needed, and the beach was soon lined with a score of fishermen and their wives, hastily and some of them grotesquely dressed.
Meanwhile, Lee and Carl had begun working together to regain the line that had been run out. The victory could never have come to the young fisherman but for the masterly way in which Carl handled the canoe. He made it almost a part of Lee. It moved with his motion, always responsive, always steady.
When the fish went out toward the open lake, the boat went with him, that he might go as far as he would. When he made a wild rush for the shore, the paddle sent the boat off at an angle to his course, that the steel rod might exert a pull sidewise, and thus turn him from his course, and back toward the open lake.
And all this time, Lee was putting on his tackle all the strain that he dared, holding the line so taut that his arm ached before the fight had been on ten minutes--and it lasted fifty-five.
When Old Muskie would leap frantically into the air, fiercely shaking himself, down would go the tip of the rod, clear below the surface of the water; and when he would "sound," the tip of the rod pulled upward relentlessly. Whatever the direction of the rushes of the big fish, always the skilled hand and wiry arm of Lee Henly were ready to baffle and turn aside, to hold back and to weary.
"Pretty fight!" said Herbert Gerrish to Mr. Cameron, who was watching in silence, but with keen admiration.
"Fine!" said Mr. Cameron. "Never saw a better."
"Think he'll land the fish?" asked John Newby.
"If he does not now, he is bound to do it some day," replied Mr.
Cameron. "That fish might just as well give it up now as any time.
I know Lee Henly."
Indeed, it began to look as if victory was near. Slowly the rushes of the maskinonge were becoming less fierce. Carl had the gaff at hand for Lee when he was ready for it. Lee, fearful of a rush under the boat, dared not work the fish round for Carl to gaff, but kept him at the end of the boat where he himself might use the big hook.
But what he had feared came to pass. The big maskinonge did make a run under the boat. He was straight in front, when with a lightning-like dash he made a half-circle and went under the boat from the side.
With a quick motion of arm and wrist, Lee threw the end of the rod over the prow of the canoe. It was all there was to do, but the rod would surely have struck the end of the boat, and something would probably have broken and the fish escaped, had not Carl, with a mighty stroke of the paddle, backed the canoe so quickly that Lee was almost thrown overboard. But the fish was saved.
The fight was nearly over. Gradually they forced the maskinonge toward the sandy beach. Mr. Cameron had got a big, long-handled gaff-hook, and now, forgetful of his rheumatism, waded out waist-deep into the water. There was a brief but decisive struggle that went hopelessly against the fish, and Mr. Cameron gaffed Old Muskie and dragged him ashore.
Lee and Carl stepped out on the beach, both of them on the verge of collapse.
There was a great fish supper at Forest Lodge that night. The skin, head, tail and fins of Old Muskie were carefully preserved and sent to the best taxidermist in Chicago; but there was enough left of his fifty-three-pound body for the company gathered about the big "Oak Hall" dining-table. On the right of Mr. Cameron sat Lee Henly, and on the left, Carl Mills. Mr. Cameron and the Forest Lodge people were jubilant. Carl found a fifty-dollar bill under his plate, and Lee found a check for one hundred dollars. And as the meal progressed, the story of the capture of Old Muskie was told substantially as I have told it to you.
There is little more to tell. I might tell you about how Lee Henly worked his way through college, after the catching of Old Muskie had given him his start. I could tell you of his work as general manager of the business house of Cameron, Page & Co. of Chicago.
But that would be the story of Lee Henly, and I started out to tell you nothing but the story of Old Muskie, whose mounted body is now in the private office of Mr. Cameron himself, where Lee Henly sees it every day.
TEACHING FISH TO RING BELLS
By C. F. Holder
A certain pond in the country was once peopled with a number of turtles, frogs, and fishes which I came to consider my pets, and which at last grew so tame that I fed them from my hands. Among them, however, were four or five little sticklebacks that lived under the shade of a big willow, and these were so quarrelsome that I generally fed them apart from the rest. But sometimes all met, and then the feast usually was ended by the death of a minnow. For, shocking to say, whenever there was a dispute for the food, some one of the little fishes was almost sure to be devoured by the hungry sticklebacks.
These stickleback-and-minnow combats, after a while, came to be of daily occurrence, and the reason for this was a singular one, which I must explain.
Under the willow shade, and from one of the branches, I had hung a miniature "belfry," containing a tiny brass bell, and had led the string into the water, letting it go down to a considerable depth.
At first, I tied a bait at intervals upon the line, and the sticklebacks, of course, seized upon it, and thus rang the bell.
Generally the ringing was done in a very grave and proper way, although sometimes, when the bait was too tightly tied, the quick peals sounded like a call to a fire.
I kept up this system of baiting the string for about a week, until I thought they understood it, and then replaced the worms by bits of stone. As I expected, the next morning, as I looked through the grass and down into the water, tinkle! tinkle! rang the bell, and I knew my little friends were saying, "Good-morning!" and expected a breakfast. You may be sure they got it. I put my hand down, and up they came, and got one worm apiece; and as I raised my hand, down they rushed, and away went the bell, in an uproarious peal, that must have startled the whole neighborhood. I was quick to respond, and they soon learned to ring the bell before coming to the surface; in fact, if they saw me pass, I always heard their welcome greeting. But to return to the minnows.
I generally fed them first, about twenty feet up the bank; but one morning I found one or two had followed me down to the residence of the stickleback family. They met with a rude reception, however, and, to avoid making trouble, the next day I went to the willow first. But no sooner had the bell begun to ring, than I saw a lot of ripples coming down, and in a second the two factions were in mortal combat. The sticklebacks were fighting not only for breakfast, but for their nests, which were near by; and they made sad work of the poor minnows, who, though smart in some things, did not know when they were whipped, and so kept up the fight, though losing one of their number nearly every morning. The bell now and then rang violently, but I fear it was only sounding an appeal from a voracious stickleback whose appetite had got the better of his rage.
So it went on every morning. The minnows had learned what the bell meant, and though usually defeated in the fight, they in reality had their betters as servants to ring the bell and call them to meals. Finally, they succeeded, by force of great numbers, in driving away their pugnacious little rivals, and the bell hung silent; for, strange to say, they knew what the sound meant, but I could never teach them to ring it, when they could rise and steal the worm from my hand without. But I am inclined to think it was more laziness than inability to learn, as they afterward picked up readily some much more difficult tricks. I taught them to leap from the water into my hand, and lie as if dead; and having arranged a slide of polished wood upon the bank, by placing worms upon it I soon had them leaping out and sliding down like so many boys coasting in the winter. That they afterward did it for amusement I know, as I often watched them unobserved when there was nothing to attract but the fun of sliding. This kind of amusement is not uncommon with many other animals, particularly seals, which delight in making "slides" on the icy shores.
By Octave Thanet
The ship was nearing the Irish coast. It was a delightful June day and most of the passengers were on deck. Two ladies sat a little apart from the crowd of ship-chairs under the cabin awning. One was fair, plump, pretty and dressed in black; the cabin passengers called her "the lovely Widow." She was a Mrs. Morris on her way to Europe to join her brother, accompanied by her two nephews (sons of two brothers), her sister Nora, and her maid. The other lady was Miss Nora. She was much younger than her sister whom she did not resemble in the least, being a tall straight, slim, handsome young woman with black hair and dark gray eyes in which sparkled a suspicious gleam of mirth.
Mrs. Morris was speaking: "He is a perfect young savage! Such manners, and such grammar--I am sure no one would dream that his father was a bishop. Do you suppose all Western boys are that way?
And such a temper, too! I assure you, Nora, he was fighting the whole time we were in New York. And look at the way he treats Edmund--I wonder the boy stands it--poor nice fellow!"
"Edmund is nice," answered Nora, "but Oscar has his good points--what are they all crowding aft for?"
With an exclamation of "Those dreadful children!" the elder lady extricated herself from her rug and hurried aft. Nora followed.
Evidently there had been a quarrel of some sort. The purser and the deck-steward were each holding a boy.
The steward's captive, a handsome, flushed, black-haired lad of thirteen, was kicking and pushing and making violent efforts to wiggle out between the steward's legs. The other lad stood perfectly quiet. He was taller than the dark boy and might have been two years older, but he was of a much slighter build. His fair hair was disordered, his nose bleeding, and his collar torn.
Looking up into the purser's face, he said in a low tone, "_Please_ let us fight it out. He'll bully me again, if you don't!"
At this the dark boy stopped in his violent attacks on the steward's legs and said, breathlessly: "Well, you ain't such a milksop after all, Ned!"
"No, no," said the purser; "no fighting on the _Gallia_. You two young gentlemen must promise to let each other alone while you are on shipboard or"--
"O, promise, Ned," the dark boy interrupted, "we can have it out onshore, you know! Say, _I_ promise, let me go."
"I promise, too, then," said the fair boy.
"Mind you both remember," said the purser, releasing his captive; and turning to Mrs. Morris: "No harm done yet ma'am."