boy fishing

This extract from H.T. Sheringham's book An Angler's Hours was published in 1905 but captures the essence of fishing for wild brown trout in the West Country.

“Six weeks every year among crag and heather,” is Charles Kingsley’s prescription for the Londoner’s holiday; and, all things considered, it is not bad one. If he is a comparatively free agent, he may apportion them more or less according to his pleasure. For my own part I incline to a fortnight in spring, the last week of April and the first of May, and the rest divided between August and September. This is, of course, only individual preference, and is inspired by the fact that I must have my spring trout-fishing even at the cost of suffocating in London during July.

There are many people who agree with me. About the middle of April you shall often see a contemplative person standing with his back to the busy throng and his face to a fishing-tackle shop. If you are in a gloomy mood you may moralize at sight of him on the vanity of human wishes, and picture to yourself the horrid gnawing at the soul of the man, the regret for the holidays in past years, never to be enjoyed again; but if, on the other hand, you are cheerful and pleased with the world, you may look on him as a pretty picture of pleasant indecision, merely perplexed as to whether he will want two dozen large March browns or three dozen, and wondering whether the bushes are going to be as deadly to his flies this year as they were last. I believe that this cheerful view is the right one to take, for if he cannot get his holiday your angler becomes morose and avoids tackle-shops and all that may remind him of what he is losing.

Yes, a man who gazes at the wares in a tackle-shop on a sunny day in April has certainly a fishing-expedition in prospect. It would be too terrible to imagine a poor wretch, with the spring and streams calling to him, unable to obey the call. There is nothing more sacred, more inviolable, than this spring fishing; it is one of the laws of Nature, and not the least important. Before the angler would consent to give it up, he would turn highwayman and rob omnibuses in the Strand to procure funds, or blow up the Houses of Parliament and disorganize the kingdom to procure leisure. He must fish, in fact. If the shattered globe were falling to pieces about his ears he would be found hurrying off to his favorite stream, rod in hand, that he might perish there decently and in order – always provided, of course, that the lamentable event happened about the end of April. Against all reason, too, he must have his spring fishing. Tell him that the east wind blows constantly in April and May, that if he waits till the beginning of June he will be able to catch much finer and fatter trout with the May-fly, in streams much nearer home; it is all in vain; he will shake his head, admit the force of your arguments, and say that he is going down to the West Country by the first train to-morrow.

Opinions differ as to which part of the country offers most attractions to the trout-fisher in spring. Many a tempting adviser would tell us to go north. By the negative process (than which none is more insidious), Mr. Andrew Land has almost made up my mind more than once to start for Clearburn Loch, for “there are trout in Clearburn.” Here is his additional recommendation: “There are plenty in the loch, but you need not make the weary journey; they are not for you or me.” The weary journey shall certainly be made one day, not of course that I want to prove Mr. Lang in the wrong, but because of the perversity of human nature, which insists on trying conclusions with fate, every man for himself. Moreover, there is always the chance that the trout of Clearburn may have changed their habits.

Then there is the great dry-fly school, which would inspire a man to cast the May Day fly in southern Test or Itchen. There are patriotic Irishmen who have written witching words about their witching country, and whose descriptions of its trout-fishing are fully justified. The Principality also has its prophets; and there are good men and true who would go no farther than deep-bosomed Thames, for he holds out vaguer promises of monster trout to the man who seeks them with skill and patience. In short, choice is manifold. But, after all, experience is the only safe guide.

I remember spending the whole of a spring day waiting for the rise by the side of Sprinkling Tarn, the most gloomy piece of water in Cumberland, that looks as if Nature had buried some monstrous crime beneath its dark water. Rumor ran that there were trout in it, many and good, and I waited patiently till dark, but never a fish rose, and to this day I know not if there are fish there. Therefore I cannot recommend it for trout, but if there be any man with an unduly good conceit of himself who is anxious about his ideas, a few spring hours by Sprinkling Tarn would be just the thing for him. I know no piece of scenery so certain to make a man realize what a worm he is when taken out of his context. There are trout in the Sty Head Tarn on the pass a few hundred feet below, so after he has received his object-lesson and has humbled himself he can do some fishing there if he wishes.

But, though I love it well, I would not go to Cumberland for my May Day. Rather do I hasten as fast as express train can bear me to the ancient town of Taunton, and thence by a quaint simple-minded line (the forerunner of the switchback) to the other ancient town of Dulverton, and thence by road up the valley of the Exe to the prettiest village of Somersetshire. The wise man, when he gets to Dulverton, will send his luggage, indeed, by the dogcart that is waiting for him, but himself, for it is but three o’clock in the afternoon, will walk. He may, if he pleases, breast the opposite hill and plunge straight into the moor, so shall his journey be shorter in terms of miles. But the man just escaped from London should acclimatize himself to Exmoor gradually,; it is a little overpowering to step straight on to it from Paddington, and moreover, if it is his first visit, he may get lost.

 Therefore let him take my advice and follow the road that runs by the Exe, not hurriedly as the earnest pedestrian, but leisurely as befits the man with a whole fortnight of spring before him. It is a friendly road, amiably winding, with just enough of undulation to make him glad that he goes, as he was meant to go, on his two feet and not on two ridiculous wheels. Also there are soft mossy places for him to sit down upon with primroses and dog-violets for company, while he considers the wonderful young green which the bushes beside the road are timidly putting forth. And while he sits the yellow-hammers, and perhaps a squirrel, will come and look at him and give him friendly greeting, as do all things on Exmoor to him that comes in a right leisurely spirit. Above all, the Exe will talk to him fro its bed below, and will explain that, though here near Dulverton it is a considerable river, nearly as big as its cousin Barle, and has its great weirs almost worthy of Severn, and in these weirs are the salmon, yet after he has gone a few miles up he will find it but a small stream, lively and clear as crystal, and ready to talk to him the whole of the rest of the way. Just here, however, it must leave him, because it has to go and attend to its weirs.

For about a mile the river and the road separate with the whole breadth of the valley between them. Afterwards, as the valley narrows they are never very far apart, and sometimes they are so close that the bank of the road is also the bank of the river. Here our traveller can look down and see every pebble on the bottom of the stream, so clear is the water. But look as he may he cannot see what he is chiefly anxious to see – fish. The trout of a mountain stream to the eye accustomed to pavements are practically invisible, except in the deep still pools. On a chalk stream, with a little practice and with the sun at a proper angle, you can see every movement of the fish you are stalking; but in the mountain stream you have to fish in the hope that he is there. In the deep still pools, however, it is generally possible to see two or three elderly fish swimming about near the surface on the look-out for flies.

An elderly fish in the Exe is not a giant like his cousin of the Itchen . He attains his half-pound in weight and is proud of it, and the fisherman who catches him is proud too, or the Exe half-pounder compels respect both by reason of his scarcity and of his fighting powers. Never shall I forget the one that bolted down-stream with me as soon as he was hooked, forcing me to splash after him for several minutes. I thought him a two-pound fish at the very least, and could hardly believe my eyes when he finally came to the net. If a brace of half-pounders is in one’s basket at the end of a day’s fishing it is matter for congratulation, and reason enough for displaying the catch to the passer-by. And yet there are big fish even in the Exe. There is, or was, one in a weir-pool which our friend passes, a fish that would not make an inconspicuous figure in the Thames. I have had a glimpse of him myself, and I thought he must be a salmon, but was assured that he was a trout. His dimensions and weight, if I gave them, would only be guesswork; and as they might not be believed they shall not be given. 

I can, however, testify to several fish, in some of the big pools along the side of the road, which must be well over two pounds, and that is, or ought to be, enough for the most greedy fishermen—if he can catch them, for I believe them to be beyond the power of man’s flies. I have spent many fruitless days trying for them, and have even been so unorthodox as to tempt them with a dry fly, but have never yet induced one of them to rise. A local expert once told me that he had caught a trout of four pounds in one of these pools some years ago; but somehow his methods of narrative were not convincing.

Even the small fish of the Exe are not to be caught by throwing flies at them. Up-stream must you fish, and hard must you work, to basket two dozen, and the finest tackle is none too fine. It is one of my theories that they are harder to catch than the trout of the Barle over in the next valley, and that the reason of it is as follows. A great deal of the bed of the Barle is composed of rocks covered with dark water-moss, and the result is that the water of the Barle is in general darker than that of the Exe, in which there is comparatively little of this moss, and so the trout are more readily taken in with artificial flies. But whenever you do come across a patch of this moss in the Exe, fish over it very carefully, and it is odds that your basket will be the better for it.

But while we have been gossiping, our light-hearted traveller has walked a good distance up the valley. He has refreshed himself with excellent ale (to the rightminded man on his holiday there is not such thing as beer) at a wayside hostelry; he has gulped in the spring in great draughts, and is fully conscious how good a thing it is to be alive and out of London. Now he is leaning over a little bridge contemplating Quarme Water. The Quarme is a lively little stream which runs into the Exe at the point where two valleys meet, for here the Exe turns a sharp corner and comes out of a valley to the left. The Quarme, too, is famous for the quality of its trout, but it is difficult to fish, being much overgrown. Both Exe and Quarme are preserved, but our fisherman has obtained leave to fish as much water as he can cover in a fortnight, for the hospitality of Exmoor will stand even that most searching of tests, the request for permission.

From this point it is but a short two miles to the prettiest village in Somersetshire, our friend’s destination, where is the prettiest inn in the world and the warmest welcome. Here the wayfarer finds a solid tea ready for him, and he is quick to perceive, and to take advantage of, the dish of cream which is one of its attractions. This cream would lead the most dyspeptic into error, but many things may be done and eaten in Exmoor air which in London would cause sorrow of heart and body. After his tea he goes out and strolls up the village street and lays out a small sum in procuring a license to fish, for even when you have leave from the owners of the water you must further arm yourself with a license, which is a thing worth knowing. Ignorance of this necessity has led well-known people into error and fines. The license obtained, his steps turn naturally and unbidden in the direction of the principal bridge (the prettiest village in Somerset has several bridges), and there he meditates with his elbows on the parapet and his pipe going sweetly to his satisfaction.

The bridge-habit comes as easily to, and sits as gracefully upon, the angler as the oldest inhabitant. Indeed, unless he is at times given to meditating on bridges, I doubt if he is a true angler at all. In Somersetshire they know how to build bridges, with well-dispositioned parapets, neither so high that one cannot lean on them in comfort and see into the pool below, nor so low that one is in danger of falling over on a dark night. One of the reasons why the angler almost always leans over a bridge, if there is one, is that the said bridge generally gives shelter  to the largest trout in the neighborhood. If he is a well-know trout and respected by the inhabitants he may e seen lying a foot or so below the bridge waiting for the worms which are thrown to him from time to time by his admirers. There is a bridge over another river, the midland Lambourn, below which are half a dozen trout constantly in waiting for pellets of bread, and I have there seen as many stalwart anglers, each with his slice of bread, solemnly making votive offerings.

And so our friend leans over the bridge and watches the patriarch, and speculates as to what will be the best way of putting a fly over him on some future occasion without arousing his suspicions. The patriarch also watches the man; he knows quite well that the people of his village do not wear hats like that, and though he is not alarmed he is on the alert for anything that may befall. A wax match is the first thing; it falls into the river with a hiss, and the fish makes a dash at it. But he does not actually touch it, for it is only your very young trout that can be deluded in this way; he will try to eat almost anything that falls into the water. After the wax match has been refused, the man on the bridge is sufficiently interested to desire worms, and he gets a bit of stick  and digs about in the grass at the side of the road, a tiresome process, which only results in one worm after much digging. This worm he duly throws in to the patriarch, and a surprising thing happens: as soon as the worm touches the water another patriarch, even bigger than the first (he looks a good pound) darts out from under the bridge and seizes the offering while the first looks respectfully, albeit hungrily, on. If the man on the bridge is a stranger to the neighborhood, his first thought will be that the size of the Exe trout has been much underrated, and he will be pleased. Later on he will be disappointed. But if he has been here before, he will know these patriarchs well and will not be misled.

After he has loitered on the bridge and strolled about the village for an hour or so, he makes his way back to the inn and unpacks his portmanteau. Then he has his supper, reads a few chapters of Lorna Doone before a comfortable fire, for on Exmoor it is chilly at night, even at the end of April, chats for half an hour with his landlord about Exmoor ponies, and other peaceful things, and so goes to bed, where he falls asleep, lulled by the murmur of the brook that runs under his window.

Eight o’clock is quite early enough for a Londoner to breakfast on May Day down here, for it has been almost, but not quite freezing in the night, and the trout will not begin to rise much before ten. A brace of five-ounce trout and a generous dish of eggs and bacon, followed by plenty of homemade bread and jam and cream, are none too much for the appetite of a man who has slept a whole night in Exmoor air and has splashed in a tub of Exmoor water after it. Moreover, he must go on the strength of that meat practically the whole day, because he is anxious to lighten his equipment as much as possible, and his packet of sandwiches will be but small. There is nothing that increases a man’s benevolence so much as the feeling that he has eaten a huge breakfast, and that every particle of it agrees with him; and as our friend stands before the door of the inn clad in Norfolk jacket, knickerbockers, and shooting boots, waiting for his sandwiches, he is in case to exclaim with Tolstoy’s pilgrim, “My blessing fall on this fair world.” In a short time the sandwiches are ready and he puts on his armor, his light creel over his shoulder, his landing-net slung to his belt, and his sombrero hat on his head. His nine-foot splitcane rod is already fitted up, his cast has been soaking while he was at breakfast, and he is ready to begin to fish so soon as he reaches the water-side.

As this is his first day’s fishing he proposes to go up-stream and fish from the bank, taking it more or less easily. Later on, when he is in better training, he will begin to fish some miles lower down, or will drive across the moor and fish the Barle, and then he will wade; but to-day he does not want to get over-tired, and he can fish most of the best pools up-stream without wading. If he is well advised he will not begin close to the village, but will take the lane leading up-hell past the church, and drop down through the copse on to the river about half a mile higher up.

Here, in a slight bend, there is the most delightful pool possible. The stream turns a sudden corner round an old willow, and finds itself six feet deep before it has time to realize it; and thus for two-thirds of the pool there is that slight nebulosity of deep water running swiftly which really gives the honest angler a chance. As a rule, where Exe runs deep it delights to pretend that it is a sheet of glass, which is not good for fishing. At the tail of this pool Nature has providently put a convenient bush standing a little back from the water, and round this a man may very comfortably throw his flies without being seen. To this bush our friend goes, cautiously stooping, until he is kneeling behind it.

On his cast are tree flies. He uses a large March brown with yellow twist as leader, a small hare’s ear as first dropper and a blue upright as second dropper, this last in deference to public opinion in the West Country, which considers no cast complete without it. One is loth to go against public opinion, but in the Exe I have caught four fish with the March brown and three with the hare’s ear to every one with the local fly,--not that this is conclusive, far from it; it is merely related as an individual experience. It has seemed to me that the large March brown kills best when there is a good head of water, and the smallest pattern of hare’s ear when the river is very fine, while the blue upright has served me well in a sudden evening rise.

To-day, however, the river is running a good height, for April has done its share of weeping, and though there may be a touch of east in the wind, its main characteristic is south. The sun is shining, but light clouds here and there give promise of intervals of shade; and altogether it is as good a day for fishing as a reasonable being could desire. Our friend makes the first cast of the season from behind the bush with a due sense of the gravity of the occasion. The first cast of the year is undoubtedly a solemn thing, and it has been the subject of much previous meditation; in his London chambers he has wasted many valuable minutes in considering exactly how he should make it and with what result. The result has seldom been much under a pound. But anticipation, as a rule, has no connection with fact. In this instance the first cast is not entirely successful. The leader reaches the water, it is true, but it is surrounded with what some angling authority calls “beautiful but useless” coils of gut, and, or course, no fish rises at so strange a phenomenon.

At the third cast, however, he is more fortunate, and there is a flash of yellow in the neighborhood of the second dropper. He strikes and just pricks the fish, or so it seems. But as he makes his next cast he hears a sharp crack in the air behind him. “Struck too hard,” he murmurs, and pulls his line in hand-over-hand to see the extent of the damage. As he suspected, the second dropper is gone, but he consoles himself with the thought that he is a little out of practice, and that he must expect to strike off a few flies on the first day. He opens his fly-book and takes out another blue upright, moistening the gut in his mouth before he fastens it to his cast. Here let it be said that for the Exe and streams like it I prefer flies tied on gut, to eyed flies, at any rate for droppers. On the whole they are easier to put on, and I fancy that for wet-fly fishing they make less disturbance in the water and have more hooking power, which is specially important in the Exe, where on nine days out of ten the trout are inclined to rise short.

His new dropper fastened, our friend begins to fish again. In a few casts he gets another rise, and this time he succeeds in hooking his fish fairly. It shows splendid sport, and its first rush might be that of a pound fish. However, there are no dangerous stumps in the pool, and it is not long before he lands it in his net, a lovely little trout of some six ounces. Where half-pounders are the limit of one’s aspirations a fish of six ounces is a decidedly good beginning, and our angler is pleased with himself. As he unhooks his first capture he notices that the hook has fastened in the corner of its mouth, and wonders whether there is anything in the old Exmoor adage that all the fish caught in a day’s fishing will be hooked exactly in the same spot. Out of this pool he catches two more fish, one under three ounces (the limit of size which he sets himself), and therefore returned, the other about a quarter of a pound. Then he gets up from his knees and makes his way along the bank to the next pool, well content with his first quarter of an hour.

It is wiser on the whole, in this part of the river, to reserve one’s energies for the best bits of water, and not to attempt to fish anywhere. Indiscriminate fishing pays, perhaps, if the trout are really on the feed, but if they are not, it is sheer waste of labor to fish the long shallows. By keeping to the pools one catches more fish in the end, and their average size is bigger. Even in the pools, except after sunset, only the sharp water or ripple at the head and tail will yield much result; but, given favorable conditions, each pool should be good for five or six rises, out of which one may hook one or two fish, according to one’s skill and luck. Sometimes it happens that in one pool as many as four sizeable fish will be brought to basket; then for the next mile there may not be a rise, and then one may come upon another pool where they are on the feed. At times the Exe trout appear to be curiously local in their habits; I have known them to be on the feed in every other half mile of water, while in the intermediate stretches they would not look at anything.

Our friend passes on from pool to pool, mostly getting fish too small to keep, but now and then one over the limit, until he reaches a bridge about a mile and a half from the village. Here he is on the same side as the road, which crosses the river at this point, and as the stream is shallow and not very promising he walks along the road until he shall come to some more pools, Presently he finds himself, as it were, in the middle of the moor, which rises straight up from the road.

Hitherto the hill behind him has been covered with fields and trees, but now all signs of cultivation cease for a while, and there stretches out before him a vast expanse of heather and fern with here and there a point of rock standing boldly out, and here and there a patch of vivid green which shows that some spring is trickling down through the moss towards the river. If a man were to step unwarily into that little patch of green he would sink in above his knees, and possibly deeper. I know no more sudden contrast anywhere; one is in the midst of a scene of cultivation and the work of men’s hands; one turns a corner, and is suddenly face to face with the moor rising hundreds of feet above. The moor! There is no word to describe it; its fascination, for all who have fallen under its spell, cannot be expressed by tongue or pen. A man can only gaze and marvel. As a cloud passes over the sun, and the purple slopes grow dark and threatening, he looks hurriedly over his shoulder, expecting to see a thunder-cloud coming up the valley, for when the moor frowns there is but one thing that can match it in awfulness, the great steel-gray cloud that comes up against the wind and rumbles in its path. But there is no thunder-cloud there, and as he turns round relieved the sun reappears and he finds the moor smiling once more. Of all colors purple in the most mysterious, and here it is in its every shade, from the bright hue of monarchy to the darkest of all, that which is so near black that one can imagine Death wearing it on some high festival,--for he too is a monarch. And in the foreground close by, in vivid contrast to all those purples, to the green of the swamp and the gray of the rock, there dances up and down in the sunlight a little yellow butterfly.

The first sight of the moor to a man newly come out of London is a thing to linger over, a thing to think about, and so our fisherman decides to have his lunch here reclining at his ease on the mossy bank with his back against a comfortable rock, and to take his fill of gazing while he eats. First, though, for he is first a fisherman and afterwards a seer of sights, he empties his basket out on the grass and counts his catch. Ten fish are they, and they average a quarter of a pound, a very fair morning’s work for an unambitious man, while for beauty of form and color they can vie with the moor itself. A marvelous variety of color too they can show – bright carmine, rich black, and clear brown and yellow,--while the main note is a fine gold, a color for which the Exe fish are notable beyond all of my experience. One of them, however, is very different from his fellows—a long, thin, black fish who had his abode in a patch of the dark water-moss, of which I have spoken as being found more in the Barle than in the bright Exe.

 As he lies at his ease enjoying his well-earned lunch, thoughts of the beauteous Lorna and of the “girt Jan Ridd” come to him; he would give a king’s ransom to see the one and shake the other by the hand; for no one who has the least of poetry in him, lying here by the side of Exe with the moor all round, not ten miles away from the parish of Oare, could doubt for an instant of their reality, or could feel surprised to see the great yeoman appear suddenly over the brow of the hill riding back from Dulverton on his good but uncertain-tempered horse, Kickums, with his long Spanish gun slung behind him. A big Doone or two would also not come amiss, even though they should question the validity of the angler’s card of permission to fish, or, so little do they reck of the law, of his license itself. He is a man of peace, and he would not attempt to argue the matter with the butt-end of his fishing-pole. Rather would he give them fair words, and asseverate how much he admired them from what he had heard of them. So might he escape, for even a Doone must be susceptible to flattery.

Thus he meditates for some half-hour, but no one comes to disturb his solitude, and at last he remembers that, though the children of the great novelist’s fancy will never come to gladden his eyes, yet are there still trout in the Exe, and while there are trout life is worth living. So he rises and takes up his rod again. For the next mile or two the fishing is very good. The river winds like a serpent, and at every bend there is a pool of surpassing merit. But our friend finds that the trout are not rising so well as they were in the morning, and by five o’clock he has added only four to his basket. One of the, however, is a good half-pounder, and he fully sustained the reputation of his race. There is a chain of little pools, four in number, where the river turns twice in a few yards, and he took the March brown at the head of the top one. It was evidently not his real home, for he rushed down-stream at once to the bottom pool until he came to the old stump in the middle of it. He was under it before the angler, in hot pursuit, could realize the danger. That is why is feet are wet; he had to wade in up to his knees to grub about under the stump with the handle of his landing-net so that he might dislodge the fish. By a miracle he succeeded, and he is as proud of that half-pounder in his basket as he has ever been of a trout in his life. In a pool higher up another good fish which he hooked did the same thing, and though the angler waded in even deeper and poked even more vigorously it got off and he was left lamenting. That fish, he maintains, was three-quarters of a pound; but is the angler’s privilege to estimate the weight of the fish he did not catch.

At the hour at which the feeble folk in cities are drinking nerve-destroying tea (not but that our friend would accept and even thank you for a cup at this moment, for he has worked hard), he is standing on another bridge about four miles from his starting-point, debating whether he shall work on farther up-stream or turn back again and go over the same water, fishing the pools he has marked as the best. He decides to take the latter course, as he does not feel fresh enough to do justice to new water, but thinks he is still man enough to take some trout out of pools he knows, during the evening-rise. Therefore he retraces his steps. He does not fish down-stream, it is contrary to all his theories, but he walks down to the bottom of each pool, keeping well away from the river, and fishes up it again.

And now he gets good proof of the sad fact that a man cannot go on fishing forever, for though the trout appear to be rising well enough he misses fish after fish. This may be partly due to the deceptiveness of the evening-rise, but it is still more due to the fact that he is tired, and that his mind has in great measure lost its cunning. The uninitiated do not in the least realize what hard work fishing in a mountain stream is, even when one is not wading; hence come their somewhat contemptuous opinions of fishermen, for they class them all together, whether they fish for trout or roach, as lazy people who stand by a river and catch rheumatism. But, tired though he is, our angler perseveres, and between the bridges he manages to catch another half-dozen worth keeping; and thus, when he stands on the first bridge again, he has twenty trout to his credit, besides a good many small ones which he returned.

By this time it is nearly a quarter past seven, and now arises the question whether he shall go on fishing, for he has nearly another hour of daylight, or whether he shall stroll quietly home along the road. By fishing on he might make his basket up to two dozen, but then, again, he might not. No, on the whole he thinks he will not fish any more. For the sake of a fish or two it is not worth while tiring himself out and losing flies, and possibly temper. He has every reason to be satisfied with his catch, and besides, his dinner will be ready for him at a quarter to eight, and he has forgotten the sandwiches as if they had never been. So he leaves the river and follows the road. Another day, when he finds himself with but five fish to show at the same hour, he will doubtless go on desperately so long as he can see, but to-day he can afford the consolations of philosophy.

His May Day has brought him the two great blessings of mankind, health and happiness, and a third, which partakes of the nature of both, the blissful consciousness that, no matter how large a dinner he eats (and he means to eat as large a dinner as he can), he deserves it and will not regret it. The old Greek poet has warned us to call no man happy until he is dead; but as we watch this man walking gently back to the village with the shadows lengthening from the great hills on either side, his face as contented as a man’s can be, we feel that the poet was wrong, and that here is one at least to whom a long May Day has been pure gold without alloy.