W. H. TEMPLE
To him fishing was a noble art; to her it was a pain in the neck — And into this maelstrom of conflict waded love at first sight
JOHN DENNIS yawned, plopped the trout into his creel, and sank down on a boulder in the middle of the Winnetka. It was the first day of his vacation, he had taken a trout on his first cast, and he was bored. He pushed a battered hat back from his forehead, shrugged his big shoulders, and sighed like the wind in the pine trees. He wondered if he were the only angler in the world who had no one to brag to. Other fishermen went home at night to foot-tapping wives. John Dennis felt like a corked bottle of fizz water.
“Some day,” he had often thought, “I’ll round a bend in a trout stream and meet my wife.”
She would have to be an ardent angler. The only other specifications were physical. Long legs; nose, eyes and such up to standard. He had met feminine fishermen, but they had thick legs. He had met glorious long-limbed creatures, and when they said they didn’t care to fish, John put on his hat and left.
Now he waded on upstream. He had fished the Winnetka with a cane pole and string when he was small fry, now he was a linen salesman with a sixty-dollar fly rod. During the summer he fished with it, and winter evenings he sat and looked at it.
Around the bend he started a back cast and then stopped as though a trout had bitten him in the leg. Ahead of him a girl was fishing. Even in expensive waders she was graceful. She was tall and red-haired, and she had a nose and eyes that raised the standard.
“It’s a mirage,” John Dennis said.
He rubbed his eyes and she was still there. She was staring at him.
“Hello,” he said weakly.
The girl didn’t answer. She didn’t move.
“Any luck?” John croaked.
The girl’s lovely lips parted. “Beat it,” she said.
“But wait a minute,” John began, “I—”
“Scram,” said a male voice, and John saw the man with the camera standing on the bank. He was a little man with a mustache.
“He’s not your husband,” John said. “He couldn’t be.” The girl and the man with the camera looked at each other, and the man finally spoke. “The woods,” he said, “are full of insects.”
Slightly bewildered, John waded in to the bank while the man focused his camera on the girl. “That’s it,” he said, “hold it.”
“Oh,” John exclaimed brightly, “you’re taking her picture.”
The photographer slowly raised his head. He appeared to be counting up to ten. “Can’t fool him, by cracky,” he said.
A wave of red crept up John’s cheeks as the photographer again bent over the camera. “One thing I do know,” John said coldly, “is that people should learn how to fish before posing for a picture. Or is this going ro be one of those ‘find seven mistakes and win a gold watch’ things?”
“Oh, go away,” the girl told him.
The photographer carefully put his camera on the ground. “What do you know about it?”
“I know this,” John said. “The reel is usually under the rod. not on top. And she has no leader on that line.”
The girl’s face was abruptly as red as her hair. John wanted to pat her hand and tell her that everything was all right. She was a novice and he would instruct her. Down the years he would be her ever-loving tutor.
“Miss Lane,” said the photographer, “I thought you knew' how to fish. You told me you could fish. Where’s your leader?”
The girl put a hand in the pocket of her jacket and drew out a thin, square envelope. “I—I didn’t know what to do with it, Mr. Renault. I’m—I’m sorry.”
Mr. Renault looked icily at her. “You’ve been a model long enough, I should think, Miss Lane, to know that details must be accurate. You also know that I haven’t time to waste.”
John watched the girl, whose grip on the fly rod was tremulous. “I knew you wanted a redhead, Mr. Renault, and I thought I could get by. I studied up on it. I’ve wanted to pose for you for a long tîïnë,and I thought—” “What you thought does not interest me. I’ll have to send for another model.” Mr. Renault nodded curtly to John. “Thank you, young man. I hapjjen to have some reputation as a commercial photographer. Miss Lane was modelling for an advertisement. I’m indebted to you for averting a bad error.”
THE GIRL came forlornly in to the bank. The blue eyes w-ere wet now. “I know I shouldn’t have done it,” she said. “I’ll go back to the city and get you a model, Mr. Renault.”
John, an awed spectator, burst into speech. “No,” he said. “Look. I’m an expert angler. I can coach Miss Lane and check the technical details. I’ll give her a lesson this afternoon, and you can take her picture tomorrow.”
Mr. Renault considered and gave in. John helped the girl dismantle her tackle, and introduced himself. They started back toward the inn where they were all staying.
“It’s very sweet of you to do this for me,” Ann Lane told John.
“I have ulterior motives,” John said, grinning at her. At close range his impressions were confirmed. He was in love with a girl who couldn’t fish, but who wanted so badly to learn to fish that she had taken this assignment. With the falsely modest air of an attendant exhibiting the crown jewels, he flipped open his creel. “You might like to see what I caught this morning,” he said casually.
Ann glanced at the trout. “Very nice,” she said jxflitely. “Took him on a Cahill,” John continued, feeling a trifle dampened.
“Really?” said Ann. She didn’t sound impressed. “You know,” she went on, “I think fishing is the most futile sport known to mankind.”
That was an earthquake, and John was in the exact centre of it. He came out of it still on his feet but punch drunk. Her next words brought him back to outraged sanity.
“You get scratched by brambles, bitten by insects, soaking wet, and you wear yourself to a frazzle. And for what? For a smelly old fish.”
He had been deluded and deceived. She was a Lorelei who lured anglers to their fate. Deliberately he put her tackle box on the ground. He placed the fly rod beside it. “That’s the way you feel about it?” he said.
“I hate fishing.”
“Okay,” John said, tipping his hat. "My compliments, and good-by to you.”
He turned and strode back to the Winnetka. Lucky for him he’d learned her true character in time. He might have let himself fall in love with her. All looks, but a vacuum under that red hair. She had a nerve, parading around in the Winnetka as though it were a movie studio.
“Place is getting run down,” he muttered aloud. “Polluted.”
He fished for half an hour, but he didn’t enjoy it. He was irritated and without enthusiasm, and he returned glumly to the inn. Ann was swinging in a hammock. He bowed coldly and started on inside.
“Mind if I ask a question?” Ann said. “I don’t mind your backing out on coaching me. That was too good to
be true. But I never realized that disliking fishing means social ostracism.”
“Fishing,” said John, “is one of man’s nobler pursuits.” “Not to a trout, it’s not,” Ann said. “I bet you never thought of it that way.”
“That has nothing to do with it.” He stared fixedly at her. “I’ll coach you this afternoon. I promised you and I don’t go back on a promise. You can trust fishermen.”
“I know,” Ann said. “All great men go fishing. It indicates a sterling character.”
John ignored her. After lunch he merely nodded in her direction and led the way back to the stream. Carefully he jointed the rod, screwed on the reel, then tied the leader to the line.
“An advantage of the leader,” he said in a contained, platform manner, “is that the fish can’t see it. They can see the line.” He took a Royal Coachman from his fly box and tied it to the leader. “Now you’re ready to cast. Watch.”
He waded into the stream, fed out the line, snapped the rod to the perpendicular, and let the line carry out behind him. Then he brought it forward and the line sang through the air, the Royal Coachman dropping and bobbing lightly on the water.
“I have to learn how to do that?”
“It’s not necessary,” John said bitterly. “All you have to do is to look like an angler.”
She waded out beside him, took the rod from him and made a practice cast. The line went back, tangier! dangerously with tree branches, then came forward and dropped over their shoulders. A section of it was looped over John’s head. He peered over the line at the Royal Coachman nestling in his left sleeve. Ann giggled.
He looked sternly at her until she subsided. "Wait on your back cast until the line tugs at your rod. Then snap it forward. But not too far or you’ll slop your line all over the landscape."
Ann practiced steadily until he gave a grudging nod of approval, then she waded in to shore and smiled at him. “Don’t be so grumpy,” she said. “I’ll bet you’re nice jieople when you’re not fishing.”
He came in slowly, studying her. Every detail was perfect. Each strand of red hair was in place beneath her kerchief, just the right amount of make-up. She’d look swell in that advertisement, with that red hair against the green of the spruces and the white foam of the water. I Ic’d put the picture on the wall and throw knives at it.
“What I can’t understand,” he said, "is why you took this job if you hate to fish.”
"Because Renault was handling it. He’s one of the best, and I’ve always wanted to pose for him. I've never had a look-in, and then he was up against it looking for a model who could fish. He asked me and I just automatically said yes. Then I went to a sporting goods department and asked a lot of questions. I thought I could get by.”
He looked steadily into her eyes and spoke his thoughts. “If you only liked fishing.”
He started violently. “You’ll never know. It’s one of those closed episodes that I don’t talk about. Maybe.” he continued hopefully, “you could learn to like fishing.”
She shook her head. "I’m a model. I can’t afford to be a free lunch for insects. I’m going to be one of Renault’s regulars. But I may have killed my chances now. Let’s start back.”
AT NINE O’CLOCK the next morning Ann, Mr.
• Renault and John went down to the Winnetka, and Ann and John waded out into the stream. He looked wistfully at her.
“Well,” he said, “lots of luck. I’m saying good-by.” Ann smiled at him. “Thanks for the instruction. I’m in the phone book if you’re—” She smiled again, a little one-sidedly. “But then I’m not an angler.”
John clambered up on the bank and looked at her as she finished a cast. The rod was held in her left hand, her right hand was on the coil of line.
“It’ll be a darn good ad,” John said. He looked longingly at her, and then waved a hand and lumbered off through the woods. He followed the course of the stream for a half mile, then stepped down into the water. “From now' on,” he said grimly, “I fish.”
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Ann Lane was a thing of the past, an incident to be forgotten. Methodically he began to cast, combing the dark patches of glassy water. A Hendrickson produced no results, fie replaced it with a Cahill and made a cast. The fly and the line hit the water at once and he shuddered. The next cast was better. He stood there in the stream, scowling at the drifting fly. It disappeared abruptly in a swirl of water. John snapped up his rod, and then swore as he stared at the slack line. “Blazes,” he said, and began reeling in, thankful that no one had seen him act as if he didn’t know how to fish.
He was looking at his rod tip and he was seeing Ann. He had fallen in love with her ! He had seen her first as an angler and that had been his downfall.
“She’s the kind of poisonous female I would like to picket,” he said aloud, but it was no dice. He had been hooked and brought to net. With sudden decision he dismantled his rod, went in to the bank and strode downstream.
He heard loud voices before he reached Ann and Mr. Renault, and he came out on the bank to see the game warden talking to Mr. Renault.
“Mr. Dennis,” the photographer said in a tired voice, “will you please tell this official that we are not fishing. He wants to arrest us for not having a license.”
“The law’s the law,” the warden said. “Now suppose everyone I meet tells me he’s not fishing, oh, no, he’s just posing for a picture.”
“I can vouch for them,” John told him. “She doesn’t even want to catch a fish. Why don’t you stick around until the picture’s taken?”
Ann was resting against a boulder. The warden assented and Ann straightened up. “Over to your left,” Mr. Renault ordered. She nodded, and the warden drew in his breath. The sun glinted on the copper of her hair. Calm, regally beautiful, she took another step forward, and suddenly she went out of sight.
John was in the stream in two leaps. Ann bobbed to the surface and recovered her footing. Her hair hung in strings. Her mouth was open but no words came.
“I fell into that hole once myself,” John said, grinning, and extending a helping hand.
“Fishing,” Ann exploded. “Sport!”
Mr. Renault, his camera under one arm, was tottering back toward the inn. “I would rather take babies,” he said.
John walked back with Ann. “After you left,” she said, “I was trying to drum up an enthusiasm for angling. I was trying to convince myself that I could like it. Now I know. You can have it.”
I’M GOING to convert you to angling.” John told Ann later that afternoon. “I’m going to make you like it.” “Impossible. This little experience is as close as I’ll get to being an angler. Not that I have anything against nature. It’s the fishermen who infest her.”
“You’re nice. If you weren’t an angler I might go farther. But you have that one streak. Like an uncle of mine.”
“Fishing,” said John, “is a philosophy of life.”
“That’s the way my uncle feels about it.” “Fishing,” said John, ignoring her, “has made me a better man.”
“My uncle always says that too.”
“Who gives a hoot about your uncle?” John dropped down from the porch railing and took Ann in his arms. She returned his kiss, and for a long moment her face was against his cheek.
“Ann,” he said, “I’m in love with you.” “You can’t be,” she said, shaking her red hair. “You hate people like me.”
“I ought to hate you.” John said, looking sadly at her. “In fact I tried to. But
all I can think of are church bells and you putting on the coffee in the morning. Things like that. That’s love.”
Ann’s eyes were starry. “When you walked out of my life this morning I could have cried. If he were anything but a fisherman, I thought—”
“If you loved me,” John said, his jaw moving out stubbornly, “you’d take up fishing.”
“Or you’d give it up.”
“Give up fishing?” he asked incredulously. “Woman, you’re mad!”
“You see,” Ann said wistfully, “you’re terribly in love with me, but you love fishing more.”
John mopped his forohead. His heart was acting up. “Now listen,” he said firmly. “Here we are. I love you. You’re in love with me. Are you and I going to let the matter of a hobby spoil everything for us?”
“Fishing isn’t just a hobby like—like stamp collecting. I’d never see you. And when you came home you’d be expecting to find a sympathetic feminine ear. Someone who would go ooh and ah at you.”
“We could work it out.”
“Where,” asked Ann, “would you take me on our honeymoon?”
“There’s a camp in New Brunswick,” John said. “It’s a—”
“I don’t like it.”
John tapped his fingers on the porch railing. “This,” he said bitterly, “is my vacation. I’m going to bed.”
Ann got up from the swing. “You might say good night.”
He looked steadily at her. “You want to hear about the muskellunge I got once? Would you like me to tell you about that? Do you know what a musky is? No ! Do you give a darn? Likewise, no ! Siren !” He bent down and pressed his lips to hers. Then he broke away, looked wildly around him and stamped inside the inn.
He went to bed but not to sleep. She was going away tomorrow and he’d never see her again. She had walked into his life and now she was walking out, leaving the wreckage in her wake. And there was nothing he could do about it. They weren’t matched. All the authorities on love would so state. They wouldn’t get along. I íe loved her, and he was miserable. He would go back to selling linen and catch ing fish. He’d be a crusty old bachelor with the disposition of a hooked bass.
"DARLY the next morning they were again at the stream. While Mr. Renault fumbled with his camera Ann turned to John. She put one slim hand on his arm and looked at him with troubled eyes. “It’s been bad for me up here,” she said. “If this doesn’t click I won’t have gained any favor as a model. But just the same—it’s been nice.”
John scowled unhappily at her. “Yeah,” he said, and was silent. It grew uncomfortable. “I don’t suppose I can kiss you good-by,” he said gruilly. “It would disturb your make-up.”
“It’ll disturb me more,” Ann said, “if you don’t.”
They were on the edge of the bank. He leaned forward and took her in his arms. They were completely oblivious to Mr. Renault who was saying in a hopeless sort of tone that the sun was just right and might go behind a cloud any minute. John finally drew away from her. His heart was pounding and he felt terrible.
Without a word Ann waded into the stream. She made a cast and her line dropped on the water. The Royal Coachman, a tiny spot of color on the white water, drifted downstream. It would look the same in the color photograph. A redheaded girl against a background of dark green. A brown-tinted rod in one white hand. He would know what it looked like even if he never saw the adver-
tisement. and there was a hard lump in John’s throat.
He turned slowly, walked into the woods, then paused for one last look. Faintly he heard Mr. Renault’s voice. “That’s good, that's just right. Flip that line out a little.’’
He saw Ann’s wrist flick and the line slid forward through the rod guides.
"Hold it,” said Mr. Renault.
Ann was a statue, her profile turned toward the camera.
Then abruptly the line sang, jerked taut. The reel whirred and the rod tip bent toward the water. Out of the stream for a second’s fraction came a leaping silvery thing.
John went weak. “She’s hooked a trout.” he said unbelievingly, and grasped at a tree for support.
Instinctively Ann had jerked up her rod. The hook was apparently set. The water boiled and the line continued to run out.
"Darn you,” Ann said, "get off there.”
John winced. She had a trout and she didn’t want it. Slowly, forcing himself to do it, he swung around and tramped off through the woods. He was walking blindly and when he met the meandering Winnetka again he stepped down into the water. Listlessly he put his rod together, then made a cast. With a jaundiced eye he watched the fly float downstream, then he began reeling in. He could not fish the Winnetka again. He would spend the remainder of his vacation elsewhere. In another stream he might be able to forget.
He went back to the inn and upstairs to his room where he began tossing clothes into a suitcase. He had neglected to close his room door and suddenly he heard Mr. Renault’s voice.
"Telling me you could fish when you couldn’t,” Mr. Renault said, “was inexcusable. But other than that you’ve proved an excellent model. I’m going to keep you in mind, and I may have some calls for you.”
John heard Ann’s indrawn breath. “Oh, Mr. Renault—”
Bang ! John booted the door shut with a heavy foot. Ann had her life’s ambition. He fired a last shirt into his suitcase, snapped it shut, and then sat down on the
bed. He couldn’t bear to see Ann again. He sat there, motionless, until a car coughed outside in the driveway, and looking from the window, he saw Mr. Renault’s car jounce around the curve and out of sight, dust trailing up behind it.
“That,” he said, “is that. Finis.” He stood up, picked up his suitcase, opened the door and went slowly downstairs. He was walking across the lobby toward the desk when the suitcase fell from his hand. Ann was standing in the doorway leading to the kitchen. Her hair was matted. There was a smudge of dirt on her nose. In her hands she held a platter.
“Look,” she said reverently, and came toward him carrying the platter as though it held the world’s supply of radium.
John stared down at a glassy-eyed trout, barely over the .size limit.
“I caught it,” Ann said. “All by myself I caught it.”
John opened and closed his mouth. He ran a finger around inside his collar. “Renault?” he said.
“I turned him down. When that fish headed for the Atlantic Ocean—” She shivered. “I caught it,” she repeated triumphantly.
John sat down on the suitcase and gradually the fog began to roll away. “Ann,” he said, “my darling—”
“I did just what you told me to do,” Ann said. “I made him fight the springing of the rod instead of the line.”
John’s grin stretched across his face. “I knew you could do it, honey. I—”
“And when he went for a log I jerked up on the rod. Was that right? He weakened then and I pulled in. I worked him over toward the bank as you said and—”
“Some day,” John said contentedly, “I’ll give you something to brag about. Like that musky I caught. I had an eighteen-pound test line and that fish weighed—”
“Where can we fish for muskies?” Ann asked, looking dreamily across the room.
A chill passed through John’s body. Some day she would take a muskellunge. And she would tell him about it. Far into the night. The tremor passed and John got firmly to his feet. “Let’s forget fishing,” he said. He took her into his arms and kissed the dreaminess out of her eyes. “This,” he said, “is much more important.”