CHUB TRIES A NEW BAIT

I could write in detail of the next three days, but the narrative
would only bore you, for nothing of special interest happened. In
brief, then, they made an early start the morning after the escape
from Mr. Ewing and the arm of the law, and were soon rounding the bend
in the river opposite Peekskill. By one o’clock they were in sight of
West Point and so kept on until they found a mooring at the steamboat
pier. There they ate dinner and afterward spent two hours “doing” the
Military Academy. Dick declared that if they didn’t see another thing,
that alone was worth the whole trip, and the rest agreed with him. At
twilight, they sidled the _Slow Poke_ across to shore almost under
the frowning face of Storm King. There was deep water there, and when
the mooring ropes were made fast they could step from the deck of the
house-boat right onto the bank. The map showed dozens of streams and
several small ponds, and it was decided that they would remain there
for a while and try the fishing. They slept on board that night, but
the next afternoon they rigged the little shelter tent which they had
brought between the trees at a little distance from shore, and made
camp. Dick and Roy fashioned a fireplace of stones and when the weather
was fair the meals were prepared over a wood fire. Chub declared that
he preferred the flavor of wood smoke to kerosine. For two days they
tramped around the neighboring country and fished to their hearts’
content, finding several good trout pools. It was on the second day
that Chub caught his “two-pounder.” To be sure, Dick and Roy declared
that it didn’t weigh over a pound and a quarter, but Chub retorted that
that was only their jealousy and that if there was a scales on board he
would soon prove his estimate correct. But there wasn’t a scales to be
found and so Chub’s claim was never disproved. He held the trout out at
arm’s-length while Roy photographed it, and when the picture developed
the fish looked like a salmon rather than a trout.

“You might as well call it a ten-pounder as a two,” said Dick. “Anyone
would believe you. Why, that fish is half as big as you–in the
picture!”

Chub viewed him sorrowfully and shook his head.

“That,” he replied, “would not be the truth, Dickums. When you know me
better you’ll find that not even a fish can tempt me from the path of
honesty. Perhaps, however, there wouldn’t be any harm in calling it a
three-pounder; what do you think?”

Roy and Dick had good luck, too, although their trout were smaller than
Chub’s “two-pounder,” and during their stay at Camp Storm King, as they
called it, they had all the fresh fish they could eat.

The day after Chub’s famous catch he informed the others that he was
going back to the scene of his victory for another try.

“We’ll all go,” said Roy, pleasantly, with a wink at Dick. “It must be
a dandy place.”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” replied Chub, shortly. “That pool is
my discovery.”

“Pshaw,” said Roy, “if I found a good place like that I’d want you to
try it.”

“Me, too,” said Dick. Chub viewed them scornfully.

“Of course you would,” he replied with deep sarcasm.

“Well, I would,” insisted Roy. “I’d be generous. Now–”

“I guess you’re like the Irishman,” said Chub. “His name was Pat.”

“It always is in a story,” murmured Dick.

“One day his friend Mike met him and said: ‘Pat, they tell me you’re
a Socialist.’ ‘I am,’ says Pat. ‘Well, now, tell me, Pat, what is a
Socialist?’ ‘A Socialist,’ says Pat, ‘is a feller that divides his
property equally. ’Tis like this, do you see: if I had two million
dollars I’d give you one million and I’d keep one million myself.’
‘’Tis a grand idea,’ says Mike. ‘And if you had two farms would you
give me one, Pat?’ ‘Sure would I,’ says Pat. ‘’Tis an elegant thing,
this Socialism,’ says Mike. ‘But, tell me, Pat, if you had two pigs
would you give me one?’ ‘Go ’long, now!’ says Pat. ‘You know I’ve _got_
two pigs!’”

“It’s a funny story,” said Roy, mournfully, “but I miss the application,
Chub.”

“You do, eh? Well, it just shows how easy it is to be generous with
something you haven’t got.” Whereupon Chub picked up his rod and
stepped ashore.

“You won’t get a bite!” called Dick.

Haughty silence from Chub as he walked away.

“You won’t bring home a thing!” This shot told.

“If I don’t bring home something as big as I did yesterday,” announced
Chub, grandly “I’ll–I’ll wash up the dishes!”

“That’s a go,” cried Dick. “Bad luck to you!”

They watched him disappear between the trees. Then Roy turned to Dick
with a grin. “Let’s follow him,” he said.

An instant later, carrying their rods, they were on Chub’s trail. They
went quickly and quietly, and soon had their quarry in sight. Chub was
ambling along very leisurely, whistling as he went. Presently they were
out of the woods and on a narrow road that was scarcely more than a
path. It wound along the bottom of the mountain for a half a mile or
so, running very straight and rendering it necessary for the pursuers
to keep in among the trees lest Chub should glance back. But it was
apparent that he had no suspicion. The road ran over or through several
small streams which came gurgling down the hill and at each of them
Roy and Dick expected to see Chub leave the road. But he kept on and
presently Dick gave signs of discouragement.

“Thunder,” he said, “I don’t believe he’s ever going to stop. This
isn’t much fun, Roy. Let’s quit. I’m all scratched up with these
branches.”

“Stop nothing!” answered Roy. “He can’t be going much further. Anyway,
the road curves pretty soon and then we can take it easy.”

Presently the road did curve, Chub was out of sight, and they left the
underbrush with sighs of relief.

“Have you any idea where this pool of his is?” asked Dick.

“Not the slightest. He and I started out together but he left me about
three o’clock and went down toward the river. We were fishing that
stream that comes down near the fork of the roads, you know; where we
were the first day. That’s about half a mile further, but I don’t see
why Chub has to go that far unless he can’t find his old pool any
other way. Here’s the turn. Careful, or he may see us.”

It was an abrupt curve and they went very slowly and softly until they
could see the stretch of road ahead. It was quite deserted!

“Shucks!” said Roy. “He’s got away from us, after all. Come on!”

They broke into a trot and hurried along, looking sharply to left and
to right as they ran. A moment or two later there was a rustling in the
woods near the turn of the road and Chub came cautiously out, a broad
smile on his face. Remaining in concealment, he watched his pursuers
until another turn of the road hid them. Then he cut a branch from a
small tree, sharpened one end of it, slit the other, and stuck it in
the middle of the road. Searching his pockets he, at length, brought
forth a crumpled piece of paper. Smoothing it out, he traced a single
word on it and stuck it in the cleft of the stick. Then, chuckling
aloud, he crossed the road and disappeared into the woods on the lower
side.

Some two hours later Roy and Dick came trudging back. They had five
trout between them, but they were all small ones. They were very
hungry and somewhat tired, and Roy almost walked into the stick in the
road before he saw the piece of paper. When he had read it he laughed
and handed it to Dick.

“‘Stung!’” read Dick. He grinned, crumpled it up, and tossed it aside,
and they went on for a moment without a word. Then,

“You have to get up pretty early to get ahead of Chub,” said Roy,
admiringly.

“Get up early!” quoth Dick. “You have to stay up all night!”

They trudged on home to the camp and dinner.

Meanwhile Chub was having hard luck. Fully a mile away, where a stream
rushed down a hill and paused for a while in a broad black pool lined
with rocks and alders, he had been fishing diligently for over an
hour with no success. He had tried almost every one of his brand-new
assortment of flies, but, to use his own expression, he hadn’t even
got a bid. It was getting along toward dinner-time, as his hunger
emphatically informed him, and he recollected his agreement with
regret. It wasn’t that he so much disliked to wash the dishes for
once–although as a matter of principle he always schemed to avoid
that task–but he hated to have Roy and Dick crow over him. And after
the way in which he had fooled them that morning, he had no doubt but
that they would crow long and loud!

He sat down on a convenient flat-topped stone and spread his fly-book
open beside him. It was a sunny day, but the pool was well shadowed
and perhaps, after all, a real brilliant fly wouldn’t be out of the
way. So he selected a handsome arrangement of vermilion and yellow
and gray–a most gaudy little fly it was–and substituted it for the
more somber one on his line. Then he cast again to the farther side
of the pool. For a while there was no reply to his appeal, and then
the fly disappeared and a moment later a gleaming trout was flapping
about under the bushes. It wasn’t such a bad little trout; Chub guessed
three quarters of a pound as its weight; and more hopefully now, he
flicked the pool here and there. But nothing else happened. At last,
discouraged, he reeled in his line and looked at his watch. The time
was a quarter past twelve. Even if he started back to the boat now,
he would arrive very late for dinner. Besides, he couldn’t face Roy
and Dick with only that insignificant trophy to show. If only he had
brought a luncheon with him! His eyes fell again on the trout and his
face lighted. Dropping his fly-book into his pocket and picking up rod
and fish, he turned his back on the pool and followed the stream as
best he could, winding in and out of the thickets and clambering over
the rocks that strewed the little vale.

Presently he was out of the thicket and before him lay a small clearing
in which waist-high bushes and trailing briars ran riot. The brook
spread itself out into a shallow stream and meandered off toward the
river, its course marked by small willows, alders, and rushes. Chub
found a clear spot in the shade of a viburnum and built a fire of dry
grass and twigs, adding dead branches as the flames grew. Fuel wasn’t
very easy to find, but by prospecting around he eventually had a
good-sized blaze. Then, warm and panting, he sat down out of the range
of the heat and prepared his trout. By the time it was ready the fire
had subsided to a bed of glowing coals. Wrapping the fish in leaves
he laid it on the embers and watched it carefully, turning it over
and over and raking the hot coals about it. After fifteen minutes of
cooking he took it off and laid it on a stone which he had meanwhile
washed in the brook. Then, with a couple of sharpened sticks he scraped
away the ashes and coals, and began his luncheon. Trout without any
other seasoning than wood smoke isn’t awfully appetizing, as Chub
speedily discovered, and he would have given a whole lot for a pinch
or two of salt. But it partly satisfied his hunger, and after he had
taken a drink of cold water from the brook he felt good for another two
or three hours’ fishing. He was determined not to go home until he had
something to show. He stretched himself out in the shade for a while
and rested. Then, picking up his rod once more, he returned to the
stream and sought a likely spot.

His search led him across the clearing and into a dense woods beyond.
Here the stream narrowed again and deepened, and he put another fly
on and tried his luck, wandering along from place to place. Twice,
inquiring fish nibbled at his fly, and once he hooked a small trout
only to lose it from the hook in landing. Then a full hour passed
without any results. It was almost three o’clock. The woods were
very warm and very still, only the ripple and plash of the brook
breaking the mid-afternoon silence. Even the birds were hushed. But
the mosquitoes, at least, were active, and Chub, hot and discouraged,
brushed them away and sighed for a breeze. Finally he sat down on the
ground and for the twentieth time viewed the contents of his fly-book
in perplexity. It seemed as though it contained every sort of fly that
the heart of trout could desire.

“Finicky things,” muttered Chub. “I’d just like to know what they do
want.” He picked out a pretty brown and gray fly tentatively. “That
ought to please any one. Maybe, though, they don’t like the taste of
them. I suppose, when you come to think of it, steel and feathers and
silk thread aren’t very appetizing–except to look at. If I was a trout
I’d much rather have a good worm or a nice, juicy grasshopper.”

He paused and stared thoughtfully at the flies. Then,

“Plagued if I don’t try it!” he murmured.

He got up and retraced his steps to the clearing. Ordinarily it’s the
easiest thing in the world to catch a grasshopper. All you have to do
is to stand still and the silly things will jump onto you; especially
if you happen to have on something white. But to-day Chub found the
grasshopper the most illusive of game, almost as illusive as trout!
With cap in hand, he crouched and jumped and ran and waited, missing
his prey time after time, and getting hotter and hotter and madder
and madder, until the perspiration streamed down his face and he was
mentally calling the grasshoppers all the mean names he could think
of. But perseverance is bound to win in the long run–and Chub had
plenty of long runs! And so, finally, he was trudging back, tired but
triumphant, with two hoppers firmly clasped in his hand. But it seemed
as though he was having more than his share of trouble to-day, for
although he had left rod and fly-book not more than fifty or sixty
yards from the edge of the clearing, he couldn’t find them for a long
while, and when he did he was so tuckered out that he had to lie on his
back for ten minutes before he could command sufficient energy to go on
with his experiment.

[Illustration: But Mister Trout didn’t want to come]

He sacrificed the most bedraggled of his flies, plucking off feathers
and silk, and then placed one of the grasshoppers on the hook. Looking
for a likely spot, he found it a few yards further down the stream
where the uprooted trunk of a big tree lay across the brook and made
a sort of dam. The bushes grew close to the bank and it was necessary
to make a short cast. The first attempt wasn’t a success, and he had
to wade into the pool and disentangle his leader from a stump. Then
he crawled out and tried again, assuring himself that he had already
scared every denizen of the pool into conniption fits and that, of
course, he wouldn’t get a bite. But the grasshopper had no sooner lit
on the surface than there was a sudden flash and the line spun out.

“Huh!” gasped Chub, his thumb on the reel. “That pleased you, didn’t
it? Come on, now.”

But Mister Trout didn’t want to come on. Instead, he had hidden himself
amongst the submerged roots of the trees. Chub wound in a foot or two
of line very gingerly, trying to coax the trout into deep water, and
the ruse succeeded. With a rush the fish darted from concealment and
sped upstream. But Chub brought him up with a turn that made the line
sing. Then he began to reel in. The trout fought valiantly and made a
good deal of trouble considering his size, and there were one or two
anxious moments for Chub. But in the end the victory was his, and back
among the stones lay the speckled beauty. It was a good ten inches long
and Chub beamed with delight. Now he could go home!

When he had secured his prize on a forked branch he released the other
grasshopper from the pocket of his fly-book.

“You’ve had a narrow escape,” he said, as the hopper flounced
bewildered away, “and considering the chase you led me I ought to feed
you to the fishes, too. But I won’t. Go on home, and don’t bat your
silly brains out against the rocks like that.”

At five o’clock Roy and Dick, who were beginning to get anxious about
Chub, beheld that young gentleman approaching camp. He had his rod in
hand, but no fish were in sight.

“Thunder!” said Dick. “I’ll wager he’s mad!”

“Had any dinner?” shouted Roy.

“Sure.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“Caught it and cooked it, of course. Say, he was a dandy! He was as
long–”

“Never mind about that,” laughed Roy. “You wash the dishes just the
same. You were to bring the fish home, you know.”

“Well, but I had to have something to eat, didn’t I?” asked Chub, with
a grin.

“That wasn’t in the bargain,” answered Dick. “You’re dish-washer
to-night.” Chub stepped aboard, reached under his coat, and laid his
trout on the railing.

“Is that so, Dickums?” he asked quickly. The others stared a moment.
Then,

“Great Scott!” murmured Dick.

“You win,” sighed Roy.

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