At the hour of 9:46 A.M., to be exact, as one should in these matters, I had cast three times above the known lair of this fish. Then I cast a fourth time, more from habit than hope; and the fight was on. I put it here with the grim brevity of a communique. Despite stout resistance, the objective was gained at 9:55 A.M. And the Big Trout would weigh a good two and one half—say three or three and one quarter—pounds. These are the bare facts.
Verily it was a moment to live over; and to myself now I was more discursive. I vanquished the giant trout again and again, altering details of the contest at will—as when I waded into icy water to the waist in a last moment of panic. My calm review disclosed that this had been fanciful overcaution; but at the great crisis and for three minutes afterward I had gloried in the wetting.
Now again I three times idly flicked that corner of the pool with a synthetic moth. Again for the fourth time I cast, more from habit than hope. Then ensued that terrific rush from the pool’s lucent depths—
“Yes, sir; you wouldn’t need no two guesses for what she’d wear at a grand costume ball of the Allied nations—not if you knew her like I do.” This was Ma Pettengill, who had stripped a Sunday paper from the great city to its society page. She lifted this under the lamp and made strange but eloquent noises of derision:
“You take Genevieve May now, of a morning, before that strong-arm Japanese maid has got her face rubbed down and calked with paints, oils, and putty, and you’d say to her, as a friend and well-wisher: ’Now look here, old girl, you might get by at that costume ball as Stricken Serbia or Ravaged Belgium, but you better take a well-meant hint and everlastingly do not try to get over as La Belle France. True, France has had a lot of things done to her,’ you’d say, ’and she may show a blemish here and there; but still, don’t try it unless you wish to start something with a now friendly ally—even if it is in your own house. That nation is already pushed to a desperate point, and any little thing might prove too much—even if you are Mrs. Genevieve May Popper and have took up the war in a hearty girlish manner.’ Yes, sir!”
This, to be sure, was outrageous—that I should hear myself addressing a strange lady in terms so gross. Besides, I wished again to be present at the death of my favourite trout. I affected not to have heard. I affected to be thinking deeply.
It worked, measurably. Once more I scanned the pool’s gleaming surface and felt the cold pricking of spray from the white water that tumbled from a cleft in the rocks above. Once more I wondered if this, by chance, might prove a sad but glorious day for a long-elusive trout. Once more I looked to the fly. Once more I—