The Amiable Angler





Baumberger--Johannes was the name he answered to when any of his family

called, though to the rest of the world he was simply Baumberger--was

what he himself called a true sport. Women, he maintained, were very

much like trout; and so, when this particular woman calmly turned

her back upon the smile cast at her, he did not linger there angling

uselessly, but betook himself to the store, where his worldly position,

rather than his charming personality, might be counted upon to bring him

his meed of appreciation.



Good Indian and Jack, sitting side by side upon the porch and saying

very little, he passed by with a careless nod, as being not worth his

attention. Saunders, glancing up from the absorbing last chapter of

"The Brokenhearted Bride," also received a nod, and returned it

apathetically. Pete Hamilton, however, got a flabby handshake, a wheezy

laugh, and the announcement that he was down from Shoshone for a good,

gamy tussle with that four-pounder he had lost last time.



"And I don't go back till I get him--not if I stay here a week," he

declared, with jocular savagery. "Took half my leader and my pet fly--I

got him with a peacock-bodied gray hackle that I revised to suit my own

notions--and, by the great immortal Jehosaphat, he looked like a whale

when he jumped up clear of the riffle, turned over, and--" His flabby,

white hand made a soaring movement to indicate the manner in which the

four-pounder had vanished.



"Better take a day off and go with me, Pete," he suggested, getting an

unwieldy-looking pipe from the pocket of his canvas fishing-coat, and

opening his eyes at a trout-fly snagged in the mouthpiece. "Now, how

did that fly come there?" he asked aggrievedly, while he released it

daintily for all his fingers looked so fat and awkward. He stuck the

pipe in the corner of his mouth, and held up the fly with that interest

which seems fatuous to one who has no sporting blood in his veins.



"Last time I used that fly was when I was down here three weeks ago--the

day I lost the big one. Ain't it a beauty, eh? Tied it myself. And, by

the great immortal Jehosaphat, it fetches me the rainbows, too. Good

mind to try it on the big one. Don't see how I didn't miss it out of my

book--I must be getting absent-minded. Sign of old age, that. Failing

powers and the like." He shook his head reprovingly and grinned, as if

he considered the idea something of a joke. "Have to buck up--a lawyer

can't afford to grow absent-minded. He's liable to wake up some day and

find himself without his practice."



He got his fly-book from the basket swinging at his left hip, opened

it, turned the leaves with the caressing touch one gives to a cherished

thing, and very carefully placed the fly upon the page where it

belonged; gazed gloatingly down at the tiny, tufted hooks, with their

frail-looking five inches of gut leader, and then returned the book

fondly to the basket.



"Think I'll go on down to the Harts'," he said, "so as to be that much

closer to the stream. Daylight is going to find me whipping the riffles,

Peter. You won't come along? You better. Plenty of--ah--snake medicine,"

he hinted, chuckling so that the whole, deep chest of him vibrated. "No?

Well, you can let me have a horse, I suppose--that cow-backed sorrel

will do--he's gentle, I know. I think I'll go out and beg an invitation

from that Hart boy--never can remember those kids by name--Gene, is it,

or Jack?"



He went out upon the porch, laid a hand upon Jack's shoulder, and beamed

down upon him with what would have passed easily for real affection

while he announced that he was going to beg supper and a bed at the

ranch, and wanted to know, as a solicitous after-thought, if Jack's

mother had company, or anything that would make his presence a burden.



"Nobody's there--and, if there was, it wouldn't matter," Jack assured

him carelessly. "Go on down, if you want to. It'll be all right with

mother."



"One thing I like about fishing down here," chuckled Baumberger, his fat

fingers still resting lightly upon Jack's shoulder, "is the pleasure of

eating my fish at your house. There ain't another man, woman, or child

in all Idaho can fry trout like your mother. You needn't tell her I

said so--but it's a fact, just the same. She sure is a genius with the

frying-pan, my boy."



He turned and called in to Pete, to know if he might have the sorrel

saddled right away. Since Pete looked upon Baumberger with something of

the awed admiration which he would bestow upon the President, he felt

convinced that his horses were to be congratulated that any one of them

found favor in his eyes.



Pete, therefore, came as near to roaring at Saunders as his good nature

and his laziness would permit, and waited in the doorway until Saunders

had, with visible reluctance, laid down his book and started toward the

stable.



"Needn't bother to bring the horse down here, my man," Baumberger called

after him. "I'll get him at the stable and start from there. Well, wish

me luck, Pete--and say! I'll expect you to make a day of it with me

Sunday. No excuses, now. I'm going to stay over that long, anyhow.

Promised myself three good days--maybe more. A man's got to break away

from his work once in a while. If I didn't, life wouldn't be worth

living. I'm willing to grind--but I've got to have my playtime, too.

Say, I want you to try this rod of mine Sunday. You'll want one like it

yourself, if I'm any good at guessing. Just got it, you know--it's the

one I was talking to yuh about last time I was down.



"W-ell--I reckon my means of conveyance is ready for me--so long, Peter,

till Sunday. See you at supper, boys."



He hooked a thumb under the shoulder-strap of his basket, pulled it to a

more comfortable position, waved his hand in a farewell, which included

every living thing within sight of him, and went away up the narrow,

winding trail through the sagebrush to the stable, humming something

under his breath with the same impulse of satisfaction with life which

sets a cat purring.



Some time later, he appeared, in the same jovial mood, at the Hart

ranch, and found there the welcome which he had counted upon--the

welcome which all men received there upon demand.



When Evadna and Jack rode up, they found Mr. Baumberger taking his ease

in Peaceful's armchair on the porch, discussing, with animated gravity,

the ins and outs of county politics; his fishing-basket lying on its

flat side close to his chair, his rod leaning against the house at

his elbow, his heavy pipe dragging down one corner of his loose-lipped

mouth; his whole gross person surrounded by an atmosphere of prosperity

leading the simple life transiently and by choice, and of lazy enjoyment

in his own physical and mental well-being.





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