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Ven. Sir, we are all so happy as to have a fine, fresh, cool morning, and I hope we shall each be the happier in the other's company. And, gentlemen, that I may not lose yours, I shall either abate or amend my pace to enjoy it; knowing that, as the Italians say, good company in a journey makes the way to seem the shorter.
Auc. It may do so, sir, with the help of good discourse, which, methinks, we may promise from you, that both look and speak so cheerfully and for my part I promise you, as an invitation to it, that I will be as free and open-hearted, as discretion will allow me to be with strangers.
Ven. And, sir, I promise the like.
Pisc. I am right glad to hear your answer; and, in confidence you speak the truth, I shall put on a boldness to ask you, sir, whether business or pleasure caused you to be so early up, and walk so fast; for this other gentleman hath declared he is going to see a hawk, that a friend mews for him.
Ven. Sir, mine is a mixture of both, a little business and more pleasure; for I intend this day to do all my business, and then bestow another day or two in hunting the otter,'
1 Hunting the Otter.-"Otter-hunting is now almost obsolete, and has disappeared from the Lea, and nearly all the rivers of the Metropolitan counties. The huntsmen assembled on each side of the river where an otter was supposed to harbour, beating up the hollow banks, reed-beds, and sedges, with hounds trained solely for that purpose; and, if the game were at hand, its 'seal,' or the impression produced by the round ball under the soles of its feet, was soon discovered in the mud. Every hunter was armed with a spear, to assist the dogs, and attack the animal when it came to the surface of the water to breathe or vent; but if the otter were not found by the river-side, it was traced by its seal, the fragments of its prey, and the 'spraints' or soil, to the place where it had gone to couch. The otter, when wounded, bites violently, and makes towards land; although the male-otter never utters a cry the pregnant females give a very shrill scream. When the otter fastens upon the dogs in the water, it dives with them, carries them far below the surface, and will seldom quit its hold but with life. The hunting of an otter will last three or four hours, and the most successful time for the pursuit is in snow and hard frost. Otter dogs are a breed between the harrier and the terrier, and are of great strength and activity."-MAJOR.
Ephemera says, "This amphibious animal is destructive to small river fish; but, strange as it may appear, proves the conservator of salmon, by destroying trout, its worst enemy. The otter, in open water, can seldom catch the salmon, which is too fleet for him, but can run down the trout and
which a friend that I go to meet, tells me, is much pleasanter than any other chase whatsoever; howsoever I mean to try it; for to-morrow morning we shall meet a pack of otter-dogs of noble Mr. Sadler's, upon Amwell-hill, who will be there so early, that they intend to prevent the sun-rising.
Pisc. Sir, my fortune has answered my desires, and my purpose is to bestow a day or two in helping to destroy some of those villainous vermin, for I hate them perfectly, because they love fish so well, or rather, because they destroy so much; indeed so much, that in my judgment, all men that keep otter-dogs, ought to have pensions from the King to encourage them to destroy the breed of these base otters, they do so much mischief.
Ven. But what say you to the foxes of the nation, would not you as willingly have them destroyed? for doubtless they do as much mischief as otters do.
Pisc. Oh sir, if they do, it is not so much to me and my fraternity, as those base vermin the otters do.
Auc. Why, sir, I pray, of what fraternity are you, that you are so angry with the poor otters?
Pisc. I am, sir, a brother of the angle, and therefore an enemy to the otter: for you are to note, that we anglers all love one another, and therefore do I hate the otter both for my own and for their sakes who are of my brotherhood.
Ven. And I am a lover of hounds; I have followed many a pack of dogs many a mile, and heard many merry huntsmen make sport and scoff at anglers.
Auc. And I profess myself a falconer, and have heard many grave, serious men pity them, it is such a heavy, contemptible, dull recreation.
kills them in large numbers. When salmon are in the act of spawning, they are surrounded by trout, hungering after the ova, which they would devour were they not beaten off by one or other of the breeding salmon ; and they, moreover, feed voraciously on salmon-fry. Otter-hunting is now principally confined to the midland, western, and northern counties, and to the lowlands of Scotland. The otter packs of the Earl of Aberdeen and the Marquis of Worcester are very celebrated.”
1 Mr. Ralph Sadler was the grandson of Sir Ralph Sadler, so conspicuous in the reigns of Henry the Eighth and Queen Elizabeth. "He delighted much in hawking and hunting, and the pleasures of a country life; was famous for his noble table, his great hospitality, and his abundant charity to the poor."-H.
Pisc. You know, gentlemen, it is an easy thing to scoff at any art or recreation; a little wit, mixed with ill-nature, confidence, and malice, will do it; but though they often venture boldly, yet they are often caught, even in their own trap, according to that of Lucian, the father of the family of scoffers:
Lucian, well skill'd in scoffing, this hath writ,
If to this you add what Solomon says of scoffers, that they are an abomination to mankind, let him that thinks fit scoff on, and be a scoffer still; but I account them enemies to me and all that love virtue and angling.
And for you that have heard many grave, serious, men pity anglers; let me tell you, sir, there be many men that are by others taken to be serious and grave men, whom we contemn and pity. Men that are taken to be grave, because nature hath made them of a sour complexion; money-getting men, men that spend all their time, first in getting, and next, in anxious care to keep it; men that are condemned to be rich, and then always busy or discontented: for these poor rich men, we anglers pity them perfectly, and stand in no need to borrow their thoughts to think ourselves so happy. No, no, sir, we enjoy a contentedness above the reach of such dispositions, and as the learned and ingenuous Montaigne says like himself, freely, "when my cat and I entertain each other with mutual apish tricks, as playing with a garter, who knows but that I make my cat more sport than she makes me? Shall I conclude her to be simple, that has her time to begin or refuse to play as freely as I myself have? Nay, who knows but that it is a defect of my not understanding her language (for doubtless cats talk and reason with one another) that we agree no better: and who knows but that she pities me for being no wiser, than to play with her, and laughs and censures my folly, for making sport for her, when we two play together?"
1 In Montaigne's "Apology for Raimonde de Sebonde." The quotation is a very free paraphrase of the original French, and not much like Florio's translation, which Walton is supposed to have used.-Am. ed.
Thus freely speaks Montaigne concerning cats, and I hope take as great a liberty to blame any man, and laugh at him too, let him be never so grave that hath not heard
Montaigne and his cat.
what anglers can say in the justification of their art and recreation; which I may again tell you, is so full of pleasure that we need not borrow their thoughts, to think ourselves happy.
Ven. Sir, you have almost amazed me, for though I am no scoffer, yet I have, I pray let me speak it, without offence, always looked upon anglers, as more patient, and more simple men, than I fear I shall find you to be.
Pisc. Sir, I hope you will not judge my earnestness to be impatience and for my simplicity, if by that you mean a harmlessness, or that simplicity which was usually found in the primitive Christians, who were, as most anglers are, quiet men, and followers of peace; men that were so simply wise, as not to sell their consciences to buy riches, and with them vexation and a fear to die; if you mean such simple men as lived in those times when there were fewer lawyers; when men might have had a lordship safely conveyed to them in a piece of parchment no bigger than your hand, though several sheets will not do it safely in this wiser age; I say, sir, if you take us anglers to be such simple men as I have spoken of, then myself and those of my profession will be glad to be so understood: but if by simplicity you meant to
express a general defect in those that profess and practise the excellent art of angling, I hope in time to disabuse you, and make the contrary appear so evidently, that if you will but have patience to hear me, I shall remove all the anticipations that discourse, or time, or prejudice, have possessed you with against that laudable and ancient art; for I know it is worthy the knowledge and practice of a wise man.
But, gentlemen, though I be able to do this, I am not so unmannerly as to engross all the discourse to myself; and, therefore, you two having declared yourselves, the one to be a lover of hawks, the other of hounds, I shall be most glad to hear what you can say in the commendation of that recreation which each of you love and practise; and having heard what you can say, I shall be glad to exercise your attention with what I can say concerning my own recreation and art of angling, and by this means, we shall make the way seem the shorter; and if you like my motion, I would have Mr. Falconer to begin.
Auc. Your motion is consented to with all my heart, and to testify it, I will begin as you have desired me.
And first, for the element that I used to trade in, which is the air, an element of more worth than weight, an element that doubtless exceeds both the earth and water; for though I sometimes deal in both, yet the air is most properly mine, I and my hawks use that, and it yields us most recreation; it stops not the high soaring of my noble, generous falcon; in it she ascends to such an height, as the dull eyes of beasts and fish are not able to reach to; their bodies are too gross for such high elevations; in the air my troops of hawks soar up on high, and when they are lost in the sight of men, then they attend upon and converse with the gods; therefore I think my eagle is so justly styled Jove's servant in ordinary and that very falcon, that I am now going to see, deserves no meaner a title, for she usually in her flight endangers herself, like the son of Dædalus, to have her wings scorched by the Sun's heat, she flies so near it, but her mettle makes her careless of danger; for then she heeds nothing, but makes her nimble pinions cut the fluid air, and so makes her highway over the steepest mountains and deepest rivers, and in her glorious career looks with contempt