"Here's a beauty, Jack!"
"Hold him, Jamie, till I come!"
"Come quickly then, old fellow – he's slipping away from me! Quick! Hang it, the fellow's gone! I've missed him, and – – "
"Splash!" The sentence was never finished, for Jamie, stepping too excitedly on a treacherous, moss-covered rock in mid-stream, slipped, and the next instant found himself sitting down, up to the armpits in the water which raced past him like a mill-stream.
"Never mind," said his companion, when the laughter which greeted this mishap had subsided. "There's a likely spot, up under the fall there, where I've landed many a big fish; let's go and try it."
This "likely spot," however, was a difficult one, and for any other soul in the tiny village of Burnside – these two young rascals excepted – an impossible one. There, right under the overhanging rocks, over which a cascade tumbled twenty feet, into a swirling pool which formed one of the deepest parts of the stream, was a narrow ledge, where the moss grew thick upon the wet, slippery rocks, but in the cracks and fissures beneath that ledge, many a lusty trout was hidden.
While the two chums are wending their way to this "likely spot," which lay at a bend in the stream, just at the bottom of Hawk Woods, leaping from boulder to boulder as they crossed the broken stream, I will briefly introduce the reader to a little of their previous history.
Jack Elliot and Jamie Stuart were aged respectively fifteen and fourteen years. Only a week ago these two sturdy lads had been soundly thrashed by Dr. Birch, for playing truant and indulging in the tempting but forbidden pastime of "tickling trout" in the laughing stream, which, descending from the blue moorlands above, sang its way down through the densely wooded slopes of Crow Hill.
Jack was the youngest son of Squire Elliot of Rushworth Hall, an old but somewhat dilapidated manor, standing on one of the ridges of the Pennine Chain. His eldest brother, who was now twenty-two, was an ensign in the celebrated "John Company," and at the present time was engaged in active service in India. His second brother was at Oxford. Jack was still a scholar (though a dull one) at the old Elizabethan Grammar School just above the village, where stern Dr. Birch drilled little else but Greek and Latin into unwilling pupils.
Jack's bosom chum and schoolfellow was Jamie Stuart. Now, Jamie was an orphan, at least so far as he knew, for his mother died on the day that he was born, and his father, a somewhat daring village character, who once transgressed the game laws, was considered by a bench of land-owning gentry as "too dangerous a character to remain in Burnside, lest he should lead other folk astray," and was ultimately transported to the new colonies in North America, and forbidden to set foot in England again "on peril of his life," for those were the days of the cruel game laws, when sheep-stealing was a hanging business, and to touch a pheasant meant transportation for life.
All this happened when Jamie was a little chap of but two years, and so he never remembered either his father or his mother. His father was said to be very fond of his little boy – for despite his transgression, he was a good father and a brave man, and very much the type of man that Merry England needed at that time, to fight her enemies – and his only request when he was sentenced was, that before he left the country he might see again his little boy – a request which the selfish and hardened magistrates promptly refused.
Years passed away, and village rumours said that he had escaped from his captors directly he set foot on American soil, and had taken to the forest, amongst the Indians tribes that inhabited the backwoods of Pennsylvania, and that he had become a great chief amongst them; but this was perhaps only a rumour, for no one really knew whether he was dead or alive.
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