A Song of Sixpence

A Song of Sixpence by A. J. Cronin Read Free Book Online

Book: A Song of Sixpence by A. J. Cronin Read Free Book Online
Authors: A. J. Cronin
fly-fisher. He was not. He fished with brandling worms dug for us at the farm by Maggie, and which I disentangled, wriggling and rank, from the Van Houten’s cocoa tin I carried in my pocket. Father’s object was to catch fish and he held to the method that served him well in his youth. Today, however, it seemed as if we should have no luck.
    â€˜Not even a nibble.’ Father was annoyed, he did not like to be beaten. ‘ Yet the sea trout should be up. We’ll leave our line in the water and eat our lunch.’
    Mother’s sandwiches were always good, especially the tomato ones. We sat down in a little clearing under a silver-birch tree that diffused a soft silver-green light. The river splashed and twinkled through the tall grasses and reeds. The hum of the woods set a fearful privacy upon the place. The sudden chatter of a jay made me start. Now, as on all our expeditions, I was dreadfully scared that we should be caught by the gamekeeper or, worse, by the owner, that redoubtable little woman who had scorned me on my first day at school and whom, in my mind, I had come to designate concisely and with odium as her. This was the terror that salted my delight. Father, meanly, or perhaps to harden me, would pretend sometimes to give the alarm: ‘ Hist! There she is!’ causing me to turn pale while he shook his head disparagingly.
    When our picnic was over Father lay back, hands behind his head, hat tilted over his eyes. He had that slightly drugged look which suggested to me that he was about to take a nap, a suspicion confirmed when he murmured drowsily:
    â€˜Go and pick yourself some rasps.’
    The raspberries grew wild everywhere in the wood. No need to go far, there was a great patch of them quite near. Once I was amongst the tall stiff canes, safely concealed, the spirit of adventure pricked my scalp. Transformed in a flash, no longer Terry’s poor little caper, I became the hero of Father’s evening stones. Picking the honey-sweet berries, staining my face and hands with the crimson juice, I sustained myself on desert islands, staved off hunger in untrodden jungles, quenched a burning thirst at desert oases whither I had been borne on the backs of camels.
    Suddenly, a series of earsplitting splashes sent me running back to Father. He was standing on the bank, rigid with effort, his rod, gripped in both hands, curved in an incredible arc while a big fish tore madly about the pool, twisting and plunging, leaping into the air and restriking the surface with thunderous detonations.
    For interminable minutes the struggle continued, while the pool boiled and I quivered in an anguish of suspense lest the prize should escape us. At last, slowly, the lovely fish came in, all spent and defeated, its silver made golden by the peaty water, and Father, with a quick but gentle pull, slid it on to the pebbled sloping bank.
    â€˜Oh, what a beauty!’ I shouted.
    â€˜A fresh-run sea trout.’ Father, too, was breathing with difficulty. ‘At least five pounds.’
    When we were calmer and had admired our trophy from every aspect, Father decided we had done enough for the day, since the sun had now broken through strongly. Really, he was dying to show the fish to Mother, who was often openly diverted by the size of our catch. He bent down, passed a stout cord through the trout’s gills, then lifting the fish till it was suspended at waist level tied the cord securely round his middle.
    â€˜What the eye doesn’t see, the heart won’t grieve for,’ he observed jocularly, putting on his cape. ‘Let’s be off, boy. No, not that way …’
    Father, enchanted by his success, was clearly in his most exalted mood. Cordoned by the heavy fish beneath the hampering but necessary cape, I saw that he had decided against the long detour through the woods. Ignoring my alarmed protests, he declared that we would take the short cut through the fields after crossing

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