Read CHAPTER TWO - FISHING FOR FUN. of Will of the Mill , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on

It was up one of the shelves at the side of the great ravine that Will silently hurried his comrade, the Vicar’s son, to where they could look down at the shelf below, a fairly open, verdant space, which offered before it on the other side of the stream just such a rocky landscape full of colour, light and shade, as artists love.

Will held up his hand to ensure silence, and then, taking hold of a projecting oak bough, peered down and signed to Josh to come and look.  There was not much to see; there was an easel and a small canvas thereon, an open black japanned paint-box, a large wooden palette blotched with many colours lying on a bed of fern, and whose thumb-hole seemed to comically leer up at the boys like some great eye.  Then there was a pair of big, sturdy legs, upon which rested a great felt hat, everything else being covered in by a great opened-out white umbrella, perfectly useless then, for, as Will had said, all was now in the shade.

Both boys had a good look down, drew back and gazed at each other with questioning eyes, before Josh, whose white teeth were all on view, stooped down and made a slight suggestion, a kind of pantomime, that he should drag up a great buckler fern by the roots, and drop it plump on the umbrella spike.

Will’s eyes flashed, and he puckered up his mouth and pouted his lips as if in the act of emitting a great round No.

Josh’s eyes began to question, Will’s teeth to glisten, as he thrust one hand into his pocket and drew out a ring of tough water-cord.  This he pitched to his companion, with a sign that he should open it out, while from another pocket he took out a small tin box, opened the lid, and drew forth a little cork, into whose soft substance the barbs of a large, bright blue, double eel-hook had been thrust.

Busy-fingered Josh watched every movement, and it was his turn now to shake his sides and indulge in a hearty, silent laugh, as he handed one end of the unwound cord.

This was deftly fitted on, and then, with every movement carefully watched and enjoyed, Will silently crept into the gnarled oak, till he was seated astride one of the horizontal projecting boughs, which began to play elastically up and down, but made no sign of loosening the parent stem, firmly anchored in the crevices of the limestone rock.

It was only a few feet out, and then the boy was exactly over the umbrella, some forty feet below.  Then he began to fish, glancing from time to time through the leaves, as he sat watching and rubbing his hands.

The first gentle cast was a failure; so was the second; but the third time never fails.  Will twisted the cord on his fingers, with the result that the double hook turned right over, and the barbed points, in answer to a gentle twitch, took hold of the white fabric, after passing right through.

Had there been earth below, in which the umbrella staff could have been stuck, the manoeuvre must have failed; but the shelf was nearly all rock, against some fragments of which the stick was propped.  There was no failure then.  There came up a faint rasping sound as of wood over stone, as the cord tightened, and then very slowly the umbrella began, parachute-like, to rise in the air, higher and higher, as it was hauled up hand over hand till the spike touched the lower twigs of the horizontal oak bough.

The next moment it was being retained in its novel place by Will making fast the line, winding it in and out between two dead branches; and then the boy quietly urged himself back to where Josh was chuckling softly as he peered down.  For he was having a good view of that which had been hidden from Will, but which it was his turn now to share; and, judging from his features, he did enjoy it much.

But it was only the face and upper portion of a big, muscular, tweed-clothed man, lying back with his hands under his head, eyes closed fast, and mouth wide open, fast asleep.

He was a sturdy-looking fellow, with a big brown beard and moustache; but the boys did not stop to look, only began to retrace their steps so as to get down upon a level with the shelf upon which the sleeper lay.

“Capital!” whispered Josh.  “What will he say?”

“Don’t know; don’t care!” was the reply.

“We’d better get away, hadn’t we?”

“No-o-oo!  We must stop.  I wouldn’t be away on any account.”

“But then he’ll know we did it, and get in a rage.”

Pst!  Be quiet.”

Will hurriedly led the way till they reached a clump of bushes where they could squat down with a good view of the sleeper, who remained perfectly still.

Josh looked up at the umbrella, which looked as if the oak tree had bloomed out into one huge white flower.  Pointing up with one hand, he covered his face with the other to stifle a laugh, and Will uttered a warning.


Just at that moment, heard above the murmur of the machinery in the mill, and the wash and splash of the water, there arose the peculiar strident buzz of a large bluebottle, busily on the lookout for a suitable spot on which to lay eggs.

Evidently it scented the artist, and began darting to and fro over his open mouth.

In an instant there was an angry ejaculation, one hand was set at liberty, and several blows were struck at the obnoxious fly, which, finding the place dangerous, darted off, and the artist went loudly to sleep again.  The boys exchanged glances, and Josh stole out one hand, pulled a hart’s-tongue fern up by the roots, and, with admirable aim, pitched it so that it fell right on the sleeper’s chest.

The artist sat up suddenly, staring about him, while the boys crouched perfectly motionless in their hiding-place.

“What’s that?” reached their ears, and they saw the sleeper feeling about till his hand came in contact with the dry fern root.

“Why, it must have been that,” he muttered aloud, and he turned it over and over.

Josh uttered a faint sound as if he were about to burst out laughing.

“It must have come from above, somewhere.  If it was those boys ­” The artist looked up suspiciously as he spoke, and then, with a start, he turned himself over on his hands and knees, to begin gazing wonderingly up at the cotton blossom hanging from the tree.

“Well,” he said, “I never felt it; it must have been one of those gusts which come down from the mountain.”

Will pressed his hands tightly over Josh’s mouth, for he could feel him heaving and swaying about as if he were about to explode.

“Blows up this valley sometimes,” continued the artist, “just like a hurricane.”

“Pouf!” went Josh, for Will’s efforts were all in vain.

“Ah-h-ah!  I knew it!” cried the artist, springing to his feet in a rage.  “You dogs!  I see you!”

It was the truth the next moment, for Josh rushed off to get into safety, closely followed by Will, whilst their victim gave chase.

Hunted creatures somehow in their hurry to escape pursuit, have a natural inclination for taking the wrong route, the one which leads them into danger when they are seeking to be safe.

It was so here.  Josh led, and Will naturally followed; but his comrade might have gone round by the mill, run for the stepping-stones, where he could have crossed and made for the rough hiding-places known to him on the other side of the stream; or he might have dodged for the garden-gate, darted through, and made for the zig-zag path leading to the open moorland; but instead of this, he dashed down to the waterside, ran along by it, and then took the ascending path right up the glen, getting more and more out of breath, and with Will panting heavily close behind.

“Oh, you chucklehead!” cried the latter, huskily.  “Why did you come along here?  You knew we couldn’t go far.”

“It’s all right.  He won’t follow.  He’ll be tired directly; he’s so fat.”

“I don’t care,” cried Will, stealing a look over his shoulder; “fat or thin, he’s coming along as hard as he can pelt.”

“Yes, but he’s about done.”

“He isn’t, I tell you; he’s coming faster than you can go.  Go along:  look sharp!”

The boys ran on, Josh getting more and more breathless every moment, while he began to lose heart as he heard the artist shouting to him to stop.

“Here, Will,” he cried, “which way had I better go?  Up the long crack, or make for the fox’s path?”

“One’s as bad as the other,” cried Will.  “Fox’s path.  Here, go on faster.  Let me lead; I know the way best.  I never saw such an old chucklehead.  Why did you come this way?”

He brushed by his companion as he spoke, his legs making a whishing sound as he tore through clumps of fern and brake, running on and on over the rapidly-rising ground till the path was at an end, and they drew closer to a spot where the rocks closed in, forming a cul de sac, unless they were willing to take a leap of some twenty feet into a deep pool, or climb up the rocky wall just in front.

“We can’t jump,” panted Will.

“No,” half whispered Josh.  “Oh, what a mess we are in!  You will have to beg his pardon, Will.”

“You’ll have to hold your tongue, or else we shall be caught.  It’s all right; come on.  I can get up here.”

The boy proved it by springing at the rocky face, catching a projecting block and the tufts of heath and heather, kicking down earth and stone as he rose, and scrambling up some fifteen feet before gaining a resting-place, to pause for a moment to look down and see how his companion was getting on.

To his horror, Josh was almost at the bottom of the wall, and, scarlet with fury and exertion, the artist panting heavily about two score yards behind.

“I’ve got you, you dogs!  It’s no use, I’ve got you!”

“Oh!” groaned Will, ready to give up, wondering the while whether the artist would thrash him with his elastic maul-stick.

“No, he hasn’t,” cried Josh.  “Run, run!  Never mind me.”

“Shan’t run,” snarled Will, between his teeth.  “Here, catch hold of my hands.”

He lay down on his chest, hooking his feet in amongst the tough roots of the heather.

“Come on, I tell you!  Catch hold.”

Obeying the stronger will, Josh made a desperate scramble, putting into it all the strength he had left, and, regardless of the angry shouts of the artist, he scrambled up sufficiently high for Will to grasp him by the wrists.  He could do no more, for his feet slipped from beneath him, and he hung helpless, and at full length, completely crippling his companion, who had the full weight dependent on his own failing strength.

Encouraged by this, the breathless artist made his final rush, and succeeded in getting Josh by the ankles, holding on tightly in spite of the boy’s spasmodic movement, for as he felt the strong hands grasp his legs, he uttered a yell, and began to perform motions like those of a swimming frog.

“Be quiet!  Don’t!” roared Will.  “You’ll have me down.”

“Let go, you dog!” shouted the artist.  “I’ve got him now.”

“Let go yourself,” cried Will, angrily.  “Can’t you see you are pulling me down?”

“Oh, yes, I can see.  Let go yourself.”

“Shan’t!” growled Will, through his set teeth.  “Kick out, Josh, and send him over.”

“I can’t!” cried Josh.

“He’d better!  I’d break his neck.”

“Never mind what he says, Josh.  Kick!  Kick hard!”

“Kick!  I’ve got you tight.  I could hold you for a wee ­wee ­”

He was going to say “week,” but Fate proved to him that this was a slight exaggeration on his part, and instead of finishing the word week he gave vent to a good loud “oh!” Tor the heather roots had suddenly given way, and the three contending parties descended the sharp slope with a sudden rush, to be brought up short amongst the stones that accompanied them in a contending heap, forming a struggling mass for a few moments, before the strongest gained the day, the artist rising first, and seating himself in triumph upon the beaten lads, to begin dragging out his handkerchief to mop his face, as he panted breathlessly ­

“There, I’ve got you now!”