“So do I, Suzy. But Mrs. Packard doesn’t see it that way.”
“I know,” said Suzy. “That’s the way everything is.”
Nick and his sister were lying on a browse bed under a lean-to that they had built together on the edge of the hemlock forest looking out over the slope of the hill to the cedar swamp and the blue hills beyond.
“If it isn’t comfortable, Littless, we can feather in some more balsam on that hemlock. We’ll be tired tonight and this will do. But we can fix it up really good tomorrow.”
“It feels lovely,” his sister said. “Lie loose and really feel it, Nickie.”
“It’s a pretty good camp,” Nick said. “And it doesn’t show. We’ll only use little fires.”
“Would a fire show across to the hills?”
“It might,” Nick said. “A fire shows a long way at night. But I’ll stake out a blanket behind it. That way it won’t show.”
“Nickie, wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t anyone after us and we were just here for fun?”
“Don’t start thinking that way so soon,” Nick said. “We just started. Anyway if we were just here for fun we wouldn’t be here.”
“I’m sorry, Nickie.”
“You don’t need to be,” Nick told her. “Look, Littless, I’m going down to get a few trout for supper.”
“Can I come?”
“No. You stay here and take a rest. You had a tough day. You read a while or just be quiet.”
“It was tough in the slashings, wasn’t it? I thought it was really hard. Did I do all right?”
“You did wonderfully and you were wonderful making camp. But you take it easy now.”
“Have we got a name for this camp?”
“Let’s call it Camp Number One,” Nick said.
He went down the hill toward the creek and when he had come almost to the bank he stopped and cut himself a willow stick about four feet long and trimmed it, leaving the bark on. He could see the clear fast water of the stream, it was narrow and deep and the banks were mossy here before the stream entered the swamp. The dark clear water flowed fast and its rushing made bulges on the surface. Nick did not go close to it as he knew it flowed under the banks and he did not want to frighten a fish by walking on the bank.
There must be quite a few up here in the open now, he thought. It’s pretty late in the summer.
He took a coil of silk line out of a tobacco pouch he carried in the left breast pocket of his shirt and cut a length that was not quite as long as the willow stick and fastened it to the tip where he had notched it lightly. Then he fastened on a hook that he took from the pouch; then holding the shank of the hook he tested the pull of the line and the bend of the willow. He laid his rod down now and went back to where the trunk of a small birch tree, dead for several years, lay on its side in the grove of birches that bordered the cedars by the stream. He rolled the log over and found several earthworms under it. They were not big. But they were red and lively and he put them in a flat round tin with holes punched in the top that had once held Copenhagen snuff. He put some dirt over them and rolled the log back. This was the third year he had found bait at this same place and he had always replaced the log so that it was as he had found it.
Nobody knows how big this creek is, he thought. It picks up an awful volume of water in that bad swamp up above. Now he looked up the creek and down it and up the hill to the hemlock forest where the camp was. Then he walked to where he had left the pole with the line and the hook and baited the hook carefully and spat on it for good luck. Holding the pole and the line with the baited hook in his right hand he walked very carefully and gently toward the bank of the narrow, heavy-flowing stream.