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How many recollections does the name of Lennie Burn arouse! None that have ever trod those pleasant paths, or threaded the devious track of that enchanting glen, will wonder that memory lingers there with fond delight. The ivied rocks, the fragrant woodbine, and countless varieties of wild flowers, combined with the rare exotics which the hand of art had scattered there,-above all, the symphony of the brook gurgling within its rocky bed, and ending with a fall, which, if not so wild as Bracklinn, surpasses it both in height and beauty. Many a sultry summer day have I wandered among these shady walks, listening to the sleepy burn, or watching the little trout suck down an occasional insect from among the myriads flickering about the surface. The pool," a sort of reservoir, and head quarters of the burn-trout, always particularly engaged my attention. I soon learned to distinguish every inmate, not only from its size and hue, but also its temper and disposition. Some were shy; others, greedy and tyrannical; and these several qualities were often exhibited so plainly, that we might learn a lesson even from a fish.
There was a small pond, formed by an old course of the burn, which, from time to time, was another source of speculation and amusement. It had a constant supply
of fresh water from a spring, and although the inhabitants of this little bason were completely imprisoned, yet they were in no want of sustenance, from the bottom being soft and muddy, covered with leaves and decomposed vegetable matter. The place was surrounded by trees, which rained down abundance of flies, caterpillars, &c., for two or three trout, which, no one knows how, had found their way in.
During the latter end of autumn, and the whole of winter, no sign of life is to be seen in this retired standing pool; but about the middle of February, if the weather is mild and the sun warm, a slight shaking noise lets me know that the frogs have awaked from their winter sleep. By peeping cautiously over the bank, screening myself behind the trees, I discover one or two heads above the surface, which, sometimes singly, and then in chorus, emit the tremulous croak which had excited my attention. Should the weather still continue warm, every day adds to the number of heads, and the spawn rapidly accumulates in a shallow corner of the well. The croaking is now so loud as to be heard at some distance, not merely from the increase of voices, but that each note acquires double force, the more warm and genial the day. When the cold returns, as in our springs it is so apt to do, many of the frogs seek their winter shelter, and the croak of those that remain dwindles into a faint treble, instead of their full diapason. A touch of frost will cause all the frogs to disappear, and make the top of the spawn as white as an oyster. But the first warm sun and mild air brings them to the surface again, and restores the spawn to its original colour. It is then most curious to observe their gambols, jumping and tumbling about like boys at leap-frog; and
no doubt the origin of this favourite game of the play ground. After a time the frogs all leave the pool, and little black eggs are formed in the spawn, which gradually increase in size until little tadpoles emerge.
But now a more interesting visitor may sometimes be seen. The first burst of spring has brought into life the earlier insects, and with them the subtle active trout. In this little pond I have counted three; two of them very small, the other about six inches long. My attention was first directed to them one fine July evening, when I saw what appeared to be fish rising. I crept forward, and soon perceived the larger trout amidst a crowd of summer insects, some buzzing about the surface, and others settling upon it. He was sucking them down lazily and at intervals, like a finished gourmand at a satisfactory dinner. But here the resemblance ends, for, upon my stepping forward, he darted to the other side of the tank, with a celerity very unlike the respected gentleman aforesaid when leaving his ample board. In my evening walks I seldom omitted to take a peep at the little pond, and soon discovered that my spotted friend was not solitary; and one or other of them was almost always to be seen during the season.
Spring came round again, and I resolved to watch the first appearance of these trout. Accordingly, as soon as I noticed fish rising in the streams, I went to the pond several times a day. It was not, however, till the begining of April that I perceived the largest trout, looking very heavy and dull, but making no attempt to feed. I watched it for a quarter of an hour, when, contrary to its usual custom of darting among the bushes at the opposite side for a hiding place, it sunk down among the leaves
and mud, head foremost, like an eel. The manner of its passing the winter was now evident, and as the evening was chilly, it had again sought the warmth of its muddy quarters.
A third inmate of this little pool excited my curiosity and interest more than either of the others. During the warm summer nights several large eels were constantly disporting among the soft mud, particularly after rain. Each had its corner of the pond, and they seldom invaded the other's territories. They were five in number; two rather larger than the others, one of them a yellowish green, the other a dark brown; indeed they were all of different hues, and the shade of their colour was my first distinguishing mark. This leads me to suppose that fish do not always take their colour from that of the water, or from the quality of the bottom. I know it is often the case, especially with trout, and I have seen fish caught on a mossy soil, nearly black, while those taken on a clear golden sand were bright yellow, though in the same loch.
But to return to my friends, the eels. It was nothing uncommon to see several of them peeping out of a separate retreat in their own premises. The head of one perhaps from behind a decayed leaf, the whole body of another laid alongside a piece of stick, which it so nearly resembled as to be scarcely distinguishable. Indeed it required some practice to perceive them at all, and I have been nearly a minute before discovering one, though several were in sight. Having some curiosity to find out whether any more eels would get into this place should the original occupants be taken away, I, by means of a hook and strong gut-line, at different times pulled out the
whole five. They took the bait readily, but it was rather difficult to hook them, as they held it for some time across their mouth without swallowing, after the manner of pike. I observed that these eels were more shy than those I had taken in lochs and rivers, but in excellent condition. They were never replaced, however, during the time that I had opportunity of watching. The trout remained unmolested, and seemed also to thrive.
During sultry weather, the eels often rested the lower part of their bodies on the mud, and raised their noses to the top of the water; when in this position they had a very serpent-like appearance, and might have been easily mistaken for snakes. I never saw this done by eels before, but, if noticed in the like attitude by a LochLomond sage, it might, perhaps, account for one of the three wonders ascribed to that water, viz.: Fish without fins, waves without wind, and a floating island.