Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/16

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
6
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as handsome and symmetrical a mouth as any one need wish to kiss. Now his silvery color disappeared, his skin grew slimy, and the scales sank into it; his back grew black and his sides turned red—not a healthy red, but a sort of hectic flush. He grew poor, and his back, formerly as straight as need be, now developed an unpleasant hump at the shoulders. His eyes—like those of all enthusiasts who forsake eating and sleeping for some loftier aim—became dark and sunken. His symmetrical jaws grew longer and longer, and, meeting each other, as the nose of an old man meets his chin, each had to turn aside to let the other pass. And his beautiful teeth grew longer and longer, and projected from his mouth, giving him a savage and wolfish appearance, quite unlike his real disposition. For all the desires and ambitions of his nature had become centered into one. We do not know what this one was, but we know that it was a strong one, for it had led him on and on, past the nets and horrors of Astoria, past the dangerous Cascades, past the spears of the Indians, through the terrible flume of the Dalles, where the mighty river is compressed between huge rocks into a channel narrower than a village street; on past the meadows of Umatilla and the wheat-fields of Walla Walla; on to where the great Snake River and the Columbia join; on up the Snake River and its eastern branch, till at last he reached the foot of the Bitter-Root Mountains in the Territory of Idaho, nearly a thousand miles from the ocean, which he had left in April. With him still was the other salmon which had come with him through the Cascades, handsomer and smaller than he, and, like him, growing poor and ragged and tired. At last, one October afternoon, they came together to a little clear brook, with a bottom of fine gravel, over which the water was but a few inches deep. Our fish painfully worked his way to it, for his tail was all frayed out, his muscles were sore, and his skin covered with unsightly blotches. But his sunken eyes saw a ripple in the stream, and under it a bed of little pebbles and sand. So there in the sand he scooped out with his tail a smooth, round place, and his companion came and filled it with orange-colored eggs. Then our salmon came back again, and, softly covering the eggs, the work of their lives was done, and, in the old salmon-fashion, they drifted tail foremost down the stream.

Next morning, a settler in the Bitter-Root region, passing by the brook near his house, noticed that a "dog-salmon" had run in there and seemed "mighty nigh tuckered out." So he took a hoe, and, wading into the brook, rapped the fish on the head with it, and carrying it ashore threw it to the hogs. But the hogs had a surfeit of salmon-meat, and they ate only the soft parts, leaving the head untouched. And a wandering naturalist found it there, and sent it to the United States Fish Commission to be identified, and thus it came to me.