(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mister Alexander Maury, temporarily returned home after only a few years in Florida, leaves his fishing gear piled in the middle of the bedroom, ready for escape on a moment’s notice, while he goes down to eat his mother-in-law’s batter bread. He carefully reminds himself that his new son-in-law’s name is Stephen. He regales his family with the story of how he learned to smell out fish in the water from an old black woman. He proudly displays his best fly, called Devil Bug, an exclusive design by a friend he met in Florida.

While his academically oriented son-in-law works on his essay on John Skelton, Mister Maury goes fishing. The old man was once a professor himself, but he reformed and sought the good life by field and stream. When a leg gave way under him once with some kind of cramp (just like Uncle James, who fell flat getting off his horse after a hard day’s hunting), Maury knew he had to stick to fishing. A man could fish even if he was half-crippled.

Maury has a moment of keen elation when he remembers his first sighting of a particularly clever old fox that regularly showed himself on the crest of a hill when Maury was a child. He was so familiar as to have a name, Old Red, and he led them all on a merry chase but always escaped into some secret den in the bowels of the earth.

Steve, the son-in-law, joins him, and they fish together for some time. Maury pities the young man with his serious, abstracted face. Steve...

(The entire section is 552 words.)