That, however, is really all that can be said in favour of the modern theory. The arguments on the other side are at least equally considerable. In 1891 the Scottish Fishery Board was, through its experts, committed to the statement, that on leaving the sea the salmon underwent a change in the stomach which made the taking of food quite impossible. That statement did not stand the test of evidence. Dr. Barton, who is convinced that the fish do not feed when in the rivers or the lakes, says that he himself has "proved conclusively that the digestive organs of salmon taken by rod and line in the spring, summer, and late autumn were absolutely normal." The digestive organs being normal, how can we be certain that they have no function ? That would be abnormal, and nature is never systematically so.
There is also, surely, a strangely suggestive incompatibility between the opinion of the authorities and the language in which they set it forth. Sir Herbert Maxwell, as we have seen, says that it was because the butterfly had been " palatable " that the Inver salmon took the Mayfly. What is the palate but a guide as to that which may be eaten ? How is it possible to conceive the function of the palate in exercise without an impulse from the stomach ?
There is another authority whose opinion is strikingly contradicted by the language in which it is expressed. Mr. Abel Chapman, author of Wild Norway, a well-reputed student of nature, is positively assured that salmon in fresh water do not feed. Nevertheless, he considers "the assumption not unreasonable that the fish take the fly or other lure for some object on which they have been accustomed to prey whilst in salt water." He thinks that "the tinsel and gaudy feathers, it may be, recall pleasant memories of the week or month before, and Salmo salar, with reawakened rapacity, but without pausing to consider the anomaly of thus finding a prawn inland, or a starfish stemming a rapid, dashes at the intruder, and gets the hook." What evidence in favour of the scientific dogma can we find in this ? If any creature rushes ravenously at something which is taken to be a familiar article of diet, and because it seems so, is it possible to refrain from assuming that power to eat, or desire to eat, is the motive of the action ?
The more closely we examine the scientific doctrine as set forth by the authorities, the more suspicious becomes its resemblance to those other opinions of that peculiar class, the intellectually exclusive, who are unable to be content with the commonplace or the obvious. These opinions, and all others of the same kind, are modified by time. Losing novelty, they are gradually dropped by the elect themselves. Even as it will soon be perceived that alcohol is not a poison in the ordinary sense of the word; that the race is not degenerate; and that the people, though capable of regimentation, are not an organism, Science may ere long see its way towards modifying its deliverance on this fascinating problem in sport.