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Title: Sporting Society, Vol. II (of 2) - or, Sporting Chat and Sporting Memories
Author: Various
Language: English
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BOOKS FOR SPORTSMEN

PUBLISHED BY

BELLAIRS & CO.,

9 HART STREET, BLOOMSBURY.


IN SCARLET AND SILK. Recollections of Hunting and Steeplechase riding.
By FOX RUSSELL. With two drawings in colour by FINCH MASON. 5s. net.

NEW SPORTING STORIES. By G. G. 3s. 6d. net.

    _The Times_ says:--"New Sporting Stories are written by a man who
    evidently knows what he is writing about.... The sketches are
    short, racy and to the point."

TRAVEL AND BIG GAME. By PERCY SELOUS and H. A. BRYDEN. With
Illustrations by CHARLES WHYMPER. 10s. 6d. net.

THE CHASE: a Poem. By WILLIAM SOMERVILLE. Illustrated by HUGH THOMSON.
5s. net.

    In this fine old poem now ably illustrated by Mr Hugh Thomson are
    the original lines, quoted by the immortal Jorrocks--

                      "My hoarse-sounding horn
    Invites thee to the chace, the sport of kings,
    Image of war, without its guilt."

GREAT SCOT THE CHASER, and other Sporting Stories. By G. G. With
Portrait of the Author. 4s. 6d. net.

    _The Daily Telegraph_ says:--"G. G. is a benefactor to his
    species."

CURIOSITIES OF BIRD LIFE. By CHARLES DIXON, Author of "The Migration of
Birds." [_In the Press._

ANIMAL EPISODES AND STUDIES IN SENSATION. By GEORGE H. POWELL. 3s. 6d.
net.

TALES OF THE CINDER PATH. By an Amateur Athlete [W. LINDSEY]. 2s. 6d.
net.

REMINISCENCES OF A YORKSHIRE NATURALIST. By the late W. CRAWFORD
WILLIAMSON, LL.D., F.R.S. Edited by his wife. 5s. net.



ENTERTAINING BOOKS

PUBLISHED BY

BELLAIRS & CO.,

9 HART STREET, BLOOMSBURY.


A MAN AND A WOMAN. Faithfully presented by STANLEY WATERLOO. 3s. 6d.
net.

BEYOND ATONEMENT. A Story of London Life. By A. ST JOHN ADCOCK. 4s. 6d.
net.

A HUSBAND'S ORDEAL; or, the Confessions of Gerald Brownson, late of
Coora Coora, Queensland. By PERCY RUSSELL. 3s. 6d. net.

A BRIDE'S EXPERIMENT. A Story of Australian Bush Life. By CHARLES J.
MANSFORD. 3s. 6d. net.

EIGHTY YEARS AGO; or, the Recollections of an Old Army Doctor, his
adventures on the fields of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, and during the
occupation of Paris, 1815. By the late Dr GIBNEY of Cheltenham. Edited
by his son, MAJOR GIBNEY. 5s. net.

THE SOLDIER IN BATTLE; or, Life in the Ranks of the Army of the
Potomac. By FRANK WILKESON, a Survivor of Grant's last campaign. 2s.
6d. net.

NEPHELÈ. The Story of a Sonata for violin and piano. By F. W.
BOURDILLON. 2s. 6d. net.

A DARN ON A BLUE STOCKING. A Story of To-day. By G. G. CHATTERTON. 2s.
6d. net.

THE MYSTERY OF THE CORDILLERA. A Tale of Adventure in the Andes. By A.
MASON BOURNE. Illustrated. 3s. 6d. net.

THE LURE OF FAME. By CLIVE HOLLAND, Author of "My Japanese Wife." 3s.
6d. net.

THE OLD ECSTASIES. A Modern Romance. By GASPARD TOURNIER. 4s. 6d. net.

THE TANTALUS TOUR. A Theatrical Venture. By WALTER PARKE, joint-author
of "Les Manteaux Noirs," and other comic operas. Illustrated. 2s. 6d.
net.



SPORTING SOCIETY


[Illustration: IN FULL CRY. By R. CALDECOTT.]



SPORTING SOCIETY

OR

_SPORTING CHAT AND SPORTING MEMORIES_


STORIES HUMOROUS AND CURIOUS; WRINKLES OF THE FIELD
AND THE RACE-COURSE; ANECDOTES OF THE STABLE AND
THE KENNEL; WITH NUMEROUS PRACTICAL
NOTES ON SHOOTING AND FISHING

FROM THE PEN OF

VARIOUS SPORTING CELEBRITIES AND
WELL-KNOWN WRITERS ON THE TURF AND THE CHASE

EDITED BY
FOX RUSSELL

Illustrations by Randolph Caldecott.

_IN TWO VOLUMES--VOL. II._

LONDON
BELLAIRS & CO.
1897



CONTENTS


                                                          PAGE

SPORTING OF THE PAST AND THE PRESENT DAY                     1
    By "OLD CALABAR"

DOWN THE BECK                                               23
    By G. CHRISTOPHER DAVIES

AN APOLOGY FOR FISHING                                      45

DOGS I HAVE KNOWN                                           58
    By Captain R. BIRD THOMPSON

NOVEMBER SHOOTING                                           85
    By "OLD CALABAR"

SPORTING ADVENTURES OF CHARLES CARRINGTON, ESQ.             94
    By "OLD CALABAR"

MY FIRST DAY'S FOX-HUNTING                                 121
    By the Owner of "Iron Duke"

MY FIRST AND LAST STEEPLE-CHASE                            139
    A Story of a "Dark" Horse

SALMON-SPEARING                                            165

CARPE DIEM                                                 182
    By the Author of "Mountain, Meadow and Mere"

NEWMARKET                                                  192
    By Captain R. BIRD THOMPSON

KATE'S DAY WITH THE OLD HORSE                              207
    By CLIVE PHILLIPS WOLLEY

SOME CURIOUS HORSES                                        235
    By Captain R. BIRD THOMPSON

SPORTING FOR MEN OF MODERATE MEANS                         259
    By "OLD CALABAR"

PARTRIDGE MANORS AND ROUGH SHOOTING                        285
    By "OLD CALABAR"

WHO IS TO RIDE HIM?                                        302
    By "OLD CALABAR"

A CUB-HUNTING INVITATION                                   331
    By the EDITOR

TOLD AFTER MESS                                            336
    By the EDITOR



SPORTING OF THE PAST AND THE PRESENT DAY


"O tempora! O mores!" how our grandsires would stare if they could
only see how differently sporting in all its branches is carried on
now-a-days; it would make their pigtails stand on end, and the brass
buttons fly off their blue coats in very fright.

There are few of the Squire Western school now left; but occasionally
you may still come across some jovial old sportsman of eighty years
or more, who, though his form is shrunken, and his snow-white head
proclaims that many winters have passed over it, yet carries a pair of
eyes as bright and keen as of yore, eyes that glisten again when he
launches forth on his favourite hobby.

I know several gentlemen nearer eighty than seventy who still shoot,
and keep a fine kennel of dogs. One of these gentlemen only last year
took a moor in Scotland for five years. May he live to enjoy it and
renew his lease.

I could name many close on, ay, over fourscore, who ride well yet to
hounds; and though they may not be such bruisers as they once were
across country, yet are difficult to choke off.

It is just forty-one years [this was written twenty years ago] since I
had my first mount to hounds. There is no _non mi ricordo_ with me. I
can recollect the day as well as yesterday, the pinks, the beaver-hats
of curious shape, the short-tailed horses, are too vividly impressed on
my memory ever to be effaced. Men went out in those days for hunting,
and not merely for a gallop. Time changes all things, and I suppose we
must change with the times; but are these changes for the better? Well,
I will not give an opinion, but leave others to decide.

The hounds of those days were not nearly so fast as those of the
present; and I am inclined to think that our hounds are now bred too
fine and speedy--for some countries they certainly are--and often flash
over and lose a scent which ought not to be lost.

Hunting, in the days I speak of, could be enjoyed by men of very
moderate means, for it was not necessary to have two or three horses
out. In some countries, especially woodland ones, one horse may still
do; but, as a rule, hounds are now so fast, and horses so lightly bred
to what they were, that no hunter, however good he may be, can live
with them from find to finish. If you wish to see a run out, you must
have your first and second horsemen riding to points. These men must
not only be light-weights, but steady, know the country, save their
animals, and be there when wanted.

You seldom, at least where I hunted, saw men driving up to the meet in
their well-appointed broughams, mail-phaetons, or what-not. A long
distance was done, in my early days, on a cover hack; and one hunter
did where three are now required.

In the present day you see men stepping from their close carriages with
the morning papers in their hands, beautifully got up--a choice regalia
between their lips, with holland overalls to keep their spotless
buckskins from speck of dirt or cigar ashes. Very different from the
hardy men you encountered years gone by, alas! never to return
again--cantering along on a corky tit, with _leather_ overalls. Now you
have all sorts of devices--waterproof aprons _before_ and _behind_--in
my idea it only wants some enterprising man to bring out a hunting-crop
with an umbrella, something similar to the ladies' driving-whips, whip
and parasol in one, to complete the picture. Fancy men hunting with
_waterproof aprons_--they should go out for _nurses_!

Perhaps, as years creep on, one is wont to look back on his youthful
days and fondly imagine nothing is done so well now as then. Understand,
I do not say hunting and shooting are not as good as they were. I do
both still, and enjoy them as much as ever; but there is not so much
_sport_ in them, to my mind, as formerly--men are not the _hardy_,
genuine sportsmen they were.

Horses are much dearer now than twenty, thirty, forty years
back--provender also. Where £1 would go thirty years ago, you require
now nearly £1, 10s.; this alone prevents many men from following their
favourite pursuits.

The time is not far distant when hunting will be given up in England;
railways, the price of land, and the high market prices which must
necessarily come with an increase of population, are doing their work
slowly but surely. The present generation are not likely to witness it:
so much the better, for it would break the hearts of some to see the
noble pastime of hunting on its "last legs." Waste land, too, is being
rapidly enclosed, and what are now wilds, fifty or sixty years hence
may be flourishing districts.

How many country villages are now huge towns! I remember, years ago,
when I used to meet the Queen's hounds, before the South-Western line
was made, there was only one old wayside inn at Woking, which was much
resorted to by "the fancy," for it was a noted spot for pugilists. Many
and many a prize-fight have I seen there. Now Woking is a little
town--I mean the new town, not the old town some four miles distant;
and the spots where I used to knock over the snipe and plover are now
built on and enclosed. And so it will go on to the end of all time;
bricks and mortar, iron and compo, will rise up, large and small
buildings, all over the face of the country, and those whose hearts are
still bent on sport will have to go farther afield for it.

But this is already done. France, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Bohemia,
Bavaria, and other countries, have their English sportsmen. Railways
have made nearly all places within reach of those with means. Scotch
moors that you could rent thirty years ago for £50 a year, are now
£500; the rivers the same; and grouse that are killed one day in
Scotland are eaten the next in all parts of the United Kingdom.

Some men meet the hounds now thirty and forty miles away from home.
They breakfast comfortably at home, then step into the train, and are
whirled away with their horses and grooms; have a gallop, come home, or
perhaps go out to a grand luncheon; lounge down to their club, or do a
few calls, then dine, and go to one of the theatres to see the last new
thing; finish up with a supper or a ball, or perhaps both.

Old Squire Broadfurrow has ridden his stout, easy-going hack to cover,
has had a clinking day, and a fox run into, as the crow flies, about
eight-and-twenty miles from his home. The old man, nothing daunted,
jogs quietly along and pulls up at the first country inn, orders a chop
for himself and a bucket of gruel for his horse, gets home in good time
to entertain three or four choice souls at dinner, ride the run over
again, and talk of some shooting they are going to have on the morrow.
Reader, which is the pleasanter style of the two? which the most
healthy? Railways and hunting I cannot reconcile with my ideas of
sport; there is a sort of cockneyism about it that I do not like; it
seems to me poor "form."

Men change, too, in their ideas as well as their dress. I was talking
some time ago to an old friend of mine who had been an inveterate
fox-hunter, did his six days a week, and spent the seventh in the
kennel; if you asked him what Sunday it was, you always got the same
answer, "Infliction Sunday."

I asked him how he was getting on in the hunting line.

"Hunting, my dear fellow; why, I have given it up years ago--all
humbug! What on earth is the use of a man making a guy of himself,
putting on a pink coat, top-boots, and uncomfortable leather breeches,
and for what?--to gallop after a lot of yelping dogs, and to catch a
fox which is of no earthly use to any one when he is brought to hand;
endangering your neck, breaking fences, and destroying land and the
crops. Hunting is an idiotic fashion; half the men only hunt for the
sake of dress, and for mounting the pink. If they must hunt, why not
dress like reasonable beings, in comfortable cords, gaiters, and a
shooting-jacket? Ah! then you would not see half the men out you do
now. I am quite ashamed to think I ever hunted. Just come and look at
my shorthorns, will you?"

In sporting parlance, I was "knocked clean out of time;" this was the
inveterate six-days-a-week man.

"But you shoot?" I asked, seeing it was necessary to say something.

"Oh yes! I shoot, and fish occasionally, when the May-fly is
up--anything but hunting. There, what do you think of that bull?"

Shooting, too, is wonderfully changed. Where are the high stubbles we
so eagerly sought on the first of September?--gone, gone for ever. The
reaping-machine cuts it off now as close as the cloth on a billiard
table.

It has often been said the birds are wilder at present than they were:
admitting this to be the case, the cause probably is the high state of
cultivation, and nothing more. There is not the cover there was
formerly to hold them, and therefore they are more difficult to get at.
Turnips are now sown in drills, and not broadcast, as grain usually
was. If you work down the drills, the birds see you, and are off the
other end: the only way is to take them across. Yet there are thousands
of places where the cover is good and plentiful; and where this is the
case the birds lie as well as ever.

Game is scarcer than it was, except on manors that are highly
preserved: it must be remembered that where there was one shooter
formerly, there are twenty now. It is a difficult matter at present to
rent a shooting, for directly there is anything good in the market it
is snatched up at once.

The general style of shooting of the present day is odious--large bags
are "the go." In some countries it has done away with the noble pointer
and setter altogether; nothing but retrievers are used. The guns,
beaters, and keepers are all in a line: a gun, then a keeper with a
retriever, a beater, another gun, and so on. The word is given, and
away they go, taking a field in a beat. As you fire--possibly there are
two or three guns popping at the same bird--a keeper falls out, and
finds it with his retriever, whilst you are going on. Can this be
called sport? It is nothing more than pot-hunting, wholesale butchery.
Give me my brace of pointers and setters, and let me shoot my game to
points; there is some pleasure in that. What can be a more beautiful
sight to the shooting man than to see a brace of well-bred dogs,
ranging and quartering their ground like clockwork, backing and
standing like rocks, steady before and behind, and dropping to fur and
wing, as if they were shot? Working to hand, and obeying your slightest
word--beautiful, intelligent creatures--there is some pleasure in
shooting over such animals as these.

Then driving is another pot-hunting system, and does no end of harm;
and so those who practise it will find out before many years are over.
More game is wounded and left to pine away and die than many have an
idea of--a more cruel and unsportsmanlike system has never been thought
of, and I much regret it has its votaries. A heavy hot luncheon from a
Norwegian kitchener is now the correct thing--heavy eating and drinking
must form a prominent feature in the day's programme, otherwise it is
not sport.

A few men are still content with their sherry-flask and sandwich, and I
would back these to beat the others into fits in a day's sport. One
does not go out to eat, but to shoot, and a man that has laid in a
heavy luncheon can neither walk well up to his dogs nor shoot straight
after it.

Great improvements have been made in guns. The old flint that took half
an hour to load was a bore; the flint had every now and then to be
chipped and renewed, the pans fresh steeled, the touch-hole pricked,
powder put in the pan, and even then there were constant misfires and
disappointments. The flint in time gave way to the percussion, a great
improvement; but there are many inconveniences with this; unless the
nipples are kept clean, and the gun washed each time after using,
constant misfires are the consequence. Then, in cold weather it is no
end of trouble to get the caps on. With half-frozen fingers it is a
difficult job; but this has been remedied by a cap-holder, which sends
the caps up with a spring as you want them. With both flint and
percussion there were great inconveniences in loading; the spring of
your powder or shot flask might break, and then you had to judge your
charge till they were repaired. All this trouble was put an end to by
the introduction of the breech-loader, which has not half the danger,
is ten times quicker, and much more convenient in every way; the
ammunition more easily carried, and there are very few misfires. The
gun wants no washing, merely a rag passed through, and it is clean. But
I am not going into the subject of guns and all their improvements; I
have merely mentioned these to show the great stride that has been made
in the last fifty years in shot guns.

Steeplechasing and racing I must touch on, and the little I have to say
will not be in its favour.

The hateful passion of betting is slowly but surely ruining the turf;
for there are not the same class of men on it that there were thirty
years ago.

Where do you see fine old sportsmen like the late Sir Gilbert
Heathcote? He raced for the pleasure of racing, and so did many others
who never betted a shilling; but it is all altered now, and not for the
better.

Young men--ay, and old ones too--ruin themselves by betting; Government
and other clerks squander their salaries away, which might maintain
them, and perhaps a mother or a sister who is totally dependent upon
them; the butlers and footmen pawn the family plate _to meet their
engagements_; and the shop-boy is often detected _in flagrante
delicto_, with his hands in the till, purloining a half-crown or two to
enable him to go with Mary Hann to 'Ampton. You are pestered with
letters from tipsters--scoundrels who know just as much of a horse or
racing as they do of the man in the moon. The man from whom you can get
nothing else, is always ready with his advice on the momentous subject
of "what to back" for this race or that, quite ignoring the question of
whether he really does or does not "know anything," to use turf
parlance.

Betting will never be put down entirely, but much might be done. Were I
to commence racing again, I would hit the ring and the betting
fraternity as hard as I could to scare them from backing my horses for
the future. This cannot always be done, but after one or two such
lessons people would be shy of burning their fingers over my stable. I
daresay I should be called an "old curmudgeon," "selfish brute," and
"no sportsman;" but after all said and done, you race to please
yourself, not the public. You have to pay the hay and corn bill,
trainer's expenses, and, above all, entry fees, far the heaviest item
in the whole list; and surely, if any money is to be had over a race,
the owner should be allowed "first run" at it.

We see no Alice Hawthorns or Beeswings now-a-days; racing men cannot
afford to let their colts or fillies come to maturity: most are broken
down before they are three years old. Government ought to interfere and
put a veto on two-year-old races; this done, and the One and Two
Thousand, the Derby, Oaks, and Leger made for four-year-olds, then we
might hope to see our racehorses and hunters coming back to their
former stout form. But this we shall never see. John Bull, with his
proverbial stubbornness, will stick to his old line.

I was one and twenty years riding and racing in France, and was highly
amused when the French first began sending over horses to us; we
generously allowed them seven pounds--half a stone. How I laughed and
chuckled in my sleeve when I heard this! After a little time Mr Bull
found this would not do, so he came to even weights; but he received
such a lesson with Fille de l'Air and Gladiateur, that it made the old
gentleman stare considerably, and pull rather a long face.

Racing men, I will tell you what you probably already know, but will
not admit--the French could better give us seven pounds than we them:
their three-year-olds are nearly as forward as our four-year-olds.

The climate of France is warmer than ours, horses do better and furnish
quicker there, and the time is not far distant when they will beat us
as easily as we used to beat them. It is no use disguising it; it is a
fact, and a fact, too, that is being accomplished; for no one will deny
that the French already take a pretty good share of our best stakes.
They have a climate better suited for horses, they buy our best sires
and mares, have English trainers and riders, therefore what is to
prevent them from beating us? They have done it already, and will
continue doing so.

We have found out that when we take horses over there we are generally
beaten, and this alone ought to convince us that the French horses are
more forward than ours. Racing now-a-days is nothing more than a very
precarious speculation, and the practice of some on the turf to gain
their own ends is anything but (not to use a stronger word) creditable.

Within the last few years, gentleman after gentleman has left the turf
disgusted and disheartened; and well they might be, for if a man is not
very careful, there is no finer school than a racecourse to pick up
swindling, dishonesty, and blackguardism.

Your fashionable light-weight jocks of the present day have their
country houses, their valets, their broughams, hunters, and what-not.
The old riding fee of £3 for a losing race and £5 for a winning one is
seldom heard of except at little country meetings. Trainers and jockeys
are at present much bigger men than their masters; and why? because
they allow them to be so; they may owe them a long bill, or be
foolishly good-natured in putting their servants on the same footing as
themselves by undue familiarity--'Hail fellow well met' with them.

Racing will never be what it was again, for the reasons I have
mentioned. Speculation is too rife to allow it a healthy tone. Shortly
but few gentlemen will be left as racing men, and the turf will be
represented by the lower five, and men to whom the meaning of the words
honour, honesty, principle, and conscience, are unknown.

Coursing too, a healthy and fine amusement, even this cannot be enjoyed
without the presence of the betting fraternity, bawling and shouting. A
clean sweep should be made of them.

Pigeon-shooting as well. Although I am not an admirer of this pastime
(sport I will not call it), yet one cannot stroll down to Hurlingham or
the Bush, to look on, but what one must be pestered with odds offered
on the gun or bird. Your shady and doubtful betting men are nuisances.
Who on earth wants to lose a lot of money to moneyless scoundrels? But
there are fools who do so, and they deserve to be fleeced.

Many of our old sports have died out. The Ring is a thing of the past,
and so is the Cock-pit. I am savage enough to say I liked a prize-fight
and a cock-fight. When it was on the square, a prize-fight was a most
exciting scene. Yet both have very wisely been put down, and athletic
sports take their place.

I seldom see the fine old game of bowls played now. Le gras, too, has
gone out.

Polo, which I think nothing of, is the rage amongst gentlemen now. I
see nothing in it whatever; it is a wretched game for the _lookers-on_;
but then it is the fashion.

The fine old game of cricket is totally altered. I shall have the
cricketing world down on me, but I care not. I think the present style
of bowling has entirely ruined the game as a game of science. There are
not many Graces in the present day, nor were there many Wards of the
olden time. Cricketers of the present day look like so many hogs in
armour; and where one man bowls tolerably over-handed, fifty who
attempt it cannot bowl at all--they are never on the spot. Consequently
the balls break anywhere. I would ten times rather stand before the
fastest man in England who is true than I would to a middling fast one
who is not.

I remember, many, many years ago, at the Royal Clarence Cricket
Club--alas! defunct (I have the button still)--which had its ground on
Moulsey Hurst, taking old Ward's wicket the third ball with a
round-hander. It was a bit of practice we were having: I was a lad at
the time, and the old gentleman had stuck half-a-crown on the centre
stump for me to bowl at: he had no doubt played carelessly, wishing to
give me a chance. He looked surprised at seeing his wicket fall. He
coolly put them up again, and on the centre stump was a sovereign.

"There, young fellow," he said, "bowl at _that_." I did bowl at _that_,
till I was almost ready to drop, but _that_ never came into my pocket.
Yes it did, though, but not by taking his wicket. I shall never forget
the fine old gentleman, with his bat nearly black with oil and age.
Cricket still holds, and always will deservedly hold, a high place in
our English sports.

Boats and rowing have made immense strides for the better; the only
thing I am disposed to cavil at with regard to it is the training. I am
inclined to think the severe preparation they have to go through to get
fit, tells on the constitution of young men who are not full grown and
set. But training now is so carefully looked to, that after all there
may not be the danger one imagines. One thing is certain, that it is
much less dangerous to row or run a severe race _well prepared_: it is
inward fat that chokes men, causes apoplexy and what-not. Men in
training, if they are careful and do not catch cold, and are not too
severely taxed, have little to apprehend; and this is why an
experienced trainer is necessary.

Bicycling, too, is a fine healthy amusement, develops the muscles and
keeps a man in wind and health: he may get all over the country and at
one-tenth the former expense of railway travelling. But bicycling, like
all other sports and exercises, has its abuses as well as its uses, and
when one sees men flying along a road (to the manifest danger of the
public) bent double over the handles of their machines, it gives one
pause, as to whether crooked backs, contracted chests, and knee trouble
are not in store for a future generation.

There are many lakes, large and small, in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland,
that cannot be either fished or shot for want of a boat. It is costly
to get a boat up the mountains, and very often, especially in Ireland,
there are no roads, or horses cannot traverse them. Therefore something
light but safe is necessary. The Rev. E. L. Berthon, of Romsey, Hants,
has invented a boat which is admirably suited for the purpose: it is a
folding canvas boat of two skins, _cannot be overset_, and is quite
buoyant if filled with water. The one I have is a fishing boat; it
carries four, but two can go with comfort; it is only 70 pounds in
weight, 9 feet long, and 4 feet broad. They are made any size, as will
be seen from the extract I give from the _Times_.

"Berthon's Collapsible Barge.--Among other scientific devices with
which the 'Faraday' is supplied, with the view of facilitating the
laying of the Direct United States cable, is a 'collapsible barge,' the
principle of which, the invention of the Reverend E. L. Berthon--a name
already well known in nautical circles in connection with his perpetual
log--was originally applied by Mr Berthon to life-boats, a number of
which, it is stated, are in course of construction. The barge was built
by Mr E. R. Berthon, the son of the inventor, and is to be used in
laying the shore ends of the cable, of which it will carry from 20 to
30 tons with a very light draught of water. The proportions of length
in the barge are very unusual, being nearly 2 to 1, the dimensions
being, length 31 feet, width 16 feet, and depth 4 feet; such, however,
is its collapsibility, that, stowed away on the deck of the
_Faraday_, it only measures 2 feet at its greatest width. The
barge is cellular in construction, and when a small confining rope is
cast off it extends automatically, inhaling into its ten cells about
500 cubic feet of air. During the process of expansion, the jointed
bottom boards, which are 14 feet wide, fall into their places, and,
lever staunchions being placed under the gunwales, the barge is ready
for lowering in a minute or two. When in the water a very substantial
platform is lowered into the barge, composed of beams 7-1/2 inches
thick and 1 inch planks; upon this deck the cable will be coiled, and
paid over a large iron sheave at the stern-post. The barge weighs about
23 cwt., and having great powers of flotation, with light draught, is
expected to be very serviceable in laying the shore ends of the new
cable; the principle, moreover, appears to be one which it might be
found desirable to introduce into the life-boat service."

Mine is the smallest size made, and when collapsed is only 7 inches
wide. To open and launch it takes less than one minute. It also sails
very well, and on lakes, with a small spritsail with brails, it is
exactly the thing. A prettier and more useful little boat I never had.

I have mentioned this boat because I have often been asked about such a
thing. If by any chance the outer skin should be injured--which is not
likely, for the canvas is immensely strong--it makes but little
difference to the boat, and the injury is easily repaired. I can
strongly recommend it to any one wanting such a thing.

But to "our mutton"--sporting of the past and the present day.
Returning to olden times, our fathers and forefathers were not ashamed
to run horses, greyhounds, etc., in their _own_ names; now men do so
more and more under _assumed_ ones. This is unfortunate, and opens the
door for many abuses; and the sooner it is put an end to the better.

I do not believe in the early hours at which our ancestors used to take
to the field. Game is not moving very early; therefore, in partridge
shooting, dogs have not such a chance of finding game as they have an
hour or two later. Nine o'clock is quite early enough for the partridge
or grouse shooter; about four in the afternoon is the most deadly time,
because scent then begins to ascend, and the dogs catch it much
quicker, and birds are then on the feed. The stubble, at this time, is
the place to find partridges.

It is a great mistake to walk too fast, shooting, because much game is
missed in this way; even very fast dogs require sufficient time to make
their ground good; in thick turnips you can hardly walk too slowly.

But I must hold, these notes are growing too long under my "grey goose
quill." (I am old-fashioned enough to prefer a quill pen to a steel
one.) Old fellow-sportsmen, and young ones, adieu. May you have a good
season, and good health and spirits to enjoy it!



DOWN THE BECK

AN ANGLING REVERIE


Like the dormouse, the approach of spring draws forth also the angler.
So early as February trout-fishing begins in the West of England, and
good sport may be had during March and April. May, however, is the
month of months for the trout fisher, certainly in the Midland
Counties, and wherever the May fly is found, and probably in the West
as well. With the first sunny gleams of February that herald the full
burst of spring, Halieus and Poietes may be seen rod in hand down their
streams, rejoicing that the many cold days, during which they have been
longingly fingering flies and tackle at home, are at length ended. So
many eulogies have been heaped upon fishing, which culminate in the
enthusiasm of gentle Isaak, the father of the craft, that the world
must indeed be tolerant if it can read any more.

But between his zeal on the one hand, and the venerable dictum of Dr
Johnson on the other, lies a truer appreciation of the art of angling
with a fly as being the busy man's most suitable recreation, in the
strictest sense of the word, in these feverish days of intellectual and
social bustle. Besides the love of sport for its own sake, fly-fishing
provides numerous secondary delights and occupations for thoughtful,
observant natures. Whatever be a man's hobby, he can ride it as hard as
he chooses down the banks of a trout stream. The rigour of the game is
all very well for whist; but fishing, with no other object than killing
fish, is altogether mean and ignoble. In this pursuit the fisherman may
be conchologist, ornithologist, or botanist as well--nay, he may be all
at once, and probably is so if he be a devoted student of nature. The
poet can throw off a sonnet while he flings his fly; the clergyman will
be taught by angling, as truly as by Shakespeare, how to find sermons
in stones, and books in the running brooks. Did not St Anthony convert
heretics by preaching to the fishes? Like Narcissus of old, the lover
may see his other self mirrored in the quiet waters. Whatever be his
profession, while the angler meditatively saunters on with a blade of
grass between his lips, his thoughts will sooner or later be certain to
find their own peculiar bent. Even the philosopher ought to be
attracted from his study to the brook. Plutarch tells how the
Pythagoreans abstained from eating fish, deeming them, on account of
their dumbness, creatures most kindred to the philosophic mind.
Theology itself has not scrupled to embalm the highest mysteries under
the symbol of a fish; and grave bishops at present do not disdain
exploits with the salmon-rod that are duly chronicled in the columns of
the _Field_. Thus, the true angler may well join Sir H. Wotton in
deeming the hours spent on his favourite sport "his idle time not idly
spent," even if he cannot echo his sentiment that "he would rather live
five May months than forty Decembers."[1] We have always regretted that
good Bishop Andrewes, the model of a saint, a scholar, and a divine,
did not angle. What additional zest would it not have lent to those
rambles of which his biographer speaks in such simple language! "His
ordinary exercise and recreation was walking, either alone by himself,
or with some other selected companion, with whom he might confer and
argue and recount their studies; and he would often profess that to
observe the grass, herbs, corn, trees, cattle, earth, waters, heavens,
any of the creatures, and to contemplate their natures, orders,
qualities, virtues, uses, &c., was ever to him the greatest mirth,
content, and recreation that could be; and this he held to his dying
day."[2]

          [1] Walton's Life of Sir Hy. Wotton.

          [2] Life of Bishop Andrewes by H. Isaacson, his amanuensis.
          Andrewes' works, Anglo-Catholic Library.

                          "Wisdom's self
    Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude;
    Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
    She plumes her feathers."

There is little doubt that had the writer of these well-known lines
been able to tear himself from his books for any diversion, it would
have been in order to angle. A great authority recommends a man weighed
down with overwhelming mental trouble to learn a new language by way of
diverting his thoughts from self; it would be far more efficacious for
him to sally out fishing, not, certainly, to stand for hours beside a
sullen pool angling with float and worm--this would be to invite
suicide--but to ramble down the bank of some winding stream, burdened
with nothing heavier than a clear conscience and a light fly-rod. Then
may St Nicholas speedily befriend his votary!

Now put on your flies--a green drake, by all means, if it be May--if
not, nothing can be better than the "red spinner," the "coachman," and,
above all, "the professor," from its taking qualities--fit namesake of
Christopher North. We have reached the Beck, and this warm south wind
"will blow the hook to the fishes' mouth." Without the abundance of
trout, which, according to Audubon, characterised the river Sehigh in
North America, where he "was made weary with pulling up the sparkling
fish allured by the struggles of the common grasshopper," the Beck
possesses--what is more grateful to the true angler--a fair amount of
fish, which it requires considerable skill to hook. The local name,
"beck," shows that it runs through a country which was overrun by the
Northmen, and its character is not dissimilar to theirs. It has none of
the abrupt headlong manner of a pure Keltic brook, overcoming all
obstacles by sheer persistent force, as seen in Wales, in the
Highlands, and in North Devon. Nor does it wind along in slow, deep
volume, like a Teutonic brook, or the offshoot of a Dutch canal, bereft
indeed of all the lighter graces which adorn a beautiful stream, but
irresistible withal, and beneficent. It rather unites the two
characters, meandering with crystal eddies and murmurous flow,

    "Kissing the gentle sedges as it glides,"

now circumventing a hillock that could not well be sapped, and now, as
befits the length of its course, flowing silently, with full streams,
through a croft knee-deep in daisies and meadowsweet; lovingly cutting
its sinuous S's through the sward, as Izaak Walton carved his initials
on Casaubon's tablet in Westminster Abbey; and yet again, like the
Laureate's brook,

        "Chattering over stony ways,
    With many a silvery waterbreak
        Above the golden gravel,"--

happy combination of elements from the diverse nationalities that make
up the English nation. It distinguishes the names of the parishes
through which it passes in some places by the Norman addition to them
of "le beck," while they themselves frequently terminate, after the
Scandinavian fashion, in "by" (_i.e._, dwelling). However, as there are
in Lincolnshire alone two hundred and twelve places which have this
termination, the exact locality of this particular beck can only be
dimly guessed; and, sooth to say, if the angler has a failing, it
consists in a natural dislike to reveal the exact situation of his
favourite "stickles" to another.

Few objects in nature are so beautiful as running water; it soothes the
mind as well as the eye, and disposes to reflection, sobering the jar
of contending passions in the soul as it gleams along, always different
in its chequered eddies, and yet always the same. The vegetation that
springs on the brink of a stream very much heightens its charms to the
true angler, who is always more or less of an artist and poet. Round
this beck there are, indeed, no ferns tufting each projecting shelf,
and seizing upon every bare stone and decayed tree. East Anglian
scenery is wofully deficient in this element of the picturesque; but
wild flowers gem its banks,

    "Thick set with agate and the azure sheen
    Of turkis blue and emerald green
      That in the channel strays."

At every turn the marsh marigold blazes in brilliant golden clumps,
while the water violet and bladderwort, most curious of our
water-weeds, find place round many of the deeper pools. Overhead, too,
hoary willows lend a great charm to the scenery, and patriarchal thorn
bushes, that glitter with snow-flowers every May, and wonder at
returning winter as they view their whiteness reflected below, while
abundance of forget-me-nots, "for happy lovers," seek the most retired
spots. Too often in the south of the county, as, for instance, round
Croyland Abbey, lines of melancholy poplars disfigure the prospect, as
they do (alas! _did_) round Metz, Avignon, and other French towns.
It is curious, by the way, that so vivacious a people as the French
should be fond of this, the most _triste_ of trees. Here, however,
willows are in exact keeping with the landscape; and as they turn the
glaucous under-surface of their leaves to the light in the shivering
breezes, instead of sadness, they speak of joy to the angler, for it is
just when these capfuls of wind blow that the lazy trout in the holes
under their shade rise eagerly at the fly. Once every year, in the city
church of St James, in accordance with a benefactor's will, a sermon on
flowers is preached from some floral text, to a congregation mainly
composed of young people, each of them careful to carry a nosegay with
them to the service. A walk down the beck, to one who knows anything of
botany, or, better still, who really loves our wild flowers, is in
itself a perpetual sermon. And how much are its exhortations
strengthened if the angler be somewhat of an ornithologist! What a
joyous melody proceeds from the ivy-covered fir, as Will Wimble[3]
makes his way to the beck!

          [3] "He makes a May-fly to a miracle, and furnishes the whole
          country with angle-rods."--_Spectator_, No. 108.

    "That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
    Lest you should think he never can recapture
    The first fine careless rapture."

On this sunny bank, in the first gleam of spring sunshine, may be
noticed a sprightly little bird hopping along, glad to have completed
his migration to our shore--the wheatear, which Tennyson aptly terms
(if we read him aright) "the sea-blue bird of March." And later on, the
cuckoo is first heard down this glade, gleefully "telling her name to
all the hills," till June renders her hoarse, and the clear note
becomes "Cuck-cuckoo! Cuck-cuck-cuckoo!" and endless is the harsh
iteration if another of her family answer the challenge. Peering
carefully round a thicket, too, may be seen the waterhen, proudly
tempting her black brood to cross the stream for the first time; or
haply a wild duck, that has sat on her eggs till the angler's foot
almost touches her, flaps suddenly her wings, and skims under the
overhanging alders. If the fisherman be an observant lover of nature,
these and the like country sights and sounds will bring him great
contentment even though he take no fish. And so speaks Dame Juliana
Berners, in her "Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle"--one of the
quaintest productions of early English literature:--"Atte the best he
hath his holsom walk and merry at his ease, a swete ayre of the swete
savoure of the meede flowres: that makyth hym hungry. He hereth the
melodyous armony of fowles. He seeth the yonge swannes, heerons,
duckes, cotes, and many other foules wyth theyr brodes. And yf the
angler take fysshe, surely thenne is there noo man merier than he is in
his spyryte."

Down this beck an artistic eye will find many a feast of colour. The
keeper's cottage stands on a high bank; and a more charming domestic
subject was never painted, even by Millais, than one which may be
noticed there any day in August. His little girl, bare-headed and
rosy-cheeked with the merriest of light-blue eyes, stands under a
forest of sun-flowers, which spread their huge yellow discs above,
while sunbeams break through and leave their gold on the little
maiden's hair, and play round her, earnest, we will hope, of her
future, as she drops a courtesy to the passing angler. A little farther
on, the briony, with its brilliant berries, will festoon the grey trunk
of its cherishing oak with a glory, in autumn, that cannot but charm
the eye. The wild hyacinths of April are like a fold of blue sky that
has descended upon the wooded hollows. In the thatch of the labourer's
cottage is one deeply-set window, with a few tiles under it, on which
lichens and moss have established a footing. It has just rained, and
the contrast between their vivid greens and the brilliant red tiles is
delicious. It is thus that much of the monotony inseparable from a dull
country may be relieved, by judiciously educating the vision to find
beauties where ordinary eyes see nothing unusual. The pensiveness of an
angler's "sad pleasure" will be found agreeable leisure for this
purpose.

The various animals again to be found down the Beck, and the intimate
acquaintance which can be made with them in their native haunts, form
by no means the least of its charms. It is wonderful how tame all wild
creatures become, and how their characters expand to men, who, like
Waterton and Thoreau, the American naturalist, take pains to gain their
confidence. The water rats, timid enough when any other foot
approaches, look with fearless friendship on the gentle angler. At his
ease he may watch them perched on a raft of drifted sticks and weeds
nibbling the arrowhead with the utmost composure, or swimming about
like a miniature colony of beavers. It is cheering to reflect, when
they are seen under such circumstances, that although the miller may
owe them a grudge for undermining the banks of his dam, they are of all
animals the most harmless to the farmer. He is too often, however, apt
to confound them with the destructive pests of the granary, and (though
they are really voles and not rats) to lump all together as vermin, and
issue an edict of universal extermination accordingly. What a blessed
day will it be for the lower animals when farmers imbibe a taste for
natural history! At dusk may often be discerned down the Beck another
innocent creature, the hedgehog, long remorselessly hunted down because
vile calumnies had attached themselves to him of eating partridges'
eggs and being addicted to sucking milk from cows. The latter
accusation is simply an impossibility, while as to the former, we are
afraid it is too true that he has a sneaking liking for eggs; but the
damage he does is infinitesimally small, when not computed by
gamekeepers' arithmetic. A pair of hedgehogs making love in their
curiously awkward fashion, puffing and blowing like grampuses, is a
strange sight; while the piglings, before their spines have grown, form
the most amusing of pets. About the saddest spectacle that we ever
witnessed was an old hedgehog that had been cut asunder by a train, at
a railway crossing, while her brood of six or eight were still round
her, unharmed and wondering what had happened. We transported the poor
orphans to the nearest damp ditch and left them to the rough care of
Mother Nature. Not very far from the Beck is a colony of badgers, an
animal much persecuted where any linger in other parts of the country,
but in this East Anglian shire acquiring a decided commercial value.
Anything that will encourage foxes is here greatly in request,
consequently badgers are deemed useful creatures in a cover, as they
make earths which afterwards tempt Reynard to take possession. An
angler is a subject of perpetual wonder to cows; but too often as he
turns round from the water's edge in some rich meadow, he finds himself
the centre towards which the curved fronts of two or three oxen
converge uncomfortably close, literally placing him on the horns of a
dilemma. The sleek heifers, however, approach him without any signs of
attack or trepidation, and often run the risk of being caught as he
rapidly draws his flies back for a cast. Tame ducks and water rats are
frequently thus caught; but the most singular coincidence of this kind
happened to a friend who, on going down the Otter to fish, had to cross
a bridge. Whirling his flies over this as he passed, a swallow, darting
underneath, took one and was captured. On his return in the evening he
again whisked his flies over the bridge, and a bat, snapping at one
under the arches, was taken in the same ignominious manner.

All this time, as is not uncommon with lovers of nature, we have lost
sight of our main purpose in coming down the brook--fishing, to wit.
The art boasts a long descent, according to Walton, the highest
authority to whom a fisherman can bow. "Some say it is as ancient as
Deucalion's flood; others that Belus, who was the first inventor of
godly and virtuous recreations, was the first inventor of angling,"
with much more to the same purport. It is a curious commentary on the
aristocratic principles of the fifteenth century to find Dame Berners,
in the aforementioned "Treatyse," confining the sport to the well-born.
She could not imagine it a recreation of the multitude, or even of
"ydle persones." With her it is emphatically "one of the dysportes that
gentylmen use." Her enthusiasm for the sport knows no bounds, and must
have made many generations of Englishmen anglers. The treatise
evidently supplied the idea of "Walton's Angler," the book which next
to "White's Selborne," has gone through more editions than any other
secular work in the language. "It shall be to you a very pleasure to se
the fayr bryght shynynge scalyd fysshes dysceyved by your crafty
meanes, and drawen upon lande," she says; but, either fishermen have
become less skilful since her days, or trout more timorous, if we may
judge from her wonderful frontispiece of a man angling (and that
successfully) with a rod like a flail, and tackle resembling the trace
of a carriage.

Neither the salmon, monarch of the salmonidæ, nor the lovely grayling,
which is only found in midland and Welsh waters, is to be expected in
the Beck. Still the common river trout is no mean antagonist for an
angler's mettle. Of all fish trout are most vigilant and suspicious;
the least unwary movement, adventuring even a hand out of shelter or
into bright sunshine, incautiously thrusting his head over the bank, or
interfering in any way with the skyline, will certainly betray the
angler. He may gain a slight advantage over their craft, however, by
remembering that their habit is to feed with their heads to the stream.
A beginner may rest assured that the golden secret of success in
trout-fishing is to keep well out of the fishes' sight by availing
himself of every natural cover, a tree-trunk, bush, &c., or by
approaching the stream, if he is very much exposed, in a stooping
position. He must, for the most part, learn, by observation, the many
singular habits and characteristics of his quarry, and here it is that
the old fisherman excels the tyro. The remarkable manner in which the
fish's colours change with the nature of the stream in which it lives,
is one of these curiosities of the trout. There is all the difference
in the world between a fish taken from the chalky streams of Wilts and
one that inhabits the dark peaty burns of Devon or South Wales, while
both are inferior in beauty to the red-spotted lusty fish of a
Nottinghamshire river. Internally they are of two types, one with red
flaky flesh, like salmon, the other white; these variations, however,
frequently run into each other. The practical fisherman only can
appreciate the great diversity of activity which exists in fish of
different sizes and streams, and probably in the same fish in the prime
and end of the season. In one bickering rivulet the trout will all be
vigorous and bold, leaping out of the water when hooked and dying hard,
"game to the back-bone," in sporting phrase. In a sluggish brook the
fish seem often to participate in its idiosyncracy, the larger ones
tamely surrendering after a few monotonous struggles, the little trout
diving to the bottom, and, like tench, hiding their heads in the mud.
We have had to stir such fish up with the landing net before it was
possible to do anything with them. Another curious fact is, that if a
fish be taken out of a favourite hole, another will almost always be
found to have replaced it the next day. Perhaps the most remarkable
theory which has been advanced concerning the intelligence of trout is
that of Sir H. Davy in "Salmonia," which he terms their "local memory."
A brief outline may furnish one more subject of observation to the
philosophic angler. Sir H. Davy asserts that if a trout be pricked with
a fly (say a blue upright), and then escape, he will never rise again
in the same pool to that particular fly while the surrounding
circumstances are the same. Drive him, however, down to another hole,
or wait till a flood has changed the aspect of his familiar haunt, and
he will take it as greedily as a fish that has never experienced the
deceit of an artificial fly. The associations of bank, stones,
tree-trunks, &c., in his hole, act like visible mentors, and remind
him, as the fly passes overhead, that it was when surrounded by their
associations he was simple enough to rise to its fascinations. Solving
such questions as these is one of the numerous secondary delights of
fly-fishing. Another speculation which may be pointed out to anglers of
an inquiring turn of mind, is to demonstrate why sluggish, muddy
streams invariably produce better fish than the sparkling Devon or
Welsh brooks. Thus in the Beck, down which our ideal fisherman is
wandering, the largest fish which has been taken of late years weighed
three pounds and a half, while trout of a pound and a half in weight
are by no means uncommon. Three-quarters of a pound is a fair size for
the fish of mountainous streams, while the majority of their trout do
not exceed half a pound. Doubtless, the greater abundance of worms and
ground bait in a muddy brook contributes to the larger size of its
fish, but it certainly is not the sole cause of their superiority.

The flies which the modern angler imitates in fur and feathers, belong
mostly to the families which entomology knows under the names of
_phrygancæ_ and _ephemeræ_. All anglers should know something of these
curious tribes; and nowhere is a better account of them to be found
than in that fascinating book, "Salmonia." The _phrygancæ_ (the
"stone-flies" of the angler) have long antennæ, with veined wings which
fold over each other when closed. The eggs of the adult flies are laid
on the leaves of willows or other trees which overhang the water. When
they are hatched, the larvæ fall into the stream, collect a panoply of
gravel, bits of stick, shell-fish, &c., to surround them, and after
feeding for a time on aquatic plants, rise to the surface, burst their
skins, and appear as perfect flies. The _ephemeræ_ (or "May-flies")
were noticed so long ago as Aristotle's time, in connection with the
brevity of their life. They may be known by carrying their wings
perpendicularly on their backs, and by several filaments or long
bristles protruding from their tails. Their aqueous existence, like the
stone-flies', sometimes lasts for two or three years; but as flies
their life is thought never to exceed a few days in length, often but a
few hours. In fact their life is, to all intents and purposes, over
when their eggs are laid, and this function takes place directly they
emerge into the winged state. Besides these, however, there are
multitudes of nondescript flies used by those anglers who commit
themselves to the persuasive powers of the fishing-tackle maker, and
fill their fly-books with his gorgeously-coloured creations; but with
the stone-flies, May-flies, and other simple flies previously
enumerated, most real anglers are contented.

The greatest nuisance to the fisherman on the banks of the Beck are the
hovering swarms of flies and gnats. Nature's profusion is almost
inexhaustible in this division of her kingdom. In hot, sunny weather,
they persecute the angler till he well-nigh gives up his sport, and
betakes himself to moralize how his situation, lonely though it be, is
no inapt type of a man's spiritual loneliness in the midst of that
crowd of his fellows called Society,

    "Where each man walks with his head in a cloud of poisonous flies."

Yes, here is the whole winged legion avenging, as it were, the slight
the angler puts upon them by his grotesque imitations, in number and
description more fell than Walton ever imagined in the marvellous flies
he directs his disciples to dub--"the Prime Dun, Huzzard, Death Drake,
Yellow Miller, Light Blue, Blue Herl," and all the rest! It would
require a piscatorial entomologist to identify them; and when they buzz
around their victims, how well can these enter into Dante's grim fancy
of the wicked in hell being exposed naked to the stings of wasps and
flies! It is useful, however, to be thus reminded that even so innocent
a sport as angling has its drawbacks. Perhaps such small annoyances
should be received as part of the discipline of fishing; winged
blessings they then become, modes of teaching unpleasant, perchance, at
the time, but none the less fraught with profit to the true angler, who
is always more or less of a moralist.

It is time, though, to turn homewards. Our endeavour has been to depict
some of the charms connected with angling, and to recommend it as a
recreation specially adapted for the feverish agitation of modern
social life. Over and above its immediate end, it is a school for moral
virtues and the observing faculties which cannot be too highly
honoured. The fisherman, like the poet, must be born; but he owes his
success, even more than the poet, to perseverance and observation.
However long the sport may be intermitted, when a man has once tasted
its joys, and imbibed a thorough love of angling, he resumes it with
eagerness on the first favourable opportunity. Nay, the taste is one
which deserts not its votary in death. Few angling reminiscences are
more touching than the scene which his daughter has described so
pathetically, when poor Christopher North lay on his death-bed. In the
intervals of his malady, he had his fly-books brought to him, and
derived a melancholy pleasure from taking out his old favourites one by
one, and lovingly caressing their bright plumage and carefully tied
wings, as they were spread out on the sheets. It must be confessed that
angling is justly open to the charge of being a solitary, taciturn,
meditative sport, which shuts a man out from his kind. We are cynical
enough to fancy that if he be shut up with Nature instead, he will
suffer no great harm. Indeed, to admit the impeachment is only
tantamount to owning that fishing, after all, is but of this world, and
necessarily an imperfect energy. Herein lies its chief excellence in
the eyes of hard workers; so there is no need elaborately to refute the
objection. Let a man try it, and _solvitur ambulando_. So good is it
that the aforesaid Dame Juliana indulges in no exaggeration when she
says--pardon once more an angler's loquacity--"Ye shall not use this
forsayde crafty dysporte for no covetysenes to th'encreasynge and
sparynge of your money oonly, but pryncypally for your solace, and to
cause the helthe of your body and especyally of your soule." Though it
be to our own loss, we would nevertheless invite every reflective mind
to the Beck, to derive inspiration and satisfaction from communion with
the simple joys of nature. May skill and perseverance there bring the
angler the usual happy results, and--blessing of blessings where
fishing is concerned--may his shadow never be less!

    M. G. W.



AN APOLOGY FOR FISHING


Ever since the time when the famous definition of angling as a
combination of "a stick and a string with a worm at one end and a fool
at the other" was first given to the world, it has been the custom of a
large section of society to disparage the particular sport, which has
for its object the catching of fish, very much more than any of the
other developments which the killing propensity takes among sportsmen.
When a man mentions that he is going off on a fishing expedition, the
announcement is not met with the respect which is accorded to him who
proclaims the fact that he has it in contemplation to spend a day in
beating the turnips for partridges, or riding across country in pursuit
of a fox. People have a provoking way of smiling when fishing is spoken
of; and when they meet you, armed with the necessary paraphernalia
which makes up an angler's equipment, their countenances directly
assume either an amused expression, indicating a state of feeling not
very remote from absolute pity, or a look of delicate forbearance which
is almost the more difficult to bear of the two.

There surely never was any pastime regarded with so little respect as
this of fishing. But one good quality (that of patience) is ever
identified with it; and even that, when connected with this particular
sport, is sometimes spoken of in a disparaging tone; so that it is by
no means an uncommon thing to hear a man brag of his deficiency in this
respect, saying, "I've not got patience enough for that sort of thing";
as if the fact redounded enormously to his credit.

"Going fishing?" says your hearty friend as he meets you in the hall,
equipped for the sport, "You must be hard up for some amusement--for of
all the deadly-lively proceedings----"

"Going fishing?" says another. "Well, it's certainly too early in the
season for anything else in the way of sport; but still----"

The very partisans of fishing, too, help, in a certain way, to bring it
into discredit. What a literature it has! The literature of all sport
is apt to be trying; but this of fishing is surely especially
disastrous. The facetious element always figures here in such grievous
force. Nor only that. Dreadful conventional forms of expression,
phrases in inverted commas, involved ways of expressing a simple thing,
abound--so that one meets continually with such expressions as the
"gentle craft" and the "finny tribe." The sportsman who devotes himself
to fishing is called a "member of the piscatorial fraternity," or a
"brother of the angle," or a "disciple of 'old Izaak,'" or by some
other roundabout and exasperating designation. Why it is that people
who write on this particular subject cannot express their ideas in
plain English and avoid such forms of speech as the above it is
difficult to say; but so it is.

These stereotyped phrases are to be ranked among the conventionalities
of "piscatorial" literature. Another of these is a perpetual insistence
upon the contemplativeness of character which this particular sport
tends to develop in those who engage in it. The fisherman is supposed
to be left by his pursuit at leisure to ponder and reflect on all sorts
of abstract questions wholly unconnected with what he is about. Fishing
is called the contemplative man's recreation, and seems, indeed, to be
looked upon by a very large section of society as a sort of excuse for
mooning. For my poor part I confess that it seems to me that the fact
is far otherwise. If there is one thing more than another necessary to
fishing, it is that the man who engages in it should have all his wits
about him, and be thoroughly absorbed in what he is doing. A fisherman
who took to being contemplative would, I fancy, stand but a poor chance
of catching anything, and would certainly find himself involved in many
difficulties connected with the management of his rod and line. While
he was contemplating, his fly would speedily get itself fastened to
some neighbouring tree, or fixed, may be, into some unattainable part
of the contemplative one's own costume; while, if the line were
suffered to remain in the water, the flies would certainly be carried
by the current into a bed of weeds, or get twisted round a stone at the
bottom of the river.

The study of the beauties of nature, again, is an occupation which
angling is supposed to lend itself to. Yet even this, as it seems to
me, is hardly likely to be carried very far by the really keen
sportsman. When walking briskly across the hill or on the moorland on
his way to the river he may, indeed, take note of the picturesque
outlines of a distant mountain or the rich colouring of a patch of
heather and fern, just as he is conscious of the freshness of the air
or the warmth of the sun; but he will hardly, when there is any fishing
to do, be likely to dwell on any of these delights, however much he may
revel in them at other times. When once he gets really to work he is
entirely absorbed in the sport, and will think of little or nothing
else till the time comes for putting up his traps and going home. And
it is just this which gives such value to every form of sport, and
makes them so essential an element in the troublous life of the
nineteenth century. They absorb the thoughts and confine the attention,
for the time being, to what--in a comparative sense--may fairly be
called trifles. You cannot occupy yourself with any deep abstract
speculation when it is a question of catching a trout or bringing down
a partridge.

The fact is that a prodigious amount of ignorance prevails in
connection with the sport of angling. People class all forms and modes
of fishing together, and include them every one under the definition
given at the commencement of this paper. The prevalent idea in the
minds of most people is that fishing consists of sitting in an
arm-chair in a punt watching a float bobbing up and down in the water,
and partaking at intervals of very flat beer served out of a stone jar
by the attendant boatman. Now this--the very lowest form of fishing
that exists, and, unhappily, the form under which it is the oftenest
and most conspicuously presented to view--so little really represents
this particular sport, that I think I am hardly speaking too strongly
in saying that no real fisherman would consent to hear such a
proceeding classed under the head of fishing at all. When a sportsman
speaks of fishing, he is thinking either of fly-fishing or spinning,
and most generally of the former.

For fly-fishing, rightly engaged in, it is not too much to claim a very
high position indeed among the sports of the field; many of the
qualities on which it makes demands being the same which are required
for the other forms of sport, while it also implies some which are not
called for in those others, except, perhaps, in that of deer-stalking.

To be a perfectly good fisherman a man requires strength, agility,
spirit, quickness and accuracy of eye, a neat hand, a nimble foot,
considerable ability as a tactician, presence of mind, and coolness,
coupled with the power of keeping his wits always about him. Nor is
this all; a fisherman must have, besides, certain moral qualifications
of an exalted nature. He must be possessed of patience, perseverance,
and good temper; and, in addition to all this, he must thoroughly well
understand his business in all its more intricate technicalities. Let
us proceed to consider some of the points here insisted on a little in
detail.

In fishing for trout with an artificial fly--a branch of sport to
which, with the reader's permission, we will in this 'Apology' entirely
confine ourselves--it is necessary, as it is in a great many other
things, that a man should thoroughly understand what it is that he is
doing--how, in short, the case stands. It stands thus. He sees before
him a sheet of water, containing, as he has reason to suppose, a
certain number of fish, some comparatively stationary, some darting
hither and thither, all very much alive, very watchful, constantly on
the look-out both for what may bring them advantage in the shape of
food of divers kinds, or for what may give them cause for apprehension,
in the shape of fish larger than themselves and of a predatory nature,
herons, otters and, above all, men. To these creatures, vigilant,
timorous, suspicious, it is the angler's business to present an object
which they are to suppose is an insect which has dropped into the water
and is floating down with the stream more or less near to the surface.
If the fisherman succeeds in conveying this impression; if his
counterfeit insect is a successful piece of imitation; if the fly which
it imitates is one for which the fish has a liking, and if the fish
itself happens at the particular moment to be "on the feed"--if all
these conditions are fulfilled, then it will happen that the trout will
rise swiftly through the water, will seize the bait, and the
fisherman's object will be gained. This desirable consummation is,
however, harder of attainment than might be supposed.

Very much is implied in the bringing that transaction which has just
been described to a successful issue. If the particular portion of the
stream into which you throw your fly is not the spot where a trout
lies, if your fly is not well imitated from nature, or does not
represent the kind of insect which the fish affects, if the hook is too
little concealed, or the line too coarse, above all, if you yourself
are conspicuous, standing on the bank, your chance of inducing a trout
to rise is slender in the extreme. The fact is that the fisherman ought
to look at this transaction from the trout's point of view and not from
his own. Of the fishing-rod and line, and of the person who manipulates
them, the trout must be kept wholly unconscious. This sounds a simple
statement enough; but it does, in fact, imply a great deal. In the
first place it implies that both the water and the atmosphere shall be
in a condition favourable to the mystifying and confusing of the fish
which we are bent on capturing. The atmosphere should not be bright and
clear to an excess, nor, by rights, the water either. The water, again,
should be, to a certain extent, troubled and agitated. This is effected
in a running stream by the current; but in lakes and calm, deep rivers,
especially in the former, it can only be brought about by a certain
amount of wind, and for lake-fishing it may therefore be confidently
asserted that a slight breeze is absolutely indispensable. A line
falling on perfectly smooth water, however fine and delicate such line
may be, or however skilfully cast, will make a certain amount of
splash, which would awaken the misgivings of any fish which happened to
be near.

One of the greatest of all the difficulties connected with the catching
of fish is that experienced by the sportsman in keeping himself out of
sight. At the first glimpse of a man moving by the side of the river,
every fish at once darts away as fast as his fins can carry him. To
this assertion there are few people who would venture to demur; and yet
how common it is to see a fisherman placed on a high bank, with his
whole figure in strong relief against the sky, and moving down the
water, with all the fish in the river facing him as they lie with their
heads up-stream. It can only be by some strange accident that he will
take a fish under such circumstances.

Almost the first thing which the fisherman should think of in setting
about his business is to conceal himself as much as possible. There are
several ways in which this may be effected. In the first place, if the
wind will at all allow of it, he should always fish up-stream, as he
will then have the backs of the fish turned towards him instead of
their faces. Fishing up-stream is more difficult and more laborious
than fishing down, the current bringing the line back almost as fast as
it is thrown in, so that the labour of casting it is almost incessant.
Still, for the reason given above, it is better. It is good again for
the angler to get behind some big rock or bush large enough to hide the
greater part of his figure, remaining there, with as little motion as
possible, till he has thoroughly fished every speck of water within his
reach. Or if there are no bushes or rocks to be had for purposes of
ambush, it behoves him to crawl along on the lowest part of the bank on
his knees, aiding himself with the hand which is not engaged with the
fishing-rod, and sometimes even to wriggle himself along after the
manner of a snake--anything to diminish his conspicuousness.

Now all this is not by any means easy of accomplishment. To creep along
in the manner just described, encountering some obstacle at almost
every step--huge stones which, unless he is very careful, he tumbles
over, small tributary streams which he plunges into--to get over and
through all these difficulties, in a doubled-up position, which renders
feats of agility very difficult indeed to accomplish, is not an easy
task, especially as all the time he has to wave his line round and
round in the air, to be ready for a long cast when he at last sees his
way to that consummation. This is arduous work, depend on it, and yet,
short of this, I don't know how, under some circumstances, his object
is to be obtained. For fly-fishing, to be attended with success, is not
a simple operation, but, on the contrary, a very complicated one, as
any proceeding involving so exceedingly intricate a _ruse_ as this one
does, inevitably must be. That it _is_ a _ruse_ there can be no sort of
doubt. Unless you succeed in taking this creature in, you will never
succeed in capturing him. This is no open onslaught, as is the case in
shooting and hunting. Strategy is your only chance, and the more deeply
laid your plot, the greater is your chance of succeeding.

There is one element in the construction of this deeply-laid scheme
which requires to be considered with an especial carefulness. The
structure of the fly which is to be set before the trout on whose
capture we are bent is an ingredient in the transaction the importance
of which must by no means be overlooked. It should of all things--and
this is a point not enough considered by the makers of these little
works of art--be one which looks well in the water. There are many
flies sold which appear perfectly right and natural while they remain
out of the water, but which, when once they are thoroughly wetted,
assume an entirely different and most inferior appearance. The loose
wool and feather strands, which form the body of the fly, get matted
together and the whole mass of them much reduced in size; the wings
cease to stand out away from the body and from each other, and the
hook, owing to the reduction of the size of the fly generally, which is
effected by the tightening influence of the water, is left much too
bare and prominent. The best way to obviate these difficulties is to
make the body of the fly somewhat fuller and more fluffy than it is
intended to be, and to dress it as far down towards the bend of the
hook as is compatible with symmetry of structure. The hook is sure to
be conspicuous enough at best, but every pains should be taken to make
it as little so as possible. We are particular about all sorts of
minute considerations of colour and form; we refuse to allow of the
deviation of the sixteenth of an inch from the right standard in the
length of a tail, or of the faintest false shade in the colouring of a
wing--in all these matters we are exact and scrupulous, and rightly so;
but is it quite consistent with such close attention to detail that we
should be indifferent to so remarkable a deviation from the right model
as is found in the immense and conspicuous hook which protrudes beyond
the body of our counterfeit insect, and which seems quite as much
calculated to attract attention as any other part of the fly? Of
course, to some extent, this cannot be helped, the hook being a
necessity of the fisher's case, but surely it might in many instances
be much more carefully concealed than it is. The fly might, for
instance, be dressed not actually on the shank of the hook, but on a
piece of gut or bristle attached to it and hanging loose on the hook so
as almost to hide it. In putting on a worm as a bait--the worm having
the advantage of being the real thing--we take the utmost pains to
conceal the hook; in putting on the fly--which has the disadvantage of
being not the real thing but a counterfeit--why should we not do
precisely the same thing?

It cannot be insisted on too strongly and too frequently that the whole
of this transaction, which we call fly-fishing, is, from beginning to
end, a most elaborately carried out piece of deception. But troublesome
and difficult and inseparably connected with all sorts of
disappointments as it is, yet is the game unquestionably well worth the
candle, fishing, when really successful, being beyond all question one
of the most delightful of occupations, while even when only moderately
successful, it is full of charm and interest to any one who takes it up
in earnest.



DOGS I HAVE KNOWN


I was always very fond of dogs, but it was a long time before I was
allowed to have one of my own, my parents apparently considering that
dogs were composed of two equal portions of hydrophobia and fleas. My
first dog was a large brown and white spaniel with a very curious
temper. Sometimes he would lie on things in his kennel nearly all day,
for no apparent reason. If you tried to pet or coax him it did no good,
but if no attention were paid to him he would get out of the sulks and
be all right in a short time. He could never be induced to go into the
water to swim. I often attempted it by keeping him tied up without food
and then loosing him and throwing bits of biscuit into the moat near
the house. He would then pick out and eat all the bits that were within
his reach by wading, but would not make the least attempt to go for a
piece which was out of his depth. I once thought that I had devised a
plan by which he must swim, but it failed. It was this. There was a
high paling along one side of the moat with a strip of grass about a
foot wide between it and the water, and here I put the dog, thinking he
would be compelled to swim out, but no! after spending half the day
whining and crouching down as if he meant to jump in, he set to work
and scratched at the turf and tore at the palings with his teeth until
he made a hole big enough to get through. After this I gave up trying
to get him to swim. His temper was decidedly peculiar. When I called
him to go for a walk, if he approved of the direction taken he would
go--if not he would stand and look at me and then go straight home.
Once, however, he shewed a very remarkable and amiable trait. I left
home and went abroad for a considerable time, and in my absence my
father died. The dog at this time had not shewn any sign of attachment
to my mother, but immediately after my father's funeral, whenever he
was loose, he used to run straight to the drawing-room windows, and, if
my mother was there, would remain standing for hours looking in at her;
or, if the front door happened to be open, he would go in and walk
quietly into the drawing-room. If his mistress were there he would lie
down by her chair; up to this time he had never tried to get into the
house, and directly I returned he never attempted it again, nor even
appeared to notice my mother more than any other friend of his. Poor
old Jehou, with all his eccentricities of temper I was very fond of
him, and sorry when he disappeared. He went out with the carriage one
day, and nothing more was ever heard of him, though rewards were
offered everywhere. We were making a call and left him outside, and
when we came out he was gone. However, we thought nothing of this,
believing he would come home, but from that day forward the old Jehou
was never seen by us.

My second dog was magnificent fellow--I never knew or heard of one
with such wonderful sagacity and apparent power of reasoning. It was a
huge black and white Newfoundlander, of the colour they now call the
"Landseer Newfoundland." I got him from an old keeper, to whom he had
been left by his late master. The man did not want him, and knowing
that I was very fond of dogs, he sold him to me, saying at the time "He
was _a'most_ a Christian"; and so he really was. Our introduction
was curious. I went off to see him, taking some food in my pocket to
make friends with him; but the man told me that was no good--that if
the dog liked the look of me he would be friends at once. When we
reached the cottage, going round to the back, I saw a most
noble-looking dog, who when we approached sat up and looked very
gravely at us. The keeper said, "I've brought a gentleman to see you,
old man," and I then spoke to him. The dog turned and looked at me
steadily for some seconds, then rising and walking slowly to me, reared
up on his hind legs, and, putting one huge paw on each shoulder, began
to lick my face. That was the introduction, and from that day until
"Wallace's" death we were the firmest of friends. The man told me he
had been broken for a keeper's night-dog, and was a first-rate
guard--would never touch a child or bite a woman, but that he would
bite any man or beast he was set at; and looking at his size and power
I did not disbelieve him. He also warned me that no one must go near
him when he was feeding. After having a full account of the dog, I went
home, Wallace following me as if we had known each other for years.
Soon after I had him, I went on a visit to a cousin who lived in a town
in the north of England, and Wallace, who went with me, distinguished
himself greatly whilst there. One evening I was to meet my cousin at
his counting-house, and at the time fixed went there, my dog, of
course, accompanying me. On reaching the office, finding that my cousin
had gone out, I sat down and waited, and as he did not make his
appearance so soon as was expected, the office-keeper came and asked me
if I would mind waiting by myself, as everything was locked up and my
cousin could fasten the outer door himself (as in fact he often did). I
had no objection, so all the gas but one small jet was turned out. Very
shortly after the office-keeper left, the door was opened very softly,
and soon a man put in his head, and not discovering me in the gloom, as
I purposely made no noise, came in; and a very ill-looking customer he
was. Discovering me, he started, and said something about an
appointment, advancing as he spoke. Directly the man got near, with one
bound Wallace was on him and had him down on his back on the floor. He
tried to draw something out of his sleeve, but Wallace instantly seized
his throat--gently, it is true, but enough to give him a foretaste of
what he could do. I shouted to the man to lie still or the dog would
kill him, and rising up and going to him found he had an iron jemmy in
his hand, which I took--warning him that if he moved the dog would
throttle him. I went and called the police; they came and secured the
fellow, who turned out to be the head of one of the most daring set of
burglars in the north. Besides the jemmy he had a brace of loaded
pistols in his pocket, and would most undoubtedly have murdered me, if
it had not been for Wallace. The man had been "wanted" by the police
for a long time, but they had never been able to get him, and there
were great rejoicings at his capture.

Whenever I went out by day Wallace always followed me, but at night, or
in the dusk, kept close to my side, with his head almost touching my
leg. If he saw anyone coming towards me that he thought suspicious he
would go on in front, and turning with them as they came up follow them
by me, and in the same manner if anyone was overtaking me, he dropped
back, and then followed them until they had quite passed. He did one
other very clever thing whilst he was with me in the north. One morning
I had been to the club to look at the papers, etc., and on my return
home found that I had lost one of my gloves. More for the sake of
experiment than really thinking the dog would ever find the missing
glove, I took off the other, and holding it to him, made a motion like
throwing it away, saying, at the same time, "lost, Wallace, go seek."
The dog at once started off, and was away for some time--in fact, so
long, that becoming uneasy, I started off towards the club. I had gone
but a very little way when I saw Wallace coming along, and to my great
surprise, with the missing glove in his mouth. A policeman was
following him at a respectful distance, so I went up to him and asked
if he could tell me where the dog found the glove. He told me he saw
Wallace running along evidently looking for something, as he
occasionally stopped, and seemed to make sure of his direction;
following him, he saw him enter the club, and remain there a short
time. He then came out, began sniffing about on the steps, and suddenly
started off briskly. The man followed, and the dog, after going along
one of the main streets for some way, turned down a side street, and
soon overtaking an old beggar woman, made a snatch at something in her
hand, and returned at full speed. The old woman had picked up the glove
on the steps of the club, and had gone off with it, and if it had not
been for Wallace's extraordinary intelligence I should have lost my
glove.

One day, after my return home, Wallace gave me a specimen of the
education he had received from the keeper. There was a very pretty wood
in part of our grounds with walks laid out in it. I was walking there
with Wallace, as I thought, when suddenly I heard someone roaring out,
most lustily, that the dog was killing him. I called out to know where
the man that was being killed, and he told me in the field outside, so
I went out and found him on the ground and Wallace over him--not biting
or molesting him in any way, but merely looking down at the man,
evidently very much puzzled as to why he made such a noise. Calling
Wallace off, I asked how it happened, and the man told me that he was
walking in the wood, and just stepped over the fence into the field
when the dog jumped at him, and knocked him over. The fact was, that
Wallace had been trained to go outside any cover when the keeper went
through it, and to seize any poacher that might come out. He had been
taught, too, to jump at the man and knock him down by his weight, but
not to bite or injure him in any way if he made no resistance; and I
expect few would have been so foolish as to do so when they saw his
size and appearance.

Wallace was a most inveterate cat killer. This had been clearly part of
his early education; he killed almost every cat that he could get at.
Many were the unfortunate tabbies that he suddenly snapped up as they
were comfortably dozing on the steps of a cottage. He would go quietly
along, apparently taking very little notice of anything,
when--snap--and tabby was no more, but there was one most remarkable
exception, and this was our stable cat. I discovered it in this
way:--One day I went into the stable yard and saw the cat walking
across to where Wallace was lying by his kennel half asleep, fully
expecting to see her killed in a moment. I waited, and, to my great
astonishment, saw her walk up to him, put up her tail, and rub all
round him in the most affectionate manner, and as she passed his head,
Wallace just looked up and gave her a lick with his tongue. Seeing me,
the old dog jumped up, and, in so doing, trod on pussy's foot, who
immediately turned round and bit and scratched. Wallace took no sort of
notice of it, clearly thinking that such an exhibition of temper on her
part was beneath his attention. We lived about twenty-five miles from
town, in a very fashionable and wealthy part of the country, which made
it quite a "happy hunting-ground" for the London burglars, regular
gangs of whom used to come down and "work" the district, in fact, ours
was almost the only house that was not broken into, and this was
entirely owing to Wallace,--his sonorous bark effectually rousing
everyone, and he never used it without occasion. We caught three men
with a most beautiful set of burglars' tools. They had intended to try
the house; Wallace roused us by barking, and as he seemed nearly
frantic, we felt sure that the men were near, so, turning out the
men-servants, we loosed the dog in the garden. He soon picked up the
scent of the men, and quickly ran into them in an outhouse about two
miles off. Numberless were the attempts made to poison him, but he
would never touch the stuff, however cunningly prepared. We constantly
found poisoned liver, and things of that kind, but it was of no
use--Wallace would sniff at the stuff, give it a scratch with his paw,
and pass on. There was one very amusing trait in his character, and
that was his determination that no one should bathe if he could help
it. This came, I think, from his having, on one occasion, brought a
child out of a pond into which it had fallen. By the way, he did not do
it at all in the graceful way dogs are represented in goody-books, but
by a firm nip in a very unromantic part of the child's body, making it
roar out lustily, thereby preventing the bystanders from being at all
uneasy on its account.

An amusing instance of this occurred one day. A young cousin of mine
was staying with us and said he should go down to the river and
bathe--asking at the same time to take Wallace with him. I consented,
quite forgetting his habit. The two were away some time, but at length
I saw them returning, the lad evidently in a very bad temper about
something. When he came up he said "that abominable old fool Wallace
won't let me bathe;" I asked about it and heard that Wallace sat down
and watched him undress, in a very grave sort of way, but when he
wanted to get into the river would not let him; walking in front of him
whenever he got near the edge and completely preventing him from
getting in. The boy tried all sorts of dodges to make the dog allow
him, but it was of no use. He tried to run and jump in several times,
but on each attempt Wallace coolly sat down in front of him just as he
thought all was clear, so that he was obliged either to stop short or
tumble over the dog. When he gave it up and began to dress again,
Wallace lay down and watched him, and finally trotted back with him,
with an expression on his countenance that showed he clearly thought he
had done his duty.

I had been warned by the man I bought Wallace from, as previously
noted, that I must never go near him when he was feeding, for he would
not allow anyone to approach him then, and this I found to be true; but
this habit of his caused me great alarm once. A little girl was staying
in our house, and, of course, wanted to see my big dog, so I took her
out to the stable yard to show him to her. Wallace was feeding when we
got there, and I told her we must not go near him then, and took her
into the stables to see the horses. Whilst I was talking to the
coachman, she slipped out, and on going to look for her, to my horror I
saw her just going up to the dog who was still feeding. I called out to
her to come back, but the coachman said, "He won't hurt her, sir; he
will let a child do anything almost to him." True enough--the child
went up and patted him, and the dog first looked up, gave a wag with
his tail and went on feeding. When he was loosed afterwards, he came to
where the child and myself were sitting, licked her hands, and then
came and put his great head on my knee and looked up at me, as much as
to say, "Could not you trust me with a child." I then remembered I had
been told he would never touch a child, but there was one very curious
point connected with this, which was that he would _never_ touch food
of any sort, however fond he was of it, from the hands of a child. This
he had doubtless been taught, so that poisoned or prepared food might
not be given him by their means.

I hardly ever saw a dog who had such very expressive eyes. Once when
out with me he was attacked and bitten in the leg by a mastiff; an
ill-conditioned brute that was always flying at him. Now Wallace was
most good-tempered and hardly ever fought, so I spoke to him and told
him to come along, thinking the mastiff would leave him. Instead of
this it seized him by the ear, and Wallace's ears were always very
tender and painful in the summer; but he never retaliated--only looked
at me in a sort of reproachful way, as much as to say "see what pain
you have caused me." I could not stand it, and said, "Kill him,
Wallace." Shaking the dog off as if he was nothing, he gave him a grip
between the forelegs and the dog was dead in an instant. Wallace left
him at once and came on after me as if nothing had happened. He
certainly was one of the most intelligent dogs I ever met with; I kept
him until he was very old, and when he was almost entirely blind, it
used to be very curious to see the old fellow hunting me. When loosed,
he would put down his nose and work till he got on my trail, and then,
however I might have gone about and turned, he was sure to hunt up to
me, and the pleased look which came into his old face when he found me
and moved round my legs was very touching. However, poor old fellow, he
got quite deaf as well as blind, and then to my grief I had to sign his
death-warrant.

Long after this, I possessed a wonderfully intelligent dog, a pure-bred
Skye terrier, one of the real sort, with soft coat of wavy
mustard-coloured hair tipped with black; sharp, prick ears, just turned
over at the top; such taper paws; tail carried over the back and
parting like an ostrich plume; she had dark eyes. I had her directly
she could be taken from her mother, and in my bachelor days she hardly
ever left me, often going in my pocket when I was riding--her head and
forepaws outside. I once left her for six months with some friends
whilst I went abroad, and on my return a most curious thing occurred. I
drove from the station, distant about six miles from my friends' house,
arriving there past nine in the evening. Fanny (that was her name) was
shut up in the harness-room, but about four o'clock the next morning I
was awakened by scratching and whining at my door, and on getting up
and opening it, there was Fanny, who was exceptionally delighted to see
me, and jumped on my bed and went to sleep. On getting up I noticed her
paws were very sore and bleeding, and on going down, asked where she
had been and how she had found me. It turned out thus: she had been
locked up in the harness-room as usual, and this was quite 200 yards
from the house; but had set to work, and scratched her way out, tearing
a hole through the weather boarding close to the doorpost; she then
came round to a court at the back of the house, where there was a
drain-pipe in one corner through the wall, to carry off the water when
it was wasted; this she had torn at until she made the hole big enough
to force her little body through, and getting into the house by an
unfastened side door, made her way up to my room. But how on earth
could she possibly have known that I was there? She had not seen me for
six months, and I had not been near the stable, so she could not have
heard my voice, and there was not any coat or wrap of mine left in the
carriage. That she had got into the house by the way I have stated was
quite clear from the state of her paws, and the marks on the stable and
outer court.

Fanny amused me very much on another occasion. She had been taught to
beg, and I went to the kennel, a paled-in one with benches round it,
and opening the door, began to talk and play with the dogs,
occasionally throwing them some pieces of biscuit. I threw a bit which
one of the spaniels picked up, and jumping on to the bench, began to
eat it. I suppose Fanny fancied the piece very much, for she ran after
the dog, jumped up on the bench in front of him and sat up and begged
for it, just as she would have done had I had it. However, the spaniel
did not pay any attention, but quietly munched up the biscuit. Her
jealousy of my wife, when we were first married, was most amusing. She
could not bear to see us sitting together, and if I sat by my wife on a
sofa, would get upon it, scramble on to my shoulders, walk round the
back of my neck, and try to squeeze herself down between us. She was,
too, a capital sporting dog, though for a long time I was afraid to
take her out, as she was so like a rabbit or hare when moving through
long grass or corn that I feared I might perhaps shoot her
accidentally. However, she was always so very anxious to come with me
that at length I took her, and she was quite invaluable. Birds that
would rise and be off at once, if you had a pointer or setter with you,
appeared either not to notice her or be fascinated by her. I knew
directly I entered a field with her whether there were birds or not,
and she would take me straight to them. She also retrieved beautifully.
The first time I found out her powers in this way I had shot two
partridges, right and left, and to my great disgust both were runners
and got into some standing corn. Fanny seemed very anxious to go after
them, so I let her go after one that I had marked down, and off she
scampered, and to my great delight and surprise soon came back with it.
On my taking it from her, she darted off again and in a little while
returned with the other. After this, of course, I always used her for
retrieving, and scarcely ever lost a wounded head of game. She could
bring partridges and pheasants in open ground, but if they fell in
thick cover, or if I sent her after a wounded hare, she could not bring
them back, but used to make a short, sharp bark to let me know she had
found them. Poor little thing, she met, I fear, the fate of too many
pets. We went from home leaving strict injunctions that every care
should be taken of her; but, unfortunately, she sickened and died, I
fear, of neglect.

And now I must tell a most wonderful piece of kindness and compassion
on the part of another dog. At the time Fanny and her brothers and
sisters were born, I had a fine black and white pointer dog. When Fanny
and the rest were a few weeks old, their mother died, and they had to
be brought up by hand, and though every care was taken of them, and
they had warm sheepskin rugs on their bench, they seemed very miserable
and were always crying. Whenever I went round their kennel I usually
found this pointer dog sitting there looking at them through the
palings, and I said one day to the keeper, "I suppose Don would like to
kill them all for making such a noise." "Oh no, sir," said the man; "he
pities them quite Christian-like." "Well," I replied, "if he does, just
open the kennel door and see what he will do." It was opened and the
dog ran in and began licking the puppies, who crowded round him. He
then jumped up on the bench, followed by them, and lay down; the
puppies crawled all over him, biting his ears and tail, evidently
greatly delighted to have him, and finally settled to sleep in all
positions on him, the dog never moving, and seemed almost afraid to
breathe for fear of disturbing them--in fact, he took them entirely
under his protection, and the contorted attitudes the dog would lie in
rather than disturb the puppies were wonderful. I used to think he must
hurt himself; but he would never leave them, and if I got him out for a
little while, thinking he must want rest, he would always run back to
them, never seeming happy until he had got in with them again. This
continued until they were all grown big enough to take care of
themselves. It has always struck me as being the most wonderful piece
of pure benevolence I ever knew of.

I once knew a very eccentric dog. He was a real old English spaniel,
one of that kind you so rarely see, with long body, short legs, with
great bone, grand head, jaws and teeth like a wolf's almost, and long
ears that would meet round his nose. Poor fellow, his temper was
certainly unamiable, but I think this was caused by the state of his
health. When he was a puppy he was troubled with insects, and a stupid
groom, to show, I suppose, that he had some brains, declared he could
cure him with some nostrum of his own; the effect of it being that the
poor puppy's hair nearly all came off. His skin was burned in several
places, and he was made so ill that for several weeks a veterinary
surgeon did not think he could recover. He did though, at length, but
his constitution had received such a shock that he was always subject
to skin disease, and yet he could not stand the least medicine. He was
a very curious animal, never showing much attachment to anyone; he
would bite his best friends on the least provocation. Nothing, though,
offended him so much as being laughed at,--that was an insult he never
forgave. If you began to laugh at him, he would growl in a very ominous
manner, and, if you persisted in it, would snap at you and give you
such a bite, that you would not care to try again. If you wished to
please him, you had to get a lot of old birds' nests, and give them to
him one by one; he would carry them about for some time, and then he
would sit down and tear them to pieces. He was not particularly fond of
going for a walk with anyone; but if you got some nests and gave him
one occasionally, he would trot along with you as happily as possible.
Another curious habit of his was, that he would never get out of the
way for anyone. When he was trotting along he never moved from his line
if he saw anyone coming; but if he saw they did not intend to move,
would begin to growl and look so savage that people usually made haste
out of his way. When he happened to be running down a hill, he did not
growl, but merely ran against people if they did not clear out--his
great weight usually upsetting them, of which he took not the slightest
notice. A great friendship arose between this dog and a fine cat we
had, and it was very amusing to see them together. He would walk up to
the cat and begin to lick her all over, and then she would rub all
round him, purring, and seeming to be very fond of him--when all of a
sudden she would stop, look up in his face and spit at him, at the same
time giving him two or three sharp scratches, the only notice of which
that he took was to close his eyes, so that they might not be hurt.
Poor dog, as I said before, he suffered from skin disease, and the
medicine that you could give another dog with impunity would nearly
kill him, and it was the same with any outward application. At length
when, on one occasion, he was suffering very much, I took him to the
huntsman of a pack of foxhounds, and asked if he could recommend
anything, and he told me of some stuff he dressed the puppies with,
that never hurt them, and gave me some. I had it applied to some other
dogs, and it did not do them the least harm, so I ordered this dog to
be dressed with it. It did not seem to affect him at first, but on the
next morning he was found dead in his kennel. In spite of his unamiable
character, which I put down to his bad health, I was very sorry to lose
him, for he had more regard for me, I think, than almost anyone, and
was a first-class dog for cover shooting, with me at least, for he
would not pay any attention out shooting to anyone else.

I have met with two cases of decided idiocy in dogs--one occurred fully
thirty years ago. It was just about the time that Pomeranian dogs were
first brought into England. An old lady saw several of them abroad,
and, admiring them very much, brought several home and gave them away
as presents to her friends. She gave one to an uncle of mine; it was a
white one, with a splendid coat, and altogether looked a model of the
breed, and everyone who saw it remarked on its beauty; it had, however,
very curious-looking blue eyes, and its habits were very strange. It
would lie curled up on the hearth-rug in the dining-room the whole day,
taking no notice of anyone or anything, except twice a day, when
regularly, about half-past eleven in the morning and at four in the
afternoon, it would get up, and, if the French windows were open, would
go out on to the lawn. If they were closed, it waited till the door was
opened, and then going out, went each day to the same exact spot, and
commenced running round and round in a circle from right to left.
Having done this for some minutes, he would stop, rear up on his hind
legs, and giving his head a most peculiar twist, much like the way
parrots and owls twist their necks, he would then drop down again, and
run the circle from left to right. Having done this, he came indoors,
and lay down on the rug. He never showed the least affection for
anyone, or appeared to know them. If you called out to him, he would
sometimes look up in a vague sort of way, as if he wondered what the
noise was; and the foot-man had to lead him out to meals each day, as
the dog never made the least attempt to stir in search of food. The man
used to say he had more trouble to make this dog feed than to keep any
others from devouring whatever they could get at. Altogether, the dog
did not seem to have the least sense in the world, and was, I think, an
undoubted idiot.

The second case of the sort I met with was in a large sort of retriever
that a friend of mine had. He asked me to come and see a dog that had
been given him, as it was a "very odd sort of beast," and so it was. It
had the most curious coat I ever saw on a dog--very long and iron-grey,
with black markings, a huge bushy tail, so big and so long that it gave
one the idea that the dog's hind legs were in the wrong place, and,
instead of being at the extremity of its body, were put on somewhere
about the middle of its stomach. To add to everything, the dog
squinted, a thing I never heard of or saw in any other dog before or
since. It was not that one of the eyes was blind and did not move
properly, but the eyes actually crossed one another; his head, too, was
the shape of a solid parallelogram, and very narrow between the ears.
The dog was fastened to a kennel, and was walking backwards and
forwards in front of it, very much in the way a caged hyena does. On
being loosed, it bundled off in a clumsy gallop, and soon ran right
into a barrow that had been left on one of the paths. On being brought
up by this obstacle, instead of jumping over it, as any other dog would
have done, he moved round it, and when he found his head clear,
galloped off again on the same straight line, which this time landed
him in a laurel bush, through which he scrambled, and again went on in
the same direction, and this I heard was his regular habit. He had
another very awkward trick, and that was, if he was walking behind you,
he would come up and lay hold of your leg, not apparently with any
vicious design, for if you stopped and looked down at him, there he was
with his eyes half shut, holding on to your leg with his teeth, as if
it was necessary to support himself by such means. After a time he
would drop his jaws off your leg and go maundering along as he had done
before; but it was not altogether a pleasant trick. My last interview
with the brute was not an agreeable one. We were to go out duck
shooting on the river, and my friend proposed taking the dog with us in
the punt to retrieve the ducks. This I decidedly objected to, as a wet
dog in a boat is an unpleasant companion, so he was left on the bank to
follow as best he might. The dog trotted along quietly for some way,
until at length we fired at some ducks, when he jumped into the river
to get them, as we thought; instead of which he swam up to the punt and
seizing the pole in his mouth began to bite and tear at it in the most
furious way. He then tried to scramble into the boat, and getting his
fore-paws on the gunwale, began to tear at the sides in the most
determined manner, snapping furiously at anyone who went near him. The
only thing we could do was to try and duck him by means of the punt
pole, but directly he came up again he attacked the boat afresh, so
that my friend thought the best thing to do was to shoot him, which
accordingly was done. I shall never forget the expression of ferocity
in the dog's face or the mad way in which he tore at the sides of the
boat and the punt pole.

The dog I am now about to mention was, I consider, an instance of the
action of over-instruction working on naturally weak powers. When out
shooting at the Cape, in the Swehamsdam district, something in the bush
attracted my notice, and on riding up I found it was a pointer in the
last stage of starvation. Pitying the poor deserted animal, I told one
of my attendants to take it up and bring it to the waggon, which he
did, and after forcing some broth down its throat, the dog seemed to
revive, and with care it ultimately recovered, and turned out a very
handsome animal. When it had got up its strength again, I took it out
to try it. The dog ranged fairly and soon got on the scent of game, as
I imagined. Seeing him drawing on very fast, I though he had got a
Korhoram in front of him, and as these birds run tremendously, I made a
circle to head the supposed game; but on looking back at the dog, saw
he was standing dead at a small bush. I went back to him and tried all
round it in every direction, but in vain. I then looked on the ground
to see if there was one of the small land tortoises, which abound
there, and which dogs will always point, but found there was not; so
dismounting, I went up to the bush and then found he was standing at a
small striped mouse, so I scolded him and made him come off. His next
exploit was to make a splendid point at a pair of cast-off Hottentot
"crackers" which were lying in the bush, bringing up in his gallop in
really magnificent style. On rating him for this, he fixed all his
attention on me, and though he ranged well, kept his eye whenever
possible on me, and if I stopped pointed at once, or even if I held out
my arm. His last grand feat was a dead point at something that I
thought was a piece of dead stick lying on the ground, and I was just
on the point of taking it up to give him a cut with it for being such a
fool when I discovered that it was a puff adder; so calling the dog
off, I blew it to pieces with a shot, but my escape was a narrow one.
After this, I gave the dog away to a lady who took a fancy to him, as
he was so handsome, and it was most ludicrous to see him in her
drawing-room pointing steadily at footstools or work-boxes, or anything
that was shewn him. The dog had evidently been well broken, but its
brain could not take the impression that he was only to point at game.
He had a confused idea that he ought to point at anything with a scent
to it, or anything he imagined his master wished him to.



NOVEMBER SHOOTING


Nearly three months have already passed away since the shooting season
began. I won't say the three best months, because snipe and woodcock
are coming in, and the cream of the pheasant shooting is yet to come.

For myself, much as I like knocking over grouse and partridges, give me
snipe shooting before all. It is the _fox-hunting of shooting_.

I know of nothing more exciting than getting on to a good snipe bog,
when they lay well and there are plenty of them. When they rise in
_whisps_, that is, several at a time, you may make up your mind they
are wild and difficult to approach. In snipe shooting always have the
_wind on your back_.

The snipe ever flies against the wind; therefore you have a much better
shot than you would have if he were to dart away down wind.

If you take a dog, let it be a cautious, knowing old pointer or setter;
the latter is the animal for this sport, because he stands the cold and
water better than the thin-skinned pointer; but I rarely take any dog
but my retriever.

As regards your dress, you are almost sure to get wet; therefore I
never think of putting on long waterproof boots; they are heavy and
tiring to walk in; and if you do get in over them, you are obliged to
turn yourself up to let the water out; but your misery does not end
here, the wet generally brings your worsted stockings down at heel, and
your heavy saturated boots rub the skin of your heels, or ankle bones,
which cripples you for days.

Put on a pair of thick worsted stockings, and a pair of your oldest and
easiest lace-up boots; if there is a hole or two in them so much the
better, they will let the water out all the quicker.

I never use gaiters, they only get wet and make you cold and
uncomfortable. I wear a pair of old trousers; but generally shoot in
nothing but knickerbockers and stockings.

If you have a long way to drive home, a change of stockings and
trousers is advisable, and instead of shoes or slippers, I put on a
pair of sabots and chaussettes: these can be procured at any French
depôt. They are most comfortable and warm, and no trouble to put on.

If you are shooting on heath, brown should be the colour of your dress;
this, indeed, is the best colour for all work.

Many places that were famous for snipe when I was a lad, are now
drained or built on. And a few years hence the snipe and woodcock will
be rare birds with us. There is still a land within easy reach where
they are to be found--Ireland--and there I go every year for a couple
of months, to a very wild part of the country, certainly, and where you
must rough it; but still I enjoy it intensely: and when I am sitting by
my turf fire, with my glass of potheen beside me, my old black clay
between my lips, and my tired setters stretched at their ease by my
feet, I feel thoroughly happy.

There is one thing I always take with me on these Irish excursions, and
that is a comfortable arm-chair. I have had it carried eleven miles
over the mountains for me, to the cabin or farm, or wherever I may be.
This is the only luxury I allow myself.

If you go farther afield than Ireland, and are in for nothing but snipe
shooting, then be off to America; South Carolina is your mark, and
where you may blaze away to your heart's content.

The woodcock flies exactly the same as the snipe; but it is not
necessary to be particular about the wind in his case. In beating large
covers or forests, never go far in, but try the edges. These birds are
also getting much scarcer, for they now take the eggs in Norway and
Sweden, and eat them as we do plovers' eggs.

In looking for woodcock in cold, wet weather, if you do not find them
in their usual haunts, try the _sunny_ side of the wood or hill, where
it is sheltered from the wind; they are remarkably fond of being where
there are holly bushes.

In shooting forests or large covers use spaniels; but these dogs must
be _perfectly_ broken and never go out of gun range. It is a very
common practice in France to have bells round their dogs' necks, so
that you may know where they are; but I do not like it, it frightens
the birds; and there is danger attached to it. The dogs are sometimes
hung up by the collars. I once remember a very good dog, belonging to a
friend of mine, being killed in this way--he was hung up in some thick
underwood, and when we found him, he was dead. No hunting dog should
ever wear a collar when out, under any circumstances.

November shooting is good shooting, and coverts should not, as a rule,
be beaten before then, as the leaves are not off enough; a quantity of
game is wounded and never found, and is left to linger and die. In
November, too, the walking is much better; it is cooler and the scent
lies stronger; birds may be wilder but they are in finer condition, and
remain so till the frosts come; but even then, unless it is very hard,
they keep their condition. It is snow that destroys all birds'
condition. A few days' snow, and birds not only fall miserably away,
but they get much tamer, and immense numbers are killed by poachers, as
well as rabbits and hares, which are easily tracked; and as they are
not able to go at any pace, a dog with a very moderate turn of speed
will run into them.

The best bit of shooting I ever had was a forest in France which I
hired; it was five thousand acres, famous bottom covert in it, and
noted for woodcock; there was a capital shooting lodge, furnished, four
large bed-rooms, two sitting-rooms, kitchen, back-kitchen, wood-houses,
&c.; cow-house, piggery, stable for fourteen or fifteen horses, orchard
of three acres, kitchen-garden, and small field, a gamekeeper's house,
and dog-kennel; in fact, as a shooting-box it was complete; for all
this I paid four hundred francs a year (£16).

The house stood in the centre of the forest; there was a good road to
it, and there was a village a mile off at which you could get anything.
I had it for some years, and I never enjoyed covert shooting so much;
there was fine partridge ground all round the forest, which I had leave
to go over; part of it was mine. There were a few roebuck in the
forest, foxes, and plenty of badgers; with these last we occasionally
had great fun. There was some very fair trout fishing, as well as duck
shooting, any quantity of rabbits; and I never went out without
bringing home a hare or two; there were quail in the season, and snipe
too, and the woodcock shooting was capital.

For a few days in November, thousands and thousands of wood pigeons
made their appearance, and were very tame from a long flight; these
were killed in great numbers. When they first arrived they were
miserably poor, but after a few days they picked up, and were difficult
to get at. I never enjoyed anything more than this bit of rough
shooting; everything was so convenient and comfortable; by the bright
wood fire of an evening we used to smoke, tell our stories, and spin
our yarns.

The game I killed, even at the small price it fetched, paid the rent
and my English keeper. I do not mean to say I sold it, but I exchanged
it away for other things wanted in the house.

November, although one of the dreariest months of the year, is one of
the best shooting months--certainly for general rough shooting.

I have had capital sport in Ireland in this month, especially with the
woodcock on the mountains, as well as with duck and snipe. I always
carried there a ten-bore gun, because I never knew what would get up,
as most of my shooting lay on the borders of Lough Corrib; sometimes a
duck or a goose would give me a shot, so I found a large gun better.
The golden plover are capital fun in November. I once killed twenty-one
at one shot. I was coming down Lough Corrib in my yacht, and discovered
an immense number of plover on one of the small stony flat islands. I
got the dingy out, and was sculled quietly down by one of the men. I
got within forty yards of them, when they rose, and I gave them both
barrels of No. 6 shot. I picked up one-and-twenty, but I think there
were one or two more I could not find. I have had very good
duck-shooting on the lake, in November, which is twenty-eight miles
long, and in one place ten miles wide. My shooting yacht was one of the
most comfortable ones I ever saw, only ten tons; but there was every
convenience in it and plenty of room. I used to go away for a week, and
the quantities of snipe, cock, and wild fowl I brought back astonished
the natives. I would run up some little creek or river of an evening
and anchor occasionally; we cooked on shore when the weather was fine;
we set the night lines, and had always plenty of pike, trout, and eels,
and in summer any quantity of perch, from three-quarters to three
pounds weight each.

I am very fond of wild pheasant shooting in November; the birds are
then strong, in good plumage, and worth killing.

Rabbiting, either shooting or ferreting, is capital sport; by November
the fern and under cover are generally dead, and you can see the little
grey rascals scudding along.

For some years I, in cover shooting,--in fact, all my shooting, have
used nothing but Schultze's wood powder; perhaps it may not be quite so
strong as the ordinary powder, but I am by no means assured of that; it
is quite strong enough for any purpose, and has these advantages over
the ordinary powder:

There is not nearly so much recoil, and in a heavy day's shooting you
do not give up with your head spinning and your shoulder tender.

The report is not so loud either.

The company say, "It shoots with greater force and precision;" this may
or may not be; but I am satisfied of this that it shoots _well_, and
certainly does not soil the gun nearly so much as other powders.

But there is one thing that alone recommends it to me; that is, the
smoke never hangs, and you can always use your second barrel. How often
in covert shooting, or in the open, on a mild or foggy day, when there
has been no breeze, has the smoke hung, and prevented you putting in
your second barrel? Hundreds of times to me! But with Schultze's powder
there is only a thin white smoke, which is no detriment or blind to the
shooter. And there is also another great advantage it possesses, if it
gets damp it can be dried without losing any of its strength. It suits
all guns and climates.



SPORTING ADVENTURES OF CHARLES CARRINGTON, ESQ.

RECORDED BY "OLD CALABAR"


Reader, must I confess it? I am a Cockney, born and bred in the "little
village." Though I passed some eight or ten years in a Government
office, yet my heart was not in the work. I had frequent illnesses,
which kept me away; those days--must I own it?--were generally spent in
a punt at Weybridge with one of the Keens. At Walton or Halliford I was
great in a Thames punt; and I then imagined few could hold a candle to
me in a gudgeon or roach swim; that I was _the_ fisherman of England,
_par excellence_. I am wiser now.

At last my absences from office were so frequent that I had quiet
intimation to go; but, having friends who were pretty high in office, I
got an annuity in the shape of ninety pounds a year. A fresh berth was
procured for me at four hundred per annum, where I had a good deal of
running about. This suited me much better, as it enabled me to indulge
in my proclivities. I now took to shooting, and rather gave fishing the
go-by.

I believe I tormented every gunmaker in the West End to death. I was
continually chopping and changing, inventing fresh heel-plates to the
"stocks." I would have a thick one of horn for a thin coat, and a thin
one of metal for a thick coat. Then I had them made with springs to
diminish the recoil. I was laughed at by every one who knew anything
about the matter; but I was so eaten up by self-conceit that I imagined
no one was _au fait_ at guns but myself, and would take no advice. My
shooting was not what a sportsman would call "good form"; but this I
did not believe.

"Dash it, Muster Carrington," said an old Somersetshire farmer to me
one day; "always a-firing into the brown on 'em, and mizzing the lot.
It can't be the gun, or because you wear gig-lamps. You're no shot,
zur, and never will be;" but I laughed at the old fellow's ignorance.
Rather rich that. I, with one of Grant's best guns, not a
shot--rubbish! But I determined I would make myself a shot; so I went
over to Ireland to an old friend of mine, who lived in a wild, remote
part of Galway. He was a first-class sportsman in every way; took great
pains with me, and taught me a good deal. I learnt to ride to hounds
with him, not well certainly, but in my vanity I soon imagined I not
only rode, but shot better than my instructor. One day, after shooting
at twenty-three snipes, and only killing one, and the next missing
thirteen rabbits turned out from the keeper's pockets, I was fain to
admit I was not the shot I thought myself; so I betook myself back to
London--a sadder, but not a wiser man. I then entered one of the pigeon
clubs. Pigeon club? it was one. I won't say anything about that. If I
had gone on with it I should soon have had pockets to let. I was
terribly laughed at by every one, for I could neither shoot nor make
anything by betting.

I then determined to try hunting, and wrote to my old friend in Ireland
to procure me a couple of horses. This he did, and sent me a couple of
good ones. I enjoyed the hunting more than I did the shooting, because
I could ride a little, and got on better.

Sending my horses down to the country one fine morning, the next I
followed them to ----, where I had taken a little box for the season.
Many were my mishaps during the few months I was there, which was not
to be wondered at.

I was in the famous run I am about to relate, and one of the
unfortunate victims who came to grief on that occasion.

In the county of Croppershire, and not far from the little post town of
Craneford, a pack of fox-hounds was kennelled: they were under the
joint mastership of two gentlemen, Samuel Head, Esq., commonly called
Soft Head, and Henry Over, Esq., who was usually designated Hi Over;
the secretary was George Heels: he went by the name of Greasy Heels.

A local wag had nicknamed it the "Head-over-heels Hunt;" but another
aristocratic gentleman and a public-school man said that a much more
_distingué_ and appropriate title would be the classical one of the
_Sternum-super-caput_ Hunt. This it was ever afterwards called; and
certainly no hunt deserved the name better, for hardly a man amongst
the whole lot could ride; they were ever being _grassed_, or "coming to
grief."

Men from the next county used to say to each other, "Old fellow, I am
in for a lark to-morrow. I'm going to see the 'Sternum' dogs;" or, "I
am going to drive the ladies over next week, when the Sternum hounds
meet at the cross-roads; they want a laugh, and to see a few falls."

The huntsman to these hounds was John Slowman. He was not a brilliant
huntsman, but he could ride; he had no voice; could not blow the horn
well, which was, perhaps, a lucky thing.

Somehow or other the Sternum hounds generally killed, and had a great
many more noses nailed to their kennel-door than most of the
neighbouring packs. The great secret of their success was that the
hounds were _let alone_; they never looked for halloas or lifting,
and if they did they very seldom got it. They were great lumbering,
throaty, slack-loined, flat-sided animals; but they could hunt if let
alone, and often carried a good head, and went along at a pretty good
bat too; and as they had but few men who rode up to them, they were not
as a rule pressed or over-ridden.

The Sternum gentlemen were great at roads, though now and then they
would take it into their heads to ride like mad, especially when there
was anyone from a neighbouring hunt to watch their proceedings. Then
there were riderless horses in all directions, for the country was a
stiff one, and took a deal of doing.

"Ah, gentlemen," Slowman would exclaim, as the field came thundering up
ten minutes after a fox had been broken up, "you should have been here
a little sooner; you should indeed. Mag--nificent from find to finish.
Don't talk to me of the Dook's, or the Belvoir, or the Pytchley either,
nor none of them hunts as have three packs to keep 'em agoing. Give me
two days a week, and such a lot of dogs as these. I dessay the Markis
will make a huntsman in time. Frank Gillard ain't a bad man, and
Captain Anstruther is pretty tidy; but there's too much hollerin', too
much horn, too much lifting and flashing over the line. They mobs their
foxes to death; I kills mine."

Slowman was magnificent at these times, and felt more than gratified
when compliments were showered on him on all sides.

"Right you are, Slowman." "You know how to do the trick, old fellow."
"Best huntsman in Europe." "There's half-a-sovereign to drink my
health."

Then Slowman would collect his hounds, nod to the whips, and return
home a proud and happy man.

The Sternum hounds hunted a week later than their neighbours, and at
the two meets that took place during that period they generally had
large fields, and always on the last day of the season, because Messrs.
Head and Over gave a grand breakfast.

On the occasion I am about to speak of, the last day of the season, a
breakfast was to be given of more than usual magnificence. The hounds
had had a good season, and the masters determined that they would be
even more lavish than usual.

Great were the preparations made when it was known that the
neighbouring hunts were coming in force to see them, and have one more
gallop before they put their beloved pinks away in lavender.

Slowman, the huntsman, the evening before the eventful day, had gone
through the kennels, made his draft for the following morning, looked
to the stables, and given orders about the horses and other little
matters pertaining to his craft.

He was seated by his cosy fire, and in a cosy arm-chair, puffing
meditatively at a churchwarden, and now and then taking a sip from a
glass of hot gin-and-water that stood at his elbow. "Bell's Life" was
at his feet, and before the fire lay a couple of varmint-looking
fox-terriers. Slowman was thoroughly enjoying himself, and wondering if
the six-acred oak spinny which they were to draw first the next morning
would hold a good stout fox.

"John," said his wife, bustling into the room, "Captain Martaingail
wishes to know if he can see you an instant: he is on his horse at the
door."

"Lord bless me, Mary! surely," sticking his feet into his slippers and
rushing to the front door. The Captain was a favourite of his. The gin
he was drinking was a present to him from the Captain; the "Bell's
Life" was the Captain's. The Captain always came of a Sunday for a chat
and look through the kennels; and the Captain was one of the very few
of the hunt who could ride. He always gave Slowman a fiver at the end
of the season, and many good tips besides; so he was a prime favourite
with the huntsman.

"Good evening, good evening, Captain," said Slowman, going to the door.
"Come in, sir. Here, Thumas--Bill--Jim--some of you come here and take
the Captain's horse. Throw a couple of rugs over him and put him in the
four-stall stable, take his bridle off, and give him a feed of corn."

"Now, sir, come in," as the Captain descended from his hack and gave it
to one of the lads. "I was just having a smoke, sir, and a glass of
gin-and-water--your gin, sir; and good it is, too."

"That's right, Slowman. And I don't care if I take one with you. It's
devilish cold, but no frost. I want to have a talk with you about
to-morrow."

Taking the arm-chair, he mixed himself a glass of liquor, and lit a
cigar.

"Slowman," he commenced, "there's the devil's own lot of people coming
to-morrow. There's Jack Spraggon, from Lord Scamperdale's hunt. He's
sent on Daddy Longlegs, his Lordship's best horse, and another; so _he_
means going. Jealous devil he is, too. Soapy Sponge will be here with
Hercules and Multum in Parvo; old Jawleyford, and a host of others of
that lot. Then there's Lord Wildrace, Sir Harry Clearall, and God knows
who besides. There's more than forty horses in Craneford now--every
stall and stable engaged; and there will be twice as many in the
morning.

"Ah! sir, it's the breakfast as brings 'em--at least, a great many of
'em."

"Well, I daresay that has something to do with it," replied the
Captain; "but a great many come to have a laugh at us. The fact is,
most of our men can't ride a d----. Then look at Head and Over, they
are always coming to grief and falling off. No wonder they get laughed
at. And most of the others, too. There will be no end of ladies out,
too, and all to have a grin at us. Oh! by-the-way, Slowman, here is
your tip. I may just as well give it to you to-night as later. I've
made it ten instead of five this year, because you've shewn us such
prime sport."

"Very much obliged to you, Captain, indeed," thrusting the note into
his pocket; "and for your kind opinion too. I try to show what sport I
can, and always will. So they're coming to have a laugh at us, are
they! I wish we may find a good stout fox, and choke all the jealous
beggars off. I'd give this ten-pound note to do it," slapping his
pocket.

"It may be done, Slowman," replied the Captain cautiously; "in fact, I
may say I have done it. But you must back me up; and, mind, never a
word."

"I'm mum, sir. Mum as a gravestone."

"Well, you see, Slowman, having found out what they are coming for,
I've a pill for them. You draw the six-acre oak spinny first. Well,
there will be a _drag_ from that over the stiffest country to Bolton
Mill. That's eight miles as the crow flies. There, under the lee of a
hedge, will be old Towler with a fresh-caught fox from their own
country. As he hears the hounds coming up he will let him loose. He's
not one of your three-legged ones, but a fresh one, caught only this
afternoon. I've seen him--such a trimmer! He'll lead them straight away
for their own country. And if the strangers, and old Spraggon, and
Jawleyford, and all the rest of them can see it through, they are
better men than I take them to be. I shall have my second horse ready
for me at the mill. And so had you better. I'll take the conceit out of
the beggars."

"By the living Harry!" exclaimed the huntsman, "a grand idea. I must
draft Conqueror, Madcap, and Rasselas. They are dead on drags. But,
Captain, if the governors twig it?"

"Not a bit, Slowman. They, as you know, won't go four miles."

"Yes, sir, yes. I know all that. But if they should twig? They have the
coin, you know." The huntsman had his eye to the main chance.

"But they will not, Slowman. Now, I will tell you a secret; but, mind,
it's between ourselves. Honour, you know."

"Honour bright, Captain," replied the huntsman, laying his hand on his
heart.

"Well, then, to-morrow at breakfast, Head and Over will announce their
intention of resigning."

"No, sir; you don't mean it?" said the huntsman hastily.

"I do," replied the Captain, "And I am going to take them on, and you
too. I am to be your M.F.H. It's all cut and dried. So you see you
should run no risk. But not a word of this."

The huntsman sat with his mouth open, and at last uttered, "Dash my
boots and tops, Captain, but you are a trimmer! But," he continued, "if
we find a fox before we come on the drag?"

"But you will not, Slowman. The cover is mine, and has been well hunted
through to-day, and will be to-morrow morning again. No fox will be
found there."

The two sat for an hour and more talking and arranging matters, so that
there might be no failure on the morrow. And all having been
satisfactorily arranged, the Captain mounted his horse and rode home.

The following morning--the last of the season--was all that could be
desired. A grey day with a southerly breeze. It was mild for the time
of year. Great were the preparations at Mr Head's house. He gave the
breakfast one year, Over the next. It was turn and turn about.

As it was the last breakfast he was to give as an M.F.H., Head
determined it should be a good one. Mrs Head was great before her
massive silver tea set; and she had her daughter on her right to assist
her.

At the time appointed Lord Wildrace, who had driven over in his mail
phaeton, put in an appearance in his No. 1 pink, closely followed by
Spraggon, who determined to have ample time for his breakfast. Then old
Jawleyford entered, and rushing up to the lady, declared it was too bad
of her not to have come over and seen them. At any rate, they would
come and spend a week with them soon at Jawleyford Court, would they
not? Then Soapy Sponge turned up, looking as smart and spruce as ever.

We cannot go through the breakfast--or the speech of Mr Head, and the
other by Mr Over, or the regrets of the company on their resigning the
joint mastership, or the cheers on the announcement that Captain
Martaingail had consented to keep them on.

"Devilish good feed," growled Jack Spraggon to Sponge, who was drawing
on his buckskin gloves. Jack was a little elevated; for he had not
spared the cherry-brandy or the milk punch.

"It was that," replied his friend. "Feel as if you could ride this
morning, don't you?"

"Yes, I can--always do; but no chance of it with such dogs as these."

"Don't know about that," returned Sponge. "They generally find, and
kill too."

Such a field had been rarely seen with the Sternum hounds--horsemen,
carriages, mounted ladies, all eager.

"Let the whips be with you, or rather at the outside of the cover, to
keep the people back," whispered Captain Martaingail to the huntsman.
"I will go to the top of the cover when I give the view halloa. You
know what to do."

"Certain of a fox, I suppose, Martaingail?" asked Lord Wildrace, as
they were smoking their cigars close to the hounds, who were drawn up
on a bit of greensward, giving the ten minutes' law for the late
comers.

"It has never yet been drawn blank," returned the Captain. "Ah! there
goes Slowman with the hounds. Time's up."

Cigar ends were now thrown away, girths tightened, stirrup-leathers
shortened or let down.

The Captain stole into cover, and then galloped away to the far end.

Presently a ringing tally-ho was heard.

"Found quickly," growled Jack Spraggon, as he bustled along on Daddy
Longlegs to get a good place.

"That's your sort, old cock!" ejaculated Sponge, as he dashed past him
on Hercules, throwing a lot of mud on Jack's spectacles from his
horse's hoofs.

"Oh, you unrighteous snob!--you rusty-booted Cockney!" exclaimed
Spraggon, rubbing at his spectacles with the back of his gloved hand,
thereby daubing the mud all over the glasses, and making it worse.
"Just like you, you docked-tail humbug!"

Too-too went Slowman's horn. "Give 'em time, gentlemen--give 'em time!"
he screamed, as he took the wattled fence from the spinny into the
fallow beyond. The hounds took up the drag at once, and raced away.

"Yonder he goes!" exclaimed the captain, pointing with his whip to some
imaginary object, and, digging the latchfords into his horse, was away.

The first fence was a flight of sheep-hurdles, stretching the whole way
across a large turnip field. Here Jawleyford on his old cob came to
grief, being sent flying right through his ears.

"Sarve you right!" muttered Spraggon, as Daddy Longlegs took it in his
stride. "You would not do a bit of paper for me last week. May you lie
there for a month!"

"Pick up the bits," roared Sponge to him as he galloped past, "and lay
in a fresh stock of that famous port of yours."

But the hounds were carrying too good a head for much chaff. The
gentlemen of the Sternum hunt were riding like mad. Already horses
began to sob; for the pace was a rattler, and the country heavy. The
celebrated Rushpool brook was before them--that brook that so many have
plumbed the depth of. It wants a deal of doing.

Lord Wildrace charged it, so did Spraggon; but both were in. Sponge, on
Hercules flew over. Slowman and the Captain did it a little lower down.
Head, Over, and a host of others galloped for a ford half a mile away.

Out of a large field only eight or ten cleared the Rushpool brook. His
lordship and Spraggon were soon out and going; and their horses having
a fine turn of speed enabled them to come up with the hounds again; and
their checking for a few minutes, in consequence of some sheep having
stained the ground, let up the rest of the field on their now nearly
beaten horses.

"Fastish thing, my Lord, is it not?" said Over to Lord Wildrace, who
was mopping his head with a scarlet silk pocket-handkerchief.

"Yes," said the nobleman, turning his horse's head to the wind,
"devilish sharp. I'm cold, too. I wish I could see my second horse. I'm
pumped out."

"Have a nip of brandy, Wildrace," said Captain Martaingail, offering
his silver flask. "Been in the water, I see--and a good many more,
too," casting his eyes on half a score of dripping objects. "It's a
very distressing jump to a horse, is that Rushpool brook. By gad, they
have hit off again!"

Slowman knew well the line to cast his hounds, and they soon hit it
off, and went racing away again, heads up and sterns down.

At last Bolton Mill was in sight, and here many got their second
horses, the head grooms from the other hunt having followed the
Captain's, and the joint masters' servants were there already.

Spraggon was quickly on the back of The Dandy; but he was hardly up
before a view halloa was given in a field below them, and a hat held up
proclaimed their fox was ahead of them.

"It's all right, Slowman," said Captain Martaingail, as the hounds
feathered on the line and took it up.

"He's right away across the Tornops," shouted a keeper-looking man
(this was Towler, who had shaken the fox out) as the field came up,
"an' a-going like blue murder."

The hunting was now not quite so fast, but they got on better terms
with their fox after a little, and settled well to him.

A good stout fox he was too, and deserved a better fate. He led them
right into his own country, but before he could reach a friendly earth,
seven or eight miles from where he was shook out, the hounds ran into
him in the open.

Some eight or ten of the field were in at the finish, and others came
up at intervals.

"Here, gentlemen," exclaimed Slowman triumphantly, to the strangers
from a distance, "this is one of your foxes. I guess we sent him back
to you faster a precious deal than ever you sent him to us. Sorry we've
killed him, though, your dogs want blood, poor things. You've seen what
the Sternum hounds can do now! We're not to be laughed at, are we?"

This impudent speech had not much effect generally, but several
gentlemen turned away disgusted.

The run was quoted in every sporting paper; and it was years and years
before people forgot the great Rushpool Brook run, the last of the
season.

The hounds had achieved a reputation, and Captain Martaingail took care
they should not lose it. He carried the horn himself after he took to
them, Slowman acting as first whip; he drafted most of the hounds, and
got together a fresh pack, that were not only good-looking, but could
go too. But the dogs never lost the name of the "_Sternum-super-caput_"
hounds.


Whilst I am on the subject of hunting, I may as well tell you a funny
story which happened to a friend of mine; this took place near London,
and although I did not come so badly off as my friend, yet I was
nowhere at the finish.

It is of a thorough cockney that I am about to write; of one who made
the City his home; did a little in Stocks and on 'Change: he had done
so well on it that he had four hunters standing not a hundred miles
from the Angel at Islington. Thither he used to go of an evening on the
'bus to his snug little chambers, to which was attached a capital
stable with four loose boxes, and in these four boxes stood four
decentish nags. I don't know that they were reliable fencers, but they
could gallop; they were bang up to the mark--well done, well groomed,
and well clothed.

Frank Cropper was proud of his horses, and his stud-groom, Dick, was
his right hand in all matters. Dick, though he professed to have a
profound knowledge of horses, in reality knew nothing about them, and
had to thank his strappers for the condition and fettle they were in.

But Dick was great at getting up leathers and top boots, was extremely
fond of dress, turned out well, and though he could not ride a yard,
led every one to believe he was invincible in the saddle.

He was grand when he used to dodge about in the lanes after the
Puddleton currant-jelly dogs, riding his master's second horse. Cropper
thought it the correct thing to have out a second horse with the
harriers. No one ever saw Cropper or his man take a fence; they used to
gallop through places or fences that had been smashed by some one
before them, or creep through gaps made in hedges.

Occasionally he used to honour the Queen's with his presence; there he
did it in grand style, sent his horses down by rail, or drove down in
his cart, with his brown-holland overalls on, covering his boots and
spotless buckskins from the smallest particle of dust or dirt; the
overalls he would have taken off with a grand flourish just before the
hounds moved away, and mounted his horse with the grandest possible
air, telling Dick to ride to points, and to be sure to be handy with
his second horse; but, somehow or other, he never got his second horse;
Dick always mistook the line of country.

Once or twice Cropper had been known to grace the Epping Forest Hunt on
an Easter Monday; but, somehow or other, Frank did not speak much of
this: why, I know not.

"Dick," said his master one morning as he sat at breakfast, "the day
after to-morrow is the last of the season--at least, the last day of
any hounds I can get to; so I mean to have a turn with the ----
staghounds."

"Do you, sir? I wouldn't if I were you, sir; hate that calf-hunting.
The Queen's ain't up to my ideas of huntin'; no staghounds are; but
these hounds are duffers; the master's a duffer, the huntsman is a
duffer, the whips are duffers, and so are the hounds. No, sir, be
Cardinal Wiseman, and go with the ---- pack."

"No, Dick, I have made up my mind to see these hounds; it's a certain
find; open the door of the cart and out pops your stag. It's the last
day of the season, and I mean to have a good gallop."

"Very well, sir. You will go down by rail, I suppose?"

"Yes, Dick, yes; by rail. You will go on by the eight o'clock train. I
shall follow by the ten."

"All right, sir." And they separated, the man to look to his stable and
things, the master to do a little on 'Change.

Frank Cropper went in for a good breakfast on the morning of the last
of the season, took plenty of jumping powder in the shape of Kentish
cherry brandy, and topped it up with some curaçoa.

"I feel," says Cropper, as he got into the train, and was talking to
some City friends who were bound on the same errand as myself; "I feel,
my boys, that I shall take the lead to-day, and keep it, too. Ha, ha!
What do you think of that? A church would not stop me. Temple Bar I
should take in my stride, if my horse could jump it. I'm chockful of go
this morning; I shall distinguish myself."

"Or extinguish yourself," remarked one.

Cigars and an occasional nip at their pocket pistols whiled away the
time till the train arrived at its destination; there, Cropper and
another took a fly, and drove the three miles they had to go. They were
quite determined they would not dirt their boots or spotless leathers
by a three miles' ride; they would appear at the meet as bright as
their No. 1 pinks, Day & Martin, and Probert's paste could make them.

"There they are!" exclaimed Cropper's friend, as he caught sight of the
hounds drawn up on a small common. "By Jupiter, but there's a lot out!
it's the last day of the season."

Cropper descended from the fly in all the glories of his ulster coat
and overalls; his horses were there under the charge of spicy-looking
Master Dick.

The overalls were slipped off, and, with the ulster, consigned to the
driver to leave at the station; and our hero mounted his horse and was
ready for the fray.

Now, this meet not being far from town, and a large number of the
London division being present, the worthy master, having a proper
regard for his hounds, thought a few jumps might choke off a good many
who would press upon the hounds. So he had the deer uncarted some
three-quarters of a mile from where they were, the van containing him
was backed not very far from a flight of sheep-hurdles, and a double
line of foot people being formed, the door of the cart opened and out
leapt the stag. Looking around him for an instant, he started away at a
quick trot, and then, as the shouting became louder, commenced to
canter, cleared the hurdles, and was away.

"Lot of these London cads down here to-day," remarked young Lord
Reckless to his friend Sir Henry Careful. "Don't know, 'pon my soul,
what they come here for."

"For about the same reason you do--to see the hounds, and get a fall or
two."

"Ah, that's all very fine," retorted his Lordship, "for you to say so.
You never ride at anything, therefore you are pretty safe. I ride at
everything."

"But never by any chance get over," interrupted the baronet, "except
through your horse's ears."

What more they said was cut short by the hounds coming up on the line
of the stag, and racing away.

I got over the hurdles all right, and so did most of the field; but at
the second fence I was down. And I saw Cropper unseated at the same
instant, and his horse galloping wildly away at the third fence. Dick
was shot through his horse's ears into the next field.

I was rushing about for mine, over my ankles in mud, when I encountered
Frank Cropper and his man Dick in the middle of the slough.

"Where the deuce is my second horse?" roared Cropper to his servant. "I
thought I told you to ride him to the points."

"So I was going to, sir; but he stumbled, and unshipped me."

"Good heavens! what is to be done?" exclaimed Cropper. "I shall lose
the run. Here, you fellows," to a lot of countrymen about, "catch the
horses--half-a-crown each for them."

But the nags were not so easily caught, and it was half an hour before
they were secured. Both I and Cropper were wet and cold; so, leaving
Dick to go on with the horses by train to London, and get the coats at
the station, Cropper and I started on foot to walk there. He was too
bruised and cold to ride; so was I.

You may suppose that the remarks we heard going along were not
complimentary: "Two gents in scarlet as has been throwed from their
'orses, and a-stumping of it home," etc.

At last I was getting nearly beat, and so was my friend, when we espied
a fly coming along the road. In it was seated Warner of the Welsh Harp
at Hendon. Taking pity on us, he gave us a lift, and drove us to the
nearest station, and we reached London in due time.

This was the last of my hunting experiences. I got disgusted with it,
and sold my horses. Having read flaming accounts from Cook's tourists,
some of whom had been round the world in ninety days, I packed up my
guns and some clothes, and started for America.

I did not remain long in New York, as I was anxious to commence
shooting. So I was not long in getting to the small town of ----, and,
putting up at the best hotel the place afforded, which was not a very
good one, sent for the landlord.

"Wall, Britisher, I'm glad to see yeu," commenced the American
Boniface, coolly seating himself on the table, and commencing spitting
at a bluebottle fly on the floor. "So yeu've come here to see our
glorious American Constitootion. Wall, I guess yeu'll be pretty
considerable surprised--tarnation surprised, doggoned if you won't.
We're an almighty nation, we air. Going a-shooting, air yeu? Wall, I
calkerlate we've got more game hereabouts than would fill all London,
and enough ships in our little river the Mississi-pi to tow your little
island across the broad Atlantic--we hev, indeed, stranger. There's
lots of grouse; but nary a buffeler, bar, nor alligater about here. But
I s'pose yeu means to take up yer fixins here in this feather-bed bully
hotel afore yeu makes tracks?"

I assured him such was my intention.

"Wall, then, stranger, what will yeu like?--cocktail, mint julip,
brandy smash, or cobbler? I've a few festive cusses in the bar as will
tell yeu all about the shooting. Let's hev a licker-up with them."

To this I assented, and walked into another room with him, where there
were Yankees of all descriptions.

I determined to make myself popular, and stood drinks to any amount.

"Bust my gizzard, but yeu air a ripper!" exclaimed my tall friend. "He
air, ain't he, bully boys?"

What more they said was drowned in a terrific row which took place at
the other end of the apartment.

"Hillo!" shouted my tall friend. "Come on, stranger, if yeu want to see
our pertikelur customs of this hemisphere. Bet my boots it's Bully
Larkins and that old 'oss from Calerforney. Go it, my cockeys!" he
screamed out as he mounted on a table, "go it, old coon!" alluding to
one of the combatants; "go it! Billy's a-gaining on yeu, and if yeu
don't look out he'll riz yer har with his bowie knife, gouge yer eye,
and fetch yeu out of yer boots--he will, by----!"

Such a fearful row I never heard. All were in a state of frenzied
excitement--knives glittered in the hands of many. Whilst all this was
going on I made my way out of the apartment, and locked and bolted
myself in my own.

In half an hour my landlord came to the door, and knocked for
admission.

"It's all over, stranger," he said as he entered. "Old Calerforney
carved two of Bully Larkins' fingers off with his bowie, and Larkins
bit off half t'other's nose. I guess he ain't beautiful. They're
festive cusses here, and air always at it. Nary a day passes without a
free fight."

I need hardly say the next day I took my departure for New York, and
was off to England by the first boat. I had had quite enough of my
American friends and their notions.

I have given up sporting, as I found I could make no hand at it. I
shoot occasionally for amusement, and fish occasionally, but never lay
down the law as an authority.



MY FIRST DAY'S FOX-HUNTING


But that was six or seven years ago, and I frankly admit that then I
was a very indifferent horseman, although I was in happy ignorance of
the fact--in its integrity. I was quite conscious that I did not ride
very gracefully or over-comfortably, but I always discovered that the
fault was my horse's and not mine. My cousins used to think otherwise,
and I have spent hours at a time in trying to induce them to give up
their opinions on the subject and to adopt mine. I should explain that
my cousins being orphans, and my father being their guardian, they
lived with us as part of our family, and that whenever they rode out
they seemed to think they had a right to insist upon my accompanying
them. I at length got tired of riding out with my fair cousins, and of
hearing them titter as, at their suggestion, we went down steep hills
at full trot (I confess I was never great at trotting down hill), and
so I resolved to take to _hunting_. I had heard that some horses,
though the worst of hacks, made the best of hunters; and I thought that
something of that kind might apply to horsemen also, and that I myself
might shine more in the field than I did on the road. It was the end of
February, and the Coverbury pack were meeting three times a week at
places within easy reach of the Stonington Station. That was jolly! I
could buy a hunter, keep him at Philley's livery-stables, and on
hunting-days send him by train to Stonington, meet him, have a day's
hunting unknown to my cousins, and thus enjoy myself with perfect
freedom. I at once drew a cheque for £50, with which I determined to
buy the best hunter in all Blankshire! I called at Philley's and told
him of my intention, and asked him how much a week he would require to
"board and lodge" my steed when purchased. The man smiled--he seemed to
have a habit of smiling; but seeing from the seriousness of my manner
that I was in earnest, he replied that his charge for keeping the horse
would be thirty shillings a week; and he added that if I wished to buy
a "slapping" hunter he'd got just the horse for my money. "Of course,"
said he, "you don't want a pony, but a good tall horse as'll keep you
out of the dirt; and," he added, scanning my figure from top to toe,
"you don't want no cart-horse to carry your weight neither." I admitted
that my ideas on the subject coincided with his exactly, and he at once
called to a stable-boy to bring out Iron Duke.

"There," said Philley, as the horse was trotted into the yard, "you
might go a day's march and not come across such a hunter as
that--extraordinary animal, I assure you, sir." Not understanding the
points of a horse, I deemed it prudent to indorse all that Iron Duke's
owner chose to say in his praise; and I was thus compelled to
acknowledge that his superior height (over sixteen hands), long legs,
and slender build, gave him an advantage over every other horse I had
seen in my life, as regards carrying a light-weight over a
high-stone-wall country.

As we stood discussing the merits of the horse I happened to turn
round, and there I saw the stable-boy grinning and "tipping the wink"
to a companion. This aroused my suspicions that all mightn't be right;
so instead of at once buying and paying for the horse, I mustered up
courage to say, "Well, Mr Philley, I like the horse's appearance, but
are his paces as good as his looks? Will you let me try him with the
Coverbury pack to-morrow?" Mr Philley paused, thought a few moments,
and then observed somewhat solemnly, "Iron Duke, you see, sir, is a
very valuable horse, dirt cheap at fifty pounds; in fact, it's giving
him away, it is really, and I shouldn't like anything to happen to a
horse like that whilst he's mine. We don't generally let him out for
hunting; he's too good for most of our customers. But I'll tell yer
what we'll do; we'll let you have him to-morrow for two guineas, and
then (if you have no accident with him, as of course a gentleman like
you won't) you can please yourself whether you have him or not. But if
you _should_ have an accident--of course accidents _will_ happen
sometimes--why, then the horse will be yours and the fifty pounds
mine." These terms seemed fair, and I accepted them, though not before
they had banished my suspicions, and almost induced me to buy and pay
for the horse there and then.

In the morning I called at Philley's for my hunter, and the boy brought
him out bridled and saddled. As he stood straight in front of me his
tall slim-built figure looked as sharp as a knife. I ventured to
express this idea, but being doubtful as to whether sharpness was a
good point or a bad one, I did so in a manner which might be taken as
in earnest or in jest. The dealer chose to take it in the latter sense,
and after laughing heartily at my "good joke," assured me that I should
find my horse "as clever as a cat." I then attempted to mount, and
after some time (during which the ostler gave me a "leg up" _and over
the other side_) I was successful. The stirrup-straps having been
adjusted, I set out for the station; and in my journey thither I was
conscious that the commanding presence of my horse and the easy
graceful attitude of his rider were fully appreciated by the numerous
passers-by who stopped to stare at us--doubtless in admiration. One
thing, though, nettled me a bit. Just as I got opposite the club, and
was waving my whip to Fitz-Jones, De Brown, and some other fellows who
were standing in the portico, my horse shied at a wheelbarrow, and I
had some difficulty in getting comfortable in the saddle again. I
gently remonstrated with the boy who was wheeling the barrow for not
getting out of my way, when the impudent little scoundrel turned round
and shouted, "Oh, crikey! yer ain't very safe up there! Get inside;
safer inside!" Whereupon the whole of the bystanders, including my
friends of the club, burst out laughing. I, of course, could not
descend from my high horse to chastise the young urchin, and as I
couldn't think of anything smart to say to him, I treated him with the
silent contempt he deserved, and rode on. But still, as I said before,
this nettled me.

With the exception of this trifling _contretemps_, I arrived safely at
Stonington Wood, the place appointed for the meet. There was a good
muster of ladies and gentlemen on horseback (some ten or fourteen of
the gentlemen in scarlet coats), and a condescending old gentleman with
grey hair, neatly trimmed whiskers, and rosy cheeks, remarked that
there was a "good field," but I couldn't see it. All that I could see
in the shape of a field was a small patch of turnips enclosed with a
stone wall, the remainder of the surrounding country being common and
wood, or, as I afterwards learned to call it, "cover." I soon began to
appreciate my Iron Duke, for I found that he was the tallest horse
there, and his legs seemed as light as an antelope's in comparison with
the legs of the other animals, some of which seemed almost as heavy as
cart-horses'.

The clock of the village church struck eleven, and three or four of the
men in scarlet began to whip the dogs to make them go into the wood. I
thought it was the proper thing to imitate their example, and seeing
one of the dogs scrambling up the wall I instantly rode up and gave him
what I thought a "lift up behind" with my whip. To my astonishment the
animal, instead of going over into the wood, tumbled down at my feet
and yelped most piteously. Iron Duke, not liking the noise, turned
round suddenly and kicked out, and the hound had an almost miraculous
escape of having his skull cracked. All this happened in less than a
minute, and seemed to cause a "great sensation," for two or three of
the roughest of the men in scarlet were instantly attacked with a fit
of cursing and swearing, of which I took no notice, believing it to be
lavished on the head of the unfortunate hound. But I soon had my
doubts; for one of the gentlemen in scarlet rode up to me, and with
much severity informed me that he could not have his hounds "served in
that way." I protested that it was an accident, and that I thought
"there could be no harm in doing what the others did." With this
explanation he seemed quite satisfied, for he at once left me, and even
smiled as he did so. The dog must have been a young one, for as I
passed two gentlemen who were doubtless discussing puppies in general,
and I suppose him in particular, I overheard one of them say, "He's
evidently green." The dogs having got safely into cover, the ladies and
gentlemen began to ride along the outside of the wood--cover, I
mean--and I did the same, taking care, though, to keep well in the
rear, that I might see what the others did. I kept clear of every one I
could possibly avoid, as I found that the people who hunted at
Stonington indulged in a peculiar kind of slang which I could not well
understand. I had not gone far before I heard a loud laughing in my
rear. I seemed to be familiar with the sound. I turned "about" in the
saddle, and who should I see but my cousins, not twenty yards behind
me! I was inclined to go home, and I should have done so only I saw
that my cousins, besides being attended by Evans in livery, were
accompanied by their old schoolfellow, Miss Trafford, a young lady to
whom I had been introduced at our last county ball. To enjoy her
presence I determined to brave all. I turned my horse round and raised
my hat as much as the tight guard would let me, and in another moment I
was at the mercy of my tormentors. "Ha! ha! ha!" laughed my cousin
Emily; "we saw you stealing out of the garden gate at six o'clock this
morning." "Yes," chimed in Julia, "and with those splendid top-boots
on! You thought to avoid us, did you?" "I say, Adolphus," continued
Emily, "when you hire a horse-box again, and don't want anyone to know,
don't let your name and destination be labelled on it like an
advertisement! Ha! ha! ha!" I was completely sold, and I was obliged to
acknowledge it; and when I heard that my cousins had actually ridden
ten miles to the meet, whilst I had come by train, I felt that I must
do something to retrieve my reputation in the eyes of Miss Trafford.

The cover was a very large one, and whilst we had been talking all the
people had disappeared. I told the ladies where the dogs were; and
Emily at once came to the conclusion that, if we went round the other
way, which was shorter, we should meet the "field" at "Keeper's Clump."
Acting on this suggestion, we turned back and cantered round to the
other side of the cover. As we did so I felt that field-riding was my
_forte_; it was so much more comfortable than hard road-riding, and I
at once resolved to make hunting my study and only amusement. My
cousins continued to tease me as we went along; but to my delight Miss
Trafford sided with me, thus giving me confirmation of the hope I had
cherished at the ball, that she was not indifferent to the attentions I
then paid her, slight as those attentions necessarily were.

Our passage of arms was suspended by our arrival at the far end of the
cover, where the field were awaiting, as I was informed, the decision
of the master as to what cover to "draw" next. I wondered whether they
had any artists with them, and what good could come of _drawing_ a
cover with which nearly every one seemed familiar. But this is
parenthetical. A stone wall, about four feet high, separated us from
the rest of the field.

"What have you lost?" said Emily to me, as my eyes wandered up and down
the wall.

"Nothing," I replied; "I am looking for the gate."

"Then you are looking for something you won't find this side a mile and
a half; that's the road--over the wall. Come! give us a lead."

Here was a pretty state of things! I, who had never in my life been
over anything higher than a mushroom or wider than a gutter, and who
had in my charge three ladies, suddenly required to give them a lead
over a four-feet wall, in presence of the whole field! The perspiration
stood in great drops on my brow, and I would have given any amount if I
could but have sunk into my boots. But I couldn't; and all eyes being
on me (including _her's_) I had no time to say my prayers. I had to
choose at once between disgrace and the chance of being "sent to my
account with all my imperfections on my head." One glance at Miss
Trafford decided me; and I put my horse's head towards the wall and
then my spurs into his sides. When I was within three feet my courage
failed me, and I pulled up; but it was _too late_. Iron Duke had
already risen; and in doing so had nearly rolled me off, first over the
cantle and then the pommel. Ten thousand years rolled over my devoted
head in these few moments, and then all was still--_i.e._, as regards
motion; but my ears were assailed by a deafening cheer--mixed, I must
candidly admit, with some laughter. When I "came to," I discovered that
I was still alive, and still in the saddle, and that my horse was, in
the most matter-of-fact way possible, spanning the wall like a bridge,
fore-legs on one side, hind-legs on the other. I hastily congratulated
myself that things were no worse, and then began to consider what was
the proper step to be taken by a man in my situation. "Pull him back!"
"Job him over!" "Stick to him!" "Get off!" and similar advice came to
me from every quarter. I resolved to act on the "get off" principle;
and with some difficulty I _did_ get off, taking care to be on the
right side. I then endeavoured to pull the horse over with the reins;
but he resisted with all the obstinacy of a costermonger's
donkey--which circumstance seemed to add to the amusement of the field,
for their laughter increased. Growing desperate, I slashed my whip
several times over the animal's neck; at which treatment he kicked and
plunged until, to my great delight, he kicked the wall down!

"Thank you for your easy lead, my dear cousin Adolphus!" said Emily, as
she and the two other ladies came through the breach in the wall.

"You're quite welcome," I was about to reply, when I was interrupted by
a coarse-looking lad, whose spindle-like legs were covered with
breeches and gaiters.

"I say, guv'nur," said he, "you rode your horse over that there wall
about as well as I'd a-rode my mother's clothes-horse over!--do it
again, do!"

The ladies could not refrain from laughter, in which I made a miserable
attempt at joining them; and then I tried to remount. But this was a
difficult task; for my legs were short, my horse's were long, and his
recent adventure had made him fidgety, and I was at last reduced to the
necessity of accepting an offer from the lad with the spindle legs to
give me a "leg-up." With his assistance (for which I gave him sixpence,
and I have no doubt he threw his bad joke into the bargain) I managed
to scramble into the saddle again. As we rode to the next cover I felt
exceedingly sheepish, and the unfeeling laughter of my cousins, added
to the now cool manner of Miss Trafford, and the quiet grimaces of old
Evans, the groom (who of course kept pretty close to us), made me
desperate, and I was determined to do something to recover my lost
prestige, even if the next day's _Times_ had to record a "Fatal
accident in the hunting-field at Stonington." Emily asked me tauntingly
whether I had "done leaping for to-day?"

"Not exactly," I replied; "I intend----"

"Will you take a lead from me?" she interrupted.

"I'll take any lead that _you_ dare give me," I replied haughtily.

"Done!"

And she had no sooner said the word than the fox broke from the cover,
about two hundred yards in front of us, followed in a few moments by
the hounds, so close together that (as I afterwards heard one gentleman
remark to another) you might have covered them with a blanket. Away
they went, and away went we after them. My enthusiasm was raised to the
utmost pitch, and I was determined to stop at nothing. Emily and Julia
kept on my left, a few yards in advance, whilst Miss Trafford, on my
right, kept about the same distance in my rear. The fox, luckily, had
taken the open, and the ladies prophesied a half-hour's run with no
checks. But before ten minutes of it were over, I perceived, about a
hundred yards in front of us, a thick, well-laid quickset hedge, about
four feet high, and as we neared it I thought I saw water glistening on
the other side. There was no escape; my time had come; I was led in
front, and driven in rear; and leap I must.

"Now for your lead!" cried Emily, waving her whip in the air as she
cleared the fence and the brook beyond it. My horse followed
bravely--and so should I, if I hadn't, by some unfortunate mishap or
other, rolled out of the saddle, and in the midst of my victory fallen
into the brook! As I lay sprawling on my back, and before I had time to
think where I was, I saw the belly of Miss Trafford's horse as he
carried her over the fence, the brook, and me!

"Stop my horse! stop my horse!" I roared, as I came dripping wet out of
the brook. "Stop my horse!" But I earnestly hoped that no one would
stop him, for this last _contretemps_ had considerably damped my ardour
and cooled my courage; and I thought that if nobody _did_ "stop my
horse," he would eventually find his way to the pound; and his absence
would afford me a decent pretext for going home. To my horror, though,
Iron Duke was brought back by the wretched lad of the spindle legs. "Be
the saddle greased, sir?" said he, wiping it with his nasty dirty
pocket handkerchief. I could have kicked him, and should have done so,
only I thought he might have kicked back, and so I swallowed his
affront, and actually gave him another sixpence. Having learned from
him the road to the station, I was just stealing off when I heard in my
rear the cry of "Tally-ho back!" The fox had come back--doubled, I
mean--and I was forced to join the others and run after him again. But,
fortunately for me, he did not run far before the dogs caught him and
killed him, and then one of the men in scarlet cut off his nice long
tail and gave it to Emily. She actually accepted it, although I am
nearly sure she had never seen the man before in her life! I thought
young ladies ought to accept presents from no gentlemen but their
relatives and accepted suitors; and, besides, I don't believe that this
man _was_ a gentleman, for when I whipped the hound to make him get
over the wall (which, as I have before stated, he most unreasonably
declined to do), this fellow was the loudest in his oaths and curses,
which he showered broadcast on the hound, or my horse, or something--I
have never ascertained what--and in the presence of ladies! Emily said
something about making a hair-brush of the fox's tail (what an absurd
idea! but she always was queer); and as the man cut off the fox's head,
she gave me to understand that that would be mine if I asked for it. I
_did_ ask for it; but for some unaccountable reason or other, I _didn't
get it_. The remainder of the poor fox was thrown to the dogs, who soon
tore him to pieces and ate him. It occurred to my philosophic mind, as
I witnessed this spectacle, that the fox, like me, was a hero; but,
also like me, an unsuccessful one. What a number of men, women, horses,
and dogs to conquer one little fox! These and similar reflections were
soon cut short, for the dogs having finished their lunch, the men and
women began to think about theirs; in fact, Sir John Hausie had invited
them all, including me, to lunch with him at the Manor House, about
half a mile distant. As we journeyed thither I began to feel very
uncomfortable, for my coat, waistcoat, and shirt, although not dirty
(for the water in the brook was clean), were wet through, and, the
warmth of exercise and enthusiasm having subsided, I felt very cold.
When we arrived at Sir John's, I was so stiff with cold that I could
scarcely dismount, which Sir John observing, he came and very kindly
accosted me. He also inquired as to the cause of my fall--spill, he
called it--and offered me the loan of a coat whilst mine was hastily
dried at the kitchen fire. Sir John was an exceedingly pleasant man,
and had a jolly, cheerful, laughing face, and we soon understood each
other. I accepted his proferred loan with many thanks, and then took
Miss Trafford in to lunch. As I sat by her side in the baronet's coat,
and gracefully helped her to sherry, the frost of her manner gradually
thawed; and when we returned to remount we were as jolly as
topers--sand-boys, I mean. I of course assisted her to get into the
saddle; but I was so stiff and so giddy (from the excitement of the
morning) that I very nearly let her down. We were some time without
finding another fox; and as my cousins had gone off with old Evans and
Captain De la Grace, and as Miss Trafford seemed so amiable, I
determined to improve the occasion. We were on the common just outside
Sir John's park, the beauties of which I was very particular in
admiring; and having thus got Miss Trafford to lag behind, I took the
opportunity of unbosoming my heart to her. I got very excited, and my
voice trembled with emotion (or something of that sort), as I made her
a pathetic offer of my heart and hand. I paused (as well as my
excitement would allow me, for it had brought on the hiccups), and she
replied. I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was something
about sparing me the pain of a refusal, and about not marrying a man
who couldn't take a fence. I offered to jump the park wall if she would
only listen to my suit. She agreed; and bracing up all my spirits, I
rode full tilt at the wall; and over I went, leaving my horse on the
wrong side! And as I turned an involuntary somersault I thought I heard
sounds like "the receding foot-steps of a cantering horse." (_Note._--This
is a quotation from some lines I afterwards wrote to Miss Trafford.)
There was then a slight break in the thread of my thoughts, and after
that I found myself lying in the midst of some young fir-trees, whilst
Iron Duke was quietly browsing on the leafless twigs of a tree on the
other side of the wall. Gentle reader! I am sure you must feel for my
unfortunate position. I will not torture you further by relating the
painful particulars of how I scrambled over the wall; how I got on Iron
Duke, only to tumble off again; how I nearly broke my neck before I got
home; how Philley declared I had broken the horse's knees; how he made
me pay £50 for the animal; how I sold him the next week for £10 (less
£2 for carriage); and, worst of all, how Miss Trafford jilted me, and
my cousins--cruel girls--laughed at my misfortunes and made sport of my
troubles. Indeed, with all these we have nothing to do, for they
happened after "My First Day's Fox-hunting."



MY FIRST AND LAST STEEPLE-CHASE


In the year 1859, the Irish militia regiment in which I had the honour
to hold a commission was disembodied; but, as a reward for our
distinguished services at Portsmouth, where we mounted guard daily on
the dockyards for more than twelve months, each subaltern was presented
with a gratuity of six months' pay--a boon that must have been highly
appreciated at the time by our much-enduring and long-suffering
tailors, into whose pockets most of the money, in the end, found its
way.

Dick Maunsel, the senior lieutenant, and myself were cousins, and (as
the old chief never lost a chance of telling us when we got into
trouble) "always hunted in couples." Our fathers' allowance had been
liberal. We were free from debt--that "Old Man of the Sea," which too
often hangs like a millstone about the British subaltern's neck--and,
finding ourselves at liberty, as a matter of course determined to go
off somewhere and get rid of our pay together. Much beer and tobacco
were consumed in the various "corobberys" held to talk the matter over;
and at length it was decided that we should take a lodge at a small
watering-place, well known to both, on the south-west coast of Ireland,
and there abide until something better turned up.

I don't think, under the circumstances, we could have made a much
better choice. The salmon and sea-fishing were excellent; when the
shooting season came round, most of the moors in the neighbourhood were
free to us. The summer had been unusually hot; we were tired of town
life, and longing to divest ourselves of the "war paint," "bury the
hatchet," and get away to some quiet bay by the Atlantic, where we
could do what seemed right in our own eyes, free from the eternal
pipeclay and conventionalities with which we had been hampered. "Last,
not least," at a ball given before the regiment left Ireland, we had
met two girls, sisters, who usually spent the season there, and, if the
truth must be told, I believe they had hit us so hard we were
"crippled" from flying very far. So, after an impartial distribution of
the regimental plate, and a rather severe night at mess, to finish the
remains of the cellar, we bade farewell to our companions in arms, and
found ourselves once more in "dear old dirty Dublin," _en route_ for
the south.

One evening, about six weeks after our arrival at Aunaghmore, we were
lying on the cliffs, watching the trawlers as they drifted slowly up
with the tide. The day had been dark and misty, with some thunder far
out at sea; but it cleared up as the sun went down, and I was pointing
out to Dick, who had been unusually silent, the remarkable likeness
between the scene before us and one of Turner's best-known pictures,
when he interrupted me suddenly, saying--

"I'll tell you a story, Frank. When a boy, I remember starting one
morning with poor Ferguson (the owner of Harkaway) to ride one of his
horses in a private match. We took a short cut across an old mountain
road, and coming out on the brow of the hill which commanded one of the
finest views in Ireland, I pulled up my horse to call Ferguson's
attention to it. 'For heaven's sake, sir,' he said impatiently, 'think
on something that will do you good.' And just at this moment, old man,
I feel half inclined to agree with him. How much money have you left?"

Without speaking, I handed him my purse, the contents of which he
counted slowly over, saying, "I think we shall have enough."

"Enough for what?" I asked.

"For a ball," he replied coolly. "The people here have been very civil
to us, and we owe them some return. There are plenty of girls in the
neighbourhood to make a very good one; men are scarce; but we can ask
the "Plungers" over from ---- Barracks. Besides, I promised Emily last
night, and there's no getting out of it."

I ventured mildly to suggest that the regiment didn't get out of the
last under a couple of hundred, and that we had not half that between
us.

"My dear fellow," he replied, "this is quite another affair altogether.
We can borrow the club archery tent for a ballroom. There are many
things, game, &c., to be had for nothing here. My sisters are coming
over on a visit; they will look after the details. It will be a great
success, and we shall only have wine and lights to pay for."

"And how far," I asked, with a slight sneer, "will the money left go in
getting those, not to speak of other essentials that must be provided?"

"I have arranged all that as well," answered Dick, with the air of a
man who had thoroughly mastered the subject. "The races here come off
the end of August. There is a £50 Plate to be run for on the flat, and
a steeple-chase as well. I know all the horses likely to start. With
one exception (Father B.'s) ours can give them a stone for either
event. The priest can't run his horse; the new bishop has been down on
him. We can send for ours: plenty of time for a rough preparation.
Thanks to the hot weather, and that confounded drill, you can still
ride eleven stone. There now, what more do you want? Come along to the
lodge, and we will talk the matter over comfortably."

I certainly had my misgivings as to the practicability of Dick's
scheme, but knew him too long and well to doubt his attempting it at
all events. I could, of course, refuse to join, and leave him to his
own devices; but we had pulled through too many scrapes together for
that. To do him justice, he generally succeeded in whatever he
undertook; and whether it was owing to his eloquence, some of his
father's old claret, or both combined, before we separated that night I
had entered heart and soul into his plans.

We lost no time in commencing our preparations. Within a week the
horses had arrived; then Dick's sisters--two fine light-hearted girls,
full of fun and mischief--came over. After that there was no rest for
me. No unhappy adjutant of a newly-embodied militia or volunteer
regiment ever had more or a greater variety of work on hand. Sunrise
generally found me in the saddle, giving the horses a gallop on the
sands--a performance which had to be repeated twice during the day,
Dick's weight, some sixteen stone, preventing him from giving me any
assistance. I was overhead in love, besides, and four hours at least
had to be devoted to the object of my affections. We kept open house;
game and fish had to be provided for the larder, and the girls were
always wanting something or other from the neighbouring town, which
they declared only I could get; so between all, my time was fully
occupied, and seemed to fly.

If Mr Mill's bill for giving ladies the franchise had been in force
then, I think Dick and myself would have had a fair chance of
representing the county. So soon as our intention to give a race ball
was known, we became the most popular men in it. Offers of supplies and
assistance came pouring in from all quarters. Plate, china, and glass
arrived so fast, and in such quantities, the lodge could not contain
them, and we were obliged to pitch the tent. As the time drew near, the
preparation and bustle increased tenfold. Our life was one continual
picnic. From early morning until late at night, the house was crowded
with girls laughing, flirting, trying on ball-dresses, and assisting in
the decorating of the tent. We never thought of sitting down to dinner,
but took it where, when, and how we could. _Ay de mi!_ I have been in
some hospitable houses since, where the owners kept _chefs_, and prided
themselves, not unjustly, on the quality of their cellars; but I never
enjoyed myself so much, and, I fear, never shall, as those scrambling
dinners, though the bill of fare often consisted of cold grouse, washed
down by a tankard of beer--taken, too, standing in the corner of a
pantry, surrounded by a host of pretty girls, all of them engaged in
teasing and administering to my wants.

Early one morning, about a week before the races were to come off, I
was engaged as usual, exercising Dick's hunter on the course, when, at
a little distance, I saw a horse in body-clothes cantering along with
that easy stride peculiar to thorough-breds. For some time the rider
appeared anxious to avoid me, increasing the pace as I came near, until
the animal I rode, always headstrong, broke away and soon ranged
alongside.

"Whose horse is that?" I inquired of the groom.

"My master's, yer honour," he replied, without a smile, slackening his
pace at the same time, as mine raced past.

When I succeeded in pulling up again, the fellow was galloping away in
another direction. I had seen enough, however: there was no mistaking
those flat sinewy legs. So, setting the horse's head straight for the
lodge, I went up to Dick's room. He was in bed, but awake; and though
his face slightly lengthened when I told him I was certain the priest's
horse had arrived, he answered coolly enough--

"You need not look so serious, Frank; at the worst, it is only a case
of selling Madman, and I have had a good offer for him. It is too bad
of the priest, though, to spoil our little game. They told me the
bishop had sat on him; but of course he will run in another name. I
should have known an old fox like that would have more than one earth.
He won't be able to go in for the double event, that is certain. His
horse can't jump. The steeplechase is ours; so come and have a swim.
After breakfast we will see what can be done."

Unfortunately there was no help for it. The priest's horse had carried
off a Queen's Plate at the Curragh, and, safe and well at the post,
could win as he pleased. It was too late for us to draw back, however,
even if we were disposed that way. The invitations for the ball (which
was to come off the night of the races) were out. So, consoling
ourselves as well as it was possible under the circumstances, we
continued our preparations, looking well after the horses, determined
not to throw away a chance.

Misfortunes seldom come alone. The day before the race, so ardently
looked forward to, arrived at last. I had been engaged in unpacking the
flowers that were arriving all the afternoon from the neighbouring
conservatories, while Dick was amusing himself brewing cold punch in
the lodge. The girls were out walking; and, when my work was over, I
took a stroll along the beach to meet them. Up to this time the weather
had been glorious; such a summer and autumn as few could remember: but
now I saw, with some anxiety, there was every appearance of an
unfavourable change. Although not a breath of wind stirred, the
ground-swell broke heavily on the bar, and there was a greenish look in
the sky where the sun was setting, that boded no good. The curlews were
unusually noisy, their clear, shrill whistle resounding on all sides,
and large flocks of sea-birds were flying in towards the land. A
fishing-boat had just made fast to the pier, and the owner came forward
to meet me.

"What luck this evening, Barney?" I inquired.

"Just middlin', yer honour. There's a dozen of lobsters, a John Dory,
and a turbot. I'll send them to the lodge. The oysters went up this
morning--iligant ones, they wor; raal jewels."


"All right, Barney--what do you think of the weather?"

"Sorra one of me likes it, at all. Them thieves of seals are rollin'
about like _purposes_, and it isn't for nothin' they do that same.
It'll be a Ballintogher wind, too, before long, I'm thinkin'."

"A what?" I exclaimed.

"The very question the captain axed my brother. It was the first time
iver he went to say, and they wor lyin' somewhere off Afrikay. The
captin was walkin' the quarter-deck when my brother comes up to him,
and says, 'Captain Leslie, you had better shorten sail.'

"'Why so?' ses the captin, very sharp.

"'Bekase it's a Ballintogher wind.'

"'And what the d----l wind may that be?'

"'Oh murther!' ses my brother. 'There you are, wandherin' about the
world all yer life, and didn't hear of a Ballintogher wind, when there
isn't a gossoon in my counthry doesn't know the village it comes from,
and that it niver brought anything but cowld storm and misforthin'
along with it.'

"Well, with that, they all tuk to laughin' like to split their sides at
my brother, an' the captin, he towld him to go forrid and mind his
work; but faith, they worn't laughin' two hours afther, when the ship
rowled the masts out of her, and they wor wracked among the haythens.
But wind or no wind, yer honour, I suppose the races will come off?"

"So I hear, Barney."

"I'm towld there's to be a fight between the Flahertys and the
O'Donnells; but shure av the priest's there it's no use for them to
try."

"Why not, Barney?"

"He's mighty handy with a hunting-whip, an' has got a bad curse
besides. He hot Mickey Devine over the head, for trying to rise a row
at the fair of Dingle, and left a hole in it you might put your fist
in. It was no great things of a head at the best of times, but faith,
he's quare in it at the full of the moon iver since. He cursed Paddy
Keolaghan, too, last Easter, an' the luck left him. His nets wor
carried away, the boat stove in, and the pig died. I don't give in to
the pig myself, for they let him get at the long lines afther they wor
baited; and sure enough when the craythur died, there was fifteen hooks
in his inside, enough to kill any baste. Besides, his reverence is very
partikler, an' wouldn't curse a Christian out of his own parish; but
it's not lucky to cross him anyhow; an' if he's there to-morrow, sorra
bit of fun we'll have. They say yer honours are for givin' a ball
afther the races."

"So we are, Barney; and that reminds me--tell the girls to come up the
next night, and we'll give them a dance before the tent is taken down."

"Long life to yer honour! It's proud and happy they will be to go.
Here's the young ladies comin'. Good evenin', sir! We'll be on the
coorse to-morrow, an' see you get fair play, anyhow."

The tent-ropes flapped ominously that night as we turned in, and before
morning a storm came on which increased to a hurricane, when our party
assembled for breakfast, and looked out disconsolately enough at the
boiling sea, dimly visible through the driving rain and spray that
dashed in sheets of water against the glass. Already numbers of the
peasantry, on their way to the course, were staggering along the road,
vainly trying to shelter themselves from the furious blast which made
the very walls of the lodge shake. Taking advantage of a slight lull,
we managed to get a young fir-tree propped up against the pole of the
tent, and had just returned to the house when a well-appointed
four-in-hand came at a sharp trot up the avenue.

"Here come the Plungers," said Dick. "Plucky fellows to drive over
fourteen miles such a morning."

While he was speaking, a dozen bearded men got down and stalked
solemnly into the room. In a few minutes the ladies of our party made
their appearance, and before long the new comers were busily engaged in
some fashion or another. I have often admired the way in which Irish
ladies contrive to make the "lords of the creation" useful, but never
saw it more strongly exemplified than on the present occasion. Here you
might see a grave colonel employed in the composition of a lobster
salad; there a V.C. opening oysters as industriously as an old woman at
a stall; while in a snug corner, a couple of cornets were filling
custard cups and arranging flowers. To do the gallant fellows justice
they accepted the situation frankly, and set to work like men, while at
every fresh blast the girls' spirits seemed to rise higher; and before
long a merrier party could hardly be found anywhere. Twelve o'clock had
now come round, at which time, it was unanimously agreed, the day must
clear up; and a slight gleam of watery sunshine appearing, we all
started to carry the things over to the supper-room of the tent. As we
mustered a tolerably strong party, in less than an hour this was
effected, not, however, without sundry mishaps; one poor cornet being
blown right over a fence, into a wet ditch, with his burden.

We were all so much engaged laying out the tables, that the increasing
darkness of the day was scarcely remarked until a vivid flash of
lightning, followed by a loud peal of thunder which broke directly
overhead, made the boldest pause for a moment in his occupation. The
storm, which had gone down considerably, burst forth again worse than
ever, the tent-pole swayed to and fro like a fishing-rod, and the
fir-tree we had lashed alongside for additional security threatened
every moment to come down by the run. Matters were beginning to look
serious, when Dick, snatching a carving-knife from the table, cut an
opening in the wall of the tent, through which we all bolted into the
open air. Hardly had we got clear of the ropes, when the tent-pole
snapped, the pegs gave way, the roof flew off down the wind, and with a
crash of broken glass, heard distinctly above the howling of the wind
and sea, the whole fabric came to the ground, burying all our materials
and the greater part of the supper in the ruins.

All was over now,--"the stars in their courses" had fought against us.
There was no use in contending against fate and the elements; so, after
seeing the girls safe in shelter, and leaving the dragoons to test the
merits of Dick's cold punch, I filled my largest pipe with the
strongest cavendish, and had walked round to the lee of the house, to
blow a cloud in peace, and think over what was best to be done, when a
window opened above, and looking up, I saw a bright sunny face framed
against the dark scowling sky, and heard a voice call out, "Wait there
one moment, Frank; I am coming down."

Without giving me time to reply, the face disappeared, but immediately
afterwards a small slight figure, closely muffled up, glided round the
corner, and put its arm in mine, while a pair of blue eyes looked up
appealingly in my face.

"Don't look so down-hearted, Frank, or you will make me cry. I could
hardly keep from it, when I saw the tent in ruins, and heard that
dreadful crash. All Lady ----'s old china, I promised to take such care
of, and the flowers, and Mrs ----'s dinner service, that has been in
the family for four generations. It is a downright calamity; but we are
determined, happen what will, to have the ball, and I want you to come
to look at a barn we saw the other day."

"But you cannot think of going out in such weather!"

"Not by the road--the sea is all across it. But we can go by the
fields. Come now, and take great care of me."

We did reach the barn, though with great difficulty; and, at first
sight, a more unlikely or unpromising place could hardly be found. In
one corner stood a heap of straw and a winnowing machine, under which
half a dozen rats scampered as we came in. The roof was thatched, and
in several places we could see the sky through it. Long strings of
floating cobwebs hung from the rafters, and the rough walls were
thickly coated with dust. There were two storeys to it, however; the
floor of the upper one was boarded and seemed sound. Taking out a
note-book, my companion seated herself on an old garden-roller,
saying--

"Go down-stairs, Frank, and finish your smoke; I want to think for five
minutes; or you may stay here, if you promise not to speak until I give
you leave."

I gave the required pledge, and, lighting my pipe, lay down in a
corner, watching the rats peering out with their sharp, black, beady
eyes at the strange visitors, and rather enjoying the confusion of the
spiders, who, not relishing the smoke, were making off out of reach as
fast as they could. Before long my companion called me over, to give
her directions, which were, to go back to the lodge, and bring all the
volunteers I could get, as well as some materials, of which she gave me
a list.

On my way I met one of the stewards, who told me the races had been
postponed until four o'clock in the afternoon, and on reaching the
lodge found Dick and the officers engaged in recovering "salvage" from
the tent. Getting out a wagonette, I soon had it filled with
volunteers, and drove them over to the barn, where we once more set to
work, and for the next few hours the rats and spiders had a bad time of
it.

I was hard at work converting some rough deal boards into a
supper-table, when a little boy handed me a note, saying--

"They are clearin' the coorse, yer honour; you haven't a minit to lose;
I brought down a 'baste' for you."

The note was from Dick, telling me the first race would be run off at
once. There was a dressing-room provided on the ground, so, jumping on
the horse, I rode down.

The storm, after doing all the harm it well could to us, had now
cleared off, and the scene on the course was lively and animated
enough. A dozen frieze-coated farmers, headed by an old huntsman in
scarlet, were galloping wildly about to clear the ground, the usual
"dog" being represented, on this occasion, by a legion of curs, barking
at the heels of stray donkeys, sheep, cows, and goats, as they doubled
in and out, to avoid the merciless whips of their pursuers; and when at
last they were driven off, the people broke in on the line, and the
whole place appeared one mass of inextricable confusion, until the
priest, accompanied by the stewards, was found. The fisherman certainly
had not belied his reverence. More than once I saw his whip descend
with a vigour that made itself felt even through the thick greatcoats
worn by the peasantry, causing the recipient to shrink back, shaking
his shoulders, and never feeling himself safe until he had put the
nearest fence between him and the giver. Soon his stalwart figure,
mounted on a stout cob, was the signal for a general _suave qui peut_,
and the mob gradually settled into something like order, leaving the
course tolerably free.

Six horses came to the post for the first race, which was about three
miles on the flat, the priest's of course being the favourite, and with
reason. It was a magnificent dark chestnut, with great power and
symmetry, showing the "Ishmael" blood in every part of its beautiful
frame, Dick's hunter, although thorough-bred, and with a fair turn of
speed, looking like a coach-horse beside it. The only other competitor
entered worth notice was a light bay, high-bred, but a great, staring,
weedy-looking brute, evidently a cast-off from some racing stable.

At the word "Off!" a fair start was effected. The bay, however, had
hardly taken a dozen strides, when it came down, giving the rider an
ugly fall. After rolling over, it sat up like a dog, and stared wildly
about; then, jumping up suddenly, galloped into the sea, where it lay
down, apparently with the intention of committing suicide. Before we
had gone a mile, all the other horses were shaken off, and the priest's
jockey and myself had it all to ourselves. He was a knowing old fellow,
and evidently did not wish to distress his horse, keeping only a few
lengths ahead, until within the distance-post, when he let him go,
cantering in a winner by about twenty yards, and receiving a perfect
ovation from the people.

In half an hour the bugle sounded for the horses to fall in for _the_
race. A steeple-chase being always the great event on an Irish course,
we were about to take our places, when Dick came up with rather a long
face, and whispered--

"I am afraid the luck is against us still, Frank. Look at that gray. He
has been kept dark until now. Before seeing him I backed you rather
heavily with the priest. It was our only chance to get out."

The more I looked the less I liked the appearance of either horse or
man. To a casual observer the first was a plain animal, cross-built,
rough in the coat, and with remarkably drooping quarters; but, on
closer inspection, a hunter all over, if not a steeple-chaser, although
an attempt had evidently been made to disguise his real character. The
saddle was old and patched; the bridle had a rusty bit, with a piece of
string hung rather ostentatiously from it; the rider might once have
been a gentleman, but drink and dissipation had left their mark on what
was originally a handsome face. His dress was slovenly and careless to
a degree, but he sat his horse splendidly, and his hand was as light
and fair as a woman's. He returned my look with a defiant stare.

"That fellow looks dangerous," said Dick; "but I suspect he is more
than half drunk. Make a waiting race until you see what he is made of.
Above all things keep cool, and don't lose your temper."

I had perfect confidence in the mare I rode. She had been broken by
myself, and many a long day we had hunted together over the big
pastures of Roscommon and Meath. There was a thorough understanding
between us. My only anxiety was as to how she would face the crowd, who
were collected in thousands about every jump, barely leaving room for
the horses to pass, and yelling like a set of Bedlamites let loose.
With the exception of the last fence, there were no very formidable
obstacles. It was a stone wall, fully five feet high, built up loose,
but strong, and rather a severe trial at the end of a race, if the pace
was a stiff one throughout. There was no time for thinking now,
however. The word was given, and we were away.

About a dozen horses started--all fair animals, with that cat-like
activity in negotiating a fence so remarkable in Irish hunting. We had
hardly gone a mile, however, when the want of condition began to tell,
and they fell hopelessly to the rear, leaving the race to the gray, my
mare, and a game little thorough-bred, ridden and owned by one of the
dragoon officers.

Up to this time I had followed Dick's directions to wait on the gray, a
proceeding evidently not approved of by the rider, for, turning round
in his saddle as he came down to a water jump, he said, with a sneer--

"You want a lead over, I suppose."

I made no reply, and he went at the river; but whether by accident or
design, when within a few yards of the brink his horse bolted, dashing
in among the crowd. The dragoon's swerved slightly to follow; the
rider, however, would not be denied, and sent him through it; while my
mare, cocking her ears, and turning her head half round, as an old
pointer might do at seeing a young one break fence, flew over like a
bird, and settled steadily to her work on the other side.

For some distance the dragoon and myself rode neck and neck, though the
pace was beginning to tell on his horse, who was slightly overweighted.
Our friend on the gray now raced alongside, and galloping recklessly at
an awkward ditch, which he cleared, took a lead of a dozen lengths, and
kept it until within a short distance of the last fence, when he fell
back, allowing us to get to the front once more.

I think fear was the last thing uppermost in my mind as I rode at it.
My blood was fairly roused, and passing a carriage a minute before, I
got a glance from a pair of blue eyes that would have made a coward
brave. Still, with all that, I could not avoid a slight feeling of
anxiety as it loomed across, looking about as dangerous an obstacle as
the most reckless rider could desire at the end of a race. If stone
walls "grew," I could have sworn it had done so since I crossed it on
Dick's hunter the evening before. The people had closed in on both
sides until there was scarcely twenty feet of clear space in the
middle, and evidently a row of some sort was going on. Sticks were
waving wildly about, and a dozen voices shouted for me to stop, while
hundreds called to go on. The gray was creeping up, however. I had
faced as bad before, when there was less occasion; so pulled the mare
up to a trot until within a few yards, when I let her go with a shout
she well knew, and in a second we were safe on the other side. The
dragoon's horse refusing, the gray, who came up at full speed, chested
it heavily, and horse, rider, and wall came rolling over to the ground
together, while I cantered in alone.

I had hardly received the congratulations of the stewards, when Dick
came up, looking flushed and excited. As he grasped my hand, he said
hurriedly--

"Why didn't you stop when I shouted?"

"It was too late. But what is wrong?"

"That scoundrel on the gray bribed a couple of fellows to add six
inches to the height of the wall during the storm this morning. They
raised it nearly a foot. Some one told the priest, but not until you
were in the field. He has caught one of them, the other got away. As
for the fellow himself, his collar-bone is smashed, and the horse all
cut to pieces. He couldn't expect better luck. It was a near thing,
though. I don't know how the mare got over it. She must have known," he
added, patting her neck, "what a scrape we were in."

The usual hack races for saddles and bridles followed, and the day's
sport came to an end without a fight, thanks to the priest, whose
exertions to keep the peace would have satisfied a community of
Quakers, although they might not approve of the mode by which the
object was effected.

We had hardly finished dinner at the lodge, when the carriages with our
guests for the ball began to arrive, those from a distance looking with
dismay at the wreck of the tent, that still lay strewed on the lawn.
They were all directed forward to the barn, however, whither we were
soon prepared to follow.

Although my confidence in the ability and resources of the ladies of
our party was nearly unlimited, I could hardly avoid feeling some
slight misgivings on entering the barn, knowing the short time they had
to work in, and how heavily the mishap of the morning must have told
against them. All, however, agreed that they had seldom seen a prettier
room. The walls and roof were completely covered with fishing-nets,
filled in and concealed by purple and white heath. The effect was
remarkably good; and if the storm had deprived the supper-table of many
of the light dishes, quite enough was left to satisfy guests who were
not disposed to be critical.

I shall not detain the reader by giving a description of the ball,
which proved a complete success, more than compensating us for the
trouble and anxiety we had undergone. It was seldom the girls in the
neighbourhood had a chance of enjoying themselves in that way, and they
seemed resolved to make the most of it. Human endurance, however, has
its limits. Towards morning the band, whose "staying powers" were
sorely tried, began to show symptoms of mutiny. Threats and bribes (the
latter too often administered in the shape of champagne) were tried,
and they were induced to continue for another hour. The result may
easily be anticipated: they broke down hopelessly, at last, in the
middle of "Sir Roger." A sudden change in the music made us all stop,
and to our dismay we found one half of the performers playing "God save
the Queen." The others had just commenced "Partant pour la Syrie,"
while the "big drum" was furiously beating the "tattoo" in a corner.
Turning them all out, we threw open the windows. A flood of sunshine
poured into the room, and the cool fresh sea breeze swept joyously
round, extinguishing the lights. This was the signal for a general
departure. One by one our fair guests drove away, leaving

    "The banquet-hall deserted."

The last man to go was the priest. As he mounted his horse I saw him
hand Dick a sheaf of dingy-looking bank-notes, and they parted, hoping
to meet again the following season, when the latter pledged himself to
bring something out of his own stable to race against the mare. But we
only appeared there once since in public, and that was at a wedding.
Before the next autumn came round we had settled down into steady
married men. I still hunt, but have grown stouter, and the old mare has
given place to a weight-carrier. The mare draws my wife and children to
church regularly, however, and though rather matronly-looking, is as
full of life and spirit as when she started with her master to win his
first and "last" steeple-chase.



SALMON-SPEARING


_Hei mihi præteritum tempus!_ That is, the past time when new Fishery
Laws did not forbid, and we young sportsmen might combat the salmon in
his own element, armed, like the Retiarius, with a trident, but, unlike
him, without a net. Ill-omened word! is it not to thee that the
interdict is owing?--blockading the mouth of every river with thy
cowardly meshes, only withdrawn for the barest minimum of hours out of
the twenty-four to give free passage to the home-sick fish and lusty
grilse to re-seek the dear old pools of his birth. For the grace now
extended, and the check put upon the rapacious suppliers of
Billingsgate and Leadenhall, we shall ever be grateful to the
Commissioners, even though the same powers that have removed the
stake-nets have prohibited the use of the spear, whose operation, as
numbered amongst the things past, we purpose to record.

And first for the science of the sport. Salmon-spearing, as we used to
perform it, was of two kinds. First, that by day; second, that by
night. For the first, we choose that day when the more noble art of the
rod and fly would be exercised in vain--a clear sunny day, with as
little ripple as possible, and the water low, the field of operation
being generally the upper pools, or, in preference, the larger "burn"
or mountain stream whence the river took its source.

The implements, a spear, or rather iron trident of three prongs, barbed
like a fish-hook, the prongs being about two inches apart, with a shaft
some ten feet in length; two or three long poles, whose uses will be
seen presently, and either a "gaff" or a landing-net. The essentials, a
hawk-like keenness of eye sharpened by long practice, a goat-like
agility amongst rocks and stones, and a philosophical indifference to
all such minor discomforts as a complete wetting and a frequent fall or
bruise. The night-work differed in the change of locality, the
favourite spot being the long shallow "reach" at the river's mouth, and
in the substitution of fir-torches for the poles of the day's
programme. Thus much for the nature of the sport; for a description of
it let the reader lend a kindly ear while we suppose the scene by the
banks of the river Arkail, in the Northern Highlands of Scotland (a
name which, by the way, he will in vain try to establish in the best of
educational atlases or tourists' guides).

"What a baking day! No use taking out the dogs; there's not a breath of
scent along the whole hill-side; and one might as well try to fish in a
tub as throw a line over the looking-glass-like pools to-day. What's
to be the order of the day, Frank? I think I shall take a walk up to
the top of Ben Voil and 'spy' if there are any deer lying near the
ground."

"I don't think you can do better. We have already planned a foray with
the spear in the Upper Pools; but you don't care about that sort of
work; so good luck to you, and adieu for the present. I suppose you'll
take Stuart with you?"

Even as he spoke a cheery voice outside had summoned Frank, warning him
that his set were waiting; so, with a parting remembrance from Charles
Marston, the eldest of our party, and the tacitly-acknowledged head, to
"mind and 'crimp' your fish directly you get him out of the water,"
Frank Gordon hastened to the gravelled square in front of the lodge,
and found his brother amongst a group of keepers and "gillies," who, by
the arms they bore, gave sufficient evidence of their intended
occupation. With the exception of a "forester," Hugh Ross, who, by
virtue of his position and his long Gaelic descent, persevered in the
traditions of his ancestors, and robed his limbs in a kilt of home-spun
tartan, the rest of the sportsmen were clad in knickerbockers, master
and man alike. And now they were off, and making down the "brae" with
the long dropping action which marks the practical mountaineer, being
greeted as they passed the kennels by the most dismal howling from the
dogs, who evidently did not comprehend that spears were not guns, and
that there were occasions, such as salmon-spearing, on which their
services might be dispensed with, and who further interpreted the
volley of mingled Gaelic and Sassenach ejaculations hurled at them as a
command to increase their note from _forte_ to _fortissimo_, a
proceeding accordingly executed with the most painful exactness which
the canine intellect could suggest.

A short half-hour's walk, and the hollow moaning of a waterfall told of
the journey's end. Brushing through a small birch-wood that clothed the
high banks of the stream, our party stood on the edge of a sheer rock
about thirty feet high, and, looking down on the scene of their
intended operations, assigned to each his post and duty. A long,
narrow, black pool, shallowing towards the tail into a rushing stream,
dashing madly against the boulders scattered at random in its course;
the rocks rising steep and bare on either side, but fringed on their
summits with the drooping birch-trees and overhanging heather nestling
round the delicate little ferns and rock-plants that peeped timidly out
here and there; and away at the head of the pool, the finishing charm
of the lovely spot, the tumbling waterfall, which ever filled the air
with its clamorous voice, and beat the red waters below into a mad
whirl of eddies and bubbles and leaping foam. Truly as sweet a picture
as Nature ever limned, which, had it been a few degrees farther south,
might have been an unfailing trap for excursionists to expend their
savings on a "pack" in a covered carriage, and a cheap ride
_uninsured_, or might have had its heath-covered banks dotted with
picnic parties, and its waters sweetened with the chicken-bones so
deftly thrown by the playful Miss Holiday; but being, alas, poor
Monar--only one of many such scenes in the bosom of the Highland hills,
_all_ inaccessible by steam or jaunting-car--it must e'en remain
unknown, save to the privileged few, who now looked at it with the less
noble view of how they might draw a fish from its black depths.

"Ah, wunna ye look at him? Hech, doon he comes; ye maun e'en try again,
my bonny mon."

This address was called forth from honest Sandy Macgregor, one of the
gillies of the party, by the sight of a salmon leaping at the falls,
but who, having failed to clear them, hit with a heavy whack against
the rock, and, with a vain wriggle and struggle, fell back into the
pool beneath.

"You may see more of him yet, Sandy," said Alick Gordon, the elder of
the brothers, "if meanwhile you will try and get me a little gravel."

A few minutes, and Sandy returned, bringing his cap full of sand and
small stones, which Alick, taking, threw in handfuls down the pool,
close by the edge of the rock. The result of this mysterious
proceeding, being closely watched by the group, was announced by a
general murmur of satisfaction as, almost straight beneath them, a
string of bubbles rose to the surface of the stream and floated idly
away. (For the benefit of those who have never seen this piece of
fishing-craft, we may explain that, as a fish is lying at the bottom
with his head up-stream, allowing the water to run into his mouth and
out through his gills--his mode of breathing--some of the gravel as it
sinks down enters his mouth, and as the fish ejects it, he sends up a
few bubbles, which mark the spot he is lying in.)

"Is that your friend, Sandy?" cried Alick, on seeing the success of his
device. "You ought to know him if you saw him again, so come along down
here with me."

Away went the speaker to the farther end of the pool, where, by
scrambling and swinging, he managed to let himself down the rock, and
plunged knee deep into the rapids. Closely followed by Sandy, he made
his way towards the deep water, keeping close beneath the high bank,
where he knew that, at about the depth of his waist, a small ledge ran
along the rock which would afford him a footing. Quietly and carefully
he arrived at the spot where the bubbles had been seen to rise; and
telling Sandy to hold him round the waist, as he stood beside him on
their precarious footing, he took off his cap, and holding it over the
water so as to throw a shade in which the smallest objects at the
bottom of the stream were visible to his practised eye, he bent down,
and began a long and wary search. One unaccustomed to the work might
have looked till nightfall without seeing more than the changing lights
and shadows playing over the deep-sunk stones; but Alick's experience
soon showed him a long black object, like a shade, lying close by the
rock, and in about nine feet of water. Having satisfied himself as to
the exact position of his treasure-trove, he shouted a warning to the
group above, and told Sandy to take a look.

"Ah, the big blackguard!" whispered the gillie, as he lifted his
dripping face after his subaqueous search. "Have a care, Mister Alick,
and give him the point well over the shouther."

"Hold up tight then, Sandy, and give a shade with your cap as I tell
you. That's right; no, a little further out--now then, steady!"

As he spoke, Gordon was slowly letting down the spear a little behind
the salmon, till, when it was about a foot above the fish, he paused,
and braced himself for the stroke, his left hand grasping the spear
about halfway down, to guide the aim, and the right hand holding it
near the top to give the blow, while his face was nearly buried in the
water, as he kept his eye on his prey.

"Further out yet with the cap, Sandy. Now, hold on!"

Down shot the spear: for one instant the shaft shook violently as the
struck salmon struggled beneath the weight which was pinning it to the
bottom, and the next, with a loud splash and flurry, the strong fish
bore to the surface, and shaking himself off the barbs, dragged Gordon,
still holding on to the spear, headlong into the pool.

A loud shout from the watchers on the top of the precipice greeted this
"coup," and on the gillie, who had been posted near the bottom of the
pool, announcing that "the fish had ne'er come his way," all those who
had, up to this time, been mere passive spectators, made the best of
their way down the rocks, to take their part in the coming struggle.

With a few strokes Alick gained the shallows at the tail of the pool,
and as the stream divided into two chief courses, himself commanded one
with his spear, and deputed the other to Hugh Ross. Meanwhile, Frank
was directing the gillies, who were "poking" the fall and deep water
with the long poles we mentioned, a proceeding intended to drive any
fish that might be lying about there down to the lower end of the pool,
where they would meet the spearmen, or else to take refuge behind the
big rocks and boulders, where they might be discovered afterwards. All
was noise and eagerness, save with the two spearmen, who, silent as
statues, were keenly watching the few yards of clear water in front of
them, ready to spring into life the moment they detected the approach
of a fish. And as Hugh Ross looked, a black shadow of a sudden swept
down with the current before him, and as he moved a step to meet it,
whisked away, and shot past him with the arrow-like speed which a
salmon, better than any fish that swims, can command; but the active
Highlander was a match for the occasion, and with a dexterity which
must be seen to be appreciated, gave a backward spring, and struck
sharp down with his spear a good two feet in front of his mark; and as
he held the struggling fish down by bearing with his whole weight on
his weapon, the shaking shaft told of the good quarry he had secured.
With a wild shout of triumph Alick rushed to the rescue, and throwing
himself down in the water, seized the salmon under the gills, and
quickly bore him to land, where Marston's injunction was acted upon,
and the crimping-knife brought into play.

"Ye took a good shot, too, Mister Alick," said Hugh Ross, looking at
the wound behind the head which Gordon had given; "but he was a
clean-run fish, and as full of life as a stag in August; and I'm
thinking he will not have joost right justice at fifteen pounds'
weight."

"I'd be sorry to carry him at that weight, Hugh," answered his master.
"But all the merit belongs to you, for little should we ever have seen
of him again but for that flying shot of yours. However, there he is,
and a beautifully-shaped fish too; so tie him up, and let's carry him
off to the house, where you'll get glory enough from both Mr Marston
and the cook. Come along Frank."

So saying, Alick marched away, followed by the rest of the party. On
arriving at the lodge, they found that Marston had not yet returned; so
it being still early in the day, they debated as to the best method of
employing the time yet left them; and as the bright still weather
effectually negatived all propositions of going after grouse or taking
a cast with a fly in any of the Upper Pools, the suggestion of Hugh
Ross who had become unusually keen after his triumph of the morning, to
rest till the evening and then make a night of it with the spear at the
mouth of the river Arkail, was unanimously adopted. There was a good
thirteen miles' walk over the hill between the lodge and the intended
scene of the night's operation, but our hardy young sportsmen regarded
that only so far as to order their dinner at an earlier hour than
usual, so as to start in time in the evening, and employed the
intervening period in tying up bundles of fir-splinters to make
torches, and in providing themselves with dry suits of clothing, after
the wetting they had just received.

Shortly before seven o'clock they were ready to start, and having left
a note for Marston, who had not yet returned from the hill, they set
out, following Hugh Ross in single file, as he led the way over the
darkening moor. All were too well accustomed to the work to come to
much grief over the broken ground, beyond an occasional stumble or
sudden fall as the foot slipped into an unseen hole in the moss; and
before long the autumn moon rose full and bright to light their way,
promising an idle time of it to the torches, which some of the gillies
bore patiently on.

It was not yet eleven o'clock when the sportsmen stood on the banks of
the Arkail, looking happily across the broad river, which flowed
musically over its shallow bed, showing almost clearer in the silver
radiance of the moon than in the dazzling splendour which lit it up
during the day; but across on the opposite bank the trees which fringed
its sides stood out black and heavy as a wall of rock.

"What a glorious night!" exclaimed Alick, as the scene first burst upon
him. "Look, Frank, away over there where the river runs into the Firth;
that bit of it you see by the farthest corner gleams like a sheet of
pure silver, and the Inch-na-coul hills look as if they were touched
with hoar-frost. Isn't it pretty? and what a night for us! Come on,
Hugh and Sandy there, let's be getting to work, but warm the cockles of
your heart first with a drop of whisky. Here, try my flask, Hugh.
That's right--the same to you, thanks, and good luck to us both," as
the forester drank his young master's health; "and I think I shall stay
about here with Mr Frank, if you will go a little lower down and post
the boys, and tell them to keep a sharp look-out, and mind and 'holloa'
in time; and I say, Donald there, don't you be giving us any stones for
fish to-night, you rascal." (This was in reference to a false alarm
raised on a previous occasion by the unhappy Donald, who had mistaken
the ripple caused by a stone lying in the way of the stream for the
wake made by a travelling salmon, and had given notice accordingly: and
while here, we may explain that the _modus operandi_ in salmon-spearing
by night is to post watchers down the bank at regular intervals, who on
seeing the wake of a fish going steadily up stream--and remember that
salmon only travel or run up a river at night--shout to the spearmen
above to give notice, who, being put on the alert, wait till they also
see the little wave which marks their prey, and then walk into the
river to meet it.)

Away went Hugh and his subordinates, leaving the brothers to choose
their own positions; and as Alick walked off announcing his intention
of crossing the river and taking one of the gillies with him to command
the opposite side, Frank remained alone gazing at the running stream
before him, and taking stock of all the ripples and eddies caused by
the larger stones in the bed of the river, so that in the heat of the
moment, when instantly expecting the salmon of which notice might have
been given, he might not fall into Donald's error, and confound the
inanimate with the living agent. The witching stillness of the night,
broken only by the monotonous gurgling of the running waters and the
soft whispering of the trees, before long lulled the young watcher into
a state of semi-consciousness, in which he sat with open eyes staring
forward into the space before him, with a dim remembrance that he was
looking out for salmon, and that the white flood beneath him was a
river and the appointed subject of his closest observation; but a whole
shoal of salmon might have passed and dubbed him wisest of men for the
blissful ignorance he would have manifested of their presence, had not
a sudden shout of "Mark!" roused him from his somnolence and recalled
his wits to full life and activity. With ear and eye painfully alert,
he heard the shout taken up by the next gillie, and the sound of his
feet over the gravel as he ran along the river's side to keep his prey
in view; then the noise of some one cautiously wading out in the water,
a sudden rush and splashing, and the next minute a clamour of voices,
amongst which he could discern that of Hugh Ross calling for a light;
and as he looked far down the stream he saw a torch coming down the
bank and borne into the river, and the flare of the smoking pine-wood
showed him a dark group standing in the water, and for one moment he
fancied he saw the gleam of a fish being lifted out! and then, as the
group retreated to the bank, he again distinguished Hugh's voice
good-humouredly depreciating his own prowess, by proclaiming the
unimportance of his capture, which was "joost a sma' grilse, and no
worth the mentionin', an' it were not for makin' up the number."

The commotion created by this incident had barely subsided, when again
a sharp cry through the stillness of the night announced the approach
of another fish, and again Frank heard the warning taken up by one
watcher after another, when, as he stayed expecting each instant to
hear Hugh anticipate him in the encounter, his eye caught a moving
ripple in the water, a small advancing wave tailing into a broad wake,
and with a wild feeling of excitement he dropped into the river and
waded carefully in to meet it: he was yet six or seven yards above it,
as he stood nervously grasping his spear, and still he stood motionless
as a statue, till the wave washed up close beside him, when sharp and
sudden he launched out his spear--swish!--and the iron rattled on the
pebbles in the river, as the salmon dived down beneath the blow which
had grazed its back, and shot away up the stream.

"Alick, Alick, come here, I'm sure I struck it!" shouted the eager boy,
as he rushed headlong after his prey, ever and anon tripping over a
stone and falling with a loud splash into the shallow water, which for
more than a mile from the mouth of the Arkail was rarely more than
three feet deep; but though he every now and then fancied he saw the
salmon's wake still bearing on before him, he ran to little purpose but
to cover himself with wounds and bruises from head to foot, and was on
the very point of giving up his fruitless chase, from sheer exhaustion,
when a cry from his brother, sounding ahead of him, urged him on, and
as he turned a corner round which the river swept in a sharp curve, he
came upon Alick standing near the bank and pinning something down with
his spear to the bottom of the water. "Go down and get him under the
gills, old boy," was his brother's greeting, as Frank stumbled
breathlessly up; "he's a regular monster, and will take you all you
know to carry him in; but I think he's your friend, and he will count
as yours, if we find your mark on him." "First spear" always counted in
the Sunderbunds' (a precedent advanced by the speaker from his
reminiscences of pig-sticking in Lower Bengal).

"There it is then, Alick," said Frank, as he laid the fish down on the
river's bank and pointed to a jagged cut a little behind the dorsal
fin. "I did not allow enough in front, and should never have seen him
again but for you; but isn't he a thick fellow, and I can answer for
his weight already. I shouldn't care about carrying him to the lodge, I
know; but I suppose we had better take him back to the others, so we
may tie him up, if you have a bit of string with you. Thanks,--that
will do capitally."

Reader, I hope we have not failed by this time to give you an insight
into the mysteries of a sport which, though now defended by stringent
penalties, was no unworthy one in its time, requiring, as it did, the
utmost dexterity, training, and endurance: three objects which in
themselves are sufficient to elevate any pursuit which can promote
them, and which many seek to acquire amongst the mountains of
Switzerland or the hills of Scotland. In a lesser way, after the
fatigues of the London season, the gentler sex strive to attain the
same end by walking, riding, sailing, or otherwise recruiting with
fresh country air.



CARPE DIEM


When one gets ever such a little older, one gets very much more
disinclined to take much trouble, much physical trouble that is, about
hobbies which once were ridden to death. A few years ago it was a
pleasure to get up at two o'clock in the morning, and have six hours'
fishing before it became necessary to get to work at Blackstone and
Chitty, and the endless writing of "common forms"; now I prefer keeping
within the sheets until breakfast-time, and leaving fishing expeditions
for legitimate holidays. So that, as holidays are not very frequent,
and often necessarily taken up in other ways, and as fishing stations
are distant, and not easily accessible, my hand is in danger of
forgetting its cunning in wielding a fishing-rod. I do not so much miss
my favourite sport, until, in an unfortunate hour, I get hold of a book
of angling reminiscences, of which there are plenty, and reading in its
pages vivid descriptions of days by the riverside, such as I used to
experience myself, my fancy sets to work, and, aided by memory,
conjures up such delightful visions that at last I cannot sit still;
the room, ay, and the town, seem to stifle me, and I long for a
glorious ramble, rod in hand, as much as I ever did.

Following close upon the perusal of such a book, and the feelings
awakened by it, I was pleased beyond measure to find myself possessed
of a few days of leisure, and once more in the bonny border land of
Wales. I took care to make the most of my time, and seize the
opportunity of renewing my acquaintance with some of those charming
spots with which, as an angler and a writer, I had in times past
identified myself.

One day I spent in tracing the wanderings of the burn whence a lusty
trout had been transferred to my pannier. Another afternoon I set out
for a carp pool, not _the_ carp pool _par excellence_ of our boyish
days, but one nearly as good, where I had caught some six-pounders
years ago. I walked to the place--it was two miles and a half
away--burdened with three rods and a huge bagful of worms, intent upon
slaughter. I neared the field, I crossed the hedge. I stood still and
gazed in astonishment. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. _There was no
pool there._ I walked round the field and across the field, which was
strewn with clumps of rushes. A peewit had laid four eggs on the very
spot, as I calculated, where I had hooked my biggest carp. A small boy
hove in sight. I seized him, and asked him where the pool had gone. He
answered, "Whoy, mun, it ha' been drained dry these three years." I sat
upon a gate and smoked four cigarettes, then walked home, my rods
feeling twice as heavy as when I came that way.

I was to be recompensed, however, for my disappointment by a day at the
carp pool on the hill at Craigyrhiw, Coed-y-gar, or Penycoed, for it
goes by all three names, the first being the most proper. By accident I
met an old friend from a distance, who, when he heard where I was bound
to, offered to accompany me. I was glad of his companionship for more
than one reason. He had affected to disbelieve my accounts of the big
fish to be caught there, and this was an opportunity of vindicating
myself from the charge of exaggeration. He got his rods and we started,
pausing on the way to get a couple of small Melton Mowbray pies for
lunch. My friend, whom I shall call A., left the commissariat
department to me, and I, having just had a good breakfast, did not
contemplate the possibility of becoming very hungry during the day, so
considered we should have quite sufficient to recruit ourselves with.
Leaving the town, we passed under the beautiful avenue of limes in the
churchyard, musical with rooks and sweet with the spring fragrance, and
so on to Oswald's Well. Under a tree at this spot King Oswald fell in
battle, and out of the ground afterward sprang water, said to be
endowed with healing power. The well is neatly arched over with stone,
and has an effigy of King Oswald at the back; but the latter offered
too good a mark for the stones of the grammar-school lads to remain
undefaced. Oswaldestree is now corrupted into Oswestry, or more
commonly among the country people, Hogestry or Osistry. Just above the
well is the present battle-ground, where affairs of honour among the
schoolboys are, or used to be, settled by an appeal to fisticuffs.

Crossing Llanvorda Park we enter Craigvorda woods, at once the most
beautiful and picturesque of the many similar woods on the borders. The
ground is mossy underfoot, the trees meet overhead, glossy green ferns
pave the noble corridors, which have for pillars straight and sturdy
firs and larch, and for a roof the heavy foliage of interwoven sycamore
and oak. At intervals the chestnut too lifts its gigantic nosegay of
pink and white and yellow flower-spikes, and near it, out of some
craggy knoll, the "lady of the forest," the silver birch, bends
tenderly over the masses of blue hyacinths below. "The shade is silent
and dark and green, and the boughs so thickly are twined across, that
little of the blue sky is seen between;" but there is no lack of blue
underfoot, for the hyacinths seem to have claimed the wood as their own
property, and shine like a shimmering sea of blue between the
tree-stems, quite putting out of countenance with their blaze of colour
the modest violet, growing by the side of the runnels leaping downward
to join the noisy brook.

We crossed the Morda, a purling trout stream, out of which you may
easily basket a score of trout in the spring; up a lane, the banks of
which were crowded so thickly with spring flowers, starwort, and other
snow-white flowers, deep-blue germander speedwells, red ragged robins,
and wild geraniums, monkshood, daisies, dandelions, and buttercups,
that the green of the leaves and grasses was quite absorbed and lost in
the brighter hues; up and up, until our legs began to ache, and at last
we came to the crest of the hill, in the hollow a few feet below which
lay the tarn, gloomy enough, but weirdly beautiful. The water itself
looked green from the prevailing colour of the rushes and flags, and
the deep belt of green alders, which grew half in and half out of it
all round.

"Look," I said, "there are two herons, a couple of wild-ducks, with
their young brood just hatched, twenty or thirty coots and waterhens,
and some black leaves sticking up out of the water, which are the
things we are after."

"What do you mean?" asked A.

"They are the back fins of carp."

A.'s rods--he had two, as I had--were put together with remarkable
quickness. I took it more leisurely, and watched him searching about
for a place to cast his line in, with some amusement.

"I say, how are we to get at the water?" he cried.

"Wade." But this he was averse to doing. He found a log of wood, and
pushing it out beyond the bushes, where it was very shallow, he took
his stand upon it in a very wobbley state, with a rod in either hand. I
took up a position a short distance from him, and we waited patiently
for half an hour without a bite. Suddenly I heard a splash, and looking
round, saw that A. had slipped off his perch, and was halfway up to his
knees in water, with a broken rod and a most rueful expression on his
face.

"I have lost such a beauty."

"Serves you right. You can't pitch a big carp out like you could a
trout. This is the way--see."

I struck at a decided bite, and found that I was fast in a good fish,
which, after a lively bit of splashing and dashing about (the water was
only knee-deep, though so muddy the fish could not see us), I led into
a little haven or pond, where the inmates of a cottage in the wood came
to get their water, and lifted him out with my hands--a tidy fish of
three pounds in weight. In about a quarter of an hour A.'s float moved
slightly. He was all excitement directly. He had never caught anything
larger than a half-pound trout. Some minutes elapsed before another
movement took place.

"He has left it," said A.

"No, he has not. Don't move; you will get him presently."

Then the float or quill gave a couple of dips; then in a few seconds
more moved off with increasing rapidity. "Now strike." A. did so, and
soon landed a carp of two pounds. From that time we had steady sport
throughout the day. Every quarter of an hour one of us had a bite; and
although we missed a good many through striking too soon, our
respective heaps of golden-brown fish (very few of the carp there are
at all white) grew rapidly in size.

As we were coming back from a small larch-tree where we had found a
beautifully constructed golden-crested wren's nest, suspended from the
under side of a branch, A. suddenly clasped me round the middle, and
gave me a very neat back throw.

"Hullo! what's that for?" I exclaimed, considerably astonished as I sat
on the ground.

"Your foot was just poised over that beggar," he said, pointing to a
big brown adder, which was gliding away like an animated ash-stick.

"Ah, thanks; there are too many of those fellows here."

We had eaten the two pies, and as four o'clock drew near we got mighty
hungry again.

"Just hand me over another pie, old fellow, Nature abhors a vacuum,"
said A.

"I haven't got any more," I answered.

"Not got any more? O dear!" After a pause, "I _am_ hungry." In a
little while longer A. started off, saying, "You mind my rod while I am
away. I am going foraging for food. I'll try and catch a rabbit, and
eat him alive, oh! I've been meditating upon those fish, but I don't
like the look of them."

He was gone for about half an hour, during which time I had landed
three fish. When he came back he had the countenance of a man who had
dined well. He said to me,

"Go as straight as you can through the wood in that direction, and you
will come to a cottage where there is plenty of hot tea, a loaf of
bread, and some butter awaiting you. I never dined better in all my
life, and I forgive you for only bringing two pies."

I obeyed his directions, and the tea certainly was refreshing, although
I could not get any sugar with it.

It was time to be going. We counted our fish. I had eleven (my usual
number at that pool, by the way), and A. had ten, most from two to
three pounds each, but one or two heavier. We selected the best, and as
many as we could conveniently carry, and gave the rest to some
cottagers.

From the shooting-box, which is at the top of the hill, and is, by the
way, in a state of dilapidation, we had a most magnificent view, one
well worth the walk to see. It was a view which embraced Shropshire,
Cheshire, Montgomeryshire, Denbighshire, and Merionethshire. In the
vividly green valley below us the little village of Llansilin
slumbered, scarcely noticeable were it not for the dark and massy
yew-trees in its churchyard.

From the rocks farther on we saw a pretty sight. A fox was standing on
a stone, and on a sloping slab beneath her five cubs were sprawling and
gambolling about like a lot of Newfoundland puppies.

Presently the vixen trotted off a little way and lay down; and while we
were watching her a rabbit popped out of his burrow, and came several
yards towards Reynard without seeing her. With one bound fox was upon
bunny, and the pair rolled over and over down the hill. The captor then
slunk off with her captive, not to her young ones, but to a quiet hole
in the cliff, to have a gorge all by her greedy self.

In a hollow tree in the cliff we found three jackdaws' nests, each with
four eggs in; and we were amused at watching a woodpecker tapping away
at a tree. The noise produced was like that made by drawing a stick
very rapidly over some wooden palings, and quite as loud, or even more
like a watchman's rattle worked rather slowly. A curious spectacle was
presented in the lane on going home. It was a warm damp night, and
every dozen yards or so a glowworm exhibited its eerie light, and each
successive one seemed to shine more whitely and brightly than the last.

The day was done, its pleasure seized, and--no, not gone, for a
pleasant memory remains wherewith to delight myself, and perchance
please my friends, among whom I would fain number all angling readers.



NEWMARKET

BY CAPTAIN R. BIRD THOMPSON


Newmarket is termed, and justly so, the metropolis of racing, but a
greater contrast than Newmarket presents during the race-weeks and the
rest of the year can scarcely be imagined. Any one who stood on the top
of the hill on the Cambridge road, and looked down the main street, in
one of the off-weeks, would think that he had hardly ever seen such a
desolate forsaken-looking sort of place; the only living things to be
seen being a few old women standing at the corners of the streets
scratching their elbows, and two or three lads lounging about.
Occasionally a tradesman will come out of his shop, and, after looking
disconsolately up and down the street, will go and look into his own
shop-window; his idea being, I suppose, either to see if he can dress
his window more attractively, or that he would rather stare into his
own shop-window than that nobody at all should; and the only way you
would discover you were in a great racing district would be that you
might see a string of sheeted racers passing through the street on
their way from their training-grounds to their stables; or if you
listened to the old women's or lads' conversation you would hear
nothing but about some of the numerous trainers' "lots." The number of
empty houses, too, and the bills of auction sales you see posted up
everywhere with "In re" So-and-so in the corner, or "By order of the
Sheriff," add to the desolateness of the scene. But during the
race-weeks all this is altered, and the scene is as exciting and
enlivening as it was dull before; the pavements crowded with men, two
huge masses on each side, at the Rooms and White Hart, reminding one
strongly of the way bees hang out of their hives previous to swarming.
The inhabitants, too, erect stalls down both sides of the street, where
all sorts of things are exposed for sale--fruit and vegetables of every
kind, and amongst these hampers of a curious vegetable believed by the
aborigines to be cucumbers, but to an uninstructed eye looking like a
cross between a pumpkin and a hedgehog, so yellow and prickly are they;
large baskets of mushrooms, those esculents which once cost the late
Lord George Bentinck so dearly, and which he ever after cursed so
heartily. There are stalls also where clothes and boots are sold,
besides others where very dubious-looking confectionery is dealt in,
and one I saw which had plates of yellow snail-looking things for sale.
I do not know whether racegoers are supposed to eat these things, but
if they do they must have uncommonly strong stomachs.

Vehicles of every sort and shape are plying for hire in the street, all
of that wonderful kind that seem peculiar to race-meetings, regattas,
&c., and which fill a person with wonder to think where they could have
been made, and what they were originally intended for. Newmarket is,
indeed, worth seeing on the morning of one of the big days, like the
Cambridgeshire, to form any idea of the enormous multitude of people
attending. It is well worth while to get into the stand at the end of
the Rowley Mile as soon as you can, and a most wonderful sight it is to
see the huge and incessant mass of people pouring down the side of the
course from the old stand; one unbroken stream, many yards wide, and
apparently never ending, yet perfectly quiet and orderly; no rough
horseplay or rowdyism; composed of men who come for racing, and nothing
else. An almost equally large string of vehicles pours down the road,
the full ones getting along as fast as they can manage, and those that
have discharged their loads galloping back in hopes of fresh fares. The
natural idea of anyone attending for the first time is that there will
be an awful crush; but such is the excellence of Newmarket as a
racecourse that there is none whatever, and every one, either on foot
or in the stand, can see every race from start to finish, with the
exception of those run on the Cesarewitch course, and then no one can
see the horses until they come into the straight, with the exception of
a bare sight of the start, and a glimpse of them as they pass the Gap,
which may be caught by keen-eyed people in the stand. It is really
extraordinary to see how the immense crowd that you behold coming seems
to dissipate, so that there does not appear to be any very great
multitude of people until the races are over, and you turn home; then
you see how enormous the numbers have been, there being a complete
block of people from the course right through the town, and even up to
the station.

The stand is, as usual, divided into three portions--one for members of
the Jockey Club, the second Tattersall's, and the third for the general
public; the two last named are generally full, as all the principal
bookmakers assemble here. There is comparative quiet until the numbers
for the first race are put up--the only noise to be remarked is the
voice of some bookmaker offering to bet on some big race to come; but
suddenly a peculiar creaking is heard, and a frame rises above the
building next to the trainers' stand, with the numbers of the horses
starting, and the names of jockeys. There is then a dead silence for a
minute or so, whilst people are marking their cards, and next a perfect
storm of "four to one, bar one!" or whatever the odds may be, rises
from the ring, deafening and utterly bewildering the novice. This storm
lasts, if it is not a heavy betting race, not only until the horses are
at the post, but even as they are running, and some insane individuals
actually offer to bet as to what horse has won after they have passed
the post. But if there has been heavy betting a dead silence is
maintained in the ring from the time the horses get to the starter
until they have passed the post; this was most remarkably illustrated
on the last Cambridgeshire day. From the time the horses got to the
starting-post until the race was finished, though there was a delay of
three-quarters of an hour, owing to some of the horses repeatedly
breaking away, not a sound was heard in the ring; the silence was
almost oppressive. Sometimes when a complete outsider wins, whose name
has never been written down by the book-makers, the more excitable of
them throw up their hats and cheer loudly; but as a body they are a
most impassive set of men, and you could never tell by their faces
whether they had lost or won. Very curious are they in another way:
they never seem to, and I suppose really do not, care a bit about the
horses themselves; many of them not even looking at them when they are
running, merely glancing at the winning numbers when put up. They do
not appear to be guided in their bets by any regard to the condition of
the horses, state or length of the course, or their previous
performances, but on what they imagine to be the intentions of the
stable to which they belong; and sometimes they seem to suppose that
certain horses take it in turns to win, and back them accordingly,
quite independently of the condition of the horse itself. A remarkable
instance of this occurred at one Houghton Meeting, in the All-aged
Stakes: only two horses were left in for them, Ecossais and Trappist,
the former with three pounds the best of the weights. It is true they
had run in and out in a very curious way, and this time the bookmakers
declared "it was Trappist's turn," and backed him accordingly, giving
odds against the other. When they passed the stand on their way to the
starting-post, Trappist was going along with his head in the air,
fighting with his bit, and with the stiltiest stiffest action possible;
Ecossais cantering by his side as pleasantly as a lady's hack. But in
spite of this, though it must have been evident to anyone that Trappist
did not intend to try, and was thoroughly sulky, yet the bookmakers
gave him all their support because "it was his day." As was to be
expected, Ecossais came right away from him, winning easily; and great
was their wrath.

The principal bookmakers have their regular stations in the ring, where
they can be readily found by their customers; and as they stand there
with a pleasant smile on their faces, the old nursery rhyme, "Ducky,
ducky, ducky, come and be killed," always comes forcibly into my mind.
A very clever-looking set of men they are, and some of them have really
intellectual faces. Most wonderful calculators they are too; the power
they have to tell at a glance how much they have got in their books,
and the way in which they can subdivide the odds at a moment's notice,
is most extraordinary. A marked contrast to these great bookmakers are
the small would-be bookmakers, who rush all about the ring, bothering
anyone they see who has been betting or they think likely to bet,
offering the most absurd odds as an inducement. The first day of any
race-meeting these gentry abound; but by the end of the week most of
them have disappeared, having retired, I suspect, into the outer ring,
and here rascality does flourish. Strangely enough, in passing through
it, you seem to be familiar with most of the betting men's faces, but
you cannot at first remember where you have seen them previously; when
suddenly it flashes across you that you saw most of these faces, or
their own brothers', in the dock at the last criminal assizes; or if
you have been over Portland or Dartmoor prisons, or any of those sort
of places, that you have seen them there. How so many of them exist
seems hard to discover; but I suspect whenever they have drawn their
victims sufficiently, as they consider, they bolt before the race comes
off. Another kind of swindling has arisen lately. You are perhaps
standing somewhere in the ring, when you discover a person is talking
to you, and saying that "Of course you have been backing our stable."
You look at him with some surprise, as he is a complete stranger to
you; whereupon the man, who is usually tolerably well dressed, and
tries to look like a gentleman, apologises for his mistake, "thought
you were So-and-so." But, however, he keeps on talking, and you cannot
shake him off. At length he declares he knows a _certainty_ for the
next race, which you must back, and bothers you so that, to get rid of
him for the time, you give him some money to invest, which he does; and
the tip turning out correct, as it very often does, you get your
money--for the man has no intention of bolting, it would not answer his
purpose. But you shortly find out what has occurred, and how you have
been done. After the race you compare notes with your friends, feeling
rather proud of winning. They ask the price you got, and you say, "O, 4
to 1." "4 to 1?" say they; "why, his price was 7 to 1." And then the
murder comes out; the scamp got 7 to 1 safe enough, so that he
comfortably pocketed the three extra points, and in this way, until
detected, doubtless makes a very nice thing of it. But he does not
often succeed in drawing the same man twice; and if you take his "tip,"
and then insist on getting the odds yourself, his blank face of disgust
is very amusing; but he takes care not to let you do this a second
time.

At the Spring and Houghton Meetings great amusement is derived from the
strong "'Varsity" contingent; these youths appearing in great force,
got up in the correctest of sporting costumes; some even going so far
as breeches and boots, though they do not as a rule trust themselves
astride a horse at the races, and certainly they get all the excitement
they can require in the short drive from the turn-pike, just off the
Cambridge road, down to the stand. Up to this point, as the road has
been wide and the vehicles not numerous, their erratic mode of driving
has not been of much importance; but here, when they get into the
stream of cabs, &c., going down to the stand, nothing but a 'Varsity
hack in a 'Varsity dog-cart could save them from total and irremediable
grief. But it _is_ a sight to see the knowing old hack seize the
bit between his teeth, and getting his head well down, so as to
neutralise any well-meaning but ill-directed attempt at guidance, tear
down full speed, close in rear of some galloping cab, and land his
passengers, in spite of their exertions, all safe, but rather scared,
at the stand. Then the reckless way these youths bet! To hear them
talk, you would think they were more up in racing matters than the
oldest member of the Jockey Club, instead of being utterly ignorant of
the respective horses, owners, jockeys, or performances; their actual
knowledge never extending to more than the horses' names, and very
often not so far as that even. The amount of "tips" they have is
something wonderful, supplied by their "gyps," I should imagine; and
the best thing one can hope for is, that these gentry may be paid by a
percentage on their master's winnings, for in this case I think the
perennial fountain of tips would soon dry up.

It is very curious to look down from the stand on to the outer ring
just previously to the starting of the race. You see nothing but a
dense mass of closely-packed hats, and little puffs of smoke rising all
over the mass, making it look just as if it was smouldering, and might
be expected to break out into flames at any moment. One thing that
makes Newmarket so enjoyable is that there is no need of dressing to
within an inch of your life, as you have to do at Ascot and Goodwood.
You see men in comfortable morning and shooting-coats, Norfolk shirts,
or any other kind of loose and easy attire; any one almost who appeared
in a frock-coat and topper would be looked on with the greatest
suspicion. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Many ladies do
not appear here--about a dozen or so in the Jockey Club stand, and a
very few in carriages, are all who attend; but those who are present
seem to enjoy the racing thoroughly, as they too are dressed
reasonably, and are not in continual misery through fear of a shower,
or that the splendour of their costume may be eclipsed by the superior
elegance of a rival, as is too often the case on other racecourses. It
is, indeed, a curious thing to notice how very few ladies or women at
all attend; even the wives and daughters of the neighbouring farmers
are not present, though there are a very sporting lot of them in the
district. In the morning, before racing commences, you do not see any
women at all about in the streets, with the exception of the few who
keep the fruit and vegetable stalls in the main street.

I have mentioned previously the wonderful edibles offered for sale in
the town; but those brought on to the Heath are stranger still, the
chief of them consisting of acid-drops and butter-scotch. You meet
vendors of these everywhere; and, stranger still, actually see grown
men buying them. Whether they think they will bring them "luck"--and
there is scarcely anything a regular "turfite" would not do if he
thought it would bring him luck--or whether they imagine the taste of
juvenile luxuries will restore the innocence of their youth, I do not
know; but that they buy them and actually eat them is an undoubted
fact. Apples, too, are sold; and once I saw a man selling prawns in the
stand itself. Now fresh prawns for breakfast are very nice, and so is
prawn-curry; but wind- and sun-dried prawns offered for consumption by
themselves in the middle of the day are not very inviting, and I did
not see anyone buy them. At the railway station also, when you are
returning, you find a lot of women hawking ducks and chickens about,
but I never saw anybody buy them. Indeed, it would be rather puzzling
to know what to do with one if you did purchase it. You could not open
your trunk and put it in; and if you did, I do not think it would
travel well with your shirts, &c.; and to sit with a dead duck in your
lap the whole way back to down would be trying.

Most interesting it is to go in the early morning to the
training-grounds, and look at the racers at exercise. Here you see them
in every stage, from the yearling just being led about quietly with a
lunging rein on to the adult racer taking his final spin, previously to
competing for some stake, and a finer spectacle than this last cannot
be seen: the magnificent animal in perfect condition, his satin coat,
showing the play of the muscles underneath, striding along at his top
speed, untouched by whip or spur, is a perfect picture of beauty. You
see many people out watching the horses, some merely through fondness
for horseflesh, but many of the genus "tout." How people can be found
weak enough to believe in their "tips" it is hard to conceive; for if a
"trial" is properly managed, and the stable secrets well kept, not even
the lads themselves know the weights the horses are run at, or even the
exact distance, so the "tips" of these gentry must be the veriest
guesses possible. They adopt wonderful disguises, under the fallacious
idea that they shall not be detected. There is one constantly to be
seen got up as a clergyman of the Church; and really, if you judged him
by a passing glance, you would think he was some indefatigable pastor
going to visit some sick member of his flock; but if you looked closely
at him, you would see that if he had a flock it would be uncommonly
closely shorn. He might more correctly be termed "a Baptist," so often
has he received the rite by total immersion in a horse-pond,
stable-lads being the officiating ministers, and the frogs at the
bottom his sponsors.

But there is "a thorn in every rose," and there is a very large one at
Newmarket in the shape of a church, with a squat square tower
containing a peal of the most abominable bells in England, I should
think; they are all about a semitone out of tune, and the effect is
aggravating past description--far worse than the ding-dong-spat of the
three bells you so often hear in old-fashioned village churches, where
two of the bells have no relation in tone to one another, and the third
is cracked. These wretched things jangle and clash for, I should think,
half an hour every day about eleven; and I find the idea among the
aborigines is that they are playing a tune, but the effect of the
performance on a musical ear is excruciating. But, apart from this, few
pleasanter places can be found at which to pass some days than
Newmarket during a fine autumn meeting.

One word in conclusion. If anyone intends to bet at Newmarket, never
take a Newmarket "tip" unless it is very strongly corroborated
elsewhere; for the true Newmarket man firmly believes, in spite of all
facts to the contrary, that no horse can win unless it has been trained
there, and would rather back the veriest rip in existence hailing from
headquarters than the best possible racer trained elsewhere.



KATE'S DAY WITH THE OLD HORSE


"Yes, Kate, we are as nearly as possible 'stone broke,' as your brother
would say. The time seems to have come, my girl, when 'honour may be
deemed dishonour, loyalty be called a crime,' at any rate in Ireland;
and as we can't make our tenants pay rent, we must go."

The speaker was a massive-looking old gentleman with clean-cut,
weather-beaten features, and a heavy white moustache. He had drawn his
chair away from the breakfast table, and was still knitting his brows
over his morning letters.

Poor old Lowry, like his fathers before him, had lived out of doors
amongst his own tenantry all his life, with a joke and a half-crown for
anyone who wanted them.

Almost all the harm he had ever done was to win a heart or two which he
did not want, or drink a glass or two more than was good for him. For
forty years he had paid rates and taxes, acted conscientiously as a
magistrate, and filled several other onerous but unpaid offices for his
Queen and such as are put in authority under her; he had drunk her
health loyally every night since he first learnt to drink strong drink,
and would have "knocked sparks out of" anyone who had spoken
disrespectfully of her before him; and now the property which his
fathers had honestly earned was left at the mercy of a league of avowed
rebels, and he himself was branded as an enemy of the people. Had he
and such as he been left to defend themselves, they would long ago have
put an end to these enemies of honest men and of the State, but their
hands were tied. They were bidden to wait for help, but no help came.
Lowry was still too loyal to murmur openly against the Government which
had ruined him, but he had just realized that their name and their
loyalty were almost the only things left to him and Kate, his daughter,
who sat playing nervously with an empty envelope and gazing out blankly
and sadly upon the old park she loved until her deep blue eyes filled
unconsciously with tears.

But Kate was not the girl to indulge in tears when a difficulty had to
be met, and in ten minutes she had mastered her emotion and was walking
with her father to the stables, gravely discussing affairs with the
stalwart old man, more like one man with another than like a young girl
with her father.

"So the horses are to go up next week, Dad, are they? It is a bit of a
wrench to say good-bye to you, Val," said the girl, as she laid her
hand lovingly on the neck of a great up-standing chestnut, "but you are
good enough to find yourself a situation, my boy. Father, though, what
about Joe? We could not let him go into a cab, and he is too old for
anything better."

"True, Kate, and I can't bear to shoot the old fellow, and yet what are
_we_ to do with a pensioner now?"

"Shoot him! No, father, we'll keep the bullets for other billets. A
loyal servant and friend like Joe has as much claim on you as your
daughter has; and whilst we have bread and cheese we can find Joe in
fodder. Poor old fellow, I believe he would rather eat his litter with
us than old oats in a strange stable."

It was a pretty picture, let latter day æsthetes deny it if they
will--the tall, strong girl, natural and unaffected, not a bit angelic,
but very womanly, caressing the old horse, who lowered his head to meet
her caresses, and shoved his honest old nose against her cheek.

And Kate was right. It _is_ a hard thing that a horse who has risked
his neck a thousand times for his master, who has never known fear or
spared himself in that master's service, should be thought only fit
for a bullet when his limbs and wind begin to fail. We pension the
half-hearted human servants, we destroy the whole-hearted beasts who
have worn out their youth and strength prematurely in our employ.

"How are you going to keep Joe, if I let you try, Kate?"

"Well, father, I ought to be able to make a pound a month by
needlework, Christmas cards, and so forth; there is a bit of land at
the cottage, so that turned out on that in summer and not much worked
in winter, Joe need not cost much to keep, and I'll groom him myself."

"And what would the London aunts say to that, Kate?" laughed the
squire.

Kate put a hand trustingly on the old man's shoulder as she answered
smiling, "The London aunts say a good many things, Dad, which I don't
agree with, and you only pretend to, you know. Aunt Dorothy prefers her
carpets to sunshine, at least she keeps her rooms dark all day for fear
the sun should spoil their colours."

"I thought it was her colour which the sun spoilt, Kate?"

Kate laughed, and with a squeeze of her father's arm and a saucy nod,
flitted off to see to some member of her animal kingdom.

Luckily for the Irish, they take trouble well, and though skinning is
an unpleasant process, they soon get used to it.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Three months after the events recorded in the preceding paragraphs,
Kate and her father were living at what had been their agent's cottage,
a tiny house with stabling for one horse. The Lowry's agent was now
Colonel Lowry himself, and his daughter (the best and straightest lady
rider in Gonaway) had laid aside her habit as a souvenir of happier
days.

At the Hall a rich Londoner had replaced the old squire (as his
tenant), and a London young lady inflicted agony on the mouths of such
horses as she rode, and never disgraced her sex by an after-breakfast
visit to the stables.

Instead of the laughter of that tom-boy Kate, highly finished
performances on the piano frightened the blackbirds off the lawn, and
instead of jokes and half-crowns from a poor but warm-hearted native,
the peasantry now received pamphlets on market gardening and threepenny
pieces from an alien millionaire.

                 *       *       *       *       *

"Molly says they have just shot 'the Laurels' for the seventh time this
year, and there's not a hen pheasant left on the estate."

"Never mind, father, it won't matter to us. Mr Preece will have some
more down from Leadenhall Market or some such place next year; and,
after all, they pay our rent for us, and we couldn't live without
them."

"Pay the rent," grumbled the squire; "I could have done that myself, if
I'd sold all the game, and never given a head to man or woman on the
place."

"Then why didn't you, Dad?"

"Why didn't I, girl? Well then, it's just because I suppose I've always
belonged to 'the stupid party,' thank God for it."

Poor old Lowry was a red-hot Tory, without any Liberal instincts
whatever, a fact which sufficiently accounted for the mess he had made
of his life. And yet, somehow, the men who dared still to touch their
hats to this reprehensible old robber of the public lands, did so with
a smile in their eyes more hearty than the smirk they gave to his
successor, Mr Preece.

Since the first day we met her, a change has come over Kate. The
grey-blue eyes are just as beautiful, but there is less sparkle in
them; the lips are just as sweet, sweeter it may be, but the dimple has
gone. In the last few months she has seen more of the seamy and shabby
side of life than she had even guessed at in the twenty sunny years
which went before.

I don't think the squire has any suspicion of it, and Kate has neither
mother nor sister to tell it to, but her poor little heart has had its
stoutness tried a good deal of late. When Kate was queen at the Hall,
gallant George Vernon, somewhile captain of Hussars, and at present
master of the hounds and Kate's very distant cousin, had remembered the
tie of kinship to the bright young beauty quite as often as duty
required. Now his visits were like angel's visits in number and, to the
proud Kate, far less welcome.

George Vernon was no snob, but then Kate, the hostess at the Hall, the
reigning queen in the hunting-field, and Kate without a horse to her
name, in a cottage and out of the world altogether, were very different
persons, and George unconsciously showed that he felt the change.
Though man is fickle, perhaps George would not have allowed his
admiration for his cousin to cool so suddenly had there not been
attractions elsewhere.

Miss Preece (the daughter of the new tenant at the Hall) would have
passed as a pretty woman anywhere. If lemon-coloured locks, an abundant
fringe, bright colour, and the full, tempting figure of a young Juno,
make beauty, then Polly Preece was a belle. If reckless riding and a
smart habit make a horsewoman, Polly Preece was a very Amazon.

True she had never had a fall; true her horses cost three hundred
guineas apiece, and were clever enough to jump through hoops at a
circus, even though they had ten stone of fair humanity hung on to
their tortured mouths; and true, too, that though Polly laughed often
(and showed in doing so as dazzling a set of teeth as ever disappointed
a dentist), few people owed even a smile to any wit of hers.

But the Bruisers (as the men of the Gonaway hounds were called) voted
her a right good sort, if only she would give them a little more time
at their fences and not always pick the tenderest part of a man to jump
upon.

George Vernon did the civil at first as Master. In a week's time he was
her pilot, and in a month half a dozen of the Bruisers were sadly
afraid that he would ere long be her husband, thereby robbing them of
the greatest prize in the local market of matrimony and of the merriest
bachelor in the hunt. As for George himself, he thought honestly enough
that the Preece girl was "very good fun," but if he could have had her
dollars without her he would have been a happy man. Unfortunately,
circumstances, especially the bills connected with the maintenance of a
crack pack of fox-hounds, were beginning to impress upon him more and
more the necessity for converting Miss Preece into a connecting link
between himself and her papa's money bags.

This was, roughly, the state of affairs on Monday, November 2nd, 1885,
the first regular meet of the Bruisers for the season.

It was a time-honoured custom that the first meet should be held at the
Hall, and though the master of the house who had entertained them so
often was there no longer, still the house stood and the custom
remained.

                 *       *       *       *       *

"I suppose you would hardly care to go to the meet to-day, Dad?"
queried Kate at breakfast.

"Not go to the meet, girl, after keeping the old tryst so many years,
why not?"

"Oh, I don't know, only I thought you might not."

"What, because another fellow provides the sherry and is master at the
Hall? Of course I don't like it, but providing he does not give the men
Hamburg stuff, I'll go and be thankful to him for doing what I can no
longer afford to do. Put on a leather petticoat, little woman, and
we'll run with them since we can't ride."

I think the old man struck the match to light his pipe a shade more
viciously than was necessary, but he never winced, though he was
perhaps remembering another 2nd of November when the little woman was
yet unborn, and he himself on the best horse in the country was as good
a man "as ever holloaed to a hound," and in one fair woman's eyes the
best.

Suddenly he put down his pipe and called, "Kate."

"Yes, father."

"Come down again for a minute."

"All right, in half a second;" and almost as soon as she had promised
Kate was in the room again.

"What is your will, sir?" said she with a little mocking courtesy.

"Why, child, I was thinking that you at any rate might ride to the
meet. Your habit is packed away somewhere; Joe looked yesterday as fit
as paint, and, as Tim expressed it, 'is brimful of consate.' I declare
he has waxed fat and kicks, to the serious detriment of his old
tumble-down box."

"No, father, if you don't ride, I shan't. If you run, so shall I."

"Do as you are bid, Kate, or rather, since you never do that, ride if
it is only half-a-dozen fences, just to please your old father, and to
show that young woman at the Hall the difference between riding and
being carried, between hands and paws."

Those who loved Kate best would always have been the first to admit
that she had just "the laste bit of the divvle in her, God bless her,"
and hence it was perhaps that her father's diplomatic suggestion as to
the eclipse of her rival brought the colour to her cheek and the light
to her eyes.

"Do you really want me to, father?"

"Really, really, Kate, and now let us go and have a look at Joe."

                 *       *       *       *       *

I am ashamed to say how old Joe was. Like ladies, horses don't care to
have their ages published on every house-top, and though they cannot
lie for themselves on this important point, they have no difficulty in
finding many to lie for them.

Joe was said to have been eight when the Lowrys bought him, and they
had ridden the gallant brown for seven years. But eight is a queer
age in a horse, as expansive and uncertain as the adjective "young"
when applied to spinsters. At the lowest computation Joe was not less
than fifteen, and a "vet." who wanted to buy him once pledged his
professional credit that he was twenty-six at least. Be this as it may,
when an hour later he walked out of his loose box, he looked the very
type and _beau idéal_ of a twelve-stone hunter. From the carriage of
his lean game head and trimly-docked tail, from the cheery snort with
which he welcomed the fresh air, from the muscle on his square and
massive quarters, from his hard, clean legs and full, bold eye, you
might have fancied he was a six-year-old. A veteran strapper who had
followed the squire from the Hall to the cottage, had spent an hour in
dressing the old horse, and the squire's own hands had put the
finishing touches to his toilette. Proud and gay the old rascal looked
before his mistress mounted, but when she was in the saddle he gave one
wild kick from mere exuberance of spirits and then trotted out of the
yard, as old Tim expressed it, "for all the world as if he was tridding
on eggs."

                 *       *       *       *       *

"Ye gods! she is a dazzler! Quite takes my breath away," said a
shiny-hatted, faultlessly-breeched stranger from Dublin to a young
local Nimrod; "why, there are not half-a-dozen girls, even with the
Meath, who have ventured out yet in Busvine's scarlet array, and here
is a young lady in the wilds of Gonaway with a seat like a sack of
potatoes and raiment more magnificent than Solomon in all his glory."

"Fits her well for all that, and suits her style, milk and roses and
that sort of thing, you know," replied the local, himself rather a
captive to the fair equestrienne.

"Milk and roses! Milk and fiddlestick! Lemon and white I should
describe her if she was in the setter class; but tell me, who is she,
and has she any money?"

Needless, perhaps, to explain that poor Polly Preece was the subject of
this irreverent banter, which in a measure perhaps she had deserved,
for though a pretty woman in "the lady's pink" is a fair picture in a
showy frame, she must not be hurt if she is a little stared at on her
first appearance. And, indeed, Polly was not hurt. On the contrary she
was flattered and in high spirits. Her new jacket fitted her to
perfection; her horse was well-mannered and easy to ride; she had drawn
the attention of every one to her sweet self, and she felt for the
moment that "blues" or fear had for her neither existence nor meaning.

A large group of late comers was still standing in the doorway and on
the broad steps of the hall, chaffing each other or pledging their host
in a last stirrup cup.

"What is that madcap daughter of mine about now?" exclaimed old Preece,
as Polly broke from the throng and sent her horse along over the turf
at a rattling gallop, followed by two or three of her admirers.

From the steps to the line of elms no fence was visible to the
spectators, and yet before reaching the avenue, three of the horses
rose at something, and the fourth and his rider seemed to be swallowed
up.

"Good heavens! young Voyle is down in the Park fence," cried Preece;
and sure enough the exquisite from Dublin shortly after emerged from
the abyss, his hat crushed, his breeches smirched, and his temper
somewhat soured by the loss of a good horse.

"Really, Mr Preece, you must curb that young lady's pluck; she will
break her neck some day if you don't take care," suggested an elderly
friend.

"Break her neck," growled old Preece; "it isn't pluck, it is folly;
wait until she has had a fall; you'll see she will learn better."

Kate had been sitting a quiet spectator of this little episode, though
the old horse had backed and fidgetted with impatient desire to join in
the fun.

As Polly rode back from the fence she caught sight of Kate, and with
that sweetness which women show to rivals they detest, wreathed her
face in smiles and laid a caressing hand on Joe's mane.

"Oh, Kate, how glad I am to see you out! I wish, dear, you had let me
know that you meant to come. You might have ridden Dennis or my bay. I
am afraid your dear old horse is almost past work now!"

"Doesn't look like it, does he, Miss Preece?" retorted Kate, as Joe
champed his bit and pawed the velvet turf. Polly hated to be called
Miss Preece by Kate, and would fain have passed for her bosom friend;
but Kate unfortunately chose her own friends for herself, and Polly was
not of them.

"Cousin Kate is a rare believer in the old horse," remarked George
Vernon as he joined the two girls.

"Yes," assented Polly, "your cousin is a very antiquary; she likes
everything that is old, and only what is old. She has even spoken
slightingly of this miracle of Mr Busvine's. From politics to
petticoats, Miss Lowry is a Tory, like her father!"

"I admit all you say, Miss Preece, and glory in it. I do prefer old
habits, sartorial and otherwise, to any others."

There was a deepening in the blue of Kate's eyes as this word-play went
on, which looked as if she was more than half in earnest.

"Well, I don't agree with you, and for the sake of example I will back
my young chestnut against your veteran in the field to-day," quoth
Polly.

"Oh, come, Miss Preece, that's hardly fair," broke in George; six
against twenty-six, isn't it, Kate?"

"It may be, Cousin George, but the old horse can quite take care of
himself, thank you. Yes, I'll match my old one against your chestnut,
owners up; who is to be judge?"

"Would you mind, Captain Vernon?" pleaded Polly.

"No, certainly. What are the stakes?"

"Oh, say a pair of gloves; I am too much of a pauper to make the bet in
dozens," replied Kate, and so the bet was made.

                 *       *       *       *       *

The morning was a bright one, with a touch of hoar frost on the grass,
which none but the early risers saw.

At 11.15 the rime had all gone, and the air was as "balmy as May," the
sun shone brightly, and men's spirits were as brilliant as the weather.

But the first draw was a long one, and a blank. The second was like it,
and again no noisy note replied to what Captain Pennell Elmhirst calls
"the huntsman's tuneful pleading."

Faces began to lengthen. A blank at Tod Hall had never been heard of in
the memory of man. The gentlemen in velveteen who had taken a somewhat
prominent part in the morning's proceedings had disappeared by noon,
and men spoke disparagingly of the race which some sportsmen aver is a
compound of policeman and poacher.

It was easy by two o'clock to tell the men who rode horses from those
who only "talked horse."

The "customers" were all looking grim and silent; the men of the road
were brightly conversational, and sat in groups discussing their cigars
and whisky flasks at every point from which they could not possibly
see, should the hounds slip quietly and suddenly away.

The little group near the corner of the covert had grown weary of
waiting. The glow which follows a sharp trot to covert on your
favourite hack, and the consumption of "just one glass" of orange
brandy, had worn off, and the damp chill of a November afternoon had
begun to pierce through the stoutest of pinks and to chill the gayest
of hearts.

The horses had fretted themselves into a white lather with impatience,
or stood with drooping heads and staring coats, mute witnesses to the
chill which had come with afternoon and hope deferred. Everything
suggested that fox-hunting was an overrated amusement.

Little by little the hounds had drawn away from the Hall and its
overstocked coverts, until now, at 2 P.M., they were thrown into a
small outlying wood, where pheasants were never reared and rarely shot.

At last there was a doubtful whimper; then a hard-looking man in mufti
(a local horse dealer) stood up in his stirrups and held his hat high
above his head. A dozen keen pair of eyes saw the signal, and though no
foolish halloa imperilled their chance of a run, the light and colour
came back into the men's faces, and they forgot in a moment the
miseries of the morning as they marked the lithe red form of reynard
steal out of covert, and with a whisk of his grey-tagged brush, make
off leisurely, with his head set straight for the stiffest line in the
county.

By this time the first doubtful whimper had been caught up and repeated
in fuller and more certain tones, and there was little need of the horn
to call loiterers from covert.

One after another the beauties tumbled out in hot haste, hackles up.
For one moment each seemed to dwell as he cleared the brakes, and then
with a rush they gathered to where old Monitor had the line under the
lee of a grey stone wall, along which the whole pack glanced, swift and
close packed as wild fowl on the wing, while the keen November air
thrilled with the maddest, merriest music that ever made a sportsman's
blood tingle in his veins.

The wild freshness of the morning, with its bright sunshine, had given
place to frost, and men settled grimly down to their work with the
conviction that with such a burning scent and an afternoon fox few
would live with hounds to the finish.

The field was never a large one from the start. None but those who got
away at once had a chance of seeing the run, for the first mile was
ridden at racing pace over a lovely grass country, with nothing to stop
hounds or men save low stone walls, over which they slipped without a
rattle like the phantoms of a dream. Amongst those still with hounds at
the end of the first mile were the two ladies and the master. Polly's
red jacket had followed George Vernon as the needle follows the
magnet--a little too closely, perhaps, for the comfort of the magnet.
Kate had been in trouble on the right, her old horse, fresh and mad
with excitement and out of temper with the long restraint of the
morning, had got his ears laid flat back and the bit in his teeth.

For the moment the temperate habits of past years were forgotten, and
poor Kate, with arms aching and powerless, felt herself flashing over
stout stone walls at a pace which would have been dangerous over sheep
hurdles.

Polly's chestnut, on the contrary, was behaving in a manner which would
have done credit to the best horse in Galway or with the Heythrop,
steadying himself at every wall and popping over with the least
possible exertion to himself or risk to his rider.

And now five of the "pursuers" were in one field, grass beneath their
feet and a fair stone wall without a gap in it in front.

All except Polly probably noticed the rushes which grew in tiny bunches
beneath the wall, and guessed from them and from the sudden dip of the
land that the take-off would be a boggy one.

In vain Kate tried to get a pull at her horse. On the left Vernon and
Polly had got over with a scramble. One man was down, and a second felt
that the roan was worth another fifty at least for the way he kicked
himself clear of the dirt.

With a rush which would have landed him well on the other side of
twenty feet of water, the brown went at the highest place he could find
in the wall. Kate knew what must come, but hardened her heart and faced
it. As the old horse tried to rise, he stuck in the heavy bog. There
was a crash; for a moment everything spun round, and Kate was down with
a stunning fall.

Had anyone seen her, of course even the run of the season would have
been given up to render her assistance, but her only companions in this
particular field had the lead of her, and the side walls hid her from
other people's view, besides which Kate Lowry was one who had long
since established her right to look after herself in the hunting-field.

For a minute or two the slim girl's figure lay prone and motionless on
the damp turf, while her horse stood by, hanging his wise old head
regretfully over the ruin he had made. Then the girl raised herself on
her elbow, pushed the fair hair out of her eyes, and sitting up, looked
into the old horse's wistful face with a half smile.

"You old fool, Joe!" she said; "you ought to have known better at your
time of life."

Rising to her feet, she leaned her head for a moment on her saddle,
pressing her hand to her side as if in pain, and then backing her horse
so that he stood close alongside the wall, she climbed slowly and with
difficulty back into the saddle.

"I wonder how long we lay under that wall, Joe?" soliloquized Kate, as
she walked him through a gap in the next wall; "and I wonder, too,
where the hounds are, and if I must give it up and let that Preece girl
beat me?"

Listening intently, she sat for a moment by the roadside, the old
horse's ears pricked keenly forward. At last she thought she heard
hounds running, it seemed, to her right. Without a moment's hesitation
she turned Joe round, and, sobered by his fall, that mud-besmeared
veteran popped over the wall as cleverly as a cat, only to be reined up
short as he lit, for there, streaming over another wall, were the whole
pack, going as keenly and as fiercely now as in the first three fields.
With them were only two horsemen, the master and the man in mufti.

As the three joined forces, George noticed for the first time his
cousin's white face and muddy garments.

"Why, Kate, where have you been? Not hurt, I hope?" and though the
words were curt and simple, the expression in his face was less
careless than it might have been.

"No, thanks; more mud than bruises, I think. Where is Miss Preece?"

"Rolled off in the only piece of plough in the county, and seems to
have taken root there," laughed the ungallant M.F.H.

"No damage done, I hope?" said Kate.

"Hurt? No. Her clever chestnut put his feet into a furrow and stumbled,
_la belle_ Polly rolled off, and though we put her up again, she
seemed to have had enough, especially as she believed that you had
given up the chase some time since."

"Oh, indeed," laughed Kate, a little grimly. "You see hers was her
_first_ fall; it makes a difference."

And now the conversation dropped. Each of those three riders had his or
her hands full for the time. The fox in front of them was, indeed, a
straight-necked one. Save for the one turn which had given Kate a
second chance, he had gone straight as the crow flies since the find.
Save for a check of a short five minutes, the hounds had run almost as
if they were coursing him, and it was already a full half-hour since
the find, and the spire of Kempford church was now visible on the
right. At the back of Kempford village was a well-known drain, in which
more than one stout fox had found safety. For this reynard seemed to be
making, and to judge of the frequency with which each of the three
horses rattled their walls as they skimmed over them, his pursuers were
hardly likely to get there even if he was.

But between the Kempford drain and him there ran the deep and broad
stream of the Cheln, unfordable, and rarely, if ever, crossed (save by
a bridge) in the annals of fox-hunting. As the three neared the river,
they were (thanks to a lucky turn) in the same field with the hounds.

"By Jove, there he is," cried the "dealer," breaking silence for the
first time, and there, sure enough, dragging his gallant but draggled
person up the bank opposite was poor "pug," in full view of the pack.
No otter hounds ever took water more savagely than did old Monitor and
his comrades, almost whining with impatience to close with their
gallant foe.

"Kate, for God's sake, don't try it," cried Vernon.

It was too late; the old horse had already been driven in, and the
first woman who ever swam a horse across the Cheln was already battling
with the stream, her lips hard set, her grey-blue eyes full of fire,
and her whole face recalling vividly for the moment, in spite of its
natural softness, the stern outlines of those ancestors whose war-worn
profiles adorned the long galleries of the Hall.

It was a difficult swim, but old Joe's limbs were borne up bravely by
the brave heart within, and it was not till long after the dripping
habit had been dried that it occurred to Kate that, like Lord Cardigan,
she had forgotten that she could not swim.

The M.F.H. and his cousin were now the only two left with the hounds,
and in front of them rose, perhaps, the worst fence in the Gonaway
country, a stiff stone wall, the stones all firmly morticed, and on the
top a row of rough-edged slabs set on end like the teeth of a saw.
Under the take-off side ran a deep, little stream, nowhere less than
six feet wide, and even at that the banks were undermined and unsafe.

The cousins were alongside in the field which this mantrap bounded.
Every atom of colour had left her cheeks now, and her lips were white
with pain. Had George's whole heart and mind not been in the chase, he
must have seen, and insisted on her returning home. As it was, he only
said, "They've killed him, Kate; I must have it and save a bit of the
best fox I ever hunted." And if hounds' tongues could be believed, they
had indeed at last pulled the gallant old fox down, though the rugged
piece of masonry before alluded to hid the pack from view.

"Is there no other way, George?"

"No, don't you follow me; go back by the lane and I'll bring you the
brush if I can save it."

So saying, the master turned his horse and set himself at the place
where the wall looked lowest. Kate had been bred in a hunting country,
but truth to tell, her heart hung on that leap.

"One thrust to his hat and two to the sides of his brown," and then he
shot to the front, seat steady and hands well down. Right bravely the
horse rose at the leap, but the bank broke as he rose, his knees caught
the coping stone with a jarring thud, and man and horse lay stunned on
the other side.

To the wild cry of "George, George!" no answer came back, and then it
was for the first time that poor Kate knew how irretrievably her heart
had been lost to her dashing cousin.

To gallop to the gate was useless, though she essayed it. The gate was
six barred and locked, moreover, the wall and its guarding stream still
ran on beyond the gate. Kate had lost her head and her heart, but not
her pluck.

"Just one more try, Joe," she whispered, and with a rush that seemed
born of the last energies of a gallant heart the brave old horse faced
and cleared the coping stone. Many fresh horses might have cleared that
wall; but they talk of that leap still in Gonaway. Nearly five feet of
hard stone and a biggish brook in front was no small feat, they say,
for a tired horse, even with bonny Kate Lowry on his back.

Under the wall lay the grey, stone dead, and under him George Vernon,
his white face looking up at the sky now darkly bright with the frost
of a November evening.

How Kate got her cousin from under his horse and watched the colour
creep back to his bronzed cheek, no one knows, for she kept these
things in her own sweet heart, but it was late in the evening that a
party sent out to search met an old woman leading along a donkey cart,
on which lay poor Vernon, his leg and collar bone broken, while beside
him sat a lady, her face white with pain, which her colour alone
betrayed, and after them came a yokel leading old Joe, and followed by
the best pack in Ireland.

The day had one more event in store for the villagers of Kempford.
Arrived at the inn, Kate Lowry did what no Lowry had ever been known to
do before--she fainted. On recovering, she shame-facedly exclaimed, "I
think I must have broken something when I fell at the beginning of the
run, and it has hurt me rather ever since."

She had broken something. No more nor less than three ribs; but if she
had refused a humble prayer made to her three weeks later she would
have broken something more important--"the heart" of the M.F.H. for
Gonaway, who to this day may be heard to declare "that there is no
pluck like a woman's, and I ought to know, for I married the pluckiest
girl in old Ireland."



SOME CURIOUS HORSES

BY CAPTAIN R. BIRD THOMPSON


I fancy that I must have possessed as curious a lot of horses as has
fallen to the lot of most men--occasioned partly by the fact that
friends who, whenever they had a particularly queer-tempered or vicious
brute, were in the habit of either presenting it to me as a gift, or
offering it for a mere song; partly through my having bought several
with peculiar reputations; and, lastly, I think that it must have been
predestined that I was to be the owner of these sort of animals. My
first pony, which my father bought for me when I was six years old, was
purchased from a gentleman who parted with it because it always ran
away with his children and kicked them off. The pony, however, never
did this with me, although playing the same trick with almost everyone
else. One thing, I petted it very much, and it really was fond of me.

It was a wonderful pony. What its age was I do not know, but it was in
my possession for twenty-two years, and was said to be an old one when
my father bought it. Its death at last was brought on by eating a
quantity of half-ripe apples. Having been turned out into an orchard, a
sudden gale in the night knocked down a great many of them, and the old
fellow ate such a lot that they brought on an attack in his stomach,
which killed him in a few hours.

I had one very queer-tempered horse given to me. A friend, a great
hunting man, wrote and asked me to come up and lunch with him and talk
over some intended "meets." I accepted the invitation, and went up to
his house. After lunch he proposed a stroll over his stables. As we
were going over them we came to a horse in a stall quite away from the
rest of the stud. My friend asked me if I did not know it. I, however,
did not recognise the horse, as it had a longish coat on, and he then
told me that it was one that a Mr Goldsmidt had given 500 guineas for
about a year previously, and, finding it too much for him, had
presented it to my friend. "Now," said he, "I will give it to you, and
if you will not have the animal I shall send it to the kennel
to-morrow." I, as may be imagined, was greatly surprised, as the horse
was considered to be one of the best hunters in England. Its legs
seemed quite fresh and generally all right, so far as I could see.
Thinking that I could send it to the kennel as well as he could, if it
turned out useless, I accepted the gift with thanks.

Just as we were leaving the stables, my friend dropped back, and I
overheard him say to a groom, "Take that horse down to Captain T----'s
stables _at once_." Well, thought I, there is some screw loose--and a
pretty big one I fancy.

On reaching home, late in the afternoon, my groom met me and said, "The
new horse has come, sir; but he seems a pretty queer one." I went round
to the stables at once, and there I found the horse looking very wild,
his eyes almost standing out of his head, and he himself as far back
out of his stall as his halter-rein would allow, though not hanging on
it. I went up and began to talk to him, and at length he seemed
quieter, and his eye did not look so wild; at last he let me hold his
head-stall. I then patted and coaxed him as much as possible, and
gradually got him up into his stall. Just as I had succeeded in this,
the groom came with the evening feed. Directly the horse saw him, he
began to make a roaring noise, more like a bull than anything else.
Fortunately I had hold of his head-stall, or I think he would have
damaged the man. On loosening his head, thinking he would feed quietly,
he snapped at the corn just as a terrier does at a rat, catching up a
mouthful and then dropping it. I at last managed to slide slowly out of
his stall, and left him for the night.

The next day I sent for some men to clip him. They did their work very
well, but I subsequently heard that they declared they would never
touch him again; they would as soon clip a Bengal tiger.

Soon after this I had him out for a ride and discovered another of his
amiable peculiarities. Whenever he met or passed a conveyance of any
sort, he kicked out at it most furiously; I suppose that some time or
other he had been struck when passing something. It was a most
dangerous trick, and took a very long time and great patience to
overcome. However, at last I cured him.

Another peculiarity that he had was his great objection to my mounting
him when in uniform. He did not mind it in the least when I was once in
the saddle, and took not the slightest notice of my sword rattling
against his ribs; but he could not bear the act of mounting. I used to
have him blindfolded at first, but afterwards, by always petting him,
giving him sugar, &c., he lost his dislike to being mounted.

One morning, sometime after I had had him, my groom sent in word that
the new horse had kicked his stall all to pieces, and, on going into
the stable, I found he had done it and no mistake. There was scarcely a
piece of the strong oak partitions bigger than one's hand; they were
literally smashed. What made him do it I cannot imagine; he never tried
it again. Strangely enough, after all this violent kicking, the only
place where he had marked himself was a little bit not bigger than a
florin on his near fetlock, where he had knocked off the hair.

One trick he had of which I never cured him. This was when out hunting.
When taking the first fence, on landing he invariably kicked up as high
as he could. Often and often when he seemed particularly quiet I
thought, "Well, old fellow, you surely won't kick to-day": but, as
certainly as the fence came, so surely did he kick--but never except at
the first fence.

As a hunter he was perfection, and never, with one exception, refused a
fence with me. On that occasion I felt that I was not certain about
taking it. I was late at the meet, and the hounds had slipped off
down-wind, so my only chance of getting the run was by a lucky nick in.
I was riding to a point that I thought they would make to, and had just
jumped over into a lane and was riding at the fence on the opposite
side, when I caught sight of a man in pink riding down the lane. I
turned my head quickly to look at him, and the horse feeling the slight
motion I suppose, and thinking that I was going to join the man swerved
round, but, on my turning his head to the fence again, he took it at
once. This was the only time he ever swerved at or refused a fence.

I lost him in a very curious way. I was out hunting one day when the
going was very deep and bad, and we were galloping through a piece of
plough. At the top of the field was a cut quickset hedge and a gate. I
rode at the latter, thinking that the ground would be sounder there,
and the jump would not take so much out of my horse. When I got to the
gate, he rose at it, and then made a tremendous effort to draw his
hind-legs out of the deep mud. Not meeting the resistance he expected,
his hind-legs flew up so that he landed on the other side almost in a
perpendicular position, his tail brushing my hat, and for a moment I
really thought he would fall over on me. However he came down
apparently all right and cantered a few yards into the next field, when
he made a most extraordinary flounder and stopped. I jumped off at
once, and found him sitting up, just as you often see a dog, with his
fore-legs straight out and his hind ones at right angles to his body.
In a minute or so he rolled over on his side. I tried to get him up,
but he did not move. A veterinary surgeon who was out, seeing that
something was wrong, came up, and, on examining him, declared that his
back was broken. And so it proved to be: the violent jerk of his
hind-legs had done it. Of course I had to have him shot at once. I was
very sorry to lose him, as he was such a perfect hunter.

Another of my horses I bought from the farmer who bred him; he was a
black, nearly thoroughbred, and a very fine-looking animal. I had often
seen his owner riding him to market and other places, nearly always at
a hand-gallop, and the horse never appeared heated or even blown. I had
also seen him in the hunting field. After purchasing him, I tried him
over some fences that had been made for the purpose in one of my
fields, and he jumped fairly for a young one, so I took him out with
the hounds when they met in an easy country. The first thing I put him
at was a small gate; but this he would not have, so I set him at a low,
dry stone wall, which he cleared well. So he did also the next two or
three fences; but on coming to another he did not make the slightest
effort to jump--simply ran at it, and blundered through it somehow. The
next fence, in spite of my shaking him up and letting him have the
spurs pretty smartly, he did in the same way, then cleared one fairly;
but on my putting him at a bar-way he never rose at all, but went full
tilt at it and smashed it to bits. I was a good deal disgusted at these
performances, but tried him another day, a friend saying I did not
rouse him sufficiently. Anyhow, this next time I did so, but it had no
effect. He scrambled his fences in just the same way, never, however,
coming down. After this I lent him to my friend (who thought I did not
ride him with sufficient resolution) for a day's hunting by way of a
trial; and the horse signalised himself so that I determined to part
with him. He had gone on in his usual way until we came to a brook
about twelve feet wide, but deep. I jumped it all right, and looked
back to see how my friend fared. The brute of a horse did not attempt
to clear it, but actually galloped into it, turning a complete
somersault, so that he actually scrambled out on the same bank he came
from. Fortunately my friend got his feet out of the stirrups, feeling
that the animal would not clear it, and was flung on the opposite bank,
merely getting his legs wet. After this I sent the brute to
Tattersall's, and got a very good price for him on account of his make
and shape; in fact, you could not see a finer-looking hunter nor ride a
greater impostor.

Another curious animal I had I bought quite accidentally.

It was at Newmarket during a July Meeting, and one morning I strolled
up to the paddocks where the sales were going on, expecting to see
there a friend I wished to meet. On walking up to the ring, a very fine
horse was being led slowly round; it was evidently quite quiet, went
round the ring like any old sheep; but scarcely any bids and those very
low ones, were being made for it. Catching the auctioneer's eye, I gave
a bid, and, not seeing my friend, walked off. Just as I had got to the
gate one of the auctioneer's clerks ran after me and asked where they
should take my horse to. I denied having bought one; but the man
persisted, so I went back and found the horse had actually been knocked
down to me, the auctioneer telling me it was really cheap for
dogs'-meat at the price I had given. The horse was sent down to my
trainer's, and, meeting him later on in the day on the course, he said,
"Well, sir, so you bought Vulcan?" I told him how it occurred, at which
he was much amused, and, on my asking him some questions, told me he
was a splendid horse--wonderfully bred and looking all over like
galloping, but that he never would try. He had no pride, he said, and
would lob along in the ruck as happily as possible. He had been in lots
of stakes, but no one could do anything with him; he would make a
waiting race with a mule they said.

It was a most curious case. The horse seemed to have every requisite of
make, shape, and action, and yet could not be induced to try to race.
It appeared to make no difference whether the rest of the things were
in front of him or if they came up and passed him; he kept on about the
same pace, and would not try to race. If punishment was attempted, the
horse showed such evident symptoms of temper that it was not safe to
continue it.

At last he was used by the trainer as a hack, and, in his absence,
taken out by the head lad, when out to superintend the gallops.

I had almost forgotten his existence, when one day I received a letter
from my trainer asking me to come down to Newmarket the next day by a
mid-day train, when I should find a hack waiting for me at the station,
and that he would be at the New Stand, on the race-course side, to meet
me, as he wished me to see a trial.

I of course went down and met my trainer at the Stand. After a little
conversation, we cantered off to the place where the trial was to come
off, and stationed ourselves at the spot fixed for the winning-post. He
then gave a signal, and shortly I saw four horses galloping towards us
and keeping pretty fairly together until perhaps about two lengths off,
when one of them came away from the others, leaving them almost as if
they were standing still. "Well," I said, "of course I don't know what
the weights are, but that is as hollow a thing as I ever saw. What
horse is that?" I asked. To my intense surprise, he said, "Vulcan."
"How in the world did you get him to gallop?" said I. "That's rather a
curious story," replied the man. "We found it out quite by accident. I
was away last week for a day or two looking at some very promising
yearlings in Dorsetshire, and Jackson (the head lad) took out the
string, riding Vulcan as hack. They were exercising on the Bury side,
and a boy who was going rook-tending passed by. Boy-like, when he saw
the horses cantering, he blew his horn--to try to give them a start, I
suppose. None of them minded it except Vulcan, and he clapped his legs
under him and bolted off with Jackson as hard as he could go. When I
came back next day he told me about it, but did not seem to think
anything of it. However, it struck me differently, so I went and found
the boy and told him to come to me the next day with his horn--which he
did. I took the string out, and told the boy to blow as we passed him.
He did so, and Vulcan again bolted clear away, past all the other
horses. So I felt sure I had found out how to make him go, and to-day
if you noticed (which I had not) a boy blew a horn as they passed him
and the horse again came away, though the others did their best, and he
was giving them from 2 lb. to 4 lb."

"You certainly have found out how to make him gallop," I said; "but I
don't see how you are always to have a trumpeter about after him." "I
think it can be managed," he replied. "I want you to enter him for the
Handicap Steeple Stakes at the next meeting. He will only have a
feather to carry, and at the time of the race, if you could be with the
boy about the T.Y.C. winning-post, and, as the horses come by, tell him
to blow, it won't be noticed in the least."

The horse was duly entered and I performed my part, and he won with
consummate ease. The scene afterwards in the Birdcage when I went in to
see him weighed was most amusing. Everybody was rushing up to me to
find out how he had been treated; the most wonderful stories were set
about as to the quantity of whisky and port wine that had been
administered to the horse, but the facts were as I have stated. He won
in the same way and with the same ease in July behind the Ditch. After
this we tried him without the horn, and he went fairly, so I put him
into a selling race, which he won, and I sold him for a very fair
price. I did not hear much of him afterwards, but believe he got back
to his old tricks.

Another horse that I bought I knew to be a reprobate when I purchased
him. He was a very fine racehorse, and had run well in the
Derby--fourth or fifth, I think--and afterwards won several very
valuable stakes; but in some of his last races he was severely
punished, and this quite upset his temper. He became savage; then he
was operated on and turned sulky, and at last developed a curious trick
(no one seemed to know exactly how he managed it) of getting rid of his
jockeys, nearly causing the death of his rider on two or three
occasions. He was sent to Tattersall's to be sold, with various other
"weed-outs" from his owner's stable.

I bought him thinking that he might make a steeplechaser, as rogues on
the flat often develop into good "'chasers."

Being anxious to find out how he got rid of his riders, a day or so
after I had him I ordered him to be saddled, and, mounting him myself,
I took him into a thirty-acre field of light plough, thinking, if I got
a fall, it would not hurt there. I wanted to find out what he could do,
telling my groom to watch carefully and see what his manoeuvre was.

Well, I just walked him round the field several times, and he went as
quietly as possible; then I trotted him, and still everything was
pleasant, and I began to think that the change of scene and course had
produced its effect. Next I put him into a canter. At this pace he did
not go quite so well, and evidently was looking out for something; but
at last he appeared to have settled fairly into his canter. Then,
catching hold of his head, I just touched with the spur to make him
gallop, when, without a moment's notice, I was sent out of the saddle
like a stone from a catapult. When I got up, the brute was trotting
away in the opposite direction to that in which I had been riding. I
very soon caught him, and going down to my groom, asked him what on
earth the horse had done. I need hardly say the man had not seen him.
Of course, he said he fancied he heard someone calling just then and
looked round; the fact being that, seeing the horse go quietly at
first, he thought it was all right, and never took the trouble to
watch.

As I was determined to find out the trick, I made my groom mount him.
The man rather funked it, and said he had no spurs on; so I gave him
mine, and he mounted and went off. However, his reign was not long.
Starting in a canter, he tried to gallop the horse, and touched him
with the spurs, whereupon the brute shot out a fore-leg and spun round
on it just as if he had been a teetotum. Of course, the man flew off,
just as I had done. However I saw clearly that he would not bear the
spur, and this seemed to be the secret. I mounted him again, without
spurs, and rode him round and round for a considerable time, and got
him to gallop by degrees, but in a very sulky way. If I attempted to
rise in my stirrups, or even move my heel towards his side, I felt he
was preparing for his dodge; however, I did not give him a second
chance.

After this I rode him regularly every day for an hour or more in the
plough, and, finding he was not touched with the spur the horse went
fairly freely. Next I took him out with my groom, riding a steady old
hunter, and tried him over some small plain fences on a ground I had
for schooling horses. He took to the work at once, and became very
clever, and, as it was quite clear that his temper would hinder him
from being a 'chaser, I rode him with the hounds, and a finer hunter
never existed; but I never rode him with spurs, and always had to
remember not to touch him with my heels. If I moved them towards him I
felt him begin to screw up; but he never required pressing--he was so
very free and fast. He never, however, forgot his old tricks, and a
very favourite amusement of the youngsters in the district was when
they met anyone who was bumptious about his riding to offer to bet him
that he would not gallop a certain horse round a paddock three times.
Then they got me to lend them my old friend. It is quite needless to
say that no one ever did succeed in sitting him three times round, as
they were sure to rise in their stirrups and touch him with the spur,
with the invariable consequences.

I sold him at last to a man who had often seen me ride him, and who
envied him for his great speed, having warned him that he would not
bear spurs. However, he would have the horse, and took him into
Leicestershire, where he went very well I believe.

The best horse I ever had must have been predestined to become my
property, so singularly did I meet it and ultimately purchase it.

I went one day to St Pancras terminus to meet a friend who was coming
up by one of the Midland trains. Getting there before the train had
arrived, I was wandering about the station, to pass away the time, when
I saw a string of horses being unloaded, and amongst them there was one
that had been unboxed and was standing as quietly as possible by itself
not the least startled by all the noise and clatter. I glanced at it,
and thought it a fine-looking animal; but just then, my friend's train
coming in, I joined him, and we went off together.

In the afternoon I was going down by a train from London Bridge, and
when I walked out on to the platform, curiously enough there was the
same string of horses being boxed to go down to a large firm of dealers
in the South; there too was the same horse that I had seen at St
Pancras, standing as quietly as possible waiting her turn to be boxed.
I went up to look at her, and admired her very much. She was a
dark-brown, and seemed to have very good legs and feet, though I could
not see much of her, as she was all clothed up and legs bandaged; but I
had not much time to look over her, as my train was ready, so I got in,
and, for the moment, never thought anything more about her.

Some short time after this I had a letter from a large firm of
horse-dealers, telling me that their "show day" was to come off next
week, and asking me to come and look through their stables. I did not
want another horse, but thought I should like to go, and, on the fixed
day, went. On getting to their place, after a very good lunch, they
asked me to come out and go over the stud. When they opened the door of
the first stable, strangely enough there stood, just opposite the door,
the identical brown mare I had so admired on her journey through town.
The dealer, seeing I was struck with her, insisted on her being
stripped and brought out, in spite of my telling them that I did not
want a horse, and that it was no use taking the trouble to bring her
out. However, out she came, and I certainly admired her very much. To
my surprise, she stood 15 h. 3 in., though until you went close to her
you would not have thought her more than 15 hands; had four splendid
flat black legs, well ribbed up, with a very nice head and well-laid
shoulders and neck; her paces and action were excellent, and the
dealers said if I could find a fault in her they would give her to me.
I told them I did not want her, but as they were taking her in, thought
I would just ask her price. Now, horses were very dear that season,
and, as she was warranted a good hunter, excellent in harness and to
carry a lady, and only four years old, I expected that at least £100
would be asked. To my great surprise, they said £40. This, of course,
choked me off at once, as I felt sure that at that price there must be
some _very_ "loose screw." Refusing all offers of her, I drove home.

In a few days after this I had a letter from the dealers begging me to
have her, saying they would distinctly warrant her in every way, and
that she would (of course) exactly suit me. I, however, again declined
her.

A week or so after this I was told that a man was at my stables and
wanted to see me, and, on going out, found that these dealers had
actually sent the mare over for me to try. Well, they gave me a written
warranty of the strongest kind, engaging, amongst other things, either
to give me another horse or return the price if she did not suit me;
and the end was I bought her.

Well, I had her out the next day and tried her, and found her as good
as they said her to be--rather too high action for a hack, but very
showy and perfect in harness; did not seem to know what shying meant; a
most beautiful light hunter, and a very free goer. I thought I had
found perfection, and everything went on well for more than a week,
until one day, when I had come back from a drive, my groom sent in word
to say that he wanted to see me at the stables. On getting there, he
told me that the mare would not go into the stable, and, sure enough,
whenever he tried to lead her in she placed herself flat against the
wall, and refused to move. We got her to the door at last, and she
stood with her head just inside; and, though I tried to tempt her with
corn, green-meat, sugar, &c., she absolutely refused to go farther.

At length, without any warning, she suddenly rushed in and round into
her stall, with such violence that she nearly slipped up against her
manger, and only recovered herself after a great struggle; and on the
next day, when they tried to bring her out, she rushed out just in the
same violent way. Here was the "loose screw" with a vengeance! but as I
did not wish to part with her (for she was perfection with the
exception of this trick), I set to work to try how to cure her of it.
After some time we found that we could get her in and out of the stable
by backing her, and this, though a rather awkward plan, was quite
successful. I may say that after some years we got her to walk in
quietly. The dealers had evidently kept an eye on her, for when they
found out that I had hit on a plan by which I could get her into and
out of a stable without danger they had the impudence to write and
offer me £60 and _another horse_ if I would let them have her back;
and, on my taking no notice of this, actually wrote again and offered
me £100.

Curiously enough, the mare would go into and out of a _strange_ stable
quite quietly, but directly she got accustomed to it began the rushing
game.

This mare was perfect with that one exception, and did not know what
fear was. If a gun was fired close to her, she would not take the least
notice, and would allow a rifle to be fired under her nose, with the
reins on her neck, and not even move her head.

I always believe that shying and all that kind of trick in a horse is
the fault, in nearly every case, of the rider. Of course there are
differences of temperament in horses as in men, but as a rule, what I
have stated is the case, and I once had what I consider a remarkable
illustration of it.

I was on the staff at the first autumn manoeuvres in the Aldershot
district in 1871, and one day I was riding back to camp after a heavy
day, when I met a friend--a cavalry officer. We stopped to talk over
the day, and just as we were parting he said to me, "Oh, I have a lot
of horses eating their heads off; if you would take one and ride it, it
would save yours and do mine good." I of course accepted the offer with
thanks, saying at the same time, "I suppose it is a charger," and
received (as I thought) an answer in the affirmative.

The horse was sent over to my stables that evening, and the next
morning at 4 A.M., on going out of my tent, I found a very fine bright
chestnut horse, evidently nearly thoroughbred, being led about by my
groom. Well, I mounted him and rode off, and after duly inspecting the
pickets and outposts, rode on to join the general staff. As I was going
along I suddenly found myself on one of those dangerous pieces of
ground that are to be often met with in the Aldershot district--all
seamed with cart-ruts worn into the sand, varying from 2 to 4 feet in
depth, and overgrown with heather, so that you cannot detect them until
you are actually amongst them. Finally, finding where I was, I took my
legs out of the stirrups, and put the reins on the horse's neck,
knowing that I could not help him, and let him pick his way as best he
could. He was doing this very cleverly, when suddenly a gun from a
battery, concealed in a hollow close by, was fired (it was, in fact,
the gun to tell the troops to be ready to move). My horse did not take
the slightest notice of it, not even pricking his ears. Of course I
thought that as he took no sort of notice of big guns he must be
thoroughly broken, and used him as if he was--riding him with cavalry,
artillery, and infantry, taking points, and doing everything that
pertains to a staff officer's duties; and no horse could have done
better or been more thoroughly steady.

At the end of the manoeuvres I returned him to my friend with many
thanks, and he very soon sold him as a broke charger for a long price.

Shortly after this I was dining with my friend at the mess of his
regiment, and, after dinner, in the ante-room, I happened to remark to
an officer, "What a very good riding-master and staff they must have to
break in so young a horse so thoroughly." He looked rather amused, and
replied, "I suppose you refer to Red Rover?" (the name of the horse). I
said, "Yes." "Well," he answered, "you broke him!" I was, of course,
greatly surprised, but found it was actually the case. The horse had
never been ridden with troops until he was lent to me, and I feel not
the slightest doubt that it was the fact of his being on that dangerous
piece of ground, and my having my feet and hands both loose when the
gun was fired so unexpectedly, that gave him confidence. I could not
have influenced him in the slightest degree. Of course, if I had been
on ordinary ground, and had seen that a gun was going to be fired, I
should, naturally enough, have slightly tightened the reins and felt
his mouth and pressed my legs to his side, and thus have drawn his
attention to the fact that something was going to take place. As I did
not, he took the noise as a matter of course, and did not notice it;
and so, through mutual ignorance, we had perfect confidence in one
another. But there is a sequel to this. Some months later I had a
letter from my friend, telling me that if I wished to buy the horse I
might get him for almost nothing, as the man he sold him to gave an
awful character of him as a charger. As the horse was in the same
district I happened to be in, I went to see him, and certainly the
groom gave him a bad character. I got leave to try him, and very soon
found that his present owner must be a very irritable, nervous man. The
horse had had his mouth so jagged about with the bit that he never kept
his head still for a minute, and, if you told him to mark a flank,
directly it approached began to switch his tail and tried to kick,
having evidently had frequent digs with the spur to make him steady.
Altogether the horse was quite spoiled for a charger through his
rider's fidgets; and, as I did not care to take the trouble to try and
break him again, I did not have anything more to do with him. But I
think this was a striking proof of how a horse can be made and unmade.



SPORTING FOR MEN OF MODERATE MEANS


For your wealthy noblemen, or large landed proprietors, it matters
little what sport of any kind costs them, whether in horses, hounds,
shooting, fishing, yachting, racing, or coursing.

Yet very many rich men are the greatest screws possible--carrying out
the old adage of "the more you have, the more you want." Love of sport
is one of the boasted and general characteristics of an Englishman; but
I am inclined to think that, after all, young England is not such an
ardent sportsman or such a hard man as his father and grandfathers
were. As a rule, they are more of the feather-bed and hearth-rug sort;
but this by no means applies to all, for I know many good and
indefatigable men, and there are hundreds I do not.

Our forefathers were, no doubt, earlier than we are--that is, they did
not, in spite of their hard drinking at times, turn night into morning
as we do. They went early to bed, and got up early; began hunting
before daylight, and managed to kill their fox as twilight fell. Their
soul was in sport, and we love to talk and hear about the grand,
generous, though illiterate old squires of a hundred and fifty years
ago. Men who always stirred their ale with a sprig of rosemary, and
drank posset before going to bed; dined at one o'clock when they were
at home; smoked their "yard of clay," wore topboots, buckskins, and a
blue coat with brass buttons--regular Squire Westerns, but perhaps a
little more refined than that worthy was. But education--and that
wonderful thing, "steam," which enables us to travel from one end of
the kingdom to another in the course of a few hours--soon stamped the
old country gentleman out. What should we think if we now saw the
queer-fashioned coach, with its four long-tailed black horses, doing
about five miles an hour? Some of our London swells, who cannot stoop
to pick an umbrella up, would fall down in a fit, especially if the
inmates of the said coach were any friends or relations of theirs.

Yes, the good old days are gone by--passed for ever. Men now smoke
their cigars, hunt and shoot for a couple of hours, and look with
horror on the portraits of their ancestors with a pigtail, and whisp of
white cambric round their necks.

Many, very many country gentlemen of a century ago never saw London;
they might have heard of it, but it was the work of a week to get up,
and another to get back, and a visit to London about once or twice in
their lives was as much as many could boast of, and gave them food for
gossip for years and years after.

Shootings in those days were not of much value, and a man might have
had a great deal of sport for a very little money; but now all is
changed, though it is only within the last thirty or forty years that
Scotch shootings have risen in value; some moors that were rented then
for fifty pounds per annum are now nearer five hundred.

Directly people found out they could get down to Scotland at
comparatively little cost and trouble, the prices of shootings went
up--and they will continue to rise. England is much wealthier than she
was. Commerce is much more extended; money is easier; speculation is
more rife; more gold discovered, which I cannot see makes one iota
difference; yet in spite of all this, and the heavy taxes we groan
under--many raised and "thrust upon us" for the purpose of maintaining
a lot of hungry foreigners, who, by the way, have the pick of all the
good things. Well, well! that game will be played out before very many
years are gone by; there will be a most signal "check-mate," a
"right-about," and the usual "Who'd have thought it?" "Knew it was
coming," "Always said so," and so on. But to my mutton. Despite of the
heavy price of things, heavy taxes, heavy rents, the Englishman is
still a sportsman to his heart's core. If he does not make such a
labour of it as his forefathers, he loves it just as well; his hounds
and his horses are faster--he is faster, in many senses of the word;
his guns do not take half an hour to load, and his pointers or setters
can beat a twenty-acre field of turnips in something less than four
hours; in fact, in many places dogs are going out of fashion, and the
detestable system of "driving" coming in. I hate a battue, and call it
sport I cannot, and never will. It is true I go to them occasionally,
get into a hot corner, and have the "bouquet"--but still I cannot call
it legitimate sport.

The man with moderate means must give up all idea of Scotch shooting,
unless he goes very far north and gets some of the islands that are
difficult of access; then it may still be done. Wild shooting, in many
parts of Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall may be had at
reasonable prices: thirty years ago ground--and good ground--could be
got at sixpence an acre; now it is eighteenpence and two shillings.

Very fair rough shooting may be rented in North or South Wales for
about threepence an acre, and it is here, or in Ireland--which I shall
presently touch upon--that the man of moderate means may have both
shooting and fishing.

In the first place, house-rent is cheap in Wales; in fashionable spots,
of course, it is not; but those are the very places a sportsman must
avoid: he must leave fashion, youth, and beauty behind him, and go in
for sport, and sport only.

Having found a house and ground, he must then get a good keeper and
dog-breaker.

Here he exclaims, "Ah! a keeper! here's the commencement of expenses!"

Patience, my friend, and I'll tell you how your keeper shall pay
himself, and put money into your pocket as well.

Of course, with wild shooting or any other you will want dogs; and for
this purpose I recommend setters. Of course I presume you are a
sportsman, and know all about it, for it would never do if you did not.
You must also, if you possibly can, get ground where there are plenty
of rabbits--these are what pay; they cost nothing to keep, and are no
trouble--every good rabbit is worth nearly a shilling to you to sell.

Your setters must be of a fashionable and first-class strain; you must
have three or four breeding bitches; and the produce of these setters
will not only pay your keeper, but your rent as well. You must
advertise your puppies to be sold, and keep yourself before the public
by constant advertisements. Your keeper will break at least four brace
of setters for you to sell each year; and these dogs, according to
their goodness and beauty, will be worth from fifty to a hundred
guineas a brace, and even more. So you will not only be able to pay
your man, but a good part of your rent and expenses as well: but you
must go systematically to work, and make it a business combined with
pleasure. You must understand that good and trustworthy keepers are
like angels' visits, few and far between--but still they are to be had;
and when you have one, regard him as the very apple of your eye, and
never let a few pounds stand in the way. If you have a large extent of
ground, a man who understands his business well will break more than
four brace of dogs a year--aye, double the quantity, but it is better
to have fewer done--and done well; get a good name for having the
correct article, and you will always be able to dispose of more dogs
than you can breed or break. Destroy all the crooked and weakly pups,
keeping only those that will make braces, or any others that are really
handsome. You can also break a couple of brace yourself--that is, if
you have temper and patience. February is the time to commence with
your young dogs. You can keep them at work for six weeks or two months;
by that time good fishing will be in. I care not to commence fishing
too early.

One of the first things you must do is to put up a good serviceable
kennel, where your dogs can lie dry and warm. It must be well
drained--if possible, with a stream of water running through it. You
need not go to any great expense, but it must be _well paved_, and
constantly hot-lime washed, to keep it sweet and wholesome, and the
ticks and vermin under.

I will not here give any directions how they are to be made, because
that depends a great deal on the place you have--the space,
convenience, and so forth--but wherever you build them, let there be a
good large yard for the dogs to run about in. Let the benches they lie
on fold back against the wall, so that you may wash under them; and
made with a flap in front, that the dogs, when tired, cannot crawl
under them, which they will very often do. Benches are generally made
in bars three inches wide, with an inch space between each, to let all
the dust, small bits of straw, &c., through. Your dogs must always be
_well bedded_--if straw is expensive and difficult to get, good dry
fern will do very well. In Wales and Ireland I always had a lot of this
cut every year at the proper time, stacked and thatched. Your _kennel
must be kept scrupulously clean and washed out every morning_.

Feeding is a very important thing, and must be judiciously and
regularly done, and always at the same hour; but as every one has his
own ideas on this point, I will say no more about it.

The place, of all others, for good wild shooting and fishing is
Ireland. Here a man with moderate means may have all he wants--cheap
house-rent; taxes few; living at much less cost than in England, and
sport to his heart's content. It is, I admit, a wild life; but then it
is a very pleasant, happy one.

The sea-voyage is nothing: those splendid steamers which run from
Holyhead to Kingstown cross in a few hours, and you hardly, unless
there is heavy weather, know you are at sea.

For the man whose heart is in sport, I know of no place so well adapted
as Ireland. Wild ducks, snipe, grouse, and capital woodcock shooting;
hares, rabbits, partridges and pheasants; all that you want is the
ground properly looked after.

Wherever you go, if economy is your object, you must never attempt
hand-reared pheasants; the cost of feeding is very great, and, as I
have often and often said before, a hand-reared pheasant, killed in
December, costs little less than half a sovereign. Near a covert, if
there is rough ground, it may be broken up, and barley or buck-wheat
sown; this must not be cut, but left standing for the birds to go to
whenever they are so inclined. This is a very inexpensive way of
feeding. They are very fond of small potatoes, but these will do for
your pigs.

What you require in Ireland is plenty of poultry of all sorts; a couple
of Kerry cows, which may be had for little money, and a good sort of
pig--some of Peter Eden's breed; fellows that are fattened at
comparatively little cost. You must have cows--or be able to get
buttermilk somewhere--for your puppies will not do without it.

There is no great sale for dogs in Ireland, but they may always be
taken over to England, and sold at the proper time--in June or July.
Numbers now go to America.

But there are many other spots, if you choose to go farther afield.
There is very decent shooting to be got in France, and there are always
Government forests to let.

Were I a young man, the place of all others I should go to again would
be to Hungary. Sport of all kinds is to be had there; but this even has
been found out, and many English reside there now for boar and
stag-hunting and shooting.

But in England, if you watch your chance and have agents on the look
out, you may occasionally come across a good bit of shooting at a
moderate figure; or you may take a good manor, and do as a great many
do--that is, have so many guns to join you. If you hire on your own
account, either in England or Scotland, you can charge the guns
anything you like for shooting and board--that is, anything in reason,
and that they are likely to pay. You may then get your own shooting at
little or no cost; for there are many men who will pay a hundred for a
month's good sport. They are in business, or in some profession, and
cannot spare more time.

A man who has time, is really fond of sport, knows something about it,
and goes the right way to work, can get both his shooting and fishing
at a very moderate rate.

Many imagine it is necessary to have their brace of breech-loaders, and
a lot of useless and expensive paraphernalia. One gun is all that is
needed, except you have wild-fowl shooting. You must have a gun for
that, either for punt or shoulder, according to the shooting.

A large quantity of dogs that are not wanted, and are utterly useless,
are often kept. For a moderate scope of ground, two brace of setters
are quite sufficient, unless you are breeding dogs. Then you must, of
course, have your brood bitches as well. I should have mentioned, it
will be a great saving to you if you keep a first-rate stud dog. You
will not only have his services, but you can advertise him as a stud
dog; and he can form one of your working team likewise.

I must impress on my readers that puppies can hardly be kept too well.
They must have little or no meat during their puppyhood, but plenty of
milk and oatmeal, the latter always to be well boiled. Feed them three
times a day for the first three or four months, and twice a day till
nine months old. After that one good meal a day is sufficient.

A large volume might be written how to keep and feed dogs, on kennels,
&c. This has often been done before; but things are now altered, and we
must keep pace with the times.

I have never been able to afford an expensive shooting, and being
abroad from the time I was twenty-one till I was middle-aged, I never
had the chance; but, coming over to England every year, as I did, and
shooting in all parts, it enabled me to know the localities, and where
shooting at a reasonable price was to be had.

It is a large house and servants that swallow up one's income. A
bachelor sportsman only requires a sitting-room and a bed-room, with
his tub in some corner or outhouse close at hand.

There is nothing I like more than a real sportsman's den. There he has
his guns, his rods, his different sporting paraphernalia, his pipes,
his cigars, his powder and ammunition, and everything handy. As I am
writing this I can see all my traps around me. I am rather proud of my
sanctum. I have a place for everything, and everything in its place. My
books--of which I have some hundreds of volumes--are before me. On one
side of the wall are all my fishing things; over the mantelpiece, on
racks, are my guns, and a goodly collection of pipes; in a
three-cornered cupboard all my ammunition, and some hundreds of
cartridges; in another cupboard are cigars, and odds and ends; in
another a lot of nets, and a sort of fixed washing-stand; two luxurious
old-fashioned arm-chairs on either side of my fire-place, into which I
can pop and take a smoke when I am tired of writing. And at this
present moment there are three setters and a couple of Dandie Dinmonts
curled up on the hearth-rug before my fire; but my dogs are always
clean in their habits; if not, they would not find a place in my room.
The rain is pattering against my windows, and it is a wild wet night;
but still I am contented, and looking out for to-morrow, when I am
going to have a day's rabbit-shooting, and beat a favourite snipe
marsh.

I like to have my dogs about me, although I am not a single man, and
have boys as tall as myself. Yet my dumb animals are companions to
me--shooting alone for so many years in vast forests and thinly-inhabited
countries, and often far away from friends and civilised life, has made
me somewhat lonely in habits.

It sometimes makes me laugh to hear some men talk on sporting matters.
I have often been trudging home late at night, wet through, or in a
heavy snow-storm, with my tired dogs "at heel," when others have had a
good dinner, a skinful of wine, finished their third glass of toddy,
are beginning to talk rather thick, and find their cigars won't draw. I
was obliged to content myself with a cup of sour cider, black rye-bread
and eggs, and up and away before daylight again. Certainly I need not
have done so; and sitting here, before my comfortable fire, I think how
soft I was. But young men will be young men; and it was my love of
sport that made me lead the wild and solitary life I did.

But there is no occasion for any one to do as I did. I have gained
experience with years. I do not think I should ever have given it up
but for one reason. One night I left Quimper in Lower Brittany, and
walked down the river (it was a tidal one) to a favourite spot for
ducks. I had on my mud boots, and was well wrapped up. I got to the
spot I intended, and there I lay waiting, lying down on a bit of board,
with my famous black retriever Di beside me. It was bitterly cold, and
I took a nip every now and then from my flask. If it had been full,
which it was not, there would not have been more than a small
wine-glassful in it, for it went into my waistcoat pocket; but, little
as it was, that and the cold made me drowsy, and I fell asleep. I was
awakened by an icy feeling under me, and my retriever tearing at my
coat. I found the tide was coming up, and I was in six or eight inches
of water. My poor dog was in a terrible state. I made my way to land,
which was not more than fifty yards from me; but I was in such agony I
could hardly get on, and, to make matters worse, it began to snow
heavily. However, I managed to get to the road, and into Quimper; but I
was laid up four months with ague, fever, and rheumatism, and never
left my room during that time. Luckily, it was at the fag end of the
season.

On another occasion after this attack--the next year--I was woodcock
shooting with a friend of mine--an Englishman, now dead and gone. A
better sportsman did not exist. We had got into a flight of woodcocks,
and we had killed nine couples and a half, and were just on the point
of returning home, when I was seized with ague again. We were about
eight miles from Quimper at the time. My poor friend carried me three
miles on his back before we could get a cart to take me home; but I
soon recovered from this attack. I once in a day killed forty-four
woodcocks, and on another occasion twenty-five. I had many narrow
escapes and adventures. In my book of "Over Turf and Stubble," there is
a full and exhaustive account of sporting in France, and how you are to
go to work, with a list of places where sport is to be had, and what
you require. Woodcock and snipe shooting is not so good as it was, in
consequence of the eggs of the former being taken and eaten, as our
plover eggs are, and also from the ground being more drained. Still
there are spots and haunts where they are to be found and killed in
numbers. I once killed sixty couples of snipe in some paddy fields
abroad.

As regards fishing, the man of moderate means must not think of a river
in Norway or Scotland. He must be contented with trout and general
fishing; and the place for this is, no doubt, Ireland. There is very
fair fishing in many parts of England, but for real sport go to
Ireland. The white trout fishing is superlatively good there; so is the
pike fishing. I know of a place now in Ireland to let--about five
thousand acres of mountain, with eight or nine lakes, a beautiful
river, with good pools, in which there are salmon, and white and brown
trout. The fishing on the lakes is very good. In some of them the trout
are small, but there are any quantity. It is in a very wild, lonely
spot--four _Irish_ miles over the mountains, and nothing but a herd's
hut to go to when there. The shooting, grouse, hare, snipe, and cock,
and a few partridges, was very fair. All this was to be had on lease,
or by the season, for £20 per annum, and is now, I believe. Had I
remained in Ireland I should have taken it, and put up a little place
of two rooms, or added a bit on to the herd's cabin. But I think I
should have made a little crib on one of the islands of the lake; there
is a beautiful site for one. Here no keeper would be required; merely a
Jack-of-all-trades. No lady, unless she were a good walker, could get
up to this place, for the mountain is difficult and in places boggy;
but could ride it on a pony. I used to enjoy my visits there. Sitting
on a three-legged stool before the bright turf-fire of a night, with my
pipe and whisky and water, talking of my day's work, I was thoroughly
happy. A small boat would be requisite on all the lakes, and a larger
one for the big lake, by which I proposed to build a cottage. I could
have done all this at very little expense, as there was plenty of
stone.

There is no necessity for the fisherman to be bothered with a lot of
expensive and useless tackle; and as to flies, if I do not make them
myself, I always buy them of local men, who know what are required.
They tie them beautifully in Ireland, and know the required colours.

There is capital fishing in Lough Corrib, Galway. I had a small yacht
there of ten tons, and many a fishing expedition I have had in her of a
bright, warm summer's day. I sometimes had great sport with the perch,
which run to three pounds. I have hauled them in, when we have come
across them, _sculling_, as fast as I could let out line and pull
it in. There is a great deal of shooting and fishing to be had in this
way.

There is also great fun with the lake trout, which run very large; so
do the pike and eels. I always used to set night lines for the latter.
Great quantities of ducks, too, are to be got on Lough Corrib.

There is capital fishing and shooting to be got at Killaloe, County
Clare. I have had rare sport there. It is by going about and making
inquiries that I have always been able to have good sport, and find out
favoured spots for woodcock and snipe.

Hundreds of men are taken in by answering advertisements, which set
forth the fishing or shooting in glowing colours--how miserably have
they been deceived! You may depend the only way is to go over the
ground yourself with a brace of good dogs, always taking the
_contrary_ direction which you are told to go. If you cannot spare
the time, let some one do it for you that you can thoroughly trust.

I remember once a gentleman taking a salmon river in Norway, paying, of
course, in advance; when he got there the river was dry, or nearly so.
On expostulating with the agent, and demanding his money back, he was
told that the proprietor really could not be answerable for the water,
and that he had better stop till rain came, and that, probably, the
fish would come with it.

A man in these days cannot be too sharp in taking either shooting or
fishing; how many are "done" in hiring Scotch moors! They answer a
flowing advertisement, take it haphazard, pay their money, and when
they get there find there are no grouse or deer either. This happens
year after year, and yet, with these facts before them, many will not
take warning.

Hunting I will not touch on, because that is an expensive amusement;
but I can say this, my hunting never cost me a farthing. I used to buy
young horses, make them, and sell them at good prices. But a man must
not be only a good rider, he must be a good judge of a horse as well.

I know many men who hunt, shoot, and fish, and their amusement costs
them little or nothing.

Now a few words as to yachting. That we all know is a very expensive
amusement too; but even this is to be managed--of course not in the
style of very many of our noblemen. I knew a man who bought a schooner
of one hundred and twenty tons, and laid out some money on her besides;
this yacht he let for three months during the season, and did so well
by her, that, in two years, he had his purchase-money back and
something more to boot. The remainder of the season he used her
himself. Still, a vessel of this size requires a number of hands, and
it is a risk. He kept a small yacht for his own amusement as well.

A man with moderate means may have a great deal of pleasure out of a
boat of fifteen or twenty tons, or even less; and if he chooses to make
it his home, it will cost no more than if he hired lodgings and dined
at home, or at his club. Supposing he does not like knocking about in
winter time, which is not agreeable, he can always lay her up in some
nice harbour, and still live on board. If he is fond of his gun, he can
take her to many places and lay her up--where he can get shooting as
well, always living on board--South Wales, Ireland, France, and many
parts of England and Scotland. And besides sea-fishing, he may get
other fishing in the same way.

At the end of the yachting season there are hundreds of boats to be
bought at a very moderate figure, sometimes almost for nothing. For the
purpose I have named, you want no wedge-like racing craft, but a boat
with a good floor, good beam, and light draft of water, with summer and
winter sails, in fact, a nice roomy seaworthy boat.

But in buying you must be cautious, and have some one with you who
thoroughly understands the business, otherwise you may invest in a
craft whose timbers are rotten, and the planking no stronger than brown
paper; there is nothing that one who does not thoroughly understand the
matter is easier taken in with than boats.

Having now told you how shooting, &c., may be got on moderate means,
perhaps a short account of my little yacht I had on Lough Corrib,
Galway, and what I did, may not be uninteresting.

After I had been a short time in Galway--that is, a couple of miles
from the town--I found a very nice boat of about ten tons that was to
be sold. I made enquiries, and discovered she was nearly new, and that
more than a hundred pounds had been spent on her in making a cabin and
fitting her out. I bought her for _eight pounds_, spent twenty more on
her, and had the most complete little fishing and shooting craft I ever
saw. I had a rack for my guns and rods, and lockers for all my things;
there were places to put away game, provisions, and liquor, and a good
stove, of modern contrivance, for cooking. This last was in my cabin,
for she was too small to have a forecastle. In summer we cooked on
shore, on the stones or what not. She was only partly decked--what is
called a welled boat. Over this well at night there was a perfectly
water-tight tarpaulin, which was fastened down by rings. In this well,
which was a large one, my captain slept, and the other man nestled in
the sail-room, which was right astern. I bought a brand-new dingy for
thirty shillings, and was all complete; the whole affair costing me
thirty pounds. As I was living on the banks of Lough Corrib, the boat
was moored close to my house, and from my window I could see her.

In this boat I used to go to all parts of the lake, which is
forty-eight miles long, and ten wide in one place. There were several
rivers I could get up, and innumerable little bays, and places where
one could anchor for the night. On Lough Corrib, there are no end of
islands, some of them large; it is said there is an island for every
day in the year, viz., 365. There was capital shooting on some of these
islands, and on many parts of the marshes, on the banks of the lake, I
had leave to shoot. One marsh or bog was seventeen miles long, and
three or four wide. Most of this country was undrained, and snipe were
in thousands. It makes my mouth water to think of the snipe and duck
shooting I sometimes had there, as well as wild geese; but I got ague
and rheumatism again; lost one of my children, and the life was too
lonely for my better half. We were away from home and friends, and as I
was some three or four years over forty, I gave it up, reluctantly, I
must say, and returned to the old land.

Lough Corrib is difficult to navigate, and you must have a man with you
who knows it thoroughly, otherwise you will come to grief. My captain
knew it well, and was a good sportsman into the bargain. My old sailor,
who had been all his life about those wild, desolate, and God-forgotten
islands, "the Arran," was a rare fisherman. He always managed the night
lines, and when we have been anchored at the mouth of the Clare Galway
river for the night, of a morning the lines have been loaded with eels,
some of four and even five pounds in weight. If we baited for them,
sometimes we had large catches of pike and trout.

I think cross-line fishing, or an otter, is still allowed on the lake;
but I never went in for this, you require a licence for it.

Of a night, at flight time in July, the young ducks--they were more
than "flappers"--used to come up from the lake and marshy grounds in
numbers to the cornfields, and we generally gave it to them hot,
morning and evening; and in parts of the lake we used to get "flapper"
shooting. It was endless amusement to me, roaming about on the
different islands knocking over a few rabbits, or sometimes a duck or
snipe. I always carried a ten-bore gun with me, shooting four drachms
of powder and two ounces of shot. I never knew what was going to get
up; occasionally I had a crack at an otter asleep on the stones.
Sometimes a duck would spring when I least expected it; there was no
knowing. In winter we were obliged to be very careful, for the wind
comes off the mountains in gusts and is very treacherous, and accidents
soon happen unless you have your weather eye open.

There is some capital snipe and duck shooting on Lord Clanmorris's
property, on the banks of the Clare Galway river. I do not know if it
is yet let, or leave now given; but I think it is not let. The white
trout fishing is first rate in Connemara, but what a wild desolate
place it is! The salmon fishing is said to be very good in the Clare
Galway river, but though I have seen plenty of fishermen on it, and
there are no end of fish, I never saw very much done; it is a sluggish
river, and wants a good _curl_ on the water to get a rise.

As I have said, I have had some of the best duck and snipe shooting at
Killaloe I ever enjoyed; but snipe and woodcock shooting depend a great
deal on the season. Some years there are any quantity, another season
comparatively few; it is the same everywhere.

The golden plover shooting is very good all round Galway, and if you
know the "_stands_," that is, where they roost of an evening, you can
always get two or three shots. I have seen killed on one of the little
islands on Lough Corrib, at one shot, twenty-one, which were picked up,
and I believe there were one or two more that were not found.

There is good shooting and fishing about Cork, and Limerick as well; in
fact, all over Ireland it is to be had; but remember, the nearer you
are to Dublin, or any large town, the dearer things are. It is to the
wild, desolate spots you must go for real sport, and if a man can
manage to put up with such a life, all well and good. Several Englishmen
bought estates round Galway, but I suppose they got tired of it, or were
afraid of the little pot shooting that an Irishman occasionally takes
at one, just "_pour passer le temps_," as they are, or were, to let.

I had capital sport in Lower Brittany, France; there are plenty of
woodcock and snipe in parts, and the living at the time I speak of was
very cheap; but, alas! there is a railway now, so, of course, like all
other places, it has gone up in price. In these days, it has become a
somewhat difficult matter to particularise which are the best places to
go to for sport. If you do not mind distance, Hungary is the place. If
you want to be near home, Ireland or France.

Take my advice, as an old sportsman who has been at it all his life,
and has now seen nearly half a century; if you are a man of moderate
means take your time in hiring a place, and when you have found one to
suit you, rent on a long lease, if you can; if you wish to give it up,
it will not remain on your hands any time. Do not be inveigled into
buying a lot of useless guns, rods, or sporting paraphernalia; a _real_
sportsman does not require them.

I think I have now pretty well exhausted the subject, and told you how
to go to work.



PARTRIDGE MANORS AND ROUGH SHOOTING


Bright, beautiful, glorious June!

I have often been asked which of the four seasons I like the best; my
answer has ever been the same: "The hunting, shooting, fishing, and
racing." One season I detest (the very name of it gives me the cold
shivers)--the _London one_; defend me from that; for if there is a
particular time which is calculated to make "Paterfamilias" miserable
and more out of humour than another, it is that abominable period of
shopping, dinners, evening parties, operas, theatres, concerts,
flirtations, flower-shows, and the dusty Row, with its dangerous holes.

I hate the formality--the snobbism of the "little village." I begin
to think Napoleon I. was right when he said we were "a nation of
shop-keepers." I do not mind a good dinner, when I can get one; but
there is the rub, I never do get a good dinner; the English do not know
how to dine. After twenty years' residence on the Continent, I have
come to the conclusion that John Bull is miserably, hopelessly
behindhand with our French neighbours on all matters pertaining to
eating and drinking; but then I balance the account in this way--Mossoo
is not a sportsman; and although he will tell you he is a "_chasseur
intrépide_," "_un cavalier de première force_," he does not shine
either in the hunting or shooting field.

But the French ladies? Ah, they can dress; they beat us there again
into Smithereens.

I am not like a bear in the hollow of a tree, who has been sucking his
paws all the winter to keep him alive; I have been enjoying most of our
country amusements, and I may say the winter has passed pleasantly.

Of late years a deaf ear has been turned to hints thrown out "for a
change of air, things wanted," &c. Busily engaged in building,
draining, planting, and so on, little time could be given by me to
London festivities.

The last attack was made in a somewhat ingenious manner.

"Frederick, poor Alice wants her teeth looking at. I think she had
better go up to town for three weeks or a month, and be put under the
care of a good dentist."

This was as much as to say, "We are all to go;" but I was equal to the
occasion.

"By all means, my dear, let her go. My sister is there for the season,
and will only be too delighted to have her; but as for my leaving the
place at present, with all I have to do, it is an utter impossibility."
This was a settler.

Somehow or other I begin to feel more lively as spring comes on. As a
rule, about the middle of May I require a little spring medicine and a
change of air. I find that the breezes of Epsom Downs agree famously
with me, although my better-half always declares I "look vilely" on my
return. Absurd nonsense! But I love my own quiet country life; its wild
unfettered freedom. Away from the smoke, dust, and tumult of
over-crowded cities--away from late hours and the unwholesome glare of
gas, and I am happy.

A trip to Ascot and Goodwood with my family keeps matters all straight.
A break now and then, and the quiet monotony of country life is not
felt.

June, bright, beautiful, glorious June, has peculiar attractions for
me. I am a shooter. I have not a grouse moor, for the simple reason
that I cannot afford one; as my old keeper says, "It is master's
terrible long family and expenses that prevents his going into shooting
as he would like."

I am obliged to content myself with a partridge manor; and, after all,
I believe I like partridge and snipe shooting better than any other.

As I remark in my notes on "November Shooting," a friend of mine once
said he considered snipe-shooting "_the fox-hunting of shooting_,"
and I am disposed to agree with him.

But, to return to June, from the 5th to about the 20th of the month,
most of the forward hatches come off, and are seen basking and
bathering round their mother.

But there are other hatches much later, for cheepers are often found in
September quite unfit to shoot at.

I can only account for this, that the old birds have had their eggs
destroyed in some way or other.

A partridge manor is not one quarter the expense of pheasants and
coverts. The latter birds not only require constant attention, night
and day, but feeding forms a very serious item. Pheasants are very
costly, and only within reach of the rich man.

A partridge manor, to have a good head on it, though, must be well
looked after, the vermin kept down, and your keeper with a sharp eye to
all poachers and suspicious characters.

With a net at night they often sweep off the birds wholesale; but there
is a very easy way of baffling them. Put sticks, about eighteen inches
high, fifteen, twenty, or thirty yards apart, over the ground the
partridges generally roost on; these, as the net is drawn along, lift
it up, and the birds easily escape.

It is a good plan to walk the fields of an evening with a brace of
dogs, where you know they roost, and disturb them; they may probably
then take to the gorse, if any, potatoes, seed clover, and other safe
ground.

In May and June I wage war with the crows, magpies, jays and hawks,
shooting or trapping the old hen birds. Always kill the male bird
first; this is easily done by waiting patiently within shot, under
cover of some tree or hedge where the nest is, which is generally built
in some pretty high tree; the hen will not desert if sitting hard,
which you should allow her to do; her death is then easily
accomplished.

I never allow poison to be used, for I hold that a keeper who cannot
destroy all vermin by means of his gun and traps is not worth his
wages.

To have any quantity of game, it is better that you and your keepers
should be on good terms with your neighbours; they will do as much good
as half a dozen watchers.

In May and June I always keep a lot of light broody hens ready to sit,
for during the mowing season many partridge nests are cut out. The eggs
are brought warm to me, and are instantly set under one of the hens.

The people who bring me in the eggs I invariably reward, but they are
never encouraged or allowed to look for nests. Now, if these men were
not paid a trifle, and a horn of ale given to them, they would not
trouble themselves or lose their time. It would be very easy to put
their foot on the eggs and crush them.

I am not an advocate for hand-reared birds, as there is some trouble
and expense feeding them, and they do not grow strong and vigorous
nearly so quickly as wild ones.

In one year alone, some four or five seasons back, I had six hundred
eggs cut out, and over five hundred birds were reared.

Chamberland's food is the best for them, as well as for pheasants.

Of course the hens should be cooped. There is one thing you must be
most particular about, and that is never to place the coops near an old
bank, or where there are rabbit-burrows, for these spots are not only
the haunts of stoats and weasels, but there is an animal quite as
dangerous, who loves a young partridge--the hedgehog. Many are of
opinion that the hedgehog is harmless, but this idea I have proved
to be erroneous (see "Over Turf and Stubble"--"The Hedgehog a
Game-eater").

My life has been spent following up the sports of the field and
observing the habits of different animals.

The better way is, when your birds are young, to have them on your
lawn, or in a field close to the house.

The coops must be closed at night, to keep vermin and cats (deadly
poachers) from getting at them. It is a mistake to let them out too
early of a morning. The drier the ground the better partridges do when
young. As they get stronger, remove them with their coops to a potato
or clover field, cutting a swath through the latter to put the coops on
and feed them. Place the coops twenty or thirty yards apart, or the
birds, when young, will be straying into the wrong coops, and the hens
will kill them, for they well know their own family.

I like a clover-field the best, because there is lots of cover, and
they escape the sharp eye of hawks and other vermin.

In taking a partridge manor, ascertain first, by going over it
_yourself_, if there is a fair head of breeding stock on the ground.

A wise "old saw" informs us that, "if you want anything done well, do
it yourself;" and this I certainly advise in this case, unless you have
a keeper you can really trust.

Do not take a manor that has too much grass land. There ought to be
plenty of cover--turnips, clover, potatoes, rape, stubble, heath, &c.,
to insure good sport; for, if your ground is bare, although you may
have plenty of birds, it will soon be impossible to get at them, for,
as you enter a field, they will be away at the other end, and not
having any cover to drive them to, you may follow them for hours and
never get a shot.

A manor, too, should not be all low ground, or the enclosures too
small. In such a country, good, fast and free-going dogs soon become
cramped in their range and potterers. It is, in an enclosed country,
impossible to mark the birds; and constantly getting over stiff fences
not only tires you, but it unsteadies your hand, which will lose its
cunning.

A partridge country should be as open as possible; then you can see
your dogs work, which, in my humble opinion, constitutes the greatest
charm of shooting.

Farms are often let at eighteenpence an acre, which is an absurd
price--a shilling is quite enough; but in many counties you can get as
much good ground as you like at sixpence, but not near London. I hired,
some two years ago, some capital rough shooting in North Wales at less
than threepence an acre, but it was too cold for my better half to
reside in during the winter months. Whatever county you may fix on,
avoid the red-legs; though a very handsome bird, and much larger than
ours, they are not nearly so good for the table as the grey ones, being
dry and tasteless; and they will spoil any dog, as they never take wing
unless hardly pressed, but will run field after field. I destroy their
eggs wherever I meet them.

In Norfolk, Suffolk, and particularly Essex, there are large quantities
of them; they not only ruin your dogs, but they drive the grey birds
away. I would not have a manor where there were any quantity of
red-legs at a gift.

Having now told you how to go to work, I will, in the garb of
narrative, which, nevertheless is true, show you how shooting, with
other sport, may be had at little cost by those who love it and prefer
a country life. I give it you as related to me by a very dear old
friend of mine.

"Lenox and myself were boys at school, and afterwards at college
together. A fine handsome fellow he was too, and doatingly attached to
all field sports; he was not a rich man, quite the contrary, £300 a
year at his father's death was all he had left to him, yet he managed
to keep up a tolerable appearance even in London, and was engaged to
one of the most beautiful girls I ever saw, and with a nice little
fortune of her own.

"Lenox was very fond and very proud of her, as well he might be;
everything was arranged, the day fixed, trousseau bought, and his
pretty little cottage in Hampshire newly and tastefully furnished to
receive its new mistress. But, lo! a week before their wedding the
young lady eloped with a nobleman, and they were married before Lenox
knew anything about it.

"He said little, but felt it deeply; all were sorry for him, for he was
a great favourite.

"Shortly after his pretty little cottage was sold, and with his effects
Lenox vanished mysteriously no one knew whither.

"I went abroad, and was away many years, and, therefore, had no means
of finding out where he had betaken himself to, or what he was doing.

"After more than twenty years' absence I returned to the old land; I
had been satiated with sport of all kinds in different parts of the
globe, and did not feel inclined to give the high prices asked for
shootings.

"My wife was somewhat delicate, and required a mild climate, so I took
'the galloper,' ran down to Plymouth, and from thence to Cornwall,
determined, if I could, to buy a place there. I roamed about the
country looking at different estates, and at last hit on a beautiful
spot, with a nice house on it, convenient to the rail, and not too far
from a good country town or schools.

"One day during my peregrinations with the agent who had the selling of
the property, I came on one of the most lovely little cottages I ever
saw, placed on a slope, well sheltered from the winds, myrtles and
fuchsias growing luxuriously and abundantly about, with its jessamine
and honeysuckle covered porch, thatched roof, well-kept grounds,
gardens, and brawling stream at the end of the lawn. I thought it one
of the most fairy-looking little spots I had ever seen.

"'Whose cottage is that?' I asked. 'It is not on this property, is it?'

"'Oh, no, sir, just off this land; it belongs to Mr Lenox.'

"'Lenox,' I breathlessly asked, 'Horace Lenox'?

"'That's it, sir--one of the nicest gentlemen in these parts, and a
rare sportsman: it is not his own property, only hired on long lease,
but he has done a deal to it; three thousand acres of good mixed
shooting and capital fishing, with that cottage, is not dear at fifty
pounds a year, is it, sir?'

"'I should think not, indeed. Mr Lenox is one of my oldest friends. I
must go and call on him,' which I did.

"I was told, on asking at the door, that he was out fishing, but would
be home to dinner at six o'clock.

"'Give him this card,' I said to the respectable old servant who had
answered the ring, 'and tell him, I shall be here at six to dine with
him. Is he married?'

"'Oh dear no, sir, master is a single gentleman. I don't think he cares
much about the women folk,' she added, in her quaint Cornish way.

"The time hung heavily on my hands that day, so impatient was I to see
my dear, valued old friend, and half past five saw me walking up the
well-kept walk towards his house.

"As I approached, a figure issued from the porch, surrounded by four or
five beautiful setters.

"A fine, handsome-looking man of three or four and forty advanced
towards me, but quite grey; there was no mistaking, though, his honest,
beaming, well-known face.

"'Frederick, old fellow,' said he, grasping me by the hand, 'this is
indeed kind of you; hundreds of times have I wondered what had become
of you, and if you were still in the land of the living.'

"'And I the same, Lenox; by mere chance have I found you out. I
inquired at all the old haunts when I returned to England, and could
never learn where you were.'

"'Then you are the gentleman, I suppose, that has been looking at the
estate next to me, with a view to purchase?'

"'Just so, Horace, _ecce homo_.'

"'You could not do better, old fellow; I will put you in the way. I
know every inch of the ground--rare shooting--but come in, and I will
tell you all about it after dinner. Margaret, my servant, is in the
devil's own way, for it is rarely I ever have any one to dine with me.'

"The inside of the cottage was just as pretty as the outside; his
dining-room was a study for a sportsman: guns, rods, sporting pictures,
&c., here hung all round the walls in endless profusion; it was the
very essence of comfort and taste.

"'Now, Horace,' said I, as I threw myself into one of the comfortable
arm-chairs beside the open window, and he into another, 'tell me all
that has happened since we last met.'

"'That is easily done,' he returned, drawing up a small table between
us, with a bottle of claret on it, that sent its aroma all over the
apartment as he drew the cork.

"'You know how I was served in London?' and his face assumed a hard,
stern expression as he asked the question.

"'Well, yes,' I replied; 'but you have forgotten all that, Horace?'

"'I have not forgotten it. I never can forget it; it was a dreadful
blow to me; but I have forgiven it years ago, and am content with my
lot. I left London in disgust, wandered about, and at last found this
little spot. I have the shooting of three thousand acres of land--ten
acres for my two cows--I am as happy as possible. I breed lots of
those,' pointing to his setters, who were lying about; 'and they pay me
well. I have poultry, pigs, shooting--the woodcock and snipe shooting
is particularly good in the season--and fishing in abundance; as good a
cob as any man need possess; deny myself nothing in reason, and never
know what a dull hour is. But you will sleep here, for I have already
found out where you were, and sent for your things.'

"I never passed a happier evening than I did with my long-lost friend;
we smoked our cigars and talked of old times and old things that had
happened years ago, passed never to return again.

"'So your eldest boy is sixteen,' he remarked, after one of the pauses.
'Well, you must buy this place, Frederick, it is as cheap as dirt, and
will pay you well. I will make your lads sportsmen--but I suppose you
have done that yourself. I want companions now--no female ones,' he
added, laughingly, 'your wife excepted; but some one to fish and shoot
with me--the partridge-shooting is capital.'

"I was delighted with all I saw the next day; the place was lovely, and
I was induced to spend a week with him. At the end of that time I was
the purchaser of the property, and left to bring down my family and all
my belongings.

"I have never regretted the step; though far away from the busy hum of
the world, we are as happy as may be. Horace and I fish and shoot away;
there is a calm quietness which I love. I, like my friend, have had
some ups and downs in life, but the memory of them, in my country
retreat, is gradually 'fading away.'"

It is all very well for men who have long purses and large possessions
to take expensive shootings; they can afford it and why should they
not? What might I not be tempted to do if I had the chance? I cannot
say, and, therefore, I will not speculate.

To my young readers who are not _au fait_ at all these matters, I
would urge them never to be too hasty in deciding on taking any
shooting. If they are not in easy circumstances, they must go very
cautiously to work; but that fair partridge and general shooting is to
be had at a moderate figure I can prove.

It is not generally known, but there are many parts of Scotland where
there is first-rate partridge-shooting, and arrangements can be made to
have it after the grouse-shooters have done and returned to England. I
know several men who have made this arrangement, and get their sport at
a very moderate cost.

But gadding about to places is not my form. I prefer to remain on the
spot, and then I can always see how matters are going on.

In taking a rough bit of shooting, only one keeper is necessary; one
good man will do the work far better than half a dozen bad ones. It is,
I admit, a difficult thing to get such a man, but they are to be had.

I have written this paper solely for the guidance of those whose means
are limited; the rich can do as they like; money is often no object to
them; but this I have known to be a fact, that the man who has only
spent two or three hundreds, and often very much less, on his shooting
has had far better sport than many of those who have spent thousands.



WHO IS TO RIDE HIM?


In a remote and lonely part of Dorsetshire stood, in a
beautifully-wooded park, a fine old mansion, Bradon Hall, belonging to
George Bradon, Esq., who at the time I speak of was about
eight-and-twenty.

He was one of the old school, as his father had been before him. Early
in life he had been placed in a crack regiment of Dragoons, so he was
not without a pretty good knowledge of the world for his age. Allowed a
liberal sum by his father, he had never exceeded it; on the contrary,
there was generally a fair balance at the end of the year in the hands
of his agent.

He was a remarkably handsome young fellow. Bred up in the country, and
left to do pretty nearly as he liked, it was not wonderful he turned
out an adept at all sorts of sports.

A good cricketer, a still better fisherman, a magnificent shot, and not
only the straightest but the best rider in the country; indeed riding
was his forte. Not so with our late friend Artemus Ward at "playing
'oss." With all these sporting accomplishments he was much looked up to
in his regiment, and it was said that the man who could live with
George Bradon in any country for twenty minutes was A1 in the pigskin.

Two years previous to the time I am speaking of, he found himself
master of Bradon Hall; his mother had gone many years before.

The first thing he did was to sell out and come home, where he had ever
since resided. All the men in his regiment had the blues when he left.
"It was an infernal bore," Captain Swagger remarked, "to lose such a
vewey fine fellaw as Bwadon; he should like to know who the devil could
bwoo such a cwawat-cup as Bwadon?"

At any rate George left, taking with him a magnificent gold snuff-box,
a present from his fellow-officers, "which would be," as the
lieutenant-colonel said, "a doocid nice thing to push about the
dinner-table when he and his old friends of the regiment came down to
hunt and shoot with him."

Some of them had been true to their word, and paid him a visit now and
then in the sporting season. George was delighted to see them; it put
him in mind of old times, and he was always glad to know how matters
were going on in his old corps.

His father had been a great breeder of horses, and as George was just
as enthusiastically fond of them, the old blood had been kept up; and
with the exception of a fine specimen of an old English gentleman, who
used to be daily seen walking about in a blue coat with gilt buttons,
buckskins and tops, looking over his brood mares and colts, everything
was the same as before. All the servants had been retained; they loved
"Master George" too well to quit, nor had they been asked to.

Bradon, when with his regiment, had been the crack rider in it, and
many a good stake had he won for that gallant corps. His services had
always been most anxiously sought after, and mounts given him in most
of the great steeple-chases of the day.

He was so cool and collected, no bustle or flurrying with him. A fine
eye, a fine hand, a famous judge of pace, and strong at the finish,
with a knowledge, that must almost have been born in him, when to ease
his horse, force the running, or take advantage of any mistake. "On the
whole," Lord Plunger, who was no mean judge, used to say--"on the whole
I consider George Bradon the finest cross-country rider in Europe."

Bradon, though uncommonly lucky in his mounts, bore his honours meekly,
and when he sold out and came down to the old place to live, gave up
steeple-chasing altogether. "He had so much to do, so much to attend
to; after a bit he would have another squeeze at the lemon, but really
he must attend to his affairs first."

Repeated refusals damped the ardour of his friends, so at last they
gave up asking him to ride, and he was left in quiet to pursue his own
way.

Time went on, and such a person as George Bradon had almost been
forgotten by the sporting public. One morning, some eighteen months
after he had come home, going into the harness-room, he carelessly
seated himself in the weighing-chair, and exclaimed to the old
stud-groom, an heirloom his father had left him: "The same weight, Tim,
I suppose--eleven three?"

The person thus appealed to, standing on tiptoe, looked up at the dial
as well as he was able; for, in addition to being short and stout, he
had a very tight pair of trousers, which seemed to have been made on
him, and was moreover incommoded by a stiff white neckcloth, which
threatened to strangle him. After having studied the dial for a few
seconds, he started back, and blurted out in a voice of horror and
amazement: "Can I believe my haged heyes, Master George? You're twelve
five, as I'm a miserable sinner!"

"What!" exclaimed George, jumping out of the chair considerably quicker
than he had got into it, and throwing away the cigar which he had been
indolently puffing--"what! twelve five? It cannot be; weigh me again,
Tim."

The old man did so with the same result. "Oh, hang it!" said George,
"the scale is wrong; it cannot be. I am not a bit heavier than I was;
the same clothes fit me I wore two years ago. It's all bosh."

"I don't know, Master George, if it's all bosh or no," replied his old
servant, "but the scale is right. Now lookee, sir, I've been fourteen
stun nine for the last eleven years--not a hounce more or less. See my
weight, sir."

George cast his eyes up at the dial as Tim wriggled himself into the
chair.

"Yes," he said, "you are right--fourteen nine to a fraction, Tim. How
the deuce I came to be this weight I have no idea; but I cannot shut my
eyes to the fact that, instead of eleven three, my old walking weight,
I am twelve five--sixteen pounds in less than two years," he muttered,
as he sauntered away. "By George, I'll knock off that sixteen pounds
pretty quickly, though. I detest fat people. An idle life will not suit
me. I'll do Banting or something."

Tim looked after his young master as he walked away. "Well," he
exclaimed at length, "Master George"--he was always Master George with
the old servants--"twelve five; I'd never have thought it. There's
something in his heye, though, that tells me he won't be that weight
long. Although he is so cool he'll hunt every day the coming season,
I'll bet my life; walk like blazes, and take physic enough to float a
jolly-boat. I'll lay a sov," he remarked, as he slowly drew one out
of a bag which he extracted from the depths of his capacious
breeches-pocket, "that he is in his old form this day six months;
dashed if I don't bet a fiver, or any part of it." But as no one was
there to take him, he put back the coin, gave the neck of the bag a
twist, and after a struggle managed to convey it to his breeches pocket
again.

"What will my old woman say," he continued, "when I tells her o' this?
she as nussed him as a foal, and said he'd never get fat like me. It's
heart-breaking to think on. And there's Guardsman, the finest and
fastest hunter in England, just coming six; how will he be able to
carry him if he goes sticking mountains of flesh on like that?--he
can't do it. He'll have to ride in a seven-pound saddle; but I don't
let him do that, not if I knows it--he'd break his precious neck, and
then I should like to be told where Tim Mason would be, the old woman,
and all the kids. No seven-pound saddle for me. I ain't a-going to have
my boy a-smashing of hisself, and all because he will put flesh on.
He's the only one left of the old stock; it's time he married, and I
hope he will. I'm almost afraid to tell the old woman. Twelve stun
five!" he ejaculated, as he wended his way thoughtfully across the
yard; "it seems almost impossible."

"Tim," said his master the next morning, "this idle life won't do for
me. I'm going over to France for three or four months. Would you like a
trip?"

"Me, sir?" said the old man. "Why in course I should like to see them
mounseer fellows eat frogs, and taste their brandy, too."

"Well, Tim, so you shall," replied George; "and look here, we will take
Guardsman and the gray with us. I will run them both at some of the
meetings. Young Harry shall go with us; he is a good rider, a light
weight, and can keep his mouth shut."

"Yes, sir," said Tim. "He and I can do the horses as they ought to be
done, and a little work now will do them good."

"Well," continued his master, "I'm off to London this afternoon to make
some arrangements. Travel the horses down to Southampton, and meet me
at the 'Dolphin,' in High Street, you know. Be there on Monday morning;
take saddles, clothing, and all you want. However, I need not tell you
all this, or of the necessity of keeping our movements a profound
secret."

"No occasion--no occasion, sir; I'll be there. Huzza!" he exclaimed, as
soon as his master was out of hearing. "My words are coming
true--racing again, by all that's jolly! This is a proud day for me. My
boy will get into form again, I know he will. I should like to give him
a leg up once more, and see him set a field." So saying he waddled off
to inform his old woman, as he irreverently called her, of the change
about to take place.

Some few days after this Bradon, his servants and horses, were located
in a quiet little village in Lower Brittany.

"Well, Tim," said his master one morning, as the old stud-groom came in
to say the horses were well, and ask what exercise they were to take.
"What exercise?" said George; "why, I'll tell you. They are to go into
regular training; they are in pretty good fettle now, but they must be
better. We can do it in quiet here, without those confounded touts and
fellows watching us, as they would have done at home. I should have had
a scoundrel perched up in nearly every tree in the park if they knew
the game I was flying at. I have found out good ground here, and have
permission to use it. Now, Tim, I am going to astonish your weak
nerves. I need not caution you of the necessity of being silent. All
the races, I find, are over in France for the year; but, Tim, what do
you think? I have entered both the horses for the Grand Silverpool
Steeple-chase. I did it when I was in town the other day."

"What!" said the astonished old man, "the Grand Silverpool?--my horses
going to run for the Grand Silverpool? Oh, Master George, this is a
joyful day. Guardsman will win it; he has never run, and if there is
any justice he must be put in light. But who is to ride him?"

"Who?" returned his master. "For your life, Tim, not a word." And
pulling him closer by the arm, whispered: "MYSELF!"

"You, sir?--but your weight, sir? Twelve stun five and your saddle. Oh,
no, Master George, that won't do."

"Now, Tim, you are a clever fellow, but others are as knowing as you.
Look here. You see this weighing-chair; well, I bought that in London.
Now weigh me."

The old man did as he was bid. "Why, sir," he exclaimed, after looking
at it, "only twelve stun one; four pounds lighter in less than a week,
and without exercise."

"Or physic," continued Bradon. "Banting, Tim, Banting. No bread, no
butter, no sugar, no beer, no saccharine matter of any sort; plenty of
meat, biscuits, toast, claret, and seltzer-water. That is my diet, and
I never felt so well. If wanted I shall be able to ride eleven stone
with the greatest ease."

                 *       *       *       *       *

In a luxuriously-furnished dining-room, some three months after the
events which we have described, five or six gentlemen were discussing
their wine.

"I cannot make it out," said a heavy-built man of five-and-forty or so;
"I have tried everything I know, and am not a bit the wiser than when I
began. This Bradon is a most extraordinary fellow. I took the trouble
of going down to Dorsetshire myself, and all I could arrive at was that
Bradon was travelling. The servants knew nothing, or would know
nothing. They were aware the stud-groom had gone and taken two horses
and a lad with him; that was all I could get out of them. Well, I went
to the groom's house and saw his wife. She looked at me, and received
me as if I had been a thief. It was a regular mull. That Bradon has got
two horses with him I am certain; but what they are, and where they
are, hang me if I can find out. I have tried every tout and stable in
the kingdom, but to no purpose, so I have given it up as a bad job."

"Ah!" replied a fashionably-dressed and bewhiskered young man, "with
all your cleverness and knowing dodges, you are bowled out, old boy. I
know a little more than you. In my opinion George Bradon is training
his horses quietly somewhere for the Silverpool. Both are well in, and
the handicap has been accepted by him. He is a knowing hand, is Bradon.
Now, I got hold of a letter written to a friend of his just before he
left England. No matter how or where I got it, this is what he says."
And opening his pocket and taking out a letter he read the following:--

    Bradon Hall, Nov. 1st.

    "DEAR JACK,

    "In answer to yours of this morning I am sorry I cannot accept your
    kind invitation. I'm off on a bit of travelling, for I am not at
    all in form. Fancy my disgust on weighing myself yesterday morning
    to find I was considerably over twelve stone--so you see an idle
    life will not do for me. I shall go to France first; I may probably
    remain there for some time. I have entered two nags for the
    Silverpool. I must engage some one to ride one; it matters little
    who will get the second mount, as he will merely be wanted to make
    running for the one I declare to win with.

    "Yours, ever,

    "GEORGE BRADON."

"There!" he exclaimed, "you see I know more than all of you. As for
Bradon's riding, that is an utter impossibility, for both horses are in
at ten twelve, and it is equally impossible to get any good hand to
ride them now, as all are engaged."

"By George, Fred!" exclaimed the first that had spoken, "you have done
wonders, but still I can make nothing of it. No end of odds have been
offered against his nags for win or a place, and all have been eagerly
taken up by the fellows of his old regiment. Why, Plunger alone stands
to win over ten thousand. However, the horses are really coming into
the betting, which they must not do. I must go down to the rooms
to-morrow and give them such a tickler that will knock them out at
once. It will not suit my book their taking prominent places in the
market. By heaven! if either of them was to pull through I should be a
ruined man, and others are in for double as much as I am."

"My dear fellow," put in a quiet, sly-looking little man, who had not
yet spoken, "you should not do such rash things. Flukes do happen--not
that it is likely in this case. I always wait till the last moment, and
then come with a rush when I know things are pretty safe."

"Come with a rush," replied a tall, delicate-looking stripling; "a
pretty rush you made of it last year. You prevented my getting on, and
not only put me in the hole, but every one else who attended to you."

"I could not help it, my dear boy," returned the other, with a crafty
smile. "There is no occasion for you to ruin yourself too quickly,
which you will do if you go on in such a reckless manner."

"Reckless manner!" passionately exclaimed the young fellow; "why, you
have had more of my money than any one else. Where others have had
pounds you have had thousands, and now you talk to me of
'recklessness.' That is rather hard lines."

"I meant no harm," replied the other. "I only think it is dangerous to
lay against Bradon's horses at present."

"No doubt you do," said the youth, a little pacified; "but I do not
mean to take your advice in this case, and to-morrow, if I do not knock
them out of the betting it shall not be my fault."

So it was settled between them all over their wine and cigars that
Bradon's horses should be set at on the morrow and sent out of market.

They were attacked, and such extravagant sums laid against them that
astonished every one, many of which odds were booked by Lord Plunger
and a few others.

How this came about we will now explain. Lord Plunger, as before
stated, thought George Bradon "the finest cross-country rider in
Europe," and from a letter which Bradon sent in confidence to his
lordship, he started for France. Here Bradon put him up to what was
going on, and asked him to take some of the heavy odds offered against
Guardsman "to win and a place."

"I won't have anything to do with it myself," remarked George. "You are
a betting-man, Plunger, which I am not; but I will have one more shy,
hit or miss. This will be my last appearance in public in the pigskin.
I don't admire the way in which matters are carried on in the racing
world now; and I am not going to risk my fortune and reputation in
having any more to do with it. Of course there are honest people
connected with it, but they--like angels' visits--are few and far
between; and besides, I know nothing of betting, but this I feel sure
of, that such a horse as mine has not been out for years."

"That," said his lordship, "I am quite certain of, or you would not run
him, and you are too good a judge to be deceived. You may depend on my
doing all you wish. I shall be as silent as death on the subject, and
not a word shall escape me. Let me see"--consulting his note-book--"I
am to go as far as five hundred for you; that ought to win you a
handsome sum. I shall go as far for myself. You are to come to me four
days before the Silverpool, and I am to take you there in the drag.
That is the order of march, is it not?"

"Exactly," said George. "Now let's have a cigar--you have plenty of
time before you start. If you have any luck you will be sitting _chez
vous_ to-morrow evening."

It turned out as his friend predicted. The following evening Lord
Plunger was comfortably lolling in his arm chair, thinking what a
clever fellow Bradon was, and how secretly his own journey to France
had been managed. This then was the reason Lord Plunger had taken some
of the extravagant long odds that had been laid against Bradon's horse.

The morning of the Grand Silverpool broke bright and beautiful; though
there had been a good deal of rain during the night, it had cleared
off, and the day promised to be all that could be desired.

Bradon and Lord Plunger sat at breakfast in a quiet little country
hotel some ten miles from the course.

"Well, George," said his lordship, "so far, I think we have managed
things admirably, not a soul knows of your being in England. They
fondly imagine you are roaming about the Continent, and, to crown all,
a rumour has got about that your horses will not start, and will be
scratched at the last minute. It was a capital idea our coming down
here last night."

"Yes," replied Bradon, "it was a famous dodge; so they think the horses
will be scratched, do they? Well, it strikes me they will be slightly
deceived about three o'clock to-day. Nothing can be in more beautiful
fettle than the nags are, and if man ever had a certainty I have one in
Guardsman; although I have had no trial with him against anything else,
he is, I know, a flyer, and a sticker. It will be heavy to-day, and no
horse I ever rode goes better through dirt than he does. Bar accidents,
I look on the Silverpool as landed."

"Bravo, bravo, George!" said his friend; "your heart is in the right
place, and if we should pull it off, it will be one of the grandest
_coups_ that has been made on the Turf for many a day. We will go
in half an hour, if you like, to look at your nags. They are only three
miles from this, at a quiet farmhouse; then we will return here, dress,
and start at twelve in the drag."

The horses were inspected, and nothing could look more beautiful. Tim
was in his glory.

"Yes, my lord," said he, in answer to a question put to him by that
gentleman. "I am glad to be back in the old land, not but what the
Moossoos was very jolly and haffable. Still, France ain't up to my
notions of a sporting country; but we was in quiet there--no touts, no
interlopers, or anything. Now, if I'd a-brought the horses down here by
rail, every one would have knowed it; so they came in a van. It's a
little more expensive, but by far the best and safest way. Not a soul
knows they are here, and no one will be aware of it till I takes them
to the saddling-post. I'm just going to start with them now. I've got a
couple of boxes close by the course, so you must excuse me, my lord."
And, touching his hat, the old man disappeared.

                 *       *       *       *       *

"Whose yellow drag and grays is that coming up the course?" said one of
the occupants of the lawn in front of the Grand Stand. "I do not know
it." A dozen glasses were at once levelled at the object.

"Whose drag?" said the sly-looking little man we have alluded to
before. "Why, Lord Plunger's. George Bradon is sitting on the box seat
with him, and the rest are officers of his old regiment--I know their
faces."

"By jingo!" burst out a score of voices: "then he is in England, and
come to see his horses run, or scratch them. Now we shall know
something."

"I wonder if he will be flattered when he hears the price his nags are
at now?" said another.

"He will not care a rap," said the sly-looking little man. "Look out,
my boys, there's something up, you may depend. Bradon, if his horses do
go, has something pretty good, you may rely. I warned you all before.
Now, I have not laid a penny against his nags. I have let them
alone--till the last minute. But here they come."

"Hallo, Bradon!" burst out fifty voices. "What, in England! Come to see
the nags beaten?"

"Well, I do not know," said George, shaking hands with some of them. "I
hope they will be there, or thereabouts; pretty heavy the ground
to-day. My horses can stand it, which a good many of the others
cannot."

"Are your horses here?" said the sly-looking little man.

"Not yet," returned Bradon, "but they will be by-and-by. Old Mason has
got them stowed away somewhere; but upon my soul I don't know where
they are myself at present."

"Which shall you declare to win with?" asked the sly-looking little man
continuing his interrogations.

"Oh, with Guardsman," said George.

"And your jocks?" put in another. "All the talent is engaged. A pity
you are so heavy--why, you've grown immense. You will want a dray-horse
to carry you soon."

"Think I have?" said George. "It's my coats, man. Every fellow looks
large with a couple of top-coats on, and a huge-wrapper round his
throat. I know all the talent is engaged. One of my lads will ride the
gray."

"I say, Bradon," put in another, "I heard you weighed twelve stone
five; is that a fact?"

"Yes," said George; "I put on sixteen pounds in less than two years--an
idle life at home did for me."

"But, Bradon," persisted the sly-looking little man, "you say one of
your lads is going to ride the gray. But Guardsman--_who is to ride
him_?"

"Oh," said George, "who is to ride him?--why, I will tell you in one
word, it's a fellow you all know pretty well--MYSELF."

Had a thunderbolt fallen amongst them they could not have been more
astonished.

"What!" they one and all exclaimed, "you? Why you told us not an
instant ago that you weighed twelve stone five."

"No, my friends, I did not. I said, in answer to a question, that I
_had_ weighed twelve stone five. I told you I had put sixteen pounds
on, but I did not tell you I had not taken it off. I walk ten stone ten
now--Banting, my boys, Banting. And, listen to me, I shall win if I
can, and I have a good chance; but, win or lose, this is my last
appearance in public. I've grown immense, have I not, old fellow?"
addressing himself to the one who had made the remark. "I shall want a
dray-horse soon, shall I not?"

"By G--," said the sly-looking little man, "I thought there was
something up. The very best hand in England going to ride his own
horse. I'll be off to back him."

The tall youth before alluded to turned deadly pale, but not a word did
he utter as he walked away.

In less than five minutes it became known in the ring and the stands
that George Bradon was to ride his own horse. The utmost consternation
ensued and many tried to hedge off their bets--but little or nothing
could be done.

In the meantime our friend was quietly getting himself ready in the
dressing-room.

The time at last came, the horses were saddled, and cantered.

"Here comes Guardsman," cried the crowd, as the gallant horse came
sweeping up the course in magnificent style, with the gray beside him.

"By heaven!" muttered a well-known betting-man, and one of the best
judges in Europe, "a truly splendid horse--far better in appearance and
style than anything here. Bar accidents, he will win in a canter, and
if he does, I'm ruined."

The betting and other men were positively paralyzed as Bradon and his
horse came sweeping by, and it was allowed on all hands that no such
animal as Guardsman had been seen for years.

"There, my boys," said Lord Plunger, dashing into the ring, "there's a
man and horse for you. If he does not do the trick to-day I shall be
very much astonished; and if he does, we shall both land a handsome
sum, which you will drop."

The anxious moment is at last come, the horses are in line--the old
stud-groom, Tim Mason, stands close by, with wipers, sponge, and bottle
in hand. There is a curious nervous twitching at the corners of his
mouth, the lips are dry and parched, and two small red spots adorn each
cheek.

Not so with our friend. He sits his noble animal with confidence, ease,
and grace, and as cool as a cucumber. Spying out his faithful old
servant, he said, "What do you think of him, Tim?"

"Why, sir," he called out, "he's the best horse as was ever foaled; and
if he don't beat that lot"--pointing with extreme contempt towards the
line of horses--"Tim Mason knows nothing about it, and is jolly well
d----d."

The word is at last given, and at the first attempt the lot are off.

"They're off!" shouted the hoarse voices of thousands, and streaming
along were some thirty gallant animals striving for the pride of
place--thousands, nay hundreds and hundreds of thousands, depending on
the lucky animal that first caught the judge's eye.

The conspicuous colours of George Bradon--scarlet and white hoops--were
in the extreme rear, but suddenly as they got into the grass land his
gray took first place and made the pace a cracker.

"The gray in to pump the field," muttered the sly-looking little man to
his neighbour.

"The fastest thing I have ever seen," said another. "By jingo, one,
two, three down, and look, Bradon is taking quite a line of his own. By
George, how well his horse jumps; it's a dead certainty."

"So I think," returned the other.

There is an awful tailing off now, the pace has told its tale; only
eighteen or twenty are really in it. The dangerous brook and the double
bank are passed, and the gallant gray who has set the field has shot
his bolt.

"Well done, Harry," cried George, as he passed him. "Well done, pull
him up."

The great water jump in front of the Grand Stand is approached again.
"Here they come!" roared the multitude. "Who's first? Scarlet and white
hoops," cried the excited thousands--"scarlet and white over the water
first for money!"

George knowing the danger of a lot of horses, which he thought would be
down at this, resolved to lead over it. Dropping his hands a bit the
gallant animal rushed to the front, a length or so, and there he was
kept.

The water is approached, the excitement of the multitude is something
fearful as they sway to and fro to catch a glimpse.

"Magnificent!" burst from thousands of throats, as Guardsman hopped
over the formidable eighteen feet like a bird.

George turned slightly in his saddle to take stock. "All safe but
three," he uttered; "well, that is more than I thought would get over.
Now, old man, I must take a pull at you. You have only done part of the
journey. I can't afford to pump you yet."

"Guardsman has cut it," shouted a hundred voices as the gallant horse
was pulled back.

"The cowardly brute!" bawled another.

"Don't you believe it," cried the sly-looking little man, in a shrill
voice that was heard all over the place. "I'll take three to one in
thous, and do it twice, that Guardsman wins, or is placed."

"Done," said the pale delicate youth; "I'm on for twice." And the
pencils went to work.

There was but one opinion amongst the countless thousands that
Guardsman was the best horse in the race, and that, bar accidents, he
must win.

The field has become very select now; still what do remain in the chase
go well.

The excitement is intense; men are gnawing their lips and nails; ladies
are quivering with emotion and biting the tips of their
delicate-coloured gloves.

Wild and staring eyes are everywhere. Men eagerly grasp each other by
the arm with a wild convulsive clutch as the horses clear each
obstacle. Some stand stony and immovable, without the slightest
appearance of interest. Little is known of the fearful beatings of
their hearts under that cold, calm exterior.

"Here they come!" said the crowd, as some eight or ten horses make the
turn for home.

"Guardsman baked!" shouts the ring, as the horse is seen nearly last.

"The Irish horse wins for a thousand," shouts an over-excited
speculator.

"Done," says the sly-looking little man, and again the metallics are at
work.

Lord Plunger looks on with a calm indifferent demeanour.

"By G--, Plunger," said one of George's old messmates, with a scared
countenance, "Bradon is done. We shall all drop finely."

"Wait!" was the quiet answer.

The last hurdle but one is taken, which the Irish horse jumps first;
but what a change has taken place in the field! Scarlet and white
hoops, instead of being nearly last, is hanging on the leading horse's
quarters, and it is very patent to all those skilled in racing matters
that from the manner Guardsman skimmed over the hurdle the other horse
was only permitted to lead on sufferance.

Turn where you will, the same look of intense excitement is discernible
on every countenance; the vast mass surges to and fro, the hoarse
murmur of the frenzied multitude has something unearthly in it.

"The Irish horse wins,--Guardsman wins!" is shouted on all sides. The
horses come up closely locked together; never moving on his horse
Bradon sits as quiet as a statue, but the heels of the other horseman
are at work; the whip arm is raised, but just as it is the strain on
Guardsman's jaws is relaxed, and the noble horse, without the slightest
effort, quits the other, and is landed an easy winner by some
half-dozen lengths.

"There," said Lord Plunger, heaving a vast sigh, which seemed to
relieve him immensely; "did you ever see such a horse, and such a bit
of riding?"

His lordship is not calm now; there is a wild feverish light in his
eyes; he trembles, too, slightly; a bright hectic spot is on either
cheek, and the veins in his temples are swollen, and seem ready to
burst as he takes off his hat to draw his hand across his clammy brow.

"Thank God!" he muttered, as he turned to meet his friend, who was
returning to the weighing-stand, amidst such shouts as are seldom
heard. Cheer after cheer rent the air.

"God bless you, old fellow!" said his lordship, as his friend passed
him in the enclosure; "there never was, and never will be, such a
Silverpool again. I will never bet another farthing! I'm square again."

George is now dismounted. Taking the saddle off his noble favourite, as
he has it on one arm, he fondly and proudly pats his neck. Tim is
standing at the horse's head, with a rein in each hand; tears are
coursing down the old man's cheek. "God spare you many years, sir!"
said he to his master, who looked kindly at him; "but never ride
another race whilst I am alive; I can't bear it; one more day such as
this would be my last."

George entered the weighing-room. "Guardsman, ten twelve," said he,
seating himself in the chair.

The clerk of the scales approached with book in hand and pencil in
mouth, looking up to the dial for an instant said, "Right!"

Cheer after cheer rent the air again as he came out in his top-coat.

"For God's sake, George, come to the drag and have some champagne; I'm
ready to faint," said Lord Plunger, as he seized his arm.

"Come on, then," returned Bradon; "I'm thirsty too; but just let me
look to the horse and Tim first."

But Tim had clothed the horses up, as he said the boxes were only
a few paces off, and they would be better dressed there. As he
turned to follow Lord Plunger, he was seized by a host of his old
companions-in-arms, hoisted up, and carried to the drag on their
shoulders.

"Bradon," said Lord Plunger, after he had drained off a silver goblet
of the sparkling wine, "we have pulled out of this well, right well;
for myself, I have now done with betting and the Turf. I have been hit,
and hard hit, but this _coup_ more than squares me. I'll tempt the
fickle goddess no more."

"My decision you knew long ago," returned his friend. "This is my last
appearance in public. I shall only hunt, and I think with such a horse
as Guardsman I may be a first-flight man."

His lordship and Bradon were ever afterwards only lookers-on at the few
race-meetings they attended, and here we must take leave of them.

In a snug little cottage close by Bradon Hall lives Tim Mason, now
rather an infirm old man; still he looks after the stud as usual.

In his pretty little parlour, on a side table, stand two glass cases.
Under one is a saddle, bridle, &c., in the other a satin racing jacket
and cap--scarlet and white hoops. It may easily be divined whose they
were.

"They were only used once," he would say, pointing them out to some
friend who had dropped in to see him, "only once; but they won a pot of
money for my boy. Lord, you should have seen him ride and win that
Silverpool--it was a sight for sore eyes, I can tell you. Never were
two better horses than Guardsman and my gray. It's rather the ticket to
see them in the field now; they're the best hunters as ever was
foaled."

    [This story was first published in _Baily's Magazine_ (1870).--ED.]



A CUB-HUNTING INVITATION


_Monday._--Received letter from POWNCEBY. "Come down to my little place
and we'll do a morning's cubbing. Can mount you. Say Tuesday night by
6.5, and I'll meet you at Chickenham Station." Deuced good of POWNCEBY.
Hardly known him a week. Will wire at once to accept.

_Tuesday._--Go down by 6.5 train. Pouring all the way. Wonder how far
Chickenham is. Inquire, and am told next station. POWNCEBY receives me
on platform. Awfully dark and still raining. Hope he has brought closed
carriage of some sort. Hate open carts this weather. POWNCEBY greets me
heartily. Seems a deuced good chap this. So thoroughly pleased to see
me. "My little place only a short step from here, so hope you won't
mind walking? Porter will take your bag. Yes, the roads _are_ a bit
muddy, but that's nothing. Ready? We'll start, then." Don't think
walking is quite in my line, especially on pouring wet night. We trudge
along dark lane, splashing into deep puddles at every other step.
"Don't mind going a little out of our way, do you?" says POWNCEBY,
"must just run into the butcher's and the grocer's to take a few things
home with me." We diverge into dimly-lit street. POWNCEBY disappears
into shop, leaving me standing outside. Seems to be at least an hour in
grocer's; another ten minutes in butcher's. My teeth chattering now.
Start again, and walk on and on. Ask, "Where's your place, are we
anywhere near it?" "Oh, close by," says POWNCEBY, cheerily. Trudge on
again; wet through by this time. Am seriously marshalling supply of
cuss-words into their places for use in the near future, when POWNCEBY
suddenly grips my arm, dropping pound of sausages from under his own at
same moment. They fall into puddle. "There's my little place, old
chap." Wish he wouldn't "old chap" me. Hardly know the fellow, and
begin to hate him now. He picks up sausages, and repeats, "there's my
little place; jolly little crib, ain't it?" Fear POWNCEBY is vulgar,
never noticed it before. Can just see feeble light in cottage window,
apparently miles off. Murmur, faintly, "Oh, I see," and struggle along
again. My boots like wet paper, now, and trying to imitate suction
pump. Do rest of journey silently. Cottage at last. POWNCEBY lifts
latch, and we enter. Smell of lamp-oil overpowering. POWNCEBY's "little
place" is labourer's four-roomed cottage, and singularly dirty at that.
Met by aggressive elderly female, even dirtier than cottage. POWNCEBY
silently hands her mud-stained sausages and two chops, wrapped in
newspaper. I don't exactly dine, says POWNCEBY to me, "I have supper,
you know; same thing, only different name. Being a bachelor, I make no
fuss with anyone." Rather wish he would. "Come upstairs and put
yourself straight. Mind that loose board. Not 'up to weight,' as we
say, eh?" Avoid loose plank and stumble upstairs into sloping-roofed
attic. Painted wooden bedstead; ditto washstand. Smells musty. Paper
peeling off walls, and ceiling coming down in patches. I shudder, and
ask when I may expect portmanteau. "Oh, in about an hour, I daresay.
Got all you want? Sure that you're _quite_ comfortable?" _Mem._ This
man evidently an unconscious humorist. Have to borrow (greatly against
my will) some dry clothes of POWNCEBY's in absence of my own. Wash, and
descend ricketty stairs to sitting room. Fire smokes. "Like me," says
POWNCEBY, facetiously, and laughs uproariously. Must have _very_ keen
sense of humour, this man. Aggressive female enters with two chops
(fried) and ditto sausages; small jug of table beer and tinned loaf
complete picture. "Let's fall to," says POWNCEBY; "you see your meal
before you. None of your French dishes for me!" (_Mem._ nor for me
either, unfortunately,) "but, good, plain, English food, eh?" Do not
reply, but attack sausage. Decline fried chop. Beer turgid; leave it
untasted; Thank goodness, my portmanteau arrives during repast. Pay
porter half-a-crown--looks as if he had earned it. POWNCEBY finishes
off my chop and his own too, smacks his lips, and produces bottle of
"cooking" brandy. I light cigar, and take one sip of the brandy. Find
one sip more than satisfying and do not try another. "Got a nice horse
for you, to-morrow," says POWNCEBY; "he ain't a beauty, but a real good
'un. Useful horse, too. Does all the chain-harrowing and carting work.
Must start at 5 A.M. sharp and get breakfast afterwards." I nod. Am
past the speaking stage now. Retire to bed, damp and shivering, and
very hungry. Find mouse seated on dressing table, regarding me
contemptuously. Shy boot at him. Miss mouse, but smash mirror. Feel
glow of unholy satisfaction at this. Toss about all night.

_Wednesday._--Rise 4.30, dress by candle-light, and crawl down stairs.
Ask POWNCEBY where are horses? "Oh, we'll walk round to the stable for
'em," says POWNCEBY. Plod through many puddles, and enter evil smelling
shed. Labourer saddling melancholy grey, elaborately stained on both
quarters. "There you are, and as good as they make 'em." Don't know who
"they" are, but wish "they" would "make 'em" a little cleaner. Mount,
and am joined by POWNCEBY on equine framework. Beginning to rain again.
"This is jolly, eh?" he says. "Oh, awfully," I reply, feebly, as my
wreck nearly blunders down on to his fiddle head. Arrive at meet 6.30.
"Oh, the 'ounds 'as bin gorn this 'arf hour or more. The meet was at
six," says a yokel.

POWNCEBY borrows fiver on road home. Caught 10.15 back to town, and if
ever----!



TOLD AFTER MESS


"You want to hear the story, eh?"

Loud chorus of subalterns: "No!"

"All right, then, that settles your fate, and you shall!" and I lit a
cigar preliminary to starting the yarn.

"Well do I remember the episode. It was a cut-throat country that we
had to ride over. Many of my soldier comrades, brave and true, fell
that day thickly around me--but as they all got up again, it did not
really so much matter."

Having deftly dodged a sofa-cushion shied at my head by way of a gentle
hint to "get forrard," I dropped from airy heights to the sober realms
of fact, and proceeded to tell my plain unvarnished tale.

"After hunting for ten years with a pack belonging to a Cavalry
regiment--let us call it the 'Heavyshot Drag'--the Fates (and Taylor &
Co.) removed me into a far country, and but for the kindness of some
members of the hunt, who often asked me up and gave me a mount, I
should have known the Heavyshot no more, as it was too far to bring any
of my own select stud--consisting of a musical one, with three legs and
a swinger, a bolter with a blind eye, and a 13.2 pony!--up for the
gallop. And what jolly gallops they always were, too!

"One day I got a wire from my excellent friend Major Laughton, who was
then Master of the Heavyshot, 'Come up, Friday. Lunch mess. Hounds meet
Pickles Common.' To which, in the degenerate language of the times, I
wired reply, 'You bet,' and one P.M. on the day named found my breeched
and booted legs beneath the mahogany of the hospitable mess room.

"Major Laughton, in greeting me, said, 'So sorry, my dear boy, I can't
give you my second horse, as he's all wrong to-day--a severe "pain
under the pinafore" has floored him. But I've got you a gee from--well,
never mind where from, I know he can jump.' And with these words the
conversation dropped. As to where my mount came from--well, it was no
concern of mine, was it? I thought I noticed a slight deflection of the
gallant Major's left eyelid when he was speaking, but that, after all,
might have been my fancy.

"After putting in some strong work over the luncheon course, we lit
cigars, and in a few minutes both horses and hounds appeared on the
parade ground. My horse with the mysterious origin was a good-looking
bay, who carried his head in the 'cocky' fashion beloved of
riding-masters, and proved a very pleasant hack. We jogged along and
soon reached the meet.

"The usual scene of eagerness and excitement, hounds supplying the
latter element, whilst the superior animal, man, jostled his fellows
consumedly, in his natural desire to 'get off the mark' as soon as
decency and the Master permitted. The last-named held forth vigorously
to us, as with a 'Tow-yow-yow!' hounds dashed across the first field,
and jumped, scrambled, or squeezed through the first fence.

"'Let 'em get over before you start, bless you all! Come back there,
you man on the grey! What the saintly St Ursula are you doing? All
right, now you can go, and be past-participled to you all!'

"And away we went as if His Satanic Majesty had assisted us with the
toe of his boot! Swish! and the first fence, long looked at and much
disliked, is a thing of the past; horses pull and bore to get their
heads as we sail down a stiffish hill and over a broad ditch at the
bottom. My horse drops one hind leg in, and loses a couple of lengths
by the performance. Up a slight slope we stand in our stirrups--to ease
our horses, _bien entendu_--not to look at the forbidding obstacle in
front of us, oh dear no! a post and rails, with no top bar broken
anywhere, and what I hear a groom behind me calling a 'narsetty' great
ditch on the landing side. Our gallant first Whip crams his horse at
it, and but for the animal's forgetfulness in leaving both hind legs
the wrong side, would have led over in great style; but 'tis an ill
wind which blows nobody any good, and those legs break the top rail for
us. Did I follow the Whip over a bit close? Well, I hope not; verdict,
'not guilty, but don't do it again.' Two flights of hurdles and a
ploughed field bring us to the main road. We jump into, and out of,
this, leaving two of our number as 'bookmakers'--_i.e._, 'laying on
the field.' On we go again over about three miles of pretty hunting
country, with nice, plain-sailing fences; then comes a stile, at which
one refusal and two 'downers' still further reduces the field; and,
with another flight of hurdles surmounted, we come to a check. Oh, the
shaking of tails and blowing of nostrils! the 'soaping' of reins and
the sweat on the foam-flecked bodies of the poor gees!

"'Horses seem to have had about enough of it, don't you think so?' said
a man who had pulled up just alongside of me.

"I turned in my saddle to answer, when, without the slightest warning,
and giving vent to a groan which I seem to hear still, my horse
suddenly fell to the ground. A dozen men slipped off their horses to
lend a hand. We quickly unbuckled the girths and pulled the saddle off,
but, even as we did so, I saw the glazing eye, which told unmistakably
that the poor old chap had done his last gallop and jumped his last
fence. He was as dead as Julius Cæsar!

"'By Jove, and it's one of the Queen's, too!' exclaimed an impetuous
Subaltern.

"'Shut up, you young ass!' quickly rejoined his Major in low tones, and
the good youth incontinently closed the floodgates of his eloquence
just as an enormous man, Colonel de Boots, in command of the Cavalry
depôt, who had driven out to see the fun, pushed his way through the
little crowd assembled round the 'stiff un' in order to tender his
advice.

"It was a tight place for those concerned, but the tension was quickly
relaxed when, instead of looking at the horse, he turned to me and
said, 'Deuced sorry _for your loss_, really--most annoying. My wife
will be delighted to give you a seat in her carriage. My servant shall
look after your horse until----'

"'Not for worlds, sir,' I replied hastily, 'that is all arranged for.
But if you will really be so good as to take me to Mrs de Boots'
carriage, and if she would not mind my entering it in this very muddy
condition----?'

"'Delighted; come along with me!' We walked off, and the situation was
saved.

"Only temporarily, though. I blandly received Colonel and Mrs de Boots'
condolences on the loss of _my_ horse all the way home to Barracks, and
I heard afterwards that they thought I 'took it in very good part.' The
moment I was released from their carriage, after thanking them warmly
for picking me up as they had done, I took to my heels and ran down to
Major Laughton's quarters.

"'Here's a pretty mess, my boy!' he exclaimed; 'there'll have to be a
Board to "sit on" the departed, to-morrow, and report in what way he
came to his "frightful end," as the newspaper Johnnies call it. Which
_is_ his "frightful end," by the way?' he added in meditative tones.

"'Give it up; ask me another,' I rejoined, with a grin. 'But,
seriously, will there be an awful row when it comes out that we were
hunting one of Her Majesty's?'

"'Well, naturally, a Paternal Government doesn't provide hunters for
"all and sundry." Come along with me: we'll see the Vet., and find out
what can be done.'

"Away we went to the Vet.'s office, and fortunately found him in.
Laughton related the whole affair to him, and wound up by saying, 'I
don't want you to do anything that isn't strictly right, you know; but
if you can see a way of helping us out of the difficulty, I shall be
awfully obliged. The worst of it is that it's a young horse--Bradford.'

"'Bradford? Oh, no; I saw Bradford in his stall not ten minutes ago.'

"'Are you sure of that?'

"'Oh, perfectly.'

"'How strange! I sent a man down to the stables this morning to tell
them to send Bradford up--but I'll ask him at once: he's just in the
yard there,' and the next minute we were eagerly questioning the
'Tommy' as he stood rigidly at attention.

"'Did you tell them I wanted Bradford?'

"'Yessir.'

"'What did they say?'

"'Said there was no such 'orse as Radford.'

"'Bradford, I said.'

"'Beg pardon, sir. Understood the name was Radford, and the
Sergeant----'

"'Yes, the Sergeant, what did he say then?'

"'Said I was a hass, sir----'

"'Quite right, go on,' said the Major, encouragingly.

"'And that I must mean Radnor, and Radnor was the 'orse as was sent up,
sir.'

"The Major turned on his heel without a word, and walked again into the
Vet.'s office, followed by me. The 'Tommy' remained at 'attention,' and
may be in the same attitude now, as far as I know.

"'This is a relief, anyhow,' said Laughton, 'Radnor would have been
"cast" very soon, and so his sudden death won't be so surprising to the
Board.'

"Up to this point the Vet. had been silent; now a smile hovered over
his face as he said, 'Leave the whole business to me, Major. Where's
the defunct?'

"The Major described the place, and the interview ended, and we walked
back to Laughton's quarters."

                 *       *       *       *       *

"The Board assembled, and briefly, the result of their deliberations
was to find that the bay gelding Radnor was discovered dead in his
stall, the certified cause of death being fatty degeneration of the
heart."

                 *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, that's all very fine and large, but how the----? what the----?
when the----!!!" broke in a Babel of voices.

"Hold on, boys, and you shall know one or two things which the Board
didn't know. Picture a scene in the barrack yard like this: a dark
night, moon only showing in fitful gleams now and then; a trolly with a
couple of horses; four stalwart Tommies and a sergeant-major seated on
the trolly; it rattles out of the barrack square and over some five
miles or so of road to the heath where the hero of the day breathed his
last. The trolly is drawn up on to the grass, and after a few minutes'
search the Sergeant-Major discovers the _corpus delicti_; with much
exertion it is hauled up on to the trolly, and the return journey
commences.

"Just before the witching hour of midnight 'when sentries yawn and
Colonels go to bed'--Shakespeare freely transposed, boys, this--enter
the trolly to the stable yard again. The dead horse is hoisted out, put
in its stall, and the head-collar most carefully adjusted ('in case he
should get loose,' observed one Tommy to another, with an unholy grin).

"All the actors in the little drama retire to imbibe liquid sustenance
'stood' by an invisible donor--peace reigns again all around the
barrack square, and----and that's the end. Waiter, bring me a whiskey
and soda, and some matches."


    TURNBULL AND SPEARS, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.





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