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garden amongst the flowers. Of a sudden a terrier's tail is seized with convulsions, and his nose is into a bed of violets. The infection spreads, the hunter's instinct is roused; the boy runs after the terrier, and beats the coverts; the grown man follows helter-skelter; the lady cheers them on. From violetbed to rose-bed, from wild hyacinth to grass-tuft, dogs and men rush, barking, cheering, and shouting with glee, for the hunt is up. At last the wild whoo-whoop of the best sportsman in all wide Scotland, and the worry, worry, worry of the terriers proclaims the death--of a mouse!
The garden fades, and in its place a stackyard grows. the top of a stack is a farm-servant unbinding thatch, and round about the yellow fortress stand a grinning army of boys. The grieve's son and the blacksmith's boys, and the keeper's boy with a game-bag, and the gardener's boy with a big shinny, and the rest of the boys, all armed with sticks. Down comes the thatch, and down come nests of young mice and rats, and all that come die. Down comes the stack, sheaf by sheaf, to be carted away to the barn, and the garrison of grown rats begin to stir. A sharp nose, long whiskers, and a pair of beadlike eyes peep out, and draw back in dismay. “Look out, lads," shouts the man with the pitchfork, and with the next toss he bolts the quarry, and off go the pack at score. “ Hit him !" “smash him!” “ that's it, Spotty;" “weel dune !” “ that yin's deid;" "’od man, ye're a real slunge;" “ that yin's awa;" and so on till the last stone in the foundation of the stack is turned over, and the last mouse escapes, or finds a grave in the maw of pet eagles, ravens, falcons, hawks, and hoodie-crows.
Stacks and stackyard, pets and boys have vanished and scattered, as the chaff was scattered by the wind, but the “old forest-ranger’s” picture of the life of a bare-legged kilted savage, gathers the grain once more, and it grows green again in autumn.
A river of amber, with pools of creamy froth sweeping through a brown moor, glowing with the bright purple of heather-bells in autumn, water and heather dancing and waving gladly in the bright sunlight of a summer's noon, wells up. Two lanky boys, naked as they were born, followed by a keeper, and armed with rods, wade through the shallows, swim through the pools, peer into holes and under banks, and grope under stones. There is a sudden commotion: a salmon has been found, and at it they go again with heart and soul, as if they were born otters. They pelt the fish, they chase him, they drive him into 'the pool, and dive till they drive him out on the shallow, with the water flying from his back-fin and broad silver tail. At last with a wild yell of triumph the mouse-hunter pounces on nobler prey, grips a ten-pounder by the gills, and carries him to land writhing and struggling. It was a fair fight and the naked bipeds won.
The river swells till it grows a sea. A Highland shore comes next. It is a maze of rocky islands and points, green birch woods and heather, a calm glassy ground-swell is rolling in from the wide Atlantic, the horizon is studded with white sails of big ships becalmed, the foreground is brown seaweed moving in the green sea, a round-eyed bullet-headed seal, with the sunlight glittering like a star on his wet brow, lifts his blunt nose to stare at a gull; the gull hangs his legs and his head and stares and screams in return. Both are hunting. A boat with four oars comes sweeping round the point with a steady even strong pull, the water foaming under her bows. The gull wheels off, the seal goes down stern foremost, and the boat stops at a cairn. As she touches the first stone the silence is broken by a chorus of discords made by a dozen open canine throats, all barking and screaming at once with keenness. The pack scrambles forward, falling over the thwarts, plumping into the sea, scrambling over the oars, slipping on the wet sea-weed, and in they all go with a rush. There is a pause, and then the breathless silence of expectation is broken by a muffled Yaff! yaff! yaff! far away down. “ She's in ;" they have her, hurrah! and out go men and boys, as the dogs went, helter skelter to join the otter-hunt. With the patience of a cat, the sportsman sits watching the hole from which the otter is to bolt. This battle is not to be won by brute force alone. Men have sent dogs to go where they cannot follow, and they are armed with weapons which they have learned to use. It is a trial of skill outside, and a furious brute battle under the stones. The collieshangie grows hot and furious, the dogs get hoarse with barking, and breathless with fruitless efforts to cram themselves into chinks. The yaff yaff is varied by shrill yells of pain, and angry growls, and mingled with the sputtering and blowing of the angry otter who is fighting for dear life. “Oh, she's cuttin' them terrible,” “ Bee sas,” shouts the keeper; and as he shouts, a stone, which a giant would think twice about lifting, is lifted and hurled down on the cairn with a crash that shakes the rock. The thunder over head stills the row below, and the vexed otter thinks it time to move; a mass of brown fur seems to flash through the air, but the flash of the gun is swifter still, and the otter rolls over on the slippery sea ware. From every hole and cranny the pack spring, yelling, and fasten on the prey, and then it is worry, worry, worry, bee sas;” and men and dogs growl and roar till their mouths foam. The master of the salmon has been mastered; the otter is slain by hunter's in stinct and man's intelligence combined.
The screen of the magic lantern is blurred for a moment, and out of the sea there rises a broad strath and a wide hillside,-a long stretch of weary moor, over which a tiredout urchin is wearily striding after a troop of grown men ; he is determined not to be beat, but is very near it. They reach the hill-top, and the leader crawls to the brink of a cliff, and peers warily over. A shot and a loud shout celebrate the death of an eagle. A grinning savage is tied to the end of a rope, and down he goes dangling to the nest. The young birds, with tufts of white down on their brown feathers, raise their hooked beaks and scream feebly, fight and flap their half fledged wings, and strive to strike with their talons, but all in vain. They are caught and bound up in a plaid, and carried home, and chained by the leg, and fed on rats and dead cats, and reared ; and many a sad and weary hour these captive eagles spent, because the hunters were upon them, and harried them.
That was the kind of life which the author of this journal describes in his first chapter, and it was good training for boy or man. The people with whom he consorted are not commonly found in their old haunts now, as he tells us. The few that remain are going fast. The Highland hunter has been hunted out by his own sheep and deer, and the farmer has been ploughed out of his ground, and improved off the face of the earth.
Chapter the first of the Indian Journal shows the hunting instinct growing naturally, as it grows in every country house in England, where there is an English boy. Surely it is a healthy growth. Is this hunting instinct a thing to be eradicated from civilized men? The only way to solve the mystery is to look to those who are sportsmen, to see what they are good for, and what they do. The biggest town in the world is London, and near London there is little sport, but the best tackle and the best shots and fishermen in the world are to be found near the blackest capital in it. On the south coast are certain rivers, and each river has its club. At Christ Church men catch salmon occasionally, and fish for them perpetually; at Stockbridge the weathercock is a trout, and Chantrey made it. One cast in the river is Chantrey's corner, another is dedicated to some other well-known worthy who was a member of this famous fishing-club. The Test is the test of anglers' skill. Day after day men angle with patience and labour, cunning and craft, and two trout make an ample reward for many hours of weary toil. What waste and what wealth of time!
Nay. A senator with a weary brain, a sculptor worn with mental toil, a fat alderman, a half-choked citizen, a man who has a whole State department on his head for months, here throws off his load. He drinks in fresh air by the chest-full, works his body and sets his whole mind to help his instinct to master and circumvent a coy beauty of a trout. If he succeeds he eats him, and if he does not he eats a good dinner all the same, and sleeps the sleep of the gorged savage, to rise a healthier man, with a clearer head and a brighter eye, and a steadier mind for a civilized man's real work. The gentle art of destruction which old Izaak Walton practised,
“Whose well-spent life did last
Full ninety yeares and past," is but a human improvement on the instinct which makes part of every natural man.
But this civilized fishing is not the genuine thing, and other English sports are almost as artificial.
Some ten years ago a writer imagined a visit from the Man in the moon.
The uninformed stranger was walking thoughtfully about the fields, when he saw a little brown animal with a long tail, with draggled fur and panting sides and rolling tongue, come sneaking under a hedge and pop into a hole. A great noise approached, and a great many furious, panting, yelling, big creatures came tearing up to the hole, and howled like so many mad demons. With a crash and a shout, a still larger animal carrying a man in a red coat burst through the hedge, and more followed. Some fell, one broke his arm, another was planted head foremost in the mire; the whole party were hot and flushed and tired, but delighted, and they all were agreed that it was a “glorious run.” A spade was got, the fox dug out, thrown to the hounds, torn limb from limb; and there was another chorus of discordant, triumphant noises while they ate the quarry. When they were somewhat calm, the stranger advanced hat in hand to seek information. He learned that the hunters did not eat the little animal with the long tail, that he did little harm, that it was a grievous crime to slay him in any other way, that his race were carefully preserved, that the hunting of him was a noble recreation enjoyed by the best in the land who paid fabulous sums for hounds and horses, kennels, stables, and houses, that they might risk their own bones. Politely thanking the hunter, the Man in the moon presented his card, and a bundle of tickets for his establishment.
This sort of hunting is not instinctive. Like the trout-fishing, it is a human invention, and sporting-books show it in this aspect.
A clever Frenchman lately came amongst us to see our ways, and he published his view of English manners in French. His papers have been translated, and we see ourselves as others see us, for once in a way. Of course, the traveller went out with
the hounds, and clearly he did not enjoy the sport, though he followed as well as he was able, and few Frenchmen lack pluck. In a sporting book called Ask Mamma, the private opinions of a young gentleman who had not received a hunting education are depicted in a series of letters to his mother. In November he writes from Tantivy Castle :
“MY DEAREST MOTHER,—Though I wrote to you only the other day, I take up my pen, stiff and sore as I am, and scarcely able to sit, to tell you of my first day's hunt, which I assure you was anything but enjoyable. In fact, I feel just as if I had been thumped by half the pugilists in London, and severely kicked at the end." To my fancy, hunting is about the most curious, unreasonable amusement that ever was invented.
For my part, I don't see the use of hunting an animal that you can shoot, as they do in France.”
It is clear that the Frenchman and Mr. William Pringle did not see the fun of the thing at first.
Wherein does the fun consist at last ?—for there is something in it which stirs the blood of the coldest.
Take another sporting book, Market Harborough, and hunting life is seen from another side. It is no longer the sham swell, Billy Pringle, who is always sailing under false colours, amongst a set of overreaching humbugs and vile snobs. It is no longer “ Soapy Sponge” hunting at the expense of his friends. It is “ Mr. Sawyer” who went to “the shires," and his adventures are dedicated “ to the first flight in all counties,” by the author, who knew what he was writing about, and writes well.
Mr. Sawyer can ride, and does pay his own way; he rides his own horses and pays for his own dinner; he is not an exquisite, but he is a country gentleman, and he associates with the leaders when he goes to the shires. His adventures make a very amusing novel even for the uninitiated. But here is a quotation :
"Racing-men are bad enough. Politicians are sufficiently longwinded. A couple of agriculturists will keep the ball rolling pretty perseveringly on the congenial themes of cake,' mangold-wurzel, short-horns, reaping-machines, and guano; but I have heard ladies, who are perhaps the best judges of volubility, affirm, that for energy, duration, and the faculty of saying the same thing over and over again, a dialogue between a couple of fox-hunters beats every other kind of discussion completely out of the field.”
Even the story of the sport is no fun. With these sentiments the writer of course abstains from describing the sport of the men, but he depicts men and women, and describes how the wild huntsman was polished by the “Honourable Crasher,”
1 Ask Mamma, by the Author of Handley Cross, &c. 1858.
? Market Harborough; or, How Mr. Sawyer went to the Shires. London, 1861.