Imágenes de página

eager air.

leaning over him, scrutinized his features with breathless attention for a second, and then crept softly towards a bench which stood near the opening of the tent. On this bench were placed, with great regularity and neatness, the articles of which Esterling had disencumbered himself previous to lying down ; his shot-pouch, powder-flask, knife, watch, cigar-case, and last, not least, a beautifully-embossed pocket-book. The position in which Sir Nicholas was reclining commanded a complete view of this bench ; and he was so near to it, that by stretching out his hand he might easily have grasped Edmund by the arm.

Great was this kind and honourable man's astonishment to observe his nephew lift the pocket-book from where it lay, and examine its contents with an

One letter after another was opened, read, and replaced with an expertness which showed that the actor was not unskilled in such practices. At last he appeared to be puzzled by some concealed spring in the pocket-book, for he looked at it attentively, exanzined all the sides, and tried every spring—at least, so Sir Nicholas fancied from what the dimness of the light permitted him to see—when suddenly he started back, as if beholding some object which struck him with amazement, almost amounting to terror, examined carefully what he held ; then, as though still unsatisfied, he went to an opening in the tent, and again scanned it with the utmost curiosity; he then reclosed the pocketbook, sighed deeply, and replaced it in its former position ; after which, as if oppressed by what he had seen or what he had done, he lighted a cigar, and went forth from the tent.

The sun had not risen, but he was about to rise, and he generally rose with majesty and splendour on the Carreg Mountains. Numberless clouds were in attendance, attired in their most gorgeous vestments, long before he presented himself ; but when at last he appeared advancing with stately motion, and seemed to rest on the highest of the many surrounding craigs, accompanied by his crimson and gold-clad attendants, the sight was one of such magic splendour that all nature could boast no parallel. But Edmund watched this sight of beauty with an eye of languor, and a feeling almost amounting to indifference. His was a soul which was incapable of responding to the charms of nature ; self was the only object which could rouse him to exertion ; his wants and wishes, his feelings and intentions, were all which could interest him ; self was the main wheel upon which the confined machinery of his narrow mind unceasingly revolved, and self was the key which wound up that wheel, and kept it in motion. He lifted not his eyes in admiration of a scene formed by an Almighty hand, because he raised not his sordid soul in admiration of the Power which formed it. The hours seemed long and dreary. The morning, however splendid, was too raw to permit of his remaining inactive ; Edmund, therefore, paced up and down and round the tent, occasionally looking in to see if all remained still quiet. At last Sir Nicholas issued forth ; and nodding, in a short, abrupt manner, to his nephew, proceeded to rouse up the drowsy “markers,” in order to prepare for their matin's meal, himself aiding in the preparation, and urging expedition.

“ Always active, Uncle," said Esterling, popping out his handsome curly head'; “ah! employed, as usual, in the service of your fellowcreatures. Pray let us have that game-pie : this mountain air is a rare stomachic. I'm as hungry as a hound.”


[ocr errors]

“Come out, you lazy puppy, and get it for yourself,” responded Sir Nicholas, a bright smile playing about his well-formed mouth.

“ Who do you think is going to cater for you ?-chacun pour soi is the only motto when there are many to serve, and each anxious to get forward. The grouse wont wait for us.

“I'm coming," said Esterling, from the tent; “but I regret you are not the friend of humanity' I took you for.”

No, nor a cook nor a knife-grinder either. Come along, you needy rascal."

“ Thank you, Uncle, you're complimentary this morning ; if I may be permitted to cavil at the truth, for I am needy enough, in all conscience. But here comes Edmund : halloa, my boy, how long have you been stirring? But, by-the-bye, is anything amiss? There are more clouds hanging over your brow than over the Garth Hill on a dark November day. Ah! you're thinking of the bogs; but never mind, old fellow, I'm safe enough now, and ready to pull you out, if you get in.”

Edmund scowled, but did not reply ; while Esterling rattled on in the effervescence of a youthful and guileless spirit, and his kind-hearted uncle laughed in the tempered mirthfulness of maturer years. At length, breakfast was over, everything was speedily packed up-for under the vigilant eye of Sir Nicholas no one was permitted to loiter over his work; the tent was struck, and laid beside the hampers until such time as the sport was over; the dogs gave themselves the rousing shake, and their masters, taking up their guns, strode forth with fresh and vigorous strides.

It was impossible to conceive a finer morning for the purposes ing than that which broke on the mountains of Glamorgan that day. An hour before the sun rose the old cock-bird of many a pack might have been heard welcoming the returning light, and proclaiming his patriarchal honours in a short triumphant crow ; and if the sportsman were alert, by bending on his knee he might now see him standing on the top of a bare mole-hill, looming large on the horizon, between himself and the coming light. On such occasions, when the cocks crow early and the heather is only moistened by the dew of heaven, when the wind blows softly and the weather is settled and serene, then do they lie well ; and the fowler may expect, where the game is tolerably abundant, to have a fair and satisfactory day.

Two brace of setters and a brace of pointers constituted the team ; the former were even then known as “the Gordon breed,” and for bone, beauty, and work could scarcely be surpassed in Great Britain. They stood at least twenty-four inches high, and so had a great advantage over smaller dogs in crossing the deep heather ; their skins were of a beautiful jet black, edged with a bright tan, while their legs and sterns carried a fine glossy feather, that demonstrated the purity of their · blood.” Perhaps their dash was not equal to that of the Irish setters; but then they were less riotous in their work, steadier at their game, and after a long rest required no severity to maintain the discipline with which they had once been impressed. The pointers were of the old Spanish breed, with long heads and deep flews; not like the so-called race of the present day, which by their chubby heads rather resemble bull-dogs than the fine old Dons and Sanchos of antient date. In colour



of sport

[ocr errors]


they were white, with liver heads, and were ticked irregularly over the body with small brown spots, which seemed to lie within the skin rather than in the thin fine hair with which it was covered. Like the setters, they were highly-broken animals, and required nothing more than the hand to guide them in the various manœuvres which they executed so cleverly. But they had one signal advantage over the setters, and it was for this reason they were especially valued by Sir Nicholas, and retained in his service, 'spite of his love for uniformity in all matters relating to the breed of dogs and horses ; for a scratch pack or a scratch team were his utter abhorrence :—they never suffered from the want of water. In the hottest days of August, when the sun was all but vertical, when the moors were parched with thirst, and neither fountain nor burn could be seen for hours, these dogs laboured incessantly in their work, and neither seemed distressed by the heat nor anxious to search for water ; whereas the setters, under similar circumstances, were completely beaten, and rendered totally unfit for work. Accordingly, in hot weather, and where water was scarce, the pointers were invariably used ; and, vice versa, the setters. Ten brace of grouse had fallen to their guns in a short space of time, and there appeared to be every prospect of the day's sport being a satisfactory one, when suddenly an accident occurred which brought it to an abrupt and somewhat tragical conclusion. At the moment we are describing they had reached the foot of a deep ravine, down which a mountain torrent was rushing with a wild and impetuous velocity. To cross this it was necessary to pass over a rude and antiquated bridge, long since condemned by the peasantry as unsafe and dangerous, a circumstance with which the whole party were perfectly acquainted. After a short discussion, however, it was determined to risk the presumed danger, and to cross the bridge, in order to reach by the nearest route a sunny side of the mountain celebrated for its game. Determinations are more frequently formed than executed ; and, although in the present case there was no lack of nerve or self-possession to accomplish what they attempted, yet they were doomed to encounter a disaster

have proved fatal in its results as it was awkward and unpleasant in its effects.

“ Lead on, Uncle,” said Esterling : "the pony must come last ; and if you do not quicken your pace a little, I think it more than probable he will not come at all ; he is becoming very restive-a little afraid of the torrent, I fancy : he is no admirer of the charms of nature, unless they present themselves in the form of a hay-rick.”

“Call over the dogs first,” shouted Sir Nicholas, from the opposite side ; for he observed the pony was beginning to rear and pull back in a dangerous manner.

Edmund and Esterling accordingly led the way, followed by the dogs, and they had just reached the other bank, when they heard the pony snorting furiously behind them, and in another instant the decayed woodwork cracking and giving way on every side.

“Let him go! let him go !” roared Sir Nicholas, at the top of his voice.

But the dash of the torrent rendered his words inaudible ; while the lad at the pony's head thoughtlessly persisted in dragging at the bridle with all his strength, to the evident and imminent peril of his own life.

which may



All the party had reached the opposite side in safety, and were anxiously watching the movements of the young man and his restive charge, when suddenly, as they all expected, the centre portion of the decayed old bridge gave way, and, falling in with a fearful crash, precipitated both into the bubbling torrent below, from a height of twenty feet. A wild shout filled the air, while Esterling, with the rapidity of lightning, tore off his coat, and rushing forward for fifty yards, plunged into the river at a spot where the surface of the water began to assume a smoother aspect ; then dashing into it midway, met the struggling form of the poor

lad as it was borne unresistingly by the waters. With a skilful and powerful grasp Esterling seized him by the back of his collar, just as he was passing : they were hurried on together by the force of the tide for some distance, but seeing a friendly promontory which jutted out, he exerted his utmost strength, and being a powerful man as well as an expert swimmer, he succeeded in reaching the bank, and deposited his insensible burden upon the turf. When the party on shore had witdessed the catastrophe, and seen Esterling's gallant and timely plunge to the rescue, they followed with all possible speed and anxiety, in order to watch the result and lend assistance ; but, so swift and impetuous was the course of the torrent, and so rapidly were the young men borne onward, that they did not reach the spot till some seconds after Esterling had landed his charge in safety.

“God be praised that you are safe, my gallant boy!" said the baronet, much agitated; “ but you look pale and cold : I fear you have done too much.”

“ Not a bit, not a bit, my dear uncle ; I shall be all right after I have walked a little. But give me your wine-flask : poor Thomas is insensible. Take off his wet things, and rub him sharply, like good fellows,” said he, addressing the other men. “That's it: he's coming round, I can see."

“No more shooting to-day," said Sir Nicholas, solemnly.

“ Well, I think this is sport enough for one day,” said Esterling, laughing : 'there's no such sport as sport by sport o’erthrown,' as old Shakspeare has it.”

Your last half-hour's occupation does not exactly coincide with my notion of a pastime,” said Edmund, good-humouredly ; " but I verily believe you were born to baffle the torrents, and walk securely over bottomless quagmires."

"If I could not extricate myself from such dangers," said Esterling, proudly, “I should have but a sorry chance. I have found that my own arm in the safest to depend upon.”

“ That's more than I can say, Master George,” said Thomas, looking up ; “ l'd rather depend upon yours, in such a place as this.”

- What became of the pony?" asked Esterling.

“He's all right, sir,” said one of the men ; “ he landed just above St. David's Rock, and he does not appear to have been injured in the least.

“Go, then, and fetch him,” said Sir Nicholas ; “place Thomas carefully on him, and follow us to the Hall. Now, then, boys, home is the wisest order of march ; and a pleasanter day to-morrow' the best wish we can utter.”

(To be continued).

[ocr errors]






“ He that has sail'd upon the dark blue sea

Has view'd at times, I ween, a full fair sight;
When the fresh breeze is fair as breeze may be,

The white sail set, the gallant frigate tight.
“ And, oh! the little warlike world within !

The well-reeved guns, the netted canopy,
The hoarse command, the busy humming din,
When, at a word, the tops are mann'd on high."



The Frigate--Man overboard. A gun was now reported, and immediately our signal for a midshipman -“ Pipe the first cutter away! send for Mr. Sims ! lower the cutter !” Up came Mr. Sims, a smartish-looking mid, in not the smartest of dresses, having untogged himself for sea work, he being mate of the main-deck.

“ Take the order book, and answer the signal on board the Admiral. If a shore boat comes near you, as you pass the point, give the fellow this half-crown, to go wherever the gig may be ; and hand that note to the coxswain, to be immediately given to the captain : the coxswain knows where he is.”

Ay, ay, sir.” And away

dived Mr. Sims below. The cutter was lowered, the mast ordered to be stepped. In less than no time up came Sims, quite a different-looking young man, coated, cocked-hatted, and bedirked, with a roll of canvas in his hand, which I afterwards learnt was the covering of the order book. While the boat with its crew was scudding under a big sail on this duty, the second lieutenant, Mr. Train, asked me if I would like to go over the ship, and see the men at dinner—for it was not yet two bells, or one o'clock—an offer which I accepted with pleasure. Nothing could exceed the cleanliness, the order, or the appearance of the main-deck, on which, outside the captain's cabin, were mounted twelve long eighteen-pounders on each side, and, I was told, two more in the cabin. She was what was then called an eight-andthirty—a rating that of late years has been abolished, the present system approximating nearer to the number of guns carried. The Rokeby, carronades and all, mounted forty-eight, with a spare port in the eyes of the main-deck and forecastle. I was much struck with the fine appearance of this deck, which was then almost clear, so that one could see

« AnteriorContinuar »