Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

fellows know, and consequently presume upon that knowledge, to the great loss of the public.

What is termed the getting up of a gun adds to its cost greatly : the getting up consists of all such work as the engraving, and finishing of the locks. Now if we would make up our minds to do without the pictures and fine flourishes which we see on all expensive guns, we should be so much the better as regards our pockets : and, after all, what is the good of such ornaments ? A gun would shoot just as well without them ; and if what they cost was applied to the barrels and locks, it would, in my opinion, be a much more satisfactory way to expend money.

In concluding this subject I would advise every one to eschew cheap guns : many accidents from the use of such instruments of destruction have presented themselves to my immediate notice, and in more than one instance has loss of life been the result of such imprudence. If the sportsman cannot afford to buy a gun new from a first-rate maker, there are many men who, though not standing in such a favourable situation as Nock or Egg, are equally as respectable, and in whose hands the sportsman will always be safe ; or let him seek for a second-hand gun by a first-rate maker, which may be bought much cheaper than a new one ; only let him take the precaution to have it examined by some one upon whom he can place reliance, and who will ascertain that it has not been in any way injured—let him do this, and he will probably be able to furnish himself with a good article at a moderate price ; at all events, in whatever way he proceeds to purchase either a horse or gun, let him be careful ; with both the fingers may be burned, and both may

be made the source of much disappointment; therefore my concluding words of advice, especially to the young sportsman, is caveat emptor ; and so saying, I remain his sincere friend,

RAMROD.

RECOLLECTIONS OF A GAMEKEEPE R.

WOLF AND THE ROE-HARE OF GLENFERNY. This Wolf was a singular-looking dog, firmly built, but uncouth in appearance, and in figure anything but attractive, but withal one of the kindest and most obedient creatures in the world. He seemed delighted in whatever employment he was engaged, but he appeared to experience the greatest measure of delight in hunting. I have seen him, for his own amusement, go and rouse a hare from a seat, and then stand like a statue, watching her various movements till she had disappeared, when he would return home at his leisure, apparently in deep cogitation. Wolf was by no means fitted for sudden emergencies—his movements were slow and unwieldy, and a less valuable dog would have outstripped him far in a short race; but when it became a question of distance and endurance, no dog was able to cope with him.

I remember there was a very large hare that had been often seen and hunted in the Glen, but she always managed to elude her pursuers, and

F

no sportsman ever had the good fortune to get a proper shot at her. From her uncommon size, she had obtained the sobriquet of the RoeHare; and any one, on seeing her threading the sheep-walks, or scampering across the face of the hill

, among the low birch-trees, would have been at a loss to conclude whether she was a roe or a hare. Many singular stories were told in the district about this same big hare, and legends, which evidently had their origin in the by-gone days of superstition, were revived to be connected with her mysterious vagaries. The fox-hunter had made many unsuccessful attempts to secure her, but gave it up, under the impression, as he himself expressed it, “ that she could not be a mortal creature.' Greyhounds were also tried, but they were no less unsuccessful. The roe-hare was no sooner started, and the dogs in full pursuit, than she was seen far, far away, on the ridge of the distant hills, careering far beyond the sight of dogs.

One day I liappened to form one of a party who intended to have a rattle at the roe-hare. We had four large wiry greyhounds : noble looking animals they were, and highly celebrated for their power and swiftness. We entered the Glen, and allowed Wolf to range about. Several hares were started ; but it was well known from their inferior size that none of them was the object of our pursuit, and of course no chase was given. We had nearly scoured the Glen, from the one end to the other, without success, when, on nearing the remains of an old sheilin, around which appeared some patches of fresh herbage and a few straggling bushes, we observed a lively movement on the part of Wolf. There must be game, Wolf seldom gives tongue ; but it is well known when quarry is near by a peculiar increase of bulk : this arises from his long shaggy hair, rising erect like the spines of a porcupine, and then he appears like a large mass of dark gray wool rolling along, for neither head nor feet are discernible. This peculiar appearance had just taken place, when, hollo! up started the roe-hare in full view, and the four greyhounds were off in a moment in full pursuit, and at a tremendous pace, making the very ground to shake under them. The sight was beautiful, especially when they were ascending the hill ; but it was easy to see that, although the dogs were running with extraordinary swiftness, the roe-hare was gaining on them fast ; and before they had attained the ridge of the nearest hill, she was seen bounding over a more distant elevation, leaving them far, far behind. In a short time the hounds were seen returning one after another, apparently very much fatigued. But where was Wolf all this time? He was seen following the chase, moving like a large ball of gray wool, in his own peculiar and easy way, and seemed the most unlikely of the five to do execution ; and, long after the hounds had given up the pursuit, he was observed rolling across the farthest hill, still in pursuit and direct on the trail of the roe-hare.

The party appeared somewhat disappointed on this unsuccessful trial of their hounds, and not a few maledictions were sent after the hare. Not to be baulked, however, they secured three large hares, which, in some degree, restored them to good humour. Being pretty much fatigued, we directed our steps towards the old sheilin, near which was a pure fountain of water. Here all were congregated, and some creature.comforts, by way of lunch, were procured, and partaken of with no little gusto. At the same time the chase with the roe-hare was not

[ocr errors]

The dog

forgotten. " It's nae in the power o' man to tak' her," said Ewen Cameron, emphatically. “ IIow so ?” said one of the party. cause,” said Ewen, i every earthly means hae been tried to secure her before this time, and all have failed, an' I myself tried to shoot her wi' a silver sixpence, an' she catched it wi' her foot, an' sent it back in my face. Na, na, continued Ewen, “I'll warrant ye, ye'll never get a catch o' her ; for believe me, when you see the muckle hare in the Glen, ye'll no get Tibbie M‘Queeben in her ain house." This was an old woman, who lived in the middle of the Glen-a very harmless creature, who obtained her living by visiting the houses in the district. She was such a woman as might have incurred the displeasure of the populace and the authorities 150 years ago, by her thin, bare, sharp visage ; but although the days of persecution had gone past, not so the days of superstition. Tibbie had many enemies, and although they feared to molest her, they did not fail to vilify her character, and ascribe to her the qualities of a witch.

A considerable time had now elapsed since the brush with the roehare, and Wolf had not returned, nor was he to be seen on any of the hills around. The party was just on the point of leaving, when they heard, seemingly at a great distance, a hollow bark, something like a howl. They looked, and beheld Wolf rolling onwards across the ridge of the farthest hill, and the roe-hare scudding before him. was never known to give tongue in the chase before, and it was conjectured that he had become enraged on account of the exceeding long race. They soon disappeared behind the intervening hill, and much anxiety was evinced till they appeared again ; and when they did, both hare and dog appeared at the same moment. The hare appeared to be terribly fagged, but Wolf kept up his old jog-trot ; and they both came rolling down the hill with no great distance between them, and almost on the same track as they had gone up. At this moment some of the party were for pointing the hounds at the hare, but this was countermanded by their owner, who declared it would be nothing to their credit now, when the hare was completely exhausted, and must eventually fall before the noble dog; they were, therefore, secured. In the mean time, the hare had neared the sheilin. Her progress was slow and unsteady, although the greatest exertion was made; her head appeared far back on her shoulders, as if the muscles of her body were stretched to their utmost ; but it was observed that her fore feet lagged in their action, and they seemed to quiver before they reached the ground, the poor creature being afraid at every leap lest she should stumble. She had now gone past the sheilin without observing any of the party, rounded a large bush ; but instead of moving onwards to escape her pursuer, went direct to meet him, when he seized and despatched her without a murmur. The large hare was inspected narrowly, and admired by all the party ; and Ewen Cameron declared " it was not l'ibbie McQueeben after a'!"

66

LITERATURE,

MR. SPONGE'S SPORTING TOUR. Bradbury and Evans, Bouverie Street.—A sporting novel, without a sportsman to be found in it, is at any rate a novelty. Mr. Sponge's tour has this recommendation. Look at the whole crowds of rogues and fools that greet you number after number: the Jawleyford's, the Scamperdale's, the Spraggon's, the Waffles', the Jogglebury's, the Sir Arry's —, the Facey Romford's, the Pacey's, the Caignby Thornton's, the Bob Spangles', and other such attendant spirits. Look at these worthies, introduced to us as they are in company with hounds and horses, and yet who for one moment would think of ranking them with sportsmen ? But then they are necessary for the purpose of the work, we shall be told. Admitted. Surely, though, it is not all barren? Surely, if only by way of relief, we might have had one character or so with the true heart of a sportsman, and the proper conduct of a gentleman. Not a bit of it. We repeat there is no more a sportsman than a gentleman to be found in the whole round dozen of numbers. Indeed, with a wonderful unity of design, Mr. Sponge shows us that men who live directly by sport may still not have the least feeling for it. Brag and Watchorn, huntsmen though they be, are no more sportsmen than the “poplar man,” or the castle rack-rent youth they condescend to hold under. It is, however, but fair to say that the author himself in a measure differs with us. Some pains, for instance, are taken to assure us that Lord Scamperdale and his crony Spraggon are sportsmen. We at once disown them. They want the manliness, the hospitality, the good fellowship, the dashing open bearing-everything, in a word, that tends to perfect a sportsman, and that sport itself tends to develop. They are wretched, coarse, miserable ruffians—a sneak and a bully well matched—with some of “the devil,” may be that a hard, rough, life more or less conduces to encourage, but with none of the nobler susceptibilities and aspirations now so happily characteristic of an English sportsman.

And yet, strange as it may seem, the writer is a sportsman himselfat least if not at heart, certainly by experience. There is not a scene he describes, not a detail he enters into, but proves how closely he has observed, and how frequent must have been his opportunities for doing

At times, indeed, we begin to hope he is going to do himself and his subject justice; but this is not for long : we soon sink back again into the Sponge and “the Spongee.” Somebody to get something out of somebody else. That is the moral of the book ; and so much a matter of course does it become, that when farmer Springwheat makes open house for a hunt breakfast, the reader finds himself enquiring why he gives a breakfast? Who is to be got over by it? Who to be primed and robbed before the day is out? We beg the jolly yeoman's pardon ; if there is an honest man to be found in the tour we think we must knock at his door.

But the " general reader,” as he is called, will get a curious idea of a sportsman's life and habits from Mr. Sponge's tour. Fancy a man,

[ocr errors]

who knew nothing himself of it, reading Sponge with desperate resolution from end to end, and then reflecting that he had a son or two “passionately fond of hunting.' If, in these days of betting-lists and till robberies, Mr. Sponge had gone to the turf for his taste of “ sporting life” we might have “passed” such swarms of blackguards and thieves, as unfortunately too appropriate to the scene. But hang it! a man must look very hard at the dark side of human nature to find in three or four neighbouring hunts anything like such a circle of acquaintance as Mr. Sponge had the honour of meeting. Why not have introduced him to one high-minded genuine fellow or two, and so shown us how awkward and out of place the downy coper must be in the presence of an English country gentleman and his family? As it is, Soapey is at home wherever he goes ; in nine cases out of ten they are bigger humbugs than he is, and if he does not do them, they will do him. In fact, we are very much inclined to agree with his friend the author, that Sponge, despite his shabby tricks, is about the best of the lot after all : he can ride like a man, and feel like a man when there is a good looking girl by his side, and that is saying a great deal more for him than we can for the rest of them. The author of Soapey Sponge, as we take it, has had a tolerable share of experience in men, women, hounds, and horses, but he does not seem to think much the better of them for it. The jollity that set Jorrocks on his travels is lost here. There was good humour in his laugh ; and if he did quiz you now and then, it was like one of Leech's sketches; you took the joke and sent it round, and thought not a whit the less of the sport that made it, notwithstanding. Jorrocks and Briggs may go hand in hand ; but Sponge at best is but a bad joker. Humour there is no doubt, though it has a sour taste enough; exaggeration, too, shall not stop our author here again, but it is more a libel than a caricature now. Jorrocks was a good fellow, with some of the real stuff of a sportsman in him, fighting its way through all sorts of difficulties ; you felt this in every line you welcomed from him. Sponge, on the other hand-writer or hero as you please-gives you the idea of a man who had never known what a welcome was in his life, but who had rather been cold-shouldered out of every hunt in England.

We are afraid the author of Mr. Sponge's Tour has not succeeded in his object ; if, indeed, we rightly understand what this object is. By his preface, which it is only fair to quote in answer,

“ He will be glad if it serves to put the rising generation on their guard against specious promiscuous acquaintances, and trains them on to the noble sport of hunting, to the exclusion of its mercenary illegitimate off-shoots.”

If the rising generation are to take the field as much on their guard as Mr. Sponge would put them, we don't much envy them. Every man who asks you to his house has a daughter to hang on to you—any one who offers you a cigar, a screw to sell you. Look out, you rising generation, and avoid promiscuous acquaintance—more especially in the hunting field, for there are no such scamps under the sun as you will find there. Old Nimrod, in the innocence of his heart, affirmed there was no better introduction for a young man of means and spirit than the cover side. Aye, and despite Mr. Sponge’s unhappy experiences, we shall back him still. Don't be too much alarmed, 0 rising generation : men that you will meet out with the hounds are not all rogues

« AnteriorContinuar »