« PředchozíPokračovat »
over the whole parish. Mothers press their yet unchastised infants to their breasts; and the schoolmaster, fastening a knowing eye on dunce and ne'erdoweel, holds up, in silent warning, the terror of the tawse. Frequent flogging will cow the spirit of the best man and dog in Britain. Ponto travels now in fear and trembling, but a few yards from his tyrant's feet, till, rousing himself to the sudden scent of something smelling strongly, he draws slowly and beautifully, and
"There fix'd, a perfect semicircle stands." Up runs the Tyro ready-cocked, and, in his eagerness, stumbling among the stubble, when mark and lo! the gabble of grey goslings, and the bill-protruded hiss of goose and gander! Bang goes the right-hand barrel at Ponto, who now thinks it high time to be off to the tune of "ower the hills and far away," while the young gentleman, half-ashamed and half-incensed, half glad and half-sorry, discharges the left-hand barrel, with a highly improper curse, at the father of the feathered family before him, who receives the shot like a ball in his breast, throws a somerset quite surprising for a bird of his usual habits, and, after biting the dust with his bill, and thumping it with his bottom, breathes an eternal farewell to this sublunary scene-and leaves himself to be paid for at the rate of eightpence a-pound to his justly-irritated owner, on whose farm he had led a long, and not only harmless, but honourable and useful life.
It is nearly as impossible a thing as we know, to borrow a dog about the time the Sun has reached his meridian, on the First Day of the Partridges. Ponto by this time has sneaked, unseen by human eye, into his kennel, and coiled himself up into the arms of tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep. A farmer makes offer of a colley, who, from numbering among his paternal ancestors a Spanish pointer, is quite a Don in his way among the cheepers, and has been known in a turnip-field to stand in an attitude very similar to that of setting. Luath has no objection to a frolic over the fields, and plays the part of Ponto to perfection. At last he catches sight of a covey basking, and, leaping in upon them open-mouthed, dispatches them right and left, even like the fa
mous dog Billy killing rats in the pit at Westminster. The birds are bagged, with a gentle remonstrance, and Luath's exploit rewarded with a whang of cheese. Elated by the pressure on his shoulder, the young gentleman laughs at the idea of pointing; and fires away, like winking, at every uprise of birds, near or remote; works a miracle by bringing down three at a time, that chanced, unknown to him, to be crossing; and wearied with such slaughter, lends his gun to the attendant farmer, who can mark down to an inch, and walks up to the dropped pout, as if he could kick her up with his foot; and thus the bag in a few hours is half full of feathers; while to close with eclat the sport of the day, the cunning elder takes him to a bramble bush, in a wall-nook, at the edge of a wood, and returning the gun into his hands, shows him poor pussie sitting with open eyes fast asleep! The pellets are in her brain, and turning herself over, she crunkles out to her full length, like a piece of untwisting Indian rubber, and is dead. The posterior pouch of the jacket, yet unstained by blood, yawns to receive herand in she goes plump; paws, ears, body, feet, fud and all-while Luath, all the way home to the Mains, keeps snoking at the red drops oozing through -for well he knows in summer's heat and winter's cold, the smell of pussie, whether sitting beneath a tuft of withered grass on the brae, or burrowed beneath a snow-wreath. hare, we certainly must say, in spite of haughtier sportsman's scorn, is, when sitting, a most satisfactory shot.
But let us trace no farther, thus step by step, the Pilgrim's Progress. Look at him now-a finished sportsman-on the moors-the bright black boundless Dalwhinnie Moors, stretching away, by long Loch-Erricht-side, into the dim and distant day that hangs, with all its clouds, over the bosom of far Loch-Rannoch. Is that the pluffer at partridge-pouts who had nearly been the death of poor Ponto? Lord Kennedy himself might take a lesson now from the straight and steady style in which, on the mountain-brow, and up to the middle in heather, he brings his Manton to the deadly level! More unerring eye never glanced along brown barrel! Finer fore-finger never touched a trigger! Follow him a whole day, and not one wounded bird.
All most beautifully arrested on their flight by instantaneous death! Down dropped right and left, like lead on the heather-old cock and hen singled out among the orphan'd brood, as calmly as a cook would do it in the larder-from among a pile of plumage. No random shot within-no needless shot out of distance-covered every feather before stir of finger-and body, back, and brain, pierced, broken, scattered! And what perfect pointers! There they stand still as death-yet instinct with life-the whole half dozen -Mungo, the black-tanned-Don, the red-spotted Clara, the snow-whitePrimrose, the pale yellow-Basto, the bright brown, and Nimrod, in his coat of many colours, often seen afar through the mists like a meteor.
So much for the Angler's and the Shooter's Progress-now briefly for the Hunter's. Hunting, in this country, unquestionably commences with cats. Few cottages without a cat. If you do not find her on the mouse-watch at the gable end of the house, just at the corner-take a solar observation, and by it look for her on bank or brae -somewhere about the premises-if unsuccessful, peep into the byre, and up through a hole among the dusty divots of the roof, and chance is you see her eyes glittering far-ben in the gloom; but if she be not there either, into the barn and up on the mowand surely she is on the straw or on the baulks below the kipples. No. Well, then, let your eye travel along the edge of that little wood behind the cottage-ay, yonder she is-but she sees both you and your two terriers one rough and the other smoothand, slinking away through a gap in the old hawthorn hedge in among the hazels, she either lies perdue, or is up a fir-tree almost as high as the magpie's or corby's nest.
Now-observe-shooting cats is one thing-and hunting them is another -and shooting and hunting, though they may be united, are here treated separately; so, in the present case, the cat makes her escape. But get her watching birds-young larks, perhaps, walking on the lea-or young linnets hanging on the broom-down by yonder in the holm lands, where there are no trees, except indeed that one glorious single tree, the Golden Oak, and he is guarded by Glowerer, and then what a most capital chase!
Stretching herself up with crooked back, as if taking a yawn-off she jumps, with tremendous spangs, and tail, thickened with fear and anger, perpendicular. Youf-youf-youfgo the terriers-head over heels perhaps in their fury-and are not long in turning her-and bringing her to bay at the hedge-root, all ablaze and abristle. A she-devil incarnate!-Hark-all at once now strikes up a trio-Catalani caterwauling the treble-Glowerer taking the bass-and Tearer the tenor-a cruel concert cut short by a squalling throttler. Away-away along the holm-and over the knowe-and into the wood-for lo! the gudewife, brandishing a besom, comes flying demented without her mutch, down to the murder of her tabby,-her son, a stout stripling, is seen skirting the potatoe field to intercept our flight,and, most formidable of all foes, the Man of the House himself, in his shirt sleeves and flail in his hand, bolts from the barn, down the croft, across the burn, and up the brae, to cut us off from the Manse. The hunt's up
and 'tis a capital steeple-chase. Disperse-disperse! Down the hill, Jack-up the hill, Gill-dive the dell, Kit-thread the wood, Pat—a hundred yards start is a great matter-a stern chase is always a long chaseschoolboys are generally in prime wind-the old man begins to puff, and blow, and snort, and put his paws to his paunch-the son is thrown out by a double of dainty Davy's-and the "sair begrutten mither" is gathering up the torn and tattered remains of Tortoise-shell Tabby, and invoking the vengeance of heaven and earth on her pitiless murderers. Some slight relief to her bursting and breaking heart, to vow that she will make the minister hear of it on the deafest side of his head,-ay, even if she have to break in upon him sitting on Saturday night, getting aff by rote his fushionless sermon, in his ain study.
Now, gentle reader, again observe, that though we have now described, con amore, a most cruel case of cat-killing, in which we certainly did play a most aggravated part, some Sixty Years' since, far indeed are we from recommending such wanton barbarity to the rising generation. We are not inditing a homily on humanity to animals, nor have we been appointed to succeed the Rev. Dr Somerville of
Currie, the great Patentee of the Safety Double Bloody Barrel, to preach the annual Gibsonian sermon on that subject-we are simply stating certain matters of fact, illustrative of the rise and progress of the love of pastime in the soul, and leave our subscribers to draw the moral. But may we be permitted to say, that the naughtiest schoolboys often make the most pious men; that it does not follow, according to the wise saws and modern instances of prophetic old women of both sexes, that he who in boyhood has worried a cat with terriers, will, in manhood, commit murder on one of his own species; or that peccadilloes are the progenitors of capital crimes. Nature allows to growing lads a certain range of wickedness, sans peur et sans reproche. She seems, indeed, to whistle into their ear, to mock ancient females -to laugh at Quakers-to make mouths at a decent man and his wife riding double to church-the matron's thick legs ludicrously bobbing from the pillion kept firm on Dobbin's rump by her bottom, “ ponderibus librata suis,"―to tip the wink to young women during sermon on Sundayand on Saturday, most impertinently to kiss them, whether they will or no, on high-road or by-path-and to perpetrate many other little nameless en
No doubt, at the time, such things will wear rather a suspicious character; and the boy who is detected in the fact, must be punished by palmy, or privation, or imprisonment from play. But when punished, he is of course left free to resume his atrocious career; nor is it found that he sleeps a whit the less soundly, or shrieks for Heaven's mercy in his dreams. Conscience is not a craven. Groans belong to guilt. But fun and frolic, even when trespasses, are not guilt; and though a cat have nine lives, she has but one ghost-and that will haunt no house where there are terriers. What! surely if you have the happiness of being a parent, you would not wish your only boy-your son and heir the blended image of his mother's loveliness and his father's manly beauty-to be a smug, smooth, prim, and proper prig, with his hair always combed down on his forehead, hands always unglauered, and without spot or blemish on his white-thread stockings? You would not wish him, sure
ly, to be always moping and musing in a corner with a good book held close to his nose-botanizing with his maiden aunts-doing the pretty at teatables with tabbies, in handing round the short-bread, taking cups, and attending to the kettle-telling tales on all naughty boys and girls-laying up his penny a-week pocket-money in a penny-pig-keeping all his clothes neatly folded up in an untumbled drawer-having his own peg for his uncrushed hat-saying his prayers precisely as the clock strikes nine, while his companions are yet at blind man's buff-and puffed up every Sabbath-eve by the Parson's praises of his uncommon memory for a sermon
while all the other boys are scolded for having fallen asleep before Tenthly? You would not wish him, surely, to write sermons himself at his tender years, nay-even to be able to give you chapter and verse for every quotation from the Bible? No. Better far that he should begin early to break your heart, by taking no care even of his Sunday's clothes-blotting his copy— impiously pinning pieces of paper to the Dominie's tail, who to him was a second father-going to the fishing not only without leave but against orders-bathing in the forbidden pool, where the tailor was drowned-drying powder before the school-room fire, and blowing himself and two crackskulled cronies to the ceiling-tying kettles to the tails of dogs-shooting an old woman's laying hen-galloping bare-backed shelties down stony steeps-climbing trees to the slender est twig on which bird could build, and up the tooth-of-time-indented sides of old castles after wall-flowers and starlings-being run away with in carts by colts against turnpike gates-buying bad ballads from young gipsy-girls, who, on receiving a sixpence, give ever so many kisses in return, saying, "Take your change out of that"-on a borrowed broken-knee'd pony, with a switch tail-a devil for gallopingnot only attending country-races for a saddle and collar, but entering for and winning the prize-dancing like a devil in barns at kirns-seeing his blooming partner home over the blooming heather, most perilous adventure of all in which virgin-puberty can be involved-fighting with a rival in corduroy breeches, and poll shorn beneath a cawp, till his eyes just twinkle
through the swollen blue-and, to conclude "this strange eventful history," once brought home at one o'clock in the morning, God knows whence or by whom, and found by the shrieking servant, sent out to listen for him in the moonlight, deaddrunk on the gravel at the gate!
Nay, start not, parental reader nor, in the terror of anticipation, send, without loss of a single day, for your son at a distant academy, mayhap pursuing even such another career. Trust thou to the genial, gracious, and be nign vis medicatrix naturæ. What though a few clouds bedim and deform "the innocent brightness of the new-born day?" Lo! how splendid the meridian ether! What though the frost seem to blight the beauty of the budding and blowing rose? Look how she revives beneath dew, rain, and sunshine, till your eyes can even scarce endure the lustre! What though the waters of the sullen fen seem to pollute the snow of the swan? They fall off from her expanded wings, and, pure as a spirit, she soars away, and descends into her own silver lake, stainless as the water-lilies floating round her breast. And shall the immortal soul suffer lasting contamination from the transient chances of its nascent state-in this, less favoured than material and immaterial
things that perish? No-it is undergoing endless transmigrations,—every hour a being different, yet the same dark stains blotted out-rueful inscriptions effaced-many an erasure of impressions once thought permanent, but soon altogether forgotten-and vindicating, in the midst of the earthly corruption in which it is immersed, its own celestial origin, character, and end, often flickering, or seemingly blown out like a taper in the wind, but all at once self-re-illumined, and shining in inextinguishable and self fed radiance-like a star in heaven.
Therefore, bad as boys too often are -and a disgrace to the mother who bore them-the cradle in which they were rocked-the nurse by whom they were suckled-the schoolmaster by whom they were flogged-and the hangman by whom it was prophesied they were to be executed-wait patiently for a few years, and you will see them all transfigured-one into a preacher of such winning eloquence, that he almost persuades all men to VOL. XXIV.
be christians-another into a parliamentary orator, who commands the applause of listening senates, and
"Reads his history in a nation's eyes,” -one into a painter, before whose thunderous heavens the storms of Poussin "pale their ineffectual fires"-another into a poet composing and playing, side by side, on his own peculiar harp, in a concert of vocal and instrumental music, with Byron, Scott, and Wordsworth-one into a great soldier, who, when Wellington is no more, shall, for the freedom of the world, conquer a future Waterloo-another who, hoisting his flag on the "mast of some tall ammiral," shall, like Eliab Harvey in the Temeraire, lay two threedeckers on board at once, and clothe some now nameless peak or promontory in immortal glory like that shining on Trafalgar.
Well, then, after cat-killing comes Coursing. Cats have a look of hares -kittens of leverets-and they are all called Pussy. The terriers are useful still, preceding the line like skirmishers, and with finest noses startling the mawkin from bracken-bush, or rushbower, her sky-light garret in the old quarry, or her brown study in the brake. Away with your coursing on Marlborough downs, where huge hares are seen squatted from a distance, and the sleek dogs, disrobed of their gaudy trappings, are let slip by a Tryer, running for cups and collars before lords and ladies, and squires of high and low degree-a pretty pastime enough, no doubt, in its way, and a splendid cavalcade. But will it for a moment compare with the sudden and all-unlooked-for start of the "auld witch" from the bunweed-covered lea, when the throat of every pedestrian is privileged to cry halloo-halloo-halloo and whip-cord-tailed greyhound and hairy lurcher, without any invidious distinction of birth or bearing, lay their deep breasts to the sward at the same moment to the same instinct, and brattle over the brae after the disappearing ears, laid flat at the first sight of her pursuers, as with retroverted eyes she turns her face to the mountain, and seeks the cairn only a little lower than the falcon's nest?'
What signifies any sport in the open air, except in congenial scenery of earth and heaven? Go, thou gentle Cockney! and angle in the New Ri
ver;-but, bold Englishman, come with us and try a salmon-cast in the old Tay. Go, thou gentle Cockney! and course a suburban hare in the purlieus of Blackheath ;-but, bold Englishman, come with us and course an animal that never heard a city-bell, by day a hare, by night an old woman, that loves the dogs she dreads, and, hunt her as you will with a leash and a half of lightfoots, still returns at dark to the same form in the turfdike of the garden of the mountain cottage. The children who love her as their own eyes-for she has been as a pet about the family, summer and winter, since that chubby-cheeked urchin, of some five years old, first be gan to swing in his self-rocking cradle -will scarcely care to see her started -nay, one or two of the wickedest among them will join in the halloo for often, ere this, "has she cheated the very jowlers, and lauched ower her shouther at the lang dowgs walloping ahint her, sair forfaquhen up the benty brae- and it's no the day that she's gaun to be killed by Rough Robin, or smooth Spring, or the red Bick, or the hairy Lurcher though a' fowr be let lowse on her at ance, and ye surround her or she rise." What are your great big fat lazy English hares, ten or twelve pounds and upwards, who have the food brought to their very mouth in preserves, and are out of breath with five minutes scamper among themselves to the middle-sized, hardhipped, wiry-backed, steel-legged, long-winded mawkins of Scotland, that scorn to taste a leaf of a single cabbage in the wee moorland yardie that shelters them, but prey in distant fields, take a breathing every gloaming along the mountain-breast, untired as young eagles ringing the sky for pastime, and before the dogs seem not so much scouring for life as for pleasure, with such an air of freedom, liberty, and independence, do they fling up the moss, and cock their fuds in the faces of their pursuers. Yet stanch are they to the spine strong in bone, and sound in bottom -see, see how Tickler clears that twenty-feet moss-hag at a single spang like a bird-tops that hedge that would turn any hunter that ever stabled in Melton Mowbray-and then, at full speed northward, moves as upon a pivot within his own length, and close
upon his haunches, without losing a foot, off within a point of due south. A kennel! He never was and never will be in a kennel all his free joyful days. He has walked-and run-and leaped and swam about-at his own willever since he was nine days old-and he would have done so sooner had he had any eyes. None of your stinking cracklets for him-he takes his meals with the family, sitting at the right band of the master's eldest son. He sleeps in any bed of the house he chooses. And though no Methodist, he goes every third Sunday to church. That is the education of a Scottish greyhound-and the consequence is, that you may pardonably mistake him for a deer dog from Badenoch or Lochaber, and no doubt in the world that he would rejoice in a glimpse of the antlers on the weather gleam,
"Where the hunter of deer and the warrior trode
To his hills that encircle the sea."
This may be called roughing it— slovenly-coarse-rude-artless-unscientific. But we say no-it is your only coursing. Gods! with what a bounding bosom the schoolboy salutes the dawning of the cool-clear-crisp, yes, crisp October morn,-for there has been a slight frost, and the almost leafless hedge-rows are all glittering with rime,-and, little time lost at dress or breakfast, crams the luncheon into his pouch-and away to the Trysting-hill Farm-House, which he fears the gamekeeper and his grews will have left ere he can run across the two long Scotch miles of moor between him and his joy! With step elastic, he feels flying along the sward as from a spring-board; like a roe, he clears the burns, and bursts his way through the brakes; panting not from breathlessness but anxiety, he lightly leaps the garden fence without a pole, and lo! the green jacket of one huntsman, the red jacket of another, on the plat before the door, and two or three tall raw-boned poachers-and there is mirth and music, fun and frolic, and the very soul of enterprise, adventure, and desperation, in that word -while tall and graceful stand the black, the brindled, and the yellow breed, with keen yet quiet eyes, prophetic of their destined prey, and though motionless now as stone-statues of hounds at the feet of Meleager, soon