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The Poacher Joseph Rushbrook   By: (1792-1848)

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The Poacher, by Captain Marryat.

Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.

Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.

"The Poacher" was published in 1841, the eighteenth book to flow from Marryat's pen.

This e text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted in 2003, and again in 2005.




It was on a blusterous windy night in the early part of November, 1812, that three men were on the high road near to the little village of Grassford, in the south of Devonshire. The moon was nearly at the full, but the wild scud, and occasionally the more opaque clouds, passed over in such rapid succession, that it was rarely, and but for a moment or two, that the landscape was thrown into light and shadow; and the wind, which was keen and piercing, bent and waved the leafless branches of the trees which were ranged along the hedgerows, between which the road had been formed.

The three individuals to whom we have referred appeared all of them to have been indulging too freely in the ale which was sold at the public house about half a mile from the village, and from which they had just departed. Two of them, however, comparatively speaking, sober, were assisting home, by their joint efforts, the third, who, supported between them, could with difficulty use his legs. Thus did they continue on; the two swayed first on the one side of the road, and then on the other, by the weight of the third, whom they almost carried between them. At last they arrived at a bridge built over one of those impetuous streams so common in the county, when, as if by mutual understanding, for it was without speaking, the two more sober deposited the body of the third against the parapet of the bridge, and then for some time were silently occupied in recovering their breath. One of the two who remained leaning on the parapet by the side of their almost lifeless companion was a man of about forty years of age, tall and slender, dressed in a worn out black coat, and a pair of trousers much too short for him, the original colour of which it would have been difficult to have surmised; a sort of clerical hat, equally the worse for wear, was on his head. Although his habiliments were mean, still there was something about his appearance which told of better days, and of having moved in a different sphere in society; and such had been the case. Some years before he had been the head of a grammar school, with a comfortable income; but a habit of drinking had been his ruin, and he was now the preceptor of the village of Grassford, and gained his livelihood by instructing the children of the cottagers for the small modicum of twopence a head per week. This unfortunate propensity to liquor remained with him and he no sooner received his weekly stipend than he hastened to drown his cares, and the recollection of his former position, at the ale house which they had just quitted. The second personage whom we shall introduce was not of a corresponding height with the other: he was broad, square chested, and short dressed in knee breeches, leggings, and laced boots his coat being of a thick fustian, and cut short like a shooting jacket: his profession was that of a pedlar.

"It's odd to me," said the pedlar, at last breaking silence, as he looked down upon the drunken man who lay at his feet, "why ale should take a man off his legs; they say that liquor gets into the head, not the feet... Continue reading book >>

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