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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 102, May 14, 1892   By:

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PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI

VOL. 102

MAY 14, 1892

CONFESSIONS OF A DUFFER.

NO. IX. THE DUFFER DEER STALKING.

I am in favour of Mr. BRYCE's Access to Mountains Bill, and of Crofters who may be ambitious to cultivate the fertile slopes of all the Bens in Scotland. In fact, I am in favour of anything that will, or may, interfere with the tedious toil of Deer stalking. Mr. BRYCE's Bill, I am afraid, will do no good. People want Access to Mountains when they cannot get it; when once they can, they will stay where the beer is, and not go padding the wet and weary hoof through peat hogs, over rocks, and along stupid and fatiguing acclivities, rugged with heather. Oh, preserve me from Deer stalking; it is a sport of which I cherish only the most sombre memories.

They may laugh, and say it was my own fault, all my misfortune on the stalk, but a feeling reader will admit that I have merely been unlucky. My first adventure, or misadventure if you like, was at Cauldkail Castle, Lord GABERLUNZIE's place, which had been rented by a man who made a fortune in patent corkscrews. The house was pretty nearly empty, as everyone had gone south for the Leger, so it fell to my lot to go out under the orders of the head stalker. He was a man of six foot three, he walked like that giant of iron, TALUS his name was, I think, who used to perambulate the shores of Crete, an early mythical coast guard. HUGH's step on the mountain was like that of the red deer, and he had an eye like the eagle's of his native wastes.

[Illustration: "I had been bitten by an Adder."]

It was not pleasant, marching beside HUGH, and I was often anxious to sit down and admire the scenery, if he would have let me. I had no rifle of my own, but one was lent me, with all the latest improvements, confound them! Well, we staggered through marshes, under a blinding sun, and clambered up cliffs, and sneaked in the beds of burns, and crawled through bogs on our stomachs. My only intervals of repose were when HUGH lay down on his back, and explored the surrounding regions with his field glass. Even then I was not allowed to smoke, and while I was baked to a blister with the sun, I was wet through with black peat water. Never a deer could we see, or could HUGH see, rather, for I am short sighted, and cannot tell a stag from a bracken bush.

At last HUGH, who was crawling some yards ahead, in an uninteresting plain, broken by a few low round hillocks, beckoned to me to come on. I writhed up to him, where he lay on the side of one of those mounds, when he put the rifle in my hand, whispering "Shoot!"

"Shoot what?" said I, for my head was not yet above the crest of the hillock. He only made a gesture, and getting my eye glass above the level, I saw quite a lot of deer, stags, and hinds, within fifty yards of us. They were interested, apparently, in a party of shepherds, walking on a road which crossed the moor at a distance, and had no thoughts to spare for us. "Which am I to shoot?" I whispered.

"The big one, him between the two hinds to the left." I took deadly aim, my heart beating audibly, like a rusty pump in a dry season. My hands were shaking like aspen leaves, but I got the sight on him, under his shoulder, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened, I pulled the trigger of the second barrel. Nothing occurred. "Ye have the safety bolts in," whispered HUGH, and he accommodated that portion of the machinery, which I do not understand. Was all this calculated to set a man at his ease? I took aim afresh, pulled the trigger again. Nothing! "Ye're on half cock," whispered HUGH, adding some remark in Gaelic, which, of course, I did not understand. Was it my fault? It was not my own rifle, I repeat, and the hammers, at half cock, looked as high as those of my gun, full cocked.

All this conversation had aroused the attention of the deer. Off they scuttled at full speed, and I sent a couple of bullets vaguely after them, in the direction of a small forest of horns which went tossing down a glade... Continue reading book >>


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