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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 104, January 28, 1893   By:

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PUNCH,

OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.

VOL. 104.

January 28, 1893.

CONVERSATIONAL HINTS FOR YOUNG SHOOTERS.

THE KEEPER. ( Continued. )

Is there no way, then, you may ask, in which the Head Keeper may be lured from his customary silence for more than a sentence or two? Yes, there is one absolutely certain method, and, so far as I know, only one. The subject to which you must lead your conversation is no, it isn't poachers, for a good keeper takes the occasional poacher as part of his programme. He wages war against him, of course; and, if his shooting happens to be situated near a town of some importance, the war is often a very sanguinary one, only ended by the extermination (according to Assize Court methods) of the poachers. But the keeper, as I say, takes all this as a matter of course. He recognises that poachers, after all, are men; as a sportsman, he must have a sneaking sympathy for one whose science and wood craft often baffle his own; and, therefore, though he fights against him sturdily and conscientiously, and, as a rule, triumphs over him, he does not generally, being what I have described him, brag of these victories, nor, indeed, does he care to talk about them. "There, but for the grace of God, goes Velveteens," must be the mental exclamation of many a good keeper when he hears his enemy sentenced to a period of compulsory confinement. I do not wish to be misunderstood. There are poachers and poachers. And whereas we may have a certain sympathy for the instinct of sport that seems to compel some men to match their skill against the craft of fur or feather reared at the expense and by the labour of others, there can surely be none for the methodical rogues who band themselves together on business principles, and plunder coverts just as others crack cribs, or pick pockets. Even sentiment is wasted on these gentlemen.

But I return from this digression. The one subject, then, on which a keeper may be trusted to become eloquent, is, that of

FOXES.

Just try him. Suppose you are shooting a wood, in which you expect to find a considerable number of pheasants. The guns are posted, the beaters have begun to move at the far end of the wood. Suddenly you are aware of a commotion in the middle of the wood. Here and there pheasants rise long before the beaters have approached. There is a whirring of wings, and dozens of birds sail away, un shot at, to right, to left, and all over the place. And then, while you are still wondering what this may mean, a fine dog fox comes sliding out from the covert. Away he goes at top speed across the open. The little stops view him as he passes, and far and near the air resounds with shrill "yoick!" and "tally ho!" In the end four birds are brought to bag, where twenty at least had been expected. When the beat is over, this is the kind of conversation you will probably hear:

First Beater ( to a colleague ). I seed 'un, JIM; a great, fine fox 'e were, a slinkin' off jest afore we coom up. "Go it," I says to myself; "go it, Muster BILLY FOX, you bin spoilin' sport, I'll warrant, time you was off"; and out 'e popped as sly as fifty on 'em, ah, that 'e was.

Second B. Ah! I lay 'e was that. Where did 'e slip to, TOM?

First B. I heerd 'em a hollerin' away by CHUFF'S Farm. Reckon 'e's goin' to hev 'is supper there, to night.

Second B. And a pretty meal 'e'll make of it. Pheasant for breakfast, pheasant for dinner, pheasant for tea; I'll lay 'e don't get much thinner.

One of the Guns ( to the Keeper ). Nuisance about that fox, SYKES.

Keeper. Nuisance, Sir? You may say that. Why, I've seen as many as four o' them blamed varmints one after another in this 'ere blessed wood. Did you see 'im, Sir? I wish you'd a shot 'im just by mistake. Nobody wouldn't a missed 'im. But there, a course I daren't touch 'em. Mr. CHALMERS wouldn't like it, and a course I couldn't bring myself to do it. But I do say, we've got too many on 'em, and we never get the hounds, or if they do come, they can't kill... Continue reading book >>


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