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priggish travellers, and their joy gave place to for the shooting-box. The roads were rough fear, and they emptied their bag in a twinkling. enough, but not by any means of the fearful Scarcely had they time to settle down again in character with which Mrs. Overeager had intheir conveyance, and drive away from the vested them in order to intimidate a nervous mare's nest, than they met a farmer and a man of letters.
Sometimes up to the axle-tree policeman ; the latter stopped the travellers in in mud—for there had been heavy rain the day a somewhat officious manner. Had they seen before-up the steep side of a hill and down it a flock of geese anywhere ? or had they met a on the other side, plunging through a swollen couple of "boosy" butchers ? The travellers burn ; occasionally a narrow escape of wrench
1 were somewhat taken aback ; but Overeager's ing the wheels off by twisting out of ruts : thus cool assurance never forsakes him.
He smartly we journeyed on for about three miles, until asked the policeman what he meant by stopping we were suddenly pulled up by a tremendous two gentlemen on the Queen's highway. The
The shout. There was no mistaking that voice. farmer said that his geese were missing from On the summit of the last hill, with his aged the village, and the general belief was that two sister leaning on his arm, stood the baron low butchers, who had been drinking at the of high degree ; sixteen stones weight, and village inn, had picked up the geese from the measuring six feet four in his stockings, halloroadside and driven off with them. Well, Mr. ing a hearty welcome, and waving his long arms Overeager certainly had seen a flock of do- in the moonlight. His sister heartily enjoyed mestic geese a little lower down the road, and the wild salutation, for she thinks there is no he wondered that any farmer should leave his one like her glorious brother. Mr. Overeager poultry so exposed to vagabonds and tramps. has a soft and mellow voice of limited range, Some banter ensued ; and the fact of the ours is heavily afflicted with a perpetual German farmer's geese being in such terror, and hidden grunt; but we did our best, and shouted in the long grass, was explained by the sug- until the astonished gamekeepers made their gestion that some fox must have shown himself appearance. to the flock. After this spe nen of “i miei The shooting-box was far away from any racconti istorici,” as Overeager phrased it, he other human habitation, of rough exterior, but settled down and said no more about " il very comfortable within. The Baron, having cattivo sbirro.” We took to rubbing up an bagged fifteen brace of grouse that day, was irregular Greek verb, then to the newspapers, ready for his dinner, and so were we. The and then to a few mild cigars.
game pie, the grouse, and other comestibles Night neared us, and we began to near the were, thanks to the Baron's maiden sister, very moors, the first sight of which from an emin- savoury ; and with the help of a few glasses of ence roused us. The eye gazed wistfully and champagne we were not overlong in making a lingered long upon that distant blue, the land- hearty and generous meal. The good lady mark of many a sportsman in the generations treated us to several anecdotes about her fond that are gone, the resting-place of many a brother, who, in the days of his early sportswinged fowl, the chosen home of the glistening manship, was wont to walk tremendous dissnow. Beautiful hill! wait till to-morrow, and tances on the moors. When other means we will climb thy rugged sides, and twine a failed, and grouse must be had, carting was wreath of gun-smoke about thy hoary brow. resorted to in those days ; but in these times,
The reader must pardon our want of gal- our contemporary, The Field, would pronounce lantry, for one of the travelling companions— carting to be pot-hunting and foul play. The Mrs. Overeager-has been forgotten. The for- Baron left us for a while, to arrange with the getfulness is the more culpable, as she occa- keepers about dogs, beats, likely places, and sionally takes a shot herself, and can knock a the time of starting. Before retiring to rest hare over as well as most men. The sight of the best sofa was, by general consent, assigned the moors set her talking, and when she does to the gentleman who should bring home the begin she can talk to some purpose.
Domestic heaviest bag. narrative is generally her forte ; but in this The morning broke splendidly, and with instance she ventured into a new region, and every prospect of a beautiful day we all jocosely gave a description of the moors. Her turned out at nine o'clock. A good stock of verbal sketches were terrible. Gun-accidents, lunch was laid in separately for each. We boggings, whole shooting parties suddenly had a long way to go, and were not to meet swallowed
up in the moss and never heard of until we returned to the shooting-box in the more ; hills, which half way to their summits evening. The Baron took his favourite horse, were so steep that you could neither get up nor Old Jack, Mr. Overeager used his own quaddown. By this time we had turned off the ruped, and the best dogcart and the favourite main road into the moors, and were crossing gamekeeper fell to our lot. The reader need
not be troubled with an account of the shoot- was placed on half-cock, and there it had reing grounds. Our roads did not lie together mained. However, it was better to miss a shot for very long; yet in that short space Over- than have an accident. We saw no more game eager dashed past us so close and fast that he on that hill, and sought for better luck in the was very near taking an extra wheel with him. valley. We soon had a fine chance at a snipe ; Bang he went, with one of his wheels over a but this time the cap missed fire, and the second huge stone. The shock nearly threw him out barrel was delivered a trifle too late. Brightou of the dogcart, and scattered his luggage over cheered us by the certainty of game on a fine the road. We left him and the servant pick- flat half-way down the other side of the next ing up sandwiches, shot-bags, and broken hill. What with the thirst, the fatigue, the bottles.
perspiration, and the vexation, it seemed as if When we turned in for our beat the keeper this hopeful part of the beat never would be pronounced it a bonny day for sport, and so reached. Long before we got to it about halfwe hoped to find it. But the birds proved to a-dozen double shots were heard, and these be both scarce and wild. After an hour's hard were succeeded by a number of straggling and walking we got a double shot, and maimed both dropping shots. The keeper was astonished. birds. It would be necessary, however, to give Poachers never could have the impudence. It them another barrel. The birds, unfortunately, was unaccountable. We hastened to the top scrambled into the heather while the gun was of the hill, when behold ! Overeager drawing being charged, and when that operation was off the flat. He had blundered into our beat, completed they were nowhere to be seen. A and the ingentlemanly mistake was not corlong and tedious search was only time thrown rected during the whole of that day ; for wheraway. Bounce, the spaniel retriever, ran about ever we went, there he had been before us. It in all directions, stopped, made false points,- might be a joke, but it was much too bad for a in short, did everything except find the birds. joke ; though he tried to make the best of “ Seek dead ! seek dead ! good doy !” but he it at night, over his whisky, by a handsome would work no longer, and fiuished his mongrel apology. The ground in which Mr. Overeager toil by giving us a sulky look, which seemed to had forestalled us was indeed a splendid flat, say “ You should have killed them better." the level heather looked as if it had been Off we started again. Many a shot was fired. artistically arranged in its unassuming and The feathers flew sometimes, the birds always. quiet beauty. But for the mortification of no The heavy walking began to tell upon us; and game, we should have enjoyed that scene ; and this, together with the intense heat, brought we were somewhat refreshed by it, though the on a parching thirst. The keeper was de- heat of the shooting was gone. The well of spatched for the bottle while we sat down to brackish water was no great distance, only rest. Brighton, the keeper, returned and across another moss. As we passed through brought no beverage with him : it had been the watery waste, snipe started hither and forgotten. Here was
a pretty predicament. thither ; but we were too tired, and too much Fainting with thirst, and not a drop to drink, out of humour for another shot, the fatigue and and no prospect of anything to drink for the thirst had become so intolerable that we would whole day. What could the servants have have given all the grouse on the hills for a sofa been thinking about to send one out in such a and a pint of ale. very dry condition. There was a well five We sat down to lunch with a kind of dogged miles off, Brighton said ; and although the determination never to get up again. For water was hardly fit for a dog to drink, it some time we could neither eat nor drink. would be better than nothing. So off we Utterly weary and exhausted, we lay down on started again. This time across a moss, pick- the heather. It made no bad couch, and the ing each step, often up to the knees in mud more painful sensations of fatigue abated someand water, and occasionally feeling the whole what. The lunch was half finished when we bog shake under the heavy tread of the keeper. sighted Overeager on an adjacent hill. Now Lucky it was for us to be very light and slender, at least there was a hope of something to drink ; or before we got out of that horrible morass but, unfortunately, our keen friend did not the first day's grouse shooting might have been understand the siguals of distress, and speedily our last.
After climbing up an enormous hill disappeared, leaving us to conjecture his wherethe dogs began to be lively, and this enlivened abouts by the echoes of his gun, It needed
A splendid point! Now for it! A whole some coaxing, on the part of the good-natured corey started close to our feet. The gun was gamekeeper, before we could muster courage to dead on two of them ; but the triggers were start again. The only comfort in setting off pulled in vain ; neither of the hammers fell. upon a new track was that its direction was When Brighton went for the bottle the gun | homewards. On our new journey we had several fair shots, and ought to have killed ; brace and a half in their bags, and began to but the birds always got away, although they tease us unmercifully about our bad luck. Out frequently left some of their feathers behind of pity for our fatigued and mortified condition, them. Once or twice we saw the plumage the Baron's aged sister kindly came to the sailing through the air in a cluster ; but, alas! rescue, and stopped the flowing banter. Her the lawful owner had gone away and left it. word was law; and we were never once reAnother hour's hard walking rought both legs minded of our misfortunes after her prohibito a halt, and neither of them would budge an tion. Before the dinner was well over we all inch. It was down charge with us this time, got into good spirits.
Good hits at long range and the command was instantly obeyed. Irri- and bad shots at close quarters, dead birds that tated with disappointment, and angry at our would not allow themselves to be found, the own fatigue, we spoke more testily to our com- wild light of the golden plovers, and the panion than there was any need for. Here, scarcity of snipe, occupied the conversation at keeper, take the gun ; go and shoot ; go and intervals. After the favourite dish of coffee, do any thing ; only let one gather strength to the old lady treated us to her usual diatribe escape from these horrible hills ; and if you against marriage. How could people ever be can shoot nothing else, you may take a long such fools, &c. But as old maids are generally shot at us, for we are literally weary of life. prosy, and as young people will get married, In about half-an-hour the keeper returned with whatever old maids may say, it would be of an empty bag. There was no difference be- very little use to insert the anti-marriage intween his shooting and ours, except that while vectives here. we always missed, he got no chance of a shot. The evening was long, and we all began to
“ Cheer up,” said the keeper ; “two miles feel the want of some amusement. Would the more and we shall be in the dogcart."
old lady give us a song? Of course she would ; So we struggled on, and at length the dog and from the manner in which she sang
" Auld made another point. Luck must certainly be Lang Syne one could not avoid the thought tried once more. The trigger was pulled with a that she must have loved in her youth. What determination desperate enough to blow twenty would we not have given to know whither her grouse to atoms. Hurrah! One at last! Need- thoughts were fled—for they were evidently far ing no second barrel, and gone dead into the away—while she sang !
The Baron's thoughts That successful shot seemed to blow were not far away, though, while his sister was away all the fatigue and low spirits. The new- singing. The song sent him off into a brown found buoyancy actually led to the heroic reso- study, and he presently made us acquainted lution of one more bird, just to make a brace. with the results of his cogitations. He supposed Fortunately, there was another find just on the that there had not been a highway robbery on edge of the last moss. Down came the bird the hills since the days of Dick Turpin ; but again, and a second bird was winged. They he thought there would be one that night. both fell in the moss, and the keeper followed This was said with such a serio-comic face as them. The dog made a dead set; and we to tickle one with a sort of comic fear. The were just about to hurrah for the glorious brace, Baron looked very grim for a long time, and when the dog abandoned his false point, and at last burst into such a loud laugh that he dashed on.
Brighton splashed about in the woke the kenneled dogs, and made the old water for a long time; but neither of the birds lady believe for the moment that one of the would show. He grew very angry, and vowed guns had gone off by mistake, The Baron's that if he only saw them stir he would blow pet servant, John, was coming to the shooting them to pieces, but the wicked creatures would box that night ; and as he had to pass through not let him see them ; and as night was coming several dismal gorges among the hills, it would on we left the provoking miscreants in their furnish a good opportunity for a burlesque obstinate hiding-place. Home with only one “ stand and deliver.” We objected to the bird ! What a humiliation !
practical joke, and hinted, that without great The shooting-box soon loomed into view, care serious consequences might ensue. The and the reader need not be told that it was a old lady herself objected at first ; but, seeing right welcome sight. The Baron and Mr. that her brother was determined, she ultiOvereager arrived in about half-an-hour after- mately gave way, putting in a mild remonwards, and within a few minutes of each other. strance—such things used to be done in their A glass or two of wine was very invigorating ; young days, but her brother ought to know and what with warm water for the feet, a good better at his time of life. So far as we ourwash, and change of linen, one managed to sit selves are concerned, the reader may be assured down to dinner not more dead than alive, but that we did all in our power to prevent the
The other gentlemen had each five joke, but without success. Overeager, always
ready for a joke, proposed to take one of the eager ! whatever are you up to? Come out of guns and snap a cap or two. But the old the water, man ! You'll be drowned. What's lady shook her grey head, and gave him such got you ?” But the battle was not over, and a reprimand, that he said no more about the the keen sportsman was in the grasp of someguns. The Baron and Overeager blackened thing too strong for him. After pausing, as if their faces, and finished their toilettes by wear- for breathing time, the scuffle and uproar were ing their night-shirts outside, in imitation of renewed in a desperate manner. Overeager “navvies’ slops.” Having equipped themselves splashed about furiously ; and in the stillness with two long staves, they set out on their of that quiet night his dreadful groans might robbing expedition. They had not been gone have been heard a long way off.
“Come on long however, before the Baron's sister insisted the land, man ; what's got you ?" shouted the upon our following the robbers with a bottle of Baron. We suggested one of the infernal brandy, which, she said, would be useful, and
powers. “Infernal powers indeed," said the help to bring them round if anybody fainted. Baron, “ to drown and kill a poor fellow withIn vain we pleaded fatigue, sleepiness, and dis- out a moment's warning. Good heavens ! if approval of practical jokes. The old lady broke we can only get safe out of this mess, it's the into a lecture—what curtain lectures she could last time I'll turn highwaymay.” Poor Overhave given had she chosen to enter the marriage eager at last came ashore and up the bank, state ! “You must go, sir. Somebody must though in a sad plight. He was dripping wet, stand by and not allow things to go too far ; his night-shirt toru to shreds, and his left hand and suppose they should all murder one another had the skin taken off. The poor unfortunate in a mistake, what a disturbance there will be donkey, which caused all the panic, had been in the newspapers, because nobody can be quietly sleeping when we tumbled over him, hanged if everybody is killed.”
A little coax
and in the scuffle his tether cord had somehow ing was added to the command. If we would got entangled round Overeager's legs. The only go like a good boy, one of the keepers neck of the brandy-bottle was broken ; but the should come and meet us with the dogcart. liquor was not all spilled. Overeager drank For the first time in our very long acquaintance heartily, to “keep out the cold.” His spirits we wished the dear old maid at Jericho ; but were so much raised by the deep draught, that as she wasn't there, and would not be sent by he became rather boisterous, and would not our wishing, there was nothing left for it but listen to our suggestion of returning home. to start with the cordial.
He was determined that the robbery should be It was a very dark night/dark enough to completed—“It must be finished ; why not? frighten any nervous man. In about a quarter Orsù ! Chi va là ? Signor asino, addio !” of an honr we sighted something white moving The Baron thought they had romped enough along the road. They took no notice of our for one night ; but the sound of the servant call, and still moved on. What could be the approaching was heard, and they hastily made meaning of this ? Had we missed the road, up their minds to complete the robbery. or were yonder moving figures two real rob- A few paces from the foot-path there was a bers ? Should we turn back ? Luckily, fear gate, through which the servant must pass. did not overcome us. The white figures proved This spot was decided upon as the best place to be two straggling sheep. A little further for the exploit. As the horse came slowly up on the two bold highwaymen were in view ; we to the gate, Overeager seized the reins, and could hear them talking and laughing. After commanded John to stand and deliver. But taking a short cut, with not a little danger of John was very deaf; and it required some being bogged, we were considerably in front of shouting to let him know what was intended. the two desperate robbers. Running to meet “ Your money or your life,” bawled the Baron; them, we were suddenly pulled up by a heavy to which John made answer, with considerable fall, received a smart blow on the back, and spirit, " Who's there? Stand off, or I'll shoot something seemed to rush from us with ter- you, you vagabond.” The Baron closed up, rible noise. In a second or two there was and John and he went through some sharp another most unearthiy uproar, in the midst of fencing with whip and staff. The poor servant which one of the white figures and the strange became dreadfully alarmed, and, in his frenzy, thing that rushed from us, rolled, kicking and shouted “Police ! police ! But in that outshouting, down a very steep bank into the of-the-way place he might just as well have swollen brook below. While Overeager was called for a regiment of the royal guards. The fighting and plunging in the water, the giant horse, as much frightened as the driver, reared Baron stood shaking on the bank in the utmost and plunged, so that Overeager was compelled consternation ; even his strong voice trembled to let go the reins. Fearing that something as he shouted, in his bewilderment, “Over- | might happen too serious for the brandy to
rectify, we came from our hiding-place to the sidered a good beginning, the keeper being gate, intending to put a stop to the dangerous quite as much pleased as ourselves with the game, when immediately John caught sight of shot. On reaching the summit of the first us, and vented all bis rage upon his best friend. hill we came full upon Overeager in our beat “Open that gate, you rascal ! If you don't again. This was too much of a good thing. open that gate I'll blow your brains out, you The Baron was nettled, and quietly explained scoundrel !” The gate was opened, and the to the erratic gentleman that course lay in horse dashed through. John stood up in the a very different direction ; the crest-fallen dogcart, looked behind him at the robbers, wanderer sheered off, and, to do him justice, pointed his whip in the same direction, and he troubled us no more for the rest of the day. shouted, as long as we could hear him, “I'll We soon after came upon a covey of birds shoot you ; yes, shoot you !”
which were tamer than any we had seen ; the It was late when we arrived at the house, Baron, like a gentleman as he always is, gave and John's fears were soothed by a stiff glass us every chance of the best shots, and we had of brandy, which the terrified teetotaller was the good fortune to do a right and a left, both nothing loth to take. “ It's medicinal,” said birds being killed dead. Brighton was highly he, with a sardonic grin. John tried to be pleased, and blamed the small charges for the very brave in the kitchen, and told his fellow misfortunes of the previous day. We missed servants that it was a lucky thing for the several times after this, the kind Baron always robbers that he had no gun with him, as he finding some encouraging excuse ; the birds, had fully made up his mind to shoot every one he said, were too far off, or the shot was such of those cowardly highwaymen. From all that an awkward one that the best marksman must we could gather, John seemed disappointed have missed. This was very kind of him, and that the adventure was a hoax, and not a helped to lessen the pain and fatigue which reality. His clever escape, and his frightening successive disappointments always bring to the the robbers to open the gate for him, would unpractised sportsman. Towards twelve o'clock have been something to crow about for the rest our old enemy, intense thirst, renewed his of his days.
parching attacks ; but the reader may depend At the breakfast-table next morning we had upon it that the beverage flasks had not been a hearty laugh at Overeager's fight with the forgotten this time ; we have, in our life time, donkey, but as Mrs. Overeager did not much tried many sorts of drinks when engaged in relish the account of her husband's conflict, field exercises, but tea, moderately sweetened, the subject was dropped. Before starting on had generally proved the most satisfying, and our second day's excursion the keeper shed it was so in this instance. It answered so some light on our bad shooting of the day well that we kept to it until luncheon ; cold before, the charge, both of shot and powder, tea not only allays the thirst but it does not had been much too small for very long produce the feverishness and heaviness which range shots at October grouse.
other drinks generally bring upon us in the good news, not only because it wiped off open air. The absence of severe fatigue, and much of the disgrace ; what was considerably the satisfaction of having shot well enough to more cheering, it held out the prospect of redeem one's credit with the ladies at home, left better luck for the coming day. The flasks one at liberty to enjoy the scenery of the hills. and shot belts were altered to heavy charges, Everthing about us was tranquil and lonely, and who would not run the risk of being here was no hum of business, no blundering kicked over by the recoil of the gun rather clerks, no melancholy, no rejected manuscripts, than miss every shot ? The weather was again and no scolding editors. We were free for the beautiful, and promised to be so for the day. time to think as we liked and do as we pleased. We were only to work two beats this time. For an hour or so we left the Baron and the To the first, a hard walking one, Mr. Over- keeper to do the principal part of the sport, eager was assigned ; the second beat was for and only took a shot now and then ; it was us, the Baron, and the keeper. The Baron's such a joy of nature to let the mind go free, favourite dog, Juno, went with us, and very free as the gliding clouds above us, and carefortunately so, as events subsequently proved. less as the heather upon which we trod ; We drove off in high glee, and soon lost sight carking care will frequently follow us into the of Overeager as he disappeared full speed places whither we have gone to escape him, behind the hills. A nice flat came first in our but to-day it was not so. The dogs dashed way, but no birds were to be found. Crossing through the moss water, and shook it from a large moss, we had some good sport with the their sides in pearly showers, while we looked snipe, the Baron bringing several to the on with boyish glee. In the old days of village ground. One fell to our gun, which was con- school life we had dreamed the summer after