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(John Wilkins, of Stanstead, Essex) 

Edited by 




paternoster square 









—Early recollections 



—The end of Poacher 


—My first affray with 

Bob . - - - 


poachers - - 



— Dabber Harding 


—Concerning trapp- 

and Old Sarah 


ing, snaring and 


— Concerning Dick 

other matters - 


and other things 



—Catching my first 


-Dick's Ghost - - 


poacher - - - 



— Harry W^right 


—What was it ? 


caught in a trap 



—Harry Wright's 


—The money coiners 


sandy rabbit - 



—Of Alexander 




K II. 






—Concerning dogs 



—A bloody fray 



—Inasmuch as to 


-The sequel to the 

retrievers - - 


fray — Joslin's 


— Inasmore as to 

donkey - - - 


retrievers - - 



-Haggy Player 


— Inasmost as to 

caught and lost 


retrievers - - 



— Joslin as a witness 


— How I got my last 

— Duckey 

job .... 


Phillips - - 



—Concerning game 


— Duckey's father— 

and things - - 


his death - - 



—Mine host and 


—Cubs, foxes and 

friend Baldwin 


vixens - - - 



—Hares, rabbits and 


—Snaring and trapp- 

farmers - - - 


ing foxes - - 



—Poachers' dogs, 
and how to kill 
them - - - 











—Shooting extra- 


—Of rabbits - - - 


ordinary - - 



— Chats about 


—The Major, the 

pheasants - - 


Parson and 


—Ferrets and rabbits 





— Discursive and 


— Encore Humphries 


academic - - 



—The slaughter of 


— Ferrets and rabbits 

vermin - - - 


aqain - - - 



—More poachers 


— Night watching - 


and poaching - 



— Humphries re- 


—Monk's conversion 


appears - - - 



— Encore Monk 



— Humphries re- 


—Poaching again - 


appears and 


—Chiefly canine 


disappears - - 



John Wilkins - - Frontispiece 

The identification of 

*' Coughtrey, the poacher," 
by the villagers Facing p. 80 

Wilkins smashing the rotten 
eggs in Harry Wright's 
pocket - - Facing p. 113 

Wilkins and the policeman 

I chasing the coiners 

Facing p. 119^ 
Dog breaking : Wilkins 
speaking seriously to the 
dog - - - Facing ps 156' 
Jones stopping the other 
poachers from killing 
Wilkins - - Facing p. 240- 


THE Editors of this book make no apology for 
presenting it to the pubHc. Until now the Game- 
keepers of England have kept their experiences to 
themselves, or have merely dispensed them, in fragmentary 
fashion, to the village Corydon or the rural Amaryllis. 
Reminiscences of the hunting field, the turf, the pulpit, the 
bar, and the stage have appeared in profusion, but John 
Wilkins is the first of his profession to publish genuine 

After no little consideration, it has been decided to 
insert the real names of the individuals mentioned in the 
following pages, with the exception of Major Symons and 
Jones, the ex-keeper, who are fictitious in name though real 
in character. Most of them are now dead, but, be they 
living or dead, the Editors claim that concerning them, 
nothing is extenuate or aught set down in malice. 


Finally, our share of the work has been small. 
Assuming that Mr. Wilkins' stage name is Esau, and that 
our stage name is Jacob, the words are for the most part the 
words of Esau, and the writing is the writing of Jacob. We 
feel that nothing further is wanting to the extreme lucidity 
of this explanation. 

Our thanks are due to Mr. Sidney Starr, for his labour 
in illustrating the present Autobiography. 





T REMEMBER, sixty-three years ago, my 
*■" father, LukeWilkins, was gamekeeper for Mr. 
Key, of Tring Park, Herts. Mr. Yates lived at 
Tring Park before Mr. Key, and Sir Drummond 
Smith before Mr. Yates. My father was 
gamekeeper to all three, in succession. I 
remember seeing Mr. Key **chaired," — that is, 
carried round the town in a chair, my father 
and others following and firing off their guns. 
I remember, too, that at that time we lived 


in the " Summer House," a cottage set in the 
wood near the Park. My father subsequently 
obtained the situation of head gamekeeper to 
Lord Lake, so we left the Summer House, and 
went to live at Bunnell's Hole, a lew miles 
from Tring. 

We left Lord Lake's about the year 1823,* 
and went to Boxmoor. My father was, for a 
long time, unable to obtain a situation as 
gamekeeper, so he did odd jobs, such as 
helping in the stables at Westbrook House 
Boxmoor, and working in the brick-yard at 
Tring. At last, in the year 1825, he obtained 
a situation as gamekeeper to Mr. John Fuller, 
of German House, Chesham, Bucks. Here 
my father lived for thirty years, at the end of 
which time he died, and was buried at Hyde 
Heath Chapel. When Mr. John Fuller died, 
Mr. Benjamin Fuller came to German House, 
and he kept on my father as gamekeeper. 
Mr. Benjamin Fuller is — or rather was, for 

* These reminiscences were first written some few 
years ago. — Editors. 


he IS now dead — the father of Mr.Stratton Fuller 
who at present lives at German House. 

I remember my father well. A most resolute 
and determined man he was — a first-rate keeper, 
and an excellent dog trainer. He had a very 
hasty and violent temper, but notwithstanding 
this, he was a strictly honest man, and taught 
me to be upright and truthful in all my 
dealings, which teaching I have always en- 
deavoured to follow. 

When I was nine years old, I attended the 
British School, at Chesham : and one day I 
saw four or five men go into the village shop, 
and buy some brass wire. I guessed what they 
wanted it for, though they little thought that a 
pair of sharp eyes were watching their move- 
ments. The men came out of the shop, and 
went off by Mr. Fuller's place, up the Weedon 
Hill Road, towards Monk's Wood. I at once 
informed Mr. Fuller of what I had seen. He 
then sent me to tell my father ; but father was 
not at home, so I started off for Monk's Wood 
alone. It was about four o'clock in the after- 
noon, in the month of November. I reached 


the footpath under Monk's Wood, and there I 
met the purchasers of the brass wire. They 
shouted to me : — 

** Hullo, young feller, where are you off to? 
We've lost our donkeys; have you seen 'em 
about anywhere? " 

" Yes," said I. ** I see some now." Which 
was my idea of humour, in those days. 

Then they muttered together, and one of 
them laughed. 

** Look here, youngster," said one man, 
gruffly, ** We've lost our donkeys and our- 
selves, too." 

I walked on rapidly for a few paces, and then, 
turning round, shouted back at them : — ** I 
don't believe you're lost, or your donkeys, 
either." And, thereupon, I dived round the 
elbow of the wood into a road leading 
out of the footpath amongst the trees, 
thinking it quite time to give leg-bail. 

I had not proceeded far before a heavy hand 
was laid on my shoulder ; I was about to cry 
out when I heard a whisper: — ** All right. 
Jack," and turning, I confronted my father, 



who, I soon learnt, had been watching the men 
all along. I told him what I had seen and done 
and he commended me for my sharpness. I 
relate this because it made me take a liking for 

A few months afterwards I left the British 
School and was put to look after the pheasants 
during the breeding season, and this I continued 
to do for some few years. I used to keep my 
watch in an old tilted cart, armed with a light 
single- barrelled gun belonging to my father, and 
having, for company, a poor, worn-out re- 
triever dog. One day, I saw a hawk pounce 
down on one of the young pheasants, taking it 
up in his talons, and flying away with it. I 
raised my gun, and fired ; the hawk dropped 
to the ground, dead, but still gripping its pre)^ 
Wonderful to relate the pheasant was unhurt, 
and immediately ran off to the coop, to its 
mother. Mr. John Fuller had the hawk stuffed, 
and it can be seen, to this day, at German 
House, where Mr. Stratton Fuller now resides ; 
the people there, moreover, will tell you the 
same tale as I have told about it. 


Just before the shooting, and whilst I was 
still at school, my father, as a great treat, 
allowed me to walk through the woods with 
him one Saturday, that day being a holiday. 
We went through Monk's Wood, and, at the 
end of the wood, my father sat down on the 
stump of a tree, for about twenty minutes, to 
see if any poachers were coming from Weedon 
Hill Road or Coppysons Lane ; this was a very 
quiet part, and a favorite way with poachers. 
Having sat. awhile, and finished his pipe, he 
knocked out the ashes, and then instructed me 
as follows ; I listening with close attention. 

** John, you sit here till I come back. I'm 
going round Beech Wood, Odd's, and Bois 
Wood. If you happen to see any of those chaps 
after my hares, don't you be afraid ; just go 
straight at them, and sing out, * Here they are, 
father, here they are ! Look out, father, they're 
coming towards you ; ' stand still and they'll 
run straight into your arms ! " 

All this was accompanied with pantomimic 
gestures, my father striking attitudes of a fearful 
and wonderful kind, in his anxiety to impress 



Upon me the way the thing really ought to be 
done. ** They don't know who's about, you 
see," he went on. ** And, if you show your- 
self, and make a row, they're sure to bolt ; what 
we want is to prevent them taking our hares." 

**Very good, father," said I; and so he 
turned on his heel and left me, and very proud 
of my job I was, too. 

I kept a sharp look out, eyes and ears on the 
alert, but there was nothing moving until dark ; 
then, owing I suppose to the strain on my 
nerves, I fancied I heard a rustle, and started 
up, but, to my great disappointment, my 
poachers turned out to be a hare or a rabbit. 
So I sat on for a long time, until I began to 
wonder what had become of father ; could he 
have got a job on in some other wood, or had 
he forgotten me altogether ? It appeared, 
subsequently, that the latter was the case. 

Father reached home, and put on his list 
slippers ; lit his pipe, and settled himself com- 
fortably in a chair, when my mother asked what 
had become of the boy. 

** What ! ain't he home yet ? " asked father, 


**No; where did you leave him?" ** At 
the Chalk Pit." 

** When ? " '' Soon after dinner." 
*' What for ? " *' To look out for poachers. 
I told him to sit there 'till I came back, and 
now Fve clean forgot all about him." 
** Then p'raps he's sitting there, now." 
** Very like." And then father and mother 
had a few words, with the result that father sent 
off Jim Keen to look after me. Of Jim I shall 
speak later on, and, at present, I may mention 
that he was born at Little Missenden, Bucks, 
and was now under keeper to Mr. Fuller. 
Father gave Jim very particular orders about 
me. ** You will find the boy close to the Chalk 
Pit; don't call him 'till you get quite close, or 
he may fall into the pit, and break every bone 
in his body." This pit was a very deep one, 
and I've seen my father stand at the top, and 
shoot a rabbit in the bottom, when it was odds 
on the rabbit as against the gun. 

It was after eleven at night, and I was still 
on the watch, when I thought I heard some one 
en the move, and sprang to my feet, ready for 


a call: — **Look out, father, here they are.'^ 
Then, to my surprise and disappointment, I 
heard a voice shout : — 

** Stand still, John; don't stir a peg till I 
come to you." It was Jim's voice. 

** All right, Jim," I replied, and he came and 
took my hand, and led me into the Half- Way- 
House Lane. There was no moon, so it was 
pitch dark; he went up the Lane to Hyde 
Heath, and I down, half a mile to home. 

When I reached our house, my parents asked 
me if I did not feel frightened, ** No," said I, 
** But I felt a bit hungry." And with that I 
turned to at my supper, and so, afterwards, to 
*' allie couchay." * 

One day I was all alone, up in White's Wood, 
minding the tame birds, when a fearful thunder- 
storm came on. I crept into the tilted cart, 
which I sometimes used to sleep in when 
minding the birds at night ; my dog curled up 
underneath, and thus, with my gun beside me, 
comfortably in the dry, I took no notice of the 

* This in the original manuscript. Presumably meaning— 
allez coucher — Editors. 


weather. After the storm, father came and 
took me home with him, and then he and mother 
talked very seriously about it ; they said the 
thunder and lightning was simply awful. 

"Where you not afraid, John? " asked my 

**No,'* said I, shortly. I was only eleven 
years old then, but I can seem to see my father 
and mother, now, as they looked at me in 
astonishment, amazed at my answer, and its 
evident sincerity. 

** And why were you not afraid?'* they 

*'I thought that the Lord was trying to 
frighten me, and I determined that I would not 
be frightened," said I, simply. I could not say 
such a thing, now, but, although my answer 
appears irreverent, it was more the outcome of 
childish heedlessness than any spirit of bravado, 
for I have always acknowledged the Almighty 
power and will of our Heavenly Father. I do 
not wish to boast, or draw the long bow, in 
describing the events of my life ; and, indeed, 
there are many gentlemen still living who can 


testify as to the absolute truth of everything I 
relate in this book. As a boy and man I was 
wholly devoid of fear in all matters relating to 
my vocation ; as shooting, trapping, watching, 
and catching poachers : the excitement of my 
work seemed to leave no room for fear, and I 
would handle the most savage dog, or the most 
dangerous poacher, without a moment's hesita- 
tion. But I don't like horses; I am not at 
home with them, and I would sooner walk ten 
miles than get on a horse' s back. With anything 
else I am all right directly I get to close 
quarters ; what would unnerve most men just 
brings me up to the scratch. For instance, 
with a lion or tiger, I should feel nervous whilst 
it was some way off, but, when I got close, I 
should think of nothing but killing him ; the 
possibility of his killing me would not enter into 
my calculations at all. The same with poachers. 
On a dark night, in a lonely wood, looking 
forward to an encounter with desperate 
men, many of the bravest of us are nervous ; 
but such a situation, somehow, always brings 
my courage up to the sticking point. I have 


known, too, some watchers, whom nothing- would 
induce to go near certain woods at night, for 
fear of ghosts ; even poachers are affected that 
way, sometimes. Although, however, I have 
seen some remarkably curious things happen, 
as I will relate presently, I was never afraid of 



\T7HEN I was a lad of thirteen, my first serious 
^ ^ encounter with poachers occurred. 
Father had received warning that three or four 
poachers were coming, one night, to steal 
some tame pheasants that were in the meadow, 
close by our house. I had seen five men go up 
from Chesham to Hyde Heath Common, and 
watched them into the Wheat Sheaf Inn, 
by the Devil's Den, Beech Wood, the pro- 
perty of Mr. Lowndes, of Bury House, 
Chesham. Beech Wood was more usually 
called ** The Den." One of the men was 


believed to be James Keen, whom I have 
already spoken of. He it was who came and 
fetched me from the Chalk Pit, and he was 
formerly keeper to Mr. Fuller, under my father, 
but lost the berth because he was too fond of 
visiting the ** Red Cow," the ** Boot and 
Slipper," the ** Wheat Sheaf, "and other houses 
of call. He was now dressed up as a woman 
and wore pattens, but I knew him in spite of the 
disguise, and saw him go into the Wheat Sheaf. 
This inn was kept by Tom Stevens, a poacher's 
friend. He bred pheasants for gentlemen, to 
turn them (the pheasants, not the gentlemen) 
down in the woods, and also bought eggs and 
young pheasants from poachers. 

Richard Lovering, an underkeeper, and 
myself were watching the young fowls, and my 
father was watching the pheasants. The 
chickens were in the pheasants' coops, and so 
were mistaken for pheasants by the poachers ; 
the pheasants had been taken from the meadow 
up into the plantation, in White's Wood. Just 
after twelve o'clock, on Sunday night, we 
heard the men coming from the road ; they went 


Straight into the meadow, and took the chickens 
in the coops. Dick hailed them three times, 
and then fired his gun, which was a signal for 
father. They ran away towards White's Wood 
taking the chickens with them ; father, hearing 
the signal, ran down from White's Wood. He 
met the poachers just as they were going 
through a trap gate in the hedge, into the 
third field from our house. He collared two, 
one in each hand, and then I arrived on the 
scene, old Dick following me up, rather slowly 
and reluctantly, about a hundred yards behind. 
''Here we are, father; here's me and Dick^ 
Catch hold of them, Dick," I cried. This was 
only bounce, as Dick had not yet come up, but 
he did so soon afterwards. I knew both the 
men my father held. One was Widdie Dell, 
and the other William Cogdill. Both were 
from Chesham, and, in fact, the same men 
whom I had seen buy the wire, some years 
before, and whom I afterwards met in Monk's 
Wood, when they enquired for their donkeys. 
The rest of the poachers got away, and ran 
across the standing corn ; but Dell and Cogdill 


showed fight, and we had tough work with 
them. My father knew both men well, but he 
could not for the moment remember Cogdill's 
name. Cogdill was a tall, powerfully built 
man, and he refused to give his name, so my 
father let go of Widdie Dell, and, after a short 
tussle, threw the other, and then held him 
down. Dell was armed with a fold-stake, and 
the moment he saw his pal down he waved his 
weapon above my father, swearing that he 

would *' smash his brains if he didn't 

leave go.'" It was just at this point that I 
arrived on the scene, and although it all 
happened more than fifty years ago, I can see 
it now in my mind's eye as I write. 

There was father and Cogdill rolling on the 
ground, and Widdie Dell dancing round them, 
using fearful language, and working his stake 
like a thrashing flail, every stroke getting 
nearer my father. Father kept Cogdill down, 
and old Dick stood by, looking on, and doing 
nothing but shout from one to the other : '* All 
we want is civility — all we want is civility." 
It occurred to me — though not apparently to 


old Dick — that we were in the wrong company 
to get civility. My father had put down his 
gun in order to collar the two men, and this I 
now took up. 

'* I know you, Widdie Dell," said my father, 
as he let him go, holding fast on to Cogdill, 
notwithstanding his struggles and the menaces 
of his companion. I had brought with me an 
old sword, which I had purchased from old 
Dick, he having been formerly a soldier, and 
now in receipt of a pension. He seemed to 
lose all his presence of mind ; but as he was a 
man, and as I had my hands full with the 
gun — which was of course loaded — I called 
to him to take the sword, and then, as I was 
handing it over, the stupid old idiot allowed 
Widdie Dell to snatch it away. At this moment 
Cogdill began to shout : '* Are you going to 

let me up? Let me up, you . I'm 

choking." In truth, my father was not a light- 
handed man, nor remarkable for gentleness. 

'' I'll let you up if you give your name," 
said he. 

** James Barnes," in a hoarse gurgle. 


** Where from ? " asked my father. 

** Charteridge. ^' I knew he lied ; but I had 
to keep moving- round father to ward off Dell, 
trying all the while to rouse up old Dick to do 
something. The only success I met with in 
the last named direction was, that Dick kept 
on repeating: ** All we want is civility." I 
could not help thinking that Dick was an ass. 

Widdie Dell now dropped the sword, and, 
swearing horribly all the time, again flourished 
the stake about, and I half expected every 
moment that, although he might not smash 
out father's brains purposely, he might do so 
by accident. Meanwhile Cogdill kept urging 
him to beat father off. I regained possession 
of my sword, just as father let go of Cogdill; 
but he immediately seized him again, saying : 
'* That's not your name. I know you, but I 
can't remember your name. Confound you.'* 

Then followed a sharper struggle than 
before, and my father threw him again ; but, 
as they were on the side of a bank, Cogdill 
gave a twist, and somehow got uppermost. 

** Now," said he, *' it's my turn." And with 


that he caught father by the collar, and, 
jamming his knuckles into his windpipe, tried 
to strangle him. When I heard father gasping 
for breath and well nigh choking, I yelled at 
Dick to beat Cogdill off, but he only stood 
stupidly by, muttering: ** All we want is 
civility." This so enraged me that I rushed 
at Cogdill, and struck him with my sw^ord as 
hard as I could, repeated blows on his back, head 
and face. Then, finding that this made but 
little impression, I prodded his nether gar- 
ments with the sword, which, fortunately, had 
a fairly sharp point. Cogdill gave a loud 
scream, and rolled off. Father called out to 
old Dick, and he, at last, did something 
holding the poacher down whilst father got up 
and regained his breath. This Dick managed 
easily enough, for he was a very strong and 
powerful man ; and had he been blessed with 
any amount of pluck, very few men could have 
stood up before him for long. 

Father now took the loaded gun from me, 
and, pointing it at Dell, said : — "Now, Widdie, 
you've threatened my life over and over again, 


and, if you don't drop that fold stake, I'll blow 
your arm off this instant." Thereupon Dell 
threw away the stake, without the slightest hesita- 
tion; and now it seemed probable that Dick 
would get what he wanted — a little civility, for 
Dell was one of the rankest cowards alive, and 
would cave in directly anyone sparred up to 

** Are you going to let me up?" shouted 

** Yes, if you give your right name." 

*' You know, you; Will Cogdill." 

** Let him go, Dick," said my father, and all 
five of us then went to the trap gate in the 
hedge, when Cogdill swore out : — ** 1 should 
have done you, Luke^ if it hadn' t been for that 
confounded boy of yours." I laughed, well 
pleased ; and so we reached the road, and 

The two poachers absconded, but, after a 
while, Dell returned and gave himself up to the 
parish constable, for there were no police at 
Chesham then. Dell split on his pal, and told 
the constable where to find him, at what hour 


of the night to go, and how they might best 
capture him. Acting according to his direc- 
tions, the constables went to a certain Inn at 
Shepherd's Bush, kept by a widow named Jones. 
This widow had incontinently fallen in love with 
the burly poacher, and, at great personal risk, 
was now sheltering him from justice. Had it 
not been for Dell and his sneaking ways, she 
would have married William, and we should 
have had a pretty little tale to tell of the re- 
formed poacher who married the innkeeper's 
widow, and kept the inn, making an excellent 
host, who lived happy ever after, and died at 
peace with all men. 

It was half-past twelve at night when the 
constables reached the Inn, which was, of course, 
by this time shut up and dark ; they rapped at 
the door. No answer. They rapped again, 
and again after that. Then at length the widow 
opened a front window and asked what they 
wanted. They answered, laconically, that they 
wanted the door opened. This was done, the 
widow seeing that they were constables, and 
that resistance would be useless ; besides she 


thought they would never be able to find Cogdill, 
who had by this time got safely to his usual 
hiding place. To her horror and surprise, 
however, the constables went straight to the 
cellar and began to tap, with their staves, the 
barrels. At last they came to a huge beer cask, 
which sounded hollow and empty when rapped. 
'' Sounds empty, *' quoth a constable, grimly. 
** Things is not always as they seem," remarked 
another, cheerfully. ** Give us a leg up, mate." 
The cask was about seven feet high, and the 
men got a trestle, on which one of them clam- 
bered, and thus threw a light on the top. There 
was no covering, but inside stood a man, who 
instinctively turned his face up to the light. It 
was Cogdill himself. They got him out of the 
empty cask, the widow, meanwhile, weeping 
piteously and imploring " her Will" to ''go 
quietly along with the gentlemen." He seemed 
disposed to follow her advice, and offered no 
resistance whilst they led him out, the constables 
bidding the widow ** good night," kindly 
enough. The party came at last to a very steep 
hill, where they all got out of the cart and 


walked to ease the horse. When they reached 
the top of the hill, however, Cogdill obstinately 
refused to re-enter the cart, and the two con- 
stables could do nothing with him, until a 
brewer's cart came along, when they got the 
dray-man to help them. With his assistance, 
the poacher was bound hand and foot, drawn up 
into the cart, and thus conveyed to Chesham. 

The two poachers were sent for trial to 
Aylesbury, where I, and father, and Dick 
Lovering had to appear as witnesses against 
them. They were tried before Sir Thomas 
Freemantle, found guilty, and sentenced to 
transportation for life Dell having been pre- 
viously tried fourteen times, and convicted 
eleven, Cogdill tried eleven times, and convicted 
nine. Cogdill died going across the water, but 
Dell lived, and returned to Chesham forty years 
after, dying there in 1885. 

I was at Chesham, on a visit, in '83, and called 
at Dell's house, but did not see him as his 
son-in-law said that he was ill in bed. I was told 
afterwards, that Dell said that, if he had known 
it was I who had called, he would have killed 


me, if he swung for it; but that was only talk 
for talk's sake, on his part, for he heard me in 
the house, speaking with his son-in-law, and 
recognised my voice. The fact is that Dell was 
enraged at my returning to Chesham, even on 
a visit. My father was dead, I had left Chesham 
in '40, and Dick left soon afterwards, so that 
when Dell came back from abroad — a compara- 
tively rich man, I believe — he declared that he 
had been wrongfully convicted, thinking that 
there would be none to speak to the contrary. 
I am no lawyer, but it seems to me that the case 
against them was as clear as could be ; I knew 
both poachers, ever since I was seven years old,, 
and recognized them that night in Monk's 
Wood, when they asked me about their donkeys. 
If they were innocent, why did they both bolt 
the very night that my father and Dick caught 
them? Why did Dell come home and give 
himself up to the Constables ? Above all, why 
did Dell split upon his mate ; a shabby piece of 
business whether he were guilty or not ? Thus 
it is no wonder that Dell was enraged at my 
turning up again, and George Rose, a man who 


succeeded my father as head gamekeeper to Mr. 
Fuller, told me that Dell bragged to him that 
if he met me he would *' kill me dead.'' This 
man, Rose, now lives at the Half- Way- House, 
where my father resided at the time when Dell 
and Cogdill were caught. 

When I was visiting Chesham in '83, T came 
across an old mate of mine, who was formerly 
at the British School with me. He and I went 
to an inn to have a glass of beer together, and 
then he told me what Dell had been saying. 

*' Why," said I, '* if my father swore falsely 
about him so did I, and Dick Lovering too, 
for we were all three witnesses, and swore 
positively to our men. Dell will want to make 
out that a man doesn't know his own wife 

There were several men listening, and they 
believed my story, and repeated it broadcast ; 
and so Dell's false tale was upset. 

In conclusion, I may mention that the men 
who ran away that night were never caught. 
They threw down the birds as they were going 
over the standing corn, and the corn being in 



full ear the chickens kept themselves alive, 
and became quite wild. Mr. Fuller killed 
some of them whilst partridge shooting, in the 
month of September following, and father 
killed some in October and November, near 
Monk's Wood and Gold's Hill, whilst hunting 
the hedges for rabbits. 



T WAS now employed in trapping and snaring 
-*- rabbits, also hunting a pack of rabbit-dogs 
during the rabbit season, and going to various 
gentlemen's covers with my pack. I used 
frequently to go to Squire Carrington's, at 
Great Missenden Abbey, High Wood cover, 
Hyde Heath ; and to Stonyfield^ by Rook Wood, 
near the Abbey. Squire Carrington, when he 
had a big day's shooting on, always borrowed 
Mr. Fuller's rabbit dogs; and on such occasions 


I, in my turn, used to borrow Squire Lownde's 
dogs, so that Squire Carrington used to get two 
packs of dogs and me into the bargain. Some 
times I used to go to Lord George Cavendish, 
who was afterwards Lord Chesham, at Late- 
more Park; Harry Highat was his head- 
keeper. Then sometimes I would go to 
Squire Drake's place, at Amersham ; Pratt 
was his head-keeper; or to Lord Hampden, 
whose head-keeper was Butt ; or to the Duke 
of Buckingham's place at Hampden Hullock. 

My father and Pratt usually accompanied 
me, but I always hunted the dogs, and I 
understood them so well that I could excite 
them to run until they almost dropped dead 
from exhaustion. Many a time, after a hard 
day's hunting in the gorse, I have had to lay 
my coat on the ground and put two dogs on it, 
whilst I took two more up in my arms and 
carried them forward for half a mile ; then I 
would come back for the first two, and so keep 
on repeating the operation until I got them 
safely home. When dogs are thoroughly tired 
out, you should warm their food, give them a 


good meal, and dry them well before the fire. 
If you neglect these precautions, and allow 
them to coil up and go to sleep before feeding 
and drying, you will find them in the morning 
stiff as an iron hoop, and quite dead. They 
die in their sleep, and one morning I found 
three dogs so, though these were certainly 
delicate dogs, one being a** fancy," and the other 
two Blenheim spaniels. The best dog to stand 
rabbit hunting in the gorse is the Scotch terrier 
crossed with the rabbit beagle; such a cross 
produces a rough, wiry-coated beagle, with the 
true beagle music in his voice. 

We had two little beagles called Frolic and 
Fancy, and I have never seen any others like 
them ; they were smaller than many cats, 
and their bones finer, whilst their ears were 
like wafers, and one could actually tie them 
underneath the mouth. They were not worth 
their keep for hunting in the gorse, and were 
really only fit to hunt on a lawn ; but they were 
fit for any drawing room, being as neat as wax 
work, and as clean as a man's face freshly shaven. 
They were given to Mr. Fuller by a gentleman 


whose name I forget. Mr. George Carrington 
had some very good dogs, but one of the best 
I ever saw was a Scotch terrier, belonging to 
Mr. Edward Carrington ; its name was Flip. 

We usually hunted with Mr. Carrington' s 
dogs, before lunch, and with mine, afterwards. 
When the dogs began to get a bit tired and 
slack, Mr. Carrington would shout for me : — 
** Here, John Wilkins, come and hunt these 
dogs, nobody else can do it properly." Then 
I would run forward, cap in hand, amongst the 
dogs, and talk to them : — ** Here, she goes — 
loo loo there — look out forra'd ; — look out sir 
—Hi Bustler boy— loo there." Old Bustler 
would scamper off in full cry, followed by the 
rest of the dogs ; and, if there were any strange 
gentlemen present, they would run forward, 
with their guns ready, hollaing out excitedly : 
— ** Where's she gone, boy? " Then Mr. George 
Carrington would laugh and stutter out : — 
** He's only exciting the dogs to hunt." *' But 
you saw a rabbit didn't you, boy ? " ** Lor, no, 
sir," I would reply. '* I only wanted the dogs 
to find one." Then Mr. George used to laugh 


the more, and I think he did it partly to make 
me ** show off" and partly to '*sell'' his 
friends, for he himself pretended to believe , 
that there was a rabbit, and would rush ahead 
as if to shoot it, whilst he knew all the time that 
it was only my humbug. 

I will now say a few words about rabbit 
snaring- and trapping. My father was a good 
trapper of rabbits and other vermin, but, as a 
snarer, he was no great shakes, so I had to do 
all the snaring. He was very hard on me ; he 
gave old Dick a shilling a dozen for all the 
rabbits he caught, but I got nothing for mine, 
not even a penny a hundred. The more I did, 
the more he grumbled ; so we did not get on 
very well together. If I said '' yes," I was 
wrong for saying so; then I would say : — *' Very 
well, father, I will say, *no.' " And then he 
would abuse me for being a ** turn-coat,'^ as he 
called it. ** All work and no play makes Jack 
a dull boy,'' and it was not otherwise with this 
** Jack." I would have gone through fire and 
water for him, if he had only given me a word 
of encouragement now and then, but this he 


never did, so I thought the matter out, and 
reasoned in this way : — ** I try and do all I can 
to please you, and all I get in return is constant 
grumbling; if I do nothing for you, I can't get 
worse.'* So, as I had no peace, I resolved to 
declare war. It began in this way : he ordered 
me to take six dozen snares, go up a furrow in 
the wheat field stubble, and set every run that 
crossed the furrow. He had been growling at 
me, previously, and saw, I suppose, that my 
temper was soured; so he said, after he had 
given me my orders : — *' Pll come and see that 
you set them well." I set them like clockwork, 
so that nothing could pass down the runs with- 
out being caught, and he came and inspected 
them when they were set. He told me next 
morning, to go and look at my snares, and, 
when I came home, after doing so, my mother 
said I was to go up to father's bedroom. Up I 
went, and found him in bed. ** Well, sir," says 
he, ** What have you caught ? a dozen or more, 
I suppose." *' Nothing,'' I answered, shortly. 
* ' Nothing ? ' ' echoes he, starting up. * * Nothing, 
you tell me ; there is nothing caught in your 


snares? " '' Nothing," I repeated. ** Ah ! 
Master Jack, you are not going to get over 
me like that, I can tell you." He rolled out 
of bed. ** I'll go and see for myself after I 
have had a bit of breakfast." So he did, and 
saw that there had not been a rabbit caught 
that night. He could not fathom this, at all ; 
Jack had got the better of him in a draw of 

Then he tried the oily feather, and this 
answered with me, ** I say, my boy, do you 
think the rabbits would cross the wheat field 
stubble and get caught in your snares if we 
took out the dogs to hunt the gorse on Bishop's 
Hill? " The snares were set in the stubble, 
between two gorse fields, so I answered : — 
*' Perhaps they might." But this I said, more 
because I wanted the fun of shooting, than 
anything else, for I knew that the rabbits would 
not go down to my snares. Why ? Because they 
knew that the snares were there, for I had told 
them so, as I will explain later on ; they had come 
down in the night, scented the snares, and gone 
away again, back to Bishop's Hill. Therefore, 


they would not go to the snares in the morning^ 
for the wind was in the right quarter to blow 
the scent towards the gorse on Bishop's Hill. 

We went home and fetched the dogs and 
gun, and he tried the experiment, but no rabbits 
crossed the stubble. I had thirteen shots, and 
killed twelve rabbits, and my father had twelve 
shots, and killed one only ; but he thought 
more of his one out of twelve than I did of my 
twelve out of thirteen. We then went home to 
dinner, and I overheard father say to my 
mother: — ** Jack can catch rabbits, or not, in 
his snares, just as he likes ; I put him out, 
yesterday, before he went to set those snares, 
and not one rabbit was caught ; yet the snares 
were set well I know, for I came upon him just 
a3 he was setting the last half dozen." Aha ! 
father, the secret was not in setting the snares, 
for I could not do otherwise than set them 
properly, when he was looking on. Well, this 
little game made father very pleasant with me 
for a while, until he began to forget it, and then 
I had to wage war again, 'till he found out 
that it was his best plan to speak a little more 


kindly to his son, and give him a word of en- 
couragement when he deserved it. I often 
deserved this w^ord but seldom got it. It makes 
me recall old Dick's maxim : — '* All w^e want is 
civility," and that I was not overpowered with 
by my father. 

I have previously said that he was a man 
with a violent temper, and, when I was young, 
he used his walking stick pretty freely on my 
back, for very trifling offences. I remember, 
on one occasion, he accused me of doing some- 
thing which he had really done himself, and he 
plied his walking stick across my back 'till his 
arm ached. I was about eleven years old at 
the time, and, w^hen my father was about to 
give me dose two, Jim Keen, who was present 
and who knew^ that it w^as father's mistake, took 
off his coat, and said father must thrash him if 
he wanted to do any more thrashing. Now 
Jim had fought some of the leading fighting 
men, and always thrashed them, so father 
thought discretion the better part of valour, 
and I was let off. I never forgot Jim for that, 
and, when I afterwards became head keeper, I 


always used to send him five shillings, at 
Christmas, for his Christmas dinner, and my 
old keeper's coat. Mr. Benjamin Fuller and his 
keeper, George Rose, knew that I sent Jim a 
Christmas box, every year, but neither of them 
knew what it was for. It was a secret between 
myself and Jim, and he never told anyone, for 
he knew that I did not want to expose my 
father's faults whilst he lived. And now to 
hark back to the snaring. 

My father told mother that he believed I had 
some artful dodge with my snaring, as I used a 
bit of wash leather to draw down the snares, in 
order to rub out any kinks or nicks in them, so 
that they should play quickly, and slip up like 
clockwork as soon as a rabbit got his head in. 
There was no scent on the wash leather, and I 
only used it for the purpose I, am about to 
describe. Squire Drake's gamekeeper, Pratt, 
taught me to make and set snares, and put me up 
to the dodge about the wash leather. He, and 
father, and I were together, one day, in Monk's 
Wood, and Pratt set six snares, bidding me 
watch him attentively, which I did. '* Now 


Luke," said he to father, *' I'll bet you a crown 
there'll be five rabbits out of the six snares, to- 
morrow morning, when John comes to look for 
them." He nodded and winked at me, and, 
sure enough, there were five rabbits caught, 
next morning. My father thought that Pratt 
had rubbed five snares with the leather and not 
the sixth, and he frequently asked me about 
**that bit of leather that Pratt used," thinking 
it a very bewitching thing for rabbits. Here 
father was wrong, for the leather had not much 
to do with it ; but Pratt had picked out his six 
runs — "killing runs " as a good snarer would 
call them — very carefully. All good rabbit 
snarers should be very particular to have their 
hands very clean, and free from any smell of 
gun powder, rabbits' blood, paunches, dogs, or 
anything of that kind. This was why Pratt 
used the wash leather, to keep his hands from 
having actual contact with the snares, but the 
great secret of his success lay in the fact that 
he laid his snare in that part of the rabbits' run 

called the " rabbits' jumps." 

Now, Pratt, on the occasion of which I am 


speaking, had been shooting with my father, so 
his hands were more or less scented with gun- 
powder and blood ; therefore he took up a 
handfull of mould from the ground, and well 
rubbed his hands with it, to take away the 
scent, and this he called *Svashing hands" 
before handling the snares. He then took the 
wash-leather, and pulled the wires into their 
proper shape, after having set the snare, 
without having actually touched the wire at 
all. My father had his own ideas about this 
leather, and clung to them with all an old 
man's tenacity; but he was wrong, for I could 
not use it either to draw or entice rabbits into 
my snares, but by not using it I could prevent, 
to a great extent, the rabbits coming near. 

In setting snares, first wash your hands with 
soap and water, and then with some earth 
teiken from the place where you wish to set the 
snares. This not only takes off the scent, but 
prevents your hands from getting clammy. 
Again, you should never set snares in the 
latter part of the day. Snares set in the 
morning catch twice as many rabbits as those 


set in the evening or afternoon, because the 
scent gets off and evaporates during the day, 
whereas in the evening the dews fall and pre- 
serve the scent freshly all night, thus warning 
off the rabbits. The same thing applies to 
trapping as well as snaring. I used to bet old 
Dick a shilling that I would beat him with 
twelve traps, and these were the terms of the 
bet : Dick was to go with me and see me set 
my traps, and then I was to go with him and 
watch him set his traps ; and in the morning 
we were both to visit the traps together. We 
did so, and I always won ; and Dick would 
say, **Well, I thought my traps were set as 
well as yours. Jack, but you've beaten me, 
that's certain." *'Yes, Dick," I used to 
answer, ** I told the vermin not to come near 
your traps, when you were setting them." 
Neither Dick or father could understand it 
at all. 

My father was a better trapper than most, so 
I would say to him, *'Now, father, you call 
yourself a first-rate trapper" — which he 
did, modesty not being the strong point in 


keepers ; "I can beat you any day in the 
week, I know." Then he would set his traps, 
whilst I looked on and lent him a hand. 
*' There, Jack," he says, after setting one very 
carefully, '^ you can't beat that, I know." 
And I instantly reply, *' Fll bet you what you 
like that won't catch, if it stays there for a 
month." Nor did it; I took good care of 
that, for I had the chance of going to these 
traps as often as I liked, and so would 
** doctor" them, and cheat both father and old 
Dick. I used to play the same games with the 
snares, when at "war," as I called it, with my 
father. I would *' doctor" certain traps, or 
snares, and bet that they would not catch, and 
they didn't ; I would leave others alone, and 
bet that they would catch, and they did. It 
was wrong of me, I know, but I was very 
young at the time. 

Father died without having ever found out 
the secret about the snares catching or not 
catching. He said it was just according to 
what temper I was in ; but here he made a 
mistake, for it was just according to what 


temper he was in. My father got fourpence 
a head for all the vermin he killed, and he 
gave old Dick twopence a head for his; but 
I, who destroyed more than both of them 
together, got nothing. However, Dick gave 
me a penny a head for all my vermin, and as 
my father gave him twopence Dick got a 
penny, and I did the same ; so that if father 
did not pay me directly, he paid old Dick for 
me instead. 



npRAPPING and snaring rabbits occupied 
^ us during the winter months, and in 
March vermin trapping — that is, the trapping 
of vermin other than rabbits — came on. 

Pheasants begin to nest about the twentieth 
of April, and the poachers always had pheasants' 
eggs for sale at Chesham Fair, which was on 
the twenty-first. Along now is always a hard 
time for keepers, and I often had to be up and 
out by three o'clock in the morning. I was 
about fourteen or fifteen years' old when I first 
took charge of a wood, to look after all by 
myself. Father gave me my choice as to 
which wood or plantation I preferred to take, 


SO I chose Monk's Wood. This wood is a 
great favorite with poachers, as it lay only one 
field from Weedon Hill Road and Coppeyson's 
Lane. A hedge came straight from the 
Chesham Road and the lane from Amersham 
Common, and from Weedon's Hill the road 
from Chesham to Hyde Heath Common went 
straight to Monk's Wood, so that poachers 
could steal along the road, covered all the way 
by the hedge. As I delighted in a good chase 
and a rough and tumble *' scrap," I agreed to 
take Monk's Wood, and this father allowed me 
to do, because I was the best runner of the lot. 
The poachers always took to their heels, and 
bolted off for one of the roads I have named 
whenever they were disturbed. Father, how- 
ever, would not always let me keep to my 
wood, but made changes in our beats. He 
sometimes took Monk's Wood, and sent me to 
Bishop's Hill, Old Wellington's Copse, and New 
Wellington's Copse, all three of which were 
adjoining, and formed one man's beat. This, 
too, was the best beat for poachers, next to 
Monk's Wood, as they could get into it by the 


Other roads from Chesham to Hyde Heath 
Common, near by my father's house. They 
usually came up the Half Way House Lane, so 
called because it was half way between Ches- 
ham and Hyde Heath, near the Devil's Den. 
This lane parted the manor of Mr. Fuller from 
that of Squire Lowndes, and Coppeyson's Lane 
parted Mr. Fuller's property from Squire 
Drake's estate ; but the poachers did not like 
this way so well as that which led to Monk's 
Wood, because they had to pass right by 
father's house, and that they particularly 
objected to. I begged my father to let me 
keep to my own favorite wood, and asked him 
why he changed me. ** Are you not satisfied 
with me, father?" I said. *' Oh, yes. Jack ; 
it's not that." ** Then why change my beat?" 
* * Well, J ack, ' ' he answered, quite feelingly, * * you 
are too venturesome with poachers, and I am 
afraid that they will harm you ; I often tremble 
for your life. I shouldn't be a bit surprised if you 
were killed some fine day. ' ' I had always thought 
my father a hard and stern man, with but little 
love for me, but knew better from that time. 



So I took his hand and pressed it warmly, and, 
having nothing to say, turned it off by a laugh. 
** Ah, John," my father went on, " You don't 
know your danger or you wouldn't be so ven- 
turesome, but I tell Matthew and Dick to run 
up to your call directly, when you are chasing 
poachers." Father need not have troubled 
about that, for I was quite sure that no Chesham 
man would hurt me, and, as a matter of fact, 
they never did, or attempted to. I don't know 
why, except that I was always rather a favorite 
with them ; there was something about me they 
always liked, though what that something was I 
cannot tell. I think they rather admired my 
pluck, for, if I was in a fight, they always saw 
fair play, and backed me on to thrash my lad, 
saying ; — ** Go it Jack, my boy, you'll whip 
him like a sack, go it my little man o' war; 
here's your little Oliver, here's your little 
Napoleon." It was only from strangers that I 
had anything to fear in the way of ill-usage. I 
never had a blow from a local poacher in a 
public house row, it was only in a bona fide 
poaching affray that they fought me ; when I 


was throwing them up, or taking nets or game 
away from them. When I was a young man I 
could turn out '^ in my skin " and have a fair 
stand up fight with any lad, and, on one 
occasion, I was bound over to keep the peace 
for twelve months, for fighting with Jack 
Weedon in Squire Lownde's Park. I was had 
up before the Squire and Mr. Benjamin Fuller, 
and father was bound over for me and Jack 
Weedon' s mother for him ; so this rather 
damped my fighting ardour, and made me feel 
somewhat ashamed of myself 

I went back to Monk's Wood, and left father 
to look after Bishop's Hill, and, one morning, 
when I was on the watch, I heard ** scrunch 
scrunch" on the frozen beech leaves, and took 
up my gun ready for a shot, as I thought it was 
some kind of vermin on the prowl. Presently I 
saw a man step into the path, look round the 
bend, and then go back again to the edge of 
the wood. Here he knelt down, and began 
feeling about in the ferns. It was about half-past 
two in the morning, and I could only see the 
outline of the man as he groped on his knees. 


I thought he was after pheasants' eggs, and 
made ready to catch him, taking off my coat 
and jacket, thus exposing my blue shirt sleeves. 
Then I crept up to within a few yards of my man, 
and, with a sudden spring, landed on his back, 
catching hold of his collar. He was a big 
strong man, and I thought I was in for a tough 
job, but I never saw such a total collapse in my 
life ; the moment he felt my weight on his back 
he looked up at me, and then seemed to come 
all over limp. Half dragging him along to my 
gun, which I had left standing against a tree, I 
fired, and gave the * dead holloa ' : — ^Whoo 
whoo whoop.'' Before we had turned out in the 
morning, my father had given us orders that, 
if either of us caught a poacher, he was to give 
this cry. *' And you. Jack," said he, turning to 
me. *^ If you meet with anyone, fire your gun 
off before giving the holloa." Then, turning 
to the rest, he instructed them to run up to my 
assistance, immediately they heard my gun and 
call, throwing off their great coats, and divest- 
ing themselves of all impediments, for that 
purpose. The report of my gun acted on the 


poacher in a way I little expected ; I cannot, 
from experience, describe the sensation of a 
*' blue funk," but doubtless some of my readers 
have felt it, and I should think that my captive 
was in a blue funk, now. 

**Let go. Jack," said he; *'you know me 
well enough." But I still held fast. *' Yes, I 
know you," I said: ''still I want others to 
know you besides me." *' Let go, will you," 
said the man, hoarsely; *' Can't you see I am 
taken bad in my inside?" ''All right, you 
may be bad or not, but, until someone 
comes up I don't leave go." It may sound 
heartless of me to talk like this, but keepers 
have to be up to all sorts of dodges. All this 
time old Dick and father kept answering my 
call, but the first to arrive was Matthew Atkins, 
and when he appeared I released my hold. 
Then old Dick came up. " Ah, Tom, my 
boy," says he, looking at the poacher, "you've 
got a good dose of physic this time." At this 
point we heard father call out, some hundred 
and fifty yards down the wood, and on our 
answering he shouted, "Go on ; he's at the 


White House by this time." Old Dick 
answered back, ** Come here ; we've got him 

Up came father, with a flitch of bacon, four 
small loaves, and a jar of beer slung over his 
shoulder on his gun ; and this in spite of his 
previous orders to us, about throwing off 
everything and running up to the first who 
called. In his fear of my getting hurt, he 
forgot these things, and so he came pounding 
along to where we were. He heard all we had 
to say, and then proceeded to search the 
poacher, whose name, it appeared, was Tom 
Tuson, although old Dick was the only one of 
us who knew him. Father could find nothing 
incriminating, however, so he said, ** Now, 
Tom, I'll show you out of the wood." Then, 
as he walked him out, my father continued: 
** Why, how come you to let young Jack catch 
you? Didn't you run?" ''Run?" growled 
the poacher; '* by George, no. He sprung on 
me like a tiger, and I was never so unnerved in 
my life. What with his blue shirt and his 
long wavy hair, and the way he crouched down 


and sprang on me, I almost thought it was a 
tiger." It certainly was a bad light at the 
time, being just before daybreak, and so dark 
that he could not even see the eggs he was 
groping for amongst the ferns. 

In a few moments father returned to us, and 
then old Dick tried him by ** court martial," as 
he called it, for setting his men such a bad 
example, in acting contrary to his own orders. 
Dick constituted himself judge and jury, and 
solemnly found father guilty, fining him two 
gallons of Teddy Wheelan's ale, from Amer- 
sham brewery. Father paid up for the two 
gallons cheerfully enough, saying that he did 
not mind so long as ** venturesome Jack" was 
not hurt. I may mention that I knew nothing 
of this Tom Tuson, and had never seen him 
before, nor have I set eyes on him since. Old 
Dick was the only one of us who knew him. 

Tuson was summoned to appear before the 
magistrates, but absconded. I should explain 
that the '* White House " that father mentioned 
was about half-way between Monk's Wood and 
Chesham, and he thought I was running my 


man down to the town from the wood. Mr. 
Benjamin Fuller had my name cut in the bark 
of the tree where I collared the poacher, and 
there it remained for some years, until the 
wood was cut down for timber to build a new 
farm house and other buildings at Weedon 
Hill, on the Doughty Tichborne farm. 

This Tuson was known to be a good plucked 
'un, and a rough fighting man, who would 
stand up for a good bout any day ; but it must 
be borne in mind that he quite thought I knew 
him when I fired my gun. Had I not been so 
quick, and so frightened and unnerved him, he 
could have flung me into the gorse with the 
greatest ease, and made his escape, but fortune 
favors the brave, and, maybe, the rash. When 
we are up to evil and mischief, conscience 
makes cowards of us all, and poor Tom proved 
no exception to the rule. And thus ends the 
story of how I caught my first poacher. 

I next went to Boxmoor, as keeper to the 
Right Honourable Granville Dudley Ryder, of 
Westbrook House, whose head keeper was Mr. 
Ball. I was living there when the first train 


ran from Euston to Boxmoor, and the line was 
afterwards carried on to Northchurch, and 
through the Northchurch tunnel. 

At this time Ball was ill, so Mr. Ryder's 
butler came over to Chesham to see my father 
about me; the result being that I went to 
Boxmoor to look after the tame pheasants, on 
the understanding that, if Ball died, I was to 
take his place, but, if he recovered, I was to go 
back to my father. Ball did recover, I am glad 
to say, and was living at Boxmoor in March, 1885. 
Nothing of any interest occurred during the 
few months I held the situation, except that I 
shot some navvies' dogs. Some of these were 
beautiful dogs, — Bull terriers, Italian grey- 
hounds, and some known as ** plum pudding" 
dogs, being speckled and spotted all over, like 
a plum pudding. 

The navvies used to come into the woods to 
look for me, and they would find their dogs 
dead, sure enough, but me they never caught. 
They would search in and around the trees and 
shrubs but could not find ''the little devil " — 
meaning me — '' or they would hang him in a 


tree by his heels," so I heard them say. 

Whenever I shot one of their dogs I would 
take my gun and ** shin " up a tree, and they 
used to come and prowl about under it, but 
never thought of looking up into it. The intel- 
lectual development of navvies, I may remark, is 
scarcely equal to their muscular development. 
So I was never found, and, even had they 
discovered my whereabouts, they could not 
have got me down, for I would have shot their 
fingers as fast as they climbed up. 

During my stay at Boxmoor, an incident 
occurred which I must not omit to relate, as the 
poacher bested us all, including the magistrates ; 
but, later on, I shall show how this smart card 
played into my hands and had to cut and run. 

"what was it? '' 

"OICHARD Lovering, whom I have often 
"*^^ mentioned before, was variously known 
as "Old Dick," "the Black Man of the Woods," 
"Wild Man of the Woods" and " the Black 
Devil." One evening, between six and seven 
o'clock, he came and told my father that the 
ride which parted Beech Wood from Owlett's 
Wood was set with snares for hares. 

" Well Dick," said my father, " We must be 
there by nine or ten to-night, or else we shall 


lose our chance; it won't do to leave it 'till the 
morning," Dick thought that those who set 
the snares would not come to look at them 
until daybreak, and said so, but my father re- 
plied : — *' I tell you, Dick, that they will come, 
and hunt the large clover field joining the 
wood where the snares are set, to-night, when 
they turn out of the public house ; so we must 
be ready for them. 

Off we went, accordingly, and father placed 
all three of us. I was stationed some hundred 
yards down the wood, between the snares and 
Chesham Common, to act as a stop, and catch 
anyone who ran away from old Dick, since he 
could run as well as a tame fat duck. 

Just after the church clock struck eleven, we 
heard the voice of a dog in the clover field ; he 
chased some hares into the wood, about a 
hundred yards below me, and they flew past 
the dog in *^full cry" after them. Directly, 
however, the animal got scent of me, he stopped 
short, and ceased to give tongue, as if he had 
been shot dead, and all was quiet. 

A few minutes afterwards father and old 


Dick came up, and the former said : — ** It's all 
up with us to-night, Jack; that dog of their' s 
winded us, or we should have had them, right 
enough. They knew we were here, directly he 
stopped his voice in full cry. We shall never 
do anything with them 'till you get that dog, 
he is more use to them than any two men. 

We may as well take these snares up," he 
added, turning to old Dick. But Dick thought 
that there was a chance that they might come 
at daybreak, as they had not seen any of us. 
Eventually, however, we resolved to act upon 
father's advice, and leave it 'till the next night. 

So, the next night, we all three sallied forth 
and took up our positions, father and Dick 
in much the same places as the previous night, 
but having a due regard to the wind. I took 
my stand in an old saw pit, in which timber 
had been sawn some years previously, and which 
had not yet been filled up. This pit was just 
the right depth for me, as, when standing up in 
it, my chin was on a level with the ground; 
thus I was able to see all round out of the pit, 
and shoot the dog, did he appear. 


**Now John," said my father, in parting, 
** Sit down 'till you hear the dog coming, 
and mind you don't rise up 'till he gets near 
enough for you to make sure of killing him. If 
you are too eager he'll wind you, but if you let 
him get near enough for a dead shot, it don't 
matter whether he winds you or not ; stops, 
goes forward, or turns back." 

"All right, father," said I. **ril manage 
it, I'll be sure to kill him, never fear." 

**I'm not afraid but what you will," said father. 
**But if you don't keep down close, he'll be 
sure to wind you, and I'd rather have that dog 
than all the poachers, so don't you miss this 

I may mention that there is nothing so 
trying to a keeper as a poacher's dog, it seems 
to be imbued with more than the cunning 
of its masters, and the instinct seems more 
trustworthy than their reasoning powers. It 
is always distrustful of strangers and, in fact, 
everybody except its masters, and enters at 
once into the keen delight of the lawless 
deeds of the latter; at the same time it is 



quick to suspect danger and scent an enemy, 
its instinct prompting it not only to save itself, 
but also to give warning to its owners, that they 
may do likewise. I have known a whole gang 
of poachers broken up for the season merely by 
the loss of their dog, and thus keepers are al- 
ways death on dogs, so it should not seem cruel 
if they shoot all strange dogs found in the 

It was a bright moonlight night, and I sat in 
this old saw pit for about two hours and a half 
without seeing or hearing anything, when, all 
at once, I became aware of something at the 
end of the pit jumping and dancing about, 
here, there, and all over the place. It came 
up to the side of the pit, very close to my head, 
and then disappeared, suddenly, like a bladder 
bursting. Next I saw it hanging on the side 
of a tree ; it left the tree, though I could not 
see it do so, but immediately reappeared skip- 
ping round the pit. I could not make it out at 
all ; at first I thought it was an owl, and then I 
remembered that an owl would fly and not hop, 
skip and jump. Last of all, the thing hung on 

WHAT WAS IT ? 6^7 

to a branch of the tree, in the full light of the 
moon ; I forgot all about snares, and dogs, and 
poachers, and father's orders, and simply let 
fly at it, determined to find out what it was. 
Nothing fell, nothing flew away, the result was 
just the same as if I had shot at a bubble ; 
indeed, the thing itself was just like a soap 
bubble that a child might blow through a long 
clay pipe. It was as large as a common — or 
garden — hen, but shaped something like a 
pig's bladder blown out, and, when J had shot, 
it seemed as if all the wind had escaped. 

Up I jumped out of the pit, and rushed up to 
the tree to pick up what I had shot, for, though 
I saw nothing fall, I am a pretty dead shot, 
and I scarcely believed I had missed my quarry. 
Nothing there ; neither fish, flesh, fowl, or even 
a feather. Father and Dick now arrived, and 
found the gun standing in the pit, and me, 
alternately, gazing up into the tree, or groping 
on the ground. 

*'What did you shoot at?" growls father. 

** Something," I replied, feebly. 

**Wellwhat wasit?" 


"Something," was all I could say, again, 
dubiously staring at the tree, or feeling the 
ground, all the while. 

** What was it you shot at? " insisted father. 

**I don't know." 

*' Well, what was it like ? " 

Then I told them how it jumped here and 
there, and appeared and disappeared, all around 
me; whereupon my father up with his hand, 
and gave me a heavy clout over the side of 
my head. 

** You cracky," he raved. ** You shot at the 
shadow of the moon ; now you've spoilt the job 

So he took up the snares and we all went 
home, he grumbling and growling all the way, 
and I was very glad to get to bed out of his 
sight, I can tell you. 

Next morning, Dick and I went to examine 
the place by daylight to see if we could find 
any trace of what I had shot at ; needless to 
say, we searched in vain, I could see that I had 
shot just were the thing was, for there were the 
marks in the tree. I think it must have been 


what they call a " Will o' the Wisp," or "Jock 
o' Lantern," that is, a kind of vapour ; I had 
never seen one of them before, but I've seen 
plenty since. 

HARRY Wright's sandy rabbit. 

/^LD Dick came home, one night, and told 
^-^ my father that he had again found a 
hedge set with snares, at the bottom of the 
clover field. This was the same field where I 
had stood in the saw pit, and shot at the moon. 
I hear that people shoot the moon, nowadays, 
some times. 

We all three went out that evening to watch 
the snares, I being again placed, as a stop, at 
the end near Chesham. We remained watch- 
ing until after eleven o'clock, and then father 


came up to me, and said: — ** We'll give it up 
now, and go home and have something to warm 
us." We wanted something of that kind, for 
it was a rime frost, and one of the coldest 
nights I was ever out in. So we went home, 
and thawed a bit before a big fire. We had 
some hot coffee, bread and home cured bacon ; 
and then father and Dick smoked their pipes, 
and drank home brewed ale, whilst I dropped 
off to sleep. 

About half-past three we started out again, 
but, when we reached the hedge, the snares 
were gone. Now, on the previous day, father 
and I had been rabbiting with the nets, as he 
had an order for three dozen live rabbits, which 
we duly caught. When old Dick told us about 
the snares, father took one of these rabbits 
with him, having previously marked it so that 
he would know it again. I was carrying this 
rabbit when we started out first, and, by some 
means or other, it got out of my pocket, and was 
caught in one of the snares set in the hedge. We 
had left it in the snare when we went home to 
have a little refreshment, and, when we arrived 


on the scene a second time, it was gone, and 
all the snares too. So we returned home again, 
having drawn a blank. 

Three or four nights after this, my father 
went into a public house, to pay the landlord 
for a pig he had bought off him, and, incidently, 
to have a drink. Whilst he was there, the 
landlord took down a rabbit from off a hook, 
and, holding it up, said : — 

*' There, Luke, you can't get rabbits like that." 

Father took it and examined it, pronouncing it 
to be one of the best he had ever seen. '' I 
should like to get some of that stock to turn down 
in White's Wood gorse," said he, carelessly. 
'* Where might it come from ? " 

** I don't know where it come from," replied 
the landlord. *' But I bought it off Harry 
Wright, the miller, last Tuesday." 

This was the very rabbit I had lost out of my 
pocket, so we then knew all about it, for the 
hedge where the snares were set was only one 
field from Harry Wright's mill. On enquiring, 
we learnt that Wright took night turns with 
another man, at the mill, he on, one night, and 


the man on, the next ; the night we lost the 
rabbit was Harry's night on, so that 
accounted for our losing it in the dead of night. 

This miller was a perfect torment to old 
Dick, he could scarcely ever prosecute him, 
and, when he did, never got him convicted, as 
Harry was a most artful card, and clever both 
at poaching and the law. 

Dick saw him, one time, shoot a hare on the 
fallow, in the mill field, and put it in his 
pocket. Wright was taken before the Magis- 
trates, Mr. Lowndes and Mr. Fuller, and, when 
Dick had given his evidence, they asked Harry 
if he had anything to say. 

**Yes, gentlemen," said he, politely. ** I 
have a great deal to say. I am quite sure, 
gentlemen, that the witness Lovering don't 
intend to say anything but what's true, but he 
is labouring under a mistake, as I will prove to 
you if you'll allow me. I have three witnesses 
to call, who will prove my case. Now, I keep 
a lot of tame rabbits, amongst them a large 
sandy buck that I keep for stock ; I don't keep 
him in the hutches with the does, but let him 


run loose in the rabbit house. The door of the 
house was left open, one day, and my buck 
goes out and gets under the wood stack which 
joins the rabbit house, where I kept on trying 
to catch it, but without success. It had been 
out for six or seven weeks, and as it had been 
continually hunted, got very wild ; so, on this 
very day, I set about moving the wood stack, 
in order to get at it, when it ran across the 
road into the mill field fallow, and squatted 

** I said: — 'Call in the dog, don't let him go 
after the rabbit, as I can get it now. Til just 
shoot it, so mark the place where it squatted, 
while I go and fetch my gun.' Well, I did so, 
and shot it, and here's the rabbit to prove it." 
With that he pulls a large sandy rabbit out of 
his pocket. '* And here," he went on. ** Are 
two — no, three witnesses who saw me shoot it." 
Harry was as good as his word, and had no 
difficulty in proving that he had really shot the 
rabbit; so he had, but it was undoubtedly after 
he had shot the hare. 

Old Dick swore to the hare, and I have no 


doubt, in my own mind, but what he was right ; 
however, the magistrates gave Wright the 
benefit of the doubt, and dismissed the case. 
Thereupon Harry went to the public house, 
and bragged how he had licked old Dick, and 
the magistrates as well ; true enough he had 
licked them, clean and handsome, but he got 
into different hands afterwards, when ** young 
Jack " got hold of him, for I licked him quite 
as fairly as he did old Dick, as I will show, 
later on. 


thp: end of poacher bob. 

A S I have mentioned before, Ball, Mr. 
•^^ Ryder's head keeper, recovered, so I 
went back to father, when Mr. John Fuller 
said he was afraid that I should never be big 
enough for a keeper, and that I had better be 
apprenticed to a shoemaker. Father, too, used 
to sneer at me, and said : — ** All you are fit 
for. Jack, is to stand behind a counter and tear 
up calico." Then he would put his hands 
together, and make a noise with his mouth, as 
if he were tearing a piece of calico in two. So 
I decided to try my hand at something else for 
a while, until I could get a place as under 
keeper, for a keeper I determined to be. 


I left Hyde Heath and went to Lord Dormer* s 
place at Little Kingsvale, near Peterby Kouse, 
between Great Missenden and Wickham Heath, 
on trial as a carpenter. I did not stop long, 
however, and went from there to Great 
Berkhampstead with Lord Dormer's son, to try 
sawing in Mr. Key's wharf yard there. I spent 
one summer at Berkhampstead, and went in for 
charcoal burning at Pengrove, near Beech 
Wood, which is about the centre of the manor. 
There had been a large fall of timber at 
Pengrove, and Mr. Fuller gave me leave to 
burn my charcoal in the wood so as to save 
carting it to Hyde Heath Common. 

Whilst I was thus burning charcoal, poor 
old Dick fell ill with a bad leg, and the Chesham 
doctors said that he would never be fit for his 
work again, so he had to keep at home with 
his leg. Mr. Fuller asked me to *Mook out" 
whilst Dick was laid by, and this I was able to 
do because I had employed a regular charcoal 
burner to burn for me, and he kept by the fire 
when I used to be travelling round to London, 
Oxford, and other places, for orders. 


I had not been in old Dick's place long before 
I came across a hedge set with snares. This 
hedge ran from the New Road to Odds Wood, 
adjoining Hangman's Dell, and these snares 
were the means of bringing Poacher Bob to his 
death. On Thursday morning, while I was 
watching, I saw Jack Nash come and look at the 
snares, and, finding that they had caught no- 
thing, go away again. I watched them off and 
on 'till Sunday morning, and then I saw Nash 
and another man come and look at the snares. 
A rabbit had been caught in them on Friday 
night, and there it still remained but the two 
men did not attempt to touch it, and went off 
down to the water side at Chesham. I watched 
them go to George Jones' house, which they 
entered, and subsequently came out again with 
Jones. Then all three went to Jones' barn, 
opened the door, and let out a dog; I 
recognized this animal as being the same that 
I intended to kill on the night when I shot at 
the moon.. The party now went up, past 
Jones' house, to the Hangman's Dell, where 
the snares were set. I could see all this from 


where I was, and now I heard them send the 
dog round to look for me ; first here, and then 
there, saying : — '* Try for him, good dog." 
They peered into the badger's earth close by, 
looked into the chalk pit, searched the roof of 
the hay-stack and all round it, and then sent 
Bob up the side of the hedge where the snares 
wlyiere set to look for me, once more. On 
arriving at the end, the dog looked back at the 
men, as if for further orders, when Jones called 
to him to *' go over;" he thereupon jumped 
the hedge and came down the other side, all 
the way to the chalk pit, where the men stood. 
I heard them say that it was alright, and one of 
them immediately made for the rabbit and 
took it out of the snare, when to their surprise 
I appeared. On seeing me, the man with the 
rabbit gave leg bail towards Fox's Mill and 
Chesham, the route by which they had come. 
I made chase, and caught up with him after a 
run of a couple of hundred yards or so, only to 
find that he was a stranger to me. He refused 
to give me his name, and kept on walking 
towards the town, I keeping up with him. 


When we reached Foxe's Mill, an old woman 
came out to fill her kettle at the pump ; then 
another one came out to her door, to let down 
a shutter; then a third came out of another 
cottage, and the moment she saw us, she cried 
out : — 

*' Oh, dear neighbour, here's Charlie Cough- 
trey caught ; young Wilkins has got him, poor 
Charlie's caught right enough." And away 
she goes next door. ** Neighbour Jeffrey, poor 
Charlie Coughtrey's done for ; look, young 
Wilkins has got him." 

Then they all left their kettles and shutters 
and things and joined in a chorus of lamenta- 
tions. " Poor Charlie, its all up with him now, 
or young Wilkins wouldn't be with him ; poor 

** Good morning, Charles," said I, politely, 
and went back to the Dell, where I met the 
other two men, Nash and Jones. 

"Well," they said, jeeringly, *' now you've 
caught him you don't know him." 

*' What," said I, with feigned surprise. 
"You may as well say I don't know you two. 


as say I don' t know Charlie Coughtrey. ' ' Then 
how they stared at each other ! 

** By gum," they growled. ** He does know 
him after all." 

All three men were summoned, but Coughtrey 
did not appear, and I have never seen him 
from that day to this. Jack Nash employed a 
Mr. Chester, a lawyer who had just taken an 
office at Chesham, to defend him. Nash had 
told him that he had never been out of the foot- 
path at all on that morning, but when Mr. 
Chester heard my evidence — how I had seen 
Nash, on the Thursday previous, come and 
look at the snares, and then again on Sunday 
morning with Coughtrey, how I had heard Nash 
say that he wouldn't take the rabbit, as old 
Dick had caught him snaring rabbits before, 
and he wasn't going to be caught again, — then, 
after he had heard all this, and Mr. Garrett, of 
Chesham, swore that there was no footpath, and 
produced a map of the land to prove it, Mr. 
Chester addressed the magistrates saying that 
he was sorry he had taken up the case. He 
had, he said, been deceived by Nash's false 


tale, and all he could do was to recommend his 
client to the mercy of the bench, Nash was 
convicted, and got six months. 

When we came out of court, there were about 
thirty poachers and roughs hanging about, with 
hats in their hands, ready to throw them — hats, 
not hands — up in the air and shout " hurrah." 
Some did begin : — ** Hoo-hoo — ," and then 
stopped off, dead, as they saw my father, Nash, 
and the constables come out. Nash was 
bellowing like a twelve-year-old child, and 
wailing out that he should never live through 
it. The gang of roughs slunk off, like so 
many dogs with tin kettles tied to their tails. 
It was a sad disappointment, for they all 
thought that Lawyer Chester was going to get 
his man off. And so, covering his face with 
both hands, and booing like a baby, Nash went 
off to gaol. 

Jones begged hard to be let off: he said he 
would give up poaching, and never cause any 
more trouble. He brought his dog, the 
celebrated Bob, tied him up to Mr. Fuller's 
gate at the German House, and there blew out 


his brains ; so Mr. Fuller let the case against 
him stand over and Jones did not go to gaol. 
This Bob was a big, rough, wiry, coarse-coated 
dog, — a cross between a blood hound and a 
sheep-dog, with the true voice of a hound. I 
do not know, for certain, his real breed, but 1 
do know that he was the cleverest poacher I 
ever met. 

Jones never did any poaching after this, and 
his wife repeatedly told me that she was glad I 
caught him ; it was the best day's work that 
ever happened to him, she said, for he used to 
waste his time in poaching, and would then go 
to the public house and spend all the money 
he had earned by it, and a shilling or two 
beyond. *' Easy come, easy go," and it did 
not end there, for he used to get drunk and was 
fit for nothing the next day, so he must needs 
go and have another quart, the next morning, 
to liven up yesterday's beer. This, again, 
very often led to a third day's drunk, and then 
the three days had to have a livening up on the 
fourth morning. Three or four day's loss of 
work at four shillings a day, two shillings a 


day for drink, say three days— a total of eighteen 
shillings loss. ** And now," said she. *'He 
sticks to his work, earns double the money he 
did, and don't spend a quarter he used ; best 
of all, John, I get it now, but before, the 
public house got most of it." 

When we all came out of the court, Mr. 
Fuller took father and me up to his house, and 
into the kitchen. He gave the cook orders to 
give us the best dinner she could, and with his 
own hands, he brought me a thumping big 
glass of hot brandy and water. Then he fetched 
me his own great coat and said, giving it to me : 
— ** Now, John, I've got another job for you, 
so take this coat, and make as good a fist of it 
as you did with Nash." 



'T^HIS was a snaring job, which my father 
•*" had found out. Having received my 
instructions, I left German House, and walked 
about two hundred yards to the back of the 
town, where there was a long strip of a planta- 
tion ; into this I dived and, at the end of it, 
came upon a quick-set hedge full of snares. 
These I watched for about two hours, when a 
man called Dapper or Dabber Harding ap- 
peared, carrying a gun, and proceeded to beat 
the plantation up and down. After looking 
through it carefully he came and examined the 
snares, and then made off towards Odd's Wood, 
Father had given me orders to stay by the 
snares till he came, so I remained there until 


he arrived at about half-past five in the evening. 
I told him what had occurred, when he said: — 

** I saw Dabber, with Harry Wright, round 
Odd's Wood and Old Beech Wood Lane, but 
could not get hold of them; but you'll be 
sure to nab Dabber at these snares, in the 
morning, and, if not, we can have him for 
trespassing in the plantation with a gun, and 
for setting snares." 

Now, on my way to the plantation, I picked 
up a dead hare in the swedes, near Granlet's 
plantation ; it had been killed quite long 
enough, and was just beginning to *turn,' for 
the rooks had plucked out one eye, the lights 
and heart, so I hid her in the plantation for the 
ferrets. When I reached home with father, it 
struck me that I might make use of her in 
another way, so I borrowed a needle and 
thread from mother, and sewed up the places 
where the rooks had been picking; then I 
started her only eye hard out of her head, and 
smeared it round with blood to make it look 
blood-shot. I took old Sarah, thus prepared, 
and laid her, best side upwards, blind side 


downwards, in one of the snares I was watching. 

Now poachers are very knowing and sus- 
picious fellows, so that, when you are baiting 
a trap for them, don't despise your enemy and 
think that anything is good enough to take 
him in ; you must meet cunning with ditto, and, 
to show you what I mean, I will describe very 
carefully how I ' faked ' this dead hare. 

I tucked her head in the noose and drew it 
moderately tight, then I took the slack of the 
wire and see-sawed it against the stems of the 
*' quick " to rub the bark off, pulled out the 
fluck to show where she had torn herself when 
dashing about, and scraped up the leaves and 
moss to show where she had scratched and 
kicked about in the snare before she died. So, 
having completed my preparations, all I had to 
do was to wait and watch. About seven in the 
morning arrives Dabber with his gun, and beats 
the plantation down to where the snares were 
set ; when he got within fifteen or twenty yards 
he saw old Sarah, and, dropping his gun, he 
rushed forward and fell flat on top of her. He 
took her out of the snare and pocketed her, 


whilst Still lying flat on the ground ; then he 
got up and carefully removed every scrap of 
fluck, after which he went back a little way 
into the wood, kicked up the moss and earth, 
and buried the fluck underneath, stamping it 
down out of sight with his feet. Next he took 
some earth and rubbed over the white thorn 
bush, in the place where the snare had barked 
it ; then he brought some leaves, and strewed 
over the place where Sarah had scratched up 
the earth under the snare. After this he put 
up the quick, and made everything look as if it 
had not been disturbed ; then, standing a little 
way off, he took a good view, and, coming 
back, placed a twig here and there, and 
smeared a little dirt over a spot in the bark 
that showed white. At last he seemed quite 
satisfied, and, indeed, one might have passed 
the place without ever noticing that anything 
had been recently caught there. 

Off he goes with one-eyed Sarah, and, after 
going about twenty yards or so, he thought he'd 
take a peep at her. Just as he was doing this 
I stepped up behind him, on tiptoe, saying : — 


** How is it ? a good one, Dabber? " He 
sprang over the hedge into the road, and had 
reached his father's house before I could follow ; 
here he ran to earth with both gun and hare. 
*' Hum," thought I as he disappeared. ** If I 
don't look out this will be another tame sandy 
rabbit job ; he'll be after bringing some of his 
workshop mates, to swear he was in his work- 
shop from five 'till eight this morning." So I 
went straight to the workshops, up by Chesham 

As soon as I reached the timber yard I found 
two sawyers hard at work, near the entrance, 
and the moment the top-sawyer caught sight of 
me he sang out : — 

** Whoa, stop, you there ! " Then turning to 
his mate he said : — " Here's a lark, Dabber's 
done for a crown ; ain't he Jack ? " 

** Yes," said I. *' He's all right." 

I proceeded to walk up the yard, when, one 
after another, the men came out of the work- 
shops, saying : — 

*' Dabber's caught, for a shilling ; ain't it so 
Jack ? " 


'* Has he been here this morning ? " I asked. 

*' No," says one. 

**Yes," said a lot of voices together, all 
chaffing and laughing. 

'' Well, mates," said I. '' Here's his bench, 
and he ain't here ; where is he ? " For I knew 
Dabber's bench. They commenced their chaff 
again, and one said that '' Dabber had just 
gone out, as I came up, to get a half pint ; he 
must have gone out the front way and seen me 
coming, and perhaps, made off, thinking I was 
after him." All this was said in chaff, the men 
winking at each other, but I began to think it 
looked rather queer for me, because if Dabber 
appeared then there were a dozen men ready to 
swear he'd been in his shop all the morning, 
and the rest would hold their tongues. 

At this moment, however, Mr. Webb, the 
master, appeared. 

*' What's all this noise about ? " he demanded. 
** John Roberts, go on with your work, and all 
the rest of you do the same." Then, turning 
to me, he said : — '* What do you want here, 


**I want to know if Dabber Harding is here, 
sir, and, if not, whether he has been here this 
morning at all." On this, he looked into 
Harding's shop and found it empty, turning to 
the men, he said : — 

** Mind, I will have no nonsense ; has he 
been here this morning? " 

*'No, sir," replied the men, gravely enough 

** You hear, John ? " said Mr. Webb to me. 

** Yes, sir, and thank you, sir," I replied. 

I went off down the yard, and there was no 
running fire of chaff now, everybody seemed 
too much engaged to mind me. I turned up 
the alley leading into the street, and just as I 
was rounding, ran full butt against Dabber. 

** Good morning, John," said he. 

**Good morning, Dabber," said I. ** Though 
we've met before, to-day, it ain't ever too late 
for civilities." He stared at me doubtfully for 
a moment, and then hurried down the alley. 
He was full run, and winded when I met him, 
and, had I not got beforehand with him, there 
is no doubt he would have brought any number 


of men to swear that he'd been at his shop all 
the morning. 

All this occurred on the day after Nash was 
tried and convicted, and Harding was a leader 
of the roughs who waited outside the court to 
make a demonstration, if Nash had got off. 

Harding was summoned but, the night before 
the day of his trial, they had a ''* free and easy '* 
with one-eyed Sally. They cooked her, and 
made a supper off her at a beerhouse, and all 
tKe guests pronounced her to be beautiful 
eating. After having devoured poor Sarah, 
they fell to drinking beer, and this so warmed 
the cockles of their hearts that they made a 
collection for Dabber, who collared the offertory, 
took his hook next morning, and failed to 
answer to his summons. The day before I 
caught him he was waiting outside the court, 
hat in hand, ready to throw it in the air and 
cheer lustily, if Nash got off — such is life ! 
Mr. Fuller gave me ten shillings for catching 
Dabber, with which I was well pleased, and 
praised me warmly for my shrewdness, with 
which I was still better pleased. 



'T^HE poachers about Chesham used to simply 
■^ play with old Dick, he never caught one 
except by accident, and when he did he could 
never get his man convicted. He was no good 
for watching snares, being always beaten ; he 
had no patience, and it often happened that, 
when a hare or rabbit was in the snares, the 
men would not touch it as they suspected that 
the place was watched. Then old Dick would 
come out of his hiding, and blackguard them, 
calling them all sorts of names and taunting 
them with their want of courage, but of course 
they only laughed at him and made off. There- 


upon Dick would go away, grumbling and 
growling, thinking it of no use to watch the 
snares any longer. Of course the men were 
only lying in wait, and, the moment he had 
gone, they came and took any game that might 
be in the snares, for he often forgot to remove 
what was caught, or else he left it purposely, 
hoping to find it there still on his return, to act 
as a bait for the poachers. The latter soon 
got to know Dick's lazy and careless ways, and 
so bested him. Dick never ought to have been 
a keeper ; he had no cunning about him, no 
tricks of dodging his men, changing his beats, 
and altering his clothes. He used to be just 
wound up like a clock, and I could always tell 
where to put my hand upon him at any given 
time of the day. As I have before mentioned, 
he was an old soldier, and had the discipline of 
the barracks thoroughly instilled into him, but 
although that is a very good thing in its way, 
it does not fit a man for the calling of a keeper. 
A keeper's life is one of continual strain and 
anxiety, and he must be able to adapt himself 
to all sorts of strange circumstances, in order to 


overcome the innumerable difficulties that arise 
in the course of his career. It is no child's 
play, I can tell you, for a thousand and one 
things occur that call forth all the talent and 
resource that a man possesses, in order to deal 
with them successfully. 

For instance — a keeper has to rear ground 
game and flying game, a very difficult job, in 
which he has everything against him almost, 
and only the ordinary course of nature to assist 
him. The condition of the elements, flying 
vermin, ground vermin, and, lastly, man in the 
poacher shape, are all against him. During 
the rearing season the keeper never has any 
leisure at all, his hours are all the time; there are 
no definite rules which can be laid down for his 
guidance, and he can only fall back on his own 
common sense and tact. But to return to 

He had just one round, like clockwork ; he 
would go once through Beech Wood and then 
that would be done for the day, and he would 
not go near it again until the next day at 
precisely the same time. From Beech Wood 


he used to go to Odd's Wood adjoining Bois' 
Wood, Odd's Wood being on one side of a hill 
and Bois' Wood on the other, with a ditch 
between them. On the top of Bois' Wood is a 
summer house, and here old Dick used to 
arrive, about one o'clock every day, to have his 
dinner and a pipe under shelter. ** The daily 
round the common task," was ever the same 
with Dick, and one day was like another, as 
one green pea resembles another green pea. 

I used to dodge into a wood at one end, one 
time, and at another end, another time, making 
it a rule never to go the same way twice. Then, 
too, I constantly changed my dress, im- 
personating all kinds of people — mechanics, 
carpenters, and the like. A favourite dodge of 
mine was the carpenter * fake ' ; I used, for 
this, to wear a white apron and a blue jacket, 
or, sometimes, a white flannel jacket, and to 
carry with me a carpenter's flail, handsaw, and 
axe. Sometimes I would go as a tramp with 
matches to sell, and sometimes as a ploughboy, 
wearing a white smock, going home with his 
bundle. It was almost always necessary to 


resort to some dodge of this kind in that part 
of the country, it being a most convenient place 
for poachers, and dead against keepers. The 
country was so open that men could see a great 
distance, and warn their mates on the approach 
of a keeper. When I * made up ' in any of my 
characters I toolc care to * make up ' my face 
as well, and many a time I have passed my 
friends in the road, or been amongst them in 
the market place, without ever being suspected ; 
so I usually managed to pick up the information 
I wanted. To return once more to Dick. 

The poor old chap had to ' cave in ' owing 
to his bad leg, and Mr. Fuller gave him a sort 
of ' say so,' which, with his pension, enabled 
him to take a public house in the neighbourhood. 
Mr. Fuller then offered me Dick's place, and I 
took it, so there I was, in spite of what my father 
and Mr. Fuller had said about me, — a game- 


dick's ghost. 

"OEFORE old Dick gave up, he had re- 
-*^ peatedly declared to father and me that 
he had seen a ghost near the Devil's Den. He 
said that you could neither see or hear it com- 
ing until it slid by ; but it was just like a calf, 
made no noises, but glided along as if on 
skates. He had met it three or four times, just 
about the same place, and he got so nervous 
that he would not go past the Den on his way 
home at night. 

One Sunday night, father had gone to Hyde 
Heath Chapel, and I was at home keeping 


mother company, when, all on a sudden, the 
dogs in the yard broke out barking madly. I 
slipped on father's list slippers, snatched up my 
gun, and went out to see what was the matter 
with the dogs. There was old Dick's ghost, 
clearing out of the yard like a streak of light- 
ning it was just going through the folding 
gates, having to stoop down to get under, 
when I let fly and bowled it over, stone dead, 
without a sound save the report of ** Brown 
Bess," my gun. Then I got my mother to 
help me drag it into the house, and cover it 
over with two sacks, under the salting trough. 

When father came home, I said I would show 
him old Dick's ghost. 

'' Well,' said he, " I hope you may. Jack." 

So I took him up to the trough, and pulled 
the sacks off the ghost. He stepped back in 

" Sure enough, you've killed him, my boy," 
said he. ** We'll leave him 'till the morning 
for old Dick to have a look at him, and then we 
must put him out of sight, as there will be a 
great stir as soon as he is missed." 


When Dick made his appearance, next 
morning, my father said : — 

** Jack shot your ghost, last night, Dick." 

**Sure enough if he has I'll stand treat,'* 
replied Dick. 

So we took him to the trough, my father first 
locking the front door, and then I removed the 
sacks and displayed the ghost. Old Dick 
nearly jumped out of his skin, exclaiming: — 

** Ay, that's him, sure enough." 

The ghost was nothing more than an 
enormous deer hound, and the highest dog I 
ever met. I had seen him once with his master, 
a farmer who lived on Hyde Heath Common, 
and, on that occasion, the dog caught a rabbit 
As he was never kept on the chain he became 
a confirmed poacher, so I was not at all sorry 
for what I had done. 

We took the body up to Bishop's Hill gorse, 
that night, and put him in a pit in the gorse ; 
and there his bones are now, or rather, the bone 
dust, for it is more than fifty years ago. Dick 
read the burial service over him, and recited a 
poem of his own composition, over the grave. 


The elegy ran something like this : — 

" As you appeared from out the Den of Devil's Wood, 

" And as you scared me often by the Devil's Den, 
" We lay you here in Bishop's Dell, for good, 

" To scare me no more, for ever. Amen, amen.'* 

At the end of each line old Dick struck the 
ghost a vicious blow with his stick, and wound 
up with a series of blows, at the end of the 
ceremony. There was an end of Dick's ghost, 
and I never heard any more about it until one 
evening when father and I were in the ** Red 
Cow" public house. Then the owner of the 
dog came in, and I heard father, in the course 
of conversation with him, ask what he had 
done with the deer hound, as he had not seen 
him since he had poached the rabbit by the 

*'No," replied the farmer, ** I sent him to 
my brother in Norfolk." 

Father and I, on hearing this, looked at each 
other, but neither said anything. 

Dick Lovering was not a very old man, 
having enlisted in the army at the age of 
seventeen, and served twenty one years. After 
being at home for two years, he took the under- 


keeper's place, being then just in his prime and 
full strength, and a very strong man he was. 
When he developed his bad leg he went to the 
Hemel Hempstead Infirmary, and Sir Astley 
Cooper cured him, so, when I went into 
Wiltshire, he came under my father again. 
Although his leg was cured he was not much 
good for anything except light work, such as 
pruning young Scotch Firs, and Birch, and 
** looking out," occasionally. So after a little 
while, as I have before stated, he took a public 
house at Hyde Heath. 

Old Dick had a great many good qualities ; 
he would call you at any time of the night you 
liked, as true as the clock, and you could always 
depend — and so could the poachers — on him to 
be at his post at any hour of the day or night. 
"Military time" with old Dick, always, 
punctual to the tick, and his appearance was 
something, for he was a great big man, and 
looked an awkward customer to tackle. I think 
I have delicately hinted, before, that he was not 
over endowed with pluck, otherwise he would 
have been foremost in every poaching fray. 


All he wanted was * civility,' and I am afraid 
poachers leave that at home when they are 
after your game. 



T HAVE before mentioned Harry Wright, 
-*- and told you how he weathered old Dick, 
and the whole bench of magistrates, with his 
sandy rabbit trick. Master Harry used to go 
about the place bragging that no one could 
catch him ; he met me in a public house, once, 
and taunted me to my face that I had not 
brains enough to take him. He said, moreover, 
that if ever I did he would be the death of me, 
but this was all mere idle talk, and so I told 
him at the time. Nevertheless, he was a very 


artful man, and a most determined poacher, 
and had given us a great deal of trouble, but 
there, as I said before, anyone could get away 
from old Dick. 

Poaching, if pursued systematically and 
cleverly, is a good paying game, especially in 
the nesting season. There are always plenty 
of receivers of poached game and eggs, who 
give a fair price, and manage their business in 
such a manner that, although you can swear 
positively that the game and eggs came from 
your beat or wood, yet you cannot lay hold of 
them. The only way to catch a poacher is to 
take him red-handed. In the locality where I 
was under- keeper, there were paths (rights of 
way) running alongside the woods, and some- 
times through them, and these rendered it 
doubly difficult to catch poachers, in such a 
manner as to lead to a conviction. It is of no 
use to search a man on one of these paths, 
unless you have actually seen him use that 
path for trespassing in pursuit of game ; 
otherwise you search him at your own risk. 
You can summon him if you see him leave the 


path and go into the wood, or if you can catch 
him red-handed, that is, in the act of taking 
game, or with game about his person. The 
great thing is to make your * catch ' a certainty; 
a rhan may, whilst on the path, look at snares, 
but, although you know that he is a poacher, 
you cannot get him convicted unless you have 
actually seen him handling the snares. Then, 
again, you must know the man, and be sure of 
his name ; if there be any doubt as to his name 
or actions, the benefit of it will not be on your 

Now Harry Wright had a most artful way of 
going to work. He used to take his father's 
maid servant, and a man called George Harding, 
out with him, and, when he was on the poach, 
George used to walk thirty or forty yards 
behind, and the maid servant some way in front, 
so as to guard him both ways. If any of us 
came across him he had plenty of warning 
from one or other of the guards. This George 
Harding was a brother of Dabber's, and a 
basket maker by trade, and, although he lived 
near the mill, he had nothing to do with it. The 


girl was engaged to be married to Wright, and 
was almost as artful as he ; she usually carried 
some flowers in her hand, and sometimes she 
would take a blackbird's nest with the eggs in 
it, or even the young birds. Thus it was a 
difficult thing to catch Harry, as he always 
made the excuse, if you came upon him search- 
ing for pheasant eggs among the briars, that he 
was only gathering flowers for his sweetheart, 
or else he was after a blackbird or thrush's nest, 
or a bullfinch to cross with his canary. Harry 
always did all the poaching himself, but some- 
times the maid assisted him in looking for 
pheasant's eggs, in this way. Getting into a 
patch where a lot of flowers were growing, she 
would walk about, and pick one here, and 
another there, all the time keeping a sharp 
look out for both pheasant and partridge nests. 
She used to break a bough in the hedge, where 
a nest was, and then Harry would go down, 
guided by the broken bough, and take the eggs. 
If you came upon her, of course she was only 
looking for a bird's nest ; true, so far, but the 
nest was a partridge's or pheasant's nest. 


When 1 learned that Master Harry was in 
the habit of taking our game and eggs, and 
that he humbugged the magistrates, and defied 
me, I determined to put a stopper on his little 
games ; he had done Old Dick, but he 
shouldn't do me. So I kept a sharp look out, 
and, at the same time, considered the matter 
carefully, but after a deal of thinking it over 
the solution of the difficulty came quite by 

Keepers if they use a little bait, can make 
some very useful and sworn * pals/ Now I 
had a pal named William Cox, who lived at 
Amersham Common, and for whom I had, 
some time previously, done a service which 
converted him from an enemy into a sworn 
friend. His home was at the corner of 
Coppeyson's Lane that led to Weedon Hill 
Road, and Hyde Heath Common. Well, Cox 
told me that Harry Wright, the miller, had 
asked him to look out when he was at work on 
Mr. Ware's farm for any nests or leverets in 
the wheat fields. Harry had offered to give 
him a shilling for each leveret and nest he 


found. Cox was not to run any risks, all he 
had to do was to bend down a bough just over 
every nest he found, and tell Harry whether it 
was hazel, maple, crab, or hornbeam. So 
Wright was, afterwards, to go and take the nest, 
and Cox would have nothing to do with the 
matter to all appearances. 

*' Well, mate," said I, after Cox had told me 
all this. *' We can manage for you to get a 
bob out of him, I think." 

** How, so/' said Cox. 

''Oh, I'll manage that all right if you'll 
follow my instructions." Cox promised that 
he would, so I continued : — ** Now I know of a 
pheasant's nest in Odd's Wood, about ten or 
twelve yards from the common. You say he 
has made an appointment with you for after 
breakfast, on Sunday morning, and said : — * all 
the nests you find tell me of, and I'll pay you 
for them ; you can earn ten shillings or so if 
you only keep your eyes open.' Is that all 
Wright said?" 

"Yes, and enough, too, ain't it, John ?" said 
Cox, looking up from his work with a grin. 


** Now, look you here, Cox," I continued. 
" You meet me on Saturday night, at the end 
of Old Beech Lane, and I'll show you the nest 
I spoke of." This was the Thursday. 

** Agreed," said he. '* I'll be there at a 
quarter before eight." 

I left him, mightily pleased and much amused, 
for I may as well mention here that that portion 
of the wood never contained a single pheasant's 
nest, the pheasants invariably nesting in the 
lower woods. Notwithstanding this, I saw, in 
my mind's eye, a nice little clump of briar, not 
too thick, and a neatly made nest containing a 
dozen eggs, underneath. I had not only to 
make the nest, but also to lay the eggs, myself. 
Father knew all the nests as well as I did, and 
was very particular in counting the eggs, so I 
had to take one here and another there, and 
then I could only make up four or five, so I 
made shift for the rest with rotten eggs. Then 
I put them all into the nest with a good hand- 
ful of pheasant's feathers, and arranged feathers 
and eggs to look as much like the real thing as 
possible, and very real it looked. ** Now 


Harry, my boy/' said I to myself, said I. ** If 
you'll only come to take that nest, with your 
sweetheart and Harding", you're welcome." 

True to his promise Cox met me, on the 
Saturday night, at Beech Lane, and I took him 
into Odd's Wood and showed him the nest. 
He then went outside the wood to the common, 
and broke a twig in the hedge, leaving it 
hanging down half broken. 

" Now, Cox," said I. '' Mind you don't 
come inside the wood to show him the nest." 
He grinned, and winked, and left. 

The next morning I lay hid near the nest, 
pretty early, and about eight o'clock Harry and 
his two help mates arrived with my pal. Cox. 
When he reached the broken twig, Harry went 
into the wood alone, made straight for the nest, 
and collared the eggs in two grabs ; then he 
rejoined his accomplices, Cox having left 
previously. The three now walked down the 
common, for about fifty yards, till they came 
to a gate, in a footpath that led through Odd's 
Wood, by Hangman's Dell, to Foxe's Mill and 
Chesham. This footpath cuts the corner of the 


wood, and leads straight to the place where I 
was concealed, so I went to meet them. 

*' Good morning, John," says Harry, as soon 
as he sees me. 

*' Good morning, Harry," says I, politely. 

** I was just remarking," says Harry, ** What 
a pity it is to cut down such nice, young oak 
timber, just growing into money." Whereat 
his two companions burst out laughing, think- 
ing, no doubt, how nicely he was smoothing 
me over. 

"You seem amused, my dear," he went on^ 
pleasantly, addressing the maid, who had a nest 
full of eggs in her hands. ** She is so fond of 
bird's eggs, John." This to me, of course. 
They all laughed again at this, and I, nothing 
loth, joined in. When I thought that they had 
laughed enough, at my expense, I stepped up to 
Harry, who was still on the grin, and said : — 

*'Yes, and so are you fond of bird's eggs, 
aren't you? " 

In a moment his countenance changed, and 
the grin grew ghastly, as he angrily asked what 
I meant. 


** I mean," said I, ** That pocketful of 
pheasant's eggs you took from that clump of 
briars up yonder." And before he knew what 
I was up to, I struck his pockets with the flat of 
my hand, and smash went the rotten eggs !' 
At this he began cursing and swearing, but I 
merely remarked : — **Good morning, Harry.**" 
Then, turning to the other two, I observed : — 
*' You won't be so fast to laugh at John Wilkin s- 
another time, perhaps." 

Thereupon I left them, I indulging in a little 
mirth on my own account, but you should have- 
seen the change that came over their 
countenances! They had been chuckling to 
think how nicely Harry was smoothing me 
down, when they suddenly discovered that I 
had seen him take the eggs, and saw me 
convict him before their very eyes. I went 
home, and told father that I had caught Harry 
Wright taking a pheasant's nest in Odd's Wood^ 
when he said : — 

** Odd's Wood ? why I didn't think there was. 
such a thing as a pheasant's nest there." 

** No, father," said I. " I daresay not but it'a 



not far from Beech Wood and one may have 
strayed up Old Beech Lane to Odd's Wood." 

** Yes," replied he, drily. ** That must have 
been it I suppose." 

I had a bit of a snack, and then went oft 
again. Some two hours later I met father in 
Boxhill plantation, and he said : — 

** There's a pretty 'to do ' about your 
catching Harry Wright." 

*'Howso?" I asked. 

** Why, Mr. Fuller has just been up to me 
about it, and told me that Harry had visited 

*' Well," said I. '' And what of that ? " 

" He told Mr. Fuller that you had taken him 

'' How ? " I asked, assuming surprise. 

** He told Mr. Fuller that you had made a 
nest in Odd's Wood, which some chap told 
him of, and he was tempted to take it, whilst you 
were concealed, watching him all the time." 

I looked father straight in the face and 
laughed heartily, saying : — " Another * sandy 
rabbit' tale, but it won't wash this time, he 


should remember that he hasn't got Old Dick 
to deal with now, and so he'll find out, I can 
tell you." 

'* That's just what Mr. Fuller told Harry," 
said my father, also laughing. '' But Harry 
said that you had made this nest to take him 
in, and that he could prove it. 

*'Do so," said Mr. Fuller. So Harry offs with 
coat, and turned out his pockets, exclaiming : — 

" Look, sir, rotten eggs ! you see for your- 
self, sir; pheasants don't lay good and rotten 
eggs in the same nest." 

'' No," says Mr. Fuller. ** That's quite true, 
they do not!" 

'' Well, sir," says Wright. *' You see it's a 
take in, don't you." 

'' Not a bit of it," says Mr. Fuller. ** You 
keep a lot of fowls, and ducks, and sandy 
rabbits ! it's very easy for you to go straight 
home, take a rotten egg out of your hen's nest, 
break it in your pocket, and then come here 
and show it to me. Just as easy as shooting a 
tame sandy rabbit, and bringing it before the 
magistrates, eh, Wright ? Another of your 


dodges ! I don't believe a word of your tale." 

**But see, sir," says Wright. ** Here are 
the bits of shell belonging to the rotten eggs." 

** I don't believe a word you say, Wright," 
persisted Mr. Fuller. ** It's only another of 
your sandy rabbit tricks. John would not have 
been so sharp as to put rotten eggs into a nest.'^ 

So, off went Mr. Fuller, leaving Harry 

Before Mr. Fuller could summon him, Wright 
sloped off to London and got into the City 
Police. He could not put up with the neigh- 
bours' chaff, such as : — 

** Hov/ about those rotten eggs, Harry? did 
young Jack give you a Sunday breakfast off 
rotten eggs ? how did your sweetheart and 
Harding like the breakfast, Harry ? " 

So Harry made a bolt of it. 

Harding didn't hear the last of it for some 
time, being often asked how he liked his 
Sunday treat of rotten eggs that * young 
Lukey ' treated him to. My real name is John, 
but father's name being Luke, people often 
called me * young Lukey.' 


Wright had paid Cox a shilling * for being 
trapped,' he said, for he told Mr. Fuller it was 
a trap, set by me and Cox, to catch him. 

** Well," said Mr. Fuller. "Trap or no trap, 
you are caught, it appears. You've set many traps 
and now you are caught in one yourself" 

Mr. Fuller never asked me whether I had 
trapped Wright or not, so he did not know if 
Harry's tale was a * sandy rabbit' one, for 
certain. Father always spoke to me as if I had 
trapped Harry, but I did not want to split on 
Cox, so never admitted it ; if I had, it would 
have been known that Cox was in the swim 
with me. Thus it was never clearly understood 
how Harr}^ had been caught ; some thought I 
trapped him, others believed it to be ' a tale of 
cock and bull ' on Harry's part. Some said it 
was a shame if I had trapped him, others said 
it served him Wright (more of my humour) as 
they had heard him tell me I had not brains 
enough to catch him, and, if ever I did, he 
would be the death of me. This was quite 
true, as I have before related, but I presume he 
did not mean it, when he said it, since here I 
am, fifty years after, alive and well. 



I HAVE previously stated that old Dick took 
a public house, but his first venture as a 
publican was not such a great success as it 
might have been, as I will show. 

About twelve months after the ' ' rotten e o^2:s " 
episode, three strangers came prowling around 
Chesham, Hyde Heath, and the neighbourhood, 
passing bad money. They did it very cleverly 
and systematically, and deluged the place 
with bad half-crowns before they left, which 
latter operation they deferred rather too long, 
as I will explain. Amongst others places they 



visited old Dick's pub, and there passed a 
quantity of bad coins. 

One morning, when I was in the yard clear- 
ing out the dog kennels, I saw two men on 
Suthrey's Hill — Mr. Lownde's land — chasing 
three other men. I knew the two men well ; 
one was Squire Lownde's shepherd, and the 
other was Sam Smith, the under constable. Sam 
Smith called out to me, at the same time 
pointing to the three men who were running 
away, and off I went, full speed. My father 
caught sight of me, and shouted, but I pre- 
tended not to hear, and kept on. By the time 
I reached the two men they were breathless, 
and gaspingly informed me that the three men 
they were pursuing were those who had been 
palming off bad money all over the place. 
They had run them from within a mile of 
Chesham, up to the Devil's Den Wood. 

I joined in the chase, but, as the other two 
were dead beat, they asked me to stop 'till they 
recovered their breath. Under the circum- 
stances I thought we had better turn back, and 
pretend to give up the pursuit as hopeless. 


We did so, taking care that the other men 
should see us walking away from them, as if 
we did not mean to follow any longer. So they 
went on towards the Den, whilst we pretended 
to go back to Chesham. 

This ruse succeeded splendidly. I knew 
every hedge, tree, stick, ditch, lane and path 
about the place, and being well aware that the 
men would have to go down a narrow, zigzag 
lane used as a farm track for carting, I led my 
companions down a short cut, by a large quick- 
set hedge, to an elbow in the lane. Peeping 
through the hedge we saw our three gentlemen 
coming leisurely down the lane, evidently 
thinking that the pursuit was over. When 
they were within twenty or thirty yards of us, 
we all sprang over the hedge. I was told off 
to spot a man dressed in a pilot coat, and 
wearing his black curly hair very long, like a 
girl's. I got up to them in a twinkling, and 
not troubling about the other two men, who 
immediately jumped over the hedge, I made 
for the pilot-coated man. He ran up the lane 
and I laughed to myself as I gradually over- 


hauled him. Soon, however, I was laughing 
the wrong side of the mouth, for, stopping a 
second, he whipped off his slippers or low shoes 
and then ran from me just like a greyhound. 
I never saw a man run so fast, he simply flew 
up the lane to the Devil's Den, as if I were 
standing still. After he had disappeared and 
I was standing still staring helplesly at nothing, 
the shepherd and constable came up. "Well, 
have you got him ? where is he ?" they asked. 
*'I should be very much obliged if you could 
tell me," said I, " for I have clean lost him. 
But where's your two ? " " Oh ! they were over 
the hedge and across the field, before we could 
look round." Whilst we were talking we spied 
two of the men, a quarter of a mile away, on 
the other side of the hill, waiting for the man 
in the pilot coat, w^ho was walking leisurely up 
to join them. They all three stood still looking 
at us, taking off their hats, and beckoning 
us to come on. We beckoned them to come 
to us, but they evinced no disposition to 
do so, and we then gave them a parting 
salute of a satirical nature, which they returned ; 


after which we made off in the direction of 

As soon as we were out of sight of the men, 
Smith, the constable, and myself turned back 
again after them ; the shepherd, however, left 
us and went on to Chesham and reported the 
matter, stating that we were still in pursuit, 
going towards Ashbridge or Cholsburg Com- 
mon. This news caused about twelve or fifteen 
young tradesmen, who had been fleeced by the 
coiners, to come out and follow in the chase. 

We first sighted our men near Ashbridge, or 
Chartridge Village. Smith and I went into the 
public house, and there we heard that the three 
men had just gone by, so I pulled off my heavy 
keeper's jacket and necktie, to lighten myself 
as much as possible, preparatory to another 
chase. Then I put on a sleeve waistcoat, which 
I borrowed from the landlady, and gave my 
watch into her keeping. 

We then left the public house, and had not 
got very far out of the village, when I saw all 
three men going down a footpath leading out 
of the village, off the high road. This footpath 


was a right of way, alongside a large, thick-set 
hedge. I pointed out the men to Smith, and 
bade him follow me quietly ; then I turned 
down the other side of the hedge. They had 
not seen us so far, so, running noiselessly down 
till we got about opposite to them, we then 
crept along our side of the hedge, until we 
came to a gate which led through the hedge to 
the footpath. I jumped over this gate right in 
front of them, whereupon they immediately 
made off, I after them. 

It had been agreed between Smith and my- 
self that I should not lose another chance by 
spotting a particular man, but should collar the 
first one I got near. With me was a black- 
smith, who had joined us, and Smith was close 
behind with the darbies. I collared the first 
man, and Smith handcuffed him, after which I 
gave chase to the others. By this time, how- 
ever, they had poached a good start, but I had 
not run many hundred yards before I reached 
the pilot-coated man. He begged, he cried, 
he fell on his knees, and entreated me to let 
him go. Up came Smith with his prisoner, 


and secured the 'Flying Dutchman' as I 
facetiously dubbed the man with pilot-coat. 
'* Go on Jack," roared Smith excitedly, *' Let's 
have all three, and make a job of it. We'll be 
after you.'' 

Off I went after the third man, who was a 
horse dealer, and very strong and tall. He 
had about two hundred yards' start and was 
running well, so that I had to run quite six 
hundred yards before I caught up to him ; then 
I pinned him up in a corner close to a wood. 
He had a large crab stick, a twitchel used for 
holding horses, in one hand, and a stone in the 
other, and he pleasantly swore that he would 
smash my teeth with his stick, and split my 
skull with the stone. He emphasized his re- 
marks by a series of prods with the stick, by 
which means he kept me off. I had no weapon 
of any kind, but I kept him there for some time, 
hoping, every moment, that Smith would arrive, 
but 'nary a Smith appeared. Now, as this man 
stood about five feet eleven, and w^eighcd about 
fifteen stone, and was well armed, and as, more- 
over, I then weighed only a little over eight 


Stone, and was not armed at all, he got away 
before help came, and I had nothing for it but 
to hark back. I soon met with Smith, and a 
farmer named Clare, who was on horseback, 
and we all three returned to the wood, which 
we carefully searched. We failed to find any- 
thing, and so went back to the public house 
where I had left my things. It seemed that, 
after I had started in pursuit of the third man, 
Smith took his prisoners back towards the pub- 
lic house. Meeting Mr. Clare on the way he 
explained matters to him, and the latter then 
ordered his men to take charge of the coiners 
whilst he himself went with Smith to my assis- 

When we reached the public house we 
found there a lot of young tradesmen, who had 
turned out in pursuit of the coiners, as I have 
before mentioned. They were very mighty in 
their conversation, saying what they would 
have done, or would do ; what they actually 
did was — nothing. I never found gas of much 
use in a row ; very few gassy men show up well 
in a rough and tumble. These young trades- 


men, however, had all been cheated by the 
coiners. ~ 

After partaking of refreshment we all set out 
for Chesham. Som e of the shopkeepers wanted 
Smith to take the darbies off the 'Flying 
Dutchman,' give him twenty yards start, and 
let him race me. Smith declined, sententiously 
observing that they'd already had enough 
trouble to catch them, and, being a constable, 
there was nothing in his indentures that war- 
ranted him in releasing a prisoner, before 
handing him over to the proper authorities. So 
we marched into Chesham with two out of the 
three coiners. The town was all up in arms ; 
it was like a fair. Nearly every shopman came 
out to his door to greet us, and some offered us 
drink, and some gave us money ; every one was 
wild with excitement over our capture. 

After seeing the coiners safely in the lock-up, 
we all agreed to go up to old Dick's place, and 
•spend the day playing skittles. As we were 
passing by the Queen's Head, the last public 
house in Chesham, out ran Harry Wright, and 
says he : — '■ Come in and have a glass, Jack ; 


you've put six or seven shillings in my pocket, 
already; this morning. I was told that Lukey 
had gone after those chaps. ' Is it young or 
old Lukey,' says I. ' Young Lukey,' says they. 
* Then ' says I^ * I'll bet a sovereign they'll bring 
back two out of the three ; young Lukey runs 
like a hare, and springs like a tiger, there's no 
getting away from him. He'll catch two out 
of the three, and so you have. Jack, and here's 
my hand, old man ; and we'll forget old scores,' 
and wipe every thing off w^ith a glass of grog." 

Then we all turned into the Queen's Head 
for a few minutes, and Harry and I wiped out 
all ill-feeling, over a glass. He told me he 
was getting on very well in the police, and had 
just run down for a few days' holiday. 

After this we went off to old Dick's, to tell 
him the news, for these three men had played 
*^ Jack's alive " at his house pretty frequently. 
Every time they went there they had called for 
beer, and tendered a half-crown in payment, so 
that poor old Dick had a good store of bad 
coins. As we passed our house, father came 
out and called me aside. He asked me not to 


go on with the rest, as he said they were up 
for a spree. " Besides," he added, '* Harry 
Wright is with them, and he might think about 
the rotten eggs job, you know, John." 

** Oh, he's all right with me now father," 
said I. '^ We've made all that up over a glass 
at the Queen's Head." "Ay ay," persisted 
my father, " That may be very well, but 
Harry's a quarrelsome fellow, and when the 
wine's in, the wit's out ; so don't you go, John." 

Much against my inclinations, I determined 
to take my father's advice, so, going out to the 
others, I made some sort of excuse to get out 
of it. I said that Mr. Fuller wanted me, or 
something of that sort, and they left, on my 
making a half promise that I would look them 
up later on. I did not do this, and, curiously 
enough, I have never since seen Harry Wright 
from that day to this. 

The third coiner was soon * nobbled,' and 
the three were sent to Aylesbury for trial. 
Smith, Lovering, myself, and others gave evi- 
dence against them, and they were convicted ; 
the horse dealer man got six months ' and hard/ 


the Other two, four months each. These latter 
laid all the blame on their companion ; they 
both said that he had sent them into shops to 
buy small-priced things, such as an ounce of 
tobacco, and had given them these half crowns 
to pay with, they not knowing that the money 
was bad. They were all three strangers to each 
other, so they said, and on the tramp in search 
of work. The pilot-coated man said that he 
was a journeyman-blacksmith on his way to 
London, that he fell in with the horse dealer 
and his van, and that they then made an agree- 
ment whereby the former was to assist him 
with his van and horses, the horse dealer, in 
return, providing board and lodging, free of 
cost. He knew nothing of the bad money, but, 
in cross-examination, admitted having sus- 
picions about it, because of the changing it at 
so many places. 

I was in court the whole time, and paid strict 
attention to the evidence, and at first, I thought 
that there was just a possibility that these two 
men had been taken in by the horse dealer. 
But undoubtedly they found him out after 



awhile, and still continued to pass the money 
for him, probably sharing the proceeds, so that 
they were really just as bad as he. Birds of a 
feather flock together, and I would have 
punished them more severely if possible. 



AFTER the capture of the coiners, as Wright 
was done for, we had no more trouble with 
poachers for some time. The defeat of Wright, 
who was a ruling spirit amongst these gentry, 
seemed to have discouraged them. So I only 
remained under-keeper to Mr. Fuller for a 
short time, as I was offered a berth as head- 
keeper to General Popham, at Littlecote, 
Chilton House, Chilton FfoUiot, Wilts ; I took 
it. Afterwards I went as keeper for the Rev. 
Henry Fowle, of Chute Lodge, near Andover, 
Hants. This was in the year 1840, and his 


father and mother were living at Chute Lodge 
then, but they both soon died, and after that I 
went back again to Chilton House. A Major 
Symons had taken it, and the shooting attached. 
Whilst I was there I caught some nine or ten 
poachers, but I will only relate the circum- 
stances of one capture, as it began in a rather 
desperate affray, and ended in a ludicrous one. 
(Ex uno dtsce omnes. — Eds. J 

An oldish man, of the name of Alexander^ 
lived at Littlecote ; he was a confirmed poacher 
both of game and fish, and as cunning as they 
make 'em. He was most daring too, and no- 
body could catch him, although he had often 
been known to visit his snares and traps in open 
day, under a keeper's very nose, and yet had 
not been nobbled, j^ll this Tom Pounds, the 
General's river and fish keeper, told me, adding 
that Alexander was also very strong and deter- 

All my life, I have only gone one way to 
work to catch poachers, and I believe it is the 
only safe way ; I always do all the watching 
myself, and never entrust it to anyone else. It 



is of no use to trust to anything you hear about 
an infallible method of catching poachers in all 
countries. Where poaching has been exten- 
sively and successfully carried on, the keepers 
have no one to thank for it but themselves. 
When keepers fall into a slack way of doing 
their duties, either through wilful neglect or 
incapacity, all the idle hands in the neighbour- 
hood soon get to know it, and poaching, which 
always offers strong temptations to the idle and 
lazy, is carried on with more or less success ; 
then, when a new keeper comes on the scene, 
and finds such a state of affairs, his position is 
not an agreeable one. 

Before I had been at Chilton House a week 
I discovered the old signs, a hedge set with 
snares, in a small spring called Oaken Copse. 
I watched these snares all day, in company 
with Tom Pounds, and at last he said : — " I 
think they've got wind as there's a new keeper 
on, and that's why they won't come. Suppose 
you go into Ramsbury and have half a pint of 
beer ; take care to show yourself as you walk 
away, and remain for an hour or so, whilst I 


Stop here and watch. If they see you going 
off, on the road to Rarasbury, they'll think 
that now is their chance, and so 1 shall catch 

Pounds thought that these snares were set 
by Alexander, and, as he seemed most anxious 
to catch him, I did as he suggested. Alexander 
had; it seemed, caused Tom a lot of trouble by 
laying night lines for trout in the streams. 

When I had gone, a heavy shower of rain 
came on, which caused Pounds to leave his 
hiding place and take shelter behind some large 
trees further in the copse. After the storm 
had passed he went back to the snares, and 
found them gone. 

Tom Pounds told me, on my return, that the 
poacher had come and removed the snares 
during the storm. We agreed to meet at the 
same place early next morning, and then 
Pounds left. 

When he had gone I walked across to the 
hedge, as I suspected he had been played an old 
poaching trick. It turned out that he had, for 
I found that the snares had not been removed 


altogether ; they had merely been run down 
and concealed in the grass,«ready for re-setting 
at a moment's notice. " Ah ! " said I to my- 
self, " I think ril assist at the next setting of 
this lot." 

This is a common trick with poachers, and 
often takes in a keeper who is not up to his 
work. A snaring poacher invariably sets his 
snares in as secret a way as possible, and al- 
ways in the best hedgerows for taking ; he finds 
these out by observation when he is at work in 
the fields. A hare or rabbit will always take 
the same run through a hedge, or into a wood; 
out of innumerable small runs it will invariably 
choose its own main run. It is a wonderful 
thing, but each run or road is exclusively the 
property of the family who first made it. When 
a hare or rabbit is ^ started ' it makes for its own 
run, and if driven by fear into one that does 
not belong to it, the effect is at once shown by 
a marked decrease in speed. A labourer at 
work in a field observes this, and can swear to 
the particular point at which a bare or rabbit, 
started from any given part of the field, will 


enter a wood, even if that wood be half a mile 
oif. But I digress. 

The snares, as I have before remarked, had 
been * run down.' Instead of being set, they 
had been taken out of the split stick, and run 
out of the loop, the whole wire being then 
hidden in the long grass. A wire can be easily 
concealed, but, if a snare is pulled up, there is 
bound to be a mess, which soon attracts the eye. 
Pounds was to meet me next morning at 
Oaken Copse, and not before, so I lighted my 
pipe and sauntered out into the open, where 
I could be easily seen by anyone on the watch. 
After hanging about for half an hour or so, I 
deliberately turned my back on the copse, and 
went off in the opposite direction. I had made 
up my mind to follow my old methods, and, if 
possible, to catch the poacher red handed ; so 
I thought I would give him every opportunity 
of resetting the snares, and this is why I pre- 
tended to go away. In case anyone was 
watching me, he would conclude that the snares 
had not been discovered, as they were not 
taken up, and my reasoning proved correct, 


for, on arriving there early next morning, I 
found the snares all reset. 

Pounds did not turn up, nor did anyone else, 
but I watched them all day until dusk, when, 
it being Sunday, I knocked off, intending to 
return before daybreak next morning. 

When I arrived next morning it was, of course, 
dark, but I just managed to make out some- 
thing in one of the snares, which afterwards 
turned out to be a leveret, still alive, about the 
size of a full grown rabbit. I had been watch- 
ing only a little while, and day was beginning 
to break, when I saw a man creep through the 
hedge and proceed to examine the snares. 
When he discovered the leveret he glanced 
cautiously all around, then removed it from the 
wire still alive, and put it in his pocket. The 
animal gave a kick, and jumped out of one 
side of his smock frock, but, being half dead, 
it travelled slowly, so he fell on his hands and 
knees and crawled after it. Before he could 
reach it, I sprang forward, and caught him by 
the collar, the leveret escaping. 

We had a sharp tussle for some time ; he 


managed to get up off the ground, and as I 
held him with my left hand only, he got hold 
of my gun, which I held in my right. Seizing 
the stock with one hand and the barrel with 
the other, he gave a twist and wrenched it 
away from me. Letting go of his collar, I 
immediately seized the gun and we strug- 
gled together to obtain possession of it ; 
sometimes he got it away from me for a few 
seconds, and then I would recapture it again, 
and had it all to myself for a while ; then we 
both had hold of it, and so the fight went on 
until at last I got it fairly aw^ayfrom him, when 
he ran at me to knock me down, I struck out 
at him with my gun, aiming at his head, but he 
put up his hand and warded off the blow ; then 
clenching both hands round the weapon he 
backed me against a stub, which manoeuvre had 
the effect of nearly upsetting me. Seeing me 
totter he made a rush at me to pin me down, 
so I clubbed my weapon, and struck at him with 
the butt end. He dodged the blow and caught 
hold of the butt, so that I was left half on 
the ground, clutching the barrels, and as these 


were wet and slippery he soon got the gun 
away from me. 

We had now been at it about ten minutes, 
and were both pretty well blown, still I had 
plenty of fight in me. I sprang to my feet and 
seeing that he was feeling for a knife, kept on 
twisting him round so that he could not get 
at it. I had nothing to defend myself, or attack 
him with now, and as fast as I approached him 
he kept prodding me with the gun barrel, 
and kicking at me. Cocking the gun, he shouted 
to me to stand off or he'd be the death of me, 
but, luckily, in the struggle amongst the brush 
wood, both caps had fallen off the nipples, so 
I escaped unhurt. Finding this, he clubbed 
the gun and threatened to smash my brains out. 
I was very much nettled, for although I could 
see that he hadn't much more fight left in him, 
he had the gun, so what could I do ? He was 
much bigger and stronger than I, and weighed 
I should say, over fourteen stone, whilst I only 
weighed between eight and nine stone ; but 
what I lacked in strength and weight I made 
up for in youth and toughness^ for he must have 


been considerably over forty at the time. I, 
therefore, had to leave him in possession 
of the field, with my gun, I having no weapon 
available, not even a stone ; had there been any 
handy I believe I should have used them, 
sooner than be beaten. I told him this and that I 
knew his name was Alexander, and so, re- 
luctantly, departed, going right up into the 

After a few minutes I met a man called 
Hobbs, who was just beginning his work of 
hedging ; I told him the story and he returned 
with me to the scene of my late encounter, 
taking with him a stout sapling. Alexander 
was gone, but Hobbs found my gun about 
twenty yards away from the place where we had 

Alexander absconded, but a warrant was 
issued, and five pounds reward was offered for 
his apprehension, and he was taken, about five 
or six months afterwards, on the rail-road at 
Swindon. He was brought to Chilton, and 
sent to Marlborough for trial. He was 

charged with " attempting to kill or do some 


grievous bodily harm." He employed Counsel 
to defend him, and this Counsel was a very 
smart man ; I myself saw and heard him get 
two men off for stealing corn out of an 
allotment ground, and also two men who had 
stolen some cheese. All these cases were as 
clear as the daylight, and it was only through 
the slovenly police evidence, and the smartness 
of the defending lawyer, that the accused men 
got off. On the strength of these cases Alex- 
ander employed this Counsel, whose name was 

When our case came on all the witnesses 
were ordered out of court. I was called first, 
and when I stood in the witness box, Mr, Ball 
was just at my side, and before he began to 
cross-examine me, he stuck an eyeglass, about 
the size of a policeman's bull's-eye, in his eye. 
Then he took it down, and then put it up again, 
and so on ; every time he put up his eyeglass he 
settled his tie and gave vent to an expressive : — 
"Ahem!" After he had been playing these 
games some little time I thought I would follow 
suit, so I "speered " up to him and ruffling up 


my hair with my right hand — which was another 
favourite trick of his — I remarked : — ^* Ahem! ' 
just as I had heard him do. Hereupon every- 
one in court burst out laughing, judge and jury 
with the rest, and some one called out : — " The 
little bantam against the old turkey cock." 

Counsellor Ball was a big heavy man of 
fifteen or sixteen stone, whereas I am very 
short and light, so, as compared with him, I 
must have looked very much like a bantam 
cock, in point of size. I may add that I felt 
very much like that bird, for I never could stand 
bullying of any kind. 

Well, after silence was restored, I was 
ordered to state the case. Now I never could 
relate the simplest thing without a certain 
amount of acting. In my opinion, if a story is 
worth telling at all it is worth teUing properly, 
and a little acting should therefore be introduced 
into it. So I had not been in the witness box 
two minutes before I was carried away with 
the thoughts of my recent struggle, and lived 
over again, in imagination, every single incident 
of that adventure. I was on my hands and 


knees in the court, and a police officer to 
impersonate Alexander. Then I was supplied 
with a stick to take the place of the gun, and so 
went to work. 

I put the policeman in the exact position of 
Alexander, on his hands and knees, with his 
back towards me, as if taking the leveret out 
of the snare. Then I crept up behind him, 
with the stick in my left hand, and seized him 
by the collar. 

I should mention here that this police officer 
was a very intelligent young man, and, having 
listened attentively to my account of the fray, 
he entered into the spirit of the thing most 
heartily. The moment my hand was on his 
collar he rounded on me, and caught hold of 
the stick. I instantly forgot all about acting, 
the court, and everything else ; all I knew was 
that I had met a man of my own calibre. At 
it we went, up and down the place, for about 
five minutes, the whole court roaring with 
laughter. Robert was an active young man, 
and gave me quite as much trouble as Alex- 
ander had done. How it might have ended I 


do not know, for first he got the stick, and 
then I did and so it went on, until something 
happened w^hich brought our pantomime to a 
premature close. 

Whether it had been placed there purposely 
or not I can't say, but, about the spot where 
I had said the alder stump would be, was a 
low gangway, board, or partition, not much 
higher than one's knee. In our last rally, when 
I had fairly got the gun to myself, my 
antagonist backed me up against this door ; 
feeling myself going, I loosed hold of the stick 
suddenly. The effect w^as that I tumbled head 
over heels over the partition squash into a 
couple of fat, old Counsellors, who were 
vigorously taking notes. I fell head down- 
wards, and, the board being so low, my legs 
were left sticking up in the air, whilst the court 
house rang wiih uproarious laughter. 

As soon as I extricated myself the ushers 
were calling '^ silence," and, on order being re- 
stored. Counsellor Ball began his speech for 
the defence. He contended that it was onlv a 
case of common assault, as Alexander was an 


Utter Stranger to me, and I to him ; therefore* 
when a man, armed with a gun came up^ and 
did not announce himself as a gamekeeper, he 
(Alexander) naturally thought it was with an 
intention to shoot or rob him. Such being the 
case, it was naturally Alexander's first move 
to try and possess himself of the gun, and so pre- 
serve his life. Again, he said it was I who 
began the assault, and he laid special stress on 
the fact that I had not said anything about 
being a gamekeeper, contending that it would 
have most materially altered the case if we had 
known each other. 

The trial lasted four hours and forty minutes, 
and the jury found Alexander guilty of assault 
only ; he was sentenced to two years' imprison- 
ment in the new county goal at Devizes. 
** Thank you, my Lord," said he when he heard 
the sentence, '^I shall know where to hang 
up my hat there." I understood this remark 
when they told me that he had eaten thirteen 
Christmas dinners in gaol. 

He served his two years, and I heard that he 
went to gaol again, before he could even reack 


his home at Ramsbury. Wonderful to relate, 
after this last dose of gaol he turned over a 
new leaf, and became an honest, and even a 
pious and good man. His father, curiously- 
enough, was a Methodist preacher, whom I 
often used to hear preaching by the road side, 
at Chilton. 

Mr. Ball cross examined me pretty sharply 
at the trial, but I answered him up, and I think 
he got almost as good as he gave. There was 
no doubt in my own mind, that if the caps had 
not fallen off the gun during the struggle, I 
should either have been killed or else badly 
wounded, as there is no knowing what a man 
will do when his blood is up. I never bore 
malice, though, and if Alexander did snap the 
gun at me, I am quite willing to put it down 
as an accident, though, had the caps been on, 
the probability is that I should never have 
written this book. 

After the trial I met the policeman who had 
impersonated Alexander, outside the court, and 
complimented him on his acting, telling him 
that if he had been Alexander himself, and 


actually fighting for the gun, he could not have 
done it better. We had a friendly glass of 
beer together, and I told him that if ever he got 
tired of the force there was always a good 
opening for him as a gamekeeper. 

I heard afterwards that he had stuck to the 
force, and had been well promoted, but I have 
lost sight of him for so long now that I don't 
know whether he is still living or not. 





HITHERTO I have confined my remarks 
to reminiscences of my youthful life as a 
keeper, just jotting down events as they from 
time to time occur to my mind ; but now I have 
had a gentle reminder from my biographer to 
the following effect: — "Look here, Wilkins, 
these anecdotes are all very well, but if you 
want your book to go down with the public, 
you must not only make it interesting, but 
also instructive." 

Now, when an old man like myself is set 
down to write his life and adventures, he must 


be allowed to write it in his own way ; whether 
my way is interesting and instructive I don't 
know, but I do know that I never bargained 
for all this writing, and, if ever it appears in 
print before the public, they must take it for 
what it is worth. I am going to devote this 
chapter to dogs — sporting dogs, and the very 
words I wanted are put into my mouth — 'in- 
teresting/ and 'instructive.' 

Many keepers will tell you that there are 
several different methods of breaking in dogs, 
I myself have seen various methods tried, and 
have come to the conclusion that there is only 
one which can be successfully adopted for all 
dogs, and that is kindness, patience, and perse- 
verance. Interest your young dog, whilst you 
are instructing him. 

I intend to deal with three kinds of dogs — 
setters, pointers, and retrievers, but the same 
rules to be observed in breaking these dogs 
can (with very slight alterations) be appUed to 
all other dogs, according to what they are re- 
quired for. 

I broke my first brace of young pointers for 


the Rev. Mr. Fowle, at Chilton. My father 
shortly afterwards came down to Chilton, and 
saw these young dogs out at work. He told Mr. 
Fuller, when he got home, that he was amazed at 
my dogs, and quite ashamed of himself for 
having, some time previously, kicked me out 
of the field with a smack of the ear, telling me 
I had not got the brains of a sprat for dog- 
breaking, and he should never be able to make 
anything of me. Not only he, but many other 
people, found out their mistake in this special 
branch of a keeper's duty, for they discovered, 
as I shall explain, that to thrash a young dog 
is to spoil him, and that scores of valuable dogs 
have been destroyed as useless, simply because 
of faults that were instilled into them by gross 
ignorance and mismanagement. 

In the year 1843, 1 came to Stanstead, Essex, 
as gamekeeper to William Fuller-Maitland 
Esquire, and there I have remained ever since. 
After I had been there two years, Mr. Fuller 
was down shooting at Ereswell, near Mildon 
Hall, Suffolk, and, on his way back to Chesham, 
he called at Stanstead to shoot with Mr. 


Fuller-Maitland for a week. On his return 
to Chesham, Mr. Fuller sent for my father, and 
in the course of conversation, said : — " I have 
been shooting with your son's master, at Stan- 
stead." Then my father asked how I was 
getting on, and received a favourable reply. 
Then said my father, with a twinkle in his 
eye: — ^*Well sir, there is one thing I should 
like to ask you ; did you see any of the dogs 
he has broken ? " ^'Yes, I did," said Mr. Fuller. 
" And what did you think of them, sir ? " *' You 
shall know what I think, Luke,'* replied Mn 
Fuller. '* You shall never break another dog^ 
for me or anyone else, so long as you are in 
my service ; if ever I want another dog broken, 
I shall send it to your son John, at Stanstead.'* 

So he did, and father never broke another dog 
from that time to the day of his death. I, alone^ 
broke Mr. Fuller's pointers and setters, until 
he died ; George Rose, underkeeper to Mr» 
Fuller, may have broken a few retrievers fo 
him, but I don't think he did. 

In breaking dogs, the first thing to be con- 
sidered is the age. It is a difficult, and almost 


useless job to attempt to break a dog who has 
passed his youth, and is well into his second 
year ; dogs who are worth breaking, should be 
taken in hand when from eight to twelve months 

Let the young dog hunt at liberty over land 
where larks and partridges are plentiful, he 
will then first begin to hunt the larks, next 
turning his attention to the partridges, and, 
after this, he will know that he is hunting for 
game, and will chase the birds with delight. 

Next he must be taught to ^drop to the hand,* 
and for this you must make the following pre- 
parations. Drive a stiff peg, about the stout- 
ness of a fold- stake, into the ground, leaving 
from eight to twelve inches exposed. Then 
take a strong cord about twenty yards long 
fasten one end to the peg, and the other to the 
dog's neck, so that he cannot slip it over his 
head, but not so as to let it ^ jam ' or you will 
throttle your dog. Now take your dog up to the 
peg and tell him to ' down,' at the same time put- 
ting him flat on the ground, but he will not stay 
down for a moment after your eye is oflf him. 


After telling him authoritatively to ' down, 
start off running away from him. Immediately, 
disobeying his orders the dog gets up and runs 
after you, but when he gets to the end of the 
cord, it will throw him head over heels back- 
wards. You should run as fast as ever you 
can because, the sharper the fall the dog gets, 
the more careful he becomes, and the sooner he 
learns the lesson you wish to teach him. 

Directly the dog is thrown backwards, turn 
about, pull him back to the peg, and tell him 
to ' down,' holding up your hand as before. 
You will have to repeat the experiment of 
running away from him, again and again, for 
before the dog can be made to understand he 
will have had at least a dozen nasty falls. 
Every time you should pull him back to the 
peg again, talking seriously to him, and calling 
' down,' at the same time holding up your hand. 
Don't slur your part of the work, as it is most 
essential that the word of command should be 
accompanied by the action of the hand ; after 
a time the dog s attention being fixed upon you, 
the action of the hand will be sufficient without 


saying anything, as the dog will know what is 
meant, but in ' breaking , both must be given. 
I have frequently called dogs by their names, 
two or three hundred yards off, holding up my 
hand, when they drop immediately. 

When at last you get the dog to lay quiet 
at the peg, run away from him, run past him, 
and walk round him, for a quarter of an hour 
on end. If, during this time, he attempts to 
get up, put him down as before, holding up your 
hand and saying ' down,' and, by this means, 
he will soon learn to lay quiet at the peg 
After he will do this, you should pat him and 
encourage him, telling him to get up ; if he is a 
nervous or timid dog you had better not try him 
any more that day, but if he does not seem to 
care or be alarmed, go on with the practice 
forthwith. You must use your own judgment 
in this matter. 

The completion of the peg practice consists 
in making him ' drop ' at any given length of 
the cord, from the peg to the extreme length* 
Walk the dog round and round the peg so as 
to shorten the length of the cord, then set off 


running past the peg, until you come nearly to 
the end of the cord, and, just as he feels it 
tightening, stop short, calling out ' down ' and 
holding up your hand. Be careful not to 
throw the dog, as if he obeys you at once, it 
gives him confidence, whereas, if he is thrown, 
he does not know whether it is his fault or not. 
Keep him at this practice for three or four 
days, until he will lay quiet at the peg, or at 
any intermediate distance between it and the 
end of the cord. 

The next thing is the practice wnth the forty 
yards cord. Put a small cord, about forty yards 
long, round the neck of the dog, and hold the 
other end in your hand all the time, watching 
for a favourable opportunity to cry * down ' and 
hold up your hand ; this should be done, if 
possible, when the dog is coming straight at 
you. Now one of two things will take place — 
the dog will either drop obediently, or he will 
bolt straight for home. If the former happens, 
well and good, he has profited by instruction ; 
if the latter happens, take care to give him a 
smart fall when he gets to the end of his tether, 


then pull him back to the exact place where 
you required him to ^ down/ force him down 
there, and then resume your original position, 
making him lay there and assume the precise 
position he wished to shirk. Keep him there, 
as in the peg practice, whilst you walk round 
and round hira for some time ; then resume 
the practice, until you can trust him to drop at 
forty yards with certainty. 

When this has been accomphshed, you may 
let him run with the cord for a while, holding 
up your hand and crying * down,' at intervals ; 
this should be continued until he will drop, 
at any distance, on your merely holding up 
your hand without speaking. 

After you are thoroughly satisfied that the 
dog has learned obedience to command, both 
by voice and hand, the next thing is to hunt 
him with a trained dog. You should always 
make dogs lay at the ' down,' until you go to 
them and tell them to get up ; this is most es- 
sential, as by accustoming dogs to be raised 
by the word of command only, they will keep 
at the ' down ' until such word be given. 


When you have put the dog you are training 
with a dog already trained, keep on dropping 
them alternately, until the former has learned 
not to rise until he is told to. An intelHgent 
dog soon observes what his companion does, 
and imitates it. At first there may be a little 
difficulty in keeping your untrained dog at ' the 
down,' when be sees the other dog hunting • 
but when he is raised himself, and sees the 
other at ' the down/ he soon learns not to rise 
unless ordered by word of command. 

The word of command to raise dogs should 
simply be the calling out of their names, and 
as you walk towards your dog, wave your hand 
gently, as if encouraging him to get up and hunt. 

You should keep the dogs hunting round 
each other, taking care not to let them get too 
far away. I have done this practice with 
thirteen dogs at a time, keeping the whole lot 
at * the down ' for a while, and then raising one 
here, and another there, allowing no dog to stir 
unless ordered to, until I have gradually raised 
twelve out of the thirteen, all of whom then 
hunted round the one dog still at * the down * 


After you have taught your dog to drop at 
any distance, you may take him into the field 
to learn the further duties for which he has 
been bred, and from whence he derives his 
name — to 'point/ or 'set' as the case may be. 
Hitherto your labour has been directed towards 
teaching your dog obedience to the word of 
command, and your practices have therefore 
taken place in those spots which were most 
convenient to yourself, but the reality of a dog's 
life begins when he is taken into the field. 

The natural instinct of these dogs is to point, 
or set, but they have to be trained to take the 
field properly, and be steady in their work. 
For this reason it is particularly necessary that 
the day and field should both be well chosen, 
as on these two circumstances will chiefly 
depend the success of the remainder of the 
practices that a pointer or setter, before he 
can be pronounced thoroughly broken to gun 
and birds, must undergo. The morning should 
be bright and fine, so that the birds will * lay,' 
and the field should be rather small. Take the 
dog in, right for the wind, and don't let him 


get too far away from you. Keep a sharp look 
out to see when he winds the birds, and, directly 
he does so, step up to him as quickly as you 
can, getting your hand ready for the word 
* down ' ; then, if the birds rise, keep him down 
for a while as at the peg, w^alk round him, go a 
little distance away, and fire a pistol, half 
charged only, so as not to alarm him or make 
him 'gun-shy,' then go and pat him up, calling 
him a good dog, and bestowing other canine 
compliments upon him. Off he goes again, and 
winds another pair of birds lying in the young 
wheat or early sown barley, which is tall enough 
to hide them ; then do just the same as before ; 
drop him at the ' down,' fire the pistol, and 
raise him. You should hunt one dog only at 
this stage of the training, it is impossible to 
manage more, as one will take up all your 

The next thing is to prevent him from put- 
ting his birds up, to teach him to set or point 
at them only. Let him hunt on for another 
pair of birds, — so, he has got them again, and 
is making straight at them, *' Down Rollo." 


Drop him before he puts up his birds, then walk 
quietly on and put up the birds yourself, firing 
the pistol and keeping him * down ' as before. 
Continue tnis practice until he learns to drop 
to his birds. Should he drop to his birds instead 
of ^ pointing ' them, you should go very quietly 
and raise him up, saying : — '* Steady, Rollo, at 
them, good dog, steady, steady," then directly 
the birds rise : — " Down, Rollo, down, good 
dog." Walk away, and fire your pistol from a 
distance as before. 

It is of vital importance that the pistol should 
be fired at a distance, for if a gun is un- 
expectedly fired over a dog's head you will 
very likely make him * gun-shy ' ; it is far less 
likely to alarm him when fired some way off and 
in full view of him, for then he is in some 
degree prepared for the report. For young 
dogs, when breaking, I invariably use a pistol 
half charged, until they become accustomed to 
the report, then a pistol full charged, and lastly 
a gun. 

Most dogs that are ' gun-shy ' are made so by 
firing the gun over their heads when all their 


attention is taken up by the scent, and * pointing* 
the birds. For instance, we will suppose that 
a young dog has a staunch * point ' at his birds ; 
two gentlemen walk up towards him, and, 
when they have got within ten yards or so, a 
covey of birds rise. Bang, bang, go their guns, 
just over the animal's head, and away he runs, 
trembling, and frightened out of his wits. 
Nothing will now induce him to come up to you, 
or do any more work, he slinks after you, a 
field behind, for the rest of the day. I have 
seen this happen more than once, and almost 
for a certainty that dog is spoilt, through no 
fault of his own ; many a time a dog is made 
* gun-shy ' and called a cur, through mismanage- 
ment of this kind. Put yourself in the dog's 
place ; you could not stand four or live guns 
banging off unexpectedly over your head, when 
your attention was firmly fixed elsewhere, the 
noise would sound all day in your eais, and you 
would be either deaf or half crazy. 

When a dog is once made gun-shy in the way 
I have described, the only remedy is to hunt 
him with a lot of rabbit dogs ; in chasing the 


rabbits with the other dogs in full cry, he will 
get accustomed to the report of a gun, and will 
probably recover from his shyness, ftit he will 
never be quite the same dog as he would have 
been had he never been gun-shy. Moreover, 
he will always be more or less inclined to chase 
hares, after having been allowed to run in cover 
with a lot of rabbit dogs. 

The next thing to teach the dog is 
"quartering the land." Take the dog into 
a field, giving him the wind, — the field should 
be as narrow as possible so that he may not get 
away more than fifty or sixty yards on the right 
or left — blow a whistle to call his attention, 
then throw your hand from right to left if you 
w^ant the dog to cross to the left, if to the right, 
move your hand from left to right. Should he 
not quarter to the right according to your 
instructions, but make off straight up the field, 
you must shout to him to drop. It will most 
likely be necessary to use a small cord fifty or 
sixty yards long, you then cross the field 
holding the end of the cord in your hand, if he 
still goes off straight give him the whistle, and 


throw your hand against the land, at the same 
time walking in that direction and pulling the 
cord, so as to guide him. 

When your dog is at the peg practice, before 
commencing to hunt him in the field, it is 
a very good plan to take a live wild rabbit, 
and turn down before him when at the peg, in 
order to teach him not to run ground game. 
To prepare for this you want a piece of cord, 
fifty or sixty yards long, and a board about six 
inches square ; bore a hole through the centre 
of the board, put one end of the cord through 
and secure it by tying a knot larger than the 
hole, the other end of the cord you tie round 
the rabbit's neck, making a knot so that it shall 
not choke him. Now turn the rabbit down 
and let it run by your dog, at the same time 
calling out to him to ' down ' ; run after the 
rabbit, catch it, and put it in your pocket out 
of the dog's sight. Repeat this again and again 
in the grove or park, so as to prepare your dog 
for the field, and then, when the first hare gets 
up in the field, you will be able to drop him as 
you did at the peg with the wild rabbit. 


This method of teaching a dog is much 
better than whipping his skin off his ribs. I 
never use a whip, or even take one with me, 
when breaking young dogs ; some men teach 
by the whip, but I never knew any good come 
of using a whip unnecessarily to a young dog, 
he is invariably cowed or made sulky, and, 
however good his breed, will never be such a 
good dog in the field as he would have been 
had he been taught by kindness and with 
patience. I say, therefore^ to all who wish to 
break dogs properly : — ^* Leave the whip at 
home." Great patience is required in dog 
breaking, and, if a man be not blessed with 
that commodity, he had better not attempt to 
break any dog. Let the young dog punish 
himself with the cord, throwing himself over by 
it ; two or three wrenching cracks at the neck, 
caused by his running in when he had no busi- 
ness to, soon makes a dog think and understand, 
and a lesson once properly understood is soon 
learnt and never forgotten. 

After a young dog is properly broken take a 
whip out with you, but be careful how you use 


it, as a young dog will often make mistakes, or 
be unsteady and run in at the wrong time, 
through earnestness, or jealousy of another dog. 
If you perceive this, call the dog to you, and 
talk to him quietly, cautioning him before you 
use the whip. With old dogs who know 
their work, and wilfully transgress and set me 
at defiance, I do use the whip, perhaps more 
sharply than most men. The dog has defied 
me, and it remains to be proved which is mas- 
ter, he or I, and he will have to submit to me 
before I leave off. One thing I always do after 
the dog has submitted to me, I make him come 
and humble himself, lick my hands and so forth, 
so that we may part good friends. This is a great 
point with dogs, because, if you let them leave 
you as soon as you have done thrashing them, 
they will probably come out on bad terms with 
you the next day, and remain so for some time. 
Never take your dogs into the kennel in a 
bad temper, cheer them up into a good one, 
play with them, or give them something nice 
to eat out of your pocket. You should always 
carry something, the leg bone of a fowl or any- 


thing of that sort, to give them as a prize for 
doing well, or to get them in a good temper 
after chastising them ; but you must guard 
against too much of this prize giving, for if you 
make a practice of it the dog will be continually 
looking out for it. 

In thrashing an old dog who has set you at 
defiance, it is well to put on a muzzle first, as 
it enables you to conquer him with about one 
quarter the thrashing that it would otherwise 
take ; he knows he can't fight, and is therefore 
beaten, so all he can do is to take as much as 
you like to give him. 

When your young dog is broken, in the 
manner I have already described, it is neces- 
sary to teach him to back other dogs. Take 
an old dog out with the young one and, when 
the former gets the point, * drop ' the latter 'lill 
you walk up to the old dog and put up your 
birds. After dropping him a few times in this 
way, you should speak to him, holding up your 
hand and saying: — "Steady, Shot, steady, at 
them, good dog." If he does not point 
properly drop him to your hand, and, if he is 


not inclined to ^ back/ take him out alone next 
morning, and so hunt him for a couple of hours. 
Then fetch out the old dog and hunt them both 
together, when the young one, being tired, will 
more readily back the other. 

After he has been at this practice long 
enough to learn thoroughly to back ' with the 
old dog, leave the latter at home, and take out 
two young dogs to back each other. Whilst 
this practice is going. on, you should hunt your 
dog, occasionally, with three or four yards of 
cord on him ; it is useful to take hold of to stop 
him, running when another dog is on the point, 
and is also a useful check to prevent him getting 
away. This finishes the practice for pointers 
and setters. 



No retriever puppy ought to be beaten under 
any circumstances, if you want him to become 
a good, loving, and obedient companion, and 
to defend and guard you night and day ; by 
rash treatment you will probably entirely take 
away his love and repect for you. 

"What," say you. "Do you mean to tell 
me, Wilkins, that a dog has love and respect 
for his master"? Yes, yes, yes ! I do tell you 
so most emphatically, and if there is one dog 
more than another that is possesed of these 
faculties it is the retriever, and next to him 
comes the Scotch Collie. 


'* Well," you may ask, " How are you going 
to manage a young retriever, without putting 
your stick across his ribs when he won't obey 
you ? " For one thing, my friend, if you can't 
manage him without that you can't manage 
him with it, that's quite certain ; he will never 
be made what a good retriever should be by 
laying your stick across his ribs when he is a 
puppy. That may be necessary after he is 
full grown, sometimes, if he wilfully disobeys 
you and sets you at defiance ; when you do, it 
is better to give him ^ve or six sharp strokes 
than to thrash him for an hour, but you should 
always beat him until he submits, whether it be 
a matter of five strokes or five and twenty. 
The moment he does submit throw down your 
stick and talk very seriously to him for five 
minutes, until he begs pardon and licks your 
hand, then pat him up kindly, and he will tell 
you he is really very sorry for what he did. 

This is a very important crisis for both you 
and the dog, for on his behaviour after his first 
thrashing, and your own towards him, will 
chiefly depend what sort of a dog he turns 


out. When he tells you, as plainly as any dog 
can, that he is truly sorry for what he has 
done, you should make friends with him at 
once, and let him know that you are fond of 
him notwithstanding the little misunderstand- 
ing. It is most essential that you should make, 
and part, friends. 

We will suppose your dog to be five or four 
months old when you should have him in the 
house, if your wife does not object, for she 
can teach him a great deal. It is better 
still to have him in the house when he is 
two months old ; if your wife objects, you 
may smooth her over by promising her that, 
if she will help you to make a good dog 
of him, and he fetches a good price, she shall 
have half of it. Be sure to carry out your 
promise, and then the next time you bring a 
pup home she will welcome him, knowing it to 
be to her own pecuniary interest to do so. 
Your wife will teach the youngster more in the 
house than you can do — to be clean and 
obedient, go out and in with her, and learn all 
she says to him, thus helping you very much 


in making him a sensible dog. Then, when 
you come home to meals, you can teach him 
to fetch and carry things, such things as a ball 
or anything soft you may have handy to throw 
for him. 

I had a puppy once that would fetch my 
slippers for me, as soon as he saw me pull my 
gaiters off and begin unlacing my boots off 
he'd go across the room for my shpDers, and 
they were by my side before I had time to 
draw off my boots. Then he would drag my 
boots off to where I was accustomed to place 
them, and the gaiters as well, and then he 
would come up to me, wagging his tail, and 
lick my hand as if well pleased with his job. 
Now this is all perfectly true, and not a 'dog ' 
story in the usual sense of the word. 

He will get very much attached to your wife 
— you needn't be jealous — being very glad to 
go out with her, and will soon learn to obey 
her, for she can do more towards teaching him 
obedience than you can. When a piece of 
meat or bread is left on the table or anywhere 
about, she will teach him not to touch it with- 


out permission. She can teach them a great 
deal in feeding them, especially if she has two 
pups, or one pup and another kind of dog, 
such as a French poodle ; she will cut their 
meat into small pieces like lumps of sugar, and 
taking one piece at a time, will tell them who 
it is for. "This is for Topsy. That's for 
Help, I told you to wait till your turn came, 
sir." So each dog learns not to touch the 
other's pieces of meat, and if he does he gets 
a rap over the head with the handle of a knife. 
In this way a puppy gets to know all you say 
to him, and my wife has been obliged, before 
now, to spell things out to me, so that the dog 
should not hear, if we did not want him to go 
down to the village. If my wife said : — "I am 
going to Stanstead after dinner, do you want 
anything ?'' I might reply : — '^ Yes, you can 
get me some tobacco, and you may as well 
take the dogs with you." The dogs would 
prick up their ears in a moment. '' No, I 
can't," my wife might say. *' I'm going to 
places where I can't take them in." The dogs, 
on hearing this, immediately drop their jaws, 


and slink under the table, but, whilst the 
missus has gone upstairs to dress, they both 
sUde off down the park, and lay up under a 
tree near by the footpath to Stanstead. As my 
wife passes them they creep up behind her, 
Help, the retriever pup, and Topsy, the 
poodle. After a while she catches sight of 
them, and then Topsy sits up and begs, whilst 
the pup hangs down his head, and crawls 
sheepishly towards her ; there is no resisting 
this so she says : — '' Come along then." In a 
moment there is a change from sorrowful 
pleading to exuberant joy, off they go, barking 
and yelping like fury, the clumsy pup bringing 
up the rear, and ending off by rolling down 
the bank into the stream, where, like a good 
water dog, he gives himself a thorough washing. 
Topsy was a French poodle, and very intelH- 
gent, as indeed are all his breed, so we never 
had any trouble with him except once about 
o-oing with us on a Sundav, and then we did 
not tell him he wasn't to go. 

One Sunday, when I was going to Chapel, I 
met Topsy down near the street, and he turned 


back after me. I told him that he must go 
home for I could not have him, but all he did 
was to sit up and beg, so I gave him a few flips 
with my handkerchief, and then put him over 
the park railings. When I got to Chapelr^ 
there was Topsy waiting for me on the step, so- 
I said :— *' Well if you'll be a good dog, you 
can come/' I took him up under my coat 
skirt, marched in, and sat down in my pew, 
sitting him up on the seat by my side. I held 
up my finger to him to be quiet, and quiet as a 
burglar under a bed he was, until the minister 
said " Amen," and shut up his book, when 
Topsy kept touching me on the arm with his. 
paw, looking up into my face the while. As^ 
soon as the last hymn was given out, I slipped 
him — Topsy, not the minister — under my coat^ 
and took him out, and that's the only time he 
ever attempted to come to Chapel. 




TO return, once again, to the Retriever 

Bring borne a young rabbit, just a runner, 
turn it down in the room, and let the dog see 
you turn it loose ; as the bunny runs off turn 
the pup's head away, so that he may not see 
where the rabbit hides up. When it is *' hid 
up," loose him to find it. You should have 
the pup in a string, and pull him to you should 
he stop and play with the rabbit when he finds 
it ; make him bring it you sharply on your 
calling to him to fetch it. 

Keep on this practice for two or three 


weeks, then take the rabbit out in the garden 
and let it run in your cabbage or carrot beds to 
hide up ; put the pup on the search for it, find 
it, and bring it to you. Lastly, take the rabbit 
into a meadow and repeat the process as before. 

When the pup is five to six months old, you 
may try him with a larger rabbit, one that will 
run for fifty yards before hiding up ; let the 
pup see it start, and then turn his head away 
as soon as it has gone a few yards, make him 
take the scent, seek for it, and bring it to you. 
You should fire a little powder off as the 
rabbit is running away. 

Next, take a sparrow, thrush, or blackbird, 
■clip his wings, and turn down in the high grass, 
or in the garden, or in a young wood ; let the 
dog find that and bring it to you as before. 

When your pup gets strong enough to carry 
a full grown rabbit, get one that is a good 
runner and stick it in the throat with a pen- 
knife, like you would a fowl. Let the rabbit 
go and it will run sixty or seventy yards before 
it turns up dead ; make the pup search for it 
and bring it to you as before. 


If you live in a meadow or park, you should 
stick a rabbit as I have described, turn it down 
at once, fire off your gun, and then run into 
the house and call the dog, " Here, Help, 
come on, good dog." Take him out and put 
him on the scent of the blood, standing quite 
still yourself, and letting him do the work and 
bring the rabbit back to you without any 
assistance. If he is so far trained as to be 
sure of *' finding," take him through the wood 
and kill a wild rabbit ; let him find it out and 
bring it to you, then put it in your pocket, and 
go on. As you go along, take the rabbit out 
of your pocket, and drop it on the ground; 
walk on for twenty or thirty yards and then 
send him back for it. After a time go from 
forty to a hundred yards after dropping the 
rabbit, then from a hundred to two hundred and 
so on up to a quarter-of-a-mile, making him go 
back and fetch it as before. 

When you kill a rabbit in a wood, hang it up 
on a stub within his reach, if you are going 
home walk from it about two hundred yards 
and then send him back for it. Increase the 


distance gradually up to a mile from home, 
then send the dog back to fetch it when you 
get home. This can also be practiced by 
making your dog retrieve pheasants, wood 
pigeons, and the like, but wood pigeons are the 
worst kind of birds for the business, as their 
feathers come out very easily and choke up 
the puppy's mouth. 

One day I remember, my master brought me 
a new retriever and said : — *' Look here, 
Wilkins, this is a good dog, I bought him off 
Cotterel, of Takeley Forest, when I was shoot- 
ing with Mr. John Archer Houblin, but the 
brute runs after everything ; now I will give 
you £2 to stop her running in after her game." 
Cotterell had hunted her as a rabbit dog, and 
she was one of the very best dogs for that work I 
ever saw, she would catch more rabbits in one 
day than some bad shots could kill, and she was 
the best bitch I ever saw, being good all round. 
Well, I got my £2 for '' Duchess " or *' Goose," 
as the Squire afterwards called her,but she got 
very fat and lazy, and so was sent to Darlington, 
where, I heard, she was held in high esteem. 


I had another dog called " Sailor," who was 
a rum 'un, but as good as he was rough. I 
remember the time well, though it is a good 
many years ago, I was in the meadow adjoining 
the house, feeding some young birds, when one 
of the footmen came and called me, saying 
that the Squire wanted to see me at once. Off 
we went together and met the Squire on the 
lawn. ''Ah, Wilkins,'* said he, 'Tve just 
come in by train ana brought a retriever back 
w^ith me ; he's one of the most savage dogs I 
ever had anything to do with, I've got him in a 
crate now, and he won't let anybody come 
near him, he flies and snaps at their hands with 
such a vengeance that we could hardly get 
him out of the guard's van, and we were at 
last obliged to roll him out on to the platform. 
At first they got a clothes prop and put it 
through the crate, but he seized it in his teeth 
and held it like a vice. I want you to go 
down and see what you can do, I thought I 
was about master of dogs, but I can't master 
this one. Be careful what you do, Wilkins, 
and mind you don't get hurt." 


"All right, sir/' says I, 'Til bring him 
home right enough." So I took my gun and 
ferret bag, and off I started to the railway 
station. By the time I had reached there I 
had made up my mind what to do, so I opened 
the station door, and there, sure enough, on 
the platform, was the crate with the dog lying 
down inside it. Not a soul was anywhere near 
the crate, so I walked up to it. 

"What ! Sailor," says I. "Sailor, old dog." 
To show him I knew who he was, I just raised 
my gun and flashed a little powder off, cut the 
crate open and said, "Come along, old Sailor 
dog." Out he came, I threw him my ferret 
bag to carry, put his chain in my pocket, and 
walked him through the streets up to Stanstead 

The Squire came out to meet me, and saw 
the dog following me with my ferret bag in his 
mouth. "Well, well," says he, "However did 
you manage to let him out of the crate ?" 

"Oh, quite easily, sir," said I. "I spoke to 
him as if I had known him for years." 

" And he believed you, it appears ?" 


'* Yes, sir, he took it for granted that I was 
his friend and master." '' And you've let him 
run loose from the Station right up here?" 
*' Yes, sir." ** Call him to you now, Wilkins, 
and take away the bag." '' Very well, sir." 

So I called out, " Come here, Sailor, good 
dog." Up he came, and I took the bag from 

*'Now tell him to sit by you whilst you throw 
the bag away, then tell him to fetch it,'* said 
the Squire. 

I did so, and the dog retrieved the bag ; 1 
took it from him and put it in my pocket, then 
the Squire and I went for a walk with the dog, 
and the Squire said, '•' Now, tell me, Wilkins, 
exactly how you gained the goodwill of that 
dog, so as to make him follow you hke this." 
For the animal was as peaceful as possible, and 
followed at my heels as if he had known me 
for years. 

•'Well, sir," said I, ''So I will, it entirely 
depends on the way you introduce yourself to 
the dog." 

"Yes, yes," said the Squire impatiently, 


*' But how did you introduce yourself; that's 
what I want you to explain ?" 

''Well, sir," said I. "I went into the 
station, and walked up to the dog as if I had 
known him for years, showing all firmness and 
confidence, both in him and myself. I called 
him by name and held out my hand to him, 
took up my gun, fired a cap and flash of powder, 
put down my gun, took out my knife, and cut 
the string of the crate. At the same time, I 
pushed the corner of my coat into the crate 
for the dog to smell the scent of game ; he at 
once took me for a good ' game ' man, looked 
smilmgly into my face, got up, and wagged his 
tail. * Come on. Sailor, dog,' said I, throwing 
the ferret bag away, and telling him to fetch it, 
'Come on. Sailor,' and on he came with me, 
through the streets up to the house, bringing 
the bag with him, that's all, sir." 

The Squire kept on asking me a lot more 
questions about the dog, but I said, " I can't 
tell you any more, sir." "You can answer me 
this question, Wilkins," says he. '* Well, sir," 
says I, *' If I can, I will." " Did he attempt 


to bite you at all, or show any inclination to do 
so ? " '' Not the least, sir." '' Now, Wilkins, 
you have answered that question, but tell me 
how you account for it, I mean his not showing 
any ill-temper with you?" "Oh, yes, sir, I 
can explain that easily enough, I did not give 
him time enough." 

'*Well, but how, Wilkins, how?" *'You 
must know, sir," said I, *'that I went up to the 
station door all in a bustle, and shouted to him 
as if we had been old friends for years and I 
was looking out for him. Just the same, sir, 
as if you had gone to meet a train, and as it 
was starting you saw some friend you had not 
met for years, and then made yourself known 
to him ; that is how I treated the dog." 

'*I see, Wilkins,"' said the Squire, **you made 
him believe it was a reality." 

''Just so, sir," said I, ''I made him believe it 
was a reality, and made him take me for his 
friend, let it be as it might. And now, sir, will 
you allow me to ask one question ?" 

'*Go on, Wilkins." 

" Well then, sir, if you were a stranger to this 


dog and me, and knew nothing about either of 
us, you could not tell but what he had been in 
my hands from a puppy, seeing how he obeys 

*' There, Wilkins/' said the Squire, ** I give 
you credit for all that." And so we returned 
home, and put the dog in his kennel. 

Sailor was a perfect terror to the Stanstead 
people, and one of the roughest, most savage 
dogs I ever met, I always had to muzzle him 
before thrashing him. To give him his due, he 
was a first-rate retriever and keeper's dog, 
properly broken not to run in at partridges, but 
unpractised with ground game. I should think 
he had seldom seen a live hare or rabbit before 
he came to Stanstead, for if he saw one run 
into the wood, even if it were a hundred yards 
off, he would bolt after it like a shot. I had to 
cure him of this, and a tough job it was. 

I took him to the peg with an extra strong 
cord and a check collar on him ; the '* check '' 
collar, I may mention, is a good stiff leather 
collar, studded with iron beads, and fitted with 
buckle and holes. I allowed him eighteen 


yards of cord, and got my under-keeper to 
stand near with a sack of live rabbits, while I 
remained at the peg with my gun and dog. 

*'Now, George," says I, *'Take a rabbit, but 
don't let the dog see you, stick it, and turn it 
down in front of him.'* 

Away goes the rabbit, I ups with my gun 
and fires (half a charge of blank powder), away 
goes Sailor, hot after the rabbit, but at the end 
of the eighteen yards he falls heavily. I pull 
him back to the peg, and make him lay down 
quietly until I have loaded my gun again, which 
I do not hurry over doing. When it is loaded, 
I loosed him from the collar and sent him to 
look for the rabbit and bring it back to me. 
This done, I put him to the peg again and 
repeat the experiment with another stuck 
rabbit. Bang ! bang ! and off goes Sailor 
more furiously than before ; this time he is 
thrown back more heavily, nearly cracking his 
neck. I tried him once more, and then, as he 
still bolted after the rabbit, I left off for that 
day and saved the rest of the rabbits. I tried 
him again next day, whilst he had the lesson 


fresh in his mind. You should always follow 
up this practice every day, until your dog will 
not attempt to stir after the rabbit, unless you 
tell him, " Go seek for it," or '' Go fetch it/' 
whichever words you accustom him to. If you 
let a week or more elapse between the trials, 
the dog will, to a great extent, have forgotten 
his previous lessons, which is most dishearten- 
ing, and a waste of time. When your 
retriever pup is steady at the peg, the next 
practice is bolting rabbits in the open, but, as 
this chapter is already outrageously long, I will 
commence a fresh one for that. 



CHOOSE your spot where you have your 
rabbit earths in an open space, meadow, or 
park, so that both you and your dog can easily 
distinguish the holes and anv rabbits that may 
bolt from them. Take an iron peg about 
fifteen inches long and the shape of a marling 
spike, with a ring in its crown, fitted to travel 
freely through the hole in the crown, so that 
when the peg is driven into the ground, the 
ring will lay flush with the surface. A cord is 
attached to the ring and fastened to the dog's 

The advantage of a commanding view of the 


rabbit earths is obvious ; hitherto the rabbits 
have been turned down right by, or close up to 
the dog, without his seeing them to prevent 
him chasing rabbits '' off a form." Now it is 

necessarv to teach him not to chase rabbits 


bolted from a hole. Station yourself by the 
peg, gun in hand, and dog by your side, whilst 
the under-keeper goes forward with the ferrets 
to the earths. 

The first rabbit appears ; bang! off goes the 
dog, and when he gets to the end of the cord 
gets thrown as before, and so you keep up the 
same thing until the dog understands that he 
must not move until he is told. 

After one or two of these practices, I should 
begin to use the stick to an old dog, and 
thrash him back to the place he started from, 
but, if you use the '* check " collar, he won't 
want much of the stick, as the collar will do 
the trick instead. 

These are the simple rules I have invariably- 
followed in training pointers, setters, and 
retrievers. I have broken many a score of 
dogs in my time, and have seldom failed to 


turn them out well-broken dogs. The only 
dogs I could never do anything with were 
those whose spirit had been thrashed out of 
them, or who had been made thoroughly gun- 
shy ; all the patience and skill I possessed was 
ineffectual with those sort of dogs, and I used 
either to destroy them or return them to their 

Young keepers, when they first take this 
difficult branch of their duties in hand, would 
do well to attend carefully to what I have said 
about the whip. If a man has a hasty and 
violent temper, however clever he may be, he 
ought not to attempt to break dogs. With 
regard to young dogs, most especially I say, 
" Leave the whip at home.'' 



AS I have before related, in 1840 I left 
Chesham to go into Wiltshire, as keeper to 
the Rev. Henry Fowle, who took me, without, 
even seeing me on the strength of a recom- 
mendation from Mr. Fuller and Mr. Wilmore 
Ellis. Mr. Ellis was a great friend of Mr., 
Fuller's, and a nephew of Mr. Fowle's, and he 
used often to come down to Chilton to shoot, 
with the latter. 

In the year 1841, Mr. Fuller-Maitland came 
down to Chesham to shoot with Mr. Fuller, 
and as he missed me, he asked my father 

where I had gone. 



*' He's gone down into Wiltshire, sir, as 
keeper to Mr. Fowle," said my father. . 

** And does he like the place ?" 

** Well, no, sir, he doesn't," replied my 
father. ** You see his master's a great fox- 
preserver, and hunts a good deal, and John 
would prefer to live with a gentleman who 
preserves pheasants and not foxes." 

*' Is that so, Luke ? I had always marked 
him for my own keeper; I always thought that 
if ever I had a keeper, I should like your son 

" Well, sir," said my father, '* I know 
John would be delighted to come as keeper for 
you, he was always glad when he heard you 
were coming here to shoot. 

** Then you may tell him, Luke, that I 
spoke to you about him, and, if he wants a 
change I will take him on, but not for two years." 

So my father wrote and told me of this con- 
versation, and I at once replied, begging him 
to do all he could to get me a place with Mr. 
Maitland. The next year he came to the 
^* Germans" again, and spoke further to father 


on the subject, when my father told him I was 
most anxious to get the place as his keeper. 

** Tell him," said Mr. Maitland, ** that next 
spring twelve months, all being well, I will take 
him on." And so I was promised the place 
two years before I got it. On Lady Day, in 
the year 1843, I came to Stanstead, Essex, as 
head-keeper to William Fuller-Maitland, Esq. 
It was the 25th of March, and I have been 
there ever since. 



I HAVE lately been talking about dogs, and 
when I once get on that topic I find it diffi- 
cult to leave off. I wish it to be understood that 
the rules I have laid down are not of universal 
application, as different parts of the country 
require differently trained dogs ; for instance, 
a hilly or mountainous country requires a strong 
and quick dog, whereas, our country, in the 
flats, requires a steady and slow dog. A hill- 
bred dog, again, must have more license 
allowed him than a flat-country dog ; still, the 
same rules for breaking applies equally to both, 
and the keeper must be guided by the sur- 


rounding country as to whether the dog shall 
be broken for far or near quartering. 

In Wales, Scotland, and the North of Eng- 
land, men may say that the rules I have laid 
down cannot be applied, as they would make 
the dog a ** close" hunter, where you require a 
a ** wide " one. I say, then, that the dog has 
to learn his A. B.C. before he can do anything 
in the way of hunting properly, and the keeper 
must therefore be guided according to the 
exigencies of the case, as to how far, and how 
strictly, he should adhere to my rules. 

I am now going to write a little about ground 
game, and will commence with the keeper's 
dodges for hares. I do not wish to be thought 
conceited, but I am only statmg the plain 
truth when I say, that, about these parts I 
used to be considered a noted man for hares by 
all who knew me. Mr. Alfred Hicks, one of 
the tenant farmers, once asked me how it was 
that sixty hares were all feeding at once in 
a crab-tree field of nine or ten acres of 
grass, at half-past three in the afternoon, 
in the month of November. I never told 


him the secret, but I don't mind telling it now. 
You take a pound or more of parsley seed, 
and sow in the night-time all over the field. 
Let no one know anything about it, but take 
the seed in your large pockets, and scatter it 
broadcast all over the field ; the hares will then 
feed in that field in preference to any other. I 
have done the same thing on land sown with 
clover, near the cover, that is, home fields, not 
those a long way from your woods. This is one 
dodge to make the hares feed at home, and 
take to that particular field for feeding. The 
hares will keep the parsley down, and, even if 
the farmer does find a sprig of parsley in the 
clover, he will think that it slipped in amongst 
the clover seed. 

Another great secret in getting hares is to 
keep down the bucks, who, in the months of 
March and April, run and hunt the does to 
death. Kill off the bucks, they do to give 
away as presents to anyone, as a reward for 
services rendered in saving pheasant's or par- 
tridge's eggs for you. I have frequently seen 
five or six bucks chasing one doe hare until she 


dropped dead from exhaustion. I have seen 
them run a doe hare when she was seeking for 
a place to lay down her young. You ask, is it 
possible ? I answer that it is, most undoubted- 
ly. I have seen a buck hare not only kill the 
doe, but literally cut her back to pieces as she 
lay dead, with, perhaps, two or three young 
ones inside of her. Thus the buck hares do 
you an immense amount of harm and injure 
your stock for next season. 

Another great secret is to keep the vermin 
down. Now I suppose gamekeepers will say, 
** We know that, Wilkins, tell us something 
we don't know." To which I reply that there 
are many of you who know it, but won't take 
the trouble to do it, and consequently the 
vermin destroy one-half of your leverets, and 
they never come to the gun ; so you only keep 
your hares to breed young ones for the vermin 
to feed on. 

** Well," say you. '^Anyhow the leverets 
are useful to feed the young cubs on." True, 
oh king! I grant you that, and also admit that 
whilst the vixen is taking a leveret to her cubs 


she cannot be hunting for a hen-pheasant on 
her nest. It is true again that we must have 
foxes, and I know all this without being told as 
well as you know that it is necessary to keep 
the vermin down. 

Now just allow me to say that, by keeping 
the vermin ** close down," you will have more 
leverets for the vixen to take to her cubs, and 
more hares next year for your master's guns 
and the guns of your master's friends to shoot. 
Also, the more hares you have the more you 
will save the hen birds and their nests from the 
foxes. I had three litters of cubs in Thrupp 
cover one spring, of nine, seven, and five 
respectively, besides the old ones. 

Mr. Fowle was not only a fox-hunter, but a 
fox rearer. *'Wilkins," he used to say to 
me, ** I will have foxes, if I don't get a single 
pheasant." *'Very well, sir," said I, '^So you 
shall." And during the three years I lived 
with him, I never shot or trapped a fox, so that 
when he was giving me a character, he wrote, 
*'He is particularly clever at breeding game 
and destroying vermin, but is not a fox-killer." 


If I had not gone to Stanstead, Mr. Fowle 
told me that he should have sent me to Salis- 
bury Plain as keeper, to take charge of all his 
men and keep his accounts, at his place there. 

Another thing that keepers often neglect to 
do is to keep their hares out of the poacher's 
pockets, and this is either through ignorance or 
laziness, because they do not sufficiently look 
after their gates, to see that they are not 
netted, and their hedges, to see that they are 
not snared. One simple way of attending to 
this, is to look more after the hares of an 
evening and even at night-time, and spend 
fewer hours at the public-house. I am afraid 
that this remark of mine about the public- 
house will not be relished by many, and 
repudiated by most keepers, but, although it's 
a dirty bird that fouls its own nest, I am speak- 
ing to all keepers, and at the risk of giving 
offence, I shall let the remark stand. 

I have heard keepers say that they can 
learn more in an hour at a public-house, than 
they can in a week by stopping at home. 
Now this is a lie that is half the truth. Very 


likely you may hear that old Pat Lane brought 
a hare to someone's shop to sell. What 
then ? the hare was dead, and you won't 
bring it back to life again, or replace it in 
your cover, so how are you better off for know- 
ing that Pat took the hare to Tom Tills, the 
fishmonger, to try and sell last week. '^ Why," 
say you, '' I shall keep a sharp look-out for 
him." Yes, at the '* Red Cow" public-house 
I suppose, that is the last place in the world to 
catch a poacher snaring hares, he is much 
more likely to snare you, my boy, for many a 
keeper has been snared at public-houses, and 
the snare drawn so tight as to nearly choke 
him to death. Not only himself, but his poor 
wife and children as well have been nearly 
starved to death by this useless '* public-house" 
dodge of obtaining information. You will get 
more information by practically attending to 
your night duties, than you can ever hope to 
obtain by loafing about in a public-house ; there, 
you will only get a quantity of bogus " tips " 
and bad drinks, offered on purpose to keep you 
out of the way, and throw you off the scent. 



IN the year 1843, when I first went to Stan- 
stead from Wiltshire, my neighbour, whom 
I will call one Jones, had reached there the 
week previously. I arrived on the 25th March, 
and he got there on the i8th. He had 
previously been living near Thetford in 

We used to join forces at night-time and 
help each other at first, as his woods were 
adjacent to mine at Birchanger village. Jones 
was keeper, to Mr. Fred Nash, of Bishop's 
Stortford, and a very good keeper he was, and 
did well for some years, alwa}'s having plenty 


of pheasants and so forth. But after a while he 
began to fall off in his night appointments with 
me, till at last he never kept them at all. I 
used to go to the usual place, but he did not 
turn up, and this happened time after time, 
till at last he left off asking me to meet him. 
His pheasants grew gradually less and less, 
until at length the stock dwindled down to 
nothing. This was only just as I expected, 
and so I told him ; I remonstrated with him 
time after time, but when a man becomes 
dogged in his infatuation, remonstrances are of 
little avail, until he at length awakens to the 
enormity of his folly. 

Instead of being in his woods looking after 
the game, Jones was in the public-house at 
Pine's Hill from ten in the morning until 
eleven at night. This public-house was called 
the '' Bell," and it lost him his character and 
place in the end. He had a character, indeed, 
but it was a bad one ; in addition to which he 
possessed a wife and large family. Drunken- 
ness always stands in the way to prevent 
obtaining employment, especially as a keeper. 


So Jones became a game destroyer, or poacher, 
and he and I met once more at night. He 
brought five men with him on that occasion, 
and I had two with me, so that when we joined 
forces the gang numbered nine, all told. We 
had a little bit of sport that night, as I will 
relate further on. Jones, poor fellow, was one 
of those keepers who say they can learn more 
at a public-house in an hour than by stopping 
at home for a week. 

I remember another keeper who used to say 
the same thing, and whom I will call Baldwin. 
I admit, friend Baldwin, that you may learn 
something at a public-house ; the landlord is a 
jolly good fellow, and a very great friend of the 
keepers ; he puts the latter up to the poachers' 
games a bit ; he tells you, now, that Tom- 
Darvell had two hares for sale the other night, 
in his house — two out and outers they were, 
regular nine-pounders, and snared, too, he 
could tell that by the look of their eyes. Five 
bob the two was what Tom asked for them. 

He told you all that, did he ? You say he 
did ; very good ; but he forgot to tell you he 


knew it was quite true because he bought them 
himself for four bob and two pots of beer. He 
could, if he had chosen, have brought the hares 
up from the cellar and shown them to you. 
Did he also tell you that Tom Darvell stopped 
at his house all day and spent two shillings out 
of the four ? No ! Well, anyhow, you are 
•deeply impressed with the news, and turn to 
go, deterniined to keep an eye on Tom in the 

Mine Host takes you aside. ** Don't be in a 
"hurry, keeper," says he. '' I want to have a 
little talk to you before you go, I have a lot 
more to tell you yet ; have another glass, old 
friend, there'll be nothing going on before the 
publics are closed. You will most likely drop 
•on to some of the rascals as you are going 
home, but it's no use yet, for they have not left 
the * pubs ;' eleven or twelve is their time you 
know, keeper, when they think all is quiet. 
Look here, can't you manage to get us a 
day's rabbit shooting next week, just myself 
and a few respectable friends that will be 
.a credit to you and my house. The Squire's 


going away for a week or two so I hear, 
isn't he?" 

'' Yes," you say, *' he goes to-morrow morn- 

*' Ah, well, run down again in a night or two, 
and we'll talk it over a bit. Who shall we ask ? 
I don't want a lot of roughs, you know, they'll 
be no good to either you or me ; we want 
someone that can stand you a tip, and don't 
mind paying for a good dinner after a good 
day's sport and cracking a few bottles of good 
old port ; that's the sort of people we want to 
get you know, keeper, so as to do us both a 
good turn." So you see what Host Goodman 
•desires to do is to please both the keeper and 
.the shooters. 

After a night or two, down you go again and 
Mr. Goodman draws another couple of shillings 
out of your pocket ; he has pretty well decided 
by this time as to who this respectable party 
shall consist of. Young Farmer Hopkins is to 
come, and a few of the most reckless spend- 
thrifts about the place, not forgetting to make 
<up the number with a couple of the **most 


owdacious young swells " in the parish, there 
is to be a real good flare up or *' randy-dandy.'' 
It gets noised about that Keeper Baldwin 
and Landlord Goodman are going to give a 
grand shooting party, with a noble supper to 
follow. . The poachers have their ears and eyes 
open, and smell business ; they join your noble 
crew on the night appointed, one or two of 
them are in attendance at Mr. Goodman's, 
ready for any little job he or you may want 
done, and more especially to show themselves 
to you, friend Baldwin, for don't you see Pat 
Lane and one or two other well-known poachers 
in at Goodman's tap, enjoying themselves over 
a pot of beer. Goodman either lends them a 
bob, or else trusts them to-night, for he knows 
that they along with them, will be at his house 
to-morrcw spending last night's booty, so that 
he will get his money back with good interest ; 
he knows also that these men are at his house 
on purpose to set the keeper perfectly at his 
ease. So you see mine host has fleeced you — 
the keeper — and the shooting party, including 
the two ''swells," not content with that, he 


must now fleece the very men he's in league 
with. He's a nice sort of man isn't he ? All 
the proceeds of the night's poaching will find 
its way into Mr. Goodman's pocket and 
larder, and the miserable pittance he allows 
to the poachers, who have risked perhaps their 
lives, and certainly their liberties, will come 
back to him eventually. 

Now, Baldwin, you say this landlord is a 
great friend of yours, and makes you *^ fly " to 
the poachers' tricks ; well, I ask you, what is 
this man's friendship and information worth to 
you ? Not much, I think. *' Why," you say, 
''we had a jolly evening at the * Red Cow' 
after a good day's sport." Quite so ; and you 
lost very much by it. *' Lost ? " you say, in 
astonishment, '' how, in what way ?" Listen, 
friend Baldwin, and I will explain. 

You killed twenty couple of rabbits. Mr. 
H. took three, Mr. G. took four, Mr. W. took 
three, and Mr. Goodhian took six to make into 
rabbit pies for the evening party. That makes 
twenty-six out of the forty, and then, again, 
you gave Jack Smith one for brushing, and two 



apiece to two of the young **town swells*' who 
joined in at the supper in the evening. That 
leaves you nine rabbits for yourself, thirty-one 
rabbits going to others. Now as to the tips 
Mr. Goodman talks so glibly about, methinks 
he has them, and not you. The man who took 
two rabbits gives you a florin ; the one who 
took four presents ypu with half-a-crown ; 
another who took two, tips you a shilling, the 
rest, including the swells, shell out a *' bob " 
each, and the landlord stands brandy and 
water, and very kindly invites you to come 
down to-morrow night and have a snack off the 
fragments of the feast. That is one for you, 
and two for himself, for he knows that you'll 
spend half-a-crown or so in the shape of drinks, 
beyond what he gives you to eat. The rabbits 
you gave away were worth thirty shillings. 

Now, what good have you got from Mr. 
Goodman's respectable party ? How much 
have you lost pecuniarily ? How many hares 
did you lose, both in the night and in the day- 
time, when you were with this noble party 
shooting and feasting ? Is that how you learn 


more in an hour at a public-house, than you 
can in a week by attending your covers? If so, 
my boy, I say that you are not much of a 
keeper — except a pubHc-house keeper, and I 
should strongly advise you to leave off game- 
keepering and take the ** Red Cow" at once, 
for you are more fit to be a publican than a 
gamekeeper. The proper place for a keeper 
is to attend to his duties and prevent poaching 
in his covers, and not in the public-house, 
and this I cannot repeat too often. 



I WANT, now to draw your attention to the 
methods of snaring employed by poachers, 
and the various ways in which a keeper in the 
old days, had to meet and defeat the same. I 
say "old days,'' because I don't know what 
effect the recent "Hares and Rabbits Bill" 
may have, or has had on the ground game, 
but I do know that wherever it is extensively 
preserved without an efficient staff of keepers 
to look after them, there will always be men 
found to poach them. Poachers have often 
told me that they mostly take the game for 
the excitement, rather than on account of 


pecuniary benefit ; it is a very common tale — 
public-house first, and devilment afterwards. 

In Spring, when everything is sprouting 
afresh, the hares have to cut new runs, 
especially in the newly-made hedges. When 
you come across a newly-made hedge, take a 
good look right along it, and you will find that 
the hares have made four or five runs through 
it ; if you snare these runs you will probably 
catch in four out of the five set snares. The 
poacher-snarer knows this as well as you and 
I do. 

Prevention is better than cure, and as it is 
obvious that you cannot cure the poacher, you 
should prevent him, by helping the hares. To 
do this, you must make twenty good runs 
through the hedge, resembling the hares' runs 
as closely as your art can possibly make them. 
When making these false runs you may carry 
a hare's leg and a bag full of hare's fluck in 
your pocket. Cut all small twigs in two, pat 
the earth down well with your hand, and then 
make the print of the foot, pricking out the toe 
nails in the run with the limb you carry. 


Hang a little fluck on the twigs of the run, 
to make believe that Pussy goes through it very 
often, and serve all your artificial runs in the 
same way. The poachers will set the best 
runs, as they think them to be, but of course, 
being false ones, they will not catch much in 
them for a time, till the hares begin to find 
them out and use them. Thus, you see, there 
will be twenty-five runs in the hedge instead of 
four or five, it will take twenty-five snares to 
set this hedge, and so the hares have twenty- 
five to five, or five to one chances on them. 
By doing this, you will save many a hare from 
being caught, and give the poachers a vast 
amount of extra trouble, and if you carefully 
** doctor " all the likely hedges in that way, 
you will be doing good service both to the hares 
and yourself. 

I have before mentioned the " Hares and 
Rabbits Bill." Before the passing of this Act 
there was many a bitter word between tenant 
farmers and keepers, that is on the part of the 
former, for keepers have to be civil all round. 
Now I don't mean to state that hares and 


rabbits do no harm to the farmer, but I do 
maintain that in many instances, these un- 
fortunate animals have had to bear the 
blame for things which have been the result of 
nothing else but bad farming. 

I will take the two (hares and rabbits) 
separately, and show as far as I am compe- 
tent to judge, the exact proportion of damage 
they each of them do. Of the two, then, 
I consider the hare is the worst offender ; 
both are nocturnal ramblers and feeders, but 
the hare roams far afield, whilst the rabbit 
never gets a great distance from his burrow. 
The hare, too, is a destructive feeder ; it will 
often cut down blade after blade of young 
wheat out of sheer mischief. All fields are 
alike to her, as she is migratory in her habits, 
and if she is not *' located with regard to 
cover," she may be here to-day and two or 
three miles off to-morrow seeking a new home, 
but once *' located " to a cover, she seldom 
migrates to another one. I have known hares 
when disturbed off a farm always make for 
their home cover, even though it be a mile 


away ; but if you continually disturb this 
home cover by shooting or with dogs, they 
will soon, if there is any left of them, 
leave, their place being taken by strangers, 
after a while. 

It will be seen from this that the hare 
becomes rather a formidable enemy to the 
farmer, if not kept under proper control by 
the keeper, as regards feeding, locality, and 
keeping down the young. As to this, by 
particular feeding, you will be able to domicile 
the animal in certain fields, and make certain 
wooded localities its home cover. I have 
frequently had a matter of ninety hares in a 
small copse, not more than an acre-and-a-half 
in extent, and, what is more, little or no 
complaint about it from the tenant farmer; but 
then the cover was favourable to hares, they 
remaining in it a good deal, and so doing no 
damage worth speaking of. If hares are not 
properly looked after by the keeper, the tenant 
farmer is injured by the destruction of his 
newly-sown wheat, barley, and other seeds 
that compose a winter or summer crop. 


With regard to rabbits, there is much differ- 
ence of opinion, and I have not the slightest 
hesitation in saying that the rabbit is blamed 
more than he deserves. 

The rabbit is essentially a denizen of the 
wood, save where there is a warren, or earths 
or burrows in the open, and this happens 
generally only on park lands, banks, or gravel 
pits. More especially when it is found 
increasing rapidly in numbers, the rabbit 
invariably lives where grass flourishes more 
abundantly than any other herbage or vegetable 
matter. A nocturnal rambler, though never 
far away from home, the rabbit always prefers 
meadow land to any other, the feeding time 
being either early in the morning or late at 
night. He is made very sharp and 'cute by 
being surrounded with so many enemies from 
the moment of his birth ; ground and flying 
vermin make him their prey, so it is not to be 
wondered at that he not only keeps a keen 
eye on his retreat, but also chooses feeding 
grounds in such close proximity to his burrows 
that he can disappear, as if by magic, at the 


slightest hint of danger. He does not, as a 
rule, sit out on arable or ploughed land ; take 
a strip of wood, with grass land on one side 
and ploughed or newly-sown wheat land on 
the other, and you will find ten rabbits put up 
on the grass land to one on the ploughed or 
wheat land. 

You will seldom find small woods surrounded 
by arable land full of rabbits. Why is this so? 
for, if young rabbits really spoil the wheats 
that would seem to be the most likely place 
for them to settle. On the other hand, take 
any wood partially surrounded by pasture land, 
and you will find any quantity of rabbits there. 
In beating large woods you will invariably see 
that the rabbits congregate in the beats nearest 
the meadow lands, rather than in any other 
part of the wood. 

The rabbit is certainly destructive to young 
trees, more especially larch trees, but nine- 
tenths of the rabbits that are put upon the 
table for eating are grass-feeders pure and 
simple. As there are many different specimens 
of grasses, he is probably an epicure, but, in a 


wild State, it appears that he frequently requires 
a change of food medicinally, and for this 
reason he may make raids upon gardens, 
becoming ahnost a district visitor, if not 
speedily repressed. For the same reason he 
may pay visits to the young wheat adjoining 
his cover ; but, in spite of all this, he does 
not do one half the mischief that the farmers 
accuse him of. I contend that rabbits can be 
kept in cover in large quantities, without their 
becoming a pest or nuisance to the farmers, 
and especially in large tracts of shooting that 
are well wooded. 

Whether you keep your ground game in the 
woods or in particular runs, you can always 
doctor their runs. Mix oil of aniseed, oil of 
musk, oil of thyme, and oil of spirits of tar, 
in a bottle ; drop a few drops in the runs you 
don't want the hares or rabbits to use, or 
paraffin oil will do almost as well. 

The farmer can't make out how it is that 
the rabbits won't come out in his newly-sown 
barley when he is waiting for them with his 
gun, but I know why it is, though I don't feel 


called upon to call him from his dinner to tell 
him. He complains to your master that the 
rabbits come out of the wood and eat his 
barley. I reply that I set snares for them, and 
he comes and looks at the wood-runs and sees 
for himself that the snares are set. *' They 
don't catch much," says he. " How is it, 
Wilkins ? The rabbits seem to know the 
snares are there." ''Well, yes, they do." 
" How's that ? " '' Most likely they see them 
standing in the day time." '' Ah, I suppose so ; 
I thought they might smell them, Wilkins." 
" So they do, sir, or they smell where we've 
been trampling about the runs setting them." 

If, by chance, you catch a rabbit in one of 
these snares, lay a lot of fluck in the run, and 
make a lot of scrambling about, rub the fluck 
on the newly-scratched ground in half-a-dozen 
of the runs, and hang a bit of fluck in the eye 
of the snare as if it had caught. You do all 
this, of course, early in the morning. You 
meet Mr. Rabbit Complainer in the course of 
the day : 

'* So I see vou had some of them last night 


in your snares, Wiikins." " I set them on 
purpose, sir." " I am glad of it, Wiikins." 
'' Yes, sir, it will help baulk them a bit if we 
catch a few of them coming out after your 
corn." ** Yes, yes, it all helps, Wiikins ; good 
morning." If you can only satisfy him, that 
is something ; it goes a long way sometimes, 
and is one of the tricks of our trade. 

So much for snaring rabbits. The squire 
tells the keeper that foxes he will have, the 
keeper says that rabbits he must have, so the 
more harmless you can make them both the 
better for master, keeper, and farmer. The 
farmer hunts, so that he should not be too 
selfish and hard upon the keeper, by complain- 
ing about the rabbits ; he ought to know that 
everything in the way of game rearing must 
be taken fairly with fox preserving, and, being 
a hunter, he has no business to complain of 
rabbits. On the contrary, he must help keep 
a few rabbits to feed the foxes on, for while 
the vixen is taking an old doe rabbit to her 
cubs she is not hunting for a hen pheasant on 
the nest or robbing the farmer's hen-roost. 

poachers' dogs, and how to kill them. 

A GREAT dodge in poaching used to be 
gate netting. A hare on the prowl, 
started off a field when feeding, generally 
makes for the gate-run — that is to say, leaves 
the field by means of the gate — and, for this 
reason, one of the oldest methods of poaching 
is gate snaring or netting. 

To prevent this you should tar the lowest 
rail of the gate, so that when the hare goes 
underneath it she smears her back ; she will 
then avoid the gate for the future, and find 
some other way in and out of the field, for 


whichever way a hare comes into a field at 
night, she will go out the same way if she 
possibly can. Now the hares, thus driven to 
avoid the gate, make through the hedges, and 
the more runs there are through the hedges 
the more chances there are for the hares, and 
the less for the poachers. Thus you protect 
the hares and baffle the poachers. Finally, 
fasten the gate with a good strong wyth, and 
put a peg through the framework. 

Poachers, when after ground game, are 
invariably accompanied by a dog, which is 
generally a mongrel of the hound species. As 
I think I have before mentioned, it is of the 
utmost importance to get rid of this dog some- 
how or other. If you can do this it will often 
break up the gang of poachers for the season, 
as it is generally a very clever dog and difficult 
to replace. 

I am now going to tell you how to preserve 
your hares from the poachers and their dogs. 
Set an alarm gun in the field where the hares 
feed, generally a clover field ; place it in the 
centre of the field, and attach three strings to 


the trigger, leading them away from it in the 
form of a three-cornered table, so that the dog 
is bound to run on to one of the three when 
driving the hares or hunting the field. Bang ! 
goes the gun, and off run the poachers. '^ He's 
shot the dog," they cry, and forthwith catch 
up their nets as quickly as possible, and make 
off ; if there are two nets, they take the nearest 
and leave the other, and they do not stop to 
touch the gate netting. 

After they have gone about half-a-mile, the 
dog overtakes them. "The old devil missed 
him, after all," is their polite comment ; " that 
couldn't have been Wilkins shot at him, it was 
one of his men ; he'd a' been a dead 'un if 
Wilkins rose his gun to him." 

I only use the alarm gun on nights when I 
am riot watching, and then more to baulk the 
poachers than anything else. When vou are 
watching the gates it would do more harm 
than good ; it is only of use to prevent the 
poachers killing your hares when you are not 

Here is another dodge for poachers' dogs. 


Take a rabbit's liver, heart, and lights, and 
season them. Put them into a pound canister 
tin, and carry the tin in your breast pocket. 
You will require four livers, or four seasoned 
doses, and you should put some blood with 
each dose. Lay one dose two or three yards 
away from each gate, and, while the poacher 
is engaged in setting his net, the dog will 
scent the blood on the dose, come up, and eat 
it. The poacher sets his net, and then, not 
knowing what his dog has been about, calls to 
him : — *' Here, Bob, go on, good dog." Away 
goes Bob across the field, but before he has 
got a hundred yards he begins to feel very 
queer and staggery. He winds a hare and 
makes a rush for her, but, as he is drawing up 
to her flanks, he pitches a somersault head 
over heels ; he tries to rise, but only falls over 
again, his legs going out as stiff as iron pokers. 
It's all up with poor Bob, he never returns to 
his master, but lays there until next morning. 
You come to pick up your doses, and find one 
clean gone. (This is Irish, quite Irish, you 
know. — Eds.) Look about you, and you will 



see a great prize ; put him in a bag, and bury 
him with all honours. That gang of poachers 
is broken up for the season, for it is a hundred 
to one that they cannot get another dog, and, 
if they do, it won't be another '' Bob," but 
some animal of very little use to them. 

Where keepers are bound to risk everything 
to get lid of certain poaching dogs, and so 
break up gangs of poachers, this dodge always 
answers well, but it is a dangerous game to 
play, and I don't like it as much as the alarm 
gun, because, with the best intentions of doing 
your duty and giving every satisfaction to your 
master, you may bring discredit upon both 
yourself and him. For instance, suppose a fox 
comes through the gate and picks up one of 
your doses ; he is found dead in the ditch or 
fallow field, and you are blamed for it. This 
makes it very unpleasant for you and your 
master. Of course, if there is no hunting, and 
no hounds are kept in that part of the country, 
it is the best dodge out to stop gate netting ; 
but, still, I like the alarm gun better. 

I make my own alarm guns, and can set 

poachers' dogs, and how to kill them. 227 

them in the field or woods so as to make the 
dog commit suicide, but the same drawback 
applies to this as well as the doses — a fox may 
get killed as well as a poacher's dog. It is far 
better to set them merely as alarm guns, and 
not load them with shot at all, as a man might 
possibly get entangled in them. 

A great thing in preserving hares is to keep 
your covers quiet, and not shoot and hunt 
them continually, thus disturbing the hares. 
Some keepers cannot make out how it is they 
have so few hares in their woods, although 
they are well looked after. John Lawrence, 
of the Brick Kiln, is as good a keeper to 
* look out ' as you can well have, as anyone 
who knows him will tell you, and yet he hasn't 
many hares. This is because he is always 
pottering about and disturbing his hares, so 
they shift to some other run, where they can 
lay quiet, and do lay quiei. 

This is a very important point in preserving 
hares : you may drive the game clean off your 
estate simply by disturbing them frequently. 
Say you have a plantation an acre and a half 


in size, with a hundred hares in it, as I once 
had in the Quarter-mile Field plantation ; now 
hunt or otherwise disturb the plantation four 
days in the week, and on the fifth day you 
may find one brace of hares in it, but you 
won't find more. Yet there have been no 
hares killed ; it is simply the result of disturb- 
ing the hares fiom day to day. 

In concluding this chapter I may mention 
that a few mangold wurtzels and sweet carrots, 
put in the covers, is a good thing to help keep 
vour hares at home. 



AS I have before mentioned, my neighbour 
Jones lost his place and took to poaching. 
One day I discovered that a net had been set 
at Honeysuckle Gate, and another one at Rye- 
croft Gate, so I and my under-keeper, Joslin, 
together with George Hutley, went to the 
former place, where I and Joslin stayed, whilst 
Hutley went into the next field, about fifty 
yards further on. About eleven o'clock at 
night I heard some one coming down the field, 
and saw three men pass close by where Joslin 
was hiding, so close that he could have put out 


his hand and touched them. They came on to 
my gate and stopped close by me, when I 
recognised Jones's voice, as he said to his 
mates : — " You know where the other two 
gates are, so go and set them while Vm doing 
this one." The other two then went off into 
the next field, and Jones remained and set his 
net between me and Joslin. 

After a few minutes, I heard some dogs in 
full cry in the field, and the men laughing 
heartily at the sport ; then I heard two hares 
cry out, one in each of the other two gates to 
which Jones's mate had gone. Thereupon I 
came out of my hiding place and stepped up 
to Jones, who was wearing a broad-brimmed felt 
hat, tied down like a gipsy's bonnet, and also a 
large cow- dealer's smock gown. I laid my hand 
on his shoulder, and he hung down his head. 

^* Is it you, Jones ? " said I, ^' I am sorry to 
see you here; you are the last man that ought 
to come to trouble me. I know that you are 
out of a job, and have a large family to keep, 
but if you had come to me I would have given 
you something to help you along." 


*' I know you would, John," he answered. 

I did not take hold of his collar, as he stood 
perfectly still and quiet. Just then up came 
Joslin, who was a very big man, and looked 
at Jones. " Halloa, old chap, is that you ? " 
says he. "Yes," said I, "it is, and I'm very 
sorry to see him. It's Jones, the Birchanger- 
Wood keeper that was. You take charge of 
him, Joslin, while I go into the next field." 

Upon this he took hold of Jones very 
roughly by ihe collar, which roused the latter's 
temper. " Come, come, gently on," said Jones. 
He had scarcely spoken the words when Joslin 
raised his staff over his (Jones's) head, saying : 
*'ril crack your head open for you.*' "Go 
on," said Jones, "Two can play at that game." 
But here I interfered and cautioned Joslin, 
saying, as I took hold of his arm : *' We don't 
want any cracking of heads, if you please; 
the man was civil enough with me, Joslin." 
Jones, however, was thoroughly roused, so he 
called to me to * let be, and that two could 
play at that game, at the same time putting 
his nobbled stick in fighting position. There 


upon I took each man by the collar, and 
pulled them apart, telling Joslin to simply 
stand by his man, and not touch him. 

Then I went over into the next field, but I 
had not got more than twenty yards when a 
lurcher dog ranged past me, at about ten or 
fifteen paces. I let fly and killed him, and, 
going on a little further, I came across a net 
with a hare in it, and a man with a lurcher at 
his heels. I took hold of the man's collar 
with my left hand, having the gun in my right, 
and, as the dog passed in front of me, I shot 
the dog with the gun in one hand only, never 
leaving go of the man. I put the muzzle right 
up against the animal's ribs, and, letting fly, 
bored a hole clean through him. I then 
dropped my gun and took up my stafl", as I 
expected to get a blow on the head for killing 
the dog, but I did not get it, my man behaving 
civilly enough. 

In the meantime I heard my mate Hutley 
calling out : '^ Come on, keeper ; come on, 
Wilkins," to which I replied : '' Have you got 
your man ? " '* Yes." Then I hailed again : 


" Have you got more than one ? " *' No, but 
do come on." ^'Have you got your man?'* 
^* Yes, come on." *' Have you got more than 
one ?" *^ No." ^* Then stick to your man ; 
I've got one and Joslin's got another, so each 
one stick to his man." 

^' Come on, mate," says I to my man, so I 
went towards Hutley, and he came to meet me 
with his man. '' Halloa," says I, as soon as I 
saw them, *' Jemmy Boys ; old friends meet 
to-night." " Yes, John," said Jim, who was 
Hutley's catch, ** I wish we hadn't met." 
** Come on. Jemmy," says I, cheerfully, "this 
way, please." So we all went to Joslin and 
Jones, and I said : "Do you know this man, 
George ?" "Oh, yes, I know him well enough," 
he replied ; but he lied, for he did not know 

After we had searched the three men I told 
JosHn and Hutley to stay with them, whilst I 
w^ent and looked up the things, bidding Joshn 
hold the man we did not know, for I thought 
we all knew Jones and Boys. I put the nets 
and two hares in my pockets, took the two 


dead dogs, one in each hand, and a gun under 
each arm. Hutley had asked me to take his 
single-barrelled gun with irie, and I had left my 
double-barrelled gun where I shot my last dog. 
I was going on, thus loaded up, when Joslin 
calls out. ''Come on, Wilkins, come on, 
here's three or four more yet." I immediately 
dropped everything except my single-barrelled 
gun, and ran up, thinking that Joslin meant 
three or four more dogs. 

'' Where, where ? " I cried. *' Over there," 
said he, pointing to the hedge. I looked up 
and saw three or four men, who had come 
down from the top of the field. I went up to 
the gap where Jones had set his net, to look at 
them, when one of the gang reached over the 
bank with his stick, to crack my head, but I 
stepped back in time to avoid the blow. I 
had time, however, to recognize one man as 
Duckey Phillips, of Birchanger. 

*' Oh ! ho ! that's you, Duckey, is it ?'* says I. 
" IVe handled both you and your father before 
now, and the pair of you won't make the half 
of a good man. You'll have about one shot 


with a Stone, I suppose, and then bolt ;" for I 
saw that he was looking which way to slope, 
and beginning to sidle off. 

" Don't get over, Wilkins," cried Joslin ; 
" Don't get over, let them come to us," Joslin 
was in mortal terror. 

I had my sword, which I have before men- 
tioned that I bought off old Dick, hanging by 
my side. I uncocked the single-barrelled gun, 
and thought 1 would throw it away and keep 
my sword, but, on second thoughts, I threw 
away the sword and kept the gun, for I knew 
what I could do with the former. 

I had practised single-stick in Wiltshire, and 
that very night, before leaving home, I had 
shown Hutley and Joslin what I could do with 
my weapon. I noticed them smile as I buckled 
it on, so I d! ew it, and remarked that it was a 
very handy thing to carry. I placed the candle 
on the table. *' Now," said I, '' I'll snuff that 
candle backwards and forwards, and then split 
the wick down the middle, with my sword." 
This I did, and they then ceased to smile. 

Well, I stepped back into the field for a run 


Up the hedge, which was from eight to nine feet 
high. I called out to Joslin to let go his two 
men and follow me. This he did, shouting to 
me, valiantly and lustily, to * Go on.' I went 
pelting up the bank, he close at my heels, 
and caught a blow on my left temple, which 
knocked me backwards into his arms. He 
caught me round the waist, and, being a very 
strong man, held me over his head with great 
ease, as a shield against the two poachers 
above, who then used their sticks on my 
body, right and left, 

Duckey bolted, as I thought he would, and, 
on seeing this, Joslin threw me down on my 
face ; and next morning you could see the 
prints of my hands, fingers, and teeth on the 
ground where I had fallen. Away goes Joslin 
about twelve or fifteen yards behind Duckey, 
and the latter, thinking he was being chased, 
and finding his pursuer gaining on him, fell 
flat on the ground, and so Joslin flew past him. 

When Joslin threw me on the ground the 
two poachers kept me there with their knobbed 
sticks, thump, thump, like two blacksmiths at 


the anvil. I frequently endeavoured to rise, 
and was knocked down again and again, but 
at last I managed to stagger to my feet, holding 
my gun, and with this I struck a smart jumping 
blow at one of the men. He bobbed his head 
and put up his hand to save himself, and the 
gun struck him on the thumb-nail, cutting it 
nearly off. This did not, however, stop the 
blow, for the gun-barrel struck the ground at 
our feet, breaking short off at the stock, and 
causing me to fall forward on my hands and 
knees. Then it was thump, thump, thump on 
my head again ; more anvil business. I had a 
tough job to get on my feet again, but I 
managed to at last, having the butt of the gun 
left to defend myself with. 

Now ensued a sharper fight than before. 
I warded oflf a good many blows, not only 
with the butt end of the gun but also with my 
left arm, so that after a time the latter got 
numbed, and I knew that one of the bones 
was broken, which turned out afterwards to be 
the case. I used the stump of the gun so 
quickly from right to left that I warded ofl 


five blows out of six, so that they struck the 
butt and my left arm four or five times to one 
blov7 on my head. Hutley told my master 
afterw^ards that I received enough blows on 
my head to kill a horse, but he was mistaken ; 
he said that the blows sounded like a man 
threshing on a barn floor, but that was when 
the gun, and not my head, was struck. 

Hutley stuck true to his three men, Jones, 
Boys, and the man whom we did not then 
know, but who afterwards turned out to be 
one George Newman. Hutley did all that 
could be expected of him, and, had Joslin 
done as well, we might have got through all 
right without my being left in the ditch for 
dead. I kept on defending myself as well 
as I could, until a heavy blow on the head 
knocked me over the hedge and into the ditch, 

Big Joslin had run away fifty yards, to the 
gate where the hare was caught, and where I 
had collared a man wnth my left hand whilst I 
shot the dog with my right. He told me after- 
wards that he stood there, resting his elbow 


on the gate, with his head to his hand, or his 
hand to his head, watching me fighting, till he 
saw me fall over the hedge, into the ditch. 
Then he bolted, and the two men with whom 
I had been fighting, seeing him run away, 
chased him and drove him up into Bury Lodge 
Eoad. There they threw their sticks at him, 
striking him in the back as he was running 
away, and that was all the blows that Joslin 

The men then came back to where I lay 
groaning in the ditch, and I indistinctly heard 
one of them say : '^ Here's a chap in the ditch, 
kill the devil, drag him out and settle him." 
*' Where is he?" said the other, ^'I don't see 
him." ** I know he's there, for I heard him 
groan ; that's where he is, bring him and settle 
him." '' I don't see him." 

Then I held my breath, as they poked their 
gate net stick into the ditch, and I felt it 
scrape over my legs and punch into my calves. 
^* I felt him then ; bring him out," said one, 
and the other forthwith got down into the 
ditch and began to pull me out. I was too 


badly battered to care much what they did 
with me now, and I was perfectly resigned to 
my fate, when suddenly I heard a shout. 

" Stop, Tom, stop, I say ; hold hard, let him 
be ; leave him alone, I tell you." It was Jones 
who spoke, and he came tearing across the 
field with a vengeance, to prevent them from 
killing me. ** I won't have it, Tom," said he 
authoritatively, *' TU fetch you down if you 
offer to touch him." I could tell, by the way 
he spoke, that he had his stick raised and ready 
for use. Thus he saved my life, or rather he 
was the instrument in the hands of Providence 
that effected this ; for when I heard the man 
coming down into the ditch to kill me, I, in 
my crippled and defenceless state, cried in 
silence to the Lord to save me from their 
violence. I knew it was no use appealing to 
them, so I called upon the Lord, who holds 
the lives of all men in His hands, and I did 
not call in vain, for it w^as just then that Jones 
called out to them to stop. 

**Come," Jones went on, 'Sve must take 
these dogs^away." '^Cut my nail off first, be- 


fore we go any further," said the man whom I 
had struck on the hand. So I saw them cut 
his nail off, and he left his nail behind, and I 
left my blood in the ditch. Hutley bolted, 
after Joslin had gone, which was the best 
thing he could do, as he was one man against 
six poachers. He met Joslin at Stanstead, 
and the two went first to Inspector Scott, and 
then to Dr. Mqnasseh Brooks, and told them 
they had met with a gang of nine poachers 
(lovely liars), that they had been fighting in a 
most desperate way, and that Wilkins was 
killed and lying dead in a ditch at Ryecroft. 




AFTER the poachers had taken away the 
dogs, hares, nets and gun barrels, I rested 
for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then made 
an effort to rise and get out of the ditch. I 
first got upon my hands and knees, and re- 
mained there for about five minutes ; then I 
made a move to crawl out, but only fell back 
again. I had another long rest until, after 
repeated attempts, I managed to get out, 
though not without great pain and difficulty. 
I was, of course, very weak from loss of blood, 
and giddy from the blows on my head, and 
my left arm was broken, so I lay on the grass 


for ten minutes or so. At the end of that time 
I got up and tried to walk straight along the 
hedge, but instead I ran off several yards to 
the right and fell down. 

After another rest I got up again, and 
although my head every now and then went 
boring in the wrong direction, and I staggered 
like a drunken man, I managed to get into 
Church Road, about two hundred yards from 
Stanstead. Here I met Inspector Scott, Dr. 
Brooks, Joslin, Hutley, and seven or eight 
other men, who were coming to fetch my dead 
body out of Ryecroft ditch. They took me 
home, and Dr. Menasseh Brooks examined 
me and plastered my wounds ; he then went 
upstairs and told my wife not to be alarmed, 
but I had met with some poachers. ** Is he 
hurt ? " enquired my wife, anxiously. *^ No," 
lied the doctor, " He's down below, smoking 
a pipe with Inspector Scott, and telling him 
all about it ; he won't be up for half an hour 

or so." 

Hutley and Joslin had told Inspector Scott 
how desperately they and I fought with the 


nine men, ** Oh ! I was fetched down Hke a 
dead man, did*nt you see them knock me over 
the gate ? " said one to another. Now, as I 
have before mentioned, Hutley behaved fairly 
well, but he did not get a single blow through- 
out, and Joslin was not struck at all, except 
when the poachers threw their sticks at him 
as he was running home to his wife, poor 
fellow, to take care of him. 

The next day Inspector Scott found the 
dogs I had shot in a neighbouring pond, about 
two hundred yards from the place where I 
shot them ; they were identified by the Bishop 
Stortford police and others, as belonging to 
Tom Newman, George Newman and Tom 
Curtis. It was proved that Newman, Curtis, 
Duckey Phillips, and Jemmy Boys were all at 
the Clay Pond public house in Bishop Stort- 
ford that evening, they all leaving about half- 
past ten. 

The landlord's son came forward to give 
evidence against them, and declared that he 
heard them say that they would kill any man 
who tried to take them, or, rather than be 


taken they would die first. As I have before 
mentioned, we only knew three of the men at 
the time, the two Newmans and Curtis being 
strangers to us, but Duckey Phillips split on 
all the rest. He told all he knew, and cor- 
roborated the evidence of the publican's son, 
whose story confirmed Phillips' account. 

After laying by a fortnight, I was well 
enough to go down to Safi'ron Walden and 
give evidence before the magistrates ; all six 
men were sent for trial to Chelmsford. 

At the trial, Jones, being the eldest man of 
the gang and considered the ringleader, was 
brought up first, the others following him up 
to the Bar. He looked round at the witnesses 
and, when he saw me, he nodded politely, 
waved his hand, and his lips mouthed ** How 
d'ye do, John ? " I nodded back to him, and 
the people in Court looked first at him and 
then at me, astonished to find the prisoner 
hailing the witness, and the poacher saludng 
the keeper. They understood it well enough 
later on, when they heard the evidence as tp 
how he saved my life. 


Duckey Phillips turned Queen's Evidence, 
and so was let ofif, but the other five men were 
all found guilty. In sentencing them the 
judge said: — "Jones, as you showed mercy to 
the keeper, and stopped the rest from doing 
violence to him — probably murdering him — ■ 
thus saving his life, I shall show mercy towards 
you ; the sentence of the Court is that you be 
imprisoned for six calendar months with hard 
labour. You, Boys, who took no action either 
way, to stop the fight or to encourage it, are 
sentenced to twelve calendar months' imprison- 
ment with hard labour. As for you, Thomas 
Newman, George Newman, and Thomas 
Curtis, the sentence of the Court is that you 
serve five years penal servitude." 

Duckey, the most rotten scamp of the lot, 
got off scot-free, and came to see me two or 
three days afterwards. Jones came to see me 
the day after he got out of gaol, and Jemmy 
Boys paid me a visit two days after his twelve 
months were up ; he brought me a trap of 
mine that he had stolen one night when out 
poaching on my land. The two Newmans 

joslin's donkey. 247 

and Tom Curtis were let out after serving 
three years, on account of good conduct, and 
they all came to see me on their release. 
Duckey and Boys subsequently left the neigh- 

The two Newmans never did any more 
poaching, but became respectable and sober 
men. As for Curtis, I've been to his house 
many a time, and smoked a pipe with him as 
if we had been two brothers. At Jones' re- 
quest I went to his old master, F. Nash, Esq., 
of Stortford, and asked Mr. Nash to try and 
do something for him. He very kindly con- 
sented to do so, and got Jones a situation as 
tunman in the Stortford brewery, which post 
he held to the day of his death. 

Jones always used to come over, or send me 
a line of warning, when he heard that any 
party was going to trouble me. He would 
sometimes come over on a Sunday morning 
and go to Chapel with me, stopping afterwards 
to have a bit of dinner and smoke a pipe. If 
I had any rabbits by me I would give him one 
or two, and so we always parted good friends. 


''Good-bye, Wilkins/' ** Good-bye, old friend." 
I find I have made a mistake about the two 
Newmans and Curtis ; they were sentenced to 
seven years apiece, and were let out after 
serving four only. 

Joslin was reckoned the strongest man in 
Stanstead, and, before this poaching job, no 
one dared give him back an angry word. He 
stood six feet high, and was broad in propor- 
tion ; Pve seen him take an ass by the mane 
and tail and lift him about as easily as if it 
were a little dog. 

One day he was going along the road to 
Stortford, mounted on his own donkey, which 
was a good-sized animal, when he came to the 
turnpike gate just past Zion, House. He 
asked the pikeman how much would be 
charged for his donkey to walkthrough. "Two- 
pence," was the reply. ''And how much do 
you charge for carrying a parcel through 
the gate ? " " Nothing," says the pikeman. 
" Whoa, ass, whoa," cries Joslin, and, quietly 
dismounting, he deliberately slips his head 
under the animal's belly, and seizing his fore 


legs with his hands, Hfts him off the ground 
and carries him through the gate, setting him 
down on the other side. *' Gee up, Noddy," 
says he, getting on the donkey's back, and on 
he goes. 



I WAS out one night with Joshn and old 
Daniel Mumford the woodman, when we 
caught two men gate netting at Gravel- Pits 
field. Joslin showed the white feather then, 
and would not face the stick that Haggy 
Player had in his hand, but kept the two men 
up in the corner of the field until I arrived. 
I took the stick away from Haggy, and was 
gathering up the nets, when Joslin began to 
bestir himself bravely, and collaring Player by 
the neck shook him like a rat, saying : — 
** Come, let's have none of your nonsense, 


Master Hagg." He knew Charley Player, 
commonly called " Hag," for I had struck a 
light with my ** identifier " previously, but we 
neither of us knew the other man, 

Haggy said he would not go with me ; I 
said he should, dead or alive, and I tried to 

induce him to go quietly. No, he'd be d d 

if he go for me or forty such men as me. ** All 
right," says I. ** We'll see all about that. 
Hag. Joslin just cut two good strong withes 
for winding." " What d'ye want with them, 
Wilkins ? " asked Joslin. *' Why, I mean to 
wind them round Hag's shins and draw him 
to my house ; one withe on your shoulder and 
one on mine, and you and I will draw him 
home on his back." ** I'm sure I shan't take 
all that trouble about him," says Joslin. With 
that he whips off his scarf, flings it round 
Hag's neck, gives the scarf two or three twists, 
and fetches up Haggy on his shoulder like a 
hare in a snare, and just about as easily. 

Hag began to gasp, for he was almost 
strangled, but Joslin ran off with him over 
his shoulder across the field for home. " Ow, 


ow, Jos — lin, I go, I go," yelped Haggy ; so 
Joslin set him down, and he walked the rest 
of the way to my house like a lamb, the other 
poacher doing the same. 

I and my guests reached our destination, 
when I told Joslin to go down to Inspector 
Scott and fetch him up, whilst I put the frying 
pan on the fire. ^' You'll be back by the time 
I've done the meat," said I. Off went Joslin, 
but soon came back again to say that Inspector 
Scott was not at home, so we all five sat down 
to supper and had a good snap, followed by a 
pipe and a drop of beer. 

After we had been there about two hours, I 
said : — *' Inspector Scott will be in by now, 
Joslin, so you and Mumford stay here with 
our two mutual friends while I go down and 
see him." Away I went and found the In- 
spector, who had just reached home ; he 
started out with me, and, just before we 
reached my home, we met Joslin. 

** Where's Hag?" says he. ** Why you 
ought to know that, seeing I left him in your 
charge," says I. " Surely you've not been 


fool enough to lose him." *' Oh, no^ he's 
round this tree I expect," says Joslin, looking 
round one tree and another. " He's here 
somewhere." *' Not he," says I. ** He's on 
his way to Stortford by now." So Scott and 
I tramped to Stortford, which was about five 
miles off, and searched all the lodging houses, 
but could find no trace of Haggy. 

He went up to London, got work in the 
Docks, became a steady man, and married a 
good respectable woman. After a while he 
took a public house at Woolwich, and made 
quite a little fortune. Me used often to come 
down to Stortford with his wife and daughter, 
like a gentleman, and bring them to take tea 
at my house. 

"Ah!" he would say, "that was the best 
thing that ever happened to me when you 
caught me at the Gravel Pits field, Wilkins, 
and Joslin let the bird slip out of the cage." 
And then he would go on to relate how he 
took his hook, and walked straight up to 
London that same night. 

Joslin was very much chaffed about the 


affair. One would cry out : — **Who let the 
bird out of the cage ?" as Joslin was passing; 
then some one else would start whistling a bird 

I had no occasion to complain, for it was a 
very good slip, both as regards Mr. Player and 
myself, since he was never any more trouble 
to anybody. Had we kept him he would 
probably have got six months in Springfield 
Gaol, the same as his mate did, and after that 
he would most likely have taken to poaching 

Before I finish this chapter I must say a 
word or two about Jones. Before the poach- 
ing affray related in the tenth chapter, and 
when he was out of a place, I used often to 
meet him in Bishop Stortford, and he always 
seemed ashamed of himself, and tried to shun 
me. I would never allow him to do this, but 
would always nail him and take him into the 
^* One Star" public house, and '^stand" him a 
good dinner, with a pipe and glass afterwards. 
If I was very '' flush " of money I would ** tip " 
him a shilling, and always, when I wished him 


good-bye, I used to say : — If you send one of 
your children over on Friday night or Satur- 
day morning, I'll give him a couple of rabbits 
for your Sunday's dinner.'* And he would 
reply: — ** Thank you, John, I will send over 
for them, and thank you very much." 

This was what I had in my mind when I 
first recognised Jones the night of the fray, 
and said : — '' Is it you, Jones ; you're the last 
man that ought to come and trouble me ; I 
know you are out of a place and have a large 
family, but if you'd come to me I would have 
given you something." To which he replied — 
*' I know you would, John." No doubt Jones 
thought of my kindness to him, when he 
stopped the poachers from killing me, though 
he might have thought of it a little sooner. 



I FORGOT, in my tale of the poachers, to 
say about the preUminary enquiry before 
the magistrates, so I will now endeavour to 
repair the omission. 

There were three magistrates sitting : Lord 
Braybroke; Squire Smith, ofShortgrove ; and 
Captain Byng, of ''The Views," Rickling. 
Joslin especially distinguished himself as a 
witness. Captain Byng questioned him about 
his running away, and he answered that 
Duckey Phillips was running just in front of 
him, and falhng down, so that he had a hard 


job to keep from treading on him. **Well," 
said the Captain, '* That's just what you did 
do, I should think, to secure him. Of course 
you made sure of him, JosHn ? " 

** No, I didn't touch him, sir," repHed the big 
man, with a pleasing smile of self-satisfaction. 

'' What did you do then ? " 

*' I run by him." 

*' So you kept running away from him ? '* 

*' Yes, sir." Joslin was quite unabashed, 

** You did not stop to secure him ? " 

''No, sir." 

'' Why not ? Surely you might have secured 
him, he was all alone, was'nt he ? " 

*' Yes, sir, there was no one nigh but me." 

" And he lay flat on his face on the ground^ 
you say ? " 

''Yes, sir." 

" Then why on earth didn't you lay hold of 
him and secure him, you could not be afraid 
of his injuring you whilst on the ground in 
such a position ? " 

"Well, sir, there were so many of them, I 
was afraid there were more coming, so, you 



see, I ran off and left the lot." And Joslin 
seemed very proud of his sagacity. 

** What, your mates and all ? " 

** Yes, sir," said Joslin with the utmost 

** Good security for yourself, but bad policy 
for your mates, I must say, Joslin," remarked 
Captain Byng. 

The Captain told my master, Mr. Maitland, 
afterwards that he never heard any man admit 
his cowardice so shamefully as Joslin did. All 
this occurred considerably over thirty years 
ago, and both Joslin and Jones have been 
dead for more than twenty years. 

I am obliged to mention Duckey Phillips 
once more, though he's barely worth the 
trouble, if only to show the ingratitude of the 
man. He was called " Duckey " because he 
was a poor, duck-hearted chap ; a most rotten 
sort of man. who would sell his father or 
mother for sixpence. 

About a year before the great poaching 
affray I have related, I caught him snaring. 
I was engaged in watching a snare with a 


rabbit in it, when I saw Master Duckey come 
and take both rabbit and snare. I showed 
myself, and took the rabbit away from him. 
** Now give me the snare," said I. ** I havn't 
got it," says he. ** What have you done with 
it then ? " ''I threw it away." '' Where ? " 
^'Atthe place I took the rabbit. I did not 
set the snare, but as I was walking along I 
heard something scrambling about in the 
ditch ; I looked down and saw the rabbit 
kicking, and, thinking it was caught in the 
briars, I took hold of it, and found it was a 
snare. I threw down the snare, for it's no 
good to me, I don't use snares." 

'' Well PhilHps," said I. '' Come back with 
me and show me the place, and, if I find the 
snares as you say, I'll let you go." **Will 
you ? " said he, eagerly. ** Yes, I will." *' Very 
well, then," said he, beginning to move off, 
when a thought struck me, and I laid hold of 

** Stop," said I. ** I will first see whether 
you have got the snare about you." So I 
searched him, and found the snare, and seven 


more besides, concealed about his person. 
** There," said I, holding it up, '^That's the 
snare you took the rabbit out of." 

At this juncture up comes my under-keeper, 
Tom Bitmead, whose last place was at '^ Park 
Place," Henley-on-Thames. Bitmead had 
been watching some more snares round the 
corner, about fifty yards from me, and had 
seen Duckey take up six or seven of these 
before he collared the rabbit, so the latter was 
fairly caught. 

I summoned Phillips, and he had to appear 
before the Bench at Walden. He dressed up 
in his best clothes, and asked me, before going 
into Court, not to say anything about finding 
the other seven snares on him. He said that 
if he got over this job he would never do any 
more snaring, and that, if he heard that any 
poaching was going to be done on my land, he 
would let me know of it in time ; he could help 
me a good deal in that way, and would do, if 
I did not hurt him unnecessarily now. 

** Pray, Wilkins," said he. Don't say a word 
about those other snares, and you shan't be a 


loser by it I promise you." '* Well, Phillips," 
I replied. ''If the magistrates don't ask the 
question I won't name it, but if they do I must 
answer ; for remember, I am sworn to tell the 
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the 
truth. It would be just as wrong for me to 
say that I did not find any snares on you, as 
it would be if I swore that I found two hares 
on you, when I did not." 

" Wilkins and Phillips," a policeman calls 
out, and we marched into the magistrates* 
room. I gave my evidence, and said nothing 
about the seven snares, for I was only asked 
about searching him for the rabbit and one 
snare. Phillips told the Bench much the 
same tale he had told me, about seeing the 
rabbit kicking in the briars, and how he was 
tempted to take it, thinking what a nice pie it 
would make. "And wouldn't you have done 
the same, gentlemen, in my place ; I hope, 
gentlemen, you won't be hard on me ; I have 
never been before a magistrate before, and, if 
once I get out of this, you shall never see me 
here again. This will be a caution to me 


never to touch a rabbit. I hope you won't 
send me to prison, gentlemen, for if you do I 
shall lose my place at Mr. Brown's." 

The magistrates here asked him if Mr. 
Brown would keep him on in his employment 
if he were not sent to gaol. " Oh yes, gentle- 
men," said Duckey. ** He has promised that, 
for he knows I'm not a poacher." 

**Wilkins, said Captain Byng. '' Do you 
know anything against this man ; have you 
ever caught him before ? " No, sir," I replied. 
** I know nothing about him except this case.'* 
And then I overheard the Bench talking it over. 

*^ He seems a very respectable young man, 
he is dressed neatly and cleanly, and his em- 
ployer is willing to keep him on. He can't be 
a very bad sort of man, for Wilkins knows 
nothing against him before this case." 

So after a short consultation, the chairman 
addressed the prisoner. ** Now, Phillips," 
said he, '* We've taken into account the fact 
that you are in work, and what you say about 
not setting the snare ; also everything else you 
have said, and we hope it is all true. So we 


have decided to deal leniently with you, and 
inflict a fine of two-and-sixpence ; and we 
don't expect to see you here again.'* 

** No, sir," said Duckey, ** I'll take good 
care of that, and thank you kindly, gentlemen." 
After leaving the Court he went to the 
** Hoops" Inn, and got a good. dinner out of 
me, walking home with me to Stanstead after- 
wards. He was profuse in his promises as to 
how he would repay me for my kindness 
towards him. He carried out his promises by 
bringing Jones, Boys, Curtis, and the two 
Newmans after my game, and leaving me in 
the ditch for dead. 


DUCKEY's father. HIS DEATI^. 

TOM BITMEAD found a lot of snares set 
in Ladymead's hedge one day, so he 
and I set to work to watch them, he at one 
end and I at the other, my end of the hedge 
being very wide and thick. 

Presently, up comes old Phillips (Duckey's 
father) and looked at the snares I was watching; 
he did not touch them and passed on, and 
then Tom Bitmead arrived, and said : — *' He's 
taken up my snares, has he touched yours ? '* 
** No," said I, *' He merely parted the hedge 
and looked at mine." *' Well, he's taken mine 

DUCKEY's father. HIS DEATH. 265 

away," said Tom ; so we went off together, 
and found Phillips sitting on Ladymead's 
stile, lacing up his boots. 

I asked him for the snares, and he said 
that he had not seen any. I searched him 
thoroughly, but could not find anything ; I 
made him pull off the boot that was still un- 
laced, for I thought that perhaps he had heard 
us running after him, and had pushed the 
snares down into his unlaced boot. They 
were not there, however. 

^' Are you sure he took them, Tom ? " I 

** Yes," said he. ** I saw him take hold of 
the snares, and when I went to look, they were 
all gone." So I had another good search of 
Phillips, taking off his hat, and hunting in his 
breast, his breeches, and everywhere, but no 
snares could I find, and therefore let him go. 

I told Tom he must have made a mistake, 
and, together, we went to the place where the 
snares had been set. On arriving there I 
found that they had not been taken up at all, 
Phillips having merely slipped them down by 



the side of the stakes they were tied to, and 
pushed them under the grass, in order to save 
tying and untying them again when he set 
them again for the night. Anyone looking 
carelessly in the run of a daytime, would not 
have seen the snares. 

Old Phillips was summoned, and had to 
appear before the magistrates at Saffron Wal- 
den. Tom Bitmead and I gave our evidence, 
and when Phillips was asked if he had anything 
to say for himself, he swore that he had neither 
seen or touched a snare on the night in ques- 
tion. He held out his arm, and said he hoped 
it would drop off his body, and that he might 
be struck dead, and fall into the lowest pit of 
perdition, if he had ever touched, or ever seen 
a snare. The magistrates were horrified at 
his abominable language, and stopped him 
from saying any more, by sentencing him to a 
term of imprisonment. 

He told his master, Mr. Sparks, of Birch- 
anger, the same tale he told the " Beaks," and 
Mr. Sparks asked Inspector Scott what sort 
of men Bitmead and I were, for he half be- 

DUCKEY's father. HIS DEATH. 267 

lieved Phillips' tale. However, when he came 
out of gaol, old Phillips owned up to Mr. 
Sparks that his punishment was just. 

Some few years afterwards, his blasphemy 
before the magistrates was terribly punished, 
and his awful wishes fulfilled, showing that the 
warnings of the Almighty cannot be treated 
with continuous contempt. ** He that har- 
deneth his neck, being often reproved, shall sud- 
denly be destroyed, and that without remedy." 

Old Phillips had a curious and terrible 
dream one night, and it made such an im- 
pression on him that he related it to his mates 
in the harvest field next day, for it was harvest- 
time. They were at work in the field, and at 
noon they sat down to dinner, when Phillips 
related his dream. He said he dreamed that 
he was minding a team of horses and a waggon 
in the field, carting the harvest ; he described 
the field and a few of his companions then 
around him, all of which he saw in a dream. 
He went on to say that he took hold of one of 
the horses by the leading rein, was knocked 
down and killed. 


No one paid much attention to his story at 
the time, but about half-an-hour afterwards, 
on their getting up from their meal to resume 
work, PhilHps went up to one of the horses 
attached to a waggon, to put his bridle on, or do 
something with the bridle. Just at this 
moment a fly bit the horse, causing him to 
swing his head round to his shoulder, in order 
to knock off the fly, when the bridle ring of 
the bit caught in the hook of the shaft, so as 
to prevent the horse bringing his head back 
into place again. This of course very much 
frightened the animal, which turned restive 
and plunged about, at length breaking away 
from Phillips, and galloping wildly off. Phillips 
was knocked down and the waggon passed 
over him, crushing his head out quite flat ; 
the wheels carried away his brains and portions 
of his skull for a long distance, and they had 
great difliculty in gathering up the remains of 
his crushed head. It was fearfully mutilated, 
and they were obliged to collect dirt, stubble, 
brains and bones, all together, and bury them. 

Such was the end of Phillips ; he died with 


an oath on his lips, 'Mamning" the horse to 
"stand still" when it became restive, so he 
was suddenly destroyed without remedy. This 
happened more than twenty years ago, and I 
have heard nothing of Duckey Phillips for 
more than twenty years. 

Old Phillips was the only man I ever 
remember as trying to swear me down before 
the magistrates. I always made it a rule, 
before summoning a man for poaching, to have 
a perfectly clear case against him, always 
allowing him the benefit of any doubt, before 
issuing a summons. 



I AM now going to speak about preserving 
foxes, breeding cubs, feeding young cubs, 
keeping them at home, and as to treating the 
vixen, with other matters. 

If you live with a gentlemen who is a fox 
rearer, and will have foxes, do your best to 
rear them, for one brace of foxes is more 
to him than twenty brace of pheasants. I 
speak from experience, as I once lived as keeper 
with a real fox rearer at Thrupp Wood, on 
the Littlecote Estate, Chilton, Wilts. You may 
be very sure if you live with such a man, that 


he will prove you, and find out if you are true 
to him in rearing foxes. I say this as a 
warning to keepers who take places where 
foxes are considered before pheasants, and I 
caution them to be straightforward with such 
masters, because if they are not their masters 
will soon find them out. 

I was told to look at my earths in Thrupps 
cover, to see if there were any signs of cubs. 
I did so, and reported to my master that I 
believed there were cubs in the large earths by 
the pit. 

** Well," said he, ** I will go with you and 
have a look at them, Wilkins." So he did, 
and, after inspecting the earths, he said : — 
*^ Yes, I think there are cubs ; look well after 
them, Wilkins." ** Very good, sir," said I. 

After a few days he asked me again what I 
thought about the cubs, whether there were 
any or not. I said I still thought there were 
some. "Are you sure, Wilkins?" he said. 
** Yes, I am pretty sure of it, sir." " How do 
you know ? " ** I shot a rabbit, and dropped 
it near the earths, sir, and it was gone 


next morning. Besides, I saw some pheasant 

feathers, quite fresh, brought there last night. '^ 

"Oh! that looks well, Wilkins ; it looks like 

cubs being there. I wish you to look to the 

other earths in the wood and tell me if you 

think there are any more cubs in them. Be 

at the house at ten to-morrow morning, and 
let me know." 

Next morning I reported that there were 
two more litters, thus there were three lots of 
cubs in Thrupp cover that spring, consisting 
of five, seven and nine cubs respectively. 

** Wilkins," said my master to me one day. 
"I want you to go to the pit this evening, and 
get up into a tree, and see how many cubs 
there really are in the pit. Come round in 
the morning, about ten, and report the result." 
So I went to the pit and made pretty sure 
that there were nine cubs there. 

When I went up to the house next morning 
at ten o'clock, the Reverend was not at home, 
but he came in about half an hour later. 
'* Well, Wilkins," says he, *' can you tell me the 
number of cubs at the pit ? " " Yes, sir, there 


are nine." He laughed, ** nine, Wilkins ? '* 
'' Yes, sir, I do believe there are nine." *' Come 
this way,'* says he, so we walked j down the 
lawn, and talked privately. 

" I knew you had been to the pit last night,. 
Wilkins," he began. *' For I ran a reel of 
dark cotton round it, and I have been down 
there this morning, and found it broken, so I 
knew you had been there by that." And that: 
is what made him half-an-hour late. 

In feeding the vixen and cubs at the earths,, 
your aim should always be to prevent, as far as^ 
possible, the vixen taking your game. Rats 
are very good things to feed foxes on ; indeed, 
some people say that a fox prefers this food ta 
any other, but I am not at all certain of that.. 
It may be that the fox finds a rat the easiest 
animal to catch, for there is little doubt that a 
rat caught in the open by a fox has not so good 
a chance of escape as a rabbit. 

When feeding cubs it is better to lay the. rats 

about in different places : one here, another 

there, and a third somewhere else. Should 

you lay them all in a heap at the earths, the . 



vixen has no work to do, you have done the 

work for her in a great measure ; she ought to 

be engaged in taking these rats to her young 

ones, for, whilst she is carrying a rat to her 

cubs, she is not spending her time searching 

for hen pheasants on their nests. Supposing 

she has taken one rat to her cubs, going back 

a Httle way she finds another rat, and off she 

goes with it to her cubs, then she strikes off in 

a different direction, and finds yet another rat, 

and back she goes with this one. All this takes 

up her time, whereas, if you bring your rats 

up and lay them all in a heap at the earths, 

you have done all the work for her ; she finds 

plenty there, so off she goes to worry the hen 

pheasants, with plenty of time on her hands. 

It is a good plan to kill an old buck rabbit, 

and lay it where the vixen is sure to find it, but 

don't take it right up to the cubs ; in this way 

you will take up her time, in carrying it to her 

cubs. Again, shoot three or four young rooks, 

and lay them about, one here and another there, 

for the vixen to fetch, and carry to her young. 

If you have a hedgehog in any of your traps, 


skin it, and leave about in the same way, and 
the vixen will be sure to find and take it. 
Nothing is easier to skin than a hedgehog, and 
the cubs like them quite as well as they like 
hen pheasants. A dead pig, sheep, or lamb, 
you may take in the same way, and leave about 
in the neighbourhood of the earths, for the 
vixen to carry to her cubs ; anything to take up 
her time, and keep her fully occupied in carrying 
the food you provide, thus, in a great measure, 
saving your pheasants. 

Keepers should adhere strictly to these rules, 
never feed in a lump at the earths, or else the 
vixen, seeing the food ready and provided for 
her, will grow suspicious and prefer hunting, to 
taking anything at the earths. We must have 
a little hunting as well as a little shooting, so 
keepers should do what they can to keep foxes 
as well as pheasants, and a great deal depends 
on their feeding the cubs in the proper way. 

Some keepers shoot the vixen and feed the 
cubs themselves, but you lose a great deal by 
doing this, and it is a practice I always condemn 
I know it is a hard thing for keepers to stand 


by, and see a vixen and half a dozen hungry 
cubs in the midst of their tame pheasants, and 
some argue that, if they kill the vixen, the cubs 
can't get much, only what I bring them, and 
there's no vixen to kill the hen birds or their 
nests, so don't tell me that, Wilkins.' 

I say that you will lose in both ways, you will 
lose in young tame birds and young foxes, by 
shooting the vixen. ** What," says you, ** I 
would like you to explain that." I will try and 
do so. 

If you have no vixen, the cubs have no mother 
to lead them away to other covers some miles 
off from your's, which she will do if you spare 
her life. The vixen knew where these covers 
were, but the cubs don't know anything about 
them, and they never will, unless they get hunted 
to them, which is not likely to happen, for they 
will probably be killed by the hounds before 
they can find out these covers. Thus your 
cubs keep to the woods where they were bred 
and you have them always at home in your own 
woods, right in amongst your young tame birds, 
night and day. Six or seven young cubs, 


playing all the time in amongst seven hundred 
tame pheasants, will soon work shocking havoc, 
killing them in the day-time for pastime, and 
at night for amusement. 

This, then, is the result of your own folly in 
killing the vixen, for had you not done so she 
would have taken a brace of her cubs to East 
End Woods, another brace to Ugley Park, and 
two more to Takeley Forest, six cubs out of 
your way, feeding on your neighbour's game, 
and only one left at home for you to keep. 
Is not that better than having all seven cubs in 
your wood, night and day, in amongst seven 
hundred birds ? 

'* Ah, yes," says you. ** But there are two 
ways of reckoning, Wilkins ; you have said 
nothing about how many hen birds the vixen 
would have killed, had she been alive.'* I 
reply : — '* that's well worth taking into account, 
I admit. Suppose she brings three or four a 
week to her cubs." *' Oh ! more than that, I 
have known two, or even three, taken out of 
DurrelFs Wood in one night." ** In one 
night?" "Yes in one night." "Well then, 


the cubs must have been in a poor game 
country, and not helped in their feeding in the 
way I have explained, you must allow for that,'' 
says I. ** You should take the trouble to feed 
your cubs, bringing them all you can in the 
way of rats, hedgehogs, young rooks, jays, 
squirrels, and old buck rabbits. If you have 
too many rabbits and have to kill some off, 
kill a doe rabbit, and give it to the cubs. If 
you can do all this, you can set down your 
loss in hen birds at about four a week for one 
month, that is sixteen old birds killed by the 

Suppose these sixteen old birds brought up 
eight young birds each, that would make a hun- 
dred and twenty-eight wild birds. The tame 
cubs, for if they have no mother they are little 
better than tame foxes, will not be easily turned 
off from your hen coops, often killing the hens 
and fifty young birds in a single night. 

** Fifty, did you say, Wilkins ? " Yes, sir, 
and I say that some keepers have had as many 
as a hundred and fifty killed by the foxes in one 
night at the coops. The woods will stink 


with the dead birds, the tame cubs have killed 
out of mischief, and left lying about. 

It stands to reason that, if their mother is 
killed before they have fairly done sucking, all 
their food will have to be brought to their bed- 
side, as you may call it, by their old nurse, the 
keeper. A man for their mother ! they may 
well be tame, when their mother calls them up 
to feed, by whistling ; can they be anything 
else but tame cubs and foxes ? I say that 
these cubs, deprived of their mother, will kill 
more tame birds than the vixen would have 
done if she had been alive. 

So that, you see, although you may think 
you have acted wisely, when your wisdom is 
put to the test, you will find that you have less 
birds for your master and his friends to shoot 
at, when they come through your woods. Now, 
what good are these wretched tame foxes to 
you, or to the hounds? 

*'Come, come, Wilkins,'* you say, **They 
are some good, a great deal of good; 
when the hunt comes and finds the wood 
full of foxes, I can plead that to my 


master as an excuse for there being so few- 

Well, that depends a great deal on your 
^employer, if he is a greenhorn it may pass off 
all right, but how about the tameness of your 
cubs, how are you going to get over that ? 
Allowing that the M.F.H. doesn't know a fox 
from a sandy cat — and that is allowing a great 
■deal — he will surely see that the cubs don't 
know the country five or six fields off from 
^here they were bred, and that they never had 
a mother to give them a walk out and show 
them what a lot of nice covers there were in 
the neighbourhood. Even supposing that the 
master is so green as not to notice this, there 
are plenty of sharp men in the field who 
haven't a bit of green in their eye, and they 
are safe to see through you. Aye, and tell you 
what you had for dinner last week, if necessary. 

The huntsman, too, will sniff around you 
-very suspiciously, unless he is a great duffer 
%vho doesn't know a hare from a bob-tailed fox. 
He will know a tame fox from a wild one, as 
well as you know a tame pheasant from a wild 


one. When you see the birds come running 
up to meet you, and peck the corn that you 
let fall, you know full well that they are tame 
birds. So the huntsman knows, and can 
easily tell whether the cubs have had a vixen 
to train then up or not. Every man to his 

These tame foxes are no good to the hunt, 
they will only run round the wood again and 
again, and get killed, two or three in one day. 
^' So much the better, if they killed them all 
in one day,*' you say. Well, 1 ask you, is it 
worth taking all the trouble you have with 
these cubs ? I think not. I, for my part 
would rather kill the vixen before she lay down 
her young, than take all that trouble after she 
has done so, for by depriving the cubs of their 
mother you have to encounter the following 

' First, you have to feed the cubs yourself. 
Secondly, the moment the cub begins to leave 
the earths, he hunts round home on his own 
account, in amongst your tame birds, thus 
causing tremendous loss. Thirdly, these cubs 


are no good to the hunt because, never having 
been taught the country, they know no other 
place but their own earths, and thus, when 
hunted, they are easily chopped in cover, or 
else run to earth a few fields from the spot 
where they took to the open. So they have 
given you the maximum amount of trouble, 
and the hunt the minimum amount of sport. 
Small thanks you will get from the field, 

My advice therefore is — don^t shoot the 
vixen, but help her all you can in the way of 
food, as I have explained, then when the cubs 
are * fit,* brush her about, give her warning 
that she has been your tenant long enough, 
and advise her and her family to move off 
elsewhere. Flash a little sulphur down the 
earth and she will soon shift, she will take the 
hint, and move cub after cub away, and when 
they are all cleared off you will have the satis- 
faction of knowing that both she and her cubs 
will do you credit wherever they are found. 
The other plan, killing the vixen, brings 
nothing but discredit upon you, but by follow- 


ing my advice you will make many friends and 
few enemies, and the more friends you have 
the less you need them. 



I NOW purpose telling the different methods 
of snaring and trapping foxes, but it is 
only for the benefit of Scotch and Welsh 
keepers, and of such other keepers as live in 
places where hounds are not kept. I should 
advise all keepers, where hounds are kept, not 
to trap or shoot foxes ; if any keeper takes to 
these practices he will soon be suspected and 
found out, making many enemies and few 

"Ah !" you say. *' I don't care, my master 
doesn't hunt." That may be, but the hunting 


field will make you care. Supposing your 
master dies, or gives up preserving game, and 
you are told to look out for a fresh place. 
You apply to some gentleman, and he casually 
mentions it to another. ** Oh, Wilkins, late 
keeper at Stanstead, has applied to me to 
come as my keeper." Now, the person to 
whom this remark is made happens to be a 
hunting man, he knows you and your little 
games with foxes, so he puts a spoke in your 
wheel, or rather, takes one out. He has an 
old grudge against you because you are a fox 
killer, so do you think he will speak a word in 
your favor ? No, no, he will use all his 
influence the other way, and you won't get 
that place, simply because you are a fox killer, 
and for no other reason whatever. 

When you were warned about killing foxes you 
said you did not care, as your master was not 
a hunting man, but in the very next place you 
apply for the master does hunt, and, if not, he is 
certain to have fifty friends who do, and who 
know you of old. All these fifty will do every- 
thing they can to prevent your getting the place. 


Still, you say, you don't care. Still, I say, 
they will make you care, as sure as you are a 
fox killer. Each one of these fifty possesses 
fifty other friends of his own, and so your 
name soon gets bandied about the country, 
with the nastiest odour attached to it, and 
that worst of all names for a keeper in a 
hunting country — a fox killer. Therefore, I 
say, do not kill foxes, do the best you can 
without that, and let this be your motto : — 
**The more friends, the less need of them.'* 

You may say that it's all very well to talk 
like that, but your master dislikes the name of 
a fox, and tells you that if you cannot manage 
to keep your birds out of the foxes' stomachs, 
you are no good to him. When the hounds 
come and draw the covers, and find every time 
they come, he growls at you about being 
swarmed with them, and so you get wrong 
that way. 

Very well, I know that there are squires and 
masters who are non-hunting men, and do 
growl, especially when they see a brace of 
foxes on foot, when the hounds are in the 


home covers. There are two sides to every 
question ; in this case plead with the squire, 
and reason the matter with him, and you can 
account for the hounds finding in your woods 
by saying : — '* Well, sir, in the hunting season 
the hounds draw other gentlemen^s woods, and 
thus disturb the foxes, who then shift to other 
covers. I can't prevent a fox coming from the 
forest to my covers, and besides, sir, you like 
the hounds to find in your covers sometimes." 
However much your master dislikes foxes, he 
can't gainsay these arguments. 

** Yes," he answers. " But I don't want 
them to find two or three at a time. I like 
them to find occasionally, and run him, and kill 
him, then when they come again and draw 
blank, you can plead that they killed last time, 
and they can't have their cake and eat it too. 
Just tell them that, keeper, if they growl next 

For the benefit of Scotch and Welsh keepers, 
where no hounds are kept, and foxes are bound 
to be destroyed, I relate the following methods 
of trapping and snaring. 


Set four spring traps at right angles to each 
other, so that the bends of the springs touch 
each other, leaving the faces of the traps set 
in the same position as the four cardinal points 
of a compass. North, South, East and West. 
For the bait, take, a pound of pig's fry liver, 
and fat the caul and meat ; cut it up in small 
pieces the size of hazel nuts, and fry it in a 
clean pan. You should do this frying some- 
where close to the traps, so as to have the fat 
hot to throw on the earth, all over the traps, 
and between them. You may add a little beef 
dripping when frying the meat. If the traps 
are set in the middle of a fallow field, walk 
down the furrow from the traps, and sprinkle 
the hot fat in the furrow ; for this purpose you 
should tie up a little bundle of twigs, and dip 
them into the fat, using them as sprinklers. 
Begin at the hedge where the furrow starts, 
and go right down, past the traps, to the other 
side of the field. If a fox crosses the field, he 
will use the furrow, and, catching the scent, 
will follow it up to your traps. You might 
drop a bit of fried meat in the furrow, about 


twenty yards from the traps, and another piece 
a little closer, just to let him have a taste be- 
fore he comes to them. 

If you wish to set the traps in a wood, you 
should follow the same plan, only sprinkle the 
fat down the ride, each way from your traps. 
Choose the site where you intend to plant your 
traps, and then dig a round hole, about three 
feet in diameter, in two or three different parts 
of the wood or plantation, or in the gorse field. 
Take an ash sieve and sift the earth, to take 
away all the small stones, so that you may 
have nothing but fine earth to set your traps 
in. Over each hole scatter some dried old 
rotten leaves, the larch leaf for preference, and 
some very fine or dead grass ; do not set any 
traps, but throw your fry on the top of the grass 
and leaves. Feed him two or three times like 
this, 'till you see for certain that he goes to the 
hole and eats the meat, then set your traps,, 
and you are bound to catch him. 

You should attach all four traps to a ring„ 
so that they can be pegged down with one 
strong peg. It you cannot get pig's fry for 



bait, you might use a pound of real good old 
Cheshire cheese ; cut it up like the pig's fry, only 
into smaller pieces, and use it in the same way. 

Another plan is to take a dead cat, and put 
it into a hot dung hole, and let it remain 
three to four days, according to the heat 
of the dung ; take an old pail and put the cat 
into it, cart her off to the traps and lay her in 
the middle of them, just slightly covering her 
over with earth ; this will draw any dog or fox 
to the traps. I have seen a dog, going along 
the road, catch scent of this bait half a mile 
away in full wind, and, leaving the cart and 
his master, go straight off to the traps and get 

The cat ought to lay on the manure heap 
until you can spread the muck out over her, 
with a spade. Put the dead cat, thus 
seasoned, into an old hollow stub in the wood, 
or a tree under which rabbits burrow, push it 
into one of the holes to the extent of fifteen 
or eighteen inches, and set one trap at the 
hole. Do the same thing at an old rabbit 
earth in a pit, if you can find one, or in an earth 


in the flat of the wood, an old dead earth that 
the rabbits do not use, or in an earth on the 
bank, or in any hole that is not used, and set 
a trap at the mouth of the hole, six or eight 
inches from it. 

A pig is a very good bait, in a hole, or laid 
on the fallow field ; you might use small pigs, 
from three to six weeks old, that have been 
overlaid by their mother. Always balm over 
your bait with manure before putting it into 
the holes, fallow field, or hollow stub, as the 
scent is necessary to attract the fox. A 
hedgehog will do for bait if you cannot get 
anything else, but cats, pigs, or dead lambs 
are the best bait. 

In snaring, you have to observe the runs 
they take, lor foxes have their favorite runs in 
woods, and these runs can easily be found out. 
To set these runs make six good strong snares, 
each three feet long, and twist them four times 
double. Set them in the runs, high enough 
for hares to go under without touching, other- 
wise you will catch your hares. Use fine 
copper wire, which is not so stiff as brass wire, 


but acts better. If the fox breaks the snare, 
which he is almost sure to do five times out 
of six, he goes off with the broken snare round 
his neck, and in his struggles he draws it tight, 
and pulls up the eye of the snare, so that it 
will not slip back to loosen it from off his neck. 
There the snare will remain, and he has to 
wear it as a collar until it cankers and kills 
him, which it will speedily do. Now copper 
wire cankers more readily than brass wire, and 
that is why I prefer it. 

It is very improbable that you will find the 
fox in the snare, either dead or alive ; I have 
found one in the snare, dead, but very seldom. 
It does not matter much whether you find a 
fox in the snare or not, for, if the latter is 
broken, you may be sure that he has had his 
death blow, and is wearing a fatal collar that 
will soon kill him. If your master pays you 
ten shillings for every fox's head you get, as 
some gentlemen do on the Scotch moors and 
elsewhere, why, of course you had better shoot 
or trap Master Reynard, for snaring will not 
assist you much in that case. 





1 PROPOSE, now, to relate some instances 
of remarkable shooting, after which I 
shall hark back a little, and give some account 
of my doings before I went to Stanstead. 

I was walking through the village of 
Elsenham one day, with my gun on my 
shoulder, when I passed the ** Robin Hood " 
public house, and there I saw Albert Warner, 
a farmer's son, who lived at Broxted. He was 
on the spree with a friend of his, taking a glass 
outside the house, and he insisted on making 
a bet with me that he would shoot a penny 


piece thrown up in the air. I did not want to 
bet, for I knew he would lose, as he was no 
shot, but he persisted, saying that he was on 
the spree and did not care a snap so long as 
he had a shot or two. So I bet him that he 
would not hit the penny piece ; he shot and 
missed, and shot again and missed, and yet 
a third time and missed. 

** You are only throwing your money away, 
Warner," said I. " You wouldn't hit one in a 

** I don't suppose I should," replied he, 
ruefully. ** Could you hit one thrown up in 
the air ? " 

*' Why, yes. I offered to bet John Kendall, 
the manager of the railway works at the time 
the railway from Bishop Stortford to Peter- 
borough was being made, that I would hit 
ninety-nine out of a hundred of anything 
thrown up in the air. I was to stake my fat 
hog, which weighed nearly seventy stone, 
against ten pounds, and I said that Kendall 
might have nine men with a pound each, or 
nineteen men with half-a-sovereign each, to 


join in and make up the ten pounds, if he 
Hked. I did not care if there were forty in the 
swim against me and my fat hog, but no one 
along the Hne dared take up my challenge." 

*' How was that, Wilkins ? " asked Warner. 

** Well, they had seen me sparrow shooting 
with a party of four, when I beat all the four, 
on Castle Hills. I offered to bet any man a 
sovereign that I would shoot a cricket ball 
thrown by him. I was to stand near him, and 
he might throw it in any way he liked — up in 
the air, down on the ground, ducks and drakes 
style, bounding as it went along, back behind 
him, straight before him, in any way he liked, 
without telling me beforehand. No one 
accepted my offer. Then I wanted him to 
bet me ten pounds that I couldn't hit ninety- 
nine out of a hundred potatoes thrown up in 
the air.'' 

*' You couldn't hit ninety-nine out of a hun- 
dred now, Wilkins," said Warner. 

** I know I can." 

** I'll bet you a sovereign you can't," said 
Warner, and I took the bet. We fixed on a 


day to settle ths bet at the ** Three Horse 
Shoes ** pubHc house, Murrell Green. When 
the day arrived I took my two double barrelled 
guns and my under-keeper, Humphries, who 
lived with me at Littlecut, Chilton. I was 
also accompanied by Samuel Sanders, a baker 
and grocer, and Henry Pryor, our brickmaker, 
both of whom have since died. 

Well, we arrived at the appointed place and 
I commenced, using my guns alternately, 
whilst Humphries stood by and loaded for me. 
At the fiftieth shot I missed. *' Oh, Hum- 
phries ! '* I cried, " there was no shot in that 
barrel for I did not hit the potato.'* And 
Humphries replied: — **Yes there was; I know 
I put two charges in the gun, didn't I, Pryor?" 
Pryor assented. *'Then you've put two 
charges in one barrel, and none in the other," 
said I. 

Everybody present crowded around me 
whilst I * drew ' the other barrel, and sure 
enough, there were two charges in it. There- 
upon a hubbub arose ; everybody, except 
Warner, said that the shot ought not to count 


for anything, but he contended that it did 
count, because we had agreed that if I fired or 
shot at a potato it would reckon, but I was 
not bound to shoot at any potato thrown up, 
I might, instead, let it alone and have it 
thrown up again. 

** Never mind," said I, anxious to avoid any 
ill feeling. ** I can win my bet, now, but be 
careful and load right in future, Humphries." 
So I went on shooting, but at the seventieth 
shot I missed again, entirely through my own 
foolhardiness. I had blown many of the 
potatoes all to bits in the air, so that the 
fragments could not be collected together, and 
this made me too self confident and careless. 
When the seventieth potato was thrown up it 
fell three or four yards behind me, being badly 
thrown and everybody cried out: — "Don't 
shoot, Wilkins." It was impossible to bend 
my back enough to shoot such a distance 
behind me, and I ought to have left it, and 
had it thrown up again. I did shoot, however, 
missed it, and so lost my bet. 

Although I had now lost my wager, the 


company urged me to shoot at the remaining 
thirty potatoes, to see how many I could hit 
out of the hundred. So, just to show what I 
could do, I shot two at a time, taking them in 
my left hand, and throwing them up in the 
air myself. I hit them all, fifteen double 
shots, so that altogether I hit ninety-eight 
potatoes out of a hundred, and as one barrel 
had no charge in it, I might possibly have hit 
ninety-nine out of a hundred." 

The landlord. Stains, and Sanders, and 
Pryor offered to back me to shoot the ninety- 
nine out of a hundred, for five pounds, and 
Sanders produced a five pound note, but 
Warner said: — "No, sir, I wouldn't lay 
against him if you offered to back him to hit 
every potato out of a level hundred." 

Just before we dispersed an Exciseman came 
up, and took down our names in his pocket 
book. An account of my shooting somehow 
found its way into an American paper, and 
Mr. Henry Wilson, of Stowlangtoft Hall, near 
Bury St. Edmunds, who happened to be in 
America at the time, saw the paper, and 


wrote home to my master, Mr. Fuller-Mait- 
land, about it. Mr. Maitland was displeased, 
and told me not to do anything of the sort 
again, and I promised that I would not. 

Mr. Bowtel, of the ^' Rose and Crown," 
Elsenham, wanted me to go into Bedfordshire 
to shoot a similar match. He offered to back 
me for fifty pounds, and give me twenty out 
of the fifty if I won, whilst he agreed that, in 
case I lost, he would pay all expenses and it 
should cost me nothing. I declined, however, 
because my master would have been dis- 
pleased, and because I had promised not to 
do anything of the sort again. 

I once took my gun and ferret and went to 
Durrels Wood, leaving home at eleven o'clock, 
and returning, at two, to dinner. Between 
these times I had twenty-one shots, twenty at 
rabbits, and one at a weasel, and I killed every 
time, bringing back twenty rabbits and a 

My son Tom, who now lives at Llandrindod 
Wells, Radnorshire, went out one day with 
my underkeeper, Alfred Gayler, who is now 


keeper to Lord Brooke, at Easton Lodge, 
near Dunmow. Tom had thirty-three shots 
at rabbits and killed every time, never missing 
a shot all day, and bringing home thirty-three 
rabbits. That's more than I ever did. 

I have sometimes had fifteen or sixteen 
shots and killed fifteen. There were three 
keepers on the neighbouring estates in Wilt- 
shire, Shires, Hobbs, and Maskelyne, who 
used to say that Wilkins' gun had taken an 
oath never to miss a snipe. I used to help 
them kill snipe, when I was at Chilton, as 
their beats adjoined mine. 

Shires was head keeper for General Popham, 
at Littlecote ; Hobbs was keeper for the 
Dowager Lady Cooper, at Chilton Lodge ; 
Maskelyne was fisherman keeper for Mr. 
Smith, at the Manor House, Ramsbury. 
Being a dead nail on snipe, I was always 
asked to meet them in the water mead which 
ran all along by my ground at Chilton, near 
Chilton House and Chilton Lodge. Chilton 
House is where the Rev. Henry Fowle lived 
before he went to Chute Lodge, near Andover 


Hants, and I was keeper to him at Thrupp 
Cover. Mr. Fowle rented both house and 
shooting of General Popham. Major Symons 
took the house after Mr. Fowle left, and I 
lived with him for a few months as keeper, but 
he then told me that he found the place too 
much for him, and I had better look out for 
another situation, as he did not intend to 
remain there long. 




I MUST now hark back a little, for I can't 
always put the horse in the right place; 
sometimes the cart will get before the horse in 
spite of all my care, but when I come to jot 
down over sixty years' experiences some little 
allowance must be made if I sometimes have 
to go back on the trail to pick up the dropped 
threads of my life's story. 

I am now about to relate some queer stories 
of my underkeeper, Humphries, and I should 
first mention that he left this country, many 
years ago, and went to Australia, so that 


I do not know now whether he is aUve or 

Major Symons was an Irish gentleman, and 
ail he wanted was cash ; he was not overdone 
with that, I think, for he turned off Humphries, 
who, in addition to being my underkeeper, was 
groom, footman, coachman, valet, and any- 
thing else in the house and out of it. I liked 
the Major very much, he wasn't a bad sort of 
man, but all he wanted was cash. After I had 
been with him some little while he asked me 
to bring my book in, which I was very pleased 
to do, for I had not seen the colour of his 
money as yet. Before he came to Chilton 
House he had written to me, to say that there 
would be a barge containing his things at 
Hungerford, and directing me to get them 
carted up to the house, and employ a car- 
penter to put up the beds and so forth. This 
I had done and paid for, and I had also found 
food for the dogs, and paid Humphries six or 
seven weeks' pay. Everyone in the village 
was complaining that they had not seen the 
colour of the Major's money, but when I took 


in my book on the Friday, according to his 
request, he settled up all right, paying me 
every penny, like a gentleman. 

I had nothing to complain of in any way, all 
the time I lived with him, which was only five 
or six months. He told me, when he paid me, 
that he would not be able to pay me any more 
money, but that I might remain keeper for him 
as long as he stayed at Chilton House, if I 
could kill enough rabbits to keep myself in 
lieu of pay. He also told me to go over and 
see Mr. Fowle, and ask him what should be 
done with the birds in the pens, as the Major 
would not want them. Mr. Fowle had left 
milk white pheasants, pied birds — i,e,^ red and 
white — and common pheasants, in the pens, 
on the understanding that I was to breed up 
the birds, and then divide them equally 
between him and the Major. Mr. Fowle 
urged me to do my very best, and promised 
me a shilling apiece for the birds he took 
away. The birds were not to go to Chute 
Lodge, but to his place at Salisbury Plain, 
where Parker was keeper, and Mr. Fowle 



promised me that, when the birds went there, 
I should go too, to look after them and keep 
his accounts. 

I went over to Chute Lodge and delivered 
the Major's message, and Mr. Fowle then told 
me to take a horse and cart, and bring every- 
thing that belonged to him and me away from 
Chilton House ; anything not worth bringing 
away I was to throw down in the street, for 
some old woman to burn. 

** Mind what you are about, Wilkins," said 
he. " You know what belongs to me, and if 
there is an old broken hog-trough, and Major 
Symons has had a new head put on it, knock 
off the head and leave it there, bringing my 
part away. Do the same with an old hurdle 
or box. You can ask Humphries to help you 
catch the birds, load up the hen-coops, sitting- 
boxes, and corn." Mr. Fowle had left some 
corn to feed the pheasants. 

I carried out his instructions, and, when I 
had loaded it all up, I went to the Major, and 
asked him to be kind enough to come and see 
that I had taken nothing that did not belong 


to Mr. Fowle. " You know what belongs to 
him better than I do," said he, and poUtely 
shut the door in my face. 

So Humphries and I started off, and he 
suggested that I should call at the Post Office, 
and tell them to send my letters on to Chute 
Lodge. I did so, and Mrs. Smith, the post- 
mistress, gave me a letter which had just 
arrived for me. Seeing that it was from Ches- 
ham I opened it, and read it at once. It was 
from my father and ran as follows: — "Dear 
John, — Mr. Fuller has had a letter from his 
cousin, Squire Maitland, and you are to leave, 
and come at once. I will meet you at Maiden- 
head station, next Saturday.'^ 

I took my box down out of the cart, and 
left it at Humphries' mother's house, at the 
door of which I piled up the broken hurdles 
and other useless things I had taken away 
from Chilton House. Humphries walked with 
me when I started again for Chute Lodge, and 
he asked me to try and get him the job of 
killing rabbits for Mr. Fowle, instead of me. 
He kept on and on, talking and walking, until 


I said : — ' ' You may as well go all the way 
with me Humphries, then you can see Mr. 
Fowle yourself; I shall come back again to- 
morrow, so, if he refuses you, you can return 
with me." 

Humphries assented, and we both went on 
to Chute Lodge, where we were met by the 
coachman, who told me that Mr. Fowle 
desired that I should go to him directly I 
arrived, and that he was then on the lawn in 
front. Here I found him with his two sisters, 
and Mrs. Fowle. 

" Well, Wilkins," said he. " So you have 
got here. Have you brought the horse and 
cart back safely ? '* 

*' Yes, sir." 

*' And have you taken away everything that 
belongs to you and me ? " 

'* No, sir," said I. ** I had a letter from my 
father to say he had got me a keeper's place, 
so I took my box and gun to Chilton, and left 
them there." 

'* Where are you going to live, Wilkins? 
What sort of country is it ? " 


*' I don't know that, sir ; I only know the 
gentleman's name." 

** And what name is it ? " 

'' Mr. Fuller-Maitland, sir/' 

** A good name, Wilkins, and, what is more, 
it belongs to a good family, a very good 

I think I have before mentioned that when 
Mr. Fowle told me to bring the pheasants, 
and his and my belongings, to him, he had 
promised to find me employment until I got a 
place. He said that he wanted me to come 
and kill off his rabbits, as he wished to get up 
a furze or gorse field as a cover for his foxes ; 
he had sown a couple of fields, but the rabbits 
had eaten it all up, so he meant to kill the 
rabbits down until the gorse had time to get 
up. I might either keep all the rabbits to pay 
myself, or he would pay the wages he had 
paid me before, allowing me sixpence a couple 
for the runners, and a penny a head for those 
that could not see, beyond my wage. These 
latter are called ' dead ' rabbits because they 
cannot see, and have to be dug out of their 


holes; they are worthless except for the ferrets. 
I might have a man to help me kill the rabbits, 
but he strongly insisted that I was not to trap 
them, and, if I snared them, I was to tie a 
knot in every snare ; this was for the benefit 
of the foxes, so that if a fox got his foot in a 
snare he could draw it out again. I might 
snare, net, ferret, or shoot the rabbits, but I 
was not to trap them. 

To resume ; Mr. Fowle came down to the 
stables with me, to inspect the contents of 
the horse and cart, and there he saw Hum- 
phries and asked him what he wanted. 

** He has come over, sir, to ask you to let 
him kill the rabbits, as I cannot do so," said I. 

*' He won't get that job, I can assure him," 
said Mr. Fowle, in his pleasant way. 

^' Well, sir," said I, " I thought there would 
be no harm in his walking over with me, and 
then, if you objected to him or wouldn't give 
him the refusal, he could but walk back with 
me to-night," 

*' You are not going back to-night, Wilkins, 
I can tell you," said Mr. Fowle. " I want you 


to shoot, to-morrow ; besides, I have got you 
a lodging, so you can take yourself off into the 
house and get what you like to eat and drink, 
and I will see you afterwards. And do you go 
too, Humphries." 

Next morning I arrived at the house at ten 
o'clock, according to orders, and there I met 
Watts, the head keeper, who had been with 
Mr. Fowle and his father for more than thirty 
years. There were also a lot of gentlemen 
and brushers, and off we started. When we 
arrived at the covers. Watts and the brushers 
turned in, and I was turning in after them, but 
Mr. Fowle called me. 

** Oh, you come here, Wilkins," said he. 
" Keep by my side and don't leave me all day, 
except to pick up a rabbit or two I may shoot ; 
I want to have a long talk with you." Then 
he asked me a great many questions about the 
Major, and lastly he began to talk about 
Humphries. *^ Do you think I can trust that 
fellow to kill the rabbits, Wilkins ? Will he 
not kill my foxes as well ? " he said. 

*' I never knew him injure a fox, sir," said I. 


*' I don't see what advantage it would be to 
him to kill one." 

** Why, you know, Wilkins, a fox is likely 
to take five or six rabbits out of his snares, in 
one night, so he would lose by that, as I 
should pay him so much a head for those he 
killed. Therefore, he might kill foxes as well 
as rabbits." 

'*Well, sir," said I, ** If you will let him 
have the job, I will caution him about it." So 
it was arranged that I should speak to Hum- 
phries during lunch time, and tell Mr. Fowle 
afterwards what I thought about it. The 
upshot of it all was that Humphries remained 
to kill down the rabbits. 

Mr. Fowle left the gentlemen soon after 
lunch, and went into the house with me to 
write me out a character, as I had to leave 
early, being obliged to walk home to Chilton, 
a distance of fourteen miles, that night. And 
thus it was that Humphries obtained the job 
of killing off the rabbits. 



THIS Humphries was a slippery card ; as 
long as he had a tight hand over him he 
was as good a keeper as most man, but, if not 
well under restraint, he seemed quite unable 
to keep straight, and soon got up to his tricks. 
He wrote and told me that he had dropped 
into a good thing, earning about two pounds a 
week for some time ; then it came down to 
one pound, then to ten shillings, and lastly 
to eight shillings per week. He thought when 
it came to this that his job was over, and 
began to cast about for a fresh one, pitching 


down upon poor Watts, and trying to oust 
him from his place. This, however, was a bad 
move, as I shall show. 

He dug a pit for poor old keeper Watts — 
metaphorically, I mean, not literally — and fell 
into it himself, which served him right. The 
Bible tells the fate of him who diggeth a pit 
for another, and such was the fate that befel 
Humphries, for he fell into his own pit and 
there remained, as far as keepering was con- 
cerned. And this is how it happened. 

One morning old Watts came across Hum- 
phries as the latter was ferreting, and com- 
plained that the foxes took his hen pheasants 
from the nests ; he said that, only the night 
before, three birds were taken by foxes. 

" That's your fault," said Humphries. 

^^ What do you mean ? I can't help it." 

^' Yes, you can," persisted Humphries. 

'' How so ? " asked Watts. 

** Why ^ put them under the turf. I put many 
a one under when I lived with Wilkin s, at 

*' You did ? " said Watts, astonished. 


*' Oh ! I see, Humphries, you think / am 
going to watch them, and not my keeper, 
Watts. Go into the house and have what you 
Hke to eat and drink, and then take away 
enough food and drink to last you two or 
three days into the spring. Watch those 
snares, never leaving them night or day, and 
if you catch the poacher that comes to them 
I will give you a sovereign." Then Humphries 
touched his hat and departed ; Mr. Fowle had 
set him a hard job, too hard for him to carry 

Mr. Fowle was a shrewd, far-sighted man, 
who could see as far as most people through a 
nine inch wall, and directly Humphries told 
him that he had not been to Watts, Mr. Fowle 
saw right through him. Mr. Fowle was then 
just going away for a few days, and when he 
returned he sent for Humphries, to ask him 
how he had been getting on with the pheasant 
snares. " Did anyone come to them ? " he 

"No, sir." 

"What! No one?" 


" No, sir." 

'* How long did you watch them ?" 

*' Three days and two nights, sir." 

'' Did you leave them at all during that time ? " 

" No, sir." 

" And you never saw anyone in that wood 
all the time you were there ? How about 
Watts, didn't he come through, during the 
three days ? " 

'' No, sir." 

" Oh ! very good," said Mr. Fowle, and, with 
that, he sent Humphries away, and went to 
Watts, telling him what Humphries had said. 
** And you, Watts," he concluded, " have never 
been through that wood all the time." 

Poor Watts stood aghast. *'I, sir," he said. 
** Why I have been through that spring five or 
six times during those three days, sometimes 
twice a day." 

" Well, one of you must be wrong. Watts, 
either you or Humphries, and I will find out 
which it is." 

** That can easily be done, sir. You will find 

that he has never been in that spring, watching,, 



^'Yes, I did.'^ 
. *' Did Wilkins know of it ? " 

*' No, I'm too old a bird to let anyone else 
know. Look here, Watts, there's three or 
four foxes in there, if you like to stand at this 
end of the cover I will go to the other end 
and walk down the cover towards you, a brace 
or so is sure to come up to you, and, if you 
bowl them over, I'll help you put them under 
the turf." 

Watts was too old a bird to be caught by 
that kind of chaff. " No, Humphries," he 
replied. ^' It would be more than my place is 

'' Oh, very well," said Humphries. *' If 
you're afraid I'm not, so give me the gun, and 
you go and drive the wood towards me. I 
don't mind knocking them over if you do." 
But Watts was not to be had on that tack, 

Humphries related this to me himself, after- 
wards, when he was starting for Australia, 
" Of course," he said. '' If a fox had been 
killed, I should have split about it, letting 


Mr. Fowle know on the quiet. Mr. Fowle 
would have thought me a good, honest fellow, 
Watts would go out, and I should take his 

Humphries made a great mistake when he 
thought he could take in Mr. Fowle. Finding 
that Watts would not rise to his first bait he 
set his brains to work out another plan. 

He picked out a spring, one of the best 
little woods thereabouts for pheasants, and set 
a line of snares in it from one side to the 
other ; then he went up to the Lodge, and 
sent in word that he wanted to see the 
Reverend, very particularly. The butler took 
in his message, and, after a while, Mr. Fowle 
came out. 

"Well, Humphries," says he. ''And what 
do you want to see me about so very par- 
ticularly ? " 

" Please, sir, I've found a line of pheasant 
snares set right across Murrel's Spring." 

" Well, I suppose you have been and told 

*' No, sir, I came straight to you." 


at all, as he says he has ; neither night or day, 
for on Tuesday night he was in the saddle-room 
playing cards with the grooms and coachmen 
till past ten, and on Wednesday night he went 
to Appleshaw with Fanny and the cook, and 
did not get home till past ten. I can prove, 
too, where he has been during the three days, 
and that was not watching the snares, and 
should you enquire, sir, you will find that I 
have but stated the bare facts." 

Then Mr. Fowle went off to the stables, and 
called up the grooms and coachmen. " Now 
I am going to ask you a question, and I will 
have it answered truthfully ; if I find you 
trying to prevaricate I shall discharge you, so 
be careful. Was Humphries here on Tuesday 
night, playing cards ? " 

" Yes, sir," was the reply. 

" Was he here three or four hours ? " 

''Yes, sir." Off went Mr. Fowle into the 
house, and sent for Fanny, and Sarah the cook. 
They came. 

" Did Humphries go to Appleshaw with 
you, on Wednesday night ?" he asked. 


"Yes, sir." Then Mr. Fowle sought Watts, 
and said that he had proved the correctness of 
Watts' version. Thus emboldened, Watts told 
Mr. Fowle all that Humphries had said about 
putting foxes under the earth, at Chilton, when 
he had lived there as keeper under me, also 
how Humphries had endeavoured to lure him 
into shooting foxes. After a little further con- 
versation with Watts, Mr. Fowle again sought 

" Now, Humphries," said he. *' You say 
you watched those snares two days and three 
nights, without leaving them." 

"Yes, sir," responded the truthful Hum- 

" On Tuesday night you were playing cards 
in the saddle-room for three or four hours, and 
on Wednesday night you went to Appleshaw 
with two of the indoor servants ; so much for 
your watching the snares ! Now, sir, listen to 
me (as Humphries was about to make excuses) ; 
you have told my keeper, Watts, that you put 
many a fox under the turf when you lived with 
Wilkins, at Chilton, but you prudently added 


that you were too good a judge to let Wllkins 
know. Now, you can just pack up your traps 
and go. I had recommended you, as keeper, 
for a place that will fall vacant in about three 
weeks' time, the salary being a pound a week, 
but now you may go and do the best you can 
for yourself, for you are the man who set those 
snares in Murrell's Wood." 

So Humphries digged a pit for poor old 
Watts, and fell in it himself. 



FLYING vermin are the greatest pests of 
a keeper's life, breeding, according to 
nature's laws, at the same time as pheasants 
and partridges, and roaming afar in search of 
food for their young. They are indigenous, or 
— to speak more correctly — native to the soil, 
whilst pheasants have to be imported, and 
gradually localized ; therefore, during the 
breeding season and rearing season, a keeper 
has to be continually on the alert, in 
the daytime, against the attacks of flying 


In the Spring time, the best way of trapping 
hawks is to set five or six traps In the old 
nests of crows or magpies, or In squirrels' 
drails or nests. The best time to set them is 
in April, or the beginning of May. Another 
method is to set a pole, the shape of a short 
scaffold pole, in the rides of a wood, placing 
a trap on the top ; should the top of the pole 
be too small to support a trap, nail a piece of 
board on the top of the pole, and set your trap 
on the board. In young plantations longer 
poles will be necessary, but you set your traps 
in the same way. 

Yet another plan is to make a kind of baby's 
cradle near a tree. Drive two stakes into the 
ground, about three feet from the tree, letting 
about four feet remain above the surface, then 
lay two other stakes across the top of the first 
two connecting them with the tree, horizontally. 
The two vertical stakes should be about a foot 
apart. Make a kind of flooring, with lathes or 
interwoven boughs, on the horizontal stakes, 
place a thrush or blackbird's nest close up 
against the tree, and set a trap in front of It on 


the flooring. Cover up the approaches to the 
nest in such a manner that only one entrance 
is left open, and that one by way of the 
artificial flooring on which the trap is set. In 
this way you prevent trapping the pheasants, 
but if you put your nest and traps on the 
ground the pheasants are very apt to go to 
them, in the laying and nesting time. You 
may set a nest and traps, twenty yards from 
the wood, in a fallow field, without much fear 
of trapping hen pheasants. 

In trapping at a pond, drive two stakes, 
about a foot apart, into the water, two feet 
from the side of the pond, and make a kind of 
pier from the side of the pond to the two 
upright stakes by means of two horizontal 
stakes, covered over with turf and lathes. A 
quiet pond in a wood, remote from all noise of 
men, is always a favorite drinking place for 
vermin, and, consequently, a good place to set 
two or three traps on piers, as I have described. 

A dead cat, laid on the fallow field, is a 
good bait for flying vermin, or a hedgehog, cut 
open and laid belly upwards. A good plan to 


catch hawks is to seal the four feet of a dead 
mouse down to the plate of a trap, thus making 
the mouse look as if it were alive, and place 
trap and mouse in the meadow. 

I will next speak of decoying vermin in 
order to shoot them. Take a dead cat, and 
put it into a magpie's nest when the bird is 
sitting, then make an arbour, close by, to hide 
yourself in, which you will have plenty of time 
to do before the bird comes back to her nest 
to sit. When she returns she spies her enemy 
the cat, coiled up in her nest fast asleep, as she 
supposes, and she immediately begins to call 
out and abuse the cat. She makes such a 
noise that she soon brings up other flying 
vermin from the adjoining woods. Don't 
shoot the mother magpie at first ; let her have 
plenty of time to abuse the cat, and swear at it 
for being in her nest, thus attracting all her 
neighbours. These latter, on seeing what's up, 
perch themselves over the nest and join in a 
chorus screaming out to awaken the cat and 
make her quit. Now's your time, when you 
see a good chance to kill four or five birds 


together, let fly into the middle of the lot. 
Down they come at the foot of the tree, and 
now don't show yourself, but slip another 
charge into the gun, for the rest will not leave 
if they don't see you. Very soon they will 
come and have another try to wake up the cat, 
and so you get another shot, and kill two or 
three more. In shooting them you are safe to 
shoot the mother magpie, for she is sure to be 
prominent in the company. 

If you cannot climb up to the nest, tie the 
cat to a pole, so as to look as if she were 
crawling up, climb up the tree as high as you 
can, and tie the pole to the highest branch you 
can reach. When the magpie comes to her 
nest she will see the cat climbing the tree, as 
she thinks, and the same proceedings will 
ensue as in the case of the cat coiled up in the 
nest. A crow's or jay's nest answers the 
purpose equally well. 

When decoying with a live cat it is necessary 
to choose special localities ; the best place is a 
gravel or chalk pit, with trees in it for the 
flying vermin to alight on. Peg a live cat 


down just outside the pit, givinor her a play of 
about twelve yards of light cord, as, for instance, 
a ferret line. Lay a dead rook two feet beyond 
the cat's reach, or you may let the cat have it, 
to play with or eat ; this will attract the rooks. 
The first one that sees the cat will fly round, 
*' querk quarking " until another one is attracted 
by the noise, when this other one will do the 
same, and so on until there will be fifty or a 
hundred rooks, all flying round and grumbling 
at the cat. Then some carrion crows will 
arrive, to find out what the bother is. Don't 
shoot the first carrion crow, because, if let 
alone, he will go back into the woods and tell 
all his friends and neighbours what he has 
seen, inviting them to return with him and test 
the truth of his story. This they will do, and, 
when they have gathered in force, let fly and 
bring them down. A ferret is almost better 
than a cat for this purpose, and is easier to 
carry about. 

In trapping vermin particular attention 
should be paid to the striking of the trap, 
which ought to strike high, and strike quickly. 


When trapping flying vermin, especially egg- 
suckers in the open, a great many precautions 
are necessary. Take a hen's Ggg and seal it to 
the plate of a trap, set the trap in the open 
fields, covering it up so that only the egg itself 
is visible. Keep your traps well oiled, so that 
they play quickly and easily, the least tap of 
the bird's beak springing the trap, and causing 
it to catch the bird by the neck. If the trap 
springs slow and strikes low it will probably 
only chop off the beak of the bird, so you will 
find the beak in the trap and the bird gone, 
the latter afterwards living in constant pain 
and misery all through your carelessness or 
ignorance. If you want to be a good and 
humane trapper — and it is only fair to presume 
that you do — see that the traps are well oiled 
and catch high. 

Some masters will not allow traps to be set 
in the open ; Mr. Fowle would only permit a 
few to be so set, and those few had to be 
placed in boxes or special drains, as he was 
very much afraid that his foxes might put their 
feet into the wrong place. Mr. Fowle used to 


pay me fourpence a head for all the vermin I 
killed, but, as I had very few traps, I devised 
a method of snaring, of which he approved 
after inspecting it, being assured that it would 
not catch foxes. My snaring-box (for it was 
more box than trap) consisted of a wooden box 
or trunk, two feet long, and two and a half 
inches wide, open at each end so as to receive 
two snares. Having put an ordinary snare in 
at each end, I hung up the box off the ground 
by means of a bow stick bent half double like 
a fishing rod. 

I have caught a great quantity of vermin by 
snares in a magpie's nest. The magpie builds 
its nest with a hole in the side of it, something 
like a barrel-down tit's or wren's nest. Set a 
horse hair snare in this hole, and put five or 
six eggs in the nest ; the magpies, jays, and 
crows, will then go to suck the eggs and so get 
caught. Instead of horse hair you may use a 
brass or copper wire snare, but in this case you 
must smoke the wire to take off the brightness 
of it. 

For ground vermin, such as stoats and 


weasels, artificial runs are very deadly ; they 
should be both trapped and snared. Small, 
covered ways in a wood, either placed under 
the rides or by gates leading out of the wood, 
are favorite dodges with keepers. The best 
plan is to make an artificial hedge, five or six 
yards long, across any corner of a wood, 
stretching from one real hedge to another. 
Make a hole, about two and a half inches wide, 
through the middle of the artificial hedge, and 
either snare or trap it. The running vermin 
will be sure to make for this hole through the 
hedge and so get caught. 

Another plan to catch fiying vermin is to 
hang a net across a ride, both ends being very 
loosely fastened. The net must be made of 
fine glover's thread, or silk, and be about four 
feet deep ; set it two feet from the ground, and 
so lightly that, when the bird flies against it, it 
becomes immediately loosened, and the bird 
carries it along two or three yards up the ride, 
and becomes doubled up in the net. Hawks 
always fly up the rides of a wood, especially 
sparrow hawks, which are the worst of the 


smaller kinds of hawk. You will catch more 
sparrow hawks in these nets than in any other 
w^ay, except at the poles and nest traps. The 
net should be at least twenty inches off the 
ground so as to allow hares, pheasants, and 
above all your dog, who generally accompanies 
you on your rounds, to pass under it. 

I have written about snaring vermin chiefly 
for keepers having fox hunting masters, who 
will not allow them to set traps in the open ; 
such keepers must kill their vermin as best 
they can, the same as I had to do when I lived 
with a real fox rearer in Wiltshire. 

I have always looked upon gin- traps as cruel 
things, and it is a pity their use is not pro- 
hibited, but if they must be used they should 
be placed under a cover, for the small vermin, 
and should be kept in perfect order, springing 
light, sharp, and high. I have seen a ferret 
spring a slow trap without injuring itself, but 
only fancy the fearful torture a poor dumb 
brute endures when caught by the leg in one 
of those " infernal machines," lingering on 
perhaps for hours, through the carelessness of 


the keeper in not visiting his traps regularly. 
The gin-trap, therefore, should be set in a box, 
made especially for it, or in a covered run, so 
that the larger animals cannot enter, or, at all 
events, get through it. It should be kept in 
good working order, the spring up to its 
tension, and the jaws catching high. By 
adhering to these rules the cruelty of the traps 
now used will be reduced to a minimum, as 
they will catch to kill outright and at once, 
and not to maim the animal, and cause it to 
linger for a long time in unendurable agony. 



I SHALL now hark back again, without 
apology, to Stanstead. 
One day I made arrangements with Joslin 
and Hutley, my underkeepers, together with 
the woodman, Mumford, to meet me at the 
hut in Durrell's Wood, about two o'clock in 
the morning, which was the time the poachers 
usually came to shoot my pheasants. We 
were on our way to this hut and had nearly 
reached the wood, when we heard three shots 
fired, and saw the fire from one of the guns. 
The wood is on the side of a hill, so Joslin 


went up towards the guns, whilst I and the 
other two kept guard down under the wood, 
spreading ourselves apart so as to partly sur- 
round it. I was close to the footpath — a 
right of way — and, as it led two or three 
different ways into the wood, we thought 
to catch the shooters as they came out, they 
being pretty sure to make for the path. 

Joslin got up pretty close to where the flash 
of the gun had been seen, and concealed 
himself in a hazel stub, when he heard some 
one say: — "Here sits another." To which 
a voice replied: — ''Yes, but I think we had 
better be off, the keepers will be here directly." 
Thereupon three men appeared, and advanced 
straight on to the stub where Joslin was lying. 
They stumbled over him, and he jumped up 
and seized one man by the collar ; the other 
two began to run away, but the man whom 
Joslin held shouted: — "Don't run away and 
leave me, lads, there's only one of them." 
Then one of them came back and told Joslin 
to "leave go," at the same time striking him 

on the elbow with the butt of a gun. Joslin 



did as he was bid, but shouted: — '' I know you, 
Jack." The men bolted, and Joshn called 
to us for help. 

Mumford and Hutley ran up to Jos-lin, 
whilst I ran along the meadow to the end 
of the wood, where the path led three different 
ways, to Oakley or Ugley, Elsenham, and 
Tye-green. I thought to catch the men as 
they came out of the wood, but neither saw 
or heard anything at all ; after waiting about 
fifteen or twenty minutes I called out, but for 
some time could get no answer. At last the 
others answered my hail, and when they came 
up I learned that they had lost the poachers. 
These latter had crept through a gap and gained 
the fields, making off towards Tye Green, 
pursued by Joslin and the other two, but had 
escaped, either by doubling down a quickset 
hedge, or lying up in a ditch. 

Joslin told me that he knew one of them. 
Jack Monk. I subsequently got a warrant 
for Monk's arrest, and Inspector Scott, of the 
County Constabulary, asked me if I would 
mind going with him to execute the warrant. 


I said that I would, and then Scott told me 
that a very rum set lived where Monk hailed 
from, the women being worse than the men — 
they would take up the poker, tongs, or 
anything else that came handy, and fetch 
you down. 

I would mention here that Monk and his 
two comrades shot six times at my false 
wooden pheasants, which I used to nail up 
to the trees in places where poachers would 
be likely to see them. They fired three 
double shots at one bird, and then climbed 
up the tree to see if old Satan was there, for 
they had shot it full in the breast, then in the 
right side, and then in the left, and still the 
bird kept sitting serenely on. Then they gave 
in and left, having fired off six barrels, and 
getting nothing for their pains, but loss of 
time and waste of powder and shot. Jack 
got something, however, in the shape of six 
months in Chelmsford gaol. 

Inspector Scott — he was only a constable 
then, not being created an inspector until 
afterwards — said that, as the people we were 


going to encounter were such a rough lot, 
he should call up the Henham police officer to 
accompany us. Henham was about two miles 
away, and when we got there the pohceman 
said that he had just laid down, having had 
no sleep for a long time ; and he made a lot 
of other excuses, saying that it was out of his 
heat, and so on. I lost my patience and cried 
out : — " Come on, Scott, and let the man stop 
at home, he will be no use to us if he does 
come, I can see plainly enough ; for my part 
I would rather go without such a man." 

So off Scott and I went. 

We had gone two miles out of our way to 
get this policeman, which made us rather 
late, so we only arrived at Monk's house in 
the nick of time. The door was open, and 
there was a light on the table, whilst Jack was 
cutting his day's food and putting it into a 
bag. As we entered one poor little lad came 
down stairs, and said: — "Give us a bit of 
bread, daddy." Monk gave him a piece. 

'* What's the matter with the little chap ?" 
I asked of Monk. 


** He's had the rheumatic fever bad," he 

'' Here, my boy," said I. ** Here's sixpence 
for you," at the same time giving him the 

We took Monk to my house, a distance of 
three miles. My wife was up and about, 
although it was still early. '' Put the pan on 
the fire, wife, for us three," said I. 

"What? for this man, too?" said she, 
pointing to the poacher. 

" Yes," said I. 

" No, indeed I will not," said she, warmly. 
*' For if he had kept from shooting your 
pheasants, he would not have been here 

"Well, if you won't, I will," says I, and on 
the pan went with some of my home-killed 
bacon in it, and some eggs. When it was 
cooked we three men sat down to breakfast 
together, and had a good snap ; after which 
Scott and I marched our man down to 
Newport, a distance of eight miles, and took 
him before the magistrates. 


He was committed for trial, and, as we 
were leaving the court, I said to him :— "Tell 
your sister here (she had come down from 
Broxtead to hear how he got on) to ask your 
wife to send over to my house on Friday 
or Saturday morning, and I'll give her a 
couple of rabbits to make the children a rabbit 
pie for Sunday's dinner." 

So Monk called out to his sister: — "Tell 
Nance to send over to the keeper's, Friday 
or Saturday morning, and she'll get a couple 
of rabbits." 

" I daresay she would," said his sister, 
grinning at me. "With a hook, too, I suppose." 

" At any rate," said Monk, " You tell Nance 
to send over one of the children with a basket ; 
he'll give her the rabbits right enough." And 
then Scott and Mr. Clarke, the superintendent 
at Newport, joined in and assured her that I 
should be as good as my word. So one of the 
children came for the rabbits, and got them, 
and more, too, afterwards. 

Monk got six months in Chelmsford gaol, 
and, the day after he was let out, he came 


over to my house to see me, and have a chat. 
We talked over things a bit, especially about 
shooting at the wooden pheasants ; and it 
appeared that he climbed up the tree because 
he thought the birds had got lodged up in 
the branches, so that they could not fall down. 
We cracked a joke over it, and Monk confessed 
that I had got the best of him right through. 

'' Wilkins," said Monk, at last. '' I want to 
borrow a bushel, or a bushel and a half of 
small potatoes to plant my garden. Through 
me being in prison this winter my wife has 
been obliged to cook every potato I had by 
me, and I havn't one left, large or small." 

*' Here you are, my boy," said I. '* Here 
are two bushels of sets, just the things for 
planting ; you can have them, and welcome." 

I thought he would have jumped out of his 
smock when I said this ; he took the potatoes 
gratefully. *' You have been the best friend I 
ever met, keeper," said he. ** You behaved 
kindly to me at your house, and to my boy 
before that, to my wife and kids whilst I was 
in prison, and now again to me after I am out. 


I Will never be any more trouble to you. 
Money I can't give you, for I have none, but 
I can do you as much good as money, or more, 
for I will stop my party coming to kill your 

It is now more than thirty years ago since 
this occurred, and I never had any reason 
to believe that he broke his word ; on the 
contrary, I had many proofs that he kept 
his promise faithfully. 


monk's conversion. 

A FEW months after Monk's promise to me 
I was standing by my house, talking to my 
master, Mr. Fuller-Maitland, when he looked 
up and said : — " Halloa, Wilkins, who comes 
here ? The Lord Mayor ? He seems to walk 
as if all Essex belonged to him. Do you 
know the man ?" 

''Yes, sir," said I. "It's Monk, who shot 
at my wooden pheasants." 

'' He's coming to you, Wilkins, let him be 
whom he may." 

Monk came up. to within about twenty 


yards of us, and then said : — ^' Is this the 
way to Stanstead, please, I've got lost ?" 

'^ Yes," said I. ** You know Durrell's, 
there," pointing to the wood behind me. 
** But come here a minute, Monk." 

He recognized me and came up. *^ This is 
Mr. Maitland, my master," said I. " If you 
want to speak to me Mr. Maitland will be 
gone in a few minutes, and then I'll hear you." 

'* Did you want Wilkins, Monk ? " interposed 
Mr. Maitland. 

** Yes, sir, just a few words.'* 

** I hope you will not come to be any more 
trouble to Wilkins," said Mr. Maitland. 

*' No, that I never will, sir," replied Monk. 
** ril never shoot any more of his pheasants." 

*^What!" said Mr. Maitland, laughing. 
" Did Wilkins' sham pheasants give you a 
sickener the first time." At this we all three, 
master, keeper, and poacher, laughed heartily. 
It is by no means a bad plan to laugh heartily 
at the jokes of your employers, it gives them 
a high opinion of your intelligence. 

*' Good morning. Monk," said Mr. Maitland, 


at the same time giving him half-a-crown. 
'* Just keep yourself straight, and Wilkins will 
give you a rabbit now and then, and I'll give 
you five shillings for a Christmas box, when 
the time comes round." 

** Good morning, sir, and thank you kindly," 
said Monk, touching his cap as the Squire 
turned on his heel and left us. 

Now Monk was a very determined man, 
and had been a most resolute poacher, and 
recognized as a leader for several villages 
round about, so the reader will understand 
that I wished to temporize with him. I would 
sooner have made sure of him than a dozen 
of the others ; it was not a question of fear 
on my part, only a bit of generalship, or 
rather " keepership." I invariably treated all 
poachers with tact and kindness, and always 
found it pay best in the long run. 

** What can I do for you, Monk ?" I asked, 
when we were left alone together. 

" Well, said he," ** I am going into the hay 
country, and I want a new scythe and a few 
shillings to take with me to get grub with, 


SO I came to ask you if you'd be good enough 
to lend me a sovereign, which I will re-pay you 
the day after I come out of the grass country, 
Can you do it ?" 

*' Yes, Monk, I can, and what's more, I 
will," said I, pulling the coin out of my pocket. 
'' There it is." 

** Thank you, keeper, it will do me a world 
of good if we have a fine hay time." 

*' Well, come in, old chap, and have a snack 
before you go," said I. And so he did. 

After hay harvest Monk called, according 
to his word, and paid me as honourably as if 
he was Lord Mayor. Then Christmas came 
around, and he called for his rabbits, and the 
five bob the squire had promised him. He 
got them. 

*' Thank you, keeper," said he. ** I s'pose 
you havn't such a thing as a pair of old 
leggings you don't want." 

'' Why, yes," said I. " I'll just tell the 
wife to look out some things, and make you 
up a bundle. Now come in and have a snack." 
He did, and, after a good square meal, we 


drew up before the fire to have a pipe and 
something hot to drink, it being Christmas 
Eve. '* What would you Hke, Monk ; brandy, 
whiskey, or home-made wine ? 

** Anything you hke, keeper, I ain't 

So we had a comfortable pipe and glass 
together, and fell to yarning about old times, 
warming towards each other as Christmas 
morn approached. 

'^ Wife," said I. '* Look out some old 
gaiters, will you ?" 

She went off, and presently she called out : — 
'* I'll bring your old breeches, you'll never 
wear them again, and here's two pair of old 
shoes that are only lying about in the way, 
and there's that old coat of yours — if you don't 
give it away I'll burn it." 

'^ Oh, don't do that, missus," cried Monk. 
*^ It will be just the thing for me to go to work 
in, please don't burn it." So the old jacket 
was laid out on the floor and packed full of old 
gaiters, shoes, breeches, rabbits, and so on. 
Then, with this goodly bundle, and five 


shillings in his pocket, Jack went off on 
Christmas morning just after the clock struck 

** Good-bye, keeper, and the Lord bless 

*' Good night, Monk, old boy." And so, 
with a shake of the hand, we part. 

Now, as you may imagine, we talked things 
over a bit with our pipe and glass, and the 
drink made Jack spout out freely about his 
night shooting, his gate nettings, snaring, and 
so forth. I learned a thing or two about 
poachers from him, you bet. On the whole I 
considered Monk the cadger a preferable person 
to Monk the poacher. 



ONE Sunday morning I was just dressing to 
go to chapel, when Jack Monk rushed 
up, all out of breath, ** Are you going to 
chapel, Wilkins ?" 

*' Yes,^' said I. 

*' Then you musn't ; five Debden chaps are 
coming to your wood, Durrell's, to snare for 
live pheasants, so you bolt off down there at 
once, old boy, or else they'll get there before 
you. Keep dark, you know ; don't let on." 

'' All right. Jack." 

*' I'm off by another way, so as not to be seen." 


Off he goes, and off I go, straight through 
DurrelPs wood to the end where I expected 
they would come in, as the footpath (a right 
of way) from Debden ran close to the corner. 
I found Shepherd Wiffin close by, with his 
sheep, and also five men, who had apparently 
just left the footpath, and were making for the 
wood. On seeing me and the shepherd they 
legged it back to the path, and made off, and 
that was the last I saw of them. So Monk 
did me good service that time. 

On the night of the thirtieth of April, I 
heard a tap at the door ; I opened it, and 
saw a man beckoning me to come out. 
. " Is that you, Monk ?" I shouted. 

'* Yes, "was the reply. ^' Is there anyone 
about, in the house, or anywhere." 

*' No, not that I know of." 

*' Well, to-morrow is the first of May 
(Stanstead Fair), and there are nine or ten 
of our chaps coming to give you a dressing. 
Before I tell you any more, though, I want 
you to promise me that you won't catch 
them, as two of my sons will be there, and 


two of my brother George's sons, also two or 
three of my nephew's sons. Now I don't 
want my sons, or my brother's sons caught, 
and I don't want you to lose your pheasant's 
eggs ; you see, Wilkins, nine or ten chaps 
would very soon clear a covert or two. Now 
will you promise me that you won't catch 
them, if I tell you where they are coming in?" 

''I won't catch them. Monk; I'll only 
prevent them from coming." 

''Well, then, they will be there as soon as 
it's light, and you must get your two woodmen 
to be at one place, whilst you and your under- 
keeper are at the other place (mentioning both 
localities), as they will come in by the Burn 
water brook, down from Livermore's farm, to 
the long plantation at Elsenham. Have two 
men at each place before it is light, and show 
yourselves before they get on your land; d'ye 
twig, Wilkins ? " 

" All right, Jack ; I'll do as you say." And 
so I did, and drove one lot of the poachers 
two miles, by running them into Pryor's Wood, 

towards Dunmow. My underkeeper, not being 



in ** the know," could never understand how it 
was that I didn't run as fast that morning as 
on other occasions. I did not say anything to 
anyone, but I placed the two woodmen so that 
the poachers would see them before entering 
the long plantation, for I knew very well that, 
if five or six poachers showed themselves, the 
woodmen would do the same to save getting a 
crack on the head. Whether the woodmen 
did see anyone or not, I don't know, but they 
declared that they never saw anything that 
looked like poachers. 

On two occasions Monk took away dogs 
from his sons and nephews, one of them being 
a good lurcher dog, and the other a cross-bred 
dog, trained for gate netting. These animals 
he brought to me to shoot, and shoot them I 
did, in his presence. This may appear cruel 
and unnecessary, but it is the only thing to be 
done ; a dog trained for poaching is incurable, 
and will always be a poacher. If you want to 
save your game, and prevent a poaching dog 
coming on your land to hunt, you must shoot 

monk's conversion. 355 

Monk used to come and visit me two or 
three times a year ; he would arrive early on 
Sunday morning, have breakfast, go to chapel 
with me after breakfast, come back and have 
some dinner, after dinner a pipe, put a rabbit 
in each pocket, and so off to home at Broxtead. 
Whenever he was hard up I would lend him 
money, and he always paid me back as if he 
had been the clergyman of the parish. At the 
time I write this he is still living at Broxtead. 

I have chosen Monk's case as a typical one 
of the way in which I always treated poachers, 
and you will gather from it that a great deal 
depends upon a keeper's manner towards those 
gentry. Now I don't suppose that any keeper 
in the three kingdoms has had more experience 
than I have in the handling of poachers. I 
write the next chapter in the hope that all 
keepers will take my advice, and profit by it. 



WHERE keeper and poacher are brought 
face to face, it is always the former's best 
plan to treat the latter with civility, old Dick's 
great desideratum. Treat poachers as you 
would like to be treated yourself, if you 
happened to be in their position, whether you 
catch them pheasant shooting at night, or 
gate-netting by day, or poaching in any other 
way. Treat them as if they were men, and 
not wild beasts, for as you treat them so they 
will treat you, to a great extent. 

If you hear them in the wood at night 
shooting, don't hide up behind a tree that you 


know they will pass by, with your stick raised 
like a man with his bat at the wickets waiting 
for the ball, and then as he passes knock him 
down before he sees you or you have spoken 
to him. 

*' Why," you say. *' Keepers don't do that, 
Wilkins." Granted, keepers do not, but some 
men calling themselves keepers have done it 
to my own knowledge, and done worse than 
that. I have been in Court before now, and 
heard them give evidence ; instead of saying 
that they had lain in wait behind a tree, as I 
have stated above, the keeper would say that 
when they met the poacher he held up the 
butt of his gun to strike the witness. Seeing 
that violence was intended, the latter then 
raised his staff, warded off the blow aimed at 
him, and felled the poacher to the ground. 
All this was a tissue of lies. 

Now, keeper, would you care to be treated 
like that ? No, you would not, it would in- 
flame your blood against that man, if you 
stood and heard him swear to a similar lie 
against you. Remember, therefore, that a 


poacher has feeUngs the same as you have, 
and remember, above all, that a time is coming 
when you will be called upon to render up 
your account to God, for calling Him to 
witness a lie from your lips. Can you wonder 
that such a keeper gets shot, whenever the 
poacher gets the chance of shooting him ? 
The only wonder is that more are not shot, 
and this is a very solemn thing to be con- 
sidered by all keepers. I will now give you 
one instance that came under my immediate 
notice, of a keeper's harsh conduct towards 
poachers, and its result. 

I once knew three gamekeepers who lived 
on the Manor adjoining where I lived, most 
resolute men and good keepers they were, and 
the head keeper was also a very fast runner. 
These three were out in the woods, night 
watching, when they heard the report of guns ; 
they made for the spot from whence the sound 
came, and happened upon some poachers. 
The poachers scuttled, and the keepers went 
after them as hard as they could pelt. The 
head keeper, being the fastest runner, soon 


caught up with the hindmost poacher, and 
straightway knocks him down with his life- 
preserver, at the same time shouting : — '' Look 
out, one down," never stopping to pick the 
poacher up and secure him, he keeps on 
running after the others ; he comes up with 
the second man and ** downs " him in the 
same way. " Look out, another down." The 
two other keepers follow up and secure the two 
fallen men, whilst the head keeper pursues his 
way until he catches up with the last poacher, 
and treats him the same way as the others. 
This occurred fifty years ago, all three poachers 
being knocked down like so many rats. 

One evening, shortly afterwards, this head 
feeeper was returning home from a public 
house, when he met three or four men emerging 
from a bye lane ; two of them attacked him 
at once, but he was a tall and powerful man, 
and defended himself well, so the other men 
joined in the fray. That keeper crawled home 
on his hands and knees, at four o'clock in the 

I went to see him whilst he was still in bed, 


and asked him about the four men who had 
knocked him about, but he had not recognized 
any of them, and they have not been found 
out 'till this day. He partly recovered, but 
was never the same man afterwards ; he had 
to have some one to go about with him always, 
and keep him from beer, for if he took a little 
beer he became just like a madman. He lost 
his place on this account, went into a mad- 
house — as they were called in those days — and 
died raving mad. He was as fine a man as I 
have ever met — tall, strong, and well-made. 
Thus the poachers took vengeance on him 
for his unfairness in knocking them down 
like rats. 

Of course, if a poacher shows fight, you 
are bound to do your duty, and capture him 
the best way you can ; but I am afraid that, 
in many cases, it is the keeper who first 
provokes the poacher to commit a breach of 
the peace. Go up to them civilly, as you 
would to any other men, not in a rough 
bouncing way as if you were going to drive 
them and all the nation before you, for that 


stirs Up anger at once, and when anger is once 
aroused, bad is the result. Blows are ex- 
changed, blood flows, and not infrequently life 
is lost, and all because of your overbearing 
words and manners. Remember that the 
beginning of wrath is like the letting out of 
water, you know not where it may end ; but 
there is always a strong possibility of its 
ending in loss of life between the gamekeepers 
and poachers. Remember also that a soft 
answer turneth away wrath. You say that 
you don't believe in using soft words towards 
poachers. I tell you that after fifty-seven 
years' experience, I have come to the con- 
clusion that they will answer better than harsh 
words. Take a leaf out of the policeman's 
book ; you will not find him using a lot of 
rough language towards men who are breaking 
the law, and yet, when there's real work to be 
done, no one can do it in a more determined 
manner than a policeman. 

Ah, yes, you say, but poachers are very 
rough men, you know. Granted, but how 
about burglars armed with revolvers ; are not 


they quite as rough as poachers ? I would as 
soon face a poacher as a burglar, any day of 
the week. I have often assisted the police to 
catch thieves who were making a raid on 
a farmer's corn at night, and afterwards 
marched them to the police station, often a 
distance of seven or eight miles. I have been 
with the police officer at the sheepfold, in 
Wiltshire, when men have come to steal the 
farmer's sheep, and have gone with him the 
next day, to assist him in searching sixteen 
tents belonging to a gipsy encampment. 
Then I had to run the gauntlet of the foulest 
language I ever heard, which the women used 
as freely as the men, as I stood by to protect 
the police officer whilst he searched. 

I have been connected with the police ever 
since the year 1840. A gamekeeper is really 
as much an officer as a policeman ; but, 
whereas the keeper has only to protect his 
master's game, the policeman, in country 
districts, has to protect the game and the 
keeper as well. 

Whenever I caught any poachers at night, 


I took them to my house, and asked them to 
sit down and make themselves as comfortable 
as they could, giving them a bit of supper and • 
a pipe of tobacco, and telling them to cheer 
up as we would make as good a job as we 
could out of a bad one. 

^*Well, keeper," they would say. ** Don't 
hurt us more than you can help. 

** No, lads," I used to reply. ** I shan't be 
hard on you." I invariably stuck to my word, 
too ; no matter how much I might have been 
prejudiced against any man, I always aimed 
to give him fair play. 

When poachers are brought before the 
Bench, and their case comes on, don't, if you 
are a witness, try to paint the affair as black 
as Satan in order to get them a long term of 
imprisonment ; just tell the truth without any 
colouring, for the prisoners have their eyes 
and ears open, and they will twig it in a 
moment if you are trying to send them to the 
devil. You will get no credit, either way, 
from trying to colour your case, for the 
magistrates will see through you and will ease 


down the poacher, if they do not let him off 
altogether ; thus, you not only lose your case, 
but also give the magistrates a bad impression 
of your veracity, whilst you gain the ill-will of 
the poacher, who sees that you are treating 
him unfairly. I have frequently heard the 
poacher say to the keeper: — "You tried to 
send me to the devil, but the magistrates saw 
right through you." 

I have seen the policeman standing between 
the keeper and the poacher, when the former 
has been giving evidence, to prevent the 
prisoner from striking the witness for swearing 
to a lie ; in some cases I have seen two or 
three policemen between them. You need not 
say all you saw and heard, if you are not 
questioned closely ; of course, if you are asked 
you must answer, for you are sworn to speak 
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but 
the truth ; but remember that the man in the 
dock is watching you, and knows whether you 
are swearing to the truth or not. 

Some years ago I was prosecutor in a poach- 
ing case ; the man pleaded guilty, and was 


fined a small sum, which he paid. After the 
case was over the poacher and I had dinner 
together, and subsequently walked home 
together, from Saffron Walden to Stanstead, 
a distance of ten miles. My master had been 
on the bench, and he and two or three other 
magistrates rode past us on the road, and saw 
us smoking our pipes of peace as we trudged 
along. The next day my master comes to me. 

'^Well, Wilkins," said he. *^ So you got 
your man convicted yesterday." 

'* Yes, sir." 

'^ But I saw you and him walking home 
together and smoking your pipes, as I passed 

** Yes, sir." 

*' You are a wonder to the Walden Bench." 

*'Why so, sir?" 

" You never get contradicted by your men, 
Mr. Birch-Wolfe and Mr. Smith told me that. 
All the Bench have noticed that your men 
generally plead guilty, and if they do not, and 
they are asked if they have any questions to 
put to you, they say : — ' No, what he said is 


about right.' There is no necessity for a 
poHceman to stand between you and the 
poacher, as is often the case. How is it there's 
no ill-feeUng between you and the poacher, it's 
a puzzle to the Bench ; how is it ? " 

"Well, you see, sir, it's because I am civil 
to them." 

" Not very civil, according to all accounts, 
if they come any of their nonsense, Wilkins." 

'* Quite true, sir, but after I have taken the 
hare, or snare, or gun away from them, and 
shot their dog, it's all over. They see that, if 
they refuse to let me have anything I ask for 
they will very soon go heels upwards." 

** Yes, yes, Wilkins, but there must be 
something more than that ; what is it ? " 

"Well, sir, it is being kind to them, and 
not over stretching the case before the Bench." 

He nodded his head, and asked me no more 
questions on the subject, 

I once caught a farm labourer, who was not 
a regular poacher, snaring ; he begged of me 
to let him off, vowing that he would never set. 
another snare. He said that his wife was 


very ill, expecting an increase in family, and if 
she heard that he had been sent to prison it 
might cause her to be prematurely confined. 

^' Well," says I. ** Don't say a word to any- 
one, and I will see you again about it. Don't 
even tell your wife, for if I hear of it from any- 
one I promise you that I won't forgive you." 

The man could not rest easy about the 
matter, and soon came to me and pleaded 
hard with me, but I would not make him any 
further promise. So I kept him in suspense 
for a week or ten days, at the end of which 
time he came again. Then I told him that I 
had considered his case, and, having regard 
to his wife, I would overlook the offence on 
condition that he signed the following declar- 
ation. It ran something like this: — '' I was 
caught poaching, but, in consideration of my 
wife's delicate health, Wilkins let me off. If 
ever I am caught again, he shall have power 
to lay this paper before the Bench." 

He signed this paper, and though it's more 
than twenty years ago now, I never had any 
reason to think that he broke his word. He 


is at present a drayman, and, whenever I 
meet him on the road, he smiles at me and 
waves his hand, and I smile and wave my 
hand to him, which is distinctly pleasing. No 
one ever knew that I caught him poaching. 

There are many other such cases I could 
name, especially of secret snaring by labourers. 
These cases should always be dealt with 
firmly, but leniently I invariably made it a 
rule to give a very definite warning, before 
taking up the matter seriously, and the 
following account will explain exactly what I 

One day I found a snare set in the hedge 
belonging to one of the farm labourer's gardens. 
I collared the snare. Then I took one of the 
cards that the huntsman sends me periodically, 
warning me to stop the earths. On the blank 
side of this card I wrote: — ''And you must 
stop setting snares, Parker." Then I signed 
my name at the bottom: — "John Wilkins, 
gamekeeper, Durrell's Wood, Standstead, 
Essex." This card I stuck on to the pegs of 
the snare, so, when Mr. Parker came to see 


what he had got, he found a red card on the 
peg, and the snare was gone. 

This sort of thing cured the labourers of 
poaching just as well as a month in Chelmsford 
gaol, or a sovereign fine, and caused a much 
better feeling between us. 

I came up to Mr. Parker when he was 
ploughing, and I said : — ** Tve lost a red card 
with my name on it, Parker ; if you happen 
to run across it let me have it, will you?" 
So we would crack a joke over it, and I would 
quote the card : — " Please stop the earths for 
Wednesday." Then I would speak to him 
seriously. *' You had better stop the hares 
from coming into your garden, Parker, by 
putting some bushes in the runs." 

** I will, keeper." 

I never had any more trouble with him, and, 
every now and again, I used to give him a rabbit. 

*' Here's a rabbit for you, Parker, it will do 
a great deal better than an old hare, which 
would cost you a pound or a month in gaol." 

'' A good deal better, keeper, and thank you 





** All right, Parker my boy, but mind that 
doesn't happen again." And it didn't. 

I never broke through this rule all my life, 
and all the men on the country side know this, 
they know that if I catch them a second time 
there is no forgiveness for them. Such firm- 
ness I recommend all keepers to use, for the 
men will then know that they can depend 
upon your word, whether it be a promise or a 



I HAVE previously written on the subject 
of dogs, their rearing and training ; and 
possibly the remarks I am about to make 
should have appeared in that part of my book, 
but I think that they are of sufficient impor- 
tance to have a chapter to themselves. 

All hunting and sporting dogs should be fed 
at night, for they cannot hunt properly on a full 
stomach. House dogs, on the contrary, should 
be fed in the morning, or early part of the 
day ; for if you feed them at night, and keep 
them shut up in the house, you cannot expect 



them to be cleanly. If you take your house 
dog out all day, and it was necessary to give 
him something to eat in the evening, turn him 
out of doors for ten minutes before he goes to 

Many ladies' pet dogs go wrong, or get out 
of sorts through eating too much meat, so that 
I give a few hints as to the best diet to keep 
them in good health. Cut up some boiled 
greens very small, mash some potatoes, make 
some bread crumbs, and cut up some meat 
very fine and small — not fine and large. Mix 
well together, and pour a little rich gravy over 
the mixture. The vegetable is good for the 
blood, and, once a week, you should put a 
teaspoonful of sulphur or magnesia, or a little 
of both, into the food. If the dog refuses to 
take it, keep him on short commons for a day 
or two, and then when he is pretty hungry, 
mix the chemicals in some rich gravy and. 
give it to him. . 

If you want to make your dog's coat like a 
looking glass, give him some bread and butter 
and treacle ; wrap the treacle up between twa 


pieces of bread and butter, and smear the 
butter over the outside of the bread as well as 
the inside. It doesn't matter how you give it 
to the dog so long as you get him to take it ; 
and this method of coat cleaning is good for 
all dogs alike. 

Dogs often suffer from various skin diseases, 
such as mange, eczema, canker, and so on. 
Now I daresay many of my readers will prick 
up their ears at this, so I may as well say at 
once that I am not going to give any recipes 
for the cure of the above diseases, partly 
because, at the time I write this, I am keep- 
ing a sort of dog college, or hospital myself. 
It does not do to tell too much, you know. 
Sixty years' experience of dogs and their 
various diseases is not to be lightly thrown 
away; possibly, on some future occasion, I 
shall publish my methods of curing dog 
diseases, with full instructions and recipes. 
At present I shall content myself by giving 
cases of the various dog diseases that have 
been sent to me for treatment. Usually they 
have been sent to me as a last resort, after 


having gone the round of some of the professed 
dog doctors of the day, and I have always 
returned such dogs to their o\\Tiers, cured. I 
can cure all kinds of mange in dogs : red 
mange, common mange, and eczema.* I charge 
two shillings a week for keep, and ten shillings 
for the cure ; the owner paying all travelling 
expenses. I have had four pounds for curing 
a deerhound ; three pounds to cure a fox 
terrier of distemper; two pounds to cure a 
Scotch colley, and ten shillings to cure a dog 
of internal canker. This last case was a very' 
bad one, the discharge from the ears being 
most copious, and the smell most awful ; in 
fact the dog was so diseased that he almost 
had to be killed as a hopeless case. I cured him 
however, and the dog has never had it since. 
If anyone doubts my statements, I can refer 
them to several ladies and gentlemen who will 
corroborate me. I can also cure external 
canker, outside the ear. I have, now, many 
dogs under treatment for worms of all kinds. 

♦Since this was written, Wilkins has ceased keeping a dog 
hospital — Editors 


I have also been very successful in re-setting 
broken bones. I have dogs, at present in my 
house, belonging to rich ladies of London 
and elsewhere — the dogs, not the house, — ^and 
the brother of one of these ladies gave me the 
three pounds for curing a fox terrier of dis- 
temper. Ten shillings was my charge, but he 
forced the sovereigns into my waistcoat pocket, 
saying that he would not have lost the dog 
for five pounds. If you don't believe me I 
will give you his name and address, so that 
you may ask him.* 

I also take all sorts of dogs to train, teach- 
ing them to be clean in the house, and 
obedient to their masters and mistresses. I 
train deer hounds, Scotch colleys, and other 
dogs, as companions ; I can train dogs as 
watch dogs, either in or out of the house, and 
either in the yard or out of it. Ladies and 
gentlemen leaving town for the summer or 
\\'inter season, and not caring to take their 

*We believe, especially the forcing of the sovereigns into the 

waistcoat pocket ; would that there were more generous 

minded men in the world. — Editors. 



dogs with tHeni, often send them to me to keep. 
I take puppies and teach them good manners 
' — four-footed puppies only, the two-footed 
species cannot be taught — and train all kinds 
of dogs except pointers and setters, I do not 
undertake these because, having given up 
keepering, I have no land to hunt them on. 
. I have dogs from Brighton, St. Leonards- 
on-Sea, and all parts of the country, some to 
train, and some to cure of disease. Four 
years ago I cured a dog of eczema, and the 
lady to whom it belonged said it had been 
under the treatment of seven different persons, 
who had one and all failed to cure it ; that 
dog has remained in good health from the 
time I turned it out cured until now. 

I have had considerable experience of 
rabies and hydrophobia, and I know of a 
medicine which is a sure preventitive of this 
terrible disease ; I put it into the dogs food, 
or water, twice a week. Some time ago I 
had a colley dog sent me to treat ; he looked 
uncommonly like going mad, his whole 
system was in a nervous irritable state, he 


was continually frothing at the mouth, and 
was so shy and sullen that it was dangerous 
to handle him, this got all right under my 
treatment, after a time. 

One day I found a strange dog in my en- 
closure, and, the moment he saw me, he 
fastened on my gaiter. I took him up with both 
hands, and threw him over the wire fencing, 
then I went indoors and got my gun, and 
poked the muzzle through the fencing. The 
dog immediately seized it between his teeth, 
so I shot him with one hand, never troubling 
to raise the gun to my shoulder. He was a 
stray dog, as mad as mad could be, and had 
evidently been travelling all night. I never 
heard anything about him from anyone, 
although I kept his body locked up in one of 
my places, and showed him to people, for a 
long time. No one ever claimed him, and I 
never found out where he came from. He 
looked like a dog that belonged to a travelling 
van, his ears stood up like a fox's ears, in colour 
he was black and white, pepper and salt, all 
mottled, something like a half bred carriage dog. 



IF you want to improve your breed of wild 
rabbits in the wood, you should kill off all 
the wild bucks, and turn down some tame grey 
ones, young ones three-parts grown. The 
wild does will then breed rabbits of a much 
finer and larger kind. 

If you want to obtain half-bred wild bucks 
you should keep two or three tame does, and 
let them breed from a wild buck, afterwards 
turning your half-bred wild bucks down in 
your woods. These half-bred bucks will be 
able to preserve themselves from foxes, dogs, 
and vermin, better than wholly tame wild 


*• Ah," you say. ** What a fool Wilkins 
IS ! How is anyone to know a buck rabbit 
from a doe before it is killed ? " Well, I tell you 
that I know, and I will explain how I know 
and how I kill them down. 

I get up a tree in the middle of the wood, 
and send my man to the end of the wood, 
making him quietly drive the rabbits towards 
me. I do not employ a dog, but only one 
man, to walk across the wood towards me, or 
at right angles to where I am facing, tapping 
a stub here and there as he goes along, so as 
to move the rabbits. The rabbits will come 
under my tree, and sit up to listen for the man 
behind them ; some will amuse themselves by 
washing their faces. This should be done 
in the month of March, when the does are in 
young, or have laid down their young ; and 
you should select a place where there is a big 
bunch of briars for the rabbits to hide under. 
Now, from your position up above them in the 
tree, you should be able to pick out nine 
bucks out of every ten, if you are any keeper 
at all. 


You see one rabbit come lumbering up, 
heavy with young ; don't shoot it. Then you 
see another who has laid down young, you 
can easily tell this because she has cleft half 
the fluck off her sides in order to make her 
young ones a warm nest ; don't shoot her. 
Then comes another, rusty-brown in colour, 
thin, not in young, and with no fluck off his 
sides. You can plainly see that this is a buck, 
for he is all of one size from head to foot ; 
shoot him, and let him lay there until you 
come down from the tree. The other rabbits 
will not be frightened away by the report of 
your gun, they will merely skulk down for a 
minute or two, so that you can shoot five or 
six times from the tree, and kill five or six 

When your man comes up, let him pick up 
the rabbits you have shot, but you keep to 
your tree. Then instruct him to go outside 
the wood to the other side, and walk up to 
you as before ; you shift your position so as 
to face in the opposite direction, and so kill 
another half-dozen bucks. I can pick eleven 


bucks out of twelve in this way ; the only 
rabbit that can deceive me being a maiden 
rabbit, that has not bred, or is only a few days 
in young — a last -year's, late-littered young doe. 

Again, you can snare your rabbits if you 
have any snares, killing your snared wild 
bucks, and letting the does go. In the months 
of March and April, when the bucks are 
hunting the does, I can take twelve traps and 
set them ; and if six rabbits are caught, five 
of them will be bucks. This is no idle boast 
of mine, as anyone who has seen my traps can 

Having thus killed your wild bucks, the 
tame ones, or rather the half-bred ones, will 
have a great advantage in every way ; they 
will not be hunted to death by the wild bucks, 
as they certainly would have been had not the 
latter been killed. These tame bucks, there- 
fore, get almost all the does in young. It is 
much better to turn down half-bred bucks 
than real home-bred ones, the former being a 
much better stamp of rabbit, hardier, and 
more able to take care of themselves. If any 


keeper would like to know how I manage to 
trap bucks only, and not does, he can 
communicate with me, and, for a considera- 
tion, I will instruct him in that branch of a 
keeper's craft.* 

♦The secret lies not with us. — Editors. 



MOST keepers have what they call feeding 
places for their pheasants, in the woods ; 
so have I, but I feed rather differently to most 
keepers. They usually have bare spots in the 
wood, and on these spots they throw down the 
corn for the pheasants to come too. I have 
seen these places as clean as a cottage floor, 
for, being so perfectly bare, the birds can see 
every grain, and nothing is lost. 

The keeper comes whistling to the birds at 
these spots, at the same time strewing the 
corn, and up come the pheasants like a lot of 


servants to the hall table when the bell rings 
for dinner. They jump over each other's backs, 
and run, and fly, like dove house pigeons in a 
farmyard. In ten minutes it is all over, and 
the food and birds are all gone, just the same 
as in the servants' hall at a gentlemen's house, 
the moment the cloth is removed, all the 
company disperse. 

There is very little to be said in favour of 
this method of feeding, and a great deal to be 
said against it. Keepers say: — 'VI feed my 
birds on certain spots, and at stated hours, so 
that I can count the birds and make pretty 
sure how many I have got in that wood." 
Now, supposing he misses a dozen one day, 
and more every day (which often happens 
where this method of feeding is adopted), what 
good is it to have an accurate knowledge of 
the number of birds on your various beats ? 
The keeper knows that his birds are steadily 
decreasing in numbers, and yet he is pig-headed 
enough to continue to feed in his old-fashioned 
way. I know many instances where a keeper 
has started with a fair head of game, and, 


before the covers are shot over, the pheasants 
have dwindled down to one-half of the original 
number, through being poached whilst straying 
from the cover. 

By feeding in this manner you collect a 
large number of birds together in one spot, the 
poachers go with their guns to that spot, 
whistle up the birds, and make off with four or 
five brace before the keeper can reach them. 
Rather unsatisfactory for the keeper, eh ? 
This is the way in which most keepers feed 
their birds in the wood ; and, of course they 
have a right to feed in their own fashion, and 
I have just as much right to feed in mine, so 
I will relate my way. 

The great art of keepering is to keep your 
birds at home in their covers. I don't have a 
feeding place in one spot, but choose three or 
four acres of young wood, wood of one or two 
years' growth, that has plenty of leaves on the 
stubs, and in the ditches. I throw the com 
amongst the leaves in the most difficult places 
I can find, so as to give the pheasants a job 
that will keep them at home in the woods all 



day long, busily searching the leaves and 
grass to find their food. Whilst they are thus 
engaged they cannot be rambling away on 
some other person's fields, hedges, woods, 
springs, plantations, etc., and the poacher 
does not get the chance of killing eight or ten 
birds at one shot. He can only put up one bird 
at a time, and that he must shoot flying, so 
that he will have to shoot eight or ten times 
to kill the same amount of birds. He will 
probably miss five out of ten, and then there 
is the chance of the keeper getting up with 
him, and this has a very deterrent effect on a 

Under the old method of feeding, the birds 
have cleared up all the corn in about ten or 
fifteen minutes, so that there is nothing more 
for them to do until ten o'clock the next day, 
which is the usual time for feeding. The 
pheasants are all gone, possibly have eaten 
just enough to make them wish for more ; 
and, being great wanderers, they are soon 
straying on someone else's land. If your 
neighbour is unfriendly disposed towards you 


he will be sure to shoot your pheasants, and 
many are lost in this manner. Again, straying 
pheasants encourage poaching in various forms. 
Butchers, bakers, or grocers, riding or driving 
out with their orders, are often tempted to 
poach stray birds, more especially as it can be 
done easily, and with scarcely any risk. 

It is very plain, therefore, that, if the keeper 
used a little common sense, and took the trouble 
to keep his birds at home, the farmers and 
sportsmen on the neighbouring estates would 
not shoot them ; nor would the tradesmen be 
tempted to drive through the roads and lanes 
adjoining his woods, in the hope of doing a 
sly poach. What can be expected of the 
latter ? They are continually driving along 
these roads ; and, time after time, they observe 
the stray pheasants, and notice how easy it 
would be to get them, so they borrow an old 
gun and take it in their carts. They let fly at 
a bird, and nobble it all right, and away they 
drive on their rounds; unless you catch them in 
the very act you dare not search them or their 
carts. This first success gives them a taste 


for pheasants, and, the next time they get 
another bird, they begin to Hke the fun. Now 
they train a dog to fetch the bird which they 
shoot from their carts ; then they go further 
and get a lurcher, to course hares ; and, after 
a while, they don't mind joining a poaching 
party at night — disguising themselves, they go 
out for the spree and sport. 

I once knew a painter and glazier who, when 
going off to work, always took a gun in his 
cart, in hopes of getting a shot on the road. 
I also knew a publican who always took a man 
with him in his dog cart ; this man used to 
hold the horse while the publican shot the 
game and fetched it, and the two men used to 
take the horse and trap round the roads and 
lanes, for the express purpose of getting a shot 
at some game. 

As I have before stated, it is not for me to 
lay down hard and fast rules as to how keepers 
are to feed their pheasants, since every keeper 
has a right to feed in the way he thinks best, 
but I contend that, the more you keep your 
birds at home in your own woods, the less 


likely you are to lose them. I know that a 
keeper has a great many contingencies to 
provide for ; but, at the same time, he must 
be guided, not only by his knowledge in a 
general way, but also by the particular position 
in which he finds himself placed. There are 
many localities in the United Kingdom where 
it may be necessary to use bare spots, as I 
have described, for feeding and mustering 
grounds ; but, as regards most parts of the 
country, I should advise keepers to pay 
attention to what I have written, my remarks 
being the outcome of sixty years' experience. 

Before putting in your nests for pheasants' 
eggs, you should sprinkle a little of Mac- 
dougalPs or Calvert's disinfecting powder 
upon them, in order to destroy vermin, and 
keep your hens healthy. If your hen is 
unhealthy when sitting on the eggs, the brood 
she hatches will sure to be unhealthy also. 
I have often been asked by a keeper to come 
and look at his hens, who would not sit on the 
eggs, but stood up away from them. *' Don't 
you know the cause of that ?" I would say. 


** No.'* **Then go home and look at your 
hens, and you will find that they are full 
of lice.' 

He did so, and dressed his hens with oil to 
kill the lice, but all the pheasants eggs he had, 
numbering six hundred, were destroyed. I 
gave him a hundred eggs, and some keepers 
gave him ten, and some twenty ; so between 
us we nearly made up his loss. Neither his 
master, or anyone else, knew of this, only 
ourselves. Whenever such a thing occurs you 
should disinfect your hens, and give them 
fresh nests, thoroughly disinfected. 

When bringing up young birds you should 
change your ground as often as possible ; if 
you bring them up on this meadow one year, 
don't use that meadow for rearing purposes 
the next year. Never rear your birds on the 
same ground for two consecutive seasons if 
you can help it ; of course if you are short of 
grass land you may sometimes be obliged to, 
but avoid doing so if you possibly can. In the 
latter case you should get the sheep folded on 
the rearing ground during the winter, for 


sheep cleanse the land, and destroy the ill 
effects produced by birds being bred on it. 
If you can do this, you may breed three times 
running on the same ground, without doing 
much damage. 



IF you see your ferrets with white noses and 
Hps you may know that they are in an 
unhealthy state ; give them a teaspoonful of 
sulphur in some bread and milk, or magnesia 
in warmed bread and milk. Also change their 
food ; give them a dead cat to eat, nothing 
will make them thrive more. Many ferrets 
are made ill by eating dead meat, unfit for 
their food, such as a dead fowl or rabbit that 
has been shot at some time or other, and 
picked up dead and decomposed in the wood. 


or has died of some disease such as rotten 
Hver or squashed belly. All animals that 
have died from disease are unfit for food 
for ferrets. 

Ferrets soon go wrong if fed on unhealthy 
food for a long time ; it does not matter what 
you give them to eat if it is only healthy food. 
A fowl, a cat, hedgehog, squirrel, rabbit, rat, 
or anything else will do, provided it is fresh 
and free from disease. The ferret hutch 
should be kept very clean, and should, on no 
account, be made with a wooden bottom, if it 
has a wooden bottom it very soon gets im- 
pregnated with the animal's excrements, and 
so sodden that no amount of cleaning and 
whitewashing will do it any good. A hutch in 
this state soon generates diseases, such as 
foot rot, distemper, and so on, and thus the 
keeper soon loses all his ferrets, and has no 
one but himself to thank for his loss. The 
hutch should be made with an iron-wire bottom, 
the wires being placed half-an- inch apart, so 
that the ferrets will, to a great extent, keep 
themselves clean. 


All the hutches should be made in the same 
way, excepting the bedrooms, which should be 
close boarded for warmth, one room at each 
end of the hutch. A partition should be made 
in the middle of the hutch, so as to slide in 
and out ; thus you can, if you want, make two 
hutches. If you only require one hutch you 
should take out the partition, but, in that case, 
you must be careful to block up one end by a 
sliding door contrivance, or a brick, or some- 
thing or other of the kind, to prevent the 
ferrets from using both houses. Otherwise 
they will use one house for sleeping purposes, 
and will make the other filthy in a very short 
time. By observing these precautions you 
will not, or perhaps I ought to say you should 
not, be troubled with foot rot in your ferrets. 
Of course if other ferrets, suffering from foot 
rot, are put into the hutch, your ferrets will be 
sure to catch the disease, for foot rot is very 

. To cure foot rot you should take some train 
oil, sulphur, gunpowder, and gas tar, or spirits 
of tar, mix well together, and rub the feet and 


claws thoroughly with the mixture every 
morning. Give your ferret a little sulphur in 
warm milk, every morning for a few days, 
very likely the claws will drop off, but that 
will not matter much, as they will grow again 
when the canker in the feet is cured. Many 
ferrets die of foot rot, which never ought to 
happen if the hutch is kept properly clean and 
sweet, and it is almost impossible to do this if 
the floor is made of wood, for as soon as it is 
saturated by the ferrets there is no cleansing 
it, and all kinds, of diseases attack the unfor- 
tunate animal, diseases which baffle all 
attempts to cure. 

Ferrets that are kept for rabbiting should 
never be used to hunt rats, but kept for 
rabbits only ; ratting makes them very shy 
to come to the hand to be caught, besides 
which they are likely to bite you when 
you put your hand in a rabbit's hole. 
I could pull a properly trained ferret out of 
the hole by his fore-foot, tail, loins, or even 
by his under jaw, and he would never bite me, 
but I never attempted to take liberties with a 


ratting ferret. A rabbit ferret that has been 
set ratting is almost sure to be badly bitten 
by the rats, and this makes him nervous, and 
vicious, and dangerous to handle. The bite 
of a ferret often turns into a nasty wound, 
especially if the animal has been fed on 
carrion food. 

It is a good plan to muzzle ferrets when 
you use them in large earths, where there is 
very little chance of digging them out when 
they lay up, it also keeps the ferrets from 
killing the rabbits in the earth. Dead rabbits 
lying in a large earth do a great deal of harm, 
you cannot get at them without digging the 
earth all to pieces, and even then it would 
be a matter of some hours, if not days. The 
earth would be spoilt by over digging, and the 
dead rabbits, if left there, become carrion, so 
that the next time you run your ferrets 
through, they lie up alongside the dead 
animal, and get themselves in a filthy mess, 
instead of hunting the earths, thus detaining 
you for an hour or two, and perhaps making 
you waste the best part of the day. 


When ferreting, keepers should especially 
avoid two things — leaving a dead rabbit in 
the earth, and disturbing the earths too 
much. A good ferreter is always sparing in 
the use of the spade, when it is used it should 
be used with care and judgment. I have 
seen good ferreters wait for a long time, until 
they are sure that the ferret is laid up with 
the rabbit, and then dig down to the exact 
spot, thus securing both rabbit and ferret 
before the latter had time to spoil the former, 
at the same time doing the least possible 
damage to the earth. 

When working in small earths I seldom 
muzzle my ferrets, because it often happens 
that if a ferret, when laid up with a rabbit, has 
not got his mouth, just as you get up to them 
after digging for a long time, both rabbit and 
ferret bolt, and you have to do all your work 
over again. If your ferret had not been 
muzzled he would either have killed the rabbit 
or kept up close, and you would have caught 
them both. 

If you want rabbits to bolt freely, when you 


are using the gun, and not nets, at large 
earths, you must take special precautions. 
Go up to the earths very quietly, taking care 
not to tread on the earths, or shake them in 
any way ; when you are within ten yards, 
throw the ferret to the hole you wish him to 
enter, then stand back twenty five yards from 
the earth, and have your gun ready. 

The rabbits will come out and sit at the 
mouth of the hole, before making for fresh 
earths ; shoot them but don't go to pick them 
up, let them remain were they were killed. 
If you move you are bound to shake the 
earths, and then good-bye to any more rabbits 
bolting. If, on the other hand, you remain 
perfectly still, you will secure most of the 
rabbits belonging to that earth, killing them 
as they appear and not attempting to pick 
them up until the ferret comes out. If you 
move up to the earths to pick up a single 
rabbit you will betray your presence, and the 
remaining rabbits, will be very chary of 
bolting ; the ferret will probably kill one or 
more and then lay up, so you have to dig him 


out, and thus lose both time and rabbits, 
whilst possibly you leave a dead rabbit or two 
behind you when you leave that earth. 

I can, as a rule, kill double the number of 
rabbits when I am alone, that I can when I 
have a party with me. I can kill, when by 
myself, as many rabbits in three hours as I 
can in six hours, when I have anybody with 
me. Again, I can always kill more rabbits 
with a gun than I can with nets, because no 
noise is made to disturb the rabbits, by talk- 
mg or trampling over the earths, and so they 
bolt better. When alone, and with my gun, I 
can kill nineteen out of every twenty rabbits 
that do bolt. 

In ferreting hedge-rows it is necessary to 
have some one with you, for in nine cases out 
of ten, there is a ditch to the hedge-row, so 
that a quick working ferret is liable to elude 
you if you are alone. Therefore there should 
be a man on each side of the hedge. 



WHEN it is necessary to turn the rabbits 
out of the earths on the day before a 
shooting party, I generally go to work as follows. 
Takehalf a pint each of spirits of tar, paraffin oil, 
spirits of turpentine, and gas-tar ; mix well 
together in a bottle. Stop up five holes out 
of seven, and drop the mixture down the two 
other holes ; this will answer quite as well as 
if you had put some of the mixture down all 
the holes, and will answer the purpose of 
bringing fifty couple more rabbits up for the 


Some keepers, I know, will object to this 
method, as they say that they will get into 
trouble with their masters when the latter see 
so many rabbits to eat up their woods and the 
farmers' corn. Quite so, but it is the keeper's 
duty to afford his master the greatest possible 
amount of sport, and by following my in-^ 
structions he will not only do this, but will 
also do good service to both his master and 
the farmers. I say, therefore, that if keepers 
object, they are not keepers for their masters 
but keepers for themselves. Every keeper 
knows that the day after a cover has been 
shot through and thoroughly disturbed is the: 
very best time for finding rabbits at home in 
their earths, so that if he has not shown many 
rabbits in that cover, rabbits are not expected 
of him. In that case, he is either honest or 
dishonest ; if honest, he is but a poor keeper, 
if dishonest, the sooner he quits keepering the 
better for keepers in general. 

I have no wish to set myself up as a judge 
of other men's actions, and should these ran- 
dom writings of mine fall into the hands of 



some keepers who are apt to put the worst 
construction on things, I trust that they will 
not judge me harshly. The calling of a 
keeper is too onerous and honourable to be 
handled lightly by any man who fancies him- 
self in that line, the strict path of duty in all 
services is to keep your honour intact, and in 
no other service are the temptations so 
numerous as in keepering. Little by little 
they can fall away, tempted here and there by 
surrounding circumstances, should they yield 
one jot to these temptations they are lost ; 
they continually apply some salve to their 
consciences, in order to stifle self reproach, 
until the fall, slow at first, becomes terribly 
swift and sudden. 

Look at the instances I have given of Jones 
and others, therefore I cannot too firmly 
impress all men of my own craft, and upon 
all who are about to follow it, that you are 
placed in a high position of trust, take heed 
that you do not betray that trust. 



DISTEMPER is a most fatal disease to 
ferrets and means certain death to 
them. You should never keep ferrets in a 
dog kennel, for if your dogs get distemper the 
ferrets are sure to catch it, and die ; if you 
have fifty ferrets you will lose them all. 
Ferrets should always be kept apart from 
dogs, because they are subject to all the 
diseases that dogs suffer from, as canker, 
mange, distemper, &c. If any of your dogs 
are suffering from distemper, the person who 
attends to them should not go near the 


ferrets. Tell off a boy, or one of your men, 
to attend to the ferrets, giving him strict 
instructions not to go near the dogs on any 
account. Remove the ferrets and hutch 
them in the woods, as far away from the 
dogs as possible, or you will be sure to lose 
them all. There is absolutely no cure for 
distemper in ferrets or, if there is, I should 
be glad to hear of it. 

Young ferrets are very liable to a disease 
called *' Sweats." To cure this you should 
wash them with soft soap and warm water, 
afterwards putting them out in the sun to roll 
about and dry themselves ; also, every day for 
a short time, give them clean fresh straw in 
their hutch. 

A ferret that hunts wildly, or is a bad one 
to catch or handle, should be hunted with a 
small piece of string round its neck. The 
string should be about fifteen or eighteen 
inches long, a large knot being tied at the end 
in order to prevent him from slipping through 
the hand. Such a small length of string will 
not stop the ferret from hunting, or be any 


hindrance to you, but you must take care not 
to have it any longer because, in ferreting 
stumps or roots of trees, the animal is likely 
to get hung up round some projecting stump 
or root if any length should be trailing behind 
him, and it is then very difficult to discover 
his exact whereabouts. In large earths, over- 
grown with roots of trees, this is by no means 
an easy matter. When ferreting with a line 
you have, of course, only to follow up the line 
but in all cases you should disturb the earths' 
as little as possible. 

A keeper once told me that he saw a ferret 
fasten on to a man's hand; he and others 
tried all they knew to choke the animal off, 
but in vain. At last the man, who was an 
underkeeper, had to hold out his hand as far 
as he could, with the ferret dangling at the 
end, and then the keeper simply shot it off 
his hand. 

**What ! " said I. You couldn't make the 
ferret let go ? If I had been there I would 
have made him let go much quicker than 
he laid hold.'* 


*^A11 right, Wilkins/' he repHed. ** Pll 
bring you a ferret you won't choke off in a 

He brought his ferret, and put it on to a 
rabbit. *' Now," said he. ** You won't choke 
him off, I know." 

** I'll bet you a pound of that," said I. 
** And my head, and a big bit of my neck, 
into the bargain." 

** Well, let's see you for satisfaction's sake," 
he replied, drawing in his horns somewhat. 

So I showed them, and they were all quite 
satisfied with the result. The ferret had fast 
hold of the rabbit, so I took them both up in 
my hands, and, seizing the ferret's foot in my 
mouth, bit it sharply. In a moment the ferret 
let go, dropping the rabbit at once, and squall- 
ing loudly. This may appear to some to be 
a ticklish process, but if it is done without 
fear, and not in a half-hearted way, the ferret 
will not bite you ; bite quickly and sharply, 
and no ferret can stand it. If anyone doubts 
my veracity I am ready to accept a challenge, 
that I will make any ferret loose his hold in 


a twinkling, thus effectually demonstrating 
whether I lie or not. 

No ferret will live for more than two years 
unless you let him have a mate, he may run 
into the third year but will die soon afterwards. 
The same rule applies to the female ferret, 
who will probably die the very first time you 
stop her from going to the male, nothing is 
more fatal to ferrets than to stop their 

I will now say a few words about trapping 
rabbits in large earths. Put a little spirits of 
tar on your ferret's feet and tail, and then 
send your lad on with him. Use a line, and 
run the ferret through the various holes, 
pulling him up as soon as he reaches the end 
of the tether, and keeping him constantly on 
the move, for the great point is to scent the 
holes and not to bolt the rabbits. These will 
leave the earths very quickly on account of 
the scent of the tar, they won't stand about 
just inside the holes, sniffing, but will make 
right away out to avoid the smell, and then 
you must follow on with your traps. The 


traps should be well scrubbed every few weeks, 
and then scraped all over, afterwards being 
hung up in the wind to sweeten. Always keep 
a dozen clean traps by you, as it is of very 
little use to attempt to trap with dirty traps. 
See that your traps spring lightly and quickly, 
like clockwork. Wash your hands clean from 
all scent of blood, gunpowder, rabbits' 
paunches, dogs, or ferrets ; clean hands make 
good trappers. Rub a little clean earth on 
your hands before you begin to set your traps ; 
this takes off the scent of perspiration. If the 
traps have been oiled they should be hung up 
night and day in order to take off the scent of 
the oil. All these precautions may appear 
trivial, but they are most important if you 
wish to become a successful trapper. 

In snaring the same precautions as to keep- 
ing clean hands must be observed, only more 
so, because, in trapping, the earth to some 
extent takes off the smell, but there is nothing 
of that kind in snaring. 

When snaring rabbits you should take up a 
furrow Irom one end of the field to the other, 


and set every run that crosses the furrow, 
whether they be good or bad. You will 
iind that you catch as many rabbits in 
the bad runs as in the good ones, for in 
good bright runs the hares often knock down 
the snares. Hares leave the cover before the 
rabbits, and, as they are first down the runs, 
they knock over the snares. 

If you find a snare knocked down in what is 
plainly a rabbit run you . may know that it is 
not the work of a hare, but of a cunning old 
buck, who jumps over the snare and knocks 
it over with his hind legs. In this case set 
two snares, three or four feet apart, in the 
same run ; the old buck, thinking he has done 
you, sails gaily down the run, and jumps over 
the first snare right into the second one, and 
so gets caught. 

It is quite wonderful the cunning with which 
rabbits baffle the snarer. I once set snares 
in a stubble field, by a foot path, but used to 
lose two or three rabbits out of the snares, 
every night. I watched them but no one 
came, and yet the rabbits got away all the 


same, the wires being cut in two as if with a 
sharp knife. One day, as I was hunting the 
gorse by this stubble field, I shot an old buck 
rabbit which had no less than nine snares 
round it's neck, or rather, portions of nine 
snares. As soon as he was caught this rabbit 
had cut the snares in two with his teeth, and 
on comparing the ends round his neck with 
the ends left in the stubble, I found that they 
exactly corresponded. So I discovered how it 
was that the rabbits were lost out of my 
snares, in the corn field adjoining White's 



MEN who go out night watching with keepers 
should not only be perfectly sober when 
they start, but should also be prohibited from 
taking any beer with them. I never put much 
faith in the pluck of a man who was in the habit 
of taking overmuch beer ; there are occasions 
when a glass of beer does a man good, but it 
should be taken after he has finished work. 
Men who come to work boozed, and keep up 
the booze whilst on duty, are only a nuisance 
to you, because, if they attempt night watching 
when full of beer, they are heavy and drowsy, 
and, directly they sit quietly down in the hut, 
go off to sleep. 


One night I went down the wood to my men 
at the hut, between ten and eleven at night, 
and there I found an empty two-gallon jar of 
beer, whilst the men, five or six in number, lay 
about fast asleep. I struck a light and called 
to them, but all the answer I could get was a 
loud and continuous snore. Then I called, at 
the top of my voice, one of them by name ; 
still no answer, but snoring. I left, and went 
forty yards down the ride to an alarm gun ; 
this I sprung, and then waited for ten minutes 
to see if it would wake them up, but not a man 
showed himself. I returned to the hut, and 
there they all lay, as I bad left them, fast 

Again I called them, pulled them about by 
their legs, and kicked the soles of their boots, 
.shouting : — *' Did you hear them shoot ?" 

*' Eh ? Ah ! What ?" was the sleepy answer. 

" Did you hear them shoot ?'* 

^*Yes. No. Eh? What?'' 

" Wake up," I roared. '' Come on with 

** What's the matter ?" asked one. 


" Matter enough," said I. *' They have 
just shot close to your head, or else they've 
sprung the alarm gun ; I saw the flash from 
the gun." 

Out they all rolled, some going headlong to 
the ground, and others tripping up over the 
stubs. After a while I got them round a bit> 
and we all went up the ride in the wood. 

** I can smell powder," exclaimed one. 

" I smell pitch burning," said another. 

** Then it's the alarm gun they have sprung," 
said I. ** You stop here whilst I go and look. 
Yes, here's the case and pitch, string and 
paper, lying about smouldering ; come and 
see." So they came and saw for themselves. 

** Well, I never," they exclaimed. ** It's a 
wonder none of us heard it go off. Did you 
hear any shots before the alarm gun, keeper ?" 

** No, I only heard one report, and knew it 
must be the alarm gun, because it went off 
such a bouncer." 

^* Ah, they must have run against the gun as 
soon as they entered the wood, and then 
bolted/' said one. " This gun was set in a 


corner of the wood that we thought the poachers 
would most hkely come in by." 

I never told them that I let the gun off 
myself, but said . — ^' What's the use of my 
paying a lot of men like you to watch, when 
you can't hear an alarm gun go off within fifty 
yards ?" I knew that the gun had three 
charges of powder in it, for I had made the 
alarm ball myself. 

Another time 1 was watching with three or 
four of the same men, when we lay two and 
two, so that if the poachers ran away from me 
and my man, the other two would stop them, 
and vice versa. We were in a pit, watching 
for rabbits, because we expected that, when 
the public houses closed, some men would 
come to poach these rabbits. 

When it was past closing time, I and my 
man made a move to go up into the woods, 
some three-quarters of a mile off; but on 
reaching the other two men we found that one 
was drunk, and so fast asleep that we could 
not wake him. I took a cord and tied his 
ankles together, tied his hands together behind 


his back, and attached his feet to a tree ; so I 
left him until we came back, a period of three 
hours. He had however, by that time, broken 
loose and gone off. Now, what use to me 
was a man hke that ? Not a bit in the world, 
he might just as well have been at home in 
bed. Such are the fruits of drink ! 

I was out one night with Humphries, who 
suffered from the same complaint, when I saw 
a man netting in the field. Humphries was 
lying by my side, but I could not rouse him 
up anyhow, and I lost my man whilst trying 
ineffectually to do so. 

I never took drink out with me at night ; 
Humphries did not take it out in a bottle but 
in his inside, and the man in the pit did the 
same. I have seen the same sort of thing in 
my father's woods, when I was a lad out at 
night with his men. I always used to do 
night watching on a cup of tea, and invariably 
beat all my men at the work, for tea livens 
you up and keeps you awake, whilst beer 
deadens you and sends you to sleep. I never 
allowed any smoking whilst watching, and did 


not permit any man to light a pipe until the 
work was done and we started for home. 

When gate netting watching I used to leave 
rather early, and before going away I always 
knocked the ashes out of my pipe on to the 
top of the gate, leaving the tobacco there 
smouldering. If any poachers came they 
would smell the tobacco, and suspect that I 
was still in the neighbourhood, watching. 
Often, too, in the woods, I have left two or 
three sticks, with coats hung over them, 
stuck up at the cross rides. Sometimes I 
have left my lanthorn burning all night with 
the bulls eye turned on, in the watch hut^ 
with three or four great coats and horse rugs 
lying about. All these dodges are very 
necessary, the poacher, when he comes after 
your game, is very suspicious, and does not 
want to be caught, so that if he sees a light 
you may be sure that he will give it a wide 
berth rather than go and see if you are there, 

I have known poachers come on a Christmas 
Eve and walk through the rides of a wood, 
firing several times, and knocking down five or 


six wooden pheasants. I always used to place 
these false birds in conspicuous places, where 
they could be easily seen from the walks in 
the woods, having three or four birds clustered 
in one tree, to entice the poacher to shoot at 
them in the hope of killing two or three at one 
shot. Sometimes a live bird gets in amongst the 
dummies and is killed, but this rarely happens. 

Instead of taking out drink for my men I 
used to bring them home to my house, when 
we had finished work for the night, and put 
before them a good home baked loaf, some 
home cured bacon, salt beef, or any other 
meat I happened to have in the house, to- 
gether with cheese, home made wine, coffee 
or cocoa. I generally took cocoa myself, 
except when my wife had made a basin of 
porridge and put it in the oven to keep warm ; 
sometimes I swallowed a basin of thick milk. 

I should strongly advise you not to take any 
drink out with you when night watching, and 
if any of your men come there boozed you 
may as well send them home again, for they'll be 

no good to you. 





I PROMISED, in an earlier part of this 
work, to relate something more about 
Humphries, and although he was my brother 
in law I must say he was an out and out 
scoundrel. It was no use doing the man a 
good turn, he only rounded on you for it ; 
he seemed constitutionally incapable of keeping 

He got a place at the Revd. England's, 
Ellsborough, New Aylesbury, Bucks, and he 
jtold me that he had everything on his hands, 
there. He was gardener and bailiff rolled 


into one, he bought and sold the pigs and 
cows, brought up the calves, managed the grass 
and hay, brewed the beer, and in fact nothing 
was done without him. I cannot vouch for 
the truth of all this, but I do know that a good 
deal of it was true, for I went there and saw 
for myself He told me also that his master 
wanted a new coach road made, and that he 
had the job, the agreement being that he was 
to put one load of gravel to the yard. Instead, 
he only put sixty loads to a hundred yards, 
dividing the profits thus illegally made between 
himself and the man who carted the gravel. 

Then he told me that Mrs. England wanted 
a lawn made larger, and commissioned him to 
get some shrubs to plant on the lawn, and this 
is how he got them. One moonlight night he 
and his man, Jack, went to Lady Franklin's 
shrubberies and took away a quantity of choice 
evergreens. These he planted early in the 
morning on his master's lawn, and as soon as 
Mrs. England had finished breakfast he went 
and told her that he had procured the shrubs, 
and planted them on the lawn. She came 


out to see them, and admired them greatly. 

*^ A very nice assortment, Humphries," said 
she. *' Where did you get them from ? " 

'' Mr. Lane's, at Berkhampstead," replied he, 
readily. How he would have got on if the 
lady had asked to look at the bill, I can't say. 

The man, Jack, was soon afterwards sent to 
Aylesbury for trial, on a charge of stealing hay 
from the Stockyard to feed his donkey with. 
Why Humphries acted like that towards his 
accomplice in the plant theft I can't say, it 
seems to me that he must have forgotten the 
old adage that when rogues fall out the honest 
man gets his own ; anyhow, for reasons best 
known to himself, Humphries sent off his old 
pal. Jack, to Aylesbury, to take his trial for 

This Jack had a daughter, who was either 
going to service or coming home for a holiday, 
I forget which ; and, in order to take her and 
her box, he borrowed a donkey and cart from 
a neighbour. Now village donkeys are not 
over-well fed, and, before starting for the 
railway station, Jack was foolish enough to 


appropriate an armful of hay out of one of the 
stacks belonging to Mr. England. Humphries 
caught him in the act, but, as Mr. England 
did not want to prosecute, the grand jury 
threw out the bill against him. You can bet 
your boots however that Jack never forgave 
Humphries, who had not only behaved feloni- 
nously himself, but had induced others to do 
so as well, and then had turned round upon 
his former accomplice. 

I suppose Humphries was one of those 
characters who, every now and then, are 
troubled with a conscience ; and that, when 
such an untoward event did occur, he made up 
for any shortcomings on his own part by acting 
in a doubly moral capacity, for the time being, 
towards others. He was so sure of his 
situation, nothing could be done without him ; 
he was entirely above suspicion, so he thought, 
but he made a slight mistake when he tried to 
oust Jack, and so he soon found. 
" Jack and the cook were on very friendly 
terms, whilst she and Humphries were sworn 
foes, and one morning as the latter came back 


from breakfast, he saw Jack carrying a scuttle 
of coals into the scullery for the cook. There- 
upon he immediately accused Jack of idling 
away his time, and robbing his master of a full 
day's work, Jack having nothing to do with the 
coals. Humphries worked himself up into a 
fury, and began to shout loudly, when he found 
Jack treated him with contemptuous indiffer- 
ence. Then the cook comes up and joins in 
the fray, rounding sharply on Humphries. 
Soon the noise reaches the dining room, and 
out comes master, mistress, and the young 
ladies, to see what it was all about. Then 
Humphries poses as the honest steward, 
lodging grievous complaint against Jack for 
robbing his master. This drew forth a bitter 
retort from Jack, who said : — *'If I was half as 
big a rogue as you, I'd take a rope and hang 

"What do you mean?" demanded Hum- 
phries, and then Mrs. England reproved Jack, 
saying : — " You ought not to speak of Hum- 
phries like that." 

** I don't rob you like he does, I can tell 


you, ma'am," said Jack, whereupon Humphries 
swore that he would make him prove his 

'^ I'll do that without the making,'* said Jack. 
" You rob your master of his barley meal to 
fat your pigs on ; you make me take home to 
your house a bushel of barley meal, and a 
bushel and a half of your master's meal 
from the meal that the bacon hogs are fatten- 
ing on here.'* 

On hearing this, Mrs. England began to 
question Humphries a little as to what barley 
meal he had. ^' Where do you get it from," 
said she, *^the mill, I suppose ? '* 

"Yes, ma'am," said Humphries. 

" Then, of course, you have your bills ? " 

** Oh, yes, ma'am." 

*^ Well, when you return from your dinner, 
just bring the bills for satisfaction's sake." 

" Yes, ma'am, I will." When he came back 
from dinner, however, he brought no bills, but 
lots of excuses ; he had mislaid or lost them, 
his wife had lit the fire with them, at any rate 
he couldn't find them. 


Then Mrs. England went to the mill, and 
asked if Humphries had had any barley meal 

'*0h, yes, ma'am, he has had a lot," said the 
miller, referring to his book. ^' Here's two 
sacks on the ist, two on the 9th, and two on 
the i8th, down to you, ma'am." 

*' Yes, but is there any meal down to his 
own account ? " asked Mrs. England. 

The miller looked rather bewildered. *' Oh, 
no, ma'am, he don't have any on his own 


'* Does he have any, arid pay for it at the 
time ? " 

'' No, ma'am, he only opened the account in 
your name." On hearing this, Mrs. England 
returned home, summoned Humphries, and 
took him to task. He, seeing the game was 
up, and, fearing that his other irregularities 
would soon come to light and consign him to 
prison, sold off his stock, made a bolt of it, 
and came to me at Stansted. 



HUMPHRIES arrived at Stansted some 
time after the poaching affray, in which 
Joslin cut such a creditable figure, happened. 

I don't know whether JosHn was ashamed 
of his cowardly behaviour, or whether he 
turned sulky, but, anyhow, he gave me to 
understand that he would do the same thing 
again if he came into contact with any more 
poachers. So Joslin was discharged, and 
Humphries, being at hand and in want of a 
place, was taken on as underkeeper. 

1 think I have before mentioned that 


Humphries was my brother-in-law, he having 
married my sister. I always knew that he 
was a slippery card and wanted looking after 
well, but when I took him on at Stansted I 
did not know of his disgraceful conduct at Mr. 
England's. If I had known he certainly would 
not have got the post of underkeeper at Stan- 
sted. As it was, he soon commenced his artful 
tricks, setting every one by the ears. He 
never seemed so happy as when he was doing 
some questionable action that would most 
probably embroil you with yoar master or 
someone else, and never lost an opportunity 
of this kind, being utterly callous as to the 
consequences that might accrue to you. He 
was utterly unmindful of any favours conferred 
upon him, he would give you a quantity of 
lip gratitude at the time and there his gratitude 
ended ; in fact, a more unprincipled black- 
guard could not easily be found. This character 
was now my underkeeper, and I soon found 
out that I must have my wits about me to 
keep up sides with him. 

He boasted to my mother that he was going 


to live with me at Stansted, saying that I had 
done well there, and he was going to see if he 
couldn't do as well, winding up by informing 
her that he would have my place before long. 
He tried to work me out, as he did Watts at 
Chute Lodge, and with the same result, for he 
only got himself out. 

One Sunday morning, soon after he had 
come there, he came to my house, and said, in 
a bouncing way : — "Mr. Maitland looked in 
on me this morning on his way from church, 
and asked me a great many questions about 

*' Oh ! did he, Mr. Humphries ? " said I. 
"And pray what did he ask you about me ? " 

" He asked me if you had taken out that 
young dog, yet." 

The next Sunday I went up near the church, 
and stood under a bunch of firs, where I could 
see all the people coming out of church. 
Presently I saw Mr. Humphries come out of 
his cottage, which was close to the church, and 
saunter about the corner, gazing furtively to- 
wards the church door, and being evidently on 


the watch for the break up of the congregation. 
As soon as he spied the Squire coming out, he 
appeared round the corner with a pitcher in his 
hand, and made for a well that stood a yard or 
two from the pathway by which the Squire and 
his family returned home through the park, 
timing himself to arrive so as to run full butt 
up against the Squire. He made a dead stop, 
and put his hand to his hat ; the Squire re- 
turned the salute and passed on, so that Mr. 
Humphries did not get the chance of speaking 
to him, or saying anything he might have 
wished to say. After dinner he came down to 
my house. 

"Did the Squire call on you this morning?'* 
said I. 

'' Yes, he did." 

^'Oh! Did he ask you any more questions 
about me, Humphries ? " 

^^ Yes, he stopped as he passed the house, 
and called on me to know if you had taken 
out the young dogs last week. 

" Indeed, now look here, Humphries, to- 
morrow is Lady day, the 25th of March, my 


settling day for the year's game account, and 
when I settle that I'll settle the questioning 
about the dogs. I don't beheve the Squire has 
ever questioned you about my doing my duty to 
the dogs, as you say he has done, or has said 
anything at all about me to you. What's more, 
I just tell you that I was up among the 
fir trees by the Black pond, and saw you 
waiting for the Squire to come out of church, 
I saw you meet him at the well, and he passed 
on and never said a word to you ; yet you tell 
me he stopped, and called you to ask about 
me and the young dogs. I don't beheve a 
word you say.'' 

Humphries saw he had made a mistake, and 
quickly altered his tone ; he begged me not 
to mention the matter, and excused himself by 
saying that the squire had accosted him as he 
passed the house some time previously, and 
had asked him if he had heard me say how the 
young dog was getting on, and whether it was 
likely to turn out a good one or not. So there 
the matter ended. 

But Humphries could not remain quiet for 


long, he passed from one dodge to another, 
to try and get me out of my place ; he told me 
to my face that I had been lord over the 
estate long enough, but that I was about to 
come off my throne. 

*' Well," said I, '' It will take a better man 
than you to dethrone me." 

'' Will it ?" says he, '^ We'll see all about 
that, Wilkins." 

This was an anxious time for me, and I 
deeply regretted having taken him on as 
underkeeper ; I saw that he intended to do 
me as much harm as he could, and, as no one 
but myself knew his sHppery character, he 
could injure me in a hundred ways without 
drawing suspicion on himself. This man w^as 
my sister's husband ! I anxiously awaited an 
opportunity to get rid of him, and at last it 

One day he trapped a fox, brought it down 
into Durrell's Wood, and pegged it down in 
one of the rides. The hounds were coming 
that mormng, but I happened to walk up the 
ride before they came, found the fox, and took 


it away. Had the hounds come across a fox 
in a trap it would have been useless for me to 
deny that I knew anything about it being 
there, I should have got the credit of being a 
fox-destroyer, and the Hunt would have 
thought me one, even if I cleared myself with 
my master. 

I knew very well that Humphries had done 
it, and 1 accused him of it ; of course he 
denied it on oath. As I told him, however, if 
he didn't put it there who did ? I know fox 
runs, and there was no run in that place 
through Durrell's Wood, therefore it must 
have been a malicious act on the part of some 
one, and designed to get me into a scrape. 
Who was the most likely person to play me 
a scurvy trick ? Anyhow the dodge failed, it 
didn't take, but he tried many other such 
dodges afterwards, and they all failed. 

One Sunday he caught three tradesmen, so 
he said, trespassing after rabbits in a gorse 
bank. He swore before the magistrates that 
all three men were racing a rabbit up and 
down the ditch, stopping at every hole, putting 


their arms in, and searching every hole in the 
bank. Here one of the magistrates asked him 
if there were many rabbit-holes in that bank. 

'Yes, sir," said he, "A great many." 

*' How long were they at the bank ? " 

" Ten or fifteen minutes, sir." 

'And are there many large earths or, 
properly speaking, burrows in the bank ? '' 

"Yes, sir, one earth reaches forty or fifty 
yards, and is full of holes." 

**And these men stopped at every hole, and 
put their arms into each of them ? " 

*' Yes, sir." 

*' In ten or fifteen minutes ? " 

''Yes, sir." 

The magistrate turned to me. " Wilkins," 
said he, " you know this bank I suppose ? " 

" Yes, sir," said I. 

"Well, how long would it take you to put 
your hand up all the rabbit burrows in that 
bank ? " 

''A good half a day, I think, sir." 

" Yet, according to Humphries, these men 
did it in ten or fifteen minutes ! " And the 


magistrates forthwith dismissed the case, and 
severely reprimanded Humphries, telling him 
to be careful, on all future occasions, to speak 
the truth in the witness box. 

Now I come to one of the most curious 
episodes of my life, and one that played an 
important part in Humphries' removal, it being 
nothing more or less than a dream. 

I write it down exactly as I dreamt it, for, 
although it is a long time ago, it made an im- 
pression on my mind that has never been 

I dreamt that Humphries and I were coming 
from Bishop Stortford through Birchanger 
Wood, and, as soon as we got out of the wood 
into the footpath that ran through the field, we 
passed a sheep fold, the sheep in it lying 
alongside the hurdles close to the footpath 
As we were walking along, Humphries put his 
hand through, or his arm over, the hurdles, 
seized a lamb, and tucked it away under his 
left arm. 

*' What are you going to do with that ? *' 

says I. 



'* Hush, hush 1 '* says he, holding up his 
finger warningly, to induce me to hold my 

" If a poHceman met you with it he would 
think you meant to steal it," says I. 

" Hush, hush,'* said he again. Then, step- 
ping off the path on to a newly ploughed field, 
he walked up the furrow and, turning over a 
sod, stuck the lamb with his knife. He let the 
blood flow under the sod, and, as soon as the 
lamb was dead, he turned the sod back in its 
place again, thus covering up the blood. Then 
he rejoined me, carrying with him the dead 

'* If I am asked anything about this," says 1, 
'* I shall tell the truth, and you must take the 

At this point the dream unaccountably 
changed. Although Humphries was still the 
chief actor, the circumstances were different. 
I never awoke during the whole time — or, if I 
did, I was not conscious of it — but kept dream- 
ing right on. 

I dreamt that Humphries came to me and 


said : ''This is a pretty job ; Mr. Newman has 
given his men leave to snare all the hares in 
his standing corn on the farm. I have given 
him a receipt for it, though — I went and 
mowed down all his green oats in the honey- 
suckle field, to pay him out for it." 

''Why," says I, ''they'll get the print of 
your foot in the field, and find you out as sure 
as you stand there, Humphries. Which way 
did you come home from the field ? " 

" I crossed Bury Lodge Road into Parkfield, 
then up by the swede turnips and hurdles 
where the sheep are folded, along Burton End 
Road to the chaseway, and so to my house by 
the Hall garden." 

*' They will track you to your house, then ? " 

*' No, they won't, for the sheep have gone 
through the chase out of Parkfield, and put 
the footmarks out. But, as I crossed the road 
out of Parkfield to the chaseway, three of Mr. 
Newman's men met me with my scythe on my 
shoulder as they were going to their work. 

*' Well, Humphries," says I, " those men 
will be sure to tell their master, when it 


becomes known that the oats in the honey- 
suckle field are cut down, that they met you 
carrying a scythe at the break of day." 

'' What can I do to prevent them finding me 
out, keeper ? " says he. 

" Do ? " says I. '' Do the best you can." 
'* Well, tell me, you can if you like." 
*' There/' says I, '* take your scythe, and go 
into the Round Coppice, and mow the rides 
as quickly as ever you can, then, if you are 
questioned about carrying the scythe, you can 
say that you were bringing it home from the 
wood. Also, take your shoes, tie them 
together, put a big stone in each one, and sink 
them in the Black Pond, so that they can't get 
the print of the nails in your shoes." 

'' I'll go and do as you say at once," says he. 
And here my dream ended. 

The next morning I was teUing Humphries 
the extraordinary dream I had had, when up 
comes Inspector Scott, and, seeing us together 
near the dog kennel, he called out to me : 
" Wilkins, I want you to come with me to 
Green End farm ; bring a blood-hound or 


retriever with you, as T want to search for a 
lamb, or its skin, that was stolen last night.'* 

"Just loose the dogs," said I, turning to 
Humphries, and then Scott and I started off, 
but found nothing. Scott thought we might 
find out the place where it was killed, or come 
across the insides and skin in some ditch, but 
our search proved fruitless. 

Some ten days afterwards Scott came to 
me, and said : — '' Humphries has got some 
roots of trees in the coppice that he wants 
me to buy for firewood, I am going over there 
to-morrow to look at them, do you mind my 
taking his gun and trying for a rabbit ? " 

"Oh, no! you may do that, and welcome,'' 
said I. 

The day after that Scott came to me again, 
and said : — '^ I had a good look at those roots 
yesterday, and then left Humphries sitting by 
them whilst I went down the ride in search of 
a rabbit. Lo and behold ! I came across the 
print of the boot or shoe I tracked from Green 
end farm to Parkfield gateway. If you remem- 
ber, Wilkins, I had grave suspicions that the 


owner of those shoes was the lamb thief, and 
I told you that the shoe had very large nails 
in it, the largest I ever saw in my life. I also 
said that the wearer must have been a tall 
man, as I could not step in the long strides 
he took." 

*' Good gracious!" said I, a sudden thought 
striking me. ** Those shoes belong to my 
man, Humphries ; he had them made at 
Chesham when he was underkeeper for my 
father there. The blacksmith makes the nails 
specially to suit the ground, which is very 
stony, and puts twelve nails, each as large as 
a shilling piece, in one shoe, with tips besides. 

" There, now," said Scott, '' I counted the 
number of nail prints, both in the wood yes- 
terday, and at Green end farm, and it was 
twelve in each case ; I took the length of the 
shoe, and it was the same in both cases. I 
tracked the prints nearly all the way from his 
house to Green end farm j I have not the 
least doubt but what he stole the Iamb. Shall 
you be at home after dinner to-morrow ? if you 
are, I'll come up and tell you more about it ; 


Tm off to Henham, now, to look after some 
more stolen property there." 

''Very well," said I, '' I'll wait for you to- 
morrow." Next day he arrived after dinner, 
and we set off together to have a good look 
round Humphries' cottage. At the dog's 
kennel we saw a lamb's lower jaw bone, and 
the dog lying alongside a pile of mutton or 
lamb bones, whilst the pig-stye was strewn 
with small bones, and the trough was full of 
mutton fat. Scott and I talked the matter 
over, and he said that there was no chance of 
identifying the meat after such a long time had 
elapsed, and, considering that most of it 
appeared to be in the stomachs of the pigs and 
dog, I quite agreed with him. He said that 
Humphries might possibly be convicted by the 
circumstantial evidence, but it was uncertain, 
so, although both of us beUeved Humphries 
to be guilty, we decided to get rid of him, 
merely, and not to prosecute. 

A few weeks after this I packed Mr. Hum- 
phries off to Australia, and very glad I was to 
get rid of him. Before he went, however, I 


related the whole story to his wife, my sister, 
and she said that she was sure that my 
suspicions were correct. '-'You know, John," 
said she, '' I was ill and upstairs at the time, and 
the nurse brought me lamb for dinner, lamb for 
supper, and lamb again next day. It was 
nothing but lamb, lamb, lamb, 'till I sent for 
Edward, and asked him what all this lamb 
meant. I said : ' Are you feeding me on my 
brother John's dogs' meat? ]t must be some 
dead lamb John has got for his dogs.' But 
he declared to me that it was not, saying that 
you did not know he had bought any lamb. 
^ Well, Edward,' said I, ' this lamb was never 
killed by a butcher, or it wouldn't be hacked 
about so ; besides, you would never buy all 
this quantity at one time. It must be meat 
you've had from John's dogs, and I won't 
touch any more of it.' Thcii he boiled it up, 
and fed his dog and pigs on the remainder." 

My sister asked me not to say anything to 
Humphries, stating that, as soon as they arrived 
in Australia, she would talk to him about it. 

I never heard any more about the subject 


until a few years afterwards, when a most 
damning piece of evidence turned up unex- 
pectedly. The Black Pond was being cleared 
out, and, as I was crossing the park, one of th9 
men engaged on the job called me to look at 
a pair of shoes he had found in the mud. 
^' Such curious shoes as I have never seen 
before, keeper/' said he. I recognized them 
in a moment ; they were Humphries', the ones 
that Inspector Scott wanted. I don't think 
Humphries ever returned from Australia, but 
whether he is alive or not I don't know. So 
here ends my experience of him, and here 
ends my book. 

The End. 

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