PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND
MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2007 with funding from
i « J*
(John Wilkins, of Stanstead, Essex)
ARTHUR H. BYNG AND STEPHEN M. STEPHENS
SECOND AND REVISED EDITION
T FISHER UNWIN:
—The end of Poacher
—My first affray with
Bob . - - -
poachers - -
— Dabber Harding
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
—The money coiners
sandy rabbit -
—A bloody fray
—Inasmuch as to
-The sequel to the
retrievers - -
fray — Joslin's
— Inasmore as to
donkey - - -
retrievers - -
— Inasmost as to
caught and lost
retrievers - -
— Joslin as a witness
— How I got my last
Phillips - -
— Duckey's father—
and things - -
his death - -
—Mine host and
—Cubs, foxes and
vixens - - -
—Hares, rabbits and
—Snaring and trapp-
farmers - - -
ing foxes - -
and how to kill
them - - -
—Of rabbits - - -
ordinary - -
— Chats about
—The Major, the
pheasants - -
—Ferrets and rabbits
— Discursive and
— Encore Humphries
academic - -
—The slaughter of
— Ferrets and rabbits
vermin - - -
aqain - - -
— Night watching -
and poaching -
— Humphries re-
appears - - -
— Encore Monk
— Humphries re-
—Poaching again -
disappears - -
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
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.
ARTHUR H. BYNG.
STEPHEN M. STEPHENS,
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
lO AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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.
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS. II
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
12 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
** Look here, youngster," said one man,
gruffly, ** We've lost our donkeys and our-
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.
14 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEErER.
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,
l6 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
**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
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS. 1 7
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.
1 8 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
** 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
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS. 1 9
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
20 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS.
\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
22 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. 2 7,
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
24 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. 25
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,"
** James Barnes," in a hoarse gurgle.
26 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
** 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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. 27
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,
28 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. 29
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
30 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. 3 1
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
32 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MY FIRST AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. 33
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
34 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, AND OTHER
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
36 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, ETC. 37
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
38 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
SNARING, ETC. 39
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
40 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, ETC. 4 1
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,
42 AX ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, ETC. 43
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
44 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, ETC. 45
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
46 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, ETC. 47
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
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
48 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING TRAPPING, SNARING, ETC. 49
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
CATCHING MY FIRST POACHER.
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,
CATCHING MY FIRST POACHER. 5 1
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
52 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
CATCHING MY FIRST POACHER. 53
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
54 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
CATCHING MY FIRST POACHER. 55
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
56 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CATCHING MY FIRST POACHER. 57
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
58 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CATCHING MY FIRST POACHER. 59
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
60 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CATCHING MY FIRS'l POACHER. 6 1
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
WHAT WAS IT? 63
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
64 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
WHAT WAS IT? 65
**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
66 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
68 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
"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
** 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 WAS IT ? 69
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
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,
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
HARRY WRIGHT S SANDY RABBIT. 7 1
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
72 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HARRY WRIGHT S SANDY RABBIT. 73
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
74 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HARRY WRIGHT'S SANDY RABBIT. 75
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,
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.
THE END OF POACHER BOB. 77
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.
7o AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
THE END OF POACHER BOB. 79
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.
80 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
THE END OF POACHER BOB. 8 1
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
82 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
THE END OF POACHER BOB. 83
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
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
84 AIS ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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."
DABBER HARDING AND OLD SARAH.
'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
86 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
DABBER HARDING AND OLD SARAH. 87
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,
88 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 : —
DABBER HARDING AND OLD SARAH. 89
** 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 ? "
go AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
'* 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
*' 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,
DABBER HARDING AND OLD SARAH, 9 1
**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
92 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
of men to swear that he'd been at his shop all
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.
CONCERNING DICK AND OTHER THINGS
'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-
94 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING DICK, ETC. 95
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
96 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING DICK, ETC. 97
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-
"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
DICK S GHOST. 99
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."
lOO AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,'*
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.
DICK S GHOST. lOI
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-
I02 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
DICK S GHOST. IO3
All he wanted was * civility,' and I am afraid
poachers leave that at home when they are
after your game.
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP.
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
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. IO5
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
I06 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. IO7
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.
lOS AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. lOQ
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
"Yes, and enough, too, ain't it, John ?" said
Cox, looking up from his work with a grin.
no AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
** 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 WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. Ill
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
112 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
"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
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. II 3
** 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
114 ^^^ ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. II 5
should remember that he hasn't got Old Dick
to deal with now, and so he'll find out, I can
'* 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
lib AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.'
HARRY WRIGHT CAUGHT IN A TRAP. II 7
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.
THE MONEY COINERS.
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
WILKINS AND THE POLICEMAN CHASING THE COINERS.
THE MONEY COINERS. II9
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.
120 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER
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-
THE MONEY COINERS. 121
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 ;
122 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
THE MONEY COINERS. 1 23
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,
124 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
THE MONEY COINERS. 1 25
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-
i26 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
men, however, had all been cheated by the
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 ;
IHE MONEY COINERS. 12/
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
128 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 MONEV COINERS. 1 29
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
130 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
132 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
13.4 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
OF ALEXANDER. I 35
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 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
136 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,
OF ALEXANDER. 1 37
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
138 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
OF ALEXANDER. 1 39
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
140 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
OF ALEXANDER. I4I
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
142 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER,
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
OF ALEXANDER. 1 43
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
144 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
OF ALEXANDER. 1 45
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
146 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER,
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,
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
OF ALEXANDER. 1 47
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.
END OF BOOK I.
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
Now, when an old man like myself is set
down to write his life and adventures, he must
152 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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-
I broke my first brace of young pointers for
CONCERNING DOGS. 1 53
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.
154 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING DOGS. I55
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.
156 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER*
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
CONCERNING DOGS. 157
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
158 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,
CONCERNING DOGS. 1 59
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.
l6o AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 *
CONCERNING DOGS. l6l
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
1 62 AN ENGLISH CxAMEKEEPER.
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."
CONCERNING DOGS. 1 63
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
Most dogs that are ' gun-shy ' are made so by
firing the gun over their heads when all their
1 64 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER
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
CONCERNING DOGS. 165
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
1 66 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
CONCERNING DOGS. ibj
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
l68 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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-
CONCERNING DOGS. 1 69
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
170 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
INASMUCH AS TO RETRIEVERS.
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.
172 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
'* 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
INASMUCH AS TO RETRIEVERS. 1 73
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
174 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER,
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
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-
INASMUCH AS TO RETRIEVRES. 1 75
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,
lyb AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
INASMUCH AS TO RETRIEVERS. 1 77
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.
INASMORE AS TO RETRIEVERS.
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
INASMORE AS TO RETRIEVERS. 1 79
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.
l8o AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
INASMORE AS TO RETRIEVERS. l8l
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.
1 82 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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."
INASMORE xVS TO RETRIEVERS. 1 83
"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 ?"
184 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
'* 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
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
•'Well, sir," said I, ''So I will, it entirely
depends on the way you introduce yourself to
"Yes, yes," said the Squire impatiently,
INASMORE AS TO RETRIEVERS. 1 85
*' 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
1 86 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
INASMORE AS TO RETRIEVERS. 1 87
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
1 88 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
INASMORE AS TO RETRIEVERS. l8g
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.
INASMOST AS TO RETRIEVERS.
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
INASMOST AS TO RETRIEVERS. I9I
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
192 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.''
HOW I GOT MY LAST JOB.
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.
194 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
*' 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
HOW I GOT MY LAST JOB. 195
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.
CONCERNING GAME AND THINGS.
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-
CONCERNING GAME AND THINGS. I97
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
igS AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CONCERNING GAME AND THINGS. IQQt
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
200 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER,
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."
CONCERNING GAME AND THINGS. 201
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
202 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
MINE HOST AND FRIEND BALDWIN.
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
204 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
MINE HOST AND FRIEND BALDWIN. 205
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
206 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MINE HOST AND FRIEND BALDWIN. 207
going away for a week or two so I hear,
'' 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
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
2o8 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MINE HOST AND FRIEND BALDWIN. 209
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
2IO AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MINE HOST AND FRIEND BALDWIN. 211
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.
HARES, RABBITS, AND FARMERS.
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
HARES, RABBITS, AND FARMERS. 21 3
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
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.
214 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
HARES, RABBITS, AND FARMERS. 215
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
2l6 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
HARES, RABBITS, AND FARMERS. 217
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
2l8 AN ENGLISH Gx\MEKEEPER.
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
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
HARES, RABBITS, AND FARMERS. 219
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
220 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HARES, RABBITS, AND FARMERS. 221
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
POACHERS DOGS, AND HOW TO KILL THEM. 223
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
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
224 -^^ ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
POACHERS' DOGS, AND HOW TO KILL THEM. 225
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
22b AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
228 / AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
A BLOODY FRAY.
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
230 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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."
A BLOODY FRAY. 231
*' 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
232 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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 :
A BLOODY FRAY. . 233
" 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
234 ^N ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
A BLOODY FRAY. 235
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
2yo AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
A BLOODY FRAY. 237
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
238 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
A BLOODY FRAY. 239
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
240 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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-
A BLOODY FRAY. 24 1
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.
THE SEQUEL TO THE FRAY. ^JOSLIN's DONKEY.
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
, • JOSLIN S DONKEY. 243
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
Hutley and Joslin had told Inspector Scott
how desperately they and I fought with the
244 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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-
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
JOSLIN'S DONKEY. 245
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.
246 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
24^ AN ENGLISH GATi^EKEEPER.
''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
JOSLIN'S DONKEY. 249
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
HAGGY PLAYER CAUGHT AND LOST.
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,
HAGGY PLAYER CAUGHT AND LOST. 25 1
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,
252 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HAGGY PLAYER CAUOHT AND LOST. 253
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
254 ^N ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HAGGY PLAYER CAUGHT AND LOST. 255
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.
JOSLIN AS A WITNESS. DUCKEY PHILLIPS.
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
DUCKEY PHILLIPS. 257
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 ? "
'' 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 ? "
" 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
258 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
DUCKEY PHILLIPS. 259
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
26o AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
DUCKEY PHILLIPS. 26l
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
262 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
DUCKEY PHILLIPS. 263
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
266 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
268 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
DUCKEYS' FATHER. HIS DEATH. 269
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.
CUBS, FOXES AND VIXENS.
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
CUBS, FOXES, AND VIXENS. 27I
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
** 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
2/2 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CUBS, FOXES, AND VIXENS. 273
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 .
274 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,
CUBS, FOXES, AND VIXENS. 275
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
27,6 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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,
CUBS, FOXES, AND VIXENS. 277
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,
278 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CUBS, FOXES, AND VIXENS. 2/9
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
dSo AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CUBS, FOXES, AND VIXENS. 281
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
282 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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-
CUBS, FOXES, ANJD VIXENS. 283
ing my advice you will make many friends and
few enemies, and the more friends you have
the less you need them.
SNARING AND TRAPPING FOXES.
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
SNARING AND TRAPPING FOXES. 285
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.
286 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
SNARING AND TRAPPING FOXES. 287
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.
288 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
SNARING AND TRAPPING FOXES. 289
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
290 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
SNARING AND TRAPPING FOXES. 2gi
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,
292 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
END OF BOOK II.
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
298 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
SHOOTING EXTRAORDINARY. 299
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
*' 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
300 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,"
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
SHOOTING EXTRAORDINARY. 3OI
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
302 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
SHOOTING EXTRAORDINARY. 303
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
304 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
SHOOTING EXTRAORDINARY. 305
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.
THE MAJOR, THE PARSON, AND HUMPHRIES.
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
THE MAJOR, THE PARSON, AND HUMPHRIES. 3O7
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
3o8 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
THE MAJOR, THE PARSON, AND HUMPHRIES. 309
promised me that, when the birds went there,
I should go too, to look after them and keep
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
3IO AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
THE MAJOR, THE PARSON, AND HUMPHRIES. 3I I
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
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
'* Where are you going to live, Wilkins?
What sort of country is it ? "
312 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
*' I don't know that, sir ; I only know the
** 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
THE MAJOR, THE PARSON, AND HUMPHRIES. 313
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
*' You are not going back to-night, Wilkins,
I can tell you," said Mr. Fowle. " I want you
314 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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.
THE MAJOR, THE PARSON, AND HUMPHRIES. 315
*' 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
'*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
ENCORE HUMPHRIES. 317
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.
320 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
*' 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
"What! No one?"
ENCORE HUMPHRIES. 32 I
" 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,,
3l8 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER,
^'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
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
ENCORE HUMPHRIES. 3ig
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
"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."
32 2 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
" Did Humphries go to Appleshaw with
you, on Wednesday night ?" he asked.
ENCORE HUMPHRIES. 323
"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
324 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
THE SLAUGHTER OF VERMIN.
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
326 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 SLAUGHTER OF VERMIN. 327
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
328 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
THE SLAUGHTER OF VERMIN. 329
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
330 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
In trapping vermin particular attention
should be paid to the striking of the trap,
which ought to strike high, and strike quickly.
THE SLAUGHTER OF VERMIN. 33 1
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
332 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
For ground vermin, such as stoats and
THE SLAUGHTER OF VERMIN. 333
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
334 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 SLAUGHTER OF VERMIN. 335
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.
MORE POACHERS AND POACHING.
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
MORE POACHERS AND POACHING. 337
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
338 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
MORE POACHERS AND POACHING. 339
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
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
340 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
MORE POACHERS AND POACHING. 34I
** 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.
342 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
" 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
MORE POACHERS AND POACHING. 343
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.
344 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
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
34^ AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
** 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,
MONK S CONVERSION. 347
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,
348 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
*' 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
MONK S CONVERSION. 349
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
'^ 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
350 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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."
352 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
MONKS CONVERSION. 353
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
354 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
POACHING AGAIN. 357
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
*' 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
358 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
POACHING AGAIN. 359
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,
360 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
POACHING AGAIN. 36I
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
362 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,
POACHING AGAIN. 363
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
364 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
POACHING AGAIN. 365
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
366 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
" 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
POACHING AGAIN. 367
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
368 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
POACHING AGAIN. 369
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
370 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
** 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
37^ AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CHIEFLY CANINE. 373
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
374 ^^ ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CHIEFLY CANINE. 375
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.
376 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CHIEFLY CANINE. 377
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
OF RABBITS. 379
*• 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
380 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
OF RABBITS. 381
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
382 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
♦The secret lies not with us. — Editors.
CHATS ABOUT PHEASANTS.
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
384 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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,
CHATS ABOUT PHEASANTS. 385
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
386 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER,
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
CHATS ABOUT PHEASANTS. 387
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
388 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
CHATS ABOUT PHEASANTS. 389
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.
390 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
** No.'* **Then go home and look at your
hens, and you will find that they are full
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
CHATS ABOUT PHEASANTS. 39 1
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
FERRETS AND RABBITS.
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.
FERRETS AND RABBITS. 393
or has died of some disease such as rotten
Hver or squashed belly. All animals that
have died from disease are unfit for food
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
394 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
FERRETS AND RABBITS. 395
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
39^ AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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.
FERRETS AND RABBITS. 397
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
If you want rabbits to bolt freely, when you
39^ AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
FERRETS AND RABBITS. 399
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.
DISCURSIVE AND ACADEMIC.
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
DISCURSIVE AND ACADEMIC. 4OI
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
402 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
FERRETS AND RABBITS AGAIN.
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
404 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
FERRETS AND RABBITS AGAIN. 4O5
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
**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.'*
406 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
*^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
FERRETS AND RABBITS AGAIN. 407
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
408 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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,
FERRETS AND RABBITS AGAIN 409
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
4IO AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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.
412 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER
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.
NIGHT WATCHING. 413
" 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
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
414 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
NIGHT WATCHING. 415
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
4l6 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
NIGHT WATCHING. 417
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 419
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
420 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 42 1
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
422 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 423
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.
424 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 RE- APPEARS AND DISAPPEARS.
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
426 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 427
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
428 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
"Did the Squire call on you this morning?'*
'' 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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 429
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
430 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 43 1
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
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
432 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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 ? "
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS, 433
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
*' What are you going to do with that ? *'
434 ^N ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
'* 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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEARS. 435
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
436 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HUMPHRIES REAPPEArS. 437
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,''
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
438 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
*' 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 ;
HUMPHRIES REArPEARS. 439
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
440 AN ENGLISH GAMEKEEPER.
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
HUMPHRIES DISAPPEARS. 44I
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.
Large crown 8vo., cloth, 5s. each, fully Illustrated.
^^t @:bHenfureB of a lounger ^on.
By E. J. TRELAWNY. With an Introduction by EDWARD GARNETT.
Illustrated with several Portraits of Trelawny.
(HoBerf ©rurg'B ^ournaf in QJIabagascar.
With Preface and Notes by Capt, S. P. OLIVER, Author of "Madagascar,"
(JHemoirB of f^e <B;rfraorbtnarg (JHtfi^arg Career of ^o^n ^^ipp.
With Introduction by H. MANNERS CHICHESTER.
C^e (5^bHenfureB of ^^omas (peffo5Ht of ^^enrgn, (partner.
Written by Himself; and Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by
Dr. ROBERT BROWN.
C^e (J^uccantcvB anh (jparooners of (Jmertca:
Being an account of certain notorious Freebooters of the Spanish I^Iain.
Edited by HOWARD PYLE.
t^c Eog of a ^ac6 tax; or, t^c hiU of ^amee ^^ogce,
With O'Brien's Captivity in France.
Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by V. LOVETT CAMERON, R.N.
i^t (pogages M\b @bBenfureB of Serbinanb (Wenbe-? ^inio.
With an Introduction by ARMINIUS VAMBERY.
t?>^ ^forg of iU ftftBuBfetTB.
By JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE.
To which is added The Life of Colonel DAVID CROCKEIT.
^ (JJtaBfer QtHanner:
Being the Life and Adventures of Capt. ROBERT WILLIAM EASTWICK.
Edited by HERBERT COMPTON.
(Jtofofiofronefi : (ghp^i mt nTamor.
Translated from the Greek, and Prefaced with an Account of the Klephts, by Mrs.
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Catalogue of Select Books in Belles LettreSy
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