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Full text of "Fact against fiction : the habits and treatment of animals practically considered; hydrophobia and distemper; with some remarks on Darwin"

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JOHNA.SEAVERNS 



TUFTS UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 



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Webster Family Librai^ of Veterinary Medicine 
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at 
Tufts University 
200 Westboro Road 

Mnr+h Croftnn MA 01 R!^fi 



FACT AGAINST FICTION 



LONDON : PRINTED BY 

EDWARD J. FRANCIS, TOOK's COURT, 

CHANCERY LANE, E.G. 



FACT AGAINST FICTION. 






HYDROPHOBIA AND DISTEMPER ; 



WITH SOME REMARKS ON DARWIN. 



BY THE 



Hon. GRANTLEY F. BERKELEY^ 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 



VOL. II. 




HonUon : 
SAMUEL TINSLEY, 

10, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND. 

1874. 
[All rights reserved.] 



X 



CONTENTS OF VOL. II. 



CHAP. 



PAGE 



I. Shooting as it Was, and as it Is . . .1 

II. The Rented Manor 32 

III. Farming and Rotation of Crops . . . .60 
IV. The Thief and Poacher. — Preservation of Game 83 

V. On the Theft of Live Game . . . .109 

VI. On the Rearing of Pheasants by Hand . .124 

VII. The Waste Lands and Waste Waters of the 

United Kingdom , 143 

VIII. The Science of the Wilds, and the Poetry of 

Sport . 171 

IX. Decoys for Wild Fowl . . . ' . . .190 

X. Eels and Lampernes. — The Mystery of Fishes . 246 

XI. Change of Seasons and of the Times . . .271 

XII. The Loves of the Insects 295 

XIII. On Various Subjects 314 

XIV. The Sportsman in Retirement. — Rural Life, 

AND Food for the Poor .... 326 

XV. Nature's School-Room . . . . . . 342 



FACT AGAINST FICTION, 



CHAPTER I, 

SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS, 

Change in tlie Whole System of our Sylvan Sports — Foolish Use 
of Voice and Whistle — Tramping Up Game — Mismanagement 
of Dogs by Sportsmen — Careless Slaughter of Birds, and 
consequent Cruelty — Danger to the Shooters themselves — 
Occurrence at Prestwood — Master George — Loading and 
Loaders — Driving of Partridges — Theft of Cartridges — Disease 
among Partridges. 

It will be in the memory of many of us born witliln 
the present century, that '^ since the days when we 
were young," the whole system of our sylvan sj^orts 
has undergone a violent change — a ^^ violent change, 
very," and one that in my opinion tends not to the 
real art of venery, its poetry, or pleasure. 

To sum up the unsportsman-like vagary to which 
I allude, all — everything, the training and the 
beautiful and mysterious sagacity of pointer and 
setter — are all merged in a restless run, enormous 

VOL. II. B 



2 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

haste, and nfurious desire to let off the barrels of three 
double guns as fast as they can be handed to you 
and you can pull the trigger, so that there may 
be no cessation of noise, headache, tobacco-smoke, 
and folly. 

In the olden time, two sportsmen went out in 
company, attended by one keeper to carry the bag, 
and, perhaps, by a brace of setters, pointers, or 
spaniels, as the case might be. 

Each sportsman carried a gun, and loaded it 
when discharged. There was no undue haste. If 
a winged bird of any sort fell, time was accorded 
for a minute search, and scarce anything was ever 
lost. Setter, pointer, or spaniel, did all that was 
required in retrieving stricken or running game, 
and a large black dog, of the Newfoundland cross, 
often miscalled ^^ a retriever," was neither known 
nor wanted. 

In the present day, from three to six or ten 
gunners sally forth together, no earthly thing in 
their heads but one of the two or three guns that 
are carried at their tails. They have a man or two 
behind them to load and hand their guns as fast 
as they can discharge them, and not one of these 
modern sj)ortsmen ever think of picking up a dead 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 3 

bird or looking for a wounded one ; tliey sally 
forth to pull the trigger, and they care nothing 
for the interest of the manor or spoiling of the 
game. 

As a sportsman and a lover of game, I doomed 
that when a breech-loader was invented and 
brought into use, a ^^ loader," or a man to load 
for his master, when two muzzle-loaders wore in 
hand, would be done away with ; but such was the 
growth of the appetite for unrelenting and con- 
tinuous slaughter, noise, and fire, that then three 
breech-loaders at a time were used, so that not 
half a second with a gun unloaded should be lost 
to the panting and headaching. destroyer. In 
former times, a sportsman, or, perhaps, two sports- 
men, in every sense of the w^ord, went out partridge 
shooting, as I have previously said, with a brace 
of setters or pointers, attended by one keeper to 
carry the bag. In those days, the knowledge of 
the habits of the game they were after led the true 
sportsman to know that the cleanest and q[uietest 
stepper in high turnips, and who made the least 
noise, got the most shots; that is, that from his 
hushed method of stepping between the roots he 
got nearer to his birds. 



B 



o 



4 FACT AGAINST FICTION, 

Observe the difference now ! Pointers and setters 
are not used ; but from three to four or five gunners 
—I can give them no more apt definition, mingled 
with nine, ten, or twelve beaters— tramp in a line of 
march across the turnip fields, and as the beaters 
behead the doomed turnips with clumsy large-nailed 
shoes, they make a noise like the roar of a surging 
tide or the tramp of soldiers on a march, vainly 
expecting that if they take short beats backwards 
and forwards, leaving it to the selection of the much 
wiser old cock partridges, without using their 
wings, to run and double round them, that they 
will thus ^^ tramp up" every bird in a given field 
and get a shot at him. 

They do not, however, tramp them up as wanted ; 
they do not induce the birds to lie ; for the coveys, 
hearing this measured tread of many feet and a 
noise of human voices so unusual approaching 
them, take to their legs before the strange ad- 
vance, and then to their wings, ere their drilled 
assailants come within shot. 

When a party of tliis description, so drilled and 
armed, commence a ^^ tramp" against wild birds, 
they seem to lay aside all thoughts of the birds 
having any sense at all. Keepers, very likely 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 

tlircc or four of tliem, have black dogs miscalled 
retrievers, with tight collars on, to Avhich a cord is 
attached, on whose unhappy ribs the keepers keep 
drumming with a sufficiently thick stick. Though 
they have the poor dear dog in a line, they 
perjDctually bid him to be ^^ steady" — the word 
^^ steady" to him, or ''keep back," either expres- 
sion being superfluous, when the dogs are led. If 
birds fall and the dogs are sent to pick up, all 
the keepers whistle, as a bystander might suppose, 
in imitation of the Italian Opera where heroes and 
heroines sing loudest on the eve of death, and men 
murder to harmonious strains, with some crotchets, 
of course, but without a quaver of consternation. 

It is an extraordinary fact, but fact it is, that 
those lords of manors who are most anxious to 
show their friends a bloody day, — I will not call it 
a good day's sport, though they go to an immense 
expense to do so, in the preservation of game, 
watching it, and feeding' it, — at the moment that 
their wished-for success arrives, kick the whole 
thing down by shouting to their men, and ordering 
iialts in the line of march, giving different direc- 
tions to boys with flags and followers, &c. 

The most fatal fact that militates against part- 



6 FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

ridge, grouse, or snipes lying for the gun, is tlie 
sound of the human voice ^ or, wliich is nearly as 
bad, that wretched pea-whistle, which is always 
deemed an accompaniment to a dog. 

If one or two footfalls are heard in turnips, or 
in any considerable cover, by partridges, if neither 
voice nor wliistle is heard, the step in the turnips 
or cover may proceed from horse or cow, Avhen, 
as the partridge cannot see above the cover, they 
are not directly alarmed. If, at the same time, 
the light, ranging, but cautious approach of well- 
trained dogs is heard on the far side of tlie 
game, the birds, in listening to both, get pinned 
between man and dog, and lie till their enemy's 
foot is almost on them. 

In ^' tramping" up j^^^rtridge in this line of 
march fashion, my late noble and gallant friend. 
Lord Cardigan, was peculiar, for he treated his 
beaters to a species of drill and words of command 
that pertained only to regimental manoeuvres. 

'^ Halt I take up your dressing ; bring your right 
shoulders forward at the word, and keej) the line." 
^^ Now — forward; no halt. Here — you; I've some 
orders as to the markers ; come here." 

Then followed a conversation between my noble 



SnOOTIXG AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 7 

friend and a head keeper, during all wliicli time 
on one occasion eleven coveys of partridges were 
seen collectively to rise at the further end of that 
turnip field, and to fly from the dreaded, and, hij 
noise, hnoivn danger. 

To me there is this disagreeable contingency 
api^ertaining to the ^^ tramp" for partridges, un- 
aided by the curiously graceful accompaniment of 
pointers or setters. 

You are forced into line, and forced to keep 
step with your right and left-hand man. You are 
scolded if you get a trifle in advance, and the 
same if a trifle in the rear. Your heavy gun (mine 
are heavy) and of the eleven gauge, whichever I 
shoot with,— old John Manton, of Dover Street, 
Pope, of Newcastle, or that now unrivalled gun 
producer. Grant, of St. James's Street, London, 
^-held in readiness across the chest for an unex- 
pected or a long shot. • For there is in this fashion 
of tramping up game no indication of the proximity 
of birds, and nothing to draw your attention till 
the rushing of wings is heard, drowned in a 
roar of '^niark" from every open mouth in your 
vicinity. 

At whatever distance a partridge may rise, he 



8 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

is frio'litenecl with the united roars of a dozen or 
more of men, all of Avhom shout the word '^ mark," 
although they well know that there are men told 
off at stations in different hedges to do the very 
thing without noise that they so vociferously shout 
about. When once you enter a turnip-field^ and 
by so doing have to some slight extent elicited the 
notice of game, the worst thing you can do, with a 
view to sport, is to stand still, and give the birds time 
to think and run. Then, if that injurious pause is 
accompanied by human voice or whistle, the game 
is, indeed, up, for the coveys get to their legs and 
then fly away. 

I neither talk nor whistle to my setters when 
they are at work ; they know their duty and I know 
them. To uphold my hand is caution enough, and 
a short, sharp ^^Ho!" is ample to stop one setter 
if the other has come to a point unseen by his 
ranging companion. They are perfectly steady 
from the chase of hare or rabbit ; yet if I see and 
feel quite sure that a hare or rabbit is seriously 
stricken^ I bid them to ^^scek dead,'' and I have 
known them foot at three parts speed a liare for 
half a mile and bring her back, each having a light 
hold of her in their so united mouths. The next 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 9 

moment, if a liaro or rabbit gets up under tlieir 
feet, or if tlie same is shot at and missed, the 
setters drop or stop to the gun, and never attempt 
to chase. All this is very beautiful, and to go out 
by myself with these setters, or with a second gun 
as my companion who will attend to my sugges- 
tions, is to me the very bliss of that kind of 
sport. 

How much more agreeable it is to have this 
curious canine conduct to watch, and to be warned 
by it of the immediate presence of game, than 
to go tramping and plodding on in a line of 
march, perhaps for a considerable distance, with- 
out a shot — reveries and speculations on matters 
far removed from the feathered tribes and fields 
rendering you unmindful of the gun, and careless 
of, or unprepared for, the instantaneous demand 
for unerring aim that a small, brown, swift-winged 
bird so suddenly requires. 

I know not why, but^ through my long and 
constant experience, in all my endeavours, I have 
never been able to make the Lords and 
Commons, and thence the keepers, aware of the 
mischief occasioned by permitting the human voice 
or whistle to be heard by creatures thoroughly 



10 FACT AGAINST FICTION'. 

conversant with the sounds and to whom a nearer 
ai3proacli is desired. 

It 2)ositively enrages me to see a stupid man 
take a sensible dog up to the spot where a bird 
has fallen. There is the man, and tliere is the 
dog, on the exact spot where the fall took place; 
the eyes of the man ought to convince him that 
the bird is not there, and the nose of the dog does 
convince him that tlie bird has run away ; yet 
for all this, the moment the dog essays to foot 
the lost game, the foolish biped calls him back, 
and puts him on the spot on which the bird would 
have been if he had been dead. If not there, he 
7nust have run away ; yet the dog is not permitted 
to overtake him, but is told to seek dead, when 
the dog really knows that the bird is no more 
dead than he is. A really good retriever has, or 
should have, his brains as free to his own use as 
his nose, and both should be uninterruptedly 
assigned to him for the purpose he is told to effect. 
If you don't Avant him to effect it, don't tell him 
to try. If his mind is disconcerted by constant 
verbal interference, and he is not free to mako 
use of liis mysterious powers in every possible 
way, why, the wiser quadruped must fail, through 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 11 



tlic folly of Lis biped master. It lias been my 
lot constantly to see retrievers (so called) brought 
out with collars round their necks so tight; as 
really to interfere with respiration, more par- 
ticularly when, as I have but too often observed, 
there is a couple of yards of cord attached to their 
collars, to stint their breath, to impede their feet, 
and to catch in every obstacle they pass over. 
Now if bipeds would only use their inferior brains 
in ascertaining that to choke a dog and half 
strangle him is to diminish the free inspiration 
of the laden air that reaches his intelligent brain 
through the nasal poAver, and directs him where 
to find the bird he is in quest of, they— -the bipeds 
— would then take care that their foolish artificial 
immdiments should not send him, choking, half- 
strangled^ and panting along over ground. His 
mouth should be shut, and his mind at command 
to test through his nostrils the slight taint on the 
ground left by a running bird, whose steps had 
very likely followed the line of others, or been 
crossed by different game, the latter a very great 
addition to the difficulty. 

In the olden time sportsmen liked to pick up 
or take in hand every bird they killed, to view 



12 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

its beautiful feathers, and to mark its age or 
condition — the latter quite necessary, as giving an 
insight into the amount of artificial feeding the 
bird had receivedj if any had been deemed neces- 
sary ; but now men, in the most unsportsman-like 
manner, hasten forth to murder and to destroy 
all that rises or runs before them, unheeding 
sex, condition, or future utility in the kitchen. 
Smashed limbs fall in a cloud of dislodged 
feathers, the result of three or four barrels being 
zealously fired into the same bird. '^Cooking 
distance, if you please," used to be called out if 
a man blcAV a bird to pieces ; but now there is no 
restraint — all is to be killed anyhow, and as fast 
as possible, and when killed the game is flung 
down like a heap of rubbish. It is curious and 
very distasteful to me to observe this, and to see 
how soon keepers, as they are called, fall into 
the lamentable ways of their betters. At the end 
of a turnip-field the men are apt to assemble, 
each flinging from his stifling pockets the birds 
and their ruffled feathers unsmoothed, the limbs, 
set in their last agony of death, not pulled 
straight, but everything tossed together in san- 
guinary disparagement, -— the birds flung thus 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 13 

with idle force to the earth, as if they were so 
many useless stones, and without a particle of re- 
flection, that every knock upon their bodies while 
warm, from being recently killed, added bruises 
to the wounds that had bereft them of life. Yet, 
so the powder and shot world wags on. This 
manner and method of careless slaughter, I firmly 
believe to be the result of the fashionable insanity 
of shooting pigeons, to which the attention of the 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 
is so greatly needed. Ho ! I was nearly sug- 
gesting that a twin society for the protection of 
young females, as well as doves, was as much 
required in its attentions at Ilurlingham ; but if 
dowagers can't look after their own doves, why, 
no association ever formed will do it for them, 
and humanity, morality, and the slang term ^^slow" 
will have to linger on, hand in hand, till the ^^fast" 
world runs itself wildly to an end. 

Arrived at my time of life, when ^^ the heart" 
is no longer ^4iot and restless," but its pulse 
'^ subdued and slow," it often happens to me to 
have a bird or hare rise or get uj), or run almost 
beneath my feet, when out with the fast man of 
the day, and w^iile mj cool and deliberate aim 



14 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

is on it, abstaining from the trigger till the game 
is at sufficient distance to be simply and cleanly 
killed, to see that bird or hare blown by a gmmer, 
who had no business to shoot at it, into a mass 
of fractured limbs, of fur or feathers, of no use 
to any one, but simply so exterminated to add to 
the l)ag of the day and to the headachy pleasure 
of letting a petard off under a gunner's nose. Of 
course I exclaim, on the part of the lord of 
the manor, to the owner of the intruding gun, 
^'Cooking distance, if you please," and ^^what 
business had you to shoot that bird ? " 

'^ My dear fellow," cries the shooter or shooters, 
— for probably several had lent their aid to spoil 
the game, — ^^ you were so long in letting off your 
r/un, that we thought you weren't going to pull 
the trigger.'' 

This, when ^' subdued and slow," angers me not 
at all. I laugh at these eager men, and j)ity the 
spoiling of the game ; if their stand in a cover was 
near mine, I could, if I chose it, give them scarce a 
chance of pulling a trigger, save at a falling bird. 

I see that it gives men, many younger, some as 
old as myself, so much pleasure to let oft' their 
gun, that I oftcr abstain from an opportunity. 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 15 

undoubtedly mine, of firing, to give them the 
coveted shot, intensely amused at times when 
they have missed the bird after all. They 
often miss, when my gun is aimed, from their 
own haste to be the first to fire ; and it has 
very frequently liappened, that if we have fired 
together, particularly in cases where my neighbour 
has been an uncertain shot, and that when the 
bird was dead, he or they have turned to ask ^^if 
I had let off my gun," I have simply shaken my head 
and abstained from loading, to give them, at least, 
all the pleasure in my power to afford, in permitting 
them to think they had the shot all to themselves. 

One thing in these fast days strikes me as very 
strange, it is, that so few shooters — I can't call 
them sportsmen — are added to the dead-bag of the 
game. I constantly see men fire in covers or in 
hedgerows, right into spots wherein any human 
creature might he, but into which they had seen 
no human creature go ; a boy or a girl, most likely 
both, may be there accidentally, or as ^^ stops," 
or a brother gunner may have got there, or a 
beater wandered from the line. None of these 
possible considerations, however, intervene between 
the eager, covetous eye of the gunner and the 



16 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

risen bird he sees, but on the instant bang goes 
the breach-loader, and the chance is run of animal 
or bird destruction licensed, or human accidental 
death. For myself, if a bird rises near me, or a 
hare starts up close by, I call out to friend or 
beater, ^^ Where are you?" and then, even with 
that delay, often have more than plenty of time 
to fire. I do not go out simjDly to destroy, nor 
can I bear to endanger anybody who is with me, 
and therefore I am neither nervous nor put out in 
any way by the dangerous folly of others.* 

While telling this, and in order to give those on 
whom I may lay the fair lash, a rise out of which 
to laugh at me, it behoves me to tell an occurrence 
that chanced to me at Prestwood, on the borders 
of Worcestershire, the residence of Mr. Foley. 

We had assembled to shoot the covers there, on 
a beat where, for incautious shots, the ground was 
dangerous, inasmuch as there were hollows in the 
woods, with rather high ridges on either side of 
them. It was necessary, where these hollows were, 
to have a gun on each ridge, so as to command 

■" In this, the close of the shooting season, 1874, I have been 
shot twice. Once in the hand, and once about G inches above the 
knee ; in the latter place two shots went to the bone, where they 
remain. 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 17 



the rises from the lower groimd. Caution, there- 
fore, was to be more particularly used, as tliougli 
the dip in the ground was considerable, cutting 
across as a bird flies, the gunners were not very 
far off each other, and therefore well within 
danger. 

From my friends having arrived at, to me, a 
very complimentary opinion, that as a shot (as I 
trust in all other things) caution was my habitual 
custom, it chanced that the selection fell on me 
to take one hill above a hollow^, wdiile Foley, the 
then lieir-apparent and a young man, took the 
other, so as to keep him, for that time at least, 
in an assured place of safety. 

Foley, now the owner of Prestwood, — as I hope 
in all haj^piness and health, while life lasts, he 
ever will be, — was attended by a rammer-bearer, 
one of the first innovations on the original rammer 
borne beneath the barrels of the gun, in the sliape 
of a very small boy. 

A pheasant rose directly in front of me, and 
flew pretty straight away, but inclining to Foley's 
side the ^^ gully," out of all possibly-to-be-com- 
puted danger in regard to Avhere Foley stood, and 
in every way a safe shot for me. I killed the 

VOL. II. c 



18 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

pheasant with one of my eleven-gauge, old muzzle - 
loading Jolni Mantons, but with the usual forcible 
shooting of that splendid gun. A tall-growing 
ash sapling intervened between me and. the 
pheasant, but the blow by which the gun cut down 
the impediment occasioned extraordinary diversion 
in the charge, for the boy immediately at the heels 
of Foley tumbled over, ramrod and all, and 
cried out tliat '^ he was shot." From our re- 
spective j^ositions, the exclamation of tlio boy 
was beyond my conception, yet there he lay on 
liis back, his hand up to his face, and Foley 
standing over him. To add to my unspeakable 
mystification, the late Mr. Foley rushed up, and, 
staring with spectacles on nose into the boy's face, 
rather relieved my mind by loudly asseverating 
that ^' the boy was in a fit, and speechless, at tlie 
point of death." Of course, being totally unable 
to account for any mischief from my gun, I 
rushed into the liollow and up the other side, 
just in time to share in the folloAving comedy, 
Til ere stood Henry Foley, and there leaned his 
father, l)ending liimself over the supposed-to-be- 
dying urcliin, who still retained possession of tlie 
extra ramrod, but from whom not one syllabic of 



SHOOTING A8 IT WAiS, AND AS IT 18. 19 

speech could be elicited. There was blood on tlie 
boy's chin and lips, evidently from his mouth, while 
in silence lie continued to set a fixed gaze on Mr. 
Foley's spectacles, and to move his clieeks in 
strange evolutions, Avhich Mr. Foley's horrified 
glance immediately construed into convulsions. 

^'He's ia convulsions," exclaimed Mr. Foley. 
Then, as if to arouse the boy to some more 
healthful effort, he cried, ^^ AVhy doii't you speak ?" 

The boy's cheeks rolled about more than ever, 
and his lips became violently agitated, his unoc- 
cupied hand arose, it met his mouth, and 'twixt 
his finger and thumb, and from his hitherto 
occupied tongue, he knip^Dcd a shot, a little flat- 
tened on its sides, and, holding it up to Mr. 
Foley's face, he uttered, in considerable and in 
triumphant mirth, to his patron, '^Here a is." 
The shot cannoning off the tree, from the rest of the 
charge the shot had severed, cut the boy's li}^, and 
stuck between two of his front teeth, his prisoner. 
This the boy's tongue had been busy with, and 
first or last he was resolved not to speak till he 
had dislodged and captured it. 

'^ Well, my little man," I said, giving him lialf-a- 

crown, ^' then you are not hurt ? " 

c 2 



20 • FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

^^Nooa," he said, gTinning. 

^'Will you be sliot again," I asked him, ^^ if I 
give you another half-crown to-morrow ? " 

^^ Ees/' was the response, to the great grati- 
fication of the head gamekeeper, the gigantic 
Beard, for whom I always entertained, and still 
entertain, the highest respect, as no man ever 
did his duty better, or proved himself a more 
faithful servant, to the late as well as to the 
present Mr. Foley. 

Beard was, if I remember rightly, over six feet 
three in heiglit, and not being able to swim, he 
used to walk, after a fashion, under water, when 
the river or canal was deep and narrow, and 
somehow or other always came up on the side 
he desired. 

In these fast and heedless days, let me here pro- 
pose a caution to my brother shooters; It is this : 
if they cannot afford to keep a servant of their 
own to load their second gun, then never borrow 
from your entertainer a keeper of tliat particular 
manor to load the spare gun, for instead of his 
attention being strictl}- confined to the charging 
and care of the second gun, his ideas will be 
ranging to the rise of the game, the flight of wild 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 21 

fowl, or tlie lino of beatorSj and ten to one but 
lie explodes the weapon lie is supposed to have 
charge of in the very waistcoat, or at the Avaist- 
Luttons, of the shooter for whom he is loading. 

It is strange, but it has actually come within 
my notice, that at the present day, not only 
unpractised shooters, but mere idiots, are at times 
sent out with shooting-parties armed with a gun. 

I have known it asked of a fond mother, '^ What, 
you do not mean to say lie (her son) is going out 
shooting with us?" 

'' Oh, yes ; poor dear George, he is very safe, I 
assure you; he cant hurt himself with a breech- 
loader, as there is no pouring down powder and 
ramming it with the gun on cock ; he knows how 
to slip it into the breech; so you need not be 
afraid — unless by great accident he pulled the 
trigger before putting the gun to his shoulder." 

^' Humph!" said the sportsman to himself to 
whom this comfortable assurance was addressed. 
^' He won't hurt himself; that may be, but if he 
lets his gun look at his companion, and gets at 
play with the trigger, there is no saying wliat 
he might do." 

The dangerous shooting -party to which I now 



22 l^ACT AGAINST FICtlOX. 

allude sallied forth ; it was in tlie earliest part of 
October, and the beat was in the fields, with an 
occasional double hedge or spinny. The guns at one 
time were divided, some to walk the turnips, while 
two others took either side of a thick liedo-e. While 
proceeding thus, an under-keeper, who had been told 
off to mark, came running up to us in a state of con- 
siderable excitement. As he approached he was 
damned by the master of the party for quitting 
his post; but resolutely, terrifically breathless, he 
came on, and when close to his master, in enor- 
mous consternation, blurted forth, as far as I could 
make out, the following words, — 

^^ Oh, Lard ! oh. Lard ! Measter G.'s a squatted 
down in t'e dike, a rived 'isself of 's duds, and 's a 
dressing on 'isself in a wuzzle le'f." 

^^What?" roared all within hearing, not being 
able to comprehend the local language of the ex- 
cited under-keeper — '' What?" 

The master of the party, however, knew the 
import of the blurted-out intelligence, and bidding 
us all stand still, hastened away Avith his informant. 
Tlie fact was, that Master G. had bethought 
himself of the very warm day, and, desiring cooler 
raiment, he had undressed himself, and Avas endea- 



8II00TING AS IT A\AS, AND AS IT IS. 23 

vouring to construct an Adamisli clothing from 
the leaf of the mangold-wiirzel. 

So blind, were the parents to the idiotic pecu- 
liarities of this their only son, that they took him 
to the mansions of their friends, and trusted him 
as if he was soundly in possession of his senses, 
totally forgetting that while with them, or in 
company Avith any one of whom he was afraid, the 
weak-minded young man might only by chance 
conduct himself with propriety; but, of course, 
opportunities arose when for a short time he 
became free of all surveillance, and on one 
occasion I saw him drive, or, at least, I saw 
the butler whom he had driven into a state 
of speechless surprise, under the following cir- 
cumstances. 

The mansion had become vacated by the shoot- 
ing-party ; the lord of the house had gone away, 
and with a few ladies only one guest remained 
that day to dinner. The ladies had left the dining- 
room, and Master Gr. and this gentleman were 
tete-a-tete. A message having been sent in which 
called the gentleman for a short time to the 
steward's room. Master G. was left to himself in 
the full enjoyment of company to which, when 



"24: FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

opportunity occiirredj lie was much addicted— viz., 
three parts of three bottles of wine — of port, of 
claret, and sherry. He had not been left many 
minutes alone when tlie butler chanced to go into 
the dining-room, and coming out, labouring under 
a bewildered look of amazement, was met in the 
passage by the gentleman who, not five minutes 
before, had left that apartment and the nothing- 
like emptied bottles. 

^^ Would you wish any more wine, sir?" gasped 
the butler. 

" More wine ! No, there is ample on the table." 

^^ I beg pardon, sir," rejoined the butler; ^'but 
tliere 's none on the table 7ioio ; every bottle 's empty 
except the decanter of water." 

^' Empty! Why, I left three bottles nearly full 
with your young gentleman ! Where is he ?" 

^' Gone to the drawing-room, sir, a singing — 

• The sessions at 'sizes are all a farce, 
And tlie judge and the jury may — ' 

He slammed the door, and I couldn't hear what it 
was he told the ladies they was to do when the 
sessions was over. Since then there 's been a deal 
of liustling 'twixt him and his mamma to get him 
uj^stairs to bed." 



•SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 25 

And such was the man, in these fast days, sup- 
posed to he safe to send with a large party out 
shootinG:. 

When keepers are appointed by their employers 
to load the additional gun, when muzzle-loaders 
are shot with, I often have seen, and no doubt I 
shall still see, the loader walking along after his 
master w^ith the gun held in a slanting position, and 
the charge being rammed vigorously down in that 
position, with that hateful new-fangled thing, the 
^' loading rod" — concussion enough given to knock 
out the breeches, and by the slant, half the powder 
lost b}^ damply sticking in tlie barrel, clinging to the 
slanting sides, and at length balling beneath the 
ill-directed wad. The order ought to be, ^^ stand 
still while you load." To stand still, in these 
days, or to take your time about anything, is 
utterly beside the go-adiead fashion of the hour: 
everything is at railway pace, and much, if not 
all, that was once in high repute is irresistibly 
run down. 

There is now another phase of shooting which 
is fast going a-head of the tramj^ing in armies 
through the fields, and that is, the driving of par- 
tridges a^ well as of grouse. This new idea is /ar* 



26 l^ACT AGAINST FICTION. 

'prefcrahle to the last, as noise and scaring of the 
winged game is turned into some use, and besides 
this it saves fine gentlemen the trouble of walking. 
They can take out a garden-stool Avitli them, and 
sit and smoke with their loader and their three 
guns resting upon the bank beside them, and if 
the weather should be too hot or too wet, their 
loader can carry an umbrella. 

1 j)refer '' the drive'' infinitely to the '^ tram]Ding" 
in a noisy line, and generally in a ^^ drive" on the 
moors or fields, the space requires guns to be sta- 
tioned at comfortable distance from each other, and 
there is no clashing of shots at the same doomed 
bird. The shots themselves, to some men, are much 
more difiicult, and that, too, enhances the pleasure 
of the sport; and w^liat is more, the shooters only 
run the risk of being shot by one man, their OAvn 
loader, instead of eight or ten.* 

In closing this chapter I must give my friends a 
caution — at least those of my friends who, like 
myself, can't afibrd to take abput with them their 
own loader in charge of the cartridge-bag. It has, 

'" Alas, the accidents wMcli have happened, and ^vhicll might 
have been avoided, in the shooting season closing in lfe74, have 
been of a horrifying description. 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 27 

of course, fallen to my lot to have some beater or 

boy appointed to bear my spare cartridges over 

and above those I carry in a belt round my waist 

— a belt made for me by my haberdasher in the 
country, Mr. Budden, of Wimborne, on a very 

good plan of his own. 

On returning home, I have on such occasions 

been astonished at the amount of shooting I seem 

to have had, from the diminution of ammunition, 

and have felt perfectly certain that I had never 

expended it in shots. I would, therefore, recommend 

all my friends situated as to followers, in the field 

or wood, as I am, — for I can't take mj own keeper 

from his duty, — to have the sj)are cartridge pouch 

fitted with a lock and tico keys : one key worn tied 

to the waistcoat button-hole, for immediate use, the 

other to be carried in the waistcoat-pocket in case 

of accident. The theft of cartridges first began 

among boys appointed to carry a pouch ; they stole 

them for use on the period of the Gunpowder Plot, 

and for rejoicings at Christmas, or to have a lark 

with at other times. Upon this grew a suggestion 

from poaching thieves to their sons or relations, 

that the boys should steal the cartridges for the 

powder and shot they contained, as that could be 



2S FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

made serviceable in the old ilint-lock u'uii or muzzle- 
loader of any kind. 

This instigation to robbery on the part of the 
men to their sons and boys, is sure to increase with 
ilia increase ofhreech-loadiiKjyunSj for at times the 
cartridges so stolen Avill have a value besides the 
amount of powder and sliot contained in them, as 
old breech-loaders will be cast aside and become 
of common use anion o^ thieves, and cartridires and 
poachers may surreptitiously come together. 

Grrant, of St. James's Street, has made a bag for 
cartridges with lock and key, and to him I would 
refer my readers for anything of a similar kind. 

The breed of partridges has of late signally 
failed, and failed from some acute disease ; this 
has nothing whatever to do witli mere atmospheric 
effects, or the weather. I sj^eak from close j^i'^^- 
tice and personal suj^ervision. Very early in 
the breeding seasons, as soon as the young par- 
tridges were able to fly, when the covey rose, 
one, two, and three or four young birds were ob- 
served by me to drop very soon, and to be unable 
to fly as far as the rest of the covey. When next 
I saw the coveys in which this inability to continue 
the flight existed, these birds were missing, and 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. 29 

tlio uiiinber in tlic covey proportionately dimi- 
nisliccl. After some little time liatclies of from 
eighteen to twenty young birds dwindled down to 
two or three, and then also I oljserved in very 
many cases but one old bird with the covey, and 
sometimes none. 

The breeding season, or rather the dying seasons, 
wore on, and my keepers reported some good 
coveys, numerically speaking, though all })ro- 
nounced them to be the worst seasons ever knowm. 
In tlie second week in one September I sliot on 
my own manor; and in a lield in wdiich a covey 
of fourteen was reported, there they were, and at 
the first rise some elucidation was afforded, for in a 
left and right shot out of tlie same covey I killed 
two different - sized young birds. Eventually I 
killed three different - sized young birds, and on 
extending my beat I met with small coveys of 
young birds of different sizes, Avithout any old 
l)irds, proving that in many cases the old birds as 
well as many young ones had died, and hence the 
packing together of the orphan birds. 

In the immediate precincts of my house, in one 
of these seasons, I knew of nine old birds sitting on 
full nests of eggs, all of them hatched off splendidly 



30 ' FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

save one, wlio sat in a place accessible to rain, and 
she wont off with only five. Tlie pheasants, too, had 
been hatching off most successfully, yet as time went 
on I saw old hen pheasants with only one or two 
young ones, and occasionally with none. There were 
no young dead birds found in the cover rides, and 
when the earlier crops were cut, such as grass, rye, 
peas, &c., not the vestige of a dead bird was found, 
other than might have arisen from some casualty. 
This puzzled me in the rides and in the grass, but 
on arable land in a light soil, the ^^ sexton beetle," 
in his black gown and red scarf, buries any com- 
paratively small bird, hare, or rabbit, that he and his 
fellows cannot at once eat up, therefore no remains 
of small game can on such a site be found. The 
pheasants with me, both hand bred and wild, did well, 
particularly the former ; but the partridges, old and 
voung, decreased every day ; and there was no help 
for it. As the month of September advanced, we 
picked up what had been fine full - grown, full- 
feathered young partridges, with the horseshoe on 
their l^reast, dwindled to the merest skeletons — some 
dead, others almost dead ; and we examined them 
anatomically, but all in vain. Neither nostril, 
brain, nor croj), nor gizzard, afforded us the 



SHOOTING AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS. ol 

sliglitest clue to the cause of death, and to the 
day of tlie publication of this work, I know no 
more about the cause of this ravao^ins; disease 
than the child unborn. Of this I am convinced, 
that in manors where this pestilence exists, if it 
still exists, there ought to be no partridge shooting 
for a vear. I should abstain from it at home, and 
I advise all my friends to do the same, or that 
best of all game will become extinct. 

I am told that a similar disease has been and 
still is rife in some of the moors and momitains of 
Scotland, and that red and black grouse and ptar- 
migan have been and are dying by thousands. If 
this is the case, and if, according to Lord Radnor, 
the '^ foot and mouth disease," hitherto confined to 
cattle, has broken out or breaks out in our kennels 
of hounds and sporting dogs, there will be an end 
to the sylvan joys of what once was called Merry 
England, and we shall be driven abroad to seek for 
those amusements for which the United Kinoxlom 
]iad been famous. 



o 



2 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



CHAPTER 11. 



THE RENTED MANOR. 



Sporting Rights — Teiicant Farmers and Eabbits — Eggs of Game 
Birds — Prevention of Theft — Unwise Leniency shown to Thieves 
— Rabbits as Food — Tenancy at Will — Gamekeepers — Cockney 
Orators. 

Among the many perjolexing occurrences of country 
life, tliere is nothing more difficult to manage with 
satisfaction to yourself, and with justice to all 
around you, than a mansion rented as tenant of 
the sporting rights and game as well as of the 
mansion, said tenant thus being the third person, 
and coming between the real proprietor of the 
soil and the farmers of the estate, and of course, 
by this, creating a third interest, not always con- 
templated by either of the two parties with whom 
the tenant for sport has to deal. If the tenants 
of the farms are rcalh' respectable and well- 
conditioned men, then life among them as the 
renter of the game is easy enough, by giving to 



THE RENTED MANOR. 33 

each man duo consideration ; but if a mistaken 
laxity in the landlord as regards his tenants liad 
given, oi'j f(n' the time, assigned to them any sort 
of s2>oi'ting permission to course hares or to kill 
rabbits, then the very instant a stranger takes 
from their landlord those rights exclusively, and 
pays for them a heavy rent, war is proclaimed; 
and in many instances tenants, forgetfully un- 
grateful of the mere permission they had for some 
time enjoyed, do all they can to annoy the noAv- 
comer or tenant of the mansion, and to ^^I'cvent 
their landlord from obtaining an increase to his 
income, perhaps really needed, by the letting of 
his house and his shooting, and his park and 
grounds. 

On the other hand, if the landlord had been 
of the opinion of the Cobbett ^^ gridiron," namely, 
that farming and the pursuits of agriculture were 
so interesting and agreeable in themselves '^as 
to need no other amusement" on the acres, and 
if he had kept his tenants strictly to their asserted 
occupations, giving no leave of any kind to sport, 
then the third man coming in would find all 
smooth to his taking and to his liking, and it 
would be his own fault, or the fault of some very 

VOL. II. D 



o 



4 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



litigious tenant, if tilings did not continue happily 
between all parties. 

There has been a vast deal of nonsense talked, 
at farmers' clubs and meetings, about the mischief 
done by what is called ^'an over-preservation of 
game." Now, what /.s* really meant by an ^^over- 
preservation of game?" It is not the mere quantity 
kept, but the fact that the peoj)le who make the 
outcry are not themselves allowed to assist in its 
destruction. Game, that is, pheasants, hares, and 
partridges, may be present and protected in the 
strictest manner, and yet not be in anything like 
such quantities as to overrun or damage the 
farmer's crops.* Rabbits are not game, but they 
should always be reserved by the landlord. No 
landlord with a grain of sense would preserve or 
encourage too many rabbits, although he would 
be quite right in strictly protecting from depre- 
dators such rabbits as were on his manor or lands, 
so as to keep off illicit company. 

There is nothing wdiich so tends to misunder- 
standings an cf ill-will as the assignment of coursing 

"' The real fact is, that no proprietor can " over-preserve game," 
for an over-preservation would bring disease, as wo all know, and 
the winged game would die if increased beyond the natural average. ■ 



THE RENTED MANOR. ' 35 

of haros and killing of rabbits to the tenantry; 
such liberty is for ever attended with unsatis- 
factory results. A tenant himself, or his good 
and valuable farming men, have no time to destroy 
rabbitSj and rabbits cannot be destroyed except 
in the woods; the consequence is, therefore, that 
they, the tenants, assign the killing of the few 
rabbits really within their power, in banks and 
hedgerows, to ratcatchers or poaching thieves, 
who are willing enough to accept a footing on 
the lands without payment, in order to have 
opportunities for illegal depredations, and to 
carry off game as well as rabbits and foxes, 
leaving with the farmer a few rabbits for eating 
by w^ay of cloak to the mischief which they have 
really been doing to all parties. 

I have seen a great deal of this in instances 
when I have been asked to re-arrange affairs, 
and to obviate abuses upon estates left in the 
possession and under the control of ladies ; and 
in almost every instance in which farmers have 
been given the right to the rabbits, and where 
they had been exercising the right to preserve 
them under plea of their ^' destruction,'' I have 

found not only the farmer's crops suffering from 

D 2 



36 • FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

tlie number of rabbits lie himself kept, but even 
his neighbours were loud in their complaints of 
the nuisance he, their brother -agriculturist, occa- 
sioned. To such an extent have I found rabbits 
preserved by tenant-farmers, when they were 
given the right to kill them, that in the orchards 
attached to the farm I have known large log 
piles built up on purpose for the rabbits to breed 
in ; and upon notice of a repeal of the permission 
to kill rabbits, the tenant-farmer has requested 
me to let him keep his rabbits until the following 
spring, in order that he riur/kt he ahle to take off 
the crop of rabbits he had so long fostered ; in fact, 
the head of rahhits he had been getting vp for 
years ! I have often stood on a tenant-farmer's 
devastated field, and wondered to myself what 
he would have said had his landlord's or my 
rabbits caused half so much destruction ! 

Then, again, as to the unrestricted leave to keep 
greyhounds and to course hares, restricted merely 
so far that the coursing was to be confined to the 
proper season, beginning in November and ending 
on the 1st of March. In such cases, when the hares 
have been so constantly disturbed as to leave their 
'^ forms " out upon the fields, I have known the 



THE RENTED MANOR. 37 

tenant-farmer seat himself at dusk mider liis land- 
lord's wood, and slip his lurching' greyhound as 
the hares cantered forth to disport themselves on 
the open downs or fields. Of all dogs there are 
none so mischievous as a greyhound at large 
upon a farm during the spring and summer. With 
a nose equal to any sort of sporting dog, and a 
speed beyond all other kinds, the greyhound soon 
learns, when left at large, to become a most crafty 
and efficient lurcher, killing hares and rabbits by 
speed, and springing on or chapping hen pheasants 
on their nests, as well as destroying the young 
birds even while they are unable to fly, and 
eating the unhatched eggs. All the most destruc- 
tive lurchers in the possession of thieves and 
poachers are thoroughbred greyhounds, with their 
sterns cut — cut for the now obsolete design of 
cheating the Excise of the tax on greyhounds, by 
saying the dog is for sheep. 

Here let me mention a most erroneous mistake 
which some game-preserving landlords fall into. 
They give the rabbits to the keepers* A keeper 
should look to no perquisites; his wages should 
be ample, for his is a hard life, if he does his 
duty, and he should be so well paid by his 



38 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

employer as to need no aJditions. AVlien the 
rabbits • arc tlic perquisite of tlie keeper, lie is 
sure to keep as many as lie can, and tlie tenant 
is certain to liave tlie dissatisfaction of seeing" 
damage by rabbits done to liis crops, liis loss 
giving to his landlord no pleasure whatever. 

As a renter of manor and game, as it has been 
my fiite to be for the greater portion of my life, 
my system is as follows : to preserve all the 
manorial rights exclusively as they were let to 
me, to guard all the rights belonging to the 
estates, and to give the strictest orders to my 
keepers, by night and day, to protect the farmers' 
stock, fences, roots, and crops from depredation, 
and to watch over the herds and flocks, cows, 
oxen, horses, mares and foals, sheej:), and pigs, 
as if they were my own, and at once to re]3ort 
any accident to any of them to the farmer, and 
to render him all the assistance in their power, 
night and day, to remedy the evil. I remember 
more than one instance in which the tenant- 
farmer over whose land I held the exclusive rights 
has come to me and coin})laincd of the tresjjassing 
of the cattle from squatters on tlieir crops by 
night, purposely turned in upon them by tlieir 



TIIK RENTED MANOR. o9 

more needy neighbours or by tramping gipsies. 
In reply, I told, tliem, '^ that the remedy was in 
their own hands, and that they could pound and 
chari2:c for all cattle so at lar^e." 

Their answer has been, ^'That is all very 
well, sir — I know what the law is ; but the first 
time I put it in force, one of my ricks was 
fired l^y an incendiary at night ; and I am not 
going to excite the revenge of tramps or gipsies, 
nor that of the needy possessors of a hut-kept 
cow, and so to risk it again." 

On all the farms over which the exclusive 
sporting rights are mine, my keepers are strictly 
charged to prevent, by poundage, the damage 
arising from stray cattle, and to guard the root 
crops from molestation. The consequence of 
this fair conduct is, that the gamekeepers and 
the tenant-farmers under me have lived happily 
together, and my men are regarded by them 
as a most efficient rural police. 

As to the rabbits, each tenant-farmer is re- 
quested by me to rej)ort any spot on his holding 
where he thinks there are too many rabbits. 
The moment that report reaches me or my 
head keeper, my men, nets, and ferrets obey 



40 t^ACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the farmer; and if lie wishes to join in the 
sport, and has not a gun of his own^ I lend 
him one for tliat occasion^ and thus all parties 
have ever been contented. 

As res2)ects the labourers on the farnij and 
the nests of pheasants and partridges, my system 
is this : if they iind a nest, and show it to my 
keepers (the nest is not disturbed, if not too 
close upon any public footway or road), and 
when hatched safely off, the farm-labourer who 
found it receives a shilling ; and if I am 2)leased 
with the general conduct of the labourers on the 
farm, I often make a present at Christmas to 
tlie foreman, for the benefit of all the hands 
employed. There is one thing, however, which 
my readers, if in possession of a manor, must 
guard against, and it is this, that, after a bird 
has hatched, if the shells of the eggs are left in 
the nest, it is possible that the eggs of some other 
known nest may be stolon, and tlic shells of the 
one that has been hatched put in the place of 
the stolen ones, so as to get another shilling. 
The shells should, therefore, (duxiijs he destroyed 
by the keeper, to prevent this dishonesty. 

It is also a rule with me^ supposing some 



THE RENTED MAKOK. 41 

man J known to bo dishonesty brings me eggs or 
a very small leveret (both eggs and animal 
being useless to him for food or sale), showing 
thereby a desire to please me, to reward him 
in return to a far greater degree than any use 
by him of such things could have won for him ; 
and I do this to show both rich and poor that it 
is my wish not to tyrannize over the said-to-be 
working classes (but often no workers at all), 
but to teach them to see (to use a homely old 
saying) upon which '' side their bread is really 
buttered." By the system wdiicli I have always 
pursued, the very men who set themselves up 
against me have in the end, and, after punish- 
ment, left off their dishonest aggressions, and 
come to me for both advice and protection, when 
put upon by others, or robbed and swindled by 
their own associates. 

I am perfectly certain that, in sundry vicinitieSj 
well known to my experience in game-preservingj 
but for the culpable folly of the magisterial 
bench at petty sessions in dealing with convic- 
tions, I could have made many an idle villain 
support himself, his wife, and children,- by honest 
means and fair wages, rather than starve, as he 



42 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

does, botli wife and cliildren by refusing to 
labour, and by going out at night or in the day 
to steal game or rabbits, or anything he can lay 
his hands on, tlie monetary proceeds of which, 
by all such thieves, being regarded, not as a fund 
for the support of their families^ but as pochet- 
money for the man to spend in gamhling or in 
hecr. As an instance of the culpable leniency 
in magistrates, I select the following from a 
vast number of similar cases : — 

Two notorious thieves went out, one winter 
morning, at daybreak, on a maiden snowfall, to 
trace hares and rabbits to their forms in the 
furze and heather. Both of these men were old 
offenders, and had been previously convicted in 
full penalties ; and one of them had treated w^ith 
contempt in a former case the last simmions 
served upon him, as well as the warrant issued 
against him, having frightened away, so it Avas 
said, two policemen (Avhicli I do not believe) 
who came to take him, threatening to murder 
them with a stone hammer. Having been thus 
left at large, in defiance of summons and warrant, 
for a considerable time, — but keeping out of the 
way, of course, — he continued all his misdeeds 



THE RENTED MANOR. 4o 

until tlic snowy morning* came wliicli I have pre- 
viously alluded to. Ho tlicn went forth watli aiiotlier 
man, who was armed with a heavy bludgeon, 
amounting to a small tree, and was regarded 
as an invincible bully by all his confreres. 

Two keepers (they were mine) fell in with 
these villains, and took them in the act of 
poaching and of theft; for dead hares and 
rabbits are the private property of the owner 
of the land and manor on which they are found. 
The champion bully brandished his club, and 
threatened the brains of any man who attempted 
to lay hands upon him ; so, thus put to his 
weapon, the under-keeper at once delivered 
a blow with his own stick, and broke the 
cowardly bully's head, wdien he immediately 
threw down his bludgeon, cried, and surrendered. 
Upon these thieves were found a net and four 
dead rabbits. 

Summoned for this offence before the Bench 
that same Aveek, these two fellows refused to 
appear, so of course they were convicted. In 
what ? Why, in a moiety of the penalty, twenty 
shillings instead of forty, and that, too, in the 
face of their previous convictions, and defiance of 



44 FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

summons and warrants. On warrants against them 
being" immediately issued, they ran away on the 
day of their conviction , Friday ; they stayed 
away on Saturday, came back on Sunday, and 
on Monday paid their fines, laughing at the 
inadequate penalty, which they had not expected 
when they failed to appear, and borrowing the 
money to pay the fines from the receivers of 
stolen game, poulterers and public-liouse kee23ers, 
under the conditions that by their future depreda- 
tions and drinking they were to pay off the score. 

The j^urchasers of the stolen game fix their own 
price for each head of game, and a far higher 
rate of interest than usual for the money advanced, 
as they desire to pay themselves for the risk which 
they know they run of never seeing their money 
again* 

There are a great many beer and public house 
keepers who receive stolen game in this way, 
advancing beer at an extortionate price when it 
is to be paid for in game ; and as a country 
gentleman and justice of the peace, as well as a 
game-preserver, I have been and am cognizant 
of this grievous abuse ; but it is most difiicult to 
bring home conviction to the villain most deserving 



THE RENTED MANOR. 45 

of punislimcnt, viz., the receiver. The law as it 
stands, in this instance, as in many others, opens 
a door hy which the worst criminal can escape 
detection, crowned by the fact that the great 
^^ unpaid'' upon tlie Bench, mostly parsons, inva- 
riably do all in their power to let off a villain 
with as little punishment as possible, while they, 
at the same time, make themselves amusingly 
remarkable by the funny character they get for 
impartiality, in committing themselves mucli more 
frequently than they commit the prisoners brought 
before them. 

If we had ^^stipendiary magistrates," as they 
have in Ireland, tlie laws would be acted uid to 
(though Ireland is no example for that) and crime 
of all sorts largely decreased. We see the good 
effect of a professional judge in the County Courts ; 
but there again the legislators have stejDjDcd in 
with a mischievous infliction, called ^'a sj^ecial 
jury," of five men, selected from much the same 
class as the thieves and poachers, save that they 
are ^' householders," and are not absolutely in 
rags. It is a farce for a gentleman to attempt to 
defend himself in some localities if charged as a 
*^ Lord of the Manor" with wrongfully seizing 



46 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

engines or lurclicrs, illegally used by uncertificated 
persons for the destruction of game, for tlie jury 
care nothing for their oaths, nor for the Judge's 
charge ; they really have made up their minds to 
find for the plaintiff before they go into Court. 

Neither do the workino: classes, when addicted 
to theft, care anything for their oath : they will 
swear just what they think will save them or their 
friends from punishment. I have seen a villain 
let off by offering an aVibl^ bringing three people 
to swear that he was in their company through- 
out the entire day of the alleged depredation, 
and eleven miles from the spot where it was 
sworn to have been committed. His two com- 
panions in the attempted theft of game, shooting 
a partridge without a licence and out of season, 
were convicted in a mitigated penalty, but so 
inadequate was the fine, that the Excise was 
moved to come upon them for the cumulative 
penalty. When had up by the Excise, the two 
previously convicted thieves produced their com- 
panion, who had got off throuyh the ^' alibi ^^ to 
swear that ^^he really had been with them on the 
occasion upon which all his witnesses swore he 
was eleven miles away, and that he could, there- 



THE llENTED MANOIJ. 47 

foro, prove that tlicy did not sJioot a partridcje,'^^ 
This perjury failed ; yet in this case, as in many 
otliers, perjury was allowed to go unpunished ; 
and things have now come to such a pass, that 
old Mr. Weller's advice to his son Samuel to 
induce Mr. Pickwick to prove an '^ alibi," in the 
action of ^^Bardell v. Pickwick," has been adopted by 
every scoundrel who has become amenable to the law. 

It is perfectly clear to me that punishment should 
not only follow close upon the heels of detected 
crime, but that, upon the first offence j the highest 
and most severe penalties should be awarded. I 
am not by any means sure that any good result 
is obtained by a light punishment for a first 
offence, for the punishment is often so light that 
it brings contempt upon the sentence, and hardens, 
rather than deters, a first offender. The law has 
very often to deal with juvenile offenders who 
think a gaol is a fine place, and committal thereto 
a feather in their caps, — ^making them, so to 
speak, as good a man as their father, or equal to 
their brothers, wlio liave been, perhaps, many 
times under lock and key. 

As we have seen that whipping deters from 
murder more than lian<2cinf>' bv the neck, and 



48 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

that, too, ill offences directed against the life of 
tlie liigliest person in tlic realm, so a severe and 
degrading punishment on a first offence would 
greatly deter from the commission of a second, 
when carried out in the rural districts against the 
thieves of game and offenders of any description. 

I have seen, in the close of the year 18G0, 
that there have been blatant men at farmers' 
meetings exclaiming against game and rabbits, 
the latter as ^^ useless vermin." Game and rabbits 
are now made to serve as food for the people ; 
and those dupes of the legislative folly of Mr. Bright, 
OiTirer, Dodi^'cr, Dilk and Co., would be astonished 
if they went into statistics, and saw the enormous 
amount of '^food for the people" sold and given 
away to them from the warrens and manors, 
making up an immense weight of food, and 
obtained at a far lower price than meat sold by 
the butchers. I never refused rabbits to any 
honest man who asked for them; and at one of 
my residences I used to give them frequently 
to the coast-guard men. I had not done this 
very long when the men asked me to let tliem 
buy the rabbits, because, they said, although 
I was so kind in occasionally giving them 



THE RENTED MANOR. 49 

rabbits, they could not expect mo to do so con- 
tinually, therefore tliey hoped I would not be 
offended at their askino; mo to sell them rabbits, 
for, ''at fourtccn-2:ienco a couple, with the skins," 
they could give a far better dinner of rabbits 
to their families than they could get for that sum 
as meat from any butcher. 

Tlie endeavour made at these farmers' clubs, 
to move the Legislature to interfere between land- 
lord and tenant with respect to game and rabbits, 
is part and parcel of the old dodge put in force 
by Mr. Bright in his abortive attack upon the 
game laws, Avhen he did all in his power to sow 
discord between landlord and tenant in the counties 
to suit his parliamentary party, and to obtain 
votes for those men who have now ruined Ireland. 
^'Tenant right" must, and ever will, be based 
upon the spontaneous act of the tenant, that is, 
on his accepting terms offered to him by the pro- 
prietors of the land, without Avliich acceptance the 
landlord woidd refuse to let his acres. The would- 
be tenant can refuse the proffered terms if he 
likes, and the landlord, unless there is a revolution 
in England as well as in Ireland, can offer what 
terms he pleases ; and as Mr. Bright has always 

VOL. II. E 



50 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

said tliat ^^ the poor man oiiglit to bo allowed to 
do what lie likes with his own little garden plot/' 
just so the same right to do what he likes with 
his larger possession, his larger garden (as much 
his own as the ^'garden plot" is the poor man's), 
is justly vested in the owners and lords of estates 
and manors. 

If I had a thousand estates, I would not let one 
farm iipon them on lease. Landed property has 
drawbacks enough ujDon it, without the owner of 
the property being saddled with a disagreeable 
tenant, — a man established close to his own door, 
who has, perhaps, a temper which is never satisfied 
except wlien it is in hot water. I have seen as 
p'ood farmino' done by tenants at will as I ever 
saw done under a lease ; and, moreover, I have 
known tenants at will remain on their farms as 
long and very frequently for a longer period 
than any lease woidd be ^Tanted. I have known 
the same family go on from sire to son in the 
same farm for more than one hundred years, 
witiiout the slightest approach to ill will between 
tliem and the landlord ; and I never knew so much 
ill will arise between landlord and tenant, and so 
much discomfort exist, as in cases where leases 



THE RENTED MANOK. 51 

had been e^rantcd. A tenant at will can leave a 
farm if he thinks his landlord is unjust or dis- 
agreeable, and the land bad ; and the same alter- 
native is also open to the landlord — he can get 
rid of a tenant who has rendered himself in any 
way objectionable. A tenant at will can receive 
compensation for money expended in improve- 
ments, and being liable to be turned out of his 
farm, he is, for that reason, if he likes his position, 
kept to his good behaviour. 

I know an instance which occurred in the first 
Lord Fitzhardinge's time at Berkeley Castle, and 
which proves the good resulting to the tenant 
from the system of tenancy at will. A tenant, 
whose family before him had for years rented 
under the Castle, came to me to ask me to 
intercede for him, and to get his landlord. Lord 
Fitzhardinge, to take the right of killing rabbits 
away from the keepers. I have already given 
my opinion respecting the doubtful wisdom shown 
by a master in granting this perquisite to his 
keeper. 

In this instance, the tenant of Lugg's Farm 

told me, ^^that he would not have cared for tlie 

damage done to his crops if it had been done 

e3 



52 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

through pheasants or foxes, in wliich he knew his 
lordship had a personal pleasure; but to see his 
crops eaten down, and to see the keejier carting 
off the rabbits to market for his (the keeper's) 
own profit, in addition to his already good wages, 
was more than he could endure ; and if such a 
state of things was to go on, he must quit his 
farm." I did my best to have the abuse altered, 
but in vain ; as a good tenant, finding himself 
under a thus disagreeable landlord, he availed 
himself of his yearly tenancy, and, I am sorry 
to say, ceased to rent under the Castle. In 
this instance, then, the tenant found that being 
a holder at will was advantageous to him ; he 
knew in his own mind that he intended quitting, 
and that he could go by giving sufficient notice 
wlienever he pleased ; he had time at his com- 
mand to look for another farm, and he was not 
obliged to make his communication to the steward 
until he had secured another aoTicultural home. 
Now, if he had had his farm on lease, I care not 
what were the stij)ulations contained in that lease 
as to his farm and the rabbits thereon, the woods 
being in his landlord's hands, and the keoj^ers 
having a riglit to protect the grounds from illicit 



THE KENTED MAN OK. 53 

depredators, he would have been without the 
means of redress, his homestead Avoukl have be- 
come anything but comfortable, so he was much 
hetter off by being a tenant at will. 

We have now before as a pretty plain sample 
of what tenant-right means in Ireland. Not many 
years ago, in America, an idea was started, that if 
a tenant rented a house and land for a certain 
number of years, and expended toil and dollars 
upon them, that house and land was then to be 
lost to the landlord, and to become the property 
of the tenant. It is much the same in Ireland; 
agrarian murderers, abetted by a domineering 
priesthood, have long since driven . many land- 
' owners from their estates, and thus created an 
absenteeism which has ruined the country ; and 
now the idea has arisen in the naturally shrewd, 
but, alas ! priest-muddled heads of the people, that 
'^ Ireland is for the Irish," which, being translated 
by those who have nothing to lose but ever}^- 
thing to gain by savage irru^^tion, means tliat tlic 
'^ Saxon " is to be dispossessed of his property, 
which he has inherited or bought, as the Irish 
Protestant Church has been plundered of hers, and 
that the farms and the large landed estates should 



54 FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

1)0 parcelled off to the labourers — tlie original 
landlord sent a-begging ! 

Surely tliat is not a state of things to be desired 
by the great- body of English, Scotch, and Irish 
landowners and farmers ; nor ought any of them 
to allow themselves to be deluded by revolutionists 
and blatant men, such as Odger, Podger and Co., 
to whom any sort of political mischief is agree- 
able ! But I am not without hope that the true 
yeomanry of England will still cherish and protect 
that wholesome feeling for their landlords, if I 
may so express myself, which has so long existed 
and kept both classes together in one common bond 
of obligation. 

But to return to the management of an estate. 
When the landlord joreserves the game, great care 
should be taken res^^ecting the characters and 
habits of the men appointed as gamekeej^ers. A 
gamekeeper being more out of his master's sight 
and more his own master than a butler is, should, 
for that reason, be even more trustworthy in cha* 
racter than the keej^er of the cellar. A master can 
count his bottles and keep a cellar-book, and have 
besides a personal knowledge of the exact quantity 
of Avine in each bin ; but he cannot count his 



THE RENTED MANOK. bi> 

plicasants and liares, nor can lie know what liis 
keepers are doing both hj night and day ; but liis 
butler, being always beneath his roof, can at any 
time be found in his pantry or in the housekeeper's 
room. • A gamekeeper has it in his power, if he is 
a rogue, dishonestly to make away with his master's 
game; but a butler is so near his master, and his 
truth is so easily tested, that he cannot covertly 
consume the contents of many bottles Avithout being 
speedily discovered, that is, if his master makes 
use of a little precaution. For my own part, I 
would discharge any keeper on the very first 
proof of drunkenness, and I should do the same if 
I ever knew him to go into a public-house for the 
purpose of drinking. My head keeper also would 
report his under^men if they transgressed in this 
particular. If they want beer, they can drink it 
at their lodges. An habitual drunkard is not fit 
for any place of trust and when in liquor he is 
very apt to create ill feehng or discontent with 
those farmers over whose lands he is supposed to 
hold supervision. 

As in the course of my l^ook, and in another 
chapter, I shall have to allude to gamekeepers, 
and the choice of keepers, as well as their respec- 



b(} FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tivc duties, I sliall, for tlie present, close my notice 
of tlie rented manor with the following remarks on 
passing circumstances of very recent occurrence. 

Some blatant demagogues, at a late out-door 
meeting in London, stigmatized the present modi- 
fied laws relating to the preservation of a pro- 
prietor's own tldncjs on his own lands as wicked 
and ^n3loody"; but these Cockney orators, I take 
it, knew as little about the subject on wdiich they 
so foolishly descanted as they did of the lunar 
constellation. Thev threw overboard the fact as 
to how many thousands of the poor were main- 
tained the vear throu":hout on wholesome food — 
upon the millions of pounds of the much-abused 
rabbit ; and they roared and screamed emphatically 
against the sin of retaining such expanses of lieaths 
and moors tenantless and uncultivated, as these 
bhitant babblers asserted, ''' sim])ly for the preser- 
vation of game." 

Xow, I take it on myself to say, that there is 
not a proprietor in England Avho wotdd not give 
any just facilities to any rash man or men who 
would undertake to cultivate and rent) on the most 
moderate terms, tliose portions of the estates lying 
idle. ]3ut corn or useful produce of any kind will 



THE in<:NTEi) manoii. 57 



not (jroiu on tliese barren lands, unless you give tliem, 
so to speak, a subsoil of golden guineas, all of Avliicli 
gold would vanish with the first crop cut from above 
it, and the application of gold must, therefore, 
amount to an annual outlay, which would in no way 
be remunerated by an annual return. We, as sports- 
men, would be glad to see these useless acres, as 
far as game goes, in cultivation; for to the Y)Yo- 
prietors of heaths and moors, if there are no moor- 
game, there is no sporting enjoyment save as a 
snipe, a hare, or rabbit. 

I should like to lay hold of one of those political 
bleaters, and set him down on many a heath within 
my knowledge, and even giving him a sum of 
money, with good sureties against bolting, tell him 
to raise crops out of white sand and shingle, with 
an iron pan beneath it, under which again there 
was any deptli of sand, sj^arkling Avhen dry like 
glass, and whiter still than the flints and sand of 
the superstructure. I think He would be very glad 
to let such sites return to the state in which they 
were in when ho lavished on them and their pro- 
prietors the senseless verbiage of his violent invec- 
tive, and return to the more lucrative culture to 
him, but not to the working classes generally, of 



58 FACT AGAINST FIOTIOX. 

imfouiKlecl discontent and dissatisfaction towards 
tlioso employers under Avliom tliey so long had had 
their fair share of gain. As long as there are men 
in this world possessed of evil tongues and no real 
wish to benefit their fellow-creatures, without one 
useful quality by which to rise to the notice of 
their fellow-menj such prating demagogues will, as 
putridity ever does from the bottom of a river, rise 
to the surface of the waters, after all to be looked 
on but as ^^ scum." 

In Scotland they very often make a great outcry 
against the game laws and the deer forests ; but 
there is a fact that has come within my notice, and 
that is, that a deer forest in Scotland often affords 
more employment to the labouring classes, in the 
shape of gillies, than the forest would do if turned 
into a walk for sheep. All heathery moors and 
mountains will not carry sheep, but men who know 
nothing of what they prate about, think that corn 
and sheep will grow like grass on a moistened 
piece of flannel. 

In the course of my experience from among the 
thousands of mortal-men-bubbles that I have seen 
force themselves to the surface, and seek some 
notice from better men than themselves, I have not 



^niE KENTED MANOR. 01) 

seen more tliiiii u very few continue as aqueous 
blisters on the political surface or become more 
than a transient bubble. Of these I have seen one 
or two make themselves so troublesome to the 
existing Government, that their pretended philan- 
thropy has been utterly extinguished or bought off 
by the gift -of place: one or two may have held 
their own for a time, but all very soon grew stale 
and unprofitable, or were bribed. 

We do not meet those men on fair grounds, for 
having nothing to lose they cannot be assailed by 
loss ; and besides, there is an old saying as to the 
consequent defilement on the touch of pitch. The 
very little they have is in their pocket, — they have 
no large estates, nor do they labour under difficulties 
ever attached to landed property : so, like a vernal 
frog Avho revels in weeds and mud, they can kick 
up as much dirt as they please, and rise to croak 
over the filthy confusion they themselves have 
created. 



GO FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 



CHAPTER III. 

FAliMING AND ROTATION OF CROPS. 

Tlie Superintendent should be well acquainted with the Nature of 
the Soil — Difficulties in getting Remunerative Crops — Remedy 
for " The Fly" — Wages of Labourers — Piece-work — Employment 
of Boys never Profitable — Artificial Manures and Farm-yard 
Manure — Scientific Crotchets — Cows, their Kindly Treatment — 
Injurious Effect of Artificial Manures on Game — Legal Penalties 
against Laying Poison — Xew Vegetation which sprang up after 
the Fire at Alderney Manor — Game Preserver and Farmer. 

When ladies and gentlemen have farms thrown 
on their own hands, and are obliged to cultivate 
them while in search of new tenantry, they arc 
forced, particularly where there is a landlady only, 
to call in aid to direct their proceedings over 
the land; and, in such instances as those I now 
refer to, they are apt to be taken by some scientific 
advertisement which may catch their attention, 
and to call in a periodical supervisor from some 
distant county, not suited to the occasion nor 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROPS. 61 

the soil, and by no means the master of work in 
hand. Soils are as varied in their exigencies as 
are the constitutions of men. 

The requirements of soils are essentially 
different. What will suit one soil Avill not suit 
another; and you cannot, with any reasonable 
liope of success, catch from the northern counties 
and heavy rich loams, a visiting bailiff, or audit- 
ing steward, used to, and bred up, say, in York- 
shire, who will at once understand the poorer, 
liglit, and stony qualities of Buckinghamshire, 
portions of Dorsetshire, and Surrey. If I knew 
any one wanting a supervision over a home 
bailiff, — sujoposing the caj^abilities of that home 
bailiff were not deemed sufficient for the assump- 
tion of exclusive direction, — I should advise a 
county man to be called in, as the best calculated 
to know what would be right to do in the 
locality of his practical experience and exercise 
of his daily life. 

Though the steam plough is a most useful 
invention when well directed and closely looked 
after by the owner or manager of the estate, yet, 
if not so looked after, and the depth of its 
needful action strictly enforced, it is only a 



G2 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

cause of considerable pecuniary loss, and also 
becomes an unsightly and discordant nuisance. 
It frightens cattle, drives away game, and at 
some seasons destroys the nests of partridges and 
pheasants, while on some soils it simply loosens 
the flints and immensely encourages the growth 
of weeds. 

To send for a stranger, and to ask him what 
it is best to do for the good cultivation of a 
farm, is nonsense. There are some farms on 
which even the tenant of years, born and bred 
in the vicinity, does not know what is best to 
be done all over adjoining acres, or the extent to 
which the soil may differ within the fence of one 
field. There are some spots, perhaps, on that 
farm, where you cannot plough too lightly, for 
if 3^ou go an inch too deej) you give to the sun 
the dormant seeds that have long been hidden 
from the light in innocuous obscurity, but, when 
exposed to vivifying re-action, come forth like 
giants refreshed, in such quantities as to choke 
and smother tlie seeds or corn but recently sown. 
The instance thus referred to is not the only one 
tliat exists to fetter the designs of husbandry 
when working l)y tlie plougli. 



FARMING AND DOTATION OF CROPS. 63 

Tlio farmer, not aware of the clanger of the 
cloceitfiil nature of the acreage on wliieh he 
lias embarked, perhaps, his all, may think 
that he will plough beneath tlie latent wild 
oats, or other seedling obstacles, and, by throw- 
ing them on the surface, crush them from 
existence, turning up a better mould that lies 
beneath. 

Here, again, a j)an of iron or of conglomerated 
flint may stop him, and an obstacle is offered to 
his eyes which holds the water, or, by its dura- 
bility and hardness, walls him up from further 
action, while, at the same time, it suggests to 
him the idea that he must break through the 
iron pan to attain a better drainage and a better 
soil. 

To this end, he goes to the heavy outlay of 
spade husbandry and double trenching to break up 
the pan, and to find, what ? Why, that beneath 
tlie iron or intervening pan there is no other 
soil — in fact, no soil of a productive nature, but 
simply fine pulverized sand, of no service to any 
one save for scouring grates. I enumerate these 
as facts very well known to myself, and to show 
how many more difficulties there are in the path 



64 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

of tlio most industrious farmer than are dreamed 
of in tlic pliilosopliy of casual observers. You 
cannot lay down a law to suit tlio varying soils 
in counties and estates; but a locally practical 
man is infinitely more capable than is a stranger 
from a distance to judge of what is necessary 
or most likely to benefit the land, the uncer- 
tainty of tlie peculiarities in which he has been 
conversant wdth all his life. 

When the difficulties of producing remunerative 
crops are jmt before us, — entomological, atmo- 
spheric, and arising from a combination of both, 
— it is almost surprising that in some counties 
such a thing as a man seeking to live by farming 
should exist. To me it is certainly, so to speak, 
an occupation of great pleasure, when all goes 
well; but when you see your wheat or corn, 
of wliatever description, turn from its fresh and 
vernal green Inie, and, becoming yellow, droop 
stalk by stalk, and, losing its stamina, fall to 
the ground, having been eaten from beneath, 
in its germ of existence, by tlie ^^wire worm," 
tlicn there is not much that is ^^ beautiful" in 
thwarted husbandry, and little else than disap- 
pointment left. 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROP.S. 65 

Ag'ain, when tlio expected turnip crop shows 
its innumerable little green leaves above the 
ground, and the farmer dreams of one day folding 
his sheep in turnips two feet high, remarking to 
himself, on an afternoon, how nicely the turnips 
are coming up, to go to the spot the next 
morning, and then to see that the little green 
spots, that had once so rejoiced his eyes, 
had in a night, or not much more, totally 
disappeared, for they had all been devoured by 
'' the fly." 

While speaking of ^'the fly," I can most con- 
fidently recommend a remedy against this devas- 
tating insect, and that remedy is as follows. Over 
the newly-sown turnips and rape, put in with a 
view to '^spring feed," when the seeds are just 
beginning to appear, let the customary roller be at 
work, but with this addition. Behind the roller 
there should be attached a flat light plank or board, 
protruding from behind tlie roller, I should sa}^, five 
or six feet on either side. To this board or plank, 
to its full length, there should be attached a piece 
or pieces of old sacking or carpet joined together, 
ill length from the plank about from three to 
four or iivc feet, and this thickly sprinkled on 

VOL. IT. F 



66 FACT AGAINST FICTION'. 

its lower side with liquid gas-tar, spread on it 
with an old broom dipped into an iron kettle hard 
by. The action of the roller crushes the inequalities 
of the soil, and dislodges the flies, who, trying to 
escape to the rear, are caught beneath the tarred 
sacking, and, stuck by its tenacious qualities, to 
die from the powerful nature of the texture that 
holds them. The tar should be sprinkled over the 
sacking about every twenty miiuites, or as often 
as the wear and tear of it requires. The very in- 
telligent farm-servant and shepherd, whom I first 
saAv using this sim|)le remedy in Surrey, on the 
property of Lord Lovelace, assured me that it 
thoroughly answered the purpose to which it had 
been put. My brother agriculturists may have 
been previously aware of what to me once was 
certainly a novelty, but I now tell them in case it 
should be of service. It certainly is not a costly 
remedy as against ^' the fly," and it may be 
most useful to some of my friends who have not 
money at connnand. 

The rate of wages in different counties varies 
very nmch, as also the conditions of ^^j^i^ce^ 
work." In many instances, among amateurs in 
agriculture, I have observed that in granting 



FARMIJs^G AND ROTATION OF CROPS. G7 

to a labourer a task to be accomplislied for a 
stipulated sum, it lias been omitted to tie him 
down to the time at which this task is to be 
accomplished. It is, in such instances, in the 
labourer's power to work or not as he likes, and 
to keep his 'Apiece-work" in hand, if he leaves 
or neglects it, for some short and, perhaps, more 
remunerative job offered him by a neighbour. 
By this he neglects, at harvest time, the reaping 
or" mowing, or any other job he has undertaken 
to do, and loses for his permanent employer the 
golden opportunity of the sunny day. In ' Apiece- 
work" the labourer should be tied to time, as 
much as to the amount of money for which the 
job is to be done. 

Again, in some counties, the labourers A^mock 
off" on a Saturday at four o'clock; but it is 
perfectly at the employer's option to insist or not 
on the old system of twelve hom^s' work for a 
given amount (if pay. In Dorsetshire, in the 
vicinity of Alderney Manor, the usual amount of 
wages varies from eight to ten or twelve shillings 
a week ; I give twelve, but then I insist on twelve 
hours' actual work each day, and no ^' short time." 

My servants must work from six till six, Avhen 

F 2 



G8 FACT AGAINST FICTIOK. 

light enoiigli, with two cessations for breakfast and 
dinner if I pay them accordingly. 

To see men, in the midst of harvest, quit 
their work early on a Satmxlay, when the week's 
industry requires the most perseverance, in case of 
a sudden change in weather, in no way meets 
with my approval; and it is diametrically opjDO- 
site to the interests of fair play if the labourer 
undertakes, for a certain sum, to do, by a certain 
day, what his emplo3"er requires. In piece- 
work they should be tied to time ; in harvest 
they should consider the exigencies that might 
arise to crops that are cut from threatening 
weather. The worst species of untrustworthy 
labour that can be employed on a farm, is 
that which may be expected, but in value is 
never realized, at the hands of boys. They 
cannot be trusted, if there is more than one, 
with horses, cows, pigs, or poultry ; nor with 
anything like an economical care of corn or 

food of any • kind. 

If ladies and gentlemen clioose to employ 

boys, they ought to have an additional man to 

every two boys, to look after them. One grown 

man would do the labour of fom- boys easily 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROPS. 69 

and well ; and to tliat amount would the expense 
of a farm be lessened if none l^ut men Averc 
employed. I have elsewhere alluded to the fact 
that an old gamekeeper at Ashdown Park, of 
the late Lord Craven's, on meeting three boys 
together, used to draw from his pocket a heavy 
dog-whip of tlie kind carried by keepers, but 
wliich ought to be exploded from the annals of 
dog-breaking, and commence an indiscriminate 
flagellation of the astounded youths. On my 
asking his reason for this, to me, apparently 
unprovoked assault, he invariably replied, — ^^ I 
always docs it, sir, for, rely on it, you never sees 
three boys together, but they be bent on some 
mischief or other, so I likes to 1)e beforehand 
with 'em." 

If you employ labour, let the source of it be 
reliable ; be liberal in the amount of hire, and 
let there never be any sort of mistake as to 
what you require for the money you agree to 
give, or in what tliey^ the labourers, have to do. 
Uncertainty induces mistake, mistake begets ill- 
will ; and labour cumbered by dissatisfaction is 
not worth half its value when thus apjoroached 



70 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

'^ with tlio Avrono- leg' foremost," and really Le^ 
comes ^^labom' in vain." 

In some places, or near largo towns, farmers 
lose sight of their true interests, — the real well- 
doing of tlieir meads for hay, — by grazing them 
with tlieir milch cows too long and too late in 
spring, and this particularly when near any large 
or fashionable watering-place, where there is a 
great demand for fresh butter, milk, and cream. 
I have also observed, on some large estates, that, 
because in a particular season hay and straw 
were short or next to nothing, they, the tenants, 
were permitted to sell what little hay and straw 
they had at very high prices, instead of con- 
suming it on their j^remises, on condition that 
they would jjurchase and lay out on the farm so 
much artificial manure. This system is death to 
the productive quality of the land ; and, though 
apparently harsh in some* cases to refuse to men 
who may be, by circumstances, hard pressed for 
money, still I would prefer an abatement of rent 
on an individual rent-day, to giving any such 
joermission as to exporting the hay and straw off 
tlie acres where it grew. 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROPS. 71 

In tlio first place, a tenant lias tlie power to 
evade tlie (pantity of artificial manure he had 
promised to expend in lieu of the fodder sold. 

In the second place, I know to my cost that 
artificial manure is as liable as other things to 
vary in strength and quality, and also that a 
cheap, bad article may bo substituted for a much 
better one, and superficially cloak a very grievous 
error. 

Artificial maimre applied to land reminds me 
of dram-drinking in man. It is but a short-lived 
flash of excitement to the one as to the other, 
—wholesome only for a time when diluted with 
water, or subjected to rain, and liable to be lost 
in' too much heat and dust, or too heavy a 
deluge from storm and cloud. There is nothing 
like the old-fashioned farm-yard manure. Plant 
two rows of potatoes side by side. When you 
dig them, there is still left in the ground, and 
holding tlie mould together, the remnants of the 
rotten straw, still pregnant with the nourishment 
of rich decay, while in the runks that had re- 
ceived the artificial dust, not one vestige of it 
remains — it has been washed away, blown away, 
or been utterly consumed by the crop as a 



73 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

^^ pick-mc-iip," leaviiii^ notliino: for cultivation 
that is to come. 

I deny that the crops we now see are in any 
degree heavier, on an average, than those grown 
by our forefathers under the wheels of their 
heavy dung-carts, before ^' science," as it is called, 
had taken the i)lace of well-tried system, and 
ushered in novelties the success or failures of 
which no man at the moment knows. It is 
doubtful to my mind if we have not imported 
or locally created some of the diseases which had 
never been lieard of, and were certainly not 
known, in the United Kingdom when I was a 
boy. I allude to the ^^ potato disease," to the 
^^foot-and-mouth disease," and to the ^^ plague 
among cattle." Set these new inflictions side by 
side witli the effects of what is called ^' science," 
and look at the condition of the farmer and of 
tlie people, and I question if the world is better 
off under our l)latant teacliers and would-be 
scientific men of tlie present day, than it was 
when agricultural practice kept at arm's-length 
vain theory and conceited assumptions tliat only 
tended to disturb the matter-of-fact study of single- 
purposed men. 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROPS. 73 

I liavo lieavd — I never saw tliem — of wonder- 
ful crops of corn being produced by circulating 
liquid manures about their roots ; but it has 
never been stated by any audacious narrator, in 
my hearing, that these scientific inventions have 
made the fortunes of any agriculturist who used 
them, although they might line the pockets of 
l)ipe and pottery men to very considerable 
extent. 

It is possible, as we all know, to lay out more 
money on favourite maxims, methods, and pur- 
suits than can ever be returned again to our 
emptied coffers, by those favourite mythical 
speculations. The double fructifying hen's nest 
at one time suggested to the farmers' wives has 
for a long time become addled ; but as it is my 
desire to treat of nothing but what all who run 
may read and comprehend, the following is a de- 
scrijDtion of the once boasted nest. 

The nest for the hen to lay in was made on a 
curiously contrived and adjusted •sjDring, so nicely 
balanced that a new-laid egg laid to the lighter 
nest-egg, induced the nest to slide obliquely be- 
neath tlie superincumbent fowl. The nest-egg itself 
was an artificial one, and fixed to its intended place. 



74 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

TIioii, upon tlie decline of the nest, the fresh egg 
glided off into a sort of pocket made to receive it, 
and when thus relieved the nest re-arose to its 
position beneath the fowl. After a short time 
s^^ent in clnickling bliss at the supposed fruit of 
^'sexual selection," as Darwin has it, the doat- 
ing mother arose, shook her feathers, and turned 
round to look with admiring eyes on the pledge 
she had given that ^^ selection" had born its fruits. 
When, in astonishment, she saw it not, she deemed- 
she had made a mistake in ^' counting eggs before 
they were " laid ; so, to remedy the omission, she 
resumed her nest, and laid another egg, and thus 
a double fructuation was sensibly produced. The 
rumour of this nest came from Essex, but I know 
not witli what truth. 

As to cows upon a farm, Avhenever more than 
one boy is emploj^ed, the cows are always wild, 
for even the man and the milkmaids don't spare 
lialf enough of the caresses they bestow upon 
each other to render the dairy herd affectionately 
attached to tliem and docile. A cow, and, indeed, 
all animals, are sensible of kindness when gently 
and tenderly bestowed ; and all animals, and birds 
too, liave much more power of tliought and wise 



FARMING AND KOTATION OF CROPS. 75 

tUserlmiiiation than foolish people give them credit 
for. If I were to see or hear a loud, liarsli word, 
and a rude blow, administered by a man of mine 
to any creature under his care, I would not retain 
him long' in my service. The dog-whip, if so 
it can be called, that I carry in my pocket, was 
the thong of her little donkey whip, given to me 
by a little child who deemed it needful to her 
quadruped's progression : it Avould not kill a fly 
on the back of the dog, nor induce anything ap- 
proaching to a cry of pain, but it is ample as a 
signal of rej)roof To give a dog or horse a second 
blow is, for the time, utterly useless. The dog and 
liorse fully comprehend for why you struck them 
in the first instance, but if you repeat the punish- 
ment, all remembrance of the fault is lost in the 
terror inspired hj the after circumstance : the dog 
turns the tables and bites at the undiscriminating 
hand, and the horse meditates the possibility 
of kicking off his brutal rider, and running 
away. 

To a dog, whatever may l^e liis fault, one l)low 
and have done with it ; to a liorse, one touch of 
the spur, and let there be an end of reproof, at all 
events, till dog or horse offend again. Let tlie 



7G FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

wliip be tlie lightest one possible, and the spur 
tlie least severe, for it is not blood nor weals, 
severity and pain, that reprove and educate — it is 
the impression, not on the skin, but on the mind, 
that achieves the desired consummation. If any- 
thing I have written induces a hand to withhold 
a blow, or saves from harsh usage any creature in 
existence, then my occupation has not been in 
vain ; and the beautiful, the faithful, and affectionate 
creatures, the dear companions, as their races have 
been, of my hapj^iest leisure hours, will not have 
wasted their gifted powers on my pleasures, but 
by the knowledge I have gained of them, and 
their healthful use, they have made me their 
friend indeed ! 

As to artificial manures, and regarding . the 
feathered game on a manor, I am convinced, and 
so are a great many agriculturists of my acquaint- 
ance, that artificial manures have a destructive effect 
on the game. It is difiicult to point out how or 
wlience this arises, though the fact of the injury to 
tlie feathered game has been to me very remark- 
a1jle; but my opinion inclines to tlie lielief that 
some artificial manures destroy certain insects 
necessary for the food of game ; and on sites where 



FARMING AND EOTATION OF CROPS. 77 

there are no surface spiingSj brooks, nor rivorsj the 
artificial comj^osition impregnates tlic stagnant rain 
or soak water left on tlie surface sufficiently to 
interfere with the young and tender brood, and to 
thwart the old birds rearing them to perfection. 

There is another fact that I have observed in 
regard to the '' golden plover." I am aware of 
sites to whicli these birds resorted as sure as the 
winter came on, for they frequented a farm over 
which I hold the preservation and killing of the 
game, and one of its broad fields at certain periods 
was never without a few golden plover — sometimes 
more, sometimes less ; but during winter there they 
assuredly were. Of latter years these birds have 
been gradually diminishing, and from their numbers 
becoming less and less, they have at last entirely 
failed. 

Again, there is another fact patent to my obser- 
vation : there are some seeds that the wood-pigeons 
eat, that when given by the old birds to tlieir 
young, turns the flesh of the half-fledged birds 
black, and eventually destroys them. Now, in the 
earlier parts of my life, this sort of thing never 
happened; and as nothing can happen without a 
cause or reason, why is it, in these years of 



78 FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

artificial appliances to land, that around mc, in 
Dorsetshire, black game and wood-pigeons have 
ceased to breed, and the former have become 
almost extinct ? I deeply regret to state, that 
some dastardly villain, occupying land in the 
immediate vicinity of Wimborne, has poisoned 
several beautiful and valuable dogs. He has been 
traced in his purchase of tlie poison of which these 
dogs died, and I believe that he has disseminated 
a report that ^'he bouglit it for the destruction of 
rats." In the interests of humanity I hope that 
he did so, and that no such dastardly and low 
villainous implication, as that of j)urposely poison- 
ing dogs out of revengeful spleen, can be laid at 
the door of a man claiming the respectable position 
of a Dorsetshire farmer. Whatever was the design 
of the cruel poisoner, he would have done well to 
remember that the law assigns a very heavy penalty 
against a villain who, under any pretext whatever, 
lays poison in 2:)laces to which tlie property of iho 
public can attain to its destruction. 

The law in such instances, however, does not 
demand any great amount of jDroof other than 
circumstantial evidence, for on crime so cowardlyj 
so cruel, and so villainously destructive to animal^ 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROFS. 70 

and, perhaps, as a contingency to Innnan life, 
justice, sj^eecly and severe, is inclined to set the 
seal of condemnation, and to brand such cruel 
miscreants with tliat they so most unquestion- 
ably deserve. 

To return to what I believe to ho tlie effects of 
foreign and artificial manures, I must recur to a 
disease which has attacked my pheasants — it is 
nothing more nor less than the foot-rot ; and it has 
a similar effect on their feet that the foot-rot has 
with sheep. The toes are affected, they swell at the 
joints and are very sore, and by degrees the toes 
rot off; the bird can't walk, the entire limb from 
foot to hip pines away, and the poor thing dies. 
The foot-rot in sheep, taken in time, is very easily 
cured, — the sheep can be caught and the foot sub- 
jected, to constant dressing; but the pheasants so 
affected can be taken Avith no sort of certainty, 
and, therefore, the disease continues its fatal course* 

Strange to say, the longer we live the less we are 
able to comprehend the cause of vegetation. In 
the summer closely succeeding the heavy incendiary 
fire which consumed the furze, heather, and trees 
over the greater part of my manor, directly that 
the ground was l^arc and cased in cinders, up 



80 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

througli tlic black clust in all directions came tlie 
potato plant, fresh, green and strong, and in some 
places miles away from fields that had ever borne 
such roots. There Avas no potato, even of the size 
of a pea, beneath the plant — it could only have 
sprung from seed. 

The haulm had never shown itself before in the 
memory of man on these aboriginal heaths, but 
from some cause or other the seed had been de- 
posited there, kept from vivifying by the wilder 
and superincumbent mass. 

It opens a very good lesson to a man's mind 
to find himself merely a game preserver, and 
then to view himself in the double position of 
game preserver and farmer on an arable farm, 
adjoining his woods. In my practice in this 
double capacity, I have been very well enabled to 
estimate the damage done by rabbits and game, 
and to observe how much failure of crop is laid to 
the game, which failure really originated, in effect, 
from climate, blight, and insect voracity. At one 
time, on a farm in my own liands, having the 
shooting, not only did I know very well that the 
rabbits were reduced within proper limits while 
the agricultural portion of the acres were in tlie 



FARMING AND ROTATION OF CROPS. 81 

hands of a predecessor; but when tlie farni came 
into my own hands, I continued, for my own sake, 
to keep the rabbits down. This gave me very little 
trouble, for a'j^est settled on the rabbits, and, so 
to speak, they all died off. Against my will, then, 
in that spring I had no rabbits, and I narrowly 
watched the crops. 

In the corn-fields, not at the sides so much as 
out in the middle of the field, here and there came 
the same bare places, the absence of corn on which 
had invariably been charged against my rabbits. 
On this particular season crops generally were in- 
different, and the pest of agriculture, the '^ wire- 
worm," abundant. 

I am sorry to say that it has come within my 
knowledge that tenant-farmers, under a game-pre- 
server, have refrained from sowing the headlands 
immediately adjoining the covers, and then, on no 
crop appearing, charging the deficiency against the 
game* In other cases, and on poor lands peculiarly 
prone to the wire- worm, or to fail in very dry 
seasons, I have observed that a bushel and a half of 
wheat to the acre, instead of two, was all the light, 
white gravel and sandy soil received; and then, when 
paucity of seed, poverty of soil, and the ravages of 

VOL. II. G 



82 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the wire- worm combined to prevcnt;any retmii, the 
entire deficiency was laid on the rabbits, and the 
tenant attempted to make property out of the bad 
name the, in this case, mioffending creatm^es had 
established for themselves elsewhere. 

On the subject of farms, game, and rabbits, I 
will reiterate my advice — never to give the tenant, 
imder any circumstances whatever, permission to 
kill the rabbits. It is not in his power to ^' destroy" 
them, iior can he keep them sufficiently under. 
The owner of the game and the shooting, with his 
keepers, alone can effectually accomplish the desired 
and really needful object ; and I have no hesitation 
in saying, that it is the duty of the game-2)reserver 
as carefully to protect the tenant's crops, as it is 
his pleasurable desire to preserve his own game. 



ailE THIEF A^■D I'OACHEU. 83 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE THIEF AND POACHER — PRESERVATION OF GAME. 

Characteristics of the Poacher — Poor Families not thankful for 
Food, but prefer Money — Mischief of Indiscriminate Charity — 
Giving Tracts, Anecdote — How to Treat Petitions — Vigilance 
best tends to the Suppression of Crime — State of things at 
Alderney Manor when I first took it — Preservation and Non- 
Preservation— Stump Orators— Strikes— Fair Pvemuneration. 

Perhaps there is no subject on Avhicli so much 
nonsense has been talked as on the above, nor 
any m which so much false sympathy has been 
set on foot, by way of screening a low villain 
from the consequence of drur^kenness and crime. 

What used to be denominated '' poaching," is 
now regarded by the law as '^ theft," for, the 
moment game is killed by unqualified or uncer- 
tificated persons — or, indeed, by any man, without 
permission, on another man's land — it becomes 

private property. The fact of private property 

g2 



84 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

is determined by death ; and to steal dead game 
so situated really amounts to felony. 

With the act of poaching, or theft of game, 
the love of sport in the rural depredator has no 
concern wliatever. It used to be the promulgated 
idea, in the false commiseration of crime, that 
the thief or poacher, like his betters, had a love 
for the chase, and could not abstain from gratify- 
ing it. No such sentiment ever entered the 
villain's head. His chase of feathered game was 
carried on by night, when the ^oot creatures 
Avere asleep, or when pursuing his calling by day 
he was never on the spot to witness the capture 
of the creature he sought, save on rare occasions, 
when with a lurcher he set and then drove to 
his nets or wires. The poacher slunk, under 
cover of the night, to shoot the beautiful and 
unsuspecting pheasant from his perch, or he crept 
among the paths used by pheasants, hares, and 
rabbits, to set wire nooses or lay nets to strangle 
or entangle game after whom he had no exciting 
chase whatever. Before essaying on his nightly 
depredations, he and his fellows usually meet in 
some public-house or beer - shop, Avhere they be- 
dizen the little brains they had with drink, till 



THE THIEF AND POACHEK. 85 

they reel to the adjacent manor ripe for murder 
— all going out, in their maudlin phraseology, 
for ^' death or glory." 

If the house they thus left was a receiving 
house for stolen game, and they had not money 
enough at their command to purchase what is 
called ^^ Dutch courage," they bargain Avith the 
publican, rogue, and sinner, for an advance of 
beer, binding themselves to let him have the 
proceeds of their thefts in game at so much less 
than the market price, so as to insure him a 
considerable per-centage for the risk he ran of 
losing his money in the event of their being 
captured, or designedly absconding from the 
neighbourhood and his claim. 

The village poacher is always a dirty, idle, 
drunken, ragged, bad man. He will never do a 
day's honest work if he can help it ; and his 
wife and his children, if he has them, are always 
dirty, illiterate, and half-starved; while the 
lurcher that follows him, or lies at his cottage- 
door, is sleek and in fair condition. If he has 
a successful night or day, and receives any money 
on tlic immediate transaction, not one farthing 
of it is expended on his wife and famished 



86 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

children. He looks on the cash so earned as 
pocket-mone}^, to be spent in the public-house 
in gambling and drinking, and a portion of 
what he has thus to eat is given to the lurcher, 
to keep the dog in running condition. I com- 
menced this work by a promise to illustrate my 
book by facts, and I now offer one to my readers 
that came immediately within my own know- 
ledge, in support of the miserable and heartless 
depravity as so correctly charged against the 
village poacher. 

My custom having invariably been to give the 
little in my power to bestow to some poor person 
or j)ersons, if they deserved it, in the dead of 
winter, or at the approach of Christmas, on one 
occasion I selected three families from the mud 
huts near me, to whom resj^ectively to assign a 
dinner for the wives and children. The families 
consisted of a mother and five children, a mother 
and three children, and a mother with two, and 
to these three families I intended to give beef 
and plum -pudding, &c., according to their number 
and ages. To this end, the women were warned 
to come for what I had to give. On being 
warned, one of them came to me as spokes- 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 87 

woman for tlie otliers, andj to my utter astonish- 
ment, asked me ^^ not to (jive them foociy In 
reply to further questions, she assured me, that 
^^if I gave them food, they and their chiklren 
wouhl be none the better for it, for their three 
husbands woukl appropriate it all to themselves 
and take it to the public-house. The larger dinner 
— the one appropriated to the woman with five 
children — would be sold for beer, while the two 
smaller dinners together would make a sufficient 
repast to accompany the liquor, and afford a 
public-house jollification, in which neither mother 
nor child would be permitted to share." — '^ Well, 
then," I answered, ^^ your husbands I always 
knew to be bad men, but of you (the Avomen) I 
have neither heard nor known any harm ; I would 
aid you and your children if I could, l3ut what 
you tell me renders it impossible." — '^Give us 
the money," she replied, ^^the cost of our dinners 
which you contemplated ; the men will not know 
how much you give us, and whatever it is we 
will keep to ourselves." 

It ended by my giving them some money 
but whether they (the women) spent it in food 
or in gin, of course never came to my knowledge. 



88 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Ill some places I have known what have been 
by no means a ^'deserving poor" permitted, 
without any restriction, to come to the mansion 
for rabbits. Never many together, but repeated 
ajiplications by detached old women have been 
made, until the aggregate of the rabbits thus 
obtained has l3een considerable. On these occa- 
sions, no reference was ever made to the head 
gamekee23er as to the character of the persons or 
families, or whether or not neglected industry, 
sickness, or misfortune, had incapacitated them 
from their usual course of living. On one occa- 
sion, an old woman came to the house, and 
applied to the housekeeper for several consecutive 
rabbits, giving no name, as usual, but simply 
requesting food, under the plea of her and her 
family having '^met with misfortin." That ^'mis- 
fortin " came to light one fine day, through the 
head keeper having met her leaving the house 
with a rabbit in her hand, of which he took on 
himself forthwith to divest her. 

On the matter being explained, the fact came 
out that this old Avoman's husband had been 
convicted of stealing game some little time 
before, in addition to a former imprisonment 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 89 

for a felony as to wood, and by these un- 
restricted and indiscriminate <^ifts of rabbits, the 
penalty inflicted by an, as usual, too lenient 
miscalled Bench of Justices^ had been more than 
paid. 

There is nothing so mischievous in a parish 
as indiscriminate charity — it amounts, in fact, to 
a premium upon vice. I have had a really hard- 
working labourer say to me, "• What use, sir, is 
my good character to me, and what good have 
I done myself in never having had my family 
chargeable on the parish ? Here is Jack, as 
lives close to mc, whose family is always a re- 
ceiving parish relief, and who never does, and 
never has done, any regular work in his life, 
and who finds money, someliow^ to get drunk 
with; he gets as much given to him at the big 
house, and a Christmas dinner to boot, and 
broken victuals beside, or even more than I does ; 
so what 's the use of honesty ? You gets no 
more by it than if you'd been a dozen times in 
gaol ; they says, or, leastways, the parson does, 
as ' virtue is its own reward,' and burn my shirt 
if he ain't about right, for you never gets any 
good for it." 



90 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Now, these arc facts ; and tliis Is the rustic 
logic that arises from ajoparently little things. 
But my experience teaches me that many of 
those owners of large mansions who like the 
name or reputation of being '^ good to the poor/' 
by indiscriminate charity to all evil-disposed 
persons as well as the really deserving, do in- 
finitely more harm than good. When the young 
ladies of the mansions select to run about with 
or after parsons throughout the parish in which 
they live, with a big, mysterious bag, and sundry 
baskets of buns and old clothes, or new clothes 
made up for the occasion, it has come to my 
knowledge that the scum of the population tliere- 
abouts have resorted to all sorts of imposition to 
arouse pity, — such as tying up a leg or arm, 
alleging that they had been run over by a 
waggon, or lost an eye from a supposed blow 
from the bough of a tree they were sedulously 
and honestly felling. Xo questions are ever asked 
as to the truth or otherwise : it is sufficient for 
the applicant to be in rags ; and the parson of 
the parish, nine times out of ten, is so soft and 
easily imposed on, tliat he never makes any 
effort to direct attention to the only channel in 



5 
5? 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 91 

wliicli kindness and reward can be effective. I 
shall not easily forget the indignation of an 
lionest ^Har," then in the Preventive Service, 
when, as he sat on the ste]3s of a bathing-machine 
^'look-out" glass in hand, a ^^Drusilla Clack 
like lady, a miss, though old, and very much 
amiss in the direction of her parochial preachings, 
came suddenly upon him and thrust a little book 
into his hand. The man-of-war's-man saw and 
recognized the donor of the book, touched his 
hat, and began to look it over for '^ the picters." 
In doing so, the fly-leaf of the book escaped his 
observation, till, having ascertained that there 
were no '^picters,'' it caught his eye. On it, 
in large characters, obtrusively written in the 
lady's hand, were these words — ^^ Sinner , this is 
for thee." 

His spell of duty being over, he shut up his 
glass with an emphatic slap, and, sliding furiously 
from the steps of the machine into the sand, he 
strode, or rather rolled angrily away, direct for 
the front door of the liouse whence this dis- 
criminating philanthropist had emerged to per- 
form her so-called Christian duties. Covert ap- 
proaches and back doors were no longer to be 



92 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tliouglit of by tliis lionest fellow; but going at 
once up to the front cloor, he aclmmisterecl such a 
tlmndermg knock, that a flunkey came out almost 
on his nose. 

^^Here, guv'nor," said the offended royal and 
loyal tar, ^'take this here book back to your lady 
what shoves 'em about, and tell her I won't have 
it nor none of it ; I never was rated as a ' sinner ' 
afore by any skipper under whom I sailed, and 
she 'd no sort of business whatsomever to put me 
down as sitch in that blessed log of hers." 

So saying, the mortal breaker, having broken 
on the philanthropical beach, he receded, and left 
the flunkey puzzled in the spray. 

Of such anecdotes as these, if I tliought it would 
amuse my readers to narrate them, there are many; 
but as my chief object is, at this moment, to show 
the extreme mischief occasioned in a rural j)^i'i'*^h 
by indiscriminate charity, I leave the donors of it 
and tlie j^retendcrs to extreme godliness, to the 
oj)inion pronounced by that eminent solicitor, 
Mr. Bruff, in Wilkie Collins's admirable tale 
of ^ The Moonstone,' which runs as follows, 
where the learned gentleman sjoeaks of Godfrey 
Ablet wliyte : — '' I am told he is an eminent 



THE THIEF AND POACHEE. 0'> 

pliilantliroplst, wlilcli is decidedly against 
liim." 

I wisli every lawyer was as wise and honest as 
Mr. Bruff, for philosophers and philanthropists 
not only very frequently make egregious mistakes, 
but the latter, in the most uncharitable opinions 
which they obviously form of all their neigh- 
bours, forget that it must be decidedly wrong to 
let boasted religion be a cloak for cruelty, and 
detraction of character the main staple of all 
their proceedings. The slap which Wilkie Collins 
gives to the innumerable ^^ Clacks" and ^'Able- 
twhytes" that labour to make j^eople miserable, 
while in the gloomy-looking cells of their own 
souls they frisk about and kiss each other in all 
secret levity, is well deserved, and I commend its 
perusal to a secret Clack and Abletwhyte Society, 
who at one time used to post to me from South- 
ampton every month pink salvations in the shape 
of little books. As long as the papers of these 
imiDudent intrusions lasted, however, they made, 
when torn up. and tied to lines, very good '^stojis" 
for running game. 

The plan for the owner of a country house and 
manor, I suggest, is this : it has been my custom 



94 FACT AGAINST FlCTIO^^ 

always to be guided by it. If poor people apply 
for charity, either by bringing to the door a 
paper, signed, of course, by the clergyman, alleg- 
ing the accidental death of cow, horse, donkey, 
or pig, if the truth of the tale, when inquired 
into, is found to be correct, — the signature of the 
clergyman to such a document as this being no 
sort of guarantee as to its real value, — give in 
money what is deemed fit, but on no account 
append your name to the paper, and, if you can 
stop it, prevent the petitioner from doing so. 

If you append your name to a paper of this 
kind, your name and the names of all wlio sign 
it when that ^^ plaint" is over, may be detached 
and pasted on to fresh applications, and, by the 
number and respectability of the signatures, carry 
with it a weight it in no way deserves. The 
names in Hudibrastic phrase acting 

" Like nest-eggs to make clients lay, 
And on a false opinion pay." 

In speaking thus of the clergyman's signature, 
it is not my intention to charge an intentional 
error against all the gentlemen clothed in black; 
all I design to attribute to him is a very mis- 
chievous over-zeal to appear in his parish on the 



THE THIEF AND rOACHER. 95 

side of charity, however misplaced and undeserved 
any approach to favourable consideration may be. 
The people in the parish always well know how 
easy it is to cheat their parson, by ^^ outward and 
visible signs," into the belief ^^ of the inward and 
spiritual grace," and on his credulity they endea- 
vour to trade. 

As to the good or evil effects of a large preser- 
vation of game, the real fact stands thus. It is the 
little amount oi unprotected gci^me that fosters crime. 
There is just enough on the unprotected lands to 
promise to a dissolutely inclined man enough illicit 
game to bring him beer, without the slightest chance 
of his being taken and punished. 

On the other hand, where there is a large head of 
game, it must have many vigilant protectors — capture 
being almost a certainty if inroads are made on 
the lands. In addition to this, when there are 
watchers, the farmer's roots and turnip-tops are safe; 
his hedges cannot be pulled nor his gates thrown 
off the hinges without an almost certainty of detec- 
tion; cattle cannot get cast in ditches, nor sheep 
in grips ; nor can sheep be stolen, nor corn from 
the sheaf either, when there is a large preserve of 
game, and men out night and day to look after it. 



96 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Preservation cannot exist without due care, and 
agrarian crimes of all sorts, from sheep-stealing 
to robbing hen-roosts, must, by the vigilance of 
keepers, be considerably curtailed. In fact, if the 
owner of the large preserve issues proper orders, 
and his men do their duty, everything on the 
manor must be held in watchful supervision. 

In illustration of all these things, I now come 
to facts brought before me in the place whence I 
write the present volumes. On leaving Winkton, 
which I rented under my dear good friend, the late 
Mr. Weld, of Lulworth Castle, and which the late Mr. 
Mills, of Bistern, subsequently bought, Itook Alderney 
Manor. The game on it consisted of three pheasants, 
some partridges, a few hares, and a great many 
rabbits — a great many rabbits, of course, as always 
is the case when the farm bailiff \\^^ what is erro- 
neously called '^ the keeping of them down," which, 
being translated, means putting them down his 
throat, and selling them — the possibility of these 
two facts, of course, rendering him desii^ous of 
keeping up a good stock. Tlie very poor, idle, and 
dissolute squatters in mud huts, who had put up 
places in which to live, finding a wide stretch of wild 
heaths, not commons, abandoned to their disposal. 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 97 

All these men kept lurcliing dogs, and many 
of tliem liorseSj a cow or two occasionally, and 
doid^eys, and grazed these animals on the surromid- ■ 
ing pro2)ertyj they not possessing any other land 
than the little plot on Avliich the mud cottage 
stood. 

Now, I take on myself to say, that every man of 
these mud huts, not only would not work at any 
honest labour, but that most of them lived by theft 
and on the trespass of their cattle. On Sundays, 
during church-time, they used to assemble on the 
heaths, every man with his lurcher, and run at 
rabbits, and at a hare if they accidentally found 
one, for money to he spent in heer. 

So habituated had these ^^poor" become to the 
illegal use of what belonged to other people, that 
at last they began to think that anybody's property 
within their reach — from a watch, a fowl, wood, 
turf, game, or rabbits, by a common right of 
equality or communism — was theirs. 

In fact, there had been no gentleman or landed 
proprietor capable or willing to protect his own, 
or what was let to him, or kindly assigned him, by 
other people ; and when timid people, or maudlin 
men, took some of the lands or the house, to 

VOL. II. H 



98 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

pretcud to jn^eserve game on, or to live In, tliey 
openly lauglied at lils ineffective gamekeeper, and 
not content with .shooting or snaring the little wild 
life there was in fur or feather, they absolutely 
infracted the premises, and stole the barn-door fowls 
that roosted in his laurels at his door. In short, 
no one ivould live at what was then called Alder- 
ney Cottage, until that hapjDy state of things 
existing in its vicinity w^as broken through by my 
under-renting it of a Mr. King, who had taken it 
of Sir Ivor Guest, and kept it in a very neglected 
state. 

Here, then, is an answer to the Bright, Ho dger. 
Dodger, Dilks, and Doddle cry of the harm done 
by the great, or what these ^^ dodger" people 
call '' the over-preservation of game." By day 
nor night was there any proper notice of the 
lawless state of the district, save such as was 
confided to the public supervision of the county 
police, wdio, of course, could not specially absent 
themselves from the highways to see what w^as 
going on in more remote places. Tlie tenant- 
farmers in the vicinity Avere trespassed on by 
night, and their ricks fired if they tried to j^rotcct 
themselves. 



THE THIEF AND POACHEK. 99 

And tills because there was no Immediately 
resident gentleman, and no sort of preservation of 
game. 

One miliealtliy state of things induced another. 
Every idly-inclined and dishonest man, seeing 
how his fellows could fare, then tried to erect a 
mud hut, in order to enjoy the illegal pursuits 
he saw luere not restrained by anj/ exercise of 
landed power ; and, on the suggestion of the 
previous squatters before him, he was told 
'^io bide some high wind setting the desired 
way towards the fir woods, and then in the 
nocturnal hours to light a fire" — the habit 
having been, on occasions of these really in- 
cendiary fires^ to give the loppings of the 
dead trees, and the half-charred poles, '-'- to the 
poor'' — to the very men who purposely set the 
woods on fire. If this encouragement of the most 
serious crime is what is termed being ^^good to 
the poor," why then Heaven, in th.at respect^ make 
me '^had'' to them for life. 

If it is ivromj in us, the game-preservers, to 

keep in our woods a quantity of game, for our 

anmsement and tliat of our friends, and to the 

very great employment of labouring men and 

IT 2 



100 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

servants, how much more erroneous It niust he, 
in the eatmg-houses or cook-sliops of the metro- 
polis, to expose to the London ''poor" all sorts 
of roast, boiled, and pickled eatables, Avith but 
the texture of a fragile piece of glass, not the 
fifteenth part of an inch, between their mouths 
and the joint they long to dine on. 

The same may be said of the silversmith and 
jeweller, and the pastrycook, and even to the man 
who dares to walk the street Avitli a visible watch 
or jewel on his person. 

I had obtained, but at this minute I cannot lay 
my hand upon it, a computation of the amount 
of pounds of meat sold by the poulterers of the 
large cities and towns in wholesome food in 
rabbits alone to the labour hig classes, and to 
those who come within the fashionable denomina- 
tion of '' the poor.''* I think at Southampton 
fourteen thousand rabbits, or couples of rabbits, 
sold as food for the people, w^as about the annual 
numl^er ; so that if you put each rabbit at about 
three pounds' Avortli of animal food, it would be 
difficult to include them in the audacious nomen- 
clature of a blatant farmer or speech-maker at 

* This shall be appended to the close of this volume. 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 101 

some of tlie farmers' clul)s, — I think, in the Stour 
or Avon vales, — wlio in liis wine-ancl-watery wrath 
clenoimced these creatures to l^c rendered ex- 
tinct as ^^ useless vermin." I can understand the 
minds of some tenant-farmers being* ^^ riled," sup- 
posing them to know the millions of pounds, in 
the United Kingdom, of rabbits iDought by the 
poor for their families during the twelve months, 
in preference to butcher s meat — the poor so ob- 
taining a hetter dinner for the same amount of 
money than they could have had if they had 
gone to lay it out in the butcher's shop. But 
understanding this, and looking on either side 
the slice of bread, it does astonish. me to see how 
completely led astray a vast number of the people 
are, as well as some of the leading press, by the 
false abuse lavished on the large estates — lavished, 
I repeat, for no real object of humanity towards 
^'the poor" themselves, but in order to sow dis- 
affection between landlord and tenant, and to 
destroy the influence of acres on those wlio in- 
habit under the lord of a manor. In short, the 
whole but tried-to-be-disguised object of Codger, 
Dodger, Snooks, and Noodle, or wlioever the firm 
consists of, has been, and is, to create disaffection 



102 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

to the Crown, to the Peers, and to tlie Squire- 
archy, for political purposes; but, like the moun- 
tain, if so large a name can he assigned to a 
conclave of such little molehill men, liaving no 
mouse, all they could produce, after all their 
labour, was^ the miserable, half-witted hand of 
a boy armed with a lockless pistol, and sub- 
sequently whipped for his folly, Avho endeavoured 
to frighten the Queen. Labourers, servants 
of all grades, have been striking for a rise 
of wages, taught by these Hyde Park bloaters, 
and tauo-ht to strike as the neo^roes in the West 
Indies were taught to strike by ^'missionaries," 
who liad better far been ''cold," — that is, tlie 
blacks were taught to strike just at some period 
wlien it Avas ruin to an employer or possessor of 
sugar plantations to lose all the hands he had. 
Had I a thousand tongues and a million pens I 
would stamp those men who counsel such strikes, 
and the poor classes who thus league together to 
force the money from their employers, as the 
lowest villains that disgrace tlie name of English- 
men, or that over robbed on the high road. 

If any labouring man, artificer, or farm-labourer, 
feels that he is aggrieved by liaving less wages 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 103 

tlian he conceives to 1)0 liis due, let liim go to 
the face of his master, like an honest, fearless 
man, and tell him that he will quit his employ 
unless his place is better. 

If he feels aggrieved and keeps his grievance 
smouldering in his breast till he can get others 
to be as disaffected as himself, and then, leaguing 
together, he and the rest of his companions wait 
till the moment when employer, farmer, clothier, 
or mechanic must be ruined if he does not on the 
instant, at whatever cost, secure his hands by 
compliance with any extortion, then I hold such 
men, in suck a strike, to be worse than the robber 
who holds a pistol to the head, threatens life, and 
demands a purse. 

Worse, because the villains on strike cannot 
be severely punished for what they do; though, 
fairly speaking, do they ^^ not take a man's life 
away," when the}^ seize ^^the means by which 
lie lives " ? If sugar-canes are not cut the very 
instant they are ripe, if corn is not similarly 
disposed of, it deteriorates, and hay the same ; 
and if not carried when fit to be so dealt with, 
it becomes worthless, and the loss so occasioned 
is a scandalous robbery; while, if the owner of 



lOrt FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the goods, wliatever they may he, complies with 
a demand lie kno^Ys must he his ruin, and which 
cannot in its extortion continue, why, then he 
pays his money to men who stand in the position 
of mean and worthless robbers. 

It is high time that Peers and Commoners, 
and all grades of employers, should meet this 
mischief by a league, — a league not to take from 
the j^opulation anything, not to extort from them 
anything, not to force them to accept less wages 
for their industry tlian they deserve ; but to point 
out to them that there are two ways of obtaining 
things in this world, other than by ^^strikes" 
and robbery; and that they could quit their 
employer's service at times that would be just 
to him as well as to themselves, if they could 
l)ottor themselves 1)y it, and then not put it in 
the power of any peoples, at home or in foreign 
countries, to refer to, and liken them to, a nest 
of predatory villains. 

No man has spoken more clearly or correctly 
on this head than the Duke of Buckingham ; and 
no set of designing, selfish men have over deluded 
their poor dupes more than the clique of stump- 
orators who have been permitted to make the 



THE THIEF AND POACHER. 105 

public parks a iiuisancc to all well-disposed and 
properly-guided people, or to pollute tlie foun- 
tains in Trafalgar Square witli their pestilential 
presence. 

It is farcical to combine two facts that to every 
thinking mind must 1)0 diametrically ojoposed to 
each other, and imjDossible of completion. The 
two facts I allude to are increased wages for less 
duration of work. Surely, if these deluding 
slieplierds had intended to gain for their silly 
flocks the better pay they called for, the}^ ought 
not to have coupled with that increase of wages 
a very great diminution of time in which to earn 
them. They should simply have demanded better 
pay, if they thought that they could get it for 
tlie twelve hours' toil — not twelve hours' toil, 
for from the hours have to be deducted break- 
fast, ^^ lunch," and dinner. 

I do not agree that any labourer • on a flirm 
should have any land to cultivate for himself 
over and above his sufficient garden or plot. No 
servant or labourer of any kind should be, or 
expect to be, remunerated on a system of per- 
quisites, for that system fosters dishonesty and 
induces discontent. The labourer of any kind 



106 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

should be paid every week in hard eash ; he then 
knows exactly what he lias to trust to, and can 
lay it out in the way that coincides with his 
own wishes. 

There is a vast deal of clap-trap nonsense 
respecting ^Hlie improvement of the dwellings of 
the poor." I take it on myself to assure my 
readers that, if the entire population of the rural 
classes were polled for and against what is called 
'^the improvement of their dwellings," there would 
be an overwhelming number of votes for the old 
cottages, and an immense chorus would arise of 
^' Oh, give us our lowly thatched cottage again." 

However, ^^to improve the dwellings of the 
poor" sounds well, and is an ostentatious extra- 
vagance or showy ceremony, much delighted in 
bv the rich of the present day. No one can say 
anything against the abstract fact, but as to its 
rendering the labouring classes more contented, 
warmer, and better off as to the cost of living, the 
improvement of their dwellings has done no such 
thing. No really usefully-inclined man seems to 
me ever to ask an honest labourer, i^er se, why 
he is discontented, and what it is that he wants, 
or thinks would l)enefit his condition. 



THE THIEF AND POACHEK. 107 

111 nine cases out of ten, if this question was 
put to a union victim, he would make a very 
natural but stupid reply, and say, ^' more money 
and less work," the very two things that cannot 
go together. As to the Improvement of their 
dwellings, they would ask for some straw to 
thatch their dwelling, and not for a gaudy stack 
of chimneys, very necessarily inducing an in- 
creased outlay of fuel. The really worthy and 
hard-working labourer, if quietly left to explain 
himself, would simply ask to 1)e paid in hard cash 
for his luork, and not to have the amount of that 
hard cash staved off with very sour cider or 
other supposed benefits, which really are to the 
labourer and his family no benefits at all. 

Whatever mischiefs may have been achieved 
Ijy these strikes and unions, they must consume 
tliemselves, from their very want of reasonable 
or well-arranged foundation. You may, I regret 
to say, delude the English masses for a time, 
and induce its component heads ^^ to imagine a 
vain thing " ; but as the gloss of the false gar- 
ment thrown over them wears off, the heads will 
cease to cling to vain, unjust, and sedulously 
inculcated deceits, and come back once more to 



108 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tlio lioncst reality of their position — the fair 
remuneration of their labour, at shorter pay for 
lessened work, and to the full pay, say twelve 
shillings a-week, paid every Saturday, for twelve 
hours, deducting half-an-hour for breakfast, a 
quarter of an hour for luncheon, and an hour 
for dinner, Avliich gives not twelve hours for 
labour, but ten hours and a quarter for actual 
industry. 

With such terms as these, an agricultural 
labourer would have every reason to be, and ought 
to be, contented and happy. 



ON THE THEFT OF LIVE GAME. 



109 



CHAPTER V. 

ON THE THEFT OF LIVE GA:\IE. 

Night Poacliing— How to Defeat tlie Poaclier's Object— Stacks or 
Feeding-Places to be well Watched— Months in which Poachers 
are most Active— Game-Dealers and Poachers— How the Thieves 
Proceed— A London Poacher Caught; what he had in his 
Pocket— How they Deceive the Keepers— Over-Preservation— 
Good Sense and Vigilance will get over Difficulties— To take 
the Wind out of the Sails of the Stump Orators. 

In describing the various ways of stealing game, 
perhaps it will be best to begin with night poach- 
ino-, and the use of the poacher's gun; for as 
regards this noisy way of depredation, very great 
mistakes have arisen as^to the nights that arc 
likeliest for this robbery to be attempted : foolish 
songs about its being the nocturnal thief's " delight 
on a shiny night/' whereas a bright moonlight 
nia-ht would be the furthest off from the thief's 
selection when contemplating this inroad on private 
property. Pheasants will not sit to be shot at on 



110 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

a bright niglit, after the first gun has alarmed the 
Avood, therefore tlie night selected is generally 
when there is a bright sky but no moon, and a 
very higli wind to drown as much as possible the 
villain guns. 

If a gang of these rascals have sallied forth 
half drunk, and for the time being possessed of 
Dutch courage, gained at the low beer-shop or 
public-house, they always select some man among 
them less drunk than the majority to act as 
leader, and he is generally a well-known thief. 

If the attack is to be made by the gang on a 
considerable sized cover, holding many pheasants, 
these thieves draw up at the verge of tlie cover, 
and, receiving their orders to keep silence, they 
all go into the wood together, and proceed in a 
body through it for a considerable distance. 
AYlien they have got far enough into the wood, 
then they halt under some tree or trees where 
they can see a roosting pheasant ; on that sjDot 
they leave the first man. The rest of the thieves 
then retrace their steps, taking up positions under 
roosting birds, till the last man is posted — all 
these villains having orders to wait till the last 
man posted fires ; then all of them have orders to 



ON THE THEFT OF LIVE GAME. Ill 

fire and fall back as quickly as they can, shooting 
on their way back if they pass under a pheasant ; 
after that they decamp^ if not caught by the 
keepers, with their booty as fast as they can. 
Thus, supposing there is no ^^set watch" out, 
tlie whole thing is over in half-an-hour, and by 
tlie time that the keeper in bed has got his boots 
on, the scoundrels" have departed. 

NoAV, in this hurried attack — for I have insjpected 
the ground on the following day — there is very 
seldom a valuable booty obtained; and for this 
reason — many of the pheasants are, of necessity, 
at such short distances from the gun, to enable 
the thief to see them, that they are blown beyond 
all possibility of sale for cooking, many of them 
fall into briars .where they are not found, and some 
of them have life enough left to run away. I have 
known these gangs to bring a dog with them to 
find their game, and, if I may judge of the mass 
of feathers, tails and all, that this dog pulled out, 
what between the dog and short distances, there 
could not have been many birds fit for sale. 

These nocturnal gangs are now very rare since 
the establishment of the Police Force, and the nidit 
shooting is generally confined to one or two thieves, 



112 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

who ^^ listen a bird up," shoot him, unci run away. 
These are the most difficult of such depredators to 
catch, as you never know when or where to have 
them, and they are off at the first alarm. When 
a keeper knows what he is about, he has it in his 
power to make his master's well-enclosed woods 
very dangerous to walk in at night. He has a 
right to dig holes in his master's woods as deep 
and as frequent as he likes ; he has a right to strain 
very small but strong wire from tree to tree, al)out 
the height from the ground of a middling-sized 
man's face. A nocturnal villain has no business in 
that wood, and if he cuts his nose nearly off against 
a wire of this kind, he has no one to blame for it but 
himself. Very strong pliant growers may also be 
bent down, and held down with strong whipcord 
and a peg to a hole in a strong post, which said 
growers fly up Avith great emphasis if the peg that 
holds them is displaced by the foot or leg of a 
man, and if the grower should catch an intruding 
chin, a jaw so struck Avill not masticate food for 
some days. 

Those excellent but dangerous spikes for men or 
dogs are said to be as illegal as the spring-gun, 
so it is best not to set them, and, indeed, without 



ON THE THEFT OE LIVE GAME. 113 

Slid I dangerous things a wood can be made, if well 
enclosed to keep out cattle, as ineligible a spot for 
a niidniglit walk as can well be imagined. The 
owner of a Avood has as much right to put large 
tenter-hooks in his trees, if he likes it, as he has to 
put them on the top of his palings or walls ; and if 
hooks are suspended on stout cords, combined with 
deeply dug holes and growers to spring up when 
touched, the wood thus treated will not be much 
troubled with intruders by night or day. How- 
ever good it may be to have these adjuncts for 
the maintenance of privacy, in my own mind 
there is nothing like a force kept on watch on 
every succeeding night. 

Wires set for game must be left, at least for a 
time, and this, of course, affords the chance of the 
keepers finding them and being ready for the return 
of the intruder. AVhere there is game, there are 
stacks or feeding-places for the pheasants, and at 
these stacks, during the day, by snares much mis- 
chief may be done when the ground is badly looked 
after by the keeper. 

I have known stacks visited by a poaching thief 
in the day, and he will very likely lie hidden in 
the cover till tlie keeper pays a visit, perhaps to 

VOL. II. I 



114 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

liancl-feecl in tlie straw wlien tlie stack holds but 
little corn, and then the intending thief will Avatch 
the keeper go away. Eonnd the stack he will set 
snares, — nooses of horsehair or of wire in the 
pheasants' runs, or even small steel traps, — and 
then, hiding again in the bushes within ear-shot, 
he is ready at the first fluttering wing in any of 
tlie snares to creep out and 2:)ossess himself of the 
bird. Another plan at the stacks which thieves 
sometimes resort to is, to lay fish-hooks on short 
lines, or horse-hair baited with a pea or bean, at 
times with a raisin, vulgarly called by this class 
of men a ^^fig"; but the latter is by no means a 
successful bait, for not one pheasant in a hundred 
will eat it. To get a pheasant to eat a raisin is 
to establish in the bird an artificial appetite, and 
that, after all, is but a waste of time. 

Hooks with short lines, the fish-hook baited 
with an acorn, will take a wild duck at some 
shallow feeding-j^lace, but if there are other wild 
ducks feeding there, when one is caught by 
swalloAving the hook, the fluttering of the duck 
so caught will scare the fowl away from that 
identical spot for man}' months to come. 

Neither wild ducks nor pheasants, hares nor 



ON THE THEFT OF LIVE GAME. llo 

rabbits, can bo caught as easily as some people 
siij)pose. A hare or a rabbit won't go through a 
snare in the hedge, or take the run in the grass 
Avhere even a wire is set up- wind of them, that 
is if the hare or rabbit approach with the wind 
coming from the snare to them. If they come the 
other way, or down-wind to the snai-e, then they 
are very likely taken in it, for their nose is the 
only thing besides the ear which warns them of 
danger ; their eyes, in this respect, if the danger 
is stationary, are of no use to them whatever. 

• The worst season for poaching or thieving 
game is precisely that when people who know 
nothing about it suppose that depredations against 
the game are all over — I, mean the entire months 
of February and March. It is then that the 
large game-dealers in London, and all over the 
country, have a demand for live pheasants. Pro- 
prietors Avho have over-shot their manors, and 
renters of manors newly taking possession of 
them, and finding nothing there but air and 
exercise, all alike ap^ily to ^Hhe trade,'' and 
then, in league, many of them, with the local 
thieves, they send down a man, with a roomy box 

or well, attached to a sort of mercantile phaeton, 

I 2 



116 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

to put himself at once in communication with 
rural rascality, and to set about stealing the 
pheasants. Very likely the man from London 
employs the rural and local thieyes to steal the 
2)heasantSj promising to pay the fines for them if 
they are caught ; but I have kno^^i strangers to set 
about the act. In that case, however, it is generally 
when the Avoods are small, and, from some adjacent 
road, the London thieves can first see how the land 
lies, and get acquainted with the position of affairs. 
If there happens to be a gamekeeper a fre- 
quenter of public-houses, the plan adopted is to 
get the fool fond of beer drinking, and to ph' 
him well with liquor, making him safe for a 
given time. If the woods are small and w^ell- 
stocked with pheasants, and of the shape which 
best suits the thieves — that is, narrow, but of a 
certain length — in the course of an hour, or an 
hour and a half, a large booty may be caught 
and carried away. Suppose the cover to be long 
enough, as well as narrow, for two beats, the 
poachers go to the middle of it, and set it across 
in every run Avitli wires, with a knot on them to 
prevent their drawing tight enough to strangle 
a bird, and with '' purse nets," made of silk or 



ON THK THEFT OF LIVK GAME. 117 

twine — the silken ones are best. These snares 
being so set to face one end of the cover, the 
thieves go to the other end, tap the stems of 
the trees very cautiously as they come along, and 
set all the pheasants rmming. They j)i'oceed 
thus cautiously up to their snares, and take out 
the pheasants that may be caught; when, revers- 
ing the position of their purse-nets to make them 
catch the other way, they then go to the other 
end of the cover and reverse their beat, con- 
cluding in the same way. If the covers are 
narrow, and the pheasants many, this depreda- 
tion takes up but little time, and the thieves 
of the game are oflP with their valuable booty 
before the drimken or neglectful keejDer knows 
anything of the matter. I remember one of 
these London men being caught at this work 
by an old servant of mine, but not then in my 
employ. He gave chase to the tAvo Londoners, 
who ran for it, and very wisely selected the man 
who seemed to have the heaviest pocket. This 
man^ in jumping the wattled hedge out of the 
cover, kicked his toe against the top binder, and 
fell with his stomach against the edge of the 
ditch in the field. The keeper very wisely 



118 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

jimiped, and landed with his feet in the back of 
the thief, and secured him. On searching him, 
there were live pheasants in his pockets, and 
one dead cock pheasant, which, no doubt, had 
been killed in the fall. There was, therefore, 
a penalty for the trespass, and for the possession 
of dead game out of season — when, on the 
magistrate convicting, the thief plunged his 
hand into his pocket, and flung on tlio table a 
heap of gold and silver, a game certificate, and 
a licence to deal in game, and insolently told the 
magistrate's clerk to take the fine, whatever it was. 

Taking live game, and stealing the eggs when 
keepers are slack, are two of the easiest as well as the 
most mischievous and lucrative manorial aggressions. 

Thieves, when setting their snares for all or 
any kinds of game, to be. left down all night, will 
very often select what they think is the keeper's 
dinner-liour to go and look at them. Then, if 
there should 1)0 a head of game caught, they will 
come to the spot, stoop down over it, make a 
bundle of their smock-frock or jacket-j^ockets, rise 
up again, and appear to sneak away. Then, if 
the keeper is deceived by this, he rushes out from 
his hiding-plnce, and seizes the supposed delinquent. 



ON THE THEFT OF LIVE GAME. 119 

wlio has no game in his possession, for he only 
knelt down and pretended to take the game, 
just to test if there was anybody watching him. 
The poacher will also make almost imperceptible 
marks aromid their snares, but at some distance 
from them, in order to see if since they set them 
the keeper had been in their vicinity. Keepers 
ought always to have marks all over their covers, 
by which they could ascertain if, in their absence, 
any strange person had been there — a line of 
worsted, a lightly-twisted bough or bramble, or even 
a dark thread, would give ample testimony of any- 
thing of a certain height having passed that way. 

There is a very vulgar phrase very often in 
the mouths of men avIio ought to know better, it 
is ^^the over-preservation of game." Now, there 
can only be one system of preserving game and 
prevention of trespass, and that, to be of any 
good, must be strict and efficient in every respect. 
To get up a certain amount of game and then 
only half or inefficiently to preserve it, is to put 
a temptation in the way of drunken thieves, who 
will not do any honest work for beer, which is 
the only thing they live for, and really to make 
a certain amount of ill-protected game an induce- 



120 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

inent to rel)el against the law. If by tlie words 
'^over-preservation of game" is meant an enor- 
mous amomit of birds and beasts to eat up all the 
crops, and to do harm in the woods and fields, 
to arrive at that immense amount of hares, phea- 
sants, and partridges — rabbits are not game — is, on 
some manors, totally impossible. On some extra- 
ordinary land that suits game, it might be done, 
if the game was not usefully shot for one season ; 
but when game is so foolishly kept, beyond Avhat 
the woods and lands will fairly carry, the fault 
brings its own remedy, for the ground will get 
what we call '' stained," all sorts of diseases will 
break out in feather and in fur, and in succeeding 
seasons there will be very little game of any kind, 
attempt to preserve it, or what is called '^ over- 
preserve it," to the fullest extent, as you may. 
Because things may he done injudiciously, and, in 
very harsh and mistaken ways, by wrong-headed 
owners of manors, wdio by injustice and morose- 
ness make enemies where none need exist, that 
is no sort of reason why a man with his senses 
about him, and a wide knowledge of human nature, 
should not com])letely support his own interests, 
enjoy them to the full, }'et by tact, resolution to 



ON THE THEFT OF LIVE GAME. 121 

insist on the laws and the rio-ht that the hiw "ives 
liim, restrain all evil-doers from infractions. Thus 
showing to the poorer classes that it is the unmistak- 
able side on which their bread is buttered to serve 
and to please the man in power, whose hand and heart 
alike incline him to justice, charity, and good will. 

On the well-arranged and sensibly-ordered manor, 
there really is little ill-will and no difficulty. In 
the first instance, authority, of course, must be 
manifested and strictly enforced, and the incor- 
rigible ruffians brought to their senses — made to 
see that they must either obey the laws, abstain 
from theft, or suffer the punishment awarded to 
crime of every description. 

These incorrigible dwellers in a village will, 
when they find they can no longer revel in bad 
beer, bought by the proceeds of worse crime, 
remove themselves from the locality, and go to 
sites where there is less^ restriction, or to the 
purlieus of a royal forest, which really is the 
recejDtacle for ruffians sped away from places 
they have made too hot to hold them. In a 
royal forest in England there are always inefficient 
keepers or woodmen, and every noble lord and 
gentleman, during the time that he may have been 



122 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Ranger or head of the Office of Woods and Forests, 
in the event of his having an old servant who, 
through drinking or other incapacity, he wants to 
be rid of, has been always inclined to stick him 
into the hole for which he was totally unfitted, 
and put him to serve the CroAvn, because he had 
it not in him to serve anybody or anything else. 

Those incorrigible ruffians in a village as above 
alluded to, were best away from the site where 
they had so long revelled in ill-earned beer and bad 
example, and, if driven away by the full and fair 
administration of the law, — whether of the Game 
Law or any other statute, matters not, — their 
absence on the surrounding population has a 
more beneficial effect than their presence. 

I have, in my time, written so much as to game, 
tliat I fear to be charged with saying the same 
thing over again. But silent as I might wish to 
be, there are so many aggressions now made, 
at every corner of the land where a ^^ stump" 
demagogue can get a ragged audience, upon the 
landed aristocracy, that I must speak up for those 
who must ever be regarded as tlie brain, and in 
war as the gallant right-hand of old England in 
the dangerous hour. 



ON THE THEFT OE LIVE GAME. 123 

Let lis, then, for once, take tlie wind out of 
tlio sails of the stump and ckih orators, and, after 
showing them that their cry is really to roh the 
l^eople of the food— the wliolesome meat from 
rabbits that they have the power of purchasing at 
tlie poulterer's, and because they cannot buy 
butcher's meat at the present prices, — let the 
landed gentry turn all those wide wastes that the 
demagogues have alluded to, as being ^^ sinfully 
kept for private pleasure," netting ^' no food for 
the people " of any kind, into rabbit-warrens. 

When it is known, as I will take care that it 
shall be, how many, many millions on millions of 
pounds of meat furnished by the rabbits to the 
working classes, from those wastes so cultivated as 
warrens, and assigned to the only crop that they 
can grow, stump orators Avill have to drive another 
trade. It will afford the means of bringing down 
the high prices demanded by the farmer and the 
butcher, prices to which the humblest labourer or 
artificer cannot at present by the sweat of his 
brow attain. If it is really desirable to cheaj^en 
meat food, how is that good to be consummated by 
lessening the supply by millions on millions of 
pounds ? 



124: FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



CHAPTER VI. 

ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 

Mistakes of Keepers — Best Method to Adopt — A Mystery cleared 
lip — Constant Watchful Attention requisite — Food and 
Diseases — Minute Insect Food on the Under Side of Oak 
Leaves — Errors of Learned Men — Protective Laws — Farmers 
and Ptabbits — Mistakes of Professors — The Wood Duck. 

As it lias now loecome one of the necessities of 
the day to provide sufficient sport for the present 
generation, each gunner armed with three double 
breech-loaders, and accompanied by no dog, 
some further remarks on this artificial practice 
will not be out of place. Perhaps there is no 
phase of game-preserving wherein so many lords 
and masters are deceived by their servants as in 
the asserted number of young birds reared at the 
coops. The number of young birds hatched out 
under each barn-door hen or bantam no doubt 
can be easily ascertained, but then what very 
often follows ? 



ON THE KEAKING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 125 

Some keepers very erroneously mow a swartli 
in tlic long' meadow grass, and put their coops 
into it, and never cover up the fronts of their 
coops at dusk, or before dusk, every evening, as 
tliey ouglit to do. The consequence of this is, 
if rain comes on, the young birds get into the 
grass, and, to use a keeper's expression, get 
^^ draggled," and, becoming chilled, never reach 
the coops again. Or in the long grass, during 
the day, a stoat, a weazel, or a rat may get 
hold of them, the A^ermin not visible to the 
keepers, when, on feeding, if the right immber 
of young pheasants do not appear at the expected 
coop, the keeper at once concludes that they 
have gone and got mixed up with other broods, 
and takes no more trouble about it. 

Wlien coops and broods are put out, select 
as fair and open a piece of short grass as possible, 
so as to be able with the eye to command every 
yard of the ground. By way of shade and cover 
for the little birds, place in the vicinity of each 
coop scA^eral boughs of trees, laid for sufficient * 
support, and for the sake of keeping hollow, 
lapping the one over the other. Furze boughs 
will answer the purpose of sufficient protection 



126 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

from the rays of the sun, and for cover for the 
young birds to run into when the keeper feeds 
at the coop. They will be content to remain 
under the boughs till they see the feed put 
down, and till the consequent call of the lien 
lures them back. 

Su23posing that, instead of this, the coops are 
put by the side of mowing grass, as before alluded 
to, young pheasants at their earliest period may 
run into it, and get lost; that accident is com- 
pletely avoided by having the ground completely 
under supervision. I know an instance of a keeper 
losing every day some of his very young birds, 
and being totally unable to account for it. They 
were by the side of mowing grass, and he searched 
every bit of it over Avhen near that particular 
cooj), but could find nothing to clear up the 
mystery. He was a painstaking man, so he cut 
a considerable square patch of grass around the 
coop, and saw nothing more than what he might 
have seen anywhere every day, and that was, an 
open mole's run, or a small orifice in the sujoer- 
ficial run which moles often make just beneath 
the surface. He left tlie cooj), and before his re- 
turn another little bird was missing; so he sat 



ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 127 

down to watch, for lie knew not wliat, perhaps 
because it was a liot day, and he was tired. He 
had not watched long, when, withm a couple of 
yards of the coops, on the spot he had newly 
mown, he thought he distinguished in the short 
grass a small brown spot, that was not there a 
moment before, so he sat for a minute or two 
speculating what it was — whether it might not 
be a dead leaf that had blown there, or some 
other accidental thing. The mystery was soon 
cleared up, for the spot rose to a few inches 
higher, and the substance assumed two sharp 
little black eyes, which turned, with the inquisitive 
head to which they belonged, from side to side, 
intently surveying the vicinity for danger or for 
prey. The gun rose slowly to the keeper's 
shoulder, and with even the cautious motion he 
adopted, so as the better to escape notice, ^^jjop 
goes the weasel " out of sight again — as the vulgar 
song has it — away went the vermin, leaving the 
keeper possessed of the knowledge he sought, the 
way his young birds had gone, l)ut tliat was all. 
However, with that restless curiosity which dwells 
in some animals as well as in the minds of some 
women, u}) came the little sharp face of i\\Q weasel 



128 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

again, to ascertain wlietlier the sliglit motion pre- 
viously detected originated with an enemj^ or 
not, and the keej^er, knowing the restless nature 
of liis foe, having kept the gun to his shoulder, 
shot the head off before its owner could again 
take it out of sight. No more birds were there- 
after lost. 

When keepers return an estimate to their em- 
ployers as to ' ' how many pheasants they have 
at the coops," they give in the number thcu have 
IDut out J not the number that are still then there, 
or that may be there at subsequent periods, — 
that number often much lessened by neglect, by 
disease, by accidents, or by the ravages of winged 
or four-footed vermin. A keeper can only know 
the truth of how many birds he has, by shutting 
up the face of the coop every evening, and count- 
ing the young at each coop as he lets them out 
every morning. Then, as the birds get larger, 
if some of them stray to other coops, he will be 
able to ascertain, by the numbers let out at each 
coop, his exact position. To some men this is 
too much trouble ; and because it is more trouble 
than they like, they tell their employer that it is 
l)est not to shut the young birds in at night. 



ON TITE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY- HAND. 129 

The fact of sliutting tlicm up at niglit necessitates 
their being let out soon after daybreak in the 
morningj and that additional trouble to some men 
is distasteful. When the birds are very young, 
and the ground at the coords is full of herbage 
and clear of other impediments, before the very 
young birds are let out in the morning, it is good 
with a broom to brush away the dewdrops ; but 
in rougher ground, or in mowing grass, this cannot 
be accomplished. The young pheasants should be 
kept to their coop always, for two or three days, 
by a ^' crate" in front of it until they are not 
afraid to take their food from the man in attend- 
ance. The food should be. varied, every crop and 
stomach is fond of change, and should consist of 
hard-boiled egg, finely minced boiled rice, onions 
chopped as fine as possible, oatmeal rubbed with 
the egg or barley-meal (the oatmeal is the best), 
and grits and buckwheat. Fresh watercress, finely 
minced, and a bunch of the same, pegged to the 
ground, for them to peck at if they like. A fctu 
ants'-eggs, once or twice a day; if of the great 
wood ant, they should be scalded, to kill the hard 
bitten ant, and to mellow or reduce the strength 
of the insect eggs. Maggots may also be given, 

VOL. 11, K 



130 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

but only when turned reel and in a clnysalis state, 
on no account when fresh and alive from the carrion 
in which tliey were bred. The diseases which 
usually attack the young birds are ^Hhe gapes," 
^^the cramp," and a species of '^cholera," accom- 
panied by blindness — a very strange blindness, for 
it consists not in the pupil of the eye, but in the 
closing of the lids. In this case of superficial 
blindness, the eyes of the young birds must be 
opened several times a day for them to feed, but 
usually before they have had time to get a suffi- 
ciency of food the lids close up again. A weak 
solution of camphor for the eye, and a camphor 
pill of about the size of a small pea, are remedies 
recommended J but I knou: no certain cure for any 
of these complaints : rue - tea, nettle-tea, alum- 
water, water imjDregnated with rusty iron, all of 
these may be given them to drink ; but though 
some of the patients recover under some of these 
remedies, all seems to me to depend on efforts 
of nature better than on outward apj^lication or 
internal medicine. Of course, if a man recom- 
mends an hitherto untried remedy, if the young 
bird in the course of natural effort recovers, the 
recovery is claimed as proof of a certain cure • 



ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 131 

but my readers may take my word for it that 
life or death hangs on the constitutional power 
of resistance. Partridges are much more easily 
reared than pheasants, and may be fed on much 
the same food, only the smaller ants' -eggs may be 
given them in greater profusion than to the phea- 
sants. Black game are the most difficult to rear, 
and with them the same food will suit, with the 
addition of some young shoots from the heather ; 
but there is something which they require more 
than either pheasant or partridge, the nature of 
which I have not been able to ascertain. Always 
let the game-coops be put, if possible, on fresh 
ground, — never attempt to breed up in consecutive 
years on the same spot ; if you are obliged to do 
so, during the intervening winter give the ground 
a slight dressing of lime or chalk, but on no account 
whatever have anything to do with gas lime, for 
it is death to insect life, and baneful to the tender 
vegetations. The great difficulty lies in giving to 
the young pheasants a light but strengthening food, 
such as the mother finds for them in the immense 
variety of insects scattered over the surface of the 
lands within her haunt. Every inch of ground, 

every blade of grass or corn, every leaf, and every 

K 2 



132 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

(lead stick, is tenanted by insect life, more or 
less, Avliicli serves for tlie food of the '' nide." 
Among different kinds of beetles and grubs, the 
wire-worm forms a considerable quantity in the 
daily food. In the crop of one hen pheasant, 
feeding in a clover lay, and shot from off it, 
I found nearly half a pint of the wire-worm, 
which is, in my opinion, the worst enemy the 
farmer has. To meet this necessity for a mild, but 
yet a rich or sustaining food, maggots, in the 
chrysalis state, as before remarked, are good, 
hard egg, minced rabbit's flesh, but, on no 
account, the stomach or milky part of an old doe ; 
and last, though by no means the least, really 
old, coarse Scotch oatmeal, such as I should give 
to my foxhounds, together with some fresh-boiled 
beef or mutton fat, to my mind are the best 
substitute for tlie insect food sought by the 
pheasant in field and wood. Good greaves are de- 
cidedly the best for spare use in a kennel when 
fresh flesh cannot be obtained, and are much less 
heating for dogs of all kinds tlian those unwhole^ 
some cakes of tallow which are usually given* A 
very little boiled greaves may be used for pheasants. 
In short, I can lay down no directions as to the 



ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 133 

rearing of pheasants which are not to be devi- 
ated from through circumstantial change ; l)ut 
much must be left to the watcliful vigilance of 
the keeper in attendance, and, in fact, there are 
very few men capable of understanding the re- 
quirements of the young lives entrusted to their 
charge. Some people think that if they clothe 
a man in a shooting-jacket, and put a gun 
into liis hand, calling him a keeper, he must be 
able to breed up the most difficult birds to rear 
that ever came under the liuman hand. 

For a long time it puzzled me to know how 
young pheasants of the season, when in the 
autumn or commencement of winter they had 
become full-grown, could live when all the corn 
had been swept from the fields by reap-hook, 
scythe, the gleaner, and the swine, and there 
were neither acorns nor beech-masts, nor the 
little root which in some ^ places is called the 
pig-nut, of wliich pheasants are very fond. Of 
course, the one and only way to clear up the 
point was by examining the contents of the crop, 
and in each case I found the crop to be full of 
the habitation of an insect that lives in a little 
blister-like excrescence which may be found, in 



l'3i FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the fall of the year, on the under side of almost 
any oak-leaf lying withering on the ground. 
Some oak-leaves, on closer examination, I found 
to have some of these excrescences, while others, 
but only a few, were free from them. The little 
blisters were cleanly picked off the leaf by the 
pheasant ; but in no instance; at that season of the 
year, could I discover the occupant of the little cell. 

I must not leave this suljject without mention- 
ing the rule that should ever be kept. The 
rearer of young game should always keep at 
hand powdered chalk, and the French prepara- 
tion of charcoal, for when there is any scouring 
among the young birds, the use of both of these 
may be very important. 

It is very amusing the rearing of young game, 
and the frustration of vermin, in their attempts 
to destroy them, both with gun and trap — as 
amusing, but certainly not so ridiculous, as it 
is to hear the nonsense talked by bearded men 
about not destroying certain things, for that we 
should have much more game, and be all the 
bettor, in all respects, for keeping up the just 
balance of nature. Would the world be benefited 
if Ave patronize vice ? 



ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 135 

When people let tlieir tongues run so loosely 
on subjects tliey can practically know nothing 
about J and when ''philosophers," or ''professors" 
— professing a knowledge of things they are 
obviously unacquainted with — declare we are to 
jDreserve all things alike, so as to maintain the 
equilibrium of nature, — predatory, venomous, or 
otherwise,— they must give to rats, mice, ticks, 
fleas, and meaner vermin still, the same protec- 
tion that they assign to hawks, cats, polecats, 
stoats and Aveasels, kites, crows, jays and 
magpies. I marvel much if these professors of 
they know not what, would abstain from activity 
unto death did they feel a trespass in their hair, 
or a lively visit to their skins, paid in a hop, 
step, and a jump, when they supposed them- 
selves comfortably in bed. A man once claimed 
to be able to give the Promethean sj^ark of life 
to a flea he had created out of coral dust, and, 
I suppose, some other more vivifying ingredient ; 
and the same man even descended in his claim 
to be a creator, for he asserted he could trouble 
the human head of a professor by worse things 
than fleas, in whose composition, base as the 
insects were, Avas the dust of diamonds. Such 



136 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

stuff as the necessity of '^ keeping iqj the balance 
of nature'- is really scarce worth alluding to, 
save as it serves to afford a ^^assing derision for 
those who moot such absurdities. 

We pass 23rotective laws for sea-gulls, which 
cannot be made food of for mankind, while we 
deny protection to the most useful and delicate 
things we have for the well-arranged table, and 
also, in a great measure, for the humble tables 
of the poor. Protection to the pheasant, partridge, 
grouse, and hare and rabbit, is growled at. They, 
the first four, may be sought as delicacies for the 
rich man's table, but the rabbit feeds tJiousands 
of the poor^ who say that '^ they can get more 
meat for themselves and children out of a couple 
of rabbits, at the price they give for them, than 
they could got for the same sum laid out in 
butcher's meat, beef, pork, or mutton. It is this^ 
perha})s, that makes farmers call the rabbits 
^^ vermin," for when it is taken into considera- 
tion how much money I may say a million and 
more of people lay out annually on the rabbits, 
which otherwise nuist be laid out on the farmers' 
stock, wliy, there may he more reasons than one 
for tlic agricultural abuse sputtered on a j^ortion 



ON THE EEARING OF PIIEA.SANTS BY HAND. 137 

of a people's food, tliat it would bo liarsli ruin 
to take from tliem. In Southampton alone, — I 
like to quote some town not far from "the Vale 
of the Avon," — the annual sale of rabbits, in one 
winter, to the j^oor, without including the skins, 
is seventeen thousands of pounds. 

None but a farmer then, I think, would call the 
rabbit a '^ useless vermin"; but men abuse things 
according to their kind, and, therefore, the farmer 
objects to rabbits because he thinks his crops make 
them good to eat, and to be sought after by the 
poor. If he wishes to run a tilt with reason against 
the rabbit, let him reduce the price of his bullock 
and his sheep, and put them more within the 
culinary office of the cottage. 

It is amusing to hear men talk of things they 
know not what, — at least, it would be amusing, if 
their gabble had not a very mischievous tendency. 
A cannibal, or man of colour witli that aj^petite, 
provided he is not white, is exalted in rhyme by 
somebody, who says, "wild in woods the noble 
savage ran," or he is by other enthusiasts in glaring 
compassion, said to be a gentleman — I suppose, in 
all but his chops. In short, led by bleating demo- 
crats against an imaginary slavery, or by dissenting 



138 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

stump (n- field, preachers, it has not been deemed 
imj^ious to clothe that first step to manhood without 
the tail, — according to Darwin, — the hideous bush- 
man or the Ashantee with the alles^ed ^' ima^'e of 
God." While this is done, multitudes of the white 
poor at home, because they are u'lilte and at home, 
are neglected. So, in a less degree, do we find 
that a similar state of things exists as to the birds 
and beasts of our own country ; laws for the 
j)rotection of the fish-destroying gulls are made, 
the gull not being food for the masses, but mas- 
ticating or swallowing with innnense and quick 
voracity a vast deal of fish, which otherwise might 
have gone to supply the different markets. 

At the same time that this protection is voted by 
the wise men in Parliament, ^'protection" to the 
food of the well-to-do man's table, the pheasant, 
partridge, grouse and hare, and to the wholesome 
fare supplied by the thirty thousand tons of rabl)it- 
mcat to the exigent poor, is growled at and sought 
to be obviated. The rabbits under-sell the farmer, 
the farmer, therefore, hates them, and so does the 
l3utclier, who sees the poor pass by his board, and 
seek the poulterer's shop. 

If I had time to mark the amazing ignorance of 



ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 139 

some aiitliors, and the babbling- nonsense indulged 
in by sundry professors, I might fill half a volume 
with their blatant mistakes. Darwin, let alone his 
daring attack on the historic Deity and origin of 
man, fails in his mere ornithological lore, and 
declares that tliat well-known bird, ^' the snipe," 
^' never breeds in England." Professor Owen did 
not know a whale's tooth from the canine fano- of a 
badger, while other professors have declared that 
some of the skulls of the Bovine race, in my posses- 
sion through the kind jDcrmission of his Grace the 
possessor of Haddon Hall, were the skulls of 
the Bos longifrons of the ancient Britons. And 
Avhen I replied ^^ that they ivere not,^^ the answer 
made was, ^Hliat of course My. Berkeley, as usual, 
knew better than anybody else." 

And in this instance so I dldj for the beasts 
belonging to the skulls had been killed each by a 
bullet , and gunpowder was aiot a commodity used by 
the ancients referred to. For my own particular 
amusement, I had kept the bullet-marks out of sight. 
Again, Ave have in the work which Yarrell left 
behind him, a picture of what he called a ^^ rare bird, 
supposed to breed in Norway or Sweden," to whicli 
he gave the name of the '^ bimaculated duck." 



140 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

There was a male specimen of this hybrid, for it is 
notliing else, in the British Museum ; and in order 
to prove what the hivd really was, I bred a mate for it 
in my garden, and sent it also to the Museum, just to 
upset the dictum of one who, in liis day, was deemed 
to know much, but many of whose dicta were 
based on mere hearsay, and whose work noiu 
stands little more than a milestone (like many 
otliers of ancient date), left on the old coacli- 
road of science before the commencement of the 
better-informed and faster train, simply to show 
where the public in former times were wont to 
travel. 

Before closing this chapter, in passing, let me 
remark, that of all the amusing birds of the duck 
tribe, the most beautiful, as well as the most 
amusing, is the American wood or Carolina duck. 
The plumage of the male is gorgeous in the ex- 
treme^ while there is a beautiful simplicity in the 
female plumage, in hue and neatness, reminding 
one of a very well-dressed Quakeress, without that 
worldly tip-t(jp tile of affectation, the ugly Quaker- 
bonnet. Tlie wood-duck will breed in a tame state, 
and, if pinioned, reside contentedh^ on any orna- 
mental water, or on the waters of a decoy for other 



ON THE REARING OF PHEASANTS BY HAND. 141 

fowl ; and certainly for the table, as I have ascer- 
tained ill tlic Far West, no Avater-foAvl surpasses it 
in flavour. The time when they are most amusing 
is when they pair : this often takes place as soon as 
the young male and female are full-grown ; and once 
paired, in direct contradiction of Darwin — I mean 
as to the Darwinian theor/j, not as to his own pro- 
clivities or inclinations whatever they may be they 
never desert their first love, but, in spite of other 
attractions, year by year the pair continues to hold 
good. 

The wood-drake is .the only duck that I am 
aware of who picks up food and gives it to liis 
mate from his bill ; and it is most interesting 
to behold, to those amused with ornithology, 
— and it ought to be to all men icho have paired^ 
— how sedulously he attends on his mate : how he 
protects her from and keeps her from contact with 
the vulgar or designing l^rowd • swimming before 
her and heading her off from '^ plumps," or utlier 
fowl ; kissing her cheeks, and murmuring to her 
of her better course in keeping to herself and his 
devoted love. 

The common wild mallard ow^is no such love as 
this; he pairs with one, or " bides," as the country 



142 i^ACT AGAINST FICTION. 

people say, with one, two, or three, as the case 
may be, and all that time he is a slave to any 
momentary whim or passion for the pairs of others 
that may seize him. Not so the wood-drake, he 
owns no passion but for the one thing he loves, 
and if that is taken from him, he will not, for 
the season certainly, and very likely never, pair 
again. 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 14:0 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS OF THE 
UNITED KINGDOM. 

Enormous Acreage of Waste Waters — Lake at Fontliill Towers — 
Carp, Perch, Pike, Eels — Crosses tried at Taymouth — Large 
Acreage of Waste Lands — What can they Produce ? — llabbits 
find a Living on them — Potato Disease, Cattle Disease — Disease 
among Game — Fish — Steam Cultivated Farms. 

There has appeared in the Times, newspaper a 
long discussion, originated, I believe, by Mr. Frank 
Buckland, in regard to the enormous acreage of 
water which lies neglected by the proprietors, and 
returns not a fowl nor a fish for the general amuse- 
ment or consumption of society. 

Mr. Frank Buckland is right in liis lamentation 
over this fact, but scarcely fair to the originator 
of the idea he has adopted, in not stating from 
whom he borrowed it. The subject was mooted 
long ago in one of my works by me, and to some 
readers Mr. Buckland's suggestion can be nothing 
new. In the letters on this subject that liave 



144 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

passed as alluded to, there is only one wliicli 
deserves much notice, and it is that written by 
Mr. Vere Fane Benett, of Pyt House, wherein he 
states, that the club-headed carp he caught in his 
ponds were utterly unfit for human food ; ' ' nor 
could he even get their bodies removed as a 
gift by the labouring poor."* 

It would certainly not be advisable for any 
labourer with a fjood appetite and not much time 
ill his mouth for careful mastication, to be seated 
with a pond carp, or any carjD, for dinner. 

Conceive a carp of this description under cottage 
hands for cooking, boiled with a bit of bacon 
and some cabbage, perhaps, sent up in greasy, 
thin gravy. The bacon would give it a savoury 
smell, and if he, the hungry parent of a family, 
persisted in eating the mess, two mouthfuls swal- 
lowed without caution would do the Calcraft's 
office, and choke him as sure as he was born. 
Any rash man tvith an appetite, sitting down 
to the bony fare of a carp, ought to have a 
surgeon on one side and a parson on the other 
to minister to his certain agony and probable 

departure elsewhere. Like the cautious Scotch- 
■■■ Mr. Beiiett has since taken some splendid carp from other pools. 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 145 

man, who, wlien asked if a man for whom there 
was an inquiry was ^' still there," gave for the 
reply, — ^^No, that he was gone.'' 

^' Gone I where to ? " was the rejoinder of the querist. 

^'I canna tak on myseP just to say whar he's 
f/one to, but he 's dead,'- was the cautious conclusion 
to the dialogue. 

The only way in which we can account for all 
old ponds, from time immemorial, to have been 
stocked with that horrible fish, the carp, is, that 
in days long gone, when there Avere more Roman 
Catholics and less sea Jish, it was deemed necessary 
to have something like a fish to put before the 
poorer ecclesiastics or l^rethren, and perhaps to 
eat a carp might have been deemed, and very 
naturally so, a penance for sin. I doubt very much 
if an abbot, or any soul who had anything else 
to cat, ever touched that fish for sustenance. This 
strange love of the carp has been handed down 
to many unthinking Protestants of the j^rescnt 
day ; for, with astonishment, I have had the 
question of ^^Wliat fish were in the ponds I 
saw?" answered with the unblushing assurance 
that '' thei/ liad put carp into the ponds, but had 
never seen them again." 

VOL. II. . L 



146 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

^^ Nor will you," I exclaimccl, ^Hill you let off 
the water ; yon may occasionally catch a starved, 
l^nll-headed, scaley ghost, that is not worth 'the 
worm at one end of the line,' that the creature, 
rudely called a fool, at the butt-end of the rod can- 
not eat ; but as the carp stick their heads into the 
mud to let the lead line of the net draw over them, 
nothing can ever be made out regarding the contents 
of tlie pond till you drain off the water, and ruin 
every other fish there may be in it." 

The best French cook in the history of kitchens, 
though he may cover a carj) in a dish with sauce 
of the most exquisite descrijition, cannot make 
the flesh on the fish firm, nor can the bones in it 
be reduced or removed sufficiently to avoid the 
proximity of a suffocating death. 

In the corrcsj)ondcnce I have previously noticed, 
and wherein my friend, Mr. Vere Fane Benett, 
alludes to great quantities of this horrible fish,* 
I must observe that there is one use to which 
these fish can be put, that thus regarding it, may 
be made useful to the community, or to the poor 

■^' He has since discovered much better carp, and sokl them well 
in London to Jews who, being " unbelievers," disbelieved in bones, 
and passed them . over as in duty bound. 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 147 

distracted child, wliosc tottering ^^Constitution" 
has so many blatant nurses offering different 
remedies. 

If Mr. Eenett, or any other of our landed gentry, 
have large quantities of these, in all instances, far 
overrated fish, let him order his teams, with the 
leave of the surveyors, to collect the heaps of road 
sand from the sides of the highways, and let him 
make a heap as large as he likes, or sufficiently 
large to overpower the smell of, and to absorlD 
the quantity of carp. Let this heap be turned 
over at given periods, and the carp thus amal- 
gamated in its proportions, and as far as that heap 
goes, he will have the finest manure possible. If 
his lands are light, let some old thatches that 
have chanced to he pulled off ricks or cottages, 
be mixed in this heap also, simply to hold the 
manure together, and then, I am sure, when Mr. 
Benett, or any other large proprietor, sees in the 
following spring the effect upon his crops, he will 
wish for more carp for that purpose ^ for more carp 
anywhere, in fact, than in a dish before him. 

The most extraordinary sight in regard to 

carp I ever saw, was in a still, liot day in the 

summer of 1872, in the lake situated in the midst 

L 2 



148 FxVCT AGAINST FICTION. 

of the lovely woods of Fontlilll Towers, one of the 
seats of the Dowag'er Lady Westminster. 

That is a lake, so to sj^eak, of considerable 
dimensions, and, in places, of very considerable 
de2)th ; indeed, in spots I am told that it is almost 
nnfathomable. Besides its volume of still water, 
it lia,^ its sunny shallows, witli a clear, clean, stony 
bottom, and everything suitable to many kinds of 
useful and delicious fish, were they but there. 

I do not hesitate to say I have seen thousands 
on tliousands of small carp, with thin bodies 
and large lieads, basking on the top of the water 
in hot, still days ; and I have seen them pretend 
to be trout from very hunger, and rise at and take 
any fly or moth that accidentally dipped on the 
surface near them. 

This wooded lake, so beautifully situated in 
the Ijosom of mighty trees, is fed by very small 
springs ; tliose that reach the eye are very 
scanty, l}ut as the lake always keeps to the brim, 
I think tliere must be a larger and natural 
underground supply — a supply which no ^^soak " 
from adjoining uplands could administer. Here is 
a ivaste of water, so far as any valuable produce 
is concerned, for that great, over-grown, and 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. lid 

now misused baby, the '' constitution" — a waste 
of water, so far as the English appetite for food 
is tliought of, but not wasted, in regard to the 
splendid landscape, and the well kept-up wood- 
land garden, or the enjoyment of the kind and hos- 
pitable lady, who so generously and widely really 
watches over the interest of the working-classes, for 
slie does enjoy the beauties of her gifted domain. 

Here is decidedly one of the lakes that does 
not yield fish or fowl to the larder, but which 
might yield both. I take this as an instance of 
the theme under discussion, and I put the ques- 
tion to myself of how this fine sheet of water 
could be turned to more useful and enjoyable 
purposes? The usual remedy, on all occasions 
put in force for carp, cannot be resorted to, to 
drain the depths of this lake — must not be 
thought of: liow, then, are you to get out the pest 
of carp, and to make room for other fish ? You 
cannot sufficiently do this with nets, and, there- 
fore;, there is no visible way, keej^ing an eye to 
the maintenance of the water and beauty of the 
woods, by which success can be obtained unless 
you resort to two remedies which seem to me to 
be possible — tlie one remedy to follow closely on 
the other. I w^ould stupefy and take out the 



loO FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

carp, and this could be done without in any 
Avay injuring the purity or healthiness of the 
water, — at least, such is my present opinion, and 
I have full belief in its success. The remedy to 
be resorted to there is no need to dilate on, as 
it is one that should be publicly referred to as 
little as possible, though I am well aware that 
a portion of this remedy for carp is known, and 
that it has been and is often resorted to by the 
thieves of fish, and that the fish — the common 
white fish, chub, roach, and dace — thus taken, 
have been and are sold for the table by thieves to 
any customers who will buy them. 

If, as I believe, the thousands of the larger 
carp could thus be safely and profitably reduced, 
into such a lake situated like the one referred 
to, I would then put as many pike as by possi- 
bilit}^ could be procured to keep down the carp fry 
that would be perpetually struggling into existence. 

The question may here be asked, if those 
2)ike are thus encouraged and grow to an im- 
mense size, as I am sure that in that lake they 
would, what, then, is to l)econie of the feathered 
inhahitants of tlic water proposed to be kept on 
it, for the huge j^ike would destroy their young? 

My re})]y to tliis is, tliat on a lake of deej) 



WASTE LANDS AND ^YASTE WATERS. 151 

water, witlioiit adjoining shallow swamp, Avarmed 
in its masses by the sun, wild fowl could not 
breed up their own young, on such an expanse 
of cold, deep water, ''cramp" must kill them, but 
their eggs, Avhenever the old birds laid them far 
and near, could be carefully watched, and taken 
and put under barn-door hens; the young reared 
at a distance on the grass, like pheasants, and taken 
down with their coops and old hens to the margin 
of the lake when half-fledged and too old for any 
sized pike to swallow. 

There would be no objection, by way of 
experiment, to turn into this lake some large 
trout, if they could be got, with the pike. The 
generality of the store pike would be small, and, 
until the pike grew, the large trout, growing 
also, would take care of themselves. But in that 
lake I do not think that trout would breed, for 
want of the necessary beds of sandy gravel and 
insufficiency of running streams. Perch might 
be put in also to any amount, and as many 
large ones as could be procured. I am certain 
perch would do there, and they would assist to 
keep down the carp fry. Perch are the most 
prolific breeders within my knoAvledge, and there 



152 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

is thid following fact, and it in all my piscatory 
experience lias forced itself upon me. 

In large waters, lakes, or rivers, I have ever 
caught the finest trout, and perch, and pike, when 
the stock of fish has been of every sort and kind ; the 
fact being that they subdue the too prolific progeny 
of each other, and give the room and food required 
for each to thrive and come to the best perfection. 

In the lake to which I have thus particularly 
referred as a water eaten up by carp, there are 
eels ; but at present, with the exception of eels 
and carp, I do not know that there are fish of 
any other kind; and, of all lakes in the world, 
the one at Fonthill Towers offers the finest field 
for the experiments I have suggested. 

In my visits and travels it is astonishing the 
enormous tracts of water in the aggregate that I 
have seen and known to be in the neglected and 
useless state referred to, affording not a mouthful 
of food to tlie big, ill-used, over-dosed baby, the 
'^ Constitution"; nor a delicacy, nor a fowl of any 
kind to the proprietor s table, nor to his amuse^ 
nient with the rod or gun. 

This dearth in amusement and utility extends j 
more or less, in certain sites, over the United King- 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 153 

dom; but in Scotland tliere is a speciality and a 
Avaste of that excellent fish the eel, for thousands on 
thousands of tons of eels might be caught with 
proper ^'stages" on the rivers, near their outlets 
from the lakes, and, indeed, from their whole river 
extent, whicli, whatever may be the Scottish dis- 
taste for that excellent fish, would amply repay 
the construction of the stages, and, in some places, 
return a handsome income to the proprietor. 

Proprietors seem to me to forget (they have 
always forgotten) that railways noio put fish that 
are taken in Scotland at once alive and fresh in 
the London market, as well as in all the nuirkets 
of all the towns in England ; and that for tlie 
fish which in Scotland is shuddered at and despised 
tliere is an immense demand, hitherto to an enor- 
mous extent not half sup2:)lied, only to be made use 
of and increased by a little attention and trouble. 

Years ago, when on a visit to Taymouth, in 
the late Marquis of Breadalbane's time, some 
time before his deeply lamented death, I had sug- 
gested to him the taking of the countless and 
beautiful eels in his various lakes and rivers, and 
transporting them at once by rail to the market 
■which I knew full well could ])e liad, and he 



154 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tlioroughly entered into the idea. We had other 
plans in regard to the crossing of bison coto with 
the Scottish bull, which I am sure would have 
answered admirably; the breed before I got to 
Taymouth having been made the reverse way, and 
through that mistake, the bisonic hump nearly cost 
the life of the mother — a fact that a bailiff with two 
ideas ought to have foreseen. 

The offspring, however, of this erroneously 
arrived at cross, came to the butcher, quicker and 
fatter than any other beast of the pure breed. 
We had also a project for ascertaining whether 
the cross between the male capercailzie and the 
greyhen were mules or merely hybrids. I sus23ected 
that they were the latter, and would prove fecun- 
dite, for capercailzie and black-game are essentially 
^^ grouse," and I saw no reason why that cross 
should not be a perfect success. We mooted also 
a large cross uf the red deer in park and forest 
— a fact that is wanted all over Scotland, for, 
generally speaking, the red deer have terribly 
deteriorated in size ; but all these curious, useful, 
and interesting experiments were cut across by 
tlie death of a nobleman, gentleman, friend, and 
man, whose likeness I have nevei^ looked on again, 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 155 

and do not expect to, were I to reach the ago of 
a hiuidrcd years. 

Well, then, in the United Kingdom there is cer- 
tainly, and to all intents and purposes, ^' a waste 
of water^'' that might be made advantageous and 
pleasurable to its possessors; and Avhile they them- 
selves got pleasure and income out of it, a vast 
store of wholesome and delicious food might go 
to fill out the pinafore of the restless baby, the 
'' Constitution," some of whose pretended nurses 
in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square are per- 
petually sticking pins and needles into its pillows, 
to make the uneasy bantling call out and cry to 
them for their removal. 

But if we agree to the position, and none of us 
can help doing so, there does extend over tJte 
United Kingdom a large watery extent that re- 
turns neither food nor pleasure of any kind, save 
as a bath, and that the stump-orators of Hyde 
Park and Trafalgar Square, and other sects, always 
avoid, what am I to say of the vast portion of 
waste land which exists, like the water, with 
very little amusement or food upon it, so loudh^ 
referred to by demagogues, as sites purposely 
withheld by peers and large proprietors from 



156 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tlie growth of food for the people? It was 
by the blatant stump men claimed as a visible 
sin to be laid on an overbearing and cruel aristo- 
cracy, who, while the ^^Constitution" was starving, 
kept that wide extent of barren land for their 
own immediate and selfish pleasure. This is a 
grave charge, though made by vague minds, and 
one worth a few moments' serious consideration. 

Granted, then, in the first instance, that there 
is a very considerable acreage at present put to 
no available resources whatever, either as a site 
for the production of the craving appetite of the 
'^ Constitution," or for the pleasurable amusement 
of the proprietors. 

If a proprietor, or one of the much-abused aristo- 
cracy, cannot derive any income out of these at 
present unprofitable acres, surely, in the absence 
of all derivable income, he has a perfect right to 
get as much pleasure-profit out of this ^^ waste," 
so-called, as he can. But, alas ! so desolate and 
poor are the acres and the soil, and subsoil, that — 

" Far as the eye could reacli no tree was seen, 
Earth clad in russet, scorn'd the lively green ; 
No bird — except as bird of passage — flew. 
No bee was heard to hum, no dove to coo ; 
No streams, as amber smooth, as amber clear, 
Were seen to glide or heard to murmur here." 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 157 

111 iiuiny of these sites, air and exercise after 
a snipe "or two — not the ^^ solitary snipe," for he 
would be more worth the trouble — are the only 
solaces to the cruel (so-called) and aristocratic 
proprietors, who avail themselves of wliat the 
^^stumjo" and Cockney orators call ^Hhe bloody 
Game Laws," though those laws, in this instance, 
afford scarce any blood at all. Fancy a large 
landowner retaining a desert under his control for 
one shot at, perhaj^s, a jack snipe ! 

Now I. would ask these stump men and ^'hest^^ 
abusers (I borrow this word, in this instance, from 
my late friend, the ^^ O'Connell, " as the stump orators 
l)orrow from liim the scmgninarij name they apphj 
to the WJdgs, they could not liave invented 
a strong word themselves) to point out to that 
universal, and soon to be, if left to them, bandy- 
legged bantling, the '' Constitution," what is to 
be, or can l)e, done with the at present unprofit- 
able land they allude to ? — what ought to be done 
with it, what can be grown on it, and what 
manner of produce from it is to fill the poor 
bantling's stomach ? 

I ought not to ask tliese restless men this ques- 
tion before I have described to them the nature 



158 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

of surface and subsoil as to which they speak, 
because I venture to say they liave never seen it 
nor tested it, and that they know very little of 
rural affairs. To be sure they can know nothing" 
of things they have never seen, so I am most 
happy to give them that ^^bolt hole" for escape. 

In many of these ^^ waste districts" thus claimed 
as sinfully kept barren for the jDcrsonal joleasure of 
the aristocracy, and to starve the '' Constitution," 
the land lies thus. 

There is a scanty growth of poor heather upon 
it, drawing its nourishment from a slight covering of 
its own decayed roots, those roots lying on a white, 
glassy sand and white flinty gravel on the surface 
soil. 

I think I hear some of these self-constitutional 
nurses (Heaven save the mark!) exclaim, ^^ Oh, aye, 
but v/liat about the suhsoilV^ Of course they have 
parroted that word from some market-gardener's 
discourse over a pipe of tobacco, through the 
fumes of which he quietly derides his questioners. 

The subsoil on many of these sites, as examined 
by me, has l)een white, glassy sand and flinty 
gravel, and, perhaps, beneath that an iron pan 
holding unprolific water. 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 159 

^^Well, then," exclaim these markct-garclener- 
taug'lit professors, ^^ break tlirough the pan, and 
tlien voii will come to productive soil." Not so, 
for beneath the pan, of whatever kind that pan may 
bo, there often is a worse sand and gravelly flintago 
than there was above in the siiperstructm-e, for 
luiderneath the pan the sand is quite white, and 
shines in the sun like pulverized glass, and perhaps 
below that a rock of stalwart stone or flints. 

If these stump orators are really anxious to grow 
food for the tottering ^^Constitution," whose detri- 
mental limbs they themselves assuredly represent, 
why do they not take to agriculture ? I will pledge 
myself to the assurance that they can have large 
farms of these so-called ^^ waste lands" at a very 
moderate rent, giving good security for their tenure 
of course, on which to try to grow anything they 
like. They will find it a healthful recreation, with 
as much air and exercise as they can desire, and, 
iDOsides, it will relieve them from the unpleasant 
charge of being ^' vox et prceterea nihil,^^ or likened 
in an unsavoury simile to a young crow, the mean- 
ing of which reference I leave to their more 
profound judgment and self-application. 

If we cannot let these impossible-to-be-cultivated 



IGO FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

lands to a tenant-farmerj or grow anything on 
them ourselves but a jack-snipe, wliat truth or 
justice is there in charging the landowners with 
a cruel privation upon the starving poor? The 
poor, indeed ! Why the poor are really put in 
want by ^'unions" and ^^strikes/' both of which 
are advocated by tliese evil and selfish-purposed 
orators, wlio stump it now in every direction, and 
do incalculable mischief. 

If in England we cannot let certain districts, 
wliy are we not to preserve a jack-snipe, or wild 
duck or hare, if these are the only products that 
the land gives us ? 

If in Scotland we cannot let our rocky moun- 
tains for agricultural purposes, they will not carry 
sheep, why not permit us to keep deer, and so 
employ a vast proportion of the labouring poor in 
the shape of gillies ? In Wales the same thing would 
apply in some places ; so, if we cannot get income 
and a supply of food for ourselves and the public, 
who can really liave a jusfc quarrel witli us for getting 
some pleasurable recreation, derived, too, from among 
the l^urdcns ever attending on landed property? 

Having thus looked into the real state of the 
so-called ^^ neglected waste lands," let us now look 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 161 

to what available source of })rofit for the owner, 
and food for the labouring classes, could be got 
out of them. 

The only article of food that could be deduced 
from them is the wholesome meat of rabbits, at 
present so largely consumed by the labouring 
classes in cities, towns, and country, and without 
which food, at the present price at which the 
farmer and the butcher sell their mutton, yeal, 
and beef, they and their families must go tcithotit 
any meat at all. 

Now this is an incontrovertible fact, and one 
well worth looking into for many reasons, as a 
certain class of agricultural orators, if tlieii' speeches 
deserve that name, essay to fix the name of ^' useless 
vermin" on the rabbits — on the animal, in fact, 
which supports millions of poor people, and 
undersells tJie farmer ! 

There is, to my mind, a vast deal in this latter 
fact as to prices of meat, and it is one that legis- 
lators would do well not to forget when the 
pretended or mistaken advocates of cheaper food 
for the people try to take from them that by 
which so many of them live, and which many 

farmers dislike, because they knotv that but for 
VOL. n. M 



162 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the rabbits tlio poorer classes would be driven 
by starvation to the butcher instead of to the 
poulterer or dealer in rabbits, or they must eke 
out an existence on potatoes and bread. 

Now, holding to the theme of the waste lands 
which the revilers of all that is respectable put 
forward, I grant that, at the present moment, 
there is an enormous acreage of hitherto un- 
productive land — unproductive of food, of pleasure, 
or of profit that might be turned into sites for 
warrens^ and by the sites inillions of i)ounds of 
delicate and wholesome meat might thus be added 
and made cheaply available to the poor. The skins 
of rabbits pay well, the meat from the rabbits can 
always be sold at a remunerative though at a cheaj) 
price ; and then the paunches of the rabbit can 
be made to do, — as to my certain knowledge they 
are at this moment made to do in parts of Ireland, 
— they will keep a poor man's j)ig till he is " top^Dcd 
up " witli a little meal for fattening. There are 
districts in Ireland where the labouring classes 
are glad to kill the rabbits for a proprietor, in 
instances where they have increased too nnicli, 
and tlie proprietor cannot spare the time of other 
servants to do it; the reward of these labourers 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 1G3 

for doing tliis being no more than tlie gift to 
tlieni of tlie paunclies of the rabbits killed. The 
rabbit, according to liis size, is as useful as the 
sheep, and, size considered, can be bought at a 
much cheaper rate than the farmer or butcher 
demands for mutton. 

Well, then, let the proprietors of these so-called 
^Svaste or useless lands" grow on them food for 
the people.* The turning waste lands into rabbit 
warrens is not expensive, for a mere bank, properly 
constructed^ will keep the rabbits within the re- 
quired bounds. Rabbits will live and get fat 
where nothing else could similarly exist ; and 
here then I suggest a means of adding to the waist 
or ^^ waist-belt" of that knocked-about baby, the 
" Constitution." 

The late political Gamps, the v^^orst nurses that 
ever pretended to watch over and guard a ^^Con- 
stitution," — the Constitution, that blessed babe of 
three fathers, the offspring of a ^' Co.," — have 
destroyed many of the well-aired churches which 

* If any one doubts the immense quantity of food afforded to 
the labouring classes in the shape of rabbits, in town and country, 
let him satisfy himself by calling at the poulterers' shops in his 
vicinity, and thus ascertain the number of rabbits that each shop 
annually sells. 

m2 



16-i FACT AGAINST FICTlOX. 

used to shelter the babe in prayer and good 
behaviour, and surely now they should aid us, 
by all just means in their power, and of course 
without hurting themselves upon tlieir own waste 
lands, if they have any, in producing more food 
for the community. 

Many a noble duke and peer of my acquaintance 
would be only too happy to get tenants — re- 
sponsible tenants, of course, — for tlieir waste lands ; 
but tenants are not to be found who will under- 
take a too visible failure, and it would be insanity 
for even stump-orators to urge that the proprietors 
themselves should attempt to cultivate their wastes, 
when the said proprietors had ascertained that no 
useful product except rabbits could be induced 
to grow. 

There is another fact that men in their walk 
through life should have noticed before theij attempt 
to say what lands could or could not be made to 
do. There is scarce an extensive heath in England 
but that a searching eye can discover on parts 
of it the remains of ridge and furrow. Therefore, 
some predecessors had attempted cultivation on 
that spot, and found that it would yield notliing I 
Depend upon it; in other times of experimental 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 165 

liusbancliyj if those lieaths, thus once ploughed 
up, could have been turned to useful and remu- 
nerative purposes, they would not now have 
been permitted to go back to heather and remain 
abandoned. 

Alas ! in my opinion, the present generation 
liave taxed the temper of the earth and of nature 
far too much. So much have they over-taxed the 
soil and ^^ quacked" it, that Nature now seems 
to be kicking against this grasping tyranny, and 
hurling at the attempts of assuming man all sorts 
of diseases unknown to this country until the 
introduction of artificial manure. The potato 
disease came on the j^ear after the artificial 
manure came in. This, as before mentioned, has 
been succeeded by the foot-and-mouth disease in 
cattle, and, according to Lord Eadnor's statement, 
it has attacked his hounds. 

Since the introduction of this dram-like stuff, — 
for, as far as the interests of land are really 
concerned, it is but a ^' flash in the pan,"— the 
featliered game all over the country, particularly 
the partridge, have been gradually decreasing. 
I believe my friend Mr. Sturt, of Crichel, has 
noticed this on his beautiful partridge ground for 



IGG FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

many successive seasons^ aud tlie pheasants in 
many places too have been wasting away. 

Now — in the autmim of 1872 — there was some 
disease which none of us ever knew before, utterly 
devastating the ground of hares ; and the same, 
but not to so great an extent, with the much- 
abused rabbit. 

Disease, or the same kind of malady, had 
ascended, — by contagious properties, I suppose, in 
the air, — to tlie ptarmigan on the highest moun- 
tains of Scotland, and had devastated the black- 
game and grouse on the hills and lower level. 
Turkey's on the farms in some places had 
sickened with it ; and with chickens the e])i- 
demic terminated in the most fatal case, of the 
gapes. 

Those partridges that I ventured to kill 
merely for the table in my own manor, though 
to the liand in good condition, when picked were 
black in the skin, and when roasted for the table, 
under the hands of a good and careful cook, 
were as black as tliey looked to be when merely 
divested of their feathers. So hlacJc did they 
loolv, tliougli in some instances 2:)lump, that I 
forbade tlieir l^eing served at table any more 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 167 

and on my manor refrained from partridgc-sliooting 
for the season. 

If I were to continue to write on these signs 
of fiiiling times, I would still reiterate to all landed 
proprietors not to permit the strmo to he sold off 
their farms, as has been done under a pledge 
from the tenant to purchase and use so much 
artificial manure, in place of the straw sold away. 
Though there may be, and to my certain know- 
ledge there are, many most honourable men 
among the yeomen farmers, still tliere may be 
some who might, for the certain good sold away, 
the j)roceeds of which were in the vendor's pocket, 
lay out so7ne money in a stipulated quantity of 
inferior stuff', for the best worth of artificial 
manure can be lessened or adulterated to almost 
nothing. 

I see the mischief of this mistaken course in 
farmyard produce and artificial stuff. I see it 
ir. the amount of grain, and more particularly in 
the straw. If, with the aid of dishonest farming, 
— dishonest and unfair to the land and to the 
landlord, and really to the farmer himself, 
combined with the frightful diseases with 
which we are assailed, — a famine, or something 



168 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

like one, does not visit the land, I am much mis- 
taken. 

Distracted, dismiited, disestablished as men and 
religions have been and are, — truckled to as crime 
is, and bold as sectarianism has become, what Avith 
bad government, bad farming, worse speaking, and 
foreign, plague-like poisonous introductions, which 
Nature — hitherto dear, prolific, and patient Nature 
— now seems violently to repudiate, — I hold the 
United Kingdom to be far from happy, and, indeed, 
in a dangerous state, out of which it is very difficult 
for the wisest statesman who has since come to the 
reins of office to see his way. 

To return once more to the food that might be 
grown in the waste waters. I see, in one of the 
letters published, that the dace is classed as a 
fish of the same indifferent quality as the roach. 
Now, the dace is freer from bones than the roach, 
and a much better flavoured fish. The gudgeon 
ranks as the freshwater smelt, and the snig is the 
most delicious of eels — an eel, in fact, in its 
best season. Chub are much about the same in 
bones and flavour as the carp, but the chub is 
not what Ls called ^^ muddy." The bream is a 
very good fish when in season, and the bony back 



WASTE LANDS AND WASTE WATERS. 169 

can bo avoided by eating only the sides, wliicli 
are very good indeed. Perch, trout, and greyling 
there can be no dispute about ; and pike the same, 
when you know how to dress them. 

We then come to an excellent fish, of which 
tliere are millions in some rivers — the lamperne. 
They abound in the Avon, near Christchurch, and 
they are found in the sister river, the Stour ; but 
in that locality these fish, which are prized by us 
in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, on the banks 
of the Severn, as the greatest delicacy when 
stewed, all but its salmon and shad, are, when 
caught in Hampshire, thrown away. In Hampshire 
they are vulgarly called the nine-eyed eel, and 
people will not eat them. In London, Avhen I 
rented a fishery on the Avon, at Winkton, I could 
get no sale for them, so I caught large quantities, 
and what I did not use at table I turned into manure 
for the garden and the vines. The lamprey — 
larger and much more rare than the lamperne — is 
a most wholesome and delicious fish, but if the 
great baby, the ^' Constitution," has no stomach 
for them, what are his nurses to do ? 

I see that we are invited, through the public 
press, to visit ''the steam-cultivated farms of 



170 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Messrs. Howard, near tlie town of Bedford." To 
meet the strikes now going on among the agri- 
oultural population, I would implore all people 
to do the work that is so wrongfully thrown on 
their liands, if possible, by machinery. Some 
great effort will he made to achieve this, if these 
foolish strikes continue, and thoroughly rejoiced 
should I be to see the strikers met thus by an 
enemy of their own creation. 



SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, POETRY OF SPORT. 171 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, AND THE POETRY OF 

SPORT. 

Presentiment of Impending Evil Manifested by Animals — One 
Object of this Work to Win Better Care for tlie Brute Creation 
— Three Cheers for the Prussians — Wounded Wild Ducks — 
The Gunner not the Sportsman — The true Sportsman finds 
Inexhaustible Beauty and Interest in Nature — Wheatears — 
Instant Recognition of the Distant Hawk by Birds — Anecdote 
of a Lurcher and her Whelps — Lessons to be Learned from the 
Book of Nature. 

In the matter under the above head, it will be my 
endeavour simply to deal, in as plain a narrative as 
possible, miencmnbered by theories, and void of all 
assmnption, save where subsequent realities tread 
so closely on things that have undoubtedly gone 
before, that an inevitable conclusion awaits upon 
the simple facts disclosed. 

In a former work of mine, to which I have pre- 
viously alluded, ^ Tales of Life and Death,' I had 
endeavoured to show how much more strange and 



172 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

wonderful truth was than any fiction that could 
be composed for the purpose of creating '' sensa- 
tion." In those tales, instances were given of the 
mysterious link which occasionally manifests itself 
as between man, animal, and bird, rendering their 
lives, to some extent, when least they seem to have 
anything to do with each other, as curiously and 
circumstantially conjoined. That narrative of facts 
thus far has shown liow", at times, some omnipotent 
will ordains, that when all the ingenuity of the 
most cunning and experienced men, detectives and 
others, have failed to bring the hideous crime of 
murder liome to the guilty hand, some dog or bird, 
some beast, or an ^^ eagle," as referred to in the 
tale of ' Tlie Colleen Rhue,' appears on the scene 
on heavenward wings, points out the murderer, 
and even soars, a speck in the immeasurable vault 
above, as if to witness the execution. 

There cannot be the smallest doubt but that 
the human race, tliough in occasionally rare in- 
stances, have felt upon their souls an unaccountable 
depression, prophesying approaching misfortune or 
death. No more doubt is there also than that the 
same occult feeling of pending misery has as fre- 
quently overshadowed the mind of the sagacious 



SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, POETRY OF SPOUT. 173 

and faithful dog. I have seen it three times in dogs 
in my own possession : of those, the case of my 
retriever Diver was the most recent as Avell as the 
most remarkable. Early in the morning of his 
accidental death by my hand and gun, he got 
loose from the house where he was chained on the 
hiwn, close to the front door ; was seen to pass 
round by the back door (the front door had always 
been free to him when at large, but he did not in 
this instance come near it), thence he left home, 
and subsequently was reported as lying in the grass 
by the side of the high road, near some men mend- 
ing the road, whom at any other time he would 
have avoided or bitten. Thence he was re-called 
by the gamekeeper, and, returning with him, seemed 
for a moment as willing to serve and as affectionate 
to me as ever, and, as usual, on the sight of the 
shooting party, ready to do his duty. He did his 
work that day as well as usual, save that at periods 
of the morning he seemed dull, which I attributed, 
at the time, to some slight lameness or passing 
indisposition. In the afternoon he sprang too 
quickly from my lieels as I fired the second barrel 
over a bank ; the charge caught him on the extreme 
l^ack of the skull^ and killed liim on tlic spot. 



174: FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Be it remembered J that that dear and faithful 
dog had never wandered from his home before that 
morning, and that if ever he escaped his collar and 
got loose, his invariable custom was to come to 
look for me at the front door. In this instance he 
left his long-cherished home, and hid himself in 
an unwonted place, and near distasteful company, 
evidently in some inexplicable fear of impending 
death. 

It is not ]iow my intention to enumerate all the 
instances I have seen in beasts, and birds occa- 
sionally — but more rarely in birds — indicating a 
connecting link between what is rather arrogantly 
termed the inferior mind, and the asserted supe- 
riority of human reason. It will, I hope, suffice to 
show that I have a better foundation for what some 
people iiwi/ call my ^' theories," than that most 
amusingly clever, but in many ways erratic reasoner, 
Mr. Darwin has, when he tells his talc of tailless 
growth, and claims a jelly-fisli as the ^re-Adamite 
parent of tlie apple-tempted joair. 

One of my great objects in this work, if liot the 
greatest, is to win for horses, hounds, dogs, and 
even every other innoxious beast and bird, a better 
care from man, and to teach man that by restraint of 



SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, POETRY OF SPORT. 175 

Jtl^ own temper, more gentleness and greater limiia- 
nity, w4iicli costs him nothing, lie himself may be a 
great gainer by not only rendering the creatm^es 
that belong to him, or are placed in his care, in- 
finitely more valuable in the market, but, by gentle- 
ness and good usage, he may win from them far 
more and better service than can be brought out 
by harsh, unappreciating, and foolish conduct. For 
his own sake, man should be kind and gentle to 
all things under him — things that can only implore 
by their speaking eyes and humbleness of action. 
When opposed in fight personally man to man, or 
assailing marauding beasts, such as a lion, tiger, 
boar, or wild bull at bay, then man, in liis unyield- 
ing animosity, may be as resolutely combative as 
he likes, for ever remembering that ivitJt- coiKjueat 
pitij should ever come hand to hand. 

For myself, save when in following up my game 
of sport in whatsoever form it may consist, with 
that, perhaps, thoughtless zeal to which the hunter 
and the shooter are so prone, if with the gun I 
wound a harmless creature, my first idea is to spare 
its life, and to take it home, to cure and tame it. 
With the combat or the chase should end all harsher 
feeliiifj ; and under tlie blessing of a sensation akin 



176 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

to pity sucli as this, I have frequently added to 
the numbers of pets who feed from and out of 
my hands — creatures who, in their earlier lives, 
regarded the human race as paramount beasts of 
cruelty and objects for terror. 

While on this topic, a strange fact has been illus- 
trated in my decoy for wild fowl in the month 
of November. After the first shooting day (mine 
at present is a decoy for shooting ^ not for netting) ^ 
in which five guns obtained in single overhead shots 
one hundred and seventeen head of duck, besides 
teal and widgeon, and three snijDcs, — of course some 
others were wounded and lost, — we shot the various 
pools on the moors, never disturbing, nor attemjDt- 
ing to disturb, the fowl massed thickly enough in 
a pool which is never disturbed, and in which it 
is my delight to feed the birds myself 

Apparently, the flocks who were driven over 
the guns at '^ the gazes" were very wild, and 
at last so wary that they kept flying round and 
round their haunts, high enough to be out of reach 
of any gun or charge. I then went to my favourite 
pool, called on the birds there, as I had done 
all through the French Avar, for ^^ three cheers for 
the Prussians," which they immediately gavCj and 



SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, POETKY OF SPOKT. 177 

ill passing from that valley to another not yet 
disturbed, fed the fowl as usual, observing that 
all my immediate 2)ets, as far as I could disceni, 
were safe. 

On the following day, when feeding the safety 
pool, my eyes were oiieUj in case of a wounded 
bird, when among the ^^ruck" of fowl, say about 
two hundred in number, I observed three who, 
though anxious to come to my foot, did not look 
happy, and at the same time were much disinclined 
to be pushed about in a scramble for the corn by 
their fellows. Two of these were wild ducks with 
broken wings only ; the third was a mallard with 
a wing badly broken close to the body, and also 
stricken in the breast by one or more shots. He 
came at once to my hand, and there being no 
chance of saving his life, I picked him ujo, feeling 
like a culprit for doing so, as he had crejot to 
my foot in confidence for foOd and comfort in his 
distress. The other two ducks seemed only to 
have broken wings, so they fed, and on the next 
day were joined by a third wild duck, disabled 
also in the wing. These three birds survived and 
recovered of their wounds. 

I state this fact to show that even when joined 

VOL. II. N 



178 FACT AGAINST riCTION. 

to wilder companions, and subject to errant flights, 
the remembrance of one kind hand, food, and 
shelter, will be present to tlie recollection of a bird 
when the hands and gmis of others have scared 
and wounded, even to a broken limb. There 
is a little seat by this jDond, on which three 
wild ducks will jump up and sit beside 
me, while dozens of their fellows come be- 
tween my feet and feed, and, inserting their 
necks into the bags of corn, greedily swallow 
the contents. 

It seems to me tliat in all field sports, to render 
them doubly interesting and variedly beautiful, 
there should be, to the mind's eye, a combination 
of events, all adduced by, as it were, the great 
chess-board of Nature thus laid bare for observation. 
Yet many there are who think, when out on tlie 
moors, of nothing but the grouse and tlieir gun. 
When after partridges, they only see the stubble- 
fields, turnips, or potatoes, grasp their guns, and 
hear, alas ! to me, the wretched and mistaken 
noise of an army of beating feet, tramping, to 
startle to the wing the bcwihlcred birds. The 
gunner on tlie moors must shoot to dogs, but tlie 
^^ranuin^i'" of and the use of those doors he leaves 



SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, POETRY OF SPORT. 170 

to the keeper. He looks at them only Avhen they 
point; and let their hehavioiir be good or bad, 
to use the old, and, in its first instance, misapplied 
saying, he has not a word — a kind word, '' to 
throw to a dog." 

Pie, this' mere gmmer absorbed in his gun and 
grouse, sees not the loveliness of the scene he 
wanders over. He takes no heed of the sur- 
rounding beauty of nature, the blooming blush 
of her honey-bearing heather reflected back as 
caught from the mountain brow by the still 
waters of the placid lake stretched in the vale 
below ; nor does he care for the painstaking, 
mysteriously-gifted, and carefully-educated dog, 
who laljours the day throughout, not to find any- 
thing that he (in this instance the dog, not the man) 
can eat, Ijut with an unselfish unweariness which 
never tires tlie setter or pointer, labours only 
to please the gun-man and to give him delicacies 
for his table. Of course I speak of the gunner, 
I can't call Iiim a sportsman, of the present day. 
There are some men still in existence, and perhaj)s 
a few young men coming on, who love tlie poetry 
of sport; but very few are they wlien com- 
pared to the headache gaining gunners of mere 



N 



91 



180 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

slaiigliterors wlio now infest the moor, the stubble, 
and the cover. 

AVho, when jDartridge-shooting, noio thinks of 
the setter or pointer, those gTaceful and grateful 
companions of the leisure hour? What gunner 
now cares to pause to snatch a momentary 
glance at the yellow stubble, the ripened shocks 
of corn, or the bright green of the fresh and 
healthily-scented turnips ? The pigeon-educated 
gunner cares only for the smoke, noise and 
death, and puts his trust in the tramping 
men in line to put up the partridges under 
his feet; or if it is in a country where the 
red-legged partridge abounds, the gunner seats 
himself under a hedge, pipe in mouth, to have 
the birds driven to him. 

There is no poetry in this — to me there is 
little enjoyment; but, in my opinion, 'Hhe drive" 
is infinitely preferable to the tramping up birds 
in line. 

To me, on moor, on farm, or in the wood, it 
is most delightful to have time to pause, and, so 
to speak, to worship the beauties that surround 
me. Wliat can be more delicious than on a fine 
October day, when alone, and wandering for 



SCIENCE OF THE WlLDS^ rOETRY OF SrORT. 181 

a pheasant or two, a wood pigeon, a hare, or 
rabbit, to call in the obedient and loving spaniel, — 
I detest the nietaplior of '^the fawning dog," — 
and to bid him and the retriever to sit by my 
side, and to. be quiet in their search for death. 
Then, dm^ing this temporary rest, to see the 
varied hues on the boughs of the forest trees, 
to inhale the sweet scent of the earliest withering 
leaves, and to feel that art lies still, and all else 
lives to praise creation, and to bless the strange, 
unexplained, and still promisingly mysterious 
power, that in some hours of a happy life makes 
mere existence quite a mortal heaven. 

What man of any observation is there that has 
not observed and wondered at the universal 
mind exhibited from the largest animal, the 
elephant, down to the smallest ant; if reason — 
if instinct, still it is mind; and we trace the 
pervading gift as possessed by everything in 
life, station, clime, and habits, obedient to a 
providential will, that prompts the obtaining of 
food, and teaches the needful attention and care 
to guard against the dangers of the life into which 
each living being is called. 

Strange things meet the eyes of the naturalist 



182 



FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



and s23ortsman; there cannot be a good and 
successful s2)ortsman unless he is fully acquainted 
with tlic habits of the creature he pursues. Some 
rules it is impossible for the most studious 
naturalist to compreliend, and the little and most 
delicious bird, the wheatear, affords us one of 
them. To follow the example of Darwin (not 
a good one) to account for the nervous state of 
terror in a wheatear at a passing cloud, wliichj 
when sailing in the atmosphere above him, induces 
the bird to seek shelter in the nearest hole, w^ould 
lead a theorist to suppose that in former years, 
when two-legged beasts of prey w^erc fewer, and 
eagles and rajjacious foes were many, these pretty, 
graceful, little birds had been inveterately pur- 
sured by Avinged tyrants even to the death, and 
then, from a habit of living in terror of some 
flying monster, the nervousness had been handed 
down by '^sexual selection" to the birds of the 
Sussex Downs. The shepherds on the Downs 
are so aware of tliis nature in tlie bird, that tliey 
raise a turf on the short greensward^ Avhich, 
without artificial means, affords no shelter, to 
entice the wheatear to seek it, when in terror, 
from a passing cloud, or from a more real cnemyj 



SCIKXCE OF Tin: WILDSj rOETKY OF SPOKT. 18o 

a liawk, and thus tlicy snare thorn with a horse- 
hair noose for the gourmands of Brighton, or any 
other neighbouring town. 

What can be more curious than the knowledge 
which wild fowl, teal, and ducks sliow of a mere 
speck approaching from the distant horizon ? Be- 
" fore the eye of man has power to ascertain the 
nature of the approaching bird, tlie wi-ld fowl are 
well aware of tlie foe and his predatory habits. 
They at once distinguish, when not a hue of 
feather can be seen, between the falcon and the 
kite or buzzard-hawk, and act accordingly to their 
never-failing perception. If it is a falcon that is 
approaching, they sit still on the Avater, or creep 
beneath the banks or overhanging willows, because 
they know the noble falcon will seldom ^^take" 
but on wing. If it is a buzzard or kite, they 
take to their own wings, because they know, from 
the slow flight of the for, as well as from his 
inclination to '^pick up," that the use of their 
swifter wings gives them the best chance for safety. 
Even the flocks of starlings which roost in my 
laurels around the house, to the great detriment 
of shrubs and the annoyance of pheasants, afford 
me a lesson j for by tlicir bearing and flight I know 



184 IWCT AGAINST FK.'TIOX. 

if that very destructive vermin to game, the 
spaiTowhawk, is on my premises or not. The 
hawkj aware of tlic many starlings that come 
into roost, with a quick and noiseless flight slides 
beneath all boughs, and suddenly ascends to 
the laurels or ever-green oak, and sits as still 
as the bough he is on till some restless and 
chattering starling gets within his reach. The 
starlings, however, very soon get aroused to 
tlieir danger, and they keep a watch after they 
come in, to see what becomes of the liawdc, and 
by the precaution they adopt they l)ring me as 
an able ally, with my gun, to tlieir assistance. 
If it is time for the starlings to be cliattering to 
each other in tlieir selected bushes for roost, and 
silence reigns, and they are not there, then they 
have, by their vigil, been made aware of the pre- 
sence of the hawk, and, mounting liigli in air, they 
keejD soaring around in flocks, watching for the 
hawk to take his departure. 

It is, of course, impossible to say in which 
direction the hawk will go, when he has to seek 
his own roost, so that in aid of the starlings, or 
rather to be rid of a bad vermin, myself and my 
men can only post ourselves at a venture, many 



SCIEXCE OF THE WILDS, rOi:TRY OF SPOIiT. 185 

times uiLsuccessfully, but at times we succeed in 
slaying the depredator. 

There was a white oayI that used to come by 
night into the bushes after the starlings, and for 
a time met with Avonderful sport, for his bag of 
birds was occasionally so large that he lias brought 
in and left in a cow-shed, where he never roosted, 
as many as seven starlings. I liked the owl better 
than the starlino-s ; but his nocturnal visitations 
were attended with so much fluttering and noise 
among the birds, that tlie retriever, in his house 
on the lawn, Avas perpetually barking at what he 
supposed was mischief, and arousing me. 

One anecdote as to the beautiful affection of a 
lurcher to her whelps, and then to other matters. 
Had I been aware of this fact in time, there is, 
or was, a chance of my saddling myself with a 
colony of lurchers for life, for I must have loved 
the dam and all her litter.^ 

One morning, at day-break, one of the keepers 
found the lurcher caught by the foredeg in a 
severe steel trap. While in that })Osition she had 
given birth to a litter of puppies, if I recollect 
rightly, five in number, two dead and tln-ee alivCi 
With the poor little paw left at liberty she had 



18G FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

scratcliecl for herself and lier puppies a sort of 
bed of earth and grass, and, as fiir as the trap 
Avoukl let her do so, in the cold winter's night 
and morning, forgetful of her own pain, she had 
curled herself round her puppies to keep them 
w^arin. The fact Avas reported to me — I, luckily, 
saw nothing of it; mother and puppies were re- 
moved, and I Lelievc that an excitement to haste 
in this matter arose among my men, from a know- 
ledge possessed by them that, lurcher or no 
lurcher, had the natural affection of the creature 
existing under such difficulties been known to 
me, not a hair of herself or her puppies would 
have been injured. On the 3'ounger portion of 
my readers, then, I would most sedulously endea- 
vour to impress that it is possible, in som'e degree, 
to refine the roughest amusement ; gold can be 
made to shine even in addition to its lustre, 
and the lily delicately treated, though not ab- 
solutely ^'painted," will raise her pure head and 
look UKjre lovely, ere, alas ! like other things, she 
fades away. Passion of every sort, even the intensity 
of love, should be governed by a spell that held 
all else but affection in a bondage irreproachable, 
and l)ound every thought of man to the interests 



SCIEXCE OF THE WILDS, rOETP.Y OF SrORT. 



187 



of the loved one in stronger ties, far, far beyond 
those inculcated 1)y mere nature. Pity, com- 
passion, generosity, and forgiveness of attempted 
ill, should adorn the successful hero, let him kill 
or conquer what he ma}'. Those feelings should 
rule in the battle-fields of armies, in arms — yes, 
in arms of every sort; for, if possible, man should 
never be over-exalted by any success, nor lose his 
wits as drunkards do from passing intoxication, 
which, while it lasted, brutiiied even the beast, 
and banished the remembrance of every just and 
generous refinement. 

For myself, I am arrived at that time of life 
when summer brings me more enjoyment than 
winter. The return of spring, wdtli its tuneful and 
joyous minstrelsy, its budding boughs, its prim- 
rose, violet, and scented air, though rudely checked 
by cold as our springs now are, brings to me 
many memories of happy ^ hours ; and deprived 
of the glorious steed, as I have been for so long, 
perhaps that has helped to turn me to seek a 
quieter field for sylvan recreation. If the loss of 
my horses has brought or assisted to briiig this 
about, the gun and rifle have never left my hand 
yet; still, at tlie present time^ I love more to rear 



188 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

by I land the rising covey, and to sec tlio wild 
duck and the pheasant bring out their young, 
than to pull the fatal trigger. To watch a happy 
bison calf now in the far West frisking round its 
cow, w^ould j^lease me more than the chase and 
combat with the bison bull ; and yet, as to strength 
and activity, I cannot detect much failing, though 
the close of a sportsman's life cannot be far off. 
Of this I am perfectly sure, that year by year, 
almost hour by hour, the great book of nature 
yields fresh mysteries to the seeking mind, that 
seem to have been unaccountably passed over; 
perhaps in turning the 2)ages the leaves may have 
adhered together, and thus the information has 
been lost. If succeeding men, then, really wish to 
find the truth, if they would divest ancient lore 
of the tricks of the only men who had the power 
to hand it down, as what they pleased, or served 
the priestly purpose, let them seek the rock-bound 
testimony braced in the bosom of the earth, sealed 
under the ini])erishable pen of departed worlds : 
a remaining record of the life that oiice rejoiced 
in the same sun that Avarms us now. In these 
terribly tenacious truths the assertions of priests 
have nu part; tliere is iiotliing there that even 



SCIENCE OF THE WILDS, POETUY OF SPORT. 189 

points to Adam or to one great deluo'e, nor 
that reveals a vestige of fossilized man. The 
longer we live, the wider the boasted good 
of education, and the much-lauded increase of 
civilization and learning, tlie more schism and 
dissent and discontent increase, till where there 
was one seceder from what was once called ^' the 
established faith," dissent now numbers many 
thousands. The schoolmaster has certainly been 
abroad, l3ut he is all abroad now, for his teacli- 
ing has taught hypocrisy, and, with a certain 
class, utter contempt for the oath sworn on 
what used to be called the Holy Bible. As a 
county magistrate, I am most reluctantly forced 
to confess that the working-classes, generally, — that 
is, the lowest class of labouring men and women, 
— set no more store by an oath, when they wish 
to prove an aliJji for a friend in trouble, than they 
do by the sighing of an idle wind. 



190 FACT AGAINST FICTION, 



CHAPTER IX. 

DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 

Two Kinds of Decoy— Description of tlie Ancient Decoy, for 
Taking — Decoys at Berkeley Castle — Birds do not distinguish 
Friend from Foe by Scent — Their Keen Discrimination of 
Sound — Modern Decoy for the L'se of the Gun — Decoys at 
Alderney Manor — Ducks Taught to Obey the Word of Command 
— Method of Forming and Sheltering the Decoy Ponds — Bearing 
from Wild Ducks' Eggs — How to Proceed with the Old and the 
Young Birds — Curious Incident — Decoy Ducks — Attachment 
to Place — Feeding — Friendsliip with Birds — My Friend the 
Black Cock — Wire-Fenced Pool for Teal — Extermination of 
House Bats — Creatures most Destructive to Wild Fowl — Poison 
should Never be L^sed. 

The decoy, tlioiigli in former times an appendage 
to most large domains, lias been for many years 
almost entirely neglected, save in some few comities, 
where it has still been retained or flirmed for the 
supply of the public market. Wander where you 
will over most of the English counties, you 
frequently stumble on the remaining marks of 
an ancient decoy, the same as you do on the 



DECOYS roil WILD FOWL. 191 

little mound denoting the spot of the vilhigo 
cock-pit. 

There are two sorts of decoys; the ancient, 
and by far the most profitable in a pecuniary 
point of view, and for which a protective law by 
tlie l^egislature was j^rovided and is still unrepealed, 
is that for the ^Haking " of wild fowl; the more 
modern decoy pool, or, properly speaking, pools, is 
simply a breadth of water kept quiet and provided 
with pinioned decoy birds, for the purpose of 
collecting fowd sufficient for the 1)ag to be made 
by the gan. 

The decoy for faJcinr/ fowl is the first to which I 
will invite the reader's attention. 

In the olden time these decoys generall}^ con- 
sisted of an artifi(3ial piece of water, from one to 
two acres in extent, square in shape, with four 
pipes leading from the four corners, to suit, as the 
old boys used to say, the four different points 
of the wind, as it Avas a supposed matter of neces- 
sity for the decoy man to keep down wind of the 
ducks, lest they should '^ smell him out," and be 
scared by their noses from the pool ! 

Some of the smaller decoys were made with 
one, two, or three pij^es, according to the con- 



193 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

venience of cost attending tliem ; but the full-sized 
old decoy liad generally the four pipes, for the 
reason I have stated. 

The entrance to each pipe was commanded by 
the broad water, so that the collected fowl should 
be able to see the decoy dog, as he passed through 
the several holes along the small bank, or sitting 
that was made for that purpose within the fence 
of the decoy. Each time that the dog came 
through one of the lioles and went out again at 
another, and so on, he got nearer to the entrance 
of the net, and at last within or beneath the front 
entrance to tlie pipe, when, if the ducks followed 
him out of curiosity, or from an inclination 
inherent in all birds to ^^ mob a vermin," the 
deco3^man '' showed " behind them, through oblique 
gaps made for the purpose in the screen of tlie 
decoy, and by a suddenly created panic drove 
the scared birds completely up the ^'pipe," till, by 
the decrease of the hoops that supported the net, 
tliey all fluttered in a helpless mass, one upon 
the other, in a termination not much more 
extensive at tlie end than a very large cabbage- 
net. Extracted one by one at the end, their 
necks were broken without the displacement of 



Di:COYS FOR ^^'1LT) FOWL. 103 

a fcatlicr. Tims duck and fowl, and every sort 
of the connnon and lesser Avild fowl, as well as 
tlie rarest kinds, were taken in any quantity. 
I believe it is on record that one decoy in one 
season, in Lincolnshire, captured as many as 
fourteen thousand head. 

No wonder, then, that in those blessed and 
blissful days of more ducks than men, enactments 
were made for their protection, and guns on 
adjacent land to a decoy were forbidden to be fired. 

It will be understood by the reader that the 
entrance to the pipes commenced with very high 
hoops to support the net, and that the water at 
the entrance was the breadth of a small brook, 
diminishing gradually both as to height of net 
and breadth of water, until terminating in the 
large cabbage-net — I use that expression to suit 
the knowledge of my reader — into wdiicli the 
scared fowl were ultimately driven. 

All round, or all on one side, the broad Avater 
of the decoy, there should be what is termed a 
'^ sitting.". A sitting is a bank abutting on the 
screen or felice of the decoy, and extending six 
or eight feet from it to the edge of the water. It 
should be raised above the level of the pool, say 

VOL. II. o 



104 TACT AGAlNSr FICTIO^T. 

about six Inches, so that the fine level turf with 
which the sitting sliould be covered, could be kept 
jDcrfectly dry as well as smootli, and be easily 
ascended to by the kixuriously inclined water- 
fowl, who appreciate a dry warm place for their 
feet when not upon the water, and they Avill not 
haunt a decoy permanently unless this luxury 
is provided. 

The slanting ^^ shows," when the decoy man 
suddenly lets himself be seen by those ducks who 
follow the dog to the entrance of the pipe, 
are so contrived bv the slant in the screen, 
that the body of the fowl left on the pool 
that have not followed the dog do not sec 
the decoy man while he scares his intended 
catch, and tlie further the frightened birds go 
towards the end of the pipe, the more they are 
out of sight and hearing, the curve of the pipe 
taking them well distant at the back of the screen, 
and out of all earshot of the broad water. Little 
^^ gazes" are made in tlie screen of the decoy for 
the man to look througli, to see what fowl he has 
on the water ; these places are termed by some 
decoy men ^^squinnie holes," derived, perhaps, from 
'^squinting" through; and it is one of these 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 195 

gazes wliicli enables tlie first man to see if 
the fowl follow the clog to tlie pipe within taking 
distance, and then, if they do, he makes a sign 
to the man who works the dog, to '^show'^ behind 
the fowl at the rio'ht moment. Sometimes the 

a 

ducks are sleepy and too idle to be decoyed; 
sometimes, from some reason or other, they are 
shy and too wary ; sometimes they are slack, and 
come a little w^ay and pause. In the latter case, 
the man at the squinnie hole makes a sign to 
the man w^orking.the dog, and the dog is made 
to repeat his first entrance before going on for 
another, until the birds come on or decline to do 
so altogether. 

If no fresh fowl, or ^^ foreign flights," happen 
to be on the pool at the time at which ^^a take" 
is designed; those that are there may consist of 
some of those ducks who have not gone in with 
tlie rest far enough up the pij)e to be captured, 
but who have had time to turn back in the face 
of the man attempting to scare them. These ducks 
may remember the dog as the cause of their 
being frightened, and decline to follov/ him. 

I remember one day returning from hunting 

at Berkeley Castle by the ^^old decoy" (the then 

o2 



i06 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

existing Lord Fitzliardingo had two decoys in 
full work), and we dismounted to see some ducks 
taken. The usual Avell-trained little cur-dog was 
shown through the accustomed holeSj but not a 
duck would follow him, there being no strange 
birds there, or, if there were a few, they were 
so few that they w^ere kept back by the wary 
flock, and failed to come on. Having a fox's 
brush in my pocket, I tied it to the cur-dog's 
tail, and put him through again. This appendage 
was a novelty to the birds — a novelty there, but a 
sight they were, no doubt, well acquainted with 
elsewhere, for the Vale of Berkeley was full 
of foxes, and all the ducks without further hesita- 
tion came after the fox's brush up to the pipe, 
and we made a very good caj^ture. To do the 
thing well by these '^ taking deco}^s," the fowl 
should be regularly fed with barley; the corn 
put in every night while the ducks were out. 
In times of hard frost, the ice on the pool should 
always be broken some little time before daylight, 
time enougli to complete the w^ork Avell before 
a symptom of the dawn, so as to receive the 
ducks on their return, and then, when the fowl 
arc in any quantity, they will keep the water 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 197 

sufficiently open to tlieir selection and use all 
day. 

There is an expression very commonly used, 
it consists in the word ^^ decoy-duck." I believe 
such birds so-called were used by the ancients 
in decoys, because I have found birds so called 
kept by some old decoy men in the present day ; 
but in the decoy for taking ducks there should 
he no decoy hircl, nor half-tame birds whatever. 
It is best to be without them. In the olden time, 
men were not so wise in some things as they are 
now, though in many they might be infinitely 
more jolly than they are at present; and they 
used to attribute to ducks less sense or cunning 
than they really possessed, and more natural gifts 
than Nature ever gave them. Thus they attributed 
to waterfowl the keenest possible sense of smell, 
and thought they could wind or scent humanity 
when behind the screen of the decoy, if the wind 
blew from the man towards the fowl. It was this 
erroneous supposition that induced the ancients 
to have four pipes to tlieir decoys, as before 
explained, so as to suit each wind. 

This power of smelling was a myth, like many 
of the dicta of the ancient writers on natural 



198 FACT AGAINST FICTION. • 

lilstorvj as ducks do not use the olfactory nervej 
if tliey have it, for any purpose of guidance 
whatever. Neither does the pheasant, nor any 
bird with the habits of which I am acquainted. 
But in times of danger, they have, particularly 
the waterfowl, and ducks especially^ the keenest 
sense of lieariiuj. If in a decoy the most minute 
sound up-wind of them comes on the favouring 
air, the ducks will at once take wing ; and it is 
this fact that makes uneducated men, with hearing 
less acute, and prone to disturb profound silence 
even with a yawn or a hasty breath, or even an 
exudation of tobacco, attribute the disturbances 
of the ducks to the wrong cause. , 

I remember going one day, when at Combe 
Abbey, with the late Lord Craven,— whose death 
to this hour I have never ceased most deeply to 
deplore,' — to take some fowl in his decoy. We 
were accompanied by the young ladies, who wished 
to see how the pool was managed ; and when we 
reached the screen, the old decoy man approached 
us with pieces of dry turf or jocat, one end of 
which he lit before putting it into our hands, — • 
this he did by the young ladies as well as by 
Lord Craven and myself, and then took the same 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 199 

precaution in regard to his own piece of burning 
peat ; so, knowing that this jpeat affair was of no 
sort of use, I winked at Lord Cravenj and we 
both put our fires out, kiughing, at the same time, 
to ourselves when we did so. When these burnino- 
pieces -of peat were given to us, I remember 
whispering to my host, that if, as he (the decoy 
man) said, ^^ the smoking turf was to prevent the 
ducks from smelling our breath," we were all 
expected to hold the burning peat close to our 
lips ; if the young ladies were to have one con- 
siderable sized piece, I supposed the old decoy 
man would put his own head into a 2^eat stack, 
as there must be degrees of offence in which the 
breath should assail the birds ; so the whole affair 
was nonsense from one end to the other. It was a 
funny idea, I thought, to see these j^retty faces 
inhaling smoke, and no more smoke than that 
old man, the sigh from one lip and the rude breath 
from the other deemed, even in their terrific effects, 
to need no more disguise the one than the other. 
The end of this peat-smoking farce was, that we 
caught some ducks with all our artificial fumes 
frustrated by common consent. 

In lying by moonlight under a very little bank, 



200 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tlie wind setting direct from me to the water, I 
have had wild ducks come swimming and feed 
so near me, that I coidd have touched them with 
the barrel of my gmi. 

To illustrate the fact that birds of any kind 
distinguish neither friend nor foe by scent, I take 
the pheasant, — as all sportsmen of any knowledge 
must have remarked, that if they are in ambush, 
and completely hidden from sight, and not making 
any noise while a cover is being driven towards 
them, pheasants, up-wind or down-wind, will come 
running to pass within two yards of them, and 
not be in the least aware of man's immediate- 
presence. 

Not so the hare and rabbit ; if they come hopping 
by up-wind of the gun, even if the man stands 
against a tree, fully confessed, if the man stirs 
not hand nor foot, the hare and rabbit having 
no appreciation of dangerous proximity but by 
motion and their noses, will pass as if the entire 
coast was free. But, on the other hand, let man 
be ever so masked by ambush, ever so completely 
hidden, if the hare or rabbit comes down-wind 
of him, the instant they catch the tell-tale 
current of air, they stop, look bewildered, 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 201 

liastily turn back, or bolt off in some contrary 
direction. 

Nothing more is needed than this fact to prove 
tlie fallacy of supposing* that birds have the faculty 
of sniffing the approximation of a foe. 

Immense care must be observed, in a decoy for 
taking fowl, to keep the paths by the ''screen" 
a couple of inches or more deep in the atoms of 
tan from a tan-yard, or with sawdust, or very 
fine sand ; for ducks can hear with the keenest 
discrimination of sound, and if down- wind of the 
decoy man, of course they hear much better than 
if they are iip-unnd ; and this it is that has led 
to the delusion in vulgar minds that the birds 
smell the men out, wdiile really they have dis- 
tinguished some almost impalpable sound, that has 
not been noticed by the man from Avhom it 
proceeded. 

If in a decoy you take a duck once called a 
decoy bird, the tamer the decoy-duck is, the sooner 
he comprehends man's trick, and ''turns up an 
eye " at it for the future when needed to lead 
to the pipe again. These decoy-ducks, tlius awake 
to the place of capture, will, by keej^ing away 
themselves, prevent more ignorant birds from 



202 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

following the clog, and utterly mar success. The 
easiest and the largest takes are invariably the 
strange and wildest birds ; and I would sooner 
have to do with a foreign flight just arrived, 
than with ducks indigenous to the surrounding 
country. 

It is my intention, the first opportunity I have, 
of arranging a 'taking decoy," to do away with 
the use of the dog, and, in place of the dog, to 
substitute stuffed animals of different kinds and 
colours, such as the fox, the polecat or ferret, 
the stoat, and various coloured cats, so that there 
should be no sameness in the decoying object. 
A stout wire running clean round through the first 
two holes, and tlie same to the next two, and so 
on, will enable the stuffed decoy to pass round 
the two holes, and appear at the first hole again 
if the ducks have hesitated to come on. Or 
if the first represented ^^guy" does not draw, 
then it can be changed to another till the desired 
effect is produced. 

A few rollers for the wire to run on would 
suffice, and the guy could be attached by 
small clasps, whicli would allow of its being taken 
on and ofi". Thus, with this wire so made to 



DECOYS rOK WILD FOWL. 203 

every two holes, whatever guy was first put 
on could be used at all the holes throughout. 
This, I believe, would be a complete novelty in 
decoys, and, properly contrived, the effect of it 
would be immense. The cost, trouble of training, 
and imcertainty of behaviour in the dog, would 
be done away with, and the object sought com- 
pleted to much better purpose. 

And now to the decoy for the use of the gun. 
In many estates there are wide tracts of moor and 
bog of no use whatever. In their present state 
they return no income^ and are fallow as to profit 
or pleasure, their only occupant, perhaps, a snijDC. 
They may be impossible to the j)urposes of culti- 
vation ; and if there is a considerable l)og, in 
nine cases out of ten it is not merely occasioned 
by surface Avater, termed a '^soak," but there is 
sure to he a spring, and, perhaps, in a s]3ace, 
many springs, that hithertx) had been hidden by 
superincumbent moss, or the constant growth and 
decay of vegetation. Many of the sites of such 
bogs as these that I allude to lie between narrow 
hills, and often being out of the way of receiving 
any artificial drainage from higher lands, tliey 
are not subject to floods other than such as 



204 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

may bo easily regulated by a very simple 
method. 

The manor which I hold while writing this, 
had two of these narrow bogs,, that suited the 
purpose I liad in view. There were other bogs, 
but tlicir position was wider of the most retired 
places than those selected for my decoy, and 
hence, in my own mind, the matter was resolved. 

The bog in question, now called ^^ the home 
decoy," had been drained to the last dregs of 
moisture, as if the former occuj)ant, wlio had under- 
leased it to me, had been querulously afflicted with 
hydrophobia. 

If this utterly superfluous drainage had been 
done with a view to cultivate the ])og, then I 
can understand it, because the stone wall of impos- 
sihle cultivation would have been uncovered, and 
the white shingly sand made manifest, so as to j^ut 
an end to the attempt ; and the state in which I 
found matters would have been sufficiently explained. 
But if it never had been the intention to attempt 
the cultivation of sucli white sand and shingle 
mixed with very poor and scanty peat, why take 
all the trouble of these drains, the bog itself 
being so very low that no other drainage to the 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 205 

useful lands above was needed? All superfluous 
water from tlie higher level went to the bog, and 
ran off in a little stream to the sea by natural 
position. The moment I set my eyes on this 
bled-to-death useless waste, — several little natural 
springs asserting their impossible-to-be-exhausted 
presence by trickling into the main deep drain, 
— I imagined my present shooting decoy. The 
place was let to me for its shooting, with the 
house in a very bad state of repair, and im- 
furnished, save one old carpet, no bells in the 
house, and a roof letting in any amount of wet 
in rainy and windy weather. 

The ' shooting consisted of two pheasants ; I 
bestowed on each a Christian name, for I soon 
got to know them by sight, the one from the 
other; and, finding themselves no longer shot at, 
they very soon became tame to me, and took up 
their residence in tlie laurels round the house. 

I do not think that on the land let to me for 
shooting purposes there was more than a brace 
of hares ; but there was a fair show of partridges 
on the distant farms, and in the Pinaster Woods, 
close home, any amount of rabbits, as you in- 
variably find, if tliey are tacitly or otherwise let 



20G FACT AGAIKST FICTIOK. 

to be the perquisite of a mere farm-labouring 
bailiff, who told a master, incapable of judging 
of the matter liimself, just what suited his purpose. 
There were also a few black-game, hitherto always 
shot down on the 20th of August, under the 
Cockney term of '' heath-j^oults," at a time when 
the male birds Avere not distinguishable from the 
hens.* As to snipes, there were some at times ; 
and but one duck was all I saw on the moors 
within the first twelve months. 

In one of the lower home-fields there was a 
small circular pond, perhaps a little over ten 
yards across it either way ; and this was fed by 
a beautiful little rill that rose in the upper part 
of the same long field. This I at once surrounded 
with rabbit wire-netting, leaving a margin for 
sittings, and planting some cover in the way of 
shelter; and into this were put some pinioned 
fowl, some of them of the rarest and most beautifid 
kind. The American wood-duck, tlie little Pernam- 
buco goose, less in size than a duck, the j^intail, 
and, above all, the Bahama drake. This lovely 
little bird was given to me by Lady Winchelsea. 

^' The blackgame in the New Forest and in Dorsetshire arc three 
weeks behind the northern birds in coming to perfection. 



DECOYS FOR WILD F()^yL. 207 

The Pernambuco gander, for it was not a goose, 
attaclied himself to me, and after a time became 
perfectly tame ; and the gander held me in high 
repute as the only creature that could talk to him, 
by imitating his call, among the ducks with wdiom 
he was associated. This bird lived with me about 
nine or ten years, and then died. While speaking 
of the attachment of a gander, my foes cannot 
call him ^^a goose for his pains"; but I wish 
some of the featherless bipeds of my acquaintance 
would obtain ganders and geese of that kind, for 
fowl capable of greater domestication I never saw. 

The round pond, after being thus dealt with, 
was enlarged, and now it is the key to the whole 
decoy. Never shot in, and never disturbed, and, 
since the Franco-Prussian war, for my amuse- 
ment, and to the muttered consternation of the 
ignorant boors, and in an ornithological attempt 
to glorify the greatest nation now known, I have 
taught the throng of birds in that pond, whenever 
I call on them from a distance to do so, to give 
" three cheers for the Prussians." They never fail 
to reply, and the shrill Avhistle of the Pernambuco 
gander used to lead them all, like a toast-master 
calling on a company ^^to charge tlieir glasses." 



208 FACT AGAINST ITCTION. 

Wlicn three or four liunclrecl ducks all sliout a 
prolonged quack togetlier, if tlic wind sets that 
way down the hollows of the moors, it can be 
heard two miles off. One day a Bournemouth 
inhabitant Avas riding through the village of 
Kinson, and pulling up his horse by a cottage 
garden hedge, he asked tlie labourer digging his 
potatoes, ^^What extraordinary noise that was 
coming down the wind ? It sounds, my friend, 
as if all the ducks on earth were gone mad ! but 
it must be something; else." 

'^ 'Tain't," replied the matter-of-fact rustic ; '^ 'tis 
his honour's, Mr. BurJcly^Sj ducks a cheering for 
the Proosians." 

The rustic never raised his head in making this 
reply, and his equestrian querist rode on, muttering 
to himself that '' the man was mad ! " 

To dam successfully across narrow valleys is 
not difficult, if }'ou can get a sufficiently stable 
foundation ; giving a slanting and an ample 
back, so as to hold up a sufficient front to sustain 
the collected weight of water. Some peoj^le say 
that the supporting back should have the same 
amount of slant behind and before ; but that course 
I did not pursue, because I expected a consider- 



D1::C0VS FOli WILD TuWL. ' 209 

able amount of cluck-traffic on and over the banks 
to })ools below, and I desired to give no hold to the 
nails of the ducks' feet so as to wear away the bank, 
but to force tliem to hop or wing up to its 
summit. Though I knev\' that no great landward 
floods were to be apprehended, in one of the 
dams, however, I had not provided a sufficient 
^^esca^ie" in the right place, when the springs 
were caused to be in partial flood. The con- 
sequence of this was, that in a ^iavt of the dam 
where the chief weight of water rested, near 
where I had made the escape, tlie escape was 
overpowered, and, giving way itself, the rush 
of water beneath cut the dam completely in two, 
carrying aw^ay great blocks of earth more than 
a hundred yards towards another pool. The dam 
of that pool, however, held good, and no further 
damage was ex|)erienced. 

This was a lesson to my ^engineering skilly and 
I there and then made all the escaj)es on the 
hard, imbroken gravel at the end of the dam at 
the foot of the hill ; and these have answered 
their purpose, and all holds good, and has held 
good for several years under this precaution. I 
have constructed them so that in summer, and 

VOL. II. p 



210 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

moderate wet weatlier in winter, I can keep 
the pools up to their brim, with about from three 
to four bricks. If there is the chance of a flood 
mastering the usual confines, the removal of two 
or three bricks opens a valve to entire safet}^ 
The wet weather over, the bricks are replaced, 
and all becomes full as usual. 

AVillows of anv kind will not o^row on these 
peaty-flavoured banks, even when the banks are 
artificially made, and, of course, their roots 
always moist — not even the common copse 
willow, which was recommended some time ago 
in the Fidd as a nevv^ sort, under the denomina- 
tion of the '' bitter willow." I saw specimens 
of this Fleld-hovii '^new willow'' growing in 
the garden of a most intelligent tenant of Mr. 
Vere Fane Benett's, of Pyt House, where the 
tenant assured me that his cattle Avould not touch 
it. In texture, twig, and growtli, in my own 
mind, I recognized it as the common copse 
willow, and being well aware of the occasional 
impositions practised by some designing corre- 
spondents through the public press, against which 
sufficient authority is not interposed, I asked my 
friend to give me a few cuttings to take home 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. *211 

for investigation and experiment. This new- 
fangled AvilloWj as I expected, proved to be 
nothing more than the common copse willow, 
Avliich game will very seldom interfere with. On 
this slight contingency there was attempted to 
be built up a W'ide, and, perhaps, to one a 
lucrative, Ijut to the public a most mischievous, 
conclusion. I thought that in my long experi- 
ence I had come to the end of hearing ignorant 
assertions in regard to wild fowl and game; but 
such is not the case. I was told by one gentleman 
that he had lately been instructed by another 
gentleman that if he wished to have some snipe 
shooting he need but flood a coarse and almost 
useless piece of ^^ grass land," called a Avater 
meadow. All he had to do was to plough it up 
and sow it wath barley. Snipes w^ere so fond of 
the grain. ^' it Avould attract them in any number." 
My dear reader, fancy a snipe hored with 
grains of barley which he could not eat if he 
tried, and essaying to swallow them instead of 
horimj the moist sands after worms and the larvse 
of the insect tribes, that sort of soft diet being 
readily sworn to by the nature of his bill. Soft 
heads in the human race can often be detected. 



212 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

not by tlieir long noses, but still by their hills. 
In this anatomical reference I intend no insult 
to the snipe, for his bill was handed to him from 
his birth. We make our bills some time after 
we have run away from our mother's leading- 
strino^s ! 

If it can be so managed in regard to a larger 
space necessary for the shooting decoy as com- 
pared with the one for taking fowl, that also 
should be sheltered by willows and trees as well 
as banks. There should be, however, a succession 
of pools of broad waters for the shooting wliere 
there are no lakes nor rivers, so that the fowl 
may fly from pool to pool, and each pool thus 
afford a succession of sport, the fowl flying either 
way, thus permitting the beat to be reversed. 

In some situations gazes may be made for 
each gun. Gazes are small huts of v»'attled 
hurdles, or of boughs and furze, and tlie fowl 
may be driven over these gazes when the guns 
cannot approach them on tlie water. Ducks are 
more easily directed b}' the driver than teak 
When Lords Malmesbury and Ashley shot my 
decoy with me during the winter of 1870, though 
there were from three to four liundred teal on 



DKCOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 213 

the water, we only killed one. The ducks having 
come over the guns first, the teal refused the line, 
and kept flying hack into the driver's face Ijcfore 
they took their departure for the sea, and thus 
we only got one. The bag picked up on the 
spot was fift}'-one wild ducks at single over-liead 
shots, and one teal ; in all, fifty -five ducks were 
killed, the additional four retrieved when the 
day was over. Lord Malmesbury had thirteen 
ducks down around him before he left his first 
gaze. 

We then beat a little, straggling, scanty cover, 
and got nineteen pheasants, a w^oodcock, and 
a cou2:)le of rabbits, which, collectively, made 
a very nice day. We lunched within thirty 
yards of the little home or round pond where 
nothing is ever shot at, and while at lunch I 
called for ^^ three cheers for the Prussians," 
which was instantly complied with by all the 
ducks within hearing, though among them 
there were two wounded mallards and a duck 
who had escaped thus hurt from the other pools. 
I mention this to exhibit the correctness of my 
narrative, and to show the truth of w^hat I say. 

While at lunch, and while the keepers at a 



214 FACT AGAINST FICTION, 

little distance were having something to eat, 
I heard one say, after tlie three cheers were 
given, ^'Well, I'm blessed if I should be in a 
hmnour to cheer, after having had such a 
bucketting as those ducks have had to-day." 
Since the shooting day above mentioned, the 
next bag consisted of one hundred and seven- 
teen head of fowl, duck, and teal. 

In every part of a shooting decoy there should 
be made varied ^' sittings " for the ducks. The 
larger and more important ones should face the 
east and south-east, to catch the first rays of 
the morning sun; for the ducks just then come 
home from their night flights and feedings, 
and want to dress and dry their feathers, just 
as much as we should do on retiring to our 
firesides. They like nice dry, short, velvety 
turf to do this on, it being comfortable to their 
feet, and of a texture that will not dirt nor stick 
to their breasts ivhen in a recumbent posture — a 
sheltering bank of three feet in height behind 
them, as before alluded to, and tlie sittings in width 
of from three to six feet, so that there may be 
room for all and no o^uhhing of tails against the 
back of the sitting, for that is a contingency ever 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 215 

slumnocl by every bird in existence, sitting- on the 
ground or on a tree. 

I had to make all my pools ; but from knowing 
the humom^s and necessities of wild fowl, great 
care was taken to meet all peculiarities attached 
to their very little understood nature. When I 
say ^^very little understood," I speak of the surface 
sportsman or mere gunner. I always loved to 
study the nature of wild things, and now am 
happier in their happiness than in their death ; 
and I love preservation and the more genial sun 
of the breeding season better than the ^Mjag" 
and frost and snow. 

A young sportsman one rainy day, or day not 
comfortable for shooting in (wet covers spoil 
pheasants in their death as well as sport), kept 
teasing his host to go out, so there was a con- 
sultation as to whether the cover should be beaten 
or not. 

If I mistake not (I was not present), a noble 
lord, much this young man's senior, at length 
stepped in with this pertinent question, — imper- 
tinent by some it may be deemed, but with the 
causticity of it I most heartily agree, — ^^ Is it 
not possible," said the elder of the two, ^^for you 



216 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

to pass one day of your useless life without Jdlllncj 
something?'''^ 

Many, many montlis, weeks, and days of my 
I hope not useless life, are passed in liappy 
and trusted friendship with the birds and beasts 
around me, watching their curious and varied 
luibits, studying" their natures, and endeavouring 
to obtain their confidence instead of rousing their 
fears. There is scarce a bush on my manor which 
does not hold a friendly robin. The l^ird comes 
to meet me at my approach, sits close to my foot, 
with its little brightly shining black eye, and 
craves by look and a sujDpressed warble for the 
crumbs in my shooting-jacket pocket. If by chance 
my crumbs for tlie birds have l)een exhausted, 
which is seldom the case, it makes me quite 
unhappy to read the disa2)20ointment even a robin 
can exhibit in the poor little eyes, when I walk 
close-fisted, but still, I trust, open-hearted, from 
the solitary bush which never fails to shelter thus 
even the smallest creature under heaven. 

But to return to the shooting decoy. 

After my line of pools had l)een estal)lished, 
the few passing wild fowl, who at flight time, 
or soon after dusk, used to be attracted bv 




DECOY« roll WILD FOWL. 217 

the sig'lit and call of my pinioned birds in tlie 
home 2^ond, and occasionally drop in to pay 
them a passing visit, began to use the new- 
made pools, where they were for some time 
never disturbed. At first that most objectionable 
jiopping at the distant rifle-range, when tlio 
wind set towards the l)irds, annoyed them ; but 
they very soon got used to it, and now care 
nothing for the distant noise. Teal, duck, and 
widgeon began to drojD in the moment the breed- 
ing season was over, and very soon '' a lead," 
as decoy men call it, was established. All this 
time, too, I took such wild ducks' nests as I 
could find, however near to my pools, and reared 
them sometimes under their mothers, when they 
could be caught and put into coops, or under 
hens. 

When I first commenced rearing fowl for the 
decoy, of course it was necessary to take as 
many wild ducks' eggs as possible, and breed 
them up under hens, and this led to a fact 
which, in succeeding seasons, puzzled me for some 

time. 

It was this. About the second or third season, 

being short of hens for pheasants and ducks, I 



218 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

* 

caught all tlie old wild ducks that would bo 
caught, as described, at the moment they hatched 
out, for the purpose of cooping them with their 
young. But these wild ducks so caught, and 
taken in mucli the same wild districts, were as 
unlike each other in their tempers when caught 
as black is to white. Some of them flew at and 
beat themselves against the bars of the coops, 
frightening and trampling to death their own 
young, while others remained perfectly contented 
and docile in their coop, ^' hived" or nursed the 
brood, and did very well. 

Everything is, can be, or ought to be, accounted 
for. So to unravel this mystery for the future, I 
ordered all young ducks from the sea district 
and wildest ground, when hatched under hens, 
to he marked. By this we should know in catch- 
ing old ducks from their nests, or in the bag 
after shooting, Iioav they came to hand, whether 
known to us before or not. The mystery of the 
different tempers when cooped was at once ex- 
plained. Those wild ducks that had been reared 
in a coop, wlien brouglit back to it, took to it 
at once again, while those wild ducks that liad 
never been in a coop flew at the bars and re- 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 219 

sistccl all detention, even to forgetfulness of their 
young. 

If a cluck can be found, and her time and 
method of sitting on her nest watched, and she 
is visited just about the time when she is hatch- 
ing, her nest will generally be far from any 
water, and in the heath or furze. When first 
alarmed by the approach of man, she will flutter 
along the ground in an attemjot to lead the sup- 
2^osed pursuer from, her young. Before she is dis- 
turbed, two or three purse-nets should be set in 
low places, or in such positions as she would be 
likely to cross in her designing retreat, and into 
one of these, if properly set, she is almost sure 
to go. 

Having taken her thus alive, at a time when 
maternal affection is at the ftill, pull out the flight 
feathers from one wing to prevent her flying 
away, if by any chance she should escape her 
coop, and then put her into a cooj) narrowly 
barred to prevent her squeezing through, and put 
a board or ^^ crate" in a square in front of the 
coop, fitting close at both sides. A crate a couple 
of yards long, by the breadth of the cooj) wide, 
and a foot high; is quite suflicient to j^i'cvent the 



220 FACT agaiNkSt fiction. 

escape of the yoimg brood. A disli of water at 
the bars of the coop, and food within reach of it 
for the old as well as the young birds, is then 
all that is required. The old wild duck, as pre- 
viously explained, who has never been in a coop, 
will not do, but the old bird, who was herself 
reared from it, she never loses her interest in 
her brood, nor her remembrance of her artificial 
rearing; and her young ones, not feeding from 
the bill, as the young of the landrail and moor- 
hen do, will, the very day of their confinement, 
learn to feed themselves; very small seeds of any 
kind, buck- wheat, &c., grits, and little pieces of 
worm and finely-chojDped white of boiled egg, 
should be put in their dish of loater. They 
soon will recognize their feeding place, and 
when the food is mingled witli very small bits 
of thickly-kneaded meal, then the young birds 
will begin to thrive. Barley or maize should 
also be placed in the water for the old duck, 
who will be sure to drink, for ducks are '' thirsty 
souls," and will discover that tliere is a dinner 
too for her. 

In less than a week the crate may be removed, 
for by that time, if cautioudjj approached, and 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 



221 



never frig-litenccl, tlic little clucks are tame, and 
will run to meet tlie hand that has always fed them. 

As soon as the young ducks are strong, then 
shift them, old one, coop and all, to some little, 
Avarmly-sheltered shallow pool — on no account to 
deep water; and then, when they begin to get 
well into their first plumage, let the old duck 
out. Her wing by that time will have begun to 
re-moult the pulled-out flight feathers, and she will 
soon fly as well as ever ; but she w^ill not desert 
her brood, when there are plenty of pools to 
hold them. Deep water always kills the greater 
number of the wild-bred young broods upon it. 
They are seized with and die of cramp, or Avhere 
there are pike, they are eaten. 

In the first instance, take all wild ducks' nests, 
however near the newly-made decoy ponds, for 
the following reason. The old duck never had 
looked for water where the new pools w^ere, but, 
when she w^as a wild bird, she took her brood 
to the harbour some two miles ofi", or to some 
swamps in the tidal way near it, where everything 
was instantly destroyed by what the Glohe news- 
paper so properly termed the invading '^scamps'' 
of the vicinity. 



222 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

How I came to tlio knowledge of tliis want 
of trust in, or ignorance of, my pools, was thus. 
In one of my bogs, not where my best decoys 
are now, I had, in the first instance, made a small 
pool, surrounded by an aboriginal swamp, and 
there in two instances I had dropped mallards to 
my gun. In each case, as there were one or two 
other mallards flying round, I crouched, with my 
retriever at my heels, in tlie hope of another shot. 
When the birds on wing had disaj^peared, the re- 
triever was sent for the mallard that had fallen. The 
dog had seen the bird fall, and went immediately 
to the sjDot, but was, for an instant, misdirected in 
his search in the water by a rabbit. The dog, 
however, soon set himself right, and returned to 
where the mallard had fallen ; and then, to my 
surprise, instead of continuing in the shallow water 
and rushes, adjoining the deeper pool, he set off on 
dry land over the heather up the hill, stern down 
and head in air, and was liidden from further obser- 
vation by the rising brow. 

'' That nmst be a hare or rabbit," I thought to 
myself; but as a tried retriever, knowing well 
what he had to do, had a better facult/j to judge hy 
than I had, as is my invariable custom, I let tJie 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 223 

dog alone. When once sent upon a difficult cluty, 
in wliicli a man cannot direct liis dog, man should 
be silent and stilly and interfere no more. 

In a very short time my dog came over the liill 
with the winged mallard alive in his moutli. The 
bird, as he could not fly, was walking off 
straight in the direction of the river Stour, nearly 
two miles off, and leaving a couple of acres of 
water behind him, into the edge of which he 
had fallen. 

This made an impression on me, but shortly 
after, at the same place, the thing occurred again. 
A w^inged mallard who had fallen, in a second 
instance, instead of seeking the pool to dive in 
which was close to him, also set off on foot, in 
hope to reach the accustomed and well-remembered 
river. This suggested to me that all wild ducks, 
nesting, as they always do, far away from waters 
of their haunt, would not. come with their young 
to the new sites opened out to them, but go 
to tho.se they had been accustomed to, at whatever 
distance. My conjecture was right ; so, following 
it up, an opportunity occurred by hand-rearing to 
make tlie rising generation of fowl learn that the 
safest place of all Avas the ^' tarn," or the ponds 



224 FACT AGAIXttT FICTION. 

within my manors or in .some preserved })ortion of 
the rivers. 

In 23assing, let me remark that the method of 
the duck in takin^u' her l}rood, just out of the egg, 
over a stretch of country of two miles or more, is 
most sagacious and curious. She is a perfect mis- 
tress of her geographical position, and has a 
thorough knowledge of the country, generally 
moving from the nest at night. She well knows in 
what direction ditch, path, and cart-wheel tend, and 
is sure to select the shortest road. Into the cart- 
wheel track she gets, with her j^Tctty little dappled 
brood clustered in a lively heap at her tail, and on 
she waddles at a surprising pace, cleaving the air 
before her as she would do the Avater, making a 
vortex to suck the little fleet in the rear the more 
closely to her, and trusting the side of the cart-rut 
to keep them Avell together. 

Few men, perhaps, have seen this; but I have 
seen it in a wild duck escaped from her coop, as 
also in a duck with lier young hatched wild ; and 
it is astonishing the pace that they go, as well as 
the straight line that they ado2)t as the most con- 
venient to take them to the desired water. 

One of the first things to do in preparing to 



DiX'OVs Foi: \vn>D fowl. 225 

establisli a sliootiiig decoy is, to obtain tlirco or 
four wild mallards pinioned, and then to put them 
in a fenced-in pond with some tame hroiun ducks — 
tame, but of the wild colour, putting in two tame 
ducks to each mallard. They will breed thus in 
the first season that they are together ; but the 
earlier in winter they are so confined the better. 
Hatch their e^^xa under hens, or let the ducks hatch 
them, and breed them up in cooj^s. At flight 
time, in the evening, these half-bred ducks Avill fly 
as well as wild ones; but theij have this virtue — 
tlteir tame hlood invariahlij attaches them, however 
scant the water, to tJte spot or liome where they were 
reared, and though flying as strongly, and mingling 
with the wild flights, nothing can seduce them to 
stray from their first home, or from that attachment 
so localized and strong. 

There is a small white Dutch duck, named, 
because it makes an everlasting noise, the '' call- 
duck." This bird for the table is worth very 
little — it is foisted on would-be sportsmen, who 
are, in fact, mere owners of estates, as a ^^ decoy 
bird," sure to ^' call the wild ones down." This is 
an utter imposition, for to attract wild birds by call, 

as well as l)y appearance, this little duck is of no 
VOL. II. Q 



220 FACT AGxVINST FICTION. 

use ivhatever. The best dccoy-cluQks to begin with 
are the half-bred ones before alluded to; they, or 
ducks reared by hancl^ are mentioned in a clever 
Avork (^ Notes on Fields and Cattle/ by the Eev. 
W. H. Beever), Avhich every farmer ouglit to 
have. If I recollect right, Mr. Beever alluded 
to his ducks as being from eggs of the wild sort, 
but reared in the farmyard by hand. Birds so 
reared and bred will at times be localized, but 
they are apt to be led away by Avild ones ; and to 
7naJce store oftuhat is wanted, let the ducks at hrst 
be half-bred. 

They will go on and on breeding among them- 
selves, and crossing with the wild birds ; but the 
attachment to place, however remote the strain 
may become, never leaves the ducJcj whose origin 
was as I describe. On each succeeding ^^ear I 
breed up hundreds of ducks by hand, and thougli 
the wild ^^lead" to my decoy Is established, I 
shall continue to do so with (dl first nests. 
My reason for this is that the first nests in 
February, March, and April, come out in such 
cold weather, that in my mineral impregnated 
springs, or, indeed, anywhere else, on deep 
water, the young ducks, unassisted by man, can- 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 227 

not live. I tlierefore take the first nests, and 
deal with them artificially. If the hatches arc 
small in nmnber, one duck, or one hen, accord- 
ing to the size of the latter, will take two or 
three broods, if of the same age or within a 
day or tw^o of the age of her ow^n, and the 
other ducks so deprived of their young, their 
flight feathers in one wing extracted, are put 
into a small pool enclosed with wire. If this were 
not done, they Avould go to the coop, if within 
their reach, and call away the young ones from 
the bird appointed to bring them up. To prevent 
this, they are put into what I term ^Hhe prison." 
In no very long time they forget tlieir young, 
and re-moult tlie extracted, not ciitj flight feathers. 
The mallards have had free access to them, they 
are impregnated, and when of themselves they fly 
out of prison, they are prepared for a second nest. 

I have been all my life, or the greater part of 
the last years of it, trying to teach this to my 
friends who have estates and manors, and width 
of acres, moss, or moors, at the present time lying- 
fallow from all that is either useful, remunerative, 
or amusing. Somehow or other, ^^ they don't seem 

to see it," and somehow or other they dont alivays 

Q 2 



228 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

understand it, or tliey leave it to, or tliey listen 
to, tlieir keepers, wlio, being ignorant and averse 
to any additional trouble, set tliem against it, or 
raise ridiculous and unfounded difficulties, which 
scare their employers from any such undertaking. 

There is scarcely a so-called keeper that under- 
stands the requirements of birds at their appointed 
feeding-places ; and though they, the keepers, 
find it requisite to have for tlieir own benefit at 
least two meals a day — breakfast and dinner — they 
deem that the birds under their very questionable 
care can live and remain contented with one. 

If you do not feed pheasants twice a day, morn- 
ing and afternoon, the first food you give them 
may just as well be sacrificed to pigs. 

If they find, Avhen they are hungry, that at 
breakfast they had eaten all the food, and that 
there was not any put for them for dinner, of 
course they must go further for their last food, 
and wander to look for it, — too far, perhaps, to 
think of coming Ijack for breakfast. With ducks 
in the liome decoy, where they are never dis- 
turbed, they, too, should always be fed twice a 
day, morniiKj and evenimj. I have them fed 
three times a day in one pooh In tlie other 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 229 

pools which arc shot in, and where tlie wild 
flights, on account of the greater breadth of 
water, mostly haunt, they need only be fed at 
night, after flight-time has well begun, and the 
ducks are all away. On their return in the 
morning, they find a welcome repast ; and by 
tliis ]nanagement the keeper taking down tlie 
food in no way disturbs the fowl. The home- 
reared ducks seldom go far aw^ay at night, at 
least, never so far as salt water; but the wild 
flights always do^ as they feed on the muds of 
the harbour. So the former require food twice 
a day or more in their own unscared decoy, and 
when the keeper goes to feed them it matters 
not if he puts up any strangers, as they only go 
to the larger pools and mingle with their fellows. 

In feeding pheasants as well as ducks the 
moment of feeding should be rigorously kept, and 
then all birds so fed will be found collected at 
the right time, and it is fatal to the object in 
view ever to disappoint tJiem. 

And now as to the disturbance caused by the 
report of a gun: all birds, j^heasants in tlieir 
covers, and home-bred ducks in their decoy joool, 
can be made steady to fire when they are on 



230 PACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tlic spot where tliey are never molested. Thus 
at my romicl pond or home decoy in smiimer, 
even when many ducks are there, I can with my 
gun pick off a house-rat in the evening, and send 
my retriever over the wire to fetch it without 
putting one bird to wing.* In fact, as I am the 
only gunner who shoots frequently at rabbits out 
at feed, my home-bred ducks know that luJiere 
that gun is I cwij and that ivliere I am there is 
always a pocketful of Indian corn. At times, 
even in the woods, I shall scarce have re-charged 
my gun, when there is the whistle of a wing in 
the air, and a duck lights doAvn by my foot. 
In the fields far from the decoys, — I never saw 
him in the woods, — during summer, a splendid 
old pin-tailed drake, caught in and sent me from 
a decoy in the North, and never pinioned, tlie 
moment he hears the gun he comes with a little 
Bahama duck, with whom for the last three years he 
had selected to pair, and they settle down together 
at my foot, and will follow me about the field. All 
this comes from method and knoAvledge of how 

" The same decoy is wired in, not covered in, because at 
times there are curious and costly birds there from foreign parts, 
who must be pinioned and scientificall}' cared for. 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 231 

to wgratiate yourself witli timid creatures. It is 
impossible to teacli tlie method to anybody, because 
everybody who had tried to learn it hitherto lias 
been certain to leave out something which seems 
trivial in itself to him, but which, in fact, may 
occasion ally he the key to ultimate success. 

It is no use to make decoy pools without well 
selected sittings. It is no use to send me foreign 
game birds, however carefully the box is made in 
which they come across the sea, or liowever well 
they may be fed and watered, — if a supply of fine 
gravel or sand is omitted. Food costs money, but 
the fine sand and gravel, which costs nothing, and 
ought to be an inch deep in the bottom of the box, 
and without which a bird for any time can't live, 
is regarded by superficial observers as of no con- 
sequence whatever. It costs nothing. It has not 
to be paid for, but nevertheless it is the hey stone 
of the ivhole venture. 

Never go among your wild fowl when in peaceful 
guise, unless you wear the same dress you have 
always worn, and in which they first saw you, 
or a new dress exactly like it ; for if you do, tliey 
will riot recognize their friend, but be seized with 
a panic and fly away in dismay. 



232 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Never approach any wild thing in startlinxj haste, 
but let them see and hear your quietly spoken 
word and advancing step, tliat they may have 
time to recognize their friend, and not be seized 
with panic. 

I remember to have seen, in the Fields a cor- 
respondent asking '' if any one could tell him wh}^ 
tlie cast of hawks he had bred up and been trying 
to train, after an absence of a few days vrere afraid 
of him." In his letter he described his return and 
'^ sudden rush to see his darling birds." 

I could have told him that, on his return, instead 
of '^ rushing in " to see his favourites in his holiday 
attire, he should have waited to divest himself 
of his travelling or '^courting garments," as 
labouring people sometimes call their best clothes, 
and have put on the shooting jacket and attire, 
such as it usually was, and, going in quietly, 
the hawks would then have welcomed liis 
return, instead of being scared by an unwonted 
appearance ; Init these things are not known to 
every one, and it is not every one tliat can be 
taught. 

To conclude my remarks on this head, what will 
the reader say to a wild blackcock and myself 



DECOYS FOK WILD FOWL. 233 

having •scraped into Mich a state of acquaintancG, 
familiarity, and friendship, that, liwiving where 
I lived, he would come in sprimj to my door, 
not only on my little lawn, but ahsolutely to the 
door, and ^'curl" at the breakfast-room window, — 
his wings down, his cheeks and ears red, his horns 
up, his tail spread like a flm over his back till 
it touched his head, and, stamjnng round and round, 
throwing out the soft sort of tremulous ^^ coo "in 
tone resembling that of a Avood-pigeon ? He was 
very civil to all the hen pheasants, but he permitted 
no cock pheasant to be on the lawn while he was 
there. He fed on barley thrown from my hand, 
but he liked oats best ; and I often invited my 
neighbouring brother sportsmen to see this strange 
friendship between me and an old wild blackcock 
of the moors. 

Alas ! that dear mysterious king of the wastes 
at last died, very near ni}^ house, stricken by a 
disease in this vicinity that so constantly carries off 
both old and young of his kind. I have three 
blackcocks still who know me ; they are always 
bolder than the grey hens. One of them, an old, 
rusty-plumaged bird, that I have known for years, 
will let me pass within forty yards of him when 



234 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

feeding at the pheasant-stacks, but as yet I can 
incline liim to no greater fiimiliarity.* 

In arranging decoys for tlie collection of wild 
fowl for the gun, let me add, that it is necessary 
to liave a smaller pool here and there in the midst 
of the larger ones, wired in with rabbit wire- 
netting, in which to keep teal by way of decoy 
birds for their fellows. In such cases, there should 
be a bank around the sides of the pool about four 
feet high, so as to give shelter from any wind that 
I3I0WS, as well as to catch the beams of the morning 
particularly, as well as the afternoon sun, and to 
afford the sun's warmth to the birds on the sittings 
at the foot of the bank and on the edge of the 
water. 

The wire around these little ponds should not 
he itprigJit, but one-half of it should stand on the 
bank, and the other project horizontally over and 
above the sitting. This method of wiring -in a 
small decoy pool keej^s the pinioned birds safe 
within their desired location, while, at the same 
time, it affords a facility for any pinioned birds 
that may have escaped or strayed to walk over the 

■■" The black game in my vicinity, by the spring of 1874, became 
extinct, and I have none left. 



DEC0Y8 rOK WILD FOWL. 235 

wire, and, by so doing, capture tlicmselvcs ; and, 
in tlie same wa}^, it permits any birds that arc 
pinioned by the gun, and for the time lost, to come 
where they can be taken and killed, or fed luitil 
they recover. 

A porid, if thus wired-in with wire of a small 
mesh and with due care, also acts as a trap for 
vermin, as, though they can leap in very easily, 
they cannot jump out, nor get out, unless they 
burrow through the bank, which they never have 
the patience to do in any one place long enough 
to compass a sufficient hole by wdiich to escape 
to the wilder lands. 

In these small decoy ponds for teal, there 
should always be made a feeding-place for those 
delicate little fowl. Supj^osing there to be from 
two to three couple of pinioned teal, a feeding- 
house should be made for them of very fine wire, 
the lower part of this wire^ amounting to a sort 
of small iron rod, to bear the stress that in two 
places would be continually laid upon it by the 
passing in and out of the teal, and the attempts to 
force their way in of the larger wild ducks outside. 

This Avire feeding-house should have four sides, 
one side being made by the upright Ixink, the 



236 FACT AGAINST FICTION, 

other side by the wire netting, and the two 
ends of much closer and stifFer wire. The feeding- 
l)lace for the teal should be on the sitting, and 
in a wet place, for all water-fowl like to feed 
over their feet in water. A yard-and-a-half, or 
twice tliat length if desired, for the feeding- 
house, would suffice, and the two ends might 
be in breadth about a couple of feet, or a yard, 
according to the space to sjDare, with an opening 
just sufficient for teal to pass through, but which 
would keep out a duck. 

In course of time, the wild teal also will fnid 
out the food and the way to get at it, and it 
serves its especial purpose admirably. 

"Wlien these feeding-houses for teal are made, 
the barley and ]3oiled rice should be put into them 
only after dark, so as not to disturb the fowl, and 
but once in the twenty-four hours. The keejDcr 
must be watcliful as to the presence of eitlier 
the house or water rat, as botli these cunning 
animals will l)e aware of the hour of feeding, 
and, day or night, close in on the food at once. 
Their presence can always be noticed by the 
impressions of their feet in tlie nuid, and if 
permitted to live and to resort to these 2:)ools, 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 237 

tliey will not only starve tlic teal to death by 
quickly consuming their food, but the house- 
rat, not the luater-rat, will often vary his repast 
by killing" the teal themselves. 

I would, for the sake of demonstration, permit 
any man, even in summer, when the house-rat 
most frequents his watering - places, to search 
the sides of my ponds, and to find, If he could^ 
the track of a house-rat. I have them exterminated 
by trap and lightly-loaded gun, for there are some 
practised old crafty liouse-rats who cannot be taken 
in any kind of trap whatever. At the dusky hour 
of a calm, hot summer's evening, however, if the 
whereabouts of these old rats has been by their 
track discovered, they cannot resist coming out 
for a walk in that deep stillness ere the night 
sets in, and then it is that the lightly-loaded 
gun insures their death with very little noise. 
If these cunning old house-rats find out the 
coops where young ducks are being reared by 
hand, there is a method that often succeeds in 
their capture by trap, and it is this* Put in the 
water near the coop a small square, made by 
rabbit-netting, of the larcjest 'mesh ; the house- 
rat can get througli this and so can the young 



•238 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

ducks; tliG trap for tlie time unset, and the 
food for the latter may be dropped Avitliin this 
wired space, and both ducks and rats, at dif- 
ferent times, be attracted by it. Anybody ^Y]io 
understands the safe rearing' of ducks will hare 
a board to fit the cooj), to shut in the brood 
with the old bird as soon as it is dusk. Then, 
when the young ducks are safely shut in, lift up 
the little square enclosure of wire, and set heneath 
the water, within the circumference of the wire, 
the steel rat-trap or gin, and put the wire over 
it in the usual place, dropping a little more food, 
that will sink on and around the trap. The 
water prevents tlie scent of the human hand 
from animal detection, and use induces the rat 
to seek boldly on the same spot the same food 
he has so often revelled in. The trap needs no 
peg nor other fastening, for it is too large to be 
pulled through the Avire, and the rat will be found 
drowned on the following morning when tlie yoiuuj 
ducks are let out. Care must be taken to make 
this little square pound for the trap wide enough 
for its dimensions to keep the snare out of the 
reach of old ducks, who might be stretching in 
with the whole lengths of their bills and necks 



DF.COYS FOK WILD FOWL. 239 

ill an endeavour to get at tlie food tliey knew to 
be there ; the size of tlie pound, therefore, ne- 
cessary to exckidc tlie old ducks who are at hirge 
from danger can, to a certainty, be very easily 
ascertained ; of course, the wire pound must be 
kept from being put out of place by external 
pressure by a peg or two inserted on either side. 
Water-rats can be taken in the same way, ])ut 
the best trap for them is an old single-entrance 
wire eel-trap, its end immersed in water, while 
the entrance is kept by a slanting position within 
reach of the victim it is intended to destroy. 

The only damage the water-rat does is by 
eating the corn put down for the fowl. The same 
rat is detrimental to w^illows, or to any succulent 
plants or herbs in the vicinity of the water; but, 
other than this, to animal or bird life, this often 
unjustly persecuted creature is perfectly innocuous. 

During summer the old viciously predatory 
house-rat seeks the water, as the biped rats from 
the Commons House of Parliament, and the in- 
habitable towns and cities of the world, flock to 
places situated on the sea. There the biped people 
game, intrigue and bathe, sw4m, fish, flirt and 
frolic, precisely as the viciously inclined quadruped 



240 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

rats do wlion tlicy resort to the pond or river. 
The steady-going, constant residents of the one 
l^lace, householders and water-rats, get turned out 
of the quiet routine of their existence, and either 
let at remunerative rents tlieir houses for a time, 
or desert their domiciles, to escape the contami- 
nation of gamblers, impostors, or cliaracters un- 
desirable as acquaintances for the rising genera- 
tion. 

The water-rats, in much the same position, yield 
up tlieir holes in the banks to the vicious foe, 
who, if they did not do so, would kill and eat 
them. In these holes the house-rats, for "the 
season," breed and live, adopting precisely the 
habits, in all hut appetite j of their predecessors; 
and thus, because the superficial observer sees a 
rat on the mill or duck pond swim after and catch 
young ducks, he immediately charges the mis- 
chievous fact against a poor creature who never 
destroyed anything alive in its life. 

When decoys have to be made u}) by dams to 
keep back the water, and to throw it into 2)ools 
or lakes, the water-rats, and the moles also, will 
do a great deal of damage by 2)erforating the 
banks beneath the surface of the higher water. 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 



241 



Water is ever on the watch, when penned back, 
for any illicit escape that may offer, and once 
let it find a hole, however small, there it will rmi 
or trickle through, till, by degrees, if not im- 
mediately stopped, it wears for itself a passage 
of exhaustive dimensions. 

For the above reason, I would recommend pools 
to be dug out three or four feet below the level 
of ground and Avater, and the earth so removed 
to be placed on two sides of the water as a shield 
against prevailing winds, and as comfortable backs 
to catch the morning and afternoon sun, and reflect 
the warmth so caught upon the nicely turfed 
sittings. Or an island may be thrown up from 
the material dug out. ^Vlien this plan is adopted, 
it puts an end to the constantly to be repaired 
dams, and does not cost so much as tlie latter. 
All work so occasioned should be let out to the 
labourer as '^ piece-work," binding the labourer or 
labourers down to comjjlete the job in a given time. 
If the latter is not done, when once they begin 
the task, they will be in no sort of hurry to finish 
it ; but looking on it as a job in hand to fall 
back on when they have nothing else to do, the 
work may be protracted for any amount of time, 

VOL. II. R 



2^2 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

and the ground around disturbed, to the ruin of 
the rest of the decoy. 

The worst vermin that will, if they are per- 
mitted to do so, haunt and be destructive to the 
decoy and to the fowl who breed in the vicinity, 
are the carrion crow, the moor falcon, or hen 
harrier, the magpie and the house-rat, the stoat 
and the weasel. The latter, the weasel, in a 
decoy is the least destructive of the lot. 

A fox is also most destructive to wild fowl ; 
but I do not look on the fox as a ^S^ermin," but 
simply as a creature that repays the mounted 
sportsman tenfold for any mischief lie has occa- 
sioned to the man who walks. 

I have observed in my decoy that though I 
have destroyed every carrion crow in the vicinity, 
and not seen one for five months, no sooner are 
their eggs laid about the moors and the deco}', 
than several carrion crows put in an appearance. 

Some of these old thieves may probably be 
those who, in the last breeding season, had left 
a leg or foot in some of my traps, and who re- 
turned to their old hunting-grounds well aware 
of the purposely- put temptations as well as the 
danger tliat awaited them. I liavc seen tliese 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 24 



o 



rusty old rascals (some of them wlien old assiuiic 
a very rusty appearance), in winging tlieir search- 
ing- flights about six or seven feet above the heath, 
come upon one of my traps, — the bait a dead 
rabbit or eggs, as the case might be, — I have seen 
them then pause in tlieir flight, hover or dwell 
over the spot where the trap was, and then cry out 
as if in loud derision, winging their way on and 
resuming their flight of search in other places. 
Where there are old crows of this description 
haunting the vicinity of a decoy, they can often 
be taken thus. Ducks, when they first begin to 
lay, will drop their eggs occasionally about, not 
in nests, and often in shallow water. These 
chance eggs in the eyes of a crow don't look like 
purposely-placed baits; therefore a bait of this 
sort can be Avith success adopted in very shallow 
water — w^ater enough to cover the egg, and yet 
let it be visible to a bird's quick eye. Around 
this egg, and beneath the Avater, — for the Avater 
that covers the one Avill be deep enough to conceal 
the more flat proportions of the other, — the traps 
should be set. CroAvs and moor-falcons Avill both 
Avalk in Avater up to their hocks if after eggs, and 

they are sure to step into one trap or the other. 

R 2 



244 FACT AGAINST FICTIOK. 

I have in this way taken these birds when proof 
against any other attraction. These traps are 
dangerous to ducks as well, and small, shallow pools 
of water, as much removed from the haunts of fowl 
as possible, should be selected. 

There are more sure ways of destroying the 
carrion crow and magpies than those by trapping ; 
but as it involves the use of strychnine, I ever 
set my face against it. It can be used by a 
careful hand with apparent safety, by poisoning 
a slightly broken egg and placing it on a pollard 
tree or stump of a tree, or on an island where 
nothing else but wings are likely to reach it ; 
but under Jio circumstances do / advocate its use. 

There is also, I deeply regret to say, a 
method of poisoning foxes, which will confine 
the lamentable death by strychnine to the fox ; 
for when the poison is put into the carcase of a 
hoffse-rat. nothinir but a fox will eat it. Not 
the vxiter-rat, but the house-vat; and, curiously 
enough, a fox will ])refer a dead house-rat to a 
rabbit ; and this latter fact or preference I have 
ascertained in feeding litters of foxes when I 
kept foxhounds. 

Poison should never he used in any case* 



DECOYS FOR WILD FOWL. 245 

Surely tliere arc ways enougli of destroying 
vermin without resorting to tlie use of drugs, 
that if by chance they find their way to man, 
woman, or cliikl, may be fatal to all alike. 
The law against the sale of deadly poison is too 
easily avoided, — in fact, tliere is no effective law 
in respect to it; and of this, two instances have 
very lately been brought to my notice. The 
one was that several valuable dogs in Dorsetshire 
had been poisoned by strychnine said to have 
been bought by a tenant-farmer for rats. The 
other was in the deaths by poison administered 
by thieves, commonly called poachers, to the 
valuable pigs of the owner of a large estate, 
because some low beerhouses, where thieves did 
congregate, and labouring men got drunk witli 
the money they ought to have spent in main- 
taining their wives and children, were abolished 
l)y the lady of the mansion and manor. We 
greatly need a revision of the law against the 
almost unrestricted sale of poison, and were I 
ever in either House again, it should be my 
endeavour to effect it, 



2-:l:6 FACT AGAINST FICTION, 



CHAPTER X. 

EELS AND LAMPEPtNES. — THE MYSTERY OF FISHES. 

Generative History of the Eel — Appearance as they Ascend and 
Descend the Pavers — Pond-Bred Eels — Traps for Eels — Baits — 
Lampernes — How to Catch them — Shoals of Lampernes — 
Caught by the Piats — Used as Manure — A Table Delicacy — 
Bait for Pike — Lampernes full of Spawn when Ascending from 
the Sea — They Breed at an Early Age — The Lamprey — Use to 
which the Lamprey puts his Wide Mouth — The Old Angler at 
Cranford. 

Having read some time ago, in Belcjravia (see page 
158, vol. vi.), a very well-written and interesting 
accomit of the ^^ whitebait," from the pen of Mr. 
J. G. Bertram, perhaps it will not be deemed amiss 
to offer to the reader some practical observations 
on that mysterious inhabitant of the waters, the 
eel. 

To begin Avitli the generative history of this, 
at present, little understood creature, it certainly 
is not thoroughly ascertained whence, where, or 
how the generative process is acliievcd. Wliethcr 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 247 

the eel is produced by ova^ or by any other known 
process, certain we are that no roe has ever been 
detected. 

Writers on the history of the eel content them- 
selves, but no one else, with the assertion that eels 
seek the tidal waters and margin of the sea for 
tlie purpose of procreation, but we are completely 
puzzled to ascertain how the eels which inhabit 
small ponds in the midland counties, without the 
remotest access to ditch, brook, or river which 
would conduct them to the supposed scene of their 
operations, get there. 

In my practical experience and investigation of 
tlie habits of the eel, I have emptied, or ^Haved," 
small ponds of inland descrij)tion, and found the 
usual complement of eels embedded in the mud. 

That in certain rivers and streams debouching 
into the ocean the eels annually seek the tidal water 
of the harbour, there can be no doubt ; and this 
they do with the first autumnal inland flood. My 
practical experience of the river Avon, whicli 
empties itself into Christchurch Harbour, has shown 
me the extent of the autumnal emigration of these 
fish, from my having swept from my eel stage, 
during a flood, sixteen hundred-weight of eels in 



248 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the space of three or four hours, all on their down- 
ward jiassagc to the sea, the mills above me and 
the mill below me reaping a similar harvest of 
this particular fish. Then, at a certain time of 
year, during the summer, the return along the 
edges of the river of countless millions of the little 
elvers, supposed to be tlie offspring of the eels, 
sufficiently accounts for the descent and purpose of 
their progenitors. These little eels are as delicious, 
or nearly so, as whitebait, when dressed in the 
same fashion. 

This enormous amount of descending eels being 
thoroughly ascertained, it is natural to look for a 
return of the same fish when the duties of procre- 
ation are over ; but unless they return in some 
other guise or condition than that in which they 
^' run,'- or in which they went down, those millions of 
fish are lost to further observation. This brings us 
to the next question — of the eel and snig. The 
eels seek the sea, as I have previously said, with 
the first flood of autumn. We Avill assign that 
flood, tlien, to the month of September, and they 
continue to descend during October, and even into 
November, of course diminishing in quantity flood 
by flood. 



EELS AND LAMPEliNES. 249 

111 the first approach of Avarm weatlicr in tlio 
early siaring, thero then ascends, or seems to 
ascend, iho river Avon and the Stour, a vast num- 
ber of eels called snigs. The traps, pots, or wires 
placed in the river for the capture of these snigs, 
which are then in the most delicious condition, 
are set with their mouths, or entrances, down 
the stream, as these fish invariably ascend, and 
continue to do so throughout the summer, up to 
the first flood in autumn, when the great descent 
of eels, changed in condition, and not good to 
eat, ])efore alluded to, commences. 

The condition of the ascending and descending 
eels is very remarkable. Those that are descend- 
ing are much more slimy to the touch, and hard, 
and so rich when dressed for table, that it is 
almost impossible to eat them ; the ascending 
snigs, or eels, on the contrary, are most excellent, 
and so mild and sweet in flavour that they make 
the best white soup. The hue of the descending 
and ascending fish is also different, as the belly 
of the descending fish is of the most white and 
silvery character, while that of the ascending 
snig is tinted with shades of the brightest gold. 
Locally speaking, the snigs which are caught are 



250 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

of a much smaller description than the generality 
of descending eels; but this, according to my 
experience, apparently arises from the fact that 
nothing but the smaller kind of eel-pots are 
set to catch the fish, which precludes the possi- 
bility of catcliing the larger fish. That they are 
to be caught, I have proved by capturing, among 
others, one snig that weighed four pounds and a 
quarter. 

During the summer I have caught large snigs 
and large eels on night-lines ; and then the eel, 
though it had not donned the golden hue, had 
entirely lost the richness and ill flavour of the 
descending fish; but whether or not he would 
have attained the colour of the snig by a pro- 
longed summer residence in the river, I cannot 
precisely say. 

After the descent of the eels in autumn, I have 
followed them up with a spear, to ascertain, if I 
could, as immediately as possible on their descent, 
which class of fisli remained in the river mud, 
whether snig or eel. Those I found were chiefly 
eels in their descending condition, mixed lierc 
and there with the snig. The question then oc- 
curred to me whether or not the snigs so found 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 251 

were not iisli not yet arrived at the '^running'," 
or general condition of the others. I am dealing 
with facts as they occurred under my own ob- 
servation, leaving the question open as to whether 
it is condition alone which makes the diiferonco 
between the eel and the snig. 

It is true that, in many instances, the head of 
the snig has a more pointed nose and a smaller 
jaw than the accredited eel ; but if we are to 
pronounce as a distinct species on a physiognomy 
so trifling, we of the Vale of Berkeley, and our 
noble neighbours on the Cotswolcl Hills, our re- 
spective noses being widely different, aquiline 
and snub, may be quoted as distinct species of the 
genus man I Anatomists and naturalists often 
assume to distinguish new species by dissection 
and colour; thus, an additional bone or varying 
vertebrae in beast or fish, or in the plumage of 
a bird, is seized upon by anxious discoverers of 
mares'-nests to denote a new species, as in the 
dun and fawn coloured whole snipe, whose different 
hue, in my opinion, arises from accident. That the 
change of plumage does not of necessity define 
species, is proved by the ruff and ree, of whom 
scarce two species are clothed alike. The fact, 



352 FACT ACxAINST FICTION, 

tlien, as regards the eel, and its enormous autumnal 
migration to the sea, unless they re-ascend the 
rivers in the condition of a snig, cannot be ac- 
counted for; they are lost entirely to our know- 
ledge. In 1871 I knew of a fresh-water eel being 
taken in a sprat-net four miles out at sea. 

It is the custom, in some places, to call any 
little eel a snig, and lience arises the term 
^'sniggling for eels"; but, in my opinion, the 
snig, or the eel in snig condition, is found in 
rivers only, and does not exist in inland brooks, 
stagnant waters, or in isolated ponds fed by springs. 

There are innumerable small ponds within my 
knowdedge, and in those ponds there are eels that 
never leave them ; therefore it is too sweeping an 
assertion to say that all eels proceed to the sea 
for breeding purposes. To my certain knowledge, 
there are pond-bred eels, as well as eels l^red in 
the tidal w^aters of the ocean harbours, and by 
way of meeting the partly true assertion that eels 
will travel througli the dewy grass, I affirm tliat 
no one ever detected the elver in a similar question- 
able position ; yet in an isolated pond I liave 
found the young of eels, and an elver in the 
water in St. James's Park. 



' EELS AND LAMrERNES. 253 

There are four different traps wliicli may Le 
set for eels, — the wicker snig-pot, the wicker 
" hiillie/' the thief, or hoop net, and the wire 
eel-trap. All of these are effective if properly 
set and baited. All fishermen, however, would do 
Avell to remember this fact, that no fresh-water 
fish, not even the abused eels, supposed to fill 
the ^^joockets" of '^drowned sweeps" in Hyde 
Park, will enter a trap netted with twine, if the 
string is allowed, by continuance in the water, 
to get sour, nor will they touch a stale bait. This 
objection of the eel to the sour twine does not 
apply so much to the iron wire ; it exists in the 
greatest degree as regards string. Traps made of 
twine, therefore, should be taken out of the water 
every morning, and washed, and then left to dry 
upon the bank before they are again submerged ; 
but the wire need only be rinsed out, and at once 
returned to the water. 

And now, as to the appetite and nature of the 
erroneously blamed eel* We liave heard of de^ 
mented Avidows, whose piscatory tastes have been 
somewhat epicurean, on the dauiji remains of the 
dear departed being recovered from its humid 
resting-place, witli pockets, as reported^ replete 



264: FACT AGAINST FICTIOIS^ 

^yitli eels, to order the body to be re-set in the 
mud for further capture ; and, as I mentioned 
before, we have heard of the body of a sweep, in 
the Ser2)entine, Avho drowned himself for love of 
beer, not woman, having been fished up, alive with 
slimy parasites ! All such reports^ whether of the 
^'widow's mite" or of the sooty suicide, are 
utterly ridiculous and untrue ; there is not a 
cleaner feeder beneath the waters, salt or fresh, 
than the conger, the snig, or fresh-water eel. 

I remember, as a child, seeing my father take 
up what he called his ^' eel-wheels," made of 
wicker, in the tidal brook around the walls of 
Berkeley Castle, and, so to speak, he never caught 
anything. In after-life, my experience as a man 
explained this failure; the bait put into those 
wheels was the entrails of a chicken. A more 
fetid, nasty-smelling bait, when it became stale 
and soddened, cannot be conceived. The only 
bait that Avill entice a conger eel or snig is fresh 
fish, or in regard to the fresh- water eels or snigs, 
similarly, fresh worms. The charge against the 
method of feeding of the eel as being unclean in 
simply false and absurd. 

Having discoursed respecting the maimers and 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 255 

customs of tliG eel, I now proceed to deal with a 
fisli almost as mysterious in its habits, but not so 
generally known — I mean the lampcrne. This 
fish, as far as my experience goes, is found in any 
quantities only in the mouths of rivers where tiie 
freshets seek the sea. In the Avon, near Christ- 
church, in spring, they ascend in continual shoals 
of countless multitudes. So thick and phalanxed 
is their line of aqueous march up the river, that 
you may stand on the bank with a common 
minnow-net suspended from a pole when it is dark, 
and lift them from the river as fast as you can put 
the net in and pull it out again. In a similar 
way you may set eel-nets, wire traps, if made 
close enough to retain the lesser lamperne, without 
bait, the mouths of the traps being set down 
stream, as if for snigs, and close to the bank in 
the line of the ascending shoals. 

In the upper weir on the Avon, when I lived 
at Winkton, these curious fish came most within 
my command. They came to ascend the weir so 
massed together, that from the weight of the 
pressure from without, the fisli next to the bank 
were driven, forced into, and wedged up in the 
rats' holes that were beneath the surface of the 



256 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

water. So well was tliis annual fact known to 
the vermin in tlie neiglibourliood, that the house- 
rats from every homestead^ Larn, and cottage 
gathered together by night at this weir for the 
purpose of a piscatory harvest. 

In the mornings beneath every available spot 
on which there was any cover, such as a few 
boards, an old hurdle, or a hollow stone, more 
than a bushel of these fish might be found secreted, 
all of them caught by the rats during one night, 
some being dead, some still alive, but all of them 
marked more or less by the teeth of the spoiler. 

After I had taken possession of the Winkton 
fishery, and came to live at Winkton House, on 
my visiting the place one day, I found my punt, 
which was moored to the gravel-walk in the 
garden, with a great many lampernes still alive 
in an inch or two of water that tlie punt con- 
tained. This made me demand of the man in 
charge wIkj it was that had dared to fish in my 
absence with my boat. He replied, that no one 
had done so; to which I ansAvered, '^Tlien how 
comes it to be full of live fish ? " To this he 
rejoined, ^^ that the fish liad been left there by 
the house-rats.'^ In order to utilize the spoils 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 257 

thus obtained, I manured the roots of the vines 
at the grapery, and many of the wall fruit trees ; 
to the vines first and last I laid the lampernes 
nearly half a foot deep as fish manure. 

Although in the Severn we deem the lampernc 
one of its greatest delicacies, as well as the 
shad, which we think second only to the beautiful 
salmon of the same river, in the vicinity of Christ- 
church, and on the banks of the Avon, the lam- 
pernes, locally known by the name of '' nine-eyed 
eels," when accidentally caught, meet with no 
sale, and are thrown away. Of course, with my 
Severn proclivities, lampernes were properly stewed 
and served to table. 

As the lamperne season begins before the pike 
are out of season^ I used them as bait for my 
trolling rod, and found them, while they lasted, the 
most killing bait of all. 

While mentioning bait for pike fishing, next to 
the lamperne comes the eel or snig; and in addition 
to its tempting nature, one eel bait for pike will 
often last an entire day. The shape of these fish 
(the lamperne and eel) enables you to place them 
on tlie hooks so. as to spin to perfection; and if 
the eels should be longer than you desire, you 

VOL. II. s 



258 I^ACT AGAINST FICTION. 

can cut off a portion of the tail till you reduce 
your bait to the desired length. Supposing the 
pike fisherman goes on a visit to strange waters, 
or to friends who have not the means of pro- 
curing good bait, he should take with him three 
or four small eels, salted, in a box, which will keep 
perfectly sweet, and enable him to fish in any 
water which may be put at his command. 

But to return to the lamperne. All these fish, in 
the instance alluded to, were ascending, from the 
direction of the sea, to breed, in the same enormous 
multitude that the eels descended in for the same 
purpose ; only, in the instance of the lamperne, we 
have direct evidence of their especial purpose, for, 
unlike the eels, the fish are full of ova, or spawn. 
Thinking that, perhaps, in London I should be able 
to find a sale for lampernes, I caught, and kept 
alive, an immense quantity of them, putting tliem 
into a pound with a stream running through it, 
which I kept for eels at the lower weir. I could, 
however, obtain no demand for these fish in 
London, and they were useless to me, excc2)t for 
my own table, or for burial at the roots of trees. 

One other peculiarity which I observed with 
regard to these lampernes was, that though con- 



EELS AKD LAMPEKNES. 259 

fined in a clean stone pound, with from two to 
tln-ee feet deptli of water, and a stream from tlicir 
native river running through it, they coukl not, or 
would not, relieve themselves of their spawn, and, 
after a few weeks, they were sure to die. 

It would appear, from observations made by me 
in the small brooks of the New Forest, and other 
little streams which I have visited, that the 1am- 
l^ernes ascend all the lesser water-ways which lie 
at their command, and that they breed at a very 
early age ; for I have seen them making places 
for the reception of their ova, and moving and 
carrying small pebbles for that purpose ; and the 
parent fish, while so engaged, have been but from 
three to four inches long. I have also, in the neigh- 
bourhood of Avon Tyrell, when, in comjDany 
with Mr. Frederick Fane, in search of trout for 
store, discovered a small sand-bank, mixed with 
gravel and mud, perfectly full of little lampernes, 
from an inch to two inches long, though neither 
gamekeeper nor labourer in the vicinity ever saw, 
to their knowledge, a lamperne breeding in that 
little brook. 

As to the larger fish of this species, the lamprey, 

— of a surfeit of which, it is said, one of our royal 

s 2 



2 GO FACT AGAIXST FICTION. 

Hemys died; but whether the surfeit arose from 
the cook or the fish has always been a matter of 
some doubt in my mind, — with this larger kind of 
river-frequenting fish I am less acquainted. At all 
events, by ocular observation, and, for the time, 
most clear and close inspection, I have arrived at 
a certain and distinct knowledge of the use to 
which the lampreys turn their enormously wide 
and sack-like mouths. 

One day in summer, I was fishing for perch 
in the river Stour, in Hampshire, when my servant, 
who was idling along the bank above me, and 
looking in the deep, clear water for a shoal of 
perch, called out that he could see ^Hwo large eels 
feeding in the bottom of the river." Upon this 
rather strange report, it being the middle of a hot 
day, and the sun shining very brightly, I hastened 
to the spot to ascertain what it was that the man 
really saw. The river, at that particular turn of 
its course, swept with a very brisk current over 
a clear bottom of clay, without any weeds. On 
arriving at my servant's side, I could very clearly 
descry two large lampreys, very busily employed, 
though their occuj^ation had nothing whatever to 
do with food. So intent were they on the duty 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 261 

they were performing, that they took not the slightest 
notice of us. Clear and transparent as the water 
was, in depth, perhaps, about five feet, not a motion 
nor an act of the fish escaped my deeply-interested 
study. Their occupation was as follows : — They 
were boring a hole in the clay, as I supposed, 
to dejDOsit their ova, but that is simply conjec- 
ture on my part. First one fish and then the 
other seized hold of the clay with its round, 
extended, and sack-like mouth, and then twisted 
round and round for a considerable time, as fast as 
a carpenter could use a gimlet ^^ bit-and-brace." 

When the then considerably extended mouth 
and throat had bored . from the bottom of the 
river a large, round pellet of clay, the fish turned 
about, and, descending the river for some three 
or four feet, he deposited his burden, and was 
immediately succeeded at the hole he had left 
above by the second fish, who in its turn descended 
to deposit the clay, while the former fish again 
returned and continued the ojieration. Having 
watched this '^ division of labour" for a considerable 
time, I resolved to attempt the capture of the fish. 
Taking off the single perch hook, I added to 
my line a brace of snap-hooks for pike, putting 



262 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

a small rifle bullet about four feet above the 
hooks, so as to sink the line in the swift current, 
and to act as a mark to enable me, before it 
could be carried away, to see the exact position 
at the bottom that the hooks would take. 

My object Avas to get the fish on my side of 
the snap-hooks, so that, by a sharp snatch of the 
wrist, I should strike the hooks against them. 
I cast my line in two or three times before I 
could correctly ascertain how far the force of 
the current would sway down the line. During 
this operation the lampreys took not the least 
notice of me, nor did the first two attempts I 
made to strike them, both of which failed, disturb 
them in their occupation. On the third attempt, 
while the fish was screwing out the clay, I struck 
it in the side, and landed a splendid lamprey, 
— lifting it at once, and as carefully as I could, 
from the bottom of the river, lest I should disturb 
its companion, who Avas, at the moment, depositing 
the clay it had taken at the usual spot where 
both fish had placed tlieir former loads. 

The lamprey tlms bereft of its companion seemed 
not in any way to notice the fact, nor even to 
miss its fellow-labourer, but returned to bore out 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 2G3 

the clay, when, at the first attempt, I also struck 
that fish, and landed it upon the bank by its 
comrade. Deeming that Lord Malmesbury, on 
whose fishery this capture took place, would be 
more abstemious in his diet than England's glutton 
king, or had a safer cook, I sent the two fine 
lampreys at once to him, as a trophy from his river, 
and one very seldom obtained. The united weight 
of these two fish was over three pounds. 

To vary this somewhat trite discourse upon 
fishes, in passing, I will narrate my first act in 
conservation of manorial rights and rivers. There 
is at Cranford, in Middlesex, a widened pool in 
the course of the Crane, near the bridge that 
spans the little stream, and carries over it the 
great high road. Though very young, and not 
a strong boy of my age, I had, when about 
twelve years old, taken upon myself to act as 
a conservator of the manor, and however I might 
have failed in muscular power, my resolution 
was to prevent all aggression and infraction of 
my mother's jointure rights. Strolling down one 
sunny Sunday afternoon in summer, just as I 
had surmounted what was then called '' Little 
Common Bridge," and had come into full view 



26-1 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

of the bofore-montioncd pool, then called by the 
somewhat questionable name of ^''' Muddy Reach," 
to mv intense diso'ust I saw the tall fio-ure of a 
man standing by the side of the road, and fishing 
in that, to me, sacred water. In my mind's eye 
I see him now, so keen is my remembrance of 
first impressions. lie was an old man, and 
of rather a spare habit of body; his nose was 
long, and his face of mild aspect, — none of the 
ferocity about it which tliat featm-e, the nose, 
seems to assume when snubbed in its lofty 
proportions, while his eyes beamed mildly through 
his spectacles, and spoke of a sweet and affable 
S2)irit. Over these featiu-es, and above what 
appeared to be the edges of a flaxen Avig, there 
l^resided rather a broad-brimmed hat, suggestive 
of the simplicity claimed by Quakers, but some- 
what repudiated by them when ascending to the 
Britjliter scenes of the House of Commons. 

Striding up to the side of this mild and 
gentle-looking fisherman, I rather startled him 
from the contemplation of the nibble beneath 
his float by peremptorily demanding ^'what right 
he had to lisli there." He turned his eyes 
slowly upon me, his questioner, pushing u]) his 



EELS AND LAMPERNES. 265 

S])ectaclcs to the verge of his flaxen wig — a thhig 
wliich, ill after -life, I have frequently seen men 
do when intending to take a more distinct 
measure of their antagonist, although they liad 
previously asserted that they wore glasses to better 
their vision. 

We confronted each other thus for a moment, 
like Puck and Bottom, though there was no 
Titania to add a lustre to the scene. On my 
again demanding '^ by wdiat right he fislied 
there,'' coupled with the command '^ to desist," 
he replied in a mild tone of voice by asking the 
question, ^^ What harm am I doing by angling 
in this water ? " To this I angrily replied, that 
^^no one was allowed to fish there; and that I 
should insist uj^on his immediate departure." A 
bob or two at his float then withdrew his gaze 
from me, and fixed his attention on the water ; 
when, on the activity of his' fishing-gear ceasing, 
he again regarded me, and, in a mild, firm, but 
gentle voice, said, ^^My boy, I am doing no 
harm here, and I shall not go " ; and then, re- 
adjusting his s|)ectacles, and gazing at his float, 
he seemed to subside into that mild, sweet, and 
peaceable spirit which Izaak Walton claims to 



26G FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

liavG felt when impaling' on his barbed liook a 
livln^^, writliing, and .sciuciddng frog* ! 

1 Ills a(]dr(\ss, In wliat, wlicn tlio ^^ young licart 
was liot and restless," seemed to nie to be delivorcd 
in a cabn, (jouteniptuous manner, made me at once 
consider tlie chances of personal collision. In 
strength he could master me, no doubt, unless 
by some cunning and unexpected blow I could 
reduce liis power to a more even footing witli 
mine, or make liim, by breaking his spectacles, 
pay a penalty for the infraction of the water 
right. Scanning his person narrowly, from the 
protuberance of liis fob beneath his waistcoat, 
and tlie dangling of a cliain and several large 
seals, I felt convinced tliere was a large watch 
tliere with its glass face outermost; so to assure 
myself of being able to obtain damages, I con- 
templated taking u}) a stone and assailing tlic 
exact spot where I thought the watch must be ; 
but, on second tliouglits, I deemed tliat the butt 
of his rod being in dangerous proximity to my 
shoulders. It would ])e better to abandon the 
idea of '^personal" attack, and cast about for a 
more advantageous site for active aggression. 

Retracing my steps over Little Connnon Bridge, 



EELS AND LAMPERNEH. 267 

I attained an island wliicli, by the bougli of one 
of the oak trees upon it^ by climbing, again 
afforded me a descent to a lesser island, on 
the other side of which, from the mainland, he 
was fishing. I have since seen many a gentle 
face suddenly hurt or painfully astonished by the 
rude incidents of life, but I never saw the repose 
of an elderly figure so completely broken up as it 
was on this occasion, when the first heavy stone 
flung by me from my previously charged j^ocket 
knocked over his float and dashed the water into 
his face. Without any apparent loss of temper, 
this old man called out to me to desist. The 
only reply which this evoked from me was stone 
after stone into the water in the vicinity of his 
float, driving all fish away, and rendering piscatory 
or contemplative success impossible. ^^ Are you 
going to continue this annoyance, my little man?" 
he mildly inquired. ^^ Yes," I replied, '^you old 
interloper, if you continue your tresjDass upon our 
water ; " and then followed stone after stone, to 
prove my obdurate resolution. 

On this, after regarding me attentively, and 
making a sort of plaintive chuckle as if of pity, 
the old gentleman drew his line from the water. 



268 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

and proceeded to take to pieces and put up his 
neat little rod. At first I watched him doing this, 
proud of my prowess and of the battle I had won, 
and thinking of the pleasure it would give me to 
tell of the victory to my hrothers. Someho^y or 
other, however, there was an impressive grace 
and quietude about the old man's hands, as ho 
arranged his neat and nicely kept fishing-tackle, 
which won upon my hot heart, and induced me 
to think that I was a tyrant, and tliat in this 
instance my acts were harsh and unkind ; and 
when, Avithout another word, he turned to pro- 
ceed in the direction of the old Cranford Bridge 
Inn, perhaps for one evening to relieve himself 
from his laborious work in London, so calm, so 
quiet, and so ill-used, but forgiving, did his re- 
treating form appear, that I was seized with a 
choking sensation, as if I should burst into 
tears. 

The oak bough from which I had drojDj^ed, 
was too high for me to attain again, so I spattered 
through the water over a gravelly shoal, and was 
soon in full chase of the receding figure. Ap- 
parently he had forgotten all about me, and 
perhaps forgiven me, for he rather started as my 



KELS AND LAMrERNES. 2G9 

hasty steps approached his side, hut, turning 
round, he stood and intently regarded me. 

^^ Sir," I exchximed, and I was ready to cry, 
'Svill you forgive me for wliat has passed, and 
heHeve that I shall now be very ha23py to see 
you fish in my mother's river ?" 

After a short pause, in which he still regarded 
me, — ^' Yes," he said, ^' I do believe you, my young 
friend, and I will fish again, for your amusement, 
I am sure, as well as mine." 

The rod being again put together, I showed 
him the best perch holes and gudgeon shallows, 
all of which were well known to me, and saw 
him, at half-past eight that evening, proceed to his 
inn with a very good dish of fish for supper. I 
did not tell this story to my brothers^ for I 
thought that perhaps some of them would deride 
my conduct on tliis occasion, and laugh at me. 

Long years have passed over my eventful life 
since then, but I scarce know any one of my 
boyish actions which, on reflection, gives me so 
much pleasure as this: perhaps it promoted some 
of the better phases of action, and suggested to 
a generous heart, which ought ever to be in the 
breast of a soldier and gentleman, that on every 



270 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

event in this world, whether in love or war, when 
man is successful, faith to the death, if the fair 
fame of w^oman requires it, and generosity and 
almost love for a fallen foe, should be the at- 
tributes of that man who dares to refer the dog 
to a lower order of creation than himself. 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 27l 



CHAPTER XI. 

CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 

Strikes — AVest Indian Blacks — Protection of Wild Birds — Change 
in the Habits of Birds — Decreasing Numbers of many Species 
— Advantage of the Gun Tax — Change in the Seasons — Nests 
of Eggs Destroyed by Spring Frosts — Confiding Friendliness of 
Small Birds — Decreasing Numbers of Pheasants and Partridges 
— Political Change — Thunder Storms more often Fatal in their 
Effects — How to Meet the Change as regards Game — Geological 
Evidence of Change. 

It must be, or it ouglit to be, evident to us all 
that tlie times — I mean the acje^ not its leader- 
are changing fast in various directions, and that 
this is not a time Avhen any person or any subject 
whatever can be allowed to stand still. 

The Communists, the political prattlers, the 
mischievous men inconsistently termed liberal, fol' 
they are liberal only with other men's possessions 
— these and their like have rendered the working 
population dissatisfied with their wages and their 



272 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

employers, and set tliem against those under wliom 
their forefathers for centuries had lived contentedly 
and remuneratively, and, in many cases, dying 
rich for their calling' in life. 

All the activity, all the feverish demand for 
change, has been on one side, and it seems as 
if the other side stood still, in an apathetic 
attitude, leaving any fool or dangerous dema- 
gogue to grasp the rudder of the national 
craft, to roar and lie his full without contra- 
diction, and to give the ship of Great Britain, 
in the trade winds, as little way as possible. 
Among what once Avas called 'Hhe industrious 
population," there are now nothing but '^strikes." 
In a strike every idle and ill-disposed labourer is 
sure to join, because mischievous iniions in other 
quarters advance money; and the idle drunkard, 
of course, would sooner be kept on bread and 
water, with a drop of gin, when he had the 
power to pilfer, and a possibility to steal and sleep ^ 
than work and eat and drink good meat and beer. 

The Avorst, the weakest, and the most mis- 
chievous tiling that master-men could do, was, 
in the first instance, to give in to a strike, and 
a robber-like demand for liigher wages, to men 



CHANGE or SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 273 

extortionate and — wlio sought tliem by villainous 
and really unconstitutional means. 

I use the term 'Villainous/' for that man is a 
villain, as vile as the robber on the highway, 
who, with a power in his hands which the villain 
uses as the highwayman uses his pistol, forces the 
farmer or the artificer to pay him money through 
the exigencies of crop, manufacture, and season, 
and without which compliance the farmer and 
manufacturer, of whatever description, must be 
ruined, or, so to speak, resign his life. 

The labouring classes here in England, sorry 
am I to say it, have been and . are following, 
in a dishonest course, the exam23le which, on my 
West India property, some years ago, was set 
them by the blacks. 

The emancipated slaves came to the local 
attorney, and said, — '' Your sugar-canes are ripe 
for cutting; if they are not cut on the instant 
they are ripe, you will lose the crop ; and we 
will not cut them unless you give us a bonus (a 
very large one) in addition to the wages we have 
been and are receiving." 

Fearing to lose the crop, the attorney complied, 
but, unhappily, complied, as many farmers and 

VOL. II. T 



274 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

artificers in England have clone, without making 
any stijouhitions for the future. These blacks, 
then, who were certainly ^' brothers " in spirit to 
Messrs. Ogger, Poclger, Badlaw, Dilk, and Dodger, 
and similar misleaders of deluded labourers, after 
they had cut the crop, very well knew that the 
croj) must perish if not immediately made into 
sugar; so they went to the attorney again, with 
an increased and impossible demand for a further 
bribe, so large in amount, that the attorney 
feared to comply without first obtaining the sanc- 
tion of his employer, who Avas robbed just as 
much as if he had been stopped on the highway 
and his purse taken from him, not by a single 
footpad, but by a force of footpads which rendered 
resistance unavailing. 

Those who yield to strikes in the first instance 
by their own cowardice, entail upon others a 
terrible misfortune. 

Though the work I am now writing is not 
a political work, I cannot help making this 
allusion to the times political before I go 
on to notice the change in the seasons^ 
and in the habits and interests of beasts and 
birds. 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 275 

Binding my narration, as far as I can, to or- 
nithological notes, who ever suspected (I am sure 
I did not) that a graceful and ijvotective measure 
for wild and beautiful birds should have cnui- 
nated from the Gladstone Government, or, at all 
events, from its mistaken supporters? yet I find 
myself hand and heart with the protective Wild 
Birds' Bill, brought in, to my surprise, by Mr. 
Auberon Herbert, and afterwards dealt with by 
Lord Malmesbury. 

The next thing in the change going on that 
I might expect to find, would be a Bill brought 
in by my former antagonist, Mr. John Bright, 
for the better protection of rabbits against the 
political plotting of some tenant farmers, and this 
he might honestly do on the score of an increase 
of food for the people ; but in that instance there 
would not be quite so muclij^eason for astonishment, 
as it is now known what a vast amount of the 
poorer population in the United Kingdom subsist 
on rabbits — the dealers in them, under-selling the 
butcher, and tlierefore raising the tenant farmer's 
wrath.* 

* In this allusion to tlie "Tenant Farmer," I merely mean to 
attach to some few of them, but by no means to the majority, a 

t2 



276 J^ACT AGAINST FICTION. 

Well, I begin to regard myself as a mile -stone 
left on the side of tlie political highway. I 
commenced life as a Whig, or, as we were then 
called, a '' Liberal," but the drivers of coaches 
to consecutive Governments either forgot to give 
me a lift, or I fell asleep among the primroses 
by the road side, where I seem to have taken 
root, until the coach of Liberality, by employing 
coachmen of too levelling a laxity, has been 
driven into a sort of slough, whence none of 
the passengers seem able to escape in any direc- 
tion, and all seem bent on pulling eacli other to 
the bottom of the bog, in the hope of standing 
higher on each other's heads. -* 

At one moment Members of tlie House of 
Commons, inclined to sedentary or predatory 
habits, — politically they often go together, — 
assail protection when it is extended to the 
beautiful pheasant, partridge, grouse, the deer, 
the hare, and rabbit ; at another time they in* 
stitute new laws for the protection of gulls and 
owls, and other obscenities. Therefore, in passing 
on to the change of climate and the alteration 

blame arising from their after-dinner speeches, though in tkei?' wine 
there was 710 truth. 



CHANGE OF SEASONS JmD OF THE TIMES. 277 

of tlio liabits of creatures existing in it, it is 
well to liave given Darwin's jDolitical ^' Apes'' 
a short notice, if but to sliow that the world is 
still in a state of transition, as proved from the 
fossil age down to the present political hour 
and the revelations of the London clay. 

For very many years I have remarked that a 
change has been taking i^lace in the habits of birds. 

There was a time when that merrily chirping 
little bird, a summer visitant, the house-martin, 
used to awaken, of a summer morning, the soundly- 
sleeping child with its lively twitterings from its 
clay-built nest above the bed-room Avindow. In 
that spot whence those sounds proceeded, no bird 
now welcomes the dawn of the summer day, or 
speaks of health and innocence to the slumbering 
child, for with father, mother, brother, and sister 
in many instances, the bird seems to have fled 
the ancient roof, a sad reminiscence only lin- 
gering still. Observant of birds as I have been 
all my life, I have no hesitation in saying that, 
where the house-martin numbered thousands, there 
exist now but very few, and those few decrease as 
the seasons pass. 

It is not so yet with the sand-martin, swallow, and 



278 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

swift, — at least, not yet perceptibly so ; but I fear 
the diminution now extends to fieldfare, redwing, 
and even to the lark. That partridges, grouse, 
and blackgame are decreasing, I have no sort 
of doubt, and pheasants are kept up by artificial 
breeding. The common pewit, too, is falling off, 
and no wonder, as every idle man's hand is 
raised against its life and eggs but for the 
j)reservation of game on some manorial lands. 

When I first came to my present residence, on 
the neglected heaths around it there was scarcely a 
pewit, and certainly on my own lands not an egg 
procurable for my table. Now, from the strict 
preservation of the few pewits there were, I have 
many pewits, and from their first nests a very good 
supply of eggs, the rule being not to interfere 
with the second nest, but to let them hatch and 
rear their young. The taking of plovers' eggs 
should be restricted, so that the gourmand's supply 
might nevertheless satiate the appetite, while, after 
the feast, the second nests should fare better. I 
would bar the taking of plovers' eggs after a certain 
day. 

Since the gun-tax, every class of birds has felt 
the wisdom of it, and the harmony of the woods 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 279 

and hedges has been increased. Within tlie last 
six years, from the preservation of game, and 
destruction of what were really vermin around me, 
and the consequent prevention of trespass for birds' - 
nesting among the idle classes, every sort of inno- 
cent, l)eautiful, and harmonious bird has increased ; 
or, in fact, as on my lawn, they have aj)peared where 
they never were before. Regarding the country 
from the widest point of view, there will be found 
to have been fewer accidents from fire-arms since 
the gun-tax has shelved the old fowling-pieces 
in the cottages, with their not trustworthy cocks 
and triggers, than there were before ; and now 
a very good tax might be imposed, as in France, 
on the possession of gunpowder. Here let me 
again impress on my readers that the cartridges 
for the breech-loaders, when boys or beaters bear 
the open cartridge-bag in attendance on the gun, 
should bo under lock and key, like the bag made 
for me by Stephen Grant, in St. James's Street ; 
for to my certain knowledge a system of theft on 
a large scale, by boys and men, has been estab- 
lished, simply for the powder and shot in tlie 
cartridges, — the boys stealing the cartridges for 
the sake of periodical explosions, or to give to the 



280 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

illicit destroyers of game, the men taking them 
to serve their own poaching purposes, as need 
might be. 

The seasons have changed, and with the seasons, 
of course, will change the ornithological world. 
What has become of the once genial and ^^ merry 
month of May"? when London 'prentices and the 
London labouring population used to sally forth, as 
it was then expressed, '^ a-maying," gathering the 
white blossoms of the whitethorn ; in lieu of 
which, oftentimes, did they seek them now, they 
would shake down on their heads the whiter snows 
of lagging winter. 

Eooks may have been seen in what was the very 
earliest of the spring, bluffed out on the top boughs 
of rookeries, as if they had put great- coats on, 
gazing on their snow-iilled nests, and wondering 
over their chilled eggs, as if in anger that one 
sunny day had induced them to deposit hopeful 
sources for maternal care. Wild ducks' nests, old 
birds and all, to my certain knowledge, have been 
buried in snoAV ; but on one occasion, some years 
ago, the fall of deep snow happening in the night, 
when some of tlie ducks had begun to sit, the 
eggs, from being j)i'otected by the double cover. 



CHANQE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 281 

Ing of snow and duck, were not hurt, and the 
duck found licr way back to the nest by the 
track in the snow she had made in leaving it. 
Other nests of eggs also, when the duck did not 
sit, Avere in that year not harmed because the 
covering the duck herself had put on her eggs, 
as Avell as the snow, served for a sufficient pro- 
tection ; and besides this, the fall of snow was not 
accompanied or followed by much frost. 

In other instances, the change of season, has worn 
a much more difficult aspect. The frost has come 
with wet, but without much snow, and with 
such unusual severity for the time of year, that 
the cold, of course acting on every humid thing, 
absolutely froze the vivifying principle in the 
eggs of all kindsj but seized particularly on 
those laid in damj) places, whether the old duck, 
in the case of ducks, was on the eggs or not 
— even the duck's dowiiy breast could not 
save the eggs; but the wet she carried on her 
breast from the pools or rivers, so necessary in 
genial weather to the perfection of hatching, added 
to the power of the frost. In the same way, I 
have known the earliest nest of the pewits de- 
stroyed. A frozen egg will not boil hard; so, for 



282 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

many reasons, the beautiful, the living world of 
innocent and graceful things, demands greater care 
not only from the legislature, but more abstinence 
in man from his predatory habits, — protection at 
the hands of man, instead of increased destruction. 

Late frosts, embittered by high cold winds, with 
sleet, hail, and rain, not only destroy the eggs 
when laid, but they absolutely stop the course of 
successful incubation in the old birds, and they 
cease for a time to produce eggs, or, at all events, 
to lay them in the nests. 

As a proof of this, in cold springs the wild 
ducks in my vicinity averaged no more than 
from five to seven or eight eggs in a nest, 
and at times not more than three. Not a young 
wild duck hatched in March by its immediate 
parents could endure the cold and live ; and 
those that were under foster - mothers, to be 
reared by hand at the coojds, with the coops and 
mothers to shelter them, the back of the coops to 
the wind, and constantly fed with the most nourish- 
ing food, not even these young ducks could with- 
stand the frost, wind, and wet. My keeper 
and his men had to carry the coops to barns, 
stables, and sheds, and even then some of the 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 283 

yoimg" ducks, between the delay of carrying 
coop by coop, were killed by the inclemency of 
the weather. 

The same cold weather also drove, within my 
immediate supervision, three song-thrushes from 
their nests, after each had laid only three eggs, 
or two short of their average complement. There 
was also another contingency, and that was, the 
scarcity of worms, grub, or insect food, and this 
most likely also arose from cold ; and nothing 
could illustrate this scarcity more than the fact 
that those birds who had been fed on the window- 
ledge by me, but had left me with the earliest 
song of sjoring, came back to me, in that beautiful 
reliance which it is my great pleasure to establish 
between myself and every bird ; and remembering 
where their friend through the winter lived, they 
tapped with their beaks against the window, and 
scarcely fled when I opened it to give them the 
wished-for food. Among them they numbered the 
blackbird and song-thrush, the chaffinch and yellow- 
hammer, the blue titmouse, the hedge-sparrow, and, 
of course, the robins. The house-sparrow came, 
whether I liked it or not, and snatched pieces of 
food, but fled away when he heard me rate him. 



284 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

as I do not regard that bird as an object for 
charity. The sparrows know this, and when, from 
my breakfast-table, I objurgate their presence on 
the window-sill, they fly off, but always with 
their mouth full, while not one of the other guests 
are the least daunted by the gruffness of the tone 
of voice. The thrushes and the blackbirds, during 
that cold spring, for a time left off singing; but 
as soon as a more genial warmth came, and they 
left the window, they sang more than ever, and 
had nests full of young, their restful or brilliant 
harmony received by me as thanks for my kind- 
ness, or as payment for the fruit they intended 
to take from my garden in the time to come. 
• In regard to pheasants and partridges, there is 
much to be inquired into. In years gone by, a 
bad pheasant season was rare, and a very bad 
partridge season a thing that did not often vex 
us; but now, with the change in the seasons, and 
the introduction of artificial manures, breech- 
loaders, &c., bad seasons for game are consecu- 
tive, while, at the same time, the numbers of game 
certificated men increase, — I will not call them all 
sportsmen, — and the method of the discharge of 
the gun, as well as the charging of it, [is fifty 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 285 

times more rapid than it used to Be. Breech- 
loaders do not kill so far as muzzle-loaders, but 
from the increased and increasing number of 
gunners, the fact of two guns or more being per- 
mitted to each person, and scarce anything that 
arises escaping a shot at it, there is more game 
in quantity killed and more cripjDled than there 
was in former times, and consequently less game left 
for the following year. 

When you couple with this another fact, which, 
like a great many other things, originated in 
ignorance and folly, — I allude to the wholesale 
destruction of hen pheasants as well as cocks, — the 
decrease of game cannot be wondered at. I have 
often asked the giver of the shooting day what 
game he will have left to breed on his lands the next 
season, if he and his friends shoot every hen that rises. 

The reply to this invariably has been, — '^Oh, 
they don't breed much in a wild state, I dejoend 
on my aviaries and hand-reared birds." And, 
with a blush, he might have added, '^I hu/j my 
neighbours' eggs." 

Very well, then, artificial manure, change in 
the seasons, and neglect of the gamekeepers in 
the time when birds are laying (where any hens 



286 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

are left to lay) to protect the eggs from being 
stolen to sell to other aviaries, that may militate 
against the wild breed, and so may the mihealthful 
natm'c of some soils; but as men canH lay their 
own eggs, and the hen pheasant is the only bird 
that can furnish the required hrood, how foolish it is 
to destroy the source whence tlie best eggs come ! 
You can have only a certain or limited number 
of birds in an aviary, whereas a man with a 
large manor can have as many as his acres and 
wilds will heathfully carry; and if the soil is 
not favourable for pheasants, he can take better 
eggs from his own wilds than any he can buy, 
and breed them up in addition to those in the 
aviaries, leaving the old birds" to help his stock 
if they can with a second nest. I have des- 
canted on this matter before, but it cannot be 
too much impressed on the sj)orting reader. 
Wlien, as a boy, I began shooting, a bad par- 
tridge season was scarcely or never known. Now 
bad seasons follow each other. I have seen, in 
August, pairs of old birds packed together, and 
known of coveys the number of whose young daily 
diminished. If in August you sluing a covey, 
and in flying over the standing corn you see 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 287 

some young birds drop mucli sooner tlian others 
from inability to continue a consecutive flight, 
that is a sure sign that disease is doing its 
office, and tliat disease and death will decimate, 
if not utterly destroy, the entire nide. Ere 
these gradual changes in the seasons commenced, 
we used to think that partridges, being later 
in nesting than the pheasants, escaped all damage 
from frost. But in this change of season they 
have no longer that advantage ; while grouse, 
in the higher and more northern latitudes, are 
even still more exposed to changeful vicissitude. 

It is in my remembrance, that if any man found 
a woodcock's nest in England, it was chronicled as 
a curious fact by the public press. Of late years 
woodcocks breed very largely in England. In 
the New Forest I knew of nine woodcocks on 
their nests at the same period, and I have, in 
that ill-used forest, seen their young of all ages. 
Snipes, that used always to breed in England, 
in spite of DarwiiVs erroneous assertion that ^^they 
never did, and do not do so now,'-' breed here 
more than ever, and in great nmltitudes. I have, 
if my memory serves me rightly, some nine or 
ten years ago, made a bag of full-grown snipes 



288 FACT AGAINST FICTIOK. 

of twenty couples, with some old ones intermixed, 
in one day in AiigiiKst, wlien I rented Winkton 
and its fishery of the late Mr. Weld, of Lulworth 
Castle ; and now they frequently sell snipes' eggs 
among the plovers' eggs to the London dealers 
and chance customers, and it is almost impossible 
to detect the one egg from the other. The colour 
of the shell is exactly the same ; the shape is 
much the same ; and when boiled, the white in 
the egg of each is similarly clear. If possible, 
the snipe's egg is the better of the two, only 
not quite so large, and at times inclined to be 
more pointed at the lesser end. 

If birds hitherto deemed to be more hahituated 
to colder climes than ours come to this country 
thus to breed, that certainly is a sign of change 
in the times. If wild geese, wild swans, and 
other rarer water-fowl, do not come to us as much 
as they used to do, that does not in any way 
tend to shake my position, because where man 
increases, and drainage of particular sites pre- 
dominates, there are some birds who would not 
be attracted by a habitation foreign to their 
nature ; and, besides this, all wild and beautiful 
things invariably decrease as the human race 



C11A^GE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 289 

comes on, or as crime increases with learning among 
the lower orders of the present clay, or schism 
and dissent from orthodox doctrine increase pre- 
cisely with the increase of the churches erected for 
the so-called established religion. 

If false doctrine, heresy, and schism cannot ^^ 
be gagged or prevented, — if we are to support 
self-styled Liberal Governments, who lust for dis- 
ruption and office, and care not for the Consti- 
tution, who court the murderer, as in Ireland, 
and set tlie Fenian and traitor free, with punish- 
ment cravenly commuted, — why, then, if such a . 
course of communism were permitted to continue, 
there would be ^' a political aspect in the times" 
both marked in its changes and in its ruinous 
results too terrible for calm contemjjlation. ^^ . 

In all the action of the visible world, from the 
lightning above to the increase of crimes below, 
there is a change going on. Every thunder-storm 
has become more or less fatal to living things, and 
trees are oftener struck by tlie electric fluid than 
they used to be. So rare were the accidents at 
one time, that they were alluded to as facts for 
wonder ; now, we only wonder if a tlnmder- 
storm lias burst without a consequent loss of life. 

VOL. II. U 



290 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

I have lately liacl a fir-tree smitten by the 
lightning, and, curious enough, after running 
from tlie top of the tree to the bottom, and 
severing the bark, the lightning glanced off, but, 
not entering the ground at the foot of the tree, 
passed down the carriage-drive close to a boy, 
and exj^loded with a noise like a gun on the 
ground very near the house. The electricity in 
the same storm struck so near to a coop containing 
a barn-door hen and a brood of young pheasants, 
that, without absolutely touching either, it killed 
some of the young birds and prostrated others, 
though several of the latter recovered. 

Change, except in Parliament, where all has 
seemed convulsive, comes on gradually, — so 
much so as to be almost imperceptible to the 
human eye and brain, because the mind of man 
gets used to succeeding novelties, and aA^oids 
surprise through the means of an almost imper- 
ceptible gradation. 

To return to the ornithological tlieme, and 
to the interests of the birds of game as well 
as to that of the proprietor of the manor, 
the following facts ouglit to be taken into con- 
sideration. Witli this change from succeeding 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AXD OF THE TIMES. 291 

good seasons to succeccliiig bad ones, more hen 
birds should be S23ared. 

The mischief of mowing machines, too, sliould 
be thought of, the increased number of gunners, 
and tlie rapidity of fire, all should be taken into 
consideration, and a greater stock of feathered 
game increasingly protected. The most mistaken 
custom of permitting keepers to save themselves 
trouble in protecting the eggs in the wild nests, 
by having all the birds the gun spares in an 
aviary, should be done away with. The eggs 
of the wild birds may be collected, and the 
birds left for a second nest, and thus the stock 
might be kept up without the deplorable custom 
of purchasing some of your own eggs and many 
of your neighbours'. 

It is strange, but men of the present day seem 
to think that there can bo good eggs independent 
of the male birds, and that they cannot kill too 
many cocks. Through this strange error, a friend 
of mine had on his manor about five hundred 
bad eggs, which, of course, though put under 
hens, came to nothing ; and, in a second instance, 
a similar thing happened on a manor with which 
I am well acquainted. 

u 2 



5 9 2 FACt AGAINST FiCTION. 

Foolish gamekeepers hate a hxrge stock of male 
birds, simply because theij think their crowing when 
they go to roost attracts the poaching thief. They 
also hate to have many cocks in smnmer, because 
the crowing of the male bird indicates the where- 
abouts of the female's nest. All cock pheasants crow 
in summer, master birds and younger birds, and 
the more there are, the more deluded as to the spot 
of a plieasant's nest the intending thief will be. 
Some 2)eople, masters and keepers, dislike white 
or pied pheasants, because they think tliat ''they 
attract thieves." If I thought they did, I would tie 
a lantern to the bird's tail, if I could catch him, to 
add to the attraction, for then the capture of a 
2)oaching thief would be more easily effected than 
it is now. 

I recommend a larger stock of both hen and cock 
pheasants to be kejDt on the lands than is absolutely 
needed for breeding purposes, because then if it is 
a bad season, as it so often is now, you have some- 
thing in hand to shoot at. As to partridges, I have 
heard lords of manors say, '' It is no use hand-rear- 
ing partridges, for they pack, and in the shooting 
season you can't get near them." So much the 
better then ; you can shoot liarder on the wild-bred 



CHANGE OF SEASONS AND OF THE TIMES. 293 

birds, knowing* that for eggs you can fall back on 
those round the house, for wild though those hand- 
reared birds may be in the shooting season, they 
will return, as spring approaches, to the spot where 
they were reared, and be certain to give you a good 
stock at home. 

It is possible to kill too many partridges on a 
given site, just as it is possible to kill too many of 
any other kind of birds ; therefore, to all my brother 
sportsmen I recommend judicious moderation and 
circumstantial guidance. We are attached to the 
scene of the home where we were born, w^e love our 
old play-grounds, and there is in every man's breast, 
more or less, an attachment to the site of his birth, 
which years of joy or misery elsewhere cannot 
obliterate. The heart of a bird beats in a similar 
direction, and, though gifted with wings, the bird 
never entirely forsakes the field or wood that first 
met its eyes when peeping, from the brooding 
breast of its mother, at the first glories of the rising 
sun. It would be well, as the change in ^^ the times" 
continues, and as change has for once had the better 
of position now, to seek that mysterious throne of 
truth, the cavcrned breast of ages gone, whence facts 
indisputable are handed down to man if he will 



294 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

only seek for tlicm, in a handwriting on a wall of 
imperishable rock, that does not and cannot vanish. 
Bcncatli the walls of the modern Babylon, below 
the fomidations of palace and prison, in the truthful 
clay beneath London, lie secrets that tell us that 
the climate of our little isle and of the continent 
was then far colder than it is even yet become; 
that races of reptiles, huge animals, and birds have 
passed away, and made room for those with which 
we now are conversant. 

If we go further into the congealed trutlis locked 
up in the cabinets of creation, we find irrefragable 
proof that climates have changed altogether; that 
those animals which were once the inhabitants of 
hot and sultry climes lie now beneath a colder 
hemisphere ; and that the elephant, which, within 
the memory of man, is only to be found beneath a 
torrid zone, had been clothed, in times long gone 
by, with a rough, shaggy coat, to protect him from 
a polar winter. 



THE LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 295 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 

Harmonious Amusement — Wonderful Intelligence shown by a 
Beetle — Interrupted by a Butterfly — Fleas — Loves of the 
Dragon-Fly — A AValk Round the Water — Water Newts — A 
Hard Struggle for Victory — Insect Food found in the Crop of 
a Pheasant — Angry Ants — Ant Tramps — Human Tramps. 

At the commencement of this chapter, let it be 
understood, not only by the scientific and general 
reader, but by all his sul)ordinates in letters, with 
or without purchase of my Avork, that I do not 
profess to be an entomologist. It is in my family 
to be so, for my brother, the present Earl of 
Berkeley, when a boy, left off birds'-nesting, and 
sought the humbler nest of the wild bumble 
bee, his (my brother's) proclivities being operatic, 
for he cared nothing for the habits of insects, 
their honey, nor how much he thwarted them, 
but his delight was in their angry ^^mm." Often 
and often have I seen him seated, meditatively. 



296 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

on the gTound, a small straight twig from a nut 
bush or some other tree in his hand, twirling 
it round, as if, according to a fabulous power of a 
^'rod divining" the site of water, but in reality in the 
enjoyment of a stifled chorus of angry bees beneath 
him, on the orifice of whose homestead he had 
securely and safely seated himself, having first 
stirred up their angry notice by an insertion of 
the enlivening twig. The bees couldn't come 
out, and, for a time, he dared not get up, or, 
as Burns says, — 

" The bees would have flown out wi' angry fyke. 
When men so seated closed their byke." 

Had my brother risen from his melodious posi- 
tion before the wearied bees had come to the 
not honeyed conclusion that the world had turned 
upside down, and that they must try an exit 
from the other side of their home, he, in all 
probability, would have paid dearly for his 
harmonious pastime. 

Darwin on ^ Crustaceans ' (pp. 33-4 and 335, 
vol. i.), asserts, ^Hhat the mental powers of these 
^ creatures ' are probably higher tlian might have 
been expected." But I do not see why we should, 
under existing circumstances, attribute less intelli- 



THE LOVES OF THE INSECl'S. 297 

gence or mental action to the crab than we know 
to he exhibited by various insects — the bee, the 
ant, the hornet, wasp, and spider. Mr. Gardner's 
observation on the ^^ shore crab" and the shells, 
shows in the crab a reasoning ijower based on a 
necessity for precautionary measures in regard to 
moving other shells to a distance because one 
had ftillen into the hole that the crab was making. 
Leaving out the wondrous instincts and almost 
reasoning powers exhibited by the insects I have 
named, I will match their actions and those of 
all the crustaceans put together by what I myself 
witnessed on the heath near Bournemouth while 
watching a beetle. 

I am not entomologist enough to name the 
beetle, but he was nearly as long as a moderately- 
sized was}), but thinner, and his sides were red, 
his shoulders of a brownish black, and the portion 
of his figure below his waist was of a brownish 
grey. Lying down on the heath above Bourne- 
mouth, and resting on folded arms, my face to 
the heather, I saw this beetle carrying that which, 
from their relative sizes, seemed to me to be a 
heavy burden, with great sjoeed and curious 
care ; so I watched his proceedings with interest, 



298 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

under an impression that lie was about carrying 
a large, cloublecl-ii]), dead spider, wliicli I made it 
out to be, to liis home. There was much that 
was clever in the way he held the spider, for ho 
never let it impede his way by coming in contact 
with the ground, and, by deviations, he prevented 
it striking against the stalks of heather and heath 
grass that closely neighboured him on either side. 
In his progress, he obviously paused slightly at 
the foot of an occasional stalk of heather, which 
at first I set down to his considerino; how to 
avoid contact ; but it was no such thing ; the rea- 
soiling insect had a purpose beyond mere instinct, 
which at first I did not dream of. On he went 
till he arrived at another heath-stalk, then he 
paused a little longer, and, having dej^osited his 
burden at the foot of it, he proceeded to climb 
deftly, what to him must have been a consider- 
able tree. Arrived at the summit, he examined 
the small forks and fibrous formation of his lofty 
position with considerable care, and then descended 
to where he had left his spider, which he again 
took up and carried off as before. In a little 
while the same thing was enacted again, and, 
setting his burden down, he ascended another 



THE LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 299 

stalk of iieatlier, returning, after some research, 
to resume liis burden, and to resume his earthly 
progress. I Avas more than once obliged to shift 
ni)^ position to keej) him in view. For the third 
time he did the same as to leaving his dead 
game, ascending the heather-stalk, to him a tree, 
and looking at its formation ; but when he came 
down again it was, on this occasion, not to re- 
sume his game and to carry it further on, l3ut 
he picked it up and climbed with it into the 
io\) of the heather, which at last he evidently 
had found suitable to the object he had in his 
veasonmg mind. Then, in a fork of the heather, 
which he had previously and of aforethought ascer- 
tained to be shaped in the desired way, he safely 
deposited, or, as we should say, hung up his dead 
game out of harm's way, when, leaving it there, 
and coming again to the ground, he commenced 
ranging his forest at much greater sjDced, and 
mucli in the way that my Irish setters quarter the 
ground when ranging the stubbles for partridges, 
or the moors for snipe. 

Alas ! I could have continued this entomological 
research into succeeding hours, for the beetle had 
fascinated me, and I wanted, with the longing of 



300 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

a huntsman, to see him find and kill the fresli 
game he was evidently beating for ; alas ! — 

'' There are bucks and raes, 
On Billliope braes, 
There 's a herd in Shortwood shaw ; 
But a lilyvvhite doe in the garden gaes, 
An' she 's fairly worth them a'.'' 

A butterfly J we will call it so, then came over 
the brow of the moor, so modestly gay, so 
winsome of flight, so gracefully afoot, and so 
attractive to my chivalrous proclivities, that the 
beetle and his sporting attributes were eclij^sed, 
and, applying to myself the words of the song, 
" Poor insect, what a little day is thine," 

I set about dedicating to the butterfly that high- 
souled lofty homage which beauty ought ever to 
command. 

Well, then, to descend from heaven to earth, 
or, at all events, from the regions of air to the 
more lovely things that, each a lesson in itself 
to boastful man, wend their way through life's 
intricacies. 

Wherever we look we see, or we ought to see, 
that after all instinct is really more or less reason, 
and an object can dwell in tlie brain even of tlie 
flea and the New Forest fly, beyond the love of 



THE LOVES OF THE INSECTS. T^Ol 

blood. It is not mere instinct that leads a flea 
to ascertain the only spot in the frame of the 
dog whereon he can enjoy complete freedom from 
distm^bancOj and obtain rest, and not hopeless but 
hopless sleep. 

There is a philosopher very aptly named for 
the theme on which he cleverly descants, ^ Hunt 
on the Skin ' ; and any observant person may see 
the dog closely nibbling with his teeth to catch 
his tormentors, or scratching vigorously at them 
with his hind toe-nails, pursuing Ids '^ hunt on 
the skin" in all parts of his person save the 
rearmost portion of his loin, where it closely abuts 
on the root of the stern or tail. ^ To that spot 
he cannot attain^ and at that spot^ not deviating 
an inch beyond this Alsatia, do the dog's fleas 
resort; they go there for rest, — it is only for 
refreshment that they wend to otlier districts. 

This same anatomical reason is possessed by the 
New Forest fly ; he is different from all otlier 
forest flies. His powers are so great, that he 
can unseat a regiment of dragoons if they cross 
his wilds, and an army dare not picket by night 
in his vicinity, or all the horses Would break loose. 
He feasts on blood, but Nature, for some occult 



302 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

reason of mlscliicf, lias armed his legs with a poAver 
to ticklcj or perhaps to wound, so that his assaults 
are unbearable to animals not bred in his vicinity. 
No blow from a tail can crush him, not even a 
cow's head, when she flings it back upon her 
shoulder; and the only certain way of putting 
him to death is to pull him in two. 

All day long he pesters and feeds on and all 
over the cattle ; but as night approaches, the 
forest flies gather together in a black mass 
in the comfortable sweet hollow that lies be- 
tween the root of the tail, the hip, and back- 
bone of kine. The cow cannot reach them there, 
nor does she desire to do so, for they all seek 
the spot to go to bed together, and to cease 
from their daily toil, to alee]) and get up early 
for further mischief. 

We will now refer to that little noticed, and 
seldom descanted on theme, the loves of the dragon- 
fly. In this there is much that is curious, and, as 
far as I can ascertain, a vast deal that is not 
accounted for, both in their loves, incubation, and 
action in depositing their eggs. 

If the Rev. J. G. Wood, M.A., F.L.S., &c., 
who, according to Messrs. Routledge & Co., 



LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 303 

translatcclj revised, and edited the well-known 
French author, Alphonse Karr's ' Tour round my 
Garden,' has not taken great liberties with the 
matter he had in hand, I feel disposed to rebel 
furiously against the French action as imputed 
to men in regard to '^ making love." 

But let us quote the exact words, as revised, and, 
perhaps, altered by the reverend gentleman, Mr. 
Wood ; and for myself let me, at least, hoj^e that 
if he (Mr. Wood) is married, he neither forced 
himself by '^annoyance" into holy matrimony, 
nor '^ rushed" towards his bride and ^'carried her 
off by the throat." 

These are his words: — ^^ Their manner (the 
dragon-flies) of making love is singular for insects, 
although hi/ no means uncormnon luith men ! It is 
by perseverance and the annoyance they cause by an 
almost hostile assiduit}^, that the males succeed in 
seducing the beauty that has won their hearts, 
generally from the middle of September till the 
middle of October." Alphonse Karr, or his 
translator, then goes on to say, — ^^ The female 
glitters coquettishly in the sun ; a blue male per- 
ceives her ; he rushes towards her, seizes her by 
the throat, and carries her off through the air, and 



304 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

will not let her go till slie lias consented to ^e^ya^cl 
his flame.'' 

Now, let the clergy speak for themselves, and not 
attribute to us, the laymen, even an approach to 
any such violent method of making love. Among 
us, the laymen, it is very uncommon to win, or to 
seek to win, by ^^ annoyance," or seizing girls 
with whom we are in love by the ^' throats," what- 
ever tlie clergy may do. On the part of those 
beautiful insects, the dragon-flies, who take their 
mates, not in the autumn, '^ Sej^tember and October," 
but more often in the hottest and calmest days 
of midsummer, double instances of courtship onaij 
be seen, very contradictory to the position of the 
translator or author. I positively repudiate the 
notion of any rude '^ seizure," such as the reve- 
rend divine suggests. The poor dear things have 
no hands ; they can't go forth in the summer-day 
arm-in-arm like I thought that clergymen did ; but 
in all amiable felicity and gentleness, having no 
hands, the male fixes his tail in the back of the 
head of the female, as the handiest part for 
transportation, and then, making use of their 
light wings in unity, not the least objection on 
either side, and by loving and common consent. 



LOVES OF THE INSECTS." od^) 

tliey may ho seen hovering over tlie lucid pools, or 
rej^osing on tlic leaf of the water-lily, or on the 
forget-me-nots on the Lank of the stream or pool. 

When the female lays her eggs, — and this fact 
is an extraordinary one, as eggs generally are a 
scquiter to bliss, — the two dragon-flies thus happily 
conjoined may be seen hovering over a spot above 
the still water, using their powers of flight in 
unison, the male kindly consenting to a continuance 
of dips at the water to enable the tail of the female 
to touch and drop her eggs upon the surface, when, 
by the laws of gravity, they sink to the bottom. 
There is no rudeness, no persecution, in this, — no 
abrupt seizure or forcible detention. In truths such 
a method of love-making as that described would, 
according to any experience of mine, be ''espe- 
cially tmcomnion among men." So for the laity, 
as well as for the poor dear insects, I repudiate in 
gentle, 1)ut firm terms, the allegations of the reverend 
Mr» Wood, and his friend, Al2:)honse Karr. 

Now, kind reader, — as it is the fashion to call 
every " reader," though some of them sit down to 
the work they are perusing with bitter wishes and 
a gibing pen, — come with me, not for " a Avalk round 
my garden," but for a walk with me ''round the 

VOL. II. X 



30G FACT AGAIIXST I^ICTION. 

water," and let us look at the curious habits of the 
clragon-flies. There tliey are, some of them conjoined 
in pairs, as before described, di})ping' up and down 
over a given spot for the tail of the female at 
intervals to toucli the water. Look at that appa- 
rently heavy dragon-fly, who wings by with rather 
laborious action ; there is not one fly, but two, only 
the female needs repose ; and for this purpose, while 
the loving male still holds to the back of her head, 
she doubles herself beneath him, and, passing between 
his legs, aflixes her tall to his chest or throat, thougli 
not in savage guise, thus comfortably assisting him 
to hold her weight without additional assistance from 
her passive wings, they proceed to rest in each other's 
embraces on some broad leaf above the Avater. 

Among the dragon-flies their colours differ 
greatly. They are blue, red, and variegated^ 
but occasionally may be observed, in single in- 
stances only, according to my experience, a huge 
and brilliantly-beautiful specimen of this genus j 
ncjt only about the water, Ijut at great distances 
from it, wlio seems always to be in search of 
something, or to have an inordinate aj^petite for 
the sport of devouring small flies. He, she, or 
it, whichever it is, is so large, that the wings 



LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 307 

make an almost jiDgling* noise ; and one day one 
of these gigantic dragon-flies came into my 
drawing-room, through the open window, and 
hovered over our heads. We named liim the soul 
of a discarded lover, for there was no other lover 
there but me. 

What with farming, fishing, shooting, and 
hunting, thank Heaven ! I have much sylvan 
and rural felicitv, — still I have but little time 
to look closely into the more minute details of 
creation, and to study insect and reptile life as 
closely as I could otherwise find it amusing to 
do ; yet with eyes always open, as I have said 
before, I read a lesson everywhere — and a lesson, 
too, that a long life does not get to the end of 
while life lasts. Now for the little Avater-newt, 
and the poor pool of his selected habitation. 

I was in the woods one day, spade in hand, 
digging out a swamp to bare or expose the water 
that percolated beneath the moss, for the en- 
couragement of fowl. In one s})ot, about two 
delves of the spade had opened out a little shallow 
pool, and at this point of my labour I sat down 
to my sandwich and flask of sherry. On return- 
ing to the spot thus alluded to, the water had 

x2 



oOS FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

filled in ])erfectlj clear, to tlie depth of about 
six inclics, and tlic following aquatic scene in 
insect and reptile life presented itself. The spade 
had divided a largish wornij and two large water- 
newts had swallowed either end of one portion of it 
as far as they could get it down their throats, and 
were angrily pulling the one against the other, in 
the hope of a substantial meal, and the possession of 
a treasure. Neither could gain any advantage, for 
the two ends of the coveted morsel were jammed 
into their jaws, and, besides this, each held fast in 
order not to lose the prize. Assembled around them 
were six or seven lesser water-newts, and a flock 
of nasty-looking black water-beetles, all deeply 
interested in the struggle, and all, no doubt, 
though afraid to interfere, ready to seize on any 
crumbs that might fall from the great newt's 
table. This struo^f^-le amused me for a con- 
siderable time, and, though I transferred my 
attention and labour to other places, when I left 
off work the two combatants had still hold of 
cither end of the worm, while the expectant or 
observant snuiller fry had considerably dispersed, 
as if they thought the battle, unlike the worm, 
would never have any end. 



LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 309 

In the ^ Tour round my Garden,' the editor, 
or author, describes an insect on the ^^leaf of a 
2:>each-trec of the size of a grain of millet-seed," 
page 208, from which source he deduces a would- 
1)0 illustration of ^'what the Romans required of 
woman, to spin her wool and keep her house"; 
but such references in purple, to my mind, are 
beside the mark, and I will not be led to follow 
the reverend reviser into the outward and visible 
signs of scholastic study, — mine is an unvarnished 
tale, and I only speak of what / hiow. On one 
occasion I had shot, quite on the outside of tlie 
manor, a fine cock pheasant, in splendid condition, 
and the bird was known to have haunted that 
spot for some time. I had not fed artificially in 
the places of his resort, alid it was too late in 
the winter for there to be any superfluous grain 
left about the arable lands ; there were no acorns 
in the vicinity, nor beech-masts, yet still tlie 
bird was fat. There did not seem to be much 
of anything in his crop, and what tliere was 
seemed soft to the touch — not like grass nor 
turnips, but clammy, and of a close substance. 
On inspecting the crop, it contained tlio small, 
very small, blister-looking spot that may be found 



310 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

cliirino^ tlio winter on the lower side of the fallen 
oak-leafj and which little kind of blister, about 
tlie size of a threepenny piece, or not so large, 
generally contains a minute white maggot. This 
spot, with its inhabitant, the pheasant pecks from 
the leaf, and on this the pheasants maintain 
themselves in good condition. 

I have not time to investigate the interesting 
insect to which this tiny maggot l3elongs. It only 
came within my observance within the last year or 
two, but no doubt the author of ' A Tour round 
my Garden ' will deduce from it some intimate con- 
nexion with tlie inhabitants of mighty and departed 
nations, and leave us to digest the dilemma of 
wliat the one can by any possibility have to do 
with the other. 

Darwin, thouo^h with an imagination wild and 
daring in its flights, i.-^ the only author I have 
ever read who knows anything of the loves of 
the draffon-flv ; but, as tlie history of its affections, 
of its methods and its manners, may be studied 
by the water-side anywhere on any warm and 
windless summer-day, or by tlio side of w\\ pools 
upon the moor, if a student — or, better, a stu- 
dcntess — likes to walk with me to investigate 



LOVES OF THE INSECTS. 311 

the mysteries of nature, tliey can look on that 
picture (the ^ Tour round my Garden ') and on 
this, and then form their own conclusions. 

Anybody wisliing to amuse an idle quarter of 
an hour may make himself some entomologic fun 
hy going to one of the large wood-ants' nests, 
and, with a stick, putting aside the top of it, 
and stirring up the crater of the living little 
Vesuvius. Then, the crater of the nest thus 
hollowed out and exposed, without touching tlie 
nest, he can lean over it, and put his arm and 
bare hand, without getting near enough to the 
sides for the ants to touch him, and then let him 
feel their assaults and watch their actions. Every 
ant will man, as it were, the sides of his infracted 
fort, and every ant will he on his hinder legs 
or haunches, and the aggressive hand of man 
will feel just as if it Avas being slightly iced, 
or put into an ice - pail without contact with 
the frozen contents. The position assumed by the 
outraged ants is thus accounted for, — they sit up 
to spit at the intruder. 

After the hand is withdrawn, it will have a 
decided smell upon it, as of having been in contact 
with vinegar. It is very curious to watch these 



312 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

ants wlion climbing tlio trees or crawling along 
boughs in search of food. A solitary ant, when 
wending Ju's waij iij), if he comes to a spot where 
two or three l)rahches diverge, will pause, and 
seem to hold communion with himself This pause 
is necessary to him ; for in its short duration ho 
makes out which course had been pursued by some 
other ant beating the beat before him, and he 
takes care not to go over the same track, — just as 
a man would do, if there was an earlier shooter 
on the ground before him. I made this out b}^ 
watching several ants in their ascent of trees, 
and always discovered that one would not follow 
another if he could help it. These ants reminded 
me of tramps and gipsies, 'as well as of sports- 
men; ''poor insects," indeed! '' what a little day" 
it is that is assigned to all of us I Tramps, 
when more rife than they are now, — except on 
a tramp preserve of a parson near me, who, 
though a nmgistrate, assigns them land to halt 
and live on, in spite of law and the orders of 
the police to move them on, — never would follow 
the beiTirinu' or thievin<2r line of each other. So, 
there being '^ honour among thieves," the preceding 
tramp or family of tramps, when country roads 



LOVES OF THE INSECTS. olo 

or lanes divergoci at particular points, always left 
a mark hj the road-siclc to sliow which way the 
preceding tramp or tramps had gone. The marks 
w^ero very trifling, and scarcely noticeable, except 
to a practised eye. The first I fomid I mistook 
for a poacher's mark opposite a '^ muse'' in the 
hedge, to denote the position of his snare ; now 
I am more alive to the arts of the tramping world, 
and am down on a good many of their dodges, as 
the divine before alluded to keejos me in practice. 
The marks these tramps put on entrance-gates or 
gate-posts arc slight enough to look at, but still 
ample to warn beggars of the different receptions 
they are likely to meet with if they touch on 
the forbidden ground. 



314 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS. 

Demolition and its Consequences — Agitation — Cobden's Prognos- 
tications, and what they have come to — Peace and War — ■ 
Increasing Supply of the ]\Iaterials of War — Crime on the 
Increase — Justices of the Peace and Rural Criminals — Uncer- 
tainty of Conviction, 

It is very curious^ in this world of change, self- 
seeking, and sedition, to watch, from the retirement 
of private life, the throes of the disaffected in their 
endeavours to pull down the temple, which when, 
if ever, it falls, is sure to crush them in its ruin, 
— to crush the demaoroo^ue and self-asserted Man of 
tlie People out of all shape and feature, while at 
the same time tliere will arise from the debris of 
destruction the honest and capable politician. 
Like the growth of some sylvan shruh beneatli 
an avalanche from tlie hill-side, the really useful 
patriot will rise again and ascend above the shape- 
less mass, his stepping-stone the skeleton of decay. 



ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS, 315 



Agitation for no o'ood end seems, in Imndreds 



"o 



of cases, to be the Ijlatant food on wliicli some 
men live. They can't be quiet nor let others 
be contented, but advocate strikes, leagues, and 
unions for mischief, of course craving imder false 
pretences for subscriptions, that they may keep 
the caldron of cavil boiling, in order that its steam 
may attract the unwary, and prompt to robbery, 
hope for food and an impossible comfort which 
never comes. According to the late Mr. Cobden, — 
who, I sincerely believe, was a conscientious pleader 
for impossibilities, — when the law of free trade passed, 
Russia, Prussia, Austria, and France, were to be 
'' crumpled up like a sheet of waste paper," if any 
of those nations dared to disturb the general peace. 
Swords Avere to be turned, by the action of free 
trade, into hoes and harrows — bows and arrows 
would have been far more likely, if we had been in 
iirnorance of the bettor munitions of war; war- 
liorses, no longer wanted for the big guns, were to 
be harnessed to the plough, cannon turned into 
culverins for sewers, and soldiers into milkmen and 
mowers for tlie rural harvest of those expected 
peaceful times. 

If Cobden could look from his grave and see 



316 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

tlie result of liis prognostications, his ^'unadorned 
eloquence," what would he behold, now? Free 
trade refused in America and France, and objected 
to more or less all over the world, more murderous 
artillery invented than ever, better-drilled soldiers 
of standing armies, some of them, too, of all arms, 
and those mighty nations which, by the ascend- 
ancy of industry among tradesmen, farmers and 
lienwives, were to have been crumpled up if they 
presumed to frown at each other, in a very few 
years engaging in fight, with results more san- 
guinary, more terrible, and fraught with graver 
consequences, than had ever been thought of in 
Mr. Cobden's time. The study of each nation, 
in spite of free trade, now is to produce the best 
system of soldierly drill, and to invent the most 
powerful cannon for the destruction of man. At 
sea, in the fortress, in the field, nations now vie 
Avith each other in the invention of deadly mischief 
to the foe. 

Practice has proved that tlie Ijcst - drilled 
army, the largest and most lieavy artillery, and 
the readiest sword to fly from the scabbard, have a 
million-fold more power to keep the peace, tlian 
all the corn-oTowinf2r maudlin cono-rcsses i:>'athered 



ox VAKTOrS STTB.TFXTS'. *)17 

togetlier by any eloquence, adorned or unadorned^ 
that ever was listened to in tlie House of Commons 
or elsewliere. Directly on this peace-asserting free 
trade J we have had certainly three of the most 
bloody wars that ever raged between the nations 
of the earth. In that mis-called centre of a boasted 
freedom, America, men in civil war murdered each 
other with a ferocity scarcely equalled ; England, 
France, and Sweden had before assaulted Russia. 
Prussia then marched over Austria, and afterwards 
crushed the floAver of the chivalry of France, the 
cry of '^ a Berlin" circumstantially adhered to by 
French prisoners going to Berlin on coercion, 
instead of conquest. To them a sad reverse to 
their desires. 

This ^-crumpling up of nations" with the 
mills of free trade, then, was an ^^ unadorned" 
mistake; a ''mill" of more combative grind took 
the place of grain, and garnished Imperial halls 
witli trophies of anything l3ut universal peace. 

It is an egregious fallacy to suppose that men, 
that nations, can be kept from fighting. Com- 
bativeness is as much the gift of Em^jerors, as 
mischief is the ruling passion of demagogues, or 
theft the motive of the tliief. Nothing that human 



'il8 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

ingenuity can devise, either by education^ exten- 
sion of cottage comfortSj religious example, or 
clmrcli discipline, will make a population any 
better than it is their gift to be. I have watched 
what is termed the progress of learning and reli- 
gious education, as it is fondly called, step by step, 
year by year, for half a century, and at the end of 
tliat half century for the life of me I cannot see 
that the population is one bit improved, that crime 
has become less frequent or less villainously vile, or 
that murder has shrunk from its sanguinary pur- 
pose. Let us look the facts in the face, and not 
shrink from an unpalatable truth. 

Wife-murder, child-murder, assaults on women 
and children, have increased, and not increased in 
merely the same ratio as the growth of the popula- 
tion, but hand-in-hand, numerically speaking, crime 
and education have advanced side by side; of tlie 
two, crime has outstripped the schoolmaster. If 
my readers doubt this, let them search the statistics 
of the Police. 

The real fact is, that the la^vs of the country do 
not now speedily and sufficiently punish evil-doers, 
— tlie murderer, the thief, and the A'ilest offenders. 
They execute the foul murderer as if they, the 



ON VARIOU-S SUBJECTS. 310 

officers of justice, were asliamed of their appointed 
duty, and the press of the day speak of the nio.'st 
unmitigated rascals who were about to he hung 
with deep interest and commiseration, and inform 
their readers what an appetite the biped brute had 
on the eve of death, how calmly he slept, and how 
cordially he shook hands with the sheriffs and the 
chaplain, after eating a very hearty breakfast. 

Why let such a biped brute have luxuries that 
many other biped brutes would commit murder 
for, if they were sure of getting them ? Why, if 
you want to decrease the parochial expenditure, 
do you permit thieves and vagabonds, who will 
not do any honest labour, to enter and throng 
the unions, and do as they did at the Brentford 
Poor- Law Union, swill wine, spirits, porter, and 
beer to such an amount that it made it difficult 
for any looker-on to deem otherwise than that 
the imion officers, nurses, and paupers all got in* 
toxicated together ? 

Our prisons and our Poor Law Unions are mad(*. 
so much more comfortable to their inhabitants 
than tlie arches under the railway and similal' 
dark dens can be, that the villains and villainesses 
commit small crimes on purpose to escape honest 



'>20 FACT AGAIXST FICTIO^^ 

labour, to p;ct liousecl for tlic winter by committal, 
and to drink as they did at Brentford. I speak 
as a Justice of Peace of very long standing, and 
also as a Foreman of Grand Juries, and I know 
that for a man of the working classes to call on 
God to witness, by his oath, the truth of what he 
says, is no more binding to his, the swearer's, 
conscience than if he had sworn, as actors in a 
theatre do, by the large centre chandelier. 

The entire working population seem to consider 
direct perjury as the best means of defence. To 
prove an alibi, by sending to the nearest low 
beer-house, the resort of tramps, who are just at 
that time passing by, and will be off the next 
day, is the, constant habit of the accused. Tliere 
they can always obtain well got-up men and 
women to attend at the Petty Sessions, who, one 
and all, having consulted beforehand together, 
swear to the same lie, and before a bench of 
magistrates at Petty Sessions, if there are Parsons 
there, they are sure to be believed. Of course^ 
it is impossible to rebut their false testimonyj save 
by the oath of the prosecuting witliess, and it is 
Ciuious to see how a bench of magistrates will 
cling to tlie defence made by non-resident and 



ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS. o2i 

unknown witnesses when placed side by side with 
the sworn accusation of one or two honest and 
responsible men.* 

I have seen a magistrate, a clergyman, having 
to do with one of these false witnesses, after 
the witness, by a low attorney, had been examined 
in chief, and then cross-examined by the prose- 
cutor, recur to tliat witness again, and take a 
further examination of him while he stood behind 
the bar, in the company of his fellows. I have 
seen a magistrate allow a headborough, who had 
been summoned and fined for committing an 
offence, on his application, half-a-crown for serving 
tJie summons on himself; I have heard a Chairman 
of Petty Sessions very properly rebuke another 
magistrate, who was a clergyman, for gross and 
illegal conduct on the Bench : and with such 
examples as these, and many others that could 
be adduced, there are people still who set their 
faces against the abolition of the Justices of the 
Peace, and tlie substitution for that body of a 
paid Judge, on the plan of the County Court. 

'" If testimony on oath from either side clashes, then it becomes 
a question which is the most reliable source whence it comes, and 
decision should be arrived at accordingly. 

VOL. II. Y 



322 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

There can be no sort of doubt that if a magis- 
trate was not deemed, by the Legiskitnre, judge 
enough to act in petty cases in his own house, 
Avhere, if they applied for it, any portion of the 
public might have been admitted, the same class 
of judicial functionaries had better not be called 
on to legislate in a conclave held in open court. 
Lord xilbemarle attempted a most excellent remedy 
when he moved this consideration in the Peers ; 
but he was in error in urging as one of the 
reasons that it was wrong to entrust the decision 
of cases to gentlemen who often owned the 
property against which the crime had been com- 
mitted, because they, the magistrates, on account 
of their position, would have a strong bias against 
the accused. 

This is not so ; it is precisely the other wa^^ 
Benches of magistrates are so nervously afraid 
of being charged with a partiality for conviction 
in poaching cases and other rural thefts and mis- 
demeanors, and they are, so to S2)eak, such very 
impartial judges, that they commit themselves 
much more frequently than those who are brought 
before them. 

The Bench, as at present constituted, puts clergy- 



ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS. 323 

men, when placed on it, in a very disagreeable, 
as well as mischievous position ; for, wishing to 
cuny favour, perhaps, with their parishioners, 
and lean to the sinner, or what they call the 
side of mercy, as they invariably do, — perhaps on 
the score of charitable feelings, perhaps because 
the thief or sinner is a liypocrite, and goes to 
church, and is immensely loud in his responses 
and aniens, in order to gull the parson, as he 
very often does, — all clergymen shrink from being 
useful to the community in a judicial position. 

For myself, as a game-preserver and as a farmer, 
if I catch j^eople within the bounds of a borough 
offending in any way against the laws, short of 
compounding a felony, I religiously abstain from 
proceeding against them, for it is utterly hopeless 
to obtain justice from a Bench so circumstanced. 
Even in the County Court, presided over by an 
excellent public Judge, if the accused prays a 
jury, consisting, in all probability, of five men 
the colleagues of the poacher or the thief, who 
are permitted to form the jury, not being jocr- 
sonally or by character known to the side having 
a right to object, the Judge of the court, whatever 
his charge may be, is set at defiance, and a 

V ^ 



o^^ r^ACT AGAINST FICTION. 

verdict returned utterhj at variance luith the 
evidence. 

Some legal interference ought to be allowed 
with juries thus constituted, for, in a borough, 
if a gentleman brings a case before the tradesmen- 
magistrates, among whom there is very often a 
great jealousy, if the gentleman resident near 
the town wlio comes before the County Court 
happens to deal with a man not a magistrate; 
and ihere is a tradesman of the same calling who 
is a magistrate, the latter will set his flice against 
the gentleman because he has not dealt with him. 

You may make what are called improvements 
in the dwellings of the poor, but 3^ou cannot 
make the poor think them improvements. 

You may teach boys at school to know that 
theft is called a crime, but you cannot make them 
refrain from stealing apples or other property. 

Theft and a tendency to all sorts of crimes 
are, in a portion of the lower classes of the 
population, born, and bred, and grown to maturity, 
in their breasts, and not all the j^i'cachings of all 
the parsons in the world, nor all tlie rods of 
schoolmasters, will lead or scare them from it. 
The highest and most honourable feelings of 



ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS. 325 

county magistrates, soldiers, and gentlemen, — 
men wlio would risk death at tlio cannon's moutli, 
— Avill shrink from tlioir duty to some extent, 
rather than let vulo-ar thieves or low attornevs 
charge them with pa>rtiality, groundless and 
uncalled-for as such a charge may be. A 
■public Jadije^ paid to administer the laiv, is not 
thus hampered. He has a task to perform com- 
pletely indej^endent of any local bias of any 
sort or description, and he will fearlessly, and 
according to the exact letter of the law, do his 
duty. The time 'will come when the petty juris- 
diction will be thus provided for, and a very 
great boon it will be to the community, and 
immense in its effects on the suppression of crime. 



326 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE SPORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. — RURAL LIFE, AND 
FOOD FOR THE POOR. 

Acclimatization Society — Alderney Manor — Pairal Life and its 
rieasures— The Lark— Tench— The Mole— The Water-Rail— 
Mistaken Accusation against the Bullfinch, Goldfinch, and other 
Small Birds — Mistakes of the same kind as to Game — Food for 
the Poor — Conclusion. 

There have appeared in the Times newspaper 
occasionally letters suggesting a ^'National Accli- 
matization Society," as a means for introducing 
more food for the communit}^, rich and poor, in 
the shape of birds, beasts, and fishes. 

There can be no doubt but that if the Govern- 
ment would patronize an association of that sort, 
taking example from the success achieved in 
Australia, that much good might remotely result 
from it ; but to send for, to import, and then 
to naturalize living things to a change of climate, 
jnust meet with many failures, and be a work 



THE SPORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. 827 

of time. What we need is an additional supply 
of food novj and at once, with as little delay as 
possible. 

The late Marquis of Breadalbane and myself, 
as President and Vice-President, set on foot an 
Acclimatization Society, and the first meeting to 
promote the question was held at the office of 
tlie Field newspaper. There could not have 
been a nobler or a better President, fond as ho 
was of natural history, and lord of an enormous 
territory, containing lakes and rivers, as well as 
tracts of rich cultivation, forests, woods, and 
moors. He introduced and acclimatized on his 
wide domains the capercailzie, or '^cock of the 
Avoods," and the bison from America, and reared 
there the cross between the capercailzie and the 
^ blackgame, the bison and the Ayrshire cow. 

As far as my limited power went, I acclima- 
tized, and in England bred and reared the prairie 
2:rouse, crossed the American dusky duck with 
the English wild duck ; and, had the Acclimatiza- 
tion Society acted in the honest sjoirit of its 
formation, sundry noble lords and large proprietors 
had promised me their landed influence on which 
to introduce experiments. 



328 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

The very indifferent leg tlie Society lialted on 
was this. Of course, to manage the business of 
the Society and its foreign correspondence, it was 
necessary to aj^point ^^a quorum" to act during 
winter, when the owners of manors, gentlemen 
sportsmen and fishermen, were at their country- 
seats, or, so soon as Parliament was up, pursuing 
their amusements elsewhere. 

This quorum, or these quorums, completely mis- 
managed everything. The funds of the Society 
were most injudiciously squandered, public money 
was wasted on private premises and on individual 
amusement ; the splendid donation given by the 
then Miss Burdett-Coutts, of five hundred pounds, 
and other subscriptions were squandered away ; 
and, seeing how matters were going, and that 
it was impossible to rescue the state of affairs 
from very questionable management and bad 
hands, all the landed proprietors, noble lords, 
and others, myself among them, took our names 
out of the Society, and very soon after it 
collapsed. 

From the very first, when I saw some of 
the men who somehow or other got tlieir names 
on the list, — men Avho had never belonged to 



THE SPORTSMAN IN llETmEMENT. 329 

any association in tlicir lives tliat came to any 
good end, — I was fearful of the result, and 
expressed my doubts on the matter to many of 
my friends. The result proved the correctness 
of my anticipation, and the way in wliicli tlie 
last public dinner of the Society was conducted 
opened everybody's eyes to the speedy break- 
ing-up of the affair, as one no longer to be 
tolerated. 

Well, then, unless the Government would take 
importation and acclimatization in hand, there is 
no sort of chance of any leading noble lords and 
gentlemen belonging to it. We would not again 
trust a quorum of men whom Ave knew nothing 
of, or, indeed, if what we might knoAV of tliom 
was not invariably in their favour; and then, 
who could be found to attend to the public in- 
terest, when approved men were not on the sjDot 
to undertake the task of revision and correction 
of abuses ? 

It is, then, useless, at ijvesent^ to talk of a 
^' National Acclimatization Society," but it is by 
no means useless for us all ^^to put our shoulders 
to the wheel " of the cart tliat really needs our 
aid, and which would directly and at once im- 



380 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

mensely increase, not only tlie annual amount of 
food for the people, but, at the same time, acid 
to the beauty of the domain and the amusements 
of the lord of the manor. I allude to a subject 
on which I have long written and for many 
years advocated — I mean '^ the cultivation of the 
waste lands and waters." 

^' Mv shoulder " has lon^: been ^'at the wheel" 
of what might be a well-filled cart, and on my 
coming to Alderney Manor I at once cast all 
theory aside, and set about establishing an example 
that any one asking my permission might insjDCct, 
and assure himself, as years went by, of the 
results or failure of my endeavour. 

The miserable-looking, brookless, pondless waste 
bog, far below any needed drainage, for cultiva- 
tion and utterly useless and devoid of life, as I 
found it, now oflPers to the sun a little ri2)pling 
brook of beautiful water from the hitherto hidden 
springs, capacious pools for wild fowl and hsli ; 
and my improved waste, that never held anything 
but snakes, lizards, and adders, has been made to 
offer continuous sport to myself and to my friends 
with the gun and witli rod and line. On the 
wastes there is every sort of wild fowl, and in the 



THE SPORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. 381 

waters there are trout, perch, eels, gTidgoons, dace, 
roacli, and mmnows. 

Thus, tlien, as far as my efforts to increase 
ilie food of the community, combined with my 
own amusements, liavc gone, they have been 
crowned with success. I have not been the vox 
et prceterea nihil that many writers on this 
subject have been and still are ; and, with little 
or no aid from the public press, the fact, as 
it stands, is known to a vast round of my 
acquaintance. 

Three pheasants,- and no wild ducks, was all I 
found on the estate, save a snipe and a sprinkling 
of partridges and liares ; now I am able to give 
sport to my immediate friends who shoot with 
me, and game to those who do not shoot. I have 
plenty for my own consumption during the autumn 
and winter, and game, wild fowl, and rabbits even 
to give away, or to sell to the game salesman and 
poulterer, Mr. Briggs, of Bournemouth, who readily 
buys all I have to offer for public use. During 
spring and summer I can fish in ponds created by 
myself, and study the breeding habits of the fowl 
who still at that time haunt the waters, look at 
the brooding snipe in her nest at my foot, induce 



832 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

the pewits not to be much afraid of me when I 
approach their nests or their young; and thus I 
liave turned a miserable waste of l^lack, bad, and 
unburnablc peat into that which, by comparison 
with what it was before, has become, so to speak, 
^'a garden of Eden" — -at' least it is so, in my 
retired way of living, to me. 

It is not until May, or ^ ' the merry month of 
May," as it has long been called, that the English 
sportsman can 1)e said to rest from the saddle, 
although tlie gun and greyhound ought to have 
been laid aside on or after the 1st of February. 
The death of a May fox should be the signal for 
preparing to ^^summer the hunter" and rest the 
hounds; and up to the 1st of May, though many 
packs of foxhounds ]iad ceased to hunt, the salmon 
rod always affords occupation of the most brilliant 
piscatory kind. 

Well, then, all sport but fishing being over, let 
us see the sort of life that can be led by a liard 
rider and a good sliot when the horn, tlie cheer, 
and the breech-loader are Inished, and lie no longer 
cares for, or has not money at command to enjoy, 
the London season. 

The sweet violets have long perfumed the air; 



THE SPORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. 833 

tlic primroses, succeeding to the empurpled violet 
queen, liave clothed the ground beneath the trees 
in the woods ; while pale gold, dear, beautiful cows- 
lips deck the sweet meadow-grass. Every male 
bird is singing to the partner of his nest. When 
the sun shines bright, all nature seems in love, 
and dark and dismally unfeeling is the heart and 
soul of that man who cannot turn in . thankful- 
ness to God for the mere gift of warm existence. 

To hear the pheasants crowing and the birds 
singing around the bed-room window ere the day 
has scarcely broken, is amply enough to call the 
sportsman and naturalist from his couch with a 
joyful spirit to share in the gladdened world; and 
Avhen, in the midst of such harmony of scent and 
song, the casement is thrown open, and the warm 
fresh air enters the lips and breathes on the 
breast of man, why he really needs not hound 
nor dog to lure him forth, for Nature herself to 
him is all in all. 

If he has a farm in his occupation, there arc 
the crops up fresh and green to greet him, with 
that sweet leader of Nature's orchestra of the 
fields, the skylark, ascending thankfully to heaven 
higher and higher, but still immediately over the 



O'li FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

little nest upon the groimd, as if to bear from 
above a dewclrop on his Aving to 2)ay his loving 
homage to his brooding mate. 

This rm-al life, so loved and followed, pm-sued 
imder judicious guidance, and the close study 
of every living thing, puts me in possession of 
many little facts, small in individuality, but large 
in the aa^2:reo:ate, which seem never to have been 
known to the old and now obsolete naturalists. 

I can at once answer the question of what 
led to the vulgar error, by one of our old poets 
poetically used, as to the ' ' tench being the phy- 
sician of the waters," other fish seeking to ^' rub 
aofainst his healinsr sides." A casual observer 
might be inclined to that poetical delusion by 
seeing two tench, male and female, in the act 
of spaAvning. If the surface weeds in the water 
had been cut and removed, the tench would seek 
the brink of the shore, and the overhanging grass 
that depends from the bank to the surface, at 
some little depth in the water, and there may 
be seen two backs, one slightly below the otlier, 
swimming, and gliding, and floundering along in 
contact, tlie one, from its position, being more 
visible than the other. These fish are both tench, 



The sportsman in retirement. 385 

and it lias been this incident tliat led casual 
observers into the mistake. Carp spawn on the 
surface weeds, and so do tench, but if you put 
them to it, the tench wdll seek the grass that 
is pendent in the waters. 

Now there are very few people who know why 
the mole makes so many hills ; but if they will 
take the trouble to beat about as many mole- 
hills as I have done,— it is excellent exercise for 
the arms, the biceps muscle, and the chest, when 
no other exercise is at hand, — they will have ocular 
demonstration of the following fact. The mole 
will go on making his ^^run," and move an 
infinity of mould from side to side, Avith those 
wondrously adapted claws of Jiis, without being 
necessitated to lift it to the surfece. In his bur- 
rowing progress, however, he is often stopped by 
a stone ; of this impediment he has but one way 
of ridding himself, and that is to get it to the 
surface. In beating the molediills about in one 
field, this circumstance will very often be found to 
occur, but not always; and in nine cases out of 
ten, or thereabout Sj a stone will be found in every 
molehill, not quite on the top of the molehill, but 
above the middle of it, and this in fields where 



336 FACT AGAINST FICTIOX. 

stones, at tlic depth at v.-liich the mole works, 
are very rare. For some time I was in doubt 
whether this stone was not wedged in by the 
mole when he had done heaving up, to prevent 
the fall of the hill, but since then I incline to 
the idea that the stone is there to be rid of its 
obstruction. 

Among the more recent wild birds that liave 
become attached to me is a Avater-rail. The 
rail comes to the whistle for the ducks to feed, 
and eats barley in close approximation to man, 
and in full confidence in the safety he affords. 

Superficial observers, by confidently pronouncing 
their casually or ill-considered opinions, very often 
do much harm, and create for many a poor little 
innocent creature an enmity undeserved — thus, in 
the beautiful bullfincli, and goldfinch as well, be- 
cause the birds are seen to pick off and apparently 
eat some buds from fruit-trees ; none of these mis- 
observers permit what maij he inside the bud, and 
already destroying the possibility of perfection, to 
enter their minds. Tlic}^ buiki their opinion on 
one visible sign, and tarry not to ascertain if there 
is not another lurking behind it, which is really 
the sole source of the mischief they observe. Tims, 



THE SPORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. '387 

the filiclics seek the hidden grub, and thus the moles 
industriously work beneath the perishing corn, 
already fading in its blades from the briglit green 
hue of spring to the sear and yellow tint, and 
really devour in thousands the wire-AVorm already 
devastating the crop. 

Before any one ventures on an opinion concern- 
ing the habits of anytliing in Heaven's creation, 
however humble its little life, he should first 
gather correct information, not only for his own 
guidance, but for the guidance of other people. A 
lie in ijrintj to speak plainly, gathers, from the type 
and colour it assumes, a shade of truth, like many 
a weak and erroneous falsehood when founded on 
the merest circumstance, and these mistakes are 
often the most difficult of all to set right. 

Thus, in the very erroneous, inicharitable cry 
that the Communists and Eed Eepublicans, and 
blatant men who have no just means of rising into 
])ublic notice, have made against the Game Laws, 
we therein find them charging the lesser lives with 
mischief they do not do, and with devouring corn 
at seasons of the year when Nature gives them no 
appetite for it. If a hare or rabbit's ears apjoear 
from among the green and growing crops, the 

VOL. II. z 



338 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

animals are set down as eating nothing but the 
blades of corn, whereas I have shot them at all 
seasons for the purpose of investigation, and found 
that a short green grass was among the roots of the 
young wheat, and that was the food thc}^ chiefly 
sought, and Avhich accounted for the disappearance 
of their ears, and their heads being so low down 
while in the act of feeding'. 

By this it is by no means my intention to say 
that hares and rabbits will not eat the blades of 
corn ; I merely desire to show that their appetite 
is not confined to what Avould become the food 
of man, and that the purposed blame heaped on 
them by false demagogues is, to an immense extent, 
undeserved. Pheasants and partridges through the 
spring and summer are 2Der23etually among the green 
corn as well as among and beneatli the .full-grown 
crop ; but they can only eat the corn for a few da}'s 
just when it is sown, and not afterwards till the 
grain is quite ripe : unless laid by storms, it is 
out of their reach. 

The hare and rabbit only casually eat the corn 
when in its fresh, green, and unripened state. Of 
this I am })erfectly sure, that all the means for in* 
creasing the food for the people, suggested by that 



THE SPORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. 339 

mistaken and miscliievous clique^ that are so fond of 
croaking and making nuisances in Hyde Park, and 
suggesting the most absurd things to our gracious 
Queen, are totally worthless and irapracticahle ; 
and that feeding the labouring classes has no 
more to do with their real intentions than the 
love of a Chinaman for a dead and putrid ])ig has 
to do with the probability of his desire to keep a 
clean stye for a fattened hog. We find these 
demagogues, as I have previously said, trying to 
deprive the people of the annual supply of tliirty 
thousand tons of rabbit food, without one avail- 
able suo:2restion from them as to how so liiY^jrc a 
deficiency of meat was to be met. In fact, there 
exists no immediate way of meeting a deficiency 
so establislied. 

To take an idea from ' Guy jMannering,' when 
Meg Merrilies tells Dirk Hatteraick, in the 
cave, that he ^' will be hung," and lie replies that 
'^ the hemp is not grown that will do it," — an 
assertion met by her '' that it {6- sown, it is grown, 
it is hacked, and it's mown," — so with Meg Mer- 
rilies we cannot say of the meat that is to take 
the place of the rabbits. We, if we ever could do it, 

should have to l^reed more largely, and to await the 

z2 



3.1:0 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

births of calves, lambs, and little pigs, many of 
wliom miglit never come, and to wean and tarry 
for years for the growtli of calves ere they could 
be dignified with the name of beef, or be fit for 
the general consmnption. 

It reminds me of the dog who snapped at the 
shadow of the meat he lield in his mouth reflected 
in the water, and by that act lost the substance 
his jaws contained. 

Better let things be, than condemn them without 
reason. Better that blatant tongues should be 
still, than mislead the over-credulous, or, by false- 
hood, seek a selfish aggrandisement — not an aggran- 
disement in the end, but a mere time-serving and 
time-sought popularity, personally desired, its pre- 
mises laughed at, and its mischief, in the end, 
despised. 

Having lived long enougli now to look on this 
side and on that, ^' the heart" no longer hot and 
restless, but '^ subdued and slow," it is not without 
some reason that I attempt to win for every living 
thing, from tlie giant to the lesser life, more 
kindliness at tlie hands of man ; and both for 
man and animal the best and gentlest care of all — 
that of woman. 



THE SrORTSMAN IN RETIREMENT. 341 

If I acliiovo one particle of tins, if I have 
succeeded in my endeavour to win for any life 
2)rotection, faitli, and charity, or attained any good 
for those whose origin is so mysterious, and whose 
licreafter is so veiled, then I shall not have written 
in vain ; and when the time comes — the sad, but 
not the dreaded time — when I must resign the 
saddle, lay down the otter-spear, the salmon-rod, 
the rifle, and the shot-gun, as I have already put 
by the quarter-stafP, single-stick, and boxing-gloves, 
tlien my heart, with unrepining resignation, will 
meet the ^^ common fate" from wliich none can 
escape, and bow before that high behest which 
neither gives nor seeks a challenge, nor owns a 
call from man. 



'342 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 



CHAPTER XV. 

nature's school-room. 

Where, in tliese days of tyrannical wliipjoings, 
mortal rods, and coersive laws all running against 
the natural and growing grain, and getting at 
anything but the bottom of mischief, shall we 
find a better school than that so long' ordained 
by a creative power wdiich passes all compre- 
hension, and sits enthroned, in contemptuous 
silence, far, far above the puny efforts of ^'the 
feeble tenants of an hour," or the struggles of 
^^the degraded mass of animated dust," whicli 
seeks to cover its own liideousness with a veil 
of liypocrisy more easily seen through than a 
London mist ? 

Vast, unapproachable, and mysteriously beautiful, 
some strange j^ower presides, awfully and mightil}^ 
magnificent in the frozen iceberg as in tlie 
splendour of the glorious sun, yet none can tell 



nature's school-room. 348 

with any certainty what that power is or when 
the last curtain over it will fall, what fate it really 
is that awaits the insects who claim themselves 
an exclusive heaveuj or whether or not ^'clust 
and ashes " are to be the final meed of Vice and 
Virtue, and thus that ^^ Chaos" shall be king 
again. 

Among the splendid places which so lavish 
their charms in tlie varied sites of the United 
Kingdom, I scarce know where to select one 
which would best illustrate the lesson to be seen 
and read in the months of April and May ; but 
as it has so liappened that in this, the spring of 
1874, I have again had leisure to study and 
dream in the beautiful wilds of England, ^^ the 
vale where the wild waters meet" and the 
mountains and lakes of Ireland and Scotland, 
with all tlieir far-famed grandeur and grace, must 
be left untouched, and niy pen must once more 
dwell on the tranquil scene set before me 1)}' 
the lake and woods of Grichel. It is a curious 
study afforded by the almost domesticated wild 
fowl, who, sheltered there unmolested all tlio 
winter, are induced, numbers of them, to stay on 
throughout the summer, and to lay bare their 



044 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

habits and their nests in conscious freedom from 
any fear of closely observant man. 

To an admirer of Nature, of scenery, and the 
habits of wild birds, there is no place, — I had 
nearly sung, ^^ There is no place like home," but 
what I do sing is, ^' tliere is no place like Crichel," 
the beautiful residence of Mr. Sturt, wherein can 
be studied the habits of the rarest and wildest 
water-fowl from the very midst of their happy 
congregation. I take the scene as set before me 
in a still sunny day of the middle of April, and 
select the locality for observation the green turf 
of the park on the edge of the clear water of 
the lake. On the opposite bank is a large wood, 
the tall trees in which verge upon the water, 
and in places dip their gracefully drooping boughs 
as if to kiss the source of that strength that has 
enabled them so far to out-top even the oaks and 
elms in the furtlier park. Grown up between the 
stems of the larger forest trees are the rhodo- 
dendrons, tlie laurels, birch, and willows, all close 
to the clear water, but leaving sheltered little 
spots here and' there for tlie repose or rest of tlie 
n(iuatic tril)es wlio frequent tills hospitable reghm 
in summer and winter for food, for rest, and love. 



r^'w. 



NATURE S SCHOOL-ROOM. 3-15 

With Sir Walter Scott, I can, at tlio moment, while 
viewing this graceful scene, say, — 

" The blackbird and the speckled thrush, 
Good-morrow gave from every bush ; 
In answered covert the cushat dove, 
In notes of peace, of rest, and love." 

For, indeed, the ^'cushats," or ^^ ring-doves," 
are answering each other from every fir-tree top, 
while the less musical mmmurs of the blue-rock 
jDigeons seem like a subdued accompaniment as 
they sigh their nesting hope to the mate on her 
eggs in the hollow tree, or, perhaps, in some 
rabbit's hole at the foot of it. 

High up, — always on the highest branches that 
the tallest trees, of whatever description, afford, — 
there sit the brooding herons, on their large but 
slovenly-looking nests, their crested lords either 
standing erect, like soldiers at attention, by the 
nest, or soaring just above, in that smooth, graceful 
way that the wide span of^ their pinions so silently 
affords. To quote from Sir Walter Scott again, 
^Hlie smooth lake's level brim" is dim2)led all over 
with every species of wild fowl, save the gadwall, 
— and I hope to see that added l)efore long to the 
list, — diving, pairing, washing, or pluming their 
glossy wings, as if they owned the water and the 



846 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

woods instead of their lios2)itablc host, and that I 
sat so near them as their guest, instead of as a 
visitor at the kindly mansion. 

Close to me glide upon their happy way (or 
chase each other on wing just above the water) 
pairs of teal. A little further off the pochards 
play, the red heads of the male birds coming out 
warmly as against the darker shades, while the 
brilliant shelldrake, the goosander, the widgeon, 
the golden-eye, the baldcoot, the lesser grebe, 
and the moor-hen, all join in this scene of luippy 
life, or add to the chorus of wild cries, while 
my presence, or what, in other places, would be the 
dreaded presence of tyrannical mortality, creates 
neither terror nor distrust. I seem to sit among the 
Ijirds as a sort of invited guest, to love, to watch, 
and still to learn, the wondrous and beautiful 
secrets of Natural History. 

The flocks of swans around me — even their 
pugnacity to other aquatic birds is, in this happy 
scene, completely laid aside; they are all over 
tlie lake, as if standing on their heads, while 
bending beneatli the surface of the water to pick 
tlie newly-springing tender weeds. Here and 
there on the banks arc sitting, on their coarse. 



nature's SCIIOOL-ROO.M. o47 

open, and uncomfortable-looking' nests, many 
female swans, and various sorts of geese; and in 
tlieir vicinity tlie old male swans kce]) perpetu- 
ally ^'pushing" after tlie cygnets of the previous 
year, if tliey dare to look even in the direction 
of the brooding mate. KSuddenly a heavy sound 
of collective large Avings beats the quiet air, and 
the young swans rise and fly from one end of 
the lake to the other, to attain the lower or more 
distant stretch of the lake, and happier riddance 
from the spotless lords whose mates are every- 
where thus jealously protected. 

The flights of these young swans are often 
joined by the different tribes of wild geese, who 
scream their delights at any confusion that may 
arise, mingled, in some instances, with jealous 
ideas that some one of the passing flight might 
designedly drop by the nest of their happy expec- 
tations. 

Every gander or goose, except man, cares for 
his offspring when they are hatched, still adores 
his wife or mate, Avhatever be the number of her 
family, and never deserts his rising young. I 
never knew a feathered goose in this respect to 
1)0 disgracefully unkind or jealous, but I have 



348 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

lieard that a swan was miserably astonished and 
disgustingly angered by a servant boy or page, 
Vv^ho took from the swan's nest the lawful eggs, 
and put in their place those of an old grey 
goose. 

When the mule swan saw the horrible distor- 
tion of his graceful hope, he stood erect Avith half- 
spread wings, and hissed for hours ; but the poor 
gander, much less keen in his percejotion, doatod 
on the brood of swans presented to him, suspected 
nothing, and in his farm-yard never became a 
'^ goose of sorrows," and thus escaped an ^^acquaint- 
ance w^ith grief." 

I must not omit to add that all around mo 
crowed the splendid pheasant, the partridge called, 
and the willow-wrens, the redstarts, and the fly- 
catchers, chimed in, and, with the brisk tomtits, 
common and crested wrens, sky and wood 
larks, chafiiinch, green-finch, and yellow-hammer, 
all added to Nature's harmony, in spite of the 
mischievous daws and starlings, who clamoured 
for roguery inharmoniou.sly, as some as foolish 
daws in human shape chatter at the opera. 

I remember to have written long, long ago, 
that when the thews of limb and strength begin 



nature's school-room. 340 

to decline, what a liappy tlioiiglit it was to know 
tliat the Avcaiy head could ever find on the breast 
of beauteous and bountiful Nature a sweet and 
indulgent resting-place, on which to escape the 
pangs which the loss of other enjoyments seemed 
to inflict. 

Let the inquiring glance of man turn which way 
it will, there is a lesson of love, a song of liap})i- 
ness, a something that is sweet and to be admired, 
in every nook and corner, meadow, bank, or bush. 
There, in yonder fresh, green bank^ nestles the 
modest primrose, as if she wooed a protecting 
breast to shield her loveliness and to save her from 
the luscious bee ; thickly spread on the mead 
beyond, her sister flower, the lowly but scented 
cowslip, in thousands, decks the grass, while the 
gold and green marshmallow, — or '"mashmallow," 
as it is more commonly called, — adds lustre to 
Nature's carpet, but honeyless tries in vahi to 
attract a passing wing. 

To vary the lesson Nature yields from above, 
let us now give freedom to the cormorants, to issue 
from their Avooden houses, and to disport them* 
selves in that portion of the clear and swiftly- 
o'lidino; trout stream allotted to their food and 



350 FACT AGAINST FICTION. 

liealtliful recreation. Unless Nature had spread 
before ns tlie page of this aquatic lesson, who 
would have been able to judge of the rapid evolu- 
tions of so large a bird beneath the water with or 
against the rushing stream, and its power to turn 
and cope Avitli the swiftest fish that swims, either 
the strong bright dace or the pliant eel? Yet 
here we see that these hsh have no chance to 
outstrip their foe; and that if they evade him 
by suddenly availing themselves of a crevice in 
the bank, at full speed the cormorant's sea-green 
eye can detect their ambush, and seize them with 
his mierring bill. 

Then, when the cormorant thus shows to us 
the strange and admirable appliances with whicli 
pre-observant Nature has supplied him, it is tliiis 
that we become aware of tlie destined purpose 
the bird is Bent to enact, and then, to me, at least, 
occurs the doubt of a similar pre-observant wisdom 
existing elsewhere, or as Ave are supposed to believe 
that it does exist ; and I cannot drive this question 
from my mind — If it Avas by some all-Avise and 
powerful will destined that the lamb and the lion 
Avere aliva/js to lie doAAm peacefully side by side, 
why Avas tlie lion formed to be carnivorous, and 



nature's school-eoom. '^51 

why or how came he to be trusted with his terrible 
teeth and claws ? 

Nature is in itself a beautiful, and, perhaps, a 
terrible study. The bowels of the earth contain 
truths as mysterious as they are opposed to all 
mortal doctrines in regard to sundry beliefs. A 
terrible destruction and the most violent changes, 
where floods (not one flood) and fires have caused 
disruption, dissolution, and partial decay, — all this 
is visible, — then who or where is the man or con- 
clave of men who shall dare to make sure of the 
future ? 



THE^ END. 



LONDON : PRINTED BY 
EDWARD J. FEANCIS, TOOK's COUliT, 
CHANCERY LANE, E. 



WabGtar Family Library cf Velerlrfary Medicine 
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at 
Tufts University 
200 WestDoro Road 
North Grafton, MA 01536 



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