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R A T 


The* International Uongress "cT~ I'noiisnem 
lias been quite an unusual success, has been 
well-attended by representative men from 
Europe and America, has received all honour in 
London, and has been, in the conference por- 
tion of its proceedings, characterised by much 
common sense. There was one unexpected 
result of a protest raised against the excessive 
use of extracts by some reviewers. We might 
have supposed that this would have been 
an opportunity eagerly seized upon to mitigate 
what is undoubtedly an evil. It is well known 
that many persons do not buy books because 
all the spicy portions have been to use Mr. 
Arthur Waugh's phrase " gutted " by the 
papers, which get attractive copy at a very easy 
rate. Mr. Waugh asked the Congress to do 
something towards amending the copyright law 
upon an admittedly difficult point, but the 
general body of publishers present seemed to 
be of opinion that the law is strong enough 
already, and that there is not after all much t<> 
complain about. A very funny story was told i 
by the chairman, Mr. John Murray. His Him 
published a book recommended by Mr. <iU<l- 
stone, and it was a dead failure. It also 
published a little thing on rat-catching, which 
was reviewed in the Field, and in consequence of j 
the notice communications came from all parts * 
of the country, and the book was a de< 












MY publisher writes to say that he, and he 
thinks others too, would like to know how 
I ever came to write such a book as this ! 
It came about in this way. Some two 
years ago, I was about to leave England for 
a considerable time, and a few days before 
starting, I went to stay in a country house, 
full of lads and lassies, to say good-bye. 
One evening, while sitting over the study 
fire, the subject of rat-catching came up v 
and, as the aged are somewhat wont to do ; 
I babbled on about past days and various 
rat-catching experiences, till one of the boys 


iv Preface. 

exclaimed," I say, what sport it would be if 
they would only teach rat-catching at school ! 
Wouldn't I just work hard then, that's all ! " 

The stories came to an end. at bed-time, 
and I was then pressed by my hearers to 
write from foreign lands some more of my 
old reminiscences, and I readily gave a 
promise to do so. In this way most of the 
following stories were written ; and in writing 
them, I endeavoured to carry out the idea 
that they were exercises to be used in 

I don't anticipate that head-masters will 
very generally adopt the book in their 
schools ; but I hope it may, in some few 
instances, give boys a taste for a wholesome 
country pastime. 

The characters and incidents are rough, 
very rough, pen and ink sketches of real 
people and scenes, and the dogs are all dear 
friends of past days. 




The Ferret Family Crossed with the Polecat 
Choosing Ferrets Hutches Feeding Ferrets 
" Bar the Tail "Handling Ferrets ... 8 


Bag versus Box Ferrets Fighting The Ratting Spade 
Ratting Tools Hints to Schoolmasters Learn- 
ing Dog-Language With a Scold in the Voice 
Dogs' Kennel Treating Dogs Kindly Dogs in 
their Proper Place 23 


Aristocratic versus Plutocratic Come-by-Chance 
Chance's Friend Nondescript Tinker Grindum 
How I got Grindum Grindum's Friends Jack 
and his Sister "Jack Took Me" End of an 
Ugly Story Grindum's First Rat Pepper and 
Wasp ........ 42 

vi Contents. 



A Day's Ratting An Autumn Walk " Steady, Dogs, 
Steady" A Ferret Disabled Rats up a Pollard 
A Rat-catcher's Picnic Rats in a Drain A 
Weary Walk Home" Kennel, Dogs, Kennel" . 67 


A Poor Day's Ratting A Rat in a Queer Place 
Rats in my Lady's Chamber Rats in a House 
Slaughter in a Cellar Dead Rats in a House . 85 


A November Day A Laid-up Ferret A Tramp 
Home in the Wet A Snug Evening Things 
Students should Know Muzzling Ferrets 
Sucking Blood A Strange Use for a Dog's Tail . 96 


Rabbit Catching Tools for Rabbit Catching An 
Easy Day's Rabbiting Ferreting a Bank A Deep 
Dig in the Sand A Day with the Purse Nets 
Necessity of Silence Ferrets without Muzzles 
How to Kill Rabbits 113 


Trip to the Seaside Surveying the Hunting Ground 
A View from the Cliffs A Sea View The Rector's 
Daughter Doctoring the Burrows Running out 
Nets " Hie in, Good Dogs " . . . .130 

Contents. vii 



The Beginning of a Storm A Ship in Distress The 
Village Harbour A Fisherman's Home Little 
Jack, the Cripple Waiting for the Boats A 
Rough Old Fish- Wife The Return of the Fisher- 
men ........ 147 


The Rector's Story A Ship in Danger Running 
Straight on the Rocks To the Rescue Watching 
the Boat Breaking up of the Ship Beyond the 
Storms of Life Life in the Little One Nature's 
Gifts What a Hodge-Podge . . . .165 



EVER since I was a boy, and ah ! long, long 
before that, I fancy, the one great anxiety of 
parents of the upper and middle classes 
blessed with large families has been, " What 
are we to do with our boys ? " and the cry 
goes on increasing, being intensified by the 
depreciation in the value of land, and by our 
distant colonies getting a little overstocked 
with young gentlemen, who have been 
banished to them by thousands, to struggle 
and strive, sink or swim, as fate wills it. 
At home, all professions are full and every- 
thing has been tried ; and, go where you will, 
even the children of the noble may be found 



wrestling with those of the middle and work- 
ing classes for every piece of bread that falls 
in the gutter. Nothing is infra dig. that 
brings in a shilling, and all has been and is 
being tried. The sons of the great are to be 
found shoulder to shoulder with " Tommy 
Atkins," up behind a hansom cab, keeping 
shops, selling wines, horses, cigars, coals, and 
generally endeavouring feebly to shoulder 
the son of the working man out of the 
race over the ropes. Fortunately Heaven 
tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, and I 
believe it has done so now. I believe kind 
Dame Nature during the last summer has 
stepped in and opened out an honourable 
path for many gentlemen's sons, that I think 
will be their salvation, and at all events, if it 
does not make them all rich, will, if they only 
follow it, make them most useful members of 
society and keep them out of mischief and 
out of their mammas' snug drawing-rooms. 


I have followed the path myself, and, after 
fifty years' tramp down it, have been forced 
to abandon it owing to gout and rheumatism. 
I have not picked up a big fortune at it, or 
become celebrated, except quite locally ; but 
I have had a good time and helped the 
world in general, and am content with my 
past life. 

I was the son of a worthy country parson, 
who in my youth proposed to me in turn to 
become a judge, a bishop, a general, a Glad- 
stone, a Nelson, a Sir James Paget, and a 
ritualistic curate ; but when talking to me on 
the subject the good old man always said, 
"Mind, my boy, though I propose these 
various positions for you, yet, if you have any 
decided preference yourself, I will not thwart 
you, I will not fly in the face of nature. 

For some time I thought I should rather 
like to be a bishop, and to this day I think 
I should have made a good one ; but the 

B 2 


voice spoke at last, and my destiny was 

With the modest capital of five shillings 
given me by my father, and a mongrel 
terrier, given me by a poacher who had to go 
into retirement for killing a pheasant and 
half killing a keeper, I began my career as 
a but I had better give you one of my pro- 
fessional cards. Here it is 



To H.RH. The Prime of Wales, 
The Nobility and Gentry. 

I had a struggle at first. Rats, full-grown 
ones, only fetched twopence each, and the 
system adopted by farmers of letting their 


rat-killing, for, say, three pounds a year for 
a farm of 400 acres, almost broke me ; 
but I stuck to my profession, and do not 
regret having done so. 

In those days, and during all my active 
life, I have had to work to live, owing to the 
constant scarcity of rats ; but if I managed to 
make a living then, what might not be done 
now, when Nature has sent the rat to our 
homesteads by thousands, and farmers and 
others are being eaten off the face of the 
earth by them ? 

Why, my dear young friends, your fortune 
stares you in the face, and you have only to 
stretch out your hand and grasp it no ! I 
have made a mistake : you have a little more 
to do you have, first, to learn your profession, 
which is no easy matter ; and to enable you 
to do this, I intend writing the following 
book for the use of schools (which I here- 
with dedicate to the Head Masters of Eton, 


Harrow, Westminster, Rugby, and all other 
schools) ; but in placing this book on your 
school-desk, allow me to say that it is no 
good having it there through the long school 
hours unless you open it, read it, and deeply 
ponder over it ; and more, my dear boys, let 
me pray that you will take it home with you, 
and, casting aside your usual holiday task, 
study it well, and, as far as possible, actively 
put in practice what I am going to try and 
teach you. Some fathers may wish their 
sons to enter on a more humble course of 
life, but this I rather doubt. However/should 
they do so, it will be only so much the better 
for those who take it up : there will be more 
room for them. Most mothers, I fear, will 
object to it on the ground that rats and 
ferrets don't smell nice ; but this objection is 
not reasonable. They might as well say that 
the whiff of a fox on a soft December morn- 
ing as you ride to covert is not delicious ! 


Respect your parents, respect even their 
prejudices ; gently point out to your father 
that you are ambitious and wish for a career 
in which you can distinguish yourself. 
Above all, respect your mother, and show 
your respect by not taking ferrets or dead 
rats in your pockets into her drawing-room, 
and by washing your hands a little between 
fondling them and cuddling her. But to 
finish this sermon, let me point out that 
though in this great profession you will be 
everlastingly mixed up with dogs of all sorts, 
always make them come to you, and never go 
to them. 

One last word. If in the following pages 
you come across a bit of grammar or spelling 
calculated to make a Head Master sit up, 
excuse it, and remember that I have been a 
rat-catcher all my life, and as a class we are 
not quite A i at book learning. 


: < :< 


IN the following elementary treatise for the 
use of public schools, I propose following 
exactly the same plan as my parson (a good 
fellow not afraid of a ferret or a rat) does 
with his sermons that is, divide it into 
different heads, and then jumble up all the 

en. i.] The Ferret Family. 9 

heads with the body, till it becomes as 
difficult to follow as a rat's hole in a soft 
bank ; and, to begin with, I am going to talk 
about ferrets, for without them rat-catching 
won't pay. 

Where ferrets first came from I am not 
sure, but somewhere I have read that they 
were imported from Morocco, and that they 
are not natives of Great Britain any more 
than the ordinary rat is. If they were im- 
ported, then that importer ranks in my mind 
with, but before, Christopher Columbus and 
all such travellers. Anyhow it is quite clear 
that nowhere in Great Britain are there wild 
ferrets, for they are as distinct from the 
stoat, the mouse-hunter, the pole-cat, etc., as 
I am from a Red Indian ; and yet all belong 
to the same family, so much so that I have 
known of a marriage taking place between 
the ferret and pole-cat, the offspring of which 
have again married ferrets and in their turn 

io Studies in Rat Catching. [en. i. 

have multiplied and increased, which is a 
proof that they are not mules, for the chil- 
dren of mules, either in birds or beasts, do 
not have young ones. 

There are two distinct colours in ferrets- 
one is a rich dark brown and tan, and the 
other white with pink eyes ; and in my opinion 
one is just as good as the other for work, 
though by preference I always keep the 
white ferret, as it is sooner seen if it comes 
out of a hole and works away down a fence 
or ditch bottom. I have never known a 
dark-coloured ferret coming among a litter 
of white ones or a white among the dark ; 
but there is a cross between the two which 
produces a grizzly beast, generally bigger 
than its mother, which I have for many years 
avoided, though it is much thought of in 
some parts of the Midlands. I fancy (though 
I may be wrong) that the cross is a dull slow 
ferret, wanting in dash and courage, and not 

CH. i.] Crossed with the Pole-Cat. 1 1 

so friendly and affectionate as the others, 
and therefore apt to stick with just its nose 
out of a hole so that you can't pick it up, or 
else it will " lay up " and give a lot of trouble 
digging it out. 

For rat-catching the female ferret should 
always be used, as it is not half the size of 
the male, and can therefore follow a rat 
faster and better in narrow holes ; in fact, an 
ordinary female ferret should be able to 
follow a full-grown rat anywhere. The male 
ferret should be kept entirely for rabbiting, as 
he has not to follow down small holes, and 
being stronger than the female can stand the 
rough knocking about he often gets from 
a rabbit better than his wife can. 

In buying a ferret for work, get one from 
nine to fifteen months old, as young ferrets I 
find usually have more courage and dash 
than an old one. They have not been so 
often punished and therefore do not think 

12 Studies in Rat Catching. [en. i. 

discretion the better part of valour. How 
ever this will not be found to be an invariable 
rule. I have known old ferrets that would 
have faced a lion and seemed to care nothing 
about being badly bitten ; whereas I have 
known a young ferret turn out good-for- 
nothing from having one sharp nip from a 
rat. Such beasts had better be parted with, 
for a bad, slow, or cowardly ferret is vexation 
of spirit and not profitable. 

If I am buying brown ferrets I always 
pick the darkest, as I fancy they have most 
dash. This may be only fancy, or it may 
be the original ferret was white and that the 
brown is the cross between it and the pole- 
cat, and that therefore the darker the ferret, 
the more like it is in temper as well as colour 
to its big, strong, wild ancestor. Anyhow I 
buy the dark ones. 

If I am buying female ferrets, I like big 
long ones, as a small ferret has not weight 

CH. i.] Choosing Ferrets. 13 

enough to tackle a big rat, and therefore 
often gets desperately punished. I like to 
see the ferrets in a tub, end up, looking well 
nourished and strong ; and directly I touch 
the tub I like to see them dash out of their 
hidden beds in the straw and rush to spring 
up the sides like a lot of furies. When I 
put my hand in to take one, I prefer not to 
be bitten ; but yet I have often known a 
ferret turn out very well that has begun by 
making its teeth meet through my finger. 
When I have the ferret in hand, I first look 
at its tail and then at its feet, and if these 
are clean it will do. If, on the other hand, I 
find a thin appearance about the hairs of its 
tail and a black-looking dust at the roots, the 
ferret goes back into the tub ; or if the 
underside of the feet are black and the claws 
encrusted with dirt, I will have nothing to say 
to it, as it has the mange and will be trouble- 
some to cure. All this done, I put the ferret 

14 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. i. 

on the ground and keep picking it up and 
letting it go ; if when I do this it sets up the 
hairs of its tail, arches its back and hisses at 
me, I may buy it ; but I know, if I do, I 
shall have to handle it much to get it tame. 
If, on the other hand, when I play with it the 
ferret begins to dance sideways and play, I 
pay down my money and take it at once, for 
I have never known a playful ferret to prove 
a bad one. 

If when you get the ferret it is wild and 
savage, it should be constantly handled till 
it is quite tamed before it is used. Little 
brothers and sisters will be found useful at 
this. Give them the ferret to play with in an 
empty or nearly empty barn or shed where it 
cannot escape. Put into the shed with them 
some long drain pipes, and tell them to ferret 
rats out of them. The chances are they will 
put the ferret through them and pick it up so 
often, that it will learn there is nothing to 

CH.-I.] Hittches. 15 

fear when it comes out of a real rat's hole, 
and will ever after " come to hand " readily. 
You had better not be in the way when the 
children return to their mother or nurse. I 
have had disagreeable moments on such 

Having got all your ferrets, the next ques- 
tion is how to keep them. I have tried scores 
of different houses for them. I have kept 
them in a big roomy shed, in tubs, in boxes, 
and in pits in the ground ; but now I always 
use a box with three compartments. The 
left-hand compartment should be the smallest 
and filled with wheat-straw well packed in, 
with a small round hole a little way up the 
division, for the ferrets to use as a door. 
The middle compartment should be empty 
and have the floor and front made of wire 
netting, to allow light, ventilation and drain- 
age. The third compartment should be 
entered from the middle one by a hole in the 

1 6 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. i. 

division, but should have a strong tin tray 
fitting over the floor of it covered with sand, 
which can be drawn out and cleaned; the 
front of this compartment, too, should be 
wire netting. The sand tray should be 
removed and cleaned every day, even 
Sundays. The house should stand on legs 
about a foot high. Each compartment 
should have a separate lid, and the little 
entrance holes through the divisions should 
have a slide to shut them, so that any one 
division can be opened without all the ferrets 
rushing out. The bed should be changed 
once a week. Such a box as I have shown 
is large enough for ten ferrets. For a 
mother with a family a much smaller box will 
suffice, but it should be made on the same 
plan. For bedding use only wheat-straw. 
Either barley-straw or hay will give ferrets 
mange in a few days. 

After housing the ferrets, they will require 

CH. i.] Feeding Ferrets. 17 

feeding. I have always given my ferrets 
bread and milk once or twice a week, which 
was placed in flat tins in the middle com- 
partment ; but care should be taken to clean 
out the tins each time, as any old sour milk 
in them will turn the fresh milk and make 
the ferrets ill. The natural food of ferrets is 
flesh the flesh of small animals and there- 
fore it should be the chief food given. Small 
birds, rats and mice are to them dainty 
morsels, but the ferrets will be sure to drag 
these into their beds to eat and will leave 
the skins untouched ; these should be re- 
moved each day. When my ferrets are not 
in regular work they are fed just before 
sunset ; if they are fed in the morning they 
are no good for work all day, and one can 
never tell (except on Sundays) that one of the 
dogs may not find a rat that wants killing. 
The day before real work, I give the ferrets 
bread and milk in the morning, and nothing 


1 8 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. i. 

on the day they go out until their work is 
over. This makes them keen. Remember 
ferrets work hard in a big day's ratting, and 
therefore should be well nourished and strong ; 
a ferret that is not will not have the courage 
to face a rat. 

I have listened to all sorts of theories from 
old hands about feeding ferrets, but have 
followed the advice of few. For instance, I 
have been told that if you give flesh, such as 
rats and birds, to a ferret that has young 
ones, it will drag it into the straw among the 
little ones, who will get the blood on them, 
and then the mother will eat them by mistake. 
All I can say is, I have reared hundreds of 
young ferrets and have always given the 
mothers flesh. It is true that ferrets will eat 
their young, and the way to bring this about 
is to disturb the babies in the nest. If you 
leave them quite alone till they begin to creep 
about I believe there is no danger. 

CH. i.] "Bar the Tail! 1 19 

Then many old rat-catchers never give a 
ferret a rat with its tail on, as they believe 
there is poison in it. I remember one old 
fellow saying to me as he cut off the tail 
before putting the rat into the ferrets' box, 
" Bar the tail I allus bars the tail there's 
wenom in the tail." There may be " wenom " 
in it ; but, if there is, it won't hurt the ferrets, 
for they never eat it or the skin. 

If ferrets are properly cared for they are 
rarely ill, and the only trouble I have ever 
had is with mange, which, as I have said 
before, attacks the tail and feet. Most rat- 
catchers keep a bottle of spirits of tar, with 
which they dress the affected parts. It cures 
the mange, but, by the way the poor little 
beasts hop about after being dressed, I fear it 
stings dreadfully. I have always used sul- 
phur and lard, and after rubbing it well in a 
few times I have always found it worked a 
cure. The objection to sulphur and lard 

C 2 

2O Studies in Rat Catching. [en. I. 

is that it does not hurt, for I have noticed 
that sort of man generally prefers using a 
remedy that hurts a lot that is, where the 
patient is not himself, but an animal. 

No big day's ratting ever takes place 
without a ferret getting badly bitten. When 
this is so, the ferret should never be used 
again until it is quite well. It should be 
sent home and put in a quiet box, apart from 
the others, and the bites gently touched 
with a little sweet oil from time to time ; or, 
if it festers much, it should be sponged with 
warm water. 

I have often had ferrets die of their 
wounds, and these have usually been the 
best I had. Again, with wounds the old 
rat-catcher uses the tar-bottle, chiefly, I think, 
because it hurts the ferret, and therefore 
must have " a power of wirtue." 

Before going further I should point out to 
all students of this ennobling profession that 

CH. i.] Handling Ferrets. 21 

the very first thing they have to learn is to 
pick up a ferret. Don't grab it by its tail, or 
hold it by its head as you would a mad bull- 
dog ; but take hold of it lightly round the 
shoulders, with its front legs falling gracefully 
out below from between your fingers. Then 
when you go to the box for your ferrets, and 
they come clambering up the side like a pack 
of hungry wolves, put your hand straight in 
among them without a glove, and pick up 
which one you require. Don't hesitate a 
moment. Don't dangle your hand Over 
their heads till you can make a dash and 
catch one. The ferrets will only think your 
hand is their supper coming and will grab it, 
with no ill intent ; but if you put it down 
steadily and slowly, they will soon learn 
you only do 30 to take them out, and your 
hand will become as welcome to them as 
flowers in spring. 

True, at first, with strange ferrets you may 

22 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. i. 

be bitten ; but it is not a very serious thing if 
you are, as ferrets' bites are never venomous, 
as the bites of rats often are. I have in my 
time been bitten by ferrets many dozens of 
times and have never suffered any ill effects. 
There, I think that is enough for your first 
lesson, so I will send it off at once and get it 
printed for you. 



THE first chapter of this lesson-book has 
gone to the printer, so I don't quite know 
what I said in it, but I think we had finished 
the home-life of the ferret and were just 
taking it out of its box. Different professors 
have different opinions as to what is next to 
be done with it. Many (and they are good 
men too) think you should put it into a box 
about eighteen inches long, ten inches high, 
and ten wide ; the box to be divided into two 
compartments, with a lid to each, and with 
leather loops to these lids through which to 
thrust a pointed spade so as to carry it on 
your shoulder. I have tried this plan, but I 
have never quite liked it. I have found that 
after a heavy day's work the box was apt to 

24 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. n. 

get heavy and feel as if it were a grand- 
father's clock hanging on your back. Then 
the ratting spade was engaged instead of 
being free to mump a rat on the head in a 
hurry, or point out a likely hole to the dogs. 
When a ferret was wanted, all the others 
would dash out and have to be hunted about 
to be re-caught. Now and then the lids 
came open and let all out ; and now and then 
I let the box slip off the spade and fall to 
the ground, and then I felt sorry for the 
ferrets inside it ! No, I have always carried 
my ferrets in a good strong canvas bag, with 
a little clean straw at the bottom, and a 
leather strap and buckle stitched on to it with 
which to close it. Don't tie the bag with a 
piece of string it is sure to get lost ; and 
don't have a stiff buckle on your strap that 
takes ten minutes to undo. Remember the 
life of a rat may depend upon your getting 
your ferret out quickly. Never throw the bag 

CH. ii.] Ferrets Fighting. 25 

of ferrets down ; lay them down gently. 
Don't leave the bag on the ground in a 
broiling sun with some of the ferrets in it 
while you are using the others, or in a cold 
draughty place on a cold day ; find a snug 
corner for them, if you can, and cover th'em 
up with a little straw or grass to keep them 

If, when carrying your ferrets, they chatter 
in the bag, let them ; it is only singing, not 
fighting. I have never known a ferret hurt 
another in a bag. Always bag your ferret 
as soon as you have done with it ; don't drag 
it about in your hand for half an hour, and 
don't put it in your pocket, as it will make 
your coat smell. 

When I have done work and turned 
towards home, I have made it a rule always 
to put a dead rat into the bag, as I think it 
amuses the ferrets and breaks the monotony 
of a long journey ; just as when I run down 

26 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. n. 

home I like taking a snack at Swindon 
Station, just to divert my mind from the 
racketing of the train and the thought of the 
hard seat. When you get home, give the 
ferrets a rat for every two of them, if you 
can afford it, for then they need only eat the 
best joints. If you have not many dead rats 
and want to save some for the morrow, one 
rat for three ferrets is enough for twenty-four 
hours ; but don't forget to give them water 
or milk. 

I think I have said enough as to the 
management of ferrets, and will go on to 
speak of the necessary tools. The chief 
thing is a good ratting spade. What the 
musket is to the soldier, the spade is to the 
rat-catcher. You may get on without it, but 
you won't do much killing. I have tried 
many shapes, but the one I like best is on 
the pattern of the above drawing. It should 
not be too heavy, but yet strong ; and, there- 

CH. ii.] The Ratting Spade. 27 

fore, the handle should be made of a good 
piece of ash, and the other parts of the best 
tempered steel, and the edge should be sharp 
enough to cut quickly through a thick root. 
The spike should be sharp, so as easily to 
enter the ground and feel for a lost hole. 
This will constantly save a long dig and 
much time ; besides, one can often bolt a rat 
by a few well-directed prods in a soft bank 
not that I approve of this, as there may be 
more than one rat in the hole, and by prod- 
ding out one you are contented to leave 
others behind. No, I think the ferret should 
go down every hole challenged by the dogs, 
as then you are pretty sure of making a clean 
job of it. 

Besides the spade, I have always kept a 
few trap boxes. These are to catch a ferret 
should one lay up and have to be left behind. 
I bait them with a piece of rat and place 
them at the mouth of the hole, and it is rare 

28 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. n. 

I don't find the ferret in it in the morning. 
I also take one of these traps with me if I 
am going where rats are very numerous ; 
then, if a ferret stops too long in a hole, I 
stick the mouth of the trap over the hole 
and pack it round with earth and stop up all 
the bolt holes, and then go on working with 
the other ferrets. When the sluggard is at 
last tired of the hole, it walks into the trap, 
shoving up the wire swing door, which falls 
down behind it, and there it has to stop till 
you fetch it. 

If I am going to ferret wheat stacks where 
rats have worked strong, I take with me 
half a dozen pieces of thin board about a 
foot long. I do so for this reason. The 
first thing rats do when they take possession 
of a stack is to make a good path, or run, all 
round it just under the eaves ; and when 
disturbed by ferrets, they get into this run 
and keep running away round and round the 

CH. ii.] Ratting Tools. 29 

stack without coming to the ground. There- 
fore, before putting in the ferrets, I take a 
ladder, and going round the eaves of the 
stack I stick the boards in so as to cut off 
these runs, and when a rat goes off for a 
gallop he comes to "no thoroughfare/' and 
feeling sure the ferret is after him, he in 
desperation comes to the ground, and then 
the dogs can have a chance. I once killed 
twenty-eight rats out of a big stack in twenty 
minutes after the ferrets were put in, all 
thanks to these stop-boards; and though I 
ran the ferrets through and through the stack 
afterwards, I did not start another, and so I 
believe I had got the lot. 

I think I have enumerated all the tools 
required for rat-catching. I need not men- 
tion a knife and a piece of string, as all 
honest men have them in their pocket 
always, even on Sundays. Some rat-catchers 
take with them thick leather gloves to save 

3O Studies in Rat CatcJiing. [CH. n. 

their getting bitten by a rat or a ferret ; but I 
despise such effeminate ways, and I consider 
he does not know his profession if he cannot 
catch either ferret or rat with his naked 

I must now turn to the subject of dogs 
one far more important than either ferrets or 
tools, and one so large that if I went on 
writing and writing to the end of my days I 
should not get to the end of it, and so shall 
only make a few notes upon it as a slight 
guide to the student, leaving him to follow 
it up and work it out for himself; but in so 
doing I beg to say that his future success as 
a rat-catcher will depend on his mastering 
the subject. 

But, before proceeding further, I am 
anxious to say a few words in parenthesis for 
the benefit of the Head Masters of our 
schools. Admirable as their academies are 
for turning out Greek and Latin scholars, I 

CH. ii.] Hints to Schoolmasters. 31 

cannot help thinking a proper provision is 
seldom made in their establishments for 
acquiring a real working knowledge of the 
profession of a rat-catcher; and I wish to 
suggest that it would be as well to insist on 
all those students who wish to take up this 
subject keeping at school at least one good 
dog and a ferret, and that two afternoons a 
week should be set apart entirely for field 
practice, and that the cost of this should be 
jotted down at the end of each term in the 
little school account that is sent home to the 
students' parents. I know most high-spirited 
boys will object to this and call it a fresh 
tyranny, and ever after hate me for proposing 
it ; but I do it under a deep sense of duty, 
being convinced that it is far better they 
should perfectly master the rudimentary 
knowledge of such an honest profession as 
that of rat-catcher, than that they should drift 
on through their school life with no definite 

32 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. n. 

future marked out, finally to become perhaps 
such scourges of society as M.P.s who make 
speeches when Parliament is not sitting. 
Judging from the columns of the newspapers, 
there must be many thousands who come to 
this most deplorable end ; and if I can only 
turn one from such a vicious course, I shall 
feel I have benefitted mankind even more 
than by killing rats and other vermin. 

Now I must return to the subject of dogs, 
and in doing so I will first begin on their 
masters, for to make a good dog, a good 
master is also absolutely necessary. Any- 
body that has thought about it knows that 
as is the master, so is the dog. A quiet man 
has a quiet dog, a quarrelsome man a 
quarrelsome dog, a bright quick man a 
bright quick dog, and a loafing idle ruffian 
a slinking slothful cur. 

First of all, then, the dog's master must 
understand dog talk ; for they do talk, and 

en. ii.] Learning Dog Language. 33 

eloquently too, with their tongues, their ears, 
their eyes, their legs, their tail, and even 
with the hairs on their backs ; and therefore 
don't be astonished if you find me saying in 
the following pages, " Pepper told me this," 
or " Wasp said so-and-so." Why, I was once 
told by a bull terrier that a country policeman 
was a thief, and, " acting on information re- 
ceived," I got the man locked up in prison 
for three months, and it just served him right. 
Having learnt dog language, use it to your 
dog in a reasonable way : talk to him as a 
friend, tell him the news of the day, of your 
hopes and fears, your likes and dislikes, but 
above all use -talk always in the place of a 
whip. For instance, when breaking in a 
young dog not to kill a ferret, take hold of 
the dog with a short line, put the ferret on 
the ground in front of him, and when he 
makes a dash at it say, " What are you up 
to ? War ferret ! Why, I gave four and six- 


34 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. i^ 

pence for that, you fool, and now you want to 
kill it ! Look here (picking the ferret up and 
fondling it), this is one of my friends. Smell it 
(putting it near his nose). Different from a rat, 
eh ? Rather sweet, ain't it ? War ferret, war 
ferret ! Would you, you rascal ? Ain't you 
ashamed of yourself ? War ferret, war ferret ! " 
Repeat this a few times for two or three days, 
and when you first begin working the dog and 
he is excitedly watching for a rat to bolt, just 
say " War. ferret " to him, and he will be sure 
to understand. Should he, however, in his 
excitement make a dash at a ferret, shout at 
him to stop, and then, picking up the ferret, 
rub it over his face, all the time scolding him 
well for what he has done ; but don't hit him, 
and probably he will never look at a ferret 


In my opinion there is nothing like a 
thrashing to spoil a dog or a boy ; reason 
with them and talk to them, and if they are 

CH. ii.] " With a Scold in your Voice" 35 

worth keeping they will understand and obey. 
Mind, a dog must always obey, and obey at 
the first order. Always give an order in a 
decided voice as if you meant it, and never 
overlook the slightest disobedience. One 
short whistle should always be enough. If 
the dog does not obey, call him up and, 
repeating the whistle, scold him with a scold 
in your voice. Don't shout or bawl at him 
for all the country to hear and the rats too, 
but just make your words sting. If he 
repeats his offence, put a line and collar on 
him and lead him for half an hour, telling him 
all the time why you do so, and he will be so 
ashamed of himself that the chances are he 
will obey you ever after. 

Put yourself in the dog's place. Fancy 
if, when you have " kicked a bit over the 
traces" at school, the head-master, instead 
of thrashing you, made you walk up and 
down the playground or cricket-field with 

D 2 

36 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. n. 

him for half an hour ; but no, that 
would be too awful ; it would border on 
brutality ! But you would not forget it in 
a hurry. 

We humans often behave well and do 
good, not because it is our duty so to do, but 
for what the world will say and for the praise 
we may get. Dogs are not in all things 
superior to humans, and in this matter of 
praise I fear they are even inferior to us. 
They most dearly love praise, and a good dog 
should always get it for any and every little 
service he renders to man. Remember, he is 
the only living thing that takes a pleasure in 
working for man, and his sole reward is man's 
approbation. Give it him, then, and give it 
him hot and warm when he deserves it, and 
he will be willing to do anything for you and 
will spend his life worshipping you and 
working for you ; for better, for worse, for 
richer, for poorer, he is yours, with no 

CH. ii.] The Dogs Kennel. 37 

sneaking thoughts of a divorce court in the 

There is another thing a master should 
always do for his dog himself and do it with 
reason. See to his comfort ; see that he has 
good food and water and is comfortably 
lodged. Don't let him be tied up to a hate- 
ful kennel in a back yard, baked by the sun in 
summer and nearly frozen in winter ; often 
without water, and with food thrown into a 
dish that is already half full of sour and dirty 
remains of yesterday's dinner. This is not 
reasonable and is cruel. When he is not 
with you, shut him up in a kennel, big or little, 
made as nearly as you can have it on the 
model of a kennel for hounds. Let it be cool 
and airy in summer and snug and warm in 
winter ; keep all clean kennel, food, dishes, 
water and beds. Don't forget that different 
dogs have different requirements ; for in- 
stance, that a long thick coated dog will 

38 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. n. 

sleep with comfort out in the snow, while a 
short-coated one will shiver in a thick bed of 
straw. Picture to yourself, as you tuck the 
warm blankets round you on a cold winter's 
night, what your thin- coated pointer is under- 
going in a draughty kennel on a bare plank 
bed, chained up to a " misery trap " in the 
back yard, which is half full of drifted snow. 
Think of it, and get up and put the dog in a 
spare loose box in the stable for the night, and 
have a proper kennel made for him in the 

I once had a favourite dog named 
11 Rough" that died of distemper. A small 
child asked me a few days afterwards if dogs 
when they died went to heaven, and I, not 
knowing better, answered, "Yes"; and the 
child said, "Won't Rough wag his old tail 
when he sees me come in ? " When you 
"come in" I hope there will be all your 
departed dogs wagging their tails to meet 

CH. ii.] Treating Dogs Kindly. 39 

you. It will depend upon how you have 
treated them here ; but take my word for it, 
my friend, you will never be allowed to pass 
that door if the dogs bark and growl at you. 

Don't suppose I am a sentimental " fat pug 
on a string " sort of man. Next to humans I 
like dogs best of all creatures. Why, I have 
made my living by their killing rats for me at 
twopence per rat and three pound a farm, and 
I am grateful : but I like dogs in their proper 
place. For instance, as a rule, I dislike a 
dog in the house. The house was meant 
for man and should be kept for him. I 
think when a man goes indoors his dog 
should be shut up in the kennel and 
not be allowed to wander about doing 
mischief, eating trash, learning to loaf, and 
under no discipline. Now and then I do 
allow an old dog that has done a life's 
hard work to roam about as he likes, and 
even walk into my study (I mean kitchen) 

4O Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. n. 

and sit before the fire and chat with 
me ; but, then, such dogs have established 
characters, and nothing can spoil them ; 
besides, they are wise beasts with a vast 
experience, and I can learn a lot from them. 
It was from one of these I learnt all about 
the prigging policeman. 

A young dog is never good for much who 
is allowed to run wild ; every one is his 
master and he obeys no one, and when he is 
taken out he is dull and stupid, thinking more 
of the kitchen scraps than of business. No, 
when I go to work, I like to let the dogs 
out myself, to see them dash about, dance 
around, jump up at me and bark with 
joy. I like to see the young ones topple 
each other over in sport, and the old ones 
gallop on ahead to the four crossways, and 
stand there watching to see which way I 
am going, and then, when I give them the 
direction with a wave of the hand, bolt off 

CH. IL] Dogs in their Proper Place. 41 

down the road with a wriggle of content. 
You might trust your life to dogs in such 
a joyful temper, for they would be sure to 
stand by you. 

Thank you, young gentlemen; that is 
enough for this morning's lesson. You may 
now amuse yourselves with your Ovid or 


I AM a working man, or rather have been till 
I got the rheumatics, and as such I naturally 
stick to my own class and prefer associating 
with those of my own sort, and therefore I 
always keep working dogs. 

I have often bred aristocratic dogs, dogs 
descended from great prize-winners and with 
long pedigrees, and among them I have had 
some good ones, honest and true ; but as a 
rule I must say my experience proves that 
the shorter the pedigree the better the dog, 
and now if I could get them I should like to 
keep dogs that never had a father. Some 
people I know call me a cad, a clod, a chaw- 
bacon, etc., and they call my dogs curs and 
mongrels. Such men talk nonsense and 

CH. in.] Aristocratic v. Pie. 43 

should be kept specially to make speeches 
during the recess. I don't care to defend 
myself, but I must stand up for my dogs 
against all comers ; and I assert boldly that, 
nine times out of ten, a dog with no pedigree 
is worth two with a long one. When I get a 
new dog I never ask who he is, or who his 
father was, but I go by his looks and his per- 
formances. There are dogs like men in all 
classes, who have either a mean, spiteful, 
vicious look, or a dull, heavy, dead one ; such 
I avoid both in dog and man, for I find they 
are not worth knowing. Any other dog will 
do for me, and even now, though I don't often 
go ratting, I have as good a lot as ever stood 
at a hole, and I don't think I can do better 
than describe them as a guide to students 
when they come to getting a kennel together. 
First of all, I never give a lot of money for 
a dog how can I with rats at twopence 
each ? but, if I can, I drop on a likely-looking 

44 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

young one about a year old who was going 
to be " put away " on account of the tax. I 
got the oldest I have now in the kennel in 
this way. It followed George Adams, the 
carrier, home one night, and to this day has 
never been claimed ; and when the tax- 
collector spoke to him about it, he offered it 
to me, and I took it and gave it the name of 
" Come-by-chance," but in the family and 
among friends she is now called " Chance." 
If Chance is of any family I should think 
her mother was a setter and her father a bob- 
tail sheep-dog ; but, then, I can't make out 
where she got her legs ! She is red and 
white, with a perfect setter's head. She has 
the hind parts of a sheep-dog and evidently 
never had a tail ; and her legs, which are very 
thick, would be short for a big terrier. Such 
are her looks, which certainly are not much to 
speak of ; but if I had the pen of a Sir Walter 
Scott I could not do credit to the perfection 

CH. in.] Come^by ^Chance. 45 

of her character. For seven years she has 
been the support of my business, and I can 
safely say she has caused the death of more 
rats than all my other dogs put together. I 
say caused, for she is slow at killing and leaves 
this matter of detail to younger hands. If 
another dog is not near she will catch a rat 
and even kill it ; but she has a soft mouth, 
and all the other dogs, except quite the 
youngest, know this, and, against the rule, will 
always dash in when she has a rat in her 
mouth and take it from her, and she gives it 
up without a struggle. 

No, her forte is to find a rat. She is 
always in and out, up the bank, through the 
hedge, down the bank ; not a tuft of grass 
escapes her, and she would hunt down each 
side of Regent Street and in and out of the 
carriages if she found herself there. She 
lives hunting. Nothing ever escapes her; 
one sniff at the deepest and most turn-about 

46 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

hole is enough. If the rat is not in, on she 
goes in a minute ; but should it be ensconced 
deep down in the furthest corner, she stops 
at once and just turns her head round and 
says quietly to me, " Here's one." Then, 
whilst I am getting out a ferret, over the 
bank she goes, in and out the hedge in all 
directions, and never fails to find and mark 
every bolt-hole for the other dogs to stand at 
that belongs to the one where the rat is. 
As soon as I begin to put in the ferret, she 
will come over the hedge, give herself a 
shake, and sit down and watch the pro- 
ceedings, not offering to take a part herself, 
as she feels there are more able dogs ready, 
and that this is not her strong point. Sup- 
pose a rat bolts and is killed and the ferret 
comes out, Chance will never leave the hole 
till she has taken a sniff at it to make sure 
all the rats have been cleared out. I have 
never known her make a mistake, Ifs/ie says 

CH, in.] Come-by-Chance s Friend. 47 

there is a rat in, there is one without any 
doubt ; if she says there is not, it is no good 
running a ferret through the hole. Should I 
be alone, with no one to look out for the 
ferret when it comes out on the other side of 
a bank, Chance without a word being said to 
her will get over and look out, and directly 
the ferret appears will come back to me and 
give a wriggle, looking in the direction of the 
ferret, and then I know I must get over and 
pick it up. 

She has one peculiarity. When she 
followed George Adams home, seven years 
ago, she was shy and scared ; but, as it was 
a cold night, George, being a kind-hearted 
fellow, invited her to step indoors, an invita- 
tion sne accepted in a frightened sort of way. 
On the hearth sat a little girl of three years 
old, eating her supper, and Chance, doubtless 
feeling very hungry, came and sat down in 
front of her and watched her with a wistful 

48 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. in. 

look. The child was not afraid and soon 
began feeding the dog, who took the pieces 
of food most gently from her fingers. When 
the child was taken up to bed, Chance 
secretly followed, and getting under the crib 
slept there all night. Only once since then 
has Chance failed to sleep in that same place, 
and that was the first night I had her. She 
was shut up in the kennel and never stopped 
barking all night. Since then she has always 
followed me home, eaten her supper at 
the kitchen door, and then gone off to her 
bed under the crib. Early in the morning 
she is again at my door and never goes near 
George's house till bed-time. 

If Chance has no tail, the next dog on the 
list, " Tinker," makes up the average/ He 
is a little black, hard-coated dog, with the 
head of a greyhound and tail of a foxhound. 
His head is nearly as long as his body, and 
his tail is just a little longer. In all ways he 

CH. in.] Nondescript Tinker. 49 

is a proficient at rat-catching, except that he 
has been known to mark a hole where there 
was no rat ; but his strong point is killing. 
He will stand well back from a hole, and it 
does not matter how many rats bolt, or how 
fast, each gets one snap and is dead and 
dropped without Tinker having moved a 
foot. I named him Tinker, for a tinker 
gave him to rne " cos he warn't no sort 
of waller." 

Then on my list next comes " Grindum," 
a mongrel bull-terrier, just the tenderest 
hearted, mildest dispositioned dog that ever 
killed a rat. He has but a poor nose and 
is not clever, but he has one strong point, 
which he developed for himself without 
being taught. It is this : when I am ferret- 
ing a thick hairy bank with a big ditch, 
Grindum always goes some ten yards off and 
places himself in the ditch, and, let the excite- 
ment be what it will, he never moves ; and 


50 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. m. 

should a rat in the thick grass escape the 
other dogs and bolt down the ditch, it is a 
miracle if it does not die when it reaches him. 
I have better and cleverer dogs, I know ; but I 
think Grindum brings in as many twopences 
as any of them, and we are not going to part ! 
The way I got Grindum is quite a little history, 
and I will tell it, though if you boys like, you 
can skip it and go on with a more serious part 
of your lesson. 

Not far from where I lived there was, in a 
most out-of-the-way corner on a common, an 
old sand-pit, and in this a miserable dilapi- 
dated cottage, consisting of two rooms. This 
for some years had been empty, but one fine 
morning was discovered to be inhabited by 
a man, his wife and two children a boy of 
twelve and a girl of seven and a bull-terrier. 
No one knew anything about them or where 
they had come from, and when the landlord 
of the hut went to eject them, he found them 

CH. in.] Grindum. 51 

in such a miserable half-starved condition 
that he left them alone. 

Our parson called on them three times 
the first time the wife told him they did not 
like strangers and parsons in particular ; 
the second time the husband told him to 
clear out sharp, or he would do him a mis- 
chief; and the third time the man took up a 
knife and began sharpening it, preparatory, 
he said, to cutting the parson's throat ! 

Two months after this the man, after 
sitting drinking in the village pot-house all 
the morning, stepped round to an old mid- 
wife and asked her " to come and lay his 
wife out." The woman went and did her 
work and said nothing at the time, but later 
on it was whispered about that she had told 
some of her pals that " the poor crittur was 
black and blue, and that it was on her mind 
that the husband had murdered her ! " 
After this, as I .passed the cottage, I often 

E 2 

52 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

saw the two children sitting on a log of 
wood outside, with the bull-dog sitting 
between them. None of the three ever 
moved out ; all blinked their eyes at me as I 
passed, as if they were unaccustomed to the 
sight of a fellow-creature. 

Two or three months passed, during 
which the man was constantly drinking at 
the village public-house ; but he always left 
at sundown " to look after the kids," he 
said. Then there was a poaching fray on a 
nobleman's estate near. Six keepers came 
on five poachers one moonlight night. 
There was a hard fight, and at last the 
keepers tP Dk two of the men and the other 
three bolted, but one was recognized as the 
man from the sand-pit and was " wanted " 
by the police. 

A few nights after this I was walking 
down a lane in the dark near my house, 
when the sand-pit man stepped out of the 

CH. in.] How I Got Grindum. 53 

hedge, leading his dog by a cord, and turning 
to me said, " Here, master, if you want a 
good dog, here is one for you ; I am off to 
give myself up to the police, and I am going 
to turn queen's evidence against my pals." 
I replied that I did not want such a dog, so 
he said, " All right, then I'll cut his throat," 
and then and there prepared to do so. This 
was more than I could stand, so I took the 
cord and led the dog away, but before doing 
so, I asked, " How about your children?" 
He gave a short laugh, and said, " They 
would be properly provided for." It after- 
wards turned out that soon after leaving me 
he walked straight into the arms of two 
policemen, who saved him the trouble of 
giving himself up by taking him into 

I led my new dog home and tied him 
up in the corner of an open wood-shed, 
giving him a bundle of straw and a dish of 

54 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

bones, and by the starved look of him I 
should say this was the biggest meal he had 
ever had in his life. 

I sat up late that night reading, and all 
the time in a remote corner of my mind the 
sand-pit man, the two children and the dog 
kept turning about, till at last, about mid- 
night or later, I thought I would go to bed ; 
but before doing so I made up my mind that 
I would see if my new dog was all right. I 
lit a lantern and stepped out of the door and 
found it was blowing and snowing and biting 
cold. Mercifully I persevered and reached 
the wood-shed, and what I saw there by 
the light of my lantern did startle me. There 
was the bull-dog sure enough lying curled up 
in the straw blinking hard at me, but could 
I believe my eyes ? there lying with him, 
with their arms entwined round each other 
and round the dog, were the two children 
from the sand-pit fast asleep, but looking so 

CH. in.] Grindums Friends. 55 

pale and pinched I thought they must be 

I will give place to no man living at rat 
catching and minding dogs, but here was a 
pretty mess, for I am no good with little 
children ; so putting down my lantern, I 
hurried back to the house and got two rugs 
and with them wrapped the children and dog 
up snugly. Then I went in and woke up 
my wife, who had already gone to bed, and 
called some other women who were in the 
house, and after telling them what I had 
found, I made up a big fire in the kitchen 
and put on some water to boil. In a very 
few minutes my wife was downstairs and 
battling her way with me off to the wood- 
shed. I untied the dog and moved him 
away from the children. This woke them 
both, and they sat up and rubbed their eyes, 
and the poor boy appeared almost scared to 
death, but the little girl was quite quiet, and 

56 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

only watched his face with a sad careworn 
old look which I pray I may never see on a 
child's face again. 

My wife is really smart with little children, 
and in half no time she was on her knees croon- 
ing over them, and soon she had the girl in 
her arms ; but when I attempted to pick up the 
boy he only screamed and struggled, and 
kept calling out, " Grindum, Grinduoi ! I 
won't leave Grindum. I shall be killed if I 
leave Grindum. Let me stay with Grindum." 
I assured him he should not be separated from 
Grindum " never no more," and at last I 
partially quieted him, andjie allowed me to 
carry him into the kitchen and place him on 
a stool in front of the fire with his sister, 
while his beloved Grindum sat by his side 
blinking as if nothing unusual had taken 
place, and as if he had done the same each 
night for the last three months and felt a 
little bored by it. 

CH. in.] Jack and his Sister. 57 

The first thing to be done, my wife said, 
was to feed the children, and while she and 
the other women busied about getting it 
ready, I sat and watched them. Both were 
remarkably pretty ; both dark, with finely cut 
features, big eyes and thick soft black hair ; 
but yet in different ways both had something 
sad about them. The boy never sat still for 
a moment, but kept glancing fearfully at me, 
then at the women, and then at the door, as 
if he expected something dreadful to happen, 
and all the time kept grasping the arm of his 
little sister with one hand as if for protection, 
and clinging to the soft skin of Grindum's 
neck with the other. If he caught my eye, 
or if I spoke to him, he flinched as if I had 
struck him, and turned livid and tugged so 
hard at Grindum's skin that the poor dog's 
eyes were pulled into mere slits, through 
which I could see he yet went on blinking at 
the fire. The girl sat half turned round to 

5 8 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

the boy and never took her eyes off his face, 
looking the very essence of womanly pity 
and love. Now and then when he suffered 
from a paroxysm of fear, she would softly 
stroke his face, which appeared to soothe him 
instantly ; but nothing she could do could 
ever stop the wild restless look in his eyes or 
prevent his glancing about as if watching for 
some dreadful apparition. It was a sad, sad 
picture, made doubly striking by the utter 
stolidity and indifference of that awful dog, 

Soon hot basins of bread and milk were 
prepared, which both children eat ravenously, 
and then they were put into steaming hot 
baths, washed, dried, combed, and wrapped 
in blankets ; but when we attempted to take 
them up to the nice warm beds that had 
been prepared for them, there was the same 
wild terrified cry from the boy for Grindum ; 
and to pacify him the dog had to be taken 

CH. in.] " Jack Took Me!' 59 

upstairs with them, and half an hour later, 
when my wife and I peeped into the room, 
we saw the two children locked in each 
other's arms fast asleep, with Grindum 
curled up on the bed next to the boy, yet 
blinking horribly, but perfectly composed 
and making himself at home. 

How those two children found their way 
that night through a blinding snow-storm to 
their only living friend, the dear blinking 
Grindum, I never could find out. All I 
could ever get from the boy was, " Oh, I 
always go where Grindum goes ! " and the 
little girl could only say, "Jack took me." 
My wife says angels guided them. Maybe 
she's right, but I hardly think angels would 
be likely to go about on such a night ; still 
my wife went out in the snow and wind to 
the shed and got out of her snug bed to do 
it, but then she put on a pea jacket and 
clogs, and that makes a difference. 

60 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

This is a tiring long story to write, and I 
have not quite done it yet, for I must finish 
with the sand-pit man. He was tried, con- 
victed and got three years. A year after he 
had been in prison he tried to escape by getting 
over a high wall, but in doing so he fell 
from the top and broke his back. He 
lingered some days and seemed to find a 
pleasure in telling the prison parson of all 
his misdeeds and in boasting of them. 
There was a long list, but only the last part 
of his story will serve for " the use of schools." 
It appears from what he said that, after he 
had given me the dog, he had intended to 
steal back to his house and take the two 
children to a deep pond and there drown 
them. Then, free from family ties, he hoped 
to get away and ship himself off to America. 
He also said that in a fit of rage he had 
thrashed his wife to death with his fists, and 
that his boy from having seen him do it had 

CH. in.] End of an Ugly Story. 61 

gone mad with fear, and was so bad, especially 
at night, that if he had not got a bulldog 
sleeping with him as a sort of friend, he 
would go into a fit with fear and was often 
unconscious for hours. 

It was an ugly story, and I am glad to say 
with the death of the sand-pit man the 
miserable part of the children's life ended. 
The girl is now twelve years ^old and has 
never left us. She is as sharp as a needle 
and as honest as old Chance and as good. 
She is having a good education, thanks to 
our Rector's wife, and could if need be earn 
her own livelihood, but we are not going 
ever to part with her. 

The boy Jack was a great trouble to us at 
first. For months he would not be parted 
for a moment, day or night, from Grindum, 
and the dog actually had to go to school with 
him ; but the master utterly failed to teach 
the boy even as far as A B C in his alpha- 

62 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

bet, and the dog not to blink ; and so, one 
fine day, I had both returned on my hands as 
hopeless ignoramuses, I could not keep a 
blinking dog at home in idleness, so I took 
him with me ratting, and as Jack would not 
be parted from the dog, he had to come too. 
Everyone says the boy is " cracked." He is 
queer, I will allow, but if you will find me a 
better hand at rat-catching in all its branches, 
I should like to look at him ; and besides, if 
Jack is cracked, then I like cracked boys, for 
I never came across one more obedient, more 
truthful, or more steady, and I find him a 
perfect treasure on the other side of the bank 
at the bolt holes. 

Jack never mentions the past, and I 
should be inclined to think he had forgotten 
it, only if he is parted from Grindum for a 
short time he becomes wild looking about 
the eyes again and restless. At such times 
his sister, who mothers him much, will sit by 

CH. in.] Grindinris First Rat. 63 

him and stroke his face softly, when he will 
quickly recover himself. I don't know "vhat 
will happen when Grindum "blinks his last," 
but the boy begins to follow me about and 
seems to cling to me, and by that time I hope 
I shall be so well liked by him that I may 
take Grindum's place. 

Just two words more about Grindum and 
I have done. One is that the first time 
Grindum caught a rat, he picked it up by its 
hind leg, and the rat made its teeth meet 
through his nose. He softly put the rat 
down and it escaped, and I made my sides 
ache and greatly astonished all the other 
dogs by laughing at this great soft beast as 
he sat on his haunches licking the blood as it 
trickled from his nose, and staring up into 
the sky with a far-off vacant look, blinking 
worse than ever. 

The other word is this. Though Grindum 
is a bull-dog with an awful " Crush your 

64 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. in. 

bones, tear your flesh " look, he is just the 
gentlest-hearted beast out, and there is not 
a puppy in the kennel, nor a child in the 
village, who does not know this and impose 
on him shamefully. Only last Sunday I had 
to stop a small child of five from driving off 
in a four-wheeled cart, using Grindum as a 
horse. Once, and once only, Grindum 
showed his temper. A big lout in the 
village threw a stone at him. Grindum only 
blinked, but Jack saw it and hit the lout, who 
being twice Jack's size turned upon him and 
knocked him down. In half a minute Grin- 
dum's teeth had met three times in the lout's 
calves and his trousers required reseating, 
and in three-quarters of a minute Grindum 
was sitting down with a bland expression of 
countenance, blinking with both eyes at the 

Now to continue my lesson on ratting 
dogs. I have two others, Pepper and Wasp 

CH. in.] Pepper and Wasp. 65 

one a badly bred spaniel, and the other a 
terrier of doubtful parentage. They are both 
nice cheerful young dogs that it is a pleasure 
to see either at play or work, but they are 
yet young and too apt to get excited and 
wild. They will, when a rat is out of his 
hole, in a hedge, dash up and down the 
entire length of the field, making enormous 
jumps in the air, during which time they 
listen keenly for the rustle of the rat in the 
grass ; and once, but only once, Pepper gave 
a yap when so rushing about, but I spoke 
to him so severely about this disgustingly 
low habit that he has never done it again. 

Wasp is specially good at water, and I 
have taught him to come to me directly a 
rat is bolted with a plunge into a pond, and 
I carry her high up in my arms round the 
pond, and when the rat approaches the side, 
Wasp from her high vantage ground will 
dive down upon it and have it in an instant. 


66 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. in. 

Both dogs are quick killers and will, I am 
sure, in time be perfect ; but as yet I do not 
think myself justified in putting them into a 
higher class with such dogs as Chance and 

There ! that is all for to-day, young gentle- 
men. Resume your Cicero, and, while you are 
preparing it, I will go to my room and look 
over the impositions I set you yesterday. It 
is understood that for " look over imposi- 
tions" we may read, " Smoke cavendish in a 
short black pipe." 


WHAT do you say, boys ? Shall we drop 
this and have a day's outdoor practice ? To 
tell the truth, I don't think much of book- 
learning, especially if the book is written by 
myself; but I do believe in practice. Come 
along ! It is the middle of October just the 
nicest time of the year and the very best for 
ratting, for the vermin are yet out in the 
hedges, fine and strong from feeding in the 
corn, and with few young ones about. Come, 
Jack, we'll get the ferrets first ; and off I go 
with the boy to the hutch, while the dogs in 
the kennel, having heard our steps and 
perfectly understanding what is up, bark and 
yap at the door, jump over each other, 
tumble and topple about like mad fiends. 

F 2 

68 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. iv. 

Before I get to the box I hear the ferrets 
jumping up at the sides, and when I open the 
lid half a dozen are out in a moment, and 
these I bag as a reward for their activity. I 
throw the others a rat to console them for 
being left at home, and, giving the ferrets to 
Jack, I strap on a big game bag, take up my 
spade, return and let the dogs out, and off 
we start. 

Step out quick, Jack ; there are three miles 
to go before we get to work, and it is 8 a.m. 
and I expect a big day. Yes, Chance, old lady, 
a fine day a perfect day a day to make both 
the feet and the heart light and every human 
sense rejoice. There has been just a little 
frost in the night : you can see that by the 
way the elms have spread a golden carpet 
under their branches in the lane and by their 
leaves that yet keep falling slowly one by one 
in the fresh, but dead still, air, and by the 
smell of the turnips, the fresh stubble and 

CH. iv.j An Autumn Walk. 69 

the newly turned earth behind yonder plough. 
The sun shines, cobwebs are floating through 
the air and get twisted round one's head, and 
far and near sounds such as a cart on the 
high road, a sheep dog barking, a boy singing, 
birds chirping, insects humming, the patter 
of our own feet, and the whispering of the 
brook under the bridge, all form part of a 
chorus heaven-sent to gladden the heart of 
man, I have heard tell, Chance, or I have 
seen it in a book, or I have felt it myself, I 
don't quite know which, that those who in 
youth have had such a walk as this, and have 
heard the music, smelt the perfumes and seen 
the sights (that is if they were blessed with 
eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to take 
in), have never forgotten it. The memory 
appears for a time to pass away amidst the 
struggles of life, but it is never dead ; to the 
soldier in battle, to the statesman in council, 
or the priest in prayers, to those in sorrow or 

70 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. iv. 

in joy or in sickness, there may come, no one 
knows from where, no one knows why, a 
golden memory of such days, of such a walk. 
Perhaps it is only a gleam resting but a 
second upon the mind, and perhaps leaving it 
saddened with a longing for days that are 
past, but yet I think making one feel a better 
man, giving one courage and hope, reminding 
one that, hard as the battle of life may be to 
fight, dark and gloomy as the days may be 
just now, another morning may arise for us, 
far, far more bright and glorious and joyful, 
one that will not be shadowed over by a 
returning night ; but then that is only for the 
brave, the honest, the truthful for those who 
are up early and strive late, never beaten, 
never doubting, always pressing forward. 

But, come out of that, Wasp ! Don't you 
know that cows kick if you sniff at their 
heels ? Tinker, old man, keep your spirits 
up ; Pepper, come back from that wood, for it 

CH. iv.] " Steady, Dogs, Steady / " 71 

is preserved. Yes, Jack, I think I'll fill my 
pipe again. Baccy does taste good on a day 
like this ; but what doesn't ? I feel like a ten- 
year-old and as fit as a fiddler. Grindum, 
give over blinking and don't look so benevo- 
lent. No, Chance, no, old lady, I can't pull 
your tail, for you haven't got one. What, 
Jack, you say I haven't spoken for the past 
mile ? Well, I suppose I have been thinking, 
and my thoughts have not been wholly sad 
ones. Open the gate ; here we are ; and you 
get over on the other side of the hedge and 
don't talk or make a noise, for I can see by 
the work the rats s-w-a-r-rn. Steady, dogs, 
steady ! And so we start. 

The hedge is just what it should be, and if 
it had been made for ratting it could not be 
better. A round bank of soft earth, a shallow 
ditch with grass, little bush or bramble, and 
a gap every few yards. There is a gateway 
in the middle, which will make a hot corner 

72 St 2t dies in Rat Catching. [en. iv. 

later on when Grindum has taken his stand 
there ; and there is a pipe under the gateway, 
the far end of which I shall close. The rats 
have never been disturbed, for the runs are as 
fresh as Oxford Street, and I have already 
seen one or two rats run into the hedge lower 
down from out the wheat stubble, and, there ! 
that whistle has sent a lot more in. Steady, 
Wasp! Well done, Chance; you have marked 
one in that hole near you, or more than one, 
is there ? Well, the more the merrier ! Stand, 
dogs, stand ! Are you ready, Jack ? And in 
goes a ferret as lively as quicksilver and as 
fierce as a tiger. 

For a minute all is quiet ; then a slight stir 
on the other side and two snaps of Tinker's 
lantern-jaws, and two rats dead ; three 
others out of a side hole are killed by Wasp, 
and three others accounted for by Grindum, 
and that fool Pepper is racing and jumping 
down the hedge a mile off. Whistle ! 

CH. iv.] A Ferret Disabled. 73 

whistle ! and back he comes, and at that 
moment Jack picks up a ferret on the other 
side, it having gone through the hole. 
Chance sniffs at it and says it is swept clear, 
and I block it up with my heel, and Jack 
does the same to the bolt-hole, so that if a 
rat does come back later on the dogs will 
have a chance ; and then on we go a few 
yards to the next hole which Chance marks. 
This time the ferret went in like a lion and 
came out like a lamb, with the blood running 
out of the side of its face ; and whilst I am 
examining the bite, a real patriarch rat bolted 
at a side hole near Pepper, who strikes at it, 
misses taking- a proper hold and gets it too 
far back, and the next moment the blood is 
pouring from a bite above his eye ; but the 
rat is dead, and Pepper but little the worse. 

I thought it was too late in the year for 
young ones, but it was not, for at the next 
hole we came to the ferret got into a nes h , 

74 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. iv. 

killed a lot of young ones and " laid up," and, 
as I had not a box-trap with me, I had to 
dig it out. This took some time, as I lost 
the hole, and Jack, whilst down grubbing 
with his hands, broke into a wrong one in 
which the old rat was ready for him, and at 
once bit him through the end of his finger. 
Jack sucked it well and did not mind, but I 
did not much like the appearance of things, 
for in half-an-hour I had had a ferret laid 
up, and a dog and a boy bitten badly by rats, 
and these bites are often very poisonous. 
Fortunately this time Jack took no harm and 
was soon well. As soon as Jack pulled his 
hand out of the rat's hole, Pincher put his 
long nose in, and all was over in a minute. 
Soon after I came on the ferret curled up in 
a nest of young rats, all minus their heads ; 
and so that ferret, from being gorged with 
food, was no more good for work, and had 
to be put away with the bitten one. 

CH. iv.] Rats up a Pollard. 75 

After this we got on much faster ; the 
holes were close together, and even with the 
greatest care lots of rats bolted and went 
forward, but I would not allow the dogs to 
disturb fresh ground by following them. 
Some went back, and Pepper and Wasp had 
a good time, for I let them follow and work 
them alone, having stopped all back holes 
after ferreting them. Now and then, Jack 
and I had to go back, as there was an old 
pollard tree covered with ivy, and many of 
the rats got up that, and Pincher had to be 
lifted up into the crown to displace them, 
and then when they jumped down, three 
or four at a time, there was a grand 

When we had got twenty yards or so from 
the gateway, Grindum went forward and 
stood there and killed a dozen rats that tried 
to pass, and a lot more went into the pipe 
under the roadway. These we left alone, 

76 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. iv. 

only after we had passed we stopped up the 
open end and opened the shut one, so that in 
future rats going- back might wait quietly in 
the arch till we were ready for them. By 
the time we had got as far as the gate it was 
just noon, so we called the dogs back to a 
tree we had passed, and then Jack and I sat 
down and paid attention to the game bag, 
which was well provided with cold meat 
and bread and cheese and a bottle of beer. 

I am not a good hand at picnics and never 
was. I mean those big gatherings with 
ladies, lobster salad, hot dishes, plates, 
knives, spoons, champagne, etc. I find the 
round world was created a little too low 
down to sit upon with comfort; my knees 
don't make a good table ; flies get into my 
beer and hopping things into my plate. I 
have to get up and hand eatables about ; 
things bite me, and more creep about me, 
and it does not look well to scratch. The 

CH. iv.] A Rat-catcher s Picnic. 77 

hostess looks anxious about her glass and 
plate ; someone has forgotten the salt, and 
some one else the corkscrew. The host, be 
he ever so sad, makes fun, and made fun is 
magnified misery to me. No, I don't like 
picnics ; I would rather be at home and feed 
upon a table ; and yet a snack at noon-day, 
after hard work, sitting under a tree, with 
your hands as plates, with a good " shut- 
knife," a silent companion and the dogs all 
round you, is pleasant. Double Gloucester 
then equals Stilton, and bottled beer nectar ; 
and then the pipe in quiet, while Jack takes 
the dogs, after they have finished the scraps, 
to the pond to drink. Talk of Havanas ! 
Well, talk of them, but give me that pipe as I 
loll, half asleep, resting against the tree, my 
legs spread out, and my hat tipped over my 
nose. I half close my eyes and go nearly to 
sleep, but keep pulling at the pipe, and half 
unconsciously hear the leaves whispering 

78 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. iv. 

above, the insects humming, the stubble 
rustling, the trembling of a thrashing 
machine, and the rush of a train in the far 
distance. Jack returns from the pond, 
throws himself on the ground on his face, 
kicks his legs in the air and whistles softly, 
with the gentle Grindum blinking beside 
him. Chance and Tinker lie out full length 
on their sides and go to sleep. Wasp 
stretches on the ground, with her legs out 
behind her, and drags herself about with her 
front feet. Pepper sits down, scratches his 
ear, and then dashes at a passing bumble bee, 
and all becomes a pleasant jumble of sights 
and sounds ; but, with a start, I recover my- 
self, drop my pipe, topple my hat off and lose 
my temper, for that everlastingly restless, 
volatile, good-for-nothing, ramshackly beast, 
Pepper, has been and licked me all up the 
side of the face ! The dream, the quiet, the 
rest is all broken, so, jumping up, I tip my 

CH. iv.] Starting Rats from a Drain. 79 

pipe out on the heel of my boot, give a 
stretch, grasp the spade, and off we go to 
finish our job. 

For three hours we work our way on, and 
a line of dead rats on the headland marks 
our progress, till at last we reach the bottom 
of the field and our bank is done. Pepper 
has got three more bites, another ferret is 
done for by a nip on the nose, and Jack has 
torn his trousers and is very dirty ; but there 
is yet the drain pipe under the gate to attend 
to, and it is getting on in the day. I cut 
three or four long sticks and tie them tightly 
together, and then to the end of this fasten 
a good hard bunch of grass, and back we go 
to the drain. I go to one end with Grindum 
and Pincher, whilst Jack takes the sticks, 
Pepper and Wasp to the other end, and 
gently and slowly shoves the sticks through. 
Two venturesome rats bolt at my end and 
are killed. When the sticks appear I grasp 

8o Studies in Rat Catching, [en. iv. 

them and gradually draw the whisp of grass 
into the drain. It fits tight and takes some 
pulling, but it comes steadily along, wiping 
all before it. Faster and faster the rats bolt 
and are killed, and even old Chance, who 
began by watching us, gets excited and joins 
the sport. Pepper and Wasp dash in for a 
last worry, which is over in a few minutes, 
when twenty-four rats are cast by Jack up on 
to the bank. Well done, dogs ! well done, 
good dogs ! Woo-hoop, woo-hoop ! Good 
dogs ! That's the way, my boys ! Woo- 
hoop ! woo-hoop ! And the dogs roll on the 
ground, stretch, wipe the dirt out of their 
eyes with their paws, and rub their faces in 
the grass. 

Jack goes backwards and forwards and 
collects the spoil, and we count up seventy- 
three real beauties, a few of which I really 
think should be fotirpenny beasts, they are 
so big. Never mind, seventy-three rats at 

CH. iv.] A Weary Walk Home. St 

twopence each comes to twelve and two- 
pence not such a bad day's work ; and, Jack, 
you shall have a hot supper to-night ; and oh, 
you dogs, you dogs, think of the supper I 
will give you ! Bones with lots of meat on, 
oatmeal and such soup ! Think of it, dogs ! 
think of it ! And so the work ends, and all 
are happy and contented. 

Three miles down turning twisting lanes 
to reach home, Grindum and I first, then 
Jack, and the rear brought up by the long 
and now a little drooping tail of Tinker. 
All have had enough ; even the volatile 
young Pepper trots slowly, and therefore 
looks ever so much more business-like. 

Before we start the shades are falling, and 
as we trudge along nature's evening vespers 
speak of the closing day. Workmen sitting 
sideways on quiet harnessed cart-horses stump 
past with a friendly " Good night, neighbour, 
good night ! " Women with children in "go- 


82 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. iv. 

carts" bustle past in a hurry to get home 
and fetch up the supper. Farm horses are 
drinking in the pond or browsing on the rank 
grass at the side ; sparrows are chattering in 
the old alder bush before going to bed in the 
ivy on the church ; pigs in the homestead 
are calling for their supper ; the cows pass us 
coming home to be milked ; rooks fly steadily 
to the old elm trees near the Manor ; and a 
robin pipes clear and shrill on the roof of the 
shed in the cottage garden. There are par- 
tridges calling out " cheap wheat " in the 
stubble, and pewits crying on the meadows. 
Cock pheasants noisily flutter up to roost in 
the firs, and the old doctor standing at his 
door makes soft music with his violin. 

The parson joins us and has a cheery 
word for all, especially the dogs, who are all 
his personal friends ; and so we jog on and 
reach the village, where the wood smoke 
rises straight in a blue cloud from the cottage 

CH. iv.] Kennel, Dogs, Kennel! 83 

chimneys, and the fire light sends a ruddy 
gleam across the roads. Groups of men and 
boys stand about resting, little children race 
and play, and oh, such a delicious whiff of 
something stewing, with a little bit of onion 
in it, comes from the open door of the village 
ale-house ! And this reminds us all that our 
suppers are near, and we finish the evening's 
walk quite briskly. 

No need to say, " Kennel, dogs, kennel ! " 
All go in of their own accord, and in five 
minutes are busy at their savoury-smelling 
hot supper. The ferrets are fed and locked 
up, and then, unlacing our boots at the back 
door and kicking them off, the day is done. 
Supper, rest and quiet, a pipe, a book, bed 
and happy dreams are all before us. 

" Now, Croker, minor, you will go to the 
Doctor's study before school to-morrow. You 
have been most inattentive, and it is not the 
first time I have had occasion to speak to 

G 2 

84 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. iv. 

you. You can go now, but don't forget that 
this is tub night, as you all have done on the 
last four occasions. If I have further com- 
plaints on this head from the matron, I shall 
take you all out for a long day's rat-catching, 
so I advise you all to be very careful." Five 
minutes later this master is smoking in his 
room and says to another master who is 
doing the same, " I say, Potts, do you knew 
I think these new lessons on rat-catching are 
all very well, but I think they are beyond 
the capacity of schoolboys. Why, they strain 
my mind, and I think they should only be 
taken up at the universities and during the 
last term ; and then the boys do so hate 
them," etc. 


" CROKER, minor, have you been up to the 
head-master ? Yes ? Then sit still and don't 
fidget. Boys, pick up your books on rat- 
catching, and we will resume yesterday's 
task.' 1 

The last chapter treats of a prime day's 
rat-catching, where rats were numerous and 
known to be numerous ; but don't suppose all 
days are like this, for if you do you will be 
sadly disappointed, and you will have a lot 
to learn, for there are days, and very pleas- 
ant days too, when you will have to walk 
mile after mile to find a rat, and even then 
not be successful ; but you will be out of 
doors in the fresh air, with devoted com- 
panions and something fresh to see at every 

86 Studies in Rat Catching. [en. v. 

step, if you keep your eyes open. Don't get 
disheartened, and above all things never say, 
" Oh, it is no good looking here or looking 
there for a rat ; there is sure not to be one. 
Come on and don't waste time." You often 
find them in the most unexpected places. 

I once went three times to the house of 
an old lady, being sent for because there was 
a rat that came each night and took her 
hen's eggs and carried off young ducks and 
chickens. I spent hours looking for it in 
hedges, ditches, sheds, out-houses and stable, 
and even put Tinker up on the roof of all 
the buildings, thinking the assassin might 
be under the tiles ; but it was no go. 

Night after night the plunderer came, and 
I began to see that the old lady did not 
think much of me. At last, one afternoon, 
I called again and began operations by ask- 
ing to have a dog that was tied up to a 
kennel in a back yard led away, as his 

CH. v.] A Rat in a Queer Place. 87 

barking disturbed my dogs. This was done, 
and a minute afterwards Chance was sidling 
round the kennel, staking her reputation 
upon the rat being under it. I got out a 
ferret and looked round the kennel, and was 
utterly disgusted to find it was placed firmly 
on hard ground without a vestige of a hole. 
I am sorry to say I went so far as to sneer 
at Chance and tell her she did not know the 
difference between a dog and a rat. She 
herself for a moment seemed in doubt, but 
the next she went inside the kennel and 
stood at a hole in the plank floor. I put the 
ferret back in the bag and, taking hold of the 
kennel, tilted it up, and in an instant the dogs 
had a vicious-looking old monster dead. 

Now the only possible way tha'. rat could 
have got in and out of his house was by 
passing the dog as he slept, and yet the old 
lady and her gardener assured me that the 
dog was as keen as mustard after rats. 

88 Studies in Rat Catching. [en. v. 

I once killed a rat inside a church. I 
found it during a long sermon, but for the 
life of me I can't remember what that sermon 
was about. I was sitting in a seat opposite 
about a score of village school children, and 
suddenly I was struck by their appearance, 
and the thought passed through my mind, 
" How like humans are to dogs ! Why, those 
children look just like my dogs when they 
find a rat, especially that flaxen-haired girl 
with a front tooth out." Then I noticed that 
they were all looking in one direction, and so 
I looked there too and saw a rat sitting with 
just its nose out of a hole which ran under 
the brick floor, apparently listening to the 
sermon. The next morning the parson and 
I went to the church. I took one ferret and 
only Tinker. I chose Tinker because he 
was black and rather clerical looking. The 
rat was at home, and we had it in five 
minutes. This was one of the few times I 

CH. v.] Rats in a Ladys Chamber. 89 

ever did rat-catching with my hat off, and it 
felt very queer. 

Again, I once killed a mother rat and a 
lot of young ones which I found in the 
stuffing of a spring sofa in a spare bedroom 
at an old manor-house. There were rats in 
the walls, and " Mary Ann " had often seen 
a rat in the room when she went in to dust, 
and it had given her "such a turn. 1 ' This 
time I took all the dogs with me, and we 
were followed by the lady of the house, four 
dreadfully pretty daughters and " Mary 
Ann." Madam and Mary Ann got on the 
sofa, standing, and the four daughters stood 
on four chairs round the room. All six 
clasped their clothes tight round their ankles 
why, I never could think. This was the 
only time in her life that I ever found Chance 
a fool. Directly she got into the room, she 
wriggled and twisted, turned her head this 
way and that, threw herself on her back and 

90 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. v. 

fairly grovelled. Wasp, Pepper, and the 
long-tailed Tinker were nearly as bad, and it 
was plain to see they were shy and bashful 
in such a gorgeous room and surrounded by 
such a galaxy of beauty. It was the soft- 
hearted Grindum who saved us ; he blinked 
much, but directly I said, " Hie round, dogs ! 
Hunt him up ! Search him out ! " he went 
to work up on the bed, round the room, 
behind the furniture, and at last began 
sniffing round the sofa. I got hot all over, 
for I thought he was mistaking an aristo- 
cratic lady and her hand-maid for rats ; but 
no, at last he went under the sofa, and 
turning over on his back began to scratch at 
the underside of it up above him. Madam 
and Mary Ann jumped off, and the latter felt 
another "turn"; then both took refuge on 
chairs and again clasped their clothes tight 
round them. I turned the sofa up on its 
back, and there through the sacking near a 

CH. v.] Rats in a House. 91 

leg I found a nice round hole into the 
interior among the springs. I put a ferret 
in, and in a minute there was a rush and 
scuffle, the sofa seemed alive, and then three 
or four small rats bolted out and were 
accounted for ; another squeak and rush, and 
out came the mother and was quickly 
dispatched ; then, as the ferret did not come 
out, I ripped the sacking and found it eating 
a deliciously tender young rat. I bagged 
the ferret, and while I did so, Grindum killed 
three or four small ones. I afterwards found 
that the rats had eaten through the wain- 
scot and so got into the room. The rest of 
the afternoon was spent in turning over all 
sorts of furniture, including beds, and hunting 
through each room with the dogs ; but we 
found no more rats as inside lodgers. 

Three or four months after this episode, 
rats swarmed in the walls of this same house 
and behind the wainscoting, and my pro- 

92 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. v. 

fessional services were called in to get rid of 
them. How they got into the house I never 
discovered, for there were no holes from the 
outside, and no creepers on the walls for 
them to mount by and get on to the roof ; 
the drains did not appear to communicate 
with the inside of the house, and all the 
doors fitted tight. Equally puzzling was it, 
now that they were inside, to get them out, 
for I dare not put ferrets in, for fear they 
should kill a rat and leave it to decay and 
smell for months. 

I tried various plans. I got a live rat, 
tied a ferret's bell on it, and turned it loose, 
and for days after it was constantly heard 
tinkling inside the walls ; but it did not drive 
the rats away. I singed the coat of a rat, 
put tar on the feet of another and turned 
them loose ; but it was no good. At last I 
took possession of a wood-house in a cellar 
down in the basement, from which a short 

en. v.] Slaughter in a Cellar. 93 

passage led to other cellars, and in the walls 
of these there were many open holes. First of 
all I went carefully over the wood cellar and 
made sure there were no holes in it ; and 
then, putting in a few faggots to give shelter 
to any nervous young rat, I started each 
night to feed them with delicious balls of 
barley-meal, which were made up with scraps. 
In this way I gave a rats' supper-party each 
night for three weeks, and each morning I 
found clean-swept dishes. At last the fatal 
day arrived. A string was tied to the 
handle of the door leading up into the 
kitchen, the food was placed in the dishes as 
usual about ten p.m., and all the household, 
except myself, went to bed. I sat over the 
kitchen fire reading my paper till a distant 
clock struck midnight, and then I gave a 
sharp pull to the string and heard the door 
bang to and the fastening fall, and I knew I 
had them. I lit a big glass lantern, went 

94 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. v. 

round to the stables and let out all the dogs, 
took them to the cellar window and slipt 
them through quickly, squeezing myself 
through after them and shutting the window 
again. In half no time fifty rats were killed, 
and all the dogs, except Tinker, pretty badly 
bitten ; but they were used to that and did 
not care. Then I locked the back door 
behind me, taking the key home to bring 
back in the morning when I called to be 
paid eight and fourpence for my night's 
work. Three times in the next three 
months I went through a similar perform- 
ance, and the first time I killed twenty- 
eight rats, the second seven, and the third 
time only two, and these were old bachelors. 
Then every hole in the walls was filled up 
with a cement made up with broken glass, 
and I have never heard of a rat in that 
house since. 

Before I forget it, let me tell you that if a 

CH. v.] Dead Rats in a House. 95 

rat dies in the wall, or under the floor of a 
house where it can't be got at, its where- 
abouts can be discovered in this way, pro- 
vided the weather is warm. Take a butterfly 
net over to the butcher's shop, and there 
catch a dozen bluebottle flies, and, taking 
care not to hurt them, slip them into a glass 
jar and tie a rag over it. Return to the 
room where the smell is, and, shutting the 
door after you, let your pack of flies loose 
and sit down to watch them, and in half-an- 
hour you will find they are all buzzing round 
one spot. Have this spot opened out, be it 
wall or floor, and there the dead rat will be 
found. Has the bell rung? Yes, half a 
minute ! Put your books away, form two and 
two outside, and I will take you for our 
usual walk. We will resume this task in the 
morning. Croker, minor, the top part of 
Jones' leg was not made to stick pins into. 
If I see you do it again, I shall give you a 
rat to catch, so be careful ! 


I TRUST that, in the five chapters I have 
written, I have said enough to give some 
of my scholars a slight taste and liking for 
the profession I am advocating, and in some 
small degree have weaned their young 
affections from such pernicious pastimes as 
studying classical authors, doing sums, and 
cutting their names on their desks. If I 
have not done this I have written to little 
purpose, and I fear the next chapter will 
damp off a few who have only followed me 
and my dogs on fine days in pleasant paths ; 
but I may as well tell you at once that life is 
no more all beer and skittles in rat-catching 
than it is in such minor professions as the 
Army, the Church, the Bar, school-keeping, 

CH. yi.] A November Day. 97 

etc.; and just to see if you are "real grit," 
boys, I will show you another picture. 

Jack, get the ferrets while I let the dogs 
out. We must go and see if we can find a 
few rats, for it is a week since the ferrets had 
flesh, and we shall have them getting ill ; 
and, Jack, bring four in the little bag, and 
put that inside your game-bag, for it looks 
like rain, and I don't like to see them half- 
drowned. Yes, it does look like rain, though 
as yet it is only a dull, misty, chilly day in 
mid-November down here in the country, 
but in London it is a thick black fog, and all 
work is being done by gaslight. It is bad 
and depressing here, but ever so much worse 
there ; so cheer up, dogs, and step out, Jack. 
We will go down by the beck and home by 
the clay-pits, for I know of no other place 
near where we are so likely to find a few rats, 
and I don't want to make a long day of it. 

Go over the bridge, Jack. You take that 


98 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vi. 

side with Chance and a young one, and I 
will do this side with the other dogs. Hie 
in, dogs ! Search him out, lads ! And on 
we go, but in two miles we only kill a water- 
hen that Pepper catches as it rises out of 
some sedges, and which goes into my bag 
to replenish the ferrets' larder. The mist 
hangs low, the bushes are wet, the ground 
soft, and there is a dreary sigh in the wind. 
The cattle are eating fast, as they always do 
before rain ; and the sheep, startled by the 
sight of the dogs, caper and jump as they 
gallop all down the meadow ; and again their 
playfulness warns me of a wet tramp home. 
Some young colts stand at the door of an 
open shed, dull and depressed looking, and 
the horses ploughing on the sides of the hill 
send up a thick steam. No birds twitter or 
sing, no insects hum, distant sounds are 
muffled and indistinct. The teams in the 
waggons on the road hard by creep along 

CH. vi.] A Laid-up Ferret. 99 

and take little notice beyond a toss of the 
head at the carter's whip as he walks beside 
them with a heavy step cracking it. The 
only brisk thing to be seen is the doctor's 
gig as it whisks past. 

" Hie up, dogs ! shake yourselves and don't 
go to sleep ! Come over, Jack ; I have had 
enough of this brook ; and if we don't find at 
the clay-pits, home we go." And we trudge 
off to some ponds half a mile further away. 
They are well-known to both men and dogs, 
and the latter bolt on ahead and arrive first ; 
and when we come up we find them all 
clustered round a hole in a high bank 'midst 
thick dripping bushes. In goes a ferret, but 
not in the way I like to see. There is no 
hurry, no ecstatic wriggle of the tail as it 
slowly draws itself into the hole. Then all 
stand round expecting to see a rat take a 
header into the pond ; but no, five minutes 
pass, and Pepper begins to move, and is told 

H 2 

ioo Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vi. 

to " stand." Ten minutes pass, and Jack 
gets restless. Fifteen minutes, and I begin 
to shift my feet, which are planted deep in 
sticky mud by the side of the pond, and just 
then the first drops of rain appear. Ah, 
there is the ferret ! Jump up and get it, Jack. 
But before he can do so, it has drawn itself 
into the hole backwards, which means that it 
has killed a rat inside and that it only came 
out to tell us so, and that it was going back 
to have a good long sound sleep curled up 
by the rat's warm body. There is nothing 
for it but to dig it out ; and oh, what a dig, 
all among roots and thorns on the sloping 
sides of the pond, in thick sticky clay, with 
the rain coming down in a steady pour ! 
Jack hunches his back and leans against a 
tree, Pepper and Wasp wander away down 
a ditch and scratch for an hour at a drain 
that has a rabbit in it, and the old dogs sit 
and watch me and drip and shiver. I dig 

en. vi.] A Tramp Home in the Wet. 101 

here, I dig there ; I slip and fall on the bank ; 
the water mixed with yellow clay runs up my 
arm from the spade, and yet that beastly 
ferret sleeps peacefully in its warm bed. I 
lose the hole, come down on roots as thick 
as my leg and stones that strike fire as the 
spade strikes them ; and so two hours of dis- 
comfort to all drift by, and I am just feeling 
about for the last time with the spike end of 
the spade, when I again hit off the hole and, 
opening it out, come upon a nice warm rat's 
nest made of leaves, with the ferret curled 
up snugly with a dead rat. 

" Home, dogs, home ! Cheer up, Jack ! Cold 
are you, and wet ? Well, never mind ; only 
two miles, and we will walk fast. Pepper, 
Pepper, Wasp, Wasp, where on earth have 
you got to ? Ah, there you are, and a nice 
mess you have made of yourselves trying to 
scratch out a hole five hundred yards long. 
Come along all ! " And off we tramp, Jack 

IO2 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vi. 

and I in the middle of the road, splish splash at 
every step, the water squirting high up our 
gaitered legs, and the dogs, with drooping tails, 
dripping coats and woe-begone looks, coming 
along behind us in Indian file close under the 
shelter, such as it is, of the hedge. 

We pass the postman, who only nods, and 
meet a flock of sheep all draggled and dirty. 
An empty cart with a sack over the seat 
stands at the pot-house, and pigs wander 
listlessly about the yard with their backs 
arched up. Under the waggon-shed some 
cocks and hens stand each on one leg, with 
their tails drooping, apparently too disgusted 
to prune their feathers and fly up to roost in 
the rafters. The smoke beats down from 
the chimneys and gets lost in the wind and 
rain which buffets and pelts at our back. 
Cold spots begin to be felt at the bend of 
our arms and knees ; then a shiver runs down 
the back, which developes into a trickle of 

CH. vi.] A Snug Evening. 103 

water that at last gets into our boots and 
goes squish, squish, at every step, and at last 
oozes over the tops ; and our teeth chatter 
with cold, for now here and there among the 
rain-drops appear a few flakes of snow, which 
rest on the mud of the road for a second, and 
then melting, add to the deep slush that 
trickles down the hill by our side. At every 
open shed the dogs shelter a minute, shake 
themselves like dripping mops, and with 
arched backs stand on three legs and shiver ; 
but we whistle them on and at last reach 
home. After throwing a good bundle of dry 
straw on the kennel benches and feeding 
dogs and ferrets, Jack and I get under 
shelter and soon find ourselves in dry clothes 
before a good fire, feeling a little swollen 
and stiff about our faces and hands, and 
much inclined for forty winks. 

The wind howls in the chimney, lashes 
the bare branches of the trees, rattles the 

IO4 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vi. 

window frames, and appears angry that it 
cannot get at us, and the rain drives in fitful 
gusts against the windows, and hisses in the 
big wood fire on the hearth ; and as I sit in 
my snug arm-chair, I dimly feel that the 
external storm adds greatly to the internal 
comfort, and then I fancy I nod off to sleep, 
for I think no more till supper is announced, 
and hunger and my wife stir me up to con- 
sciousness again. 

Having finished a good supper and got 
my pipe drawing beautifully, I remember 
one or two things that I think the student 
should be told. The first is, never put a 
line on a ferret when ratting. It hampers 
a ferret in a narrow, twisting, turning rat's 
hole, and cutting into the soft earth at the 
turns soon brings the ferret to a dead stop. 
Then rats' holes are chiefly in hedge-banks, 
which are full of roots, and the line is pretty 
sure to get twisted round some of these, and 

CH. vi.] Things Students Should Know. 105 

then it will be a long dig to free it. Re- 
member, too, a ferret has to go down the hole 
and face a beast nearly as big as itself, with 
teeth like lancets and with courage to use 
them, and so should be as free as possible ; 
and lining a ferret is about equal to setting 
a student with the gloves on to fight against 
another without them. Then some way back 
I mentioned ferrets' bells. They are little 
hollow brass balls with an iron shot in them 
that make a pretty tinkling sound, and are 
supposed to be tied round the ferret's neck. 
In my opinion, if you put a bell on it, you 
may as well put the ferret in the bag and 
keep it there. The theory about bells is, 
that a ferret running down a hole jingling its 
bell will fill a rat with fear and make it bolt, 
but this is all nonsense ; rats are not so 
easily frightened. Again, it is said that if a 
ferret comes out of a hole in a thick hedge 
unseen, the bell will let you know where it 

io6 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vi. 

is ; but I must say I never lost a ferret in a 
hedge or felt the want of a belled one. I 
consider a bell a useless dead weight on a 
ferret, and the cord that goes round its neck 
to fasten it is apt to get hitched on to a root 
and hold the ferret a prisoner. A bell is 
only good for a sharp shopman to sell to a 

I need hardly say, never muzzle a ferret 
when rat-catching. It would be brutal not 
to let the ferret have the use of its teeth to 
protect itself with. Muzzling ferrets apper- 
tains solely to rabbiting, but it is useful to 
know how to do it. Take a piece of twine 
a foot long, double it, and tie a loop at the 
double. Tie the string round the ferret's 
neck, with the loop on the top ; bring the 
two ends down under the chin and tie them 
together there ; pass them over the nose and 
tie them there, shutting the mouth tight ; 
pass one string along the nose, between the 

CH. vi.] Muzzling Ferrets. 107 

eyes, through the loop on the top of the 
neck, and bending it back, tie it to the other 
loose string from the knot on the top of the 
nose. Cut the ends off, and, provided you 
have not made a lot of "granny" knots, 
your muzzle will keep on all day. There 
are other ways of doing the trick, such as 
passing the string behind the ferret's dog- 
teeth, bring it under the jaw, then over the 
nose, on the top of the neck ; tie it there and 
again under the neck. I hate this plan, and 
have seen a ferret's mouth badly cut by the 
string. I have heard of another plan which 
is too brutal to mention. Cut the muzzle off 
directly you have done with it, for I don't 
suppose a ferret likes having its mouth tied 
up any more than you or I should. 

Never wantonly hurt any animal, especially 
those that work for you and suffer in your 
service. Just think of the amount of pluck 
a ferret shows each time you put it into a 

io8 Studies in Rai Catching, [en. vi. 

rat's hole. Fancy yourself in its place, 
going down a lot of dark crooked passages 
that you don't know, only just wide enough 
to allow you to pass, and have to face a beast 
somewhat like yourself and as big, that you 
know will attack you. Why, if ferrets got 
V.C.'s, they would, on high days and holi- 
days when they wished to display them all, 
have to employ a string of sandwich-men 
walking behind them with the boards covered 
with V.C. Three or four times in my life I 
have had ferrets die of the wounds they have 
received from rats. I have had them in 
hospital for weeks, and I have had them 
blinded. Speaking of blind ferrets, I am not 
much of an oculist, but I don't believe a 
ferret can see in the dark. I never could 
find any difference between the way my 
blind ferret worked in a hole and that of one 
with good eyes ; in fact, my blind ferret was 
as good a little beast as ever killed a rat, 

CH. vi.] Sucking Blood. 109 

and she did kill many a score after she lost 
both eyes. I believe a ferret when in a 
hole uses a sense we don't possess I 
mean the sense of touch with the long nose 

Some years ago the Field opened its 
pages to a long discussion on the subject of 
ferrets sucking the blood of their victims after 
they have killed them. Writers pretending 
to know all about it said they did do so. 
These men are to be pitied, not laughed at, 
for you see in the days of their youth " Rat- 
catching for the Use of Schools" was not 
written, and therefore they had not learnt 
better. A ferret no more sucks the blood of 
the things it kills than a dog does. If you 
doubt this, give a fresh-killed rat to a ferret, 
let it fasten on it, and then peep at the 
corners of its mouth, and you will find an 
opening there into the mouth, out of which 
blood would flow if the ferret had it in its 

no Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vi. 

mouth ; and look down its throat, you will not 
find blood in it, nor will there be blood on 
the portion of the rat that has been held in 
its mouth. No, people are misled by a 
ferret sending its teeth deep home in the 
flesh and making a sucking sound as it with 
difficulty breathes through its nose and the 
corners of its mouth. If you watch a ferret 
after it has killed a rat, it will, as soon as it 
is sure the rat is dead, begin chewing at the 
skin of the head or throat till it has made an 
entrance, and will then eat the flesh. 

To finish this chapter, I will tell you a 
story which you are never to put into prac- 
tice. Some long time ago I found myself 
far from home in a country village, and 
having nothing to do, I went for a walk, and 
soon came upon a brother professional rat- 
catcher ; and thinking I mightjearn a wrinkle 
from him that would come in useful, I joined 
him and carefully watched him and his dogs. 

CH. vi.] A Strange Use for a Dogs Tail. 1 1 1 

I saw at once that three of the latter were 
very good and up to their work ; but there 
was a fourth, a nondescript sort of beast with 
a long tail, that appeared quite useless ; and 
I observed with amusement that directly the 
man put a ferret into a hole, the dog tucked 
its tail tight between its legs and went and 
stood well out in the field. I asked the man 
why he kept such a useless beast, and with 
a chuckle he answered, " Well, mate, I'll 
own up he ain't much to boast on for rat- 
killing, nor yet for looks, but he has his use 
like some other of we h-ugly ones. You see, 
sir, I've got one or two ferrets as won't come 
out of a 'ole, but stand a peeping at the 
h-entrance and waste a lot of time. Then 
that 'ere dawg comes in useful. I catches 
him, lifts him up, and sticks his bushy tail 
down to the ferret, who catches tight hold, 
and I draws it out. Nothing ain't made for 
nothing, and I expect that dawg was made 

1 1 2 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vi. 

for drawing ferrets." The man may have 
been right, but I was quite sure the unfor- 
tunate dog did not take an active pleasure 
in his vocation. 

There, young gentlemen, if you have well 
digested that chapter and forgotten the story 
at the end, you can put up your books and 
form up for your usual walk to the second 
milestone and back again ; but before leav- 
ing, let me point out to you, Croker, minor, 
that if that caricature I have observed you 
drawing behind your book is meant for vie, 
it is, like most things you do, incorrect ; my 
nose is not so long, and I part my hair on 
the left side, not the right. 


RAT-CATCHING and rabbit-catching are two 
distinct professions, but the greater part of 
the stock-in-trade that serves for one will 
answer for the other, and it is as well for the 
professional to be master of what I think I 
may call both branches of his business. A 
rat-catcher who 'did nothing but kill rats and 
refused a day's work with the rabbits would 
be like a medical man who would cut off 
limbs but would not give a pill, or a captain 
of a sailing-vessel who would not go to sea 
in a steamer ; besides in these days it is the 
fashion to jumble up half a dozen businesses 
under one head and name. Just look at 
what the engineer does. Why, he is nowhere 
if he is not (besides being ready, as the 


ii4 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vn. 

engineer of the old school, to make railways, 
etc.) a chemist, an electrician, a diplomat, a 
lawyer, a financier and a contractor, and even 
sometimes an honest man. If you are not 
in the fashion you arc left behind as an old 
fogey, and so in this chapter we will discuss 
the art of rabbit-catching ; and I trust all 
schoolmasters will furnish you, their students, 
with the opportunity of putting in practice in 
the field what you learn from this book at 
your desks. 

Well, now for the requirements. We have 
got the dogs, we have got the ferrets, spade, 
bag, etc. ; but for rabbiting we must have a 
much more costly stock-in-trade if we are to 
do a big business. We shall require an 
ordinary gardener's spade for digging in soft 
sandy ground, where the rabbit burrows 
sometimes go in for yards, and as much as 
ten feet deep down ; also another spade,, 
longer in the blade than our ratting one, the 

CH. VIL] Rabbit Catching. 1 1 5 

sides more turned in, and with a handle ten 
feet long, with a steel hook at the end in- 
stead of a spike. With this spade we can 
sink down many feet after the hole is too 
deep for the ordinary spade, and the turned 
in sides will hold the soft earth and allow 
you to bring it to the surface. If you dig 
down on the top of a rabbit as you will do 
when you know your work the hook at the 
end will enable you to draw first it and then 
the ferret up by the string. We must have 
a piece of strong light supple cord, marked 
by a piece of red cloth drawn through the 
strands at every yard, so that one can tell 
exactly how far in the ferret is ; and it is as 
well to have a second shorter cord for work 
in stiff heavy ground, where the holes are 
never deep. Next, we must have two or 
three dozen purse-nets, which are circular, 
about two feet in diameter, with a string rove 
round the outside mesh fastened to a peg. 

I 2 

ii6 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. MI. 

These are for covering over bolt holes to 
bag a rabbit when driven out by the ferrets. 
The nets should be made of the very best 
string, so as to be as light and fine as possible. 
The mesh should be just large enough to 
allow a rabbit's head to pass through. 

Like the postscript to a lady's letter, the 
chief item I have saved till the last, and I 
fear it will be some time before the ordinary 
rabbit-catcher will be able to afford it. I 
refer to long nets, which are used for running 
round or across a piece of covert to catch 
the rabbits as they are bustled about by the 
dogs. A rabbit-catcher in full swing should 
have from eight hundred to a thousand yards 
of this, for with a good long net he will often 
kill as many rabbits in a few hours as he 
could do with the ferrets in a week. 

I myself keep no special dog for rabbit- 
catching, chiefly because I have a neighbour 
who will always let me have a cunning old 

CH. vii.] An Easy Day. 117 

lurcher that he keeps, which is as good as 
gold, and as clever as a lawyer, and despe- 
rately fond of a day with me and my dogs. 

I have three male ferrets, real monsters, 
strong enough to trot down a burrow and 
drag five or six yards of line after them with 

Having described all the tools, etc , neces- 
sary for work, I will now jot down, as an 
exercise for you students, a nice easy day's 
rabbiting that actually took place a few 
weeks ago a sort of day that quite a young 
beginner might work with success. There 
had been a, sharp rime frost in the night, 
which still hung about in shady spots at 
eight o'clock in the morning, as Jack and 
I marched off with my dogs and ferrets, 
accompanied by old Fly, the lurcher. By nine 
a.m. we began working field hedge-rows 
and banks, where rabbits were pretty plenti- 
ful and had been established for years in 

1 1 8 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vn. 

every description of burrow. There had 
been a lot of partridge and other shooting 
going on over this farm for the last month, 
and most of the rabbits had got a dislike 
to sitting out in the open, and were under 
ground, so we began at the burrows at once, 
the dogs driving every rabbit that was sit- 
ting out in the hedge back to their burrows 
as we walked along. We began work in a 
stiff clay bank far too hard for the rabbits 
to make deep holes in, and here we got on 
fast. I took the ditch side in fact, I took 
the ditch itself with a big ferret with a 
short line on, and I ran it into each hole I 
came to. Jack on the other side looked out 
for the bolt holes, and always laid down a 
little to one side, as much as possible out of 
sight, but with a hand just on the bank over 
the hole ready to catch a bolting rabbit. 
Fly and the other dogs took charge of the 
other holes, and all kept as quiet as possible. 

CH. vii.] Ferreting a Bank. 119 

In went the ferret, slowly dragging the line 
after him till I count two yards gone by the 
red marks on the line ; then there is a halt 
for half a minute, then a loud rumbling and 
the line is pulled fast through my fingers. 
Jack moves quickly, and the next instant a 
rabbit is thrown a little way out into the 
field with its neck broken. Jack says, " Ferret 
out," then picks it up, draws the line through 
the hole, passes the ferret over to me, and 
we go on to the next, having filled up the 
entrance of the hole we have just worked. 
Hole after hole was ferreted much in the 
same way. Sometimes Jack bagged the 
bolting rabbit, sometimes the dogs, and now 
and then one bolted and got into the hedge 
before it could be caught and went back, but 
it was little use, for the dogs with Fly at 
their head were soon after it, and in a few 
minutes Fly was sure to have it, and would 
retrieve it back to Jack. 

I2O Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vn. 

As we worked round a big field, we got 
into softer ground, a red sand and soil mixed ; 
and here the holes were much deeper and 
often ran through the bank and out for yards 
under ground into the next field. Here Jack 
and I changed places, Jack doing the ferret- 
ing, and I going to his side with the garden 
spade. One, two, three, four, five yards the 
ferret went and stopped, and all was quiet. 
I listen, but not a sound. Jack pulls gently 
on the line and finds it tight, and for a 
minute we wait, hoping a rabbit may bolt 
from the hole the ferret went in at. But no 
such luck. I take the small ratting-spade, 
and with the spike end feel into the ground 
at the foot of the bank, and at once come 
upon the hole ; this I open out and clear of 
earth, and Jack, who has crept through the 
hedge, kneels down and finds the line 
passing this hole in the direction of the field 
and going downwards. At that moment 

cir. VIL] A Deep Dig in the Sand. 121 

there is a sound like very distant thunder, 
and the line is pulled quickly four yards 
further into the hole, and the marks show 
six yards are in. I go about this distance 
out into the field, lie down and place my ear 
close to the ground. I shift about in all 
directions listening intently, and at last hear 
a faint thudding sound. I shift again a few 
inches in this direction, and lose it ; in that, 
and recover it ; again a few inches, and the 
sound is directly under my head, but pretty 
deep down. I take the big spade and open 
out a hole a yard square, and dig down as 
far as I can reach. I get into the hole and 
sink deeper. I have to enlarge it a foot all 
round to get room, and then I dig down 
again till only my head appears above 
ground when I stand up. Then I take the 
long spade, and with that sink two more feet, 
and plump I come on the top of the hole, 
and the ferret shoves a sand- covered head 

122 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vii. 

up and looks at me. I reverse the long 
spade and catch the line with the hook and 
pull the ferret up, and then calling Jack, I 
send him head first into the well-like pit, 
holding on to one of his feet myself as I lie 
flat on the ground to allow him to go deep 
enough. In a minute a dead rabbit is taken 
out and two live ones, whose necks Jack 
breaks as he hangs suspended, and then I 
pull him up with his plunder, and he rights 
himself on the surface, very red in the face, 
very sandy, spluttering and rubbing his eyes. 
Then the ferret is swung down again by the 
line, it goes a little way into the hole and 
returns, and so we know we have made a 
clean sweep. The big hole is filled up and 
stamped down, and after filling a pipe and 
resting a few minutes, on we go with our 

On the high sandy part of the field we 
have several deep digs like the above, with 

CH. VIL] A Day with the Purse Nets. 123 

varying success, and we rejoice when we 
reach the last side of the field and get into 
clay again, where holes are short and most 
of the rabbits bolt at once. During all the 
day we only stopped once for half-an-hour to 
get a snack of bread and cheese, and by the 
time the cock partridges began to call their 
families together for roost, and the teams in 
the next field to knock off ploughing, we are 
all, man, boy, dogs and ferrets, fairly tired, 
and are glad to tumble seventeen couple of 
rabbits into the keeper's cart that has been 
sent out for them, and trudge off home 

Now for another day's sport that was 
quite different. No dogs with us, only a bag 
of ready-muzzled ferrets, a bundle of purse 
nets and a spade Success will depend on 
perfect quiet, and even the patter of the 
dogs' feet would spoil our sport, so they are 
at home for once, and Jack and I are alone. 

124 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. vn. 

It is one of those soft mild dull days that 
now and then appear in mid-winter, a sort of 
day to gladden the heart of foxhunters and 
doctors, and to make wiseacres shake their 
heads and say " most unseasonable." It is a 
good day for Jack and me, and we feel 
confident as we steal into a plantation of tall 
spruce firs, placed so thick on the ground 
that beneath them is perpetual twilight, and 
not a blade of grass or bramble to hide the 
thick carpet of needle points. Softly we 
creep forward to a lot of burrows we know 
of in the corner of the wood, and then I go 
forward alone and spread a net loosely over 
every hole, firmly pegging it down by the 
cord. This done I stand quietly down-wind 
of the holes, and Jack comes and slips the 
six ferrets all into different holes, and then 
crouches down on his knees. All is quiet ; 
only the whisperings of the tree-tops, the 
occasional chirp of a bird, or the rustle of a 

CH. VIL] Necessity of Silence. 125 

mouse in the dead leaves. Five minutes 
pass, and then out dashes a rabbit into a 
net, which draws up round it. Jack moves 
forward on tip-toe, kills the rabbit and takes 
it out of the net, and covers the hole again. 
While he is doing this, three more rabbits 
have bolted and got netted, one has escaped, 
and a ferret has come out. The captured 
ones are killed, the ferret sent into another 
hole, and for an hour this work goes on, and 
during all the time neither of us have spoken, 
for we know there is nothing that scares 
wild animals more than the human voice, 
unless it is the jingle of metals, such as a 
bunch of keys rattling. They dread the 
human voice because they have had too 
much experience of it, and the rattle of 
metal because they have not had experience 
enough of it, for it is a sound they have 
never heard, and nothing like, in the quiet 
woods and fields. On the other hand, 

126 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. VH. 

animals pay but little attention to a whistle, 
for in one shape or another they are con- 
stantly hearing it from their feathered com- 

But to go back to our netting. An hour 
over, we pick up the ferrets as they come 
out and bag them, and then I go off to some 
fresh holes and spread the nets again, and we 
repeat the same performance ; and during the 
day we kill, without any digging or hard 
work, about twenty-two couple of rabbits. 
In the above account I have written of a 
day's sport that took place in a fir plantation 
in a little village in Norfolk, where it would 
have been madness to work the ferrets 
without muzzling them, for they would have 
been sure to kill some rabbits in the holes 
and then have laid up ; but I should mention 
that I have killed many rabbits in the same 
way on the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire, 
and I was much astonished when I first got 

CH. VIL] Ferrets without Muzzles. 127 

there to find men who thoroughly under- 
stood their business working their ferrets 
under nets without muzzling them. I 
adopted the plan myself, and have rarely 
had a ferret kill a rabbit underground. For 
some reason that I could never find out, 
a Cotswold rabbit will always bolt from a 
hole with a ferret in if it can. It is well 
known in Norfolk that if a rabbit is run 
into a hole by dogs, you may ferret it if you 
like, but it will never bolt, and it must be dug 
out. But in Gloucestershire I have seen 
the same rabbit bolt out of a hole, get shot 
at, be run by dogs, go to ground, and again 
bolt at once from a ferret. Few profes- 
sionals ever use a line on a ferret on the 
Cotswold, one reason being that the burrows 
are nearly all in rocky ground, and there 
would be danger of the line being caught in 
the numerous cracks ; besides it is not re- 
quired, for a rabbit there is sure to bolt, and 

128 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vn. 

for this reason it is twice as easy to kill 
rabbits in Gloucestershire as it is in Norfolk, 
especially in the sandy or soft soil of the 
latter county. 

Let me here beg of all my readers, espe- 
cially students, never to keep a poor rabbit 
alive in their hands a second. I don't 
suppose any who read this book could be so 
unsportsmanlike and brutal as to keep a 
rabbit alive to course and torture over again 
with dogs, or for the fun of shooting at the 
poor little beast. Such ruffians should never 
be allowed a day's sport on a gentleman s 
property. They are only fit to go out mole- 
catching. No, directly you have a live 
rabbit in your hand, take it by its hind legs 
with your right hand, and the head with your 
left, with two fingers under its face ; with 
these fingers turn the head back, and give 
the rabbit a smart quick stretch, and in an 
instant all its sufferings are over. Never hit; 

CH. VIL] How to Kill Rabbits. 129 

it with your hand or a stick behind the ears : 
first, because you are not quite sure to kill it 
with the first blow ; and secondly, if you do, 
half the blood in the rabbit will settle in a 
great bruise at the spot where it was struck, 
and make that portion unfit for table. 

That is sufficient for this morning, and you 
may now turn to a little lighter work with 
some algebra. 

( 130 ) 


FORTUNATELY I don't live by the sea. I say 
fortunately, because I look upon the sea as a 
swindler, for it robs one of just half one's 
little world and upsets all calculations by 
forcing one to live in a mean semicircle. I 
actually know a rat-catcher who is stupid 
enough to live in a village on the east coast, 
and half his time he and his dogs are at 
home in idleness and are half starved, 
because the ever-restless tiresome sea rolls 
about and disports itself over all that is east 
of the village, so the poor man can only go 
rat-catching in one direction. Now and 
then I go to the sea-side, but when I go 
there it is on business not in my Sunday 
clothes and with a " tripper's " return ticket, 

CH. viii.] Trip to the Seaside. 131 

but with my dogs, ferrets, nets (the long 
ones) and the boy Jack ; he and I dressed in 
our well-worn corduroys, gaiters, and navvy 
boots ; and instead of choosing a town to 
visit with Marine Parade, Esplanades, Lodg- 
ings to let, Brass Bands, Nigger Minstrels 
and spouting M.P.'s, we go to a little village 
unknown to " trippers," and put up at a 
small inn for a week or ten days. We sleep 
in a room not unlike a hay-loft, and take our 
meals and rest in the common kitchen, with 
its rattling latticed windows and sanded 

We go there twice each winter to kill 
rabbits on what are called the " Denes," 
which are great, wide, down-like lands on the 
top of the steep earth cliff, partially covered 
with the ever-flowering gorse, a cover dear 
to rabbits and all sorts of game. We reach 
the inn in time for an early dinner ; and after 
we have housed the ferrets in a big tub and 

K 2 

132 Studies in Rat Catching, [en vili. 

the dogs in a warm dry shed with heaps of 
straw to sleep on, Jack and I despatch our 
food and then start off to inspect the field of 
our future operations. We have not far to 
go. First down the street, past two or three 
dozen flint-pebble cottages ; past the church, 
with its square tower so high that it makes 
the really big church look small in proportion ; 
past the rectory ; past the schools, where 
some forty or fifty future fishermen and 
sailors have just finished their tasks for the 
day and come rolling out, dressed all alike in 
dark, sea-stained, canvas trousers and thick 
sailor jerseys ; past the low one-storied cot- 
tage where the old retired naval captain has 
lived for many years, and then up a sandy 
lane between high crumbling banks and out 
on to the open Denes. We take a path 
that runs close along on the top of the cliff, 
mounting a steep hill as we go till we reach 
a spot half a mile further on, where the sea 

CH. VIIL] Surveying the Hunting Ground. 133 

cliff is four hundred feet high and nearly 
perpendicular ; and here among the ruins of 
an old church, part of which has fallen with 
the slipping cliff into the sea many years ago, 
Jack and I halt and take a look round. We 
are on the highest spot within miles, and 
spread out in front of us, as we face inland, 
are, first, the down-like hills, dotted over with 
patches of gorse and with turf between as 
fine and soft as a Persian carpet ; then culti- 
vated fields intersected by thick hedges ; and 
in the distance we could distinguish a clus- 
tering village here, a homestead there, an 
old manor-house in its well-kept garden and 
park-like grounds, and in all directions the 
square, solid, picturesque towers of village 
churches peeping from among the trees, that 
became thicker and thicker the further the 
eye travelled from the sea. Close to our 
left, just under the shoulder of a hill which 
protects it from the keen east wind off the 

134 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vin. 

sea, is a tiny village of some ten cottages, 
all different, all neat and snug-looking, each 
in its own garden. There is a stand of bee- 
hives in one, a honeysuckle-covered porch to 
another, and, though it is mid-winter, there is a 
warm home-like look about all. Then there is 
the one farm-house, well kept and well cared 
for, but old and belonging to other days, as its 
gables and low windows denote ; and from 
our high hill we look over the house into a 
garden and orchard beyond, both enclosed 
by grey lichen-covered walls. On either side 
in front of the house are the farm buildings, 
all, from the big barn to the row of pigsties, 
thatched with long reeds, which give the 
whole a pleasant English home appearance. 

There are big yards filled with red and 
white cattle up to their middle in straw, 
others full of horses or young calves ; cocks 
and hens are everywhere, ducks and geese 
swim in the big pond by the side of the road, 

CH. VIIL] A View from the Cliffs. 135 

and turkeys, so big and plump they make 
one long for Christmas, mob together in 
the yard, and the turkey-cocks "gobble- 
gobble " at a boy who is infuriating them by 
whistling. A man crosses the yard with two 
pails on a yoke, evidently going a-milking ; 
and another passes with a perfect hay-stack 
on his back, and a dozen great heavy horses 
come out of the stable in Indian file and 
stump off to the pond to drink. Beyond the 
farmstead, in a field on the right of the road, 
is a double row of heaped up mangels and 
swedes ; and a little further on are a number 
of stacks, so neatly built and thatched that it 
seems quite a pity they should soon be pulled 
down and thrashed, but all showing signs 
of prosperity and plenty. 

Beyond this stands a tiny church, with 
reed-thatch roof. It is all, church and 
tower, built of round flint stones as big 
as oranges, cleverly split in two and the flat 

136 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vin 

side facing outwards ; and from the dog-tooth 
Saxon arch over the door one knows it has 
seen many generations pass away and find 
rest from the buffets and storms of the 
world in the peaceful, carefully- tended " God's 
acre " that surrounds it. If one passed 
down the red gravel churchyard path, and on 
in front of the south door to the far corner, 
under the big cedar, a small door would be 
found, which would lead through a well-kept, 
old-fashioned garden to the Rectory : a good 
old Elizabethan house, covered with thick 
creepers up to the very eaves, the model of 
one of England's snug homes homes that 
have turned out the very best men the dear 
old land has produced, to fight, struggle, 
conquer or die in all professions, in all parts 
of the world ; men who in such shelters 
learned to be honest and true, brave and 
persevering, lions in courage, women in 
gentleness ; who could face hardships and 

CH. viii.] A Sea View. 137 

poverty without a moan, and prosperity and 
riches without swagger ; and through all the 
difficulties of life thought of the old home, 
and when success arrived, be they ever so 
far away, packed up and came back to finish 
their days in just such another home and 
such surroundings. 

Turn round now, Jack ; turn round and 
take a look at the restless sea rolling its big 
waters on the smooth strip of sand there 
below on this side ; and on the other, Jack, far, 
far away over there in the south, on the other 
side of the world, laving the roots of the 
palm and the mangrove, beneath the burning 
rays of tropical suns ; and away round here, 
Jack, far in the north, dashing its storm- 
driven waves against the face of frost-bound 
rocks and treacherous icebergs. There on 
the dancing waters, with all sails set, chasing 
the lights and shadows as they flit before it, 
sails a boat bound south to sunny climes. 

138 Studies in Rat Catching. |_CH. vm. 

There on the horizon, against wind and 
wave, steams a collier, taking fuel to lands 
where the snow lies deep on the ground for 
four months in the year ; and right and left, 
outward bound or coming home, are various 
white sails dotting the waters. But, Jack, 
how about supper ? I ordered eggs and 
bacon for supper, and those chimney corners 
at the inn looked as if they might be snug 
and warm to smoke a pipe in afterwards 
before turning in. Step on, Jack, and have 
supper ready in half an hour, while I go 
round by the Rectory and see if the two 
young gentlemen are at home. They are the 
right sort, and as keen as Pepper after the 
rabbits, and they always have half a dozen 
good terriers as fond of the sport as they 

At the Rectory I received a kindly wel- 
come from Miss Madge Ashfield, the rector's 
only daughter and the sister of the two lads 

CH. VIIL] The Rectors Daughter. 139 

I came to enquire for ; and I was told that 
they were not yet back from school, but were 
expected in three days, and that only that 
morning a letter came from them asking 
when I was likely to come and work the 
Denes. I comforted Miss Madge, who at 
first feared the pick of the sport might be 
over before her brothers arrived, by telling 
her that for the next four days Jack and I 
should be busy " doctoring " holes, and that 
during that time we could not "away with " 
boys or dogs, as both were too noisy for the 

Miss Madge took me round to the kennels 
to see some rough wire-haired terriers, old 
friends ; also three new ones, all supposed to 
be wonders ; and she told me she would 
arrange for her brothers to bring one day 
five small beagles belonging to a friend. 

Jack and I did our duty by the ham and 
eggs that night at the inn, and the pipe in 

140 Studies in Rat Catching. [_cu. vm. 

the old-fashioned chimney corner was very 
sweet ; and if the beds were a bit hard and 
knubbly, we did not keep awake to think of 
them, for we had both been up since day- 
break. By eight o'clock the next morning 
we had finished breakfast, given the dogs a 
few minutes' run to stretch their legs, fed the 
ferrets that were not wanted, and were on 
our way to the Denes, each with two strong 
male ferrets, a spade, and game-bag with 
cold meat and bread in it. We were on our 
way to " doctor " the burrows, and this is 
done by running a muzzled ferret that has 
first been smeared with a little spirits of tar 
down every hole, with a line on it. It is 
necessary to keep very quiet, so as to get 
the rabbits to bolt. We don't want to kill 
a single rabbit, but only to disturb hole after 
hole, bolt what rabbits we can, and leave a 
nice sweet smell of tarred ferret behind us. 
No time is lost. Jack goes one way and I 

Cii vili.J Doctoring the &urrows. 141 

another, and every hole is visited till evening 
shades stop us ; then back home to supper 
and bed, and at it again in the morning ; but 
on the second day we begin by visiting each 
hole we ferreted the day before, stopping 
them tight down with sods, and sticking a 
piece of white paper on the top of such 
stopped holes. No fear of shutting in a 
rabbit, as the smell of the tarred ferret will 
keep them out for days ; and no fear of their 
opening the stopping, as the paper will 
drive them away. For four days this work 
goes on, and we are ready to wager there is 
not a hole in the cliffs or Denes that is not 
doctored, and .lot a rabbit that is not above 

It was Wednesday night when we had 
finished, and that evening the two boys from 
the Rectory came down to the inn to see us 
and get instructions for the morrow ; but I 
was glad they did not stay long, for we 

142 Studies in Rat Catching [CH. vin. 

wanted to go to bed early, so as to get a 
good night and yet be up betimes. By eight 
o'clock next morning, Jack and I were 
already back from the Denes, after having 
run out one thousand yards of long nets. 
The nets are in lengths of about one hundred 
yards, and two feet six inches high, made of 
fine string, and each of the top and bottom 
meshes knotted on to a cord that runs the 
entire length. To set these nets, they are 
threaded on to a smooth stick, four feet long, 
and the stick with the nets on is thrown over 
a man's shoulder. The man walks off with 
the nets along the border of the piece of 
ground to be enclosed, while another, after 
fixing the end of the first net fast to a start- 
ing stick, follows behind. As the man with 
the net proceeds, he lets the net slip slowly 
off the stick on his shoulder, piece by piece ; 
and, as it comes down, the man behind picks 
up the top line, gives the net a shake, and 

CH. viii.] Running out Nets. 143 

twists the line round the top of stakes 
previously placed in the ground about fifty 
yards apart, taking care as he goes that the 
bottom of the net lies for a few inches on 
the ground. In this way squares of gorse of 
about two hundred yards can be entirely 
enclosed, and every rabbit inside them 
surrounded like sheep inside a fold. 

Our breakfast over, we were soon out 
again with all our dogs (except old Chance, 
who had been left at home on account of her 
age, and also on account of her trick of 
always liking to go up to the carrier's each 
night to sleep), and we had also two real 
good lurchers. At the foot of the Denes we 
met the boys from the Rectory, with a 
friend about their own age, and the curate 
of the next parish with a business-like ash 
stick under his arm ; and among them they 
had mustered a pack of ten terriers, some of 
which wanted to begin work by a fight with 

144 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vili. 

my dogs ; but it takes two to make a quarrel, 
and my dogs knew better than to waste their 
strength in fighting when there was a day's 
work in front of them. 

In a few minutes we were at the first piece 
of netted gorse a real tearer, close, compact 
and a mass of thorns ; but what dogs or. boys 
care for gorse thorns when rabbits are on 
foot ? So it is, " Over you go, boys ! " " Hie 
in, dogs ! Roust them out there ! " and the 
old dogs spring the nets and are at work in 
a minute, while the young ones blunder and 
struggle in the nets, and have to be lifted 
over. The curate, Jack and I, and the man 
who drove the cart with the nets, and who 
will carry off the dead rabbits, stand at the 
nets and take out and kill the rabbits that 
get caught ; and for the first hour we have as 
much as we can -do, and work our hardest. 
Many rabbits do get through the nets, and 
others go back, and these latter it is difficult 

CIT. viii.] " Hie in, Good Dogs ! " 145 

to get into the nets a second time, and they 
are killed by the dogs in the thick gorse. 
Yap ! yap ! yap ! " Hie in, good dogs ! hie 
in, young ones ! Ah ! back there ! back ! no 
going over the nets ! Would you ? Look 
here ! hie there ! in you go ! " Yap ! yap ! 
yap ! all scurry, rush and bustle ; and the 
Rectory boys and their friend are all over 
the square at once, and in ten minutes so 
tingle from innumerable pricks from the 
gorse that they are benumbed and feel 
them no more. " Go, Fly, go ! " and a big 
hare dashes out, with Fly after it, and both 
jump the net and make for another clump of 
gorse ; but Fly has never been beaten since 
she was a puppy, and soon returns with the 
hare in her mouth. " Hie in, dogs ! hie 
in ! " There are more yet, and we are bound 
to make a clean sweep ; and so the work 
goes on. 

First one patch, and then another, till 


146 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. vm. 

lunch-time, which said lunch, according to 
a long-standing custom, comes up in a cart 
from the Rectory ; but after snatching a 
hurried bit, the man and I have to bustle 
away to shift the nets, a work that keeps us 
hard at it for an hour and more ; but long 
before we have done, the boys, parson and 
dogs are at it again in one of the first 
patches we have surrounded, and it is night 
and the moon is up before we have finished 
and picked up the nets. We find on 
counting the bag that we have two hundred 
and seventy rabbits, and feel content with 
our day's work. On Friday and Saturday 
the same work, and when we turned home- 
wards on this last night, it was as much as 
man, boys or dogs could do to drag them- 
selves along ; but we had killed six hundred 
and fifty rabbits in the three days and were 
well content. 

( 147 ) 


SUNDAY was to us all a real day of rest, and 
we enjoyed every minute of it, and for once 
listened to a very long sermon without the 
fidgets. The Rectory boys came up for a 
chat in the afternoon, so we let the dogs out 
and went down to the beach and strolled 
quietly about, neither dogs nor humans 
indulging in anything like play all were 
too stiff and sore to think of it. 

We were all out again early on Monday 
morning, but without nets and taking only 
sticks ; and we spent a short day, with a long 
lunch, looking up outlying rabbits in the 
hedges of the farm at the foot of the Denes ; 
and here the two lurchers, who during 'the 
days at the nets had taken it easy and 

L 2 

148 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 

refused to face the gorsc, had the chief of 
the work, for directly a rabbit was started by 
the other dogs, it made straight off across 
the open for the gorse on the Denes, and the 
lurchers were the only dogs fast enough to 
catch them. We finally had to give up 
work because the clogs of all sorts were too 
tired to move, and also because the weather, 
that had been fine and calm all the previous 
week, began to break, and before we reached 
shelter there was half a gale sending big 
green waves thundering on to the beach and 
carrying the salt spray far inland. 

That night, after Jack was in bed and 
asleep, I put on my hat and went out, called 
by the noise of the waters. I joined a group 
of weather-beaten hard-featured men dressed 
in thick blue jerseys and "sou-wester" 
hats, who stood with their hands tucked 
deep into their trouser pockets, watching 
the sea from behind the shelter of a boat 

en. ix.] The Beginning of a Storw. 149 

stranded high up on the beach. I got a civil 
word of greeting as I came up, and then we 
all watched in silence, for by this time the 
' half gale" had become a storm, and it was 
only by shouting we could have made each 
other hear. It was a wild weird scene, awe- 
inspiring, but intensely attractive at least 1 
found it so ; but then such scenes did not 
often come before me, and I daresay my 
companions, who were well used to being 
out on such a night, only felt thankful they 
were safe on shore, and thought with anxiety 
of those of their friends and neighbours who 
were out battling with the storm. The 
moon when I reached the beach was nearly 
at the full and high up in the heavens, but it 
shed a fitful light, as each few seconds dark 
clouds and veils of mist flew across its face. 
One moment the sea lay before us a dark 
black mass, only marked along the beach 
by a broad strip of breaking, foam-crested 

150 Studies in Rat Catching. 

waves ; and the next it was a dancing, 
tossing, roaring sheet of ever-changing liquid 
silver ; or far away we would see the spray 
like pearls rising high in the air before the 
storm, and at our feet the waves curled up 
like huge furious monsters, dashing at the 
sands and shingle as if bent on destruction, 
and then with a swirl sliding back, a mass oi 
foam, to meet and join the next wave, and 
with its help again come on to the attack. 

Over and over again I fancied I could 
hear the shrieks and groans of people in 
distress, and I turned for confirmation of 
my fancies to the faces of my companions ; 
but all remained unmoved, but bore the 
quiet determined look that assured me that, 
had any unfortunate beings called for help 
from the midst of those wild waters, at the 
risk of those men's lives it would unhesita- 
tingly have been given. Once for a moment, 
when a thin mist swept before the moon and 

CH. ix.] A Skip in Distress. 151 

made the light on the waters appear more 
like day than night, I clearly saw on the 
horizon the upper part of a ship's masts, with 
some sails bent to their yards, and all heeled 
over as if the ship were then about to 
founder, and I gave a loud exclamation ; but 
an old sailor put his hand on my shoulder 
and called in my ear, " All right, master, all 
right ! We have watched her for a quarter of 
an hour trying to make the point of the 
sands yonder, and she is now past them and 
has an open sea. She is as safe as you are 
now, thank God ; but it was a near shave, and 
we thought she and all in her were gone." 
Often since then in my dreams I have seen 
that wind-tossed sea, and heard the roar of 
the waters and the screams of the storm, and 
seen those masts and sails heeling over, and 
have awoke with a start and dread fear in 
my heart. 

I had been tired when I came in from 

152 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 

work, and I had a snug warm bed waiting 
for me, and moreover I reasoned that watch- 
ing a storm in the dead of night was no part 
of a rat-catchers duty ; but I was so fasci- 
nated I could not tear myself away, and I 
stood with my companions behind the boat 
till long after midnight. Then two other 
figures dressed like my companions joined 
us, and it was only when they spoke that I 
recognised one as the parson of the parish, 
and the other as the young curate who had 
helped us with the rabbits. Both asked a 
few questions of the sailors, who seemed 
eager to give them information ; and then the 
rector, turning to me, said : " You will be 
perished by the cold if you stand here longer. 
Come with me, and I will show you a picture 
of a different sort, but yet one that I think 
will interest you." I readily accepted and 
followed my friend, who, though far from a 
young man, bore the buffeting of the storm 

CM. ix.] The Village Harbour. 153 

manfully ; and he led me up through the 
village street, and then turning down a short 
steep lane brought me to a little cove that 
was partly sheltered by a spit of rock that 
jutted out into the sea. There, such as it 
was, was the harbour of the village, and by 
the fitful light I could see some dozen fishing 
boats drawn up high on the beach above the 
force of the waves ; and beyond, a cluster of 
low, one-storied cottages and sheds, with 
small boats, spars, timbers, windlasses, etc., 
all denoting the home of fishermen. From 
this cove, early that morning, two boats had 
sailed with their nets for the fishing grounds 
out beyond the sands, and it was for these 
my friends behind the boat were patiently 
watching, and it was to say a few words to 
cheer and comfort the wives and families of 
these men that the old rector had now 

From a latticed window just in front of us 

154 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 

a bright lamp shed its rays over the cove, 
and the rector took me straight to the door 
of this house, and having knocked and been 
told to come in, he lifted the latch and 
ushered me inside. The room was like 
hundreds of others along that coast, the 
homes of the toilers of the deep, and bore 
evident signs of being made by men more 
used to ships than stone or brick buildings. 
It was a good large room, very low, with 
heavy rafters overhead, which, with the 
planks of which the walls were constructed, 
had doubtless been taken from boats and 
ships that had served their time on the sea. 
The open fireplace at the end, with its wide 
chimney, was the only part of the building 
not made of old ship timbers and planks, and 
there was a strong smell of tar from these 
and from sundry coils of dark rope that were 
stowed away in a far corner. The long 
table down the middle of the room was of 

CH. ix.j A Fisherman s Home. 155 

mahogany and had seen better days in a 
captain's cabin. The benches round the 
walls had served as seats on some big ship's 
deck ; and there were swinging lamps and 
racks hung overhead from the rafters, with 
rudders, boat-hook, snatch-block, belaying 
pins, and various things I did not know the 
use of; but all were neatly arranged. There 
was a large arm-chair made out of a barrel 
set ready by the side of the hearth, on which 
were spread clean flannel clothes to warm 
and air, in readiness for the home-coming of 
the wet and tired husband. 

In front of the fire, attending to it and 
to three or four pots and kettles that 
simmered on the hearth, stood a woman 
about thirty years of age just an ordinary 
fisherman's wife, strong and well shaped, 
without beauty of feature, but bright and 
intelligent looking ; and when a smile lit up 
her face, it shed such a kindly ray that one 

156 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 


felt that the husband in the little fishing boat 
on the storm-tossed deep might have his eyes 
fixed on the lantern burning in the window, 
but it would be the light of the wife's smile 
that kept his hand steady on the helm and 
guided the boat, and made him long to 
round the point and come to anchor. 

On the other side of the hearth was 
another arm-chair, also made out of a barrel, 
but much smaller ; and in this, packed tightly 
and snugly round with cushions, half-sat, 
half-reclined a boy about ten years of age ; 
but, alas ! a pair of crutches leaning in the 
corner beside him at once told a sad tale. I 
know the points and beauties of all sorts of 
dogs, and always admire them, but I am not 
much of a hand at the good points and 
beauties of men and women, and as for 
boys, it is rare I see anything but mischief 
written in their faces; but somehow I could 
not take my eyes off the boy in the chair. I 

en. ix.] Little Jack, the Cripple. 157 

suppose because it was so different to any 
other young face I had ever seen, and so 
different to what one might expect to find 
amid the surroundings of a fisherman's 

It was a dark, delicate, oval face, like a 
girl's, with finely cut features, and a com- 
plexion as fair as the petals of an apple 
blossom ; but it was his great brown eyes 
and long eyelashes, black as night, that held 
the attention, together with a look of deep 
patient suffering, mingled with gentleness 
and love that lit all up, and filled even the 
heart of a rough old rat-catcher like me with 
a feeling of deep pity and an intense desire 
to protect and befriend a small creature 
who looked too fragile, too beautiful, and 
too good for this old work-a-day world of 
ours, and as if he were only tarrying for a 
short while before going to his eternal 
home, where his features will be beautified 

158 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. ix. 

by perfect love, and will lose the look of 
suffering and pain. 

The rector, taking off his " sou'-wester" 
as he entered, turned to the woman with a 
cheery voice, and said, " Well, Mary, how 
are you and the boy ? how are you, my 
man ? I happened to be passing " (just as if 
it were quite a common thing for a parson to 
be out on the loose at one a.m. on a winter's 
night), (< and I thought I would just call in to 
say that the men at the boats tell me that 
the bark of this gale is far worse than its 
bitfc, and that it is a fair, honest, rattling 
gale that such good sailors as your husband 
care nothing for, and that we may expect 
the boats in with the daylight, so you may 
keep the pots boiling. But why isn't that 
youngster snug in bed and asleep ? Oh ! he 
can't sleep when the wind howls, and Jack 
is away ! Why, my boy, Jack will laugh at 
you when he comes home, and say he don't 

CH. ix.] Waiting for the Boats. 159 

want such big, tired-looking eyes watching 
for him ! Well, it will be morning soon, and, 
please God, Jack will be here, and will have 
popped you into bed himself before most of 
the world are up and about." At this Mary 
smiled ; and the little boy, with a low laugh, 
said : " Jack knows Mary and I are waiting 
for him. Jack says he can often see us, and 
all we are doing, when he is out at sea in a 
raging storm, and the night is ever so dark ; 
and he'd feel bad, Jack would, if I was not up 
to see him eat his supper ; and besides, Mary 
could not sit here alone and listen to the 
wind and sea, and I am never tired and 
sleepy when waiting for Jack. Besides, Jack 
says he must tell someone all he has done 
and seen while he gets his supper, and Mary- 
is too busy after the nets and things, so I sit 
here, and Jack tells me of such wonderful 
things : it is just lovely to hear him." 

The rector would not sit down, and soon 

160 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 

hurried me off to another cottage, much such 
another as the first ; but instead of Mary and 
the boy, we found a great, tall, gaunt old 
woman, sitting up before the fire, waiting for 
her two grandsons, who were away in the 
same boat with Jack ; but to the rector's 
cheery, hopeful words, the woman answered 
with a bitter, sharp, complaining tongue : "I 
don't want no stop-at-home idle chaps to tell 
me what a storm is. Danger ! who says 
there's danger ? Danger with a little puff of 
wind like this ? Not but what both of those 
boys will be washed ashore one day as their 
grandfather and father were. It's in the 
blood, and trying for a lone woman. Drat 
the boys ! I told them not to go off with 
Jack. I could see plain for days that it was 
coming on to blow ; but oh, no ! they know 
better than me, who have lived to lose their 
father in such a storm as this, and to see his 
boat with my own eyes go to pieces on the 

cir. ix.] A Rough Old Fish-Wife. 16 1 

Point as she came in, and not a man saved, 
and me left with them boys to keep. God 
only knows how I did it, and now they are 
that masterful they won't pay no attention to 
me." And then, as a hurricane of wind dashed 
at the door and windows and sent the smoke 
from the wood fire far out into the room, the 
poor old thing started and turned to the 
night outside with a look of terror ; and, as 
the storm rushed on, and then there was a 
lull, she threw her apron over her head and 
sobbed for fear and deep anxiety for her 

The rector comforted her with gentle 
words and praise of her pluck and nerves ; 
and as he and I returned to the beach, he 
told me that the old woman had once been 
the prettiest girl for many miles round, that 
when her boys were far too young to help 
her the father had been drowned by the 
upsetting of his boat on the Point, and from 


1 62 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 

that day she had worked and toiled, mending 
nets and selling fish in fair weather and 
foul, often weary and half-starved, but suc- 
ceeding in the end to keep her old cottage 
over her head, and to bring her boys up 
respectably and turn them out two of the 
smartest fishermen along the coast. 

As we left the cottage the first tender 
light of the morning was paling the eastern 
sky far out to sea, and hastening on to the 
Point, we could just make out a distant sail 
appearing now and then out of the departing 
darkness of the night, and before half an hour 
was over the rector declared it to be Jack's 
boat coming in fast before the wind. All 
the village was astir in a minute, old men 
and young women and children hurrying to 
the cove and making ready for the home- 
coming ; and in a few minutes the boat, with 
Jack holding the helm and the old woman's 
boys sitting crouched low down, clashed past 

CH. ix.] The Return of the Fishermen. 163 

the Point, turned sharp into the cove, and 
down in a moment fell the sail and the 
anchor-chain rattled out of the bows. There 
was no cheering or noisy welcome or rejoic- 
ing, for such scenes were the daily incidents 
in the life of the village ; but everyone lent 
a helping hand, and in a few minutes Jack 
and his men were on shore. The old grand- 
mother was there, but took no notice of her 
grandsons, who marched off to the cottage 
laden with oars, etc., where the old woman 
had just preceded them to put out the 

The rector and I turned to go home, and 
as I passed the cottage where Jack lived I 
glanced in and saw him standing on the 
hearth, tall, massive, weather-beaten and 
rugged, with the lame boy high up in his 
arms looking hard in his face, and both man 
and child had such a happy contented smile 
on their faces that it did me good to see, and 

M 2 

164 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. ix. 

I think may have rejoiced even the angels 

When parting from me at the inn door, 
the rector said that if I liked to step up to 
the rectory that evening after my supper he 
would find me a pipe of tobacco, and tell me 
all that was known of the history of the little 
boy who had awakened such an interest in 
me, for, he added, "it is a very curious 


AT eight o'clock, having fed my dogs and 
ferrets and left my boy Jack chatting in the 
harness-room with the rector's old coach- 
man, I found myself in a snug arm-chair, 
pipe in mouth, my feet on the fender, and 
the rector sitting opposite me in his study, 
he also enjoying an after-dinner pipe ; and 
after a chat over the events of the day and 
of the storm of the previous night, the 
rector began the history of the poor lame 
boy at the cottage thus 

" I dare say you remember that about 
eight years ago the Irish question was giving 
the authorities much trouble and anxiety 
owing to the active turn it had then taken. 
Hideous murders were of daily occurrence 

f 66 Stiidies in Rat Catching, [en. x. 

in that unfortunate country. Dynamite was 
being used in London to destroy our public 
buildings, and many of our statesmen were 
being tracked by paid assassins. Strict 
orders had been issued by the authorities 
to watch all our ports to prevent the landing 
from America of arms and infernal machines, 
and both the police and Customs officers 
were on the alert ; and yet, in spite of all, 
bloodthirsty, cowardly dynamiters and assas- 
sins succeeded in sneaking into the country, 
and every now and then perpetrated some 
hateful outrage. Well, it was during this 
time that one November morning a queer- 
looking yacht-like vessel appeared in the 
offing, and for two days kept standing about. 
During the day-time it was well out in the 
ofting, but once or twice at night it was 
noticed by the coastguard and sailors to 
have come close in to land, and altogether 
its movements were so mysterious that our 

en. x.] The Rector s Story. 167 

suspicions were fully aroused, and the officer 
of the coastguard telegraphed to the cap- 
tain of the gunboat stationed at Brockmouth 
to put him on the alert. 

" For some days after this nothing was seen 
of the yacht, and our suspicions were lulled, 
and life in our quiet little village had settled 
down to its usual routine, when early one 
stormy morning the strange vessel was again 
seen close off the land, and a boat manned 
by six men put off for the little harbour ; and 
just as it rounded the Point and got into 
smooth water, a dog-cart, that we all recog- 
nised as one let out for hire in a town ten 
miles inland, drove down to the beach. 
Beside the driver sat a tall, thin, dark man, 
but the few people on the beach had only 
time to observe this and that he had the 
dress and appearance of a gentleman, when 
he sprang from the cart and hurried to 
where the boat lay, and without hesitating a 

1 68 Studies in Rat Catching, [ci-i. x. 

moment or speaking to anyone he waded out 
through the low surf to the boat, which at 
once left the harbour and made the best of 
its way to the yacht, which as soon as all 
were on board hoisted all sail and was soon 
out of sight, driven along by a storm that 
became in the course of the day as fierce a 
one as that of last night. There was much 
talk on the beach among the fishermen and 
in the village among us all as to what the 
yacht could be and who the stranger was ; 
and we gathered from the driver of the 
dog-cart, who had put up his horse at the inn 
to rest, that he had been called by the porter 
at the railway station to drive the gentleman 
over ; but that he had not heard his name, 
or what business brought him here. The 
driver, who was a sharp old fellow, said the 
gentleman had chatted with him as he came 
along, but kept pressing him to drive faster 
and faster, and gave him five shillings above 

CH. x.] A Ship in Danger. 169 

his fare to use his best speed, and he added : 
' I don't know who he is, or what his busi- 
ness may be, but I know one thing he is 
an Irishman. I can tell it by his tongue, 
and by his queer-looking blue eyes and dark 

" Four and twenty hours passed, and during 
that time many people, I among the number, 
did not go to bed, for the storm which had 
sprung up with the departing yacht had 
blown itself into half a hurricane, and there 
were fishing boats out, which made us all 
anxious. As we did last night, or rather this 
morning, I went round to a few of the fisher- 
men's houses where there were anxious wives 
and mothers waiting for the absent, and 
chatted with and cheered them, and I was 
leaving the two cottages that I daresay you 
noticed close under the rock towards the 
Point when the first streaks of morning began 
to appear in the east. I love to see the 

170 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. x. 

day break at any time, but I especially like 
to watch it over a stormy angry sea ; and 
therefore sheltering myself a little behind a 
boulder, I stood gazing for a while, when 
presently, like a thing of life, came plunging 
and driving from the very gates of the morn- 
ing the same yacht that had so puzzled us. 
On and on it came, close-hauled to the wind, 
straight for the narrow rock-bound jaws of 
the cove ; and I saw at a glance that, if it 
kept its course, it must strike on a group of 
rocks some half-mile out at sea ; and, parson 
as I am, I knew, should she strike them, no 
human aid could save the lives of those on 

" I hardly know what I did, except that I 
took off my coat and waved it frantically, 
and mounted the highest pinnacle on the 
rocky point to make myself seen by the 
fated crew ; but though at last I could 
actually distinguish two men at the wheel 

en. x.] Running Straight on the Rocks. 171 

holding the vessel close to the wind, 
yet they took no notice, and came on 
and on, leaping waves mountains high 
one minute, and lost to sight the next in the 
trough of the seas. Scores of fishermen 
soon joined me, and even their wives 
followed and crouched near, behind the 
rocks ; and so fully was the ship's danger 
realized, that from time to time a deep 
groan, half of despair, half prayer, went up 
from all. There was but one hope could 
the yacht be kept close enough to the wind 
to lead those steering her to believe they 
could make the entrance of the harbour ? 
or would she be carried far enough to wind- 
ward to make this impossible, and so force 
those in charge to alter her course to avoid 
the stiff cliffs beyond ? Ah, no ! We saw as 
we watched that she was too good a vessel 
to fall off to leeward, and those handling her 
too good sailors to allow her to do so, for she 

172 St^ldies in Rat Catching. [CH. x. 

flew over the waves like a beautiful bird for 
the entrance of the harbour, and the sunken 
rocks were in her direct line ! 

" Suddenly as we watched, with every sense 
strained to the utmost, and our eyes rivetted 
on the doomed ship, we heard away out to 
sea the boom of a big gun, and then another, 
and presently we saw emerging from the fast 
diminishing darkness a low, long steamer. 
At first we thought it was a ship also in 
deep distress, making signals ; but the old 
sailors soon saw this was not so, and declared 
rt was a gunboat firing at the yacht in the 
hope of driving her on to the rock-bound 
coast, and also to attract the attention of 
the coastguard, so that, should she reach 
the harbour, those on board might be pre- 
vented from escaping the hands of justice. 
It was a cruel service for British sailors to be 
employed on, however necessary, and hard 
to witness. Man hunting man to his death, 

ci-i. x.] To the Rescue. 173 

when the wind and waves already held open 
the portals of eternity before him, and little 
short of a miracle could avert his doom ! 

" A few minutes, a few hundred yards, and 
the yacht is on the rocks ! Gallantly she 
glides along the side of that green wave and 
dashes the foam from her crest ere she 
plunges deep into the sea. A monster wave 
rolls fast upon her as if to swallow her 
quivering form. High, high she rises, till 
half her length is in the air over the crest of 
the wave, and then down she sinks ; then 
the crash comes. Waves dash over her, her 
masts fall, her boats are wrenched from her 
sides, and the next minute we see her, a 
tangled mass of wreck and cordage, firmly 
embedded on the pitiless rocks. Don't 
suppose our fishermen had been quietly 
watching this and doing nothing to help. 
From the first, preparations had been made. 
Our friend Jack, and a score of other active 

174 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. x. 

young men, had shoved off the only boat on 
the beach that had the faintest hope of living 
in a storm like this, and had been waiting in 
it close to the harbour mouth some minutes 
before the yacht struck. But so small was 
the chance of that frail boat living in such a 
sea, that many of the most experienced of 
the sailors made signals to prevent the men 
starting off to meet what they thought was 
certain death. Others thought it might be 
done, and waved contrary signals ; and it was 
then that one saw what sort of women our 
sailors' wives are, for though many standing 
there with us had near and dear ones in that 
boat, and were suffering tortures of anxiety, 
not a word was spoken, but all was left for 
the men to do as they thought right. 

" As the yacht struck, a deep, wailing shout 
went up from all on land, and those in the 
boat knew what had happened, and the next 
moment we saw the boat plunge into the 

CH. x.] Watching the Boat. 175 

green waves at the harbour mouth. For a 
moment it seemed to stagger and quail, and 
then, impelled by those hands and muscles 
of iron, it was driven forward through the 
blinding spray into the angry sea beyond. 
Shall I ever forget how we watched that 
boat, now mounted high on the top of a 
wave, now for moments lost to sight, the 
men all straining at their oars to the utmost, 
and always creeping forward yard by yard ? 
All this time, we on the Point could see, with 
increasing fears, that the hope of the yacht 
holding together till reached by the rescuers 
was but a faint one. Each monster wave 
that rolled in lifted it from the rocks and left 
it to fall back with an irresistible force midst 
spray and foam, that constantly wholly hid 
it from our sight ; and even before the boat 
started, portions of the wreck were being 
tossed about on the sea, making its passage 
even more precarious. At one time a group 

176 .SVW/r.v in Rat Catching, [en. x. 

of human beings was seen on the deck 
clinging to some cordage ; hut when the next 
wave passed, most of them had disappeared, 
and we knew they had perished before our 
eyes. It was difficult to distinguish objects 
midst the turmoil, hut it soon was whispered 
among us that some one or more persons 
were crouching hehind the bulwarks, prob- 
ably lashed there for safety, and from an 
occasional llutter of a red scarf or garment, 
we feared there was an unfortunate woman 
among them ; and once, as the waves re- 
ceded from the deck, we distinctly saw a man 
rise up from the group and look for a 
moment towards the approaching boat, and 
then sink again beside his companions, just 
as the incoming wave swept high over the 
poor shelter the stout bulwark afforded. 

" If the yacht could only hold together a 
few minutes longer ! Hut no ! once more it 
rises from its bed like some agonised, dying 

CH. x.] Breaking up of the Ship. 177 

monster, and then as it falls back it parts in 
two, and half of it is a drifting mass of planks 
and timber, washing forward as if to meet the 
boat and destroy it. A portion yet remained 
fixed on the rock, and now and then we 
could still see the group crouching behind 
the bulwark. On and on fought the boat, 
now a little out of the direct line to avoid the 
wreckage, till it was close behind the wreck 
and partially sheltered by the rampart it 
formed against the sea ; but at that moment 
all that remained of it was again lifted high 
in the air and dashed forward ; and when 
the wave had passed by, there was only the 
frail boat with its brave crew to be seen on 
the surface. We see it pause for a moment, 
and then the oars all dip together, and the 
boat dashes forward. Someone leans over the 
bows, and there is a moment's struggle ; but 
the mist and foam prevent our distinguishing 
clearly what is going on. After a while they 


178 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. x. 

evidently find there is nothing further that 
can be done ; the boat is put before the 
waves and comes dashing back towards land. 
" All on the Point hurried down to the 
entrance of the harbour ; and many of the 
men, with coils of rope in their hands, stood 
ready to give assistance. As each wave 
rolled under the boat, it flew through the 
water, and then sank back again hidden 
from our sight ; but nearer and nearer it 
came on, till at last on the crest of a wave it 
darted sharp round the Point, and lay tossing 
in comparatively calm water. Steadily its 
crew rowed it up the little harbour, and as it 
approached the beach scores of ready hands 
seized it and ran it high up on to dry land, and 
a cheer rang out above the roar of the wind 
to welcome those snatched from the jaws of 
death. But this was not responded to by 
the men in the boat. They all looked stern 
and anxious ; and then we saw that Jack, 

OH. x.] Beyond the Storms of Life. 1 79 

who was crouched in the bows, was support- 
ing in his arms the slight form of a fair 
young girl, with long, soft, tangled hair 
falling around her and forming a frame to 
the most beautiful saint-like face my eyes 
had ever seen. Her lips were parted in a 
smile, and her eyes looked down on a small 
boy about two years old, who was bound in 
her arms by a red scarf. At first I thought 
she was fainting or falling asleep, but the 
next moment merciful Heavens ! I saw 
that the back of her sweet young head was 
battered in and bleeding, and that she was 
already beyond the storms of life and the 
cruel raging of the destroying elements. 

" Hard horny hands of rough women 
tenderly and deftly unwound the scarf from 
off the child ; and Jack's wife, Mary, pressing 
him to her bosom, hastened with him to her 
cottage, while the fair dead form was carried 
to a fisherman's house close by, and a few 

N 2 

180 Studies in Rat Catching, [en. x. 

days later was laid in its quiet grave in the 
old churchyard, within sound of the ruthless 
sea that had so cruelly beaten the young life 
out of it. 

"You may easily find the grave, for the 
fishermen out of their deep pity had a plain 
cross put over it, with just the words 4 Jack's 
mother' and the date of her dcatli carved 
upon it. To this day, and I fancy for ever, 
the only name she will be known by is 
'Jack's mother/ for all connected with that 
ill-fated yacht remains a mystery. Not a 
living creature escaped, except that frail little 
child. Many bodies were recovered during 
the next few days, and among them the 
remains of the man who had arrived the 
previous day in the dog-cart ; but neither on 
any of the bodies, nor among the wreckage 
that came ashore, was anything found to 
lead to the identification of the yacht or its 
owners ; and though the account of the 

en. x.] Life in the Little One. 181 

disaster appeared in all the papers and was 
the talk of the county, yet no living soul has 
ever come forward to claim connection with 
the child or with any of those drowned. 

" It was thought at the time that the owner 
of the yacht was one of those desperate ruf- 
fians of Irish extraction that have from time 
to time arrived here from America, and that 
when he so hastily joined the vessel he was 
in fear of detection and was about to sail for 
America. Anyhow the yacht was sighted 
by the gunboat sent to look after it, and 
chased and driven through the storm back 
to our little harbour, it being doubtless the 
intention of the fugitive to attempt his 
escape by land if he could once reach the 
shore. How miserably it ended you now 
know; but you don't know quite all, for I 
have not told you that, on reaching their 
cottage, Jack's wife found that the little one 
breathed. I have told you of the storm, and 

1 82 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. x. 

I have told you of the wreck ; but words 
would fail to tell of all the love and care and 
attention that was bestowed for weeks aye ! 
for years, up to this day on the little one. 
Only the recording angel can note such things, 
and only the God of love can reward them. 
Not that either Jack or his wife think of 
rewards either from earth or in heaven, for 
their love is wholly unselfish and all-satisfy- 
ing ; and were only the boy well and strong, 
I am sure that in all these realms there could 
not be found a more perfectly happy trio 
than Jack the fisherman, little Jack, and his 
adopted mother. Unfortunately it was dis- 
covered that in some way the child's back 
had been injured in the storm. For months 
he lay between life and death, at last to 
recover partially only in health, and without 
the use of his poor legs. 

"Many friends have come forward with 
help, and great London doctors have seen 

CH. x.] Natures Gifts. 183 

and attended the boy. Till lately they gave 
little hope, but, thank God, there has been 
during the past year a slow but steady 
improvement, and they now think in time 
the boy may grow strong in health, but there 
is no hope of his ever walking without his 

" Fortunately nature has bestowed many 
gifts on the poor child that compensate him 
somewhat for his loss first, an intensely 
loving, unselfish nature ; and secondly, a 
perfect voice and passionate love of music. 
Already he is carried each Sunday to church 
by his father, and his voice in the choir is 
celebrated for many miles round, and has so 
impressed the organist at the cathedral at 
Marshford that he either comes himself, or 
sends one of his pupils, to give the boy a 
lesson once a week, and there is not a better 
violinist within the bounds of the county 
than our little Jack is. His father is so 

184 Studies in Rat Catching. [CH. x. 

proud of the boy's gifts that I have known 
him, when wind-bound in a harbour down the 
coast twenty miles away, walk over the 
whole distance on a Sunday morning and 
back at night rather than miss carrying the 
little fellow to church and hearing him sing 
there. But it is eleven o'clock, and we were 
up all last night. What, no grog? Well, 
good night ! Come and see me when you 
can, and come and watch the sea with me in 
another storm, and we will see if I can't rake 
up another story of the doings of the rough 
heroes of our neighbourhood who go down to 
the sea in ships. Good night, good night ! " 

And so one of the pleasantest evenings 
I had spent for a long while WPS over. 

Oh, dear ! oh, dear ! What a muddle, what 
a hodge-podge I have made of this pen work ! 
I sat down thinking it would be quite easy to 
write a book on " Rat-catching for the Use of 
Schools," and I have drifted off the line here, 

CH. x.] What a Hodge-Podge! 185 

toppled into a story there, and been as wild 
and erratic in my goings on as even Pepper 
would be with a dozen rats loose together in 
a thick hedge. Well, I can't help it. I am 
not much good at books, and ic ain't of much 
consequence, for during the last few days I 
have heard from half a dozen head-masters 
of schools that they find the art of rat-catch- 
ing is so distasteful to their scholars, and so 
much above their intellect, and so fatiguing 
an exercise to the youthful mind, that they 
feel obliged to abandon the study of it and 
replace it once more by those easier and 
pleasanter subjects, Latin and Greek. Well, 
I am sorry for it, very sorry. I had hoped 
to have opened up a great career to many 
young gentlemen, but have failed ; and I can 
only consoK myself with thinking that one 
can't make silk purses out of you know 
what. Mind, in this quotation I am not 
thinking of myself and my failure. 



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