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Full text of "Wild life at the Land's End : observations of the habits and haunts of the fox, badger, otter, seal, hare, and of their pursuers in Cornwall"



I 




WILLIAM c.KUlU.t's SONS J.TH 
S'l PAKK - I Kh H I , hkl>lul 1 



WILD LIFE AT THE LAND'S END 



WILD LIFE 
AT THE LAND'S END 

OBSERVATIONS OF THE HABITS AND 

HAUNTS OF THE FOX, BADGER, OTTER 

SEAL, HARE, AND OF THEIR PURSUERS IN 

CORNWALL 



BY J. C. TREGARTHEN 



LONDON 
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET 

1904 



PREFACE 

THE sports described have led me to some of the 
wildest and weirdest spots of West Cornwall. 
There are few tracts in England more rugged 
than the northern part of the peninsula that lies 
between the Land's End and St Ives. It is pos- 
sible to travel across the moors from Crobben 
Hill to Chapel Cairn Brea without setting foot on 
cultivated ground. It is a boulder-strewn waste, 
void of trees, where the grey of the granite mingles 
in spring and autumn with the gold of the gorse 
that, with heather and bracken, clothes the undulat- 
ing surface. 

To the lover of nature the wild aspect of these 
breezy uplands is not without its charms ; but the 
glory of the promontory is the ocean in which it 
is set. The great rampart of cliffs that holds back 
the Atlantic is broken here and there by beaches 
of white sand or minute shells, or by coves into 
which fall the trout-streams that rise in the granite 

hills above. Along the tangled valleys they water, 

a 2 



vi PREFACE 

many an interesting picture arrests the eye ; but 
whether it be a holy well, an old mill, a grove, 
a rustic bridge or fishing-hamlet, all is in tender 
miniature, like the streams themselves or the modest 
hills where they bubble to the light. 

In these valleys bird-life is rich. On a spit 
of sand you may chance on the footprints of an 
otter, whose harbour by day is some rocky holt 
along the cliffs ; where the blackthorns are densest 
you may come across a badger's earth, and see 
the paths he has trodden in going to and fro. This 
creature is very plentiful as plentiful indeed as the 
hare is scarce. Generally he shares the same earth 
with the fox. On the north coast the seal shows 
no sign of decrease ; thanks to its tireless vigilance, 
and the inaccessible caves it frequents. 

These surviving mammals add to the attractions 
of a coast and countryside over which broods the 
silence of a mysterious past. The fascination 
which these creatures have for me dates from boy- 
hood, when I once caught a glimpse of a badger 
stealing over a cairn in the grey of early dawn ; 
and the Earthstopper, wandering with dog and 
lantern over the moors, presents a picture that 
has often appealed to me. 

If the descriptions, however crude, serve to 



PREFACE vii 

awaken old associations in some readers, or to 
excite the interest of those who have never visited 
the sunny "land of the three shores"; above all, 
if the sketch of the Earthstopper helps to preserve 
the memory of a master of his craft, my hopes will 
be fully realised. 

ROSMORRAN, SlDCUP. 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAOB 

I. THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS . . i 
II. THE FOX-HUNT ...... 14 

III. FOX-HUNTING, AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF QUEEN 
BESS, quoted from Care-mi's Survey of Cornwall, 
1565 . ... 34 

IV. THE OTTER TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT . 36 

V. THE OTTER, continued THE EARTHSTOPPER'S 

VIGIL ....... 48 

VI. THE OTTER, continued THE OTTER AT THE LAKE 64 
VII. THE OTTER, continued THE HUNT . . .71 

VIII. THE WHITE BADGER OF CAIRN KENIDZHEK THE 

EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT . . . .85 

IX. THE WHITE BADGER OF CAIRN KENIDZHEK, con- 
tinuedIf^ EARTHSTOPPER ANGRY . . 100 

X. THE WHITE BADGER OF CAIRN KENIDZHEK, con- 
tinued -THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE . 112 

XI. THE HARE LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BAR- 

TINNEY . . . . . .130 

ix 



x CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAOK 

XII. THE HARE, continued DIGORY STROUT AND FARMER 

PENDRE ...... 145 

XIII. THE HARE, continued TUT*. COURSE . . .152 

XIV. A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES . . 167 
XV. REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS . . .186 

XVI. BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END . . . 206 

XVII. NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS . . . .221 

GLOSSARY ....... 235 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

ANDREW THE EARTHSTOPPER (Photogravure], (From 

a photograph by Richards, Penzance} . . Frontispiece 

THE EARTHSTOPPER ON TRENGWAINTON CAIRN. 

(From a photograph by Richards, Penzance] . Face page 12 

THE Fox. (From a photograph by C. Reid} . 26 

Fox-CUBS. (From a photograph by C. Reid} . . 34 

TOL PEDN PENWITH. (From a photograph by R. H. 

Preston, Penzance] ...... 38 

LAMORNA MILL. (From a photograph by R. H. 

Preston, Penzance) ...... 44 

LAMORNA, SHOWING CAIRN DHU HEADLAND. 

(From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance} 52 

THE OTTER. (From a photograph by Quatremaine, 

Stratford-on-Avon} . . . . 64 

A HAUNT OF THE OTTER. (From a photograph by 

R. H. Preston, Penzance} 82 

CAIRN KENIDZHEK. (From a photograph by Gibson 

&> Sons, Penzance) .....,, 88 

THE BADGER. (From a photograph by C. Reid} . HO 

ST BURYAN CHURCH. (From a photograph by R. H. 

Preston, Penzance} ... 130 

jd 



xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

STONE CIRCLE AT BOSCAWEN-UN. (From a photo- 
graph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance) . . Face page 138 

SANCREED CHURCHTOWN. (From a photograph by 

Gibson &* Sons, Penzance) . . . 150 

CHAPEL ST UNY WELL. (From a photograph by 

Gibson &* Sons, Penzance) . . . . 1 56 

ZENNOR CHURCHTOWN. (from a photograph by R. 

H. Preston, Penzance) . . . . 166 

A STREET AT ST IVES. (From a photograph by R. 

H. Preston, Penzance) . . . . 168 

HELL'S BAY. (From a photograph by W, Cooper, St 

Ives) ,,178 

NEST OF SEAGULL. (From a photograph by Gibson 

<& Sons, Penzance} . . . . 190 

ST MICHAEL'S MOUNT. (From a photograph by R. 

H. Preston, Penzance) . . . . 194 

SENNEN COVE. (From a photograph by Gibson &* 

Sons, Penzance) . . . . 206 

PORTHGWARRA. (From a photograph by R. H. 

Preston, Penzance) . . . . . 210 

A HAUNT OF THE RAZOR-BILL. (From a photo- 
graph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance) . . 220 

THE HOME OF THE CORMORANT. (From a photo- 
graph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance} . . 226 

THE LAND'S END. (From a photograph by R. H. 

Preston, Penzance} ...... 232 



WILD LIFE AT THE LAND'S 

END 

CHAPTER I 

THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

IT was an hour after midnight when the Earth- 
stopper of the Penwith Hunt left his cottage on the 
outskirts of Madron. He carried a lantern and a 
rough terrier followed at his heels. His track led, 
by lanes in the heather, over a cairn to the furze- 
clad downs overlooking the lake. 

To the West, sombre hills rose against the 
jewelled vault where the stars in the depths of the 
frosty sky kept watch over the slumbering earth. 
Half-way over the downs, beneath the roots of a 
stunted pine, was a fox-earth. The old man knelt 
down and stopped it with faggots of furze. The 
light of the lantern lit up his strong and kindly face, 
and fell on the heap of sandy soil at the mouth of 
the earth. 



2 THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

Leaving the downs he turned towards Penhale, 
skirting the marshy ground in the trough of the 
hills, and climbing a steep rise made for a crag 
playground of many litters beneath which lay the 
next earth. Furze bushes screened the entrance 
and hung like a pall on the slope. The wind 
wuthered round the rocks and stirred the rushes in 
the fen below ; but the Earthstopper gave no heed 
to these whisperings of the night, and paused but 
for an instant, as he bent over his work, to listen to 
the bark of a fox in the pitchy darkness beyond. 
His way now lay across a bleak waste. Rude 
monuments of a grey past dot its surface and a 
solitary cottage overlooks its desolation. No path 
led along the line he was taking : cromlech and 
monolith in ghostly outline guided his steps. 

The Earthstopper's progress was slow, for the 
surface was rough and the bogs treacherous, but yet 
he was getting nearer and nearer to Cairn Galver, 
which rose like a cliff from the moor, its crest 
silhouetted against the deep sapphire of the 
heavens. 

" Good God, what's thet ? " said he, as a fiendish 
scream awoke the echoes of the rugged hills. 
" Don't sound like et, but et must a' come from 
thet cottage over theere. Iss sure, theere's a light 



RECOGNISES THE MINER 3 

in the winder. Semmen to me 'tes uncommon like 
murder." 

He had taken but a few stumbling steps along 
a track into which he had turned, ere the faint thud 
of hoofs fell on his ear. More and more distinct 
through the night came the sound, broken at times 
by a shout. A rocky hollow lay in front of him ; 
down which rider and horse came at a furious pace, 
splashing the water as they dashed through the 
stream below. Breasting the rise at the same frantic 
speed they were over the brow and almost upon the 
Earthstopper before he was aware, and scarcely had 
he jumped aside when they galloped past him. 

Merest glimpse though he got of the man, he 
recognised him, for his face was turned towards the 
light as it lay over the horse's neck. It was Jago 
the miner. 

" Good Lor', what's the maanin' of et ? Why 
don't eh stop the hoss ? " 

" Don't take me for a Jack-o-Lantern, s'pose?" 
Some distance along the stony track the clatter 
of the hoofs ceased. The Earthstopper ran towards 
the spot. 

" Where are ee, why don't ee spaake ? " 

" Heere, An'rew, quick as you can." 

A minute later the Earthstopper, with one hand 



4 THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

resting on the mane of the heaving horse, was look- 
ing up at the miner's blanched face. 

" What's the matter wi' ee, Jago ? you looked 
skeared." 

" Steve es killed by a faal o' ground. We 
brought un hoam an hour agone. Et wor moore nor 
Mawther could stand. Her rason's clane gone." 

" Can I help ee ? " 

" No thank ee, An'rew." 

In breathless haste he spoke, and with a shout 
he was gone, his path picked out in sparks, as the 
good horse without bridle or rein covered the 
ground to the slumbering village. 

Andrew stood peering through the night till the 
tiny fires died away and the beat of the hoofs struck 
faint as the footfall of a child. 

This incident had unnerved the lonely Earth- 
stopper. 

More than once as he ascended the Galver he 
turned his head, though without staying his steps, 
to see that it was but the terrier that followed him. 
Panting from the hurried climb he rested on a 
boulder of the cairn and set the lantern down on 
the turf at his feet. The bitch nestled between her 
master and the flickering flame. 

The stars shone in all their splendour, but it was 



ADDRESSES HIS DOG 5 

the glow-worm light that crept through the gloom 
below which riveted the Earthstopper's gaze. 

"Well, Vennie me beety, theere's death and 
worse nor death in thet theere cottage, and et's shook 
me tar'ble, but our night's work must be got through 
somehow or theer'll be no spoart to-day. With this 
wind a fox es moast sure to make for Zonnor Cliffs. 

" Come, me dear, 'tes cold up heere, two mile 
waan't see us to cliff, and thee must furst run through 
the radgell on the Little Galver." 

So, taking up the lantern, he went to the clitter 
of rocks and sent the bitch in. He could follow 
her by the patter of her feet as she ran through the 
cavernous hollows. On coming out at the far end 
of the rocks she awaited her master and, when he 
came up, took her place at his heels. Before leav- 
ing the high ground the Earthstopper stood listen- 
ing for a few moments with his face towards Madron, 
whither Jago had ridden to summon the doctor. 
Hearing nothing, he made his way down the slope 
of the cairn to the rugged waste that stretches 
away to the Northern coast. 

Their work was now done till they reached the 
cliffs. He seldom spoke to his dog in going from 
one earth to another, and to-night he had enough to 
think about, 



6 THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

Thirty years of wandering under the stars 
had matured the philosopher within him. 

" Mine's a wisht kind of a life, mine es ; but so 
long as health and strength do laast 'tes grand to 
traapse the moors and circumvent the varmints. I 
know evra inch o' thes eere country, evra patch o' 
fuzze, and evra pile o' rocks, and the stars be moore 
to me nor to moast folks. The eearth es beetiful, 'tes 
a pity to laave et, and when we do wheere do we go 
to ? The ways o' the birds, the enstincts of evra 
wild crittur, the min'rals I've blasted in the bal 
under the saa, the dimants up theere, tell me plain 
enuf theere's a Maister-hand behind et all. All of 
ee say theere's a God, but why are ee quiate as the 
grave about the Better Land ? " 

The distant stars glittered in the silent vault, 
the wind was heedless as the moor it swept, and 
there was no answer in the far-off mystic murmur of 
the sea. 

His sinewy strides soon brought him to the edge 
of the cliff. Two hundred feet below, the Atlantic 
lashed the rocks and raged in the caverns. 

" Well, auld Ocean, I can hear ee ef I caan't see 
ee. Hope theest heaved up no dead thes tide. 
Lor', how the gools do scraame, to be sure ! but 'tes 
moosic and 'tes company to thet scraach on the 



CLAMBERS DOWN THE CLIFF 7 

moor " ; and he shuddered at the thought. Half 
trusting to the tussocks of coarse grass but with 
muscles all alert he clambered down the steep zigzag 
his own feet had traced, towards the adit of Wheal 
Stanny situate near the line of the foam. Shrinking 
from the seething waters below he crept along a 
narrow ledge and with scanty foothold reached the 
mouth of the adit, where he brushed the sweat and 
salt spray from his face. 

Then on hands and knees, his finger-marks 
effacing the footprints of marauding fox, he entered 
the narrowing chasm and stopped the hole as best 
he could, with pieces of quartz. 

Drippings from the moist roof retreat of tremb- 
ling fern blurred the lantern's light and dimmed 
the sparkle of the crystals. 

Leaving the cliffs he made for the uplands, for a 
few earths lay in the gullies that seamed them, and 
here and there a disused mine-work offered a safe 
retreat to fox and badger. Carefully the Earth- 
stopper picked his way in the murky hollows, the 
lantern's light awaking the frown of the granite and 
falling bright on the gold of the bracken that fringed 
the treacherous shaft. On the weird countryside 
above, the array of boulders loomed like phantoms 
in the sombre heather. 



8 THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

Threading in and out among them as he rose and 
sank with the undulating surface, the Earthstopper 
might have been a spy stealing from camp to camp 
of spectral hosts bivouacking on the dusky slopes. 

On the furthest ridge he stood peering into the 
darkness that shrouded a moor over which he must 
pass. The level expanse might have seemed to in- 
vite him as smooth water invites a swimmer wearied 
by the waves, but superstitious fear held him there 
irresolute. For an eerie legend clung to the heart 
of the moor. Crofters would draw closely round 
their bright furze-fires as they listened to the harrow- 
ing tale. Little wonder that the old man paused in 
his forward path, for the last earth on his round was 
near a cairn that partly screened a haunted pool, 
and the moor compassed it round. 

Seeing a light it was a mere glimmer in a 
lone homestead on the low ground between him and 
the cliff, he resolved to make his way down to it 
and await the dawn. With difficulty, for the 
hillside was covered with furze, he reached the 
byre where a candle burned on the ledge inside a 
small window. Peeping through a cob-webbed 
pane, he was able to recognise the farmhand at 
work inside, though the man's back was turned 
towards him. 



COLD COMFORT 9 

Unfortunately for the labourer, the noise made 
by the turnip-chopper he was working drowned the 
sound of the approaching footsteps, and Andrew's 
voice at the half-open door was the first intimation 
he had of the Earthstopper's presence. 

"Mornin', 'Gellas." 

" Lor', you ded maake me joomp, An'rew. . . . 
Wisht news about Steve Jago, edna?" 

" Bra' an wisht. I do hear the poor auld 
woman's gone clane out of her mind. 'Tes foolish 
like, but her scraachin's thet unnarved me, I'm moast 
afeered to go and stop thet theere eearth touchin' 
Deadman." 

" Laave un be, noathin' eearthly waan't go a- 
nighst un for thes day. A sinkin' fox would raither 
die in th' open nor maake for un. They do say 
when any man or woman o' thes heere parish, and 
'tes a bra' big wan too, do die a vilent death like as 
ow" . . . 

Andrew's upraised palm had checked him. 

"Then thee dost know all 'bout un?" 

" Iss, iss, worse luck, I've heerd about the wisht 
auld thing." 

" Look here, An'rew," said Tregellas under his 
breath as he drew close to him, " I don't knaw 
how fur may be fancy like, for I'd bin thinkin' 

B 



10 THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

'bout un, but semmen to me I heerd a scraach from 
thet quarter about an hour agone and theere 
theere edn any housen to moore nor a mile "... 

Andrew had heard more than enough and, 
before Tregellas could add another word, he hurried 
through the open doorway, crossed the brook that 
ran through the mowhay, and was soon breasting 
the rugged hill leading to the Deadman. 

On the edge of the moor he paused to listen. 
From out the distance came the cry of some bird : the 
sea called faintly behind him. He looked towards 
the East. There was no sign of dawn. 

" I'll faace un, come what may. Be quiate, 
stop thet theere whinin' will ee." 

Then he trimmed the wick of the lantern, pulled 
his cap well on to his ears and, stepping from tuft 
to tuft of the silent heather, set out across the 
moor. He made straight for the cairn and with 
trembling hands stopped the earth ; but though he 
heard the wind sighing in the reeds he feared to 
turn his eyes towards the tarn. 

Hurrying from the eerie spot he set out on his 
way homewards, staying his steps a moment near 
a pool to look at the clean-cut footprints of a fox. 
Water was oozing into them, for the ground was 
very marshy. And so he came to the gaunt ruin 



SUNRISE 11 

of Ding Dong Mine which serves as a mark to the 
long-line fishermen of Mount's Bay. Only the walls 
and end timbers of the lofty roof are left for the gales 
to whistle through ; and in the grey dawn a kestrel 
perched on the gable was preening its feathers. From 
the mine-burrows hard by, the wayfarer overlooks 
headland and harbour, the surf round St Michael's 
base and the waters of the sail-flecked bay. 

Well might the Earthstopper, whose soul, like 
that of many a toiler, was far above his lowly work, 
dwell on the awakening beauty of land and sea 
below him. 

The stars had paled their fires and crimson 
streaks in the throbbing east heralded the sun. 
Lighting first the hungry Manacles the gladdening 
orb rose over the serpentine cliffs of Lizard, bath- 
ing with its rays the sea and circling hills, and 
touching with gold the battlements of the castle 
and the pinnacles of the westward churches. 

" No wonder thet furriners do bow their knees 
on desert sands and wusshup ee. Don't knaw 
when I've seed ee lookin' so beetiful missel." The 
hawk, now hovering over its prey, disturbed his 
simple reverie. "Come, me dear" but Vennie 
had slipped away "'tes nigh breakfust time, and 
the cheeld will be 'spectin' us." So down the hill 



12 THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS 

he hurried, the smoke from his own hearth cheering 
him and turning his thoughts to his peaceful home. 
He pictured the little room neat and clean, the 
breakfast-table with his chair drawn up to it, the 
sanded floor and the kettle on the brandis amidst 
the glowing embers. He forgot his fatigue ; his 
steps were lightened as he thought of the child who 
looked after his few comforts and always welcomed 
his home-coming. At a turn in the track by 
some stormbent hawthorns he came suddenly upon 
her, come out to meet him. What a change 
comes over the old man's face at the sight of her ! 
How his eyes brighten as she runs to greet him ! 

" I knawed thee couldna be fur away, granfer, 
for Vennie's been home these ten minits or moore." 

He looked behind him, but the bitch was gone. 

"Ah, I can guess what's drawed her theere." 

The girl took the lantern from his cramped 
hand and, side by side, her arm linked with his, they 
made their way towards the cottage. Two minutes 
later the clatter of hoofs behind them made her 
look round. " Someone's comin' down the Forest 
Cairn, granfer." 

" Iss, me dear, 'tes Dobbin's step thee canst 
hear. Now run home along whilst I have a word 
with the doctor." 




'" THE EARTHSTOITEK ON TKENGWAINTON CAIRN. 



[Face page 12. 



FEASTEN MONDAY 13 

The girl was barely a stone's throw away when 
the doctor cantered up to where the Earthstopper 
awaited him. 

" Mornin', Andrew, another touch of rheuma- 
tism ? " 

" No, sir, never felt better in my life ; no, tedn 
thet : I wanted to ask ee about Mrs Jago." 

" You've heard about it ? " 

The Earthstopper nodded assent. 

" It's all over with the poor woman, Andrew." 

..." May be 'tes best so, sir." 

"Yes, best so," repeated the doctor, as he rode 
away. 

Andrew overtook his grandchild near the cottage, 
and was following her through the open door, 
getting a glimpse of Vennie and her puppies on the 
badger skin before the turf fire, when the bells 
rang out a joyous peal as if to remind him of the 
festive day. He turned and listened : the grey 
tower rose above the patched roofs of the cottages, 
the notes struck clear through the crisp air. 

A smile rose to the weather-beaten face, the lips 
moved, and cheerily came the words : 

" Ring out your best, auld bells, for 'tes Maddern 
Feasten Monday." 



CHAPTER II 

THE FOX-HUNT 

BEYOND the memory of Dick Hal, who remembered 
the home-bringing of two wounded " Church-Town " 
men after Waterloo, the hounds had met on Feast 
Days at the Castle. The grounds with their stately 
terraces and relics of feudal dignity were thrown 
open for the meet, the protests of old Jenny at the 
park gate notwithstanding. 

Long before the hour appointed a little crowd 
assembled outside the lodge. Fishermen in blue 
guernseys were there, miners in their workaday 
clothes, and a strong force of villagers. It is note- 
worthy what a motley crowd, from squire to plough- 
boy, from vigorous youth to crippled old age, will 
congregate to witness a day's fox-hunting. 

And surely the sight of twenty couple of hounds 
drawing a patch of gorse in an open and wild 
country, the suspense that follows the first whimper, 



OLD JENNY AND THE CROWD 15 

the find, the thrilling tally-ho, and the hurry and 
scurry of the field, is a spectacle as pleasant as it is 
exhilarating. 

Looking out of an upper window of one of the 
little towers that flanked the gateway was old Jenny 
Trewheela, blind of one eye, whose sharp tongue 
was more effective than a fifteen-pounder in defence 
of her charge. Villagers averred that "her main 
suction ware vinegar," and a candid friend had told 
her so. As the hour approached the crowd began 
to press too close to the lodge to please her vigilant 
eye. " Werta shovin' to ? Thee shussen wan of 
ee c6me inside the gates till th' 'ounds 'a gone 
through. They be Sir Bevil's orders." 

" Sober, mawther," said a keen-eyed poacher, 
" we be all afeeard of ee, and thee dost knaw it ; but 
hows'ever we doan't want none o' your winegar. 
Custna haand round a bit o' crowse and a drop o' 
somethin' to drink ? Tes a dry East wind and bra' 
an cold." 

" Sauce and imprence ! I do knaw thee and the 
crooked ways of ee, though thee dost skulk behind 
a honest man," and with that she banged- to the 
window. 

A few minutes before the village clock chimed 
the hour, the huntsman, hounds, and whippers-in 



16 THE FOX-HUNT 

passed through the gate and along the approach to 
the inner court, and drew up on the far side of the 
keep near the old culverin. By ones and twos, 
gentlemen from the country round, tenant farmers 
and crofters, rode up to the Castle. 

This venerable building in the hundred of Pen- 
with in the parish of Madron had been the seat of 
the Tresillians from the time of Henry the Second. 
The Castle is quaintly described in an old survey of 
Cornwall as "very ancient, strong and fayre and 
appurtenanced with the necessaries of wood, water, 
parkes, moors, with the devotion of a rich-furnished 
chapelle and charitie of almshouses." 

The terrace is still haunted by the squire who 
fell on the memorable day when the place was held 
for the King against the Roundheads. The paint- 
ing in the hall shows the assault on the outer wall, 
where a lurid glare lights up helm and pike at the 
narrow breach ; for above battlement and turret, 
clearly outlined, leap tongues of fire from the beacon 
on the Cairn. 

Dents in the granite walls still mark where the 
cannon-balls struck the building ; and it was at that 
time I know there are some who dispute the 
date that one of the quarterings of the family 
arms above the entrance was effaced. 



THE HUNT BREAKFAST 17 

Sir Bevil and Lady Tresillian, who were standing 
on the steps below, gave their guests a hearty wel- 
come. Breakfast was laid in the wainscotted hall, 
bright with log fires. 

Cornish worthies in their gold frames wink at 
the merry gathering round the table. 

Sir Bevil, despite his grey hairs, looks young for 
his sixty years. Life's work is stamped on his high- 
bred features. He looks every inch a soldier. The 
tanned face and parched skin suggest frontier fight- 
ing : the scar on the brow confirms it. 

Facing the mullioned window, on Sir Bevil's right 
is Squire Tremenheere of Lanover, the hardest rider 
of the hunt ; next him is the Major of the C.C. 
battery, whose neighbour is the popular member 
for the Land's End Division ; next him is a ship- 
owner whose vessels are on every sea ; the veteran 
with silvery hair and twinkling eyes has been 
purser of a tin-mine for nearly half a century ; the 
man with the long black beard is the village doctor, 
and a kind friend to the poor ; below him sit 
half a score farmers, and a good time they are 
having. 

' This be a good drop o' zider," says the weather- 
beaten crofter who sits facing a portrait of Sir 
Richard Grenville. "Gos't home," said the eldest 

c 



18 THE FOX-HUNT 

tenant on the estate, " Tedden no zider : but caal 'en 
what you like, 'tes a drop of the raal auld stingo." 

The aristocratic old gentleman, tete-a-tete with 
Lady Elizabeth, is Sir Lopes Carminowe, who knows 
every gate, gap and fox-earth in Penwith. Need 
it be said that the little wizened-face man with 
laughing eyes, whose wit is as dry as the champagne, 
is the legal adviser of those whom he is tickling 
with forensic anecdotes ? The parson is the re- 
cipient of much chaff and banter ; but with eyes 
sparkling under his shaggy brows and in the best 
of humour he is cutting about him with his sharp- 
edged tongue to the discomfiture of his assailants. 
Says Sir Bevil, " The parson reminds me of the 
Cavalier in the picture who has brought down half 
a dozen of the enemy and is looking round for 
more." 

Breakfast over, the gay company passed out 
of the Castle, mounted their restive horses and 
rode away to the covert by the lake. The Cairn 
that overlooked it was covered with pedestrians 
who, like spectators in a theatre, were waiting for 
the play to begin. Does any one doubt that the 
sporting instinct is strong in Englishmen ? Ob- 
serve that poor old man in clean smock-frock and 
white beaver. This is Dick Hal. He can't see 



DRAWN BLANK 19 

very well, but he would like to hear the cry of the 
hounds once more. He began earthstopping the 
year Bonaparte died at St Helena, and this morn- 
ing a little child has led him to the Cairn that he 
might perchance hear the music he loved so well. 
And it seemed probable, so rarely had the brake 
been found tenantless, that he and the rest, younger 
and noisier in their expectation of sport, would not 
be disappointed. 

The cry of the huntsman in the bottoms at 
once hushes the hum of the crowd. Ears strain to 
catch the first whimper, and eager eyes search every 
yard of open ground to view the stealthy movements 
of a fox. Under the shelter of a boulder, apart from 
the crowd, sits Jim Roscruge, the old mining pioneer, 
and near him a man in velveteen coat and sealskin 
cap who looks the incarnation of vigilance. 

Surely we have seen that cheery face before 
it's Andrew the Earthstopper, looking little the worse 
for his night's adventures. The leading hounds 
had come through the brake. " Saams to me," says 
Roscruge, "that Nute drawed a bit too quick like. 
A fox'll sometimes lie as close as a sittin' perth- 
ridge." " May be you're right : but Joe Nute do 
knaw 'es work, and, lor', what moosic's in the voice 
of un ! Harkee ! . . . Grand, edna you ? Saam 



20 THE FOX-HUNT 

time I niver seed the brake drawed blank but wance 
afore." 

The field began to move slowly to the next 
cover whilst the hounds ran through some crofts 
where the furze was thin. 

" Wild country this, Tresillian," said the Major of 
Sir Bevil's old battery as they rode along side by 
side. 

" Yes, it's more or less like this all the way to 
Dartmoor, heather and gorse on the surface, tin 
and copper underground. It's the backbone of the 
county in more sense than one." 

"And Lyonnesse must be somewhere near?" 

"That" said Sir Bevil, smiling, "is the sub- 
merged land between the Land's End and the 
Scillies. Scientists, confound 'em, are trying to 
prove that the sea has covered it since the Creation. 
What right have they got to meddle with our tradi- 
tions ? They'll be saying next that the letters * 
on the Men Scryfa it's in a croft over that ridge 
facing us have been cut out by the action of the 
weather on the granite." 

" Well, Andrew," said Sir Bevil as he rode up, 
" where do you think we may find to-day ? " 

" I caan't hardly tell, sir," said he, keeping pace 
* Riolabran Cunoval fil. 



A LIKELY DRA\V 21 

with the horse ; " but at daybreak this morning I 
balled a fox " at this Sir Bevil pulled up his horse, 
" on that bit o' soft ground under Ding Dong 
on the Quoit side, and seys I to missel, me shaver 
es moast likely kennelled in that bit o' snug fuzze 
to the lew side of the stennack." 

"Very well, we will draw that next and drop 
back to Boswortha if we do not find," added Sir 
Bevil as he rode away to give instructions to the 
huntsman. 

"Come ust on, Jim, best foot foremost, or the 
draw'll be over afore we get theere." They gained 
the crest of a rise overlooking the cover just as the 
huntsman, who was now afoot with the hounds 
around him, was about to draw it. 

" Wheere ded ee light on they theere prents of the 
fox, An'rew ? " 

" Do eesaa thet big bunch o' rooshesanigh the 
pool, away ahead of the rock touchin' the Squire ? " 

" Iss sure." 

"Well, they're close handy to un, laystwise I reckin 
so : 'twas by the furst glim o' day I seed 'em." 

Below them lay a stretch of marshy ground fed 
by some bubbling springs. Rills trickled along 
channels in the peaty ground, sparkling here and 
there between tussocks of rush and withered grass. 



22 THE FOX-HUNT 

losing themselves in a vivid green patch that fringed 
a chattering trout-stream. On the higher side, 
nestling under shelter of a craggy ridge, was about 
an acre of furze with a big dimple in it where yellow 
blooms lingered. 

The scarlet coats of the riders gave a few dashes 
of warmth to the grey expanse of boulder-strewn 
moor. 

Sir Bevil watched the hounds as they drew up 
wind, the big chestnut with its pricked ears seem- 
ing as intent as his rider. Their shadow lay 
almost motionless aslant the lichen-covered rock. 
The working of the pack was easily seen, save 
where the ground dipped around a pool or boggy 
growth luxuriated. Flushed by hound or crack of 
whip, a woodcock rose and dropped in some withes 
a furlong away. Still there was no sign of the fox, 
no view holloa, not a whimper. The idler hounds 
lapped the tempting water, seemingly heedless of 
the huntsman's voice. 

" I'm afeard o' my saul 'tes blank, Jim ; hounds 
don't saam to maake nawthin' of un." 

" Nawthin' at all, scent's gone along wi' the 
frost. But don't ee go and upset yoursel' about et, 
'tes noane of your fault." 

Amongst the members of the hunt, disposed 



THE FIND 23 

in little groups behind Sir Bevil, the green of the 
bog and the gleam of the rippling water showing 
between them, expectation drooped, and the little 
cares of life that a whimper would have kept to the 
crupper, seizing their opportunity, began to steal 
back to their owners. 

The doctor's eyes wandered to the lonely cottage ; 
the shipowner found himself thinking of the fall in 
freights, the miner of the drop in tin ; and even the 
red-whiskered farmer was wondering whether the 
ten-score pig hanging by the heels in his outhouse 
would fetch 4fd. or 5d. a Ib. on the next market 
day. 

Suddenly Troubadour, the most reliable hound 
of the pack, threw up his nose as he whiffed the 
tainted air. 

" He's got un, Jim. See how eh crosses the 
line o' scent see-saw like. Tend upon et, 'tes a find." 

The hound now left the edge of the cover near 
the bog and worked round its upper side. Losing 
the scent he came back, recovered it, threw his 
tongue and dashed into the brake. 

"Thet's what I do caal rason in a dog," 
whispered Andrew, whilst his restless eyes watched 
every point of escape for a view of the fox. 

In a moment the pack rallied to the trusted 



24 THE FOX-HUNT 

voice of Troubadour, and the furze was soon alive 
with waving sterns. 

"What moosic, Jim ! Look out, slyboots '11 be 
gone in a twinklin'." 

"Theere's the fox staling away along by them 
theere brembles." 

" I caan't see un," said Roscruge. And truly 
none but a trained eye like Andrew's, which saw a 
suspicion of brown here and a tell-tale movement 
of tangled growth beyond, could mark the course 
of the sly varmint. It had eluded the gaze of the 
whippers-in. Grasping the situation, Andrew ran 
to where he last saw the fox and gave a loud tally- 
ho. 

Then all was stir : the field seemed electrified. 
Shipowner, miner, farmer, ay and squire, parson, 
soldier and whipper-in, each forgot his worries 
for who has none ? and black care lay in the wake 
of the hunt. 

" Lor', how they do race," said Andrew as the 
hounds, with a burst of music, streamed across the 
heather. "The fox is maakin' for cleff. Desperate 
plaace thet ; but as luck will have et the tide is out." 
The hunt was now lost to view, but with his hand 
raised to shade his eyes he kept looking towards 
the Galver. 



FULL CRY 25 

"They're crossin' the sky line. Do ee see 'em, 

J* > " 
im? 

" Iss, and ef I baan't mistaken, the white hoss es 
laast as usual." 

Tregellas had been busy in the cattle-shed since 
early morning, and now, having put a double feed 
in the troughs and filled the racks with sweet- 
smelling hay, was about to leave work and put on 
his Sunday-best, after the custom of Feast Day, 
that his appearance might do credit to his side of 
the parish when he sauntered past the critical eyes 
of the girls of Churchtown. 

Just then Driver, who had been curled up in the 
straw dreaming of summer days amongst the moor- 
land cattle, pricked his ears, rose to his feet, jumped 
the half-door, and barked furiously. 

"What's thet?" said Tregellas as the music of 
the pack awoke the echoes of the cliffs. " Why 'tes 
the hounds in full cry sure 'nuff." Out of the byre 
he rushed and climbed the turf rick near the pig's 
crow, hoping to get a view of the hunt. The 
passing chase was one of the few excitements of 
his dull life ; and next to a sly glance at the girl of 
his heart the sight of a fox before hounds was 
what he loved most. 

His eager eyes searched the rugged hillside and 

D 



26 THE FOX-HUNT 

swept the open sward lying between it and the cliff. 
A sea-gull skimming its pinnacled edge drew his 
gaze that way. It was only for an instant ; yet 
when he looked round again, the fox with an easy 
stride was crossing the springy turf where in 
summer thrift blooms, and discovering dips in the 
ground where human eye found none, with lithe 
movement was making for his earth near the foot 
of the cliffs. " Lor', what a beety ! how eh do move 
over the ground that steelthy like ! What a broosh ! 
Wonder ef he's the saame varmint as killed the 
auld gander." 

Thrice before the fox had stood before hounds, 
and the last time he had but narrowly escaped with 
his life. Less than a year ago, it was in the month 
of March, they had found him on the sunny cliffs 
where Lamorna overlooks the ocean, and the great 
run he gave that day from sea to sea is still vivid 
in the memory of the hunt. 

This morning dawn had surprised him miles 
away from his rocky stronghold. For hours before 
daybreak he had lain in wait with glowing eyes 
under the shelter of some rustling sedge that grew 
amidst the waters of a pool, for wildfowl. His 
listening ears caught the swish of their tantalising 
wingbeats as skein after skein circled above his 



THE FOX 27 

lurking-place, but he had awaited in vain the splash 
of widgeon or teal on the lane of water he had 
opened in the thin ice as he swam to his "islet" 
ambush. Hunger and expectation had kept him 
there too long and, in the grey light that had 
quenched the green fires of his eyes, chilled and 
famished he had stolen away to the near brake, 
and under its thickest furze-bush shunned those 
hateful rays that jewelled the frosted spines above 
his lair and gilded the crags between him and his 
earth. 

Scarcely had he curled himself up before the 
tread of human steps made him cock his ears, and 
when the Earthstopper bent over his clean-cut foot- 
prints the ominous silence had brought him to his 
feet. But as the footsteps died away he had settled 
himself down again, and it was out of a deep sleep 
that the warning voice of Troubadour had roused 
him. Once more, like an outlaw, he was driven 
forth under the eye of the wintry sun with hue and 
cry behind him, conscious that his safety lay in his 
own cunning and endurance and the stout heart 
that had carried him through before. 

As he crosses the sward there is nothing hurried 
in his stealthy movements, despite the clamour in 
his ears. He is not sure that his earth is open 



28 THE FOX-HUNT 

more than once he had found it closed so he is 
husbanding his strength, and, if need be, every bit 
of it will be doled out under the direction of his 
vulpine brain in the attempt to outwit his enemies. 
Some fifteen feet from the cliff a slab of rock out- 
crop of the granite formation beneath brings back 
to his memory a ruse that the old vixen had taught 
him, when one August day at sundown she anxiously 
led her playful litter up to the great world overlook- 
ing their rocky nursery. This he at once decides 
to put into practice. 

So to the amazement of the open-mouthed 
Tregellas he crosses and recrosses the rock as 
he had seen her do, hoping thereby at least to 
check his pursuers, if not to foil them alto- 
gether. 

Leaving the tangled lines of scent for the hounds 
to unravel, he, by a single leap, reaches the verge 
of the cliff and for an instant clings to its dizzy 
edge as if to listen to the swelling cry, for his mask 
is turned that way. Then, gathering himself for a 
spring, with a whisk of his brush he is gone. This 
was too much for the spellbound Tregellas, good 
Methodist though he was : " Well, I'm dommed, 
that taakes the fuggan." 

The leading hounds were breaking through the 



THE FEVER OF THE CHASE 29 

furze at the foot of the hill, their voices ringing like 
silver bells. 

Flashing across the open they checked at the 
rock, but only for a moment, and then, like an im- 
petuous stream, poured down the cliff. Thither 
Tregellas, loosing the dog he had been holding, ran 
at the top of his speed and looked over. The 
scene below stirred his Celtic blood. The pack, 
with the fox a furlong ahead, was racing along the 
narrow beach, till, reaching a jutting point, pursued 
and pursuers took to the water and, skirting the 
rocks, swam out of his sight. 

Knowing the line the fox would probably take, 
Tregellas, with the fever of the chase in his veins, 
climbed the steep hill leading to the Deadman and, 
though he bruised his knees through his corduroys, 
gained at length the topmost stone of the cairn that 
crowned it. 

" Aal for nawthin'," he gasped as he overlooked 
the stretch of silent moor beneath him. The only 
sound of the hunt was the distant thud of hoofs 
where the " field " galloped along the coast road. 
Yet with quick, restless eyes he swept the waste as 
from that very eyry a sparrow-hawk was wont to 
do, watchful for the slightest sign. The echo 
of the horn had kept hope alive, faint though it 



30 THE FOX-HUNT 

was, but now he has seen something which rivets 
his gaze. 

He is looking towards the lower side of the 
moor, over the shoulder of which lies the sea, fringed 
with surf where it frets the black precipice of a head- 
land. He is watching a bird that flies close to the 
stunted furze. The white of its plumage gleams as 
the sun catches it. Threading the sinuous lanes 
between the bushes, appearing at the distance almost 
like the shadow of the overhanging magpie, is the 
hunted game ; and though Tregellas cannot hear the 
chattering of the bird, he knows that it is mobbing 
the fox whose mask is set in the direction of Dead- 
man. As his form comes well in view Tregellas 
fancies that his stride is perhaps not quite so easy as 
when he swung so lithely across the turf, and it may 
be he was shaken by those terrible leaps adown the 
jagged rocks where a whipper-in, a coastguard, and a 
truant schoolboy are at this moment attending to two 
crippled hounds. " Es eh failin' a bit, do ee think, 
'Gellas ? " " Caan't hardly tell," said he, answering 
the question put to himself. And then the hounds 
heave in view. At what a pace they sweep over 
the waste, how silently they are running ! With 
anxious eyes he follows them as they cross the moor 
above. " Dear life, they're niver headin' for Dead- 



RUNNING FOR BLOOD 31 

man, are 'em ? Iss . . . iss . . . wonder ef An'rew 
stopped the eearth. . . . Hooray !" for standing on 
tip-toe he saw the blurred pack swerve near the 
heart of the haunted moor as though at that point 
the fox had been headed. 

" I knowed ee raather die in th' open nor go to 
ground in that wisht auld plaace." 

Then the field at full gallop passed before his 
gaze. " Lor' a mercy, passon's bin and failed into 
the bog," and he laughed as only a yokel can laugh. 

Tregellas lingered until the desolate waste 
swallowed up the hindmost of the field ; the circling 
flight of a snipe being the only sign that the hunt 
had swept across the moor. 

The stout fox held bravely on ; but the pack, 
racing for blood, with hardly a check, kept lessen- 
ing his lead as moor and croft were left behind. 

With what a crash of music they dashed through 
the Forest Rocks and through the belt of pines to the 
open heath beyond. Though death was ringing in 
his ears there was the gallant fox struggling gamely 
forward. Racing from scent to view they pulled 
him down on the dead bracken below the now de- 
serted cairn. 

The huntsman, Squire Tremenheere and Sir 
Bevil close behind him, galloped up in time to rescue 



32 THE FOX-HUNT 

the carcass from the ravenous pack. The who- 
whoop was heard by the parson as he urged his 
grey mare, mud to the girths, between the pine 
boles. To him, when he came up, Sir Bevil handed 
the mask ; the brush he had presented to the 
Squire. 

Late the same night the parson sat in his study 
recording the incidents of the chase and, despite the 
strains of " Trelawny " which reached his ears from 
the " One and All " hard by, where Tregellas and 
his friends were making merry, kept true to the 
line of the fox and with graphic touches described 
the run. 

Closing the book, he returned it to the shelf 
between the door and the pegs, where his hunting- 
cap hung. Then for the first time that season he 
took a map from its tin case and spread it on the 
table. It was a map of West Penwith, and was 
crossed by lines in all directions, reminding one of 
threads of dodder on a furze-bush. Those thin red 
lines represented the best runs of the hounds dur- 
ing the five and thirty years he had followed 
them. Having put on his spectacles, he dipped the 
fine-pointed nib in the ink and, starting from near 
the pool under Ding Dong, traced the run to the 
adit at the foot of the cliffs. Why did he pause 



THE PARSON IN DOUBT 33 

there, why not let the pen skirt the coast and the 
headland and cross the moor to Deadman ? 

See ! there is another red line a line that starts 
at Lamorna Cliffs which ends at the adit, and as 
his eye wandered along the converging tracks he 
was wondering whether the fox which gave that 
great run from sea to sea was the one whose death 
he had just recorded. That is why his hand dwelt 
and why he raised his questioning eyes to the wall 
facing him. 

He could not be sure, and the fixed grin on the 
fox's mask hanging between the cap and hunting- 
crop did not help him. 



CHAPTER III 

FOX-HUNTING, AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF QUEEN BESS 
Quoted from " Carew's Survey of Cornwall, 1565." 

" BEASTS of venerie, persecuted for their cases, or 
' dommage feasance ' are martens, squirrels, foxes, 
badgers and otters. . . . The fox planteth his dwelling 
in the steep cliffs by the sea side ; where he possess- 
eth holds so many in number, so dangerous for ac- 
cess, and so full of windings, as in a manner itfalleth 
out a matter impossible to disseize him of that his 
ancient inheritage. True it is, that sometimes 
when he marcheth abroad on foraging to revictual 
his ' male pardus ' the captain hunters, discovering 
his sallies by their espyal, do lay their soldier-like 
hounds, his born enemies, in ambush between him 
and home, and so with har and tue pursue him to 
the death. Then master reynard ransacketh every 
corner of his wily sconce, and bestirreth the utmost 
of his nimble stumps to quit his coat from their jaws. 

34 



THE SHIFTS OF THE FOX 35 

He crosseth brooks, to make them lose the scent ; 
he slippeth into coverts, to steal out of sight ; he 
casteth and coasteth the country to get the start of 
the way ; and if he be so met, as he finds himself 
overmatched, he abidethandbiddeth them battle, first 
sending the mire of his tail against their eyes in 
lieu of shot, and then manfully closing at hand- 
blows, with the sword of his teeth, not forgetting 
the whiles to make an honourable retreat with his 
face towards the enemy ; by which means having 
once reached his fortress, he then gives the fico to 
all that his adversaries can by siege, force, mine, 
sword, assault, or famine, attempt against him." 



CHAPTER IV 
THE OTTER 

TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT 

WITH the putting aside of the lantern that had lit 
his way through the winter's night Andrew's 
thoughts turned to the otter. The mystery sur- 
rounding the ways of this wild creature drew him to 
it as buried treasure attracts the spade. " Ah, the 
varmint ! " he used to say, " theere's no gettin' to the 
bottom of un, he's thet deep and artful. The fox 
valies hes broosh, but he's reckless, I tell ee, compared 
along wi' the otter. Night and day, the restless 
varmint's got a danger signal afore hes eyes." 

The Earthstopper's words convey some idea of 
the subtle and wary habits of this nomad of our 
fauna, which conceals its existence so well that its 
presence generally escapes observation in districts 
where it is not hunted. 

This is partly due to its having no conspicuous 



ITS SUBTLE WAYS 37 

holts like the fox or badger, being content in its 
wanderings with such lodgings as stone drains, 
hollow river banks and marshy hovers, all which 
are as well known to the tribe of otters frequenting 
a district as wayside camping-grounds are to the 
gipsies. 

In West Cornwall, where the sources of the 
streams are but four or five miles from the sea, the 
otters' quarters by day are, for the most part, 
crevices and caverns in those mighty granite cliffs 
that keep watch and ward over the Atlantic. 

Thence it sallies out when the twilight of its 
holt deepens into darkness, to raid the trout, and 
fearful of couching inland, rarely fails to steal back 
to its stronghold with the last shades of night, 
vanishing from moorland and coombe like a spectre 
before the dawn. 

Tactics of this kind, well devised though they 
are for the creature's safety, are fatal to sport ; and 
as the meet at the lake drew near, Andrew kept 
turning over in his mind how he could circumvent 
them. 

To induce an otter to lie up near this favourite 
fishing-ground. Sir Bevil, who was a keen otter- 
hunter, gave orders that, to keep the lake quiet, no 
one but the Earthstopper was to go near it. 



38 TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT 

He, however, might have been seen there once 
soon after daybreak, stealing noiselessly round the 
margin as if he feared to awaken the spirit of the 
place, bending over the sand of the little bays and 
the skirts of the marshy ground to find track of the 
game. Years of such work and the love for his 
craft had so sharpened his keen, quick eyes that 
the faintest trace of bird or beast could hardly 
escape their restless glance. Not, however, until 
he had made his way round the creeks and crept 
under the rhododendrons fringing the bank, did he 
light on the object of his quest. 

The footprints were clearly marked on the bare 
ground beneath the low branches, and impressed 
the Earthstopper as he stooped to examine them 
in the sombre light, not so much by their unusual 
size as by a defect in one of the prints, showing 
that the middle claw of one forefoot was missing. 
This would make it easy for him to identify the 
track and so aid him in finding out whether the 
otter had gone down the coombe to the sea. 

Few sportsmen looking down at the lake, in its 
setting of wild hills, would dream that the poacher, 
after its night's work, would trouble to seek the 
shelter of some distant sea-cave rather than lie up 
in the snug reedy hovers skirting the creeks. 




TOL PEDN PENWITH. 



[Face page 38. 



THE TRACK IN THE PLANTATION 39 

But the Earthstopper knew better. Too often 
had he seen the hounds follow the trail of an otter 
down to the edge of the tide, to feel sanguine that 
it harboured near the lake. Already, indeed, he was 
fearing, as he forced his way back through the wild 
luxuriant growth, that it had returned to the cliffs. 

How those cliffs haunted him ! Did he catch 
sight of an otter's seal shortly before a meet, as 
surely would the picture of the great granite walls 
with their impregnable fissures and caverns obtrude 
as it did then. 

Leaving the lake, he followed its overflow down 
the valley, examining the banks of the stream care- 
fully, yet dreading to come across a trace of the 
beast. You would have thought he had caught 
sight of an adder, had you seen him start back when 
he found the downward track in the low-lying planta- 
tion under Castle Horneck. It was on the bank 
just above a high waterfall which it would seem had 
caused the creature to land, but from there to the 
beach no trace could he find, though he spent hours 
in the search. It was possible, he thought, that to 
conceal its line of retreat, the wily creature might 
have gone down to the sea along the bed of the 
stream. This view would perhaps have gained on 
him, but that in its lowest reach the sluggish water 



40 TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT 

nearly circles round a meadow, and the otter must 
have taken, as is its wont, the short cut across the 
neck of the bend, and in so doing must have left its 
tracks in the marshy ground there. 

Another solution occurred to him. It was by 
no means improbable that the creature was laid up 
in the plantation ; for not only does human foot 
seldom disturb the sylvan quiet there, but in an 
angle of the stream, just below the waterfall, under 
a tall elm there is as inviting a hover as nature's 
sappers can tempt the eye of otter with. 

Floods have bared the gnarled and twisted roots 
and hollowed out the ground behind them, so that 
the backwater on the edge of the swirling stream 
extends far under the bank, and is lost in the gloom 
it casts. It was almost by chance that he discovered, 
a few days before the meet, traces of the otter, that 
left no doubt as to its line of retreat. He was 
standing in the plantation at the time, aglow with 
excitement from having seen the fresh seal of an 
otter a little way above in Lezingey Croft, and debat- 
ing with himself whether he should again follow the 
stream to the sea, when his eye fell on some moist 
marks that were fast drying and only visible in a 
certain light, on a flat rock half hidden by creepers. 
Faintest indication though it was, it furnished a clue 



THE CLUE 41 

to the line taken by an otter, and though there was 
no trace of footprints in the gap in the boundary 
wall above, the Earthstopper felt sure that the 
poacher had within the hour passed up the hill on 
its way to the Newlyn stream which flows down the 
adjacent valley. 

Thither he went at once, and after a long, fruit- 
less search began to think, though against his 
better judgment, that the otter, if it had reached 
that stream, must have gone up the water towards 
Buryas and not down towards the sea. 

Fortunately he persevered, and there just below 
a sudden bend, on a deposit of silt, was the cleanly- 
cut footprint, showing the defect he had first noticed 
under the bushes at the head of the lake. Before 
him was convincing evidence of the difficulty of 
tracking the creature he was pitting his brains 
against, for its path on leaving the shelter of an 
overgrown ditch lay among some wild iris whose 
leaves met above, screening all the footprints but 
the solitary one on the mud. This would have 
been washed out had the mills up the valley been 
thus early at work, and even as it was, a tiny wave 
from time to time lapped the silt as if striving to 
erase the tell-tale print. Holding back the flags to 
get a clear view, the Earthstopper gazed long at 

F 



42 TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT 

the beaten path, heedless of the brambles that tore 
his fingers, or of the stream that swirled around his 
feet. 

1 ' The auld game es et, Maister Sloper ? laast night 
a robbin' the trout, thes mornin' curled up saafe and 
sound in the cleeves of the rocks. Ah, you rascal, 
ef et keeps me up all night, I'll be even wyee yit." 

On his way home Andrew called at the Castle 
to report to Sir Bevil what he had seen, and to tell 
him what he had made up his mind to do, namely, 
to try and prevent the otter returning to the cliffs. 

" I leave the matter in your hands, Andrew," 
said the Squire, " my only fear is that if it comes up, 
and the chances are that it won't, it may wind you 
in your hiding-place and be scared back. However, 
you know best about that. You won't go over the 
ground again, I suppose ? " 

" No, sir, I shudden wonder ef I've bin wance 
too often as et es ; but I couldn't keep away." 

"Is it the seal of a good otter ? " 

"The biggest I ever seed." 

" Sorry to hear he's been in a trap ; you've no 
idea, I suppose." 

" Noane at all, sir." 

All the way across the heather to his cottage, 
Andrew thought of what the Squire had said, but 



THE EARTHSTOPPER LAYS HIS PLANS 43 

reflection did not shake the confidence he felt in his 
plan. More than once, when he had lain hidden on 
the bank of the stream, an otter had swum past 
within a few feet of him without betraying the least 
alarm. Of course, he had kept as still as death. 
Almost in the twinkling of an eye the Earthstopper 
can become as rigid as a rock, and so disarm the 
suspicion of the shyest of wild creatures, provided 
they don't get wind of him. He is in sight of his 
cottage now, but he is still defending his plan against 
the Squire. 

"Well, 'spose the wust, say eh is skeared, what 
do it matter ? Hee'd be back in they theere cliffs 
long afore the hounds could come anist un, an' I'll 
warn ee, with a bellyful of the Squire's trout." 

Rightly or wrongly, he determined to try to head 
the otter back, and even first to lie in ambush and 
see it pass on its way to the lake. But where ? 

It was this he was considering as he sat smok- 
ing his pipe over a glass of beer in the parlour of 
the " One and All," the morning before the meet. 
Save for Vennie, who was curled up under the 
window seat, he was all alone. Not that " Maddern " 
men don't like a glass of beer, but the leisure hours 
of an Earthstopper are not those of ordinary toilers ; 
so that he had nothing to break in on his thoughts 



44 TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT 

but the tinkle of the blacksmith's anvil, and the clear 
tenor voice of the parson who was trying over some 
chants in his study behind the shrubbery. Sitting 
there, the Earthstopper could see, as though it lay 
spread before him, the tranquil lake, its tiny bays 
and miniature headlands, the silver thread of the 
stream as it flows through croft, woodland, orchard 
and meadow on its way to the sea, and every over- 
hanging tree and bordering bush. 

What memories intruded on his thoughts as he 
searched the banks for an ambush ! how vivid were 
those of long ago ! 

In a patch of furze near the stepping-stones he 
had found a long-tailed tit's nest when he was a lad ; 
in the dark pool under the bridge a big trout had 
carried away his hook and two strands of new gut ; 
under the spray from the water falling from the 
wheel, during the great flood, he had caught his 
only salmon peal ; between the apple blossoms 
that nearly kissed across the mill stream his young 
eyes had first followed the flight of a king- 
fisher. 

Skipping the rising ground between the coombes, 
he lit on the track on the silt, and instantly he re- 
proached himself, as he had done again and again, 
for having, in a moment of excitement, held the 



THE EARTHSTOPPER'S AMBUSH 45 

leaves of the iris and tainted them with human 
scent. 

At last he pitched on an ambush which seemed 
likely to favour his vigil if the otter should chance 
to come up, unless the moon should be clouded over, 
or the wind chop round when the sun went down. 

It lay on the bank of the stream midway be- 
tween the lake and the plantation, and from it he 
could command the otter's line of approach. Let it 
not be thought, however, that he had no misgivings 
about his ability to confine the wily varmint to the 
lake, even should it pass him without suspecting his 
presence. No one is more familiar with its resources 
when danger threatens ; but the sting of past failures 
and the wish to be even with the elusive creature, 
above all, his anxiety to provide sport for the hunt, 
urged him to attempt the almost impossible task he 
had set himself. No doubt some will say he was 
over zealous, and complain and with some show of 
reason that he did not engage a score of helpers, 
who could have formed a ring round the lake and 
at a given signal have made noisy demonstrations. 
Those who take this view would, of a surety, con- 
demn him at once, did they but know the fame of 
" Maddern " men for beating tin cans when the 
bees are swarming. 



46 TRACKING THE WILY VARMINT 

The Earthstopper, it is true, did contemplate 
calling in their aid, only however to dismiss the 
idea from his mind ; not because of any dearth of old 
kettles and pans, but through an experience of a 
year ago at Marazion Marsh, since which disastrous 
night an otter broke through the line where two 
men lay asleep he has " thought slight " of Gulval 
men, for all their skill in smelting tin and cutting 
early broccoli. But this tale must be chronicled else- 
where. There were, however, other allies on whom 
he felt that he could depend, and these he meant to 
make use of. 

That afternoon, he paid a visit to Nute, the 
huntsman ; and had you been standing by the smithy 
at the corner of the village street when the school 
children were going home, you would have seen 
Andrew coming with leisurely stride along the lane 
leading to the kennels, with a big lantern in each 
hand, and the mouth of a hunting-horn lifting the flap 
of the side pocket of his velveteen coat. He had 
learnt to blow that horn as a kennel-boy, when he 
was little bigger and less educated than the boys 
that crowded round and plied him with questions. 

Good-natured, if evasive, were his replies about 
his use for the lanterns now that earthstopping was 
long over. 



THE OLD HUNTING-HORN 47 

Slowly up the street past the chute, where a 
woman was filling a pitcher, went the group, getting 
smaller and smaller as the boys reached their doors, 
until Andrew and Vennie were alone as they took 
the footpath that led across the heather to his 
cottage. 

Over "a dish o' taa and a bit of saffern caake," 
he amused his grandchild with a tale of his boy- 
hood, recalled by a dent in the old horn he had 
placed on the ta~ble. 



CHAPTER V 
THE OTTER Continued 

THE EARTHSTOPPER'S VIGIL 

THE sun had gone down over the cairn and night 
had drawn its curtain across the lingering afterglow, 
when the Earthstopper, with a lantern in each hand 
and the hunting-horn in his pocket, set out for his 
ambush in the bottoms. 

He did not pass through the village, but reached 
the park by an unfrequented path, and was soon 
threading his way amongst the trees in front of the 
Castle. The stars were out, and the moon, now at 
its full, was climbing the cloudless vault and silver- 
ing the countryside with its rays. 

" Grand night, couldn't be better : wonder ef he's 
on hes way up," said Andrew to himself as he 
reached the furze-bush on the bank of the stream, 
which he had chosen as a hiding-place. After con- 
cealing the lanterns in a bed of nettles and looking 



48 



THE EARTHSTOPPER ENSCONCED 49 

round to see that he was not observed, he forced 
his way into the prickly bush and lay down at full 
length. He was not quite hidden, though he 
thought he was, as his bright hob-nailed soles pro- 
jected a little, and nearly touched the edge of a foot- 
bridge leading to a farmhouse whose gable showed 
against the sky. To have a clear view of the 
ground, with his clasp knife he cut two peepholes 
in the furze, through which he could see the rough 
track on his left and a smooth pool oh his right. 
An ivy-clad ash cast a deep shadow on the stream 
and track, but bright belts of lighted ground lay on 
each side of it, and the pool shone like quicksilver. 
Seldom does the footfall of wayfarer disturb the 
silence of the spot at night. About ten o'clock, 
however, a country housewife, returning late from 
market, trudges past ; thoughts of cream neglected 
during her absence, or of geese not securely housed 
from the fox, hurrying her along despite the heavy 
basket she carried. Luckily for her, Andrew has 
got over a fit of sneezing, and she passes the bush 
unconscious of his presence. When her footsteps 
die away, night and its shy denizens claim the earth 
for their own. A rabbit runs along the space between 
the wheel-ruts and pauses for a moment on the 

further bright space. To the Earthstopper its ears 

G 



50 THE EARTHSTOPPEITS VIGIL 

are in a line with a big stone that holds the gate 
leading into a rough meadow bordering the stream. 
The rabbit has scarcely passed out of sight before 
a stoat follows, like a murderer on the trail of his 
victim, and is lost to view in the shadow of a hedge- 
row. Nothing escapes the vigilant eyes of the 
Earthstopper behind the furze screen, and his ears 
are strained to catch any tell-tale sound along the 
course of the stream. As yet there is no sign of the 
otter, and every minute that goes by lessens the chance 
of its appearing, for it is nearly midnight now and dawn 
is but a few hours off. Wearying a little from the 
strain of his vigil and his cramped quarters the old 
man begins to fear that the poacher may not be com- 
ing, and again it makes him as " vexed as fire " to 
remember the iris and the huge print on the silt. 

All at once he becomes alert. Nothing has 
darkened the lighted space but the tiny shadow of 
a circling bat : not a ripple has broken the silvery 
surface of the pool. What can it be that has 
wrought this sudden change ? 

The cry of a moorhen, startled from her nest 
among the sags some two furlongs down stream ; 
and if we may judge from his state of excitement, 
the Earthstopper must feel pretty confident that 
the otter is the cause. 



THE OTTER 51 

At dusk the otter had left his holt near the 
base of Cairn Dhu. Ravenous after the long day's 
fast, he hurried down the steep face of the rock, 
and reaching a ledge which the waves lashed, dived 
through the surf in quest of his prey. The sea 
teemed with fish, but a ground-swell that stirred the 
bottom and discoloured the water baffled his attempts 
to seize them. A greyhound might as well have 
hoped to catch a hare in a fog as the otter to 
capture peal in the cove or turbot on the sandy 
bottom near the" Bucks. Ever vigilant against 
such raids, the fish were only scared by the dreaded 
and indistinct form of the marauder as he glided 
past them in the clouded depths. Convinced at 
length of the hopelessness of his efforts, the otter 
landed on the Mermaid Rock to consider where he 
should go to get his supper. He is within reach 
of two streams and the lake ; and their waters are 
as clear as crystal. Lamorna stream is close at 
hand ; but the trout, owing to frequent raids on 
them since the gale, are very wary. Newlyn stream 
is some four miles away, and attracts him because 
of its larger fish ; but what appeals to him most is 
the lake with its bright Loch Levens, then in the 
pink of condition. It was several days since he 
feasted on them, for the taint of human scent on 



52 THE EARTHSTOPPER'S VIGIL 

the iris had alarmed him ; but, as he rested on the 
rock, hunger proved stronger than fear, and despite 
the distance he decided to go there, fully intending 
to be back in some coast fastness before dawn. By 
skirting the base of the cliffs, and running along 
the shore where a beach invited him, he at length 
reached the mouth of Newlyn stream. There was 
nothing to arouse his suspicions : the last loiterer 
had left the old bridge, candles were out, and the 
moonlit village lay wrapped in slumber. Passing 
under the arch, the otter stole up the coombe, 
keeping to the shadows of the bushes that fringed 
the stream. Within winding distance of the clump 
of iris he paused, but detecting no taint, passed 
between the flags, made his way up the hill, and 
dropped down to the Lareggan stream, on the 
bank of which the Earthstopper lay in ambush. 
Threading his way among the reeds at the upper 
end of the mill pool, he disturbed the moorhen, but 
heedless of her cry, crossed the stream, and pressed 
on at his best pace towards the lake. A few 
moments later for the creature's progress was 
rapid the Earthstopper, who has been shifting his 
glance from track to pool, becomes as rigid as the 
stems about him. His gaze is fixed on a shadowy 
patch, no bigger than your hand, under the lowest 



THE OTTER PASSES THE AMBUSH 53 

bar of the gate. He has not a doubt that it is the 
mask of the otter, for a minute ago that patch was 
not there. He tries to make out its long body, but 
the bars, and the shadows they cast, conceal it. 
What dread of its enemy the beast must have, to 
hesitate thus on the skirt of this rude track in the 
depth of night! It cannot be that it winds the 
Earthstopper, for the breeze that rustles the leaves 
of the ash, fans his flushed face, and stirs his bushy 
eyebrows. At length the creature comes noiselessly 
across the open space, as if making for the furze- 
bush, the moonbeams catching the glossy hair on 
its arched back, and lighting the dust it raises. 
Human eye has never seen it before, so well has it 
kept the secret of its existence. In the shadow of 
the tree it is almost lost to view, and then as it 
brushes past the furze, the Earthstopper gets a 
glimpse of its long glistening whiskers, and is sorely 
tempted to lay hold of its trailing tail. Why it did 
not wind him is, like other mysteries of scent, 
beyond the power of explanation. 

Far from being scared back as the Squire 
feared, the otter, unconscious of a lurking foe, 
pursues its way to the lake. Not for some minutes 
does the Earthstopper back out of his ambush. 
"What a beety! ef I can only keep un up, we shall 



54 THE EARTHSTOPPEITS VIGIL 

see summat to-day: ef!" says he under his quick 
breath as he brushes himself down with his hands. 
Then he lights his clay pipe and tries to calm 
himself, for he has seldom been more excited. 
Unable to stand still, he walks up and down the 
grassy bank above the footbridge, as a sailor 
paces to and fro on a jetty, only more hurriedly. 
It is nothing but his nervousness that makes him 
puff so vigorously at the 'baccy, that stops him 
every few minutes to listen. Not a mouse may 
move in the hedge or a cricket chirp in the crofts 
above without his thinking it is the otter returning, 
though the raider is at the time seeking its prey in 
the depths of the lake and spreading terror amongst 
its finny tenants. 

At length tired of his pacings, the Earthstopper 
feels that he must be doing something towards 
keeping the otter up. So he gets the two lanterns, 
stinging his fingers as he gropes for them. Notice, 
as he lights them, the change in his face since we 
saw him sitting over his tea. Had he committed 
a crime he could scarcely look more agitated. Even 
his uncertain stride as he moves along the track 
betrays his disquietude, and the blind way he 
stumbles over the wall of the croft is as unlike him 
as the smothered oath he vents on the unoffending 



THE LIGHTED LANTERNS 55 

stones. One lantern he suspends from a rude 
granite slab spanning the stream, so that it hangs 
within a few inches of the rippling water. The 
other he fastens to a branch of a blackthorn on the 
far side of the croft. This done he climbs a mound 
amidst the furze and looks towards the lake now 
barely a furlong away. The surface is like a sheet 
of silver. No glimpse of living creature does he 
get, no sound reaches his ears but the voice of the 
fall and the song of a sedge-warbler. Retracing 
his steps he takes up a position on the rugged 
slope near the corner of the park. 

It was close on two o'clock, judged by the stars, 
before he took the horn from his pocket. He might 
well have postponed blowing it a little while, but he 
could stand the strain of waiting no longer. Only by 
great self-restraint had he prevented himself from 
beginning an hour earlier ; for more than once he 
thought he heard the otter breaking back, and each 
time his trembling hand had sought the horn. It 
was a relief to him when at last he raised it to his 
lips. 

Now the Earthstopper is deep-chested and 
sound of lung, and he was so fearful that the otter 
might not hear the notes, that he blew with needless 
vigour and frequency. How groundless his fears 



56 THE EARTHSTOPPEITS VIGIL 

were! In the stillness those blasts were heard for 
miles. So near did they seem to old Jenny at the 
park gates that she thought they came from the 
plantation behind the lodge. The Earthstopper 
had not handled a hunting-horn since his boyhood, 
much less blown one in the dead of night ; and it 
never entered his head that his noisy proceed- 
ings could alarm the countryside and lead to a 
breach of the peace between his harmless neigh- 
bours. But so it was. Presently he heard the 
door of the farmhouse violently slammed. " Hullo, 
T'wheela's movin' early thes mornin'." Certainly, 
unless the farmer suspected that a poaching hedge- 
hog was the cause of the falling off in the cow's 
milk, it was early for him to be moving. 

Old Jenny and farmer Trewheela, however, are 
by no means the only persons in the parish roused 
by the untimely music, which had made the Squire's 
hunters prick their ears and set all the cocks a-crow- 
ing. " Maddern " Churchtown is less than a mile 
away as sound travels, the wind was not unfavour- 
able, and the notes of the horn were so penetrating 
that the Earthstopper might nearly as well have 
been serenading the villagers from the heaping 
stock of the "One and All." Little wonder that 
the heavy sleepers were turning under their blankets 



THE VILLAGERS AND THE CONSTABLE 57 

before he had been blowing many minutes, and that 
the old men were lifting their stiff limbs out of bed 
and opening their windows. 

"What be et, Jim?" said the parish clerk, 
whose white-nightcapped head was set in a frame- 
work of thatch, to a silver-haired veteran across the 
narrow street. 

" Caan't saay, I'm sure. Ef et happened when I 
wore a boay I should ha' ben afeerd that Boney 
had landed." 

Toot, toot, toot. " He's goin' for'n braave an' 
no mistake. Wonder who eh es ? " 

Toot, toot, toot. 

By this time heads were sticking out of all the 
upper windows save one behind which a poor woman 
lay sick. 

In the street below, Trudger, the constable, 
whom the first blast of the horn had stricken with 
the trembles, was now parading as if the incessant 
tooting were as ordinary an occurrence as the mid- 
night chiming of the village clock. 

" Well, doan't ee hear nawthin' ? " said the parish 
clerk, taking upon himself, in the absence of the 
parson, the duty of spokesman. Toot, toot. " Iss, 
iss, I hear un right enuf. 'Tes no business o' 
mine, 'tes outside my beat." Toot, toot, toot. " Tes 

H 



58 THE EARTIISTOPPER'S VIGIL 

in the corner o' the park, I tell ee, down below the 
bastion. I'm sartin on et." 

" No tedn, 'tes over in Paul parish." 

" Ain't afeerd of the auld Squire and his hounds, 
are ee ? " said a woman with a shrill voice. "I'll 
come wy ee ef thee art." 

At length the constable, stung by many taunts, 
was driven out by the force of upstairs opinion, and 
set off at the rate of about two miles an hour, to 
show that he was not to be hurried. 

Thus it chanced that the farmer and the con- 
stable, attracted by the same cause, but impelled by 
different motives, were approaching the Earthstopper 
from opposite directions. Trewheela's naturally 
high temper was not sweetened by his sudden 
awakening out of a dream in which he found him- 
self selling basket after basket of butter at half-a- 
crown a pound, and the way he strode across his 
bridge augured badly for the disturber of the peace 
if the farmer could set hands on him. 

Hearing him coming, the Earthstopper, on 
whom the truth slowly broke, blew a stirring blast 
for was there not the otter to be kept up ? and 
hid himself where, without being seen himself, he 
could see what should happen. In a very few 
minutes Trewheela was standing on the very spot 



THE FARMER AND THE CONSTABLE 59 

from which the tooting had seemed to come, and a 
casual observer might have thought from the eager 
way he looked here, there, and everywhere, that he 
was mightily taken by the landscape. The scene 
was indeed very beautiful, and chastened as it was 
by the silvering rays it would have calmed many a 
savage breast. It worked no soothing effect on the 
farmer, whose anger at not finding the offender 
became unbounded. He regretted that he had not 
brought his sheep-dog as well as a horse-whip. In 
all the impotence of baffled rage he stood still under 
the shadow of a tree, but to his great relief soon 
heard someone stealing along the other side of the 
thick-set hedge which separated him from the park. 
"Ah, the'rt theere, arta, Maister Boogler? Out of 
breeth with blawin', are ee ? Thee'll be singin' a 
defrant toon in a minit, I reckon," he whispered to 
himself with malicious delight as his hand tightened 
on the handle of the whip. Within a few yards of 
where he had been standing was a narrow gap ; and 
the farmer, who was moving as stealthily as his 
unlaced boots would permit, at the same pace as the 
constable, in making for the gap nearly trod on 
Andrew's head. We will not, however, dwell on the 
feelings of the latter, for the constable, undignified as 
is the way he is being stalked, claims our attention. 



60 THE EARTHSTOPPEfTS VIGIL 

He has had a terrible time since leaving the 
village. Half-way down the long avenue he heard, 
or thought he heard, a light footfall as of one pur- 
suing him. The more he hurried his steps, the more 
distinctly he heard it, and the closer it seemed to 
be. Near the haunted terrace, just past the marble 
statue, the thing, whatever it was, was all but on 
him, and he felt inclined to scream. There was 
another way out of the difficulty, and this he 
took. As fast as "regulation" boots could carry 
him, athwart the great park he fled to the one 
outlet he knew of except the road he came by. 
Breathless with his efforts he is following the hedge 
to find the gap. The farmer is already crouching 
there. 

On the scuffle that followed there is no need to 
dwell. Little is known of it, as the combatants have 
never opened their mouths on the subject, and 
Andrew confesses to being so overcome that tears 
filled his eyes and prevented him from seeing through 
the hedge which of the two was oftenest uppermost. 
The combat was too furious to last long, and the 
opponents rose to their feet after a short time ; but 
not before the farmer, who had by this worked off 
some of the rage that blinded him, had caught the 
glint of the constable's buttons. 



VISIONS OF BODM1N GAOL 61 

" What ded ee haave to me with that there whip 
for ? " said the constable gasping for breath. 

"I'll tell ee what for. Dust a think I be goin' 
to have me skull scat abroad wi' that theere troon- 
shun of yourn ? " 

" I must do me dooty, an' I shud like to knaw 
what you'm a' doin' hereabouts disturbin' the paace 
of the parish." 

" What do ee maan ? I heerd a most ghastly 
noise down in the bottoms, an I've coomed out in 
the middel of the night to see what et es. The 
scoundrel what maade that unearthly row ought to 
be thrashed, an' I took thee for un. What was ee 
a doin' crawlin' like a rabbot down the hedge like 
this here" he imitated the movement of the con- 
stable " ef thee's nawthin' to do with et ? " 

Despite his attempt to put the constable in the 
wrong there was a distinct change in the tone of his 
voice ; for visions of Bodmin gaol floated before his 
eyes. Fortunately both saw that the least said 
would be the soonest mended ; and after all, as the 
farmer would be able to recover his boots at day- 
break, the only damage done was to the constable's 
helmet. 

"Well, look here," said the farmer, "summons 
me ef thee's got a mind to, but thee'll be the laafin' 



62 THE EARTHSTOITER'S VIGIL 

stock of the court. Semmen to me, we've made 
fools won of t'other ; but what I do waant to knaw 
es, who the devil have been too tooting ef et edden 
thee ? Who es eh ? and wheere be un gone to ? " 

" Dedn thee saa no wan ? " 

"No wan but thee." 

"Well, I've had my own mispicions about who 
eh es from the furst." 

" Who do ee maan ? " 

" Don't et strike ee who eh might be ? " said the 
constable in a chilling whisper. 

"No," was the whispered reply, after a pause. 

" Who do ee maan ? " 

" Ded ee ever hear tell ef the auld Squire blawed 
the horn ? " 

" Man alive, I niver thought o' thet. Moast 
likely you'm right. Moore nor wance my auld 
woman has wok' me up in the dead of night to listen 
to cry o' hounds. Passel o' nonsonce, I'd say, but 
'pend upon et her heerd summat." 

" Good Lor ' ! wha what's thet glidin' along by 
they theere trees ? " 

"Wheere? wheere? Lor' a mercy. I'm turned 
cold as a quilkan a' moast. Feel my hand." 

The Earthstopper was biting a bit of furze to 
prevent himself from exploding with laughter, and 



IN FULL FLIGHT 63 

fearing he could control himself no longer he re- 
solved to give them- a toot on the horn and to trust 
to their state of perturbation for a satisfactory 
issue. 

At a distance of fifteen paces he blew such a blast 
as otter or hound has seldom heard. 

For a moment farmer and constable were rooted 
to the spot, then together they took the gap, but 
that being small for two big men, they struggled as 
violently to get clear of one another as a few minutes 
before they had struggled to come to close quarters. 
Though convulsed where he lay, the Earthstopper 
heard the farmer banging at his door, for his wife 
had locked him out for her own safety. 

A crash of glass which followed drowned the gasps 
of the constable as he bounded along Boscathna 
Lane, scaring the villagers who had come out to see 
the fun. 

" Well, ef that doan't keep the otter up," said 
Andrew, " nawthin' will"; and gathering up the 
lanterns and putting the horn in his pocket, he re- 
turned home the way he came. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE OTTER Continued 

THE OTTER AT THE LAKE 

THE otter had just landed on the island to eat his 
last trout before returning to the cliffs, when the 
first blast of the horn fell on his ears. Instantly 
the fish dropped from his jaws as though it seared 
them. It is true that he had heard that penetrating 
note a few months before when the foxhounds were 
drawing the cliffs, and, indeed, a far more hideous 
noise from the siren of a steamer whose hull, during 
a fog, loomed vaguely within sight as he peeped 
through a crevice of his holt ; but at these times the 
ocean lay only four or five fathoms below him, and, 
conscious of his safety, he had curled himself up 
again and stopped his small ears with his paws. 
Far different are his feelings as he crouches under 
the pampas grass, peering across the lake in the 
direction of the Earthstopper. He is quite sure 



THE OTTER RETREATS 65 

that his enemy knows at last of his existence and of 
his present whereabouts, and that the tooting is 
meant to alarm him and cut off his retreat to the 
sea. Unnerving though the noise is, he decides at 
once what to do. No thought of seeking shelter 
near the lake hampers his resolve to break through 
to the cliffs. His powers of stealth and phantom- 
like movements are all in his favour, and surely 
he will succeed in his purpose. Noiselessly he 
dives, silently he leaves the water, and steals over 
the bank to the dark channel below the moon- 
lit fall, with lithest movements he slips over the 
shallows into the pools, his long supple body twist- 
ing and turning with the sudden bends of the narrow 
stream. In his great hurry he is nearly on the 
light ere he can check himself, for the lantern hung 
below a sharp angle and a flowering fern hid its rays. 
Quick as lightning, he whips round again, be- 
traying his alarm by breaking the water. Leaving 
the stream some thirty yards above he makes his 
way aslant the furzy croft to outflank the flickering 
flame, but oh, horror! again a terrifying light is 
there behind a thick bush awaiting him. He re- 
treats in earnest this time. Ignominious conduct, 
it cannot be gainsaid, for a creature with the jaws 
of a bull-dog, for a creature heedless of the fiercest 



66 THE OTTER AT THE LAKE 

lightnings or of the phosphorescent glow of the 
waves, and tolerant of the glare of the midsummer 
sun when basking on the rocks at the foot of the 
towering cliffs. He is not, however, at the end of 
his resources. Stay at the lake he will not, and why 
should he ? There are other avenues of escape. In 
the next valley there is a stone drain, very safe, 
though close to a lonely homestead, and he may 
possibly reach it before dawn. He knows too well 
that there is no time to lose, so leaving the lake he 
hurries up the hill and gains the crest of the cairn 
without mishap. Now why, when every moment 
is precious, does he dwell in that clump of bracken 
near the Giant's Cradle ? and at what object can he 
be peering so intently through the fronds ? Does a 
lantern's light confront him ? or is it, perhaps, the 
flame of a candle shining from the keeper's window 
in the clearing amidst the pines ? 

It is no paltry glimmer behind a pane of glass, 
that holds him there. Afar off, in the cleft between 
two dark hills, lines of vermilion streak the amber 
East. 

Full well the otter knows these harbingers of 
the sun that will expose him to the eye of man, 
whose voice he dreads, whose footfall he shrinks 
from, whose smell taints the air and chills the blood. 



DAWN 67 

He turns his lissom head and looks back at the 
valley of terror. The deep-cut bottom lies in gloom. 
Banks, creeks, island and marsh invite him to their 
dusky shelter. He can discern tree, bush, reed-bed 
and the sinuous outline of the placid lake, as he 
shifts his gaze from blot to blot of darkest umbrage. 
Differences of shade there are, but not a vestige of 
colour, save on the dome of a giant pine, the hue of 
which awakes as he gazes. Instantly the faint 
green flush catches his eye, and to the East he turns 
his mask again : " umph ! " the rim of the sun shows 
in the trough of the hills : it is day. Even then he 
dreads to return to the lake ; after all it is early for 
man to be stirring and he may reach the drain un- 
seen. Skirting the plantation he slinks along lanes 
in the boulder-strewn gorse, gains the edge of the 
waste land, and looks over. A cow is grazing in the 
rough pasture that runs up to it. He can smell her 
sweet breath, but he does not fear her. He is about 
to jump from the wall down on the grass and creep 
along a ditch leading to the drain. "Shepboay." 
It is the shout of the crofter he hears, and then the 
dog comes through the open gate and runs up the hill 
towards the spot where he is crouching. The cow 
takes little notice of the noisy lurcher, but the otter 
steals back along his own tracks towards the cairn. 



68 THE OTTER AT THE LAKE 

The garish hues of furze bloom, lichen and pine 
stem, the dewdrops that jewel every blade, disconcert 
the belated wildling of the night, as with reluctant 
steps he steals towards the lake whose shelter 
instinct has warned him to shun. It is true that 
he knows its wild surroundings well, its hollow 
banks, its reedy hovers ; and this knowledge brings 
him such solace as familiar fastnesses bring an 
outlaw expecting hue and cry after him. How he 
wishes, as he decides where to lie up, that the valley 
contained one impregnable stronghold, a network 
of forgotten drains, a clitter of rocks, a labyrinth of 
half-flooded mine-workings. He has reached the 
foot of the hill, and is stealing like a shadow down 
the strand of a little bay athwart which lies a fallen 
tree. Look ! he is scrambling over the trunk : now 
he has dived. You will not see him again, watch 
you ever so intently. Without once coming up to 
vent he has crossed the lake some sixty yards in width 
and entered, by a submerged hole in the trunk, the 
hollow willow on the bank opposite. It is night 
in there save for the ray which shoots through a 
crevice of his sanctuary, and glows and fades at the 
will of the trembling leaves outside. The valley is 
awakening. The sunbeams that slant over the 
lichened cairn now bright as with outcropping gold, 



JOYOUS DAY 69 

bathe stem, leaf and petal, and dance on the rippled 
surface of the lake. Hushed, indeed, are the weird 
voices of night ; but from spinney and brake come 
the songs of finch and warbler, moor-hens call 
amongst the reeds, doves coo in the pines, and a 
robin sings on a branch of the willow. Even the 
midges, inspired by the joy that moves all creatures 
at the return of brightsome day, have resumed 
their gambols around the gladdening ray up in the 
turret of the otter's lair. Why, look ! the old vixen, 
who had been puzzled at the midnight tooting, lies 
blinking at the mouth of her earth under the gnarled 
pine on the sunny slope above ; but fear possesses 
the otter as it never did before. Five years ago 
he was a cub then the footfall of a coastguard on 
the cliff above awoke in him the sense of fear, and 
from that night he had never been able to throw off 
the dread of man that haunted him, that made him 
steal abroad at dusk and lie hidden by day. Yet 
man had never injured him it was in a life-and- 
death struggle with a huge conger that he lost his 
claw as far as he knew, man had never seen him. 
But fear was his heritage as it was the price of his 
freedom. As he lies curled up against the sloping 
trunk of the willow he gets a glimmering of what 
had been a mystery to him how it was that some 



70 THE OTTER AT THE LAKE 

of his tribe had disappeared from their haunts, and 
why he had failed to find the skittish little otter 
with whom he had mated, though he had sought 
her everywhere around the coast and along the 
streams. A vague apprehension of impending 
danger kept him awake, and before the sun was 
high in the heaven he knew all. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE OTTER Continued 

THE HUNT 

THE Earthstopper, having snatched a little sleep 
in his arm-chair, has returned to the lake to await 
the hounds. There he is, sitting on the fallen tree 
over which the otter passed three hours ago. Its 
footprints are marked on the sand between the 
lines of drift that tell of dwindling springs on 
the moorland, and of the winds that ruffled the 
sinking lake. In shape, the three acres of water 
resemble the shadow of a hand with outstretched 
fingers. The rhododendrons cover the triangle of 
ground between the narrow channel of the inflow 
and the creek next it ; the fingers of stagnant water 
are fringed with reeds. The old man is wondering 
where the otter, if it has not returned to the cliffs, 
may be lying up. His eyes wander to the likely 



72 THE HUNT 

places ; to the island, to the hollow banks, to the 
clump of bushes, to the reed-bed over which a mist 
hangs, half veiling the blush of morning on the 
stems of the pines beyond. He does not waste a 
glance on the bare bank opposite, or its solitary 
willow whose tender green foliage stands out 
against the sombre hillside. Turning his head he 
sees the hounds coming down the hill below the 
cairn. They are not very wide of the line taken 
by the otter at dawn. Only a small field is out. 
With Sir Bevil, who carries the horn, are the 
parson, the doctor, and half a dozen others, keen 
sportsmen all of them. Following in their wake 
are old Sir Lopes and Nute the huntsman. Let 
me introduce the pack to you. Those rough-haired 
hounds are Taffy and Gellert ; the foxhounds are 
Troubadour, Merlin, Cunoval, Vivien, Dawnsman, 
Padzepaw, Sweetlips, Jollyboy, Bucca, and Doz- 
mary. Better hounds never drew for an otter ; but 
the terriers are the wonder of this little pack. The 
one running alongside Dozmary is Vixen, who 
never finds a drain too long or too wet. What 
battles she has fought underground, her scarred 
head testifies. Then there is Venom. She is in 
her usual place at Sir Bevil's heels. A treasure 
she is, for she can dive and enter the submerged 



DRAWING THE LAKE 73 

mouth of a drain, and many an otter has she thus 
dislodged from its holt. 

"Well, Andrew," said Sir Bevil, "did the otter 
come up ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Did you manage to keep him up ? " This with 
a smile, for he too had heard the midnight tooting. 
" I hope so, but there's no knowin', he's bin 
heere," said he, pointing to the tracks on the 
sand. 

At that moment Jollyboy hits the line of the 
otter, throws his tongue and, jumping the fallen 
tree, takes to the water. The rest of the pack 
follows, Sir Bevil cheering them on. Swimming 
close to the bank, they make for the head of the 
lake, the valley resounding with their music as they 
pick up the scent left by the otter in his night's 
fishing. They are a pretty sight as they skirt the 
wall of pale green reeds fringing the nearest creek 
and leave the water to enter the yielding cover. 
Evidently the varmint has not been there, for 
excepting the sing-song voices of the Welsh hounds, 
the pack is silent. Leaving the reed-bed they 
cross the furthest creek and are lost to sight under 
the dense rhododendron bushes. From there the 

few otters found at the lake have been "put down," 

K 



74 THE HUNT 

and the field is on the tiptoe of expectation. But 
expectations are seldom realised in otter-hunting. 
Not a sound comes from the dark green thicket 
except the cheery voice of Sir Bevil, for even Taffy 
and Gelert throw their babbling tongues no longer. 
Andrew's heart sinks within him as the hounds 
issue from the tenantless bushes and make across 
the inflow towards the opposite strand. But why 
dwell on his disappointment, 'now that the united 
pack for Troubadour and Jollyboy have swum 
over from the island and joined the others are 
only a good stone's throw from the willow ? To all 
appearance, they might nearly as well expect to 
find an otter on an open beach. True, there are a 
few bits of hollow bank, but the eye can safely 
pronounce them blank at a glance, and as for the 
tree, it looks as solid as an oak. "Terribly slow 
this," says one of the field to his neighbour ; may 
be it is so for him ; but it is an anxious moment for 
the listening varmint, whose forepaws, the water, 
disturbed by the approaching pack, is beginning to 
lap. He is not kept long in suspense. Dawns- 
man's bell-like note proclaims the find, and the next 
moment the frantic pack is baying round the willow. 
Unable to get at the quarry, the hounds swarm 
round the half-submerged trunk, pawing the bark in 



THE FIND 75 

their helplessness ; but the otter does not budge. It 
is not fear that holds him there. He is bristling with 
rage and ready to do battle for his life, but only by 
compulsion will he leave his sanctuary. Not one 
of the field is up to thunder at his walls with an 
otter-pole ; but Venom, ever at hand, dives and at 
last finds the entrance, more than a foot below the 
surface. The otter sees the head of the terrier as 
it fills the hole, sees it rising through the dark 
water. " Yap, yap," followed by a short, sharp 
scuffle ; and the next moment the parson, who has 
hurried to the spot, views the chain of bubbles 
which betrays the escape of the game. A loud hew- 
gaze what lungs the parson must have ! sends a 
thrill through the field, who have already posted 
themselves at different points around the lake. Not 
an eye is turned on the hounds, now following the 
game, not an ear heeds their music ; no, every 
one, even old Nute himself, who loves the hounds 
and has come out to see them work, is watching 
the rippled surface ahead to get a view of the wily 
varmint when he vents. As if disdaining the 
shelter of the banks, the otter comes up in mid-lake 
and floats there like a log, the water flush with his 
long back and his beadlike eyes gleaming in the morn- 
ing light. " A grand beast," says the doctor with- 



76 THE HUNT 

out taking his eyes off it. Yes, he is in the full 
pride of his great strength and without the help of 
the field ; the pack, good as it is, would never tire 
him out. His back is towards the clamorous hounds, 
and surely they will seize him ; but no, just as Dawns- 
man draws near, he dives, leaving a swirl behind 
him. When he comes up again he is not thirty 
yards from the fall. It were tedious to relate every 
detail of the hunt which went on for the next four 
hours, during which the hounds, aided by the hew- 
gazes of the field, never give the quarry any rest. 
At the end of that time the otter, somewhat ex- 
hausted by repeated dives, which have been getting 
shorter and shorter, lands on the island. Little 
respite does he get, for Padzepaw and Jollyboy, find- 
ing him there, make him take to the water again, 
but at the expense of frightful wounds. Then it is 
that Andrew gets a good view of the creature as he 
seeks the shallows and swims close to the sandy 
bottom. With his forepaws lying against his body 
he is propelling himself with his hind feet. His 
movements are too. rapid for the Earthstopper to see 
this, and like a fleeting shadow the graceful creature 
is lost in the dark water. It next lands on the 
muddy margin of the near creek and rests on a 
mass of drift lying there. Old Nute is looking down 



THE OTTER DISAPPEARS 77 

at the fine beast over the reeds. The pack is nearly 
on him before he dives, but by swimming down the 
lake and doubling he succeeds in throwing off the 
hounds and gaining the shelter of the rhododendrons 
unobserved. A few minutes' breathing-space only 
does he get before Merlin, Dozmary and Vivien 
discover his whereabouts. Smarting from their 
wounds, for all three of them have been gripped by 
the otter and taken to the bottom of the lake, they 
hesitate to attack the infuriated beast as he crouches 
there, grinning and showing his blood-stained teeth. 
Not so Vixen ; the moment she arrives she flies at 
him and, the hounds closing in at the same time, a 
terrible conflict ensues. Badly mauled though he 
is, the formidable beast fights his way through his 
foes, gains the water and dives with Vixen fastened 
to him. The terrier comes up after a time, but the 
otter disappears as if by magic. Baffled of their 
quarry, the maddened hounds draw nearly every 
hover, except the insignificant one near the willow 
where the otter is resting with just his nostrils out 
of water. Old Sir Lopes sees him there ; but he 
keeps the secret, though with some misgiving, to 
himself. Forty years ago he would have shouted 
himself hoarse ; but somehow he cannot give the 
hunted beast away this morning. Knowing how it 



78 THE HUNT 

must end if he keeps to the lake, the otter resolves 
to try and steal away across country to the Newlyn 
stream. It is a desperate way out of the straits he 
is in, for it will probably mean death in the open ; 
but there is just the chance that he may reach the 
safe drain below Buryas Bridge if he can only slip 
away unnoticed. But how is this possible ? The 
space between him and the gulley that seams 
the steep rise by the ice-house is covered with 
turf that rabbits have nibbled close. Uninviting 
avenue of escape this under the very eye of the 
parson now posted near the willow, and with Merlin 
and Dawnsman swimming at last towards the spot 
where he rests, his eyes watching the hounds' white 
legs through the clouded water. Yet at this critical 
moment, when renewed hue and cry seem imminent, 
fortune favours the hunted creature. A tally-ho- 
by whom given Andrew was never able to find out 
comes distinct and thrilling from the reed-bed at the 
head of the remotest creek, and draws away most 
of the field and all the hounds. The tremor of the 
bank caused by the hurrying feet at first fills the 
otter with fresh alarm, but in the quiet that suc- 
ceeds he raises his head and listens. 

"Wind him, my boys." It is the Squire's voice 
he can hear in the distance. Thinking the moment 



ACROSS COUNTRY 79 

propitious he steals from the water, dashes across 
the sward, and presses up the gulley at the top of his 
speed. His immediate point is a hover beneath a 
big rock below Skimiel's Bridge. The stream 
swirls round it, but a dry holt within is known to 
all the wandering tribe of otters. Only by a miracle 
can the slow-footed creature cover the two miles to 
it, before he is overtaken. Look at him as he 
hurries along under the shelter of that stone wall, as 
he threads his way among the furze bushes, as he 
glides like a monster eel through the coarse grasses, 
where the dew lies heavy. You are conscious of the 
great effort he is making to save his life. That 
dark spot below the high bank is the rock he is 
making for, and it is the silver thread of the stream 
surrounding it that you see sparkling here and there 
at the foot of the rugged slope. Till now he has 
taken nearly a bee-line, but will he dare to pass 
before the door of the farmhouse he is heading for, 
where an old woman is feeding the geese and a 
black pig blocks the narrow way. Do not wonder 
that this shyest of creatures recked not of the shak- 
ing of the old woman's apron, that he paid no heed 
to the pig which ran him neck and neck for twenty 
yards before going off at a tangent. With the lake 
now more than a mile behind, a posse of constables 



80 THE HUNT 

should not make him deviate from his line. But 
hark ! Faint though the cry be, the otter hears it. 
Full well he knows that his escape has been dis- 
covered, that at every stride the hounds are gaining, 
and that there is no twist or turn on his hot trail 
to check them ; but he cannot add to his best pace. 
Look, he has left the furze and bracken that hid his 
movements and is about to enter the reedy swamp 
which separates him from the stream. On landing 
he does not, like the fox, dwell to listen. No, some 
twenty yards below the rock he dives, nor does he 
come to the surface until he has gained its shelter. 
To his dismay he finds an otter in possession, one 
with whom he has mated. The cubs, awakened out 
of their sleep, hiss at the hunted creature as his head 
shows above the gurgling water. Only for an 
instant does he stay to lick the bitch's face with his 
hot tongue, then, after swimming down stream for 
some distance he lands and, reckless for the moment 
of his own safety, runs along the open bank in full 
view of the miller from Nancothan, who has tottered 
up the valley to raise the flushet of the mill stream. 
See ! the old man is waving his white hat to attract 
the approaching hounds : he is shouting too at the 
top of his feeble voice ; but the gallant beast keeps 
to the open bank, and not until he is past the 



THE QUARRY DISTRESSED 81 

shallows where the moorland cattle stand on swelter- 
ing days does he dive, fleeing like a shadow below 
the surface, more determined than ever to gain the 
safe drain he set out to reach. On reaching the 
stream most of the hounds take to the water, and 
just as Venom is getting dangerously near the rock 
Cunoval hits the downward line. Rallying to his 
cry, the pack flash along the bank and rapidly 
lessen the distance separating them from their dis- 
tressed quarry. 

Seeing the direction they are taking, the field, by 
a short cut, come up with them by the mill, where 
they have met with a check. Across the chord of 
a bend the hounds recover the line, and taking to 
the bed of the stream pass under Nancothan Bridge. 
The otter hears them coming, but another check 
gives him a slight advantage, and surely now he will 
reach the drain. Vain hope ! Between him and his 
objective, in the narrow passage between two rocks 
that contract the stream, stands the Earthstopper. 
On finding that the otter had stolen away from the 
lake he guessed it would make for the sea, and has 
hurried across country to intercept it. Breathless 
after his long run, he has hardly taken up his position 
before he sees the otter coming towards him, break- 
ing the water in its frantic hurry. Bang up against 

L 



82 THE HUNT 

his legs it comes, and as it retreats up stream, the 
excited hounds come round the bend and swim over 
it. Nearly exhausted by its efforts, the beast takes 
shelter under a bank facing its old path to the lake, 
and when Sir Bevil has rushed past, it dives, crosses 
the stream, glides between the flags, and following 
the track it knows so well, presses up the hill as 
best it can towards the plantation where the Earth- 
stopper had found its tracks. 

" Se seen the otter, Andrew ? " gasps Sir Bevil. 
"Yes, sir, he's gone up strame, he's touchin'." 
The horn recalls the reluctant hounds, revelling 
in the scent that the stream carries down. There 
they come past the Earthstopper. See how eagerly 
they are drawing the banks, how impatient the check 
makes them. Gellert, who has the best nose of the 
pack, is getting close to the clump of iris ; the next 
moment his tell-tale tongue warns the pack that 
he has discovered the line of the quarry, and with 
triumphant clamour they breast the hillside on its 
hot trail. The game varmint has nearly gained the 
crest, but he can scarcely hope to reach the adjacent 
valley. He seems to be standing still, in comparison 
with the hounds, which, with hackles up, are now rac- 
ing for his blood. He is not half-way down the plan- 
tation when they stream over the wall that bounds 




A HAUNT OF THE OTTER. 



[Face page 82. 



A CLOSE THING 83 

it. Troubadour, ever to the fore, gets a view of 
the beaten creature struggling on ; but above the 
ominous whimpers of the pack the otter hears the 
roar of the fall, and this braces him to a final effort. 
Troubadour is all but on him as he springs from the 
high bank, and the next instant the spray flies from 
the pool as otter and hound strike the water. 

Without showing himself the hunted beast seeks 
refuge behind the roots of the big elm which, a week 
before, had attracted the eye of the Earthstopper. 
The otter is in sore plight, but little does he fear 
the infuriated pack now. They may bay outside 
his stronghold to their heart's content. But he's 
not done with yet. Venom and Vixen have just 
disappeared between the coils of the roots and are 
making for a ledge within, where the creature is 
resting and breathing heavily. Then Sir Bevil, 
the parson, the doctor, and the Earthstopper come 
rushing down between the trees. The next moment 
Andrew is lying at full length and listening. With 
his ear close to the ground, he can hear the terriers 
yapping six or eight feet below. 

"They caan't get at un, sir, " says he, rising to 
his feet after a time, his voice scarcely audible above 
the clamour of the hounds and the roar of the fall. 
" Then we'll leave him, we won't dig. He's a 



84 THE HUNT 

grand beast and deserves his life. You look dis- 
appointed, Andrew ? " 

" No, sir, should only a' liked to a' seed the 
pad of un." 

With some difficulty the hounds are called off 
and the terriers induced to come out. The otter 
lived some years after, but Andrew never spurred 
him again. 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE WHITE BADGER OF CAIRN KENIDZHEK 

THE EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT 

IT is with some misgiving that I venture to insert 
this tale, inasmuch as the telling involves mention 
of a place so weird that readers strange to the 
Land's End district may be incredulous of its 
existence. 

For to this day an evil repute clings to Cairn 
Kenidzhek amongst those best fit to judge its char- 
acter to wit, the few dwellers round the base of the 
rugged hill on which it frowns. Within half a mile 
or so of it, there are three small farmhouses, count- 
ing the one on the lower moor by the quaking bog 
where Jim Trevaskis used to live, and from the 
occupants, if you first win their confidence and are 
betrayed by no " furrin " accent, you may learn 
some of the strange occurrences that take place 
about it. 



8G THE EARTHSTOPPER IN I)OI T BT 

With bated breath they will tell you that on 
pitch-dark nights the pile of rocks is at times lit up 
with an unearthly light, and that now and then, 
especially when trouble is brooding and the death- 
watch has been ticking in the " spence," they hear, 
as they lie awake, the stony hill ring under the 
stroke of galloping hoofs. Whether these and 
other eerie happenings, around which legends have 
shaped themselves, can be explained on scientific 
grounds, matters not to them, for the Celt of the 
countryside turns a deaf ear to new-fangled notions 
and clings to the traditions of his fathers. But of 
all the haunting memories of the Cairn, that which 
inspires the greatest dread is associated with the 
disappearance of two men who were last seen toil- 
ing up the hill at the close of a wild winter's day. 
No legend is this coming down from a remote past ; 
for Dick Shellal, Trevaskis' farmhand, who could 
count up to forty with the help of his fingers, had 
heard his great-grandfather say that the mystery 
was talked about when he was a boy as if it were a 
thing of yesterday. 

On the December night when our tale opens, 
Trevaskis himself, as was his wont in stormy 
weather, bedded up the cattle early, piled the furze 
on the fire though the wind was westerly, and a 



A W1SHT NIGHT 87 

thing he would never have done by day permitted 
Shellal, who scamped the job in his hurry to get 
indoors, to put the wheel of an old donkey cart on 
the "riffled" thatch of the pig's "crow." Hours 
later, when his master had at length fallen asleep, 
and Shellal could hear him snoring through the 
"planchen," he himself lay wide awake on his straw 
pallet listening to the moaning of the wind, and, 
tempted during a temporary lull to gratify his 
curiosity and see whether anything was abroad, 
sat up in bed and peeped through the corner pane 
of the attic window. Angry clouds coursed across 
the face of the moon, and the sky was nearly as 
dark as the earth ; but whilst he looked there was a 
rift in the black veil, and against the silver disc he 
got a glimpse of the jagged crest of the Cairn. 
Lowering his gaze at the sight of it, he followed 
the vague outline of the murky cone of the hill, and 
then with the quickness of thought, buried his 
shock head under the bedclothes. Coward ! Lei 
him lie there with chattering teeth, and with knees 
doubled up to his chin. The light that scared him, 
though it is so near the edge of the bog, is no 
pixie's light, no lantern held by shadowy hands ; 
the feeble rays he saw, flicker on the path of as 
human a being as ever trod the earth. He should 



88 THE EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT 

have known who it was, for there is but one man 
whose lonesome duty could bring him there in the 
small hours of the morning, when the watch-dog 
sleeps, and the fox is tyrant of the farmyard. Yes, 
it is Andrew who threads his way in and out 
amongst the rush-clumps near the lip of the 
treacherous quagmire. But what is he doing 
there? Why has he not taken to the rising 
ground at his usual point, a furlong back, where 
the herbage is scant, and scarce hides the stony 
surface ? Surely he must have missed his way, or 
he would not be following the widely circuitous 
base to reach the fox-earth in the valley on the far 
side of the Cairn. 

It is not so. No, given to taking short cuts 
though he is, he prefers on this night to keep on 
the rim of the haunted slopes, and as near the bog 
as foothold will allow. Level-headed as he is in 
most things, the taint of superstition is in his blood 
too, and it is fear, excited by the story he heard 
two hours ago, that dictates the path he follows. 
Dropping in at the " Jolly Tinners " at Trewellard for 
a glass of beer before starting on his round, he 
found himself an involuntary listener to what he 
would rather have missed. On pushing open the 
door, he was surprised to find some half a dozen 



UNCLE ZACKEY'S YARN 89 

miners in the bar, and wondered at the cause of 
their silence. They were seated on a form in front 
of a fire, but their attention was apparently taken 
by an aged miner, for their heads were turned his 
way. Andrew, who feared there had been loss of 
life in the mine, stole into a seat opposite the old 
man, who, to his dismay, related the story of the 
two men lost upon Cairn Kenidjack, for so he called 
it. Thrilling was every word he said, even when 
dealing with the well-known facts the sighting of 
the strange sail, the landing at the Cove, the path 
taken by the men across the moor, their conversa- 
tion with the miners near the Cross, the spot near 
the Cairn where they were last seen in the gathering 
gloom, the lurid light that lit up the rocks, the 
finding of the broken claymore. But when with 
trembling voice he threw out dark hints of what 

o 

most likely befell the missing men at nightfall, a 
deathlike silence fell on his rugged listeners, and so 
unnerved was the Earthstopper that he started at 
the creaking of the signboard, and shrunk from the 
thought of the journey before him. The tale ended, 
Andrew would have called for a quart of strong ale, 
but that he was short of cash and would not ask the 
landlord to put his name on the slate, " no tick " 
being the custom in the parish of Pendeen. Yet, 

M 



90 THE EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT 

for the sake of the company and the brightness of 
the room he stayed on and, not knowing the gossip 
of the mining village, strove, but in vain, to change 
the current of his thoughts by putting questions 
about the " bal " and even about the ponies in the 
submarine level, which extends more than a mile 
under the sea. At turning-out time, he put the cat 
that had fallen asleep on his knees gently on the 
floor, and lit the lantern. Leaving the inn, he went 
up the road with one of the miners who lived on the 
edge of the moorland, and when the wind slammed 
Jan Jose's door behind him, Andrew, oppressed with 
a feeling of loneliness he seldom experienced, left 
the track and set out across the gale-swept waste 
leading to Kenidzhek, with uncle Zackey's version 
of the mystery vivid in his brain. On the way he 
stopped two fox-earths, his tramp till then being 
void of incidents, save for the startled cry of a snipe 
that sprung from his feet near the edge of a marsh, 
and the scream of an owl that glided past him 
where, to avoid some waste heaps, he swung round 
by a mine-ruin. He had not, however, proceeded 
three furlongs from the spot where Shellal saw his 
light, before he got a fright which, for an instant, 
paralysed his steps and all but took his breath away. 
" Good Lor' ! whatever es et ? " he gasped as 



THE EARTHSTOPPER GETS A FRIGHT 91 

something white crossed his path. His first thought 
was that his fate had overtaken him, and that he 
would disappear as mysteriously as the two men of 
Zackey's yarn. Recovering from the shock and 
feeling the ground still under his feet, he moved 
on, his stumbling steps betraying his agitation. 
" Couldn' be a whi a white hare ; no, no, was too 
big for that and et didn' loup along like a hare. 
Was et a livin' crittur at all ? Was et rubbish ! " 
" Pull yourself together, man," said a voice within, 
" go back and see if the thing left any track." 
Though the sweat stood in big drops on his face, 
and the gale which met him in the face impeded his 
steps, he conquered his fears so far as to go back. 
The thing had passed up the slope, he remembered, 
near the Giant's Quoit, for against that he had 
momentarily leant for support ; and there he bent 
over the ground, his face blanched, his eyes wild but 
eager as if they would devour the bare places be- 
tween the tussocks that skirted the trickling water. 
Two paces above, on the margin of a shrunken 
pool made by the runnel, and clean-cut as in plaster, 
the light of the flickering flame fell on the track of 
a badger. " Good Lor' ! " he exclaimed, as the foot- 
prints met his astonished eyes ; and then hurriedly 
retraced his steps. The farther he got from the 



92 THE EARTHSTOPPEtt IN DOUBT 

spot, the more strongly reason asserted itself over 
superstition. He argued thus v/ith himself: 
"White, wadna? sartinly : the track of a badger, 
wadna ? I should say so " This with the trace of 
smile, for he had never seen more clearly-cut foot- 
prints. "Have I seen a white badger, I wonder? 
Auld Dick wance said as much and was laafed at 
for the rest of his days. No, et caan't be, and yit 
'tes hard to believe et edden. Sperrits doan't maake 
badger-prints in the mud. How many glasses o' 
beer did ee have at the ' Tinners ' ? Only wan, worse 
luck ? Es et saafe to tell the Squire ? The Caastle 
waan't hould un, he'll be in such a pore." It must 
be explained that Sir Bevil took the keenest pleasure 
in collecting curious specimens of the fauna of the 
district. In the entrance hall at the Castle were a 
cream-coloured otter, a grey fox, and a yellow seal, 
but as yet there was only a grey badger in a case 
below three pied Cornish choughs. And here let 
me mention an incident which bears on the story, 
inasmuch as it serves to explain the Earths topper's 
caution and hesitancy, despite his intense eagerness 
to report what he has seen. Some four months 
after the capture of the otter, he was standing under 
the Cairn near the Castle, at the edge of the brake 
which hounds were drawing, his eyes strained to 



THE SNOW-WHITE CREATURE 93 

catch a view of a fox. A slight rustle in the furze, 
and a brisk waving of Cunoval's stern, had attracted 
his attention, or the animal he got a glimpse of 
might have escaped his notice. As it was, he saw 
only the body and tail of the creature as it flashed 
across a narrow opening between the bushes, but 
whatever it was, its coat and brush were as white 
as snow. Great was his excitement, but greater 
far was his chagrin, on looking over his shoulder as 
he ran in the direction of Sir Bevil, to see the snow- 
white creature climbing the stem of a fir that rose 
out of the brake. Of course, had he known that 
the Squire had brought home a big Persian cat 
on his return from Plymouth the week before, he 
could not have fallen into such an error as to believe 
that he had seen a white fox ; cats, foreign or in- 
digenous, being, unless their ears are cropped close, 
such inveterate poachers. 

This experience and his narrow escape from 
making a fool of himself dwelt with the Earth- 
stopper, and occurred to him more than once before 
he had completed his round. His work done, he 
has plenty of time to reconsider the evidence in cold 
reason now that the powers of darkness have crept 
back to their lairs. He is sitting in the lewth with 
his back against one of the boulders of a stone 



94 THE EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT 

circle, set like a coronet on the brow of a hill com- 
manding the steep slope over against him, down 
which the hounds will come on their way to the 
meet. 

The sun that reddens the East has lifted the 
veil of night from the valley, revealing the smoke 
rising from a few chimneys where white-washed 
homesteads dot the countryside. Some cows, 
released from milking, are waiting for a boy to open 
the gate of a meadow ; a flock of geese is making 
its way to a pool in the bottoms. The Earthstopper 
takes no notice of them, of the cosy rickyard, of 
the grim cairn beyond, or of the distant bay for all 
its roseate hue and lovely setting. His thoughts 
are centred on the ghostly thing that crossed his 
path, and as he cannot but believe, left a badger's 
footprints on the edge of the runnel. In all his 
wanderings he has never met with anything to 
excite his interest and imagination so much, or to 
cause him such anxiety. He feels that he ought to 
tell the Squire, but by doing so he runs the risk of 
incurring the ridicule that had fallen on Dick Hal. 
He has every confidence in Sir Bevil's discretion, 
but he knows that somehow, secrets leak out of 
Castles as freely as they do out of cottages. How 
unfortunate it was that owing to the wildness of 



THE SQUIRE MUST BE TOLD 95 

the night Vennie had to be left to keep his grand- 
child company ! The dog would have flown at the 
thing if it were a living creature, and that would 
have dispelled the slight misgiving he feels that the 
prints might have been those of a grey badger 
which had passed up the hill earlier. But in that 
case what could he have seen ? A witch ? or the lost 
soul that is said to wander there ? No, no, the sun 
is too high in the heavens for him to heed old men's 
tales. His mind is made up, he will risk everything 
and tell the Squire before the day is out, and the 
sooner the better for he will know no peace until 
his secret is shared. His decision made, he knocks 
the ashes from the pipe he has been smoking and, 
choosing a sheltered spot, lies down on the dry fern, 
and with a mossy stone for his pillow soon falls 
asleep, for he is tired after his long round and the 
buffeting of the wind. A couple of hours later he 
awakes with a start. Has he overslept himself? 
He looks at the sun. It is not mid-day, but still 
the hounds may have passed ; Troubadour may 
have found him in the hollow where he lay, may 
have licked his face and gone on, without his being 
any the wiser. He scans the hills around, but can 
see no horsemen silhouetted against the sky ; the 
few cattle in the valley are grazing undisturbed ; he 



96 THE EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT 

listens but he can hear no tell-tale sound, no toot of 
horn, no bark of farm-dog, only the voice of the 
dying gale, the faint rustle of dried bents, and the 
whistle of the golden plover. He runs to a gap he 
knows of at the far end of the croft, but finds in the 
mud there no track of horse or hound, and then, on 
looking across the valley, he sees the hounds coming 
down the steep lane where it skirts a stunted planta- 
tion, the space between the huntsman and the 
whippers-in flecked with the white markings of the 
pack. The meet is at a small village which he can- 
not see from his station, but he waits where he is, 
knowing that the cover below him is the first to be 
drawn. And now he begins to think of his report 
and to turn it over on his tongue. It runs. smoothly 
enough until he comes to "white badger!" It is 
not the word white or the word badger that scares 
him, but the two together. "White mouse, white 
rat, white ferret, white cat, white otter, white 
elephant, whi white badger." Yes, white goes 
naturally enough with all but badger. Dare he 
tell the Squire after all ? He becomes irresolute. 
He walks to and fro across the heathery space 
enclosed by the stones, and finally moves half-way 
down the hill and takes his stand behind a big 
boulder. Hardly has he gained it when a whipper- 



1VHTHKK HESITATION 97 

in gallops past him to take up a position on the far 
side of the stone circle ; then Sir Bevil comes up 
the croft on the grey mare, and from his favourite 
spot, which is some twenty yards away from where 
Andrew is, watches the working of the hounds. 
Seeing after a time that a find is unlikely, Andrew 
half resolves to go, there and then, and unburden 
his mind. Twice he left the shelter of the rock and 
as often retreated, but not before Sir Bevil had 
remarked his hesitating behaviour. A third time 
he ventured a little further, and then, if he were 
about to retire again, the Squire's voice checked 
him. 

" Do you wish to speak to me, Andrew ? " 

" Yes, sir, I do and I 'doan't." 

" No one trapping foxes, I hope ? " 

" No, sir, leastwise, not this side the country," 
said Andrew, walking up to him. 

"You've bad news of some sort, I fear." 

" No tedn that nither, sir. Et's like thes I 
was coming down-along round the foot of the 
Hootin' Cairn, soon after midnight, when summat 
white crossed the ground afore me." 

" What was it ? " said Sir Bevil with a smile, the 
eeriness of the place and the superstitious fear of 
the Earthstopper occurring to him. 



98 THE EARTHSTOPPER IN DOUBT 

" Thet's just the point, sir." 

" Was it twenty paces ahead of you ? " 

" Lor' bless your life, sir, 'twas touchin', under 
my feet, so to spaake. 'Twas a darkish night, 
for all the moon was nearly full, but the thing 
showed up as white as a ghost, and the sight of un 
gov me a bra' turn, the more so being where I 
were." 

"Is that all you have to say ? I see the hounds 
are moving off." 

" Only thes, sir ; on second thoughts, I went 
back all of a quaake to see ef the thing left any 
track." 

" Well, did you find any ? " said Sir Bevil, rather 
excitedly ; till then he had not seen what the 
Earthstopper had been driving at. 

" Iss, sir." 

"What was it, my man, what was it?" 

"The track of a badger of a heavy badger, 
the prent was that deep." 

" You believe then, Andrew, that you have seen 
a white badger, a white badger," said the Squire, 
repeating the words deliberately and emphatically, 
as was his wont on the bench at crucial points of a 
witness's evidence, and looking the while straight 
into the Earthstopper's unflinching eyes. 



THE APPOINTMENT 99 

" Iss, sir, I do ; but aifter thet I wouldn't care to 
tell anyone savin' yoursel'." 

" Be at the Castle at nine o'clock to-morrow 
morning," said Sir Bevil, somewhat peremptorily, 
and then galloped off after the hounds, leaving 
Andrew staring open-mouthed after him. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE WHITE BADGER OF CAIRX KENIDZHEK 
Continued 

THE EARTHSTOPPER ANGRY 

MOST of Andrew's deep thinking was done in the 
wooden arm-chair by his own fireside. There he is 
seated, the evening after his interview with Sir 
Bevil by the cover, considering the plan of cam- 
paign against the badger. The only sound in the 
room is the click of his grandchild's knitting-needles. 
Vennie lies curled up on the floor at his feet. The 
light of the lamp falls on the Earthstopper's face, 
and betrays its absent expression. He is wander- 
ing in thought over the moors and hills around 
Kenidzhek, and wondering which of the many 
earths he knows of, is the white badger's. By 
careful examination, he will find sooner or later a 
few white bristles on the walls of one of them, 
which will give him the necessary clue. Should 



100 



DOUBTED BY HIS OWN 101 

this plan fail, he will propose watching the earths, 
and will request the Squire to let him do so alone, 
lest the secret should leak out. Harrowing will his 
vigils be in that weird district ; but his fear of ridicule 
is greater than his fear of ghosts, and he would rather 
have his grey hairs blanched with fright than become 
the laughing-stock of the countryside. 

" I hope thee'st nawthin' troublin' ee, granfer?" 
said the girl, who had been casting anxious glances 
from time to time at the old man. 

" No, no, my dear, only I dropped across a 
badger laast night, and I've bin thinkin' how I 
might come by hes eearth : I'm to see the Squire 
about et furst thing in the mornin'." 

" But badgers are plenty enuf, granfer, I daresay 
Vennie could find wan in a few minits ef you were 
to turn her out on the moor.' 

" Iss, iss, my dear, grey badgers es plenty enuf 
as you say, too plenty for me, the varmints ; but 
'twas a white wan I seed." 

'' A w r hite wan, granfer?" 

" Iss, a white wan ; surely thee dosn't misdoubt 
me, Ravena ? " 

"No, no, granfer dear, I make no doubt thee 
didst see wan, and I do wish thee luck in catchen 
of un. You'll dig it out, I s'pose ? " 



102 THE EARTHSTOPPER ANGRY 

" Iss, iss, the Squire says theere's only wan way 
of taakin' a badger by fair play, and thet's by diggin' 
un out." 

" Then you must find where et's earth es, and 
that may take a bra' passel of time." 

" Ezackly so, the Squire may fret and fume, 
but theere, nawthin' can be done till we knaw wheere 
et es. Now, my dear, let us be off upstairs for I'm 
tired." 

After kissing the child, he went to bed and 
slept soundly. He was early astir, lit the fire, 
as he always did when at home, and, whilst the 
kettle was boiling, fetched a pitcher of water from 
the spring, and some sods from the little turf- 
rick, for the day's use. After breakfast he set out 
to lay his plans before the Squire. He had no 
doubt that they would be accepted, for he could see 
no alternative, and in matters of this kind the 
Squire had generally fallen in with his views. His 
surprise then at the sight that met his eyes as he 
entered the yard of the Castle may be imagined. 
The head keeper was seated in a wagonette in 
charge of three terriers ; opposite him was a farm- 
hand with a collection of picks and spades ; whilst 
the coachman, holding the reins in one hand, was 
putting a sack in the boot with the other. "Well, 



THE EARTHSTOPPER MAZED 103 

well," he muttered as he stood near the big gates 
like one frozen to the cobbles, "what in the world es 
the maanin' of thes ? " Impulsive he knew the 
Squire to be ; but was there ever, thought he, such 
folly as all this preparation for digging out a badger 
without first knowing where it was ? Granting he 
had seen a white badger, its holt might be almost 
anywhere within four miles of the Giant's Quoit 
where he had found the footprints, and inside that 
radius he knew of at least two score of earths : 
and was it possible that the Squire could have 
said anything about the badger ? These thoughts 
passed through the Earthstopper's mind as he stood 
there resting on his blackthorn like one "mazed," 
whilst the men in the trap exchanged winks, and 
wondered what ailed him. There was one thing 
he could do, and would do, no matter what the 
consequences : that was to see the Squire, and point 
out the absurdity of going on such an expedition. 

" Anythin' amiss wi' ee, An'rew ? arn't ee going 
to jump up ? et's a quarter to nine and we've bin 
ready since half-past eight." 

Without replying to the keeper, he inquired 
rather sharply, " Wheere's the Squire?" 

" He's gone along these two hours and eh left 
word as you was to follow on." 



104 THE EARTHSTOPPEB ANGRY 

This made the blood mount to his cheek ; and for 
a moment he thought of going back home and hav- 
ing nothing to do with the business. But master- 
ing this impulse he walked up to the trap without a 
word his lips were too tightly compressed to say 
anything and took his seat by the side of the 
coachman. In a short time the wagonette was 
rattling along a country lane leading to the St Just 
turnpike road. 

" Wheere are ee drivin' to, coachman ? " said 
Andrew, by way of a feeler when he had found his 



tongue. 



" My horders is to drive to William Trevaskis' 
farm as lies under the 'Ooting Cairn." 

" What's up to taake the Squire out so eearly ? " 

"Hi don't know that I can tell ee, but be care- 
ful 'ow you speaks to 'im ; ee's that hexcited, you'd 
think he'd lost the blackbird with a white topknot." 

Andrew, who from the moment he had entered 
the stable-yard had been under the impression that 
everyone at the Castle must have heard about the 
white badger, would have been hopeful now that 
such was not the case, were it not for an otherwise 
unaccountable grin that puckered the coachman's 
cheek and the singularly jaunty way in which he 
handled the whip. However, he kept his misgiv- 



KKNIDZHEK IN SIGHT 105 

ings to himself, and whilst seemingly engaged in 
following the fresh tracks of a horse that had 
galloped along the side of the road that morning, 
was ransacking his brain to remember whether he 
had ever seen a badger's earth on Cairn Kenidzhek. 
The fact is, he knew much less of the Hooting 
Cairn than of any hill to the westward of Crobben, 
nor could he call to mind a fox run to ground there. 
Had it been Mulfra, the Galver, Sancreed Beacon, 
Bartinney, or Chapel Cairn Brea, he could have 
walked straight to every holt on their rocky slopes. 
After nearly an hour's drive the pile of weird-looking 
rocks shows plainly against the sky ; a few minutes 
later the face of the hill comes in view and at its base 
Trevaskis' house on the edge of a cultivated patch 
reclaimed many years ago from the moorland that 
stretches away to the northern cliffs. The sun catches 
Shellal's tiny attic window, the leats where his springes 
are set, the pool beyond the broad belt of yellow 
reeds, and lights the white-crested waves of the sea. 
When near enough, Andrew makes out the 
farmer in his shirt sleeves and then can he believe 
his own eyes ? three, four, five miners against the 
turf-rick ; Trevaskis is holding a tubbal in one 
hand and yes, a furze-chopper in the other ; picks 

and shovels are piled in front of the miners ; Shellal 

o 



106 THE EARTHSTOPPER ANGRY 

is holding two buckets, no doubt containing water 
for the terriers ; and, by all that's good, it is a pair of 
badger-tongs that the Squire has just brought out 
of the house, his ringers fidgeting with the guard. 
In short, a more completely equipped party for an 
assault on a badger's fortress and, judging by the 
laughter, a more merry one, it would be difficult to 
imagine. But the high spirits of Squire, farmer, and 
miner are not shared by the Earthstopper. The 
elaborate preparations, no less than the hilarity, 
seemed to mock him. He foresaw that the day's 
proceedings would bring life-long ridicule on himself. 
The whole countryside would get to hear of Andrew 
leading the Squire a fool's chase after a white 
badger, forsooth ! and wherever he went people 
would jeer at his powers of observation or treat him 
with silent pity, according to their dispositions. 
Now after doing his duty to the best of his ability 
for seven-and-thirty years, and being "plagued to 
death " well-nigh every other week during the hunt- 
ing season by badgers scratching out his stoppings 
and letting the foxes in an annoyance that perhaps 
no other Earthstopper in the whole of England has 
to put up with for the faithful henchman on whom 
success depended to be dragged willy-nilly into this 
business was enough not only to rouse his ire but 



VKXKI) AS l-'IHK 107 

to shake his fealty to his master. If Andrew was 
ever vexed in his life, he was vexed now, "vexed as 
fire." Near the Squire he would not go, unless 
sent for, not he ; to a peremptory summons he 
would turn a deaf ear. Still, enraged though he 
was, he would not shirk his duty, hopeless as 
his task might be. He would search till nightfall, 
though a dozen giggling louts dogged his heels. 
He knew that the badger's holt might possibly be 
on Cairn Kenidzhek, but it was about one chance in 
a hundred. He jumped down from the trap before 
it reached the gate where the Squire was awaiting 
it, and seizing the opportunity whilst Sir Bevil was 
talking to the keeper, jumped the wall and going up 
to Trevaskis, asked him if he knew of a badger's 
earth on the hill. 

" Niver had no bisiness," he replied in a very loud 
voice, "to climb un not even high by day. I laaves 
the furze-cuttin' to Shellaal. The nighest eearth be- 
known to me es in the croft under the Goomp." 
Muttering maledictions on the "git chucklehead," 
Andrew shied off long before the harangue was 
finished and, without consulting Shellal, who stood 
there open-mouthed and still gripping the two 
buckets, crossed the lane and began with his long 
strides the ascent of the crag-topped hill. It was 



108 THE EARTHSTOPPER ANGRY 

the best thing he could have done. Only by 
tremendous exertions could he hope to work off his 
rage, and how he did exert himself! 

Seldom had he put his hard sinews and strong 
muscles to such a strain as he did that morning, 
when searching the rugged slope in quest of the 
badger's earth. 

Now, he was lost to sight in some tangled gulley 
where he tore through stunted blackthorn and 
brambles to reach its inmost recess ; now, on hands 
and knees, he explored furze-screened places between 
small groups of boulders that dotted the higher 
slopes like outworks to the rocky citadel on their 
crest ; now he scanned for beaten track the starved 
herbage that margined the Cairn ; now the crevices 
between the rocks for trodden lichen that might 
betray the badger's way to his fastness. All to 
no purpose ! There remained the other side of the 
hill to explore ; and thither he went. Some half-way 
down the slope there is a belt of ground so barren 
as to suggest a mineral lode just below the sur- 
face. Along it the Earthstopper proceeded at a rapid 
pace, his eyes scrutinising the edge of the sparse 
cover that skirted it. All at once he stopped in his 
stride as he lit on the run of some animal leading 
towards the Cairn. Some distance up it was joined, 



A BADGER'S KAKTH 109 

beneath a thorn bush, by a more clearly defined 
track, and a little way beyond the junction, where 
the single track passed between two boulders and 
was arched over with dead bracken and withered 
bents, so unmistakable was the " creep " that the 
Earthstopper knew that he was on the trail of a 
badger. His craft was scarcely needed now, but he 
followed the trodden path jealously as if once lost it 
could with difficulty be recovered. Farther up the 
slope it passed under a clump of furze that there ran 
up to the foot of the Cairn. The bushes were thick 
and luxuriant, with here and there a yellow bloom, 
being protected from the westerly wind by the Cairn, 
and spared by Trevaskis since Shellal had struck 
against working on that side of the rocks without 
further rise of wages. On all fours the Earthstopper 
crept under them, wormed his way quickly forward 
over the dry spines, parting the furze above his head 
now and again to let the light in, and convince him- 
self that he was following the track. 

Some distance in he came upon aheap of soil at the 
mouth of a badger's earth. He restrains the delight 
he feels, for fear it may be abandoned. At once he 
examines the mouth of the set. The floor is well 
beaten and too hard to record footprints, no moss 
grows there, no spider's web curtains the entrance. 



110 THE EARTHSTOPPER ANGRY 

Lying flat on the ground with his head well in- 
side the hole, he sniffs the air of the tunnel, but can 
detect no taint of any inmate. " Hanrew, Hanrew, 
wheere are ee? " It is the voice of Shellal, whose 
weather-beaten and scared face shows round a big 
boulder, whence he can see the eastern face of the 
hill. The Earthstopper hears him, but is too en- 
grossed in his work to reply, and too far in the earth 
to make anyone hear him, except possibly the badger, 
if he is at home. " Hanrew, Hanrew," Shellal calls 
at the top of his voice ; and getting no answer but the 
echo of the rocks, he hurries back, fully convinced 
that nothing more will ever be seen of the Earth- 
stopper. Andrew then gets some matches out of 
his pocket and, striking one, holds it against the left 
w r all of the earth. His face, which is all aglow, 
brightens as he inspects it. Lighting another match 
he removes something from the smooth surface and 
backs out along the track he came by, no longer 
angry and desperate, but excited and exultant. 
Sir Bevil and the rest of the party now arrived 
at that side of the Cairn are looking round and 
wondering what has become of Andrew, when 
they hear a rustling in the furze and at length 
see his hobnailed boots project from the thick 
bushes. 



THE WHITE BRISTLE 111 

The stems of the furze have swept off his cap ; so 
bareheaded, but triumphant, he goes straight to Sir 
Bevil, holding up between the forefinger and the 
thumb of his right hand the precious evidence. 
The men crowd round Squire and Earthstopper 
with amazement written on their faces as they be- 
hold the white bristle for such it is and ready for 
whatever exertion may be needed to secure the 
trophy. The Squire, suppressing the excitement he 
feels, orders the bushes that screen the earth to be 
cleared away. When Trevaskis and Shellal have 
done this, Andrew gets permission to send in one 
of the terriers to make sure that the badger is at 
home. On being released by the keeper from the 
chain that holds her, Vixen runs to where Andrew 
is lying at the mouth of the set, and, after being 
patted and encouraged, enters the hole and disap- 
pears from view. With his head in the tunnel and 
with one hand raised to silence the chatter of the 
farmer and coachman, who are standing a few yards 
away, the old man listens to the bitch as she makes 
her way along the galleries of the subterranean fast- 
ness. After some seconds, neither he nor Sir Bevil, 
who is lying at full length with his left ear to the 
ground he was slightly deaf in the right can de- 
tect any sound of her movements. 



CHAPTER X 

THE WHITE BADGER OF CAIRN KENIDZHEK 
Continued 

THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

PRESENTLY they hear a faint bark and that peculiar 
thumping noise which a badger makes when moving 
along its underground passages. 

" He's theere, sir," says Andrew. By way of re- 
sponse the Squire winks his right eye as though to 
say " I can hear him." A sharp struggle succeeds, 
and the yell of the dog echoes along the winding 
way. At last the Earthstopper catches what he has 
been listening for, the welcome yap, yap, yap . . . 
coming always from the same spot, which tells him 
that the terrier is face to face with the badger in an 
end of its earth. 

Without a moment's delay, Sir Bevil instructs the 
miners where to sink a shaft to intercept the badger 
and cut it off from its galleries. The surface is 

112 



SINKING THE SHAFT 113 

littered with boulders, but fortunately there is a clear 
space some four feet wide between two outcropping 
rocks, and there the men set to work. Whilst they 
ply pick and spade, Andrew listens anxiously to the 
sounds that reach him from below, his fear being 
that the badger may force its way to some remoter 
part of its earth and render their labour of no avail. 
Hour after hour, six men working in reliefs continue 
to sink the shaft through the soft ground between 
the two walls of granite. No child's play is this. 
As the pit gets deeper and deeper, the effort required 
to throw the earth to the surface begins to tell on 
the miners, who are working away as energetically 
as if some of their mates were entombed below. 
And here let it be said that digging out a badger, 
always an arduous operation, is frequently impracti- 
cable. Some of the sets in use to day, such as those 
at Toldavas, Bosistow and Boscawen-un, are of con- 
siderable depth and extent, and defy all efforts of the 
spade. Whether they are hundreds or thousands 
of years old must remain a matter of conjecture, 
but as the badger is one of the oldest of living 
mammals there is little room for doubt that it has 
had its earths in the Cornish hillsides from a very 
remote past. Andrew is wondering as he lies there 

whether the set below him is one which will baffle 

r 



114 THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

all their efforts. As long as the terrier can keep the 
badger where it is there is hope of bagging it. But 
Vixen has already been for three hours in that 
stifling den, and during that time has been throwing 
her tongue almost incessantly. Incited by her yap- 
ing and an occasional cry of pain, the miners they 
can hear her now work bravely, despite their aching 
arms and backs. Suddenly the sound ceases, and 
shortly after, the Earthstopper hears Vixen as she 
makes her way slowly along the passages to the 
surface. Panting and exhausted out she staggers 
at last, and the next instant Turk, who has long 
been straining at his chain, is sent in to continue 
her work. Fatal interval ! Alive now to the inse- 
curity the holt it had deemed impregnable, and un- 
able to dig its way farther on account of the rocky 
nature of the ground, the harried creature has stolen 
quietly away at least neither Earthstopper nor 
miners heard it and by means of a side gallery 
reached another stronghold on the far side of the 
Cairn. The Earthstopper, ignorant of this strategic 
move, is wondering why it is that Turk, so long 
gone and generally so noisy, is not giving tongue. 
What he fears as he continues to listen is that the 
badger has buried itself during the few seconds it 
was left, in which case all hope of securing it is gone. 



THE IJADGER SHIFIS HIS QUARTERS 115 

. . . Ah ! what was that ? a very faint yap, a mere 
echo of a yap, reaches his ear. It seems to come 
does come from far away under the Cairn. 

" Wonder if the men down below can hear any- 
thing, sir," says Andrew to Sir Bevil. 

" Not a sound," is the Squire's response after 
inquiry. 

" The badger's shifted, sir ; I can hear Turk, and 
that's about all." 

Then the Squire takes the Earthstopper's place 
and listens. " It's a long way off, Andrew, it conies 
from under the Witch's Cauldron." 

" Iss, sir, that's where I maake et." The note 
of despondency in the Earthstopper's voice as he 
said this, served only to stimulate the Squire. The 
hopelessness of the situation would have daunted 
most people, but Sir Bevil had no thought of giving 
in, much less of owning that he was beaten. 

Jumping up from the mouth of the earth, he 
rushes to the edge of the work and letting himself 
down the face of the rock, joins the two miners at 
the bottom of the shaft. 

" Men," says the Squire, " the badger has shifted 
from his old quarters, and we must drive a level 
under the Cairn. Andrew ! " 

" Plaase, sir?" 



116 THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

" Give me the direction ; is that about it ? " says 
he, stretching his arm across the shaft. 

" Iss, sir, as near as can be." 

" Now, my man, give me your pick and let me 
have a turn : it's not the first time I've used one." 
Taking off his coat, he uses the tool with a vigour 
that astonishes the miner. 

Fortunately, the ground admits of his working 
round the edge of the rock nearer the Cairn, in a 
direction almost at right angles to its already 
exposed face, and before long he has dug his way 
out of sight, and is shouting for a candle to enable 
him to see what he is about. A forlorn proceeding 
it might well seem to the old miner shovelling away 
the soil as the Squire fetches it down, for they are 
nearly a hundred feet from the badger, and at any 
moment may come on rocky ground and have to 
give up. The Squire knows this, but sticks to the 
apparently impossible task with his never-say-die 
tenacity. And when things seem hopeless, fortune 
befriends him. For to his surprise, after driving 
several feet, and narrowly escaping injury from a 
rock that fell behind him and dented the miner's 
shovel, the pick penetrates the wall of mixed earth 
and stone at the end of the level. Putting his ear 
to the aperture, he makes out distinctly the yapping 



THE CAVE 117 

of the terrier on the far side of what, judging from 
the hollow sound, appears to be a cave. The 
discovery stimulates him to further exertions, and 
in a short time pick and spade clear away the par- 
tition that separates the workers from a cavernous 
chamber. The flame of the candle held at arm's 
length burns as steadily as in a room. Its light 
falls on huge columns of granite under the Cairn, 
and makes the mica sparkle. This is not the place 
to describe the grim remains that were subsequently 
found in this weird sepulchre. An article from the 
pen of that learned antiquary, the village doctor, in 
the records of the Cornubian Society, gives a 
detailed description of the bones of animals now 
extinct, discovered there, and of the skeletons of 
two men with their tattered plaids still about them. 

"A queer place this," says the Squire, forgetting 
the badger for a moment ; "a place for bats, owls, 
and buccaboos." 

"Yes, a wisht ould plaace, sure 'nuf, 'tis a soart 
o' fogau, sir," says Andrew, who has crept along 
the tunnel, and is peering over the Squire's shoulder. 
" How deep es et, sir? I caan't see the bottom." 

"Only a few feet, judging from the sound of the 
stones as they rattled down." 

Then the Earthstopper lets himself down the 



118 THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

wall of the cave, and holds the candle whilst the 
Squire descends. The flame, held at arm's length, 
was nearly on a level with the floor of the tunnel. 
Guided by the sounds of the conflict, they thread 
their way between the rude pillars of granite, and 
at length reach the badger's stronghold on the far 
side. 

" They are no distance in, Andrew," says the 
Squire, speaking of the terrier and the badger, who 
are going at it tooth and nail. 

" No, sir, touchin', do ee hear un gruntin', 
wonder ef I can see un." Whereupon he lies flat 
on the loose soil, and holding the candle in front of 
him, looks into the hole. 

" Can you see the badger ? " 

" No, sir, the dog's in the way, and the dust es 
enough to blind ee ; but he's ourn, sir, we shall get 
un ; white or grey, we shall get un. Have ee got 
the tongs, case they're wanted ? " 

"Yes, I'm holding them." 

At this moment the man who had been shovel- 
ling comes up with another miner, with candles 
stuck in their hats. Shellal and the coachman, 
from the mouth of the tunnel, see the twinkling 
lights come and go as the miners make their way 
across the cave, and a spark or two struck by 



A QUESTION OF TIME 119 

hobnailed boots, and they start at Andrew's scream 
of encouragement to the dog, and the echoes it 
awakes. 

" Es that your teeth chatterin', Shellal?" 

" Iss, you wonder, do ee? bra' wisht auld place 
edna ? don't et strike thee that way ? mowldy smill 
about un." 

" Arn't you goin' hover to 'em?" 

"What? Shellal go over there? No, no, my 
son, not for the best dunkey this side New Brudge. 
Theer diggin' again: hear 'em do ee? Bra' fuss 
about an auld badger, semmin' to me." 

Yes, they are digging again. The Earthstopper 
has taken a pick, and with his shirt-sleeves tucked 
up, is working away with a will, whilst one of the 
miners shovels the soil back, and keeps the hole 
open to enable the dog to breathe. The badger 
retreats as the sappers advance, and unfortunately 
the earth extends farther in than the Earthstopper 
imagined ; but that is a trifling matter, as every 
stroke of the pick is bringing him nearer to the 
prize. It is only a question of time. The Squire 
leans against a huge rock, just behind the workers, 
holding the tongs in one hand, and pulling his 
moustache with the other. Every sound in the 
savage fray can now be heard, and at times the 



120 THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

excitement is intense. Once the badger charges 
the dog to the mouth of the hole, and would have 
shown itself, but that the indomitable Turk pushes 
home the counter attack, and drives his foe right 
back to the corner of its earth. For half an hour 
longer the fight lasts, and at the end of it the dog 
comes out exhausted. For once the bull terrier has 
had as much fighting as it cared for but, though its 
under jaw is scored with wounds, its panting shows 
that its exhaustion is due rather to the stifling, 
dust-laden atmosphere in which the unequal struggle 
has been carried on. 

But where is the other terrier ? why is not Nell 
at hand to engage the badger and prevent him from 
digging his way farther in ? Unpardonable over- 
sight ! There can be no excuse. Squire and Earth- 
stopper must have known that "fighting Turk," as 
he was called, could not last very long against the 
badger in that cramped, suffocating hole. " Look 
sharp and fetch Nell," says Sir Bevil. " She should 
have been here " and would have been, had he but 
given the word. The keeper has no difficulty in 
getting Turk to follow him across the mirky cave, 
but what a time he is, getting the terrier up to the 
dimly-lighted tunnel from which Shellal and the 
coachman have already withdrawn. Hurry man ! 



NOT A HAIR OF THE BADGER 121 

What an age he is, making his way along the level ! 
A child would crawl faster. Every second is of the 
utmost value. The instant the terrier came out of 
the earth, the badger, most formidable of all sappers, 
began to dig his way farther in, gaining at every 
stroke of his powerful claws on Andrew and the 
miner. Then the Earthstopper, impelled by a 
curiosity excusable perhaps, but certainly ill-timed, 
drops his pick, believing he has hit upon a means 
of seeing whether the creature before him is really 
the white badger or not. Taking the shovel from 
the miner, he sticks a piece of candle on the end of 
it and pushes it into the earth as far as his arm 
allows. Then he peers into the hole. Better that 
he had kept on with the pick instead of wasting his 
time ! Not a glimpse does he get of the creature. 
The flame burns feebly in the stifling air, and through 
the dust he can barely discern the heaped-up soil 
behind which the badger has effectually concealed 
itself since the terrier came out. He hears the un- 
tiring beast working away with the power and re- 
gularity of a machine, though he sees not a hair of 
it ; but where are his quick, faultless eyes that he 
fails to descry that bit of furze root amidst the soil ? 
It would, at least, have warned him that the badger 
is near the surface. As he withdraws the light he 

Q 



122 THE BADGERS CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

sees to his dismay that a big boulder arches over 
the hole, a little way in, rendering further digging 
impracticable. "I'm afeerd we shall lose un after all, 
sir," says he turning his face towards Sir Bevil. 

"Lose him, lose him, why? why lose him, my 
man ? " 

"We've got into hard ground, sir, the rocks have 
closed in like the walls of a drain, nawthin' but a drill 
and dynamite can get through this cappin' stone," and 
the sound as he strikes it with the iron of the shovel 
reaches Sir Bevil's ears above the pounding of the 
indefatigable creature within, and makes painful dis- 
cord to the music of the badger's claws. " Halloo ! " 
says the astonished Earthstopper as he withdraws the 
shovel ; for at this instant a current of fresh air fans 
his heated face, the noise from the earth almost im- 
mediately ceases, and he realises what he had known 
happen but once before that the badger has dug his 
way through to the open. " He's broke out, sir," 
says he excitedly, as he jumps to his feet. Seizing 
a candle he hurries with Sir Bevil and the miners 
across the cave, climbs the wall of it, and crawls along 
the tunnel into the trench. In a twinkling he reaches 
the surface and rushes in frantic haste round the 
rocks, shouting as he runs, " Loose the dogs, loose 
the dogs." 



THE TELL-TALE STICK 123 

On the other side of the Cairn he expects to get 
a glimpse of the badger hurrying down the rugged 
hill at its best pace. But when he gets there, no 
sign of fugitive, white or grey, meets his disappointed 
gaze. Climbing a rock he looks down on the some- 
what sparse brake, his eyes searching the motionless 
furze and waving bents to detect by tell-tale move- 
ments of bush or withered grass the whereabouts of 
the quarry. I f it is stealing away under their shelter, 
the cover keeps its secret well. From its unrespon- 
sive surface the Earthstopper gleans no inkling of 
its presence, and with surprise, so quickly have the 
hours sped, sees that the gathering shadows are 
stealing over the base of the sunlight slope. Sud- 
denly with a wild scream he leaps from the rock 
into the stunted furze and plunges through it like 
one possessed. It was only the snapping of a 
brittle stick he had heard, but it was enough ; it be- 
trayed the whereabouts of the heavy beast that had 
unwisely dwelt near the Cairn until it heard the 
hue and cry raised by the Earthstopper. 

Attracted by Andrew's scream, Vixen and Nell fly 
to him, and getting on the line of the badger soon 
overtake it. "Where's the badger?" shouts Sir 
Bevil as he and the others come tearing down the 
hill. No need is there of other answer than Vixen's 



124 THE BADGER'S CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

yell to tell him where badger and dogs are keeping 
up a running fight by that big boulder half-way 
down the slope. All eyes are riveted on the spot, 
but till now only the terriers have seen the creature. 
A somewhat barren patch lies right ahead of where 
the bushes are being violently shaken. Has the 
badger slackened its pace that it seems so tantalis- 
ingly long in reaching the edge of the furze ? . . . 

" 'Tes, 'tes the whi , the white wan, sure 'nuf, 
sir, and a beety," cries the Earthstopper, as the clean- 
cut head projects beyond the bush, 

" What a grand beast ! but how are we to secure 
him ? " 

"Dust ee want un livin' or dead, sir?" shouts 
the excited Andrew in his broadest vernacular, 
running to keep abreast of the creature. 

"Alive, alive, my man," replies the Squire rather 
testily, as the quarry crosses a belt of ground Shellal 
had recently burnt, and its hair, that all but sweeps 
the ground, shows as white as snow against the 
charred surface. With the tongs underground 
the Squire had dropped them as he scrambled up 
the wall of the cave and no man volunteering to go 
and fetch them for fear of losing the fun, here is a nice 
business for Andrew. He must secure the badger 
with his bare hands : an order easily given but difficult 



THE BADGER IN THE OPEN 125 

to execute. The dogs too, good as they are at stick- 
ing a badger up in its earth, game as they are at 
meeting its terrible rushes underground, are power- 
less to hold such a monster as that brushing on there 
through the bushes and treating their savage atten- 
tions with disdain. Through close furze and brambly 
ihicket it presses forward as if through gossamer, 
stopping but to make the terriers yell with pain. 

Ned now arrives breathless with the sack, and 
not a minute too soon, for Andrew, despite his 
excitement, sees that the beast is heading for an old 
drain in the valley, in which it would find safe 
refuge. " Stand handy, Ned," says he to the keeper, 
in a voice so ominously calm and firm as to make 
even the coachman feel that the crisis has arrived 
and that the next few minutes will be worth living 
to a spectator. A barren space, it might be twenty 
yards wide, lies in the badger's path ; and there 
Andrew awaits. He is only just in time. A move- 
ment of the furze, and its sharp muzzle protrudes, 
then the eyes are seen they were not pink then 
the massive body. Vixen and Nell, bleeding from 
their wounds, make feints at it, one on each side. 
Listen to the snapping of the jaws as the badger 
bites right and left at them. Clear of the bush, not 
a tussock screens the plucky, friendless creature. 



126 THE BADGEBTS CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

Across the bare patch lies a close brake at the foot 
of which is the unstopped drain. The cover gained, 
he is safe. The badger knows it, and is resolved 
to reach its shelter. Andrew is equally determined 
to dispute the passage. The Earthstopper is not 
hampered for space ; the semicircle of spectators 
give him plenty of elbow-room. With every fibre 
strung but under control, he closes in on the badger, 
with nimble, springy movement learnt in the wrest- 
ling ring. He looks the incarnation of wariness. 
He knows his enemy, he knows the risk he is run- 
ning. Ill-timed onset may mean the loss of finger 
or hand. 

With a cry that thrills man and dog but does 
not daunt the quarry he calls on Vixen and Nell to 
seize the badger, and stooping the instant its atten- 
tion seems occupied by the terriers, he tries to seize 
its tail. Quick as lightning the supple creature, 
shaking off the dogs, turns on him, just missing his 
hand as suddenly withdrawn. Fired by failure and 
desperate from the nearness of the brake now scarce 
two yards away, Andrew renews the attempt, and 
this time getting a firm grip of the tail lifts the 
heavy beast clear of the ground, totters and staggers 
under the weight, but by an effort recovers his 
balance and holds his prize at arm's length. Then 



A GRAND FINISH 127 

raising it above the mouth of the canvas bag which 
Sir Bevil and the keeper are holding open with 
trembling fingers, he twirls the writhing, snapping 
brute round and round, and plunges it into the sack. 
It was the work of a few seconds, but the exertion 
brought the sweat to the Earthstopper's face. 

" Bravo, Andrew," shouts the Squire, who with 
the others had been looking on breathlessly, " very 
neatly done : twice I was afraid he'd got you." 
After tying the mouth of the sack, the keeper slung 
the badger on his back and made for the wagonette. 
The rest of the party, with the exception of Sir 
Bevil, Trevaskis and Shellal, returned to the Cairn 
to collect their belongings. Though it was dusk, 
they succeeded in recovering everything except the 
tongs, which were afterwards found by the exploring 
party. Lights were already twinkling in the 
windows of the farmhouse as they descended the 
hill ; and before they entered the yard, Ned had lit 
the lamps of the carriage, where they found him 
standing guard over the badger, locked up in the 
boot. 

" A good day's sport, Andrew," said the Squire 
as he put on his coat which the Earthstopper had 
brought him. 

"A grand finish, sir ; but a very poor start." 



128 THE BADGERS CAPTURE AND ESCAPE 

The next minute Shellal brought out the horse 
which he had been saddling by the light of the 
stable lantern and held it for the Squire to mount. 
After a cheery "good night, sir," from the miners, 
whom he had liberally rewarded, Sir Bevil hurried 
home along the dark lanes as light-hearted as a 
schoolboy, tossing a crown-piece through the open 
door of the toll-house as he galloped past. 

He was anxious to select a safe kennel for his 
precious and formidable capture. He chose a 
strongly-built stye, once the abode of a savage boar, 
and had it well littered with straw. One of the 
troughs in the enclosure was half-filled with milk ; 
into a smaller one Sir Bevil himself poured a jar of 
honey. An hour later the badger was turned loose 
in this luxurious snuggery, securely fastened in, and 
left to himself. Early next morning Sir Bevil went 
to see how the captive had fared. The milk and 
honey had not been touched, but in the space 
between the troughs was a pile of bricks, mortar, 
and soil. The heap lay at the mouth of a U-shaped 
tunnel that passed under the foundations and came 
out on the other side of the wall. 

" The devil ! he's gone ! " 

Yes, the badger had dug his way out and 
escaped. 



THE BADGER REGAINS HIS FREEDOM 129 

Hue and cry and search till nightfall proved of no 
avail. He had sought a cairn that overlooks the 
ocean, drearier and safer than Cairn Kenidzhek. 
Had he been content to stay in the Squire's pigstye, 
his would have been the life of a prisoner, pampered, 
but pining for liberty. He chose the bare subsist- 
ence and the freedom of the wild ; and from that day 
to this, the eyes of cliff-owl and fox alone have 
seen his white form as he wanders mid gorse and 
bracken and fallen cromlech, within easy reach of 
his lonely refuge. 



CHAPTER XI 
THE HARE 

LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

IT is difficult to imagine a wild creature making a 
harder struggle for existence than a hare in West 
Penwith. From beginning to end its life is one of 
persecution. As a leveret it can hardly escape fall- 
ing a victim to the stoat, carrion crow, or magpie ; or, 
when full grown, becoming the prey of the polecat 
or the fox. If it be objected that puss has to run 
the gauntlet of these enemies elsewhere, it may be 
answered that in few parts of England is vermin so 
abundant. This is only in a measure due to the 
many strongholds which this wild country affords. 
In the Land's End district game is not preserved, 
and the absence of the gamekeeper and his traps 
accounts for the prevalence of predatory creatures, 
furred and feathered. It is curious too, to note 
how interest in the hare and the protection afforded 

130 




ST BURYAN CHURCH. 



[Face page 130. 



HARE-HUNTING ONCE POPULAR 131 

it, have declined before the popularity of fox-hunting. 
Time was when it was highly esteemed as a beast 
of the chase, and when money was freely spent on 
the destruction of its enemies, though to a much 
less extent than is now lavished on poultry-funds 
for the perservation of the fox. In those days, 
as parish registers attest, the churchwardens paid 
with an easy conscience five shillings for a fox, a 
shilling for an otter, a shilling for a grey or badger, 
twopence for a fitcher or marten, and a penny 
for a hedgebore or kite. Whether the register 
of Buryan Church contains entries referring to the 
payments of these fees, I do not know ; but there is 
evidence that in this, the largest parish of the Land's 
End district, the hare formerly flourished, its pur- 
suit forming the chief diversion of the local gentry. 
Of these, Squire Levelis of Trewoofe was, perhaps, 
the most enthusiastic sportsman, and it is related of 
him in an old Cornish romance, that one day after a 
very arduous chase, at the moment his hounds were 
on the point of running into a hare, the astonished 
Squire suddenly found himself confronted, on the 
spot where the scent failed, by a witch. The belief 
that witches at times assumed the shape of a hare 
lingered in West Cornwall at least as late as the 
early part of the last century, for it is related of 



132 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

Sir Rose Price that on his entering a cottage into 
which his hounds had driven their quarry, he 
found to his astonishment not a hare but a haggard 
old woman, whose torn hands and face removed 
all doubt as to what he had been in pursuit of. 
This occurred at Kerrow in the parish of Zennor. 
Squire Levelis' uncanny adventure took place 
in the Lamorna valley ; and within the memory of 
those still living, this wild " bottom " has resounded 
with the merry music of " hare-hounds." No pack 
of harriers exists in West Penwith to-day, but the 
greyhound is very much in evidence ; and all things 
considered, the latter state of poor puss is far worse 
than the first. What with " long dogs/' foxes, vermin, 
snares, and cheap guns, this most timid of creatures 
lives in a state of perpetual apprehension. Never- 
theless, it makes a stubborn struggle for existence 
on the lone upland wastes, where it enjoys partial 
immunity from its natural four-footed enemies, which, 
for the most part, harbour in the wild overgrown 
valleys that tin-streaming has rendered worthless 
for agricultural purposes. It says something for the 
keenness of the miner and the crofter that they should 
search miles and miles of bleak moorland on the re- 
mote chance of finding a hare which will, if found, in 
all probability run their dogs to a standstill. Small 



THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 133 

wonder that to these men the few surviving 
hares should seem to bear a charmed life, and that 
those remarkable for stamina and endurance and re- 
cognisable by some slight distinguishing mark, 
should be as well known as a bob- tailed fox to the 
members of a hunt. 

Of such none was more famous than the 
little Jack of Bartinney, whose life history was 
typical of that of his race. His first home was 
amidst a clump of rushes bordering a lonely pool on 
the high ground between two of the Cornish heights. 
Even when maternal instinct is strongest, fear of 
detection kept doe and leveret apart during the day ; 
but she never failed to suckle him at nightfall and 
before sunrise, on her way back from the feeding- 
ground on the lowland. From dawn to dusk the 
leveret lay in the snuggest of couches in the 
trough between the hills, and when not asleep would 
watch the reeds waving over the shallows, or the 
moor-hen, whose nest was on the opposite bank, swim 
on the open water. One morning he saw her issue 
from the reed-bed with four fluffy little red-billed crea- 
tures following in her wake. This novel sight aroused 
his curiosity, and when the moor-hen and her brood 
skirted the little bay near him, he jumped out of the 
nest and ran to the edge of the water. At that in- 



134 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

stant a raven flying overhead, on the look-out for 
food for its young in Bosigran Cliffs, espied him, and 
the next minute the ominous shadow of the marauder 
darkened the bright grassy margin, scaring the 
leveret and making him flee for his life. Quick 
as the moor-hen and her chicks had dived, before 
the depredator could transfix him with its power- 
ful beak, he made for the thickest of the rushes, 
squatted and, though the raven made careful search, 
escaped. This was the one fright of the happy days 
spent by the side of the pool. There he got to 
know the varied voices of nature the carol of the 
lark, the scream of the gull, the hum of the insects, 
the murmur of the wind, and the music of the 
ripple in the reed-bed ; the chief sounds that broke 
the silence of the upland. From below came faintly 
at times the bark of the dog, the crowing of the 
cock, and at night the yelp of the fox, the snarl of 
the badger, the whurring of the night-jar, and the 
song of the sedge-warbler. Once he heard, from 
the direction of the Land's End cliffs, that mys- 
terious roaring of the sea, which when the farmers 
hear they say " G'envor is callin'." His growth 
was very rapid, and when a month old, a spirit of 
restlessness and a desire to roam possessed him, 
and thrice he accompanied the cloe in her night 



HIS FIRST FORM 135 

rounds and got a knowledge of the lay of the 
country. 

One day at dusk he left the nest and the narrow 
grassy green amidst the rushes where he had 
gambolled, and made his way down to the table- 
land alone. He soon learnt that the country 
over which he roamed was full of enemies, find- 
ing to his surprise that even the rabbits were 
unfriendly to him. His first form was on a pile of 
earth in the middle of a field from which the 
hay had recently been carried. Wild growth luxu- 
riated there, and before he abandoned the heap 
it was gay with the golden corymbs of the harvest- 
flower. Thence he could hear the voices of the 
hoers in the turnip-fields, the rumble of wheels in 
the near lane, and morning and evening Shep's bark 
as he drove the cows to the milking-shed. Lying 
there all day, his long black-tipped ears flat on his 
back, and his dark, hazel-rimmed eyes that never 
wholly closed watchful of every movement in the 
life around him, the hare was a timorous spy on the 
ongoings of the farm where he was an unknown 
guest. For nearly two months he occupied the form 
undisturbed, but when the clover had grown again 
bullocks were turned into the pasture to graze, and 
one morning a lurcher dog that accompanied the 



136 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

farmer on his round, found him in his seat and pur- 
sued him so closely across three fields that he would 
not have escaped its jaws but for the wiles he instinc- 
tively used. He did not return to the seat for some 
days and then, detecting that the stale scent of a 
dog tainted the ragwort, he abandoned the field 
altogether, and resorted to another form he had but 
rarely used in the valley below Sancreed Beacon. 
It was made amongst withering bracken on a mound 
skirting a small stream, and dawn always found him 
sitting in it. To baffle any enemy that might 
follow his trail, he would run past his form, keeping 
some twenty feet wide of it, and then double on his 
foil. When opposite his seat he made a sidelong 
spring, and then another which took him across the 
stream to the mound. His eyes, ears, and nostrils 
satisfying him that no enemy shadowed him, he crept 
under the arch formed by the drooping fronds and 
lay concealed until evening. He never failed to 
take these precautions, and he soon had proof of 
their necessity. Once, shortly after he was esconced, 
he heard a slight rustling in some brambles on the 
opposite bank a little way down stream. Presently 
a long-bodied creature with dark fur emerged 
from it. Though short of leg its agility was re- 
markable, and with its nose to the ground it was 



A POLECAT RUNS HEEL 137 

evidently in quest of some victim's trail. It was a 
polecat, which, on hitting the scent of the hare at the 
spot whence he had taken his second spring, became 
terribly excited. As if familiar with the wiles of its 
favourite prey, the blood-thirsty creature began at 
once to quarter the ground in its attempt to discover 
the track. At length in making a wide cast it hit 
the line, but followed it in a direction contrary to 
that of the hare and, running heel, disappeared with 
long bounds through the gap where the Jack had 
passed less than half an hour before. Soon after- 
wards the light crept down the hillside, and the 
hare knew that the chattering, archbacked fiend 
would not return, that the danger was past. 
During the time he watched his enemy he never 
stirred, and had the polecat discovered him he could 
not have escaped, so helpless were his limbs from a 
strange terror that possessed them one which he 
had not experienced when found by the lurcher. 
Fortunately for the Jack, his greatest trials did not 
overtake him until he came to his full strength and 
had a perfect knowledge of the hills, where in order 
to avoid his enemies he now made his forms. These 
he never left not even during the breeding season 
before sundown, when he stole down to the tableland. 
One dark night he was cropping clover in a field at 



138 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

Boscawen-un, near a circle of stones belonging to a 
grey past of which no man knows the history. 
Whilst browsing, he stopped now and again to 
listen, as was his wont, and anon he heard a cry 
that made his blood run cold. At first he thought 
that two stoats were fighting on the other side of 
the stone wall that bounded the field, but as the 
horrid noise drew near the gap through which he 
had come not long before, he stood up on his hind 
legs and looked towards it. Then he saw not two 
but five stoats come between the stone pillars where a 
gate had once hung, and knew at a glance it was 
his trail they were following. The dread of the 
weasel is so paralysing that some hares for, like 
men, all hares have not the same courage would 
have crouched "on the ground, or dragged their 
limbs in lessening circles until their fate overtook 
them ; but not so this little Jack. He was away at 
once at full speed, and the pack of fiends, sighting 
him as he passed the rubbing-post near the middle 
of the field, extended themselves at full gallop and, 
as they seldom fail, when hunting together, to run 
down their prey, reckoned they would soon be 
sucking his blood. If the hare had had only the 
danger behind to fear, his greater speed would soon 
have enabled him to out-distance his pursuers, 



A TRAGIC CHASE 139 

astoundingly fleet of foot though they are for their 
size. It was far otherwise ; for at every gap, at 
every gate, he paused and snuffed the air for 
tainted snare or lurking fox, and this allowed the 
stoats to lessen the space that would else have 
separated them. So that it gladdened the Jack's 
eyes, when he had left the hamlets of Brahan and 
Crowz-an-Wra behind, to see at last the murky cone 
of Chapel Cairn Brea rising before him against the 
scarcely less black sky. Once free of the cultivated 
land he breasted the hill at his best pace, but on 
reaching the summit paused near a ruined chantry, 
to listen. His long ears were pricked to catch the 
slightest sound that should break the unusual 
silence. 

The night was still as death, as if nature 
held its breath at witnessing this tragic chase of its 
own ordering, and before very long the hare heard 
the weasel-cry coming from the direction where his 
ascending track lay. At first it fascinated him as 
it does all his tribe, and he felt inclined to stay and 
await his fate ; but the love of life was too strong 
within him, and shaking off the paralysing feeling 
that was numbing his limbs, he set his head in the 
direction of Bartinney. With his back to the 
danger, terror seemed to add wings to his feet, and 



140 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

like the wind he went down the eastern slope of 
Chapel Cairn Brea until he reached the margin of 
the Lidden's Pool. Instantly he dashed through 
the shallows and, losing foothold where the water 
deepened, swam across it in a slanting direction as 
he had more than once seen the doe, his mother, 
do. Having landed, he repeated his usual ruse, 
and then squatted in a seat in some sedgy growth 
not a stone's throw from the clump of rushes where 
he was born. With the sheet of water, which is 
some fifty yards wide, between him and his pur- 
suers, he believed he was safe. Indeed, it did not 
much disturb him to hear them coming down the 
hill, but when he saw them take to the water, on 
the black surface of which their glowing eyes 
showed like green beads, he was filled with dismay. 
They landed near him, for they had swum straight 
across the pool, and at once, without staying to 
shake their wet fur, strove to pick up the lost line, 
two working the margin one way, and three the 
other. Presently one succeeded, at the spot where 
the hare had landed, near the extremity of a finger- 
like creek, and making a cry, called the rest of 
the pack, which flew to it. Then together they 
followed the scent through the belt of rushes and 
over the sable face of the heather, and coming to 



THE MARAUDERS BAULKED 141 

the end, spread out like a fan, the while making a 
chattering noise, and displaying an activity more 
fiendish than hound-like in their ineffectual 
attempts to recover it beyond. A stoat which 
seemed to be the leader, for he it was that came 
first through the gap and afterwards led the others 
across the pool, returned on the trail, making short 
casts on each side of it, and only just failed to find 
where the hare had landed from his first spring. 
Wearying at last of his efforts, or fearful of being 
discovered at daybreak on such a bare expanse of 
moorland, he uttered a strange cry which summoned 
the well-disciplined band around him. Less than a 
minute later the terror-stricken hare, who had 
watched their every movement, saw the baulked 
marauders steal away over the shoulder of the hill 
by a path slightly barer than the ground about it, 
where a much-used bridle-track had been in the 
days of pack-mules, before wheels rumbled over the 
roads that now "ribbon" the countryside. 

After this horrible experience it was long before 
the hare ventured down to the lowlands. Save for 
an occasional raid on a labourer's garden at the foot 
of the hill, he contented himself with the less succu- 
lent fare of a farm on the barren upland between 
Bartinney and Caer Bran. The harder life was not 



142 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

without its compensations. By journeying over 
the hills in search of food for at times he would 
wander far to browse on wild thyme and other 
tender herbage in sheltered spots of the waste he 
got to know his beats as well as the Earthstopper 
knew every step of the rough ways between the 
fox-holts. To this knowledge, and to his powers 
of endurance thus strengthened, he owed his many 
escapes from greyhounds, which he led by paths 
that gave him the advantage. 

His favourite seat at this time, when persecu- 
tion had driven him from his old ones, was amongst 
the sere grasses that grew on an ancient earth- 
work or "gurgoe" near the summit of Bartinney. 
In winter-time few bleaker spots can be found 
than the crest of this Cornish height, to which 
the scanty herbage clings close like a skull-cap, and 
on which stonecrop and lichen make nearly as hard 
a struggle for existence as the hare. Yet for one 
thing the spot is favoured, inasmuch as it catches 
the earliest rays of the sun when the slopes are 
yet grey and the lowlands lie in gloom. This 
advantage the hare did not fail to utilise. Re- 
turning wet from the dew-drenched grasses in the 
troughs of the hills, he would, before entering his 
form, stand on the boulder crowning the crest, and 



THE UPLAND PEACE 143 

dry his fur as a cormorant dries his wings after 
fishing. 

During the great frost before the blizzard 
he clung to the hilltop, and lay there under the 
snow, with just a breathing-hole in the side of his 
white hut. For three days he fed on the shoots of 
the furze, but at last, hunger dispelling his fears, he 
ventured down to a mowhay and had his fill of 
clover from a stack near a dog-kennel. Fortunately, 
snow fell that night and hid his tracks, so that he 
was not followed next morning by poachers, as he 
had been once before despite the long round he 
took and the various shifts he resorted to for the 
purpose of throwing them off his track. 

" The many musets through the which he goes, 
Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes." 

In snow, storm, and sunshine, the hare clung to the 
summit of the upland, and but rarely used the form 
near the pool. Its solitude and the great silence 
that brooded over it were almost as sweet to him 
as life itself. Rarely did anything move across the 
broad slopes he overlooked save the fleeting 
shadows of the clouds. All the summer through 
but one man came up the hill an aged botanist he 
was, of world-wide fame who more than once toiled 
to the top, and the hare got accustomed to the 



144 LIFE STORY OF THE JACK OF BARTINNEY 

gleam of his big spectacles and the flapping of his 
long coat-tails, and somehow knew that he was 
harmless, though his eyes, like those of the men 
who had sought him with dogs, were always on the 
ground. 

On the dry bank, with the thick grasses 
to screen him from the hot rays and the sea 
breezes to fan him, he would sleep through the 
noontide heat when the lizard left the sparse brake 
to bask in the sun, and " king-crowner " butterflies 
flitted above the crest, or settled on the outcropping 
rocks to open and close their gorgeous wings 
though there was no eye to admire their beauty. 
In these neighbours the hare had nothing to fear, 
nor in the kestrel that hovered over the hill, nor 
now, in the raven that winged its way high over- 
head as it crossed from the northern to the 
southern cliffs. 

This happy time lasted until the splendour of 
the dwarf furze faded, and chill October stripped 
the storm-bent thorns of foliage ; with the advent 
of the black month (as the ancient Cornish styled 
November) it came to an end, and the hare was 
called upon to bear the greatest trial of his life. 



CHAPTER XII 
THE HARE Continued 

DIGORY STROUT AND FARMER PENDRE 

ABOUT this time there returned to St Just a native 
of the parish who had made his fortune in the Far 
West of America. He was brought up as a miner, 
but the discovery that enriched him was really due 
to his love of sport. For, tiring of work in a 
copper-mine, he took to trapping and big game 
shooting, and one day in following the trail of a 
grizzly in a remote gully, lit on a shallow creek con- 
taining gold. The claim is worked out now ; but in 
some maps of the States you will see, near the 
Canadian frontier, a small river marked Digory's 
Creek. Amongst the cottonwood and spruce trees 
near its source, in the heart of the Great Divide, the 
hunter built a log-cabin, hung up his traps, tethered 
his favourite mare and pack-horse, and devoted his 
whole energies to "panning out" the gold from 

145 



146 DIGORY STHOUT AND FARMER PENDRE 

the sand. His fortune made, he returned after a 
long absence to England, settled for a year in 
Lancashire and attended coursing-meetings all over 
the country. It was on his native downs that he 
had first seen a course, and it may be that the sight 
of a hare before greyhounds kindled old memories, 
for Digory Strout frequently found himself think- 
ing about his native village and the wild moorland 
that runs up to it. At last a longing to see the old 
place got so strong a hold on him that he resolved 
to yield to it and pay a flying visit to West Corn- 
wall. It was towards the close of a September day 
that the carriage which had brought him from 
Penzance reached the high ground above New 
Bridge, overlooking the scene he remembered so 
well. To the West, the roofs of St Just Church- 
town were outlined against the bright sea ; and to 
the North, grim and unchanged, old Cairn Kenid- 
zhek crowned the bleak moorland and looked down 
on the lonely farms lying like islands in the waste. 
Digory gazed on these familiar landmarks with a 
choking sensation in his throat, and when at length 
he came in sight of the row of grey cottages where 
he was born, his eyes filled with tears. The people 
of St Just who remembered him when he set out as 
a youth, welcomed him warmly, and he resolved to 



ALL AGOG TO SEND A CHALLENGE 147 

spend the winter among them. His decision made, 
he sent for a famous greyhound he had bought, that 
he might enjoy a few days' coursing during his 
stay. 

The arrival of the greyhound was an event in 
the dull life of the parish, and the reason for the 
interest it aroused is not far to seek. The St Just 
men, the best of judges on a rich lode of tin and the 
points of a greyhound, had no sooner cast eyes on 
Digory's dog than they recognised what a perfect 
creature she was. Such a greyhound had never 
been seen in West Cornwall before ; and when it 
leaked out, as somehow it very soon did, that she 
had won the Liverpool Cup and had cost Digory 
Strout a thousand guineas, the St Just men were 
all agog that a challenge should be sent then and 
there to Farmer Pendre of Selena Moor, whose 
famous dog, Beeswing, had carried everything before 
it the previous season, and turned the heads of the 
men of Buryan. No doubt a coursing-match might 
have been amicably arranged by the owners, but 
unfortunately some of the miners let fall certain 
taunts which reached the ears of their rivals 
and stung them into a state of fury. Thus old 
enmities were aroused, the two parishes became once 
more involved in a feud, and Farmer Pendre, who 



148 DIGORY STROUT AND FARMER PENDRE 

was a hot-headed man, singled out Strout as his 
enemy. Digory drove about the countryside 
apparently unconcerned, but the feeling between the 
parishes grew worse and worse ; and the constable 
at Buryan, foreseeing a fray and being anxious to 
take part in it, sent in his resignation. Matters 
soon came to a head. A fortnight after the arrival 
of Fleetfoot, as the greyhound was named, a fight 
took place inside the Quaker's burial-ground between 
a St Just man from Dowran and a Buryan man 
from Crowz-an-Wra, and the St Just man got badly 
beaten. 

This was a spark that threatened to set the 
inflammable material of the two parishes in a blaze ; 
and no one knew this better than the manager of 
Balleswidden mine, who, as soon as he heard the 
result of the fight, knocked the ashes out of his 
pipe, and went and saw the parson. What 
happened in the study at the back of the rectory is 
not known ; but, at all events, Parson Grose was 
seen galloping through the Churchtown before nine 
o'clock the next morning, and somehow everyone 
knew that he was on his way to Buryan. When 
he reached the high ground near Chapel Cairn 
Brea and could see the road below him, there, to his 
surprise, was Canon Roulson on his white horse 



A STORM BREWING 149 

coming uphill on his way to St Just. They met 
where the parishes meet, and by the boundary-stone 
they discussed the best means for allaying the 
animosities of their parishioners. 

In the end Parson Grose proposed that Farmer 
Pendre should send a challenge to Mr Digory Strout, 
and Canon Roulson as vehemently proposed that 
Mr Digory Strout should send a challenge to Farmer 
Pendre. Each advocated the cause of his own parish 
with great warmth, speaking louder and louder, 
until Parson Grose noticed a man who was plough- 
ing two fields away stop his team to listen, and then 
he gave in, certain that the canon would have his 
own way, if they argued till doomsday. Their inter- 
view over, the good parsons mounted their dobbins 
and galloped home, only to find that Digory and 
Pendre had gone to Penzance, for it was market-day 
there. The rivals met at the junction of the St 
Just and Land's End roads, and what must they do, 
after looking daggers at one another, but race all the 
way to the Western Hotel ? In Penzance they moved 
about the streets until dinner-time with a supporter 
on each side, and farmers, foreseeing an outburst at 
the ordinary, flocked to the " Western " in such 
numbers that sitting-room was hard to find. A 
chair, however, at one end of the long table was re- 



150 DIGORY STROUT AND FARMER PENDRE 

served for Digory, who was two minutes late. S trout 
was the coolest man in the crowded room, and seemed 
to be enjoying the beefsteak-pie, for he had a second 
helping ; but Farmer Pendre, who sat facing him, 
spent the time in watching his rival from behind a 
huge rump of beef. The general conversation, which 
was fitful from the start, became hushed when the 
cheese.came on, and Digory, who spoke in his ordinary 
voice, could be clearly heard at the end of the room. 
As he happened to make some casual remark in which 
the words " best dog" occurred, up jumped Farmer 
Pendre and in loud, excited tones exclaimed, " Ef 
you want to find the best dog, you must look for et 
outside St Just." 

In the dead silence which followed, all eyes were 
fixed on Digory, and the waiters moved about on 
tiptoe. Digory sat turning over Farmer Pendre's 
heated words during twenty seconds, which seemed 
like twenty minutes to the company, then standing 
up he said, " I hope I do not misinterpret the drift 
of Mr Pendre's remark. If he means it for a chal- 
lenge, I accept it. I am willing that my dog shall 
run against his on Feasten Monday for any stakes 
he likes to name." The emphatic manner in which 
the company brought their glasses down on the 
table, making the spoons ring again, showed they 



THE CHALLENGE ACCEPTED 151 

approved of Digory's challenge, which had been 
uttered in a voice that betrayed no sign of passion. 

" I accept your challenge, Mr Strout," said Farmer 
Pendre, knocking over his neighbour's toddy as he 
jumped up, " and will back my dog against yours for 
^50, even money ; and if you're willin', we'll meet in 
Sancreed Churchtown at ten o'clock on the morning 
you name." 

The diamond of Digory's ring flashed as he 
waved his hand in assent, and immediately the buzz 
of conversation around the table became deafening. 
Thus was the match arranged, and a safety-valve 
provided for the pent-up animosity of two parishes 
which neither hurling nor wrestling had ever roused 
to so dangerous a pitch. Before ten o'clock that 
night it was known in every hamlet in the " West 
Country " that Pendre's challenge for so it was 
put had been accepted. In the interval between 
the Thursday and Feasten Monday the subject of 
coursing was in everybody's mouth, and people were 
surprised that neither Canon Roulson nor Parson 
Grose referred to it in their sermons on Sunday 
evening. 



CHAPTER XIII 
THE HARE Continued 

THE COURSE 

AT last the looked-for day the third of November 
arrived, and fortunately it broke fine, without sign 
of mist or fog. Not that any weather, however bad, 
would have kept away the keen men who from all 
the parishes around were making towards San- 
creed. From St Levan, Sennen, Morvah, Madron, 
Zennor, Paul, Gulval, they came in goodly numbers, 
to say nothing of Buryan and St Just, till not only the 
town-place the square in front of the Bird-in-hand 
but also the roadway that skirts the high church- 
yard wall were filled with a more excited throng than 
ever gathered there in olden days to witness a miracle 
play. 

By the dial on the church-porch it was ten 
o'clock when Digory Strout, accompanied by two 
friends, drove down the " Beacon " road into the 



162 



AT THE TRYSTING-PLACE 153 

town-place. He raised his black billycock hat and 
stood bareheaded for a moment, in acknowledgment 
of the cheers of his supporters. He was well dressed ; 
and his brown velvet waistcoat emphasised the rich 
yellow of the watch-chain, made out of the first nug- 
gets he had found in his creek. He wore a big 
moustache, otherwise he was clean-shaven, save for 
the tuft of hair on his under lip, which, with his 
sallow complexion, gave him a far-travelled look. 
Everyone but Farmer Pendre was now present, and 
whilst men were speculating why he was so late, the 
penetrating notes of a horn were heard above the din, 
and shortly after the crowd fell back on either side 
as his tandem dashed up the road into the Square. 

Pendre, whose Sunday-best suit was set off by 
a brand-new white hat and crimson neck-tie, created 
a favourable impression by the smart way he handled 
the two chestnuts ; but it was the fawn-coloured grey- 
hound, arrayed in a green coat on which fifteen balls 
had been worked in yellow silk, that fixed the gaze 
of the St Just men. He carried himself as if con- 
scious that all eyes were on him, and no one could 
deny that he was a grand dog, or that his head, 
perfectly set as it was on his graceful neck, was a 
collection of good points. 

The rousing cheer that rose from the throats 

u 



154 THE COURSE 

of the Buryan men was tauntingly answered by the 
St Just men crowding the upper half of the Square ; 
but at the moment when things threatened a fray, 
the venerable parson, who had been standing under 
the trees near his gate, walked across between the 
hostile ranks, and shook hands with each of the 
owners. This well-timed act was not without its 
sobering effect on the crowd ; but it was remarked 
that Strout and Pendre did not exchange any 
form of greeting, though they stood side by side on 
the broad granite flagstone before the inn door. 

No time was lost in making the necessary ar- 
rangements. Five men were chosen on each side 
to find a hare, and a great compliment it was deemed 
to be one of them. The places of honour at the 
ends of the line were assigned to Matthey Thomas 
of St Just Churchtown and Bethias Wallace of 
Buryan. The ten were driven to Chapel Cairn 
Brea ; the slipper followed with the greyhounds ; and 
close behind rode Mr Heber, the well-known judge, 
who had come straight from the great meeting at 
Amesbury. It had been decided to search Cairn 
Brea, Bartinney, Caer Bran, and the Beacon, in the 
order named, and a more picturesque setting for the 
day's sport could not have been chosen. Nowhere 
has nature fixed more graceful curves against the 



THE CORNISH HEIGHTS 155 

sky than those presented by the undulating outline 
of these last four of the Cornish heights. Let the 
reader imagine four cones, with bases wide for their 
height, forming a row parallel to the length of a 
table on which they are placed. He will then have a 
rude representation in miniature of the conformation 
of the country, washed on three sides by the sea, 
which the hills overlook. 

The top of Bartinney was soon crowded with 
spectators, so too were the old earthworks on Caer 
Bran, and a big crowd followed the beaters. These 
were extended in a line on the western slope 
of Cairn Brea, and working the ground in front of 
them as they advanced up the hill was Ben 
Corin's harrier Tuneful, a dog reputed to have 
the best nose in the nine parishes. The slipper held 
the greyhounds in a leash in the middle of the line, 
and the judge rode a little on one side to the rear. 
Of the crowd on Bartinney that eagerly awaited 
their appearance on the hill-crest, Parson Grose was 
perhaps the only one who turned his thoughts from 
the sport to scan the tableland, so rich in vestiges 
of the past, which lay spread out like a map some 
four hundred feet below. To him it was the forlorn 
refuge of the ancient Celt, a scene of the early 
Church's activity, a land of legend and romance. 



156 THE COURSE 

The old antiquary's eyes wandered from the grey 
towers of the mediaeval churches to the site of holy 
well and ruined baptistery, wayside cross and 
sanctuary, monolith and stone circle, cromlech and 
cave-dwelling. Once indeed he raised his eyes from 
the narrow promontory to the far western horizon, 
where a broken line, dimly discernible, marked the 
position of the Isles of Scilly. But his attention 
was soon recalled by a murmur that ran through 
the crowd gathered round Digory, at the sight of 
the judge on horseback and the beaters as they 
showed on the skyline before descending the eastern 
slope. Stunted furze and heather, with here and there 
a patch of golden bracken, clothe the sides of the hills, 
and the Lidden's pool, encircled by rushes and sere 
grasses, gleams in the trough below them. On reach- 
ing the sheet of water the St Just men take to the 
left, the Buryan men to the right, and with the latter 
go the slipper, in charge of the dogs, and the judge. 
Scarcely have they separated when Bethias ' pricks ' 
a hare ; again its track is seen by a Buryan man, 
and simultaneously on the other side of the pool the 
harrier begins to feather on a line, and once she 
throws her tongue. Every clump of rushes, every 
patch of coarse grass, is carefully searched ; and just 
as every one begins to fear that the hare has passed 



SEE-HO ! 157 

over the hill, from the extreme left of the St Just 
line comes the almost whispered exclamation, " See- 
ho ! " It is Matthey Thomas who has viewed the 
hare where she sits some twenty yards ahead, and 
instantly withdrawn his gaze. 

The line stops ; the judge, slipper, and dogs 
come round, pass through the excited crowd, 
and join Matthey, who points out the hare, or 
rather the spot where she is lying, for he alone can 
see her. He is then directed to start her, and with 
him go the judge and the slipper. When they are 
within five yards of the form, out goes the little Jack, 
his head set in the direction of Bartinney. The 
greyhounds strain at the leash, dragging the slipper 
with them, but not until the hare has forty yards' 
start does the judge give the word to loose them. 
Like arrows released from the bow, they are off, and 
every eye is on them. Seldom if ever has a more 
exciting course been witnessed. 

At first the greyhounds gain on the hare, but 
the rising ground to which he is leading them is in 
his favour, for there at almost every bound his 
pursuers sink into the stunted furze skirting the 
narrow " run " he knows so well. 

Near the top of the hill better foothold enables 
them to hold their own, but they do not regain an 



158 THE COURSE 

inch of the ground they have lost. At amazing 
speed the hare passes the crowd on Bartinney a 
good thirty yards ahead of the greyhounds, and 
takes to the eastern slope. So far not a point 
has been scored by either dog, but near the foot of 
the hill Fleetfoot turns the hare, and then it looks 
as though Beeswing must kill. Scarcely ten yards 
separate greyhound and hare as they sweep across 
the two furlongs of flat ground that runs up to the 
moorland farm over which the Jack has so often 
wandered. A sudden turn lets in Fleetfoot, and 
the greyhounds are dead level, with the hare just 
in front of them, when a hundred yards from the 
gate for which he is heading. Surely he will never 
reach it ... yes, for the greyhounds are jumping 
the gate as he passes underneath, and even as they 
are in mid-air he doubles back under it and follows 
the cattle-track skirting the boundary-wall of the 
farm. When the dogs view him again, he is at least 
thirty yards to the good once more, and heading 
for Caer Bran. Gradually they reduce his lead, 
and beyond an open stretch of turf, where, to the 
surprise of the judge, Beeswing had given Fleetfoot 
the go-by, points are scored by both dogs ; and 
then a wilderness of pits and mounds receives the 
hare just in time to save him from Beeswing's jaws. 



A NARROW ESCAPE 159 

At headlong speed he threads this maze just in 
front of the greyhounds, making the air hum as he 
dashes along the rough ways. 

On issuing from it the hare turns suddenly 
to the left, and skirts some furze-bushes that 
screen him from the gaze of the dogs. See ! 
they have lost him, but the high springs they 
are taking will enable them to sight him the 
instant he leaves the shelter of the last furze- 
bush. Yes, they view him at once ; and the 
course is resumed under the eyes of the spectators 
on Caer Bran. To them, in spite of the twenty 
yards he has gained, ft seems impossible for the 
Jack to reach the Beacon, for which he is now 
evidently making. Moreover, the steep lane he 
takes to, in full view of the greyhounds, is all in 
their favour and, rapid as is the pace of the hare, 
the leaps of the greyhounds are bringing them close 
to his scut. They are running neck and neck, and 
almost mouthing him. 

At this critical moment he rushes through 
a bolt-hole in a single-stone wall, in clearing 
which the greyhounds show again in the air 
together. He keeps to the rough grass -field on 
the other side until they are nearly on him, and 
then, as suddenly as before, passes through another 



160 THE COURSE 

opening in the wall, crosses the lane, and threads 
some scattered furze-bushes on a narrow strip of 
common that lies at the foot of Sancreed Beacon. 
Whether the greyhounds were exhausted by the 
long course, or whether they lost sight of the hare, 
is not certain ; at all events they were found in a 
very distressed condition, lying side by side on a 
patch of grass amongst the furze, and the little Jack 
got clear away. 

"Bravo, puss!" were the judge's words, as he 
followed the hare with his eyes as far as the little 
plantation of storm-bent pines half-way up the hill. 
Mr Heber was not the last to view him, for Uncle 
Johnnie Lairdner, the sexton, was on the Beacon 
when the hare passed over it, and has left it on 
record that though the Jack was black with sweat, 
no sign of arch in his back could he see, and he 
was goin' like a ball. 

The greyhounds were at once taken to Sancreed 
Churchtown ; and thither the spectators hurried, 
across croft and field, every one anxious to know 
which dog was adjudged the victor. The excite- 
ment in the town-place baffles description. The St 
Just men would have it that their dog had won, and 
of these no one was more conspicuous than was he 
whose eyes yet showed traces of the fight. The 



THE JUDGE'S DECISION 1i,l 

Buryan men were not quite so confident, though 
they knew that their dog had never run better. 
Some noticed, after the rivals had exchanged a 
few words with the judge, that Digory looked 
disappointed and Pendre jubilant ; but this was set 
down to difference of temperament, and not until at 
last the judge spoke, did the impatient crowd know 
the result of the course. 

Standing in a wagonette between the owners, 
this and here let me thank the Editor of the 
Lands End Courier for a copy of the speech is 
what Mr Heber said : 

"Gentlemen, I have judged at many meetings, 
but never at one where so great an interest has 
been taken in a single course. You may tell me 
that this is the result of parish rivalry, but I strongly 
suspect that at the bottom of it lies that love of 
sport which characterises no Englishman more than 
a Cornishman, and no Cornishman more than a 
native of St Just." His voice was feeble for so big 
a man, but now it sank almost to a whisper. 

" I can tell by your breathless attention that you 
are anxious to know which dog I judge the winner 
of the stakes. That my decision will be loyally ac- 
cepted by loser as by winner I have not a shadow 
of a doubt." In the pause which followed, the cock 



162 THE COURSE 

in the glebe farm crowed. "Gentleman, I have 
never had a more difficult course to adjudicate on ; 
I have never seen two better dogs run side by side, 
I may say, neck to neck. One of the greyhounds 
is already famous, having won the blue ribbon of the 
Leash ; the other, a dog of pure Cornish breed, is 
known as the Champion of Cornwall. There is 
little to choose between these two wonderful dogs ; 
but there is a difference, if slight, on to-day's form, 
and I declare Beeswing the winner by a single 
point." 

The applause, renewed again and again by nearly 
all except the St Just men, was deafening : it scared 
the jackdaws away from the church tower. It was a 
trying few minutes for the losers, who stared at the 
elated winners with angry eyes, their fists clenched, 
and their faces white. They might indeed have 
come to blows if Digory had not spoken ; but if the 
St Just men were resolved to break the peace the 
following speech averted a collision. 

" Fellow Cornishmen, I little thought when bid- 
ding farewell to the men of my claim that the next 
occasion on which I should address an assembly 
would be in Sancreed Churchtown. Silence is 
golden, they say ; but to-day's proceedings will, in my 
opinion, be all the better for being rounded off with 



DIGORY'S SPEECH 163 

a few words of conciliation. First, let me thank Mr 
Heber for coming all this way to act as judge. No 
more competent man could have been chosen ; and 
though his verdict is against my dog, I accept it 
without demur, and frankly own that to-day Fleet- 
foot was beaten ! Mr Pendre," said he, turning to 
the farmer, whose white hat was tilted on the back 
of his head, " I congratulate you on your success. 
I own that I never thought your dog would be a 
match for the winner of the Cup ; but believe me, 
though I confess to being disappointed, ' nip and 
tuck ' race though it was, I find some consolation 
in the fact that it was by a dog of pure Cornish 
pedigree that Fleetfootjjwas beaten. 

" One other thing, gentleman, let us not forget 
the wonderful staying power of that little Jack, 
which practically ran both dogs to a standstill." 
(Hear, hear, from the judge.) 

" The only fault to be found with Cornish hares 
is, that there are too few of them. In furtherance of 
sport in general as well as for my own pleasure, I 
purpose, if the farmers do not object, releasing a 
hundred hares on the waste land between Mulfra 
and Kenidzhek. If I settle down at home, I should 
like to be able to calculate on our having a good 
day's coursing together. Some people who have 



164 THE COURSE 

never been abroad wonder that I do not return 
to the Far West. My answer is, 'a hare on our 
own downses means more to me than a bear on a 
furrin' range.' (Great applause.) I do not know 
that I have anything further to add than to ask Mr 
Pendre to shake hands with the loser." 

Now, after the hard things that had been said 
about Digory, this was considered very handsome 
on his part : so that even the Buryan men, whilst 
emotion swayed them, felt sorry that he had lost, and 
after the rivals had shaken hands amidst thundering 
applause the Buryan men kept crying, " Pendre, 
Pendre," till the farmer, though unused to any meet- 
ing bigger than an Easter Vestry or Balleswidden 
" account," felt that, all " mizy-mazy " as his brain 
was, he must say something. 

"Gentlemen, I never felt so flambustered in all 
my born days. I'm no orator like Mr Strout, but I 
also should like to thank the judge for his day's 
work. Gentlemen, what's the use of saying to the 
contrary when you don't feel it? I'm glad that 
Beeswing won, and it's downright honest truth, 
though I say it (great laughter) ... I couldn't have 
lost and not showed it, like Mr Strout. Maybe 
that comes of travellin' in furrin' paarts, for I've 
never been out of sight of Buryan tower for a whole 



A FRIENDLY FINISH 165 

day in my life. Now let me tell ee somethin'. It 
is not the furst, it's not the second time that Bees- 
wing has coused that leel Jack ; and I knawed un the 
minit he jumped up by a whitey mark on the niddick. 
In conclusion, let me tell ee to your face, Mr Strout, 
that you're a sportsman ; and if I've shawed ee any 
ill feelin', and I fear I have, I ask ee to overlook it. 
I wish ee well, and every St Just man godspeed." 
(Applause.) 

Thus amicably ended that day's coursing match, 
which is now a tradition, its minutest details accu- 
rately passed on by the farmers in the chimney- 
corners of the West Country. 

Digory was as good as his word ; and in the 
following June a consignment of a hundred and 
fifteen hares arrived at Penzance from Salisbury 
Plain. These were set free on Bartinney, Mulfra, 
the Galver, Kenidzhek and the Dry Cairn, and 
for some years afterwards the country was well 
stocked. 

Unfortunately the conditions of existence have 
proved too hard for them, and little by little they have 
had to yield in the struggle against their many 
enemies, until to-day a hare is as scarce in the Land's 
End district as when Digory returned home from 
the Rocky Mountains. Nevertheless, a few hardy 



166 THE COURSE 

survivors are still found on the hills ; and when, as 
generally happens, the hare outruns the dogs de- 
scendants perhaps of Beeswing and Fleetfoot the 
disappointed sportsman attributes its escape, not to 
witchcraft, but to stamina derived from the strain of 
the little Jack of Bartinney. 




CHURCHTOWN. 



[Face page 166. 



CHAPTER XIV 

A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

THE wildest of British wild sports is the pursuit of 
the seal in the almost inaccessible cliff-caves to 
which it at times resorts. Of its haunts along the 
north coast of Cornwall it is but rarely seen on 
the south from the Land's End to Tintagel, the 
caverns of Hell's Bay are perhaps those which it 
most frequents. More secluded or safer fastnesses 
it would be difficult to imagine, yet in these it may 
be surprised by those who do not shrink from the 
peril the pursuit involves. The nearest homestead 
to the Black Cliffs, as those skirting Hell's Bay are 
named, is Reskageage ; and to its occupant, Mr 
N., who has led many expeditions against the seals, 
I owed the opportunity of sharing a bit of sport 
the wildness of which it is beyond my power to 
declare. 

He had promised to send me word when circum- 



167 



168 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

stances seemed favourable to our purpose, and one 
morning towards the end of September 1 89-, whilst 
staying at St Ives, I received the following message 
from him : " Come if possible to-morrow (Thurs- 
day) afternoon. I have just seen three seals under 
the cliffs, and the chances are we shall find some in 
the caves, as they have not been disturbed for a long 
time. One of the light-keepers of Godrevy tells me 
that he has not seen so many playing about the 
reef for years. If you sail across the bay and the 
water is smooth, land on the north side of the Red 
River." 

After sending a wire that I should come without 
fail, I made arrangements with a boatman to take 
me across the bay. It was close on three o'clock 
the following afternoon when we rounded the pier 
head and set the bow of our little craft for Gwithian 
beach. A fair wind filled the brown sail and drove 
us at a merry pace over the waves of this loveliest 
of bays, where the Cornish sea displays its vividest 
hues in a setting of silver sand. Landing was 
practicable, and the boat was beached near where 
my friend was awaiting me on the shore. 

"You're rather late," said he, as we shook 
hands. 

" Well now, you had better go and have a good 




A STREET AT ST IVES. 



[Puce page 16. 



GWITHIAX CLIFFS 169 

look at the cliffs whilst it's light. You'll see where 
I've been whitewashing the rocks. Get the twists 
and turns of the way down fixed in your mind : that 
will be helpful later on. In the meanwhile I'm going 
to overhaul the whole of the gear." 

I took the direction he indicated and, stepping 
out briskly across the intervening neck of rising 
ground between the two bays, soon reached the 
dizzy edge of the cliffs. A little on my left hand, 
zigzagging down the steep descent and almost to 
the edge of the foam, lay a white dotted line 
that was to guide us in the darkness. The mouths 
of the caves there are four frequented by the 
seals were some two or three hundred feet below 
me, but I could not see them. 

Bleak and lone are these Gwithian cliffs, merci- 
less the winds that sweep them. Not a tree or a 
bush is to be seen, and even the heather is stunted. 
No note of songbird meets the ear, nor scream of 
seafowl, only the sullen boom of the Atlantic ground- 
swell in the caves so far below. Along the coast 
towards Newquay sunlit headlands stretched out 
into the ocean ; and the low promontory of Trevose, 
dim and unsubstantial-looking, lay on the far horizon. 
The mellow rays of the sun now and again caught 
the snow-white plumage of some bird along the 



170 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

coast, and lit up the surf at the foot of the distant 
cliffs. 

Not a gull floated over the bay below me ; 
but a string of cormorants, with black flight, 
skimmed the heaving surface just beyond the dark 
shadow of the coastline, and disappeared round a 
jagged point. 

I was following the last of these birds with 
my eyes, when my gaze was arrested by the 
appearance of a seal below me, and as far as I 
could judge, not twenty yards from the mouth of 
one of the caves. It carried its head, which looked 
as black as jet, clear of the surface, and betrayed 
not the least sign of alarm. After about a minute 
it sank it did not dive out of sight. I remained 
watching, in 5 the hope that the quaint-looking 
creature would show itself again ; but, as it gave no 
sign and the sun was nearing the horizon, I left the 
cliff and made my way across the heather and 
stubble to Reskageage. 

I found my friend in the barn. The light of 
a candle stuck against the wall fell on the sun- 
browned faces of the farmhands, who watched 
him as he overhauled the equipment for our ex- 
pedition. The various details were displayed on 
the lid of a big wooden chest that had once held 



THE EQUIPMENT 171 

the tin-ore between "ticketing" days at Wheal 
Margy. There lay some dozen torches, consist- 
ing of small branches of elm, about three feet in 
length, with pieces of white rag wound round one 
end and secured by bits of string ; three small 
bottles containing oil, a rather heavy hammer with 
a new haft about three and a half feet long, a power- 
ful gaff, a long-bladed knife, a revolver and cartridges. 
Near a big coil of rope was a sack of very bulky 
appearance, which somewhat excited my curiosity. 
Undoing the string round the neck of it, my friend 
drew out a rope-ladder ten inches in width and 
between fifty and sixty feet long. The rungs were 
of iron, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, 
and perhaps fourteen inches apart. The strength of 
the ladder had previously been tried by the tug-of-war 
test, but now my host carefully examined the rope 
where it passed through eyes in the rungs, to make 
sure that it had not been weakened by friction or by 
rust. No defects being found, the free ends of the 
ropes were tied together, forming a triangle with the 
top rung ; and the ladder was again stowed away 
in the sack. The big coil of rope was next over- 
hauled. It was knotted at intervals of about three 
feet. 

"What's that for?" I asked. 



172 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

" We keep that up in the adit, in case anything 
goes wrong with the ladder." 

"And the knots?" 

"They make swarming up easier." 

A vague idea of the mode of approach and of 
egress from the cave began to dawn upon me. 
"There's only one way out?" I inquired. 

" By the adit is the only way, unless you swim 
for it before the tide covers the mouth of the cave." 

"There's some ledge out of reach of the tide, 
where you can wait till it falls ? " 

" No, there's scarcely foothold for a shag or a 
cliff-owl on the walls of the big cave." 

I confess to feeling slightly unnerved at the pros- 
pect, the perilous character of which was now 
evident. However, I meant going through with 
the business, which was of my own inviting ; but 
though I had the utmost confidence in my friend, it 
seemed to me it would be safer, in the event of 
accidents, that three rather than two should descend 
into the "big cave," as he had called it. It is try- 
ing enough to a novice to be let down over a cliff in 
broad daylight to reach a peregrine's or raven's nest, 
but I could see that was nothing in comparison with 
the night expedition before me. In the circum- 
stances, it is natural that the idea of sending for the 



ANDREW SENT FOR 173 

Earthstopper should have occurred to me. Not 
only was he accustomed to the cliffs at night, but he 
was of firm nerve and of ready resource. I lost no 
time in suggesting it ; already I feared it was too 
late. 

"Very well," replied my friend, "in case of acci- 
dent not that I expect any, mind you we 
couldn't have a better man. Fill in a form you will 
find some on my table and Tom there shall take it 
at once. There isn't a moment to lose." 

A few minutes later the lad was cantering down 
the lane between the sand-dunes with this mes- 
sage : "Be here by midnight. Ride or drive. 

Seal hunt between twelve and one. T , Res- 

kageage, Gwithian." 

My friend was extinguishing one of the torches 
as I re-entered the barn. Evidently he was not 
content until he had tested everything, even the oil. 
I could not but remark to him on the extreme care 
of his preparations. 

" I like to see to every detail myself in a 
ticklish job of this sort," he said, as he laid 
the torch down by the side of the gaff: "a weak 
spot in the rope, a flaw in the haft of the hammer, 
bad cartridges or wet matches, may mean more 
than spoiled sport," 



174 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

Leaving the barn, we made our way across the 
rickyard to the house. 

A cold wind was rustling the leaves of the wind- 
dipt elm that had supplied handles for our torches ; 
and, as the air was chilly, I was glad to get indoors. 
After supper we withdrew into my friend's sanctum 
and pulled our chairs up to the furze fire which 
blazed on the wide hearth. Cases of rare birds and 
curious relics hung against the walls, and the floor 
was covered with sealskins. 

In reply to some questions about the seals, 
my host told me it was an old man that spent 
most of his time about the cliffs, egg-collecting, 
and looking for things cast up by the sea, who 
had first called his attention to them. This had 
led to his finding a way to the caves for the 
secret had died with the smugglers who used them 
and eventually to the animals themselves. The 
greatest number of seals he had killed at one time 
was seven, he said, and the heaviest carcase would 
weigh five or six hundredweight. His opinion was 
that at least some of the seals remain on the coast 
all the year round, and that they do not go far out 
to sea to fish. They fed chiefly on the herring, but 
he had seen one rise in Hell's Bay with a big flat- 
fish of some sort, probably a turbot, writhing in its 



THE EARTHSTOPPEITS ARRIVAL 175 

mouth. Then, suddenly jumping up in the middle 
of an explanation why the eye of the seal is big and 
the otter's small " He's coming," said he. 

We went to the garden gate and looked down 
the road and, sure enough, a light was coming 
towards us. 

" How on earth did you know he was close at 
hand ? " I asked in surprise. " You didn't hear any- 
thing, did you ? " 

"No, I did not hear the horse neigh nor the 
sound of its hoofs, for they fell and are still falling 
on sand ; but the dog must have heard, for I 
noticed him prick his ears and listen. You see, 
Andrew's time was all but up ; and, putting the 
two together, I didn't hesitate to say he was 
coming." 

More and more distinct grew the light ; then we 
heard the thud of hoofs where the track is clear of 
sand ; and at last Andrew, seated on a rough pony, 
and holding the lantern in his left hand, emerged from 
the darkness. 

"Good evening, gentlemen. I was afeerd I was 
too late, though I've shogged on as fast as I could." 

The old shepherd having taken charge of the 
steaming pony, we soon had the Earthstopper before 
the furze fire. 



176 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

"That looks cheerful after the black night, tho' 
et do make ee blink like a cat at fust." 

" You've had a lonely ride, Andrew ? " 

" No, sir, I'm never lonely, unless maybe when 
stopping the Land's End cliffs on a wild night. 
Why, Lelant flats was all alive with curleys and sea- 
birds as I crossed the Caunsway. Niver heerd such 
whistlin' in all my born days. Et must be gettin' 
on for low water." 

" Well now, drink up that glass of toddy and 
we'll be on the move. It's half an hour to low water, 
and it's time we were on our way." 

Whilst my friend was saying this, I looked at the 
hands of the clock in the corner. It was seven 
minutes past twelve. Our equipment having been 
divided among us, we set out across the fields for 
the cliffs. 

" We've forgotten the sack," I said, as we crossed 
the stubble. 

" That's all right," replied my friend. 

It was indeed a black night, as the Earthstopper 
had remarked. A great bank of cloud hung like a 
curtain before the western heaven, and shut out the 
light of half the stars. On our left Godrevy shot 
out its warning beams at regular intervals, and far 
away up channel Trevose light shone bravely in the 



DOWN THE CLIFF 177 

gloom. The keen, salt wind blew straight in our 
faces as we breasted the high ground near the sea. 
By-and-by the sullen roar which reached our ears 
made us cautious, for we had neared the edge of the 
cliff ; and, when we had roped ourselves together, our 
guide took the lead and we began the steep descent. 

The otter excepted, there is no more wary animal 
than the seal ; so we climbed down past the stones, 
ghost-like in their white shrouds, as noiselessly as 
possible, and at length arrived at the foot of the cliff. 
There was no beach, only huge wet boulders, between 
which the tide gurgled. We had scrambled it was 
rough going some distance over these rocks before 
I felt a pull on the rope, and then, peering through 
the darkness, I saw that our guide was standing at 
the entrance to a tunnel that proved to be the way 
into the seals' cave, the mouth of which is unap- 
proachable except by boat. Here we met with an 
unexpected impediment. The mast of a ship had 
got wedged into the passage, leaving only a narrow 
space between its splintered surface and the rocky 
walls. 

" Hand over your lantern, Andrew," said my 
friend, as he struck a match on his trousers. 

" It's all right," said he, holding the light against 

the mouth of the tunnel ; " I think we can get through. 

z 



178 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

Now, undo the rope, and follow me as quiet as mice. 
You've got the hammer, Andrew ? " 

"Yes." 

This in whispers ; and then we squeezed through 
the cramped space. The passage was some five feet 
in height and four in breadth. The floor was very 
irregular, and covered with water lying in pools of 
varying depths. At the further side of a deep pool 
our guide paused, and held a light over the water. 
This enabled me to avoid the holes between the loose 
rocks at the bottom, and I managed to get through 
by wading thigh-deep. The old Earthstopper in 
his fur cap and velveteen coat followed, trying the 
depth with the long, white haft of the hammer he 
carried. I noticed that he left the water as noise- 
lessly as an otter would have done. The increasing- 
noise of the waves warned us as we progressed along 
the tunnel, that we were getting near the seals' re- 
treat. In the great cave in which we soon stood, 
the roaring at its mouth and the reverberations 
within produced a noise that was deafening. Three 
torches were lit ; and we advanced over some loose 
rocks and shingle to a shelving bed of white sand, on 
which the seals are generally found. Down this, when 
surprised, they shuffle to face their enemies and meet 
death. It was disappointing to find none at home. 



A SEA-HALL 179 

We then proceeded to explore the inmost re- 
cesses, to reach which we had to scramble on all 
fours between the descending roof and the ascending 
floor of the cave. In one of these, that reminded 
me of a chapel in Westminster Abbey, was a 
baby seal, which, judging from its plaintive bleats, 
seemed to know the danger it was in. It was about 
a foot and a half long, of a creamy colour, with big, 
pleading eyes. Leaving the little creature we re- 
turned to the rocky part of the floor, and held the 
torches high above our heads to try to illuminate 
the cave. We could see the great walls of rock for 
perhaps twenty or thirty feet, but the light failed to 
scatter the gloom which ever shrouds the lofty roof. 
Here and there in these darker heights projections of 
rock were dimly visible, looking like spectral faces 
craned forward to peer at us. It was a weird scene 
that this great, resounding ocean-hall presented, and 
one that haunts the memory. There is little wonder 
that legends and superstitions cluster round these 
caves. 

"Come," said our guide, " there's no time to be 
lost," and in a few minutes we were again scrambling 
between the mast and the rock. I was glad to get 
a glimpse of the stars again. Out at sea, I could 
discern the light of some vessel going up towards 



180 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

the Bristol Channel. As I climbed the dusky cliff- 
side on the heels of our guide, and with Andrew 
behind me, I tried to brace my nerves for the ordeal 
that lay before us. The approach to the cave for 
which we were making is fraught with peril. Few 
attempt it, and of those few scarce one makes the de- 
scent a second time. This cave is the securest strong- 
hold of the seals along the wild coast of Cornwall. 

We might have made our way up some seventy 
feet when the guide struck a rude track on the cliff- 
side, and this we followed until the light of the lantern 
fell on the old shepherd sitting with the sack contain- 
ing the rope-ladder. We had arrived at the entrance 
to the adit for which we were making, and along 
this we all proceeded in single file. It was a strange 
way of reaching a cave the mouth of which lay sixty 
feet below. We had not advanced thirty yards be- 
fore we could hear the hollow roar of the waves. 

" Be careful here," said the guide, as he held his 
torch over a chasm. For some reason, a piece of 
the partition-wall between the adit and the cave has 
been destroyed, and with it half the narrow footway. 
It was a dangerous spot to pass in the lurid, unsteady 
light ; but the shepherd made nothing of it, and as 
the projecting part of the sack on his back lay over the 
chasm when he skirted it, he was able to hug the wall 



THE ADIT 181 

on his right. Some thirty yards farther in, the 
tunnel pierced the wall of the cave, and again 
the hollow roar of the sea reached our ears. 
Whether the adit was driven on a vein of copper is 
uncertain, but there is no doubt that at one time it 
was used by smugglers. Kegs of brandy, lace and 
silk goods were probably taken to the mouth of the 
cave in boats, and afterwards hauled up to the tunnel 
and, as opportunity offered, distributed thence over 
the countryside amongst the smugglers' clients, to 
wit, the magistrates, landlords, and tenant farmers. 
Projecting from the wall of the cave, about a foot 
above the level of the adit, is a stout iron bar, over 
which our guide, by leaning forward, placed the end 
of the ladder so that the ropes which had been 
knotted together lay on each side of it, in the acute 
angle between the bar and the wall. The ladder 
was then dropped in the chasm. Clink, clink, clink 
clink clink. The seals must surely have been 
startled by the unusual noise made by the iron rungs 
striking against the rocky wall of their wild retreat. 
Vain warning ! for some of the big boulders which 
cover part of the floor of the cave are dry at low 
water, and effectually prevent their escape. Our 
guide was the first to descend. I followed him into 
the dark abyss. The descent down the wooden 



182 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL-CAVES 

ladders of a tin-mine is child's play to going down a 
rope-ladder which lies against a sheer wall. Twice 
my feet lost grip of the slender staves, and the second 
time, failing to recover the rung, I had to go down 
hand over hand to the point where the ladder hung 
clear of the rock. Here it twisted and turned, adding 
a little variety to the difficulties of the descent. The 
Earthstopper, with the hammer slung across his 
back, followed, coming down hand over hand nearly 
the whole way. 

"That ladder's a rum un ! " he shouted in my 
ear, as we stood on the rock near the foot of it. 

Two lighted torches were then fixed in crannies 
in the walls ; and after lighting three others, we 
moved forward, each holding one in his left hand. 
Beyond the slippery boulders over which we were 
creeping, the flare of the torches fell on the heaving 
surface of a deep, rocky pool. 

" Look out ! " shouted my friend, " they're in." 

We drew a little nearer to the water, now lashed 
into foam as a seal rushed up and down. Two shots 
were fired as its glistening head showed above the 
water, but the only effect as far as I could see was 
to enrage the creature, and make it more aggressive 
than at first. For, when it reached our end of the 
pool again, it threw itself out of the water on to a 



A SEAL KILLED 183 

rock, where it rested momentarily, looking more like 
some antediluvian creature sculptured in black 
marble than a living seal. Then with a hoarse roar 
it slid down the face of the rock and shuffled towards 
us in a most menacing manner. 

" Stand clear, and don't fire again ! " shouted 
Andrew as he swung the hammer preparatory to de- 
livering a blow. My friend jumped aside ; and, as 
the huge brute came within striking distance, the 
hammer caught it full on the head and felled it to 
the ground. A tremor passed over the body ; the 
seal was dead. 

Whilst the battle lasted, angry bellowings came 
from the shelving beach beyond, where other seals 
blurred, restless forms awaited our attack. But 
wholesale slaughter was not our object ; not another 
shot was fired. I would have liked to get nearer 
to the herd, but the danger of crossing the pool 
was too great. 

"For God's sake, don't think of it!" shouted 
my friend ; " we'll light more torches." This done, 
Andrew picked up the one he had laid on the rocks, 
and we advanced to the edge of the water with a 
torch in each hand, holding them well up, and forward 
at full arm's-length. It was the sight of a lifetime. 
Five huge beasts, two grey, the rest a dirty 



184 A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE SEAL ( 

yellow, mottled with black spots, lay swaying on the 
sand, prepared to make a rush they can shuffle 
down a slope at a great pace if we entered the pool : 
and these were not all, for in dark recesses beyond I 
saw indistinct forms move, and once I thought I 
caught the gleam of liquid eyes. For several minutes 
we stood fascinated by the wild scene, but it behoved 
us not to linger. Once or twice I noticed my friend 
turn his face towards the mouth of the cave. In 
the excitement he had not forgotten that the tide had 
turned. There was not time to skin the dead seal 
and remove the blubber ; so my friend, who meant 
coming for this purpose at next low water, went to 
the foot of the ladder and shouted to the shepherd 
to throw down the rope. With some difficulty he 
made himself understood, for the roar of the waves 
was now greater than ever ; and a few moments after 
the shepherd had shouted " Stand clear ! " down came 
the coil on to the boulders. One end of the rope was 
tied securely to one of the flippers of the dead seal 
a huge beast and the other round a rock on which 
a bigger one rested. Andrew and I were taking a 
last look at the seals when our guide called out that 
there was no time to lose ; and, indeed, the tide was 
washing the boulders at the foot of the ladder when 
we got there. 



WE LEAVE THE CAVE 185 

" Take your time, sir," said Andrew as he held 
the bottom of it, " and higher up, press your knee 
against the wall, thet'll clear the staave above." 

When a third of the way up, I looked towards the 
inner part of the cave. Profound gloom shrouded it, 
though the lights still flickered on the walls ; and the 
seals, as far as I could hear, had ceased their angry 
challenges. Having reached the adit, I held a torch 
over the chasm to light the Earthstopper in his 
ascent. When he was near the top of the ladder, I 
saw that his face was spattered with blood. My 
friend having also reached the adit, the ladder was 
hauled up and put into the sack, and we made our 
way again into the open air. Scarcely a word was 
said as we climbed the cliff and crossed the heather 
and stubble to the farmhouse. After a wash and 
a hurried supper, the Earthstopper attached his 
lantern to the saddle and rode down the track to- 
wards Gwithian Churchtown. I could hear him 
jogging along until he reached the place where the 
road lies under feet of driven sand. The black 
clouds had lifted a little, and Crobben Hill was dimly 
discernible against the stars. 

"Pity wecan't have spoart without killin'," were the 
Earthstopper's words as we had stood near the dead 

seal, and I thought of them as I turned to go indoors. 

2 A 



CHAPTER XV 

REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

SNOW had fallen heavily during the night, for at 
daybreak it lay to a depth of several inches on the 
grass under my window, and weighed down the 
laurel-bushes that skirted it. It was an unusual 
sight for a Cornish boy ; but more impressive was 
the hush that had fallen on the world the noiseless 
footfall of man and horse and the muffled tones of 
St Mary's bells, scarcely audible though an east 
wind was blowing. This impression has never left 
me, nor have many of the scenes that met my eyes 
lost their vivid outlines. Despite the effacing 
influence of time, I can still see clearly against the 
white background the incidents of that Christmas- 
tide. One word about the frost. It was sudden 
as well as severe, so that even the men who watched 
the skies for change of weather were taken by 
surprise. The intense cold traversed the island as 

186 



A SHARP FROST 187 

fast as the piercing wind that came with it, and 
between sundown and dawn had laid its icy fetters 
on the whole country. Thus Penwith for once 
suffered with the rest of England, and even more 
severely. Snowdrops had been already gathered in 
sunny corners, and a quarryman on his way home 
to Gulval had seen and picked a few primroses in 
Trevaylor woods, for his sick wife. This became 
known subsequently, when the gardeners sought 
excuses for not having bound up the stems of the 
palm-trees that had till then flourished in the semi- 
tropical climate. Perhaps it is not strictly correct 
to say that there was no warning of the frost. 
Two days before it set in, John Harris, the light- 
house-keeper, had found a woodcock with a broken 
bill lying dead on the stage outside the lantern, and 
near it a rare bird only seen so far west in rigorous 
winters ; and those who took the side of the 
gardeners said that, had he not kept the secret to 
himself for fear of the game-laws, not only the palm- 
trees, but also the old aloe in Alverton Lane that 
had flowered the previous summer, might have been 
saved. Whether the woodcock found by the light- 
house-keeper was one of a big flight or whether the 
birds arrived a day or so later is uncertain ; at all 
events it was generally known on Christmas Day 



188 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

that the furze-brakes were "alive with cock," 
tidings which raised a longing for the morrow in 
the breast of the sportsmen. Among these was an 
old friend whom I found busy in his sanctum filling 
a leathern pouch with shot from a canister. A log 
was blazing on the hearth. As I talked to him, I 
noticed that the ruddy blaze was tinged with green. 
I was puzzled to know the cause at the time, but I 
have thought since that the colour must have been 
due to a copper nail in the half-burnt piece of 
oak. The mention of this recalls how I used to 
enjoy sitting by that fireside, listening to the yarns 
of the three sportsmen who foregathered there. 
Who that ever heard them can forget the incidents 
of that famous night's sea-fishing at the " Back of 
the Island " ; the capture with the walking-stick rod 
of the two-pound trout whose holt was the deep 
pool under the roots of the sycamore at the foot of 
the hilly field at Trewidden ; the vigils in the hut 
at Trevider fowling-pool ; the great take of peal in 
the trammel at Lamorna Cove, and the finding the 
same morning of the otter drowned in the crab-pot 
nearly half a mile seaward from the Bucks ? Few 
sporting tales have appealed to me as did those I 
overheard there ; and, unconsciously, the surround- 
ings may have served to impress me as the setting 



A SPORTSMAN'S DEN 189 

of a play impresses the spectator in a theatre. 
Trophies of the rod and gun mingled with quaint 
relics of by-gone days, that gave an old-world look 
to the room. Between cases of stuffed birds and 
fishes hung pewter jugs, leather bottles, rosaries, 
and crossbows. Above two sporting prints was a 
dove-coloured top-hat, with a wide cork band and 
" Quaker " brim. Few hats could boast such a 
history as that, but I cannot tell it here. On a 
shelf, between a bookcase and a corner-cupboard, 
was the little basket that the woman carried who 
used to distribute letters in Penzance in the early 
part of the last century ; and below it was a sketch 
of a contemporary of hers, the famous Joe Pascoe, 
the one-armed constable, who, according to tradi- 
tion, was a terror to badger- baiters and cock- 
fighters, and a match for Boney himself. There, 
too, was a sketch of Henry Quick, the Zennor 
peasant-poet, with these lines of his under it : 

" Ofttimes abroad I take my flight, 

Take pity on poor Henny ; 
To sell my books 'tis my delight. 
To gain an honest penny." 

Under a coach-horn that had often awakened the 
echoes of the Cornish hills, were three small 
cabinets, my friend's own handiwork. The smallest 



190 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

contained minute shells, carefully classified, which 
he had collected on Porthcurnow and Gwenvor 
beaches ; but more interesting to me than shells, 
ferns, or wildflowers, was the collection of birds' 
eggs. What rare ones some of those compartments 
held! What trouble my friend had had in securing 
them ! I have often questioned him about his 
expeditions on the cliffs, but he preferred to dwell 
on his visits to the outer islands of Scilly. The 
rugged grandeur of Mincarlo and Menavawr 
appealed to him ; yet Annet was his favourite, and 
though he was a man of few words and free from 
gush, I have heard him sigh when a sea-bird's egg, 
or the lichen or withered thrift it rested on, recalled 
the beauty of this islet, which, when the sea-pinks 
are in bloom, glows under the June sun with the 
brilliant beauty of an amethyst set in sapphire. 

The room had one window only ; but it was a 
spacious bay which faced south, and through it you 
could see and hear the waves breaking on the beach 
below. More than once that afternoon, before he 
lit the lamp, my friend turned the spyglass on some 
companies of wildfowl that dotted the rough water 
between the " Battery" and Lareggan rocks. 

A double-barrelled muzzle-loader a Joe Manton 
was George Bevan's favourite gun ; and this, with 



SPORTING FEVER 191 

powder-flasks, shot-pouches, caps and wads, were 
placed ready for the next morning. Only a boy who 
has been entered to sport and knows how the anti- 
cipation of it fevers the blood, can understand how 
impatiently I looked forward to the morrow. That 
night I thought sleep would never come ; and at what 
hour I fell off I do not know, for the frost had got 
into the workings of our eight-day clock, and as for 
the town clock, that could generally be heard the 
town over, it might have stopped for all the sound it 
made in striking. But I must have slept, for I was 
half awakened by some noise against my window. 
My first impression was that the snow had changed to 
hail, but as the rattle grew louder I sat up in bed. 
Then it was I heard, " Jack, get up!" faint and far 
away, like the doctor's voice when you're coming to 
after chloroform ; and almost immediately the memory 
of everything came back to me my friend's last as- 
surance that he would call for me, the white world 
outside and, most stirring of all, the woodcock await- 
ing us in the furze-brakes. I was up in a jiffy, struck 
a light, and dressed as hurriedly as a fourth-form 
boy whom the first stroke of the call-over bell finds 
in bed. The cold had not relented, for a film of ice 
lay on the water in the jug, and by the candlelight I 
saw that the window-panes were frosted over. This 



192 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

was joy to me, for in my troubled sleep I had dreamt 
that the commonplace world was back again, and 
that every woodcock had flown away in the train of 
the retreating frost. Moreover, when we set out, 
the snow crunched under our feet, and a long icicle 
was hanging from the stone lip of the Alverton chute. 
Day was breaking when we reached the hilly field at 
Rosehill and followed the path under the beech-trees ; 
and it is there, for some reason I cannot explain, 
that I best recall my old friend on that day. He 
was well above the middle height, and strongly built. 
The gun was slung across his back by means of a 
leather strap. The coat of heather-mixture he wore 
had, besides big side-pockets, several subsidiary ones, 
and there were leather pieces on the shoulders. Two 
spaniels followed at his heels, and his henchman, an 
old man who had been in the employ of the family 
all his life, closed the procession. My friend's hair 
was silvering, as you could see between the upturned 
collar and the brim of the dove-coloured hat ; and for 
that reason he seemed, to my boyish eyes, an old 
man. Nevertheless I had some difficulty in keeping 
up with him, especially when, not having mittens on 
as he had, I put my hands in my pockets to protect 
them from the biting cold. Yet how slight must 
have been my discomfort compared to the distress of 



ON THE WAV 103 

the birds fieldfares, thrushes, whinnards, blackbirds, 
starlings and missel-thrushes which were flying 
hither and thither in the vain search for food. 
Though no doubt I thought how easily they might 
be trapped, I was sorry for the smaller birds, wrens 
and tomtits, that threaded the hedgerow near the 
farmhouse, and for the robin, puffed out with cold, 
perched on one leg on the sill of the dairy window. 
A little farther on, where the footpath crosses the 
brook near its junction with the Lezingey stream, a 
snipe rose from some rushes ; and farther on again, 
near some furze-bushes, were tracks of at least one 
rabbit. But we left them all behind us. The 
shooting-ground we were making for lay on the 
southern edge of the " High Country," and though 
our shortest way would have been along the " Watery 
Lane," as it used to be called, and up Hendra 
Bottoms, we rose the steep hill leading to Boswednan. 
By this more roundabout course, we should avoid 
the drifts through which a farmhand, who had 
brought tidings of the woodcock, had been obliged 
to force his way. 

From the high ground above the hamlet, 
where we halted a moment to take breath, we 
overlooked a scene which resembled a rude cast 

in white of the familiar countryside. Many land- 

2 B 



194 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

marks were disguised beyond recognition, and the 
waters of Mount's Bay, generally like a liquid gem 
of the deepest blue, looked dull as lead. The newly- 
risen sun loomed big through the frost-fog which its 
rays could not penetrate, and a man with weak eyes 
might have stared at the dull crimson orb without 
blinking. In the hollow immediately below us, an 
old labourer, with a big faggot of furze on his back, 
was staggering across a yard, his feet sinking at 
every step deeper and deeper into the snow, as he 
made for the closed door of the farmhouse against 
which it had drifted. It must be admitted that the 
snowfall, heavy as it was, could not be compared to 
the great blizzard of later years, which blocked the 
railway, isolated the dwellers in the country, and but 
for his knowledge of the position of a starveling tree 
on the edge of a quarry, would probably have cost 
the Earthstopper his life. Nevertheless, wildfowl 
were quite as abundant ; and as the Looe Pool, 
Marazion Marsh, and other resorts became frozen 
over, they had to shift their quarters, and ultimately 
to settle on the sea. 

More than one skein of duck had passed high 
overhead since daybreak, flying westward, but none 
so big as the great flock of widgeon which we saw, 
some four gunshots above us, as we were turning 




o 

S 



SNIPE AND WOODCOCK 195 

into the marshy moor near Tremayne plantation, 
where our sport was to begin. This piece of un- 
drained ground was, may be is, shaped like a triangle. 
Tussocks of rushes just showed above the snow, 
and a runnel, winding in and out among them, ran 
chattering between a double frill of ice. We had 
not advanced many steps before a snipe rose, to fall 
to the first barrel, and soon after a wisp got up out 
of range, and flew away in the direction of the Big 
Downs. Following the running water, we ap- 
proached the corner, where rushes gave place to a 
brambly thicket, between which and the stone walls 
behind grew a few gnarled holly-bushes. The 
spaniels were hardly in this cover before they flushed 
a woodcock. Bang ! bang ! and the bird fell on our 
side of the wall. The smoke had not cleared when 
another rose from the other side, where a few withes 
skirted the runnel. It afforded the easiest of shots ; 
but, alas ! both barrels were empty, and the reloading 
of a muzzle-loader takes time. We crouched, hoping 
the bird might settle in an adjoining marsh, but it 
kept on in the direction of Trannack Hill till it be- 
came a mere speck in the leaden sky, and at last was 
lost to view. 

Separated from the three-cornered moor by two 
or three rough fields is a stennack an excavation 



196 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

made by the " old men " in mining for tin in length 
a good stone's throw, and some thirty yards across. 
The bed of it lies from twelve to twenty feet below 
the level of the field that circles it, so that the biting 
wind swept over the white coverlet that concealed the 
close thicket of furze, blackthorn, and bramble that 
grew there. Standing on the edge of the bank, we 
could follow the movements of the dogs by the snow 
which fell here and there from the bushes. Presently 
a woodcock rose silently a few yards in front of them 
on the far side, and fell to the shot, dropping behind 
a thorn-bush on the opposite bank. Shortly after, 
another got up but was missed, and then for a time 
there was a lull in the sport. Not that the excite- 
ment flagged, for the spaniels were giving tongue, 
and as they drew near the zigzagging bank on which 
we stood a rabbit bolted on our right ; then, strange 
to say, a fox made off, stealing away with that lissom 
movement that only a wild creature is endowed 
with, his ruddy coat showing finely against the 
white background. Near the farther end of the 
stennack three teal were flushed. They were up 
and away in no time, affording a pretty right and 
left. Two dropped in the thicket, and it was some 
time before we succeeded in finding them. It may 
seem hard to understand that the stennack was a 



THE FARMHOUSE 197 

haunt for wildfowl, but so it was. There was no 
pool of water there, no spring, as far as I could see ; 
and a small cave at the foot of the high bank was 
dry, for, boylike, I peeped in over the drift that half- 
filled its mouth. 

Leaving the field, we made for Trevean farm- 
house. The snow in the unfrequented lane that 
we followed was unmarked by any footprint 
except the track of a hare. Soon we could smell 
the reek of burning furze, and as we came in 
sight of the high stone chimney, we heard the moo- 
ing of the cattle that had been driven in from the 
wild moors around. Two colts, with rugged coats 
and steaming nostrils, whose heads projected over 
the half-door of the stable, welcomed us with a neigh, 
as we crossed the rickyard and entered the house. 
A fire blazed on the hearth ; but of the interior I can 
recall clearly but one object, an old woman wearing 
a small red shawl, seated in a high-backed chair at 
the end of the table, with a big book open before 
her. It was the indescribable calm on her face that 
I shall never forget. That is what I see first as the 
scene passes before my eyes, then the muslin cap she 
wore, and last, though its hue was so bright, her red 
turnover. A sheep-dog was stretched at full length 
on the stone floor, his nose, that lay between his tan- 



198 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

coloured paws, nearly touching the little wooden 
footstool on which the aged woman's feet rested ; but 
this part of the picture is faded. My friend chatted 
with her so long about some great frost of years 
before that I thought he must have forgotten all 
about the woodcock. At length we left the farm 
kitchen and set out for the wild waste-land, the 
farmer going with us. The good sport we subse- 
quently met with in Billy Hal's moor tempts me to 
tell the reader at once what happened there, but I 
will first touch briefly on the most striking incidents 
in the wide round we took over the country on the 
hither side of it. 

Scarcely a croft but held its woodcock : hardly 
a runnel from which a snipe did not rise. In 
the bottom under Penhale fox-brake, a woodcock 
rose out of some brambles growing inside the 
ruined walls of a roofless cottage, and a little further 
down, where a leat runs into the New Bridge 
stream that looked amid the snow like a black 
ribbon lying on a bed of goose-down a mallard was 
shot, and a startled heron was allowed to flap itself 
away unmolested. Shortly after this, the sun for a 
brief space broke through the clouds and turned 
the dull white scene into a glittering fairyland. 
Near Boswortha Cairn oh, how piercing was the 



BILLY HAL'S MOOR 199 

icy wind there both barrels were discharged at a 
passing flock of golden plover, and on the far side 
of the rocks the farmer, humouring my curiosity, led 
me to see a set of badgers' earths. Three of the 
holes were blocked, and not a track was to be seen in 
front of the one that remained open. As we hurried 
to rejoin our little party, the farmer dropped up to 
his ears in a pit, his black beard lying flat on the 
snow. His hearty laugh rang out ; but my friend, 
who was some thirty yards below us, did not turn 
his head in fact, did not, as he afterwards said, hear 
any sound. I mention this to show how strong the 
wind was, though another fact probably contributed 
to the result my friend and his old henchman were 
approaching Billy Hal's moor. 

Waste land it is, as its name indicates, but in 
luxuriance of growth it is an oasis amidst the 
barren hills that screen it from unkind winds. 
In the spring, its bushes are the first of that 
wild and unprofitable countryside to spread a 
wealth of golden blossom ; in the autumn, the black- 
berry-picker crowns her basket with big purple 
berries from the bushes beside the rushy brook there. 
Later, when the sloes have shrivelled on the black- 
thorns and the coralline hips of the dog-rose adorn the 
leafless briers, the farm-boy, seeking strayed cattle, 



200 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

flushes the first woodcock of the season and forth- 
with sets a springe or two on the boggy margin of 
the runnel under the thicket of black withes. From 
then until February this moor holds more than its 
share of the longbills, and when woodcock are plenti- 
ful in other coverts, in Billy Hal's moor, to use the 
country folks' term, they are "daggin." In the 
middle rises a knoll, whence the eye may descry 
the rude boundaries that enclose its, perhaps, four 
customary acres. 

My friend was pushing aside the snow-laden 
furze towards this vantage-ground, and I followed 
in his wake. When he had gained it, he raised the 
hammers of the gun, and then lifted his hand as 
a signal to the farmer to let loose the dogs. We 
knew there were at least three woodcock in the 
moor, for we had seen them drop there. Before you 
could count ten, a woodcock rose with a great flap- 
ing noise. Bang ! went the gun as the bird twisted 
above the withes. Bang ! down it dropped on the 
snow a good forty yards away, between the moor 
and a clump of gloomy pines for which it seemed to 
be making. As I ran round to fetch it I heard 
" mark cock " twice in succession, but no report 
followed, and shortly after, "mark cock" from the 
farmer, with the discharge of both barrels. The 



HAL'S GHOST 201 

going was very rough, but at length I reached 
the brown bird lying in the snow beside the brook. 
What a beauty it was ! To this day I cannot 
handle a woodcock without admiring its rich plum- 
age, nor for that matter, though I have taken hun- 
dreds, take a trout off a hook without wondering at 
its lovely colouring. 

It need scarcely be said that the rest of the 
moor was carefully beaten, but how many woodcock 
were flushed I cannot remember, nor do I regret 
it, for I fear the number might savour of exaggera- 
tion. Only five were added to the bag. One shot 
was a very long one, and the bird fell in the upper 
corner of the moor, near the ruins of Billy Hal's 
cottage. 

How long it was since Hal squatted on the land 
and hatched a title, I have not been able to trace, 
nor the manner of his death, nor even where he lies 
buried. The country-people venerate his memory, 
partly because of his great skill in hiding smuggled 
goods and outwitting the king's officers, partly 
because of his markmanship with his blunderbuss. 
Some crofters aver they have heard from their 
fathers that there was a mystery about his end, and 
that Hal was buried at dead of night in his own 
land. However that may be, there he has at times 

2 C 



202 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

been seen on clear nights in winter, moving noise- 
lessly about amongst the furze with a short heavy gun, 
or sitting on the stones of his ruined hearth. It is 
a great pity that the mantle of the famous ghost- 
layer, Parson Polkinghorne, has not descended to 
any of his successors. We have it on the best 
authority that his exorcising formula, which began 
with the words " Nommy, Dommy " (in nomine 
Domini), never failed to lay the poor troubled spirits 
of those less sceptical days. 

The moor having been shot over, we made our 
way to the house. It was now nearly three o'clock, 
and I felt tired, though not too tired to eat. The 
farmer's daughter had laid our luncheon in the 
seldom-used parlour. There were sandwiches, mince- 
pies, a basin of clotted cream, some whortleberry 
jam, and a plate of sturmer pippins. These last were 
grown in my friend's garden on espaliers, and he 
could generally produce one or two even when the 
next year's fruit reddened the quarrenden-tree in the 
corner by the bee-skip. We stayed but a short 
time, as I thought, over our lunch, for we needed day- 
light to find our way down the bottoms, and snow 
had begun to fall again. From between the half- 
drawn curtains, where an ostrich egg hung, I had 
seen the big flakes. So bidding adieu to the dear 



THE OLD TINDER-BOX 203 

old lady, we made our way down the hill, and at 
length reached the clump of firs in the bottoms, 
where my friend stayed to light his pipe. I should 
not have mentioned so trifling an incident, had it 
not been that he used the tinder-box for the purpose. 
This was his almost invariable custom, except in 
summer : then he preferred a burning-glass, especi- 
ally when deep-sea fishing. With a twinkle in his 
grey eyes the farmer remarked, " Like Mr George, 
edna ? " and shortly after, at a spot where, as the 
curve of the drift showed, was a gap, he left us and 
was soon lost to sight in the blinding snow. We 
had rather less than a mile to go before striking a 
road, but our progress was poor, owing partly to the 
drifts, partly to the rough ground that lay under 
the even surface of the snow. A candle was burn- 
ing in a window of Hendra farmhouse as we 
passed the lower pond, and when we came in 
sight of Boswednan lane we saw the lights 
the welcome lights of a carriage that was await- 
ing us at the foot of the hill. Of the drive home 
I know nothing, as I slept soundly the whole 
way. 

Thus ended a day's sport which lives in my 
memory when days since enjoyed on grouse-moors 



204 REMINISCENCES OF BOYHOOD'S DAYS 

and by woodland coverts have been well-nigh for- 
gotten, big bags notwithstanding. 

Since penning these lines, I have turned to my 
friend's diary. These are his brief entries for the 
two days : 

"25th December. Heavy fall of snow. Sharp 
frost. Bunches of duck and geese in the bay. Seine 
shot at Mullion. Bonfire on Poldhu Cliff. Eleven 
loads offish up by five o'clock next morning, when 
I left Newlyn cellar." 

" 26th December. At Trewern, Trevean, Pen- 
hale, Boswortha Cairn, Billy Hal's moor, with Jack. 
9 woodcock ; 3 brace snipe, 2^- golden plover, i of 
teal ; i big snipe, i mallard, i bittern. Wind keen 
as a razor on Boswortha Cairn, very lew in Billy 
Hal's moor, which was full of 'cock." 

The old "Joe Manton," which I have taken out 
of its case, is standing against my study-table, and 
a beautiful weapon it is, albeit the barrels are a 
trifle thin. Many days' use have worn them so ; 
but as far as I have been able to look back through 
the interesting diary there is only one entry with a 
bigger bag, and that was in the very winter when 
the scream of the iron horse silenced the coach-horn, 
and gave such a shock to Penwith's customs. If 
you ask of what year I have been writing, I will tell 



SEINE SHOT ON CHRISTMAS DAY 205 

you in our West-country way by naming an un- 
usual event that it was the year when a pilchard 
seine was shot on Christmas Day, and tucked in a 
snowstorm under the cliffs, on which a beacon, to 
spread the glad tidings, was lighted on a spot 
whence wireless messages are now transmitted 
across the seas. 



CHAPTER XVI 

BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

Two fishermen strained at the creaking oars, and 
held the boat in the tide-race close under the 
Longships lighthouse, whilst I grasped the taut line, 
at the end of which a sand-eel was spinning. We 
could see the bass in their play break the surface 
some twenty yards astern, and every instant I 
expected that the bait would be seized. What 
sport those big fish would have given in the strong 
current ! But no, the bass refused to bite at the 
silvery lure spinning under their very nose. We 
changed the bait tried pilchard, squid, ray's liver, 
spider-crab ; we varied the length of the line, the 
weight of the lead ; we trailed the bait along the 
edge of the school ; in short, we did all we knew. 
It was of no use. "They're not on the feed, sir," 
said old Matthey, after two hours of this exasperat- 
ing work. There was no gainsaying this palpable 

206 



MY USUAL LUCK 207 

truth, but in my own mind I set the fact down to 
piscine cussedness. I had come to Sennen for my 
holidays in order to try and kill a big bass, and it 
seemed as if the bad luck that had dogged me 
wherever I had gone in quest of this fish, pursued 
me still. In West-country phrase, I appeared to be 
ill- wished. It was on the top of the spring, and we 
had fished with apparently every condition in our 
favour except the clearness of the water. " What's 
wanted," said Matthey's mate as we approached the 
wooden slip, " is a bit of a tumble, to stir the bottom 
and thicken the water." 

As scarcely a breath of wind was blowing, and 
the sky looked like brass, the prospect of rough 
weather and clouded water seemed very remote. 
Yet it turned out not to be so. Well may the 
fishermen of Sennen Cove, who no longer have the 
guardian spirit their forefathers had, to warn them, 
watch the sky for premonitory token of storm. 

About sundown, on Tuesday the I4th August, 
a fortnight or so after the tantalising experience 
related above, a weather-dog was seen near the 
horizon, which made the older fishermen shake their 
heads and caused them to be abroad before dawn. 
Seeing that the glass had fallen to storm-level and 
that the seabirds with wild cries were making for 



208 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

the southern cliffs, the thirteen boats were brought 
in from their moorings and everything made snug 
just in time before the sea became too rough for any 
craft in the cove to venture out, except the life-boat. 
At daybreak on the Thursday the sands were 
littered with seaweed ; in places the foam lay in 
drifts like snow, and for miles inland the farmers 
must have heard, in the lulls of the storm, the 
waves thundering against the cliffs. It was not 
until the morning of Saturday that fishing was 
possible, even from the shore, and then only at 
some risk, because of that treacherous run in the 
water which from time to time costs the life of a 
rock-fisher. I had little hope of success, for the 
sea was now as thick as barm, yet I caught a grey 
mullet of five pounds, and lost another owing 
to the hook tearing its hold. After this, being wet 
through with the spray, I made tracks for my cottage 
on the brow of the cliff. 

By Monday the sea had moderated enough to 
allow us to get Matthey's boat afloat, and we 
ventured out to our old fishing-ground near the 
Longships and dropped the killick overboard. The 
water was in perfect order, and one might compare 
it to a river clearing after a spate. What sport ! 
I kept catching pollack and bream until I was tired 



A DISASTER 209 

of pulling them in ; but, alas ! the bass had shifted 
their quarters, and although we visited their usual 
haunts we failed to meet with them. The glass 
continuing to rise, we ventured further along the 
coast, and spent the rest of the week fishing the 
three miles of water between the Land's End and 
Porthgwarra. Excellent whiffing-ground this is 
well known to be, and so it proved ; but unfortunately 
the week's sport was marred by a disaster for which 
I was entirely to blame. It was on the morning of 
Thursday, just after the steamer the Lady of the 
hies had passed on her way to Scilly. Up till then 
we had had good sport with pollack, five of these 
beautiful bronze-coloured fish lying in the basket 
on the bottom-boards. Shortly after, when near 
the Rundle Stone, I lost a heavy fish, and with it 
the spinning-flight, through its boring down and 
getting entangled in the weeds, as big pollack are 
wont to do. Of course, I should have held on at 
any cost and not given an inch of line ; and this 
I determined to do with the next fish that should 
lay hold of the new eel-tail that was soon trailing 
in the wake of the boat. I was exchanging a 
few words with old Matthey, who was holding the 
sheet we were sailing to and fro the great tidal 
stream when I got into a very heavy fish, to which 

2 D 



210 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

I held on like grim death. In less time than it takes 
to tell, the line snapped and a bass which had leapt 
clear of the water twenty yards astern fell back like 
a bar of silver into the trough of a wave and dis- 
appeared. What word or words escaped me on 
witnessing the fish it was uncommonly like a salmon 
with the broken trace hanging from its open jaws, 
I do not remember. At such mortifying moments the 
tongue is very apt to prove an unruly member, yet 
old Matthey never opened his mouth. He was like 
one struck dumb, but his face was as long as a 
fiddle, and the gaff dropped from his fingers as 
though it burned them. 

With the loss of that fish I really began to 
despair, and it would have been almost pardonable 
if I had taken a trip to Camborne to consult the wise 
man there about removing the spell which, all joking 
apart, I began to fear hung over me. The follow- 
ing week my chances of success were reduced to a 
minimum, for the wind veered round, the water 
close in shore became as smooth as it ever is at the 
Land's End, and in a few days was as clear as 
crystal. The resourceful Matthey recommended 
me, under these almost hopeless conditions, to fish 
from the small rocky headland that separates the 
Sennen from the Gwenvor sands. 



THE BLUE ATLANTIC 211 

" The hotter et es the closer in they comes, and 
et's the biggest baas as hugs the shore." 

" When the corn is in the shock, 
The fish is on the rock." 

I suggested, quoting the Cornish proverb. 

He smiled, and replied, "Well, et's meant for 
pelchurs, but et's true enuf for salmin baas." 

Somewhat cheered by the old fellow's words, I 
set out after an early lunch for Roarer Point, as it 
is called, taking my fishing-tackle with me. The 
going was heavy, for the sand, beloved of the 
launce, is loose ; moreover the sun beat down 
mercilessly ; but there was some compensation in 
the scene. 

I do not believe the man lives who could 
have been blind to the beauty of that sea. In an 
old Eastern poem a Persian is represented as 
beholding from the desert's edge a boundless plain 
of turquoise. The Atlantic on which I looked 
might have been such a plain, except for the way it 
heaved ; but it was on the breaking wave that the 
eye dwelt, and found relief from the glare of the 
beach. How deliciously cool the ever- rising, ever- 
breaking walls of translucent water looked in con- 
trast with the glowing sands over which the air 



212 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

shimmered and quivered. Overhead a gull floated 
lazily, its snowy plumage showing finely against the 
blue vault ; and just after I crossed the little stream 
that trickles down from Vellandreath, a butterfly 
I believe it was a red admiral greatly daring, 
flitted seaward, and passed out of my sight. 

At last I reached the little headland, scrambled 
over the burning rocks, and gained its extreme 
point. The water below me was some ten or 
twelve feet deep, and being outside the line of the 
breakers, its surface, except when a breath of wind 
caught it, was without a ripple, and the eye could 
search every foot of the bottom near the rocks, and 
for some distance beyond. When I had baited the 
hook, I threw the line into the water towards the 
Gwenvor sands, where I could see the approach of 
any bass that might be coasting towards Sennen 
Cove, and it might be, watch it swallow the lure, 
for 

" The pleasant'st angling, is to see the fish 
Cut with his golden oars the silver stream, 
And greedily devour the treacherous bait." 

Besides the hand-line I had a rod with me, and 
on this I had rigged a spinning-flight and launce, 
intending, when the tide rose about a foot higher, 
to make a few casts from the point. 



THE TWO BASS 213 

A seaweed, favourite food of the shy mullet, 
grew on two big boulders that lay half-buried in 
the white sand in the water below me. Though 
semi-transparent it was clearly visible when the 
rippled surface smoothed. Presently a small crab, 
as if fearful of being seen, scuttled across the sandy 
strait between the rocks where rested my tempting 
bait of ray's liver. 

My attention was chiefly occupied watching 
the bait and the water between it and the shore 
on which white-crested waves were breaking ; but 
now and then I looked into a pool at my side. 
Bright-coloured anemones starred its sides, deli- 
catest seaweeds spread their fronds in the limpid 
water, and a small fish called a pulcronack rested 
motionless between two rosy lichen-like patches, 
apparently intent on something, or as if it were 
listening for the steps of the incoming tide. 

A buzzing noise drew my eyes for a moment to a 
green-backed fly that had discovered and settled on 
the silvery eel, and when I looked at the sea again 
two dark objects were coming towards me slowly, 
as they followed the line of the broken water in 
which they were now and again lost to sight. 
Owing to the glare I could not at first make the 
fish out distinctly, though they were swimming over 



214 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

the whitest of sands ; but when they came within a 
rod's length of the bait, I saw what monsters they 
were, and instinctively uncoiled some slack line from 
the wooden frame on which it was wound. The 
bass, for such they were, were swimming about 
midway between the surface and the bait, and 
when a few yards from the luscious morsel, their 
heads went down, and the next instant only inches 
separated them from the liver. What exactly 
happened at this critical moment is uncertain, 
owing to a slight ripple that disturbed the surface. 
I could see their blurred dark forms near the rocks, 
and a slight twitching shook the line, which I held 
loosely between my nervous fingers for fear of 
alarming them. Tout vient, etc., I thought, expect- 
ing to have the line wrenched through my hands, 
both of which were ready to grip it as the fish 
should rush seawards. However, it was not 
destined that I should land a bass that afternoon, 
for presently the stately fish moved off in the 
direction of the point, the bigger one in front ; and a 
more dignified procession of two a chagrined 
spectator never beheld. I suppose their suspicion 
had been aroused, though there was nothing to 
suggest it, so deliberate were their movements. 
This gave me time to grasp my rod and swing the 



A TRYING EXPERIENCE 215 

sand-eel for a cast before the leading fish showed 
beyond a conical rock that momentarily hid him. 
Crouching, lest he should catch sight of me, I 
managed to drop the bait in front of and a little 
beyond him, and, allowing it to sink, drew it rapidly 
through the water so that it passed within a foot of 
his nose. It would be difficult to imagine anything 
more irresistible for a fish than that silvery bait, the 
spin of which, though I ought not to say so, might 
have satisfied a Thames trout ! Did the bass 
make a rush at it ? No, it simply swerved a little, 
and swam away in the most leisurely fashion, the 
smaller fish following majestically in its wake. 
They kept their distance as truly as two torpedo 
boats, and moved as if directed by a single mind. 
Let those who think that all sea-fish are easily 
caught, try their skill and their patience at the 
Land's End. I venture to say that, the grey 
mullet and the Thames trout excepted, no fish is 
more difficult to capture in clear water than the 
bass, and that the salmon is a fool to it. To 
recapitulate my attempts : I had failed in the strong 
tidal current near the Longships and the Cowloe 
rocks ; I had hooked and lost a monster in the 
Vrose off Tol-Pedn-Penwith ; and my experience 
when fishing from Roarer Point would have tried 



216 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

the patience of that famous rock fisherman, St 
Levan himself. 

I was not, however, at the end of my resources, 
for I could improve on the fineness of my tackle. 
Hitherto I had used single salmon-gut. I now 
resolved, though not without serious misgiving, to 
substitute a sea-trout cast, and, as the next best 
time to the grey of early dawn an hour which has 
no great charm for me to fish under cover of 
night. 

The spot I chose was near where the small 
stream from Vellandreath runs over the beach, in 
which, except after heavy rains, it loses itself just 
before reaching high-water mark. I was there an 
hour before sundown. My hook baited with cuttle- 
fish lay a yard or two beyond the broken water. 
As the tide rose, I moved up the beach and pulled 
the bait a little nearer in. There was no sign of 
any fish, but I was hopeful of success when the 
golden track across the ocean should disappear and 
the light become sombre. At length the sun dipped 
below the horizon, the fires it had awakened in the 
windows of the cottages died away, and the curve of 
sand lost its warm colouring. With the paling in 
the west, first the evening star and then the others 
appeared, the fishing-village twinkled with glow- 



STRAY THOUGHTS 217 

worm lights, and the Longships and the Seven 
Stones' lightship exchanged their nightly greetings 
across the submerged land of Lyonnesse. When 
the bells of Sennen ceased ringing, there was 
scarcely any sound save the murmur of the waves, 
which broke in lines of phosphorescence on the long 
strand. Now and then I pulled in my line to see 
that the bait was free from seaweed ; at times I 
followed a light out at sea, where some steamer 
moved in the darkness. Thus the hours passed ; 
and at eleven o'clock, despairing of success, I was 
on the point of going to my lodging. It wanted 
yet half an hour to high water, however, and I 
resolved to stay on. 

At irksome times like this one's thoughts are 
apt to stray, and a straw may give them direction. 
What may have suggested the train of thought, 
unless it was the tinkle of the rivulet beside me, I 
cannot say, but my mind reverted to the part the 
sands of Whitsand Bay have played in history. 
Here, three centuries ago, the Spaniard landed and 
burnt the mill at Vellandreath ; here landed Perkin 
Warbeck, on his ill-starred expedition ; here Stephen ; 
here John, on his return from Ireland ; here Athel- 
stan ; here, if tradition be true, those heathen hordes 

whom King Arthur and his knights overthrew on 

2 E 



218 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND'S END 

Vellandrucher moor ; here were drawn up the 
galleys. . . . 

My historical reverie was interrupted by a slight 
tug at the line held loosely in my hand, a tug 
followed by the drawing of the slack through my 
fingers. A bass it is his way was running out to 
sea with the bait in his mouth. At last ! I had 
jumped to my feet on feeling the fish, and when the 
loose line was used up, I suddenly raised the point 
of the rod a sixteen-foot salmon-rod and drove 
the hook home. What a rush the fish made ! I 
put on every ounce of strain I dared, considering 
the fineness of the cast, but it seemed to have little 
or no effect on the fish, which kept going seawards. 
I could tell its whereabouts during the first part of 
the rush by the jet of phosphorescent water that 
spurted from the line, but now I could see nothing 
except the dark expanse with its silvery fringe. If the 
tackle held, I knew the bass could count on nothing 
in its favour ; for the moorings of the boat and of the 
storepots were far outside the limit of my hundred 
yards of line, and there was no wreckage now, the 
fishermen having cleared it away for the sake of the 
mullet and pilchard seines. To husband the line 
left on the reel, I advanced as far as I dared into 
the water, my feet sinking deep in the loose sand. 



THE MUSIC OF THE REEL 219 

I was rather at a loss to know how to act for the" 
best ; whether to continue the steady strain to the 
last, or give the fish the butt before the line was run 
out. To stand there and be smashed would be 
ignominious ; so, come what might, I determined to 
take the offensive. Grasping the greenheart and the 
line in both hands, I brought the point of the rod 
back over my shoulder slowly, to avoid a jerk, 
putting on all the strain I could. Either the fish 
must yield or the tackle break. There was a violent 
struggle, in which the top joint played an important 
part, and then suddenly the tension relaxed, and I 
feared in fact, had little doubt that the gut had 
snapped, or possibly the hook torn away. Winding 
up as quickly as possible, I had recovered some 
twenty yards when, to my joy, the reel screamed 
again. A second time I applied the butt, and then 
kept working the fish in. Now he would swim to 
my left, now to the right, but I could not see the 
wave which I feel sure he was raising. With much 
difficulty, for he fought all the way, I brought him 
to within a few yards of the breakers. How he 
struggled to maintain his ground there ! evidently 
regarding the broken water as a zone of the greatest 
danger. After a time I thought I might venture to 
haul him in. But no, he would not consent to that. 



220 BASS FISHING AT THE LAND^S END 

Of his own free will he had for many summers 
sought the shallows, even foraged amongst the 
breakers ; but there was a good reason why he 
should shun them now. Once I had him just 
beyond the faintly gleaming arch of a wave, though 
I could not distinguish the fish, but only the place 
where he was struggling inside rings of incandescent 
silver. At last his strength was spent, and I 
succeeded in dragging him into the grip of a wave 
which tumbled him half-way up the shelving beach. 
With a great effort I extricated my legs from the 
quicksand, and throwing my rod aside, rushed at the 
fish as the backwash carried him down. I got a 
hold of him, but lost it, the prickly dorsal fin 
wounding my hand badly ; then the next wave, which 
nearly swept me off my feet in my desperation I 
had followed the fish washed him in, and though 
half-blinded by the spray, I succeeded in rolling him 
on to the dry sand. 

I have killed many bass since, but none so heavy 
he weighed fifteen pounds four ounces none 
which made such a gallant fight. It is true that 
they were landed under more cheerful conditions, for 
it must be owned that that night's fishing on the 
edge of the Atlantic was weird and lonely. 



CHAPTER XVII 

NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS 

IT was within a stone's throw of the sea at Lamorna, 
that I sat and listened to Ned's " Tale of the Birds." 

We had been fishing the trout-stream that empties 
itself into the cove, and were resting on the boulders 
near the bridge before turning homewards. Ned is 
a good all-round sportsman, but his knowledge of 
birds is remarkable, and the reason is not far to seek. 
His father was a taxidermist who was regarded as 
an authority on British birds by Rodd and by Gould. 
For some twenty years Ned assisted him in his work ; 
but his delight was, and is, to wander over the 
country in search of sport and specimens. To this 
is, perhaps, chiefly due the knowledge he possesses of 
the avifauna of Cornwall. 

To understand the birds of Cornwall, said he, you 
must know that, besides those always with us, and 
the migrants that reach us regularly in the spring 

221 



222 NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS 

and autumn, many kinds of wild-fowl visit us in 
hard winters and remain whilst the frost lasts. This 
corner of England, owing chiefly to the warm sea 
about it, is milder than any other except the Scilly 
Isles, and when birds are frozen out elsewhere, 
they can pick up a living here. A good feeding- 
ground is the Land's End district what with its 
beaches, its boggy ground and pools on the moors, 
and above all the overgrown, marshy valleys, which 
mostly run north and south, and are sheltered from 
the bitter east winds. Birds of gay plumage have 
been shot in these bottoms which you would expect 
to meet with only in a tropical forest such as the 
hoopoe, the waxwing, the roller, the bee-eater, and 
the golden oriole. Of the four hundred birds com- 
prised in the avifauna of the British Isles two 
hundred and ninety have been observed in Cornwall, 
so you see that our bird-life is as rich as the fish-life 
in the sea about the promontory, or the flora that 
makes the face of the country so beautiful. 

Now it's out of the question my attempting to 
talk about nearly three hundred different kinds of 
birds, so I'll pick out a few things that may interest 
you. Look ! that's a starling on the cottage chimney, 
and I'll begin with him. A few years ago you 
might search West Cornwall over without seeing 



STARLING AND JACKDAW 223 

one I mean in the month of August, though they 
came in tens of thousands in the winter. I've seen 
the osier beds along the Eastern Green and the 
reeds at Marazion Marsh black with them ; and when 
I was a boy I used to fire at passing flocks with a 
bow and arrow, as with a great whirr of wings they 
skimmed over the Well field on their way to 
roost. I believe that starlings have regular lines of 
flight, as they seldom failed to pass over that field 
about sundown. To come to the point, no sooner 
was winter over than they all went up-along ; but 
now some remain all the year round, and breed. 
The cause is to be found, I believe, in the enormous 
increase of this bird. 

Then the daws I mean the jackdaws are ever 
so much more numerous than they used to be. In 
my young days they were scarce, and I used to be let 
down over the cliffs with a rope round me, to get 
their eggs. Now you can see them everywhere, 
about the old mine-ruins, about the farmhouses, 
and even about the villages. 

The green woodpecker is also more plentiful than 
it used to be. Considering how bare of trees the 
country is, this is perhaps more surprising than the 
increase of the starling or the daw. It is true that 
some new plantations, such as those at Tregavara and 



224 NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS 

Bijowans, are growing up, and who can say but that 
in time we shall have jays and nightingales, and 
perhaps squirrels ? 

The country-people say that the "tinner," that is 
the " dishwasher " or water-wagtail, is scarcer than 
it was before the blizzard, which must have caused 
the death of tens of thousands of birds. They 
call it the tinner, because it builds its nest in the 
mouth of the old mine-shafts. 

Now I'll tell you about the last Cornish choughs 
I ever saw alive. It was away on the Rinsey Cliffs, 
a lone place between Pra Sands and Porthleven ; 
and of course I wanted to get them. I had a gun with 
me as indeed I always had, for there was no close 
season in those days. The birds were on a splat of 
fine turf near the edge of the cliff, and within gun- 
shot of an old engine-house that lay beyond them. 
There was no chance of my getting near enough to 
these birds shy as hawks through persecution not 
even by crawling ; for the surface was nearly as smooth 
as a bowling-green, with only a patch of vernal squill 
here and there. Lying in a dip of the ground, and 
all hidden up to my eyes, I could see every move- 
ment of the two birds a cock and a hen they were 
and more, I could hear every note they uttered. 
" Daw, daw," they kept calling, a kind of bleat, a 



THE CORNISH CHOUGH 225 

pitiful little cry I should call it ; and yet I wanted to 
kill them both. Instead of getting closer to me, as I 
hoped, they were, if anything, moving nearer to the 
engine-house. Then, thinks I, why not get round 
and come at them from behind the building. This 
I set out to do, making a long circuit, and at last 
the ruin lay between me and them. I reached it 
without having seen the birds fly away, though I 
could no longer hear them calling. All of a tremble 
with excitement, and with the gun at full cock, I crept 
through a hole in the wall, made my way round the 
edge of the shaft, and peeped through a chink in the 
wall opposite. No choughs could I see. They 
were gone ; and I was disappointed, sir, I can tell 
ee. I went to the edge of the cliff, and looked down. 
Not a bird was to be seen ; nothing but a few shags 
on the rocks in the white water. As I said, I never 
saw a chough alive again. They were, I believe, the 
last of their race. I t's a pity they're extinct. Hand- 
some birds I call them, with their black glossy 
plumage and vermilion bill and legs. I can hear 
that "daw, daw" now as I sit here; plaintive it 
was for a love- note. 

I forgot to say that the magpie is more common 
than it used to be, though the farm boys " strub " 

every nest they can find. Interesting birds I call 

2 F 



226 NEKS TALE OF THE BIRDS 

them, and a feature of the country, a homely feature, 
like the pigeons I saw about the Abbey up in 
London, only wilder. 

Yes, a magpie on a wind-clipt thorn bush, a 
yellow-hammer on a furze spray, gulls behind a 
ploughshare, a cormorant on a rock in the green 
water, and jackdaws about a broken mine-stack, are 
pictures downright Cornish ; and they are always 
with us. 

Dear me, how everything comes back when you 
begin to talk. 

If anything would make me laugh again, it 
would be what I once saw at Nancothan. I was 
looking through a window of the farmhouse into 
the orchard. Perhaps it was the peculiar behaviour 
of a magpie that attracted my attention. There he 
was with his neck drawn out and head thrown back, 
making tremendous thrusts with his beak at some- 
thing on the ground. After lunging two or three 
times, he turned his head on one side and looked 
at whatever lay there, first with one eye, then turn- 
ing his head, with the other. It's a comical sight 
is a magpie looking with one eye at anything. 
Well then, he began to dig, dig again, and after a 
final critical examination with each eye, flew up into 
an apple-tree. I ran out to see what he had been 



THE PEREGRINE FALCON 227 

pecking at so vigorously. What do you think I 
found ? why, a china nest-egg ! I see that it amuses 
you, sir, as it used to amuse me. It's the funniest 
thing in bird-life I ever saw. 

There's more tragedy than comedy however 
about bird-life. Many young birds are stolen from 
the nests, to say nothing of finches, warblers, linnets, 
and chats killed by hawks. Of course, all this is 
part of the plan of nature, though to my thinking 
there's a deal of cruelty in it. What crueller thing 
can you imagine than a falcon cutting down a hern 
winging home, say to Trevethoe Park, where they 
breed, with food for its young ? I never saw this ; 
but one day, when lying up in Bosigran Cliffs 
watching for seals, I saw a fight between a pere- 
grine and a raven, in which the raven got the worst 
of it. The falcon wanted the whole cliff to itself, 
and in the end he had his way, for the ravens for- 
sook their nest. 

A bird with a royal mien is a peregrine falcon, 
an ornament to the wild cliffs where he breeds. I 
have seen him soar till he looked like a speck in 
the blue, but I have never seen him stoop. 

Now and again I've had glimpses of what is most 
beautiful in our bird-life say of a kingfisher flying 
low over pools left by the ebb, when the sun catches 



228 NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS 

its breast and back feathers ; or what I once saw, and 
only once, a hern in full breeding plumage standing 
still as a statue in the shallows of a sparkling pool. 
I remember how lovely he looked. It was on the 
moor above Lanyon Quoit, when the early furze was 
in bloom ; and both the hern and myself were after 

the trout. 

For gulls, you won't find a better place than 
Newlyn harbour. I have shot the great black- 
back there, and the little gull, a bird no bigger than 
a turtle-dove ; and from the pier-head I shot a 
" Bonaparte" gull, a bird that breeds in the Great 
Salt Lakes of America. You may ask if it came 
from there. I do not know, but I believe it did. 
Governor Augustus Smith of Scilly once brought 
my father an Esquimaux curlew. Where did that 
little stranger come from, what frozen seas lit by 
" Northern lights " had he flown over ? 

I say, there are wonderful things in bird-life, 
especially in their migratory movements. Take the 
red-breasted flycatcher that once reached here from 
the far East, or the snow-bunting whose home is 
within the Arctic circle, and probably at the 
Pole itself. But no, you will realise better if I 
take a bird you are familiar with. Consider the 
willow-wren or the golden-crest. One would say 



SUNRISE IN MOUNTS BAY 229 

that either of them is incapable of long flights. Yet 
these little creatures, whose weight you can hardly 
feel in your hand, cross hundreds of miles of sea 
without putting their foot down, except, it may be, 
on a passing ship's rigging. It's not only the 
distance covered that's so astonishing ; what guides 
them in their long journey under the stars ? Man 
navigates the ocean with the help of a compass, but 
how do the myriads of migrating birds find their 
way? I've puzzled my head many times to solve 
the problem, but I admit I'm beaten ; unless they 
possess a sense of direction such as cats and dogs 
undoubtedly have, and which even the savage in the 
pathless forest is said to have developed. 

The 8th of May and the i ith of October or there- 
abouts are the times of arrival in West Cornwall, 
and many's the time I've watched the sun rise over 
Mount's Bay on those days. What pictures I've seen 
there ! The east afire, the west aglow with rosy light, 
beyond the belt of furrowy sand the blushing sea, 
and on the edge of it the little strangers wading and 
feeding. The dates of their departure are just as 
definite ; and as the time for leaving our shores draws 
near, the birds gather at certain rendezvous and dis- 
play great uneasiness. I have heard my father say, 
"The warblers will be off soon, Ned." He used to 



230 NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS 

feed the birds in our aviary over the porch as regular 
as clockwork every morning, and he would notice 
how restless they were, even throwing themselves 
against the bars of the cage whilst instinct stirred 
them. 

I don't believe any man ever understood birds 
better than my father ; he was that observant, and 
could imitate their cries so exactly, all but talk with 
them, in fact. Mr Gould, when he visited Cornwall, 
always came to see him, and used to hang on his 
words, so to speak ; and that was no mean compli- 
ment. But there, sir, you'll think me prejudiced. 

Talking of my father brings to mind an incident 
I will tell you. My father was very fond of wander- 
ing about Morvah and Zennor, when he could spare 
the time. You know what a lot of waste land there 
is in those parishes. Scattered over the downs 
there are some lonely pools frequented by birds, and 
in one of them I shot the only phalarope I ever 
saw alive. Well, my father was stealthily approach- 
ing rather a big pool when, to his annoyance, he saw 
a boy driving away some cattle that had been drink- 
ing there. Luckily he did not pass it by, for there 
on the bank, away from where the bullocks had 
been drinking, was a little bird that until then had 
never been observed in England. It was a buff- 



SMALL WADING BIRDS 231 

breasted sandpiper, and I could tell by his face when 
he returned home that he had shot something very 
rare. Whilst I was examining the bird by the lamp- 
light, my father took up the Western Morning News ; 
and when I asked him where I should put the bird for 
the night, he made no answer. Tired as I knew he 
was, I thought this strange, because he was such a 
a genial man. The bad news he had seen in the 
paper had upset him ; that was it. The French had 
had lost a great battle, I think it was called Sedan. 
My father was very fond of the French. After 
Colenso, and in the same week too with Magers- 
fontein and Stromberg, I thought of this incident, 
and I understood what my father had felt. Around 
our fires the men were so quiet that the camp might 
have been asleep. It would seem that such times 
are for thinking, not for question and answer. For- 
give me, sir, for getting so down in the dumps. 

My happiest days after birds were spent on the 
Eastern Green and around Marazion Marsh. I 
have always been fond of small wading birds, such 
as sanderlings, dunlins, stint, and turnstones. Shy 
and wild they are, and elegant they look, running 
about on the edge of the tide, following the ebb or 
advancing before the flow. Days and days I've 
watched them and returned home without firing a 



232 NED'S TALE OF THE BIRDS 

shot, but I've killed yellow-shank, dotterel, Kentish 
plover, and pygmy curlew there ; and once I found, 
after a heavy gale, a stormy petrel washed up on the 
beach. 

And now, perhaps I have said enough for you 
to understand why this little tongue of land, whose 
tip is the Land's End, has got such a hold upon 
me. On the greyest day the moors are not dismal 
to me, nor the shores melancholy. There's hardly 
a square mile out of the hundred that isn't full of 
associations. The cliffs, the wastes of furze and 
heather, the tangled bottoms, the open beaches and 
the little coves, are all rich in pleasant memories ; 
and the whistle of the curlew, the croak of raven or 
hern, the scream of sea-fowl, the piping of small 
wading birds and the song of the sedge-warbler 
are to me the music of familiar voices. Rolling 
veldt, mountain range and river don't appeal to me 
like the downs, hills, and streams that I've got to 
know by heart. 

"A treeless, barren waste" a man once called 
the Land's End district to my poor father, who 
preferred the scent of its furze to the perfume of 
roses and the bell-heather before hothouse flowers. 
Everything wild he liked, ay, loved ; the sea-pinks, 
the golden samphire, the sea-holly, the ferns in 




THE LAND'S END. 



[Face page 282. 



LOVE OF NATURE 233 

the zawns, the seaweed in the pools, the shells 
on the beach. And when he was unable to move 
out of the house he lived to eighty-two he used 
to sit up in the little bay-window, where he could 
see the sun set, and watch for my return, and then 
he'd ask what birds I'd seen, and about the flowers. 
The speedwell, the scarlet pimpernel, and the forget- 
me-not were especial favourites of his, and I'd always 
bring home one or the other in my fishing-basket. 
Touching it was to see him look at them. 

If ever a man loved nature with his whole soul, 
my father did, but above everything he loved the 
birds. 

But come ! we must be moving. I see the gulls 
are winging home. 



GLOSSARY 



Account, a meeting of mine-adven- 
turers. 

Bal, a mine. 

Bret (brave), very, much. 

Brandts, an iron tripod which 
stands amongst the embers of 
turf or furze for resting a crock 
or kettle on. 

Chucklehead, a booby. 

Churchtown (pronounced ch'town), 
a hamlet or village near a church ; 
used also of a town, and even of 
a city, as " Lunnon ch'town." 

Cleeves, ledges and clefts in the 
face of a cliff. 

Croust, refreshment of cakes and 
cider in harvest time ; refresh- 
ment generally. 

Crow, a sty, a hovel. 

Custna, couldst thou not ? 

Daggirt, very numerous, in clusters. 

Edna, is it not ? 

Flambustered, excited, agitated. 

235 



Fogau, an inland cave. 
Fuggan, a cake or pasty. 

Gurgoes, the ruins of ancient fences 
found on waste land. 

Hepping or hipping stock, a stand 
of three or four steps for more 
easily mounting a horse. 

High by day, high day, broad day- 
light. 

Kingcrowner, the name given to 
the purple emperor, peacock or 
admiral butterflies. 

Launce, sand-eel. 
Leel, little. 

Mazed, greatly bewildered. 
Mizy-mazy, confused. 
Mowhay, rickyard. 

Niddick or nuddick, nape of the 
neck. 

Pelchurs, pilchards. 

Planchen, a plank, a wood floor. 



236 



GLOSSARY 



Pore, state of agitation. [fish. 

Pulcronack a small gudgeon-like 

Quilkan, a frog. 

Radgell, a pile of loose rocks. 
Riffle, a break in a roof made by a 

strong wind carrying away slates 

or thatch. 

Spens, a store cupboard frequently 
under the stairs. 

Stennack (stannum, tin), an excava- 
tion made by the old miners. 

Strub, to rob. 

Tedn, 'tis not. 

Ticketing days, the days on which 
the tin-ore is sold by ticket at 
Redruth. [passion. 

To be vexed as fire, to be in a great 



To think slight of, to have a low 

opinion of. 
To tuck a seine, to remove the 

fish with a tuck-net. 
Tubbal, a farm implement for 

breaking up ground. 

Up-along, may mean up the road 
or to some part of England out- 
side Cornwall, e.g., "He's gone 
up-along, and some do say, to 
Lunnon ch'town." 

Wheal, a mine. 

Whinnard, the redwing. 

Wisht, like a person ill-wished ; 

melancholy, dismal, sad. 
Wusta, wilt thou ? 

Zawn, a cavern in a cliff. 



Dommage feasance, mischief done. 
Male pardus, wretched ones (poor 
miserable cubs ? ) 



Har andtue (har = halloo), cry and 

kill. [a fig. 

Gives the fco (figo], does not care 



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