Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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When the first streak touched the little window they were ready,
talking in hoarse whispers. Their hope rested largely on the sagacity
of the Kruboy, Kanga. In many broken words he had already com-
municated to Stirling his summing up of the situation. It was the
eve of the great sacrificial feast of the devil-worshipping crew to
which Mongulamba belonged. And Mongulamba had gone too.
Stirling's face took on a dull greyish hue in the early light. He
fingered the trigger of his rifle a little nervously. If that and all

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which lay behind it were true, he would gladly have compromised
the matter by putting a bullet through the little one's heart with his
own hand.

A bitter disappointment was in store for the searchers. The
men whom they had relied upon as scouts and guides had all dis-
appeared. In their cooler moments the terror of the M'wiri had
reasserted itself, and their accustomed haunts knew them no more.
Kanga alone stood firm. For the moment he had forgotten the god-
beast in his honest solicitude for the little White Lady whom he
loved. With his rifle slung on his shoulder he would go out to meet
mortal foes, though he knew them to be in numbers which would
render his life not worth a pin's fee, without one single backward

Seeing that it was idle to attempt to get together a stronger
gathering, Stacpoole and Stirling took a plentiful supply of cartridges
and set their faces to their task. It was a heart-breaking thing to
follow the Kruboy through the thorny tangle, the dark lithe form
holding on its way unwaveringly, following some unseen track.
There was consolation in this. Kanga, at least, knew where he was
going. Many times the two lay down from sheer exhaustion, but
the nameless terror in their hearts forced them to rise almost
instantly. So, torn and bleeding, they went on for what appeared
to be days, when suddenly Kanga dropped on his breast and lay
still. Stacpoole seized his older companion and helped him
forward, and together they lay by the side of the Kruboy, choking
back their sobbing breath and watching the sweat drop from their
faces upon the grass.

A sense of dreaminess oppressed Stacpoole. Peering through
a vista in the dense growth he could only make out the scene before
him little by little. In a darkened corner of the jungle where the
strong sun left its traces only in the dimmest twilight, he saw
figures sitting. They appeared to be grouped about a circle of rude
stones heaped in strange devices. On every side the vegetation
made a wall, and a dense canopy of interlaced branches stretched
above their heads. The figures were so motionless that it was
sometimes hard to detach them from the grey up-heaped stones.

In the centre of the circle there appeared to be a stake or bare
tree-trunk from which a slim pale form depended.

Stacpoole wiped the moisture from his eyes. In the dimness
and utter silence the feeling of unreality deepened. He heard
Stirling fumbling uneasily with the lock of his rifle. The old man
leaned heavily close to Stacpoole's ear —

" Can you see to shoot her ? " he said, hoarsely. ** We can't
leave the child alive,"

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Stacpoole assented. It was plain the girl must not be left.
At the first shot he knew there would be a straight rush for their
hiding-place. The three, back to back, might hold their own for
a little while, but the end could not be long delayed. Then the
girl would be left alive, and that plainly must never be. He must
wait a little for his trigger finger to grow steady; he was still
breathless with the run. And when at length he knew the little
one to be safe in death, then — oh, then to let hell loose for so long
as the living hand could cram the cartridge into the breech !

As he waited the savage ranks swayed as though stirred by the
wind. A new figure appeared and bent before the altar. At a
glance Stacpoole saw him to be the mad priest Mongulamba
whom he had last seen crouched in the village dust. He appeared
to be muttering some incantation to which the surrounding group
responded by a swaying motion of their heads. One hand was
extended, and in the other Stacpoole caught the dim gleam of a

As the priest knelt murmuring his monotonous chant, some-
thing moved in the leaves above his head. One or two of the
worshippers turned their listless gaze upwards. The restless stirring
came again. Then unreality closed in upon Stacpoole, and he lost
belief in his eyes. From the matted mass of lianas a great hairy
foot slowly protruded — slowly and silently like some hideous piece
of mechanism it descended, and gathering around the throat of the
kneeling man drew him swiftly upwards. Stacpoole saw the livid
face and heard the crushing bones, and in a moment more a shape-
less mass fell on the stones below.

The whole scene was enacted with incredible celerity. For a
while the savages never moved ; then one stretched out his hand
and took up a broken twig, examining it curiously. In a second
more the spell suddenly dissolved, wild cries filled the air, and the
brushwood was torn aside by a hundred flying feet.

Stacpoole and his wife rarely speak of the matter now. Some-
times the Professor half deludes himself that he was the victim of
some fever- engendered hallucination, but he has still two dead men
to account for.

Enid, on the other hand, stands to her guns. She thinks,
rightly or wrongly, that the British Association have not yet
succeeded in plucking out the whole heart of nature's mystery ;
that there are domains, especially in West Africa, for the feet of
science yet to tread,

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(IVUh Illustrations from her Recent Photographs)

The word ** Toboggan " is thought to have originated amongst the
Indians of North America, who used a machine thus called for
dragging their baggage from camp to camp. We need not feel
surprised if, even in summer, a wheelless vehicle was employed, as
even now we often see hay being transported down steep slopes of
grass in Switzerland on hand sleighs, while in certain places it is
still the custom for visitors who have ascended on foot or on horseback
to noted points of view to be dragged down again in very light

The Canadian type of machine is flat, without runners; and
though in Switzerland a good deal of enjoyment may be got out of
the use of these machines over suitable slopes of snow, yet the sport
has never really *' caught on'' in Europe. Canadian toboggans can
be obtained from Knecht of Heme, or in London at Gamage's of
High Holborn.

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A far more costly machine, and one as yet only to be found
at very few places in Switzerland, is the modern steel-skeleton
toboggan. This was evolved by an Englishman, Mr. W. H.
Bulpett, from an American type, of which more anon. The Hon.
H. Gibson, in the introduction to his admirable little book, "To-
bogganing on Crooked Runs" (Longmans, Green & Co.), says,
quoting the words of a well-known hotel keeper : ** We Swiss
looked upon tobogganing as a fitting amusement for children until
you Englishmen came among us and made of it a sport for men ;
now you have gone still further — you have made that sport an art.'*


So spoke Herr Peter Badrutt while addressing the St. Moritz
Tobogganing Club in 1894, and his words sum up shortly the way a
new sport has arisen in the Alps of Switzerland.

I do not propose to enter at any great length into the history of
tobogganing in the Engadine and at Davos ; but a brief account of
the evolution of the machine, mode of riding, and making of suitable
ice runs, will I think be of interest. Those desiring further details
can find them in Mr. Gibson's book (referred to above), or in that
by Mr. T, E. Cook, the popular and scholarly author and journalist,
himself a tobogganer of experience.

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In 1883 it occurred to the late Mr. John Addington Symonds
that it would be interesting to institute an annual toboggan race on
the high road between Davos and Klosters. Two other Englishmen,
Messrs. Horan and Broadbent, entered heartily into the scheme,
and guaranteed amongst them a sufficient sum for prizes. The
initial race was run on February 12, 1883. There were twenty-one
competitors, and first place was tied for by Mr. C. Robertson, an
Australian, and P. Minsch, a Swiss postman, whose duties caused
him often to thrust himself along the Klosters road with the pegs
used for steering, thereby putting him in splendid training.
German, Dutch, and English also ran in it, thus suggesting "The
International " as a suitable title, and one that it has borne ever
since. By the following year it became evident that the race would
be a permanent annual event, so Mr. Symonds presented a silver
challenge cup to be added to the first prize.

In 1885 another race was instituted, which is now looked upon
as the sporting event of greatest importance in any of the Alpine
winter resorts. This was the St. Moritz Grand National, and it
was won on that occasion by an Englishman from Davos, Mr. C.
Austin. It was held upon the now famous Cresta course, and, as
in the International, all the competitors rode old-fashioned Swiss
coasters, or " Schlittli," in a sitting position.

We now come to a change in the method of riding, though the
machine was still the same. The St, Moritz Post, in its report of
the Grand National of 1887, contains the following remark:
** Mr. Cornish caused the chief excitement in the race by riding his
toboggan head first. . . Hitherto Mr. Cornish had been particu-
larly successful in negotiating the difficulties of the course, and had
almost succeeded in obtaining converts to this way of tobogganing,
which at any rate has the charm of novelty. Unfortunately he
came to grief more than once during the race, though the extra-
ordinary quickness of his recovery astonished the onlookers ! "

The winter of 1887-88 marked a new era in the history of
tobogganing. This was entirely due to the arrival at Davos of an
American, Mr. L. P. Child, of New York, who having had experi-
ence of coasting at home, determined to try it at Davos on a
machine of the type he was used to. After considerable difficulty
he managed to get one built at Davos, and having christened it
** America," he proceeded to demonstrate the advantage of it over
all others. He rode it head-foremost, but lay sideways, American
fashion, and not flat on his face. He won the International
race that year, held on the Clavadel and not the Klosters road, and
later on came over to St. Moritz to compete on the Cresta. But
when he saw the course he decided not to attempt it. Experience

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has shown that his judgment was sound, and nobody has yet
succeeded in taking an ** America " safely through the Church Leap
under the conditions under which Mr. Child rode, lying on his side
and steering with his mocassined foot.

It was evident that the head-first position demanded braking



power, and this was supplied somewhat later by steel rakes screwed
to the boots.

An interesting feature of this race was that two " Americas "
were ridden in it, one by Mr. Cohen, who went down sitting and
proved the winner; the other by Mr. Wilbraham, who adopted the
lying posture, but fell. The 5/. Moritz Post, commenting on the

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race, remarked that it was evident that toboggans of the ** America"
type were unsuited to the Cresta run !

In 1889 the International was again won by an American,
Mr. Stephen Whitney, riding an " America " head-first. Three
others out of the twenty-two competitors also rode "Americas,"
Mr. Bulpett adopting the sitting posture.

However, St. Moritz had by this time decided that the new
machine was infinitely safer and faster over any course than the old
type, ** and in a race on the Cresta, run on January 26, all the
seventeen competitors rode * Americas.' " One only, Mr. H. \V.
Topham, dared to attempt the head-first position, but he was very


i slow in one run, and fell in both the others. . The Grand

I National of that year was won by Mr. Vansittart lying on a queer

j machine, a sort of short Canadian with spring runners, thus

demonstrating the great advantage of the prone position on a low
I machine.

j The year following, 1889-90, saw another development, due to

the new and costlier machines which were now the fashion. That
• these had an immense advantage over the ** hand-schlittli " was fully

I proved, and as Mr. John Addington Symonds' Cup race had been

instituted to encourage the native element on their everyday sleds,
j it seemed unfair that this new element should deprive them of all

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chance of success. So it was decided that the Symonds Cup
should be competed for only on Swiss toboggans, and that another
race, called the Symonds Shield, should be held as well, open to
all types of single toboggans — if approved by the committee. As
the sitting position was not compulsory — it became so later — in the
Cuprace, Mr. Whitney rode a *Muge" head-foremost, and accom-


plished a feat never since repeated, that ot winning both the Cup
and the Shield races.

The Grand National of this season was noteworthy, for all the ^

fourteen riders except one rode head-first. %

NO. cxxvii. VOL, JOUL— February i^ L %

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1891-92 was marked by an extraordinary series of successes by
a single rider, Mr. H. W. Topham, who won nearly everything that
could be won, including the Davos International and the St. Moritz
Grand National. His victories also marked the beginning of a
new era, that of the steel-skeleton toboggan, which with the
sliding seat introduced a few years ago is the machine in use at the
present day. It was the invention of Mr. \V. H. Bulpett, and was
constructed throughout of the best English steel.

No other ice-run of at all the same importance as the Cresta
has as yet been constructed anywhere. The next best is the Village


run at St. Moritz. This is one also at Davos Platz and one at

For a number of years visitors to the Engadine in winter were
quite satisfied either to toboggan on the high roads, or else to ride
over snowy meadows on tracks beaten down simply by the passage
of the machines.

I have seen the whole evolution of modern tobogganing in
Switzerland, and well remember the problems which had to be
solved when great bumps and holes formed in these snowy runs,
as they did more and more when the number of visitors using
them increased. Finally it became clear that there was only one
way to keep a much-used run in working order, and that was to

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ice it. St. Moritzers had always a fancy for courses with sharp
corners, lending variety to the sport, and calling for skill in the
riders, so the evolution of a crooked ice-run out of a winding one
of snow rapidly came about.

The engineering and the construction of the now famous Cresta
run took some years to perfect, but in 1894 Mr. Bulpett had given
tobogganers a course much as it is to-day. The length of the
Cresta is three-quarters of a mile, with a fall of 600 ft., giving a
gradient of about i in 8. In 1900 two riders, one a Swiss, the other
an Englishman, covered 50 measured yards at the rate of 75 miles
an hour, their times being recorded by an electric timing machine.


Directly the first winter fall of snow takes place at St. Moritz
the construction of the Cresta commences, though much of the
course has been laid out in summer by raised banks of earth and
the removal of any obstacles likely to injure a rider who falls over
a corner. The course is made from the bottom upwards, allowing
sections to be opened as soon as each is ready, and facilitating the
study of the run on the part of beginners. There is a path near
the run, so that riders may walk up and examine the various diffi-
culties the Cresta presents, and consider how best to overcome them.
The practised and skilful tobogganer will use his rakes as little as

L a

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possible for guiding, what is called " body steering " interfering far
less with the pace. At the end of the run is a steep bit of uphill
(after the winning post is past), and here it is always necessary to
brake hard, as otherwise rider and machine fly up into the air on
reaching the top. On one occasion, in 1900, for purposes of photo-


graphy, Mr. Spence allowed himself to shoot forward with the
utmost velocity, making a clear jump of 66 ft. !

Not many ladies attempt the Cresta, but all who do adopt the
lying flat position. The children often ride admirably, and on
account of their light weights and fearlessness they frequently run

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their elders very close indeed. Mr. Ralph Pulitzer, of New York,
as a boy was one of the b^st riders at St. Moritz, as was Captain
Dwyer when a child ; and Lady Rachel Saunderson's little girls, the
youngest of whom was only seven, did excellent times and rode with
skill, intelligence, and pluck.

During the season of 1900 a lady for the first time on record
won her colours. Miss Lorna Robertson, of Australia, making the
fine time of 74I sec, a record frequently beaten by her in practice.
Miss Robertson's father, an old Oxford Blue, was the first to start
the idea of theCresta run, and he and Mr. Harold Freeman, son of
the great historian, and himself also an old Oxford Blue, may be
looked upon as the pioneers of the sport as it now obtains in
Switzerland. Mr. Freeman still winters at Davos Dorf, where the
Sports Hotel Fluela Post is thronged by the healthy portion of
visitors to that resort. In January, 1906, Mr. Freeman was orga-
nising tobogganing v^nth even more energy than twenty years earlier,
and himself making excellent times on the famous Kloster course.

The length of an ordinary steel-skeleton (as the machine is now
called) is 4 ft. i in. over all at the top, length of each runner on the
ground 3 ft. 6 in., with spring of 10 millimMres, breadth from centre
to centre of runners 12 in., height (without the cushion) 5 in. Round
runners 16 millimetres thick. The runners are joined together above
by three steel bars. A cushioned board is laid on the top, made so
as to slide backwards or forwards at will. The top bars at the side
of the front of the machine are bound with leather to give a good j

grip for the hands. A man lying flat on the board should have I

his chin just on a level with the front bar, and his knees resting ^

on the projecting end of the cushioned platform. The rider wears 1

very thick cloth gloves, and pads on knees and elbows. Steel rakes
are screwed to his boots. They project round a steel toe-cap, and I

it is most important before beginning each run to see that this is j

firmly attached.


[This article has been read and approved by Mr. Bott, I

the well-known tobogganer, to whom I am indebted for perusing |

it.— E. Le B.] i


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The profession of gamekeeper is not exactly of the most lucrative
description, but for many reasons it has always held out attractions
to young men of all classes fond of the open air who find it difficult
to secure congenial employment in other walks of life. For all this,
keepers born, bred, and trained to the calling have never had to
face serious competition from other than their own circle ; and as
head keepers necessarily train their under-men, it stands to reason
that they occupy the unique position of being able to dictate who
shall and who shall not be initiated into the mysteries of their
calling. Into no other profession is it so difficult to obtain an
insight ; for a gamekeeper, to assure success, needs to be coached by
a competent man in charge of an estate where game preservation
is carried on. There are no other means of obtaining the necessary
knowledge. A man intent on becoming a keeper may consider it
sufficient to serve an apprenticeship on an up-to-date game farm,
but there he can learn only the rearing of pheasants and their
management in confinement, and leaves as ignorant as ever of the
multitudinous duties which a trained keeper is expected to perform,
the principal of which are the trapping of vermin, the care and

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training of dogs, the organisation of shooting parties, and last, but
not least, how to comport himself towards gentlemen in the field.

Some years ago the question of the employment of gentlemen
gamekeepers became a topic of serious discussion in a leading
sporting journal, and the strongest argument advanced in their
favour seemed to be that a man of education ought naturally to
bring to bear upon the performance of his duties an acumen gene-
rally lacking in the case of an uneducated man. The subject was
dealt with from every point of view except that of the practical
keeper, who, it is to be presumed, was content to stand aside and
laugh at even the idea of "gentlemen" gamekeepers. In fact, in
that word rests the crux of the whole question ; for it is seldom a
keeper who answers to that description can forget that he has been
born and bred a gentleman, and is willing to turn to and do the hard
and often disagreeable work which falls to the lot of every keeper,
whatever the nature of his charge. To be a success he must sink
the gentleman and never forget that he is a servant ; in this he will
find rests his greatest trouble.

There is not the slightest reason why an educated man should
not become a keeper, granted that he likes the life, is healthy and
strong, and able to content himself in so humble a sphere ; if he
is willing to sink all ambition he will find much to be thankful for,
even as a keeper, and as a reward there is always the satisfaction
which never fails to follow upon a duty well performed. In the
keeper's profession there is plenty of room for brains and education,
but not the slightest for what is vulgarly but expressively termed
" side." If he cannot shake himself free of this the gentleman
keeper will never be a success, and he must not lose sight of the
fact that what would certainly not be described as "side" in a
gentleman might be given a worse name in the case of a keeper.
If a man of education is able to dismiss all social aspirations and is
satisfied to allow his duties to absorb his whole attention, he will
find life go very pleasantly as a keeper.

There is no disputing the fact that gentlemen keepers have so
far not been a marked success, and it may be because they start in
entirely the wrong way. For one thing, the men who turn attention
to this mode of earning a living too often do so as a last resort ; but
failures at everything else are hardly likely to succeed even as game-
keepers, and it is scarcely the right thing to base an opinion of
gentlemen keepers upon that measure of success which has so far
attended their efforts.

It is of little use for a man to decide to be a keeper when he
has already tried and failed at half a dozen other things, for the
probability is he will already be considerably advanced in years and

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have lost what may be styled adaptability. He must start young,
or he will lack the enterprise and enthusiasm required to carry him
through the lower grades of the calling and to enable him to brave
their difficulties. Disgust is more likely to arise in the case of a
man of thirty-five than in that of one of twenty. A man must first
rid himself of an idea that an all-round knowledge of sport is
sufficient to warrant his undertaking the responsibilities of a keeper.
If he starts with this opinion he will quickly discover his mistake.

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 12 of 52)