Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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tooth in its big tender mouth ? The teeth can hardly have been
given merely for the purpose of compelling the angler to apply to
the theatrical costumier for gimp, the main part of his tackle, and
of enabling him to acquire a golf vocabulary in consequence of the
horrible treachery of the exasperating material.

The pike caught during my thirty days or so amounted to
about three hundred, of which all but thirty were taken by spinning
and as the result of a vast amount of hard labour : if I were to work

as hard and earnestly as I play, I should become rich. Live bait
swam about for hours at a time without attracting attention, and
the best two fish caught on float or paternoster were an eight and a
six pounder. The fact is strange, since in the hope of catching a
big specimen I had three live baits out for about three hours every
day. Of course I do not complain, since I take far greater pleasure
in one pike caught by spinning than a dozen captured in the duffer's
method. An average of nine pike a day to one boat in September,
of course, is very good ; but then they ran small as a rule. Nearly
all of them were male fish ; in fact the Jills were far more cautious
or sluggish than the Jacks, which I fancy is not often the case.

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Amongst all of them I only know of three that reached two figures,
though some that were hooked and escaped without being seen may
have been very large. One was the fellow which bit through my
worm tackle; the second gave us an anxious quarter of an hour
during a north-west gale, and though I kept it out of the reeds, and
even lifted it twice over the rope attached to the big stone that
helped us when drifting, and got it out of one clump of thick weeds,
the honours of the day were with the fish. Once I seemed to have
it at my mercy; a good male fish, somewhere about fifteen p)ounds:
it was easily within range of the gaff, but that instrument had got
tangled up in the cocoa-nut matting at the bottom of the punt, and
by the time I had freed it the wicked teeth had done their work,
stout gimp had been bitten through, and we were left lamenting.
The third gave a grand fight, and had the pike rushed for the reeds
at the beginning instead of dashing about in the open water it might
have been the conqueror, for I was trying an eight-ounce one-
handed spinning rod of two joints spliced and not ferruled, and
when it did make a rush it gave a permanent curvature of the spine
to the weapon, and nearly broke it ; but part of the fish's strength
had gone, and as we rowed parallel with the reeds, and I pulled at
the captive's head sideways, it came round in a circle when less
than a yard from safety, and a few minutes later, after being dis-
lodged from two clumps of weed, it lay still, holding on to the third
clump, thinking itself secure, and I lifted it in with the gaff, its
mouth full of the green stuff. The pike weighed fourteen pounds,
was thirty-eight inches long, and no doubt would have been two or
three pounds heavier by Christmas, for it was decidedly thin.

Of the rudd and roach fishing I have little to say. Perhaps I
fished badly for them ; anyhow I caught none of any size, though
the other boat took several big rudd, taken right on the bottom
after heavy ground-baiting. Certainly the "red eyes" puzzled me,
for sometimes when bait-fishing with two hooks in seven feet of
water I caught rudd and roach at one haul, but the roach generally
took the upper hook, and their cousins the lower, and upon examin-
ing a number of them it seemed to me that the mouths of the one
had less of an upward turn and the other less of a downward droop
than elsewhere. Moreover, the shape of the roach was more like
that of dace ; indeed, a great many were quite as slim as the fish
which so closely resembles the chub that ignorant fishermen
have often had great disappointments through thinking that a
** loggerhead '' was a monster " dace." There were quite a number
of small hybrids between rudd and bream; and on the northern
shore of the lake, where a good many of the perch lacked their
transverse bars, a considerable portion of the rudd had pale eyes

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almost colourless fins, and greenish bodies, yet seemed in perfect
health and good condition.

Fortunately the contemplative angler often has some com-
pensation when the fish are unkindly. Our lake, which with
extravagant modesty calls itself a pond, is remarkably rich in birds.
Swans constitute the most notable feature : I have seen as many as
forty-two huddled together in the lee caused by a bank of reeds
when a gale was blowing that had driven up the shore swans for
shelter. Only three seemed to live on the ponds, two cock birds
and a hen, and I think that they were unwillingly tied there by love
and the inability of three cygnets to fly. For one of the gentlemen
was constantly making advances to the lady, which her husband

resented, and a ludicrous little drama was acted frequently. The
husband from time to time would swell himself out and double him-
self up till he looked like some absurd heraldic bird, and pursue the
intruder, forcing himself along the water with clumsy rushes, much
impeded by the resistance which his quaint shape offered ; and the
other paddled calmly away, easily keeping ahead. After a while
the furious spouse used to make cumbersome preparations for flying
after the enemy, and give due notice of his intention; so with much
labour and great noise the two managed to get off the water and fly
a couple of hundred yards, and then they settled down as if nothing
were the matter. A little later this comedy or farce would be
repeated da capo, and so on twenty times a day.

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Professional instinct induced me to criticise the performance:
I have an uncharitable suspicion that the husband never meant to
overtake the other bird, and even the idea that the whole affair was
callously arranged between the gentlemen in order that the husband
might win the admiration of his lady for his valour, and that the
vain lover received some bribe in the shape of tit-bits of weed or
animalcules from them. Most of the swans lived on the sea-shore,
though some came from a lake inland ; and a fine sight it was to see
them swimming calmly in the little lagoons among the ^een
mudbanks, finer still when they came flying to the lake. For a
long time before they arrived you could hear the singing of their
wings ; then a body of twenty or so would appear over the top of
the trees with outstretched necks and tucked-up feet, flying swiftly
till they came over the water; then, after making a great curve,
dropping to the surface, and as they descended bringing their l^s
forward to break the fall, and coming down with a crash and a
splash which sounded like the rattle of rifles at a distance. What
silly noises they make when gossiping about the weather and other
subjects that interest them ! The idea of the music of the swan
song was a very daring invention.

Ducks we have in thousands ; so far as they are concerned the
west end is fashionable, perhaps because it is shallow, or rather
shallower than the rest, for the lake is deep throughout. At the
east, however, I always startled three at one place when spinning —
two drakes and a duck — and have a horrid thought that there was
some kind of menage a trots. The widgeon never seemed to light on
the water, but used to come in great clouds from the sea and fly
over inland. The coots, of course, played the part of low comedians
of the lake, and whenever any particularly ridiculous noise was
heard George would say, "That's a coot." They kept well
amongst the reeds ; we saw few, but, alas ! heard many, and the
moorhens running about on the shore were more numerous. Once
a squirrel and a moorhen almost came into collision on the bank ;
I do not know which was the more frightened or disappeared the
faster. A woodpecker used to tell us the time pretty accurately by
its flight across the pond, uttering ugly squaks which suggested a
motor-car horn suffering from a bad cold. Once the squaks became
squeals and screams, for at the corner of the wood a hawk swooped
down and struck, and George, who has the blue eyes and keen
vision of the Queen's Cup winner, saw feathers fly. Back came the
woodpecker, pursued in a leisurely fashion by the hawk, which
apparently expected to see it fall dead, and both disappeared. A
minute later the hawk returned, chivvied and harassed by little birds
— finches they were, so George said — and water-wagtails, and as

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they came closer I was able to see the long tails that the pretty
birds waggle so pertly on the shore. He told me that they were
called ** Morley dish-washers" by the villagers, but who, what, or
where Morley was he did not know.

Perhaps the greatest joy was in the kingfisher. The colouring
may be a trifle crude, mid- Victorian, and the song shrill, but the
flash of flying jewellery made a pretty sight. Once we saw one
hovering ; it remained still in the air for half a minute, then dropped
with undescribable suddenness and a big splash, reappearing a little
later with a small fish in its beak, and flew into the woods. The
herons were not my competitors on the pond, probably because it
was too deep for their style of fishing, except at the edges, and these
were covered with weed ; but they used to fly about lazily, high up,
and then settle on the very top of the highest trees, where they
looked very funny, reminding me a little of the last scene in ** Peter
Pan," and of some old German child's picture-book of grotesque
storks on conventional tree-tops. Very few gulls visited us, probably
because the wind was rarely from the sea ; but once when it came
up for an hour from the south a number flew up and settled amongst
the swans, which seemed rather to resent their society, and huddled

Swallows and martins were not numerous, nor did the starlings
favour us much. Although the fields round about were rich in
hen pheasants, I only saw one come over the lake, but their gaudy
males used to fly over at their bedtime and disappear amongst
the trees, uttering, before they roosted, their clattering curfew
note, for which the poachers thank them. We rarely saw any
rabbits, except when Master Bluey, a small long-haired dog be-
longing to the house, was having a little sport on his own account,
and drove them in vain pursuit out of the bushes near the trees.
Perhaps he would have caught some if he had not been assisted by
my own little cockney mongrel (called Mopsemann, on account of
his unacquaintance with Ibsen), whose London methods of rabbit-
coursing were peculiarly ineff'ective. Of music from the birds of
course we had very little. Occasionally the blackbirds sang for a
minute, and the thrushes in the distance uttered a few notes ; but in
the main we had to rely upon the robin redbreasts, which are very
numerous, and gave pretty performances ; even the crows cawed
rarely, and the rooks were almost silent. Still, we heard the lowing
of the cattle and sometimes the hoot of the owl as we used to walk
home with lighter burdens than we had hoped for, and scare the
timid bats that were fluttering in the hedges. So after all, though
the fishing was far below the standard of the lake and the wind
often was very cold and the rain sometimes exceedingly busy, the

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angler — poor butt of innumerable jokes, or rather of two or three
jests repeated with appalling frequency — has had his pleasures, and
is thankful for being a pure cockney, of the imported species, so
that the common sights and sounds of the country were deeply
interesting to him. The sentiment, I fear, is but a paraphrase of a
passage from the famous ** Of fifyshing with an Angle," attributed
to Dame Juliana Berners, a passage used without acknowledg-
ment by Burton in the only book that ever caused Dr. Johnson to
get out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise: — **And
yet atte the leaste he hath his holsom walke and mery at his ease.
A swete ayre of the swete savoure of the meede flures : that makyth
hym hungry. He heareth the melodyous armony of fowles. He
seeth the yonge swannes : heerons : duckes : cotes and many other
fowles nyght theyr brodes : whyche me semyth better than alle the
noyse of houndys : the blastes of hornys and the scrye of foulis that
hunters : fawkeners and fowlers can make. And yf the angler take
fysshe surely thenne is there noo man merier than he is in his

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Bridge is a game in which a strict observance of etiquette is
absolutely essential, if it is to be played at all fairly. Its unwritten
laws are, in fact, of even more importance than the actual rules,
because unless they are rigidly conformed to it is the easiest thing
in the world for one side to take all sorts of improper advantages
of the other. It is of the essence of the game, for instance, that
the dealer and his partner should be entirely in the dark as to the
contents of each other's hands when declaring trumps. Now, if the
former hesitates a long time before passing the call, or the latter
shows any eagerness to have it left to him — as by suddenly brighten-
ing up, and asking who dealt, whether it is not his turn to
declare, etc. — it is obvious that these conditions do not prevail.
Similarly, each non-dealer is supposed to know nothing of his
partner's cards except for such inferences as can be drawn from
those he has already played, not from his manner of playing them.
But how often does it not happen that a little artless (or artful)
hesitation about putting down a card betrays the presence of another
in the player's hand ? How many Bridge- players are there not
vvho scarcely ever pass a trick without plainly showing that they
could take it if they chose ? All these are serious breaches of the
etiquette of the game, and every fair-minded man should do his
utmost to avoid committing them.

NO. cxxvii. VOL. xxii.— February 1906 P

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In making trumps the dealer should endeavour to take a uniform
length of time before he announces his decision, whether his hand
presents any difficulty or not. If he is going to pass he ought not
to do so at once, or his partner will guess that he has very little
strength, and even if he should hold the four aces it is not necessary
to snap out '* No trumps '* directly he catches sight of them. When
playing with a partner who can be trusted not to make the declara-
tion out of turn — which in the latter case would, of course, be a
dire misfortune — it is better to allow a decent interval to elapse
before making the call, whatever it may be ; for that is the only
way in which one can avoid giving any indication to friend
or foe.

If the dealer finds that he has dwelt too long upon the declara-
tion — which is sometimes unavoidable — he must make the best
declaration he can, whether it is a sound call on the hand or not.
If he leaves it after betraying any hesitation his partner must be
careful to take no advantage of this indication of strength, and to
avoid all semblance of doing so, for should he declare " no trumps "
or hearts on a hand which admits of any doubt he will at once incur
the imputation of unfairness. As a matter of fact many j>eople
make a point of declaring spades in these circumstances, no matter
what the contents of their hands may be ; but it is hardly necessarj'
to go so far as that. An attacking call ought not, however, to be
made if there has been any hesitation about passing, unless it is
obviously the right thing to do, and equally obvious that the
caller's judgment cannot have been affected by his partner's

As bad as, or worse than, dwelling on the declaration is dwell-
ing on the double, for that gives your partner a complete key to
your hand, which it is almost impossible for him to ignore. It is
no doubt his duty to play exactly as he would have done if no
indication had been given, but that is not such an easy matter. He
would not, of course, lead a strengthening heart at no-trumps if
you were known to be a heart conventionist, but it must be remem-
bered that the mischief does not stop with the initial lead. Know-
ing that you guard a particulair suit may help him tremendously,
and in all probability he will find it very difficult to dismiss this
fact from his mind.

One should, if possible, determine what calls one will double an<J
what calls one will not double before the declaration is made, and
if in any doubt when the eldest hand asks if he may play it is best
to answer promptly, **Yes." He ought not to ask the question
until he sees that you have sorted your cards and looked through
your hand.

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To avoid hesitating during the play of a hand, which always

gives information away, the Bridge-player should look ahead and

prepare himself for every contingency that is likely to arise. Thus if

the eldest hand holds king and others in a suit and sees the ace,

queen upon the table, he should make up his mind at once whether

he should cover the knave or 10 if it is led through him. The third

player, too, should experience no difficulty in deciding what finesses

he will take if any of the suits in which dummy holds a high card or

cards are led up to him. If he does this he need not, when the time

comes, make it palpable that he is finessing.

Another kind of hesitation is the hesitation which we have
occasionally seen displayed intentionally with the object of mislead-
ing the dealer. This does not amount to actual cheating, but it
nevertheless introduces an element of bluff into the game which is
anything but desirable, and which the majority of Bridge-players
unite in condemning.

Another, and very important, part of the etiquette of Bridge is
that which governs, or ought to govern, one's relations with one's
partner. Whether your partner's play is satisfactory or not you
have no right to criticise it. He does not join in the game with a
view to gaining instruction, but amusement, and if he plays badly
it will not help your cause to tell him so. It is utterly useless, so
far as your interests are concerned, to point out what he ought to
have done in a situation which is very unlikely to repeat itself before
your partnership comes to an end, and it will not make him play
any better to know that you are dissatisfied.

Still more foolish is it to find fault with your partner's declar-
ations, because these are matters on which opinions are bound to
differ, and your judgment is only too likely to have been affected by
the result. You seldom hear anyone complain of a declaration
which has won him the game. And the player who takes his partner
to task for his declarations should remember that mere dogmatic
assertion does not make a proposition true. You often hear the
dealer say reprovingly to dummy, " That was not a heart hand,
partner ! " Remarks of this kind generally strike the writer as
absurd. In the first place, they imply a degree of superior knowledge
which is not always justified by the relative skill of the players ; and
secondly, it is quite possible that the hand may not have been a
heart hand, when considered from an abstract point of view and
judged upon its intrinsic merits, and yet hearts may have been the
proper declaration at the score. Dummy is so often in the position
of having to choose between two declarations, each of which is
palpably unsafe, that it is unfair to rate him if he does not always
hit upon the lesser evil.

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A and B are partners against Y and Z. Score : A and B, 28 ; Y and Z, love.
Z deals and declares no-trumps. Y^s and Z*s hands are as follows : —

Y*s hand (dummy).

Hearts 864

Diamonds A J 10 8 7

Clubs 6543

Spades Q

Z*s hand (dealer).

Hearts AQ3

Diamonds Q 6 5

Clubs K Q 2

Spades A K 5 4

Trick 1.

Ac? (V)

s? s?

s ^

9 "^7
9 9

Tricks : A B, o ; Y Z, i.

Trick 2.



♦ ♦



Tricks : A B, o ; Y Z, 2

Trick 3.


Tricks : A B, o ; Y Z, 3.

Trick 4.


♦ ♦



Tricks : A B, i ; Y Z, 3.

Trick 5.


9 9,

9 9

9 9


Tricks : A B, i ; Y Z, 4.

Trick 6.


9 9

9 9

9 9



Tricks : A B, i ; Y Z, 5.

Trick 7.

4. 4.

1^ ♦! !F^"^

,♦ - ^1

♦ ^*

i B


Tricks : A B, i ; Y Z, 6.

Trick 8.


o o



Tricks : A B, i ; Y Z 7

Trick 9.


o o


Tricks: A B, i; Y Z, 8.

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Trick io.


Trick 12.

B 'a|

z z

Tricks : A B, 1 ; Y Z, 9. Tricks : A B, 2 ; Y Z, 9. Tricks ; A B, 3 ; Y Z, 9.

Trick 13.

Tricks ; A B, 4 ; Y Z, 9.

Thus Y Z win three by cards, and the game.

Remarks : —

Tricks 2 and 3. — If all five diamonds are to his right — as they happen to
be — Z can only win three tricks in the suit. Directly B gets in
he will clear hearts, and if A held five originally, with the ace of
clubs for entry, he will save the game if Z loses the lead a second
time before it is won. Consequently Z must either draw the ace
of clubs, or win a trick in the suit, before opening diamonds, and
at the same time he should get rid of dummy's blocking card in
spades. He does not run any risk of losing the game by the club
ead, because if either adversary holds five the other only holds
one, and they cannot, however they play, win four tricks in the
suit Z makes a certainty of winning the game against any possible
distribution of the cards.

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Creatures of the Night. A Book of Wild Life in Western
Britain. By Alfred W. Rees. Illustrated. London :
John Murray. 1905.

Ianto the Fisherman, and Other Sketches of Country Life.
Same Author and Publisher.

It is difficult to imagine a more sympathetic student of animal
life than Mr. Alfred Rees, whose work, contributed to various
periodicals and altogether worthy of reissue in permanent form, is
here brought together. The creatures of the night, whose lives he
draws in vivid detail, have no secrets from him ; he seems to know
them as they know each other, and his knowledge may be described
as lovingly imparted. The otter cub whom he calls Lutra has
several sketches to himself, and appears incidentally in others with
Brighteye, the water vole, his cousin Kweek, the field vole — one of
the best pictures is of the sudden appearance of the weasel to terrify
the little things and their tiny family — Vulp, the fox, Puss, the
hare, and Brock, the badger. As we lately observed in reviewing
Mr. J. G. Millais's remarkable volumes on Mammals, the otter and
the badger are peculiarly interesting animals for the reason that
comparatively so few people know anything about either; but
Mr. Rees knows much, practically all that can be known, we are
inclined to think, by a human friend — for it is in the spirit of friend-
ship that he writes, and we are almost surprised to find him
describing himself as ** returning homeward after a day among the
grouse." He is, however, something of a sportsman, with the vein of
sympathy to which reference has been made always prominent, as
indeed it invariably is in those who do credit to the term.

The Master of Beagles will doubt whether Mr. Rees has the
proper appreciation of sport, nevertheless, when he reads the account
of what happened once when in pursuit of Puss. He and his com-
panion, Ivor, heard the hunt approach, and crouching in the bracken
which grew along the ditch by the side of the lane, waited till the
hare came shambling, as it chanced, straight towards them. Ivor
grabbed her by the hind legs, placed the other hand over her mouth,
and, springing up, hid behind a neighbouring bank. The pack
came on and went by ; then, after dipping the hare in a stream which
ran at hand, he let her go. " A wretched-scenting day ; scent very

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bad," was the criticism of some of the field when they afterwards
met. Another sketch of a hunt is with bassets, of whom it is said
that *' of all the hounds employed in the chase of the hare, the basset

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 17 of 52)