Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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"I'm glad, Honey."

He sat on the door sill, slowly waving a kettle cover to-and-fro
for a breeze. The night became darker and more dark, closing in
over the prairies in sultry heaviness.

" I guess I'll turn in," he said presently, and stretched himself
in some blankets near the empty stove.

" I'll stay here awhile," the girl said, and edged herself as near
as possible to the north sill.

His heavy breathing was the only sound, while she listened and
ivaited. Hot, hot and more choking the night was, threatening a
thunderstorm or hail.

Sam King breathed hard because of his sorrow, because of his

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' helplessness. And then he slept. As though in answer to his last

^ waking thoughts, he heard a careful sound. He opened his eyes,

^ and, silhouetted against the star-speckled heavens of the door, saw

I two figures. Their outlines were sharp against the sky. He almost

cried out — but held his peace. No sound came from these two
] forms ; no whisper of their meaning, but he guessed who was one of

[ them. They passed out, stopped again, and one lighted a match.

[ No word aloud; only the look in their eyes at each other. The

match died out instantly. The sound of careful feet coming in the
I hut, then silence.

Through the long hot hours he tossed and turned. " She
keers fiir me, but she don't love me," he whispered, great beads of
sweat on his brow. "And how could she? — fool that I've been;
I'm not suited for the likes of her; 'taint nature, an' I knows what
she meaned this arternoon ; I knows what she meaned."

On one side the jealousy of a one-time youth urged him to
declare his knowledge and use his power of right ; on the other the
sense of justice to her made him helpless. He thought a long time.
" I'll do it — fur her," he whispered then. In a little while, when
she was quiet, he stole out bareheaded, in his coarsely-stockinged
feet, and walked slowly along the breast-high wheat.
t ** It was all fur her," he said aloud, mournfully, letting the

nearly ripe ears slide roughly through his fingers. Careless of his
steps he wandered here and there through the tall growth. Stems
cracked and broke, whole dozens of stalks were bent and crushed,
but he walked on. Then from far in the east crept the first green-
yellow tints of dawn. He stood still and watched the colours
change and brighten, brighten and change, till the lower heavens
were aglow, then ablaze, with the coming sun.

He leaned over impulsively, and drew handfuls of the standing
grain to his face, kissing it, rubbing it between the powerful old

** I've watched ye grow, as I hev her ; I tended ye, as I hev
her ; I'd not let one wind o' heaven hurt ye, all fur her, if I c'uld
help it ; an' now " — he flung away the crumbled remains, his hands
stained green — *' now I've got ter giv up to Natur an' Life, as ye've
got to be cut with th' reaper ! " His head sank on his chest, the
long beard flowing low. ** What for ? Is there a God in heaven ?
What for ? " He threw his arms towards the bright overhead.

The sun burst over the horizon in a fierce glare of power, gild-
ing the vistas of wheat, empurpling the last clouds of night that
vanished beyond the west, glowing the air with its might.

** Aye," he said, facing it, so that the light shone full on his
face, softening the outlines of his figure. " Aye, thar's the answer.

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an' it's true — true, it's Natur in all her glory. What's laws, what's
anythin' in life but Natur ? " He went back, bathed in the fierce
rays. When nearly at the hut he stopped again.

The morning draught played daintily about him, rustling the
grasses at his feet, stirring his beard and bushy eyebrows with gentle,
caressing softness. As far as his eyes could reach were fields — acres
— miles upon miles of gorgeous splendour of wealth. The ears of
wheat rolled, rippled, bowed, and rolled a^in to the south wind,
changing hue from brilliant yellow to shadowed green at each puff.

" It's all mine — mine,'* he said, dully, '* but what's the good ?
Money, aye; but money don't buy all I wish I culd giv her, an'
money don't buy what I want — an' can't have. Thar's no room in
life fur an old man like me. I've done my best, an' 'taint good
enough fur her ; I knows it, an' she's right, bless her, alius she's
right ; I'm wrong, but I'll make it squar to her, God helpin' me."

She woke as he entered.


*' Aye, Sammy," he answered, softly.

" Where've you been so early ? "

"Just seein' that th' grain's all right."

" Is it ? "

" Fur ye, girl, it's right an' growin', heapin' money with every
day's sun."

She winced in half awakedness, shrinking from his earnest
tones; and now he saw and was glad, for he had decided.

** A bit o' bacon ? — some gruel for breakest, girl ? "

She put her hands over her eyes ; they were clenched tight,
and he saw now that he knew what to look for. With a strong
heart he pretended that he did not see.

** Is it going to be hot again, Sammy ? "

He went to the door, standing in the blistering light.

" I'm afeared so, Honey ; but yon sun " — he looked almost
straight into its white heat — "gives us money, gives us" — he
stumbled in search of the word — " life ! "

She murmured something, and dozed again while he got some


« « « « »

The reaping was over. The crowd of men had gone, and the
vast fields no longer rang with the whirring of steel, the harsh
champing of toothed knives, the clattering chatter of binders. The
year's work was done. No hail, no frost, nothing had marred the
success of the crop, and the old man had a long credit account at
the bank in Brandon. He and his two men, load by load, took the
grain^to the railwayjelevator.- and watched it disappear in the dust

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funnels. Then it was all gone. Instead of the wavering wheat-
heads on stalk he had money — gold, that he could draw from the
bank, for it was his.

As he milked one night, he drew the bank-book from his inside
pocket. It was already chafed with the continual carrying.

** Six thousand dollars," he whispered. " Six thousand dollars !
rU take two hundred ; that'll get me far away some'ere an' leave
enough for her an' — him !"

The same familiar cow gazed placidly at him, whisking her
rough tail with a swi-sh — swi-sh — swi-sh that betokened annoyance
of the flies. The next day he went, while the girl was sewing at his
clothes, to the station.

** Gimme a ticket fur th' West."

" Whereabouts ? " the agent asked, noting this face more than
the others that passed his little window.

"As far as the line goes," King answered, slowly.

The sound of tearing paper, the dull clack-click of a hand-
stamp, then —

'* Here ye are ; all the way through British Columbia to the
Pacific, $60-50 ! "

The old man paid his money unseeing, and turned away.

•' Good for ten days only," the agent called after him.

For nine of these days he worked about the house, cleaning up,
straightening the farm implements, getting everything right. That
night, when the girl was asleep in the cold of the September frost,
he went out, and paced the deserted fields, his feet crunching softly
on the crust of the new earth. Glittering eerily, like distant winking
eyes, the stars shone on him, and he watched the flashing comets
trail their short sparkling course. The darkness was intensely
silent ; not even a breath of wind disturbed the absolute peace.

'* I'm goin' termorrow," he said aloud, "goin' so's she kin live.

Girl, ef ye only knowed how I loves yer ! Honey " His voice

broke and quavered. ** But I'm old, old, old — an' done ! Great
God," — he flung his arms wide — " I loves her with a young heart,
but I cain't show it. I'm too fond o' makin' money on th' land !
What I kin do is to giv' her all I hev' — an* go ; itn' I'm agoin'.
Fred's a good lad, clean an' honest ; an' since she loves him, since
that's Life, I kin only show my love by this." He drew in great
breaths of the night chill, and it strengthened him.

* ♦ * ♦ ♦

" Come over to the station this mornin'. Honey ; I got business
thar," he said, at breakfast.

She wondered then why he had on his best clothes, patched
and worn as they were — but his best.

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** Yes, Sammy, I'd like the drive, I think." She kissed him.
** Nothing wrong? "

•* No," he answered, steadily, *' nuthin' ! "

By a coincidence (that she did not know) Fred Halson joined
them, riding his new cayuse, a pretty beast, full of life and deviltry.

** Whar ye bound, Sam ? " he called gaily, looking at the girl.

** Over to th' station, lad ; come along."

Once there, he fastened the team securely to a fence-post.

" rU go to the store, Sammy," she said ; ** wait for me."

*• No, don't, girl ; I may want ye."

She was surprised ; but stayed willingly.

*' Sam," Fred shouted.


" If thar's anythin' for me on th' express, take it home, will ye ?
I've got to go 'cross the road." He started away.

" Fred ! "

The young man stopped at the unusual command in the voice.

" Wait a minute, will ye ? Train 'II be here p'utty soon, an' I
may need ye."

" Oh, all right, Sam ; sure, ef I kin be of any use."

They walked up on the long platform together. The old man
contrived to leave the girl and the other, while he went along the
raised boards, his eyes focussing themselves on the long distance,
to a certain roll in the cold prairie where he knew was his home.
The skies were overcast and grey, chilling and repulsive. No faint
gleam of sunlight warmed his body, no ray of happiness soothed the
agony in his heart.

" For th' last time I look on ye, my lands — hers and his'n
now. But I'm content, incause she'll be happy ! "

To-ot — to-ot toot — toot. Far away yet, from the east, but
plainly discernible, came the whistling of the ej^press; and as he
vvatched towards the sound he saw a thread of black rising over the
prairie ; furling, folding, and dwindling away.

" She's comen'," he whispered, and turned swiftly to the two
that waited side by side.

'* Giri ! "

** You're sick, Sammy," she said, quickly, fearfully, seeing his
haggard face and eyes dulled.

" I wants ter speak ter ye a minute."

She walked with him, the young man waiting.

'* Thar's no use" — he coughed a moment as the rushing sound
of iron wheels came to them — ** thar's no use in tryin' ter pretend
a girl like you can love a rough old man like me/'

" Sammy I " she gasped, and stared in bewilderment.

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" Thar's no good in it^ girl ; here — " he pulled out his bank
book, and some papers — " here's your credit — now at th' bank, an'
here's the deeds o' th' land ! " He forced them into her hands,
hurrying on — ** I'm goin', Honey, goin' out of your life, that I hain't
no right to ruin."

. She tried to interrupt.

"You've been squar' to th' old man, an' he kin appreciate
THAT ! " His words were drowned by the roar and rumble of the
long train as it came slowly to a standstill beside them.

** Snmmy ! " she said, dully, the heroic thing he was doing for
her numbing her mind.

He looked into her eyes for an instant, the whole of his great
love twisting his face as though in pain.

** And me, Sammy ? Without you " She stopped, his sacrifice

glaring into her soul. AH his kindness and rough tenderness, all
his little pathetic ways, all his honour and thoughtfulness, rushed
past, and, woman -like, she weighed what she was losing, and what
she might have in the future — torn between the two. " Why,
Sammy ? Why ? Poor old Sammy ! " she gasped, seeing the clinched
jaws, the muscles working spasmodically in his face.

** Incause "— he spoke almost fiercely — ** I saw it all by th'
light o' a match."

She was silent, knowing then that he knew. He took her by
the hand, dragged her through the crowd of tourists, passengers,
immigrants, that thronged the station, to where the other stood.

** Fred, lad ; ye'r honest, an' ye loves Marthy as a man should,
don't ye ? "

The other was amazed, dumb almost.

** I do ! " he answered, before he had time to think.

"All aboard— all 'board! "

** I trusts het to ye, lad, fur she loves ye, an' kin show it now,
incause I gives my consent, an' " — he coughed again harshly — " my
blessin'. Look arter her well, lad, as I hev' ; an' read this when
I'm gone ! " He gave him a sheet of paper, and sprang away.

Slowly the great wheels revolved to the spurting chug-chug
of the engine. White-jacketed porters closed the vestibules of the
Pullmans. Gradually, then faster and faster, the long cars moved
away ; the two gripping each other's hands convulsively, tears stream-
ing down her face. No sign of old Sam King. The two watched the
express fade away to a blur in the west. She turned on him then.

** Are you a man like him, Fred ? "

He looked into her eyes.

** He is a man," he whispered. '* I can only try to love ye as
he did ! "

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** You'll have to try hard ! " she answered, softly.

For an instant then a single ray of yellow sunlight forced its
way through the grey clouds, and hesitated weakly on the two; it
was pjone.

"Sammy" — she waved her hand to the westward, aJong' the
unsympathetic cold lines of steel — "ye didn't kiss me good-bye,"
and the tears rolled faster. ,

" No, he didn't," the man whispered; ** but Til watch over ye I j

I don't love the grain most ! ** I

He opened the paper, and his face became soft with a deep glow
of feeling. l

•' Read thet, dear!" \

She could distinguish the words but slowly for her tears. |

"ye an fred kin marry in tou weks 1*1 be out o* th wurld f

then ye'l be hapy i gues an ets ryght ye shuld incaus ye an
him hev bin squar in this thing i aint jelous i m hapy fur it

" lovinle *'

SAM." |.

For a moment both were silent, looking to the west.
*' He didn't love the grain most after all," Fred whispered,

" I don't think he did," she answered, and turned away.

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There has been a good deal of discussion during the last fewniontlis
in the sporting papers and magazines on foxes and fox-hunting. " Do
foxes run as well as they did formerly?" and *' Is hunting as fine
a sport as it once was ? " have been the much debated questions.
This has been a grand opportunity for the laudatores temporis acti, and
they have not missed it. They are a hardy race who have flourished
exceedingly from the days of Horace, and probably for many centuries
before the time of that witty poet and man of the world.

Only the other day I picked up a volume of the Sporting
Magazine over a hundred years old, in which one of them sang a
truly mournful jeremiad on the decadence of both sport and the
English thoroughbred horse. There is also the other school who hold
that there never was such a time as thq present, and it is not easy
to find the truth and hold the balance evenly between the two.

I have kept a hunting diary for twenty-two years, which now
contains the records of over a thousand dajs' sport, and it occurred
to me that it might be of interest to give an account of some of the
best runs I have seen.

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A great many fox-hunters keep no diary ; and as it is a happy
trait in most men's characters to remember the good times that are
p>ast, and to forget the evil ones, I have no doubt that many people
honestly think the sport was better years ago, simply because they
remember the fine runs they enjoyed, and forget all about the dis-
appointing days they suffered. As far as my own experience goes
the sport is ev^ry bit as good now as ever it was, and I think the
records of last year, 1905 (I am writing these notes in January), will
compare favourably with those of any other year in the annals of
the hounds which I have the good fortune to follow.

Some countries have been much cut up by the increase of rail-


ways and the growth of towns, but others have been immensely
improved during the last forty years, owing to the large amount of
arable land which has been turned down into grass since the fall in
the price of wheat made ploughing unremunerative.

Lord Middleton's country in the East Riding of Yorkshire is a
fine, wild, sporting district, sparsely inhabited, and with few rail-
ways, consequently well adapted to long straight hunts; and I think
his dog hounds were the best I have ever seen in sticking to a fox.
Their grim determination and perseverance would not be denied,
and the way they broke up a fox after they had killed him was some-

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thing to remember.. I hunted a good deal with them about twelve
years ago, and came in for some very fine runs.

21 December 1889. — Hounds had just killed their fox after a
good forty minutes in a ring from Stittenham Wood, when a fox
jumped up in the open close to Foston. We got a good start with
him and pushed him at a rare pace through Bulmer Hag and into
Castle Howard Park, right through this huge park, across the valley
which lies to the north of it, over Connisthorpe Banks, down into the
valley of the Rye ; we got a view of him as he crossed the Malton
and Gilling Railway, near Amotherby Station, and killed him half
a mile further on. This was about the straightest-running fox
I have ever seen ; the point was some nine miles, and he hardly
deviated one hundred yards from a straight line during his whole
journey ; the pace was good throughout, and the time i hr. 15 min.

Seven years later, almost to a day, on 9 December 1896, I saw
an even finer hunt in the very same district. After a wet and stormy
night the weather improved at about 10 a.m. It was quite fine
when hounds were thrown into Foston Covert, and at the same instant
a hallo from the first whip proclaimed that the good fox was away.
There was a screaming scent, and hounds fairly flew for twenty
minutes over a lovely line of country till they were brought up by
the wall of Castle Howard Park. The fox had run along the top of it,
and it was some five or six minutes before Grant hit off his line.
Hounds went on again at a good hunting pace right through the
park, past Hildenly and Swinton Grange, almost to Amotherby
Station (our furthest point), then left-handed in a big ring through
part of Castle Howard Park almost to Bulmer village, where they
ran right up to him and killed him in the open. Point eight miles,
distance as hounds ran about sixteen miles, time i hr. 50 min.
The first twenty minutes was a brilliant gallop, and the rest of the
run a very fine hunt : with the exception of the time when the fox
ran along the park wall there was no check worth mentiojiing.

I have said what demons these hounds were at breaking up a
fox. Now little Grant had a habit, when he had killed his fox after
a good hunt, of standing with his foot on the dead fox while his
grand dog hounds bayed round him till you could have heard them
five miles off. On this occasion we had a rare chorus for about ten
minutes, and when Grant picked the fox up to throw it to them
they made a dash forward, his foot slipped, and down he went in
the middle of them. I really thought we should never see any-
thing more of him, except, perhaps, his cap and his spurs ; but he
managed to roll out of the scrimmage, and but for being very dirty
was none the worse, though it looked awkward for a second or two.

Another capital hunt took place on 5 February 1890. Found

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in Brockfteld Covert, which is just four miles from York. The fox
made straight for the city, and ran right into the houses of Oswald -
kirk, a suburb of York, a most peculiar line for him to take, as there
is no covert in that direction. He skirted round the walls and
crossed the Low Moor just behind the cavalry barracks. Leaving
Heslington on his left, he ran the whole length of the Tilmire and got
into the Wheldrake Woods.

In spite of fresh foxes being afoot, hounds drove him through
these large coverts into the open again on the far side, and running
well for another mile or so killed him in the churchyard of Elvington
village, which is six miles from York. This was another very


straight run, the point being eight miles. Hounds ran a great pace
for the first four miles over a stiff line of country with no gaps, and
-when they checked almost under the shadow of the minster it was
surprising how few people realised where they were.

The York and Ainsty joins Lord Middleton's country. Mr.
Lycett Gi^en, who is in the twentieth year of his mastership, has
shown his followers some rare good hunts.

20 December 1897 was a memorable day. Found in Cold-
stream Whin, and ran very hard to New Parks, then on through
Huby Bum and Hawk Hills, past Easingwold village, to Peep-o'-day

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fox-covert, where he got to ground in the main earth. Point eight
miles, time i^ hrs. Drew Stillington Whin and found another good
fox, who took us by Crayke village to Spillar Wood and on through
Dalby Bush and Wiganthorpe to the Hovingham Woods, where the
fox again found safety below ground — very hard luck on the hounds,
but as we were several miles in Lord Middleton's country the earths
were, of course, open. Point over seven miles. Hounds had run
well for about i hr. 20 min, over a rough and trying country

Another very good hunt took place on 15 January 1898, from
Sessay Wood by Thormanby, Carlton Husthwaite, and Coxwold to
Wass Bank, where we killed him on the edge of the Hambledon
grouse moors, a seven-mile point over a lovely line of country, about
twelve miles as hounds ran ; time, i hr. 10 min.

Many a memorable hunt have the York and Ainsty had with
these stout moorland foxes, who come down into the low country
about the new year seeking a mate. Unless it is a very good scent-
ing day, it is long odds on them against the hounds, for if once th^
get among the crags and rocks of the moors it is almost impossible
to catch them before they find some stronghold where they are
quite safe from hounds, terriers, or spades. More than once also
have I reached the top of these banks — they are so steep you
can only get up them here and there — to find the moors covered
with snow and ice when there had not been a trace of either in the
vale below.

The best fox whose acquaintance I have ever had the luck
to make lived in a little patch of wild gorse on the banks of the
River Maigue in co. Limejick. We found him first on the after-
noon of 22 January 1894, and to my dying day I shall never forget
the glorious gallop he led us for some nine miles over a perfect line
of country. The going was of the very best, and the pace tremendous.
Without a check, and with only a breather of two or three minutes
when hounds were pushing their way through the small gorse
covert of Lisdowan, he led us on till he found well-deserved safety
in the main earth of Garryfine Covert, which he reached some two
hundred yards in front of the leading hounds.

He was at home again on 19 February^ and again gave a great
run past Croom Gorse to Kilmacow Cross Roads, about seven miles,
at a capital pace ; then darkness put an end to the hunt. Once
more was he found, early the following season ; but he was not so
highly tried, scent was only fair, and after a good long hunt, in which
he was always having the best of it, he beat hounds again by the
simple expedient of running them out of scent. In vain was he
sought again ; he had changed his quarters ; perhaps he thought
there was luck in odd numbers.

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The finest run I have ever seen took place on 26 T^ec^mher
1902. The Cottesmore Hounds met in Oakham. The first draw
was Oakham Pastures, two small coverts about a mile south west of
the town. Hounds were hardly in before the fox was away.
They got a good start, and at once settled down to run at
a great pace across the valley, leaving Brook village on the right,
and Martinsthorpe on the left, almost to the Manton Brook; this
they did not cross, but bore right-handed, and it looked for a
time as if Prior's Coppice was his point, but he left it about two
fields to his right, and crossing the valley between Leigh Lodge and

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 20 of 52)