Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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possessed the cratur is — as full of its fal-las as a — a gymnasium !
What for will ye not walk demurely wid two gintlemin that's
expandin* wid nothin' but kindness towards ye? "

" 'Tis poor atin' he'll be," said Tim, tugging remorselessly at
the cord. ** His blood will be that fevered and his muscle that
drawn ! I'll let him loose to recover himself when the line's once
laid. There won't be enough sound mate on him to feed a chickun !
Howiver — he's spreadin' the scent like a water cart."

'* He is so," agreed his colleague. ** 'Tis time we were thinkin'
of the first check. We've come a full mile, or the best part of

Tim nodded. With a turn of the wrist he suddenly jerked the
animal towards him and grasped it in his arms. Holding it tight
he walked solemnly across the pasture for a hundred yards or more
before he released it.

" That'll give us all a breather," he remarked, as he set it down
again. ** I'll not make me cast this way till I see Miss Nora gettin'
her own breath back again. Come you now! We'll give them a
touch of deep goin' in Packy McKeough's potato patch. Be this
and be that ! 'tis the most artistic run they'll be havin' laid out be
a master hand, though 'tis mesilf that declares it ! "

From these fragments of conversation it will be seen that
Gaisford's plan was in full process of foundation. Mr. Huggins's
gratitude had not been worked on in vain. He and his bosom
friend the knacker were leading a line across country for the subse-
quent benefit of the beagles, and were using no half measures to
ensure success to their undertaking. By slow and dogged degrees
the procession proceeded upon its way, the hare's terror gradually
fading into apathy, and its acrobatic performances deteriorating
sadly in its fatigue. Other artistically placed checks were
engineered, and the hare, instead of resisting, lay inert in Tim's
arms, worn with its emotions. Pasture, plough, and moorland
were each in turn insinuated deftly into the trail, till at last men
and hare brought their arduous duties to a close upon the banks of
the Lycke, the well-known salmon-infested river, which has given

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the town of Moyle more importance in the eyes of the outside world
than its citizens altogether appreciate. It was in full spate, foaming
a fathom deep between its clay banks, its waters touching pollards
and thickets which were generally far back from its encroachments.
The two men heaved a sigh of relief as they sank upon con-
venient boulders and instinctively fingered in their vest pockets for
pipes. The hare panted in a comatose state at their feet. For a
few minutes they smoked restfully without moving or speaking.
Then Flitty rose. He beckoned his companion forward.

The two sidled along the bank for a few yards till they reached
a clump of brambles at the water's edge. Within its recesses lay
a coracle, the tiny wicker skiff which the professional fishers use.

" There 'tis,'* said Flitty, tersely ; ** and do you, Tim Huggins,
disthract ivrybody's attintions from prying in this direction by any
manes short of assassinatin' thim. When once the captin*s got her
launched, and Miss Nora in it — why thin, let thim swim who will."
** And they'll not be many," said Mr. Huggins, significantly, as
he strolled back to his captive and resumed charge of the cord which
he had tied to a tree. '* The water's as cold as Miss Nora's silf
when Phineas is passagin' about her, and you'll not find much that's
colder. I'll carry this unfortunit baste a furlong down the bank and
let it deliver itsilf where it will. Sure it's had its Purgathory, the
cratur ; let it make its own Paradise."

« « * 41 4»

The Allonby meet had proved an early success. The usual tuft-
flicking and bush-punching which precedes a run from a moorland
find had been short enough. Huggins, as he made a wide beat to
circle the gorse which edged the moor, was suddenly heard to holloa
loudly ; the next instant his battered cap was whirled aloft upon his
stick, while the whimper of the hounds swelled from doubt into full-
throated certainty. Young men and maidens drew their elbows
down to their sides and set their caps firmly upon their heads. At
a swinging trot the field followed the whip, who was already
bounding over a dyke at the far side of an arable enclosure.

The Master did not lead his field. If the previous week he had
closely accompanied Miss O'Connor, on this present occasion he
could only be described as shadowing her. Step by step he dogged
her twinkling heels, turning as she turned, slowing as she slowed,
sprinting as she sprinted. And in the background, ** unstiffening
his limbs and easing the cob's wind," as he expressed it, trotted
Mr. Connor O'Connor on horseback, watching his daughter with
grim determination. The young lady's self-appointed directors had
evidently been more than a little alarmed by the previous week's
escapade, and were taking no chances. Each of them had addressed

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the blackest of black looks to the imperturbable Gaisford when be
and half a dozen of his colleagues had turned up in due course from

The captain had shown no signs of being impressed by the want
of cordiality extended to him. He had wished the Master and his
desired father-in-law good morning with unabashed good humour,
and had offered Miss Nora a bow and a smile which she very natu-
rally acknowledged. But he had not pressed into her company. In-
deed, the find had come so quick upon the meet that the usual few
minutes* dalliance, which as a rule accompanies all such encounters
of young men and maidens, had been lacking. Everybody jostled
forward at best pace — one which left little enough breath for

The well-manufactureJ check came in its appointed place. Miss
0*Connor threw herself down upon a dyke and fanned herself
violently, expressing her conviction that one more minute of such
going would have seen her a purple-visaged corpse. Mr. O'Con-
nor *s cob whistled like a blackbird. Mr. Burkington paced up and
down before his charmer pantingly; want of wind, ho^^ever, not
depriving him of one wrinkle of his aspect of determination. Hug-
gins seemed to make his casts somewhat perfunctorily, casting an
eye at the group as if he waited more for the convenience of his field
than to the mere chance of the hour. As Miss Nora stood up, and
found breath enough to offer a remark to her nearest neighbour,
Huggins strode away with an air of satisfaction. The next minute
his holloa apprised them that the scent had been taken up in Mc-
Keough's potato patch. With feet that gradually assumed elephan-
tine proportions as the heavy soil clung to them, the runners
proceeded upon their way.

About an hour had gone by. There had been another check or
two. Nearly four miles had been covered. Suddenly Gaisford
supplied a note of tragedy to dilute the morning's cheerfulness.
Crossing a dyke he stumbled, and fell with his foot doubled under
him. There were many offers of assistance, but none from Messrs.
Burkington or O'Connor, when it seemed that the gallant captain
had slightly sprained his ankle. Large grins, indeed, suffused these
gentlemen's faces, and Miss Nora's father relentlessly prevented her
stopping to offer more sympathy than could be compressed into
three words and shouted from a distance. Doggedly he and Bur-
kington urged her on. Not that the sufferer permitted anyone to
lose sport by staying with him. The hurt was a mere nothing, he
declared, and he could limp after them quite easily and take up
running again when the first bruised stiffness had gone out of the

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And so the whole field passed on. Gaisford watched them out

of sight round a convenient spinney and then took to his heels and

sprinted across country, following a course parallel to the one they

had taken. As a recovery, this incident came positively near to the

miraculous. As a side light on the deceits practised by the military

profession it has other aspects.

Meanwhile the field had come full stop upon the brim of the
foaming Lycke, gazing blankly at its turbid floods. A rich, full-
brogued voice hailed them from the opposite side. Flitty Boyle
was to be seen waving an excited hand from the seat of his car.

" 'Tis right over, swimmin* like an allygaytar, the baste came ! "
he declared. *' He's gone down the Moyle road, drippin' and layin'
the dust like a sprinklin' cart ! "

The breathless hunt looked disconsolately at him. There was
no bridge within five miles.

'* Where will we find a boat, Flitty ? " cried the whip. The
knacker stood up and pointed eagerly down the river to the

"There should be one at Duveen's house, Mr. Burkington,
y*r honnour, sorr. If Mr. O'Connor wud take it upon him to give a
canter down and see, *twud perhaps save the bulk of you a useless
matter of manoeuvring."

Old O'Connor looked round. Gaisford had disappeared and
Mr. Burkington still maintained his rigid proximity to Miss Nora.
He gave a nod and flicked his nag. In another minute he was out
of sight.

Muggins was kneeling twenty or thirty yards away, examining
one of the hounds which he held upon its back between his knees.
He called to the Master.

** Wud you come here, sorr ? I mislike the look of Fanciful's
foot. She's limpin' sadly."

Burkington made an impulsive step forward, and then hesitated.
Nora O'Connor held her breath.

He stared round him. Gaisford was not in sight and the girl
was standing beside the water, idly watching the eddies. He stepped
quickly towards Tim and stooped over the hound.

Nora edged a pace or two up stream. Burkington's broad back
was towards her, and his gaze fixed upon the pad between his fingers.
Silentl}', quickly she glided behind an intervening bush and fled
through the pollards to the left.

A minute later Burkington dropped the dog's limb, expressing
the opinion that nothing ailed it except the application of his whip's
too easily roused misgivings. Something splashed on the surface of
the stream.

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A coracle had shot out from the bushes on the left, skimming
across the ripples towards the opposite shore,

Burkington stared at it in incredulous wrath.
Whatever injury Gaisford might have experienced to his foot,
his arms were certainly in the best of trim. He was working the
paddles most lustily. Nora O'Connor, kneeling and facing him, was
wearing a smile of demure satisfaction.

Burkington lifted his arm and shook his fist at them.
** Come back ! " he demanded, imperiously. "Come back this
very instant ! "

Miss Nora raised her eyebrows.

** There's no room for more than two at a time, Mr. Burkington,"
she answered, with mild surprise; "but if you'll put hounds to me
ril get them on the line. Make them swim it."
Burkington danced with rage.

''You'll be sorry for this, you — you hussey ! " he cried, as the
coracle grounded against the far bank. " Your father will take
satisfaction from you if he has to do it with a stick ! "
Miss O'Connor shrugged her shoulders.

" I think you hardly know what you're saying," she deprecated,
and turned to Flitty, who beamed upon her graciously.

** If you're on the way to Moyle, perhaps you'd give me a cast
so far in your trap ? " she asked.
Flitty gave a duck and a smirk.

•*With ivry plisure in life, miss," said he. "Give me y'r hand
an' I'll drag ye up."

He suited the action to the word.
Gaisford looked solemnly at his watch.

*' Sorry I've no time to bring the boat to ferry the lot of you,"
he informed the grinning field. " Tve an important engagement in
Moyle myself."

Burkington poured forth a flood of imprecation. ** You — you

scoundrel ! " he roared. " I'll have the law of you— I'll— I'll "

His rage made him inarticulate. He spluttered incoherently.
Gaisford nodded.

*' You'll tell me all about it next time," he answered, genially.
" Right away, Flitty ! "

He skipped up and occupied the same seat which he had used
to such advantage the week before. The whip fell upon the pony's
back. Flitty, his trap, and his friends flew off down the road in a
cloud of dust. As they disappeared round a distant corner Miss
O'Connor's handkerchief was seen to flutter over her shoulder in
ironical farewell.

For an instant Burkington made a motion as if he would throw

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off his coat. He looked at the surging ripples and hesitated. He
was a poor swimmer at the best of times, and what sort of pursuit
he could make upon his own feet with his clothes sogging full of
water, even if he gained the opposite side in safety, was hard to tell.
He relinquished his notion, and instead began to run furiously
in the direction which Mr. O'Connor had taken five minutes before.
With the sporting instinct that the end of this run, at any rate,
should not escape them, the field followed valiantly.

Half an hour later Mr. O'Connor turned in great amazement
from superintending a temporary caulk of Pat Duveen*s very leaky
punt, to see the whole hunt — minus his daughter — sweep into the
boatyard and confront him.

It was another five minutes before he gathered the true inward-
ness of the situation, so rabid were Phineas*s denunciations. But
when he understood the many explanations which everybody seemed
anxious to supply, he fairly emulated the Master of Beagles' fury.
He seized upon tow and mallet and hammered and caulked like one
possessed. His anathemas were brilliantly inventive ; his energy

In spite of both another twenty minutes went by before the
most reckless adventurer present suggested that a launch was
possible, and even then Mr. Burkington eyed the gaping seams
askance. But the old gentleman was beyond the restraints of mere
prudence. He hustled his cob and his would-be son-in-law aboard.
Pat Duveen took the pole, and leaned forward to shove off.
Suddenly he paused, and, like all the others present, turned his eyes
in the direction of the town. A sort of incredulous hush fell upon
the assembly. It was followed by an instinctive shout of amaze-
ment, of glee, and of unrestrained laughter.

The wind was fair from Moyle, and gleefully upon the gusts rang
out the peal of wedding bells !

HO. cxxvi. VOL. xxiu— January 1906

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Having made a bad start at Langletet, we determined to go up to
the hut and the soeter. By Langletet I mean Johan Bergan's house,
which is on the west bank of the Gula River, and a mile or so distant
from Langletet railway station. Beyond a saw-mill and a farmhouse
or two I have never yet discovered any approach to a town, or even a
village, at Langletet. The post-office is at the station, and there is
not even a grocery store or a blacksmith's shop in the neighbour-
hood. Johan's house, reached by ferry over the river in the usual
leaky Norwegian boat, is supposed to be the centre of our elk
forest. But it takes a young and very active man adequately to
hunt from that centre even the smaller half of the 100,000 acres or
so of pine-forest, birch-scrub, and fjeld which we rent from the
Norwegian Government, and on which we have a right to kill a
stated number of elk.

We had been at Johan's house two days, and so far had done
nothing. The first was an ideal day for driving the hills above
Langletet, fine and warm, with the lightest of easterly breezes (all
the bad weather here comes from north and west), the right
direction for this particular drive. But a perverse fate impelled us
instead to hunt with the men and dogs in leash, my son M. in Laerdal,
I to the south, and neither of us got a shot. M. and Peder found
the tracks of a good bull, and followed him for miles to and fro
through thick pine-woods, seeking in vain for a sight of the great
black hairy side at which to shoot. Occasionally they were close

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to him, but the bull was never seen. Ivor and I wandered through
miles of forest on the south end, jumped a cow, but saw no bull.

Next day we drove the Langletet woods, and of course the
wind had changed to a wrong airt. But the drive had been
arranged overnight, the men secured, and with insular obstinacy we
determined to carry it out. The men swept some miles of our
thickest woods round the precipitous shoulder of a hill to the edge
of the Laerdal Canyon, where the rifles sat. An open marsh, a
mile or so long, protected our left, and it was commonly supposed
that elk did not cross the Laerdal Canyon on the right at this point,
though I have my doubts on the subject. Men can, with infinite


labour, slide down one side of the canyon, wade the stream at the
bottom, and clamber on all fours up the other side, hanging on to
trees and rocks in the process ; and I have yet to find the ground in
Norway where a man can go (even the long-legged active Johan)
and an elk cannot, if pushed to it. Anyway, the drive was an
absolute failure, though two years ago I had killed a 48-inch head in
this same drive. M. and I sat on the side of the wind and put Ivor
back and down in the canyon, but all to no purpose. Not an elk
was seen. It was unthinkable that there were no good bulls in
the drive. There is always a good bull somewhere on this steep
and thickly wooded ridge. But he had obviously declined even

F 2

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to cross the wind for any distance. My experience is that it is
as difficult to drive an elk as it is to hunt a fox for any distance
otherwhere than down-wind. It is the old woodland instinct,
inherited by the elk from generations of wolf-hunted ancestors,
never to give your pursuers a chance of getting your wind. Some
cows broke back, of course, and after lunch, going casually up
the Laerdal Valley, on a round way home, we unexpectedly
jumped a young bull, who nearly galloped over us while the men
were carrying our rifles. We did not want his head, of course :
it was too small. But the men wanted meat, and there was no
doubt that that particular bull, at that particular moment, might
have got hurt but for the fact that the men had our rifles.

So, as I say, things having gone somewhat agley, we deter-
mined next day to go further afield, I to the hut, and M. to
the soeter. The hut and the soeter are eight miles apart, and a
rifle domiciled at each can stalk and hunt ground inaccessible to
ordinary mortals (who want to sleep at home at night in comfort)
from Langletet.

M. took John the chef with him, and Peder the hunter,
with his dog Passup. Also Johan and Ole with two horses
carrying luggage and stores. Quite a retinue, in fact. Of his
visit to the soeter it is sufficient here to chronicle that he killed
his first bull-elk on the following day, a fair-sized beast enough :
also saw three good bulls the next day, none of which he got ;
and finally, two days after, followed for many hours and miles a
fine bull carrying a 42-inch 19-point head, which he eventually ran
into and killed late in the evening on his way home to Langletet.

The point of this story, however, is to relate the events of
one particular day with which Ivor, myself, and another big
bull-elk are mainly concerned.

I also had a modest retinue with me at the hut — to wit, Ivor
and his dog Rover, the fair-haired Carrie as chef-de-cuisine, and
sundry horses and men for the luggage. On the way up to the
hut Ivor and I managed very successfully to give our wind to a
big bull, whom we presently saw in the far distance down the
valley, making record time — accompanied by his mistress, an
exceedingly active young cow — for the thickest woods in Laerdal
Canyon. The annoying part of it was that Carrie, an hour
ahead of us, had walked past this very bull on the way to the
hut, watched him with interest as he gazed upon her within
eighty yards or so, had admired his horns and great bulk, and
then told us all about him afterwards. The bull evidently
knew a thing or two. ** Han stor og saa lang paa mig " (" He stood
and looked long at me "), said Carrie to us that evening. As I

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looked at the fair young face of the Norwegian lassie, glowing
with health and innocence, the conduct of the bull in question
appeared to me most natural, and only what one would have
expected. The bull had scorned to run away from a petticoat,
but as a matter of caution, I suppose, had removed himself and
party, namely, his cow and her calf, to a thick wood adjoining,
under the shoulder of the fjeld, where the wind blew all ways.
There he subsequently became aware of the approach of Ivor,
Rover, and myself, before we saw him, and promptly left the
neighbourhood, without giving us the chance of a shot.

Next morning Ivor came hurriedly into my bedroom at 7 a.m.
to say he saw elk. I went out in my pyjamas, and from the


back door of the hut two cow-elk were plainly visible grazing j|

on the open fjeld, just above the birch-wood, not 500 yards If

away, across a thickly-wooded valley. A careful examination I

through my glasses showed one of the cows to be a very large, ?

obviously old, and even dissipated-looking elk. I went to bed J

again, much to Ivor's disgust, and later on had a blank day in *

the forest so far as shootable bulls were concerned. **(

That evening our party was reinforced by the active Johan, |i
who brought news of M.'s first bull. Next morning I was again

awakened by the men to look at the same two cow-elk grazing H


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in the same spot. These elk had evidently spent the previous
day in the thick birch-wood adjoining.

Then I succumbed to the insidious temptation to kill that
old cow, instigated thereto by Johan and Ivor. I had hitherto
sternly declined to molest cow-elk. But the case in favour of now
breaking this rule was put thus by our local casuists :

The forest was full of old cow-elk, too many in fact, and they
wanted thinning down. This particular cow was obviously far too
old ever to have another calf, and was therefore a mere cumberer of
the ground. She was, moreover, large and fat, her meat was most
desirable, and nothing could be more handy for the larder than to
kill her close to the hut. On the other hand, if spared, she would


merely grow older and more useless every year. It was therefore
much better to kill her than a young bull, for example, who, if spared,
would naturally grow into a larger bull.

As I had been roused out of bed two mornings in succession to
look at the same old cow, and felt inclined for some early morning
exercise, the men's logic prevailed. I put on shooting boots and
coat, seized my rifle, slid down into the thick woods below the hut,
and crawled up the far side of the valley. A gallery consisting of
Carrie, Ivor, Johan, and Ole of the baggage train, watched the whole
proceeding from the door of the hut. Of course the two elk had
lain down in the birch-scrub while I was crossing the valley ; equally
of course I scared them coming up the hill; but they rashly stood

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for a few moments on the sky-line, gave me opportunity for a quick
shoulder-shot at 150 yards before they disappeared, and a chorus of
yells from the gallery informed me of the fact that the old cow had
fallen dead a hundred yards further on, shot through the heart. So
I returned to bath and breakfast while the men butchered the elk.

But this was merely the opening episode of what proved for
me a red-letter day in our forest. I had not yet had a shot at a
good bull this season, and the morning and early afternoon were
spent in two small drives by Ivor on the other side of the valley, I
vainly hoping to intercept any bull he might perchance move. The
^^-eather was too calm and still for successful hunting with the dog
in the thick forest. The second of the two drives terminated in good


news. Ivor returned hastily, before half his round was completed,
to say he had seen a big bull in the birch-wood on the higher fjeld.
Here, then, was the chance for the quiet stalk that I had long been
hoping for. So far we had not seen any good bull out of the thick

Half an hour later I was lying on a ridge with Ivor spying the
birch-scrub where last he had seen the bull. Presently, yes, there

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 7 of 52)