John Wilson.

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band-high, through river-feeding torrents, to the glorious
music of his runnina; and ringing reel, after a tongue-hooked
salmon, insanely seeking with the ebb of tide, but all in
vain, the white breakers of the sea. No hazel or willow
wand, no half-crown rod of ash framed by village wright,
is now in his practised hands, of which the very left is
dexterous; but a twenty-feet rod of Phin's, all ring-rust-
ling, and a-glitter with the preserving varnish, liml)er as
the attenuating line itself, and lithe to its topmost tenuity
as the elephant's proboscis — the hiccory and the horn
without twist, knot, or flaw, from butt to fly, a faultless
taper, " fine by degrees and beautifully less," the beau
ideal of a rod by the skill of a cunning craftsman to the
senses materialised ! A fish — fat, fair, and forty ! " She
is a salmon, therefore to be woo'd — she is a salmon, there-
fore to be won" — but shy, timid, capricious, headstrong,
now wrathful and now full of fear, like any other female
whom the cruel artist has hooked by lip or heart, and, in
spite of all her struggling, will bring to the gasp at last;
and then with calm eyes behold her lying in the shade
dead or worse than dead, fast-fading and to be rcillumined
no more the lustre of her beauty, insensible to sun or
shower, even the most perishable of all perishable things
in a world of perishing! — Rut the salmon has grown
sulky, and must be made to spring to the plunging stone.


There, suddenly, instinct with new passion, she shoots out
of the foam, like a bar of silver bullion ; and, relapsing
into the flood, is in another moment at the very head of
the waterfall ! Give her the butt — give her the butt — or
she is gone for ever with the thunder into ten fathom deep !
Now comes the trial of your tackle — and when was Phin
ever known to fail at the edge of clift' or cataract 1 Her
snout is southwards — right up the middle of the main cur-
rent of the hill-born river, as if she would seek its very
course where she was spawned ! She still swims swift,
and strong, and deep — and the line goes, steady, boys,
steady — stiff and steady as a Tory in the roar of Opposi-
tion. There is yet an hour's play in her dorsal fin — dan-
ger in the flap of her tail — and yet may her silver shoulder
shatter the gut against a rock. Why, the river was yes-
terday in spate, and she is fresh run from the sea. All
the lesser waterfalls are now level with the flood, and she
meets with no impediment or obstruction — the course is
clear — no tree-roots here — no floating branches — for during
the night they have all been swept down to the salt loch —
in medio tutissirmis ibis — ay, now you feel she begins to
fail — the butt tells now every time you deliver your right.
What ! another mad leap ! yet another sullen plunge ! She
seems absolutely to have discovered, or rather to be an
impersonation of, the perpetual motion. Stand back out
of the way, you son of a sea-cook — you in the tattered
blue breeches, with the tail of your shirt hanging out.
Who the devil sent you ail here, ye vagabonds? — Ha!
Watty Ritchie, my man, is that you? God bless your
Iionest laughing phiz ! What, Watty, would you think of
a fish like that about Peebles? Tarn Grieve never gruppit
sae heavy a ane since first he belanged to the council.
Curse that coUey ! Ay ! well done Watty ! Stone him to
Stobbo. Confound these stirks — if that white one, with
caving horns, kicking heels, and straight-up tail, come bel-
lowing by between me and the river, then, " Madam ! all
is lost, except honour !" If we lose this fish at six o'clock,
then suicide at seven. Our will is made — ten thousand to
the Foundling — ditto to the Thames Tunnel — ha — ha —
my beauty ! Methinks we could fain and fond kiss thy
silver side, languidly lying afloat on the foam, as if all

46 Wilson's miscf.llaneous writings.

farther resistance now were vain, and gracefully thou wert
surrendering thyself to death! No faith in female — she
Irusts to the last trial of her tail — sweetly workest thou, O
Reel of Reels! and on thy smooth axle spinning slcep'st,
even, as Milton describes her, like our own worthy planet.
Scropc — Bainbridge — Maulo — princes among anglers —
oh ! that you were hero ! Where the devil is Sir Hum-
phrey ? At his retort? By mysterious sympathy — far off
at his own Trows, the Kerss feels that we are killing the
noblest fish, whose back ever ripj)lcd the surface of deep
or shallow in the Tweed. Tom Furdy stands like a seer,
entranced in glorious vision, beside turreted Abbotsford.
Shade of Sandy Givan ! Alas ! alas I Poor Sandy — why
on thy pale face that melancholy smile! — Peter! The
gaff! I'he gaff! Into the eddy she sails, sick and
slow, and almost with a swirl — whitening as she nears the
sand — there she has it — struck right into the shoulder,
fairer than that of Juno, Diana, Minerva, or Venus — fair
as the shoulder of our own beloved — and lies at last in all
her glorious length and breadth of beaming beauty, fit
prey for giant or demigod angling before the flood !

" The cliild is father of the man,
And I would wish my days to be
Bound each to cacii by natural piety !"

So much for the angler. The shooter, again, he begins
Avith his pop or pipe-gun, formed of the last year's growth
of a branch of the plane-tree — the beautiful dark green-
leaved and fragrant-flowered plane-tree, that stands straight
in stem and round in head, visible and audible too from
afar the bee-resounding umbrage, alike on stormy sea-
coast and in sheltered inland vale, still loving the roof of
the fisherman's or peasant's cottage.

Then comes, perhaps, the city pop-gun, in shape like a
very musket, such as soldiers bear — a Christmas present
from parent, once a colonel of volunteers — nor feeble to
discharge the pea-bullet or barley-shot, formidable to face
and eyes; nor yet unfelt, at six paces, by hinder-end of
playmate, scornfully yet fearfully exposed. But the shooter
soon tires of such ineffectual trigger — and his soul, as well
as his hair, is set on fire by that extraordinary compound —


gunpowder. He begins with burning ofT his eyebrows on
the king's birthday — squibs and crackers follow — and all
the pleasures of the plutf. But he soon longs to let off a
gun — "and follows to the field some warlike lord" — in
hopes of being allowed to discharge one of the double-
barrels, after Ponto has made his last point, and the half-
hidden chimneys of home are again seen smoking among
the trees. This is his first practice in fire-arnis, and from
that hour he is — a shooter.

Then there is in most rural parishes — and of rural
parishes alone do we condescend to speak — a pistol, a
horse one, with a bit of silver on the butt— perhaps one
that originally served in the Scots Grays. It is bought, or
borrowed, by the young shooter, who begins firing, first at
barn-doors, then at trees, and then at living things — a
strange cur, who, from his lolling tongue, may be supposed
to have the hydrophobia — a cat that has purred herself
asleep on the sunny churchyard wall, or is watching mice
at their hole-mouths among the graves — a water-rat in the
mill-lead — or weasel that, running to his retreat in the
wall, always turns round to look at you — a goose wandered
from his common in disap|)ointed love — or brown duck,
easily mistaken by the unscrupulous for a wild one, in
pond remote from human dwelling, or on meadow by the
river side, away from the clack of the muter-mill. The
corby-crow, too, shouted out of his nest on some tree lower
than usual, is a good flying mark to the more advanced
class ; or morning magpie, a-chatter at skreigh of day
close to the cottage door among the chickens; or a flock
of pigeons wheeling overhead on the stubble-field, or sitting
so thick together that every stook is blue with templing

But the pistol is discharged for a fowling-piece — brown
and rusty, with a slight crack probably in the muzzle,
and a lock out of all proportion to the barrel. Then
the young shooter aspires at halfpennies thrown up into
the air — and generally hit, for there is never wanting an
apparent dent in copper metal ; and thence he mounts to
the glancing and skimming swallow, a household bird,
and therefore to be held sacred, but shot at on the excuse
of its being next to impossible to hit him, an opinion

48 Wilson's jiiscellaneous writings.

strengthened into belief by several summers' practice.
But the small brown and white marten wheeling through
below the bridge, or along the many-holed red-sand bank,
is admitted by all boys to be fair game — and slill more,
the long-winged legless black devilet, that, if it falls to the
ground, cannot rise again, and therefore screams wheeling
round the corners and battlements of towers and castles,
or far out even of cannon-shot, gambols in companies of
hundreds, and regiments of a thousand, aloft in the even-
ing ether, within the orbit of the eagle's flight. It seems
to boyish eyes, that the creatures near the earth, when
but little blue sky is seen between the specks and the
wallflowers growinfj on the coisrn of vantase — the signal
is given to fire, but the devilcts are too high in heaven to
smell the sulphur. The starling whips with a shrill cry
into his nest, and nothing falls to the ground but a tiny
bit of mossy mortar, inhabited by a spider!

But the day of days arrives at last, when the school-
boy — or rather the coUcge-bo)' returning to his rural vaca-
tion — for in Scotland college winters tread close — too close
— on the heels of academies — has a gun — a gun in a
case — a double-barrel too — of his own — and is provided
with a license — probably without any other qualification
than that of hit or miss. On some portentous morning
he effulges with the sun in velveteen jacket and breeches
of the same — many -buttoned gaiters, and an unkerchiefed
throat. 'Tis the fourteenth of September, and lo! a pointer
at his heels — Ponto of course — a game-bag like a beggar's
wallet by his side — destined to be at eve as full of charity
— and all the paraphernalia of an accomplished sportsman.
Proud, were she to see the sight, would be the " mother
that bore him;" the heart of that old sportsman, his daddy,
would sing for joy ! The chained mastitT in the yard
yowls his admiration ; the servant-lassies uplift the pane
of their garret, and, with suddenly withdrawn blushes,
titter their delight in their rich paper curls and pure
night-clothes. Rab Roger, who has been cleaning out
the barn, comes forth to partake of the caulker; and
away go the footsteps of the old poacher and his pupil
through the autumnal rime, off to the uplands — where,
for it is one of the earliest of harvests — there is scarcely


a single acre of standing corn. The turnip-fields are
bright-green with hope and expectation — and coveys are
couching on lazy beds beneath the potato-shaw. Every
high hedge, ditch-guarded on either side, shelters its own
brood — imagination hears the whirr shaking the dewdrops
from the broom on the brae — and first one bird and then
another, and then the remaining number, in itself no con-
temptible covey, seems to fancy's ear to spring single, or
in clouds, from the coppice-brushwood, with here and
there an intercepting standard tree.

Poor Ponto is much to be pitied. Either having a cold
in his nose, or having ante-breakfasted by stealth on a
red-herring, he can scent nothing short of a badger, and,
every other field, he starts in horror, shame, and amaze-
ment, to hear himself, without having attended to his
points, inclosed in a whirring covey. He is still duly
taken between those inexorable knees; out comes the
speck-and-span new dog-whip heavy enough for a horse;
and the yowl of the patient is heard over the whole parish.
Mothers press their yet unchastised infants to their breasts;
and the schoolmaster, fastening a knowing eye on dunce
and ne'erdoweel, holds up, in silent warning, the terror of
the tawse. Frequent flogging will cow the spirit of the
best man and dog in Britain. Ponto travels now in fear
and trembling, but a Cew yards from his tyrant's feet, till,
rousing himself to the sudden scent of something smelling
strongly, he draws slowly and beautifully, and

" There fix'd, a perfect semicircle stands."

Up runs the tyro ready-cocked, and, in his eagerness,
stumbling among the stubble, when mark and lo ! the
gabble of gray goslings, and the bill-protruded hiss of
goose and gander ! Bang goes the right-hand barrel at
Ponto, who now thinks it high time to be off to the tune of

" Ovvcr the liills and far


while the young gentleman, half-ashamed and half-in-
censed, half-glad and half-sorry, discharges the left-hand
barrel, with a highly improper curse, at the father of the
feathered family before him, who receives the shot like a
ball in his breast, throws a somerset quite surprising for a

VOL. I. 5

50 Wilson's miscellajskous writings.

bird of his usual liabits, anJ, after biting the dust with his
bill, and thumping it with his bottom, breathes an eternal
farewell to this sublunary scene — and leaves himself to
be paid for at the rate of eight-pence a pound to his justly-
irritated owner, on whose farm he had led a long, and not
only harmless, but honourable and useful life.

It is nearly as impossible a thing as we know, to borrow
a dog about the time the sun has reached his meridian, on
the first day of the partridges. Ponto by this time has
sneaked, unseen by human eye, into his kennel, and coiled
himself up into the arms of tired nature's sweet restorer,
balmy sleep. A farmer makes offer of a col ley, who,
from numbering among his paternal ancestors a Spanish
pointer, is quite a Don in his way among the cheepers,
and has been known in a turnip-field to stand in an atti-
tude very similar to that of setting. Luath has no objec-
tion to a frolic over the fields, and plays the part of Ponto
to perfection. At last ho catches sight of a covey bask-
ing, and, leaping in upon them open-mouthed, dispatches
them right and left, even like the famous dog Billy killing
rats in the pit at Westminster. The birds are bagged,
with a gentle remonstrance, and Luath's exploit rewarded
with a whang of cheese. Elated by the pressure on his
shoulder, the young gentleman laughs at the idea of point-
ing; and fires away, like winking, at every uprise of birds,
near or remote ; works a miracle by bringing down three
at a time, that chanced, unknown to him, to be crossing;
and wearied with such slaughter, lends his gun to the
attendant farmer, who can mark down to an inch, and
walks up to the dropped pout, as if he could kick her up
with his foot; and thus the bag in a few hours is half full
of feathers ; while to close with eclat the sport of the day,
the cunning elder takes him to a bramble bush, in a wall-
nook, at the edge of a wood, and returning the gun into
his hands, shows him poor pussie sitting with open eyes
fast asleep! The pellets are in her brain, and turning
herself over, she crunkles out to her full length, like a
piece of untwisting Indian-rubber, and is dead. The pos-
terior pouch of the jacket, yet unstained by blood, yawns
to receive her — and in she goes plump ; paws, ears, body,
feet, fud and all — while Luath, all the way home to the


Mains, keeps snoking at the red drops oozing through —
for well he knows in summer's heat and winter's cold, the
smell of pussie, whether sitting beneath a tuft of withered
grass on the brae, or burrowed beneath a snow-wreath.
A hare, we certainly must say, in spite of haughtier
sportsman's scorn, is, when sitting, a most satisfactory

But let us trace no farther, thus step by step, the
Pilgrim's Progress. Look at him now — a finished sports-
man — on the moors — the bright black boundless Dalwhin-
nie Moors, stretching away, by long Loch-Erricht-side,
into the dim and distant day that hangs, with all its
clouds, over the bosom of far Loch-Rannoch. Is that the
plufier at partridge pouts wlio had nearly been the death
of poor Ponto ? Lord Kennedy himself might take a
lesson now from the straight and steady style in which,
on the mountain-brow, and up to the middle in heather,
he brings his Manton to the deadly level ! More unerring
eye never glanced along brown barrel ! Finer fore-finger
never touched a trigger ! Follow him a whole day, and
not one wounded bird. AH most beautifully arrested on
their flight by instantaneous death ! Down dropped right
and left, like lead on the heather — old cock and hen sin-
gled out among the orphan'd brood, as calmly as a cook
would do it in the larder — from among a pile of plumage.
No random shot within — no needless shot out of distance
— covered every feather before stir of finger — and body,
back, and brain, pierced, broken, scattered I And what
perfect pointers! There they stand still as death — yet in-
stinct with life — the whole half-dozen — Mungo, the black-
tanned — Don, the red-spotted — Clara, the snow-white —
Primrose, the pale yellow — Basto, the bright brown, and
Nimrod, in his coat of many colours, often seen afar
through the mists like a meteor.

So much for the angler's and the shooter's progress —
now briefly for the hunter's. Hunting, in this country,
unquestionably commences with cats. Few cottages with-
out a cat. If you do not find her on the mouse-watch at
the gable-end of the house, just at the corner — take a solar
observation, and by it look for her on bank or brae —
somewhere about the premises — if unsuccessful, peep into

52 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

the byre, and up through a hole among the dusty divots
of the roof, and chance is you see her eyes glittering far-
ben in the gloom ; but if she be not there either, into the
barn and up on the mow — and surely she is on the straw
or on the baulks below the kipples. No. Well, then, let
your eye travel along the edge of that little wood behind
the cottage — ay, yonder she is — but she sees both you
and your two terriers — one rough and the other smooth —
and, slinking away through a gap in the old hawthorn
hedge in among the hazels, she either lies j)erdue, or is up
a fir-tree almost as high as the magpie's or corby's nest.

Now — observe — shooting cats is one thing — and hunt-
ing them is another — and shooting and hunting, though
they may be united, are here treated separately ; so, in
the present case, the cat makes her escape. But get her
watching birds — young larks, perhaps, walking on the lea
— or young linnets hanging on the broom — down by yon-
der in the holm lands, where there are no trees, except
indeed that one glorious single tree, the golden oak, and
he is guarded by Glowerer, and then what a most capital
chase ! Stretching herself up with a crooked back, as if
taking a yawn — off she jumps, with tremendous spangs,
and tail, thickened with fear and anger, perpendicular.
Youf — youf — youf — go the terriers — head over heels per-
haps in their fury — and not long in turning her — and
bringing her to bay at the hedge-root, all a-blaze and
a-bristle. A she-devil incarnate! — Hark — all at once
now strikes up a trio — Catalani caterwauling the treble —
Glowerer taking the bass — and Tearer the tenor — a. cruel
concert cut short by a squalling throttler. Away — away
along the holm — and over the knowe — and into the wood —
for lo ! the gudewifo, brandishing a besom, comes flying
demented without her mutch, down to the murder of her
tabby, — her son, a stout stripling, is seen skirting the po-
tato-field to intercept our flight, — and, most formidable of
all foes, the man of the house himself, in his shirt-sleeves and
flail in his hand, bolts from the barn, down the croft, across
the burn, and up the brae, to cut us ofl' from the manse.
The hunt's up., and 'tis a capital steeple-chase. Disperse —
disperse ! Down the hill. Jack — u[) the hill. Gill — dive the
dell. Kit — thread the wood, Pat — a hundred yards start is


a great matter — a stern chase is always a long chase —
schoolboys are generally in prime wind — the old man be-
gins to puff, and blow, and snort, and put his paws to his
paunch — the son is thrown out by a double of dainty
Davy's — and the " sair begrutten mither" is gathering up
the torn and tattered remains of Tortoise-shell Tabby, and
invoking the vengeance of heaven and earth on her pitiless
murderers. Some slight relief to her bursting and break-
ing heart, to vow that she will make the minister hear of
it on the deafest side of his head, — ay, even if she have to
break in upon him sitting on Saturday night, getting aff by
rote his fushionless sermon, in his ain study.

Now, gentle reader, again observe, that though we have
now described, con amove, a most cruel case of cat-killing,
in which we certainly did play a most aggravated part,
some sixty years since, far indeed are we from recom-
mending such wanton barbarity to the rising generation.
We are not inditing a homily on humanity to animals, nor
have we been appointed to succeed the Rev. Dr. Somer-
ville of Currie, the great patentee of the safety double
bloody barrel, to preach the annual Gibsonian sermon on
that subject — we are simply stating certain matters of fact,
illustrative of the rise and progress of the love of pastime
in the soul, and leave our subscribers to draw the moral.
But may we be permitted to say, that the naughtiest school-
boys ot'ten make the most pious men ; that it does not fol-
low, according to the wise saws and modern instances of
prophetic old women of both sexes, that he who in boy-
hood has worried a cat with terriers, will, in manhood,
commit murder on one of his own species ; or that pecca-
dilloes are the progenitors of capital crimes. Nature
allows to growing lads a certain range of wickedness, sans
peur et sans reproche. She seems, indeed, to whistle into
their ear, to mock ancient females — to laugh at Quakers —
to make mouths at a decent man and his wife riding double
to church — the matron's thick legs ludicrously bobbing
from the pillion kept firm on Dobbin's rump by her bot-
tom, '■'■ ponderihus librata stiis," — to tip the wink to young
women during sermon on Sunday — and on Saturday, most
impertinently to kiss them, whether they will or no, on


54 wiLso:v's miscellaneous aveitikgs.

high-road or by-path — and to perpetrate many other httle
nameless etiorniities.

No doubt, at the time, such things will wear rather a
suspicious character ; and the boy who is detected in the
fact, must be punished by palmy, or privation, or impri-
sonment from play. But when punished, he is of course
left free to resume his atrocious career; nor is it found that
he sleeps a whit the less soundly, or shrieks for Heaven's
mercy in his dreams. Conscience is not a craven.
Groans belong to guilt. But fun and frolic, even when
trespasses, are not guilt ; and though a cat have nine lives,
she has but one ghost — and that will haunt no house
where there are terriers. What ! surely if you have the
happiness of being a parent, you would not wish your only
boy — your son and heir — the blended image of his mother's
loveliness and his father's manly beauty — to be a smug,
smooth, prim, and proper prig, with his hair always
combed down on his forehead, hands always unglauered,
and without spot or blemish on his white-thread stockings?
You would not wish him, surely, to be always moping and
musing in a corner with a good book held close to his
nose — botanizing with his maiden aunts — -doing the pretty
at tea-tables with tabbies, in handing round the short-
bread, taking cups, and attending to the kettle — telling
tales on all naughty boys and girls — laying up his penny
a-week pocket-money in a penny-pig — keeping all his
clothes neatly folded up in an untumbled drawer — having
his own peg for his uncrushed hat — saying his prayers
precisely as the clock strikes nine, while his companions
are yet at blind man's buff — and puffed up every Sabbath
eve by the parson's praises of his uncommon memory for
a sermon — while all the other boys are scolded for having
fallen asleep before tcnthly ? You would not wish him,

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