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and hardly- to-be-checked disposition to pursue
the others to the rookery fence, which we had
the chagrin of seeing them reach, in safety
before our eyes. One rabbit even had the
impudence to stop, sit up on its haunches,
and gaze at us before it popped into the
fence. Our companion avers to this day
that that rabbit was related to the one de-
scribed in Alice, in Wonderland, and the
reason it stopped was to salute us after the
manner of very vulgar little boys, and he
further asserts that he actually saw that

rabbit

Put its paw unto its nose,
And spread its toe-nails out.

Before we have fairly recovered from the shock,
two more rabbits pop up, and, after running
a few yards, disappear again as suddenly as
they came ; but we stop one, and, almost im-
mediately afterwards, another. Jock's spirits
revive, and Eobert actually grins. A white
ferret comes out for an airing, sniffs round a
bit, and disappears. Then follows a long



20O FERRETS

wait of ten minutes, and Eobert vouchsafes
the remark that " They ain't starting very-
grand this morning." One more sneaks out
from a distant bolt-hole and gets out of shot
before we can get on him, and the order is
given " to receive ferrets."

Soon after this a young polecat ferret
appears, and one of the boys goes to take it,
but the moment his hand is near to the ferret
it sets up its back and hisses at the boy,
much to the alarm of that youth, who immedi-
ately witlidraws. So also does the ferret.
Eobert is annoyed, and calls the boy " a duzzy
young fool," and " if he's as much an old
woman as that, the sooner he goes home the
better." We pass no comment upon this
eulogium, but simply reflect, during which
time the ferret reappears and is picked up by
Eobert in person. The others are all gathered
during the next five minutes, except one, and
a boy is told off to watch the holes with a
couple of rabbits, in order the better to entice
the ferret out and get it more away from the
entrance to the earth, when it appears, before
he makes an attempt to secure it.

We try our fortune at a smaller earth in a



A DA Y'S RABBITING 201

similar manner as above mentioned, the
number of rabbits shot being three.

By doubling the rookery hedge to the
horseshoe pond we get two more, and here we
are met by our other boy, who had previously
been despatched for the lunch.

It is a pleasant corner, and we do not
make further attempts to better ourselves.
Seats are improvised from upturned baskets,
and a gate unhinged, whilst no time is lost in
discussing the good things that have been
provided for the occasion. A favourite drink
with Eobert is " old strawberry," and, knowing
his weakness, we have been careful not to
forget it. It is a beverage easily obtained by
mixing a strong proportion of gin with well-
seasoned old ale, and on a cold day is most
acceptable. But to-day it is sunny and warm,
and having no biting wind to chill us we leave
the " old strawberry " respectfully alone, and
what Robert is unable to dispose of finds a
resting place in the tail-coat pocket of his
velveteen jacket, in prospect of a future thirst.

Fifteen minutes for a quiet pipe, then we
decide we must be up and doing. We have
not far to go. A fresh-looking earth awaits us



202 FERRETS

within a few yards, and feeling lazy after our
meal, we prefer to sit where we are in readiness
rather than stand, as we most certainly should
do. Naturally, this lazy indifference affects
the bag. Three rabbits seek the sunshine
together, and without waiting a moment to
survey their surroundings, take to the open at
a tremendous pace, making tracks for an earth
in the centre of the park, and distant some
hundred yards or more. Only their white
crested sterns and ear-tips are exposed to view,
and the four shots we fire make them run the
faster. Of course we stand up after this and
expostulate, each abusing the other for suggest-
ing the more comfortable position, which of
course we each indignantly deny.

On rising we are able to realise that,
had we been standing when the rabbits bolted,
we should most probably have bagged all
three, as on the other side of the earth is
a slight dip, and when the rabbits scampered
into this we, being situated as we were, shot
over them. But the consolation remained
that such a little incident as this makes the
remembrance of the day's sport all the
pleasanter in after years, and were it not for



A DAY'S RABBITING 203

such unusual incidents the doings of many a
day might fade entirely from our memory.

After we had been kept in suspense for a
good ten minutes, the ferrets appeared, and
we moved our stand to the earth above
mentioned. This is an old working, which
for years had been growing smaller. Once it
had covered some twenty square yards, and
now only green hillocks mark the entrance to
former burrow^s, whilst here and there a patch
of yellow sand glistened in the sun's rays, at
times becoming painful to the eye, which is of
necessity fixed in its direction.

We turn in eight ferrets and watch and
hope.

Without doubt we have to watch, and the
longer we do so the less hopeful do we become.
This burrow is a distinct fraud.
We saw three rabbits enter, so we know
there are some there, and the working on the
sand seems to indicate there were several
others before they arrived, but the fact remains
that none came out.

Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes
pass — no bunny. Eobert grins, as is his
wont, and, reaching down into the folds of his



204 FERRETS

velveteens, produces his line-ferret, who is by
no means indisposed for a little exhilarating
exercise.

Several times the ferret investigates the
twists and turnings of the burrow, from
its various entrances and bolt - holes, but
without apparently being able to locate the
laid-up rabbits and ferrets. But in one way
it is successful, for we pick up six of the
eighi ferrets whilst these investigations are
going on. The other two ferrets we never see
again, although we are subsequently informed
that Eobert trapped them during the night in
his box ferret-trap.

At this juncture we are joined by the
boy we left watching the other earth, who
brings in triumph the laid-up ferret, which he
had managed to decoy out of its temporary
layer. His face falls somewhat at being told
he must now remain and watch liere until
further orders.

Once more, collecting our traps, we proceed
to a grassy bank, overgrown with trees and
honeycombed with holes. Eobert tells us to
be ready for warm work here and to be sure
and give any wounded rabbit another shot



A DAY'S RABBITING 205

rather than risk the possibility of its crawling
into a hole, as, should the ferrets take it into
their heads to lay up here, they will be most
difficult to recover. Eobert's anticipations are
fulfilled — we most decidedly do have warm
work.

Our companion is placed on the water
meadow below, whilst we lean against a
tree trunk and guard the crown of the
bank.

All the ferrets, except the line-ferret, are
put into the holes, and, before Eobert has
located half of them, the fun commences.
Out of one hole and into another; from the
bottom of the bank to the top, and vice-versa ;
round the tree trunks, and straight away from us
towards a distant plantation ; before us, behind
us, and here, there, and everywhere, bunny
shows himself, and we burn powder to our
hearts' content.

The shooting is rendered somewhat difficult
by reason of the shortness of the majority of
the runs, the baulking nature of the tree
trunks, the unevenness of the ground, aud the
fear of hitting one of the party by a ricochet
shot. But, if it is difficult, it is all the more



2o6 FERRETS

congenial to our tastes, and it is the best,
the most enjoyable, and the most sporting
stand we have all day.

For nearly half an hour we keep up a
constant fusilade, and, if the shooting is not as
good as we would wish it to be, we neverthe-
less add materially to the bag. By degrees
the firing decreases, and only a random shot at
intervals causes Kobert to turn his attention
to the important part of taking up his ferrets.
Marvellous to relate, in this network of holes
we experience no difficulty in regaining them,
and, within five minutes of his having picked
up the first, the last is also taken.

The afternoon having considerably advanced,
and having two ferrets still laid up, we deem
it advisable to refrain from visiting fresh
ground where the use of the ferrets would be
required, and, having seen them comfortably
ensconced in their box, we leave them under
a tree and wend our footsteps towards a
plantation which skirts the northern boundary
of the park.

Picking up both boys on the way, we have
two most successful drives, bagjojing eleven
rabbits and a pigeon, and thus ending one of



A DAY'S RABBITING 207

the pleasantest days at rabbits, with the
assistance of ferrets, tliat is recorded in
the annals of our humble little game
register.

The shades of the early November evening
are rapidly drawing in as we return through
the rookery, and when we look back to the
w^estward we notice fleecy leaden-coloured
clouds chasing each other across the crimson-
tinted sky. The gaunt old oaks look weird in
the uncertain light, and a creepy feeling runs
through our veins, which a nearer acquaint-
ance with the ghostly buildings of the Hall
does not assist to allay.

In feeling our way through an overgrown
ride in the orchard, a big barn-owl flutters in
our faces, and with a screeching " Too-whoo ! "
nearly causes us to forswear on the spot the
use of all alcoholic drinks in general and
whiskey in particular.

We do not even partially recover from the
start we thus receive until we find ourselves
once more bowling along the road for home,
having left the dismal range of stables, and
Eobert waving an adieu to us with his dilapi-
dated old horn lantern (almost a historic curi-



2o8 FERRETS

osity nowadays), well behind us ; nor do we
wholly recover until we have each appropriated
a comfortable arm-chair on opposite sides of the
blazing hearth at home, and, over the port
wine and nuts, relate to each other the
minuter details which have been omitted from
this narrative — how we should have made
certain shots, and how it was we missed other
shots ; what we had done and ought not to
have done ; and what we had not done and
we ought to have done.

We both talk and crack nuts at the same
time, neither answering the other, but each re-
lating his own version of the proceedings with-
out comment or opposition, when our com-
panion brings the proceedings to a climax by
bursting into song, the words of which, if not
as follows, were equally appropriate : —

Come, you who love the pastime of the fields,
And hear a brother sing their charms with glee,

Of joys the rabbit to the sportsman yields,
When yellow autumn tints the forest tree.

The shady lawns our sober stejDS invite,

Througli thickets dress'd in golden autumn's pride,
To see our spaniels range — a pleasing sight,

To lazy sluggards and to sots denied.



A DAY'S RABIUTING 209

Shooting — ca manly sport that care defies

Let us enjoy it (fortune), to the end,

And share the pleasure with the lads we prize,
For what is life, or wealth, loithout a friend ?

Now raise the bumper to the fervid lip ;

Let Chloe's name be usher to the glass ;
And ere the moments from our mem'ry slip,

Let ev'ry sportsman give his fav'rite lass.



THE END



Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh
14



In One Volume . Small Crown Zvo, Cloth. Price 2s.

PRACTICAL NOTES

ON

GRASSES & GRASS GROWING

IN EAST ANGLIA

BY

WILLIAM SPENCER EVERITT

EDITED BY

NICHOLAS EVERITT



AUTHOR OF



'h.r.e.' 'will o' the wisp'
ferrets, their management in health and disease,

ETC., ETC.



This is a work of high practical worth, and upon the compilation of
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temporary and permanent pastures is also of universal value, and the same remark
applies to the other chapters in Part I., which deals with Lord Leicester's eleven-
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MILK

ITS NATURE AND COMPOSITION

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EXTRACT FROM PREFACE

Much interest has been evoked during the last few j^ears in dairy educa-
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made during some nine years' close and untiring investigation of the songs,
call-notes, and danger-cries of wild birds, and inquiry into the records of
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Online LibraryNicholas EverittFerrets : their management in health and disease with remarks on their legal status → online text (page 8 of 8)