William Henry Rolph.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes, Volume 21 online

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MO. cxxii. voiL, JXL~^$ptmbir 1905 X

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''get some of their own back," with a bushel basket of dust on the
driver's seat in charge of the footman, who had stringent injunctions
to throw a spadeful of it over every motor car that came along!
This would probably make things about square between the horsed
and the horseless carriage, but would perhaps introduce complications
into the normal amenities of the road. I, for one, can discern but
little difference between my car smothering Sir Thomas and his
party with offensive dust as I pass him, and the action of Sir
Thomas's menial in deftly emptying three pecks of road grit into my
tonneau as I go by. I commend this idea to the Highway Protec-
tion League.

Chief among the unwritten laws is to remember that you know
what you are going to do and can invariably perform in traffic,
but that no one else does. The " personal equation" of the horse and
his vagaries is removed, and you can and do steer and stop your car
to an inch ; but you must not overlook the fact that nearly everyone
else views you with suspicion, opines that you are no better than you
should be, and only wishes you to get on, out of sight and out of
scent, with the greatest possible expedition. Horses no longer mind
motor cars ; one may drive for months without causing one to turn
a hair; the trouble is with old women and retired colonels, who
appear to view the automobile as an invention of the evil one.
Children are a constant terror, and bicyclists still come swooping
round corners to one's horror and amazement ; and for all these one
must be in the constant and most acute state of expectancy, never
letting for a moment one's attention be diverted by any extraneous
matters whatsoever.

I have been driving now for over five years, and at present own
an up-to-date and rather " nippy " car of 10-14 horse-power ; so far
{absit omen) I have never even been warned by the police or com-
plained about, as far I know, by any human being. This may be simple
luck, and possibly I may get ** pinched " to-morrow ; but if I know
nothing else, I flatter myself that I can get about in a motor car
without being execrated by everyone I pass in my journeyings, now
extending into very many thousands of miles.

There are, of course, the usual " courtesies of the road."
Meeting another car, the driver of which waves his hand before
his face, jerks his thumb over his shoulder, and then holds up
three fingers, you are aware that three miles behind him, and in
front of you, is a police trap ; so dropping into your middle gear,
lighting a cigarette and assuming a bland and innocent expression
of countenance, you proceed gaily, if slowly, not as one going
to his doom; and it is, of course, the bounden duty of every
driver having safely emerged from the trap to inform every other

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motorist he meets of the existence of the "abominable thing."
The public themselves seem to dislike these traps, by the way,
and I have many times been warned of their existence by working
men and villagers whom one would have thought likely to enjoy
the spectacle of the local constables arresting the progress of ** My
Lord No Zoo."

Noise is a very fine thing in its way, but one of the unwritten
laws should be that of this enough is as good as a feast. Some cars
are unfortunately born noisy, and rattle over the uneven cobble
stones of certain of our country towns with an absolutely nerve-
shattering obbligato eflfect ; but I allude more especially to hooting.
One long blast on a low- toned horn is as good as a dozen. Every
one hears it and arranges accordingly ; but I have known a man
sound his horn six times at one corner.

I regret to notice the appearance of a new terror in the shape
of a sort of railway whistle operated by the exhaust gases, which is
already adopted by certain " lewd fellows of the baser sort." Such
outrageous noises would, I take it, only be tolerated in our own dear
country, where — in the streets, at any rate — everyone is allowed
to shout and sing, whistle and hoot, until he gets tired. I often
wonder what has become of that truly beneficent corporation, '* The
Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noises." If it is still
going, might I commend to it the ** motor exhaust whistle " ?

The Act of 1903 set motorists free — free, that is to say, for a
time, for it very shortly comes up for revision ; and at the present
moment it is undoubtedly true that the country as a whole, most
motorists included, is absolutely disgusted with the Road Hog, who
is the misbegotten offspring of the Gordon Bennett race and of the
press, which for years has waxed enthusiastic over this incredible
piece of folly.

Another of the unwritten laws is that at elections one's motor-
car is to be at the disposal of one of the candidates as a matter of
course. Well, all I can say is that no prospective legislator sees me
burn any petrol on his behoof unless he is sound on the Motor
Question, and with me "soundness" means ** the high road for
everybody and not only for Herr von Hoggenheimer and his con-
geners." I think it is a mistake to have any speed limit. Because
it is lawful sometimes to drive at twenty miles an hour it has almost
become an unwritten law to drive at that rate (or a little over it)
whenever possible. It is not a question of "miles per hour," but
of what is right and proper under the circumstances that should
guide the motorist. Two miles an hour is often too fast to travel,
and one may at times go thirty without danger or inconvenience to
any single person. However, if motorists, or even an inconsiderable

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. proportion of them, think that they are going to defy the unwritten
laws of good manners which should obtain when driving a car
almost more than in any other connection, all I can remark is that
the next piece of motor legislation will be a written law of a more
drastic type than they now imagine, and in the present state of
public opinion even motoring M.P.'s will have to put their own ideas
on one side and listen to what their constituents have to say on the
question of suppressing the objectionable person who tears from
Land's End to John o* Groats at some outrageous speed, and then
boasts about it in the press. Without, I hope, being considered
Pharisaical, one must remember, after all, that there is a class of
motor users who care nothing for speed per se, who would not cross
the road to see so-called " Motor Races " along the front at Brighton
or elsewhere, who care not one brass farthing whether such-and-
such a car can go at the rate of 102 miles per hour or only at gSf,
and who, as a matter of fact, view all these puerile proceedings with
simple and unaffected disgust.

Years ago I was permitted to enter a plea in the columns of
this magazine for the " modest man," but he seems to me to be now
even more scurvily entreated than ever. Few makers seem to want
him or his 3^300, and although he well might form the backbone of
"The Industry," on account of his numbers, he is as yet as nothing
in the presence of the high-powered ** scorcher," who every day
gets more objectionably prominent; and it may be as well that some-
one should bluntly remark that the absolute giving over of our roads
to any section of the community was not only never contemplated
by the legislature, but unless there is a good deal more " give and
take " displayed than there is at present the same legislature will be
forced by public opinion to put some sort of check on what has
unfortunately developed into the position of a scandal.

The unwritten law of " consideration for others " would remedy
the matter at once. I met a man the other day who complacently
observed "that with the extra powerful acetylene lamps which he
had, he was enabled to travel forty miles an hour at night ! " What
can one do with a person like this ?

Passing, then, from the question of speed, which is another
word for danger and dust combined (the more it is indulged in), there
arises the question of evil odours, which are to a certain extent
inseparable from every automobile. It should be an unwritten law
not to make more smell than is absolutely necessary ; and this is
arrived at by burning the best motor spirit, by seeing that the pro-
portions of air and gas are correctly adjusted, aid chiefly by taking
care that the engine is not being over lubricated, with the result that
everyone in the neighbourhood is annoyed by clouds of evil-smelling

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blue smoke proceeding from the exhaust. This is, moreover, an
offence against the written law, and one or two drivers have of late
been successfully proceeded against on account of it.

As an example of how not to observe the unwritten laws, take
the case of motor cars in Hyde Park, the one place in all England
given over at certain hours of the day in the season to horse-drawn
carriages containing all the rank, and fashion, and beauty of the
metropolis. ** To them," as they say in theatrical parlance,
enters the motor car, throwing up clouds of dust, shooting in and
out amongst high-spirited horses, emitting disagreeable perfumes.
What wonder that its entry was promptly " barred " ? The electric
brougham and one or two types of petrol " landaulettes " might
conceivably take the air in the Park, but in this case the innocent
had to suffer with the guilty. One is lost in wonder at the lack of
sense of proportion which induces any sane person to take a
4oh.p. automobile into the midst of a great crowd of horses on a
fine summer's afternoon, unless he (like the Fat Boy) wishes to
"make their flesh creep."

In the early days, before motor cars had attained the perfection
that they have now, it was sufficient for one car to stop by the
roadside to cause all others passing along to pull up to offer
assistance; but nowadays one seldom comes across a regular
"breakdown." A driver may have a tyre punctured; well — he
must "dree his ain weird," and change his inner tube without
expecting much help or even sympathy from anyone else. It is
Fate. No one is free from such mishaps ; the perfect tyre is still to
come, and seems nearly as far off as ever ; all one may observe as
one slides by the gentleman en panne is, " Alas, poor Yorick ! " and
heave a pious sigh that such a fate may not be one's own for some
time to come. More than this one dare not hope.

Electric troubles in connection with the ignition are often the
cause of involuntary stoppages, especially for novices, and here one
can often be of some little use in effecting an adjustment, or even by
going so far as to proffer the loan of an accumulator.

Some time ago I met an automobile with an interior economy
most seriously deranged, so after a certain amount of " havering "
over the mischief with the disconsolate owner, I departed in search
of a rope with which I presently returned and towed the invalid car
five miles to the nearest town. I was only too pleased to be of
any service, but the one I succoured evidently thought that there
must be some unwritten law in these contingencies, and while I
was away from my car for a short time refreshing with him the
inner man, it appeared that his chauffeur had been instructed to
act the part of a beneficent Santa Claus, for some time after I had

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left I found that my petrol tank had been surreptitiously filled up to
the brim and all the pockets of my driving coat stuffed with most
excellent cigars. On the other hand, when endeavouring to assist a
lady who was apparently in difficulties with a defective plug, I was the
recipient of the somewhat curt information that she " was perfectly
capable of managing her own car," on receipt of which news I
clambered abruptly into my own driving seat and departed " with
never a glance behind."

Nowadays, when I see people tinkering at the machinery of a
motor car by the roadside, I naturally conclude that they are
enjoying themselves and need no stimulus from me; but if they stand
around, doing nothing in particular, and turn an appealing upward
glance as one comes along, then, and only then, I get out and see if
I can be of any use. This I find to be the best plan. " Once bit,
twice shy," is an unwritten law with me.

Another of the unwritten laws, which may interest prospective
sellers of cars who perhaps wish to dispose of a vehicle a little out of
date for something more modern, is that the driver, if you keep one,
expects ** something out of it " for himself. He keeps it in a state of
"spick and span" polish, "puts it about" with all the other
chauffeurs with whom he foregathers, who all unite in describing
it to anyone whom they know to be in search of a car as a vehicle of
most transcendent merits, with the result that one day someone
" casts up " and relieves you of the vehicle at a fair price and
without much trouble to yourself. You may on the one hand
acquire a patched-up, worn-out freak, worth really nothing, or be
offered a sum for your really useful and even elegant carriage that
will almost make your heart stop beating; for a time.

Motoring, to use a commonplace, is in its infancy. There are
many conflicting interests pulling in all sorts of ways in connection
with it, and the general lines of its progress will be naturally along
those of the least resistance. It seems that just at present it behoves
such of us who " run " motor cars to be both wary and discreet to
the utmost degree in the management of them, in order that in the
end their general utility may be made manifest to the numerous class
now so greatly prejudiced against them. So shall the industry thrive.

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" It's no good, gentlemen, we must give it up ! Feed all the
birds, Jim, we shan't fly to-day. The only thing that we can
do is to go and eat our luncheon."

There was no possibility of our seeing any falconry that after-
noon. The wind, which when we had started on our fifteen-mile
ride over the fells that morning was but a bracing breeze, had
gradually increased in force as we progressed, and had by the
time we reached Blenshope Castle developed into a regular gale
accompanied by a blinding rain. There was no question of it ;
it was the autumn equinox that had begun, and with a ven-
geance. It was a cruel and unlooked-for disappointment. We
had given up a whole day's shooting on the moor we had
rented that year, and a large party of us had come over on
the invitation of the owner of Blenshope to see what to most
of us was indeed a novelty — an afternoon's grouse hawking.

Colonel A. cordially welcomed us on our arrival ; but, alas !
with a dubious shake of his head. With a tap on the barometer
he remarked :

" You don't know the falconer's old couplet,
" If the wind be high.
Do not fly,
or I should not have had the pleasure of seeing you all here to-
day. Falconry is, par excellence^ a fine-weather sport, and if I were

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to put up one of my birds on the wing in such a hurricane
as this I should stand a very poor chance of ever seeing it again,
and indeed should richly deserve to lose it. But come along,
I see we've an hour yet before lunch; the unexpected may
happen before two o'clock even now ! We'll go to the mews and
have a look at the birds, and we'll hear what my gamekeeper
has to say about the weather, although I always find the local
weather prophet most unwilling to commit himself. When he
does do so he is, as a rule, entirely wrong."

We had smoked many cigarettes and had admired the half-
dozen peregrines sitting in a row on the screen in the mews,
looking smart and alert in spite of the hoods they all wore. We
had noticed the beauty and perfection of their plumage — had
been told of the mysteries of the imping and sewing-in of
feathers; had discoursed with our host and his falconer, James
Hare, on the difference between eyesses and passage hawks,
red hawks, and haggards — had learnt something about bewits,
jesses, " waiting on " and *' raking out," and had heard many
other technical terms which the modern exponents of that
delightful old-time sport of our fore-elders still make use of,
when the luncheon gong sounded in the castle, and Colonel A.'s
orders to his falconer put a death-blow to our hopes for the

We departed to derive such consolation as could be obtained
from a good lunch, in which some of the grouse previously
killed by the hawks of course found a place in the menu.
We soon determined to make the best of it. Champagne and
conversation flowed, and by the time that coffee and cigarettes
made their appearance we had almost forgotten our disappointment.

Colonel A. was an excellent host, and also, we soon found
out, an admirable raconteur. The conversation, from shooting,
hunting, and sports of all kind, presently turned to the subject
of Blenshope Castle itself — its antiquity, and the legend of
the ghost of a certain white lady which was still reputed to
walk on the battlements. One of us, who belonged to the
Psychical Research Society, and who therefore took the greatest
interest in anything to do with the supernatural, plied Colonel A.
with questions as to whether he had, during his residence at
Blenshope, ever come across its ghostly inhabitant.

** No, I can honestly confess I never have," replied the
Colonel. **At the same time, that such things may be I am
quite willing to admit. Nay, I will go further. I believe as
firmly as I am sure that I am sitting here now that I once
saw a ghost myself. But it was a long way from here, where

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nothing of the sort has ever occurred to my knowledge sufficient
to upset the nerves of a neurotic patient."

"Tell us all about it," "Where was it?" "Never believed in
anything of that sort in my life ! " was echoed about the table ;
and very soon, with very little pressing, Colonel A. began :

" It was in the early seventies — in fact, the first year that I
came up here after having taken this place on a long lease — and
uncommonly lucky I looked upon myself, when everything was
signed and settled, in having got hold of a nice house in the very
centre of the best bit of moor in the North of England for my
purpose. Nothing could be better from a falconer's point of view.
It lies away sufficiently from any other big shootings, and I can
pursue my favourite sport without fear of having any disagreeables
with the votaries of the gun, who are apt, in this twentieth century,
to look upon a falconer as a nuisance, and somewhat of a pariah
amongst the other sportsmen. You see these two thousand acres or
so, besides being exceptionally well heathered, are to all intents and
purposes practically flat — a great advantage in grouse-hawking ; and
then, the castle being exactly in the middle of the moor, I can slip
out and be on my ground in a moment — a great pull in such an
uncertain climate. Well, I spared no pains in getting together a
likely lot of hawks for my first season — eyesses most of them ; that is,
birds from the nest, and these were from the best nests, for I may
tell you that some eyries have the reputation of always providing
good birds, whilst there are others whose young I would not have
at a gift. Old Jack Martin was my falconer in those days, with
my present one, then a mere lad, as his underling. I hurried up
to take possession as soon as everything was settled, as time was
getting on and we had a lot of work to get through before our young
birds could be trained and fit for the Twelfth. Everything went
smoothly for the first few days, when a nasty accident happened which
at first looked like spoiling our whole season. Jack Martin, in
climbing over a loose stone wall one morning, slipped, and in his
fall brought half a hundredweight of stones on the top of him, with
the result that one of his legs was badly fractured, and I had to send
him to the Newcastle Infirmary, where the poor fellow lay for a
couple of months. I was thus left, almost at the beginning of the
season, with a mews full of likely hawks, which required far more
personal attention at that critical moment than I could possibly give
them myself, a moor well stocked with grouse, and no falconer —
for Jim knew nothing in those days.

** There were very few professional falconers then, nor for the
matter of that are there many more now, and I wrote in vain to all
my friends who, like myself, ' followed the bells,' asking them if they

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knew of any good man that would be likely to suit. I might have
saved my notepaper and stamps— I could hear of no one — and I was
in despair until one day I received an envelope bearing on its flap a
gaudy crest with the words * Magnolia Club ' in huge gilt letters
underneath ! I had heard of the Magnolia as being one of those
cheap, fifth-rate, flash West-end clubs situated in some by-street off
Regent Circus, and frequented chiefly by small professional men,
young artists, and budding authors and actors. On opening the
letter I found that it was from one Tom Fletcher — I suppose none
of you ever met him, poor fellow, in his palmy days, when he was
by way of being somewhat of a celebrity on account of his strange
magnetism and dealings in the occult, and anything in fact to do
with the supernatural ? He had picked it all up in India, where he
had spent his youth, his father having been the European manager,
or something of the sort, to a native Rajah. In fact, I always
thought that there was something more than just a touch of the tar-
brush in Fletcher himself, and that he had a large half of a Hindoo
in him. I had heard vague rumours of there being some dark mystery
about his birth, and that his mother had been a Ranee or Indian
Princess; anyway, the man, both in appearance and manner, was
a born gentleman to the tips of his finger nails. It was at the
Rajah's Court, too, that he had gotten his wonderful knowledge of
falconry, at which he was an expert and an authority, and I am sure
that I am right in saying that he had forgotten more about the art
of training hawks than any of us ever knew.

** But he was an unsatisfactory customer in many ways. He was
thriftless and happy-go-lucky, and a regular devil-may-care Bohemian
at the best, always out at elbows, and he hardly ever had a penny
in his pocket. He was also the oddest fellow in the world — used to
make sudden disappearances, and go off on the tramp, living as best
he could. He had grown to be too fond of this, too" — tapping the
whisky decanter — ** and occasionally had terrible bouts.

" His letter was short and to the point. He had been very ill
but was now convalescent, and his doctor had said all he wanted
was a bracing air to set him right again — that he had heard
casually from Lord L. of my dilemma, and that, provided I would
send him the wherewithal for his travelling expenses, he would be
only too happy to come down and do locum tenens for Jack Martin
and help me in every way that he possibly could with my birds.
Here was a chance indeed. I had already met Fletcher once or
twice and had rather liked him. A better falconer I knew did not
exist. I recollected his failing, but as Blenshope is so out of the
way (quite ten miles from the nearest public-house) and I always
keep the key of my own cellar, I felt pretty easy on that score. He

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had been ill, and had most likely had a lesson and would keep straight
in future, or anyhow for some time. I wrote to him by return,
enclosing a fiver, and asking him to come down as soon as he
possibly could. He arrived here on the morrow of his getting
my letter, and set to work at once with a will. I was
delighted with him, found him a capital sort, and we speedily
became great friends. We soon had my young hawks fit, on the
wing, and well entered. The weather was propitious, grouse plenti-
ful, and we enjoyed excellent sport throughout that month of August.

"And now I must hark back a bit, and tell you that a few
days before Tom Fletcher's arrival a wild peregrine falcon, which
had previously been doing much mischief, had been trapped, luckily
unhurt, on the estate of a friend of mine in Scotland. He, knowing

Online LibraryWilliam Henry RolphThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes, Volume 21 → online text (page 25 of 55)