« AnteriorContinuar »
to look at any race, except it was the Derby, the St. Leger, and the Ascot Cup. Black Jemmy is the only one that I ever saw displaying any great enthusiasm on this head, and even that sporting exile had only eyes for the tartan. So much for these Arabs of the newsvending world and if any "noble sportsman" thirsts for extra knowledge, a small fee will soon prove itself to be a sure key to its attainment.
CONVERSATION THE FIFTH.
TIME-Twilight. SCENE-A Dining Room; small fire in the grate; bottle of Port-glass unfinished; wasps on the plums. Old gent in a brown study, soliloquizing.
Conversation is the index of the mind. How if there's plenty of conversation and no mind? Now if my nephew were here, he could answer that question. Still, though not over-bright, he's not a fool: he's a type of a large class of young Englishmen-stuff they make Under-Secretaries of; and sometimes Ministers. Oh! this unhappy country! He has been at Eton and Oxford, and he cannot write with accuracy, or read with fluency, either of the two languages which he has taken twenty years to acquire. With the aid of a crib and a Lexicon, he could have managed an easy passage of Thucydides when he left school when he left Oxford, he could play at billiards very creditably, and was the best judge of bad port-wine I ever knew. As to knowing anything else, how should he? he has never been taught, His French he picked up in the Palais Royal; it consists of a few slang phrases, quite useless as a medium of communication, and pronounced like a horse. He has travelled; that is, he has railed through, I should think, or done "the north of Italy and Switzerland" in a fortnight. He smokes insufferably: he lives in Bond-street; has got it into his head that light claret is more economical than beer, and the Trafalgar cheaper than his club. His favourite reading is Paul de Kock and Eugene Sue; his favourite drink, Badminton. He goes out at 5 P.M. during the season, and may be seen between that time and half-past seven at any place of fashionable resort: he does not particularly affect ladies' society, I regret to say; but has been known to kiss his hand to certain mysterious-looking Broughams. He talks of the moors, as if they were in Regent-street, and of the Pytchley, as if he were its master. He rides my horses, and curses their fore legs and their pace: he shoots my birds, and abuses my dogs he smokes my cigars, and calls them cabbage-leaves; and yet, confound the fellow, I can't do without him. I wonder whether grouse and foxes were made for these fellows, or the fellows for the grouse and foxes, His appearance is really very creditable: he took
to moustaches and a beard, but he went sightseeing one morning, embracing the Zoological Gardens and Albert Smith, and the appendages were gone the next day-not but that I like them; they save one's time and one's skin. He has a rather barbarous taste for heavy jewellery; but his boots and gloves are very good: altogether, he is one of the most free-and-easy, impertinently cool
[Door opens, and enter Nephew].
Nephew.-Halloo, governor! what's the matter now? Who's
Uncle S.-Friend, sir, friend-God bless me, my dear boy, what's the matter?
Neph.-Oh! you were asleep, sir, that's all, and talking a little: I came in to see you before my start for the moors: glorious weather, and such a jolly party going down on the 10th: I want a dog or two more: the keeper's gone down with all my guns, and three brace of setters could'nt lend us old Ranger, eh? my dear uncle; you know how careful I am.
Uncle S.-I never lend my dogs; at least, if they are worth anything there's only one piece of mischief you cannot do them, that is to throw them down and break their knees. The wild ones you make perfectly unmanageable; the timid ones are afraid of their own shadow, after one week in your company: the too fat are left at home to get fatter, because they are unfit to work: those in condition are run off their legs; and they hear more bad language in one day with you fellows and your keepers, than they ever heard in their whole lives from me: when you're not flogging, you are swearing at them; and when you neither flog nor swear, from pure indolence you pamper them and spoil them, and let them take liberties that require a month's correction to get rid of.
Neph.-You misjudge the rising generation. When you were young I dare say you did flog and swear for yourselves lustily: such a thing is never heard of now. Why, sir, what do you pay keepers for, but to do the dirty work-the flogging and swearing? There's a fellow gone down with our tackle, that we hired for his lungs and vocabulary: we had him and his dogs out for a trial on Banstead Downs, and his oaths were so lusty, and of so good a courage, that two of the dogs, and the curate, who came for a walk with us, ran away home, frightened. He's to have a half-a-crown a week extra for doing the objurgations; but if any magistrate should be within miles of us (which of course will not be the case in Scotland) it will hardly pay him. We never punish the dogs; we shoot them.
Uncle S.-A pleasant alternative for Ranger, certainly; if he's not frightened to death, he's to be shot! No, Charlie; I think I have not arrived at my second childhood yet: I'll keep Ranger at home, and you can see him perform in the stubbles: I rather think I have before my mind's eye the day's shooting you contemplate: "Keeper, got many birds this season." "Not a very good season, sir, tapeworm among 'em; but it's no so bad on the other side of the bill." "Then why did'nt we begin on that side; I say, Tom (who is some way off lighting a pipe), let's be off to the other side, there are no birds here. Keeper, look out-confound that dog, he's footing them
now, while we're jawing here. A-a-a-a-a-h, Shot, you brute you; there they go, right over the brow;" and away go a whole string of imprecations and down-charges, with sundry bellowings quite incomprehensible to a properly broken dog. Shot is fortunately a highcouraged dog, and after staring a second or two in mute surprize, resumes his ordinary mode of hunting. "Perhaps," says the keeper, "you had better beat out this hill, on your way to the other side: there are birds about here, gentlemen." "Oh, no," says Charlie, "what's the use of that, that brute has been all over the country by this time." Just then, however, Bang makes a very decided point, and, as the birds rise, both Tom and Charlie down a brace: Charlie's second is only winged, and fearful of losing a bird, as he and Tom have a "fiver" upon it, away he goes in hot pursuit: the dogs were both down, but canine nature cannot stand by and see this; so away they go after Charlie, and having passed him at racing pace, they are not long in catching his bird for him, which comes back to the keeper's pocket considerably the worse for wear. This is too much, so down go the dogs in the heather, a hasty court-martial, and summary infliction at once. "Let's have the other dogs down, Tomcouple of brutes." "Why I thought you said your uncle's dogs were first-class; they'll spoil all our shooting; we sha'nt kill above sixty brace apiece, if we go on in this way." "My uncle's an old fool," quoth Charlie, "and knows nothing about dogs; he always thinks he's got the best in the world, and makes as much favour of lending them, as if they were worth a hundred pounds a brace." Now that, my dear boy, is a specimen of the modern Twelfth of August. The other division of your party is doing the same service for another brace of dogs elsewhere. The evening discussion embraces pretty nearly every topic in the world, but the behaviour of your dogs; unless you happen to have some quiet old fellow among you, who, by a tacit mutual consent, is a bore, and goes out alone."
Neph.-Why should grouse shooting, or dog science, now, be inferior to that of former times? Why was it any better sport for you to go poking along with, at most, a brace of slow pottering old dogs, downcharging, and to-ho-ing, and hardly uttering a word, and coming home at the end of the day with about 12 or 15 brace, to bore your friends with the wonderful steadiness of old Sancho, than for Tom and me to go walking along, shooting and shouting, and regarding not the splendid qualities of a brace or two of dogs that retard sport, and are only bearable when about dead beat?
Uncle S.-First, it was better, because it was more exclusive. Every Jackanapes one meets is going to the moors; and what is worse, has the impudence to "suppose you are going there too." To supply the demands of these destructives whole kennels of dogs are bred, which are worse than useless; for they perpetuate in others the vices and malformations of themselves. Less care is taken in their breaking than in their breeding the buyers being in many instances fools, the sellers naturally enough become knaves. Not one out of ten is tried properly: how should it be, in the New Road, at the Tyburn tea-gardens, or for snipe in the gutters of Cranbourne Alley? The 'Change is a nice place to buy a dog too. I've just bought the most magnificent brace of dogs.' Really, I'm glad to hear it: have you seen them out ?" "Not
yet; they're gone down to some fellow in Perthshire: I'm going down myself next week-lots of birds. Plover and young Wildrake-you recollect old Plover-shot 172 brace on the same moor the 12th of last August. I dare say the dogs will want taking out a little, for a day or two, before we begin." I should rather think they would. Perhaps scarcely broken at all; certainly out of condition, to be shot to by some one who scarcely knows them by sight, and entrusted to some fellow in Perthshire to prepare in about a week. That is the sort of article in demand; and I should think it was not difficult to supply. It's disgusting, sir-disgusting to an English gentleman.
Neph. So it must be, uncle, not to be going oneself: however, I'll send you some birds. In the meantime, just give us an idea or two about dogs, and shooting in general; for you know, except holding the gun pretty straight, I don't know much about it.
Uncle S.-When you go to a lady's house, it not unfrequently happens that you find her in the midst of her children. Some of them skulk behind the mother, others come boldly forward, and looking with innocent confidence into your face, place their clammy hands upon your clean white trousers. This is not pleasant on a hot summer's day; the less so, if the child has been playing with the jam-pot, and you happen to be sweet on the eldest sister. Still that will not alter the facts of the case --it will not affect the character of the children; and if you wanted either of those to make a pointer or a setter, I recommend the boldest. Always take from a kennel the one which runs boldly towards you: it is much easier to break the courage of the one, than to encourage the timidity of the other. The first consideration in the young dog must be courage. A skulker is scarcely ever worth rearing. Never mind about his chasing swallows or crows: remedies may soon be found. But if a pointer or setter be deficient in courage, he may, by dint of great patience on your part, make a steady dog, but a brilliant one never. But I forgot; you gentlemen of the present day will not be bored by watching the slow progress of canine intellect from so early a period, and you certainly are right. A young dog, i. e., a complete puppy, is a dreadful nuisance; he barks all day and yells all night; he kills your five-guinea Cochin China pullet, bites the baby, is lost continually, and reclaimed at 5s. or half a sovereign, and has the distemper just when you want to use him. The simplest plan, in a case like yours, is to give a moderate price at the end of a season, or a higher one about the middle of July of the next. This gives you a little time to know your dog, and for your dog to know you. I recommend a setter, all things considered, in preference to a pointer: they stand more work, their feet are better; and in cold weather there is no comparison in work or appearance. Fancy the miserable halfstarved look of a pointer on a wet day, shivering beneath a hedge, with his tail between his legs, and undecided whether to remain in the ditch, or bolt suddenly for his home. There is none of this with a setter, unless the weather is so bad that you have no business to be out at all. They want rebreaking every season-at least, so disinterested keepers, who get paid for it, always aver. I cannot say that I think so: a little more work, and a trifle more of care and severity on the recommencement of the season, nothing more. They must have water, and pretty constantly during the day; and their coat, which keeps them warm and dry in winter, protects them from the sun in summer-fur is a very slow
conductor. Colour, except as regards the breed or your own fancy, is not of much consequence: only mind this-select, if possible, a dog which can be easily seen in most positions. I had a clever black bitch once, which I lost for a length of time, and at last turned to go home without her she was discovered some time after, standing in the shadow of the hedge in the field in which I missed her as she was remarkably staunch, I have no doubt she had been there for a long time before. Disregard pedigree, unless you have means of ascertaining the facts of the case: it is very like a horse's; you can have what you like: Mr. Tattersall assures me that Charles XII. is the fashionable blood just now. The name of Edge looks well on paper for pointers; but performance should be your guide, and remember that seeing is believing; and nothing short of seeing can be so do not have a cross-that's all. Mind your setter, or whatever he may be, is not by a pointer dog out of a setter bitch; they are always ugly, very seldom worth anything, and have usually the bad points of both parents. Look in a general way for the following points, and leave the rest to the gods or chance, which always befriends the ignorant.
A high poll rising towards a point, with ears longish and falling well back behind the jawbone; head set on straight from the neck-none of the pickaxe form for me! deep in the girth, of course; elbows in, lightish middle, as we don't ride him; but loins rather hooped; legs as straight and strong as can be; small round foot; thighs and hocks large, and the latter well let down; stem set on high-if a pointer, as fine as a lady's finger; if a setter, well feathered. If he has these points, and a nose, he ought to be worth money; and you'll look like a gentleman at all events, and not like a poacher.
Neph. And when I have this paragon of physical perfection, what am I to do with him?
Uncle S.-Don't lend him: If he is tolerably well broken, I will tell you what he ought to do for you. Upon going into a field or upon the hill, you should if possible give him the wind; and this may be done, at a little expense of shoe-leather, even with it at your back, by judicious tacking. A really good dog frequently takes the wind for himself-and there is nothing you should be more particular about than the way in which your dogs quarter their ground. It makes all the difference between finding birds or running over them. It is moreover said to be a very good sign, when, in galloping, a dog works his stern vigorously. Mind, I do not say that I should attach much importance to it myself, I rather am inclined to regard the motion of his legs; but very good judges of dogs and horses are sometimes guided by certain appearances, for which they themselves cannot account: the above symptom of good going is one of those inexplicable predilections. There is another sign of a good dog for which I can vouch; though so far from accounting for it, it seems, at first sight, to have rather the nature of an error. When a dog, in racing across a field, suddenly drops, with his nose at a right angle with his body, you may be sure, it is not only a true point, but nine times out of ten that you will get a shot at your birds. I never knew a bad dog to do it; and all the best I ever had came most frequently upon birds in that way. You may then take out your pencil and sketch him; for it is the most beautiful combination of instruction and instinct to be met with. He is usually so