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near his birds that they are afraid to run or to rise: or if not, and they do move, he is so certain, that nine times out of ten he will drag himself through heather or stubble, almost upon his belly, with wonderful caution. This is called "chopping a point," and is always looked upon as a mark of genuine talent in a dog.
Neph.-I should be inclined to attribute this, as I do most of my friends' successes, to accident: not unfrequently indeed, in life, the most brilliant advantages are the result of the most profound misconception : then it is that the blockhead allows himself to be found out, and the really clever fellow takes advantage of his unexpected position, to magnify himself into a Solomon of wisdom and prudence. A good dog, as I apprehend, Sir, makes the most of an accidental circumstancea bit of luck. Whilst you and your keeper are winking, and nodding your stupid old heads at one another, "There's a dog! I knew old Bess's breed would tell some day, just like his mother," and congratulating yourselves upon Don's splendid performance, Don himself is probably winking his eye to himself, and with juster notions of his own merits, is congratulating himself upon his narrow escape. "By Jove, here's a go!" says this sadde young dogge; "how nearly I was over those birds. I don't know whether they won't rise now before old slow-coach gets up, for I'm right in the thick of them: I had a side-wind too; what the deuce is the matter with my nose this morning? I must lie still now, for if I move a joint of my tail they'll be off;" and if he's a public school dog, like ministerial and political dogs of our own day, perhaps he adds
some such bit of Latin as this:
"Si Sors ista dedit nobis, Sors ipsa gubernet."
The something "that turns up," the "contretemps" of existence, save dogs, I should think, as well as Ministries.
Uncle S.-I know something about dogs, and nothing about Ministers: I believe in the truth and fidelity of the one, and not of the other. Your theory on the subject of a " chopped point" seems to have some degree of probability, and is so far valuable that it must be the result of experience in your own case or that of your friends; so take my suggestions at exactly what you think them worth. I can scarcely imagine much analogy between an honest pointer or setter and a political charlatan.
Neph.-There's nothing you old gentlemen are so mighty particular about, as that your dogs should drop to shot. I own I care very little about it: and you know not above one out of ten really does so. So long as they don't go on hunting while you are loading, I see no particular advantage in it.
Uncle S.-So far from agreeing with you, I think nothing looks so bad, as to see your dog moving about, however quietly, with birds down : he should be taught at once to lie down flat in the heather, and never to move until "held up" for another beat; with partridges you have no security against his disturbing game even by wagging his tail: one shot fired, they are always on the alert. If it is a question of allowing your dog to move, or having a keeper to shout and swear at him, by all means let him do as he likes. You may depend upon the hallooing and flogging and yelping disturbing more birds than he will; but at
the same time no really good dog should be guilty of such a fault. I look upon it as the most egregious mistake a dog can make: and it is quite inexcusable; for there is nothing so easy to teach, with only ordinary care. I can also tell you what produces the fault, in the first instance, and strengthens and confirms it, till it becomes incurable-that detestable, cockneyfied, habit of running in at a wounded bird, which is bad policy even as regards the pot. A wounded bird, if allowed to lie still where it falls, will generally be recovered easily, frequently without moving, provided only you and your dogs are quiet about it: whereas, if when the bird falls, you make a rush at him, your dogs immediately following to the charge, the bird becomes alarmed, and away he scuttles. You shout, "There he goes! hie in, Sancho, good dog the dogs jump, and stare at you, instead of hunting the bird; the keeper sets to work with a stick; while the bird slips along under the cover, further off from the scene of action, every minute: and your embarrassment is not decreased by the arrival of Farmer Peastraw, who, instead of sympathizing with your distress, says, "pretty mess you've made of these here beans, Master Charles; and there goes the rest o' this lot, right over into Lord Muggleton's turnips: fine birds they be too; pity you mus'nt go arter 'em." One can scarcely wonder, though one may regret, that you should spoil your dogs, and even lose your birds, under such a system as this. A good brace of dogs ought to do all that I have told you. Nose, shape, pace, and beauty, depend on price. You may be sure of one thing-that while good dogs are cheap at any sum of money, bad dogs are dear at nothing.
Neph.-Thank you, my dear uncle; now I must wish you good evening, as I am off early to the Moors: I shall bear in mind what you say about the dogs; and when I come back in September you must give me a practical lesson among the partridges.
Uncle S.-Very good: I hear an excellent account of the birds as to strength and number: there was no rain between the 15th and 25th of June down here, which is the legitimate hatching season: the harvest is late too, and the beans wonderfully strong, all in favour of the birds, and against the poachers.
"The Moor is of a free and noble nature,"
So do'nt abuse it.
August 10, 1854.
THE SHOOTING AND HUNTING INTERREGNUM.
"How many things by season seasoned are
It has been said by those who are unacquainted with the habits of the true lover of field sports, that he must be periodically exposed to mortification, in consequence of the period of hunting and shooting being comparatively of short continuance; and that it would have been far better if it lasted the whole year round, so that he could resort to either the one or the other, as opportunity or inclination might happen to dictate. Nothing can be farther from the truth and the correct adaptation of one thing to another. In the periodical cessation of each diversion can be found the stimulus to future enjoyment. To participate in the stores of a rich banquet, day by day, would pall on the appetite; on the same principle that, if the sun never set, the eye and the physical frame would be weary of the unceasing brightness. Hence night intervenes, not merely to vary the scene, but to afford that relaxation and repose which are alike required by the physical frame and every object of vegetative nature. Night is the season of rest to all-of refreshing sleep to one, and of refreshing dews to the other: so that, as morning dawns, each springs up to a renewed existence, and to those many enjoyments and pleasures which are spread around with a bountiful and beneficent hand.*
Thus, the interregnum of shooting and hunting is far from being destitute of advantages; because the pause prepares the spirits, as well as the physical frame, for a renewal of the recreations of the field, when the proper moment arrives for their enjoyment. Yet the interval is not destitute of interest, particularly to the generous lover of moor and mountain, the cover and the open. He sees in every object presented around some remembrances of gratification-some index, as it were, to the volume of his memory, stored with scenes of successful adventure, or thrilling excitement. These come upon him with renewed freshness and vigour, and prepare the spirits for a repetition of the pleasures which to him are beyond all price, especially as they are the handmaidens of
*The beasts contained in the ancient forests were: the hart, hind, buck, doe, boar, wolf, fox, hare, coney, &c. And the seasons for hunting in these sylvan realms were: hart and buck, from St. John Baptist (June 24) to Holyrood Day (September 14); hind and doe, from Holyrood Day (September 14) to Candlemas (February 2); boar, from Christmas to Candlemas (December 25 to February 2); fox, Christmas to Lady Day (March 25); hare, Michaelmas to Candlemas (from September 29 to to February 2). So that the whole period devoted to the pleasures and excitement of the chase extended from June 24 to March 25, leaving April and May vacant.
health, and administer to that vigour of frame which is looked for in vain by the pampered and slothful possessor of wealth, surrounded by enjoyments which are not enjoyed, by excitements which are not exciting, and by gratifications which are not gratifying-a life of barren luxury, and a desert of splendour and magnificence.
It is not so with the true lover of field sports. To him every object, so far from being disregarded, abounds with interest. The drop of the acorn in the shining lake, where the stirless swan is moored like a freighted barge; the group of deer assembled beneath their chestnut canopy; the graceful curve of the swallow's flight over meadow and pasture; the low of herds on the lower grounds; the stroke of the woodman's axe, and the crash of the falling oak; the tirra-lilla of the lark on high; the coo of the wood-dove below; the swoop of the quick-eyed hawk; every sound, sight, or indication, brings to his mind a crowd of pleasurable associations, without seeking the reputation of the scientific ornithologist, or becoming the expounder of any system which is overlayed and rendered obscure by a meaningless nomenclature; or, in another point of view, mingling the conceits of Seneca with the syllogisms of Chrysippus. Nor, at the decline of day, "sitting by the dove-house wall," can he mark the hurrying return of its occupants, with their strange congeners, the starlings, without comparing their habits with those of the migratory visitors of both summer and winter ; nor listen to the "jar" of the fern owl, without also thinking of those beautiful insect tribes, whose day is night, and whose wings are spread along the woodsidings, where the glow-worm lights its lamp, and the song of the nightingale charms the ear of silence; not pretending, however, to the elaborations of the entomologist, while shunning the disquisitions of the visionary, but viewing all matters in the light of common sense, and the "vulgar useful" of "common things."
Nor is the interregnum of field sports all barren. Temple, among his flower-pots and in the Haarlem avenues of Moor Park; Pitt, in the retirement of his own library, reading alone and aloud some favourite passages in Milton's great poem; and Fox, delighted with his flower-garden, or poring over the pages of Euripides, in the peaceful seclusion of St. Ann's Hill,-might each indulge in their various modes of relaxation and enjoyment. But the lover of field sports, free from the turmoils and anxieties of greatness, and avoiding all collision with the reckless and the ambitious, can stroll in the evening, on the advent of the month of August, along the margin of the corn-fields, the pastures, and the meadows, and entertain those feelings and cherish those remembrances connected with the use of dog and gun, which are as welcome to his mind as the game itself is indigenous to the soil. He pauses to listen to the call of the partridge-to the parent birds, whilst directing the progress of the young covey, assisting them over some opposing obstacles, or, should difficulties be insurmountable, diverting their course in a safer direction, like a skilful commander with his best troops; encouraging them, perhaps, to take wing at a suitable point, or providing a place of safety for the night, where the young brood, sheltered and "nidding,' can repose in perfect security, because the old birds, like faithful watchdogs, are ever cautious and aware of the least approach of disturbance or danger. If he finds that the number of coveys are large, he is the more delighted; remembering, perhaps, that the frost and snow of the
10th of May, last year, cut off nearly one-half and enfeebled the rest. It shows that, with favourable weather, the keeper has done his duty, and that the system of "netting," adopted by the poachers, has been either prevented or proved ineffectual-a practice which, adopted during the silence of midnight, sweeps away whole coveys at once, without the chance of escape from the hands of these merciless destroyers, whose spirit is desperate even to rashness, and reckless even to ferocity, and who care little whether they shoot the night-dog of the keeper, or the keeper himself.
Nor do the liquid notes of the quail, as they fall in the calm evening pleasantly upon the ear, fail to arrest his attention. He cherishes no desire to use the gun for the purpose of securing even one specimen : he feels delighted to mark their presence, and entertains those generous feelings which are always due to a stranger from a foreign land, and therefore, as a stranger, he gives them a hearty welcome. To him it is a source of delight to listen to their three liquid notes—“ Whit, whit, whit "-running about, as it were, like the hidden wood-brook, stealing its tortuous, but melodious way through the under-growth of some mighty woodland realm, puzzling both eye and ear to ascertain correctly the whereabout of the merry stranger, yet as indicative of the season in one instance, as the peculiar character of the locality in another.
Nor also is the "Creak, creak, creak" of another migratory stranger, the land-rail, disregarded. Harsh and monotonous as the sound may be deemed, and certainly it is a striking contrast to the notes of the little quail, it is likewise significant of the season-a preface to the volume of the month, as well as a remembrancer of many an interesting chapter of the sports of the field, and, therefore, no less welcome. A stranger, immersed in the dense marts of trade or commercial speculation and enterprise, plunged in the turbulent currents of consols, shares, and exchanges, or surrounded by the ceaseless hum and whirl of wheel and spindle, may be disposed to exclaim
"What creaker is this same, that deafs our ears
But to the true lover of the familiar sound, whose enthusiasm may be pardoned, and whose sincerity cannot be questioned, the "creak" of the land-rail is as musical as the notes of the rest of the summer congeners ; it carries with it its own signification. During the process of incubation, it becomes louder as the evening advances, and sounds through the dewy night with renewed energy, as though the heart of the visitor was enamoured of midnight, and shared the season's banquet when the larger portion of the feathered tribe, the wood-pecker the first, had retired for the night, each to the spot congenial to its habits, and in accordance with the dictate which shuts the daisy's eye, and the impulse that sets the night-flies on the wing. That creak, too, to those unaccustomed to the sound, or ignorant of the habits of the species itself, is deceptive. In the growing corn, or meadow grass, in seed or clover, in the smaller enclosure or in the wide open, it is all the same; it is here one moment and there the next; in one instant, it is close at hand-in the next, many a ridge and furrow intervene; so that the ear is bewildered, and the eye almost useless. But although they can be flushed by a good dog,