This morning bright and warm; but Major Duncan and I
had arranged to stay at home and put our accounts and correspondence
into shape, as we might not have such a good opportunity after the
shooting season fairly opened. Ward and Fred left immediately after
breakfast, for a special day at the sea-trout.
One gets through a great deal of work in four or five
hours, so that by three o’clock affairs were in a satisfactory
condition. The Major is a perfect dragon for order and expedition:
doubtless he had enjoyed practice, as adjutant and interpreter; and,
although easily muddled when disturbed, I, with such quiet as
to-day, get on moderately at the three R’s, and now felt the sort of
satisfaction one has in performing even humble labours.
After lunch, when just on the way to join the
anglers, Archie came to the Lodge, and it was agreed that instead of
going to the river we should have a turn at the rabbits; so leaving
Archie to get his dinner and bring the ferrets, we went off to the
hill and waited till he joined us with the ferrets and retriever.
It is very pretty practice this same ferreting; and
there is a certain excitement in slipping up to the burrows,
dropping the ferret, and with ready gun waiting the issue.
Odd enough, rabbits do not always bolt when their
homes are invaded by their enemy, and, when they do so, often dawdle
out as if for an airing, instead of the headlong rush one might
expect; but. they put on steam directly they see the sportsman.
The first burrows were drawn nearly blank; but on
getting round to the sheltered side of the hill we found plenty, and
they bolted well: eight couple were killed in a short time—some
clipping shots made, and some shameful mulls.
It is very strange how “dour” at times rabbits are to
leave their burrows; you can hear them rumbling below, as the ferret
pursues them through the tunnels, yet, with open doors for escape,
they will often allow the ferret to commit what Scotch law calls
On the high rocks there were few rabbits; but the
holes being shallow they bolted at once, and it needed quick
shooting to get them, as they were out of sight in a twinkling.
At one of the burrows here we had an incident in the
sport. Archie had put a ferret into a hole just under a shelf of
rock, but she came out quickly, and evidently in great excitement,
with her hair fussed up like an angry terrier’s; put in again, the
same was repeated.
“There’s a polecat or something in the hole,” said
Archie, “and there’s nae use trying to howk him oot of hard rock.”
“Put in another ferret,” I said; “two should bolt a
On this Archie took a large dog-ferret from the bag
and put him to the hole, the other one following.
All was quiet for a second or two, when out rushed
two common cats with tails like bottle-brushes: one I shot, and
Grace pinned the other before Ward had time to fire.
“What think you of this, Archie?” I said.
“’Deed, sir, I scarcely ken what to think. There’s
no’ a house nearer than three miles, and I’m sure they’re no our
“Very true; but house cats wander far at times, and
will lay up in such a good kitchen when they find it.”
“Deevil doot them; and had they been left, there
would have been a braw toll oot of the warren. But wha would have
supposed ferrets would bolt them, Mr. Abbott?”
“Oh! I have seen it before; and on one occasion I saw
a large she-ferret kill a cat in a hutch directly when put in. It
was a boy’s cruelty; but I remember well that the eat seemed
stupified with fear.”
“It’s weel to ken that, for I’m whiles troubled to
get at house cats that tak’ to hunting, and in places whar it’s no’
safe to lay down traps or poison.” “Are there any wild cats about
“Not now: they used to be; but being bad to game, and
no hard to trap, they get killed oot.”
On the way home we saw a single hen-harrier, and
asked Archie if he had killed the other. He said no. We got home
about seven, and the anglers did not arrive till we had sat down to
“Any sport?” the Major inquired.
“Yes, yes;” and Fred was proceeding eagerly with
“All right, my boy; but you two be off and change’:
we shall have it all at dinner.”
They were not long appearing, and the tumblers of
ice-cold water which Ward gulped seemed odd, after being all day
beside a whole river.
“So, Hope, you had sport: what did you do?” I asked.
“Well, first we took the lower pools for sea-trout.
The river has fallen in considerably; but there was a smart breeze.
I crossed at the Heron-stane, and Fred fished this side.”
“What did you get in that pool?” .
“Only three sea-trout: farther down I had two more
and a small salmon, and Fred landed two grilse and a trout for his
share. On the upper pools we hardly saw anything.”
“Hot bad, on the whole. Any event of note in your
“Why, yes; flushed a young lady in the heather.” “Ho!
ho! an event to a grass bachelor: tell us about it.”
“Ask Fred; he was first spear.”
“A base pig-sticking allusion; but bow was it, Fred?”
“Ob! just this: Hope was fishing opposite me, and I
was going down to another place, when I came plump on a girl
sketching; and such a pretty girl! Of course I doffed my cap, and we
“And what said ye to the bonnie bairn, my boy
“Informed her that it was a fine day, and that the
long-legged biped opposite belonged to me,” said Fred, laughing;
“and she told me that her brother and a friend were fishing a little
way down the river; so I joined them, and by-and-by Hope forded, and
did the civil.”
“Who were your friends, Ward?” inquired the Major.
“Part of the household of Birkdrum, or some such
name: one, a Mr. Coles, a capital angler; and Pother, Morton, a
youngster about Fred’s age.”
“And Miss a a?”
“Morton also, sister to the boy. Fred and she quickly
got friendly in consuming cakes and honey.”
“No doubt; and Hope Ward touched up her sketches?”
“Not quite. I only admired them and her. She draws
nicely, and has dainty feet, albeit cased in hobnailed shoes; but
“Quite ten miles away luckily, Hope. And did you ask
them to call?”
“Yes; and if Mrs. Peyton be here when they come to
fish the loch, it is possible mademoiselle may come with them.”
“Is she so. pretty as Fred says?”
“Yes; a slight-made girl, with frank manner, blue
eyes, and a fresh bright look when she smiles.” “Ah, I see, Hope:
none of that classical shoulder and cut features dear to novelists;
but ‘Not too good For human nature’s daily food,’ eh?”
After dinner the Major said to Ward (who was putting,
some tackle in order) that “it would be nice if we could get for an
hour or two to a theatre and see a good play.”
“So it would, Major, if one might have a choice
tragedy in human language, for once in a way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Simply that play verbiage seems so unnatural often,
if one feels captious.”
“Not Shakspeare surely?”
“Yes, Shakspeare and others; false exceedingly,
though beautiful exceedingly,” said Ward jokingly.
“In what way?”
Here Ward turned round to Fred, saying fiercely,
“Vile, treacherous youth, hast thou purloined my fly? ” “Which fly,
Hope?” inquired Fred.
“My loveliest Irish prince, graced with fair Argus
plumes; its shapely waist banded with silver cord, all deftly
fashioned by a beauty’s hand.”
“Oh I see, one of the lot Emmy tied. I never touched
“Ah, Frederick Peyton, do I hear aright thy rude
denial? I’ve lost my treasured charm, and thou, thy truth.”
“Was it a good one, Hope?”
“Good! This is brave mockery, young sir; good is a
mean term for such a priceless lure. With it I’ve drawn the rushing
monsters from the deep; with it yet would have had more. How, now
for ever lost by the dark treachery of a heartless boy; that boy my
kinsman: and, Major, that sort of easy rubbish is said to be
natural, forsooth; why, if one spoke so in actual life, the nearest
doctor for lunatics would be sent for.”
“But, my good Ward, dramatic language is not for
flies and trifles, but to express deep feeling or passion.”
“Oh, bother feeling and passion. If a man deeply
injured you, would you make him a florid speech on your withering
sorrow and his vile depravity? No, verily; you should simply cut or
shoot him, as circumstances required.”
“It is rather late to discuss the drama, Hope; but I
thought you liked it?”
“So I do. I delight to witness the plays of Moliere,
Sheridan, and such; but Corneille, Shak-speare, or Bacine I
had rather read than see played.” “How do you read with pleasure
what you think unnatural?”
“Because I quietly taste both the charm of their
clear natural insight and their beauties of artificial style.”
“What about the present stage, thou creature of
“The Green Bushes and Arrah somethings? Well, I don’t
know much about them; but the scenery is really pretty in some I
“You would, perhaps, prefer Congreve, Wycherly, or
such improprieties? You have read them?”
“To my shame, yea. Are they not mighty lively and
witty? and can’t be pruned, more’s the pity.”
“Hem! yes. Still, the loss of a few depraved plays is
not much; besides, the curious may read them, Hope.”
Galore of whist this evening. Ward and I rather
turned the tables on the other two.