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Reminiscences of the Lews
Chapter XIII - A Tame Stag


WHEN writing about deer and stalking I must mention a curious little circumstance that occurred during my stalking adventures. I was once staying at the Forest of Morsgail with the proprietor, who, on a misty, hill-impossible day, proposed a walk to a neighbouring loch. I was much astonished by the head forester insisting on accompanying us, armed with his rifle, to protect his master against the possible attack of a tame stag, that he said had charged him some time ago, and would have killed him had he not climbed a rock, where the animal could not get at him; and he further declared that, as long as that stag remained in that forest, he never would traverse it unarmed, and that, if again attacked, he would assuredly kill the beast if he could; that he was the terror of the whole country; that no one dared to cross the forest, or go into it, for fear of him. Now this stag was not indigenous, but had been brought, when quite young, from a far-off country, with a view of improving the breed of deer. I had known him well in his youth, and frequently seen him since about the forest lodge, where he sometimes liked to get to the gate before you, and make you believe that he did not intend letting you pass. The under forester, a friend of mine, did not much like him. The stag was also very fond of the milking hours, and used to attend them, particularly in the evenings, much to the dismay of the dairymaids; but, till his attack on the head forester, he had never overtly assaulted any one. Of late he had left the neighbourhood of the lodge, and taken himself off to the forest.

I therefore was much amused by the man’s anxiety for his master’s safety, and, to tell the truth, thought there was a strong dash of humbug about it. Be this as it may, I stayed some days at the lodge, having capital stalking, and, of course, during that pleasant progress, discussing this wonderful beast with the foresters and gillies.

One day I went to some neighbouring hills to kill a stag or two for a friend of mine, who, not able to come up that season himself, had begged me to get him some good heads, if I could. I met his stalker, a relation of my friend the under forester, whom we will call Norman, and I had with me my own keeper, whom we will call John—no fool about a deer, a first-rate shot with both gun and rifle, and about as pretty a fisherman as ever took rod in hand ; it was worth while going all the way to see him fish the saddle cast on that beautiful river the Oonon, in Rosshire. The saddle cast on the Conon was a stumpy, short tree, which in floods was half covered with water, and the top of it was shaped like a saddle. To this, in high water, you waded, and getting astride the tree, you commanded a very good cast. This was no easy matter; for if you rose and hooked your fish, you could not kill him from your saddle, but had to descend and wade to shore again. I should like to see any one do it and not lose his fish. John never did. After the usual salutations, we proceeded to work, and had not gone far when we spied two or three hinds and a stag. .

“Norman,” said I, “we are in sight, for that stag is looking straight and steady down upon us.”

"Impossible, sir! he can’t; but, at any rate, we can get down to that rock” (distant a few yards), “and there he can’t see us.”

So behind this rock we rolled ourselves.

“He is moving down this way, master,” says John.

“Very civil stag, indeed,” said I, and I proceeded to load my rifle.

“You had best be quick about it, sir,” says John again, “for he is coming straight down.” .

“What a very queer, accommodating beast!” I repeated; when, in a deep, tremulous voice, Norman groaned out—

“Ech, Lord! if it isn’t the tame stag!”

“Well, what’s to be done?” was my question.

“Kill him,” says Norman.

“I don’t want to kill a tame stag; not so hard up for a shot as that; so take my rifle and kill him yourself.”

“I would not lay a hand on him for ony sake,” was Norman’s reply.

“Then do you shoot him, John.”

“I would not like to try, sir; you know you have your own rifle to-day, stocked for yourself, and I can’t shoot with it.”

Here was a quandary.

“You had best be quick about it, sir,” again said John, “for he is coming down sharp, and will be very near us directly.”

"For ony sake, don’t miss him. Take time, for ony sake, and kill him dead!—the ill-fared beestie!” groaned Norman again.

Now this was not pleasant. I am by no means a sure rifle-shot—on the contrary, a very bad one. The two men evidently thought the stag dangerous, and depended on me for protection. I had no stomach for the affair at all; but I thought' it better to be a tailor than a cur. I had not much time for further consideration, for the stag appeared over the brow of the hill under which our rock was, and came right down on us. Thinks I to myself, for I have some Tipperary blood in my veins, if we are in for a scrimmage, it’s not lying on my face and stomach I’ll be, but standing on my feet. So I stood straight up. On came my friend, facing me, not giving me a chance of his side. I was determined, if he kept this position, not to fire till he was so close that I could shoot him through the neck and break his spine. At about twelve yards, I should say, he stood and turned his head, and eyed one a little askance. This gave me a chance, and I fired; and, though he did not drop dead, he was quite paralyzed, and soon gave up the ghost. Great were the congratulations of my two companions, and great was my relief that no harm was done, though not quite content in my own mind with my exploit.

On my return to the lodge, I was much congratulated on my ridding the country of so dangerous a brute, and for some time St. George and the Dragon was a joke to me. Afterwards, however, came a reaction. Had a real forester been with me, this need not have happened, and a fine tame beast, imported from afar at great trouble and expense, need not have been sacrificed. The poor animal only came down to ogle us, as he used to do the dairymaids, and to satisfy his curiosity. In short, my popularity was as short-lived as Beale’s and Potter’s, and I became a tailor of the worst unionist-and-picketing description. This did not disturb my equanimity, or give me the jaundice. I have often thought what good men would have done under the circumstances—none of your fanaticos who fancy themselves deerstalkers because they crouch behind their stalker’s heels like retrievers, but men like Fred and his henchman Macaulay. I have often asked myself, “Were you a tailor or not, for shooting that tame stag?” “Did he mean charging?” My own opinion is he did not. But, certainly, the glare of his eye was very red and angry; and if either of the men had been hurt, “under my hand,” as Mercutio says, I might have been justly blamed.


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