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A LUCKY DAY IN A DEER-FOREST.
During the year 1893 red-deer
our privilege to and the places where they abide hear three ladies simultaneously were a good deal in evidence. A make such announcement. Commission, biassed as regards the They were all young and beautimajority of its members from its ful, and the question was, How birth, was appointed to inquire would they allot themselves? There into matters connected with them, were four passes to watch that day and it made many laborious jour- also, and four men to do it, and neys and compiled much inter- yet every one of those dames went esting information. The stalking with the present writer. It would
. season was an unusually good one: be a never-ending source of conit began well and ended well, and gratulation and happiness to that about the middle of it the famous individual if he could by any Glen Quoich stag was slain, and means persuade himself that they many people who knew little about “kept company
“kept company” with him that
, forests, and less about the Inquisi- chilly day because they liked him tion sitting on them, were inter- best. Alas! they were quite frank ested in the twenty-pointer. The in what they said ; they made no present writer has more than once foolish attempt to conceal the had the privilege of giving in these truth. The top pass was a very pages an account of days when good one, but it was a high one, everything went awry in the forest; exposed to any wind that chose to when the mist was always low and blow into it almost, and they said the wind always wrong, and stags they did not intend to catch colds. seemed to be clad in invisible The next place and its occupier armour, impervious to an express was rejected for the same reason. bullet. He trusts that he will And to get at the outlook
occupied not be harshly judged, or set down by the third rifle it was necessary as a praiser of himself if
to go up a ride in a steep face, in a while—he shows a pleasant covered with exceedingly rank reverse to the picture.
heather, trying to people encumOne sunny morning last October bered with petticoats. a big wood in Easter Ross was the lowest and easiest-got-at place being driven for deer.
was chosen, and they took the many men were walking through man who happened to be in it it in a more or less regular line; with what equanimity they might. not beating it minutely, as for The departure of that martyr pheasants or rabbits, but — an must have been a touching sight ignoramus might think - in to witness : he went first, concealcasual and indifferent way. Four ing his emotions. Then followed men with rifles commanded as many a keeper with the rifle, and thenof the most likely passes, leading at irregular intervals, discussing from the wood to the hill, and with many things—came the three fair one of the latter was a lady.
But lest perchance any “ Yes—you have been very un- of these ladies should read this lucky, but never mind; this is account, and be dissatisfied with the third time, and the third time what has been said about them, is always fortunate. Besides, I'm we hasten to add that no three going too."
daughters of Eve could possibly
bave behaved better than they did So we sat in the pleasant sunduring the whole of that day. light, on the warm side of the Any desire to sally forth in white hill.
hill. To the south lay the Moray petticoats and yellow jackets and Firth, backed by the Grampians flamingo - coloured parasols was nearer at hand was the Black Isle; checked by the knowledge and the sun shining on its scores of experience of one of them, and crofters' houses made their whiteno doubt by an innate sense of washed gables, all standing in the propriety in all. We reached the same direction, look like so many pass, we established the three in tents. In the immediate forea kind of nest in the very long ground, stretching down to the heather, and then we judiciously rapid Orrin, was the great wood moved a dozen yards away, and out of which our prey was to sat alone. If no stags came out
It was a beautiful pass; at that particular place—and none the wood, thick below, thinned did come—it was not owing to out here into scattered stunted any indiscretion on the part of trees, and, supposing the deer the
covey. If occasionally a plain came where they were expected tive voice was heard through the to come, it would be the fault of heather, announcing that its owner the man and not his weapon if was cold, or stiff, and wanted to they all got safely away. For a jump about and warm herself, a long time nothing was to be seen bit of stick judiciously thrown in or heard; then three or four roe among the lot always brought made their appearance, and stood silence; and a very small bit of some hundred yards below the chocolate apiece was the only re- watchers. They were suspicious ward given for four or five hours' and uneasy, and uncertain what patient waiting. And so it was to do; they stood quite motionwith no demur at all, but with less with pointed ears, listening. cheerful confidence born of expe- Finally they decided that the rience, that a year later we climbed wood they had come out of was to a higher pass in the same great safer than the open hill, and they wood. Indeed our companion was went back into it. At last we no ignoramus about deer and their heard a shot or two, and the far ways; she was herself capable of faint cry of the beaters, and then a doing a hard day's work in a real gillie came and said we must shift forest, and stopped to look at the our ground and take up another view, when going up a steep hill. position. Here again we waited side, as seldom as, or seldomer than, an hour or two, and lunched. most others of her sex with whom When the line came up to us we are acquainted. It was much the second time we learned that to be hoped that her presence
we had been moved too soon. We would bring a change in the luck, heard — without much surprise, for a change was greatly needed. indeed, but with great sorrowBarking roe had alarmed deer one that an hour after we had left day, and spoilt a certain chance. the first watching-place two good A little clump of bushes between stags had come out of the wood, us and a good stag, and a danger- and had stood for a long time just ous slant of wind, had been too in the very place where they were much for us another: after some expected to stand, within easy hours of patient waiting within shot of our pass. It was no good rifle-shot, we had to give it up. But saying anything—though we said the luck was to be broken to-day. it-and it was no use blaming the
gillie-though we did blame him : one of them is never occupied— he, poor man, had sinned with the has, we believe, never been slept best intentions, and was as much in since it was built some forty put out as any one by the catas- years ago save by a passing tramp, trophe. But John Burns, the who even in this solitary country head-keeper, said that there was sometimes makes his appearance. something uncanny in the air, and It is a somewhat eerie - looking that it was no good going out place on a gloomy day, lying in after deer any more.
And he was the middle of a small thick firconfirmed in his opinions by the wood close to the loch-side, with way in which we were again done no other habitations near; bearing the following day. On a bit of perhaps some resemblance to that green on the moor, which had once lonely lodge” where the Heir of been worked by some long ago dead Lynne repaired, when all his gear and forgotten man, we saw a stag. was spent and all his hope gone. When we got within shot of the This is the middle lodge. That green the stag had disappeared on the east side is a cheery little But, on the very spot on which house, in which a man might live he had been standing, sat a huge all the year round, and be very rabbit. One of its ears stuck up comfortable. But when you get and one lay down, and there was a to the third house, away to the something in the expression of its westward, you leave behind all countenance which told us we were luxuries as far as outdoor arrangelooking at no ordinary beast. No ments yo—all gravel walks, and
go— doubt those possessed of that sixth flower - beds, and trees, except a sense we sometimes hear of would few stunted things just round the have been able to make out behind building. There is a boat-house it the shadowy form and horns of and a venison larder, and in place a stag.
of flowers and suchlike the neigh“We must go and shoot par- bourhood of the house is ornatridges to-morrow,” said Mr Burns. mented during the stalking season These proceedings took place on by many skins of stags, hanging
, a big shooting which was not a on fences and bushes to dry. The regular forest, and then we changed loch in high water comes pretty our ground and made a long jour- close to the front door. It is in ney westward to a district where the very heart of deer-forests, and stalking is made a daily business is as solitary a place as it would and not a mere interlude; where be easy to find. On any night in ladies come sometimes, but not October you will hear the longvery often ; where pheasants and drawn-out roar which stags make partridges are quite unknown, and at this season—sometimes mourngrouse are left undisturbed, and ful, sometimes, we have heard men even ptarmigan are very seldom say who have listened to both, as attacked. Thirty-four miles by like the roar of a lion as any sound road and six by water took us can be. In winter there is plenty into a country very different to of company round about = hunthat we had left behind on the dreds of hinds come down here for coast: it would be difficult to find shelter and grass; they are never a greater contrast than that be- shot or disturbed, and in gratitude tween the house we left in the for the consideration shown them morning and its far - away lodge they send out in the spring, not where we slept at night.
only to their own forest but to There are three lodges in Monar: all the forests round, hundreds of young stags. If there was, at any patiently waited, sitting close torate in very bad weather, some- gether, so as to be able to talk in thing sombre about the place, it whispers. Far below us stretched never affected the spirits of those the dull yellowish flat, through who live there during the first which a river, so sluggish in autumn months. To a stalker it places as almost to turn on itself, was an ideal home; and for our wound and twisted to the big lake. part we associate that little loch- Loch Monar and the long chain of washed, wind-swept, weather-beaten the Gedd lochs in Pait wore a sulbuilding with the happiest days we len, lead-coloured appearance; and have ever spent. In such a place, around us for very many miles, if anywhere, a man can for a time as far as the eye could see in every shake off his troubles and forget direction, stood up the great brown unpleasant things.
solemn hills. Angy did his work To this lodge, then, one dull properly; and at last the deer October evening we came across
arrived a string of hinds and the hill, and we met there an old calves first, trotting along with the friend whose record of sport dur- delicate high action which always ing the previous week had been at makes one think of King Agag. The once our admiration and our envy. oldest and most experienced hind Our friend that day had killed led the company : her long ears two stags, and we, under Murdoch were well pointed forward; she Macphail's skilful guidance, had moved as if she was stepping on the same.
One of them was per- eggs. The wind, which blew fair fectly black with rolling in the on her tail, told her of danger peat-hags: he really looked more behind : she peered eagerly in
like a great bear on the yellow front, but did not pay much athillside than a red-deer. It would tention to what was above, and be wearisome to give an account never noticed the two grey - clad of each day's sport; we both had figures sitting so motionless among ample. The weather was toler- the old grey stones. Then passed able, the wind fairly favourable, out more hinds, and after them and neither of us
any the stag; he ambled leisurely night “clean.”
And so we pass along, looking rather bored at on to the last day of the season. having to leave the comfortable
High up above the lodge there shelter. Yet other hinds appeared, is a great rock, or rather cliff, quite close, and they saw us, and, called “Creagan Dhu," below after one frightened look to make which at this time of the year, sure, bolted. The stag, who was if the wind is right, there is often a good way farther down the hill, a stag. There was one on the
saw them galloping, and instead eventful morning of which we are of making off too—as a wise beast giving an account; but he was would have done-stopped for a not in a very good place, and we moment, looking up towards us. decided to move the deer to the And then—without any suffering rifle instead of carrying out the accompanying the act—he died : reverse process.
So Angy, an- one tremendous shock, and his other of Macphail's sons, went up troubles, if he had any, and his to the top and round to let them life, came to an end. have his wind, and we took up As he rolled over and over down our position above the line which, the hill, a second stag came in sight, when shifted from their quarters some thirty yards below the first. here, they generally took, and All the hinds were wildly bolting
now, but they were bolting in experience no great satisfaction in every direction; and though this shooting even the most barren stag knew well enough that things hind. But the measure of such were wrong, he had been round folk's sorrow is to be not unfairly the corner of the rock when the gauged by what they do aftershot was fired, and had not a good wards, and by the hatred with idea of where it came from, and which they look on a stag they was not sure which lot of deer to have missed. For ourselves we follow. So he too, undecided, came have never spared a stag—a good to a halt, wildly staring about.
any motives of comThere are some people who tell miseration ; if he has got off unyou that enough is as good as a scathed it was to the hand and feast, and that one stag in a day eye of the rifleman he was inshould satisfy the most greedy debted, not to any pity of heart. sportsman; but such folk forget The fight is not an unequal one: that every day does not give its the deer, in a wild state at any quota,—wrong winds and mists, rate, does not use his arms in it; and perhaps a temporary scarcity but the cunning and subtlety and of deer, account for many blanks. strength which he sets against Perhaps such a moralist would you often turn the balance in his find it hard to carry out his favour. It is otherwise with theories, if he sat on a hillside smaller beasties; sometimes—once with a rifle in his hand, and was in a day's shoot-it is a satisfaction capable of using it. This second to us to spare a rabbit. He is stag offered a fair, almost broad- sitting amongst his rushes; we side, shot, and he too parted with catch sight of him just in time to his life as quickly and painlessly avoid putting him up. There is as his brother. Then we went something touching in the little down to look at them: the first creature's appearance;
his ears are was a pretty eight - pointer, and set as far back as possible; nothwas found later to weigh exactly ing but a roller could press him fifteen stone; the second had also nearer to the ground than he is eight points, but was not so heavy. now; his eyes, if they are to be
There is—if the doer of deed seen, have something appealing in be a novice—something a little them. We let him sit, and go on, solemn in going up to a great and say nothing about his affairs, animal which he has killed. A hoping that the beaters on either few moments earlier and the deer, side did not notice the short interif it had been unable to get from view, dimly conscious that perhaps, you—if it had been cornered in after all, one has done something any way-would almost have died to be a little ashamed of. Is it with fear at your approach. Now quite honest, for instance, when a you can put your hand on his friend asks you to come and shoot shaggy sides, and touch his horns, his rabbits, that you should knowand pull straight his long cold ingly spare even one in a day? grey - brown legs. Some people Perhaps—in some far distant age say they never shoot a stag with- -when things have got mixed and out a feeling of regret. It is a reversed, and rabbits walk about hateful thing to shoot a hind with Maxim guns on their shoulwhich has a calf, and if many ders to prey on man, it may be hinds have to be killed this must accounted for some good to a small sometimes happen even with the shivering creature that he, in his greatest care. For our part we time and opportunity, was soft