Simpson's Snipe by Terence le Smithe
"Who is Mr Simpson?" asked my wife, tossing a letter across the
breakfast-table. This same little lady opens my correspondence with the
sang-froid of a private secretary.
"Who is Mr Simpson?" she repeated. "If he is as big as his monogram, we
shall have to widen all the doors, and raise the ceilings, in order to
let him in."
The monogram referred to resembled a pyrotechnic device. It blazed in
all the colours of the rainbow, and twisted itself like the coloured
worsted in a young lady's first sampler.
"Simpson," I replied, in, I must confess, a tremulous sort of way, "is
a very nice fellow, and a capital shot."
"I perceive that you have asked him to shoot."
"Only for a day and a night, my dear."
"Only for a day and a night! And where is Willie to sleep, and where is
Blossie to sleep? You know the dear children are in the strangers'
rooms for change of air, and really I must say it is very
thoughtless of you;" and my wife's nez retroussé went up at a
very acute angle, whilst a general hardness of expression settled
itself upon her countenance, like a plaster cast.
I had a bad case. I had been dining with a friend, my friend Captain de
Britska. I had taken sherry with my soup, hock with my fish, champagne
with my entrée, and a nip of brandy before my claret. What I imbibed
after the Lafitte I scarcely remember. Mr Simpson was of the party, and
sat next to me. He forced a succession of cigars into my mouth, and
subsequently a mixture of tobacco, a special thing. (What smoker, by
the way, hasn't a special thing in the shape of a mixture? what
gourmet has no special tip as regards salad-dressing?) We spoke
of shooting. He asked me if I had any. I replied in the affirmative,
expressing a hope that he would at some time or other practically
discuss that fact. Somehow I was led into a direct invitation, and this
was the outcome. I had committed myself beneath my friend's mahogany,
and under the influence of my friend's generous wine. I was in a
corner; and now, ye gods! I had to face Mrs Smithe. There are moments
when a man's wife is simply awful. Snugly entrenched behind the
unassailable line of defence, duty, and with such "Woolwich Infants" as
her children to hurl against you, which she does in a persistent
remorseless way, she is a terror. No man, be he as brave as Leonidas or
as cool as Sir Charles Coldstream, is proof against the partner of his
bosom when she is on the rampage; and, as I have already observed, Mrs
S. was "end on."
"Another change will do the children good, Maria," I observed.
"Yes, I suppose so. It will do Willie's cold good to sleep in your
dressing-room without a fire, won't it? and Blossie can have a bed made
up in the bath. Is this Mr Simpson married or single?"
Hinc illæ lachrymæ. I couldn't say. I never asked him.
"What does it matter?" I commenced, with a view to diplomatising.
"Yes, but it does," she interposed. "If he is a respectable married
man, which I very much doubt, he must have dear Willie's room."
"I am very sorry that I asked him at all, Maria; but as he has been
asked, and as I must drive over to meet him in a few minutes, for
Heaven's sake make the best of it."
"Oh, of course; I receive my instructions, and am to carry them out.
All the trouble falls upon me, while you drive off to the station
smoking a shilling cigar, when you know that every penny will be wanted
to send Willie to Eton."
I got out of it somehow. Not that Mrs S. was entirely pacified. She
still preserved an armed neutrality; yet even this concession was very
much to be coveted. She's a dear good little creature, but she has
fiery moods occasionally; and I ask you, my dear sir, is she one whit
the worse for it? How often does your good lady fly at you
during the twenty-four hours? How often! The theme is painful.
My stained-wood trap was brought round by my man-of-all-work, Billy
Doyle. Billy is a tight little "boy," over whose unusually large skull
some fifty summers' suns have passed, scorching away his shock hair,
and leaving only a few streaks, which he carefully plasters across his
bald pate till they resemble so many cracks upon the bottom of an
inverted china bowl. Billy is my factotum. He looks after my horse,
dogs, gun, rod, pipes, and clothes, with a view to the reversion of the
latter. He was reared, "man an' boy," on the estate, and is upon the
most familiar yet respectful terms with the whole family. Billy
continually lectures me, imparting his opinions upon all matters
appertaining to my affairs, as though he were some rich uncle whose
will in my favour was safely deposited with the family solicitor.
"We've twenty minutes to meet the train, Billy," I observed, giving the
reins a jerk.
"Is it for to ketch the tin-o'clock thrain from Dublin?" he asked.
"Begorra, ye've an hour! She's like yourself—she's always late."
"There's a gentleman coming down to spend the day and shoot," I said,
without noticing Billy's sarcasm.
"Shoot! Arrah, shoot what?"
"Why, snipe, plover—anything that may turn up."
"Be jabers, he'll have for to poach, thin."
"What do you mean, Billy?"
"Divvle resave the feather there is betune this an' Ballybann; they're
dhruv out av the cunthry."
"Nonsense, man. We'll get a snipe in Booker's fields."
"Ye will, av ye sind to Dublin for it."
I felt rather down in the mouth, for I had during the season given
unlimited permission to my surrounding neighbours to blaze away—a
privilege which had been used, if not abused, to the utmost limits.
Scarce a day passed that we were not under fire, and on several
occasions were in a state of siege, in consequence of a succession of
raids upon the rookeries adjoining the house.
"We can try Mr Pringle's woods, Billy."
"Yez had betther lave thim alone, or the coroner 'ill be afther
havin' a job. Pringle wud shoot his father sooner nor he'd let a bird
"This is very awkward," I muttered.
"Awkward! sorra a shurer shake in Chrisendom. It's crukkeder nor what
happened to ould Major Moriarty beyant at Sievenaculliagh, that me
father—may the heavens be his bed this day!—lived wud, man an' boy."
Billy was full of anecdote, and being anxious to pull my thoughts
together, I mechanically requested him to let me hear all about the
dilemma in which the gallant Major had found himself.
"Well, sir, th' ould Major was as dacent an ould gintleman as ever
swallied a glass o' sperrits, an' there was always lashins an' lavins
beyant at the house. If ye wor hungry it was yerself that was for to
blame, and if ye wor dhry, it wasn't be raisin av wantin' a
golliogue. Th' ould leddy herself was aiqual to the Major, an' a
hospitabler ould cupple didn't live the Shannon side o' Connaught.
Well, sir, wan mornin' a letther cums, sayin' that some frind was
comin' for to billet on thim.
"'Och, I'm bet!' says the Mrs Moriarty.
"'What's that yer sayin' at all at all?' says th' ould Major; 'who bet
ye?' says he.
"'Shure, here's Sir Timothy Blake, and Misther Bodkin Bushe, an' three
more comin',' says she, 'an' this is only Wednesday.'
"'Arrah, what the dickens has that for to say to it?' says the Major.
"'There's not as much fresh mate in the house as wud give a brequest to
a blackbird,' says she; 'an' they all ate fish av a Friday, an' how are
we for to get it at all at all? An' they'll be wantin' fish an' game.'
"Ye see, sir," said Billy, "there was little or no roads in thim ould
times, an' the carriers only crassed that way wanst a week."
"'We're hobbled, sure enough,' says the Major, 'we're hobbled, mam,'
says he, 'an' I wish they'd had manners to wait to be axed afore they'd
come into a man's house,' he says.
"'Couldn't ye shoot somethin'?' says Mrs Moriarty.
"'Shoot a haystack flyin', mam,' says the Major, for he was riz, an'
when he was riz the divvle cudn't hould him; 'what is there for to
shoot, barrin' a saygull? an' ye might as well be aitin' saw-dust.'
"'I seen three wild duck below on the pond,' she says.
"'Ye did on Tib's Eve!' says the Major.
"'Och, begorra, it's thruth I'm tellin' ye', says she; 'I seen thim
this very mornin', when I was comin' from mass—an' be the same token,'
says she, lukkin' out av the windy, 'there they are, rosy an' well.'
"'Thin upon my conscience, mam,' roared the Major, 'if I don't hit thim
I'll make them lave that!'
"So he ups an' loads an ould blundherbuss wud all soarts av
combusticles, an' down he creeps to the edge av the wather, and hides
hisself in some long grass, for the ducks was heddin' for him. Up they
cum; an' the minnit they wor within a cupple av perch he pulls the
thrigger as bould as a ram, whin by the hokey smut it hot him a welt in
the stummick that levelled him, an' med him feel as if tundher was
inside av him rumblin'. He roared millia murdher, for he thought he was
kilt; but howsomever he fell soft an' aisy, an' he put out his hand for
to see if he was knocked to bits behind, whin, begorra, he felt
somethin' soft an' warm. 'Arrah, what the puck is this?' sez he; an'
turnin' round, what was he sittin' on but an illigant Jack hare. 'Yer
cotch, ma bouchal,' sez he; 'an' yer as welkim as the flowers o'
"Wasn't that a twist o' luck, sir?" asked Billy pausing to take breath.
"Not a doubt of it. But what became of the ducks?"
"Troth, thin, ye'll hear. The Major dhropped two av thim wud the
combusticles in the blundherbuss, but th' ould mallard kep' floatin' on
the wather in a quare soart av a way, an' yellin' murdher. When the
Major kem nigh him, he seen that he was fastened like to somethin'
undher the wather; an' whin he cotch him, what do you think he found?
It's truth I'm tellin' ye, an' no lie: he found the ramrod, that he
neglected for to take out o' the gun, run right through th' ould
mallard. Half av it was in the mallard, an' be the hole in me coat, th'
other half was stuck in a lovely lump av a salmon; and the bould Major
cotch thim both. 'Now,' says he, 'come on, Sir Tim an the whole creel
of yez, who's afeard?' An' I'm just thinkin' sir," added Billy, as we
dashed into the railway yard, "that if ye don't get a slice av luck
like Major Moriarty's, yer frind might as well be on the Hill o'
The force of Billy's remark riveted itself in my mind, and the idea of
asking a man so long a distance to shoot nothing was very little short
of insult. Mr Simpson arrived as we drove in, arrayed in an ulster just
imported from Inverness. His hat was new; his boots were new; his
gloves awfully new, yellow and stiff, and forcing his fingers very far
apart, as though his hands were wooden stretchers. His portmanteau,
solid leather, was brand new; the very purse from which he extracted a
new sixpence to tip the porter was of the same virgin type. He was
mistaken for a bridegroom, and the fair bride was eagerly sought for by
the expectant porter whilst removing a new rug from the compartment in
which Mr Simpson had been seated. To crown all this newness, his
gun-case, solid leather, had never seen the open air till this day, and
the iron which impressed upon it Mr Rigby's brand could scarcely have
had time to grow cold.
"Begorra, it's in the waxworks he ought for to be," muttered Billy
Doyle, grimly surveying him from head to foot.
Mr Simpson's thick moustache possessed a queer sort of curl, his nose
too, followed this pattern, so that his face somewhat resembled those
three legs which are impressed upon a Manx coin. His eyes were long
slits, with narrow lids, not unlike a cut in a kid glove: one of these
eyes he kept open by means of an eyeglass. This eyeglass was
perpetually dropping into his bosom and disappearing, never coming to
the surface when required, and only coming up to breathe after a
succession of prolonged and abortive dives.
"It's very cold," he exclaimed, grasping my hand, or rather
endeavouring to grasp it, for the new gloves would admit of no loving
"There's likker over beyant at the rifrishmint-bar," observed Billy,
whose invariable habit it was to cut into the conversation with such
comments or observations as suggested themselves to him at the moment.
Perceiving an inclination on the part of my guest to profit by the
hint, I interposed by informing him that the refreshment was of the
meanest possible character, in addition to its possessing a very
"Thrue for ye, sir. The sperrits is that sthrong that it wud desthroy
warts, or burn the paint off av a hall dure."
"That will do, Billy," I said, as Simpson's face bore silent tokens of
wonder at the garrulity of my retainer. "We don't require your opinion
"Och, that's hapes, as Missis Dooley remarked whin she swallird the
crab," said Billy very sulkily, as he mounted behind.
"How is our friend De Britska?" I asked.
"Oh, very well indeed. He quite envied me my trip. He says your
shooting is about the best thing in this part of the world."
"Oh, it's not bad," I replied, assuming an indifference that I was far
from participating in; "but there are times when I assure—ha, ha! it
may appear incredulous, that we cannot stir a single feather."
"Have you much snipe, Mr Smithe?"
"Sorra a wan," replied Billy.
"Your gamekeeper?" asked Simpson, jerking his head in the direction of
"My factotum. He is one of the family. A regular character, and
I trust you will make allowances for him."
"I love characters. Depend upon it we shall not fall out."
Simpson chatted very agreeably, and very small. He had read the
Irish Times during the rail journey, and was master of the
situation. Some men take five shillings-worth out of a penny paper.
This was one of them. He had sucked it all in, and the day's news was
coming out through the pores of his skin. As a rule, such men are to be
avoided. The individual who persistently asks you "What news?" or "Is
there anything new to-day?" is a wooden-headed gossiping bore, who
cannot start an idea, and oils the machinery inside his skull with the
twopenny-halfpenny daily currency. Simpson spoke a great deal of the
army, quoted the various changes mentioned in that day's Gazette
with a vigour of memory that was perfectly astounding. Although
personally unknown to the countrymen around me, he seemed thoroughly
acquainted with their respective pedigrees, their intermarriages, their
rent-rolls, and in fact with their most private concerns; so that
before we reached our destination I knew considerably more of my
neighbours than I, or my father before me, had ever known.
His shooting experiences were of the most extensive and daring
character. He had tumbled tigers, stuck pigs, iced white bears, and
ostracised ostriches. He had been in the tiger's mouth, on the boar's
tusks, and in the arms of the bear. His detailed information on the
subject of firearms was worthy of a gunmaker's pet 'prentice.
"I've shot with Greener's patent central-fire choke-bore, and I
pronounce it a handy tool. Westley Richards has made some good
instruments, and Purdy's performances are crack. I've taken down one of
Rigby's with me, as I have some idea of experimentalising; Rigby is a
very safe maker. I expect to do some damage to-day, friend Smithe."
What a laughing-stock I should be, when this man unfolded the tale of
his being decoyed into the country by a fellow who bragged about his
preserves, upon which there wasn't a feather! Would I make a clean
breast of it? would I say that—
While this struggle was waging beneath my waistcoat, we arrived, and
there was nothing for it but to trust to luck and Billy Doyle.
When we alighted, I asked Simpson into the drawing-room, as his
bed-chamber had not yet been allotted to him. My wife was still sulky
and did not appear, so I had to discover her whereabouts.
"Simpson has arrived, my dear."
"I suppose so," very curtly.
"He is a very agreeable entertaining fellow."
"I suppose so," she snapped.
"Where have you decided on putting him?"
"In your dressing-room."
"Yes, your dressing-room. I wouldn't disturb the children for the
Prince of Wales."
Now this was very shabby of my wife. My dressing-room was my sanctum
sanctorum. There were my papers, letters, pipes, boots,
knick-knacks, all laid out with a bachelor's care, and each in its own
particular place. To erect a bedstead meant an utter disturbance of my
effects, which weeks could not repair, especially as regards my papers.
"There is no use in talking," said my wife; "the bed is put up."
Whilst my guest was engaged in washing his hands before luncheon, I
held a conference with Billy Doyle with reference to the shooting, our
line of country, and the tactics necessary to be pursued.
"Me opinion is that he is a gommoch. He doesn't know much. Av he
cum down wud an old gun-case that was in the wars, I'd be peckened; but
wud sich a ginteel tool, ye needn't fret. We'll give him a walk,
anyhow. He'll get a bellyful that will heart scald him."
"But the honour of the country is at stake, Billy. I asked Mr Simpson
to shoot, promising him good sport, and surely you are not going
to let him return to Dublin to give us a bad name."
This appeal to Billy's feelings was well timed. He knew every fence and
every nest in the barony, and it was with a view to putting things into
a proper training that I thus appealed to his better feelings.
Billy scratched his head.
"Begorra, he must have a bird if they're in it; but they're desperate
wild, and take no ind of decoyin'."
Simpson's politeness to my wife was unbounded. He professed himself
charmed to have the honour of making her acquaintance, took her in to
luncheon with as much tender care as though she had been a cracked bit
of very precious china ware; invited her to partake of everything on
the table, shoving the dishes under her chin, and advising her as to
what to eat, drink, and avoid. He narrated stories of noble families
with whom he was upon the most intimate terms, and assured my wife that
he was quite startled by her extraordinary likeness to Lady Sarah
Macwhirter; which so pleased Mrs S. that later on she informed me that
as Blossie was so much better, she thought it would be more polite to
give Mr Simpson the blue bedroom.
I found this ardent sportsman very much inclined to dally in my lady's
boudoir, in preference to taking the field, and I encouraged this
proclivity, in the hope of escaping the shooting altogether, and thus
save the credit of my so-called preserves. But here again I was doomed
to disappointment. Mrs S., who now began to become rather anxious about
the domestic arrangements, politely but firmly reminded him of the
object of his visit, and insisted upon our departing for the happy
hunting-grounds at once. And at length, when very reluctantly he rose
from the table, he helped himself to a stiff glass of brandy-and-water,
in order, as he stated, to "steady his hand."
I must confess that I was rather startled when he announced his
intention of shooting in his ulster. The idea of dragging this
long-tailed appendage across ditches and over bogs appeared
outré, especially as the pockets bulged very considerably, as
though they were loaded with woollen wraps; but I was silent in the
presence of one who had sought his quarry in the jungle, and shoved my
old-fashioned idea back into the fusty lumber-room of my thoughts.
Billy Doyle awaited us with the dogs at the stable gate. These faithful
animals no sooner perceived me than they set up an unlimited howling of
delight; but instead of bounding forward to meet me, as was their wont,
they suddenly stopped, as if struck by an invisible hand, and commenced
to set at Simpson.
This extraordinary conduct of these dogs—there are no better dogs in
Ireland—incensed Billy to fever heat.
"Arrah, what the puck are yez settin' at? Are yez mad or dhrunk? Whoop!
gelang ow a that, Feltram! Hush! away wud ye, Birdlime!"
"Take them away; take them away!" cried Simpson, very excitedly. "I
don't want them; I never shoot with dogs. Remove them, my man."
Billy caught Feltram, but Birdlime eluded his grasp; and having
released Feltram and captured Birdlime, the former remained at a dead
set, whilst the latter struggled with his captor, as though the lives
of both depended on the issue.
"May the divvle admire me," panted Billy, "but this bangs Banagher. Is
there a herrin' stirrin', or anything for to set the dogs this way?—it
bates me intirely."
I naturally turned to my guest, who looked as puzzled as I did myself.
"I have it!" he cried; "it's the blood of the sperm-whale that's
"Arrah, how the blazes cud the blood av all the whales in Ireland make
thim shupayriour animals set as if the birds were foreninst them?"
demanded Billy, his arms akimbo.
"I will explain," said Simpson. "Last autumn I was up whaling off the
coast of Greenland. We struck a fine fish; and after playing him for
three-and-twenty hours, we got him aboard. Just as we were taking the
harpoon out, he made one despairing effort and spurted blood; a few
drops fell upon this coat, just here," pointing to the inside portion
of his right-hand cuff, "and I pledge you my veracity no dog can
withstand it. They invariably point; and I assure you, Smithe, you
could get up a drag hunt by simply walking across country in this
identical coat, built by John Henry Smalpage."
This startling and sensational explanation satisfied me. Not so my
factotum, who gave vent in an undertone to such exclamations as
"Naboclish! Wirra, wirra! What does he take us for? Whales,
The riddance of the dogs was a grand coup for me. In the event
of having no sport the failure could be easily accounted for, and I
should come off with flying colours.
"I make it a point" observed Simpson, "to shoot as little with dogs as
possible. I like to set my own game, shoot it, and bag it; nor do I
care to be followed by troublesome and often impertinent
self-opinionated game-keepers" (Billy was at this moment engaged in
incarcerating Feltram and Birdlime). "These fellows are always spoilt,
and never know their position."
I was nettled at this.
"If you refer to——"
"My dear Smithe, I allude to my friend Lord Mulligatawny's fellows, got
up in Lincoln green and impossible gaiters, who insist upon loading for
you, and all that sort of thing. You know Mulligatawny, of course?"
I rather apologised for not having the honour.
"Then you shall, Smithe. I'll bring you together when you come to town.
Leave that to me; a nice little party: Mulligatawny, Sir Percy
Whiffler, Colonel Owlfinch of the 1st Life Guards—they're at Beggar's
Bush now, I suppose—Belgum, yourself, and myself."
This was very considerate and flattering; and I heartily hoped that by
some fluke or other we might be enabled to make a bag.
When we arrived upon the shooting-ground, I observed that it was time
to load; and calling up Billy Doyle with the guns, I proceeded to carry
my precept into practice. My weapon was an old-fashioned muzzle-loader,
one of Truelock & Harris's; and as I went through the process of
loading, I could see that Mr Simpson was regarding my movements with a
careful and critical eye.
"I know that you swells despise this sort of thing," I remarked; "but I
have dropped a good many birds with this gun at pretty long ranges, and
have wiped the eyes of many a breech-loading party."
"I—I like that sort of gun," said Simpson. "I'd be glad if you'd take
this," presenting his, with both barrels covering me.
"Good heavens, don't do that!" I cried, shoving the muzzle aside.
"What—what—" he cried, whirling round like a teetotum—"what have I
"Nothing as yet; but I hate to have the muzzle of a gun turned towards
me since the day I saw poor cousin Jack's brains blown out."
"What am I to do?" exclaimed Simpson. "I'll do anything."
"It's all right," I replied; "you won't mind my old-world stupidity."
My guest's gun was a central-fire breech-loader of Rigby's newest type,
which he commenced to prepare for action in what seemed to me to be a
very bungling sort of way. He dropped it twice, and in releasing the
barrels, brought them into very violent collision with his head, which
caused the waters of anguish to roll silently down his cheeks and on to
his pointed moustache. If I had not been aware of his manifold
experiences in the shooting line, I could have set him down as a man
who had never handled a gun in his life; but knowing his powers and
prowess, I ascribed his awkwardness to simple carelessness, a
carelessness in all probability due to the smallness of the game of
which he was now in pursuit. I therefore refrained from taking any
notice, and from making any observation until he deliberately proceeded
to thrust a patent cartridge into the muzzle of the barrel of
"Hold hard, Mr Simpson; you are surely only jesting."
"Jesting! How do you mean?"
"Why, using that cartridge in the way you are doing."
"What other way should I use it?"
"May I again remind you that I am utterly averse to facetiousness where
firearms are concerned, and——"
"My dear Smithe, I meant nothing, I assure you. I pledge you my word of
honour. Here, load it yourself;" and he handed me the gun.
"There'll be a job for the coroner afore sunset," growled Billy.
"What do you mean, sir?" exclaimed Simpson, rather savagely.
"Mane! There's widdys and lone orphans enough in the counthry,
sir—that's what I mane," and Billy started in advance with the air of
a man who had to do or die.
Mr Simpson was silent for some time, during which he found himself
perpetually involved in his gun, which appeared to give him the
uttermost uneasiness. First, he held it at arm's length as if it was a
bow; then he placed it under his arm, and held on to it with the
tenacity of an octopus; after a little he shifted it again, sloping it
on his shoulder, ever and anon glancing towards the barrels to
ascertain their exact position. He would pause, place the butt against
the ground, and survey the surrounding prospect with the scrutinising
gaze of a cavalry patrol.
"Hush!" he suddenly exclaimed. "We lost something that time; I heard a
"Nothin', barrin' a crow," observed Billy.
"A plover, sir; it was the cry of a plover," evasively retorted the
"Holy Vargin! do ye hear this? A pluvver! Divvle resave the pluvver
ever was seen in the barony!"
"Silence, Doyle!" I shouted, finding that my retainer's observations
were becoming personal and unpleasant.
"Troth, we'll all be silent enough by-an'-by."
We had been walking for about half an hour, when Mr Simpson suggested
that it might be advisable to separate, he taking one direction, I
taking the other, but both moving in parallel lines. Having joyfully
assented to this proposition, as the careless manner in which he
handled his gun was fraught with the direst consequences, I moved into
an adjacent bog, leaving my guest to blaze away at what I considered a
safe distance. I took Billy with me, both for company and for counsel,
as my guest's assumed ignorance of the fundamental principles of
shooting had somewhat puzzled me.
"It's a quare bisniss intirely, Masther Jim. He knows no more how to
howld a gun nor you do to howld a baby, more betoken ye've two av the
finest childre—God be good to them!—in Europe. I don't like for to
say he's coddin' us, wud his tigers an' elephants an' combusticles,
but, be me song, it luks very like it. I'd like for to see him
shootin', that wud putt an ind to the question."
At this moment, bang! bang! went the two barrels of my guest's gun.
Billy and I ran to the hedge, and peeping through, perceived Simpson
running very fast towards a clump of furze, shouting and gesticulating
violently. I jumped across the fence, and was rapidly approaching him,
when he waved me back.
"Stop! don't come near me! I'm into them. There are quantities of snipe
"Arrah, what is he talkin' about at all at all?" panted Billy. "Snipes!
Cock him up wud snipes! There ain't a snipe——"
Here Simpson, who had been groping amongst the furze, held up to our
astonished gaze two brace of snipe.
Billy Doyle seemed completely dumbfounded. "That bangs anything I ever
heerd tell of. Man nor boy ever seen a snipe in that field afore.
Begorra, he's handy enough wud the gun, after all."
I was very much pleased to find that our excursion had borne fruit, and
that my vaunted preserves were not utterly barren.
"That's a good beginning, Simpson," I cried. "Go ahead; you'll get
plenty of birds by-and-by."
"I'll shoot at nothing but snipe," he replied. "Here you, Billy, come
here and load for me."
"Let's look at the birds, av ye plaze, sir," said Billy, who began to
entertain a feeling akin to respect for a man who could bring down his
two brace at a shot. "I'll be bound they're fat an' cosy, arter the
hoighth av fine feedin' on this slob."
"They're in my bag. By-and-by," replied Simpson curtly. "Now, my man,
follow your master, and leave me to myself;" and my guest strode in the
"Be the mortial, he's at thim agin. This is shupayriour," cried my
retainer, hurrying towards the place whence the report proceeded.
Simpson again held up two brace of snipe, and again plunged them
into his bag; nor would he gratify the justifiable longings of our
gamekeeper by as much as a peep at them.
"This is capital sport. Why, this place is swarming with snipe," cried
my guest, whilst his gun was being reloaded. "Depend upon it, it's a
mistake to take dogs. The birds smell them. I'll try that bit of bog
"Ye'll have to mind yer futtin'," observed Billy. "It's crukked an'
crass enough in some spots; I'd betther be wid ye."
"Certainly not," said my guest. "I always shoot alone."
"Och, folly yer own wish, sir; only mind yer futtin'."
Mr Simpson disappeared into the hollow in which the bog was situated,
and, as before, bang! bang! we heard the report of both barrels.
"Be jabers, I'm bet intirely. Thim snipes must have been dhruv from the
say, an' have come here unknownst to any wan. Ay, bawl away! Whisht! be
the hokey, he's into the bog!"
A dismal wailing, accompanied by cries for help, arose from out the
bog, where we found poor Simpson almost up to his chin, and
endeavouring to support himself by his elbows.
"Ugh! ugh! lift me out, for heaven's sake! My new clothes—this coat
that I never put on before" (his whaling garment)—"why did I come to
this infernal hole. Ugh! ugh!"
We dragged him up, leaving his patent boots and stockings behind him.
Billy bore him on his back to the house, where he was stripped and
arrayed in evening costume.
From the pockets of his ulster, which it was found necessary to turn
out for drying purposes, Mr William Doyle extracted no less than six
brace of snipe. Unfortunately for Mr Simpson the bill was attached
to the leg of one of the birds. They had been purchased at a
poulterer's in Dublin.
Mr Simpson did not remain to dine or to sleep. He pleaded a business
engagement which he had completely overlooked, and left by the 4.50
"Av all th' imposthors! and his tigers an' elephants no less, an' bears
an' algebras! An' goin' for to cod me into believin' there was snipes
growin' in a clover-field, an' thin never to gi' me a shillin'! Pah!
the naygur!" and Billy Doyle's resentment recognised no limits.
It is scarcely necessary to observe that I was not invited to
meet Lord Mulligatawny, Sir Percy Whiffler, and Colonel Owlfinch of Her
Majesty's Guards, and that my wife holds Simpson over me whenever I
hint at the probability of a visit to the metropolis.