Podgers' Pointer by Ben B. Brown
I am not a sporting man—I never possessed either a dog or a gun—I
never fired a shot in my life, and the points of a canine quadruped are
as unknown to me as those of the sea-serpent. The 12th of August is a
mystery, and the 1st of September a sealed book. I have been regarded
with well-merited contempt at the club by asking for grouse in the
month of June, and for woodcock in September. I think it is just as
well to mention these matters, lest it should be supposed that I desire
to sail under false colours. I am acquainted with several men who
shoot, and also with some who have shooting to give away. The former
very frequently invite me to join their parties at the moors,
turnip-fields, and woods; the latter press their shooting on me,
especially when I decline on the grounds of disinclination and
"I wish I had your chances, Brown," howls poor little Binks, who can
bring down any known bird at any given distance. "You're always getting
invitations because you can't shoot; and I cannot get one
because I can. It's too bad, by George!—it's too bad!"
One lovely morning in the month of September I was sauntering along the
shady side of Sackville Street, Dublin, when a gentleman, encased in a
coat of a resounding pattern, all over pockets, and whose
knickerbockers seemed especially constructed to meet the requirements
of the coat, suddenly burst upon, and clutched me.
"The very man I wanted," he exclaimed. "I've been hunting you the way
O'Mulligan's pup hunted the fourpenny bit through the bonfire."
"What can I do for you, Mr Podgers?" I asked.
"I want a day's shooting at O'Rooney's of Ballybawn," responded
Now, I was not intimate with Mr O'Rooney. We had met at the club; but
as he was a smoking man, and as I, after a prolonged and terrific
combat with a very mild cigar (what must the strong ones be!), had
bidden a long farewell to the Indian weed, it is scarcely necessary to
mention that, although Mr O'Rooney and myself were very frequently
beneath the same roof, we very seldom encountered one another, save in
a casual sort of way.
"I assure you, Mr Podgers, that I——"
"Pshaw! that's all gammon," he burst in anticipatingly. "You can do it
if you like. Sure we won't kill all the game. And I have the
loveliest dog that ever stood in front of a bird. I want to get a
chance of showing him off. He'll do you credit."
I was anxious to oblige Podgers. He had stood by me in a police-court
case once upon a time, and proved an alibi such as must have met
the approval even of the immortal Mr Weller himself; so I resolved upon
soliciting the required permission, and informed Podgers that I would
acquaint him with the result of my application.
"That's a decent fellow. Come back to my house with me now, and I'll
give you a drop of John Jameson that will make your hair curl."
Declining to have my hair curled through the instrumentality of Mr
Jameson's unrivalled whisky, I wended my way towards the club, and, as
luck would have it, encountered O'Rooney lounging on the steps enjoying
After the conventional greetings, I said, "By the way, you have some
capital partridge shooting at Ballybawn."
"Oh, pretty good," was the reply, in that self-satisfied, complacent
tone in which a crack billiard-player refers to the spot-stroke, or a
rifleman to his score when competing for the Queen's Prize.
"I'm no shot myself—I never fired a gun in my life; but there's a
particular friend of mine who is most anxious to have one day's
shooting at Ballybawn. Do you think you could manage to let him have
I emphasised the word "one" in the most impressive way.
"I would give one or two days, Mr Brown, with the greatest pleasure;
but the fact is, I have lent my dogs to Sir Patrick O'Houlahan."
"Oh, as to that, my friend has a splendid dog—a most remarkable dog. I
hear it's a treat to see him in front of a bird."
I stood manfully by Podgers' exact words, adding some slight
embellishments, in order to increase O'Rooney's interest in the animal.
"In that case, there can be no difficulty, Mr Brown. I leave for
Ballybawn on Saturday—will you kindly name Monday, as I would, in
addition to the pleasure of receiving you and your friend, like to
witness the performance of this remarkable dog; and I must be in
Galway on Wednesday."
Having settled the preliminaries so satisfactorily, I wrote the
following note to Podgers:—
"It's all right. Mr O'Rooney has named Monday. Be sure to bring
the dog, as his dogs are away. Come and breakfast with me at
eight o'clock, as the train starts from the King's Bridge Terminus
at nine o'clock.—Yours,
"Benjamin B. Brown.
"P.S.—I praised the dog sky high. O'R. is most anxious to
see him in front of the birds."
I received a gushing note in reply, stating that he would breakfast
with me, and bring the dog, adding, "It's some time since he was shot
over; but that makes no difference, as he is the finest dog in
Knowing Podgers to be a very punctual sort of person, I had ordered
breakfast for eight o'clock sharp, and consequently felt somewhat
surprised when the timepiece chimed the quarter past.
I consulted his letter—day, date, and time were recapitulated in the
most businesslike way. Some accident might have detained him. Perhaps
he preferred meeting me at the station. I had arrived at this
conclusion, and had just made the first incision into a round of
buttered toast, when a very loud, jerky, uneven knocking thundered at
the hall door, and the bell was tugged with a violence that threatened
to drag the handle off.
I rushed to the window, and perceived Podgers clinging frantically to
the area railings with one hand, whilst with the other he held a chain,
attached to which, at the utmost attainable distance, stood, or
stretched, in an attitude as if baying the moon, the fore legs planted
out in front, the hind legs almost clutching the granite step,
the eyes betraying an inflexible determination not to budge one inch
from the spot—a bony animal, of a dingy white colour, with dark
patches over the eyes, imparting a mournfully dissipated
appearance—the redoubtable dog which was to afford us a treat "in
front of the birds."
"Hollo, Podgers!" I cried, "you're late!"
"This cursed animal," gasped Podgers; "he got away from me in Merrion
Square after a cat. The cat climbed up the Prince Consort statue. This
brute, somehow or other got up after her. She was on the head, and he
was too high for me to reach him, when I got the hook of this umbrella
At this moment the hall-door opened, and the dog being animated with an
energetic desire to explore the interior of the house, suddenly relaxed
the pull upon the chain, which utterly unexpected movement sent Podgers
flying into the hall as though he had been discharged from a catapult.
My maid-of-all-work, an elderly lady with proclivities in the direction
of "sperrits," happened to stand right in the centre of the doorway
when Podgers commenced his unpremeditated bound. He cannoned against
her, causing her to reel and stagger against the wall, and to clutch
despairingly at the nearest available object to save herself from
falling. That object happened to be the curly hair of my acrobatic
friend, to which her five fingers clung as the suckers of the octopus
cling to the crab. By the aid of this substantial support she had just
righted herself, when the dog, finding himself comparatively free, made
one desperate plunge into the hall, entwining his chain round the limbs
of the lady in one dexterous whirl which levelled her, with a very
heavy thud, on the body of the prostrate Podgers. Now, whether she was
animated with the idea that she was in bodily danger from both master
and dog, and that it behoved her to defend herself to the uttermost
extent of her power, I cannot possibly determine; but she commenced a
most vigorous onslaught upon both, bestowing a kick and a cuff
alternately with an impartiality that spoke volumes in favour of her
ideas upon the principles of even—and indeed I may add, heavy-handed
I arrived upon the scene in time to raise the prostrate form of my
friend, and to administer such words of consolation and sympathy as,
under the circumstances, were his due. His left eye betrayed symptoms
of incipient inflammation, and his mouth gave evidence of the violence
with which Miss Bridget Byrne (the lady in the case) had brought her
somewhat heavy knuckle-dusters into contact with it.
"Bringin' wild bastes into a gintleman's dacent house, as if it was a
barn, that's manners!" she muttered. "Av I can get a clout at that dog,
I'll lave him as bare as a plucked thrush!"
At this instant a violent crash of crockery-ware was heard in the
regions of the kitchen.
"Holy Vargin! but the baste is on the dhresser! I'll dhress the
villian!" and seizing upon a very stout ash stick which stood in the
hall, she darted rapidly in the direction from whence the dire sounds
"Hold hard, woman!" cried Podgers. "He's a very valuable animal. I'll
make good any damage. Use your authority, Brown," he added, appealing
to me. "She's a terrible person this; she'd stop at nothing."
Ere I could interpose, a violent skirmishing took place, in which such
exclamations as "Take that, ye divvle! Ye'll brake me chaney, will ye?
There's chaney for ye!" followed by very audible whacks, which, if they
had fulfilled their intended mission, would very speedily have sent the
dog to the happy hunting-grounds of his race. One well-directed blow,
however, made its mark, and was succeeded by a whoop of triumph from
Miss Byrne and a yell of anguish from her vanquished foe.
"Gelang, ye fireside spaniel! Ye live on the neighbours. How dar' ye
come in here? Ye'll sup sorrow. I'll give a couple more av I can get at
Podgers rushed to the rescue, and, after a very protracted and exciting
chase, during which a well-directed blow, intended by Bridget for the
sole use and benefit of the dog, had alighted on the head of its
master, succeeded in effecting a capture. This, too, was done under
embarrassing circumstances; for the dog had sought sanctuary within the
sacred precincts of Miss Byrne's sleeping apartment, beneath the very
couch upon which it was the habit of that lady to repose her virgin
form after the labours of the day; and her indignation knew no bounds
when Podgers, utterly unmindful of the surroundings, hauled forth the
"There's no dacency in man nor baste. They're all wan, sorra a lie in
At this crisis Podgers must have developed his pecuniary resources, for
her tone changed with marvellous rapidity, and her anger was melted
into a well-feigned contrition for having used her fists so freely.
"Poor baste! shure it's frightened he is. I wudn't hurt a fly, let
alone an illigant tarrier like that. Thry a bit o' beefsteak in regard
o' yer eye, sir. Ye must have hot it agin somethin' hard; it will be as
black as a beetle in tin minits."
Podgers uttered full-flavoured language. I looked at my watch and found
that we could only "do" the train. Having hailed an outside car, the
breakfastless Podgers seated himself upon one side, whilst I took the
other, and after a very considerable expenditure of hard labour and
skilful strategy, in which we were aided by the carman and Miss Byrne,
we succeeded in forcing Albatross (the pointer) into the well in the
middle. I am free to confess that I sat with my back to that animal
with considerable misgivings. He looked hungry and vicious, and as
though a piece of human flesh would prove as agreeable to his capacious
maw as any other description of food. It was his habit, too, during our
journey, to elevate his head in the air, and to give utterance to a
series of the most unearthly howlings, which could only be partially
interrupted, not by any means stopped, by Podgers' hat being pressed
closely over the mouth, whilst Podgers punched him a tergo with
no very light hand.
"That's the quarest dog I ever seen," observed the driver. "He ought to
be shupayrior afther badgers. He has a dhrop in his eye like a widdy's
pig, and it's as black as a Christian's afther a ruction."
"He's a very fine dog, sir," exclaimed Podgers, in a reproving tone.
"He looks as if he'd set a herrin'," said the cab-man jocosely.
"Mind your horse, sir!" said Podgers angrily.
The driver, who was a jovial-tempered fellow, finding that his advances
towards "the other side" were rejected, turned towards mine.
"Are you goin' huntin' wid the dog, sir?" he asked.
"We're going to shoot," I replied, in a dignified way.
"To shoot! Thin, begorra, yez may as well get off the car an' fire away
at wanst. There's an illigant haystack foreninst yez, and—but here we
are"—and he jerked up at the entrance to the station.
The jerk sent Albatross flying off the car, and his chain being
dexterously fastened to the back rail of the driver's seat, the
luckless animal remained suspended whilst his collar was being
unfastened, in order to prevent the not very remote contingency of
strangulation. Finding himself at liberty, he bounded joyously away,
and, resisting all wiles and blandishments on the part of his master,
continued to bound, gambol, frisk, bark, and yowl in a most reckless
and idiotic way. It would not be acting fairly towards Podgers were I
to chronicle his language during this festive outbreak. If the dog was
in a frolicsome mood, Podgers was not, and his feelings got
considerably the better of him when the bell rang to announce the
departure of the train within three minutes of that warning.
Finding that all hopes of securing the animal in the ordinary way were
thin as air, Podgers offered a reward of half-a-crown to any of the
grinning bystanders who would bring him the dog dead or alive. This
stimulus to exertion sent twenty corduroyed porters and as many
amateurs in full pursuit of Albatross, who ducked and dived, and
twisted and twined, and eluded detention with the agility of a greased
sow; and it was only when one very corpulent railway official fell upon
him in a squashing way, and during a masterly struggle to emerge from
beneath the overwhelming weight, that he was surrounded and led in
triumph, by as many of his pursuers as could obtain a handful of his
hair, up to his irate and wrathful master. Each of the captors who were
in possession of Albatross claimed a half-crown, refusing to give up
the animal unless it was duly ransomed; and it was during a fierce and
angry discussion upon this very delicate question that the last bell
rang. With one despairing tug, Podgers pulled the dog inside the door
of the station, which was then promptly closed, and through the
intervention of a friendly guard our bête noire was thrust into
the carriage with us.
Having kicked the cause of our chagrin beneath one of the seats, I
ventured to remark that in all probability the dog, instead of being a
credit to us, was very likely to prove the reverse.
"It's only his liveliness, and be hanged to him," said Podgers. "He has
been shut up for some time, and is as wild as a deer."
He would not admit a diminished faith in the dog; but his tone was
irresolute, and he eyed the animal in a very doubting way.
"His liveliness ought to be considerably toned down after the rough
handling he received from my servant, and——"
"By the way," Podgers went on, "that infernal woman isn't safe to have
in the house; she'll be tried for murder some day, and the coroner will
be sitting upon your body. Is my eye very black?"
"Not very," I replied. It had reached a disreputable greenish hue,
tinged with a tawny red.
At Ballybricken Station we found a very smart trap awaiting us, with a
servant in buckskin breeches, and in top-boots polished as brightly as
the panels of the trap.
"You've a dog, sir?" said the servant.
"Yes, yes," replied Podgers, in a hurried and confused sort of way.
"In the van, sir?"
"No; he is here—under the seat. Come out, Albatross!—come out, good
fellow!" And Podgers chirruped and whistled in what was meant to be a
seductive and blandishing manner.
Albatross stirred not.
"Hi! hi! Here, good fellow!"
Albatross commenced to growl.
"Dear me, this is very awkward!" cried Podgers, poking at the animal in
a vigorous and irritated way.
"Time's up, sir," shouted the guard, essaying to close the door.
"Hold hard, sir! I can't get my dog out!" cried Podgers.
"I'll get him out," volunteered the guard; and, seizing upon the whip
which the smart driver of the smart trap held in inviting proximity, he
proceeded to thrust and buffet beneath the seat where Albatross lay
concealed. The dog uttered no sound, gave no sign.
"There ain't no dog there at all," panted the guard, whose exertions
rendered him nearly apoplectic, proceeding to explore the recesses of
the carriage—"there ain't no dog here."
A shout of terror, and the guard flung himself out of the carriage, the
dog hanging on not only to his coat-tails, but to a portion of the
garment which their drapery concealed. "Take off your dog—take off
your dog. I'll be destroyed. Police! police! I'll have the law of you!"
he yelled, in an extremity of the utmost terror.
Podgers, who was now nearly driven to his wits' end, caught Albatross
by the neck, and, bestowing a series of well-directed kicks upon the
devoted animal, sent him howling off the platform, but right under the
The cry of "The dog will be killed!" was raised by a chorus of voices
both from the carriages and the platform. Happily, however, the now
wary Albatross lay flat upon the ground, and the train went puffing on
its way; not, however, until the guard had taken Podgers' name and
address, with a view to future proceedings through the medium of the
"I had no idea that the O'Rooneys were such swells," observed my
companion as we entered, through the massive and gilded gates, to the
avenue which sweeps up to Ballybawn House. "Somehow or other, I wish I
hadn't fetched Albatross, or that you hadn't spoken about him;" and
Podgers threw a gloomy glance in the direction of the pointer, who lay
at our feet in the bottom of the trap, looking as if he had been on the
rampage for the previous month, or had just emerged from the asylum for
the destitute of his species.
"He won't do us much credit as regards his appearance," I said; "but if
he is all that you say as a sporting dog—of which I have my doubts—it
will make amends for anything."
Podgers muttered something unintelligible, and I saw dismal forebodings
written in every line of his countenance.
Mr O'Rooney received us at the hall-door. Beside him crouched two
magnificent setters, with coats as glossy as mirrors, and a bearing as
aristocratic as that of Bethgellart.
"Where's the dog?" asked our host, after a warm greeting. "I hope that
you have brought him."
I must confess that I would have paid a considerable sum of money to
have been enabled to reply in the negative. I muttered that we had
indeed fetched him, but that owing to his having met with some
accidents en voyage, his personal appearance was considerably
diminished; but that we were not to judge books by their covers.
As if to worry, vex, and mortify us, Albatross declined to stir from
the bottom of the trap, from whence he was subsequently rooted out in a
most undignified and anti-sporting way.
The expression upon Mr O'Rooney's face, when at length the animal,
badger-like, was drawn, was that of an intense astonishment, combined
with a mirth convulsively compressed. The servants commenced to titter,
and the smart little gentleman who tooled us over actually laughed
Albatross was partly covered with mud and offal. His eyes were watery,
and the lids were of a dull pink, imparting a sort of maudlin idiotcy
to their expression. His right ear stood up defiantly, whilst his left
lay flat upon his jowl, and his tail seemed to have disappeared
altogether, so tightly had he, under the combined influence of fear and
dejection, secured it between his legs.
"He's not very handsome," observed our host laughingly, "but I dare say
he will take the shine out of York and Lancaster, by-and-by," pointing
to the two setters as he spoke.
This hint was enough for Albatross, as no sooner had the words escaped
the lips of O'Rooney than, with a yowl which sent the rooks whirling
from their nests, he darted from the trap, and, making a charge at
York, sent that aristocratic animal flying up the avenue in a paroxysm
of terror and despair; whilst Lancaster, paralysed by the suddenness of
the onslaught, allowed himself to be seized by the neck, and worried,
as a cat worries a mouse, without as much as moving a muscle in
This was too much. I had borne with this hideous animal too long. My
patience was utterly exhausted, and all the bad temper in my
composition began to boil up. I had placed myself under an obligation
to a comparative stranger for the purpose of beholding his magnificent
and valuable dogs scared and worried by a worthless cur. Seizing upon a
garden-rake that lay against the wall, I dealt at Albatross what ought
to have proved a crushing blow, which he artfully eluded. It only
grazed him, and fell, with almost its full swing and strength, upon the
passive setter, who set up a series of unearthly shrieks, almost human
in their painful shrillness.
"Chain up that dog at once!" shouted O'Rooney in fierce and angry
tones, "and look to Lancaster. I fear that his ribs are broken. This is
very unfortunate," he added, addressing himself to me.
"I don't know what's come over the animal!" exclaimed Podgers. "I wish
to heaven I had never seen him. I'll part with him to-morrow, if I have
to give him to the Zoological Gardens for the bears."
Luckily, it turned out, upon examination, that Lancaster was not in any
way seriously injured. This put us into somewhat better spirits, so
that by the time breakfast was concluded we were on good terms with
each other, and even with the wretched Albatross, in whom we still
maintained a sort of sickly confidence. Later on we started for the
turnips, Mr O'Rooney and Podgers in front—the latter hauling Albatross
along as if he was a sack of wheat; whilst I brought up the rear with a
gamekeeper and York.
"I don't think that animal is used to be out at all, at all," observed
"I'm afraid you are quite right," I replied; "but I hear that he is a
very good sporting dog."
"Sportin'! Begorra, he'll give yez sport enough before the day is half
over," said the keeper, with a gloomy grin.
"There is always a covey to be found in this field," observed our host
to Podgers, "so we'll give your dog the first chance."
"I—I—I'd rather you'd let him see what your dog will do," blurted
"Oh, dear no!" returned Mr O'Rooney. "Let him go now. You'll take the
Very reluctantly indeed did Podgers unloose his pointer, uttering into
the dog's ear in a low tone the most terrific and appalling threats
should he fail to prove himself all that my fancy had painted him. With
a loud bark of defiance Albatross darted away, scurrying through the
turnips at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, utterly unmindful of
whistle, call, blandishment, or threat, appearing now in one direction,
now in another, and barking as though it had been part of its training.
"Stop that dog," cried our host, "he won't leave us a bird," as covey
after covey of partridges rose beyond range and flew away, Albatross
joyously barking after them.
"You said I was to have the first shot, Mr O'Rooney," said Podgers, in
a tone full of solemnity.
"Certainly, if you can get it; which I doubt," was the curt reply.
Albatross had dashed within twenty yards of us, and was plunging off in
another direction, when Podgers ran forward, raised his gun. Bang!
Albatross was sent to the happy hunting-grounds of his race.
"He frightened the partridge," observed Podgers, proceeding to reload;
"let him frighten the crows now."