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the poaching line against whom he had long, and the night began to get a little pitted himself. These lines must have wearisome, and too cool to be quite combeen laid almost under his nose on that fortable. By degrees doubts as to the wisvery day, as the freshness of the baits dom of his self-imposed task crept into his proved. The one which he had selected head. He dismissed them for a time by to watch by was under the bank, within turning his thoughts to other matters. a few yards of the clump of alders The neighbourhood of Englebourn, some where he was now sitting. There was two miles up above him, reminded him no satisfactory cover near the others; so of the previous summer; and he wondered he had chosen this one, where he would how he should get on with his cousin be perfectly concealed behind the nearest when they met. He should probably trunk from any person who might come see her the next day, for he would lose in due time to take up the line. With no time in calling. Would she receive this view, then, he got up, and, stepping him well ? Would she have much to tell carefully on the thickest grass where his him about Mary? foot would leave no mark, went to the He had been more hopeful on this bank, and felt with the hook of his subject of late, but the loneliness, the stick after the line. It was all right, utter solitude and silence of his position, and he returned to his old seat.
as he sat there in the misty night, away And then the summer twilight came from all human habitations, was not on, and the birds disappeared, and the favourable somehow to hopefulness. He hush of night settled down on river, found himself getting dreary and somand copse, and meadow-cool and gentle bre in heart-more and more so as the summer twilight after the hot bright minutes rolled on, and the silence and day. He welcomed it too, as it folded loneliness pressed on him more and more up the landscape, and the trees lost their heavily. He was surprised at his own outline, and settled into soft black masses down-heartedness, and tried to remember rising here and there out of the white how he had spent former nights so pleamist, which seemed to have crept up to santly out of doors. Ah, he had always within a few yards all round him un- had a companion within call, and some
There was no sound now but thing to do-cray fishing, bat fowling, or the gentle murmur of the water, and an something of the kind! Sitting there occasional rustle of reeds, or of the leaves doing nothing, he fancied, must make it over his head, as a stray wandering puff so heavy to-night. By a strong effort of of air passed through them on its way
will he shook off the oppression. He home to bed. Nothing to listen to, and moved, and hummed a tune to break the nothing to look at; for the moon had not silence; he got up and walked up and risen, and the light mist hid everything down, lest it should again master him. except a star or two right up above him. If wind, storm, pouring rain, anything So, the outside world having left him to make sound or movement, would but for the present, he was turned inwards come! on himself.
But neither of them came, and there This was all very well at first ; and he was little help in sound or movement wrapped the plaid round his shoulders made by himself. Besides, it occurred and leant against his tree, and indulged to him that much walking up and down in a little self-gratulation. There was might defeat the object of his watch. something of strangeness and adventure No one would come near while he was in his solitary night watch, which had its on the move; and he was probably charm for a youngster of twenty-one; and making marks already which might the consciousness of not running from catch the eye of the setter of the nighthis word, of doing what he had said he lines at some distance, if that cunning would do, while others shirked and party waited for the morning light, and broke down, was decidedly pleasant. might keep him away from the place
But this satisfaction did not last very altogether.
So he sat down again on his old What business had he to be catching seat, and leant hard against the alder poachers? If all poachers were to be trunk, as though to steady himself, caught, he would have to be caught and keep all troublesome thoughts well himself.” He had just had an unpleain front of him. In this attitude of sant reminder of this fact from him of defence, he reasoned with himself on the heather mixtures a Parthian remark the absurdity of allowing himself to which he had thrown over his shoulder be depressed by the mere accidents of as he went off, and which had stuck. place, and darkness, and silence; but “But then," Tom argued, “it was a very all the reasoning at his command didn't different thing, his poaching-going out alter the fact. He felt the enemy ad- for a day's lark after game, which he vancing again, and, casting about for didn't care a straw for, but only for the help, fell back on the thought that sport-and that of men making a trade
a he was going through a task, holding to of it, like the man the keeper spoke of." his word, doing what he had said he “Why? How different ? If there were would do ; and this brought him some any difference, was it one in his favour ?” rehef for the moment. He fixed his Avoiding this suggestion, he took up mind steadily on this task of his ; but new ground. “Poachers were always the alas, here again, in his very last strong- greatest blackguards in their neighbourhold the enemy began to turn his flank, hoods, pests of society, and ought to be and the position every minute became put down." Possibly—at any rate he more and more untenable.
had been one of the fraternity in his He had of late fallen into a pestilent time, and was scarcely the man to be habit of cross-questioning himself on casting stones at them.” “But his poachanything which he was about-setting ing had always been done thoughtlessly." up himself like a cock at Shrove-tide, " How did he know that others had and pelting himself with inexorable worse motives ?” “whys ?” and “wherefores ?” A pesti- And so he went on, tossing the matter lent habit truly he had found it, and one backwards and forwards in his mind, which left a man no peace of his life- and getting more and more uncomforta relentless, sleepless ħabit, always ready able, and unable to answer to his own
, to take advantage of him, but never so satisfaction the simple question, "What viciously alert, that he remembered, as right have you to be out here on this on this night.
errand ?" And so this questioning self, which He got up a second time and walked would never be denied for long, began up and down, but with no better success to examine him as to his proposed than before. The change of position, night's work. This precious task, which and exercise, did not help him out of he was so proud of going through with, his difficulties. And now he got a step on the score of which he had been in his further. If he had no right to be heart crowing over others, because they there, hadn't he better go up to the had not taken it on them, or had let it house and say so, and go to bed like drop, what then was the meaning of it? the rest ? No, his pride couldn't stand
“What was he out there for ? What that. But if he couldn't go in, he had he come out to do?” They were might turn into a barn or outhouse; noawkward questions. He tried several body would be any the wiser then, and answers, and was driven from one to after all he was not pledged to stop on another till he was bound to admit that one spot all night? It was a tempting he was out there that night, partly out suggestion, and he was very near yieldof pique, and partly out of pride : and ing to it at once.
While he wavered, that his object (next to earning the a new set of thoughts came up to back it. pleasure of thinking himself a better How, if he stayed there, and a gang of man than his neighbours) was, if so be, to night poachers came? He knew that catch a poacher. “To catch a poacher ? many of them were desperate men. He had no arms; what could he do against senses. And now the moon was well up, them? Nothing ; but he might be and the wayward mist had cleared away, maimed for life in a night row which and he could catch glimpses of the he had no business to be in-murdered, solemn birds every now and then, beatperhaps. He stood still and listened, ing over the rough meadow backwards long and painfully.
and forwards and over the shallow Every moment, as he listened, the water, as regularly as trained pointers. silence mastered him more and more, He threw himself down again under and his reason became more and more his tree, and now bethought himself of powerless. It was such a silence-a his pipe. Here was a companion which, great, illimitable, vague silence! The wonderful to say, he had not thought of silence of a deserted house, where he before since the night set in. He pulled could at least have felt that he was it out, but paused before lighting. bounded somewhere, by wall, and floor, Nothing was so likely to betray his and roof-where men must have lived whereabouts as tobacco. True, but anyand worked once, though they might be thing was better than such another there no longer— would have been no- fright as he had had,
so here goes,” thing ; but this silence of the huge, he thought, "if I keep off all the poachwide out-of-doors world, where there ers in Berkshire ;” and he accordingly was nothing but air and space around lighted up, and, with the help of his and above him, and the ground beneath, pipe, once more debated with himself it was getting irksome, intolerable, the question of beating a retreat. awful! The great silence seemed to be After a sharp inward struggle, he consaying to him, “You are alone, alone, cluded to stay and see it out. He should alone !” and he had never known before despise himself
, more than he cared to face, what horror lurked in that thought. if he gave in now. If he left that spot
Every moment that he stood, still the before morning, the motive would be spell grew on him, and yet he dared not sheer cowardice. There might be fifty move ; and a strange, wild feeling of other good reasons for going ; but, if he fear-unmistakeable physical fear, which went, his reason would be fear and nomade his heart beat and his limbs thing else. It might have been wrong tremble-seized on him. He was ready and foolish to come out; it must be to to cry out, to fall down, to run, and yet go in now. “Fear never made a man do there he stood listening, still and mo- a right action,” he summed up to himtionless.
self; "so here I stop, come what may of The critical moment in all panics it. I think I've seen the worst of it must come at last. A wild and grew- now. I was in a real blue funk, and some hissing and snoring, which seemed no mistake. Let's see, wasn't I laughto come from the air just over his head, ing this morning at the watcher who made him start and spring forward, and didn't like passing a night by the river? gave him the use of his limbs again at Well, he has got the laugh of me now, any rate, though they would not have if he only knew it. I've learnt one been worth much to him had the ghost lesson to-night at any rate ; I don't or hobgoblin appeared whom he half think I shall ever be very hard on expected to see the next moment. cowards again.” Then came a screech, which seemed to By the time he had finished his pipe, flit along the rough meadow opposite, he was a man again, and, moreover, notand come towards him. He drew a long withstanding the damp, began to feel breath, for he knew that sound well sleepy, now that his mind was thoroughly enough ; it was nothing after all but made up, and his nerves were quiet. So the owls.
he made the best of his plaid, and picked The mere realized consciousness of a softish place, and went off soon into a the presence of some living creatures, sort of dog sleep, which lasted at interwere they only owls, brought him to his vals through the rest of the short summer night. A poor thin sort of sleep it was, make out the hedge through the mist, in which he never altogether lost his but saw nothing consciousness, and broken by short inter- But now the crackling began again, and vals of actual wakefulness, but a blessed he was sure that a man was forcing his way release from the self-questionings and over the keeper's barricade. A moment panics of the early night.
afterwards he saw a figure drop from the He woke at last with a shiver. It hedge into the slip in which he stood. was colder than he had yet felt it, He drew back his head hastily, and his and it seemed lighter. He stretched heart beat like a hammer as he waited his half-torpid limbs, and sat up. Yes, the approach of the stranger. In a few it was certainly getting light, for he seconds the suspense was too much for could just make out the figures on the him, for again there was perfect silence. face of his watch which he pulled out. He peered out a second time cautiously The dawn was almost upon him, and round the tree, and now he could make his night watch was over. Nothing out the figure of a man stooping by the had come of it as yet, except his fright, water-side just above the hedge, and at which he could now laugh comfort- drawing in a line. This was enough, ably enough ; probably nothing more and he drew back again, and made himmight come of it after all, but he had self small behind the tree ; now he was done the task he had set himself with- sure that the keeper's enemy, the man out flinching, and that was a satisfac- he had come out to take, was here. His tion. He wound up his watch, which next halt would be at the line which he had forgotten to do the night before; was set within a few yards of the place and then stood up, and threw his damp where he stood. So the struggle wbich plaid aside, and swung his arms across he had courted was come! All his doubts his chest to restore circulation. The of the night wrestled in his mind for a crescent moon was high up in the sky, minute; but, forcing them down, he faint and white, and he could scarcely strung himself up for the encounter, his now make out the stars, which were whole frame trembling with the excitefading out as the glow in the north- ment, and his blood tingling through east got stronger and broader.
his veins as though it would burst them. Forgetting for a moment the purpose
The next minute was as severe a trial of his vigil, he was thinking of a long of nerve as he had ever been put to, morning's fishing, and had turned to and the sound of a stealthy tread on pick up his plaid and go off to the house the grass just below came to him as a for his fishing-rod, when he thought he relief. It stopped, and he heard the man heard the sound of dry wood snapping. stoop, then came a stir in the water, He listened intently; and the next and the flapping as of a fish being moment it came again, some way off,
landed. but plainly to be heard in the in- Now was his time! He sprang from tense stillness of the morning. Some behind the tree, and, the next moment, living thing was moving down the was over the stooping figure of the stream. Another moment's listening, poacher. Before he could seize him and he was convinced that the sound the man sprang up, and grappled with came from a hedge some hundred yards him. They had come to a tight lock at below.
once, for the poacher had risen so close He had noticed the hedge before: the under him that he could not catch his keeper had stopped up a gap in it the day collar and hold him off. Too close to before, at the place where it came down strike, it was a desperate trial of strength to the water, with some old hurdles and and bottom. dry thorns. He drew himself up be- Tom knew in a moment that he had hind his alder, looking out from behind his work cut out for him. He felt the it cautiously towards the point from nervous power of the frame he had got which the sound came. He could just hold of as he drove his chin into the
poacher's shoulder, and arched his back, him to his senses, helped too by the and strained every muscle in his body to thought of his mother, and Mary, and force him backwards, but in vain. It love of the pleasant world up above. was all he could do to hold his own; The folly and uselessness of being but he felt that he might hold it yet, as drowned in a ditch on a point of honour they staggered on the brink of the back stood out before him as clearly as if he ditch, stamping the grass and marsh had been thinking of nothing else all marigolds into the ground, and drawing his life ; and he let go his hold—much deep breath through their set teeth. А relieved to find that his companion of slip, a false foot-hold, a failing muscle, the bath seemed equally willing to be and it would be over; down they must quit of him—and struggled to the go—who would be uppermost?
surface, and seized the bank, gasping The poacher trod on a soft place and and exhausted. Tom felt it, and, throwing himself for- His first thought was to turn round ward, was reckoning on victory, but and look for his adversary. The poacher reckoning without his host. For, re- was by the bank too, a few feet from covering himself with a twist of the him. His cap had fallen off in the body which brought them still closer struggle, and, all chance of concealment together, the poacher locked his leg being over, he too had turned to face behind Tom's, in a crook which brought the matter out, and their eyes met. the wrestlings of his boyhood into “Good God! Harry ! is it you ?” his head with a flash, as they tottered Harry Winburn answered nothing ; for another moment, and then losing and the two dragged their feet out of the balance went headlong over with a soft muddy bottom, and scrambled on to heavy plunge and splash into the deep the bank, and then with a sort of comback ditch, locked tight in each other's mon instinct sat down, dripping and
foolish, each on the place he had reached, The cold water closed over them, and and looked at one another. Probably for a moment Tom held as tight as ever. two more thoroughly bewildered lieges Under or above the surface it was all of her Majesty were not at that moment the same, he couldn't give in first. But facing one another in any corner of the a gulp of water, and the singing in his United Kingdom. ears, and a feeling of choking, brought
To be continued.
GAELIC AND NORSE POPULAR TALES :
AN APOLOGY FOR
THERE are few greater pleasures, in these Tales from the Norse;? in which work one days, than to get hold of a really good hardly knew whether to admire most book-a book not only thoroughly and the raciness and vigour with which the conscientiously well done from beginning Tales were translated, or the mingled to end, but distinguished also by some learning and eloquence of the Intropeculiarity of subject, opening a fresh ductory Essay on Popular Tales in genfield of interest, and breaking a door for the reader into a realm of outlying know- · Popular Tales from the Norse. By George ledge. Such a pleasure was afforded to
Webbe Dasent, D.C.L. With an Introductory
Essay on the Origin and Diffusion of Popular English readers some time ago by the
Tales. Second Edition, enlarged. Edinburgh: