Page images

as having been the favourite abode of the good and venerable Izaak Walton. The gratification, however, the tourist derives from scenery such as that which characterizes those two countics, must necessarily be of a more transient nature, and its picturesque beauties less strongly impressed on the recollection, than when the eye rests for the first time on an irregular range of wild and rugged mountains, whose many-pointed and craggy tops seem to brave high heaven itself. But if the lakes, and the huge barriers by which they are enclosed, present features of noble grandeur to the contemplative—themes of inspiration to the poet-subjects of study to the painter—and of investigation to the geologisi—they no less afford a rich variety of amusement to him whose pursuits lie not in the paths of science, but in the healthful recreations of the field, and whose loftiest aspirations extend no further than the slaughter of game in the most approved fashion. By the true sportsman it is allowed that in proportion to the danger, difficulty, and fatigue attending the pursuit of game, in the same ratio is the pleasure we experience when our skill and labour are rewarded on the death of the quay. Thus, then, your true man will shun the murderous battue as being at once a bastardized form of old English sport, and destitute of that excitement which, in a great degree, constitutes its chief delight. It cannot but be evident that the more frequently we are conversant with Nature in all her forms-wliether in the Indian jungle, on the Alpine crag, or in her sweet-smiling aspect of the sunny south—the more humanized and real does the character become. By such swcet intercourse with our benign mother, the rust, the stain, that soils her fair handiwork in our contact with the world is obliterated, and the true and proper surface again shines forth in all its native comeliness and purity. Go where we nay, even though it were into the black depths of the trackless forest, albeit the courage may flag, and the strength fail, yet in that very solitude there is a healing balm to the harassed soul, that whispers sweet comfort to the wanderer, and confirms in him the assurance that, although far removed from the busy haunts of men, he, at least, breathes not its contaminating atmosphere. There exists, therefore, another and more powerful reason why game should be pursued in their native wilds; and, we doubt not, a ready response will be accorded, in confirmation of the truth of the above speculations, by the heart of every reader. To a greater or less degree, sensations of this kind have been felt by all (for it is absurd to assert that even the most vicious do not retain some portion of their humanity); and to the poets, in particular, it has proved a source of rich and graphic illustration.

“ Arc not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court ?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The season's difference; as the icy fang,
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind;
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile, and say -
This is no flattery: these are counsellors,

That feelingly persuade me what I am.”
But the reader will be disposed to ask the ad quem finem of this

exordium ; and, in truth, casting the eye to the title, it must be allowed with no little reason. We may, however, be pardoned for dwelling on a topic which must, or ought to be, a grand source of pleasure in the breast of every sportsman; and blest is he who, like Christopher North, can so mingle philosophy and sport, as to quaff large draughts of health, mental and bodily, by the same effort.

In general estimation, the lake district is peculiarly adapted for the residence of the wearied denizen of life's great theatre; and thither the politician, the roué, the college don, and the tourist, hasten, with eager steps, to emancipate themselves, each from his own peculiar demon of ennui. Whatever may be the disparity in rank, the entire crowd may be properly considered as of one class. For a time, their pursuits and pleasures are the same; as Nature is as kind and bountiful to the peasant, as to the peer.

But there is another class of lakefrequenters, whose avocations are written on their backs as distinctly as shooting-coats, fishing-rods, and other sporting paraphernalia, are capable of demonstrating: there is moreover a je ne sais quoi kind of manner, an unmistakable expression, that distinguishes at a glance your keen and knowing hand from the mere cockney in sporting clothes-the ass in the lion's skin. There is a sort of freemasonry by which men are enabled to distinguish the true from the untrue, the real from the would-be, in all that relates to the field; just in precisely the same manner as the habituated and observanteye detects the attempted frand of the parvenu, through all his silly dazzle and glitter, who, with swaggering gait and exterminating look, would force the world into a belief of his transcendant magnanimity and importance. Such people, as Johnson remarked, are walking lies.

Let the reader imagine himself to be hovering about the lake Ulleswater, and amusing himself one while with the gun, another with the rod, and anon struggling up the mountain side, to breathe both himself and dogs ; now searching for an extensive prospect from the summit of a bleak and perilous crag, and again following in its tortuous course the sparkling rill, as onward it rushes in its rocky and uneven bed—let him realize this in imagination, and he will comprehend the capabilities of the locality. Often have we fitted from one lake to another, searching about for some unexplored nook from which to draw fresh gratification; and on such an errand were we engaged, when we were unexpectedly accosted by an old gentleman, whom we had frequently encountered in our wildest rambles.

After the customary salutations, "I perceive, Sir,” said he, “that you, like myself, find your dogs more companionable than the old twaddlers in yonder inn, with whom the chief sweetener in life's feast' seems to be whiskey-toddy."

This was an ironical allusion to three gentlemen of a certain age, who, like the founders of the Cleikum club, thought with our great English moralist, that “the man who does not mind his stomach is a fool: che belly is every man’s master.” They had displayed considerable gusto for the comestibles of “mine host of de Tarterre;" and, like the Cleikum nabob, very probably had “written out a few items” for the old dame, and may even have ventured also to take “a peep occasionally into the kitchen and larder.”

“'Tis true, Sir," said we, “ that we came not hither to eat, nor for the sole purpose of drinking whiskey-toddy, as the table of mine host may testify."

“So, then, it is you to whom we are beholden for our supply of fish and fowl ?"

"Aye, truly is it."

“Now, by my faith,” said he, “that is the action of a young man, and is wanton waste, and no generosity. Why, Sir, that John o' the Inn is well to do in the world, and may be, for aught I know to the contrary, richer than I am myself. But inns and landlords, Sir, are my abomination. We, who throw ourselves on the mercy of innkeepers, live in a hospital: the fear of the bill keeps us in a constant, eternal, consuming sweating-bath ; our purses are put on an anti-phlogistic regimen; and the ostlers, from sheer love of the noble animal doubtless, keep our horses on such low diet, that they are in no danger of dying from indigestion caused by repletion. But hark ye, Sir," continued he, “if you've no better use for your game, give it to the poor woman with a fatherless family of five children down in yonder cottage, at the foot of the mountain ; so you'll profit her now, and maybe yourself also at the great account. "I've almost forgotten my college quips, but I remember one of a facetious fellow named Quintus Horatius Flaccus, who set out one fine day in his jaunting-car from Rome to Brundusium; and, at the second stage, he experienced that one great fact of travelling notoriety--the impudence of landlords, wbich he thus incidentally mentions:

Inde Forum Appî

Differtum nautis, cauponibus at que malignis ; and, believe me, Sir, that very verse has served as a plaister to my own sores, when I have been most sorely vexed with them, as it shows us the genus is irreclaimable as their own devoured viands. But come,” says our amusing companion, “favour me with your company as far as the dark patch you see on the projecting ridge of the mountain, and the atmosphere being clear, I will point out to you a scene equal to any in the island of Calypso, and one you may well covet pour le plaisir des yeux.

On we went in pleasant confab, now deep in this, and then in that, until a smart push at the hill side brought us to the point indicated by our new friend.

“Well, here we are," said he, as we seated ourselves on the heathery bank; "and now what think you? Is it not worth a sharp tug? Rely upon it, you'll always be rewarded for your trouble in striking upwards. The blood courses through the veins more joyously, the spirits rise, and assume an ætherial lightness, and, in short, our whole nature becomes less earthy, and the indissoluble seems to rejoice in its partial liberation from the dissoluble. This spot is peculiarly associated in my mind with the romantic and the poetical, for here it was I sat two mortal hours with the immortal Wizard of the North—the author of Waverley. Yes, gazing on this fair scene below, the silver lake, unruffled by the breeze, and reflecting in its placid bosom the bare and rugged mountains by which it is enclosed

--the irregular and bold ridge of bills, rising one above another in noble grandeur, like giants refresbed from sleep---the scattered dwellings of the industrious and hard-working peasantry, recall to my mind that small yet sunny spot of my existence. It peers out from a long wilderness of years like the oasis in the desert, and, by dwelling on it, I in

measure renew the pleasurable sensations of that brief space of a sexagenarian life. But,” said the old gentleman, suddenly changing his tone, “I weary you with these reflections, and we will, therefore, scan another topic more congenial to your taste.


you ever spend a night on this, or any of the other lakes, for the purpose of shooting wild-ducks ?"

No,” said we; "those which have fallen before our gun were killed late in the evening, but never after dusk.”

To-night, then," said he,“ hold yourself in readiness, and prepare to take a lesson on the art of wild-fowl shooting."

With this we descended the hill, and, by the time we had reached the posada, a mutual disposition to a more friendly intercourse had sprung up between us.

Our new friend was a man of comely mien; and his features, though not handsome, were yet agreeable, and marked with the stamp of natural ability. Well-formed, and erect in carriage, there was an easy grace in his manner, and a commanding expression in his dark and scrutinizing glance, which at once inspired feelings of admiration and respect. His conversation, mingled as it was with playfuluess and gravity, was attractive as his general bearing; and greatly did we thank the liappy chance that had thrown us together.

Evening drew on, and a slight wind, and a sky overspread with passing clouds, answered well enough for the purpose we had in

Armed with our guns, and a good retriever following at our heels, we began our march along the border of the lake about ten p.m., and arrived at the point not far distant from Lyulph's Tower, to which we had sent, in the early part of the evening, our boat and sculler.

“Now," said our companion, after we had charged our guns, and made all things snug and ready for instant nise, “ let us push boldly into the middle of the lake. Be silent as if you were stealing upon a fort with muffled oars, and, above all, keep the dog down.

We were soon in deep water, and onward we went under the long and vigorous strokes of the stalwart sculler, who, by his caution, seemed also fully alive to the sport. A sharp breeze skimmed along the water, and thick black clouds shut out the light of the yellow moon; while on and on we rushed in silence through the gurgling liquid, like spirits of the deep, during the midnight hour, disporting themselves in peace. Save the rippling wave, as it glanced from the bows of the boat, not a sound met the ear; and all around was dark and sombre as the grave. The irregular outline of the huge masses of mountain, excepting when a less dense cloud permitted a temporary and uncertain light, was scarcely visible; the deep water on which we now floated was of infernal hue; and the effect of the whole was so suddenly produced, that it excited an involuntary dread, or an apprehension, at least, it is not in the power of words to describe. The

sculler shipped his oars with great care, and then we lay on the bosom of the lake in a state of feverish anxiety. Our guns cocked, the ear alive, and peering into the darkness around us, silent and motionless we sat, awaiting a flock of wild fowl. Occasionally, a hissing, whizzing of the wings of the unseen birds would startle us from our position; and then the splashing of the water met the ear, as one after another they alighted on the surface of the lake.

"Be steady," whispered the old gentleman, at the same time slightly pointing over the starboard bows, “ be steady, and we shall get a shot in that direction.”

The objects, except to his skilled eye, were not yet visible; but a few minutes brought a flock fully within ken, looking like spots on the smooth surface. The distance, to our uninitiated eye, appeared too great for shot to tell, but our fidus Achates thought otherwise, and

gave the word to fire. We blazed away both barrels into the midst of them; and as they rose from the water, the long-boat gun was discharged at them with murderous effect.

“Pull away, my man,” shouted the old gentleman; and in a minute after, we shot into the midst of the dead and dying. Here was plenty of work for the retriever, as hither and thither he swam in pursuit of the dead and seriously wounded; while the guns were still actively employed in a running fire upon those too strong for capture. From the darkness of the night, and the consequent difficulty of seeing an object with any certainty at twenty or thirty yards' distance, this was a labour neither agreeable nor expeditious. We hovered about the place at least an hour, and although we occasionally met with a straggler, many, no doubt, escaped us. Tired as we were, we pulled away for the rocky islands called Cherry-holm, Wall-holm, and House-holm; the latter so named doubtless, quasi lucus à non lucendo, because there is no house upon it. We crept upon it in the same silent manner (without silence, your deer-stalker and wild-duck shooter can do nothing), and skirted the islands as stealthily as midnight robbers. Notwithstanding, however, the little noise made by the creaking of the rowlocks was carried down to our quarry, and, before we were fairly within shot, they were all on the wing. The morning air was now of that “nipping and eager” kind that made Hamlet shake; and upon our already wet habiliments, fanning and puffing, the sensations it produced were by no means the most luxurious. The repeated caresses we bestowed on our ancient “ grey beard," and the refreshing fragrance of excellent Havannas, served to warm our nose and internal machinery, during an hour's rowing to the point of our debarkation. But it was voted unanimously by the entire crew (sc. the old gentleman, his new friend, and the sculler) that to sit four mortal hours in an open boat, motionless as mummies, and that at night, through the “wee sma' hour ayont the twa’l” in the early spring, was a matter somewhat different from capering “ nimbly in a lady's chamber, to the lascivious pleasing of a lnte."

3, Crescent Carlisle.

« PreviousContinue »