Hautot Senior and Hautot Junior


The house was half farm, half manor-house, one of those mixed rural dwellings, which used to be almost seigneurial, and which, at the present day, are occupied by big farmers. Before the door the dogs, tied to the apple-trees in the courtyard, barked and howled at the sight of the game-bags carried by the keeper and his boys. In the big kitchen-dining-room, Hautot Senior and Hautot Junior, Monsieur Bermont, the tax-collector, and Monsieur Mondaru, the notary, took a little refreshment, and drank a glass, before going out hunting, for it was the opening day.

Hautot Senior, proud of all his possessions, boasted in advance of the game that his guests were going to find on his land. He was a big Norman, one of those strong, full-blooded, bony men, who can lift apple carts on their shoulders. Half a peasant, half a gentleman, rich, respected, influential, authoritative, he had kept his son, Cæsar Hautot, at school up to the third form, so that he might be educated, and had stopped his studies there for fear that he might turn out a gentleman who didn’t care for the land.

Cæsar Hautot, almost as tall as his father, but thinner, was a good sort of son, docile, pleased with everything, full of admiration, respect, and deference for the wishes and opinions of Hautot Senior. Monsieur Bermont, the tax-collector, a little fat man whose red cheeks showed a thin network of violet veins, like the tributaries and tortuous courses of rivers on a geography map, asked:

‘And hares—are there any hares?’

Hautot Senior answered:

‘As many as you want, especially at the lower end of Puysatier.’

‘Where are we to begin?’ asked the notary, a gay lad of a notary, fat and pale, bulging and strapped into a brand new hunting suit, bought at Rouen the other week.

‘Well there, at the lower end. We shall drive the partridges into the plain, and beat up above them.’

And Hautot Senior rose. They all imitated him, took their guns from the corners, examined the locks, stamped with their feet to steady themselves in their rather hard shoes, not yet softened by the heat of the blood, then they went out; and the dogs, leaping up at the end of their leads, uttered shrill howls as they pawed the air.

They set out towards the lower ground.

It was a little valley, or rather a big undulation of land of bad quality, that had remained uncultivated for that reason, furrowed by ravines, covered with heather, an excellent game preserve.

The hunters placed themselves at regular distances, Hautot Senior taking the right, Hautot Junior the left, and the two guests in the middle. The keeper and the boys who carried the game bags followed. It was the solemn instant when the first gunshot is expected, when the heart beats a little, while the nervous fingers touch the trigger every instant.

Suddenly it went off, that shot! Hautot Senior had fired. They all stopped, and saw a partridge, detaching itself from a covey that were flying at full speed, fall into a ravine under the thick brushwood. The excited hunter began to run, with great strides, tearing out the reeds that kept him back, and disappeared in his turn into the thicket, in search of the bird he had shot.

Almost at once, a second gunshot was heard.

‘Ah, ah, the scoundrel!’ cried Monsieur Bermont, ‘he’ll have unearthed a hare down there!’

They all waited, their eyes on the heap of branches that the sight could not penetrate.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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