‘To be exact, you’ve shot a honey-buzzard. That is the hen bird of one of the few pairs of honey-buzzards breeding in the United Kingdom. We’ve kept them under the strictest preservation for the last four years; every gamekeeper and village gun loafer for twenty miles round has been warned and bribed and threatened to respect their sanctity, and egg-snatching agents have been carefully guarded against during the breeding season. Hundreds of lovers of rare birds have delighted in seeing their snap-shotted portraits in Country Life, and now you’ve reduced the hen bird to a lump of broken feathers.’

Rupert spoke quietly and evenly, but for a moment or two a gleam of positive hatred shone in his eyes.

‘I say, I’m so sorry,’ said the Sheep, with his apologetic smile. ‘Of course I remember hearing about the buzzards, but somehow I didn’t connect this bird with them. And it was such an easy shot—’

‘Yes,’ said Rupert; ‘that was the trouble.’

Kathleen found him in the gun-room smoothing out the feathers of the dead bird. She had already been told of the catastrophe.

‘What a horrid misfortune,’ she said sympathetically.

‘It was my dear Robbie who first discovered them the last time he was home on leave. Don’t you remember how excited he was about them? Let’s go and have some tea.’

Both bridge and shooting were given a rest for the next two or three weeks. Death, who enters into no compacts with party whips, had forced a Parliamentary vacancy on the neighbourhood at the least convenient season, and the local partisans on either side found themselves immersed in the discomforts of a mid-winter election. Rupert took his politics seriously and keenly. He belonged to that type of strangely but rather happily constituted individuals which these islands seem to produce in a fair plenty; men and women who for no personal profit or gain go forth from their comfortable firesides or club-rooms to hunt to and fro in the mud and rain and wind for the capture or tracking of a stray vote here and there on their party’s behalf-not because they think they ought to, but because they want to. And his energies were welcome enough on this occasion, for the seat was a closely disputed possession, and its loss or retention would count for much in the present position of the Parliamentary game. With Kathleen to help him, he had worked his corner of the constituency with tireless, well-directed zeal, taking his share of the dull routine work as well as of the livelier episodes. The talking part of the campaign wound up on the eve of the poll with a meeting in a centre where more undecided votes were supposed to be concentrated than anywhere else in the division. A good final meeting here would mean everything. And the speakers, local and imported, left nothing undone to improve the occasion. Rupert was down for the unimportant task of moving the complimentary vote to the chairman which should close the proceedings.

‘I’m so hoarse,’ he protested, when the moment arrived; ‘I don’t believe I can make my voice heard beyond the platform.’

‘Let me do it,’ said the Sheep; ‘I’m rather good at that sort of thing.’

The chairman was popular with all parties, and the Sheep’s opening words of complimentary recognition received a round of applause. The orator smiled expansively on his listeners and seized the opportunity to add a few words of political wisdom on his own account. People looked at the clock or began to grope for umberalla and discarded neck-wraps. Then, in the midst of a string of meaningless platitudes, the Sheep delivered himself of one of those blundering remarks which travel from one end of a constituency to the other in half an hour, and are seized on by the other side as being more potent on their behalf than a ton of election literature. There was a general shuffling and muttering across the length and breadth of the hall, and a few hisses made themselves heard. The Sheep tried to whittle down his remark, and the chairman unhesitatingly threw him over in his speech of thanks, but the damage was done.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Next page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.