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Venecia, Cannes y Paris componen el falsamente glamouroso escenario de la vida de Florence McCarthy Harris, una muchacha americana que pasa su juventud viajando por Europa y viviendo de la caridad de los familiares de la mano de su madre, View Product. Corazon que rie, corazon que llora. En casa, Damas Oscuras: Cuentos de fantasmas de escritoras victorianas.
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El ala izquierda Cegador, 1. La flor azul. Una obra exquisita, ganadora del But the girls must dance, and find no difficulty in getting partners to join them. Seldom does one see girl-faces so full of fun and so supremely happy, as they adjust the castanets, and one damsel steps aside to whisper something sly to a sister or friend. And now the dance commences: observe there is no slurring or attempt to save themselves in any movement.
Each step and figure is carefully executed, but with easy spontaneous grace and precision, both by the girl and her partner. Though two or more pairs may be dancing at once, each is quite independent of the others, and only dance to themselves: nor do the partners ever touch each other. Presently the climax of the dance approaches. The notes of the guitar grow faster and faster: the man—a stalwart shepherd lad—leaps and bounds around his pirouetting partner, and the steps, though still well ordered and in time, grow so fast one can hardly follow their movements. Now others rise and take the places of the first dancers, and so the evening passes: perhaps a few glasses of aguardiente are handed round—certainly much tobacco is smoked—the older folks keep time to the music with hand-clapping, and all is good nature and merriment.
What is it that makes the recollection of such evenings so pleasant? Is it merely the fascinating simplicity of the music and freedom of the dance; is it the spectacle of those weird, picturesque groups, bronze-visaged men and dark-eyed maidens, all lit up by the blaze of the great wood-fire on the hearth and low-burning oil-lamp suspended from the rafters? Perhaps it is only the remembrance of many happy evenings spent among these same people since our boyhood.
This we can truly say, that when at last you turn in to sleep you feel happy and secure among a peasantry with whom politeness and sympathy are the only passports required to secure to you both friendship and protection if required. Nor is there a pleasanter means of forming some acquaintance with Spanish country life and customs than a few evenings spent thus at farm-house or village-inn in any retired district of laughter-loving Andalucia.
Late one March evening we encamped on the spurs of a great Andalucian sierra. Away in the west, beyond the rolling prairie across which we had been riding all day, the sun was slowly sinking from view, and to the eastward the massive pile of San Christoval reflected his gorgeous hues in a soft rosy blush, which mantled its snow-streaked summit. Below in the valley we could discern the little white hermitage of La Aina, once the prison of a British subject, a Mr.
Bonnell, who, captured in  near Gibraltar, was carried thither by sequestradores , and concealed in this remote spot till the stipulated ransom had been lodged by the Governor of Gibraltar in the consulate at Cadiz: an incident which led to unpleasant correspondence between the British and Spanish Governments, and which was luckily closed by the tragic deaths of all the offenders.
These miscreants had also formed a plan for an attack upon a private house at Utrera; but their intentions having become known through treachery to the Civil Guards, the latter surrounded the house, and drove the robbers into the patio , where a simultaneous volley terminated the careers of the whole crew.
Wild tales of similar bearing beguiled the dark hours in the gloom of the forest where our big fire burned cheerily. Despite a fine, warm, winter climate, the Andalucian atmosphere is chilly enough after sundown, and we were glad to draw up close around the blazing logs, where a savoury olla was cooking: and afterwards, while enjoying our cigarettes and that delicious "natural" wine of Spain which the British public, like a spoilt child, first cries for and then abuses.
Towards nine o'clock the moon rose, and we continued our journey along the dark defiles of the sierra, pushing a way through evergreen thicket, or silent forest, where the startling cries of the eagle-owl outraged the stillness of night. As far as one could see by the dim moonlight, our course alternated for a long distance between a boulder-strewn ravine and a glacis of smooth sloping rock, steep as a roof, and more suited to the nocturnal gambols of cats than for horsemen. Here we were confronted by a nuisance in the non-arrival of the commissariat. The pack-mules, despatched two days in advance, had not turned up.
Enterrado en vida
It transpired that the men, loitering away the daylight, as is the custom in Andalucia and elsewhere , had lost the way in the darkness, almost immediately after leaving the last vestiges of a track, and had bivouaced among the scrub awaiting the break of day. Our resources for the night were thus limited to the scanty contents of the alforjas saddle-bags. We had, however, each provided ourselves with a big sackful of chaff at the last outpost of the corn-lands—chaff, or rather broken straw, being the staple food of the Spanish horse; and these now formed our beds, though their softness decreased nightly by reason of the constant inroads on their substance made by our Rosinantes.
Otherwise the naked stone-paved room was absolutely innocent of either furniture or food; yet we were happy enough, as, rolled in our mantas , we lay down to sleep on those long pokes. Early in the morning the mountaineers began to assemble in the courtyard of the rancho. Light of build as a rule, sinewy, and bronzed to a copper hue, looking as if their very blood was parched and dried up by tobacco and the fierce southern sun, and with narajas stuck in their scarlet waistbands, these wild men might each have served as a melodramatic desperado.
Three brothers of our host had ridden up from a distant farm; there was old Christoval, the ready-witted squatter on the adjoining rancho, a cheery old fellow, carrying fun and laughter wherever he went; last came the Padre from the nearest hill-village Paterna , whose sporting instinct had made light work of the long and early ride across the sierra to join our batida. Alonzo, the herdsman, who added to his pastoral knowledge an intimate acquaintance with the wild beasts of his native mountains, was placed in command of the beaters, a motley, picturesque group with their leathern accoutrements and scarlet fajas.
Of dogs, we had four podencos , tall, stiff-built, wiry-haired "terrier-greyhounds," fleet of foot, trained to find and harass the boar, to force him to break covert, but yet so wary at feint and retreat as to avoid the sweep of his tusks. Around our quarters were cultivated clearings of a few acres, fenced with the usual aloe and cactus: otherwise the landscape was one panorama of forest and evergreen brushwood, extending far up the mountain-sides, and towards the barren stony summits.
These sierras of Jerez are of no great height relatively—perhaps 3, to 4, feet—and many of them bear unmistakable evidence of their long struggles with glacial ice in bygone ages—each tall slope consisting of a regular series of vertical bastions, or buttresses, alternating with deep glens in singular uniformity. Their conformation recalled the distant valleys of Spitsbergen, where we have seen the power of ice in actual operation, and carving out those grim Arctic hills after a precisely similar pattern. Here, however, dense jungle had for ages replaced the snow, and the wild boar now occupied strongholds where, possibly , the reindeer had once ranged in search of scanty lichen.
For the season March the greenness of all foliage was remarkable; the oaks alone remained naked, and even from their leafless boughs hung luxuriant festoons of ivy and parasitic plants. The upper end of our valley was shut in by the towering, transverse mass of the Sierra de las Cabras, which terminates hard by, in a fine abrupt gorge or chasm called the Boca de la Foz. It was to the deep-jungled corries which furrow the sides of this chasm that Alonzo had that morning traced to their camas some six or eight pig, including a couple of boar of the largest size, and this was to be the scene of our first day's operations.
A pitiable episode occurred while we were surveying our surroundings, and preparing for a start. From close behind, suddenly resounded a peal of strange inhuman laughter, followed by incoherent words; and through the iron bars of a narrow window we discerned the emaciated figure of a man, wild and unkempt of aspect, and whose eagle-like claws grasped the barriers of his cell—a poor lunatic. No connected replies could we get—nothing but vacuous laughter and gibbering chatter: now he was at the theatre and quoted magic jargon; now supplicating the mercy of a judge; then singing a stanza of some old song, to break off as suddenly into a fierce denunciation of one of us as the cause of all his troubles.
Poor wretch! He had once been a successful lawyer and advocate, but having developed signs of madness, which increased with years, the once popular Carlos B—— was now reduced to the wretched durance of this iron-girt cell; his only share and view of God's earth just so much of sombre everlasting sierra as the narrow opening permitted. We were told it was hopeless to make any effort to ameliorate his lot—his case was too desperate. What hidden wrongs and outrage exist in a land where no judicial intervention is permitted between the "rights" of families and their insane relations or those whom they may consider such , is only too much open to suspicion.
The day was still young when we mounted and set out for the point where Alonzo's report had led us to hope for success. The first covert tried was a strong jungle flanking the main gorge; but this, and a second batida , proved blank, only a few foxes appearing, and a wild cat was shot.
Two roe-deer were reported to have broken back, and several mongoose, or ichneumon, were also observed during these drives, but were always permitted to pass. The Spanish ichneumon Herpestes widdringtoni , being peculiar to the Peninsula, deserves a passing remark; it is a strange, grizzly-grey beast, shaggy as a badger, but more slim in build, with the brightest of bright black eyes, and a very long bushy tail. A large black ichneumon happened to be the first game that fell to the writer's rifle in Spain, and was carefully stowed in the mule-panniers—never to be seen again; for no sooner were our backs turned, than the men discreetly pitched out the malodorous trophy.
As we approached our third beat—the main manchas , or thickets of the Boca de la Foz, the "rootings" and recent sign of pig became frequent, and we advanced to our allotted positions in silence, leaving the horses picketed far in the rear. The line of guns occupied the ridge of a natural amphitheatre, which dipped sharply away beneath us, the centre choked with strong thorny jungle. On the left towered a range of limestone crags, the right flank being hemmed in by huge uptilted rocks, like ruined towers, and white as marble. One of us occupied the centre, the other guarded a pass among these pinnacle rocks on the right.
While waiting at our posts we could descry the beaters, mere dots, winding along the glen, 1, feet below. The mountain scenery was superb; but no sound broke the stillness save the distant tinkle of a goat-bell; nor was there a sign of life except that feathered recluse, the blue rock-thrush, in Spanish " solitario ," and far overhead floated great tawny vultures. Ten minutes of profound silence, and then the distant shouts and cries of the beaters in the depths beneath told us the fray had begun. The heart of the jungle—all lentisk, or mimosa and thorn, interlaced with briar—being impenetrable, the efforts of our men were confined to directing the dogs, and by incessant noise to drive the game upwards.
First a tall grey fox stole stealthily past, looked me full in the face and went on without increasing his speed; then a pair of red-legs, unconscious of a foe, sped by like yard "sprinters"—a marvellous speed of foot have these birds on the roughest ground, and well are Spanish by-ways named caminos de perdices! Then the crash of hound-music proclaimed that the nobler quarry was at home. This boar proved to be one of those grizzly monsters of which we were specially in search; his lair a chaotic jumble of boulders islanded amid deepest thicket.
Here he held his ground, declining to recognize in his noisy aggressors a superior force; and, though "Moro" and the boar-hounds speedily reinforced the skirmishers of the pack, the old tusker showed no sign of abandoning his stronghold. For minutes, that seemed like hours, the conflict raged stationary; the sonorous baying of the boar-hounds, the "yapping" of the smaller dogs, and shouts of the mountaineers, blended with the howl of an incautious podenco as he received his death-rip—all these formed a chorus of sounds which carried sufficient excitement to the sentinel guns above.
Such and kindred moments are worth months of ordinary life. The actual scene of war lay some half-mile below, hence no immediate issue was probable or expected; then came a crashing of the brushwood on my front, and a three-parts-grown boar dashed straight for the narrow pass where the writer barred the way. The suddenness of the encounter was disconcerting, and the first shot was a miss, the bullet, all but grazing his back and splashing on the grey rock beyond, and time barely remained to jump aside to avoid collision.
The left barrel told with better effect: a stumble as he received it, followed by a frantic grunt as an ounce of lead penetrated his vitals, and the beast plunged headlong among the brushwood, his life-blood dyeing the weather-blanched rocks and dark green palmettos. There for a moment he lay, kicking and groaning; but ere the cold steel could administer a quietus, he regained his legs and dashed straight back. Whether that charge was prompted by revenge, or was merely an effort to regain the thickets he had just left, matters not; for a third bullet, at two yards' distance, laid him lifeless.
Plate V. During this interlude, though it had only occupied a few moments, the main combat below was approaching its climax. The old boar had at length left his hold, and after sundry sullen stands and promiscuous skirmishes with the hounds, he took to flight. Here a rifle-shot at long range broke a fore-leg below the shoulder. This was the turning point: the wounded boar, no longer able to face the hill, wheeled and retreated to the thickets below, scattering the dogs and passing through the beaters at marvellous speed, considering his disabled condition.
And now commenced the hue and cry and the real hard work for those who meant to see the end and earn the spoils of war. Soon "Moro's" deep voice told he had the tusker at bay, down in the defile, far below. What followed in that hurly-burly—that mad scramble through brake and thicket, down crag and scree—is impossible to tell. Each man only knows what he did himself—or did not do. We can answer for three; one of these seated himself on a rock and lit a cigarette; the others, ten minutes later, arrived on the final scene—one minus his nether garments and sundry patches of skin, but in time to take part in the death of as grand a boar as ever roamed the Spanish sierras.
In a pool of the rock-strewn brook, the beast stood at bay, "Moro's" teeth clenched in one ear and two podencos attacking in flank and rear. One by one the scattered guns turned up: some, who had taken a circuitous course, arriving before others whose ardour had led them to follow direct—so dense was the brushwood and rugged the sierra.
A picturesque group stood assembled around the blood-dyed pool with its wild environment and bold mountain background; but rejoicings were tempered by the loss of two of our podencos , one having been killed outright, the other found in a hopelessly wounded condition at the point of the first conflict. The boar proved a magnificent brute, one of the true grey-brindled type— de los Castellanos , weighing over lbs.
The wild-boars of the sierras run larger than those of the plains, some being said to reach lbs. Beneath the outer grizzly bristles lies a reddish woolly fur. We were soon mounted and steering for another mancha , where, late in the afternoon, two sows and a small boar were found and driven forward through the line of guns. One fell to a fine shot from our host's brother, the others escaping scathless. Night was already upon us ere the party re-assembled, and we rode off amidst the shadows of the forest-glades, to fight the battles of the day again and again round the cheery blaze in the courtyard of our mountain-home.
Plate VI. A characteristic and withal a truly noble and ornamental object is the Great Bustard, on those vast stretches of silent corn-lands which form his home. Among the things of sport are few more attractive scenes than a band of bustards at rest. Bring your field-glass to bear on that gathering which you see yonder, basking in the sunshine, in full enjoyment of their siesta. There are four-or five-and-twenty of them, and how immense they look against the background of sprouting corn that covers the landscape: well may a stranger mistake them for deer or goats.
Most of the birds are sitting turkey-fashion, their heads sunk among the feathers: others stand in drowsy yet half-suspicious attitudes, their broad backs resplendent with those mottled hues of true game-colour, their lavender necks and well-poised heads contrasting with the snowy whiteness of their lower plumage. The bustards are dotted in groups over an acre or two of the gently sloping ground, the highest part of which is occupied by a single big barbudo , a bearded veteran, the sentinel of the party.
From his elevated position he estimates what degree of danger each living thing that moves on the open region around may threaten to his companions and himself. Mounted men cause him less concern than those on foot: a horseman slowly directing a circuitous course may even approach to within a couple of hundred yards of him before he takes alarm.
It was the head and neck of this sentry that first appeared to our distant view, and disclosed the whereabouts of the game. He, too, has seen us, and is even now considering whether there is sufficient cause for putting his convoy in motion. If we disappear below the level of his range he will settle the point negatively; setting us down as only some of those agricultural nuisances which so often cause him alarm, but which his experience has shown to be generally harmless—for attempts on his life are few and far between. Another charming spectacle it is in the summer-time to watch a pack of bustards about sunset, all busy with their evening feed among the grasshoppers on a thistle-covered plain.
They are working against time, for it will soon be too dark for them to catch such lively prey. With quick, darting step they run to and fro, picking up one grasshopper after another with unerring aim, and so intent on their feed that the best chance of the day is then offered to their pursuer, when greed, for the moment, supplants caution, and vigilance is relaxed. But even now a man on foot stands no chance of coming near them; his approach is observed from afar, all heads are up above the thistles, all eyes intent on the intruder: a moment or two of doubt, two quick steps and a spring, and the strong wings of every bird in the band flap in slowly-rising motion.
The tardiness and apparent difficulty in rising from the ground which these birds exhibit is well expressed in their Spanish name Avetarda ,  and is recognized in their scientific cognomen of Otis tarda. Once on the wing, the whole pack is off, with wide swinging flight, to the highest ground in the neighbourhood. Plate VII. During the greater part of the year the bustards are far too wary to be obtained by the farm-hands and shepherds who see them every day; and so accustomed are the peasants to the sight of these noble birds that little or no notice is taken of them.
Their haunts and habits not being studied, their pursuit is regarded as impracticable. There is, however, one period of the year when the Great Bustard falls an easy prey to the clumsiest of gunners. During the long Andalucian summer a torrid sun has drunk up every brook and stream that crosses the cultivated lands: the chinky, cracked mud, which in winter formed the bed of shallow lakes and lagoons, now yields no drop of moisture for bird or beast.
The larger rivers still carry their waters from sierra to sea, but a more adaptive genius than that of the Spanish people is required to utilize these for purposes of irrigation. All water required for the cattle is drawn up from wells: the old-world lever with its bucket at one end and counterpoise at the other, has to provide for the needs of all.
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These wells are distributed all over the plains. As the herdsmen put the primitive contrivance into operation and swing up bucket after bucketful of cool water, the cattle crowd around, impatient to receive it as it rushes along the stone troughing. The thirsty animals drink their fill, splashing and wasting as much as they consume, so that a puddle is always formed about these bebideros.
The moisture only extends a few yards, gradually diminishing till the trickling streamlet is lost in the famishing soil. These moist places are a fatal trap to the bustard. Before dawn one of the farm-people will conceal himself so as to command at short range all points of the miniature swamp. A slight hollow is dug for the purpose, having clods arranged around, between which the gun can be levelled with murderous accuracy.
As day begins to dawn, the bustard will take a flight in the direction of the well, alighting at a point some few hundred yards distant. They satisfy themselves that no enemy is about, and then, with cautious, stately step, make for their morning draught. One big bird steps on ahead of the rest: as he cautiously draws near, he stops now and again to assure himself that all is right, and that his companions are coming too—these are not in a compact body, but following at intervals of a few yards.
The leader has reached the spot where he drank yesterday; now he finds he must go a little nearer to the well, as the streamlet has been diverted; another bird follows close; both lower their heads to drink; the gunner has them in line—at twenty paces there is no escape: the trigger is pressed, and two magnificent bustards are done to death. Should the man be provided with a second barrel which is not usual , a third victim may be added to his morning's spoils. Large numbers of bustards are destroyed thus every summer.
It is deadly work, and certain. Were the haunts of the birds more studied, bustards might be annihilated on these treacherous lines. Another primitive mode of capturing the Great Bustard is also practised in winter. The increased value of game during the colder months induces the bird-catchers, who supply the markets with myriads of ground-larks, linnets and buntings, occasionally to direct their skill towards the capture of the avetardas.
They employ the same means as for the taking of the small fry—the cencerro , or cattle-bell, and dark lantern. As most cattle carry the cencerro around their necks, the sound of the bells at close quarters by night causes no alarm to the ground birds. The birdcatcher, with his bright candle gleaming before its reflector and the cattle-bell jingling at his wrist, prowls nightly over the stubbles and wastes in search of roosting birds. Any number of bewildered victims can thus be gathered, for larks and such-like birds fall into a helpless state of panic when once focussed in the bright rays of the lantern.
When the bustard is the object of pursuit, two men are required, one of whom carries a gun. The pack of bustard will be carefully watched during the afternoon, and not lost sight of when night comes until their sleeping-quarters are ascertained. When quite dark, the tinkling of the cencerro will be heard, and a ray of light will surround the devoted bustards, charming or frightening them—whichever it may be—into still life.
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As the familiar sound of the cattle-bell becomes louder and nearer, the ray of light brighter and brighter, and the surrounding darkness more intense, the bustards are too charmed, or too dazed, to fly. Then comes the report, and a charge of heavy shot works havoc among them. As bands of bustards are numerous, this poaching plan might be carried out night after night: but, luckily, the bustards will not stand the same experience twice.
On a second attempt being made, they are off as soon as the light is seen approaching. Hence the use of the cencerro is precarious, at least as regards the bustards. Except for the two clumsy artifices above described, the bustards are left practically unmolested; their wildness and the open nature of their haunts defy all the strategy of native fowlers. Their eggs are deposited on the ground when it is covered with the green April corn: incubation and the rearing of the young takes place amid the security of vast silent stretches of waving corn.
The young bustards grow with the wheat, and ere it is cut are able to take care of themselves. It is just after harvest that the game is most numerous and conspicuous. The stubbles are then bare, and even the fallows which during spring bear heavy swathes of weeds, have now lost all their covert. The summer sun has pulverized and consumed all vegetation, and, but for a few chance patches of thistles, charlock or aramagos , there is nothing that can screen the birds from view. A more legitimate method of outwitting the Great Bustard is practised at this—the summer—period.
After harvest, when the country is being cleared of crops, or when all are cut and in sheaf, the bustards become accustomed daily to see the bullock-carts carros passing with creaking wheel, on all sides, carrying off the sheaves from the stubbles to the era , or levelled ground where the grain is trodden out, Spanish-fashion, by teams of mares.
The loan of a carro , with its pair of bullocks and a man to guide them, having been obtained from one of the corn-farms, the cart is rigged up with esteras —that is, an esparto matting is stretched round the poles which, fixed on the sides, serve to hold the load of sheaves in position. A few sacks of straw thrown upon the floor of the cart serve to save one, in some small degree, from the merciless jolting of this primitive conveyance on rough ground.
One, two, or even three guns can find room in the carro , the driver lying forward, near enough to direct the bullocks and urge them on by means of a goad, which he works through a hole in the esteras.
At a distance this moving battery looks a good deal like a load of straw. The search for bustard now begins, and well do we remember the terrible suffocating heat we have endured, shut up in this thing for hours in the blazing days of July and August. Bustards being found, the bullocks are cleverly directed, gradually circling inwards, the goad during the final moments freely applied.
When the cart is stopped, instantly the birds rise. Previous to finding game, each man has made for himself a hole in the estera , through which he has been practising the handling of his gun. So far as practice goes, his arrangements appear perfect enough; but somehow, when the cart stops, the birds rise, and the moment for action has arrived, the game seems always to fly in a direction you cannot command, or where the narrow slit will not allow you to cover them. Hence we have adopted the plan of sliding off behind just as the cart was pulling up, thus firing the two barrels with much greater freedom.
We have enjoyed excellent sport by this means, and succeeded in bringing many bustards to bag during the day. And after a long summer-day shut up in this rude contrivance, creaking and jolting across stubble and fallow, a deep cool draught of gazpacho at the farm is indeed delicious to parched throats and tongues. Another system by which the Great Bustard can be brought to bag is by driving, and right royal sport it affords at certain seasons.
The most favourable period is the early spring—especially the month of March. The male birds are then in their most perfect plumage and condition, with the gorgeous chestnut ruff fully developed, and in the early mornings they present an imposing spectacle, as with lowered neck, trailing wings, and expanded tail, they strut round and round in stately circles—" echando la rueda "—before an admiring harem, somewhat after the fashion of the blackcock; though whether the bustard is polygamous is a question we discuss in another chapter. At this season March the corn is sufficiently grown to afford covert for the gunners, but not to conceal these great birds when feeding, i.
Hence an early start is necessary. When likely corn-lands are reached, one man advances to reconnoitre: having descried a band of bustards and taken a comprehensive view of the surrounding country, he must at once decide on his line of action. The bustards are perhaps a mile away: the leader must therefore have a "good eye for a country"—much, in fact, depends on his rapid intuition of the lie of the land and local circumstances, his knowledge of the habits and flights of the birds, and his ability to utilize the smallest natural advantages of ground or cover— small indeed these are sure to be, invisible to untrained eye.
The first great object is to bring the guns, unseen, as near the game as possible. If any miscalculation occurs, and the advancing sportsmen expose themselves for a moment, then, very literally, "the game is up" and the pack escapes unharmed. When the birds are found settled on a hillside, it is sometimes not difficult to place the guns on the reverse slope, and so near the summit that the sportsman, stretched full length on the earth, has the birds within shot almost before their danger is exposed. But it must be noted that the sight of the bustard is extraordinarily keen, and the slightest unusual object on the monotonous plain is sure to be detected.
As a rule, if the gunner can see the bustards, they too will have seen him and will swerve from their course before approaching within range. But, generally speaking except during the spring-shooting , there is hardly a vestige of anything like covert for the gunner: sometimes by lucky chance, a dry watercourse may be available, or a solitary clump of palmettos—even a few dead thistles may prove invaluable. These two circumstances explain the numerous disappointments that attend bustard-driving on the corn-plains. Time being allowed to place the guns, two or three men start to ride round the bustards at considerable distance, gradually approaching them from a direction which will incline their flight towards the hidden guns.
Through long practice these men become very expert; more than once we have seen a pack of the most stiff-necked undrivable bustards turned in mid-flight by a judicious gallop—executed at the very nick of time—and directed right towards the guns; and we have also known birds so delicately treated that instead of rising before the slowly-advancing horsemen, they have quietly walked away and startled the sportsman by striding over a ridge within a few yards of his prostrate form.
Plate VIII. Broken ground is the exception in any district much affected by bustard; and therefore the most must be made of the slight undulations which these rolling plains afford. When a party of five or six guns are well placed, it is unusual for the pack to get away without offering a shot to one or more of the sportsmen. Strange to say, they not infrequently escape. We know not what the cause may be—whether the apparently slow flight—really very fast—or the huge bulk of the birds deceives, or otherwise—yet some of the best shots at ordinary driven game are often perplexed at their bad records against the avetardas.
Long shots, it is true, are the rule: longer far than one dreams of taking at home—and such ranges require extreme forward allowance: yet many birds at close quarters are let off. A memorable sight is a huge barbon , or male bustard, when he suddenly finds himself within range of a pair of choke-bore barrels—so near that one can see his eye! How he ploughs through the air with redoubled efforts of those enormous wings, and hopes by putting on the pace to escape from danger.
It is when only one man and his driver are after bustard that the cream of this sport is enjoyed. The work then resembles deer-stalking, for the sportsman must necessarily creep up very close to his game in order to have any fair chance of a shot. Unless he has wormed his way to within yards before the birds are raised, the odds are long against success. Gratifying indeed is the triumph when, after many efforts, and as many disappointments, one at length outmatches them, and secures a heavy bag by a single right-and-left. By way of illustration, we give, in the next chapter, descriptions of bustard-shooting, 1 driving with a party in the ordinary way, and 2 Stalking and driving to a single gun.
Such, roughly described, are the two chief recognized systems of shooting the Great Bustard: i. There remains, however, another method by which this game may be brought to bag—one which we may claim to have ourselves invented and brought to some degree of perfection—namely:. At one period of the year about May , just before the corn comes into ear, and when the male bustards are banded together, they are much more accessible, the corn being high all around them, and the guns more easily concealed.
But the objections from a farmer's point of view are obvious, and we have rarely followed them under these conditions, though it is a favourite period with Spanish sportsmen.