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First published in Chums, Cassell & Co., London, 19 August 1916

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2023
Version Date: 2023-07-17

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Headpiece from Chums, 19 August 1916

A Sweet Lure

KIT GODWIN, Squire Corynton's youthful keeper, had just sat down to supper when Billy, his younger brother, came in.

Billy, who was employed at the village shop, was naturally the first to hear the local gossip; but he was a singularly silent boy, and it was not until after he had washed and taken his seat at the table that he came out with his news.

"A chap has taken Wincott," he announced briefly.

Kit looked up sharply. This was news, indeed. Wincott was the next place to Cleave, on the north, and the boundaries ran together for more than a mile.

"Who is he?" he inquired eagerly.

"Coope is his name," said Billy curtly. His tone aroused Kit's curiosity.

"What's wrong with him?" he asked.

"Everything," was the comprehensive reply. "He's one of these 'jumped up' chaps."

"What they call 'new rich,' suggested Kit.

"That hits it. Behaves as if he'd spent his life sweating girls in a factory, and tries to treat every one else the same way. He was in the shop to-day—he and his son. The son's worse than his father."

Kit looked grave. These were not the sort of people to have as neighbours. He smelt trouble at once.

By dint of questioning he learnt that this person Coope and his son Edgar were already in residence at Wincott, that they intended to shoot, and—most extraordinary news of all—that they had engaged Sim Lagden as keeper.

"You'll have to keep your eyes skinned, Kit," said Billy.

Kit looked grave.

"You're right, Billy. Sim will make trouble now he's got the chance."

"Don't worry," advised Billy calmly. "I'll lend a hand any time you want."

Kit did not smile. He would not have hurt Billy's feelings for worlds; and, in any case, Billy, small as he was, had already shown that he could give useful assistance at a pinch.

For some days after this conversation Kit made a point of visiting the boundary line between the two places whenever he had the time. But, though he heard shots occasionally, he saw nothing of the new proprietors, nor did he set eyes on Sim.

It was beautiful weather, with warm breezes in the day time and a touch of frost at nights. The leaves were changing, and pheasant shooting had begun. Not that there was very much of this on Cleave, for the estate ran chiefly to tillage and pasture, and the biggest head of game was partridge. Still, there were a few good plantations, and in these the longtails were being carefully looked after. The squire expected his son and a brother officer to be home on leave from the front towards the end of the month, and was saving his birds for their benefit.

By far the best of the plantations, so far as pheasants were concerned, was Ashe Wood, u long narrow wood which lay on a gentle slope right on the borders of Cleave, overlooking the Wincott estate. This held quite a good stock of birds, and Kit visited it as often as possible.

A hedge and a bank divided the wood from the outer field of Wincott, forming the boundary line between the two properties; and one morning, just a week after Billy had given him the news about the Coopes, Kit was prowling quietly along, close under the Cleave side of the hedge. His square brown face was clouded, there was a distinctly worried look in his honest blue eyes, and as he went he stopped occasionally and peered through small openings in the hedge.

What he saw was pheasants moving in the rough pasture beyond.

Nothing wonderful in that, you may say, for pheasants naturally take no particular notice of boundary lines. To birds one property is much the same as another.

But Kit had good reason for being worried. There were too many pheasants over there to be natural. He could count nearly a score walking about and pecking here and there. They were Cleave birds, every one of them. So far as game preserving went, the Wincott estate had been shockingly neglected for years past. There were no pheasants on the place except strays. Why, then, had the Cleave birds left their barley and ants' eggs which he had scattered in their own wood, and gone across into Wincott?

Knowing that scamp Sim Lagden as well as he did, Kit could see only one answer to the problem. In one word, "raisins."

Now a pheasant is fond of barley, and delights in ants' eggs. But there is a delicacy which the bird sets high above all others. That is raisins. And Kit had more than a suspicion that Sim Lagden, with or without the knowledge of his employers, was deliberately tempting the Cleave birds out of their own ground by scattering raisins in the field.

He suspected, but he badly wanted to be sure, and from his side of the hedge he could not actually see on what the birds were feeding. Near a narrow gap he paused. He put his head through the hedge and looked all around.

There was no one about. The big rough pasture, so far as he could see, was empty. True, there was a good deal of gorse about, but he had been watching for some time and had seen no movement in it.

He put his head into the gap, crawled quietly through, and dropped gently down into the ditch below. Again he paused and looked about, but the place seemed as deserted as ever, and presently he walked out towards the spot where the pheasants had been feeding.

The birds, at his approach, scattered, not flying, but running for cover.

He reached the spot, stooped, and an angry exclamation escaped his lips. Sure enough, there lay a couple of raisins half hidden in the grass.

A heavy step startled him, and, springing up, he found himself face to face with a thick-set young man of perhaps twenty-five, a man with a bullet head, a heavy, pasty face, prominent, green-grey eyes, and a hard, thin-lipped mouth. He was got up in a suit of staring tweeds and brand-new yellow gaiters.

"What the blazes are you doing here?" he demanded angrily. His voice was thick and harsh, and every bit as unpleasant as his appearance. "So I have caught you trespassing, you brat. I thought I should if I waited long enough."

As he spoke, his large hand dropped heavily on Kit's shoulder.

Kit shook it off and sprang back.

"Trespassing, am I?" he exclaimed indignantly. "Well, I've got some reason to. Look at these raisins!"

Edgar Coope, for it was he without a doubt, glanced down in the direction Kit was pointing. He shrugged his heavy shoulders.

"Raisins—what do I care for raisins? It was not raisins you came after; it was my pheasants."

"Your pheasants, indeed!" Kit was furious. "Everyone of them are our birds—cut of the Cleave coverts."

"Birds belong on the land where they are found," returned Coope sneeringly. "Anyhow, I have caught you trespassing, and I shall prosecute you."

Kit pulled himself together. It was no use losing his temper with this heavy brute, and, in any case, he was aware that he was in the wrong. He was only thankful that he had left his gun on his own side of the hedge. But he knew the law as to trespass, and, quick as a flash, he took a sixpence out of his pocket and offered it to Coope.

"I tender this in payment for any damage I have done," he said quickly.

Coope stared at him in dull amazement.

"What do you think you are doing?" he demanded.

"I am offering to pay for any damage I have done by trespassing," replied Kit quietly. "As I have no gun you cannot say I am in pursuit of game."

Coope's thick cheeks went a dull crimson.

"You insolent young blackguard!" he roared. "So you are trying to insult me?"

"Nothing of the sort. I am merely complying with the law," Kit answered.

"The law! I will have the law on you," bellowed the other, and made a fresh grab at the boy.

Kit sprang away again, then, running back to the gap, slipped lightly through and stopped.

The other, realising that he might as well try to catch an eel, pulled up.

"That will not help you," he shouted. "I know who you are, you young sweep. Sure as my name is Coope, I will summons you."

"Do!" said Kit blandly; "and see what the bench will say about the raisins."

Leaving his antagonist fairly foaming, he went off briskly.

Kit trusted that he had heard the last of the episode. If Coope went to a lawyer, the latter would certainly refuse to help him. He was therefore rather staggered when, that evening, a message came for him to go at once to the Hall.

Mr. Corynton was seated in his library, behind his big black oak writing-table, and there was a stern look upon his face which made Kit distinctly uncomfortable.

"I hear that you have been trespassing on the Wincott grounds, Godwin," he said severely. "Have I not warned you to be most careful about that sort of thing?"

"You have, sir," Kit; answered frankly; "but when it comes to people laying raisins to tempt our birds over the boundary, I thought it was time the matter was looked into."

"Raisins!" exclaimed the squire. "I heard nothing of that."

"You would not, sir." And Kit rapidly sketched his side of the story.

Mr. Corynton still frowned.

"This is intensely annoying," he said sharply. "It is, of course, the work of that scamp Lagden, whom I understand Mr. Coope has engaged as keeper."

Kit was silent.

"Well, what do you think, Godwin?" demanded the squire irritably.

"I think, sir, judging from what I have seen and heard, that Mr. Coope and his son know as much about it as Lagden."

Mr. Corynton grew still more vexed.

"What right have you to say such a thing as that, Godwin? Mr. Coope has taken a long lease of Wincott. I understand he has introductions from Lord Merivale and other well-known people. Why should he descend to such a trick?"

It was on the tip of Kit's tongue to say: "Because he is a cad and no sportsman," but he refrained. The squire was clearly in no mood for argument. So he remained silent.

"You must not make rash accusations of this kind, Godwin," continued Mr. Corynton peremptorily. "A boy like you gets prejudices, and acts upon them unthinkingly. I have had a most unpleasant letter from Mr. Coope, in which he not only accuses you of trespassing, but says that you were extremely rude to his son."

He paused, but Kit kept his mouth shut.

"If you had not done so well during the past six months, Godwin," said the squire, "I should be strongly inclined to dismiss you. As it is, I give you fair warning that, if I have any similar complaint in the future, I shall get rid of you at once. I will not have trouble with my neighbours. You quite understand?"

"Quite, sir," Kit answered rather stiffly. He was not only annoyed, but deeply hurt that his employer should have taken such a tone, and he went home in a state of mind more worried and depressed than he ever remembered.

Billy, when he heard his brother's story, was more sympathetic than usual.

"The squire's crazy!" he said emphatically. "If he'd had any sense he'd have told those men to go and hang. Why, you've only to look at them to see what sort of swabs they are!"

"But the squire hasn't seen them," Kit answered hastily. "And you know how he hates having rows with neighbours."

"Pretty sort of neighbours!" declared Billy contemptuously. "But buck up, Kit!" he continued. "People like that always put both feet in it sooner or later. Then you'll get your own back."

Billy's sympathy cheered Kit somewhat, but all the same Kit did not feel like waiting an indefinite time for things to clear up. Under all his good nature there was a very dogged streak, and his mind was very firmly set on getting his own back, if it was in any way possible.

Poaching Just the Job

NEXT morning Kit was up in Ashe Wood again, but this time he kept well out of sight among the trees.

Presently he heard two shots fired, and, creeping forward, spotted Coope junior on the far side of the fence, with a smoking gun in his hands. A little way off, Sim Lagden was in the act of picking up two pheasants which, by their mangled appearance, had evidently been shot at very close range.

Kit's blood boiled. They were birds he had reared himself, and this sort of thing was the very worst and meanest kind of poaching. He lay behind the bank for a long time, hoping against hope that Coope might, in his turn, be tempted to trespass. But all the rest of the birds had now flown back far into the wood, and presently Edgar Coope and his satellite sheered off.

As Kit walked away through the wood, racking his brains for some method of getting even with this precious pair, he caught a glint of bright feathers among the dead bracken in his path, and, stooping, picked up a dead pheasant.

The bird was cold and stiff. It had been dead some days. A fresh surge of anger swept through him. This was more of Coope's work. The poor wounded creature had crept back into the wood to die.

He was on the point of throwing the body into a ditch, when he pulled up short, and stood staring at the dead bird in his hand.

"It might work," he said, with sudden eagerness. "Yes, it might work. Jove! it's worth trying, anyhow." Stuffing the bird into his pocket he hurried off home.

Next morning he was out even earlier than usual, and as soon as his varied tasks about the kennels and ferret hutches were finished, went straight off to Ashe Wood.

First he peered out into the gorse field, but saw with relief that it was empty, and next he became extremely busy opposite the gap in the hedge. His work finished, he dropped into the centre of a thick clump of brown bracken and lay there as quiet as a field mouse.

His perch was on rising ground, and through a gap in the trees just ahead he was able to see not only the field opposite, but a patch of open ground which sloped down towards the Cleave side of the hedge.

He lay so still that a jay perched on a branch overhead, while a squirrel, intent on its own affairs, crossed the open in front, and, discovering a fallen beech-nut, sat up on its hind legs and ate it there and then.

Several pheasants moved across, but did not go through the hedge. It was not worth while. To-day there were plenty of raisins on this side.

Some time passed. Suddenly the squirrel pricked its tufted ears and bolted. Kit raised himself a trifle, and his heart beat a little more rapidly than usual as he caught sight of three men coming up through the gorse.

They were still a long way off, and the pheasants, bolder than the squirrel, still fed undisturbed.

It was at this moment that Kit caught a step in the wood behind him. A look of positive agony crossed his face. Were all his plans to be brought to naught by some chance passer-by? He waited in desperate anxiety, but to his intense relief the sound died away, and all was still again.

The three men on the Wincott side came up very cautiously, hiding as much as they could behind the gorse. Kit's lip curled. It really looked as though they were trying to stalk the unfortunate pheasants.

As they came nearer he recognised Sim Lagden and Edgar Coope. The third was a larger, coarser edition of Edgar, and Kit decided that he must be Edgar's father. All were carrying guns.

Presently they came to the edge of the gorse and peered out. They were so near that Kit could actually see the expression of disappointment on the faces of the two Coopes.

"There are no pheasants here," complained Coope senior in a throaty growl.

"There have been every other day," explained his son. "But you've made such a beastly noise coming through the gorse that you have frightened them off."

"Me make a noise!" began the elder man angrily. But his hopeful son cut him short.

"Keep quiet!" he muttered, and pointed. "There are two pheasants on the ground just on the far side of the hedge."

"But it is not our ground—that," answered Coope senior.

"Never mind. We'll have them. It will be a fine way of getting even with that insolent young cub of a keeper."

Kit almost laughed. All was working out exactly as he had hoped.

Just then Sim Lagden came forward and touched Edgar Coope on the arm. What he said Kit could not hear, but Edgar nodded, and Sim stole forward quietly.

He came right up to the hedge and peered through. He looked all round in every direction, but Kit, hidden in his snug retreat, was, of course, invisible.

Silently as he had come, Sim returned. He had moved so noiselessly that he had not even disturbed the pheasants feeding in the open patch on the Cleave side of the hedge. Kit waited with growing anxiety.

But Sim's report was evidently encouraging, for the two Coopes at once moved forward towards the hedge.

Kit breathed quickly as he watched. Presently the hedge cut off his view, but he could still hear the wheezing of the elder Coope. It was clear that this gentleman was not accustomed to exercise of any kind. A minute passed; then two heads rose slowly in the gap, two anxious faces showed, and two pairs of gun-barrels gleamed in the morning sun.

Most of the pheasants had by this time taken alarm and disappeared. Two only remained. These stood, oddly still, in a wisp of bracken, close under a small thorn tree which grew a little to Kit's left.

Slowly the guns were levelled at the unsuspecting birds. Disgust struggled with amusement in Kit's face. Never before in all his life had he seen a man shoot a sitting bird, yet plainly that was the actual intention of these two beauties.

With a crash, the two guns spoke simultaneously, and over rolled both birds.

"Got 'em!" exclaimed the younger Coope, as he sprang to his feet. "All right, father, I'll fetch them."

He scrambled up out of the ditch, plunged clumsily through the gap, and ran towards the birds.

Kit saw him stoop and pick up the first. Then his face changed, his jaw dropped, and he stood staring at the dead pheasant with an expression of such absurd dismay that Kit could not keep back a chuckle.

"What's the matter?" cried the elder Coope from the ditch. "What's the matter, Edgar?"

"Matter! Why—why, it's a stuffed bird!" howled Edgar Coope.

He dropped it and picked up the second.

"This is stuffed too!" he almost screamed. He swung round, facing his father. "This is some of that keeper brat's work," he declared in a tone of intense viciousness.

Kit sprang to his feet. He choked back his mirth with difficulty.

"You are quite right, Mr. Coope. I stuffed them, and I sat them there; and now, if you please, you will come straight up to the squire with me."

Coope stood glaring at him. His heavy face was perfectly crimson; his eyes were nearly bursting out of his head. He tried to speak, but at first could only make a sort of stuttering sound.

Suddenly he made a mad rush at Kit. He had his gun by the barrels, and was swinging it round his head.

"You young b-blackguard!" he stammered; "I'll kill you for this."

Kit sprang hastily back, but luck was against him. He caught his heel in the tough bracken, and went over backwards. Next moment the gun butt was whirling in the air above him.

He flung up his hands to save his head, but Coope was quite beside himself, and that moment would in all probability have been Kit's last but for a most unexpected interference.

Out from the thick screen of bushes close behind the bracken patch stepped a sturdy figure in well-worn grey tweeds.

"Put that gun down!" thundered a voice; and the squire himself, a thick oak stick in his hand, stood over the prostrate figure of his young keeper, facing the furious Coope. The latter quailed. He stepped back.

"You infernal blackguard!" said the squire. He was not one to mince words when really stirred. "You poaching vagabond! No, don't attempt to defend yourself. I have seen the whole disgraceful business from beginning to end.


"You poaching vagabond! I have seen the whole
disgraceful business from beginning to end."

"First you tempt my pheasants off my ground with raisins, and poach them in an abominable way. Not content with that, you must follow them on to my own ground and shoot them sitting! Sitting!" he roared. "Good heavens, who ever heard of such a thing? What do you call yourself—a sportsman?"

The contempt with which the squire uttered the last word was simply indescribable. Even the thick-hided Coope squirmed.

"We—we haven't killed any of your game, anyhow," he whined.

"No fault of yours, that!" retorted the squire. "The intention was obvious, and there are two witnesses to your performances. Though I shall not, of course, be on the bench myself I know very well what view my brother magistrates will take of the case."

"You—you don't mean to prosecute?" gasped Coope.

"Not prosecute!" exclaimed the squire. "What do you take me for—a fool? I may be, but not foolish enough to let such a pair as you and your father off, who behave in a fashion which factory hands from Newton would be ashamed of."

The elder Coope had meantime climbed painfully through the gap and come up.

"But—but, Mr. Corynton, it would be a very serious thing for me," he wheezed. "I—I trust that you will not resort to such an extreme measure. I am willing to apologise."

"Apologise!" The squire fairly exploded, and proceeded to give the pompous idiot such a tongue lashing as left him livid and shaking. "A man like you to take a place in Devonshire and associate with gentlemen!" he concluded, with bitter sarcasm. "Why, the dirtiest poacher in the country would be ashamed to associate with you."

The Coopes had lost all their braggadocio. They were clearly in a dreadful fright.

"If there is any way in which we can make amends we shall be glad to," said the elder Coope humbly.

The squire stared at the fellow.

"I'll see you hanged first," he said curtly. "Meantime you had better get off my land as quickly as possible."

They went—hurriedly.

Mr. Corynton turned to Kit.

"Come with me," he said.

For some distance the two walked in silence. When the squire spoke again it was in a more natural tone.

"I am sorry for what I said to you the other day, Godwin. You were right and I was wrong. I congratulate you on the clever way in which you have found these people out."

Kit flushed with pleasure.

"Now, suppose you come up to the house, and have some dinner in the housekeeper's room?" continued the squire. "And—and, Godwin, I may say I am very pleased with you, all round. For a boy of your age, you have done remarkably well. I shall raise your wages half a crown a week from now on."

"So you did the trick, Kit?" said Billy, as he came in that evening to supper.

"What do you know about it?" asked Kit in surprise. He had fancied that the news had not gone beyond him and the squire.

"Not much," replied Billy, in his brief way. "But as old Coope and his son took tickets for London this afternoon, and have sacked Sim Lagden, I imagine they've had something in the way of a knock."

"They have," laughed Kit, and told his story.

"They won't appear before the bench. I'll bet on that," was Billy's comment.

He was right. The Cooper were represented by a solicitor, who paid the thumping fine imposed. They themselves let Wincott, and were never again seen in the county.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.