After off-saddling and knee-haltering my horse, I looked into the various rooms to see what sort of a man was the inhabitant. It needed only a glance into his bedroom in this ramshackle hut to see that he was one of the right sort, for there, in a glass on the window-sill, were two tooth-brushes.
I argued that he was an Englishman and of cleanly habits, and would do for me as a host—and I was not mistaken in the result!
The game of Hide-and-Seek is really one of the best games for a boy, and can be elaborated until it becomes scouting in the field. It teaches you a lot.
I was strongly addicted to it as a child, and the craft learned in that innocent field of sport has stood me in good stead in many a critical time since. To lie flat in a furrow among the currant bushes when I had not time to reach the neighbouring box bushes before the pursuer came in sight taught me the value of not using the most obvious cover, since it would at once be searched. The hunters went at once to the box bushes as the likely spot, while I could watch their doings from among the stems of the currant bushes.
Often I have seen hostile scouts searching the obvious bits of cover, but they did not find me there; and, like the elephant hunter among the fern trees, or a boar in a cotton crop, so a boy in the currant bushes is invisible to the enemy, while he can watch every move of the enemy’s legs.
This I found of value when I came to be pursued by mounted military police, who suspected me of being a spy at some manoeuvres abroad. After a rare chase I scrambled over a wall and dropped into an orchard of low fruit trees. Here squatting in a ditch, I watched the legs of the gendarmes’ horses while they quartered the plantation, and when they drew away from me I crept to the bank of a deep water channel which formed one of the boundaries of the enclosure. Here I found a small plank bridge by which I could cross, but before doing so I loosened the near end, and passed over, dragging the plank after me.
On the far side the country was open, and before I had gone far the gendarmes spied me, and after a hurried consultation, dashed off at a gallop for the nearest bridge, half a mile away. I promptly turned back, replaced my bridge and recrossed the stream, throwing the plank into the river, and made my way past the village to the next station down the line while the horsemen were still hunting for me in the wrong place.
Another secret that one picked up at the game of Hide-and-Seek was, if possible, to get above the level of the hunter’s eye, and to “freeze”—that is, to sit tight without a movement, and, although not in actual concealment, you are very apt to escape notice by so doing. I found it out long ago by lying flat along the top of an ivy-clad wall when my pursuers passed within a few feet of me without looking up at me. I put it to the proof later on by sitting on a bank beside the road, just above the height of a man, but so near that I might have touched a passer-by with a fishing-rod; and there I sat without any concealment and counted fifty-four wayfarers, out of whom no more than eleven noticed me.