“I don’t know about wiping my eye,” answered his father, turning quite purple with rage, “but I wish you would be good enough, Thomas, not to shoot my hares behind, so that they make that beastly row which upsets me” (I think that the Red-faced Man was really kind at the bottom) “and spoils them for the market. If you can’t hit a hare in front, miss it like a gentleman.”
“As you do, Dad,” said Tom, sniggering again. “All right, I’ll try.”
“Giles,” roared Grampus, pretending not to hear, “send your dog and fetch that hare. I can’t bear its screeching.”
So that great black dog rushed forward and caught my poor father in its big mouth, although he tried to drag himself away on his front paws, and after that I shut my eyes.
Then a lot of partridges got up and there was any amount of banging, though most of them were missed. This made the Red-faced Man angrier than ever. He took off his hat and waved it, bellowing—
“Call back that brute of a dog of yours, Giles. Call it back at once or I’ll shoot it.”
So Giles called, “Nigger. Come you ’ere, Nigger! Nigg, Nigg, Nigg!”
But Nigger rushed about putting up partridges all over the place while Grampus stamped and shouted and every one missed everything, till at last Tom sat down on the turnips and roared with laughter.
At length, after Giles had beaten Nigger till he broke a stick over him, making him howl terribly, order was restored, and the line having reformed, began to march down on me. For, Mahatma, I was so frightened by what had happened to my father, and I think my mother, that I didn’t remember what he, I mean my dead father, had told me, always to run away when there is a chance, as poor hares can only protect themselves by flight.
So as I had lost the chance I thought that I would just sit tight, hoping that they would not see me. Nor indeed would they if it hadn’t been for that horrible Tom.
During the confusion the mother partridge which the Red-faced Man had shot had been forgotten by everybody except Tom. Tom, you see, was certain that he had shot it himself, being a very obstinate boy, and was determined to retrieve it as his own.
Now that partridge had fallen within a yard of me, with its beak and claws pointing to the sky, and when the line had passed where we lay Tom lagged behind to look for it. He did not find it then, whether he ever found it afterwards I am sure I don’t know. But he found me.
“By Jove! here’s a hare,” he said, and made a grab at me just as he had done in the furze bush.
Well, I went. Tom shot when I wasn’t more than four yards from him, and the whole charge passed like a bullet between my hind legs and struck the ground under my stomach, sending up such a shower of earth and stones that I was knocked right over.
“I’ve hit it!” yelled Tom, as he crammed another cartridge into his single-barrelled gun.