Even then, Minahane couldn't leave it alone. Flushed with Paddy, he announced a recitation, and what should he give us but Nell Flaherty's Drake, that remarkable poem which outlines in seven vindictive stanzas the curses heaped on the villain that slaughtered the harmless creature:
The dear little fella
His legs they were yella
He'd fly like a swallow or dive like a hake:
But some dirty savage
To grease his white cabbage
Has murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful drake.
That was it. Georges knew enough English to respond instantly. "The ducks, they await us," he cried, and, though it was 10 minutes more before we got Andr� out onto the road, we were eventually organized, the dogs in the trunk and Minahane pointing out virtuously that we had wasted enough time and that there was a fine head of birds on Corran Lake.
We crossed a field to get to the lake valley. There, peacefully feeding, were two dozen green plover. Georges' eyes gleamed. "May we shoot these?" he asked. "Shoot anything you like, me old stock," said Minahane, winking heavily at me. Georges gave them both barrels, and they took off laboriously, leaving one of their number behind. Andr� focused long enough to take this in. "Assassin!" he carolled. "Regardez l'assassin!" Georges remained unabashed. He also now had a bird at his belt.
Once again we split into two parties to beat the lakeshore, one on either bank. We worked down through the bogland. "Stay behind me and you'll never get your feet wet," whispered Minahane to me. "Watch that fella now." That fella was Georges, in front of him an expanse of suspiciously green grass. "I told you," said Minahane complacently as Georges suddenly sank to the cartridge belt in black County Cork ooze. "I'd better get him out of it. Sean!" he bellowed. "Drag the gentleman out!" It was tough work holding the eager hunters up while we disinterred Georges, but it was done. Judy pressed on ahead, then paused meaningfully by an alder clump. "G'wan into it!" urged Minahane. Judy dived in. There was a wild rustling, and she emerged with a lively water hen in her mouth. "Spit the bloody thing out," said Minahane, disgusted, and it scuttled back into the alders.
No duck so far, but a small gray bird got up from a bush and Andr� gunned it down. No need for the dog. Andr� picked it up and waded across with it. "You are calling this one 'ow?" he asked.
"That," said Minahane coldly, "is known as a song thrush."
"Ah, yes, song thrush," said Andr�, carefully committing the name to memory as he lashed it to his belt beside the snipe.
"Sure," said Minahane to me, "the boys musta been down the lake this morning before work." There was certainly no evidence of duck, but out in the middle of the water swam a small black bird, a coot by the look of it. Our cohort opened fire. The coot shifted uneasily as shot raked the water 50 yards from it. Then it started to scuttle across the surface under more sharp fire before it got up a foot or so with heavy wingbeats and went as hard as it could for the reeds, only to be met with flanking fire from Ren�, who had dropped a little behind. Out it swung again for the center, and Judy, whose day had been a frustrating one, could contain herself no longer. Into the icy water she went, hell-for-leather toward the coot.