extended on Glasier's wrist like the warhead of our striking force, we walked a
quarter mile to an oak coppice giving onto a hedge of holly trees in berry with
a dry ditch below them. "Pheasant," Glasier said authoritatively.
"They'll be sticking tight in cover. So first we will release Brimstone to
find an ambush point. Then we will put the dog in." He raised his arm, and
the big tawny hawk eagle flapped off making noises like Santa Claus' sleigh
until it found the long bare arm of an oak to settle on. The German bird dog,
snuffling and wagging its hindquarters violently, crashed into the dead leaves
of the ditch. It poked about, came back to the field, dived in again. Then it
reappeared, dancing excitedly on its hind legs, and came to a point, foreleg
raised classically. Glasier made a noise like "Gerrim!" and a cock
pheasant in all his autumn glory came clattering out of the ditch and started
to tower directly below Brimstone's branch.
This time I
watched. Brimstone did nothing. Nothing at all. He stayed on his branch gazing
peevishly at the horizon, then made a lazy swoop to another bough. "The
coming of the shotgun," I said to Terry, quoting from Glasier's notes,
"made the falcon obsolete." Roger came running up. He had got the
reluctant ferrets back. "Have I missed anything?" he panted. No, I told
him, he had missed nothing.
But he was in time
to see Glasier enduring a frustrating quarter of an hour luring Brimstone back
to the fist. He sighed as the big bird hoisted himself up again. "We'll try
the rabbits again," he said.
This time the
warren was out in open ground—hillocky, short-cropped grassland that by its
unevenness might have been the remains of an Iron Age fort. It was riddled with
rabbit holes like a Gruy�re cheese, but there was no bramble cover and the
nearest hedge was 300 yards away. Ritually, the ferrets went in. Ritually, we
prepared to wait. But this time there was immediate action, with the same
prelude as before. As the rabbit bolted, Brimstone swooped in a jangle of
bells. He missed, gained height and struck again. The rabbit wasn't there
anymore, having darted to the left.
But it was still
running for its life, three wing beats from destruction, and I saw Betty grab
her Brian's arm. Then bird and rabbit were both out of sight, and we had to
race to the top of a rise to get them in view again. The pursuit was still on,
but incredulously we realized that, going uphill, the rabbit was gaining
ground, its gallant little white scut wiggling furiously while the great wing
beats of Brimstone seemed to get heavier and heavier. Suddenly it was no longer
the Moment of Truth. It was Tom and Jerry as the hedge got nearer, and with an
impudent flash of white, Jerry disappeared.
clever little darling,' " Betty said. And she wasn't talking about
Brimstone, who was now in his favorite position: up a tree, avoiding our
flight," I said to Glasier. Whatever else might be said against falconry,
it was now clear to me that the wildlife of Gloucestershire was in very little
danger from it.
He gave me a
slightly weary look. "We weren't aiming to fill the larder, you know,"
he said reproachfully.
recovered, and the evening coming on, we fell in step for the walk back to the
cars. Glasier was in front still, but now he had an eager companion.
Roger, I reckoned,
was signing on for Course No. 18.