Three personal retainers were assigned to each hunter. The first was my gun bearer, who cradled one of my shotguns under each arm and declined to surrender either of them. The second lurched heavily under several hundred of my Churchill shotgun shells from London, slung in a leather bag over his shoulder. The third was a boy sprouting his first whiskers, unburdened by anything else except the stub of a pencil and a small white pad with my name on it. His function was to keep score of my hits and misses—a disquieting prospect for any hunter.
The hunters rallied round and the Chief Forester made a speech, which our Foreign Office friend translated: the first episode would be a two-mile walk through a stand of oaks, jump shots at flushed birds, cock pheasants only. Hares and rabbits could also be killed, and foxes if we saw any. Roebuck and Hirsch were forbidden. And now, if MM. les Ambassadeurs would please deploy to their stations, the proceedings could commence to be unraveled. One moment please: shotguns only—the Argentine consul general would kindly surrender his revolver.
We dispersed, and under guidance from the foresters spread out across a quarter-mile front. Ahead of us stretched 10 dark lanes through the forest, one lane to each hunter. The lanes were assigned according to rank, the middle ones for ambassadors, with ministers, attach�s, consuls and secretaries on the outside. The lanes were about 10 feet wide and a gunshot apart; in the woods between each lane, and therefore between each hunter, there were 30 beaters pounding the oak trees, shaking down acorns and making a tremendous clatter. Behind each hunter walked his three retainers—the gun bearer, who also loaded each weapon as fired, the ammunition bearer and the scorekeeper. Behind the retainers, for my special benefit, walked three members of the secret police, their feet making squdgy sounds in the moist oak leaves.
The Chief Forester lifted his trumpet and blew notes that reverberated bravely across the Moravian plain. My bearer accepted two shells from the keeper of my ammunition. He inserted the shells, snapped shut the breech, handed the gun to me, and the whole line moved slowly forward. It was the first time I had touched my shotgun since reaching Zidlochovice.
Before we had moved 10 yards, a cock pheasant exploded under my feet and made off, straight ahead of me.
"Cock, shoot! Quick, shoot! Shoot cock quick!" yelled all three of my retainers. So did the three secret policemen.
I raised my gun. With a baseball bat I could have given that pheasant a permanent headache. I fired both barrels. The pheasant, shedding no feathers, continued gaily down my alley.
"Zero, zero," said my scorekeeper, while his disgusted colleague handed me my second shotgun. "Phooey," said the policemen.
Another bird flushed. It angled off through the trees, getting no closer. I took a quick shot with speed inherited from a boyhood spent snap-shooting at woodcock in Maine alder swamps; the pheasant crumpled.
"Hen," shouted my scorekeeper. "Score, zero, zero, zero." The three policemen made sounds of derision.