Monday, October 24, 2011

The Island Of Sheep (John Buchan)


    There was another spell of eerie quiet, and then it seemed the world was changing.   The clouds were drifting apart, and I suddenly saw a brilliant star-sown patch of sky.  Then the whole horizon turned from velvet-black to grey, grey rimmed in the east with a strip of intense yellow light.  I looked behind me and could see the outlines of the low coast, with blurs which I knew were woods, and with one church-steeple pricking fantastically into the pale brune.


        It was the time for the geese, and in an instance there were on us.  They came in wedge after wedge, shadowy as ghosts against the faintly flushing clouds, but cut sharp against the violet lagoon of clear sky.  They were not babbling, as they do in an evening flight from the fields to the sea, but chuckling and talking low to themselves.  From the sound, I knew they were pink-foot, for the white fronts make a throatier noise.  It was a sight that always takes my breath away, this multitude of wild living things surging out of the darkness and the deep, as steady in their discipline as a Guards battalion.  I never wanted to shoot and I never shot first; it was only the thunder of Samson’s 12-bore that woke me to my job.

    An old gander, which was the leading bird in one wedge, suddenly trumpeted.  Him Samson got; he fell with a thud five yards from my head, and the echo of the shot woke the marshes for miles.  It was all our bag.  The birds flew pretty high, and Peter John had the best chance, but no sign of life came from his trench.  As soon as the geese had past, and a double wedge of whistling widgeon had followed very high up, I walked over to investigate.  I found my son sitting on his mud rampart with a rapt face.  “I couldn’t shoot,” he stammered; “they were too beautiful.”

From:  John Buchan, The Island Of Sheep.  London, Hodder & Staughton, 1936.

No comments:

Post a Comment