About my only relaxation from duty at Mekeo was an occasional afternoon’s shooting with the fathers; never shall I forget those shooting parties, or the way my sides ached from laughing, the first time I took part in one. Pigeons of all descriptions—from the enormous plumed Goura, down to a little dove—were very plentiful; and there was also a lake, a few miles from Mekeo Station, which simply swarmed with wild geese, duck, and all kinds of water-fowl. Game formed a pleasant change from the everlasting luke-warm tinned meat, of which my usual fare consisted. We assembled at one of the Mission Stations, when I naturally thought we should at once get to business; not so, however. First, we must drink success to the chase; then each good father possessed a dog of sorts, which he had taught to do all kinds of tricks, and which the proud owner of the mongrel then exhibited; after that, I had to inspect and admire each man’s gun. “My God!” I exclaimed softly to myself, as in turn I examined the rubbish in which the owners took such pride. The good fathers were all deadly poor; twenty pounds a year was all they had, with which to find everything—food, clothing, and all else; and their guns were the cheapest and vilest of Belgian make, things I expected to see burst every time they were fired. My gun, a plain old seven-guinea Bland’s keeper, which had seen many years of hard service, rose tremendously in my estimation, after looking at those Belgian affairs; for it, 업소알바 at all events, could be trusted not to blow my head off; its very plainness, however, did not appeal to my brother sportsmen, for though they politely praised it, I could see that the tassels and brass of their gimcracks were more to their liking.

At last, all preliminaries completed, we started, under the command of Father Bouellard; one good father merrily chanting a gay little French song in praise of La Chasse, and another one tootling on a round horn. One member of our party wore an enormous old-fashioned hunting knife, gaily caparisoned with cords and tassels, the sort of thing that might prove useful for cutting collops off a wild boar; we, however, were in search of feathered game. When we had left the village a few hundred yards behind us, Father Bouellard sternly ordered silence, and we all began to walk with the stealth of wild Indians; the fathers marched with unloaded guns, I was pleased to observe, as I frequently found myself looking down the muzzle of the gun of the man in front of me, or being poked in the ribs by that of the man behind. Suddenly Father Bouellard stopped and held up his hand; we all142 halted, and I peered to find out what he had discovered, but could see nothing except a little dove—hardly bigger than a tom-tit—sitting on a bough across the track. “A pigeon,” he whispered, in a voice of suppressed excitement. He pulled a cartridge from his bag, inserted it into his gun and, cocking the hammer, raised the gun to take aim; bang went the gun into the air and away flew the tiny dove. “My gun was too quick,” remarked Father Bouellard. “Well, I’m d—d!” I quietly exclaimed to myself, as the other sportsmen accepted the statement in perfect faith. At the sound of the shot, the assorted mongrels tore yapping into the scrub, while the horn tootled, and their masters shrieked shrilly for them to return. The excitement having subsided, we resumed our stealthy march.