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The Persecution of Bob Pretty
by [?]

Them as was standing round laughed, and even Policeman White couldn’t ‘elp giving a little smile.

“There’s nothing to laugh at,” ses Bob, ‘olding his ‘ead up. “It’s a fine thing when a working man—a ‘ardworking man—can’t take home a little game for ‘is family without being stopped and robbed.”

“I s’pose they flew into your pocket?” ses Police-man White.

“No, they didn’t,” ses Bob. “I’m not going to tell any lies about it; I put ’em there. The partridges in my inside coat-pocket and the bill in my waistcoat-pocket.”

“The bill?” ses Keeper Lewis, staring at ‘im.

“Yes, the bill,” ses Bob Pretty, staring back at ‘im; “the bill from Mr. Keen, the poulterer, at Wick-ham.”

He fetched it out of ‘is pocket and showed it to Mr. White, and the keepers was like madmen a’most ‘cos it was plain to see that Bob Pretty ‘ad been and bought them partridges just for to play a game on ’em.

“I was curious to know wot they tasted like,” he ses to the policeman. “Worst of it is, I don’t s’pose my pore wife’ll know ‘ow to cook ’em.”

“You get off ‘ome,” ses Policeman White, staring at ‘im.

“But ain’t I goin’ to be locked up?” ses Bob. “‘Ave I been brought all this way just to ‘ave a little chat with a policeman I don’t like.”

“You go ‘ome,” ses Policeman White, handing the partridges back to ‘im.

“All right,” ses Bob, “and I may ‘ave to call you to witness that these ‘ere two men laid hold o’ me and tried to steal my partridges. I shall go up and see my loryer about it.”

He walked off ‘ome with his ‘ead up as high as ‘e could hold it, and the airs ‘e used to give ‘imself arter this was terrible for to behold. He got ‘is eldest boy to write a long letter to the squire about it, saying that ‘e’d overlook it this time, but ‘e couldn’t promise for the future. Wot with Bob Pretty on one side and Squire Rockett on the other, them two keepers’ lives was ‘ardly worth living.

Then the squire got a head-keeper named Cutts, a man as was said to know more about the ways of poachers than they did themselves. He was said to ‘ave cleared out all the poachers for miles round the place ‘e came from, and pheasants could walk into people’s cottages and not be touched.

He was a sharp-looking man, tall and thin, with screwed-up eyes and a little red beard. The second day ‘e came ‘e was up here at this ‘ere Cauliflower, having a pint o’ beer and looking round at the chaps as he talked to the landlord. The odd thing was that men who’d never taken a hare or a pheasant in their lives could ‘ardly meet ‘is eye, while Bob Pretty stared at ‘im as if ‘e was a wax-works.

“I ‘ear you ‘ad a little poaching in these parts afore I came,” ses Mr. Cutts to the landlord.

“I think I ‘ave ‘eard something o’ the kind,” ses the landlord, staring over his ‘ead with a far-away look in ‘is eyes.

“You won’t hear of much more,” ses the keeper. “I’ve invented a new way of catching the dirty rascals; afore I came ‘ere I caught all the poachers on three estates. I clear ’em out just like a ferret clears out rats.”

“Sort o’ man-trap?” ses the landlord.

“Ah, that’s tellings,” ses Mr. Cutts.

“Well, I ‘ope you’ll catch ’em here,” ses Bob Pretty; “there’s far too many of ’em about for my liking. Far too many.”

“I shall ‘ave ’em afore long,” ses Mr. Cutts, nodding his ‘ead.

“Your good ‘ealth,” ses Bob Pretty, holding up ‘is mug. “We’ve been wanting a man like you for a long time.”

“I don’t want any of your impidence, my man,” ses the keeper. “I’ve ‘eard about you, and nothing good either. You be careful.”