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PAGE 3

The Persecution of Bob Pretty
by [?]

“I am careful,” ses Bob, winking at the others. “I ‘ope you’ll catch all them low poaching chaps; they give the place a bad name, and I’m a’most afraid to go out arter dark for fear of meeting ’em.”

Peter Gubbins and Sam Jones began to laugh, but Bob Pretty got angry with ’em and said he didn’t see there was anything to laugh at. He said that poaching was a disgrace to their native place, and instead o’ laughing they ought to be thankful to Mr. Cutts for coming to do away with it all.

“Any help I can give you shall be given cheerful,” he ses to the keeper.

“When I want your help I’ll ask you for it,” ses Mr. Cutts.

“Thankee,” ses Bob Pretty. “I on’y ‘ope I sha’n’t get my face knocked about like yours ‘as been, that’s all; ‘cos my wife’s so partikler.”

“Wot d’ye mean?” ses Mr. Cutts, turning on him. “My face ain’t been knocked about.”

“Oh, I beg your pardin,” ses Bob; “I didn’t know it was natural.”

Mr. Cutts went black in the face a’most and stared at Bob Pretty as if ‘e was going to eat ‘im, and Bob stared back, looking fust at the keeper’s nose and then at ‘is eyes and mouth, and then at ‘is nose agin.

“You’ll know me agin, I s’pose?” ses Mr. Cutts, at last.

“Yes,” ses Bob, smiling; “I should know you a mile off—on the darkest night.”

“We shall see,” ses Mr. Cutts, taking up ‘is beer and turning ‘is back on him. “Those of us as live the longest’ll see the most.”

“I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to see ‘im,” ses Bob to Bill Chambers. “I feel more satisfied with myself now.”

Bill Chambers coughed, and Mr. Cutts, arter finishing ‘is beer, took another look at Bob Pretty, and went off boiling a’most.

The trouble he took to catch Bob Pretty arter that you wouldn’t believe, and all the time the game seemed to be simply melting away, and Squire Rockett was finding fault with ‘im all day long. He was worn to a shadder a’most with watching, and Bob Pretty seemed to be more prosperous than ever.

Sometimes Mr. Cutts watched in the plantations, and sometimes ‘e hid ‘imself near Bob’s house, and at last one night, when ‘e was crouching behind the fence of Frederick Scott’s front garden, ‘e saw Bob Pretty come out of ‘is house and, arter a careful look round, walk up the road. He held ‘is breath as Bob passed ‘im, and was just getting up to foller ‘im when Bob stopped and walked slowly back agin, sniffing.

“Wot a delicious smell o’ roses!” he ses, out loud.

He stood in the middle o’ the road nearly opposite where the keeper was hiding, and sniffed so that you could ha’ ‘eard him the other end o’ the village.

“It can’t be roses,” he ses, in a puzzled voice, “be-cos there ain’t no roses hereabouts, and, besides, it’s late for ’em. It must be Mr. Cutts, the clever new keeper.”

He put his ‘ead over the fence and bid ‘im good evening, and said wot a fine night for a stroll it was, and asked ‘im whether ‘e was waiting for Frederick Scott’s aunt. Mr. Cutts didn’t answer ‘im a word; ‘e was pretty near bursting with passion. He got up and shook ‘is fist in Bob Pretty’s face, and then ‘e went off stamping down the road as if ‘e was going mad.

And for a time Bob Pretty seemed to ‘ave all the luck on ‘is side. Keeper Lewis got rheumatic fever, which ‘e put down to sitting about night arter night in damp places watching for Bob, and, while ‘e was in the thick of it, with the doctor going every day, Mr. Cutts fell in getting over a fence and broke ‘is leg. Then all the work fell on Keeper Smith, and to ‘ear ‘im talk you’d think that rheumatic fever and broken legs was better than anything else in the world. He asked the squire for ‘elp, but the squire wouldn’t give it to ‘im, and he kept telling ‘im wot a feather in ‘is cap it would be if ‘e did wot the other two couldn’t do, and caught Bob Pretty. It was all very well, but, as Smith said, wot ‘e wanted was feathers in ‘is piller, instead of ‘aving to snatch a bit o’ sleep in ‘is chair or sitting down with his ‘ead agin a tree. When I tell you that ‘e fell asleep in this public-‘ouse one night while the landlord was drawing a pint o’ beer he ‘ad ordered, you’ll know wot ‘e suffered.