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- Europe Revised - 20/47 -
The Italian officer is addicted to cock feathers and horsetails on his helmet, to bits of yellow and blue let into his clothes, to tufts of red and green hung on him in unexpected and unaccountable spots. Either the design of bottled Italian chianti is modeled after the Italian officer or the Italian officer is modeled after the bottle of chianti--which, though, I am not prepared to say without further study of the subject.
But the Austrian officer is the walking sunset effect of creation. For color schemes I know of nothing in Nature to equal him except the Grand Canon of the Colorado. Circus parades are unknown in Austria--they are not missed either; after an Austrian officer a street parade would seem a colorless and commonplace thing. In his uniform he runs to striking contrasts--canary yellow, with light blue facings; silvers and grays; bright greens with scarlet slashings--and so on.
His collar is the very highest of all high collars and the heaviest with embroidery; his cloak is the longest and the widest; his boots the most varnished; his sword-belt the broadest and the shiniest; and the medals on his bosom are the most numerous and the most glittering. Alf Ringling and John Philip Sousa would take one look at him--and then, mutually filled with an envious despair, they would go apart and hold a grand lodge of sorrow together. Also, he constantly wears his spurs and his sword; he wears them even when he is in a cafe in the evening listening to the orchestra, drinking beer and allowing an admiring civilian to pay the check --and that apparently is every evening.
There was one Austrian colonel who came one night into a cafe in Vienna where we were and sat down at the table next to us; and he put our eyes right out and made all the lights dim and flickery. His epaulets were two hairbrushes of augmented size, gold-mounted; his Plimsoll marks were outlined in bullion, and along his garboard strake ran lines of gold braid; but strangest of all to observe was the locality where he wore what appeared to be his service stripes. Instead of being on his sleeves they were at the extreme southern exposure of his coattails; I presume an Austrian officer acquires merit by sitting down.
This particular officer's saber kept jingling, and so did his spurs, and so did his bracelet. I almost forgot the bracelet. It was an ornate affair of gold links fastened on his left wrist with a big gold locket, and it kept slipping down over his hand and rattling against his cuff. The chain bracelet locked on the left wrist is very common among Austrian officers; it adds just the final needed touch. I did not see any of them carrying lorgnettes or shower bouquets, but I think, in summer they wear veils.
One opportunity is afforded the European who is neither a soldier nor a hotel cashier to dress himself up in comic-opera clothes --and that is when he a-hunting goes. An American going hunting puts on his oldest and most serviceable clothes--a European his giddiest, gayest, gladdest regalia. We were so favored by gracious circumstances as to behold several Englishmen suitably attired for the chase, and we noted that the conventional morning costume of an English gentleman expecting to call informally on a pheasant or something during the course of the forenoon consisted, in the main, of a perfect dear of a Norfolk jacket, all over plaits and pockets, with large leather buttons like oak-galls adhering thickly to it, with a belt high up under the arms and a saucy tail sticking out behind; knee-breeches; a high stock collar; shin-high leggings of buff or white, and a special hat--a truly adorable confection by the world's leading he-milliner.
If you dared to wear such an outfit afield in America the very dickeybirds would fall into fits as you passed--the chipmunks would lean out of the trees and just naturally laugh you to death! But in a land where the woodlands are well-kept groves, and the undergrowth, instead of being weedy and briery, is sweet-scented fern and gorse and bracken, I suppose it is all eminently correct.
Thus appareled the Englishman goes to Scotland to shoot the grouse, the gillie, the heather cock, the niblick, the haggis and other Scotch game. Thus appareled he ranges the preserves of his own fat, fair shires in ardent pursuit of the English rabbit, which pretty nearly corresponds to the guinea pig, but is not so ferocious; and the English hare, which is first cousin to our molly cottontail; and the English pheasant--but particularly the pheasant.
There was great excitement while we were in England concerning the pheasants. Either the pheasants were preying on the mangel-wurzels or the mangel-wurzels were preying on the pheasants. At any rate it had something to do with the Land Bill--practically everything that happens in England has something to do with the Land Bill--and Lloyd George was in a free state of perspiration over it; and the papers were full of it and altogether there was a great pother over it.
We saw pheasants by the score. We saw them first from the windows of our railroad carriage--big, beautiful birds nearly as large as barnyard fowls and as tame, feeding in the bare cabbage patches, regardless of the train chugging by not thirty yards away; and later we saw them again at still closer range as we strolled along the haw-and-holly-lined roads of the wonderful southern counties. They would scuttle on ahead of us, weaving in and out of the hedgerows; and finally, when we insisted on it and flung pebbles at them to emphasize our desires, they would get up, with a great drumming of wings and a fine comet-like display of flowing tailfeathers on the part of the cock birds, and go booming away to what passes in Sussex and Kent for dense cover--meaning by that thickets such as you may find in the upper end of Central Park.
They say King George is one of the best pheasant-shots in England. He also collects postage stamps when not engaged in his regular regal duties, such as laying cornerstones for new workhouses and receiving presentation addresses from charity children. I have never shot pheasants; but, having seen them in their free state as above described, and having in my youth collected postage stamps intermittently, I should say, speaking offhand, that of the two pursuits postage-stamp collecting is infinitely the more exciting and dangerous.
Through the closed season the keepers mind the pheasants, protecting them from poachers and feeding them on selected grain; but a day comes in October when the hunters go forth and take their stands at spaced intervals along a cleared aisle flanking the woods; then the beaters dive into the woods from the opposite side, and when the tame and trusting creatures come clustering about their feet expecting provender the beaters scare them up, by waving their umbrellas at them, I think, and the pheasants go rocketing into the air--rocketing is the correct sporting term--go rocketing into the air like a flock of Sunday supplements; and the gallant gunner downs them in great multitudes, always taking due care to avoid mussing his clothes. For after all the main question is not "What did he kill?" but "How does he look?"
At that, I hold no brief for the pheasant--except when served with breadcrumb dressing and currant jelly he is no friend of mine. It ill becomes Americans, with our own record behind us, to chide other people for the senseless murder of wild things; and besides, speaking personally, I have a reasonably open mind on the subject of wild-game shooting. Myself, I shot a wild duck once. He was not flying at the time. He was, as the stockword goes, setting. I had no self-reproaches afterward however. As between that duck and myself I regarded it as an even break--as fair for one as for the other--because at the moment I myself was, as we say, setting too. But if, in the interests of true sportsmanship, they must have those annual massacres I certainly should admire to see what execution a picked half dozen of American quail hunters, used to snap-shooting in the cane jungles and brier patches of Georgia and Arkansas, could accomplish among English pheasants, until such time as their consciences mastered them and they desisted from slaughter!
Be that as it may, pheasant shooting is the last word in the English sporting calendar. It is a sport strictly for the gentry. Except in the capacity of innocent bystanders the lower orders do not share in it. It is much too good for them; besides, they could not maintain the correct wardrobe for it. The classes derive one substantial benefit from the institution however. The sporting instinct of the landed Englishman has led to the enactment of laws under which an ordinary person goes smack to jail if he is caught sequestrating a clandestine pheasant bird; but it does not militate against the landowner's peddling off his game after he has destroyed it. British thrift comes in here. And so in carload lots it is sold to the marketmen. The result is that in the fall of the year pheasants are cheaper than chickens; and any person who can afford poultry on his dinner table can afford pheasants.
The Continental hunter makes an even more spectacular appearance than his British brother. No self-respecting German or French sportsman would think of faring forth after the incarnate brown hare or the ferocious wood pigeon unless he had on a green hat with a feather in it; and a green suit to match the hat; and swung about his neck with a cord a natty fur muff to keep his hands in between shots; and a swivel chair to sit in while waiting for the wild boar to come along and be bowled over.
Being hunted with a swivel chair is what makes the German wild boar wild. On occasion, also, the hunter wears, suspended from his belt, a cute little hanger like a sawed-off saber, with which to cut the throats of his spoil. Then, when it has spoiled some more, they will serve it at a French restaurant.
It was our fortune to be in France on the famous and ever-memorable occasion when the official stag of the French Republic met a tragic and untimely end, under circumstances acutely distressing to all who believe in the divinity bestowed prerogatives of the nobility. The Paris edition of the Herald printed the lamentable tale on its front page and I clipped the account. I offer it here in exact reproduction, including the headline:
HUNTING INCIDENT SAID TO BE DUE TO CONSPIRACY
Further details are given in this morning's Figaro of the incident between Prince Murat and M. Dauchis, the mayor of Saint-Felix, near Clermont, which was briefly reported in yesterday's Herald.
A regular conspiracy was organized by M. Dauchis, it is alleged, in order to secure the stag Prince Murat and Comte de Valon were hunting in the forest of La Neuville-en-Hetz. Already, at the outset of the hunt, M. Dauchis, according to Le Figaro, charged at a huntsman with a little automobile in which he was driving and threatened to fire. Then when the stag ran into the wood, near the Trye River, one of his keepers shot it. In great haste the animal was loaded on another automobile; and before either the prince or Comte de Valon could interfere it was driven away.
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