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The Confessions of a Poacher
written by "Anonymous" the lonely hills, I felt for the first time that this was to be alone; that this was solitude. I felt such a sense as Macaulay's New Zealander may experience when he sits upon the ruins of the same stupendous structure; and it was then for the first time I knew whence the inspiration, and felt the full force and realism of a line I had heard, "O God! the very houses seemed to sleep." I could detect no definite sound, only that vague and distant hum that for ever haunts and hangs over a great city. Then my thoughts flew homeward (to the fells and upland fields, to the cold mists by the river, to the deep and sombre woods). I had never observed such a time of quiet there; no absolute and general period of repose. There was always something abroad, some creature of the fields or woods, which by its voice or movements was betrayed. Just as in an old rambling house there are always strange noises that cannot be accounted for, so in the night-paths of nature there are innumerable sounds which can never be localised. To those, however, who pursue night avocations in the country, there are always calls and cries which bespeak life as animate under the night as that of the day. This is attributable to various animals and birds, to beetles, to night-flying insects, even to fish; and part of the education of the young poacher is to track these sounds to their source. I have said that our family was a family of poachers. The old instinct was in us all, though I believe that the same wild spirit which drove us to the moor and covert at night was only the same as was strongly implanted in the breast of Lord ——, our neighbour, who was a legitimate sportsman and a Justice of the Peace. If we were not allowed to see much real poaching when we were young we saw a good deal of the preparations for it. As the leaves began to turn in autumn there was great activity in our old home among nets and snares. Whe...

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