Our fathers did not talk about psychology; they talked about a knowledge of Human Nature. But they had it, and we have not. They knew by instinct all that we have ignored by the help of information. — G. K. Chesterton

Adventures of Baron Munchausen - R. E. Raspe

More of the Baron's Wonderful Hunting Adventures

One day when I had used all my shot a stately stag passed before me, looking as unconcerned as if he knew my pouch was empty. Just you wait a bit, you shall have it, thought I, rapidly loading my gun with powder and a handful of cherry stones, for I had just eaten a couple of pounds of cherries. The stag gazed at me with mocking scorn—bang, and I fired straight between his antlers. He shook his head several times, made me a bow, turned his back and walked slowly into the depths of the forest. It was a pity I had no buckshot handy! At home I was the laughing-stock of my family, and whenever we had cherries some one would be sure to collect the stones and offer them me for my next stag hunt.

"At last the novelty of the jest wore off; but a year or two later as we were hunting in the same district, an enormous stag, with a cherry-tree quite ten feet high growing between his antlers, came towards me. Naturally the recollection of my shot with the cherry stones dawned on me, and I claimed first shot at my well-won property. I took steady aim at the stag, who fell with a crash to the ground, and then, you see, I had gained both meat and dessert, for the tree was covered with bunches of beautiful ripe cherries.

"One morning, as I equipped myself for the chase, I noticed that the cord, on which my powder-horn hung, was very thin, and almost worn through in two places. As I slung it on, I thought to myself, 'That won't last long!' Towards evening, as I was returning home, I passed a little lake on which about a dozen ducks were swimming. It was only possible to have a shot at one, and yet I fain would have secured the whole dozen, for I had invited a party of gentlemen to dine with me the next day. I felt for my powder-horn, but it was gone; and I concluded that the cord must have snapped as I forced my way through a plantation of young firs. I had only one round of shot in my gun, and no more powder—besides, what would be the good of a single duckling to me?

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe

"In this perplexity, I bethought me of a piece of bacon, left over from the provisions I had taken with me. Untwisting a dog-leash to four times its original length, and tying one end round a morsel of the bacon, I hid myself in the rushes and threw out my bait. To my delight the nearest duck swam up, swallowed the dainty, and I pulled her gently ashore; tying her to a tree, I proceeded to fish in the same manner till I had caught the entire thirteen. Then I passed the string through the beaks of all the birds and started to carrying them home. Just as I was reflecting that I really could not carry such a weight any further, the birds, who had recovered from their first fright, flapped their wings and rose in the air dragging me with them. At first I was rather alarmed, but I soon regained my presence of mind and steered with my coattails towards home. I soon found myself hovering over the chimneys of my own house, and, using the ducks as ballast, I twisted their necks one after another, and descended gradually through the largest chimney till at last, to the great astonishment of the cook, who was just about to kindle the fire for supper, I stood safely on the kitchen hearth.

"Is not the above a striking example of good, luck combined with presence of mind?

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe

"One day in the depth of the forest, I perceived a wild pig and a sow running close behind each other. I raised my gun, but hesitated whether to aim at the pig or sow. At last I fired—the pig trotted on, but the sow stood motionless. I made a closer investigation, and found that the old sow was blind. Between her tusks she held a piece of the other's tail, which she had taken hold of in order to be led along, and this was what my bullet had hit—whereupon the young one had rushed away, leaving the blind mother helpless. Taking compassion on its plight, I seized the fragment of tail and led the poor creature home, in order to show my wife the new kind of game I had brought her.

"I hardly think it likely that any one of you will have a similar experience.

"For two days I had been pursuing a hare. My dog always started her, and yet I could never get near enough to shoot.

"I have never believed in witchcraft, for I have seen too many wonderful things for that, but I must confess that this hare puzzled me. At length I managed to fire a successful shot; she fell, and what do you think I discovered?

"Besides her four ordinary legs, this hare had four additional ones on her back. This was the explanation of her tremendous speed, for when her four ordinary feet were tired she threw herself on her back, like a good swimmer does, and fled on with four fresh feet.

"I must confess that I have never seen another similar hare, and that I should never have caught this one without my dog's assistance."