There is another matter to which many teachers pay too little attention, but which is as important as any point in the fencer's art. It is obvious that the player should try, if possible, to hit without being hit. To do this effectively it is necessary in attacking to maintain what fencers call a good "opposition," that is to say, to so carry your stick in cutting or thrusting at him as to protect yourself in the line in which you are attacking.
This is easier to explain in practice than on paper, but it may perhaps be sufficiently explained by examples. If, for instance, you are cutting at the left side of your opponent's head, you must, to stop a possible counter from him, keep your hilt almost as high as the top of your own head and carry your hand well across to your own left. If you do this correctly, you will, in case he should cut at your left cheek as you cut at his, stop his cut with the upper part of your stick.
Again, in thrusting at him, if you keep your hand as high as your shoulder, and in a line with your right shoulder, you will protect the upper half of your own body from a counter, so that, even if your thrust fails and does not get home, the upper part of your blade will stop his cut.
It is necessary to study so to attack your opponent that, in the very act of delivering a cut or thrust, you may stop him in as many lines or directions of attack as possible.
If you find your man will counter in spite of all that you can do, take advantage of this habit of his by feinting a cut to draw his counter, stop this, and return.
This will have the effect of making him do the leading, which will be all in your favour.
HITS, GUARDS, FEINTS, ETC.
For the purposes of instruction and description, the principal hits in single-stick have been numbered and described according to the parts of the body at which they are aimed.
There are four principal hits: (1) a cut at your opponent's left cheek; (2) a cut at his right cheek; (3) a cut at his left ribs; (4) a cut at his right ribs. 5 and 6 are mere repetitions of 3 and 4 on a lower level, guarded in the same way, and aimed at the inside and outside of the right leg instead of at the ribs.
In the accompanying cuts numbered 28, 29, 30, 31, the four principal attacks and the stops for them have been illustrated, and with their help and a long looking-glass in front of him the young player ought to be able to put himself into fairly good position.
In addition to the cuts there is the point, which, as our forefathers discovered, is far more deadly than the edge. Of this more later on.
Almost every cut is executed upon the lunge. As you and your adversary engage, you are practically out of each other's range unless you lunge.
Standing in the first position the heels are two feet apart. On the lunge, I have seen Corporal-Major Blackburn, a man, it is true, over six feet in height, measure, from his left heel to a point on the floor, level with his sword point, nearly ten feet. This gives some idea of what is to be expected from a man who can lunge properly. To do this, throw out the right foot as far as it will go to the front, keeping the heels still in line and the right foot straight.
Keep the outside edge of the left foot firmly down upon the floor, and keep it still at right angles to the right foot. If your left foot begins to leave the ground you have over-reached yourself; you will find it impossible to get back, and you will be at your opponent's mercy. See that your right knee is exactly over your right ankle, your left leg straight, your chest square to the front, and your head well up. If you can get yourself into this position, you will have no difficulty in recovering yourself if your lunge fails, and you will gain nothing by bending your body forward from the waist. On the contrary, you will spoil your balance.
This lunge will do for every cut and every point.
To recover after a lunge, throw your weight well back upon your left leg, and use the muscles of the right thigh and calf to shoot yourself back into position. If the knee of the right leg has been kept exactly over the ankle, the impetus necessary to regain your original position will be easily obtained. If, however, the right foot has been protruded too far, and the caution as to the knee and ankle disregarded, you will find yourself unable to return quickly from the lunging position, and will consequently be at your opponent's mercy. It is in the operation of returning from the lunge that the player realizes to the full the advantage of keeping the shoulders well back and head erect.
The illustrations should speak for themselves, but perhaps I had better explain them.
In cut 1 (Fig. 28), lunge out and cut at the left cheek of your opponent, straightening the arm and turning the knuckles down.
To stop this cut, raise the engaging guard (hanging guard, Fig. 26) slightly, and bring the hand somewhat nearer the head, as shown in the illustration, or stop it with the upright guard, with the elbow kept well in and the right hand about on a level with the left shoulder.
In cut 2 (Fig. 29), lunge out and cut at your opponent's right cheek, with your arm straight and knuckles up. The natural guard for this is the high upright guard, with the elbow well in to the right side, the arm bent and turned slightly outwards, and wrist and knuckles turned well to the right.
In cut 3 (Fig. 30), make free use of the wrist, bringing your blade round in the smallest space possible, and come in on your man's ribs with your arm straight and knuckles turned downwards.
To stop this cut you may either use a low hanging guard, brought across to the left side, the right hand about on a level with the left shoulder, or a low upright guard, with the hilt just outside the left thigh.
The hanging guard is the safer one of the two, as it is difficult in practice to get low enough with the hilt in the upright guard to stop a low cut of this kind.
In cut 4 (Fig. 31), cut at your adversary's right ribs, and keep your knuckles up, and when he attacks you on this line, stop him with the hanging guard held low on your right side, or with the upright guard, with arm, wrist, and knuckles turned outwards.
Cuts 5 and 6 are made like cuts 3 and 4 respectively, and must be met in all cases by a low hanging guard. It is well to practise these low hanging guards continually, as a man's legs are perhaps the most exposed part of his body.
The point when used is given by a simple straightening of the arm on the lunge, the knuckles being kept upwards, and, in ordinary play, the grip on the stick loosened, in order that it may run freely through the hilt, and thus save your opponent from an ugly bruise, a torn jacket, or possibly a broken rib. When the knuckles are kept up in giving point, the sword hand should be opposite the right shoulder. But the point may also be delivered with the knuckles down, in which case the hand should be opposite to the left shoulder.
The point may be parried with any of the guards previously described.
It is well to remember that one of the most effective returns which can be made from any guard is a point, and that a point can be made certainly from every hanging guard by merely straightening the arm from the guard, lunging, and coming in under your opponent's weapon. But perhaps this is a thing to be learnt rather from practical play than from a book.
Now, it is obvious that if any of the foregoing guards are as good as they have been described, it is necessary to induce your adversary to abandon them if you are ever to score a point.
This may be done in a variety of ways, when you have assured yourself that he is invulnerable to a direct attack, not to be flurried by a fierce onslaught, or slow enough to let you score a "remise"—that is, a second hit—the first having been parried, but not returned.
The first ruse to adopt, of course, is the feint—a feint being a false attack, or rather a move as if to attack in a line which you threaten, but in which you do not intend to attack. All feints should be strongly pronounced or clearly shown. A half-hearted feint is worse than useless; it is dangerous. If you have a foeman worthy of your steel facing you, he will detect the fraud at once, and use the time wasted by you over a feeble feint to put in a time thrust.
The ordinary feint is made by an extension of the arm as if to cut without moving the foot to lunge, the lunge being made the moment you have drawn off your enemy's guard and laid bare the real object of your attack.
Sometimes, however, if you cannot succeed otherwise, a half or short lunge for your feint, to be turned into a full lunge as you see your opening, may be found a very useful variation of the ordinary feint. If you find feints useless, you may try to compass your adversary's downfall by "a draw." All the time that you are playing you should try to be using your head, to be thinking out your plans and trying to discover his. In nine cases out of ten he has some favourite form of attack. If you discover what it is, and know how to stop it, indulge him, and invite him even to make it, having previously formed some little scheme of attack of your own upon this opening. Let me illustrate my meaning by examples. If you notice a hungry eye fixed yearningly on your tender calf, let your calf stray ever so little from under the protection of the hanging guard. If this bait takes your friend in, and he comes with a reckless lunge at it, throwing all his heart into the cut, spring up to your full height, heels together, and leg well out of danger, and gently let your avenging rod fall along his spine. This, by the way, is the only occasion, except when you are acknowledging a hit, on which you may be allowed to desert the first position for legs and feet.
But this is a very old ruse, and most players know it: a much better one may be founded upon it. If, for instance, you think you detect any coquettish symptoms in the right leg of your adversary, you may know at once what he is meditating. Oblige him at once. Lunge freely out at his leg, which will of course be at once withdrawn. This, however, you were expecting, and as his leg goes back your hand goes up to the high hanging guard, covering your head from his cut. This cut stopped, he is at your mercy, and you may cut him in halves or crimp his thigh at your leisure. This position is illustrated in Fig. 33.
Once again: some men set their whole hearts on your sleeve, and you may, if yours is the hanging guard, lure them to their destruction through this lust of theirs. Gradually, as the play goes on, your arm tires, your hand sinks, your arm at last is bare, and the enemy comes in with a cut which would almost lay open the gauntlet, were it not that at that moment you come to the low upright guard and return at his left cheek.
These are what are known as draws, and their number is unlimited.
Another thing sometimes heard of in single-stick play is "a gain." This is a ruse for deceiving your opponent as to distance, and is achieved by bringing the left heel up to the right, in the course of the play, without abandoning the normal crouching position. This, of course, makes your lunge two feet longer than your victim has any reason for believing it to be.
A false beat is another very common form of attack, consisting of a cut aimed at the hilt or at the forte of your stick, the object being to make you raise your point, if possible, so that the attacker may come in under with cut three.
This is very well met by a thrust, the arm being merely straightened from the guard, and the lunge delivered directly the "beat" is made.
A pretty feint having the same effect as the "beat," as opening up cut three, is a long feint with the point at the chest, cut three being given as the sword rises to parry the point.
But probably I have already transgressed the limits of my paper. What remains to be taught, and I know full well that it is everything except the merest rudiments, must be learned stick in hand. I can only wish the beginner luck, and envy him every hour which he is able to devote to acquiring a knowledge of sword-play.
Although the salute is a mere piece of sword drill, of no use for practical purposes, it is still worth learning, as being the preliminary flourish common at all assaults-at-arms, and valuable in itself as reminding the players that they are engaged in a knightly game, and one which insists on the display of the greatest courtesy by one opponent to the other. Even if you are playing with bare steel, it is expected of you that you should kill your enemy like a knight, and not like a butcher; much more then, when you are only playing a friendly bout with him, should you show him all possible politeness. On entering the ring you should have all your harness on except your mask; this you should carry in your left hand until you are face to face with your antagonist. When in the ring, lay your helmet down on your left hand and come to the slope swords—your blade upon your right shoulder, your elbow against your side and your hilt in a line with your elbow, your knuckles outwards. Your body should be erect, your head up, your heels together, your right foot pointing straight to your front, your left foot at right angles to it pointing to the left.
Both men acting together now come to the engaging guard, and beat twice, stick against stick; they then come back to the "recover" by bringing the right foot back to the left, and bringing the stick into an upright position in front of the face, basket outwards, and thumb on a level with the mouth.
After a slight pause, salute to the left in quarte, i.e. extend the stick to your left front across the body, keeping the elbow fairly close to the side and the finger-nails upwards; then pause again for a second, and salute to the right in tierce (the back of the hand up); pause again, and salute to the front, by extending the arm in that direction, the point of the stick towards your left front. Now step forward about two feet with the right foot and come to the engaging guard, beat twice, draw the left foot up to the right, draw yourself up to your full height, and come again to the recover, drop your stick to the second guard (i.e. low hanging guard for the outside of the leg), making a slight inclination of the body at the same time (probably this is meant for a bow ceremonious), and then you may consider yourself at liberty to put on your mask and begin.
Don't forget, when you cross sticks, to step out of distance again at once. This salute, of course, is only usual at assaults-at-arms, which are modern tournaments arranged for the display of the men's skill and the entertainment of their friends. At the assault-at-arms, as we understand it generally, there is no element of competition, there are no prizes to be played for, and therefore, so long as a good display is made, every one is satisfied, and nobody cares who gets the most points in any particular bout.
In competitions this is not so, and time is an object; so that as soon as the men can be got into the ring they are told to put their masks on and begin.
In assaults and in general play you cannot be too careful to acknowledge your adversary's hits. In a competition do nothing of the kind. The judges will see that every point made is scored, and you may safely relieve your mind from any anxiety on that ground. But in general play it is different, and you cannot be too careful in scoring your adversary's points, or be too liberal in allowing them, even if some of them are a little bit questionable.
The ordinary form of acknowledgment (and a very graceful one it is) is accomplished as follows:—On being hit, spring to attention, with your heels together and body erect, at the same time bringing your sword to the recover, i.e. sword upright in front of your face, thumb in a line with your mouth, and knuckles outwards.
The acknowledgment should be only a matter of seconds, and when made the player should come back to the engaging guard and continue the bout.
Of course there are occasions on which the best player cannot help dealing a foul hit. When this happens there is nothing to be done except to apologize; but most of these hits may be avoided by a little care and command of temper. By a foul hit is meant a blow dealt to your opponent on receiving a blow from him—a hit given, not as an attempt to "time," but instead of a guard and, as a matter of fact, given very often on the "blow for blow" principle.
This, of course, is great nonsense, if you assume, as you should do, that the weapons are sharp, when such exchanges would be a little more severe than even the veriest glutton for punishment would care for.
If you only want to see who can stand most hammering with an ash-plant, then your pads are a mistake and a waste of time. Ten minutes without them will do more to settle that question than an hour with them on.
There ought to be some way of penalizing the player who, after receiving a palpable hit himself, fails to acknowledge it, and seizes the opportunity instead to strike the hardest blow he is able to at the unprotected shoulder or arm of his adversary.
One more word and we have done with the courtesies of sword-play.
Don't make any remarks either in a competition (this, of course, is worst of all) or in an ordinary bout. Don't argue, except with the sticks. Remember that the beau-ideal swordsman is one who fights hard, with "silent lips and striking hand."
Once a man has mastered the rudiments of any game and acquired some considerable amount of dexterity in "loose play," he begins to long to be pitted against some one else in order to measure his strength. Before long the limits of his own gymnasium grow too small for his ambition, and then it is that we may expect to find him looking round for a chance of earning substantial laurels in public competitions. Unfortunately the stick-player will not find many opportunities of displaying his skill in public. As far as the present writer knows, there are only two prizes offered annually in London for single-stick, and neither of these attract much attention. One of them is given at the Military Tournament at Islington, in June, and one at the German Gymnasium, in December. The former of these prizes is open only to soldiers, militia-men, or volunteers, the latter to any member of a respectable athletic club, who is prepared to pay 2s. 6d. for his entrance fee. The attendance of spectators at both shows is very poor, which is to be regretted, as the interest of the public in any game generally goes a long way towards insuring improvement in the play.
It is just as well, before entering for either of these competitions, to know something about the conditions under which they take place, and the rules which govern them. The bouts are generally played in a fourteen foot ring, at least that is the statement in the notice to players, and it is as well to be prepared to confine your movements to such a limited area. As a matter of fact, no objection ever seems to be raised to a competitor who transgresses this rule, and we remember to have seen a nimble player skipping about like an electrified eel outside the magic circle, until stopped by a barrier of chairs at the edge of the big arena.
At the Military Tournament the play is for the best out of three hits, i.e. the man who scores the first two points wins. At the German Gymnasium the competitor who first scores five wins the bout. This is better than at the Tournament, although it will seem to some that even this is hardly a sufficient test of the merits of each player. The bouts seem too short, but probably this is unavoidable; that which is to be regretted and might be remedied, being that no points are given for "form:" the result is that, in many cases, the anxiety to score the necessary points as soon as possible results in very ugly and unscientific rushes, in which no guards are attempted and from which the most reckless and rapid hitter comes out the winner. This, of course, is the same for every one, and therefore perfectly fair, but it does not tend to elevate the style of play.
But the great difficulty at these competitions appears to be the difficulty of judging. And here let me say at once that it is as far from my intention to find fault with any individual judge as it possibly can be. Being English, I believe them to be above suspicion; being sometimes a competitor myself, it would not be for me to impugn their honesty if they were not. Whatever he does, I would always advise the athlete to preserve his faith in judges and a stoical silence when he does not quite agree with them.
All I would suggest for the benefit of judges and judged alike in these trials of skill which test the eyesight and quickness of the umpires almost as much as the eyesight and quickness of the competitors, is that some definite code of scoring should be established and recognized amongst the different schools-of-arms in England.
In order to facilitate the scoring they have a very good plan at the Military Tournament of chalking the competitors' sticks. This precaution ensures a mark upon the jacket every time the ash-plant hits it; but even this is not always sufficient, for it is quite possible for a true guard to be opposed to a hard cut with a pliant stick, with the result that the attacker's stick whips over and leaves a mark which ought not to be scored, for had the weapons been of steel this could not have happened.
This, however, is a point which would generally be detected by one of the three judges in the ring.
What gives rise to question in players' minds is not any small point like this, so much as the question of timing and countering.
To take the last first: If A and B lunge together, both making direct attacks, and both get home simultaneously, it is generally admitted that the result is a counter, and nothing is to be scored to any one.
But if A makes a direct attack, and B, ignoring it, stands fast and counters, this is a wilful omission to protect himself on his part; and even if his cut should get home as soon as A's it should not count, nor, I think, should it be allowed to cancel A's point, for A led, as the movement of his foot in lunging showed, and B's plain duty was to stop A's attack before returning it. This he would have done naturally enough if he had had the fear of a sharp edge before his eyes.
I even doubt whether a time-thrust or cut should ever be allowed to score, unless the result of it be such as would have rendered the direct attack ineffectual in real fighting. Should not the rule be, either that the point scores to the person making the direct attack, as shown by the action of his foot in lunging (unless, indeed, the attacked person has guarded and returned, when, of course, the point is his), or else make the rule a harder one, but equally fair for every one, and say no hits shall count except those made clean without a counter, i.e. to score a point the player must hit his adversary without being hit himself?
Of course bouts would take longer to finish if this were the rule, but such a rule would greatly simplify matters.
The really expert swordsman is surely he who inflicts injuries without receiving any, not he who is content to get rather the best of an exchange of cuts, the least of which would with sharp steel put any man hors de combat.
In connection with public competitions, I may as well warn the tyro against what is called "a surprise." On entering the ring the men face each other, come on the engaging guard, and begin at the judge's word of command. The sticks must have been fairly crossed before hits may be counted. But it is as well the moment your stick has crossed your opponent's to step out of distance again, by taking a short pace to the rear with the left foot and bringing the right foot, after it. You can always come in again at short notice; but if you do not keep a sharp look out, a very alert opponent may cross swords with you and tap you on the arm almost in the same movement. If he does you may think it rather sharp practice, but you will find that it scores one to him nevertheless. As no word of practical advice founded on experience should be valueless, let me add one here to would-be competitors. Do not rely upon other people for masks, aprons, or other necessaries of the game. You cannot expect a gymnasium to which you do not belong to furnish such things for you, and even if they were provided they probably would not fit you. Bring all you want for yourself; and if you value your own comfort or personal appearance when you leave the scene of the competition, let your bag, on arriving, contain towels, brushes, and such other simple toilet necessaries as you are likely to require.
History tells us that firearms of sorts were in existence as far back as the fourteenth century, and that they were probably of Flemish origin. Certain it is that, prior to 1500, there were large bodies of troops armed with what may be called portable culverins, and in 1485 the English yeomen of the guard were armed with these clumsy weapons. Later on, in the middle of the sixteenth century, we hear of the long-barrelled harquebus being used in Spain, and before the close of the century the muschite was in use in the English army. This was a heavier weapon than the harquebus, and the soldiers were provided with a long spiked stake with a fork at the upper end in which to rest the ponderous barrel whilst they took aim.
The method of discharging these weapons was primitive in the extreme, as it was necessary to hold a lighted match to the priming, in a pan at the right side of the barrel, and one can imagine what a lot of fizzing, spluttering, and swearing there must have been in damp weather!
Improvements in the harquebus and musket, as it got to be called later on, continued to be developed from time to time. In the early days, matchlocks were sneered at as being inferior to crossbows, much in the same way that the first railway engine was contemptuously spoken of and written about by the coaching men at the beginning of this century; but when in 1700 the flintlock musket made its appearance popular prejudice was shaken, and it was completely removed in 1820 when percussion guns came into pretty general use.
This may appear to be a digression and somewhat outside the scope of this little work. I give it, however, to show the origin of the rifle, to which, after all, the bayonet is but an adjunct.
About the middle of the seventeenth century it occurred to the sapient mind of one Puseygur, a native of Bayonne, in France, that it would be a grand thing to have a sharp point on which to receive an advancing adversary after one had missed him, or the fizzling matchlock had failed to go off. The weapon devised was a sharp-bladed knife, about eighteen inches long, with a rounded handle six or eight inches long, to fit like a plug into the muzzle of the musket, and the bayonet in this form was used in England and France about the year 1675. It was, of course, impossible to fire the piece with the bayonet fixed; it was a case of fire first and then fix bayonets with all possible dispatch. One can imagine what receiving a cavalry charge must have meant in those days. Towards the close of the seventeenth century an important step was made in the right direction. Bayonets were then for the first time attached to the barrel by two rings, by which means the gun could be fired whilst the bayonet was in its place and ready for instant use. Very early in the eighteenth century a further improvement was invented, in the shape of a socketed bayonet, which was firmer and more satisfactory than anything previously devised.
The British bayonet in the hands of our soldiers has over and over again carried victory into the serried ranks of our adversaries, but, now that arms of precision have reached such a pitch of perfection, and are still on the advance in the matter of rapid firing, it is to be doubted whether hand-to-hand conflicts will play a very prominent part in the battles of the future.
A distinction must be drawn between the ordinary weapon with which the Guards and army generally were till recently provided (I refer to the triangular-fluted bayonet, used exclusively for thrusting purposes), and the sword-bayonet, which serves both for cutting and thrusting. The advantage of the former was evidently its lightness and handiness; but it must be remembered that, save for thrusting, spiking a gun, or boring a hole in a leather strap, it was practically useless, whereas the sharp edge of the sword-bayonet makes it an excellent companion to Tommy Atkins on all sorts of occasions, too numerous to mention.
In the early months of the present year the new rifle and bayonet placed in the hands of the Guards caused a good deal of comment. As my readers are aware, the new arm is a magazine small-bore rifle, carrying a long conical ball. It is not a pretty-looking weapon, and its serviceable qualities have yet to be tested in actual warfare. But it is with the bayonet we are now chiefly concerned. At first sight it reminds one of an extra strong sardine-box opener, but on closer inspection it is evident that, though quite capable of dealing with tinned-meat cans, etc., it has very many merits which are wanting in all the other bayonets which have gone before it. It is a strong double-edged, sharp-pointed knife, twelve inches long, rather more than an inch wide, and about a fifth of an inch deep through the strong ridge which runs down the centre of the blade from point to hilt. The handle is of wood, and it is fastened to the muzzle of the rifle by means of a ring and strong spring catch or clip. Altogether it is almost a model of the early Roman sword.
From this short description it will be seen that, though the soldier loses a good many inches in reach, he is provided with an excellent hunting-knife, which can be turned to any of the uses of a knife—from slaughtering a foe to cutting up tobacco.
Then, again, it is possible that the loss in actual reach may be more than compensated for at very close quarters by the greater ease with which a man can "shorten arms" effectively as well as by the double edge. Every ounce saved in the weight of a soldier's accoutrements is a great gain, and these new bayonets are light and, as I have hinted, are likely to be extremely useful for the every-day work of a long march.
It is not my intention to deal with the bayonet-exercise as practised by squads of infantry, but, before proceeding to deal with some of the more important situations in attack and defence, I would advise those who wish to become proficient to learn the drill. The best way to do this is to join the Volunteers, and get all the squad work possible as a means of gaining a command over the weapon—the continued use of which for any length of time is extremely fatiguing. When the rudiments are mastered, and you know fairly well how to respond to the reiterated words of command: "High Guard"—"Pint;" "Low Guard"—"Pint," etc., and can form the "pints" and guards in a respectable manner, it will be well to join some school of arms with a proficient and painstaking military instructor who is also an expert swordsman. I say swordsman advisedly, because I am convinced that it is only one who is a fencer who can be really qualified to impart knowledge on the subject of weapons chiefly used for pointing.
No man can be said to use the bayonet efficiently who is not able to tackle another man similarly armed—a swordsman on foot or a mounted man armed with the cavalry sabre.
For ordinary practice the first thing to be secured is a good spring-bayonet musket, somewhere about the weight of the ordinary rifle, provided with a bayonet which, by means of a strong spiral spring inside the barrel, can be pressed back eighteen inches or so when it comes in contact with the object thrust against. It is hardly necessary to observe that the point of the bayonet must be covered with a good button, similar to those used on fencing foils, only much larger. The button should be tightly encased with layer upon layer of soft leather, and then bound over with stout parchment or stiff leather, and tied very strongly with whipcord or silk just behind the button. This precaution is very necessary to guard against broken ribs, collar-bones, etc.
The illustrations which embellish or disfigure this chapter do not profess to do more than indicate a few of the more important positions, points, and guards which occur in bayonet-exercise: for fuller details the reader is referred to the various manuals issued from time to time by the Horse Guards and War Office authorities. In these little books will be found all the words of command and, I believe, illustrations of every point and parry.
At an assault, and opposed to a man armed also with a bayonet, the first position is indicated by the accompanying sketch. The head should be held well up, the chest expanded, and the weight of the body nearly evenly balanced on both feet, which should be about eighteen or twenty inches apart, so as to give a good firm base without detracting from the rapidity of advance and retreat. In the case of a tall man, the feet will be rather further apart than with a short man; but this is a matter which can be easily adjusted to suit the requirements of each particular case.
The great thing is to get accustomed to the position—to feel "at home" in it—and to be able to shift it at a moment's notice, and, when necessary, to make a firm stand. The drill work is very good for all this, and though it is tedious and irritating to many, it is worth what it costs.
In Fig. 35 we have the point from guard, and in delivering this point the feet retain their positions, flat upon the ground, the right leg is straightened, the left knee bent, and the body advanced over the left knee as far as possible consistent with stability. The left shoulder is necessarily somewhat in advance of the right, and the arms are stretched out horizontally, and quite on a level with the shoulders. The barrel of the rifle, too, is to be held horizontally, with the bayonet pointing to the adversary's throat and chest.
In Fig. 36 we have the point from guard with the lunge, which ought to give an extra reach of a foot or more. Here, as in the point without the lunge, the sole of the right foot should remain flat upon the ground, whilst the left is advanced about a foot or fifteen inches smartly on the straight line between the right heel and the adversary.
It is most important to remember that in all lunges the step-out should be bold and decided, but that to over-stretch the distance is worse than stepping short, because it leaves one in a position from which it is hard to recover. Having made your attack, you want to be in a position of easy retreat to the base of operations, which is "on guard."
We next come to what is called the "Throw-point," by which a little extra reach is obtained over the ordinary point with lunge. This is a point which may be very effective, but unless a man is strong in the arm he should not use it much on account of the difficulty in rapidly regaining hold of the rifle with both hands. The throw-point comes in when in making the ordinary lunge you feel that you are going to be just ever so little short; you then release your hold of the barrel with the left hand, and, bringing the right shoulder well forward, you continue the lunge, holding the rifle by the thin part of the stock alone. The very instant your right arm is fully extended, and the point of the bayonet has reached its furthest limit, you should draw back the rifle, regain possession of the barrel with the left hand, and come into the "on guard" position.
As previously hinted, a knowledge of fencing is of the first importance in studying the use of weapons where the point is the main factor, and the longer the weapon the more this fact is forced upon us. It is of course true for all weapons, but the leverage being so great in the case of the rifle and bayonet, it becomes more apparent. For example, the slightest touch from the thin blade of a foil is sufficient, when applied near the point of the bayonet, to bring about the necessary deflection of the weapon. Indeed I cannot help thinking that if two men fought, one armed with the small-sword or light rapier and the other with the rifle and bayonet, the swordsman would win—always supposing that they were equally expert in the use of their respective weapons. It would seem that the lightness and consequent "handiness" of the rapier must more than make up for the length and strength of the more ponderous arm.
Conflicts between the sword and bayonet are common enough, but it is the broad-sword, as a rule; and one does not often see the bayonet, opposed to the small-sword, used exclusively for thrusting.
In Fig. 38 is given the best general position for coming on guard when opposed by a swordsman. The great object is to keep the opponent at a distance; directly he gets your side of your point you are in difficulties. Therefore never let the point of your bayonet wander far from the lines leading straight to his body.
There is, of course, the "Shorten-arms," shown in Fig. 39; but in actual conflict you might be a dead man twice over before you could get the bayonet back to the position indicated. When the swordsman gets to close quarters, and has possibly missed you, a good plan is to knock him down with the butt of the rifle—using the weapon like the quarter-staff (vide Fig. 9).
The next two sketches show the positions in "Low Guard" and "Point from Low Guard"—the latter being particularly effective on broken ground when an enemy is rushing up a hill at you, or when you want to spike a fellow hiding in long grass.
The "High Guard" and "Head Parry" are chiefly used when dealing with cavalry. It seems to me hardly necessary to give the points of these guards, as they simply amount to extending the arms straight in the direction of the foe.
A man on foot possesses one or two great advantages over a mounted man, for his movements are quicker, and if he can only avoid being ridden down and can keep on the horseman's bridle-hand side, he ought to have a good chance of delivering his point in the left side. It is most important that the man on foot should be ready to spring back so as to avoid a sudden sweep to the left, which will bring him, if the horse is spurred forward at the same time, right under the rider's sword arm.
It is almost superfluous to add that in practice the general habiliments should be much the same as those used when playing quarter-staff. In the illustrations the hands are left bare in order to show the grip of the rifle, but boxing-gloves should invariably be worn, or a broken finger may be the result.
One remembers reading somewhere, I think in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," of a certain "grievous crab-tree cudgel," and the impression left by this description is that the weapon, gnarled and knotty, was capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Any thick stick under two feet long, such as a watchman's staff or a policeman's truncheon, may be fairly called a cudgel, and it is not so long ago that cudgel-play formed one of the chief attractions at country fairs in many parts of England.
A stage was erected, and the young fellows of the neighbourhood were wont to try conclusions with their friends or those celebrities from more distant parts of the country who were anxious to lower their colours.
The game was at times pretty rough, and the object of each combatant was to break the skin on the scalp or forehead of his antagonist, so as to cause blood to flow. As soon as the little red stream was seen to trickle down the face of one or other the battle was at an end, and the man who was successful in drawing first blood was declared the victor. Similarly, German students, squabbling over love affairs or other trivial matters, fight with a long sort of foil, which has a very short lancet blade at the extreme point. Their object, like our old cudgel-players, is to draw first blood, only our Teutonic cousins, in drawing the blood, often lop off their friends' noses or slit open their cheeks from ear to mouth.
There is a great similarity in these two games, because in each the head, and the head alone, is the object aimed at. In the one case the defeated party went away with a pretty severe bump on his head, and in the other he hies him to a surgeon to have his nose fixed on, or his cheek stitched up with silver wire.
I have never been fortunate enough to witness a bout with the cudgels, but those who have been more lucky say that the combatants stood very close to each other, making all the hits nearly straight on to the top of their adversaries' heads, and guarding the returns and attacks with their cudgels and with their left arms.
Considering the cudgel as a modern weapon, I am inclined to advocate its use for prodding an enemy in the pit of the stomach, for, with the extra eighteen inches or so of reach which your cudgel gives you, it is likely that you may get your thrust well home, at any rate before the opponent can hit you with his fist. Many of us know what a blow on the "mark" with the naked fist will do. Well, the area of the knuckles is very much greater than the area of the end of even a very stout stick, so that, if you can put anything like the same force into the thrust that you can into the blow, you will bring a smaller area to bear on a vital point, and consequently work on that point with greater effect.
A grievous crab-tree (or blackthorn) cudgel, with two or three ounces of lead let into one end, is a good thing to have under your pillow at night. Armed with this instrument, you can steal up behind your burglar whilst he is opening your wife's jewel case or bagging your favourite gold snuff-box; but don't get excited about it, and remember to hit his head rather on the sides than on the back or front.
Some authorities advocate "life-preservers," but later on I hope to give my reasons for not caring much about this combination of lead and cane.
In Ireland they were formerly very partial to the use of the shillalah, and even to this day there is a little bit of fun in this line to be seen at most of the fairs.
The shillalah proper is about four feet long and is usually made of blackthorn, oak, ash, or hazel; and it is a great point to get it uniform in thickness and in weight throughout its entire length. It is held somewhere about eight inches or so from the centre, and my countrymen, who are always pretty active on their pins when fighting, use their left forearms to protect the left side of their heads.
It is extraordinary what a lot of knocking about a sturdy Irishman can put up with, and what whacks he can receive on the head without any apparent damage. One cannot help thinking that the Celtic skull must be thicker than the Saxon. The brains in the former are certainly more capable than those in the latter of producing brilliant and amusing, if incorrect, ideas and expressions. The history of the Emerald Isle swarms with Boyle-Rocheisms as the country itself has long been said to swarm with absentee landlords.
After a certain fair, where the whisky and the whacks had contended pretty severely for the first place as regards strength, a certain Paddy was found lying, as Mrs. Malaprop would say, "in a state of como," in a ditch hard by the scene of conflict. A friend solicitous, and fearing the worst, said, "Och, Paddy, what ails ye? Are ye dead?" A feeble voice replied, "Ochone, no, Jack. I'm not dead, but I'm spacheless."
The length of the shillalah gives it a great advantage over a shorter stick, for, when held about a third of its length from the end, the shorter portion serves to guard the right side of the head and the right forearm. Indeed, the definition of the quarter-staff, given at the commencement of Chapter II., seems to me to apply far better to the shillalah, which may in a sense be regarded as the link between the ordinary walking-stick and the mighty weapon which Robin Hood wielded so deftly in his combat with Little John.
The use of the point is almost unknown in Irish conflicts. My countrymen twirl their shillalahs above their heads with a whirring noise, and endeavour to knock off their opponents' hats so as to get at their heads. Then begins the fun of the fair—all is slashing and whacking, and the hardest skull generally comes off the best. Sometimes a great deal of skill is displayed, and I often wonder whether a really expert swordsman would be much more than a match for some quick, strong, Kerry boys I could pick out. Be it remembered, a swordsman invariably keeps his left hand behind his back, whilst an Irishman nearly always makes his left forearm the guard for the left side of his head, and so has more scope for hitting than he would otherwise have. One is here reminded of the conflict between Fitz-James and the Highland Chieftain, Roderick Dhu:—
"Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu, That on the field his targe he threw, Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide Had death so often dashed aside; For, trained abroad his arms to wield, Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield."
The left arm, supplying the place of the targe, alluded to in Scott's lines, is doubtless an advantage; but, in the case of the two combatants whose merits we are considering, the ordinary swordsman possesses superior reach, can lunge out further, and knows full well the value of the point.
A melee at an Irish fair is worth seeing, but it is better not to join in it, if possible.
A number of the "boys," from Cork or an adjacent county, were once had up before Judge Keogh for beating a certain man within an inch of his life. A witness under examination—after graphically describing how one of the prisoners had beaten the poor man "wid a stone, and he lying senseless in the road;" how another had hit the "crater wid a thick wattle;" and how a third had kicked him in the back—was asked what one Michael O'Flannagan, another of the prisoners, had done. "Begorra, your honour," said the witness, "devil a hap'orth was Micky doing at all, at all; he was just walking round searching for a vacancy."
A similar story is told of about a dozen tinkers who had set upon one man and were unmercifully beating him. Presently there was a lull in the proceedings, and a little deformed man, brandishing a very big stick, elbowed his way through the crowd, shouting, "Och, now, boys, for the love of mercy let a poor little cripple have just one stroke at him."
The choice of this useful adjunct is by no means as easy as many people suppose, for it involves not only a knowledge of the prerequisities—in the matter of various kinds of woods, etc.—but also an acquaintance with the situations a man may find himself in, and the uses to which he may have to put his walking-stick.
First, then, as to the matter of the best wood. There are, roughly speaking, two headings under which we may class our types of raw material—strong and stiff wood, such as the oak and the hazel; and strong and pliable, such as the ash-plant and various kinds of canes. What one really wants to secure is a sufficient amount of stiffness and strength to enable one to make an effective hit or longe, without any chance of snapping, and a degree of pliability and spring combined with that lightness which makes a stick handy and lively in actual encounter.
The oak has plenty of power and about the right density, but, unless you get a rather big stick—too big for all-round usefulness,—it is apt to snap. The hazel is perhaps rather too stiff, and it is certainly too light, though for this very reason it is handy. Then, again, there is no bending a hazel without a great chance of breaking it. A good strong ground-ash is not to be despised if cut at the right time, but it is always apt to split or break. Turning to the rattan-cane, we find a capital solid cane—almost unbreakable—but with rather too much bend in it for thrusting, or warding off the rush of a savage dog. The rattan, too, is very apt to split if by any chance the ferrule comes off; and when once it has really split you might just as well have a birch-rod in your hands.
Where, then, shall we look for a stick which combines all the good qualities and is free from the drawbacks just enumerated? Without the slightest hesitation I refer you to the Irish blackthorn, which can be chosen of such convenient size and weight as not to be cumbersome, and which, if carefully selected, possesses all the strength of the oak, plus enormous toughness, and a pliability which makes it a truly charming weapon to work with.
It is a matter of some difficulty to obtain a real blackthorn in London or any big town. You go into a shop, and they show you a smart-looking stick which has been peeled and deprived of most of its knobs, dyed black, and varnished. That is not the genuine article, and, if you buy it, you will become the possessor of a stick as inferior to a blackthorn as a pewter skewer is inferior to a Damascus blade.
The best way is to send over to Kerry, Cork, or some other county in the Emerald Isle, and ask a friend to secure the proper thing as prepared by the inhabitants.
The sticks are cut out of the hedges at that time of year when the sap is not rising; they are then carefully prepared and dried in the peat smoke for some considerable time, the bark of course being left on and the knobs not cut off too close; and, when ready, they are hard, tough, and thoroughly reliable weapons.
As regards appearance, too, I think, when the hard surface of the rich-coloured bark has been rubbed up with a little oil and a nice silver mount fixed on the handle, no man need feel ashamed of being seen with one of them in Piccadilly or Bond Street.
The section of these sticks is seldom a true circle, but bear in mind, when giving your order, to ask for those which are rather flat than otherwise. I mean that the section should be elliptical, and not circular. The shape of the stick then more nearly approaches that of the blade of a sabre, and if you understand sword exercise and make all cuts and guards with the true edge, you are far more likely to do effective work.
Again, the blow comes in with greater severity on account of the curvature at either end of the major axis of the ellipse being sharper than it is at the end of any diameter of the circle, the sectional areas, of course, being taken as equal.
The length of the blackthorn depends on the length of the man for whom it is intended, but always go in for a good long stick. Useful lengths range between 2 ft. 10 in. and 3 ft., and even 3 ft. 6 in. for a very tall man.
The blackthorn, being stiff and covered with sharp knots, is a first-rate weapon for defence at very close quarters. When, therefore, your efforts at distance-work have failed, and you begin to be "hemmed in," seize the stick very firmly with both hands, and dash the point and hilt alternately into the faces and sides of your opponents.
Always have a good ferrule at the end of your stick. An inch and a half from an old gun barrel is the best; and do not fix it on by means of a rivet running through the stick. Let it be fixed in its place either by a deep dent in the side, or by cutting out two little notches and pressing the saw-like tooth into the wood. It is also a good plan to carry these saw-like teeth all round the ferrule and then press the points well into the wood; there is then no chance of the fastening-on causing a split or crack in the wood.
The weight of the stick is an important matter to consider. Some blackthorns are so enormously heavy that it is next to impossible to do any quick effective work with them, and one is reminded, on seeing a man "over sticked,"—if I may be allowed such an expression—of Lord Dundreary's riddle, "Why does a dog wag his tail? Because the dog is stronger than the tail," or of David in Saul's armour. Some time ago it was rather the fashion for very young men to affect gigantic walking-sticks—possibly with the view of intimidating would-be plunderers and robbers, and investing themselves generally with a magic sort of noli me tangere air.
Without wishing to detract from the undoubted merits, in certain special cases, of these very big sticks, I am bound to say that, only being useful to a limited extent, they should not be encouraged. Let the stick you habitually carry be one well within your compass. If it comes up to guard readily and without any apparent effort or straining of your wrist, and if you find you can make all the broadsword cuts, grasping it as shown in Fig. 14, without the least spraining your thumb, then you may be pretty sure that you are not "over-sticked," and that your cuts and thrusts will be smart to an extent not to be acquired if you carried a stick ever so little too heavy for you.
Though it is a good plan to be accustomed to the feel of the weapon which is most likely to serve you in time of need, it is nevertheless a grand mistake to get into a way of imagining that you can only use one kind of stick or one kind of sword effectively.
This is one reason why it is so advisable to range wide in fencing matters. I would always say, commence with the foils and work hard, under some good master, for a year or so without touching any other branch. Then go on to broad-sword, and keep to alternate days with foils. Later on take up the single-stick, and then go on to bayonet-exercise, quarter-staff, and anything else you please.
This extended range of work will give you a wonderful general capability for adapting yourself at a moment's notice to any weapon chance may place in your hands: the leg of an old chair, the joint of a fishing rod, or the common or garden spade; any of these may be used with great effect by an accomplished all-round swordsman.
There is one point on which a few words may not be out of place in this connection.
Good men, with their fists, and those who are proficient with the sword or stick, often complain that, in actual conflict with the rough and ready, though ignorant, assailant, they are worsted because the adversary does something diametrically opposed to what a scientific exponent of either art would do in similar circumstances.
It is certainly trying, when you square up to a rough and expect him to hit out with his fists, to receive a violent doubling-up kick in the stomach; and similarly annoying is it, when attacked by a man with a stick, to experience treatment quite different to anything you ever came across in your own particular School-of-Arms.
But after all this is only what you ought to expect. It is absolutely necessary to suit yourself to your environment for the time being, and be ready for anything.
Depend upon it science must tell, and there is always this very consoling reflection to fall back upon: if your opponent misses you, or you are quick enough to avoid his clumsy attack—either of which is extremely likely to happen—it is highly probable that you will be able to make good your own attack, for, as a rule, the unscientific man hits out of distance or wide of the mark, and this is rarely the case with a scientific man.
It once fell to my lot to be set upon by a couple of very disagreeable roughs in Dublin, one of whom did manage to get the first blow, but it was "all round" and did not do much harm. Before he could deliver a second hit I managed to lay him out with a very severe cut from my blackthorn, which came in contact with his head just between the rim of his hat and the collar of his coat. Now, had my knowledge of stick-play been insufficient to enable me to accurately direct this cut (cut 5) to its destination, I might not now be scribbling these pages. As it turned out, this poor injured rough was placed hors de combat, and was afterwards conveyed to the hospital, and I only had to tackle his friend, a stubborn varlet, who, after knocking me about a good deal and also receiving some rough treatment at my hands, ran away. He was "wanted" by the police for some time, but was never caught.
This little episode is only given to show that the proper delivery of one blow or hit is often enough to turn the tables, and how advisable it is to practise often, so as to keep the eye and hand both steady and quick.
When walking along a country road it is a good plan to make cuts with your stick at weeds, etc., in the hedges, always using the true edge, i.e. if aiming at a certain part of a bramble or nettle, to cut at it, just as though you were using a sabre. By this sort of practice, which, by the way, is to be deprecated in a young plantation or in a friend's garden, you may greatly increase the accuracy of your eye.
It is merely an application of the principle which enables a fly-fisher to place his fly directly under such and such over-hanging boughs, or gives the experienced driver such control over his whip that he can flick a midge off the ear of one of his galloping leaders.
Much does not, in all probability, depend upon the success or failure of the piscator's cast, and very likely the midge might safely be allowed to remain on the leader's ear; but if you are walking in a lonely suburb or country lane, your life may depend upon the accuracy with which you can deliver one single cut or thrust with your faithful blackthorn.
I can almost hear people say, "Oh, this is all rubbish; I'm not going to be attacked; life would not be worth living if one had to be always 'on guard' in this way." Well, considering that this world, from the time we are born to the time we die, is made up of uncertainties, and that we are never really secure from attack at any moment of our lives, it does seem worth while to devote a little attention to the pursuit of a science, which is not only healthful and most fascinating, but which may, in a second of time, enable you to turn a defeat into a victory, and save yourself from being mauled and possibly killed in a fight which was none of your own making. Added to all this, science gives a consciousness of power and ability to assist the weak and defenceless, which ought to be most welcome to the mind of any man. Though always anxious to avoid anything like "a row," there are times when it may be necessary to interfere for the sake of humanity, and how much more easy is it to make that interference dignified and effective if you take your stand with a certainty that you can, if pushed to extreme measures, make matters very warm indeed for the aggressor? The consciousness of power gives you your real authority, and with it you are far more likely to be calm and to gain your point than you would be without the knowledge. Backed up by science, you can both talk and act in a way which is likely to lead to a peaceful solution of a difficulty, whereas, if the science is absent, you dare not, from very uncertainty, use those very words which you know ought to be used on the occasion.
There are necessarily a good many difficulties to be faced in becoming at all proficient in the art of self-defence, but the advantages to be gained are doubtless very great.
An expert swordsman, and by this I mean one who is really au fait with any weapon you may put into his hand, who is also a good boxer and wrestler, is a very nasty customer for any one or even two footpads to make up to.
The worst of it is that it takes so long to become really good in any branch of athletics. When you know all, or nearly all, that is to be learned, you get a bit stiff and past work! But this, after all, need not trouble one much, since it applies to all relations of life. As a wise man once said, with a touch of sorrow and regret in his tone, "By the time you have learned how to live, you die."
As a weapon of modern warfare this implement has not been given a fair place. It has, indeed, too often been spoken of with contempt and disdain, but there is no doubt that, even in the hands of a strong and angry old woman, a gamp of solid proportions may be the cause of much damage to an adversary. Has not an umbrella, opened suddenly and with a good flourish, stopped the deadly onslaught of the infuriated bull, and caused the monarch of the fields to turn tail? Has it not, when similarly brought into action, been the means of stopping a runaway horse, whose mad career might otherwise have caused many broken legs and arms?
If, then, there are these uses beyond those which the dampness of our insular climate forces upon us, it may be well to inquire how they can be brought to bear when a man, who is an expert swordsman, or one who has given attention to his fencing lessons, is attacked without anything in his hands save the homely umbrella.
It is, of course, an extremely risky operation prodding a fellow-creature in the eye with the point of an umbrella; and I once knew a man who, being attacked by many roughs, and in danger of losing his life through their brutality, in a despairing effort made a desperate thrust at the face of one of his assailants. The point entered the eye and the brain, and the man fell stone dead at his feet. I would therefore only advocate the thrusting when extreme danger threatens—as a dernier resort, in fact, and when it is a case of who shall be killed, you or your assailant.
There are two methods of using the umbrella, viz. holding it like a fencing foil—and for this reason umbrellas should always be chosen with strong straight handles—for long thrusts when at a distance, or grasping it firmly with both hands, as one grasps the military rifle when at bayonet-exercise. In the latter case one has a splendid weapon for use against several assailants at close quarters. Both the arms should be bent and held close to the body, which should be made to work freely from the hips, so as to put plenty of weight into the short sharp prods with which you can alternately visit your opponents' faces and ribs. If you have the handle in your right hand, and the left hand grasps the silk (or alpaca), not more than a foot from the point, it will be found most effective to use the forward and upward strokes with the point for the faces, and the back-thrusts with the handle for the bodies. Whatever you do, let your strokes be made very quickly and forcibly, for when it comes to such close work as this your danger lies in being altogether overpowered, thrown down, and possibly kicked to death; and, as I have before hinted, when there is a choice of evils, choose the lesser, and don't be the least squeamish about hurting those who will not hesitate to make a football of your devoted head should it unfortunately be laid low.
Then, again, there is no better weapon for guarding a heavy blow aimed at you with a thick bludgeon than an umbrella, which, with its wire ribs and soft covering, is almost unbreakable, when all its ribs are held tightly with both hands; it is also, for the same reason, when thus grasped with both hands, an excellent defence against the attack of a large powerful dog, which may spring at your throat; but, in this case, remember to get one of your legs well behind the other so as to bring most of the weight of your body on the foremost leg, and, if you are lucky, you may have the satisfaction of throwing the animal on his back.
Thrusting, prodding, and guarding, then, may be called the strong points of the gamp; it is no use for hitting purposes, and invariably tumbles to pieces, comes undone, and gets into a demoralized condition when one tries to make it fulfil all the conditions of the unclothed walking-stick. Besides which, the handles are never made strong enough for hitting, and the hittee is protected by the folds of silk.
Hitting, then, is the weak point of the gamp. Try to remember this when you feel inclined to administer a castigation to man or beast, and bear in mind that a comic scene may ensue, when, hot and angry, you stand with your best umbrella broken and half open, with the silk torn and the ribs sticking out in all directions.
Sometimes umbrellas have been made even more effective weapons by what is called a spring dagger, which consists of a short, strong knife or dirk let into the handle, and is readily brought into play by a sudden jerk, or by touching a spring. This may be all very well for travellers in the out-of-the-way regions of Spain, Sicily, or Italy, but I don't like these dangerous accessories for English use, as they may be unfortunately liable to abuse by excitable persons.
In addition to the weapons already alluded to, there are others which, though not so generally known, or so generally useful, may be turned to good account on certain occasions.
The "life-preserver" consists of a stout piece of cane about a foot long, with a ball of five or six ounces of lead attached firmly to one end by catgut netting, whilst the other end is furnished with a strong leather or catgut loop to go round the wrist and prevent the weapon flying from or being snatched from the hand.
Of course this instrument may be very effective, very deadly, but what you have to consider is this: the serviceable portion is so small—no bigger than a hen's egg—that unless you are almost an expert, or circumstances greatly favour you, there is more than a chance of altogether missing your mark. With the life-preserver you have, say, at most a couple of inches only of effective weapon to rely on, whereas with the cudgel at least a foot of hard and heavy wood may be depended upon for bowling over the adversary.
A leaded rattan cane is a dangerous instrument in expert hands, but my objections to it are very similar to those advanced with regard to the shorter weapon. Leaded walking-sticks are not "handy," for the presence of so much weight in the hitting portion makes them extremely bad for quick returns, recovery, and for guarding purposes.
To my mind the leaded rattan is to the well-chosen blackthorn what the life-preserver is to the cudgel—an inferior weapon.
One does not want to kill but to disable, even those who have taken the mean advantage of trying to catch one unprepared in the highways and byways. To take an ordinary common-sense view of the matter: it is surely better far to have a three to one chance in favour of disabling than an even chance of killing a fellow-creature? The disablement is all you want, and, having secured that, the best thing is to get out of the way as soon as possible, so as to avoid further complications.
The sword-stick is an instrument I thoroughly detest and abominate, and could not possibly advocate the use of in any circumstances whatever.
These wretched apologies for swords are to outward appearance ordinary straight canes—usually of Malacca cane. On pulling the handle of one of these weapons, however, a nasty piece of steel is revealed, and then you draw forth a blade something between a fencing-foil and a skewer.
They are poor things as regards length and strength, and "not in it" with a good solid stick. In the hands of a hasty, hot-tempered individual they may lead to the shedding of blood over some trivial, senseless squabble. The hollowing out of the cane, to make the scabbard, renders them almost useless for hitting purposes.
In the environs of our big cities there is always a chance of attack by some fellow who asks the time, wants a match to light his cigar, or asks the way to some place. When accosted never stop, never draw out watch or box of lights, and never know the way anywhere. Always make a good guess at the time, and swear you have no matches about you. It is wonderful to notice kind-hearted ladies stopping to give to stalwart beggars who are only waiting for an opportunity to snatch purses, and it would be interesting to know how many annually lose their purses and watches through this mistaken method of distributing largess.
Let me conclude by saying that, if you want to be as safe as possible in a doubtful neighbourhood, your best friends are a quick ear, a quick eye, a quick step, and a predilection for the middle of the road. The two former help you to detect, as the two latter may enable you to avoid a sudden onslaught.
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Numerous Illustrations. BOXING. Price 1s.
BY R. G. ALLANSON-WINN,
INNS OF COURT SCHOOL OF ARMS, WINNER OF THE MIDDLE WEIGHTS, CAMBRIDGE, 1876-7; HEAVY WEIGHTS, 1877-8.
"Mr. Winn's book is worthy of great praise, for it is at once one of the cheapest and best on the subject."—Field.
"His (Mr. Allanson-Winn's) book gives ample testimony of his ability to write on boxing. If only for the illustrations that enable the novice to see what he should do with the gloves and what he should not do with them, the brochure is well worth the modest price charged for it."—PENDRAGON in the Referee.
"The art of self-defence is here treated from a thoroughly practical point of view. Clear as the text is, its value is no little enhanced by the numerous and admirably executed illustrations."—St. James's Gazette.
NEW EDITION, REVISED.
Illustrated. WRESTLING. Price 1s.
BY WALTER ARMSTRONG ("CROSS-BUTTOCKER"),
LATE HON. SEC. CUMBERLAND AND WESTMORELAND WRESTLING SOCIETY IN LONDON, AUTHOR OF "WRESTLIANA," ETC., ETC.
"'Wrestling' needs no praise at our hands. It is sufficient to say that the handbook is the work of Mr. Walter Armstrong."—Field.
"No one is better qualified to deal with such a subject than the 'Cross-buttocker,' who for the last thirty years has been known as a clever light-weight wrestler, and whose remarks are, therefore, not mere theories, but founded on the results of long experience."—Sporting Life.
"The handy little volume will be largely acceptable in these northern parts, where wrestling is a distinctive pastime."—West Cumberland Times.
LONDON: G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
Passages in italics are indicated by underscore.
Underlined passages indicated by underline.
The following misprints have been corrected: "cutlas" corrected to "cutlass" (page 23) "two" corrected to "too" (page 81) "once" corrected to "one" (page 86) "spilt" corrected to "split" (page 105)
Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation usage have been retained.