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George Gissing: Large-scale murder as fair sport


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

George Gissing: Selections on war


George Gissing
From Isabel Clarendon

Not many days later Mrs. Stratton arrived at Knights well, bringing her youngest boy, a ten-year-old, whose absence from school was explained by recent measles. This lady was the wife of an officer at present with his regiment in Africa; her regret at the colonel’s remoteness, and her anxiety on his behalf in a time of savage warfare, were tempered by that spirit of pride in things military which so strongly infuses a certain type of the British matron, destined to bring forth barbarians and heroes…

Young Stratton caught a glimpse of her at it in the park one day, and rushed to join the sport.

“After a rabbit, eh?” he shouted, coming up with them.

Ada at once dropped to a walk, and spoke to the dog, instead of answering the boy’s question.

“I say, you look here!” Edgar suddenly exclaimed in a whisper.

She turned, and saw him aiming with a catapult at a bird perched on a bush hard by. Before the aim was perfect, Ada had snatched the tool from his hands.

“Well, I call that!” cried the youngster, at a loss for words. “What do you want to spoil my shot for?”

“Can’t you amuse yourself without murdering!” returned the girl, hot in anger. “Shoot at that tree-trunk if you must shoot.”

“Murdering!” echoed the youth, in blank astonishment. “Come now, Miss Warren! Murdering a bird – I call that good!”

“What else is it? What right have you to rob the bird of its life? What is it that drives you to kill every creature that you safely may?”

“It’s fair sport!” urged the young Briton, in amaze at this outlandish mode of regarding things.


She stood regarding him, the catapult still in her hand.

“What are you going to be when you grow up?”

“What am I going to be? A soldier, of course.”

“I thought so; then you can murder on a large scale.”

“You call killing the enemy in battle, murder?”

“What do you call it? Fair sport?”

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