This section is from the book "Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain", by Alfred W. Rees. Also available from Amazon: Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain.
The Master was a rigid disciplinarian in all matters concerned with sport. His servants, one and all, from the old, white-haired family butler down to the little stable-boy, idolised him, but never presumed to disobey his slightest command. For many years before he came to live at the mansion, the Hunt had fallen into a state of extreme neglect; the pack was one of the worst in the kingdom, the subscriptions were irregular, the kennel servants were ill-paid, the poor cottagers never received payment for losses when Reynard visited their hen-coops, and even the farmers began to grumble at needless damage to their hedges, and to refuse to " walk " the puppies. But the new Master had changed all this. He bore his share, but no more, of the expense caused by the reforms he at once introduced, and he reminded his proud yet stingy neighbours that the pack existed for their sport as much as for his own, that arrears were shown in his secretary's subscription-books, and that, unless the funds were augmented, he would reconsider the step he had taken in accepting the Mastership. Useless servants, useless hounds, and merely ornamental members of the Hunt, alike disappeared; and with system and discipline came season after season of prosperity, contentment, and justice, till it seemed that the best old traditions of British sport were revived in a community of hard-working, rough-riding fox-hunters, among the isolated valleys of the west.
As might be inferred from the personality of the Squire, everything was in apple-pie order on the glorious summer morning when he and his huntsmen made their way down river to the wood inhabited by Brock. A complete collection of tools—crowbar, earth-drill, shovels, picks, a woodman's axe, and a badger-tongs that had been used many years ago to unearth a badger in a distant county, and ever since had occupied a corner in 2 a the Squire's harness-room—had already been conveyed to the scene of operations, together with a big basket of provisions and a cask of beer, it being one of the Squire's axioms that hard work deserved good hire. Four brawny labourers were also there; and, near by, each in leash, the three little terriers lay among the bilberries. Punctually at the time appointed, the work of the day began. A terrier was led to the main entrance of the "set," but, to the dismay of the huntsman, he refused to enter. When, however, he was brought to the entrance that artful Brock had lately used, he at once became keenly excited, dragged at his leash, and, on being freed, disappeared in the darkness of the burrow. The Master knelt to listen; and presently, as the sound of furious growls and barks came from the depths, he arose, saying: "Now, my men, we may begin with picks and shovels; our badger is at home".
What followed, from that early summer morning till twilight shadows fell over the woods, and men and dogs, completely beaten, wended their way homewards along the river-path, may best be told, perhaps, in a bare, simple narrative of events as they occurred.
When the terrier went "to ground," he crawled down a steep, winding passage into a hollow, from twelve to fifteen feet below the entrance. Thence, guided by the scent of a badger, he climbed an equally steep passage, to a gallery about six feet below the surface. Following the gallery for a yard or so, he came to a spot where it was joined by a side passage, and here, as well as in the gallery beyond, the scent was strong. He chose the side passage, crept down a slight declivity, and came where Brock's sire had, a few minutes before, been lying asleep, while his mate and cubs occupied the centre of the chamber. Awakened by the approach of the terrier, the she-badger and her offspring had hurried to another chamber of the "set," and the male had retreated to a blind alley recently excavated back towards the main gallery. The terrier, keeping to the line he had struck at the sleeping place, found the male badger at work there, throwing up a barrier between himself and his pursuing enemy, and at once diverted his attention by feinting an attack in the rear. For two hours, the game little dog, avoiding each clumsy charge and yet not giving the badger a moment's peace, remained close by, while the men cut further and further into the " set," till they stood in the first deep chamber through which the terrier had passed. Then the terrier came out to quench his thirst, and was led away by the huntsman to the river, while the second dog was speedily despatched to earth, that the badger might be allowed no breathing space during which he could bury himself beyond the reach of further attack. The second dog, on coming to the junction of the passage and the gallery, chose the alternative line of scent in the gallery, and wandered far away into the chamber where Brock, whose family had descended some time before to the winter " oven," awaited his coming. When the faint barking of the second terrier told that the badger had seemingly shifted his quarters to an almost incredible distance from the trench, the faces of the Squire and his assistants evinced no little surprise. For a moment, the men were inclined to believe that the dog was "marking false," but, presently, their doubts were dispelled, and their hopes revived, as the sounds indicated that the terrier, contesting hotly every inch of the way, was retreating towards them before his enraged enemy. The labourers resumed work, though not with the confidence of the early morning, when their task seemed lighter than the experienced Master would admit. Hour after hour they toiled; the dogs were often changed; and at last the trench was long enough to be within a yard or so of the spot where the dog was engaged. Then, to the mortification of the sportsmen, the sounds of the conflict suggested another change: Brock was retiring leisurely to his chamber. The earth-drill was soon put into play, and the badger's position discovered, but directly afterwards the animal again moved, this time to the deep " oven " below.
Night was now rapidly closing over the woods, and the weary, disappointed men and dogs reluctantly gave up their task. The Squire admitted that on this occasion, at any rate, he was fairly and squarely beaten. Brock and his mate are still in possession of the old burrow beyond the farm; and Brock's sire, a patriarch among badgers, lives, as the comrade of another old male, among the boulders of a rugged hillside a mile from the "set".