He sat on the bed, cradling the weapon across his bare thighs. He hadn't looked at it for months and not fired it for years. It had arrived with him in the cabinet but it was clean and well-oiled with both barrels spotless. Shooting had no great appeal for him but he enjoyed walking with the gun and taking a rabbit or bird when he could, something that could make a meal. He’d shot hares at home in Wiltshire but they’d become scarce in this hill country and he preferred to see them alive in the fields.
He’d never felt the same about killing hares since the day he shot one years ago on the downs. It was late May and out of season but he was a teenager with a gun, firing at anything that moved in the fields. To his dismay when he picked it up he realised it was heavily pregnant. Slitting open the belly he held his breath, dreading what he would find. The three leverets inside must have been only a day or two from birth. They lay on the table perfectly formed, bright dead eyes staring up at him, a silver sheen on their silky brown coats.
He cried, sick with shame and pity for what he’d done. It put him right off the idea of eating the hare and he buried her with her young and kept the secret to himself. He knew leverets were born fully formed, in a depression in the grass, ready to flee predators from birth. He knew all that but the sight of them deprived heedlessly of life loaded him with guilt. Now he took care only to shoot in season and any hares he saw on this land were safe.
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