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´╗┐Title: Hunting Sketches
Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hunting Sketches" ***

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HUNTING SKETCHES

by Anthony Trollope



Contents:

     The Man who Hunts and Doesn't Like it
     The Man who Hunts and Does Like it
     The Lady who Rides to Hounds
     The Hunting Farmer
     The Man who Hunts and Never Jumps
     The Hunting Parson
     The Master of Hounds
     How to Ride to Hounds



THE MAN WHO HUNTS AND DOESN'T LIKE IT.

It seems to be odd, at first sight, that there should be any such men
as these; but their name and number is legion. If we were to deduct
from the hunting-crowd farmers, and others who hunt because hunting is
brought to their door, of the remainder we should find that the "men
who don't like it" have the preponderance. It is pretty much the same,
I think, with all amusements. How many men go to balls, to races, to the
theatre, how many women to concerts and races, simply because it is the
thing to do? They have perhaps, a vague idea that they may ultimately
find some joy in the pastime; but, though they do the thing constantly,
they never like it. Of all such men, the hunting men are perhaps the
most to be pitied.

They are easily recognized by any one who cares to scrutinize the men
around him in the hunting field. It is not to be supposed that all
those who, in common parlance, do not ride, are to be included among
the number of hunting men who don't like it. Many a man who sticks
constantly to the roads and lines of gates, who, from principle, never
looks at a fence, is much attached to hunting. Some of those who have
borne great names as Nimrods in our hunting annals would as life have
led a forlorn-hope as put a horse at a flight of hurdles. But they,
too, are known; and though the nature of their delight is a mystery to
straight-going men, it is manifest enough, that they do like it. Their
theory of hunting is at any rate plain. They have an acknowledged
system, and know what they are doing. But the men who don't like it,
have no system, and never know distinctly what is their own aim.
During some portion of their career they commonly try to ride hard,
and sometimes for a while they will succeed. In short spurts, while the
cherry-brandy prevails, they often have small successes; but even with
the assistance of a spur in the head they never like it.

Dear old John Leech! What an eye he had for the man who hunts and
doesn't like it! But for such, as a pictorial chronicler of the hunting
field he would have had no fame. Briggs, I fancy, in his way did like
it. Briggs was a full-blooded, up-apt, awkward, sanguine man, who was
able to like anything, from gin and water upwards. But with how many a
wretched companion of Briggs' are we not familiar? men as to whom
any girl of eighteen would swear from the form of his visage and the
carriage of his legs as he sits on his horse that he was seeking honour
where honour was not to be found, and looking for pleasure in places
where no pleasure lay for him.

But the man who hunts and doesn't like it, has his moments of
gratification, and finds a source of pride in his penance. In the
summer, hunting does much for him. He does not usually take much
personal care of his horses, as he is probably a town man and his horses
are summered by a keeper of hunting stables; but he talks of them.
He talks of them freely, and the keeper of the hunting stables is
occasionally forced to write to him. And he can run down to look at his
nags, and spend a few hours eating bad mutton chops, walking about the
yards and paddocks, and, bleeding halfcrowns through the nose. In all
this there is a delight which offers some compensation for his winter
misery to our friend who hunts and doesn't like it.

He finds it pleasant to talk of his horses especially to young women,
with whom, perhaps, the ascertained fact of his winter employment does
give him some credit. It is still something to be a hunting man even
yet, though the multiplicity of railways and the existing plethora of
money has so increased the number of sportsmen, that to keep a nag or
two near some well-known station, is nearly as common as to die. But
the delight of these martyrs is at the highest in the presence of their
tailors; or, higher still, perhaps, in that of their bootmakers. The
hunting man does receive some honour from him who makes his breeches;
and, with a well-balanced sense of justice, the tailor's foreman is,
I think, more patient, more admiring, more demonstrative in his
assurances, more ready with his bit of chalk, when handling the knee of
the man who doesn't like the work, than he ever is with the customer who
comes to him simply because he wants some clothes fit for the saddle.
The judicious conciliating tradesman knows that compensation should
be given, and he helps to give it. But the visits to the bootmaker
are better still. The tailor persists in telling his customer how his
breeches should be made, and after what fashion they should be worn;
but the bootmaker will take his orders meekly. If not ruffled by paltry
objections as to the fit of the foot, he will accede to any amount of
instructions as to the legs and tops. And then a new pair of top boots
is a pretty toy; Costly, perhaps, if needed only as a toy, but very
pretty, and more decorative in a gentleman's dressing-room than
any other kind of garment. And top boots, when multiplied in such
a locality, when seen in a phalanx tell such pleasant lies on their
owner's behalf. While your breeches are as dumb in their retirement as
though you had not paid for them, your conspicuous boots are eloquent
with a thousand tongues! There is pleasure found, no doubt, in this.

As the season draws nigh the delights become vague, and still more
vague; but, nevertheless, there are delights. Getting up at six o'clock
in November to go down to Bletchley by an early train is not in itself
pleasant, but on the opening morning, on the few first opening mornings,
there is a promise about the thing which invigorates and encourages the
early riser. He means to like it this year if he can. He has still some
undefined notion that his period of pleasure will now come. He has not,
as yet, accepted the adverse verdict which his own nature has given
against him in this matter of hunting, and he gets into his early
tub with acme glow of satisfaction. And afterwards it is nice to find
himself bright with mahogany tops, buff-tinted breeches, and a pink
coat. The ordinary habiliments of an English gentleman are so sombre
that his own eye is gratified, and he feels that he has placed himself
in the vanguard of society by thus shining in his apparel. And he will
ride this year! He is fixed to that purpose. He will ride straight; and,
if possible, he will like it.

But the Ethiop cannot change his skin, nor can any man add a cubit to
his stature. He doesn't like it, and all around him in the field know
how it is with him; he himself knows how it is with others like himself,
and he congregates with his brethren. The period of his penance has come
upon him. He has to pay the price of those pleasant interviews with
his tradesmen. He has to expiate the false boasts made to his female
cousins. That row of boots cannot be made to shine in his chamber for
nothing. The hounds have found, and the fox is away. Men are fastening
on their flat-topped hats and feeling themselves in their stirrups.
Horses are hot for the run, and the moment for liking it has come, if
only it were possible!

But at moments such as these something has to be done. The man who
doesn't like it, let him dislike it ever so much, Cannot check his horse
and simply ride back to the hunting stables. He understands that were he
to do that, he must throw up his cap at once and resign. Nor can he trot
easily along the roads with the fat old country gentleman who is out
on his rough cob, and who, looking up to the wind and remembering the
position of adjacent coverts, will give a good guess as to the direction
in which the field will move. No; he must make an effort. The time of
his penance has come, and the penance must be borne. There is a spark
of pluck about him, though unfortunately he has brought it to bear in a
wrong direction. The blood still runs at his heart, and he resolves that
he will ride, if only he could tell which way.

The stout gentleman on the cob has taken the road to the left with a few
companions; but our friend knows that the stout gentleman has a little
game of his own which will not be suitable for one who intends to ride.
Then the crowd in front has divided itself. Those to the right rush down
a hill towards a brook with a ford. One or two, men whom he hates with
an intensity of envy, have jumped the brook, and have settled to their
work. Twenty or thirty others are hustling themselves through the water.
The time for a judicious start on that side is already gone. But others,
a crowd of others, are facing the big ploughed field immediately before
them. That is the straightest riding, and with them he goes. Why has
the scent lain so hot over the up-turned heavy ground? Why do they go
so fast at this the very first blush of the morning? Fortune is always
against him, and the horse is pulling him through the mud as though the
brute meant to drag his arm out of the socket. At the first fence, as
he is steadying himself, a butcher passes him roughly in the jump and
nearly takes away the side of his top boot. He is knocked half out
of his saddle, and in that condition scrambles through. When he has
regained his equilibrium he sees the happy butcher going into the field
beyond. He means to curse the butcher when he catches him, but the
butcher is safe. A field and a half before him he still sees the tail
hounds, and renews his effort. He has meant to like it to-day, and he
will. So he rides at the next fence boldly, where the butcher has left
his mark, and does it pretty well, with a slight struggle. Why is it
that he can never get over a ditch without some struggle in his saddle,
some scramble with his horse? Why does he curse the poor animal so
constantly, unless it be that he cannot catch the butcher? Now he rushes
at a gate which others have opened for him, but rushes too late and
catches his leg. Mad with pain, he nearly gives it up, but the spark
of pluck is still there, and with throbbing knee he perseveres. How he
hates it! It is all detestable now. He cannot hold his horse because of
his gloves, and he cannot get them off. The sympathetic beast knows
that his master is unhappy, and makes himself unhappy and troublesome in
consequence. Our friend is still going, riding wildly, but still keeping
a grain of caution for his fences. He has not been down yet, but has
barely saved himself more than once. The ploughs are very deep, and his
horse, though still boring at him, pants heavily. Oh, that there might
come a check, or that the brute of a fox might happily go to ground! But
no! The ruck of the hunt is far away from him in front, and the game
is running steadily straight for some well known though still distant
protection. But the man who doesn't like it still sees a red coat before
him, and perseveres in chasing the wearer of it. The solitary red coat
becomes distant, and still more distant from him, but he goes on while
he can yet keep the line in which that red coat has ridden. He must
hurry himself, however, or he will be lost to humanity, and will be
alone. He must hurry himself, but his horse now desires to hurry no
more. So he puts his spurs to the brute savagely, and then at some
little fence, some ignoble ditch, they come down together in the mud,
and the question of any further effort is saved for the rider. When he
arises the red coat is out of sight, and his own horse is half across
the field before him. In such a position, is it possible that a man
should like it?

About four o'clock in the afternoon, when the other men are coming in,
he turns up at the hunting stables, and nobody asks him any questions.
He may have been doing fairly well for what anybody knows, and, as he
says nothing of himself, his disgrace is at any rate hidden. Why should
he tell that he had been nearly an hour on foot trying to catch his
horse, that he had sat himself down on a bank and almost cried, and that
he had drained his flask to the last drop before one o'clock? No one
need know the extent of his miseries. And no one does know how great is
the misery endured by those who hunt regularly, and who do not like it.



THE MAN WHO HUNTS AND DOES LIKE IT.

The man who hunts and does like it is an object of keen envy to the man
who hunts and doesn't; but he, too, has his own miseries, and I am not
prepared to say that they are always less aggravating than those endured
by his less ambitious brother in the field. He, too, when he comes to
make up his account, when he brings his hunting to book and inquires
whether his whistle has been worth its price, is driven to declare that
vanity and vexation of spirit have been the prevailing characteristics
of his hunting life. On how many evenings has he returned contented with
his sport? How many days has he declared to have been utterly wasted?
How often have frost and snow, drought and rain, wind and sunshine,
impeded his plans? for to a hunting man frost, snow, drought, rain, wind
and sunshine, will all come amiss. Then, when the one run of the season
comes, he is not there! He has been idle and has taken a liberty with
the day; or he has followed other gods and gone with strange hounds.
With sore ears and bitter heart he hears the exaggerated boastings of
his comrades, and almost swears that he will have no more of it. At the
end of the season he tells himself that the season's amusement has cost
him five hundred pounds; that he has had one good day, three days that
were not bad, and that all the rest have been vanity and vexation of
spirit. After all, it may be a question whether the man who hunts and
doesn't like it does not have the best of it.

When we consider what is endured by the hunting man the wonder is that
any man should like it. In the old days of Squire Western, and in the
old days too since the time of Squire Western, the old days of thirty
years since, the hunting man had his hunting near to him. He was a
country gentleman who considered himself to be energetic if he went out
twice a week, and in doing this he rarely left his house earlier for
that purpose than he would leave it for others. At certain periods of
the year he if ho went out twice a he rarely left his house than he
would leave it periods of the year he would, perhaps, be out before
dawn; but then the general habits of his life conduced to early rising;
and his distances were short. If he kept a couple of horses for the
purpose he was well mounted, and these horses were available for other
uses. He rode out and home, jogging slowly along the roads, and was a
martyr to no ambition. All that has been changed now. The man who hunts
and likes it, either takes a small hurting seat away from the comforts
of his own home, or he locates himself miserably at an inn, or he
undergoes the purgatory of daily journeys up and down from London, doing
that for his hunting which no consideration of money-making would induce
him to do for his business. His hunting requires from him everything,
his time, his money, his social hours, his rest, his sweet morning
sleep; nay, his very dinners have to be sacrificed to this Moloch!

Let us follow him on an ordinary day. His groom comes to his bed-chamber
at seven o'clock, and tells him that it has frozen during the night. If
he be a London man, using the train for his hunting, he knows nothing of
the frost, and does not learn whether the day be practicable or not till
he finds himself down in the country. But we will suppose our friend to
be located in some hunting district, and accordingly his groom
visits him with tidings. "Is it freezing now?" he asks from under the
bedclothes. And even the man who does like it at such moments almost
wishes that the answer should be plainly in the affirmative. Then
swiftly again to the arms of Morpheus he might take himself, and ruffle
his temper no further on that morning! He desires, at any rate, a
decisive answer. To be or not to be as regards that day's hurting is
what he now wants to know. But that is exactly what the groom cannot
tell him. "It's just a thin crust of frost, sir, and the s'mometer is
a standing at the pint." That is the answer which the man makes, and
on that he has to come to a decision! For half an hour he lies doubting
while his water is getting cold, and then sends for his man again. The
thermometer is still standing at the point, but the man has tried the
crust with his heel and found it to be very thin. The man who hunts
and likes it scorns his ease, and resolves that he will at any rate
persevere. He tumbles into his tub, and a little before nine comes out
to his breakfast, still doubting sorely whether or no the day "will do."
There he, perhaps, meets one or two others like himself, and learns that
the men who hunt and don't like it are still warm in their beds. On such
mornings as these, and such mornings are very many, the men who hunt and
do not like it certainly have the best of it. The man who hunts and
does like it takes himself out to some kitchen-garden or neighbouring
paddock, and kicks at the ground himself. Certainly there is a crust,
a very manifest crust. Though he puts up in the country, he has to go
sixteen miles to the meet, and has no means of knowing whether or no the
hounds will go out. "Jorrocks always goes if there's a chance," says one
fellow, speaking of the master. "I don't know," says our friend; "he's a
deal slower at it than he used to be. For my part, I wish Jorrocks would
go; he's getting too old." Then he bolts a mutton chop and a couple of
eggs hurriedly, and submits himself to be carried off in the trap.

Though he is half an hour late at the meet, no hounds have as yet come,
and he begins to curse his luck. A non-hunting day, a day that turns out
to be no day for hunting purposes, begun in this way, is of all days the
most melancholy. What is a man to do with himself who has put himself
into his boots and breeches, and who then finds himself, by one o'clock,
landed back at his starting-point without employment? Who under such
circumstances can apply himself to any salutary employment? Cigars and
stable-talk are all that remain to him; and it is well for him if he can
refrain from the additional excitement of brandy and water.

But on the present occasion we will not presume that our friend has
fallen into so deep a bathos of misfortune. At twelve o'clock Tom
appears, with the hounds following slowly at his heels; and a dozen men,
angry with impatience, fly at him with assurances that there has been no
sign of frost since ten o'clock. "Ain't there?" says Tom; "you look at
the north sides of the banks, and see how you'd like it." Some one makes
an uncivil remark as to the north sides of the banks, and wants to know
when old Jorrocks is coming. "The squire 'll be here time enough," says
Tom. And then there takes place that slow walking up and down of the
hounds, which on such mornings always continues for half an hour. Let
him who envies the condition of the man who hunts and likes it, remember
that a cold thaw is going on, that our friend is already sulky with
waiting, that to ride up and down for an hour and a half at a walking
pace on such a morning is not an exhilarating pastime, and he will
understand that the hunting man himself may have doubts as to the wisdom
of his course of action.

But at last Jorrocks is there, and the hounds trot off to cover. So dull
has been everything on this morning that even that is something, and
men begin to make themselves happier in the warmth of the movement.
The hounds go into covert, and a period of excitement is commenced. Our
friend who likes hunting remarks to his neighbour that the ground is
rideable. His neighbour who doesn't like it quite so well says that he
doesn't know. They remain standing close together on a forest ride for
twenty minutes, but conversation doesn't go beyond that. The man who
doesn't like it has lit a cigar, but the man who does like it never
lights a cigar when hounds are drawing.

And now the welcome music is heard, and a fox has been found. Mr.
Jorrocks, gallopping along the ride with many oaths, implores those
around him to hold their tongues and remain quiet. Why he should trouble
himself to do this, as he knows that no one will obey his orders, it is
difficult to surmise. Or why men should stand still in the middle of a
large wood when they expect a fox to break, because Mr. Jorrocks swears
at them, is also not to be understood. Our friend pays no attention to
Mr. Jorrocks, but makes for the end of the ride, going with ears erect,
and listening to the distant hounds as they turn upon the turning fox.
As they turn, he returns; and, splashing through the mud of the now
softened ground, through narrow tracks, with the boughs in his face,
listening always, now hoping, now despairing, speaking to no one, but
following and followed, he makes his way backwards and forwards through
the wood, till at last, weary with wishing and working, he rests himself
in some open spot, and begins to eat his luncheon. It is now past two,
and it would puzzle him to say what pleasure he has as yet had out of
his day's amusement.

But now, while the flask is yet at his mouth, he hears from some distant
corner a sound that tells him that the fox is away. He ought to have
persevered, and then he would have been near them. As it is, all that
labour of riding has been in vain, and he has before him the double task
of finding the line of the hounds and of catching them when he has found
it. He has a crowd of men around him; but he knows enough of hunting
to be aware that the men who are wrong at such moments are always more
numerous than they who are right. He has to choose for himself, and
chooses quickly, dashing down a ride to the right, while a host of
those who know that he is one of them who like it, follow closely at
his heels, too closely, as he finds at the first fence out of the woods,
when one of his young admirers almost jumps on the top of him. "Do you
want to get into my pocket, sir?" he says, angrily. The young admirer is
snubbed, and, turning away, attempts to make a line for himself.

But though he has been followed, he has great doubt as to his own
course. To hesitate is to be lost, so he goes on, on rapidly, looking as
he clears every fence for the spot at which he is to clear the next; but
he is by no means certain of his course. Though he has admirers at
his heels who credit him implicitly, his mind is racked by an agony of
ignorance. He has got badly away, and the hounds are running well, and
it is going to be a good thing; and he will not see it. He has not
been in for anything good this year, and now this is his luck! His eye
travels round over the horizon as he is gallopping, and though he sees
men here and there, he can catch no sign of a hound; nor can he catch
the form of any man who would probably be with them. But he perseveres,
choosing his points as he goes, till the tail of his followers becomes
thinner and thinner. He comes out upon a road, and makes the pace as
good as he can along the soft edge of it. He sniffs at the wind, knowing
that the fox, going at such a pace as this, must run with it. He tells
himself from outward signs where he is, and uses his dead knowledge to
direct him. He scorns to ask a question as he passes countrymen in his
course, but he would give five guineas to know exactly where the hounds
are at that moment. He has been at it now forty minutes, and is in
despair. His gallant nag rolls a little under him, and he knows that he
has been going too fast. And for what; for what? What good has it all
done him? What good will it do him, though he should kill the beast?
He curses between his teeth, and everything is vanity and vexation of
spirit.

"They've just run into him at Boxall Springs, Mr. Jones," says a farmer
whom he passes on the road. Boxall Springs is only a quarter of a mile
before him, but he wonders how the farmer has come to know all about it.
But on reaching Boxall Springs he finds that the farmer was right, and
that Tom is already breaking up the fox. "Very good thing, Mr. Jones,"
says the squire in good humour. Our friend mutters something between his
teeth and rides away in dudgeon from the triumphant master. On his road
home he hears all about it from everybody. It seems to him that he alone
of all those who are anybody has missed the run, the run of the season!
"And killed him in the open as you may say," says Smith, who has already
twice boasted in Jones's hearing that he had seen every turn the hounds
had made. "It wasn't in the open," says Jones, reduced in his anger to
diminish as far as may be the triumph of his rival.

Such is the fate, the too frequent fate of the man who hunts and does
like it.



THE LADY WHO RIDES TO HOUNDS.

Among those who hunt there are two classes of hunting people who always
like it, and these people are hunting parsons and hunting ladies. That
it should be so is natural enough. In the life and habits of parsons
and ladies there is much that is antagonistic to hunting, and they who
suppress this antagonism do so because they are Nimrods at heart.
But the riding of these horsemen under difficulties, horsemen and
horsewomen, leaves a strong impression on the casual observer of
hunting; for to such an one it seems that the hardest riding is
forthcoming exactly where no hard riding should be expected. On the
present occasion I will, if you please, confine myself to the lady who
rides to hounds, and will begin with an assertion, which will not
be contradicted, that the number of such ladies is very much on the
increase.

Women who ride, as a rule, ride better than men. They, the women, have
always been instructed; whereas men have usually come to ride without
any instruction. They are put upon ponies when they are all boys, and
put themselves upon their fathers' horses as they become hobbledehoys:
and thus they obtain the power of sticking on to the animal while
he gallops and jumps, and even while he kicks and shies; and, so
progressing, they achieve an amount of horsemanship which answers
the purposes of life. But they do not acquire the art of riding with
exactness, as women do, and rarely have such hands as a woman has on
a horse's mouth. The consequence of this is that women fall less often
than men, and the field is not often thrown into the horror which would
arise were a lady known to be in a ditch with a horse lying on her.

I own that I like to see three or four ladies out in a field, and I like
it the better if I am happy enough to count one or more of them among
my own acquaintances. Their presence tends to take off from hunting that
character of horseyness, of both fast horseyness and slow horseyness,
which has become, not unnaturally, attached to it, and to bring it
within the category of gentle sports. There used to prevail an idea that
the hunting man was of necessity loud and rough, given to strong drinks,
ill adapted for the poetries of life, and perhaps a little prone to make
money out of his softer friend. It may now be said that this idea is
going out of vogue, and that hunting men are supposed to have that same
feeling with regard to their horses, the same and no more, which ladies
have for their carriage or soldiers for their swords. Horses are valued
simply for the services that they can render, and are only valued highly
when they are known to be good servants. That a man may hunt without
drinking or swearing, and may possess a nag or two without any
propensity to sell it or them for double their value, is now beginning
to be understood. The oftener that women are to be seen "out," the more
will such improved feelings prevail as to hunting, and the pleasanter
will be the field to men who are not horsey, but who may nevertheless be
good horsemen.

There are two classes of women who ride to hounds, or, rather, among
many possible classifications, there are two to which I will now call
attention. There is the lady who rides, and demands assistance; and
there is the lady who rides, and demands none. Each always, I may
say always, receives all the assistance that she may require; but the
difference between the two, to the men who ride with them, is very
great. It will, of course, be understood that, as to both these samples
of female Nimrods, I speak of ladies who really ride, not of those who
grace the coverts with, and disappear under the auspices of, their papas
or their grooms when the work begins.

The lady who rides and demands assistance in truth becomes a nuisance
before the run is over, let her beauty be ever so transcendent, her
horsemanship ever-so-perfect, and her battery of general feminine
artillery ever so powerful. She is like the American woman, who is
always wanting your place in a railway carriage, and demanding it, too,
without the slightest idea of paying you for it with thanks; whose study
it is to treat you as though she ignored your existence while she is
appropriating your services. The hunting lady who demands assistance is
very particular about her gates, requiring that aid shall be given to
her with instant speed, but that the man who gives it shall never
allow himself to be hurried as he renders it. And she soon becomes
reproachful, oh, so soon! It is marvellous to watch the manner in which
a hunting lady will become exacting, troublesome, and at last imperious,
deceived and spoilt by the attention which she receives. She teaches
herself to think at last that a man is a brute who does not ride as
though he were riding as her servant, and that it becomes her to assume
indignation if every motion around her is not made with some reference
to her safety, to her comfort, or to her success. I have seen women look
as Furies look, and heard them speak as Furies are supposed to speak,
because men before them could not bury themselves and their horses out
of their way at a moment's notice, or because some pulling animal would
still assert himself while they were there, and not sink into submission
and dog-like obedience for their behoof.

I have now before my eyes one who was pretty, brave, and a good
horse-woman; but how men did hate her! When you were in a line with her
there was no shaking her off. Indeed, you were like enough to be shaken
off yourself, and to be rid of her after that fashion. But while you
were with her you never escaped her at a single fence, and always felt
that you were held to be trespassing against her in some manner. I shall
never forget her voice, "Pray, take care of that gate." And yet it was
a pretty voice, and elsewhere she was not given to domineering more than
is common to pretty women in general; but she had been taught badly from
the beginning, and she was a pest. It was the same at every gap. "Might
I ask you not to come too near me?" And yet it was impossible to escape
her. Men could not ride wide of her, for she would not ride wide of
them. She had always some male escort with her, who did not ride as she
rode, and consequently, as she chose to have the advantage of an escort,
of various escorts, she was always in the company of some who did not
feel as much joy in the presence of a pretty young woman as men should
do under all circumstances. "Might I ask you not to come too near me?"
If she could only have heard the remarks to which this constant little
request of hers gave rise. She is now the mother of children, and her
hunting days are gone, and probably she never makes that little request.
Doubtless that look, made up partly of offence and partly of female
dignity, no longer clouds her brow. But I fancy that they who knew her
of old in the hunting field never approach her now without fancying that
they hear those reproachful words, and see that powerful look of injured
feminine weakness.

But there is the hunting lady who rides hard and never asks for
assistance. Perhaps I may be allowed to explain to embryo Dianas, to the
growing huntresses of the present age, that she who rides and makes
no demand receives attention as close as is ever given to her more
imperious sister. And how welcome she is! What a grace she lends to
the day's sport! How pleasant it is to see her in her pride of place,
achieving her mastery over the difficulties in her way by her own wit,
as all men, and all women also, must really do who intend to ride to
hounds; and doing it all without any sign that the difficulties are too
great for her!

The lady who rides like this is in truth seldom in the way. I have heard
men declare that they would never wish to see a side-saddle in the field
because women are troublesome, and because they must be treated with
attention let the press of the moment be ever so instant. From this I
dissent altogether. The small amount of courtesy that is needed is more
than atoned for by the grace of her presence, and in fact produces no
more impediment in the hunting-field than in other scenes of life.
But in the hunting-field, as in other scenes, let assistance never be
demanded by a woman. If the lady finds that she cannot keep a place in
the first flight without such demands on the patience of those around
her, let her acknowledge to herself that the attempt is not in her line,
and that it should be abandoned. If it be the ambition of a hunting lady
to ride straight, and women have very much of this ambition, let her use
her eyes but never her voice; and let her ever have a smile for those
who help her in her little difficulties. Let her never ask any one "to
take care of that gate," or look as though she expected the profane
crowd to keep aloof from her. So shall she win the hearts of those
around her, and go safely through brake and brier, over ditch and dyke,
and meet with a score of knights around her who will be willing and able
to give her eager aid should the chance of any moment require it.

There are two accusations which the more demure portion of the world
is apt to advance against hunting ladies, or, as I should better say,
against hunting as an amusement for ladies. It leads to flirting, they
say, to flirting of a sort which mothers would not approve; and it leads
to fast habits, to ways and thoughts which are of the horse horsey, and
of the stable, strongly tinged with the rack and manger. The first of
these accusations is, I think, simply made in ignorance. As girls are
brought up among us now-a-days, they may all flirt, if they have a mind
to do so; and opportunities for flirting are much better and much more
commodious in the ball-room, in the drawing-room, or in the park, than
they are in the hunting-field. Nor is the work in hand of a nature to
create flirting tendencies, as, it must be admitted, is the nature of
the work in hand when the floors are waxed and the fiddles are going.
And this error has sprung from, or forms part of, another, which is
wonderfully common among non-hunting folk. It is very widely thought
by many, who do not, as a rule, put themselves in opposition to the
amusements of the world, that hunting in itself is a wicked thing; that
hunting men are fast, given to unclean living and bad ways of life; that
they usually go to bed drunk, and that they go about the world roaring
hunting cries, and disturbing the peace of the innocent generally.
With such men, who could wish that wife, sister, or daughter should
associate? But I venture to say that this opinion, which I believe to be
common, is erroneous, and that men who hunt are not more iniquitous
than men who go out fishing, or play dominoes, or dig in their gardens.
Maxima debetur pueris reverentia, and still more to damsels; but if boys
and girls will never go where they will hear more to injure them than
they will usually do amidst the ordinary conversation of a hunting
field, the maxima reverentia will have been attained.

As to that other charge, let it be at once admitted that the young lady
who has become of the horse horsey has made a fearful, almost a fatal
mistake. And so also has the young man who falls into the same error. I
hardly know to which such phase of character may be most injurious. It
is a pernicious vice, that of succumbing to the beast that carries you,
and making yourself, as it were, his servant, instead of keeping him
ever as yours. I will not deny that I have known a lady to fall into
this vice from hunting; but so also have I known ladies to marry their
music-masters and to fall in love with their footmen. But not on that
account are we to have no music-masters and no footmen.

Let the hunting lady, however, avoid any touch of this blemish,
remembering that no man ever likes a woman to know as much about a horse
as he thinks he knows himself.



THE HUNTING FARMER.

Few hunting men calculate how much they owe to the hunting farmer, or
recognize the fact that hunting farmers contribute more than any other
class of sportsmen towards the maintenance of the sport. It is hardly
too much to say that hunting would be impossible if farmers did not
hunt. If they were inimical to hunting, and men so closely concerned
must be friends or enemies, there would be no foxes left alive; and
no fox, if alive, could be kept above ground. Fences would be
impracticable, and damages would be ruinous; and any attempt to maintain
the institution of hunting would be a long warfare in which the opposing
farmer would certainly be the ultimate conqueror. What right has the
hunting man who goes down from London, or across from Manchester, to
ride over the ground which he treats as if it were his own, and to which
he thinks that free access is his undoubted privilege? Few men, I
fancy, reflect that they have no such right, and no such privilege, or
recollect that the very scene and area of their exercise, the land that
makes hunting possible to them, is contributed by the farmer. Let any
one remember with what tenacity the exclusive right of entering upon
their small territories is clutched and maintained by all cultivators in
other countries; let him remember the enclosures of France, the vine and
olive terraces of Tuscany, or the narrowly-watched fields of Lombardy;
the little meadows of Switzerland on which no stranger's foot is allowed
to come, or the Dutch pastures, divided by dykes, and made safe from all
intrusions. Let him talk to the American farmer of English hunting, and
explain to that independent, but somewhat prosaic husbandman, that in
England two or three hundred men claim the right of access to every
man's land during the whole period of the winter months! Then, when he
thinks of this, will he realize to himself what it is that the English
farmer contributes to hunting in England? The French countryman cannot
be made to understand it. You cannot induce him to believe that if
he held land in England, looking to make his rent from tender young
grass-fields and patches of sprouting corn, he would be powerless to
keep out intruders, if those intruders came in the shape of a rushing
squadron of cavalry, and called themselves a hunt. To him, in accordance
with his existing ideas, rural life under such circumstances would be
impossible. A small pan of charcoal, and an honourable death-bed, would
give him relief after his first experience of such an invasion.

Nor would the English farmer put up with the invasion, if the English
farmer were not himself a hunting man. Many farmers, doubtless, do not
hunt, and they bear it, with more or less grace; but they are inured to
it from their infancy, because it is in accordance with the habits and
pleasures of their own race. Now and again, in every hunt, some man
comes up, who is, indeed, more frequently a small proprietor new to the
glories of ownership, than a tenant farmer, who determines to vindicate
his rights and oppose the field. He puts up a wire-fence round his
domain, thus fortifying himself, as it were, in his citadel, and defies
the world around him. It is wonderful how great is the annoyance which
one such man may give, and how thoroughly he may destroy the comfort of
the coverts in his neighbourhood. But, strong as such an one is in his
fortress, there are still the means of fighting him. The farmers around
him, if they be hunting men, make the place too hot to hold him. To them
he is a thing accursed, a man to be spoken of with all evil language,
as one who desires to get more out of his land than Providence, that is,
than an English Providence, has intended. Their own wheat is exposed,
and it is abominable to them that the wheat of another man should be
more sacred than theirs.

All this is not sufficiently remembered by some of us when the period
of the year comes which is trying to the farmer's heart, when the young
clover is growing, and the barley has been just sown. Farmers, as
a rule, do not think very much of their wheat. When such riding is
practicable, of course they like to see men take the headlands and
furrows; but their hearts are not broken by the tracks of horses across
their wheat-fields. I doubt, indeed, whether wheat is ever much injured
by such usage. But let the thoughtful rider avoid the new-sown barley;
and, above all things, let him give a wide berth to the new-laid meadows
of artificial grasses. They are never large, and may always be shunned.
To them the poaching of numerous horses is absolute destruction. The
surface of such enclosures should be as smooth as a billiard-table, so
that no water may lie in holes; and, moreover, any young plant cut by a
horse's foot is trodden out of existence. Farmers do see even this done,
and live through it without open warfare; but they should not be put to
such trials of temper or pocket too often.

And now for my friend the hunting farmer in person, the sportsman whom I
always regard as the most indispensable adjunct to the field, to whom I
tender my spare cigar with the most perfect expression of my good will.
His dress is nearly always the same. He wears a thick black coat, dark
brown breeches, and top boots, very white in colour, or of a very dark
mahogany, according to his taste. The hunting farmer of the old school
generally rides in a chimney-pot hat; but, in this particular, the
younger brethren of the plough are leaving their old habits, and running
into caps, net hats, and other innovations which, I own, are somewhat
distasteful to me. And there is, too, the ostentatious farmer, who rides
in scarlet, signifying thereby that he subscribes his ten or fifteen
guineas to the hunt fund. But here, in this paper, it is not of him I
speak. He is a man who is so much less the farmer, in that he is the
more an ordinary man of the ordinary world. The farmer whom we have now
before us shall wear the old black coat, and the old black hat, and the
white top boots, rather daubed in their whiteness; and he shall be the
genuine farmer of the old school.

My friend is generally a modest man in the field, seldom much given to
talking unless he be first addressed; and then he prefers that you shall
take upon yourself the chief burden of the conversation. But on certain
hunting subjects he has his opinion, indeed, a very strong opinion, and
if you can drive him from that, your eloquence must be very great. He is
very urgent about special coverts, and even as to special foxes; and
you will often find smouldering in his bosom, if you dive deep enough to
search for it, a half-smothered fire of indignation against the master
because the country has, according to our friend's views, been drawn
amiss. In such matters the farmer is generally right; but he is slow to
communicate his ideas, and does not recognize the fact that other men
have not the same opportunities for observation which belong to him. A
master, however, who understands his business will generally consult a
farmer; and he will seldom, I think, or perhaps never, consult any one
else.

Always shake hands with your friend the farmer. It puts him at his ease
with you, and he will tell you more willingly after that ceremony what
are his ideas about the wind, and what may be expected of the day.
His day's hunting is to him a solemn thing, and he gives to it all his
serious thought. If any man can predicate anything of the run of a fox,
it is the farmer.

I had almost said that if any one knew anything of scent, it is the
farmer; but of scent I believe that not even the farmer knows anything.
But he knows very much as to the lie of the country, and should my
gentle reader by chance have taken a glass or two of wine above ordinary
over night, the effect of which will possibly be a temporary distaste
to straight riding, no one's knowledge as to the line of the lanes is so
serviceable as that of the farmer.

As to riding, there is the ambitious farmer and the unambitious farmer;
the farmer who rides hard, that is, ostensibly hard, and the farmer who
is simply content to know where the hounds are, and to follow them at
a distance which shall maintain him in that knowledge. The ambitious
farmer is not the hunting farmer in his normal condition; he is either
one who has an eye to selling his horse, and, riding with that view,
loses for the time his position as farmer; or he is some exceptional
tiller of the soil who probably is dangerously addicted to hunting as
another man is addicted to drinking; and you may surmise respecting him
that things will not go well with him after a year or two. The friend
of my heart is the farmer who rides, but rides without sputtering; who
never makes a show of it, but still is always there; who feels it to be
no disgrace to avoid a run of fences when his knowledge tells him that
this may be done without danger of his losing his place. Such an one
always sees a run to the end. Let the pace have been what it may, he is
up in time to see the crowd of hounds hustling for their prey, and to
take part in the buzz of satisfaction which the prosperity of the run
has occasioned. But the farmer never kills his horse, and seldom rides
him even to distress. He is not to be seen loosing his girths, or
looking at the beast's flanks, or examining his legs to ascertain what
mischances may have occurred. He takes it all easily, as men always take
matters of business in which they are quite at home. At the end of the
run he sits mounted as quietly as he did at the meet, and has none
of that appearance of having done something wonderful, which on such
occasions is so very strong in the faces of the younger portion of the
pink brigade. To the farmer his day's hunting is very pleasant, and by
habit is even very necessary; but it comes in its turn like market-day,
and produces no extraordinary excitement. He does not rejoice over an
hour and ten minutes with a kill in the open, as he rejoices when he
has returned to Parliament the candidate who is pledged to repeal of the
malt-tax; for the farmer of whom we are speaking now, though he rides
with constancy, does not ride with enthusiasm.

O fortunati sua si bona norint farmers of England! Who in the town is
the farmer's equal? What is the position which his brother, his uncle,
his cousin holds? He is a shopkeeper, who never has a holiday, and does
not know what to do with it when it comes to him; to whom the fresh air
of heaven is a stranger; who lives among sugars and oils, and the dust
of shoddy, and the size of new clothing. Should such an one take to
hunting once a week, even after years of toil, men would point their
fingers at him and whisper among themselves that he was as good as
ruined. His friends would tell him of his wife and children; and,
indeed, would tell him truly, for his customers would fly from him.
But nobody grudges the farmer his day's sport! No one thinks that he is
cruel to his children and unjust to his wife because he keeps a nag for
his amusement, and can find a couple of days in the week to go among his
friends. And with what advantages he does this! A farmer will do as much
with one horse, will see as much hunting, as an outside member of
the hunt will do with four, and, indeed, often more. He is his own
head-groom, and has no scruple about bringing his horse out twice a
week. He asks no livery-stable keeper what his beast can do, but tries
the powers of the animal himself, and keeps in his breast a correct
record. When the man from London, having taken all he can out of his
first horse, has ridden his second to a stand-still, the farmer trots up
on his stout, compact cob, without a sign of distress. He knows that the
condition of a hunter and a greyhound should not be the same, and that
his horse, to be in good working health, should carry nearly all the
hard flesh that he can put upon him. How such an one must laugh in his
sleeve at the five hunters of the young swell who, after all, is brought
to grief in the middle of the season, because he has got nothing to
ride! A farmer's horse is never lame, never unfit to go, never throws
out curbs, never breaks down before or behind. Like his master, he is
never showy. He does not paw, and prance, and arch his neck, and bid the
world admire his beauties; but, like his master, he is useful; and when
he is wanted, he can always do his work.

O fortunatus nimium agricola, who has one horse, and that a good one, in
the middle of a hunting country!



THE MAN WHO HUNTS AND NEVER JUMPS.

The British public who do not hunt believe too much in the jumping of
those who do. It is thought by many among the laity that the hunting
man is always in the air, making clear flights over five-barred gates,
six-foot walls, and double posts and rails, at none of which would the
average hunting man any more think of riding than he would at a small
house. We used to hear much of the Galway Blazers, and it was supposed
that in County Galway a stiff-built wall six feet high was the sort of
thing that you customarily met from field to field when hunting in that
comfortable county. Such little impediments were the ordinary food of a
real Blazer, who was supposed to add another foot of stonework and a sod
of turf when desirous of making himself conspicuous in his moments of
splendid ambition. Twenty years ago I rode in Galway now and then, and
I found the six-foot walls all shorn of their glory, and that men whose
necks were of any value were very anxious to have some preliminary
knowledge of the nature of the fabric, whether for instance it might
be solid or built of loose stones, before they trusted themselves to
an encounter with a wall of four feet and a half. And here, in England,
history, that nursing mother of fiction, has given hunting men honours
which they here never fairly earned. The traditional five-barred gate
is, as a rule, used by hunting men as it was intended to be used by the
world at large; that is to say, they open it; and the double posts and
rails which look so very pretty in the sporting pictures, are thought to
be very ugly things whenever an idea of riding at them presents itself.
It is well that mothers should know, mothers full of fear for their boys
who are beginning, that the necessary jumping of the hunting field is
not after all of so very tremendous a nature; and it may be well also to
explain to them and to others that many men hunt with great satisfaction
to themselves who never by any chance commit themselves to the peril of
a jump, either big or little.

And there is much excellent good sense in the mode of riding adopted by
such gentlemen. Some men ride for hunting, some for jumping, and some
for exercise; some, no doubt, for all three of these things. Given a
man with a desire for the latter, no taste for the second, and some
partiality for the first, and he cannot do better than ride in the
manner I am describing. He may be sure that he will not find himself
alone; and he may be sure also that he will incur none of that ridicule
which the non-hunting man is disposed to think must be attached to such
a pursuit. But the man who hunts and never jumps, who deliberately makes
up his mind that he will amuse himself after that fashion, must always
remember his resolve, and be true to the conduct which he has laid down
for himself. He must jump not at all. He must not jump a little, when
some spurt or spirit may move him, or he will infallibly find himself in
trouble. There was an old Duke of Beaufort who was a keen and practical
sportsman, a master of hounds, and a known Nimrod on the face of the
earth; but he was a man who hunted and never jumped. His experience was
perfect, and he was always true to his resolution. Nothing ever tempted
him to cross the smallest fence. He used to say of a neighbour of his,
who was not so constant, "Jones is an ass. Look at him now. There he is,
and he can't get out. Jones doesn't like jumping, but he jumps a little,
and I see him pounded every day. I never jump at all, and I'm always
free to go where I like." The Duke was certainly right, and Jones was
certainly wrong. To get into a field, and then to have no way of getting
out of it, is very uncomfortable. As long as you are on the road you
have a way open before you to every spot on the world's surface, open,
or capable of being opened; or even if incapable of being opened, not
positively detrimental to you as long as you are on the right side. But
that feeling of a prison under the open air is very terrible, and is
rendered almost agonizing by the prisoner's consciousness that his
position is the result of his own imprudent temerity, of an audacity
which falls short of any efficacious purpose. When hounds are running,
the hunting man should always, at any rate, be able to ride on, to ride
in some direction, even though it be in a wrong direction. He can then
flatter himself that he is riding wide and making a line for himself.
But to be entrapped into a field without any power of getting out of it;
to see the red backs of the forward men becoming smaller and smaller in
the distance, till the last speck disappears over some hedge; to see the
fence before you and know that it is too much for you; to ride round and
round in an agony of despair which is by no means mute, and at last to
give sixpence to some boy to conduct you back into the road; that is
wretched: that is real unhappiness. I am, therefore, very persistent in
my advice to the man who purposes to hunt without jumping. Let him not
jump at all. To jump, but only to jump a little, is fatal. Let him think
of Jones.

The man who hunts and doesn't jump, presuming him not to be a duke or
any man greatly established as a Nimrod in the hunting world, generally
comes out in a black coat and a hat, so that he may not be specially
conspicuous in his deviations from the line of the running. He began his
hunting probably in search of exercise, but has gradually come to add a
peculiar amusement to that pursuit; and of a certain phase of hunting he
at last learns more than most of those who ride closest to the hounds.
He becomes wonderfully skillful in surmising the line which a fox may
probably take, and in keeping himself upon roads parallel to the ruck
of the horsemen. He is studious of the wind, and knows to a point of
the compass whence it is blowing. He is intimately conversant with every
covert in the country; and, beyond this, is acquainted with every earth
in which foxes have had their nurseries, or are likely to locate them.
He remembers the drains on the different farms in which the hunted
animal may possible take refuge, and has a memory even for rabbit-holes.
His eye becomes accustomed to distinguish the form of a moving horseman
over half-a-dozen fields; and let him see but a cap of any leading man,
and he will know which way to turn himself. His knowledge of the country
is correct to a marvel. While the man who rides straight is altogether
ignorant of his whereabouts, and will not even distinguish the woods
through which he has ridden scores of times, the man who rides and never
jumps always knows where he is with the utmost accuracy. Where parish is
divided from parish and farm from farm, has been a study to him; and he
has learned the purpose and bearing of every lane. He is never thrown
out, and knows the nearest way from every point to point. If there be a
line of gates across from one road to another he will use them, but he
will commit himself to a line of gates on the land of no farmer who uses
padlocks.

As he trots along the road, occasionally breaking into a gallop when he
perceives from some sign known to him that the hunt is turning from him,
he is generally accompanied by two or three unfortunates who have lost
their way and have straggled from the hounds; and to them he is a
guide, philosopher, and friend. He is good-natured for the moment, and
patronizes the lost ones. He informs them that they are at last in the
right way, and consoles them by assurances that they have lost nothing.

"The fox broke, you know, from the sharp corner of Granby-wood," he
says; "the only spot that the crowd had left for him. I saw him come
out, standing on the bridge in the road. Then he ran up-wind as far
as Green's barn." "Of course he did," says one of the unfortunates
who thinks he remembers something of a barn in the early part of the
performance. "I was with the three or four first as far as that." "There
were twenty men before the hounds there," says our man of the road, who
is not without a grain of sarcasm, and can use it when he is strong
on his own ground. "Well, he turned there, and ran back very near the
corner; but he was headed by a sheep-dog, luckily, and went to the left
across the brook." "Ah, that's where I lost them," says one unfortunate.
"I was with them miles beyond that," says another. "There were five or
six men rode the brook," continues our philosopher, who names the four
or five, not mentioning the unfortunate who had spoken last as having
been among the number. "Well; then he went across by Ashby Grange,
and tried the drain at the back of the farmyard, but Bootle had had it
stopped. A fox got in there one day last March, and Bootle always stops
it since that. So he had to go on, and he crossed the turnpike close
by Ashby Church. I saw him cross, and the hounds were then full five
minutes behind him. He went through Frolic Wood, but he didn't hang a
minute, and right up the pastures to Morley Hall." "That's where I was
thrown out," says the unfortunate who had boasted before, and who is
still disposed to boast a little. But our philosopher assures him that
he has not in truth been near Morley Hall; and when the unfortunate one
makes an attempt to argue, puts him down thoroughly. "All I can say is,
you couldn't have been there and be here too at this moment. Morley Hall
is a mile and a half to our right, and now they're coming round to the
Linney. He'll go into the little wood there, and as there isn't as much
as a nutshell open for him, they'll kill him there. It'll have been a
tidy little thing, but not very fast. I've hardly been out of a trot
yet, but we may as well move on now." Then he breaks into an easy canter
by the side of the road, while the unfortunates, who have been rolling
among the heavy-ploughed ground in the early part of the day, make vain
efforts to ride by his side. They keep him, however, in sight, and are
comforted; for he is a man with a character, and knows what he is about.
He will never be utterly lost, and as long as they can remain in his
company they will not be subjected to that dreadful feeling of absolute
failure which comes upon an inexperienced sportsman when he finds
himself quite alone, and does not know which way to turn himself.

A man will not learn to ride after this fashion in a day, nor yet in
a year. Of all fashions of hunting it requires, perhaps, the most
patience, the keenest observation, the strongest memory, and the
greatest efforts of intellect. But the power, when achieved, has its
triumph; it has its respect, and it has its admirers. Our friend, while
he was guiding the unfortunates on the road, knew his position, and rode
for a while as though he were a chief of men. He was the chief of men
there. He was doing what he knew how to do, and was not failing. He had
made no boasts which stern facts would afterwards disprove. And when
he rode up slowly to the wood-side, having from a distance heard the
huntsman's whoop that told him of the fox's fate, he found that he had
been right in every particular. No one at that moment knows the line
they have all ridden as well as he knows it. But now, among the crowd,
when men are turning their horses' heads to the wind, and loud questions
are being asked, and false answers are being given, and the ambitious
men are congratulating themselves on their deeds, he sits by listening
in sardonic silence. "Twelve miles of ground !" he says to himself,
repeating the words of some valiant youngster; "if it's eight, I'll eat
it." And then when he hears, for he is all ear as well as all eye, when
he hears a slight boast from one of his late unfortunate companions, a
first small blast of the trumpet which will become loud anon if it be
not checked, he smiles inwardly, and moralizes on the weakness of human
nature. But the man who never jumps is not usually of a benevolent
nature, and it is almost certain that he will make up a little story
against the boaster.

Such is the amusement of the man who rides and never jumps. Attached to
every hunt there will be always one or two such men. Their evidence is
generally reliable; their knowledge of the country is not to be doubted;
they seldom come to any severe trouble; and have usually made for
themselves a very wide circle of hunting acquaintances by whom they
are quietly respected. But I think that men regard them as they do the
chaplain on board a man-of-war, or as they would regard a herald on
a field of battle. When men are assembled for fighting, the man who
notoriously does not fight must feel himself to be somewhat lower than
his brethren around him, and must be so esteemed by others.



THE HUNTING PARSON.

I feel some difficulty in dealing with the character I am now about
to describe. The world at large is very prone to condemn the hunting
parson, regarding him as a man who is false to his profession; and, for
myself, I am not prepared to say that the world is wrong. Had my pastors
and masters, my father and mother, together with the other outward
circumstances of my early life, made a clergyman of me, I think that I
should not have hunted, or at least, I hope that I might have abstained;
and yet, for the life of me, I cannot see the reason against it, or tell
any man why a clergyman should not ride to hounds. In discussing the
subject, and I often do discuss it, the argument against the practice
which is finally adopted, the argument which is intended to be
conclusive, simply amounts to this, that a parish clergyman who does
his duty cannot find the time. But that argument might be used with much
more truth against other men of business, against those to whose hunting
the world takes no exception. Indeed, of all men, the ordinary parish
clergyman, is, perhaps, the least liable to such censure. He lives in
the country, and can hunt cheaper and with less sacrifice of time than
other men. His professional occupation does not absorb all his hours,
and he is too often an idle man, whether he hunt or whether he do not.
Nor is it desirable that any man should work always and never play. I
think it is certainly the fact that a clergyman may hunt twice a week
with less objection in regard to his time than any other man who has
to earn his bread by his profession. Indeed, this is so manifestly the
case, that I am sure that the argument in question, though it is the one
which is always intended to be conclusive, does not in the least convey
the objection which is really felt. The truth is, that a large and most
respectable section of the world still regards hunting as wicked. It is
supposed to be like the Cider Cellars or the Haymarket at twelve o'clock
at night. The old ladies know that the young men go to these wicked
places, and hope that no great harm is done; but it would be dreadful
to think that clergymen should so degrade themselves. Now I wish I could
make the old ladies understand that hunting is not wicked.

But although that expressed plea as to the want of time really amounts
to nothing, and although the unexpressed feeling of old ladies as to the
wickedness of hunting does not in truth amount to much, I will not
say that there is no other impediment in the way of a hunting parson.
Indeed, there have come up of late years so many impediments in the way
of any amusement on the part of clergymen, that we must almost presume
them to be divested at their consecration of all human attributes except
hunger and thirst. In my younger days, and I am not as yet very old,
an elderly clergyman might play his rubber of whist whilst his younger
reverend brother was dancing a quadrille; and they might do this without
any risk of a rebuke from a bishop, or any probability that their
neighbours would look askance at them. Such recreations are now
unclerical in the highest degree, or if not in the highest, they are
only one degree less so than hunting. The theatre was especially a
respectable clerical resource, and we may still occasionally see
heads of colleges in the stalls, or perhaps a dean, or some rector,
unambitious of further promotion. But should a young curate show himself
in the pit, he would be but a lost sheep of the house of Israel. And
latterly there went forth, at any rate in one diocese, a firman against
cricket! Novels, too, are forbidden; though the fact that they may be
enjoyed in solitude saves the clergy from absolute ignorance as to that
branch of our national literature. All this is hard upon men who, let
them struggle as they may to love the asceticisms of a religious life,
are only men; and it has a strong tendency to keep out of the Church
that very class, the younger sons of country gentlemen, whom all
Churchmen should wish to see enter it. Young men who think of the matter
when the time for taking orders is coming near, do not feel themselves
qualified to rival St. Paul in their lives; and they who have not
thought of it find themselves to be cruelly used when they are expected
to make the attempt.

But of all the amusements which a layman may follow and a clergyman may
not, hunting is thought to be by much the worst. There is a savour of
wickedness about it in the eyes of the old ladies which almost takes it
out of their list of innocent amusements even for laymen. By the term
old ladies it will be understood, perhaps, that I do not allude simply
to matrons and spinsters who may be over the age of sixty, but to that
most respectable portion of the world which has taught itself to abhor
the pomps and vanities. Pomps and vanities are undoubtedly bad, and
should be abhorred; but it behooves those who thus take upon themselves
the duties of censors to be sure that the practices abhorred are in
truth real pomps and actual vanities, not pomps and vanities of the
imagination. Now as to hunting, I maintain that it is of itself the
most innocent amusement going, and that it has none of that Cider-Cellar
flavour with which the old ladies think that it is so savoury. Hunting
is done by a crowd; but men who meet together to do wicked things meet
in small parties. Men cannot gamble in the hunting-field, and drinking
there is more difficult than in almost any other scene of life. Anonyma,
as we were told the other day, may show herself; but if so, she rides
alone. The young man must be a brazen sinner, too far gone for hunting
to hurt him, who will ride with Anonyma in the field. I know no vice
which hunting either produces or renders probable, except the vice of
extravagance; and to that, if a man be that way given, every pursuit in
life will equally lead him A seat for a Metropolitan borough, or a love
of ortolans, or a taste even for new boots will ruin a man who puts
himself in the way of ruin. The same may be said of hunting, the same
and no more.

But not the less is the general feeling very strong against the hunting
parson; and not the less will it remain so in spite of anything that I
may say. Under these circumstances our friend the hunting parson usually
rides as though he were more or less under a cloud. The cloud is not
to be seen in a melancholy brow or a shamed demeanour; for the hunting
parson will have lived down those feelings, and is generally too
forcible a man to allow himself to be subjected to such annoyances; nor
is the cloud to be found in any gentle tardiness of his motions, or an
attempt at suppressed riding; for the hunting parson generally rides
hard. Unless he loved hunting much he would not be there. But the cloud
is to be perceived and heard in the manner in which he speaks of himself
and his own doings. He is never natural in his self-talk as is any
other man. He either flies at his own cloth at once, marring some false
apology for his presence, telling you that he is there just to see the
hounds, and hinting to you his own know ledge that he has no business to
ride after them; or else he drops his profession altogether, and speaks
to you in a tone which makes you feel that you would not dare to speak
to him about his parish. You can talk to the banker about his banking,
the brewer about his brewing, the farmer about his barley, or the
landlord about his land; but to a hunting parson of this latter class,
you may not say a word about his church.

There are three modes in which a hunting parson may dress himself for
hunting, the variations having reference solely to the nether man. As
regards the upper man there can never be a difference. A chimney-pot
hat, a white neckerchief, somewhat broad in its folds and strong with
plentiful starch, a stout black coat, cut rather shorter than is common
with clergymen, and a modest, darksome waistcoat that shall attract no
attention, these are all matters of course. But the observer, if he will
allow his eye to descend below these upper garments, will perceive that
the clergyman may be comfortable and bold in breeches, or he may be
uncomfortable and semi-decorous in black trowsers. And there is another
mode of dress open to him, which I can assure my readers is not an
unknown costume, a tertium quid, by which semi-decorum and comfort are
combined. The hunting breeches are put on first, and the black trowsers
are drawn over them.

But in whatever garb the hunting parson may ride, he almost invariably
rides well, and always enjoys the sport. If he did not, what would tempt
him to run counter, as he does, to his bishop and the old ladies? And
though, when the hounds are first dashing out of covert, and when
the sputtering is beginning and the eager impetuosity of the young is
driving men three at a time into the same gap, when that wild excitement
of a fox just away is at its height, and ordinary sportsmen are rushing
for places, though at these moments the hunting parson may be able to
restrain himself, and to declare by his momentary tranquillity that
he is only there to see the hounds, he will ever be found, seeing
the hounds also, when many of that eager crowd have lagged behind,
altogether out of sight of the last tail of them. He will drop into the
running, as it were out of the clouds, when the select few have settled
down steadily to their steady work; and the select few will never look
upon him as one who, after that, is likely to fall out of their number.
He goes on certainly to the kill, and then retires a little out of
the circle, as though he had trotted in at that spot from his ordinary
parochial occupations, just to see the hounds.

For myself I own that I like the hunting parson. I generally find him
to be about the pleasantest man in the field, with the most to say for
himself, whether the talk be of hunting, of politics, of literature, or
of the country. He is never a hunting man unalloyed, unadulterated, and
unmixed, a class of man which is perhaps of all classes the most tedious
and heavy in hand. The tallow-chandler who can talk only of candles,
or the barrister who can talk only of his briefs, is very bad; but the
hunting man who can talk only of his runs, is, I think, worse even than
the unadulterated tallow-chandler, or the barrister unmixed. Let me
pause for a moment here to beg young sportsmen not to fall into this
terrible mistake. Such bores in the field are, alas, too common; but the
hunting parson never sins after that fashion. Though a keen sportsman,
he is something else besides a sportsman, and for that reason, if for no
other, is always a welcome addition to the crowd.

But still I must confess at the end of this paper, as I hinted also
at the beginning of it, that the hunting parson seems to have made a
mistake. He is kicking against the pricks, and running counter to that
section of the world which should be his section. He is making
himself to stink in the nostrils of his bishop, and is becoming a
stumbling-block, and a rock of offence to his brethren. It is bootless
for him to argue, as I have here argued, that his amusement is in itself
innocent, and that some open-air recreation is necessary to him. Grant
him that the bishops and old ladies are wrong and that he is right in
principle, and still he will not be justified. Whatever may be our walk
in life, no man can walk well who does not walk with the esteem of his
fellows. Now those little walks by the covert sides, those pleasant
little walks of which I am writing, are not, unfortunately, held to be
estimable, or good for themselves, by English clergymen in general.



THE MASTER OF HOUNDS.

The master of hounds best known by modern description is the master of
the Jorrocks type. Now, as I take it, this is not the type best known
by English sportsmen, nor do the Jorrocks ana, good though they be, give
any fair picture of such a master of hounds as ordinarily presides over
the hunt in English counties. Mr. Jorrocks comes into a hunt when no
one else can be found to undertake the work; when, in want of any one
better, the subscribers hire his services as those of an upper
servant; when, in fact, the hunt is at a low ebb, and is struggling for
existence. Mr. Jorrocks with his carpet-bag then makes his appearance,
driving the hardest bargain that he can, purposing to do the country
at the lowest possible figure, followed by a short train of most
undesirable nags, with reference to which the wonder is that Mr.
Jorrocks should be able to induce any hunting servant to trust his neck
to their custody. Mr. Jorrocks knows his work, and is generally a most
laborious man. Hunting is his profession, but it is one by which he can
barely exist. He hopes to sell a horse or two during the season, and in
this way adds something of the trade of a dealer to his other trade. But
his office is thankless, ill-paid, closely watched, and subject to all
manner of indignities. Men suspect him, and the best of those who ride
with him will hardly treat him as their equal. He is accepted as a
disagreeable necessity, and is dismissed as soon as the country can do
better for itself. Any hunt that has subjected itself to Mr. Jorrocks
knows that it is in disgrace, and will pass its itinerant master on to
some other district as soon as it can suit itself with a proper master
of the good old English sort.

It is of such a master as this, a master of the good old English sort,
and not of an itinerant contractor for hunting, that I here intend to
speak. Such a master is usually an old resident in the county which he
hunts; one of those country noblemen or gentlemen whose parks are the
glory of our English landscape, and whose names are to be found in the
pages of our county records; or if not that, he is one who, with a view
to hunting, has brought his family and fortune into a new district, and
has found a ready place as a country gentleman among new neighbours. It
has been said that no one should become a member of Parliament unless
he be a man of fortune. I hold such a rule to be much more true with
reference to a master of hounds. For his own sake this should be so, and
much more so for the sake of those over whom he has to preside. It is
a position in which no man can be popular without wealth, and it is a
position which no man should seek to fill unless he be prepared to spend
his money for the gratification of others. It has been said of masters
of hounds that they must always have their hands in their pockets, and
must always have a guinea to find there; and nothing can be truer than
this if successful hunting is to be expected. Men have hunted countries,
doubtless, on economical principles, and the sport has been carried on
from year to year; but under such circumstances it is ever dwindling and
becoming frightfully less. The foxes disappear, and when found almost
instantly sink below ground. Distant coverts, which are ever the best
because less frequently drawn, are deserted, for distance of course adds
greatly to expense. The farmers round the centre of the county become
sullen, and those beyond are indifferent; and so, from bad to worse,
the famine goes on till the hunt has perished of atrophy. Grease to the
wheels, plentiful grease to the wheels, is needed in all machinery; but
I know of no machinery in which everrunning grease is so necessary as in
the machinery of hunting.

Of such masters as I am now describing there are two sorts, of which,
however, the one is going rapidly and, I think, happily out of fashion.
There is the master of hounds who takes a subscription, and the master
who takes none. Of the latter class of sportsman, of the imperial head
of a country who looks upon the coverts of all his neighbours as being
almost his own property, there are, I believe, but few left. Nor is such
imperialism fitted for the present age. In the days of old of which we
read so often, the days of Squire Western, when fox-hunting was still
young among us, this was the fashion in which all hunts were maintained.
Any country gentleman who liked the sport kept a small pack of hounds,
and rode over his own lands or the lands of such of his neighbours as
had no similar establishments of their own. We never hear of Squire
Western that he hunted the county, or that he went far afield to his
meets. His tenants joined him, and by degrees men came to his hunt from
greater distances around him. As the necessity for space increased,
increasing from increase of hunting ambition, the richer and more
ambitious squires began to undertake the management of wider areas, and
so our hunting districts were formed. But with such extension of area
there came, of course, necessity of extended expenditure, and so the
fashion of subscription lists arose. There have remained some few great
Nimrods who have chosen to be magnanimous and to pay for everything,
despising the contributions of their followers. Such a one was the late
Earl Fitzhardinge, and after such manner in, as I believe, the Berkeley
hunt still conducted. But it need hardly be explained, that as
hunting is now conducted in England, such a system is neither fair nor
palatable. It is not fair that so great a cost for the amusement of
other men should fall upon any one man's pocket; nor is it palatable
to others that such unlimited power should be placed in any one
man's hands. The ordinary master of subscription hounds is no doubt
autocratic, but he is not autocratic with all the power of tyranny which
belongs to the despot who rules without taxation. I doubt whether any
master of a subscription pack would advertise his meets for eleven, with
an understanding that the hounds were never to move till twelve, when
he intended to be present in person. Such was the case with Lord
Fitzhardinge, and I do not know that it was generally thought that he
carried his power too far. And I think, too, that gentlemen feel that
they ride with more pleasure when they themselves contribute to the cost
of their own amusement.

Our master of hounds shall be a country gentleman who takes a
subscription, and who therefore, on becoming autocratic, makes himself
answerable to certain general rules for the management of his autocracy.
He shall hunt not less, let us say, than three days a week; but though
not less, it will be expected probably that he will hunt oftener. That
is, he will advertise three days and throw a byeday in for the benefit
of his own immediate neighbourhood; and these byedays, it must be known,
are the cream of hunting, for there is no crowd, and the foxes break
sooner and run straighter. And he will be punctual to his time, giving
quarter to none and asking none himself. He will draw fairly through the
day, and indulge no caprices as to coverts. The laws, indeed, are
never written, but they exist and are understood; and when they be too
recklessly disobeyed, the master of hounds falls from his high place and
retires into private life, generally with a broken heart. In the hunting
field, as in all other communities, republics, and governments, the
power of the purse is everything. As long as that be retained, the
despotism of the master is tempered and his rule will be beneficent.

Five hundred pounds a day is about the sum which a master should demand
for hunting an average country, that is, so many times five hundred
pounds a year as he may hunt days in the week. If four days a week be
required of him, two thousand a year will be little enough. But as a
rule, I think masters are generally supposed to charge only for the
advertised days, and to give the byedays out of their own pocket. Nor
must it be thought that the money so subscribed will leave the master
free of expense. As I have said before, he should be a rich man.
Whatever be the subscription paid to him, he must go beyond it, very
much beyond it, or there will grow up against him a feeling that he is
mean, and that feeling will rob him of all his comfort. Hunting men in
England wish to pay for their own amusement; but they desire that more
shall be spent than they pay. And in this there is a rough justice,
that roughness of justice which pervades our English institutions. To a
master of hounds is given a place of great influence, and into his
hands is confided an authority the possession of which among his
fellow-sportsmen is very pleasant to him. For this he is expected to
pay, and he does pay for it. A Lord Mayor is, I take it, much in the
same category. He has a salary as Lord Mayor, but if he do not spend
more than that on his office he becomes a byword for stinginess among
Lord Mayors To be Lord Mayor is his whistle, and he pays for it.

For myself, if I found myself called upon to pay for one whistle or the
other, I would sooner be a master of hounds than a Lord Mayor. The power
is certainly more perfect, and the situation, I think, more splendid.
The master of hounds has no aldermen, no common council, no liverymen.
As long as he fairly performs his part of the compact, he is altogether
without control. He is not unlike the captain of a man-of-war; but,
unlike the captain of a man-of-war, he carries no sailing orders. He
is free to go where he lists, and is hardly expected to tell any one
whither he goeth. He is enveloped in a mystery which, to the young, adds
greatly to his grandeur; and he is one of those who, in spite of the
democratic tenderness of the age, may still be said to go about as a
king among men. No one contradicts him. No one speaks evil of him to
his face; and men tremble when they have whispered anything of some
half-drawn covert, of some unstopped earth, some fox that should not
have escaped, and, looking round, see that the master is within
earshot. He is flattered, too, if that be of any avail to him. How he
is flattered! What may be done in this way to Lord Mayors by common
councilmen who like Mansion-house crumbs, I do not know; but kennel
crumbs must be very sweet to a large class of sportsmen. Indeed, they
are so sweet that almost every man will condescend to flatter the master
of hounds. And ladies too, all the pretty girls delight to be spoken
to by the master! He needs no introduction, but is free to sip all the
sweets that come. Who will not kiss the toe of his boots, or refuse to
be blessed by the sunshine of his smile?

But there are heavy duties, deep responsibilities, and much true
heart-felt anxiety to stand as makeweight against all these sweets.
The master of hounds, even though he take no part in the actual work of
hunting his own pack, has always his hands full of work. He is always
learning, and always called upon to act on his knowledge suddenly. A
Lord Mayor may sit at the Mansionhouse, I think, without knowing much of
the law. He may do so without discovery of his ignorance. But the master
of hounds who does not know his business is seen through at once. To
say what that business is would take a paper longer than this, and the
precept writer by no means considers himself equal to such a task. But
it is multifarious, and demands a special intellect for itself. The
master should have an eye like an eagle's, an ear like a thief's, and a
heart like a dog's that can be either soft or ruthless as occasion may
require. How he should love his foxes, and with what pertinacity he
should kill them! How he should rejoice when his skill has assisted in
giving the choice men of his hunt a run that they can remember for the
next six years! And how heavy should be his heart within him when he
trudges home with them, weary after a blank day, to the misery of which
his incompetency has, perhaps, contributed! A master of hounds should be
an anxious man; so anxious that the privilege of talking to pretty girls
should be of little service to him.

One word I will say as to the manners of a master of hounds, and then I
will have done. He should be an urbane man, but not too urbane; and he
should certainly be capable of great austerity. It used to be said that
no captain of a man-of-war could hold his own without swearing. I will
not quite say the same of a master of hounds, or the old ladies who
think hunting to be wicked will have a handle against me. But I will
declare that if any man could be justified in swearing, it would be a
master of hounds. The troubles of the captain are as nothing to his.
The captain has the ultimate power of the sword, or at any rate of the
fetter, in his hands, while the master has but his own tongue to trust,
his tongue and a certain influence which his position gives him. The
master who can make that influence suffice without swearing is indeed a
great man. Now-a-days swearing is so distasteful to the world at large,
that great efforts are made to rule without it, and some such efforts
are successful; but any man who has hunted for the last twenty years
will bear me out in saying that hard words in a master's mouth used to
be considered indispensable. Now and then a little irony is tried. "I
wonder, sir, how much you'd take to go home?" I once heard a master ask
of a red-coated stranger who was certainly more often among the hounds
than he need have been. "Nothing on earth, sir, while you carry on as
you are doing just at present," said the stranger. The master accepted
the compliment, and the stranger sinned no more.

There are some positions among mankind which are so peculiarly blessed
that the owners of them seem to have been specially selected by
Providence for happiness on earth in a degree sufficient to raise the
malice and envy of all the world around. An English country gentleman
with ten thousand a year must have been so selected. Members of
Parliament with seats for counties have been exalted after the same
unjust fashion. Popular masters of old-established hunts sin against
their fellows in the same way. But when it comes to a man to fill up all
these positions in England, envy and malice must be dead in the land if
he be left alive to enjoy their fruition.



HOW TO RIDE TO HOUNDS

Now attend me, Diana and the Nymphs, Pan, Orion, and the Satyrs, for I
have a task in hand which may hardly be accomplished without some divine
aid. And the lesson I would teach is one as to which even gods must
differ, and no two men will ever hold exactly the same opinion. Indeed,
no written lesson, no spoken words, no lectures, be they ever so often
repeated, will teach any man to ride to hounds. The art must come of
nature and of experience; and Orion, were he here, could only tell the
tyro of some few blunders which he may avoid, or give him a hint or two
as to the manner in which he should begin.

Let it be understood that I am speaking of fox-hunting, and let the
young beginner always remember that in hunting the fox a pack of hounds
is needed. The huntsman, with his servants, and all the scarlet-coated
horsemen in the field, can do nothing towards the end for which they are
assembled without hounds. He who as yet knows nothing of hunting will
imagine that I am laughing at him in saying this; but, after a while, he
will know how needful it is to bear in mind the caution I here give
him, and will see how frequently men seem to forget that a fox cannot be
hunted without hounds. A fox is seen to break from the covert, and men
ride after it; the first man, probably, being some cunning sinner, who
would fain get off alone if it were possible, and steal a march upon the
field. But in this case one knave makes many fools; and men will rush,
and ride along the track of the game, as though they could hunt it, and
will destroy the scent before the hounds are on it, following, in their
ignorance, the footsteps of the cunning sinner. Let me beg my young
friend not to be found among this odious crowd of marplots. His business
is to ride to hounds; and let him do so from the beginning of the run,
persevering through it all, taking no mean advantages, and allowing
himself to be betrayed into as few mistakes as possible; but let him
not begin before the beginning. If he could know all that is inside the
breast of that mean man who commenced the scurry, the cunning man who
desires to steal a march, my young friend would not wish to emulate
him. With nine-tenths of the men who flutter away after this ill fashion
there is no design of their own in their so riding. They simply wish to
get away, and in their impatience forget the little fact that a pack of
hounds is necessary for the hunting of a fox.

I have found myself compelled to begin with this preliminary caution, as
all riding to hounds hangs on the fact in question. Men cannot ride to
hounds if the hounds be not there. They may ride one after another,
and that, indeed, suffices for many a keen sportsman; but I am now
addressing the youth who is ambitious of riding to hounds. But though I
have thus begun, striking first at the very root of the matter, I must
go back with my pupil into the covert before I carry him on through the
run. In riding to hounds there is much to do before the straight work
commences. Indeed, the straight work is, for the man, the easiest work,
or the work, I should say, which may be done with the least previous
knowledge. Then the horse, with his qualities, comes into play; and if
he be up to his business in skill, condition, and bottom, a man may go
well by simply keeping with others who go well also. Straight riding,
however, is the exception and not the rule. It comes sometimes, and is
the cream of hunting when it does come; but it does not come as often as
the enthusiastic beginner will have taught himself to expect.

But now we will go back to the covert, and into the covert if it be a
large one. I will speak of three kinds of coverts, the gorse, the wood,
and the forest. There are others, but none other so distinct as to
require reference. As regards the gorse covert, which of all is the most
delightful, you, my disciple, need only be careful to keep in the crowd
when it is being drawn. You must understand that if the plantation
which you see before you, and which is the fox's home and homestead,
be surrounded, the owner of it will never leave it. A fox will run back
from a child among a pack of hounds, so much more terrible is to him the
human race even than the canine. The object of all men of course is that
the fox shall go, and from a gorse covert of five acres he must go very
quickly or die among the hounds. It will not be long before he starts if
there be space left for him to creep out, as he will hope, unobserved.
Unobserved he will not be, for the accustomed eye of some whip or
servant will have seen him from a corner. But if stray horsemen roaming
round the gorse give him no room for such hope, he will not go. All
which is so plainly intelligible, that you, my friend, will not fail
to understand why you are required to remain with the crowd. And with
simple gorse coverts there is no strong temptation to move about. They
are drawn quickly, and though there be a scramble for places when the
fox has broken, the whole thing is in so small a compass that there is
no difficulty in getting away with the hounds. In finding your right
place, and keeping it when it is found, you may have difficulty; but
in going away from a gorse the field will be open for you, and when
the hounds are well out and upon the scent, then remember your Latin;
Occupet extremum scabies.

But for one fox found in a gorse you will, in ordinary countries, see
five found in woods; and as to the place and conduct of a hunting man
while woods are being drawn, there is room for much doubt. I presume
that you intend to ride one horse throughout the day, and that you wish
to see all the hunting that may come in your way. This being so, it will
be your study to economize your animal's power, and to keep him fresh
for the run when it comes. You will hardly assist your object in this
respect by seeing the wood drawn, and galloping up and down the rides as
the fox crosses and recrosses from one side of it to another. Such rides
are deep with mud, and become deeper as the work goes on; and foxes
are very obstinate, running, if the covert be thick, often for an hour
together without an attempt at breaking, and being driven back when they
do attempt by the horsemen whom they see on all sides of them. It is
very possible to continue at this work, seeing the hounds hunt, with
your ears rather than your eyes, till your nag has nearly done his day's
work. He will still carry you perhaps throughout a good run, but he
will not do so with that elasticity which you will love; and then,
after that, the journey home is, it is occasionally something almost too
frightful to be contemplated. You can, therefore, if it so please you,
station yourself with other patient long-suffering, mindful men at some
corner, or at some central point amidst the rides, biding your time,
consoling yourself with cigars, and not swearing at the vile perfidious,
unfoxlike fox more frequently than you can help. For the fox on such
occasions will be abused with all the calumnious epithets which the
ingenuity of angry men can devise, because he is exercising that
ingenuity the possession of which on his part is the foundation of
fox-hunting. There you will remain, nursing your horse, listening to
chaff, and hoping. But even when the fox does go, your difficulties may
be but beginning.

It is possible he may have gone on your side of the wood; but much more
probable that he should have taken the other. He loves not that crowd
that has been abusing him, and steals away from some silent distant
corner. You, who are a beginner, hear nothing of his going; and when you
rush off, as you will do with others, you will hardly know at first why
the rush is made. But some one with older eyes and more experienced ears
has seen signs and heard sounds, and knows that the fox is away. Then,
my friend, you have your place to win, and it may be that the distance
shall be too great to allow of your winning it. Nothing but experience
will guide you safely through these difficulties.

In drawing forests or woodlands your course is much clearer. There is
no question, then, of standing still and waiting with patience, tobacco,
and chaff for the coming start. The area to be drawn is too large to
admit of waiting, and your only duty is to stay as close to the hounds
as your ears and eyes will permit, remembering always that your ears
should serve you much more often than your eyes. And in woodland hunting
that which you thus see and hear is likely to be your amusement for the
day. There is "ample room and verge enough" to run a fox down without
any visit to the open country, and by degrees, as a true love of hunting
comes upon you in place of a love of riding, you will learn to think
that a day among the woodlands is a day not badly spent. At first, when
after an hour and a half the fox has been hunted to his death, or has
succeeded in finding some friendly hole, you will be wondering when the
fun is going to begin. Ah me! how often have I gone through all the fun,
have seen the fun finished, and then have wondered when it was going to
begin; and that, too, in other things besides hunting!

But at present the fun shall not be finished, and we will go back to the
wood from which the fox is just breaking. You, my pupil, shall have been
patient, and your patience shall be rewarded by a good start. On the
present occasion I will give you the exquisite delight of knowing that
you are there, at the spot, as the hounds come out of the covert. Your
success, or want of success, throughout the run will depend on the way
in which you may now select to go over the three or four first fields.
It is not difficult to keep with hounds if you can get well away with
them, and be with them when they settle to their running. In a long and
fast run your horse may, of course, fail you. That must depend on his
power and his condition. But, presuming your horse to be able to go,
keeping with hounds is not difficult when you are once free from the
thick throng of the riders. And that thick throng soon makes itself
thin. The difficulty is in the start, and you will almost be offended
when I suggest to you what those difficulties are, and suggest also that
such as they are even they may overcome you. You have to choose your
line of riding. Do not let your horse choose it for you instead of
choosing it for yourself. He will probably make such attempts, and it is
not at all improbable that you should let him have his way. Your horse
will be as anxious to go as you are, but his anxiety will carry him
after some other special horse on which he has fixed his eyes. The rider
of that horse may not be the guide that you would select. But some human
guide you must select. Not at first will you, not at first does any man,
choose for himself with serene precision of confident judgment the
line which he will take. You will be flurried, anxious, self-diffident,
conscious of your own ignorance, and desirous of a leader. Many of those
men who are with you will have objects at heart very different from
your object. Some will ride for certain points, thinking that they can
foretell the run of the fox. They may be right; but you, in your new
ambition, are not solicitous to ride away to some other covert because
the fox may, perchance, be going there. Some are thinking of the roads.
Others are remembering that brook which is before them, and riding wide
for a ford. With none such, as I presume, do you wish to place yourself.
Let the hounds be your mark; and if, as may often be the case, you
cannot see them, then see the huntsman; or, if you cannot see him,
follow, at any rate, some one who does. If you can even do this as a
beginner, you will not do badly.

But, whenever it be possible, let the hounds themselves be your mark,
and endeavour to remember that the leading hounds are those which should
guide you. A single hound who turns when he is heading the pack should
teach you to turn also. Of all the hounds you see there in the open,
probably not one-third are hunting. The others are doing as you do,
following where their guides lead them. It is for you to follow the real
guide, and not the followers, if only you can keep the real guide in
view. To keep the whole pack in view and to ride among them is easy
enough when the scent is slack and the pace is slow. At such times let
me counsel you to retire somewhat from the crowd, giving place to those
eager men who are breaking the huntsman's heart. When the hounds have
come nearer to their fox, and the pace is again good, then they will
retire and make room for you.

Not behind hounds, but alongside of them, if only you can achieve such
position, it should be your honour and glory to place yourself; and you
should go so far wide of them as in no way to impede them or disturb
them, or even to remind them of your presence. If thus you live with
them, turning as they turn, but never turning among them, keeping your
distance, but losing no yard, and can do this for seven miles over a
grass country in forty-five minutes, then you can ride to hounds better
than nineteen men out of every twenty that you have seen at the meet,
and will have enjoyed the keenest pleasure that hunting, or perhaps, I
may say, that any other amusement, can give you.





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