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Title: Men We Meet in the Field - or, The Bullshire Hounds
Author: Bagot, A. G.
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.

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MEN WE MEET IN THE FIELD.

[Illustration]


MEN WE MEET IN

THE FIELD.


BY A. G. BAGOT ("BAGATELLE").

[Illustration]

1881.

TINSLEY BROTHERS, 8, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND,

LONDON.



MEN WE MEET IN THE FIELD

OR

THE BULLSHIRE HOUNDS.


BY A. G. BAGOT ("BAGATELLE"),

AUTHOR OF "SPORTING SKETCHES IN THREE CONTINENTS."

London:

TINSLEY BROTHERS, 8, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND.

1881.

[_All rights reserved._]


CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS,
CRYSTAL PALACE PRESS.



PREFACE.


The present series of Sketches in the Hunting Field have, from time to
time, appeared in the columns of _The Country Gentleman and Sporting
Gazette_, to the Editor of which journal I am indebted for leave to
reprint them. All, or nearly all, the characters I have endeavoured to
portray have come under my personal observation, and are from life; but
I have done my utmost to avoid depicting peculiarities that might serve
to identify my models, or using personalities that might offend them.

In placing MEN WE MEET IN THE FIELD before the public, beyond
acknowledging that I have perhaps not done full justice to the subject,
I offer no apology; for anything said or done, painted or written, that
serves in any way to call attention to our glorious old national sport,
or to recall perchance the scenes of our youth, is not done amiss. In
that it is one more stone, however humble, in the wall of defence which,
alas! it is now becoming necessary to build against the attacks of those
whose aim seems to be the demolition of all sport, dazzled as they are
by the glamour of notoriety, won by sensational legislation, at the
expense of all that has made England what she is, and her sons and
daughters what they are.

I do not for a moment wish to enter into political argument. In the
Field, Liberal and Conservative, Radical and Home-Ruler, meet as one,
save only in the struggle for the lead. But what I do hold is that, by
measures such as the Ground Game Bill and the Abolition of all Freedom
of Contract, our national sports are fast being blotted out, and that it
behoves all true sportsmen to array themselves against such things.

Of the matter contained in the volume I am now sending on its way,
others must judge. I confess that I have enjoyed the writing of it. If I
am fortunate enough to find some at least who enjoy the reading I shall
be content, and shall feel I have not laboured in vain.

To those who so kindly received my maiden venture, "Sporting Sketches"
(Messrs. Swan, Sonnenschein, and Allen), I offer my best thanks. Like a
young hound who has not felt too much whipcord, encouragement has given
confidence. I can only hope I may not have flashed over the line.

THE AUTHOR.



CONTENTS.

                                                                    PAGE
INTRODUCTORY                                                           1

THE MASTER                                                             8

THE HUNTSMAN                                                          16

THE WHIPS                                                             26

THE SECRETARY                                                         35

THE FARMER                                                            46

THE PARSON                                                            58

THE DOCTOR                                                            72

THE DEALERS                                                           84

THE GRUMBLER                                                          98

THE LADY WHO HUNTS AND RIDES                                         113

THE LADY WHO HUNTS AND DOES NOT RIDE                                 126

THE SCHOOLBOYS                                                       139

THE BOASTER                                                          154

HODGE                                                                169

THE KEEPER                                                           182

THE AUTHORITY                                                        197

THE BLACKSMITH                                                       212

THE RUNNER                                                           225

THE MAN AT THE TOLL-BAR                                              237

WHO-WHOOP!                                                           247

THE FIRST OF THE SEASON                                              257

UNCLE JOHN'S NEW HORSE                                               262

THE HOG-BACKED STILE                                                 287



ERRATUM.

_For_ "Hollo!" _read throughout_ "Holloa!"



MEN WE MEET IN THE FIELD.



INTRODUCTORY.


For those fond of studying character under various circumstances and in
various positions, there is, perhaps, no medium affording so good an
opportunity, or so vast a scope, as the hunting-field.

There more than in any other place do men's characters appear in their
true lights. At the covert-side the irritable man, however well he may
on ordinary occasions be able to conceal his irritability, will fret and
fume if things do not go exactly as he wishes. The boaster, who in the
safety of his armchair astonishes his friends with anecdotes of his own
daring exploits, is, after a fast forty minutes, more often than not
weighed in the balance and found wanting. The garrulous individual, who
invariably knows where the fox has gone and what the huntsman ought to
do, is in the field estimated at his proper value. There also the
grumblers never fail to find a grievance, nor the elder generations of
sportsmen to lament the "good old days gone by." In fact, the
"bell-mouthed pack and tuneful horn" seem to act in some occult way in
bringing out the idiosyncrasies of all their followers. This being so, a
few sketches may not be uninteresting, and I shall endeavour to draw
with my pen some portraits of those with whom we yearly ride, and who
are so well known to most of us. To do this the more concisely, I
propose to describe the field, subscribers, visitors, and others, who
are to be found at the meets from the 1st of November to the end of
April, and who go to make up the members of that justly celebrated
pack--the Bullshire Hounds. Before individualising, however, it will be
necessary to give a short history of the hunt, with a brief outline of
the country, and its gradual growth.

The Bullshire country is one of the oldest in England, and was
originally hunted on what is known as the "Trencher system," that is
everybody, in lieu of paying a subscription, kept (according to his
means) one or more hounds, which he was bound to bring with him to the
spot selected by the Master (who was yearly elected as huntsman) for the
meet. No sinecure was the office of M.F.H., carrying the horn, for as
every hound recognised the rule of a different Master, and every Master
considered himself entitled to an opinion in the case of his own hound,
there was a good deal of jealousy among the latter and no small amount
of "tail" among the former. The "tailing," however, was augmented by the
different system of preparation and feeding the Bullshire Hounds
received, for while Bellman before hunting was treated to no supper,
Truelove had to deal with a sumptuous repast placed before her by the
compassionate but ignorant goodwife, "who couldn't abear the idea of the
old dog doing all that work on an empty stomach."

After a little the system proved unsatisfactory, and a step in the
proper direction was taken. Old Gregory the Whip was sent round early in
the morning the day before the meet to collect the pack, and it thus
became his business to see that all fared alike--wisely, and not too
well. From this it was an easy stage to kennels, and somehow, before the
inhabitants knew how it happened, they found themselves paying their
subscriptions with and without a murmur, and were able to point with
pride to the Bullshire kennels. Once this an accomplished fact,
everything went on smoothly; and from old Gregory and a Master whose
office was the subject of an annual election, they now turn out a
huntsman, two whips, and a second horseman, and, for a provincial pack,
stand first on the list.

Their present Master is one of the right sort, who takes an interest in
his hounds and his servants, perhaps at times a little free with his
tongue, but only when absolutely necessary, and it is because of their
large and varied field that I have selected the Bullshire for
description. The country, though not a flying one, has a fair share of
grass, and is acknowledged by all to hold a good scent. As there is
every conceivable sort of obstacle, of every conceivable size, shape,
and form, wet and dry, it requires a clever horse to get over it.
Indeed, when some of the swells from the Shires condescend to patronise
the Bullshire (no uncommon occurrence, by-the-way), there are generally
two or three to be found, like water, at the bottom of a ditch.

I remember hearing a description of his day by a Meltonian, when he
returned to his quarters with a battered head-piece and covered in mud.
In reply to a question of "Where had he been?" he said: "Lord knows
where I have not been. To the bottom of about ten ditches, three
brooks, nearly into a gravel-pit, hung up in a bullfinch for five
minutes, and almost broke my neck at the biggest post and rails I ever
saw." "Well," continued his interlocutor, "did you have a good run?"
"Run!" said he; "I believe you! Ran three miles after my horse and then
nicked in, and was up at the finish. Blessed if ever I saw such a
country. They think nothing of an hour and ten minutes, and they do
stick to it, I can tell you; fox hasn't a chance with the Bullshire.
It's for all the world like a stoat and a hare. Rare place to send
creditor to; give him a mount on a green nag, he's bound to kill
himself."

Added to these advantages, so ably set forth by the Leicestershire
sportsman, foxes are plentiful, and, with one notable exception, of whom
more anon, everybody looks after them, and does his best to demonstrate
the fact that the fox and the pheasant can both be preserved, despite
what Velveteens and his myrmidons may say. The man who rules the
destinies of this sporting pack will form the subject of my first
sketch.



THE MASTER.


"Morning, gentlemen," accompanied by a bow to the ladies, apprises us of
the fact that Sir John Lappington has arrived, and as we turn round in
our saddles we see a cheery face beaming with health and goodnature, and
note what a thorough business look both man and horse present. The horse
is one of those rare specimens of weight-carriers, known as "a good
thing in a small parcel." Standing about fifteen hands two inches, with
quarters fit to jump over a house, and shoulders of equal value when
landing the other side, clean flat legs with plenty of bone, and
excellent feet, well ribbed up, with a broad deep chest, it stands a
living picture of the old-fashioned hunter that could and would go
anywhere. And surely the man is not far behind in appearance. Riding
about thirteen stone, or a little lighter, with somewhat a careless
seat, one's first impression is that he is by no means smartly turned
out, though the eye acknowledges at once the workman.

A second and more careful study shows us that, while there is an entire
absence of gilt and gingerbread, of varnish and veneer, still, from the
crown of his-well-brushed hat to the sole of his well-cleaned boot,
everything is neatness itself. It may be that we take exception to the
brown cords which Sir John always wears; but when one has tried to
follow the clever cobby horse and his master through some of the
roughest places in the day's work, and our leathers show plainly where
we have been, we are fain to confess the wisdom of the said brown cords.
Notwithstanding the cheery goodnature that beams from the Master's
face, there is something in his eye and chin that warns instinctively
against riding over the hounds or heading a fox, and shows a latent
power of anathema and rebuke which, when once heard, is not in a hurry
forgotten.

Sir John Lappington has been Master of the Bullshire for four seasons.
He took the hounds at the request of the county on the death of Mr.
Billington, who had hunted them for six-and-twenty years without hardly
missing a day. Some few people urged that the new Master would not be
found old enough to control so large a field, being but thirty years of
age when he commenced his reign; but the first day dispelled their
doubts, for on some of the "galloping-and-jumping" contingent trying to
have things their own way, and paying no heed to repeated remonstrances
to "give hounds a chance," the young Master astonished everyone by
saying to the huntsman: "Stop 'em, Tom;" and when that was effected,
turning to the offenders: "Now, gentlemen, when you have done your
d----d steeplechasing we will go on hunting. If you want to break your
necks you may put down my name for five pounds to bury the first who
does so, provided you run it off at once, so that other people who
prefer hunting to rough-riding may not be kept waiting."

This effectually stopped them, and from that day very little trouble has
been shown, and when any have offended, it has generally required but
one talking-to to bring them to a sense of what was required of them.
Such is the man who now rides up punctual to the minute, and is greeted
by all with a hearty welcome. The hunt servants, with old Tom the
huntsman at their head, are as proud of being under him as they can be,
and the hounds simply adore him. See how they fly, heedless of Harry's
"Ware 'oss, ger away baik," clustering all round the cobby hunter, and
leaving the marks of their affection on boot and saddle. "Eu leu,
Minstrel, old boy; ay, Harbinger, good old man," says Sir John, a word
for each by name; and back they go to the rule of Tom, who cannot for
the life of him help feeling a twinge of jealousy, that "the hounds
should be so 'nation fond of t' young Master, most as much as they are
o' me, I'll be blessed if they ain't."

Five minutes of friendly chaff with the carriages, two more with old
Farmer Simms, who, on being shown his wife's poultry bill, says: "Give
it here, Sir John, give it here. The ould woman would take the money out
of a man's breeches if he did not keep his hands in his pockets," and
with a laugh Tom gets the signal to move off, Sir John stopping before
he canters on to the hounds to say: "Never mind, Simms, I daresay we
shall make it all right. The missus and I are old friends," and replying
to Simms's loudly-expressed opinion that "The ould wench 'ull fleece
you, I fear," with a deprecatory wave of the hand as he ranges up
alongside the old huntsman.

The first draw is a gorse lying on the side of a hill, where there is
always a little difficulty in restraining the impatience of the field,
who, anxious for a start, are rather apt to override the hounds. There
is a hunting-gate, beyond which no one is allowed to go until the hounds
are well away, and here the Master posts himself, saying in a loud voice
that can be heard by all: "If there is any stranger in the field to-day,
he must understand that while hounds are drawing no one is allowed
farther than this." At this moment his quick eye catches sight of a
youngster who has jumped the rails lower down, and hopes he has escaped
detection. "Come back, you sir," rings out; "come back; and as you are
so fond of timber you can take the rails up hill. Dash your impudence,
when I have just said no one is allowed to go for'ard! Come, at them--no
funking;" and as, amid roars of laughter, the culprit, looking
exceedingly foolish, rides at the rails, and gets a rattling fall, Sir
John chuckles to himself: "Don't think he'll try that game on again."
The hounds are by this time hard at work, and from the way they throw
themselves out of the gorse there are evident signs of a speedy find.
With keen enjoyment the Master watches the young entry, and as first one
and then another of his favourites momentarily expose themselves to
view, he thinks he would not exchange his empire for untold wealth.

In this enviable frame of mind he is interrupted by the appearance of a
tall cadaverous-looking individual on foot, who, addressing himself to
him, says: "Sir John Lappington, I believe?" "That's me; what can I do
for you?" is the reply. "Ah! they told me I should find you here, ah!
I--my name is Simpkins, Mr. Simpkins, Secretary of the Young Men's
Improvement Society. I have been requested to ask for your patronage and
subscription for a new school our society have decided on opening for
young men in Lappington; and as they told me you were following the
chase, ah! and my time is limited, I thought I should not be intruding
if I could persuade you to" (pulling out a long subscription-list) "look
over this."

Here, luckily, "Away, g-o-rne a-wa-a-y!" cut short the conversation, and
the Master, swinging down the hill and slipping over the bank and ditch
at the bottom, almost before the astonished Simpkins has made out what
has happened, might have been heard muttering to himself: "Well, I am
blowed! Did anyone hear of a man being asked to subscribe to a school
when hounds had just found? Following the chase too! If they don't teach
the young men better than that, the future Lappingtonians won't be much
in the sporting line. Hark for'ard; for'ard away!" and sending his horse
somewhat viciously at a bigger pace than usual he is shut out from
sight, where for the time I will leave him.



THE HUNTSMAN.


"Hounds, please, gentlemen; hounds, please," says old Tom Wilding, as he
threads his way through the field, who have, in their eagerness, ridden
over the line. "Now, where the deuce should t' fox a gotten to, I
wonder?" thinks he to himself; "Harbinger made it good across the lane,
I swear, for I saw 'im, and there's naught to turn 'im that I can see."
But there is; for an old woman, innocent of mischief, suddenly raises
her much-be-bonneted head out of the turnips right in front, and with a
"Dang her ugly mug," Tom makes a swinging cast for'ard. Minstrel,
hitting off the scent under the gate out of the field, is promptly
corroborated in his statement by Gaylad, and in a second things are
going as jolly as a peal of bells.

The old Huntsman stops just a moment before pulling his horse together
at the timber, to give "t' ould wench" a bit of his mind. "Look here,"
says he, "you've frightened fox away with that danged ould top-knot o'
your'n. I be a good mind to----" But the old lady drops a most humble
curtsy, and looks so penitent, that his anger vanishes, a smile steals
over his face, and with a "Coom up," he pops over the rails and gets to
his hounds. A bit of a martinet is Tom, and right well does he know how
to keep his whips in order. Ay, and for the matter of that, some of the
fire-eaters of the field besides.

Woe betide the unfortunate Harry who, keen as mustard, slips away,
leaving two couple and a half behind. "All here?" says Tom. "A couple
coming up, sir," replies Harry (he thinks it better to economise the
truth as to numbers); "they are close behind." "Then what the devil
business have you in front of them? Get back and bring 'em along at
once. D'ye suppose my second whip's come out as a horniment?" (Tom, when
excited, is a little shaky with his h's.) "If you don't know your
business I can jolly soon get someone who does. There's lots of chaps to
do the riding without you a-figuring about here. Get back at once, and
let me catch you a-leaving hounds behind again." Yet in his heart he
thinks none the worse of the lad for being keen to get along in front,
and remembers how often he himself has been rated in bygone days for the
same offence.

Of course Tom has his aversions, and there is one particular individual
who, he says, he "just can't abear"--a Captain Stockley, one of the
galloping-and-jumping division, who, although he can ride anything and
over anything, knows little of hunting as hunting _per se_, and is
always getting on top of the pack. One day, when he had managed to head
the fox twice, the first whip, Charles, allowed his feelings to get the
better of him, and holloed: "Hold hard, sir; d----n it, give 'em a
chance;" whereupon Stockley rode up to Tom, and with a bland smile said:
"I am sorry to be obliged to make a complaint, but one of the whips has
been very impudent--in fact, he cursed me." The reply was not quite what
the Captain expected, for Tom, seeing the cause of the two mischances in
front of him, growled out: "He cursed yer, did he? Well, if it 'ad
a-been me, I'd a gi'en yer a jolly good hiding;" and then catching his
horse by the head he drove him at the wood fence, and was cheering on
the pack before the Captain had recovered from his surprise.

However, we left him just out of the turnips, with the hounds settling
down to the line. Everything goes well for some ten minutes, there is a
burning scent, lots of fencing for those who like it, and a convenient
lane for those who don't. All of a sudden the hounds throw their heads
up and spread like a fan. Not a sign does the Huntsman make beyond
holding up his hand to stop the rush of the field. But with one eye on
the pack, and the other looking forward to where the sheep are
scampering across the meadow on the hillside and huddling together in a
close column, he sits like a statue. Deaf is he to the remonstrances of
the eager ones, who say: "It's for'ard, Tom; get along," merely
remarking: "Let 'em puzzle it out; they want to hunt now. Yer can always
lift 'em, but yer can't always get their heads down again;" and in a few
moments he is rewarded by seeing the hounds work it out of their own
accord, and dash forward, proud of their own cleverness.

Some of the strangers to the Bullshire country say Tom is slow, but they
do not know the old man. See him in another half hour, when the fox is
beginning to run short. They are beginning to look for their second
horses, and someone remarks that Charles is away. Suddenly a cap is seen
in the air some four fields to the right, and "Hoick, holloa, hoick,
holloa!" rings out clear. "Who is that?" ask some of the field. "Why,
it's Charles! how the deuce did he get there?" say others. The Huntsman,
however, knows well how it all came about, for did not he send Charles
off to the high ground overlooking Bromley Wood on the off chance of a
view? and now he does not wait an instant to discuss the question, but
with a "chink-wink" of the horn and with cap in hand he gallops off,
lifting the pack almost on to the fox's back.

Two fields farther on his "Who-whoop" tells everybody that all is over,
and as they ride up one after another they see the old man, with his
gray hairs streaming in the breeze, standing in the middle of his
hounds, holding aloft the fox at arm's length, preparatory to giving his
body over to the tender mercies of Traveller, Gaylad, and Co. "Eugh,
tear 'im and eat 'im," and the "worry, worry" begins. Tom looks up at
his young master with a smile, and says: "We've got the ould divil this
time, sir; he's beat us often enough before;" and then raising his voice
so as to be heard by all, he continues: "None so slow either. If we
had'na let t' hounds work it out theirselves, fox would a-been a-going
now. Where to, sir?" as he swings into his saddle. "Bromley Wood? right,
sir. Coom away, hounds; coop, coop, coom away;" and Tom trots off with
the pack best pace, for, as he remarks: "It's lunch-time now, and if so
be I bestirs mysen I can leave about half t' field behind; and that's
just what I like. I can get away comfortable without a lot a-trampling
and messing over t' hounds, and them as likes eating better nor hunting,
why they've no cause to grumble if they're chucked out."

As he approaches the wood, a wave of the hand sends the whole pack
tumbling in, the two whips taking their stations like clockwork. With a
"'War'oss!" the old Huntsman jumps into cover, and though lost to sight
his voice is heard out of the woods cheering on his hounds. "Eugh, at
'im, my beauties. Eugh, doit, eugh, boys," he shouts; and the pack, who
have learnt to love, ay, and what is more, respect their tutor, fly to
his holloa, each doing what our American cousins call their "level best"
to please him.

Tom, when he gets home, will not fail over his glass and pipe to recount
exactly what each of his favourites did at each particular spot, for
nothing escapes his quick eye, and he fully returns with interest the
love of the Bullshire Hounds, of which he has been Huntsman for some
eighteen years, and in which position he hopes to remain until he is, as
he puts it, "run to ground."

Before leaving him, one anecdote will suffice to show the kindliness of
the old man's heart towards dumb animals. They had had a long wearing
day over a heavy country, with but little or no scent, and Tom found
himself on leaving off some eighteen miles from the kennels. On arrival,
after seeing that his darlings were all right (a duty he never
neglected), he thought it about time to look after himself, and had
just sat down to his well-earned supper, when a small boy arrived at his
house, crying fit to break his heart. "What's up, my lad?" said Tom.
"P-p-please, sir," replied the urchin between his sobs, "old Bob's
b-b-een runned over, and they is broke 'is leg, bo-hoo! and mother
s-says as how he mun be shot--for her canna mend it; and if yer
p-please, Bob allas slept along wi' me sin' 'e wur a puppy, a-and I
c-can't abear it, bo-hoo!" "Well, boy, don't 'e cry; I'll come down
mysen and see tew 'im," said the old Huntsman; and, tired and supperless
as he was, he there and then put on his coat and tramped off the best
part of a mile to see to the crippled terrier, and after setting the leg
and making the poor dog as comfortable as he could, he sat up best part
of the night nursing it as a mother would her baby. It was three o'clock
in the morning before Tom got into his bed; and he will tell you how
tired he was, but he will also say: "Poor old doggie, 'e was just for
all the world like a Christian. There was none on 'em as knowed aught
about it, and when I'd done 'is leg he wagged 'is stump of a tail,
saying plain enough: 'Don't 'e go now; I'm main thankful to yer, but
don't 'e go,' that I couldna a-bear to leave 'im till 'e wur a bit more
comfortable like. You see, we can holloa out, but them dum' animals
canna." Bob, the old dog, is still alive, and the boy is now an
under-keeper, but neither of them forget old Tom's kindness, and both
would almost lay down their lives for the Huntsman of the Bullshire
Hounds.



THE WHIPS.


"'Say, Harry, the old man killed his fox well to-day," says Charles, the
First Whip, to his junior, as they jog home to the kennels in the
evening.

"Umph!" replies Harry; "but he need not have dropped it so hot on to me
just because them two couple of loiterers stopped back. Blessed if I
ever saw such hounds as them for messing about in cover. It's always the
same. Caterer and Bellman, Pillager and Marksman, never up in time; and
then if I gets on a bit, it's 'Where's them two couple? Go back and
fetch 'em at once.' Dashed if I oughtn't to take a return ticket to
every field in the county."

Charles, who thinks it by no means improbable that some day he may find
himself with the horn of office, and Harry promoted to First Whip's
place, merely says: "Well, you shouldn't be in such a thundering hurry
to get off. You know your place is back, and back you should be."

At this juncture they ride up to The Bell and Horns, a famous halfway
house, where they brew the best of ale, and can, if so disposed, give
you a glass of the best whisky out of Ireland. The landlord, a sporting
old veteran, bustles out and takes Tom's order for "Three pints of dog's
nose" (a compound of ale and gin), "and some gruel for the nags."

"Well, what sort of a day have you had?" says he. "Nay, nay, don't mind
the hound, let him be," as Harry is proceeding to correct Minstrel's
attack of curiosity concerning the construction of Boniface's waistcoat.
"The old boy and I are friends," and he pats the hound's sensible head.

Old Tom, having taken his face out of the pint pot, and smacking his
lips, replies: "A first-rate day. Found in the gorse, run through
Bouffler's meadows up to the Mere, turned in the lane, where the fox was
headed, then over the Ring Hills, and killed by Bromley Wood. Charles
here," pointing to his aide-de-camp, "was the means of our killing; and
I must say Harry did uncommon well, though he does always want to be in
front."

At this meed of praise from their chief both the Whips feel some inches
taller, and Harry quite forgets his rating in the morning.

The horses gruelled and the score paid by the Huntsman, they are again
on the road, having been joined by a couple of farmers going their way
as far as the cross-roads, and with whom old Tom is soon in close
confabulation. Harry rides for some distance without vouchsafing a word,
save an occasional "Whip, get for'ard," to some straggler of the pack.
At last he says:

"Charles, the old man is a good 'un, and no mistake. I'd sooner have a
kick from him than sixpence from anyone else. He's quite right--business
is business; but when it's over how many of 'em would stand a glass,
'specially after a bit of a word?"

"You're right, my lad," replies Charles. "You'll go mony a day afore you
pitch on a man like old Tom, or, for the matter o' that, on a pack like
our'n. Look you, it ain't every Huntsman as 'ull let his Whips into the
secret of breeding; but I'll be bound there ain't a hound as you and I
don't know as much about as he does hisself."

"What are you two a-chattering about?" interrupts Tom.

"Only a-saying as how we knowed the pedigrees, sir," said Harry.

"So you ought. I'm sure I lets Charles and you know all I can. My system
is 'fair do's.' Every man's got a summut to do with the run, and they're
our hounds; and though I say it as perhaps shouldn't, we've the best
Master and the best pack in England; and when I comes on the society,
if Charles there ain't ready to take my place, why it will break my
heart. Ay, my lad, and then you can get for'ard as much as you like."

"I knows one thing," says Harry, whose heart is getting too big for his
waistcoat, "the Bullshire have got the best Huntsman in England, or, for
the matter o' that, in the world; and I'm main sorry as I vexed you
to-day leaving them hounds in cover."

"Not a bit, lad, not a bit; it's over now. I like to see yer keen; but
duty first, yer know," replies Tom. "Charles," he continues, "it looks
all like a frost to-night. What do yer think?"

"Freezes now, and there are two or three of these hounds going lame a
bit, and they find the ground a bit hardish," says Charles.

By this time they have arrived at the cross-roads, and the two farmers
turn off, leaving the Huntsman and his two Whips with a three-mile trot
before them.

It may be gathered from the above the sort of terms that the Bullshire
Hunt servants were on with each other, and what good feeling existed
between them. Charles, the First Whip, had served his apprenticeship
with the pack--first as a lad in the kennel, then as Second Whip, and
lastly where we find him. His whole soul lay in his work, and the most
miserable time he owns to in his life was when he broke his leg riding
over a gate, and was laid up for six weeks away from his darlings. "I
shouldn't a minded if it had been in the summer," said he; "but having
to lay up abed in the middle of this beautiful scenting weather, it's
d----d hard luck, and I know the beauties will be wondering where the
deuce I've got to." As soon as he could move, his first outing was to
the kennels, where the reception, or rather ovation, he obtained
corroborated his opinion anent the hounds missing him.

Equally fond of hunting was Harry, though, it must be confessed, he
liked the riding part the best. Originally a farmer's boy, he first made
his appearance in the hunting-field on the top of a leader out of the
plough, which he had surreptitiously detached, and the way he rattled
the old nag along, chains and all, over or through everything, gained
him his place. Sir John Lappington, happening to see him, made inquiries
about the boy, and when he was turned off by his indignant master--for
of course he was turned off when his escapade came to light--he asked
the lad if he would like to go to the kennels. Harry jumped at the
offer, and when there he made himself so useful and learnt to ride so
quickly that on the Second Whip leaving suddenly, through misplaced
confidence in the amount of liquid he could "carry," Harry was put in as
a stopgap, and did so well that he was officially appointed Second Whip,
and has been so now for three seasons, giving every satisfaction.

Of his powers of riding the following anecdote will show:

They had been running hard one day last season, and were getting on
terms with their fox, when, just as they approached the Swill (a deep
muddy brook, to jump which when low was a thing to talk of, and when
full almost an impossibility), a fresh fox jumped up right in the centre
of the pack, and took half of them over the stream, which was bank full.
To stop them was a necessity, and there was no bridge nearer than half a
mile. Harry, without waiting a minute, pulled his nag together, and
shouting: "Here's in or over. I canna swim; but I've naught to leave
'cept my togs, and the're master's," rode at it, and, to the
astonishment of everybody, in another second was safe across and had
stopped the hounds on the far side. How he got over is a mystery to this
day, and no one was so astonished as himself. If you ask him he will
tell you "he only knew hounds had to be stopped, and if he had gone
under he could not have helped it. He trusted to luck and his spurs, and
they pulled him through."

It is small wonder that everything works like clockwork when Master,
Huntsman, and Whips all act in concert and harmony, and Charles and
Harry know full well the value of their situations. After the horses are
done up for the night, and the hounds are seen to, fed, warm and
comfortable on their benches, the two will as like as not go up and
smoke a pipe at old Tom's cottage before turning in; and the knowledge
they gain in those "evenings at home" is untold, for, as Charles said,
the old man keeps nothing back, and is never so pleased as when he is
giving his Whips the benefit of his long experience. Should the frost
set in, the Master will be down at the kennels in the morning for a
certainty, and two or three instructive hours will be passed in talk of
horse and hounds.



THE SECRETARY.


A man of immense importance is Mr. J. Boulter of The Grange, quite as
essential to the welfare of the Bullshire Hunt as either Master or
servants; and, indeed, if you could see through the double-breasted
pink, the corduroy waistcoat, and the gray flannel beneath, into his
innermost heart, you would, I am almost convinced, find that Mr. B. was
there written down as the man of the lot.

No light task is his, namely that of professional beggar. For he is
Secretary and Treasurer to the Hunt, and on him falls the onus of
collecting as well as receiving subscriptions. Long practice has made
him an adept in the art of "cornering" a defaulter, for he has been in
office for fifteen years, and it is his boast that if a pound is to be
got he is the man to get it.

On one occasion he was sorely put about by a man (I was going to say a
gentleman, but his conduct precludes the use of the term), who came down
from town and established himself in the country, bringing with him a
large stud of hunters. Naturally the Secretary fixed his eagle eye on so
promising a subject, and after a month or so began to hint at a
subscription, which of course was promised but never came.

Well, the season was drawing to a close and no cheque had been received
from the stranger, who, by-the-way, had not forgotten to find fault with
everything and everybody; moreover Mr. Boulter had heard by a side-wind
that half the large stud were gone, and the rest, accompanied by their
owner, would shortly follow. This, coupled with the oft-repeated
question at the covert-side of "Holloa, Boulter, got his coin yet?" put
our Secretary on his mettle. So one off-day he rode over to the inn and
interviewed the individual, asking him point blank for his cheque, as he
(Mr. B.) was making up the accounts. The answer was not propitious, for
the snob replied: "I have not got my cheque-book with me, but here are
two sovereigns, which is quite sufficient for such a provincial pack as
yours."

Boulter pocketed the sovereigns and retired, meditating revenge. At
last, however, he hit on a plan.

The meet on the following Monday was fixed for Bindley Park, and the
first draw was a long wood, at one end of which lay the house of a
market-gardener and small farmer. The only way from the Park to the wood
was through the farmyard-gate and out into the field, unless you jumped
the fence into the market-garden. Mr. Boulter accordingly took the owner
of the said gate into his confidence, as well as those of the field he
could trust, and on the day of the meet the gate was found to be locked,
and no one knew where the farmer had gone. To lift it off the hinges was
impossible, and old Tom, with a twinkle in his eye, said: "Dang it all;
but we mun go round," and forthwith made a pretence of trotting off.

"Never heard such a thing in my life," said the non-subscriber, falling
into the trap. "Dashed piece of impudence; sort of thing one might
expect in this benighted country. I'm dashed if I'm going round; I shall
go through the beggar's garden;" and he proceeded to put his threat into
execution by riding at the hedge.

As he rose at the fence the farmer's face was seen peeping round the
gate, and as the horse descended into the garden a terrific smash was
heard, followed by a loud altercation with, "Damage to my glass and pots
and that there bed of young stuff," etc. etc. The next morning the owner
of the large stud was presented with a bill of costs to the amount of
£20, which, after a deal of blustering, he paid, fifteen sovereigns
finding their way into Mr. Boulter's cash-box, the remaining five amply
repaying the market-gardener for the loss of two broken and useless
lights, a few cabbage-stalks, and a selection of old pots, which he,
together with the Secretary, had placed under the hedge at likely spots.

Thus did Mr. Boulter score, and he enjoys nothing so much as telling the
story of how he trapped the stranger, though, by-the-way, the same story
increases in dramatic incident year by year.

Most amusing it is to watch the reception of the Secretary as he rides
up on his famous jumping cob. Those who have paid up greet him with:
"Morning, Boulter; you're looking very fit;" and sometimes, when
perchance he is arrayed more gorgeously than usual as to his headpiece,
"What! a new hat? Dash it all, but that's the second this season;
there'll be no money left if you go buying hats like this out of the
fund. Here, Lappington" (to the Master), "here's the Secretary been
embezzling again, and broken out into another new topper." While those
who have as yet not forwarded their subscription nod him a good-morning,
and then somehow their steeds, which up to the present have been
behaving in a most rational manner, suddenly get excited, and it
requires the undivided attention of their riders to prevent them running
away.

In fact, they do run away until they manage to place a convenient
distance between themselves and the jumping cob. The Secretary, however,
is fully up to all these little dodges, and generally brings down
confusion on one or other member by saying with a chuckle: "Dear me,
So-and-so, what a funny thing it is, your horse is always fidgety when I
come near him. One would think he was afraid of being asked for a
subscription, and forgets that his master has paid." After a pause: "By
Jove, no! I'm wrong and the horse is right. Your cheque has not come
yet. What a sensible beast the animal is!" He says this is a most
infallible remedy, and that the following morning he invariably finds a
letter on his table enclosing the required article, and apologising for
forgetfulness.

Perhaps the secret of his success lies in his great popularity, for his
cheery manners and jovial smile have endeared him to all. Among the
farmers' wives he is worshipped, and though they one and all swear that
"Next time they are not a-going to be talked over about that
poultry-bill," it is always the same. Before the Secretary rides or
drives away from the homestead the bill is forgotten, and all the
children are crowing after him to tell them one more "'tory."

One good dame in particular is most emphatic on the subject of his
powers of persuasion. "You see, my dear," says she, "I sends in a bill
for two turkeys, six couple of ducks, just a-fatting too, three couple
of hens, and a whole brood of chickens. When I sees Mr. Boulter a-coming
up I says to myself says I, 'Now, Mrs. Styles, don't you go for to be
bamboozled.' But, laws! afore he's been in the place half an hour I've
nearly busted myself a-larfin', and I finds myself a-drinking a dish of
tea with him, and as fully persuaded as how it's my place to keep the
turkeys for them beastly foxes as I don't know what; and then the
blessed bill goes in the fire, and I'm a loser of close on twenty-eight
shillings. But then I knowed him as a lad, bless 'im; and there's never
a Christmas but what a hamper of game and a bottle of sherry comes to
the farm; so there's no bones broke."

With all his wheedling powers, Mr. Boulter is a thorough sportsman.
There is not an earth in the country that he does not know as well as
his own house; and he is equally well acquainted with the run of every
fox. Every hound he knows by name, and can give you chapter and verse
for both pedigree and performance.

A sure find for breakfast, dinner, or lunch, too, is The Grange, and for
a bottle of real old '47 port never drawn blank. Unbounded hospitality
is the order in that establishment, where throughout the season Mrs.
Boulter takes care that something is always on the table "in case the
hounds should come that way." Talking of Mrs. Boulter, there is a piece
of chaff against her husband that the day he was married he not only got
a subscription to the hounds out of the parson, but by exercising his
persuasive powers actually got off the fees!

The annual hunt-dinner is a great day for the Secretary. On that
occasion he takes the vice-chair, and proposes the health of Sir John,
the Master, in a speech which poor Mrs. B. has to listen to off and on
for the three previous days. Once the meek little woman did rebel. The
speech she had put up with, but when her lord and master returned home
at two o'clock, exceedingly jovial, and kept her awake till six o'clock
by alternately treating her to "John Peel," and informing her, with a
somewhat foolish laugh, that "they called me besht f'ller in shworld,
drunk m'very good shealth, 'pon m'shoul," she thought it was a little
too much; and when the orator awoke next day, headachey, chippy, and
penitent, she gave him a piece of her mind which so astonished him that
he has never exceeded again, and now returns at eleven sharp.

Sometimes during the summer months Boulter is to be seen struggling with
a pile of luggage at a foreign railway station, looking as miserable as
a man can look, and heavily handicapped as to the language of the
country in which his wife has elected to travel. But the trip never
lasts long. Some business connected with the hunt invariably calls him
back, and on a hot August day you will find him at the kennels chatting
with Tom Wilding over the prospects of the coming season or the young
entry, and anxiously longing for the "beastly harvest" to be over, and
for November leaves to fall.

If not there he will be riding round looking up Velveteens and his
satellites, and endeavouring to imbue them with the motto of "Live and
let live," as applicable to the fox.



THE FARMER.


"Like master like man" is a very old saying, and, like many of those
ancient saws, very true. Therefore, in such a sporting country as the
Bullshire, with such a sporting Master at the head of affairs, it stands
to reason that the field, or at all events the majority of them, should
be equally imbued with the love of the chase. Now in every country the
mainstay and backbone of the hunt is the Farmer, for without his consent
and co-operation fox-hunting would become a thing of the past, and
instead of a series of brilliant gallops and a successful season, we
should read of a series of actions for trespass and verdicts for
damages, carrying costs.

Keen sportsmen and true friends to the hunt are the Farmers of
Bullshire, so there is little fear of opposition on their part. Indeed,
on one occasion they combined to make it very "warm" for a stranger who
came among them, and who did not fall in with their views concerning the
necessary amount of support to be given to the hounds. The erring member
was a man who, having made some money in the chandler line in London,
took it into his head that he was cut out for a Farmer, and accordingly
took a farm in the centre of the hunt. From the moment he set his foot
in the place he gave offence, for the first thing he did was to wire the
whole of his fences, and then gave notice that anyone riding across his
land would be summoned for trespass and "prosecuted according to law."
"He was not a-going to 'ave them beastly dorgs and 'osses a-running over
his land, not if he knowed it." A climax, however, was reached when the
surly brute assaulted one of the members of the hunt with a pitchfork,
and swore he would lay down poison for the hounds. A meeting was there
and then called to discuss the question, and it was unanimously decided
to give the individual "what for."

Accordingly, some of the younger Farmers assembled one evening, and by
the following morning there was not a trace of wire to be seen nor a
gate-post standing in the holding of the ex-chandler. Strange to say,
the local police, into whose hands the matter was immediately put,
failed to discover the offenders, and the country-side was straightway
ringing with the candleman's discomfiture. The next time he went to
market not a beast could he sell, and it was the same with everything.
He found a strong league against him, none would buy from him and none
would sell to him; so at the end of a year he retired in disgust, much
to the delight of the conspirators.

No two better representatives of the Bullshire Farmers, old and young,
could be found than Simms and his son. The father--hard-working,
hard-riding, hard-headed, with fifty years of practical knowledge on
his shoulders--is a firm believer in Church and State and the rotation
of crops. With a horror of anything like steam, and a decided prejudice
against the School Board, he stands out a true type of the warm-hearted
old-fashioned yeoman.

The son, equally hard-working in his way, and still harder perhaps in
his riding, is full of what his sire is pleased to call "danged
rattletrap notions," born of the Agricultural College. Steam ploughs or
"cultivators" he pins his faith on. Church and State he has not much
time, he says, to think about. The rotation of crops must be regulated
by manuring, and he drives the old man nearly wild by learned treatises
on the subject of superphosphates, nitrates, and guano.

Each in his own way is an excellent Farmer--the one of the old school,
practical and working in a groove, the other of the new, mechanical and
enterprising. In the hunting-field, however, they meet on common ground,
and as there are but few fixtures at which both father and son do not
turn up, it may be taken for granted that in this respect their opinions
coincide.

Mark the difference in the respective "get-up" of the two as they jog
along together to Highfield cross-roads. Old Simms' long-coat is, from
constant exposure, more of a brown than the black it originally was; and
his hat has evidently had a few words with the hat-brush (the latter
having revenged itself by running "heel"), for the silk is all the wrong
way, and there is a large dent in the top. He still adheres to a
bird's-eye fogle, wound three times round a high white collar, the
corners of which only are visible, and contrast strongly with his jovial
red face. High jack-boots, and stout cords that have seen the end of
many a hard day, complete his attire, while his horse, a real "good
'un," is, like himself, all in the rough. His son, on the contrary, is
as neat as a new pin, in a hunting-cap, double-breasted Melton coat,
white breeches and tops; and the horse is on a par with his rider.

"Ah Simms, I knew you would turn up," say a cluster of sportsmen as the
pair arrive at the meet.

"Good morning, gentlemen; bound to be at Highfield, if possible. James
here" (pointing to his son) "would never forgive me if I did not come
and see his gorse drawn, though I do tell him as how, with all the
stinking stuff be puts on the land, there ain't a ghost of a chance of
any scent," is the reply.

"Never you fear, father," retorts James; "you wait till they find, and
if they don't run as well over my land as any other I'll eat my hat."

"All right, my boy," laughs the old man. "I hope you and your young 'un
may come across one of those infernal steam ploughs of yours, like I did
this morning, all of a sudden. The mare nearly put me down, old stager
as she is, and what that cocktail of yours'll do, Lord knows."

This raises a general laugh against James, in the middle of which the
Master rides up. "Well, James, have you got one for us to-day?" he
asks. "Tom tells me that we are sure of a fox in the osiers at the
bottom, but if you know of one in the gorse we'll go there first."

"Try the gorse first, Sir John, if you please. I think I can promise one
there," replies James Simms, in momentary dread that Tom and the osiers
might win the day.

And as Sir John, nodding to the Huntsman, says: "High field Gorse, Tom,"
James's face beams with pleasure, and, together with his father, he
trots off to superintend the arrangements. "A chip of the old block" is
the general verdict, as James, sending his "young 'un" at a low post and
rails, which he hits hard all round, cuts off a corner, and canters on
to the bottom end, where he remains as mute as a sphinx, merely
telegraphing to Tom and his father that he was there. Just as the hounds
are thrown in, a boy runs up to him and, with a grin, says: "Mayster,
ay's theer; I'n sayd 'un. Ay's down at bottom end by t' ould stump."

"All right, Jim, my lad; you keep quiet. If he's there you shall have a
bob," replies James, burning with impatience as he hears no sound save
Tom's "Eleu, in, eleu 'ave at 'm. Eugh, boys."

"Blank, by the Lord Harry!" he ejaculates, as two or three hounds appear
outside; and, turning to the boy, he asks: "My lad, are you sure you saw
a fox?"

"I'n sayd 'un; ay's theer," is the reply. "Ay mun bay up stump."

"Here," cries James, "take my whip, and if you can get him out your bob
will be two-and-six."

The boy does not wait a moment, but, heedless of furze, dashes on to
where the old ivy-covered stump stands, and is soon swarming up to the
top. A crack of the whip, a scuffle, a shout from the lad of "Look out,
mayster," and a fine old dog jumps out and makes off right under James's
nose.

"Good lad," he says, as the boy returns with his whip; "here, catch."
And while James utters a view holloa that would wake the dead, the lad,
having spat upon it for luck, transfers half-a-crown to his pocket.

"All right, Tom; down the field and over the fence to the right. Come
on, dad;" and Tom, getting his hounds on the line in a twinkling, the
trio are hard at it.

"Pull that young 'un together," says old Simms as they neared the fence;
"it's a big 'un." His old mare slips over as if it was child's play. Not
so the "young 'un." Going like an express train, he never rises an inch,
and James finds himself and the nag somewhat mixed up on the other side.

"That's a buster. No damage, eh?" says Tom.

"Not a bit; for'ard on," replies James, swinging himself into his
saddle, and giving his astonished animal a gentle reminder. "It'll teach
him to rise next time. There goes the governor," as his father landed in
a blind ditch at the next obstacle, but was up and going again in a
moment.

At this crisis they are joined by the Master and a chosen few. "All,
this is something like a fox, worthy of the family," laughs Sir John
Lappington as he gallops alongside. "Did you breed him on purpose?"

"No, Sir John; I can't quite say that. He's an artful old dodger though,
and mother says she's had the feeding of him. He was up in the stump,
and a lad fetched him out with my whip," replies Simms the younger as
they stride over the grass.

"By gad, fox is bound for your place," says Tom to the father. And Tom
is right. Straight as a die he heads for old Simms' farm, and now that
they are on his land the son does not forget to chaff his father most
unmercifully about the roughness of the fences. A few fields farther on
a labourer hollos him, and in the meadow before the house the hounds
view, and they run into him almost in the garden.

"Who-whoop," yells the old man, as pleased as Punch. "Now then, missus,"
as Mrs. Simms comes out to see the end of the destroyer of her
chickens, "ale and beer and anything you have. What is it, gentlemen?
Give it a name," as the field one by one jump off their smoking horses.
"We must drink the health of this one; it's, as Sir John says, a family
fox. Oh, bother the turkeys, missus," as Mrs. S. mutters something about
feeding the fox; "you can think of nothing but turkeys. We's all a-dry
here;" and he bustles off to fetch out some more of the rare old
home-brewed, reappearing in a few minutes with an enormous jug. "Now,
Sir John, one more glass. No? Anybody else say anything? Here, Tom, I
must have that brush. Best thing we've had this season. Oh, _you_ don't
want any more beer, James; you ought to feed on phosphates," as his son
holds out a horn to be replenished. "There, bring my horse, lad," to a
labourer; and the old man, his face beaming with pleasure, is ready for
the fray again.

That evening there is what James calls a "symposium" at the farm, and
the run is run over again. "Twenty-five minutes without a check, and
thank you kindly for the missus, self, and son. I only hope we shall be
able to find as good a one next time we draw the gorse, and if every one
of us has a family fox on his place, the Bullshire need have no fear
about sport," is what old Simms says in acknowledging the toast of
himself and family, which is drunk with three times three.



THE PARSON.


It is related of the late Bishop of Winchester that, on one occasion
when shooting, he was asked by his host to remonstrate with the keeper
for his non-attendance at church, and accordingly he did so. "Well, my
lord," replied the man, "I owns I doesn't go much to church, but I reads
my bible regular, and I can't say as I've found anything there about t'
apostles going a-shooting, and they was bishops."

"Quite right, my man, quite right," was the ready answer. "You see they
did not preserve much in those days, so they went fishing instead."

Equally ready was the answer of the Rev. William Halston, when his
diocesan informed him that so much hunting did not meet with his
approval, and on the argument waxing warm had allowed himself to make
use of a somewhat unclerical expression. "Sir," said the angry bishop,
"you go galloping all over the country, and your parish is going to the
dogs."

"Exactly the reason, my lord, why I hunt," replied his reverence with a
smile. "When all my parishioners are going to the dogs, it is my
positive duty to go also, if only to look after them."

The bishop thought somehow that he had met his match, and so nothing
further was said on the subject. That little episode occurred some
twenty years ago, when Mr. Halston was a younger man, but his love of
hunting has if anything increased with his age, and seldom is his
well-known face absent from any of the meets within reasonable distance
(which he computes at eighteen miles); and a bold rider must be the man
who, when hounds are running, sets himself down to cut out "t' ould
Parson," as the Rector of Copthorpe is called.

Copthorpe, I may mention, in early days was the only church for miles on
that side of the country, and the living embraced no less than four
straggling parishes, the farthest being some twenty miles distant. With
the growth of the population came the necessity for more places of
worship, and besides a new church built at Lappington by Sir John's
father there is also one at Highfield, situated at the other extremity,
the mother church still being, of course, at Copthorpe.

From this it may be wondered how the Rector can find time to do his work
and hunt as well. But that he does so is undeniable, for there is not a
cottage in the whole parish that some time or other during the week he
does not visit, and high and low, rich and poor, one and all love and
honour their Parson.

The cottagers simply adore him, for numerous are the tales round the
country-side of how "t' ould mon sot up night after night wi' Jack Bliss
when ay fell down t' gravel-pit drunk, and welly killed hisself;" and
how "ay used to ride o'er every other day wi' some port-wine or summut
in his pocket when So-and-so's wife was bad in t' fever-time, six years
back." Often does the old gentleman (for he now numbers close on seventy
years), coming back after a long day with the hounds, snatch a hasty
meal, and, jumping on the back of his famous pony Jerry, canter off some
six or seven miles to see a poor parishioner that one of his curates had
reported sick; and, should occasion require it, the morning light will
find him seated by the bedside of the sufferer, speaking to him or her
such words of consolation and hope as make the pain seem less and the
heart seem lighter.

His power, too, is unlimited, and on more than one occasion has the
arrival of Parson Halston put a sudden stop to a free fight that looked
strangely like ending in bloodshed. For the men know that he will stand
no nonsense; and still fresh in the memory of most of the pitmen is the
discomfiture of one of their number, Black Joe, who in his drunken fury
attacked his pastor, and went down like an ox before a deadly
left-hander, delivered with a science born of Alma Mater and "town and
gown."

They caught "t' ould Parson" up in their stalwart arms then and there,
and how they did cheer him as they carried him down the street!

From that day his rule was established, and a word now is sufficient,
without anything else, to stop "riot."

But it is not only those workers in the mines that have their story; the
farm-labourers are equally loud in singing his praises, for did not he,
when a paid hireling was stumping the country urging them to strike
against their masters, jump on the cart from whence the ranter was
hurling forth denunciations against "the landlords' tyranny and the
farmers' oppression," and holding him forcibly down with one hand,
address them all as they gazed in wonder, and say to them how they had
"worked together and drank together, hunted together and suffered
together, for many years; and now would they listen--they, the men of
Bullshire--to a miserable whimpering Cockney from London, who could
neither mow a swath nor pitch a load to save his life?"

And when they were all for ducking the vermin in the mill-pond, did not
he drive him off to the town in his own cart, and never lose sight of
the agitator till he saw the train safely out of the station with, the
individual well on his road back to town and his employers?

Ay, there are many of them now who shake their heads, and pointing to
their fellows in the neighbouring counties, say: "If it 'adna been for
our ould Parson we should a' been in the same fettle. Strikes mean
starvation, and when a man's clemmed" (hungry), "and' ain't got no one
but hisself to thank for't, ay begins to look a fule, that ay does."

Mr. Halston employs three curates, to each of whom he gives a particular
district, and they have every evening to bring in their reports of what
goes on, and what they have done during the day. Eagerly sought after
are these positions, for it is a well-known fact that, after their years
of training at Copthorpe, if they are worth their salt they are pretty
sure to tumble into a good berth. One thing is however made a _sine quâ
non_--that during their stay they must do their share of work. "Duty
first and pleasure afterwards," is the motto of the Rector, and he sees
that it is strictly carried out.

Such is a brief description of the man who may be ranked among the best
of sportsmen and truest of friends in Bullshire, or indeed any country
in the world.

As a man and a friend he is full of the milk of human kindness,
hospitable to a fault, and never so happy himself as when giving
pleasure to others. As a sportsman, a bold and forward rider, yet always
with excellent judgment, displaying as much knowledge of what a fox is
likely to do as if he was being hunted himself; a knowledge of the
country second to none, a capital judge of both horse and hound, and
with a love of hunting that, as I have said, advancing years serve only
to increase.

Small wonder that when Tom hears _his_ "view holloa" he knows it is
right, and gets forward at once, though there are those who may shout
themselves hoarse without attracting the desired attention. "Parson's
like my old Solomon," says he; "'e never throws his tongue till he's
d----d well certain; but then, by Guy! 'e does let 'em have it."

Whenever it is possible Mr. Halston goes to cover with the hounds, and
back again in the same company (unless called away by parish work)
after the day is over, and dearly does old Tom love those rides and
cheery chats, learning himself, he freely admits, as much as ever he can
teach. See them now both in the centre of the pack, jogging homeward in
the failing light. Says Tom: "That was a straight-necked 'un we had
to-day, sir; but I'm main puzzled what made you guess he'd try them
earths at Billowdon."

"Well, Tom," replies the Rector, "I argued it out by common sense.
Suppose you'd been hard pressed and knew of a house you could turn into,
wouldn't you go for it?"

"Yes, but it was turning right into the mouths of the pack. I was
'nation mad when I found 'em open that I hadna ta'en your hint,"
continues the Huntsman.

"Live and learn, Tom; live and learn," laughs the Parson. "You forget
three seasons ago we lost one just in the same place."

"By Guy! so we did, and I forgot it at the moment. It was the day as
young Mayster Bell jumped atop of Melody; but what's become of him,
sir?" asks Tom. "How Sir John did pitch it into him that time to be
sure."

"Oh, he's getting on first rate; he is inspector at the Deep-seam Pits.
I was afraid, though, he was going to the bad at one time. He took a
liking to the bottle; but Bliss's accident cured him," replies Mr.
Halston. "But here we are at the kennels, and I must get on; I want to
ride over to Halstead and see old Widow Greaves; she's a bit ailing; so
good-night, Tom."

"Good-night, sir; good-night. See you out, I suppose, on Friday at
Fearndale? Sure to find in the wood," says Tom, muttering to himself as
he gets off his horse: "There's one of the best men in the world, danged
if he ain't."

Mr. Halston is trotting along home, thinking over the events of the day
and a hundred-and-one other things, when he is startled by the sudden
reappearance of old Tom at his side, who, looking rather scared in
answer to his inquiry of "What's the matter?" says: "There's been a
fearful accident at the pits, sir; my nephew's just come over. Explosion
or summat; there's five-and-twenty poor chaps blocked up, 'e do say, and
I thought you'd like to know on it."

Before Tom has well finished speaking, the Parson is urging his horse at
best pace in the direction of the Deep-seam Pit, much to that animal's
disgust. He pulls up at the first cottage he comes to, and, calling out
a boy, sends him off to Copthorpe with a message to say where he has
gone, and they need not expect him home at present, and that his groom
is to ride Jerry over at once to take back his hunter.

"Look sharp, my lad," says he, tossing the boy a shilling, "and tell
James to bring over my bottles with him--port and brandy--he'll know."
And again he is on his way. On arriving at the scene of the accident he
finds a large crowd of weeping women collected round the pit-mouth,
making "confusion worse confused," and seriously interfering with the
work of salvation.

Amidst the universal grief and terror he is not noticed at first, but
when men and women simultaneously recognise him, if ever a man had
reason to be proud, surely Mr. Halston is that man, for such a shout is
raised of "Here's t' ould Parson; God bless 'un! we knowed 'e'd come;
it's right now," as tells him plainly the place he holds in the hearts
of these rough men and sorrowing women.

"Here, take my horse," says he to one of the men; and as Bell comes up
he asks: "What is being done?" "Volunteers for an exploring party,"
briefly answers the inspector; and Mr. Halston steps forward and
addresses the crowd.

"My lads," he says, "I am an old man, and perhaps some of you will think
it ain't my place to go down; but, thank God, I can still wield a pick
with anyone, and with His help we'll get the boys out. No, Mr. Bell,"
as the inspector tries to dissuade him; "if I ain't much use myself,
they'll work all the better for having their Rector with them. And now
one word to you, my daughters. You can do no good here. Go home, and get
things ready for your husbands against the time we bring them up safe
and sound. Now" (to the engineer) "we are ready. Steady, keep your
breath for work, lads," as cheer after cheer rends the air; and in a few
moments the group of brave volunteers are descending the shaft on their
errand of mercy.

All through the night they toil, relieving each other in shifts, working
as only men can work when the lives of fellow-creatures depend on their
exertions. The Parson is everywhere, quiet, calm, and collected,
encouraging and directing, yet taking all his share of manual labour.

Twice he has to be sent to the surface, faint and gasping for breath;
but almost before his absence is detected, he is back again in the
centre of the noble band.

By 2 A.M. the first six of the imprisoned miners are found, badly
burned, but still alive; and before the sun has risen the whole of the
twenty-five are restored to their wives, with the exception of three,
whose work in this world is finished for ever.

Worn out as he is, Mr. Halston stops to comfort as best he can the
fatherless and widow, and then Jerry carries him home. Men miss his
kindly face at Fearndale on the Friday, but they know where he is, for
the story of his heroism spreads far and wide; and when next he appears
in the field, all press forward to do him honour. On the way to their
first draw that day a fox jumps up in the open, and goes straight over
Milston Brook. Tom has his hounds on the line in a crack, and before
anyone has time to look round, three figures are seen sailing away over
the grass on the far side of the water--Tom; Charles the First Whip,
and, in front of all--the Parson.



THE DOCTOR.


"Never saw such weather or such a season in my life, Sir John. They tell
us that 'a green winter makes a full churchyard,' but the saying doesn't
hold good down here. Why, bless my heart, everybody's out hunting
instead of being ill, and there's nothing for me to do at all."

"Ah Doctor," replies the Master, laughing, "it's better for us than for
you then; and yet, in the long run, if the truth was known, I expect you
can score more kills than my hounds."

A busy man is Edward Wilson, Esq., M.D., with an increasing practice
necessitating the help of an assistant. Yet so devoted is he to
hunting, that he thinks it a very hard case if he does not manage one
day a-week with the hounds. As he rides up, the picture of robust health
and the pink of neatness, one would scarcely imagine, as one listens to
his chaffing about the weather and the paucity of patients, that he had
had exactly two hours' sleep the night before, and was almost certain to
find a message on his return home, calling him away some seven or eight
miles, with the prospect of another nocturnal vigil. Yet such is the
case. Yesterday afternoon, when he came back from his round, he had said
to Thomas his coachman: "I shall manage a day to-morrow, Thomas; I don't
think there is anything likely to happen, so have old Ladybird ready for
me in the morning. They meet at Willowfield Lodge, and are certain to
draw towards home."

Just as he was going to bed, a groom from Lorton Towers came galloping
into his yard with an urgent message "As 'ow Doctor wur wanted at once;
Lady Slowboy's took bad;" and away he had to go to assist the future
Lord Slowboy on his "first appearance on any stage."

"Hang it all; she might have put it off," he said to himself as he
buttoned his coat; "but I'm not going to lose my day's hunting for fifty
heirs of Lorton;" and at 5.30 A.M., the ceremony being over, before
turning in he gave orders that he was to be called at half-past seven,
and at half-past ten he arrives, as we see him, hale and hearty, at
Willowfield Lodge.

Very well mounted is the Doctor, for he knows a horse when he sees one;
and though he only keeps two--or rather, as he himself puts it, "one and
a half" (the second one having to take him occasionally on professional
trips)--they are both something above the average, and when hounds are
running, Ladybird or Precipitate, the two horses, are pretty nearly
certain to be seen in the van. It does not require a second glance at
the keen eyes, the determined mouth, wreathed in a cheery smile, and
the strong nervous hands, to show that before one is a man of iron will.

Prompt of decision, quick at diagnosing disease, with a heart full of
sympathy for suffering, yet never faltering when forced to resort to the
knife, Edward Wilson has made a name for himself second to none in that
part of England. Indeed, over and over again his old friend and patron,
Sir George Fennel, the great London physician, has urged him to migrate
to town; but his answer is always the same:

"Couldn't live through one season. I must be in the fresh air; and if I
did not see hounds now and then, I should pine away. Besides, I should
miss all my old friends in Bullshire so; and as for fame, old Widow
Fletcher and John Billings the blacksmith would not believe you if you
told them there was a cleverer man than myself living! Poor souls! it
shows their ignorance; but what more can I want?"

The Doctor is quite right. Among the poor he and the Parson run a
neck-and-neck race for popularity. Perhaps from the fact of being
associated with that, to them, great mystery--medicine--the Doctor is
held in greater awe; but they all remember how, hand-in-hand, the two
fought death in the fever-time; and the great authorities I have
mentioned--the widow and the blacksmith--assert that "Doctor ay does
know summat about rheumatiz; ay's got some stuff as sends it away all in
a jiff like."

It is fifteen years ago since Edward Wilson, then five-and-twenty, came
down to Bullshire as assistant to old Dr. Johnstone. He rather
astonished the methodical old practitioner with his theories, for the
young Doctor, whose whole soul was in his profession, had read deeply
and judiciously, and was far in advance of the old-fashioned routine of
blood-letting, cupping, and Epsom salts.

At first folks shook their heads, and muttered "Quackery;" but one or
two bad cases, which had been given over as hopeless by the principal,
being successfully pulled through by the assistant, they began to think
that after all there was something in the young fellow; and the surgical
skill he displayed when, together with every other available medical
man, he was called to the scene of the fearful railway accident at
Billingdon, confirmed their opinion.

A year after this, old Johnstone died suddenly, and Wilson, after a
brisk competition, bought his practice. Directly he felt himself his own
master, he allowed his ideas a free scope, and consequently in a very
short time his undoubted talent made itself known throughout the
country-side, and the practice increased so enormously that, young and
energetic as he was, he found it necessary to take an assistant,
choosing after much deliberation the son of an old college chum and
fellow-student.

"Why, Doctor, who'd have thought of seeing you to-day? I thought you
were at Lorton all last night," exclaims Mr. Noble, Lord Slowboy's
agent, who rides up as Sir John finishes his repartee.

"So I was, Noble," replies our M.D., "but her ladyship, I am thankful to
say, let me off at half-past five; and, as I was just telling Sir John,
there being nothing else for me to do this weather, I thought I would
come out on the chance of a job in the field."

"I hope you may be disappointed, then, for once. What a blood-thirsty
villain! Did you ever hear such a thing, Boulter?" says the Master to
the Secretary, who has just arrived on a new steed.

"Hear what?" rejoins that worthy.

"Why," continues Sir John, "the Doctor here says he saw you pass his
window on that new horse, and has come out to follow in your wake all
day, as he feels convinced you will break your neck, leg, or arm, or do
something which he can turn into a fee."

"Don't you believe it," interrupts Mr. Wilson with a laugh; "it would
not pay me to mend you, for directly you got well you'd be dunning me
for a subscription, and I might whistle for my fees. But look at Tom; he
evidently thinks it is time to be moving. Who-ho, old lady" (to his
horse), "who-ho," as old Tom, having got the signal, trots by with the
pack, and, lifting his cap in response to the Doctor's greeting, says:

"Main glad to see you out, Doctor; hope we shall find a good 'un for
you."

In a few minutes the hounds are thrown in, and Mr. Wilson finds himself
with Mr. Halston (the clergyman) and Charles at a convenient corner of
the covert. As bad luck will have it, though, the fox breaks away on the
far side.

"Bless my soul, this is rough," exclaims the Doctor; "come on;" and
putting old Ladybird at the fence he goes crashing through the wood,
followed by his two companions. As they emerge on the other side they
see the hounds streaming away some three fields off below them, and have
the satisfaction of knowing that for once they have got as bad a start
as could well be.

"It's for Blessington Osiers," says Charles. "If we cut across to the
left and over the brook we shall hit it off."

"You are right, Charles," rejoins the Parson. "What do you say, Wilson?"

"For'ard on, then," replies the Doctor; and the trio gallop off almost
in a contrary direction to the hounds. They negotiate the water in
safety, and pull up by the side of the Osiers just as the hunted fox
enters them. Charles rides off to the bottom end to view him through,
and as Tom comes up with the pack his "Tailly-ho, for'ard a-w-a-i-y!"
proclaims the fact that Reynard has not found Blessington a place of
rest.

"Why, where the deuce have you arrived from?" is the universal question
asked by all the field.

"Home," says the Doctor with a chuckle, as he sets Ladybird going now
in her proper place--in the front rank--and swings over a nasty fence
with a double ditch. As he lands on the other side he notices the
Secretary's nephew, a young lad who is riding a chestnut that is
evidently as much as the boy can manage, and as his eye falls on the
stiff timber which appears at the far end of the field he wonders what
will happen. "Don't go too fast at the rails, my boy," he says. "Steady.
My G--d, what a smash!" as the impetuous brute rushes at the fence, and,
breasting the top rail, turns a regular somersault, throwing the boy,
luckily, clear of him.

The Doctor is off his horse in a moment, and hounds and hunting are
forgotten as he kneels by the side of the pale little face, supporting
the lad's head on his breast, and feeling with professional skill for
any injury.

"Stand back, gentlemen, please," he exclaims, as some of the field
collect round. "Give the boy air. There's nothing wrong beyond a slight
shock and a broken arm. Ah Boulter, don't be alarmed," as the Secretary
rides up. "Get him in a cart, and drive him home. I'll be round and set
his arm directly."

"I'm all right, uncle," says the nephew, who has revived after a pull at
the Doctor's flask. "Let me go on."

"No, my boy, you can't go on. You've broken your arm, and will have to
be quiet for a bit," replies Mr. Boulter.

"What a bore!" ejaculates the lad; but adds, with a twinkle in his eye,
"You'll have to pay Doctor Wilson a fee after all, uncle."

Everybody laughs at this, and the Doctor mutters under his breath:
"That's what I call pluck." Then, trotting off home to fetch his
paraphernalia, he is at The Grange almost as soon as the invalid. After
making him comfortable, the Doctor has to go off on other errands of
mercy, and as he drives the seven miles to visit his next patient, he
tells Thomas that he is sorry to have missed the end of the run, but if
anything could repay him it is the amount of pluck shown by the
Secretary's little nephew.

Once a year he takes a two months' holiday, in July and August, when he,
together with three old college chums, may be seen clad in blue serge
and drinking in great draughts of health on the deck of the yacht which
belongs to the eldest of them. They generally wind up with a fortnight
at the grouse, and then the Doctor returns to Bullshire with renewed
life and with a fund of anecdote and adventures by sea and land, to hear
him relate which is as good for a sick man as any of the prescriptions
which he writes in his peculiarly neat handwriting.

Wherever he goes, castle or cottage, hall or homestead, his presence
always cheers and lights up the sick-room, and Doctor Wilson's visit is
looked forward to by the invalid as the pleasantest bit of his long day.



THE DEALERS.


"Yes, sir, he's a niceish little horse, up to a goodish bit of weight
too, and carries a lady. My daughter rides him often, and she says he's
as handy as a kitten."

There is nothing very remarkable about the speaker, and but for the
undeniable bit of "good stuff" he is riding, one would scarcely notice
him in the crowd assembled at the meet.

As he turns half round to make the foregoing remark, allowing his right
hand to rest on his horse's flank, a dark bay of wondrous shape, one may
perhaps be struck with the peculiar look of shrewdness displayed in his
eyes, and notice the ease with which he sits in his saddle; but beyond
that there is nothing at first sight to mark a difference from any other
man in the field.

But Mr. James Holden the Dealer, more generally known as Old Jimmy
Holden, is something out of the common.

First, he is one of the best judges of a horse in England, with some
forty years' experience to back him.

Secondly, he is a man of the keenest perception. In two seconds he will
sum you up as well as if he had been acquainted with you for a lifetime,
and knows intuitively at a glance how much you are "good for."

Thirdly, he is one of the best and neatest riders imaginable, with a
supreme contempt for such superfluous matter as nerves. Being possessed
of hands of silk and will of iron, he can hand a raw young 'un over the
stiffest country in the hunt, and make him perform as well as a
thoroughly seasoned hunter.

Lastly, he is absolutely trustworthy--that is to say, if you tell him
that you want a horse and cannot afford more than such-and-such a sum,
he will supply you with the best article that can be got for the money,
frankly telling you any defects, and leaving himself but a fair margin
of profit. If, however, a purchaser thinks himself very knowing and pits
himself against Jimmy Holden, it is long odds that that bumptious
individual, the purchaser, will find himself in the wrong box, for Jimmy
takes a pleasure in getting what he calls "six to four the best of a
knowing card."

He displays a vast amount of _esprit de corps_ concerning his own hunt,
always keeping the pick of the bunch for some of his Bullshire
customers. "You see," he says with a smile, "I meet them all out in the
field, and if I was to come across any of my gents riding one of my
'osses that I knew to be a bad 'un, why I could not say good-morning
with a free conscience or a light heart. That horse would be always
staring me in the face, and making me uncomfortable."

To outsiders, however, he does not always show so much compunction, as
the following anecdote will show. There was a young cotton lord who one
season came down to stay with one of the members of the Bullshire for a
month's hunting, and, being in want of a horse, was advised to go to Mr.
Holden. Exceedingly knowing in matters of horseflesh did this young
gentleman consider himself, and as he was rolling in wealth he also gave
himself pretty considerable airs.

Accordingly he despatched the following epistle to Freshfield, where
Jimmy's house and stables were situated: "Mr. Tinsel, being in want of a
hunter, and hearing that James Holden is an honest dealer, will thank
him to bring over two or three for his inspection to-morrow to The
Shrubbery. Mr. Tinsel begs to say he requires a good horse and not a
screw."

Now old Jimmy Holden was not accustomed to this sort of thing. He had,
with his father before him, become quite an institution in the
Bullshire country, and everybody knowing what a right-down good
sportsman he was, always treated him more as an equal than anything
else, or at all events with respect and in good-fellowship. Indeed it
was considered rather a privilege to buy one of his horses, and his
company in the field was always sought after, where his fund of anecdote
and quaint humour were wont to keep everybody in a roar. Therefore it
may be imagined that the letter rubbed him up the wrong way in no slight
degree, and not a word did he vouchsafe in reply.

The next time the hounds met, Mr. Tinsel, who was riding one of his
friend's horses, came up to him and said, in a most offensive way: "You
are Holden, the horse-dealer, ain't you?"

"My name is Holden, sir," replied old Jimmy, looking over the top of the
young snob's head.

"Well, then, why the devil did not you answer my letter? I want a horse,
and told you to bring me over two or three to look at," continued young
Manchester. "Is that your sort of way of doing business? because it
ain't mine."

"I presume, sir, your name is Tinsel. If so, I beg to inform you that I
am not in the habit of bringing over horses for strangers to look at. If
you like to drive over to Freshfield, my foreman will show you one at my
stables," said Jimmy, and straightway rode off fuming, while a visible
smile was seen on the faces of all those within hearing.

"Sell him The Baron," said two or three of them; "it will serve him
right."

The Baron was a grand-looking beast, whose appearance had deceived the
wily James into buying him over in the "Land of the Shamrock;" but with
his good looks his virtues came to an end, for he was without exception
the veriest brute to ride imaginable, being a confirmed bolter, with no
mouth, and with an awkward habit, if he did manage to get rid of his
rider, of rushing at him open-mouthed, or else trying to kick his brains
out. He had been tried at everything, but it was always the same,
whether in saddle or harness; he was a regular man-eating savage.

Hitherto Holden had refused absolutely to part with him, though he had
had more than one offer; but so outraged were his feelings on this
occasion that he took the advice given, and Mr. Tinsel shortly became
the owner of The Baron in exchange for a cheque for two hundred pounds.

It must be owned that at the last moment Jimmy relented, and told the
young gentleman he had better not buy; but with the obstinacy of
ignorance Tinsel insisted on the bargain, and so had his way.

The result was a foregone conclusion. The first day he took him out the
brute ran away with him for six miles straight on end, jumping into the
river to wind up with, from which predicament Mr. Tinsel was rescued
just in time to save him from a watery grave.

The Baron emerged safely on the far side, and when caught was there and
then despatched to town for sale without reserve, being followed in a
couple of days by his owner. This, however, happened some years ago, and
Jimmy Holden does not care to say very much about it now.

As the hounds move off, one of the field, a Mr. Briggs, finds it
impossible to help breaking the tenth commandment and coveting the
little bay, and when he sees the easy way in which the animal pops over
the stiff rails out of the big grass-meadow, making as little of them as
if they were a flight of hurdles, while he himself has been in vain
looking all round for a convenient gate, the covetous desire increases,
and a settled determination takes possession of him to become the owner
or perish in the attempt.

Meanwhile Jimmy has noted all this, and though that jump seemed so
carelessly and easily done, he well knows the value of it, and is quite
prepared to hear Mr. Briggs say, as he does: "Is that bay for sale,
Holden?"

"All my horses are for sale, sir," he replies with a smile; adding,
after a pause, "at a price."

Thereupon Briggs tries to look as if he was not the least interested in
the matter, and accordingly shows most plainly how anxious he is to buy.
"Oh, ah, yes," says he, "he seems likely to make a hunter. How much do
you ask?"

"Well, sir, seeing that you are an old customer, I will let you have him
at a hundred and twenty; but take my advice, Mr. Briggs, and when you
are buying don't show as you're so sweet on the animal; it's as good as
putting another five-and-twenty guineas on the price. However, you shall
try him the day after to-morrow, and if you like the horse, which I am
sure you will, you can have him at the price I said."

Needless to say Mr. Briggs _does_ like him, and a piece of paper signed
with his name transfers one hundred and twenty guineas to the account of
James Holden at the local bank, though it must be confessed that the
little bay does not perform quite so brilliantly under his new master's
guidance as he did on the occasion when the exhibition at the rails so
delighted his heart.


It was not to be supposed that Jimmy Holden would be left for ever in
undisputed possession of such a lucrative position as dealer-in-ordinary
to the Bullshire Hunt, and at one time there was quite an influx of
veterinary surgeons, job-masters, and copers of all sorts; but they all
dropped off and disappeared with the exception of one individual, who
was a constant thorn in Jimmy's side, and whom he hated with a hate
surpassing that of women (the inverse applies equally to the fair sex,
love and hatred both being qualities they excel in).

He was named Seaford--Captain Seaford he called himself, though the Army
List was innocent and silent as to his name or his regiment.

"A nasty, snivelling, horse-coping snob," was Jimmy's verdict; "brings
discredit on the profession, and makes people think as we're all
rogues."

There was a deal of truth in this, for Seaford was as big a scamp as
ever doctored a broken-winded nag or bishoped an old stager. Now and
then he had a good horse, but it was the exception; and when such an
accident did happen it was a wonder that he ever managed to shut his
mouth again, so wide did he open it.

Farmer Simms used to say on those occasions: "Ay could see right through
un' like a telescope."

A most plausible scoundrel is he notwithstanding, and if he manages to
get hold of some new-comer he will stick to him like a leech till he has
screwed something out of him. Of course he hunts, and equally of course
he arrives rather late, not being over fond of letting his wares get
cool--and stiff--at the meet.

He is mounted, perhaps, on a raking-looking chestnut mare. There is a
good deal of "furniture" about her, such as breast-plate and martingale;
the throat-strap is broad, and the band across the forehead is blue and
white enamel. That the mare can jump there is no doubt, for she sails
over the big bank and ditch in rare form, and for two or three fields
(Captain) Seaford is in front. After a little he is to be seen on
another animal, which, when there are enough people round to see, can
perform nearly as well as the chestnut, who is now on her way home. If
anyone happens to meet her they will be somewhat surprised to see how
lame she goes. "Run a nail into 'er 'oof," is the groom's version; but
an F.R.C.V.S. would be puzzled to find that nail, and his certificate
would show the lameness to proceed from a very different cause.

It is a marvel how Seaford manages to "pick up" so many flats, but he
does a thriving trade; and though occasionally he has to square an
unpleasant business, he has always a plausible tale ready to hand, and
so comes out with merely a scratch on his somewhat shady character.

Once he outdid himself, and was as nearly put in prison as ever he
wishes to be. It happened as follows. One evening, late, a couple of
fur-capped individuals brought a horse into his yard and asked him if he
would buy. A glance showed him the animal was valuable, and the price
asked being only twenty pounds Seaford naturally concluded that it was a
stolen one. However, he argued, it was nothing to do with him, and
bought it there and then. Next day the police found it in his stables,
and hard work it was for the Freshfield lawyer to prevent the
magistrates committing the gallant Captain as a receiver of stolen
goods.

The reason for his having incurred Jimmy's hatred is because he was
sharp enough once, soon after he had come into the country, to sell him
a broken-winded nag; and Jimmy never hears the last of it to this day.
However, he swears he will be "even with the scamp yet," and being a man
of his word there is little doubt but that he will.



THE GRUMBLER.


A very enthusiastic individual is Mr. Bowles, J.P., or, as he is more
generally called, The Major, from his connection with the local
Volunteer force, which, it may almost be said, he founded. Liberal with
his money, and at heart a good fellow and keen sportsman, his one great
failing is the use, or abuse, of that Englishman's acknowledged
privilege--grumbling.

He is never happy unless he is finding fault with something or somebody.
No matter what it is, the stars in their courses have always conspired
against him personally, or some unfortunate person has done the very
thing they should not have done, and so brought the matter in hand to
utter grief.

Of course if they had listened to the Major everything would have
progressed swimmingly; but as his opinions were seldom given until the
fiasco had occurred (if occur it did), and even then were
conflicting--not to say contradictory--recourse was seldom had to that
fount of advice. It is generally whispered in Bullshire that when
Bowles, after an infinity of trouble and expense, managed to inspire a
certain amount of military enthusiasm sufficient for the formation of
the corps of Bullshire Rifles, he refused to accept the command of them,
in order that he might afterwards be able to say:

"Just like my luck; took all the trouble of getting the thing up, and
then they go and put in a man over my head. A man, sir, who does not
know his right hand from his left; a duffer, sir; a rank impostor, who
calls himself Colonel, and is as ignorant of the drill-book as---- But,
there; it's always the same."

As a magistrate and justice of the peace he is equally aggrieved.
Witnesses somehow never can give their evidence in a straightforward
manner, and the decisions of the Bench afford him vast scope for
criticism. "Never heard of such a thing," he will tell you. "Man brought
up for poaching. Found with a gun, going along the road. Asked what he
was doing. Said he was taking it to be mended. Would you believe it?
They dismissed the case, notwithstanding all I could say. Gave him the
benefit of the doubt, sir; and they call that justice, by Heaven!"

It is no use pointing out that ample evidence was produced at the
inquiry to show that the man's story was correct, he was taking the gun
to be mended, and an over-zealous local policeman had, as is by no means
unusual, exceeded his duty. The Major will reply that he knows, and if
the magistrates don't choose to exercise their powers, every loafer in
Bullshire will be carrying a gun to be mended.

A stranger would naturally suppose from this that Mr. Bowles was not
blessed with much heart; but he would be wrong. For it is a well-known
fact that often when, in his official capacity, he has been forced to
fine some poor devil who had been "looking on the wine when it was
red"--or rather the beer when it was amber--and the sight had been too
much for him, the Major, after the bench had dispersed, would drive
round to the delinquent's cottage and gladden the sorrowing wife by
putting into her hand double the amount of the fine that had been
inflicted.

In the hunting-field he is looked upon as a standing joke, and if there
are signs of a cover being blank, or a long wait at a cold corner, there
is sure to be a party made up to "draw" the Major, the best of it being
that he never sees men are laughing at him, but lays down the law, and
abuses, condemns, and complains with the utmost heartiness and
volubility.

Though a good horseman and forward rider, he never knows one horse from
another if they are anything at all alike in colour; and it is the same
with dogs. If you were to put any of his own retrievers along with some
others, and ask him to point out those which belonged to him, he could
not do it to save his life. Two rather funny incidents happened to him
from this cause, the first with a horse, and the second concerning a
dog.

One season he had a particularly good-looking bay, but finding it too
hot for him he determined to sell, and so sent it up to London to a
dealer, whom, when old Jimmy Holden had nothing that suited, he was wont
to employ, getting a hundred guineas for it. A short time after he went
to town himself, and going to the same man's yard was struck with the
appearance of a good-looking bay, and bought it at a hundred and forty
guineas. When the horse came down to his stables the stud-groom came in
and said to him: "Why, sir, you didn't tell me as how you'd bought The
Prince again."

"Prince, you fool," replied the Major; "I've not bought The Prince."

But he had, and had also paid forty guineas, besides railway fares, for
the animal's trip to London and back.

The other affair, though perhaps almost telling more against himself,
was not so expensive. He had given his friend, Lord Acres, a black
retriever with a high character and a long pedigree, and had made no
little parade of the gift. A few weeks afterwards he was shooting at
Home Wood (Acres' place), and the dog was out. According to his usual
custom, Bowles was grumbling at everything; guns, birds, cartridges,
weather, and his servant all came in for their share. At last he pitched
on the dog, and turning to his host during the process of lunch, he
said: "Can't think, Acres, where you manage to pick up your dogs! Look
at that mongrel brute there. Never saw such a beast in my life. He's
only fit to run behind a butcher's cart."

"Why, Major," replied his lordship, roaring with laughter, "that's
looking a gift-horse in the mouth with a vengeance. It's your own dog
that you gave me."

Bowles acknowledges now that for once in his life he wishes he had not
spoken.


It is a beautiful morning for hunting. The late frost--which, though it
lasted but a week, was sharp--is well out of the ground, and everybody
who owns anything with four legs, besides a number who are dependent on
their own, have turned out with the hounds at Mickleborough Green.

The landlord of The Three Bells, that quaint old inn--with its remains
of past glories, as shown by its spacious coach-stables--which stands
back from the road facing the green, is doing a roaring trade; and
Lizzie the barmaid says her "arms do just ache a-drawing the beer." The
hounds gathered round old Tom on the green, with pink coats dotted here
and there, present as pretty a picture as one could wish to see. All are
in high spirits and congratulating each other and themselves on the
change in the weather and the prospects of a run. Chaff is flying thick
about "the old mare's big leg," or "the lucky thing the frost was for
that young horse who was pulled out on all occasions;" and old Tom comes
in for his share, being told that "both the hounds and himself look as
if they had been doing themselves well on those non-hunting
days--waistcoat buttons a bit tight, eh Tom?" and such-like banter.

Presently, along the road the Major appears, in company with Mr. Boulter
the Secretary, and young Earnshaw, who is learning farming--by hunting
four days a-week--with Mr. Noble.

"Here's Bowles," say two or three sportsmen; "he can't find much to
grumble at to-day, anyhow."

As he rides up they greet him with a hearty "Good-morning, Major;
lovely day, isn't it?"

"Lovely day? Lovely fiddlestick!" is the reply. "Up to your neck in mud.
Country so heavy you can't ride, and then of all places to pick out
Mickleborough! Why, the water will be out all over the bottom. But
there, it's always the same. I told Lappington he ought to meet at the
Kennels; but nobody ever listens to me."

"Well, but Bowles," interrupts the Secretary; "we met at the Kennels the
last fixture before the frost."

"And you ought to meet the first day after. By Heavens, I'd meet every
day there till the country was fit to ride," grumbles the Major. "Look
at the hounds too. Why, Tom must have got the whole pack out, and
borrowed some besides. Now I ask you, can we expect any sport with such
a pack as that? 'Pon my soul the Hunt's going to the devil."

"Short of work, Major; must give 'em a bit of exercise," puts in the
Huntsman, as Bowles rides off to anathematise the landlord of The Three
Bells, for presuming to offer him a glass of "d----d muddy home-brewed,"
calling, however, for a second edition of the same. By this time the
Master has arrived and there is a general bustle, a tightening of
girths, a shortening of stirrups, and the usual preparations for a
start. The word goes round that the first draw will be Mickleborough
Wood, and Tom with the hounds is already on his way there before it
reaches the ear of the Major, at that moment engaged in an altercation
with his servant, who, according to Bowles, has put a wrong bridle on
his second horse, but, according to the man himself, has only obeyed his
master's instructions.

No sooner does he hear the appointed place than he gives up the bridle
argument, and making his way to where the Master and others are trotting
down the lane, commences: "You don't mean to say, Lappington, you're
going to put them into the Wood? Why, we shall never get away, and the
rides will be impassable. My good sir, just think. Here, some of you
fellows, try and persuade him, he never listens to me, nobody ever
does;" adding, under his breath, "never heard such d----d folly in my
life."

"Why, Bowles," replies Sir John, laughing, "you said a minute ago that
the bottoms would be under water, and now you object to the high ground.
Where would you go to, you old growler?"

"Growler be hanged: I never grumble. But it is a little bit too much,
when one comes out for a day's hunting, to be turned loose into a forest
of trees growing on a bog. The man who planted Mickleborough Wood ought
to have been hung," says Bowles.

What more he might have added will never be known, for at this instant a
ringing view holloa is heard, and the hounds are away full cry, a fox
having jumped up in a spinney on the road to the Wood.

"Just like my luck," the Major is heard to ejaculate, as he puts his
nag at the fence out of the lane. "Whenever I try and give anybody
advice they tell me I am growling. Hold up, you awkward devil," to his
horse, who pecks a bit on landing. "And here have I been wasting my time
teaching a pack of idiots how to hunt the country, and lost my start."

After running hard for a quarter of an hour, the hounds check in a road,
half the pack having flashed over the line.

Here the Major is in his glory, and holds forth. "What did I say this
morning? If they will bring out every hound in the kennel, how can they
expect them to hunt. Look there, now; look there. What the devil's the
use of taking them up the road? The fox is for'ard, I'll wager. 'Pon my
oath, I believe old Tom is getting past his work. There's that young
ass, Simms, too, messing about--always in the way. I should like to know
how he finds time to hunt. Every farmer seems to be able to do
everything nowadays, and when they want to pay their corn-bill they cry
out about the weather and ask for a reduction of rent."

"Not quite so bad as all that, Major," exclaim one or two farmers, who
think it time to stick up for their characters. "Not quite so bad as all
that. We likes to ride as well as anyone, and we likes to see others
enjoy themselves over our land. But there, we know you don't mean it."

Just then, as if to convict the Major, Harbinger hits off the line up
the road, and they are away again a cracker, Bowles coming in for plenty
of chaff about the fox being for'ard and Tom being past his work.

To give him his due, he was right when he blamed the country, for it is
precious heavy, and plenty of grief is the order of the day. The scent,
too, improving, with every hundred yards, it becomes hard work to live
with them. Sir John, as usual, is well up, and a few others are close in
his wake, among them Bowles, whose coat, by-the-way, shows evident
signs of contact with mother-earth--a catastrophe that was brought
about, he says, "by the idiotic way that people mend their fences, with
a great rail run through them."

However, when, after an hour and ten minutes, they run to ground, even
he is fain to allow that they have had a real good thing, though he
qualifies the admission with a few scathing remarks on the slovenly way
in which the earths are stopped: "A disgrace to the country, by Heaven!"

Riding home he asks a few men to dinner the next day at his house,
amongst them Sir John Lappington and Mr. Wilson the Doctor--in case of
accidents, he says. His invitation is eagerly accepted, for his dinners
are proverbial and his wine undeniable. To see him at his own table you
would scarcely know him again for the same man. The grumbling has all
been got over before the guests arrive; and as you drive home--with that
comfortable feeling of having dined well, wisely, and in pleasant
company--you bear away a cheerful remembrance of witty sayings and
thorough good-fellowship, of a countenance beaming with fun, and stories
which, if you wake in the night and think of, will cause you to laugh
afresh.

Nearly all these happy feelings and memories you may safely put down to
the skill of your host the Major, whose sole failing, as I have said,
lies in the fact that, from habit, in the field, he has become a
Grumbler.



THE LADY WHO HUNTS AND RIDES.


Wildmere House is a favourite meet with the Bullshire, consequently
there is always a large field out at that fixture, every class of
sportsman being represented, both those who mean business and those who
merely come to partake of the good cheer offered them, and afterwards,
when hounds begin to run, retire into the background, unless, indeed,
some handy highroad lies parallel to the chase, when they reappear,
splashed with mud, and enthusiastic _ad nauseam_.

Most hospitable of entertainers is Colonel Talford, who occupies The
House; and with his pretty wife to assist him, there is little fear of
any complaints being heard as to the quality or quantity of the
breakfast. Equally certain is old Tom that a real straight-necked
good-hearted fox is ready for him either in the Home Wood or Ravenshill
Copse, for the Colonel makes it a rule with his keepers that there shall
be foxes, and they know well that his rules are like the laws of the
Medes and Persians--unalterable.

"No foxes, no keepers," is what he says; and if the quarry is not
forthcoming, unless a very good reason can be given, go they have to.

He once came upon Velveteens in the act of burying a fox that he had
trapped and knocked on the head--or, to be more accurate, Mrs. Talford,
who was riding back from the Dairy Farm, saw the funeral going on, and
told her husband. The man was a new keeper, who had been with him barely
a month, and as a keeper was considered quite first-class. But there and
then the Colonel went out, had the fox dug up, and made the man take it
over to Sir John Lappington, riding himself all the way behind him to
see that he did it.

Through the main street of the village they went in procession, the men
(for it was evening) turning out and hooting the unfortunate vulpecide;
and when he had delivered his burden and apologised, the Colonel said:
"Now you can go back and pack up your things; this is your last day in
my service." His wages were paid that night, and in spite of all
entreaties, the next day he left Colonel Talford and Bullshire for ever.

It is a lovely morning as Tom rides up with his beauties in front of the
house, and, saluting the host and hostess, tosses off the glass of
sparkling ale that is handed to him. There had been a catch of frost on
the Monday, and folks learned in weather-lore had predicted a hard time;
but nothing came of it, for a shower of rain on Tuesday night had
utterly routed the destroyer of sport; and on the Thursday at Wildmere
it is as fine a hunting-day as one could wish--if anything perhaps a
shade too warm.

"We must give them a few minutes, Sir John," says Mrs. Talford to the
Master, who has just arrived. "The Melton train is late, and there are
always a few who honour us on this occasion by trying to cut us all
down."

"Certainly, Mrs. Talford," replies Lappington, smiling and taking out
his watch. "We will give them a quarter of an hour; but you need not be
so fearfully sarcastic about the Meltonians. I think it is generally the
other way. If I remember rightly, I have seen a lady on a horse called
Queen Bee who generally requires a great deal of cutting down, and I
have heard it said that this same lady is impossible to beat."

"Nonsense, Sir John; you know that if I do manage to get over the
country it is all the Queen's doing, not mine. She's a dear, is not she?
But come in and have something; my husband wants to see you about
drawing the Copse first," rejoins Mrs. Talford, leading the way into
the dining-room, and evidently pleased at the Master's flattery.

In a quarter of an hour, the Melton detachment having come up, the
signal is given to move, and a long cavalcade trot off for Ravenshill. A
minute or two later two horses are seen cantering across the grass to
catch up the hounds; one carries Colonel Talford, and the other (the
redoubtable Queen Bee) his wife.

As they come up and press forward to where Tom's white head is seen
bobbing in the middle of the pack, men point her out, and you hear a
whisper of "There she is, that's her--riding the same horse too; by
Jove, old fellow, it's all very well to say 'only a woman,' but if you
can beat her you'll do. Why, the last time we met here she cut us all
down and hung us up to dry; only rode one horse all day. Dick Valpy had
three out, and you know how he can ride; but I'm blessed if he didn't
get nearly drowned in the brook, while she sailed over it as if it was
nothing. We'd been running for forty minutes then, but she can save her
horse as well as ride, I can tell you."

Some who have not seen her express their doubts, and vow that "No woman
ever beat them yet, and, by gad, sir, they never shall;" but they do not
know Mrs. Talford or Queen Bee, and before the day is over they will
tell another tale.

Yet you would never take her for a hard rider, though anyone at a glance
can see she is a finished horsewoman. Nothing could possibly be quieter
than her turn-out. A well-fitting, well-cut, rough cloth habit, rather
short; a neat white silk handkerchief tied and folded round a high
stand-up linen collar, just showing, like a man's scarf, where the habit
is made with a step; a small black felt hat, of the kind known as a
"billycock," covering her well-shaped head, the hair of which is
gathered into a small knot behind; while in her hand she carries a
hunting-crop, made of a holly that she herself cut from the lawn in
front of the house.

Her seat is easy yet firm, and very square on her saddle. Those small
hands too, which look as if they could hurt no living thing, can hold
and control a puller with wondrous power, a fact her horses seem to
recognise directly she takes up the reins of her bridle, for they go so
quietly under her hand that one is forced to wonder what it was that
made them fret and tear in such a disagreeable way when Mrs. A---- or
Lady B---- claimed them for their own, in the days before they found
that they were "too much for them," and had to sell them to the Colonel
at a discount.

With all this, as she, having ranged up alongside of the pack, pulls up
Queen Bee into a trot, and pats the neck of that more than perfect
animal, one cannot help a feeling of astonishment that so slight and
delicate-looking a woman should be able to go so hard; and in our inmost
hearts we feel that if we could lay claim to half as straight a course
as Mrs. Talford we should not hide our light quite so much under a
bushel as she does.

They are close to the Copse now, and Mrs. Talford and the Colonel slip
down to the far side with Charles; the right of proprietorship allowing
this, which is courteously yet firmly forbidden to the rest of the
field.

"Gentlemen," says the Master, "for your own sport I wish the whole of
the left side and bottom of the covert kept free. It's a clear start
either way, therefore I must beg you not to get for'ard. Give the fox a
chance, and then, so long as you don't ride over the hounds, go as you
like."

Someone suggests that the Colonel and his wife have gone down to the
bottom, whereupon Sir John shuts him up by saying: "That, sir, is only
another reason why nobody else should go. When we draw your coverts we
will allow you to go where you like, and keep the rest out of your way."

As the individual happens to be a gentleman who has only that season
come down to Bullshire, and has not subscribed as yet to the hounds,
the remark causes a general titter, and the man wishes he had not
spoken.

His discomfiture is, however, of short duration, for at this instant the
hounds find, and from the chorus and way they rattle him up and down the
covert it is clear that they are not far behind their fox. Two rings
round the Wood and he finds it too hot to hold him, so away he goes
across the slope in full view of the whole field.

"Hold hard one moment, gentlemen," shouts the Master, as Tom, horn in
hand, tops the wood fence, and claps the hounds on to the line.

"Now"--and a hundred or more horses are rattling down the hill towards
the fence at the bottom.

Some visibly diminish their pace as they near the obstacle, and some
make a determined point to the gate in the corner, which a friendly
yeoman is holding open. But there is little time to notice all this, for
the pace is a cracker, and the scent is breast-high. Two or three loose
horses are careering about the next field, and two or three dismounted
riders are running after them.

"Catch hold, sir," says young Simms, as he stops one of the horses and
delivers him up to his owner; "catch hold--I can't stop;" and he is over
the next bank and ditch before the spilt one has recovered the effects
of his acrobatic performance.

Such a jam at the double post and rails! There are but three or four
negotiable places, and everybody is racing for them madly. The Parson
and the Doctor fly them together, and so shake themselves clear of the
ruck, while a hard-riding Meltonian carries away a heap of them.

But where is Mrs. Talford?

There she is on the left, close to the hounds, yet well wide of them,
slipping along with an easy grace, looking as if she was merely
cantering, Queen Bee taking everything before her, and making as little
of the fences as if they were the lowest of hurdles. How the deuce did
she get there? everybody who has time to notice her wonders. But no one
ever knows how she does get anywhere. No matter what sort of a start she
gets, unless hopelessly thrown out Mrs. Talford before long is certain
to be found sailing along in close proximity to the hounds.

Presently they come to a check in the road, but it is only for a minute,
for Beadsman hits off the line on the far side, over the wall, and
across the fallows. Some of the road-riders come up at this moment, and
stare blankly at the wall. One, a stranger, seeing a lady, and not
knowing who she is, vainly endeavours to open the gate (a low one),
which is locked, and thereby prevents anybody else getting over.

"Thank you, sir; I think I can manage it," is all Mrs. Talford says in
her quiet way, and in another minute the would-be "pew-opener" is
greeted with a sight of Queen Bee's hind feet, and the lady has resumed
her former place with the hounds.

"Well done, Mrs. Colonel!" says old Tom (he always calls her Mrs.
Colonel). "We shall show them the road again to-day. It's the old line,
straight for Marston. Hold up," to his horse, who dropped his hind legs
in a ditch. "Yonder he goes," as he catches sight of the fox making the
best of his way up the rising ground in the distance; and, contrary to
his usual custom, he catches hold of the hounds and lifts them for
nearly half a mile, thereby cutting off a big slice.

"Oh Tom, you shouldn't have done that," says Mrs. Talford, as soon as
they have settled on to the line again. "They were hunting beautifully."

"Don't mean anyone to get in front of the Queen, Mrs. Colonel, this
time," is all he vouchsafes as they gallop down a lane, thereby saving
their horses, and nicking in again at the corner. A holloa from the
right, close in front of the hounds, shows the rest of the field that
the end is approaching, and the Melton detachment are riding their
hardest to catch the Bullshire lady; but the only men who have as yet
succeeded are Mr. Halston, the Master, and old Simms.

"It's over the brook, for a hundred, sir," shouts Tom, and he is right.
With a splash that sends the water sparkling high in the air, the whole
pack dash in, and are away on the other side racing in view.

"Surely she's not going to ride at that," men say to each other as Mrs.
Talford catches her mare by the head.

But she is; and, with Sir John on the one side and the Parson on the
other, she skims over like a bird. Old Tom's horse is done, and refuses,
but being crammed at it again just gets over with a scramble. The rest
ride at it in a body, some in, some over; some think better of it and
turn back; but before any but the leading quartet are well over, Sir
John's "who-whoop" rings out clear and loud, and tells them that they
have again been beaten by "only a woman."



THE LADY WHO HUNTS AND DOES NOT RIDE.


If anyone could be found rash enough to hint to Mrs. Polson that in the
hunting-field she was, to say the least of it, rather a bore than
otherwise, the look of undisguised astonishment with which that
individual's remarks would be met, ought, if he had any right feeling,
to convince him that he was wrong; and that, if there was a woman in
this world who was a useful addition to the Hunt, and who, wherever and
whenever she thought proper to grace the scene, was always rapturously
welcomed, that woman was Mrs. Polson, wife of Joseph Polson, Esq.,
M.P., better known as The Right Hon. J.P.

Although as yet no one has dared to breathe a word to the lady herself,
there are men, and a large number to boot, who, among themselves, vote
her a nuisance; in fact they have been known to say that she is "One of
the most infernal nuisances out. Always in the way. Never happy unless
she is talking horse and hound, and for ever trying to catch some
unfortunate novice 'just to give her a lead here, or to open a gate
there;' while to answer her questions a man needs to be a walking
glossary."

I am afraid there is a deal of truth in what these unappreciative men
say, for Mrs. Polson before she was married had never got farther in the
equestrian art than an occasional ride on a shaggy pony when staying
with her aunt in Devonshire, or the _haute école_ as practised up and
down the King's Road at so much per hour when staying with her uncle at
Brighton.

It was at the latter place that she met good-natured easy-going Joseph
Polson; and when her father, who was rector of a small parish in Dorset,
heard that his Letty had said "Yes" to a rich man, there were great
rejoicings at the parsonage, for she was one of seven, and the living
being by no means a large one, Mr. Becket found some difficulty in
making both ends meet.

However, no sooner had she married Polson and settled down in Bullshire
as the Member's wife, than she must needs become a hunting-woman, and,
as a hunting-woman and the Member's wife, give herself airs. Perhaps
among her acquaintances there is no one that she hates with such a
cordial hatred as poor unoffending Mrs. Talford, for although when she
meets her the greeting (on her side at all events) is most effusive,
still, deep down in her memory, rankles a speech that she once overheard
Mrs. Talford make to her husband. She had come up rather late, just as
the hounds were moving off, and the Colonel and his wife, ignorant of
her proximity, were discussing her powers of riding.

"My dear," said the Colonel, "I have not seen Mrs. Polson. Have you?"

"No," replied Mrs. Talford; "I don't suppose she is coming; it's rather
a stiff country to-day;" and then, laughing, "how glad young Mr. Bevan
will be. He said that she tacked herself on to him at Deanfield the
other day, and after she had bored his life out for more than an hour,
and made him open at least twenty gates, she asked him to come over some
day and look at her hunters. It's a pity somebody can't tell her that
men hate being bothered in the hunting-field."

Mrs. Polson's sudden appearance stopped further conversation on the
subject. But from her over-affectionate manner ever since, Mrs. Talford
knows perfectly well that the unlucky speech went farther than it was
intended.

"Good morning, Tom. Got the dog-pack out to-day, I see, looking none the
worse for Saturday," says Mrs. Polson as she rides up, followed by a
groom bearing at his back a large sandwich-case, and at his saddle-bow a
holster-flask filled with sherry and water (for the Member's wife does
not see the fun of hunting without her luncheon).

"Get away, good dog, get away; 'war hoss,'" to Bellman, who leaves the
main body of the pack in order to make a closer inspection of Mrs. P. or
the sandwich-case.

"Mornin', mum," replies old Tom, doffing his cap; and then to avoid
further conversation he calls away Bellman and trots off to a distant
point, bringing the hounds back at a walk to allow time for her to
"collar someone else," as he puts it.

While he is away on his little tour we may just glance at the external
appearance of the Member's wife. Certainly she is not a good riding
figure, being of the order "dumpy," and her seat in the saddle reminds
one strongly of a plum-pudding on a dish. Her habit is a close copy of
Mrs. Talford's, with the exception that it is much exaggerated. In the
front of the collar, which is turned over, is displayed an elaborate
necktie, with a fox's head painted on crystal as a pin, two heads of the
same pattern serving as studs for her wristbands. She also affects the
hunt-button, plain brass, with "B.H." in a monogram: and a hat-guard
made of a small gold chain, secured to a most curly-brimmed hat by a
fox's tooth, completes the dress; while the hunting-crop she carries in
her fat little pudgy hand is more fitted for a First Whip than a lady,
being, both heavy and cumbersome.

Tom evidently knows her pretty well, for before he returns from his
self-imposed trot to his original place, Mrs. Polson has "collared
someone else," and is making herself agreeable (or trying to) to two
strangers who are staying with the Master for a week, and whom she has
met at dinner at Lappington. A small group standing a little way off,
after bowing, smile among themselves and pity the innocent strangers
who, as young Bevan says, are "being let in for a day in waiting." "It's
a shame of Lappington not to have put them on their guard," he
continues; "I shall tell him so."

"She landed you once, Bevan, did not she?" asks another, laughing.

"Yes, but never again," is the reply. "Five-and-twenty gates to open, a
treatise on scent, the pedigree of every hound in the pack, and some
weak sherry-and-water, hardly compensate one for missing one of the best
things of the season. By gad, we never saw hounds from the time they
found till they killed, and yet to hear the woman talk, you would fancy
she was in the first flight all the way. Look out, she is bearing down
on us;" and the little group disperse, each one seemingly having caught
sight of a man in the distance that he "must speak to for a moment."

Time's up now, and they move off to the big wood, Mrs. P. closely
attended by the two strangers, to whom she has promised to show the
country. They feel obliged, or rather under an obligation to her, and do
not like to leave her side, though both think they would rather see the
country for themselves without a cicerone. It is her day all over, for
it is even betting they do not get out of the wood; and even if they do,
what so convenient as a false turn down a ride that leads to nowhere? By
the time they get outside hounds will be well away, and the only chance
of catching them will be through that line of gates that Mrs. Polson
knows so well.

As they come up to the wood the trio find their progress barred by a low
rail, over which Tom has popped, followed by a good many of the field.
The two strangers naturally suppose that so great a sportswoman as Mrs.
Polson will make nothing of a small obstacle like the one before them,
so one politely gives her a lead over, turning round on the other side
to say: "It's rather a boggy place on the left, but if you jump well to
the right you will find it quite firm," while the other holds back till
the lady has successfully negotiated the fence.

They are a little surprised when she says, in the blandest possible
tones: "I hope you will not think me a bore, but there is nothing I
dislike so much as jumping in cold blood. It only takes it out of one's
horse for nothing. If you would not mind taking that rail down--it drops
off easily--I should be so much obliged."

This necessitates someone dismounting, and the man who gave the lead
over has to get off and stand in a pool of muddy water, which he feels
oozing through his boots, while he struggles manfully with the offending
rail. At last his efforts are successful. Mrs. Poison gallops
triumphantly through, splashing him all over as she passes.

"Oh, I am so sorry," she exclaims, when she sees what she has done. "It
is my naughty horse; he can't bear to be kept waiting."

The splashed one is too polite to say much, but that does not prevent
him from "thinking a lot;" and as he wipes the mud from his face he
registers a vow to give my lady the slip on the first possible
opportunity. This comes shortly, for a few minutes later there is an
unmistakable find, and the hounds are seen tearing through the underwood
to the right.

"This way--this way," pants Mrs. Polson, making the best of her road for
a gate in an exactly opposite direction; "they are sure to turn to the
left, and we shall be all right."

A view holloa on the right, followed by Tom's horn, decides the
mud-bespattered gentleman, and he turns off, galloping down a ride
which, as far as he can judge, leads to where he hears the hounds. He
arrives just in time to see them top the bank, and when he finds himself
well out of the wood, with some seven or eight men and one lady, who
have got an equally good start, he congratulates himself on having
escaped, and thinks how his friend must be gnashing his teeth. Luck,
however, favours Mrs. Polson, for the hounds swing round to the left,
and she and her attendant squire ride through a hand-gate just as they
go by. "There, I told you we should be all right," she says, highly
gratified with herself, yet the while casting an anxious glance round
the field for a gate which is nowhere visible.

"For'ard on; he's away over the plough, Tom," shouts Sir John as he
gallops up; and they race him down towards a most uncompromising-looking
stake and bound. Mrs. Talford is first over, and her husband follows
close in her wake. The emancipated sportsman goes next, and barely saves
a fall; then comes a farmer on a stout cob, who goes crash through the
whole fabric, rolling himself far into the next field, while the cob
reposes in the ditch. However he has made a most convenient gap, at
which the Member's wife keeps a score or more impatient people waiting,
while she, holding her steed tight by the head, vainly endeavours to
summon up sufficient courage to ride him over the place.

"Hang the woman; she's an impostor," mutters Stranger No. 2, now
thoroughly exasperated, as he sees his friend sailing merrily away in
the distance.

"Oh dear, I am afraid you must think me very tiresome," said Mrs. Polson
to him; "I never knew my horse to refuse before; there must be something
wrong with him. Please don't wait for me;" and, turning to her
sandwich-bearer: "John, follow me down into the lane; I am afraid one of
the horse's shoes are loose." Again, to her squire: "Please go on, I
will catch you up again directly;" and she goes off to the road, where
of course John finds the shoes, as he knew he would, perfectly tight.
"Thank goodness for that," thinks her ex-equerry-in-waiting, making best
haste to get to the hounds again; and as he manages to come up with them
while Tom is making a cast, he tells his host the Master that he owes
him one for not putting him up to Mrs. P. and her riding powers.

Sir John laughs and says: "All right, old boy, you won't see her again
till we have killed or lost and are going to draw for a fresh one. She
will have finished her lunch by then; but I daresay there will be some
sherry-and-water left for you as a reward."

Before his marriage the hon. Member for Bullshire was a most punctual
man; but now, somehow, he always turns up late, and is seldom, if ever,
seen at the meet, or till hounds are running, when he will suddenly
appear riding as forward as ever. When asked by his friends the reason
for this strange behaviour, he merely winks and looks over towards where
his estimable spouse may be seen in the far distance pounding along
through the gates, followed by the faithful John with the luncheon.



THE SCHOOLBOYS.


For the last week parents have been receiving letters from young
hopefuls, in which allusions have been made to the absolute necessity of
sending by return of post some more pocket-money wherewith to liquidate
sundry small accounts, and to enable him to give his friends who are
"leaving this half" some presents.

Most of the documents have wound up with the announcement that there are
only three or four days to the holidays, and with requests that John, or
Thomas, or Sam may be told to get the pony fit for them to ride. In some
instances the father, or, as the "young gentleman" prefers to call him,
"the governor," has been reminded of his promise to buy a new horse;
and as he knows full well that unless he does so the word "peace," so
far as he is concerned, may be scratched out of the dictionary, Jimmy
Holden is called into council and the animal is procured.

As the down-train runs into Lappington Station, four or five eager faces
may be seen, one over the other, filling up the window of the railway
carriage; and before the train has well stopped four or five equally
eager bodies jump out; and the porters, without waiting for
instructions, immediately proceed to empty the compartment of rugs,
sticks, two-shilling novels, bags, and the numerous other items which
invariably accompany a boy on his return from school.

"There's the governor, Charlie," says a bright-looking lad to his
schoolfellow, whom he has brought home with him for the first fortnight
of the holidays.

"How are you, Dick? and how is the pony?" exclaims another, addressing
the neat-looking servant, who is evidently as pleased to see his young
master as that worthy is to have put by his books for a time.

"No signs of frost; we shall be out to-morrow at The Grange," shouts a
third, as he disappears within the portals of the booking-office.

The hero of the hour, however, is Harold Lappington, Sir John's youngest
brother, a tall good-looking young fellow, who in the field is known to
combine the fearlessness of youth with the knowledge of old age. He has
come that morning from Eton, where he has been keeping his hand in by
hunting the college beagles. Old Tom and his brother have come to meet
him, and many of the other boys envy him the honour of shaking hands
with so great a man as the Huntsman.

"By Guy, Mayster Harold, but you are growed, looking well and all," says
Tom; and then, turning to the Master: "Eh, Sir John, ay's gettin' a
rare-topped 'un."

"By Jove, Tom, there's no need to ask how you are, you're looking as
fit as a fiddle. Is that young gray horse fit for me to ride? The one
you had at the kennels, I mean," ejaculates Harold: and, receiving an
answer in the affirmative, walks off with Sir John to where an
obsequious porter is hoisting his traps into a dog-cart which is
standing outside.

"Here, John," he says to his brother, as he jumps up, "I'm going to
drive."

"Not if I know it," replies the Master. "I have not forgotten that last
exploit of yours, when you upset me over a heap of stones."

But of course the boy has his way, and with a "Good-night, Tom," and a
wave of the hand, they rattle round the corner, shaving the gate-post so
close as to cause the Master to clench his teeth and hold on like grim
death.

"Well," mutters Tom, when they, are out of sight, "there'll be some
riding to-morrow, I know, and some tumbling too. I 'opes we gets away
quick, for though I loves to see the lads go, they do myther (bother)
me terrible at the first;" and he turns up the road towards the kennels,
exchanging Good-nights and bright hopes for the morrow with the young
occupants of the various traps as they pass him on their way to their
respective homes.

By ten o'clock the next morning the road to The Grange is lively with
the usual symptoms of a meet. Grooms with led-horses are riding
alongside the tax-cart of the butcher or baker. Men and boys on foot
keep up that peculiar kind of shuffle, half run, half walk, which is
seen nowhere save in the country. The keeper and the poacher jostle one
another and combine to chaff the merry vendor of crockery and hardware
who, perched on the top of his wares and drawn by his trotting "moke,"
has chosen the centre of the road, somewhat to the inconvenience of
those in his rear.

He is well able to hold his own, and gives as much as he gets. Indeed,
in the matter of chaff, it takes the allied forces all their time to
keep on even terms until they overtake the local policeman, when the
channel of wit and repartee is diverted against "poor Robert," who of
course being ignominiously defeated at once, takes refuge under official
dignity, and thinks of the time when his turn will come.

The keepers have held aloof from the latter entertainment, for it would
not be right to make a butt of the Law, they think; and so, joining him,
all proceed towards The Grange as merry as crickets. Presently there is
a shout from behind, and turning round they see old Tom and the pack,
with many a bit of pink in his wake, and, what is more (in their own
eyes, at all events), many an emancipated schoolboy.

"Lend us one of them dorgs to run under my carriage," says the itinerant
hardware merchant as they pass him.

Tom rather winces at the word "dorgs" being applied to his darlings, and
is preparing a stinging rejoinder; but before it is ready, Eton,
Harrow, Rugby, and Winchester have (verbally) fallen on the rash jester
and silenced him completely.

However, he manages to make his way to The Grange, and while there
disposes of some of his crockery, and drinks Tom's health in some of Mr.
Boulter's beer, calling him, by-the-way, "Lord Topboots."

Such greetings and chaff, too, among lads! Criticisms of their
respective animals, mutual challenges, and hurried arrangements for all
sorts of sport. The Secretary is not forgotten either, and various
inquiries are made concerning "his last speech and what time he came
home." At last the Master and his brother Harold drive up, and in a few
moments are mounted and ready. One glass of sherry "Just to keep the
Secretary in tune," as Harold says, and Tom, getting a nod, trots off to
the wood about half a mile away.

"Charles," says he to the First Whip, "you get down to corner, and if so
be as t' fox breaks, dunna holloa; just crack yer whip when ay's well
away. Maybe then I shall have a chance of getting hounds on to the
line."

On the road to the wood there are two small fences, and though the gates
are open wide, with the exception of Harold Lappington, every boy has
his pony over, into, or through them. A fall or two brings down a
torrent of jeers on the unfortunates, and one youngster in particular,
who goes careering round the field, half on, half off his animal, is
most productive of sport.

"Stick to him, Johnny," shout some; "he's off; no he isn't; well saved,"
as, more by good luck than good management, he regains his seat, and
comes back looking rather crestfallen. Some of the farmers think for a
moment of their fences and what a lot of "making up" there will be on
the morrow; but the joyous faces and boisterous spirits of the
schoolboys are infectious, and they feel with old Simms, who said, when
last year they broke three of his gates down and let his sheep out all
over the country: "We were all boys once, and not a bit better. Bless
'em, they don't mean any harm, and I love 'em."

The first draw is a blank, much to the disappointment of all, Boulter in
particular, for he catches it most unmercifully from all his young
friends.

A move is then made for a piece of rough stuff called Shepherd's Gorse.
Sir John has a difficult task to keep his field in order here, for it is
a crooked in-and-out-shaped place, and the ponies will creep forward
into forbidden corners. As fast as he orders one back he finds another
expectant and overanxious youth somewhere else.

However, they are not kept long in suspense, for a quick find is
followed by a ringing "Gone away," and his field gallop round to find
Tom and the pack sailing along merrily, he having slipped off with the
hounds well on to the line before he vouchsafed to proclaim his
departure.

Hard work it is to catch them, for they are racing with a scent
breast-high, but the schoolboys sit down and send their ponies along
with a will, thinking no more of the big bank and ditch that confront
them than they would if it was only a broken sheep-hurdle. Harold
Lappington is first down to it, and his young gray pecks badly on the
far side, for the animal is a bit fresh and over-jumps himself. Harold's
fine seat, however, saves him from a fall, and turning round to where he
sees young Charlie Whistler riding his pony, scarce thirteen hands three
inches in height, at the biggest place he can find, he shouts: "Steady,
Charlie; it's too big for you; take it in two, on and off."

"Go on," replies the monkey, "I'm all----" he would have said "right,"
but as he was turning head over heels like a rabbit before he could
finish his sentence, he found further conversation somewhat difficult.
Next in order came two hard-riding members with Sir John and Mrs.
Talford, and then a whole crowd of horses and ponies, a good many of
which plumbed the depths of the ditch on the landing-side. It is
wonderful what a good pony will do with a resolute youngster on his
back. Where it can't jump it will creep or climb, and generally manages
to pull through somehow or other; but this particular fence is a rasper
to commence with, and in most cases the cause of grief is
over-excitement.

"You're a nice sort of fellow, Tom, slipping off like that," says
Harold, as he comes up with the old Huntsman, who is gnashing his teeth
because they've checked, and "Them blessed lads will be all among t'
hounds again."

"What did you do it for?" he continues.

"Ah Mayster Harold; must get a start, or we should never get through all
them ponies," replies Tom. "Here they come, by gad. That's it, praise
the Lord," as the hounds hit it off just as the rest arrive.

"For'ard on," yell the lads, as pleased as Punch to have caught the
hounds again.

"Harold, it's my idea the fox will make over the Swill," says Sir John
to his brother, as they gallop along the grass. "There are two or three
deuced stiff ploughs before we get there, and as you can't jump it we
had better take the road and round by the bridge."

"Not I; I'm going with the hounds," replies Harold. "If they go over I
can but go in and out."

"Don't you be a fool," retorts the Master. "By Jove, I'm right! it is
for the Swill," as the hounds swung to the left towards the line of
pollards that denote the course of that "meandering streamlet."

"Hold hard, young gentlemen, hold hard," roars Tom, as they hang for a
moment on the plough, and five or six reeking ponies get unpleasantly
near his darlings. "You canna jump Swill; you must go round by t'
bridge."

But they pay no heed to either him or paternal warning, and pound away
over the plough towards the willows.

"Here, I'm dashed if some on 'em won't get drownded, for they'll have
it, as sure as my name's Wilding," he continues.

The two Simms and a few adventurous spirits follow in the wake of the
lads, while the rest of the field follow the Master to the bridge. As
the hounds plunge in Tom gallops off for the same goal, saying: "This
way, young gents, this way." He might as well have spared his breath,
for Eton is not going to be beaten by Harrow, nor Winchester by Rugby,
nor Clifton by any of them, and the rivals feel the honour of their
schools to be at stake. Harold again heads the charge, and the young 'un
makes a gallant effort, just getting his fore-legs on the opposite bank.
Quick as thought the boy is over his head on _terra firma_, while the
gray falls back into the brook. "Bravo," shout the rest of the field,
"bravo!" and, as his horse scrambles out, Harold's heart swells with
pride, and he says to his brother: "The dear old school bested them
all."

Harrow, Rugby, Winchester, and Clifton, all go at it in a lump, and all
four are splashing about together, when little Phillips, a lad of
twelve, who has just completed his first half, at Marlborough, comes
down, and handling his rat of a pony down the bank, the pair swim
across, and out the other side they scramble, the urchin shouting at the
top of his voice: "Hooray, Eton first, Marlborough second."

All, happily, manage, contrary to Tom's expectations, to escape being
"drownded;" and, wet as they are, ride harder than ever to make up their
"leeway."

About a mile farther on the fox is viewed heading straight for Braby
Main Earths, where he goes to ground with the pack close at his brush.
Then paternal authority asserts itself, and the dripping schoolboys are
promptly ordered home. They plead hard to stay, but paterfamilias is
firm, and the lads turn to go with a last wistful look at Tom and the
hounds.

It is late in the afternoon, and they have had a right down good
gallop, thinks Sir John; so turning to the field he says: "Gentlemen, I
shall send the hounds home. We will call this the schoolboys' day, and I
am sure after the way they have ridden it would be a shame to go on
without them."



THE BOASTER.


If one could only believe one quarter of the strange adventures,
hairbreadth escapes, and marvellous performances in the field of which
Mr. Story says he has been the hero, one might well set him down as a
wonderful Nimrod. But, unfortunately, veracity does not form part of his
character. He is good-natured, generous, hospitable, and amusing, yet
one of the most confirmed liars in the country.

Not that he is what is known as a harmful liar, for he would as soon
think of telling an anecdote reflecting on the character of any of his
friends or acquaintances as he would of picking their pockets. No, his
embroidery is strictly personal. It appertains solely to what he has
done or can do, and such a habit has this become with him that he firmly
believes every word he says, and will pledge his honour that such and
such a thing happened, that he did this or that, the while relating some
performance that effectually puts that prince of fibbers Baron
Munchausen in the background.

Nothing seems to cure him. Over and over again has he been caught out by
a sceptical audience, who have then and there endeavoured to put him to
the blush, but it has been of no avail, for two minutes afterwards he
will be romancing away as gaily as ever on some fresh subject. Men have
got tired of trying to break him of it, and now only sit and laugh,
acknowledging that "Old Story is devilish good fun though he is such a
thundering liar."

Of course in the hunting-field he is the veriest impostor that ever got
on a horse, never, if he can possibly help it, leaving the glorious
safety of the hard highway. Yet the description of the run as told by
him in the evening fairly takes your breath away, and, supposing you to
be a stranger, makes you feel that you have come into a country the like
of which you have never seen.

Sheep-hurdles are (according to Mr. Story) five-barred gates, the
smallest ditch a veritable river; and as he turns to some one or the
other guest at his table and says: "Did you notice that horse I was
riding to-day? Deuced clever animal, I can tell you. Jumped a double
post and rails with about twelve foot of water on the far side, and made
nothing of them, 'pon my honour!" you wonder whether there are many
fences of the same species to be encountered, or many horses with the
same supreme contempt for them to be picked up in Bullshire.

Once in his life he did jump a brook, and it is even betting that before
you have been long in his presence he will tell you all about it,
though his version of the occurrence differs slightly from that of those
who saw it.

They had been having a very slow hunting-run on a cold scent, barely out
of a trot most of the time, the hounds picking it out inch by inch, and
at last they came to a dead lock in a field, round two-thirds of which
ran the Marston brook. Mr. Story, who had been as usual very prominent
in the centre of the road, which ran conveniently adjacent, thought he
might as well turn into the field through the gate, which he did.

Unfortunately for him there was a bull in the corner, which neither he
nor anyone else had noticed, and just as the gate swung to and latched
again, the hounds hit off the line and went over the brook. At the same
moment the bull, having lashed himself into a rage, and maddened by the
cry of the hounds, singled out Story's red coat and charged down on him.
This startled his gallant steed. Away he went, followed by the bull,
and, to everyone's intense astonishment and amusement, Story was seen on
his horse's neck well over the water.

He himself will tell you that he cut the whole field down--"Pounded
them, sir, on my honour, at the brook;" but the real facts of the case
are those I have just narrated.

Most particular is Mr. Story as to his external appearance, and the bows
of his well-fitting leathers are tied with a mathematical accuracy
attainable only by long and patient manipulation, aided by the use of
various scientific instruments, such as pincers and button-hooks, of
which he keeps a large assortment. His necktie is the envy of half the
men in the field, while the peculiar shade of his tops has caused more
envy, hatred, and malice among the valets than one would have believed
possible.

It is very fine to hear the contemptuous tone he assumes when dilating
on the performances of those sportsmen who come under the head of the
"galloping-and-jumping division." "Look at them," he will say. "I ask
you, what do they know about hunting? They've only one idea--jump, jump,
jump, all day. Now no one is fonder of a quick thing than I am, but you
never see me galloping about, jumping over everything I can find" (the
only true thing in his speech), "and yet when it comes to riding, I
flatter myself I can give them a stone and a beating. Valpy! Faugh, a
rough-rider, sir, a rough-rider. Nowhere in a run. Have beaten him over
and over again, 'pon my honour. You remember that forty minutes we had,"
etc. etc.; and then follows a glowing description of some imaginary run
over the stiffest part of the country, where Story had the hounds all to
himself after the first ten minutes, and never saw a soul again till
they had broken up their fox.

If he happens to be at his own house he will take you off to his den,
and, by way of corroborating the tale, will point out the brush of the
identical fox hanging over the mantelpiece, and handling it carefully,
will say: "Ah, there is some satisfaction in having a brush that one
gets all by one's self."

(Quite so, Mr. Story; but what was that small piece of gold for, that
found its way out of your pocket into that of Charles the First Whip?)

Quite a museum of sport is Story's den, or "sanctum," as he calls it.
Round the walls are hung innumerable sporting pictures, foxs' brushes
and masks, all mounted, and bearing the date, length of run, find, and
kill, emblazoned in gold letters underneath. On the left-hand side of
the fireplace is a gun-cupboard, well stocked with breechloaders and
rifles; for Story has some wonderful adventures in the Rocky Mountains
to relate. Opposite, on the other side, is a stick-rack, crowded with
crops, cutting-whips, ash-plants, spurs of all sizes, and hunting-caps;
while underneath are arranged a pile of white band-boxes, each
containing a shining Lincoln and Bennett. Between the windows are a row
of hat-pegs, four in number, and on every peg hangs a hat reduced to the
state of flatness said to be peculiar to pancakes.

Naturally one is struck with so novel an arrangement in dilapidated
head-gear, and in a weak moment, perhaps, one asks "What on earth those
old hats are for? Are they used in the summer to keep the birds from the
peas, or what?"

"Peas, my dear fellow; no, by gad," will be the ready reply. "They are
the hats I have come to grief in. I keep them for old lang syne. In that
one on the right I rode the famous Willowfield run. Fourteen falls, and
finished up in the Swill. On my honour, I thought I never should have
got out. Horse got on the top of me, and I was under water for a
minute;" and then, taking down the other three in succession, Story will
relate the romance attached to each.

Ill-natured slander says that their present shape is attributable to
having been violently sat upon in the garden after two days' rain, and
the authority of a discharged valet, who remonstrated on this wholesale
destruction of his perquisites, is given. But then there is nothing that
ill-natured slander will not say.

One good point about the Boaster is that he is a most stanch preserver
of foxes, and although his property is not a large one, Lappington is
always perfectly certain of finding in his coverts. It is a great-day
for him when the hounds meet in the village. No general commanding a
division feels half such a great man as Mr. Story, who, having
confidentially informed Sir John that there are no less than five foxes
in the wood, takes charge of Tom and the pack and leads them on to
victory.

Should they not find immediately, the various stages of anxiety depicted
on his face are intensely amusing, and the triumphant "I-told-you-so"
expression he assumes when at last the swelling chorus proclaims the
varmint at home, is well worth coming any distance to see.

No sooner are they well away than the highroad claims him for its own,
and, followed by a small detachment, Story's figure is seen vanishing
through the toll-gate, making for some distant point which he seems to
know by intuition the fox is bound for. His knowledge of the country and
the lanes thereof is wonderful, and having, by slipping down a byway,
shaken off his retinue, he arrives on the high ground just as the fox
crosses the bottom and crawls into Watson's osiers.

The hounds are not yet in sight though he can hear them in the distance,
so he has time to let himself into the field through the gate, and
inspect the low wattle fence at the far end, over which he knows the
line will be. Finding it is very plain sailing, and that there is a most
convenient gap again into the lane which leads direct to the osiers, he
gets behind a haystack, and waits the arrival of Tom and the pack. Most
men would holloa the fox, but Story knows a trick worth two of that. He
has a reputation to keep up, and a history to tell of "those big rails
by Brown's farm," and "that double after we came out of the
water-meadows," which would hardly sound so well if he was known to have
arrived at his present position in front of the hounds.

Presently the hounds come up, and he notes with glee that there are but
four or five anywhere near them. As they top the wattle he dashes round
the haystack as if he had ridden all the way wide on their left, and
flying the fence is in the same field with them--alone.

"Dang 'im, how did ay get theer? Ay never rode along wi' us, I know,"
mutters Tom to himself; but the pace is too hot to think about it at the
moment.

"Capital run, Tom," shouts Story, as they gallop down the field
together; "but, my eye, what a stiff bit we have had! Those rails of
Brown's were a stopper. You should have had them where I did, on the
left." (Tom had been deuced nearly down there, a circumstance Story had
noticed from the road.) "He'll be in the osiers; I'll get on and view
him out the far side;" and away goes our friend through the gap and down
the lane.

"Now, I should just like to know wheer in the name of fortun' ay's coom
from. There's some hanky-panky, I knows. Did you see Mayster Story,
Charles?" says Tom, as they check, to the First Whip, who has just
arrived, his coat showing pretty evident signs of where he had been.

"Saw him going down the road when we found; but Craftsman has it,"
replies Charles, and "For'ard on" is again the order.

Into the osiers they crash, and a "Tally-ho!" from Story on the far side
shows them to be close behind their fox. "For'ard, for'ard, for'ard
away," screams Tom, blowing the hounds out of the covert; and in the
second field it is all up, and Tom is off his horse in the middle of the
pack, with Story and five others only there to see. As the remainder of
the field gallop up by twos and threes our friend takes his watch out,
and, addressing the Master, says: "Best thing I've seen for many a
day--fifty-three minutes with hardly a check. 'Pon my honour, it's
marvellous that so few of us came to grief. Awful stiff country. Give
you my word, I thought I should break my neck every fence."

"Could not afford to lose such a sportsman as you, Story," replies Sir
John, laughing and turning to Tom. "Here, give Mr. Story the brush; it's
worthy of a place in his den."

"Right, sir," says Tom; but he winks at Charles and whispers: "There'll
be a fine tale over this one, I'll lay."

Story is dining out that night, so he does not accompany them to find
their second fox, but by the time the ladies have come into the
drawing-room and the chairs are drawn round the fire, the fifty-three
minutes have grown to an hour and twenty minutes, and the deeds of
daring performed by himself have increased in proportion. As he drives
home he turns it over in his own mind whether another hat and peg shall
not be added to the relics between the window, with the glorious history
of "the crumpler over Brown's rails" attached thereto. But he eventually
decides, as so many of the field saw him at the finish with his
headpiece in its normal condition, that perhaps on the whole it would be
better not.

This, however, does not prevent him from entering a full and true (?)
account of the run to Watson's osiers in his hunting-diary, and
executing a small yet carefully-drawn map of the country, with crosses
marked thereon denoting the locality of some of the terrific obstacles
he encountered--and negotiated in safety.

Should the conversation turn on hunting (which it is pretty certain to
do) while smoking the post-prandial cigar in Story's sanctum, he will
read a few extracts from this diary, which the assembled guests may
believe or not--as they like.



HODGE.


"Which is the way to Langley, my good man?" asks Mr. Tyrol of a
countryman he overtakes on his way to the meet. Mr. Tyrol, who is a
stranger to the Bullshire, and has come down just to look at the country
and see what it is like with a view to future operations, as yet does
not know his way about, so is glad of any information he can obtain as
to the most direct route.

"Yew mun tak furst turnin to right till yer com' to smithy, then keep
straight on past Jack Spender's down t' green lane, but mind yer dunna
mistake t' road past ould Betty Wilson's cottage, and then you're sure
to be right," replies the man, with a glance at his interlocutor.

"Thanks," says Mr. Tyrol, not much the wiser. "Let me see. I've got to
go down to the green lane, and then past Mrs. Wilson's cottage; but how
am I to know which is the right cottage--and how far it is?"

"Oh, any chap 'ull tell yer ould Betty's place; it's better nor six mile
if yer go one way and under four if yer tak t' other."

"And which is the short way?" is Mr. T.'s next question.

"Well," replies his director, "yew mun go as I've tould yer, till yer
come t' lane, then turn into field past the works. Yer know the works
maybe?" and on Mr. Tyrol confessing his ignorance, after a pause: "Ah,
that maks a 'nation difference, doan't it?"

The fact is not for a moment to be disputed, and Mr. Tyrol is in
despair, when suddenly a bright idea strikes Hodge, and he looks up,
saying: "Perhaps you're a-going fox-'unting?"

As it is not customary for people to ride about in pink, save in civic
processions, unless they are "on sport intent," it becomes hardly
necessary to answer, and Mr. T. wonders what Hodge could possibly have
thought he was going to do.

"If so be," however, continues the pedestrian, "I'm a-going t' meet
mysen, and I can show yer t' road. Can that 'oss jump? Acos we've got to
go through Farmer Danby's meaders, and 'e most allus locks his gates."

Notwithstanding the chance of a locked gate and a nasty fence in cold
blood, Mr. Tyrol thinks it an opportunity not to be lost, and gladly
avails himself of the proffered guidance, while Hodge sees a prospective
shilling in the horizon, which, with great accuracy, he divides as he
tramps along into "three pots o' four."

"And what sort of a country is Langley?" asks the directee of his guide
and director, after about a quarter of a mile passed in silence.

"Foine country for turnips," is the reply. "I mind when Mr. Arles--you
knows him I'll be bound? Not know Mr. Arles! Why I thought everyone
know'd him, he's the biggest man about these parts; he was the Dook's
agent. Well, I mind when he got better nor----"

Here Mr. Tyrol thinks it advisable to check the flow of Hodge's
conversation, as he sees plainly that unless he does so he will be in
for an agricultural dissertation on the producing power per acre of Mr.
Arles' land, so he cuts him short with "I don't mean that; I mean what
sort of a country is it to ride over? Stiff big fences, or what?"

"Some big, some littel; but there's allus a road as you can git along if
so be as you don't care about leping; and there's any amount o'
foxes--swarms on 'em. Why, it was only last week as ould Jim tould me as
Bill Upton 'ad tould him as he see'd two when he wor working in Squire
Beale's plantation. But there's Langley, sir. Thank ye kindly." And
Hodge, the richer by a shilling, stops at the wayside public-house to
drink the stranger's health.

Happy in having arrived at his destination, and much instructed and
amused by what he had heard, Mr. Tyrol rides on to where old Tom and the
hounds are visible, and is soon lost to sight in the crowd of horses and
men at the meet. By the time he has done contemplating the hounds, Hodge
has finished his libation, and, in company with a "mate," comes on the
scene of action.

"Mornin', mayster," says he to old Tom; "whear be you a-going furst?"
and on hearing that Collingly Wood will be the first draw, he turns to
his companion and says: "By Guy, mate, we mun look slippy or we shanna
be there in time."

It is not every day in the week that these "horny-handed sons of toil"
get an outing, and they do not mean to lose their chance of seeing the
fun if they can help it. So away they go, followed by three or four
boys, towards the big wood seen in the distance. They have not gone far
before they discover that they have followers, and knowing well that
with these in their wake it will be impossible to secrete themselves in
an advantageous position, they turn round and deliver a few home-truths,
which, though not particularly elegant, answer the purpose, and have the
desired effect of getting rid of the boys. This done, they continue
their route till they arrive at the hunting-gate leading into the
covert.

"Now I wonder which end t' ould mon will begin at?" asks the elder of
his companion.

"I dunna knoa," replies Number Two, putting his finger into his mouth
and holding it up; "but from the way o' the wind I should say as 'e'll
start down here; bound to go up-wind."

No fool in matters of sport is Hodge, and, chawbacon as you may call
him, you would find it hard to puzzle him on the subject of the "run of
a fox," always provided he understood your questions. Old Tom knows his
value well, and over and over again have things been put straight by
the far-seeing blue eye; and "'E's gone yonder by th' ould barn," or
"I'v seed 'im cross o'er bottom," has enabled the Huntsman to hit off
the line without wasting the precious moments in a long and speculative
cast.

The two "mates" have barely ensconced themselves comfortably on the top
of a stack of "cordwood," from whence they can command more than half
the wood, when the pack arrive, and the horsemen, as they file through
the gateway, are subjected to a running fire of criticism. Woe betide
the man whose animal obstinately refuses some small fence within sight
of Hodge and Co. Although the rider will not hear the speech, the loud
laugh from one or the other tells him plainly enough that he is the
cause of their merriment, and he wishes himself--or them--farther away.
As soon as the hounds are thrown in the occupants of the cordwood stack
become excited, and the younger of them, our friend of the road,
suggests an adjournment to a tree where he thinks a better view can be
obtained.

"Stop where yer be, Jim," says the elder; "yer canna do better, and if
yer gets messing about now you'll only have t' Master and old Tom atop
o' yer back." So Jim is persuaded, and remains quiet. Presently a yellow
body is seen stealing through the underwood, and the chorus of music
shows that the hounds are aware of Mr. Reynard's presence.

"There 'e goes," whispers Jim, "and here they come. By Guy, the're
away," as the hounds dash through the covert, and a loud "Tally-ho" is
heard on the other side. To slip down is the work of an instant, and
both Jim and his companion are making the best of their way to the
corner where the fox has broken. Here they find a regular crush; the
hunting-gate is locked or jammed, and no one can get out. Threading
their way through the horses, however, with the help of a good heave, a
strong heave, and a heave both together, the pair manage to have the
gate off its hinges, and the impatient field rush through, nearly
overturning Jim in their mad career.

"Oh, go on, go on," says that worthy, as he jumps out of the way; "some
on yer won't go much farther than the first fence at that pace."

And he is right.

There are two or three loose horses running about, one of which he
manages to catch and restore to the owner, receiving in return a small
acknowledgment, which--having submitted to the universal test, his
teeth--he slips into the pocket of his brown corduroys.

The next field is a stiffish plough, and by the time he is halfway
across Hodge is done, and he finds his heavy boots none the lighter for
three or four inches of wet clay adhering to the soles. However, the
sight of a friendly hayrick in the distance consoles him, and to his
great delight he sees a ladder is reared against it and a man at work
cutting out some trusses.

"Can yer see ought on 'em, ould man?" he pants, as he reaches the foot
of the ladder, and the "ould man" from his coign of vantage, shouts
back: "Nip up, lad, nip up, the're a-going like billy o'." Jim is
quickly alongside, his face beaming with excitement as he sees the whole
panorama of the chase stretched out before him. As he watches, he
notices his friend of the morning--Mr. Tyrol--and points him out to the
man on the rick. Luck favouring the spectators, the hounds suddenly
swing sharp round and cross close beneath and within hearing. There is a
nasty fence over which the line lies, and a goodish few turn away for
the gate, but Mr. Tyrol heads straight for it with the rest of the
hard-riders.

"Well done, sir; well done!" roars Hodge from the rick, and Mr. T.,
recognising him, gives him a nod as he rides at the fence. His horse,
however, jumps short, and the result is a rattling fall.

"Laws, that's a buster," says Jim; "I mun go and help him, he gied me a
bob;" showing by his words the triumph of filthy lucre over Christian
charity. Not that he would not have been just as ready to pick up anyone
without the shilling, but the gift had made a profound impression, and
the thought that was uppermost found vent in words.

By the time he reaches the spot Mr. Tyrol has picked himself up, and,
catching his horse, is away; and Hodge returns to the rick to see the
last he can of the receding chase.

As he trudges homewards he hears various accounts of how "the hounds are
been by," etc., and lighting his pipe he makes his way towards his own
particular inn where he usually takes his glass.

He is going along leisurely over the fields when he hears a loud voice
behind him, and turning round, finds himself face to face with two men
on horseback, one of whom is ordering him to "Open that gate there, do
you hear?" Hodge knows in a moment that he is not a Bullshire man; and
what is more, he recognises in an equally short space that he is not a
gentleman for all his pink coat and fine feathers, and his native pride
rebels; so he takes no notice, but turns round and continues his
journey, and getting over the stile with a laugh, he mutters to himself:
"'E's got some cheek an' all, d----n him; I shanna open gate unless 'e's
a bit more civil."

"Here, you fellah, do you hear--open this gate, will you?" shouts the
angry _parvenu_ again, and then commences a course of good solid abuse.

This is more than even Hodge can stand, so he slowly faces round again
and says: "Jump o'er it or get off and open it yerself. I ain't paid ter
go about t' country helping the likes o' you home."

When he tells the story in the public-house, as tell it he will, after
recounting all he saw of the chase and a bit more besides, he will say:
"I knowed he wanna out of Bullshire. None of our gents are like that;
sum City chap maybe, 'ain't larned manners;" and while spending the rest
of the eighteen-pence he has earned out hunting he is as happy as a
king, with whom he would not change places for the world, much
preferring, so long as he can get occasionally a day off and plenty to
eat and drink, to remain as simple--Hodge.



THE KEEPER.


One of the richest men in the county of Bullshire next to "the Dook" is
a Mr. Betteridge, a retired partner of the well-known firm of
Betteridge, Woolsey, and Co., of Manchester, who about five years back
purchased the Medemere estate, which originally belonged to the Slowboy
family. Of course he immediately improved (?) the fine old Elizabethan
hall by adding thereto sundry wings and towers, and also converting the
old-fashioned gardens, with their quaint yew-edges, into trim parterres
and terraces, after what he was pleased to call "the Italian style."

He has two great objects in life, in both of which unfortunately he
appears bound to be frustrated. The first is to be what is known as "a
popular sportsman," and the second to be considered somebody of
importance.

With regard to number one--beyond having made a gorse and keeping the
most expensive cattle, which, needless to say, he cannot ride
himself--his ideas are limited; while, in the second instance, he has a
deadly rival, before whom he sinks into insignificance, and whose word
he has learnt to look on as law.

This individual is neither more nor less than his Head-keeper, "Mr.
James," who (in his own estimation) combines all the virtues under the
sun, and speaks in the most grandiloquent way of "our shooting," "our
woods," "our coverts," "our foxes," "our parties," and "our" Heaven
knows what. Mr. James will inform you that he is a most ardent
fox-hunter, that it is "our pride always to have foxes for Sir John. In
fact, I told Mr. Betteridge that it must be when we first agreed on the
shooting," etc.

Yet, strange to say, there is a scarcity of the commodity in the
Medemere Woods that does not tally with these high-sounding assertions.
Certainly the gorse generally contains one or two, but that is quite on
the outsides, and near nothing in the pheasant interest. Betteridge
himself would pay anything, do anything (except adopt the only proper
method), to have foxes, and has many a time and oft remonstrated with
"Mr. James" on the subject. But he is invariably snubbed and subdued by
this mighty potentate, and made to wish he had not spoken.

It is unfortunate that "Mr. James" should have lived, before he
condescended to "assist" Mr. Betteridge, with the Earl of Upcroft, for
the "Hearl" is his great rallying-point; and whenever there is anything
that his present employer does not quite like, and ventures to suggest
alterations upon, it is always:

"When I lived with the 'Hearl' we never did in no way different to what
we are a-doing now, and the 'Hearl,' he used to say as how, thanks to
me--'I puts it all down to you, James,' was his very words--'heverything
works just like clockwork.' Of course if so be as you wants it
different, why it can be done, but depend hon it the 'Hearl' knowed what
was what."

After this "Cottonopolis" has nothing to say, and James and the "Hearl"
carry it.

Give him his due as a Keeper, he is excellent; for getting up a head of
game his equal is not to be found, nor can his method of beating the
covers or showing his birds be surpassed. But in his heart,
notwithstanding his outward professions, he is a vulpecide, and his
satellites are too well trained and hold him in too much awe to say
anything.

Sir John Lappington distrusts him; indeed, he has gone so far as to
speak to Betteridge on the subject, and old Tom is perfectly convinced
on the point; but James and his "Hearl" have hitherto been more than
they can manage.

Last season things very nearly came to a climax, for after drawing Mr.
Betteridge's coverts blank three times running, Sir John vowed he would
not come there again. Mr. James was most profuse in his apologies, and
his astonishment was grand.

"I'm sure," said he, "I can't imagine where them foxes has got to. Bill
saw two in the big wood last night, and I've been most pertickerler
about it. Bill tells me as he knows of another in the Cross Spinney.
Didn't yer, Bill? Where's Bill?" (That worthy having carefully slipped
out of sight on the first signs of a cross-examination.) "Ah! 'e's never
here when he's wanted," continued the great man. "Tom, I'm thinking you
must have drawed over 'em."

"More than I'm thinking you've done," returned old Tom; adding, _sotto
voce_, "nasty deceitful beggar."

"Well, Mr. Betteridge," said Sir John after a pause, and with his eye
fixed on "Mr. James," "it's a great pity, but I think I must be to blame
to a certain extent. I ought to have brought out some different hounds.
I must get some truffle-dogs if I come here again. It seems our only
chance of finding foxes, and I daresay your Keeper is right and we have
drawn over them."

The shouts of laughter that followed this speech made it clear to both
master and man that there was some sarcasm, but neither of them could
make out quite what it was--until the evening, when Mr. James, happening
to meet the village schoolmaster, asked him what Sir John meant by
truffle-dogs, and was informed that they were a peculiar breed that
found things underground.

The joke went round the village in a trice, and Mr. James is still known
as "Truffles," though it is not quite safe to call him so to his face.

For more than half the season the Master kept his word, and the hounds
never came near Medemere. But at last a piteous appeal from Mr.
Betteridge is listened to, and "Monday, Medemere Hall," appears in the
paper.

Such a turn-out! A breakfast, more than half of it down from Gunter's;
powdered footmen rushing about in everybody's way; footmen out of powder
doing the same thing; a butler, whose busy appearance is worth a hundred
a-year to him, superintending the champagne, which flowed freely; and
over all Mr. Betteridge, flushed, excited, and uncomfortable.

Outside is the same profusion, and Mr. James and his army of retainers
dispense good cheer with a liberal hand. No fear has he to-day, for Bill
has actual and _bonâ-fide_ knowledge of a fox in the osiers, and to make
quite certain, a small box from Leadenhall Market came down two days
before, and the contents have been shaken out in the big wood.

Under the circumstances he can afford to pass by Tom's remark of "Hope
you haven't stopped no foxes in to-day" in silence, merely saying: "I
think we had better draw our Osiers first, if Sir John is agreeable. I
have told Mr. Betteridge that would be the first draw."

"Oh, you have, have yer?--that was kind of you," says Tom; and turning
to the Whip: "Charles, put those hounds to me; they might go and injure
Mr. James's flower-beds."

What the result of this speech, which of course raised a laugh, might
have been it is hard to say, for at this moment out comes the Master and
Mr. Betteridge, followed by the rest of the field. Mr. James takes off
his hat with a low bow, and says: "Beg pardon, Sir John, I was a just
saying to the Huntsman that we'd better try the Hosiers first. Bill
knows of a fox there."

"I hope he does this time, James," replies Sir John; "but I am going to
draw the big wood, and then the Osiers."

"Very good, Sir John; of course you knows best," remarks Mr. James, and
then hurries off, thinking how deuced lucky it is that he had a bagman
down on the chance.

When they arrive at the bottom of the wood they find the great man
standing at the gate full of importance, and with an air of
self-satisfaction on his face. "I'm sure there's summut up, sir," says
old Tom to Sir John, as the hounds dash into cover. "He'd never look so
'nation pleased if there was not some roguery in the wind. Eleu, in;
eleu, at him; eugh, boys. Bagman, maybe. Eleu, try." A tally-ho from the
far side before the hounds have opened on the line cuts him short, and
with a "Danged if I don't think I'm right," the old Huntsman, blowing
his horn, gallops down the ride to where the holloa was heard. The
hounds do not settle on the line kindly, in fact, the old hounds will
scarcely own it; however, they get along somehow for about a quarter of
an hour, when poor bagman's race is run and they pull him down.

"Who-whoop," yells Tom; "who-whoop, and if that don't make yer ashamed
of yourself nothin' will; I know'd he were a bagman--dang the cheek of
the man."

Not a hound will touch him, not even the young entry, and Sir John is
perfectly furious.

"Mr. Betteridge," he says; as that worthy appears, quite innocent and
highly delighted at there being a fox at all. "Mr. Betteridge, I came
here at your request to draw your covers; I came here on your assurance
that there were foxes; and you, sir, have the audacity to turn out a
stinking bagman in front of my hounds."

"My dear Sir John," replied the unfortunate man, "I never should dream
of doing such a thing; my Keeper told me there were foxes; but I never
would have turned out a bagman, I assure you. How can you tell it is a
bag fox?"

"I believe, Mr. Betteridge, you are innocent, and I apologise," says Sir
John after a pause. "You ask me how I know. Look there at the hounds,
they know well enough. Frankly, I tell you that unless you arrange
matters with your Keeper James, who is the author of this, I will not
draw your covers again, nor will I take your subscription to the
hounds;" and then, turning to Tom, "try the Osiers, and if that's blank,
trot off to Lappington."

Mr. Betteridge is quite flabbergasted, and in the first flush of the
thing vows vengeance against the Keeper, but this cools down
considerably before they get to the osiers, and he begins to turn over
in his mind what the "Hearl" would have done. Mr. James is ignorant of
the little scene that has been enacted, so meets the hounds at the
Osiers, and, touching his hat to Sir John, with a smile says: "Killed
him, sir? You'll find another here."

He is somewhat astonished, therefore, when he is told that if he dare do
such a thing again he as likely as not will get his discharge, and if
Mr. Betteridge can't be persuaded to do that he is still more likely to
get a good thrashing for his impertinence.

"Dang your ugly mug," says Tom to him, as soon as Sir John is out of
hearing; "you thought to come the clever over me and t' hounds, did yer?
Ugh, they'd no more eat a bag fox than they'd touch your dirty overgrown
carcass. I'd like to gi' yer what for, big as yer are;" and then the
hounds crash over into the witheys, and Tom begins to draw. From the way
they dash there is no doubt of a good fox this time, and presently a
whimper from Bonnibel strikes the key-note. Up and down the Osiers twice
he goes, with the pack close at him, and then away. No. One of the
Keeper's satellites, and under-Velveteens, heads him, and he sneaks back
along the wet ditch, while the hounds flash into the grass-field.

"Tall'o baik," screams Charles, who has seen it. "Will you take yourself
away from there?" and Velveteens removes himself and feels humble.

One more round, and then he does go, and sets his head straight for
Colliston, a grand line, grass the whole way. The first fifty minutes is
racing pace, and the grief over the big fences plentiful. Four or five
minutes are lost in a small pit-hole by a farm, where the fox had tried
an earth, and then they are away again, rolling him over in the open
twenty minutes later.

"A real good thing," is the unanimous verdict, and the Master is only
too glad to tell Mr. Betteridge, when he arrives (which he does after
all has been over some time) that the present animal makes up for the
morning's performance, whereat the heart of "Cottonopolis" is made
joyful again.

As they ride together to the next draw--Colliston Gorse--Mr. Betteridge
begs Sir John to come and dine with him that night quite alone, and to
help him to interview Mr. James. Sir John, foreseeing a good result,
accepts, and after dinner, at which meal Mr. Betteridge hears some good
wholesome truths, Mr. James is sent for.

Directly he appears and sees Sir John he knows it is all up, and that
the "Hearl" will not serve him a bit; and his heart fails when Sir John
commences by saying: "Your master has left the matter on which we have
sent for you entirely in my hands." Then, after keeping him on
tenter-hooks for a quarter of an hour, and turning the man inside out,
he relieves him by saying: "The fox from the Osiers saved you, but Mr.
Betteridge has given his word of honour that the next time the hounds
come here and there are no foxes--wild ones I mean--that day is your
last with him, and you go--without a character."

Mr. James, humbled and apologetic, commences a long string of
protestations and assurances of amendment, but is cut short by "That
will do; go and act, don't talk." Betteridge thinks the Master the most
wonderful man, and cannot make out how he braved Mr. James and the
"Hearl" so cleverly; but he is awfully grateful, and being a man of his
word it is to be hoped that in future there will be foxes at Medemere,
and that he will no longer be under the thumb of--the Keeper.



THE AUTHORITY.


It is ten years since Mr. Hall did the Bullshire country the honour of
becoming a resident, and in that time he has managed to assert himself
considerably, and may now be considered "no small pumpkins." At least
the Hall family look on themselves in that light, and surely they must
be the best judges.

Hall _père_ is a good-natured open-handed sportsman, who rides the best
horses, smokes the best cigars, and drinks the best wine that money can
procure, but who has the misfortune to consider himself an authority on
sport and hunting, and is also afflicted with a weakness for seeing his
lucubrations in print.

Mrs. Hall, on the other hand, affects the evangelical rôle, and is
forever establishing _crèches_, forming night-schools, and endeavouring
to lead the young men of Bullshire in the way that they should go. She
is also of a literary turn of mind, and has published more than once
under the auspices of the S.P.C.K. Her latest effort was not quite a
success, owing, she says, to "bitter and unchristian hostility."

She had spent much time on the completion of a "sporto-religious"
novel--"one that anybody might read without a blush," as she put it; and
when finished she called it "A Heavenly Hunt, or Hints by the Way."

Harold Lappington and a few kindred spirits, however, were unkind enough
to parody the book; and a week afterwards was distributed broadcast
throughout the country, "Running a Ring, or Hints on Matrimony."

The joke was too good not to be appreciated, and one may safely say
that the only person who did not see it was Mrs. Hall herself. Even her
husband laughed at her, and talked grandiloquently about writing on
subjects that she did not understand.

It was for a long time a mystery to the members of the Hunt how the
accounts of their sport got into the papers, and Sir John tried in vain
to discover the reporter. Marvellously accurate were the descriptions of
the run, names of places, distances, what each particular hound did,
where Tom made his cast for better or for worse, and the various
incidents or accidents of the chase were all set forth without an error.
So men came to the conclusion that it must be some one of the
hard-riders, and consequently were more puzzled than ever. Everybody was
accused in turn--the Doctor, the Parson, even Mrs. Talford; but all
denied the soft impeachment.

When the matter was alluded to at the hunt-dinner by Sir John, it was
noticed that Mr. Hall did not look quite as if he was enjoying his
dinner, and whispers of "It's old Hall; look at him," passed from one to
the other.

"But then Hall never rides a yard. How the deuce could he know all about
it?" said others; and the matter was as far from being solved as ever.

Old Tom, however, determines to get at the bottom of it, and as he rides
to Brainsty cross-roads, he maps out a plan of operations. It is not a
nice day by any means, a high blustering north-east wind blowing, as Tom
says, "fit to turn yer inside out;" and, as he takes refuge with the
pack behind a barn, the old Huntsman does not anticipate much sport. The
field arrive by twos and threes, with heads bent down and upturned
collars, looking as wretched as men generally do when beating up against
a gale. Almost the last comer is Mr. Hall, who immediately gives it as
his opinion that there cannot possibly be any fun, and that he should
not be surprised if Sir John took the hounds home.

"I've seen 'em run hard in worse weather nor this, sir," says Tom, with
a smile and a shiver.

"Well, I never have, and you may take it I know something about
hunting," replies the Authority.

"What's that?" asks the Master, who has just got on to his horse.

"Nothing, Sir John; nothing. I only said that there would be no sport,
and Tom seems to think differently;" and then, turning to the men about
him, Mr. Hall continues: "It's impossible for any scent to lie with this
wind. Besides, what fox in his senses would face it?"

"There's more nor one kind o' scent, and if t' fox wunna face t' wind,
ay mun travel wi' it," puts in Tom, and then trots off best pace to draw
Ambleside Banks.

When they arrive at the covert, Mr. Hall informs everybody that "It is
no use going to the far side; no fox ever breaks there. Never has done
yet;" and on some of his audience paying no attention, he shouts: "Oh,
all right; don't blame me if you're thrown out."

Scarcely are the words out of his mouth than the sound of Tom's horn
comes down on the wind, and the pack are away in full cry, the fox
breaking just where Mr. Hall had said he would not. A sharp burst over
two fields, a quick turn, and then down-wind like lightning, the pace
increasing every yard.

Unfortunately for the Authority, he does not notice the turn, and,
riding hard along the lane for a point, he finds himself on reaching the
top of a small hill utterly lost, no sign of the hounds and no sound of
any sort to guide him. After riding about aimlessly in every direction
for the best part of an hour, he at last hears tidings of their being
down Hinckley way, and off he goes, only to hear that "T' hounds a-been
gone better nor twenty minutes." It is now getting late, so Mr. Hall
makes up his mind to ride home viâ the kennels, where for a moment we
will leave him and return to Tom and the rest of the field.

After ten minutes as fast as they can go, the fox tries the low wall of
a farmyard, but the pace has been too hot for him, and he falls back
right into the mouths of the pack. Having performed the funeral rites,
Tom gets his orders for Hinckley, and then commence a series of
disappointments. Foxes there are, for one is soon halloed away; but the
hounds can make nothing of it directly they get into the open. Two or
three times this happens, and it becomes evident that Mr. Hall was right
in the main, and that they could not hunt that day. So at last the
Master gives the word for home, for which few blame him.

As Tom rides along the road to the kennels, he tells Charles and Harry
they are to be sure and say that it has been a first-class thing, and to
back him up in everything he says. Naturally they both wonder what the
old man is up to, but Tom holds his peace, and will tell them nothing,
looking the while as knowing as a jackdaw who has just hidden something
valuable. Evidently he has concocted some scheme, and a light begins to
dawn on the two Whips when the figure of Mr. Hall is seen in the
distance.

"Why, Mayster Hall, wheer an yer been to?" says Tom, as they overtake
the lost one.

"Well," replies Mr. Hall, "I don't know how it was, but when I got to
Kirby I found I was clean out of it. I took the wrong turn in the wood,
you see. You must have dipped the hill, and the infernal wind was so
high I could not hear you."

"Dear-a me, that was a pity! you missed summat good," exclaims Tom, with
a sorrowful or rather pitiful expression.

Mr. Hall eagerly snaps at the bait and asks for full
particulars--whether they killed? where they went? who was up? etc.
etc.; all of which information the Huntsman supplies with the gravest of
countenances, inventing as he goes along. Charles and Harry are nearly
convulsed, and it is with the utmost difficulty that they are able to
speak when appealed to by old Tom to corroborate his statements.

"By Jove, Tom, that was a good thing," says the Authority. "I said that
they could only run down wind. You may always trust me about hunting.
Why, its nearly nine miles straight on end! How long did you say?"

"Fifty-five minutes, weren't it, Charles?" replies Tom, appealing to the
First Whip.

"Summat about there," answers Charles, turning away and muttering: "Lord
forgive us, what a start!"

Mr. Hall then bids good-night to the hunt-servants, and trots home as
pleased as Punch.

That evening, after Sir John has finished his dinner, his butler tells
him that the Huntsman wishes to speak a word to him, and then Tom tells
his master the story, and what he expected would come of it.

"He'll never forgive you, Tom, if you are right in what you think; and
he's one of our best supporters," exclaimed Sir John, roaring with
laughter.

"Never fear, sir, never fear. I can work round him right enow; and I'm
thinking, Sir John, if so be as you will say naught, but just write up
the week after to contradict the whole thing, it will give Mr. Hall a
lesson. He dursn't say anything, as he knows you don't like the 'ounds
wrote of, and the paper won't have no more from Mr. 'Black Hat'" (the
_nom de plume_ of the Bullshire correspondent).

Next Saturday morning, as sure as fate, men are surprised to see a
description of an extraordinary run from Ambleside, as follows:


     "A REMARKABLY GOOD DAY WITH THE BULLSHIRE.

     "On Tuesday last this sporting pack had a wonderfully good run in a
     gale of wind. There was not a large muster at the meet (Brainsty
     cross-roads) owing to the inclemency of the weather, but those who
     were bold enough to face the elements had no cause to regret their
     temerity. The first draw was Ambleside Banks, noted throughout the
     country for the stoutness of its foxes; and on the day in question
     it fully kept up its reputation, for scarcely had that best of
     huntsmen, Tom Wilding, thrown his hounds into covert, than a real
     traveller broke away with the pack almost at his brush. Strange to
     say he headed straight up wind, notwithstanding that, as I have
     said, it was blowing a gale, and made the best of his way to Kirby
     village; then, turning to the right, he led them a cracking pace
     over the vale through Shawston to Hinckley Wood; here he was
     inclined to hang in covert, but the hounds would not be denied, and
     forced him out, when he made his point for Lyston, some three miles
     off. The pace had been very fast and the country very stiff, so
     that the field was greatly reduced, and there were many cases of
     _profundit humi_. Most of the first flight, however, were 'all
     there,' including, among others, _place aux dames_, Mrs. Talford,
     Sir John Lappington (the Master), Mr. Halston, and Mr. Bowles.
     About a mile from Lyston there was a short but welcome check, owing
     to the fox having been coursed by a sheep-dog; but Tom, by a
     judicious cast, hit off the line, and they were away again. Leaving
     Lyston on the left (Reynard having tried the earths there, and
     found no admittance), the line lay through Oxley, over the
     brook--which proved a serious obstacle to more than one
     sportsman--indeed, there were, as might have been expected
     considering the pace, more in than over. But to continue. Having
     run straight through the village of Oxley, this gallant fox made
     for Mr. Browne's farm on the hill; but, unfortunately for him, the
     hounds were close at his brush, and before he could reach that
     bourne the 'who-whoop' had sounded his _requiem_. Mr. Browne, with
     his usual hospitality, regaled those who were there to see the
     end, and a nip of his famous ginger brandy was an offer not to be
     refused, especially with a long ride home in the teeth of the wind.
     The time from start to finish was an hour and five minutes, almost
     without a check, and the distance from point to point could not be
     less than nine miles. When this celebrated pack have another run
     such as that I have endeavoured to describe, may I be again there
     to see.

     "BLACK HAT."


"Who the deuce can have written all that farrago of nonsense?" says Mr.
Boulter. "Why, we never ran more than a mile and a half." And the
Secretary is not the only one who makes anxious inquiries.

Mr. Hall has been away in London, and, having only returned that morning
is in blissful ignorance of the way he has been taken in.

As he arrives there is a general shout of "Here, Hall, you're an
Authority; some idiot has been cooking up an account of Tuesday's sport
and writing to the papers. You never read such a pack of lies in your
life. We must stop this sort of thing. What should be done?"

The gentleman's feelings can be better imagined than described, and as
he stammers out "I have not seen the paper," he wishes himself
elsewhere.

It is noticed that that day he does not give his opinion on the
whereabouts of a fox in quite such an authoritative manner, and avoids
everybody as much as possible. Of course he soon hears the true account,
and on the following Saturday his cup is filled when he reads under the
same heading as his own--viz. "A Remarkably Good Day with the
Bullshire"--


     "SIR,--I beg to inform you that the account of a run on Tuesday
     week with these hounds, which you gave in your last issue, was
     entirely fictitious, as we had no sport after the first ten
     minutes, the hounds being unable to hunt.--I remain yours
     obediently,

     "J. LAPPINGTON, Master B.H."


How old Tom managed to smooth the irate individual down is not known,
but nothing more ever came of it, save that "Black Hat" no longer sends
accounts to the papers of sport with the Bullshire Hounds.



THE BLACKSMITH.


Seven A.M. The church clock rings out the hour in the clear still
morning, and the smoke goes up straight into the air from the chimneys
of the cottages of Lappington village. One by one the good dames appear
at their doors with tucked-up sleeves and heads beshawled, and commence
the operation of vigorously shaking strips of carpet, and generally
setting things straight.

Their lords and masters have ere this gone to their work, and, with the
inevitable short pipe in their mouths, are tramping along best pace to
keep up a circulation and keep out the chill of the early morn.

But there is another sound which mingles itself with the chiming clock
and the Babel of female voices; it is the measured "clang, clang" of
iron to iron, and as one wends ones way towards that part of the village
from whence it comes, the dull roar of the furnace and the sparks flying
upwards tell us that we are approaching "t' smithy," and that Joe
Billings and his mate are hard at work.

Presently, three of the Squires horses are seen coming up the road in
their clothing, and Joe, having nearly completed the shoeing of the farm
nags that had been there since half-past six, turns his attention to the
wants of their more noble companions. "Two shod all round and one
removed," says the groom as he comes up; "and look here, old man, don't
keep us waiting no longer than you can help; it's a bit chilly this
morning."

"First come first served," replies Joe; and turning to his mate: "'Ere,
Bill, look out them 'unting shoes for t' Squire's 'osses. Who-ho, mare,
'old up;" and the rasp of the file again plays an accompaniment to the
tune that Joe whistles as he works.

"Now then, mayster," says he to the Squire's groom as he finishes; and
the hunters being brought up to the forge the anvil chorus strikes up,
and the lads clap their hands as the sparks fly from the red-hot iron.
More horses arrive, and grooms grumble among themselves at having to
wait their turn. Some try and persuade Joe by soft words to give them
precedence, others say they wish they had gone to some rival shop; but
Joe pays no attention to them, merely giving vent to his favourite
maxim: "First come first served."

At last one impatient youngster who does not know the Lappington
Blacksmith, having only come down from London a few days before,
commences to bully, and says: "Look 'ere, I ain't going to 'ave my
'osses catch their deaths of cold while you tinkers that moke," pointing
to a rough pony belonging to a small market-gardener. "I'll just speak
to my governor about it. I'm d----d if I'll come here again. Gemmen's
'osses first's what I say--do'e hear, slow coach?"

Never a word answers Joe, and the bystanders smile; but the young groom
loses his temper, and tries to take the "moke," as he calls it, away,
and substitute his own horses.

Then Joe does look up, and dropping the foot on which he was at work,
says: "My lad, you'll get yourself into trouble in a minute."

"How's that?" asks the groom.

"Why," replies Joe slowly, "if you don't drop that pony's head in two
twos, I shall have to teach you manners. I ain't a quarrelsome chap, but
when a whipper-snapper like you comes messing with my business it's a
bit too hot. I'm blowed if I shan't have to lock you up, or put you in
the pond. Drop it, will yer?" and then, as the young fool persists, he
suddenly walks up to him, seizes him as he would a dog, and putting him
into a shed where he keeps his old iron, turns the key, and with a
chuckle resumes his work, whistling the while as gaily as ever.

Nor does he let the infuriated master of the horse out of his
confinement till he has finished the quadrupeds, when, opening the door,
with mock politeness, he says: "Your lordship's 'osses is done, if so be
you've a mind to take 'em away."

Shouts of laughter greet the groom as he emerges from the shed, and
angry as he is he has sense enough to see that the laugh is not on his
side; so without a word he trots off, inwardly vowing vengeance against
Joe Billings.

"There'll be a bother over this job, Joe," says Harry the Second Whip,
who has come down to the forge from the kennels. "Young Cock-a-hoop will
make a fine tale of it when he gets home."

"Well," replies Joe, "what can they do? If they takes the shoeing away
it won't break me, and when I says a thing I means it. Them as comes
first is served first, and if they don't like it they can lump it."

After finishing off with Harry, Joe slips on his coat (such a coat too!
all patched, grimy, and full of small holes burnt by the sparks), and,
rolling up his leather apron, he takes himself away to see if "t' missus
has got breakfust ready." Half an hour suffices for his meal, and by the
time he returns he finds quite a string awaiting his arrival, and he
sets to work with a will.

At last he comes to a horse shod on the French system, with the shoe let
in and the frog on the ground, and he calls his mate to point it out.
"Here, Bill," says he, "here's one of them Charley shoes as I was
a-telling you of. Did yer ever see such a fanglement?" "Why, there ain't
no bloomin' shoe at all," replies his assistant, gazing open-mouthed,
and listening to Joe's lecture on the subject. "Be we to shoe 'un like
that, I wonder?"

"No, no, my lad," interrupts the groom in charge; "the governor only
tried it as an experiment, and he wants the 'oss shod in the usual way
again."

"Proper way, you means," says Joe; "you won't catch me a-doing an
animal after that fashion, I can tell yer. Them experiments is all very
well for the Mossoos, who don't 'unt, but when it comes to gitting over
a country--laws, it's ridickerlous!"

By ten o'clock Joe has pretty nearly finished, except an odd job or two,
such as tacking on a loose shoe for Mr. Grimes the butcher, or "fettling
up" old Betty Wilson's donkey, and he has time to turn his attention to
a ploughshare or a harrow that requires doctoring, or maybe the springs
of Farmer Giles's tax-cart.

As he is engaged on one of these a lad runs in panting and out of breath
with a message as "'ow Mr. Stiles would be main glad if Mayster Billings
would step over and look at t' red coo, as 'e's afeard on 'er dropping."

"Right, my lad," says Joe; "just nip down and tell my missus to give yer
my medicine-box and that bottle of stuff as stands in the winder, and
then come back wi' 'em."

It may be gathered from this that Joe combines the office of cow-doctor
with his other employment; and I may safely say that a better one of the
old-fashioned school could hardly be found anywhere. Certainly his
remedies for both cow and horse are simple to a degree. Nevertheless, he
is entirely successful, and by a sort of rule of thumb dispenses
medicine, of which the analysis may be peculiar, but the efficacy
undoubted.

He has the greatest contempt for all veterinary surgeons, and is wont to
say he "would as soon shoot the beast as let them mess any cow of his
about."

Patent medicine is another of his pet aversions, and it is a sort of
standing joke to ask him his opinion of "Hoplemuroma" or
"Neurasthenhipponskellisterizon."

"Oh, get out. Don't come blathering me with yer hops and skillyrison!"
he will say. "'Ow the deuce do I know what muck they puts into 'em?
Suppose I was to call one of my oils 'Smithyjoebillingtonyeyson,' what
the ---- would old Farmer Stiles say, and what better stuff would it be
for all its crack-jaw name? No, damme, call a spade a spade. None o'
that new-fangled bosh for Joe Billings."

Joe has been at the smithy for some five-and-twenty years now, and
though he numbers considerably over fifty years of age, is as hale and
hearty a man as one would wish to see. One failing he has got which
generally attacks him on Saturday nights, and that is a miscalculation
as to the amount of liquor he can comfortably carry. A dangerous man is
he to cross when in his cups, moreover, for his arm is as powerful as
the leg of a horse, and he has besides got some knowledge of the noble
art.

Indeed it is within the recollection of many a Lappingtonian how Joe at
one time fought with the "Brummagem Pet" for twenty-five pounds a-side,
and how, though terribly mauled, he stuck to it like a man, and, blinded
as he was, managed in the sixteenth round to knock "the Pet" out of
time with a terrific left-hander on the temple, shouting as he delivered
the blow: "There's a taste of Bullshire for yer!"

However, it is not often that the sturdy Blacksmith gets into a row, for
he would far sooner sit still and listen to an account of a good run or
the records of some bygone champion of the Ring. Indeed, everything
connected with sport of any kind goes straight to his soul, and that
there are few sporting subjects you can mention he does not know
something about is evident from the pertinent remarks he occasionally
lets fall.

On a hunting-day, if the hounds are anywhere within reach, Joe may be
seen at the smithy with an array of different-sized shoes ready laid out
beside him, and as he works on some job in the shop he keeps one eye
down the road, on the look-out for some unfortunate sportsman who has
had the misfortune to get a shoe off.

It is his pride that he can tack a shoe on quicker than any man in the
country. "Yer see," he says, "I 'as 'em all ready by me, and when I sees
the gent a-coming, I 'ain't got no cause to look 'ere and there and
heverywhere for the stuff I wants. There they are, and it's on and away
in a jiff."

All the time he is asking the sportsman about the day: "What sort of a
run? where he left the hounds? and where they was a-going to draw next?"
And then, having received his due, he will step outside, take a look
which way the wind is, and direct the thrown-out fox-hunter as to his
most likely course in order to hit off the hounds again.

Odd to say, he is seldom wrong (unless, indeed, they have had a quick
find, and gone away before the sportsman arrives at the indicated spot);
for long experience has taught Joe all the short cuts in the country,
together with which he combines an innate knowledge of the run of a fox.
Old Tom Wilding the Huntsman, and Sir John Lappington the Master, are,
in his opinion, the two greatest men in England. For, as he puts it,
"Without them two where would be the 'ounds? and without the 'ounds
where would my bloomin' business go to?"

Then perhaps someone will point out that he might make a better thing
out of cow-doctoring; but his reply will be: "Oh, that's your opinion,
is it? well; it ain't mine. Look'ee 'ere--any fool, 'cept a vetery,
who's got a ounce of sense, can do a cow; but mark yer, it takes a
goodish time to make a man a blacksmith; and though I say it as perhaps
shouldn't, there ain't a man as I gives in to in the matter of shoeing
an 'oss, no matter where he comes from. No, as long as I can use my arm"
(and he bares a limb that would not disgrace a statue of Hercules), "and
there's any wind in the old bellows, I sticks to t' smithy. Blacksmith I
was bred, and so I'll die; and all I wants is, when our ould parson 'as
finished the reading over my grave, to 'ave a plain bit of a 'eadstone
put up, with simple 'Joe Billings, the Lappington Blacksmith,' wrote on
it;" and then Joe will turn to and whistle a lively air, just to get
the idea of his demise out of his head, and the bystanders will say
among themselves that at present they can't spare old Joe, who has for
five-and-twenty years made the sparks fly and rung out the anvil chorus
in the smithy at Lappington.



THE RUNNER.


There is no better-known individual in the whole of the Bullshire Hunt
perhaps than Jack Whistler the Runner, or, as is he more commonly
called, "Jumping Jack." His antecedents are somewhat obscure, and
various contradictory stories are told as to who he is and what he was;
but his presence at the end of a long run, or in any spot where he
thinks he may have the chance of earning an honest shilling, is a
positive certainty.

How he manages to turn up at the right moment is only another of the
mysteries which surround him; but the fact remains the same, that Jack
has solved the problem of "how to be in two places at once" most
satisfactorily. No matter how long the day has been, or how many miles
he has to go back to the place where he is supposed to have his home,
the next day you will see him at the meet as fresh as paint, in his old
pink-and-brown leather gaiters, with the same keen eye and half-saucy
smile on his face as he doffs his well-worn velvet cap at your approach.

Full of quaint humour is Jack, with many a story of sport, and many a
reminiscence of flood and field, which he delights in relating to anyone
he can get to listen to him.

"Ger on with yer," he will say to a crowd of gaping rustics; "ger on
with yer--call last Wednesday's a run? Why, bless yer, I remember in the
old Squire's time, when we run from Finchley cross-roads to Ipply Gorse,
better nor five-and-twenty mile, and old Mayster Simpson got up to his
neck in the brook, and I stood on the bank fit to bust mysen with
larfin, and wouldna pull un out under two half-crowns. Ah! them was
days, I can tell yer."

And then, some mounted cavalier arriving, off goes the hunting-cap, and
he accosts the sportsman with "Morning, captin'; fine scenting day; hold
your horse? thankee, sir," all in one breath.

Not a hound in the pack but what knows him and is glad to see him; and
he can call them all by name, and give you their pedigree without a
mistake. As old Tom says: "Where he picks up his knowledge Lord knows,
but 'e's never wrong, and, by Guy, 'e's a puzzler to be sure."

It is getting near the end of the season, and the weather is just a
trifle warm, as old Tom with the hounds overtakes Jack Whistler making
his way towards the meet at Fairleigh. There is a breakfast there, and
Jack likes to be in time on those occasions, for he knows that he will
earn many a sixpence before the actual work begins, besides getting his
day's food and drink gratis.

"Holloa, old man, what have yer got there? going a-fishing?" exclaims
Tom as he comes up with the pedestrian. "What's that thing for?"
pointing to a light pole that Jack is balancing on his shoulder.

"Fishing be blowed," is the reply, "it's my jumper. Don't yer see it's a
bit 'ot, and old Riley" (a fellow-runner in a neighbouring pack) "put me
up to the tip last week as ever was. He says, says he: 'Why don't yer
have a pole made? it ain't much to carry, and you can get over hanythink
with it.' So I've had this fettled up, and I've been pract_is_ing a bit
with it, and I can go fine now I can tell yer."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" says Tom. "Well, I should a thought it were more
trouble than it were worth carrying a great fishing-rod of a thing like
that about."

"Ger out," retorts Jack; "it ain't nothing when yer used to it. I
thought it were a new-fangled notion at first, and I came nigh breaking
my neck two or three times over a pigsty wall afore I got into it; but
look'ee 'ere, it's as easy as shelling peas;" and Jack proceeds to show
Tom his prowess in the noble art of saltation.

Taking a short run, with a "Ger back, hounds," he essays to top the
fence out of the road; but, alas, to the intense amusement of Tom and
the two Whips, his pole sinks into some soft ground, and poor Jack falls
all of a heap into the wet ditch on the far side, uttering the while
exclamations the reverse of complimentary against the treacherous friend
of his travels that had so basely betrayed him.

When he appears, scratched and muddy, in the road again, as soon as Tom
can stop laughing he advises him to "leave the bloomin' pole where it
is, and not go cutting any more capers of that sort." But Jack's dander
is up, and his only reply is to shoulder his weapon and walk on.
Presently they arrive at the fixture, and Mr. Whistler's hands are quite
full. Indeed, what between laying in a cargo for himself and looking
after horses while their owners do the like, he has not much time to
talk.

Then comes the business of altering stirrups, tightening girths, and
looking after his tips. A marvellous memory does Jack show in this
latter respect. Vain indeed is it to try and put on an air of unconcern
at his approach, as if you had never seen him before, or as if you had
entirely forgotten the service he rendered you when you got that spill
last week, and he recovered your horse for you on the promise of
half-a-crown.

Jack remembers the circumstance well and the promise better, and he will
sidle up to you with a smile, and say: "Morning cap'n. None the worse
for the fall? Have not seen yer out since. Hope you won't forget Jack;"
and then, having received his recompense, his quick eye catches sight of
another debtor, and with a "Thank'ee kindly, sir," he is off to collect
more dues.

What he likes best is being taken as a pilot by some comparative
stranger to the country, whose heart is not placed in that position
requisite to enable him to follow the hounds or ride straight. Then he
is in his glory, and from his knowledge of the highways and byways he
invariably manages to nick in at various points, and eventually brings
his craft safely into port without any casualties.

Of course for this he expects something handsome, and though he makes no
bargain he has got a way of returning thanks for any gift he deems
insufficient that shows plainly enough his opinion, and generally
extracts something in addition. To-day, by the time the hounds move off,
Jack has made quite a haul, for, being near the end of the season, men
have "remembered the Runner." He is in high feather, and what between
pleasure and the effects of the old ale, he is a little unsteady and
more garrulous than usual.

"Wheer to, Mayster Wilding?" he asks Tom, as he shoulders his pole and
swings it in close proximity to the Huntsman's head.

"Mind what you're a-doin' of, a-poking a fellow's eye out with that
thing. We're a goin' to draw the gorse first, but you'd better leave
that blessed article behind, or you'll be killing somebody," retorts
Tom, riding off, while Jack, with a laugh, swings off best pace towards
the first draw, and as soon as he arrives at the gorse places himself in
a commanding position to await the turn of events.

Just as the hounds are thrown in there is a bit of commotion down at the
other end, and a loose horse galloping past tells the tale of a
misfortune. Away goes Jack in hot chase, and manages to catch the
riderless steed in a trice. When he returns he finds it is Mr.
Betteridge, who, having trusted himself on a new purchase, has been fain
to dismount rather more hurriedly than he intended. However, no bones
are broken, and Jack, having added another bit of silver to his day's
earnings, betakes himself to where he had left his pole.

It is a quick find, and the fox breaks close by Mr. Whistler, who, as
soon as he sees him well away, gives vent to his feelings in a somewhat
beery view holloa, and then proceeds to follow as fast as he can. At the
bottom of the meadow, below the gorse, runs a broadish brook, and a good
many turn away for the road and bridge which spans the obstacle. On any
other occasion Jack would have done the same, but his failure in the
road and old Tom's laughter still rankles in his bosom, and as he runs
down towards the water he clutches his pole and says to himself: "I'll
show some on 'em as I ain't a-going to be second. I'll pound a few on
'em I'll bet. I do 'ope that old beggar Tom 'ull get a wet jacket."

As the hounds dash in and feather about on the other side, Tom and the
hard-riders pull up to see which way the line lies and whether the fox
is over or not. But Jack does not stop a moment, and with an exultant
shout of "Come on, gents, what are yer waiting for?" he jumps as far as
he can, and, holding his pole in a slanting position, plunges it in to
aid him in his journey over the water.

The pole touches the bottom and then sinks into about two feet of mud,
leaving Jack suspended in mid-air. A momentary pause, and with a "Rot
the thing!" the Runner disappears from view beneath the waters of the
brook, emerging on the other side half drowned and covered with black
slime, while the instrument of his misfortune remains erect in the
middle.

"I _thought_ you was a-going fishing," says Tom with a chuckle; as he
lands safe by the side of Jack, and then as he passes him to get to the
hounds: "You'd better take a few lessons from your pal Riley afore you
try again."

The rest of the spectators are nearly in a state of collapse with
laughter, both at the pitiable sight Jack presents as well as at the
murderous glances he casts at the pole; but hounds are running and there
is no time to lose, so the chase sweeps past and he is left alone in his
misery to make the best of his way home. As soon as Jack has scraped
himself a bit clean and wrung out his coat, he feels carefully in his
pockets to see if all his gains are safe; and finding everything right
in that respect he brightens up, and leaving his pole where it is, moves
off at a brisk jog-trot to the nearest public to _dry_ the outer and
_wet_ the inner man.

When next he appears at the door he shows evident signs that he has
accomplished the latter part of his purpose, for his course is anything
but straight, and after taking nearly an hour to do half a mile he
manages to stagger into a barn, where in a few moments he is "wrapt in
sweet slumber."

He is not, however, likely to take any harm from the proceeding, for he
is used to the sort of sleeping-place, and will turn out next morning--a
little red about the eyes perhaps--but ready to go any distance with the
hounds, and, what is more, equally ready for some more of the "hair of
the dog that bit him."

Passionately fond of hounds and hunting, he enjoys life thoroughly
during the winter, and lives on the fat of the land; but when what he
calls the "stinking violets and primroses" appear, things are not so
pleasant. "Othello's occupation gone," he has to fall back on odd jobs
and an occasional half-a-crown from Sir John or some of his friends,
and, failing these, may be generally found "at home" at the "red house,"
maybe better known as the "workus."

Vagabond he is, and vagabond he will remain. Nevertheless, there is many
a man who would be sorry to hear of anything serious happening to Jack
Whistler the Bullshire Runner.



THE MAN AT THE TOLL-BAR.


The greatest friend or enemy of John Pillings could hardly accuse him of
being either an over-sociable or too-genial individual. In fact, he has
earned throughout the length and breadth of the county the nickname of
"Ould Sulky," and is perhaps better known by that sobriquet than by the
more lawful patronymic bestowed upon him by his parents and his
godfather and godmother at his baptism.

This being the case, it may fairly be said that Pillings has at last
settled down into his proper place, and is one of the few instances of
the "round man in a round hole." He has not always been at the
toll-gate; on the contrary, his life has been somewhat varied, and he
has experienced a good many of the ups and downs of the world.

He began by being "bound 'prentice" to a carpenter, but his temper was
against him, and so when his time was up he took to the more active life
of a sailor.

Here again his enemy found him out, and he said good-bye to his
shipmates without much sorrow on their part. "'Bout as much use
a-talking to _him_ as a marlinspike. Mate yer calls him! Nasty sulky
beggar! In everybody's mess and nobody's watch," was the general verdict
of the men; so it was no wonder they were glad to see him go over the
side.

For the second time Mr. Pillings was in want of a job, and on this
occasion he took to butchering, which he thought might be more likely to
agree with his temperament. But in about two months he quarrelled with
his master, and after they had had it out in the slaughter-house
Pillings found himself once more in the world with three half-crowns in
his pocket, about ten pounds at the bank, and a pair of as beautiful
black eyes as one would wish to see, to say nothing of a nose three
times its proper size, and a good many teeth very shaky.

When he had got his countenance back to its pristine beauty he tried his
hand at The Red Cow as barman, and, strange to say, he managed to get on
in this capacity very well.

The Red Cow, it must be known, is an inn much frequented by the knights
of the pencil, so that Pillings, by keeping his ears open, and by a few
judicious investments, soon managed to make a nice little nest-egg for
himself; and having fallen a victim to the charms of the chambermaid, he
offered to share his fortune with her.

Unfortunately for him the lady was "willing," and in a few months became
Mrs. P., and shortly afterwards a mother.

The landlord of The Red Cow, on finding it out, was exceeding wroth,
and sent John and his spouse packing instanter, which, as may be
supposed, did not improve the man's temper or conduce to the domestic
happiness of his wife.

After various ups and downs too numerous to enter into, to make a long
story short, John Pillings, through the interest of a "friend at court,"
found himself installed at the gate-house, with nothing to do but open
the gate, take the toll, and occasionally vary the monotony of existence
by getting tipsy and belabouring his spouse. The latter event has become
more frequent of late years, as, unlike the generality of things, the
older he gets the _tighter_ he gets, and often people are surprised to
find the gate open and no one to take the money, "Old Sulky" being drunk
in bed, and his wife having taken refuge with a neighbour until her
husband is all right again.

When he is not in a hopeless condition he is as smart as needs be, and
a very 'cute man indeed it would have to be who could manage to evade
the toll while the Man at the Gate was on the look-out.

What Pillings likes best is, on a market morning to keep the gate shut,
and then when the farmers come hurrying up and shout: "Now then, gate;
hi! gate," he will turn out, look up and down the road, and go slowly up
to the tax-cart, or whatever the indignant individual may be in, and say
"Toll."

"Hang you; open the gate, and look sharp," is the probable reply, as the
money is handed down.

"Sha'n't go no quicker; ain't paid no more for looking sharp. If ye'r in
such a bloomin' hurry, open it yerself," says Pillings, as he slowly
unfastens the bolt and swings the gate back, laughing to himself as the
farmers, pouring imprecations on his head, dash through.

More than once has "Ould Sulky" been the object of such delicate
attentions as having his door nailed up, and twice has the toll-gate
been lifted off its hinges and carried bodily into the next parish. A
very short time ago a few adventurous spirits, coming home from the
market-town and finding the toll-gate open, stormed the gate-house,
where Pillings was lying dead-drunk upstairs, and lifting him into their
trap they carried him off to the nearest pound, where, having borrowed a
wheelbarrow, they left him for the night; and the next morning the
people of the village were astonished to see the keeper of the tollbar
reposing, _à la_ Pickwick, "drunk in a wheelbarrow."

John Pillings was perfectly furious, and did all he could to find out
with the aid of the police who the offenders were; but the matter coming
to the ears of Sir John Lappington in his capacity as chairman of the
bench of magistrates, he thought it best to give "Ould Sulky" a timely
hint that, unless he reformed, he would find himself again on the
world, and also recommended him strongly to give up searching for his
abductors.

Perhaps the Master's brother, Harold Lappington, having been the prime
mover in the freak, had as much to do with this sage counsel as Sir
John's magisterial capacity; but no matter how that is, suffice it that
Pillings dropped the subject like a hot potato, and fell back on his own
thoughts for comfort.

He says now: "I'll be even with them scamps some day, or my name ain't
Pillings. As soon as ever I finds out--and find 'em I will, police or no
police--I'll smash 'em; you see."

Old Tom and the Master he holds in great dread, and looks up to them
with as much veneration as his nature is capable of feeling. But for the
common herd, _alias_ the field, he has no respect, and often makes
himself exceedingly unpleasant to boot. If the hounds happen to run his
way, and the macadam brigade come galloping down the road, "Ould Sulky"
is out in a jiff, and bang goes the gate, while he stands in front and
utters the monosyllabic "Toll."

"Oh, all right, open the gate, the last man will pay," shouts someone.

"You'll only go through one at a time, and you'll each pay, or I'll know
the reason why. I've never found that last cove 'as any money along with
him," retaliates Pillings; and there he will stand taking each man's
money and fumbling about for the change, till all the luckless ones are
through and the hounds are well out of sight and hearing.

Then "Sulky" will retire to his den with a chuckle and put away the
money, muttering to himself: "Last chap 'ull pay! Likely as I'm going to
be took in a that 'uns. Don't fancy they'll see much of t' hounds again
anyhow."

Of course if Sir John or Tom happens to be there Pillings is civility
itself, and there is no question of first or last, for he knows it would
not do, and that if he were to play those sort of pranks with the Master
his place would not be worth an hour's purchase. As it is, he is often
hard put to it to find an excuse for his behaviour; but he somehow
manages to escape by the skin of his teeth, and from constant repetition
his performances are looked upon as a regular institution in the county.

It is, however, whispered abroad that another year will see a different
face at the gate, for even the most conservative of mortals is apt to
tire of John's rudeness, and so they are only waiting a favourable
opportunity in order to get rid of him altogether.

They have repeatedly tried to have the turnpike removed from the road,
and have pointed out the inconvenience and annoyance of the thing; but
hitherto their efforts have been of no avail, so now they have given it
up as a bad job, and have banded themselves together to catch out the
principal cause of the nuisance. If they are successful, and Pillings is
again out of employment, it will be a difficult matter with him to find
bread for himself and wife, for it is extremely doubtful whether anyone
in Bullshire would care to have so morose and drunken a servant about
their premises.

Perhaps after a month or two in the workhouse, he may turn over a new
leaf and so get some berth; but under existing circumstances, as old Tom
told him one day, if he loses his place he will have either to starve or
let himself out as a scarecrow at so much a-day. Therefore, for his own
sake, it is to be hoped next season he will improve his manners, and so
remain in the only position for which he is suited--to wit, the Man at
the Toll-bar.



WHO-WHOOP!


A bright warm morning in April, with just enough keenness in the air to
make one say to oneself: "There's a chance of a scent this morning."

A day on which that peculiar freshness of the new-born spring seems to
pervade everything. The buds on the roadside hedges, wet with a passing
shower, sparkle and glint in the sunshine, and the grass on the banks is
green and moist.

Even old Tom feels the effect of the glorious day, though he does
anathematise the "stinking violets" as he rides to the closing meet at
Fallow Field, and wonders "'ow in the name of all that's merciful t'
hounds can work in cover with the 'nation primroses a-coming out."

Still, he knows well that there has been such a thing before now as a
real "buster" in April, and he looks approvingly on the surroundings,
and mutters to himself that, "If t' sun wunna come out too strong, they
may be able to do summat arter all."

As the hounds move jauntily along, it is evident to the merest tyro that
their condition is as nearly perfect as can be, and that the wear and
tear of the past season has had but little effect on them. Indeed Tom is
quite ready to go on the whole year round if it were possible; and as
Harry rides after Belldame, whose spirits have got the better of her
discipline (an old hare in the hedgerow having proved irresistible), he
says: "Let t' ould bitch alone, Harry; 'er won't 'ave another chance
this year, more's the pity; they mun do as they're a-mind to-day--till
wa cum to business at all events."

So Belldame saves her bacon, and the old hare having got clean off, she
returns to her place looking somewhat crestfallen.

Everybody in the country is at Fallow Field--men on horses of all sorts,
shapes, and sizes. Even a donkey carries a living freight for the day,
and is transformed into a "perfect fencer." Vehicles of every
description are drawn up at the trysting-place, from the mail-phaeton
and pair of steppers to the more humble conveyance of the costermonger.

Those who can find nothing whereon they may ride are fain to turn out
afoot, but turn out they do in scores; and no wonder, for in a country
like Bullshire, where every man, woman, and child have the spirit of
sport strong upon them, each one is bound to see the last day of the
season, and if they cannot all hope to be in at the death, still they
can see the hounds find and go away, which is more than half the battle,
and will give food for conversation for many a week afterwards.

Of course all our old friends are there. The Parson and Doctor ride up
together, and receive quite an ovation from the foot-people; then
shortly afterwards the popular Secretary arrives, and causes the usual
commotion among the gentlemen in arrears with their subscriptions.

The Simmses have joined old Tom and the hounds on the road, and their
advent is the signal for a ringing cheer, which is quickly suppressed
when Sir John is seen cantering up with Harold, Mrs. Talford, and the
Colonel; the Major, with a heap more, bringing up the rear.

Of course the Major has a deal of fault to find with everything, as
usual; and, equally of course, the Boaster is spinning a yarn of his own
prowess, and endeavouring to impress Mr. Betteridge with the idea that
he is the only man of the hunt who has gone straight during the season.

Jack the Runner is making a good haul, and, were he provident, might be
able to lay by a little store to help through the summer; but, as we
know, he is exactly the reverse, and whatever he earns to-day will be
clean gone by the end of the week, if not before.

"Well, Tom," says the Parson, from the middle of the pack (he has
dismounted, and is surrounded by his favourites), "I suppose you won't
be sorry to give the horn a bit of rest, eh? What say you, Minstrel?"
turning to the old hound.

"Sorry, Master Halston; I shanna know what to do wi' mysen till wa begin
cubbing. It's allas the same, and t' hounds feel it just like I,"
replies Tom. "But never mind," he continues with a smile, "if so be as
you'll gie us a sermon now and again about fox-'unting, I make no doubt
we shall do."

"Well, Tom, I should be puzzled for a text, I think," rejoins the
Parson; "perhaps you will find one for me."

At which remark the bystanders smile, for old Tom is not a very regular
attendant; but the smile breaks into a loud peal of laughter when the
Huntsman retaliates as quick as thought by saying: "Ay, I wull; you
wunna have far to look. You can take for the first Sunday, 'Many dogs
a-cum about me;' and then for the next week, as a wind-up, you can give
us 'The fat bulls of Bashan,' and say what a murdering nuisance they was
a-crossing the line." And with a "Coop, coom away, hounds," he rides
away, having scored one most emphatically.

At this juncture Sir John, having pulled out his watch, gives the
signal, and away they trot to the first draw, which unfortunately proves
a blank, as does the next, whereat Tom's soul waxeth wroth, and for five
minutes the vengeance of the gods is called down on the "stinking
violets," and other articles which in his opinion militate against the
scent.

The third essay seems likely for a long time to be as unproductive as
the two former, when suddenly a whimper from Ranter, backed up by
Harbinger, sends a thrill through the veins of the eager field.

Tom is all life in a moment, and his "'Ave at 'im. Eugh, 'ave at 'im!
Eugh, boys!" rings out clear and shrill.

Not so shrill, though, as Charles's "Tally-ho! gone awa-a-y! awa-a-a-y!"
which comes pealing through the trees from the bottom end, while the
pack, catching it up, ring out a chorus that would waken the dead.

"Hounds, please, hounds! Hold hard, gentlemen!" roars Sir John to some
of the too enthusiastic fire-eaters as they gallop down the squashy
ride, vainly endeavouring to get ahead of Tom, who, with white hair
flying in the breeze, is vigorously cheering his hounds on to the line,
occasionally giving them a chink of music to dance to.

At last the wood is cleared, and the pack are streaming over the grass.
Nearly everybody has got a good start, and each man, knowing it is his
last day, rides his best.

Mrs. Talford, as usual, is going along to the fore, second to none; and
Mr. Halston is determined that if the "fat bulls" do cross the line, he
at all events will be well enough up to note the exact spot where the
catastrophe occurred.

Falls are plentiful, for the pace is hot, and the weather being of the
same temperature, horses are soon, as Tom says, "all a muck o' sweat,"
and find the fencing no light matter.

However, "For'ard on" they race, and for five-and-thirty minutes without
a check, till they throw up suddenly by a thick ivy-grown hedge.

"By Guy," says Tom, as he makes his cast and mops his face with a large
red silk bandana, "by Guy, it's warm, and no mistak'." Then after a bit,
as the hounds seem quite at sea: "Dashed if the varmint 'ain't melted."

Not quite. He has only run the hedge right along the top of the ivy till
he came to the cross-fence, and then jumping down has set his head
straight for Woodborough; and Minstrel, casting on his own account, hits
off the spot where he landed on terra-firma, and in loud tones
proclaims it to the world in general and his companions in particular.

At it again they are in a crack, and the welcome check having allowed a
chance of getting "second wind," the field are all well up and as merry
as crickets. Soon, however, the pace begins to tell, and the "tailing"
is terrible; as they go on each successive ditch holds a victim, and the
flyers of the hunt are all forced to take a pull.

The best of the horses are beginning to sob, and old Tom has serious
misgivings about having to finish the run afoot. But it's a long lane
that has no turning, and two fields ahead the fox is seen crawling along
dead beat. The hounds run from scent to view, then comes a last final
rush.

A confused mass, a worry, and then Tom's "Who-whoop! who-whoop!" is
heard a mile back, and tells those struggling in the wake that the
gallant pack have run into their fox, and that the Bullshire hounds
have finished their season with a rattling run ending in a kill.

As the word "Home" is given by Sir John, and old Tom rides off amid the
congratulations of all who have managed to get to the end, he casts a
look of pride at his darlings clustered round him, and mutters: "Ay, bad
luck to it; it's 'Who-whoop' till next season."



THE FIRST OF THE SEASON.


     Old friends are all meeting and gathered together
     In batches, discussing the crops and the weather;
     It has been a hard struggle for some with the rent,
     But their troubles grow light as the talk turns on scent.

     The landlord and tenant, the farmer and squire,
     Have all had to suffer and pocket their ire,
     At the sun's fitful gleam and the rain's ceaseless pour;
     But they meet in good fellowship round the inn-door.

     Their thoughts are all bent upon horses and hounds,
     For shortly the covert will echo with sounds,
     As the eager pack top the wood-fence with a crash,
     The young entry all bustle and brimful of dash.

     Now see to your girths if you mean to be there.
     Old Tom looks like business; his hand's in the air.
     A whimper--a chorus--hark, holloa! they've found,
     And his old mare pops over the rails with a bound.

     Away fling that weed, catch your horse by the head,
     He's young, and he's hot, but he's clean thoroughbred;
     Don't rush at the timber or else you'll be down.
     Let him see what's before him--he'll jump o'er a town.

     They are over the brook, which is bankful, I swear;
     See, yonder they go with their sterns in the air.
     There's young Flyaway in, and, by Jove, what a cropper!
     Ah, the others won't have it--I thought 'twas a stopper.

     Thank goodness, they're checked by that herd of Scotch kine.
     But, hark for'ard, old Minstrel has hit off the line.
     There'll be "bellows to mend" if this goes on, I fear,
     For the pace is too hot for the first of the year.

     Down the meadow--they view--see the hounds how they tear!
     They have him! Who-whoop! And the field are all--where?
     Here we come. Scarce a coat but betokens a fall,
     But who-whoop! what a cracker to open the ball!


MORAL.


     Fox-hunting and fellowship go hand in hand,
     And a true sporting mind by a friend's sure to stand;
     So let each drain a bumper nor think it high treason
     To follow The Queen with "The First of the Season."

     The bond of good feeling is found in the field;
     As the Squire meets the Farmer the compact is sealed.
     And each vows, as the moments flit merrily by,
     The world has no music like hounds in full cry.



UNCLE JOHN'S NEW HORSE.


A letter I found on my table, addressed to Edward Milford, Esq., Duke
Street, St. James's, which, being my name and address, I took the
liberty of opening, reminded me of the fact that I was engaged to my
uncle for the Christmas holidays.

It ran as follows:


     "The Grange, Slopton.

     "MY BOY,

     "You are booked to us for Christmas, so don't fail. It is to be ten
     days this time, and no telegram 'on important business' to call you
     away, as, if I remember right, was the case on your last visit.
     There are many attractions here, or will be by the time you arrive.
     First, myself; secondly, a new horse, which you will have the
     pleasure of trying for me; and, thirdly, your cousin Grace. There
     are a few pheasants, and, besides, some of the old port. You will
     find a hearty welcome from your affectionate

     "UNCLE JOHN."


Uncle John (whose surname was Dawson) was the sole surviving relation
from whom I had any expectations. He was my mother's brother, and on the
death of both my parents had been left my guardian. He had never
married; but about the same time that he undertook to train me in the
path in which I should go, he had adopted the orphan child of his
brother, and it was almost an understood thing that his property would,
at his demise, be equally divided between myself and Grace Dawson, the
lady referred to in his letter as cousin Grace.

A thorough sportsman of the old school, whose creed lay in horse,
hound, and hospitality, he made The Grange as pleasant a place to stop
at as one could well find. But there was (as there is in every
enjoyment) one drawback--to me at least--and that lay in the "new
horse."

My worthy uncle, excellent rider as he was, happened to be the worst
judge of a horse in the world, and was always picking up wonderful
bargains which, unfortunately, he insisted on my trying for him. How it
is that I have hitherto escaped with an unbroken neck I cannot say; for
there is scarcely any circus-rider in the United Kingdom who dare lay
claim to more double somersaults, and I might almost say that I am an
expert at flying in all its branches.

However, nothing venture nothing have; and I was not going to quarrel
with Uncle John through any fear of Uncle John's new horse, besides the
attraction of cousin Grace. So I sent an answer accepting the
invitation, and giving the train by which I should arrive.

It was a cold cheerless afternoon when, having wrapped myself up in my
railway-rug, I selected a regalia reina and proceeded to settle myself
in the space allotted to me by a magnanimous railway company in a
smoking carriage attached to the 3.50 P.M. to Slopton.

There are three things that, when travelling, invariably strike me as
peculiar; and which I am forced to put down either to the perversity of
human nature or the desire not to give too much comfort for the money.

First: Why is it that the examination of tickets never takes place until
nearly the last moment, when one is well wrapped up and settled--the
finding of the required piece of cardboard entailing an undoing of the
whole arrangement, a search through an infinity of pockets, a loss of
temper, a letting in of much cold air, and, to wind up, the almost
positive certainty that, having worked oneself into a fever because the
blessed article is not forthcoming, one suddenly remembers that, with a
chuckle at one's own 'cuteness and in order not to be disturbed, it had
been slipped into the band of one's hat, where it had been staring an
idiotic examiner in the face for fully five minutes, he pretending all
the while not to have seen it?

Secondly: Why, just as you have recovered from the effects of the
official visit and have rearranged yourself with, perhaps, your feet on
the opposite cushion, if the door opens and another passenger gets in,
should he be certain to choose the very seat where you have deposited
your legs, notwithstanding that there may be three or four other vacant
places, and that by sitting opposite he inflicts the maximum of
discomfort on both?

Thirdly: Why is it that the carriages are built with a projection,
whereupon you are supposed to recline your head if disposed to sleep,
but to effect which purpose you must perforce sit bolt upright, the said
projection invariably being, for ordinary mortals, some four inches too
high?

And why, if either you yourself or your next-door neighbour, neglect to
assume the rigid and perpendicular position necessary, but venture to
fall asleep in a more comfortable posture, should it be very long odds
that you find yourself reposing peacefully on his shirt-front, or
vice-versa?

Before I had arrived at any solution of these phenomena, the train ran
into Crosby Junction, and, together with a foot-warmer--which, so far as
I could make out, was filled with cold water--there entered a portly
individual, whose vocation was plainly stamped on his garments--to wit,
a horse-dealer.

After the lapse of a few minutes, during which time the portly one kept
the door open, he was joined by another member of the fraternity, who,
from the likeness between them, was evidently his son. After we had
started again, the father began the conversation by saying to his son:
"Jim, I wonder how the old gent likes his horse," at which the youth
allowed a smile to steal over his face, and remarked sententiously:
"Lucky you got the money down, dad."

Who, I wondered, was the old gent? Somebody else's "Uncle John" perhaps,
I thought, and began to reflect on the possibility of his having a
nephew to risk his neck over doubtful purchases. I felt a curiosity on
the subject, as I knew most of the inhabitants of the country we were
approaching, and made up my mind to try and find out.

So turning to the elder I said: "I see, sir" (it is always "Sir" in a
first-class, "Mister" in a second, and "Mayster" in a third, I have
noticed), "that you know something about horses, and, being a stranger
in this country, I should be extremely glad if you could tell me where I
am likely to pick up a couple or three at a reasonable price. I have a
commission to buy three hunters for a friend in London, and am going
down to a place called The Grange, to look at one belonging to a
Mr.--Dawson I think is the name; but I should be glad to hear of two
others. By-the-way, do you know what sort of cattle Mr. Dawson keeps?"

As I concluded my speech, which I thought decidedly artful, I saw father
and son exchange significant glances, and then my portly friend replied:

"Well, sir, you've come to the right shop for what you want. I have
three of the very best you ever clapped your eyes on. If you will favour
me with a call to-morrow or the next day we might do business. Though I
must tell you that I am a one-price man, and keep none but the best.
Perhaps, sir, you would take my card," and he presented for my
inspection a highly-glazed piece of pasteboard, whereon was imprinted

     +-----------------------------------+
     |                                   |
     | JOSIAH BELL & SON,                |
     |      COMMISSION STABLES,          |
     |            _102, Bridge Street,   |
     |                         Muxford_. |
     |                                   |
     | _Hacks, Hunters, Harness._        |
     +-----------------------------------+

When he saw that I had digested the contents and had transferred the
card to my pocket, he continued in a more confidential tone: "I'll give
you a little bit of advice, sir. Don't be too sweet on Mr. Dawson's
horse; I know he has one for sale which he bought up in town, a rare
good 'un to look at, but a regular beast. If he takes it into his head
he will do nothing but stand still and kick, and if he can't shift you
at that he'll lie down and roll. Poor old gentleman, he was awful took
in over it! He should have come to me. You can't mistake the 'oss, it's
a big upstanding bay with a white stocking on the near fore. But here's
Muxford, so I'll wish you good-day, and 'opes to see you to-morrow or
the next day. If I ain't at home my son here will show you the nags;"
and he got down.

Just before the train moved on again, however, he came to the window and
said, "Don't you buy the bay 'oss on no account."

It was not hard to put, in this instance, two and two together, and when
we arrived at Slopton I had quite made up my mind where the "new horse"
had been bought. On getting out of the train I was nearly deposited
under the wheels by a vigorous slap, administered in the centre of my
back, coupled with the remark: "Why, my lad, you look like a Polar bear
in that ulster. It isn't cold. How are you?"

Having recovered my equilibrium, I turned round and encountered the
jovial face of Uncle John, whose nose, however, belied his speech anent
the weather, for it was glistening red, like the sun through a London
fog.

"I'm all right, uncle," I replied; "I can see you are. How are they all
at The Grange?"

"Fit as fiddles," responded my guardian. "Grace is outside in the
carriage, so get your traps together and let's be off. By-the-bye, I
have such a grand new horse for you to try. You shall ride him on
Tuesday, when the hounds meet at Abbot's Hill. A big upstanding bay;
such a beauty! Got him dirt cheap; but there, I'll tell you all about
him when we get home."

"Has he got a white stocking on the near fore?" I asked.

"Yes; how the deuce did you know, I wonder?" queried my uncle. "But look
sharp with those things: you take as long collecting your traps as a fox
does to leave a big wood."

"Alas, poor me!" I thought. "It is Mr. Bell's horse;" and I went out to
see cousin Grace with anything but a feeling of "pleasures to come." The
sight of her dear face and the warmth of her greeting, however, soon
made me forget all about the white stocking, and the journey home was
passed in questions asked and answers given. She told me that on the
morrow the remainder of the party were expected down, among them old
Lady Ventnor and her son Lord Ventnor, a young gentleman who gave
himself considerable airs on the strength of his title, and for whom I
had an intense dislike, owing perhaps in a great measure to an idea that
he had designs on Grace's affections, which, although I had never
hinted a word of love to her, caused me more uneasiness than I liked to
say.

As a set-off against this (to me) obnoxious element, my old
school-fellow and almost brother, Jack Fisher, was already in the house,
together with his sister, who was A1 whether across country or in a
ball-room, and the life and soul of any house she might be staying in.

Old "young ladies" no doubt used to shake their heads and say, in their
jealousy, that she was "so fast;" but a better girl, in every sense of
the word, than Lettie Fisher did not exist, despite her boisterous
spirits and reckless daring.

Naturally when we arrived at The Grange Jack and I had lots to talk
over--old days, old sayings, and old friends; and in the smoking-room,
when Uncle John, seated in his favourite armchair, with a long
churchwarden, fast colouring from constant usage, in his hand,
endeavoured to inflict on us a detailed description of the big
upstanding bay, we simply refused to listen to him, and I told him I
would prefer to form my judgment from actual experience.

Next day the rest of the guests arrived, and I had the pleasure of
seeing young Ventnor doing his little best to ingratiate himself with my
cousin. I am afraid that my manner showed that something was wrong, for
after dinner in the drawing-room Grace, having for a moment freed
herself from his lordship's attentions, came across to where I was
sitting moodily contemplating the piano, and said:

"What is the matter, Ned? You look as cross as two sticks. Everyone will
think you have committed a murder if you go on staring into vacancy.
Ventnor says you would make a beautiful Hamlet."

"Very likely," I retorted. "I was just then thinking with the Prince of
Denmark that some of Nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so abominably. Tell Ventnor I am highly
flattered by his opinion of me as a representative of the Dane."

Grace only raised her eyebrows and left me to my thoughts, which were
interrupted by the arrival of the butler, who informed Uncle John that
the stud-groom was waiting for orders about the morrow.

My Uncle, who had gone to sleep over his paper and was still in the land
of dreams, astonished us all by saying: "No more, thanks; not a drop
more. Excellent claret, but no more, thank you."

However, the roar of laughter thoroughly awoke him, and he proceeded to
tell us off to our respective mounts. Of course it fell to my lot to
ride the "new horse." Ventnor had brought his nags with him. Jack and
his sister were to ride The Drake and Topthorn, two of the best hunters
in the country, while Grace had her own mare Kitty, Uncle John reserving
to himself his favourite animal Corkscrew, so called from his ability to
bore through any bullfinch in the world.

Having arranged these matters, candles were lighted and we all
retired--the ladies to bed and the men to the land of tobacco and long
tumblers.

"Are you nearly ready, Ned? It's a a lovely day," said Jack, as he
rushed into my room on the following morning to borrow a razor (Jack had
a way of borrowing razors, and a most inconvenient habit of forgetting
to return them). "Tell you what it is, if I were you I should take
plenty of sticking-plaster in my pocket, and, if you have any, a bandage
or two, for James (the footman) has been gratifying me with an account
of your mount for to-day. He says no one can ride the beast if it takes
it into its head to be obstinate, and that it has nearly reduced one of
the helpers to a wafer by going down with him at exercise and rolling
over with him."

"Well," I replied, "you are a nice sort of Job's comforter. Here, drop
it," as Jack seized my razor. "Do, for goodness' sake, go and get one of
Ventnor's."

But he turned a deaf ear, and, making good his retreat, left me to
struggle into my boots, and reflect on the pleasures of the chase before
me.

When I arrived downstairs I found everyone assembled at breakfast in
full hunting fig, and Uncle John sticking up for his new purchase,
utterly refusing to believe Jack's history of the brute's manners.

"Ah Ned," said he, as I entered the room, "they are all trying to put me
out of conceit with my nag, but you will show them a different story;
even if he is a little awkward--which, mind you, boy, I don't
believe--he will find his master to-day, eh?"

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the incorrigible Jack, rising, "I venture
to propose a toast, with which I am sure you will all agree--ahem! The
toast is that of my esteemed friend Mr. Edward Milford, who is about to
be created Master of the Rolls."

Shouts of laughter greeted this sally from all except Grace, who
remarked: "I think it is a great shame to chaff my cousin, and if there
is any accident you will all be sorry."

I thanked the dear girl by a look, and turned my attention to
pigeon-pie, ignoring Ventnor's question as to "Whether I did not feel
too nervous to eat?"

Ten o'clock saw us under weigh, and strangely enough the big upstanding
bay was on his best behaviour, and walked along by the side of Kitty
most sedately--a circumstance which Ventnor, who hoped to monopolise
Grace, did not seem particularly thankful for.

Arriving at the meet in good time, I found myself in the midst of a host
of old friends, who admired my horse, and said he looked all over like
going. The first draw from Abbots Hill was a cover called "The Rough,"
and it was noted for being a very nasty one to get a start from, as
there were only two ways to choose, either through a boggy hunting
gateway at the corner, which was always kept closed until the fox was
away, or over a rasping great fence, with a ditch fully ten feet broad
on the far side, which was, to say the least of it, not an inviting
object to commence with.

Knowing the topography of the land, I slipped down to the gate as the
hounds were thrown in, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing a fine
old fox steal away and make across the long grass-field on the other
side of "The Rough." Giving him a few moments to make good his
departure, I holloed, and down came the whole field pounding away for
the gate.

Directly my uncle's steed heard them coming he began his tricks by
shooting up straight on end. A crack between the ears with my crop, and
a gentle reminder of both spurs as he came down fully roused his temper,
and, placing himself across the gateway, he started to kick in a way I
should never have believed possible. With his head (notwithstanding all
I could do) nearly touching the ground, he pirouetted round in a circle,
lashing out viciously the whole time, and rendering it perfectly
impossible for anyone to pass.

A few adventurous spirits charged the fence, but the majority of the
field were kept back, and seeing that hounds were running hard with a
burning scent, blessings (or the reverse) fell fast and thick on my
devoted head.

At last, after I had thrashed him till my arm ached, and tried
everything I could think of to induce him to shift his ground, the brute
played his trump card, and down he went as if he had been shot, rolling
over into the ditch, where he lay, and sending me flying well into the
middle of the boggiest place, but fortunately clear of himself, so that
I escaped without personal injury.

Covered with mud, and my hat squashed flat, I presented a pretty picture
as I picked myself up and scrambled out of the way to allow the more
fortunate sportsmen a means of egress, which they were not slow to take
advantage of.

Grace, riding through, pulled up on the other side, and asked me, with
some concern, if I was hurt.

"Not a bit," I said; "go on, I am all right, only take care of
yourself."

"Don't get on that brute's back again, dear boy," shouted Uncle John.
"It has frightened me out of my life. I thought you were going to be
killed."

"Never mind me, Uncle, you will lose the hounds if you wait here; get
for'ard and see after Grace; I will get this beast home," I replied;
and, beckoning to two labourers who were standing gazing at the
prostrate form of the "upstanding" one, I sent for a cart-horse and
ropes, and we soon had him out of the ditch and standing, thoroughly
subdued, in the field.

The saddletree I found smashed, and the stirrup-iron crumpled up, so
there was no use in trying to go on. The horse was not damaged, luckily,
with the exception of some hair off; but I had to lead the brute four
miles home, and had had quite enough of it by the time I reached The
Grange.

"Good Lord, sir, you are in a mess!" remarked the stud-groom; "I was
afraid there would be summat happen. He is a nasty one; why, I rode him
myself the other mornin' into the village, and he played me the very
identical caper, just before you come to the bridge. He wouldn't pass
that there duck-pond by the pub., and when he went down, as near as a
toucher put me into the water. The lads do tell me as nothing will make
him go by there now. Ah, master should a listened to me, and not go
a-buying nags from a pair of copers like them Bells of Muxford."

"Oh," I said, "he came from Bell's, did he? I thought so;" and I
recounted my conversation in the train.

When the rest returned of course they had had a capital day, and I (as
is usual in these cases) had to stand the brunt of many condolences and
much sympathy with my bad luck. I bore it for some time, but a climax
came at dinner. Everybody, Uncle John included, had been vilifying the
new purchase, when young Ventnor broke in with affected drawl, saying:
"Ah, yes, but a fellah, you know, should not ride such a horse unless he
knows how to prevent him rolling. It ain't safe--ah--you know."

Grace flew up in arms in a moment, and, with her eyes flashing with
anger, said: "I do not believe, Lord Ventnor, that you or any man could
have prevented the horse rolling. My cousin Ned can ride as well as most
men, and" (here came the unkindest cut of all) "anyhow I do not think
_he_ would have turned away from Cleasby brook."

Then, catching my eye, she stopped short, and blushing crimson betrayed
her secret, for I knew in that moment that she cared for me, and that I
had nothing to fear from fifty Ventnors.

Uncle John, seeing how the land lay, said: "Well, Ventnor, if you are so
confident that my nephew ought to have done better you shall have a
chance of showing him how, for you shall ride the horse to-morrow if you
like."

Ventnor was about to reply, when Grace gave the signal for the ladies to
retire, and as soon as they had gone and we had drawn round the fire,
Jack turned to his lordship and spoke up as follows:

"If you ride the bay to-morrow, I'll bet you ten sovereigns he puts you
down."

"Oh yes, I'll--ah--ride him, and take your bet, Fisher," replied
Ventnor.

"I'll do more than that," said I; "I'll lay you fifty pounds to thirty
that you do not ride from this door to the village and back in half an
hour; it's under a mile, so you have ample time."

"Ah--done," quoth the young gentleman; and the bets were promptly
booked, the time being fixed for the start at 10 A.M.

Next morning everybody, from my Uncle down to the boy who cleaned the
knives, turned out to see Lord Ventnor give me a lesson in riding.
Jack, Lettie, and Grace I had let into the secret of the duck-pond, and
thither we repaired to see the fun. In a few moments along the road came
Ventnor with a sort of I-told-you-how-it-would-be smile on his face.

A snort--a full stop--down went the bay's head, and up went his heels.

"Mind he doesn't roll with you, or it will cost you forty pounds,"
shouted Jack, and "Look out, man," as the animal's forelegs began to
tremble.

Nearer and nearer the pond they got, when all of a sudden down dropped
the new horse, Ventnor jumping off as he fell; but unfortunately for
himself he caught his near spur in the saddle as the animal turned over,
and with an "Oh!" from the two girls, we saw him disappear head first
into the pond, while the "white stocking" made tracks homeward as hard
as he could go.

"My dear sir," said Jack, as we pulled the dripping lord out of the
pond, "a fellah, you know, should not ride unless he knows how to
prevent a horse rolling; it isn't safe, you know."

This was too much for both Grace and Lettie, and they were forced to
retire in order to hide their laughter. Ventnor was so angry that he
would not speak, and he paid us our money with a very bad grace the same
evening. However, it taught him a lesson that it will take him years to
forget.

I told Uncle John after this of my meeting in the train with the Messrs.
Bell, and he decided at once to send the brute up to Aldridge's, where
the fine upstanding bay fetched exactly twenty-five guineas, and was
dear at that.

On Christmas Eve I ventured to ask Grace for a Christmas present, to
wit, herself, and as Jack, who was my best man, said at the wedding
breakfast: "Though the mount was not a pleasant one, still as it was
instrumental in obtaining for me my wife, I had no right to be too hard
on Uncle John's New Horse."



THE HOG-BACKED STILE.



CHAPTER I.

COMING EVENTS.


Towards the middle of December, 1878, a dog-cart might have been seen
standing outside the small station of Newcome, in Slopshire. There was
nothing particularly remarkable about the turn-out--a goodish-looking
animal in the shafts and a certain air of neatness stamped it as
belonging to a gentleman, but beyond that there was no particular
feature to attract attention. No gaudy red wheels, nothing dazzling in
the way of "picking out;" simply an ordinary dog-cart, which had come
down from Belton Hall to meet the 5.35 train from London.

Belton Hall, an old Elizabethan mansion, belonged to the Vivians, was
inhabited by Colonel George Vivian and his daughter Mildred, and they
were expecting two visitors, who had been asked to the Hall for
Christmas and hunting--one, Jack Vivian, the Colonel's nephew; the
other, a Mr. Thomas Simpson, who was known to the world in general to be
following that calling which covers a multitude of sins, which means so
much yet expresses so little, viz. "something in the City."

Colonel Vivian was as keen a sportsman and as good a man to hounds as
there was in Slopshire, and his daughter followed closely in his
footsteps--too closely sometimes, for on one occasion, when the Colonel
came down at a stiffish stake-and-bound fence, Mildred, unable to stop
in time, jumped right on the top of him, her horse's near hind-foot
going slap through the crown of his new hat, which luckily did not at
the moment contain her father's head.

Belton was therefore a certain find, and the Master, knowing this,
always had a fixture there in the Christmas week.

Both Mildred and her father were too apt to gauge a man by his powers of
getting over a country, and woe betide any unfortunate individual who
had been seen to exhibit any--well, I will say hesitation--when hounds
were running. If he happened to be staying at the Hall, he was chaffed
most unmercifully, and under any other circumstances he was immediately
set down in the mental tablets of the Vivians as a man who was not worth
knowing.

There was but little fear of Jack not coming up to the mark in the way
of riding, for, born and brought up in the country, his first
recollections were associated with hounds, and his earliest lessons
comprised "the run of a fox." Of late years he had not been able to hunt
as much as he would have liked, for there were two fatal objections in
his way--want of time and want of money.

Jack Vivian was a barrister, and a hard-working one withal. He had got
his foot on the second rung of the ladder of success and meant going
upwards; therefore he had little time for play, and but a small balance
of spare cash; so it was only now and again that he could snatch a brief
holiday, and, finding neck and spurs against a friend's horse, engage in
his favourite pursuit. Notwithstanding this, there were few men who
would care to back themselves against Jack across country, and there was
probably not one (old Jim the Huntsman excepted) who knew more about a
fox or what hounds were doing.

Mr. Simpson, on the other hand, was rolling in wealth, and as his
"something in the City" did not occupy much of his time, he tried in
every way to assume the appearance of a country gentleman, and to be
considered a modern Nimrod.

Somehow, though, his three hundred-guinea hunters did not carry Mr.
Simpson to the end, and it was marvellous the extraordinary and
unforeseen obstacles that had prevented his appearance at the death.

Rivers suddenly had sprung up where none had been known before, and
six-foot posts and rails, with broad double ditches, had caused Mr.
Simpson alone to tarry on his course. In other words he was an arrant
"funk," though of course he would not have acknowledged the soft
impeachment.

It was, as you may think, very odd that such a man should be the guest
of so ardent a sportsman as the owner of Belton, but it happened thus.
The previous year the Colonel and his daughter were staying in
Leicestershire, and at a friend's house they met Mr. Simpson. So taken
up with admiring his horses was the Colonel that he either omitted to
look at the owner, or else invested him with a halo which was the
overflow of the equine worship.

Besides, open house, hunters five days a week for himself and daughter,
and a large establishment, were not to be maintained for nothing; and
the Colonel, in the matter of £ s. d., was a remarkably practical man,
and had no objection to the possibility of a rich son-in-law, even
though he might be "in the City."

Therefore, for Christmas week, Simpson and his horses were offered bed
and board at Belton; and already, in his own mind, had Mr. S. drawn up a
deed of partnership, with Miss Vivian as the Co., for he had been
completely knocked out of time at the first sight of Mildred, and had
fallen head over ears in--what he was pleased to call--love. What his
chances of success were may be gathered from the following conversation,
which took place in the drawing-room after the dog-cart had gone down to
the station.

Mildred--it was a non-hunting day--was seated in a low easy-chair,
occupied with five-o'clock tea, and by her side, on a cushion, reclined
her cousin Ethel, a young girl of sixteen, while opposite was the Rev.
Mr. Wilton, the clergyman of the place--one of the old school of
sporting parsons, who was good for a fast twenty minutes either in the
field or the pulpit; and though he had, for fifty odd years, hunted
regularly four days a-week, there was not a man, woman, or child in the
parish whose every trouble was not known to him, and there was not one
of them who would not willingly have given up everything to help their
idol, "t' owd parson."

With his back to the fire stood the Colonel, engaged in conversation
with Florence Wingfield, sister to the expected Jack. She was staying in
the house with her husband, Captain Tom Wingfield, of the 23rd Hussars,
who at this moment was trying a new purchase by riding over to the
kennels, some ten miles away.

"Which room has Mr. Simpson got, Milly?" said the Colonel suddenly.

"The best bachelor's room, papa," replied the young lady; "I put him
there because I thought the gorgeous pattern of the new carpet you chose
would suit his taste, and I have hung up some of those old sporting
prints for him to take a lesson from."

"And what room has Jack got?" continued the Colonel, not best pleased at
the impression his intended guest had produced on his daughter.

"Oh, dear old Jack has, of course, his own room. Florence arranged it
just as it used to be, and before tea came I saw the fire was all
right."

"I suppose you did not happen to see if Mr. Simpson's fire was all
right, Mildred?" said Mr. Wilton, with a sly twinkle in his eye.

"No; Ethel did that," she replied, laughing; "besides, with that red
face he can't be cold."

"Milly, never judge by appearances," interrupted Mrs. Wingfield, who
saw by her uncle's face that the conversation was not particularly
agreeable to him. Woman-like, she had read him like a book; and, though
willing to keep the peace, she had long ago made up her mind that
Mildred was to be her brother's wife or an old maid--_aut Cæsar aut
nihil_; and having settled this, she set herself down to carry out her
plans.

"Who is talking about judging by appearances?" put in a manly voice, as
Tom Wingfield, somewhat muddy of coat, walked into the room.

"I was," said his wife. "I was telling Milly not to judge by
appearances, for I thought you a nice fellow once, and--ahem!--I was
taken in by your appearance."

"All right, Mrs. Impudence," retorted Tom; "no hunting for you. I
thought I had two beautiful ladies' hunters, but I was deceived by
appearances. Anyhow, let me have a cup of tea. I have given my new nag a
lesson he won't forget. He refused that fence out of the road by the
windmill, and put me down twice; then tried to bolt for Paradise Hill,
but after a fight we got on terms, and he goes like an angel now."

"I must make a note of that, Wingfield," interrupted Mr. Wilton. "It is
a curious coincidence of an animal being stopped on its way to Paradise,
yet suddenly becoming an angel."

"Capital text for next Sunday, Wilton," said the Colonel. "But hark! I
hear the dog-cart, and here they come round the corner of the drive."

"Oh Lord!" ejaculates Tom; "can anyone tell me how gray shirtings are?
Must talk to a man who is in the City about shirtings or backwardations,
you know. I'll ask Jack what he gave for his flannel shirts."

Amid the shouts of laughter which followed this sally the door opened,
and the butler announced: "Mr. Simpson and Master Jack."



CHAPTER II.

OF THE CITY CIVIC.


"Delighted to see you, Mr. Simpson," said the Colonel, taking that
gentleman's somewhat flabby hand, and introducing him to the others in
turn. "Ah Jack, my boy, how are you? I have such a horse for you; but no
spurs allowed, mind."

"All right, uncle," replied Jack, coming to the fire; "I'll remember.
But how are you all? Florence, you are getting most abominably fat. Why,
Milly, ain't you going to say How do you do to me?--not that way," as
Mildred put out her hand. "I ask you, is that the way to welcome your
long-lost cousin? Come to my arms"--a proceeding that he promptly tried
to put into force, and had he not stumbled head over heels over Ethel,
who from her position on the ground he had not noticed, would have
succeeded in his endeavour.

As it was, like a drowning man, he clutched at the first thing that came
to hand, which, happening to be Simpson's coat-tail, brought that worthy
gentleman down with him, and cut short the polite little speech he was
about to address to Mildred.

It was rather hard lines on the unfortunate individual, for all the way
down in the train he had been (when Jack's eye was not upon him)
rehearsing it, and now it was lost for ever.

"I beg your ten thousand pardons, Simpson," said Jack, struggling to his
feet. "Why, it's Ethel. What on earth do you go and curl yourself up
like a fox-terrier on the hearthrug for, and make people do these
pantomime tricks over you? You nearly were the death of two of Her
Majesty's most esteemed subjects."

"Heavy fall in shirtings," whispered the irrepressible Tom to Mildred,
who was obliged to go out of the room, ostensibly to see the
housekeeper, but in reality to hide her laughter.

"Not hurt, I hope?" asked the Colonel.

"No--ah--Colonel Vivian, I thank you; but I must apologise to Miss
Vivian. It must have astonished her. Ah, she is gone," said Simpson, who
was, if possible, of a more rosy hue than ever.

"Oh, Mildred's all right," put in Jack; "it's not the first time she has
seen a man down by many a hundred, nor will it be the last if hounds run
to-morrow. Which is my room, uncle? I'll show Simpson his too. It's
nearly time to dress."

"You are in your old quarters, Jack, and Mr. Simpson is in the
bachelor's room, which, I hope, he will find comfortable," said his
uncle.

"Come on then, Simpson; I'll take you to your diggings, and then I'll go
and see Phillips the stud-groom, and tell him to show your man where to
put himself and his horses too," continued Jack, and out they went.

"What a ridiculous _contretemps_!" said Florence as the door closed. "I
never saw anything half so funny as Mr. Simpson's face. My dear Ethel, I
thought I should have died."

"I thought I should have been smothered," replied Ethel. "I shall never
be able to look Mr. Simpson in the face again."

Mr. Wilton, who had hitherto been a silent spectator, here interrupted
with "I am afraid the gentleman is not in the same happy state as
Wingfield's horse, for I distinctly heard him as he fell utter a most
unangelic word beginning with a D."

"A falling angel can't be particular," said Tom. "What do you say,
Colonel?"

"I say that it's very wrong of you to make fun of our guest, and that if
you don't go to dress at once you will be all late for dinner;" with
which the master of the house walked out of the room followed by the
rest.

At seven o'clock the whole party were reassembled in the drawing-room.
Mr. Simpson, in all the consciousness of a spotless shirt in which
blazed an elaborate diamond stud the size of a sixpenny piece, was
trying to make himself agreeable to Mildred, while Jack was in a deep
discussion with Tom and his uncle over the prospects of the season, and
listening to the accounts of past performances. "Dinner is served" from
the butler took them all into the dining-room, where they were soon hard
at what Tom called "trencher-work."

"What horses have you brought, Mr. Simpson?" said the Colonel during the
pause after the soup.

"Ah--two, Colonel Vivian. A bay mare I had last season, and a new horse
I bought from Ward the other day; a splendid fencer--nothing is too big
for him. Ah--I had to give four hundred for him though, so he ought to
be good," replied Simpson.

"He ought indeed. I wish I could afford to give such prices," rejoined
the Colonel, on whose ear the statement of £ s. d. grated somewhat
harshly. "I advise you to ride him to-morrow; the hounds meet here, and
the keeper tells me there are a brace of foxes in the osiers, and if
they take the usual line it wants a good horse to live with them."

Mr. Simpson's face did not express a vast amount of rapture at this, and
he almost wished he had not been quite so fulsome on the subject of his
new purchase. However, turning to Mildred, he said: "Miss Vivian--ah--I
suppose you follow the hounds to-morrow?"

"Yes," replies Mildred; "I ride my favourite horse Birdcatcher, and I
hope we shall show you some sport."

"Follow the hounds!" muttered Jack under his breath, who was getting
rather jealous of his fellow-traveller. "He did not suppose the hounds
would follow her, did he?" an idea that he imparted to Ethel, who was
next to him, and which seemed to amuse her mightily. "I believe the
fellow's a funk," he went on. "Anyhow, I'll draw him," and across the
table he said: "Simpson, is your nag good at water and timber, for the
Belton brook runs below the osiers, and there are one or two rather
awkward stiles to be negotiated?"

"Oh yes. Ah--he is a first-rate water-jumper, and, I believe, very good
all round."

"That's all right then; you will be cutting us all down," put in Tom;
whereat Simpson smiled a sickly and most unbecoming smile, by which he
meant to insinuate that he was going to try, and thought it extremely
probable that he would succeed, but which conveyed to everybody the
impression that he wished Belton brook and the stiles at the bottom of
the sea.

Florence, who saw this, immediately proceeded to set his mind at rest by
telling a number of stories anent the difficulties of the country, and
the number of men that had come out in the morning in all the pride of
their scarlet, and had returned bemudded and besmirched after a visit to
the bottom of the brook, all of which anecdotes she referred to Mr.
Wilton for verification.

After dinner Mr. Simpson made the running very strongly with Mildred,
much to Jack's disgust; and as he found that, do what he would, he was
unable to get a word in edgeways without having his eyes nearly put out
by the glitter of the City gentleman's diamond stud, he took refuge
behind the paper, which position, notwithstanding Mildred's glance of
entreaty, he maintained resolutely till the appearance of candles and
the Colonel's orders for the morning warned everybody that it was
bedtime.

"Good-night, Jack, my boy," said his uncle, after the ladies had
retired. "I shan't come to the smoking-room to-night. Mind, breakfast at
nine sharp. I have ordered a real flyer for you to-morrow, and I want
you to keep up your reputation and show them the way, also to give an
eye to Milly. I can trust her with most horses, but Birdcatcher is, as
you know, an awkward customer if he gets his temper up. Mr. Simpson,"
turning to his guest, "you will find everything in the smoking-room.
Jack and Tom will show you where it is. I am rather tired, and will wish
you good-night and good sport to-morrow."

"Tom," said Jack to his brother-in-law, "you take Simpson to the den.
I'm off to bed; you will excuse my not coming. I've a bad headache, and
I want to look over a case I have in hand which is rather important.
Good-night, old man; good-night, Simpson;" and with that he retired,
muttering to himself: "How the deuce Uncle George could have invited
such a cad down here I can't think."

On arriving in his room he found his sister waiting for him, and she
immediately commenced: "Dear old Jack, I knew you would not smoke
to-night, for I saw you were put out. You need not be afraid about Milly
and Mr. Simpson; she detests him. If Uncle George thinks she will ever
marry a man like that he is mistaken."

"What's the odds, Florence," said Jack in a desponding tone; "it is no
use denying the fact that I am awfully fond of Milly, but what chance
have I, as poor as a church mouse, against a man rolling in wealth? And
even if she doesn't marry Simpson, some other rich son of a gun will be
after her, and it will break my heart to see her married. By-the-way,
how can uncle ever tolerate such a vulgarian as Simpson?"

"'Money makes the mare to go,'" replied his sister; "and I fancy Uncle
George has been spending a little too much lately. But cheer up, Jack
dear; perhaps our old Indian will die, and leave you a heap of money.
Meanwhile, rely on me to keep off all intruders: 'Trespassers will be
prosecuted,' and all that sort of thing; spring-guns and the extreme
penalty of the law, you know."

"Florence, you are a darling," said Jack, kissing her; "but you can't
kill the Nabob, and even a woman's wit can't keep Milly under lock and
key till your pauper brother makes enough money to enable him to see
papa in the study without feeling that he may be shown out of the door
by the butler."

"_Si c'est possible c'est fait, si c'est impossible cela ce fera_,"
laughed Florence, as she left her brother to think over what she had
said.

The old Indian, Sandford by name, was the great hope of both Jack and
his sister. He was their mother's only brother, and though he had been
home but once in forty years, an event which occurred some nine years
back, he had on that occasion intimated that Jack was to be his heir,
and when driven to India by what he called "the cursed climate and
infernal fogs" of his native country, he had left a thousand pounds to
be used for Jack's advancement in life, and regularly every Christmas a
letter arrived from Simla to Jack, enclosing an order on Messrs.
Drummond for two hundred pounds, bearing the simple signature "John
Sandford."

When his sister had gone Jack threw himself into a chair, and after
musing for some time tumbled into bed, and was soon dreaming of Milly,
the Nabob, and Simpson, all of whom were trying to catch an animal that
occasionally took the shape of Birdcatcher, and as often that of his
sister.



CHAPTER III.

FLOOD AND FIELD.


"A southerly wind and a cloudy sky," sung loudly by his bedside, woke
Jack on the following morning, and, opening his eyes, he encountered
those of Tom Wingfield, who, as soon as he saw that he had effected his
purpose--to wit, waking Jack--said: "How's the head, old man? It's a
ripping fine morning; tumble up. Here's the shaving-water," as the
footman entered the room. "I've called Simpson. By Jove, what a bore
that man is! he told me last night exactly how much he had given for
everything he possessed. However, Phillips, whom I saw just now, says
his four hundred guineas worth looks a nailer, but I doubt if our
friend's heart is in the right place."

"Heart be blowed!" growled Jack; "the only heart he knows of is the
heart of the City. Clear out, Tom, though; its late, and I shall never
be dressed in time for breakfast."

However, he was, and as he entered the dining-room he thought he had
never seen Milly look so well as, in her well-fitting and workmanlike
habit, she dispensed the honours of the tea.

Simpson was simply gorgeous, and evidently fancied himself considerably,
though as the clock marked the hour of ten and the first contingent
arrived, his rubicund features went many degrees paler at the thought of
Belton brook and his four-hundred-guinea hunter.

Punctual to the minute the hounds arrived, and after a quarter of an
hour, during which time refreshment for man and horse was in full swing,
the signal to move off was given.

"Mornin', Master Jack," said old Jim the Huntsman, as Jack came out of
the stable-yard, his mount bucking like an Australian. "I'm main glad to
see you wi' us again; we shall soon find summat to take the play out o'
you" (alluding to the horse). "If I mistake not, you mean a-showing 'em
what for, and I'm sure I hope you will."

"Jim, you get younger every day. They tell me you are going to be
married again and give up hunting; is it true?" was Jack's reply.

"Get along with you; you're no better than you used to be, Master Jack,"
retorted the old man, who was fast nearing his seventieth year.

At this moment the Colonel rode up, accompanied by Mildred and Mr.
Simpson, the latter, it must be confessed, looking far from comfortable.
"Jim," said he, "we will draw the osiers first, please, up-wind, and
send Williams" (the First Whip) "down to the corner. Mr. Wilton and
myself will stop by the gate and view him if he tries back. Mr. Talbot"
(the Master) "has gone on to the wood, and wished me to tell you."

"Right, Colonel," replied the Huntsman, lifting his cap; and with a
"Coop, coome away!" he trotted off down to the bottom end, the hounds
clustering all round his horse.

"This way, Milly," said Jack. "Come on, Simpson and Tom," and the
quartet established themselves out of sight at the top end of the
osier-bed. Presently old Jim was heard cheering his hounds, and a
whimper from old Solomon proclaimed the fox to be at home, as usual.

"Eugh, at him!" cheered Jim, and as the whimper swelled into a chorus a
regular traveller slipped out close to Mr. Simpson, and headed straight
over the dreaded brook.

"By gad, he's off!" said Jack, and "Gorne awa-a-y!" proclaimed his
departure to the expectant field. The hounds tumbled out of covert all
of a heap, and plunging into the brook in a body were away on the other
side in a trice, with a scent breast high.

"Miss Vivian, for goodness' sake don't attempt the brook," implored
Simpson; "I will stop and look after you."

But Mildred, vouchsafing him not so much as a look, caught the impatient
Birdcatcher by the head, and with Jack and Tom on either side the trio
rattled down at the water, which was negotiated with safety.

"Bravo!" said Jack; "here comes Simpson;" and come he did, for his
perfect hunter was not made of the stuff to be left behind if he could
help it, and seeing his three companions careering away down the
opposite field, he, to use a nautical expression, "took charge," and,
before his rider knew what had happened, had landed him safely on the
other side of the obstacle.

"Down the lane," said Jack to Mildred as they popped over the fence that
led out of the meadow; "it's straight for Boltby big wood. Here you
are, Jim," as the Huntsman came up to where the hounds had checked for a
moment in the lane; "they made it good as far as this. Hark for'ard!
Minstrel has it;" and away they went a cracker, turning sharp to the
right into some rolling grass-fields.

By this time Mr. Simpson was beginning to pluck up his courage, and in
company with those who had not been so favoured at the start was going
fairly well. Ten minutes more brought them to the stiles that had been
the subject of discussion at dinner the previous evening, and
nasty-looking objects they were. The first was not so bad, but the
second was a regular teaser--hog-backed, with a yawning ditch, spanned
by a footboard on the far side.

"Steady, Milly," said Tom, as Birdcatcher rushed at No. 1.

"By gad, she'll be down if she goes at that pace," shouted Jack in an
agony, his horse, a young 'un, having refused.

At this crisis Mr. Simpson appeared on the scene, the rest of the field
preferring the safer course down the lane. Tom managed the hog-back
successfully, and was too much occupied with the hounds, now racing a
field ahead, to think of Mildred, who had evidently got as much as she
could manage in the thoroughly-roused Birdcatcher.

Jack's feelings can be better imagined than described as he saw Milly
rush at the stile and Birdcatcher turn a complete somersault, sending
his mistress flying, happily, some yards away from where he fell.

"Come up, you brute," he yelled, driving his spurs home and fairly
lifting the astonished young 'un over both fences. Scarcely had he
landed over the hog-back than he was off his horse and kneeling by Milly
in a paroxysm of grief.

"My darling child, are you hurt? My God, she's dead!" he cried, as he
tried to lift her.

But she was only stunned for the moment, and to his ineffable joy Milly
opened her eyes and said: "It's all right, Jack; I'm not hurt. Catch my
horse and let's get on."

The "Thank God" came from the bottom of his heart as he caught the two
nags and lifted her on; but the agonised expression on his face told
Mildred plainer than any words the "old old tale," and in her inmost
heart she blessed the fall for the revelation.

The fox meanwhile, who had been headed by a labourer, turned short back,
and as they came round, about two fields above the spot where the
accident took place, everyone was much amused at the sight of Mr.
Simpson, who, unable to muster up courage to ride at the place, and
thinking that no one was likely to see him, had got off his horse, and
having promised a yokel a sovereign to catch him on the other side, was
doing his best, with the aid of his hunting-whip, to induce his four
hundred guineas' worth to take it by himself. No further mishap
occurred, and in half an hour, after running hard all the time, they
viewed and killed their fox in the open, Mr. Simpson arriving just as
the last morsel disappeared down old Solomon's throat.

By this time Mildred was feeling the effects of her fall, and Simpson
was only too glad to offer to be her escort home; an opportunity which
he took advantage of to propose in due form, the effect of his
solicitations being somewhat marred by the aversion his horse displayed
to walking.

"I'm very sorry, Mr. Simpson," said Mildred, in reply to his entreaties
that she would consent to be the "Co.," "I'm very sorry, but it can
never be."

"There's some other fellow in the case; I _will_ know who. It's that
horrid cousin of yours," said the man of money with his innate
vulgarity, for he could not understand any girl refusing his gold.

"Mr. Simpson, you have no right to speak to me like that; and seeing
that my cousin picked me up when I fell, while you were too much alarmed
for your own safety, _I_ have no reason to consider him horrid," was
Mildred's cutting reply, after which she refused to speak till they
arrived at the Hall.

Whether it was the rebuff that he had received, or joy at finding
himself safe, I cannot say, but at dinner Simpson drank more than was
his custom, and was proportionately talkative and bombastic in
consequence, and towards the end he entertained the company with a
description of how he got over the most enormous places.

"You--ah--see, my horse" (he called it "'orse"' now that the wine was
in) "refused that stile where Miss Vivian fell, and Mr. Ward told me it
was no use riding him at the same thing twice, so I had to look
out--ah--for another place. I saw there was nothing for it but the fence
at the side" (it was an overgrown blackthorn, with a six-feet post and
rails run through the middle), "and--ah--by Jove! my horse cleared it
without touching a twig--ah."

"My word, Simpson, that was a jump--almost as big as the cow took when
it vaulted over the moon," said Tom.

"Fact, sir, 'shure you," replied he of the City, when the butler came up
behind his chair and in an audible voice said: "I beg pardon, sir, but
there's a man downstairs who says you told him to call--says you
promised him a sovereign for catching your horse when you turned it over
the stile."

It may have been rude, but the guilty look of Simpson and the utter
ludicrousness of the whole affair was too much, and everybody, including
the Colonel, fairly shrieked with laughter, during which Mr. Simpson
bowed himself out to see about this "tale of the sovereign," as he
called it.

Later on the butler appeared a second time, bearing in his hand a yellow
envelope, which he handed to Jack.

Opening it carelessly he read: "As agents to John Sandford, acquaint you
of his death. Yourself left sole heir. Telegraph instructions. Money and
securities, eighty thousand. Three large tea estates, besides other
property. Letter follows.--Kirkman and Co., Calcutta."

I am afraid Jack's face did not express great sorrow for his deceased
uncle. Indeed, as he glanced across at Milly, a great look of joy came
into his eyes, and after dinner he found an opportunity to ask her a
question, receiving a very different answer to that vouchsafed to Mr.
Simpson.

Christmas morning he interviewed "papa in the study" without fear of the
butler, and that evening the Colonel, with tears in his eyes, made a
long speech, wherein he gave his daughter to his favourite nephew, with
solemn injunctions to take care of her.

Jack, in returning thanks, said he would do his best to see that she did
not break her neck; he had already had a turn he should never forget;
but as it was somewhat instrumental in helping him to gain Milly, he
begged to propose the health of The Hog-backed Stile.

Simpson, when he saw the game was lost, turned out a much better fellow
than anyone gave him credit for, and Milly found on her table a pearl
necklace and a card, on which was written: "With T. Simpson's best
wishes and apologies for rudeness."

Now, whenever he meets Jack and his wife, he tells them that the lesson
he got at Belton taught him that money and bluster were not everything
in this merry world of ours.


THE END.


CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS, CRYSTAL PALACE PRESS.





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