Imagens das páginas

of lofty chestnuts, the ancient boughs of which gleamed in the sunshine, covered as they still were with their autumn-tinted foliage. At the extremity of the lawn, which we had to cross on our way to the rendezvous, were seen, impatient though silent, the pack, consisting of a hundred and twenty of the best hounds of Poictiers, of great size, and exactly alike in colour. Renaud, "le chef d'equipage," four piqueurs, and eight valets-de-chiens, were ranged before the pack, their bridles in their left hands, and their large horns in their right, ready to be blown. Within the court forty horses, held by as many grooms, waited for the horsemen who were to mount them, and made the pavement, white with foam, resound with their pawings and prancings, certain signs of a presentiment of the pleasures which awaited them. At length the Marquis appeared on the steps, leading Madame Sénozan by the hand, and at the same instant the horses sounded the fanfare for our departure. In the twinkling of an eye every one was mounted, and the party set out, each looking at the windows of the château, in hopes of surprising some charming creature " en negligé du matin," or perhaps to receive a smile which had been promised the evening before, or which might give some hope for the day after.

In the midst of this cavalcade of superb and excellent horses, the mare of my piqueur Denis, which I had lent to Madame de Sénozan, cut but a sorry figure. It was little more than a pony, and half worn out, but which hid merits of a superior order under a very rough exterior. It had a nearly grey muzzle and wall-eyes, which would have disfigured even a better-looking animal. It went so stiff at starting that it seemed doubtful whether it would ever reach the rendezvous; and, excepting three or four of the party who knew its extraordinary capabilities, and who had frequently seen it do wonders with Denis on its back, every one else felt surprised at my effrontery to lend such a wretch to the most brilliant and daring Amazon, who was in the constant habit of following the princely chases of Monsieur de Montrevel.

Lord James, taking advantage of the permission he had received, pranced along by the side of the lovely Comtesse, on a horse which was possessed of extraordinary beauty and elegance of action; and he looked down every instant with contemptuous disdain upon the poor little limousine, which seemed hardly able to carry the object of his audacious advances.

"What do you call this thing?" he demanded of me, pointing contemptuously with his whip towards the little beast.

"I call her La Légère,' my Lord," I replied, with as much modesty as I was capable of affecting."

"Certainly she would not weigh much if placed in a pair of scales," he answered ironically.

"I perfectly agree with you, my Lord; but nevertheless, if you like to take a hundred louis d'or, I will bet it you, that you don't follow her all day through the chase."

"I never bet on a certainty," replied the Irishman, with disdain. "My horse is descended in a direct line from the Godolphin Arabian, and his dam was a mare that was never beaten at Newmarket."

"I will double the bet, my Lord," I said, "provided Madame la Comtesse will allow me."

"For the honour of my country I will consent," said Madame de Sénozan, most gracefully; "and I really think it shows rather a want of gallantry in you, my Lord, to refuse a bet which gives you the right to follow me all day, if you can."

"On the contrary, it is that I would not wish to leave you that I refuse, Madame," interrupted Lord James, in giving her one of his languid smiles.

"Then you persist in your refusal," I added, in my turn.

"Without hesitation, Monsieur le Comte, at least for to-day; but to-morrow, if your mare is not too fatigued, I will run her on foot, and bet you all you like."

I did not think it right to push the matter too far; and so to change the conversation, and to make myself as disagreeable as I could, I began talking to Clermont and Madame de Sénozan. Half an hour soon slipped most rapidly away, and we arrived at the rendezvous, where the valets-de-limier were already waiting for us. Their report informed us that a fine "stag of ten" was harboured close to the place. The plan for attacking the animal was immediately confided to the Comte de Fussey, who indicated most clearly where would be the best places for the relays of both hounds and horses. That having been done, we proceeded at once to the place where the chase was to begin; La Légère trotting along with her head down, and Lord James's horse prancing away, and champing his bit between his teeth, as if in defiance of his humble antagonist. But at the first opening of the hounds, a perfect metamorphosis took place in the little limousine: she pricked up her ears, and raised her head, which before had drooped, as if getting herself in readiness for the fray; and as soon as the horns sounded the find, she bounded off like a roebuck, and with the rapidity of thought took her position at the head of forty or fifty other horses, which were, like her, all ready to follow the chase. Lord James took a side-glance at me, which was mingled with anger and disdain, During the first hour nothing remarkable occurred, as the stag kept to the forest, and consequently every one was able to keep up with the hounds at a gentle gallop. At length the animal broke, and the first relay being in readiness, the hounds were of course much closer to him, and the chase became more animated and faster, inasmuch as the whole company were soon left in the rear, with the exception of Madame de Sénozan, who rode first, followed by Lord James on his favourite horse Shamrock, and who in vain tried to catch her; my excellent friend, the Curé of Chapaize, on Ragotin; and myself. I observed most attentively all that passed during the chase, and had already no doubts as to how my stratagem would turn out. The Irishman's horse was striding away over the country, evidently not only at the top of his pace, but to all appearance in great distress; his rider was a tall and heavy man; and the horse, from being no doubt short of work, was soon pumped out, and had not a chance with the well-trained fairy-like little palfrey of Madame de Sénozan, which from having carried my Piqueur Denis regularly from the commencement of the season, was what sportsmen generally call in good wind and condition, although perhaps drawn a trifle too fine. Without wearying my readers with a long and needless description of this long chase, which lasted upwards of two hours, during which time the party were going at a tremendous



I will draw nearer to the conclusion of this little drama, and enter at once upon the last act. Our party had by this time been reduced to three persons, the horse of the Curé de Chápaize having, as his rider affirmed, lost a fore-shoe, and as the ground was hard, he considered it more prudent to pull up in good time. My horse, too, showed such symptoms of distress that I. deemed it wise to content myself with a place in the rear, the van being still most resolutely maintained by La Marquise, followed pretty closely by Lord James, who was now under the necessity of using both whip and spurs to keep his sinking horse from falling into every ditch which presented itself. As I was riding along the high road, having for the last two or three miles given up all idea of being able with my horse to compete in pace with either La Légère or Shamrock, I had an excellent opportunity of witnessing the termination of this most interesting plot. The stag was evidently sinking, which was easily perceptible by the increased ardour of the hounds. The powers of Madame de Sénozan's little limousine still seemed undiminished, whilst the days, if not the moments, of Shamrock were fast drawing to a conclusion; with a fixed eye, a mouth hanging wide open and dead upon the bit, and a gait as stiff and mechanical as the motion of a horse contrived of wood, he responded to the repeated stabs of his master's spurs with a most piteous grunt, and at length, coming to a deep marshy spot which he had not power to cross, plunged in up to his shoulders in a most truly helpless state, and giving one dying groan as he rolled over, ceased to exist; his disgusted and vanquished rider narrowly escaping being engulphed for ever in the bog, from which he rose as red and as wild-looking as a North American Indian.

At length the sportsmen began to fall in from all points, and as they passed the spot where Lord James was standing, he had the agreeable satisfaction of hearing the following remarks from twenty mouths :— "What a pity; such a fine horse!" "Well, my lord! what do you think of our French horses now?" " Mind you don't slip again into the bog, in coming across that corner!" " Will you lay hold of the end of my whip?" &c. &c. The Irishman cursed his luck in silence, and let them all pass on to the finish, where the "hallali!" was now heard proclaiming the death of the stag. The eyes of the whole party were now turned towards La Légère and her lovely burden; great and unanimous were the congratulations upon the victory achieved; but amidst the joyous throng in vain they searched for the discomfited Irishman he was nowhere to be found, having taken the opportunity of making himself scarce upon a second horse, with which his groom happened to arrive in the course of a few minutes, and upon which he thought it prudent to make the best of his way to the château at once.

As the party rode quietly home, "Let us have no disagreeable allusions this evening to this unfortunate affair," requested the Marquis, with his accustomed amiability; "it will be unworthy of us to show our want of generosity and hospitality, in bringing up a subject that can only add to the great annoyance which my Irish guest has already endured."

"Your recommendation is perfectly useless, my dear fellow!" replied the Comte de Thiard; "Lord James will have left the château before our arrival, if I am not greatly mistaken."

"You are an adorable creature!" said La Comtesse de Sénozan to me, in almost a whisper.

"How much will you take for La Légère?" demanded Clermont, rather annoyed at some little tender expressions he fancied he heard drop from La Comtesse into my ear, as we rode along together.

"Your hundred thousand francs income would not pay for her just now. I am too good a Frenchman to wish to sell her," I continued, trying to give two significations to my phrase.

Immediately after, as we continued our route towards Châles, we passed by the spot where the carcass of poor Shamrock was lying stretched out, and already stiffened by death, the horns all sounded a funereal fanfare; and if we were not in a sufficiently melancholy state to drop any tears, we were unanimous at least in our sincere regret for this unfortunate victim of Irish presumption. We shortly after resumed our accustomed gaiety, and as the party rode along through the villages which were on our road, the peasants ran out of their cottages to salute us with acclamations, which were responded to by the joyous fanfares of the hunting-horns. The stag, of which they intended "faire la curée" by torch-light in the great court of the château, was borne along upon a light rustic cart, covered with boughs, behind which walked the pack which had vanquished him. Madame de Sénozan marched at our head, still mounted on La Légère-smiling, but still rather pensive; and Clermont, who followed her at a little distance, appeared less pleased at the defeat of his rival than tormented at the part I had taken in the triumph of the woman he loved. A few days after, the affair came to such a crisis that he and I were obliged to come to a kind of explanation; and after that was over, we became again as good friends as we had ever been. In those days, the rivalries were as frivolous and elegant as the passions which had produced them, and the women had their devoted slaves, who never became their tyrants.

When we arrived upon the lawn at the entrance of the château, a travelling carriage, of which the blinds were up, left the great court: it contained Lord James, who was never seen at Châles after that day. In the evening, nothing was talked about but the great feats performed by La Légère, who had become the heroine of the day, and it was even under consideration to erect a statue to her celebrity; and after the curée had been performed, all the company wished to go and pay her a visit by torch-light. Alas! that visit was the end of her renown. Imagination had been stretched to the utmost point by the merits of this wonderful little animal, and the disappointment of all was great when they saw in the stable a poor miserable little beast, tucked up, and looking dead-beat, and scarcely able to draw the hay with her teeth from the rack; her legs were swelled, and her coat stuck up; she was a perfect fright.

"What a pity she is so ugly!" cried all the ladies at once; "decidedly, we must not think of erecting a statue to her, or posterity will declare that we wished to immortalize Rosinante."

I was, however, consoled for their inconstancy by Madame de Sénozan, who entered her stall in her green satin shoes, and addressed a few tender words to her, which fell most deliciously upon my ear. The day after, we had no hunting; but we all paid a visit to the magnificent church of Bron, and in the evening we had some amateur theatricals and a ball...

Here ended my father's story. My aunt, who had listened with attention, told him he had forgotten a great number of incidents; and my father agreed that he thought he had.

"Does the château still exist ?" I enquired.

"I have been told that it was destroyed at the time of the revolution," replied my aunt; "but as I never go out, I cannot positively answer your question.'


"Let us stop at the place upon our return home," said I to my father. 66 What do you think of it?"

"Just as you like!" my dear boy, he replied.

I kept him to his promise, or rather his acquiescence to my wishes; and on the day of our departure, as soon as we had entered the carriage, I reminded him of it, and he immediately pointed out to the coachman the nearest road to the place.

We arrived at Châles after an hour's travelling, and my father seemed almost at a loss in which direction to point out to me the exact spot where the house had formerly stood. "Here it is," he said at last, as we alighted from the carriage. All I could see was an immense field of buck-wheat in flower; but not a stone nor a tree.

"Well! but where is the château and the grove of chestnuts?" I enquired.

My father struck his cane against the ground, and said, “There is the château!"

I looked, and saw nothing but a piece of broken brick; it was all that remained to mock the spot where had formerly stood the princely residence of him who might well be considered as the most generous and hospitable man in France.



"Mind, Tom, keep a steady hand : never fight with your face to the sun, or drink with your back to the fire."—An Irish father's dying advice to his eldest


Time was when I little thought I should ever have to refer, in my own propriâ persond, to "some five-or-six-and-thirty years back," yet such will be the case in my present recital of three of those things called "duels," which are now, thank Providence, of rare occurrence. Yet at the time I write of, in the country which I honoured with my birth (Ireland), duels were as common an every-day occurrence as the other ordinary transactions of the world. Where is the man at that time would think of travelling, even from one county to another, without having his "Joe Manton" with three real-cut-nicks in the butt, thereby showing that three men were hit by the self-same quiet-looking customer, at fifteen or twelve paces, as the belligerent bumps on the pericraniums of the actors may have been? Not from Ireland, I'll swear, if needs be,

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