Imagens das páginas

strong ahead, and he turned to the right near the Windy-harbour for Sidnal, through the Lightwoods to the Lodge Coppice; here they rattled him about in this large covert, and as every ring became more circumscribed, it was clear that not only were his days and hours numbered, but his minutes also; and so it proved, for before any one could get up, the pack had eaten him all except his head and brush. The second run occupied about the same time as the first, and, to the best of my knowledge, without a check. Now, Mr. Editor, I think you will agree with me two such runs as these were quite sufficient for any one day; but, to my surprise, the master proposed to go and draw an immense woodland called Spoonhill, some six or seven miles distant, and away we trotted there, drawing some small coverts in our way, and scarcely had the hounds been in covert before they found again, and rattled him for more than twenty minutes in this large woodland, and owing to the wind being calm, the music of the pack was truly delightful. At last, away he broke for Acton Round, was headed unfortunately, and back through Spoon-hill, straight for the Widow'sfield-then to Cauley and Weston. Here, in going up this severe hill, many a good nag said Enough! and the scene altogether it is impossible to describe; suffice it to say, that about half-a-dozen only from this place were with the hounds. Our next point was to the Foxholes and Monkhopton, then to Ketchwood gorse, which he passed straight through, and crossing Stapeley dingles, kept his head along Acton and Meadowley hills to the village of Meadowley; he then crossed Marlbrook in a line for Aldenham, but was headed, and came back for Meadowley covert, when after about ten minutes, the cry of Whoo-hoop' announced that all was over with this truly gallant fellow, and a better, I should say, never crossed any country, having given us a chase, independent of the twenty minutes in covert, of near twenty miles in the open, over one of the severest countries I ever crossed, with scarcely a check throughout, and done in one hour and fifty-five minutes. It is needless to say that a very select few saw the finish of this tremendous day, only seven being up at the death, and two of these accidentally: no man could ride better to his hounds than Mr. Baker, who was one of the fortunate few, and I cannot avoid naming the others-Mr. Slaney of Hatton Hall, Mr. Pearce of Madeley, Mr. Aingeworth of Spoonhill, and Farmer Lowe, well known with the Wheatland, and a welter weight, being nearly twenty stone; but how this man came up at last is to me a perfect mystery; but it must be from a thorough knowledge of the country, an extraordinary good nag, and an enthusiastic lover of the sport: these combined some way or other brought him up."

This is the account given of a day's sport with these hounds, and to which I may add, that I have seen them on other occasions shew wonderful perseverance in hunting their fox for hours together, without scarcely a moment's check, and never hardly failing either to kill or drive him to ground in the end. Amongst the pack were several black and tan coloured hounds, with much the character of the old Talbot hounds of former days. With such a run as the one above so spiritedly described, mounted upon a high-mettled and well-bred hunter, up to his work, and anxious to be first in the field, stopped at no practicable fence, and as desirous of enjoying the sport as its rider

-who would not feel his spirits elevated and his whole soul eager for the chase? Then the freshness of the early morning air, as the hunter rides to the meet; the kindly greeting of the passing traveller or neighbouring farmer, the welcome of his friends at the covert side, the master's cordial shake of the hand, and the huntsman's humble civility and uplifted cap, the whips the same; and often the gentle reproach at our being so late from her whose smile of beauty is beaming with delight at the animated scene around-these, and various other incidents, tend to render the joys of hunting superior to all others.

Hare and otter hunting, wild-fowl, snipe, and woodcock shooting, laying out improvements, planting, farming, and various other sources of enjoyment, daily present themselves when residing at home in the country, but to which I will not now further allude, lest I trespass too far upon your indulgence, except by saying, that while they are all of a nature to give a healthy and cheerful tone to the mind, they at the same time add vigour and energy to the body.

August 7th, 1854.



"The famous Flying Dutchman, believe me when I tell,
Is by Bay Middleton and out of Van Tromp's dam, Barbelle;
By Mr. Fobert he was trained, who gave to him the knack
To fly like lightning o'er the ground, with Marlow on his back."
Doncaster Catnach Ballad.

It must be full eight-and-twenty years since this question was first put to me, as I gazed, in a hat and feather, with two brothers and a governess, out of the window of a carriage, at a little race-meeting in the North of England. Of the running I remember nothing, except that something of Mr. Houldsworth's, with a little jockey in green and gold, won the Cup, and that a beautiful grey mare, on which I had placed my best affections, ran last in the first of two four mile heats for the Queen's Guineas. But this I do remember-viz., that my emotions, on being for the first time in my life allowed to pay three-pence for a card which I could only just read, were expansive in the extreme. The old woman with one eye and a withered red handkerchief, who was the vendor on the occasion, has been daguerreotyped in my retina ever since, far more firmly than even the grey mare.

Card-selling was not the flourishing trade then which it has since become, and was confined to a favoured few at each place. Now the

trade is thrown open, and from 1000 to 2000 live by it almost entirely during eight or nine months of the year. Of these about 1000 confine themselves to certain race circuits in the north, while the remaining 600 or 700 follow the races, week after week, with quite as much regularity as the members of the ring. Their history has not a little interested me of late, and hence I have set to work in a parliamentary fashion, and endeavoured to achieve quite a Blue Book accuracy on the subject. In point of sex, the profession is about equally divided. Several of them are married, but although my informant was remarkably communicative, I staunched his fund of information on this head, when he had given me the particulars of an "elopement in married life," which took place in their community, at Hampton Races. He seemed to think this a most thrilling affaire de cœur. Since the celebrated "Jerry" died, they have owned no head among the men; but "Fair Helen," who once kept an eating-house at Derby, is their present Queen; and a handsome dame she is too, with her fine black hair. Her predecessor was "Big Ann," who reigned next in succession to "Sally Birch." Sally died at Chester Races some years ago; and her late subjects were so loyal, that they not only subscribed their threepences and sixpences to buy her a coffin and shroud, but they stayed a day longer in the town, in order to attend her funeral. In point of humour, nothing has ever yet approached "Jerry ;" and he was equally at home, whether dressed as a Yankee swell with a huge straw hat, or enacting the captain in a red coat, a spy-glass, and a beaver" cock and pinch.' On the Derby Day, people were too busy to heed him; but he was quite one of the institutions of Ascot; and the inimitable way in which he chaffed the swells, and then requested them to take his arm and let him "show them a little of life," never failed to extract endless sixpences from the carriage line. His propensity to cling on to the side of carriages proved fatal to him at last, as one was overturned on to him at the Goodwood meeting of '48, and his motley chums followed him, with all the honours, to his last resting place at Chichester.

[ocr errors]

"Snuffling," or rather "Donkey Jemmy," is the only one who attempts the "Yorick " line now. At the last Ascot Meeting, he was in a huge yellow wig; and as I counted at least forty distinct brays during the Cup afternoon, and as his tariff is sixpence per bray, he did not do far amiss. Those people who are not in carriages, he looks down upon with supreme contempt-"I do the donkey to please the aristocracy, not the common people," was his withering remark in my presence, about a quarter to three that afternoon, when two or three Berkshire Lubins indulged in some elephantine pleasantries at his expense. "Jerry" would have had tact to see that this was rather a back-handed compliment; but "Donkey Jemmy" is far less acute. The other card-sellers hold him in great contempt, as they consider that by the adventitious aid of a large nose, which he handles very artistically during the braying operation, he contrives to steal a march upon his less-favoured brethren, who are not so musical.

The red-coated division were once headed by " Paddy," of the Queen's stag-hounds, the most wonderful runner of his day, and preserved to all time in Grant's great picture; but he, too, has been dead some years. “Old Jack Straw," Warwick Dan," and "Billy Priest," are his principal successors. The first comes, I think, from the Cheltenham country, the second from the Warwickshire, and the third from the Pytcheley. How

99 66

[ocr errors]

ever, the running-mantle of Paddy has not been moth-eaten, as the last of these three can run his fifty miles in a day yet, with hounds, and has made something handsome by opening gates, taking lame hounds home, and doing sundry other hunting field offices. Shoes he has never worn since his childhood; and if he were to come into a fortune to-morrow, on condition that he would wear them, it is most doubtful whether he would consent to do so. There is such a strange fascination about the life, that it is averred of "Dumbie " (whose power of pantomime and picking out winners is something quite miraculous) that a good sum of money has been left him, but that nothing can induce him to look after it. "Jemmy from Town" died in London lately, and I do not know that "Farem Kiddy," "Peter Rolt,' 'Black Stock," and "Old Billy," have any very peculiar traits about them. The latter, I am told, is card-seller extraordinary to Lords Exeter and Jersey, and has waylaid them and served them regularly ever since they were quite young turfites. "Jemmy and Mary Leicester," and "Charles and Eliza Crow," are also wellknown characters; but "Black Jemmy" has rather fallen into the back ground since he had an accident to his leg, and is no longer the ubiquitous merry African he was in his green cutaway and tartan-tie days. Jemmy's one consuming passion has long been his love for Lord Eglinton's stud. It is, in fact, out of a spirit of pure devotion to Scotia and her Earl, that he has of late years enveloped himself in a grey plaid. Whenever his Lordship has a Derby favourite, he professes to put his pot on him throughout the entire winter, and gracefully precedes him to the place of starting; and what is more, if he is beaten, Jemmy never forsakes him. When his great hero The Flying Dutchman advanced to the enclosure, as the saddling bell rang for the Doncaster Cup, Jemmy walked before him, clearing the way, and announcing in the most oracular tones the impending downfall of Voltigeur. Again, when I stepped up to the Dringhouse stables to see him brought out for his match, there was Jemmy refreshing himself with beer and pudding at the bar, and watching eagerly out of a little window for the signal of departure for the course.

"Sailor Jack" is also another curiosity, with his alarming squint, and his utter disinclination to undergo the slightest examination on nautical subjects. Jack has been sadly chaffed by his customers this year, for not joining the Baltic fleet; but he bears it with wonderful complacency, and will doff his naval garb for no one. He has very little humour about him generally, but is one of the maddest wags in existence when he is at all "half seas over," which, owing to the exhortations of a teetotal friend, is now said to be only of rare occurrence.

"Lord Castlereagh " is another oddity; and it is recorded of him that he had such a favourite companion of his travels, in the shape of a little French dog, that he has over and over again been seen to cook beefsteaks for it, and dine off dry bread himself.

The profits of this strange crew are very various, and the prices of cards equally so. At Doncaster they pay a shilling for twelve ; at Epsom, two shillings and sixpence; and at Ascot the same price if they buy them at Windsor, and four shillings if they buy them at the printing press behind the Stand. Ascot is their great carnival, and Jerry has been known to make as much £20 clear on a Cup day.

The number of cards bought by the "crowded profession," at Don

caster, is very various. Some contrive to dispose of two dozen, while others can get through fifteen dozen. This latter number is the maximnm on a "great day," and six dozen the average. It is a saying amongst them, that "its all copper in the north and silver in the south," which is, being interpreted, the northern card publishers will let them bring a penny or two-pence, as the case may be, and get the value of it, whereas, in the south they must either expend sixpence or a shilling if they want to be served. Several of them have regular customers whom they supply either at their lodgings or in the street. Of such cards they profess to keep no account, but trust to their patrons' liberality when the meeting is over. The telegraph has quite knocked up both the entry and return-list-trade, and not one-twentieth part of the number are sold now. In fact there is a very slow sale for the latter, except for a few minutes at the close of the afternoon's sport. About 35,000 cards are sold during the Doncaster race week, 15,000 of which are disposed of on the St. Leger day; whereas on the Derby day 20,000 is the "sum-tottel." At Manchester the sale is enormous, and said to average 15,000 a-day; and at York about 10,000 are sold on the Handicap day, and 8,000 on each of the other days. Very few cards are disposed of at Newcastle, as Benson's "Flying Sheet," which has the colours annexed, beats everything out of the field.

Fair Helen, and three or four other women, are far the most successful at present; but the profits during a fine Ascot Meeting seldom on the average exceed £20, or fall below £6. Even the cool-headed Lord George Bentinck is known to have flung down a sovereign for a card; and by such little coup de mains as lying in wait for the winner of a great race, either on the course or at Tattersall's, and popping in a well-timed allusion to his triumph, many a half-sovereign has been extracted, especially by "the fayre ladyes" of the fraternity. There is a good deal of kind feeling, to boot, among them; and if one of them gets into trouble and arrives at a race-town without any capital, they will club together and lend him some, but woe betide the unhappy wight who dares to repudiate such a debt. Now that railroads are established, their path from town to town has been very much smoothed, and many of the "leaders of the circuit " travel thousands of miles during the year, on the rails alone. When they walk, they generally do so in gangs of twenty each; the women sometimes clubbing together to hire a cart. As a general thing, they walk about eight miles without breakfast, and then adjourn to some public-house, and refresh themselves with bread and cheese; and in this fashion they jog on comfortably some five-and-twenty miles per day. Luggage is not a thing they much affect; and, in fact, two shirts and "a shimmy" is about the regulation package for a man and his wife, though Fair Helen and Co.'s wardrobe is, no doubt, far more extensive. They affect butter more than meat, and it is a singular fact that there is no sacrifice which poor people would not undergo rather than give up butter. Beafsteaks is their next "vanity;" but the majority live pretty carefully, and lay by something in store for the winter months. Such of the men as hunt with the hounds are of course never out of work, except during a frost; but the remainder are pretty hard-set, and as steeple-chases are fast passing away, they are forced to frequent fairs, vend pencils, pincushions, and all such gimcracks. For races themselves, they care very little. One of them, in fact, told me that he never left off his business

« AnteriorContinuar »