Imagens das páginas

cular practice. Works such as "The Noble Science," "Notitia Venatica," "The Diary of a Huntsman," "The Turf, the Chase, and the Road," are of a very different character. Men who take a country do so as masters of art, not as "freshmen." Fine young English gentlemen who breakfast at Limmers', and return to dinner, go to Wick to ride: they have neither taste nor time to ruminate about "up wind" or "down wind" selon the Old Squire. Unlike the turf-whose "good day," I trust, "is coming"-the chase is merely looked upon as a manly and appropriate amusement for such as can afford it. The attempt to "farm" hunts was a failure; the courtesy to promote and carry them out as gentlemen do their private establishments is fast placing hunting upon the social rural footing where alone a national sport of this kingdom ought to stand. I do not advocate this principle in any Grim Grufendorff humour, but merely to show that which I am satisfied is a true and gracious system. The good seed has been sown; the harvest will be its own reward.

There let theory rest; and with a pair of pretty episodes we will watch it go on and prosper. With an humble apology for foregoing the French fashion of good breeding, I will commence with the Great Unknown (subauditer, Sir Walter Scott), and crown this unassuming essay with the fair muse of the Quorn, whose strains will their own tale unfold-the bard of Abbotsford, to his son in the Eighteenth Hussars.......... "Never buy an aged horse: however showy, he must have done work, and, at any rate, will be unserviceble in a few years. Buy when a horse is somewhat low in condition, that you may the better see all his points." That is good, sound advice, Now for a bit of suggestion that might serve the rising generation: "A celebrated politician used to say " (I could name him, but that's as well let alone) "he would willingly bring in one bill to make poaching felony, another to encourage the breed of foxes, and a third to revive the decayed amusements of cock-fighting and bull-baitingthat, in short, he would make any sacrifice to the humours and prejudices of the country gentlemen, provided only he could prevail upon them to dwell in their own houses, be the patrons of their own tenantry, and the fathers of their own children." Verb. sap.


With grateful joy I hail another year!
Perchance to some the source of bitterest tear,
For Memory lingers with untired regret
O'er that fond past it never can forget,
And o'er the present flings the veil of woe,
Clouding the bliss that yet remains below.
Too sure the future never can repay
The pleasures restless Time has swept away;
And as a mother o'er her buried boy
Abhors the thought of every living joy,
So clings remembrance to each past delight-
Softens its sadness by its mellow light.

O! would the heart could learn to estimate
This mercy mingled with those shafts of fate,
Then would it 'mid the anguish of despair
Behold a distance yet serene and fair,
Where hope with rose-tipt pencil might portray
Pleasures as sweet as pleasures pass'd away.

Here Nature's in such jocund revelry

Our very dreams forget their misery;

Health, joy, and gladness o'er our hills resound,
And break the stillness of our vales profound-
So gay, so animated looks the scene,

Men pause, and ask-Could sorrow e'er have been?
Each panting heart with emulation swells,
And the proud eye intended triumph tells;
And he who dare suggest defeat or pain
Is deemed the Evil Genius of the plain.
Soft on the balmy breath of early morn
In gentle cadence floats the hunter's horn,
To rouse the lover from Elysian dream,
Which lends his hopes reality's fond beam,
Or warn the practised sportsman to prepare
For deed that younger bosoms fain would dare.
How courteous Winter, of its green array,
Has rob'd each hedge, to show the safest way;
Yet, O! beware, the ditch still lurks unseen,
Which oft the cause of dire mishap has been.
But who can pause the dangerous leap to scan?
Meltonia victa, would'st thou own the man?
No, no! rush on, and every doubt defy-
"Sans peur et sans reproche," the hunter's cry.
Whence springs the cause of unalloyed delight
Which all around glads the enraptured sight?
Why are our favoured fields by nobles sought-
The rich, the proud, the magnate of a court?
How quick the conscious heart to make reply-
How quick the glance of each responding eye!
How quick in friendship the extended hand
Points to the loved-the honoured of our land,
While recollection fondly dwells upon
The donor of such pleasures-Errington !*
Urbane and courteous-gentle, kind, and free-
All that endears, that wins, unite in thee;
The young, the old, the rich, the poor the same,
With one spontaneous feeling bless thy name.
The pride of haughtiness forgets its scorn,
And Envy's shaft is of its venom shorn;
And dull-eyed Malice smiles serene on thee,
Won to admire by unstrained courtesy.
Forbear, my heart, to cloud the present joy,

By whispering aught which could our hopes destroy.
See! yon tired sportsman's brow is veiled in gloom,
And younger cheeks forget their summer bloom;
And gentle hearts confess the secret tear
As sorrowing Fancy pictures his last year.
Then, Leicestershire! thy triumph's o'er indeed,
And fled the prowess of each boasted steed;
And hushed the music of each noble hound-
And mute the bugle's renovating sound;
And Nature, robed in woe, with drooping head,
Tells to the plains-their mirth's for ever fled !
Where could he turn to be so loved as now-

The object of each thought, each prayer, each vow ?
O! bind him-bind him closer to each heart,

In bonds of friendship it were death to part.
Not for the past alone! far, far that thought
With selfishness and meanest passion fraught;

* The memoir of Mr. Rowland Errington's Diana-asty in Leicestershire is admirably illustrated in Mr. Grant's "Melton Breakfast," whose predominant feature is an English noble bidding good morning to the fire" à l'Anglaise."


No, no! the heart deplores the friend sincere-
The liberal host, to all so justly dear.

'Tis those we mourn-'tis those we wish to save!
Nor yet from Fate a greater blessing crave
Than but to know, through yet revolving space,
Him still the Master of your hearts and chase.





Uncle S.-The port; thank you: no claret; too cold for this climate. Port is a generous liquor, and suits the constitution of Englishmen. What sport upon the stubbles? tame after the breezes of the Scotch hills, and the slaughter of grouse and ptarmigan?

Nephew. The fact is-shire is no partridge country; and indeed, with some few exceptions of strictly preserved ground, I cannot call any of the Midland counties first-rate. The stubbles themselves are strong enough, long enough, and warm enough for anything: I never saw their equal; and if there were but birds, an essential in partridge shooting, there is nothing to hinder a man from making a good bag. But the land is cold, and on unpreserved ground it requires good shooting and hard walking to succeed. As the farming gets better, the shooting gets worse; and for any one whose time is worth a consideration-after the first fortnight, he had better put his shootingiron into the case, and wait patiently for sport till the first of November.

Uncle S.-Then you had no sport?

Neph.-On the contrary, Muzzleton, with whom I was staying, was delighted considered himself a fortunate dog, and says he has more than an average number of birds. When your host has a pretty wife, a capital buggy-horse at your service, and a good cook, one finds it dif ficult to tell him that the great object of your visit, partridge shooting, had not been attained; that his sport is very bad-in fact, a mere myth. Such however it was, and such it is likely to remain, unless he takes steps to improve it.

Uncle S.-Of course you are prepared to recommend the steps to be taken for turning shire into Norfolk.

Neph.-I am: do as they do in Norfolk; or even in shire, when they want to give their friends a day's shooting, instead of a day's walking. I'm in good condition for a thousand-mile match. Let them spend some money over it. Cheap and nasty is as true as it is trite. Muzzleton wants a keeper or two to kill vermin: not a cowherd to look

after the birds and keep off poachers. Yet that's his idea of a manor, and so it is of hundreds who profess to have game in what is naturally a game country. You have plenty of foxes? of course you have, because you go to great expense about them: everybody wishes to have them; yet foxes, I apprehend, are not indigenous to shire, any more than to any other county in England. Muzzleton says the preservation of foxes militates against the game,

Uncle S.-I dare say he does, and most of the old women whom you saw there. The fact is, that it does nothing of the sort; but there are a few cantankerous people, who, not hunting themselves, are never happy but when they are abusing the foxes. They seem to include under the head of fox, polecats, weazles, stoats, rats, and all the twolegged vermin to whom they are really indebted for the destruction of a few partridges and pheasants. If forty partridges of full growth are missed in the middle of October, without any trace of the marauder, the tenant informs his landlord that it's impossible to keep them with such a "lot of foxes about." The same with hens; twenty or thirty at a time, all gone-not a feather to track them-not even the symptom of a scuffle, or a mark of a pad within miles. "Drat them beggarly foxes; dang'd if I don't shoot 'un if I catches 'un." Even half-a-dozen lambs, most probably knocked on the head by some of the nice young men that usually colonize a canal and railroad country, are all placed to the account of poor Reynard; who has certainly peccadilloes enough to answer for, without bearing the sins of two-thirds of a county gaol. There are plenty of places, even in this county, where, by a little expense and care, every field has its covey, and every cover its litter or two.

Neph.-Well! my dear uncle, I have no doubt you are right, and Muzzleton wrong; but what does that matter to me. His ignorance has not increased the growth of partridges, and the fact, alas! for me remains the same. His notion is evidently this: that by desiring your tenants to keep a look out, and by giving their labourers a few shillings, after the season has commenced, that he must have plenty of sport. Very good! the labourer is worthy of his hire: you cannot do better than draw them to your standard by judicious feeing; but labourers don't hatch partridges' eggs-not the warmest among them; and as to Master Hodge, with his hundred-and-fifty acres, turning off a marauder, of course he will, if the man follows his birds into Hodge's garden-not without. I think I see him, after his twelve o'clock bacon and beans, with a pint of strong ale by his side, and a long clay-pipe in his mouth, taking off his slippers and putting on his strong boots, to see who the gentleman is, half-a-mile off, firing away into your covey. Not he; it's too much for human nature to expect. By the time Hodge's broad hat and face appear over the top of the hill, our friend shears off in an opposite direction: ten-to-one it's Giles, the managing-clerk of the bank in the nearest market town: Hodge don't want to offend him. If Muzzleton means shooting, at least what I call shooting, he must have a keeper, to destroy vermin and take up trespassers; who ought to know where the nests are, and defend them from the common accidents of being mown over or stolen. If he were to do this over a fair extent of country round his own house, and take his chance for any outlying farms, of which he may have obtained the right, by permission, he might have sport.

Uncle S.-And here, my boy, you may add that when he gets what he calls the right, he should have it in black and white, on stamped paper, which will give him the authority to take up, or to discharge all the trespassers, as though it were on his own manor. The verbal permission, even when paid for, is of no avail against neighbours who will take a dirty advantage, as opportunity offers. A legal document is more convincing. "Grummar and law is the way to have shooting. With all this long discussion on the ways-and-means, I never have heard what you really did. Let me have a sketch of the day.

Neph.-Willingly; and they were all pretty much alike. Breakfast, shooting, dinner, and bed. I'm not an early riser; and Muzzleton indulges himself and me at the same time. We never had any particular fancy for "catching 'em on the stubbles:" if they stayed on the stubbles till 10 A.M., we caught them; if not, we went elsewhere to look for them. This line of conduct had this good effect: it put off our disappointment, when we walked through the aforesaid stubbles, blank. About 10 o'clock during the past month, the sun had attained a sufficient altitude to be at all events something more than perceptible. On starting, the prospect was not promising, for there appeared to extend on every side of us whole prairies of grass: such galloping ground and feeding ground-for oxen, not for birds. "Do you see those stubbles out there, by the side of that cover; there, straight over that hundred-acre field? well! we must get there: we had better beat these grass fields on our way. This is the outside of our beat: nothing bred here: yes, moles in abundance. Look out, my boy, there's a hare lies somewhere in these grass fields (there were four of them, averaging 40 acres each, and the fifth in the parish survey down at 100); she's been seen twice this season since the beans were cut." On we travel, and the sun licks up the mist, and comes out a regular scorcher. "Try that cover; it looks likely, but holds nothing." In the meantime, old Sancho has a point as dead as a door-nail, quite at the other end of the field, about a quarter of a mile off-rather more than less; n'importe, "birds is birds," and away we go, best pace of course, though whoever gets there first must wait for the other, if only for appearance sake: we both arrive about the same time, out of breath, but nervously anxious. "Mind you take the right-hand birds; I shall look for the old cock; I told you we had better beat these fields." Up jumped a rabbit,which we had the satisfaction of seeing scuttle into his hole, after an ineffectual blaze at him from both of us. It is something to let your gun off, and the excitement evidently carries Muzzleton away. The pace is increased with no better success, till we come to the stubbles. Here, as we mount the gate, which was most unmistakeably chained, away go four birds. "Mark,"-very likely the faithful attendant is just where he ought not to be, at our heels, bearing the luncheon, the dog-whip, couples, and the game bag; so the birds go to the top of the stubble, and being now out of sight, will require some finding. But that is not the covey which be. longs to these fields-the covey: so there is but one-thirteen birds; that's six brace and a half, if we kill them all these fields: so there are more of them; indeed there are, and a more cheering looking prospect never met the eye of a sportsman. Having topped the first stubble, but not having found our covey of thirteen, we behold two more at our feet, a happy mixture of squitch, nettles, and straw, and here they must

« AnteriorContinuar »