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ferated, "Foost-class to Buminum !" I turned round, and expressed my regret at occupying the space he required; but he did not comprehend the allusion, and, without any apology, replied, "There's plenty o' room." I thought otherwise, and, stepping aside, took a survey of this peculiar specimen of coarse humanity. He was a short, thick-set, stumpy, round-shouldered person, attired in garments of dark-brown-grey-smoky-Californian-indescribable mixture, with complexion and cap en suite, covering a countenance of unmistakeable vacancy. At the moment of the train being ready to start, I entered an unoccupied carriage, under the vain delusion that I might enjoy exclusive privacy, and indulge in meditation; but, to my utter dismay, I was followed by the very individual I had so sedulously studied to avoid, accompanied by two of his companions, attired in hunting costume. I soon discovered that the trio had come up from Birmingham to Rugby, to meet the Atherstone hounds; and I imagine Captain Thomson must have congratulated himself that Birmingham had not sent forth a larger augmentation. I began to console myself that I might glean from their conversation some intelligence of the day's sport. Deceptive hallucination! Not one word was uttered respecting the pack, their style of drawing, the finding their fox, their perfections in chase, their quickness in recovering a lost scent. There was something said about pace; but that was more with reference to their own horses' than that of the run. They descanted voluminously on their own estimate of various horses, criticized the riding of many persons known to fame as first-rate performers, described how the "Kyoptin" from Weedon got a purl, how someone shied the fences, enlarged most powerfully on their own collective and individual performances-how they got over this desperate fence and that nasty brook. On my venturing to enquire where the run ended, they could not inform me; and they were not quite certain, when they left, if the hounds had killed.

It was my intention to have remained in Birmingham for the night, and on the following morning to have proceeded to Stourbridge, where my friend Mr. Baker had promised to meet me, and give me a mount with the Albrighton at Hagley. On making inquiry at the railway station at Birmingham what times the trains arrived at Stourbridge, strange to say they either could not, or would not, afford me the information. Reference to Bradshaw only increased my per plexity. I had contemplated calling on some old friends in that large manufacturing place; for, notwithstanding it supplies many rough, unsophisticated attendants with hounds, there are also many good sportsmen, worthy and agreeable companions. Uncertain whether I could reach Stourbridge in time by a morning train, I considered it most prudent to proceed that afternoon. The distance by the road. vid Dudley-the route, in olden times, of the coaches-is only fifteen miles; but it is increased by the circuitous line of the railway. Moreover, you have the pleasure of changing from one line to another at Dudley Port, where the confusion and difficulty in getting my luggage removed exceeded anything I ever experienced, not excepting Swinton, on the Doncaster line, on the eve of the races, prior to its extension to that town. There were but few porters in attendance, and those few appeared to be totally regardless of accom

modating passengers. The sailor exclaims, "Any port, in a storm," but could never have intended to include Dudley port in his category of phrases. The only shelter it afforded was a miserable, small, boarded hovel, into which the pitiless storm pelted with relentless violence. The snow fell in heavy flakes, and the wind was boisterous. The place was crowded with colliers-men, women, and children-of the roughest class, in accordance with the elements. Here I had to wait for the train more than half an hour; and I never passed an equivalent portion of time more disagreeably. These trains are proverbially uncertain as to time, and I have made a memorandum never to travel on that line if I could possibly avoid it. I was rejoiced at reaching the Talbot Hotel, the landlord of which is a sportsman; and there I met with excellent accommodation.

After dinner, having to pass the evening alone, my letters which I had ordered to be forwarded to meet me came in most opportunely, as one was from a friend in Herefordshire, containing an account of a capital run with Lord Gifford's hounds, which I cannot do better than transcribe :

"We have had some very good sport, and I think last Monday's run was certainly the best I have seen for ten years, and shows the wonderful capabilities of a fox, who, confident in his own powers, and knowing that darkness was setting in, never was further than a field or so before the hounds for the first hour; after that, for the next hour and twenty minutes, I cannot answer, as it was run in something approaching to darkness; but, unlike Lord Drumlanrig, Lord Gifford was able to bring his hounds home, and say that, after an hour's hard riding over roads, lanes, and commons, he stopped them. But, to give you the story-or, rather, the run: We did not find till ten minutes past four o'clock, in a little covert called the Green-lane, in the parish of Breinton, close to Hereford. He went away, in view, over a splendid country, with large fields and big fences, for three miles at racing pace, to Credenhill, up whose steep and woody sides the fox went; through the old camp at the top, and into its wooded sides again, straight down into the little vale beneath, leaving Brinsop Court to his left, crossing the Weobly road; but scorn. ing the wooded mountain of Badinage, he went up the side of the Vallets, and over the top of the Grange and Baynham Hill, and on for Canon Pion; leaving that to his right, he turned up the hill again for Wotton, and on as if for Gamstone Wood; but leaving that to his extreme left, he went for Wormesley Dingle, from thence to the Beechwood. From where he was found, up to his extreme point, viz., beyond Wormesley, on the Ordnance map, is close upon nine miles, and with the line he took must have been twelve. It was so dark at the Beech that the very small field who went to that point could only follow the hounds by the cry. From the Beech he crossed the bottom to Merry Hill, another large wooded hill, where it was conjectured he must cross again for Credenhill, as there was no other point; and Lord Gifford pushed his tired horse on to where he crossed, but too late, as the hounds had got into the lower side of Credenhill, which they skirted, and before his lordship could get into the Kington and Hereford road they were well away over that fine country to Kenchester. Seeing the fox was evidently bent upon reaching his home again,

or crossing the Wye, Lord Gifford galloped parallel to them, in hopes of stopping them at Brockhall Wood, a small covert on the Hay road, which they skirted on the left, going through the Weir, over the Cliff, along Wye meadows, to Sugwas gorse. Here Lord Gifford again tried to stop them, but they beat him. On he went to Breinton, where they first found, and there, by luck, his lordship got before them and stopped them, with great trouble, close to the little covert they found in. Two hours and twenty minutes without a check, over at least twenty-four miles of country, varied with mountains, woodlands, and ploughed lands, intermingled with some of the finest grass in Herefordshire. This shows what an afternoon fox can do, confident in his own powers, never being a field before hounds, but yet knowing that if he did not exert himself too much, that night would lend him her aid. May he live to perpetuate his race. Alas! I am afraid not in this country, where traps, poison, and keepers do their worst, and pug has no friends."

This must have been a run of extraordinary severity, and not only shows what a fox can do, as my friend observes, "confident in his own powers," but it also shows what a good pack of hounds can do when uninolested by a crowd of horsemen. Would that the Pytchley fields could be induced to take the hint! It also shows Lord Gifford's perseverance in getting to his hounds under the greatest difficulties.

In making this digression from the immediate subject of my tour, my excuse must be that of bringing in the details of the season's sport in a regular succession of dates. Now to return to Stourbridge.

On the following morning, February 18th, I was aroused from my slumbers by the unsatisfactory intelligence that the ground was covered with snow, and that it would be impossible to hunt. The boots confirmed the opinion of the chambermaid, and the chambermaid that of the boots. Nevertheless the latter functionary seemed to be learned in the matter; I was incredulous, and put on my leathers and boots in hopes that a favourable and speedy change might ensue. Mr. Baker arrived in the course of the morning, but the Albrighton hounds did not make their appearance, much to my disappointment, as I was very anxious to have seen them; but it was scarcely fit for hunting, although some packs were out in milder countries. I therefore accompanied Mr. Baker on a visit to our kind, hospitable old friend Mr. Pudsey, and was rejoiced to find him not only in good health, but as devotedly fond of foxhunting as ever. There is a plea sure in meeting an old friend whom we have not seen for many years, scarcely equalled by any other enjoyment in this life, especially when the pursuits, amusements, and opinions of each are in perfect accordance. This I experienced to the fullest extent, and believe I may safely assert that the gratification was mutual. The old tapestry bedroom into which I was ushered as my dormitory brought to my recollection many pleasing associations of my early days, and I recog nized an old map of the county, bearing the date of 1688, as correct and distinct in detail as the Ordnance maps of the present period. These old relics serve as momentoes of the ancient standing of the house, and of the family through whose possession it has passed for many generations. The portrait of a favourite old horse, once the property of the late Mr. Pudsey, still remains in the same place where I was

accustomed to see it nearly forty years ago; in my juvenile days it conveyed to me the beau ideal of a hunter, and in that opinion I have not changed. The old groom, William, whom I so well remember when many years ago he mounted me on a pony which was lent to me, as a boy, on the first occasion of my going to meet a pack of foxhounds (Colonel Newnham's, at Pudsey's Gorse), is still in the service of the same family; and I might add a long list of reminiscences of bygone events which served to enhance the pleasure of my visit. The only regret I experienced was, that my engagements only permitted of its being a short one.

On the Monday following we arranged to meet the Shropshire hounds at Acton Burnel, a distance of twenty-five miles; it was, therefore, necessary to start early. It is some years since I have gone so far, on the morning of hunting, without the assistance of a railway. We travelled to Wenlock in Mr. Baker's dogcart, and rode our horses from that place. On approaching the ancient borough of Bridgenorth, the scenery around which is most beautifully picturesque, and with which I was most familiar in my younger days, it seemed to me as if it could have been but a very short period since I had travelled on that road. All the surrounding country, and everything connected therewith, appeared to retain its old character, save and except the inhabitants. Many of those with whom I was formerly acquainted I found, on inquiry, were, alas! no more; others, like myself, have removed to distant counties; some have emigratedstrangers occupy their places, and a new generation has sprung up. We reached Acton Burnel in good time, where we found Mr. Corbet, his pack, and his well-mounted field, assembled in the park. The appearance of the hounds reflected the highest credit on their master, this being only his third season. They are, according to the prevailing fashion of the day, full-sized hounds, with great power. They combine the Duke of Rutland's blood with a great deal of Sir Watkin Wynn's and the Wheatland. Sir Edward Smythe, although he has given up riding, is still an enthusiastic admirer of the chase, and a most zealous preserver of foxes. He came out to greet his friends and proffer his invariable hospitalities; and I was very greatly disap pointed, when our day's sport was over, that it terminated in a part of the country which prevented my passing Acton Burnel on my return, and availing myself of Sir Edward's kind invitation to lunch, which invariably awaits the sportsmen on hunting days.

The hounds commenced operations with drawing the coverts in the park, and, although the snow was all gone, it was a windy, cold day, very unfavourable to sport, particularly in high and exposed situations, which, unfortunately, characterized the country over which we passed. They soon found, and the fox was viewed away in the direction of Netherwood; this was down wind, and some time was of necessity expended in getting the hounds out of covert, as they could not hear each other, or the horn. This difficulty was increased by the nature of the covert, which is on the side of a hill. As soon as they could be got together, they crossed over to Netherwood, where I have no doubt there was another fox on foot. They ran from that covert to Froddesley Hill, where I think a third fox added to the perplexity, and the hounds divided; and although the

elements were boisterous, the scent was good. The field was scattered all over the country, riding to points, and taking advantage of the high ground; there were numerous halloos, and certainly a brace of foxes, if not at times three, continually crossing the line of each other. From Froddesley, where the hounds divided, a part of them kept to the left of the Birchwood, the leading hounds carrying the scent over the Lawley and Caradock hills-nearly akin to mountains-for Elnath, where the hunted fox was viewed going over Hope Bowdler hills, but he had got far ahead, and was eventually lost for want of scent. It would have been impossible for any master of hounds to have used greater exertions to afford a good run than Mr. Corbet did; but there are days when such unfortuitous events transpire and combine, that all human efforts are fruitless.

We then sought the road to Wenlock, to return the horse which Mr. Baker's friend, Mr. Hinton, of Wenlock Abbey, had kindly mounted me on for the day. This afforded me an opportunity of going over the abbey, which is of very ancient origin, said to have been founded in the year 680, after which it fell into decay, but was rebuilt soon after the Norman Conquest, and converted into a monastery for Cluniacs. It is situated in a fertile valley on the south side of the town, and bears evidence of having been a very magnificent building. The remains of the banqueting rooms, and of some of the domestic offices, ure still standing in stately, though ruinous, grandeur. Many of the cloisters may still be seen, which have a most imposing effect. A portion of the building is kept in order, and used as the residence of Mr. Hinton. I must not omit a word in praise of the very clever little animal I rode-a pony in fact, but with great power and activity, which over the hills he displayed with great effect.

The following day I met the Wheatland hounds at Meadowley Hills, which were drawn blank. They found in the Lodge Coppice one of those good wild foxes for which this country is proverbially celebrated. He went away instantly for Lightwood, from thence to the Park, where he was headed back to the Lodge Coppice, through which he ran, and was killed in a very masterly manner at Sidnal. It was a very pretty scurry as long as it lasted; and every hound in the pack did his duty. There was another fox in Lightwood; but, being disturbed before the hounds went to draw the gorse, he had taken the hint, and made for the Clee hills; there was not sufficient scent to hunt him with, and he was therefore given up. Middleton Gorse was blank. The third fox was 66 ,, at home in Neechwood, and broke covert the instant the hounds entered it, running a ring round the coverts, and then away for Monk Hopton and the Foxhills, for Weston, pointing for Oxenbold, where he was headed, turned back for Neechwood Gorse, round the covert to ground, from whence he was bolted, and the hounds killed him in the adjoining

covert.

On making inquiry what sport the Wheatland hounds had met with during the season, I found that it had been good, though not equal to the season of 1852 and '53. They had a most severe day on the 27th of January, which has thus been described to me: They met at Oldbury, where breakfast was provided by Mr. Elliston. Westwood Gorse, Thatcher's Wood, and the Parks were drawn blank; they then

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