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the chase-as he did in the reality. Of his pedestrian performances we will briefly say that, on the 1st of June, 1809, Captain Barclay started at Newmarket Heath to go on foot one thousand miles in one thousand successive hours, at the rate of a mile in each and every hour. This he effected. As this match has been often recorded, we will not dwell upon it further than to say it was a most wonderful undertaking, änd only equalled by another, which has been handed down to us, viz., that of Thomas Standen, of Salehurst, near Silver-hill Barracks, who, in the year 1811, finished the arduous task of walking eleven hundred miles in as many successive hours, going one mile only in each hour. He was nearly sixty years of age at the time. But we need not alone refer to modern dates for celebrated deeds of pedestrians. In ancient history we find that Phillippides was sent from Athens to Sparta, and in two days ran one hundred and fifty Roman miles. Our own King Henry V., and two of his lords, could run down and take any doe in a large forest; and Canute's son, Harold, was so “fast a one” that few horses of that day could beat him. He could course down a hare ; hence his name Harefoot.
We have digressed: in a future chapter we shall continue our “ Sporting Incidents at Home and Abroad.”
A PEEP AT THE PROVINCES;
THE OAKLEY HOUNDS. When I started from London upon a visit to the Oakley country at the end of last March, the weather was more like Midsummer than the early spring ; the fields, the hedges, and trees were beginning to adorn themselves in their new and refreshing liveries ; the feathered race were warbling forth their welcome lays ; and to the eye of the indifferent traveller by the North Western Railway, who might be whirled past the various vistas and outlets which might present themselves along the broken parts of the tedious embankments on the line, foxhunting would, one would suppose, be almost the very last idea which could creep in even upon a sportsman's thoughts, or awaken him from the torpor of his meditative state of existence. As we steamed away, however, by hill and dale, and as my fellow-travellers showed a greater inclination to discuss topics connected with Young France and the progress of Fourierism, rather than the Old Squire and the descendants of his famous Furrier, I quietly gave myself up to the delicious remination of mine own meditations, and to those absorbing subjects, on “ the tablet” of which “all my thoughts are so visibly charactered and engraved.” How distinctly could I see " in my mind's eye” the eager pack, with bristles up, running “ frantic for blood," over those splendid large grass fields which abound in that fine vale which stretches out under the classic spire of Harrow! How tempting looked the verdant meads and " purling” brooks, as we spun along past them !-without any danger, however, of our fiery steed sticking fast in a boggy bottom, or refusing to encounter the silent, yet profound, obstacle of even a mill-dam itself. As we continued to emerge at every puff and groan from the more immediate vicinity of the mighty Babylon, reminiscences of the real crowded upon our view; and the ideal, which had alone before amused our fanciful conception, dissolved away like the pale residuum of the steam cloud as it floated past us. Night at length began to spread her dusky mantle o'er these well-remembered spots ; and half dreaming, as we wrapped our cloak around us in the corner of the carriage, we fought our battles o'er again, and the fond reminiscences of the palmy days of the Old Berkeley and the Oldakers, Squire Lowndes, the good old Duke of Grafton, and his huntsman Tom Rose, crowded upon our memory as we so delightfully indulged in these sporting reveries, from which we were at length most effectually awakened by the arrival of the train at the terminus adjoining the quiet county town of Bedford.
In these new-fangled times of velocity, in which the rail has all but annihilated the road, and the venerable country inn has gradually faded away before the more magnificent splendour of the gin-palacelooking refreshment-rooms of those monopolizing companies which have throughout England so entirely changed the economy of everything connected with travelling, how consoling to one's sorrow it is to meet with a home for it more resembles one than the generality of inns-like the Old Swan at Bedford, where Mr. Higgins, the most attentive and obliging of hosts, dispenses the creature-comforts to his customers with the greatest punctuality imaginable ; where the beds are the sweetest and most refreshing, the servants the most assiduous, and where the viands are well dressed, and the various beverages not to be surpassed by any hotel in the great metropolis itself.
Being an early riser, on the following morning I found, according to my order on the previous night, an excellent breakfast laid out by seven o'clock : as I intended to pay a visit to the kennels previous to seeing the hounds in the field, and as I knew that that first-rate kennel-huntsman, George Beers, invariably fed early, I was resolved to be at Milton Ernest, the little village where the kennels are situated, before the operation began. After breakfast I accordingly trotted over, the distance being a little short of five miles from the Swan, and arrived about half-past eight, just as Mr. Beers was, scarlet-clad and whip in hand, about to draw the lot in, which were to hunt the following day. As I like early feeding myself, and am thoroughly convinced that no pack of foxhounds which are to run a burst, if necessary, by eleven o'clock on the following day ought ever to be fed later on any account than about half-past eight, I would not allow him to put them back, and draw them separately for me, which he most obligingly was about to do ; but as soon as the hunting lot were fed and put over for a short time, he showed me the rest pack, and having afterwards walked out, fed them also ; and then we came back to the hunting pack, which would shew rather better to advantage after they had licked themselves, or rather each other, clean and comfortable. The body of working hounds then in the kennel consisted altogether of forty-four couples and a half, viz., six years old, one couple ; five ditto, six couples ; four ditto, seven couples ; three ditto, nine couples and a half ; two ditto, nine couples and a half ; and young hounds, entered this last season, eleven couples and a half. This complement of hounds is quite sufficient for a pack which hunts only three days a week, as these do ; but it is nevertheless a severe country for hounds to work in, and many are constantly getting lamed in cover, especially on the stifle joint, from striking themselves against the stubs, which are left unusually long in many of the covers in Bedfordshire. The kennels, which are on the turnpikeroad leading to Higham Ferrars, have been built about fourteen or fifteen years ; the hounds are the property of the gentlemen of the hunt, and are under the management of a committee, at the head of which is Mr. Magniac, and were established at the period I have mentioned, when the present kennels were built, at which time the present Duke of Bedford, then Marquis of Tavistock, was the leading man in the committee ; that excellent sportsman, Mr. Dansey, so well known previously in Herefordshire, relinquishing the country, and selling his hounds for seven hundred pounds to the gentlemen of the hunt. This pack must not be confounded with the old pack, formerly known as the Marquis of Tavistock's, or the Old Oakley, which were given up some years previous to the time I am now speaking of, and were sold to Sir Harry Goodricke at the time he took the Quorndon country. The Oakley of those days had a good deal of the old Pytchley and Beaufort Justice blood in their veins, and were much sought after by breeders of hounds.
During the last eight or ten years Bedfordshire, as a hunting country, has undergone a considerable change--in some points for the worse ; in others there are certainly improvements. One of the worst features which might be enumerated is the ploughing up of a great deal of the old turf land in many districts ; and the improved system of agriculture, augmentative as it may be to the rent-roll on each returning audit-day, is anything but conducive to the interests of foxhunting : even the old turf balks, not only in the Oakley country, but also in many others of the midland counties, have been destroyed. These green balks, which were left round many of the fields at the time of the early enclosures, and in some parishes in considerable quantities, even running up to the middle of the arable land, were a welcome boon to the huntsman on a ticklish scenting day, as when the scent failed over the sticky fallows he was pretty sure to get a hit when he came to the green balk, which showed the fox's line, even if the hounds could not exactly carry it over the plough : moreover, nine times in ten a tired fox preferred running up the line of grass to plodding his way across the dirt, which gave the pack a decided advantage when they came to land of this description. Another point, prejudicial to the keeping up in first-rate form a pack of foxhounds, is the extreme difficulty in finding quarters or walks for the young whelps when placed out : this may be in a great measure attributed to the great leading men of the county not giving that warm support to the good old cause which they had used to do in days gone by ; consequently the number of young hounds brought into the kennel in the spring, of anything like size and symmetry sufficient to be put forward,
is lamentably small ; and I have no hesitation in saying that during this spring George Beers will have very great difficulty in finding even six couples, out of the fifteen brought in, which he can put forward as an entry for next cub-hunting : the deficiency, therefore, if the forces are to be kept up to the mark, must be made up from the drafts of some other kennel ; but we all know that drafts are but drafts after all, and a pack like the Oakley ought to be entirely dependent upon its own resources—hunting, as it does, one of the first foxhunting countries in the world—for young hounds to keep up the number of forces requisite to show sport, and give a creditable account of their foxes, even if they are reduced to only a three-day pack. Let us hope for better times. However, to set against these drawbacks, the desire to preserve hares and pheasants in an inordinate degree is considerably on the decline ; the game upon the Woburn property, for instance, having been nearly annihilated for some years, and in other districts in proportion ; consequently there are abundance of foxes to be found everywhere, which enables the Oakley hounds to commence cubhunting about as early as any other of the packs in the midland districts, the Pytchley perhaps excepted. Since the Oakley hounds have only hunted three days a week, that side known as the Woburn country has been lent to Mr. Selby Lowndes, who now hunts it one day a week, jointly with his own country round Winslow, and which was originally a portion of what was the old Duke of Grafton's country. This side is exceedingly sandy, much of it holding but a weak scent, and, with the exception of there being plenty of foxes, not particularly favourable to hounds. The field which attends the Oakley hounds is composed chiefly of the resident gentry and a few farmers; it is not often that strangers honour this hunt with their presence, and Mr. Higgins told me that during the present season, and one which has been acknowledged as one of the most open and favourable to hunting which has occurred for many years, he has not had a single hunter in his yard, although he has some of the best stabling and boxes to be met with in Bedfordshire. The resident country gentlemen are but few ; in fact, there are no houses for them to live in, the whole county being in the hands, comparatively speaking, of the Duke of Bedford, Mr. Whitbread, Lord St. John, and a few more owners of large properties. With regard to the stud used for the purpose of carrying the huntsman and whippers-in to these hounds, they are hired of Mr. Tilbury, and consist of about a dozen useful nags, allowing of two being always out for George Beers ; and I am convinced that in no country in the world is there greater occasion for a second horse than in Bedfordshire. In going into the stables I found that the head groom was Remus Smith, a son of the Tom Smith who lived so many years with Mr. Oebaldiston as kennel huntsman, and previous to that with the late Lord Middleton as first whipper-in, when his lordship resided at Stratford-on-Avon, and hunted Warwickshire. Upon the occasion of Smith's wife presenting her husband with twins, Lord Middleton stood sponsor for them in person, at the same time requesting them to be christened Romulus and Remus, after two favourite hounds which were then in the kennel. George Beers, who has now hunted the Oakley hounds about fourteen years, is considered an excellent huntsman; and if he cannot take care of a pack of hounds, and handle them too in the field, long experience is of no use in some of the best hunting
schools in England to any man possessing, as he does, a quick eye to: the work of hounds, and a good clear head by nature to follow the line of a hunted fox. He commenced his career in the Oakley country some two or three and twenty years ago as whipper-in, turning the hounds for several seasons to George Mountford, at the time the present Duke of Bedford was at the head of the Oakley Hunt in its best days : he then went to Quorndon, at the time the hounds were sold to Sir Harry Goodricke, being second whipper-in, William Derry first whipper-in, and George Mountford huntsman. He after that went to Mr. Muster's, and turned the hounds to that fine sportsman for a couple of seasons ; and upon the establishment of the present pack he returned once more into Bedfordshire, where, during the long time he has been in office, he is acknowledged to have shown excellent sport, and managed the affairs of the kennel-for it is entirely left to him--in a most satisfactory manner. He is a first-rate kennel huntsman, and I don't think I ever saw a pack of hounds, at that critical season of the year, looking better than the Oakley were doing when I paid them a visit in their kennels at Milton Ernest.
On the next morning the hounds met at Castle Ashby : the field was a pretty good one, including several sportsmen from the Pytchley country. They soon found a fox in the Chase, and after running and hunting him for fifty minutes through a run in which no particular incident occurred worth recording, marked him to ground in an earth close to Great Oughton. They then returned to the Chase, and after drawing some time found a second fox; but the hounds soon divided, and after running from fox to fox for about an hour and a half, they broke with one over the open, and run him also to ground near the village of Horton. On Thursday the meet was Clifton Spinnies, where the hounds immediately found upon being thrown into cover, and went away by Mr. Thornton's house, and over Turvey Hills to Pickshill : the fox then bore rather to the left, and going by Great Oaks he stretched away to the village of Pavingham ; from this point the hounds raced him up the meadows which lie by the river Ouse as far as the village of Radwell ; here the fox again rather bent his course to the left, and went away for Felmersham, and along the bottoms of Shellington, where he was killed after a most satisfactory and sporting run of one hour and fifteen minutes, the first part of which was very fast, and the rest at a good fair hunting pace. Saturday at Hail Weston ; but owing, as it was supposed, to the earths not having been properly stopped, the hounds drew a long district of covers without finding, until at last they reached those fine holding covers, the Great Melchbourne Woods, which are the property of Lord St. John. Here they immediately found a brace of foxes, and went away with one to Sheeprack, and from thence over the country to Colworth Park, which they left a short distance on the left, and away to Puddington Hays : from this point the fox appeared to have been headed, and turning to the right ran towards Winnington, leaving that village to the left, and from thence right up to Knotting-Fox-Wood : from this point he turned still to the right, and made his way back to Colworth garden, passing by Soldrop and Round Wood : from Colworth he went away for Odell village to Brown Hedges, where he was killed after a most severe run of one hour and thirty-six minutes. He proved to be a large old dog-fox, and it was a remarkably