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spree ; and they fancy that galloping a poor hired hackney over two or three fields, and then tumbling off in the mud, is hunting ; and after catching their horse, and riding home again, they relate their exploits to Anna Maria, the milliner or shop girl with plastered hair à la Madonna, and glazed shoes, whom they assure, on the following Sunday afternoon, that they rode over six gates and two brooks'side by side with the Duke or his Lordship, and that their ’ors was an out-and outer; and the poor girl turns her eyes up, and after admiring his fashionable tie, believes, as rightly she should, that he is a hero. Then there are two or three sportivg doctors, who go the first twenty minutes like bricks, and coming to a brief check, within hail of a patient, take advantage of that check to feel his pulse, and charge him an extra five shillings for coming so far to see him, to say nothing of medicine promised to be sent. Well, I, for one, grudge them not their trifle of sport or their earnings, which are ill paid and hardly laboured for. Some of them, if well mounted, manage to do this little bit of professional, and then hit off the hounds again before the finish, if so be it has not been a teaser. And then come the red coats, and the cords, and the caps, and the yeomen stout and bold, and many well mounted, and the red coats with leathers and hats ; and the parsons, generally speaking, men who, having ridden a “stceple-chase,” can ride in a fast run ; and lastly the flower of the hunt, with a few stranger officers on leave or from neighbouring quarters, with a sprinkling of blue coats from the Duke of Gloucestershire's. In fact, the field that gathered for the chase on that fair morning numbered well nigh two hundred. Recollect, also, the meet was within reach of one large city, even for men who rode hacks which they called hunters, and sufficiently near to another, for men who rode lacks to covert, and then exchanged them for hunters. How they all fared at the end of that memorable day it would be in vain for me to attempt to describe, or how they went in the run, for I saw them not. My memory reverts solely to the governor on Corbeau, Barleycorn, who was no flincher in the field, and who, moreover, was most anxious to witness the prowess of Arty on Silvertail and myself on the Jumper, and I watched them keenly as far as possible throughout the run, and even years afterwards recollect every incident of the chase, so far as they were concerned; so shall I give it here.
CHAP IX.-The Run. Girths were tightened, for many were there who would have tightened them even were they already in the last hole, solely that other persons did so, and they heard it was a sporting custom ; others cast away the ends of their cigars, while a few lit fresh ones out of bravado—but then they came to smoke probably cabbage leaves, not to ride to hounds. But hark to the melodious voice of Violet, a beautiful mottled bitch ; Violet, one of the pride of a pack then, as now, one of the first, if not the first, in England, tells a joyous tale. “Hark to Violet !" echoed again and again the full voice of the huntsman, who, standing up in his stirrups, eagerly cheered on his pets. But their leader's voice was scarcely wanting with such a pack as that ; Violet's note was enough. The whole pack were on the scent like lightning ; in one instant the gorse was alive with quickening sterns and melodious voices ; two minutes more a large dog-fox emerged from the valley side, faced delibe
rately the whole field with a look of contempt, then turning, laid bimself out, was over the first fence in a jiffy, and straight through the centre of that glorious vale direct towards the brook. Readers, oblige me by rocollecting that at that period I was a boy fifteen years and a few months old; enthusiastically fond of hunting; mad about hounds ; a boy that had never seen a pack of hounds before, save on a pony ; never such a scene as that ; and mounted on a horse that I had been told was a first-rate hunter.
On the right of my sister Bessy sat my dear old father quietly on his horse, yet watching with a face bright from enthusiasm and delight the working of the hounds ; a short distance beyond was the noble Earl, the master of the pack-but they neither uttered a word ; while on her left I was controlling the jumper, who was giving proofs of his not being " as gentle as a lamb." Behind us were Arty and Barleycorn, &c. The moment, however, Violet spoke, dad turned to Bessy, and said, " Now, dear, let Thomas guide you towards the plantations before this heterogeneous crowd make a charge, which they will in two minutes. Here, Thomas, take care of Miss Bessy.” At that moment the whole pack had joined the hound which spoke; and I literally felt a choking sensation rise in my throat, not from fear, but extreme excitement--an excitement which those who can read the human face would have said existed in many an older breast than mine. The Earl took out his watch, again replaced it, buttoned his coat closer, and, turning to my father, said, “Violet, you know, Western, never tells lies. The scent appears to be good. If he breaks away towards the vale, your boys will have their wishes gratified.” At this moment every voice in the field appeared to joiued in one wild halloo. Every hound rushed from the gorse, while the Earl, pushing down his hat, went off in a gallop. I can, in these after days, only compare the whole scene to the last charge of Waterloo; and the Earl pushing his hat on, as the Duke pushing in his telescope, and exclaiming “Up, guards, and at them !" a tear of positive excitement ran down my face, as clearing the first fence in his stride, the Jumper carried me in the front rank of that tremendous rush. The first four or five fields were all grass, and of some extent, with light fences, and the greater portion of the field, even the men on hacks and the ponies, appeared to go along. On my right I saw the governor on Corbeau, taking every thing coolly ; on my left Arty was sailing away on Silvertail, who knew his business ; and close by his side rode Barleycorn, in the full enjoyment of the chase. The hounds were racing mute with a burning scent, and the Jumper, with my light weight on his back, pulling my arms off. Nevertheless, he was evidently a fast horse, and took all in his stride ; in fact, I almost led the field. As we came to the sixth enclosure, however, a large stubble, the governor came up to me, saying, “Now, then, Fred, a wall's before us; so keep your horse well together. Do not be in a hurry, and we shall shake off the crowd." True enough ; there was a wall, at least four and a half feet high, built of loose stones, and no time to select an easy place. It was the first I had ever encountered; but my spirit was up, and at it we went. Corbeau cleared it as a matter of course, and over went the Jumper after him, without touching a stone, “Bravo, Fred !” ex. claimed the Squire-„“ Bravo, boy!" My heart beat with pride, and I turned to the left and bebeld Barleycorn in the air, with uplifted whip, which, coming on the flank of the Protectionist, sent him flying into the next field some yards. Silvertail cleared it also splendidly. But, true enough, the throng already began to diminish. Here and there a blue and a red coat topped it cleverly, while others awaited till a foot or two had been knocked off the top, while many refusing it altogether, looked out for a lane or a road, and never saw a hound for the remainder of the day. Here we turned a little to the left, over some slight fences, where I heard some of the leading men say, “ By jove ! he has skirted the brook, and is making head for Delamere Coverts." But, noluckily, no. Every hound is across the water, and, with increasing pace, gaining on their prey. We cross a ditch and bank. Corbeau clears an awkward stile standing. Barleycorn comes up as I take a pull at the Jumper, and says, “Well done, Master Fred, I told you he was a rare .harse. Put him straight at the brook, and, bedad, you'll beat the field.” One hundred yards below us, we were then going three parts speed, the winding stream appeared, the water of which was swollen from recent rains; and from bank to bank, in some parts rotten, it was at least eighteen feet. Here the Governor, who was a trifle in advance, took no notice of any one, but, going straight at it, cleared it in a bound, and followed the hounds, as if determined not to save us from drowning. Must I own that my heart beat quick ? But I had not the slightest intention of turning ; indeed, had I so wished, it was impracticable; for, true to the words of the butler, I might as well have pulled at a rhinoceros—go he would ; so I touched him with the spur to increase the velocity of the pace. Whether this offended him or not, who can say? Three persons -I fancy they were the huntsman, my dad, and a red coat-had already landed safely, so at it I went; but, alas ! the Jumper failed me. The moment he came to the water's edge, he stopped short, and well nigh precipitated me over his head into the rushing waters. Fancy my mortification at this moment, when I beheld Silvertail fly it like a bird, with my younger fraternity grinning on his back ; indeed, I fancy he literally put his finger to his nose as, without halting for an instant, he followed in the wake of Corbeau. I had, however, one slight consolation. Barleycorn, who had stuck to my quarters in order to see his horse fly the brook, had thus prevented his own horse from jumping, and for half a second we remained in our glory ; the next we turned our horses resolutely and charged it again. It was evident, however, that the Jumper was no brook jumper, for on this occasion he went right into the middle, and well nigh drowned me in a shower bath. Luckily, however, he had sclected a place with a good bottom; and at this very moment one of the Beaufort hunt, whose name, if I recollect aright, was Baily, and who had joined the meet as we were crossing the second field, flew the brook close by me, and, halting for an instant on the opposite bank, most goodnaturedly-for he was a first-rate rider, and the hounds were still running their best-cried, “ Bravo, young fellow! Steer him down the stream a yard or two. See, there is a place to get out.” I did so at once, and, ere he was off again, was on the opposite side. On looking round for a moment for Barleycorn, I saw his horse had cleared the water ; but he was a heavy man, who, though a bold rider, had no firm seat. Had he kept his arm and whip steady, and had a light hand on his rein, all would have gone well, as it was clear the nag slipped with his hind legs, and, although the rider gained the bank, the horse fell back into the brook ; but he had not lost the rein, and soon dragged him out.
Away we went again, and now with renewed confidence. The brook cleared, I put out the Jumper to speed. The fences were again light; and ere half-a-dozen enclosures were passed, once more I caught the Governor. “ Bravo, my lads !” he again said. “This is glorious. Come along !" The field was now diminished to one-sixth of the number that had started. A dozen or so cleared the brook ; another dozen managed to ford it. To the ponies it was impracticable ; to the remainder, brook-jumping, as to their horses, was a thing unknown. The few that remained, however, were going well; the hounds still running mute, without a check; and the gallant fox keeping the vale, not deigning to make for the large coverts of Rackham, on his right. The time was already five-and-twenty minutes ; the pack gåining ground every field. “He's away straight for Upcot," said a heavy man, on a splendid horse ; " and, if so, few will see the end, at this pace.” Thence we passed near the little hamlet of Blagdon, and beheld the rector and his daughters standing on their well-kept lawn, in evident fear that we should ride over their flower-beds ; and on, through a small outlying covert belonging to Brooklands. Here he hung for a minute, but, disdaining the large coverts beyond, still held his course direct for the Upcot earths. “By Jove !” said Phillips, cheering on his hounds, she can never get so far, at this pace.”
Down a slight declivity we raced, Silvertail and Corbeau still going as if they could go for ever—such was the condition of the Western stud in those truly happy days – while Barleycorn, somewhat splashed, like myself, with a beaming face, joined us ; the Jumper still pulling-in fact, the veins of my arms were almost bursting. At this moment we approached a fence, which I have ever considered the worst of all others to encounter with hounds running fast, still more to one riding such a pull-devil. It was a blind, awkward bank and hedge, with a deep, muddy, rutty cart-lane, with an equally blind fence on the other side, or, for choice, a stiff gate. Corbeau and Silvertail dropped into this, as a matter of course--one with his light weight, the other with his heavy --and popped out of it again, over the opposite one. Immediately before me there was a gentleman who had been one of the leaders of the field throughout the day. He halted for an instant ; and, in my boyish ardour, I fancied he did not like it ; but the hounds were only two fields abead, and hold my horse I could not; so I bawled out, “Go along, sir, or let me go.” “Wait a second, young gentleman,” he replied, “ without you wish me to jump on one of the finest hounds in the pack;" and then, horse and all, he disappeared into the lane. It was, indeed, an awkward fence ; but the Jumper would have it, and forward, like a steam-engine, he rushed, with such impetus, that it literally carried him half over the lane, to the next fence, where he stumbled, and pitched on his head, sending me well-nigh on his ears ; but I luckily recovered my seat in time to see Barleycorn also cross safely into the lane, but on turning sharply-probably to take the gate-bis horse tripped and fell; and I left him floundering in the mud. As I galloped along the next field, I saw a horse running loose, and a man running after himthe most absurd of all things, to see a man in top-boots, in a ploughed
field, trying to catch a horse. "Stop him!” he cried—“stop him!' but I was trying to catch a pack of hounds running into their sinking fox-it was scarcely to be supposed I could stop to catch his horse : most men are selfish at such moments. Onward we sped. The gentleman who had kindly showed me the way out of the brook, and a light man with moustaches, were leading ; then came the huntsman and one of the whips, a blue-coat and two red, a parson, Silvertail, Corbeau, a neighbouring miller, and your humble servant. The field, in fact, was reduced to a dozen, who were still going well. The Earl, on a second Horse, was pot even in the front rank. The last shot of the gallant fox was nearly fired. Nearer and nearer we approached the Upcot coverts. More enthusiastically Phillips cheered his gallant pack ; indeed, I faneied he would have thrown bimself from his horse to catch the fox himself, so fearful was he that he would escape. But no-his doom was scaleil. “Forward, forward !" screeched the huntsman. “Yonder he creeps, dead beat, up the side of that bedgerow. We have him. Forward, beauties! there is still a mile to Upcot.” And he cleared a strong fence, cheering on his hounds. While staring for the fox, I took no thought of the ground over which I was riding ; and the Jumper, putting his foot into a grip, came down heavily in a turnipfield, and gave me an awkward roll. I held on manfully by the bridle, and we were soon both up and en again ; and from that day to this I have not ceased to blame the Jumper that I did not see the first hound lay hold of that gallant fox. As it was, there were only seven men in at the death before the Jumper ; and Phillips just held the varmint aloft as I entered the field.
There stood Corbeau, and my beloved dad with his arın on his neck, the gallant animal looking as if he had only done bis duty, and was prepared to do it again, while the face of that best of men buanied with delight, as he first looked at Arty, who still sat on Silvertail, whose silver tail scarce wagged, and then, as I came up, taking my hand, he said, “ Bravo, my gallant boy ! few would have seen such a run as this on such a horse.” At this moment, Barleycorn and a blue-coat also joined us. “By dad, sir, that's what I call foxbunting !" he exclaimed ; while Phillips, pulling out his watch, added, “ Just fifty-two minutes, without a check, from find to kill, with Low Bottom Brook in the bargain."
“ The best run of the season," exclaimed the Earl, delighted with the performance of his hounds. “Here, Fred Western, you shall have the brush for your ducking. Never Jad rode better. Give Arty the Jumper next time."
" I'll wager a stack of beads to a crown, my lord, Master Fred clears the brook on Jumper, any day, without his spurs."
All the field laughed, in which Barleycorn good-humouredly joined. “And now, gentlemen,” said the master of the pack, are you satisfied ? or shall we try for another fox."
In truth, few of us were so; but the horses said 4 Enough," and the meet on the Monday was a good one, so “ Home !" was the order. The hounds jogged on, with Phillips at their head, for a mile on our line to Brooklands. Here, bidding " Good day" to the Earl, we trotted homewards, with a half-promise from the Governor that we should attend the moet on Monday.
(To be continued.)