Imagens das páginas

in the examples afforded to all classes of breeders, but more especially to the inexperiened, of the kind of horse which is best adapted for the purpose. This information is, or ought to be, gained from the selections made by the judges; similar opportunity also arises from the discussions which ensue between friends. It is exceedingly amusing to hear the opinions expressed by spectators, who, entertaining very felicitous, but mistaken notions of their own judgment in horseflesh, give utterance to the most ludicrous expressions.

With the exception of horses, mares, and young stock adapted for agricultural purposes, the prizes offered by the Royal Agricultural Society are confined to roadster stallions-a term of expansive comprehension, and might be subdivided into four or five classes. A horse sixteen or seventeen hands high, only fit for harness, comes under that denomination; so does the powerful, active, sure-footed cob, from fourteen to fifteen hands high, capable of carrying a heavy weight, which, if very handsome and clever, is worth as much money as a hunter. The speedy hack, nearly, if not quite thorough-bred, adapted to carry a moderate weight fifteen miles within the hour; the lady's docile, graceful palfrey; and the child's pet pony-these are alike deserving of encouragement. But the horse that is calculated to be the sire of one class, cannot under any circumstances, however diversified the character of the mares, be expected to fulfil the same duty in the production of either of the others. It would be just as reasonable to expect that a Derby winner should be the issue of a cart stallion.

The country around Lincoln could have supplied horses of higher reputation and greater intrinsic worth than those which were exhibited for Mr. Tweed's prize, peradventure the prejudices already named interfered. Nevertheless, the example is worthy of imitation, and with well-digested arrangements, would doubtless become popular. There were nine entered, and the award was given in favour of Loutherbourg. Without introducing any comparison between the merits of this horse and those of his competitors, he is certainly not the aninal that an experienced judge would select for the purpose of breeding hunters; his symmetrical proportions are not calculated to transmit power; he possesses hereditary bad fore-legs, has narrow hips, with exceedingly light thighs, consequently a deficiency of the propelling powers indispensable in a hunter. Neither will his pedigree prove attractive to a fox-hunter. Mameluke was his sire, his dam by Smolensko-blood never celebrated for endurance, substance, or stamina; hereditary properties inseparable from the perfection of a hunter. Mameluke was by Partisan, a strain of blood not so deficient of stoutness as the Smolensko; but the badness of their fore-legs, observable in most of his stock, has generally proved an impediment in the essential consideration of soundness. The first prize given for three-year-olds, calculated to make hunters, fell to the share of Mr. Stockdale, on behalf of a very clever gelding by Robinson, from a mare nearly related to Lottery, the celebrated steeple-chase horse, to whom considerable resemblance might be traced. The owner of this colt also exhibited another by the same sire, well worthy of notice, but not quite so lengthy as the former; perhaps on that account not less esti mable. The second prize was awarded to a chesnut gelding, by an

Arabian, dam by Cardinal Puff, exemplifying much more the character of a good hack than that of a hunter. The arrangements of these exhibitions do not afford spectators opportunities of forming opinions with respect to the action of the horses brought to them for competition, as they are confined during the whole of the day in the boxes or stalls appropriated for their accommodation, and action is one of the most important accomplishments riding horses can inherit. There is a great laxity observable in the pedigrees of the horses entered for competition; the accuracy of which ought to be regarded with as much exactness as in entering for a racing engagement.

Contemplating the pleasure of enjoying a long afternoon at Lord Henry Bentinck's kennels, I took my leave of the exhibition, with the intention of proceeding to Reepham by the train which departs from Lincoln at 2.30. There are sometimes little unexpected incidents which occur to mar our most sanguine hopes and defeat our most earnest intentions, and on this occasion my plans were unfortunately disarranged; but I have no one to censure but myself for not having made necessary enquiries. Not being aware that there were two stations at Lincolu, I bent my steps to that one at which I had arrived on the previous day from Derby; I reached it in good time, but was then informed that the train started from a station more than a quarter of a mile distant, to which I made the best of my way, and, to my great mortification, arrived just as the train had started. I had no alternative but to wait two hours or more for the succeeding one. This was unfortunate, because I had made arrangements which I could not then alter, to return homewards by the mail train from Lincoln, at half-past eight on that evening. The time which I had intended to have devoted to looking over the hounds, was thus most unsatisfactorily abbreviated. To a person who feels no interest or pleasure in seeing hounds, in scrutinising their merits, admiring their symmetry, investigating their pedigrees, and comparing their relationships to the celebrities of other kennels, two or three hours may be supposed ample time for the purpose; in short, to many it becomes an irksome task ere that brief period has passed away; but as that is not the case with myself, and not at present anticipating another opportunity of visiting the Reepham kennels, my vexation was the greater.

The kennels are little more than four miles on the north-east of Lincoln, close to the railway station. They were built by Lord Henry Bentinck some six or seven years since, previously to which the hounds were kept at Burton. Great judgment has been exercised in the plans, and everything has been arranged that can be necessary for the comfort of the inmates. There are two separate kennels, the largest of which is appropriated to the working pack; the other, which is at a short distance, adjoining the stables, is occupied by the young hounds. Observing some rafters over the yards of the latter, I was induced to enquire for what use they were intended, and was informed they were for the purpose of supporting a canvass awning raised when his lordship and friends came to inspect the pack in hot weather. The same apparatus is also available to protect the lodging rooms from the rays of the sun; an exceptable boon to the hounds during such weather as we have experienced this autumn.

Mr. William Butler has only been recently engaged as huntsman by Lord Henry Bentinck, having during the last few years devoted his attention to the less-exciting pursuit of agriculture, when the science of manuring and the cultivation of crops took temporary precedence of the pedigrees of foxhounds. But he gained great experience in Mr. Foljambe's establishment, and also in the Badsworth, and was a short time with Lord Southampton previously to his occupation of a farm. The talent he has acquired cannot fail to carry out the noble lord's intentions; and the brilliant appearance of the hounds is a convincing proof that they are managed by a practical hand.

The young entry for this year consists of twenty-two couples, all of which were bred at these kennels, with the exception of one couple and a half, which are from the Duke of Rutland's. The favourite sire is Contest, a hound whose name has previously appeared in these pages, he having been mentioned as performing a similar service in Earl Fitzhardinge's kennels, and he certainly does justice to the good opinions which have been formed of him by the excellence of his stock. A young hound named Bertram, by the Duke of Rutland's Clinker, out of Lord Henry Bentinck's Beauty, is unexceptionably powerful and handsome; indeed, in making a comparison between him and the best sons of Contest, it was difficult to which the preference should be awarded; I rather incline to the latter. Craftsman, brother to Contest, but not of the same year, is likewise in high favour. Including the young hounds, there are sixteen couples and a half in the list by Contest.

The brevity of my time, from the mishap already named, precluded my inspection of the working hounds so minutely as I wished. Last season the complement consisted of seventy-two couples, many of which are of course drafted to make room for this year's entry.

I particularly noticed the vigorous, healthy, and splendid appearance of the puppies, which, with their dams, occupied a small field contiguous to the hunting kennels, and it directed my attention to a circumstance which may interest breeders of hounds. I have observed at some of the oldest establishments, where hounds have been bred upon an extensive scale, and the same field appropriated to the use of the bitches with puppies during a great number of years, that the offspring have evinced unequivocal symptoms of emaciation and weakness, although I am positively certain they invariably received every attention with respect to food and cleanliness. This I attribute to the ground having become stained by the unrestricted occupation of it during a great length of time. It is well known the effect which is produced on the juvenile members of the human race inhabiting densely crowded towns. It is equally well known that keeping the same description of cattle in one field will deteriorate the pasturage, and the animals will become affected; the same remark is applicable to poultry; and it is equally rational to conclude that the canine species are liable to similar conditions. Before I visited the Reepham kennels, I mentioned the result of my observations to a friend, a master of hounds of great experience, naming at the same time the kennels and circumstances which led me to this conclusion. His reply was, " You never made a more correct observation in your life." This opinion is


confirmed by the healthy condition of the puppies at Reepham; the field in which they are kept has not been used for that purpose a sufficient length of time to become contaminated.





I have been talking to you long enough of the sportsmen and huntsmen of by-gone days: I must now, gentle readers, try to give you a little of the history of the hunting cotemporary with the present age. In the first place I do not consider Le Château de Sully would come much out of place after describing that of Châles; and the Marquis de Mac-Mahon seems to follow naturally after writing about the Marquis de Montrevel, of whose magnificent exploits I have been speaking in the former chapter.

In the month of November, 1837-But I must just stop, to make one remark; which is, that all my little histories of the chase commence in the same manner, something in the imitation of fairy tales; it is, I hope, superfluous to add, that the only real resemblance they have, is the extreme pleasure they afforded me in early life; the one were mere fabrications of some man's brain, the others are entirely-But I must now go on with my narrative. In the month, then, of November, 1837, the annual re-union at the Château de Sully was numerous and brilliant; it was composed, besides the worthy proprietor and his two brothers, of Rostang de Pracomtal, the Comte Villers-la-fays and his son Joseph, Edouard de Wall, Jeau de Montmort, Olivier de la Rochefoucauld, Henry de Sassenay, our old friend Jules Perret, and lastly, the obscure chronicler of these pages. All personal vanity apart, I will declare, without the risk of being pronounced mad, that it would be difficult to find a party of more intrepid or more determined sportsmen to begin with the Marquis de Mac-Mahon, whose ghost will hunt for twenty years after he is dead, and to finish with Joseph de Villers-la-fays, whose coral rattle was fashioned like a hunting horn, and who was first carried "pour faire le bois" in the arms of his nurse. But where is the use of all the pluck in the world, if the game fails? of what avail is the science of hunting to those who have been cheated of their pleasures by the misfortunes of the times? and that, alas! was the case with our party in November, 1837. It shall not be my fault, most indulgent readers, if you now forget the date. When a party of men have met together to

* The title of a club of chasseurs in Burgundy,

hunt, and they find that it is impossible to overcome the numerous obstacles which prevent their accomplishing their wishes, nothing can be imagined more desolate than their position. The almost royal hospitality of their host, the charming women whom he may have invited to meet them, his chef de cuisine a first-rate performer in his art, and his wines undeniable, will not prevent the days from passing away with a heaviness the most deplorable; and when evening comes, the candles shed their lustre upon countenances either the most morose, or at best but affectedly good humoured. The natures of first-rate performers in any way have no relish for pleasures, excepting as a means of repose after their dangers and fatigues; at least, I have read so somewhere or other.

Every morning, Ragot-you remember Ragot-took his departure with his limier at daybreak; the second piqueur also went out in another direction; all the gardes de chasse too were on the alert, and we went through the farce, buoy'd up as we were by hope of going to the rendezvous somewhere or other. Vain perseverance! hope still vainer! After hours of waiting, which appeared ages, the piqueurs came slowly back, and their gloomy faces invariably informed us from a distance, that we had nothing to expect but the daily answer of "We have not been able, gentlemen, to discover anything again to-day." Then we uncoupled at hazard; and the hounds, as disappointed as we were, set to running the foxes and hares, but were soon stopped by a crack of a whip, and we all returned to Sully, more sorrowful, more discouraged, and, if it were possible, still less amiable than the evening before. There was in the ditch of the château a stag so old, that I am sure he could remember the chase, and have informed us how they made the curée by torch light in 1675, in presence of Madame de la Vallière. An idea came into the head of the Marquis de Mac-Mahon to try and calm our uneasiness, by allowing us to hunt this poor animal, who had a right to con sider himself as much retired from the labours and dangers of life, as the old invalid who may be seen at the little toll-gate of the Pont des Arts. The stag, however, seemed to take it all in good part, and we hunted him twice, and then allowed him to return to his old haunt, the ditch of the château, where we presented him with a hind to console him, and as some recompence for the unhappiness and inconvenience we had caused him. The piqueurs were once more sent out to try their luck again; for these two burlesque chases had only excited, without satisfying, our venatic propensities.

The country, in the midst of which the château de Sully is built, ap. pears as if it had been created expressly for the residence of a sportsman. To the north, lie the immense forests of Epinac, of Ivry, and Bligny-sur-Ouch; to the west, those of Arnay-le-duc, which join the forests of Morvan and of Autunois; to the south, we find the beautiful woods of Saint Emiland and of Epiry, traversed by a certain torrent which is called Le Pont-d'argent, and bounded by still another forest called Planoize, which I should feel much obliged if any one would give me some account, if, after having hunted there, he returns home safe and sound. Le Pont-d'argent! When the chase tends in that direction, the countenances of the very keenest become rather anxious, and I de clare that I myself saw a descendant of Moses make the sign of the cross when in a perilous situation when hunting there. The torrent swept his horse away; and he, hanging by the branch of a tree, had

« AnteriorContinuar »