Imagens das páginas

death, but without such a pilot he is helpless as a child. Now, as the body of which our friend is a specimen far out-numbers the select few in whose footsteps it treads, it is obvious that there must be much confusion of precedence and disarrangement of places when half-adozen men all attempt to follow next behind one; consequently it is amongst the Second-Flight that most of the bickerings, apologies, execrations, and other episodes of the hunting-field, chiefly take place. "Now, sir!" says one; "Halloa, sir!" says another; "Line sir! line," hoarsely exclaims a third; whilst should the pace be anything like good, divers instances of riding over and upon one another are safe to occur amongst the hurrying throng. Truly, as the burst works into a run, and the tail gets well drawn out, there is by degrees room for everybody, and the fortunate Second-Flight man enjoys his sport in comfort, and works himself up into a state of edifying enthusiasm and excitement. But if well with them to-day, he cannot hope to be in an equally good position to-morrow. He labours under great disadvantages, and must of necessity lose many a quick thing. In the first place, should he even be close to his leader, common humanity bids him pull till that benefactor is safe over his fences, and these oft-recurring pulls lose a good many strides in the course of fifty minutes; in the second, he has to defeat the whole of his comrades likewise of the S.F., all using every effort to get next the unconscious gentleman sailing away in front, thinking only of the hounds and "what a good horse he is riding." But the most dreadful catastrophe is when the last-named adventurer falls, and perhaps gets cast in a ditch. The helpless imbecility of his follower is then more easily imagined than described.

For the rest, the Second-Flight man is generally what is indulgently termed a "good sportsman." He is kind and humane in all cases of broken limbs and other accidents. He likes "the coffee-house" and conversation of the field, though he has likewise an eye to the business in hand. He brings out plenty of sandwiches, with a horn of excellent sherry, of which he is extremely liberal; and if there should be a white hound in the pack, he probably knows its name, and addresses the inattentive animal on every possible occasion. He is of all ages and sizes, and hunts, as he does everything else-not as a passion, but an amusement.

"The pig-headed rider," though no common character, is here and there to be met with, in crowded countries. As he is soon disposed of, or rather soon disposes of himself, a few words will suffice to describe him. He is the direct opposite of "the Second-Flight man," and would rather jump into a canal, than follow any earthly mortal along the towing-path. He is a gentleman with a crotchet, probably about most matters, certainly upon hunting. Either he has a theory about scent, or ground, or fences, from which he never departs; or he goes upon the broad principle that the rest of the world are sure to be wrong, and his best chance of being right is to keep by himself; so when the hounds run one way, he rides another. When the field affect the ford, he has a shy at the brook. If yonder stile is pronounced impracticable, he tumbles neck and crop over it, to prove the reverse; and if assured on good authority that no fox was ever known to break on the south side of such-and-such a spinny, there will he

[ocr errors]

stand in obstinate defiance till the whole chase has faded away in the best run of the season, pointing due north. Once in a year the doctrine of chances befriends him, and he is the only man out who gets a start. Under these favourable circumstances, he becomes more obstinate than ever; and riding religiously upon his own system, is very soon deposited at the bottom of some impracticable ravine, from which for the present we can only give him our cordial wishes for a good deliverance.

(To be continued.)



Mildness of the Season: the Harvest: Harvest Home: An Autumnal Morning : Cub Hunting: Digging out Foxes: Confidence in Masters of Hounds: Anecdotes: Grousing: Partridge Shooting: Preservation and Management of Pheasants: The St. Leger: Credulity: Recent Arrangements at Brighton: Hunting Quarters: The Chase: Absent Friends in the East.

The year has nearly run its course, and yet how few of the usual indications present themselves! The middle of October passed away, yet the autumnal tints scarcely traced their wonted glow of harmonious colouring over the sylvan beauties of the earth. 1854 rejoices in a green old age. If it were not from certain recurrent incidents coeval with the period when the leaf is accustomed to fall, which appear annually as the precursors of events which we are wont to anticipate with gladness, we should scarcely imagine we are at the commencement of another hunting season. Trees which are oftentimes leafless early in October, are still clad with verdant foliage, as if they had assumed the privilege of evergreens. Unless some sharp frosts speedily set in, we shall have blind ditches in profusion to stop the progress of ramping, resolute, rushing, raking, rebellious runaway Coursers. How gay and joyous those animals appear on the "opening day!" The old hunter, who is usually when in regular work the very paragon of steadiness, shewing no excitement till the hounds have found and the fox is clear of the copse, is on the first day of the season as full of antics as a monkey; he cannot restrain his joy: no sooner is the pack thrown off than he throws up his heels, and perchance throws off his master.

How truly delightful, when passing along the country, to behold the well-stored rick-yards, and to know that the grain has been harvested in the most superlative order! Such animating scenes have frequently inspired the muse of fiction to describe them in glowing and extatic terms; but sober prose accords the fact on this occasion, and we are truly happy to join with the cultivators of the soil in their rejoicings. A more delightful autumn never shone over Old

England. Our most grateful acknowledgments are due to the Giver of all our blessings. However, the winter is at hand; the changes ordained by the Maker of the Universe will take their course, whether of nature's garb, or weak humanity, and

"Frail as the leaves that quiver on the sprays,

Like them man flourishes, like them decays."

There is something delightfully pleasing in the old-fashioned celebration of the harvest home, which is still observed at some of the establishments of our respectable, well-conditioned farmers, where "open house" offers a sincere and hearty welcome to those friends and neighbours who are disposed to partake of the good cheer, and "assist" at the anniversary. It is one of the customs which the good old folks of the last generation held in great esteem, and there are many good motives for continuing the rural festival. To the labourers who have toiled in behalf of their employers, a gracious recognition of their services is given, which enlists their hearts more successfully than treble the amount expended on the feast would do, if offered to them in hard cash-a practice conducive to the profit of the beershops. While the farmer entertains his friends in the parlour, his labourers are provided for in the kitchen; and although not actually associating together, the knowledge that they are under the same roof and in some degree subject to observation, induces the men to preserve that good decorum which they probably disregard when totally free from all restraint. What if they get merry, and sing songs, and halloo, and cheer vociferously when they drink the master's health, and again when they drink the health of the "missus," and the young masters and the young misses, each affording an excuse for a toast and a swig of the "home brewed"? This is the only season when such opportunities occur, and it is a hard case if the farmer's labourers cannot enjoy themselves once in the year.

What can be more beautiful and delightful than the fine mornings in autumn-such mornings as those which have frequently greeted us on rising from our couch during the last two months? They have been the superlative of England's brightest periods. Aurora just peeping above the horizon; the sky clear and calm; the hanging wood, crowned with the mighty oak, still clad in dark-green foliage, softened by a slight mist from the stream which flows beneath. All nature is silent; not a sound is heard, except the shrill crowing of the early village cock, who has just descended from his perch, attended by his comely partners; but it is the clear intonation of the Dorking or game-foul's clarion that falls pleasing on the ear, not the discordant tone of the Cochin-china, issuing a prolonged donkey-like bray suggestive of strangulation. The neat, clean cottages that we see here and there, scattered on the south side of the hill, emit from their chimneys columns of white smoke; there is not a breath of air to disturb the perpendicular ascent. The swallows are skimming around with wonderful velocity; but on the morning of the 9th of October they had disappeared. What becomes of the late-hatched broods? It is scarcely possible they can accompany the parent birds on their flight. As an example, there was a second brood hatched under the eaves of my cottage; on the 7th of October, they were

but just able to leave their nest; on the 9th they were gone. The autumnal morning is ofttimes varied, and rendered still more enchanting by the early appearance of the fox-hounds. As their appointments are not advertised, the pleasure of meeting them is frequently an unexpected one. With what haste the pony is summoned forth, when the first intimation is telegraphed by the sound of the distant horn. The pony is the most eligible of all the stud, to have in requisition on such occasions. Under the impression that it is conducive to the condition of hunters, many persons like to ride them cub-hunting; but it is a mistaken policy, especially when the ground is so dry and hard as it has been this season, and the ditches so blind, that the two circumstances combined render the risk of laming a horse doubly hazardous. Galloping along the rough rides in the woodlands, is another very probable means of incurring lameness, or at all events soreness; and to begin the regular season with a stale hunter is by no means economical or agreeable. The same objections are opposed to meeting harriers. But Greybeard has anticipated me on this subject; his excellent remarks in the October number are perfectly in unison with my own opinions, except that I cannot sanction giving hunters any grass whatever. The orthodox system of cub-hunting forbids the chase of an old fox over the open; and I must confess, when I hear of such an event, it occasions some regret. There are but few to enjoy the sport; and if the fox is killed, the number that is required when regular hunting commences is diminished. The principal objects of cubhunting are to teach the young hounds what game they are to pursue, check them from riot, and work the pack into condition. This cannot be done by any other means so effectually as by letting the old foxes escape from the covert, and heading the cubs back if they attempt to break; at the same time, providing they are numerous, some of those which are disposed may be allowed to go away, which will be desirable, as the hounds will be less likely to change. There is another great objection against following an old wild fox over the country, if he goes any pace, straight; it is more than ten to one against the young hounds being up when he is killed, and blooding them is of the first importance. Should an old fox persist in hanging in covert, let him be killed by all means, if possible, for he is of a bad sort, and his life is not worth preserving. Those parts of the country where the foxes are most numerous will be selected for cubhunting, and instead of adopting the practice observed in the hunting season, of stopping the earths at night, they should only be put-to at day-break; but the utmost care should be maintained that every place near the intended scene of operations should be effectually closed. Nothing occasions so much disappointment to hounds as working hard for their fox, and being deprived of him at last by such an unfortunate event. There are some countries in which the most zealous preservers and the best friends to fox-hunting are greatly annoyed at having a fox dug out under any circumstances. Without advocating the custom as a general practice when the hunting season has commenced, it is quite another affair at an earlier period, when the education of the pack, if I may be allowed such a term, is of the utmost importance to the master of the hounds, and to all those for whom he is anxious to afford sport. The nature of the place in which a fox goes to ground

affords an efficient reason whether it is right to get him out. If it be a main earth, the owner of it may not be pleased at having it disturbed; yet, on the other hand, providing it is within range of the country where the hounds meet, there is no justifiable pretext why it should not have been properly stopped. In the event of a fox seeking shelter in a rabbit's earth, digging a fox out of it, presuming that it is within the limits of the hunt, is quite justifiable, and especially so if the hounds want blood. That, however, is a question which can only be determined by the master; there are many little items of that nature, of which he alone is able to judge, and the utmost confidence should be placed in his good intentions. I have frequently heard masters of hounds censured for some things which may have appeared irregular to those who were not thoroughly conversant with the working details of the pack and the country. I remember on one occasion, in the cub-hunting season, a cub being run to ground; and on his being dug out, two brace more were discovered in the same earth, all of which were given to the hounds. This elicited a remark, to which the reply was, "There are so many foxes in the covert, they must be killed down, or we shall have no sport." This was perfectly true. I saw the same covert drawn several times during the season, and there were always two or three brace of foxes in it, and in the surrounding woodlands they were equally numerous. Had this not been the case, it would with reason have been denounced as wilful slaughter. On another occasion, I was present when a very strong gorse covert was drawn in the middle of the season, and in one of the fastest shires. Three or four foxes went away, and the hounds on good terms after a brace of them; but they were stopped! This occasioned an enquiry, something indeed in the way of remonstrance: "Why the gorse is full of foxes; they do not run a mile when they return to it, and you must remember they served us so the last time we were here." "I shall not go away till I have routed the last fox out of it; but I will give you enough to tire your second horses before the day is over," was the straight-forward answer of the equally straight-forward master of the hounds, who acted up to his intentions. There were three brace more of foxes in the covert, all of which were forced to quit, and although we had no run with the last, in consequence of the country being foiled, we had an excellent finale from another covert not far distant. A short time afterwards the hounds were about to draw the same gorse; but, before they entered it, a fox, without waiting to be found, was viewed away, and afforded the run of the season. So much for the sacrifice of a temporary but questionable result at the shrine of good generalship.

There are yet many other eulogiums to be expended in praise of autumn, so prolific is this period in occupations delightful to the sportsman. Grousing and deer-stalking have, to a considerable extent, superseded the interest which in former days was attached to partridge shooting. The ease with which the sportsman who is well furnished with the ways-and-means now travels to the moors instigates him to leave the partridges to his less affluent brethren, who are glad as ever to avail themselves of the occasion. Grouse shooting is, no doubt, a most exciting and exhilarating sport, and may be compared with fox hunting as being the first of its class. The scenery which

« AnteriorContinuar »