« AnteriorContinuar »
mitted the same absurdity, would have cried it up for "a gallant thing as ever was done." He crosses the huntsman at a fence, and is ridden onto by Scrapegrace in requital-" Never mind, it's that man whom nobody knows." Does a horse get "cast" in a ditch, or break his leg, or his back, or his neck-ten to one, on enquiry, he is found to have been the property of that "fellow in the boots, whom nobody knows." Is there a story current next day of some benighted sportsman travelling afoot through an unfrequented country, with a bridle in his hand-who does it turn out to be but " that man, whom nobody knows?" If you take pains to enquire into this solitary gentleman's previous history, you will generally find that, by his own account, he has hunted chiefly with "the Old Berkshire," or "the Craven; but on further research amongst the sportsmen of those localities, you will be disappointed to learn that neither in those hunts is he recognized; and in short, wherever he may be, and whatever his lot, he seems destined still to remain "the man that nobody knows."
There is another character for whom we entertain likewise feelings of pity, though in the present case it is more akin to love. This is the man with one horse," a good fellow, who hunts as often as he can, and whom nothing but poverty and perhaps a large family of children prevents from assuming a place in the front rank, as one of the best men out. On the last day of the season, he goes a good one," if he should be fortunate enough to drop into a run; but that is the only occasion on which he rides in any comfort. All the previous days are spoilt by the care he takes of his horse. He has but one, and he knows he cannot replace him; so if he should forget himself sufficiently to sail away in front, over a couple of fields, the first "stubby" "laming" sort of fence is sure to bring him up; and it is piteous to see him, after jumping some high piece of timber that might have broken his own neck, stopped by a mere gap that a pony could walk over, were it not for a certain stake which might possibly run into the animal's belly. Always sparing his horse, of course he never sees a run; yet he goes on, season after season, toiling and persevering, and making himself miserable, with a self-devotion that no other pursuit in the world seems to call forth. What on earth does he hunt for? Why because it his passion, his madness, his infatuation. "Good luck to him," say we; and may he live to have a dozen clippers of the right sort, and we be there to see him ride them.
There is one more character in scarlet, who does not spare his mount, although he is even worse off for horses than the gentleman last named; and this is "Paddy," or "Poor Jack," or whatever may be the "soubriquet" of that wonderful pedestrian, who, on his own ten toes, hunts five and six days a week-aye, and goes to covert and home again on those safest of "hacks.' He must have miraculous powers of endurance, and an invincible fondness for the chase. We have heard him called an "idle fellow;" if his is idleness, we should like to know what is hard work. Had that man been born with a silver-spoon in his mouth, instead of nothing at all, he would probably have been one of the most distinguished sportsmen in England; certainly no one could be fonder of the thing; hot and cold, wet and dry, Jong distances and short ones, there he is at the place of meeting thereabouts he is during the run, and there again at the finish. Ho
is a civil, well-spoken fellow, and often most useful in catching loose horses, opening gates, or taking home lame hounds. Give him a friendly "good morning," for at least in hunting he is a brother of the craft: don't call him "a cad," but put your hand in your pocket and tip him a shilling; if it's about Christmas-time, make it half-acrown; he will be hungry, poor fellow, after his long walk; and take an old man's word for it, you will eat your own dinner none the worse for having helped him to his.
THE ATHERSTONE HOUNDS.
After a silence of so many years, you will be surprised to hear from your old correspondent, whom you might ere this have reasonably supposed to have been run to his last earth. Were I to recount the tale of my adventures since I last gave you tidings of the chase, it would fill your pages for a year to come. Suffice it to say, no clime, no quarter of the globe, but I have tried and visited; and little did I expect ever to hear again the joyous sound-"Hoik! wind him, Hoick!" to the trusted hounds' first slow challenge on the drag.
A rumour, brought to me on the 26th evening, spoke of a meeting for the next morning, to draw the Appleby Gorse, which not being many miles from my hut, and having a tit ready, I sauntered out "promiscuous like" in the aforesaid direction, and about the time named, I heard the sound of horses, and a "Get on, loiterer-get on," and immediately four scarlets turned a corner, with a pack of hounds around them. The Atherstone hounds now passed by me : Captain Thomson, the manager, and his three men, well mounted, with a pack of the most beautiful hounds, principally young entries for this season, was a sight to gladden an old sportsman's eye.
The ready and cheerful salute of the stranger spoke the courtesy which fame accords to this very popular manager.
The brigade passed on to Appleby Hall, where a few of the élite of the neighbourhood, accompanied by the ladies of their families, were ready mounted to see the "mimic foray." It had been a severe frost overnight, and a bright sun out of covert, and the fast-falling leaf in, gave little hope of scent; but as this was only cub-hunting, and none wished for more than a fine hour's ride, with merry hearts and prancing steeds, we gaily trotted away to the gorse.
The hounds were thrown in, and the blood in my old heart seemed to boil again at the long-remembered "Halloo in! hoick!" A challenge and a cheer-" Hoick, Foreman, hoick!" and quick the varied tongues the chorus swell. After two or three turns up and down, two cubs broke, and gave us a scamper to the Hall spinny, and back across the lawn, running him in view before the house, back to the
gorse; broke again, and gave us another round or two, when poor Pug sought refuge in a rabbit-hole, from whence he was, "may I say," rather harshly dragged, and consigned to the inurderous throng that clamoured for his blood. This country is well stocked with foxes, and, I venture say, may boast an establishment which cannot be excelled in all England. They have a very strong kennel for this season, and have been unusually successful in puppies this year. The hounds, to my eye, are short, strong, good loins and no lumber, being fit for any country and any work, and, as far as I could judge, remarkably well handled.
I had just returned from a most delightful réunion of chasseurs, which had been held in Charolais; and during the week which it had lasted I had been as highly amused, and had entered as thoroughly into the whole spirit of the thing, as if I had been only twenty years of age: in fact, I was not "used up," as most of the men of my age are, who have lived much in the world. Our party consisted of only seven or eight persons, all truly devoted to the cause. We had contrived to collect together about forty hounds of all sizes, of all breeds, and, what was still worse, of all paces; but, as I had not then been initiated in the science of hunting with that ne plus ultra of strains, the "Bâtards Anglais "—that is, a pack bred between English and French hounds-I was perfectly content with our humble equipage; and the weather having been propitious, aided by good luck, we had contrived to enjoy some really excellent chases, although invariably terminated by the assistance of " Fusilio, as pauvre defunt, le Comte de Fussey," used to express himself, and which bit of wit he had learned from the Marquis de Bologne. However it might be, I was in a perfect state of extasy with my expedition; and on my return, I of course did not fail to relate the whole of my wonders to my father. He-good old man!-listened with the greatest possible seeming satisfaction to all I had to say; for he really was enchanted at my joy, and full of indulgence for my illusions. His kindness quite encouraged me, and I was growing perfectly braggadocious. My father's face
beamed with a smile of incredulity: and from smiles, he came to words which rather savoured of ridicule. This quite roused my indignation; and I told him fairly that I was perfectly sure that, however he might depreciate the hunting of modern days, our réunion had been quite as brilliant as the chasses of the old "defunt Gendarmerie." My father shrugged up his shoulders, quite turned his back upon me, and immediately commenced whistling the air, "Va-t-en voir s'ils viennent, Jean!" That was his habitual response when I showed an inclination to contradict him, and he did not feel in a position to discuss the point. But that disdain would not satisfy me by any means; for my contradiction was merely put forward as a means to get him to converse upon a subject which he had never fairly turned up from top to bottom with me. On the same day, then, after dinner, I again returned to the charge; and my father, whether he saw or not my drift, set himself immediately, with the best grace in the world, to gratify my curiosity; and thus he began:
"And so you fancy," said he, "that you can with all the reason in the world compare your chases with ours. Why, it is just the same as if you were to declare that a man could live better under this shuffling constitutional régime, than under the old vigorous and tutelary government of the old monarchy. You talk to me about your forty hounds, of your five or six piqueurs-some old, worn-out gardes-de-chasse, that had rigged out with horns, I suppose, and who would become quite broken-winded in one short campaign-because you were all too poor and stingy to find them horses. What was your fine turn-out, after all, when compared to our four equipages at Lunéville? Well, let us leave off our sparring for to-night, at any rate; and I will try to recount to you all I remember connected with that celebrated réunion, and then I will leave it to you to judge for yourself whose establishment was really the best.
"In 1779 the Marquis de Bologne, of whom I have so often spoken to you, had retired, at the commencement of autumn, to his little property of Thivet, in order to give up to me for two months the entire right of hunting at Ecot. I had just arrived from Lunéville, where the Gendarmerie were in garrison, and had established myself in the old château with three or four of my most intimate friends, when Denis, my piqueur, arrived with my equipage de chasse, which my wife had sent to me from Burgundy. I had then forty hounds of the Ardennes breed, a sort that I will speak more fully upon to you at some future time; but they were really so perfect, that I think I never met with any better in my life. My comrades, without being determined and experienced sportsmen, loved the chase with the instinctive penchant of gentlemen; and after they had had a few lessons in the craft under my tuition, this instinct in them grew into a violent and incurable passion. To contribute to their pleasures, I had fairly knocked up mine own establishment, both hounds and horses, and had written to the Marquis de Bologne to allow me to make use of his conjointly with mine own: nevertheless, our two months were drawing fast to a conclusion, and in a very few days we should be obliged to return home, when one evening, after a very jolly supper, which had opened the hearts of my guests, of whom le Vicomte de la Tour-en-Voisore said to me, Ma foi, you have really entertained us
most magnificently; but, without its being any fault of yours, you have been the cause of rendering our future existence most wretched. How are we to be able to exist without hunting, when we return to Lunéville?'
"That's perfectly true, by Jove!' added the Count de Blangy.
"And that is exactly what I was thinking of,' added, in his turn, the Marquis de Menou.
"Well, gentlemen,' I answered, you have managed to live here very well for two months without your mistresses, and yet you pretend that you cannot exist without my hounds.'
Oh, that is a very different thing!' they one and all shouted out. "We had a hearty laugh at this happy conceit. When our excess of gaiety had a little subsided, I took up the conversation again, and said to my friends, by way of consoling them, I give you all an invitation to renew your visit next year, since the leave of absence for this year has expired.'
"That is very kind of you; but what are we to do for the present?' "I see what you are all driving at, my good fellows. You want me to bring my equipage to Lunéville. Is it not so?'
"Well, to speak the truth, it is,' they all three cried out, after a moment's hesitation.
“That, I fear, is impossible.'
"Because I shall appear singular, being the only man amongst us all with a hunting establishment; and that will evince shocking bad taste. I am sure you will agree with me that that is the case, and will not, upon reflection, ask me to do it.'
Well, that is true. You are perfectly right. We really have not common sense, to think of asking you to do it.'
"I will tell you what, gentlemen,' I replied. leave of absence extended for one month.'
Write to get your
"They will refuse us,' said Blangy, with some little humour. "Who knows that?' chimed in Menou.
"At all events,' I continued, 'I will address a letter to your second in command, le Marquis d'Antichamp: he is a friend of mine, and exceedingly amiable and obliging. No one understands this sort of thing better than he does; and I am convinced that he would go through fire and water to obtain the consent of the Marshal de Castries. Therefore, gentlemen, it is decided, séance tenante, I will write; and you can all help me to indite the letter. Lamalle, get me some paper and a pen and ink; and when you have brought it, you may go.'
"My valet-de-chambre departed immediately, to execute my orders, and we resumed our conversation. After waiting a few minutes, I perceived that le Vicomte de la Tour-en-Voisore took no part in our scheme. He appeared in a deep brown study; and I was resolved to rouse him up, and ask him what he was planning, that seemed to occupy his thoughts so much.
"A magnificent project,' he replied, without coming out of his
"And what is it?' I asked, as I am going to write immediately for further leave. Have you anything to propose?'
"Why, suppose,' said ho, in a half-disdainful sort of manner, wo