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النشر الإلكتروني

ADVENTURES OF A HUNTER ; BY HIMSELF.

EDITED BY SCRIBBLE.

CIIAP. I.-MY BIRTII, AND FIRST LESSON,

If we

are we

Breeding, good breeding, is as essential in us as in the human species-nav, more so. A man may be learned, well-mannered, well-looking, even a brute, like some of their greatest, as I have heard, and yet esteemed by his fellows, without any reference to his pedigree. I candidly confess that, to my taste, the higher the human species ascends, the less sense they seem to have ; lords have been the greatest fools of my acquaintance ; and stable-boys, grooms, roughriders, and jockeys, with some few exceptions, the cleverest fellows I have ever had upon my back. Now, with us breeding is always the great requisite: the first question asked of each of my masters has been, How is he bred ? and heaven forgive them for the lies they have told upon the occasion! It is to little purpose that I, or my equine associates, have gone well, jumped well, looked well; for if we have no blood (says each in his turn), we must cut up badly. This is not always quite true : thongh, amongst ourselves, we are sufficiently anxious to lay claim to gentle blood. The very reverse of what I state with regard to men, is the case with us. are ugly, never mind—“ he shows lots of breeding ;” are we vicious ?

blood must tell, and he'll go till he drops ;” are we stupid ?—“ he has it in him, his grandsire was the same, but as good as gold ;' cross-grained, rough-coated, thick-legged, even big-headed ?-it signifies nothing, “ he must be a good 'un, see how he's bred.” Reader, I am well-bred ; at least, all the hands I've passed through have said so: I won't tell you all the different fathers I've had given to me to suit a purchaser's taste, for you would tire of the catalogue ; nor the way in which my poor mother was ousted from the stable, and a handsome mare put in her place, but I will tell the real truth as far as I'm able.

“The child whom many fathers share,

Hath seldom known a father's care. And a most fortunate thing it is for us that, as long as we have our mother in our neighbourhood, our papa's rambling propensities give us no anxiety.

The name of my sire was “ Friar Bacon.” I never saw my father, and am what human beings would call “ unnatural enough” to say that I never wish to see him. I often heard of him when young, and in my first owner's hands. He was said to be such as I should be proud of —handsome, temperate, and fast ; own brother to another, which seems to be rather a spurious kind of praise ; got by Young Go, han na, out of a thorough-bred mare by Thalestris. This was repeated so often during my colthood that I never should forget it were I to live to

D

be forty years old. My dam was of a different sort ; but she was the only creature that ever did me a service without some selfish and interested motive. She had been leader in a coach, had her good points, and was said to be “ well-bred.” I learnt this from the conversation of the boys in the stable ; for my master could not have been believed on such a subject on his oath. At the time I was born, however, all signs of beauty were gone from my mother ; she had been knocked about in every conceivable manner : and had I not known her to be my dam, I should certainly have mistaken her for my grandmother. To all the anxious inquiries after her (and they were not few) when I had been taken away from her, and to the implied wish to see her, there was but one answer“ Please step this

way, sir ; as fine a mare as you'd wish to clap your eyes on : by Risk, out of Speculation's dam. Mind the step, sir : loose box on the left.'

And there she was, as fine a mare as need be seen, by Risk, out of Speculation’s dam ; but not so near a relation to me as I am to Eclipse.

My personal experiences commence about this time ; and if you are not tired of hearing about my parents, I am of talking of them. It is astonishing how quickly new impressions wipe out old ones, with us at least. Wherever I went, I always heard those foolish human beings talking about fathers and mothers, and really pretending some interest in them. I remember, at about two years old, being taken away from my dam ; and though it cost me some ineffectual struggles, and I did look back some half-dozen times, still, in three days I was as happy as usual, and eat with just as good an appetite as if I had never known her.

Up to this period I had passed a comfortable and indolent existence. My owner, a Northamptonshire farmer, knew his own interest too well to starve or ill-use me. I had in winter a warm strawyard and shed, with a feed or two of corn, bran, and other good things ; the summer I enjoyed uncommonly, for the grass was most delicious ; and I galloped about the field in unrestrained liberty. The flies were the only drawback; and, do all that I would, they sometimes nearly maddened me. I remember poor Hodge, too: he used to come with his old smock-frock and leather gaiters, and pat me, and tickle me, and rub my nose, and throw a halter over me, and lead me about. Sometimes he came with some corn ; but he looked so insinuating, with his "whoay, Smiler," that I knew he was after no good (besides, grass is just as good as corn in the long run). So I generally gave him a good dance up and down, and then let him go to call some more of his friends to help him. I rather think this was the cause of my being subjected to some early control ; for I let Hodge get up to me one fine morning, and then turning suddenly round, without any intention of hurting him, I kicked him on the thigh. Poor fellow ! he lay there some time, and hollaed : and at last they carried him in doors. The following morning I was put into the hands of a breaker.

“Ugh! you nasty kicking brute," said Jim Trotter, one day, after walking and trotting me round in a circle for an hour, " break a man's thigh, will ye?"

The warning voice was accompanied by a tickling sensation over the hock, which I had no difficulty in perceiving to come from a long whip which he held in his hand : not knowing what to do, I kicked.

" Ah," said Jim, “would ye?" and nothing but my owner's appearance in the field saved me from another and smarter application of the said whip.

“Well, Jim, does he get on better ?” “Oh! he's a nice brute ; but I'll soon teach him to kick again." With this he gave me a gentle jerk with the rein ; aud, being a second time at fault, I reared.

“Whoay, whoay,” said my master.

Confound ye,” said Jim, gradually shortening tlic leading rein, and coming close up to me.

At that moment my master raised his hand suddenly before my face ; mindful of the results of Jim Trotter's manual exercises, I jumped suddenly away, and pulled the breaker on to his face, but without getting loose. I saw that I had done mischief. Why in the world I did not fall down upon him and eat him I don't know, for I hated him quite enough to have done so ; but I did not. There was, and is still, some superior intelligence in man, which has had the most subduing influence over me ; less in some than in others, but in all more or less. Up to a certain point I could be unruly ; I felt a spirit of disobedience : but, having once done a certain quantity of mischief, I ever felt unable to go beyond it. As a colt I never felt any inclination for cruelty ; but, after a few lessons in the hands of Jim Trotter, my inclination for vice was boundless. Still, some feeling held me back from pushing my obstinacy beyond a certain point. It was not altogether fear, but an apprehension of something undefined, which has through life made me give way after a short contest. We know in a moment, moreover, with whom we dare take liberties ; a coward has no chance with us, and we detect in a moment any symptoms of timidity in man: we see it in his eye, we feel it in his hand and scat. Jim Trotter had not a sign of it: every lineament of his face, every movement of his hand marked cruelty, but resolution. The first quality made me long to exhibit what the second kept in abeyance. I have always been a good horse in the hands of a bold rider, but a bad one under a timid man. Upon how small a chance does our character stand !-upon the chance of going into good or bad hands.

We leave one stable perfect in almost every respect ; we enter the next, and are pronounced to be "not worth our corn.”

CHAP. II.I AM SADDLED-A CHANGE OF BREAKERS.

Jim Trotter was a one-eyed man, with good features, but hard, and a closely compressed mouth, flourishing black whiskers, and curly hair ; dark-brown top boots, very much worn black velveteen breeches, a long waistcoat, and fustian shooting jacket, the whole surmounted by a napless, almost rimless hat, completed his equipment. He usually had the blackest of short clay-pipes in his mouth, and a half waggoner's, half jockey's whip in his hand. There was no mistaking his calling, for if he happened to be without one of us in hand, he flourished his whip in so professional a manner that he must have had an imaginary pair of hocks before his eyes. To this hero's care I was daily intrusted : we had many short fights, in which he was invariably victorious, but never without some trouble, and once not without the loss of his pipe-I believe he never quito forgave it. “Give a dog a bad name, and hang him.” I was daily re

bent upon

minded of poor Hodge's thigh ; and my unfortunate beginning in life gave me the character of a confirmed kicker.

I shall not soon forget the first time I was subjected to an indignity, as I then thought, only fit for foolish, under-bred animals, that would bear it-I mean the being mounted. I had had a saddle put on me for some days previously, my mouth was supposed to be getting into formI know it was very sore ; I had been led that very morning from public house to public house, until I could not imagine the capacious Jim to hold any more, and I had been trotted round and round until I felt my fore legs cross, and my hind legs knocking against each other, when I was pronounced " rayther quieter" by Jim. He never made a greater mistake in his life ; an hour before, I should not have been half so much

mischief ; even then a little patting and kindness, a feed of corn, and some gentleness, might have gone far to give me confidence in Mr. Trotter's intentions ; but now I was sullen, and so tired that I had made up my mind to contend against any more persecution. I had just come to this resolve, when I heard my half-drunken tormentor call to one of his acquaintance, from whom he had just parted at the Blue Pig, to come and help him a minute whilst he got on to the “ beggar. “ I'll take some of the steel out of him to-day, I know,” said Jim.

Why you ar’nt a going to mount him, Jim !” said a young jackanapes in leather leggins, with a broad grin on his face, at the same time pulling up to see the fun. “ Ār’nt I tho’! and why not ?"

Why not? why cos he vo'nt let you."

Oh! won't he? well, jest you cut that chafi, and bear a hand; there, take hold tight by that stirrup," putting the boy on the off-side. “ Now George, you stand before him, and take hold of his mouth gently, and don't let go till I'm on.'

All this time I was quite unconscious of what was to follow, so that it is not to be wondered at that I grew uneasy as soon as I felt a weight bearing upon the near side. Jim's drop of drink had not quickened his faculties, or my premonitory struggles might have taught him to put it off for another lesson or two. But when he was really on my back, when the weight had removed itself from the one stirrup to double itself on my loins my indignation was indescribable. I recollect my head being loosened by George, at the command of Trotter to “ let him go.” I was for an instant so paralyzed that I felt nothing but the sweat bursting through my skin, and stood perfectly still ; it was but for an instant. I gave three or four terrific bounds in the air, pulling at Jim with my head, and lashing out at the same time; still there he sat, not altogether at his ease, but yet holding me firmly between his knees. I then stopped again, to take breath, and to consider in what way I might rid myself of my burden. In the road where we now were was a deep cutting, defended only by some low posts and rails ; in the course of my efforts I had already approached close to this, and I was so maddened by the spur, which I felt for the first time, that, forgetting my own danger, I again bounded towards the precipice. My rider tried his best to keep me from that side of the road ; but I was fast losing the fear which usually accompanies our maliciousness, and had already got my fore feet ready for a last plunge, when I felt Jim's hand relax, and his leg leaving my off side ; my loins were lightened of their weight, and with one

now

kick I relieved myself entirely of the detested load-Jim Trotter fell into the road with a fearful crash, where he lay to all appearance a dead man.

The extraordinary reaction which takes place in our nature now strongly developed itself in me. I started off, alarmed at Jim's fall, but stopped again about 12 yards from the spot where he had fallen. There I stood, snorting, and pawing the ground, terrified at what had happened more than any present, but not dreaming of an escape ; I allowed myself to be caught, and while the breaker was lifted up and carried off, I was led quietly home. Much was said here about my vice, but a great deal more about Trotter's drunkenness and stupidity. I was treated with the same care as usual, and put into another breaker's hands.

Ile was a steady, temperate, little old man, with great nerve, and as quiet as possible. His first object seemed to be not to alarm me unnecessarily ; need I add, that though I could not easily forget Jim, I was soon declared to be one of the best tempered colts in the country ; a little queer or so at times, but easily managed by firmness and gentleness. The little old man made me his especial care, even to the feeding me himself; and it was his boast that though I had kicked Hodge, and nearly killed Jim Trotter, he could ride me with a “ piece of packthread.”

My education was now beginning to be considered as complete. I was occasionally ridden by my master about his farm at a foot's pace ; or by his son, with strict injunctions not to get larking the young horse. I became very happy and quiet ; had forgotten the cruelty formerly practised upon me; and so gentle was my usage, that when the spring came, and I was again turned into a large grass field to amuse myself, I hardly know whether I was much pleased with my liberty. I was now three years old, a good bay, 15 hands 3 inches high, and am bolul enough to say one of the most promising young horses in the neighbourhood. Years and hard usage have much altered my appearance. These fired hocks are not what they once were : these stiffened joints are the effects of many a well contested field : this short dry cough has not been always my companion. In honourable service have I gained these wounds; and well for those whose reputation and whose merits shall, after all vicissitudes, bring them to a comfortable home at last. There are some too, who even now can see the remains of beauty in this shattered frame; and it is no little consolation to hear the voice of praise and flattery when we know it to be disinterested.

But to return to my young days. The spring passed, and the summer: there were plenty of offers for the four year-old, but none that came up to my master's opinion of my merits : " £120, and not a shilling less," said he, “ and he's never been over a fence.' He seemed to think the last qualification added to my value—others were of a different opinion ; so he changed his note just before the winter, and added, “ he can jump anything." November brought down the usual number of sporting men into the neighbourhood, and as many were looking for horses, it was impossible that I could long escape notice. I was again in the stable, and declared to be much improved since last year. Now it occurred to my master that as he wanted to sell me, it would be as well to run no risk of hurting me by jumping, so he wisely left the risk of breaking his or my bones to the purchaser, whoever he might be. It was not long before one came.

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