صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

evei

162

A BARONET. always goes the 6 whole hog,” and is never satisfied with what is reasonable. At present, nothing can be fast enough : but I should not be surprised if ten years hence our young sprigs of fashion voted the exertion of going fast a d d bore ; and, if they did, we should see them hunting in George the Fourth's pony phaetons. I should then be held as a savage, a kind of Ojibbeway, inadmissible, because I like hounds to go as fast as any fair hunter can carry me, but at the same time letting the pace be such as I can see hounds work - a thing I am quite sure many hunting men do not care about one farthing. Fox-hunters used to decry coursers, "the mean murdering coursing crew," but now they bring foxhunting as near coursing as they can.

I have said that going out late produces the necessity of having very fast hounds : so it does to a certain degree: but this is not the “be all and the end all here:" fashion is the primum mobile of the thing, and a certain little, and it is a little, feeling among our high-flyers adds to it. For instance: I was travelling a few weeks since in one of those old-fashioned vehicles we have heard of, a four-horse coach. In it got as hard-favoured hirsute-looking homo as one would wish to see in the smiling month of April. They called him Sir Thomas. Oh, thinks I, judging from his appearance, a Deputy from the King of the Cannibal Islands, knighted for bringing a caudle cup made of a human skull: but I was quite wrong, as I found afterwards. However, not having, as some law term expresses it, the “ fear of God” (or at any rate the fear of the Baronet) “ before my eyes," we got on very well together — that is, neither opening our mouths for the first twelve miles. “At OPINIONS OF A HUNTING COUNTRY. 163 length he spoke :" we got better acquainted; and at a certain part of the journey I ventured a feeler, by saying it looked like a good hunting country — and, I assert, a good hunting country it looked — undulating, but not hilly, fair fences, large inclosures; and, judging from the foot-marks of cattle and tracks of wheels, seemed as if it had carried sound during winter. But my hirsute companion differed from me, saying he knew the country well, and had hunted every inch of it: it was the d- est country he ever rode over. I asked, “Why? was it a bad scenting country, or were foxes scarce ?" He said, “ Neither : but the foxes were apt to run rings: it rode light, and as the fences were not particularly strong, every fellow could get along, and it was a d->d annoyance, on two-hundred-guinea horses, to find a pack of farmers, and God knows who, riding with one.” This, it seemed, was the only charge he could bring against the country. Well, thinks I, you're an ugly devil to look at, that's poz, and from your speech I suspect not the best fellow in the world to know. So, because a man might not, like him, be able to keep a dozen hunters worth 200 gs. each, yet was fond of hunting, this hairy bit of aristocracy sets up his bristles because he cannot shake him off. I'll answer for it he is a selfish overbearing savage. Now, I tell you what, Ursa Major: I shrewdly suspect the fault did not lie in the country or the nags; but that you found a few honest fellows, who took the unwarrantable liberty of riding as well or a little better than yourself, and that perhaps over some of their own land, where they were so unmannerly as to “come between the wind and your nobility,” even on horses of less value. How I should like to mortify the devil by picking out 164 THE RIGHT SORT IN MAN OR HOUND. some forty-pound hack-looking rum-’un, and having a turn at him. I know nothing of what sort of workman he may be ; probably much better than myself; but as he is neither lighter, younger, nor much handsomer, by the Deity of Hunting, if I ever do meet him with hounds, I'll have a twist with him, even without picking a nag for the express purpose.

I mention this anecdote, because it just dovetails with a shrewd suspicion I have often entertained, that the fashionable habit of calling every run a bore that is not racing arises in some measure from the same feeling of selfishness and vanity demonstrated in Sir Hairy Headpiece. This is a very distinct sort of feeling from that which emanates from a good-natured contest with and among brother sportsmen during a run, or from that of a high-spirited young-’un, who, in the enthusiasm of youth, would say, “ Now only give me the right sort of country, and I'll show you the way.” I would clap him on the back, as I would a young hound that had a little too much devil in him, and say, “You'll be one of the right sort when you know a little more: sail away, my fine fellow, and may the winds be prosperous for your voyage through life!” Young hounds and young Sportsmen should both have a little too much dash about them at first ; nor do I object to see both ready for mischief when it only proceeds from mettle and high blood. A little rating will perhaps set both right: if not, the whipper-in very soon will the one, and a few falls the other; the breed is right in both.

A true fox-hunter and sportsman is no doubt in a general way, however perfect a gentleman he may be, as far removed from an affected fop as two separate things can be: yet I have seen among men who

[blocks in formation]

ride hunting a very fair sprinkling of the latter, and it is chiefly among these that we hear the complaint that the run is never fast enough or severe enough to please them, insinuating by this that both themselves and their horses are so superior that what is great to others is bagatelle to them. You will hear such chrysali pretending to abuse their horse : if he happens to put down his head, they will give him a rap across the ears with their whip, with “hold up, brute,” to show how little they think of 300l. ; or, “come up, you old cripple;" or, after a brilliant run, “my old screw went like bricks to-day.” These are the sort of gentry that had better stay at home, instead of the farmers; that is, so long as the latter conduct themselves inoffensively. The sort of men I allude to are pests to Masters of Hounds: they are always doing some harm, and don't know how to do good. It is quite proper that Almack's or a Drawingroom should both be exclusive. But fox-hunting is intended for fox-hunters, be they who they may, so long as they conduct themselves like sportsmen in their several grades of life: yet I am aware there is an esprit du corps among a certain clique that would, if it could, render fox-hunting exclusive also. But in this clique you would never find such names as Darlington, Alvanley, Kinnaird, Drumlanrig, Wilton, Howth, Maidstone, Forester, Wyndham, Smith, Oliver, Peel, and a hundred other light and welter weights: these are really horsemen and sportsmen : they go the pace it is true, and an awful pace they do go; and why? because they must do so to be in their place, and in their place they will be: but it does not follow that they would not like, by way of variety, to sometimes see a little more hunting and less racing, 166

REAL BORES. and would candidly confess they sometimes find the pace a leetle stronger than is convenient. They would not be afraid to say so, knowing themselves and their nags to be ne plus ultras ; the ephemeri would. I would quite agree in wishing the pace and country to be such as to get rid of the “Pray-catch-my-horse" sort of gentry: they are a real nuisance; therefore it is quite fair to wish to shake them off. If these good people could ride in balloons over one's head, it would be all very well, and I for one should be glad to see them enjoy themselves: they would then be out of the way. In chase, let every one take care of himself, as the bull said when he danced among the frogs. If you cannot make your own way, do not at all events get in the way of those who can, which these folks always do. Hunting being but an amusement, of course every man has a right to ride as he pleases, provided he does not interfere with his neighbour. If a man chooses to butcher his horse, he may do so, if he neither rides over hounds nor induces them to overrun the scent. So have the slow coaches as great a right to help each other out of all the ditches in Christendom if they like, or to carry a lasso to catch each other's horse — (I wonder they never thought of this)— provided they do not make landowners angry by riding over turnips, wheat, or clover leys to make up lost ground, or herd together in perhaps the only practicable part of a fence, exerting their customary benevolence to each other, all of which they invari. ably do. The pace and country I should like would be just such as to make it necessary for a man to ride bold and straight, or go home, but still to be such as to allow a fox advantage enough to give hounds at times some work to get at him. By work, I mean nose

.

« السابقةمتابعة »