صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني



[ocr errors]

in a country you are acquainted with, and consequently know the point a fox generally makes for from this covert, place yourself so as not to prevent his breaking, but so as to command a view when he does break. If you are in a strange country, cock up your nose, like a deer when uncarted; ascertain the way the wind comes, and place yourself, as a sailor would say, to leeward of the covert: for, unless a fox has some favourite point to make — and he will then often face a hurricane — you will generally find you have done right. So soon as you see a couple or two of hounds come out of covert in chase, if you have either viewed the fox or heard a “ view-halloo" in that direction, or hear the “ Hark-hollow," or“ Hark-forward, hark!” of the huntsman, you may be sure they are right. · Lose not a moment: but get up to your hounds. If there is any wind, and that a side one, sink it; in other words, keep your hounds to windward of you. By this, if in a very inclosed country they should get out of your sight, you will hear them and every halloo of the huntsman: and more than this, the chances are they will come down to you, instead of your having to get to them. And now, supposing hounds to be well settled to their fox, and you, from having attended to your business at the covert side, have a good place, remember every yard you lose your horse will have to recover; more horses are beat from being obliged to catch hounds than from laying with them. The moment you are over a fence into a field, cast an eye to the one that is to take you out of it: if you sce a more practicable part than another, and that not much out of your line, make for it; make for it at once, as no man who hesitates can ride well to hounds. Keep fast hold of your horse by the head, 43

THE CRISIS. drive your feet well down in your stirrups, fix yourself, as much as to say “ clear it or fall, we go together," and put him at it as straight as a shot. Keep your eye always on the leading hound. If you find him only hesitate, take a pull at your horse: at the slightest check, pull up at once. The moment the scent is again hit, be off as quick as the hounds : in short, lay with them, and sail away as long as you can. If you find your horse getting blown, pull him off his pace; it is the only chance you have: he will probably shortly recover: but if you persevere, you will beat him in two fields: when it is " bellows to mend,” you must stop to mend them. If he does not recover, you will be sure you did right: he could not have gone on. Go home; you will save perhaps a really good hunter for another day, and will at all events have the satisfaction of feeling—if you have any feeling, which I hope you have - that you have not wantonly butchered a willing servant after he had done all that nature allowed him to do for you. A touch of the spurs may be frequently necessary to the best of horses at large fences; but when a willing good horse comes to that period of distress that he requires the application of them to get him along, it is quite time to leave off for that day. If we only look on our horses as machines, we all know it is quite wonderful what they can be made to do by the whip and spur when in the greatest distress : but the man who could find gratification in riding one in this state never ought to be enabled to ride another. If a horse is a good one, he will do all that can be fairly asked of him willingly: if he fails, we have either demanded too much of him, or he was perhaps not quite right on the particular day. If a horse frequently tires, sell him at once; he

44 ,


will do for many other purposes, though no hunter. It would be cruel and useless to punish the poor brute because nature had denied him stamina. If he is a bad unwilling one, sell him also; his proper place is the wheel of a coach, where the double-thong will teach him he must work as well as his neighbours: he deserves it. This would not be cruelty. .

Let me most earnestly beg it may be clearly understood that the few hints I have here given on riding to hounds are merely intended for young sportsmen, or men who, as I did, consider themselves mounted with five horses. Men who keep fifteen for their own riding can of course take what liberties they like with them, and, having a fresh horse or two out, can, if they think there is any merit in the thing, take the steel out of them in half an hour — no difficult matter let me say. I am, however, not quite sure they could at the finish give a clearer account of the run than their less opulent, and therefore, from necessity, more considerate brother sportsmen. “Money,” the old saying says, “makes the mare to go:" so it does the horse; but it will not make him go beyond his powers, or longer or better than other men's horses: if it could, poor devils like myself would have no business fox-hunting: but as it will not, "a hunting we will go, will go, a hunting we will go,” as long as we can; at least I will. · Having said this much of glorious fox-hunting, as I am writing my crude ideas of what is and what is not cruelty to animals, I now come to hare-hunting. Is it not cruel to hunt a poor hare to death ? Certainly it is cruel — very cruel, if the term pleases better and in point of fact cruel it is. I always like to see things properly defined. The only answer, I should


perhaps say palliation, to be offered is the one I have before given; namely, the pleasure it affords to many is an excuse for the pain we inflict on one animal ; for in hare-hunting, the hare only suffers : a horse, if in any condition, cannot, unless he gets his death from cold. If I dare flatter myself that what I write will be read by many, I should feel my ears tingle; for I should have every hare-hunter on my devoted head. I am no thistle-whipper myself, never was, never had patience for it; but I am quite free to admit that if a man wishes to really see hunting, he will see more of it in one month with harriers than in ten with fox-hounds, particularly in the present style of fox-hunting. We have become a set of Steeplechase riders with a fox and hounds before us; but real hunting is over, unless with some “fine old English Gentleman,” if he is to be found, who keeps his hounds for hunting sake, his own amusement, and that of his immediate friends and neighbours. After all, hunting is but an amusement; and whether followed in one way or the other, if we are amused the end is answered: but if we want to see hunting, or are old-fashioned enough to like the music of hounds, we can get it now only by going with harriers, or getting up in the morning and going cub-hunting. “ Hark on the drag I hear,” is no more. Display at the “meet” is the first desideratụm ; riding in the first flight in the chase, the second. At such a meet, he who, as I have just done, would be bold enough to talk about hounds hunting or the music of hounds, would be considered as great a Goth as the man detected in attending to the music of an Opera. Some people--of course they must be “ people that nobody knows” — may say, if you care not about hunting

46 “SOLDIER, SIR.” 'M AN OFFICER. or music, why go hunting or to the Opera ? Unenlightened savages ! you might as well ask why the hopeful youth who d—s the parade or field-day goes into the Army. Strip the jacket, shako, sabretache, and other accoutrements of their lace-make the dress to look like service and service only-infandum puer, the Cornet's soccupation's gone" at once: he would quit the Army in disgust. So, let “meets" be at seven instead of eleven, and consequently let a few fashionable men make some other amusement fashionable, Billesdon and Kirby Gate would only boast of perhaps fifty sportsmen: let the boxes at the Opera be so constructed as to render its visitants invisible, and the stage only to be seen from them, the house would in one month be like “ some banquet hall deserted.” To suppose men hunt from the love of hunting, frequent the Opera from the love of music, or enter the Army from love of a soldier's life, are all ideas too monstrous to be entertained by any man who is not a subject for the Hanwell Asylum.

Racing I have heard anathematised by men who discourage it as the height of cruelty. This is quite wrong. That there is a certain degree of cruelty practised in this as well as in all the pursuits of sporting men, we must not deny: but I should say, that, generally speaking, less takes place in this than in most sports. Doubtless the labours of the racehorse in full work are great and severe, and a horse under the hands of the Chifneys is pretty sure of getting his full dose of it. But we must recollect he is brought to this by degrees, and when he comes to the post, though he may generally expect severe exertion and sometimes severe punishment, both the one and the other are of very short duration, and the

« السابقةمتابعة »