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“ BRITONS STRIKE HOME.”
331 war not with the confined and defenceless, but seek the wild game in its native haunts, allow it all its many natural shifts, all its energies for escape, and would blush to take it at unfair advantage, as, God be praised! they would shun to take their fellow-man. Long may the homely but glorious sentiment— “ a clear stage and no favour” — be the pass-word of our country to deeds of manly daring : long may such a sentiment influence us in facing the enemies of our land of sport; and long may it also teach us to stop the falling blow when levelled at a prostrate or defenceless foe.
Let cavillers rail at some of our national sports, and despise or pretend to despise trials of manhood they have not the courage or hardihood to meet or imitate: let other nations say such sports are unrefined, that our pugilistic encounters tend to brutalise the mind or harden the heart : the craven only promulgates such ideas. If brutalising the mind consists in teaching man to look his fellow-man in the face without cowering beneath his glance, or in teaching him to scorn to take advantage of a helpless enemy, then and not till then will such encounters merit the epithet. That such exhibitions are not refined, every man must allow; but we want not refinement for the unrefined, and to these unrefined do we chiefly owe a nation's glory and a nation's peace.
And now return we to the chase. Doubtless in former days there was but little refinement to be found among mere fox-hunting squires. Whence arose this ? Not from their pursuits, so far as those pursuits went; but from other causes. In those days the badness of roads made travelling slow, expensive, and inconvenient; consequently journeys were seldom
332 " EQUAL TO BOTH AND ARMED FOR EITHER.”
undertaken but from motives of necessity: this prevented such men acquiring that knowledge of the world, and that ease and polish of manner, that are only to be acquired by travel and a frequent intercourse with refined society. And further than this : the date is not far distant when study was held to be beneath the notice of the man of independent fortune, and necessary and desirable only to those whom necessity impelled to mental labour as a means of support. Study in those days was considered infra dignitatem of a gentleman: what we now estimate as the most ordinary education would then have been held, and indeed despised, as being clerkly, and was considered no more as the attribute of the gentleman than we should now consider the being able to keep a set of books by double entry—an accomplishment, I opine, few gentleman would be vain of possessing. Nor was the fair helpmate of the squire in those days one iota better informed than himself, and, but that the natural softness and delicacy of the sex “ emollit mores,” would she have been other than the prototype of her boisterous lord. These were the fox-hunters and their fair dames of the beginning of the last century ; but in 1846 tell me the place where more refinement of mind and manner is to be found than at a meet near Melton. The unthinking or uninitiated might say “at Almacks:" he who would say so must indeed be both unthinking and must know little of thc world. Many, nay most of those who were seen, at the former, to "top the barred gate, and brush the thorny twining hedge,” or, in more modern phrase, to “switch at a rasper, charge an ox-fence, and go like bricks,” may on the same evening be seen in the latter hemisphere of fashion, breathing the soft tale
“ WITH FLYING FINGERS TOUCHED THE LYRE.” 333 into the ear of beauty, with all the elegance, refine. ment, and seductiveness of manner and language necessary to ensure the entrée within the circle of elegance and aristocracy. Yet such men are not of that class of effeminate beings devoting their time to merely writing " sonnets to their mistress' eyebrow," or in holding the silken skein from which the fair one weaves the gage d'amour destined to the favoured and happy object of her smiles ; nor would they, like such ephemera, devote the propitious hunting morning to a piano, where the only feeling they create is one of comparison between the ungainly object and that of the fair form who, once seen there, has been the bright vision of our nightly dreams, where we again in fancy hear her dulcet notes, again feel the fascination of her conscious smile of triumph, and again behold her sylph-like form gracefully bending as her fairy fingers fly over the parti-coloured keys of the instrument. Lovely, thrice lovely woman ! this is thy bright prerogative: this thy empire: this the scene of all thy many conquests — thy self-created Elysium, where none but the manly should be privileged to enter. The timid, affected coxcomb, who fears to show his dear loved person where aught of risk or danger threatens, can never truly estimate thy numberless perfections; though he dares to challenge thy smile as an offering to his self-estimated pretensions, instead of wooing it as the best and brightest reward of an honest and devoted heart. Little do such beings wot that manly bearing and a dauntless spirit are the surest stepping-stones to woman's estimation.
La Chasse — strange that twenty-one miles of water should make so wide a difference in the ideas of
LE BARON. men in thy pursuit; but so it is, at least so it was in 1823.
A visit to a friend called me, that year, to Dunkirk. Now this said Dunkirk, though well enough as a town, is not exactly the locale where a man fond of hunting would wish to find himself, in the month of December. Knowing, however, that there was something like a pack of hounds near St. Omer's, and intending to take that town en route, I took over two horses: these, with a Flemish mare I purchased to draw my buggy, constituted my stud in France. I had, however, not knowing how the St. Omer hunt might turn out, taken the pink, the leathers, et cetera, with me. At Dunkirk I was introduced to Monsieur le Baron— who was considered, as I heard, the greatest chasseur of the place, and had his loge de chasse a few miles off. He talked of his piquer, his chiens de chasse, his horses, and God knows what, inviting me to accompany him à la chasse the next day, and promising to call and take me, as I concluded, to THE MEET. On the baron's departure, my friend, who had politely excused himself from joining us, smiled most suspiciously; but on my asking if the baron really meant it, he assured me he did, but had the honesty to say I should not exactly find Tom Oldaker and the Berkeley: this I was quite aware of, but must candidly confess I expected to meet hounds of some sort. I could not get a word more in explanation from my friend, so told my man to take on my horse in the morning, and determined to see the thing out. I was discussing my côtelette at nine o'clock, when I heard a carriage drive up to the door. Jumping up, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a bit of the côtelette on the end of my fork in the other, like Morbleu on
LIKE MASTER LIKE MAN.
hearing the name of Tonson again, there I saw the baron, not in gig, drag, or dog-cart, a good upper benjamin on his back, a shawl round his neck, and an Havanna in his mouth; but there I saw
“ Angels and ministers of grace defend us!" — a common fiacre from the hotel. From this vehicle emerged the baron, with a gun in one hand, and an enormous German pipe in the other. After the baron, out came a stupid big-headed cur-looking pointer, with a thing in lieu of a stern about half the length and twice the size of an ordinary sausage, which he let fall as if he was ashamed of it, or as if it had been given him by nature merely to hide that part of his person that it is indelicate to expose, for which purpose its length just sufficed. What on earth can this mean ? thinks I. Do they shoot as well as hunt their game here ? and do they use such a beast as that following, as finder? The baron was attired in a kind of half-travelling, half-jockey cap, a grey jerkin and green waistcoat, a pair of old brown pantaloons with a velvet (had been) scarlet stripe down the outer seam, these surmounted by a pair of half-Hessian half-life-guardsman's boots. “Well,” thinks I, "you are a rum'un to look at, whatever you may be to go.” “Oh! now I have it," says I, “he means to get an hour's shooting before he takes the hounds out."
“Nous voici !” cried the baron, entering the room. “So I see,” thinks I, “and two pretty-looking d- s you are ;” so I suppose the baron thought of me, who was dressed in my usual hunting clothes, for after the usual salutations he added—“ Mais, mon cher, que c'est tout cela ! Et les petites bottes !”