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hard enough to break stones on the road, though it's not their vocation.
There are your scarlet and drab too ; hustling, bustling, elbow-squaring gentlemen ; three-in-a-fence-together sort of fellows; brown-booted, drab.corded, shawl-neckclothed, dingy-looking boys ; convivial dogs on the road to cover, as well as home again—Brummagem pattern, all the world over. They mean going, if they only know how. They stand to no repairs, either for themselves or other people. There is nothing about them worth preservation, and they evidently judge of their neighbours by themselves?
Then come your black-and-white men. There are always to be found one or two in every country, who steal away to cover, and don't stop there long after the fox has left it ; good men and true, staunch pillars of the Church and Queen, sailing along with an eye to the hounds in the leading ranks, or piloting a forlorn hope by the easiest and quickest of routes to the varmint's point. Forbidden fruit is very sweet, as the young lady said of the glass of water—" How good, niamma ! what a pity it isn't a sin!”
And I must not forget the black-and-drabs. Capital pilots to the timid and inexperienced among these ; only be careful in your selection, for you may drop across a Tartar. We have a farmer or two down here, who might prove a very awkward customer to follow : with these
exceptions, however, they are tolerably safe. Endeavour to select nothing too stout, or you may reach your point a little too late ; if possible choose a light man, on a not very valuable, but pretty well bred one; he will not spare him, as he is not riding for sale ; he will not lark him, because he knows his capabilities in that line ; but he knows Sticklebury Wood, and the nearest way to it through the gates and he knows the fox we're running after down in the vale below, just as well as if they had breakfasted together before starting. While we are negociating the brook below, you will have the satisfaction of watching us from above ; and having made quite sure which side of the water the fox really is, you will continue your road to the aforesaid cover. This is very safe and very inglorious ; but I am sure you, gracious reader, will be able to bear me out that it is very effectual.
I know no moral courage-and that is certainly the highest class of courage-so great as that which admits that it adopts these short cuts to fame. Your really good man never or seldom requires it ; when he does he silently acknowledges the service, and holds his tongue. Your muff, your funker, however, has not the grace to do this, but insists upon con vincing you, against your will, that lie and Snooks were first over the style, that the hounds turned to him up the hill, that he never was better carried in his life, true enough ! and altogether so bothers you with his individual performance that you feel inclined to give up hunting altogether, certainly the riding part of the business. I forget who the man was, who after a dinner in Leicestershire solemnly addressed the meeting
“Gentlemen, I came down a few days ago ; I have heard the run of to-day discussed, and the names of every leading man, as you suppose, mentioned, excepting my own. I saw the run and had the best of it from beginning to end. My horses will be at Tattersall's for sale on Monday. It is no use riding in this country."
Unfortunately that is what many people go out for ; and when they ride unnoticed, by Jove, they have their reward. So much for gentlemen, parsons, and farmers.
" Nemo ex hoc numero mihi non donatus abibit."-VIRG. ÆN. I shew them all up; now for business.
Lilburne Gorse is a favourite meet with the Pytchley hounds ; it is so deservedly. In Mr. George Payne's time it was always a sure find, and is surrounded by some of the finest pastures and double ditches in the kingdom. On every side there is room for a run ; towards Leicestershire, or Hemplow, or Crick, or Hillmoreton, or Ashby St. Ledgers, you cannot go wrong. There is plenty of lying for foxes, a good aspect, and water enough at the bottom of the cover to drown half the field. Accordingly, on the 16th of last month, we met in tolerable numbers to inaugurate the drawing of Lilburne for the season. had not been fortunate in finding there the end of last season, but news of a friendly vixen had reached us, and it proved to be correct. The morning was bright, the field large, and the scent bad ; so that hounds wanted every opportunity. Of course they had it ; that is, they ran their fox one field without interruption; but upon coming to the road and crossing it, they were literally surrounded by horsemen. By the time they had cleared this crowd, and were once more on their fox, the foremost of the stone-breakers was again well a-head of them ; and at the end of the lane, where the road diverges into fields on either side, all the difficulties were increased tenfold. I must say this for the crowd, that they behaved most impartially, every one abusing his neighbour and wonderimg at such unsportsmanlike conduct in a fellow like Smith, who ought to know better ; and as soon as Smith pulled up “to let the huntsman get by,” Jones took his place ; and so they went on. By dint of perseverance and hustling, the hounds at length made their way through the crowd ; but all hope of a run; with so moderate a scent, was over. We ran him slowly over the grass to within a field of Yelvertoft, and then, after a long check, hunted him slowly to Hemplow Hills. But what a line !--nothing but fine large grass fields the whole of the way ; that fox, with a scent, would have opened the eyes of the representatives of Leicestershire, Leamington, and the neighbourhood, who had honoured us with their company. A second fox from Hemplow got away, with the hounds close at him—the only things that were in very close attendance—and gave us a sharp burst of about 25 minutes to South Kilworth. The day ended with a little cold hunting, and a view of our old friend the bob-tailed vixen, but no mischief was done.
The Stamford Hall brook is a decidedly bad place to lark at; it is very wide, and if there is any deficiency of depth in water, it is quite made up for by mud. Nothing is so disagreeable as being the only man in (except indeed of such a contingency as being the only one out) especially when, instead of hunting the fox, the field is standing on the bank, offering advice as to wringing your hat, or drying your boots, and proffering suggestions for getting out your horse with cart ropes, but not making any personal exertions in so laudable a cause. Mr. can hardly accuse his friends of want of courtesy in not sticking to him to the last ; and if they gave nothing else, they gave all they could afford gratis-lots of advice. It was the finish to the day's amusement.
Chapel Brampton brought the same hounds to Nobottle, Blackthorne Spinney, and the neighbourhood of Lord Spencer's park, There is never any lack of foxes here, and so they found it on Monday the 21st ; but the weather was unpropitious, and a sharp frost of four days suc. ceeded to a capital run from Rushton on the 22nd. It was a cold wind, if I recollect right, with frost in the air ; and though scent is not so
; holding under these circumstances, it is infinitely more brillant when on terms with the enemy.
I know the meaning of a southerly wind and a cloudy sky” very often : it means a loblolloping sort of affair, which proves generally agreeable--first, because the day is too close for any very active exertion ; and secondly, because Old Funker of Crane Hall, and Young Heavysterne of the Slows, can catch hounds just whenever they please ; and when it is described as a good holding scent, it frequently is good for nothing else.
And here, my very excellent reader (and you see how polite I am when I wish to propitiate), pray do not mistake me. If you know me, (and you lose a great deal if you do not) you must be aware that no writer of modern times on the science of fox-hunting has ever more strenuously advocated what is called hunting, in opposition to racing. I love to see hounds picking out a cold scent, and exhibiting in all its various forms those beautiful properties with which nature has endowed them ; but whilst hounds and horses are bred as highly as possible, and our young gentlemen, highly bred or not, are all for a burst, there has taken place, as is wont, a somewhat strong reaction. If you talk to some men, and especially such as borrow their ideas from books, you would imagine that there could be no such thing as hunting a fox out of a moderate trot ; and that a fine slashing rider who liked twenty minutes' best pace, and could hold his own through it, could have no more pretension to the name of sportsman than one of the Anthropophagi. I wish only, my young friend, to correct that impression ; and there is no country in England where you may do it so effectually as in the Pytchley country.
There is no necessity for your quick man to ride over the hounds, or over his friend ; and doing so will not make you the man I should like to see you ; but there is no necessity for you to abuse every run that blows up a fox in twenty minutes, and every man who chooses to gallop and jump when hounds are along side of him. I ask the " Laudator temporis acti” to go back to thirty or forty
“ ago years. Was the old Squire slow? or Mr. Musters, or Mr. Assheton Smith, or Sir Charles Knightley, or fifty more we could mention ?-and were they not sportsmen ? And you may say as much for plenty of good men across these countries now. Is Lord Wilton slow ? or Mr. Frederick Villiers, or Mr. Knightley, or Mr. Whyte Melville, or fifty more ?-and are they not sportsmen? Yet who ever heard of these men spoiling a run by over riding? Some brown-coated farmer, or some watering-place man with a horse for sale, or a hundred and fifty fellows of all ranks, colours, and denominations, who want a start, and are determined to have a lead for two fields and a half before the riding begins, are the inen to spoil your sport ; but not your good man, who loves to squeeze them, and knows how to do it in the right place.
I know no place so cold as that Braunston cover ; after four or five days' frost, the top of that hill was something to remember. Yet what will not men endure for the chance of a run ? The gorse is at present
too thick for hounds to get through it. In another year or two it will have grown up, and offer greater facilities for hunting a fox through it. I never saw this cover drawn, without every attempt being made to spoil a run, more particularly by the foot people. We found, as we always do here ; but, after many vain attenıpts to make pug break, Charles Payne gave it up in despair ; one having gone to ground before, and the scent proving as bad as it could well be. The wind was N.W., and the thaw miserably cold. We found another fox and the usual welcome at Ashby St. Ledgers ; but he managed to find a drain which had escaped the keeper's eye. The finish was a kill from Thrupp cover ; after about three minutes' racing, Mr. Reynolds was headed and eaten.
On Monday, the 28th, I went to look at Lord Southampton's hounds at Little Preston. I have always admired them—the bitches especially ; but the day was so bad a scenting day, that we could do nothing with either first or second fox, both of which were afforded us by Sir Henry Dryden. From some cause or other, hitherto this has not been a good scenting season in this country ; nor, with one exception, can I hear, about here, of any extraordinary sport. That exception is with Mr. Lowndes
-a gentleman who has taken North Warwickshire, and is hunting the country from Leamington. Nothing can exceed the excellence of these hounds, and that excellence seems to arise in a great measure from their training. They are quite unaccustomed to be lifted. In their former country Buckinghamshire, they were left entirely to themselves to recover their fox ; at least as little assistance was given as possible, and the result has been the very natural one that they can hunt when hounds more accustomed to a master's hand will not put their noses to the ground. It makes a material difference, you know, whether hounds, when at fault, look up for the huntsman, or down for themselves. These hounds are all, or nearly all, bitches ; very short on the leg, low, and full of condition, so much so as to look almost too fat ; they are also very even ; to an eye accustomed to the magnificent beauty of the Pytchley kennel, it requires close inspection to fall in love with them, they look so small ; but the more you look at them, the more you like them, and a few of them are quite perfection.
The Pytchley had done nothing very material up to this point, excepting a first-rate thing from Misterton Gorse, of about fifty minutes, on to the Leicestershire side of the country, in which eight or ten very good men distinguished themselves (especially forward was a black coat on a pony, and my old acquaintance of Stamford Brook notoriety on a grey, thrice down, but up again and at work). If I mention Brockhall,
it is to abuse the field — not the gentlemen, but the tag-rag-and-bobtail, who took advantage of the open nature of Althorp Park, and a brace of foxes on foot, to prevent Payne from killing the hunted one ; and though we waited upon him pretty closely till it was pitch dark in Nobottle Wood, it was no go, excepting home. A run from Sibbertoft late in the afternoon repaid those who were out for the trouble of stopping, amongst whom I need hardly say were the men usually to be found staunch enough for the purpose-Lord Hopetoun, Mr. Newland, Mr. Burton, Mr. Wake, and half-a-dozen more : it is said to have been remarkably good; the fences were beginning to get very dingy, and the hounds were consequently whipped off.
On the Wednesday following, a twenty minutes from Waterloo
Gorse, with the same hounds, was the forerunner to a brilliant thing from Scotland Wood-some say with the same fox-in which every one admits that Mr. Knightley had the best of it, except the speaker himself of course; and on Saturday, the 10th, with which I shall close this month's account, after a quick thirteen minutes to ground from Braunston (Badby Wood and Staverton having been previously drawn), a fox was found about 2.30, who gave them a dusting from one of the Spinneys, near Fawsley Park, scarcely to be beat by any of the preceding ones: it was a ring, to be sure, by Hellidon and Byfield, but the pace for thirtyfive minutes was very severe, and the fencing not to be sneezed at. Some of the impediments required negociating with considerable nerve ; and without making invidious distinctions, Mr. Haig was very far from being the last of what the worthy Sir Richard not Birnie, calls the “thrusting scoundrels.” There were some casualties.
Pray do not shut this up in despair, my good fellow : only a reflection or two, and I have done for the present.
We are singularly fortunate in a master, whose zeal for the sport, and perseverance in endeavouring to show it, are only equalled by his unaffected
good temper and liberality. Solomon says there is nothing new under - the sun, and the same great authority might have added that there is
nothing perfect under the same great luminary. In the present case Lord Hopetoun's suaviter in modo is so misplaced with some portions of his field, that an employment of the fortiter in re would be hailed with gratitude by his fellow-sufferers. This is not a fault found generally with masters of hounds ; this pre-eminent position in the hunting-field is always severely taxed, and sometimes responds pretty handsomely to the call. With innate good taste, as soon as the hounds are thrown into cover, the exhibition of magisterial authority is laid aside by his Lordship; but he should recollect that it is only laid aside, and might be resumed with very great advantage, when indiscriminating zeal, or ignorance, or worse ! -unsportsmanlike jealousy-risks the sport of a whole county for some very inadequate object, be it the sale of a horse, or the cutting down of a rival.
The last day's sport which I have given in this paper proves very strongly the justice of an opinion elsewhere expressed. A brilliant, but perhaps not holding scent, in a very sharp north-easterly wind, just preceding a frost, procured us that good run. And perhaps, too, this fact may account for any little asperity which my readers may fancy they discover, viz., that I am writing this on Monday, the 12th of December, thirteen days before Christmas-day, in a frost as black as my hat, and as hard as it well can be.
It is easy, is it not ? to find fault with riding to hounds. “Look at home,” say you, “or give us some instruction by which we may profit for the future-something practicable by ordinary mortals.” So I will. With regard to myself, do as I say, and not as I do ; and with regard to the practice, get the N. S. M. for December, and read the paper entitled “ Riding to Hounds,” by Greybeard. Take my word, that was written by a practical man-neither a steeple-chase jock, nor a pottering old fogy of the “ days gone by.”
Whoever you are that reads this, I wish you an open Christmas and a good-scenting New Year.
Dec. 12, 1853.