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MEMOIRS OF SPORTING IN FRANCE.
LE MARQUIS DE BOLOGNE. Amongst a host of privileges, the compilers of memoirs have one certainly ; and that is, that they are allowed to extend the course of the past even to beyond the commencement of their own existence. I shall avail myself then of that right; but that I should not be led into the error of abusing it, I will only speak to-day of one of my great uncles, whose extraordinary exploits in la chasse, as related to me by my father, are well worthy to be recorded here.
The Marquis de Bologne was left a widower very early in life, having losi his wife, who was Mademoiselle Choiseul-Beaupré, one of the most charming women ever seen, and whom he loved more tenderly and faithfully than the fashionable world wished that he should do. A few years after her death, he also lost his only son--a fine, handsome young man of five-and-twenty, already an officer of high rank in the gendarmerie of Lunéville. Cut up as he really was by the loss of his wife, and disappointed in seeing his son (who, he had hoped, would succeed him in his title and estates) taken from him, he placed his two daughters, who still survived, in a convent, and retired himself to one of his estates in Champagne, with the firm resolution of living for the rest of his life in the most absolute seclusion. The retreat which he had chosen was wonderfully adapted to the accomplishment of his project. It was a château situated
upon the banks of a magnificent river, and surrounded with lofty mountains covered with forests, which extend in every direction to a considerable distance. A few iron foundries, and some cottages inhabited by the burners of charcoal, were built upon the banks of the river, and formed a little village rural enough, and which was in perfect unison with the locality in which it was placed. A rude climate, and the roads of communication impassable eight months in the year, exceptiug for people on horseback or on foot, offered but few attractions to idlers or unwelcome guests. As to the proprietors of the neighbouring châteaux, they were either as uncouth in their tastes as my great uncle ; or else they were in the habit of passing their lives at court or with the army, consequently their visits were not very frequent nor very long. Besides, nothing is easier than to defend oneself from the approach of our fellow-creatures, when our spirits are too bad to try to entertain them.
The Marquis de Bologne had all his life evinced the greatest passion for the chase. At twenty years of age he was an officer in the army of Marshal de Belle-Isle, at that time stationed in Bohemia ; at the peace which followed, he obtained leave of absence, and whilst his comrades travelled home to France in their post-carriages, he contented himself with performing the journey on fout, attended only by his oalet
de-chambre, shooting all the way as he went. During that journey, which lasted three weeks, he never made any extra halt, excepting twice, and then it was for the purpose of refreshing his dogs. Thus he proceeded on his way; and when a poor man asked him to releave him, he drew a crown from his purse, or a hare from his game-bag, and then pursued his route, declaring that much as he liked to kill the game, he felt much greater pleasure in carrying with him the blessings of those who stood in need of his assistance.
The happiness which he had found in his marriage, without destroying entirely his taste for the chase, had rather cooled down his excessive ardour for it, so that his slackness in the pursuit of the game had allowed it to increase to such an extent in the neighbouring forests, that the farmers were half ruined by it. In the spring the young wheat was nibbled down to the very roots by the enormous herds of red-deer ; in the autumn, the crops of grain were regularly ploughed up by the bands of wild boars ; the roedeer actually came playing their antics in broad-daylight close to the very windows of the château, without evincing the slightest fear. The hares eat every cabbage in the garden within four yards of the gardener, who stood quite gaping at them with wonder. Old “ La Jeunesse,” who had been my great uncle's piqueur so many years, said often with some humour : • If Monsieur le Marquis lets those rascals go on like this, they'll regularly make a civet of him some day!”
Madame de Bologne being dead, a change came over the general aspect of affairs. Six months after, La Jeunesse was sent off into the Ardennes to select a pack of hounds which could run well and fast, and were at the same time stout, and having “no knock-up in 'em ;” and he also had orders to buy some of those Ardennes horses which could go well in a mountainous country, and which were much celebrated in those days. The grand apartments of the château were all shut up
and abandoned, but the kennel was put into thorough repair, and the stables had some considerable alterations made in them. Nevertheless Monsieur de Bologne did not feel inclined to go out hunting; and La Jeunesse was obliged to remind him twenty times a-day that the horses were all in good wind and fit to go, and that the pack were perfectly well exercised and broken. Still my poor uncle, with tears in his eyes, used to look at him and say: “ Have a little patience, my old friend, we'll see about it all in a few days.” At last, on the very day that they had been performing masses for the repose of the soul of the late Madame de Bologne that is to say, just one year after she had been dead, upon their coming out of church, the Marquis sent for La Jeunesse into his own bed-room, and there he had the following conversation with him :
“How many couple of hounds have you in the kennel ?" demanded my great uncle.
“Five-and-thirty and a half, Monsieur le Marquis !” replied the old piqueur, whose heart began to bound with hope.
How many times can they hunt during the week without being tired ?"
“ Twice at least !”
“Well then, go and divide the pack into three smaller packs, so that we can hunt every day. We shall have ten couples to hunt the stag
with, ten couples for the chase of the wild boar, and ten couples to run roedeer ; and then there will be five couples and a half left to go
harehunting on a Sunday, when we come out from mass. As for ourselves, we will take one holiday in the year, and that shall be on Easter Sunday. I shall begin hunting tomorrow. Go now and get all the arrangements made, according as I have given you orders, and to-morrow morning at seven o'clock we will uncouple in the Wood de la Crête. Everyone according to his rank, therefore I should like to begin by hunting a stag !”
La Jeunesse did not want to be told twice about it. A few hours after, the four packs were all drawn and formed, and the old piqueur, seated at the neighbouring cabaret in company with his valets-de-chiens, might be seen getting “ drunk as lords,” to the honour of their future triumphs.
It is sufficient to say that the first day's hunting was magnificent. La Jeunesse, who attached a grand importance to never on any acconnt opposing his master in anything, had neglected nothing to obtain complete success; and when he came, cup in hand, to present to the Marquis the right foot of a stag of ten,” which had stood for a run of about four hours, he had the satisfaction to receive a kind look from his master, in which it was very easy for him to read the irrevocable determination which he had taken the night before. Upon their return home, Monsieur de Bologne, who jogged along a few paces at the head of his equipage, turned himself round, his hand supporting him upon the croup of his horse, and merely said these words :
“ La Jeunesse, we will hunt the wild boar to-morrow morning; the rendezvous will be at the Three-fountains ; you had better let all the charcoal-burners know about it who have got any guns, because I should wish them all to come out and shoot at those destructive animals which have done them so much damage."
Everything was got ready according to the orders of the Marquis. On the second day's hunting they killed a boar of three years old, and weighing three hundred pounds, and the charcoal-burners shot amongst them an old laie and five or six marcassins, which were all cut up and divided amongst the cottagers, with the Marquis's accustomed kindness and liberality. The new pack worked wonders, and surpassed not only the most sanguine hopes of La Jeunesse, but even the promises that he had made his master.
“ To-morrow we will hunt the chevreuil," said the Marquis, as he was riding home in a drenching rain ; "the rendezvous shall be at La Combe-aux-Larrons."
“. But it rains so hard that I think it will rain to-morrow !" said La Jeunesse, who wished to try the ardour of his master.
“ If it rains,” answered the Marquis, “ you had better put on your plush breeches instead of your leathers, for the latter are the very devil to pull off when they are wet through!”
La Jeunesse since declared to my father that a most wicked thought came across his mind at the moment, and that was that he felt glad that Madame de Bologne had died, for he was quite sure that it was her alone who had hindered his master from hunting so long.
The following day the hounds had no sport. The rain fell in torrents all day long ; they, however, found a roedeer, and were running him
over the open country, when the horse of the Marquis fell, and he put his wrist out, consequently the chase was obliged to be stopped.
“Oh! what an unlucky day !” said La Jeunesse, as if soliloquising, but at the same time loud enough for his master to hear what he said.
“ Then to-morrow will be more fortunate," answered my great uncle, coldly ; "the rendezvous will be at the usual hour at the cross roads of • L'homme mort.'”
At the hour prefixed, La Jeunesse was there with the pack, and felt perfectly assured that all his inquietudes were at an end, for he was thoroughly convinced that no obstacle could ever prevent his master join. ing the chase so long as life and power were left in him. However, the Marquis was obliged for a few days to go out hunting with his arm in a sling. All this passed in 1770. My great uncle died in 1793, at nearly eighty years of age. Really, for the whole of that period he was never unfaithful, even in thought, to the resolution he had made to assist at the performances of the service for the dead upon the anniversary of the death of his lamented wife, and also to fulfil the pledge which he had given his piqueur, to hunt every day but one in the year ; neither the extreme heat of summer nor the numbing frosts of winter were found to be any obstacle to him in carrying out those measures, to the performance of which he appeared to attach the honour of a gentleman. Old age at length arrived, and with it its train of infirmities; Monsieur de Bologne at last was obliged, very reluctantly, to give up going out on horseback : “He must give in at last,” said some of his old neighbours, who had been nailed to their chairs by the gout for years. All the same, he did not give up hunting, for he hunted every day just the same, only on a more moderate scale ; he sold his fleet pack of Ardennians, and bought a small meûte of bassets (or beagles), which were very slow, but uncommonly good hunters. If he could not chase the game au forcé, as he had used to do, he now contented himself with hunting it foot by foot, and shooting at it when it passed, by working out all the cunning turns and twistings of the animals. My father, who assisted upon many occasions at some of his chasses, gave me the following account of one of them :
“It was during the winter of 1791,” said he, “that I arrived late one afternoon at Ecot, during very cold and bad weather. The snow, mixed with rain, froze as it fell, and rendered the roads almost impassable ; and the post-horses which I took at Chaumont, to convey me on my route, tumbled down about twenty times during a stage of five leagues. Upon my arrival, I found the Marquis de Bologne sitting in the kitchen, before an immense wood fire, at which one might have roasted an ox. His feet, without shoes, stretched out on the hearth, steamed as if they were over a boiling kettle of water ; between his legs, rolled up in a warm blanket, a black-and-tanned beagle was also steaming away like his master ; but this did not prevent him shivering. On the right and left of the fireplace sat the piqueurs: one was the successor to La Jeunesse, who was defunct, and the other his valet-de-chiens, cutting up an immense loaf of barley bread as big as a millstone, which they were going to soak for the hounds.
«• Take care, Monsieur le Comte !' said the servant, who had come to meet me with a candle in the vestibule, and who was shewing me the way into the kitchen, and lowering the light, he showed me what he
was afraid I should stumble over, viz., two enormous wild boars, which were lying near the door, and which had paid tribute to the never-failing passion of the Marquis on that day.
Ah! my old friend, you are welcome!' said Monsieur de Bologne, stretching out his hand to me; "but one would think you were half mad to encounter a journey by post in such frightful weather as this!' "At any rate,' I replied, embracing him, it is not bad enough to hinder you from going hunting.'
"Oh! that's a different affair altogether!' he said it is a splendid time for la chasse, and you shall judge for yourself to-morrow. Marcassin!' (the nomn-de-chasse of the new piqueur), continued he, on turning himself round, since my nephew has arrived, we will try and hunt a stag to-morrow; that will be very easy since le livre des ânes is
"Le livre des ânes, or asses' guide-book, thought I, is well applied; for during a snow, there is less trouble to hunt the animals, as the trace in the snow points out their way.
"The next morning I came down into the salle-à-manger by daybreak, and just at the same moment that my great uncle entered the room himself, the punctuality of which seemed to give him great plea
"We shall have a charming day-'tis splendid weather!' said the old sportsman, upon going to the window, and I will show how my you little beagles can hunt.'
"I went up to one of the panes of glass, to have a look at what my uncle called fine weather; and if I had not known him as well as I did, I should have thought he was joking with me. The sky was about the colour of lead, and appeared so low that you might fancy that you could almost touch it with your hand; the prospect towards the mountains covered with shaggy woods, which surrounded the château, showed nothing but pathways turned into torrents half frozen, the trees bent under the weight of the snow with which they were loaded, and the brushwood looked like immense mushrooms growing out of some marsh.
"A fine rain, but falling very thick, fell in earnest, and seemed inclined to last, and made one almost shiver to think that if you were to be exposed to its agreeable influence for about half-an-hour, you would become as soaked as if you had fallen into a river.
"It seems rather foggy this morning,' said my uncle, who appeared to divine my thoughts, and I am delighted at that, as when we have fog there is less chance of there being any wind.'
"As it would not do to contradict my great uncle, nor for a man of forty to appear less able to bear the rigour of the winterly weather than an old man of nearly eighty, I of course pretended to perfectly agree with him in all he said. We now approached the table, round which there were no chairs, where we found an excellent Westphalian ham ; and having cut a slice or two, and eaten it on some bread in our hands, and afterwards having washed it down with a bottle of delicious sauterne, of about the same age as the château, we went out of the house to meet the hounds in the great court. Here we met the valet-de-chiens, whom we had seen the night before in the kitchen, who had charge of the little pack of bassets, which he could hardly contain in their couples; they certainly were as beautiful a little lot of about a dozen as I had