the new master of the Quorn, only equal the last few winters in sport, and their late master in his anxiety and competency to give it, is a wish that can scarcely be declined as a compliment, even by so accomplished a sportsman and gentleman as Sir Richard Sutton. Meantime you like generalizing: so do I, my dear; it's quite as amusing as personality, and not half so dangerous.

Lord Widdicombe, Sir Grindall Hardup, Colonel Charger, the Hon. Frederic Makeshift have all of them fashion, or money, or tick, or something equivalent to it, which takes them at the beginning of winter to the neat little town of Milstone, in the centre of the Flybynight country. Now just fancy yourself one of these gentlemen for a season; and it's no more difficult and far pleasanter than any other stretch of imagination. You have come down with ten good horses to some comfortable quarters in Milstone: you have plenty of money or credit: you don't care very much about seeing hounds at work; but Milstone is the correct thing. The Flybynight hounds and country are the best in England you like riding, whatever may be your opinion of sport; and you rather flatter yourself you don't mean to be beat this season. You're like Widdicombe and the rest of your friends; and being really gentle*men, and intending to pay for your amusement, you don't so much care as long as you get it in your particular way. The Flybynight hounds have this year got a new master. Mr. Squareall is an excellent sportsman, first-rate horseman, of good family, large fortune, your equal in every respect, and he doesn't consider that he has done himself any great honour in taking a country at his own expense; his stud is firstrate; his servants, are numerous and well-appointed, and his intentions to show sport undoubted.

The Thorns is the meet; and being only one quarter of an hour behind time, and finding Squareall already "gone away," leaving you and Hardup to trot after him, your temper gets a little soured: however, with the innate generosity of a gentleman, you admit to yourself that you were in the wrong, and Squareall in the right. Still, if he'd only take your £200 or £300 a-year, he might have given you a few minutes longer and it's very little money for the indulgence. Squareall is perhaps a little irritable, and descending into that vale where one likes to be humoured somewhat: I mean the "vale of years." You've only heard him slang some snob of a retired tradesman from the county town, or some zealous lawyer, who ought to be using an ass's instead of a pig's skin; but he certainly did it in pretty broad language: there is nothing ambiguous in old Squareall's meaning :-Cum proximus ardet Ucalegon-Look out for yourself. Widdicombe got a taste of the squire's tongue from Shuffleton spinney, and his language was very nearly unparliamentary when Colonel Charger's Lanercost colt ran into the middle of the hounds with him. There's a gorse too in the midst of country right away from the kennels, which would suit your horse Slasher to a turn-nothing but grass; a rattling brook, with no run at it, out of the cover; and nothing within miles, in case of a blank. Squareall doesn't think quite so much of it as you do for hunting, though he admits its superiority as a bit of steeple-chasing ground. All these things have made a little ruffle in the smooth current of your temper. Widdicombe, Hardup, Charger, and Makeshift are all willing to acknowledge that the squire's a "brick;" but then he's a trifle too "slow."



The cloth is gone (at least, if it does go after your dinner), and your claret and biscuits are making their solitary rounds: you've had a pretty good run, and none of you are more spiteful than usual.

"I hope you liked the dressing you got to-day, Toby: you didn't think the squire so bad, after all, the other day: what do you think of him now ?"

"Oh! that was outrageous, 'pon my soul! he ought to be pulled up. His language is too bad. If he goes on in that way, I shall leave the country."

"What was that, Widdicombe? Has he been blowing up Toby?" "Yes! Toby got it to-day he was rather too forward; in fact, he was over the fence before the hounds, or Squareall himself, who was hunting them. He used some strong expressions, and Toby got riled and talked about horse-whipping."

"Hang all that!" said Makeshift; "he comes without a subscription, and it is rather annoying to have a hound killed or a run spoilt. "I wish we had somebody with a subscription;" exclaimed Widdicombe and you, both in a breath-" one could do a little as one liked ; and though he isn't a bad fellow, and a very good man across country, he does stay pottering about so. Why the d-1 didn't he give up that fox before?"

"Why, he killed him after all."

"Yes! he killed him; but who cares about that? He was nearly two hours about it. We might have had a capital run from the Blazeaway woods, and been home before he ran into that dodging brute this morning."

"Why doesn't he let that professional of his, hunt the hounds? He's a very clever fellow that!"

"Oh! come, Charger! Squareall does hunt those hounds well: I will say that for him; but I shall go down to the Pytchley next year, unless he gives us a little more of his company on this side of the country. I'm not going to get up in the middle of the night three times a week to go sixteen miles to cover, to say nothing of being slanged for riding a little forward, because he don't choose to get on."-(Your notion of a little forward being something under a field before the hounds and as you're most of you a little jealous, the probability is that Widdicombe, Hardup, Charger, and Makeshift are only twenty lengths behind you).

One story is good till another is told. Squareall has taken his seat at seven o'clock at the head of his dinner-table :

[ocr errors]

By Jove! Squareall," says one of his guests, "you gave it that fellow to-day!"

"Oh! that man from Milstone? well, I certainly was very much annoyed; for he's not a bad fellow, and I'm afraid I rather forgot myself; but he will ride so confoundedly forward, that the hounds have no chance. It isn't sport: 'pon my soul, it isn't! it isn't sport! The fact is, that they don't care about the sport. They come out to ride, and they do ride like the dl. All very well in its way; but one can't run a fox on a cold scent in this country. No man likes riding better than I do; but they're too fast-'pon my soul, they're too fast!"

You see there's a slight difference of opinion in this case; an easy one to happen between men of equal rank and power, or between the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

best fellows in the world in their way. May no such unpleasantnesses occur next season between the new masters of hounds and the old frequenters of a country! There are to be some changes: they may be for the better; they may be for the worse; but they can never do much harm if both sides will remember the provocations of the others, and endeavour to make the allowance for another which they would be glad to claim for themselves.

May 31, 1847.

Yours, &c.,




Fun, according to the notions of boys and girls, most assuredly means mischief more or less; and sport, if left to the free will of spaniels and terriers, might be made to signify much the same sort of thing. Put what Willis, the Yankee poet, calls "a noble, brave, free-hearted, careless boy" into a straight-laced flower garden, or a well-tended hothouse, and just fancy what a mess he would make of them in half an hour or so; on the same terms, "hie in" a rough, ready, varmint "Pepper," or glossy, curly, wriggling, wimpering little Flora, to the garrison of a rabbit warren, or the sacred oziers of the Manor House fish-pond, and estimate the confusion and terror effected thereby. The "mischief" of a full-grown man is too serious a matter for any consideration out of Bow Street, or the Old Bailey, as the eccentricities of a great heavy-headed blood-hound, or strong, active, determined foxhound, such as seldom to be counteracted but by the most terrible remedies. The offence, in fact, is one of that magnitude which must be met with measures proportionately great and decisive-so unlike the little amusing pardonable piece of mischief, that occurs over and over again, with still "sentence deferred," or at most a slight reprimand administered to the offender. Ut, for example, audi either partem, and show in complainant-a six foot surly keeper, looking more than usually unhappy and out of temper.

"Well, Griffiths, what's the matter now?-the poachers been at you again ?"

"No, Sir, dang 'em; they 've fought nation shy since transporting Bandy Phillips."

"What then, the farmers crying out, I suppose ?"

"Not as I knows on. But, in course, you know, Sir, I leaves them to the agent."

[ocr errors]

Well, come, it's the hounds, eh? You could'nt show them a fox, and so his lordship drew them through all your pet places, and


No, Sir, no; that's all right enough. I put 'em one down in the little spinny, at the back of the lodge, and they was clear off in ten minutes."

"Not the hounds, the farmers, nor the poachers! Come, come, let us hear what it is then ?"

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »